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Gail Carriger on "The Traveling Writer: A Tip Sheet"

Gail Carriger - Imprudence

I started attending conventions as a fangirl long before I was a professional writer. I knew what to expect and when I got my first Guest of Honor invitation I was over the moon. I still get a little thrill at the very idea that someone wants me to attend a convention... as a guest!

But it's not the same thing. Whether heading out on a book tour or invited as a guest to a small local sci-fi convention, attending programming at a larger conference, or visiting one of those monster book festivals or comicons there are some things I think a professional writer should always keep in mind. 

So here, for your amusement (and perhaps education) are my highly subjective... Tips for the Traveling Writer

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#SPFBO - First Round Wrap-up

Spfbo banner4

Well, the first round is complete!

Over the course of... some period of time... I checked out 30 self-published fantasy books for #SPFBO, reading the first 3 chapters of each. 

Based on that (results and mini-reviews here), I earmarked six for detailed perusal:

The links all go to the complete reviews. If you're just joining now (hi!), there's some template action going on, as I evaluated all six against some wibbly criteria. 

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Sophie Mayer on Gwyneth Jones’ Bold as Love (2001)

Bold As Love

At the end of this year, three hundred years of history would be undone. The Act of Union would be dissolved… In London the law and order crisis was going to keep Parliament from its summer recess; that, and the struggle to make the process of dissolution look organised. Meanwhile, the Counterculturals had gathered in Hyde Park, at Glastonbury, at all the traditional sites around the country, and, notably, here at Reading. It was supposed to be a peaceful two-week rock festival. The media people were hoping for trouble, and doing their best to whip it up… But Fiorinda didn’t care about any of that. She had come to Reading following a rumour, on a mission half of longing, half of vengeance.

Gwyneth Jones’ 2002 Arthur C. Clarke Award-winning novel Bold as Love opens some time around now or the near future, in Dissolution Summer, as England prepares to go it alone, dismissed by the wealthy Celtic nations. It might be fifteen years old, but Bold as Love is the most uncanny and necessary read for exactly this moment, as we face up to the latent divide in British politics that the EU referendum has brought to the surface. In Jones’ England, crisis is the new normal. Climate change and economic collapse are causing riots across Europe, and England will soon be further isolated by a devastating internet virus, and face the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees crossing the North Sea, D-Day in reverse.

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The Long Way to a Small, American Paperback

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is out in the US in paperback today!

My opinion of this book is pretty well-documented by this point (tldr; one of my favourite books of all time, and the sort of joyous science fiction that makes you believe in a better future), but just in case you need further encouragement:

Here's the Guardian story on how this kickstarted debut novel became one of Hodder & Stoughton's summer blockbusters.

And here are some the awards that have recognised it: Baileys, Arthur C. Clarke, The Kitschies, Tiptree, BFS, BSFA.

And here are some reviews:

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Beyond Prometheus: Reading the Other Works of Mary Shelley

Frankenstein
Manuscript of Frankenstein (Vol. 2, Chapter 1)

Two hundred years ago, in the Cologny manor known as the Villa Diodati, five young Romantics gathered for a summer so rare and beautiful that it has transcended the ages from literary anecdote into pop culture lore. Full of sex, drugs, and the nineteenth century equivalent of rock and roll, the discussions and adventures experienced by Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Dr. John Polidori, and Claire Clairmont during the summer of 1816 lead to the creation of two literary legends, Polidori’s The Vampyre and of course, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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Phil Tucker's The Path of Flames (2016)

Path of FlamesThe Path of Flames knows how to start with a bang. Or in this case, a cavalry charge.

Thousands of knights, the finest in the land, are pelting madly up a hill. For added excitement, they're preceded by a wave of half-tame ogrish monsters, their shock troops. The defenders, dark wizards amongst them, rain black fire down on their attackers. The attacking line breaks, and the battle dissolves into chaos and slaughter.

Caught in the middle? Asho, a humble squire, who, over the course of a few (very) busy pages suddenly finds himself back-to-back with some of the most decorated knights in the realm. His heroism in the first few chapters brings him unexpected rewards - and exposes him to dangerous secrets.

Asho's is merely one point of view in this cinderblock-sized epic. He returns from the front to Kyferin Castle, to serve the widow of his fallen lord. Iskra's relationship with her belligerent (and now deceased) husband was always strained, but ruling the Castle and its lands is a hefty challenge. The other, rapacious lords are circling, and with the war in the background, Iskra is left with nowhere to turn for help.

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Josiah Bancroft's Senlin Ascends (2013)

Senlin AscendsSenlin is the headmaster of a one-room schoolhouse in a small town. He's spent his life teaching children all the basics of the world, without ever really experiencing it himself. When, almost despite himself, he marries the capricious Marya, they agree to expand their horizons with one great big adventure. Senlin calculates his budget, buys the tickets, studies the guidebook and the two head off to the greatest wonder of the world: The Tower of Babel.

Once at the Tower, however, Senlin finds that all his learning is for naught. The guidebook seems, at best, misleading, and the Tower and its outskirts are far more chaotic and more dangerous than he ever expected. And, worst of all, Marya goes missing. One moment she's there, the next, she's gone. Senlin's too disciplined to panic, so he goes about his search in an orderly way - only to discover that the Tower of Babel is not an orderly place.

Senlin's quest takes him up through the Tower, encountering rogues and bureaucrats, petty lords and magically-enhanced assassins. There's a floor that's completely devoted to a single, mediocre one-act play. There's another overrun by giant snails and mechanical beer fountains. Yet another is devoted to Bourgeois leisure - all hot baths, fine wine and poor sea-side art, until you run out of money... Each new region of the Tower is a kingdom unto itself, with new laws, a new culture, new friends, new foes and an infinity of obstacles. 

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B.T. Narro's Kin of Kings (2015)

Kin of KingsBasen is the nephew of the dead king of Tenred, who was (whilst alive) the most hated man in the world. Despite their shared surname, however, Basen is firmly on team Good. He and his father were exiled before the last war, and have spent their last few years scrounging out a living in the (enemy) kingdom of Kyrro. No home to go to; no future ahead of them.

Basen, however, has some tricks up his sleeve.

Trained as both a swordsman and a mage (the perks of a royal upbringing), when the famed Academy opens up new students, Basen sees this as an opportunity. Although his father is insistent that Basen try out as a warrior, Basen sells the family sword and buys a wand instead. Despite the wand-seller giving him a faulty article, Basen still astounds the examiners and gets accepted.

Basen also makes the first of his many new friends - the healer Alabell. Alabell and Basen feel an immediate frisson, and bond over Alabell's Academy stories, Basen's sordid family history and the fact that Alabell too is related to royalty.

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Richard Crawford's Traitor Blade (2011)

Traitor BladeThe kingdom of Valderon is suffering through a dangerous time. The king's son and heir, Prince Arnaud, is sickly. Although married, it seems that a child is unlikely.

The next in line is the King's nephew - Charles, the eldest son of his estranged brother, Rupert. Although the King and his brother are not open enemies, they're far from friends. Rupert, and his province of Chamfort, are loyal to Valderon, so he treads carefully. He doesn't want to incite a civil war; Valderon already has enough enemies. But the King's unreasonable demands put pressure on Chamfort and Rupert's family, driving them apart.

One of the pawns in this great game is Edouard, Rupert's second son, and Charles' younger brother. Brave, impetuous and incredibly skilled with the sword, Edouard chafes at the restraints that Charles and his father have placed upon him. He wants to be a knight, a champion, a commander of men - to ride free, to smite evil, to achieve honour and glory and greatness. Edouard's talent and his courage make him a favourite at court. His cousin, the Prince, adores him, and the King's greatest general, St Andre, admires him.

If Edouard can only stay out of trouble, he may just achieve his dreams. 

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