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Cover reveal: In the Vanishers’ Palace

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Once upon a time, I wrote a book.

I was exhausted, dealing with health issues and a bunch of kids-related anxiety–and writing had just stopped being fun. I could tell I was flirting with burnout, because I’d had it before in other settings. I could tell I was going to crash and that it wasn’t going to be pretty when it did happen. But also, stopping writing would have been about as easy as stopping to breathe.

So I decided to write something just for me. A book that I’d feel like sinking into for pleasure: a queer retelling of Beauty and the Beast, except in a setting inspired by Vietnamese folklore–drawing from all those stories my mother and grandmother told me, the ones with scholar-magicians and dragons and kỳ lân and rooster spirits, where words had the weight of magic. Something fun and frothy and feelgood.

Obviously I don’t do fun and frothy very well, because I seem to have ended up with a postcolonial, postapocalyptic Beauty and the Beast, where both are women and the Beast is a dragon (because dragons, and because f/f relationships in SFF need more happy endings!), and where spirits and humans alike are struggling to survive in a world ruined by their former masters. And it wasn’t always feelgood to write: in fact, it was downright uncomfortable, because it ended up being such a weighty and personal story, because I drew on so much that meant so much to me. But it was important. It mattered to me. And that helped me claw my way out of the hole. It helped me find joy and meaning in writing again.

It also ended up being a decidedly awkward length (novel-length but too short for fantasy novel publishers). So I had to make a decision: I could stick it in a drawer for the time being, or I could try self-publishing it. I’d self-published books before but never an original, so the idea of doing self-publishing with this seemed like a super scary experience. A bit like putting out a raw bleeding piece of my heart out there without the backing of traditional publishing.

I went the scary way.

Without further ado I’m very happy to reveal the cover and to open preorders for In the Vanishers’ Palace, which is coming out October 16th from all major retailers. Scroll down for more info!

 

Cover art by Kelsey Liggett, cover design by Rhiannon Rasmussen-Silverstein and Melanie Ujimori.

Publication date: October 16th from JABberwocky ebooks.

(NB: there will be a print edition, it will drop later in October: basically amazon doesn’t let us list a print book for preorder, so we’ll have to manually publish it around mid-October, and then wait about a week for it to go live. Links will be posted when available)

From the award-winning author of the Dominion of the Fallen series comes a dark retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

Advance praise:

“Another stellar offering by Bodard. Her signature intensity is on display in this tale of people (and dragons) struggling to survive in the ruins of an alien conquest. Emotionally complex relationships interweave with richly drawn and deftly nuanced world-building.”

Kate Elliott, Author of the Court of Fives series

“A transformative experience. With dragons.”

Fran Wilde, Hugo and Nebula nominated author of The Bone Universe and The Gemworld series

“Gorgeously atmospheric queer fantasy (…) like Jane Eyre if Rochester was a woman plus a dragon.”

Zen Cho, author of Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen

 

I would love if you preordered this: as I said, this is new and a bit scary for me, and self-publishing obviously means I’m bearing the costs I incurred for making a book (cover art, copyediting, etc.). Thank you so much!

Preorder now
Add the book on Goodreads

(I will now go and hide under the bed)

A Taste of Light: Cooking the Books with Jeannette Ng

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A Taste of Light: Cooking the Books with Jeannette Ng

Cooking the Books is back! Today my co-host Fran Wilde and I sit down with author Jeannette Ng and her book Under the Pendulum Sun, a claustrophobic tale of Faelands, Victorian missionaries and a house where nothing is as it seems…

We talked classics and rewriting them–check this out here as well as the extra material at the Booksmugglers cooking extension!

And you may get Jeannette’s book here: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository | Angry Robot.

In addition to Jeanette’s brownie recipe below, she also answered two reader questions from twitter – those of Joseph Brassey and Tade Thompson.

This month’s Cooking the Books Podcast, #039: A Taste of Light: Cooking the Books with Jeannette Ng contains:

  • creepy food
  • the unseen
  • a disconcerting bowl of blood
  • sun physics
  • frozen grapes
  • alternate allegories
  • how one approaches condiments
  • forbidden foods
  • nursery rhyme research
  • a shoutout to Emma Newman’s Split Worlds series and the Split Worlds Ball.
  • And much more.

Ready? Subscribe to the Podcast here! Or on iTunes! Or click play below:
(and consider supporting us on Patreon!)

Visit additional Cooking the Books content over on the The Booksmugglers!

(thanks as always to our friend Paul Weimer, who helps out with the kitchen cleaning–this time it was many many smears of chocolate!)

Cooking the Books Podcast, #039: A Taste of Light: Cooking the Books with Jeannette Ng


Answers to questions from twitter:

Joseph Brassey: “Jeannette has previously mentioned the idea of getting outside of feeling beholden to conventional wisdoms of writing, realizing that specific methods are designed for specific ands and might not apply to what you’re trying to do in a given book. Can she unpack this a bit?”

So, a lot of general writing advice presupposes that one wants to write an airport novel, something thrilling, relatively easy to digest and brisk to read. The aversion to exposition and filter words are rooted in that. And if one wants to write in that style, the advice can be incredibly useful, but if one is attempting something a bit more folkloric, it can be incredibly unhelpful as it pulls you in a different direction.

A lot of sff writing advice is rooted in the preferences of John W Campbell, who is both an awful person and also spearheaded the golden age of science fiction with his very specific tastes. Many things we take for granted in the genre aren’t mandates from above, they are relics from their creation. The definition of “hard scifi” revolving mostly around physics and chemistry, for example, is rooted in Campbell’s preferences. He just didn’t think much of biology, geography or even the social sciences, thus he didn’t consider them important when recreating a science fiction that was scientific.

And to me, knowing all of this helps me challenge the norms of genre writing, because these conventions are not written in stone and passed down to us from time immemorial. It makes the defiance feel smaller. It also helps to read the myriad exceptions to these rules, many of which are themselves are revered classics. Though even more are forgotten and erased.

But of course the question remains what best serves the story one is trying to tell and that is always the trickiest to answer. It may indeed fit well into the beats of a plot-heavy thriller riddled with cliffhangers. It may be best told as a deep dive into the mindset of a single character or sprawled across multiple voices. Everyone has their preferences both as a reader and as a writer (some people hate reading present tense, for example, others find first person uncomfortable), but those preferences are just that.

 

Tade Thompson: “Durian! What’s the best way to consume it?”

I confess not to be the biggest fan of the fruit raw. It was a deeply divisive fruit in my household when I was younger and my mother would always bring up how she had triumphantly converted my father, a longtime hater of the fruit, to the cause. How he had went from buying a fruit he doesn’t eat for her out of love to hoarding it all for himself.

Being my stubborn self, I refused to be swayed. Reminiscences aside, I’m quite partial to it in cake of various sorts. Especially the pancake rolls that Honeymoon Dessert in Hong Kong do with them, all bundled with squirty cream.


Brownies recipe

Recipe preamble: This recipe is built around the idea that I want as little leftover ingredients as possible as I used to cook it in a shared kitchen at boarding school. I usually double it and thus use all of a 500g bag of sugar and half a dozen eggs. Sadly butter comes in 250g pats, which was a perpetual source of frustration to me and the reason why I started making cookies.

200g dark chocolate (or rather, one packet of Tesco plain chocolate)
200g white or milk chocolate (one packet Tesco milk chocolate)
200g butter
250g granulated sugar
3 eggs
a few drops vanilla extract
100g all-purpose flour
Melt 200g of dark chocolate and 200g of butter in non stick saucepan, using the lowest setting of the electric hob. Stir to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Take off the heat and allow butter/chocolate mixture to cool. Smash up the remaining chocolate into chunks with gleeful violence and/or catch two minutes of tv in the common room.
Some people transfer the butter/chocolate mixture into a mixing bowl, but I am profoundly lazy and thus don’t. Add sugar to butter/chocolate and mix with wooden spoon.
Add eggs and mix into the mixture one at a time.
Fold in the flour in a sort of figure-of-eight motion.
Pour into buttered tin, stud the chocolate chunks into the brownie mixture and bake at 180C for 25-30mins until crispy on the outside and toothpick comes out clean.


Jeannette Ng is originally from Hong Kong but now lives in Durham, UK. Her MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies fed into an interest in medieval and missionary theology, which in turn spawned her love for writing gothic fantasy with a theological twist. She runs live roleplay games and is active within the costuming community, running a popular blog. Jeannette has been nominated for the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer for her novel Under the Pendulum Sun.


Cooking the Books is a mostly-monthly podcast hosted by Fran Wilde and Aliette de Bodard.

Check out our archives.

“Court of Strength, Court of Birth” to Beneath Ceaseless Skies

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So once upon a time I needed a fun break, and I wrote a story about how Asmodeus and Samariel first met and flirted with each other (if you’re asking how, the answer is “smouldering mode on”). Because apparently I cannot do fun even if I try, this is a story of what happens when Samariel, a low-ranked bodyguard in House Hawthorn, hires Asmodeus when the child he considers his own gets kidnapped, and how the two of them handle a Gothic, devastated Paris rife with intrigue to get said child back (“how does it go?” you ask. If you already know Asmodeus, the answer is “about as well as you can imagine”).

Anyway, I’m pleased to announce I’ve sold the story to Scott Andrews at Beneath Ceaseless Skies for their ten-year-anniversary issue, and that it’ll appear in late September online.

(although set in the existing universe of Dominion of the Fallen, it should be completely standalone–as evidenced by the fact that Scott, who’d read neither of the novels, liked it enough to buy :))

How to Feed Magic: Cooking the Books with Chelsea Polk

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How to Feed Magic: Cooking the Books with Chelsea Polk

I read and *loved* Chelsea Polk‘s glorious debut novel, Witchmark, from Tor.com Publishing and Tor Books (I blurbed it, in fact!). Set in an alternate post-War world, it’s got magic, family, politics, the sweetest gay romance, and bicycle chases! Still time to preorder, by the way: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Macmillan.

It’s also filled with food — apples in particular, but other foods as well.

Fran Wilde and I sat down (metaphorically) with Chelsea to talk about the book and more. She also answered questions for our partners in crime The Booksmugglers!

Chelsea will be at 4th Street Fantasy in June, and celebrating the launch of Witchmark soon after, but you can hear her here first!

It’s all for Cooking the Books this month, both here and at the extension kitchen over at The Booksmugglers! (check out Chelsea’s Booksmugglers Bonus answers!).

This month’s Cooking the Books Podcast, #037: How to Feed Magic – Cooking the Books with Chelsea Polk contains:

  • Energy-replenishment Guidelines After Magic Use
  • The food you eat with friends
  • LGBT Romance Recs (along with some adult recs)
  • Improper substitution of fountain pens for food by Aliette Pen Bodard
  • The best way to cook steak and pasta
  • A few thoughts about post-war PTSD
  • Cookies
  • And much more.

Ready? Subscribe to the Podcast here! Or on iTunes! Or click play below:
(and consider supporting us on Patreon!)

Visit additional Cooking the Books content over on the The Booksmugglers!

(thanks as always to our friend Paul Weimer, who helps out with the kitchen cleaning–this time it was thick trail mix!)

Podcast #037: How to Feed Magic – Cooking the Books with Chelsea Polk


Chelsea’s Recipe: Trail Mix Oatmeal Cookies

I love oatmeal cookies. I’ll even eat them with raisins. but I greatly prefer the version I developed a few years ago, with dried cranberries, chocolate chips, and pecan pieces. this recipe is a relatively small batch of cookies, by my gluttonous standards – I make a dozen, and freeze the other half to make more later.
To make these cookies, you need:

    • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
    • 125g (about 2/3 cup) brown sugar
    • 1 large egg
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp cardamom (cinnamon is a fine substitute)
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 95g (about 2/3 cup) all-purpose flour
    • 120g (about 2/3 cup) rolled oats
    • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
    • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Order of Operations:
In a medium sized mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together, adding egg, vanilla, baking soda, cardamom, and salt. Stir in flour; mix in rolled oats in gradual doses, and then add cranberries, chocolate chips, and pecan pieces. mix well.
Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, maximum 24 hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Drop 1.5″ balls of dough on a cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes; leave on the sheet to continue cooking for 5 minutes.
Store in an airtight container to preserve the chewy texture. They will probably last in the refrigerator for several days, but I don’t have that kind of willpower.


C.L. Polk writes fiction and spots butterflies in Southern Alberta. She has an unreasonable fondness for knitting, single estate coffee, and the history of fashion. Her debut series beginning with the novel Witchmark is available from Tor.com Publishing.


Cooking the Books is a mostly-monthly podcast hosted by Fran Wilde and Aliette de Bodard.

Check out our archives.

Announcing: The Church of Accelerated Redemption

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Announcing: The Church of Accelerated Redemption

Very quick announcement as I’m hard at work on a novel (book 3 of Dominion of the Fallen, about which I hope to have cool news soon!). Here’s a re-release of an old, hard-to-find story I wrote with Gareth L Powell when I was still a baby writer (feels so far away lol!). I still remember googling all the Paris locations because I needed clear visuals, and I may have visited them all but my visual memory isn’t that strong! Anyway, this is a story about two of my loves: Paris, and artificial intelligences and the future. You can get it at Amazon (for the moment it’s not available at other vendors. We’ll keep you updated if that changes).

Aliette de Bodard, winner of the Nebula, Locus and BSFA Awards, teams up with BSFA Award-winner Gareth L. Powell to present an uplifting short story of machines and humans, of intense emotions and cutting-age technology culled from tomorrow’s headlines.

Installing a network for the Church of Accelerated Redemption is just another crappy job in a series of crappy jobs for Lisa, an American engineer stuck doing menial work in Paris. That the Church uses artificial intelligences to power its never-ending prayer machines doesn’t interest her at all: they’re paying, and she needs enough money to survive in an increasingly crumbling world. Until a demonstration outside the Church’s headquarters, and the appearance of Stéphane, an enigmatic man Lisa finds herself powerfully drawn to. What lies beneath his headscarf, why is he so interested in the Church–and how far will she be willing to go in order to earn his trust?

“Full of character and wit” – Zone SF
“Wonderful and full of promise.” – SF Revu

Where to Buy

Amazon US

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Children of Thorns, Children of Water up for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette

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Children of Thorns, Children of Water up for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette

So last week I couldn’t sleep—I was exhausted after 2.5 days of solo childcare (I assure you the 0.5 matters immensely), but apparently my body decided to be a jerk and I woke up at 4am. While waiting for tea to brew I idly checked my email, and found a thing marked “Confidential” in my mailbox.
I opened it and stared at it. The kettle switched itself off after boiling the water but I kept staring at the screen because it was 4am and surely it was a trick of super tired brain.

Spoilers: it was not.

Writers often get to sit on awesome things for a long long time, and this waiting was actually relatively short! It gives me great joy to say that “Children of Thorns, Children of Water”, the novelette I wrote as a preorder reward for The House of Binding Thorns, is up for a Hugo Award for Best Novelette (in a, er, very competitive category–will you look at that ballot  and everyone who’s on it °_°)

To everyone who read and considered my story of Bake Off in Gothic devastated Paris: thank you so much! This is by no means the detailed speech (still have to write that hahaha) but also thanks to everyone who weighed in on Facebook when I was brainstorming what kind of competition a magical faction would run for recruiting people, to Kate Elliott, Stephanie Burgis and Fran Wilde for believing in it (and especially to Steph and Fran for support with cover art and publicizing it); to Megan Crewe for super lovely super fast cover art; to Michelle Sagara for formatting the ebooks for me; to Gillian Redfearn, Genn McMenemy, Stevie Finegan and everyone at Gollancz for running the original giveaway; to Uncanny Magazine for its second life as a reprint, and to everyone who read and signal boosted it.

I’m over the moon.

And congrats and best of luck to my fellow nominees, and a special mention to Likhain whose art is awesome and to Fran Wilde whose short story is heartbreaking.

(also spoilers: it was super hard to go back to sleep in a timely fashion after the email hahaha!)

PPS: click here to read the story! And click here if you want to read more about the book in the same universe.

The Tea Master and the Detective, ebook edition (outside N America)

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The Tea Master and the Detective, ebook edition (outside N America)

Thrilled to reveal the cover of the ebook edition of the Tea Master and the Detective outside North America. Isn’t it gorgeous? Also yesss I got an áo dài on a cover!!! (the áo dài is a traditional Vietnamese female dress). Art and design is by Dirk Berger , with many many thanks to John Berlyne for his help, as well as Likhain, Kate Elliott, Vida Cruz, Sebb, Stephanie Burgis and Patrick Samphire.

The book will be out April 2nd from JABberwocky, but you can preorder it right now on Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks!

If you’re in North America, Subterranean is now shipping both the book and the ebook: it will become available at major retailers March 31st, 2018.

Here’s the summary:

Once, the mindship known as The Shadow’s Child was a military transport. Once, she leapt effortlessly between stars and planets, carrying troops and crew for a war that tore the Empire apart. Until an ambush killed her crew and left her wounded and broken.

Now the war is over, and The Shadow’s Child, surviving against all odds, has run away. Discharged and struggling to make a living, she has no plans to go back into space. Until the abrasive and arrogant scholar Long Chau comes to see her. Long Chau wants to retrieve a corpse for her scientific studies: a simple enough, well-paid assignment.

But when the corpse they find turns out to have been murdered, the simple assignment becomes a vast and tangled investigation, inexorably leading back to the past–and, once again, to that unbearable void where The Shadow’s Child almost lost both sanity and life…


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And here are a few reviews if you’re still undecided:

What people are saying:

The Tea Master and the Detective is the Sherlock Holmes retelling I always wanted and now I have it. And I want so much more of it.

Ana Grilo, Kirkus

A terrific piece of writing, taking the sentient community of ships from Ian Bank’s Culture series, the glittering belt of space habitats from Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect novels, and adding in a compelling pair as the title characters.

Ernest Lilley, SFRevu

“This slim volume packs a visceral punch. Absorbing prose takes the reader in the dark, frigid space between the stars, where ships can fail, physically and emotionally, as well as people. (…) an imaginative read.

Library Journal (starred review)

De Bodard constructs a convincingly gritty setting and a pair of unique characters with provocative histories and compelling motivations. The story works as well as both science fiction and murder mystery, exploring a future where pride, guilt, and mercy are not solely the province of humans.

Publishers’ Weekly

Ingenious… As a classical blend of far-future SF and traditional murder mystery, The Tea Master and the Detective should satisfy readers unfamiliar with the Xuya universe, but at the same time it’s an intriguing introduction to that universe, much of which seems to lie just outside the borders of this entertaining tale.

Gary K Wolfe, Locus

This book shows sharp, intelligent dialogue with wildly peculiar worlds and spaces. The elegant weaving of narrative is what we’ve come to expect from de Bodard’s unique style. This is the opposite of a closed-room mystery, an open-space mystery which pushes the boundaries of A.I-as-person and genius-as-misanthropic-detective. Deeply affecting and always entertaining, The Tea Master and the Detective should be your next read.

Tade Thompson


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