Guest Blog

Award winning author Aliette de Bodard was kind enough to offer me the chance to guest post on her blog. For reasons that I make clear on the blog, I decided to talk about Winter Song, which proved to be an interesting exercise. It’s been so long since I’ve worked on the book that it was like revisiting an old home. The actual blog post is here — do drop by to read it, and while you’re at it, have a poke around the rest of Aliette’s site, which is one of the most fascinating on t’net.

• March 30th, 2011 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Bradley P. Beaulieu Interviewed

Bradley P Beaulieu came 2nd in the 2004 Writers of the Future contest, and has subsequently sold short stories to Realms of Fantasy and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. His first novel, The Winds of Khalakovo will be published in April 2011 by Night Shade Books — it is the first volume of The Lays of Anyushka trilogy. He’s stopped by to answer a few questions.

So to begin, if you could pick anyone at all, who would you most like to meet?

Anyone alive? I’d probably pick Cate Blanchett. She’s such an interesting actress. She’s so good at her art, and I think it would be fun to talk to her about her process, how she prepares for roles. And I suppose it doesn’t hurt that she’s beautiful, nor that she played the part of one of the more interesting characters in The Lord of the Rings.

Anyone at all? This may sound a bit easy, but I’d love to talk to J.R.R. Tolkien. He came from a different time, and has paved the way for so much that followed. It would be interesting, not only to talk to him about his writing, but to let him know how much he means to so many others, including me.

You like spicy food. What dish do you most like to cook?

My favorite recipe is one I haven’t tried before. I love cooking, but I still have a lot to learn. There are a ton of things I haven’t made yet, even mainstays in traditional western cooking. When I was living in California, I fell in love with fish tacos, especially Ensenada style fish tacos. The fish is deep fried in light batter and then put on a bed of white cabbage or lettuce over fresh corn tortillas and topped with a light sour cream sauce and cilantro and light Mexican cheese. I tried quite a few places until I found the on I liked the best, and then I tried recreating the recipe. I’m pretty close now. The batter’s tricky to get right, as is the frying of it, but I’ve experimented with a few sauces, and I’m pretty happy with the recipe now. The traditional recipe doesn’t have a ton of spice, but I have a spicy tomatillo sauce and I add chipotle puree to the sour cream sauce to add some zing. When I get it right, it’s one of the best meals I make.
Tell us about your fantasy kingdom – what cultures and/or countries have you drawn inspiration from?
The Winds of Khalakovo draws heavily from Muscovite Russia and ancient Persia (and also a bit from the Ottoman Empire, though that has much more play in Book 2, The Straits of Galahesh). Perhaps not so obviously, I draw heavily from Buddhism as well. It was the central belief system I started with when I was in those earliest of brainstorming sessions. I’d determined early on that the most common form of magic would be commanded by a select few people, and that because of their beliefs they would be used by others who are not so caring as they. From this mindset sprung the Aramahn, the peaceful people who draw their beliefs from Buddhism but their culture and customs from ancient Persia. The Russian influence came later as I was using the portraits I’d collected at the Royal Gallery in Edinburgh to try to figure out who they were and how they fit into the story.
As the story began to evolve, it became important to have one culture be imperialist in some way, and the other welcoming, almost to a fault, as the Native American peoples were to the colonialists. And then it was important to put these two cultures in conflict. The most compelling way for me to do that was to have one culture be ruthless in their grab for land and resources, but to also keep the other culture relevant in some way—and this is one of the more interesting facets of the story to me: the Aramahn are necessary to the current way of life on the archipelagos that comprise the Grand Duchy of Anuskaya. They provide for commerce and trade not only among the islands, but with the large, neighboring continent of Yrstanla. It was very intriguing how the Aramahn both detest what the Grand Duchy has done to them and the islands and yet also help them in the hopes that they will one day come to find enlightenment.
I read with interest your influences, which include the usual suspects like G.R.R.M, but less obviously, Glen Cook. What particularly draws you to epic fantasy?
I suppose at this point it’s ingrained. Check that. It was probably ingrained by the time I left junior high—long, long before I started thinking about writing as a career. The earliest novel I remember reading that affected me to any great degree was The Hobbit in third grade, followed quickly by The Lord of the Rings. I read various others in the years that followed, like David Eddings’ Belgariad, and Fred Saberhagen’s Book of Swords, Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant, and later, Glen Cook’s Black Company, and C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy. I read various other things, including Science Fiction, but I was always drawn to the scope and grandeur of epic fantasy. I was drawn to technology at an early age, and I suppose even then, like now, I was a bit of an escapist. The epic fantasies seemed so romantic and wondrous, I couldn’t keep away from them. And so when I started to work out stories, dabbling in writing in college and then more seriously in my early thirties, my mind was naturally drawn to these same types of stories.
I noted that you’ve written a number of first novels of trilogies, with the possibility of sequels. What’s next after this trilogy? Any ideas? If things aren’t firmed up yet, what would you like to do? 
I have two possibilities that I’m mulling over right now. (I like to let things germinate for quite a while, so it’s important for me to get my hindbrain working on these as early as possible) The first is a science-fantasy called The Days of Dust and Ash. Think Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind meets The Coldfire Trilogy. I’m excited about this story, because it’s a departure from what I’ve written in the past, though it will still be fantastic and wide in scope. The story focuses on a young girl who is summoned from the dust, a global consciousness that was created as the last great age of technology fell under a nanite plague.
The other is called From the Spices of Sanandira. I sold a novella with the same title to Beneath Ceaseless Skies last year, and it will be appearing sometime this spring. It’s a story that springs from Sanandira, a large desert oasis known for its caravan trade and spice bazaars. It’s got a strong Thousand and One Nights feel to it. The novel is not so much an expansion of the novella as it is a re-imagining of it. It will probably focus on a pair of twin sisters, one of whom is sold to one of Sanandira’s famed assassin rings at a young age. The other girl (the protagonist) finds her sister by happenstance years later, and because of this chance meeting is drawn into the world of intrigue her sister walks every day.
Thanks for stopping by Brad, and good luck with the launch; enjoy the moment.
• March 10th, 2011 • Posted in Interviews • Comments: 0

Winter Song in Detroit

Thanks everyone for the birthday wishes.

I was going to take the day off, but the weather is so bad that we’re stuck indoors so I have little option to stay in and blog…especially since I’m still not a hundred per cent. Which brings me as neatly (and as lamely) as a Radio 2 presenter to today’s post…. 

About six weeks ago, a friend wrote to me about a visit to a Detroit bookstore.  A couple of days ago, while confined to bed, I recieved an update:  “The thieves have apparently had their fill {and stock is in]: note that Winter Song is shelved between Charlaine Harris and Erica Hayes. Apparently the bookstore thinks Winter Song is vampire porn. Congrats, Colin, that’s a good market to be in!”

Hey, do you see me complaining? I’ll take vampire porn anyday…except that it doesn’t appear to be Winter Song — it’s been so successful that we’ve had to cunningly disguise it as Damage Time

Joking apart, that’s been a feature of the two books coming out so soon after each other — one sells through, and the other one takes its place.  It happened in Bath, as well. Does that mark a new trend, of short-life displays.

• November 11th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 4

Damage Time Out In The US

Since it  is out today, I felt I ought to write a few words –unfortunately, I don’ have a bottle to crack against its bows– but yea, verily, I declare this novel Damage Time to be out as of about…5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Actually, it’s probably been out for hours or days. These distinctions are entirely artificial, like birthdays, and Christmas. What actually changes, because a clock ticks over? This is what distinguishes from the animal kingdom, of course…that we can consciously note the time. But at times it can get a little out of hand…I’m thinking of the Millenium for example, but yes, today probably applies as well….

Anyway, enough waffle. There are two more flash extracts up on the site with experimental artwork by moi, based on Chris Moore’s stunning cover.

And since it’s still Halloween Week over at suite101, I’ve posted a review — this time Gary MacMahon’s fine but harrowing The Harm.

(it’s amazing how many variations on that you can get by omitting one letter from that title — I variously typed ‘he harm’ and ‘the ham’ and ‘the arm’ before finally getting it right…)

• October 26th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Damage Time – 1 Week To US Release

And only after I’d posted this, and the links went Facebook, Twitter, etc, did I realize that it’s actually 5 days to release. The UK releases on Thursdays -it went out on the 7th– while the US unleashes books into the trade on the last Tuesday of the month. Doh!

But back to the original post…

I was up before dawn this morning and nearly lost my fingers twittering in the dark (I had to alternate removing my glove to press the keys and put it back on when my fingers went numb) which meant that one tweet took twenty minutes, so Alice and I scuttled back into the warmth in record time.

This morning I’ve subbed a couple of poems to a magazine; I’ll be amazed if they take them, since the whole process was a little tongue in cheek, but I’ve long given up trying to second guess who will buy what, and who will reject it.

And I’ve tidied up the order of the Damage Time extracts, so hopefully new -and returning- readers will be able to run through them a little more smoothly, and added Chapter 7. I’ll add two more sidebar chapters next week in the run up to the US release (which is a whole 7 days away! eek!) and on the big day will post one last extract, which is a main narrative chapter linking into the two sidebars.

Right, onto revisions and uni homework. Abyssinia!

• October 21st, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three…

In an attempt to nail the WordPress / Facebook interface issue, I updated the Damage Time  page this morning; it was long overdue — I hadn’t realized that the pages still said April / June release. Me bad.

Of course, Damage Time  is out on Thursday. Bloody hell, that’s Thursday! It’s sort of snuck up on me. And the release date for the US is the 26th. Where Winter Song was recently the #1 selling title in Barnes & Noble! (so those drop bins worked then…)

The page cross-posted, so this blog is to see whether the blog is now cross-posting as well, or whether that’s where the problem lies…so here goes nothing.

I’ll stick one of the pictures that accompanied the extracts from Damage Time on here as well. Originally posted in April, I’ll have to re-issue them, so to speak. But that’s for another day — today I have Genre Fiction with the lovely Lucy English. Oh well, at least I should be spared the patronizing ‘I don’t mean to disparage Genre Fiction – but…’ that one of yesterday’s lecturers came out with.

Ta ra for now!

• October 5th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Going South

I’ve had my pre-holiday haircut, joining Kate and Tourette’s Dog in the Shorn stakes, and found on my return that even the vegetation was getting in on the act; a pair of tree-surgeons have arrived to trim one of the beech trees that gives the house it’s name. It’s a lovely-looking tree, but it’s now dangerously close to the overhead power lines. Good timing, considering that we’ll be on the road for Poole in another couple of hours — they couldn’t have cut it much finer… (boom boom!)

We’re heading south to dog-sit for the in-laws in Poole, and I’m looking forward to ten days of walking on the Purbeck Hills, lying in and take-aways.

I have no idea what internet connectivity we’ll have. In theory there’s wi-fi, but they’ve already had connectivity issues so hopefully I’ll be logged on as usual on Thursday.

Or it may be that the next time I surface will be at Fantasycon on Saturday.  Angry Robot have pulled stock of three new titles  (including Damage Time) which aren’t available for another three weeks out of a magic hat somewhere, and I’ll be joining Andy Remic and Mike Shevdon in the dealer’s room to sign copies.

To get to Nottingham for the 12 o’clock launch requires me to catch the 06.25 train… for which I’ll probably have to surface in the dark (whimper) …you’ll probably hear the groaning on Saturday all the way up in Nottingham! Still, it’ll be good to catch up with the extended AR family, plus various other old friends from previous Fantasycons.

So I’ll either see you here, or at Nottingham, whichever occurs first.

• September 15th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Winter Song In Oregon

This is shameless self-indulgence, I know…but forgive me. I’ve been working for this for thirteen years and I’m going to enjoy it for a few more days. Maybe one day I’ll be completely blase about having a book actually on shelf instead of the vast virtual warehouse of Amazon, Book Depository, etc. But that day hasn’t come yet!

There’s this vast warehouse of a shop that covers three floors in Portland, Oregon. It’s a bit of a legend by all accounts — and even I’d heard of Powell’s Bookstore.

A friend of mine who was there on holiday sent me a snap of the front of it which looks pretty unprepossessing, but inside is a wonderland of books…

…and there it is — out in the wild.

Not quite next to Joe Haldeman or Harry Harrison, but close enough. 🙂

• September 9th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 2

The 2010 Hugo Award Winners

I’ve posted the list of 2010 Hugo Winners over at Suite101, together with some Hugo trivia.  

In the article I talk a lot about Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Wind-Up Girl, particularly in light of the fact that it’s only the fourth novel to win the ‘trinity’ of Hugo, Nebula & JWC. I’m not so naive as to believe that the best novels always win these awards. In fact some stinkers have won individual awards. But over the years they’ve collectively been a good barometer of what exemplifies what we should treasure, and point newcomers to as introductory works to the genre.

A second mini-thought: Nicholas Whyte mentioned on his blog that all five fiction winners were men. When I looked through my scrappy list, I found that the [fiction] winners for the 2000s had the lowest proportion of women of any decade since the 1970s.  Does that mean that Hugo voters are becoming more sexist, or is gender less of an issue in who the voters pick, leading to a greater preponderence of male stories on the ballot? You decide.

• September 6th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0

Winter Song Update

I’ve been concentrating lately on ticking off the multiple deadlines falling on August 31st.

It’s starting to come together, and to celebrate Winter Song‘s realease into the wild in the US with a series of links and teasers over at Suite101.

More tomorrow, this time on Dark Spires.

• August 24th, 2010 • Posted in General • Comments: 0