Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal

I mentioned this briefly on Saturday, but I know a lot of people were away (for Thanksgiving or just the weekend), so I’ll recap — especially since we’re actually live now, which means there’s a lot more to say!

As those of you who read my booklog posts have probably guessed, for the fifth and final volume of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, our intrepid heroine is going to a region based on the real-world Himalaya. I’ve been reading a fair bit about that area, and in the course of doing so, I’ve been continually reminded about the devastating earthquakes that struck Nepal earlier this year. The immediate need for earthquake relief has passed, but now it’s time to rebuild — and I thought, well, let’s see if I can’t do something to help out.

So I’ve teamed up with Patrick Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser, creating Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal. This is part of the larger Worldbuilders effort, which raises money for Heifer International, but all donations received as part of the Friends of Nepal project will specifically go to Heifer’s Nepal programs.

If you’d like to help out, there are two ways to do so!

1) Just donate! Every $10 you send in will get you one “lottery ticket,” making you eligible for a wide variety of prizes. These will come out of the general Worldbuilders pool, and as per usual, you can choose which prize categories you’re interested in (books or games).

2) Buy a book! If you want more certainty as to what you’re getting, you can purchase a book from the list on this page. If you already have everything of mine (or just think I smell funny and don’t want anything to do with me), there are also books from Alyc Helms (The Dragons of Heaven), Mindy Klasky (Season of Sacrifice; the Glasswright’s Apprentice series), and Morgan Keyes (Darkbeast Rebellion), and more to come over the next week or two.

I will draw your especial attention to the signed ARCs of In the Labyrinth of Drakes. There’s only five of those puppies up for grabs; if you want to read the book before it comes out, act fast!

(There was also a third way, which was the auction for the Tuckerization, but that has ended. My original plan for this project was to run it independently; when Patrick Rothfuss invited me to join forces with his people, I leapt at the chance, but it does mean we had to scramble to get everything coordinated with them before Worldbuilders ends for the year, and it’s happening a bit piecemeal. Rest assured that if I do this again, we’ll start planning much further in advance.)

You’ve got a couple of weeks left to pitch in! Remember, all proceeds go to Heifer Nepal, so whether you donate or buy a book, you’re really helping out.

Want to be in the final Memoir of Lady Trent?

As those of you who read my booklog posts have probably guessed, for the fifth and final volume of the Memoirs of Lady Trent, our intrepid heroine is going to a region based on the real-world Himalaya. I’ve been reading a fair bit about that area, and in the course of doing so, I’ve been continually reminded about the devastating earthquakes that struck Nepal earlier this year. The immediate need for earthquake relief has passed, but now it’s time to rebuild — and I thought, well, let’s see if I can’t do something to help out.

So I’ve teamed up with Patrick Rothfuss’ Worldbuilders fundraiser, creating Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal. This is part of the larger Worldbuilders effort, which raises money for Heifer International, but all donations received as part of the Friends of Nepal project will specifically go to Heifer’s Nepal programs. In another couple of days there will be a page specifically for the Friends of Nepal, with books and other items offered for sale, the chance to donate for lottery prizes (a la the usual Worldbuilders setup), and some auctions.

Why am I posting before that page is live?

Because one of the featured elements of the Friends of Nepal fundraiser is live right now, and ending in just over a day. Bid here for the chance to appear in the final Memoir of Lady Trent! One lucky winner will have a character in the last book named after them, or a person of their choice. Who exactly that character will be will depend on the gender and ethnicity of the name, but possibilities include a scholar of the mysterious Draconean language, an intrepid mountaineer, a foreign diplomat, and more.

Bidding is up to $200, which is absolutely fantastic. (From my “let’s raise money for Nepal” perspective; not so much for those of you who would love to bid but can’t afford it.) You’ve got until 7:20 PST Sunday to get your own bid in — that’s 10:20 EST, and 3:20 a.m. Monday morning UTC/GMT. And if you don’t win the Tuckerization, don’t worry; there will be a bunch of other items on offer pretty soon . . .

. . . including signed ARCs of In the Labyrinth of Drakes. That’s right — you could have a chance to read it before it’s even published.

Stay tuned for more news!

Illumination, on this Blackest of Fridays

The illustrated Lies and Prophecy is now on sale!

“What’s that?” I hear you say. “Illustrated? When did that happen?”

Well, today. (Obviously.) But, to back up a little, it happened during the Kickstarter for Chains and Memory — one of my stretch goals was illustrations for Lies and Prophecy. The Memoirs of Lady Trent have spoiled me, you see; now I feel like all my books ought to have pictures. :-P Ergo, the first book of the Wilders series now has six images, drawn by the talented Avery Liell-Kok. Here’s one, to whet your appetite:


You can get this edition now, from a whole swath of retailers: Book View Cafe, Kobo, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, and Amazon UK. (Also other Amazon outlets, but if I list every country individually we’ll be here all day.) Barnes and Noble will be up and running in short order.

And for those who have been wondering, Chains and Memory will be out on January 5th. You can preorder that one from many outlets right now!

Signed books for the holidays

. . . or any other time of year, actually. I’ll be adding this information to my website soon.

If you would like a book signed by me, you can get one! All you have to do is contact Borderlands Books by phone (toll free 888-893-4008) or email (office at borderlands-books dot com). They’ll make the arrangements with you — which book(s) you want, whether they should be personalized to a certain recipient, etc — and then notify me to come by and sign. If you want the books by a particular date, you have to order them AT LEAST two weeks in advance, in order to give me time to arrange the signing visit and them to ship the books to you. (Going to Borderlands is a multi-hour enterprise for me, so I can’t do it at the drop of a hat.)

It’s as simple as that!


The new Bond movie is . . . not very good.

I’ve mostly liked the Craig movies, by which I mean Casino Royale and Skyfall. I basically remember nothing of Quantum of Solace, and the only reason the same won’t be true of Spectre is that I’m bothering to post about its shortcomings.

The main thing that disappointed me with Skyfall was the feeling that, at the end, we had returned to the usual classic Bond status quo. Craig’s Bond didn’t have gadgets, didn’t have Q, didn’t have Moneypenny, and M was a woman. By the time Skyfall ended, you had gadgets (albeit minor ones compared to past films), Q, Moneypenny, and a male M. The whole film was explicitly about looking back to history, both of the franchise and of the characters in it, and so as an ending to the story I think I would have been okay with it. But then we got Spectre.

Which is an utterly conventional Bond movie that fails to be anything more than the sum of its parts. One villain is so obvious that I assumed, the minute he showed up, that the script was doing that as a red herring and the real situation would turn out to be more interesting. Alas, no. The plot is phenomenally stupid; it hinges on the idea that nine countries have decided to share 100% of their intelligence information — and those nine countries include the UK, Russia, and China. I’m sorry, what? Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but the notion that those three countries would be peachy keen with sharing all their secrets because surely they’ll be BFFs forever and never end up in conflict with one another is so far outside the bounds of reality, I lack the words to describe it. (And I write fantasy.) Nothing gets explained enough to have any impact: Monica Bellucci shows up for long enough to babble something about how she hated her husband but her marriage was the only thing protecting her from being killed by nevermind we’ve run out of infodump time GET TO THE MAKEOUTS. And then she vanishes from the film, with nothing about her entire situation having any relevance to the story whatsoever, except that we’re twenty minutes into the movie and the schedule says Bond has to get into bed with somebody. The main villain is clearly supposed to have all this personal resonance for Bond, but unless he came up in Quantum of Solace and I forgot it (entirely possible), we don’t know anything about that personal resonance until the last third or so of the movie, which is far too late for it to mean anything to the audience. Bond commits inexplicably stupid errors: we see him notice a not-at-all hidden security camera, but apparently he decides there’s no point in wiping it before he leaves, just so there can be a later scene where somebody else is horrified to see what it recorded.

Skyfall, though not perfect, was in every way a better movie. It had the personal weight this one seems to think it has, but doesn’t. It had a thematic argument about human intelligence vs. the technology of the new age, which gets stuck in a microwave for Spectre and does not reheat well. It had a meaningful relationship between Bond and M, instead of a Bond girl who almost manages to be interesting but again, her backstory is not explored very well and somehow I’m supposed to believe Bond retires and settles down with her or something? It had genuine tension; I’m not a filmmaker, but even I can tell this movie dragged stuff out for too long, kept the score at too THRILLING! EXCITEMENT! of a level with insufficient dynamics, made things more complicated than they had to be so I’m wondering why there are all these string things set up instead of worrying about the characters’ lives. It had entertaining moments, but they added up to nothing whatsoever.

It turns out the best part of Spectre was Daniel Craig’s press tour.

Art needed for a good cause

Short notice on this, but: do I have any artistically-inclined followers who would be willing to make me an image for use in a good cause? (More details on the good cause will be forthcoming shortly.) The image should be some kind of colored sketch, sized suitably to be a website banner, with one or more dragons flying over really tall mountains, and the text “Lady Trent’s Friends of Nepal.”

Send any and all efforts to marie dot brennan at gmail. If I use your image, I’ll send you a signed ARC for In the Labyrinth of Drakes in thanks! Need these by 5 p.m. PST tomorrow, if at all possible.

Books read, October 2015

Somewhat delayed on account of World Fantasy.

The Great Zoo of China, Matthew Reilly. This book can basically be summarized as “Jurassic Park, with DRAGONS!” Which, y’know. Kind of put it squarely in my field of interest. And it was a moderately entertaining read — but I kept being thrown out of the story by the fact that the author seemed to be watching the movie he hopes they’ll make of his book, and writing it as if it were that movie. This means a pov that wanders around aimlessly between close third and a camera-eye omniscient (complete with lines like “if they could have seen the vehicle from the outside, they would have seen X”), and choppy little not-even-scenes that are the textual equivalent of rapid camera cuts. See our heroine clinging to the outside of the truck! See the driver of the truck stomp on the brakes in a three-line “scene”! Cut back to our heroine barely holding on as the truck skids to a halt! That kind of thing works in audiovisual media; in text, it just keeps yanking me away from any engagement with the characters. I appreciated the fact that the heroine is a facially scarred herpetologist who basically saves the day with her knowledge of crocodiles, but she never really came alive for me. Also, while I’m fine with the idea that Chinese bureaucrats and soldiers might do all kinds of underhanded shit in pursuit of building an enormous dragon zoo with which to impress the world, the story really could have used more in the way of sympathetic and competent Chinese characters to counterbalance the bureaucrats and soldiers. (Not to mention the fact that the dragons are apparently all Western-style, even though the story gives a relatively clever explanation for why dragons are a real worldwide phenomenon.) Overall, I’d say give this one a miss, unless you are absolutely dying to read Jurassic Park with dragons.

The Last Airbender: Zuko’s Story, Dave Roman and Alison Wilgus, art by Nina Matsumoto. Picked this one up because I met Alison Wilgus last World Fantasy and really enjoyed talking to her, and also because I’ve been reading various Avatar tie-in comics. This one feels thinner than the others simply because it’s filling in a minor hole from the show, rather than exploring new territory; it’s the tale of what happened with Zuko between the agni kai against his father and Aang turning up. So, while it’s well done, I didn’t engage with it quite as much as with the sequel comics. I should note, though, that it also includes a section at the back which compares the comic script to the rough sketches. If you’re interested in what a script looks like, and how the vision can change from the script to the roughs to the final version, it’s quite useful.

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy Sayers. Still working my way slowly through the Wimsey novels. I came up with a much more convoluted answer to this one than turned out to be the reality, reading too much significance into a particular detail. Wimsey undercover was pretty cute, though I feel I might have done with just a bit less exploration of the advertising industry; his interactions with Dian Momerie were . . . interesting. Not entirely sure what I think of them, though once again, it gave me a chance to see just how big an influence Sayers must have been on Dunnett.

Violence: A Writer’s Guide, Second Edition, Rory Miller. Yoon Ha Lee recommended this one, and I second the rec. When I put together Writing Fight Scenes (which is part of the 2015 NaNoWriMo StoryBundle right now, plug plug), I was very aware that I don’t actually have any personal experience with being in a real fight. Miller won’t tell you anything about how to put a fight on the page, but he has personal experience in spades, and says a great many interesting things about what being in a fight is like, what kinds of violence people engage in, and how people experienced with violence tend to behave. The book does have its flaws: it could use better organization (especially since he repeats himself occasionally) and it’s mostly concerned with violence in a modern society like ours, making it less than 100% applicable to premodern fantasy societies. In fact, I feel Miller is at his weakest when he tries to talk about historical situations; at one point he basically declares that before about 1800, the only possible responses to a violent crime were to a) go get revenge with your own two hands or b) suck it up and go on being a victim. Uh, the rule of law may have been imperfect in the past, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, and that legal remedies were never available. Furthermore, at one point he says “unless you can not only write things like the mass slaughter at Halabja, but write from a point of view where slaughtering Kurdish men, women and children to test chemical weapons just made sense, your fiction will always be missing something. It will always be two-dimensional,” which I feel is overstating his point with a vengeance. Having said that, he’s got a really fascinating perspective on sex differences, focusing not just on the socialization regarding violence but the less-obvious consequences of that socialization, and also on biological differences in how adrenaline gets processed. I’m very curious to know whether that latter point is in fact true, because if so, it’s really helpful information.

Yak Butter and Black Tea: A Journey into Tibet, Wade Brackenbury. Dear lord, this book. I’ll say for starters that I read it for the first-person account of what it’s like to tramp around at high altitude across rugged terrain, and on that front, it delivered admirably. But it’s also the story of a couple of guys who decided they wanted to go to the Drung valley, in territory the Chinese government had put off-limits to foreigners, for no better reason than because no westerner had ever been there. They weren’t anthropologists; they weren’t journalists; they weren’t serving any higher cause whose worthiness and importance we could debate. They just got a wild hair up their asses and decided to do it. At one point Brackenbury finally arrives at sufficient self-awareness to think that, hey, maybe he and his traveling companion were really screwing over the people they dealt with while sneaking around trying to get to the valley: those officials they lied to or got into arguments with might have been terrified of losing their jobs, those people who were reluctant to sell them food might not have had much to spare, etc. But on the whole, they seemed to feel that “we want to go” was sufficient justification for them to break the law right, left, and center. So if you want to read about people tramping around at high altitude across rugged terrain, this book may be useful to you — but don’t pick it up unless you’re prepared to deal with some amazingly self-centered assholes.

Three announcements

1) I sold a short story! “From the Editorial Page of the Falchester Weekly Review will be up at some time next spring. As the title suggests, this is a Lady Trent story — the one I wrote while on tour this past May, in fact, and some of you may have heard me read it at BayCon.

2) I sold another short story! Continuing my unbroken streak, I will have a piece in the fifth Clockwork Phoenix anthology: “The Mirror-City,” which takes place in a Venice-like setting. Did I come up with it while in Venice? Nope; the idea is years old, and deadlines meant I actually had to write and submit the thing before I ever left for the real place. :-)

3) If you prefer to get your novels in audiobook form, you’re in luck: Warrior and Witch are both now available on Audible. With shiny new covers, no less!

And with that, I’m off to World Fantasy tomorrow. See some of you there!

update on the WFC harassment policy

Official wording isn’t out yet (they’re still working on it), but this year’s WFC con com has announced that they’ll be expanding their harassment policy, using that of the 2014 World Fantasy as their guide. This is a relief to me, and means I will (barring new disasters) be participating in the program as scheduled.

Even more encouragingly, Ellen Datlow told me via Twitter that the WFC Board — the body which farms out the right to run World Fantasy to individual committees each year — will be meeting next week to discuss implementing a standard policy for the con series as a whole. That chicken has of course not yet hatched, but I find this very reassuring. At present, the Board only “encourages” the cons to have a policy, and lays out no guidelines for what shape that policy should take, if it exists at all. I think it’s become abundantly clear that this approach is insufficient; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that what the Board puts in place will improve the situation going forward.

Writing Fight Scenes is in the #NaNoWriMo StoryBundle!

As a balm against today’s infuriating news, I am exceedingly pleased to announce that my ebook Writing Fight Scenes is part of the officially-sponsored NaNoWriMo StoryBundle!

Contents include:

  • Worldbuilding – From Small Towns to Entire Universes by Kevin J. Anderson
  • Brewing Fine Fiction by Maya Kaathryn Bohnoff and Pati Nagle
  • Writing Fight Scenes by Marie Brennan
  • Writing to the Point by Algis Budrys
  • Million Dollar Book Signings by David Farland
  • The Synopsis Treasury edited by Christopher Sirmons Haviland
  • Write Characters Your Readers Won’t Forget by Stant Litore
  • 52 Ways to Get Unstuck by Chris Mandeville
  • Discoverability by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • How to Write Fiction Sales Copy by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Writing Horses – The Fine Art of Getting It Right by Judith Tarr
  • Jump Start Your Novel by Mark Teppo
  • Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman

And there’s a second-tier bonus, too — the entire 2014 NaNoWriMo StoryBundle, for a total of 25 books of writing advice. What better way to procrastinate on your novel than by reading lots of stuff that will tell you how to write it? :-)