Wednesday, February 26, 2014


THIEF’S WAR, by Hilari Bell, will be available on March 7! 

It is my great pleasure to introduce my fellow inkpot member, the immensely talented Hilari Bell!

I really loved THIEF’S WAR, Hilari. What an exciting adventure! I know it’s the fourth book in the Knight and Rogue Series, but a reader certainly does not need to have read the other three books to enjoy the book. Was it difficult writing a novel that can stand on its own for new readers, while satisfying fans of the series?

It is tricky, though not so much in the story itself—any book that will please old readers should please new ones, and visa versa.  The hard part is figuring out how to reveal information the old readers already know (like how the magic system works) without boring them, and also how much of past adventures do you need to bring up again.  Interestingly, I’ve found that it’s the people who have read the previous books who’re more likely to want me to remind them about what happened before the current story started.  I think new readers just figure I’m telling them all they need to know, while the old readers are the ones saying, “But you’re not telling us enough about ...”

That is interesting! The characters of Fisk and Michael, and their friendship, was one of my favorite things about the book. It was a very close relationship, and yet there was some tension and history between them as well. Was there an inspiration behind either of these very life-like characters?

Some writers always start their books by creating a character, but for me the core idea of the plot usually comes first—and my Knight & Rogue books are the only exception.  One day Fisk just popped into my mind, standing in the rain at the foot of a tower and grousing about how much it sucked being squire to a hero—though Fisk put it in better, and in more archaic language.  A whole six book series grew out of that moment, but that exact scene is the first paragraph of the first book.  It had to be.

I read that you will write three more books in this series.  Do you already know where it will end?

It’s actually two more books, for a total of six.  And I’ve known the last scene in the last book almost from the start.  But that’s not to say I know everything.  For the book that follows this one, Scholar’s Plot, I knew it would be a murder mystery at a university, and that it involved Michael’s brother, and a few things that happened in the overarching series plotline—but until the time came to start prewriting, I had no idea who was murdered, why they were murdered, or who murdered them.  And for a mystery, that’s a lot not to know. 

I read on your website that the first book you sold was the fifth book that you wrote, and when it sold you were working on your thirteenth book! How many books have you published?

This one will bring the total up to twenty, and you’d think that would make your career secure.  One tip—if you want career security, don’t become a writer!  On the other hand, I’m now writing the first draft of book six, and there’s something so wonderful about writing a first draft.  My best friend is a writer too, and whenever one of us is writing a first draft the other one is jealous, because it’s so exhilarating and centering and satisfying.

Twenty books - wow! There is magic in a first draft, when the story comes to life. Do you work on one book at a time, or do you jump around?

One at a time.  I’ve heard of people who could work on more than one book at a time, but I can’t imagine doing it.  When you’re writing a first draft, you’ve got so much of the story stuck in your head...  There’s not room for two at once, and it would take me days, if not weeks, to unload one story and completely reload another.

Your fantasy worlds are so well drawn. I loved the magica and Gifts in this series, it is so unusual and exciting at the same time. Can you describe your world building for us?

I have a ball with world building!  I used to dread it, but then I came across a chapbook, Checking on Culture by Lee Killough, that gives you, literally, a culture building checklist.  It’s designed for science fiction, so it starts by asking you to figure out your alien’s Habitat, Anatomy and Psychology, and then it gives you categories in alphabetical order:  Agriculture, Architecture, Arts...  With fantasy some of that stuff doesn’t apply, but most of it does, and I just bop around and work things out so that they work for my plot and characters.  Clothing, Commerce, Communication, Cosmetics....  I find that my world building changes my plot, and my plot changes my world building, and this structured checklist creates this wonderful organic process where things start pinging off each other.  Machines, Marriage, Math/counting, Medicine, Modesty...  It’s a great tool.

Thanks for that tip – I’m definitely going to check that out!  Which is your favorite character from this book, and why?

People keep asking me if Fisk is my favorite or Michael—and I honestly don’t have a favorite between the two of them.  I love Fisk’s cynicism...but Michael’s craziness makes him a blast to write.  Of the minor characters...  Atherton Roseman is one of my better villains, if I say so myself, and the mad jeweler’s dialogue was incredibly fun and cool to write.  Someone in my critique group asked me how I created dialogue so disjointed and crazy...and I had to admit that it just welled up, completely effortless.  Which may say bad thing about the state of my sanity.

What are you working on now (if you want to share!)?

Book six—which is still creatively titled Book Six.  I hope something better comes to me soon.  And I do have a couple ideas for things I’d like to write after this, but I’m not sure which one I’ll take on.

Do you have any talents besides writing?

Not notably.  I might have been talented in some other area, if I’d taken the time and work to develop it.  But talent is a dime a dozen kind of thing, except for a rare few—which I’m not.
And now, a few questions for our readers to get to know you better!

Favorite Book:  Can I do favorite author instead?  Right now Lois McMaster Bujold leads the pack with her Miles Vorkosigan books—though her Sharing Knife books come a close second.  She’s fabulous.

Favorite Quote: I don’t have one particular favorite, but Thomas Edison’s statement that “The reason there are so many missed opportunities is that opportunity usually shows up dressed in overalls and looking like hard work” is a goodie.

Favorite Food: Carmel corn or kettle corn.  I’m OK with chocolate, but caramel is my favorite—and then add popcorn and salt...  Oh my.

Favorite Ice Cream: Actually not that big an ice cream eater—possibly because I have teeth that are sensitive to cold, of all the weird things.

Favorite Place: Camping on the coast, Cape Blanco State Park, in Oregon.  Camping is my favorite thing to do, and that’s my favorite place to do it.

Thanks so much, Hilari! If you’d like to read more about Hilari, you can check out her website here - and the link to pre-order the book on Amazon is here

Intrigued by THIEF’S WAR? Read on:
Who are you?  What are you doing here?  Where are...?”
A sudden suspicion of the answer stopped my tongue, but they knew what I’d been about to say.
“Yah,” said one-eye.  “We’re orfinks, mostly.  Those as ain’t, they’s better off here than home.”
I’d heard bits of the Tallowsport accent this week, but never so thick and pure.
“Surely you have kin in this town who’d take you in.”
There was a long silence, then the girl shrugged.  “They were chasing him.  And it’s not like they don’t know about us.”
The blond boy growled under his breath, and a murmured echo came from the shadows—a feral sound that lifted the hair on the back of my neck.
“That’s how come we’s here,” one-eye said.  “It’s the Rose.  He says anyone takes us in, they get the same as our famblies got.  We’re supposed to be dead, see?”
He said it with a casual acceptance that chilled my blood, even as it broke my heart.
“Who is this Rose?” I demanded.
All of them stopped, staring as if I’d asked why the night was dark.
“The Rose,” said the girl. “Tony Rose.  Atherton Roseman.  The man who runs this town.  The man who owns the six thugs who were about t’ beat the crap out of you!”
--Thief's War

Interview conducted by Erin Cashman, author of THE EXCEPTIONALS.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rogues: Who prefers the bad boys?

I've always liked Robin Hood more than King Arthur, Han Solo more than Luke Skywalker--and I'd take Ranger over Joe Morelli, too, not to mention Phillippe Gaston from Ladyhawke over the faithful knight.  And everyone likes Jack Sparrow better than...what was his name?  Some people will say that it’s the rebel appeal of the outlaw, some will say it’s the “I could reform him” syndrome...and maybe there’s truth in both those theories.  But for me...I like a practical man.  I like a man who confronted with a daring quest is more likely to say, “Are you out of your mind?” than “Onward, my brave men.”

And then there’s the whole class of “noblemen in disguise.”  Does their exercise of trickery and deceit let Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel count as rogues, even if they aren’t criminal criminals?  By their own society’s rules they were committing crimes—hence all those masks and disguises.

Or is “a rogue” simply defined by their wonderfully irreverent attitude?  One of my favorite rogues is the pooka in Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks, in which the dark and bright fey are fighting a war for the city if Minneapolis.  The pooka and a water sprite go to recruit the female leader of a rock band to fight on the side of the bright fey...and they don’t care at all that she’s not interested in being recruited.  When she threatens to call the police, the pooka says, “Summon your police.  What will you tell them when they come, and find a dog and a pool of water?”  Like I said, practical.

But who are some of the fictional rogues who’ve won your heart?  And why?  I sent this question to the Inkies, and received a veritable rogue’s gallery—and found several titles I want to try!

From Dawn Metcalf:
Skif from Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books.
Aragorn from LoTR.
Cat from Joan D. Vinge's Catspaw.
Cassandra Clare's irreverent Will from the Infernal Devices series.
Almost everyone in Neil Gaiman's ANANSI BOYS (although "Low Key" is probably tops).

From Ron Smith:
How about the bad girls?
Arya Stark, Game of Thrones
Celaena Sardothien, Throne of Glass
Tank Girl!
Lisbeth Salander, Dragon Tattoo

From Ellen Booraem:

Roiben in Holly Black’s Modern Faery Tale trilogy. He has that unbeatable combination of arrogance, intelligence, and damaged soul.

From Lena Coakley:
For me it all goes back to Heathcliff, the original rogue. (In fact, he is based on a character from the Brontes' early writings called Alexander Rogue.) Although Heathcliff is a truly despicable person, there is one pure thing about him, his love for Catherine.

From Amy Butler Greenfield:
Yes. And speaking of original rogues, I'll put in a word for Henry Crawford
in Mansfield Park. Not a good match for Fanny, it's true, but it would be a
mighty tedious book without Henry's wit and flair for all things dramatic.

From Erin Cashman:
Aragon from LOTR is my favorite - but how about Gansey from The Raven Boys?
And I like the idea of a girl rogue post - I love Ismae from Grave Mercy!

From Lia Keyes:

Robin Hood/Robin Goodfellow/Puck. The original lovable rogue. :)

From Miriam Forster:

Loooove Skif. And don't forget George Cooper from Tamara Pierce's Song of the Lioness quartet.
Speaking of girl rouges, I just finished season one of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, (based on the books by Kerry Greenwood) and if Phryne Fisher isn't a (admittedly wealthy) rouge, I don't know who is. :)

From Keely Parrack:
For some reason the only one that springs to mind is 'The Artful Dodger!'
If Oliver Twist can be called fantasy?

Any others?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Featuring Jennifer Nielsen and THE SHADOW THRONE

Today here at The Enchanted Inkpot, we are thrilled to welcome one of our own, the fabulous Jennifer Nielsen, here to celebrate the release of The Shadow Throne, the third and final book in her The False Prince series.

 Welcome, Jen!

PJHoover: This is book three, The Shadow Throne! It’s such an exciting book and trilogy. I’m curious how much your vision for the trilogy changed as you wrote books two and three. Did you stick to a carefully laid out plan or did things change along the way.

JenN: Thanks for the interview, Tricia, and for the kind words. The vision for this series has stayed pretty consistent throughout the writing process. It was first offered to Scholastic as a standalone book, but when they indicated they wanted a trilogy, I was beyond thrilled, since I always knew the entire story I wanted to tell.

PJHoover: Just a small follow up to above . . . What sorts of things did you wish you could have changed in The False Prince and The Runaway King as you wrote The Shadow Throne?

JenN: Not much, actually. There are always details and tweaks that nag at every author, but I felt like the characters led this story, and that this is the way things were always supposed to unfold. I do think that writing is an ongoing learning process. With each book I understand myself better, and hopefully I will always continue to grow as a writer.

PJHoover: When it comes to marketing, what do you think makes the biggest difference in whether a book is successful?

JenN: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to “write the next book.” Because the reality is, once it goes to final draft, most of what happens to our books afterward is out of our control. All of the big things – reviews and awards and lists and buzz – those are bigger than any one person. So we stay visible on social media and in public appearances and try to spread the word however we can. But none of that is a guarantee of success, and in fact, I think sometimes those things can just be a lot of busywork and distraction.

The best thing we can do for our fans is to deliver the next book. And if we focus on making it the best it can possibly be, then they will tell others about it and bring new readers to us.

PJHoover: What is next? WIPs? Future publications? Please tell all!

JenN: So many exciting things! Next spring I will release the first book in a brand new trilogy called Praetor War, which takes place in Ancient Rome with an escaped Roman slave, some stolen magic, and a battle to control the fall of the Roman Empire. It’ll have many of the same elements that readers have loved about The Ascendance Trilogy, but with the added fun of magic folded into the grandeur of that ancient empire.

Just for fun:

PJHoover: There are tons of books out there. Tons! What are five awesome reasons why The False Prince series should be the series for kids to read?

JenN: Hmm, only five? Here goes:
1 – See it before it becomes a movie (er, if it becomes a movie. Fingers crossed!)
2 – You will love the hero, Sage, though you’ll never be sure whether to laugh at him, smack him, or hug him.
3 – To find out why Sage would ever say these words: “Until the moment I spit on their king, I probably had looked pretty humble.”
4 – The third book is finally out! So if you were waiting until you could read all the books at once, this is your time!
5 – Because you could win a million dollars! (Disclaimer: No, you won’t.)

PJHoover: If the apocalypse came, would you still find a way to write? If yes, then how and why?

JenN: Well, not on the actual day of the apocalypse. But the next day…well, maybe, and with ashes and stone if necessary because for me, writing isn’t really a choice. I’d start a new trend in futuristic books: Utopians.

PJHoover: Finish this sentence, and tell us why. Writing is a lot like….

JenN: …a new love.  At first you think about them all the time and can’t wait to be with them. As you get to know them, you see their flaws and wonder how it’s going to work. Maybe you even flirt with others, just in case it fails. But as you go on, you find yourself increasingly committed to this new love, and determined to fix the flaws and see it through.  Also, especially with writing, breaking up really stinks.

PJHoover: Mummy vs. Bigfoot... Who would win and why?

JenN: Oh, Bigfoot, easily. Mummies aren’t scary. One unwrapping, and Bigfoot could crush whatever’s left inside.

PJHoover: Please share your favorite inspirational thought with my readers!

JenN: I always believe in keeping one’s dreams as big as possible. So a favorite quote for me comes from Oprah Winfrey, who said, “Create the highest, grandest vision for your life, because you become what you believe.”

PJHoover: Thank you so much for being here!


P. J. Hoover is the author of the dystopia/mythology YA book, SOLSTICE (Tor Teen, June 2013), the upcoming Egyptian mythology MG book, TUT: THE STORY OF MY IMMORTAL LIFE (Tor Children's, September 2014), and the middle-grade SFF series, THE FORGOTTEN WORLDS BOOKS (CBAY, 2008-2010). You can read more about her and her books on P. J.'s website or blog.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Who is Hermione’s Perfect Man?

Well, this week J.K. Rowling pretty much rocked our worlds. No, she didn’t announce a new series based in the world of wizards and muggles. We wish! Instead, Rowling made a comment that cast doubt on the happily-ever-after of two of her most beloved characters: Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. In an interview with Hermione portrayer Emma Watson, she said that she wrote the Hermione/Ron relationship as “a form of wish fulfillment” and that the two characters ended up together simply because she was “clinging to the plot as [she] first imagined it.” As writers, many of us were shocked to hear Rowling talk about her Monday-morning-quarterbacking-post-publication-plot-regrets. We like to pretend we got it right! But as a reader, I was even more dismayed. Even though I am a writer and I know that the final plot of a book can go any number of ways, I still like to be immersed in the worlds other authors create. I like to live under the illusion that what I am reading is the story as it had to happen. No one is more enraged than me when Hollywood makes a movie from a book I love and changes the ending, and that’s because there’s something real about the words as they end up on the page.
            So I wish Rowling had chosen not to share her second thoughts. But since she did, I have to weigh in. Because I actually agree that Ron wasn’t right for Hermione! Ron is an okay guy, but he isn’t as smart as Hermione, and he’s emotionally unstable. Remember when he flipped out and left Harry and Hermione alone to save the world from Voldemort? I think Hermione would be faced with a lifetime of wishing she had someone around who was on her intellectual and emotional level. Rowling suggested that Hermione should have ended up with Harry, but I would be sad to see that because I loved the wonderful friendship between Hermione and Harry. I loved that Rowling wrote a meaningful friendship between a boy and a girl that did not have to be romantic. They had a respectful, loving friendship that would last a lifetime, and both Hermione and Harry deserved to have a friendship like that in their lives.
            A poll of my fellow Inkies revealed more problems with Hermione ending up with Harry. For example, what would have happened to the character of Ginny? We would never have had Harry and Ginny’s epic first kiss, and one more awesome strong woman would have been relegated to minor character status. The relationships between Harry/Ginny and Ron/Hermione also place all of our favorite characters in the same family, which we love. Some us loved the Ron/Hermione relationship because they did seem unsuited for each other—just like in real life, unexpected relationships make things interesting!
            I agree with those who said that Hermione didn’t need to be married off to anyone. Getting married to someone you met at age eleven may be a common fantasy among kids who don’t know better, but Hermione deserved better than that. She deserved to have great adventures! If she chose to marry anyone, I’d like to think she’d make that choice after seeing the world as a strong single lady who owed nothing to anyone. Maybe she would have ended up with a sexy foreign wizard, someone with brains, body, pizzazz, and of course, the brave heart of a Gryffindor. Perhaps her paramour would have been Swedish or Russian or Chinese. Perhaps he would have been American and Hermione would have moved to New York, where I could have passed by her on a busy street.
          Even though I can imagine all sorts of things that might have happened to Hermione, even some I would have liked better than the things that happened in the books, the reader in me has to accept that she and Ron ended up together and lived happily ever after. That’s the way Rowling wrote it, and in my book, that’s the way it has to be. Not only am I a stickler for the original words, but they did live happily ever after. What more could we want for the characters we love?

Mary G. Thompson is the author of Wuftoom and Escape from the Pipe Men!

Monday, February 3, 2014

What We're Reading

Wow! The Inkies have been pummeling through their TBR stacks lately. There are so many great recommendations here, old and new, popular authors and newly discovered favorites, and any variety of genres.
Lena Coakley (Pic)
This fall I had the incredible good fortune to see Neil Gaiman in conversation with Susan Cooper, who was a Lifetime Achievement recipient at World Fantasy Con in Brighton, England.  They came up with a short list of "must-read" children's fantasy authors: David Almond, Philip Pullman, Diana Wynne Jones, and Alan Garner. I loved Almond, Pullman, and Wynne Jones, but I'd never heard of Alan Garner--so I'm reading ELIDOR right now. It takes place mostly in Manchester and draws heavily on Welsh folktales. Although it was published in 1965 it doesn't seem dated at all. I'm loving it!

Hilari Bell
I'm currently re-reading an oldie, but a very goodie.  It's adult fantasy, not YA, though young adults would love it – ISLE OF GLASS – the first book of Judith Tarr's best trilogy.  It's set in an alternate England of Richard the first, in which the elves have their own kingdom, but are being persecuted by the early Christian church.  The protagonist is an elf who was raised as a monk and is a devout Christian...and he's trying to grapple with the fact that he's in his seventies and looks like a seventeen-year-old boy. Elves, being immortal, have no souls--and for monks that's a really big deal. It's got great dialog, great characters, some really nice humor, and despite the theological-sounding core, a lot of action adventure.  If you haven't found this one already, give it a try.

Leah Cypess
I'm almost at the end of THESE BROKEN STARS by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner and am in the mood to rave about it. So, here goes...

Until I got about three quarters of the way through, I would have recommended this as a really fun and well-written science fiction adventure with a predictable but still effective romance. However, near the end the narrative spirals unpredictably into complete awesomeness. The fact that it was written by two people makes the two narrative voices seem effortlessly distinct, and the authors are in complete control of the story and the pacing at all times. I would love to know more about their process in writing this!

PJ Hoover
I've been reading a total mishmash of stuff, including our very own Jennifer Nielsen's conclusion to her trilogy, THE SHADOW THRONE. In addition, I just finished, on audio, THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Margaret Atwood and have just started ORYX AND CRAKE, also by Margaret Atwood. I'm still loving the dystopian genre and am always looking for great suggestions!

Mike Jung
I recently read the BLACKOUT/ALL CLEAR duology - my first foray into the work of Connie Willis - and was utterly demolished by it, and I mean that in a good way. The time travel stuff was great, but the emotional connection I developed with those characters was beyond great. Thinking about that final scene in Trafalgar Square still gets me all soggy-headed and misty-eyed. 

Ellen Booraem
Christmas books! I read LONGBOURN, the servants’ side of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, which was
a lot of fun. Although the servants’ characters and plot are wonderful, you get the most out of the book if you know P&P fairly well. I really can’t judge how well it works as a novel on its own merits. I just finished my second Christmas book, CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE CITY OF THE DEAD, a very cool detective story set in New Orleans after Katrina. It had some editing problems that drove me a little nuts (the down side of being in the business, right, Inkies?) but the characters and plot are fascinating. I’m eager to move on to the second book in the series, which came out in June.

Keely Parrack
I'm reading DEAD MOUNTAIN for research. It's a wintery tale of the Dyatlov Incident where nine students disappeared under very mysterious circumstances while on a hiking trip in Russia.

And now for something completely different...I'm reading A STORY LATELY TOLD, Anjelica Huston's autobiography!

Anne Nesbet
I just read Megan Frazer Blackmore's THE WATER CASTLE, which mixes science and magic and Maine (so that's a good combination!), and also Brandon Sanderson's THE RITHMATIST, which I enjoyed so much I started reading veeeeeeeery sloooooooowly when I got close to the end. I didn't want it to finish! And of course I also read and greatly enjoyed our own* (*though currently on sabbatical from the Inkpot--but surely she'll be back!) Ellen Oh's WARRIOR, sequel to PROPHECY. I need a new book to read now, so I'll be eager to see what everyone see suggests!

Miriam Forster
I also finished rereading the OBSIDIAN trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Because sometimes you just need a book with a dragon on the cover. 

Erin Cashman
I just finished THE EMERALD TABLET by Tricia Hoover - and I loved it and ENDERS, by Lissa Price, which was also fabulous!

Katherine Catmull
Because I am special, I am reading Claire Legrand's new YA WINTERSPELL, which doesn't come out until this fall. Kickass heroine who doesn't appreciate her own kickassery, smoking hot romance, fighting, bad fairies, more fighting, did I mention the smoke and the hot? Plus, believe it or not, it's all built on the bones of The Nutcracker. I am SO enjoying it.

Jennifer Nielsen
My favorite recent read has got to me THE LIVING by Matt De La Pena. It’s a near future heart-pounding adventure with a dystopic twist, with characters that just leapt off the page at me. I can’t wait to see what he does with the rest of this series!

So…anyone else want to share in comments? What are YOU reading?