Cold Steel giveaway winners

Random number generator has picked four winners. Congrats.

I need them to contact me:

Rima Z


Eve N

Zoe (tumblr)


Thank you so much to everyone who entered. There are so many excellent questions.

I have over 150 questions to answer. Be patient. I am going to answer all of them. It will take me a few months of doing at least one answer post a week (hopefully more), and I’ll answer them in batches, probably of related questions. Also, any whose answers will contain spoilers I will probably hold until toward the end of the process. So if you’re looking for the answer to the question you asked, keep your eye on my blog (I’ll mirror on livejournal and cross post to tumblr).


“Is it ever difficult *not* to fall into writing that caters to male gaze?” (Spiritwalker Monday 4)

Over the next few months I will be answering, a few at a time and probably more than once a week, the many excellent questions (and they are all excellent questions) asked as part of the Cold Steel giveaway.

However before I start doing that I am going to answer a few questions still in the queue that are unrelated to the giveaway. I do read all email and questions I get and I try to respond to it all; it just sometimes takes me a while in which the “while” may extend to weeks, months, or in a few embarrassing cases years.

In the wake of my September 2012 post The Omniscient Breasts, girljanitor asked:

I was wondering, is it ever difficult *not* to fall into writing that caters to male gaze? A lot of the time I find myself writing in a way that is reactionary without being subversive.

I’m not going to define “male gaze” here. If needed, read the above linked post where I do so. And I’m going to answer the question not specifically by discussing the male heterosexual gaze that sexualizes women (which is what I focus on in the post) but to define it in the larger sense of the default cultural gaze, the one that surrounded me as I grew up in the USA and which is still heavily dominant in so much of the USA media and narrative and casual talk.

My answer is that it is ALWAYS difficult for me NOT to fall into writing that caters to the default cultural gaze.

The default gaze is easy. Like the One Ring, it wants to be found.

The received wisdom I heard over and over again as a child about how women are, how men are, how society is (in the largest sense including any sort of discussion about gender, race, nationalism, history, ethnicity, heteronormativity, and so on) continually rises out of my backbrain and insinuates its way into my stories.


I am involved in a constant struggle to pick apart those assumptions and not perpetrate them in my stories.

Sometimes I grab that bull by the horns right out in the open and confront the stereotype or old default head on as I’m writing. Sometimes I write a scene and only later realize how I catered to the old lies and then have to sort out where I slid and figure out in revisions how I really want to deal with the situation. Sometimes I don’t catch some reactionary interaction or plot choice until I see the book in print by which time it is too late to change. And other times I don’t see it at all and only realize defaults I fell into after they are pointed out in a review. And it lurks in all my writing still.

I’m wracking my brains for a few concrete examples from my work of which there are many because they reach back into the entire drafting process for each book. For example, the relationship between Anji and Mai in Crossroads was easy to write because it is based in a traditional male/female gender split. I think I did a good job with that story (and torqued it in a specific way meant to counter-examine that story) but that doesn’t negate that it was a piece of cake to write exactly because it so heavily skewed to comfortable old gender roles. Meanwhile, in my current WIP, I am having to constantly remind myself to build ways in which my young heroine (there is also an old heroine but her story has different inherent difficulties) can act rather than be acted upon because the initial iteration of her story involved her being acted upon but in fact it does not have to be written with her as a passive bystander thrown into a raging current of story; she can decide to jump into that river of her own volition.

I don’t expect to be perfect. I expect to make mistakes. I expect to fail sometimes. I expect to be human. Therefore I try to be aware and to learn something each time and do better.

An apt analogy might be picking apart embroidery. I have to cut it stitch by stitch and pull it out of the fabric in order to re-do it. This stuff goes deep.

In other words:

Part of my writing process is unlearning.

Daggerspell (Katharine Kerr) re-read at A Dribble of Ink. Join us!

This will start May 29 at A Dribble of Ink.

Welcome to the Daggerspell Reread and Review Series, with Aidan Moher (your humble editor/blogger) and Kate Elliott (author of lots and lots of cool novels)! We thought it would be fun to bring two different perspectives (someone who’s read the series, someone who hasn’t), and explore Daggerspell together, comparing notes and reflecting on a series and world that are held dearly by many readers. We’re also hoping that, if you’re not familiar with Kerr, you might discover a new favourite author.

If you are so inclined, read along with us. I’m very excited about this.

Again, the introductory post about what we are doing and the schedule find here.


Copies of COLD STEEL arrived on my doorstep this afternoon.

I can’t read them all, plus I already know the story, and meanwhile the book is not officially released until 25 June 2013.

[The ebook will be released into the wild on 25 June but it is possible that the print book will start showing up earlier in bookstores just as the print copies of COLD FIRE did. So if you are buying the print version, keep your eyes open.]

Obviously the only thing to do is to have a giveaway.

I’m giving away four copies of COLD STEEL.

Here are the rules:

1. The giveaway will be open for one week, from today 20 May until 9 p.m. HT (Hawaii Time) on Monday 27 May.

2. Anyone can enter internationally.

3. To enter, ask me a question about the Spiritwalker Trilogy *or* about writing *or* about the science fiction/fantasy field and media *or* about something else. Everyone who asks a question is entered. There are no stupid questions.

4. Three of the copies will be picked randomly from all entries (here, on livejournal, and on tumblr). One copy will be picked at my discretion based on the questions themselves–but only one. There may be a few of you who worry about whether your question is good enough or clever enough or interesting enough: It is. And anyway, as per the above, lest you are still secretly fretting as I would be, three of the winners will be picked without regard to the question asked.

I will mail out the winners’ copies as soon as I get addresses (on May 28 if possible).

5. After you have read the book you can review it IF YOU WISH, or not review it, as you wish. This giveaway is in the nature of thanking my readers.

Just to clarify, any review should be the honest opinion of the reviewer. While I naturally hope all of you love the novel, I am aware that not everyone will, and reviews should be honest. However, IF you decide to review it, I ask (as per Orbit’s request) that you not review it until late June when the books are available.

Do not underestimate the importance of the social media conversation about books. The conversation is a fabulous thing, and it matters.


A brief reminder: Check out my book event dates (San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Seattle, Portland), and come if you can!


One last thing: YOU GUYS. Thank you for being the best readers.


News and plenty of it (Spiritwalker Monday 5)

Cold Steel (Spiritwalker Trilogy #3) to be published in 25 June 2013. It is possible that print copies will show up in bookstores before that day so keep an eye out.

I will be doing events in San Francisco (June 27), San Diego (June 29), New York City (July 2), Seattle (July 8), and Portland (July 9) in conjunction with publication. Information here.




My essay “The Omniscient Breasts” is in Speculative Fiction 2012 edited by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin.

Speculative Fiction 2012


Speculative Fiction celebrates the best in online non-fiction – the top book reviews, essays and commentary of the year. This first volume, edited by bloggers Justin Landon (Staffer’s Musings – US) and Jared Shurin (Pornokitsch – UK), collects over fifty pieces from science fiction and fantasy’s top authors, bloggers and critics.



My short story “leaf and branch and grass and vine” appears in in the anthology Fearsome Journeys, edited by Jonathan Strahan.

Publication date: 28 May 2013 (S&S/Solaris)

The Fearsome Journeys, The New Solaris Book of Fantasy


An amazing array of the most popular and exciting names in epic fantasy are set to appear in the first in a brand new series of anthologies from the celebrated master anthologist Jonathan Strahan. Featuring original fiction authors such as Trudi Canavan, Daniel Abraham, Saladin Ahmed, Elizabeth Bear, Glen Cook, and Scott Lynch, many more exciting names will appear in this collection. From dragons to quests, cut-throats to warriors, battles and magic, the entire range of the fantastic is set to appear on this first Fearsome Journey!



Chapbook “The Secret History of Beatrice Hassi Barahal” in collaboration with artist Julie Dillon and publishing collective Crab Tank: In production. Publication date: June/July 2013



Audio book company Recorded Books is doing an audio book version of the Spiritwalker Trilogy. This will be my first audio book. They’re recording Cold Magic as we speak! No release date yet.

The four Jaran volumes will appear in e-book format in late summer 2013 through Open Road Media. No date yet.

The Highroad Trilogy and The Labyrinth Gate (my first four novels) will also appear in e-book format through Open Road Media but there is no date set.

As I announced earlier this year, all 7 volumes of Crown of Stars are available as e-books in the UK region, published by Orbit UK.

The first three volumes of Crown of Stars are available in USA and World regions (I have not been given a date for release of volumes 4 – 7 of the series in e-book format in the USA/World regions but feel free to write to DAW Books and ask them).



I have some short stories in progress and some announcements to come about my next novel projects, but not this week.

I keep meaning to set up a quarterly newsletter like people do but I haven’t managed it yet (it always seems more important to spend my time writing fiction and alas I have no personal assistant).

Finally, a fully updated web site, soon.

COLD STEEL events (readings/signings)(Spiritwalker Monday 6)

To support the release of the third and final volume of the Spiritwalker Trilogy I will be at the following bookstores/events:

Borderlands Books, San Francisco, CA: Thursday June 27 at 7 pm

with Katharine Kerr who will also have a new book out.


Mysterious Galaxy San Diego, Saturday June 29 at 2 pm

with Andy Duncan and Clarion students (should be fun AND educational).


New York CIty: NYRSF reading Tuesday July 2 (with E. C. Ambrose) at 7 pm


University Bookstore, Seattle, WA: Monday July 8 at 7 pm


Powells Beaverton, Portland OR: Tuesday July 9 at 7 pm

With Lilith Saintcrow!


All events will include reading from Cold Steel, from my forthcoming YA fantasy, and maybe even from the epic fantasy trilogy I’m currently working on, or possibly I will read a short story instead although that might necessitate you believing I can actually write a short story. Which I can. I totally can.

PLUS Q&A (you have to bring the Qs).

AND I will either have print copies of The Secret Journal of Beatrice Hassi Barahal available (art by the awesome Julie Dillon!!!!) OR if it is not yet finished I will have a rough version with some of the illustrations to display and a place to sign up with your email/address to get notification when the print and e-book versions are ready for purchase.


Please know that I would love to see you. Yes, you! Especially YOU!

And your friends, family, or indeed any passers-by you can snag off the street. If I’m not coming to a city near you, send friends or family who do live in the area. The more the merrier. If enough people come I will sing OR demonstrate how to paddle an outrigger canoe and punch sharks.

I plan to attend the Sirens Conference in Oregon in October (it’s a wonderful small conference — come if you can!) but besides that the events listed above will be my only appearances in public venues/conventions this year (as far as I know).


A note on bookstore events: I’m signing at four well regarded and valued independent bookstores. You may bring personal books from home for me to sign. It is not required to buy (for example) Cold Steel or any book from the bookstore but it is always a strong show of support for independent bookstores if you can and do buy a copy of my newest book or, indeed, any book while you’re there (whether or not it is one of mine).

If you’re not able to make the event, I do always sign stock at each bookstore so you can order a signed copy afterward. If you contact any of the bookstores IN ADVANCE you can reserve a book and get it signed to you at the event (by me! not some random book signing gnome).

I have some thoughts on epic fantasy (Spiritwalker Monday 7)

In July and August 2011 the excellent Clarkesworld ran a massive two part series on Epic Fantasy (Part One here and Part Two here) in which the intrepid Jeremy L. C. Jones heroically interviewed a ton (at least) of writers of epic fantasy and then collated these reams of material into two huge amazing sets of reflections on the genre.

The answers were there divided by question rather than author, so here today (because I once again have a couple of half written posts that I’m not yet done with but meanwhile I need to make my Monday deadline) I’m excerpting my answers all in one place for your delectation. Bear in mind that the answers are a snapshot from two years ago. Yet many of these issues and discussions are ongoing and not, perhaps, much altered even though two years on.


—What is at the heart (or core) of epic fantasy?

I think every writer is going bring a different perspective to epic fantasy.

I’m not personally much into definitions; they can get awfully constraining. Often a definition seems either needlessly prescriptive or it seems to express the needs, desires, and prejudices of the person doing the defining. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way; we all have our views and opinions but we also have our blind spots and unexamined assumptions and expectations.

I can tell you what I enjoy most about epic fantasy. I like the sense that you’re getting a wide lens view of a world, one that is punctuated by closeups and medium shots. The word I would probably use to describe what I’m looking for in an epic is “sweep,” defined in my American Heritage Dictionary as (variously) “to move or unbalance emotionally; to cause to depart, remove or destroy; to traverse with speed or intensity; to extend gracefully or majestically.”

What that means is that for me the heart of epic fantasy is the emotional response it engenders in the reader. That emotional response is going to be something different for each reader rather than a static characteristic required for all. For me it’s a teenage girl standing on a wind-swept promontory overlooking a vast landscape and distant ocean; she’s got a bow and arrows slung over her back and a falcata at her hip, a faithful dog and horse at her side, sturdy boots and a cloak, and a long journey ahead of her. By which I don’t mean that any story–not even mine–has to have that scene in it to be epic fantasy. I mean that when I read epic fantasy, I want to feel a sense of discovery and adventure and anticipation and vista.

—And why do you write it?

I was an outdoor, athletic child: I preferred to play physically active imagination games outdoors. But, against that, the cultural norms of the day reminded me constantly that the things I loved to do were appropriate for boys, not for girls. Sometimes people forget this.

So in the beginning, as it were, fantasy novels were a way for me to escape the rigid constraints put on girls. More importantly, I could write my own stories and build my own worlds. If you’ve not grown up being told you shouldn’t be who you are, I’m not sure you can quite understand why world-building and writing epic fantasy is so attractive and in its way a form of chain-breaking. But it was, and it is.

As an adult, I’ve become fascinated by cultural change, cultures in conflict, and the rise and collapse of complex societies, with a special place in my heart for the life cycle of empire. Epic fantasy allows the scope to really dig into these questions; the form creates an expectation that the reader will venture through layers and enjoy a certain level of complication, so I find it appealing for that reason.

I also love tracking multiple characters through a changing landscape. I don’t say that to suggest other genres and subgenres can’t do exactly the same things, just that those are some reasons I write epic fantasy.

I am not, by the way, a monarchist nor do I yearn for the halcyon days of yore with a secret reactionary bent to my heart. The idea that epic fantasy is by nature a “conservative” subgenre is, I think, based not only on an incomplete reading of the texts but also on an understanding of the medieval or early modern eras that comes from outdated historiography.

I don’t doubt specific works can be reactionary or conservative (depending on how you define those words), but more often than not I suspect–although I can’t prove–that if a work defaults to ideas about social order that map to what I call the Victorian Middle Ages or the Hollywood Middle Ages, it has more to do with sloppy world-building in the sense of using unexamined and outmoded assumptions about “the past” as a guide. I really think that to characterize the subgenre so generally is to not understand the variety seen within the form and to not understand that the simplistic and popular views of how people “were” and “thought” in the past are often at best provisional and incomplete and at worst outright wrong.

Historian Judith Bennett calls this the “Wretched Abyss” Theory, the idea that the European Middle Ages were a wretched abyss from which we modern women/people have luckily escaped. It’s one of the founding myths of modern feminism as well as the modern world. Me, I want to live now, with internet, antibiotics, and that nice intensive care nursery that saved my premature twins. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t also responsible to depict a more nuanced and accurate representation of “a past” as it was lived and experienced as a dynamic and changing span.

—What is the relationship between characters and settings in epic fantasy?

People exist in a cultural context. Characters live within their landscape both in the ecological and the societal sense. The society/societies the characters come from will inform how they see the world, approach the conflicts they struggle with, and interact with others.

As a writer, I do not see character and setting as separate; I see them as intertwined in exactly the way my own character and person is intertwined with the world I live in. I write from that place, so even though it’s also true that my approach, and thus the plot and character decisions I make, are necessarily informed by my own experience of the world, I must always attempt to see their world from their immersion in it.

—At what point is it necessary to kill off a recurring (and perhaps much loved) character?

When they die.

I may be interpreting the question in a way it’s not intended, but I don’t find it to be “necessary” to kill off a character except at the confluence of events and setting where that character ends up dead. Characters have lives and things happen for any number of reasons, and sometimes what happens is that they die. I don’t write series in the sense that I have recurring characters from book to book; I write a single novel in multiple volumes and when it’s done, it’s done. So any given character will either survive to the end, or won’t.

—How have you kept your series fresh and lively?

By finishing and moving on.

—Do you have any advice on dealing with violence when writing Epic fantasy?

I think writers shouldn’t flinch from writing violence. One has to be cautious, though, about using violence as the only way to build stakes, tension, conflict, and emotional reaction. It can get boring. Vary your palette.

I would wish writers to be honest about the degree of violence war inflicts on the actual combatants, and I particularly would wish writers to be honest about the degree of violence that war, empire, and political, religious, and economic conflict inflict on non-combatants and on the fabric of societies. We don’t need to look to the past for examples of this; we need only look at the news today.

Yet at the same time, violence needs to be seen as part of a larger picture. To use one example, I’ve read/heard both writers and readers comment that epic fantasy isn’t really about, doesn’t really “include,” female lives unless they’re rape victims, sex workers, mothers of heroes, or nubile young women waiting to be married off for dynastic or economic alliances–in other words, purely about sex, which frankly to me suggests a failure to understand the profound and far-reaching effects war and the various sorts of destabilizing conflicts have on the societies they touch as well as ignorance about the lives women actually led in the past in world history.

The way history was approached and written in decades past rendered many lives virtually invisible, but that does not mean those lives weren’t woven into the fabric of the events of their day or that people we may think of as passive, ignorant bystanders to the history of Men did not have a measure of agency and wit or even a great deal more than that in terms of economic or political clout if they were in the right social group.

There is, for instance, an entire subgenre of little stories written in the European Middle Ages in which clever women fend off the unwanted attentions of strong, armed men by wit and intelligent argument alone. The famous Aristotle, so very respected and influential and of course strikingly sexist in his view that women were literally physically, intellectually, and spiritually inferior to men, was also mocked and reviled in the Middle Ages, not least for what was recognized by some at that time as his misogyny–and this by clerical writers who were themselves part of a misogynistic culture.

Cultures wrestle with their own cognitive dissonances; they are not monolithic, static, and unchanging. Indeed, they contain multitudes.

—Any parting words?

To be honest, I find that too much of epic fantasy and concomitant opinions about how societies of the pre-modern era function is based on historiography that is 30 years old.

For instance, depictions of European medieval-like women and indeed of many medieval-like societies in some fantasy is woefully outdated. This outmoded historiography does not just pertain to women, it pertains to gender, it pertains to the church, and–because I’ve been focusing my comments on the European Middle Ages–it pertains very much to non-Christian and non-European cultures which were and are societies just as complex and advanced and layered as the European template so much fantasy defaults to.

We can tell new, interesting, and exciting stories if we extricate ourselves from old and increasingly tired assumptions and expectations about life in the past, and if we expand our horizons. I would still love to see more ethnic and cultural variety. And I would hope writers are giving thought as to whether their books pass the Bechdel Test.

Having said that, I think there are a lot of compelling and fascinatingly diverse writers working in the genre today; it’s an exceptionally rich and rewarding time to be reading epic fantasy.