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Immerse Yourself in an Electric Space-Fantasy with The Genesis of Misery Playlist!

The Genesis of Misery by Neon YangAre you ready to dive into the electrifying space-fantasy that’s now available in paperback, The Genesis of Misery? Author Neon Yang is ready to help you find the vibe with their exhilarating playlist, featuring bops from Arcade Fire, Billie Eilish, and more!


It’s an old, familiar story: a young person hears the voice of an angel saying they have been chosen as a warrior to lead their people to victory in a holy war.

But Misery Nomaki (she/they) knows they are a fraud.

Raised on a remote moon colony, they don’t believe in any kind of god. Their angel is a delusion, brought on by hereditary space exposure. Yet their survival banks on mastering the holy mech they are supposedly destined for, and convincing the Emperor of the Faithful that they are the real deal.

The deeper they get into their charade, however, the more they start to doubt their convictions. What if this, all of it, is real?

A reimagining of Joan of Arc’s story given a space opera, giant robot twist, the Nullvoid Chronicles is a story about the nature of truth, the power of belief, and the interplay of both in the stories we tell ourselves.

video player

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On Writing In Constraints by Jacqueline Carey

Cassiel's Servant by Jacqueline CareyWriters love a challenge and today Jacqueline Carey, author of Kushiel’s Dart and the upcoming companion novel, Cassiel’s Servant, joins us on the blog to discuss the constraints around writing. Check it out here!


By Jacqueline Carey

I enjoy writing in constraints.

I’m not talking about the kind that come with straps and buckles and blindfolds… although to be fair, I’ve written about those constraints more than your average fantasy author. When your heroine has been chosen by the angel of punishment to experience pleasure in pain, you’ve got to expect a healthy dose of spice.

No, literary constraints are what I’m talking about. CASSIEL’S SERVANT is a companion novel. It mirrors KUSHIEL’S DART at every step of the way. From the outset, we see our protagonists embark as children on parallel paths, growing into the roles that will define them. And once their paths merge, the entirety of Joscelin’s actions and dialogue in CASSIEL’S SERVANT is constrained by the framework of KUSHIEL’S DART. And since that novel was narrated by Phèdre nó Delaunay, who misses little and forgets less, there wasn’t a whole lot of wiggle room in terms of events.

So why write it?

A number of years ago, I wrote a poem on commission for a benefit. I pledged an Elizabethan sonnet and polled readers. Overwhelmingly, fans wanted a love poem from Joscelin, my stoic warrior-priest, to Phèdre, the daring courtesan who stole his heart. For the first time, Joscelin spoke. Not just lines of dialogue—he opened up his inner narrative. And it turns out that my taciturn hero given to letting his blades talk for him is more thoughtful and self-aware than I knew, with a keen sense of the absurd.

I wasn’t sold on it right away. I took a detour into the desert with a different warrior brotherhood in STARLESS, but it wasn’t enough to silence Joscelin’s inner voice. It was stuck in my head like a refrain. Finally, I allowed myself to imagine what Phèdre and Joscelin’s journey might look like through his eyes.

A lot different.

One thing about constraints, they force you to be creative, patient and diligent. My Sundering duology was constrained by the concept—LORD OF THE RINGS reenvisioned as epic tragedy. It was constrained by copyright issues that meant I had to recreate Tolkien’s plot structure and build a world to support it in forms that were at once original and yet recognizable as mirrors of the source material.

More recently, MIRANDA AND CALIBAN is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest which was wholly constrained by the original source material. There’s a lot of empty space between the beginning and the ending of that play. Like twelve years’ worth! It allows room for creative improvisation.

Side note: Renaissance magic is wwaaaayy more boring than you might expect. My commitment to historical authenticity forged some surprising constraints. Renaissance magic is mostly astrology and casting horoscopes. Kind of like a slumber party for gouty mathematicians and their wealthy patrons.

In some ways, CASSIEL’S SERVANT might be the tightest literary squeeze yet. I had to adhere to my own original source material. Once we left the Prefectory of the Cassiline Brotherhood, there were very few opportunities for improvisation within the strictures of the plot.

But it doesn’t necessarily take a lot of space to land a knockout.

One thing (among many) for which Bruce Lee was famous was the “one-inch punch,” featured in various Southern Chinese martial arts styles. According to Wikipedia and the countless kung fu movies I watched in college, this is a skill which generates tremendous amounts of impact force at extremely close distances. MythBusters registered the impact of a one-inch punch at 153 lbs with a force gauge. Uma Thurman one-inch punched her way out of a buried coffin in Kill Bill.

For me, writing with constraints requires a similar skill. It forces me to concentrate on extracting the maximum dramatic impact from any pivotal scene. And the one place of freedom, of expansiveness, of infinite possibility, within the story as it unfurls is inside of Joscelin himself.

There’s a lot of intrigue in KUSHIEL’S DART. Picking apart the tangled threads is one of the pleasures Phèdre’s perspective as a courtesan, spy and pawn in this ongoing game of crowns and thrones affords.

Joscelin, on the other hand, would be hard put to care less about political intrigue. It’s not just that he’s uninterested in it—it takes a shocking turn of events for him to fully grasp the fact that this frivolous-seeming assignment is deadly serious. It’s also due to the fact that House Verreuil is basically a D’Angeline version of “old money”. Political maneuvering and speculation are considered gauche. If you have some interesting thoughts on dog breeding or hydraulics, they’re all ears, but money and politics are things one does not discuss in polite society.

Fittingly, Joscelin’s life is circumscribed by constraint. As the middle son of an old aristocratic family, he’s pledged from birth to the Cassiline Brotherhood, bound by tradition and filial duty. He’s bound by his vows and his own sense of honor. Falling in love with Phèdre is the one-inch punch that turns his world upside down and shatters his heart to pieces. Writing in constraints has its rewards!

There are plenty of fight scenes in CASSIEL’S SERVANT and I loved writing them from Joscelin’s view in the thick of the fray—even during the numerous times he went down swinging in captivity. But for me, nothing lands as hard as that one-inch punch of true love.

Jacqueline Carey is the New York Timesbestselling author of the critically acclaimed and award-winning Kushiel’s Legacy series of historical fantasy novels. Recent novels include the Shakespearean adaptation Miranda and Caliban and the epic fantasy standalone Starless. Carey enjoys doing research on a wide variety of arcane topics, and an affinity for travel has taken her from Iceland to China to date. She currently lives in West Michigan.

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A Guide to Swearing in The Blacktongue Thief

When taking a trip to another country, it’s often a good idea to brush up on basic and useful elements of the region’s lingua franca. Much the same for touring the dangerous and magical lands within a fantasy novels, only there’s no need for ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ No, what’s most important are the BAD WORDS. Christopher Buehlman, author of The Blacktongue Thief—now available in trade paperback!—has very kindly provided a detailed guide on that most crucial part of fantasy language: SWEARING. Check it out here!

Buehlman_Blacktongue Thief_Galtish Swearing

 

 

The quite literally blacktongued sons and daughters of Galtia, a conquered province of Holt, may well call to mind the Irish, Welsh, or Scots of our own world. Like their otherworldly gaelic cousins, the Galts have a gift for language both sacred and profane. Here’s a taste of it: 

Kark (noun) 1. A wet fart 2. A devious or undesirable person. 3. An inconvenience or mess.

  • He’s a right kark, that one, I wouldn’t loan him a copper shave.
  • They were just mending things when he started bragging about all the women he might have had and made an utter kark of it.

To Kark (verb) 1. To soil oneself or one’s garments. 2. To ruin, to diminish something or someone. 3. To embarrass oneself; to lie, boast, or spout nonsense; to speak uninterestingly or repetitively; to fail.

  • Barran came over last night and drank so much burnwater he fell asleep on the supper bench and fair karked his britches.
  • You’ve karked your mother’s sword, letting it rust so.
  • I’ve listened to you kark long enough; you weren’t even there. 

Karkery (noun) 1. A clusterfuck, circus, catastrophe. 2. Shenannigans, foolishness.

  • The battle of Orfay was karkery of the worst sort; they ruined us.
  • Enough karkery, we have to finish these candles by week’s end. 

Sprumlet (noun) 1. A tuft of pubic hair. 2. An inconsequential person. 3. An endearment.

  • Hitch up your trousers, you’ve a sprumlet.
  • I won’t waste words on a sprumlet like yourself, go and fetch your mother.
  • You’re a good kisser, sprumlet, I think I’ll keep you.

Knap (noun) 1. A female or otherwise soft breast.

  • Since the bairns I can’t get my knaps in that corset.
  • He drinks so much beer he’s got knaps on him.

Kip (verb) 1. To peck (as a bird). 2.To engage in casual sex.

  • Yah, I kipped her, but I’m not looking for a moonwife.

Slipper (noun) 1. A coward; particularly one who ‘slipped the muster’ and hid, feigned disability, or intentionally became pregnant to avoid the carnage of the goblin wars. Note: Only use this to a person’s face if you’re ready to back it up with fists or a knife.

  • Both of her sisters went into the Regiment of Flails, but that slipper kipped riverboys to keep her belly round.
  • When the other lad took a poke at him, Mickle showed himself a slipper and beat heels.

 

CHRISTOPHER BUEHLMAN (he/him) is an author, comedian, and screenwriter from St. Petersburg, Florida. His novels include Those Across the River and The Suicide Motor Club, and his plays include The Last Neanderthals: A Paleolithic Comedy and Hot Nights for the War Wives of Ithaka. His latest book, The Blacktongue Thief, is on sale now.

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The Empire of Quur and Its Eight Dominions

Place holder  of - 57A bastard son and the demons who want his fractured soul. A weapon that can slay gods and the men who will kill to get it. A whole fantastic series filled with abandoned immortality, divine emperors, dragons, and sea witches—it’s A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons! Culminating in the recently released epicly climactic finale that is The Discord of Gods, there’s a whole world just waiting for you to dive in, or revisit. And on that note, why not check out this excerpt of The Discord of Gods, or this list of other fantasy novels that subvert the age-old and oft-told chosen one narrative


Author Unknown, from the library of the Academy

An Introduction to the Great Empire of Quur, featuring the Dominions of Kirpis, Kazivar, Eamithon, and Khorvesh west of the Dragonspires, and Jorat, Raenena, Marakor, and Yor east of them.

This is merely the briefest overview of the dominions that make up the Empire of Quur. Each chapter in this book will go into greater detail on the lands outlined in this introduction, from history to trade to the ruling classes.

Quuross from west of the Dragonspires typically have black hair and olive brown skin. From east of the Dragonspires, Quuros are have quite a bit more variety in their appearance, ranging from the red-skinned Marakori to snow-skinned Yorans, and of course the horse-marked Joratese, who can be any number of hues, often all at once. Quuros view the Empire as the center of the world; so much so that “going south” is a Quuros euphemism for dying. The saying is suspected to have originated with Emperor Kandor’s ill-fated attempt at southern expansion into the Manol, where he met his untimely end.

The Empire began in the city-state of Quur, which serves to this day as the empire’s capital city. The first emperor, Emperor Simillion, began the process of expansion with the peaceful addition of Eamithon, the first and oldest of the Dominions, and the most tranquil. Yor, a hard land of ice and snow, is the most recently added, and if they have their way, will likely be the first to leave as well.

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A Brief Overview of the Dominions of the Empire of Quur

Eamithon

Ruler: Lyria Monara, the Virgin Duchess of Eamithon. She has notoriously remained single in an effort to deny a husband from claiming the Eamithonian title.
Primary Trade Goods: Coconut, hemp, rubber, hardwoods (ebony, teak, and mahogany,) pottery, jewelry-smithing and lapidary work.
Climate: Eamithon is tropical and lush. Although the area grows more arid as it nears Khorvesh, the majority of the dominion benefits from the cold current from the South and the many rivers and lakes coming off the Dragonspire Mountains.
Notable Facts: Eamithon takes a dim view of slavery. Technically speaking, slavery is legal there, but slaves who are brought there have a tendency to vanish and turn up as villagers in remote areas, with other villagers willing to swear that’s where they’ve lived their whole lives. There is also enormous peer pressure on anyone coming to Eamithon to free their slaves if they wish to continue living there.

Kazivar

Ruler: Kazivar is ruled by the twin brothers Allizar Nakairi and Markaem Nakairi, who are the product of a famous (and scandalous!) marriage between the rulings families of both Kirpis and Kazivar. Although technically one twin rules Kirpis and the other rules Kazivar, even they would be hard pressed to admit which kingdom belongs to which ruler. It’s only a matter of time before the High Council forces them to divide their dominions once more.
Primary Trade Goods: Wine, hardwood, and citrus. It would also be remiss not to mention the Kazivar Mines which produce the rare metals drussian and shanathá.
Climate: Kazivar benefits from a temperate climate and wonderful weather.
Notable Facts: Kazivar is home to several knights orders whose origins are rumored to have their roots in the original Kirpis vané of the region. In addition, there is much mixed vané blood in Kazivar. Occasionally vané traits, such as Kirpis cloud curl hair in pastel hues show up in children born there, denoting their mixed heritage.

Khorvesh

Ruler: Duke Hino Sarana, who is seventy-five, and still very fond of fencing.
Primary Trade Goods: Carpets, textiles, dyes, spices, and herbs.
Climate: Hot semi-arid.
Notable Facts: Khorvesh is the southernmost of the Quuros dominions, bordering the Korthaen Blight. As such, it has often been subject to aggressive morgage attacks, and much of the area takes a military bent. It has produced famous warriors and swordsmen, such as Nikali Milligreest, who defeated Gadrith the Twisted. Even the women are expected to be skilled fighters who can defend the home in case of morgage attack. Khorveshans are also known for flouting traditional relationships and often practice polygamy.

Kirpis

Ruler: See Kazivar
Primary Trade Goods: Lumber, pottery, wine. As with Kazivar, Kirpis insists that only wine made with grapes qualifies as true wine. Kirpis is also famous for the distinctive blue color of glaze used by its potters, although Eamithonian pottery is also renowned.
Climate: Temperate Forest.
Notable Facts: Kirpis was taken from the Kirpis vané (and divided to form the dominions of Kirpis and Kazivar) during a period of imperial expansion by Emperor Atrin Kandor, who wanted the vané’s shanathá and drussian mines to power further Quuros conquest.  The majority of vané who made their home in the area were forced to flee south. While there are officially no vané living in Kirpis, rumors of a band of Kirpis vané secretly hiding in the forest using spells and trickery have persisted. Kirpis is also the home of the Academy, where the Empire trains new wizards and sorcerers recruited from all across the empire. As such, it is a land with a diverse population that brings together many cultures and ideas.

Jorat

Ruler: Duke Forun Xun, who is nineteen years old, having taken the title at age eleven when his father was killed during the Lonezh Hellmarch.
Primary Trade Goods: Horses, grains, fruits (apples, pears).
Climate: Varied, with wide reaches of grassy plains. Jorat experiences notably violent storms and tornadoes.
Notable Facts: The Joratese were enslaved to be servants of the centaurs that ruled the area under the direction of the god-king Khorsal. When Quur invaded, the humans and their fireblood horse allies eagerly sided with the Empire to overthrow the centaurs and their god. As one might expect, horses still have a place of special reverence to the Joratese and their equine bloodlines are rightfully considered the best in the world. Fireblood horses are actually sentient, and have the honor of being the only non-human race in existence to be granted the rights of Quuros citizens. Unfortunately for lovers of horses, the Joratese take a dim view of outsiders, or the magic that resulted in their original enslavement. Visitors are seldom made to feel welcome.

Marakor

Ruler: None. The last Duke of Marakor was executed for failing to prevent the Lonezh Hellmarch and has not yet been replaced.
Primary Trade Goods: livestock, grains, fruits, vegetables.
Climate: Humid subtropical.
Notable Facts: Our current Emperor, Emperor Sandus, is from Marakor. He rose from humble origins to win the Great Tournament. In addition, the last terrible Hellmarch, where demons  and the demon-animated dead overran the dominions and killed thousands, began in Marakor, in the town of Lonezh, eventually working its way north into Jorat before Emperor Sandus (long may he reign) was finally able to stop it. The swamps and back-waters of the Kulma region of Marakor have a dark reputation for demon-worship, and many Marakori find themselves unable to resist the lure of demonology, witchcraft, and unspeakable cults.

Raenena

Ruler: Governor Vandus Nomon, who has been petitioning to be made an actual noble.
Primary Trade Goods: Gems and metals.
Climate: Mountainous.
Notable Facts: Raenena is a dominion of transients, since most of the people who come to this dominion to work in the mines are usually planning to leave again as soon as they strike it rich. The native population is small and it is widely believed that Atrin Kandor killed all the native Vadrath who called the mountains home. Of course, if that isn’t the case, it would be very difficult to know given how inaccessible most of the dominion remains.

Yor

Ruler: Duke Azhen Kaen Duke Kaen is the grandson of General Azhur Kaen, the Joratese commander who assisted Emperor Gendal in slaying the god-king Cherthog and his wife, Suless, while adding Yor to the Empire.
Primary Trade Goods: Furs, whale meat, baleen.
Climate: Rocky and cold.
Notable Facts: It is often rumored that prior to Quur’s intervention, Yoran witches used to eat children. This is entirely unsubstantiated, and likely untrue. The rumor almost certainly spreads from the fact that many Yorans still tell tales about the God-Queen Suless, who was associated with witchcraft, deception, betrayal and yes—eating children. Yor is a bleak land, inhabited by monsters like snow giants (though they are likely now extinct,) giant bears, and even rumors of dragons. The people there are not yet fully integrated into the Empire—at least, not at the time of this writing.

Devors

Devors is a unique place, as it is part of the Empire, but does not belong to one of the eight Dominions. It is an island chain south of the Capital, off the coast of Khorvesh. It is only notable in that it is the home of the Devoran priests and their prophecies, which have often brought violence and chaos to the Empire as men seek to turn said prophecies to their favor. Such mumbo-jumbo is not the place of a scholarly examination of the Empire such as this, and as such, we will discuss it no further in these pages. For further information, see A Compilation of the Devoran Prophecies, by Cedric D’Lorus.

Sign up for the Tor Newsletter to receive exclusive looks at Jen Lyons’ The Ruin of Kings before it comes out! We’ll be sharing details of the world, the magic, and the history of Quur that you won’t want to miss.

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Meet the Crew of You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo!

Poster Placeholder of - 84We are so excited that You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo is going to be hitting shelves in just one week and even MORE excited that the author has joined us on the blog today to introduce us to the crew of their upcoming book! Check it out here.


By Cat Rambo

Captain Niko Larsen is of human extraction, raised among the Free Traders, the loose affiliation of ships that survives by taking cargo from one point to another. She misses her people there, but has vowed never to return to them, due to a past and terrible wrong. Instead, she joined the military entity known as the Holy Hive Mind, and rose (and sometimes fell) within its ranks, before finally retiring and taking those of her crew with her that she could in order to found The Last Chance, a restaurant aboard a major space station, TwiceFar.

Favorite food: A spicy protein-paste that she remembers from childhood, which most people find far too hot. Dabry made her promise to stop cooking with it, but she still fries some up as a midnight snack every once in a while.

 

Sergeant Dabry Jen, Niko’s second-in-command and right-hand man, actually has two right hands of his own, since he comes from the Ettilite, a four-armed race. He and Niko met when they were both being tested for suitability after having just enlisted with the Holy Hive Mind, in Dabry’s case somewhat involuntarily. The two became fast friends, and have worked together so long that they can seem to read each other’s minds at times, though it’s the result of long experience and not telepathy.

Favorite food: Whatever he’s cooking next. An example of this is Velcoran cuisine, in which the flavors are contained in balloons of inhalable gas accompanying protein bricks. Dabry loves a good culinary challenge.

 

Communications officer Skidoo is a Tlellan, a race actually each made of a symbiotic pair of beings. Tlellans resemble Earth’s octopi, and the similarity has led to the nickname for them, Squids. Most of them don’t venture into space, but Skidoo has, not just in search of adventure but sensual pleasure. Flirtatious and open-hearted Skidoo’s efforts often go awry in her efforts to keep everyone happy, but she rolls with the punches and keeps on being her own sweet self.

Favorite food: Back on Tlella, there’s a tiny, heart-shaped shrimp usually consumed raw in a thin, briny soup. She hasn’t tasted it in a long time, but she tells herself it’s the only thing she misses about her home planet.

 

Thorn and Talon are teen weretigers who were entrusted to Niko’s care by their mother, a soldier in Niko’s employ. Impetuous, highly competitive, and just beginning to become adults, the twins are huge fans of warball, the training game they first learned while in the Holy Hive Mind. They usually perform clean-up and similar tasks for the restaurant, since when put in the front of the house, they tend to get too chatty with customers, while in the kitchen, they get overeager and impatient.

Favorite food: Something they’ve gotten to chop. With knives.

 

Reptilian Lassite is a Sessile, a member of his society’s priestly caste, driven by his need to see the Golden Spiral he has prophesied manifest. Niko is essential to the spiral’s culmination, and Lassite has dedicated himself to her—or rather, to moving her along its path. Small and grim, he has been known to drive off restaurant patrons by foreseeing doom in their future more than once, a habit that doesn’t work well with his role as the restaurant’s maître d’. Lassite is trained and adept in wielding magic, including taming the alien ghosts that haunt the space station quarter in which the Last Chance is situated.

Favorite food: None

 

Atlanta is a new arrival to the crew and utterly uncertain of her role, although determined to find one within their ranks. Her lack of experience and assumptions from her former life of luxury lead her into trouble more than once, particularly when confronting the sort of dangers chasing Niko and her crew.

Favorite food: Almond cookies

 

Pastry chef Milly is a Nneti pastry chef, feathered, graceful, and capable of a deadly, killing dance that she exercised in her former life as a soldier. She’s recently arrived to the crew, but has been a pleasant addition, one that everyone gets along with well.

Favorite food: Sour-picked grubs in spun sugar cocoons

 

Quartermaster and sous chef Gio is an augmented chimpanzee who’s ventured off his home planet of Earth in search of adventure and found it when Niko took him under her wing, rescuing him from an abusive and brutal captain. Gio’s followed her ever since, signing out his sardonic commentary but never objecting to danger or discomfort.

Favorite food: Fruit salad

 

Heads turn for Lolola Montaigne d’Arcy deBurgh, who wears a beautiful, high-end designer body and is a renowned food critic. She thought the day was going well when they arrived at Twicefar in order to dine at the Last Chance and possibly bestow one of the Known Universe’s most coveted awards, a Nikkelin Orb. It was a lovely evening, with lovely company, up until everything started to go not just downhill but right off the cliff. Now Lolola finds herself sharing meals with people who don’t know her greatest secret—and she’s got to figure out how to turn it all to her advantage.

Favorite food: Tacos

 

You Sexy Thing is an intelligent bioship. After it’s been moored at Twicefar while its owner checks out a certain restaurant he’s heard a lot about, the ship finds itself stolen when newly arrived cargo signal the start of the station exploding and the crew needs to get off of Twicefar as fast as possible. The Thing isn’t sure yet how emotions work, but it’s very “excited” to try them out, and getting the chance to test out its new skills with them in communication with the crew is more than welcome.

Favorite food: Companionship

Cat Rambo (they/them) is an American fantasy and science fiction writer whose work has appeared in, among others, Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Chiaroscuro, Talebones, and Strange Horizons. A graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars, where they studied with John Barth and Steve Dixon, they also attended the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop. They are currently the managing editor of Fantasy Magazine. They published a collection of stories, Eyes Like Sky And Coal And Moonlight, and their collaboration with Jeff VanderMeer, The Surgeon’s Tale and Other Stories, appeared in 2007. They live and write in Washington State, and “Cat Rambo” is their real name.

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Forge Your Own Book Club: Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

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By Julia Bergen

One of the best things about fall isn’t just the pretty leaves, hot drinks, and chilly weather, it’s that book clubs are starting up again! If your book club is reading Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan and needs a little inspiration, we’ve got tips on what to watch, what to drink, what to eat, and what to discuss!

 

 


What to Watch:

We’re in a golden age of twisty films and tv shows with strong female leads, which is the perfect energy to help your book clubs pull apart all the surprises in Her Perfect Life. Nine Perfect Strangers would make a great pairing, especially the way it deals with the quest for perfection, and the secrets we carry. Or, if you want a closer examination of life in the public eye, watch The Morning Show.

What to Drink:

If your book club has a dark sense of humor, have a bottle of rosé on hand. I can’t say why without spoiling an important scene, but if you’ve read the book you’ll know why. Characters are also constantly drinking coffee, which would add some extra buzz to your discussion.

What to Eat:

Her Perfect Life takes place in Boston, so you’ll want to pair this Bostonian book with some Bostonian goodies!

The classic choice is a nice Boston cream pie. Created by the famous Parker House Hotel, it’s the official dessert of Massachusetts. Another good option is a plate of cannolis. Boston has a huge Italian community, and the North End area has the most amazing Italian bakeries, which are most famous for their cannolis. On any given weekend you’ll find lines stretching down the street, people waiting for hours to get in and try some.

Or, keep it simple, with some treats from Dunkin’ Donuts. Bostonians love Dunkin’ Donuts to an almost unhealthy level. Back Bay Station, a relatively small train station, has two Dunkies so close together you could easily throw a jelly donut from one to the other. Serving a plate of donuts or a box of munchkins will give you an authentic Boston experience.

What to Discuss:

Download the Her Perfect Life Reading Group Guide for insightful questions to get the discussion going.

Her Perfect Life Reading Group Guide DIGITAL

Order Your Copy of Her Perfect Life—Available Now!

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Q&A with Christopher Paolini and To Sleep in a Sea of Stars Cover Artist Lindy Martin!

We are still absolutely OBSESSED with the cover of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini, so to celebrate the release of the paperback on October 19, we’re resharing an exclusive interview between Christopher and cover designer Lindy Martin! Check out their Q&A here, and a big thanks to Inside Faceout for providing this piece (original article here).


Answers by author, Christopher Paolini, curtesy of Inside Faceout

Placeholder of  -72MARTIN: Did you consider what your cover would/should look like at any point during the writing process? If so, what did you have in mind and how does the final cover compare or contrast with your vision?

I usually don’t think too much about the cover while I’m writing the book. If an image or idea pops into my head, great, but I don’t make any specific effort in that direction.

Once the manuscript goes off to my publisher (Tor, in this case), then yes, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the cover. To Sleep in a Sea of Stars was particularly tricky because the design needed to strike a new tone. I’d been fortunate enough to get iconic covers for my fantasy novels. But this was the first book I’d written outside the world of Eragon—and my first adult novel—so striking the right balance with the text and art wasn’t easy. And it didn’t help that the title is so long!

The final cover is different than I originally imagined, but it does a wonderful job of complementing the title while also capturing the essence of the story. What makes it even more impressive is that Lindy did all this without actually reading the book! Well done!

MARTIN: How did your shift in genre affect the vision and expectations you had for this cover?

As a genre, science fiction often deals with space, the future, and technology. Not all the time, but as a rule, those themes are fairly common, and they stand in contrast with what one often finds in fantasy. Because of that, I knew that the cover of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars needed to be slick, modern, and—as so many sci-fi covers are—blue! (I seem to have a thing for blue covers.)

MARTIN: What stood out to you with this particular cover design? Was it “love at first sight,” or were you more slowly drawn to it after looking at and considering lots of options? How does it represent the story and how do you hope it will connect with readers?

My publisher and I looked at a number of different designs. At one point we were even considering a somewhat fantasy(ish) illustration. However, once we saw the current design, we knew we had a winner.

Design work is often iterative. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to get it right the first time, but usually it’s a process of honing your initial instincts until you find something that really works.

The cover of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars represents several key moments in the story, and most especially, a scene right at the end. It’s also evocative of the title itself. It does an excellent job communicating these points to readers.

MARTIN: From your perspective, what role does the cover play in the book writing and packaging process?

It plays an enormous role! We all say to never judge a book by its cover, but of course, we do exactly that. A good cover can be the difference between someone reading your novel or not. It’s the first line of advertising, as well as the first visual statement people see about the book.

I’m enormously pleased with this cover. From the moment it was revealed, people have loved it. Ever day I see comments on social media about how beautiful and powerful it is. And I agree. Twice in my career now—first with the Inheritance Cycle and now with To Sleep in a Sea of Stars—I’ve been fortunate to have amazing covers for my books. As an author, I couldn’t ask for anything more!

MARTIN: Do you have any suggestions for how designers and writers can work together better toward producing beautifully packaged books? 

In an ideal world, designers would have the time to read a book before creating a cover for it, and authors would have some graphic design experience so they could communicate effectively with their designers.

Since the world we live in is less than ideal, I suggest authors be as clear as possible on what they hope to achieve with their books. And for designers to pay close attention to the emotion that authors are hoping to convey. As long as a cover evokes the mood of the book, it’s successful.


Answers by cover designer, Lindy Martin, curtesy of Inside Faceout

Place holder  of - 78PAOLINI: How did you become a book designer? Did you go to school to learn these skills, learn on the job with a publisher, or apprentice with someone? Are you self taught?

I have always had a deep love for stories, whether it was reading or writing my own. I knew I would love to work in publishing and to be a part of bringing stories to life in the form of key visuals, color, and typography.

I became a book designer at Faceout Studio almost four years ago after I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Graphic Design and Photography from John Brown University. The program helped lay the foundation for the technical skills as well as creative problem solving. However, a lot of the hands on learning happened on the job as I gleaned more and more from each project, as well as from the designers around me.

PAOLINI: How do you approach designing a book cover? What do you need from the client?

Each project that I work on comes with a unique set of challenges, since every story, author, and audience looks different. The first step is to gain as much understanding of the plot, characters, and tone as possible. This might mean reading the manuscript, hiring a reader, or talking with the art director about key information.

From there, I dive into the creative process and it becomes a game of juggling type, color, artwork, and concept until it comes together to create something dynamic and eye-catching.

Sometimes this process of creative alchemy takes a matter of hours, but more often takes a lot longer. From there, it goes to the client for review and then goes through a series of revisions until every detail is just right.

The client provides meaningful and necessary art direction and insight. Understanding their perspective and what they are looking for helps me as the designer to get on the right track and create something that captures their vision.

PAOLINI: Can you share with us your experience of designing the cover for To Sleep in a Sea of Stars?

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars was a particularly fun project to be a part of. I loved reading the Inheritance Cycle, so I was very excited when I had the chance to design some cover options for Christopher’s new book. While I didn’t have the manuscript to read, I had the helpful guidance and art direction from Peter Lutjen, the art director at Tor, to help me narrow down the key story elements and tone necessary for the cover.

The selected cover was my favorite out of the options I created. I liked the bold, stark imagery and the juxtaposition between the geometric fractal patterns and the organic glowing stars. It felt like a snapshot of a person being transformed. I also knew the blue color palette would lend itself to look beautiful in a metallic print treatment.

The silhouette of the figure was modified from an underwater image which had the same qualities of a figure suspended in space.

Long titles can often be a challenge to work with, but in this case it worked well for framing the imagery and creating a focal point for the silhouette to sit in. A clean, modern typeface seemed to be the best solution to be in line with the sci-fi genre.

PAOLINI: What are some favorite covers you’ve worked on? And what makes so interesting?

Some recent ones would be Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon and American Awakening by John Kingston. These were opportunities to do something a little out of the box for the genre.

I appreciated that these projects allow the freedom to push the boundaries with the type taking on a role of representing the book’s concept.

PAOLINI: Do you have a favorite color or style that you find yourself returning to?

Not really! That’s the beauty of the job, every genre and story requires something different, something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. I particularly enjoy projects that require some sort of personal touch, whether that is a custom illustration, hand lettering, or original photography. As an artist, I enjoy being able to bring originality wherever I can.

Pre-order To Sleep in a Sea of Stars in Paperback Here

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Experience Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune Animated!

Have you pre-ordered your copy of Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune yet? We’re offering anyone who orders and submits their receipt* a stunning print by artist Venessa Kelley, but we decided we wanted to bring the art—and the story—to life. Check out the incredible animated art of Under the Whispering Door below!

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Limited to the United States and Canada, excluding Quebec

Pre-order Under the Whispering Door Here:

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Forge Your Own Book Club: She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha

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By Jennifer McClelland-Smith

Exploring the responsibilities love lays on us, the complicated burdens of motherhood, and the rippling impact of our choices, She Wouldn’t Change a Thing by Sarah Adlakha is a dazzling debut from a bright new voice.

 

 

 


What to Drink:

This book is set in the South, so you can’t go wrong offering a refreshing pitcher of sweet tea. Don’t forget to garnish with lemon or a sprig of mint! Match this gorgeous cover with a crisp rosé for book clubs who prefer a boozy option.

What to Eat:

This book gives you the perfect excuse to revisit 80s cuisine! Everything from sushi to pasta salad to quiche fit the bill. Pick up some frozen pizza rolls to really live that 80s high school experience. Or here’s a great recipe for homemade pizza rolls if you’d like to elevate it a bit!

What to Watch:

Sliding Doors, the 1998 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow is a great example of another “what if” story. Bonus points for a great soundtrack! If you’re looking for a way to think about connection and memory, check out Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet.

What to Discuss:

Download She Wouldn’t Change a Things Reading Group Guide for insightful questions to get the discussion going.

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What to Read Next: 

Pick up In Five Years by Rebecca Serle for another book that explores the choices we make with an unforgettable time-jumping story. Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore is another fun and poignant look at love, romance and life through the lens of an age-swap.

Order Your Copy of She Wouldn’t Change A Thing—Available Now!

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Hangout with Christopher Paolini, author of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars!

Can you not get enough of To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini? Can’t wait to get your hands on the paperback edition this September? Make the wait bearable and get behind the scenes with the author himself!

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Pre-order To Sleep in a Sea of Stars in paperback here:

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