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The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, by Stephanie Burgis

Dragon with a Chocolate Heart - Cover ArtEarlier this year, I snagged a copy of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart [Amazon | B&N | IndieBound], a middle-grade fantasy by the delightful Stephanie Burgis. I wasn’t able to read it right away, because I wanted to read it with my twelve-year-old son Jackson, who’s a big fan of all things draconic. So once we finished the series we’d been reading together, we started in on this one.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

Aventurine is a brave young dragon ready to explore the world outside of her family’s mountain cave … if only they’d let her leave it. Her family thinks she’s too young to fly on her own, but she’s determined to prove them wrong by capturing the most dangerous prey of all: a human.

But when that human tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate, she’s transformed into a puny human without any sharp teeth, fire breath, or claws. Still, she’s the fiercest creature in these mountains — and now she’s found her true passion: chocolate. All she has to do is get to the human city to find herself an apprenticeship (whatever that is) in a chocolate house (which sounds delicious), and she’ll be conquering new territory in no time … won’t she?

I asked Jackson a few questions, starting with, What did you think of the book?

“I give it five thumbs up — no, wait — four talons up, because it’s a dragon!”

What was your favorite part?

“I liked the ending, when the dragons were [spoiler] and [spoiler] and everything.”

What did you think of Aventurine?

“I liked her. She was cool. I liked that she tried to go out of her cage even though her parents said she wasn’t ready, and I liked that she tried to [spoiler] at the end even though everyone told her not to.”

Sounds like you like that she made her own choices, and didn’t let anyone else tell her what to do.What did you think of the other characters, like Silke and Marina and the rest?

“I thought Marina was kind of like what Aventurine might be like if she was older, and Silke was pretty cool and pretty nice.”

Did this book ever make you hungry, too?

“Yes! I wanted to eat a chocolate dragon. (Like a chocolate bunny, only a dragon.) I don’t think I’d like the chili chocolate, though.”

There was one part of the book you were upset about. Could you talk about that a little?

“I didn’t like the part when Aventurine had given up, because it made me feel depressed and angry and scared, and all the negative emotions.”

How did you feel when we read the chapter after that?

[Jackson bounced and waved his arms in excitement to answer this one.]

Who would you recommend this book to?

“Everyone! Especially people who like dragons, chocolate, or very exciting and good stories!”


I tend to agree with Jackson. This was a lot of fun, though perhaps a bit dangerous to my blood sugar. I loved Aventurine’s struggles as a dragon-in-a-human-body, trying to understand and adapt to all of the weirdness that is humanity. I loved her relationships with Silke and Marina.

I saw a twist coming pretty early on, but that didn’t make it any less satisfying. And I suspect it wouldn’t jump out as much to younger readers (or readers who aren’t also authors).

If I had to pick just one word to summarize the book, I’d go with “charming.”

You can read the first chapter on Burgis’ website.

TBT: December 2007

A throwback to my blog from December 2007. I believe I was referring to the synopses for The Mermaid’s Madness and Red Hood’s Revenge. As for the emotional roller coaster about writing and synopses? Let’s just say little has changed in the past decade.


You know, I go through a lot of emotional ups and downs when I write a novel. Some days I’m convinced I’m the most brilliant author who ever set pen to paper. Other days, I’m a washed-up hack who should have his fingers broken to prevent me from inflicting this garbage on the world.

It’s all part of the process of creating a novel, and I’ve gotten used to it.

However, over the past two weeks, I’ve written two synopses. Remember, a synopsis is a highly condensed version of a novel.

Suffice it to say, I’m feeling a bit of emotional burnout, and I want a cookie.

Happily, I think I’m done, and if all goes well, tomorrow I’ll be mailing all of this junk to my agent (who has glanced at both synopses by e-mail, and approves).

From December 13, 2007

2017 Publications and Award Eligibility

Twas another year ending, and all cross the net,
all the authors were blogging and starting to fret.

The Nebula ballots were open for noms,
and authors were sweating and wiping their palms.

They posted their eligible works from for the year
while dreaming of Hugos and Campbells and beer.

And I at my desktop with cat in my lap,
had just started posting my own year’s recap…


I’ve got two things I want to highlight this year, for anyone who might be doing the award nominating thing. I’m happy to send a copy of either or both if you’re reading for nominations — just shoot me a note.

Short Story: “The Fallow Grave of Dream,” from The Death of All Things, edited by Laura Anne Gilman and Kat Richardson. This is a relatively short work about a disabled child who discovers their power as the Death of Dream.

Related Work: Invisible 3, which I co-edited with Mary Anne Mohanraj, is eligible for the Hugo Award for Best Related Work. This is a collection of 18 essays and poems about representation in SF/F. You can read several of the essays online.

For the completionists, here’s everything that came out from me in 2017:

2017 also saw the release of the mass market paperback of Revisionary, but that wasn’t a new work. Just a new format.

So there you have it. One year of Jim-writing.


I sprang to my feet, thinking “I need some scotch.”
When the cat gave a yowl and dug claws in my crotch.

I exclaimed many words best not written down here.
Thank you readers and friends for another good year.

Allies and Cookie Badges

ETA: Before anyone responds, I want to be clear that this is not a request for reassurance or cookies or any of that. I’m an adult, fully capable of buying or making my own damn cookies. Thanks.


A week or so back, a group working to end violence against women named me as one of sixteen male role models helping to fight violence against women. In an unrelated situation a few days later, someone on Facebook told me she would no longer support my work, and that I might claim to be an ally, but I’m not.

I can’t say with 100% certainty, but I don’t think I’ve ever claimed to be an Ally. I don’t think it’s my place to proclaim myself an ally to women, or to victims of sexual violence, or to the LGBTQ community, and so on.

It was a little odd having these two things occur so close together, and there was a bit of cognitive dissonance for a little while, like I was Schrödinger‘s Ally or something.

I’ll be honest, this whole Ally thing confuses me a little. As shorthand for “this is a person who seems to be trying to understand and support me,” it makes sense. But it feels like we’ve turned it into the ultimate cookie, or a badge to flash around to prove you’re one of the Good Guys. Or maybe a badge-shaped cookie, I don’t know.

So you end up with people trying to deflect criticism by flashing their cookie badge. “Don’t you realize I’m your Ally? It says so right here in white frosting!” Or they turn it into a flounce, throwing their cookie on the ground and declaring, “You have lost a Valuable Ally this day!”

What a waste of a cookie…

Sinfest Comic

(As I’m writing this, I’m starting to like the idea of Schrödinger‘s Ally as shorthand for that person who seems to say the right things, but you’re not sure whether they genuinely support you or if they’re only in it for the cookies. That’s a bit of a tangent though, so I’ll save it for later.)

I can understand that when you’re in a marginalized group fighting for dignity and equality and survival, it’s vital to know who your allies are and who you can trust to have your back. And the term is useful shorthand for articles like “How to be a good male ally” and such.

The whole concept still feels weird to me. Maybe it’s the idea that “ally” is a noun. A concrete, black-and-white thing you either are or aren’t, which gets back to my point about people simultaneously calling me an ally and not an ally…

Dissonance resolved: they’re both right, of course.

Because, linguistics aside, ally isn’t a noun; it’s a verb. It’s action. A process. It’s listening and learning to do better. It’s learning to offer support in ways that are helpful. It’s learning that it’s not all about you.

That gets to the heart of a lot of my discomfort. The moment you stand up and wave your cookie-badge and declare yourself An Ally, it becomes about you. Which not only misses the point, it turns 180 degrees and jumps to hyperspeed to get as far from the point as possible.

And on that note, I’m gonna go see if we have any cookies…


“I can’t believe it.”

“Yes, we know.”
“That’s why they believed they could get away with it.”
“That’s why victims hesitated to come forward.”
“That’s why men are more worried about the rare false accusation than the epidemic of harassment.”
“That’s why women didn’t talk to you about what they experienced.”
“That’s why we’re seeing such a logjam of long-term, entrenched harassers.”

“Why are you getting so angry?”

“Why aren’t you?”

“I just hate seeing so many careers ruined.”

“Whose careers? The perpetrators or the victims?”

“I didn’t know.”

“That’s because you didn’t listen.”
“That’s because you looked away.”
“That’s because you treated it as a joke.”
“Now that you know, what will you do differently?”

Holiday Bookplates

With various holidays bearing down on us like Ewoks surging toward Stormtroopers, I thought I’d resurrect an offer I’ve made in the past.

If you were considering giving a copy of Terminal Alliance as a gift and would like an autographed bookplate to go with it, hit me up using my contact form (http://www.jimchines.com/contact/) letting me know how many copies you’re giving and where to send the bookplates. I’ll mail up to six.

Offer good for the next week or two, or while my supplies last. U.S. only, please. Sorry — I just can’t afford the additional postage.

I hope the holidays treat you better than the Ewoks treated those tasty, tasty Stormtroopers!

Jim C. Hines