Marie Brennan

Giveaway: Huff & Brennan

For the past week or so, most of my brain has been going into trying to write up proposals for a new series.  I’ve got the first synopsis written, and my agent says it looks like fun.  The second book … well, I scrapped that one and started over yesterday, and I think I’m on the right track.  But I find myself skimping a little on the blog as I try to get these finished and submitted.

So this seemed like a good time for a book giveaway.  I’ve ended up with extra copies of Marie Brennan‘s A Star Shall Fall [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] and Tanya Huff’s The Enchantment Emporium [Amazon | Mysterious Galaxy], and I’d love to find good homes for both of them.


To enter, you’re going to have to help me out with this synopsis I’m writing — leave a comment suggesting the weirdest/silliest/most bizarre twist I should add to my new series.

Yes, I know I haven’t told you what the series is about.  That’s what makes it fun 🙂  Be as creative as you’d like, and make sure you say which of the two books you’d like to win.  One entry per person, and this is open to everyone.

I’ll pick two winners at random on 10/20/10.

First Book Friday: Marie Brennan

Welcome to First Book Friday, an ongoing series exploring how various authors sold their first books.

Marie Brennan‘s fifth book, A Star Shall Fall, came out earlier this week.  She’s scheduled to be a Guest of Honor at the Sirens Conference next month.  Also, she recently invented the iPlatypus.  (2 of these 3 facts are true.)

She turned 30 on Wednesday. Once you finish reading about her six-year journey from writing Doppelganger to seeing it on the bookstore shelves, go wish her a happy birthday.


The first book I sold was the second book I wrote. It was pure chance that I didn’t write it first; the ideas for both came to me around the same time, in my senior year of high school. I could tell, even then, that both were different from the ideas I’d had before; they were richer, more substantial — worth finishing. Yeah, “finish what you started” wasn’t a skill I was terribly good at in those days; I had lots of fragments of novels lying around, but nothing that amounted to more than scattered scenes. Not until these two ideas happened along.

Doppelganger [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] (later republished as Warrior) was mostly written in the summer of 2000, parts of it while on an archaeological dig in southern Wales. (I recall writing a few scenes with my laptop balanced on an air mattress while the wind tried to blow my tent down around me.) Finished in August, cleaned it up, started shopping it around.

For those who have never tried it: this is a slow process. I queried at least fifteen agents, maybe more, but the really slow part was publishers; there were still some back then who would consider unagented manuscripts, but I could only submit to them one at a time. My closest call was with Roc; the editor read my query and asked for a partial, read the partial and asked for the full manuscript, read the full manuscript . . . and passed. Altogether, that took about nine months. (I wrote a whole other novel in that time, one I hope to dust off and sell someday.) But I wasn’t as aggressive about querying agents as I should have been, and after a few years I’d run out of publishers who would look at my book without one.

In the interim, I’d done something smart: I’d written other books. Three, in fact, not counting the one before Doppelganger. So I kept querying and submitting with new material. But in autumn of 2004, after letting this book gather dust for a year and a half while I debated what to do with it, I decided to try a long shot. I’d heard that sometimes you could send a query letter — no sample, just a letter — to publishers that didn’t take unsolicited submissions; if an editor followed up, then you could sneak in the back door, so to speak. I mailed off three, to Bantam Spectra, Del Rey, and Warner Aspect. Spectra never replied; Del Rey wrote back to say they meant it about not taking unsolicited submissions; Warner Aspect asked for the manuscript.

Precisely four weeks later, I got a phone call from the editor. She said she’d shown the book to her boss, and her boss had reminded her that they didn’t buy unagented books. So I should go get myself an agent.

With an offer pending, it’s a lot easier to get attention from agents. I contacted two immediately, and hit it off with one, Rachel Vater; I’m still with her today. December 8th, 2004, she called to say she’d hammered out the details of the offer from Warner, and I gave her the go-ahead to accept it. April 2006, it was on the shelves, and it’s been going strong ever since: two editions, enough printings that I’ve stopped counting, three foreign language sales, and it earned out its advance within the first few months. I think of it as the Little Book That Could.

(If you’d like to know what happens after you sell your first novel, I’ve got a multi-part essay on my site that follows Doppelganger through the process.)

Friend Promo

I’m very fortunate. I’ve got a lot of very nifty friends and acquaintances, both the real-world and the online variety, and sometimes I’ve just got to show them off.

To that end, I’m declaring this an open “Promote Your Friends” thread.  Please feel free to post whatever cool projects or accomplishments your own friends have been up to lately.  (If you’re on my blog and your comment doesn’t show up, let me know and I’ll rescue it from moderation.)

Let the promo begin!

  • My daughter Clara was promoted from purple belt to third brown in Sanchin-Ryu on Monday.
  • Seanan McGuireis currently in Australia at Worldcon, where she’s a finalist for the Campbell Award for best new writer.  Between her Toby Daye books and the success of her zombie thriller Feed, I think she’s got a good shot at bringing home the tiara.
  • Lynne Thomas, editor of Chicks Dig Time Lords (and my archivist!), has a new project: Whedonistas: A celebration of the worlds of Joss Whedon by the women who love them.
  • My friend Steven Saus has a story online called The Burning Servant, part of a chain story project founded by Mike Stackpole.  (Stackpole sounds like he’s doing a lot of interesting stuff … I need to check that out!)
  • Elizabeth Moon is a well-known SF writer, but she’s also a very good blogger.  She wrote a great post about gender bias in publishing last week.
  • John Kovalic provides a very nice, pointed comment on race and gaming in this Dork Tower strip.  (Check out the follow-up strip, too.)[1. I’ve never met Kovalic or talked to him much online, but we swapped a few e-mails and he provided a great blurb for Goblin Quest, and I figure that’s good enough to include him here!]

Finally, my author friends have some new books out.

Your turn.  What nifty things have your friends been doing?

A Star Shall Fall, by Marie Brennan

A Star Shall Fall [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] is the third book of Marie Brennan‘s Onyx Court historical fantasy series.  (I’ve also reviewed books one and two.)

The series takes place in a very richly-described, well-researched London, where the Onyx Court of the faeries coexists beneath the city, magically intertwined with the geography and fate of mortal London.

I’ve said in my prior reviews that the first two books have a more leisurely pace in the beginning … but not book three.  A Star Shall Fall opens in 1757.  The dragon of the second book, which caused the Great Fire of 1666, was banished to Halley’s Comet when its original prison began to fail.  In the seventeenth century, nobody knew the comet would be back.  Now their only hope to defeat the dragon upon its return is to combine faerie magic and human science…

This is my favorite of the series so far.  The plotting is sharper, the characters are great, and Brennan continues to blend history and magic so smoothly it’s hard to tell where one ends and the next begins.  I love the way she worked 18th century science, everything from alchemy to astronomy, into the story.  I loved seeing Lune struggle with her weaknesses, both from the damage to her realm and from the iron wound she received in book two.  Those vulnerabilities made me cheer for her even harder.

The young and untested Prince of the Stone Galen was a nice addition as well, and it was great to see him develop over the course of the story.  I was glad to see Irrith back, rough edges and all.  Delphia, Abd al-Rashid, the von das Tickens … they’re all wonderful characters.  Even the faerie villain was well-developed, to the point where I almost sympathized with him at times, even when I was hoping he’d take an iron bullet to the heart.  (The human villain felt a little flat in comparison, but only a little.)

And the ending … well, there’s a reason I showed up exhausted for work last week.  Authors are, at their best, simultaneously cruel and beautiful.  Well done, Brennan.

The book comes out August 31 of this year.  Like the others, it’s not an action-packed adventure.  But if you’ve read the first two, you have to pick this one up.  If you haven’t, A Star Shall Fall stands alone fairly well.  You’ll be missing a little backstory, but nothing that should keep you from truly enjoying the book.

Read an excerpt from the book.

Pictures from one of Brennan’s research trips to London.

In Ashes Lie, by Marie Brennan

In Ashes Lie [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] is Marie Brennan’s sequel to Midnight Never Come, which I reviewed here.  Set a hundred years later in seventeenth century England, book two follows Lune, now queen of the Onyx Court, and Antony Ware, the human who rules at her side as Prince of the Stone.

As England falls into civil war, Lune must face enemies both from other faerie realms and within her own court.  Her enemies attack both the Onyx Court and London above.  Intrigue and betrayal and would-be assassins, all leading to the release of a dragon who threatens to burn all of London, and to destroy Lune and her court.

The historical detail in these books is … hm.  Let me put it this way.  Brennan researches the crap out of these novels.  You can see her research bibliography, as well as the details of her trips to London, on her web site.  That work pays off, resulting in a London that feels real down to every last detail.

The first part of the book felt a little slow to me.  Brennan takes us through the beginning of the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles (I assume it’s not a spoiler if it happened over three hundred years ago).  While the story is interesting, this series is most engaging to me when we see the parallels between the human and faerie realms, and the faerie side felt a bit nebulous in the beginning.  (By the end, on the other hand, you couldn’t pry the book out of my hands.)

I loved some of the secondary characters in this one: the giant Prigurd Nellt, the faerie knight Sir Cerenel, the doctor John (Jack) Ellin … and of course, the Goodemeades are always wonderful.

It’s a fascinating world.  The details of the Onyx Court and its magic, the rituals of faerie, the intertwining of human and fae history.  The third book, A Star Shall Fall, comes out on August 31 of this year, but I’m fortunate enough to have an ARC waiting for me to dive into 🙂

Like I said in the review of the first book, if you’re looking for action-heavy page-turning adventure, this might not be the book for you.  If you enjoy richer worldbuilding and historical fantasy, I highly recommend the series.  And if you’re undecided, head over to Brennan’s site and read an excerpt.

If you’ve been reading the series, what did you think?

Open Books Post

All right, time for a break from the intense blog posts. Let’s talk books! Last night I finished The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] by N. K. Jemisin.

Wow. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this one, which always makes me nervous, because big book buzz doesn’t always translate to a book I’ll enjoy. But I have to say, this is the best book I’ve read so far this year, and as soon as I can remember how, I’ll be recommending it for the Nebula.

Was it a perfect book? No book is. But I loved the narrative style, I loved the worldbuilding, I loved the gods and most of the characters. It was a very well-written fantasy that sucked me in and kept me up late for the past two nights to finish it.

Jemisin has the first three chapters posted on her web site. Go forth and read.


One of the nice perks of being an author is that you get the occasional ARC or review copy. This has been a good month. Sitting on my To Be Read pile are review copies of:

I love being a writer 🙂 I’ve also got a copy of Nnedi Okorafor‘s Zahrah the Windseeker [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon], which I picked up at her signing in Lansing last week.

What about you? What have you read and enjoyed lately, and what are you looking forward to picking up next?

Jim C. Hines