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Kelly McCullough, a fellow SFNovelist, had the first novel in the WebMage series, WebMage, released by Ace in 2006 to considerable critical praise. A second, Cybermancy, followed in 2007. His newest release, CodeSpell, will be out May 27th 2008. And a fourth book, MythOS, is slated for late May '09. His short fiction has appeared in numerous venues including Weird Tales, Writers of the Future, and Tales of the Unanticipated. His illustrated collection, The Chronicles of the Wandering Star, is part of a National Science Foundation-funded middle school science curriculum, Interactions in Physical Science.

For more information and samples of some his short stories you can check out his website: http://www.kellymccullough.com/. Kelly blogs regularly on writing topics at http://wyrdsmiths.blogspot.com/ along with several other members of his writing group including well known authors Eleanor Arnason, Tate Hallaway/Lyda Moorhouse, and Naomi Kritzer. He also occasionally posts at http://sfnovelists.com/ – usually on the 9th of any given month.


Here's what he had to say on the subject of the new book:


1) Why this book? What made you want to write this story?

That's a surprisingly difficult question to answer. This is the third book of a series and certainly part of my motivation for writing it is that this is a fun world to play in and I like these characters enough to want to spend more time with them. Part of it is that I had what I thought was a fast fun plot that continued the story in a way that would be entertaining to write and to read. But probably the most important part of the equation for this book is that actions have consequences. The things that Ravirn did in books one and two have ongoing repercussions and I wanted to see how they played out and how Ravirn would have to grow to respond to them.

2) Which authors inspire you? Has that changed over time?

Different writers teach me different things at different times. Zelazney and Tim Powers are probably at the top of the list of writers who've affected my work most visibly, though Powers is less present in the WebMage stuff than he is in some of my other, darker work. Norton and McCaffrey and Tolkien are in my bones. Martha Wells is wonderful and so are Robin McKinley and Lois McMaster Bujold.

3) Why genre? Is there something special about science fiction or fantasy that draws you to write in the field?

I was pretty much raised to be a fantasy and science fiction writer, though that certainly wasn't the intent of the process. I'm a third generation fan of the genre and some of my earliest memories are of having the Lord of the Rings, Asimov's Foundation trilogy, and A Midsummer Night's Dream read to me. I learned very early to love story and genre and once I found out that I could maybe make a living by telling the sorts of stories that were told to me I was pretty much lost.

4) What do you find most interesting about Ravirn? Why write about this protagonist?

What I love about Ravirn is his combination of idealism and cynicism. He expects the worst of a situation but won't let that stop him from working toward a solution, even when he knows the attempt is probably doomed. That and his sense of humor. I come from a family where humor, particularly black humor and sarcasm, are fundamental coping mechanisms. Sometimes life hands you a situation where you have to laugh or cry, and given any choice in the matter I'll always pick laughter. It may not solve the problem, but it sure lightens the load.

5) You're a writer. What else are you? What are your interests? Hobbies?

Husband and cat-wrangler are probably at the top of the list for other self-identifiers. My wife and I are coming up on twenty fantastic years together and over that time two cats became three cats, became four cats, became five. I love to read and play video-games. I've got a Gaiman, a Pierce and a Blaylock on the active books pile and I just finished playing Portal and Drake's Fortune. I also like hiking and biking, and since it's spring, I'm at the front end of the annual garden madness.

6) Did you have to do any special research for this book? What did you need to know in order to write it that you didn't know before? Do you have some special preparation you do for your writing?

I didn't have to do a lot of new research for this book. After finishing two novels set in the Greek gods plus computers reality of the WebMage I have a pretty good grounding in this world, and I really only needed to touch up my memory of a couple of the myths involved in this specific story. On a more general note, I read non-fiction voraciously. I just finished a great book on plants in traditional Hawaiian culture as part of a Hawaiian history and mythology kick. I read several science and technology magazines on an ongoing basis and I'm looking around for some good references on the Canadian Maritime provinces in general and on Halifax in particular.

7) I see a lot of computer and programming stuff in the WebMage series. Is that something that really interests you? Or is it more driven by the needs of the story?

Mostly it's the needs of the story. I love my laptop and the web and I tend to be a technology early adopter if I can afford it, but I'm not really much for programming or hacking. While I have been immersed in computer culture from a very early age since my mother became a bug-checker when I was about ten and has been working as an analyst and programmer ever since and because I've got a lot of close friends in IT, it's not something I'm much involved in outside of writing the books.

8) Ravirn displays a lot of physicality, constantly getting himself into life-threatening situations and back out of them in ways that involve all sorts of death defying action. I'm guessing that's not something you the writer have an enormous amount of experience with. How do you make that convincing? Do Ravirn's solutions reflect the sort of things you might do in a similar situation?

I'm much more of a thinker than Ravirn, especially as I've gotten older, but I've got to admit to a certain amount of speaking from experience when I have him do something big and physical and stupid like climbing a building and then jumping off. It's not the sort of thing I'd do now, but when I was in my late teens and early twenties I was something of an adrenaline junkie. I was into martial arts and mountain climbing and all sorts of things that are moderately safe when done responsibly and less so when done the way I did some of them. From fifteen to twenty-two I averaged two trips to the emergency room a year, and as I've gotten older that's led to things like a couple of knee surgeries and other corrective measures.

9) What are you writing now?

A couple of things. I just sent off book proposals for a fifth WebMage and for two books that I would like to write as a successor series to the WebMage/Ravirn books. I've also got a YA I want to work on–the second in a series that my agent is shopping around now–because I'm in love with the story and the world. That's the main front burner stuff. But I've got five complete novels and nine proposals out with various editors and any of those could get moved up the list if they sell. I'm pretty busy at the moment, and I love it that way. There's really nothing I'd rather be doing with my life than what I'm doing right now.

10) How did you become a writer? Is this what you saw yourself growing up to be? Or did it take you be surprise?

Short answer: I quit theater. Longer version. I set out at the age of eleven to be an actor and was well on my way when I met the woman I would eventually marry. At that point, I realized how incompatible theater was with having a long term relationship and I went looking for something else to do. On something very like a whim I wrote my first novel and fell head over heals in love with writing. Now I can't imagine myself doing anything else.

11) Do you have a writing routine? Talk process for a moment, how do the words get on the page?

I write between two and eight hours a day five days a week. On a typical day I get up around eight in the morning, stagger downstairs and collect a unit of caffeine–could be soda, could be tea, it doesn't really matter since it's a delivery system. Then I hop on the treadmill and websurf and read email and the like for an hour or so. At that point I'm mostly awake and I do things like respond to the email or other writing and life maintenance tasks. That can take anything between twenty minutes and two hours. Then I write. Less than a thousand words is a bad day. More than two thousand is a good one. Oh, and, I use a laptop so that I can work where the whim takes me.

12) Office? Closet? Corner of the living room? Do you have a set place to write? A favorite? How does the environment you write in affect your production? Your process?

In summer I write in a second floor screen porch. It has a gorgeous view over the park that abuts our backyard, and that sort of near outdoor setting is my preferred setting for writing–I'm hoping to have a more permanent solar built to replace the porch soon. Until then, my winter office is our upstairs sitting room which gets southern light and is a pretty comfortable substitute for my screen porch.

13) Is there anything you especially like to work on in a book? Anything you hate?

I love world-building and plot-twisting. Figuring out how a system of magic might work and then figuring out ways to game that system fascinates me. And yes, I was a rules lawyer back in my role-playing days, why do you ask? Likewise building a plot and then coming up with ways to add twists or bits of misdirection is a joy for me. I don't really have any hates. There are things that I used to find more difficult, character chief among them, but I'm getting a steadily better handle on the whole process and I just love writing. I even love rewriting, both the sentence level stuff and the bigger more complex story edits.

14) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there.

Well, primarily it's the WebMage stuff. WebMage, Cybermancy, and now CodeSpell with MythOS finished and forthcoming and a proposal in for SpellCrash after that. On the novels front, as I mentioned above, I've got five more books and nine proposals out, so that could change at any moment. I've also had a number of short stories published, including an illustrated collection as part of a big middle school physical science curriculum that's been adopted by several states. But that doesn't make an enormous amount of sense outside the classroom setting it was written for.

15) Do you see fiction as having a purpose? Generally? How about your own work?

Transcendence. I think that human beings need story. We need myths and legends and tales that lift us out of ourselves and that fiction supplies that need. That's another reason I do most of my work in fantasy-if I'm going to be a mythmaker for a living I might as well write the truly mythic.


Sales info:

Amazon:
CodeSpell: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441016030/kellymccullou-20/ref=nosim
Cybermancy: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441015387/kellymccullou-20/ref=nosim
WebMage: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441014259/kellymccullou-20/ref=nosim


Barnes & Noble:
CodeSpell: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=0441016030
Cybermancy: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=0441015387
WebMage http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?ean=0441014259

Dreamhaven (signed copies): http://dreamhavenbooks.com/mccullough.php
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Much going on in the SFNovelists family. Many books being released. Many good things are becoming avaiable.

To kick us off, here is Maria Snyder on her new release, "Fire Study":

__________________________________________________________________________

First off, I want to say, thank you very much to my host for featuring me and my latest release, Fire Study! I’m very excited about the release of my latest book, Fire Study, which is the third book in my Study series.

Research blog:

In Fire Study, Yelena is embroiled in another adventure where she must fight a Fire Warper who’s after her soul. She lands in very hot water, and will need all her cunning and the help of her friends to escape. As the author of Fire Study, I also embarked on my own sizzling adventure in the world of molten glass.

In order to write the scenes with Opal, a glass artist in the book, I needed to enroll in glass blowing classes.

The teacher made it look easy to gather a slug of glass. But when it was my turn – yikes! It was HOT! The big vat of molten glass was kept in a rip roaring furnace at a toasty 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. I held a metal rod, and, while squinting through an eye-melting orange light, I dipped the end into the thick goo and spun it, gathering a glob of glass onto the end. The incandescent glob glowed as if alive.

Once acquired, the slug then needed to be quickly shaped. Glass cooled at a rapid pace, and, even though heat waves pulsed from the slug, it didn’t stay pliable for long.

My first paperweight was a misshapened blob. After hours of practice, my ability improved, and I created a paperweight worthy to hold down my next novel’s manuscript pages.

I learned that working with glass required deft coordination, arm strength, tons of patience, and a good partner—it’s a good thing I have a day job!
Cover Copy:

Fire Study continues Yelena Zaltana’s adventures. When word that Yelena is a Soulfinder—able to capture and release souls—spreads like wildfire, people grow uneasy. As the Council debates Yelena’s fate, she receives a disturbing message: a plot is rising, led by a murderous sorcerer she has defeated before.

Drawing on untested skills, Yelena becomes embroiled in the desperate fight to stop the Daviian Clan from unleashing a Fire Warper. Unfortunately, fire is one element she can’t control even if her life depended on it. And there is more at stake than just her life.

Yelena’s journey is fraught with allies, enemies, lovers and would-be assassins, each of questionable loyalty. She will have one chance to prove herself—and save the land she holds dear.

Cover art:

Q&A

1) What was your inspiration for writing Fire Study?

1A) I wanted to explore the uses and abuses of power in this book. Poison Study, which is the first in the Study series, concentrated on Yelena’s inner conflicts and her self-confidence, and only touched briefly on magic. Magic Study focused on discovering the extent and type of powers Yelena possesses. In the third book, I wanted to show the extent some magicians will go to gain power over others. Using magic to solve problems can be addicting, and, in Fire Study Yelena realizes how much she depends on her magical abilities. She must learn how to balance the use of her power with more mundane methods and to discover that completely turning your back on magic isn’t the right answer.

2) Where do you find your inspiration?

2A) It can be from anywhere. I get ideas from newspaper and magazine articles, from something I see on television, from something that comes up in conversation, from dreams, or from something my children say or do. I tend not to lack for ideas just time!

3) Who are your favorite authors and books now and when you were growing up?

3A) Currently my favorite authors all have humor in their books. Since my life is so stress-filled and complicated, I’ve been enjoying light and fluffy reading with Mary Janice Davidson’s vampire series and her new mermaid series, Connie Willis is another favorite of mine, and I’ve recently discover the mystery/suspense thrillers of Harlan Coben. Growing up, I started with mysteries because that is what my mother enjoyed. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were my favorites before I graduated to Agatha Cristie, Dick Francis, Robert B. Parker, Barbara Vine, and Ed McBain.

4)Who has influenced you in your writing?

4A): I read a ton of mystery novels growing up. My favorite mystery author is Dick Francis and his books have influenced my writing style. I also use first person point of view and try to keep the story’s pace moving. My cliff hanger endings are a direct result from his books; I can never stop reading one of his books at a chapter break. My favorite fantasy writers all have strong female protagonists and interesting characters in common. Barbara Hambly’s books have a nice mix of action, character and humor - all essential elements to what I consider good fiction.

5) What is it about fantasy/science fiction that attracts you?

5A) As a writer, the attraction is in exploring new settings and characters and not having to worry too much about what is physically possible or not. I make my own rules about my world and, as long as I stick to them, can explore various problems generated by the unique setting and situation. As a reader, I enjoy traveling beyond my everyday world to a new place full of wonder and surprises.

6) Why did you decide to make Yelena a Soulfinder?

6A) The concept of everyone having a soul fascinates me. I never consciously decided to make her a Soulfinder, it just happened toward the end of Magic Study. My subconscious must have been working on it because even in Poison Study, when Yelena chooses to become the Commander’s food taster there is a moment where she is peering at her reflection wondering if she still has a soul. She felt so empty and used that she was sure her soul had gone, leaving behind a thin shell.

Being a Soulfinder also added conflict to the story. The Sitian people feared the power. Someone who has the ability to manipulate a person’s soul is serious business, especially since the last person with the power abused it by creating his own soulless army. So here’s Yelena – already an oddity by being raised in the northern lands of Ixia, conflicted over her loyalties between Ixia and Sitia and now has this ability which could condemn her before she even explores what she can do with it.

7) What (besides writing) do you do for fun?

7A) I love to travel with my family. Exploring new places and meeting new people and experiencing other cultures are wonderful for the writer’s soul  I also enjoy playing volleyball, reading and I dabble with photography.

8) What sort of research did you do to write this book?

8A) In order to write the scenes with Opal, a glass artist in the book, I needed to enroll in glass blowing classes. The teacher made it look so easy to gather a slug of glass. But when it was my turn – yikes! It was HOT! The big vat of molten glass was kept in a rip roaring furnace at a toasty 2100 degrees Fahrenheit. I held a metal rod, and, while squinting through an eye-melting orange light, I dipped the end into the thick goo and spun it, gathering a glob of glass onto the end. The incandescent glob glowed as if alive.

Once acquired, the slug then needed to be quickly shaped. Glass cooled at a rapid pace, and, even though heat waves pulsed from the slug, it didn’t stay pliable for long. My first paperweight was a misshapened blob. After hours of practice, my ability improved, and I created a paperweight worthy to hold down my next novel’s manuscript pages.

I learned that working with glass required deft coordination, arm strength, tons of patience, and a good partner—it’s a good thing I have a day job!

9) What are you writing now?

9A) I’m writing the fourth book based in the Study world titled, Storm Glass. Set five years after Fire Study, Storm Glass has a new protagonist and she’s the reason for the new series title. Storm Glass will be out December 2008. Here is the cover copy of the book:

“As a glassmaker and a magician-in-training, Opal Cowen understands trial by fire. Now it’s time to test her mettle. Someone has sabotaged the Stormdancer clan’s glass orbs, killing their most powerful magicians. The Stormdancers—particularly the mysterious and mercurial Kade—require Opal’s unique talents to prevent it happening again. But when the mission goes awry, Opal must tap into a new kind of magic as stunningly potent as it is frightening. And the further she delves into the intrigue behind the glass and magic, the more distorted things appear. With lives hanging in the balance—including her own—Opal must control powers she never knew she possessed...powers that might lead to disaster beyond anything she’s ever known.”

10) Did you always want to write? Or did you stumble into it? How did you get where you are now?

10A) I started writing because of boredom! My first job after college was as a Meteorologist for an environmental consulting firm. The amount of work came in waves, and we were either extremely busy or very bored. During the slow times, I started writing a short story. Ideas were always floating around in my mind, but that was when I began using them. I submitted my first short story for critique at a writing conference in Philadelphia, and when the workshop leader gave me 7 out of 10, I thought that was pretty good for a first effort and decided to stick with writing for a while. After my son was born and I only had about one hour a day to myself, I had to decide what was important enough to spend that precious time on. Most days writing won.

11) What does a typical writing day look like for you? How long do you write, that sort of thing?

11A) I sit down at my computer after my children leave for school. After answering email and procrastinating for an hour, I start writing and only stop briefly for lunch and continue until my son comes home around 3:30 p.m. During the school year, I’m very productive, but once summer comes along I can only do revisions.

12) Where do you write??

12A) I write in my home office. My husband enjoys woodworking and he built me a great writing room with built in bookcases and a custom made desk. I keep a number of toys nearby to fidget with as I’m working out a problem in my head, and I keep weapons nearby to make sure when I write an action scene, I’m not describing something impossible.

13) What is easiest/hardest for you as a writer?

13A) Dialogue is the easiest and the most fun to write. I struggle with details. I tend to go light on details, preferring to focus on action and dialogue. Also describing emotions without using clichés is very difficult for me, finding something fresh is hard, but when I do—it’s like hitting the lottery.

14) This isn't your first book; tell us a little bit about what else is out there?

14A) The first and second books in the series are still available.

In Poison Study, Yelena starts her adventure in a dungeon, waiting to be executed for murder. She is given a choice of the noose or to become the new food taster for the Commander of Ixia—a military dictator paranoid of being poisoned. She chooses the job, and learns how to taste foods for poisons without dying. Life in the castle is full of hazards, the General, whose son she killed, wants revenge, rebels plot to seize Ixia, and Yelena develops magic she can’t control—magic which is forbidden in Ixia and punishable by death. As she searches for a way to freedom, Yelena is faced with more choices, but this time the outcomes aren’t so clear.

In Magic Study, Yelena is on her way to be reunited with the family she'd been stolen from long ago. Although she has gained her freedom, she can't help feeling isolated in Sitia. Her Ixian background has changed her in many ways, and her newfound friends and relatives don't think it's for the better. Despite the turmoil, she's eager to start her magical training. But her plans take a radical turn when she becomes involved with a plot to reclaim Ixia's throne for a lost prince, and gets entangled in powerful rivalries with her fellow magicians. If that wasn't bad enough, it appears her brother would love to see her dead. Luckily, Yelena has some old friends to help her with her new enemies.

Miscellaneous Facts, Links, Reviews and Excerpts:

Maria’s Bio:

Maria V. Snyder changed careers in 1995 from being a Meteorologist to a Novelist when she began working on her first novel, Poison Study. Published in October 2005, Poison Study won the 2006 Compton Crook Award, was a 2005 Booksense pick, and received a Starred Review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Maria earned a Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology from the Pennsylvania State University. Much to Maria’s chagrin, forecasting the weather wasn’t one of her skills. Writing, however, proved to be more enjoyable and she has earned a Master of Arts degree in writing from Seton Hill University. Since becoming a writer, Maria has been busy attending conferences, teaching writing classes, and doing book events.

Maria's second book, Magic Study was a 2006 Book Sense pick and a RITA Award Finalist. Her latest release Fire Study is due out March 1, 2008. While doing research for Fire Study, Maria learned that working with glass requires deft coordination, arm strength, tons of patience, and a good partner—she now has an extensive collection of misshapened paperweights, tumblers, and bowls.

Traveling with her family is a wonderful distraction from writing; Maria loves cruising in general and the Caribbean in particular, and is planning a trip to Bermuda in May.

Maria lives with her family in Pennsylvania where she is at work on her fourth "Study" novel, Storm Glass which is due out in December 2008.
Links to author:

Website addy – www.mariavsnyder.com

Email addy – maria@mariavsnyder.com

MySpace page – www.myspace.com/mariavsnyder

MySpace blog – http://blog.myspace.com/mariavsnyder
Links to buy the book online:

Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0778325342/ref=s9_asin_image_1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=01WT20SC5P41DSCJ0B5D&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=278240301&pf_rd_i=507846
Barnes & Noble: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?z=y&EAN=9780778325345&itm=1

Other Study book covers:

Poison Study:

Magic Study:
Reviews:

“Fans of high-spirited adventure, intrigue and romance will celebrate the third book in the saga of reluctant mage and diplomat Yelena Zaltana…Snyder delivers another excellent adventure, deftly balancing international and local hostilities against Yelena's personal struggles.” Publishers Weekly on Fire Study

“The rare sequel to live up to the promise of its predecessor, Magic Study is a wonderful combination of romance and fantasy.” Audible.com’s Editors Pick for Best of 2006

“This is one of those rare books that will keep readers dreaming long after they’ve read it.” Publishers Weekly starred review on Poison Study

“A compelling look at a woman caught in an impossible situation, living each day on the edge of dying. The author’s talent for storytelling bodes well for her continuing career as a strong contributor to the genre.” Library Journal on Poison Study
Excerpt from Fire Study:

The man stepped from the midst of the roaring bonfire. Scorched black from head to toe, small flames clung to him like feathers. He advanced toward me. I broke my paralysis and scrambled away from him.

“Did I surprise you, my little bat?” the man asked. “Counted nine when there really were ten. Hot little trick.”

He knew my conscience had flown with the bats. But who was he?

I scanned the surrounding jungle, looking for my backup. Leif and my friends were at the edge of the clearing.

“No help from them, my little bat. They will burn if they come any closer.”

I tried to project into the flaming man’s mind, but his mental defenses proved impenetrable, a Warper of incredible strength. Running out of options, I glanced behind me and caught sight of my bow.

The blazing Warper pointed and a line of fire appeared between me and my weapon. The moisture evaporated from my mouth. I tasted ashes. A wall of hot air pushed against me and the Warper was before me.

“Fire is your downfall, little bat. Can not call it. Can not control it.”

My body roasted as if I had been staked to a spit over a giant campfire. Just when I thought I would faint, he extended his hands and a bubble of cool air caressed my skin. The break from the heat an intoxicating relief. I swayed.

“Take my hands. I will not burn you. Travel with me through the fire.”

“Why?”

“Because you belong to me.”
anghara: (Default)
For those who want to know, Harper Collins UK put out a press release for "Embers of Heaven" right here.

The book is due out in just over a month now, in its UK paperback edition.

May 2009

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