Annotated Excerpt: TO CATCH A MOON by Rym Kechacha (Unsung Stories)

KechachaR-ToCatchAMoonUKToday, we have an annotated excerpt from Rym Kechacha‘s latest novel, To Catch A Moon. Due to be published by Unsung Stories this week, here’s the synopsis:

Mexico City, 1955. The painter Remedios Varo sits in her kitchen with her friend, the artist Leonora Carrington. Together they let their imaginations soar beyond their canvases to create new worlds.

In the surreal landscape of her imagination, Varo’s creations take on a life and power of their own. A wheeled spirit of the earth kidnaps a baby star; a woman who is half owl draws herself a daughter; a juggler entrances a crowd of grey-cloaked men, a lion and a goat. The rules that govern this world bend and creak, old alliances break, and an impending apocalypse forges the most unlikely of friendships.

Rym Kechacha (Dark River, British Fantasy Awards finalist 2021) spins a wild fantasy from Varo’s dreamlike imaginings, a world in which the moon’s daughter holds the key to mankind’s fate. Populated by witches, sentient animals, and a lion made of leaves, To Catch a Moon is a bold and fearless ode to the power of Remedios Varo’s timeless paintings.

Now, over to the author…!

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Annotated Excerpt: GLITTERATI by Oliver K. Langmead (Titan)

LangmeadOK-AuthorPic2021Hello – yes! I have been asked by the fabulous owner of Civillian Reader to share an annotated excerpt from my forthcoming novel Glitterati, which is a dystopian satire about fashion, family and the feckless billionaire class.

Simone is a fashionista – one of the fashionable elites, who live in a sumptuous, opulent utopia, with their every whim catered for. Early in the novel, it is only Simone’s strange anxieties holding him back from being one of the most fabulous people around.

Let me introduce you now to Simone, and one of the most acute sources of anxiety in his life…

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Annotated Excerpt: THE COLLARBOUND by Rebecca Zahabi (Gollancz)

ZahabiR-CollarboundUKHCIn The Collarbound, we get to discover a complex world, with khers and mages, fleshbinding and mindlink, lightborns and long-lost giants. I’ve picked this excerpt because it’s a good example of how worldbuilding can be woven into the plot without slowing it down.

This piece is from Tatters’ POV. For the moment, we know little about Tatters except that he is a mage, and that he has a voice called Lal speaking inside his head. We’ve met the head of guards, a kher, and we’ve learnt what khers look like: they’re humanoids with reddish skin, often tattooed, who have long horns that grow out of their foreheads and curve around their skulls, like a ram’s horns.

That’s where we’re at when Tatters and the head of guards meet. She brings him to the watchtower to check he’s on the Nest’s records (he’s trying to sneak into the castle that is the Nest without being invited), and she starts laboriously looking through the entries in chronological order.

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Guest Post: On THE EXTRACTIONIST by Kimberly Unger (Tachyon)

UngerK-ExtractionistToday, Kimberly Unger walks us through the genesis and premise of her latest novel, The Extractionist.

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Underground hacker Eliza McKay is one of the best in the virtual space where people create personas that can interact as data.

Back when I first conceptualized The Extractionist, VR had been through a couple of failed generations already and Google’s Cardboard hadn’t seen the light of day. At the time I’d been thinking much more along the lines of Star Trek’s holodeck with some of Gibson’s style and Nylund’s metaphoric spaces mixed in for good measure. So, of course McKay had to be a “hacker” of some stripe, although as we learn that’s rooted in a fundamental inability to respect locks rather than a desire to good or harm. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: THE BLADED FAITH by David Dalglish (Orbit)

BladedFaith_TP-LP1.inddToday, we have an annotated excerpt taken from David Dalglish’s upcoming new novel, The Bladed Faith. The first in a new series, the Vagrant Gods, here’s the synopsis:

A usurped prince prepares to take up the mantel of a deadly assassin and reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods…

Cyrus was only twelve years old when his gods were slain, his country invaded, and his parents — the king and queen — beheaded in front of him. Held prisoner in the invader’s court for years, Cyrus is suddenly given a chance to escape and claim his revenge when a mysterious group of revolutionaries comes looking for a figurehead. They need a hero to strike fear into the hearts of the imperial and to inspire and unite the people. They need someone to take up the skull mask and swords and to become the legendary “Vagrant” — an unparalleled hero and assassin of otherworldly skill. 

But all is not as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance.

The excerpt is taken from the second chapter of the novel. Now, over to David…

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Annotated Excerpt: THE CITY OF DUSK by Tara Sim (Orbit/Hodder)

SimR-CityOfDuskWriting books is so weird.

Ever since I was fifteen I knew for sure that I wanted to be an author. Back then, writing books was so much fun. I got to let my imagination loose, play around with (aka torture) characters, and make up entirely new worlds. There were no deadlines, no pressures, no expectations — just the joy of creation.

Although writing is still fun, I find that it gets harder and harder. So naturally, I like to challenge myself with each new book.

The City of Dusk was certainly challenging. It’s my most ambitious book/series to date: four separate realms, four magic systems, seven POVs. Somehow, it all came together in the end, but the journey was arduous and spirit-shattering. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: UNEXPECTED PLACES TO FALL FROM, UNEXPECTED PLACES TO LAND by Malcolm Devlin (Unsung)

DevlinM-UnexpectedPlacesToFallFromUnexpectedPlacesToLandUnexpected Places To Fall From, Unexpected Places To Land, my second collection, is published by Unsung Stories. It includes twelve stories dealing with journeys taken and the paths we choose. Some of the characters might crop up as slightly different people in different places, there’s a little bit of horror, a little bit of science fiction and a weird story in which I try and prove that all accredited London taxi drivers are actually descended from the rat coachmen in Cinderella.

In the exact same moment, all possible versions of Prentis O’Rourke will cease to exist. By accident, by malice, by conflict, by illness – Prentis will not simply die. He will go extinct. These are the stories of the journeys we take and the journeys we wish we’d taken.

Malcolm Devlin’s second short story collection ranges from science fiction to folk horror as Prentis O’Rourke’s demise echoes across the dimensions. Scientists, artists, ex-nuns, taxi drivers, time travellers and aliens – the same people living varied lives in subtly different worlds. Something unprecedented will happen, and it will colour them all.

Crossing multiple realities, countless versions of ourselves, and shifting backwards and forwards through time, these are stories of forking paths and unexpected destinations – of flying and falling and getting up to try again.

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Annotated Excerpt: THE ANNUAL MIGRATION OF BIRDS by Premee Mohamed (ECW Press)

MohamedP-AnnualMigrationOfCloudsCAI wrote The Annual Migration of Clouds all in a rush in 2019 after seeing a single tweet from an entomologist I followed (I didn’t even read the paper right away!) containing the phrase ‘heritable symbiont.’ My imagination yanked the reins from my hands and went galloping across a blank document I think literally hours later; dimly I suspected the paper was probably about Wolbachia, a bacterial genus that inhabits some insects and affects their reproduction and behaviour, but I was too excited about the possibilities for a human disease. And ofcourse there are human diseases and syndromes caused by infections that affect our behaviour, as well as examples in various other species (Cordyceps is the obvious one, but there’s also Toxoplasmosis, many infections that cross the blood-brain barrier, certain parasitic infections of the gut, etc).

As I created this heritable symbiont, I began asking myself: How can I craft a story out of this though? What we have here is a premise. The premise is: What if there was a disease with a long latency period, invisibility to testing, and uncertain transmission, that affected your behaviour and maybe even your thoughts, and you were never sure of your own free will? It wasn’t a plot. Continue reading

Annotated Excerpt: A DESERT TORN ASUNDER by Bradley P. Beaulieu

BeaulieuBP-SotSS6-ADesertTornAsunderUKToday, we have an annotated excerpt from Bradley P. Beaulieu‘s A Desert Torn Asunder — the final book in the author’s Song of the Shattered Sands series. Before we get to that, though, here’s the official synopsis for the novel:

The final book in The Song of the Shattered Sands series closes the epic fantasy saga in a desert setting, filled with rich worldbuilding and pulse-pounding action.

The plans of the desert gods are coming to fruition. Meryam, the deposed queen of Qaimir, hopes to raise the buried elder god, Ashael, an event that would bring ruin to the desert.

Çeda and Emre sail for their ancestral home to bring the traitor, Hamid, to justice. To their horror, they discover that the desert tribes have united under Hamid’s banner. Their plan? A holy crusade to annihilate Sharakhai, a thing long sought by many in the tribes. In Sharakhai, meanwhile, the blood mage, Davud, examines the strange gateway between worlds, hoping to find a way to close it. And King Ihsan hunts for Meryam, but always finds himself two steps behind.

When Meryam raises Ashael, all know the end is near. Ashael means to journey to the land that was denied to him an age ago, no matter the cost to the desert. It now falls to Çeda and her unlikely assortment of allies to find a way to unite not only the desert tribes and the people of Sharakhai, but the city’s invaders as well. Even if they do, stopping Ashael will cost them dearly, perhaps more than all are willing to pay.

The series is published by Gollancz in the UK and DAW in North America. The other novels are Twelve Kings of Sharakai, With Blood Upon the Sand, A Veil of Spears, Beneath the Twisted Trees, and When Jackals Storm the Walls. (Beaulieu has also written a number of short stories that fit within the chronology of the series. You can find more details of those here.)

And now, on with the excerpt!

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Guest Post: “Accuracy & Writing Historical Fiction” by Adrian Goldsworthy

GoldsworthyA-CoV1-FortHCI have always loved history, was lucky enough to study it at the highest level, and after teaching for a while have been even luckier to make a living writing non fiction history books. At the same time, I have always loved historical novels. At their best they give a flavour and feel for a place and an era much faster than reading conventional history. So when I came to write historical novels, accuracy was very important to me. A novel will only work if readers get caught up in the plot and want to spend time with the characters, but the world it conjures up has to feel real, at least on its own terms, and that is as true of fantasy or science fiction as it is for stories set in the past. The world of the story has to be convincing enough for readers to visit it in their imagination. Many readers and authors do not care too much if that world bears little or no relation to the reality of the past as long as it is consistent. That is fine, after all, reading should be about pleasure and we all have different tastes. However, I am a professional historian and find it hard to switch off, which makes me an unrepresentative reader, and I only stick with a novel if I feel that the research behind it and the author’s sensitivity for the period are good. Since, like most authors, I write books – whether novels or non fiction – that I would like to read, that is how I try to write my stories. So each novel begins with research. Continue reading