Browsing Tag


Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Purveyors and Acquirers, by James D. Macon

Kinda awesome how, if I put out a reminder call for Boosting the Signal posts, I can get some! Today I have a post to share with you from a fellow NIWA member who hasn’t been here before: James D. Macon. James released Purveyors and Acqurirers, Book 1 of his Phosphire Journeys fantasy YA series, in November of last year. His piece today gives a glimpse of the mysterious organization known as The Trade. What are their goals? And do their stated goals align with how they truly function? That’s the ticket, as the Interested Party investigating them discovers in this scene.


Purveyors and Acquirers

Purveyors and Acquirers

Interested Party, (IP), paced in the well-appointed room waiting for his guest to arrive. A dampened fire burned in the hearth and provided an unneeded warmth. The open window allowed a view of the rising moon. The door to the chamber opened and he saw a gentleman stylishly dressed in sky blue from head to toe, and wearing a wide brimmed hat sporting a blue feather from a bird IP did not recognize, walk in. The fellow smiled broadly and closed the door behind him.

“Hello, my name is Qwen. I am a Practitioner of the Arts and member of the Trade. I assume that you are Interested Party?” Qwen gestured with the fingers of his left hand and spoke softly, Aspscon Diatail Soni Visu.

IP stepped back. “Yes, I am. Welcome Master Qwen. I appreciate your agreeing to this interview. I am curious, did you conjure just now?”

“Only a small warding to keep our visit private.” Qwen answered pleasantly. His eyes darted about the chamber before settling on IP. Qwen said to no one in particular, “Please keep a look out for me.”

IP momentarily wondered who Qwen was talking to. IP gestured toward two chairs and eased into the one nearest him. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but tell me what you know about the Trade?”

“Well, if I go into too much detail, then I would have to kill you. Don’t worry, it would only be business.” Qwen’s smile broadened as he sat.

Startled, IP stammered, “Ah, ah, I’m sorry. I was under the impression that this would be a candid discussion.”

Qwen assumed a listening posture with his head tilted to toward his shoulder. “Oh, that’s right, he’s supposedly safe from retribution. What was the Trade Master thinking arranging this interview?”

“Perhaps we should start with you telling me more about yourself.” IP decided a subject change was in order. He could push for more information on the Trade once his subject was no longer distracted.

Qwen leaned back and crossed his legs. “Earlier I stated that I was a Practitioner. What I didn’t say is that I am also a Tzefire, a person with an affinity to the element of air.” He glanced upward. “Yes, I was about to tell him about you.” He turned back to IP. “I have been privileged to be able to associate with beings from the Terrene of Air.”

IP was starting think Qwen was a bit eccentric, or worse. “No offence, but you seem to be conversing with the space above your shoulder. It is rather distracting.”

“Lean forward please.” Qwen conjured, Praesen Adspectis. He touched IP on the forehead.

IP looked with wonder at the four creatures he saw undulating in the air above Qwen. Serpentine in shape, their supple bodies were without appendages. Heads had large oval eyes and a maw that appeared and disappeared from view. IP thought it was nice to know that Qwen wasn’t touched in the head after all. “What marvelous entities.”

“They are known in our sphere as Zephyrs, although that is not what they call themselves.” Qwen informed IP.

This is fantastic, IP thought. What a story this may turn out to be. “What is most important to you, Master Qwen?”

Qwen sat thinking for a long moment before saying, “There are a lot of wrongs being done. Some by people with good intentions. If one could right just one of them, then change for the better can happen.”

“I see.” Now was the moment to get back to the purpose of this visit, IP thought to himself. “A source told me that the Trade has begun to have dealings with children. Is this true, Master Qwen?”

“It is not what you think. There is no nefarious plot for you to dig up. The children are orphans who have been offered apprenticeships. We are only doing our part to help the underserved of Arlanda.”

“Placed in that light, you make it seem as if there is nothing needing investigation.” IP intended to look into Qwen’s claim.

Qwen leaned forward. “How would you like to interview one or more of the children? I could broach the topic with the Trade Master if you wish. Better still I suggest you discuss your concern with Matriarch Izlan at the Temple of the Ladies of Life where the children live. You could even make a donation toward the children’s education. Any amount would be appreciated.”

“I’ll get back to you on that.” IP hadn’t planned on parting with his coin and didn’t want to admit to Qwen that he wasn’t comfortable around children.

A fifth Zephyr entered the room through the open window. It flew around Qwen’s head. Qwen stood. “My apologies Master Party, but my associate has brought an important matter to my attention. We will have to reschedule. By the way, nothing we discussed leaves this chamber.” Qwen didn’t conjure. He assumed the form of a Zephyr and sped out the window accompanied by his companions.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Street Fair, by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

Today’s third Boosting the Signal catchup post features another pair of previous guests: the writing team of Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins! They’re on hand to bring you an excerpt from Book 2 of their Fair Folk Chronicles–a series which, since this book’s release, has gone on to include a Book 3 as well! In this short excerpt from Street Fair, two characters have a very basic goal before them: figure out how to get past a barrier. Without exploding. As you do.


Street Fair

Street Fair

After what seemed to Megan like an hour of slow, careful walking and occasionally squeezing through tree roots, they reached the first artificial support. The walls started showing fewer signs of encroaching roots, and the earth appeared more worked.

Not long after that, Ashling stopped them. “We’re getting close. It’s warded. I’m not finding a way around it.”

Megan recalled the pixie’s occasional very precise movements in the tomb before and wondered just how many traps she’d allowed them to avoid, beyond those she’d seen evidence of. “So what now?”

“Two options,” Ashling responded. “Three if we had a handy backhoe and a three-foot-thick concrete barrier.”

“That bad?” Megan couldn’t help but ask.

“Only if we cross this line,” Ashling pointed out an imaginary line on the floor, “Or mess with the ward the wrong way, or mess up with anti-magic, or maybe jump around too much, or breathe really hard in this direction.” Megan and Jude both drew back a little, careful to direct their breath elsewhere, in case.

“So, we have two options. How do we get through?” Megan asked.

“The more I think about it, the more options we have. It’s too bad we don’t have a goblin minesweeper or something.”

“That’s a thing?” Megan knew she was going to regret asking, but had to know now. “What sort of equipment do they use for that?” After seeing the goblin market, Megan was trying to imagine what sort of tech or magic might be involved.

“Running shoes,” Ashling answered cheerfully. “Hopefully really good ones.”


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Stormseer, by Stephanie A. Cain

Boosting the Signal is directly inspired by John Scalzi’s Big Idea column and Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit. But given that I’m a much lower-profile author than either of them, I don’t usually expect to get any feedback about the books I feature. Imagine my surprise, then, when an author I saw featured on My Favorite Bit emailed me out of the blue to ask if she could also be on Boosting the Signal! “YES”, I said, particularly given that I’d already noticed her cover on Kowal’s site and thought that that sounded like a book I wanted to check out. Dynamically posed characters of color? Yes please I’ll have some. Particularly when the author serves me up an intro to their villain. I do so love me some villain POV pieces! So here’s Cain’s villain, telling you all about how his dastardly plans are of course entirely for the good of the kingdom.




You should already know me, but on the off chance that you’re a foreigner or from some remote village in the far east of the kingdom, I’ll introduce myself. My name is Arisanat Burojan, and I am Lord of the First Family, cousin to the king of Tamnen.

That’s right, cousins. That’s how the Families work, you know. Well, of course I love my cousin. He’s a misguided fool, but I do love him. The same goes for Prince Razem. He’s only a few years younger than me, and I know I can count on him to keep this war with Strid going as long as possible. But the problem is, he’s still not in it to win it, so to speak.

Oh, I don’t doubt that he hates our enemies. After all, he still thinks they killed his sister, Princess Azmei. I certainly haven’t told him I was the one who arranged for the assassination. Why would I do that? Right now he trusts me. He thinks we’re on the same side.

What side am I on? Why, I’m on Tamnen’s side, of course! I’m only doing this for the good of the kingdom. You think I want to murder my cousin’s family? What sort of monster do you take me for? I practically grew up with Prince Razem and Princess Azmei. I wept for her after I paid the assassin.

But the royal family has lost its edge. The king is actually talking about peace! Peace, after all the atrocities those Strid dogs committed on our people. After the sacrifices our people made in this war. After my brother died at the hands of those murdering Strid. The king talks of peace.

It’s intolerable. I will not allow it. And since there is only one other nobleman on the council willing to speak out, I must go about it another way.

I didn’t mean for things to turn out like this. But my cousin gave me little choice.

I embarked on this path three years ago, after Venra died. My brother died in the war, and how did Princess Azmei respond? She agreed to an arranged marriage with a foreign prince–despite the tenderness and affection between her and Venra, despite how she must have known he intended to speak to her father about an alliance. She had to have known how much Venra adored her. But she shed pretty tears at his funeral and then sauntered back to the capital where she agreed to marry a same-loving boy she’d never met.

Oh, I know that isn’t nice. I don’t really care if the Amethirian prince loves men instead of women. But Azmei’s arranged marriage was just one more demonstration of how weak the Tamnese throne has become. We agreed to marry our princess to a foreign empire so her husband could crush Strid for us. If that doesn’t show how ineffective my cousin’s rule is, what does?

So I arranged to have Azmei removed. I didn’t anticipate how angry Razem would be, how he would blame our enemies for it, but that’s certainly a bonus. But now that the king has finally decided to pursue peace by other means, it’s time for my plan to come to fruition.

First, the death of the king. Second, the prince.

And then I will be king.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Girls Can’t Be Knights, by Lee French

Lee French is a fellow member of NIWA, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person when we joined forces to sell books at Norwescon! She’s got several titles out already that I’m looking forward to reading–including her brand new YA release, Girls Can’t Be Knights. Between that title and what I already know of Lee, yeah, I expect to see some stereotypes stomped on nicely. And today, she’s bringing us an interview with her character John Avery, a detective who has a suspect to catch, and who is not happy about it!


Girls Can't Be Knights

Girls Can’t Be Knights

Questions And Answers: Today, we’re welcoming John Avery, a Detective with the Portland, Oregon Police Department. He’s graciously agreed to sit down and talk about his work and home life.

John Avery: Wait a minute. I never agreed to talk about my home life. The divorce is still fresh, and I don’t want to talk about that.

Q&A: Do you have kids?

JA (scowling): Yes, two sons, both teenagers. Again, I don’t want to talk about this. My wife–sorry, my ex-wife–who makes more money than me hired a pricey lawyer and now I live in a crappy little apartment by myself, with no one around to complain when I work long hours. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject.

Q&A: Fair enough. Tell us about the case you’re working on.

JA: There’s a young man I’m looking for in connection with a few minor crimes. He hasn’t hurt anyone yet that I know of, but when I met him, I got that burgeoning serial killer vibe from him.

Q&A: That sounds awful. What’s he like?

JA: I first met him when he was 18. My initial assessment said “dumb,” and I’ve never run across anything to challenge that. He ran away from an abusive home to live with his girlfriend, who he managed to get pregnant right before his 18th birthday. I think she was a year younger. Barely graduated from high school, scraped up a job as a garbage collector for a few months before becoming a Spirit Knight.

Q&A: What’s a Spirit Knight?

JA: It’s a group of lunatic men who think they’re saving the world when they’re actually destroying it. Like the Crusaders. They have these delusions about dangerous ghosts they need to destroy. The truth is, the ghosts are the one thing holding our reality together. Without them, we’d all…(JA frowns) I’m not entirely clear on the specific consequences, but suffice to say it would be unpleasant for the majority of people.

Q&A: You seem to know a lot about this group.

JA: Well, yes. Of course. I was one of them until I discovered the Truth. They’re so insular and paranoid, though, that now I’ve opened my eyes, I have to work against them in secret. Anyway, Justin. He’s one of these deluded numbskulls. Unfortunately, when I’ve met him, I didn’t get his last name, and I don’t know enough to find him. I suspect he might live over the border in Washington state, as that would make it nearly impossible for me to track down anything about him. Without a felony to tag on him, I can’t access databases across the state line.

Q&A: Since he hasn’t done anything serious yet, and you have no proof he’s specifically planning to, why are you chasing him?

JA (scowling again): Because I need him to–ah. Er. Look. He seems harmless, like one of those SCA people, the ones who dress up like knights and beat each other with fake weapons. But he carries a real sword and rides a real horse that he talks to. The guy is deranged. Any day now, he could lose the few marbles he has bouncing around in his thick skull and carve people up for no reason. He’s already stolen an important post-war artifact from a museum in Eugene. I can’t prove it, but I know he did it. Same for several incidents of minor theft from convenience stores.

Q&A: Um, he sounds more like a nuisance level problem. Isn’t Portland kind of known for having weird people?

JA: I knew this was a joke. Captain Travers set this up to prank me, didn’t he? (JA gets up, tosses the chair, and leaves while muttering obscenities)

Q&A: I certainly feel safer now, knowing that Detective Avery is on the job.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Foul is Fair, by Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins

Today’s second Boosting the Signal feature is ALSO YA, this time an urban fantasy by the team of Jeffrey Cook and Katherine Perkins. Jeffrey’s a fellow member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association, with whom I’ll be working at Worldcon this year and cons to come on the effort to sell NIWA books! Jeffrey and Katherine have a bit of a glimpse into the head of Lani, one of their characters who has the pressing problem before her of how to get her friend Megan acclimated–as fast as possible–to the fey world around her. And you gotta bet, urban fantasy involving the fey, set in Seattle, is HIGHLY RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. The authors have kindly provided me a copy of this book. I will be reviewing it.


Foul is Fair

Foul is Fair

Lani was curled up on a satyress’s loveseat in a trendy Fremont apartment. She knew it was important to get to sleep, and she soon would, but she had to give her mind at least a few minutes to race around the matters at hand.

The day’s objective was complete, at least. Lani had gotten Megan clear-headed enough and told her everything she could. She’d never thought that she’d be able to, back when she thought Megan was all human. There were Restrictions (that was the best way to explain it to non-Hawaiians), after all. You can’t just out yourself as menehune (or, in Lani’s case, half-menehune) to a civilian. But that was before Lani had discovered her ‘human’ BFF’s estranged father was the Unseelie King.

“So…” Megan had said. “My dad is what, ’80s David Bowie? Glammed up, stealing babies, turning into owls?”

Lani had let the focus go to her people’s perfectly rational objection to owls for a moment before moving on to business, because being teased was better than explaining why she wasn’t laughing at the ‘stealing babies’ line. Megan didn’t have a little brother to think of, and she didn’t know what the Unseelie sidhe were like. There was a reason the menehune had allied centuries ago with the brownies: both were hardworking, orderly folk dealing with a lot of things that weren’t. They made good partners.

Megan didn’t know what anything was like, in Faerie terms, so Lani was grateful this was going as well as it did. Here they were, after all, on a satyress’s couch after being chased by a redcap, and yet no one had been eaten or sexually harassed. Lani could finally introduce Megan to her non-human friends. Kerr was already working Kerr’s brownie magic to keep Megan’s mom from worrying, and while Lani could tell Megan had been confused by Kerr, there’d been no gender-essentialist nonsense said that could embarrass anyone. Megan was really handling it all well for someone who’d claimed pixies didn’t exist this morning.

The question was whether she could handle the task at hand. Much to every engineer’s regret, people indeed did not come with breaking-strain calculations. And they were facing a huge problem.

The Unseelie King had gone missing, probably been imprisoned. This was bad. The Seelie were her people’s allies, but the Unseelie were just as necessary. They just didn’t fulfill needs that were easy to understand or that Lani necessarily wanted to think about much. Of these necessities, the Unseelie King was the most obvious. Without his presence in the right place at the right time, the seasons couldn’t change on the Faerie level. There would be no Autumn, not really. And if Lani had learned anything from Neil deGrasse Tyson, it was that without the balance that the breakdowns of Autumn restored to the atmosphere, the world would eventually freeze.

Most in the Faerie court (Seelie and Unseelie) and its allies didn’t know what was going on. All sides were keeping it quiet. Of those who knew about the problem, most were either reacting emotionally, trying to twist it to their advantages, or citing the need for the involvement of human blood. Well, Lani and Megan brought a human’s worth of blood to the table. Lani was more of an aspiring engineer than an adventurer, and Megan was still adjusting to everything. Additionally, of course, people were already trying to kill them. Lani just had to keep it together. She would help Megan navigate the fields of inhuman social landmines and less figurative dangers. She would help Megan find her father. She would help bring him back. And through it all, Lani would have to be the one to remember that just because someone is important—and just because what’s currently being done to them is wrong and dangerous—does not mean that person is safe. Lani had a little brother to think of, after all.


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Through Fire and Sea, by Nicole Luiken

Nicole Luiken is one of my fellow Carina authors who actually writes fantasy, and so I’m quite happy to feature her on Boosting the Signal today for her latest YA release. Nicole’s here to tell you about the difficulties her characters face surviving in a volcanic landscape.


Through Fire and Sea

Through Fire and Sea

For my fantasy series, Otherselves, I created the True World and four Mirror Worlds. Each Mirror World is named after an element: Water, Fire, Air and Stone. (BTW, the True World isn’t our world (Earth). Our world is Water because we have so much ocean.) I had a lot of fun designing the four worlds and their magic.

Book one, Through Fire & Sea, features two worlds in detail: Water and Fire. It also features two girls. Holly is from our world, Leah is from Fire World. Although the girls are otherselves (mirror twins) of each other, they’ve each been shaped by the world they grew up in.

Imagine a landscape with a blood-red sky, dominated by volcanoes. That’s Fire World. Leah grew up in a castle in the shadow of a volcano named Grumbling Man. The Volcano Lords are quarrelsome Fire elementals and have ominous names like Grumbling Man, Thunderhead, Poison Cloud and Cinders. People scratch out a precarious existence in the valleys between the volcanoes because there is no other habitable land. How do they survive? The hot-blooded nobility have a magical talent that allows them to speak to the Volcano Lords. The Volcano Lords become quite attached to their dukes and the dukes are the only ones who can soothe them when they grow angry and tremble on the edge of eruption.

Early in the novel, Leah is forced to leave the castle and travel to the home of the sorceress Qeturah. I based Qeturah’s Tower on the weird volcanic rock formations found in Cappadocia, Turkey. Hundreds of years ago these were hollowed out and inhabited.

At a later point in the story, Leah has to pick her way across a cooling lava field, using her hot-blooded senses to tell her where it’s safe to step and where molten lava flows beneath a seemingly solid thin black crust.

When researching, I discovered that other signs of volcanic activity include hot springs, geysers and mudpots—areas of boiling mud, such as can be seen in places like Yellowstone Park or Iceland. I found the mudpots so cool, I had to use them in the story. Two characters have a dangerous duel on the narrow path between two mudpots, where any misstep will mean an ugly death.

I also populated Fire World with some exotic critters. I invented some nasty insects called fire wasps which spawn in mudpots and can set things on fire, and oh, yes, dragons. You knew there had to be dragons, right? Dragons are the off-spring of Volcano Lords and humans and are very rare. When a black dragon appears, it upsets the precarious balance of Fire World and sets the whole story into motion.



Mirror mirror, hear my call…

In the Fire world, seventeen-year-old Leah is the illegitimate daughter of one of the realm’s most powerful lords, able to communicate with the tempestuous volcano gods that either bless a civilization or destroy it. But then Leah discovers she’s a Caller, gifted with the unique—and dangerous—ability to “call” her Otherselves in mirror worlds. And her father will do anything to use her powers for his own purposes.

In the Water world, Holly nearly drowns when she sees Leah, a mirror image of herself. She’s rescued by a boy from school with a secret he’d die to protect. Little do they know, his Otherself is the son of a powerful volcano god at war in the Fire world…and he’s about to fall.

As Leah and Holly’s lives intersect, the Fire and Water worlds descend into darkness. The only way to protect the mirror worlds is to break every rule they’ve ever known. If they don’t, the evil seeping through the mirrors will destroy everything—and everyone—they love…


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Boosting the Signal

Boosting the Signal: Wolf Interval, by Chrysoula Tzavelas

Oh, this one’s near and dear to my heart, you guys. Chrysoula Tzavelas is Tribe, and I mean that literally: I met Soula back in the day when she was a player in my Willowholt tribe on Two Moons MUSH, when her character Calmwind was the love interest of my character Wayfound. No fewer than four of us out of the Willowholt—myself, Soula, S.L. Gray, and of course the inimitable C.E. Murphy—became writers post-Two-Moons. So it gives me distinct pleasure to feature Soula on Boosting the Signal now!

And in particular, to feature her forthcoming book Wolf Interval, the latest in her series with Candlemark & Gleam. They’ve got a Kickstarter in progress RIGHT NOW to fund the publishing of this book, with nine days to go as of this writing. So if you’ve read Soula’s prior work, or even if you haven’t, take a gander at this piece about Yejun, one of the supporting characters in the book. And then go check out the page for the Kickstarter! Talk to us, Yejun!


Wolf Interval

Wolf Interval

I never really tried to run away from home. Hell, it never even occurred to me when I was a kid. I didn’t want to run away; I wanted them to love me like they loved my little brother. That didn’t really work out. But, hey, that was then. Life moves on. By the time I was a teenager, I’d been swallowing all that bull about how I would probably die any day for years, about how my differences were a sickness that would destroy me, or possibly I was actually a demon. It wasn’t until I was almost eighteen that I realized I was doing fine. I was just different and nobody knew how to deal with that.

That’s when Senjen showed up. Man, Sen—short for Ascención—was something else. She was this tiny Latin American woman with sparkling eyes who seemed to know everything. Jen was her girlfriend, and they wanted to do what nobody else had ever even considered: they wanted to teach me about how I was different. They wanted to teach me to control those differences rather than be controlled by them. Yeah. You can bet I went with them like a shot.

It was great for a few weeks. We picked up another guy, Cat, and we were going to help Sen on this epic project involving the Wild Hunt, which is on a countdown to escape and tear things up real soon now. And after we saved the world, Senjen—and maybe Cat—and I were going to do a world tour while they taught me about their amazing world.

Sen was over six hundred years old. That’s old. She was born before Columbus brought the European invasion to North America. She’d seen the whole world turn upside down over and over again, and her eyes still sparkled. She never stopped laughing. Jen, on the other hand, was just 38. She was human like me. She told me, later, that Sen’s kind could live forever if nobody killed them.

But somebody did. Something. My grandmother called me a demon sometimes, but she didn’t know anything outside of her book and shows. I’ve seen a real demon now. I’ve felt the fires they can call. I’ve seen the wreckage they leave behind, of buildings and bodies. Sen is dead, and Jen…Jen is worse. There’s just Cat and me now to stop the Wild Hunt and I’ve got no idea how we’re even going to find them.

What’s left of Jen says there’s hope though. There’s a girl she heard about. She’s a little like Sen and a little like me, and apparently she can find anything if she puts her nose to it. We’re going to have to find her first and convince her to help us. For her, we know where to look. They want me to talk her into this, because Cat’s got to keep taking care of Jen. But…I’m not the most convincing guy out there so…wish me luck?


Buy the Book: The book’s not yet available, but you can support its Kickstarter here! And Candlemark and Gleam has a cover reveal post up about it here!

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