Kushiel’s Chosen Part I

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Everyone is welcome to join in. Here is the SCHEDULE for the read along.

This week, Nancy from FaeStruck’s Reviews and More is our host. We’re covering Chapters 1-14, so be prepared for spoilers below!

1. The book opens with Phédre and her household happy and content at Montrève. Phédre is faced with the question of returning to the Service of Naamah. The sangoire cloak is the what pushes her decision. Do you agree with her choice? Do you believe that Phédre would have returned to her calling eventually, regardless of the cloak?

I think Phedre would have returned to Naamah’s service eventually. Joscelin is obviously a fun lay, but I don’t think he can provide that spice, that bite, that… ahem… cutting that Phedre deeply desires. He’s physically repelled just by the thought of doing such things. So, yeah, eventually I think Kushiel’s dart would have pricked to constantly for her to ignore.

But the sangoire cloak holds the promise of something more. In chasing after Melisande, Phedre is serving not only Naamah, but also Kushiel (whose providence is justice) and the kingdom. There’s all sorts of ways to justify her decision with Melisande in the picture. And, quite frankly, I think that if Melisand can patiently lay her plans to mastermind a Skaldi invasion, then she may very well still be a threat to Ysandre and her reign.

2. With Phédre returning to the Service of Naamah, Joscelin is also forced to make his choice as well. Who do you think had the harder decision to make and why?

I think it was harder for Joscelin. While Phedre is unlikely to love anyone as she does Joscelin, she will love others. It’s in her nature and is one of her greatest strengths. But for Joscelin, he is a single love for eternity kind of guy. Now, he is essentially being asked to share Phedre with others. Plus he has over a decade of Casseline discipline and thinking telling him that Phedre’s behaviors are sinful, etc. It’s a lot for him to push through.

3. Phédre’s return to court unveils how Queen Ysandre is faring in the absence of her husband Drustan. Politically, should she take a lover while he is away?

That’s a tough question. So far, we don’t know what agreements concerning lovers, if any, Ysandre & Drustan have. I can’t see her taking a lover without having chatted with Drustan first, and vice versa. Plus, Ysandre hasn’t born an heir yet. We already know from Book 1 how important the lineage is for Alba, so I am guessing that Drustan and Ysandre want at least 1 heir (fuck the politics!) before Ysandre takes a lover or three.

4. Favrielle nó Eglantine designs Phédre’s Midwinter costume. How do you feel about the way in which Phédre repays her?

It was pretty abrupt, from Favrielle’s point of view. I am sure it was simmering in the back of Phedre’s head for some time. Favrielle is very talented, if rather a sour puss, but looking into years and years of indentured servitude because of a small scar would make anyone sour, I am sure. The Dowayne had that little remark about how Favrielle wasn’t allowed to bear Eglantine’s marque because she didn’t rightly earn it in the service of Naamah. It seemed a little harsh in the moment, even if it was correct according to guild law.

5. Joscelin is spending quite a bit of time with the Yeshuites. Is it the pain of Phédre returning to Service that prompts this or would the Cassiline’s faith, pushed so far already, have led him there if Joscelin and Phédre were simply looking for the answer to breaking the geas on Hyacinthe?

Very good question! Joscelin makes a telling remark about how the Yeshuites believe any mortal is capable of redemption through the faith, even Joscelin with all his broken Casseline vows. He says the Yeshuites are the first to tell him that. I think this is the one feature of Joscelin I have never really cared for, and yet it reflects a good chunk of humanity. He needs something outside of himself, something greater (or that he perceives as greater) to tell him he is doing the right thing, to serve, to set his moral compass by. He’s trained to serve in this manner and not to take these decisions (of greater right and wrong) upon himself.

So, with Joscelin searching and Phedre and Joscelin already looking at the Yeshuite faith for answers concerning Hyacinthe’s geas, I think it was inevitable that Joscelin would have to face this cross road.

Other Tidbts:

Phedre’s costume of Mara is so elegant, so simple, and yet to engaging that it really is brilliant. Plus her evening with Fortune keeping her safe from herself was a delight to read.

Marmion & Persia! More Sharhizai to confound and distract Phedre!

Last book, we talked a little about Phedre’s conceit that D’Angelines are so beautiful, etc. With Favrielle, I think we really start to see how Phedre reconsiders certain aspects of D’Angeline society.

Phedre’s boys – gambling and dicing and spying! It’s all very exciting for them. Still, I worry.

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel’s Chosen Read Along – The Schedule

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

Tofu kitty with a very good book.

The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Chosen is Book 2) is one of my all time favorite series. The red along continues! Book 1 was so much fun and I am ever so glad so many folks wanted to continue with Book 2.

Here is the current schedule:
Week 1: August 2, Chpts. 1-14, hosted by FaeStruck Review
Week 2: August 16, Chpts. 15-26, hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Week 3: August 23, Chpts. 27-36, hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 4: August 30, Chpts. 37-49, hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 5: September 6, Chpts. 50-61, hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 6: September 13, Chpts. 62-72, hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 7: September 20, Chpts. 73-END, hosted by Emma Wolf

And here is the current list of participators:
Allie at Tethyan Books
Lisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Grace at Books Without Any Pictures
Nancy at FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
James at James T. Witherspoon
Emily at Emma Wolf
Susan (me) at Dab of Darkness

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S CHOSEN in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

Kushiel’s Dart Read Along – The Schedule

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

It’s time. This has been kicking around in the back of my head for some time. I love doing read alongs and discussing the minutiae of a good book. The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Dart is Book 1) is one of my all time favorite series. In particular, I am forever enamored of Kushiel’s Dart. My man and I have read this book so many times, the covers have fallen off more than one copy.

Here is the current schedule.

Week 1: May 10, Chapters 1-8, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 2: May 17, Chapters 9-18, Hosted by Tethyan Books
Week 3: May 24, Chapters 19-26, Hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 4: May 31, Chapters 27-36, Hosted by Dab of Darkness
Week 5: June 7, Chapters 37-45, Hosted by Igret’s Corner
Week 6: June 14, Chapters 46-54, Hosted by Books Without Any Pictures
Week 7: June 21, Chapters 55-63, Hosted by FaeStruck’s Reviews & More
Week 8: June 28, Chapters 64-73, Hosted by Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 9: July 5, Chapters 74-83, Hosted by EmmaMaree.com
Week 10: July 12, Chapter 84-END, Hosted by Over the Effing Rainbow

Nancy Heath has volunteered to be a back up host through the read along, should the need arise. Thank you Nancy!

And here is the current list of participators:

Cara at @Chickowits will be a lurker

As always, folks are welcome to jump in and join us. You don’t have to be a host or a blogger. You can always choose the easy route and tackle the weekly discussion in the comments of the hosting blog. We also have a Goodreads Group started for SF/F Read Alongs in general, and there is a specific folder for this read along. You are welcome to follow the fun there as well. If you want to be on the weekly email, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email with KUSHIEL’S DART in the subject (nrlymrtl@gmail.com).

I am VERY excited be reading this book with a group and such a fine group we have!

Kushiel’s Dart Read Along – Who’s Interested?

Heldig and a very good book

Heldig and a very good book

It’s time. This has been kicking around in the back of my head for some time. I love doing read alongs and discussing the minutiae of a good book. The Terre D’Ange Cycle by Jacqueline Carey (of which Kushiel’s Dart is Book 1) is one of my all time favorite series. In particular, I am forever enamored of Kushiel’s Dart. My man and I have read this book so many times, the covers have fallen off more than one copy.

UPDATE: You can find the schedule over HERE. 1st post goes up May 10th. Folks are welcome to jump in any time.

So why haven’t I done a read along of this book before? Well, in short, it is near and dear to my heart. As such, it is with great pleasure and with a little trepidation, I put it out there for a group read (aka group dissection).

This series is full of political intrigue, spies, betrayal, sword fights, escapes, captures, and no small amount of romance. The characters aren’t static, grabbing the readers hearts as they grow throughout the series. The world is rich in deities, queens & kings, many cultures, and excellent food.

And then there is the sex. It’s one of the reasons I love it. The main character of Kushiel’s Dart, Phedre, is a prostitute, though this term doesn’t fully cover her position in society. In an alternate history, Terre D’Ange (France) is a place of multiple deities and many of those deities have houses of worship that recognize sex as a beautiful and sometimes transcendent activity. If you have ever read Gilgamesh, then you might recognize the concept of temple prostitutes.

But it goes a bit further than that. I first picked up a copy of Kushiel’s Dart when I was 23. I definitely didn’t think I was a prude at the time and yet when I read the spicy scenes I found that I was not as well versed in bedroom antics as I thought I was. Throughout the series, I expect there are intimate scenes that will push nearly every reader’s boundaries. There’s BDSM, and not the non-consensual kind that has made the big screen lately. There are bisexual and homosexual relationships, which I would like to think wouldn’t even raise the eyebrows of my readers. There are some non-consensual scenes in the series, but the author does a great job of showing what a transgression such actions are. These scenes are described in as great a detail as the rest of the book – which means great detail.

So who’s with me? I would like to start with Kushiel’s Dart and if enough folks want to continue with the next book, I am more than happy to do so. In total, there are 9 books in the Terre D’Ange Cycle, comprising 3 trilogies that are related to each other. My little heart would do a happy dance if folks wanted to do a group read of all 9 books.

So what does this read along entail? This read along is for the new-to-the-series read as well as though familiar with Jacqueline Carey’s works. Once we have a group of folks, we set a 1st post date and start reading. At ~100 pages per week (paperback version), Kushiel’s Dart will take 10 weeks. Weekly discussion questions are emailed out to the participators a few days before the post date. Folks can post on a blog, live journal, book likes, or even just comment on the host blog’s site with their discussion answers. Whatever works for you. Some folks like to simply be silent stalkers, which is fine too.

Of course I’ll host, but if anyone else would like to host as well, just let me know. Hosting consists of providing that week’s discussion questions and then folks flock to your blog (or wherever) to comment and leave a link to their post.

If you’re interested in participating in any fashion, just leave me a comment or shoot me an email: nrlymrtl@gmail.com

Once I have enough people interested, I will send out a group email to organize the schedule. Once we have a schedule, I will post here.

The Dragon’s Path Read Along: The Schedule

Pico resting before dinner.

Pico resting before dinner.

The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham is Book 1 in The Dagger and The Coin series. Some of you may know this author from his The Long Price Quartet (Book 1 A Shadow in Summer), or as half the writing team, published under James S. A. Corey, for Levithan Wakes (the other half being author Ty Franck).

For me, The Dragon’s Path is my first Daniel Abraham book – even tho he has been on my list for some time because so many folks recommend his work. Thanks to Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings for hosting a read along, or group read, of The Dragon’s Path.

Now, setting up a schedule was a little tricky as there are not numbered chapters and the chapter titles are characters’ names. Carl did divide the book up into quarters using a paperback book. In his words, here is the schedule:

Week 1:

Read pages 1 to 137 (print book), ending with the chapter entitled Dawson that begins, “The King’s Hunt pressed through…”

Discussion/Questions for this section will go live Friday, July 12th, hosted by me [Stainless Steel Droppings].

Week 2:

Read pages 138 to 283 (print book).  This section begins with a chapter entitled Cithrin that starts “The dragon’s roads behind them…” and ends with a chapter entitled Geder which begins “A riot?”

Discussion/Questions for this section will go live Friday, July 19th, hosted by Two Dudes in an Attic.

Week 3:

Read pages 284 to 424 (print book).  This section begins with a chapter entitled Cithrin that starts “Word of the destruction…” and ends with a chapter entitled Geder which starts “Geder couldn’t say exactly…”

Discussion/Questions for this section will go live Friday, July 27th, hosted by Kailana.

Week 4:

Read pages 425 through to the end.  This section begins with a chapter entitled Dawson which begins “Summer in Osterling Fells.”

Discussion/Questions for this section will go live Friday, August 3rd, hosted by Mihai.

Carl has set up a group on GoodReads to capture all the fun. Anyone can join in, because Carl is cool like that. So, if you don’t have a blog, or perhaps you read this book last year but still want to discuss it, hop over to The Dragon’s Path Group on GoodReads to join in.

Right now, I am thinking that I will throw up a weekly post with the discussion questions and point to the GoodReads group, but we’ll see what happens. Summer on the farm is wicked busy.

Interview & Giveaway: Barbara Friend Ish, Editor-in-Chief Mercury Retrograde Press

MercuryRetrogradePressBadgePlease welcome one of my favorite publishers, and authors, Barbara Friend Ish, the editor-in-chief of Mercury Retrograde Press. Today she is visiting my lovely blog to talk mostly about Mercury Retrograde Press, what it means to be a small publisher, games & songs as story telling, and the upcoming read along of her first novel The Shadow of the Sun. Lady Ish is also offering up 1 print book and 2 ebooks to a total of thee lucky winners in the giveaway at the end of the interview. Winners will get to pick 1 book of their choice from the Mercury Retrograde Press catalog.

Now on to the interview!

Mercury Retrograde publishes fantasy, science fiction, and the unclassifiable. Tell me more about the unclassifiable? In the past few years, I have noticed more and more cross-genre books becoming popular, and even carving out a niche genre, like urban fantasy. What is the Press looking for in ‘unclassifiable’?

The book business is all about classification. It has to be. When you go into a bookstore, you want to be able to find the type of books you like. In a general-purpose bookstore, science fiction, fantasy, and horror in all their flavors tend to be shelved together—but in electronic venues such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble online, and in SF/F specialty independent bookstores, the classifications for this genre are more finely-grained. Fantasy is not only separated from SF and Horror, but has types within it such as epic, dark, and urban. These categories can shift, gradually or without warning, as when a few years ago (ten, maybe?) the book business suddenly decided to redefine “urban fantasy”. Now we know it as werewolves, vampires, witches, tough-chick protags who are invariably shown in not a whole lot of leather and tattoos on the covers. Before that, “urban fantasy” was Charles de Lint and his ilk. Imagine how confusing it must be to be Mr. de Lint.

But I digress, as usual. When we talk about ‘unclassifiable’ books at Mercury Retrograde, we’re talking about works that aren’t easily categorized. Personally, I love mash-ups, things that steal from two or more existing categories and re-invent them. Steampunk, when it began, was considered interstitial, unclassifiable. Then it exploded and became a subgenre—and a cultural movement—all its own. We’re open to border-crossing things like steampunk, but also to border-crossing work that is too unique to be readily categorized: frex, things that present as fantasy and turn out to be SF, things that smell like literary but are actually firmly genre in their totality, or whatever a writer’s particular combination of peanut butter and chocolate may be. Those sorts of books worry publishers and booksellers, because they’re challenging to sell. But I know the world is full of readers like me, who want to find the unique, fresh works and love them. Connecting those writers with those readers is an important part of Mercury Retrograde’s charter.


Sometimes we like to amuse ourselves by making up crazy cross-genre ideas, just for fun. We tell them to one another and build up these ridiculous concepts the way people tell bar stories: far-future memoir; police procedural with fairies; high-medieval conspiracy theory. The strange magic of these mash-ups is that we can spin them into publishing jokes—or discover they are actually the next great thing, and they’re coming across our desks. To create top-notch SFF literature, we have to hold ourselves open to all the possibilities—but be aware of the fine line between “outrageously awesome” and “ridiculously bad”. That line is defined by the individual, of course—which is part of why interstitial and unclassifiable works are so high-risk. Ultimately our acquisitions in this area are unpredictable and guided by our own tastes.

Your press has a strong artistic bent. Can you give us an overview of your nonconformist publishing ways, such as collaborative works with singers/song writers and game creators?

I suppose we are nonconformist. I think it is our goal of putting the art of story ahead of our preconceptions that leads us to make decisions that look weird. I’ve been a book person for as long as I can remember, but I fell in love with books because I am entirely committed to ideas and story. And as technology has changed in the course of our lifetimes, the ways in which stories can be told has changed. Some of those changes encompass the revival of story traditions far older than the novel.

Novel, of course, means new. This form we think is classic is actually an upstart, only a few hundred years old. Telling stories through songs is much older. Games, of course, are at least as old—although game as a formal storytelling medium is a relatively new development, as far as I know.


As a publisher of stories presented in text, we’re very focused on the longer lengths: the novella, the novel, and the series. That’s an outgrowth of the fact that SFF, as has been said before, is the literature of ideas—and as far as I’m concerned, the bigger the idea, the better. It’s this very expansiveness of our tastes in story that have led us to expand in more interstitial directions, by making room for our storytellers to delve into other media as ways of continuing or broadening the stories they tell. Several of our authors use games played by characters in their stories as avenues towards developing characters and plot; in a couple of cases, notably Leona Wisoker’s Children of the Desert series and my own Way of the Gods series, the writers have expanded the scope of what they do to include collaboration with game designers. Leona has worked with Chris Adotta on the development of chabi, a game reminiscent of and completely different from chess that illustrates the attitudes and survival techniques of a desert culture. Leona uses gameplay as an avenue of plot and character development in her novels, notably Guardians of the Desert and Fires of the Desert, which is slated for publication in April. I’ve been very fortunate to work with James Kempf and Anthony Thomas of Cliché Studio on the games for my series: the dicing game suabh (Sweep, in English) from my The Shadow of the Sun, and the card game Fortunes from my forthcoming The Heart of Darkness. I’m having an especially great time with Fortunes, which could be most succinctly explained by comparing it to playing poker with the Tarot: the cards and symbols of this Tarot variant are not only a working deck and divination system but also clues to the deeper mysteries of the series as a whole, while the games that occur in the novel are integral to the plot. We’ve had even more fun expanding this concept into the real world: I’ve been working with my most beloved artistic collaborator, Rachael Murasaki Ish, on development of the deck, having the pleasure of watching her take my ideas and develop them into images I could never have conceived on my own, and doing further work with my colleagues at Cliché to develop an electronic version of the Fortunes game that is fun to play in its own right, as well as an interesting window into the story world. Naturally I’ve got other game territory I’m looking forward to farming in conjunction with later volumes of the series. But it’s really too early to speak about them.


Game is just one of the storytelling avenues we’re exploring. Artist Ari Warner, who does all the maps for Mercury Retrograde books, and I have been developing the maps for The Heart of Darkness as another window on the story. He’s done amazing work with using the maps to express not only two different world-views (loyalist and kharr, the antagonists in the war going on in these books) but also ideas on cartography as cultural history, public versus objective truth, and the fleeting accuracy of truth in times of war. And Renaissance Man Jonah Knight, the paranormal folk musician who made his bones as a playwright and mainstream singer/songwriter before he fell through the veil into this weird zone we call speculative fiction, has me absolutely agog with his magical union of the ancient tradition of storytelling through music and tales of the weird. While his work in this vein is generally not to be missed, I’m especially excited about the project we’re embarking on together, in which he is telling tales from the worlds built by Mercury Retrograde authors in song. In some cases the works he’s developing are retellings of the stories in the books; in other cases he takes those worlds and spins his own tales in them.

I’m absolutely in love with taking stories that begin in text into other media, particularly media that allow the participants formerly known as the audience to become a part of the action. When you play chabi or Fortunes, you can play these games strictly for amusement, on their own merits—but, should you choose, they can also be ways of dipping your toes into the worlds from which they came, of seeing things through the eyes of people who live there. When you sing one of Jonah’s songs, or just listen to it, you are transported into the world he’s writing and singing about. Great stories have a characteristic we call immersion: they suck you in, make you live and breathe them rather than just watching. Media that allow you to not only immerse yourself but participate are, to me, the most exciting storytelling experiences of all.

Mercury Retrograde Press currently has a small catalog. One can see from the publications dates between books in series, that the Press doesn’t pressure their authors to complete rapid-fire works. Can you speak to how this fits into the overall philosophy of Mercury Retrograde Press?


I’m not completely certain, but I think we coined the term Slow Publishing. Our philosophy of publishing is inspired by the Slow Movement, which includes Slow Food and Slow Media. At its heart, the Slow Movement is about acknowledging that not everything can or should be produced according to Industrial Revolution business practices: that some of the best things we can experience can’t be mass-produced or even, really, effectively scheduled.

In recent years, book publishers have adopted the mindset that they are in the entertainment business, as opposed to the business of making art. This has to do with the fact that most major publishers are owned by international media conglomerates that insist on forcing publishing into a business model that puts product and profit ahead of writers and works. Publishing wasn’t always this way; a hundred years ago, and for decades afterwards, publishers took the time to nurture artists and works until they were ready for market. Not all the books that came out of that system were better, but books published under such a system certainly had a better chance of achieving the sort of transcendence that makes stories stick in hearts and minds.

At Mercury Retrograde, we envision a return to that sort of sensibility. I’m determined to give all the artists involved in developing books, from the writers to the editors and designers, space in which to do their best work: to aim for art rather than making products. It’s a healthier practice: artists held to production schedules not only have to make compromises in their art but tend to wreck their physical and mental health over time—or collapse under the pressure and quit. Imagine how many great works of art have been lost to us because the way the business works has broken the artists who would have created them. I am determined that Mercury Retrograde will remain a safe haven against that sort of problem. And I believe it’s ultimately a service not only to the artists, but to the readers, because the works we can offer under these circumstances are capable of achieving a completely different level of quality. I’ve observed that discerning readers would rather wait a little longer for an author’s next book, and receive something wonderful in return, than have something less than wonderful delivered in a timely fashion. And thank goodness there are so many artists working today that readers need not go hungry while they wait for the good stuff.

How did you come to the generous decision to offer a free ebook version for every paperbook bought? What are your thoughts on Digital Rights Media and the move by some large ebook publishers to go without it?


We began offering free eBooks with purchase of Trade versions in 2009. The idea came from a conversation I held with a reader around that time, who lit up my brain with the idea that what readers are buying is stories. Once I sat with that idea for a while, I began to think very differently not only about the issue of eBook pricing but about book pricing generally.

If readers are buying stories, experiences, then why should they have to pay twice for the same story just because they want to be able to take a book along electronically when they leave the house? That’s essentially the same thing as a music company insisting consumers buy a separate copy of an album for each digital device they own. We have to charge more for Trade paperbacks than we do for eBooks, because they are much more expensive to put into readers’ hands. We must print and ship each copy, whether direct or through our wholesale and retail partners. But once an eBook is complete, with the exception of distribution fees, we can sell an infinite number of copies of that eBook without incurring additional costs. And the costs of eBook production are covered by eBook sales. As far as I’m concerned, if a reader buys the Trade paperback, she’s already paid for the story. Putting the eBook into her hands, as long as it’s distributed from our site, costs us nothing more. It seems only fair.

I think the purchase of stories is going to become increasingly uncoupled from the methods in which they are delivered over the coming years—and we’re already seeing the beginnings of that trend. Some people love their paper books, but others want to read far more stories than they actually want to own in print. Print is becoming increasingly a collector’s medium: we are already seeing people buy print books because the collectible object has value to them rather than because they simply want to read the story. And when print books cost easily twice as much as eBooks on average, why should they not make a distinction between what they buy cheaply to consume and what they pay more to treasure?

I’ve never been a fan of DRM, or Digital Rights Management. While its original intent, protecting the artist’s work to ensure artists get paid, is a worthy goal, as executed it really just creates hassles for honest readers. I’m particularly concerned by Amazon’s handling of DRM, in which books can be—are!—removed from the devices of people who paid for them at Amazon’s whim. I’ve been delighted to see DRM-free eBooks becoming normal, mostly because I am very well aware that the people who will pirate eBooks were never going to have enough respect for writers to pay for the works in the first place. Now that the mechanisms for it are in place, we’re making our eBooks DRM-free wherever the distributors we work with allow us to do so. And of course they continue to be DRM-free when purchased from our site.

The Authors Page shows yourself and 4 other authors. What great things (new publications, reading events, etc.) do you authors have planned for 2013?


That’s a more complicated question than it might at first appear. As recently as last fall, I was still attempting to assign dates to things in advance: as serious as I’ve been about not asking artists to exceed their capacities, we have still collectively and individually continued to fall into the mental habits of the publishing industry. If you’d asked this question a few months ago, I would have offered you a very exciting and date-driven schedule of publications and events, which we were convinced we could live up to without too much craziness. But last year brought home to me, in completely new ways, the importance of drawing a protective circle around all our artists—myself included—and adopting an almost contrarian attitude towards dates. Our policy, as of this year, is to assign release dates when projects are altogether complete, and not before. So it is easier to talk about what’s in the pipeline than precisely what will be released and when.

Our next release will be Fires of the Desert by Leona Wisoker, Book 4 of her wonderful Children of the Desert series, which began with her acclaimed debut Secrets of the Sands. That book is slated for release on April 2; we’ll be hosting the official launch at Ravencon, in Richmond, VA, the weekend of April 5-7.

Beyond that, we have the second edition of There Was a Crooked Man by Edward Morris, a revised and expanded version that kicks off a series of eight novellas. I predict that this book will come out in late spring or summer; the remaining volumes will roll out behind it, as soon as the dream team of Ed, editor Joe Pulver, and artist Nick Gucker complete them.

Also coming up in the near term, but more likely next year, are Cael’s Shadow by Larissa N. Niec, the sequel to her stunning Shorn, and my next novel, The Heart of Darkness, which is the sequel to my The Shadow of the Sun. In conjunction with The Heart of Darkness we’ll be rolling out the Fortunes deck and book and the commercial version of the Fortunes electronic game. The Heart of Darkness is going to be an interesting release, because we’re trying something new, or at least new to us: while the book won’t be released until next spring, we’ll be releasing the story in installments by subscription in advance of the print release—and readers who choose to subscribe to the whole serial will receive the Trade paperback (and, of course, the eBook) for free at release. Because, in our view, they will already have paid for the story. Details on this, as with all our news, releases, and free-or-nearly-free expansions of our story worlds, will be available in our newsletter, our blog, and from the respective series pages on our website.


Meanwhile, Zachary Steele is working on an as-yet-untitled sequel to his hilarious Anointed and Flutter. I’ve read the early chapters, and it looks like his best book yet. Leona Wisoker is already working on the as-yet-untitled concluding volume of her Children of the Desert series. And I’m working with several authors who are not yet officially part of our roster, who have some very exciting projects in the works. I’m looking forward to sharing more about them when the time is right.

Our events schedule, on the other hand, is easier to quantify. I’ll be appearing at StellarCon in Charlotte, N.C. the weekend of March 1-3 and at MidSouthCon in Memphis, TN the weekend of March 22-24. Leona Wisoker and I will be appearing at Ravencon in Richmond, VA, along with a significant subset of the Mercury Retrograde crew, April 5-7. In May, I’ll be appearing at MobiCon in Mobile, AL, the weekend of the 17th-19th, and at ConCarolinas on the weekend of May 31-June 2. I’ll be appearing at ApolloCon in Houston, the weekend of June 21-23. Dates later in the year are still in the works.

Lastly, there is an upcoming read along for your book, The Shadow of the Sun. As an author and a publisher, what do you look forward to and also maybe have a little anxiety over concerning a group read along?

To say I’m excited about this would be an understatement! The author and the publisher in me are excited for different reasons. Like all authors, I tell stories because some kink in my wiring routes much of my drive to connect with other humans through the impulse to construct and share stories. Storytelling is a universal human trait, but for those of us who are optimized for that particular trait beyond all adaptive usefulness, sharing our fictional stories is at least as important as the sharing of true or subjectively-true stories that drives so much of human relationships. I am honored and delighted by the prospect of a group of discerning readers who have made their mark on the genre community by discovering and sharing great stories taking the time to read, discuss, and share mine. Additionally, the publisher in me is excited by this because I know that reader blogs and other social media shared by readers are the heart of book discovery for today’s readers. Word-of-mouth has always been the primary vector of book recommendation; the social internet has made that even more powerful, even while traditional methods of getting the word out about new books become increasingly irrelevant. The publisher in me is more pleased than I can say to see influential book bloggers giving eyeballs to Mercury Retrograde books. As both publisher and author, I am very excited by the prospect of meeting new readers who share my tastes in reading—because, like all writers, I am a reader first, and anyone who enjoys my work will naturally have a fair amount in common with me as a reader. So even while I’m connecting with people by telling my story, I’m also connecting with people through our shared love of the sort of SF/F that lights me up.


As to anxiety—it is always a somewhat anxious experience to have people whose opinions matter read one’s work. I so hope the read-along participants love my work, because in sharing our stories authors are sharing parts of our souls. It can feel intensely personal. And yet any professional knows that readers’ tastes are entirely involuntary, and what I think is world-changing may not move you at all. Or worse. But this is the risk all writers take when they send their stories out into the world: we send out little emissaries of ourselves, and hope they will meet new friends. In this, as in all avenues of human connection, the benefits far outweigh the risks—and whether the assembled readers enjoy my work or not, their discussion will teach me things I can take back to my study to improve future works.

It’s a huge gift to me as a writer, this read-along, and I’m very grateful to receive it. I’m looking forward to seeing it unfold.

Thank you very much for inviting me to talk with you and sharing our visit with your readers! Although it’s a bit outside the scope here, I also want to express my gratitude for the instrumental role you’re playing in the read-along. I so appreciate the opportunity to connect with fellow lovers of story and share my passions. It is, as always, so very stimulating to talk with you!

See! This is why I keep interviewing this woman. If you want more, check out an interview I did with Lady Ish on Darkcargo back in 2011. As always, I deeply appreciate Barbara taking the time to be a part of my blog. Just a note: The upcoming read along of The Shadow of the Sun will be April 2013 hosted here at Dab of Darkness. An announcement post with details will go up in March.

On to the giveaway!

There will be 3 winners. Mercury Retrograde Press is giving away 1 print book (USA only) and 2 ebooks (International).  You must enter the rafflecopter to have a chance at winning. The contest will run for 2 weeks and then winners will be randomly chosen, verified, and contacted. Yes, I verify that you play by the rules. Because I care. With that, have fun!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Wee Free Men Read Along

PratchettWeeFreeMenLittle Red Reviewer and I are teaming up to bring you some very clever and highly entertaining nonsense: Announcing The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett Read Along!

Yes, that’s right – Terry Pratchett. The Wee Free Men is Book 1 in the Tiffany Aching books (there’s a total of 4), which take place in the Discworld Universe. I’ve read this book 3 or 4 times and each time I laugh so hard I nearly wet myself – and I am NOT a laugher or wetter. This time around, I will be giving the audiobook a try, and I expect I may just become something more than I am now ;)

Below is the schedule of our madness. If you would like to join, such as getting the discussion questions a few days ahead of the scheduled post, leave a comment to the affect below. Either way, we hope you enjoy our silliness.

Blurb from Goodreads:

“Another world is colliding with this one,” said the toad. “All the monsters are coming back.”

“Why?” said Tiffany.

“There’s no one to stop them.”

There was silence for a moment.

Then Tiffany said, “There’s me.”

Armed only with a frying pan and her common sense, Tiffany Aching, a young witch-to-be, is all that stands between the monsters of Fairyland and the warm, green Chalk country that is her home. Forced into Fairyland to seek her kidnapped brother, Tiffany allies herself with the Chalk’s local Nac Mac Feegle – aka the Wee Free Men – a clan of sheep-stealing, sword-wielding, six-inch-high blue men who are as fierce as they are funny. Together they battle through an eerie and ever-shifting landscape, fighting brutal flying fairies, dream-spinning dromes, and grimhounds – black dogs with eyes of fire and teeth of razors – before ultimately confronting the Queen of the Elves, absolute ruler of a world in which reality intertwines with nightmare. And in the final showdown, Tiffany must face her cruel power alone….

In a riveting narrative that is equal parts suspense and humor, Carnegie Medalist Terry Pratchett returns to his internationally popular Discworld with a breathtaking tale certain to leave fans, new and old, enthralled.

375 pages (in paperback)

Start reading 2/13
First post 2/20 Chapters 1-5 (135 pages) Dab of Darkness hosting
Second Post 2/27 Chapters 6-9 (120 pages) Little red Reviewer hosting
Third Post 3/6 Chapters 10-END (120 pages) Dab of Darkness hosting