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Favorite places of England

In mid-August, I toured England with my husband and two dear friends. The trip included Worldcon in London, and then off we went for fun and . . . research! My work in progress is a paranormal novel set in England, and  I was excited to really take in and experience  the places I am writing about.

England did not disappoint. As in all travel, we encountered unexpected marvels and mishaps. Trying to get to London from Bath we nearly ended up in Portsmouth, except for the kind intervention of a bunch of rowdy guys sitting in back of us who, when they learned we were heading to London, said “Oh no you’re not!” But not to worry, they worked for the railroad and told us not only where to get off but how to make the right connection, and when. Whew.

Arriving at what I hoped would be the highlight of the trip, the ruined Rievaulx Abbey  on the North York Moors, the gate came down. They were closing! Our schedule did not permit us to drive the long way to come back, but the man kindly let us through, and we had this fabulous ruin to ourselves. The climactic scene of my WIP takes place there, and I would have been heartbroken to have missed it.

Here are some highlights, and more in a future post.


Arrival from Heathrow at Paddington Station. Beware, travelers, you need British coin to use the bathrooms!


St Pauls at dusk from Blackfriars Bridge.

St Pauls at dusk from Blackfriars Bridge.


The Thames from the Arab Emirates gondola.

The Thames from the upper walkway of the Tower Bridge.

Machine Room at Tower Bridge with Victorian apparati to raise the bridge.

At Tower of London, poppies memorializing the fallen in World War 1.

At Tower of London, poppies memorializing each of the fallen from the Great War.

The unearthly and wonderful Rievaulx Abbey on the North York Moors. A Cistercian Abbey so far from towns that it is preserved so much better than most. A haunting, fabulous place.

The fabulous Rievaulx Abbey on the North York Moors. A Cistercian Abbey so far from towns that it is preserved much better than most. A haunting, numinous place.

Loncon report

LonconBack from Loncon and a very long trip to England. Unpacking always seems to take as much time as packing; plus I have organized the many momentos and items of research that I collected for my work in progress, and also came home to a cat who was feeling poorly ExCel bldgand  seemed blameful for my having abandoned him for three weeks, despite the fact that he had a perfectly lovely housekeeper waiting on him. You cat owners will know what I mean.

IMG_0266Loncon? A blast. The venue was the ginormous Excel center in the Docklands, so huge that there was a train stop at each end (I am not lying.) But the con was actually tucked into one end, so it was even easier to navigate than some smaller Worldcons I’ve been to. (I think 8,000 or so attended in London.) While I liked the venue, it was quite a long haul into central London, with the need to either cab it or take the light rail to a tube station. And one Did have to get into London, of course! The dealer’s room had all the excitement of a world con, including this amazing dress.

Summer isles McLeod Best of all, there were thousands seductive  SFF books, with an emphasis, naturally, on British authors, and I loaded up, with an eye to how much I could get in my suitcase considering that I was then going to travel through north and south England . . . I made judicious choices, including this wonderful book by Ian McLeod, a winner of the world fantasy award. Dense, stunning prose, elegaic in tone, it’s an alternate history of 1940’s England, meticulously swordspoint kushnerdrawn. I was privileged to be on a panel on alternate history with Ian MacLeod, and also several other authors including Jon Courtenay Grimwood, author of the wonderful Assassini books, and a smart, articulate panelist.

I moderated a panel on Imagining the City, a celebration and inquiry into how authors create cities of the imagination. Panelists were Kathleen Ann Goonan, Scott Lynch, Ellen Kushner, and Simon Spanton, publisher at Gollancz. It was great fun to hear a bit about how the magic happens anQueen city jazzd take a closer look at their iconic cities, such as Kushner’s unnamed town in the world of Swordpoint. And then there is Kathleen Ann Goonan’s stunning Cincinnati of Queen City Jazz, a classic, perhaps the best city in SF.

Tom and I took in as much as we could of the con, and snuck out to central London to see St Paul’s, the Tower Bridge, the West End . . . and then at the end of another two weeks of travel, we came back to London to see even more. Next post, more pictures!

St Paul's Stone Gallery KK

Me at St Paul’s stone gallery, 376 steps up from the nave.






Interview on latest book

This interview, slightly revised below, appeared recently on The Wonderings of One Person blog.

Please tell us a little bit about you.

Recently, after 10 science science fiction novels, I developed an interest in historical time-periods and decided to try my hand at historical fantasy. I have been a great admirer of Michael Moorcock’s Glorianna and Naomi Novik’s Tremeraire series as well as the American history fantasy novels of Orson Scott Card (Alvin Maker) and D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker Chronicles. At a time in my career when I was feeling the need to branch out from science fiction, I found myself with several intriguing ideas for quasi-historical settings laced with magic. I’m very energized by this new direction!

My first fantasy novel, A Thousand Perfect Things came out last August. It combines the reason of the Victorian Age with the magic of an alternate India. I’ve had some lovely comments and reviews on this book. Including these:

  • “A smart, engaging fantasy.” — Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 100 best books of 2013
  • “A heady mix of romance, history, action and adventure–a real mélange of both exotic and domestic flavors, blended like a fine imported tea.” — The Sleeping Hedgehog
  • “Beautifully written, emotional, full of adventure, scandal and intrigue with a host of seriously cool, original monsters and exciting scientific ideas.” — Adventures in SciFi Publishing

My only series (so far) is the sci-fantasy quartet, The Entire and The Rose. Book One, Bright of the Sky, was one of Publishers Weekly’s top books of 2007. I’ve been a finalist for a number of awards in this genre — and last, but not least, I’m going to the World Science Fiction Convention in London in August!

Why did you choose to pursue the art of writing?

This may be an odd answer, but I think it was the last possible thing left for me. That is, I don’t think there’s anything else I’m very good at. I do love writing stories, fortunately!

What was the inspiration for AThousand Perfect Things?

The British Raj in India. I happened to pick up a book on that subject, and was fascinated with India’s beauty and resiliance. I had already decided that I would write a Victorian-era novel, but it was at that point that it shifted to a Victorian woman in India. What I love about fantasy mixed with history is that I can create unusual worlds that are still recognizable, and even famliar. Using the ground of history anchors the reader to something “real.” We can sink into, say, an 1857 English countryside manor, and feel that we know the place. From those recognizable surroundings we can then enjoy the slow unveiling of indigenous magic and extra-normal events. It’s not all totally new.

What kept you going throughout the writing process?

An outline. That sounds so ordinary, but honestly, on page 220 a writer is thankful for a path through the forest, even if it requires some adjustment as you get familair with the territory.

Is there a singular character that really touched your heart and why?

Tori Harding, my main character. She was the reason I wrote the story. I wanted to explore the ambitions and growth of a young woman of high (but thwarted) ability who found her way out of the maze of Victorian restrictions. Since I was also interested in the question of “having it all” and the way ambition can twist people, I was moved by Tori’s choices and her decisions. What do we do when we are offered ultimate power?

Can we expect to hear more from these characters in the near future?

I have two novels coming up that will not be set in the Victorian age. (One is set in a quasi-rennaissance milieu; another takes place in the 1930s.) So I have no plans for another Tori novel at this time.

How has this story touched your life?

As an author, you have to come to terms with your love of writing, the lottery-like chances of selling well, and your longing to create a great story that might turn out to be just a bit beyond your grasp. It is a crazy-making business if you’ve been around publishing long enough. How much success is enough? Why isn’t each novel as powerful as you first imagined it would be? How do recognize when it’s time to shift paths and take creative risks? These questions haunted me while writing A Thousand Perfect Things. At the end, I felt that I had been on a deep personal journey.



Got Conference?

New York Times bestselling author, Jess Walter

New York Times bestselling author, Jess Walter

Two weeks until the fab writers conference in Easter Washington, Write on the River. Join us May 16-18 in Wenatchee  for workshops, chats with authors, agent/publisher appointments and a keynote by the amazing Jess Walter!

Conferences like this one can instruct, inspire and impact your writing life. And in Wenatchee, the weather is warm, and wine country beckons for an extended stay.

We’ll have our usual emphasis on fiction and nonfiction, along with key workshops on self publishing. Our guest agent is Andrea Hurst. Special sessions from Larry Brooks, one of the most sought-after writing teachers in the country. He’ll teach a class on Saturday and a half day master class on Sunday. Fifteen workshops to choose from, all in the beautiful campus setting of Wenatchee Valley College.

Write on the River Conference

May 16 (evening keynote) and May 17-18

Register here. Info on workshops/faculty:  WOTR website.

Our lineup of workshops includes:



Larry Brooks

  • Characterization
  • The structure of the novel
  • Short stories
  • Poetry
  • YA writing
  • an evening with Jess Walter (Friday, May 16)



Wendy Call on creative nonfiction

Wendy Call on creative nonfiction


  • Creative nonfiction
  • The nonfiction book: how to begin
  • Agent and editor appointments
  • Internet marketing
  • Publishing: what traditional publishers are looking for
  • New publishing: hybrids and do-it-yourself



Jason Brick on self publishing

Jason Brick on self publishing

Agent Andrea Hurst

Agent Andrea Hurst






My Victorian World

What does a Victorian world look like? Science fiction and fantasy authors have created a rich variety, from Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate to Mark Hodder’s Burton & Swinburne series, just a couple random picks from that great range of steampunk offerings.

Here is a glimpse of my own Victorian world, in A Thousand Perfect Things.

Big ben reversedOn the surface . . . my Victorian world is a recognizable one, with elegance, manor houses, and women seeking good matches. It is a world of carriages and colonialism, matchmaking and manor houses. My alternate England is a land where science reigns supreme, but where a woman, no matter how brilliant, cannot be admitted to the realm of science.

On the other hand . . . not all is so calm. England’s men of science are so enthralled by logic and engineering that they condemn an alternative way of knowing that is very real: magic. The continent of Bharata (an alternate India) is a kingdom of the most powerful magics. Tired of the colonial yoke, Bharata’s mages send attacks of magical terrorism to England, such as enlivening iron statues and sending them on killing rampages. A 500 foot high cobra made of water rises out of the Thames and wreaks destruction. Read More…