Saturday, January 14, 2012

Books Received

A diversity of titles were received this week, all from Tor Books including the science fiction novel Tribulations by Ken Shuffeldt, two fantasy novels; the Well-Tempered Clavicle a new Xanth novel from Piers Anthony and Territory by Emma Bull, a re-release of a critically acclaimed but long out-of-print American west fantasy. Also received was Immortal Hope by Claire Ashgrove, a paranormal romance.

The highlight of the group is Territory (cover quote from Neil Gaiman by the way). I have included an interview with Emma Bull which gives some insight into the novels origins. You'll find it at the end of the post.

Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton.
You think you know the story. You don’t.

Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 is the site of one of the richest mineral strikes in American history, where veins of silver run like ley lines under the earth, a network of power that belongs to anyone who knows how to claim and defend it.

Above the ground, power is also about allegiances. A magician can drain his friends' strength to strengthen himself, and can place them between him and danger. The one with the most friends stands to win the territory.

Jesse Fox left his Eastern college education to travel West, where he’s made some decidedly odd friends, like the physician Chow Lung, who insists that Jesse has a talent for magic. In Tombstone, Jesse meets the tubercular Doc Holliday, whose inner magic is as suppressed as his own, but whose power is enough to attract the sorcerous attention of Wyatt Earp.

Mildred Benjamin is a young widow making her living as a newspaper typesetter, and--unbeknownst to the other ladies of Tombstone--selling tales of Western derring-do to the magazines back East. Like Jesse, Mildred has episodes of seeing things that can’t possibly be there.

When a failed stage holdup results in two dead, Tombstone explodes with speculation about who attempted the robbery. The truth could destroy Earp's plans for wealth and glory, and he'll do anything to bury it. Meanwhile, outlaw leader John Ringo wants the same turf as Earp. Each courts Jesse as an ally, and tries to isolate him by endangering his friends, as they struggle for magical dominance of the territory.

Events are building toward the shootout of which you may have heard. But you haven't heard the whole, secret story until you've read Emma Bull's unique take on an American legend, in which absolutely nothing is as it seems...

Product Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780765330192
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 12/6/2011
  • Pages: 320
For an animated skeleton, kept alive by the magic of Xanth, Picka Bones has lived a fairly uneventful life. The high points of his day consist of patrolling graveyards with his sister, Joy'nt, and picking out tunes on his ribs with his own collar bones. All that changes, however, when three curious creatures challenge Picka to discover what magical talent he might possess by seeking out the enchanted princesses Dawn and Eve.

But Princess Eve has gone to Hades, and Princess Dawn has troubles of her own. At the ripe age of twenty-one, she is still unmarried, having failed to find a suitable prince who is not intimidated by her power and beauty.

When Picka, Joy'nt, Eve and the three musical pets ask the good magician Humfrey for answers to their perplexing problems, he responds by dispatching them on a daring mission—to locate and tame Caprice Castle, a feral palace so errant that even Humfrey can't determine its whereabouts and legend has it that the Castle contains the fabled Pundora's Box, which once contained the worst puns in Xanth, until they were carelessly released a century before.

A wild and madcap romp overflowing with mirth and magic, passion and peril, WELL-TEMPERED CLAVICLE will thrill and delight both newcomers to Xanth and dedicated fans—no bones about it!

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765331342
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 11/22/2011
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Series: Magic of Xanth Series #35

The world has ended…. The war is only beginning.

An asteroid storm has obliterated the Earth. Billy and Linda West have built enough space-going arks to save a small number of people who now roam the void in search of a new home. 

Desperate to find a safe haven, Billy makes a dangerous attempt to exceed the speed of light. When his plans go terribly wrong, the Wests’ severely-damaged ship is separated from the fleet and left drifting near a mysterious planet.

This world’s conditions are hospitable—but its inhabitants are not. Suddenly the Wests and their fellow survivors are caught in the middle of an ancient war between two brutal nations. Faced with horrific dangers, they are forced to choose a side just to survive.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765365583
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 375
Centuries ago, Templar knights defied the archangels and unearthed the copper scroll that revealed the locations of the gates to hell. Cursed for their forbidden act, they now roam the earth, protecting mankind from evil. But darkness stalks them, and battles they fight bring them ever closer to eternal damnation. One promise remains to give them salvation—the return of the seraphs.

Embittered by his purpose, Merrick du Loire must honor an ancient pact and bring peace to his cousin’s soul, releasing him from the clutches of their enemy. When he stumbles upon history professor Anne MacPherson, he discovers that she possesses a sacred artifact that marks her as a seraph. Duty demands he set aside his personal quest and locate the knight she’s fated to heal. As Merrick struggles with conflicting oaths, Anne arouses buried hope and sparks forbidden desire that challenges everything he’s sworn to uphold.

Anne has six weeks to complete her thesis on the Knights Templar. When Merrick takes her to the Templar stronghold, he presents her with all she needs—and awakens a soul-deep ache that he alone can soothe. Yet loving Merrick comes with a price. If she admits she is destined for him, her gift of foresight predicts his death.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765367587
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 1/3/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 355

Emma Bull On Writing TERRITORY

1. How many years did it take to write Territory? Or, how long did you think about writing it?

TERRITORY was about ten years in the making, more or less. It's hard to say, since over that time it had at least three incarnations: the Western-with-magic romp, the grim-and-gritty depressing version that caused my writers' group to shake their heads and ask if I needed more chocolate or something, and the version that finally became TERRITORY and its sequel.

There's nothing left in there of the first two attempts, I think—the characters even had different names—but in each case I wrote a third of a novel before I realized I wasn't having fun. Which means I wrote two-thirds of a novel before I finally figured out what I was up to with this one. It doesn't quite account for the ten years, I know, but still...

I can't entirely regret taking that long on it; over the course of those years I had access to a constantly-growing pool of historical scholarship on Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona, and the American West. Much of the stuff that got into the novel I really couldn't have known when I started.

2. What inspired you to write TERRITORY?
It's Steven Brust's fault. In 1993 he saw a newly-released movie, came home, called Will (Shetterly) and me, and said, "You have to see this. I want to see it again. Come on, we're going to the movies." It was TOMBSTONE, written by Kevin Jarre and starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. We were all scarred for life—well, Steve and I were. (Steve will still sometimes answer the phone with "I'm your huckleberry.") Will is made of slightly sterner stuff.

But we were all fascinated by this cool epic story. TOMBSTONE was one of the first film versions to try to depict the O.K. Corral gunfight with some of the complexity and moral ambiguity attached to it at the time. Historically, the movie's a mixed bag, but it does a lot of things right—enough to make you walk out of the theater asking your friends, "Do you know if it really happened that way?" So, as writers do when they're fascinated, we each started reading about Tombstone's history.

That prompted the late John M. Ford to lend me his copy of Paula Mitchell Marks's AND DIE IN THE WEST, which is an excellent place to start reading about what I call "The Matter of Tombstone." It lacks some information that's been uncovered since the last edition, and contains a few things that have been disproved, likewise, but it's still a splendid overview and a darned good read.

Will was the first of us to use the research in fiction, when he wrote "Taken He Cannot Be," which was published in THE IMMORTAL UNICORN anthology. I love that story. I started in on what would become TERRITORY. Steve, as far as I know, still hasn't written a Tombstone story. But the influences are probably buried in something else. I should ask him.

3. How did you research for it? Have you always had an interest in Western history?
I grew up in the generation that got three prime-time television westerns every night of the week except maybe Sunday. I had cowboy boots, and a cowboy hat, and I'm still negotiating with my big brother over possession of the Hubley cap pistols with the engraved nickle finish and the fake turquoise grips that were in the toy box. But none of that was exactly Western culture. It was Hollywood culture.

Original Edition
Except... That's the funny thing about the Myth of the West. People started turning the American West into myth, into story and legend, as soon as they found out it existed, pretty much. The West was being mythologized long before the frontier closed. So the Hollywood West is based on the Old West of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which was a set of stories that were contemporary with the events they were mythologizing, and affected the behavior of people like Wyatt Earp and James Butler Hickok and William Cody, which in turn came back around and affected the myth... Okay, I'm off topic, and I could go on for days, but you get the picture. I grew up with the fiction of the West, that wasn't entirely fiction.

I would have said, in 1992, that I wasn't any more interested in Western American history than I was in any other sort. I was still known as the go-to girl for rock 'n' roll elves, in fact. But obviously, there's something in the back of my little brain that was just waiting for this, for me to come back to the landscape of the West and those myths that played a huge part in defining what North America is.

So how did I research? As soon as I got serious about it, I was hip-deep in material. It was such a contrast to the last historical fantasy I did, FREEDOM AND NECESSITY, the collaboration with Steven Brust. We set that in 1849, which is a relatively empty spot on the historical map — the revolutions of 1848 are over, Victoria's reign hasn't really hit its stride yet, It's a between-point in fashion, culture, all the things a writer uses for local color. So it was hard to fill in the cool stuff in that book.

But 1881 in southern Arizona is a major hotspot, historically speaking. It's a pivot point for so many conflicts: North vs. South, Republican vs. Democrat, town vs. country, mining vs. ranching... You get the idea. So the available scholarship is glorious. Contentious, mind you, but all the better for a novelist's purpose. The more conflict there is between versions of the story and sides in the argument, the more fun a fiction writer can have finding ways that both are true, or neither. And a fantasy novelist? Perfect source material. And it's great history. There's things I'm sure people will assume I made up, that are unaltered history. I had a ball.

I'm considering putting a bibliography at the end of the second book. There are street maps available of 1881 Tombstone, books that list the town's businesses and where they were located, competing biographies, geological studies. There's TRUE WEST Magazine, which I adore, because it simultaneously celebrates the story of the West and myth-busts the heck out of it, in addition to publishing newly-discovered photos of people and places, blow-by-blows of famous gunfights, and contemporary Western lifestyle stuff.

But for me, the very best source for a lot of things is the town of Tombstone itself, and the surrounding face of Cochise County. Tombstone has changed a lot since 1881--its revenue is almost entirely from tourism, I think, so it couldn't help but get a certain layer of amusement park on it--but it's still Tombstone. Allen Street is still the same street these people walked down every day. The view at the end of town is of the same hills. There's an amazing magic to it that I find irresistible.

4. While researching or writing the book, were there any characters that surprised you in their development - or were there any characters for which you really felt sympathetic? 

Oh, Doc Holliday steals anything he shows up in. The movie TOMBSTONE, Costner's WYATT EARP (which doesn't properly start until Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday appears), now TERRITORY—he's such a good character. He's dying and he knows it, and it kind of reduces the number of things he's afraid of. He's got one true love and one real friend, and that's just not enough.

Chu was a huge surprise. I'll leave it at that.

I feel sympathy for all the characters in this book, including the antagonists. Everyone in the Matter of Tombstone did what they did for good, sometimes even admirable, reasons. They meant to do the right thing. They all found out that in a crisis the right thing isn't necessarily outlined in flashing lights, and that sometimes a series of choices of what you thought were the right things leads straight to the worst possible outcome. Complex and morally ambiguous events and people. Great stuff. I hope I do them justice.


  1. What a great interview! Territory sounds fantastic! Hey, Happy New Year, too!

  2. Hey Carolyn. Happy New Year to you as well. I skipped Territory the first time around despite the buzz. Don't know why. Definitely plan to read it now.


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