What an eight-year-old knows

UrracaRegina_TumboA_SmallAt a dinner recently, I found myself sitting next to an eight-year-old. I’m working on a trilogy of novels about a medieval queen, Urraca, who is eight years old when the novel opens, so I thought I’d use his help to see if I gauged the maturity of the character right. He was very willing to help.

I explained the situation. In those days, a woman wanted to learn everything she could about her husband’s work so that if he died or went on a long trip, she could take over. Since Urraca knew she might grow up to be a queen, she wanted to learn everything she could about being a king.

He asked, “Did kings need to know what queens did, too?”

“Well, no.”

“That’s not fair.”

“No, it isn’t,” I admitted.

“What happens if the queen dies?”

“The king would get a new queen.”

“So,” he said, “it’s like an iPhone that dies. You throw it away and get a new one because phones aren’t important. If you can just get a new queen, then queens aren’t really important.”

He had immediately identified the underlying conflict that Urraca faced throughout her entire life (and in the trilogy).

Kids these days … they give me hope for the future.

Goodreads review: “Armed in Her Fashion”

Armed In Her FashionArmed In Her Fashion by Kate Heartfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fun book — and it just won the 2019 Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association’s Aurora Award for Best Novel. Congratulations, Kate!

A grumpy, greedy, dying widow, her head-in-the-clouds daughter, and a mercenary soldier who is secretly a woman join up with another rag-tag group of refugees fleeing medieval Bruges at war. The weapons against them include plague, revenants, and horrible animal-human-weapon chimeras sent by the Chatelaine of Hell, who has betrayed and imprisoned her husband, the Hellbeast.

As life goes from bad to worse for these refugees, they find they have no choice but to defeat the hellish Chatelaine and her ghastly army. It looks impossible – a mad plan, suicidal in fact, and complicated, but the widow’s money is in hell and she’s going to get it back.

Besides the action, plot twists, and historical accuracy, a bright thread of humor runs through the story and ties it up in a bow like a gift: a thinking woman’s tale of medieval sword-and-sorcery.

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“Interference” book launch – with free plants!

Coleus to give away

These coleus plants come direct from my living room: happy, healthy, colorful, accustomed to human interaction, and mostly harmless.*

The book launch for Interference will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 24, at Volumes Bookcafe, 1474 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago.

The novel goes on sale October 22.

On the 24th, I’ll be reading from the novel, answering questions — and giving away the plants in the photo made from cuttings from one of my own houseplants.

The idea behind the novel Semiosis and its sequel Interference started when some of my houseplants tried to kill other plants. So far, these coleus seem enthusiastic but not aggressive.

*No guarantees. As it says on the cover of Interference, “Sentience craves sovereignty.” Who knows what these plants are thinking?

“Departing and Arriving”

by Sue Burke: short fiction

This story isn’t about departing, it’s about arriving. That’s not obvious at first, though.

As the story opens, a young woman gets into a car and drives off. She leaves people standing in front of her former home: her family, a crowd of friends, and a dog. They wave, the dog barks, everyone calls goodbye and grins madly – even the ones hiding tears.

The young woman had been direly ill, bedridden and convalescent for years, her survival not guaranteed. Early on, she started to think about travel, a dream that might or might not come true, but it was the only future she wanted to imagine.

Whenever she could, she sat in bed or on a sofa and talked to anyone, sometimes just to the dog, about travel. They shared stories, fantasies, wishes, Youtube videos, travelogs, books, souvenirs, and photos. Her friends even invited their friends just back from trips to come talk to her, since she was always delighted to hear every detail, and they always left feeling happy.

This went on for years. Once she even exchanged a few emails with an astronaut orbiting the Earth.

Slowly, her health improved. She remembered everything she’d been told, waited for relapses, planned carefully, stared hard into her future, and finally the day came when she took to the road, her dreams fulfilled – and the dreams of her family and friends. She had reached the end of the journey she really wanted to take, arriving at the best possible destination, health.

That’s the story. The only one sad at the end is the dog, who had always hoped to come along on the next journey with her.