Author Patrice Sarath

Welcome! I am the author of The Crow God’s Girl, the third book in the Books of the Gordath cycle published by Ace Fantasy. My novel The Unexpected Miss Bennet is published by Robert Hale Ltd and Penguin Berkley. You can find excerpts of my novels and a few of my short stories via the Tales link above, and learn more about me in my blog. Thanks for stopping by.

18 July 2013 ~ 1 Comment

What readers want

A book is like a faerie door -- enter at your own peril.

A book is like a faerie door — enter at your own peril.

Announcing a new blog series, and I’m looking for your input. What Readers Want asks readers of all genres what they are looking for in a good book (or not so good book, we don’t judge). This isn’t market research per se; no one is going to run out and write a book based on elements people post here. But it’s a fair way to get at the mystery of what makes a good book.

So readers: Are there things you miss in books? Things you love? Things you are so over, you wish the genre would move on already?

Tell us all about the characters, plots, and settings that make your heart sing or the opposite — the ones that disappointed. I want to hear from you!

What Readers Want:

What do you like in a good book?
What ruins a book for you?
I want a protagonist who…
I want an antagonist who…
I long for settings and plot that…
I like series that…
I will read anything that has…

Answer in the comments or ping me with an e-mail on the contact form.

 

03 July 2013 ~ 4 Comments

YA vs NA

What’s the difference between YA and NA (New Adult)?

Depends on who you talk to. For some agents and editors, NA specifically means sexytimes, and NA is therefore shelved with women’s fiction. For other agents and editors, NA may have adult themes and older protagonists, but it doesn’t have to have adult sexual content.

With so many adult readers reading YA, it was inevitable that novels aimed at the 18-25 year old bracket would make it onto the shelves. I myself believe that it directly comes out of the fanfic and slash fandom communities. I think NA can be a fantastic addition to books for adult readers. Some YA is middle grade and younger, and while it’s great stuff, it doesn’t have the sophistication (perhaps) that can be enjoyed by older readers. Also, many 16 year olds may not want to be seen reading stuff for younger kids.

Ace fantasy book Red Gold BridgeBut does that mean that YA for older (say 16-18 year olds) is going to give way? Will there be a market for books for older teens that explores adult themes but doesn’t necessarily include adult content? Are we narrowbanding the genre and constricting it so much that we lose some of the upper-age group for this genre?

In my own books, the Gordath Wood series, they are definitely not YA, though the character of Kate Mossland is just barely 16 in the first book, and is only 17 by the third — and by then she has not only grown up, she has changed the very course of the history of her adopted country, and is embarking on a relationship with an older man. Although there is frank talk of sexuality, especially birth control, there is very little sexual content.

crow-gods-girl-front-smcrowYA or NA? I’m not sure.

What do you think of the new NA genre?

06 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Science and astronauts — not a rant

Astronaut Alan Bean talks at the University of Texas campus.

Astronaut Alan Bean talks at the University of Texas campus.

Last week author Nicky Drayden and I went to the University of Texas campus to hear astronaut Alan Bean talk about his life and work as a test pilot and astronaut and painter. (As Nicky pointed out, these opportunities are slipping away, to meet astronauts who walked on the moon)*.  It was incredibly inspiring. He was speaking primarily to students about following dreams but in a pragmatic kind of way — of doing good work, being a good leader and team member, finding a mentor and being a mentor. In looking back at his life, he was rather hard on himself, as he told stories about not always being a good team member or mentor, and I found that very brave. I think it’s helpful to look back at your life and, not necessarily castigate oneself, but take stock. Most of us do that, privately, but Bean laid it all out there.

What a grand adventure is space exploration. It takes knowledge and fortitude, determination, a willingness to work with a team of individuals who all share the same goal, a deep desire to understand and apply the laws of nature, to take on danger, to make mistakes and keep going.

And the current distrust and politicization surrounding all scientific disciplines, coming from politicians who want to make election-day hay, religious charlatans who claim that science is counter to God’s law, and the current crop of science fiction writers who write dystopic fiction based on science gone bad, is putting our real future in jeopardy.

Science is an easy scapegoat. It’s hard, it has rules, it requires math, and not everybody gets it. When climate-change deniers or proponents of creationism demand equal time for their viewpoints, they automatically corrupt scientific disciplines by association. By setting up a false equivalent — aided by sloppy journalism, which states that every side should be given their say — they give their own specious argument legitimacy and suck it away from science.

  • Climate change is happening, and it is accelerating, and it is caused by human-made dumping of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, which began in earnest at the turn of the last century.
  • Evolutionary theory is true, it is fact, and it is proven day after day, and there is overwhelming evidence supporting it.
  • Creationism is a belief system, and is not science. Calling it intelligent design doesn’t make it true.
  • Plenty of scientists believe in God and draw comfort and strength from their religion. Science and religion are not incompatible. **

Alan Bean said something interesting about that: Walking on the moon had this effect: the astronauts who believed in God (see! Astronauts! Scientists! with religious faith) found their faith strengthened. Astronauts who were atheists found their atheism confirmed. Astronauts who were ambivalent remained ambivalent.

For decades the US has been coasting on its reputation for scientific research and development. Not anymore. Science and technology are in a fight for their lives against the forces of ignorance (how’s that for a dystopic future? Are you having fun now?) Part of this is because we’ve lost ground in our schools, and part of it is that the US has splintered into affinity groups so that we no longer share a sense of community.

And part of it is that the insatiable need to fill news channels means that the outlying cults and conspiracy theorists who used to stay on the outside have now been moved to the forefront of our consciousness. We know more about other people’s weird shit because CNN and its ilk have to fill 24 hours with programming.

So what’s the solution? Well, we could all stop with the kitten videos maybe and read a damn nonfiction book about science. *** Or history. Or something. We might even read a newspaper, a real one, that talks about hard stuff.****

Will we do this? Probably not. Will we continue to forward each other stories about the other side which shows so clearly how insane and irrational “those people” are? Probably.

But it’s good to at least think a bit more critically about these issues, and try to do your best to stem the tide. *****

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* I think probably we or some other nation will go back to the moon in 20 years or so, but for now, this is it.

** I’m not saying that there will be no conflict — there is a need to have a conversation about ethics in science, just as we should have conversations about ethics in everything, but these conversations should be respectful and based on a willingness to find common ground, not to sow fear and loathing.

*** Watching Nova or Through the Wormhole don’t count. No. They don’t. Especially the latter which is utter fantasy wrapped in pseudoscientific tech-speak.

**** Hint: HuffPo and Fox News are equal parts crap. As is The Daily Mail. Rawstory, or any other blog — same thing. Crap. Say what you like about big major media companies like Wall Street Journal and New York Times, despite it all, they still have journalistic standards.

***** This isn’t a rant. It’s commentary. A rant is a wild-eyed screed shouted out by a crazy man standing on a soapbox on a street corner. If you want your words taken seriously, don’t call them rants.

25 September 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Obituary for a man who never lived

Obituary. Mike Cole

Mike Cole was a jack-of-all-trades turned successful businessman, who turned a small moving and hauling company started with one truck into a publicly traded behemoth, Mike Cole Shipping. He loved his friends, his fiends, and good food, and resembled a half-Irish, half-Italian James Gandolfini. He was proudest of his Italian meatballs and cheesies, and would foist them off on perfect strangers at the slightest provocation.

After suffering years of pain from a debilitating car crash, which exacerbated back pain caused by being a one-man shipping and moving business in his early years, Mike Cole shot himself yesterday. He was 57.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At Mike’s ex-wife’s apartment after the funeral, a handful of us sat around and remembered Mike. Nancy, his ex-wife, and I hugged. She was a short, slightly plump woman in her 50s like me, and her short hair was frosted and highlighted and stood out from her head like a slightly madder Annie Lennox. Even though she’d been crying, her eye makeup was still intact. We’d met a few times before, but we didn’t know each other well. Mike had never re-married, and it was just like him to stay good friends with his ex. And I guess it was just like her, too.

“Did I ever tell you how Mike and I met?” I told her, sniffling. We’d been trading Mike stories all night. “We were at Other Nancy’s place, and finding out how much we had in common. ‘Oh, you’re half-Italian too? Here’s my recipe for cheesies.’ I thought mine was the only family that made cheesies. It was like finding a long-lost cousin.”

Other Nancy was Nancy Hightower, the writer and poet and teacher. See, Mike knew everybody.

“Mike loved to make those things. His were so good,” Nancy said. “Every time I tried to make them by myself, they were never as good.”

I resisted the urge to tell her that mine were better. You have to use dried basil. I’m sorry, the fresh is for pesto, but dried basil is for cheesies.

Pieta (Peeta) plopped down next to us.

“What’s going to happen to the company?” she said. “Is it going to close down?”

Pieta was in her 20s, still pretty unworldly. She looked unworldly too. Not as much as the gargoyle, who was her boyfriend, because she was human, but she looked elfish. Or Gelfin, maybe, with a neotonic face — big dark eyes, small nose, sweet mouth — and tousled dark hair. Like all of us, Mike had given her stock in his company when it went public.

“No, it’s public now. The board will find another CEO, and it will go on.”

“But how? Mike was that company.”

That was true. I’d have to keep better track of how the company did, and think about selling if it looked like it wasn’t going to recover from. Mike’s death.

Eventually the party broke up. Some of us went outside to the open biergarten,but it was still drizzling, and the tables were wet. The downspouts were making fools of themselves, opening their big mouths and blurping water all over each other. This made the gargoyle laugh like a little kid, but it just depressed me, and I wanted to go home.

Pieta had to go to work, and so the gargoyle got a ride with me, so we walked across the biergarten, which was huge, and half of it was covered, to the parking garage. It was dark now, twilight turning to night, which was just as well, because the gargoyle, well, he’s a gargoyle.

The gargoyle isn’t like a demon. He’s actually more of a ghastly cherub. In his human form, he looks like a mean little kid, with blond-brown curls. He walks funny with bowlegs, and when he talks it’s like a mean little kid talking. In human form he affects a jean jacket and cowboy boots.

I carry him, because it’s hard for him to keep up, so it looks like I’m carrying a toddler between the tables, and people smile at us. The gargoyle smiles back and people stare in shock.

A lady with a bunch of kids and a stack of pizza boxes accosts us just before I reach the car.

“We’re selling pizza,” the kids say. “You can buy some and won’t have to cook tonight.”

“No thanks,” I say. I shift the gargoyle to the other hip.

“We should get some,” the gargoyle says.

“No. Dude, you ate and drank at Nancy’s.”

“We have a special. Buy five boxes and get the sixth free,” says the lady.

“Who needs six boxes of pizza?!” I say. This is getting ridiculous.

“It’s a great deal,” says the gargoyle.

“No it’s not. It’s too much. No one can eat that much pizza.”

Why am I trying to reason with a gargoyle? We keep going without saying anything to the pizza dealers, and go and find my car.

It’s really dim. I’m waking up now, aware that it’s all been a dream. I can always tell when I’m dreaming. I guess because my eyes are closed, or something, but I never dream about daylight. I’m always walking in my dreams in twilight.

There’s no car. There’s no gargoyle. There’s no pizza.

There’s no Mike Cole.

RIP, Mike Cole. I would have liked to have been friends with you.

14 September 2014 ~ 5 Comments

Ten Books

 

I’m just now getting around to this. These are the ten books I read when I was young. I’m going to do this a bit differently, and limit my list to books that influenced my writing as well as my tastes.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien

I grew up near these amazing woods. They were my woods, and with their remnants of stone walls, giant oak trees, and a small pond surrounded by hills, it was as close to Middle Earth as this New England kid was going to get. I spent a lot of time in those woods, and I kept wishing that a door would open up and take me to Middle Earth.

This is why I wrote my portal stories.

The Black Stallion. Walter Farley.

The entire series was catnip to a horse-crazy girl. The cool thing is that Farley wrote these books about a horse-crazy boy. Why don’t more boys like horses? It’s too bad — they are missing out. I started reading these books in the first grade (yes, precocious) and it kicked off my undying love of horses.

The Black Stallion series is why I write about horses.

Kidnapped. Robert Louis Stevenson.

Even more than Treasure Island and The Black Arrow, Kidnapped was my first foray into adventure tales. And the roguish rebel Alan Breck was my first literary crush. I can still read Kidnapped and a part of me wishes I was Davy. This is why I write adventure stories.

The Three Musketeers. Alexandre Dumas.

The best adventure story ever told. Still readable, as are all the sequels. And my second literary crush was Athos, but that was just a stage.  I wanted to be a musketeer when I grew up.

Dragonflight. Anne McCaffrey.
I know, I know — problematic rape fantasy. But telepathic dragons! I read and re-read til my books fell apart.

Kirkland Revels. Victoria Holt. One of the many mid-century modern gothics that engendered a love of the genre in me that continues to this day. There is a faint echo of Victoria Holt in The Crow God’s Girl, in which our Kate is a girl in a very unwelcoming house.

Madam Will You Talk. Mary Stewart.
The gothic, updated for the modern girl. Stewart put her girls in peril, but they were smart and no-nonsense and got out of it. Lynn Romano is my version of a Stewart heroine.

Cotillion. Georgette Heyer.
The Grand Sophy was my first Heyer, and I will always love it, but Cotillion has my heart. Cotillion is one of the funniest, smartest romances around, with an unlikely hero who is the exact opposite of the strong, manly, roguish, unreliable type. You see, Freddy knew to get a special license. Alan Breck would never do that. Athos might, but he’d be all broody about it. Freddy is exactly the man that a Regency girl needs. Mr. Aikens is my homage to Freddy. (He’d probably forget the special license too, come to think of it).

If anyone needs me, I’m going to be in my bunk — reading Cotillion.

One of the best books of my childhood.

One of the best books of my childhood.

The Wolf King. Ann Turnbull. This is a little-known Bronze Age YA that for years I thought had been written by Rosemary Sutcliff until I actually looked at my old Scholastic edition. Heroic Fantasy Quarterly editor Adrian Simmons and I have both discussed our fondness for The Wolf King, especially for the pivotal sword-making scene. I almost wore my copy out, but it is still on the shelf.

Eagle of the Ninth. Rosemary Sutcliff. Speak of the devil.  I’ve been on a re-collection binge of Heyer and Sutcliffe, and my local Half-Price Books has come through like a champ on both. Her books are so good.

Like anyone who’s been asked to do this thing, I could keep going, and in fact a quick glance at my bookshelves shows a few dozen more, plus the ones I’ve read in the library and don’t have. But the rules said, the first books that come to mind. (Can I just sneak in a quick mention of Heinlein and C.L. Moore? Thanks.)

Note that there’s no Austen. I didn’t come to appreciate Austen until I was in my early twenties. So I left her out, but have certainly made up for lost time.

So that’s my list. What’s yours?