Why I Love Libyrinth by Pearl North
By Jim Frenkel, Senior Editor
Young Adult fiction has always been near and dear to my heart. When I was a kid, I was one of those nerds (we hadn’t progressed to geeks yet) who would go to the library, take out a big stack of books, read them in a week and exchange them for another big stack.
There was always a problem with this: not nearly enough science fiction in the YA section. As the librarians got to know me, they started letting me take out books from the adult section. There weren’t enough SF books in the adult section either (and it was harder to find them, because I didn’t know the names of all the good SF writers), but I was a compulsive reader who gobbled up all sorts of books—biographies, history, mysteries, and other books. I just loved to read…and I've never lost that love.
So when I got the manuscript for a novel called Libyrinth—a place containing all the books ever published on Earth—I was intrigued by the idea. The idea of a library—a mysterious, huge, labyrinthine building—with everything was just…delicious.
Pearl North’s novel is a great adventure, full of excitement, suspense, and great mystery. At the center of it all, it's really about the joy of reading. The hero, an apprentice libyrarian named Haly, literally hears the books. Whenever she’s near a particular one, it speaks to her. Don’t ask me how—that's one of Libyrinth’s secrets—but it’s wonderful.
I was hooked from the start, but especially so when The Diary of Anne Frank spoke to Haly across the yawning gulf of millennia and light-years. On a world so far removed from our own that Earth is more a legend than a memory, the words of Anne Frank, from her hiding place in an Amsterdam attic during World War II, are electrifying, and become the focus of a rift between two disparate cultures.
The libyrarians are protecting Earth’s knowledge and culture; they fear the Eradicants, who are bent on destroying the books because they feel that words held captive in books die. But it’s not all black-and-white. The Eradicants call themselves Singers, and their culture is one which loves words…but they don’t read then; they sing them, like bards in many Earth cultures.
I don’t want to give away the whole story. It's filled with twists and turns and big surprises. Best of all is the mystery and wonder of the Libyrinth, which is partly revealed at the end of the novel, but which also holds more revelations in the sequel that Pearl North has almost finished writing.
While the Libyrinth is a very cool place, the novel wouldn't be nearly so exciting if it weren't for its memorable characters: Haly; her little helper, Nod; Clauda—who works in the kitchen of the Libyrinth but has a much bigger role to play; Selene, a libyrarian who risks losing her legacy just by being part of the Libyrinth; and others who become part of the desperate struggle between the Libyrinth and those who want to destroy it. While the books in the Libyrinth call out to Haly, the characters in this novel call to me.
Sharing books like this with readers is the most exciting part of my job, my life. I know it’s weird, and is clear evidence that I caught the reading virus at an early age. But it's a very benign virus. Discovering a new story that I love is something I never get tired of. It’s like finding a new best friend, a wonderful new food, a great new game. And Libyrinth is all those things to me. I can’t wait to tell people about it…which is why, I suppose, I wrote this.
Libyrinth by Pearl North, ISBN: 0765320967, a $17.99 hardcover from Tor Teen, became available wherever books are sold on July 7.
Children of the Dawnland: Our Nation’s Forgotten Heritage
By Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear
“In America, we live on top of 15,000 to 20,000 years of prehistory, and no one knows anything about it. Most of the schools in North America, when they teach Indian history, teach the Indian war history. So they talk about the interaction between the Native peoples and the European invaders. What Mike and I try to do in our prehistoric fiction is to show people that the cultures that existed in North America were as magnificent as anything you would find anywhere else in the world.”—Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Ever since People of the Wolf was published in 1990, readers, fans, teachers and booksellers have asked us when we were going to write a children’s novel. Children of the Dawnland and its teacher’s guide fulfills our promise to do so. Why is American archaeology so important? One in five Americans claims Indian ancestry, and Children of the Dawnland was written to introduce young readers to the depth and origins of our nation's forgotten cultural heritage.
Set 12,900 years ago, the story focuses on North America’s first people, the ones of the Clovis culture. Clovis people hunted—and in some cases were hunted by—dire wolves, short-faced bears, and saber-toothed cats. They ate mammoths, mastodons, ancient bison, and giant beavers the size of black bears. Within four hundred years of arriving in North America, Clovis people had colonized the entire continent. Clovis archaeological sites are found in every state, as well as in Canada and Mexico. Some of the most important Clovis sites are found along the edges of what were—when the Clovis people lived there—massive glaciers.
Then, 12,900 years ago, this extraordinary culture suddenly ceased to exist. Archaeologists call this moment in time “the Clovis horizon,” because it is clearly marked by a black layer, or mat, of soil. No Clovis sites have ever been found above this layer. Children of the Dawnland is the story of how two children face one of the earth’s greatest environmental catastrophes. Recent TV shows have called it “The Clovis Comet.” Its impact caused massive forest fires and huge clouds of blowing dust and devastated the Clovis world.
Our goal in writing Children of the Dawnland is to allow children to see through the eyes of prehistoric peoples so that they can learn from them. In accord with that goal, we hope this book helps to educate children about astronomy, geology, chemistry, botany, and mass extinctions—and particularly about the original First Americans and their remarkable culture, as well as how they survived stunning climate change.
We hope readers of all ages enjoy learning about this chapter of America's amazing prehistoric past.
Children of the Dawnland (0-7653-2019-3; $17.99), the middle grade novel by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear, was released by Starscape July 7.
Caleb Fox and Thunderbird
When I blinked, I banged from my desk into a another world. The grass I sat on was rosy, the sky salmon, and the sun was rising, which it was always doing here. Nothing ever changed, and nothing could die, except mortals like me.
I knew this place, the Land beyond the Sky Arch. When the Immortals summon you, the journey takes less than an eye flicker. Eat your heart out, Captain Kirk.
Thunderbird glared down at me from a boulder. Everything about him is intimidating. Each wing is a rainbow, each feather a snake of a different color. When he flaps, snakes shoot out and turn into thunderbolts. He is Bird, and the winged creatures of Earth are his shadows.
“So you’ve published a book about us.”
“Which you call a fantasy.”
He raised his wings, and I covered my ears, but he only spoke.
“You think all this—the Immortals, the Land beyond the Sky Arch, and ME!—you think all this is fake?”
Stay calm, I reminded myself. “No, Sir. The spirit world is real, and magic is spirit power. A spirit guide, Buzzard, carries the wisdom in my book. People shape-shift into animals, or journey to your world. I know spirit power is real.”
Now his voice was thunder. “Then why do you call it FANTASY!?”
I told myself, he’s toying with me. Like all critics, he wants everyone to know he has the power to wound, even kill.
“Sir, the ancient people I’m writing about, they understood magic, but today’s readers don’t. Science opens modern eyes in one direction and blinds them in another.”
Thunderbird rotated his head, eyeing me. I wondered if he would eat me alive, the way he ate the hero of my book Zadayi Red, and if I too would be lucky enough to be reborn.
“You made beings who didn’t exist. You brought them to life in your words.”
“Your book is entertaining, I must say. But did it occur to you that you were creating?” His voice turned to flame. “Usurping the territory of the Immortals? Bringing creatures into existence?”
“You said to tell the truth, Sir.”
Thunderbird nodded several times. “So you have learned something.”
I said nothing. Around Thunderbird, the proud are finger food.
“Have you learned enough?” His voice turned coy. “Do I have a good role?”
“You are the Supreme Being, Sir. And really scary.”
He actually smiled. Seeing a monster bird smile, that gave me the willies.
“And there will be more of these… creations of yours.”
“It’s a series, Sir, called Spirit Flight.”
More slow nods. “Anything else to say?”
This is his ritual ending. Everyone who comes to him is entitled to ask a boon.
“Yes, Sir. I’m having a little trouble with the storyline of book three. How about a hint?”
Thunderbird raised his wings high, and the many-colored snakes slithered forth. “Do your own damn creating!” he roared.
He clapped his wings together, the world exploded in lightning and thunder never experienced on Earth. Then that’s where I was, back on Earth, my brain pan rocking.
The computer screen beckoned. “All right,” I said out loud, “I will do my own creating.” I typed, BOOK THREE.
Zadayi Red (0-7653-1992-6; $24.99) by Caleb Fox was released by Tor 7/7. Become a fan of Caleb Fox on Facebook here.
On Writing The Sword-Edged Blonde: The Bar Where Everybody Knows Your Name
By Alex Bledsoe
A man walks into a bar.
If this happens in a science fiction or fantasy novel, the author has his job cut out for him. Not only does he have to describe the bar physically, but also its patrons. They might include aliens, ogres, trolls or elves, all of which can have any number of permutations. Then the drinks have to be laid out, and the money system enumerated. When all that’s done, the author might have enough imagination left to finally describe the man who walked in.
I’m unusual as a fantasy or science fiction reader, in that the details of made-up societies, worlds and cultures hold far less interest for me than the people (I include non-humans in that term) who inhabit them. I remember listening in wonder to another well-regarded fantasy author describe the elaborate monetary system he’d designed, and for which so far he’d had no use. It’s something I could never do.
When I wrote The Sword-Edged Blonde, I wanted to pare it down to the things I, as a reader, cared most about: namely, the people. Anything that distracted from them, and from the reader’s emotional commitment to them, I either left out or minimized. For example, many fantasy characters have names that, if not literally unpronounceable, at least challenge the tongue; I named my hero Eddie LaCrosse. Eddie’s office is, in fact, above a bar, one that is no different in feel and atmosphere from any you might walk into today. Eddie uses swords that, like modern guns, have make and model names, and the people speak in rhythms, patterns and tones that don’t try to sound “otherworldly.” There’s no time spent digressing into societal details that don’t apply to the immediate situation; this is not to belittle authors who do that sort of thing well, it’s just something I neither crave as a reader or excel at as a writer.
I did invent one term. Eddie is essentially a private investigator functioning in an Iron Age world. In our world, PI’s are known by various, vaguely derogatory terms: shamus, dick, peeper, etc. I decided that Eddie’s reality needed a similar term, and came up with “sword jockey.” To me it rings with the same thinly-veiled contempt as “gumshoe” or “snooper.”
The Sword-Edged Blonde (and its upcoming sequel, Burn Me Deadly) have been called high-fantasy stories written as if they were Forties pulp detective novels. That’s exactly my intent, but it’s not just an ironic stylistic choice; rather, it’s a sincere attempt to let readers connect with the characters by letting as few things as possible get in the way.
So the man (or woman) who walks into a bar in Eddie’s world could, hopefully, be you. And you’d be right at home there.
The Sword-Edged Blonde (0-7653-6203-1; $6.99) by Alex Bledsoe was released from Tor on June 30. Visit the author’s website at alexbledsoe.com.