Books, news, & views from Karen Traviss

Out today –– Audible exclusive

THE BEST OF US is out in audiobook exclusively from Audible today.

Audiobook cover for The Best Of Us - Audible exclusive

Out now - THE BEST OF US

THE BEST OF US, book one of the Nomad trilogy, is on sale now on Amazon US and Amazon UK. (Hardcover, paperback, and Kindle exclusive.)

The Audible exclusive audiobook is out on November 12.


You can also order the book from Barnes & Noble or your local bookstore:
 
Paperback: 978-1-949731-14-9
Hardcover: 978-1-949731-13-2



MEET THE CAST

READ AN EXCERPT

Subscribe to my news bulletin for details and news about the sequels.

THE BEST OF US – out this month

My new series goes on sale on October 29, available Kindle, Audible exclsuive (November 12), and print. THE BEST OF US is the first book in the Nomad trilogy. Pre-orders open on Amazon on October 26.

I'm collaborating with fellow indie authors Jason Anspach and Nick Cole in their Galaxy's Edge universe and my books are what you might call the medieval history of the Anspach and Cole books, set a thousand years earlier and chronicling how humans end up colonising the galaxy. THE BEST OF US opens on an Earth you'll find familiar a couple of centuries from today, and you'll see what drives us to leave Earth and who makes it happen. The West has been devastated by epidemics, bio-terrorism, war, and famine. Asia has shut its borders to keep the threats at bay, and some with power and influence have already abandoned Earth. Now an escape route a century in the making – the Nomad mission – finally offers hope to a small town and a secret research centre hidden in a rural American backwater. Are humans worthy of this salvation? A unique AI has the task of deciding who's worth saving – who represents the best of us.

For those of you who know all my books, this will appeal to both Wess'har fans and my Halo readers. Military life, moral dilemmas, hard choices that don't work out so well, and ordinary people who are called upon to do extraordinary things.

In the run-up to the launch date, I'll be sending previews, behind-the-scenes info, and introductions to the characters to those of you who are on my news bulletin list. If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, now's a good time to do it here. I don't mail out a lot, so you won't be swamped with junk, but when I've got new stories out, it'll be stuff that you'll want to see. Read More...

Databursting characters & backstory

I regularly encourage aspiring writers to check out anime if they want to see storytelling polished to the nth degree. I know many people will ignore that and see only "cartoons" that are beneath them, but that's their loss. Good storytelling isn't about your dazzling use of the subjunctive, but about putting the person being told the story into the world you're describing and into the minds of the characters within in. Writing style's important, because it can be a barrier to recreating that world, and linguistic rhythm can rmake it easier for the reader to step into it, but the core elements of storytelling are common to visual arts as well, and we can learn from all of them.

I've honed my skills far more from working with comic artists, animators, illustrators, and TV directors than I ever have from writers. (I don't read fiction, as you know by now.) And a perfect example of what anime can teach you can be found in Dr Stone, a series about a remnant of modern humanity waking from a disaster that left them in suspended animation (I won't spoil the backstory here) to find a depopulated Earth that's reverted to the Stone Age in their millennia-long absence. Much of the story so far is about how Senku, a high-IQ teen who lives and breathes science, sets himself a personal mission to restore science and technology for the good of mankind. Those who've survived the disaster have lost family and friends. If that sounds unoriginal to you, you haven't seen the story treatment. It's clever, it's educational, and the top dressing of anime staples peels back, as it so often does, to reveal a foundation of heavyweigfht moral dilemmas and complex characterisation.

Anyway, data bursts. The point of this blog is a few seconds in episode 11 that made me want to stand and applaud. My stock in trade in characterisation and when I see it done brilliantly, I savour it. I'll just describe what it was, and what it could have been in the hands of lesser storytellers. It was quick, elegant, and moving. Once you think it through, you'll see how to apply it to ratchet your own work up a notch.

Senku, the ultimate STEM polymath, developed an obsession with science as a small child, and he's shown a Stone Age tribe how to work metal and generate electricity. Now he's shown them how to make glass. It's a necessity if they want to progress to making chemicals and medicines. He's standing in the doorway of a primitive hut looking into his new laboratory, which now has glass beakers, retorts, and test tubes on the rustic shelves. He's smiling, satisfied with what he and the tribespeople have achieved.

And then you see his moment of flashback. He's a little boy again, walking into his bedroom to find that it's crammed full of every scientific device and book that can be bought for a child, equipment that's long vanished from Earth. The items are all wrapped in paper and bows. It's an Aladdin's cave of discovery for an insatiably curious little boy.

Then the scene cuts back to his face in the present day. There's a hint of sorrow, and it's clearly a bittersweet memory for him. Whatever the anime's creators intended (and I don't know the answer to that) those few seconds said everything to me: he's remembering his parents and what he's lost. The anime could have shown the items unwrapped and cut back to Senku still smiling, to indicate that his passion for science was forged in early childhood and that his effort wasn't wasted: this was the path he was born for. Instead, it shows his joy at seeing gifts and that the memory's painful. His parents gave him all that and made him the potential saviour of humanity's future that he's become, but now they're gone. It still says he has a destiny, but it also tells you everything about his relationship with his family, and that there's a lot more beneath the veneer of smug confidence and apparently cold objectivity. And it does all this in seconds.

In storytelling, the devil is in the details. You don't need a page of description, and you don't need to spell things out to the reader or audience with the aid of a sledgehammer. One perfect observation that all humans can relate to or at least understand is worth a chapter of introspection. The hard work is finding that gem, of course, but the more attention you pay to people in real life, the more you'll spot these things.

Dr Stone is a brilliant piece of storytelling in many other ways, but that's for another day. If you're not a writer, you don't have to dissect it professionally the way I do to enjoy it. It's hugely entertaining. Just be aware of how much is going on under the surface to achieve that. Stunning work, the stuff of which joy is made.

Galaxy's Edge: supporting Mission 22 to end veteran suicide

As you know by now, I'm doing a collaboration with Jason Anspach and Nick Cole in their highly successful Galaxy's Edge universe. One of the reasons I'm glad to be working with them is that they're genuinely good guys who walk the talk and live their beliefs, using their success as a practical force for good. This month they're donating generously from sales on their web site to Mission 22, a charity set up to end veteran suicide. In the US, more than twenty vets take their own lives every day. We have an unacceptably high number of these tragedies in the UK too, both among vets and serving personnel. We can't sit back and let this keep happening to those who've given so much to our countries.

This is your chance to turn "Somebody ought to do something about that" into "I can do something" by buying from the Galaxy's Edge site between now and September 30. I've published Jason and Nick's news release in full below so you can see for yourself. Links to take you straight there if I've already convinced you: the Galaxy's Edge site, and also their special items page. Thank you for your support.

From Galaxy's Edge:

From the release of Legionnaire, Galaxy's Edge has made a connection with those who appreciate the sacrifices made by veterans throughout the world. We've received notes from soldiers far from home, heard tales of dog-eared copies of our books being shared by platoons, and understand that more than a few outfits have adopted KTF as unofficial mottos.

 But what struck Nick and Jason most were the veterans who wrote in to tell us how Galaxy's Edge helped them cope with the stress of coming home and separating from military life. How the stories gave them something else to think about during difficult rehabs and nights of loneliness. More than one told us that Galaxy's Edge was something that helped them fight their own suicidal demons. And because of that, Jason and Nick started to look for an opportunity to do something more than release new books.

Enter our new initiative meant to raise funds to fight veteran suicide by partnering with non-profit Mission 22.

According to a Department of Veterans Affairs study, each day over 20 veterans take their own lives. It takes a community to heal a warrior, and the Galaxy's Edge community is partnering with Mission 22 to let our vets know that they have the Legion behind them.

From now to the end of September, we'll be selling exclusive items on the Galaxy's Edge website including KTF wristbands and audio CD copies of Order of the Centurion signed by Jason Anspach, Nick Cole, and narrator Mark Boyett. 100% of proceeds go to charity.

In addition to those items, we'll donate 22% of all proceeds from other items sold on the website to this worthy cause. Thinking of finally getting a KTF morale patch, a signed book, or some stickers? Now you can while helping those in need.

Please help us to show our vets that they have the Legion behind them.


GE Mission 22

Butter. This really is about butter.

Happy New Year, folks. I hope 2019 brings all you wish for.

Anyway, I've been updating my blog over at Goodreads, but I've been a bit remiss over here. To bring you up to speed:

* I've finished THE BEST OF US, the first of my Galaxy's Edge NOMAD books, and it's now busy acquiring a cover. A lot more to follow on that very soon. I'm back to working on SACRIFICIAL RED again, and also the second of the NOMAD trilogy. I'm pretty much returned to my normal schedule after the ups and downs of the last couple of years, so there'll be a steadier supply of books for you from now on.

* I also posted this
tribute to a good friend who passed away.

Anyway, what really prompted me to blog today was something totally unconnected with books, although not entirely. As most of you probably know, I do love to cook, and I especially like preserving and fermenting, so I was tweeting today about making butter out of cream that I hadn't managed to use by its expiry date. Tonight I made another batch from a jar of cultured cream that didn't look like it was going to get used, but this time I remembered to take pics stage by stage. And it's too much to post on Twitter. The reason this is related to writing is that taking a break to do something else that's creative – be it cooking, crafting, carpentry, or art – is a good way to release your subconscious brain to sort out those plot problems and other issues that need to mulch in the mind.

If you've never made your own butter with a culture, it's the easiest thing imaginable, and if you don't mind a few minutes' hard work you can do it all by hand. No mixer or churning device required. (You can shake it in a jar, too, but I find that impossible once the cream's set.) This really is just supermarket double (heavy) cream cultured with a teaspoonful of plain yoghurt. I make that as well, but you can use any plain live yoghurt as a starter. Then I leave it on the counter overnight or longer. You can also culture it in a proper yoghurt-maker, but I just did it the low tech way this time. You can also culture cream with kefir, proper buttermilk culture, or whatever other milk culture you happen to have on hand. Yoghurt seems to be the easiest to find for most people. For some reason, it doesn't seem to matter whether I use a room temperature yoghurt (mesophilic) or a thermophilic one that needs an incubator (which is the plain yoghurt you get in shops) because both work if I just leave the cream on the counter. I'm still working out the microbiology behind that.




1.
The cream. This is already soured by a yoghurt culture.


IMG_1952

2. Start beating it, by hand if you prefer. I find the cream separates more easily when it's at room temperature. This batch was chilled, and it was a lot more work.

IMG_1953

3. Eventually, it'll start going grainy…

IMG_1954

4. …then it'll start to form a ball…


IMG_1955

5. And after that it'll suddenly "turn" and separate into butter solids and buttermilk.

IMG_1956

6. Pour off the buttermilk. Great for scones, soda bread, or drinking.


IMG_1957

7. Yep, it's definitely butter now.

IMG_1958

8. Knead the lump of butter in cold water. I do it under a running tap. This gets the last of the buttermilk out so that it keeps longer. It's a weird sensation, but just keep doing it for a couple of minutes, then drain the butter, and knead in salt to taste if you want it salted. (And I do.) If you overdo the salt, you can wash it out again the same way you washed out the buttermilk in cold water. Isn't that cool?

IMG_1959

9 And there it is. Fresh cultured butter. Keep it in the fridge for a few weeks, or freeze it. Way better than the commercial stuff. Delicious. I never used to like butter, but home-made is a different story.



IMG_1960