Friday, March 27, 2015

Remember that video game I worked in ages ago? It's now available on Steam!

Lindsay L. Miller (@LindsPlay)
I was an author/editor on @BCSGames Scheherazade: awesome to see it come to Steam a few years later! Yay!

It's so exciting for me to see Scheherazade sticking around and expanding! I worked on it in a really hard part of my life, and it helped that whole era be less rough, so it'll always hold a special place in my heart.

Go check it out, guys!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Wolf and the Raven: Clockwork Heart is now available on Amazon!

The serial story that I wrote here on the blog at the beginning of the year? Yeah, I published that so that I could learn the ropes on a shorter manuscript. So it's now available in paperback on on Kindle, for not much money, if you really want a physical copy (which I do). It also includes the first few pages of Beacon, which it's sort of a sideways prequel to, and there'll likely be more of them once I launch into the Aetherium Cycle next year!

I've added it to my Publications tab, and it's also right here:

Go forth! Enjoy!

Writing women who aren't victims

There are a lot of women and girls in this book. There's:

  • Annissa, who finds out that she is not who she always thought she was
  • Glorisa, spoiled princess who finds out she's been intentionally made weak-willed
  • Hiri, semi-outcast leader of the Orphan Cart, who rescues lost and unwanted children and finds them homes
  • Danthe, daughter of the mad Oracle, and afraid she'll also go mad
  • D'Nola, Elder of the Clans, and Annissa's surrogate mother
  • Senni, Annissa's Grandmother, who was once a warrior
  • Nualu and Loumvi, daughters of the Clan
  • Dalla, sister of Annissa's intended, and spy for the resistance
  • Genna, Annissa's mother and Wisewoman of the village they live in
  • Isa, Herbwoman of the village
And those are only the ones off the top of my head that have any major role in the book. It's a lot of women, with a lot of different goals and aspirations, fears and crazy circumstances, and even though bad things happen to all of them, I didn't want them to be Victims. Victimized by events, sometimes, but never that sort of victim that just takes it passively, that never stands up for herself, that assumes she deserves what she's given.

There were too many women for that mess.

So here's some pointers on writing women that aren't victims.

1. Give them all something important to do: You can't be a passive creature when you've got something that needs doing. They need to either believe in their role or to be so important to it that belief or not can be part of their plot.

2. Give them agency: Something that they have for themselves and have control over. If they're slaves, give them their own minds and opinions, and some small rebellion. If they're privileged, teach them how to use that for good. Give them control of their choices and their reactions, and if they think they don't have control, send them to look for it or to find it.

3. Avoid victim tropes like the plague: These things are lazy and over done. Story-stuff that exists only to make women trapped and secondary is lame to give to your characters without a really good reason and then a really good overcoming. Some I particularly hate:
  • Rape stories that are only there to make the girl afraid and unhinged
  • Abuse stories where the girls never fight back
  • Anything where a man comes in to save the day when she could have done it herself
  • Anything where a man controls the small details of her life and her interraction with the world in an uncontested way
4. Allow them character development: A girl can start out scared and become strong, and even if she's then cowed again, she can become strong again. She can find her own answers and her own opinions. She can choose her own preferred life.

5. When bad things happen, let them happen and let her react to them--and then overcome them: Everyone has bad days. Eventually, everyone gets over them, Let your characters get over them, too. This is probably the most important, because you don't want to create a woman who is so impervious that nothing bothers her--that's not realistic and not human. What you want is someone who reacts like real people react, and bests their weaknesses, and improves their lives. Just like the men in your stories. Even if things go badly wrong because of stupid choices, they were choices the characters made for themselves.

Remember: Bad thing have to happen to your characters to give them plot, but they don't have to just happen, with no reason and no thought or response. They happen for a reason, they have rammifications, and they are overcome and built upon.

Writing bad and victim-y women is the same thing as bad writing!

What tips would you give to someone writing a book full of women?

Weekly dispatch from the Division of Muse Relations - Week 13

Actual view of the actual bookshelf that serves as my headboard!

This week's prompts are gonna be a little different, because I just found my Story Dice, so I'm gonna roll five dice at a time for prompts today!

Story Dice are intentionally vague, so you'll have to make sense of these yourself, but I'll give some interpretations below...

  1. Happy, good mood, positive; An actual parachute, a sudden escape, an arrival from above; A clue, a mystery, a reference to Sherlock Holmes or Nancy Drew; Sleeping, dreaming, not paying attention; Something going down, a decline in tone, something underneath.
  2. A literal pyramid, Egypt or Egyptian things, mysteries; An office tower, a big business, a cube-farm sort of job; A specific flower or just the idea of flowers, spring or rebirth, gardening; A demon or malevolent spirit, something you're afraid of, an actual monster-shadow or the metaphysical / psychological Shadow; Footprints, Bigfoot, evidence of people, damaging wilderness--or preserving it, "leave only footprints".
  3. The moon, or things ruled by the moon, night time, things that can't happen during the day; The touch of mankind, something made by hand, evidence of humans, cave-art; A home, an isolated cottage, the ideal home; Actual magnets, magnetic attraction, like-draws-like or opposites attract; A tower, a fortress, a castle, a safe place, an isolating place.
  4. A lock that needs a key, something locked up, a puzzle to solve, a prerequisite needed; Rising tone or action, something upward, something away; A shooting star, a rising star, "hitch your wagon to a rising star", guidance in the dark; Comedy and tragedy, a play or a theatre, a mix of funny and sad; Time, time's running out, time travel, lost time.
  5. Ancient mathematics, counting, old wisdom that still holds, figuring things out, balancing the books; Air travel, plane crashes, lost planes, long distance travel; Native American stories, nomadic people and lifestyles, a Wild Frontier story; Justice, balance, making sense of different things, barter and trade; Mail, bills, unusual correspondence, credit cards?
That's a lot of stuff to choose from!

Regular story prompts will likely be back next week--I'm just really a nerd about dice and I love these ones. Forces you to think allegorically, you know, and that's where all stories come from.

As always, any stories you write using these prompts are yours and you can do whatever you want with them. If you post them or publish them publicly, and provide a link here, everyone can find them! I'll eventually make a masterlist of all the stories.

If you like my usual sort of story-starter prompts, there's two books of them just waiting for you to turn them into stories, right up there in the Publications and Shop page!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What I've learned by self publishing

I knew self publishing was going to be a crazy experiment, so I've been running through the steps ahead of time with a print and ebook version of the Wolf and Raven novella Clockwork Heart that I posted here on the blog earlier this year. Here's what I've learned about self publishing so far (and this will likely be totally redone once I get a few more skillz and books under my belt):

  • Formatting is a huge pain in my butt all the time every day forever--moving files from Word to ANYTHING ELSE EVER messes them up, and then they have to be redone because there's weird page breaks or everything is otherwise wonky.
  • Making covers in the CreateSpace cover designer makes me want to pull my hair out, so the next book is just going to be made in illustrator or photoshop, if I can find a copy of either that'll run on my poor janky computer.
  • There are lots of places to promo--but getting all that promo done yourself is tiring.
  • It makes for endless blog topics to create posts from.
  • Maybe constructing my cover images on my phone was a bad idea, in the long run.
  • PDFs work better than word files to upload for printing, because they keep their stuff where it should be.
  • There's always typos or other annoying issues that you missed, no matter how many times you have previously gone over the work.
  • CreateSpace to Kindle conversion has yet to work properly, but at least they managed to get the details right so the re-uploaded files match the book info and they read as different editions of the same book.
  • Everything has to be reviewed and passed, and that can be annoying because sometimes they don't really give any specifics about why it wasn't passed and you have to guess.
  • Everything takes longer than you think it will. So next time, give it LOTS more time than you think you need. I'm gonna go with, like, two weeks of buffer for Book 2.
  • All of this is so exciting, but also terrifying, because it's all on you and your own skills if you go this route, and there's a lot of new skills to learn--which I'm still learning. It's why I decided to do a trilogy for the first book, so I can improve and be awesome at it by the end!
  • Be prepared for annoyances and delays.
And most importantly:
  • Seeing your book actually look like a book is probably the coolest thing in the world.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The first page (or so) of Married to the Wind

     Just as the sun reached its peak behind the swirling darkness of the oncoming storm, a boy fell out of the sky.
     Annissa was with the children on the gentle slope leading up to where the Guardian Tree stood, its bark as red as blood and its leaves as bright as Fire. It was her day to watch them as they played, and she’d brought her spinning with her, the familiar rhythm of the drop spindle and the roving a calming influence on what might otherwise be a tiring chore.
     She and the other girls who were to be married soon took turns with the children, training themselves up to be good mothers. But it was not one of her favorite chores, and the day had dawned cloudy and unlikable. Still, she was good at spinning, good at weaving what she spun, and the children were content to let her work. So she sat under the fiery leaves while the children called and laughed, and tried not to feel too unhappy about impending wifehood and motherhood, while the clouds gathered and the restless wind made the leaves shiver in unpredictable patterns over her.
     She wasn’t ready.
     Benni was a good boy, a year older than she and oldest of his eight siblings, a strong almost-man with a good future on a successful farm ahead of him, and she was lucky, she knew, to have him. She who had no father and whose mother was from Away and whose grandmother was a little strange in the head and sometimes brandished her cane like a sword at the children…Benni didn’t care about any of that. He was always good to her, had been since they were children, and she’d known all her life that they were to be married. They’d been promised as youngsters the same year she’d started school, and had gone through the early Rites last year to cement the agreement. He was a good match for her. Everyone agreed.
     But still, she wasn’t ready.
     She realized she was winding the yarn too tightly and paused to check the children, who had gone quiet in that way that usually meant they were up to something nefarious. But instead of getting into mischief, they were all clustered a little down the slope, their faces tilted up to the sky over the Wall.
     No one was supposed to look that way. The world lay inside the Wall and there was nothing to see outside it--or so the Elders said. She’d spent all her life not looking that way, but the children hadn’t yet learned the Ways. She followed their gaze, though it made her skin crawl over her scalp and neck. It felt like talking back to the Elders, but the children had seen something and it was her job to keep them safe. The sky had grown dark while she wound her wool into too-tight yarn and thought her skittish thoughts.
     “It’s early in the year for storms, isn’t it, Nissa?” Junny, third oldest of the children said. He’d be going to school and out to herd soon, and wouldn’t have his days to play like this. Soon enough, her chattering group would be down by Junny and the two just older than he, leaving only the quieter children. On her less charitable days, she was glad of that fact. Today, he stood as subdued as the others, and she wished she hadn’t thought such things.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Inventing cultures

When I started writing Married to the Wind, I knew I wanted a stark contrast between Annissa's home culture in Velivia, and the culture of the Clans in the desert Over the Wall. I started with what is something of a Standard Fantasy Setting so that I could have something very different later--and so I could take it apart and show how unfair it was! (I am a mean goddess, I guess!)

Here's how I build cultures:
1. Start with something real and weird it up

Everyone starts fantasy with European-ish places*, and if I was writing this now, I probably wouldn't have, but deciding against it part way through is how I got that contrast I was talking about earlier. I started with, like, 1700s France, basically, but minus almost all technology except the barest hint of clockwork (vaguely), minus gunpowder advancements entirely--they were replaced by battle-mages--and with the caveat that nothing much has changed, culturally, for hundreds of years. And that stasis was intentional, because questioning how things were was equated with questioning the First Lady, their goddess. And then I added a religion and mythology that is basically new, and is important to the narrative.

For the Clans, I needed something different, and they were fun to construct. Since they live in a desert, I made them nomadic, and so I started with an amalgam of Romany, North African tribes, and a little Native American and Mongolian. A warning here: If you start with a known culture significantly different from your own, be extra careful to not be a jerk about it--I did my best to take the influences and the looks without the stereotypes and prejudices. And don't rely too much on the source like that unless you're actually writing about those people. Since I was just looking to them for inspiration and the ways people do things, most of the Clans culture is made up.

2. Embroider it to suit your plot
Embroider it A LOT. I needed a really neat way to keep the Clans permanently mobile, so a) I made it part of their history and mythology that they aren't able to settle, and b) I made enormous animals called 'thanti the literal foundation of their culture--they build their houses on 'thanti backs, and catching your own is a big deal. 'Thanti themselves are based on indricotheres, huge prehistoric creatures that actually existed. 

Which is to say, once your foundation is decided on, make up the rest to suit your story, so long as it makes sense. Which leads to...

3. Integrate it into your worldbuilding 
A culture can be as cool as anything, but if it doesn't make sense in the context of the world you've created, it'll come across as unrealistic.

I had a culture that hadn't changed in centuries against a culture that had to adapt constantly to survive. A culture that barely moved, against one that never stopped. And both were the result of an old historical conflict that defined both cultures in the past, and the resulting environmental conditions--lush inside the Wall, mostly lifeless and dangerous outside the Wall, because of how the Wall was co strutted and why. For that, you'll have to read it!

Is this making sense? Ask questions in the comments and I'll clarify!

*Well, not EVERYONE, NK Jemisin and Saladin Ahmed don't, but the majority of them do.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

On messing with genre conventions

There's a risk, when you start changing how a genre does things, of losing what makes that genre a thing. When I was writing Married to the Wind, I wanted to write epic fantasy that was more egalitarian and more personal, but was still, at its core, epic fantasy. Otherwise, it's like mixed drinks--if you change too many of the ingredients, you have to change the name because it's not the same drink anymore.

Here's how I did it--and it should be noted that while I thought about all the Big Picture stuff while I was writing, mostly the writing-stage was about getting the story done. Revisions are when Big Picture concerns come in.


While I was polishing up this jewel of a three-part book, I trie to keep to the core of what makes an epic fantasy--which means I had to decide for myself and for my book, what that core was. I had to define what it was that, when all else was gone, still defined this story as Epic. Here's what I decided on:

Epic fantasies are about quests and journeys.
I decided, however, that the quest can be internal as well as external, and can be for knowledge as much as for some object. Partly, this was because my characters all needed to know things, and partly, it was because I didn't want to write a war-story where everyone is looking for weapons--because 1) ugh, war stories, and 2) I didn't want the story-problems to be solved by violence; I wanted violence to be part of the problem, and the solution needed to come from elsewhere.

Epic fantasies are about the small human acts of the protagonists having world-changing and sometimes reality-altering consequences.
This point I kept pretty close to, because man does it give scale when something someone does has big consequences. Annissa and Glorisa are just trying to find out why things are the way they are, but in doing so, one breaks the Wall that contains their kingdom, letting all sorts of crazy loose, and one fails to die and fractures the energy of the land, forcing a war she didn't realize was coming. And once gods get involved, even the smallest decisions start changing everything. Which leads directly to...

Epic fantasies are about scale and scope.
I wanted the richness and depth of traditional epic fantasy, so I went first whole-hog, but I also wanted to avoid that distance that, say, LotR has. I didn't want my characters to feel already-legendary, or to be so much bigger-than-life that the reader can't get into their heads. So even as various characters became less human, I kept close to their thoughts and feelings, and made sure they still read as people. Meanwhile, I fleshed out the world, scattered the cast so more of it could be seen, added history and prophesy to make everything wider and deeper, and I explored a number of shifting and changing cultures to give context and weight to everything.

Epic fantasies should follow that classic hero's journey in modified form.
The usual hero's journey is fine for a story about a guy, but it felt more and more like it was constricting a story where half the cast is female and has less macho ways of dealing with problems. I looked up the heroine's journey that has been proposed as an alternative, and found it...sort of sexist? Like, it was still less active, and had nothing much to do with impacting the wider world--and while I do have a matriarchal society in the middle of the story, I also have patriarchal ones, and I needed a format that dealt with both. So I gave my girls active roles and active adventures--and had their reactions to them and from a less macho, less violent place. Especially when the problems faced were violent ones. But I also had my boys find other things to do, other ways to be, and one of my girls was a better warrior than most of the guys around her, and so on. Their stories are, to an extent, a dialogue with the male-centric core of the epic fantasy.

Epic fantasies should reveal new facets of history and religion that were previously hidden.
There's a lot of false history and hidden truth in this book--and a story based on several quests for knowledge needs to change that on a basic level. The same way Consn finds lost kingdoms, my characters do, too. And in those kingdoms, they find knowledge they can take back to totally change the context of their  homes. For real change to happen, things need to actually change, right?

I hope I was successful in creating an alternative sort of epic fantasy that is still, at its core, epic fantasy. I think I got all this heavy thinking onto the page in an organic and useful way. And I hope to keep poking at conventions in my future books, because if you're a restless sort of writer like I am, I feel a little like its a responsibility to tap on all those walls and push them out when I can. To expand the definitions of my fav genres so they include people like me and the stories I want to tell. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to have nine point of view characters in one series

The thing about epic fantasy is that it tends to have an epic cast. I could have had, easily, over a dozen point-of-view characters, but I decided that nine was probably enough--especially since I started out with three and thought that was probably enough. Here's what I've learned about having so many voices in one book or series.

1. Make it organic
Worry less about a plan that says "this person has this chapter" and more about a natural flow to the story. Have you been focusing too much on one or two people so that you're ignoring other plotlines? Go back to those other plotlines. Suspense is good, but avoidance isn't at all. Try to make it flow from one point of view to another--pass off a scene, or check in with someone the last PoV was thinking about or who has vital information for the previous plotline, Don't just jump all over the place; make it make sense that this is the next person who's head we're in.

Also, make sure it's clear who's head we're in. I see a lot of books where the chapter names include the name of the character; in Married to the Wind, I just made sure their name was in the first sentence as often as I could so you knew exactly who was speaking. And I made sure they all had distinct voices so it was pretty obvious even without the name.

2. Make sure they're tied together
The more characters you have on stage at once, the more you need to be sure your plotlines matter to each other. Plot A informs or comments on or offers alternatives to Plot B, which does the same for C, which does the same for D, and etc. And I suppose I should say, in case it's not obvious, that each point of view character should have a plot of their own. It doesn't have to be as in-depth as the Main Plot, but they need something they're doing for themselves, based on their own views and goals, that either helps or gets in the way of at least one of the other plots. Make what everyone does matter to the overall story! Why else are they there?

3. Don't overuse anyone
Sometimes side characters want to take over the whole story--and that's a problem. Either they're better suited as the main protagonists and you have a structure issue, or you're giving them too much of the cool stuff. Spread it around! Everyone is likely to have a favorite character to write, but if you give everything to that one person, the rest will be left wanting--and so will their scenes, their plots, and their space in the book!

Make sure all main characters have roughly the same number of scenes, and all secondary characters have roughly the same, too. They don't have to be identical, they don't have to be spaced evenly--sometimes someone will be needed at one place in the story more than they are in other places--but just don't let one person hog all the screen time. Page time? That's what a single protagonist and single PoV character does, not part of an ensemble cast.

4. Be clear on who your main characters actually are
Which, really, is a sub-point of the point above. Main characters are main because they're the most important in the story. Mine, in Married to the Wind, are Annissa, Glorisa, Ardeth, and Benni. If I cut out the five other points of view--and replaced them with other ways of conveying the important information brought by Senni, Hiri, the Oracle, the Regent, and Tchenu--I'd still have a story that makes sense and is complete. But, I think, less interesting, which is why they're there. But because those first four are the main characters, they have more scenes than anyone else in the book. Sometimes it's hard to remember to keep putting them in, especially in the thick and sticky middle of the book where there's so much going on and you have no idea how anyone is getting out, but if they're main characters, they should have the main part of the story.

5. Combine other characters who want to speak
Sometimes, you'll wind up with a lot of other characters who want to have PoV roles in the book, but after a certain point--approaching ten, for me, your mileage may vary--you'll start seeing that there are too many people talking. Things get muddy. It's hard to tell where the stories matter.

That's when you combine characters. Just mash similar characters into one, and one PoV. Or put characters with similar goals together in one plotline, and then only one of them needs to talk about it in narration. You can be artfully complicated without having to be self- or reader-infuriating!

Most books have one or two point of view characters, probably mostly for space and timing concerns. But here's some perks of having LOTS of PoV characters:

  • Lots of characters means lots of scenes, which means lots of space taken up. If you want a longer book, add more PoV characters!
  • It lets you have several really well-rounded characters in one story, and to live inside their heads the same way you do with one.
  • It automatically complicates plots.
  • It gives you many, many different places to get and keep information--especially if your characters are separated for some or most of the story, and especially if information isn't instantly-transmittable. Think how things can go wrong if someone receives the info they need late, or someone else doesn't share it at all, or the two people working on the problem don't know each other yet.
  • Dealing with interpersonal stuff, I think, is the point of writing stories about people, so more people acting and reacting and narrating what it means and why automatically gives all your interpersonal stuff more weight. It's not just one person's views, it's five, and they all want different things and come from different places.
  • It lets you cover more literal ground--characters can be continents away, and the story can keep going without having to get your one dude from one side to the other. Things can happen simultaneously!
  • More PoVs means more worldbuilding! Each person can be from a different part of the world or the society or the class system, looking at it all differently.
  • When you're stuck, you can drop into someone else's head and continue the story--and, often, doing someone else's scenes can help you write your way back around to that first problem. It gives you more to work with!
And that's how I have nine PoV characters. How about you?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Weekly dispatch from the Division of Muse Relations - Week 12 2015

Hello my lovely writers! Who's ready for some weekly writing prompts? This week's theme is TIME!

1. Two full generations after the end of the world, after things have settled down again for the most part, a new village is starting to create a new sort of society, but knowledge about what happened to the old one is sort of hazy. So a girl sets out to find out what happened. She leaves with only herself and two guards and heads into the closest of the massive abandoned cities that no one has gone into since everything Fell Apart. What do they find?

2. The first person to attempt full-body time travel (not just astral projection or something similar) gets caught in an explosion that sends him hurtling through time with no guidance--until he's hooked on the life of a girl, and starts popping into normal reality at unpredictable intervals throughout her life. Intervals that are out of order for her. He asks her for help when she's seven, and it's not until she's over fifty that she can help him, but that's not when he stabilizes. How does she do it? Why does she? What happens to him?

3. A hidden kingdom notices that their barrier is shrinking. If it continues at this rate, they'll be crushed from existence in a little over a month--because nothing can exist after the barrier squeezes over it. There's only one way through it and into the normal world, and only three people can go at a time--but they don't know anything about what the world outside is like, since it's been hundreds of years since the barrier went up. And time is short. Who do they pick? Who makes it through? What do they do about their home's crisis, and do they find help in time?

4. A girl is born with the ability to see the future, and is considered creepy and god-touched, so when she's old enough, her village gives her to the Cult of Time, a sect that maintains the balance of Past and Present and Future. But the future she's seeing is not the future other seers are seeing, and it causes a rift in the sect. And then a kingdom-wide trauma that no one saw coming but her changes everything. How does the kingdom and the sect survive? What is the trauma?

5. An immortal man and an immortal woman live parallel lives, unaware of each other, for centuries. They have many lives, many identities, and then settle now as a doctor and a writer. She's writing a novel about people like her as a way to make sense of it, and her research brings her to a recent murder of someone who shouldn't have been able to die--someone who has landed in his hospital. Now they're together, both with long lives but very different experiences, trying to solve the case of someone who shouldn't have been killed, but they have different outcomes that they're looking for. And their looking has brought them to the killer's attention--a killer who knows how to kill immortals. How do they solve the case?

As always, these prompts are free to use, five a week. You can use the prompts as given, or you can take the parts you like and ignore the rest. You can mix them up or chop them down. They're just meant to spark something that helps you write.

Anything written from them belongs to you and you can post or publish it as you like, but if you leave me a link here or on a future Division post, I'll compile them so everyone can share in your success! And if you direct your friends and colleagues here, that'd be super-sweet of you!

If you like these prompts and would like to have a big ol' pile of 100 Never Before Seen prompts, you can choose from Division of Muse Relations Vol1, at the sample price of 2$, all Fantasy writing story-starters, or Vol2, all Scifi, for the regular price of 4.99! Both linked under Publications and Shop at the top of the page. Future volumes will be posted a few times a year, so check back periodically!

The Married to the Wind playlist

I don't really listen to music when I'm writing--it can be distracting, and I want to be focused since I'm a write-it-all-as-quickly-as-possible-before-i-lose-it kind of author, but when I'm editing, I sometimes get swamped in all the minutia and forget what the big picture is. So that's when I listen to music.

I collected these songs up throughout the writing process, songs that resonate with the theme or a scene or a character or a feeling or a tone that I was trying to get across, and I played this playlist over and over again as I edited, revised, filled gaps, tried to find stuff to cut (which is damned near impossible, guys!), and rearranged huge chunks of the story so that they'd make more sense. This is the order it's saved on my list, but it should be noted that I never play a playlist beginning to end--I always hit shuffle, so that the mix is always new and the stuff I'm trying to remember can come down in new arrangements each day.

Also, it should be noted that it's mostly Florence + the Machine for this playlist, because Ceremonials came out just as I was finishing writing / starting revisions, and it just resonated with what I was doing. Florence gets me and the weird place it is inside my head.

Do you listen to music when you write or revise? What's on your playlists?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Married to the Wind: a quick summary

One line:
Annissa of Yorra never knew she was to be instrumental in reuniting her kingdom, walled off for centuries, with the rest of the world--until a boy fell from the sky and her whole life changed.

Key words:

  • Third-person-close storytelling
  • Nine point of view characters
  • Girls on adventures
  • Unknown histories revealed
  • Mythological evil
  • Elemental powers, inborn and earned
  • Epic journeys across many lands
  • Scope and scale


  • Epic Fantasy

You'll maybe like this if you like:

  • NK Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy or Dreamblood series
  • Patrick Rothfuss's Kingkiller Chronicle
  • Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon
  • Anything by Robin McKinley

Publishing on Kindle March 31st, 2015! Watch this space for more info!

Two weeks until Married to the Wind goes live on Kindle!

March 31st!

I'm so excited to get this book out in the world and into all your hands, you fantasy-reading lovelies! It took two years to write, and a whole year to edit and revise, and it's been a year since it earned me my MFA. I'm ready to let the world see it.

All this week and next week, I'll be posting about Married to the Wind, Epic Fantasy and what I'm trying to do with it, women in literature, genre, and self publishing, all leading up to Release Day! 

And, as it's the start of a trilogy, I'll be doing the same for the other two parts, too.

Here's the release schedule:
  • Part 1: Wisewoman's Daughter - March 31, 2015
  • Part 2: Sister to the Sun - June 30, 2015
  • Part 3: Goddess's Hand - October 31, 2015
What do you guys want to know about Married to the Wind? This is your chance to ask, and I'll answer!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The rough back-of-the-book for Married to the Wind

Needs editing, and other stuff, but here's the rough back for the cover!

I feel like I need this on this blog

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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

How I turn an idea into a novel

Sooner or later, we all have an idea where we're like, yeah, that's a book. Since I've been thinking a lot about turning this writing thing into a career, and therefore lining up my projects, I'm seeing all the ideas that would make such great books.

And I thought, I could make a method out of this. And then I could try to streamline it for future books. 

So here's what I do, assuming that I've already gathered all the idea-stuff and sat on it long enough that it is clearly a novel that I'm sitting on. (That's another post!)

Brainstorm as much as I know, right now, about this world, the plot, the characters. This is a good place for those flowcharts and info-webs they make you do in seventh grade English that have very little other day to day purpose. Or for free-association lists.

Start organizing those ideas into some sort of reasonable order. Super-loose here, of course, but an idea of plot progression. Sometimes I do this as a separate page from the chapter guide later, sometimes I just mash all these steps together.

Then I start looking at all the gaps, and figuring out some of what needs to go in them to make things make sense. Usually, the plot is still pretty loose, and this is mostly world building and figuring out basic connections and conflicts.

I print up a chart with thirty to sixty squares on it, mark out the basic act-divisions and the midpoint, and then fill in the basic things that have to happen close to when they have to exist. There are gaps, because I hate planning, and it's super-necessary to me that I have freedom to be surprised by the story. I fill in the rest as I write and uncover other plot points.

And then, I either file it away and add a postit to my Pipeline Board on my wall, or I start working through the day-to-day of writing!

Do you have a system? How do you develop an idea into a novel?

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Monday! What're you reading?

This week, I'm reading Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly! And the review for Wilfull Child will be up at NYJB as soon as I write it and it goes through the editing process!

What're you reading this week?

This week's dispatch from the Division of Muse Relations!

This week's story prompts are all massed on the idea of Change!

1. A baby is created in the lab, who grows incredibly fast. But the older she gets, the less human as becomes--and it isn't long before she notices that the people around her don't have wings and sails and struts. How do the scientists handle her growing pains? What is her purpose? Does she accept it?

2. Scientists studying a deep forest come across a valley where every plant and animal in it are part of an ecology that isn't Earth--at least not as it is now. But once people start getting into the valley, it starts changing--regular plants and animals get in. But also, the valley plants and animals get out. It's a potential disaster. What do they do about it?

3. Six months ago, vampires came out of hiding and there were thousands of them, everywhere. Since then, they've been openly hunting and turning people. For each person, the change is different. One girl has three whole days to think about it and try to find a cure, as her humanity slowly wanes. What does she do? What do they do about her? Is there a cure?

4. A king of a kingdom on the edge of a new empire is being pressured to join--or be destroyed. Ages ago, the kingdom was the one with all the power, because of ancient magic and a family of mythological creatures, but that's so long ago no one even knows if it's true. Can the king save his kingdom from the tides of change? How? Who helps him? And who in his own court works against him?

5. At twenty-one, certain people change, and no one knows who will change and who won't until they turn 21 and it happens--or doesn't. A group of four friends share a birth month and are all creeping up on that day. Who changes and what do they change into? Do they handle it well? Who doesn't change? Are they happy or disappointed? Does the friendship survive that week?


As always, these prompts are free for you, and you can use them in any form you like for any project you like. Any stories or other pieces coming from the are yours to do with as you please--but I'd love a link if you publish them or post them!

If you like these, you can but 100 Fantasy Prompts or 100 Scifi Prompts in the Publications and Shop tab up at the top!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Banned books! - Stuff I found on Tumblr

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