#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: Meredith Katz

hairtothethrone400 Today I’d like to introduce author Meredith Katz. Her Pandemonium series of fantasy novellas is filled with a cast of remarkably varied queer characters. She’s shared some of the process behind her most recent novella, Hair to the Throne, along with her views on representation in publishing–and how we can all work to improve it.

I hope you’ll enjoy this interview as much as I enjoyed chatting with her!

The Blurb

The city of Flecton is ruled with an iron fist by Demon Prince Vehr, whose human citizens suffer under demonic enslavement and live in fear of her ever-watchful presence. The prince herself is never seen, living in her underground palace and sending demons to kidnap skilled humans to serve her.

Ten years earlier, Merle’s best friend and closest confidante Abeille, a promising silversmith, was taken to Vehr’s palace. Now, Vehr seeks a hairdresser, and Merle has exactly the skills she needs. Surviving the hairy situation will take more than wits—it’ll take good people to rely on, old friends and new.

#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: Diana Pinguicha

2017-04-13 18_22_54-anthology-of-european-sf.pdfToday I’m excited to continue my #Ownvoices spotlight series with an author who has a fantastic name (if I do say so myself), Diana Pinguicha. By day she works as a video game writer and developer, and by night she’s a speculative fiction author; her short fiction has appeared in multiple anthologies, including the International Speculative Fiction Anthology of European Speculative Fiction (which can be downloaded completely FREE). Today she’s here to discuss the challenges associated with different types of writing, representation in fiction, and more!

Please give Diana a warm welcome.

Author Spotlight: Jay Michael Wright II

TALON2 CustomThis week I’m taking a (hopefully brief) break from the #ownvoices author spotlight series I’ve been doing for the past months to interview an author whose dark fantasy novels are some of the most exciting I’ve seen around. I’ve had a wonderful time chatting with him about his upcoming novel, Talon: The Spider’s Web, and I’m excited to read it–but frankly, I’m more excited about one of the projects he’s still working on. You’ll have to read the interview to see what I’m talking about!

The Blurb

For centuries after surviving the destruction of The Lost Colony of Roanoke, Nicky happily embraced being the monster he had become: a vampire hell-bent on revenge after witnessing the murders of his mother and sister.

After coming across a young girl who could have been his sister’s twin, however, things changed drastically. Nicky was determined to right the wrongs he had done. This led him down a path of no return.

Nicky comes across the mysterious Sadie, whose powers no one can explain. With her help, he kills a Pureblood Vampire – a crime punishable by death. Vampire law requires him to kill Sadie, but knowing that he owes her his life, Nicky can’t do it. Instead, they go on the run together. For the first time in his life, Nicky has decided to live by his own rules. The Demon within and his humanity are at constant odds as he both fulfills his blood-lust and acts as protector to the mortal girl who has bewitched him.

#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: Shira Glassman

4-olive conspiracy cover-frontToday I am beyond thrilled to welcome author Shira Glassman, creator of the beautifully diverse Mangoverse and almost-winner of the Bisexual Book Award (she made the short list!). She has been kind enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to share some behind-the-scenes info about how she built The Olive Conspiracy, the fourth novel in the Mangoverse.

About The Olive Conspiracy

A love story between women, between queen and country, and between farmers and their crops.

When Ezra tries to blackmail Chef Yael about her being trans, she throws him out of her restaurant and immediately reports him to the queen. But when police find Ezra stabbed to death, Queen Shulamit realizes he may have also tried to extort someone more dangerous than a feisty old lady.

The royal investigation leads straight to an international terrorist plot to destroy her country’s economy—and worse, her first love, Crown Princess Carolina of Imbrio, may be involved. Since she’s got a dragon-shifting wizard at her disposal, contacts with friendly foreign witches, and the support of her partner Aviva, Shulamit has hope. What she doesn’t have is time.

The Interview

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, The Olive Conspiracy?

The Olive Conspiracy, at its heart, is the story of a woman and her found-family — a wife, in-laws, and the kind of best friends who have become family including a surrogate dad — doing their best to preserve their country’s safety. Having her fight danger from the heart of such a warm and loving community, at least for me, gives the reader an emotionally safe vantage point from which to enjoy the story.

Meanwhile, Queen Shulamit is very much an overthinker who worries and frets like a champ, and she’s extremely driven to preserve the cozy way of life she and her people enjoy. I feel that as a queen deep down she knows that monarchy is a flawed, unfair system, so while she’s human enough not to want to abolish it and give up her wardrobe, huge library, and open-air palace, she does feel like she has to work through every waking hour to deserve it. She literally breastfeeds a farmer’s baby in one scene and I can think of no more fitting image to illustrate the way she feels about her responsibility to her people.

Plus, the fact that she had a gigantic teenaged crush on someone who might turn out to be the story’s villain weighs on her very heavily.

I also have a lot of fun with the other leads. Shulamit’s bodyguard and best friend is a loudmouthed, five-foot-eleven warrior woman named Rivka. Creating her has been exceptionally meaningful for me because she’s got my ethnicity–and my nose–and shows that we can so be the heroic figure in fantasy if we want to be. Her husband is a dragon-shifting wizard eighteen years older than her, totally besotted with her strength, and together the two of them are protective of the book’s main f/f couple and their baby. Writing him also gives me great pleasure because he’s the kind of smug, smirky grey-hat character who usually winds up being the sexy villain on whom we reluctantly admit our crushes, except he’s one of the good guys so no guilt necessary.

I’ve added a new f/f couple with this book, the young olive growers Hadar and Halleli. Their journey isn’t always a happy one but they wind up safe (and employed!) at the end with their mutual love helping light the way and keep them strong. What I find personally fulfilling about them is that they not only earn their happy ending, making it more meaningful, but they represent the truth that characters in the umbrella can face adversity from sources other than -phobia and bigotry. We face the same obstacles as cis straight people, and we can overcome them, too. They get their own short story in Tales from Perach, “Your Name is Love.”

What part of the story came to you first?

Chef Yael!

What happened was, a young trans lesbian named Nicole who enjoys my books sent me a Tumblr message asking if I could put a trans woman in my books. It didn’t take long for the image of a tough-as-nails older woman who stands up to a blackmailer to pop into my head (and of course, who’s tougher than chefs?) The biggest problem after that was coming up with what happened next — in other words, who did the blackmailer visit next, someone dangerous enough to kill him? Months later, the agriculture plot fell into place. I’m so pleased that I was able to do as much with Yael as I did, though. She’s not just a throwaway character from the first two scenes. She has screen time in one-sixth of the book, and her own short story (“No Whining”) in the Tales from Perach collection.

Did you deliberately focus on creating a diverse book, or is that simply how your books have evolved?

It’s now a conscious act, as I incorporate the people in my life whose experiences deserve to be represented in fiction if that fiction is to be accurate and reflect reality, but when I first started out it was basically just a consequence of being a queer Jewish woman, existing in that space. I mean, this is my default. I wake up in the morning in my sapphic Jewish skin, and for me to write cis straight people, or gentiles, is already reaching outside of myself.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting The Olive Conspiracy published?

The book’s original debut last July was with a publisher that was circling the drain and had stopped paying their authors. I never received any money from my preorders or the first two months it was out. Luckily, I was able to get my rights back in September, and rereleased the entire series with beautiful new covers.

How would you like to see representation change in the next 5 years?

This is already starting to right itself, but as soon as the push for diversity gained a lot of traction we suddenly started seeing a lot of people in Privileged Group X getting book deals for writing characters in the corresponding marginalized group. These books can be good but I like the fact that there’s been a bit of a course correction reminding people that we should be actively looking for voices within the group to make sure their stories are not being drowned out.

Who is your favourite #ownvoices author right now?

I just put my phone down from gushing to yet another friend about Zen Cho, whose Malaysian/Malaysian-diaspora SFF shorts collection “Spirits Abroad” is one of my favorite recs. Make sure you get the eBook, though, because for some reason it includes more stories than the print edition! To quote from my review, it “brings extremely intimate and personal concepts into the sphere of fantasy fiction–like unexpected difficulty in schoolwork or performing arts after being at the top of your class, or blooming into your suppressed bisexuality. Far from being the fantasy of broad, sweeping, epic stories about clashes between dynasties or magical orders, this is the fantasy about household magic, about supernatural creatures that have the same feelings and hopes and family structures we mortals do, and about one-on-one friendships and relationships. They even enjoy the simple, hedonic pleasure of food.” Vampires coexist with Aunties, a troupe of Lion Dancers are secretly ghostbusters, etc. Seriously, go buy this and then come back to this interview. I’ll wait.

I’m also going to give a shout-out to trans man Austin Chant, who just wrote a trans Peter Pan/Captain Hook psychological drama with a romantic happy ending called Peter Darling that basically knocked my socks so far off I need GPS to find them.

What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

I hate to jinx my current WIP, just in case (although I’m sure anyone who follows me on Twitter has noticed the #LesbianIndieDyer hashtag!) — if I ever finish it, it’s contemporary f/f about two Jewish women, both different kinds of artists, who discover the ways each can be inspired by the other’s work. But hopefully you won’t have to wait that long for a new release because I hope to get the rights back to “A Man of Taste“, my short story about a lonely vampire woman and the ghost who might be the answer to all her problems at once.

shiraglassmanShira Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist passionately inspired by German and French opera and Agatha Christie novels. She lives in north central Florida, where the alligators are mostly harmless because they’re too lazy to be bothered.

You can find Shira @ShiraGlassman or on her website. Want to start reading in the Mangoverse right away? Pick up The Olive Conspiracy on Amazon! (Please note that all Amazon links are affiliate links)

Why you should reread books

Two books I reread in 2016
Two books I reread in 2016

As a kid I re-read books fairly often, but eventually I grew to hate rereading. I have a pretty good memory so if I’ve read it in the last couple of years, I’ll remember large chunks of it word for word, which makes all but the best books tedious. Besides, there are so many amazing books I haven’t read, and more being published every day. Why re-read when I can always find something new?

Of course, it wasn’t entirely about time. Part of it was about the books themselves. Some of the books I loved most as a child seemed awful when I reread them. The characters were flat or I had simply changed too much to like them. There were pacing flaws younger me hadn’t noticed. And the worlds that had been exciting to me as a kid often felt bland and stereotypical after exploring the fantasy genre more deeply.

If you reread books regularly, sooner or later this will happen to you. Still, revisiting a book you loved five or ten years ago is often worth the risk. After all, you loved it for a reason, right?

If you choose the right books, the books that left the deepest impression on you the first time around, you will often find yourself falling even more deeply in love with them. You’ll notice little details that didn’t stick the first time. You may even learn big lessons you didn’t pick up the first time, especially if you were like me and started reading adult books before your tenth birthday.

This is especially important for writers.  As you develop your writing skills, you also develop the ability to read like a writer. You pay more attention to the specific techniques and scenes that work–and the ones that don’t. You analyze the book, learning how you can make yours at least as powerful. Reading like a writer is one of the best ways for you to learn more about the craft, and it’s much easier to do when you’ve already read a book and you’re not in so much of a rush to reach the end.

How to make time for rereading

At this point you’re probably staring guiltily at all the books on your To Be Read list, perhaps even an entire row of your bookshelf that hasn’t been read. You know it’s important to keep reading new books, that reading for fun can be a great self care strategy, and that books can teach you all manner of things. You may even have scheduled specific time for reading, or devoted your commute to reading if you take transit. It’s fun and sometimes enlightening, but it’s already taking up a significant chunk of your day, and now you’re supposed to reread books too?

You don’t have to reread a lot to reap the rewards. You don’t even have to schedule separate reading time for it. Even rereading one or two books a year can open your mind, changing the way you see books and the world. Choosing the right books to reread matters more than rereading a large number of  books. After all, your goal here isn’t just to enjoy yourself, it’s to learn something–whether that’s about the book, about writing in general, or about yourself.

So how do you choose the right books?

Any book worth rereading is one that left a deep impression on you the first time you read it, one that taught you something deep about life or writing or both. It’s a book you liked enough to still remember all the characters and the overall story arch, even if you don’t remember many details. It can also be a book with powerful themes you didn’t fully understand or feel comfortable with the first time you read it.

I’ve also frequently chosen to reread a specific book because it’s been turned into a series. This is why I reread Inkheart last year, which is now the first book in a fantastic trilogy. It’s also part of why I reread the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix, which is now The Old Kingdom Series. Being able to dive back into these worlds and then explore them even further has been wonderful fun, and I’ve learned a lot from the process too.

Right now I’m only reading new books, but at some point in the near future I’ll be diving into A Dance With Dragons, not because I believe the next book will ever actually come out but because I need to straighten out some of the differences between the books and the show in my head. All those X names in A Dance With Dragons confused me enormously. I also need to reread Lord of the Rings, as I was rather young when I read it the first time. I suspect I will learn a lot from both of these rereads, and I’m excited to see how they’ll help my writing grow.

Do you reread books? What would you like to reread next? Let me know in the comments section below!

#Ownvoices Author Interview: Shaila Patel of Soulmated

SOULMATED_cover_jpgIf you’ve been following my series of weekly #ownvoices author interviews (which will have a dedicated page soon, I promise; I’ve been redoing all kinds of things around here and my brain is exhausted) you may be starting to think diverse books only exist in science fiction. While it’s true that science fiction has the highest number of diverse books, there are diverse books in other genres, and Shaila Patel is here to prove it! Her debut novel, Soulmated(all Amazon links are affiliate links), is a paranormal romance featuring all kinds of exciting concepts I’ll let you discover for yourself.

The Blurb

Two souls. One Fate.

Eighteen-year-old Liam Whelan, an Irish royal empath, has been searching for his elusive soulmate. The rare union will cement his family’s standing in empath politics and afford the couple legendary powers, while also making them targets of those seeking to oust them.

Laxshmi Kapadia, an Indian-American high school student from a traditional family, faces her mother’s ultimatum: Graduate early and go to medical school, or commit to an arranged marriage.

When Liam moves next door to Laxshmi, he’s immediately and inexplicably drawn to her. In Liam, Laxshmi envisions a future with the freedom to follow her heart.

Liam’s father isn’t convinced Laxshmi is “The One” and Laxshmi’s mother won’t even let her talk to their handsome new neighbor. Will Liam and Laxshmi defy expectations and embrace a shared destiny? Or is the risk of choosing one’s own fate too great a price for the soulmated?

Want the book already? Pick it up here.

The Interview

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Soulmated?

is a young adult paranormal romance told in dual points of view. Liam and Laxshmi (aka Lucky) are both teenagers struggling with parental and cultural expectations, and wish for nothing more than the freedom to make their own choices and control their own lives. As they’re falling for each other, they realize that some decisions come with hefty consequences—and in that they have no choice.

What part of the story came to you first?

The very first thing that had come to me was Laxshmi’s name and nickname, believe it or not. I remember listening to a radio news announcer who pronounced her own name Laxshmi as Lack-shmee. It struck me as odd, especially since the name is pronounced Luck-shmee. I wondered why she’d say it that way and remembered how often American teachers mispronounced my own name. Maybe the radio announcer never corrected her teachers, and the name stuck. That became one of my first scenes in the book—Lucky correcting her teacher. As for her nickname, I had a shopping bag from the clothing store, Lucky Brand Jeans, in my closet, and since Indian-Americans sometimes pick a nickname that’s easier to pronounce, I wondered if my character Laxshmi would have picked a shortened name like Lucky. The origins of her nickname didn’t turn out that way in the story, but along with that first scene, thinking about my heroine’s name helped give birth to Soulmated.

Did you deliberately focus on creating a diverse book, or is that simply how your books have evolved?

Choosing an Indian-American heroine made the most sense for me. It was an easy character for me to write because I, myself, am one. I don’t think it was a conscious decision to create a diverse book, but I do remember thinking how much I would’ve loved to have read a book like this as a teenager.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting Soulmated published?

I was one of those authors who was lucky enough to get a publishing deal right out of the gate. But while there wasn’t a challenge in getting it published, there certainly was pressure in polishing it enough to make this #ownvoices novel the best it could be. An #ownvoices novel is one where a main character is part of a diverse community that the author him/herself belongs to. Considering the relative lack of #ownvoices authors in the industry, the pressure to impress was nerve-racking. During the editing stage, I sometimes felt like I’d be letting my fellow authors of color down if I didn’t polish the manuscript to a high enough sheen.

How would you like to see representation change in the next 5 years?

I’d love for representation of diverse characters to be so commonplace that we don’t have to call them diverse characters anymore.

Who is your favourite #ownvoices author right now?

Cindy Pon for young adult and Sonali Dev for adult.

What are you working on next that readers can look forward to?

I’m working on Book 2 in the Joining of Souls series and also an #ownvoices new-adult interracial romance. While I continue editing, I’m waiting to hear back from my publisher about Book 2, and hoping to finish my new-adult in the next month for my agent to start submitting.

Author Bio

Shaila_Patel_3x4.5As an unabashed lover of all things happily ever after, Shaila Patel’s younger self would finish reading Cinderella and fling her copy across the room because it didn’t mention what happened next. Now she writes from her home in the Carolinas and dreams up all sorts of stories with epilogues.
Soulmated, her debut paranormal romance, won first place in the Young Adult category of the 2015 Chanticleer Book Reviews Paranormal Awards. A member of the Romance Writers of America, Shaila is a pharmacist by training, a medical office manager by day, and a writer by night. She enjoys traveling, craft beer, tea, and loves reading books—especially in cozy window seats. You might find her sneaking in a few paragraphs at a red light or connecting with other readers online.
You can find Shaila in the following places:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

And buy her books in all of these places:

Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Kobo | Google Play | Books-a-Million

#Ownvoices Author Interview: Ria Fritz

rfts coverrToday I would like to introduce you all to Ria Fritz, author of the Quicksand series, a series of science fiction adventures featuring queer and mentally ill protagonists. As someone who struggles with mental illness on a daily basis, I am thrilled to have Ria here to tell you all about Quicksand and its heroes–but first, check out this blurb for the first novel, Rising from the Sand:

Tioria, the most crime-ridden city on the planet Krygilis, has always been full of trouble for Wynette Brown to get into. Between late-night adventures at lesbian bars and her job as a Protectorate Escort Specialist, she knows the planet, its people and its sources of mischief too well.

But her latest assignment gets her in way over her head, even with her rookie colleague Laris, mechanical genius Plutonia, and flirty detective Kirin at her side. Spontaneous cases of amnesia have flooded the city, and when the clues aren’t adding up, the team has to throw the rulebook out the window. Trusting a Tiorian cop like Kirin is the start of a wild ride in itself, but tracking down the cause of the missing memories will force Wynette to go far above and beyond what she ever dreamed of signing up for.

A story of troubled, imperfect good versus self-righteous evil; of infatuation and love; and of a planet struggling to find itself in a new era.

Recommended for ages 16 and up due to violence.

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Rising From The Sand?

At its core, Rising From the Sand is a big ol’ soft sci-fi adventure with a protagonist, Wynette, who doesn’t really know what she wants – other than to always do the right thing. It’s new adult with sprinklings of an awkward budding romance, camaraderie, betrayal, mystery, and even fun. I drew a lot of those themes from my day job, which is unique enough that I can’t really tell you about it without risking nosy readers figuring out my true identity. (I can say, though, that my job at times involves a lot of crying, hence why I wrote Wynette as a bit of a crybaby.) Every single main character is LGBTQ, though that stems less from the sci-fi setting and more from the situations that bring the characters together in the first place.

What part of the story came to you first?

I had a general idea of wanting to write a brash main character and her sidekick running around with guns on a desert planet, but the rest of the plot didn’t come to me until I wrote the first scene. Wynette’s blunt and unprofessional encounter with her boss and new colleague was inspired by the types of things that tend to happen at my day job.

Do you actively work to write diverse books or is this simply how your stories evolve?

It’s a little bit of both. Several main characters in my works are based on people I know, and when they’re based on people of color, I’m sure as hell not about to whitewash them. Laris, one of the main characters in Rising From the Sand, is based on a colleague and friend of mine who’s bisexual. Maywitch, my current web serial, features a main character who I initially drafted as white – but then I stopped and went “wait, but… her backstory might make more sense if I did THIS!” and I rewrote her as the daughter of an immigrant from El Salvador.

Why did you choose to self publish Rising From The Sand?

When I refer to my current source of income as my “day job,” it’s a bit of a misnomer – it’s really more of a “days, nights and weekends job.” I knew that with the sudden travel and absurd hours my job sometimes requires, I was setting myself and my publisher up for failure if I tried to go the traditional route. I’m working on moving into a more stable job, but the shorter timelines and greater flexibility afforded to self-publishers has really started to grow on me, so maybe I’ll never traditionally publish.

As a fun example: About two weeks after I announced a release date for Chasing Falling Stars, I was informed that I would have to travel for work for the next eight weeks… which would take up all my time until just two weeks before the release date! Fortunately, I made time to finish everything and send out ARCs as planned, but I was cutting it a little too close for comfort!

As an #ownvoices author, how would you like to see representation change in the next five years?

For starters, I want everyone to work to combat this idea that LGBTQ equals “adult” – because that idea doesn’t just come from the Christian right. Cishet folks of all political stripes (and sometimes even LGBTQ folks!) often carry that assumption. Hell, none of my works (so far) even allude to the characters having sex – although that’s changing soon in Maywitch. The fact that I’ve managed to put 170,000 words of non-sexual and only occasionally romantic LGBTQ representation into the universe shows that you can tell and read our stories without having to know the nuts and bolts of same-gender lovin’. This assumption seems to occur with both authors and readers, to be honest, so it’ll be an uphill battle on all sides. I have a ton of respect for the young adult and middle-grades authors who have fought so hard to get us as much representation as we have; now let’s fight this assumption that anything LGBTQ above that age range is erotica.

I’d also like to see more racially diverse casts – and yes, I say that as a white author! I grew up in a town that was 95% white. I want #ownvoices narratives from people of color; I want white authors to step outside their comfort zone and use research and sensitivity readers to craft more diverse stories; I want sci-fi stories to actually reflect the world we live in, and the worlds we’ll be living in, as people move and societies change.

If you could give an aspiring writer only one piece of advice, what would it be?

Make some writer friends. Seriously, their advice, feedback, funny stories and anecdotes will keep you going when you look at your Amazon sales page or your latest royalty check and just want to go “shit, I should quit.”

What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

Three big things at once, because believe it or not, my job has a decent amount of down-time for now! Shattering the Skies, the final book of the Quicksand trilogy, features Wynette and her crew in a more perilous situation than ever before. That won’t be out until late 2017, but I’m sure it’ll go smoothly once I actually figure out what the hell I’m going with it! Maywitch is wrapping up in mid-March, and I’ll take a short hiatus before debuting a short spinoff/sequel that won’t be nearly as dark and scary.

Finally, I’m debuting a Patreon-exclusive sci-fi web serial set in the same universe as the Quicksand series. Cannon Code is set two years before the start of Rising From the Sand and gets a little bit into the origins of one of the characters introduced in Chasing Falling Stars. I’m super excited about it because it’ll give me a chance to flesh out some of the worldbuilding I never really accomplished in the rest of the Quicksand series, but it’s still a standalone story I know I’ll have a lot of fun with.

Sounds like there are some pretty awesome things coming up in the land of Ria Fritz! Thank you so much for doing this interview and for being awesome.

cfs coverrRia Fritz is a queer cat lady who loves science fiction, fantasy and action stories. She currently lives outside Chicago with her two cats, though she’s working on moving overseas for a bit while she’s still young. Her works include the Quicksand science fiction series and the web serials Maywitch and Cannon Code.
You can keep up with Ria on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. You can also purchase Rising From the Sand here.
*All Amazon links are affiliate links and I will receive a small commission.


#Ownvoices Author Interview: Rose LaCroix

Book cover by Adam Primaeros

Rose LaCroix is a trans MtF author who has published numerous short stories and two novels. Today she’s here to chat about her most recent novel, The Vimana Incident, a book that mixes science fiction and historical fiction in a fascinating way.

Please give Rose a warm welcome!

The Vimana Incident Blurb

The year is 1939. The nations of the world have given up on war, and now compete in a race to build the first permanent lunar colony. Edward “Red Ned” Arrowsmith, a British aerospace engineer, finds himself caught up in a cosmic level of intrigue when a secret lunar mission sends him on an unwilling journey six and a half centuries into a bizarre future. But what does this frightening future have to do with Godric of Hereford, a canon who died of ergot poisoning in 1153? Rose LaCroix is proud to present her most anticipated novel, where psychedelic science fiction, historical fiction, and alternate timelines come together in a suspenseful, mind-bending masterpiece.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, The Vimana Incident?
The Vimana Incident is basically about the discovery of the soul as not just a single entity, but a thread that exists apart from time. Without giving too much away about the story, the first protagonist, Edward “Red Ned” Arrowsmith, isn’t simply reincarnated; he exists simultaneously in multiple timelines, and so do a number of the characters he knows. Stories, people, and places are interwoven, and cosmic horrors and benevolent teachers reach deep into timelines. To describe it, I’d say it’s kind of like if Philip K. Dick had written “Cloud Atlas” but with anthropomorphic animal characters.

But it’s also about being out of place. Ned Arrowsmith is a gay aerospace engineer in England in the 30s and 40s, Godric of Hereford is a 12th Century monk who becomes gnostic in an era when gnosticism was a death sentence, and Apollo Morrill is a sensitive introvert in the US shortly after a second civil war between Neo-Nazis and working-class socialists (so far, my prediction of this happening in the 2020s is eerily on track). In every case, these characters suffer greatly just because of who they are. They aren’t built for their time and place and they all have scrapes that they barely survive.

There’s also a psychedelic element. I experimented with psychedelics a few times, and I combined those experiences with mystical experiences I’ve had throughout the years and what I knew about the pharmacology of psychedelic drugs and the biochemistry of brain death to produce a story that really reaches for an ambitious place. I don’t know if I really took it to the level I really wanted to but I feel like I gave it my very best try.

2. What part of this story came to you first?
Well, truth be told I can’t take full credit for the initial idea. It actually started with a dream my husband had in 2011 or 2012 about a crew of anthropomorphic animals in a spaceship (a fox, a wolf, a deer, and a rabbit). There wasn’t much more to it than that until I finally took the idea and ran with it in 2014. I can’t remember what came first, but at the time I was heavy into Philip K. Dick and I had just recently developed an interest in gnosticism through his work. I wanted to write something as maniacally awesome as “Ubik” or “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch,” so I simply sat down at my keyboard and wrote the first draft in four or five months of frenetic writing. The ideas just poured out of me as if I were in a trance sometimes, so it’s all kind of a blur as to what came to me first.

3. The Vimana Incident begins in 1153. How much research did you do before you started writing?
The story actually begins in 1939, but the 1153 sequence was really interesting. I had already taken some classes in medieval history so I was passingly familiar with the period, and I knew some firsthand sources I could refer to. So it was a mix of using what I already knew, fact checking with the available sources, and looking up things I didn’t know ad hoc.

In some cases I just had to make an educated guess. There aren’t very many detailed descriptions of heresy trials from the mid-12th century (the Inquisition didn’t come around until the 13th Century) and heresy trials were usually handled locally by the bishops using whatever methods they deemed appropriate rather than by a central church authority using a handbook. Basically, the Inquisition took existing techniques and standardized them. So I looked at the available information about heresy trials during that period and found a mention of one in Guibert de Nogent’s Monodies where he described the suspects being questioned before a large crowd in a cathedral with a dunk tank to force them to undergo trial by ordeal if they didn’t answer the questions they were asked. Guibert didn’t record what the questions were, so I took a look at the sort of questions typically asked by inquisitors like Bernard Gui in later years and figured out what essential pieces of information a medieval bishop would want to know.

It was basically that way throughout the story. I used what I knew about history and what I knew how to look up, then made educated guesses for the rest. In some cases (like the 1939 sequence), it takes place in an alternate timeline, so I had to look up essential information about what technology was actually available in 1939 and how history might have played out differently if a few key things had changed.

All in all I’m pretty proud of the results.

4. How have your personal struggles with gender and sexuality influenced your work?
Before I came out trans I lived as a gay man for six or seven years, so I had more experience in the gay community than in the trans community. At the time I began writing this story I had only been transitioning in earnest for about a year. This is part of the reason why I have a gay protagonist but not a trans one.

At the same time, I feel like my experience with gender dysphoria informs the story in other ways. As I mentioned, the protagonist of this story is always painfully out of place in his world, no matter what timeline he manifests in. It’s also a story about competing narratives of identity; Ned thinks he knows who he is but is confronted with a deepening and disorienting mystery. When he finally gets to the bottom of who he really is, the truth doesn’t necessarily make him happier, bit it makes him more complete and brings out a certain courage in him that he never knew he had.

In a way, I guess I was trying to explain the profound feeling of that frightening identity crisis a lot of us go through when our gender dysphoria hits critical mass, but in a way that someone who has never felt at odds with their assigned birth gender could relate to. Not everyone can understand what it’s like to feel abject horror at your own body, voice, and name, but everyone can understand what it’s like to be totally out of place and not know who you are or where you stand. From there it’s just a matter of degrees.

5. How would you like to see representation change in the next five years?
I’d like to see more literary magazines reach out to trans writers, first of all. I’d like to see trans writers become more visible and get more press.

I’d also like to see more stories about people who don’t even know they’re trans until they become adults. All my life I’ve always felt weird and out of place but I never knew what was wrong most of that time. I was 21 before I felt something that was clearly identifiable as gender dysphoria, 26 before I really knew for sure I was trans and 28 before I felt strongly enough about it that I knew I had to transition. During that time I ran into a lot of people who thought I couldn’t possibly be trans because I didn’t fit the classic narrative of knowing since I was a young child, and it caused me to internalize a lot of doubt that made it really difficult to finally accept myself.

6. If you could give an aspiring author only one piece of advice, what would it be?
One of the biggest mistakes I made early on as a writer was to try to shut out the influences of other writers out of some silly idea of trying to keep my style “pure.” Don’t do that. We learn to write from a textbook, but we learn to write well from great authors! No matter how “pure” you try to keep it, you’ll still end up writing like the few writers you’ve read, and your lack of reading will show. Painters often learn to paint great works of art by copying the styles of master painters first, and writers should do the same. Read the best writers in the genre you want to write in. Learn the earmarks of their style, especially their recurring themes, tropes, and narrative structures. Imitate a good writer’s style, then consciously change things to make it your own. When you’ve mastered one, move on to another. Combine the best techniques you’ve learned from other writers with your own techniques and tricks. Develop your own mature voice through time, practice, and patience, not by sheltering yourself from outside influences.

7. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?
I have a number of projects in the pipe right now. I’m working on a screenplay based on The Vimana Incident, and I still need to give the Spanish translation a final proofread. But my next novel project is probably bigger and more ambitious than Vimana. It’s called The Linen Butterfly, and it’s going to be a surreal story about simulated worlds, multiple layered realities, gnostic allegories, hints of reincarnation, and a scathing look at the tech industry’s collusion with the Military Industrial Complex. It takes place primarily in two settings, a medieval simulacrum and a near-future cyberpunk VR lab. A dark thread of supernatural struggles, corporate intrigue, and the disquieting specter of World War I runs through it. I’ve been held up a little on this one owing to a very chaotic couple of months, but I hope to have a first draft finished by Summer of this year and a workable draft done by the end of this year.

Rose LaCroix has been writing since her teens.  Her first published novel, “Basecraft Cirrostratus,” was released in 2010 and was nominated for both an Ursa Major Award and a Rainbow Award for LGBT fiction. Her third novel, “Escape from St. Arned,” debuted in 2014 and her fourth novel, “The Vimana Incident,” debuted in 2015. Rose’s research on medieval history has also been published on Britannica.com.
Her influences are many and include George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, Franz Kafka, Philip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley, Hermann Hesse, and H.P. Lovecraft.
She lives in the suburbs west of Portland, Oregon with her husband, comedy musician Kobi LaCroix, and their two cats.
You can read some of Rose’s short stories at roselacroix-novelist.blogspot.com or purchase The Vimana Incident here.

Book Review: Timeless by Crystal Collier

timelessI’ve already reviewed Moonless and Soulless, the first two books in the Maiden of Time trilogy by Crystal Collier, and now it’s time to discuss the third book, Timeless. Timeless is by far the best book in the trilogy, but before I explain why, I’ll let the blurb tell you about the story:

Time is the enemy. In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming. In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil, and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission. Can Alexia escape her own clock?

Spoiler-Free Review

I liked the second book better than the first, and Timeless is an even better book than Soulless was. Alexia has grown from a rather frustrating teenager into a woman I have the utmost respect for, and throughout the book her character grows even stronger and more impressive. She is faced with enormous challenges and overcomes them all with grace, despite also being rather pregnant.

The vivid visual details of every battle scene are exquisite, forming a movie in your head. The emotional turmoil Alexia goes through is deep and confounding. The things you–and Alexia–learn about the Passionate and the Soulless are both fascinating and disturbing.

Timeless is not the kind of book you devour in a single sitting, at least not if you want to understand its nuances. It is the kind of book that makes you stop every few chapters to run through a series of questions in your head. All of these questions are answered in the final chapters of the book, along with many questions from the previous books.

All in all, I loved this book and I would give it a 4 out of 5 stars.

You can purchase a copy of Timeless here.


Spoiler-Ful Review


I’m going to do my best to not be too spoiler-y because I want things to surprise you, but I do want to talk in a bit more detail about the story of Timeless. The most interesting thing about this book is that in many ways it is a direct reverse of the stories in the past two books. The Passionate are a rather long lived race, and in Timeless Alexia mentors many of the characters who mentored her in her own time. She helps them grow the way they helped her grow.

When I reviewed Soulless I discussed the often questionable nature of her relationship with her lover and eventual husband. Many of his behaviours seemed manipulative and kind of creepy, but in Timeless all of these behaviours are explained when he meets her in the thirteenth century: he couldn’t tell her anything about knowing her before without creating massive problems with the timeline. This was a masterful piece of writing that left me quite happy with both the character himself and his relationship with Alexia.

So once again, I would like to give Timeless a 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase your copy of Timeless today!

*All Amazon links in this post are affiliate links and I received a free review copy of Timeless from Crystal Collier

#Ownvoices Author Spotlight: RoAnna Sylver of Chameleon Moon

CM 2nd Edition CoverToday I am beyond thrilled to introduce RoAnna Sylver, author of Chameleon Moon, the first novel in a series that blends fantasy and science fiction. She’s been generous enough to share how Chameleon Moon came to be, so please give her a warm welcome!

Blurb for Chameleon Moon

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.

But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.

They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.

Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…

  1. Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Chameleon Moon

So much of this story is actually made of secrets, spoilers and reveals, that I’m going to tell you something else instead. The often-quoted, sometimes-misunderstood arc words, “Everything Is Going To Be Okay.”

Chameleon Moon is a dystopian novel – but it’s a weird one, and not just for the complex polyamorous relationship network or nerdy Greek mythology allegories. It firmly rejects the grimdark, gritty, frankly depressing dominant narrative of recent years, and so do I. I tell you straight up that it really is going to be okay, so that you’re free to experience the full range of emotion. It’s like wearing a seat belt or strapping yourself into a roller coaster. You can’t fully enjoy the ride if you’re worried about actually being dropped.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not intense, frightening, or painful at times. Art – writing included – is ‘the lie that tells the truth,’ and the truth of our lives as marginalized people, especially now, is that we are often scared and in pain. To sugarcoat or give simple platitudes without clarity or commitment would be inauthentic and hollow. It will be okay If we work to make it better, hold onto one another, and refuse to let each other fall.

It’s also one of the most important things in my life, and a more personal work than you might guess.

The quarantined and burning city, Parole, is a metaphor for how living with my chronically ill body and neurodivergent brain feels. I have several genetic disorders such as Arnold-Chiari Malformation, Townes-Brock Syndrome, POTS, fibromyalgia, and other chronic conditions. On the mental side, there’s acute anxiety, depression, PTSD, and a constellation of other fun brainweird things. My body and brain are constantly on fire, and I can’t escape myself. Any minute it feels like I might collapse, crash and burn. But there’s something beautiful inside me waiting to be let out, I have the power to keep on living, and I am not alone.

Chameleon Moon is about a bunch of scared people – all of them LGBTQIA, polyamorous, disabled, neurodivergent, and/or otherwise marginalized – reacting in very different ways to an impossible situation. Everyone is motivated by the desire to survive, and keep the people they love alive. Trauma brings out the best and worst in everyone… and that’s really fun to write. Everyone is also hiding something, whether they even know it or not. That’s even more fun to write.

This book is also named for change, transformation, and entering a new phase. Everything is in flux, everything is in motion, and nothing will be the same. It’s a Chameleon Moon.

  1. What part of the story came to you first?

The earliest character concepts for Regan and Evelyn popped into my head in 2008, in a hospital waiting room. My dad and I were waiting for my mom to get out of surgery, and I was drawing, trying to keep my mind occupied. I sketched these two out more or less from nowhere, but just had a feeling they were important. I already intended to hang onto them and draw them some more when we got home, because they made me feel so much better. (Like… dare I say it, everything would be okay.)

When we got up into my mom’s room, her roommate’s name was Evelyn.

…I just pay attention to these things. And I’m very glad now that I did.

(Fun fact tho: Cairus Maddox is actually one of my very first… RP characters. I’ve had him since I was 14. Hang onto your old friends, guys! They might end up in a book someday. And even if they don’t, they’re never a waste of time.)

  1. How long did it take you to get from first concept to finished novel?

I’m counting the 2nd Edition as the “finished novel,” since it’s the only canon and fully finished one in my head, so… 8 years since that first thought-seed in 2008. (Don’t give up!)

  1. What was your favourite part of writing Chameleon Moon?

The wild, hectic, exhausting push that was re-writing the Second Edition.

The terrifying floor-dropping-from-under-me feeling, learning that my publisher was closing, my first book was going out of print, and if I wanted to keep being a writer, it was totally up to me. And then everyone around me, family and friends, refusing to let me sink into fear and defeat, reminding me that no, I didn’t have to do it alone after all. Realizing that this was not the end, but a new beginning. A second chance to tell this story, bigger, brighter, truer to my heart, and make everything shine.

Claude Arseneault showing me how wonderful it could be to have an editor who was also a huge fan, helping me bring out story threads I didn’t even know were there, and making everything so much more exciting, deep and real.

Running the cover art contest. Every single beautiful entry, that everyone made because they loved the story and wanted to help me bring it back. Seeing the way Laya Rose brought my characters and world to life, and being able to feel how much she knew and loved them.

Writing the title, and every single chapter name in my own handwriting. (The amazing Lyssa Chiavari actually made my writing into a font! It was supposed to be that! But then in the 11th hour, it somehow broke. So, okay. The show must go on. Every chapter header: my writing, and her digital magic.)

Changing Zilch’s pronouns (back) to they/them. Introducing Celeste, CyborJ, and small hints of Rowan. Writing the songs, “What you Remember” and “Dream Sweet.” Taking out anything I didn’t love, or that didn’t fit with the story’s message of hope in the midst of horror. In their place, adding countless connections, obvious and hidden. Like the ever-growing, unapologetic web of poly love. Realizing that Regan wasn’t the jaded, bitter guy he’d been the first time around, because this time he had people to fight for, and that he loved his life. That’s what changed the book.

Every time I hear that this story helped someone. That they didn’t give up, in writing or life. Or that the 2nd Edition is better, truer, sweeter. Thank you.

  1. How would you like to see representation change in the next five years?

Somebody said today on Twitter that reading CM made them realize how rare it was to see a main character with anxiety. That made me both happy and sad at the same time. I love that readers are identifying so strongly with Regan – that’s one of the most common reactions I get, that he’s super-relatable, which sounds almost funny at first because this is a green, scaly dragon-lizard guy, until you remember that I wrote him largely based on my experiences with acute anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and yes, trauma-induced compartmentalization and amnesia. It means everything that readers can find themselves in him, and Parole’s other citizens. (There’s a lot of me in all of them, too.)

But I don’t want this to be a rare experience. I don’t want it to be special or a surprise. I want disabled, neurodivergent, LGBTQIA, and all forms of marginalized representation to be so common in fiction, and ring so true that we see ourselves wherever we look, wherever we need – and never feel alone, lost, or wrong again.

  1. Who is your favourite ownvoices author right now and why?

I think I read primarily OwnVoices books now, and it hasn’t exactly been a conscious decision, but it’s one I’m okay with. The narratives are rich, nuanced, and real, because they come from our real lives. Sci-fi/fantasy with inclusive LGBTQIA casts and themes tend to be my preferred niche (naturally), and some of my favorite cool people are Shira Glassman, Claudie Arsenault, B. R. Sanders, Kayla Bashe, Kiran Oliver, Bogi Takács, Rachel Sharp, Xan West and Jules Kelley. (I’m reading the ace/aro fairy tale collection Unburied Fables right now, and have loved every one so far in there too!) My TBR pile is vast and a little intimidating, mostly because I’m terrible at finishing even things I really want to, but it also contains Lyssa Chiavari (Fourth World) and Becky Chambers (Long Way To A Small Angry Planet).

  1. What are you working on now that readers can look forward to?

TLS cover take 1Book 2! The Lifeline Signal will open up the world outside Parole and the much bigger story beyond the barrier. (Spoiler: It’s got almost as many problems as Parole, and needs heroes just as badly.) Book 2 is set for “Winter 2017,” meaning ideally the end of January or early February, health/spoons willing. Until then, I recommend picking up the short story collection Life Within Parole, and the standalone story You’re Not Going That Way, which takes place directly before Book 2 and sets up the next chapter of the Chameleon Moon series.


Author Bio

tumblr_o4xfcroHqB1qzqxfeo3_400RoAnna Sylver is passionate about stories that give hope, healing and even fun for LGBT, disabled and other marginalized people, and thinks we need a lot more. Aside from writing oddly hopeful dystopia books, RoAnna is a blogger, artist, singer and voice actor. She lives with family and a small snorking dog, and probably spends too much time playing videogames. You can find her on Twitter @RoAnnaSylver or on Facebook. You can also sign up to support her work all year long at Patreon.

Buy your copy of Chameleon Moon today!

*Please note all Amazon links in this post are Affiliate links