#Ownvoices Author Interview: Kaelan Rhywiol

Mothmen Final Cover WHITE TEXTI ordinarily don’t invite erotica authors onto the blog because I rarely read erotica (I used to read an incredible amount of erotic fanfiction, but that’s a story for another day… or never) but I was extremely excited when Kaelan Rhywiol offered to come over and chat about her work, which features accurate BDSM. Most of you don’t know this, and I’m willing to bet a couple of you don’t want to, but I’m sort of involved with the kink community here in Toronto and I have a couple friends who actually teach rope play. So I’m thrilled to be chatting with Kaelan today about her work and representation of BDSM/kink in literature in general.Today we’ll be chatting mostly about her novella, Mothmen. 

The Blurb

Dr. Shealyn MacConnelly, PH.D buried her father on her birthday, and getting drunk to mourn both her father and brother seemed the thing to do.

Rian, Shea’s long lost beloved recently moved back to town with his lover, Jai. Returning from a project, he finds out her father has died.

Jai and Rian have a secret, one that Shea needs to know. They’ll have to convince the stubborn scientist before it’s too late and she learns it for herself, the hard way.

A kinky, erotic romance novella with R.A.C.K style BDSM and a m/m/f polyamorous Ménage.

The Interview

Can you tell us a bit about your book, Mothmen?

MOTHMEN is a contemporary paranormal romance novella. It came in at about eighty pages so it’s a quick(ish) read. In it, I tell the story of Shea, a girl on the verge of losing what little she has left, and how she and her high school boyfriend, Rian, get a second chance at love.

Of course, I twist it, because Rian is bisexual, he found love with a man while he was away at university and only came back to Georgia when his parents died.

It’s the first in a planned series of novellas featuring the three main characters, Shea, Rian and Rian’s lover Jai.

It has accurate kink, as I’m a practitioner of BDSM and have been for twenty years, everything is factual, and if it isn’t something I’ve done myself, I’ve researched the hell out of it, as well as spoken to those who have done it.

The second in the series will be released sometime this spring.

Mothmen is ownvoices for a few things other than kink as well. It’s ownvoices for death of a sibling, the book is dedicated to my brother Kyle, who died three years ago, and Shea’s brother Darren is based, heavily, on Kyle.

It’s also ownvoices in that Shea is asperger’s, like me. Her stims are my stims, and the way she thinks is the way I do.

What was the hardest part of writing Mothmen and how did you get through it?

Reliving my brothers death to get the details right. Yeah, that was definitely the hardest part of writing Mothmen for me. I cried through writing any scene where Dare is mentioned (which is like… a lot of the book.) I just sat with it and did it, (I may have gone through a box of wine during the writing of it), but oddly enough, writing Mothmen worked as a catharsis for me. I’ll never stop missing Kyle, but he’d kick my ass up over my shoulder to know I weren’t getting on with my life. Writing Mothmen helped me realize that.

Why did you start writing erotica?

Here I’m going to point out that I don’t write ‘just’ erotica (which is specifically, a snapshot into a sexual act) Most of my published work is exactly that, erotica. Mothmen, however, classifies as Erotic Romance, because though there are my classic hot and heavy open-door scenes, it’s the relationship that matters most in this book.

I do have erotica published, and I’m internationally known as excellent an erotica writer, but I’ve been writing erotic romance for much longer, and it’s my true love. As far as why I started publishing my erotica, I let a friend of mine read some of it, wondering what I could do to make some money. She loved it so much she pushed me into polishing my stories up and even, into trying again for a career in writing.

As to why I write erotica and erotic romance, I think it’s because I’m gray asexual but I have a very prurient mind. All that sexual energy has to go somewhere, for me, it’s usually into my words rather than real life.

How would you like to see representation within erotica change over the next five years? How does this differ from issues you see in other genres?

I’d really like to see both erotica and erotic romance respected more within the writing community. I’d like to see romance and erotica readers deal with less judgment for enjoying a good read about a relationship. It’s the top selling genre for a reason. People love to feel sexy, and both of these genres do that for them. So many people poo-poo romance and erotica as not being ‘real’ writing, but having written several theses in my time, I’ll tell you this, it’s MUCH harder to write erotica and erotic romance (especially if it’s LGBTQUIA+) than it is to regurgitate facts on a page in your own words.

In Sci-fi, for instance, you can have a ‘literary sci-fi’ tacking literary onto it only means you use language a certain way and your writing sends a message. Romance could do that too, and I’d love to see ‘literary romance’ as a thing.

What resources would you suggest to other authors who want to include accurate kink, poly or LGBTQ+ relationships in their work?

I host a Write Kink Right twitter chat once a month, right now I’m going through some of the basics and mythbusting some things that people think they know about kink.

There are a lot of good resources on the web for these things as well, my own website has a page with links on kink, and a reading list of accurately polyamorous writing as well.

Who is your favourite ownvoices author right now and why?

Probably Tiffany Reisz, she’s a lifestyle kinkster and you can totally see it in her writing. She’s written what is THE best flogging scene I’ve ever read in my life.

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

I just finished Blood-Bound, which is book one in the Ace Assassin series. It’s a contemporary paranormal romance with Welsh folklore and pagan origin story. It’s dark, delicious and may make you want to eat it up with a spoon. It’s out for reading to my critique partners and first stage beta-readers. When they get back to me, I’ll make whatever changes it needs, send it out to second stage beta readers and then start querying it. If traditional pub doesn’t pick it up, I’ll indie it sooner rather than later.

I’m working on an LGBTQUIA+ fairy tale retelling, it’s likely to end up at novella length, because there’s only so much plot you can put into a retelling and keep it true to form. This one is one of my favorite fairy tales and I’m not telling which one it is! I’m not sure if this one is going indie or if I’ll try to submit it to one of the smaller presses that accept novellas. I think it depends on how it comes out.

Once I’m finished with the fairy-tale, I’ll be working on Mothmen 2 and edits or rewrites (whichever my mentor deems necessary) on Dreaming, which is the first book in my Science fantasy series, Ilavani.

About the author

KaelanKaelan was born and raised in upstate NY, in the Adirondack mountains. She started writing when she turned 11 and hasn’t ever stopped as evidenced by the massive amount of notebooks and digital files of her writing she has hanging around. Her hobbies include reading, spinning wool with a spinning wheel, cooking, knitting, sewing and making jewelry.

She currently lives in Southern Ontario, Canada with her husband of 19 years, their two kids, a foot fetishist of a cat and a grumpy chinchilla.
The best place to connect with Kaelan is on twitter, where she spends way too much time.

You can find her at https://kaelanrhywiol.com/ or @KaelanRhy. Or you can go buy a copy of Mothmen right away.

#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?

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

#InkRipples: Challenging the Unfeeling “Strong Character” Stereotype

inkripplesblueandgreen-1

Today I’m joining the wonderful Mary Waibel, Kai Strand, and Katie L. Carroll for this month’s #InkRipples posts, and we’re talking all about tropes in fiction. I’ve decided to share a story about my own experience with one of the most common tropes, the “strong” character who only feels anger.

This month’s #InkRipples post is highly personal and includes references to addiction and self harm. Skip to “What’s the point” if you want to avoid this content.

#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.

 

Re-evaluating (my) yearly goals

My 2016 goal list
My 2016 goal list
Somehow or other it appears we’ve arrived at the end of February. The past two months have vanished in a blur of work, personal writing projects, and turmoil on both a personal scale and a global one. Soon enough it will be spring.

And I have accomplished exactly one of the goals I set for myself.

Now, there are two things I can do from here. I can keep the list of goals I created in December and up the number of hours I’m working each week in an attempt to meet those goals, or I can shift gears now and make my goals more achievable.

At this point of the year, most people go for the first option. After all, it’s only February. Nobody wants to admit that they’ve already given up on their goals for the year.  They would rather repeatedly bash their heads against a metaphorical wall than admit that they were wrong about how much they can accomplish–even if they know that humans have a natural tendency to overestimate our own intelligence. Other humans have it, sure, but we don’t want to admit that we’re flawed too.

Personally, I would rather admit my mistakes right away, so I can change my goals now and maybe have something different to tell you come May first. So it’s time to ask a big question:

Why didn’t I accomplish my goals for January and February?

The answer to this question is both simple and complicated. I can sum it all up by saying I overestimated what I would be able to do in the past  two months, but I want to show you how to re-evaluate your own writing goals, so let’s take a look at each goal individually(remembering that these are my quarterly goals):

  • Submit at least one short story — This is the one I actually did accomplish. One short story is out with a magazine, another is with beta readers, and I’ve just finished writing a third.
  • Finish The First Dragon Rider — I started the first draft of this novel at the end of 2016, and as of this morning I’ve only added about a thousand words to this manuscript.
  • Edit MG — MG stands for Moonshadow’s Guardian, a fantasy novel that’s been through about ten million drafts. I already know exactly what I want to do for this edit, but I haven’t even looked at this book since last summer.
  • Add subplots to MG2 — Last year I wrote a sequel to Moonshadow’s Guardian. Right now it’s the most bare bones manuscript I’ve ever written, and it needs around 20,000 words of subplot.

As you can see, not only have I failed to meet any of my goals so far, I haven’t even made much progress on most of them. But why?

For once I actually didn’t overestimate the amount of work I could accomplish, I underestimated how much time other obligations would take out of my schedule. Specifically, I assumed I could plough through edits of Keeper of the Dawn(coming out this spring!) in a week or two. Well, it took about a month, and required WAY more energy than expected. Being the only book I’ve written that isn’t part of a series, Keeper of the Dawn has the least developed world, and I’ve had to figure out many little details. My book is stronger and I’m a better writer for the experience, but it’s been exhausting and I haven’t wanted to do much else.

I also underestimated how much the current political climate would affect my mental health. I knew it meant more worrying about my American friends, but I had no idea how much of a toll that would take on me–or how much I would need to worry. The onslaught of unpleasant news hasn’t made me suicidal, but it has leeched out most of my motivation. Everything I do seems a lot more difficult than it did a few months ago.

Finally, I must admit that my new series has filled my head completely. The real reason I haven’t even looked at either Moonshadow’s Guardian novel is that I’ve been busy working on the world of The Road to War.  I built this world a decade ago for a very different book, one I abandoned for most of those years. In November I had a breakthrough that brought me back to this world and spawned a series. The series grows every time I look at it. Two of the three short stories I’ve written this year are set in this world.  I suspect the series will be well over ten books long by the time I’m done.

So what am I going to do about it?

First I have to assess my situation going forward. Keeper of the Dawn is in its final edit. This edit should actually be done in under two weeks, giving me more time and energy going forward. I should be working more in the next couple of months, but that means less time hunting for clients so it should all even out. For the rest of 2017, my biggest concern will be maintaining the energy to work on my goals every single day.

With that in mind, here are my altered goals for the next quarter:

March — June Goals

  • Finish editing Keeper of the Dawn and send it back to my publisher
  • Write all blog posts for Keeper of the Dawn blog tour
  • Finish The Road to War draft one
  • Write, edit and submit two short stories
  • Edit Fall of the Falhoran (a novella I wrote at the end of 2016) twice
  • Begin editing Moonshadow’s Guardian

How much progress have you made on your 2017 goals? Based on what you’ve done, do you think your goals for this year are reasonable? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

 

#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.

The Joy(and Horror) of Author Photos

My old author photo; this is me on the battlements of the Tower of London!
My old author photo; this is me on the battlements of the Tower of London!

I had a more serious post planned for today, but with the constant stream of horrors we call news in 2017 I thought we could all do with a little bit of fun. So I’ve decided to share a story about author photos instead.

The time for a new author photo

The advice on when to change your author photo is mixed. Some authors take one amazing photo at the beginning of their careers and never change it. Others get a new author photo for every book. Still others suggest getting a new author photo every 2-3 years, so fans can still recognize you as your face changes.

There are two reasons why I decided it was time for a new author photo. For starters, my debut YA fantasy novella, Keeper of the Dawn, is coming out this spring(exact date still pending). I wanted an author photo tailored to the genre I write in, one that looks almost like it could have been taken in a fantasy world.

Secondly, it has been about two years since I took my last author photo, and in those two years I’ve changed a lot. It doesn’t necessarily show in my face(although my cheeks are a little chubbier), but I feel like the picture above no longer accurately represents my personality. Over the past two years I’ve grown more serious about my career, and my dreams have grown much larger. I wanted a photo that shows these changes.

Creating one image for two identities

One of the biggest challenges for me was that the photo needed to represent both my fantasy novels and my freelance writing. This meant I needed an image that was professional without being too modern. As a freelance professional who works from home 98% of the time, I don’t own a lot of business clothes and most of the ones I have no longer fit.

What I do have is this beautiful coat, which I inherited a few months ago:

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Combined with the sweater underneath(also inherited, because that’s the best way to get clothes), this is the perfect balance of professional and fantastical. Of course, this outfit meant I had to do one of two things: overheat like crazy, or go outside. My house is made of lovely red brick, so I decided to take it outside.

This presented two new problems. You see, I live in Canada. Toronto is one of the warmer parts, but it’s still Canada. Which meant that not only was it cold, it was also already getting dark by the time we got outside. We do have lights outside the house, but they run on motion sensors and one of them was broken.

So we spent hours outside, putting the flash in every place we could think of and eventually hauling out a second flash. We got a lot of pictures like these:

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And a lot of pictures like these:

Don't I look like I'm about to murder someone? Plotting, folks, plotting
Don’t I look like I’m about to murder someone? Plotting, folks, plotting

And some pictures that are cool and artsy but not at all what I was looking for:

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Luckily, I did also manage to get the perfect author photo:

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Getting the right photo took us far longer than it should have, and by the end everyone was freezing(well, I was only kind of cold; that coat is wonderful), but it was also a lot of silly fun. And out of all the author photos I’ve ever had, I love this one the most.

*All photos taken by my friend Alex Kennedy

What do you think of these photos? Have you ever gotten a professional head shot done? Tell me all about it in the comments section below!

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 Interview: J. S. Fields

Ardulum-FirstDon-f500Today’s author, J.S. Fields, has written a science fiction series that plays with gender and sexuality in some very interesting ways. I’m thrilled to have her here today to discuss the first novel in that series, Ardulum, First Don.

Blurb for Ardulum, First Don:

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?

Can you tell us a bit about your novel, Ardulum, The First Don?

The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps. When Ardulum first appeared, the inhabitants brought agriculture, art and interstellar technology to the Neek people before vanishing back into space. Two hundred years later Neek has joined the Charted Systems, a group of planets bound together through commerce and wormhole routes, where violence is nonexistent and technology has been built around the malleability of cellulose.

When the tramp transport Mercy’s Pledge accidentally stumbles into an armed confrontation between the Charted System sheriffs and an unknown species, the crew learns the high cost of peace – the enslavement and genetic manipulation of the Ardulan people. Now a young Neek, outcast from her world for refusal to worship ancient Ardulans as gods, must reconcile her planet’s religion with the slave child whom she has chosen to protect – a child whose ability to manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of the ancient myths of Ardulum. But protecting the child comes at a cost – the cultural destruction of her world and the deaths of billions of Charted System inhabitants.

That was the actual snippet from my query for the first book in the series. Ardulum, the first don, is the first in a three book arc that explores the hard science of cellulose with some unusual telekinetics thrown in. At the heart of the series is the relationship between two women, one a religious outcast and the other a genetic relative of the gods the outcast has tried so hard to ignore.

What part of the story came to you first?

I wanted to explore a world where cellulose is the primary polymer of interest. In my field, I get to see a lot of technological advancements before they ever hit market, as well as discuss cool technology that is right around the corner. In the past five years or so, cellulose has really dominated these conversations, from cellulosic food printers (soon, people, sooner than you think), to computers that are simple cellulose weave screens that can roll up and slide into your pocket. If technology carries on like this, we might soon be living in a world where we rely on cellulose for every electronic ‘thing’, and possibly even for space travel.

So I built this world, imagined it, fleshed it out, and then realized that, like planting tree monocultures, having only one polymer control all tech was a recipe for disaster if something could manipulate it. In reality that something would probably be wood-rotting fungi. In fiction, it’s more fun if it’s a humanoid. The series was born.

At what point did you realize you were writing a series?

I realized this was a series after the third chapter. I originally conceived of the book with Neek (our primary protagonist, named after her planet…it’s complicated) and Emn (the telekinetic god/slave) being around the same age, and having romance be a central theme. That did not work from the beginning. Neek had too much baggage from being kicked off her homeworld, losing contact with her family, and being known throughout the galaxy as THE heretic. She wouldn’t trust adults, certainly not ones that looked like these mythological gods she’d sworn for the past ten years didn’t exist. That meant I had to backtrack. Who would Neek listen to? Who would she trust? Probably no one, but a kid could get under her skin.

Having Emn start as a child destroyed any option for romance, but did get Neek to interact with her. There was so much story to tell, however, and having to backtrack meant I needed more time, both in terms of storytelling and in terms of Emn growing up, so I could get to the areas I really wanted to explore. Completely unplanned, Emn’s lifecycle (for her species, the Ardulans), is broken up into three ‘dons’, and that coincides nicely with a trilogy. It seemed a good place to cut each book, once I realized I needed more than one.

How much planning/research did you do before starting the first book?

I had zero outline. In terms of research, I’m a scientist and I work with cellulose, so I guess you could say I have my undergrad, master, PhD, and post doc, plus all my time as a professor invested in it so…fifteen years?

What is the hardest part of the writing process and how do you make it easier for yourself?

The hardest part of the writing process for me is strong emotional development in characters. I can be a guarded person, and that often comes out in my characters, especially in first drafts. I use an extensive system of beta readers to help me pull the character emotions forward. It often takes five to six rounds of edits before I can drag them out and onto paper.

Your series has several alien species, most of which have three sexes. How did you create these species?

I’m nonbinary, and it always frustrated me in fiction, especially science fiction, that all the species seemed to be straight up female/male. Humans aren’t even just female/male, so really this concept is more alien than not. In the first book I wanted a gentle introduction to different sexes and genders. The cellulose part is hard enough for people, so I figured adding neopronouns to that might be a bit much.

Book one has an agender species, which was easy to create as there are plenty of examples even here on Earth of asexual reproduction. The trinary gender structure of the Neek people from book one was actually based heavily from my time living in Thailand. The Thai people have three established genders (you could argue for a fourth, the ’tom’, but I saw far fewer instances of this one so am less familiar with it), and the history and culture surrounding the kathoeys is fascinating. I did not want to copy this gender, but the dynamics of a three gender system have stuck with me over the years, and I wanted to explore how something like that might develop in other species.

The quad genders that are introduced in book two and carry through the rest of the series are my attempts to address parts of my own non-binary status. These four genders stem from the same two sexes, ‘male’ and ‘female’, but differentiate based upon preference. I wanted species with more fluidity to their sexes and genders, and while I don’t spend a great deal of time discussing the intricacies of sexual and asexual reproduction amongst species, they are there, and visible to the reader. Most importantly, a gender binary is never assumed, nor the norm, in any of the three books.

You also have a bisexual main character. Did you decide to make her bisexual at the outset or is this simply how the character developed?

Neek was most certainly always bisexual. Her character was clear from the beginning, as was a great deal of her backstory. She is a woman who knows what she wants, has strong opinions (and strong language), and fights for her views, often to her own detriment. Her sexuality is actually never really discussed in book one, but does come into play in book two.

Should I ever write a prequel to the series, I would love to explore Neek’s early interests across the spectrum. There is no taboo for sex between consenting adults in any of the alien species encountered in the books, which allows for a real freedom of exploration with characters.

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

Honestly, if we could just see more QUILTBAG characters in general, I’d be happy. I understand straight authors may feel uncomfortable writing them, and I get that. I’d be uncomfortable writing a m/f sex scene. That doesn’t mean, however, that these characters shouldn’t be a part of every narrative. It isn’t hard to make a secondary character have a same sex partner, to be androgynous, to have no romantic inclinations, etc. QUITLBAG characters don’t have to be all the protags all the time, but they SHOULD be represented, especially in space-themed science fiction where aliens are involved. To assume that the female/male dynamic is the only option is completely ridiculous, and only further isolates QUILTBAG youth and adults.

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

Finish that first draft! You can’t do anything until draft zero happens!

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

Ardulum, The First Don is being edited and will release February 27th, 2017. Second don will release August 7th, 2017. My project for right now is Third don, which is still going through beta reading. I have another series outlined which utilizes mushrooms, my other passion, within a fantasy setting. It might be a while for those books, however. I still have to live my life as a scientist and professor, and manage all those pesky science publications and books as well.

 

JSFieldsJ.S. Fields (@Galactoglucoman) is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. She enjoys roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, but prefers female pronouns. Always up for a Twitter chat.

You can pre-order a copy of Ardulum, the First Don here.

 

#InkRipples: The fun of choosing a subgenre for your work

inkripplesblueandgreen-1Today I’m joining the wonderful Mary Waibel, Kai Strand, and Katie L. Carroll for this month’s #InkRipples posts, and we’re talking all about genres, the categories we use to organize media.

With my first book coming out in just a few months and a long line of projects preparing for self publication in the next few years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about genre lately. So much time that I’ve actually had four completely different ideas for this article(and I may well end up writing at least one more article about genres).

For me, genre has always been easy. I am a fantasy writer who dabbles in science fiction and the occasional horror. These are genres I know well, genres I’ve loved as long as I’ve been reading.

What is more difficult is choosing a subgenre. There are dozens of subgenres within each genre. In fantasy, the genre most of my work belongs to, there are over 40 different subgenres(at least according to Wikipedia, although I had never heard of half of these before I looked this up). And most of my books take influence from several subgenres, most notably high fantasy, dark fantasy, grimdark, and medieval fantasy.

So what do I do? Well, sometimes I cheat. If you asked me about my debut novella, Keeper of the Dawn, I would tell you that it’s “alternate world fantasy bordering on the line between YA and adult fiction”. In fact, that’s how I would describe most of my work.

This usually means I can conveniently avoid having to pick another subgenre; YA is considered by many its own subgenre(which I think is bizarre, but that’s my opinion), and “alternate world” usually conjures a distinct image in people’s minds.

Now, technically all alternate world fantasy is high fantasy, but high fantasy typically brings to mind images of dragons and elves and incredibly powerful magic, things that only exist in some of my worlds. Moreover, the term high fantasy is deeply associated with Chosen Ones on epic quests, and while I do write these things on occasion, I don’t feel comfortable associating my overall body of work with them.

In some ways this will make my marketing life difficult. There is certainly something to be said for writing consistently in a specific subgenre. The more exact your genre is, the more exact your target customer becomes, making it easier to create highly effective campaigns. People who are fans of a specific subgenre are often incredibly dedicated–look at the sheer number of steampunk cosplayers and creators–and if you choose the right subgenre, you can make a lot of money from a small fan base.

In other ways, writing a variety of things is a much better choice, both for maintaining my personal interest and for building an actual career. It allows me to reach different customers at different times, and many readers are willing to leap from one subgenre to the next for an author they love. If I ever choose to open a publishing house and welcome other authors, my variety of work will also allow prospective authors to get a feel for what I like.

All in all, I believe subgenres are powerful tools for authors and readers to find each other, but I don’t think we should try to force ourselves neatly into one subgenre box or freak out when our work blurs the lines between a variety of subgenres. Many of the best stories already do.

What subgenre do you most like to write in? To read in? Let me know in the comments section below!