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.

Please stop telling millennials to “pay our dues”, we’re already doing it

Don't I look like I'm about to murder someone? There's probably a good reason...
Don’t I look like I’m about to murder someone? There’s probably a good reason…

Last week I saw a video I’ve seen a thousand times: some older white guy proclaiming that Millennials are all screwed up because we were treated like special snowflakes and then we grew up and realized life is hard. I’m not going to link to that video because I don’t like sharing bullshit, but I want to address the idea behind it. I’ve already gone on a massive Twitter rant about this video, so I’ve Storified the rant for your enjoyment, and I’m going to expand on it below, addressing some misconceptions that came up in conversations around the rant.

It’s not the work we’re upset about

Obviously my rant gained a lot of attention. Most of the people I spoke with were supportive older humans who were also tired of hearing this crap. They talked about the hard working Millennials they knew, and said they wish people wouldn’t make such callous blanket statements about an entire generation.

Of course there were also a couple people whose response was to talk about how much they and their friends struggled when they were young. They mentioned teachers stuck on supply lists for years finally moving across the country just to get a job. And they told me that while their friends struggled through those things, they didn’t complain about it.

Here’s the thing: I am not complaining about having to work hard. Nor are most of my friends. We want fulfilling careers, and we understand that we must work hard to get those careers. This is particularly true for those of us determined to be artists and to have our artistic careers before our 40th birthdays. We understand the work, and we’re willing to do it, because we know the alternative is a lifetime of misery and regrets.

What we are complaining about isn’t even lack of recognition, it’s the lack of monetary payment. The cost of living has risen exponentially, especially if you live in a big city. Adjustments for recent rises in rental costs put the minimum cost of a half-decent life at $2,350/month in Toronto, and there are cities where the number is even higher. And those numbers don’t include payments towards student debt, credit cards or car loans. They also don’t include any kind of savings or investments.

Unfortunately wages in pretty much every industry have stagnated, and so have employment rates. The prevalence of low paying jobs forces Millennials to work two or three jobs, live with roommates until they’re 35, and sometimes choose between eating and paying rent. Of all my Millennial friends, only three can afford to live completely on their own, and they’re all at the upper end of our generation – between 33 and 35. They’re also all in tech, and are the people who were smart enough to get into tech right out of school.

We don’t want to be treated like special snowflakes. We don’t want another fucking handout just for existing – we hated those participation medals anyway. All we want is to be paid a living wage for the work we do, and to be treated like the adults we have become. We want to be able to get married and buy houses before we’re 50. We want to be able to afford those luxurious vacations everyone else is always talking about. We want to make enough money to pay off all of our debts. We know tuition and rent and food aren’t getting any cheaper. We don’t expect that to change. What we do expect is that our wages will also rise.

So please, don’t tell us to be patient. Don’t tell us we have to pay our dues. We know that. We are paying those dues. The older Millennials have paid those dues. All we want is to be able to live a half decent life while we pay them.

On looking like ourselves

I’ve also heard Millennials get shit on because we want to be true to ourselves by doing things like dyeing our hair colours we actually enjoy. I have a couple big problems with this idea.

First off, I think it’s disgusting that we’ve built an entire society on the idea that the only route to success is to lose all your personality and individuality. Yes, society’s been this way a long time, but that doesn’t make it any less fucked up. Being different from each other is a beautiful thing. It allows us to form teams filled with people who are extremely good at different things. It allows us to create art of all kinds. We should celebrate our differences, not hide them.

Second off, women are expected to not look like themselves on a daily basis anyway. We’re supposed to wear make up so we look like we’ve never had acne or gotten tired. Oh, and high heels to make our legs more attractive. And push up bras to make our boobs seem bigger. Adding brightly coloured hair, tattoos or piercings to the mix shouldn’t make us less acceptable as human beings.

I do have to add the caveat that women are more frequently allowed to work in the office with brightly dyed hair/tattoos/piercings. This is most likely because we’re already expected to alter our appearance in other ways. It’s obviously bullshit, because everyone should be allowed to present in a way that makes them feel good, but that’s a completely different rant for another day.

A quick note about changing media treatment

A couple people were also quick to point out the number of articles that say Millennials are great. Yes, there has been a big shift in the media’s treatment of Millennials. The media now talks about our struggles more often than it mentions our “entitled and lazy” attitudes. But too many people have already internalized those ideas about us. I can feel them looking down on me as I walk down the street. It weighs heavy in the room during many job interviews.

The damage has already been done. People don’t change their beliefs easily. And all too often the voices condemning us are louder than the ones applauding us.

You may have been at it longer, but don’t assume I haven’t been working just as hard as you have – and don’t tell me I have no right to a decent life.

#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)

The art of productive procrastination

The Art of Productive ProcrastinationLast week I signed up for one on one mentoring with Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA to help me build a stronger author platform. She sent me an author questionnaire and gave me a whole week to work on it, but I told her she would likely have it sooner–I was procrastinating pretty hard on some administration stuff for my freelance business. She mentioned that she loves the tactic of productive procrastination, which got me thinking. Productive procrastination is one of the core principles of my life, and since I know we all struggle with the un-productive kind of procrastination, I’ve decided to share it with you.

So what is productive procrastination?

Productive procrastination is the act of procrastinating on something you really don’t want to do by doing something else on your to do list, ideally something equally important or at least close to it. In fact, you probably already do productive procrastination. If you’ve ever found yourself washing dishes because you’re avoiding a tough scene, that’s productive procrastination. Our minds are programmed to be active, so your subconscious has found another productive way to use your energy.

The trick is to be intentional about it. If you really don’t want to do something–and you don’t have a pressing deadline–ask yourself what the next most important task is. Cleaning your house is great, but is there something else you can do that will push you closer to your dream life? Make a deliberate decision to do that thing instead. Your house can likely wait another day, but the days you procrastinate on your career add up fast.

Creating a productive procrastination system

As with most things in life, it’s easiest to maximize the benefits of productive procrastination if you create a system. The way I’ve created my system is by building a kind of table/27chart with a variety of productive activities, each one given a ranking based on importance and the amount of time/energy required to complete the task:

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This system makes it easy for me to decide what to do when I feel like procrastinating. Typically I try to do either the next most important thing on my list or something that serves as a warm up for the thing I’m avoiding. If I’m avoiding the next chapter of my book, I’ll write a character exercise or a blog post. If I’m avoiding my blog, I’ll work on fiction or social media. If I don’t even want to look at my computer I’ll clean the house or read. My chart is a road map reminding me that there’s always something I can be doing to improve my career.

I’ve used this system for so long I don’t need to look at it, but you might want to create your own chart and keep it somewhere visible. The wall above your writing space is a great place.

Using productive procrastination to eliminate guilt

Living with a mental illness means that sometimes I’m procrastinating because I don’t feel well enough to complete the tasks on my to do list. I’m also incredibly stubborn, so I insist on doing something no matter how awful I feel. Sometimes I refuse to even admit that I feel awful, although I know that’s the real reason I’ve spent two hours finding interesting people to follow on Twitter.

My productive procrastination list serves as a handy reminder of what I can and can’t do on these days. It’s very similar to the way other people with mental illnesses create lists of what they can do based on how many spoons they have. With the chart imprinted on my brain, I can always find something productive to do, no matter how small. I can also use it to remind myself that the things I haven’t accomplished that day simply required more energy than I had. Another day I will have that energy. This allows me to feel proud of what I did accomplish instead of guilty about what didn’t get done.

A quick note about social media and productive procrastination

You might have noticed that in the last point, I mentioned spending two hours on Twitter. This probably sounds counter productive, because the way most people surf Twitter is counter productive. I do sometimes fall into that trap, but for the most part I keep my social media usage highly focused. If I’m on Twitter for two hours at a time it’s usually because I’m hunting for reviewers and other writers to connect with. Sometimes it’s because I’m participating in Twitter chats, which are a great way to form deeper connections with people. I’ve even met beta readers this way.

Social media only counts as productive procrastination if you do it with focus. Aimlessly wandering around the different social media sites all day might be fun, but it’s not going to further your creative career. You need to build a social media strategy before you can add it to your productive procrastination list. Figure out who you want to connect with, why you want to connect with them, and where you’re going to do it.

Final advice

Productive procrastination is one of the most powerful tools in my creative toolkit. It helps me accept and work with the boundaries created by my mental illness. It also helps me ensure that everything does eventually get done, even if not in the timeline I originally intended. Most importantly, it works for me and my creative process. It might not work for yours, but it’s certainly worth a shot, don’t you think?

Have you ever attempted productive procrastination? Let me know about it in the comments section below!

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: 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!