My DARK WIZARD is on sale for only 0.99c!
My DARK WIZARD is on sale for only 0.99c!
This week at the SFF Seven we’re throwing out some promo to other creatives in our community. I’d like to give a shoutout to two people who’ve been a huge help and source of insight and calm guidance to me in the last week, P.H. Lee and Phoebe Barton.
Lee, who prefers not to be gendered, is a writer of mostly fantasy and science fiction, and is a member of SFWA. Lee has a number of stories you can check out, but I recommend starting with Your Own Undoing. It’s a haunting and compelling take on the wizard-familiar relationship, and explores a fall from power with gut-wrenching and unflinching empathy. Lee told me it’s a metaphor for an abusive relationship, which I absolutely can see. So, fair warning on that content, but if you can take that, absolutely give it a read.
Phoebe Barton is a queer trans science fiction writer who serves on the SFWA Board of Directors as a Director at Large. You can check out her stories, games, and nonfiction. The one I’m recommending today is The Mathematics of Fairyland. This is a delightful and mind-bending mashup of fantasy and science fiction that explores how Martians handle faeries and how a princess can access Fairyland from a space station in order to rescue her princess. It’s a heartbreaking and deftly woven glimpse into the madness of grief.
In news from my world, I’m sorry to say that we’ll be delaying release of FIRE OF THE FROST. Not by much! It will still release in December, just a couple of weeks later. Ish. As soon as we set the new release date, we’ll let you know!
This week at the SFF Seven, we’re posing the question: How do you answer when people at parties ask “have I heard of you?”
I confess that I posed this question of the group, since I get this question frequently and I’m usually at a loss as to how to answer. So for a while there I was going around asking other authors how they handle this.
My friend, Jim Sorenson, master of the witty comeback, suggested Sam Malone’s line from Cheers, “Not many people know this, but I’m kind of a big deal.” I couldn’t find a gif of that one though. The line is a good litmus test for how much someone is paying attention.
But in actuality, I’ve ended up going with a tiered response, much like KAK suggested yesterday, only a bit less… snarky. Most of the time, I’ve found, people are asking the question as a rote response to discovering the person they’re talking to just might be famous in some way. Where writers are concerned, the answer is almost always “no.”
I have, however, found another litmus test response. I return the question by asking if they’re a reader. This small-talk gambit works for a multitude of scenarios. Most of the time, the person is NOT a reader, and asking this question will elicit a – sometimes long – explanation of why they don’t read. It works really well for the principle that the easiest way to engage someone in conversation is to ask about themselves. People who don’t read will often talk about the last book they DID read, or how they hated being forced to read in school, or how busy their lives are. This gives rich fodder for letting them talk about their lives. If they’re not actually interested in the fact that I’m a writer, this lets them gracefully never return to the topic and saves me the painful sorting of the fact that, no, they haven’t heard of me.
If they ARE a reader, well! Now the conversation gets interesting. I can what genres they read and we talk books. We drill down pretty quickly to whether they read my genre and, if they haven’t read my books, they usually end up by whipping out their phone and buying one. Happy outcome!
Speaking of buying books, I’m happy to report that I’ve finished the draft of my novella for the upcoming FIRE OF THE FROST anthology! I still need to settle on a title, but it takes place at Convocation Academy in my Bonds of Magic world, taking place at roughly the same time as DARK WIZARD. You can preorder the anthology now to have it slip into your eReader in December! (Print will be available, but you can only preorder through my website right now. Print will be available via the usual retailers on release day, just not for preorder.)
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: “It’s Been A Year: Pandemic Year 2, Vaccines, New Political Administration, has it affected your writing? Better? Worse?”
This week at the SFF Seven, we’re sharing our scariest book or scene. No, mine isn’t from DARK WIZARD, although I love how creeptastic that image is. The thing is, I can’t yet share what I think is the scariest thing I’ve ever written.
See, I never think of myself as writing all that scary. James is the horror writer. KAK delves into the twisted psyche. Usually I see my books as being occasionally dark, but not all that creepy. Readers may disagree. But in general I’m kind of a fragile flower. I don’t like being scared. I don’t watch or read horror. I’m the one who leaves the room during the scary scenes in a movie, or – far worse! – the gory ones. You guys know me – I’ll write all the sex scenes and I advocate for closed-door violence.
Why can’t that be a thing?
But this New Thing I’ve written, the Sekrit Project, is pretty scary. It’s tense and twisted and… I already told you I can’t share it yet!
Yeah, I hate violence, but I love a tease.
So, though it’s not all that scary, and because I couldn’t resist using this creepy image with DARK WIZARD, I’ll share an unsettling scene from that book. Enjoy!
Having to deal with the inn, the askance stares at his appearance, the averted gazes when they took in his wizard-black eyes, the shocked ones at his white hair—all of it broke him out of his circular thoughts. He tipped the stable girl well to walk Vale cool, rub the gelding down thoroughly, and give him an extra portion of feed. And he tipped the boy in the pub well to bring himself an extra portion of feed, also. Gabriel sat alone in a shadowy corner, using a simple moon spell to reflect curiosity away from himself.
He was more tired than he’d realized, feeling sleepier by the moment as warm food settled into his stomach. He wasn’t used to winter’s bite. And he’d pushed hard to reach House Elal, thinking he’d have days of rest after the wedding. Sopping up the last of the rich mushroom gravy with the excellent fresh bread, Gabriel settled back to savor the rest of his wine—an excellent, robust Elal red, though not as good as Veronica’s special reserve—and watch the room.
Thus, he was in the perfect position to see the hunters arrive.
He knew them for inhuman even before they fully entered the busy tavern. The air seemed to bend before their passage, adjusting to the presence of that which should not exist in this world. There were six of them, slinking into the room like an amalgam of a jackal and a weasel in vaguely human shape, arching like hounds to sniff the surfaces they passed. Nobody else seemed aware of them, so Gabriel made sure to look past the hunters also, focusing on the minstrel blithely singing a song nearby, exhorting the crowd for coins.
He needn’t have bothered, for one of the hunters lifted its snout in the air as if scenting something interesting and fastened one eye on Gabriel. It slunk in his direction, pausing to steal a handful of coin from the oblivious minstrel’s tip basket. It tossed one on the table before Gabriel, an insolent sneer on its distorted face.
“Wissard,” it hissed, revealing inhumanly sharp teeth—several rows of them.
“Hunter,” Gabriel returned. He readied himself, though his water and moon magic seemed unequal to dealing with a creature like this. The books in the House Phel library, at least the legible ones, were short on spells for martial application. Under the table, he loosened his sword in its scabbard, a far more reliable defense.
“You know what I am. Good. I ssseek a familiar, on behalf of the Convocation. Have you ssscented one?” It pushed the coin toward him with a sharp, curving claw.
“This place reeks of sweat and ale,” Gabriel replied. “I’m sure any good familiar would turn tail and hide in their room.”
The hunter sniffed the air all the while Gabriel spoke, barely listening. “You have no familiar.”
“Unfortunately, no. I am but a minor wizard.” Gabriel drew more moon reflections around himself, just in case any of his power leaked through. On the advantage side of being a moon-based water wizard, it was a quiet magic, and often overlooked.
The hunter fixed one ochre eye on him—the length of its snout making looking forward with both eyes at once impossible—and made an unpleasant choking sound. Laughter? “Why are you here, wissard?”
Gabriel gestured at his cleaned plate. “Best mushroom gravy in all of Elal.”
The hunter eyed him for another excruciatingly long few moments. Without another word, it slunk out again, its cohorts streaming to join it, pouring out the door again like smoke. Gabriel blew out a breath, quaffed his wine, and went to his room for the night—dropping the coin, plus a few more, back in the minstrel’s basket.
I’m working away on my novella for the FIRE OF THE FROST midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology! The story takes place in the Bonds of Magic world more or less at the same time as the events in DARK WIZARD. You can preorder now for the December 2 release!
Also, this is really cool! THE ORCHID THRONE is on this amazing Book Riot list: 20 OF THE BEST ENEMIES-TO-LOVERS FANTASY BOOKS. Fair warning! This list might have you click-buying. It sure did for me.
At the SFF Seven this week we’re talking censorship. Charissa and KAK already provided excellent discussions of the difference between censorship and blocking disinformation and hate. So, I’m going to take the topic in a slightly different direction, which is looking at the ways we censor ourselves.
A perennial problem for writers – perhaps for all creatives – is getting rid of the other voices in our heads. Something new authors often seem to ask is how to write about topics their families consider off limits for one reason or another. They can be concerned about dealing with sexual topics or gender-related ones, politics, family secrets, etc. It’s not easy to free ourselves to write when there’s that persistent worry that someone we love will read it and be angry. And so we censor ourselves, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.
On a larger scale, we live in an era of loud voices. In an attention economy, where businesses thrive or fail based on clicks, the loudest, most persistent voices can be the most lucrative. This kind of environment isn’t conducive to the silence creatives need in order to coax new art into being. Those loud voices can drown out the quiet whispers of something fragile and newly born to the world. The voices can also leak into our thoughts and dictate what we should and shouldn’t write. Thus we censor ourselves, killing those new sprouts before we even have time to discover what they are.
What’s the solution? There are no easy answers. I can offer that I have a poster hanging over my desk, one I made myself. It says:
What would you write if you weren’t afraid?
I look at it often when I hesitate, when voices leak into my head, when I start worrying about the final story and how it will be received. It keeps me going.
Write through the fear. You can always edit later.
From Darynda Jones, a standalone novella set in a world where vampyres are hunted for sport. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation is Winter, a warrior bred to save them from extinction. Forbidden to fall in love, Winter cares only about her oaths… until she meets the devilish prince of the underworld.
Amanda Bouchet transports The Kingmaker Chronicles to modern-day New York City. An exiled warrior finds himself in the Big Apple just before the holidays. On a vital mission for Athena, he meets an imperiled French teacher from Connecticut, and soon they’re knee-deep in inexplicable phenomena.Grace Draven brings a novella-length expansion of a stand-alone short story in which a cursed mage-king from a frozen kingdom is obligated to marry a woman of high-ranking nobility but meets his soulmate in a lowly scribe.
This week at the SFF Seven our topic is: Before Chapter One. We’re asking each other, “What do you have in place before you start drafting? Inspiration board? Top-level plot bullets? Full outline? Flushed out Character Profiles? Etc.”
This is kind of funny for me to answer today because I’m starting Chapter One on the novella for this anthology. And yes, it will be Chapter One, because I’m a linear writer. What do I know about the story at this point? I know this:
It’s set in my Dark Wizard world (Bonds of Magic), where an ancient holiday is resurrected and clandestine lovers find the courage to pursue forbidden joy.
Heh. I had to figure out that much so I had something to say for the reveal.
At least I know the world? That’s because I’ve already written and published the first two books in the Bonds of Magic series, DARK WIZARD and BRIGHT FAMILIAR. My as-yet-untitled story in FIRE OF THE FROST occurs away from the protagonists of the main arc, but I don’t know yet who the characters will be. This is a departure for me as I start with character 99% of the time. So, this will be interesting!
But my short answer to the question is: nothing. Pretty much all I have before I start drafting is a twinkle in my eye, as it were.
Let it shine, baby. Let it shine!
Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “Queries & Synopses: Bane, Benefit, or Both?”
Besides all of us immediately screeching BANE – because all sane human beings hate writing synopses – I’m here to tell you to learn to, if not love, then at least bear with them. Being able to write a decent synopsis is a critical skill for a writer, even indies. Same with queries. Come on over to find out why.
This week’s oxymoronic topic is Writer fashion. Is it a contradiction in terms?
Okay, okay – that’s me being a smartass. The subtitle actually asks: What do you – or don’t you! – wear to write? Come on over, baby, to find out what I’m wearing…
Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is whatever is on our minds. Which is always dangerous to ask. We’re all busy people, so I’m going to bet we all have about 10,000 things on our minds, all bumping and jostling for priority. Come on over to learn about how I’m living dangerously!