Edmonton Comic Expo!

Well, here we are.

Books! More Books!

Plus swag – official Averraine Cycle tattoos, chocolates, bookmarks, and bags. (There are even some earrings, if your life is overcrowded with bookmarks…)

And me!

Come by and say hello.

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The Things You (don’t) Need

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Time was, a man or woman grabbed a wax tablet and a twig and started scratching cuneiform symbols, telling a story or pouring out their love for someone in verse.

Then there were those people with the quill pens and the oak-gall ink.

Actual lead pencils, and then fountain pens.

Typewriters, where if you made a mistake, you pretty much had to start a whole new page and retype what you’d already written.

Microsoft Word….

and then…

Pages. Evernote. Grammarly. FocusWriter. FastPencil. Scrivener. yWriter. InDesign. WriteItNow5.  A hundred others.

 

Writing software is proliferating, and so are the articles telling you which one you should be using.

We are so focused now on the bells and whistles of the technology that many writers seem to have forgotten that it isn’t about that. It doesn’t matter how well you master the latest “writing program”. If you cannot tell the story – if you aren’t holding it in your head and your heart – all the programming tricks and electronic aids won’t make you a writer.

I know that some people find the stuff useful.

It’s the intense preoccupation so many writers (especially newer and/or younger writers) have with the tech part that worries me.

Because while all those files and folders might help you keep organized on some level, these are only minor blips in the toolkit.

The real implements of your trade must come from inside you. Spending endless hours arranging the alphabetical list of character names, or labeling your chapter folders, or designing the lay-out of the geological data of your worldbuilding: that’s not writing.

File clerks file.

Tabulators tabulate.

Writers write.

 

It’s here!

mourning rose eBook (1)

 

Manners meet magic in this tale, where curses mix with curtseys, and Charm takes on a whole new dimension.  Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen fans will love this romantic fantasy, set in a Regency that never was.

Eglantine Mayland is this Season’s Reigning Toast, and seems destined to make a good marriage. When the wealthy Lord Valremer, a confirmed bachelor, begins to court her seriously, Eglantine’s cousin Polyantha senses that not all is well. Too many of his actions seem to be part of a web of evil that twines itself around the Mayland family.

And why is a well-known rogue and smuggler so interested in their plight?

 

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Early bird special pricing of 99 cents USD, for a (very) limited time.

Writing Men, Writing Women

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This year, N. K. Jemison went to WorldCon, and won a Hugo. Her third Hugo, actually.

She gave a speech, as is customary, and she used that moment to send out a few truth-bombs.

And while many people agreed wholeheartedly with her words, some people felt … I don’t know – attacked?

Now, recent revelations throughout the entertainment world should have awakened the survival instincts of the men in the audience, and made them hold their tongues for five minutes, and then consider carefully how they phrased their objections to her words.

Mostly, they did not.

One very well-known male writer of fantasy, who I will not name, called her words “graceless and vulgar”. He said some other stuff too – most of which can be parsed as “she pulled the race card and made me feel uncomfortable”.

Leave aside that she had the perfect right to say whatever the hell she wanted to – it was her moment, and it was pretty unique: I mean, how many other sff writers can boast winning Hugo in the same category three years running? – and leave aside that in that moment the male writer revealed himself as a mean-spirited and sexist/racist arse.

I think male writers need to consider the fact that they exist because there is an audience for sff literature.

And that audience is made up of a lot of women, and people of colour, and young people.

Sure: there are a whole lot of middle-aged white men reading sff…but they are due to start dying off any day now. If you, as a male writer, aren’t planning to die off as well, you might wish to consider your future viability as a writer.

Young people are much more aware, positive with, and accepting of things like race, and gender, and non-binary sexuality. They want their sff to reflect those things.

People of colour have started to storm the barricades, too. Just look at the response to Black Panther. Look at that and tell me that isn’t a market yearning to be wooed.

And women?

Well, women buy books. A whole lot of books.

It’s getting a lot of attention.

Like in this study here:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2158244018780946
“The mean age of respondents is 42.3 years and the gender balance favors female respondents, who make up 54.5% of the total. Mean, median, and mode ages were lower for females than males.”

Frankly, you can rail all you like about the unfairness of these realities in the privacy of your bedroom, but self-preservation alone should tell you that saying any of that in public will do one thing, and one thing only.

It will prevent any woman, person of colour, or readers under 40 from being tempted by your books.

It will.

Perhaps not overnight. But little by little, as the information about your attitudes towards people who might otherwise have been interested in your work gets around, the willingness to spend actual money on your work will trickle away.

And trickles join up to become streams, and streams become rivers.

And rivers eventually empty into the sea, and are absorbed as if they had never been.

 

When I’m stressed out…

I try to comfort myself with memory-food.

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I make dessert. I’m not very good at very many desserts, but this one – this one is really delicious. Especially for breakfast. Plus: it’s ridiculously easy. (Mom-approved, too – she said it was the only way to make me eat more than coffee and a Danish at 8 am.)

Peach Crisp

3 cans (398ml each) of unsweetened peaches, drained, reserving ½ cup of liquid

¼ cup of walnuts, chopped fairly small (walnut crumbs are better, because then: no chopping!) Optional, and other kinds of nuts could work – pecans would be nice.

1& 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

3 tbsps brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

Salt

1/3 cup flour (any kind, though I prefer unbleached white flour)

1/3 cup of butter or margarine

 

Slice the peaches into slivers and arrange in a 9”x9” glass ovenproof baking dish (or whatever). Sprinkle the nuts and 1 tblsp of the brown sugar evenly all over them.

Melt the butter or margarine (in the microwave for 35 seconds on “high” will usually do the trick)

Mix the oats, flour, the remaining sugar, cinnamon, and a bit of salt together in a small bowl, making sure it’s all really well integrated. Add the melted butter/margarine, mix well.

Add just enough of the reserved peach liquid till the mixture is well coated but not sopping wet. Pour the remainder into the peaches in the dish.

Top the peaches with the oats mixture. This is a bit hard, but try to get it to spread as evenly as possible.

Bake at 375 degrees till the topping is getting crispy and brown, and the peaches have cooked off most of the juice (but not all!)

Cool at least a little bit before devouring.

This reheats really well, (30 seconds in my microwave) and like I said…best breakfast ever!

 

 

*The nice thing about this dessert is that it isn’t really all that high in calories – in a “per serving” sense, at least.

The trouble is that you have to be a good girl and exercise some self-control not to eat three servings at once….and I am rarely that good a girl.

One trope that we all agree on…

 

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There’s been a lot (I mean really: A LOT!) of discussion about being more diverse in our settings and characters when writing fantasy novels.

And the most recent and recurring one lately, -the one that critics are most likely to put at the top of the “List of Things that Need to Stop” – is the “Medieval European setting” one.

Now, I admit freely, I am an offender here.

I am.

In my defense, not only am I a white person with an ancestry from Northern Europe, but I spent literally nearly four decades studying/researching daily life in Iron Age and Early Medieval European cultures.

They say “Write what you know” – and that is what I know. I know Celts, and pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons, and Vikings. I know what they probably ate, what they probably wore, how their legal systems worked, and how textiles could function as an economic currency and a unit of prestige. I know how their villages and towns and family units were organized and I know about their power structures and the effects that those had on day-to-day life. I even have a couple of pieces of paper from institutions of higher learning to back this up.

So I used that, and I continue to use that – with huge modifications – but it is a trope, and it’s a trope that is like comfort food: it’s reassuring and familiar, and so my readers fall in with it without much work on their part.

There is a problem with this trope, though, and it is two-fold, and that’s where the trouble really begins.

First off, I agree that many, many writers, myself included, are middle-class white folks, and we are all too well-represented in fantasy. We need to not only change ourselves but learn to aggressively make space for others in this field. We’ve had it too easy for far too long, and as the dominant social force, we have a responsibility to open the doors – to read and support less (socio-politically) powerful voices.

You can disagree – you can say that you, personally have no such duty to others – but if you do, you are revealing something about yourself that is, to say the least, a bit unpleasant.

Selfish, and ungenerous, and more than a little bit racist. Also: not willing to learn new stuff.

You cannot be a member of an occupying force and not take responsibility for the effects of that occupation. The last 1000 years is a goddam monument to the problems that can arise when people decide to abdicate or deny that responsibility.

That’s Part One of the problem.

But there is another side of this, and that one goes not to your worth as a human being, but to your credibility as a writer.

We gravitate to the “medieval European” model because modern fantasy literature has a couple of giants (Tolkien and Lewis, mainly) who are our guiding stars.

We ate them up as children/young adults.

We wanted more – and then, as writers, we think that the way to get more is to write it ourselves.

But most of us do it *badly*.

By badly, I don’t mean that the writing itself is bad: the words might be nicely arranged, evoke the reactions they are meant to, and be beloved by everyone who reads them.

I mean that in terms of reflecting a realistic or believable “medieval Europe” we get it wrong – so wrong that we essentially caricature our own past.

Look: history is not an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord to pick from. You cannot just play around with the bits you like, and call that “world-building”. That’s how you get readers unable to suspend disbelief: if the foundations are weak or contradictory, the edifice will not stand.

 

And that’s where the two parts of the problem collide.

Because if we take on board the first problem and attempt to become more diverse, while remaining mired in the second problem, where we just randomly grab onto the six or eight stereotypical bits of scenery/characteristics we are aware of via the media, we will do an enormous disservice to the concept of inclusivity and diversity, and perpetuate the inherent problems.

And while we’re doing that, we’re also doing some other things that are equally heinous: we are continuing to silence and exclude other perspectives and voices AND we’re writing really crappy fantasy.

Not what any of us should be proud of.

 

The Mourning Rose Cover Reveal

Pre-order the eBook now for only 99 cents!

mourning rose eBook (1)

MR ebk cover

The Mourning Rose

Manners meet magic in this tale, where curses mix with curtseys, and Charm takes on a whole new dimension.  Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen fans will love this romantic fantasy, set in a Regency that never was.

Eglantine Mayland is this Season’s Reigning Toast, and seems destined to make a good marriage. When the wealthy Lord Valremer, a confirmed bachelor, begins to court her seriously, Eglantine’s cousin Polyantha senses that not all is well. Too many of his actions seem to be part of a web of evil that twines itself around the Mayland family.

And why is a well-known rogue and smuggler so interested in their plight?

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