MystiCon – A recap

This was a profoundly interesting weekend.

MystiCon 2017 was my first time at a conference/convention as a panelist. I really, really enjoyed being able to talk about some of the many interests that shape my writing to a crowd. It also generated some cool thoughts and ideas that may turn into blogposts! That’s always exciting for you all.

One of the things I found most valuable about this was the ability to connect with fans. I think that as a writer it can be hard sometimes to feel that connection. Even if you have a very active following online, I find that waiting for comments or responses to things posted into the void of the internet can be heartbreaking. You put a lot of your self into your books and into your platforms, and those moments of interaction are rare for most small-time authors like myself.

Going to a convention as an author is the opposite of that. If you have been subsisting on a trickle of interaction, you are suddenly guzzling a fire hose. I have experienced such at World Fantasy Convention and Dragon*Con previously, though to a lesser extent in many respects. Because of that previous experience, I knew to shelter my fragile introvert heart with many breaks and lots of sleep and down time between events. This was especially important for me this year since I was a) required to be certain places and b) am juggling a lot right now. If you need advice on handling conventions, you can check out this post from last year.

With proper care I had a great experience! It was so great to meet people, including authors and readers, at this event! I’ve included some pictures below for your entertainment, though I didn’t take nearly as many as I would have liked.

Until next week!

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One of the Guests of Honor was a Twin Peaks cast member, so lots of Twin Peaks stuff! I really love these little rice crispie trees.
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These guys were only set up on Saturday and I didn’t wear my Vader dress until Sunday so we definitely missed a group photo opportunity. Sorry, imperials.
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Chibi-Usa!! She is so pretty, and that dress is gorgeous!
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I am never going to be able to achieve this level of perfection. So awesome!

Inspiration – Movies

While I’m at MystiCon this weekend, you get this last inspiration post. The previous two on books and music can be found earlier on the blog. You also get the complete cover for Daughter of Madness in this post! It’s at the end, so if that’s what you’re clicking in for, scroll down until you get there. If you’d like to stick around and hear about some of my favorite movies, please do so!

So honestly I don’t watch a whole lot of movies. Some of my favorite ones are Japanese animation, which I’ve mostly left out of this list by dent of it being a bit of a different animal. I do love movies, and my tastes are pretty diverse, but lately it’s really hard for me to watch or read anything that I don’t mostly know is not going to treat women like objects. I’m sure someone will accuse me of being overly sensitive in that, but luckily I don’t care. The past two months have been mentally pretty stressful for women, I think most of us can admit, so exposing myself to more misogyny than required is not really on my list of things to do. That said, most of these movies are older.

This makes sense, you know, because it’s about inspiration that led me to write The Creation Saga.

Lord of the Rings

This is sort of cheating, because I read the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit  ages ago. When I was about five, actually. My dad read us the entirety of Tolkien’s work as soon as we could reliably communicate audibly. This was the origin of my fantasy bug.

The first LotR adaptations were animated. I remember being absolutely terrified by the goblins. There are no goblins in the world of The Creation Saga, which is just as well. People are brutal enough. As a child, though, you don’t think that people can be evil necessarily.

The Hobbit is actually my favorite of these stories. It’s a story about a person who comes into himself, not about a person who is broken by what happens to him, as in Frodo’s case. Bilbo finds camaraderie and learns about the darknesses of the world. In the end he experiences betrayal, too. The world of all stories is a vast one, complicated in its own way. The right and wrong of things seems simpler than it perhaps is. Gods walk among men, or something like them – wizards and elves with powers that can reshape rivers and mountains. Rocks move and trees talk. There is something appealing about all of that, and I don’t think any fantasy writer can quite escape that appeal.

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The movies, which most people are familiar with, contain much of that magic and mystery, but couch it also in blood and battle. Eowyn is one of my favorite characters, predictably. She wants so desperately to prove herself to her people, to save those that she cares for. She suffers so much loss and rises to fight despite it. She has a lot of rage, Eowyn. I was happy for her to find Faramir, but in some ways I think it did a disservice to her character to resolve her questioning so easily in the wake of her uncle’s death.

Mad Max Fury Road

Mad Max is not a fantasy franchise. It is dystopian scifi, but it’s a very good example of some of the themes I was playing with in Daughter of Madness. Not the “who killed the world” refrain, though that speaks to me so well. Instead I think of Furiosa, of her sense of loss and the way that it moves her forward into rage and eventually into triumph. I think of the violence that she renders on others and which is rendered on her. I also love the vast landscapes of Fury Road, the reds and blues of the deserts. They don’t make it into Daughter of Madness exactly, but the austerity of that space was a place that provided me a lot of inspiration.

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Star Wars!

How could Star Wars not be on this list? I mean talk about movies. These were my favorite movies for a long time and I still love them. And Luke and Leia are twins! With very different fates from Liana and Liander, of course, but nonetheless. Royal twins fighting for their birthrights….it’s hard not to see some thematic resemblance.

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Still, the person I think probably jives with Liana’s character the most in the Star Wars universe is probably Jyn Erso, at least in my head. I saw Rogue One well after I had finished most of the Daughter of Madness story arc, but I felt that kinship instantly. She has the same trust issues and rough and tumble edges.

Alright, dears, the moment you’ve all been waiting for! I will be at MystiCon this weekend, as mentioned earlier this week, so enjoy this while I’m gone! (And if you are at MystiCon, check out one of my events for cool free swag!)

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MystiCon schedule

Hey everyone! Taking a brief break from cover reveal stuff for a special MystiCon Schedule post!! Check out the panels, readings and signings I will be doing below.

Reading – Friday at 4:30 pm, Room 533

If you want to hear an excerpt from the upcoming Daughter of Madness, check in here! I’ll post the excerpt up on the blog the following weekend for those who can’t make it.

Panel – “It’s the End of the World”, Friday at 6:00pm, Ballroom C

We’re going to talk about apocalypses! I’ve got some fun projects I’m querying in this vein, and I LOVE dystopias, so I am very, very excited.

Signing – Saturday at 11:00 am

I’ll be taking over one of the signing tables at eleven! Come out to get free swag, sign up for the newsletter, buy a book, or chat about your favorite characters!

Panel – “Epic Scale Fiction”, Saturday at 4:00pm, Dogwood 1

I’ll probably mostly talk up the Creation Saga and the epic fantasies I have loved that have inspired it. Maybe there will be some LotR and ASOIAF references!

Panel – “I Must Create a System”, Sunday at 9:00am, Ballroom C

I actually have no clue what this panel is about or how I got on it, since I intentionally was trying not to schedule things for the morning. Wee!

Panel – “The Last Race Benders/Gender Benders”, Sunday at 11:00am, Dogwood 1

I am ridiculously excited to talk about gender/race bending in ANYTHING.

Panel – “Viewer’s Guide to Anime”, Sunday at 2:00pm, Ballroom E

Anime is the best. I will probably talk about my pet peeve of how everyone assumes all anime characters are white and obviously they are Japanese???? Unless otherwise specified??? Otherwise mostly glorious anime goofiness and how I love reverse harems. Yep.

I hope to see you all there! If you need more information, you can check out their website.

 

 

 

Inspiration for THE CREATION SAGA: Books

So the draft of Daughter of Madness is done, and the edits continue. While we wait, here is the second piece of the cover reveal, and a list of some of the books that inspired The Creation Saga or which The Creation Saga might inspire you to read. You can find the first piece of the cover in this post about music.

Shadowmarch by Tad Williams

This book contains a lovely re-imagining of the immortal fairy. You will see some familiar elements that I didn’t intentionally mimic, I swear, but which creep in regardless: the twins as main characters and royal heirs, the king imprisoned, dark magics which undermine the self. It’s a lovely series from a writer who is praised as one of the foundational scribes of modern fantasy. You may be most familiar with Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, which I read as a wee lass of thirteen or somewhere around then.

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Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

This book started a revolution in the fantasy genre, so it’s no surprise that it would inspire me and many other writers. One of the things I like the most about Martin’s writing is that his women are complex and just as terrible (sometimes more terrible) as the men they interact with. Melisandre comes to mind as a fiery lady you do not want to mess with, and Arya as a relatively sweet child who is twisted into a murderer. Cersei, who you can’t help but admire in a crazy, screwed up way, and Sansa, who you go from pitying to possibly fearing – these are the kinds of women that interest me the most. These evolutions definitely inspired some of the character arcs in The Creation Saga.

The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lyn Flewelling

Compared to the previous two series, this is a lesser known book. That said, it is probably the one that had the most overt influence over my writing. This book is messed up at best. It’s about a princess and prince who are born together –
problem being that the princess is set to inherit and will be murdered by her uncle if she survives. So her caretakers murder her brother and essentially pass her off as him. It’s more complicated than that, of course, but this book is definitely worth reading if you liked Mother of Creation.

 

The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

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Who, looking at the cover of this book, would not want to read it? I’ll confess that I read this book after I had written Mother of Creation, and while I was deep in the Daughter of Madness draft. It was so…echoing, to read this. Nostalgia, perhaps? I’m not sure, but the themes in this book are very much themes that come up in the Creation Saga, perhaps more than in the other books on this list in some ways. So if you are enjoying that, I recommend. Plus, there’s a dragon.

Okay, now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Check out those eyes.

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Daughter of Madness progress update

The subtitle of this blogpost should be: the good, the bad, the ugly, for reasons that will become apparent, but I didn’t want to bulk that up too much. Suffice to say, publishing a book, no matter how you go about it, is a complicated process. When you are self-publishing, that process becomes vastly more complicated.

I’ve talked on here previously about what exactly goes into publishing a book. This is a good chance to dig into some of that and really give you an idea of where I am and where I’m going. Stick to the end for a treat!

I started writing Daughter of Madness officially in August of 2015, so about a year and a half ago. In December, I printed out a zero draft when it became clear that, as written, DoM didn’t actually have an ending. With some major outlining and reworking, I was able to put together a functional blueprint, which I began writing to ASAP. On February 4th I finished what I would call the official rough or first draft of the long-awaited sequel to Mother of Creation. Over the next few days, I typed it up. Then I printed it off and cuddled it to my body.

This is where we take a moment to celebrate, because hell yeah. That’s right I finished that book. Damn straight.

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At this point in time, DoM stands at around 93,000 words, 61 chapters, or roughly 270 pages (before formatting). That’s a lot of pages and a lot of chapters for something that is, at this moment in time, largely a labor of love. Once my euphoria wears off, it’s time to buckle down. There is still plenty of work to do.

While I’ve been rewriting the draft, I’ve also been working with my cover designer. Every good book needs a cover, and covers are not created in vacuum. I use Design for Writers for all of my novel covers, and they are absolute gems to work with. In order to create a good cover for my book, these folks sent me a giant questionnaire. I’m talking about fifty in depth questions, many of which require multiple paragraph answers. I worked on this through the month of December and have continued to work on it in January. Once I finished the questionnaire, Design for Writers used it to create the cover art for my book, giving me marketing material for its eventual release. The first part of the cover is at the bottom of this post!

In the interim, now that the book is finished it will need initial rewrites. Then it will need to sit, unseen by me, for a couple of weeks while I try to forget all about it. Think of this as a time to let the book cure, as it were. At this time, I will send it out to my alpha readers, the people who typically read something that is essentially hot off the press from me. They will tell me if the book is a hot mess or not. I will attempt to fix any glaring issues they point out after they have given me their initial critique. Alpha readers are mostly family and friends in my world, so this is not designed to be a deep edit necessarily, just a “wow that thing was a mess” read or “oh no, you’re on the right track!” Good times.

Next, I will read the book one more time to make sure it makes sense. I will do read-thrus for things like: word choice and anachronisms; setting/climate consistency; timing of various events; consistency with the previous book in terms of setting and characters and plot. That part is actually not terrible, though it’s not super fun. Meanwhile I will shop around for beta readers or an editor – someone who doesn’t love me who will lay the hammer down. This person or persons will read for decent writing and plot consistency, world-building, and all the good things that make a book. Different writers use different methods for this bit, so this is what works for me. So far I don’t have a dedicated editor or beta team that I use every time. No doubt this piece of my process will evolve. Once comments come back on the semi-final draft in terms of edits or issues, those will be incorporated, or not, at my discretion, because that is how this writing thing works.

The least fun part is my last editing pass. This pass is for typos. I have a particular thing I do for this pass – I read the manuscript backwards. Aloud. It takes forever and it is miserable. I usually catch a metric boatload of typos.

At this point I hate my book, and also feel quite accomplished. I format it (this is also hard and mind-numbing, but, as is not always the case with other tasks, at least has clear signs of completion). The formatted copy goes into various epub proofing programs, which I then glance over one last time to make sure I didn’t screw anything up. I fix any issues with the cover (not the copy, but the print cover measurements) with my cover folks if I need to. Then, at last, I have a book.

At some point during all of that magic, I am marketing in some fashion (perhaps a blog tour, Facebook event, or signing, for example). For Daughter of Madness I have some cool graphics planned for Twitter and Tumblr, but that’s a ways down the road still. Right now I’m aiming for June/July as a release date, though given the wedding that may get complicated.

Hopefully I’ll have a couple of other small projects to release this year as well to tide you over, but dates are hard to firm up at this point given the whole getting married thing. Just trust that I am working away on all the things and that as soon as I have a date, you will have a date.

In the interim, I’m excited to see you all over the next few months as I travel to conventions! And no, I haven’t forgotten that I promised you a bit of cover. Are you ready?

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Ugh, I love it so much.

Tune in next week for part two!

Happy Black History Month!

In honor of Black History Month, I wanted to do a brief post talking about black authors and media that I’ve been consuming recently. One of the things that I’ve realized as an adult is how separated black and white media and stories can be. My parents made the effort to read me lots of bedtime stories from lots of different cultures, but honestly I grew up in a pretty racially homogenous, white, southern county for most of my youth. There wasn’t a whole lot of education or exposure to any other culture in the broader society I lived in, much less black culture. I figure if I can do a little bit with this blog to make you aware of some really great black creators and histories, then I am hopefully helping to break down some of that cultural isolation. So enough about me. Let’s get to the content.

Fiction

I’m going to guess that most readers of this blog are going to be looking for fiction. I can’t say that the names in this list are not well-known, so if you have any other recommendations, please add them below!

N. K. Jemisin

Jemisin writes the Broken Earth Trilogy, which has made my best-of list two years in a row. She’s also the author of the Dreamblood series and the Inheritance Trilogy. She is one of the major names in science fiction and fantasy right now, having won the Hugo for Best Novel in 2016. She was the first black person to win that award.

Victor LaValle

You may remember my blogpost on The Ballad of Black Tom, which also showed up on my best-of list for this year. That was the first work I had read by this author, but he has a few books out apparently, including one that won the American Book Award in 2010. The Devil in Silver looks particularly interesting.

Octavia Butler

This is an old standby honestly and I almost didn’t put her on here because she’s so well known. But if you’re trying to get into black sff, this is a good place to start.

History

Switching gears a bit, I’ve recently been reading March by Rep. John Lewis and two white dudes who should nonetheless be credited for their artistic prowess, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell. It chronicles John Lewis’ experiences during the Civil Rights Movement. It’s a great series of graphic novels, well-paced and only a little cheesy at points. It’s taught me a lot about the different movements going on at the time, and works as a good introductory point for those less familiar or younger.

If you are looking for movies, there are two great ones that I can recommend. Hidden Figures is a family-friendly must-see. As a plus, it also has rockets! And Selma, which was released in 2014, parallels some of the events in March, so watching that movie was very interesting as it gave more depth into other conversations that were going on at the time. There are a lot of things about the Civil Rights Movement and the years since which have been fundamentally white-washed in our broader social narrative. If you’re looking for an entryway into that, these three works are my recommendation.

If you are also interested in older history, do I have the resource for you! Medieval-POC is one of my favorite Tumblogs, and is run by an art historian who makes a point of seeking out and showcasing a lot of beautiful old art that features people of color. Seriously, check it out.

Poetry

I could not finish this post without mentioning Warsan Shire. Most people know her for collaborating with Beyoncé on the visual album Lemonade (pictured). She has been making poetry for a while, though. She published her first collection of poems in 2011, and was named the Young Poet Laureate for London in 2014. All that, and she is only 28.

I hope you’ve enjoyed! Please support black artists and creators this month, and leave recommendations for other black creators, histories, and stories below.

Inspiration for THE CREATION SAGA: Music

Every writer has a playlist. Or twelve. I wrote Mother of Creation ages ago, so I can’t really tell you what I was listening to at the time. Probably a lot of Motion City Soundtrack, knowing me, but who knows. I did something a little different for Daughter of Madness and actually made a (couple) of playlists that were just for this book. So I thought I would post some of the songs that inspired me the most while writing the current draft, which is only some hard rewrites and two more chapters away from being done. This post will be part of a series on inspiration for The Creation Saga. It’s not going to be a consecutive series, per se, but you’ll be able to find the posts through The Creation Saga category, under Book Releases. They’ll also be tagged. Some other posts you’ll likely see will include discussion of books, movies or anime, history or mythology, and Pinterest boards (yes, I have those).

Oh, and stay tuned to the end of this blogpost for a quick summary of Daughter of Madness, as it will appear on the back cover of the book!

So without further ado, what music reminds me of The Creation Saga?

I have to start out by saying that 9 out of 10 songs are going to be centered around Liana. Most people who read the books find that their favorite character is the seer, Nicola. I love Nicola desperately, but Nicola is not the character I connect with the most. She is a witness to much of what is happening around her, and it changes her. But the stakes are not as high for her, in many ways. Witnessing – that’s something powerful. We’ll talk about that a bit more in a later post, but suffice to say the role of the witness is one that speaks to me.

The catalyst, the main protagonist, is Liana. She moves the story forward. The main plot is about a princess who is overthrown, and the vacuum of her absence. She is the fulcrum upon which the world turns, unfortunately for her. So the musical choices below largely reflect her perspective as the source of my inspiration. Here are five (because I had to stop somewhere) amazing songs that make me want to write my socks off.

I. “Which Witch,” Florence and the Machine

Just so you know, Florence is pretty much on every playlist I have, along with Grimes. Those two don’t sound like they go together, I know. Anyway, this song of all her songs is the most like Liana in Daughter of Madness. “Been in the dark since the day we met/Fire, help me to forget.” If you need proof that this is a Liana song, well, just consider the demo cover.

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II. “Yellow Flicker Beat,” Lorde

Yes, this song is already part of a soundtrack. It’s specifically from the soundtrack for on of the Hunger Games movies (I’m not sure which one, though it sounds like it should be from Catching Fire.) This to me speaks pretty strongly of the princess as rebel, the princess as exile. “They used to shout my name, now they whisper it.” The beat helps. Basically most of my writing music when I’m really trying to make wordcount is going to have a beat.

III. “Oblivion,” Bre-l and Grimes

This version of this song is not the most popular. It’s a pop-punk reimagining of Grimes’ trademark style. The pop-punk is like coming home for me honestly. That was about all I listened to for a long time. But I am a huge fan of this song in its original context as well. Grimes is currently one of my favorite artists. Sometime I’m actually going to make it to one of her shows.

IV. “Operator,” Vanessa Carlton

This song has a softer tension, and it honestly reminds me the most of Jessa. Jessa is actually one of my favorite characters who are non-viewpoint. She goes through an important transformation in Daughter of Madness. Because it reminds me of Jessa, it also reminds me a bit of Nicola as well. There are actually lines in this song that remind me of all of my characters in this book at points, which makes it a very good song to include on this short playlist.

V. “Blood on Me,” Sampha

There’s a lot of fear in this song. The atmospheric vocalizations, the sense of pursuit, the pattering of the drum like a panicked heart. There’s a lot of fear in Daughter of Madness, too, the kind that comes after terrible crimes have been done to you. Fear gives rise to courage, but it also gives rise to monstrousness.

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So that’s the end of my short list here. I hope you enjoy all the music and continue to look forward to Daughter of Madness, which will be out sometime this year, preferably before June because really. I’ll post a date on the website as soon as I have one! We’ll also have a cover reveal coming in the next blogpost!

Feel free to chime in with your favorite writing tunes, or the songs that remind you of your favorite characters! And now, without further ado:

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Text for non-sighted persons:

Liana has lost much to Herka’s manipulations, though nothing so precious as her sanity. Emerging from her madness, she finds the world changed – her body wasted, her son gone, and her kingdom still beyond her reach. Only the fires of vengeance remain, and she will build the flames high.

Daughter of Madness tells the story of a princess and her twin, a soldier and his king, and an oracle who is more than she seems.

I am SO EXCITED.