Welcome Special Guest, Shira Glassman

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I have a treat for you today!  Shira Glassman is the author of The Second Mango, due out this Wednesday the 21st from Prizm Books, the Young Adult imprint of Torquere Press.  I am excited to bring you Shira’s post on developing her characters for her novel.  Take it away, Shira!

Developing the characters and central relationship in The Second Mango, due out from Prizm Books on August 21
by Shira Glassman

Mainstream fantasy and historical fiction is full of the trope of the straight woman dressing in men’s clothing for reasons completely separate from orientation or gender identity. She’s usually aiming for being taken seriously in a traditionally male pursuit, like Tolkien’s Eowyn, Disney’s Mulan, or even the one closest to my character ethnically, Singer’s Yentl. But she’s always straight, because mainstream fiction, until recently, has always been mainly straight, especially when we’re talking about the good guys and the main characters.

So often in their stories, the straight-but-crossdressing woman winds up with a woman in love with her male identity, but the inherent lesbianism of this is never addressed openly. “She found a way to deflower the bride [Hadass],” says Singer. Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio wants to marry Leonore. As a bisexual child, I was fascinated. But neither Hadass nor Marzelline are ever written as lesbians. They are always supposed to be straight women who were taken in by the male clothing. I was tired of being erased by this homophobic silencing. I wanted to see what would happen if one of these straight-but-crossdressing women came face to face with a real lesbian.

Hence the creation of Rivka, my crossdressing warrior woman, and Queen Shulamit, who hires her for protection.

And then, for kicks, I decided the lesbian would be very feminine (not to mention nerdy) because it amuses me when people hear the “gay woman, straight woman, and dragon” tag line and assume the gay woman is the one with the armor, biceps, and sword.

As far as the plot–well, once you’ve established that your two main characters are a lesbian and another woman who isn’t going to be a romantic partner, if you want to write romance, you have to go in search of other lesbians! And so they did. Of course, when you’ve got a warrior and a dragon with you, you’ve also got to have way more exciting adventures than just a Quest for the Royal Girlfriend, and luckily, those adventures came pretty easily and took over the story.

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Check out Shira’s book, The Second Mango, available Wednesday August 21st from Prizm Books.

Favorite Fantasy Reminiscences – Patricia McKillip

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The Riddlemaster of Hed by Patricia McKillip

I have owned my battered copies of Patricia McKillip’s trilogy The Riddlemaster of Hed for over two and a half decades.  I suppose that, more than anything else, is the best recommendation a reader can give an author.  I recently left a very toxic work situation and am remodeling our flat before moving in, all at the same time, and have found myself under rather more stress than is usual.  I turn in such situations to the tried and true methods of solace, which brings me to the Riddlemaster trilogy.

What I admire about Ms. McKillip’s writing is its spare majesty.  She turns simple sentences into lyric descriptions but without a bunch of padding.  While the underlying story is familiar to fantasy readers in that it’s the young apprentice setting out on his quest, losing his mentor then finding him again and achieving ascendancy over evil, in her hands it becomes something beautiful and worth re-reading.  I have lost count how many times I’ve read these books over the years; they have my first-ever bookplates from when I was a teenager.  I open them and I open my memories at the same time.

I have little gift for reviewing books.  I heard today on NPR the review of a new book coming out and wondered at the author’s ability to share the story in such a way as to make the listener want to go read it.  Reading is such a personal experience, after all.  If pressed why I like this trilogy, though, I’d say because it’s well-written – but that’s hardly a specific thing, is it?  What makes it well-written?

Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia McKillip

The story is simple.  Our hero, Morgon, leaves his homeland to claim his bride but is shipwrecked on the journey and loses his memory.  He is rescued by an exiled prince who nurses him back to health.  They are brought before the king and in the king’s house, Morgon finds a harp with three stars that mimic a birthmark on his forehead.  When he plays the harp, his memory returns to him and

he realizes the harp was made centuries before his birth by a man long dead.  Strangers want to kill him because of the stars on his face.  What drives him forward, though, is the knowledge that while he could return home and ignore all of the implications of his own growing power and what his birthright might be, he can never give his betrothed a lie of himself – he must give her his whole truth.

“When you open your heart to the knowing of a thing, there is no room in you for fear.”  Her pacing is masterful.  She balances action with tight conflict and dialog and I find myself awed each time I pick up her books.  They are as familiar to me as the cheekbone of a dear friend and yet I learn something new each time.

Harpist in the Wind by Patricia McKillip

Do you have a favorite series that you turn to over and over, that “stands the test of time,” as it were?  What are your dear book-friends?

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

The Chicagoland Shifters series:

Book 1 BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.

Book 2 TIGER TIGER, available from Samhain Publishing. An All Romance eBooks Bestseller!
The Persis Chronicles:

Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Watch for “Seeking Hearts”, coming soon from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter

Why Fantasy?

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I’ve been asked before, why do you write fantasy?  Why not something more real?  I’ve also been asked why M/M romance, why poly, why Wiccan, why, why, why.  I think it’s a fascinating question, in and of itself, and indicative of the conundrum those of us who like to read fantasy and science-fiction face:  we see more than everyday reality, and we want to read stories about more than everyday reality.

Steven King sums this up nicely.  He writes stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  He twists some element of reality, making it odd or strange, and then throws people into the mix to see what happens.  In an interview about one of his recent projects, a television serial called “Under the Dome,” he remarked that he didn’t make the people unusual; the villain is really the darkness in the people themselves when caged for an extended period of time.  Chilling.

I’ve written before that the trick to writing a good fantasy or science-fiction is in the details, the world-building, if you will.  Ray Bradbury is another one who writes about ordinariness in the extraordinary:  suburban Americana on Mars, for example.  He also writes about the extraordinary in ordinary terms: a painted, tattooed man whose tattoos were done by a woman from the future.  He uses tattoos later, in “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” in more sinister fashion as the tattoos tell the wickedness of the characters and, through them, of mankind itself.

For me, I write fantasy because it allows me to step back and write about things at one remove.  I can pick and choose what “ordinary” elements I want to include and have more control over the world.  I can idealize some elements, as when I added magic to the world of TIGER TIGER, our upcoming release from Samhain Publishing.  As Rachel and I wrote the book, we spent hours roaming Chicago’s north side, looking for the neighborhood where the book takes place, deciding where to put The Factory, the restaurant and BDSM club in the book.  We roamed the lakeshore, exploring where Doc jogged on a regular basis.  All these ordinary details made writing TIGER TIGER feel more real, despite the unreality of weretigers and magic.

What about you?  What are your favorite fantasy stories?

Fantasy and Reality

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One of the challenges of writing fantasy is making it real to the reader.  To do this requires getting the details right.

In our upcoming release, TIGER TIGER, we have a trauma veterinary surgeon who discovers a rogue tiger shifter is killing homeless men in their neighborhood.  If someone with no medical background found a body, the descriptions would be shocked, horrified, even “grossed out”.  Since our main character is a doctor, we have to go with a more calm, clinical attitude.  Rather than describing the body in general terms, he would use the medical terms for things.  And when his friends are injured, he’s going to react as a trauma surgeon and want to fix it, rather than simply worry that they’re hurt, or run away in fear.

Any good fantasy or science fiction story is going to have this emphasis on the details.  In Battlestar Gallactica’s reboot with Edward James Olmos, they first showed paper with the corners cut off as a cosmetic detail indicating the expense of paper.  One of the special effects supervisors said they regretted that since the show had such a long run and they had to cut the corners off everything.  Details.

Even more silly shows that stand the test of time follow this rule.  Star Trek, the original, remained faithful to its own rules throughout its run.  Later, in subsequent, spin-off shows they kept to those same rules.  This made it seem like warp-speed travel is something we’ve already discovered and not something that was made up.

What’s your favorite fantasy or science fiction story that stands up to the details test?

 

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page |  Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, available from Torquere Books.

Check out COOK LIKE A WRITER , available from Barnes and Noble.

Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July 23, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

Promptly!

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coffeetimeromance_groupsDuring the month of April, join me at Coffee Time Romance for a free workshop, “Using Prompts to Expand Your Creativity“. Over the coming weeks, we will experiment with using all five senses – and maybe even the sixth – to get onto the page and create some new material. Whatever your writing background, I think prompts can be useful as a tool for trying new things and for overcoming blocks.

Here’s what to expect:

04/07-13/2013: Week 1 – starting with prompts

04/14-20/2013: Week 2 – generating new prompt ideas

04/21-27/2013: Week 3 – resources for expanding your work

04/28-30/2013: Wrap Party

This week, we’ll talk about what, exactly, is a prompt?  How can one use a prompt to get onto the page? If you have ideas, or even healthy skepticism, I hope you’ll drop in and join the conversation. All you have to lose is your writers block.

Once we get the “what izzits” out of the way, we’ll get into the meat and potatoes of the workshop and start writing prompts.  The first assignment is up for you to play with, and will be joined by others as the week progresses. Do you have a favorite way to get on the page? I hope you’ll share!

Head on over to Coffee Time Romance and join me in the fun!

 

- E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page |  Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

Thoughts About World-Building

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TigerTiger72webAs Rachel and I work on the edits for our next book in the Chicagoland Shifters series, TIGER TIGER, I am reminded about the challenges of worldbuilding. BURNING BRIGHT, the first in the series, came out more than 18 months ago.  In the time since then, we’ve written more material in that universe but also others.  As we edit TIGER TIGER, we have to remind ourselves of conventions we developed for our characters and setting.

One of the ways we do that is to write a Concordance, where we keep all the material in one place.  We include a glossary of foreign words we use (plemya for bear shifter clan, for example), conventions we’ve developed (the Factory vs. The Factory), and editing requirements for this particular editor and House.

What are some of your favorite worlds in books?  I think, if you look closely, this sort of attention to detail is what lends the particular world its sense of authenticity.  Mercedes Lackey’s series The Last Herald-Mage establishes the way that characters refer to homosexuality.  One of the cultures he encounters look at homosexual relationships as a normal iteration of human interaction and have a term for it in their language.  Fast-forward to several hundred years in the future of the story and another series (Mage Storms) and the characters use a shortened form of the foreign word to refer to such relationships.  This kind of intrastory consistency is what makes for good worldbuilding and is, frankly, fun to read.

It’s a lot of work, though. ~grin~

What are some of your favorite worldbuilding examples?


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora

Knoontime Knitting:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
The Writer Zen Garden:  The Writers Retreat Blog | Forum | Facebook | Twitter
Team Blogs: Nightlight | Nightlight FB Page |  Beyond the Veil | BtV FB Page | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers | LGBTFFW FB Page
Publishers: Samhain Publishing | Torquere Press

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Books.

Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.

Games Workshop versus Spots the Space Marine

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Oh for heaven’s sake! I have only just read about this http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/02/06/space-marines-and-the-battle-of-tradem-ark/

It seems that the enormous corporate RPG giant, Games Workshop, is suing MCA Hogarth, an indie author for whom I have the greatest respect, because she heinously published a book called “Spots the Space Marine.” The charge? That GW owns the phrase ‘space marine’ and she’s therefore infringing on their copyright.

I might have some respect for GW if they’d chosen to test the strength of their case on someone like Robert Heinlein, who has also written about space marines. But no, they decided to take their multi-million dollar hammer against an indie author writing to pay for teaching materials for her daughter’s education.

I might have some respect for them if they chose to protect the copyright of a phrase they had created themselves, but ‘space marine’? That’s like a marine, in space! What else would you call them? Will they try to copyright ‘space ship’ next?

MCA Hogarth writes a damn fine tale, and also provides regular useful business advice on her blog/LJ. I have no hesitation in recommending her work to anyone who enjoys thoughtful SF with gorgeously intricate world building. I would suggest that you snap up a copy of Spots the Space Marine while they’re still there to be found. But if the worst comes to the worst and she has to take it down, her Kherishdar stuff is wonderful too.