Monthly Archives: August 2013

Welcome Special Guest, Shira Glassman


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


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.

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