Tag Archives: Emerald Fire

Fantasy and Reality


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.



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.

Gender Stratification by Surprise


When Rachel and I set out to write Emerald Fire, our novel from Torquere Press, we wanted to create a culture where male romantic parings aren’t just plausible, but part of the fabric of the society. In order to do that, we considered the age of piracy and the founding of the colonies on Australia, and extrapolated from there. In the process, however, we created a gender-stratified society by accident.

As a feminist, this intrigues me. I used to (and still do, in my heart-of-hearts) spell women with a y – “womyn” – and argue that there is such a thing as a patriarchy. Though some of my ideas of gender relations have mellowed with maturity, not all of them have. It still makes my blood boil that the posters required by the Labor Department in my former employer’s break room stated that in the state of Illinois, women earn $0.71 for every $1.00 a man earns. The fact that this tidbit is posted on a sanitized publication of the government like Minimum Wage requirements and paid time off just makes me ill. It’s not like the gender wars are over; they’ve just gone subterranean, at least for me.

On Persis, we created a class of worker we call “Keepers,” who fulfill the general duties of homecaring traditionally associated with “women’s work”: laundry, cooking, sewing, and tidying. Over the generations, each of the Keeps specialized in certain areas such as music, a particular art, etc. Keepers are only men; women go into the Guilds.

As we developed the world, both for Emerald Keep and for subsequent novels, we continued to focus on the men – mostly because those are our main characters, since the stories are M/M romance. But one day, we woke up and realized that, in effect, we’ve created a strictly stratified society in which men fulfill certain roles that women, by cultural tradition, do not.

Horrors! I immediately found myself wanting to write a novel of a female character who sneaks into a Keep to become a Keeper, or something similar. Rachel got into it too and we developed a character who runs off to become a Hunter and hires her own Keeper, but in a Contract with no intimacy involved. One day, she falls ill and the Keeper receives a shock when he finds out his male Contract is, in fact, not. We may or may not write this story as-is, or we might change it up and vary how we handle it. But I never expected to one day have to gender-bust in my own world that I created myself!

What surprises have you found, if you’re a writer, in your own writing; or as a reader, in your favorite novels?

My links: Blog | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | LinkedIn | Pandora
Knoontime Knitting: Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Ravelry
Noon and Wilder links: Blog | Website | Facebook
Team Blogs: Nightlight | The Writers Retreat Blog | Beyond the Veil | LGBT Fantasy Fans and Writers

Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Press.
Watch for Taking a Chance, part of the Charity Sips 2012 Series from Torquere Press, benefitting NOH8.

Worldbuilding, M/M Style


In the worlds of fantasy and science-fiction, and all the various permutations of them, one of the single most important elements for the writer to get “right” is the worldbuilding. The readers and viewers expect to be immersed in the worlds the author creates and as much time needs to be given to the development of that world as to the characters themselves.

Now, it’s my argument that we do worldbuilding whenever we write, because the “world” of our story has its own distinct rules and cultures. But that’s a minority view, and for now, let’s concentrate on the worlds of fantasy and science fiction and all the many ways they can be combined. In addition, there are some unique challenges when writing GLBT fantasy or science fiction that aren’t necessarily present in heterosexual environments – though that’s not always true.

Let’s start with the basics. What is worldbuilding?

Let’s take a look at a couple quick videos to get an idea. The first is from Star Wars.

What do we see from this brief excerpt? A desert world surrounds our hero, alien, with strange cars that don’t need wheels. A scary figure in black with harsh breathing threatens a young, beautiful woman. We then see a spaceport, similar to any port with incoming and outgoing craft but with unusual features such as droids and alien figures.

What don’t we see? Dogs, modern fixtures of everyday life, fast food outlets, cars, and other trappings of everyday life. We don’t see tall office buildings, nor do we see billboards. We do see police that look like soldiers (a bit like the German SS, actually), bigots, a teacher, our hero, and pet-like droids that tug at our heart-strings the way good side-kicks are supposed to.

Let’s look at a second scene:

Unfortunately, the scenes I’d like to post aren’t available copyright-free so I can’t, but this gives you a good overview of the world. In quick strokes, Joss Whedon, the creator, paints a picture of a place that is like Star Wars meets the Old West. One of the things I love about this particular series and the movie Serenity is that they got the ships “right” when they’re in space – they have no sound! Sound is a factor of atmosphere and gravity, and in space, there is vacuum and nothing to vibrate to cause sound in our inner ear. However, to my dismay, I watched several trailers and they all added the sound back in!

This actually proves my point, in a way. As we worldbuild, we need to make sure the details we create are meticulous and internally consistent. Firefly was the first space show to get that particular detail “right,” at least that I’m aware of. All the other shows, even Star Trek in its various iterations, add big booming sounds for the spaceship drives.

So, in essence, worldbuilding is creating a plausible environment in which your characters interact with each other and the environment itself. This is why I argue that setting a story anywhere is worldbuilding, because if you interact with the setting then you need to be careful to get the details right – or, at least, consistent. As Mies van der Roh, the architect, said, “God is in the details.”

The unique challenges faced by writing a story with same-sex partners is that the author has the opportunity to create a culture that plausibly accepts, or does not accept, such partnerships. If you want to write a world where two men can have a committed relationship and marry, form family unions with children and a white picket fence, then you need to build a world in which that could plausibly happen. Readers are sophisticated and will be skeptical since, in our everyday reality, being gay is not accepted and is, in some places, punishable by law. (For example, in the Soviet Union, up until its collapse in 1989, being gay was an offense punishable by death.)

In Burning Bright, Rachel and I set it in the world of “now,” but added things like magic and werewolves. But the culture is present-day America, set in Chicago, with all that implies. We didn’t sugar-coat any of the relationships and explore the consequences of being gay in a culture that isn’t openly accepting of it. From the military world the characters come from to the world of present-day Chicago, they must fight for acceptance or hide who they are. This affects each of them differently, according to their personality, just like in everyday life.

Their families, too, are affected by it. Some embrace their sons anyway, others disown them, depending on their own beliefs and desires.

In Emerald Fire, however, we decided to take a completely different tack and create a world where being gay was totally normal and accepted, and necessary for the survival of the people living on Persis. The planet is a desert world, too harsh to live on the surface for one month of the year, called Daymonth, and dangerous the rest of the time. Historically, the settlers protected their women and children and many of the traditional “women’s work” jobs fell to young men. Over time, training academies sprang up to help these young men stay competitive in the workforce and to collectively bargain, provide support, etc.

The most fascinating part of doing this is that we’ve created a gender-stratified society in which women are cloistered and protected. Without intending to at first, we created a situation where women who might want to become Hunters, say, couldn’t because of social norms. This allows us, later, to explore those consequences with our characters, but it was an interesting outgrowth of the worldbuilding.

In classical fantasy, there aren’t many GLBT stories, sadly. My favorite is by Mercedes Lackey, the series of The Last Herald Mage. In the first book, Magic’s Pawn, Vanyel Ashkevron has a secret, in that he’s gay. The story, however, isn’t about a gay boy coming of age – it’s a coming of age story first, and a fantasy epic, and his being gay is merely part of the storytelling. It’s an excellent story on its own merits and shows how worldbuilding, handled by an adept, becomes another character in the story.

One of the best examples of worldbuilding is Anne McCaffrey’s the Dragonriders of Pern. I can’t post the cover paintings here, though I could post a picture of the book itself; however, it’s worth checking out the site’s archives of official and fan art, here. One of the most amazing fantasy artists is Michael Whelan, who did many of the American releases of the Pern books.

What Ms. McCaffrey did, though, is create a world grounded in science and sociology. Settlers found a world in the orbit of a G-type star, just like our own solar system. They landed and interacted with the world in ways that, as we read about them, make sense and are logical and grounded. Rather than a fictional place, these stories become fiction about a place that becomes as real for the reader as the England of Shakespeare. Truly masterful.

There are many other excellent examples in the literature of worldbuilding. What are some of your favorites?