I find myself unexpectedly without a book to work on today, so it’s going to be a day of playing some Grand Theft Auto, right? Right? Yeah, probably not. While edits for BFT haven’t reached me yet, my editor did send me a honey-do-list of things he’d like from me, namely a map of some kind (which I do have! Hooray!), a Dramatis Personae (which I might have somewhere in my files, to help me make sure I was spelling names right), and a royal family tree (which I don’t have). There’s also back cover work to be done, which I think I’m actually going to start that over from scratch because the one from my query is just blah. So there’s plenty to work on there.

On the other project, I’ve officially kicked off the agent hunt, but am taking it slowly and meticulously this time. The previous time I was flat-out set on getting an agent; this time, I’m feeling like it’s less imperative. I like the idea of having someone on my team who can not only poke an editor for an update but actually get a timely response to such things, not to mention that keen eye for contract slipperiness, but the romance genre does appear to be more open to unagented authors than SF/F, so I could go it alone if need be. So this time, I’m picking and choosing my queries carefully. There is a lot of research to be done, websites and blogs to read, Twitter feeds and interviews to peruse to help me solidify my small list of agents to approach.

In the end, I’m likely to do a little bit of all it. But mostly I’m going to be doing laundry. Lots and lots of laundry.

Been quite a while since I’ve made an update, and I’ve been very busy but very productive. So a little update on matters:

The publication date for my first novel The Bone Flower Throne has been set for October 19, 2013, a really good date since that coincides with MileHiCon here in Denver, so I’m looking into possibly throwing a release party there. More details on that once I get reservations and pub dates more solidified.

Production on said novel is moving along. I expect to receive edits any day now, and Panverse has hired a wonderful artist to do the cover art: Zelda Devon, who–along with her partner Kurt Huggins–did the lovely web art for this very site. The initial concept sketches I’ve seen are very exciting. Arcs are scheduled for mid July, so if you’re interested in reading and reviewing the book on Goodreads or Amazon, drop me a message via the contact page and I’ll see what I can do. Word of mouth is very important with small press books, and the best way to spread it is with reviews.

As for promotion, I recently set up a Pinterst account and created boards for not only The Bone Flower Throne, but its sequels and another project I’ve been working on (more about that below). They are collections of art and photographs the relate to the books or remind me of things that happen in them (there are a few pieces that are original art related to the books and they are marked as such).

On the new writing front, I’ve been extremely busy. I’m in the final stages of finishing up work on my alternate history romance, which I’m calling Fugitives of Fate. I had a tremendously fun time writing this book, set very early in my One World series, and I have at least one more novel idea I’d like to pursue at some point, but for now it’s time to focus on seeing if I can sell this.

I’m about to test out the agent waters again, to help me decide if I’m still hanging out in the unsaleable pool and whether or not I should pursue this novel’s publication on my own. The good news is that I’ve found at least one major romance publisher with a new imprint that is looking for alternate history, so I’m more hopeful about the book’s chances than I was at the beginning of the year, but the whole “I’ve never read anything like this before” I’m hearing does make me worried (granted this statement is often followed by “Sounds really cool!” and “I want to read more!” but still…. I guess I’ve become a bit gun-shy.). I’ve signed up for my first ever pitches with an agent and an editor at the upcoming CRW minicon in August, so I’m getting my stuff prepared for that 20 minutes of terror.

And that’s where things stand right now. Lots going on, most of it probably not all that interesting to talk about on a daily basis. Writing is mostly just putting the words on paper and rearranging them over and over until they look the best, not the most exciting thing to read about.

When I became interested in writing romance, my reading predilections steered me directly into historical romance. I like a good relationship story, and I love history, so what’s not to like? But as I’ve started following the blogs of historical romance writers, I’ve started noticing something; writers referring to historical romance as “alternate history”. I’ve always shook my head at this, but I keep seeing it come up again and again, and it’s really started to feel like a burr in my boot every time I see. Do folks just not know what alternate history is? I cut my teeth in science fiction writing alternate history, and from what I’ve read of historical romance, nothing I’ve read is true alternate history.

So what is alternate history? At its core, AH is What if?. Further, Wikipedia defines it as looking “at ‘what if’ scenarios from some of history’s most pivotal turning points and present[ing] a completely different version, sometimes based on science and fact, but often based on conjecture. The exploration of how the world would look today if various changes occurred and what these alternate worlds would be like forms the basis of this vast subject matter.” So in AH, the world which we know has been changed and the resulting future is noticeably different than the one we live in.

The thing about historical romance is that, in my limited reading so far, there’s been no “what if?” and no significant altering of history. There’s a lot of taking liberties with historical figures, usually minor ones, or outright substitution of actual historical figures with made up ones, but in the end, history is not fundamentally different than we know it; the world is not changed so that Columbus never discovers the Americas or the Roman Empire survives into the modern era. History continues on in pretty much the same fashion it already did. All the historical romances I’ve read thus far miss this key benchmark of alternate history.

So, if they aren’t alternate history, then what are they? Taking a look at Uchronia’s definitions, I’d call them Secret Histories. Some aren’t even that; they’re just romance stories told in a historical setting.

But why is the distinction even important? Maybe it’s not, to anyone but me. See, I want to read actual alternate history romance, romances set within “what if” scenarios where the story is not confined by actual history, where unlikely relationship combinations occur thanks to history not unfolding the way it actually did. My own current WIP is exactly this kind of story; it takes place early in the timeline of my One World series, within a couple years of the point of divergence–the Mexica defeat and kill Cortes before the Spanish can start their march inland–and as a result, two historical figures who would have been enemies instead end up falling in love with each other. And the story is highly aware of its own alternate-ness and makes it a plot-point. These are the kinds of stories I’d really like to read more of.

Am I just missing the true alternate history romances out there? Have you read any/can recommend any? My impression is that there aren’t many–if any–out there.

Welcome to the seventh week of Short Fiction Wednesday, in which I feature the first 1.5-2k of a story from my ebook collection Night Bird Soaring and Other Stories, which features 17 different reprint selections ranging from fantasy to horror to alternate history. If you enjoy what you read here, you can purchase the full collection at Amazon or B&N for $2.99.

Night Bird Soaring and Other StoriesThis week’s selection returns us to the Aztec alternate history series known as The One World. This story–“Dedication”–first appeared in Dragons, Knights and Angels, and examines how some of the Mesoamerican religious practices have evolved into the future. Human sacrifice still survives strong, and has gained wider acceptance through the use of the Omitzmahuizyoti: people cloned from the general populace to be sacrificed on the temples in place of ordinary citizens. Not everyone agrees with this practice though, and when Quicaltia meets his own Omitzmahuizyoti named Tlacuilo, he’s determined to liberate his twin from his bloody destiny….

Dedication

The stone serpent’s ruby eyes shimmered in the crisp morning sun, its two-hundred-foot body stretching up the staircase, the head resting at the bottom and the tail disappearing onto the top-most platform. Workers painted its fang-bared face with glittering opalescence. Halfway up the pyramid stretched a band of frescos featuring frogs, fish, and egrets. Only the occasional shuttle flying silently overhead interrupted the clean blue expanse of the sky.

Quicaltia—the monument’s chief architect—counted a hundred and eighty steps as he and the construction foreman climbed the pyramid. “The second one-eighty is on the other side,” the foreman said. “The extra five are over there.” He pointed to the one-story blue temple to be dedicated to the rain god Tlaloc in two weeks. “The goldsmiths assure me the idol will be ready by early next week.”

Inside the temple, stone façade covered only one wall but several white-mantled workers were cementing a second together over the steel frame work. Another man worked on a mural of mountains and rain clouds on the one completed wall.

“Exquisite work,” Quicaltia said, stepping up for a closer look. He’d painted in his youth, before family obligations forced him to take up more tedious but lucrative work.

“A thousand thanks,” the man replied.
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