the-bone-flower-throne-displayA lot of stuff said around Facebook and Twitter has got me thinking lately about my own lack of promotion on my book. Confession time: I intentionally don’t talk about my book very much because I’m afraid of a backlash of “OMG, she talks about her book so much! Ugh!” or because it feels immodest of me to do so. Somewhere along the line, I learned that modesty in general is a good thing, and bragging is unattractive and vulgar, particularly for a women, and I don’t want to be any of those things. And yet, if I never talk about my book, how will anyone know to buy it?

More confession time: my sales haven’t been good. They started off all right but they’ve slowed to a crawl. I know I need to do more promotion, get more word out about the book so that it can sell more, but gosh how that desire to not look like I’m bragging or begging for sales is so overwhelming. I love my book; I put blood, sweat and tears into it for 4 years, and I’m putting the same into the next two books, just on a shorter timeline.

Third confession time: when all the talk of diverse books, particularly SF/F was going around, I didn’t mention my book at all despite the fact that it has zero white people in it, takes place outside the normal pseudo-medieval European setting, and features a strong female lead. Why? Well, at the risk of repeating myself yet again…it feels immodest to mention my own accomplishments (not to mention the added fact that I’m a white woman writing about PoC–people like me get taken more seriously than PoC writing those same stories, so why bring extra attention to myself at the expense of PoC writers?).

This post by Kate Elliot brought all this frustration and fear to a head for me. I’m part of the problem; I write diverse books, and yet I’ve done so little to bring it to the attention of readers who might actually want to read what I write because “fear! I must not be immodest about my accomplishments. I must be silent and humble!” A publisher took a chance on my book, and I’m not paying that favor back very well. Well, fuck that shit. I wrote a book that people are looking for, the kind of book everyone has been talking about wanting to see more of, and it’s time they know about it. So I’m going to tell you about it.

My book, The Bone Flower Throne is a historical fantasy retelling of the myths of the legendary Toltec priest-king Topiltzin, told from the point of view of his half-sister, Quetzalpetlatl. Topiltzin is the blood son of the god Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, but Quetzalpetlatl herself is rather special, for the god gave her the ability to call on his powers when she needs it. And with her uncle having murdered her father, taken the throne of Culhuacan, and seeking to eliminate Topiltzin at every turn, she’s going to need those powers to protect them both as they grow up in exile.Winning back her father’s throne is only the first step in the god Quetzalcoatl’s grand plan to finally end human sacrifice in Mesoamerica. But her uncle has his own powerful, divine ally; the dark sorcerer god Smoking Mirror, who seeks to bring a new era of mass sacrifice as none have seen before. And only Quetzalpetlatl herself can stop him.

The book come with a warning though; it deals with a good number of triggery subjects: rape, incest, graphic violence, self-harm. While it’s a coming-of-age type story, it is by no means young adult (a lot of readers seem to go into it believing it is, because of the protag’s age at the beginning). Reviewers have made comparisons with Mists of Avalon (which feels so…squicky for me these days), so if you enjoyed that book, Bone Flower Throne just might be for you.

You can find links to the various vendors where you can buy it (in paperback or ebook) here:

If you’ve read this far, I have a suggestion that I hope other authors will embrace: if you write diverse books, talk about them, loud and often. In fact, share this link to Kate’s post and spend some space talking about your book and selling the shit out of it. Especially if you’re a woman writer who has trouble promoting your own work. Let’s spread word of our diverse books far and wide. And make sure you include a link to where folks can buy your books! Let’s get the word out to readers!

So I’ve been very quiet lately over here, mostly because there’s not all that much to report. I turned in The Bone Flower Queen to my editor last month and am waiting on his edit letter, and I also finally finished up Fugitives of Fate and took the plunge, submitting it to two different publishers. This time I’m not bothering with trying to get an agent; I did attempt to do so last year, but there wasn’t any interest whatsoever in my first round of queries. There are a few digital-first romance publishers that I think would be open to my unusual setting, but they don’t pay high advances–if any at all–so it seems a waste of time to try to convince an agent to take me on at this point. Regardless of how it turns out with these publishers, this book will eventually be published, even if I decide to go it alone by self publishing; the book is good, but will likely be held back by the fact that it’s not your usual historical romance setting. I have no intention of letting it languish unpublished.

On the writing front, I’m current between projects while I wait to hear back from my editor on my synopsis of the final book of The Bone Flower Trilogy. I’ve been keeping busy in the meantime with reading and critiquing friends’ novels; I had two to do this month, and I’ve started on the second and hope to have it done in a few days. I’m also giving thought to my next alternate history romance novel. I may end up outlining that one after I finishing critiquing. I’m looking forward to getting back to some actual writing soon.

In case you haven’t been here to the website in a while, I’ve made some updates that might interest fans. I’ve posted a copy of my Big Idea essay–in which I talk about the core idea behind The Bone Flower Trilogy–and I’ve added a 50-question quiz to test your knowledge of The Bone Flower Throne. Most exciting though, I’ve added a page for The Bone Flower Queen, which includes an excerpt for readers, and you can browse the book’s Pinterest page. I’m looking into making a reader’s guide for BFT, but haven’t made a whole lot of progress on it at this point.

Artists, if you’ve been inspired to make art from The Bone Flower Throne (or any of my works, really), I’d love to see it! You can contact me via the contact page here, or you can drop me a note over on Facebook (though be aware that I might not see your message for a while since Facebook likes to drop stuff into the Other inbox and I often don’t look at that for weeks on end).

Historical fiction author–and former editor of my all-time favorite magazine Paradox: the Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction–Christopher M. Cevasco has invited me to participate in a blog hop, where I answer some questions so you can find out more about what I write, how I write, and why I write. You can read his fascinating answers over here at his blog.

As for my own answers, here we go!

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on two separate projects. My second novel The Bone Flower Queen–sequel to my historical fantasy The Bone Flower Throne–is due to my editor on June 1st of this year, so I’ll begin the final editing and rewriting stage on that shortly. The Bone Flower Trilogy is a retelling of the Pre-Columbian myths of the legendary priest-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, an Arthurian-type character who tried to outlaw human sacrifice in the Toltec Empire, but it’s told completely from the point of view of his sister, Quetzalpetlatl.

I’m also working on the final draft of Fugitives of Fate, an alternate history romance novel set in the Aztec empire. With the Spanish Conquest averted, the last Emperor of the Mexica–Cuauhtemoc–works with the infamous La Malinche to bring peace between the various native cities, and stand together again future foreign invasions. Had history unfolded as we know it, Cuauhtemoc and Malinche would have been enemies, but instead they end up fated lovers.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

I write in a setting seldom done in fantasy, science fiction, or romance: Aztec history and mythology. There are some fantasy and science fiction works set in similar milieus–Aliette de Bodard and Chris Roberson come to mind–and some paranormal/time travel romances do visit ancient Mexico–namely the Maya civilization, but I’ve never found anything written–neither paranormal nor historical–written in the Aztec Empire, so I’m blazing my own trail with Fugitives of Fate. Fantasy has a tendency to linger in familiar pseudo-medieval European settings, but more and more readers are asking for more diverse settings and characters, asking for things they haven’t seen before, with strong female protagonists who aren’t defined by their physical strength or acting like men.

Why do you write what you do?

I’ve written a bit more in depth about this question already here, but on the most basic level, I have two passions in life: writing, and Aztec history and mythology, and I love combining the two. And because there isn’t that many books out there yet that present SF/F/Romance with Aztec culture, I’ve had to write the books I want to read. It’s also become a goal of mine to present a more nuanced and less stereotypical image of Aztec culture, particularly when it comes to human sacrifice. A lot of authors who use Aztec elements or characters tend to focus very heavily on human sacrifice–and often present it as an unequivocally evil practice, but I’m trying to not only present a different interpretation of human sacrifice, but also to focus on other, far more interesting cultural elements. It’s been difficult to not focus on human sacrifice in The Bone Flower Trilogy, given the myth it’s based upon, but it’s almost completely absent from Fugitives of Fate, and I plan to not mention it at all in any future alt history romances I write. There are so many other cultural accomplishments one could focus on when writing about the Aztecs (or the Maya): they were prolific architects, brilliant horticulturists, and accomplished astronomers. If I can show the reader a fuller, more nuanced world, I consider it mission accomplished.

How does your writing process work?

Oddly enough, both The Bone Flower Trilogy and Fugitives of Fate started as shorter fiction; BFT as a novelette and FoF as a novella, and I expanded them to novel length–or in the case of BFT to trilogy length. I work best with an outline, and even though I had the basic storyline worked out thanks to having written the shorter stories, I still needed to figure out the missing parts to fill it out more completely. I spend a couple days fleshing out the missing parts by doing research, to give me ideas; in the case of The Bone Flower Trilogy, it was rereading the various myths about Topiltzin and picking out new elements I wanted to incorporate, while in the case of Fugitives of Fate, I brushed up on the political history between Tenochtitlan and Tlaxcala, and Tlaxcala’s role in the Conquest, to figure out how the various leaders fit into my new historical scheme.

With my outline in hand, I then crank out a first draft. I like November for doing this, because I find NaNoWriMo to be a good motivator for me, but I can’t wait around all year for that (or Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer), and so will set a deadline for myself and endeavor to keep it. Since I like the daily word counter that NaNoWriMo uses, my loving husband made me an Excel spreadsheet that does the exact same thing. I can typically plow through to a finished draft in three month, sometimes less–I finished the first draft of Fugitives of Fate in twenty-eight days. I never show anyone my first drafts; I let the muse dump anything it likes in, just to see what will happen, so there’s tons of plot holes, over-explaining, character acting out of character, and sudden changes of focus halfway through the book. I work best with something to edit and rewrite, even if it’s completely broken and fractured.

After letting it sit for a few weeks, I do a second draft, focusing on fixing plot holes, streamlining characters and cutting word count. Once I’ve got something I’m comfortable with, I send it off to my critique group, to get their thoughts and suggestions; I have two critique groups, one for science fiction and fantasy manuscripts, and one that focuses on historical romance; it’s important to find critiquers who are familiar with the specific genres I write in so they can make informed comments on my use of conventions and how my manuscript fits in with market expectations.

Finally, with critiques in hand, I do another draft; sometimes it’s a major rewrite while other times it’s just some plot and character tweaking, and fixing weak prose. Then it’s off to my editor and I give it no more thought until he sends me his edit letter.

Thank you Christopher Cevasco for inviting me to participate in this blog hop, and in the spirit of keeping this going, I’ve invited horror writer Stant Litore to join in with his answers to these same questions. He will post his answers on his blog on April 21st. Here’s a bit about him:

STANT LITORE is the author of the acclaimed Zombie Bible series, as well as the novella The Dark Need (part of the Dead Man series). He has an intense love of ancient languages, a fierce admiration for his ancestors, and a fascination with religion and history. He has a PhD in English, and he doesn’t consider his writing a vocation so much as an act of survival. Litore lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters and is at work on his next book.

the-bone-flower-throne-displaySo I have some upcoming online events that readers can participate in. Firstly, on Wednesday March 5th, Bryan Thomas Schmidt will “twinterview” me, meaning we’ll gather on Twitter and he will ask me questions about The Bone Flower Throne and writing. Come join us at 7pm mountain time at #sffwrtcht and ask me the questions you’ve been dying to ask. Be sure to use the hashtag #sffwrtcht when you participate so I can see your questions.

Secondly, I’ve joined authors Stant Litore and Arwen Elys Dayton in a free book promotion called Fantasy Across the Continents, Fantasy Across Time. To enter, visit Stant’s website and sign up for his newsletter, and he will randomly pick three entrants to receive complimentary copies of all three of our books in US Kindle editions (so it’s only open to US residents). All three books are historical fantasy set in unusual times and places: 10th century Mexico, Gospel-era Jerusalem, and ancient Egypt. The contest ends March 7th.

Tezcatlipoca the Smoking Mirror gets a pretty bad rap in The Bone Flower Throne, though I think that changes some with the next book, where we get to see more of him “in the flesh”. I just found this small animated movie about Tezcatlipoca, done in the style of Fantasia, and it’s both charming and beautiful. I wish it went on further than it does (and brought in Quetzalcoatl as well), but I couldn’t help but smile while watching it.