Posts Tagged ‘writing musings’

Bone Flower Goddess 1st Draft Completed

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I finally put the wraps on the first draft of The Bone Flower Goddess, the final book in The Bone Flower Trilogy, and to celebrate, I’ve posted an excerpt for fans. Beware: if you haven’t read Bone Flower Queen yet, I don’t recommend reading the excerpt, for it’s spoilerish for that book.

DanceofDestinyI don’t have a concrete release date yet, but I’m aiming for early 2016. It still needs to go through my beta readers and a rewrite before heading to my editor, but it’s a big step to finally finish that first draft. I’m aiming to make this book as good as the others and a satisfying wrap-up to the trilogy, so I’m grateful for your patience while I work to make it the best book I can.

In the meantime, readers can look forward to a new installment in my Aztec West series before the end of the year. It’s another novella, this one a direct prequel to “The Hearts of Men”, and it’s called The Dance of Destiny. It also has a preliminary cover (which is still in need of some work on the light and dark contrast)! Stayed tuned for more information.

Release Day! Fugitives of Fate

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Today the ebook version of my first alternate history romance, Fugitives of Fate, comes out.

Driven by fiery visions of the end of the world, Aztec Emperor Cuauhtemoc averted the Spanish Conquest, and now he seeks to end the inter-tribal fighting that would have condemned the empire. When he discovers a woman from his visions working in his palace, he knows he must win her trust: only the infamous La Malinche can help him turn his enemies into allies.

Malinali has spent her whole life in slavery, passed from one abusive master to the next, and to her, Cuauhtemoc is no different than the other noblemen who’ve made her years miserable. Cuauhtemoc, however, is a determined man, and with time and work, her suspicion turns into trust, and trust grows into love.

But is love enough to truly change destiny? Especially when the shadow of unraveled history threatens to turn them into the enemies they were meant to be?

I’ve been waiting a really long time for today to finally arrive. Quite a long time ago, when I was in the midst of writing lots of stuff for my One World alternate history series, I started what I thought was going to be a short story but it soon turned into a novella, and to my surprise, it turned out to be a genre romance. I knew nothing about writing or selling romance, for I was firmly grounded in the speculative fiction scene, and I didn’t think there was a market for it; I’d never read anything like it in any of the magazines I usually read, and it was a novella–that dreaded length that no one in spec fic publishing would touch unless the author was a big name. So I set it aside and sort of forgot about it for several years while I worked on other projects.

It was actually just after the WorldCon in Chicago that I went home and, on a whim, opened the file and gave it a read. And to my surprise, I really, really liked the basic storyline, and thought it would make an excellent novel. I knew little about romance as a genre though, so I started reading historical romances, to learn the ropes, and joined RWA, which I’d heard really excellent things about from other SF authors, and started attending the local chapter meetings. Eventually I sat down to rewrite the story from the ground up, cutting out the more in-your-face speculative elements while keeping others that were absolutely necessary to the universe (folks who have read my One World short fiction know what I’m talking about), and in 23 days, I had a novel-length manuscript finished. It was the fastest I’ve ever written a novel draft

But my usual problems surfaced: my agent didn’t want to take it on because she didn’t think there was a market for it, and though eventually, I did get some interest from a traditional publisher on it, they wanted me to change it so fundamentally, it would be like starting over from scratch.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time shopping this around to traditional publishers; I was busy working on Bone Flower, and so this always got put to the side, and I was making the move into self-publishing and starting to feel more and more comfortable with it. In the end, I decided to move on with it on my own, so I could keep creative control and tell the story I wanted to tell rather than trying to box it into traditional genre niches. I figured that the best I could hope for was a small press, and from experience, there isn’t much they can do that I couldn’t do on my own, so why not keep the control and put the book’s fate in my own hands?

So, it’s available everywhere now, and early reviews are looking quite favorable. I even got a very nice blurb from my favorite romance author, Jeannie Lin:

“Fugitives of Fate creatively reimagines the lives of two legendary figures, bringing life and humanity to a glorious empire that we only hear about in terms of its demise. I was thoroughly fascinated and enthralled.”

Click here to find links to your favorite vendor. It’s also available in trade paperback.

New Aztec West Novella – Death’s Good Dog

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DeathsGoodDogThe first brand new, never before published Aztec West novella, Death’s Good Dog, is now available for sale on Amazon. Because I’m trying out KDP Select, for at least the next three months it will only be available on Amazon, but if you use an ereader other than the Kindle, never fear! The file is DRM free, and so you can convert the Kindle file to the format of your choice using programs such as Calibre. Because the novella is enrolled in KDP Select, it can also be borrowed for free by Kindle Unlimited users.

So what’s the novella about? Here’s the blurby goodness:

In 1521, while the Spanish were conquering the Aztec people, the Archangel Michael defeated their gods. Three hundred years later, the fierce, bloodthirsty gods of Ancient Mexico still sit dead on the shores of the Black Lake in the underworld, watched over by the only two gods the angels spared: Lord Death and his servant, the Black Dog Xolotl.

When Xolotl accidentally resurrects the old gods and unleashes them on a world that’s long forgotten them, he must return them to the underworld before Michael finds out, or he will be the next god sitting dead on the Black Lake. It shouldn’t be too difficult to wrangle them up though; newly reborn gods don’t remember who they are, or that feeding on human blood will reawaken their powerful magic.

But he might pay dearly for that underestimation when he matches wits with a god driven by a thirst for children’s tears, and the certainty that Xolotl is a traitor against his own kind….

A little background on this story:

About four or five years ago, shortly after I wrote “The Hearts of Men”, I wrote another story set in that same milieu but following a different god than in HoM. It didn’t turn out very well, and I thought it was much too dark and Xolotl was a horrible, horrible character. I put it aside for a few years while I worked on other things, mainly finishing Bone Flower Throne, but while shopping for an agent, I decided I wanted to write a novel-length work in the 1850’s sword and sixguns milieu of HoM.

I wanted to delve deeper into the underpinnings of Mextli’s and Coyolxauhqui’s return from the dead, and thought back not only to that other story I’d written a few years earlier, but even further back to a story I’d actually published back in 2007, “The Divine Conquest of Mexico”. The basic premise of that story was Quetzalcoatl finally decides to return from exile in Europe and travels back to Mexico as a member of Hernan Cortes’s crew, but once he arrives, he finds the angels are planning the conquest of his fellow gods, to ease the way for their human followers to conquer the Aztecs and their allies. I liked the idea of bringing the two religious/mythological traditions into conflict with each other, as a kind of explanation for why the Aztec empire crumbled so quickly, and so decided to peel that element out and use it as the basic building block of the HoM milieu. I also decided that rather than creating the universe completely anew, I’d just make it a natural progression from what I was creating in the Bone Flower books. That way I could continue exploring the changing lives of characters I’d grown to love in the Bone Flower books. So I wrote the first draft of a novel that followed the adventures of the god Xolotl, the cowardly servant of the god of the dead, who accidentally raises all of the other gods from death and he must collect them all before the villainous archangel Michael discovers what he’s done. Episodic misadventure than ensues.

I ended up setting the novel aside though. My agent didn’t want to touch it, since we were having difficulty finding a buyer for Bone Flower Throne and this was more of the same, just even more uncategorizable than BFT. Eventually I stepped away from my agent to go it alone, and shortly after landed a deal with Panverse for BFT, but in the meantime, I set aside the Xolotl novel to focus on Bone Flower. But I always wanted to come back to it and see if it was salvageable, and having reread it a few months ago, I thought parts of it could easily be broken out into shorter pieces and reworked. Death’s Good Dog is the first part of that novel.

More shorter works will come in the coming months, including one telling Coyolxauhqui’s side of the side of the story, and another where we meet Coyolxauhqui and Mextli’s mother, Coatlicue, who is a two-headed snake who controls an army of the undead. I’m very excited to be working on this series again, and I hope fans of the Bone Flower books enjoy these stories while they wait for the final book in the trilogy.

Shelfies – The Research Shelf

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This thing called #shelfie is going around Twitter right now, and I thought readers might be interested in seeing my research shelf.

Click to enlarge and see the titles!

Click to enlarge and see the titles!

When we finished our basement, my husband built me a custom writing office, which includes a library that houses my many hundreds of books, but this particular shelf is in an alcove right next to my writing desk, because I wanted my research books close at hand. I used to only be able to fill one of those shelves, but over the years I’ve accumulated enough books that I’m on the verge of outgrowing the alcove (there is one more shelf above that top shelf, but I keep family pictures up there). I’ve used most all of these books at some point or another on a story, but my all-around favorite ones are the Codex Florentine (that twelve-volume dark orange monstrosity down on the left), The Handbook to Life in the Aztec World (the white and gray book sitting sideways on that bottom shelf), and Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl (the maroon colored book on the second shelf). I haven’t bought any new books in a while, but I’m always on the look out for new ones to add to this collection.

Which other author’s research shelf would you like to get a gander at? I challenge Aliette de Bodard, Jeannie Linn, and Christopher Cevasco to post pictures of theirs for reader enjoyment. 🙂

Misogyny in SF/F – Some Thoughts

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This last weekend I attended the local MALcon just a few minutes down the road from my house. I only went on Saturday, to see if it was something I’d like to participate in in the future, and with departure for Loncon just days away, I didn’t want to spend too much time away from home. On the whole it was rather enjoyable; quite small, but there was a good variety of panels on writing and topics of interest to me.

DCF 1.0I was particularly interested in the panels on powder keg topics and misogyny in SF/F. The latter one had only two men scheduled to be on the panel, so I was invited to join them up front, but I declined because I’m not good talking about political topics, even the ones I’m passionate about. They did find a really well-spoken woman from the audience (I’m pretty sure she was a scientist) to join them in the discussion. My one disappointment though was that the topic got so derailed onto gender differences being cultural vs genetic that we seemed to spend very little time actually discussing misogyny and bigotry in the SF/F field. Near the end, the discussion turned finally to the problems women and minority writers face in the field, but mostly to talk about how boys won’t read female narratives and how women writers can get boys to engage with their SF/F. It was suggested that writers could start out with male characters then ease them into female characters.

While I’m in favor of trying to get boys to read more female narratives, my personal feeling is that this method is just more of the status quo: female characters must be propped up by male characters. And what about adult fiction? Must we hand-hold men lest they scoff and close the book? Should I have made the Bone Flower Trilogy a mixed narrative of both Quetzalpetlatl and Topiltzin’s POV, even though Topiltzin’s story has been told over and over again, in hundreds of years of myths and even in modern books such as K. Michael Wright’s Tolteca or Kenneth Morris’s The Chalchiuhite Dragon? Maybe I should have, then I wouldn’t have been told by a big publishing house that my story was “too feminist” for their predominately male epic fantasy audience. Despite all this, I have no regrets about making Bone Flower Quetzalpetlatl’s story rather than Topiltzin’s; her voice was one lost to time and reduced to little more than a tool for the amusement and ambitions of male gods. This method of couching female narratives through the filter of men and their experiences feels an awful lot like telling stories about native cultures through the eyes of their white colonizers, so the perceived predominately-white audience has someone to grab onto and relate to without having to do any work on a personal and cultural level (and man did discussion of this particular literary device cause a yelling match on a panel at WorldCon in Reno a few years back! I thought one panelist’s head was going to explode when a female panelist said that was a crappy way to write about alien cultures, or other human cultures, for that matter).

Because of the direction of the panel for most of the hour, we didn’t get into much discussion about the negatives of this approach, or what other options are available to writers, which is a pity. These are important discussions to have. From my own experience, there’s multiple points where blockades are put up against women/minorities and their stories; most are cultural and will be extremely difficult to overcome, but some are inherent to the capitalistic nature of publishing and are perhaps a bit more easily changed. Readers can only read what is available to them, and if publishers are not publishing women/minority writers/stories, then readers aren’t going to see them. The chance for exposure and change is being cut off at the source in favor of narratives that are “safe money-makers”. I often hear people defend the status quo by telling those complaining, “Well, if you don’t like it, why don’t you go write the stories you want to read then?” Newsflash: lots of writers do this, but those stories aren’t being published because they aren’t the safe, time-tested product that publishers know they can rely on to sell. Thank goodness for self-publishing and small presses these days, or else truly deserving and compelling narratives–like Sabrina Vourvoulias’s Ink–would never see the light of day. I’m torn on the whole publisher part of this equation; I understand their need to turn a profit so they can publish more books and not go under, but at the same time that very factor is contributing to the silencing of important narratives and stalling the expansion of the art form, based mostly on an inkling of what does and doesn’t sell (not to mention that often when they do take a chance on a non-status quo book, they don’t put the necessary push behind it to help it succeed in the competitive marketplace because of fear of investing too much money and losing it all).

file4501243625430Culturally speaking though, we need to teach boys from a young, young age that women’s/girls’ stories are worthwhile, and provide them with a multitude of narratives throughout their early lives, and get away from the whole “this is for boys, this is for girls” BS. Girls are already being taught from early on that men’s narratives are as worthwhile as women’s narratives (sometimes even more so than women’s), so we should be doing the same with boys. To me, it comes down to parenting, and is supplemented by teachers at the elementary school level. The more we expose children to a multitude of view points, the more open-minded they will be as adults.

One of the panel members mentioned a comic he saw on Facebook where two skeletons were sitting at a table holding beers and the caption said something like “what happens when men sit down to try to understand women”, and pretty much every woman in the room agreed that it was stupidest thing they’d ever heard, but also not surprising. Boys are taught from a very early age that they should only immerse themselves in things considered male while avoiding things perceived as female lest it taint their masculinity, so no wonder they grow to view women as mysterious. Quite honestly, if men want to understand women better, they can start by reading women characters and writers, and reading those genres supposedly geared towards women. Read a romance, read an epic fantasy that follows the lives of female characters rather than male characters, read mysteries with female sleuths–like Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta books–and read literary fiction centered around female characters. And even better, seek out books from minority female writers about the female experience. One will soon find out that women are not inscrutable and mysterious, but are in fact human beings, and in turn their relationships with their mothers, their sisters, their girlfriends, their wives, their daughters, and their female friends will greatly improve. This doesn’t mean giving up reading the comfortable male narratives they enjoy, just expanding their reading horizons to include more challenges to one’s view of the world. Let us teach our sons that not only is Harry Potter’s story awesome and meaningful to their lives, but so is Katniss Everdeen’s; Superman and Batman are awesome, but Buffy kicks ass too. If we do this, then there will be more demand for Katnisses and Buffys, and then maybe publishing will take more chances on female narratives in epic fantasy, comics, and hard science fiction (places where androcentrism is currently at its strongest).

Men, stop living your whole literary life in safe comfort and the selfishness culture has taught you, because your comfortable reading habits are making things more difficult for those of us who don’t have the privilege of being white male cis. Be part of the solution, not a part of the problem. And women and minority authors, continue writing your narratives and trying to get them heard, no matter what publishing or the broader culture tries to tell you about their worth. Keep fighting the good fight, for your stories deserve to be told and heard.