Posts Tagged ‘personal’

Promoting Diverse Books will Help Save Diverse Books

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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!

The Year in Review and Resolutions

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So last year proved a most exciting year on the writing front. I sold my first novel in January and saw it hit bookshelves by mid October. My first royalty check is due sometime this month, so we’ll see how well it’s done on the selling front.

I’m a little less than halfway through the first draft of the next book in the series, but other than that, I did finish multiple drafts of an alternate history romance novel. I did query a couple of agents but had zero interest–as usual, I suspect that I’m writing stuff that traditional publishing finds unmarketable, so I just might decide to either go small press again, or even consider self-publishing it once I get a final draft done. I did submit to a couple contests and got some feedback, so there is some work to do on it before it’s truly ready for world. There’s no rush though.

On the reading front, I did really pathetic; I read a total of nine books last year, which is just unacceptable, so I’m aiming for more this year. I’m no longer going to put reading on hold while I write and will instead try to read at least an hour a day, before bed. I would like to clear out all the books languishing on my current reading list on Goodreads and start reading some stuff on my wishlist. I think reading more will also help me stay creative on the writing side, since it seemed that I really struggled with getting progress made later in the year when I wasn’t actually reading anything. This year has started off strong though, and I’ve already plowed through two books I had started last year (or, in one case, two years ago) and marked off two on my goal of 15. If the reading is going well, I just might increase that goal, but for now I’m aiming to be reading with more regularity than I did last year.


2014 Reading Challenge

2014 Reading Challenge
T.L. has
read 2 books toward her goal of 15 books.


I hope everyone had a good holiday season and the new year is looking good.

Holiday Baking

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I’m not much interested in cooking or baking, but occasionally I get a wild hair and decide I want to bake something festive. A bunch of my friends on Pinterest pin a lot interesting-looking recipes and I’ve been collecting on my own board, just in case the wild hair should strike, and behold, today it striketh! With Halloween just a couple days away, I decided I needed to try out some cookie recipes. I printed out two but only got around to making one today; there were other things that needed doing first, like grocery shopping, helping Jeff install our new trailer door, and sitting on the couch watching Ghostbusters and drinking Cherry Coke. Eventually I did get around to doing one of the recipes (which can be found here) and it turned out rather well, both in appearance and taste. I’ve actually had pretty good luck with recipes I’ve found on Pinterest. Here’s some pictures:

Gooey Monster Cookies
IMG_0944 IMG_0945

I have another recipe to try out tomorrow, which I suspect won’t turn out as well because it requires assembly with icing, but we’ll see. These were fun to make, but quite messy, and because of the dough’s incredible stickiness, the recipe only produced about two-thirds what it said it would.

Diversity in SFF – Why Aztec?

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Why Aztecs?Yesterday on Twitter, the hashtag #DiversityInSFF was trending and lots of people were saying a ton of really good things about the issue of diversity in SF/F, whether it be in books or publishing as an establishment. I did a lot of retweeting but not a whole lot of talking; other people were saying the things I might say much better than I ever could. Last year, at MileHiCon, someone asked me why I write about Aztecs, something I’d never been asked before, and I really struggled to give an answer; I felt the need to give a really compelling answer because the question was posed by a Chicano, but I managed only to mumble something completely stupid because I’d never really thought about why. I’m sure my flustered response probably left him considering that I was just another white person robbing his culture for the “oohs” and “aahs”. I can’t begrudge him the curiosity about my motivations though. And with my first novel coming out soon (which has zero white people in it), perhaps it’s time to really address that question in a serious, thoughtful way.

Why do I write specifically Aztec science fiction, fantasy and romance?

Well, I can’t imagine writing anything else; even if I never published again, the urge to write these stories would not go away. Hell, I left my agent because I thought that, to continue down the traditional publishing path, I would have to give up writing Aztec-influenced stories, and quite frankly, I would rather have no traditional publishing career than do that (and I think she knew this and so gave me no answer when I flat out asked her if that’s what I needed to do). I have no way of describing it other than “It’s where my heart lies.” When I try to think of anything else in my life that I’ve ever felt this passionate about, there is nothing. The only thing that kept me from pursuing a higher degree in Mesoamerican studies was my lack of Spanish-speaking skills (oh, if only I could go back to high school and insist on taking Spanish rather than French….)

Growing up, I had very narrow ideas about the Aztecs; all I knew was the human sacrifice stuff, and cities of gold. We never studied them in high school; there were far more important things to study, like European history and literature, because in American academics, that is the center of the world. No one talked about things like plague blankets or the Trail of Tears, or how disease massively depopulated Central America in the decade following the Spanish Conquest. Mexico was this mysterious, colorful place full of maracas and sombreros and burritos, filled with people my stepfather called all kinds of terrible names for no apparent reason I could ascertain.

Then, in college, I took an introductory history class on Native Americans, which covered the North American tribes, but also the Inca, Maya, and the Aztecs. My professor was Chicano, and he spent a great deal of time talking about Aztec culture, with a lot of passion, and he stripped away all of my childhood misconceptions and provided a glimpse of things I never knew, had never heard of. I was already quite interested in mythology in general by that time, so learning the basics about Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli lit a fire in me; I’d never heard of them, and I’d never read anything about them, in either fiction nor nonfiction. But I wanted to. This was back in the days before Amazon, so finding such work was no easy task; in fact, I never did find anything like that back then.

The following year, I got into Clarion West and they encouraged us to try new things with our writing; strive for greatness and not be afraid of failing while reaching for it. So I decided to write what I couldn’t find, and I’ve been doing that ever since. I took still more classes in Mesoamerican studies as part of my degree, and learned still more and more interesting things about the complexity of Aztec culture. There was so much to tell, so much that everyday people were mistaken about Aztec culture and religion, and this fact is really at the crux of why I write what I write.

I’ll pretty much try reading anything I can find that has to do with either Aztecs or the Maya, because there’s so little out there, and while there is some really good stuff–stuff that shows care and passion for the culture–there’s also a great deal of simplistic focus on the more “sensationalist” aspects, like blood sacrifice; and overwhelmingly, that focus is negative. The default setting for Aztecs in fantasy is as the bad guys, using human sacrifice and blood magic to do evil things, and this focus serves to demonize not just the Aztec culture, but Mexican culture by proxy. And not just in literature, but in real life; probably the most disturbing example I’ve seen was an article in an American police publication calling for Mexicans to forsake their native heritage and the Nahuatl language as evil because Mexican drug gangs embrace it–and implied that only criminals would embrace it. There’s a long tradition in Western culture of demonizing Mesoamerican culture, starting all the way back with the Spanish conquistadors and their exaggerations and outright lies to justify the wholesale slaughter of the native peoples, and it’s time we said enough–particularly white people.

Stop with the evil Aztec blood magic already!

It’s fucking lazy at best, but mostly complete ignorant bullshit. There is a ton more to Aztec culture and history than just human sacrifice (and our modern, Christanized view of it), and it’s all as important and worthy of attention and understanding as western history and literature. Everyone knows who King Arthur was, but how many of us know about Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl? How about why human sacrifice was practiced at all? How many people know what the Triple Alliance was, and about the politics of the Valley at the time Cortes landed? Anyone who claims that Mesoamerican culture contributed nothing noteworthy to western civilization is just stupid (and yes, I’ve seen this said in discussions of why Mesoamerican history is not taught with the same depth as European history in primary school). There are countless stories worth telling, history worth knowing, and that’s why I write what I write.

And as this is not my culture, I know I will get things wrong; it’s inevitable that my upbringing in white western culture will cloud my view and influence the way I tell stories, but that’s no excuse to not try. It’s no excuse to not keep learning and trying to do better with the next story/novel. It will be uncomfortable–sometimes even painful and embarrassing–facing my mistakes, but I will become a better writer–and human being–for doing so.

Authors to read:

Ernest Hogan

Sabrina Vourvoulias

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Aliette de Bodard

Zoe Saadia

Out with the old, in with the new

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So 2012 has come and gone and the new year is before us, which means taking stock of what I accomplished and then looking ahead to the future.

So, last year was a crazy ride of ups and downs, some of which I still can’t talk about because things haven’t completely ironed out yet. I finished a second draft of one novel, started a third (which I didn’t even get half-way through), then wrote another novel in a completely different genre, but again in the same milieus that I love. I still haven’t lost the desire to write about Aztec history and mythology, and have several more stories brewing in the back of my mind. I started the year off strong and hopeful, but hit a slump where I wasn’t enjoying writing anymore, but moving ahead into a new genre helped me rediscover my love of writing. However, I think my lack of desire to move on to new subjects led to the demise of my career in traditional publishing before it even started; there is apparently no market for what I write with traditional publishers, in either genre I’m writing in, but I really, really want to write these stories, so in the end, I decided to let my agent go and strike out on my own. She put in a lot of work on trying to sell my novel and unfortunately that didn’t turn out as well as we’d both hoped, but I think going a less traditional route might be better for the kind of stuff I write. There were some interesting developments in that category in December and hopefully I’ll be able to make some announcements by the end of January. Stay tuned!

On the negative side of things, I made zero money this year on writing, a first since I’ve started doing this in earnest. At least the taxes will be easy to do this year.

As for this year, I’m putting aside the failures of the past and pressing onward. I know what I want to write and am going to do it, and if it means self-publishing it in the end, then so be it. Part of me still wants a traditional sale with the backing of a big publisher, if only because it seems on the surface to be less work for me, but the idea of self-publishing isn’t as scary anymore. The professional world is changing fast, and traditional publishing is looking less and less stable and safe as it used to. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of getting an agent again, for the idea of going into any contract without someone to watch my back makes me sweat, but that just might not be in the cards for me.

On conventions, I don’t know that I’m going to go to any this year, aside from my local one. I really want to be able to go to LonCon in London in the summer of 2014 and that means having to save money for the trip, especially since I’d love to bring the whole family with me this time. The plan this year is to not attend either WorldCon or World Fantasy, though I loath to go two years without seeing my best friends at least once.

On a final note, after having heard really good things about RWA as a writer’s organization from several close friends, I went ahead and joined, and joined a local chapter here in Denver at the end of the year. It seemed a good move professionally since what I’m writing right now is, for intent and purposes, genre romance, and it would be useful to learn from other romance writers. I do intend to approach some small press publishers with this novel I’m working on right now, then self-publish if that doesn’t lead to anything, and there’s at least one more book in this series that I really want to write. In the end I just want to write about what I love and if that leads to sales, great; if not, then at least I’m getting some satisfaction for myself for having told the stories at all.