Friday, November 21, 2014

A Confirmed Bachelor: Writing Queer Characters

I make no secret that I publish what some would refer to as m/m romance. I don't actually consider that to be my genre, as the sexuality of my characters has always been secondary from the actual story. I happened to write about a detective, and he happened to be gay. He happened to have a love interest, but that was secondary to the murder mystery.

But, when one writes such books, inevitably one gets lumped to m/m romance, as the genre-makers don't seem to realize that gay characters do not a genre make.

That said, I have a lot of experience writing LGBTA characters, and everything book I write tends to have diversity of sexuality, race and culture because of this. Today though, we're going to focus on sexual diversity in steampunk fiction.

The estimable Gail Carriger gave us delightful creatures in The Parasol Protectorate like Lord Akeldama and Biffy...and Lyall, and lest we forget, Madame Lefoux. These characters were not ashamed of who they were, and no one really seemed to mind who they chose to be bedpartners or lifepartners with. After all, it would be rude to ask about such things.

As such, Charlotte's world went a similar fashion without any prompting really. You are introduced to Lord Niall Rathbone, whose students whisper about being a confirmed bachelor in teasing tones, and who later does take on a partner of the same sex. Except, that's just a piece of who he is. Niall is also commanding, intelligent, tricky and petulant. Charlie is actually a bit afraid of him when they first meet, though the two do become friends later.

Niall is a complicated man, a cousin to the queen, commander of a regiment and head of the Lochlan Officers Academy. Him being gay doesn't change any of that.
As of yet, there have been few other queer characters introduced, as much of the story has been internally focused, and teenagers can be rather self-involved. As I continue to work on the series and Rule of Steel, I am making a conscious effort to include more characters. There's a certain lady with a bit of a pining for our leading lady--though she doesn't know it yet.

It isn't difficult to introduce this sort of thing. You don't even have to be explicit. A casual reference to someone's partner, or former partner is more than enough to establish interests. There's no reason to stop there either. There are few enough asexual characters in fiction, and if you're writing during the sexual oppression of the Victorian era, it's not as though a man or woman with no interest in sex or romance or both would be looked upon with any more oddity than any other spinster/bachelor of the time. We can't forget about bisexual characters either, and a case could be made for Alexia (The Parasol Protectorate) being bisexual, though she is firmly married when she realizes this about herself.

I've written one transgender character in my career, and tried to do so with as much sincerity and care as I could. If you're going to write a transgender character, you have to treat them as you would any other. Make them genuine and don't back down.

I think there are authors out there that shy away from this kind of diversity because they are afraid they'll do something wrong. But really, you should try anyway. Let people from the community you are writing about do a read-through, listen to them when they tell you what they thought worked and what didn't work.

The bottom line is, diversity makes a story richer. Don't be afraid to let your characters be themselves.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Knowing When to Break

When one is writing historical fiction of any kind, there comes a point in our research and decision making where it becomes time to deviate from history. The inspiration for this post came from a conversation with my roommate, who is currently writing a 1920's steampunk piece and was getting rather bogged down in inconsequential details.

At more than one point I looked at her and said, "You do know you're writing alt. history, right?"

I am an advocate of accuracy, good research and backing up your decisions with facts. That being said, when it comes to areas I am familiar with, I tend to write from that experience. Sometimes though, history does not cooperate with us. Either someone isn't where they need to be, something hasn't been invented yet--or you can't find any information to back up something you heard from your third-cousin six years ago.

In the roommate's case, it was difficulty confirming asthma medications in the 20's. She wasn't having any luck with specific ingredient lists, and was instead getting bogged down in the minutiae of it. She needed to move on from it, she needed to break from history. Especially given how much she had already changed historical events.

When you change historical timelines in anyway while creating your work, it's a bit ridiculous to assume that nothing else would change within that. So yes, perhaps that particular shade of yellow dye wasn't used until 1875 in our time, but whose to say some lab assistant is Sussex didn't spill something and accidentally create said dye four years earlier in your timeline?

When small details get in the way of the story, it's time to let go a little. I've been known to leave words out completely when I'm uncertain. Usually I'll plug in something like this (Insert X Here) so I can search for this missing area later during re-writes.

Don't be afraid to make changes. Don't be afraid to choose new paths. History, in this case, is your playground. Have fun with it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PEN… PAPER… ACTION! : Guest Host Jack Tyler

            “Each writer is born with a repertory company in his head.  Shakespeare had perhaps 20 players.  I have 10 or so, and that’s a lot.  As you get older, you become more skillful at casting them.”
~ Gore Vidal

            I don’t like this quote.  It makes me feel like my creativity is meaningless, and I’m just dressing up a paper doll when I write.  But after carefully considering it in the week since I found it, I have come to the conclusion that all I could honestly change would be to replace “Players” with “Archetypes.”  I have just begun the cataloguing of my repertory company, literally days ago, and haven’t yet identified everyone in the house, but in taking the initial nose-count, I find myself sorely lacking in women.  I can tentatively identify about five men, give or take one, but in all of my writing, published or not, I only find one woman.  Whether she comes in the guise of Colleen O’Reilly, the reformed Irish terrorist of Chameleon, Galela, sergeant of the King’s Guard from The Wellstone Chronicles, or Patience Hobbs, mischievous pilot of the Kestrel in Beyond the Rails, she is smart, strong, and capable.  She can be good or evil, young or “mature,” heroine or anti-heroine, but no matter who she is, she is always cut from the same piece of cloth.  I thought I might open my quest by trying to find out where she came from.

            Born in 1948, my childhood sat squarely in the 1950s, ages 2-12.  Divorce was a dirty word back then, and the Liberation of Women wasn’t yet a defiant gleam in your sister’s eye.  Women were still domestic servants who worked without pay, and while they had achieved the vote some years before my birth, they hadn’t achieved much else.  I saw how women were treated in my friends’ homes, their two-parent homes, and in my naiveté, I wondered at the luck of having a live-in housekeeper who did dishes, laundry, cooked meals, vacuumed, went to the store, dealt with repairmen and peddlers, while the man came home from work and sat down with the newspaper.  So this was manhood?

            See, men had disappeared from my home before I was three months old.  My entire upbringing was provided by three generations of women.  My mother was a professional gambler who was in and out of the house the whole time.  My first story about her is of her being 16 years old, pregnant with me, dealing an illegal card game in the back room of a waterfront bar and doing her own bouncing.  Grandma was Rosie the Riveter, one of the legion of women who took over the factories when the men went off to war, and one of the very few who was good enough to keep her job when the men came home again.  Great-grandma was a genuine lady of the Victorian Era, born into North Carolina society in 1888.  All the impressions I formed of women during the so-called “formative years” were provided by this formidable triumvirate.  There was no one in my life to teach me that women were inferior, sex objects, weak, second class, or anything with the slightest negative connotation.  So guess who wound up in my head.

            The women who take leading roles in my fiction don’t take no baloney.  They are uniformly smart and capable, can be physical when the situation requires it, and don’t feel like they’re doing anything special.  They stand up to impossible odds, impossible men, decks that are stacked against them, and the condescension and disrespect of their more “proper” sisters, and of men of every stripe, and they overcome.  They persevere and they’re the last one standing when the dust settles; they are all the same woman.

            How does a woman like this play in the Victorian world of steampunk?  How do you make her work?  She is a product of the twentieth century; she isn’t supposed to be here.  The problem is that if you write a woman who isn’t a troublemaker of some sort into a Victorian-era novel, she’s going to be all but invisible.  Her role is to keep her head down, her mouth shut, and support her husband or significant male acquaintance in whatever opinion he gives her.  As an author, you aren’t going to get much mileage out of a character like that.  So, what’s a steampunk to do?  Let’s look at how four authors I have recently encountered have dealt with it.

            Certainly the most realistic female lead of the group is T.E. MacArthur’s Dr. Leticia Gantry of The Volcano Lady.  Brilliantly written, Dr. Gantry is a female volcanologist who, her interactions with Captain Nemo and Robur of the Albatross aside, is a lady in a man’s field who is denied every privilege of tenure, field work, and serious consideration that any man in her field takes for granted, and is treated as anything from a nuisance to freak whenever she tries to assert herself.  This makes for a wonderful character, as she has to struggle against not only villains and forces of nature, but the very fabric of the society she lives in.  In many ways, this is the boldest of the lot, as MacArthur stands squarely up to the issue, and deals with it as it is.


  In my own Beyond the Rails, Patience Hobbs, the playful,
sometimes rowdy airship pilot of the Kenyan frontier, doesn’t deal with the problem (nor does her author); she leaves it behind.  Cousin of an exceedingly wealthy family, she is taken in when her father dies performing his job in one of the family’s enterprises.  Raised as an aristocrat, sent to finishing school, she leaves England when she realizes what will be expected of her as a “lady,” and flees to a place where one of either gender can be accepted on their own merits.  She went out to Kenya on a working holiday, discovered that she had a knack for piloting an airship, and has stayed.  She refers on occasion to the “gilded cage” of life in the London aristocracy, and expresses no interest in returning, even as one of the pampered ladies of the upper class.

     Mark Lingane solves the problem in Tesla by moving the calendar a thousand years into a post-apocalyptic future.  His heroine, Melanie, who is definitely the confidant or “sidekick,” is a dying teenage girl who is dragged by events around her into the quest of his hero.  Of course, as a work of future history, Mark doesn’t have to follow any particular rules, but he has written the agrarian portion of society as having established themselves along Victorian lines, and his young hero is astonished and taken somewhat aback by this very active girl who is so forward that she wears tight trousers in which “I can see the shape of your legs!”  Of course, not being a member of his society, she was never bound by it at all, but the friction between his mores and her free spirit produces a delightfully interesting dichotomy.


 Finally, in Keith Dumble’s trilogy, Lady Jessica, Monster Hunter, the whole issue of women’s lack of equality is simply ignored.  Set in and around Victorian London, Lady Jessica McAlpin is the leader of The Black Diamonds, a scufflin’ crew of, as the title suggests, monster hunters.  Some of these monsters are the traditional ghouls and vampires, others are infernal machines, but no matter the opponent, Lady Jessie and her indomitable crew are right there to fight the forces of evil with whatever weapons are necessary, and no one bothers to suggest that this is no life for a lady.  Lest there be any mistake about this being set in Victorian London, Victoria herself is the target of one of the plots.  You might not think so to read this paragraph, but it works.

            They all work.  Four very different solutions are presented here, and all of them create entertaining reads that reward the reader with a rollicking good time.  I know, one of those stories is mine, but I am basing that statement on its reviews and comments, which are uniformly favorable.  I guess the point is that, as has been stated elsewhere and repeatedly, the three most important elements of fiction are story, story, and story.  If you give your reader a breathtaking ride, he or she won’t complain because of the shape of the vehicle.

  Many of you in this audience are writers, and the point of this article has been to make you think.  As steampunk or Victorian-era authors, how many female players are in your repertory company, and how do you use them?  Careful consideration of this question can bring your writing to a sharper focus than you may have thought possible; you may even be able to use the awareness of this theory to create another player or two.  As a reader, how many do you recognize in the stories of your favorite authors?  At the end of the day, I have to be grateful to Mr. Vidal for raising this point.  It has truly given me a new insight into my own work and that of others, and doesn’t that really count as one of those epiphanies we all love so much?

            So take this bit of knowledge with you as you read or write, and use it to enhance your enjoyment of the activities we find so uplifting.  You may find, as I have, that they make our investment in our favorite fiction deeper and more fulfilling than ever!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Week Three: Doldrums

Well, I hate to say it, but we've truly run into a windless sea. That being said, I have a video for you all! I attempted a Book Trailer for Rule of Sword, with the help of Bryon Alexander (That would be my elder brother) who composed the music for this.

I did the art and the editing, but I'm not totally sold on it. Then again, my self-confidence comes in waves like a roller coaster.

On the Nano front, I'm behind but attempting to catch up.

I'm a tad under the weather at the moment, the allergy season being what it is.

That's all for now.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Writing Characters with Disabilities : Sophia Beaumont Guest Hosts

Today on the blog we have the privilege of hosting Ms. Sophia Beaumont who has come to talk to you all about writing characters with disabilities. 

On the Subject: 

Invisible disabilities can be a challenge to write. I bet that there are at least three people that you know right now who have an invisible disability: Fibromyalgia. Epilepsy. PTSD. There are literally dozens of diseases and conditions that can limit a person physically. Up until the 1950s, Asthma was routinely treated as a mental illness, not a physical one.

The character that I am working with right now was born prematurely in 1903, and barely managed to survive. Now at 22, she leads a mostly normal life—except for her asthma and a visual impairment that is based on my own mother's eye condition: bilateral nystagmus. This is a very rare birth defect that was caused by under development in parts of her brain and inner ear, which leads to constant rapid and uncontrollable eye movement. Today, this is most commonly a side effect of brain injuries or drug overdoses.

Now, when was the last time you read a book where the main character had a physical disability? Differently abled people are all around us, but they are seldom heroes in books or movies, but why not?

Carl Jung described the mythological archetype of the hero with the following:
  • Unusual circumstances surrounding their birth
  • Leaves their family or homeland to live with others
  • An event, sometimes traumatic, leads to an adventure or quest
  • The Hero has a special weapon that only they can wield
  • The Hero must prove themselves many times while on an adventure
  • They must suffer through the Journey and the Unhealable Wound

Jung picked out other traits as well, but those are the big ones. Now, look at that visually impaired character that we were talking about earlier: unusual circumstances at birth, check. Leaving family to live with others: it was not uncommon, especially in Victorian times, for a disabled person to be sent away, either to an asylum or to a family member better able to care for them.

Now, let's see...a traumatic event that leads to an adventure or quest. There's no reason that their physical defect has to be from birth. Perhaps they were wounded during wartime, and are now hunting down the person responsible. Or they could be searching for a cure or treatment.

The special weapon is a little trickier. Perhaps their weapon is supernatural and unrelated. Maybe your wheel-chair bound scientist has created a jetpack and ray gun that only he knows how to use. In my case, my heroine's visual disability is directly related to her ability to see ghosts, something that she can use to her advantage.

As for the last two points on the list, show me someone who is a minority or disabled who doesn't have to prove themselves in a dozen ways every single day just because they are female, or Hispanic or Muslim or mentally ill (or all of the above)?

The scientific research of the Victorian Era paved the way for thousands of cures and treatments in the first half of the 20th century, but were not enough to combat them at the time. Prenatal care was almost non existent. Anti psychotics didn't exist yet. The most common treatment for non-violent mental illness was to keep the patient locked away and calm, and perhaps to give them a simple occupation, like sewing, to pass the time. Club foot and cleft pallet were largely untreatable. Scarlet fever and other illnesses often rendered the sufferer blind or deaf. Prior to the advent of antibiotics, an injured limb was often cut off. Autism, schizophrenia, dissociative personality disorder, postpartum depression, and menopause were treated alongside female hysteria and wandering womb.

To say that you have a completely healthy, white middle class character during this period is, quite frankly, a gross mistake:

  • In 1901, only 1/8 of the British Empire was Caucasian, with the rest being made up of the conquered races of Africa, the Pacific, Asia, and North America.
  • 33% of London residents were born elsewhere, and about half of those coming from outside the British Isles entirely.
  • 40% of the workforce was employed in manual labor/heavy industry, with an additional 40% made up of women, mostly in domestic service.

Look around you at the people in your life. While the numbers and names have changed, minorities in one form or another have existed for as long as human kind. Increasing the diversity of the cast of characters enriches the story and the writing (both in steampunk and other genres), and creates opportunities to connect with readers that may not otherwise exist. Besides, what is the point of creating a fictional world, if you can't correct some of the problems we face in the real one?

More from Sophia can be found at her blog!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Guest Blogging Today

Looking for some new things from me? I'm a guest over at Blimprider's blog!

He'll be talking here sometime next week!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day Eleven

Our ninth backer has taken us to 13% funded! Thank you all so much. As I said yesterday we're going to have some guests on the blog in a few days to help keep it fresh. The first one should be sometime next week.

I will be a guest on a blog on Thursday, link will go up to that day of.

Still trying to catch up on Nanowrimo, but I am hopeful.

Loki and Hermes are slowly coming to a ceasefire/peace agreement. I think. Of course, kittens are very bouncy and Hermes left bouncy behind ten pounds ago so... That's all for now.


Monday, November 10, 2014

Day Ten

We broke the $400 marker yesterday!

Work continues on Rule of Steel, as well as on the Rule of Sword book trailer. I crossposted my Kickstarter video to Youtube, hoping to drum up some more traffic. I'll be guesting on a blog on the 13th, and will start to have some guests here as well talking about steampunk, powerful ladies and historical fiction.

I think that's all for now.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Day Nine

Well, we're in the doldrums folks. I'm feeling a bit stressed about it. So I'm trying to focus on writing book three, finishing the book trailer and the new baby we just brought home.
This little rascal is Loki, formerly Atticus. He's about three months old, long, and bushy with big paws and a long tail--probably more than a tad of Maine Coon in him. Right now we're trying to blend the household as our other resident god, Hermes, does not generally share well with others.

There seems to be hope as Hermes is not being aggressive and Loki is staying out of his room.

On the Nano front: I was behind, still a bit behind, but I'm catching up now! So hurrah! I've broken 10K words.

That's all for now.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


Today I attended (and 1/4 hosted) a Type-in for some of the Nanowrimo folks. It was fun, clacky and cool to see all the other typewriter enthusiasts. As far as it goes, I'm behind on word count, but I am finally getting into the meatier bits of the subplot!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

I Was Interviewed!

Fellow author Michael McVey had me over on his blog for an interview today!


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Months of the Year

 Like any writer who completely overhauls the timeline of the world, I had to consider language. Since the overwhelming language used in Charlotte's world is Gaelic, that changed a few things. Including the months of the year, and it also changed when the new year is. For simplicity sake, I started here with January and simply went through the list.








Méan Fomhain

Deireadh Fomhain

Samhain *New Years


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What Flavor of Steampunk?

The Rules of Engagement books are, in fact, steampunk. What is steampunk exactly? Well, typically they are neo-Victorian stories with steam-tech in a science-fiction fashion. Alternative histories abound.

Charlie is decidedly in the alt. historical crowd, but I knew from the start I wanted to infuse steampunk into her world as well. The first book doesn't make this very obvious, as Charlie spends much of it isolated from the advances of technology, but book two introduces a steampunk stable: The Airship.

This invention plays a key role in Rule of Shadow. A few other inventions make appearances, an early automobile is presented, as well as a new form of powered light. Charlotte's world doesn't just run on technology though, it also works on magic. The ether. It is this magic that both science and sorcerers are attempting to harness to use in conjunction with other powers.

It's Rule of Steel, however, that will really give you a look at the mechanics of this world. More airships, more old school science fiction devices and possibly a ray gun...

Book three also delves into the world outside of Eire. So the contrast between the Empire's technology and the Continent will be made more clear.

Unlike some of my steampunk authorial cohorts, I've chosen not to utilize some of the gothic horror tropes of the day(At least, not in these books). Instead I'm working more with historical accounts of war, science fiction, heaps of legends and a healthy dose of magic. The best thing about steampunk, I find, is it is eminently flexible.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Day Three: Let's Talk About Charlie!

Charlotte Aoibheann Ridley, also known as Charles Ridley, best know as Charlie. Charlie's story opens with a storm, but it really began with the death of her father. Her mother having passed some years prior, she is left with only her older brother Eamon to rely on. Eamon decides to pursue his acceptance to the Academy of Magic in Prussia, and so the two are bound for the Continent near the beginning of the storm season.

Tragedy strikes again when their ship is caught in a storm and her brother is washed overboard.
She's washed ashore on a lonely beach she doesn't at first recognize and for her own safety, decides to undertake the pretense of being a boy. 

Charlie finds herself on the isle of Lochlan, the Northern most isle in the Empire, and home to Lochlan Academy, where some of the finest officers in all of Eire are trained. 

Charlie's passion has always been the sword. She's always loved riding and fighting--and playing pranks on her brother. With a temper and a sharp tongue, she never really felt as though she fit into the life of a lady. When the opportunity not to be a lady is presented--Charlie leaps on it. With vague wording in her father's Will and unknown aid from an accomplice, Charlie becomes Charles and tries to put tragedy behind her.

Charlie isn't just some hot-tempered swordswoman, she's also quite bright and her instincts and tenacity lend themselves to another line of work--that of a Shadow Hand, a spy in service to the Crown. Though it was not in her plans, Charlie falls into the role with ease. She enjoys unraveling puzzles and catching people in lies. 

Of course, she's going to have to try very hard not to get caught in a lie herself.


A shot of my reference shelves!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Day Two: Nanowrimo: Rule of Steel

This month is Nanowrimo, which means I'll be participating in that while the Kickstarter goes forth. As of right now, I'm about 3K words into Rule of Steel. Charlie is having a bit of trouble adjusting to a new situation.

The research for this book is still ongoing, as I'm developing the alternate timelines for about seven other countries. Some of this groundwork has already been done, but a lot of it will come in second drafts.

Right now though, I'm concentrating on the first draft.

Anyhow, right now we're sitting at 8% funded, I'm overjoyed and a bit surprised. There's been a bit of traffic on the page, some Facebook shares and... I'm a Kickstarter Staff Pick!

That's all to report for today, stay tuned for more news from the front.


For Twitter updates follow me @ashkalexander  Hashtag #roekickstarter
On Facebook

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Guess what? The Kickstarter just launched! Learn more about the campaign, harangue me with questions or chip in if you like.

About Me

Having traditionally published in the past, I am well aware of the trials, tribulations and time it can take to get a book ready for print. Luckily, I've got the books written so now it's just a matter of editing, formatting and all of that laborious stuff that makes sure the book is as good as it can be.
My goal is to independently publish the first two books in what I intend to be a trilogy. I'm planning on an e-book release in all formats as well as a small run of one hundred for both books in paperback. I'm the one in charge of the cover art and I've contracted a wonderful editor.
I'm hoping you folks will help me with that. Of course, now you want to know what these books are about.
So find out here!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Inspiring Authors: Bram Stoker

No list of my inspiration would be complete without Dracula. Also, it's Halloween so...appropriate? Many people who have only seen the films have the misfortune of actually not knowing what the book is about. They have a misguided notion that Jonathon Harker is the hero of story.

They are wrong.

Mina in all of her glory, record keeping, awesomeness is the heroine of what some argue was a work of science fiction. I'm not wholly sure of that argument, but I do understand the reasoning. The use of the most up to date technology of the time allowed the cohort to work together across distances in a way that had no previously been possible. 

For me, Dracula was the book that showed me what Romanticism was all about. The language, the themes and the method of the book stuck with me. I first read this as an eighteen-year-old high school student. We'd been given a list of books to choose from and I, in a fit of disliking all of those books, requested that I be allowed to read Dracula instead. I was permitted. We had four months or so to work on the paper. I had a hard time getting into the book at first. The first hundred pages were so difficult to sludge through and then it was like a light came on inside me.

I understood it. I tore through the rest of the book in two days after having lingered for a few weeks on those early pages.

Dracula changed the way I saw words. It changed the way I wrote and for a long time it made my work clunky. I couldn't do what Stoker had done. It took time and patience and dedication to the simple craft of finding my own voice inside the voices that I had taken into myself over the years.

More than that, Dracula gave me Mina. A character who I have seen misinterpreted so many times. Mina is so much stronger. So, this Halloween, do me a favor, pick up the book and fall in love.

Because Dracula is not a love story. It's not even really horror. Dracula is about time passing people by. It's about stagnation and advancement.

Trust me, read the book.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Inspiring Author of the Day: Ellen Kushner

Now here's one where our fearless lady doesn't hide her gender. Ellen Kushner started this world with Swordspoint, but The Privilege of the Sword was the first book I read.

Katherine is thrown into a world she doesn't quite understand, with her uncle up to who-knows-what. His ultimate plan eventually unfolds to give Katherine what she really desires.

To say that this book had an influence of Rule of Sword would be an understatement, though I went a different way with Charlie. My love of fencing came from this book, and it led me to pursue an unseemly amount of research that should culminate in my taking lessons of my own.

If you haven't read Swordspoint or Privilege, I urge you to do so.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

THE Inspiration: Shakespeare's Twelfth Night

As Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Around the time I was unemployed, car-less, residing on the couch of a friend post-grad school, I found myself with a great deal of free time and a library card. The library had DVD's and I got curious and checked out Twelfth Night. I'd read the play, and seen other adaptations, but it was this film that drew out the spirit of the thing for me.

I immediately went and checked out As You Like It and Much Ado About Nothing, as I have not taste for his tragedies, I stuck with the comedies. His thread of lady pretending to be a man reminded me that I had once wished to write such a story. In fact, I had attempted to write iterations on the theme many times over the years.

Except this time, Charlotte was born. It was the beginning of Twelfth Night that had me. That terrible storm and siblings torn apart. It's echoed clearly in the beginning of Rule of Sword, but Charlotte's journey is not Viola's.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Inspiring Author of the Day: Jasper Fforde

A friend handed me the Eyre Affair, and my love of Jasper Fforde was born. His quirky tone, irreverent dialogue and clear love of the written word pulled me in. Thursday was a wonderful character to follow and each of her books has been delightful.

Where Jasper Fforde really distinguished himself for me though, was in Shades of Gray. A world built on a coloracrocy, where the strength of your color-vision, and what color you could see, determined your place in the world.

It was something so different and yet familiar. And it hit close to home for me. My father is color-blind and as a female, I carry the gene. It was interesting to see someone write a book where everyone was colorblind in some way.

The hero was unlikely in every way and his love interest had the hallmarks of being smart, sharp-tongued and no-nonsense, which I adore. Fforde follows in the tradition of Terry Pratchett in finding the amazing amongst the absurd, and imbuing it all with a reality and a darkness that make it so relateable.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Inspiring Author of the Day: Maria V. Snyder

Yelena doesn't count as a lady with a sword, but that's okay because she has a bow staff. Yelena is an amazing character. She's so convinced that her life is plotted out in front of her, and so broken in the beginning that you just want things to work out for her.

In fact, her arc is very similar to many male characters I've seen before. Except Yelena is of course female.

Now, one could argue that these books follow the trope of tortured women make heroes, but we get tortured male heroes all the time so I'd call bull shit. Yelena doesn't let her past define who she is, who she wants to be.

Yelena is part of a very rigid society. Everyone wears a uniform. Everyone has a job. If you kill someone--well, you die. Except Yelena doesn't. That's not really a spoiler as it's in the first five pages.

I just re-read the three novels (though I know Assassin Study is coming out?is out?) so I'll get to that one eventually as well. My favorite thing about Yelena is that once she sees an opportunity, she takes it. She fights back. She sets the rules and the boundaries in her world in any way she can.

And she is so bad-ass.

I feel like I never hear people talking about these books, or Yelena, but trust me--you need to read them.

A Bit About the World

I did a lot of research to create genuine feeling alternate history, down to the last detail. When you are deviating as much as I did, you have to make sure you are on solid ground.

That starts with the everday things. Things like the days of the week, the names of months, the way they keep time.

Charlie is from Eire, the Empire that rose up instead of England after a fateful battle went a different way entirely. This change meant that there was a new language that swept the world as a common tongue. Some countries were never formed and the borders that were drawn changed.
January became Enair, August became Lughnasa, Wednesday became Miosday.
Ireland became the most powerful of the once British Isles.

It's not even just about the words. You have to project the path of a culture into what it might have become given those circumstances. Of course there's quite a bit of liberties taken as we don't know exactly what would have happened.

More importantly though, I had the rise of the British Empire to use as a plumb line. I tracked the cause and effect scenarios to give myself someplace that felt a bit like Victorian Britain, but was also very much not Victorian Britain.

I wanted to give readers something familiar to ground themselves with and then show you how different things really are. Rule of Shadows does that to some degree but Rule of Steel is really where we get to see how some of these countries have progressed. Including a bit of information on the colonies... (Yup, America).

And of course, there's quite a heaping spoonful of folklore, magic and misty moors to come.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Insipring Author of the Day: David Eddings

I should start off by saying I re-read these books nearly every year (All ten of them, yes) and I see them as a cornerstone for myself as a person and as a writer.

I know they are formulaic. I know they are based on an incredibly overused story arc. I know the characters are archetypes.

But when I was young and my grandfather died and I found this book on my dad's shelf and my grandpa had given it to him for his birthday when he was eighteen and I--I just had to read it.

These pages got me through a difficult time and those formulas and archetypes comforted me. I could see the arc of the story playing out for me and I wasn't worried. I knew good would win over evil.
It made a foundation for me. They are a touchstone now. Someplace I can go back to again and again to remind myself who I am and what I believe in.

Because of that, I know there are problems in them, but still, I know they shaped my writing.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Rule of Sword: Chapter One

Here's a free peek at Rule of Sword!

Chapter One: Castaway
           They make no sound, the eascann nimhe, the deadly sea eels that fill the waters between the isles of Eire and the Continent. Their teeth are serrated and their eyes flash yellow, demon glows in the storm slashed sea. The ship, the Sea Hawk, groaned beneath my feet and lightning flashed overhead. The eels’ eyes glowed again. The rain fell so hard, like stones against the deck. A drumbeat scarcely faster than my heart. 

Inspiring Author of the Day: Megan Whalen Turner

Oh, Gen… My love for snarky thieves was not born with you, but it certainly was cemented. Megan Whalen Turner (these books are also on my tattoo) really has a flair for effortlessly combining history with magic and turning it into something wholly new and exciting.

Gen’s story of deception first introduced me to the concept of a narrator with something to hide—and the lovely twist at the end keeps me coming back to this one over and over again.

I see Gen and the influence of these books in my work and I can only hope that I do that influence justice. As authors/writers we often try to say we are original—but that simply isn’t so. We are influenced by every moment. Every interaction that sticks  in our mind from our daily routine, every book that burrowed it’s way into our brain and stayed there.

So it is for me with The Thief. I loved every book in this series deeply, and I would not be the writer I am today had I not read them.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Inspiring Author of the Day: Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones
For me, it was the atmosphere of her novels that inspired me. The way magic and mundane melted together so naturally into one piece. I fell in love first with Time City, but Diana drew me back again with Howl's Moving Castle. Sophie's journey of self-discovery is the sort of story I often find myself drawn towards. A young woman uncertain of what life will bring and sort of stuck in the place she's accepted is her lot.

And then magic strikes and Sophie takes a journey and discovers she has so much more to offer. The quirky pace and world building are outstanding and one could not go wrong by picking up this or The Lives of Christopher Chant, or any other of her books.
It was a sad day for all of us when Diana passed from this world, but her books have defined so many people and I know they defined me and the way I write.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Bit More About the Kickstarter

Coming November First the Rules of Engagement Kickstarter Campaign!

An orphaned girl takes her supposedly dead brother's place to become an officer in the Queen's army, only to end up a spy instead. Fourteen-year-old  Charlotte Ridley is shipwrecked, and while she loses her last surviving relative, elder brother Edmund, she gains the chance of a lifetime. Washed ashore on the island of Lochlan, home to the Crown's Lochlan Officer Academy, Charlotte takes on a new identity as the last male heir of the Ridley line.

As Charles, she trains hard to become the officer she always wanted to be--and the spy she never dreamed she could be. With war on the horizon the pressure mounts, Charlotte is going to have to decide if she will take to the field of battle or step into a world filled with shadows.
For a sneak peek at Chapter One of Rule of Sword, click away!

Inspiring Books of the Day: The Harper Series

Okay, let's talk about The Harpers books! Goodness there are so many badass ladies to talk about. We'll go around the way clockwise.

First of we have Alias who I believe first appeared in Azure Bonds and is a super amazing red head with sword skills. I was deep into D&D at the time and I read FIFTEEN Harper novels in like...a week. I kept the stack next to my pillow and devoured them. Just couldn't stop.

Then there's Storm, who I adored so much I based EVERY D&D character for like three years off of her and still have several old stories with characters called Storm in them. It left me with a penchant for silver-haired ladies in my books...

RUHA! Ruha is an amazing lady. She withstands being ostracized, she takes charge and in the end she is the master of her own fate. I wish we would have seen more of her passed The Veiled Dragon (And maybe there is another one, but I haven't read anything post-2003?).
Arilyn, you inspired my naming everyone with a color in their last name for about five years and my thing for orphans and misfits and asshole families. (I was having issues with my own parents at the time, I was in middle school).

I read these before I even got to Kel and Harry. (See my previous posts tagged #ladies with swords). While the authors never seemed to matter much to me at the time, I can point to Elaine Cunningham, Ed Greenwood, Kate Novak, Jeff Grubb and Troy Denning now as my favorite authors in the Harpers series. Well, other than R.A. Salvatore because speaking of outcasts I will always love Drizzt...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Inspiring Author of the Day: Tamora Pierce

Ah, Tamora Pierce. You gave me not one, not two, but a whole bevy of amazing ladies to look up to. I first found Sandry's book at a school book fair. I had five dollars saved up and I bought that book.
I devoured that book. The opening pages of Sandry's fight against despair struck a chord in me. I read every book I could find (as they came out mostly) and then I found Kel. Kel reminded me of Harry (The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley) and she reminded me of the knights I loved in stories.
Knights who were typically male, but not always.

Kel was a fighter, fair and steady. She put her faith in her friends. It was that steadfastness that I wished I could instill in myself. I wished I could be as passionate and certain--I wished I could control my temper.

We each find different things to connect with. I had a harder time connecting with Alanna, and I see that reflected in my difficulty connecting with another fiery redhead (Aerin The Hero and the Crown). They were both just too big. They were too magical, too fated.
I suppose it's just in me to fall for the characters who struggle with uncertainty, the ones with their feet firmly on the ground.

And yet it is Alanna's circumstance of woman pretending to be a man (and a heavy influence of Shakespeare) that I have kept returning to in themes throughout my writing.

Coming November First!

About Me

Having traditionally published in the past, I am well aware of the trials, tribulations and time it can take to get a book ready for print. Luckily, I've got the books written so now it's just a matter of editing, formatting and all of that laborious stuff that makes sure the book is as good as it can be.
My goal is to independently publish the first two books in what I intend to be a trilogy. I'm planning on an e-book release in all formats as well as a small run of one hundred for both books in paperback. I'm the one in charge of the cover art and I've contracted a wonderful editor.
I'm hoping you folks will help me with that. Of course, now you want to know what these books are about.

Rule of Sword

An orphaned girl takes her supposedly dead brother's place to become an officer in the Queen's army, only to end up a spy instead.

Fourteen-year-old  Charlotte Ridley is shipwrecked, and while she loses her last surviving relative, elder brother Eamon, she gains the chance of a lifetime. Washed ashore on the island of Lochlan, home to the Crown's Lochlan Officer Academy, Charlotte takes on a new identity as the last male heir of the Ridley line.

As Charles, she trains hard to become the officer she always wanted to be--and the spy she never dreamed she could be. With war on the horizon the pressure mounts, Charlotte is going to have to decide if she will take to the field of battle or step into a world filled with shadows.

Rule of Shadow picks up where Rule of Sword leaves off, and unfortunately saying too much about it gives away a huge bit of plot for the first book, so I'll keep mum for now.
I know it can be difficult to back something without getting an idea of what it is first, and with books you want a preview. So, for you reading pleasure I do have Chapter One of Rule of Sword available to read for everyone.

What will happen if we make more than our goal? 

$5000 - I'm going to order up interior illustrations and build a website for the series. All backers at $20 and up will receive high resolution copies of all of the art we make for the interiors.

 $6,500 - we'll be able to expand the print run and upgrade the top two backer levels to signed hard covers. All backers at $20 and up will receive high resolution copies of the original watercolor portraits of Charlie, some of which are here on the page and a few others I have squirreled away. Backers at the $50 level and up will get prints of the interior illustrations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Inspiring Author of the Day: Robin McKinley

Robin McKinley has a place of honor on my tattoo and this book is the reason. I read Harry before Alanna, before Kel. I read her story and I was in love. Here was girl who found herself in a world she didn't understand and yet with every passing moment felt an abiding love for that world. Found a skill she never thought she would possess.

Harry set me on a path in my writing to strive for a female protagonist that was worthy of being compared to her. It also had me naming all of my ladies in masculine fashion (I can't help it). I read The Blue Sword before The Hero and the Crown, and to be honest it's my preferred book over the latter.

If you're looking for an uplifting story about a woman who doesn't have to hide who she is, who takes her destiny in her own hands--this is a book you have to read.
It is a book that will never leave my heart.