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.