Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kisses by Clockwork is here!

Ticonderoga Publications' steampunk romance anthology Kisses by Clockwork is now available!


Putting the steamy back into steampunk. 105,000 words of steampunk romance, edited by the award-winning Liz Grzyb.

It includes my short story "Love in the Time of Clockwork Horses." *squee*

Links to buy:

Amazon
Book Depository

Be sure to enter the Goodreads giveaway!





Friday, May 30, 2014

Elphie!

It's finals week, so in lieu of a real blog post, I give you pictures of Elphie, my 1.5 year-old holland lop.




Thursday, May 29, 2014

Anatomy of a Fantasy Novel: Part 2

The continuation of my essay poking fun at some of the tropes of fantasy literature. You can find part one here.

***

Evil Overlord: The villain around whom the entire story revolves. They usually have taken over the kingdom and are currently robbing its citizens of all happiness and liberty. If male, they are extremely ugly and brutish. If female, they are beautiful and dress in slinky clothing and try to seduce the Hero. They possess Magic and a hunger for power and/or revenge.

Dwarf: A race of fantasy creatures. They typically live underground, carry axes, drink mead, and hate elves. A Dwarf will never be the Hero in a fantasy novel, but he often accompanies the Quest and provides comedy relief.

Elf: Another frequent companion on Quests, Elves usually live in trees, commune with nature, and use bows and arrows. They hate Dwarves, but be prepared for the occasional canny author who makes their dwarves and elves friends just to be different. Also, Elves are always more attractive than everyone else in the story. Always.

Mercenary: Hired for the Quest, he is in it only for the money. However, beneath his rough exterior, ridiculous amount of weaponry, and the layer of dried blood, he is a softie. This will be shown with his interaction with baby animals and young children. He is a man of few words, instead choosing to let his sword (too big for anyone else to lift) speak for him.

Thief: The lovable rogue that joins up with the Quest, usually after attempting to rob the Hero, who then gives him a second chance. After being orphaned as a child by a plague and/or the work of the Evil Overlord, he has gained many criminal skills that he will rely on throughout the course of the story. These skills will become invaluable when they must break into a castle, mountain fortress, ancient booby-trapped Ruins, or underground lair in order to find the object of the Quest. Fair warning: the Thief is often the companion who has a change of heart and sacrifices himself to save the Quest, and he will most likely be your favorite character.

Wise Man: The sage who accompanies the Quest. His purpose is to reveal the information the author doesn’t know how to slip into the narrative. The Wise Man may turn out to be the Hero’s father, and he always withholds crucial facts for the purposes of education.

Love Interest: She is gorgeous, but unaware of it. Usually of noble birth, and always completely out of the Hero’s league. However, by the end, she will be his. She has almost no personality, but don’t tell him that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Captain Marvel vs. Power Girl: the importance of female superheroes' costumes

Earlier this week, I read a great article by Lauren Davis published on io9.com called “Why do we care so much about what female superheroes wear, anyway?” I definitely recommend giving it a read.

I agree wholeheartedly with what Davis is saying, and I think the pictures at the top of the article illustrate her point perfectly. (These are different pictures of the same two heroes, just for a wider reference.)

source
source
On one side, you have Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel and my personal favorite superhero) who is wearing an outfit that seems practical for a fight, or at least as practical as superhero costumes get. She looks strong and confident, and while her outfit is tight-fitting, it doesn’t over-sexualize her.

On the other, you have Power Girl, who has been reduced to a joke all too often because her costume includes a boob window that serves no practical purpose (despite what writers have tried to give

Both are strong, capable heroes. Only one, however, reveals that in her costume. How can anyone, character or reader, take a superhero seriously if she’s dressed for a striptease and not kicking butt and saving the world?

I definitely don’t think female superheroes have to hide their figures, or wear baggy costumes. That wouldn’t be practical either, since the hand-to-hand combat they often partake in requires tight clothes that aren’t going to get in the way. But there’s a different between what Rogue wears and what Zatanna does. I love them both, but on the surface, one screams capable and one doesn’t.

I’ve mentioned here before how much I love my cover for The Thunderbird Project, and one of the big reasons is that Jupiter is portrayed accurately. She’s wearing a full black jumpsuit. It’s tight-fitting, but it serves a practical purpose. She looks strong, not sexualized.

I sense that there’s a shift happening in the comics industry. Fans are speaking out. They no longer want their superheroines wearing swimsuits and fishnets. They recognize that these characters are more than eye candy. They want what’s on the outside to represent the strength they all have on the inside.

Captain Marvel and those like her are a great step in that direction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Science fiction book review: Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

From the Amazon blurb:

Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet.

That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.


There are lots of things to love about this book. First, it has a tough-as-nails female protagonist who runs around in mechanical armor, wielding a laser sword.

Devi is far more than just her armor or her fighting ability. She's got a personality that feels real, and there is a romantic subplot that really brings out the more vulnerable parts of her. She never compromises herself, however, not even for love. Rachel strikes a perfect balance with her romance. Devi remains her own person with her own goals.

Another amazing thing about Fortune's Pawn is the world building. Devi is from a planet called Paradox that is a paradox itself. It's a high tech, space-faring planet that is still ruled by a feudal system, with armor fighters taking the place of knights. How cool is that?

One of my favorite things about space operas is the quirkiness of the crew. The side characters are all super interesting (and in some cases downright creepy--no spoilers!). From the overly spiritual roommate to the arrogant alien-bird pilot to the flesh-eating alien medic, the crew of the Glorious Fool are an eclectic, fun group of people to read about.

The plot is a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns that keeps you guessing right up until the cliffhanger ending. The best thing about the book? There are two more in the series, and they are both out!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Where the water is deepest

My nonfiction professor has a saying that she uses quite often in workshop:

“End where the water’s deepest.”

From what I understand, this means to leave your reader in a powerful place, in a place of emotion and reflection. Don’t necessarily give them a ‘happily-ever-after.’ Instead, give them something that will stick with them for a long time.

I think of endings like the Lord of the Rings. Mercedes Lackey's Brightly Burning and The Last Herald-Mage. Pearl Buck's The Good Earth. Even the movie Pacific Rim. Endings that resonated so deeply.

When I’m writing endings, I tend to over-explain everything. I like to tie everything up with a nice, clean knot, and let the reader know exactly what everything meant within the novel. Don’t do this. It takes away from the magic of reading. When I’m reading a novel, I want to be left in a place that leaves me gasping for air. A place where the water’s deepest. Because it is those endings that I still think about years later.

As a writer, this doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to carefully revise my endings so that there is depth there, and I don’t take it away from the reader. For one of my current manuscripts, the ending does wrap things up fairly nicely. The bad guys are defeated. But I wanted to give my readers just a bit more. So I ended it on a powerful line that reveals something new about the protagonist.

There are infinite ways to end a story, an essay, a poem with depth. Look for the deep water, and aim for it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Piece of Memory

When I was six years old, we moved from a neighborhood outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a small town in northern Minnesota. My dad was following a job offer at the University of Minnesota, but I had just completed kindergarten, making some friends along the way. So I wasn’t too thrilled.

I don’t know where she got the idea, whether from a magazine or a parenting manual, but my mom decided that we would leave toys somewhere in our house so that my siblings and I would always have a connection to it.

Of course, we couldn’t leave anything in plain sight. A new family was moving in, and they would notice a teddy bear stuck under the sink. And I sure wasn’t about to part with my Teddy.

That house had an attic. It was little more than storage, with a steep slant in the ceiling to match the roof. Slabs of unvarnished wood shot up from the floor into the creases in the ceiling, creating dozens of triangles.

It was here that my mom said we would leave our toys. She took us up the morning we were moving. The house was empty, except for the echoes. Mom handed each of us a yellow plastic hotel from our Monopoly game. We set them down on the side of the wooden beams facing away from the stairs. Three little hotels up in that attic.

A few days ago, I was walking back from class, and I saw a plastic Monopoly hotel in the mud. No idea how it got there. But it jogged this memory loose, and I wonder if those little hotels are still up in the attic of that old house.


Maybe it didn’t help right away with the thought of moving, but fourteen years late, it feels kind of nice to still have that connection to part of my childhood. Mom was right, as always.