Saturday, July 10, 2021

All Hail the Rebels


Sometimes, the rule of the land is meant to keep the powerless powerless. All hail the rebels who mean to change that.

~ Raina Bloodgood, The Witch Collector

Politics. Not my favorite topic. I do enjoy reading about politics in world history, as well as the causes of ancient and even more contemporary wars, but I am not one to sit and watch the news. It depresses me, every time. That being said, politics still plays into my fiction. I'm not the best at the governmental aspects of worldbuilding, I admit, probably because of my aversion to stupid people being in positions of power.

But! In The Witch Collector for instance, political tensions are a huge part of the backdrop and drive the external conflict. Since this is book one in a triology, however, and thus act one in the story arc, I narrow my lens and focus mostly on the relationship of the hero and heroine, my rebels.

Book one follows Raina Bloodgood and Alexus Thibault as they navigate the initial story problems that will later propel them from their normal worlds into a world they've either avoided (Alexus) or never seen (Raina). They live on what's called the Northland Break, a small piece of the broken empire of Tiressia, a supercontinent that experienced a tectonic shift millions of years before, and was once under the rule of a succession of human kings, each of whom answered to the gods.

But then the gods came down and took their own rule, one in the Northlands, one in the Eastland Territories, one in the Summerlands, and another in what's known as the Western Drifts. Much of the conflict that developed is of a godly nature, meaning greed, insatiable appetites for all sorts of pleasure, and complete adoration was paramount in their focus. They wanted what they wanted when they wanted it, regardless of the humans, halflings, witches, magi, and sorcerers they had to step on or destroy to sate their desires. 

As tensions rose, bad things happened and two of the gods, Asha and Neri, were condemed and buried in the Summerlands. The City of Ruin is where their bones rest, at a place called the Grove of the Gods on Mount Ulra. Another god, Urdin of the Western Drifts, the best of the deities, died battling the Eastland god, Thamaos. Both were also buried at the grove.

Part of the conflict that led to all four gods' destruction was two simple human lovers. The fallout of that romance was not only a catalyst to the gods' demise, but left the Tiressian world with two immortal rulers, a Frost King and a Fire Queen, cast north and south of one another, who would never again be able to survive the other's presence. 

In this story, greed and revenge reign, and even gods can rise again, unless a witch and a Witch Collector can become allies and prevent worldwide calamity.

So. Yes, I use politics in my fiction. It won't show as much in book one as the next two books, because the MC has to learn the hidden history of the world she's occupied for twenty-four years and correct the thinking that three centuries of false lore have impressed upon the Northland people. This is a story of a young woman who lives a very sheltered existence and doesn't even realize it. She thinks she understands her world, and that it's the immortal king of the North who's ruining her life. Little does she know at the onset how protected she's been, and that sometimes, the world we don't see is absoutely stunning and beautiful and can open our minds to different cultures, but it can also be a rude awakening. Sometimes, the lives we think are so terrible are nothing in comparison to the trials many people live through day in and day out. My goal is to show that through Raina, to show her understanding of the complexities of Tiressia, and how those complexities affect her as an individual, deepening with every page.

If The Witch Collector sounds like a book you might like to read, I would love it if you added it to your Goodreads. If you'd like to pre-order the e-book, it's available on several platforms now. Print will be available in September!!


Friday, July 9, 2021

Terrible Politics

Sit back and let me tell you a terrible story. 

I have a friend who is a military veteran. This isn't hard. I grew up in a military family and on military bases. This friend is terminally ill. Doesn't matter how or with what. Just know they are. They are aware they are. This friend is also very, very poor and because of that is currently homeless and living out of a car. 

When this friend was first diagnosed, they did some mental math and decided that they'd rather die by their own hand than endure disability and increasing doses of pain medications that probably wouldn't actually dull the pain but which WOULD dull my friend. Two weeks ago Sunday, my friend emailed me their suicide note saying goodbye.

You very likely just had a visceral reaction to that. Look at it. Examine it. That reaction is political. Even if you believe it's moral or compassionate, your reaction is political because it's shaped by the culture that shaped you - a culture shaped by and that shapes the politics with which we all live. What was it? Horror over suicide? Horror over someone forced into a position where suicide seems like the best option? Or was it sadness over the recognition that this person is actively dying anyway, and deciding to take that death into their own hands seems like the final piece of control they can wrest from this world? Whatever it your reaction was, with a little thought, you can trace it to either religious conditioning, or to secular conditioning around right and wrong as defined by Western cultural and political thought.

Still, we're fortunate. Most of us can point to other cultures in the world that don't have the same suicide taboo that our Christianized culture does. We're at least aware there are other viewpoints on death in the world. My point in telling this tale is to point out how deeply entwined politics (and religion) is in our lives and our attitudes and in how we see the world. So you bet politics plays into my stories. I submit that it plays into every story and all world-building, whether we want it to or not. If you're writing romance, the notion of one person falling in love with another (and only one other) person is political. Ask anyone who's polyamorous. 

As for the story about my friend - I didn't make it up. The friend was found by the police and taken to the ER. They survived the suicide attempt, only to be denied hospice care by the VA and turned out onto the streets again today. Still terminally ill. Still homeless. Still living out of a car while I scramble for solutions for getting them housed so that Medicare can provide in-home hospice to them for however long remains.

THAT situation is also deeply political. Not to mention deeply damning of our political system.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Politics in Fiction


Politics in Fiction type over image of The Mars Strain audiobook on cell phone screen resting beside red Beats headphones on NASA Space Center walkway.

Politics. It’s all about who has what, who doesn’t have what, and who wants what. And that’s why I’d argue that politics play an important role in nearly every book, because politics are all about the conflict over power. 

Not sure how to do that? Let’s check out some examples.

I write science fiction and fantasy, two genres rife with politics, and so I give you: 

Game of Thrones—gobs of conflict over the iron throne 

The Last Astronaut—a horrific fight between us and aliens

The Twelve Kingdoms series—serious struggle over over which kingdom controls the power that forms the world

The Lady Astronaut Universe series—a struggle between those with the brains and those in control

Shadow and Bone series—a war between two powerful Grisha (power wielders) and the country stuck in the middle of it

Hopefully you’re familiar with some of these. And if you’re not, I highly suggest picking them up because these are all fantastic reads! But it really doesn’t matter if you’re unfamiliar with the plots because they’re all the same: the players without the power do three things. 

1: they strategize

2: they recruit

3: they act

But what if your inciting incident doesn’t involve a takeover/overthrow/uprising? Then I say you’re missing out on leveling up by adding in some politics. Let’s go a little deeper. My audiobook, The Mars Strain, follows this politics breakdown more than one way.

The main plot line is a Martian organism that arrives and threatens life on Earth. My heroine and her team study and figure out how they are going to counter it, they pull in assistance from the Mars Colony and the CDC, and when they’re ready they put everything they’ve got into making their plan happen. 

Excellent, right? That’s enough to carry a novel. But come on, we want a great story instead of a good one. So I added another layer.

The other thread is another entity—no I can’t say who because spoiler—who has watched the Mars Space Program from inception, utilized intrigue to recruit spies, and is now forcing the coalition to remove the program out of the US. This is big because the world is looking at the Mars Colony as the only escape pod!

What do you think? Are the politics in your story transforming the landscape of your book? 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Yeah I Said That

Very quickly, do I write politics into my books? Well, Perfect Gravity features a woman senator who overthrows a corrupt, jingoistic jerk president and his cronies. 

That book was released in November 2017. 


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Politics and the Protagonist

 How does politics (of the fictional world) flavor the outcome of our stories?

I'm like Jeffe in that politics is a BFD in my fictional worlds. Be it UF or HF, the underlying theme across all my stories is about changing society and social structures. After all, what is politics but the manipulation of social contracts by individuals and/or organizations? Part of the fun of worldbuilding is defining the current political landscape, then spending the next three hundred-ish pages trying to uphold or rebel against it. The protagonist's relationship to society, and, by extension, authority, is a foundational character definition. The plot unfolds from that relationship. 

I do tend to write protagonists who are in a position to affect large-scale change. Macro movers who are plagued by consequences on a micro level. The contrast keeps the character relatable while reinforcing how decisions made by the top of the food chain come to bear on individuals. That's not to say every protag has to be part of the 0.0001% of the world's elite in order to influence politics. To the contrary. The most classic hero archetype is the nobody who becomes the king/god. 

My schtick is that I like to show the repercussions of forced change. The ugly consequences of shattering social contracts. The unrest stemming from ambiguity. The insecurity of crumbling of boundaries. The conflicts of redefining social expectations. That's the reason I write series instead of standalones. I'm fascinated by what happens after the hero achieves the initial win. Not just how the hero changes, but how society changes for better and worse. How are the new rules decided, and who cements them? How does the political landscape shift and can it ever be stabilized?

In-world politics, even when subtly displayed, is the spinal disk amid the backbone of my stories. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Worldbuilding and Political Landscapes


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is politics and - no, wait! Come back!!

Politics in FICTION, okay???

We're asking how politics and the political landscape of the world flavor the outcome of stories.

This is my particular catnip as the political landscape of my books is always as important - if not more so - than other facets of the worlds I build. I even teach a workshop called "Worldbuilding: Political Systems in Conflict." Why politics? Because they are about the conflicts that affect an entire society - and societies beyond them, too. As we've all learned from the political turmoil of recent years, politics affects the bedrock of our lives, our very rights as sentient beings. 

So, I argue that the political landscape is always going to flavor a story, perhaps more profoundly than the actual landscape. Sure, some stories try to present themselves as absent of politics, but basics aspects of the characters' lives - access to food, housing, education, etc. - are always going to be influenced by the political landscape.

Right now I'm looking at the release of Book #2 in my Bonds of Magic series - BRIGHT FAMILIAR releases on July 9! - and so I'm getting impassioned messages from early readers. Often when I wake up in the morning, because they're staying awake all night reading it. (Best compliment there is!) Many of them are commenting about the power dynamics and how much resonance they have - on a personal and sexual basis, but also on a societal level. When I set out to write Book #1, DARK WIZARD, I wanted to portray an entire society based on a fundamental, incontrovertible power imbalance. In the Convocation, all political power derives from the ability to wield magic. Wizards can. Familiars have magic, but can't use it - so they become the ones who are used. 

As with all of us, the politics of who has the power affects what rights we have - and which we don't. In life, love, and the pursuit of all that is worthwhile. 

He wanted her with consuming passion... and so did the monster within.

Lady Veronica Elal has been freed from her tower—and entered a life of servitude. It doesn’t matter that her wizard master has odd ideas about circumventing Convocation tradition and making their relationship equal. Nic prides herself on her practicality and that means not pretending her marriage is full of hearts and flowers. Besides she understands that, despite her new husband’s idealism, they face obstacles so great the pair of them could be crushed to nothing, even without dashing themselves brainless trying to fight the Convocation.

Lord Gabriel Phel has come this far against impossible odds. He was born with powerful wizard magic, the first in his family in generations. He’s managed to begin the process of reinstating his fallen house. And—having staked his family’s meager fortune to win a familiar to amplify his magic, a highborn daughter to be mother to his children, his lady, and lover—he rescued Nic in a distant land, successfully bringing her home to House Phel. Though she’s cynical about their chances of success, he’s certain they can defy their enemies and flourish. Together.

But, the more Gabriel discovers about working with the fiery Nic, attempting to learn the finer points of wizardry and marriage, the more illicit fantasies plague him. His need for Nic—and the dark cravings she stirs in his black wizard’s heart—grow daily. Though Nic has reconciled herself to being possessed by Gabriel—and indeed yearns for even more from her brooding and reluctant master—creating a new life for herself isn’t easy. Especially when Gabriel seems determined to subvert the foundation of her world. Starting with her father.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

What the Froth?

When I saw the topic for this week, I laughed. I'd just finished writing a really tough chapter with lots of dark elements. I'm guessing frothy means light, and I'm kinda the opposite. So instead of talking about what my writing isn't, I thought I'd share what it IS. There's always lots of magick, romance, usually some myth that's part of the worldbuilding, and heroes that maybe shouldn't be heroes in their book but aren't toxic jerks that force you into marriage or bed or any of that annoying stuff I see too often in novels. I also write lots of female characters with varying abilities and stories, and I aim to create worlds that are diverse with none of the societal prejudices we have in the real world. That's the goal.

I have a novel coming out in November titled The Witch Collector and the cover reveal is next Wednesday, 7/7.  I thought I'd share the blurb today and the link to Goodreads if you want to add it to your lists!

๐™๐™๐™š ๐™’๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™˜๐™ ๐˜พ๐™ค๐™ก๐™ก๐™š๐™˜๐™ฉ๐™ค๐™ง ๐™˜๐™ค๐™ข๐™š๐™จ ๐™š๐™ซ๐™š๐™ง๐™ฎ ๐™ƒ๐™–๐™ง๐™ซ๐™š๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™ˆ๐™ค๐™ค๐™ฃ. ๐™ƒ๐™š’๐™จ ๐™ฃ๐™š๐™ซ๐™š๐™ง ๐™ก๐™–๐™ฉ๐™š. ๐™๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ก ๐™ฃ๐™ค๐™ฌ.


๐™๐™–๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™– ๐˜ฝ๐™ก๐™ค๐™ค๐™™๐™œ๐™ค๐™ค๐™™…

Eight years ago, the Witch Collector stole her sister. Ever since, Raina has wanted one thing: her family, together and free. Now she longs for something more: the Frost King and his Witch Collector. Dead. And today, she’ll make her wish come true.


๐™๐™๐™š ๐™’๐™ž๐™ฉ๐™˜๐™ ๐˜พ๐™ค๐™ก๐™ก๐™š๐™˜๐™ฉ๐™ค๐™ง…

Every autumn, Alexus Thibault travels from Winterhold to select a witch from each village for the Frost King’s service. This time he rides to collect Raina Bloodgood, a young woman whose face he cannot forget, and whose secrets could save them all.

๐™๐™๐™š ๐˜ฝ๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ฉ๐™ก๐™š ๐™ค๐™› ๐™๐™š๐™ข๐™ฅ๐™ฉ๐™–๐™ฉ๐™ž๐™ค๐™ฃ…

Thrust into an age-old story of ice, fire, and buried gods, Raina must abandon vengeance and join Alexus in a quest to save the Frost King, or let their world be destroyed. But when the lines between good and evil blur, how can she fulfill her vow—to kill the Witch Collector—when he’s no longer the man who stole her sister, but the hero who’s stealing her heart?


๐˜ผ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™ง๐™ž๐™ก๐™ก๐™ž๐™ฃ๐™œ ๐™›๐™–๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™–๐™จ๐™ฎ ๐™™๐™š๐™—๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ฉ๐™๐™š ๐™›๐™ž๐™ง๐™จ๐™ฉ ๐™—๐™ค๐™ค๐™  ๐™ž๐™ฃ ๐™– ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™ž๐™ก๐™ค๐™œ๐™ฎ ๐™ค๐™› ๐™ข๐™ฎ๐™ฉ๐™, ๐™ข๐™–๐™œ๐™ž๐™˜๐™ , ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™ง๐™ค๐™ข๐™–๐™ฃ๐™˜๐™š, ๐™ฅ๐™š๐™ง๐™›๐™š๐™˜๐™ฉ ๐™›๐™ค๐™ง ๐™‰๐™–๐™ค๐™ข๐™ž ๐™‰๐™ค๐™ซ๐™ž๐™ , ๐˜ผ๐™ข๐™ฎ ๐™ƒ๐™–๐™ง๐™ข๐™ค๐™ฃ, ๐™Ž๐™–๐™ง๐™–๐™ ๐™…. ๐™ˆ๐™–๐™–๐™จ, ๐™–๐™ฃ๐™™ ๐™…๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฃ๐™ž๐™›๐™š๐™ง ๐™‡. ๐˜ผ๐™ง๐™ข๐™š๐™ฃ๐™ฉ๐™ง๐™ค๐™ช๐™ฉ ๐™›๐™–๐™ฃ๐™จ.




Friday, July 2, 2021

Frothy is for rootbeer

When I measured my age in single digits, one of my favorite things in the world was root beer. There were ads touting a frosty mug of frothy, ice cold root beer on TV in those days (and this WAS before color TV.) Dad had introduced me to root beer early in life and by the time I was 5, I was addicted. He would finish work before Mom did, so he'd pick my sister and me up from the babysitter and take us to the A&W Drive-in. We'd get great big chunky glass mugs of root beer brought to the car. The ice would have already formed on the outside of the mugs - even in the heat of the Las Vegas desert. The three of us would sit there freezing our hands and chugging enough root beer to float small nations.

A&W closed it's restaurants. They bottle their root beer now. It's not the same. The flavor is flatter. It's no where near as rich and spicy. 

So while I doubt there's a single person alive or dead who'd describe me or what I write as frothy, if we extend the root beer story out to metaphor, I might could get by with dark, rich, and spicy with a sweet creamy finish.

But frothy as in bubbly and effervescent?

I don't think my train stops at that station. The tracks do take long winding paths through sarcasm and smart-assery, though. Does that count?

Who knows where there's still an A&W brick and mortar hold out? I need a frosty mug.