Book Release: BROKEN, a FORSAKEN LANDS Novella

I am very pleased to announce that Broken is now live on Amazon! You can check it out here.

broken for real

Sixteen-year-old Elden is a young man driven by impulse. A natural telekinetic raised by strict disciplinarians, he has struggled all his life to be what anyone expected him to be. On the eve of his brother’s induction into Justice training Elden faces a series of crucial choices, the outcome of which will determine his future in ways he never imagined.

This 20,000-word novella contains a significant level of explicit language and descriptions of substance abuse.

In other news, progress continues on FL2 as well as the Fae and Folly serial (as you can plainly see from previous posts!). However… I will be starting on a hardcore internal medicine rotation on Monday which will last until August 25th. Between the shock of (finally) being a new doctor and pulling 70-80 hour weeks, I may kind of disappear.


There’s also a chance that I will cling to my fantasy world so closely that you’ll get sick of me. It could really go either way at this point. I just wanted to let you all know in case it turns out to be the former – even if I’m in hospital wards purgatory for the next 8 weeks, I can assure you that nothing will keep me from writing on a longterm basis. Eventually my time on internal med will end, and I will go back to the comfort and safety of my chosen specialty.

Until then, please enjoy the novella! If you have thoughts on it – good or not-so-good – your reviews would be welcome. Reviews are an indie writer’s lifeblood!

Enjoy the rest of your week, dear readers.

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 3

You can check out Part 1 and Part 2 via the links.

Tired was an inadequate descriptor for how I felt when I finally set foot in my apartment, one cab ride and two more doses of benadryl later. My keys clanked on the table in my entryway and I took a long, deep breath. Portland was known for decent air quality despite its population density, but no city could be quite clean enough for a Fae. The petroleum running rampant in the air wherever we went gave us trouble, reduced only by copious greenery and the occasional slide into near earth. Sliding into near earth was like coming up for breath after a long dive – that strange kind of I was almost dying and now I’m not ecstasy, which is less pleasure than survival. I’m half water nymph, after all – I would know.

My apartment was on the outskirts of Northeast Portland in a little (emphasis on the “little”) building near the Columbia. The IFA regional office had a hotel on the premises used for visiting Fae dignitaries. As a representative of the Northwest I requested a unit reserved just for me with all the amenities of a standard one-bedroom Portland apartment – scaled down, of course.

The “scaled down” part was very important. Before taking a position as bridger I tried to live in mundane society in a tiny studio apartment in downtown. It is difficult to fully appreciate the challenges of cooking in a giant-sized kitchen if you’ve never done it. Just putting a pot of water on to boil was such a workout that I ended up ordering veggie sushi every night for two months.

Portland was good for vegans, at least. That was one of many reasons why when Fae from various parts of the world came to North America, they chose to come to Portland. It was one of the “nice” places to be one of our people.

I breathed deep, feeling just a bit lighter when filtered air scented by the many flowers planted along my walls filed my lungs. My apartment was formerly a one-bedroom suite – the living room and kitchen were decidedly hotel-like, but just spacious enough for my purposes. Ever since I became a bridger I spent half my time away between the grove and my travels, anyway. I’d taken the time to paint the walls in browns, blues, and greens when I got in, reminiscent of nature. The furnishings were otherwise entirely modern. I had a few shiny metal statues mixed in with the green. I liked my nature like any Fae, but I had my own flare for style, too.

I wandered through my sadly empty kitchen, finding only expired juices in my fridge. I settled on a tall glass of ice water, leaning on the counter while I powered up my neglected phone. I’d turned it off at the beginning of the plane ride and hadn’t turned it on since I got back into Portland. My eyes were dull and heavy while I watched the screen power up. I slipped off my blazer, tossing it in a pile on my living room floor. I’d deal with cleanup later.

There were several emails waiting for me, as well as a couple of texts from Brenna, the IFA coordinator who lived in the regional facility, inquiring about my whereabouts. She was a bit motherly, and I’d forgotten to let her know I got in safe. Oops. I replied to that text immediately.

Finally a voicemail notification appeared on my screen, and the number made me raise an eyebrow. I knew that number. It was a Nevada area code, and there was only one person in Nevada who would ever have a reason to get in touch with me.

I groaned low in my throat when I touched the ‘play’ button, speaker on.

“Hey Lee. I guess you forgot to turn on your phone, didn’t you? Oh well. Anyway, I wanted to meet up with you for dinner-” I pressed my palm directly to the center of my face. Dinner. She wants to have dinner. “-but since I can’t get in touch with you I’ll just come by.  Petals, babe.”

“Oh by the blades,” I cursed. My eyes darted to the door, knowing that Dyana would be knocking any minute. We’d bonded for almost a full year, after all – I knew her well, just as she knew me. My windows were closed but my lights were on, surely visible through the little cracks in the curtains. Perhaps if I could just shut off the lights and lock my door really fast before she arrived…

As if waiting for just that moment, an insistent knock came from outside. I closed my eyes.

It came again. Knocknocknock. “Amelie?” A pause, “I flew metal just for you, so don’t you dare-”

As I swung open the door I had to decide what to do with my face – whether it would be appropriately un-enthused, or whether I would put on a fake smile to appease her. In my haze of fatigue I’m pretty sure it came out somewhere in between, an ineffectual medium which would not help me toward any goal.

Dyana’s appearance – silver eyes, white hair and moonpale skin – would be directly at odds with her over-the-top personality except for the bright purple wings she used to hover several inches above me. I fell in love with her wings when we first met. They had a gorgeous glow about them.

“Don’t you look uninspired,” Dyana smiled, her pale lips seemingly too large for her face. Oh muses. I didn’t hate them – it would be quite unfortunate if I did, given that bridging was a muse-dominated field – but I preferred dealing with muses only at work. A year of bonding with Dyana taught me that much.

“I…” I sighed. I wasn’t going to be able to pretend to be excited to see her, even if she was my ex-partner and the woman who convinced me to get into the bridger business in the first place. “I am, Dy. I’m exhausted. Happy to see you, though,” I struggled with the last statement. I liked Dy, and certainly would have been pleased to hear that she was planning a trip to see me. It would have been genuine happiness had she only waited another six hours to announce herself.

“Oh shush,” Dy glided past me, perching with bare feet up on the back of my lovely, white couch. I winced, shutting and locking the door behind her, leaning against it with a huff that blew frazzled strands of hair out of my eyes. “I knew that if I waited for you to get back to me it would be forever. You probably would have gone off to that meeting without even a word.”

“The meeting is-” I was about to say ‘Monday’ before I glanced at the digital clock on the wall. One a.m. “Tomorrow, technically. I would have called you back, you know that.”

Dy shrugged. “If you kept your phone on you maybe I could have caught you on your way back from the airport. Takes two to make these kinds of mistakes, Lee.”

She’d always been energetic, that was for sure. I crossed over to my chaise and threw myself into it. In my shell top with the bra sticking out, business pants, and socks, I knew I looked a wreck. I didn’t even care anymore. “I would say something witty, but my wings are already asleep. The rest of me is just standing guard.”

Suddenly distracted, Dy swooped into my kitchen with a dazzling flutter of her wings. I couldn’t see what she was doing behind the little bar – and again, I didn’t care. I was too tired to care about much of anything.

“Why are you here? I haven’t seen you in… what is it, six months now?” I asked over the sound of pots clanging and drawers opening. She’d never been in this particular apartment of mine, yet she walked around in it like it was hers. It made me smile just a little, enough that I couldn’t bring myself to tell her to calm down and stay out of my stuff.

“Eight,” Dy corrected, her head poking around the corner. “I wanted to congratulate you! And get the gossip, of course. I have some to give too.”

“And it still can’t wait till morning?”

“Well… some of it can, if I can borrow your couch.”

“Didn’t you start your own… something? Down in Reno?” I leaned forward to try to catch a glimpse of what in the five earths she was up to in my kitchen, but her back was turned to me. I collapsed back in my chair. “Surely you could afford your own hotel room.”

She rounded the corner of the bar, hands outstretched to present a steaming mug of jasmine tea.  Her eyebrows raised. “Burlesque club, is what it is,” she said, carefully delivering the mug into my hands. My favoriteDamn it, Dy. “I could afford it if you want me to stay elsewhere.”

“Forget I said anything,” I sipped the tea, too hot to drink quickly. It was steeped exactly the way I liked. I shook my head. “You’re welcome to stay as long as you need.” Please just don’t let it be too long.

“Just two nights is all. I do have my own obligations. I might not be as important as my lady bridger…” she smirked.

“I don’t feel terribly important just yet. I’m still the newest member in the region.” And the only non-muse. I didn’t add that part, of course. Dyana would insist that as a muse herself she had never looked down on us other Fae, and perhaps for her, that was true.

What I knew was that muses lived by different rules, and they didn’t relish the idea of other Fae getting involved in their games.

“Do you know what the topics are?” asked Dy.

“You know I’m not supposed to share that kind of information.”

“Pish,” Dy settled back on her perch, heedless of the dirty look I was giving her feet. “How am I supposed to tell you what I know if you don’t tell me what you know?”

“I seem to recall that you were the one who customarily did the begging in this relationship.”

“Mm, good one sleepy,” Dy winked. “Have you met Caleb yet?”

Caleb was a highly influential young Fae, the bridger from British Columbia. He’d been serving with the IFA since his early 20’s, a talented muse and the son of Blackwind, who inspired Howard Hughes in the early 20th century. Caleb came from power, talent, and mundane fortune – the kind of Fae I’d always found most difficult to relate to.

“No, I haven’t,” I answered her. “Tomorrow will be my first time.”

She nodded, and the look in her eyes caught my attention.

“Something about him, then?”

“Well,” Dy leaned forward, resting her chin in her hands. “I ran in some… well, you know me, I can’t keep my hands out of the political things. I was at a march down in San Diego-”

My face soured. “San Diego? Please tell me you wore a mask.”

She waved off my comment. “Anyway, I ran into some of the… well, some of the California Fae.”

There weren’t many of those left, most of them all balled up in Humboldt and Mendocino counties. They had a bridger from there – Collette – but she wasn’t very fond of the IFA overall. She usually skyped in, I was told, and even then she rarely spoke. There were very few NorCal Fae who wanted anything to do with human relations.

“Just say it, Dy, I can barely see anymore.”

“Caleb met with somebody from the Elementals.”

“I don’t see a problem with that.” The Elementals were Fae who liked their magick – liked it more than most Fae, if you can believe that, and were hellbent on using it to distance themselves from the humans in any way possible.

The way Dy was shaking her head told me that she had a rather different view of the Elementals. “Don’t see a problem? Lee, those people are radical. They’re way out there, like I don’t think you even know. Didn’t you see how they destroyed that server farm last month? Every hard drive, nonrecoverable.”

“That was a chicken butchery and they were angry about the treatment of the soft ones,” I narrowed my eyes, trying to understand her concern through my fuzzy thoughts. I needed to sleep someday. “Even you and I vandalized a few offices during the whole textbook ordeal.”

“I don’t know, Lee. When I met them they seemed a little… tainted.”

“That’s a serious accusation,” I sat up to make my point, feeling a little off-balance. Tainted was a term we Fae used for dangerous Fae (besides the unders like the Leprechauns, who were a different class altogether thank you very much), Fae who were so twisted that they came to use their powers for violence. Violence – destruction of any kind – was obscene to us. “You can’t just go around saying that about people.”

“I wanted to warn you, that’s all,” Dy apologized, planting her feet on the floor for the first time since she buzzed in. “And I wanted to bug you, too. I missed you.”

She offered her hand to help me up, and my skin brushing hers felt so different than it ever had before. The electricity I remembered from back when we were bonded was replaced by a trail of pleasant warmth. Friendship. At least if we couldn’t be partners, we could be good friends.

In small doses, anyway. I don’t think I could have withstood her energy for long periods, even on a platonic basis.

“Alright, alright,” Dy tugged me down the hall, “I’ll let you sleep.” She paused, glancing at me from the corner of her eyes, “where do you want to go for breakfast?”

Serial Story: Fae and Folly Part 2

As of now this is the Inconvenient Muse’s serial blog story: Fae and Folly. There is quite a bit of development yet to come, so if it piques your interest please check back! There may even be an actual Inconvenient Muse who shows up…

The plan (a very loose, changeable plan) is to continue this story in scene-long bursts a minimum of once per week. It’s a nice little change of pace between all of the Forsaken Lands stuff I’ve been working on – and let me assure you, many things are going on with that. So many things.

Too many things.

At any rate – here is Part 2 of Fae and Folly. Enjoy. 🙂

It was snowing outside the windows of the Chicago airport while I went through the rest of the security theater. I tried to focus more on the snow than anything else; there were plenty of people staring at me and whispering, and most days I would indulge in some more showing off like I’d done with the TSA agent. I was late, though, and rather tired. I’d only spent less than 48 hours in the Chicago area, coming in just long enough to finish up a meeting and scurry back to Portland for my first regional bridger conference.

So much to-do with all these things. I hovered the rest of the way through the winding mall-like terminal, searching for my gate. My lips kept drying out from the brush of artificially heated air against my cheeks. Wing flight was lovely no matter where it was done, but it was so much more refreshing to fly when the air was cool and just a bit humid – the Northwest in Fall came to mind. I couldn’t wait to be back with hills and trees around the Portland metro. Chicago simply did not compare.

I buzzed past several cooing children who pointed and giggled. Most Fae had a soft spot for children, sometimes bordering on obsession. Personally I found the vast majority of them rather boring and repetitive, though on rare occasion a child caught my attention. I had a very long relationship with a youngling from Northern California when I was barely old enough to travel outside the glad, a girl who would be a grown woman now. She was quite brilliant for such a little thing.

I supposed that it was exactly that which drew us Fae to the children – their smallness made them much more approachable. They also tended to pay attention to us even back before The Reveal. Human adults had the strangest habit of ignoring perfectly real magick around them, thinking it was a trick of the light or their imagination. I was so young when The Reveal happened that I never got to play tricks on adults like some of my elders. Their stories were quite amusing – almost frightening. Humans insisted on driving giant metal vehicles around yet were historically incapable of noticing the most important of details.

I was almost too late to catch my flight, which was almost exactly on time by my standard. I’d never been known for my patience, and I loathed waiting in lines. Such tedium. A human construct, really – the Fae didn’t line up for anything, but humans seemed to be obsessed with waiting their turn. Fae society had a rather different view of time. We lived twice as long, after all.

“Excuse me,” my wings steadied me at eye-level over the boarding counter. The middle-aged attendant at the computer looked up with veiled alarm. I continued as if I didn’t notice. “I’ll be needing a modified belt.”

The attendant – Thomas, per his nametag – cleared his throat. “Yes, yes of course ma’am. I’ll get that for you immediately.”

I bowed at the waist, crossing my legs to keep my shoes off the counter. Tiny or not, I always found it rude to put ones shoes on another’s working surface. “Much appreciated, Thomas.”

Thomas smiled at me before putting through the order on his radio device. He ended up escorting me to my seat personally, and made sure that I was tucked in. More people stared at me from the rows in front and behind me, a soft murmuring that was so conspicuous that they may as well have been yelling GOOD GODS IT’S A FAERIE ON A PLANE. I stayed polite, taking my window seat without making a fuss and keeping everything as normal as possible as I clicked in my much-smaller modified seatbelt. My briefcase fit very easily under the seat in front of me, the only issue being that I could scarcely nudge it forward with my feet. I supposed it was better than the opposite problem of being too tall for plane seats. I would gladly trade having ample legroom for the inability to easily access my items when my belt was buckled.

No, legroom was not an issue for Faeries on planes. Plane flight instead came with the same inconveniences as almost every other method of mundane travel. I frowned at the plastic wall framing my window. I’d asked for an aisle seat, of course, but with the way the airlines liked to overbook their flights I didn’t get it. I sighed, thrusting my hand into my pocket. I’d brought a small container of water – less than 3 ounces, of course – along with my ever-present bottle of benadryl.

One of many reasons that the Fae didn’t use planes (other than the technophobia, lack of interest, and general disdain for integration into human culture) was because of the overwhelming amount of plastic-contact involved in the feat. Fae were allergic to plastic – really to all petroleum products. The reaction was rarely life-threatening, but by the ancestors did plastic make us itch something terrible. I could already feel my skin tickling, and I had been very careful not to touch anything.

I tossed back my benadryl just as my flying companion settled in beside me. The young woman had long, dark curly hair and exceptionally pale skin. She wore flared-out jeans and a blue hoodie, her hands clasped in her lap. It didn’t take much guesswork to surmise that she was heading home to the Pacific Northwest.

“Hey,” she said, looking down at me. She sounded pleased and even a little excited to see me, though we did not know each other.

“‘Afternoon,” I said in my businessy voice.

The girl paused, as if searching for words. Her gaze lingered on me just a little longer than socially acceptable before she began removing items from her backpack to place them in reach – an iPod, a packet of highlighters, and a medical physiology book.

I smirked to myself, studying her possessions. “Medical student?” I asked, again with a polite, professional voice.

“Ah, yeah. OHSU.”

“Came to Chicago to visit family?”

“Yes, actually,” she chuckled. “How did you know?”

“Why else would anyone leave Portland to visit the midwest in winter?”

“It isn’t so bad. I grew up in Peoria.”

My smirk grew. “Your midwest winters are hell on these wings.” I rubbed one of them fondly. I was born with them, and still I loved their texture – softer than the best of the human fabrics.

“I read about that,” the student said, then paused. “I mean… I guess that sounds a little weird, doesn’t it?”

“Not a bit. I was part of the petition to get the chapter on Fae physiology in your textbooks.” OHSU was actually one of very few medical schools to offer a short course on Fae medicine. I’d been a part of that movement since before I was a bridger – the anti-Fae humans claimed that there were too few of us to warrant an entire medical class, and even then, only a minority of Fae would consent to see a human doctor. The arguments were a smokescreen, of course, like all of the anti-Fae arguments. The anti-Fae hatred ran much deeper than it appeared on the surface.

“Oh wow,” the girl extended a hand in my direction. “My name is Rebecca, by the way.”

“Amelie.” The handshake was less awkward than some. Rebecca was short and had smallish hands, as opposed to some of the gigantic hands I had the misfortune of shaking in my position as a bridger.

“I didn’t think-” Rebecca caught herself before she finished the sentence. “I mean, that’s a really nice name.”

“Shush,” I laughed, “you didn’t think we had mundane names like Amelie. I know. I don’t play games with people. You can be honest.”

“Well, you’re right. I thought you had more… descriptive names.”

“We do, but I like to fit in, just like anybody else.” Her keen eyes reminded me a little of that girl-child that caught my attention in California, and I was feeling charitable despite my fatigue. The flight attendants were doing their safety ritual in the aisles, but I had no interest in listening to all of that again. “You can ask me whatever you want. It’s more fun for me if you talk. I’ve had enough people silently ogle me on this trip to last a lifetime.

Rebecca snorted at my comment, and I shared a grin with her. She secured her book in the magazine pocket. “Well then, do you mind if I ask why you wear the suit?”

“Pinstripes make me look taller. And I’m a bridger, so it’s expected of me.”

“A real bridger?” Rebecca’s eyes widened. “Sorry, it’s just… you’re like an ambassador. Shouldn’t you be sitting up in first class or something?”

“The IFA doesn’t pay me well enough for that,” I said with a roll of my eyes. The IFA – International Fae Alliance – oversaw all bridgers and our funds. It was a communal setup like so many other Fae things, and as such did not necessarily lead to great personal wealth. I didn’t mind the communal culture, but I wouldn’t have minded a few extra dollars to do what I wanted.

“Interesting.” Rebecca shook her head, “I’ve never had the chance to just… talk with one of you. Again, not to sound-”

“Don’t apologize. That’s our own fault.”

“You’re not really what I expected.”

“I’m not much like the other Faeries,” I paused, “but then, most bridgers aren’t.”

“Are you going back to the glade? The one in the gorge?”

“In a bit. I have other business to conduct in town,” I kept that response short. That ‘other business’ had already given me several headaches. The conference was set for Monday, but today was still Saturday – and I was on a plane with an inquisitive young mind. “What other questions do you have?”

To KDP Select or Not to KDP Select

This post is targeted particularly at writers (and even more specifically indie writers). I’m about to get a little technical about things, which will probably be very boring if it does not apply to you… fair warning. 😉

While working up Broken I came to a decision point: did I want to use Kindle Direct Publishing Select, or did I want to just do Kindle publishing + extended distribution on Smashwords? For those who are unfamiliar with the topic (and for those who are coming here specifically looking for a discussion on it), KDP Select is an optional agreement that an indie author can make with Amazon when they publish their ebook. Opting in to KDP Select gives Amazon 90 days of exclusivity on your ebook, meaning that you cannot e-publish your book on any other web-based outlets (Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Wattpad, personal blogs, etc.) during the KDP Select period. During this time you make a 70% royalty on all sales and your book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 – no more and no less (this obviously limits the utility of using Select with shorter works better suited for a $0.99 price range). Once the exclusivity period is over you can either continue with KDP Select (automatic enrollment is selected when you start unless you change it) or choose to go with regular old KDP, the latter of which would allow you to then publish on other outlets as you would normally. It should be noted that none of these agreements affect print books, so you can do KDP Select and publish a paperback copy on Createspace without problems.

Amazon’s exclusivity alone would be rather meaningless if it did not come with some advantages, of course. In exchange for not publishing your ebook in other places, Amazon allows you access to certain promotional tools. You can choose to either list your book as free for 5 days (which can be spread throughout your 30 day enrollment period) or use a relatively new feature called Kindle Countdown Deals. During a countdown deal, you set your book price lower than the usual list price (even as low as $0.99) while retaining the 70% royalty rate for a period of 1 hour to 5 days. During the course of the countdown deal the price slowly goes up. Amazon has a special section where it advertises countdown deals, which gives your book more visibility – some authors have claimed increases of more than 900% in their sales from countdown deals alone without additional advertising, which is pretty hefty. As a caveat, you can only use a countdown period once during your 90 days. In other words, even if you only do a 1-hour countdown, once you use it you cannot use another countdown until your next enrollment period (as opposed to the free days which you can break up and use over time). You also cannot use both free promotions and countdown deals in the same period – you must choose one or the other.

Free days by themselves garner quite a bit of attention. When I had Tragedy in KDP Select I ran some free days, and each time I did I saw more than 100 downloads. Of course, the issue with this is that many readers will just troll for free books to download which they may or may not ever read, and this doesn’t always generate fans. Even if it does generate genuine readers, it doesn’t necessarily help your sales if you don’t have any other books out yet. I think that KDP Select probably helped Tragedy early on, but honestly I feel that the best thing to do to increase sales is to produce more work. This is of course based on what I’ve read from other authors more than anything – I’m still trying to get to where I have multiple novels, novellas, and short stories out there.

As you can see, KDP Select comes with some obvious pros and cons. The promotions can be useful to spring a relatively unknown book into the hands of readers, but you can only choose one kind of promotion to do per period. You cannot sell on other outlets, and you have to price your book at a minimum of $2.99, which may or may not be reasonable for your particular work.

In the case of Broken I’ve been rather torn on the subject. Broken is on the short end for a novella at 18,000 words (20k if you count the bonus material), so $2.99 is a bit of a stretch. However, I am very proud of this particular novella, and I don’t think that $2.99 is wholly unreasonable considering the quality and time spent, it just might be hard in a market where there are so many free and $0.99 books. I’m also already on the other outlets with Tragedy and Fathers and Sons, so it seems a little odd to have this one novella exclusive to Amazon.

In the end it’s only 90 days, though. If I go with a $2.99 pricepoint through KDP Select and it doesn’t work, and even if the promos do not help me whatsoever, I can open things up to other outlets and lower the price after one period. Some other authors have been successful with KDP Select novellas, as well, which has helped nudge me over the edge into trying it. It’s very hard to go with multiple distributors and then condense back to just Amazon, so this is a decision I will only be able to make once – I may as well give it a shot.

There you have a basic rundown of KDP regular vs. KDP Select, and my reasons for going Select with Broken in particular. I hope it was helpful!

In other news, I would like to congratulate Chris B., Julia W., and CJ R. for winning the Broken giveaway! For those who entered and did not win, please do check out the novella which releases on 6/26. Since I have decided on KDP Select there will be some deals ahead, and you will be the first to know. 🙂

Peace and long life.

When Inspiration Strikes: A Random Faerie Scene (AKA Fae and Folly Part 1)

This morning my Inconvenient Muse decided to trouble me with a new story idea, and I wanted to write it down so I don’t forget it. I was reading something about faerie stories on the internet while having breakfast, and began thinking about all the accommodations we would have to make for Fae people if they suddenly decided to become a part of human life. Perhaps I will return to this story someday after Forsaken Lands is over… or continue it as a blog project as the mood strikes me. Not sure yet. 😉 In the meantime you may find this mildly interesting.

The lady behind the counter at airport security was giving me that look – the one that all the humans who didn’t know me liked to give. She looked at my passport, then at me, then back at the passport. Her thin lips twitched downwards at the corners. She was thinking about calling a supervisor, I was sure. It wouldn’t be the first time.

My given name was Starhunter, so named because as a youngling I spent hours looking up at the stars, learning the constellations. I learned to fly by night by the time I was twelve, or about six in human years. We Fae are rather literal with our names, and in the thirty-three years since The Reveal, the humans have come to expect certain things from us. Most of my people keep their given names; they wear clothing made from materials in the woods and avoid most human contact. Those that might on occasion choose to fly by air contraption would come with their Fae ID – printed on bark, of course – and clad like any other tribesperson.

I wasn’t like any other tribesperson. As a bridger I had a responsibility to interact with the humans on terms they would understand. I wore my usual human garb, fresh from one of many disappointingly boring meetings – a black pinstriped pantsuit, specially tailored to fit my 3’4″ frame and cut so my wings could hang comfortably behind me. My auburn hair was cut short and appropriately styled. I’d even used curling gel that morning to tame the natural frizz. On my human-issued passport was my mundane name: Amelie Fletcher.

“This…is…your passport?” the woman stuttered. I could see in her face that she was trying hard not to be rude. She had a classical midwest accent, by the sound of it. Probably from a rural area. Even though she was middle-aged and would have been a child when The Reveal happened, I got the idea that she wasn’t very comfortable with my presence.

I smiled at her and casually tucked a lock of hair behind one pointed ear. “Yes, ma’am,” I replied. I did my best to tone down the accent in my own voice. We Western Fae spoke in what humans might identify as an Irish accent, though to us the Fae and Irish accents were completely different. It was the ears, I imagined. Humans missed out on so much with their limited hearing.

“Traveling to Portland?” she pressed.

“Indeed,” I tipped my head amiably. “Back home, you know.”

“Hm.” The TSA woman chewed on her inner cheek a moment before shrugging. She marked my boarding pass and handed it back to me along with the ID. “Have a safe flight.”

I winked at her, and privately enjoyed the look of shock on her face when I stretched my purple-and-blue mottled wings, filmy like silk. “I always do.”

Like it? Want more? Tell me what you think.


Quick Post – A Preview of the Much-Anticipated Novella

Since this clip was posted on social media, I wanted to additionally toss it up here on the blog – a little taste of Broken.

I heard my father’s footsteps coming towards me, and another wave came over me. I shivered and tried to push it away, tried to straighten up. He was the last person who I wanted to see me like this, not that it would be the first time.

“You look terrible.” That tone was a tone he used with prisoners, sometimes. It wasn’t sympathetic, even though it seemed like the words could have been presented that way. He was judging me right then.

I stared him right in the face. We never looked much alike, me and Da. He kept his hair real short, out of his eyes, and always looked neat and clean. Since I got old enough to have a line of stubble I’ve always had it, where he never had any sign of a beard. He always had a tight lip that seemed to be frowning, which I guess made sense since he dealt with Kaldari and criminals all day. We had the same skin, though – olive colored and easy to tan.

If he’d been anyone else I might have come up with some snide remark or a twist of sarcasm. Instead I just stood and shivered, hoping that whatever other nothing I had in me would stay down. My throat burned.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?” the only change was his eyebrows creasing together, but I knew what that meant. My father didn’t show anger like I did. He could be furious at a person, and all he’d do is twitch. Crease of the eyebrows, well, I should be glad he didn’t have any kelspar on hand, at least none that I could see. “Where do you even find the-” he paused, “never mind, I don’t want to know. Not today.”

Where do you even find the coin? – that’s what he wanted to ask. He’d been holding that question back for a couple months at least. What I wanted to point out was that he should have figured it out by now, being an officer and all. With my abilities I could pickpocket people without even using my hands, which makes it pretty easy. I bartered a lot, too, and I wasn’t so bad at hustling cards. He would have known all that if he knew me at all.

All my thoughts didn’t translate into words. I didn’t have anything to say to him and never had. Ever since I could remember me and Da just never got each other. He was so disciplined, and me, it was like I was born in the wrong family. I worked my throat on a swallow, wishing I had water to drink. I was freezing, my chest hurt to breathe, and gods but I just wanted to lie back down, preferably on a mattress this time.

I started walking inside like he wouldn’t follow, even though I knew he would. He was at my back, not missing a beat. I swung through the never-too-quiet door and made a line for the bedroom that I shared with Keller. My mother looked up from the kitchen table, but didn’t seem interested in stalking me like he did.

“We’re not done here,” Da growled, his composure slipping. He was getting really mad now, which was not a good sign. Usually he just let me go at this point. “Where do you think you’re going to hide?”

I brushed past the red-and-gold tapestry that covered up our room, and my father followed with me. I carried on like he was invisible, like maybe if I pretended he wasn’t there hard enough he would disappear.

The contest for early release copies of Broken is up and running (you can enter here) and final little editing and formatting touches are being added for the 6/26 release. I have a family wedding to go to in another state this weekend and 8,000 more words to write in Forsaken Lands 2 before I start working as an actual physician on July 23rd (this alone is so ridiculous that I can’t even begin to think about it)… so yes, it’s a busy time. Unfortunately while I believe I will make the wordcount goal in FL2 I do not believe it will be finished at the same length as Tragedy. Indeed, I believe it will be longer.

Much longer.

I can’t wait to finally get this sequel draft finished. While it may not be done by the 23rd, getting it up to 90k will be a solid start, and hopefully it won’t be too much longer before it’s done. Look for a preview of the new novel at the end of Broken.

Alright, that’s it for my updates. Write on!

Pre-Release Giveaway: Win an Early E-Copy of ‘Broken,’ a Forsaken Lands Novella

In case you missed the blurb and cover reveal from earlier, this is what you’re playing for –


Sixteen-year-old Elden is a young man driven by impulse. A natural telekinetic raised by strict disciplinarians, he has struggled all his life to be what anyone expected him to be. On the eve of his brother’s induction into Justice training Elden faces a series of crucial choices, the outcome of which will determine his future in ways he never imagined.

This 18,000-word novella contains a significant amount of explicit language and descriptions of substance abuse.

How to Enter: It’s easy, of course. ^.^ Follow the link to the Rafflecopter Giveaway Page and read the instructions – there are points for liking the facebook page, following on twitter, and retweeting about the giveaway. Winners will receive their e-copy in the format of their choice 1 week prior to the scheduled release on 6/26.

For anyone finding this blog for the first time, Forsaken Lands is of the speculative fiction/fantasy genre, and focuses heavily on the interpersonal relationships of the characters. This novella in particular dives into the life of one of the main characters before he joins the novel storyline.

Told you I’d come up with a contest! 😉 Promotional in nature? Definitely. That’s why I’m also doing a blog on my promo experiences as a new author at the end of the giveaway for everyone out there who might be interested. Be a part of a grand experiment and win a free book!

Thanks for checking this out. I hope you love Elden’s story as much as I loved writing it. Have a lovely day or evening out there, folks.

The Strength of One’s Heroine (don’t forget that last ‘e’)

Talking about “strong female characters” has been in vogue for a while. The argument was very hot after the fiasco that was Twilight, then gained popularity again with the wild success of The Hunger Games with its stellar lady-protagonist, Katniss Everdeen. Having a cast which features one or more “strong female characters” is a thing these days – a lot of people would say it’s an important or significant thing. Those that have read my posts in the past already know that I also value the utility of having women (and minorities and LGBTQ people, while we’re at it) represented in media of all forms, and I have briefly touched on the strong/independent female character before. Today I’d like to take that a little deeper.

The problem with this whole “strong female character” (henceforth known as ‘SFC’s’) thing is that a lot of people are fuzzy on what it means to write them, how to do it, and why. Further, there’s a lot of talk about the SFC and significantly less talk about the not strong but still developed female character. There’s no right answer here, of course, and I wouldn’t presume to possess the elusive strong heroine absolute truth. I would like to chat about my own observations and how I personally approach the issue as a self-proclaimed genre-writing feminist (one who probably fails at this task as much as she succeeds).

First off we have to have a definition – what is a strong female character? I recently had a conversation with a friend on the subject, and when I asked what elements he thought of when discussing SFC’s he initially identified it as being a “badass,” particularly when it comes to fighting and physical strength. I think this is a pretty common outlook – when people hear the SFC term, they think of a weapon-wielding take-no-prisoners woman with a take-charge attitude. A great recent example of such a character is Melinda May from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which any comic book movie lover should watch, if you haven’t tried it). May is a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent with just as many ninja skills as any man on the show, and some pretty impressive leadership skills when she lets them shine through. That said, to me it’s not really her physical strength that makes her such an impressive character – it’s how she interacts with her team. If May was just a hand-to-hand savant with no backstory or emotional attachments to people on her team, she would just be a shell of a character – more a weapon or an object than a representation of a person, which is just as 2-dimensional as the damsel in distress whose only function is damsel-dom.

This reflective conversation led me to the conclusion – one that is not terribly surprising – that I find strength in female characters who are detailed, appropriately flawed, and show strength through their personalities more than just in their physical abilities. This is of course a common feeling, and echoed nicely in a blog post by author Megan Cashman aptly titled Why I Don’t Write Strong Female Characters. Some of my favorite SFC’s have been women whose strongest attributes are mental/emotional, and who manage to maintain their femininity alongside an awesome character arc – among them Avry from Maria Snyder’s Touch of Power, Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine, and Dr. Elizabeth Weir of Stargate Atlantis (yeah, I’m a sci-fi geek).  What’s interesting is the fact that we have this SFC term at all, while very few people go out looking for a “strong male role” in movies, TV and books. I have a theory on this one.

Women are chronically underrepresented in movies (could not find data on books) and for many years have taken the backseat as secondary characters as damsels or plot devices in books, TV, and of course in video games (just look at how few movies actually pass the Bechdel Test, imperfect as that test may be). A very recent post in The Mary Sue on Disney’s Maleficent did a pretty nice discussion on past portrayals of Disney women as compared to some of their more recent productions. Over time Disney has taken a more modern approach to female characters – i.e., making them “strong and interesting.” Part of this was attributed to having more women involved in the creative process, per an interview with Maleficent screenwriter Linda Woolverton. Disney has long suffered from portraying women as being tied to their ability to get a man, limiting their character development and reducing them to story tools at times. This isn’t specific to Disney, but Disney does make for a big shiny target. Disney, along with the rest of the media world, is slowly coming to realize that audiences want to see interesting, developed female characters.

The issue is not just that the audience wants more SFC’s, but that they want good characters in general, strong or weak, of all genders. I would argue that writing good, interesting, varied characters means having a number of characters of different characters, rather than the over-used pack of men with a single token “badass” female. Joss Whedon, who I’ve mentioned many times, does a great job of incorporating women with various strengths and weaknesses. Firefly had a very balanced and fleshed-out cast, with men and women who were all over the spectrum for both physical and mental attributes. If anything, the underrepresentation of women in media has led to a very narrow playing field in which people group characters by “strong” or “weak,” when more than anything, we just need a better balance of all types.

Critics of the SFC meme feel that having over-powered female characters can actually set a poor example, and can lead to highly un-interesting Mary Sues. Starting out with a character whose strength makes her near-perfect limits opportunities for character development, and an unchanging character both precludes the ability to show strength through change and makes for a mighty dull story arc. So-called SFC’s are also sometimes written in a way which makes them come off as angry, cold, or simply as un-feminine women. A cheap and dirty way to make a woman “strong” is to make her as manly as possible and remove any supposedly feminine traits, such as removing compassion from a character (frequently and wrongly associated as a primarily feminine trait) and replace it with assertiveness (again, frequently associated as a male trait). I could write a whole separate diatribe on breaking gender barriers with male characters, but I’ll hold off on that for now. This post is rather lengthy as it stands.

Ahem. Almost done, I swear.

As a feminist I would love to say I write SFC’s all day long – that it comes easy to me, and I’m the master of SFC’s. To be quite honest, I feel that billing myself as the writer of SFC’s would be a little disingenuous. To start with, I have to own up to falling prey to pack-of-men syndrome in that I didn’t write very many women into Tragedy. I’ll be the first to admit that Tragedy only barely passes the Bechdel Test. I wrote a majority-male cast without really thinking much about it – to be honest, I prefer to write about men for some reason. All of that changes in Forsaken Lands 2 (“FL2”)FL2 incorporates approximately 200% more women into the main plot. This was important to me both as someone who is actually gaining a readership – giving me a certain responsibility to live up to my own standards – and as a writer who needs to stretch her skills. Writing mostly men for as many words as I’ve written gets repetitive like you wouldn’t believe. I am also striving to include identities often forgotten in the world, including non-binary people (a work in progress).

I can say with some certainty that there are quite a few “strong” women in FL2 by almost any standard you can imagine. Two of the POV females meet “badass” criteria in physical ability and personality, but both also come with some emotional deficits (in one case some rather…extreme…emotional deficits). By contrast, Aia, the female protagonist from FL1 is… well, there’s a lot of *insert author here* with her character, so her traits came out very organically. Like me, Aia may be physically capable of many things, but she’s not very strong. I can’t imagine a situation in which someone could describe her as a “badass” with a straight face. In Tragedy she does not drive the story forward very much – but then nobody on her level is driving the story at that point. Tragedy is a lot of “WHAT IS THIS” followed by yelling and running, by design. It is about the unveiling of truths and the mad scramble to understand them.


While Aia is not a physically strong person, she is compassionate. She has endured a lot, and came through it without hating the world, and is also relatively intelligent. She has the Healing thing going on, which gives her a whole arena in which to be impressive. She may not be a whiz with daggers (like Teveres) or a leader (like Les), but she is a master at her particular trade. She is not an object to other people, unless you count the “evil forces” at work in the world (in which case all of the Deldri are treated as objects). She has self-determination, and she has flaws.

She is me, a woman, writing a female character – I feel it would be inadequate to simply categorize her as “strong” or “weak.” She’s herself. If you asked her, she wouldn’t understand what you could be referring to, either.

I think that’s quite enough from me. 🙂 It’s been one heck of a week over here with moving and entertaining houseguests. Slowly but surely life is starting to settle down and my writing life is getting more time to thrive. As a part of that thriving thing, I’ll be announcing a contest for early release copies of Broken on this blog tomorrow night. Check back to learn how to participate! You know you want to.