P: Patterns in my Writing

Like all first-time authors, I’ve got a stack of unpublishable, half-finished, quarter-finished, and barely started novels laying around. Some were typed out when I was still just a little girl, those are in boxes somewhere. Others are stored on floppy discs that no longer have anything to load them with. Yet more are on the old harddrives to skeletal computers clustered in a closet. There are about twenty in total, ranging from “totally finished but written by an eleven year old” to “a really interesting 2000 word first chapter that I never touched again.” And they’re all very different! Murder mysteries, political thrillers, high-seas adventures, romance novels… they’re all at least a little bit fantasy, but otherwise, they’re all across the spectrum.

But despite how different they all are, there are a couple of universal threads that seem to go through all of them. Here are some I noticed kept appearing, whether I meant to include them or not!

1. The Tough, Get-Things-Done Redhead.
In the adult world, other women approach me just to tell me how beautiful my hair colour is. But things were a whole lot different back when I was little and my red hair got pointed out by my peers for entirely different reasons! Maybe that’s why the iron-hearted, smart, unconventionally attractive ginger lady started appearing in my writing right from the start.
Is she in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? Yes! Officer Maris Dawson, the police supervisor who makes sure Olivia Faraday doesn’t burn the world down looking for killers, is this character to a t.

2. The Mild-Mannered Male Lead Surrounded by Women Way Stronger Than Him.
Speaking of childhood grievances — why is there always only one girl? Only one girl smurf. Only one girl muppet. Only one girl transformer. Even female characters I loved and identified with seemed to be the only ones in their universes! Gadget from the Rescue Rangers, Maeve from The Adventures of Sinbad, and Princess Leia from Star Wars stick out like sore thumbs. So maybe I was trying to desconstruct something when, right from the first book I wrote when I was barely more than a baby, I had one sweet-tempered guy standing in a tidal wave of powerful women.
Is he in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? But of course! He’s the narrator!

3. The System the World Depends on That’s Fallen/Falling Apart.
I don’t even know where this came from. Maybe I just had an early start learning about how important recycling is. But it just keeps cropping up in my writing: the unsupportable status quo which continues long after the time to safely reform it has passed because future collapse is preferable to immediate change.
Is it in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant: Oh, yes! And in a far more prominent position than I’ve ever put it before! This very thing has caused a recession that’s become a depression when the book opens!

4. The Conspiracy Looming Behind It All.
I’m an odd duck. I don’t think there’s a single conspiracy theory out there that I actually believe in. But by golly, do I love them. Chemtrails, faked moon landings, and secret cities on Mars… they’re definitely not true, but wouldn’t the world be a more interesting place if they were? Conspiracy narratives aren’t what they used to be. With more and more average citizens believing them, they do more harm than good. Still, I can’t help my love.
Is it in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? Can I ever resist? The answer is no, I can’t. There’s defintely a big ole conspiracy (or two, or three) lurking in the background.

5. The Cast of Thousands.
I adore the cast of thousands. I cut my teeth on the doorstopper fantasy epic and it’s always been my instinct to pack my books with characters. It’s a sickness! The thing is, that’s one big reason why it’s taken me so long to finish a novel.  It’s hard to plot all those people together, and my work has always collapsed inward!
Is it in The Deathsniffer’s Assistant? No! I broke my curse and forced myself to keep a small, insular cast. I’m finally free of the cast of thousands… for now. A few new faces join the fray in the sequel, and it’s getting a bit unwieldy…

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O: Oliva Faraday, or, writing a main character who isn’t the main character.

The main character of my novel is…

Well, that’s a actually a hard statement to finish.

There are two main characters in my novel. The mild-mannered and soft-spoken  proper gentleman, Christopher Buckley, and his employer, Olivia Faraday, who is mercurial, eccentric, manic, and brilliant. But there’s only one narrator, Chris, and The Deathsniffer’s Assistant spends a lot of time exploring his family life, backstory, and connections, while very little personal time is given to Olivia.

So why is it that I find it hard to say who the main character actually is?

I’ve always been fascinated by characters like Olivia. Characters with minds too curvy and mazelike to make for very good narrators. She was the jumping off point, the keystone right from the start: a lady detective who was coy, clever, energetic, and ever so slightly askew. The world according to the twisted mind of Olivia Faraday isn’t really something a reader can identify much with. Her way of thinking is so alien and offputting that telling the story from her perspective would certainly be compelling, but it would also be repulsive. So what to do about the problem of Miss Faraday?

The fact is that Olivia’s assistant just made for a better storyteller. His backstory and personal problems start affecting the plot much, much earlier than Olivia’s, and he’s a simple, good-hearted, put-upon sort of fellow. Much more approachable to readers. I decided early on that to curb my natural tendancy to inflate my stories, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant and its sequels were going to have one and only one narrator. So that left me with only one real option: Christopher Buckley would be the window through which my readers accessed the world of Darrington and its routine wonders.

But where did that leave Olivia?

I worried about it as I wrote, but as it turns out, I didn’t need to. Every single person who’s read the book has said the same thing — Olivia Faraday makes an impression. Not only that, but Olivia from the perspective of a normal person leaves all of her strangeness and mystery intact. She’s very private, and as Chris learns about her bit by bit, so does the reader. Despite the fact that she only appears in two thirds of the book’s scenes, Olivia shines through exactly as I’d imagined.

It’s not really conventional to have your main character be separate from your narrator, but I think that sometimes it works. Some characters are considerably more interesting when seen from a safe distance. Keeping them at arm’s length preserves their mystic nature.  The most famous example is, of course, one of my inspirations: Sherlock Holmes. While John Watson is the one telling the story, no one would ever think he was the protagonist. But he’s not the only one! Ishmael tells Ahab’s story, the quest for the white whale, and Nick Carraway is the means by which the reader gets to know the larger than life Jay Gatsby. So I’m walking in very comfortable shoes! (Though these shoes look a little hard to fill, don’t they? Eek!)

I hope everyone who reads my book once it’s out there in the world this July appreciates what I’ve done with Miss Olivia Faraday. I think she’s quite a character, and I’m looking forward to all the people who love her — or hate her!

N: No More Castles, or, why I’ll never write medieval fantasy

(Gosh, it’s amazing how quickly you can get behind on this challenge when you have a busy week, isn’t it? Here’s me rolling up my sleeves and getting back in there!)

I owe so much to medieval fantasy.

The bibliography of my teenage years reads like a who’s who of the standbys: Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar novels, The Wheel of Time, the Belgariad and everything else David Eddings ever wrote, the Lord of the Rings. Books that I still hold as favourites to this day also are a part of that subgenre: Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings books and George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire are just two examples.  Medieval fantasy, classic fantasy, changed my life. Knights and princesses, dragons and castles, jousts and wizards, quests and prophecies, sword and sorcery… they captured me all through my childhood and onwards, creating the person I am today.

So why do I absolutely never ever intend to write it?

One of my favourite authors, N. K. Jemisin, has a great quote from her interview included in the text of her novel The Killing Moon. “I don’t have a problem with medieval Europe. I have a problem with modern fantasy’s fetishization of medieval Europe; that’s different. So many fantasy writers and fans simplify the social structure of the period, monotonize the cultural interactions, treat conflicts as binaries instead of the complicated dynamic tapesty they actually were. They’re not doing medieval Europe, they’re doing Simplistic British Isles Fantasy Full of Lots of Guys with Swords…”

And it’s the truth. The more I’ve learned about history, the more I’ve realized that the “medieval fantasy” we’ve been creating for decades is just that: a creation. It’s a big shared universe that we all deposit ideas into and withdraw ideas out of, working from a set of beliefs that honestly aren’t even true!

I like new ideas. I like growth. I like freshness. And the level of attachment that has grown to that shared universe of medieval fantasy has made it so that it’s incredibly hard to innovate within it! There’s a set of expected parametres a writer is expected to be working with.

I’ve come to be interested in how things can be stranger, newer, more unique. I like seeing how different types of technologies, environments, climates, cultures, gender roles, flavours, and so forth can affect fantasy. Where my twelve year old self was thrilled by sword wielding duelists and wanted nothing else, now I enjoy seeing what early firearms change when added to a world. Where I used to love war narratives, now I’m more interested in how conflict arises in times of peace. My book takes place during an economic depression — a different kind of political warscape than a battlefield.

Jemisin goes on to say that “not all medieval fantasy [is like] this, of course–but enough [is] that frankly, they’ve turned me off the setting.” And I think the same applies to me, too. I’m bored of Person With Sword. I’m bored of all the tropes and trappings. Not only have I read that book a thousand times — I’ve read it written by people who are just a lot more passionate about it than me. I don’t feel there’s anything new I can or even want to bring to that specific table.

When it’s recommended to me, I still read medieval fantasy. I still love plenty of books — and non-books, if my love for Bioware’s Dragon Age games are any indication! — that have that setting and flavour, that borrow from that shared universe. But it’s not a universe I’m interested in sharing myself. There’s so much of it out there, and so much of it is so very good. I want to make my mark somewhere new.

M: Magical Normalcy

Earlier this week, I touched on the central touchstone for the tone of my books: life is routine.

I think most everyone knows what I mean. No matter how exciting your life seems, it’s all too easy to be acclimized to it. If you’re doing paperwork in a tiny office, your life is boring. But if you’re travelling the world hunting meteorites, well, your life is boring too. Everyone in the world, from the most lowry janitor to the most glamourous movie star, all experience the exact same feeling when their alarm goes off in the morning.

No, I don’t want to.

Human beings are creatures of habit. The kind of society we’ve built can’t function without daily routine. We are creatures of the grind, and as much as we need it, we also wildly resent it. And that’s why I think that even the most fantastical of cities, the most thrilling of adventures, the most heinous of plots, and the most wondrous of magics… lived daily, well, they’d all become just a part of the scenery.

That’s something I really wanted to reflect in my books. My narrator works for a magical murder detective! He spends his days chasing down killers! His history has been shaped entirely by a massive conspiracy that’s changed the face of his nation! But when Christopher Buckley, the deathsniffer’s assistant, wakes up in the morning, he thinks the same thought we all do:

No, I don’t want to.

how can this be boring?
how can this be boring?

It seemed like a natural step to pull this thematically into my magic system! The denizens of my world all have magical abilities. It’s a part of their society. Hundreds of years ago, a scientist/wizard learned how to bring out the inherent magic in everyone, and all the amazing abilities he found have shaped modern society. There are illusionists, savants, seers, healers, and, most impressively, spiritbinders, who summon, control, and bind elementals from another plane using a combination of will and music. The spiritbinders especially have built a society far more advanced than its time, and hold high prestige in society.

Much like… the prestige of inheriting an important company and proving up to the task of running it. Or the prestige of developing a subdivision that comes to bear your name and be considered the nicest neighbourhood of an already beautiful city. Or the prestige of being elected to a governmental organization and having the power to make change. Despite their incredible magic, spiritbinders and their enchantments are just another part of society. Their ice-spirit powered cooling system is as amazing and simultaneously unimpressive as your A/C unit!

I tried to bring that rote normalcy to all the magical aspects of my world. Things like electricity, the internet, mobile data networks, and everyone’s favourite miracle, Netflix, are all wondrous accomplishments. But who has time to stop and be impressed every single time they flip a lightswitch? No matter how amazing life is, it quickly becomes normal. Everything is commodified and made routine. The amazing merely becomes the conveient (or inconvenient, when it’s working against you.)

I think fantasy could use a little bit more of this. There’s definitely a place for awe, yet I wanted to save it for when something new happens. Something strange and weird and wonderful. In a world where magic is common — or even in a world where it’s rare — it doesn’t mean the same thing as it would to us. I wanted to explore that.

L: Learning To Write the Stuff You Suck at Writing

When it comes to writing, I think we all have things that we think we’re pretty good at and enjoy doing. Our comfort zone, where we would spend most of our writing hours given the choice. It’s a nice place to be, where you feel you’re competant and the words you’re putting out are weighty and valuable and good. But then there’s the other side of the coin. The stuff that you’re pretty sure you’re terrible at and hate writing.

If only we could stay away from that stuff entirely! Unfortunately, books can’t be entirely made up of worldbuilding. Or fight scenes. Or clothing descriptions. Or whatever it is that we consider ourselves good at. Sooner or later, we have to get into that stuff we hate to write, and the only way out is through.

For me, it’s pretty much any scene that requires choreography. As soon as I need to describe limbs going in different directions and multiple characters moving at once, I’m like a deer in headlights! How am I supposed to describe this person and this person! I can only write one thing happening at a time! And then you add a third person or a forth person or god forbid, a fifth person! And I’m just a mess.

lucky vincent gabriel gilbert getting to just paint all one hundred people at once! how am I supposed to describe this many??
lucky vincent gabriel gilbert getting to just paint all one thousand at once! how am I supposed to describe this many people??

But when the story requires it, I don’t have any choice but to wade in there with my galoshes and water wings and start splashing around. All that choreography isn’t going to write itself. It needs to be done. And yes, it always feels terrible and awkward and it’s impossible to imagine anyone could read it without cringing.

But there is hope! And it’s hope I cling to like driftwood in a storm whenever I have four people in the same room together doing anything but talking. It might suck now, but it won’t suck later! As I always keep repeating, your rough draft is rough. And it’s just a natural thing that some of it is going to be rougher!

Reading back through a scene is a lot easier than doing it the first time. I’ll notice all those things that are wrong with it from the point of view as a reader. Wait, where is his hand right now? Hm, she hasn’t seemed to be actually in the room for a bit, now. And adding lines in and taking them out is easy as pie!

I still sob into my cornflakes when I have to write a chereography scene, but I know all hope is not lost. This terrible abomination I’m sewing together isn’t going to lurch into an actual print copy. By the time you get your hands on it, my monster will be gone through so much plastic surgury he’ll look pretty shipshape! And keeping that in mind is the real way to teach yourself to get through your weaknesses.

K: Kate’s Favourite Authors

Hi, I’m Kate, and there are a whole lot of authors that I love!

But that’s kind of a loaded statement. Because to me, loving an author is about more than loving a few books they wrote. Some of my favourite books haven’t been written by a favourite author. And some of my favourite authors don’t have any books that would crack the top ten. It’s about more than just a couple entries into their bibliography. It’s about their body of work as a whole, the patterns that emerge when looking at everything they’ve ever written. These are the authors for whom I’ll line up for each new book they put out, regardless of the setting, summary, or genre, because their name on the cover has become a seal of quality. I’ve picked out five of those authors to talk about here today.

1. Robin Hobb/Megan Lindholm [site]
I love how her stories are such slow burns. I love how her characters are so flawed. I love how realistic her writing is. I love how bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad. Though her books have often left me sobbing and angry at the world, I’ve never read one I didn’t like, even the ones that are widely considered to be boring or slow moving. There’s just such a wonderful lyrical quality to her prose, and there’s something to love about the way she completely immerses readers in her characters — their flaws and their strengths, their victories and their tragedies, the scale of their entire lives. Slow isn’t always bad when we get that sort of thing in return.
Favourite Book: Fool’s Errand

2. Scott Lynch [site]
What I love so much about Lynch is how his books can be so many things at once. They’re funny, they’re sad, they’re horrifying, they’re dramatic, they’re violent, they’re digusting, they’re shocking. And did I mention they’re funny? Never have I laughed out loud so often while reading novels that also made me cringe away from the page. And that’s something I love and admire, because real life doesn’t have a “tone.” In real life, you sometimes laugh at funerals and cry at weddings. There are too few books out there that let themselves really embrace the full range of emotion! Aside from their great tone and emotional range, Lynch’s books are just engaging, enjoyable, well-plotted adventures that are all kinds of fun without being dumb fun.
Favourite Book: Red Seas Under Red Skies

3. Jacqueline Carey [site]
I was in my early twenties when I first read Kushiel’s Dart by Ms. Carey. It was the first fantasy novel I’d ever read that had zero interest in attracting a male audience and was written entirely with women in mind. It amazed me. I didn’t even know fantasy was allowed to be uninterested in the interests of men! I’ve lined up for every book she’s written since. I think Carey’s success was a paradigm shifting moment for fantasy. It was for me, at least. A book written specifically for adult women that was romantic but not romance, erotic but not erotica, filled to the brim with politics, conspiracy, adventure, and war? It was everything I’d ever wanted to exist and never thought could.
Favourite Book: Kushiel’s Chosen

4. Mark Anthony/Galen Beckett [site]
Oh my god, this guy again?? I  know, I know! But I can’t help it. I love his books! I adored his work as Galen Beckett on the Mrs. Quent books so much that I actually checked out his other series — portal fantasy, my least favourite subgenre! But I’m glad I did, because I love The Last Rune, too. Anthony/Beckett’s writing melds science and magic with amazing skill. He’s a scientist and a paleontologist and it shows! It’s so fun to see, for instance, the concept of shadowy void magic tied to black holes or to entropy. His books are also wonderfully diverse, and both of his serieses quietly but prominently feature an LGBT romance. I can’t wait to see what he writes next!
Favourite Book: The House on Durrow Street

5. Gail Carriger [site]
Some authors and their books are just so much fun! Carriger is one of those. Her books and her online persona reflect her witty, dry sense of humour and I always have a blast reading everything she writes. As someone who doesn’t usually enjoy reading YA (don’t kill me! it’s just not for me!), I was shocked at how much I adored her Finishing School series when I checked them out. That’s what makes a great author — you can love their books just as much when they’re writing in a genre that isn’t your usual bag! One of the many, many things I love about her books is how they’re full of women who are allowed to be traditionally “girly” without getting penalized badass points for it. That’s something we’re really lacking in this genre.
Favourite Book: Curtsies & Conspiracies

I advise everyone to check out these authors and their catalogues! They’re all big favourites of mine and I’m staking my reputation on their good-ness! I hope that someday, someone feels the same affection and loyalty towards my body of work as I do to these five.

J: Junking Writing You Still Like

Grr! Is there anything worse?

It’s one thing when you realize that everything you just wrote is terrible and you have to delete it. But it’s quite another when you loved it and you have to get rid of it anyway! Maybe it’s slowing the chapter down. Maybe the scene meandered away from the point and you can’t get it to do what it was meant to do. And maybe you just did something like me — forgot a basic little rule and wrote a bunch if nonsense that the characters should have been way too smart to say. It’s always painful to hit the delete button when it’s erasing words you actually liked, especially if it’s happening during the writing phase and you haven’t got your editor’s poker face on. It’s a sad fact that sometimes you have to backtrack to keep moving forward, and that means junking everything on the fork you just turned away from.

I talked about my best solution for this in my article on editing your manuscript, and I wanted to bring it up again because it applies to this, too. Don’t erase it! Save it. Turn that delete button into a cut+paste, instead. Save the writing you liked in a little document somewhere, where you can take it back out and look at it if you ever get the urge again. Knowing it’s somewhere really does help.

But what about advice for getting yourself back into the swing of writing after you’ve had to backtrack?

Well… that’s less simple. The way I’ve found is straight-forward but not easy: pull up your pants and put your head down. It’s never fun to write in the void left behind by perfectly good words. It’s always going to feel like a remedial version of the same thing, even if you head in a different direction. You’ve just got to get through it.

But another super important thing to keep in mind about junking good writing? You should only do it when you need to! So long as you’re still writing your book and aren’t into the editing phase with a full draft under you, junking should only be done when a scene can’t proceed with things the way they are, either because it’s gone completely off intended course or because it’s full of holes and falling over. A lot of the time, it doesn’t need to be done at all. So be sure to think about why you’re deleting before you hit the button and put yourself through the pain.

I: Inspiration, or, Where Did the World of My Book Come From?

Today I’m just going to talk a bit about my own work. My first book, The Deathsniffer’s Assistant, offers a lot of things that I don’t think you can get just anywhere. Like my cast of very different women, each with different kinds of strength and their own individual weaknesses. Or my melding of the whodunnit, conspiracy, and urban fantasy genres. But I think the most unique thing I’m bringing to the table is my setting.

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant takes place in an entirely fictional world, but the aesthetic I’m trying to evoke is Edwardian England, specifically the era between the mid 1900s and the early 1930s. And so far as I can see, I’m the only author who’s ever written a fantasy novel with this flavour! Fantasy has come up from its medieval roots in recent years, but while I’ve seen a fair amount of  Victorian, Regency, or even 1950s flavoured fantasy, no one seems particularly interested in the Edwardian era! In fact, I originally started intending for that more Victorian or Regency feel, myself. It seemed like the thing, and I knew a lot already. But as I wrote my first draft, my aesthetic just warped under my fingers. It modernized, and I let it. I realized that something really one-of-a-kind was possible if I kept on this path.

Rewinding a bit, the kernel of my setting, what I started with, had always been in wanting to write a world that had the fairy tale splendour of a city like Zurich, and filling it with components that are usually coded to lighter fantasy, like elementals or unicorns. I wanted to take the wonder of that airy sort of world and then juxapose it against that universal constant of daily life: it’s boring. It involves work, taxes, traffic, paperwork, and repetition. I think that everyone’s life is boring, and everyone can empathize with the grind it can be.

pictured: my top secret recipe
pictured: my top secret recipe

I made the magical into the routine. Almost everyone in the world of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant possesses amazing magical gifts, but those gifts are heavily policed and categorized and have a strict set of rules. Which gift you have limits your employment options and is an integral part of your government identification. It’s a part of the daily grind and is just a cog in the beaurocracy.

Ultimately, the technology I felt this level of organized society would create would be further ahead than my planned era. And as my world “aged,” I felt the aesthetic of the early 20th century offered really interesting venues to explore. And as I learned more and more about the era, it just felt right! It felt new and fun and exciting.

I read a lot of historical novels set in this era as a little girl, so maybe that’s where my fondness for it came from. But all those pieces swirled together and clicked, and I couldn’t be more happy with how my world fell out! I hope everyone looks into checking it out when The Deathsniffer’s Assistant comes out this summer!

When writing yourself, let your setting change underneath you if it wants to, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Unique is fun. Embrace it.

H: How Much Research is Too Much Research

All right, writers; stop me if you’re heard this one.

You’re planning a new book. It’s got an interesting setting, something you’ve always been interested in but don’t actually know that much about. You want to be informed and know your material. You start doing some research. Articles, fashion plates, photographs. You’re making notes. You keep discovering more and more minutae about the period or area you’re looking into. The more you learn, the more you feel you need to learn. How can you possibly write about this when there is just so much to know that you don’t know?

A year and a half later, you’re still researching. You don’t feel any closer than you were before. In fact, you feel further away. Finally, exhausted but still convinced you’re not ready to start writing, you shelve the project. You’ll keep looking into it. You swear.

Does this sound familiar to anyone else?
It’s an afflication that sometimes occurs in us writer-types. I have it, and a lot of my writing friends do, too. Fear of messing something up, fear of seeming ignorant, fear of not fully understanding your own material… it can eat a good book alive.

The thing is, writers aren’t experts. We can’t be. To become an expert on every topic tackled in every book would take decades or more. And you don’t need to be an expert. Writing is sleight of hand. You display what you do know, and hide what you don’t know behind it.

All you need is a working knowledge. This means that you understand how something works in theory. Do you know that blood spatter sprays across surfaces in patterns that can be used to determine facts about a crime scene? Great! You’re now equipped to write a scene where your detective analyzes blood spatter.

The amazing thing about writing is that there are no visuals accompanying your words — you’re evoking the visuals. Everything that is “seen” is in the mind of the reader, implicated by words that you’ve written. As Stephen King famously said, “writing is telepathy.” So while a movie needs to know the blood spatter to the audience, our audience creates the splatter. Watch this:

you've at least seen dexter, right? everyone's seen dexter.
you’ve at least seen dexter, right? everyone’s seen dexter!

“Do you see that?” she asked, and indicated a still-wet red shower sprayed across the wall. Trails slid down, thick congealing drops reaching toward the floor.

His heart pounded and he recognized the pattern, how it moved in an arc away from the fallen body. “The victim was standing right here,” he murmured. “He had no idea what was coming.”

Okay, I wrote that in five seconds, so it’s not very good. But I think it gets my point across. I don’t know much about blood spatter. But I don’t need to. The reader does half the work for me. We meet in the middle.

So long as your book goes through a good, wide range of alpha readers, there’s nothing to fret about. Those people are there to tell you if anything sticks out as being incorrect, which leaves you in a position where you don’t have to torture yourself.

It may seem like bad advice but you just can’t know everything. That blood spatter may only appear in one chapter. The next chapter might have details about zookeeping. And the one after that goes into the daily behaviour of the zoo animals. But you can’t become a forensic investigator! Or a zoologist! Or a veterinarian. You’ll never actually write if you do.

Writing is all an illusion. Don’t worry about what you don’t know unless someone tells you that you should. You show the audience what you do know, and so long as nothing you say is incorrect, they’ll fill in what they know in return.

G: Great Books (That You May Not Have Read)

(Short personal note! I’ll be trying to make a couple of posts today! I’m on a trip and not even 15 hours in, I fell down a flight of stairs and wrecked my ankle! As I’m in a foreign country, I don’t have any medical coverage, so I’ve been resting my ankle, icing it, and being extremely careful so I don’t get any complications! It hasn’t exactly been the right atmosphere around here to get work done. But I’m finally hobbling around and have so many exciting things to talk to you guys about, so it’s back to the A-Z Challenge!)

Sunday is technically a day off… but I’m so far behind, it’s going to be crunch day for me!

Without further ado, here is my article for G: Great Books (That You May Not Have Read.)

I love to read!

I’ve always loved to read. And my whole life, I’ve always wanted the books that I love to get the appreciation they deserve. Sometimes you read a book that you just want to share with the world. But people don’t really read these days, and even readers sometimes have such a backlog it’s hard to get something on their radars! So I thought I’d take some time to talk about some books that I feel are woefully underground for how good they are.

7114825The Spiritwalker Trilogy by Kate Elliot, starting with Cold Magic, has a trait I feel sadly lacking in a lot of fantasy: it’s fantastic. Not in that it’s good (though it is), but in that it’s full of strange and wonderful and weird things, creatures and places and magics that will thrill and alarm you. The world of the trilogy is also beautifully diverse and international, taking place in fantasy alternatives of the Caribbean, Africa, France, and England with most of the cast being either black or mixed race. It mixes Celtic and Mali lore beautifully to create one of the most imaginative fantasy worlds I’ve seen… and it’s still at least half our own!

13489919I love romance novels. Especially historicals. And it’s a joy when I find a romance novel that isn’t just a thrilling, entertaining love story, but is actually consent-positive and has a strong female lead. The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan, manages it four times in a row. Despite the series name referencing the men, the theme is the heroines: four brilliant women who have been forced by Victorian society to become lesser than they are. Minnie, the chess prodigy, Jane, the clever thinker, Violet, the natural scientist, and Free, the investigative reporter… all of them are pushed down by their worlds and all of them learn to live big. It’s a beautiful series that people who avoid romance novels are missing out on!

2582799I’ve talked a bit about the Mrs. Quent series before, but oh my gosh. They have got to be the most underappreciated rough-cut gems out there. A melding of the aesthetics and writing styles of Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft is a match made in heaven, and the three main characters are so different and so endearing. Ivoleyn Lockwell, the bookish gentlewoman looking to cure her father’s madness. Dashton Rafferdy, the playboy nobleman who has to learn to be an adult. Eldyn Garrit, the poor clerk taking care of his younger sister. I adore these books. They’re rough around the edges, so how can they be so perfect? It’s hard to say. Maybe it’s just that they’re perfect for me.

5356476Speaking of the Lovecraft, while the man himself has aged poorly, those inspired by him are such a joy of mine. One of my favourite horror novels is The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan. This book is a trip. It’s a dark and confusing and sensual maze through the mind of a woman who may be going mad with grief, or may be haunted by the dark and sinister history of a certain tree, or may be both. I don’t want to say too much about it because a lot of the fun is just how little you know going in! I’ll just say this: if you’re looking for answers, you’ll be frustrated by The Red Tree. But if you want something that you can mull over for weeks, weighing the possibilities, you’ll adore this.

These are just a few of the less known books I love! Check them all out!