In which I turn people into catpeople

To celebrate the upcoming launch of Magic Weaver, I asked for volunteers on Facebook. “Who wants to become a cat person?” I asked.

“Me! Me!” several people shouted.

So, without further ado, here are the victims volunteers with cat ears, and in some cases, tails.

This is Heidi, and here is her blog
Juliann Whicker, and this is her blog
Ryan Perreault, and here is his Facebook
Bethany Jennings, and here is her blog
Jennette Mbewe, and here is her blog
Rachel Meenan, and here is her website
Gretchen’s daughter, who wanted to be a catgirl!

Ah, Photoshopping is so much fun! Here’s to all my volunteers!

Magic Weaver cover reveal (and book 1 free!)

I’m jittery with nervousness about this new book’s launch! You’d think that the more books you write, the easier it gets, but it doesn’t.

Here’s the cover:


It’s the fourth book of the Spacetime Legacy, my YA urban fantasy series. It’s been a long time coming, mostly because this particular plotline gave me all kinds of headaches. This is what it’s about:

As a catgirl from another world, Xironi Heartlight spent her childhood trying to blend in with Earth’s humans. She lives with her grandfather in a huge house he expanded with magic, and earns her living by weaving space into tapestries on her magic loom.

When her friend Carda asks for her help to investigate a series of magical thefts, Xironi is caught up in the twisted schemes of an imprisoned sorcerer, and Alatha, the cutthroat politician he has forced to obey his every command. An innocent girl is taking the fall for it – Revi, the ex-assassin Carda has been training in magic.

Now Xironi and Revi, together with Carda and his friends, must hunt down and capture Alatha’s probability ghosts from multiple timelines so that Xironi can weave them back together – before Alatha’s final strike brings the fury of an otherworldly race upon them all.

The bit with Alatha being cut into probability ghosts has been around since book 1. It was just such a huge plotline that we had to give it its own book.

Another thing that stumped me on this book was that it’s a friendship between two girls. Having never had a close girl friendship beyond my sister, I had to read and study what that looks like, and how it works. All those years writing fanfic, and I never wrote two girls who are friends! This was a new frontier for me.

Thankfully I have lovely internet friends who have been willing to point me in the right direction, and correct me when I go astray. Props to Bethany, Rachel, and Mary for critiques, edits, and all-around cheerleading.

The book will launch Tuesday, July 5th, and is available for preorder here. In the meantime, book 1 of the series is free on all retailers! Why not grab it and give it a read? I’ll be dropping the price of the other books soon, so you can grab the whole series for a song.

Need help writing urban settings? We got your back!

I’m participating in the launch event for the Urban Settings Thesaurus this week! This is the newest addition to the Emotion/Setting/everything else thesauri by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi–and it’s fantastic.

I’ve been reading a review copy … well, you don’t exactly read a reference guide straight through. I’ve been referring to it heavily as I work the final drafts on Magic Weaver, and it is a goldmine. Never been in a police station, a tattoo parlor, and office cubicle, a military base, or a newsroom? But your characters have to go there? This book is crammed with all the sensory details and conflict ideas you could ask for.

So, without further ado, here’s the scoop!

It is a writer’s job to draw readers into the fictional story so completely that they forget the real world. Our goal is to render them powerless, so despite the late hour, mountain of laundry, or workday ahead, they cannot give up the journey unfolding within the paper-crisp pages before them.

Strong, compelling writing comes down to the right words, in the right order. Sounds easy, but as all writers know, it is anything BUT. So how do we create this storytelling magic? How can we weave description in such a way that the fictional landscape becomes authentic and real—a mirror of the reader’s world in all the ways that count most?

The Setting Thesaurus DuoWell, there’s some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Police Car.

And there’s one more thing you might want to know more about….

Rock_The_Vault_WHW1Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT. At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking…if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!

The real reason that Christians don’t read fantasy

There’s been an ongoing discussion in the Christian speculative-fiction community about why nobody can sell books. This discussion has gone on for years. “Look at our awesome fantasy!” authors cry. “Look at our amazing science fiction! Why doesn’t anybody want to read it?”

The Christians don’t want to read it, and the non-Christians don’t want to read it. So a lot of head-scratching goes on in the community. “What are we doing wrong?”

Stephen Burnett over at wrote an article about this. He postulated:

Q. Why isn’t there more Christian fantasy?

Answer 1: There has been, but it failed.

I know many Christian editors and authors who did or do publish fantastical titles, e.g. supernatural/fantasy/sci-fi. And that effort went over like a dead drone. Not because the publishers were not willing. But because the readership did not respond.

Without exception, the Christian fantastical titles I enjoyed in the 90s and 2000s3 are now out of print at their original publishers. Some, such as Oxygen and the Firebird series, ended up being republished by Marcher Lord Press, now known as Enclave, which is now an imprint of Gilead Publishing.

Answer 2: There is, but you haven’t heard of it.

Some Christian authors who tried fantasy/sci-fi at larger publishers ended up jumping genres. Or they moved into indie or self-publishing. In some Christian circles, this means even less opportunity for the Ministry platforms a traditional publisher might afford.

Even apart from that, you likely haven’t heard of an author’s self- or indie-published works.

From here it appears that a new author must be able to  be a full-time author/marketer to work at making a living from being a full-time author/marketer. Catch-22?

3. There is, but readers aren’t there.

This question is not about the writers/publishers not giving the supply.

It’s about readers and what they demand.

That’s why I overtly push against the “why don’t Christian publishers and writers do X” line. Fact is: Christian publishers and writers have done X, and readers did not respond.

I’ve begun to wonder, among some of the “Christian fantasy” circles I know, whether some writers simply do not know of the many, many writers and publishers who have tried this, and are therefore led to conclude “Well, someone should try it,” e.g. reinventing the wheel.

After I wrote this material, an editor with a Christian publishing house commented:

It’s not that publishers haven’t tried to publish speculative fiction before, but the Christian readers didn’t respond to it. I actually have on my desk a fantasy trilogy that [my publisher] did in 2007; no one bought it and it’s out of print now.

And while Christian publishers definitely should be more willing to take risks, Christian readers (and Christian stores, even in the age of Amazon it’s actually amazing how much they influence what gets published) have often punished those who took risks. That’s why we’re stuck in a never-ending vortex of Amish Romance (and now coloring books).

So, Christians don’t want speculative fiction. I guess because speculation often looks a lot like heresy–and the church has dealt with that particular nastiness for centuries. But I noticed something different.

Dusk by Sandara

While reading a homeschooling blog, I came across a blog for Christian homeschoolers who write books. These kids and young adults are voracious readers and writers. They consume Redwall, Narnia, the Warriors series, historical fiction (anything Little House on the Prairie), and fairytales. Lots of fairytales.

All these books have something in common: they are safe. Juvenile fiction has no sex, no swearing, and lots of adventure. Sound familiar? Why, yes–it’s all the same thing that adult Christian readers continue to read.

And thus it dawned on me: to successfully market to an audience, you have to know your audience. And the Christian readership wants children’s fiction. It’s why the church hasn’t moved past Narnia or Middle Earth (both written in the early part of the last century). Occasionally someone mentions Frank Peretti or Chuck Black. Very occasionally someone might bring up Andrew Peterson. But mostly kids are allowed to read mystery, talking animal adventure, and historical fiction. These kids then grow into adults who prefer to read the same things. They’re not interested in the darker, edgier fiction out there.

However, the Christian spec fic authors want to read and write adult books. They want sex, swearing and blood–all things that aren’t appropriate for kids books. Yet they also try to drag in the heavy-handed moralizing that is native to a lot of kids fiction. The result is a mishmash that doesn’t appeal to adult readers of speculative fiction (too heavy handed on the moralizing), and doesn’t appeal to the Christian camp (too dirty!). And let’s not even mention horror.

Mike Duran in this video blog suggests that we drop the Christian moniker and just write pure speculative fiction. That way we can hit the adult market that wants the adult content we so badly want to write. We do have to learn to convey complex ideas without moralizing, but isn’t that part of growing as a writer?

The Legacy of Spacetime (or How We Survived Long-Distance Dating)

Back in my fanfic days (discussed here), I hosted lots of people’s stories on my website. One of them was a guy named Ryan Carroll.

While reading fanfics, I learned to judge people by what they wrote or drew–particularly their self-inserts. If a person’s sert was psycho, or stuck-up, or really nice, so was the writer. Ryan’s sert was always really nice–a fun-loving nerd who found a way to travel to other worlds.

An old Carda profile pic

We were friends from high school, through college, and on into our 20s. I was friends with lots of people online, but Ryan was the one I had multiple crushes on–and I only knew him as words on a screen.

As we got older, he took his stories and characters and began stripping away the fanfiction aspects, building these characters into their own fantasy world. We had long conversations about Carda, Xironi, Demetrius, and how the angeli differed from real angels. We hammered out how to make an adoptable robot pet from GaiaOnline into a character. (“Let’s name her Esca, after Escaflowne!”)

We started writing story episodes together. I invented Indal, the chronomancer werewolf, because there was a sad lack of werewolves in Ryan’s universe. There also weren’t many male characters–he had loads of girls, though. (And I had loads of guys!)

Indal working a time-scrying spell while trying not to shift into a werewolf.

We came up with the Strider of Chronos idea while writing these stories. Originally we had Carda finding out about it through a series of secret journals that were hidden across multiple worlds. We had this nasty thing called the Subspace Storm that changed every time we wrote about it. Sometimes it was an actual storm. Sometimes it was a disembodied soul disrupting the space between dimensions. Once it was the perpetually exploding home world of the cat people.

Meanwhile, we slowly went from emails to phone calls. We met in real life, which was awkward, but kind of fun. We kept building the Spacetime world. One particular episode, when the Subspace Storm sank Atlantis, was especially fun to write. I’m still sorry that it didn’t make it into the finished book.

You can see how bonkers and unfocused the storyworld was.

Time went on. We got engaged long-distance, and aside from a few holidays spent together, we lived in separate states until a week before the wedding. It was awful. I don’t recommend it.

Once married, we took long walks together and continued developing the world. “What about Demetrius?” I asked. “There’s got to be more to him than a mustache-twirling bad guy.”

At the time, the main series villain was Octavian, and Demetrius was this demon-dude that he summoned all the time.

Fear me and my un-originality!

We combined the two characters, and figured out that Demetrius was in love with the fallen angelus Inferna. They did the whole Adam and Eve thing–she sinned first, and he followed her lead. He may wind up as an antihero in the final book, though. Ryan and I are quite fond of him.

We decided to turn this into a fantasy novel. I took Ryan’s notes and old drafts and began writing it. A couple of drafts in, I found a lovely little critique group called the Sandbox. Everybody there at the time has moved on to being published, or very close to it. We were a hungry bunch, and happily brutal on each other’s work. I learned how much I didn’t know, and began consuming craft books. They introduced me to James Scott Bell, among others. Cue heavenly choir here.

I also tried my hand at Nanowrimo, or National Novel Writer’s Month. This gave rise to the second and third books, both of which took several rewrites to distill the story from the fluff.

There was also a proto book 2, involving blood magic, a dragon, and a really big, angry robot–but it had so many problems that I scrapped it. I reused a few elements for the upcoming fourth Spacetime book. (I couldn’t leave the giant robot idea alone.)

Ryan, meanwhile, has been brainstorming the second Spacetime series (we’re calling it Season Two), which will follow the Spacetime War and a batch of new characters. The old characters will show up, of course.

An early cover idea for book 1. It’s too dark, but still very epic.

All in all, Spacetime has taught me so much about writing. I’ve done plenty of things wrong, but then, that’s how experiments are. (Apparently the one I got very right was Chronocrime, because one of my friends goes back and reads it every year.)

The fourth book, which I hope to launch in June, is called Magic Weaver, and features the catgirl Xironi, and how she weaves space into portal-tapestries. She befriends Revi, the heroine of Wraithblade, and together they have all sorts of crazy adventures. There are robots. There is a tiny white dragon. There is a person who has had their free will removed by taking all probabilities out of their timeline.

Ryan and I are excited for this book, because it leads straight into book five, the series finale called Inferna’s Fury. Clues as to what will happen are scattered throughout the earlier books.

The first three books are (hooray!) available on all retailers. I’m so excited! It’s been such a long road with this series. Check them out! The Strider of Chronos, Chronocrime, Wraithblade, and the upcoming Magic Weaver.