The fairytale books I never meant to write

So, true confessions time. I don’t really care for fairytale retellings. Somewhere between Disney and Robin McKinley, I kind of lost my taste for them. I guess because it’s always the same plot? Like, I know Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast are good stories, but … there’s really only so many twists you can put on those stories to freshen them up. Believe me, I’ve read a few. All paranormal romances are Beauty and the Beast, pretty much without exception.

Anyway, I had the bright idea to stick tieflings in space and frame it as a Beauty and the Beast story. I can’t even remember why I thought this was a good idea. It was a week before Christmas, and the folks on my writing Discord were writing stories to swap on Christmas Eve. So I bashed out this little story in a few days about a human girl and an alien guy living in the same house as political hostages to ensure the good behavior of their politicians during peace talks. Naturally they fall for each other, and naturally a bad guy interferes.

My writing group loved it and begged me to expand it into a book. I liked the story, and I had some ideas about how to expand the worldbuilding, so I took a month or two and rewrote it into a nice novella. It became The Song of the Rose.

Well, once I’d written one story in this universe, I wanted to write another one. A Cinderella plot began to write itself in my head. What if, instead of the prince seeking Cinderella because of a glass slipper, he was seeking her because she’s the pilot of a living warship nobody else can tame? And what if, like, she and her ship have to fight really bad aliens? And what if the prince is kind of useless and lovable? So I wrote it, just to see if I could. It became Of Stars and Ashes.

Then I took a year off to write some other stuff. In the meantime, people read my two fairytales and asked for them in paperback. But the books are so little, I didn’t want to make paperbacks of teeny tiny books. So I promised that I would write a third one, and then make a paperback of all three books together.

I knew I wanted to do Snow White, and I wanted to do it as a political assassination story. (Think about it–the wicked queen trying to murder Snow White over and over? It’s political assassination attempts!) But I couldn’t come up with a guy to be the prince who rescues her. It took me the better part of a year to figure out how I wanted to frame this story, and to figure out the personalities of both the guy and Snow White.

Two different things made it click. The first was reading a book with an introverted healer character. The second was a discussion on my writing discord about how all women are written as spunky, bratty chicks who don’t need no man. Where are the gentle, soft-spoken girls who are genuinely nice and kind of shy?

I instantly knew that I had my male lead and my Snow White. The introverted human medic and the shy alien girl who is the target of a vicious political assassin. So I present to you the latest installment in the Celestial Fairytale series: Fairer than Snow!

I’ve also got an omnibus with all three books in it. By the time you read this, the paperback should be available here.

Anyway, I already have another story in mind that I want to write. It will be based on Snow White and Rose Red, except it will be a brother and sister who help out a Rox guy in trouble.

Help, I’ve fallen down the fairytale rabbit hole and I can’t get out!

Book release: Irregulars

After a whole year’s delay, the next After Atlantis book is out!

Three lost isles to protect Atlantis …

James Chase needs magic from seven elements in order to deploy the Lighthouse island from the pocket dimension where it was built. However, the element of Air is missing, its elemental long dead.

Chase turns to healer Jayesh Khatri, who used to work with magic smugglers to illegally track shard carriers. Jayesh joins forces with Nell and Max, a couple of streetwise teenagers struggling to straighten out their lives. They have questions about the fate of Omniscient, the dead ringleader of the smugglers, questions that Jayesh doesn’t dare answer. As they work together to track down the person carrying the last fragment of air magic, Nell and Max press their healer for the truth, dangerous though it may be.

An encounter with the fanatical Cult of the Dawn sends the investigation into a tail spin. Can Jayesh win the trust of Nell and Max, or will the Emperor of Atlantis and his cult capture the last remaining Aspect of Air?

Available on most retailers!

I’m kind of embarrassed at how long it’s been since Sanctuary released. This is what I think of as a bridge book, that is, it fills the gap between the previous plot arc and the big finale. It builds up the tension and worldbuilding, and sets up a bunch of dominoes for the next and final book. And it was super hard to write! I wrote an entire novel and discarded it between Sanctuary and Irregulars, because it didn’t fit and it didn’t work.

Irregulars starts off as the breathing space after the frantic events of Sanctuary. Jayesh and Kari are settling in together, things are going great, everybody is happy. But James Chase can’t seem to find the last type of magic he needs to launch his island into the real world. Jayesh pitches in to help, and the slow build begins to a crazy showdown against the Emperor of Atlantis himself. I’ve wanted to drag in the teen characters from Bloodbound for ages now, and they fit this world like a glove. I’m really looking forward to the teen mystery series I have planned, where Max and probably Nell will solve superhero-related mysteries.

Meanwhile, the next book features the big war for Atlantis, and that will take the majority of my attention for the next few months. I want to end the series with a boom and reward you guys for sticking with it for so long! I promise to have no major character deaths! I really hate it when books do that to you, so I’m making sure everybody survives.

Blade and Staff for Hire – a throwback to adventure fantasy

My latest book Blade and Staff for Hire launches this week, and I’m so excited to share it with you all!

Bayan Avanar is a warrior of whom the bards sing. He travels the lands, seeking his promised bride and slaying monsters with a fiery spellblade.

After two years of searching, Bayan arrives in sunny Leon and at last finds clues pointing to the girl he has only seen in visions. Accompanied by a young half-elf healer Charles Whitmore, who joins him in his quest for a wife, Bayan must confront the monsters in his path if he is to rescue the girl of his dreams. 

Kesara Francesa has dreamed of her dark warrior for months and is terrified that he brings her death. But this dark warrior is her only hope, for her time is running out: on Midsummer’s Night she is to be sacrificed to raise an ancient god. Only Bayan Avanar, legendary warrior, can save her now.

Contains: No smut, soulmates, best friends, bros on a road trip, damsel in distress, ghouls, wyverns, evil sorceress, evil werewolves, friendly centaurs, setting is Fantasy Spain.

Available in most online bookstores!

Fantasy is one of my favorite genres, but most fantasy has gone from being action adventure with guys and strong friendships to being:

  • Girrrl power
  • Too heavy on romance
  • Grimdark
  • Hopeless
  • Not funny
  • Like seriously, let these characters crack a joke

So I set out to write the kind of fantasy I wanted to read. I wanted to read about a warrior and his healer sidekick on a quest … but not to save the world. They’re on a quest for wives. Bayan has visions of the girl the gods intend for him, while Charles is just out to marry the most beautiful girl in Leon. Along the way, they fight monsters and an evil sorceress, and bring along another mage who is a total magic nerd. There are wisecracks. There is peril and more wisecracks. My beta readers asked for a sequel at once. My editor said “it’s like a more wholesome Witcher”.

So if you’d like to read something light, instead of the grimdark that plagues the genre, this might be the book for you. Available on most stores!

Book review: Sea and Soul by Shari Branning

The last few books I’ve reviewed in here have been less than favorable. So, let’s review a book I actually liked!

Sea and Soul, by Shari Branning

An evil queen sits on the throne, and the Seer has seen a curse is coming.

When empath Dylan Blaine is summoned to a gala on the Isle of Selkies, he knows it will likely spell his doom. But you can’t turn down a summons from a seer. His fears are justified when he encounters Lyselle, a sorceress who wants his power for her own.

Selkie heiress Kiah of Lomasi doesn’t know what help she could possibly be in the Seer’s game against the Witch Queen, but then disaster strikes as they’re leaving the gala, and she’s the only one who can save Dylan’s life.

Will Dylan, Kiah, and a handful of others that the Seer has brought together be able to navigate court politics, black magic, assassins, and monsters to keep their country from destruction? Or will the Witch Queen, who’s been sacrificing people with magic to feed her own stolen powers, end them all?

Sea and Soul is the first book in the Seer’s Gambit series, but can be read on its own or out of order.

Amazon link

This book is kind of like urban fantasy, but it’s not. It’s kind of like paranormal romance, but it’s not. This is almost a fairytale set in modern day. It has an evil stepmother queen, witches, princesses, selkies, werewolves, elves, and a cursed forest. But it also has guns, helicopters, motorboats, cars, and cell phones. In fact, people use magic mirrors and cellphones side by side. The setting is based on Alaska, so the city is built on a rugged coast of cliffs and restless seas. I can’t remember the last time I read a fantasy book set in Alaska.

Dylan is an empath, which means he has the ability to sense other people’s feelings. Instead of this making him touchy-feely, it makes him grouchy and snarky. Also, he’s been in fear for his life for years, because everybody wants an empath. A king with a leashed empath could always tell who his enemies are, or could control the emotions of anyone around him. The evil witch-queen wants him. Her sister, another witch, wants him. The elves want him, the selkies want him, everybody wants Dylan and his powers.

Thing is, humans don’t have magic. Dylan, as a human and being an empath, is very rare, and not exactly magic. For humans to get magic, they have to become a sorcerer and steal the magic from one of the magical races by sacrificing them and taking it from their blood. So for a witch queen to be in control of a country of magicals … this is really bad.

Dylan and a small group of others are brought together by the Seer and told that they need to become friends, because they’re going to have to work together to take down the witch queen and save their country. If they don’t, the whole country will be cursed, like the neighboring country of Marieadd, which got cursed after a war where everybody misused magic. That’s the whole cursed forest thing. The group aren’t sure about this, because everybody has their own secrets. But this isn’t a team-up book. Each of these characters will get their own books, and let me tell you, I want them all.

Dylan walks out the door and is attacked by the witch, Lyselle, who wants this empath under her thumb before her sister gets to him. She puts a subjugation spell on him, which he fights until he’s almost dead. But he’s saved by Kiah, a selkie whose only magic is sea-based. (Selkies are a sort of were-seal.) To save Dylan and break the subjugation spell, Kiah has to replace it with a stronger spell–that of her coat, which in selkie culture, is how they get married.

So Dylan wakes up with this pretty white glowing tattoo thing wrapped across his chest and back, and it’s Kiah’s coat, and it can’t come off. So … they’re married and it’s awkward because they only met the previous night. Whoops.

So now, as they work together to fight the queen and Lyselle and help their friends, Dylan and Kiah have this growing attraction as they awkwardly try to date and get to know each other. The action kicks off and never lets up, with the queen drawing the net tighter and tighter. I won’t spoil any more, but it has a heck of an ending. Dylan learns to weaponize his empath powers, and it’s terrific.

Whenever I’ve read a book with someone who can sense feelings, it’s always a girl doing it. To have a guy who senses feelings … and then makes wisecracks … was oddly refreshing and fun. Dylan smarts off to his enemies, even when it costs him. There’s a lovely theme of faith and the power that faith bestows. There’s a wonderful picture of love vs lust and how different they are.

I’d recommend this book for teens and up. Even though it has the imagination and action of a young adult novel, the characters are in their 20s, and … well, I just mentioned the love vs lust thing. Nothing is shown, and there’s only a few hot kisses, but there’s quite a lot of stuff implied, if you get my meaning. Such as what the witch wants to do to Dylan. In Dylan’s own words, “Ew!”

I can’t wait for the next books with the other characters. Also, I did the cover art!

5/5 stars

Cinderella retelling – IN SPACE! Of Stars and Ashes

Finally, the sequel to The Song of the Rose is here: Of Stars and Ashes! The continuing saga of the alien Rox and their home system of Beta Pictoris B continues. These books are a series but can be read as a standalone.

Cinderella in space … if the glass slipper was a warship.

Rasha l’Cervantes, a Rox girl with beautiful golden horns, has been subjected to forced servitude along with the rest of her clan. While working in a quarry, she accidentally befriends a young neurolite, an armored insect that will one day grow up to become a spaceship. She also befriends a fellow prisoner, the ex-prince of her clan.

Kraz l’Cervantes made one bad political decision and now faces the dissolution of his clan. Everyone hates him except for a brave girl at the quarry: Rasha, who refuses to let him wallow in depression and forces him to eat.

The prisoners are separated and three years pass. Rasha recieves a summons to Kraz’s Choosing, a party where he will select a bride. But it is really an attempt to find the missing pilot of a neurolite frigate: a rogue frigate who is a danger to the fleet. Now Rasha must decide whether or not to Choose Kraz … if the deadly frigate doesn’t claim her life, first.

This is the second book in the Celestial Fairytales series, but can be read as a standalone.

Contains: Sweet romance, friends to lovers, no smut, spaceships, evil space fungus, military action, chases.

AmazonBarnes and NobleKoboApple iBooksOther retailers

After Atlantis: Sanctuary releases today!

I just love book launch days, they’re so exciting. Sanctuary goes live today, after two years of writing and revisions! This is superhero fantasy aimed more or less at adults, because there’s romance, but there’s nothing dirty, so kids could read it, too. I just think they’d be bored by the first half.

It’s not easy being Bloodbound.
Jayesh’s magic and life force are mingled with that of the magic island, Sanctuary, and he is desperately lonely. The girl of his dreams, Kari, has been his friend for months, but she is still grieving her dead boyfriend. When Jayesh kisses her for the first time, Kari has a vision of his magic, and she runs from him. Jayesh is crushed, and his wounded feelings begin to slowly destroy Sanctuary.
Meanwhile, in Atlantis, an outbreak of strange cobra-like centipedes attack Bygone Island. The only one who can heal their bites is Jayesh, and his friends need him at full strength. But his damaged relationship with Kari disrupts his judgment and leads him down a path toward self-sacrifice that none of his friends want.
Now Kari will have to make a choice. Her love for Jayesh must overcome her fear of him and his binding, for to love the Bloodbound is to become Bloodbound, too.

Sanctuary can be read as a standalone, but the two books before it are Bloodbound and Waygate

Currently only on Amazon, but I will update links as the other retailers go live over the next few days.

I’m going to keep doing art to promote this book for a while. Besides, it’s been fun to have an excuse to concept these characters out. 🙂

This is Cirrus Markone, (pronounced Mark One) the Shadow the Hedgehog of After Atlantis. If you’ve read the Guardian books of After Atlantis, you’ll know all about Cirrus. In Sanctuary, he becomes Jayesh’s unwilling mentor. Cirrus is a genetically-engineered wizard who looks down his nose at everybody around him and pretends not to care about anybody. His brand of mentorship is, “Suck it up, loser.” This winds up being good for Jayesh, who tends to dig himself into holes of self-pity. Also, Cirrus does not follow the Mentor Must Die trope. He’s a protagonist, himself, and has lots more awesome to do in the rest of the series.

Song of the Rose: Beauty and the Beast in space

It’s launch day for Song of the Rose! I’m sure there’s other space opera version of Beauty and the Beast, but this one is mine. 😀

The human race is at war with the Rox, a ferocious race of horned, demonic humanoids from space, and humanity is losing.

When the humans and Rox agree to a hostage exchange, Lieutenant Zayn is asked to volunteer because of her social standing. She will be housed with a prince of the Rox, and their good behavior will ensure that peace talks will go forward between their races. Zayn is terrified of sharing living space with one of the demons, but she agrees in order to bring about an end to the war.

Alnair l’Nath is a prince and commander in the Rox fleet. He is nervous about being shut in with a human princess who might knife him in the back, but he wants the war to end, too. He and Zayn despise each other on sight, even though Alnair finds her oddly attractive.

Zayn and Alnair gradually make peace as they discover that humans and Rox are not so different. But when a rogue agent of the Rox kidnaps Zayn and Alnair in order to end the peace talks and escalate the war, it will fall to a human and a Rox, and the growing love between them, to end the conflict forever.

This is a sweet romance with only mild kissing, but plenty of suspense and action.

Available on most retailers here

I wrote this book on accident. I’m kind of burned out on fairytale retellings, mostly because I’ve just read so many. They’re kind of predictable, because if you know the basic story, the retelling will hit the same story beats. And they’re also kind of like … 1500s medieval tech level, peasants and princes, Western European fantasy.

For some reason, my brain went, “But what if it was in SPACE?” And I had to start writing and playing with it. The first draft was much shorter, written in a week before Christmas as a gift for my writing group. They demanded that I go back and expand it. So I rewrote it from the ground up, and I think there’s about 1 page remaining of the original version. Which is fine, because the spaceships needed a lot more time to shine. While humans have regular spaceships, the aliens have these silicon-based lifeforms they fly around in. Their ships are sentient and have attitudes, kind of the dragon and rider dynamic. “You are my pilot and if anyone threatens you, I will vaporize them.” I wound up falling in love with my ships. I’m working on a second story in this same universe (Cinderella!) that is centered around a girl in a forced labor camp who accidentally imprints on a young ship … and he grows up into a giant frigate and demands that she be his pilot.

In Song of the Rose, Alnair and Zayn each think that the other is the beast. And the Roses wind up being this alien artifact that … well, I don’t want to spoil it. Read it for yourself. 🙂 🙂