The Art of not being an Asshole: Representation, Stereotyping, Appropriation, and Erasure

#SFWAPRO

For those of you who don’t know, I’m white. In fact, I’m very, very white.

I’m also a man, and straight. Basically, I hit the privilege lottery. It doesn’t mean my life has been easy, or that I haven’t worked hard to get where I am. What it does mean is that there are a lot of challenges and obstacles that I never had to face. However difficult my life was, it would’ve been more so if I were a woman, or black, or trans, or all of the above.

If you’re someone who struggles to understand the idea of privilege, and you’re still reading this, here is a great video that explains it.

As a general rule, I try to avoid being an asshole. Having privilege doesn’t make me an asshole, but it does make it easier to be one, and it means I suffer fewer (if any) consequences from it. It doesn’t even have to be intentional. For example, dismissing or diminishing the struggles of those who don’t look like me because I’ve never had to face them.

What does this have to do with writing? Quite a bit actually. I wrote a couple of blog posts about it here and here, if you’re interested in reading them. If you aren’t, here is the tldr: as a writer, I have a certain amount of power. My stories and characters can reinforce stereotypes and tropes. They can dehumanize or reduce a group of people to a caricature, or their culture, beliefs, and history to a plot point or set piece. They can even erase entire groups of people entirely. They don’t have to, but they can. What’s more, the blind spots I have that are born from privilege make it super easy; stomping around, blithely unaware of what I’m stepping on. That, to me, is a good example of an asshole.

So, if I don’t want to be an asshole, which I don’t, I have to be mindful of my figurative surroundings. It takes effort and requires a willingness to recognize and acknowledge when, despite my best efforts, I still wind up being the asshole. And when that happens, apologizing sincerely, accepting the consequences, and striving to do better in the future.

This isn’t easy to do. In fact, this blog post was spurred by a recent conversation with an author friend. This person is one of the kindest, selfless, most thoughtful people I know. In fact, they are so averse to causing anyone harm that they feel paralyzed at times. They want their writing to be diverse and inclusive, but they fear screwing it up and how that will impact others. Some will use this as example of PC culture run amok. To those people, I cordially invite them to fuck off. This author wants to do the right thing, to be a good person, but they’re not sure how. I know my friend isn’t the only person who worries about this, so I’m going to share some lessons I’ve learned from the mistakes I’ve made.

In case you didn’t know this, representation is important. Everyone should get to read stories with characters like them in it. However, you need to do it correctly. If the only black character in a story is the magical negro, the only Asian is a ninja assassin good at math, or the only LGBTQ character is a super effeminate man with a lisp and limp wrists, you’re not doing it correctly. Proper representation is why #ownvoices is so important. When members of marginalized groups tell their own stories, it gives them representation and the world some cool new stories. Additionally, it also shows those of us not in that group what positive representation looks like.

So, does this mean non-marginalized people should never write about marginalized groups? No of course not, and for a couple of reasons. First, the current lack of diversity in the writing world means the only way to get broader representation is if non-marginalized people include marginalized characters. Second, and for the same reason as above, this will result in the erasure of marginalized people from literature. Obviously the ultimate goal should be increasing diversity of creators, and while it is improving, like all social changes, it’s a long slow march. In the meantime, I think those of us with privilege owe it to readers to provide them with positive, accurate representation. BUT when someone who isn’t marginalized creates characters that are, they owe it to those groups, their readers, the story, and themselves, to do it right. That means avoiding stereotypes and negative tropes.

First, let’s be clear; all stereotypes are bad. Yes, even positive stereotypes. No group is a monolith, and stereotypes deprive them of individualism, internal diversity, and complexity. In order to avoid stereotypes, you need to be aware of them. Some stereotypes are so old and have been repeated for so long that people forget the origins, or that they are stereotypes at all. As such, when writing about a group that you don’t belong to, never assume what you know is accurate or correct. Do research! And I don’t mean just Googling a list of common stereotypes (though that’s a start). Read articles by members of that group; multiple articles (again, no culture is a monolith). Find colleges/universities that have classes or departments dedicated to that group and ask to talk to someone there. If you reach out to individuals, always be respectful. Remember, no one owes you their time and attention, and it’s not the responsibility of a marginalized person to educate you. If they do give you some of their time and attention, recognize they’re doing you a favor, not the other way around.

Unlike stereotypes, not all tropes are bad. Some are neutral, and some are just overdone. Others though are truly offensive, hostile, and/or bigoted. The white savior, magical negro, noble savage, fridging, bury your gays/dead lesbian syndrome, and manic pixie dream girl are just a few examples. There are many, many more, so again, do your research.

Another, all too common, problem area is cultural appropriation. If you’re unsure what exactly that means, it’s the seizure of aspects from a marginalized culture by a non-marginalized people, with no regard for those whose culture is being seized. Some dismiss the idea of appropriation. They say it’s an homage or celebration of the culture they helped themselves to. Make no mistake, that’s utter bullshit. In most cases, the person doing the appropriating is part of a group that at one time actively tried, or succeeded, in destroying that culture. Black culture is the result of successful destruction. Enslaved people were often punished for practicing their native religions, or speaking their native languages. Over the course of centuries, any memory of where they’d come from was lost. As such, they were forced to creature a new culture of their own. American Indian boarding schools represent a real effort by the US Government to destroy Native American culture in the name of assimilation and “civilizing savages”. As such, avoid including any ceremonies, rituals, or religious beliefs of marginalized groups in your stories. Even if you’ve done a mountain of research, if you’re not a member of that culture, it’s unlikely you’ll have a deep enough understanding to do it justice. Some groups (understandably) actively work to keep aspects of their culture, or all of it, from outsiders. Respect that choice. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a character from that culture in your story, but don’t include any rites or ceremonies. Also, avoid using a thinly veiled stand-in for a group or culture. You won’t fool anyone.

Another invaluable tool is hiring a sensitivity reader. This is an invaluable service that not enough people use. Keep in mind that a sensitivity reader will provide feedback on problem areas. They don’t give you a seal of approval, and you should never, ever use them as a shield from criticism. As has been mentioned (repeatedly) no culture is a monolith. The idea of sensitivity readers has gotten a raw deal lately. Part of that is a knee jerk reaction to “PC culture” but it’s also a result of less than scrupulous people taking advantage of the need. So, again, do your research. Make sure the person you’re hiring belongs to the group you need help with. I know from personal experience how hard this can be. My current project, Two-Gun Witch, is set in the years just after the civil war. A concern was raised that one of my characters, an elf, seemed to be a stand in for Native Americans. While I made a concerted effort to avoid this, and included Native American characters (Lakota specifically), I recognized this as a legitimate concern. It took time, and help from a friend, but I found a Lakota sensitivity reader.

When the reader gets back to you, don’t argue with them. You hired them for their feedback, so use it. You should also be prepared that you might need to scrap the project. If your reader says the story is just too problematic, listen to them. It’ll hurt, and it will suck, but it’s the right thing to do. If you feel strongly about it, hire another sensitivity reader. If you do, however, be honest with them from the start. Explain that you had a reader look it over, what they said, and that you’re looking for a second opinion. Lying or holding back is just setting yourself up to be the asshole.

If this sounds over the top, or too much work, disabuse yourself of that idea. Writers do research. I don’t know of any who haven’t spent hours researching some minute detail that will only show up once. The characters and, more importantly, the readers who will connect with that character, deserve the same consideration.

Now, here’s the downside. You’re almost certainly going to offend and upset people, even if you do put in the time and effort. For some people, the minority in my experience, there won’t be anything you can do to not offend them. In other cases, you will have legitimately missed something. Regardless of which it is, do the right thing. Don’t make excuses, or dismiss the offense. Acknowledge that you came up short and that you’ll strive to do better next time (and actually strive to do better).

My (admittedly privileged) view is that I’d rather screw up trying to make a more diverse story than play it safe and not include any character who don’t look like me. I know I’m going to get it wrong, and I’ll accept the consequences of that. It’s just part of not being an asshole.


Note: Please feel free to comment, especially if you think I’m off base on something, or got something wrong. I don’t claim to be an expert or to know it all, and I’m always looking to improve.

Imposter syndrome (A Long Hiatus)

#SFWAPRO

I know it’s been a long, long while since I’ve posted anything, aside from posts promoting other authors and the occasional short story anyway. As I mention in my Post “Your Baby is Ugly…Again” my contract with Harper expired, they didn’t offer another, and I started on a new project.

I’d like to say that project is what occupied my time, but it wasn’t.

I’d be willing to bet all of you are aware of Imposter Syndrome, even if you don’t know it by that name. In short, it’s the feeling that an achievement isn’t earned, and as such, you feel like an imposter just waiting to be found out. Now, imposter syndrome isn’t limited to the creative fields, in fact, I’d be surprised if many of you haven’t suffered from it at some point or another in your life. Maybe when you became a new parent, landed a new job or promotion, or just faced some sort of challenge. The more significant the achievement, the more likely it seems imposter syndrome will rear its ugly head, and for any reason it can find.

Perhaps that’s why so many authors, nearly all of those I know, struggle with it. It’s not easy to get there, and oddly, everyone else who achieved it has clearly earned it. Just not you. The most insidious part of imposter syndrome is that successes don’t count, only failure, even just failure to succeed. Very early in my writing career, I met a multi bestselling author (New York Times, USA Today, etc) who has been writing for almost 30 years. He is, by every metric, a success. I told him I was terrified my first book would be my last. He told me he feels the same way after finishing every book. He worries people will finally see he has no talent and his writing career will be over. As you can imagine, that was both reassuring and depressing. It’s good to know you’re not alone in how you feel, not so much to find out those feeling won’t go away.

Here’s another excellent example of how those at any level can suffer from imposter syndrome.

As I’ve said before, when Harper passed over the next book in the American Faerie Tale series, I was exceedingly disappoint, though not entirely surprised. My imposter syndrome had been expecting it, and he relished that rejection like a fine meal. Hoping to keep him at bay, I threw myself into a new project. Everyone I’d told about it said I needed to write it because they wanted to read it right now. So I worked, and wrote, and when it was done I was very happy with it. Honestly, I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. Which is how it should be, you should always be improving in your craft.

My agent started sending it out, and the initial response was amazing. Nearly everyone it went to wanted to read it. I felt certain it was only a matter of time before I was offered a contract and then I’d be a writer once again, and this time it would be for real.

Why do I say it like that? Well, my path to publication was unconventional. If you’ve read my other posts, you know I had no agent when Harper offered me a deal for my first book, normally a requirement. Instead, I was one of 4500+ people who participated in a, very rare, open submission window open to unagented authors. In the end, I was one of a dozen or so picked for publication. The Stolen even launched Harper’s new imprint, Harper Voyager Impulse, and for a time, the cover was on the header of Harper Voyager’s website (yes, I have a screenshot saved). But none of that mattered to imposter syndrome; I’d only won a contest, I hadn’t earned my way in, so I wasn’t a “real” author. I thought selling this new project would, finally and definitively, prove I was a real author.

Yes, I’m fully aware how ridiculous that sounds. But like phobias, depression, or other dark states of mind, reality has very little, if anything, to do with it.

You can probably guess what happened next.

The rejections started rolling in, one after the other. Almost without exception they were effusive in their praise. They loved the story and the characters, and felt the writing was really strong…BUT.

But.

That dreaded word, so small, but powerful enough to wipe out all the words, however good, that came before it. Sure, Intellectually I knew, and my agent continually reminded me, that such praise was a good thing. It meant the book was good! They just didn’t know how to sell it, or they’d just signed a book like it, or other entirely valid reasons. Intellectually I knew, logically I knew. But that didn’t matter. The imposter syndrome kept whispering that this just proved I’d been right all along. I wasn’t a real author, I’d just gotten lucky. To be fair, luck plays no small in life, especially when it comes to achieving dreams, but in the end it only gets you so far. My luck, it seemed, had run out.

That’s when imposter syndrome’s friend showed up: depression. I’ve made no secret of my struggles, especially in my youth, with depression. This wasn’t a chronic or persistent depression though, this was acute. We all get depressed sometimes, and if we’re lucky, it’s circumstantial rather than biological. It’s no less valid, but usually easier to overcome. This particular depression didn’t prevent me from getting out of bed, it just made sitting down to write anything seem pointless. So I didn’t write, not much anyway. I worked on short stories, and when I did write it felt good, but actually getting my butt in the chair took effort. As such, this blog and posts for it fell further down my priority list.

What was the point? No one was going to read them anyway, right?

So what changed? Well, the especially observant among you might’ve noticed I haven’t mentioned the title, or much of anything, about this new project so resoundingly rejected. The reason is, there’s some new interest in it. Obviously I can’t say who, but that influx of hope gave me the strength to push imposter syndrome, and his friend, to one side. Nothing may come of this interest, but I decided to put this new found hope to good use and write a blog post.

I chose this topic partly because writing about it, and as such naming it, takes away some of its power. Don’t look at me that way, I’m a fantasy writer, okay? But I also chose it because I know others struggle with it too, and, well, it’s always nice to know you aren’t alone. I’m lucky in having good friends and a group of writer friends in much the same boat as me to offer support. But, for me at least, it’s too easy to dismiss their kindness and encouragement; they’re your friends after all, it’s what they’re supposed to do. Again, recognize this has nothing to do with reality. Your friends, and family, aren’t obligated to blow sunshine up your backside. Sure, sometimes they do it anyway, but even then it’s because they love you, believe in you, and want to help.

That being said, when a stranger offers encourage or support, it can stick better because they have no reason to do it.

So, dear readers, as a stranger, I tell you this: Imposter syndrome, for all his power, is a fucking liar. He is utterly and entirely full of shit. So tell that bastard to fuck right off whenever he shows up and starts whispering. Yeah, I know. It’s soooo much easier said than done. But how about this, I promise to do it if you do? Deal? Make no mistake, we’ll both give in sometimes, and that’s okay. Feel bad. Let the little shit have his moment, then remember that you‘re made of pure, high grade, artisanal, fair trade awesome. You can do the thing! More than that, you earned that achievement, that job, that relationship, that thing! You heard me, you earned it! So don your steel-toe boots, kick imposter syndrome in the balls as hard as you can (repeatedly), tell him to fuck right off, and that Bishop sends his regards.

Beth Cato is Back, and Brought Treats!

#SWFAPRO

Beth Cato is a really talented writer and an awesome person in general. In fact, she’s so awesome that she’s been here three times before (here, here, and here). This time, she comes baring gifts. Not only is she a skilled author, she’s also an AMAZING baker (I speak from personal experience).

She’s got a new book out, Roar of Sky, which completes her Blood of Earth trilogy. You will not regret picking them up, she really is a brilliant writer (Hello, Nebula Nominated!).
Now, without further ado, here’s Beth to tell you about her latest book and share a recipe for Bourbon-Glazed Pound Cake.

Don’t drool, it could damage your device.


My book, Roar of Sky, just came out, and I’m here to share cake! Well, a cake recipe, anyway. You’ll need to make it yourself, but I promise, it’s not that difficult, and the end result is a bundt cake that has the taste and texture of a gigantic boozy cruller.

Now that you are (hopefully) enticed to read onward, let’s talk books.

Roar of Sky is the finale of my Blood of Earth trilogy. The series kicked off with Breath of Earth, wherein I rewrote the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake with geomancy and giant monsters. The second book is Call of Fire, wherein I threaten to erupt volcanoes across the Pacific Northwest. This is alt history with a strong and sassy heroine with a knack for earth magic–hence the difficulties with earthquakes and volcanoes. On that note, Roar of Sky starts off in geologically-volatile Hawaii. Bad things ensue.

If alternate history with a magical twist is your thing, now’s the time to grab the whole trilogy! No need to wait until the next release.

Breath of EarthCall of FireRoar of Sky

 

Now, how about celebrating the trilogy’s completion with some cake? If you want more recipes like this, come by BethCato.com and sign up for my newsletter!

Bourbon-Glazed Pound Cake (Tube/Bundt Cake)

This glorious cake tastes like a boozy cruller! The inside is soft and tender like a pound cake, with the glaze creates a crunchy crust. This cake is great warm or cold, and slices can be frozen for later enjoyment, too.

Cake:
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 3/4 cup white sugar
6 large eggs, room temperature
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup milk or half & half
zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bourbon Glaze:
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
7 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven at 325-degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch-or-larger tube pan or bundt pan.

In a large bowl, beat butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar, and beat until fluffy and white, about 7 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, nutmeg, and salt. Gradually add it to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk. Follow up with the zest and vanilla. Pour into the ready pan.

Bake until it passes the toothpick test, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, then upend onto wire rack. Set aside the pan–don’t wash it! Let the cake completely cool for a few hours.

To make the glaze, combine the sugar, bourbon, and butter in a small saucepan. Constantly whisk at a low heat until the butter melts and sugar dissolves. Take off heat. It will look like a lot of liquid, but the cake will soak it up.

Place the cake back in the pan. Poke holes all over the base with a chopstick or skewer. Spoon about half the glaze over holes and sides of cake. Let sit a minute. Upend cake onto a serving platter or plate. Poke more holes all over top. Spoon rest of glaze into holes and over sides. Use a basting brush to mop up drippings and make sure cake is fully glazed.

Store under a cake dome at room temperature or in fridge. Can also be cut into slices and individually frozen. Eat cold, at room temperature, or warmed in microwave.

Originally posted at Bready or Not:

http://www.bethcato.com/bready-or-not-bourbon-glazed-pound-cake-tube-bundt-cake/

Nebula-nominated Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger duology and the new Blood of Earth Trilogy from Harper Voyager. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cats. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.


Buy the books, make the cake, and enjoy them together! Boozy Cruller! BOOZY CRULLER!
Or just get the books, but definitely sign up for her newsletter. you’ll not only know where she’ll be, and what’s she’s writing, but also get super tasty recipes in your inbox. Well, the recipes aren’t tasty, but what you can make with them is.

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Guest Author – Auston Habershaw (again)

#SFWAPRO

Auston, aside from having the most Bond villain name ever, is a fellow Harper Voyager author. If the name sounds familiar, and how can it not? It’s because he’s been here twice before; first to discuss writing a second book, then again to talk guilty pleasures. Quite fittingly, his third visit is for the third installment of his Saga of the Redeemed series, Dead But Once, available today! It’s a really great series, and I can’t recommend it enough.
His post today is about writing in exciting times, which I think is a fair description of the current state of the world.


Writing in Interesting Times

By Auston Habershaw

The truest and most direct answer to the age-old author question “where do you get your ideas” is simply this: from the culture and environment in which I live. We authors are not tuned into some alien frequency; we are not getting divine inspiration in nightly installments. We’re just paying attention in a way other people aren’t. That doesn’t mean we’re brilliant or clever or more perceptive, mind you—it just means we’ve got a cauldron in our heads marked “story ideas” in which we throw a lot of the junk we see and experience on a daily basis. Then, at some point, we make ourselves a stew out of all those random ingredients and, if we’re very lucky and persistent and skilled, a story or a novel or a poem or a play pops out. What pops out is a funhouse mirror reflection of our world around us. It seems crazy and random and strange, but it’s just a bunch of ingredients mixed together that maybe you haven’t tasted in that combination before. Not magic, exactly; more like alchemy.

So, what kind of alchemy happens when the world seems to be crazy all on its own?

I don’t know about you guys, but these last two years have been quite harrowing. Each and every time I turn on the news or look online, new and terrible things seem to be afflicting my country and other countries too. My idea cauldron is chock full of anger and fear and hysteria and riots and death and violence and corruption. So, when the time came to write the third book in my fantasy series (NO GOOD DEED, available in e-book now!), I had a lot of toxicity ready to be thrown in.

I’d always known that the Saga of the Redeemed would wind its way towards popular revolt. My main character, Tyvian, is trying to become a better person (even if he isn’t sure what that means or what that is), and so a discussion of social justice is inevitable. But when I was writing the first books, our problems as a society, while certainly large, at least seemed to be bending in the right direction, however slowly. I genuinely believed the balance of my fellow Americans wanted what I wanted—justice, equality, stability, and happiness for everyone. As I watched Trump shout and scream on stage, cheered on by sign-waving supporters, I began to wonder if I was right. For the first time in my life, I felt uncomfortable being an American. I was uncertain about our future in a way I never had been. I felt like I’d been wrong about us, all this time.

How do you let that color your writing? Do you? I don’t want to write a political screed. I don’t want to preach and I don’t want to come off as angry or bitter. I want the people who read my book to enjoy themselves; I’m after the highs and the lows, the oohs and the aahs. I’m not a political science major trying to push my agenda.

But it also has to get in somehow, right? How can it not?

I’ve always been skeptical of revolutions. I don’t like fanatics, no matter what they stand for. The lessons of the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution are not lost on me—innocent blood spilled right along with the guilty, horror and atrocity, and then a new order that doesn’t quite live up to its promises, anyway. But, also, aren’t these things needed? Don’t we have to have revolutions once in a while, if the tree of Liberty is to grow? But how do you do that? How can you do it responsibly, without needless bloodshed and violence? Is such a thing possible? If it isn’t, can a revolution, no matter how well-intentioned, be seen as a good thing?

I can’t say I have the answers to these questions, but I have my characters wrestle with them. They wrestle with them with the same anguish and fervent hope that I do in my real life. How does one fix the world without breaking it first? That was what was in my cauldron this time around. I mixed myself a potent brew. It took my six drafts to get right and, like all novels, I probably still got it wrong. But I can’t tell—I’m too close. That’s what I need you for.

Care for a taste?


A brilliant schemer never rests, but for Tyvian Reldamar, he might finally be over his head. The Saga of the Redeemed continues with Dead But Once, Auston Habershaw’s latest fantasy following The Oldest Trick and No Good Deed.

Arch-criminal Tyvian Reldamar has gotten complacent.

For him, he’s reached the pinnacle of all he’s really hoping to achieve: he’s got money, he’s got women (some of which aren’t even trying to kill him), and he’s got his loyal friends and family nearby and safe.

Except…maybe not so safe.

Because this is Eretheria, a city known as much for its genteel aristocracy as for its diabolical scheming. Long without a king, the scions of the ruling families scrabble for control–including levying cruel taxes and drafts on the peasantry in order to wage “polite” wars against each other.

And now, of course, Tyvian is finding himself drawn into it.

With a swashbuckling flare, old fans and new readers alike will be swept up into this world of magic, crime, and political intrigue where life is cheap and justice too expensive.


The entire series is available at any of the links below. Do yourself a favor and check it out!

HarperAmazonB&NGoogleiTunesIndie Bound


(how can you resist this handsome bastard? I know I can’t)

About the Author: Auston Habershaw writes fantasy and science fiction and has had stories published in Analog, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge and other places. His epic fantasy novel series, The Saga of the Redeemed, is published by Harper Voyager and the third installment in the series, Dead But Once, releases on 4/17/18. He lives and works in Boston, MA and spends his days teaching composition and writing to college students. Find him on his website at aahabershaw.com or on Goodreads, Amazon, or on Twitter at @AustonHab.

 

Author Visit: Terry Newman

Terry Newman is a brilliantly funny author, and he’s British. He has a new book out and he agreed to stop by and talk about it.

B: So, what are you drinking?

T: Mine’s a pint of Harvey’s best, which is brewed in Lewis, in East Sussex, which is where I live. It has a distinctive maltiness that produces a full rounded satisfying mouthful of pure beer joy. What are currently tippling?

B: I have huge respect for someone with an in depth knowledge of their beer. I’ll have to try that one. As for me, when I can find it, I’m fond of Theakston Old Peculiar. A blacksmith (half Guinness, half Smithwick’s) is my go to otherwise.

T:I knew that you’d had some time in the UK and I’d heard and you’d developed a liking for Theakstons. However, I’ve never heard of Smithwick’s or a ‘blacksmith’ before – he says to his consternation.

B: I spent over a year in Cumbria and adore the real ales, though Theakston was always my favorite. I really miss that stuff. BTW for those who don’t know, Terry and I met though the Harper Voyager Digital Initiative.

T: Yes – your book ‘The Stolen’ was the first by the HV writers that I read. I thoroughly enjoyed it to – even if I had to scrap something that I was writing!

B: What are friends for? Your book ‘Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf’ was a Kindle #1 Bestseller. I admit my deep and continuing jealously over that. You must have been delighted?

T: Absolutely! I’m not quite sure what it was doing in the Epic Fantasy category mind, as it’s ‘classic’ dwarf detective fantasy. But to see your book outselling Tolkien and Martin – albeit briefly – well it’s wonderful, not to mention a little surreal.

B: A well-deserved honor. I love how you blended noir, fantasy, and comedy together. Now, your latest book ‘The Resurrection Show’ is science fiction, a departure for you?

T: Not really. I have always written, and enjoyed, both. The two books have a lot in common mind, both having a degree of humour and satire to them. The main difference, as you will see on the cover, is that this is written by Dalter T Newman. My co-writer is David Alter, a wonderful composer and songwriter. The whole project is based upon a fantastic collection of songs written by David, and performed by an excellent band he put together, dealing with big subjects like religion, humanism and intolerance.

B: Sounds like a source of comedy gold to me?.

T: Exactly! My brief initially was to help develop these songs into a fully interactive, all singing and dancing (maybe), stage show – one with a satirical, funny Pythonesque flavour! Our baby just grew and grew though and forced its way out in this form first – in a totally non-alien way!

B: For the record, I’d buy tickets to that show. Are we going to get to hear the music?

T: I really hope so. All the tracks are recorded. It’s just a case of finding the right outlet – and then getting the stage show on.

B: There’s a stage show? Really?

T: Oh yes! Everybody just has to have a stage show these days! So it’s sort of the book of the stage show to be. It’s set 2099 where the world is one big reality show – jammed packed full of god-bots, prayer clones, singing ecologists, a confused New Puritan, and the technologically resurrected Messiah!

B: Seems a little on the nose. Clearly one for the Bible Belt then?

T: Absolutely! Anything you can tell us about your new book – I’ve seen some intriguing hints.

B: Well, this is supposed to be about you and your new book, but I’ll share some tidbits, since we’re friends. It’s fantasy western, set in the US right around the end of the American Civil War. Elves fought with some of the Native American Tribes (the Lakota specifically) against westward expansion. They were winning too. Until the humans hired the dwarves to help, and they brought along iron war machines (tanks). Not only did it turn the war, but the elves were almost entirely wiped out. The main character is a survivor of that battle, and as you can imagine she holds a bit of a grudge.

T: Elves and Native American’s fighting together! That is totally cool! Hopefully there is a good guy dwarf in there as well somewhere. Dwarves get a lot of bad press. I loved your recent Sarah and Bambi story btw. It reminded of some classic short stories of my youth – which is a good thing! Any more plans for these characters? I’d love to see a ‘Bambi and Sarah Save the World’.

B: Thanks! I’m trying my hand at stories that are absurd, but still make you have some feels. Yeah, I loved having a badass character named Bambi. I wasn’t planning on more stories with them, but I never rule anything out. What’s in your future? Any more science fiction or fantasy ahead?

T: I’ve just sold a science fiction audio play, which is rather cool. In the mean time I’m looking for a new home for the next two Detective Strongoak novels – both now written! And an exclusive for you, provisional title for book 2 is ‘The King of Elfland’s Little Sister’.

B: Congratulations! Let me know where to find that and when it’s available! I’m sure you’ll find a home for Nicely. You can’t keep a good dwarf down. In the mean time, good luck with ‘The Resurrection Show’ – great cover by the way.

T; I thank you. Yes, we managed to get hold of a top illustrator call Tom Morgan Jones (friend of a friend) and David and I both loved his slightly manic, inspired penmanship!

B: I understand you and David have something else in common.

T: Yes – he’s a cardiologist and my scientific area of research was cardiac function – you could say there’s ‘a lot of heart’ in this book.

B; You could, and I love a good pun, but it’s probably not a good idea.

T: Excellent point – my round I believe?

B: This is my imaginary pub, I have an imaginary bar hand to pour the pints and they’re all free!


You can find Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf here and The Resurrection Show here. If you want a good laugh and a good story, I highly recommend them. You can also follow Terry on Amazon, Twitter, and his website (which also includes his script work) at www.drtel.co.uk. All things Nicely Strongoak can be found at www.nicelystrongoak.com

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Guest Author: Nancy Wallace

Nancy is a fellow Harper author, and the final book in her Wolves of Llisé trilogy is now available. It really is an excellent series and I highly recommend it! As a bonus, if you act quick, you can get the ebook of the previous two books (Among Wolves & Grim Tidings) for just 99 cents!


Before Winter, the exciting conclusion to the Wolves of Llisé trilogy, was released in eBook by Harper Voyager, U.K. Sept. 21, 2017. Before Winter, Among Wolves (2015) and Grim Tidings (2016) follow the quest of Devin Roché, a young archivist, who discovers discrepancies in the government Archives which send him in search of the oral Provincial Chronicles which record a very different history.

In the final book in the trilogy, rumors of Devin’s death at his own bodyguard’s hands reach the capital and the Chancellor is detained on fabricated charges of treason, which may cost him his life. In the provinces, people fight to reclaim their history – but the forces against them are powerful: eradicating the Chronicles, assassinating Master Bards, and spreading darkness and death.

Accompanied by a wolf pack and a retinue of their closest allies, Gaspard and Chastel must cross the mountains in a desperate attempt to save the Chancellor before winter makes their passage impossible. But the closer they journey towards Coreé, the clearer it becomes that there are those who don’t intend for them to arrive, at all.

The paperback of Before Winter will be available March 22, 2018. EBooks of both Among Wolves and Grim Tidings are on sale through September 29!

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Author Visit: Liana Brooks

Liana isn’t just a fellow Harper author (Time and Shadows series), she’s also an incredibly skilled writer, and a very cool person to boot. That’s right, a triple threat! Well, while you wait for word about my next work (news coming soon!) she’s here to talk about her latest book, Bodies in Motion.


Newton’s First Law of Motion states “A body in motion will stay in motion until acted on by an outside force”. We usually think of this in terms of physics, physical objects, and friction but it applies to choices and lives too. Often a person will set their course and stay on it unless acted on by something external force, even if the destination is catastrophic. For Selena Caryll her course is a downward spiral, she’s lost everything and has no future to look forward to. For Titan Sciarra his life was headed for an early death until he was shot down in the war, the subsequent injuries and his absence from the battle lines allowed him to change direction.
In a world where two stagnant cultures are on a collision course with mutual destruction it will take something extraordinary to change the world. And what’s more extraordinary than love?

Why did you write this book?
Many, many years ago when I was trying to take a mental break from the Time and Shadows series I decided to try writing Harry Potter fanfic. I was fascinated by the isolation Hermione had at the end of the series, how she’d given up every aspect of her muggle life to become part of something else. And I wondered if she’d ever want to go back to MP3 players, smartphones, and democracy after fighting to live in the hyper-controlled world of the witches. Needless to say… I don’t appreciate Harry Potter well enough to write good fanfic in that universe and the idea quickly spun out of control. I kept thinking of magic in terms of science, implants for wands, crews instead of Hogwart’s houses.

I took the threads of the story and started to write NEWTON’S CRADLE, and realized I’d jumped too far ahead in the story for it to make sense. So, I went back and tried to figure out where I needed to start. Not with the war, because wars are boring, but with the fallout of the war. How do you rebuild cultures and trust and friendship after something as awful as a civil war?

How do you forgive someone who fought against you because they thought it was the only way to survive?

BODIES IN MOTION is the catalyst for change, it’s the pivot point where everyone in this universe gets a second chance at making the right choice.

Is BODIES IN MOTION a standalone book? BODIES IN MOTION is the first in a series of books about the Malik system. It can be read all on its own, and the other books will be written in a way that allows them to be read without the reader having read the other books, but it will have an over-arching storyline as well.

Why did you serialize the novel? I’ve wanted to serialize a novel for several years now. In part because I like the old-time serialized novels from magazines (think Sherlock Holmes) and in part because I wanted to see how modern readers would adapt to the format. This summer (2017) I realized that I was going to be traveling so much that I wouldn’t have time to blog regularly. A serialized novel seemed like the solution. It gave my readers something to check-in to see, and it served as an introduction to this new universe.

Would you serialize another novel? Maybe? There were some die-hard, “I will wait until the book is out!” readers who avoided my blog all summer because they didn’t want spoilers. And then there were readers emailing me from other countries saying they missed a train because they stopped to read the newest chapter. I probably won’t serialize the next book in this series (LAWS OF ATTRACTION coming 2018) but maybe the first book in a new series sometime later on.

For readers who enjoyed the Time and Shadows series, what does BODIES IN MOTION offer? The Time and Shadow series (The Day Before, Convergence Point, Decoherence) with Sam and Mac was SF-lite. Clones and the multiverse, but less high-tech space exploration. Still, it shares a theme of choices with BODIES IN MOTION. Sam realized she was an einselected node and that even her smallest choices affected the fate of the multiverse. In BODIES everything is post-war, people are dealing with the trauma of having lost people they loved, of having killed people they once considered friends, and there’s no one in Selena’s age group who wasn’t effected. They didn’t get to opt out of the war. When a society is that fragile, every choice matters. Every word, every action, every inaction has a long-term consequence. This is only the start of the series so we don’t get to see everything yet, but you get to see the start.

How would you describe the life of a writer? Imagine sitting in an overgrown cottage in the woods, bears trundling past as the snow falls on withered vines. Inside a woman sits over a magic tablet conjuring infinite worlds. She captures these worlds, presses them into a portable container, and distributes them around the world. When someone finds one, they enter another world.

That’s writing. It’s magic done with computers and inks and patience. It’s the ability to conjure best friends, vicious enemies, and infinite wonders out of nothingness. Everyone should try story-telling at least once.

What advice do you have for writers who aren’t published yet? Keep at it! Keep writing. If you want to publish keep writing, keep learning, keep trying. If a book isn’t working, write a new one. If you want to write but can’t figure out how to make the story in your head appear on the page take classes, meet with writing groups, check out online places like CritiqueCircle.com and give yourself space to learn. The only thing standing between a new author and publication is time. If you keep at it, you’ll get published someday.

Selena Caryll lost everything in the war: her ship, her crew, her family. The only thing keeping her going is the hope that somehow the feuding, ground-bound settlers and the fuelless space fleet can set aside their differences. But getting the politically-fractured fleet moving again is more than she can manage alone. For now, she has to settle for working undercover with the planetary police force.

When someone tries to reignite conflict between the planet-siders and the fleet, there’s only one person who has the rank and ability to help Selena protect the fleet: Titan Sciarra, Fleet Guardian—the one man she’s tried hardest to avoid since the war destroyed her life.

In a world where the stagnant weight of tradition can be as deadly as any knife, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

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You can also learn more about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome in fiction HERE

And you can sign up for her newsletter (and get a free book!) HERE

Liana Brooks write sci-fi and crime fiction for people who like happy endings. She believes in time travel to the future, even if it takes a good book and all night to get there. When she isn’t writing, Liana hikes the mountains of Washington with her family and giant dog. Find her at LianaBrooks.com or on Twitter as @LianaBrooks

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