Post-Mission Report: Spring Break 2015

17342700Day #1
Monday began with a rude gesture to the alarm clock as I slept in. Eventually, I dragged myself out of bed to complete my weekly running ritual in case I ever do find that blue police box.

The rest of the day was invested in writing (I refuse to tell you what) and as soon as I met my daily word quota, I turned to reading Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms, #3) by Morgan Rhodes. I laughed, I cringed, I freaked, I fangirled—and I didn’t even finish it.

Day #2
As the sun set, I had once again bested my dread word count quota. After completing the last few chapters of Gathering Darkness, I reached for The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2) by Brandon Sanderson. I had missed Elend and Vin and I was delighted to see them again—sweet babies that they are.

Day #3
On this day, I had to get up at the ungodly hour of 6:30. Can you imagine? 6:30 on a vacation?

However, it proved to be worth it. I spent the morning getting the Key of Amatahns uploaded, proofed, and approved for Amazon and began setting up the celebratory blog hop. I was even able to meet my daily word count quota on The Project That Shall Not Be Named.

That night, I stayed up with my adoptive children Vin and Elend past 3:55 a.m. There were three armies attacking at once—I had no choice.

2115046Day #4
I made more progress with The Project to Which I Shall Never Confess. There was a minor panic attack somewhere in there over something, but I can’t remember what it was.

I finished The Well of Ascension at 2:50-something in the morning, then spent a bit of time too scared to turn out the lights because of the creepy being that showed up at the end.

When I finally did get up the courage, I laid there in bed, feeling depressed. How the hell could I ever hope to write as well as Mr. Sanderson? That guy’s a bloody genius.

Day #5
I started the very adult Epic Fantasy, Anomaly of Blaze (The Fireblade Array, #3) by H.O. Charles. This endeavor was interrupted by a great deal of arguing, yelling, and general mayhem as my mother and brothers attempted to get the house presentable for a playdate.

Despite everything, the playdate was a success and I made friends with their classmate’s three year old sister, who seemed to think I was cool for some reason.

24860279Day #6
Saturday came with packing in preparation for our move and more panicking, but when we were done, everyone else went out to watch Kingsman and I was left at home because they knew better than to drag me out in public.

I worked on my word count and paced around the house, enthusiastically quoting Khan, Ravenna, Morgana, and some of my own villains. I find that practice oddly therapeutic. (Had the neighbors heard, I’m sure they would be moving right now, thinking that they were living next to a psychopath.)

Day #7
We went to church and then lunch, where we discussed politics over Bulogi wraps and green tea. After a delightful time watching Cinderella, we all went home before I departed for my father’s house where I fooled around on the internet and did more work on That Which Must Not Be Mentioned.

As you know, honor demands that all homework be completed as late as humanly possible. At 1:00 Monday morning, I began to work on an assignment from two weeks earlier. Hopped up on caffeine, I managed to get it done before crashing into bed and thus ended my Spring Break of 2015.

Great and Glorious News!

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At long last…
After months and months of revisions, formatting debacles, printing mishaps, and typos, I am pleased to announce that The Key of Amatahns is ready to be unveiled to the world! There will be a blog hop and Facebook party to celebrate and you can check out this page for more information. Check out the new cover and blurb below and don’t forget to tell your friends!

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In a land where those with magic are esteemed and revered, Janir guards a secret that would send her to the headsman’s block at a word. As one of the reviled Argetallams, she has the power to destroy enchantments and steal others’ magic-an ability that has caused bloodshed for generations.

Raised as the illegitimate daughter of an influential lord, she was determined to turn her back on her heritage, but when her power manifests, leaving a nobleman dead, she has no choice but to flee her adoptive home. In exile with the help of a fearless young enchanter and an elf sworn to protect her, she finds herself entangled in a quest to hide an ancient artifact from the kingdom’s enemies.

But they are not the only ones after the relic and soon their paths cross with a rival from Janir’s distant childhood. With no hope of help or rescue, the fate of nations will depend on a fifteen year old girl and her mastery of powers she doesn’t understand.

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Too Young to Save the World: Ages in Fantasy

I am an old maid by Roman standards. Nineteen and not even a suitor? What a tragedy. This realization struck me not so long ago and led me to consider ages in books (because everything leads back to books with me).

Lots of people seem prone to criticizing ages in fantasy. They say “he/she’s not old enough for that kind of responsibility/maturity/what have you.” It makes sense in our modern context, especially after hanging out in a high school cafeteria or even a college lounge for more than an hour, but it’s just that—context.

30 is the new 15.

People all the way until the last century didn’t live as long as we did. Most of them were dead by the time they hit forty or younger. That means twenty was about middle aged and you had best get to work building empires and fighting battles and making babies before then or the human race was going to go extinct.

When kids rule the world.

Queen Victoria was eighteen when the throne passed to her. The infamous Battle of Crecy provided Edward the Black Prince the chance to lead men and win his spurs at sixteen. Joan of Arc handed the English their backsides and saved her country even though she never reached twenty. Before he got to double digits, a certain Austrian boy was already hashing out melodies on his violin and Isabella the She-Wolf showed remarkable political maneuvering when she was just twelve—enough to get favorites of the king banished.

With this in mind, I see no reason a fantasy character can’t command armies or take a crown or become the most powerful mage their respective world has seen when they just hit mid-teens. When a writer wants to explore certain themes, audiences might cringe and be uncomfortable if the character is what they consider too young, but that does not mean someone younger couldn’t have the same reactions and experiences.

Just to clarify…

I don’t think it has to do with when a person was born, I think it has to do with how they were brought up. (Heck, crazy little me was able to raise a baby donkey by myself at eight. Yes, he survived and lives to bother me to this day.) When children have people around them who expect them to be a grown ups by a certain time, overall they tend to meet those cultural norms. Therefore, I see no reason that epic fantasy heroes/heroines can’t keep on being teenagers.

Because we tend to have much different standards in the Western World today doesn’t mean younger people couldn’t be capable of the grand and glorious deeds that are often attributed to them in fantasy. It depends on the person and it depends on what kind of setting they come from. So long as a writer sets it up properly, I see no reason a character can’t have a whole series in adventures before they’re out of their high school years.

Fabulous armor that would get you killed

Having a shiny suit was indicative of prestige and prowess as far back as the Bronze Age, but there was still a certain amount of practicality required lest the wearer wind up a very stylish corpse. It has been a little over three hundred years since traditional “battle armor” went out of vogue. Since then, literary and artistic portrayals of armor in all its forms have grown more elaborate and ever less practical.

Let’s start with those head handlebars.

Anyone who grew up with goats or sheep understands this pitfall. In a tussle, those horns make excellent handholds—after all, if you control the head, you control the rest of the goat.

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Yes, I know the Samurais and some of the Germanic tribes had them, but ask yourself this: Where are they now?

Not to mention if they were fighting in a forest or anywhere with low hanging objects, one might very well break his neck before ever reaching the enemy. Then there is all that extra weight and limited motion of the head, which is problematic if you want to be able to see what’s coming at you from different angles.

I’m sorry, but you’re not a porcupine.

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I do not know what this is, but it illustrates my point.

Some artists have drawn armor with these freaky spikes all over the place. That looks really cool and scary, but what happens if you fall or have to bring your arm close to your face? And heaven forbid somebody is able to sneak up on the blind spot created by aforementioned spikes, rips them off, and stabs you with them. That’s going to make for one embarrassing eulogy. Not that you’ll be around to suffer through it.

Apparently, the enemy knowing that you’re a woman is more important than continued breathing.

I could go on for hours about female armor in fantasy. Whatever the case, artists and designers and writers have found a deeply rooted need to point out a character’s feminine attributes.

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Now, I concede that there are better examples of objectifying armor out there, but I want to keep this blog PG. All the same, note that Marvel still had to make a point of highlighting her assets.

They don’t stop to think that the dreaded “boob plate,” proudly displaying both bosoms, places a ridge of metal over the woman’s sternum. That’s all well and good until she gets hit in the chest and that metal ridge shatters the bone, sending it straight into her heart and lungs.

And then there’s the problem of no armor at all.

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Here we have the most recent incarnation of Conan, armoring pretty much everything except his vital organs. He must think those abs will stop any sharp objects that go for his torso.

I thought about making this specifically about female characters in nothing but metal lingerie, but I’ve also seen male characters in nothing but metal loincloths. They have so little shielding, they might as well be running out there naked. Anyone who’s walked a hyper dog in shorts understands why combat nudity is a bad idea. If a puppy can scratch you up like that by just being playful, how much worse do you think a sword is going to be?

Maybe I’m a snob about these things. It is fantasy and that means a certain degree of artistic license. However, I often find it hard not to laugh/sneer. Especially women’s armor, just…ick.

The system called “reciprocity”

Author reciprocity can be a touchy subject. If Writer A shares Writer B’s blog post, hits “going” to her online event, “likes” her Facebook page, clicks “follow” on Tumblr or Twitter, it is only natural that Writer A want Writer B to do the same for her, yes? In a perfect world, everyone would turn around and immediately repay the favors other people did for them, but this is not a perfect world, we are not perfect people.

You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours—or not.

I go to a decent number of online events for different authors, review lots of books (or did before I started school), follow lots of author social media feeds, occasionally make graphic edits for books I liked, and recommend books on Goodreads and Amazon, but do I expect all those authors to do the same for me and my titles? Well, I’ll admit it would be nice, but no, I do not.

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The truth is, it seems unreasonable to me to expect everyone to repay every “favor.” There are a number of people who left glowy reviews for my books, but I haven’t read theirs for whatever reason. I don’t always return blog comments and I’m horrible about sharing links to anything and while there are a few authors with which I have established strong relationships, I do not expect every author I’ve reviewed to return the favor.

In all fairness…

For one thing, they may not have the time. The author community is comprised of parents, students, and full time workers, people with day jobs, cats, and other time-consuming things in their non-literary lives. When they manage to find a spare moments between all of that and writing to read/review, who am I to say they should read my book instead of that one they’ve been wanting for over a year?

The slippery slope.

Then what if they don’t like it? That is their right, after all. Do I get angry because I left an awesome review for theirs and demand they lie to spare my ego?

The idea of author reciprocity is one of those things that is great in theory and can be great in practice, but can also get icky very fast. What do you do if you review the other person’s book and it turns out to be full of flaws? That’s even worse than the other way around. What if they get angry?

In general, I just do my thing and if other authors reciprocate, awesome, if not, I may still download their entire series and preorder their upcoming releases if I liked them. The way I see it, posting reviews keeps my blog alive and even if the authors themselves don’t check out my books as a result, maybe other readers checking out my reviews will.

And let’s not forget why we got into this business to start with.

Perhaps most importantly, I don’t think I should let the prospect of another person reading/not reading my work influence my enjoyment of their work. That’s why I started writing—because stories make me happy. I read stories I enjoy, I write stories I enjoy, and I try not to worry about what other writers are doing.

One Genre to Rule Them All: A (very) biased opinion as to why fantasy is superior

Believe it or not, I was once too good for fantasy. I thought the idea was silly, after all, who could take all that magic and monsters seriously, hmm? Not me, that was for sure. But as I have said before, it seems to be my lot in life to end up adoring/obsessed with things I once disliked. Eight years ago, I discovered fantasy literature and now there’s no going back.

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As a reader, fantasy adds a level of excitement and, for lack of a better word, awesome to stories that I just can’t find anywhere else. As a writer, fantasy opens up creative opportunities in a whole new way.

It’s far easier to get around a reader’s preformed ideas about a society or time period because I build my own and I don’t have to feel guilty about historical accuracy, though I often try. If, in a fit of idealistic fervor I decide I want to throw in a certain social issue (like I did in the Argetallam Saga with people’s black and white viewpoints on war) I can do it in a way I think offers better perspective, is more tactful…and less likely to incite confrontation.

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In fantasy, can have our good old fashioned political intrigue and military tactics, but then we can have the added bonus of sorcery, monsters in literally every shape and size, and whatever else we want. Unlike science fiction, we don’t need to adhere to the laws of physics, because we can make our own. We can pick and choose which fragments of realism we want and scrap the ones we don’t. Furthermore, fantasy allows us free rein to use reverted morality systems based in chivalry and honor and I far prefer that over most modern paradigms. (I’ve said I was old fashioned before.)

Being a teen girl, I am also very fond of romance and in this genre there is more than rhapsodizing or attraction (though I’ve read and written plenty of both). Here we have the opportunity for love across lifetimes or worlds and stakes that can be an individual’s very soul. There’s the chance for mystical bonds and soulmates and…sigh.

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With mages, dragons, knights, viragos, and every other form of the mythic and legendary, the potential of fantasy is limitless and its ability to transcend the boundaries of our world is unparalleled. Though I might read other genres and occasionally write something that isn’t swords and sorcery, epic fantasy is my one true literary love and I don’t see that changing any time soon.