New release: “The Heretic” in Trouble in the Wind

Today is the day! The most awesome collection of alt-history ground warfare stories called Trouble in the Wind is out from Chris Kennedy Publishing. I’m honored to share space with such a great group of writers.

Here is an excerpt from my alt-history story about Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, one of the most iconic figures in history.

“France will be lost by a woman and shall thereafter be restored by a virgin.” — Marie d’Avignon

It is a terrible thing to know one’s future. To know that one cannot avoid it. To know that even if I could, I would not.


I do not walk my path alone. God has sent me counsel. It is for love of God that I take each inevitable step, knowing where it will lead: to victory; to pain; to lives lost. But also to freedom—not for me, but for France.


In my mind’s eye, I see them making the sign they will hold up as they escort me. I cannot read, but I know what they will call me: superstitious; a liar; a seducer of the people; blasphemer; presumptuous, cruel, and braggart; idolater and apostate; invoker of devils.


Heretic.


Even knowing how it will end, I march towards this future of my own free will. I walked the path knowing that I would take an arrow. I walk it again, knowing it will end in fire.


I know it will be worse than anything I can imagine. Worse than the beatings, the arrow to my chest, the wound to my thigh. I know that they will draw it out. There will be no quick release, no snap of the neck as the rope catches my fall.


No mercy.


Only fire.


They will make me live my own Hell because deep in their hearts they know my soul is destined for Heaven.


Do not call me brave. Save that for those who overcome fear. I fear not, for God is with me.

New Series Announcement

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I’m very excited to announce my space opera series, Ravages of Honor.

With one act of defiance Syteria holds the fate of many worlds in her hands. But she does not know it.
A stranger in a strange land, she must survive, adapt, thrive.
Only then can she free herself. Only then can her sacrifice, her defiance bear fruit.
A space opera about the price of honor, power, and freedom.

To celebrate the launch of this new series, I’m pleased to present Enemy Beloved: A Novella* — a stand-alone prequel to the novel. It is the first of three novellas in the Ravages of Honor universe. The other two, Featherlight is scheduled for release in September in the Farthest Reaches space opera anthology edited by Lauren Moore. The third, Dominion, is scheduled for release in 2020 in Fiction River: Face the Strange anthology (edited by Ron Collins).

If you’re already signed up for my newsletter you should have (or soon will have) an e-mail from me that includes a download link.

If you’re not, signing up is easy. Just opt-in with the Newsletter Signup on this page.

Enjoy! And thanks for reading.



*A shorter version of Enemy Beloved appeared in the Venus Anthology.

Book Reviews–Unintended consequences.

There are three things that an author must absolutely do:

1. Write a great story people will want to read.
2. Pair it with a great cover that radiates genre and doesn’t give the story away.
3. Write a blurb that makes the reader want to look inside the book AND doesn’t give away the plot.

The order here is very important. It reveals the steps in sequence, but the truth is that #2 (a great cover) probably has more to do with whether or not someone will read the blurb and #3 (a great blurb) has more to do with whether or not someone will look inside and ultimately decide to hit the “Buy” button AND proceed to actually read the book. While “Buy” may seem like the end-all and be-all of the process, it’s not, because if the reader doesn’t finish the book, how likely are they to buy another?

Enter the poison pill of our times, the “review.” Now, I’m not talking about editorial reviews, which are a whole different animal. I’m talking about the “reader” review.

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The Arthur Myth-When it works and when it doesn’t

I blame my new fascination with German musical theatre for re-kindling my interest in the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot love triangle, and as with all things that resonate with me, I binge on it and you, dear reader, get to hear about it. On the upside, it’s not been a full binge (like going back to re-read the Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart or any of the huge academic tomes on the subject) so I’ll keep it light.

It’s been awhile since I enjoyed Mary Stewart’s 5-Book Saga, so it has gone back on the re-read list. It was one of the more memorable fictionalizations of this myth, if not my hands-down favorite.

For this comparison, we have three movies (or rather, two movies and a play).

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The Foster Test

Let me start by disclosing that I absolutely loathe the Bechdel-Wallace Test. The fact that someone thought this was a concept we needed speaks more of their own neuroses than anything else, but it keeps coming up.

Basically, the Bechdel Test attempts to measure how women in fiction are portrayed. If a work features at least two (as opposed to one; smirk) [named] women talking to each other about “something” other than a man, then it passes.

I despise the identity politics behind it, but also the disregard of genre and the needs of the story. It seeks to impose a politically motivated, self-serving radical feminist agenda on Story. The Bechdel test has been incorporated into submission mechanisms and into screenwriting software. So, basically it’s not just some ivory-tower gender-warrior’s academic rants.

I first ran into the Bechdel test a few years back when I was on a writer’s critique site and one of the people giving me feedback suggested I revamp a major portion of my story in service to the Bechdel test, because otherwise “no women were going to read it.”

Was there a poll, I missed? I’d been reading for decades and NOT once did I think to myself, “Where is the checkbox that tells me whether or not, as a woman, I’m allowed to read this because it passes the Bechdel test.”

Therefore, I propose the Foster Test. A work passes the Foster Test if it features a woman who succeeds at whatever her goal is without weakening the man/men in the story or eliminating them from her life altogether.

The music in your prose

Yesterday I got a message from an acquaintance asking me if I had any good exercises that I could suggest since he was getting back into writing after a two-year hiatus. I didn’t really have an answer for him, although I did point him to The Other Side of the Page.

But then, this morning, I ran across this video (don’t turn the volume on yet) and it makes a brilliant point but also sparks an interesting question: How do you put the music in your prose?

What a difference music makes

Sound muted: A report listing the details of the scene does not convey anything other than physical details. So imagine a paragraph or so from the imperial officer’s viewpoint, telling us where he is, i.e. describing the surroundings. And it makes for pretty dry, thin writing. I’d say a majority of new writers write like this (dry and thin). That’s what you’re seeing with the sound muted. Actually, to be fair, you’re seeing far more on the screen because the camera angle gives you his facial expression, but even that is ambiguous, as you’re about to find out by turning the sound on. In order to convey just how thin and dry a mere description would come across to a reader you’d have to change the camera angle by placing it behind the officer’s eyes, so we could only see what he sees. As readers we would not get his facial expression or any other body language at all, much less what he’s thinking.

Sound on: The melody suggests happy feelings. We kinda get that he’s about to meet someone, but not whom. The music makes a big difference. Then we are shown Darth Vader and we get a chuckle, because it doesn’t fit the music. Which was the point.

But now that you’ve had your chuckle, think about it as a writer. How do you convey the trepidation (rather than the happy feeling the music suggests) to your reader, when you have neither the happy song nor the original score to flavor the experience, nor a shot of the viewpoint character’s face? How do you SHOW rather than tell us that “Officer-so-and-so felt a great deal of trepidation as he approached Darth Vader’s shuttle?” Remember, your camera is behind the character’s eyes, not outside the character. You only have access to his thoughts on the matter. You cannot see what he does not see. Cannot know what he does not.

Ready, set, write.

What does a character know, and when does she know it?

I recently attended the LTUE Symposium in Provo, and one of my favorite panels was the one on getting your firearms right.

Now, you may not be a gun nut, and you may not care, but I can practically guarantee that just about every author who’s written about guns has gotten some–ahem!–feedback on what they got wrong.

So let me lay it out as (a) a gun-nut, (b) a writer, and (c) a reader. These states of mind are not separate. They overlap.

Let me take off my shooting hat (yes, I have one to keep the brass out of my cleavage) and put on my writer hat (let’s say it looks a bit like a crown).

Just because I know the difference between a magazine and a clip doesn’t mean that every character I write does. Just because I know the difference between an auto-loader (semi-automatic) and full-auto doesn’t mean that every character I write does. Got that?

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5 Days to Go: Intellectual Property Tracker Kickstarter

I’d like to thank Jamie Ferguson for giving our Kickstarter a boost with this interview. Time is running out. Our Kickstarter ends on Feb. 13th. Make your pledge now in order to save money and unlock bonuses available only while the Kickstarter is running.

The Kickstarter has met its funding goal, so what’s the advantage of someone supporting the Kickstarter at this point?

There are three advantages: 
1. saving money; the pledge levels offer you the plans at a savings.
2. Dean Wesley Smith’s Magic Bakery Workshop on copyright and intellectual property is a $150 value on its own; you’re going to learn so many amazing things about copyright and how important it is to manage your rights in this class. Honestly, if you don’t know why stories are intellectual property and the value that intellectual property (IP) has to your success as a writer, you absolutely NEED this class, even if you’ve never published anything or if you’ve just had your first story accepted.
3. for those that already have a few (or a dozen or a hundred) titles out and know about copyright and IP, the $500 Lifetime Plan is a Kickstarter special.