Thursday, July 16, 2020

Own Voices to Meet

Elf girl of color - Vinicius Henrique on Unsplash
Image by by Vinicius Henrique on Unsplash
Heyo Everyone,

I hope you are all safe and well, taking this crazy journey one day at a time. 

Meanwhile, in my reading room, there are some amazing 'Own Voices' books on my radar and I wanted to share them with you.

NOTE: #Ownvoices is a subgenre of writing found in almost every kind of literature. The only exception I can think of is Memoir because that's 'own voice' by default, right? 

Nope. Just checked. There are #ownvoices Memoirs too. 

Own Voices is defined as writing where the protagonist and the author share a marginalised identity. I realize my chance to write in this category will depend on creative a main character over 65, facing a world that glorifies youth. Not sure if that counts, but I'm thinking about it. LOL

for now, let's look at some titles in this genre that light me up.

Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn
Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn

First on my list is Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn. In this story, the Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed...

DMP is an #ownvoices novel, written by a first-generation Thai American. Pintip Dunn grew up in a tiny town in Kansas and went on to graduate from Harvard University, magna cum laude, with an A.B. and to receive her J.D. at Yale Law School. I'm so glad she spends at least SOME of her time writing novels (Forget Tomorrow Series being one of my favorites). Can't wait to read this one.

* * *

The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
The Library of Fates by Aditi Khorana
From Abigail Clarkin Jan 22, 2019 - In a horrifying turn of events, Princess Amrita watches as her family and friends are enslaved and slayed by her fiancé. Shocked into action, the princess escapes from the palace and embarks on a journey to find the Library of All Things. If she can find it, she grasps the one way to change the past and reforge the future.

Aditi Khorana wrote both Hindu and Indian traditions into Library of Fates. Born in India herself, the inclusion of the vetal creatures and reincarnation were a nod to Indian folklore and faith.

I'm on my tiptoes, ready to read this one!

* * *

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden
Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden
You've heard me rave about the extraordinary worldbuilding in this book (Ships that Sing), and the magic of the human to non-human sentience, but I'm not sure I mentioned it was an #ownvoices and #Afrofuturism title.

From the back blurb Escaping Exodus is a story of a young woman named Seske Kaleigh, heir to the command of a biological, city-size starship carved up from the insides of a spacefaring beast. Her clan has just now culled their latest ship and the workers are busy stripping down the bonework for building materials, rerouting the circulatory system for mass transit, and preparing the cavernous creature for the onslaught of the general populous still in stasis. It’s all a part of the cycle her clan had instituted centuries ago—excavate the new beast, expand into its barely-living carcass, extinguish its resources over the course of a decade, then escape in a highly coordinated exodus back into stasis until they cull the next beast from the diminishing herd...

Again, the worldbuilding is mindblowing!

* * * 

Detective by Day Series by Kelley Garrett
Detective by Day Series by Kellye Garrett

Kelley Garrett is an Award-winning #ownvoices crime fiction author ( 
@CrimeWoC cofounder; #PitchWars & @SincNational board. So multitalented I think she's a Gemini, or maybe Gem rising?

Her Detective by Day books are "...lightweight mysteries that draw on my experiences working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. I often encountered the various people chasing fame, be it a sprint, a marathon or a journey that never quite reaches the finish line. These are the people who populate Dayna Anderson’s world. If you’d like to meet them, read on... 

I sure will!

* * *

The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis
The Art of Saving the World by Corinne Duyvis

And finally, the woman who coined the term #ownvoices on Twitter, Corinne Duyvis' upcoming release, The Art of Saving the World@corinneduyvis Sci-fi scribe, award accepter, disabled delight, #ownvoices originator.

From Goodreads: When Hazel Stanczak was born, an interdimensional rift tore open near her family’s home, which prompted immediate government attention. They soon learned that if Hazel strayed too far, the rift would become volatile and fling things from other dimensions onto their front lawn—or it could swallow up their whole town

"If you like the idea of anxious, asexual lesbians saving the world from an interdimensional rift alongside a grumpy lady dragon mentor - my next YA novel THE ART OF SAVING THE WORLD releases September 15..."

Now, how about your suggestions? I'd love to hear them.

Take care, everyone!
* * *

Author Kim Falcconer
Kim Falconer's New YA Fantasy Series is out January 5, 2020 - Crown of Bones. (Writing asr A.K. Wilder) 

Also, check her urban fantasy  - The Blood in the Beginning - an Ava Sykes Novel and the SFF Quantum Enchantment Series

You can find Kim on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Or pop over and throw the bones on the site.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Art is still Art, even if its tasty

Year of Genesis: Art is art, right?

Hey guys. Well, this has been a year, hasn't it?

Not going to lie, its been a bit rough here in Dallas- we are in day one hundred and something of lock down. I feel like I haven't really been writing, haven't really been promoting my second book, really haven't been revising my third.

I feel like I've got nothing to give as an artist to sooth or ease or help the world with the current situations.

But my lovely Helen Lowe asked, "What else have you been creating?"

She is brilliant that one. My preferred method of dealing with questions and emotions has always been words. The words I write and the words that I read, but I haven't been writing and the books just aren't enough for me right now.

After a quick scan of my phone's photos, it turns out I have been creating. Lots of stuff actually. Funny stuff, tasty stuff, practical stuff. I've been helping soothe and ease and educate my family, my microcosm, my very small world, the one place I can control. They may look small, but they have help me deal with the big questions circling our culture, our family, our future.

So in no particular order, here are some of the things I have created.

Me riding a dinosaur
What I call the "2020 hopscotch challenge"
Old man in the Sea (old man not pictured)
Homemade latte
Amazing steaks with home grown rosemary
Birthday cake!
Designed a new seating space outside
Apparently I like to watercolor?
New Art for seating space

So there you have it- my strange way of making my small little world a little nicer, a little brighter, and hopefully a little more fun.

I hope that in this time of uncertainty, you have also found a little time for some genesis.

Until next time,
Amanda Arista
Author, Diaries of an Urban Panther & The Merci Lanard Files

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The Truth About Sea Monsters…

It doesn’t matter whether you’re reading or writing a story about sea monsters, the trick is to remember one thing: Once you go beneath the curling ocean waves, almost anything can be considered a monster. Even you.

So, I’m going to dissect some of the sea life found in my YA Urban Fantasy books, Fathom and Fury.

1. SELKIES: Sometimes disguised as seals, sometimes disguised as humans, sometimes wearing their natural glittering green flesh. Although these creatures are generally known to be gentle, you need to remember that many of them have Siren blood—those Selkies have the ability to conjure life-threatening storms and, therefore, they are far from sweet and innocent.

2. MERMAIDS/MERMEN: The Scottish Na Fir Ghorm found in Fury have blue skin and long tails. They speak in riddles, often lie, and have been known to sink human ships with their tails. These creatures are more foe than friend. Run far and run fast if you encounter them, unless you want to lose both your heart and your freedom.

3. HINQUEMEMEM: One of the most feared creatures in all the Seven Seas, this super creepy monster has a favorite food—Selkies. That’s fine and dandy, if you’re a human. But not so much if you’re half human and half Selkie, like Riley in Fury. It’s not that great for the characters in Fathom, either.

4. SEA WITCHES: Yikes. Just yikes. If anyone—Selkie, Mermaid, or Human—thinks a Sea Witch is their friend, they're woefully mistaken. They’ll find out soon enough, but trust me, by then it might be too late. Two monsters in this series were created by Sea Witches, and their fate was too horrible to describe here.

5. HUMANS: Easily tricked, these weak creatures can barely swim and can only hold their breath for a few minutes. When faced with peril, they perish easily. When faced with the supernatural beauty found in Selkies or Mermaids? No question, they're doomed.

6. SEA CREATURES: From sharks to tiny fish, if it swims, it's probably deadly. Best to stay away from anything you haven’t seen before.


I didn’t know where he had gone. I only knew that I thought I might never see him again.

That blasted, beautiful, blue merman who had stolen my heart and now held it in his hands.

He was bleeding, he was wounded, but he never said a word about it. Every breath came with pain and, even though his words sounded happy, the expression in his eyes said the opposite.

And now, this boy who was responsible for rescuing me from prison was about to tell me a secret plan.
I only wanted him to take me in his arms.

I hated myself for it. I wasn’t that kind of girl. I didn’t swoon over pretty boys or hand-some boys or any boys. Sometimes I thought that my human heart had turned to stone on that night when the Hinquememem tried to kill me. Every time I started to experience emotions again, that beast would return.

I was afraid to love.

So, this had to be friendship I was feeling; I’d been worried about Triton; he visited me every day to please his father.

But now, he began to tell me a different story. One of rebellion and danger, one that proved none of this had been done to honor the King. Far from it.

This boy who pretended that he didn’t care about me was risking everything so I could escape.

“My father made you take a blood oath,” Triton began, staring at the floor. “I thought he meant to take you as a bride when you mature—and that was bad enough. His wives are little more than slaves. But Isbeil overheard him talking to our mother, telling her his plans.”

King Poseidon was going to force me to marry him, but he was also going to force me to do one other thing. Selkies have a special ability that no other creatures of the sea have—we could make ourselves look human, fully human. The Na Fir Ghorm came close, except they al-ways carried the color of their blue skin when they walked on two legs.

If I refused to share my secret, Poseidon planned to use a Sea Witch to enchant me.

“Why does your father want me to teach him how to do this?” I asked.

“After your marriage, he plans to unite this kingdom with that of the Selkie King—Neptune,” Isbeil said.

I shook my head. “King Neptune would never agree—”

“He will. When he hears the second half of the deal,” Triton said. “The two Underwater Kingdoms will unite and both armies will disguise themselves as human. They’ll sneak into key positions in the human world, taking the coastal cities first, then moving inland. My father has a whole battle plan put together and it all hinges on you.”

This couldn’t be true.

And yet, when I looked at Isbeil and then Triton, I saw that they believed it.

“What can I do?” I asked. “How can I stop this?”

“Help my sister escape,” Triton said. “Teach her how to look human. Then she can go wherever she wants. And they will...I mean, we will take you wherever you want to go. You have to flee too. Poseidon can’t force you to honor your blood oath if he can’t find you.”

His eyes glistened with tears when he spoke.

“You’re coming with us?” I asked.

“Of course.”

But he glanced quickly away when he answered and I knew there was something he wasn’t telling me.

Both books, Fury and Fathom, are available for a limited time at 99¢ each HERE.
Fury is currently a #1 New Release in Children's Multicultural Literature, a #2 New Release in Children's Multicultural Folk Tales, and a #2 New Release in Children's Greek and Roman Myths.

AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR AND ARTIST, Merrie Destefano studied art at Northern Illinois University, met her husband at a kazoo parade, laughs at all jokes, and ugly cries during corny movies. Her books have been published by HarperCollins, Entangled Teen, Walter Foster, and Ruby Slippers Press, and, most likely, she's writing her next book while you're reading this. Born in the Midwest, she now lives in Southern California, where she runs on caffeine, and shares her home with rescue dogs and cats.

Her writing awards include:
• 2010 Mount Hermon Writer of the Year
• 2019 Realm Award for Supernatural/Horror: Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
• 2019 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award, Silver Medal Winner: Shade: A Re-Imagining of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.
• 2019 YARWA Athena Award, Second Place: YA/NA Speculative Fiction for Valiant.

You can visit her website here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Year of Worldbuilding in Fantasy #6: Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

#YoW Year of Worldbuilding
#WiF Worldbuilding in Fantasy


My blogging theme for 2020 is Worldbuilding in Fantasy, chiefly because it's one of the vital elements that holds all the different strands of the genre together. Plus it's always been one of the aspects of the genre that spins my reading and writing world.

As promised from the outset, I'm trying to look at Fantasy worldbuilding over time and across a range of subgenres. So last month I was firmly in the realm of epic fantasy and Robin Hobb's Liveships trilogy—but today I'm leaping forward to a very recent work, Tamsyn Muir's space fantasy, Gideon the Ninth


Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth has garnered a lot of positive notice since being published last year, including being nominated for both Nebula and Hugo Awards — and only last weekend, receiving the Locus Award 2020 for First Novel.

Exciting indeed — and fun as well when I summarize "what it's all about", in the words of UK author, Charles Stross:

"Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space! Decadent nobles via to serve the deathless emperor! Skeletons!"

To which I would add: plus duelling — with broadswords and rapiers! And as the cover bears witness, shades! By which I mean sunglasses, but as you can imagine, with a gothic palace, necromancy, and skeletons, there is plenty of shade and shadow to the story as well. It also has a great cast of characters, including the hugely likeable and engaging Gideon. 

Now you may say, but if it's in space, isn't it space opera and not fantasy? (And therefore not eligible for this series.) However, it's described as space fantasy and epic science fantasy respectively — although if splitting subgenre hairs I would argue that it's more swords-and-sorcery than epic fantasy. (Just imho.) 

I'm not really inclined to split hairs, though, but simply to say that despite a very broad-brush space setting, Gideon the Ninth is otherwise far closer to fantasy than science fiction, in that it's all about the necromancy and the low-tech adventure of duelling, rather than science. So I'm very happy to go along with the Space Fantasy descriptor.

Especially as that means I can include it in my Fantasy worldbuilding series. Because, dear Supernatural Underground readers, I loved the worldbuilding!

Magic systems are often, if not always, a vital construction block of worldbuilding, e.g.Lewis's wardrobe, Le Guin's equilibrium and true names, and Hobb's sentient ships. Similarly, the necromancy in Gideon the Ninth pervades the world, with skeletons and bones and the sorcerous use and abuse thereof abounding.

If you're a lover of steampunk, you will also find steampunk elements in Gideon's worldbuilding, particularly in the form of sorcerous construct-beings and revenants, which goes well with the duelling, along with the grimoires of sorcerous knowledge that must be unlocked, and the dank, dark dungeons explored. (I told you there were sword-and-sorcery type elements as well.) 

Forthcoming 4 August, 2020
All that being said, the physical worlds of Gideon the Ninth are also (unsurprisingly) integral to creating the world. The two main settings are the planet of the Ninth House, with its citadel of Drearburh and largely skeleton retainers, home to the necromancer Heir, Harrow, and her (reluctant) Cavalier Primary, Gideon Nav. The repression, bleakness and necromantic decay of the Ninth dominates the early chapters of the story, during which the Undying Emperor's summons comes to Harrow and Gideon, thus framing the remainder of the book.

The second world is the "haunted gothic palace" of Charles' Stross's quote (above)—although it's not technically in space, but located on the planet that holds the House of the First. (More on the Houses in a moment...)  In some ways this planet resembles our own Earth, being a world of oceans, sunlight, and blue sky, rather than the drear rock of the Ninth. The actual House (citadel/city) of the first is a dazzling white palace with green jungle, albeit emerging from the sea and not land, growing about its base.

Appearances aside, however, Harrow describes it as a tomb and it is also characterized by abandonment, decay, and considerable necromantic danger. The adventure lies in the quest to pass the Emperor's tests (he's recruiting lyctors) and unlock the House's secrets, which are far from all being his...

Although layers of additional worldbuilding are constructed on the reader's early exposure to both the Ninth and First Houses, it's the Nine Houses themselves that are the glue of Gideon the Ninth's worldbuilding (again, imho.) Introduced by a prelude verse that functions in the same way as Le Guin's poem at the beginning of A Wizard of Earthsea in framing the book, the Houses and their representatives—the Heirs and Cavaliers Primary—both contain and shape the overall story. 

As the Dramatis Personae also establishes from the outset, each House is represented by an Heir and Cavalier Primary, while the verse makes apparent the function and culture of the Houses within the overall necromantic society headed by the Undying Emperor. For example, those of the Ninth House (much reduced at the opening of Gideon) are the Keepers of the Locked Tomb, while the First is the House of the Emperor himself and his chosen lyctors. But the outward purposes and more nuanced inner motivations of the Houses, based on their verse-ascribed characteristics, are the most power 'actor' shaping the sorcerous and physical, political and personal outcomes of Gideon the Ninth.

Overall, the juxtaposition of sorcery and space, adventure and action, politics and mystery, makes for exciting Fantasy worldbuilding — so if Gideon the Ninth hasn't already appeared on your reading horizon you may like to seek it out.


Previous Months:

February: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
March: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin
April: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire
May: Palimpsest by Catherynne M Valente
June: Ship of Magic & the Liveship Traders series by Robin Hobb


Helen Lowe is a teller of tales and purveyor of story, chiefly by way of novels and poetry. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf), was published to critical praise in 2008. The second,The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012, and the sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Daughter Of Blood (Book Three), was published in 2016 and Helen is currently completing the final novel in the series. She posts regularly on her “…on Anything, Really” blog, monthly on the Supernatural Underground, and tweets @helenl0we