Giveaway Announcement!

Today through Thursday, both STAR THIEF and THE EMPIRE’S ORPHANS are available for free on Kindle! Please read and enjoy!

In my debut, STAR THIEF (now #5 in Kindle Sword & Sorcery Fantasy for teens!), one wish stops the tides, darkens the night sky, and freezes whole worlds in a jar.

THE EMPIRE’S ORPHANS, told from the voices of a conqueror’s son and a conquered lord’s daughter, follows two young people in a country simmering with national, racial, and class tension.

Happy reading!

My First Live Author Q&A: The Recap

My reading at the Davies Memorial Library in Waterford, VT this past Tuesday was great fun! I read from the first chapter of The Empire’s Orphans, doing my best to channel the wonderful authors who’ve come before me. After the first chapter was read, the night then moved into a Q&A session with my audience, who had thoughtful, truly terrific questions. In case you missed it, a sample of these questions are below!

Q: If you were to pick a time from our history of when The Empire’s Orphans takes place, when would it be? Why did you pick that time?

A: I set The Empire’s Orphans in 1530, albeit with magic and geography that I made from scratch. My reasoning for this was based on wanting to give one of my cultures a significant technological advantage over the other, and, after seeing the documentary Guns, Germs and Steel years ago, I settled on firearms, along with a different system of magic, as this advantage. By setting my timeframe at the early development of firearms, I hoped to keep this tech advantage somewhat in check, and to keep the muskets a little bit mysterious with their high volatility. Once I settled on 1530 for my firearms, I also loosely based other details, like Solinski clothing, on what might have been expected in Europe at that time.

Q: I like the level of detail that you use in this book. It gives the reader, especially this age group, enough information without bogging them down in paragraphs about basket weaving. As you’re finding this balance while you write, do you typically have to add detail, or cut it? Or does this come naturally?

A: Occasionally I hit a detail balance I’m happy with on the first try, but it’s pretty rare. I usually need to add details in as I’m editing, to give some action details to a section of dialogue, or visual details as characters are traveling. In my first drafts, my conversations can feel a bit like they’re floating, because they’re not always grounded enough in non-dialogue interactions or details of what’s happening around the people as they’re talking. I also have to work at letting readers ‘see’ the countryside or cityscapes around them, and fight the fear that readers don’t want to break from the action long enough to take in that kind of visual detail.

Q: Do you tend to see things in your mind’s eye as you write, or is it more distant as you’re writing the story down?

A: I see most of the book in my mind’s eye as it’s happening. Often I’ll see certain scenes many times before I ever get to writing them down, and they play out in my head a little like a play that I’ve cast myself in. I’ve done this with stories for as long as I can remember—it was always a great source of entertainment on long bus rides to school, or during chores like feeding calves. Fortunately my mom didn’t find my frequently-glazed expression too alarming while I was growing up.

Seeing this kind of play is one of the reasons I need to add detail in later, I think, because I see the world I’m writing pretty clearly, and I can assume the reader does too. Later, in the editing, things feel less like a play and get a little bit more scientific as I’m balancing pacing, weighing my subplots, etc.

Q: Was it difficult to write this in first person? Do you prefer first or third?

I didn’t find The Empire’s Orphans difficult to write in first, but I have found first person limiting in the past, particularly with the first book I wrote while I was in high school and college (this book is now in a drawer). My decision to write Star Thief in 3rd person was directly based on that experience. When I began the framework for The Empire’s Orphans, though, I decided that it needed to be in first because I wanted to be able to explore internal arcs of feelings, biases, and reevaluating what the characters know to be true. Particularly for Rogan, I saw this as important enough to try the first person perspective again, and I’m happy with that choice.

 

If you have any other questions yourself, please don’t hesitate to reach out through the site! I’d love to hear from you!

Author Reading In Waterford, VT

My debut author reading is coming up in just a couple of weeks! Readers and writers of all ages are invited to the Davies Memorial Library in Waterford on April 3rd at 6:30pm for a reading and Q&A. The night will start with a reading from my YA fantasy novel THE EMPIRE’S ORPHANS, and then shift into a discussion with readers and aspiring writers on the process of creating the novel and advice for writers working on their own projects. I’ll also be offering refreshments made with my own two hands. RSVPs on Facebook are very much appreciated!

Read more about THE EMPIRE’S ORPHANS!

 

 

Why I Read (and Write) Young Adult Fantasy

Adventure, world-saving heroism, character growth, and a little romance. These are elements in fiction that I absolutely love to read about, but they’re awfully hard to find in contemporary adult fiction, and even in contemporary young-adult fiction. Most contemporary fiction focuses very much on a character’s specific experience with ordinary circumstances, which can be intellectually stimulating or eye-opening, but for me not as inspiring as seeing someone rise to meet extraordinary circumstances. This is a preference, not an argument for the superiority of YA/MG fantasy over all other genres, but after years of bafflement I love being able to articulate why my first stop in a library or bookstore is always in the children’s section.

Let’s face it, it’s pretty unlikely that any one of us is going to be in a position to find the secret code that lets us deactivate the planet-detonating nuclear device in the nick of time. There are still plenty of ‘everyday heroes’ in the world, but most of us aren’t going to save our planet, or our country, or even our town single-handedly. But isn’t it nice to think that we could?

Fantasy shifts the rules of the world—intensifying and occasionally simplifying threats, tipping extraordinary events into everyday life—to let us follow the steps of ‘ordinary’ people very like us as they face those threats down. Young adult fantasy appealed to me all the more while I was growing up because it put all that heroism potential into the hands of people not much older than me. While my life centered around school, homework, and chores, it was exciting, inspiring…even comforting to think that it was possible for people like me to take on evil sorcerers, save the dragon race, or keep Chaos from swallowing the world. What’s more, relatively happy endings are a bit surer with fantasy than they are in reality, for obvious reasons. While it’s important to be aware that happy endings aren’t always guaranteed, it’s nice to see them happen. That promise of problems being fixed and having resolutions –unusual events in life, all in all—has always been a huge lure for me as well.

Also, quite simply, an adventure story with well-developed characters is entertaining, and that suits my mood more often than more literary, deliberately thought-provoking works (I do read these, but more sparingly). At the end of the day, I’d rather go for a dragon ride than…well…do just about anything. Even if it’s just on the page.