Grim Tidings with Rob Matheny

Titling this transcript of my Virtual Fantasy Con interview with Rob Matheny couldn’t have been easier, as Rob is the unstoppable force behind the Grim Tidings Podcast and the Facebook Group Grimdark Readers and Writers. The VFC ran on Facebook October 15-21, 2017, and Rob was my fourth guest to stop by my virtual booth for an interview. Author Jeff Pryor dropped by the booth too, and we talked about Rob’s love of wrestling, grimdark fiction, and unicorns. Oh, and I dropped in some unabashed flattery hoping Rob will someday invite me on his show!

AMJ: Welcome Rob. Give us a grim tiding.

RM: Monday without coffee! What could be grimmer? Other than that, hello and thanks for having me here.

AMJ: Thanks for joining me. You recently celebrated your 100th episode of the Podcast. What inspired you to start it?

15723639_1206225119454042_6082498447828475933_oRM: Yes 100 episodes! We started the podcast around April of 2015. By that point our Facebook group Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers had been going for about a year, and someone had mentioned starting a podcast. I’d actually been wanting to start one for a while, and so we decided one day to give a solid look at what it took to get one started. We recorded our first episode and it just seemed to click. I suppose we’re doing something right. Or we’re just too daft to stop now.

AMJ: Did you have any sort of broadcasting or journalism experience, or was it really just two guys deciding to speak publicly about stuff they liked?

RM: For me personally, I actually have a degree in radio broadcasting and have been in commercial radio since about 2000 with a specialty in production. Though I rarely did much behind the mic, the podcast was a chance to emerge from my shell. For my cohost Phil, his background is in education and he currently resides and teaches English abroad in Japan (though he has a slow Southern accent that sounds like sweet honey molasses). But yes, I do have a background in broadcasting and currently work full time as a producer. I do think that my professional background in broadcasting has helped the show, I try to make it as listenable as possible.

AMJ: I saw Jeff Pryor lurking in here and wanted to invite him to jump in with questions if he wants.

JP:‪ I just want to know if Rob got hit with any flying chairs last night.

RM: No, but I wished! (For those who don’t know I’m a huge pro wrestling fan and attended a RAW live event in Portland.) It was a great time for sure.

AMJ: That’s another question I have for Rob. Are your love of grimdark and your love of pro wrestling related?

RM: I would say my love for Grimdark and pro wrestling are ABSOLUTELY RELATED. It’s all about story, character, action, intrigue, there are many overlapping elements! In fact, I think I may have to write a blog post about this…

AMJ: Back to the podcast. It is very listenable, and you both have voices that are easy on the ears.

RM: Wow thank you, and kind of you to say!

AMJ: I understand that your Joe Abercrombie episode is the most-downloaded. Do you consider him your biggest “get”?

RM: I’d have to say we’ve had quite a few big “gets”. Joe Abercrombie, R. Scott Bakker, Steven Erikson, in addition to some other greats who may not be as grim, including Richard A. Knaak and Raymond E. Feist. And in most cases, we were able to connect to those authors through other guests who’d already done the show.

JP: I am going to have to dig up the Feist one. I’ve listened to a few, but not that one.

RM: Thank you for listening Jeff! For the full show archive, best to drop by

AMJ: Networking is everything. Who else would you like to have on as a guest?

RM: Yes, networking is EVERYTHING. We’ve been so honored to get some many great guests in a short time. I’d love to get George R.R. Martin on the show, of course. I feel he is the biggest name in Grimdark and fantasy in general presently. It’d be great to chat with Mark Lawrence, Brent Weeks, Peter V. Brett, and Myke Cole. Some other guests who I’d like to chat with would include Janny Wurts, Brandon Sanderson, and Patrick Rothfuss. We major in Grimdark, but we minor in everything else. We like to highlight bigger names, and smaller names doing big things. Really the questions right now isn’t “if”, it’s “when?”

AMJ: My husband worked at the same company as Peter Brett while he was writing Warded Man. I interviewed him shortly before the Skull Throne came out.

RM: We really haven’t had a chance to highlight Brett’s series on the show, and would love to get him on to chat about it. People would do well to go pick up a copy of The Warded Man to get started!

AMJ:  It is definitely one of my favorite fantasy series. Now that it’s concluded, it might be an excellent time for him to come on and talk about what’s next.

RM: I agree completely

AMJ: When did you discover grimdark as its own thing (as opposed to “merely” dark and/or gritty speculative fiction), and what drew you to it

RM: I discovered the term on … believe it or not … a podcast. It was an old episode of Adventures in Scifi Publishing where they had a roundtable chat with some writers doing grimdark. It was then I knew. That was the word for what I liked. That dark and gritty fantasy that had the punch and realism I liked. I had no clue just how momentous hearing that term would be. Shortly thereafter I created the Grimdark Fiction Readers & Writers Facebook group, as there simply wasn’t a Grimdark group at the time. Since then the group has continued to grow, and grow, and grow.

AMJ: I discovered the term when my friend Autumn M. Birt said, “my work is more noblebright than grimdark,” and a lightbulb went off. I looked it up on Wikipedia and thought, wow, that’s what I do! Although my work is way more like GRRM’s than Bakker’s.

Now, we’re getting close to the end of our time, and I have to ask: what is the deal with you and unicorns? Why do you hate them?

RM: Quite the contrary! I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with unicorns that I really can’t quite explain and I love them so! What’s not to love really? Magical? Mythical? Mystical? Dreamy? Also magical? In some weird way, it could be my personality trying balance itself by the complete onslaught of grim stories and media I expose myself to. Perhaps my brain needs magical horses to balance out the unending barrage of despair and violence and bleakness? Hard to say really. But if you friend me on Facebook, which anyone is welcome to (, expect an unyielding stream of unicorns to flood your newsfeed (in addition to metal videos and nihilism memes)!

AMJ: Aha! You’re ribbed so often about it I thought you had a serious aversion to them.

RM: It’s kind of obnoxious, I know!


UnicornOuijiAMJ: Well, let’s finish off with the Unicorn Ouija. Thanks for stopping by, Rob! It was awesome getting to know you better.

RM: Thank you so much for having me, this was a blast! I hope everyone gets a chance to check out the show and READ MORE GRIMDARK!

If you check out Grim Tidings, don’t forget to leave a review on iTunes.


Gods of Egypt and Lucid Dreaming with Mary Woldering

A very busy couple of weeks has stalled my recaps of October’s Virtual Fantasy Con, but at last I’ve eeked out the time to post my my interview with Mary Woldering, who stopped by my booth on Monday, October 16. Mary is the author of the Children of Stone series, a historical fantasy set in Ancient Egypt. Mary brought photos of her inspirations to the booth along with an excerpt from Book One in the Series, Voices in Crystal. After our conversation, Mary’s books rose high on my TBR list!

AMJ: You sent me some pictures of gorgeous Egyptian art. What makes these pieces special to you?

22471325_1638893179495065_971613351_nMW: I like this art in particular because it shows women in the era in which Children of Stone takes place. This statue depicts Queen Hetepheres and her daughter. Some people believe she is actually the person portrayed by the Great Sphinx…not some king. Most sphinxes were women portraying Sekhmet.

AMJ: ‪The sphinxes’ faces always looked more feminine than masculine to me. What about the acrobat? (See headline image.)

MW: She is a dancing girl. I used this image in the dance sequences in Going Forth by Day (Book 2).

AMJ: Is dance an important element in your work?

MW: Yes. Dances were always part of ceremony and religion as well as entertainment. Goddess Hathor presided over dances, drink, and parties. The dances were very athletic. That the woman has a shawl around her hips is not usual. Normally they danced with a belt only. Also, the dances were not viewed as sexual. The Ancient Egyptians took sexual behavior as a given so the audiences looked for acrobatic skill. I also like the way the painting shows her color and hair texture as not Caucasian (a common misconception due to Hollywood).

AMJ: I’ve taken a few belly dancing classes, and it’s such a beautiful and difficult art form, and it’s also not truly intended to be sexy. Instead it’s meant to show a woman’s strength (and it takes a lot of core strength to do it properly). It’s too bad our Western culture has recast it as Charo’s cutchycutchycoo.

MW: Very true. Although it was meant to increase fertility and give women the strength to endure regular childbirth without falling apart.


“Years ago, when I began to study mythology, it occurred to me that the gods and goddesses of ancient lands never seemed divine. They acted like super-talented people full of very human passions and shortcomings, when they appeared in different legends. Some of the archetypes resembled each other in their strengths and weaknesses as if, by some mystical power they had moved from land to land to become woven into the tapestry of time and culture. The stories of Marai and his companions became the basis for the Epic Fantasy Series Children of Stone.” — Mary Woldering

AMJ: What inspired you to write about Ancient Egypt?


‪MW: Mostly I just knew that was where part of the story took place. All of my stories come from lucid dreams or are inspired by songs and art. At first I thought I would write the story and set it in Ancient Crete on Santorini before it blew up, but something kept telling me “Go earlier. Go to Egypt. Tell that story first.

AMJ: I’ve had lucid dreams that became stories. “Coward of Maldon” began as a lucid dream where a man meets a wolf at night in a forest, and then I turned it into a story about the infamous coward Godric from the Battle of Maldon. When you have lucid dreams, are you an observer or a character in the dream, and how much do you control the action? Usually when I have one of these dreams, I just relax and enjoy the action.

MW: That’s what I do. One of the reasons I began to take notes on my dreams and actually experiment with past life regression (but who knows what they really were) was that some of these “dreams” were like me looking at a movie, but about 70% of them were ME in some fantastic setting – usually in the past. You asked about Egypt earlier. I saw myself moving around in that story and later based one of my female characters on the woman I saw myself portraying. It was really like a “Wizard of Oz” type dream. Saw myself and some of my friends. LOL.

AMJ: What else are you working on?

MW: [There are] Greek stories being re-told in part on Mark McQuillen & Mara Reitsma’s Facebook page, The Black Rose. They’re stories of a later era with my same characters (because they are immortal). The titles are “Healings” and “Mirrors of the Mind.”

AMJ: Oh, I love the idea of the same characters turning up in different eras. Do you ever plan to bring them into contemporary times?

‪MW: There’s already mention of it by two of the characters in the “Healings” story. They visit the 1970s. “Miss Hattie and the Hoppers” is another spinoff short story with the same two (time traveling this time, and steampunk too). It takes place in post Civil War East Tennessee. I don’t dwell on any political issues of the time, but racism plays a small part there. In my story “Ana’s Dream of Flying” for the Dreamtime Dragons Anthology, I tell a story a friend in college related to me about her own childhood, then throw in a twist or two. Then I mention a poem I co-wrote with a character in 2012, in his voice. Part of it is on the back of Children of Stone Book 3, Opener of the Sky.

AMJ: Congratulations on Ana’s Dream being selected for the anthology. I love Ana’s voice in that story.

MW: Thanks! It is available mid November.

Here’s an excerpt from Voices in Crystal, in which Houra, the half-sister of the hero Marai, remembers her girlhood as she and her clan plan to emigrate to Kemet for a better life. She wants Marai to come with them, but he is reluctant to leave. Her conversation is with her husband Sheb.


Mary made this sketch based on a dream of the place Houra and her people are leaving.

Houra remembered better days when her entire world had been tents around that tentative pond. Her father named it for himself: Wadi Ahu. In those days, Marai had been a too-tall and lanky version of all the other dark-haired youths living there. He was the youngest of many direct brothers and sisters, but older than the five children by her own mother. She was the youngest of those children. Sheb was the son of Ebach, one of Ahu’s younger brothers.

The small clan did not increase well. Houra remembered the death of Marai’s wife in a birthing so agonizing and bloody that, it frightened the other women. A fever in one of the visiting caravans brought more death. Children withered and wasted away. Women miscarried. Ahu fell victim to that round of illness. Two years ago, Marai and his remaining relatives began to fight. One by one they left, each blaming the “curse of the goddess” or the evil his madness brought to the camp for their departure.

Houra noticed her husband’s snoring stop and his breathing grow still. He was pretending to sleep.

“Have you heard the way he sings to his beloved, lately? It’s been different. It’s as if he knows we’ll be leaving soon.” She inclined her head to the door. “I think I can talk him into coming with us, after all. I just need to go to him in the morning when he comes to take out the sheep.” Houra drew close to her husband to rouse him. He noticed she was still speaking and pulled her close to his chest.

“He’d better be singing a farewell song to his goddess, tonight.” he muttered, scratching his head. “Sometimes I wish she’d come get him like he wants. It would solve a lot of things.”

To learn more about Mary and her work, stop by her website, like her Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter. The Children of Stone series includes three books so far (click on each to learn more):


Angels and Demons: Humanizing Succubi with Edward Buatois

I’m running a series of all the guests I invited to drop by my booth at the Virtual Fantasy Con, which ran on Facebook, October 15-21, 2017. Last week I posted the transcript of my chat with Graeme Ing; this week it’s Edward Buatois’s turn.

Ed and I know each other through various Facebook writers’ groups and we became friends when he began posting excerpts of his novel Storm Angel, one of which is included after the interview here. I love Ed’s characters and prose, and I can’t wait to see these books in print.

AMJ: Tell us what inspired you to begin writing about Succubi.

EB: Well the short answer is Lost Girl. I’ve been writing on and off since I was in my late twenties. I was in a long hiatus and I got into this show about Bo the Succubus and her human friend Kenzi. Bo thought she was a freak but Kenzi the street rat thought Bo was awesome. It was also a rich world, and I thought, “I could write that!”

AMJ: I haven’t heard of this series.

EB: It came on about six or seven years ago. Canadian series. Bo and Kenzie turned into Carrie and Katsumi. My version’s a bit darker. Katsumi’s had a hard life and she’s fiercely loyal to her people. Carrie, despite being a Succubus, is suburban and sheltered. Bit of an odd couple. They learn from each other compassion on one side and strength on the other.

I also enjoy writing strong female characters––not exclusively, but I like writing women who are “real” people and not just waiting around to be rescued.

AMJ: Sounds like a great matchup. You and I share a desire to portray women who fight for themselves and are rescuers, not rescuees. I like how you use the deadly sexual power of Succubi to subvert notions of female power, especially with Erytena, who is a fighter, not a sex kitten.

EB: Yes, exactly. Sex is something she does –– and enjoys –– but it does not define her… ironic I suppose for a Succubus.

It was fun coming up with her character. She’s changed a lot over time. I at first came up with the idea of a Succubus who could “taste” her victims like “Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.” Then I thought, what is the one thing you wouldn’t expect from a Succubus who can have sex with anyone? That it’s not enough, that she’s desperately lonely… that she fills in the void with trashy romance novels. I also like stories with humor and quirkiness. ‪:-)

Themes addressed are her transition from being selfish to selfless, the nature of good and evil… wrestling with whether she’s actually a demon (as she has always believed) or something else, and if something else, what exactly? It’s a search for self.

AMJ: Did you have an interest in Succubi before you started watching Lost Girl?

EB: No, not exactly. I’ve found vampires to be cliché, so wasn’t really interested in writing them. I was talking to my girlfriend at the time –– this was around the time Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire was out –– and I said, “What if it’s a vampire that feeds on sex?” She was like, “Oh, you mean like a Succubus?” I was like, “What’s that?” So began my education.

I tried [writing] a novel involving a mopey Incubus, might finish it someday. He had been “turned” and didn’t like being an Incubus. But he came to grudgingly accept it. He had the power to “not be noticed,” but he came upon a young girl in the clutches of a serial killer who could “see him.” At that point, despite that for centuries he’d decided not to get involved in human affairs, he rescued her, terrified at saving this girl who could see through him and knew him for what he was.

AMJ: I think those are the things that really appeal to me about Erytena’s story, and I’ve always liked stories that explore the humanity of supposedly “evil” creatures, going all the way back to Interview with a Vampire and even Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in which Dracula is undoubtedly the villain but at least some of his motivation is love for his long-dead wife, whom Mina embodies.

EB: I missed the long-dead-wife theme of Dracula, I’ll have to review that.

AMJ: That’s why he wants Mina in particular; she looks just like the dead wife.

EB: OOOhhh. There was a friend who he made into a vampire, who exclusively fed on children… there’s a lore about how Dracula the story was itself a corruption of Victorian values… while Dracula drinks blood, it’s his seductive/sexual power that’s really central for the otherwise buttoned-up Victorian readers of the time… and the female vampire feeds exclusively on children, upending the “maternal protection” theme.

AMJ: Right. I also like the idea of mythical beings being real and in the world, and in your stories you present them as simply another humanoid species (which again, appeals to my own sensibilities of having a pseudo-scientific rationale for the supernatural in our stories).

EB: Yes, that’s another reason to write dark creatures like Eyrtena, or Dracula… writing them as “real people” with their own goals, desires, and perspectives, which only seem evil to us because we’re kind of on the short end of those imperatives.

As the guy in Jurassic World said, “To the mouse, a cat is the monster.”

AMJ: And cats are monstrous cruel villainous creatures…that I adore. (I’m totally a cat, not a dog, person.)

EB: I enjoy cats that I get to hand back.

AMJ: Getting back to writing mythical beings as “real people”—it begs the question in Erytena’s case (which you explore in your story), is being a Succubus a genetic flaw to be “cured”? A lot of Erytena’s kind would be outraged by that idea.

EB: Yes, I suspect most of them would. They give up a lot… mostly, eternal life. To a being that has eternity in front of them, and all they have to do to heal is to feed, the prospect of a decaying body that they can do nothing about would be terrifying.

I’ll add that the greater source of their outrage would be [the idea] that there is anything “wrong” with them. It is how they were born, after all. It’s part of who they are.

That does bring up a factor of “racism” in the story that I don’t directly address except that it’s kind of necessary, when your food looks exactly like you… you can’t view them as equals. It is given as a large part of the reason for the authoritarian directive among her people to not fraternize with humans because that risks feeling too much compassion for them, causing complications for Succubus society.

AMJ: And presumably, if the humans ever discovered the existence of Succubi, given our (presumably?) greater numbers and our own predatory capacities, Succubi could be rounded up and imprisoned or slaughtered, and humans would have to struggle with moral questions about exterminating another species.

EB: True. That’s a good reason for them to remain hidden. And in my novel, since they can “taste” who they feed on and the “taste” is good or bad depending on that victim’s character, Succubi preferentially feed on “good” people, leaving the morally corrupt ones in place. It turns out that in this way they’re (indirectly) responsible for some of history’s worst cruelties. And as the Succubus population grows, the world’s ability to function lessens, and the Succubi as a race have to figure out what they’re going to do about it, because it’s inevitable that civilization will collapse.

FacebookBackround_CarrieHere’s an excerpt from Storm Angel, an as-yet unpublished novel inspired by Lost Girl, which features Katsumi, a young female assassin and gang leader, and Ceridwyn “Carrie” Rye, a Succubus raised by humans. This scene takes place shortly after Katsumi and Carrie meet at a dance club. After Katsumi leaves, she is attacked by an evil shapeshifter.

Claws appeared on his hands, black and hooked. His smile was cruel, and he stepped past the crossbow.

Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be. Goddess, if you’re there, take me now; don’t let this bastard torture me. Her mind was going darker, the pain becoming a distant thing as she went into shock.

The thing kneeled beside her like an old friend, and rammed the claws into her thigh. “Don’t go to sleep yet. We’re not done playing.”

Okay, that brought me back. She screamed.

He raised her shirt and exposed the smooth skin of her belly. He caressed it with those claws. The skin dimpled where they touched. He chose a spot just below her ribcage and pushed.

Something came at him from the side and knocked him away before he could break the skin. Whoever it was bashed the thing’s head into the ground until it was dazed. Then kissed it, deeply. Oh… gross.

The newcomer kept its mouth on the thing for a few moments and then rose, trance-like, a few inches from its face. But the kiss — Katsumi didn’t have another word for it — wasn’t over. A rope of blue light flowed from the creature to the newcomer, who drank at it like a thing starving, its body heaving with the effort. Her tormentor began to twitch, then convulse. Katsumi hoped it would die. She’d bake the newcomer a cake.

It wasn’t to be. The thing rallied. It threw the newcomer a short distance away and staggered to its feet. It swayed unsteadily for a few seconds, holding its head. Then it went for the case (oh, right, the case) and ran back down the way it came.

After a minute, the newcomer roused and scanned the three bodies, as if taking a moment to remember where it was, and crawled toward Katsumi. She was nearly blind with blood loss, and didn’t recognize the newcomer until it was inches from her face.

It was Carrie. Her hair wasn’t mussed a bit. And her eyes glowed, like twin sapphires radiating in sunlight.

Carrie took Katsumi’s head in her hands, and kissed her hard, driving her tongue deep into the girl’s mouth. Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be. Katsumi’s world went black.

1321061-1440x900-[]Ed’s next excerpt is from the story “Night Shadows.” This is a great tale about a Succubus named Erytena who wants to be “real girl.” Unlike Pinocchio’s grandfather and the Blue Fairy, Erytena’s human lover is the one who’s going to work the magic—via gene therapy—and change her from Succubus to human. Before treatments start, however, a demon named Charis kidnaps Erytena’s loved ones. In this scene, she’s gone to rescue them and ends up in an epic battle with Charis.

“No!” With a speed I didn’t know I had, I get up and run the few steps to hit him, full-speed…glass breaks we’re carried through and out the window, flying through the air sixty stories up. Abraxas frantically kicks me away from him, and I fall alone, the ground rushing up toward me.

At least I know they’re safe, I think to myself. Charis is dead, and Abraxas won’t survive this… I can die in peace. In the few seconds I have left, I reach out with my soul, to my family; my embrace. Our togetherness. My chest feels tight.

Really tight. Like my shirt’s too tight on me, and suddenly the pressure is relieved with a loud ripping sound, and I’m tumbling through the air, the wind catching at me, and I reflexively use muscles I didn’t even know I had. What the hell’s going on?

I close my eyes, and blinding pain as I hit a convertible.

Murmuring next to me… I open my eyes, and a couple of people staring at me, who weren’t there before… how long was I out? Must have been only a few seconds.

I pull myself up to sit, and they run away, screaming.

I stumble out at the car, and catch my reflection in the obsidian black of the building. Wings. I have wings. I flex them; they catch the air and nearly knock me off balance.

Wings four feet long. Leathery, black wings. Hooked at the top.

Demon wings.

“It can’t be,” I say to myself.

To learn more about Ed and his work, you can follow him on Twitter.

Hipster Heroes: Talking Navigation and Necromancy with Graeme Ing

During the Virtual Fantasy Con, a Facebook event that ran from October 15-21, 2017, I had eight guests stop by my booth to talk about their work. The first was friend and fellow fantasy author Graeme Ing, and here is a transcript of our discussion. We were joined by another friend and fantasy author, Edward Buatois. (Look for a blog post featuring Ed next week!)

I loved Graeme’s YA fantasy Ocean of Dust, and I’m looking forward to diving into his adult fantasy Necromancer.

OOD400x600I wanted the Dust Ocean to be like another character. It is mysterious, has a personality of its own and features heavily in the plot and the development of hero Lissa’s character.



Necromancer400x600Necromancer was inspired by two premises: 1. What if a Necromancer was a young, hip hero, rather than the cliched evil, grey-bearded wizard summoning the dead in his dungeon. 2. I wanted the book to be written First Person to bring to life hero Maldren’s sarcastic, overconfident personality. Then I proceeded to break down that confidence over the course of the book.

AMJ: I want to start off with Ocean of Dust, which I loved. How was the Dust Ocean “another character”?

GI: It was one of the first ideas I came up with on this book, and I wanted it to influence hero Lissa’s thoughts and actions as if it were alive somehow, especially when it “talks to her” during the book.

AMJ: Is it alive? There are definitely creatures living inside it, but does the dust itself have awareness?

GI: That’s a great question and I want to save that for the sequels I’m writing next year.

AMJ: OK, fair enough. 🙂

GI: Sorry, I know that’s sneaky. We’ll also find out more about the creatures.

AMJ: One of the things that struck me about Lissa’s development as a character is how her powers begin as an illness. What made you think to set things up that way?

GI: She has a real connection with the dust and the creatures. Because she’s lived on land all her life, suddenly coming into contact with the dust ocean overwhelmed her body. That continues to happen later in the book when she gets closer to the dust in the little boat. She still has to adapt to the powers of the dust ocean.

AMJ: I know you sail–do you get seasick?

GI: A little. Sometimes. Apparently even super-experienced sailors do now and then. Have you ever sailed?

AMJ: I did in college and loved it. Nothing but novice stuff in tiny 12 or 15 foot boats on lakes, but it was fantastic. I’ve always wanted to take real lessons, but never got around to it. I do dive, however, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time on motor boats, and I do get quite seasick in anything rougher than 2-3 foot swells. What other aspects of your sailing experience informed the story of OOD?

GI: Navigation. Sounds boring, I know, but as a kid I was fascinated with maps and exploring. I wanted to follow my dad into the Royal Navy and become a navigator. That’s why one of the major plots of OOD is her learning about navigation. The viewing device on the bow is clearly inspired by the sextant, etc. 🙂

AMJ: And how did you come up with the mechanism that drives the ship through the dust? I imagine it as a sort of giant egg beater.

GI: Interesting. What it actually does is take the “flux” energy that runs through the Dust Ocean. The metal fins they lower off either side of the ship attract the flux, almost like a magnet, and that generates a form of electricity that powers the propellers. I totally wanted to get away from the sailing ship that fills fantasy books.

AMJ: I thought it was super cool that the ship is essentially motor-driven. That played into my science fantasy sensibilities.

GI: I’m a big fan of science fantasy too. Fantasy with technology makes a great read

EB: SF and fantasy can really synergize. SciFi makes it relatable/almost real, and fantasy adds a sense of wonder. Engineering by itself can be boring.

GI: As a reader, I love to try to figure out how the tech works. Is it forgotten and appears like magic to people, or is it basic science

EB: I admire/like what you’re doing with the flux-powered ship, and your motivation to get away from standard sailing ships.So, the ship takes its power from the flux the dust generates, in order to drive through the dust?



GI: Yes, it’s the flux that powers the ship, which is why finding the channels of flux becomes so important in the book

EB: Ok so it’s not a feature of the dust per se but rather almost like the tradewinds. I know not “exactly” but it sounds like it functions the same way.

AMJ: Lissa is pressed into service against her will. Historically, this used to be somewhat common for folks in the wrong place at the wrong time, as Lissa appears to be when the novel opens. I’m curious if a) this practice of essentially kidnapping vessel’s crews off the street will have implications in later stories, and b) if you were thinking of historical examples when you put it in the book.

GI: The kidnapping was important to casting the crew in a bad light. I want readers to see how dangerous the ship and its crew are, but also how relationships change over time as everyone gets to know each other. And yes, press-ganging was a very common recruiting method centuries ago 🙂

AMJ: You have children and teens being swept off the street. It seems like society in general would start to protest that. Drunken sailors nabbed from taverns is one thing, but children is another.

GI: Very good point. Horrible for the parents, if indeed they ever figure out what happened to their poor children.

AMJ: I kept wondering if there was a particular reason that one obnoxious rich kid was taken…that did not seem like a random kidnapping. Of course, I also thought the kid’s parents might just want to be free of his spoiled brat self. 😉

GI: I think the clue to that is when they are looking at the urns in the ship’s hold The boy isn’t entirely innocent. Yeah, he’s a total brat, isn’t he

AMJ: Now, let’s talk about Necromancer. I haven’t read this book yet but I love the premise. Would you classify Maldren as an antihero or a reluctant hero?

GI: There are elements of being a reluctant hero for sure, but he definitely regards himself as a hero, but then he’s a bit cocky, and needs being pulled down a peg or two.

AMJ: I recently discovered the GRIMDARK fantasy subgenre. Would you say Necromancer falls into that category?

GI: I didn’t come across that term until after writing the book. I don’t think Necromancer is grimdark. It’s not THAT dark, not dystopian, and not depressing that I always thought grimdark was. There’s actually humor in Necromancer. 🙂 Some readers have even commented that it’s not even true dark fantasy but regular fantasy.

EB: I also like the idea of a “young, hip” necromancer rather than the dust/crusty kind. That’s the ultimate “what if,” when you’re willing to break with the “tradition” of a character paradigm that’s been fairly well-mined by other authors and add your own spin to it.

GI: That’s exactly what I was going for. A fresh twist.

AMJ: I agree. I like the idea of taking a vocation that’s typically done by old bearded guys with evil intent and making it more of a regular guy’s job, or a job that a young hipster might do as a way to get by or because it’s fun, or whatever, rather than as something motivated by malice or greed.

EB: Maybe it’s true what they say that coffee will rot your brain, hence the necromancing. Old crusty necromancer = young hip necromancer, add latte.

GI: Which makes sense to me. After all, how did those crotchety old beard guys learn their skills before they became old 😉

To learn more about Graeme and his work, visit his website or follow him on Twitter.


The Virtual Fantasy Con Is October 15-21

From October 15-21, 2017, I will be participating in the Virtual Fantasy Con, a Facebook event involving over 100 fantasy authors, bloggers, podcasters, artists, and other magicians. My booth will be open for business 24-7 during that time, with a contest for a grand prize that includes some free books and a $25 Amazon gift certificate. The Con is running its own contests, including a Truth or Lie competition that runs across the all the virtual booths of all the authors.

I’m inviting friends old and new to come hang out with me in the booth, so come on by and learn about them and the work they’re doing. The list is still growing, but here’s the schedule so far (all times Eastern US):

Sunday, October 15, 12-1 pm. Graeme Ing

Graeme is the author of Ocean of Dust, a YA fantasy that sails through a–you guessed it–sea of made not of water but of dust (very cool concept),  and Necromancer, a dark fantasy featuring a young sorcerer battling a city-wrecking demon and a secret society intent on murdering him.

Sunday, October 15, 2-3 pm. Edward Buatois

Ed writes urban fantasies featuring succubi with hearts of gold. Ed’s stories are emotionally authentic and action packed, and I’m thrilled to introduce readers to his work.

Monday, October 16, 3-4 pm. Mary Woldering

Mary’s Children of Stone series is set in Ancient Egypt and follows a shepherd whose discovery of a strange collection of crystals transforms him into a god. With great power, comes great responsibility, and a whole lot of trouble.

Tuesday, October 17, 5-6 pm. Rob Matheny

Rob hosts the Grim Tidings Podcast and founded the Facebook group Grimdark Readers and Writers. The podcast has been running for nearly 2 years, with over 100 episodes featuring interviews with the masters of grimdark fantasy, including Joe Abercrombie, R. Scott Bakker, R.A. Salvatore, Raymond E. Feist, and Richard A. Knaak.

Wednesday, October 18, 3:30-4:30 pm. C.C. Aune

It’s no secret C.C. Aune and I are friends, and I have the privilege of beta-reading her novels. The Ill-Kept Oath was my favorite read of 2016, and readers are in for a real treat with The Regrettable Gambit when it’s released next year. This series, the Druineach Legacy, follows cousins Prudence Fairfeather and Josephine Weston and their friends, lovers, and enemies as they become embroiled in a magical rebellion occurring under the noses of Regency-era British Society. It’s Jane Austen meets J.K. Rowling, and it’s wonderful.

Wednesday, October 18, 6-7 pm. Mark McQuillen

Mark is the coauthor of an action-packed urban fantasy series that begins with Valkyrie, in which one of these battlefield wardens recruits a PTSD-suffering veteran named Gil to fight an ancient enemy named Malice. The story then continues with Legends, where we follow Malice as she tries to put the world to rights–as she sees it.

Thursday, October 19, 2-3 pm. Sarah Lockwood O’Brien

Sarah blogs as The Critiquing Chemist, and has one of the most entertaining–and busy–blogs around. She’s a working scientist, beekeeper, crafter, and reader, and her blog is a nonstop source of deep thoughts and beautiful photography featuring the things she loves.

Friday, October 20, 10-11 am. Jennie Ivins

Jennie is a fantasy writer and the Editor of Fantasy Faction, one of the Internet’s most popular fantasy sites. I’ll be joining Fantasy Faction as a contributor in November, so of course I had to invite my new boss to come and chat with me during VFC!

Stop by my booth throughout the week to see who else drops by!



Rip It or Ship It Book Tag

It’s Vic’s birthday (A Wizard’s Forge came out one year ago today), and Cassopeia’s Moon once again honors Vic with a mention in her blog. This time she has her paired up with Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass. Celaena and Vic have a lot in common (love of books, badass fightin’ spirit) but I agree there might be too much yang and not enough yin in that relationship for them to work as life-partners. It could be a beautiful friendship, though.

Cassiopeia's Moon

So, I filmed a bookshelf reorganisation video, and it went really well (at least at 12 minutes the clock was till ticking. But when I finished and checked, nothing was saved! *crying inside* This means that the wonderful reorganisation cannot be shown. But I am very happy with how my bookshelves turned out 🙂

Now I have to think of something else to write a blog post about. And what better than to do a tag that went around everywhere quite a while ago? I wasn’t tagged, but no one cares about that, so here we go – The Rip it or Ship it Book Tag!

Round 1
Celaena Sardothien (Throne of Glass) & Victoria (A Wizard’s Forge)

This is a tricky one… It might work, but I do think hey both are a bit too headstrong to be a good fit. I could see them having an…

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Power Plays: Journeys in the Zemnian Empire with E.P. Clark

I came across E.P. Clark’s work when I participated in the Brain to Books Cyber Convention last April. Like Guy Gavriel Kay (one of my favorite authors), Clark writes not-quite-historical fantasies, and her Zemnian Trilogy is inspired by Russian history and geography. Each story in the Zemnian Trilogy is divided into two volumes; Clark has just released the second story, The Breathing Sea, Parts I and II, and I recently finished reading both volumes in the first story, The Midnight Land, which follows a princess called Krasnoslava Tsarinovna, aka Slava, as she journeys above the Arctic Circle and finds confidence and power through her dealings with malevolent spirits, bandits, gods, courtiers, and her own sister, the Empress of Zem.

I loved The Midnight Land (see my reviews of Part I and Part II on Goodreads), and found the story so thought-provoking I asked E.P. to join me here for an interview. Her answers made me even more excited about her work, and I can’t wait to dig into The Breathing Sea.

Q: I see from your bio that you’re a professor of Russian language. What led you to that profession?

My “day job” is teaching Russian language and literature, which people have let me know is a pretty unusual profession. My family moved from Kentucky to central Russia shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and I studied Russian quite intensely while I was there. When I came back to the US and started Russian, I already had this rare and rather difficult skill under my belt, but I wasn’t planning to go into academics. I was much more interested in international relations and things like peace and security studies, and then later, translation. I decided somewhat on a whim to apply to an MA program in Russian translation, and rather to my surprise, I got in. I didn’t realize that Columbia University was an Ivy League school until I went to visit it after being admitted, and everyone was like, “Oh my God! You got into Columbia! Tell me your secret!” After graduating, I was going through the painfully slow process of applying for government jobs in security and intelligence, and while I was waiting I applied, once again on a whim, for a couple of PhD programs. I got into the one at UNC-Chapel Hill while I was still cooling my heels waiting to hear back from various agencies, so I decided to go do that for a while.

I’d like to say that getting my actual teaching job was equally serendipitous, but it wasn’t. By the time I had finished my PhD I had drunk the ivory tower Koolaid, and I applied mainly for academic jobs, despite the fact that the job market had imploded and thousands of PhDs were collecting public assistance even though they had teaching jobs. The only thing less successful than my struggles to get academic jobs, however, were my pathetic attempts to get non-academic jobs, and unfortunately, I have never been able to completely kick my eating habit, and bankruptcy doesn’t make student loans go away, so getting some kind of employment was essential. Through several years of intense and unremitting effort, I did get an academic job in my field of specialization.

Which is a long-winded way of saying that when my heroines slog through a lengthy series of painful adventures, that’s a pretty accurate reflection of my actual life experiences, only in the books I add magic.

Q: Your bio also mentions some “unexpected adventures” in Russia. Can you tell us about some of these and how it might have inspired some aspect of The Midnight Land?

Hmmm…adventures in Russia…where to begin, where to begin…Well, this is actually a conflation of two different adventures, but there’s a scene in The Midnight Land Part I in which Slava, the heroine, is skiing through thick snow and she accidentally goes off the road and she gets scared and tells herself that all she has to do is turn around and she’ll end up back on the path. When we lived in Russia we used to go cross country skiing all the time, which was a big deal for me, since hitherto I had spent most of my life in Kentucky and couldn’t even begin to comprehend what real winter was. I remember walking across town with my class (I attended a local high school) the first January I was there and seeing my breath freeze on the back of the coat of the person in front of me, and literally not being able to believe how cold I was. Anyway, we used to go back country skiing all the time, which was great fun and often ended up with us floundering around up to our waists in snow. So one of the things I wanted to convey in the book was that very visceral sense of skiing through the deep woods, in heavy snow, with a cold so intense it would cause your breath to freeze your hair to your hat.

The second part of the experience was actually in Belgium, not Russia. We had gone there to renew our Russian visas, since you had to leave the country to do that. I was traveling around Brussels on the metro, which was the first time I had traveled around a strange city by myself. At the time I didn’t speak any French or German, so I was basically helpless. I got on a train going the wrong way, and I still remember the moment of panic, like a lightning strike to the chest, when I realized what had happened, and how I calmed myself down by telling myself all I had to do was get off the train, walk across the platform, and get on the train going the other way. So Slava experiences both those things at that moment, although her adventures end up being a lot more exciting than mine.

There was also some getting used to having automatic weapons pointed at you on a regular basis, but to be honest that didn’t bother me as much, and I haven’t worked it into my stories yet. Most of my memories are about semi-magical times in the woods, the physical hardships we underwent along with the rest of the country, and how incredibly welcoming most people were to us even though they had very little themselves and most Americans did nothing to endear themselves to their Russian hosts. Seeing things from a Russian perspective was a fundamental change in my understanding of the world.

Q: Did you ever go above the Arctic Circle or to Russia’s north coast?

I did go above the Arctic Circle—but in Finland, not Russia, and in the summer, not the winter. There was still snow, though! Those experiences are the basis for some stuff in The Breathing Sea and The Dreaming Land. While in Russia, one of the most significant experiences I had that influenced a number of things in the books was a trip I took with my family out to Lake Baikal, in central Siberia. For example, the prayer trees with their ribbons (something that becomes a central motif in the later books) were something I encountered for the first time out there. And it was just dang cold, even though it was already spring! The intense cold and darkness in The Midnight Land mainly come from my experiences in central Russia, though, where even though it was below the Arctic Circle it got down to -40 degrees our first winter there.

Q: About a year ago, I (re)read Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, which like The Midnight Land Part I, contains a long journey on skis. Did any books inspire Slava’s journey, or did the whole story emerge from your own experiences?

It’s a cliché, but I admit I was inspired to start the whole thing in part by reading A Game of Thrones. I got an advance copy through no merit of my own and was just stunned by how amazing it was. The adventures of the Black Watch in the cold were in the back of my mind—or sometimes in the front—as I wrote about Slava’s journey through the snow.

Another important well-known fantasy book that inspired me was The Golden Compass, in which the characters make a trip up to Svalbard. I actually re-read the book on my first flight to Finland, as I was preparing to go to the Arctic for the first time.

But the main literary inspiration were stories and movies about the Arctic and Antarctic explorers, especially things I read and watched about Shackleton and The Endurance, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica. There were some unsuccessful attempts to reach the South Pole using skis, but the first successful attempt was with sled dogs, half of whom were killed for food, something that was planned ahead of time. So my characters take sled dogs and worry about having to eat them.

Q: One of the most fascinating things about The Midnight Land was the reversed gender power relationships, where the institutional and internalized biases of society and individuals favored the female over male. We live in a world of men, where grammar books tell us that we may use “man” to mean “human.” Zem is a world of women, where “woman” equals “human.” What inspired you to create the female-centric world of Zem?

The gender reversal was something I knew I wanted to do right from the beginning, but it was by far the most difficult thing to work into the story, and I only feel somewhat satisfied with how it turned out. Which means it was an excellent exercise, since it forced me to confront all the gender biases embedded in our culture and our language, even for people like me who have considered themselves committed feminists from childhood.

I wanted to do it because I had always resented very strongly the sexism and misogyny I encountered starting in early childhood, and I just couldn’t believe that women were naturally “inferior” to men, and meant to be submissive to them. I myself didn’t feel very submissive at all, and inferiority is a matter of perspective. Inferior at what? At tasks designed to showcase male superiority, that’s what. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy and a vicious circle that I wanted to break out of.

At the same time, most of the gender-reversal stories I’d read were profoundly unsatisfying, and upheld misogynistic stereotypes rather than dismantling them (role reversals tend to do that). And none of it reflected the reality of how the people I knew actually thought and behaved. Also, once again my exposure to Russian culture was eye-opening, because it tends to uphold strict gender roles and explicitly macho behavior in men, but women and femininity tend to get a lot more power and respect than Westerners would expect. Some of the original tribes in what is now Russia were matriarchal, and you can still see the pagan matriarchal underlayer beneath the macho, male-dominated overlayer of Vikings and Mongols, Christianity and Islam.

So as I wrote, I tried to create a society where gender roles remained similar to what we know, but the power dynamic was reversed, and I tried to come up with the kind of logical reasons for female rule that have been used to prop up male dominance—e.g., women live longer, they learn to speak and read more quickly, descent through the female line is much easier to keep track of, and so on. And then I tried to present it with the same uncomplicated acceptance that we accept our own gender power dynamics in our own society. Which was much harder than I thought it would be, something that was enlightening and frustrating in equal measure.

Q: The uncomplicated acceptance was an aspect that intrigued me, because bias favoring males is so deeply entrenched in our contemporary society. Another writer friend and I were commiserating over the fact that we had set out to write books that met the Bechdel Test, and we still had more male than female POV characters! As I read The Midnight Land, I thought about present-day societies where women’s roles are still severely proscribed, and how it’s the mothers who probably do the most to enforce and propagate women’s subjugation. Was this something you thought about as you crafted this piece of your world?

Yes, it’s so difficult to pass the Bechdel Test even when you’re really trying! That’s something I thought about a lot, and it’s also something that’s a recurring theme in Russian literature—the oppression of oppressed people by other oppressed people, and particularly the oppression of women by other women. I wanted to explore that thought, and in particular explore the possibility that maybe women’s good qualities, such as the ability to love unselfishly someone different from yourself, like, say, men, could lead to the oppression of other women.

Q: As a reader I never came across a depiction of your gender reversals where I thought, “oh, that was a slip-up where she failed to flip the power dynamics.” Can you give us an example of one of the difficulties you encountered in making this swap, or alternatively, an example of something you wish you had done better?

Glad to hear that! I did struggle a lot with the gendered nature of language, especially since I was writing in English but trying to think as much as possible in Russian, which is an even more gendered language than English. I had to go back and fix a lot of places where I had made the default for “human” as male, and change that to female, and then reconcile myself to the fact that it looked “weird” to me.

Something that was much more difficult, though, was trying to make the male characters. I wanted them to be recognizably masculine/male, but with some of the negative personality traits that we associate with women but that are the result of being second-class citizens. And I wanted to make the male characters who were unhappy with their assigned roles both sympathetic and stridently silly, kind of like how early (and modern) feminists are often depicted. That turned out to be super-difficult, and I’m only sort of satisfied with how it turned out, but since we don’t really have any role models for me to work from, it’s hard to say how well I did. I also wanted to make my male characters complex and sympathetic, and wouldn’t you know it, that’s actually quite easy to do—but it just sucks you right back into a male-centered worldview. Our default is that men, especially men with problems that make them act out and misbehave, are worthy of our sympathy and understanding, but women are evil, even women with problems that make it difficult for them to be selfless and kind, so I kept falling into the “poor man, mistreated by the mean women” trap and having to claw my way out of it.

I also tried to think seriously about how men would really be treated in a matriarchal, female-dominated society, and how that would differ from how women are treated in a patriarchal, male-dominated society. I decided that they would probably be restricted and infantilized, and their opinions discounted, but there would be much less overt violence and hatred aimed at them. So most of the violence and mistreatment that the men face in my society is something they do to themselves. My depictions of it are heavily based on Russian/Soviet military and prison camp writing, which takes a good hard look at male-on-male violence and blames a lot of the abuse that occurs in these all-male institutions on the fact that they are all-male.

Which brings us to a great big elephant in the room for a lot of contemporary Western gender theory, at least as far as I can tell, which is the problem of male violence and the worrisome probability that men really are just much more prone to physical violence, as well as hierarchical forms of government (Putin’s infamous “vertical of power,” for instance). So my women do have very real and pressing reasons to police their men’s behavior and restrict their access to power, since all the male-run societies they see around them are incredibly dangerous and hostile, especially to women. How to integrate men into society as full citizens and give them access to power is something my characters wrestle with throughout the series, because it’s something they attach increasing importance to, but they are not blind to the dangers.

Q: Slava’s powers are centered around an impulse toward mercy rather than violence. What inspired you to explore this theme in your work?

Slava’s focus on mercy was part of my attempt to reverse gendered valuations of behavior. I wanted to create a hero whose heroism was in her unselfish, selfless behavior—a very “female” hero, especially in the Russian tradition, which values female mercy highly. I was particularly thinking of Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita as I wrote it. I wanted to show mercy as a positive trait, but at the same time examine how you need some backbone as well in order for it to have meaning. Slava has to learn how to stand up for herself and take what is rightfully hers—to “act like a man”—while still retaining the mercy that is at the core of her nature.

Q: Slava’s adventures take her from the intrigue-filled halls of her sister’s palace to encounters with bandits, malevolent and benign tree and animal spirits, pagan gods, and the forces of nature, and back to palace intrigue. What can we expect in The Breathing Sea?

The Breathing Sea, the next installment in the series, as well as The Dreaming Land, the last part, which is still in the editing and revision phase, all follow there-and-back-again narrative arcs in which the central heroine leaves Krasnograd (“Beautiful City”), has adventures in the wilderness, and comes back to the city a changed woman, better able to occupy her place in the difficult world of high-court intrigue that she must navigate whether she wishes it or not. The difference is in the heroines, who are all distinct characters, in the seasons, and in the magic. The Breathing Sea begins in spring and ends at midsummer and follows a teenage girl who must learn how to control her magical gifts, which are much stronger than Slava’s. The Dreaming Land follows a headstrong warrior princess who has to learn how to put down her sword and cultivate the mercy in her heart, and begins in midsummer and ends in autumn, thus completing the cycle (The Midnight Land begins in early winter).

I suppose the biggest development in The Breathing Sea, other than the continuing development of the series-long plot arc, is its heavier focus on magic. Dasha, the heroine in The Breathing Sea, has out-of-control magical gifts which she spends a lot of time working to master. There is also a greater focus on human-animal relationships and what we would now call ecology and environmentalism. Although gender relations still play a major role, I move somewhat away from that to contemplating human interactions with non-human beings and the natural environment.

Q: You allude to some troublemaking foreign influences in The Midnight Land, both in the capital and out in the provinces. Do these forces play a role in The Breathing Sea?

Yes, those troublesome foreign influences play a major role in The Breathing Sea! That’s another difference between it and The Midnight LandTBS is less insular and more international, with several non-Zemnian major characters. I actually went back and added in hints to future developments in The Midnight Land after I had finished the later books in the series. Again, I try to reverse Western expectations and present things from a Zemnian (read: “Russian”) point of view, although Zem is only loosely related to the real Russia, especially in the foreign policy realm—it’s much more benevolent than the real Russia (Zemnians would say that’s because Russian women let their men get out of hand and apply their militaristic values to the entire society).

One thing that comes up as a major theme in both The Breathing Sea and The Dreaming Land in relation to troublesome outside influences is the issue of slavery and freedom. Our English/Western word “slave” comes from “Slav,” and Eastern Europe has historically been a center of slavery, both within its borders and as an exporter of slaves to other, more affluent regions. This is still the case, in fact: for example, while it’s hard to track exact numbers of sex trafficking victims, the largest number of them seem to be from Russia and Ukraine. So in the later books the Zemnians find themselves in a fight against slave trafficking even as they live in an unequal and exploitative society that forces people to turn to slavery as the best out of a set of bad options, just like in the real Eastern Europe.

Q: What’s next for EP Clark?

What’s next? Well, I’m working on getting The Dreaming Land, the final part of the series, out by next year. Then I also have some other projects in the pipeline, one a series of short (I bet you weren’t expecting that!) stories set in an alternative Renaissance Florence, and another that I suspect may turn into another epic fantasy series, this time about dragons. I’m still mulling that one over in my mind, but it’s starting to come together and I’m hoping to be able to begin writing a first draft as soon as I finish revising The Dreaming Land.


Fight Like a YA Girl Book Tag

Wow! Tremendous thanks to Cassiopeia’s Moon for including Vic and A WIZARD’S FORGE in her “Fight Like a YA Girl” list. We’re very honored.

Cassiopeia's Moon

Be prepared for a lot of tips on strong female leads…

So I was not tagged by The Book Prophet to match YA girls to some descriptions, but I saw her do it and really want to do it. I just really hope I’ve read enough YA to have enough characters… Tend to read everything from children’s fantasy to adult fantasy so it might be a challenge. Let’s see how it goes!

  • Thank the person who tagged you
  • Mention the creator Krysti at YA and Wine
  • Match at least one YA girl with each of the themes below
  • Tag as many people as you’d like!

It is so important for everyone to see examples of strong women in books, television, and movies. There are so many ways in which women exhibit strength, so this tag is meant to be a celebration of some those strengths.

Warrior Girls

Raisa ana’

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How to Make a Clichéd High Fantasy Cover

Nicola at Thoughts on Fantasy puts together an absolutely brilliant instruction manual on how to make a cliched fantasy book cover. #Designtip!

Thoughts on Fantasy

I’m not averse to a few fantasy clichés on a book cover – they let me know at a glance that I’m looking at a fantasy fiction novel, and can be nice if used in creative or appealing ways. As with all clichés, however, they become eye-roll-worthy when used en masse, i.e. when several standard tropes are all packed into the one artwork. If a book tries to cover too many bases, it can start to look a little silly.

I’ve encountered a few covers that take it a bit far, but I thought it’d be amusing to go even further, and have a bit of fun with the tropes of my favourite genre… so here is my recipe for a no-holds-barred, all-boxes-ticked, epic high fantasy book cover (accompanied by examples from the most clichéd design I can muster). I’m no graphic designer, but I imagine that will add a…

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