The World Fantasy Awards nominees were announced last night, and I’m so thrilled to see Zelda Devon nominated under the Best Artist category. Zelda did the fabulous cover art for The Bone Flower Throne, and I have loved her work with Kurt Huggins for years; they illustrated my Realms of Fantasy story “The Hearts of Men”, and they created the wonderful art for my website. Both Kurt and Zelda’s work speak to me on a personal level, so I’m really excited to see Zelda’s art getting the recognition it so richly deserves.
Congratulations, Zelda, and good luck!
So, over at Facebook, my friend Theresa Crater tagged me to the seven lines meme, where you go to page seven of your WIP and post seven lines, so here they are, from The Bone Flower Queen:
In fact, one of those “late-night duties” was standing with the other men, looking annoyingly smug. For days, Flame Tongue, the King of our new ally Xico, had been aggressively seeking to join his house with my brother’s through a marriage to his youngest daughter Anacoana. A man’s mother customarily listened to such requests from the father or suitors, but with our mother long dead, that duty fell to me, as Little Reed’s closest female relative.
And the temerity of Flame Tongue’s request had struck me speechless. Anacoana was a fine young woman–bright and a highly-talented weaver–but she’d been one of my former husband’s concubines. Granted, Black Otter hadn’t exercised his “husbandly rights” with her–for she hadn’t yet bled a full year–but to even suggest that the King of Culhuacan should take his enemy’s former concubine as his legitimate wife was insulting. He’d come back last night promising to guarantee Anacoana’s virginity and it took every shred of restraint to not have the guards throw him from my palace.
This other meme is one I’ve seen going around–no one has actually tagged me, but I thought it might be fun to do. Here’s how it works: list five facts about the main character of your current WIP. This one is tricky because to tell you the important things about her would be spoilery, and I don’t want to do that. So instead I’m going to use this to remind folks of things about her from the first book.
1. My protagonist, Quetzalpetlatl, was the only legitimate child of the king of Culhuacan, but seeing how she was female, her father married her to her cousin when she was quite young, to ensure a male heir to his throne.
2. While Quetzalpetlatl grew up to be the chosen high priestess of the god Quetzalcoatl, she’s never felt that she’s quite fit into the job as well as she should.
3. She’s inordinately interested in sex, despite her best efforts not to be, hence the reason she feels inadequate to be the god’s high priestess, who is supposed to be pious and celibate. In fact, her desire has a voice of its own and often takes over situations, particularly once she’s reunited with Black Otter, whom her father married her to when she was a child.
4. Despite being the god’s high priestess and often having to participate in the priesthood’s ritual sacrifices, Quetzalpetlatl is quite squeamish about blood thanks to having seen her father’s body after he was murdered and mutilated by her uncle.
5. Quetzalpetlatl’s dearest wish is to marry Topiltzin, her half-brother whom she loves deeply, but she sacrifices that future to save him from a rampaging, incarnate god trying to kill him.
And so ends the memes. I’m supposed to tag some people to do these too, so I guess I will. They can do it if they want: Aliette de Bodard, J. Kathleen Cheney, Christopher Kastensmidt, Christopher Cevasco, and Douglas Cohen.
A lot of stuff said around Facebook and Twitter has got me thinking lately about my own lack of promotion on my book. Confession time: I intentionally don’t talk about my book very much because I’m afraid of a backlash of “OMG, she talks about her book so much! Ugh!” or because it feels immodest of me to do so. Somewhere along the line, I learned that modesty in general is a good thing, and bragging is unattractive and vulgar, particularly for a women, and I don’t want to be any of those things. And yet, if I never talk about my book, how will anyone know to buy it?
More confession time: my sales haven’t been good. They started off all right but they’ve slowed to a crawl. I know I need to do more promotion, get more word out about the book so that it can sell more, but gosh how that desire to not look like I’m bragging or begging for sales is so overwhelming. I love my book; I put blood, sweat and tears into it for 4 years, and I’m putting the same into the next two books, just on a shorter timeline.
Third confession time: when all the talk of diverse books, particularly SF/F was going around, I didn’t mention my book at all despite the fact that it has zero white people in it, takes place outside the normal pseudo-medieval European setting, and features a strong female lead. Why? Well, at the risk of repeating myself yet again…it feels immodest to mention my own accomplishments (not to mention the added fact that I’m a white woman writing about PoC–people like me get taken more seriously than PoC writing those same stories, so why bring extra attention to myself at the expense of PoC writers?).
This post by Kate Elliot brought all this frustration and fear to a head for me. I’m part of the problem; I write diverse books, and yet I’ve done so little to bring it to the attention of readers who might actually want to read what I write because “fear! I must not be immodest about my accomplishments. I must be silent and humble!” A publisher took a chance on my book, and I’m not paying that favor back very well. Well, fuck that shit. I wrote a book that people are looking for, the kind of book everyone has been talking about wanting to see more of, and it’s time they know about it. So I’m going to tell you about it.
My book, The Bone Flower Throne is a historical fantasy retelling of the myths of the legendary Toltec priest-king Topiltzin, told from the point of view of his half-sister, Quetzalpetlatl. Topiltzin is the blood son of the god Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, but Quetzalpetlatl herself is rather special, for the god gave her the ability to call on his powers when she needs it. And with her uncle having murdered her father, taken the throne of Culhuacan, and seeking to eliminate Topiltzin at every turn, she’s going to need those powers to protect them both as they grow up in exile.Winning back her father’s throne is only the first step in the god Quetzalcoatl’s grand plan to finally end human sacrifice in Mesoamerica. But her uncle has his own powerful, divine ally; the dark sorcerer god Smoking Mirror, who seeks to bring a new era of mass sacrifice as none have seen before. And only Quetzalpetlatl herself can stop him.
The book come with a warning though; it deals with a good number of triggery subjects: rape, incest, graphic violence, self-harm. While it’s a coming-of-age type story, it is by no means young adult (a lot of readers seem to go into it believing it is, because of the protag’s age at the beginning). Reviewers have made comparisons with Mists of Avalon (which feels so…squicky for me these days), so if you enjoyed that book, Bone Flower Throne just might be for you.
You can find links to the various vendors where you can buy it (in paperback or ebook) here: http://tlmorganfield.com/novel/the-bone-f
If you’ve read this far, I have a suggestion that I hope other authors will embrace: if you write diverse books, talk about them, loud and often. In fact, share this link to Kate’s post and spend some space talking about your book and selling the shit out of it. Especially if you’re a woman writer who has trouble promoting your own work. Let’s spread word of our diverse books far and wide. And make sure you include a link to where folks can buy your books! Let’s get the word out to readers!
So I’ve been very quiet lately over here, mostly because there’s not all that much to report. I turned in The Bone Flower Queen to my editor last month and am waiting on his edit letter, and I also finally finished up Fugitives of Fate and took the plunge, submitting it to two different publishers. This time I’m not bothering with trying to get an agent; I did attempt to do so last year, but there wasn’t any interest whatsoever in my first round of queries. There are a few digital-first romance publishers that I think would be open to my unusual setting, but they don’t pay high advances–if any at all–so it seems a waste of time to try to convince an agent to take me on at this point. Regardless of how it turns out with these publishers, this book will eventually be published, even if I decide to go it alone by self publishing; the book is good, but will likely be held back by the fact that it’s not your usual historical romance setting. I have no intention of letting it languish unpublished.
On the writing front, I’m current between projects while I wait to hear back from my editor on my synopsis of the final book of The Bone Flower Trilogy. I’ve been keeping busy in the meantime with reading and critiquing friends’ novels; I had two to do this month, and I’ve started on the second and hope to have it done in a few days. I’m also giving thought to my next alternate history romance novel. I may end up outlining that one after I finishing critiquing. I’m looking forward to getting back to some actual writing soon.
In case you haven’t been here to the website in a while, I’ve made some updates that might interest fans. I’ve posted a copy of my Big Idea essay–in which I talk about the core idea behind The Bone Flower Trilogy–and I’ve added a 50-question quiz to test your knowledge of The Bone Flower Throne. Most exciting though, I’ve added a page for The Bone Flower Queen, which includes an excerpt for readers, and you can browse the book’s Pinterest page. I’m looking into making a reader’s guide for BFT, but haven’t made a whole lot of progress on it at this point.
Artists, if you’ve been inspired to make art from The Bone Flower Throne (or any of my works, really), I’d love to see it! You can contact me via the contact page here, or you can drop me a note over on Facebook (though be aware that I might not see your message for a while since Facebook likes to drop stuff into the Other inbox and I often don’t look at that for weeks on end).
Historical fiction author–and former editor of my all-time favorite magazine Paradox: the Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction–Christopher M. Cevasco has invited me to participate in a blog hop, where I answer some questions so you can find out more about what I write, how I write, and why I write. You can read his fascinating answers over here at his blog.
As for my own answers, here we go!
What are you working on?
I’m currently working on two separate projects. My second novel The Bone Flower Queen–sequel to my historical fantasy The Bone Flower Throne–is due to my editor on June 1st of this year, so I’ll begin the final editing and rewriting stage on that shortly. The Bone Flower Trilogy is a retelling of the Pre-Columbian myths of the legendary priest-king Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, an Arthurian-type character who tried to outlaw human sacrifice in the Toltec Empire, but it’s told completely from the point of view of his sister, Quetzalpetlatl.
I’m also working on the final draft of Fugitives of Fate, an alternate history romance novel set in the Aztec empire. With the Spanish Conquest averted, the last Emperor of the Mexica–Cuauhtemoc–works with the infamous La Malinche to bring peace between the various native cities, and stand together again future foreign invasions. Had history unfolded as we know it, Cuauhtemoc and Malinche would have been enemies, but instead they end up fated lovers.
How does your work differ from others in its genre?
I write in a setting seldom done in fantasy, science fiction, or romance: Aztec history and mythology. There are some fantasy and science fiction works set in similar milieus–Aliette de Bodard and Chris Roberson come to mind–and some paranormal/time travel romances do visit ancient Mexico–namely the Maya civilization, but I’ve never found anything written–neither paranormal nor historical–written in the Aztec Empire, so I’m blazing my own trail with Fugitives of Fate. Fantasy has a tendency to linger in familiar pseudo-medieval European settings, but more and more readers are asking for more diverse settings and characters, asking for things they haven’t seen before, with strong female protagonists who aren’t defined by their physical strength or acting like men.
Why do you write what you do?
I’ve written a bit more in depth about this question already here, but on the most basic level, I have two passions in life: writing, and Aztec history and mythology, and I love combining the two. And because there isn’t that many books out there yet that present SF/F/Romance with Aztec culture, I’ve had to write the books I want to read. It’s also become a goal of mine to present a more nuanced and less stereotypical image of Aztec culture, particularly when it comes to human sacrifice. A lot of authors who use Aztec elements or characters tend to focus very heavily on human sacrifice–and often present it as an unequivocally evil practice, but I’m trying to not only present a different interpretation of human sacrifice, but also to focus on other, far more interesting cultural elements. It’s been difficult to not focus on human sacrifice in The Bone Flower Trilogy, given the myth it’s based upon, but it’s almost completely absent from Fugitives of Fate, and I plan to not mention it at all in any future alt history romances I write. There are so many other cultural accomplishments one could focus on when writing about the Aztecs (or the Maya): they were prolific architects, brilliant horticulturists, and accomplished astronomers. If I can show the reader a fuller, more nuanced world, I consider it mission accomplished.
How does your writing process work?
Oddly enough, both The Bone Flower Trilogy and Fugitives of Fate started as shorter fiction; BFT as a novelette and FoF as a novella, and I expanded them to novel length–or in the case of BFT to trilogy length. I work best with an outline, and even though I had the basic storyline worked out thanks to having written the shorter stories, I still needed to figure out the missing parts to fill it out more completely. I spend a couple days fleshing out the missing parts by doing research, to give me ideas; in the case of The Bone Flower Trilogy, it was rereading the various myths about Topiltzin and picking out new elements I wanted to incorporate, while in the case of Fugitives of Fate, I brushed up on the political history between Tenochtitlan and Tlaxcala, and Tlaxcala’s role in the Conquest, to figure out how the various leaders fit into my new historical scheme.
With my outline in hand, I then crank out a first draft. I like November for doing this, because I find NaNoWriMo to be a good motivator for me, but I can’t wait around all year for that (or Camp NaNoWriMo in the summer), and so will set a deadline for myself and endeavor to keep it. Since I like the daily word counter that NaNoWriMo uses, my loving husband made me an Excel spreadsheet that does the exact same thing. I can typically plow through to a finished draft in three month, sometimes less–I finished the first draft of Fugitives of Fate in twenty-eight days. I never show anyone my first drafts; I let the muse dump anything it likes in, just to see what will happen, so there’s tons of plot holes, over-explaining, character acting out of character, and sudden changes of focus halfway through the book. I work best with something to edit and rewrite, even if it’s completely broken and fractured.
After letting it sit for a few weeks, I do a second draft, focusing on fixing plot holes, streamlining characters and cutting word count. Once I’ve got something I’m comfortable with, I send it off to my critique group, to get their thoughts and suggestions; I have two critique groups, one for science fiction and fantasy manuscripts, and one that focuses on historical romance; it’s important to find critiquers who are familiar with the specific genres I write in so they can make informed comments on my use of conventions and how my manuscript fits in with market expectations.
Finally, with critiques in hand, I do another draft; sometimes it’s a major rewrite while other times it’s just some plot and character tweaking, and fixing weak prose. Then it’s off to my editor and I give it no more thought until he sends me his edit letter.
Thank you Christopher Cevasco for inviting me to participate in this blog hop, and in the spirit of keeping this going, I’ve invited horror writer Stant Litore to join in with his answers to these same questions. He will post his answers on his blog on April 21st. Here’s a bit about him:
STANT LITORE is the author of the acclaimed Zombie Bible series, as well as the novella The Dark Need (part of the Dead Man series). He has an intense love of ancient languages, a fierce admiration for his ancestors, and a fascination with religion and history. He has a PhD in English, and he doesn’t consider his writing a vocation so much as an act of survival. Litore lives in Colorado with his wife and two daughters and is at work on his next book.
So I have some upcoming online events that readers can participate in. Firstly, on Wednesday March 5th, Bryan Thomas Schmidt will “twinterview” me, meaning we’ll gather on Twitter and he will ask me questions about The Bone Flower Throne and writing. Come join us at 7pm mountain time at #sffwrtcht and ask me the questions you’ve been dying to ask. Be sure to use the hashtag #sffwrtcht when you participate so I can see your questions.
Secondly, I’ve joined authors Stant Litore and Arwen Elys Dayton in a free book promotion called Fantasy Across the Continents, Fantasy Across Time. To enter, visit Stant’s website and sign up for his newsletter, and he will randomly pick three entrants to receive complimentary copies of all three of our books in US Kindle editions (so it’s only open to US residents). All three books are historical fantasy set in unusual times and places: 10th century Mexico, Gospel-era Jerusalem, and ancient Egypt. The contest ends March 7th.
Tezcatlipoca the Smoking Mirror gets a pretty bad rap in The Bone Flower Throne, though I think that changes some with the next book, where we get to see more of him “in the flesh”. I just found this small animated movie about Tezcatlipoca, done in the style of Fantasia, and it’s both charming and beautiful. I wish it went on further than it does (and brought in Quetzalcoatl as well), but I couldn’t help but smile while watching it.
Yesterday was America’s biggest sports day, Super Bowl Sunday, and as a Broncos fan, it was a miserable time. But there was one good thing that happened yesterday: while skimming my Facebook news feed during the game, I found a very cool video of the Mesoamerican ritual ballgame. To the Aztecs it was known as Tlachtli, and if you look at it strictly from a popularity point of view, it was their equivalent of football. People were known to lose everything they owned betting on this game, and it was a sport enjoyed by both the poorest and richest alike. The game had great religious meaning as well; the Ritual Ballgame was the favorite sport of the gods, and the Mayan Hero Twins were famous for having taken on the gods and beaten them.
The Ritual Ballgame plays an important part at one point in The Bone Flower Throne, to determine which of two brothers will inherit the throne of Xochicalco after their father dies. The one in the video linked below is played by slightly different rules, but the basic rules was that players couldn’t touch the rubber ball with either hands or feet while it was in play, and they often wore specialized yokes and elbow and knee pads to make it easier to bounce the ball around. In BFT, the players aren’t allowed to let the ball hit the ground nor could they climb the walls of the field, whereas in the game in the video both of those are allowed.
Click here to see the video (unfortunately the owner doesn’t allow embedding)
To find out more about the Ritual Ballgame, this website is a particularly good resource.
The good news is it’s time to prepare for award nominations, and hey, I have something eligible this year! If you’re planning to nominate for either the Nebula or the Hugo (or any other award for novels) I hope you will consider my debut novel The Bone Flower Throne. It’s a feminist retelling of the stories of Mesoamerica’s most famous cultural hero, Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, told from the POV of his sister, Quetzalpetlatl. To learn more, and read the first chapter, head on over to the book’s page.
The bad news is that I was terrible reader last year (I read only nine books in total), and I didn’t read anything newly published, so I have nothing of anyone else’s to recommend. I feel very bad about this. But my resolution this year is to read more books, and this is the perfect opportunity to do some Nebula and Hugo reading. However, I want to read only novels, because I love novels, and it will help me accomplish my Goodreads goal. So authors, show me your fantasy and science fiction novels that are eligible for the Hugos and/or the Nebulas! Don’t be shy; if you published a novel last year, whether traditionally, small press, or self-published, I want to know about it.
In the comments, please post a bit about your novel along with links to your webpage or where I can download a sample/buy it. And if you know someone who published a SF/F novel last year, please prod them into coming here and telling me (and my readers) about it. I would like to have a nice long list of stuff to keep me busy. Please do not post about short fiction, novelettes or novellas.
I’m very much looking forward to reading your stuff!
Note: including a lot of links could land your post in the spam folder, but I’ll be monitoring it to make sure all legitimate posts go live.
Note 2: All comments must be made over at the Wordpress website.
So last year proved a most exciting year on the writing front. I sold my first novel in January and saw it hit bookshelves by mid October. My first royalty check is due sometime this month, so we’ll see how well it’s done on the selling front.
I’m a little less than halfway through the first draft of the next book in the series, but other than that, I did finish multiple drafts of an alternate history romance novel. I did query a couple of agents but had zero interest–as usual, I suspect that I’m writing stuff that traditional publishing finds unmarketable, so I just might decide to either go small press again, or even consider self-publishing it once I get a final draft done. I did submit to a couple contests and got some feedback, so there is some work to do on it before it’s truly ready for world. There’s no rush though.
On the reading front, I did really pathetic; I read a total of nine books last year, which is just unacceptable, so I’m aiming for more this year. I’m no longer going to put reading on hold while I write and will instead try to read at least an hour a day, before bed. I would like to clear out all the books languishing on my current reading list on Goodreads and start reading some stuff on my wishlist. I think reading more will also help me stay creative on the writing side, since it seemed that I really struggled with getting progress made later in the year when I wasn’t actually reading anything. This year has started off strong though, and I’ve already plowed through two books I had started last year (or, in one case, two years ago) and marked off two on my goal of 15. If the reading is going well, I just might increase that goal, but for now I’m aiming to be reading with more regularity than I did last year.
I hope everyone had a good holiday season and the new year is looking good.