All posts by John Scalzi

About John Scalzi

I enjoy pie.

The Big Idea: Sebastien de Castell

Author Sebastien de Castell dislikes knights — well, dislike may be too mild a word for it — and loves justice. Does that sound mildly contradictory to you? De Castell explains why it is not, and how his novel Traitor’s Blade aims for that justice through a new and unexpected class of hero.

SEBASTIEN de CASTELL:

I hate knights.

How is it that the biggest bunch of self-involved bullies in all of European history became the most prominent heroes in fantasy literature? These are the same brutish and brutal thugs who murdered, raped, and pillaged their way across Europe and the Middle East in the name of God (thanks a lot, Pope Urban II). Which pre-Madison Avenue public relations firm managed to convince us that knights – I mean, fucking  knights – were the paragons of honour and virtue in the Middle Ages?

Were there any  good knights? Sure. William Marshall, sometimes called the ‘Flower of Chivalry’ was probably an alright fellow, but he’s the exception that proves the rule. The vast majority of medieval knighthood was made up of noble-born thugs whose most positive contribution to society was due to the occasional accidental death that comes from charging at each other with long sticks on horseback for the entertainment of slack-jawed yokels.

The hell with knights. I’d rather write about heroes.

That little rant is what launched me into writing  Traitor’s Blade. I wanted characters that I could see myself rooting for–men and women without the advantages of wealth or military power who fought in service to an ideal rather than a particular church or nobleman or even their own personal honour. In other words, I wanted my main characters, Falcio, Kest, and Brasti, to be the opposite of knights.

I took my starting point from the  justices itinerant of England’s twelfth and thirteenth centuries. These were magistrates, appointed by the King and commanded to travel from village to village to hear cases, pass judgments, and ensure verdicts were upheld. A similar phenomenon existed in the United States, especially along the frontiers. In fact, Abraham Lincoln spent much of his early law career on horseback, travelling alongside a judge (the actual term ‘circuit court’ comes from the designated routes of these wandering magistrates.)

I was fascinated by how dangerous a life being a  justice itinerant might be. What happens when a baron or count decides he doesn’t like your verdict? Which way might the local knight or sheriff sway when his financial wellbeing is in the hands of the man you’re ruling against? Worst of all, what happens when the sovereign who appointed you dies? Those questions became the basis of the Greatcoats – the wandering magistrates of  Traitor’s Blade who dedicate their lives to bringing justice to those living under the capricious rule of the nobility only to be disbanded when the king who appointed them is deposed and killed.

With  Traitor’s Blade, I wanted to explore the struggle to keep alive an idealistic view of the law that is at odds with the very foundations of a feudal society. This meant recognizing that, while Falcio, Kest, and Brasti might be heroes to me, they wouldn’t be seen that way by the majority of the population in the world in which they live. Where the knights are admired and respected as military men in service to the will of the gods (which, miraculously, tends to align with the interests of the nobles who employ them), the Greatcoats are despised by the nobility and often reviled even by the peasantry who see them as having failed to bring the justice they promised.

Creating these anti-knights also meant thinking about tactical considerations. Where knights are designed for war, especially mounted combat, the Greatcoats are trained to be expert duellists. In a society like Tristia, the fictional country in which the novel is set, trial by combat is an idea that is ingrained into the culture. It made sense that the men and women who had to hear cases and render judgments might often need to uphold their verdict at the point of a sword. So while the knights wear heavy armour, the  Greatcoats wear, well,  coats - long, leather coats with thin bone plates sewn inside to provide some measure of defence against the weapons of their enemies while still being light enough to manoeuvre in for extended periods of time.  This also fit with the Greatcoats’ need to travel long distances at speed and be protected from the elements. Their coats contain dozens of hidden pockets with little tricks and traps and chemicals to help them survive the dangers faced by those whose role is in direct conflict with the powerful in society.

The more time I spent envisioning the Greatcoats, the more I found myself searching for other adaptations to the way laws are administered in a corrupted feudal society. Verdicts need to be remembered in order to be upheld and a large portion of the population in a country like Tristia would be illiterate. So the Greatcoats set their rulings to the tune of songs that people know – making it easier for people to remember. Verdicts also need people willing to do what’s necessary to uphold them, and so the gold buttons on the coats could be used to pay twelve men and women who would act as a kind of long-term jury and ensure the ruling was upheld after the Greatcoat left.

The process of developing a new societal role inside of a more traditional fantasy setting was without doubt one of the most fun parts of building the world of  Traitor’s Blade. I doubt that the historical  justices itinerant were much like my Greatcoats, just as the knights of European history have little in common with their modern portrayals. But I like to think that there was a spark of that idealism in those who once wandered the long roads in an effort to bring the machinery of justice to those who lived far outside the protection of the courts.

—-

Traitor’s Blade: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

An Interesting Quandary

I went over to Scribd and discovered that several titles of mine were on the site without my permission, which gave me an opportunity to try out Scribd’s DMCA reporting form and process. I’m happy to say that Scribd seems to be doing a fine job on that score: The elapsed time from report to removal of the content was about ten minutes. That works for me.

However, one title of mine, The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies, I haven’t requested to be taken down yet. It’s not up on the site by permission of the publisher, because among other things, the book is currently out of print and the rights have reverted to me. I certainly haven’t given permission for the book to be there, either.

But as noted, the book is currently out of print — there might be a few copies still in bookstores, but not enough to represent any major economic benefit to me at this point, and no more are going to be made. I retain the rights to the work and may eventually do something with the contents of the book, but at the moment I don’t really have any solid plans. Which means that although the text is there illegally (and I can have it taken down), at the same time it’s not actually doing me any economic harm to have it up there, either. It’s not stealing sales from me because as an out of print book there are no sales to steal.

And so my position on it is kinda: Meh. I took down the books of mine that are still in print; if you want them, please pay for them or borrow them from a friend or your local library, that what bookstores, libraries and friends are for. But the out of print ones? For now I’m content to leave them out there. If I ever do get around to doing something with the text I might change my mind. Or I might change my mind because I’m mercurial. Until then, though, if you see The Rough Guide to Sci-Fi Movies on Scribd or anywhere else, have fun with it.

My Detcon1 Schedule

I’ll be at the Detcon1 convention this upcoming weekend, Detcon1 being the North American Science Fiction Convention for the year (and the NASFiC being the convention that gets run in the US/Canada when the Worldcon is on a different continent). It’s in Detroit, downtown. It’s not too late to come along — it should be a fine convention, not in the least because I will be DJing an 80s dance at it. Yes! Me! Finally, all those years of dance training will pay off! Or something!

In fact, here’s my whole schedule for the weekend:

Thursday, July 17

5pm: A Renaissance for Science Fiction

Chuck Von Nordheim (moderator), Saladin Ahmed, Anne Harris, John Scalzi, Ellen Denham, Carrie Patel

Our panelists discuss the theme of Poul Anderson’s Detention Guest of Honor Speech: authors should create “not merely clever variations on a theme, but stories which are about people and about science and about history and about art and about philosophy and about the way a mountain looks at twilight when the stars are just coming forth. That kind of science fiction is entertaining.”

Friday, July 18

2pm: Dealing with Bad Apples

Steven H Silver (moderator), Tim Miller, Mark Oshiro, Jesi Pershing, Diana M. Pho,John Scalzi

Trolls, creepers, or just plain jerks. We’ve all encountered them at cons and online. Panelists discuss tools–like comment moderation and harassment policies–for keeping foul and prejudiced people from chasing others out of our community spaces, events, and organizations. And what to do when “they” are “us.”

3pm: Fanzines and Professional Writing

Steven H Silver (moderator), Nicki Lynch, Roger Sims, Jim C. Hines, John Scalzi

At Detention a discussion by the editors of amateur magazines was sparked by Ed Wood asking, “Why weren’t fanzines as good as they once were and why were their writers no longer becoming top quality pros very often?” The panel lasted from about 11 p.m. Sunday until 4:30 a.m. What is the state of fanzines today? How have digital formats affected fanzines? What role do they have now in the career of a professional writer, especially compared to 50 years ago?

4pm: Reading: Carey/Scalzi

Jacqueline Carey, John Scalzi

Jacqueline Carey and John Scalzi read from their work.

Saturday, July 19

12pm: The Other Worldbuilding Panel: Gaming

Jon Davis (moderator), Mike Substelny, John Scalzi, Carrie Patel

Our panelists discuss worldbuilding techniques for video games, focusing on how stories are developed and told for interactive software titles.

10pm: ’80s Dance with DJ Scalzi!

Join DJ Scalzi for a retro dance. Wear your ’80s on your sleeve!

Sunday, July 20

12pm: Creators and Brand Identity

Beverly Bambury (moderator), Martin L. Shoemaker, Sean Mead, John Scalzi

Neil Gaiman. John Scalzi. Would they be mid-list authors in a world without the Internet? Can you be famous in 2014 only by writing or making art? How does a creator build a brand?

I’ll note that for the 80s dance I have (I think) two hours for the dance, and 22 hours worth of music ready on my dance playlist. Because I believe in overpreparation. It’s gonna be fun.

I should also note that there is supposed to be a mass autographing session at 8pm on Friday. I am likely to be there if you wish to have books signed.

When I am not at panels or events, I am likely to be in the bar, per tradition. Feel free to say hello!

See you at Detcon1, I hope.

Lock In on the August 2014 LibraryReads List

This is a nice way to start the week: Every month, librarians pick the 10 books they are most looking forward to, out of all the books published that month, in the Library Reads List. And for August, Lock In is one of them. That’s really cool. Note that the Library Reads List is across all genres, not just science fiction and fantasy, which makes it even cooler — it’s nice to be peered with every kind of fiction (also on the list for August: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. Awesome).

There’s more happy news for Lock In coming, but I’m waiting to find out when I can share it. When I can, I will. In the meantime, this is certainly more than good enough. It’s a lovely thing to know librarians like your book.

The Lowest Difficulty Setting in Action

I noted a couple of years ago that Straight White Male is the lowest difficulty setting in the game called life (in particular the Western civilization variant of it). This annoyed many a straight white male, who didn’t see his life as being particularly “easy.” Noting that “lowest difficulty” is not the same as “easy” did not assuage this agitation. And well, I can understand it: If you genuinely think your life sucks — and it may! — it may be hard to imagine that you still get advantages other folks don’t.

So maybe this will help: A 25-year study followed the experience of nearly 800 children in Baltimore, from first grade into adulthood. Half their families were low income, many with parents who had not finished high school; 40% of those low-income kids were white.

A couple of relevant points from the article:

Looking at where these children started in life and where they ended up, the study results are troubling but clear: At 28, hardly any of the children from a disadvantaged background, black or white, had finished college.

But even without the benefit of a college degree, whites, and white men especially, had vastly better employment outcomes. At every age, the white men experienced shorter spells of unemployment, were more likely to be working full-time and earned more.

And:

[T]he consequences have been especially dire for African-Americans. As young adults, African-American men had fared much worse than whites in the job market, even though they and their white counterparts had about the same levels of education and the whites reported higher rates of marijuana and heavy drug use and binge drinking…

Indeed, throughout the course of our study, it was clear that African- Americans face greater barriers to employment. Having an arrest record or failing to complete high school were less consequential for white men than for African-American men: 84% of whites without a high school degree were employed at 22; among African Americans, just 40% were.

And this is the point of the lowest difficulty setting metaphor. It isn’t that folks who are straight, and white, and male, can’t or don’t find themselves on the bottom rungs of the socio-economic ladder. They can and do, and there’s no doubt that it sucks. But even then, they can catch some breaks that others — in this particular study, black men — don’t (or don’t catch as often).

Which is to say: Even as much as your life blows, straight white dude, the black dude in exactly the same situation is likely to have it worse. And not because of anything he (or you) did. Just because it’s the way things are.

This study applies specifically to Baltimore, it appears, and factors in Baltimore’s own history of racial and cultural biases. But I would not in the least be surprised if other studies in other major cities across the US (at least) cropped up similar data. Baltimore is not exactly unique in terms of its racial dynamics. Nor does it seem that the authors of the study would be surprised; the sales copy of the book the above article is based upon notes: “[Baltimore's] struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.”

Now, bear in mind that when I said “maybe this will help,” that I don’t actually expect the sort of straight white man who fervently believes that is life is harder than anyone else’s, harder than anyone else can possibly imagine, and that society is even now feasting upon his set-upon bones, will pause to consider the data above. For that sort of dude, mere data are not nearly enough in the face of certain belief. For everyone else, including the straight white males who aren’t already conflating their own personal unhappiness with society squishing straight white men in general like bugs, this might be useful.

(Here’s another take on the data, at Science Daily (but largely written, it appears, by Johns Hopkins’ PR folks). There’s more in the study than just the one aspect I’m highlighting here, all of which are pretty interesting.)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Quick Review

It’s very good. As others have noted, it’s probably the smartest franchise film of the summer, which could be textbook damning with faint praise, but isn’t. It’s also probably more accurately titled Dawn of the Planet Where Paranoid Assholes Really Have Done Their Level Best to Ruin Everything, which means, obviously, one could easily read lots of parallels into the real world into it. It’s not exactly a cheerful film, is what I’m saying. But well-written, well-acted, well-directed. It’s worth your time.

On a technical note, there’s not a moment in the film that I spent thinking about the fact I was looking at CGI apes, which given the number of the apes on screen, and the amount of screentime the apes have, is pretty remarkable. Credit here is split equally between the screen-capped actors (Andy Serkis most notably, but also many others) and the effects folks. We’re on the other side of the Uncanny Valley of the Planet of the Apes.

(Note: I saw the film in 2D, not 3D. It works very well in 2D; I suspect the extra dimension isn’t really necessary or even desirable.)

How I am Spending My Saturday

I’m signing signature sheets for the Subterranean Press limited signed edition of Unlocked. The amount you see there is what I’ve signed so far; subtract that from the height of the box to the right, and the height of what you have left over is how much I have yet to sign. So the day will consist of me watching movies while I sign my name more than a thousand times. I’ll be pacing myself so I don’t end up being a hand cramp attached to a body. There are worse lives to have.

Hope your Saturday is awesome. See you tomorrow.

This is How You Handle Arbitrary Milestones on Social Media

And now you know. Go ye forth and do likewise.

Relevant to Recent Discussions

FTC alleges Amazon unlawfully billed parents for millions of dollars in children’s unauthorized In-App charges.

To quote myself: “[B]usinesses and corporations are not your friends. They will seek to extract the maximum benefit from you that they can, and from others with whom they engage in business, consistent with their current set of business goals. This does not make them evil — it makes them business entities (they might also be evil, or might not be, but that’s a different thing).”

Note that Amazon can and may fight this in court. Alternately, it may choose to settle out of court, admitting no wrong, and change its in-app policies consistent to what the FTC wants from them. Which will it choose? I expect whichever one is (all together now) consistent with its current set of business goals.

 

My First Job and What it Paid

Via Jim Romenesko, a question from The Billfold Web site about what people’s first jobs were and what they paid, and what that particular job pays now. Romenesko’s spin on the question involves journalism (because his site is focused on that field) and as it happens, that’s where my first post-college job was.

My first job as an adult, as many of you know, was as the movie critic for the Fresno Bee newspaper, a job I started in September of 1991 and left in February 1996. I got the job directly out of college (I was 22, making me the youngest full-time professional film critic in the United States at the time), and it’s not a knock on me to suggest that I was hired not only for my writing skills but also the fact that I could be gotten for super-cheap: My first year salary was something along the lines of $22,400 dollars, or about $430 a week, before taxes, etc.

And how did I live on $22.4k a year? Pretty well, actually. For one thing, I was a movie critic, which meant that a lot of my entertainment cost — i.e., going to movies — was taken care of. Likewise, working at a newspaper meant one could pick over the scads of entertainment product sent for review (books, CDs and so on), so the cost of those was also reduced. Also, I lived in Fresno, which is the butt of many jokes in California, but if you’re a 22-year-old making not a lot, also contained a lot of amenities of a large town (its population was 350,000 then and about 500,000 now) for a substantially lower cost of living than other large cities in the Golden State. Add it all up (plus the fact that I did not have expensive habits, like smoking or heroin), and I did okay for myself on not a lot of cash.

I don’t know how much the position is worth now — currently the Bee has one person, Rick Bentley, as both the film and television critic — but I certainly hope he’s making more than I was when I started. This survey suggests that journalists who enter into the field with a bachelor’s degree (which I did, although not in a journalism-related field) see a media salary of about $28,500 (or did in 2012, anyway). Adjusted for inflation, that’s quite a bit lower than what my $22.4k in 1991 was. Which sucks, but then: Welcome to journalism in the second decade of the 21st Century.

I’m happy to say that these days I make more than $22.4k a year.

(PS: My very first first job was working at Del Taco in Glendora when I was 16, for minimum wage. I came home every night smelling of lard and refried beans. I lasted about six weeks. That experience as much as anything else in the world convinced me to get an education beyond high school, because, seriously, lard smell, man.)

So: Your first job? Talk about it in the comments, if you like.

The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson

There’s a system to things — especially magic. Why is there a system, and what is its function in telling a story? D.B. Jackson has a few thoughts on the matter, and how it matters to his latest colonial-era fantasy novel, A Plunder of Souls.

D.B. JACKSON:

Creating magic systems is to writing fantasy what learning scales is to playing guitar or piano. It’s a fundamental, a basic skill that fantasy writers learn early on. Of course every magic system is at least somewhat unique — we all strive for originality when building our worlds and imbuing them with the powers that will become vital tools for our characters as our narratives unfold. But there are certain elemental principles of creating a magic system to which just about every author adheres: make sure the act of using magic carries some cost; place some limits on what magic and those who wield it can do; and above all, keep the magic consistent. Just as we cannot escape the natural laws that govern life in our real world — gravity, conservation of mass, Newtonian laws of motion, etc. — there should be no escaping the laws that govern our imagined systems of magic.

Except . . .

One doesn’t have to read much fantasy to realize that trying to escape the limits we place on our magic systems is just about the only thing our characters do, particularly the villainous (read “interesting”) ones. They seek more power than they ought to have, or they try to escape the costs we’ve so carefully built into the systems, or they seek to create new rules that apply only to themselves. Our heroes are then forced to find innovative ways to stop them, and invariably those heroes wind up bending the rules as well.

Notice I said “bending” and not “breaking.” Because more often than not the ultimate act of heroism lies not in sheer power, but in ingenuity, in finding some unexpected way to overcome the villain within the very constraints of the magic system that the antagonist hopes to evade. It’s a tried and true plot device that one can find not only in books, but also in movies and television, not only in fantasy, but also in science fiction. (Think of Data’s Moriarty on Star Trek: TNG, plying Doctor Pulaski with crumpets and extending his reach beyond the confines of the Holodeck to very nearly take command of the Enterprise.)

In A Plunder of Souls, the third novel in my historical urban fantasy series, the Thieftaker Chronicles, my conjuring, thieftaking hero, Ethan Kaille, takes on a villain who seeks to gather more power for himself than any conjurer ought to have. “Magick” in my version of pre-Revolutionary Boston, exists at the boundary between the living world and the realm of the dead. Every conjurer has a guide — the ghost of an ancestor who was also a conjurer — who helps him or her access that source of power. And so my villain, Nate Ramsey, has desecrated the graves of the recently deceased, placed his mark upon the corpses, and claimed them as soldiers in a ghostly army. With this force, he seeks to prevent others from casting spells, leaving himself as not merely the most powerful conjurer the world has known, but as the one person in the world who can cast spells.

It’s both a familiar idea and a big one. Familiar because it works: authors in our genre have used a thousand variations on this theme to create gripping and compelling narratives. Big because it taps into something central to human nature: the corrupting influence that can emanate from any sort of power. Ramsey is already a skilled conjurer, but in addition to being brilliant, he’s also cruel, a bit mad, and bent on avenging the death of his father.

More, he hopes to bend the laws of nature just as he does the laws of magic, so that his mastery of the realm of the dead will allow him to return his father to the world of the living. He refuses to accept that his reanimated father would be an abomination, something neither living nor dead and certainly nothing like the man who raised him. He seeks to master death, and is so drunk with the notion of doing so that he can’t see beyond the realization of his twisted aims.

It was no accident that I sought to have Ramsey violate both natural and magical law. As I’ve said already, in creating my magic systems I seek to make them elemental, so that they are as constant and inviable as nature itself. Equating Ramsey’s magical ambitions with his desire to resurrect his father reinforces not only the dark elements of his character, but also the worldbuilding I have done to make Colonial Boston into a setting that is both historically convincing and fantastical. I should add here that all of this is happening within the context of a growing movement for liberty within the colonies, and a smallpox epidemic spreading through Boston. It also bears mentioning that Ramsey’s attempts to enhance his power, and the magical battles in which he engages with Ethan are pretty frickin’ cool, if I do say so myself. “Familiar,” certainly isn’t meant to imply “humdrum.”

But the greater point is this: in order to thwart Ramsey’s scheme, Ethan must venture down a path that is nearly as dark as the one Ramsey has followed. He, too, must disturb the graves of the dead and attempt spells that, while still conforming to the established rules of my magic system, test the boundaries of that system in ways that would have been unthinkable to him only a short while before. Even if he succeeds (and you’ll have to read the book to find out if he does), and even if the integrity of the magic system is reaffirmed, there is bound to be a cost. Already, Ramsey’s actions have exposed unexpected vulnerabilities; other conjurers of comparable skill, harboring similar ambitions, might test it further, requiring my hero to be even more creative next time around.

As I say, this stretching of the magic system is a plot device that is at once familiar and effective. It tests our worldbuilding, forces our characters to innovate and grow, and challenges us to take our narratives in directions we might not have anticipated. And that’s why it’s not only a big idea, but also a fun one.

—-

A Plunder of Souls: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Read the author’s blog. Follow him on Twitter.

Dayton Appearance 8/2, Unlocked and Lock In Reviews and the Proverbial More

Things to announce and/or note today:

1. If you’re in the Dayton, Ohio area of things, and you want to see me do my thing prior to my book tour appearance in September, I will be at the Beavercreek Barnes & Noble on Saturday, August 2nd at 2pm. What will I do there? I will read! Probably from Lock In but also from other things. Also I will answer questions! Assuming anyone has any. And I will sign books! Which you can buy at that very bookstore, if such is your joy. I’ll be using this as a practice run for my book tour, so please come and watch me prepare. It’ll be fun. Promise.

2. There’s a quite nice review of Unlocked in Publishers Weekly this week, calling it a “skillfully written novella about one of the most fascinating SF scenarios created in recent years.” I am pleased. This review is tied into the Subterranean Press limited signed hardcover edition, so this is a fine place to remind you that this edition is coming, has a fantastic cover by Molly Crabapple, and that you can pre-order it right now. Also remember that if you can’t see me on my book tour, you can pre-order Lock In from SubPress, and when it arrives at your door, it will be signed by me.

3. Speaking of Lock In, a positive review of the book from SFReview.net is up, calling the novel “the kind of book a young Crichton might have delivered in his Andromeda Strain heyday.” I’ll take that. There’s also a video review of the book at the bottom of the linked review.

4. SFWA has reprinted my entry on self-publishing and Yog’s Law, so if you missed it the first time and don’t want to bother scrolling back, here it is over there. Enjoy.

The Big Idea: Mary E. Pearson

The Beatles once said that love is all you need. This may or may not be the truth, but Mary E. Pearson certainly found love useful and applicable when writing her latest novel, The Kiss of Deception. She’s here now to tell you how love made this particular world go ’round.

MARY E. PEARSON:

I’ll just get this out up front. Love. The big idea is love. Unabashed, unapologetic, sweeping, passionate love.

Don’t tune out, guys. You don’t get a pass here. The ladies may be more verbal about it, and may express it differently, but guys are the far more romantic of the species. Trust me, you are. You love love. You just don’t talk about it as much. Women tend to be more verbal about it because we have to be. Historically, love has always been a riskier proposition for women than men. We need to muse about it. We have far more to lose. It’s a survival thing you know?

All right. Hate. The big idea is about hate too. (Happy?) Because it seems these two are the indestructible duo—the timeless driving forces of the human experience. Kingdoms may fall, stars may implode, suns fizzle out, and monuments tumble, but love and hate abide.

I didn’t pull this out of thin air. Watching the news, watching mistakes repeated, watching people, both men and women, gaining rights and losing them again, seeing the world take two steps forward and two steps back, it made me think about how much the world has changed but also how much it has stayed the same. We repeat history over and over again. Kind of a scary thought. We aren’t that much different than Cleopatra and Mark Antony pining for each other, or Alexander the Great leading ancient armies to conquer other kingdoms.

Together, this dynamic duo become the driving force of my book, under a new moniker—the things that last.

When I first proposed this series to my editor I wrote down about fifteen or so musings that were rambling around in my head aching to become a story. I don’t usually do that, but after having written many books I’ve grown accustomed to the frequent question about what inspired me. Months and years later, often it’s hard to pinpoint just one thing because a lot of inspirations can jump in once you begin writing a book. So obviously for me, there were many ideas that were scrambling for my attention, but the things that last seemed to compliment and encompass them all.

So, now how to write about this. Love and hate and the things that last are pretty big vague things to write about. Shrug. Who cares? Unless they have faces.  Unless they live and breathe and hope and dream, and conspire just like us. It all begins and ends with character.

Enter Lia. A pawn. Used. Powerless, even if she appears to be in a position of influence as a princess in the kingdom of Morrighan. Most importantly, her voice is suppressed. More than anything she wants to speak out and be heard, but her voice doesn’t matter. She is valued for other purposes. And then the most basic right, to marry someone of her own choice, is taken from her. Instead of being forced into a loveless marriage that would certainly be the seal on her silence, she runs.

But Lia is also living in the ruins of a forgotten world where hate, in all its incarnations is rearing its ugly head in the form of power and greed. Three large kingdoms are all vying for power, and even though she tries to begin a new anonymous life, Lia is still caught in the middle of the power struggle. She can’t escape it. The one thing that offers some light to her, is love, or the hope for it.

The story is written from three viewpoints, Lia’s, Rafe’s, and Kaden’s, and I thought it only fair that all three manifest both of these driving forces. We can’t possibly believe it’s only the “other guy or girl” who harbors hate—even most villains want some measure of love—maybe in fact, that’s their problem, they want all of it.

Okay, now cue in the fifteen things I mentioned above—they all play a critical role in the story—concepts of time, oral histories, perfect disasters, dormant genes, vanished cultures, the mysteries we’ll never know, and especially the setting, but they all are seamed in with the big idea. Yes, my head was sometimes exploding.

As I wrote, I saw the sweeping bigness to the hate, its carnage, the immensity and breadth of its reach in all its incarnations of greed, power, and control. It surprised me. I mean, hello, I’m the one writing the story, and this is what I wanted to write about, the things that last, but it made me sad how true it felt. It made me wonder at just what point does any human being stop being able to care about anyone else but themselves?

But there was the love story. It was the balance. Its power seemed so small by comparison. Fragile, intimate, naïve, stumbling, sometimes stupid, but with all the hope of two oceans.

And maybe that’s why it’s one of the things that lasts too.

The Kiss of Deception has been called high fantasy.  I suppose it is.  There are princes, princesses, warring kingdoms, and what is perceived to be a touch of magic. But I will say this, it fits into at least two other genres as well. I guess when you’re dealing with something that spans millennia like the things that last, an author is bound to overstep a boundary or two.

—-

The Kiss of Deception: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s blog. Follow her on Twitter.