Author Archives: Erica Cameron

About Erica Cameron

Erica Cameron knew that writing was her passion when she turned a picture book into a mystery novella as a teen. That piece wasn’t her best work, but it got her an A. After college, she used her degree in Psychology and Creative Writing to shape a story about a dreamworld. Then a chance encounter at a rooftop party in Tribeca made her dream career a reality. Sing Sweet Nightingale will be published in March 2014 by Spencer Hill Press. It is her first novel.

Coming Up Aces: The Many Facets of a Monolith

Despite centuries of study, humanity has never been very good at understanding itself. We try, but it seems like we get in our own way more often than not. This is true in a lot of respects, but today I’m going to focus on assumptions based on the so-called “biological imperative” and an aspect of human psychology that has only recently began gaining attention—Asexuality. 

I want to explain the spectrum of asexuality as best I can because, since discovering asexuality in 2014 and slowly espousing it, I’ve had numerous conversations in person and online about the orientation. The assumptions I’ve heard people express after learning about my asexuality usually display not only ignorance of the orientation, but the belief that there’s only one way an individual experiences it. 

Asexuality is categorized by a lack of sexual attraction to other people regardless of gender, aesthetics, personality, or other characteristics. It’s an orientation (truly and really), and like other orientations, it’s predicated upon physical, sexual, and psychological attraction, not sex acts of any sort. 

That distinction between attraction and sex is incredibly important. Attraction is about the pull someone feels toward another human, the feeling of seeing someone and wanting to know what they look like without clothes on. Or seeing someone already naked and wanting to do something more than look at them. At least, that’s how it’s portrayed in the media and been described to me. For me and others on the asexual spectrum, these feelings occur in frequency somewhere between rarely and never.

Sex is a physical activity including one or more people, and from what I’ve seen in movies, books, and life, sex in no way requires people be attracted to each other. They don’t even seem required to like each other. This is why it’s a fallacy to make asexuality and having sex mutually exclusive.

The relationship an asexual-spectrum (ace-spec) person has with sex is as unique as people themselves are. Some asexual people (aces) enjoy sex the same way they enjoy running, as an enjoyable physical activity they can enjoy alone or with partners. Some like to read about it, but please don’t make them watch or participate in it. Some aces find the thought of being intimately touched disgusting to the point of nausea. 

Truly, the range of experiences and preferences within the asexual spectrum is just as diverse as those within any other orientation group, but most allosexuals (anyone who experiences sexual attraction of any kind) get stuck on the “I’m not attracted to anyone” part of the definition. They equate it in their head to “I’ve never had sex and don’t plan on ever having it ever,” which seems to be inconceivable to them, and they jump from there to “I’m incapable of love and probably miserable and hiding it.” 

This is literally from a conversation I’ve had before, so I know I’m not exaggerating the thought process. It’s both baffling and painful to listen to.

While there are some asexuals who also identify as aromantic (someone who is not romantically attracted to anyone), many people within the ace spectrum can and do fall in love. They can and do have sex. They can and do enjoy it. They can and do think about it.

I’ve gone through all of this because it’s crucial for writers to understand something before they try to write it. This applies to everything, every experience, and every culture. If you were writing about kidnapping victims, ancient Mesopotamia, nuclear physics, or a detective in Chicago, you’d have to do research to feel like you were getting the details of the experience right. That should hold true for sexualities different from your own, too. You can’t (and really shouldn’t) write something or someone you don’t understand.

The problem is that, even after they’ve done reading and research, asexuality seems to be incredibly difficult for many allosexuals to understand. It’s a mindset that diverges so far from the way sexuality is portrayed in any form of media and how most people seem to experience it themselves that “I don’t understand” is a common response to my explanations. The assumption that aces are “missing out” is prevalent. We can’t possibly be happy without sex, allos claim. An offer to show us exactly how wrong we are about what we think we want isn’t exactly a rare follow-up. Writing us off as robotic, mechanical, or sociopathic happens a lot too. In fact, it’s only in the most recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) that asexuality is mentioned, a tagged-on caveat to keep self-identified aces from being slapped with a diagnosis of Female Sexual Interest/Arousal Disorder or Male Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.

Part of the problem with understanding comes from the fact that there’s no easy way to describe what asexuality is; it’s not any one thing or group of things. No matter how I describe the experience, my words would leave someone’s story out. What I can do, however, is create a list of some of the things asexuality isn’t. 

Asexuality is not:

  1. Virginity. While some aces are sex-repulsed from a young age or become comfortable with their lack of desire early and never give in to the pressure to have sex, many do. This can be because they think they must in order to have relationships or because they want to or because of any number of reasons. Inexperience with sex is not a requirement before someone can identify as ace.  
  2. Celibacy. This is a choice, usually lifelong, to not have sex. Key to this definition, though? The word choice. Asexuals can be celibate, but not all those who are celibate are asexual. Think Catholic priests, for example. Identifying as ace would make the required vow of celibacy easy to keep, but comparing aces to priests is misunderstanding both asexuality and celibacy.
  3. Abstinence. Again, this is a choice. Most commonly, this is the religious belief that people should wait until marriage to have sex, but it can be used to describe any period of time when one is willingly choosing to refrain from sex even though they do actually desire to have it. Whether that reason is medical, psychological, religious, or other, it’s a choice. Asexuality is not.
  4. A phase. Almost every ace-spec individual I have ever spoken to knew something was different about their feelings toward sex somewhere between the age of five and fifteen. Most of those aces were between their late twenties and mid-forties when I talked to them. I don’t know what the outside limit of a “phase” is, but asexuality definitely doesn’t fit those parameters. 
  5. A choice. This is why abstinence and celibacy aren’t synonyms for asexuality. Just like homosexuality and bi/pan-sexuality aren’t conscious decisions that people have made at some point in their lives, asexuality is not something we brought upon ourselves. 
  6. A medical problem. “Have you checked for hormone issues?” is a common question asexuals get, but imbalances in the body like that usually come with a variety of other health problems, not simply low/no libido. The changes that come with hormone issues and other health problems are also just that—changes. Low sex drive isn’t a symptom if it’s always been part of someone’s personality.
  7. A call for attention. I don’t know how to fight this one, even after hearing it more than once. Why the hell would anyone want the kind of attention identifying as asexual brings?
  8. Because of religion. More than once, people have assumed I am going to try to “convert” them. As though asexuality is some new cult or a very old religious belief. Aces can absolutely be religious, but the orientation itself has nothing to do with religion or any charismatic cult leader. We don’t want you to join us (unless you feel the same way we do, then come on over). All we want when we talk to you about asexuality is understanding.
  9. Because of naivete or denial. This is an especially common argument when the ace in question is in their teen years or very early twenties. “You’re too young to know what you want.” “Don’t write it off until you try it.” “Just wait until you meet the right person, you’ll change your mind.” “You must like the really twisted stuff if you don’t want to talk about it.” No. Don’t deny the words coming out of our mouths to satisfy whatever expectations you have of people and the world. Trust us to know what we don’t want the same way you’d trust an allosexual to know what they do want.
  10. Because of fear or repulsion. Although some asexuals do have an innate or learned fear or repulsion of sex, it does not automatically describe the mindset of ace-spec individuals. Even for those who do experience a fear/revulsion of sex and intimate contact, it is not because of their asexuality, merely an aspect of it.
  11. Because of past trauma. I have lost count of how many times this question suggestion has been made in some form. My ex-husband was particularly fond of throwing it at me in arguments, saying “this would at least make sense if you’d been raped or something.” While many aces do experience sex-related trauma (assault, molestation, rape, harassment, etc.), often it’s the case that the trauma stemmed from their asexuality instead of the other way around. Sometimes the trauma does come well before any understanding of their orientation, which can certainly tie the two together mentally for an individual, but trauma is not the cause of the orientation as a whole. 
  12. Repressed homosexuality. Asexuality. Is a lack. Of attraction. It cannot be repressed anything, because there’s nothing to repress. Someone repressing their homosexuality by avoiding sex entirely would be either abstinent or celibate, not asexual.
  13. Synonymous with aromanticism. Some aces are aros. Some aros are aces. The two do not, however, always coexist.
  14. Something that precludes the enjoyment of sex. Like I mentioned above, the act of sex does not always have to connect to attraction of any sort. Enjoyment of sex doesn’t have to either. People aren’t attracted to dildos and vibrators, for example, but they use them often enough for the sex-toy industry to be large and flourishing. Some aces actively enjoy sex, others don’t. It’s a spectrum.
  15. Something that needs to be “fixed.” Please, don’t. If someone comes out to you as asexual, do not begin to play the “Have you tried” game. Sex isn’t exactly a secret in our society. We know about it. We know how it’s “supposed” to feel. We know, we know, we know. Whatever you want to suggest to help us “fix” the problem—vibrators! a more experienced partner! drugs! kink! therapy!—chances are we’ve thought of it and, if it sounded interesting, tried it. 
  16. A way to play hard to get/punish our partners. This belief, like the one where people thin asexuality is a cry for attention, makes no sense. There are easier ways to play hard to get, and punishing our partners in this way usually ends up punishing us. It’s a lose-lose.
  17. Restricted to those who identify as female. Because of the pervasive belief that men can’t control their sex drive, male asexuality is often seen as a myth. An impossibility. It’s one that can be immediately disproved, though, with about five minutes of research.  For example, one or more of the founders of Asexual Visibility & Education Network (AVEN), the Asexuality Archive, and Asexual Outreach identify as male. 

If you’re considering including an ace-spec character in your book, please do keep all of this in mind. This is especially important if you’re writing something set in or before our current society. Fantasy and sci-fi authors have the ability to change the societal and cultural perceptions of sex and acceptance of asexuality, but doing that demands an awareness of how those perceptions impact us in the here and now. Readers will come to the story with those concepts in mind, and deconstructing them takes time and effort. 

For those willing to put in that work, thank you and please feel free to submit questions to me for the ongoing Coming Up Aces Q&A segment that will be part of the Queership blog.

For those who can’t understand and aren’t willing to try to, please go play in someone else’s sandbox. 

Below are some words that are useful to know the specific definitions of when discussion asexuality, and a more complete glossary can be found on Asexuality Archive.

Abstinence – the choice to refrain from partaking in a particular activity (like sex) for personal reasons or a specified period of time (for example, until marriage)

Allosexual – a name for all those who experience sexual attraction regardless of their gender preferences

Asexuality – an orientation categorized by a lack of sexual attraction to other people regardless of gender, aesthetics, personality, or other characteristics

Celibacy – a long-term, often life-long, decision to refrain from sex

Demisexuality (demi) – sexual attraction can potentially occur, but only on occasions where some kind of emotional/psychological bond or connection has formed

Graysexuality (gray-asexual/gray-ace) – like demisexuality, attraction can sporadically occur, but for gray-aces, these instances do not require an emotional bond first

Libido – the physical desire for orgasm, whether alone or with a partner(s)

MOGAI – Marginalized Orientations, Gender Alignments, and Intersex; this term is a specifically inclusive alternative to LGBTQIAP+

Romantic orientation – a person’s identifying orientation with regards to emotional/romantic attraction; the labels for these mirror ones for sexuality, for example biromantic, heteromantic, homoromantic, aromantic, etc.

Amazing news from Kirkus!

This is amazing! Kirkus has not only given Island Of Exiles a ?STARRED? review, they have made it one of their indie books of the month for April! Thank you, Kirkus!

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A progress update.

Crossing a project off my to-do list is always a relief. First pass edits on #DreamWarSaga 3 are finally finished! It’s been a long road with this book, and it’s not even close to over, but it’s worth it to get the chance to come one book closer to the end of my debut series. Even if that end doesn’t happen until 5 or 6 years after the series began.

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Island of Exiles is here!

I am so happy to say that Island of Exiles, the first installment of The Ryogan Chronicles, is officially out in the world!

Although there are certain similarities in how different books are brought into the world, there is also a lot that changes from release to release. For me, Island of Exiles has been different from the beginning.

When she bought the book, Kate Brauning pushed me past what I thought the story was about, giving me the chance to reexamine the story to add layers and complications. Entangled Teen went above and beyond to support me and the release of this title. I was able to collect blurbs from some great authors, all of whom raved about the story. Then, I found out that not only would my book be a Junior Library Guild selection (a big effing deal, in case you hadn’t heard of them), it would also be found worthy of a Kirkus STAR. ?

? “Readers won’t be able to put this book down, as the excitement begins from the first page and only grows from there. Cameron expertly blends worldbuilding and intriguing characters with page-turning action scenes and a story that builds in tension and complexity. The novel’s commitment to diversity adds new dimensions to the story, as the cast is entirely nonwhite, and the clan recognizes nonbinary gender identities and complex sexual orientations. The lexicon of unique terms and concepts may be intimidating to some readers, but the vocabulary adds fantastic texture to the world without distracting from the plot. This is rare gem of a book that has a lot to offer readers, including magic, action, and intrigue on the edge of a knife. A fresh, original series starter, bolstered by a dynamic protagonist and a welcome sense of depth.” ?

The response today has continued the trend. The love from readers and reviewers has been utterly fantastic, and for the first time in my writing career, I was able to find copies of my new release at my local Barnes & Noble. Not only that, I met a teen reader and she walked away with the first ever signed copy of the novel! There’s no better way to cap off a release day than that.

Also, thank you SO MUCH to everyone who posted “in the wild” pictures of Island of Exiles today! It’s one thing to know theoretically that a book is out in the world, and it’s something entirely different to actually see proof. These posts helped make this release day especially spectacular! Thank you, thank you, thank you! 

Want quote graphics, inspiration boards, and fun extras? Visit the Island of Exiles page on this site.

In Khya’s world, every breath is a battle.

On the isolated desert island of Shiara, dying young is inevitable. The clan comes before self, and protecting her home means Khya is a warrior above all else.

But when following the clan and obeying their leaders could cost her brother his life, Khya’s home becomes a deadly trap. The only person who can help is Tessen, her lifelong rival and the boy who challenges her at every turn. The council she hoped to join has betrayed her, and their secrets, hundreds of years deep, reach around a world she’s never seen.

To save her brother’s life and her island home, her only choice is to trust Tessen, turn against her clan, and go on the run—a betrayal and a death sentence.

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Want to try before you buy? You can! Entangled Teen is posting several chapters of Island of Exiles on Wattpad, one a day until February 20th!

Coming Up Aces – Feb 2017

One of the things I’m passionate about is asexuality education and awareness. Many people still don’t know much about this section of the orientation spectrum—one categorized by a lack of sexual attraction to anyone regardless of gender or appearance.

I’ve talked about asexuality in interviews and written essays on the subject (Don’t Erase the Aces || Identity, Spectrums, and Labels), but I also like being able to answer specific questions both about the orientation and about writing asexual-spectrum characters. I want to teach people more about this facet of my own life and the lives of so many others. Hopefully, with greater understanding will come both empathy and acceptance from the world at large. And a lot more accurate and respectful representation in books and media.

Without further ado, welcome to the first ever Coming Up Aces.

Dianna asked: How common is it for asexual people to also be aromantic?

Quickly, for those who don’t know, there’s a difference between romantic and sexual attraction, and an individual’s place on those two orientation spectrums don’t necessarily match. For example, someone could be panromantic-homosexual, heteromantic-pansexual, homoromantic-homosexual, or any other combination.

In the same way people who are asexual don’t experience sexual attraction to anyone, aromantic individuals don’t experience romantic attraction. This isn’t to say they don’t feel love. They can and do love deeply, but only in the way we love family and friends.

Now to the question. It’s a good one, but I unfortunately don’t have an answer.

The statistics we have about correlative relationships like this one exist either because of large psychosocial or sexuality studies or massive survey data sets which researchers have taken the time to dig through and analyze. Technically, asexuals were noted in Alfred Kinsey’s original research in 1948, but his team simply noted the existence of group “X,” those who experienced “no socio-sexual contacts or reactions,” and left it at that. It wasn’t until nearly fifty years later that someone dug deeper.

A survey in 1994 of over 18,000 citizens of the United Kingdom once again pointed out the existence of Kinsey’s group X. In this survey, 1.05% of the respondents answered a question about attraction by saying they had never felt sexually attracted to anyone at all. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that Canadian researchers Dr. Tony Bogaert took a closer look at this segment of the survey data, looking for other correlations and information hidden in the responses. Since then, there have been a few more studies, but most have been small scale and none—that I am aware of (if you know of one, please let me know!)—have specifically looked at or even included a comprehensive analysis of the difference between romantic and sexual orientation identities in individuals.

Without any evidence one way or the other, I must say that it wouldn’t surprise me to learn there’s a higher percentage of people on the asexual spectrum who also identify as aromantic. I’ve certainly met far more aromantic-asexuals than aromantic-anything elses. It shouldn’t be assumed, however, that asexuals are automatically aromantic. I’m not, and neither are most of the asexual-spectrum people I know. If you’re not sure, ask! Most of the ace-spectrum people I know are willing to answer simple questions.

Have a question for Coming Up Aces? Submit it here.

It’s a STAR!

It’s hard to believe, but Kirkus not only loved Island of Exiles, they gave it a STARRED REVIEW! Look at all the wonderful things they said about my wonderful book baby!


Cameron (Assassins: Nemesis, 2017, etc.) tells a YA fantasy tale about a “nyshin”—a warrior, mage, and hunter—on a desert island rife with danger.

Khya is no stranger to hardship. Life on the island of Shiara is inhospitable at best, and as a nyshin, these burdens fall especially heavily on her. Nevertheless, she’s always been able to depend on her clan and the fact that everyone in it works for the good of the many. But everything changes when they threaten to take from her the one thing she can’t give up: her brother, Yorri. Her worries are understandable as her sibling approaches a rite of passage that will determine the course of his life, but the greatest dangers facing her are ones that she can’t even imagine. As storms rage across the island and enemies probe the clan’s borders, a conspiracy begins to unfold that will test everything Khya has ever known. Not knowing who to trust, she must rely on strange bedfellows: Sanii, a member of the servant class and the love of Yorri’s life; and Tessen, Khya’s sometime-friend, sometime-archrival, and possibly something more. But most of all, she must depend on herself, casting aside faith, duty, and honor for the strength of love and family. Readers won’t be able to put this book down, as the excitement begins from the first page and only grows from there. Cameron expertly blends worldbuilding and intriguing characters with page-turning action scenes and a story that builds in tension and complexity. The novel’s commitment to diversity adds new dimensions to the story, as the cast is entirely nonwhite, and the clan recognizes nonbinary gender identities and complex sexual orientations. The lexicon of unique terms and concepts may be intimidating to some readers, but the vocabulary adds fantastic texture to the world without distracting from the plot. This is rare gem of a book that has a lot to offer readers, including magic, action, and intrigue on the edge of a knife.

A fresh, original series starter, bolstered by a dynamic protagonist and a welcome sense of depth.

We’re at the three week mark, y’all!

We’re inching ever closer to the Island Of Exiles release day! Only three weeks left now

My first countdown thread was all about  why I’m so excited to be releasing a fantasy novel.

Next, I talked about how one character became the anchor for my worldbuilding & revisions.

My third thread delved into how desire, kinks, power dynamics, and monogamy are perceived in Itagami.

I talked about magic last week and how it’s woven into the fabric of Itagamin society.

Today we jump back to sex and society, specifically orientation, gender, family, polyamory, and normalization.

While the word “bisexual” isn’t used in the book, I make it clear in character actions that this is a common and accepted orientation. It is, in fact, the most commonly claimed orientation in the clan. The whole spectrum of orientations exists, but bi or pan is “normal.” I make a point of the characters’ sexuality in the book partially to prove a point–that an accepting society can exist.

It’s strange to me that there are people who think accepting–NOT just tolerating–others’ choices would destroy the world. Normalization of acceptance has to happen to combat this, and currently, the easiest method is proof of concept media.

What do I mean by “proof of concept media”? Books, movies, TV, music, & art displaying cities & societies NOT destroyed by difference. Sagen sy Itagami isn’t a utopia by any means, but Island Of Exiles is definitely a proof of concept novel.
No one is ever shamed for their sexuality or their libido. Teased by their friends, sure. Taunted or mocked? Nope.

There is no word for slut or whore in Itagamin. There isn’t even a word for promiscuous. On the other hand, no one is ever laughed at or bullied for NOT having sex either. Ushimo is their word for asexuality.

All this is taught AND practiced. Children learn it alongside a very important reminder: Attraction is instinct. Action is a choice.

Consent is a crucial concept in this culture; you’re not allowed to even casually touch someone else without it. There are backstory reasons for the strictness of this societal law, but I never get a chance to go into them in the book. I can tell you it’s a separate story from the why behind the shape of families within Itagami, specifically the LACK of any family unit.

To explain that, I have to start with babies. Actually, I have to start with the making of babies.

Procreation is majorly restricted in Itagamin society. Pregnancies have to be pre-approved, partially due to population size concerns. It’s an isolated island with a southern Nevada-like landscape. Droughts could decimate a clan too large to sustain itself. Originally, it was partially due to of this restriction that the leaders of Itagami allowed & encouraged both bisexuality & polyamory. It was in NO way because of this restriction or population control that Itagamin leaders decimated the family unit. The saying about needing a village to raise a child? It’s taken pretty literally in Sagen sy Itagami.

When a baby is born, the parents go back to work and the baby is brought to one of the city’s four nurseries. Some parents keep track of their blood-born child’s progress, others don’t. Neither course is considered “right.” The nurseries are watched over by yonin caretakers. At age 5, kids move into a dormitory and begin their training.

One point of interest? Although citizens can’t escape their class once they reach adulthood, all children are considered equal. Children, no matter who their parents are, are given completely equal training and opportunities. Kids are trained with all weapons and then allowed to pick one they become expert at. They’re also taught the theories of magic. Everyone is taught theory so they’ll recognize it when they develop theirs. So they’ll know what to do when their own power appears. Also, the caretakers, teachers, training masters, and eventual commanding officers usually don’t know who a citizen’s parents are.

All children belong to the clan. Not everyone deals directly with the city’s youngest residents, but all are invested in the next generation. Every citizen in the clan would die to protect the city’s children.

At 16, everyone faces the herynshi, an incredibly difficult trial that determines the rest of their lives. The skill with weapons and magic they display in the herynshi is how the leaders place them in one of the three citizen classes.The classes are–

Nyshin: Warrior mages; leaders/fighters
Ahdo: Guardian mages; city guards/soldiers
Yonin: Non-mages; service/farming/mining

Sometimes romantic/sexual bonds form within training classes, but it’s more common for deeper bonds to form between citizens. Once placed, citizens can’t escape their class, but within it, relationship possibilities are both open and encouraged.

As I mentioned in a previous thread, marriage is rare in Itagami. Most people enter & leave relationships as needs change. Often there isn’t an official “relationship” at all. A fair number of Itagamin citizens choose to keep to short-term encounters instead. The most important thing is the safety of the whole clan, so it tends to create a city-wide bond rather than individual ones.

“The safety of the clan comes before our lives” is a mantra drilled into Itagamin children basically from birth. They take it seriously.

What I love about this society is how, within a class, it’s VERY equal. Excepting of procreation, there are no gender roles. There are three sexes–male, female, and ebet. Positions of power are relatively evenly spread between all three. Relationships between any combination of sexes–or any number of people–raises exactly zero eyebrows. Only someone’s skill with weapons and their prowess with magic impact their social standing.

All of these details were added on purpose. I worked hard to create a society that’s equal in a lot of ways our culture isn’t. Basically, all this talk is a lot of detail mainly to say one thing: Shiara isn’t exactly an island you’d want to live on, but I tried to make Itagami a society you’d want to live in despite that.

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Step onto Shiara in one month.

Somehow, Island Of Exiles is only one month away. That’s only FOUR WEEKS!

When I started this whole countdown thing, I talked about why I’m so excited to be releasing a fantasy novel.

At six weeks I posted about Tessen, the unexpected linchpin of my editorial process.

Last week was different. I talked about sex, kinks, and differing power dynamics.

Today, I’m going to talk about magic.

It’s hard for me to imagine a fantasy without some element of the magical or impossible, but it’s rarely the same between books. Sometimes there are spells & talismans, sometimes blood & reciprocity, sometimes innate ability & prophecy. I’ve read novels set in dozens of worlds, and many of the authors had fascinating approaches to magic. The books I loved each taught me something different, and I incorporated many smaller elements into my own universe.

Children on Shiara are taught about desosa, the energy created & used by everything in the universe. This is what makes magic possible. The teachings of Sagen sy Itagami create makes who are specialists, very skilled in one particular skill or power.

Rai, one of the secondary characters, is a kasaiji, a fire mage. She uses the desosa to create a spark, or manipulates existing flames.

Etaro is a rikinhisu, someone with telekinetic abilities. Etaro is also an ebet, an established, accepted third sex (ey/em/eir pronouns).

The book’s narrator, Khya, is a fykina, a mage with the power to create energy shields to protect herself & others from metal & magic.

Each of these mage types uses the same energy source to do or create something specific, special, and powerful. Part of the difference between the skills is innate, a psychological quirk of personality changing how an individual sees the world. The rest of the differences in abilities is down to a person’s sensitivity to the desosa as well as their willpower. It’s hard to detect the subtly shifting energy fields of the desosa. It’s harder to channel and shape it.

Some people can only shape it to enhance their own body and/or senses. Tessen, for example, is a basaku. Basaku mages are those whose senses–all six of them (five physical, one for the desosa)–are incredibly over-enhanced.

Most other mages, however, keep the desosa outside of themselves, manipulating it in the world around them. There aren’t any spells or rituals on this island. Magic is treated like any other weapon Khya and the others train with. It’s a tool that someone is either capable of learning how to wield or it isn’t. Each mage type has specific lessons to master, and they’re not allowed to graduate the training program until they’ve done so.

Like training for a marathon, endurance and stamina have to be slowly built up over time. Same with skill and precision. However, no matter what type of magic the Itagamin mages are capable of or how strong they are, there are limits. Magic, like everything else, has rules. Breaking them is…not exactly advisable. Pushing yourself too far (for example, a rikinhisu trying to lift a massive boulder on day one of training) can be deadly. Almost no one can use desosa that’s been electrified by a lightning storm. The energy runs too hot; it burns people to crisp human shells. Mostly, though, magic is like any other physical activity. It’s exhausting.

Magic in all it’s strengths and forms is integral to Itagamin society, deeply so. It shapes their entire class structure. The dividing lines between the three citizen classes of Itagami aren’t drawn by blood, money, or politics–they’re drawn by magic. This means that once you’re placed in a group, moving beyond it is rare. Almost impossible. You can only advance within your class.

Creating a society so clearly defined was both easy and difficult. In Itagami, I managed to erase a lot of the prejudices modern society has–sexuality, skin, and religious beliefs don’t matter here. Doing this doesn’t mean the culture is a utopia, though. They have their own deeply ingrained biases. Almost all involve magic. What my characters eventually learn is that, in Itagami, magic, like energy, is far more malleable than they thought.

In four weeks, when Island Of Exiles releases, you’ll get to see all of this for yourself. I for one am THRILLED.


Pre-order soon! Island of Exiles is almost here.

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Live From Miami!

Today I’m editing while at the #SCBWIMiami2017 conference! It’s inspiring to listen to authors like Jane Yolen, Gennifer Choldenko, and Jacquelyn Mitchard while working on my next project. I highly recommend making the trip down to Florida every January for this conference.

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Nemesis is HERE!

As hard as it is for me to believe considering Nemesis didn’t exist a year ago, release day is here!

Thank you so much to everyone who has read and supported Discord, and thank you for all the excitement about Nemesis!

I’ve talked about the bittersweet pleasure of ending this series, & soon I’ll talk about how hard Nemesis was to write at times. Mostly, though, today I want to celebrate the simple success of finishing what I started and crossing off an author goal of writing an action movie.

In case you didn’t know, I have always had a very strong appreciation for action movies. If there are explosions and fights, I’m in. It shouldn’t be a surprise then that my thriller series is basically a really long love letter to those movies. Banter, explosions, guns, car chases, espionage, disguises, kidnappings, massive threats, conspiracies–the Assassins books have it all.

As hard as some sections of the plot were to write this year, I had a lot of fun with the action sequences in both books. I also loved including a f/f bisexual romance in Discord, kind of a gift for my friends in high school. It’s a book I wish they’d had then. It made me even happier to build a gray-ace/pan pairing in Nemesis. Developing their bond & letting them find balance was fantastic. Nemesis is somehow both quieter AND darker than Discord. It’s somehow both sweeter and bloodier, too. I wrote both, and I’m not even sure how that dichotomy happened. Honestly. It’s true, though.

Each book of the Assassins duology has something different to say, but hopefully readers will connect with both in some real way.

It’s finally here! Get Nemesis now.

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