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.

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

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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.

Buy it from: Riptide/Triton | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book DepositoryBooks-A-Million |IndieBound

Add this book to Goodreads.

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Random presents are the best!

This is how I know my friends know me well. Look at my amazing new #asexuality shirt! This is effing perfect! ?

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Introducing Q & Ace!

Recently, Brandilyn from Prism Book Alliance invited me to participate in her blog’s ongoing series Outside the Margins! The authors invited to participate post monthly about…something. Brandilyn is very open minded about post topics, inviting authors to talk about whatever they’d like. At first, I couldn’t come up with anything! I mean, if I had anything that great to say, I’d be posting more regularly on my own blog, right? But I wanted to join, so I started thinking…

Eventually, I came up with an idea, and now that Brandilyn has approved it, I can share it with you all: I’ll be posting a monthly question and answer style series about asexuality!

I’m calling it Q & Ace.

My first post will be up on Prism Book Alliance on February 1st, and the posts will continue indefinitely the first of each following month. In the weeks leading up to the posts, I’ll be taking questions from anyone and everyone! They can be about anything relating to the asexuality spectrum or about how to write ace-spectrum characters. Either/or! Anything ace-related goes.

For the first post, you can submit your questions using the form below. If you want your question answered anonymously, just add a note saying so to the question field!

The deadline for question submissions is the end of the day on January 27th, 2017. Questions that come in after that date will be held in consideration for the next Q & Ace post.

I can’t wait to get started!

My friends are awesome!

Best book mail is best! I’m so happy to have this lovely from A. R. Kahler on my shelf now. Also, be jealous because Alex writes the best inscriptions. ? I’m so proud of my amazing friend!

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You can land on Shiara in five weeks!

Five Weeks. FIVE. That’s one month plus one week. Hardly any time at all!

This week I’m talking about relationship dynamics. Specifically, how & why Khya and Tessen’s came to be not quite vanilla.

Short answer? It’s Kate Brauning​’s fault. The long answer is similar, yet a bit more complicated.

I wish I still had a link to Kate’s tweet, but it was something like, We must portray YA relationships as diversely as we do adult. Then she went on to say, (approximately) “For example, not all teens are entirely vanilla, but we give them no mirror.”

I said, “You’re okay with that? Because I can ABSOLUTELY do a D/s dynamic. Really, they’re already there. I just need to bring it out.“

Basically, Kate was all, “Yes. Good. Go.”

Knowing going in that my editor wouldn’t give me an “are we sure this is appropriate for teens” speech was a relief. It also gave me the freedom to explore the characters at a deeper level and take a new look at what sexuality meant in Itagami.

Desire (or a lack thereof) and the specific form that feeling takes is a very fraught topic in contemporary society. Dangerously so. The island of Shiara and the city of Sagen sy Itagami gave me a chance to erase a lot of the expectations and “rules” of desire. Although orientation is included in the “rules” (more to come another week), here I’m referring more to preferences, kinks, & fetishes.
Our culture makes a lot of value judgments on an individual’s behavior, ESPECIALLY in regards to sex.

In Itagami, the only rules are 1- CONSENT, 2- no irreparable harm, & 3- don’t let sex distract you from work.

That’s it.

Well, okay. There are a few more rules, but none regarding the HOW of desire or sex.

Although all of it is very minor, I mention or imply a lot of facets of sexuality in Island Of Exiles. Exhibitionism, voyeurism, masochism, and power dynamics all come up somewhere in some way in this book. For Khya and Tessen, though, control, power, trust, and surrender are all key components to their relationship. They both need something from the other, and a lot of the buildup with them is admitting those needs and trusting the other to meet them. Communication–verbal & non-verbal–is crucial in relationships, but especially in ones where power in the sexual relationship isn’t equal.

There are books (which shall remain unnamed) that portray these kinds of relationships in a VERY dangerous way. What I wanted to show is it’s not only okay to want things outside of the normal. It’s okay to talk about them. It’s okay to ask for them. What Khya and Tessen eventually illustrate (fair warning, they’re a sloooooow burn) is how everyone has different needs. Part of what makes relationships strong (ANY, not just romantic and/or sexual ones) is finding someone who needs what you can provide. Another important point, however, is recognizing your own needs and desires and accepting them.

How in the world is anyone supposed to do that if they never see a relationship that ticks their mental boxes in any form of media?

Like all other levels of diversity and representation, relationship dynamics and differing desires are so important. Dynamics, preferences, kinks, and fetishes are ESPECIALLY important for YA authors to consider and include. For most, the teen years is when they begin to discover arousal and desire. Or their lack thereof. If anything, portraying relationships outside the center of the bell curve is MORE important in YA than in adult. Puberty and adolescence and young adulthood are confusing enough. Why make it harder for anyone when we can provide a map?

What I hope is that Khya & Tessen–& the other pairings in the series–introduce teens to concepts about relationships they don’t often see.

In Itagami, monogamy isn’t societally expected. Polyamory is perfectly acceptable. Bisexuality is the normalized orientation. In Itagami, marriage–called a sumai bond in the book–is rare, but when that vow is made it is soul-deep and unbreakable. In Itagami, those who don’t have a sumai bond often move between romantic and/or sexual relationships as their needs change. In Itagami, “normal” has an entirely different set of definitions and expectations than what we’re used to, and I loved creating those rules. In Itagami, the how and why of what happens between two or more people isn’t something anyone else has a right to comment on. Not to say gossip doesn’t happen–it absolutely does–but the judgment and the interference I’ve seen happen in life doesn’t. Mostly.

Hopefully, all of this will be commonplace one day, but it’s not there yet. Especially in young adult fiction.

Khya & Tessen are snarky, strong, and incredibly fun to write. They’re also steamy as hell when they get together. Soon (sooner than I’m ready for, honestly), you’ll get to meet them for yourself!

Buy it from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Books-A-Million | IndieBound

Add this book on Goodreads.

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