Category Archives: Blog

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!

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Nemesis is here in T-minus…

There is only one week–ONE! WEEK!–until the Nemesis release!

This week I’m going to talk about how important and very much not a trend accurate, diverse, respectful representation is.

I am asexual. I know this now, but it’s not something I discovered until I was 29. After marriage, divorce, and therapy. For more on that, I’ve written essays about asexuality on my site: Don’t Erase the Aces || Identity, Spectrums, and Labels

Growing up, there were few characters I truly identified with, and none who didn’t eventually find their fulfillment with sex. The lack of representation substantiated my growing belief that my lack of interest in sex meant something was fundamentally wrong with me. This is why I promised myself I’d include an ace-spectrum character in all my books. I don’t want other kids to grow up without the word.

Representation of the world around us AS IT ACTUALLY IS is crucial for so many reasons, and I try to make my books reflect that. I try to do this not just with the inclusion of asexuality, but with everything I trust myself to portray with respectful accuracy.

The cast of the Assassins duology is heterogeneous in race and sexuality, and it’s reflective of the world I grew up in. We need more stories to be mirrors of reality–and we need more of them written by those not usually reflected in those mirrors. Blake’s romantic arc is a close reflection of my own orientation, and I hope she’ll be the same kind of mirror for someone else.

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Hello, Misty!


It’s only taken me sixteen years, but I FINALLY have a bright blue car! Twitter helped me name her Misty. It seems like 2017 is going to be the year of realized high school dreams! 😄

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What year is it again?

Being an author sometimes feels like constantly living in the future. Five weeks before book 1 of #RyoganChronicles releases, I’m digging into the first draft of the final book of the trilogy. Here’s to hoping I can close out Khya’s story with the same explosive force it started with. 📚

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We’re at the six week mark, y’all.

We’re at the six week mark, y’all. SIX WEEKS UNTIL ISLAND OF EXILES!

Hahaha no I’m not nervous, why do you ask?! Okay, I’m lying, but I’m still here to talk more about Island Of Exiles!

I mentioned last week that Island Of Exiles changed a lot between the proposal Kate Brauning bought and now. That’s an understatement, honestly. SO MUCH changed it’s hard to think about it as the same book.

Unexpectedly, one constant was a character: Tessen.

FYI, he’s based on a teenage Christian Keyes.

Tessen popped onto the page when I was writing the first draft, and he immediately surprised me. Somehow. It’s strange to see a character you’re creating as mysterious, but that was Tessen. Mysteriously intriguing. Tessen demanded page time, and he got it, slowly becoming a much more important part of the story than I’d planned.

After I sold the series to Entangled & Kate Brauning gave me notes, there was basically an earthquake on the desert island. Major pieces of the world rearranged, the language shifted, & everything (& everyone) got a new name. EXCEPT TESSEN.

Not only did Tessen’s name remain when so much changed, it became the basis for my language & naming conventions. For those who don’t know, tessens are Japanese iron bladed fans. Heavy, beautiful, & dangerous. (YouTube | Wikipedia) I named Tessen after this weapon, and I loved both the sound of it and how well it fit his character. Because of this, he became the linchpin to my worldbuilding. The names of everyone and thing else shifted around him.

I’ll talk more about the languages in Island Of Exiles another week, but I will say this now: Tessen was the catalyst for them.

After writing him in 2 books, I can’t say Tessen is as mysterious now as he was at first, but I am no less intrigued. Hopefully, when you meet him in a few (ONLY SIX!) weeks, you’ll be just as in love with him as I am.

Be prepared, though. Khya might fight you for him. 😉

 

Meet Tessen! Order Island Of Exiles.

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Two weeks to Nemesis!

The Calvers and Kindra are back in TWO WEEKS! Things haven’t gotten any less dangerous for them since #Discord. What is new–and what I’ll be talking about this week–is Nemesis’s narrator Blake Marks, a civilian caught in the Calvers’ chaos.

My original plan for book 2 was to carry Kindra through as the primary POV. Second plan had Daelan telling the story. Neither fit. I knew Blake–who I introduced in Discord–needed to be a bigger part of the next story, but I didn’t immediately consider using them as narrator. Eventually I grew to like the idea of a civilian perspective on the world of hit squads, conspiracies, crime, & incredibly gray morality.

Enter Blake, an orphaned, intersex, expressively genderfluid but mentally agender, multi racial and ethnic, pan-romantic graysexual teen. Throughout Nemesis, Blake switches pronouns based on presentation. For this thread, I’ll be using she.

Blake is outside my experience in almost every way, but hopefully my research and interviews helped me write her respectfully. What also worried me about Blake narrating was how different the voice would be from Kindra’s in Discord.

Kindra is sarcastic, brash, bloody, definitively not ace-spectrum, and readers have responded incredibly well to her voice. Blake quips, but is softer spoken. She’s been thrust into a world she barely understands and is trying to cope with major loss. Blake is uncertain where Kindra is confident, conflicted where Kindra is unquestioning, & inexperienced where Kindra is expert. Although Blake is a civilian, she was raised by a military mother & an FBI agent father. She isn’t expert, but she can protect herself.

Hopefully, everyone will love Blake as much as they have Kindra, because I definitely do. She’s absolutely amazing.

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Happy Holidays from Florida!

Yes, we really do resort to wrapping palm trees in lights for the holidays in Florida. 🌴🌴🌴

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