Category Archives: Writing

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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Book events are the best events.


Had a great time last night at @misterkristoff & @amiekaufmanauthor’s signing in Miami! They were absolutely wonderful, and I highly recommend taking the time to meet them if they come to your area. 😄

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Times are hard and getting worse.


When in doubt, support amazing people and diverse stories and creative art.

Books pictured:

  • Dead Girls Society by Michelle Krys  | AmazonB&N
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon  | AmazonB&N
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart  | AmazonB&N
  • Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig  | AmazonB&N
  • Boy Robot by Simon Curtis | AmazonB&N
  • Updraft by Fran Wilde | AmazonB&N
  • When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore | AmazonB&N
  • Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King  | AmazonB&N
  • Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen | AmazonB&N
  • Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo  | AmazonB&N

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Everyone? Meet Tessen

islandofexiles-lr

In a way, the world Shiara occupies began back in 2008. I was fresh out of college, and I wanted to write a fantasy novel. That turns out to be hard to accomplish without an actual story idea, so I followed advice I found on Holly Lisle’s site and started with a map instead. I drew an elaborate world (seriously, I taped multiple pieces of graph paper together just to give myself space), arbitrarily assigned sociopolitical boundaries, and then began trying to explain both.

The story I came up with then isn’t the one you’re going to read in February, but the universe is.

Jump forward to 2014 and I decide to try a true fantasy novel again. I wanted to create something harsh and different and beautiful, so I plopped my characters in an Arizona/New Mexico-like desert and surrounded them with enemies and animals that could kill them. It was about twins and the perceptions of mercy in an aggression based society and a lot of other things.

This, also, is not the book you’re going to read in February, but it’s closer. I kept the setting, the enemies, and the animals. My narrator stayed, but changed her name, and her twin brother became a younger one. The character who remained almost exactly the same is Tessen. Somehow his character, one I didn’t plan for at all in the original version of the story, became the linchpin of this book, anchoring everyone and everything else as it all shifted around him. This isn’t his story, it’s Khya’s, but his footprints and fingerprints are all over the final version of Island of Exiles.

Readers likely won’t ever see the level of his influence. Tessen’s okay with that, but it’s why I’m so happy that the first excerpt I can share with you from the book introduces you to him! So read on and meet him for yourself. <3

I breathe the briny air and try to consider the options objectively. As objectively as I ever can when my brother is involved.

Yorri was the first person to tell me that one day I’d be kaigo, just like our blood-parents, serving the Miriseh and earning high honors in Ryogo. I’d flicked him on the shoulder and said “Of course I will be,” but his faith had been what convinced me I was right.

Yorri gets so excited he stumbles over his own words when he’s explaining how he solved some new, impossible puzzle. He devotes himself with frightening fervor to anything that ensnares his arrow-quick mind, but sometimes needs reminding that the rest of the world exists.

Forget objectivity. It’s worth the risk.

I am going to keep him safe, just like I always have.

“You’re going to be late for the vigil if you stand here staring into nothing for much longer, Khya.”

I tense, keeping my eyes on the angry, dark, blue white-capped waves. I’d heard the footsteps approaching, but several people had come and gone already and left me alone.

Tessen, however, never was able to keep his thoughts inside his head.

“I won’t be late.” I answer without looking at him until he moves into my peripheral vision.

He leans against the wall to the left of me, his forearms crossed on the ledge and his head tilted up. With his arms folded on the ledge and his body held slightly away from the wall, I can make out the lines of muscle under layers of cloth, all of it hard-earned—though I probably won’t ever admit that to him. I don’t look directly at him, but I turn my head enough to get a better look at his face.

He’s taller than me, so looking down on him like this is strange. Seeing him without the hood and atakafu we always wear on duty is stranger. I don’t think I’ve seen his whole face since he became nyshin over a year ago.

His thick eyebrows sit low over his deep-set eyes and the line of his nose is straight, because somehow he was always quick enough in training to avoid all but the most glancing blows to his face. The setting sun highlights the red in his terra-cotta skin and makes his oddly pale eyes flash. Usually they’re limestone gray, but now they’re paler than ever and gleaming almost as bright as the sunlight off the ocean.

“Shouldn’t you be off training? Or guarding something?” I ask before he speaks.

“I am.” He smirks at me. “I’m guarding the mad nyshin girl who’s decided to perch on the walls and imitate a mykyn bird.”

“I’m not planning on attempting flight.” I wave my hand at him, trying to brush him off. “You can go, Nyshin-ten.”

His lips purse; I hide a smile. It was delightful discovering exactly how annoyed he got when I called him by his class and rank instead of his name. The flash of aggravation disappears quickly, replaced by his more usual sardonic smile. “Should I guess what has you lost in your own head the night of a vigil?”

“No. I don’t have that much time.”

“Then I won’t guess. Only your brother puts that look on your face.”

I look at him, expecting to see mockery in his eyes. There isn’t any. He looks almost…serious?

“You’re worried about his herynshi. Unless he’s in trouble again? It’s been a while. He’s overdue.”

“It’s been a while because he doesn’t have to deal with people who point out his every mistake anymore. Like you.” Gritting my teeth, I bend to brace my hand on the ledge and jump down to where Tessen stands. At six feet, he’s only an inch or two taller than me. Our eyes are nearly level when I square off against him. “You’re one of the reasons he ever got in trouble in the first place.”

“And you spent years trying to make him invisible.” Tessen’s lips thin, and the muscles in his jaw clench for a moment. “Even before you found your wards, you shielded him from everything. What he can do now that you’re not there to monitor his every move should be all the proof you need.”

“He would have died if I hadn’t protected him.” Nothing will ever convince me it was wrong to keep him alive. “You can’t seriously be suggesting I should have let that happen?”

“No, that isn’t— You don’t even know what he’s capable of! How long has it been since you’ve seen him fight? It’s been—” He steps back, his lips pressed tight and his hands held away from his weapons. “Bellows, Khya. I didn’t come here to fight with you. This isn’t how this was supposed to go.”

I blink. “What?” Tessen backing away from an argument? This has to be a trick. “How what was supposed to go?”

He shakes his head, a small smile quirking up the corners of his mouth. “I only came to ask if you’d dance with me tonight at the celebration.”

He can’t be serious…but there’s not a single sign that he isn’t being sincere.

I drop my gaze to hide the confusion that has to show on my face. My focus catches on the pendant gleaming against the undyed cloth of his tunic—a two-inch iron disc etched with crossed zeeka swords. Blood and rot, I hate seeing that around his neck. The zeeka is the symbol of the kaigo; the pendant is a symbol of their students.

Tessen is wearing the kaigo-sei pendant that should have been mine.

Out of the whole clan, the Miriseh and the kaigo only choose one nyshin-ten per year. His blood-mother, Neeva, is on the kaigo council. Being named a kaigo-sei isn’t a guarantee of advancement, but it is a sign that the leaders of the clan are keeping an eye on you. The kaigo-sei are given extra training and have to face additional tests of magic, skill, and leadership. Not every nyshin named a kaigo-sei student becomes a council member, but no one who isn’t a kaigo-sei will ever become one. I can still earn one—and I will, sooner rather than later—but it seems like they’re already grooming Tessen to take Kaigo Neeva’s place one day.

Rot take him, it was supposed to be me.

Swallowing the fruitless envy building in my chest, I raise my eyes to meet Tessen’s again. “I don’t make promises I don’t intend to keep.”

“But that’s not a no, so I’ll ask again tonight.” He smiles, inclines his head, and then walks away whistling. I hate that sound, and I’m almost positive he knows that.

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At what point does editing a book become rewriting a book? Like,…

At what point does editing a book become rewriting a book? Like, what percentage of lines need to be deleted or changed for it to be marked as a rewrite? Asking for a friend…

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Think of this as a glimpse of how my brain feels after editing…

Think of this as a glimpse of how my brain feels after editing for hours. There’s still a lot more work to finish before this book is a book again. Right now it’s more of an arts and crafts project.

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The Friday Five – August 26th

THE FRIDAY FIVE

Sometimes we forget the good things that happen because the bad ones feel so much bigger. In an effort to keep that phenomenon at bay, here are my five good things for this past week.

  1. Yesterday, for the first time in a long while, I not only hit my word count goal but actually felt like I’d made appreciable progress. It was a glorious feeling. I have missed it greatly. Hopefully it continues for the next few days until I suddenly have a finished book!
  2. Related to the above, my Entangled editor Kate Brauning continues to be epic and patient and encouraging. I am so happy I get to work with her, and I sincerely hope I can continue working with her for a long time to come.
  3. My dear friend Tristina Wright got to share her words with the world recently! And this week, it opened up from just being available to subscribers to being readable by everyone. Which means you should go read it, because Siren Song is so amazingly beautiful, you guys.
  4. I teach at a in-patient rehab center for teenagers with addiction and other issues. Over the summer I’ve been running a summer reading program, which I’ve done before. Previous incarnations didn’t achieve much in the way of new readers, but this year I had them all reading I am Not a Serial Killer by Dan Wells. I have never seen a group of students at this center so excited to read, and I have never been more grateful to an author for a book. Or for the perfect timing of a movie version of a book. They’re all looking forward to watching it on Monday! And, honestly, so am I. It looks amazing.
  5. Thanks to the collected efforts of some authors on Facebook, I was able to find a short story I haven’t read since 2001! It’s stuck with me over the years, and I found myself thinking about it more than usual when I started lesson planning for the year, but I couldn’t remember the author, the title, or the anthology that I had originally read it in. Some sleuthing by some wonderful people didn’t just give me the title and author; I got a link to the full text of the story, too! It’s Velvet Fields by Anne McCaffrey for those interested. I highly recommend reading.