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Friday, June 28, 2013 16 comments

Past the Witching Hour (#FridayFlash)

Image source: openclipart.org
Tap tap tap.

“Hmmmm.” Hattie the Swamp Witch opened her eyes. It was dark. The only other sound was the comforting tick of her windup alarm clock. A warm pressure on her feet told her that her cat, Mr. Sniff, slept on.

Tap tap tap.

“Not again,” she groaned, wrapping the pillow around her head. The cat squirmed and shifted off her feet. Again, the infernal tapping.

“I’m comin’!” she called, flinging the covers off the bed and scrambling to her feet. Mr. Sniff moved over and curled up, giving her a reproachful look. “Like it’s my fault?” Hattie grumbled at the cat, as she threw on her black dress. “Now where’s my—ah.” She jammed her pointy hat over her mussed hair. “Least this fool won’t see my bed head.”

The tapping came once more before she stomped across the living room floor and flung the door open. “What’d ya want?” she mumbled around a yawn.

“Miss Hattie?” It was one of the girls-almost-women from town, looking frightened. “I think I need your help. I’m… late.”

“Yer really late, if you come knockin’ on my door in the middle of the night. Don’cha know what’s out here in the swamp after dark?”

The girl looked confused for a moment. “No. I’m late late. Like with a boy.”

Hattie huffed. “Well, get inside, then. If the Swamp Critter don’t eat’cha, these bugs will.” She stepped aside, and the girl hurried in ahead of the mosquitos.

“Why is it so dark in here?” the girl asked.

“Contrary to what you and every other fool in the wide world seems to believe, witches gotta sleep just like everyone else. Only time I’m up at midnight is when one of you come a-knockin’.”

“I’m really sorry, Miss Hattie. I can come back tomorrow mornin’ if it’s a better time.”

Hattie sniffed. “Well, yer here now, so ya might as well get yerself taken care of. Besides, I suppose problems like yours are best dealt with when the rest of the world’s abed.” The witch scrabbled her hand across the table until she found the matches, then lit the kerosene lantern hanging above. “Here. Sit.” They took seats across from each other.

“This is real nice,” the girl said, looking around the room. “Cozy. Not what I expected.”

“Well, women like their places just so, ya know. I guess you was expectin’ a freak show.” She waved away the objection. “So, who was it?” Please don’t say ya ain’t sure.

A moment’s pause. “Cam—Cameron Lindsey.”

Hattie thought a moment. That name hadn’t ever come up before. “Wait. The smart one? Got a full scholarship to Loosyana State? He ain’t the kind to…”

“It’s not all his fault,” the girl admitted. “We both kinda got carried away. He promised he’d use protection next time.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t let there be a next time. Protection or no. Ya know he’s gonna find a girl at that college. One with an education. A future of her own.”

A sigh. “I know.”

“Well, gimme your palm. We’ll see what you got ahead of you, then we’ll take care of your other problem.” Hattie took the girl’s hand. Not like she’s got much future if she don’t get herself outta here. And get damn lucky. “Says here you… you got tough times ahead, but ya got a better chance of gettin’ by if you do good in school and finish up. Coupla years of tech school after ain’t gonna hurt neither, if you can find a way to pay for it.” She poked a random spot on the girl’s palm. “This here says, don’t take the first offer that comes along. Aim a little higher.”

“That’s what I was doin’ with Cameron. And look how that turned out.”

“Yeah. Not everything you try’s gonna work out. But if you got any friends or kin in Baton Rouge, maybe you move there. Find honest work, get some more schoolin’, and keep Cameron from forgettin’ about you.” Hattie stood. “Wait here. I’ll get what ya came for.” She trotted into the kitchen, and mixed up the recipe in a chipped coffee mug. She knew the recipe by heart; out here in Nowhere, Loosyana, there was a lot of call for it.

“Drink this down,” she said. “It’s gonna taste horrid, and yer gonna wanna chuck it back up, but don’t let that happen. It’s gotta be in ya to work. Then yer gonna have the worst cramps you ever had for a day. You can drink a little milk or something if you want, it ain’t gonna hurt.” She watched as the girl choked down the recipe, wincing all the way but only gagging once, then slid the glass of water across the table. “Here, drink this. It’ll get the taste outta yer mouth. But remember that taste, ‘cause you don’t wanna have to do this again. Ya hear?”

The girl nodded. “What do I owe you?”

“You got twenty? Good. That’s enough. And promise me you’ll be more careful from here on out.”

“I will. And thanks for not turning me into a toad.”

“Eh. I didn’t turn Martin Fontenot into a toad. Damn fool got off the path, and the Swamp Critter got him. You think about stayin’ on the path, and maybe you won’t think about chuckin’ that stuff back up.”

Hattie watched the girl go, and Mr. Sniff rubbed himself around her ankles. “Fool kids,” she said. “Y’know, kitty, I think I’m gonna make me a sign. Witching Hours, 9 to 5, closed at sunset. Yup. Stick that out there along the path, and maybe we can get a whole night’s sleep.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013 6 comments

Water and Chaos COVER REVEAL!

Let’s have a round of applause for +Angela Kulig, who put this thing together!


And what’s a cover without a blurb, right? Thanks to everyone who helped with this.
Infiltrating a nest of rogue sorcerers can be hazardous… to your heart. 
Mik and Sura are growing ever stronger as apprentice sorcerers, but neither knew what living in Mik's hometown would do to their relationship. Torn apart by misunderstanding, Mik volunteers for a hazardous mission in a distant land. Now Sura must learn to trust, and Mik must learn the true meaning of home.
Now, when will it be out?

Um… depends on whether I get the edits back this weekend. If I do, and they’re not huge, it should be on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords before July 4.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 2 comments

Writing Wibbles

As you have certainly realized by now, I changed the blog template. Some readers have told me the contrast (or lack thereof) made it hard to read, and I chafed at the hassle of trying to make the sidebar wider. The old template, called Abrasive, was a third-party template. I was able to tweak a few things—most notably moving the tags to the top, and putting comment links at both top and bottom—but at last, it was time to move on. The new Blogger-supported template is from awesome.com, and I customized it a little: the online tools let me make the sidebar wider (yay!) and change the background. I now have a little nicer-looking mobile template. I had to hack on the HTML to put a comment link at the top, but haven’t yet figured out how to put the share buttons up there without breaking everything.

OK, on to the writing stuff…

Water and Chaos is still with the editor. I hope to get it back this weekend, then finish it up next week. If all goes well, it will be in Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords before the July 4 holiday, and the other stores after a couple weeks. Sales at B&N are pretty slow, so far, but the Nook Press webapp is cool enough that people need to support it. If you find a typo a few minutes after publishing (yes, this has happened to me), you can edit the book on site—no edit/respin/upload cycle to go through!

Now if you’re on my mailing list, you’ve already seen the cover and blurb for Water and Chaos. If not, you’ll get to see it tomorrow. I’ll have it on this blog, the Green Envy Press blog, and Goodreads. So while you’re waiting… why not sign up for the mailing list? If you want to get in on the announcement fun, leave me a comment with an email address, or email me at lkollar at gmail dot com, and I’ll shoot you some attachments. Book bloggers interested in a quick-ish read (it’s about 44,000 words) can get an ARC by request.

My brain is already on vacation, although it doesn’t start until July 6. I’m going to try spending the entire vacation reading instead of writing. I have a lot of catching-up to do.

Addendum: Thanks to Jim C. Hines for linking to my Writing Wibbles of two weeks ago. It’s one of the most-clicked of these columns to date!

Friday, June 21, 2013 11 comments

Escape (Water and Chaos excerpt) (#FridayFlash)

Since I was out of town mid-week, and Water and Chaos is with the editor, I’ll post an excerpt. This is from the second of the Accidental Sorcerers adventures. I need to get the blurb done, preferably this weekend…



The guards unlocked the door and shoved Mik inside. He staggered across the cell, and caught himself on the empty cot. The guards departed without a word.

The other occupant watched the guards leave, a curious look on his face. Finally, he turned to Mik. “Peace and harmony?” he asked. Mik thought his looks and accent strange, both perhaps a mixture of Eastern and Western origins.

Mik sat on the cot, elbows on knees, chin in hands. “All peace unto you,” he grumbled.

“I’m Rihous sim Aren. Of Woldland. You?”

“Mik sim Mikhile. Of Mosvil.” He looked up. “You’re a Wold, then?”

“Indeed! You didn’t recognize me without my loincloth and leather tassels?” Rihous laughed at Mik’s sputtering protest. “I was joking. Where is Mosvil?”

“Up the Wide River from here. Woldland’s the far side of the Gulf of Camac, no? You’re a long way from home.”

“Eh. I’ve had no home but the ocean, for some years. So I’m close to home, indeed.” Rihous lowered his voice to a whisper. “And will be home soon, I believe.”

“How do you think?”

Rihous held a raised finger to his lips: The Hand That Begs Silence. “Your friends neglected to lock the door behind them,” he whispered. “They have considered my sorcerous abilities, and chose a lock that resists magic. Yet a lock left unlocked is one that needs no magic to defeat.”

“You’re a sorcerer?” Mik warmed to his story. “I’m an apprentice.” He looked down. “Or was.”

“I know it’s rude to ask, but what brought you here?”

“My mentor came to Queensport for research. There was… a girl. At home.” He thought of Sura for a moment, anger and sorrow lending credence to his tale. “I found a book on enchantments in the Conclave library, and it discussed love potions. But they refused to let me study it. They said it was ‘too advanced.’ So, I hid it away and took it.” He sighed. “They found me out, somehow.”

“Your mentor did not speak for you? Or the girl?”

Mik spat. “My mentor turned his back on me. The girl doesn’t know I’m gone. She won’t even think twice about me.”

Rihous seemed to pick his words carefully. “What if… what if you could continue your studies?”

“Not much chance of that.” Mik managed to sound glum. “They said they were going to put my name on a list. No sorcerer will be allowed to take me as an apprentice.”

“You could always take a different name. But there’s a place where they don’t worry about such things. All that bowgnoash about serving the folk, and the greater good of Termag.” Rihous spat in turn. “What good is having Talent if it doesn’t help you?” Mik shrugged, and Rihous continued in a whisper again. “You know that already, I think. Come with me tonight. We’ll get out of this gods-forsaken place and get you to where we can make a better mage out of you than could these fools.”

“Why would you do that? Where is this place?”

“Not here.” Rihous gestured around the cell. “The walls have ears. As for why? I get… a bounty for bringing in new Talent. So do you want to rot here until they let you out, and spend the rest of your life as a roustabout, or do you want a better destiny?”

“My father is a roustabout,” Mik grumbled. “There’s no shame in honest work. And yet… it’s worth a try.”


The night guard walked by, whistling the tune to a bawdy song, off-key. Rihous counted off the seconds, then said, “Now. Let’s be on our way.” He pulled on the door; it swung open and he slipped through. Mik followed, pulling the door closed behind him without much noise. He wondered why Rihous had not suggested they conceal themselves, but remembered that concealment and silence were part of the repertoire of combat magic that only his mentor knew these days. He remembered Charn’s surprise that Mik knew these spells, and thought of his own surprise that Charn did not.

“Not too close,” Rihous whispered, and they slipped up the corridor, two shadows in the dark. Most of the other cells stood empty, but those who occupied them either slept or ignored them.

They reached the door to the antechamber, and Rihous risked a peek through the little window. “Clear,” he whispered. “Duck to the corner, and that should keep us hidden.” He tapped Mik’s chest and pointed to the left. “Go!”

They slipped through the door and rushed to the corner. “Through the window?” Mik asked, pointing to the nearby window.

“That works.” Queensport was still warm in early autumn, and the window was already open. But as they made for the window, the door behind them opened. Rihous breathed a curse and leaped for the corner, shoving Mik behind him. Mik put a hand on Rihous’s back and concealed them. He felt Rihous start, perhaps feeling Mik’s magic, but stayed quiet. The night guard, now singing snatches of his bawdy tune, ambled across the antechamber to the door beyond. Mik held his breath, willing the man to move on without lighting a lamp.

The guard stretched, scratched himself, then veered to the window. He poked his head through for a long moment, perhaps catching a few breaths of fresh air. “All is well, when I’m with my Fel,” he sang. “And what we do, I’ll never tell.” At last, he closed the window and exited.

Mik and Rihous both let out their breath, and Mik let go his concealment spell. “I thought he’d spot us for sure,” Rihous whispered. “I was so nervous, I saw double for a moment. What was that magic I felt on you?”

“I… I was going to Lift him off the floor while we went out the window.”

“He’d have raised the alarm.”

Mik shrugged. “And he wouldn’t have, the moment he spotted us?”

“Indeed.” Rihous opened the window, climbed through, then floated slowly to the ground. “It’s not far!” he rasped. “Jump, I’ll catch you!”

Mik clambered through, breathed a quick prayer to the Creator, then remembered he could Lift himself. He floated down to join Rihous, who looked pleasantly surprised. “You’re more advanced than I thought,” he said. “That’s good. It gives us a better chance.”

“We’re free,” said Mik. “What now? How do we get to—to wherever we’re going?”



What? Why is Mik in jail? And where are they going? When Water and Chaos is released in the next few weeks, you can find out!

Saturday, June 15, 2013 5 comments

Multiple awards

Last week, I received two different awards from three different people. So thanks to +Helen Howell and +Tony Noland for the Super Sweet Blogging Award, and Catherine Russell for the Sunshine Award! So I’m going to combine these into a single post.

Super Sweetness

For this award, the acceptance speech is pretty standard:
  • √ Thank the person who nominated you.
  • √ Answer the five “Super Sweet” questions.
  • √ Include the picture in your blog post.
  • Nominate 13 other bloggers. Wait. Thirteen???
  • Notify your nominees.
So here’s the five questions:
  • Cookies or Cake? Cookies. They’re portable and easier to hide from 3yo grandkids who want “just one bite!”
  • Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate. 'Nuff said!
  • Favorite Sweet Treat? White chocolate macadamia nut cookies.
  • When do you crave sweet things the most? Mid-afternoon. A chocolate cupcake to go with my coffee—just the thing to keep me awake.
  • Sweet nickname? The wife calls me “Hun.” I don’t know why; I haven’t pillaged a single village.

Sunshine

Here’s the rules:
  • Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog.
  • Link to the person who nominated you.
  • Answer 10 questions about yourself.
  • Pass it on to a few cheery souls.
The questions:
  • Favorite color? Yellow.
  • Favorite animal? Sprite, my daughter’s overweight and highly cuddly cat.
  • Favorite number? 13? It seems to be lucky for me.
  • Favorite non-alcoholic drink? Unsweet tea or diet coke.
  • Favorite alcoholic drink? Rum. Straight. Beer is a close second.
  • Facebook or Twitter? Twitter. Period.
  • Passions? Writing, the beach, passion itself…
  • Prefer getting or giving presents? At this stage of life, giving. Especially if it’s something you know they like.
  • Favorite City? Hm. I think maybe Decatur, GA, because if I ever leave here that’s where I’d like to live.
  • Favorite TV Shows? Old stuff like Hogan’s Heroes, Max Headroom, X-Files. I don’t watch much TV these days.

OK, Who’s Next?

I’m going to cheat. Whoever hasn’t gotten one of these awards already, claim it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 5 comments

Indie Life/Writing Wibbles

Welcome, Indie Lifers, to the free-range insane asylum! I have a short post this month, but I hope some of you find it valuable. Don’t forget to hit the linky at the end, and see what other indies have to say about their travails, triumphs, and tips this month.


As writers, you know the value of beta readers, right? They’re the people you trust to tell you what isn’t working in your WIP, and why it isn’t working. And often, they call upon you to do the same for them. My upcoming release, Water and Chaos, is the second story in the Accidental Sorcerers series, and the beta round gave me a lot of heartburn. It was necessary heartburn, but I haven’t had a story chewed on quite this thoroughly before.

But… haha… that’s not what this post is about. Beta readers are important, not only when you write your story, but when you write the synopsis. The way I do it is to propose several different blurbs and loglines, as I did two weeks ago, then put them all up for a vote. I try to tweet it and plug it on Google+ to get some traction, then post the results.

The whole point of beta readers is to get people to point out things you’re not aware of, simply because you’re too close to the story. I had a fair amount of feedback, not all of it on the blog—I got some votes on Twitter, and a couple on another blog I frequent. It was there that I was made aware of a word that is often offensive—and to people I really want on my side, no less. Some say (not sure if I agree) that your cover gets people to read your blurb, and your blurb is what closes the sale. If (if) it’s true, then you don’t want to burn down the market, huh?

So when you go looking for that all-important feedback, don’t forget to get some feedback and suggestions on your blurb.

How do you get your blurb to attract attention?


Thanks for reading, and check out some of the other Indie Life writers this week!


Friday, June 07, 2013 13 comments

The Staff-Stealers (#FridayFlash)

This one runs a little long, I hope I’m forgiven…



Once, in the time of Camac That Was, before the Makers departed Termag for the City of Refuge, Thurun was the First Protector. Now Thurun was also a Maker, the most powerful of all mages—and among Makers, Thurun was the strongest. Some call him the greatest mage ever. But even the greatest mages have duties, and they do not forget how to laugh.

At times, one Protector or another might travel to grand Camac, to seek Thurun’s advice and wisdom on certain matters. Weather permitting, he would take such guests to a favorite tea garden, where they could enjoy the quiet and speak freely. It was on one such occasion that Jira and Pyanya, two young and mischievous girls, were walking in the garden. Seeing the First Protector in deep conversation with a colleague, they crouched behind a hedge to watch, whispering quietly and straining to catch an occasional word. After some time, the two sorcerers stood and walked away, perhaps to attend to necessities.

“Look,” said Jira, pointing. “Thurun left his staff. Let’s take it.”

“What would we do with his staff?” asked Pyanya.

“Whatever we wish!” Jira giggled. “We’ll have anything we want!”

So they burst from their hiding place, and snatched Thurun’s staff. They ran away, laughing and shrieking, as Thurun and the other Protector were returning to their table.

“Foolish children,” the visiting Protector sighed, watching the girls disappear. “Such impertinence cannot be tolerated! Go, and we’ll complete this matter after you have taught them a lesson.”

Thurun smiled. “It is only a stick of wood,” he said. “I will find it, and I will indeed teach them a lesson, and many more besides. But for now, your problem is more important.” So the two great mages returned to their discussion.


Any sorcerer worth the name can locate a missing item, especially a possession that he or she carries often. So Thurun found his staff, as easily as if it were calling to him. The girls had taken it to Jira’s house, in a scruffy district of the great city, and Thurun understood that they only wished to improve their lot in life. Hidden in a quiet corner outside, he sent his vision and hearing through the walls of the house. He saw the girls standing at a table. The family cat watched them from a cabinet, and a dog lay at their feet.

“Let me try now!” Pyanya insisted. “You’ve been at it for an hour, with nothing to show!”

“Take it, then!” Jira snapped, and thrust the staff at her friend.

Thurun smiled. They do not realize, it is only a stick, he thought. He prepared his lesson.

Pyanya waved the staff over the table. “Staff, I command thee,” she intoned, “bring us a stack of gold octagons!”

Thurun snickered and extended his Making magic.

“Look!” Pyanya gasped.

“Only three coins,” Jira sneered. “That’s not much of a stack.”

“It’s better than you managed!”

“But look at them!” Jira picked up one of the coins, and laughed. “That’s not the Queen’s face—it’s yours!”

Pyanya gasped and dropped the staff, snatching the coin to take a closer look. “That’s not me!” she protested. “Look, there’s a mole on her chin!”

Jira picked up the staff before Pyanya could recover. “It’s you in every other wise, though! Now stand back. I’m going to try again. Maybe it took a while to awaken the staff.” She waved the staff, and spoke in a booming voice, as Pyanya had. “Staff, I command thee: bring us a stack of gold octagons!”

Again, Thurun Made three more coins.

Pyanya looked at the new coins and giggled. “Now it’s your face. But there’s a mole on the end of your nose!”

Jira scowled at the visage. “Nobody would notice the face,” she said. “Three octagons each? We can buy anything we like with that kind of wealth!”

“But if we can make the staff work,” said Pyanya, wide-eyed, “we won’t need money! Let me try again.” Jira handed her the staff, this time without protest. “Now… staff, I command thee. Make me a beautiful dinner dress!”

Jira laughed at the shimmering blue dress that Thurun Made for them. “That dress wouldn’t fit a baby! It might fit your rag doll, though!”

“Here, you do better!” Pyanya snarled and pushed the staff into her friends hands.

“Maybe we need to be very specific,” said Jira, becoming thoughtful for the first time. “Staff, I command thee: make a beautiful dinner dress, that will fit us!”

Thurun thought a moment, then grinned and Made what they had commanded. The girls squealed at the dress, then moaned when they picked it up. “It fits us!” Pyanya pointed to the four sleeves.

Now, Thurun decided it was time to finish the lesson. “Silly girls.” The girls gasped and looked up at the cat, as Thurun spoke through it. “What do you know about working magic?”

Jira sniffed. “Well, we made you talk,” she said, trying to sound brave. “That’s something.”

“I’m hungry,” the dog said.

“You’re always hungry,” Jira protested.

“And he’ll let you know, now and forever,” said the cat. Jira gave the cat a horrified look. “Unless, of course, you do the right thing.”

“What is that?” Pyanya asked, nearly frantic.

“He whose staff you have stolen is even now walking up your street,” said the cat. “Return it to him, apologize, and offer to do whatever penance he demands of you.”

“I will!” Pyanya snatched the staff. “Jira, you too!” Jira nodded, and the girls dashed into the street, almost bowling Thurun over in their haste.

“Here, take this, it’s yours!” Pyanya gasped. “We’re very sorry!” Jira added. “We’ll do anything to make it up to you!”

Thurun took back his staff, and tried to give the girls a very serious look. “This is your penance,” he intoned. “You will become my apprentices, or my attendants if you have not the Talent for magic.”

The girls looked at each other. “Apprentices?” Jira squeaked.

“Indeed. You will work hard, and learn all that I can teach you.”

“We’ll—we’ll have to ask our parents,” Pyanya stammered.

“I will ask them for you,” said Thurun. “But I am sure they will be happy to know you will begin to make something of yourselves in life.”


It was so: the girls’ parents were elated to see them apprenticed to the great Thurun. In time, Jira and Pyanya learned that Thurun had tricked them, and the three of them often played merry pranks on each other. The girls grew into sturdy women, and strong sorcerers. Pyanya became a Protector, some years after Thurun departed Termag with many other Makers. They bore children, who were worthy sorcerers themselves, and their bloodlines continue to this day.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

This has been an interesting week. Maybe it was synchronicity, or maybe it was the universe sending a message. Anyway, let’s start with a summary of the logline and blurb voting from last week’s wibble.

MenWomenTotal
LoglineA112
B1.523.5
C4.537.5
Blurb1112
2134
332.55.5

I arbitrarily assigned a half-vote where voters suggested that either of two were good, or picked “this one, but I liked that one as well.” That’s why the totals don’t equal out. (I included votes received on Twitter, and on a community blog of sorts that I frequent.) Here’s how I interpreted the results:
  • Logline C is the clear winner.
  • I was a little surprised that the men preferred C at least as much as the women. I thought it might be too romance-y for the guys.
  • Blurb 1 is the one that +Angela Kulig rejected. The voting confirms her opinion, which I expected.
  • Women liked Blurb 2 far better than the men.
  • Voting on blurbs 2 and 3 was close enough that I’d be comfortable using either one (with modifications as described below).
I got some back-channel feedback about the word “exotic” in the blurbs. I wasn’t aware that it’s a red-flag word for some women. Ironic that the person described as such, comes from a matriarchal society! Now one could argue that exotic simply means “foreign,” and it’s a fool’s errand to avoid all offense, but why offend the very people I hope to have as supporters? (duh) I found and struck the one use of the word in the text. Fortunately, it was easy to remove.

What’s interesting is how this all ties into last week’s big ugly blowup at the SFWA, over unintentional(?) sexism in their quarterly bulletin. A woman in a chainmail bikini on the cover, along with authors Mike Resnick and Barry Malzburg discussing the physical attributes of women editors, led to some protests. Resnick and Malzburg threw gasoline on the fire by claiming censorship, using language more appropriate for teabaggers than authors in a supposedly forward-looking genre.

Don’t take my word for it. E. Catherine Tobler’s public SFWA resignation did a fine job of covering the details, and described some of the blowback that she and others got. Lest you think this was just an isolated incident, Anna Guirre’s experience(s) suggest that sexism is endemic to not only the SFWA, but cons and especially the panels that claim to represent the genre and its writers. And she also received some nasty blowback.

The SFWA leadership was caught flat-footed, but (to their credit) got it together and acted. First off, outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi issued an apology, saying (in part), “when all is said and done, I personally am responsible for the Bulletin and what is published between its covers.” Shortly after, the SFWA formed a task force to see “how the publication needs to proceed… to be a valuable [member resource].” This is a good start. However, the task force is four men and three women, which doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies. I don’t think it’s the intent—but given how women are marginalized at panels and the like, this could easily turn out to be a pinkwash.

And now… it’s rant time.

I find this head-desking incredible. I’m a middle-aged whitebread dude, and I have my issues, but I fracking try to do better. And yes, common tropes in Fantasy include putting a woman in a chainmail bikini. Or making her the damsel in need of rescue. Or part of an embarrassing sexual encounter with the hero. “Judas Priest, what the hell is this?!” as my Mom might say.

We know better, and should strive to do better. There have been examples of “better” since the 70s, now-classics by Anne McCaffrey, CJ Cherryh, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Yes, as writers, it can be work. When I first started writing, the characters were all guys all the time. I had to make a conscious effort to create female characters, then give them more than a few lines, then put them on an equal footing, then cast women as the main characters. But dammit, I did the work, because I knew it had to be done if I was going to be a decent writer. It wasn’t all that hard.

Fortunately, this is a problem that time is about to solve. Looking at my Writers list on Twitter, the vast majority of them are women. Bowker also tells us that women are 62% of the book buyers. As writers and authors, we have to appeal to women if we’re going to have any chance of success. That doesn’t mean everything has to be steamy romance—although erotica has (ahem) thrust its way to the top of the charts—but authors (especially new authors) have to understand what the market looks like these days. I’m not saying we should do nothing now, but in the long run, we’ll win. The old boys’ club is dying of old age.

I wanted to wrap this up with a survey of gender roles throughout Termag’s history, but this has run long enough. Maybe next week.

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