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The Selkie Spell
by Sophie Moss
Seal Island Trilogy #1
Publication Date: November 6, 2011
Genres: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance
Purchase from: • AmazonNook
Add to Goodreads.

Winner of the gold medal for Best Romance/Fantasy, 2013 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards.

Synopsis

American doctor Tara Moore wants to disappear. On the run from an abusive husband, she seeks shelter on a windswept Irish island and dismisses the villagers’ speculation that she is descended from a selkie–a magical creature who is bewitching the island. But when a ghostly woman appears to her with a warning, Tara realizes it was more than chance that brought her to this island. Desperate to escape a dark and dangerous past, she struggles against a passionate attraction to handsome islander, Dominic O’Sullivan. But the enchantment of the island soon overpowers her and she falls helpless under its spell.

Caught between magic and reality, Tara must find a way to wield both when a dangerous stranger from her past arrives, threatening to destroy the lives of everyone on the island.

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My Review:

I read all three Seal Island Trilogy books, devouring each one. The audiobook completely lived up to the expectations. Ms. Moss chose a narrator with a soothing voice and a talent for portraying individual characters. I downloaded The Selkie Spell onto my smartphone and listened to excerpts during long walks to and from work. A two-hour walk felt like two minutes as I got caught up in the story all over again.

Whenever I recommend the Seal Island Trilogy books to readers, I always emphasize this: Sophie Moss has managed to do something that many romance writers haven’t yet figured out. She creates male protagonists who don’t push their women around or dominate them, yet the men retain all their masculinity. None of the women are “saved by a man,” but that doesn’t neutralize the potency of the male character. In fact, this is a non-issue. There are no smothering and overly feminist ideals here; it simply is what it is, portraying strong women and strong men within their own story. I wish more writers could figure this out.

Everything about this series is beautiful. From the flowing prose and engaging characters, to the vivid imagery, and even the front-to-back formatting done for Ms. Moss by Blue Harvest Creative. Both print and eBook are stunning and complement the superb writing style that Sophie continues with Wind Chime series.

 

The Seal Island Trilogy

01_Selkie_Spell-(LG-2500-x-1563) The Selkie Enchantress (Seal Island Trilogy #2) The Selkie Sorceress (Seal Island Trilogy #3)

Author: Sophie Moss

Sophie Moss (Color)

Sophie Moss is an award-winning author of four full-length romance novels. Her stories are featured consistently on Amazon Kindle Bestseller Lists. Known for her captivating Irish fantasy romances and heartwarming contemporary romances with realistic characters and unique island settings, her books have appeared twice in USA Today. As a former journalist, Sophie has been writing professionally for over ten years. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Vermont and she is a long-standing member of Romance Writers of America. Sophie currently lives in San Diego, California, where she is writing her next novel. When she’s not writing, she’s walking the beach, volunteering at the local Humane Society, or working in her garden. Visit Sophie at her website at http://www.sophiemossauthor.com.

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Turkey Legs? I Don’t Think So

Short, succinct, and totally awesome insight by author A.D. Trosper regarding medieval reinactments and the true food of the middle ages.

A.D.Trosper

As you all know I recently attended the Great Plains Renaissance Festival. As per the usual ren fest food offerings, there were turkey legs which people carried around as they munched on them. And I wondered, why turkey legs?

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Well sure we all have the image of the pompous lord or king chowing down on a large hunk of meat while throwing bones behind him for the dogs to fight over.  And sure there is a painting of Henry VIII holding a drumstick of some sort. And of course because its a large drumstick it must be a turkey, right? It couldn’t possibly be from a larger European game bird.

Well, it wasn’t turkey and nobody in Europe was dining on turkey in medieval times. How do I know this? Because turkeys are indigenous to the Americas. The only people eating turkey during those times were the native peoples of…

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Horror Bites #1: A Bag of Heads

I don’t normally write horror, though I must admit it makes for a mighty fun time! Fellow author Laura Jamez has started a horror-writing challenge. For the first run, she presented us with this picture:

Bag of Heads

You can find the rules for the challenge, as well as the other entries, here:

And so I present my flash fiction horror piece:

“Barbacoa”

The aromas weigh heavy in the nostrils: bleach and the inert yet unmistakable fragrance of raw meat. Fresh, it’s not yet sickeningly sweet from decay. Nor does it tantalize the senses as fat drips from tender fibers of muscle, pooling back on the plate flecked with spice.

*
That happens in the front of the store. Customers prefer to buy the finished product. Lengua and sesos sound cultured and adventurous. Once they taste the pungent product within their fresh tortillas, they brag about the cross-cultural butcher shop at the edge of town. They love barbacoa, the tender meat flaking away beneath the braised exterior. Some know it’s cheek. They don’t care. The reviews glow from the Sunday paper, beside succulent photos.

*
Beside the restaurant, customers can buy their meat. We use international names. They eat barbacoa, but they don’t want to see its original form. Food gurus warn consumers to know their food, instead of accepting meat in an innocuous plastic wrapper. They recommend consumers build relationships with the people producing it. Visit the farm, they say. See the animals. Few actually do. They just don’t want to know. So we slice the tongue, cheek, and brains, and package it within plastic wrappers. Once it gleams under storefront lights, consumers ignore where it came from. They take it home, hoping to reproduce the cuisine they ate here.

*
We have two rooms behind the store: one beneath the other. Sometimes customers want to know. We tell them tours violate health code. But when reporters arrive, or the health department, we close the door and drag the rubber mat atop.

*
Humans taste just like pork. Fat drips from cheek meat, pooling back on the plate flecked with spice. But few customers want to know where their food comes from. Perhaps they should.

Soul of the Universe

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At long last, The Anthology Club’s first publication, Soul of the Universe, is available in eBook!

Ok, let me back up a little. Just what is The Anthology Club?

Launched in 2013 by Michael Manz, The Anthology Club promotes writers’ careers by producing and publishing anthologies of short fiction from flash to novellas. Senior members of the club propose projects, inviting both senior and junior members to write. Once the project is complete, the club publishes the work and offers it within the major eBook channels.

Royalties are distributed as follows:

  • 15% for the Club, to pay for publication costs, copyediting and formatting, artwork, and publicity for the current and future projects.
  • 5% for the editor of that particular project.
  • 80% is distributed among the contributors, based on the amount of content contributed by each author.

For a few months, The Anthology Club hovered within the limbo of closed beta as the senior members worked out the bugs in the system. When ready, Mr. Manz opened the club out to all writers, with calls for submission spread across the internet.

As one of the original senior members, I have been on board throughout the entire journey. It’s been fascinating. The Publication Agreement was my first ever, and a landmark for me in my career. I’ve had my say in projects still in the works, such as the pirate-themed anthology which still has a few meager weeks left for submissions.

Soul of the Universe paves the way for these other anthologies.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato 

“Here you will find a collection of six stories by four authors that, at first glance, seem to have little in common. We have Sci Fi Adventure. We have Medieval Fantasy. We have Emotional Drama, and we have Steampunk. We even have a Western. 

“Though each of these stories seems to have little in common with its companions, every one of them shares the same genesis. They were all inspired by that same divine spark that gives the universe purpose. They were all inspired by music. 

“Each of the authors in this collection took a favorite song as their inspiration and told the story that no one else could hear. The result is an endlessly entertaining collection of well spun yarns , thrilling adventures, and emotionally engaging drama. 

We hope you’ll enjoy.”

Soul of the Universe contains works by four authors: Michael Manz himself, Michael Walker, and me. And last but not least, the already published and quite bawdy and hilarious Michael Wombat, who has also headed up and edited the project. The artwork is by Kit Cooper, a newcomer herself to the eBook world.

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If you would like to check out Soul of the Universe and support The Anthology Club, you may find it at these links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Amazon Australia

Soul of the Universe on Goodreads

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And if you would like to write for The Anthology Club, you may find them online and on Facebook.

The Anthology Club homepage

The Anthology Club on Facebook

Take a moment to check them out! They might just be the writing project you’ve been looking for! And buy Soul of the Universe for some unique and truly entertaining stories.

5 Stars from Readers’ Favorite

Authors love any good review. But when the review comes from a highly acclaimed service from which traditional publishers choose some of their next prospects, authors get really excited.

These higher review services can be hard to get into, but luckily I have an agent. Blue Harvest Creative offers free agent services when authors hire them for the full  book design package. In return, many of Blue Harvest Creative’s authors have gone on to win awards through these review services. BHC submitted both Minstrel and “Darrion” to Readers’ Favorite, and both won 5-star reviews! Minstrel has now been entered in 2014’s Readers’ Choice Awards. When I have the money for another entry, I’ll submit “Darrion” as well.

Readers’ Favorite’s review of Minstrel is here:

Minstrel Cover

Reviewed by Tania Staley for Readers’ Favorite

“An unlikely hero becomes the center of royal dispute and intrigue in Marissa Ame’s exciting tale, Minstrel. When Liam and his band of theatrical brothers arrive in the city of Cynegil, they have only the desire to make enough money to buy food and a place to lay their head. But when they see the signs that the city is in mourning they have a difficult decision to make. Do they ignore their empty bellies and move on in the hopes of finding sustenance someplace else, or do they disregard the rules against merriment in a time of mourning and entertain people? The needs of nourishment require them to go against the rules, and this decision lands them in the hands of the new king Riordan’s court. Riordan rules the country in excess, throwing parties and feasts, ignoring the emptying larders and purses of the country. Shamus, his twin brother, realizes that it is imperative that someone knows the truth of events and hires Liam to be his personal historian in order to record the happenings of Riordan’s reckless rule. But, can a simple minstrel right the wrongs of an entire kingdom? Will anyone listen to him if he tries? Find out in Marissa Ame’s Minstrel.

“It was with much excitement that I downloaded a copy of Minstrel to review. Having previously read Marissa Ames’s short story, Darrion, which is also a story of Tir Athair, I was expecting the same intrigue and excitement in Minstrel that I had come to associate with Ames’s writing. I was certainly not disappointed. The feudal society that Ames has created, the intrigues involved in the opposing twin royal brothers, and the unlikely heroism of the minstrel, Liam, are wonderfully thought out and beautifully crafted. Rather than the lofty idealism that surrounds many fantasy landscapes, there is a grit and grime that is just as enchanting in the city of Cynegil. The world the author has created lives and breathes amongst the pages of her book. I highly recommend Minstrel, and I can’t wait to read her next book, Vassal.”

And the 5-star review of “Darrion”:

Darrion cover

Reviewed by Tania Staley for Readers’ Favorite

“Marissa Ames’ high-fantasy short story, Darrion: A Story of Tir Athair, will have readers longing to read more. Darrion is the prequel to Ames’ larger work, Minstrel, and I dare anyone who reads this short story to not want to pick up a copy of Minstrel in order to find out what happens next. Lana believed her dreams had come true when Kellan, a gifted healer, pronounced his love for her, but there was trouble ahead for their romance. The realm of Tir Athair was at war, and Kellan had been called upon to use his powers. There were darker forces at work than either of them could have realized, however, and Kellan is soon being used as little more than a weapon. To make matters worse, Lana bears a child who is gifted as well, and under the kingdom’s new regime it is a law to relinquish her child to the king’s control. Can Lana escape the kingdom and save her child from the same fate as her husband?

“Darrion is a short story that gets me quite excited to see what else Marissa Ames has in store for readers. In just a few pages, Ames creates a rich and vibrant story full of emotion and intrigue. The author has created a romance that tugs at the heartstrings and, from this joining, a potential hero that readers will want to learn about. I can’t help but wonder what sort of future lies in wait for Darrion. I see a lot of potential in this series, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Minstrel.”

Aislin’s Trial by Ordeal

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Cover art by Blue Harvest Creative

If accused of a crime in medieval times, a person could undergo a lengthy trial with a jury of his peers. This happened more often with nobility, richer and more important people who might disrupt societal structure if proven guilty and removed from their stations. The peasants often faced quick trials by ordeal.

In Vassal, the upcoming novel following the short story “Darrion,” Aislin has already banished Darrion from her manor house, for sins she just can’t forgive. He lives within the serfs’ cottages, biding his time until she can find a way to banish him from her fief forever. But someone has slipped belladonna poison into Darrion’s food, and the soldiers have arrived to arrest both of them. Harboring a gifted fugitive, and consorting with the Brotherhood of Teague, isn’t punishable by death. It’s punishable by torture, dismemberment, and then death when the accused could take it no longer.

Aislin faces a trial, but medieval trials weren’t as merciful as they are today. A woman, even a landholding vassal, did not stand equally among a jury of her “peers.” She relied upon the mercies of a husband, or her liege, to defend her in a trial. But Aislin had no husband. And Parlan, the Earl of Edurne, sought to defend her only to gain further control. A cauldron bubbled in the courtyard, ready for her trial by ordeal. Aislin had one more option that even Parlan did not anticipate.

An ancient judicial practice carried on through the Salem witch-hunts and ending as late as the 1700s, trials by ordeal were surprisingly effective. They followed a simple premise: God would save the innocent. The effectiveness also followed another simple premise: The guilty, who had as much faith as the accusers in the premise that God would save them, knew they would fail and declined the trial, thus automatically condemning themselves. Church and judicial officials could often rig ordeals so the participants could pass them, if the authorities so wished. If they did not rig them, the innocent still suffered.

Several trials existed, some crueler than others:

Trial by Combat

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Depiction of a judicial duel between a man and a woman by Hans Talhoffer (Ms.Thott.290.2º f80r, 1459)

Regularly used in Germanic law, trial by combat let men settle accusations without witnesses. Both parties fought in a single dispute, and the winner was proclaimed to be right. Trial by combat appears to have been introduced into common law in England following the Norman Conquest and remained through the high and late Middle Ages. This judicially sanctioned duel disappeared gradually throughout the 16th century. Hans Talhoffer, in 1459, names seven offences which warrant a judicial duel: murder, treason, heresy, desertion of one’s lord, abduction, perjury/fraud, and rape. Peasants had to present their case to a judge before dueling, but nobles had the right to challenge each other to duels without involving higher powers. Trials by combat were abolished by Emperor Maximilian I, but evolved into gentlemanly duels, which were only outlawed in the 19th century.

A one-sided ordeal of combat included “running the gauntlet,” though this was more commonly used as a form of public punishment much more dignified than the pillory or the stocks. Stripped to the waist, the condemned or accused had to pass between a double row of men holding cudgels, whips, switches, or blades. Someone walked in front of him, to keep him from running, and sometimes the accused was dragged or prodded along. Sometimes rules banned edged weapons, or required the two sides to each keep a foot in place, or allowed the accused to protect his head with his hands. He did not always die; sometimes he simply could not walk afterward. “The gauntlet” began in Roman times, as a form of execution by cudgeling, and ended in Russia and Sweden as late as the 19th century.

Ordeal of Fire

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After being accused of adultery Cunigunde of Luxembourg proved her innocence by walking over red-hot ploughshares.

The ordeal of fire typically required that the accused walk a certain distance, usually about nine feet, over a red-hot surface such as ploughshares. Or they carried red-hot iron for the same distance. Complete lack of injury proved innocence but, more commonly, a priest bandaged the wound and re-examined it three days later. If the wound had healed in those three days, God had intervened for the innocent. If the wound festered, exile or execution followed.

Cunigunde of Luxembourg and Emma of Normandy, both women in history accused of adultery, proved their innocence by walking barefoot over red-hot ploughshares without incurring injury.

Ordeal of Water

Several ordeals of water were employed: boiling water, cold water, and use of water to condemn witches.

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Water-ordeal. Engraving, 17th century.

In the trial by cold water, people accused of sorcery were submerged in streams. Survivors were acquitted. In the 6th century, pagans cast Gregory of Tours into a river with a millstone tied to his neck. According to record, divine miracle saved him, and the water did not suck him down. This law was abolished by Louis the Pious in 829, but reappeared in the Late Middle Ages. Men guilty of poaching could be submerged in a barrel three times, and be considered innocent if he sank and guilty if he floated.

In the witch-hunts of the 16th and 17th century, the scenario reversed: those who sank were innocent, and witches floated. Believers claimed witches floated because they had renounced baptism. In the Historia Litteraria, Jacob Rickius claimed they were supernaturally light, and recommended weighing them as an alternative to dunking them. James VI of Scotland claimed that water was such a pure element that it repelled the guilty. Witch trials by water occurred as late as 1728.

trial by boiling water

Aislin faced the ordeal of boiling water, in which Warrick tossed a ring into a cauldron. She had to recover the ring and prove her innocence.

In history, the boiling water had to be deep enough to cover the wrist of the accused if he was charged with one accusation, and up to the elbow for three. Afterwards, as with the trial by fire, the arm was bound and examined three days later. If the wound had healed within three days, God had intervened.

The Tir Athair series occurs in a medieval-based world, which has a basic belief in the singular God. However, since this is a fantasy world, instead of medieval Europe, there is no Christianity and no Catholic Church. The people face holy wars, inquisitions, trials by ordeal, and forced religion, but  accuracy to the tenets of Catholicism is not used. Instead I use artistic license. In addition, Tir Athair has the presence of natural magic, referred to as “the gift” in Athairan and Saoiran societies. Gifted people can harm, heal themselves, and heal others with the natural magic residing within them. Opinions about this magic vary from land to land; in some lands, they are considered cursed, and are burned for witchcraft. In others, the gift is feared and revered at the same time.

As Aislin faces her trial by boiling water, Warrick is ready to take her back as his ward and to control her as he desires. He offers her the opportunity to submit instead of undergoing the trial. The thing is… Aislin is guilty. But she knows she will be burned. In defiance of the judicial system and the Earl of Edurne, she plunges her arms into the cauldron.

Ordeal of the Cross

To discourage ordeals by combat among Germanic peoples, the church introduced ordeals of the cross. In this trial, the accuser underwent the ordeal with the accused. They stood on either side of a cross with their arms outstretched. The first to lower his arms lost. Charlemagne prescribed this ordeal in 779 and in 806, before Louis the Pious and Lothar I abolished it to avoid the mockery of Christ.

Ordeal of Ingestion

A priest blessed dry bread or cheese and gave it to the accused. If he choked on the food, he was considered guilty. This developed into the ordeal of the Eucharist, wherein the accused professed his innocence by oath before partaking of the sacrament. It was believed that if the oath had been false, the accused would die within the same year.

The ordeals involving ingestion of sacred food were unusually safe and merciful, but the ordeal of poison wasn’t always so.

Ordeal of Poison

trial by poison

Castor beans contain ricin, and paternoster peas contain abric acid. Both are toxins of the highest ranking. From medieval Europe to western Africa, these two seeds were used by trials of ordeal. The accused had to swallow them without dying. There was one caveat to the trial: the accused often lived if someone tipped them off and told them to swallow, not chew, to keep the poison contained within the seed’s hard coating.

In the 1800s, residents of Madagascar used the tangena nut, causing about 3,000 annual deaths between 1828 and 1861. Even in present-day Nigeria calabar bean is used to determine guilt. Innocent defendants vomit; the guilty become ill or die.

Ordeal of Boiling Oil

Similar to the trial of boiling water in Europe, the trial of boiling oil occurred in India and West Africa, requiring the accused to retrieve an item from a container of boiling oil. Those who refuse the task are guilty. Those who emerge unscathed are declared innocent. Though many “boil them in oil” jokes exist regarding medieval Europe, this rarely occurred. Oil was precious in those parts, and far too expensive for an ordeal that could be easier executed with holy water or hot iron. Similarly, oil was rarely poured through murder holes onto invading armies. Instead, they used boiling water or burning debris.

Aislin’s plot thickens as she plunges her hands into the water. Will she face execution for harboring Darrion, though Warrick tries to convince the jury that she is innocent and led by fear, so he can regain control over her? Will the water even burn her, and will she retrieve the ring, which has its own emotional history throughout the novel? And what of Shaila, who accused Darrion of the sin which got him ejected from Aislin’s house? She’s sitting on a bench, watching the entire thing. As is Sully, who orchestrated the entire arrangement between Darrion into Aislin. Gael also watches, the soldier who was left for dead by the Athairan army and has risen again to fight for justice. Oh yeah… and what about Darrion, who’s hanging above the square in a gibbet, forced to watch the entire trial as she throws herself into the cauldron?

Here is where I leave you with a mysterious smile and tell you to keep in touch. I promise, all will be answered with Vassal’s release.

Conspiring Against Cancer

Some give their lives in the fight against cancer. Sahara, twelve years old, doesn’t suffer from cancer, but she has friends and family who have survived it. Or who still fight the battle. Sahara doesn’t have to give her life, but she’s giving her hair.

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Last year, Sahara W. shaved her head for St. Baldrick’s, a charity that encourages donors to raise funds and shave their heads, to support research fighting childhood cancer. Last year, Sahara raised $500. This year, she strives for $1,000 in donations.

To help her reach this goal, we’d like to offer something in return.

If you donate to Sahara W’s page, you will receive in trade:

  • Your name (pen name, business name)
  • One link (your website, Facebook page, or buy link)
  • One image (shown as a thumbnail, but also linked up to your page)

Donor names will be categorized by amount donated, and the list will be posted on Marissa Ames’ author site, and on our sister site, Ames Family Farm. This list will be shared on all affiliated Facebook pages, and will be regularly Tweeted. Also, other bloggers/donors are encouraged to share this page to further your outreach.

To take advantage of this networking offer, make a non-anonymous donation to Sahara W’s St. Baldrick’s page. Then message me on my Facebook page and share what name, link, and image you would like displayed. I will build the page, and inform you when it’s available to share.

This opportunity is not available for:

  • Pornography
  • Drugs, even if they’re legal in your state
  • Any illegal activity
  • Spam
  • Hate groups, or even hateful comments

All money paid goes straight to St. Baldrick’s!

Thank you! -Marissa Ames

Responsible Heroines

Minstrel Cover

Today in church, L stopped me to tell me how much she enjoyed reading Minstrel. Currently she’s about halfway through, and she stays up past midnight to read.

L just turned 14 years old. She belongs to a demographic for which I didn’t target Minstrel. I don’t want to write young adult fiction, because I don’t want to focus on adolescent characters. I want to write about adults who get into gritty situations and prevail, breaking through pre-existing stereotypes. But as I wrote Minstrel, I thought about my friends’ daughters. I wanted my friends to be able to trust my work, to be able to hand my books to their daughters without first censoring them.

What I anticipated actually happened. My friends bought my novel and handed it directly to their daughters, without reading it first. Without asking me if I had included sex or f-bombs, or even if the subject matter was appropriate. They trusted me. They trusted my writing.

Minstrel now follows many fantasy novels as they gain considerable fans among the young adult population. Namely, among young girls.

Robin McKinley’s books are among those that have trended with young girls, despite being written for an older audience. The Blue Sword and The Hero and the Crown both feature grown characters. Not far out of adolescence, these heroines fight dragons and lead battles. They fall in love, but are not saved by their men. Often, they save the men.

Growing up, among my heroes was Alanna from the Song of the Lioness series. They were Harry from The Blue Sword, and Aerin from The Hero and the Crown. I began my love of fantasy with Ronia the Robber’s Daughter, from author Astrid Lindgren. From there I admired Princess Cimorene, who volunteered to be the dragon Kazul’s captive, and who teams up with the handsome king to rescue the dragon. These were the girls and women I wanted to grow up to be.

My mother was a wonderful woman. She was as combination of superhuman sacrifice and human weakness. She was independent, industrious, and morally upright. As I grew up, I became an eclectic mixture of my mother and my fictional heroes.

Now, my 12-year-old daughter has followed my example. While writing this post, I stepped out of my office to ask my daughter, “Who are your heroes? Fictional or real life.”

She replied, “Katniss Everdeen and Tamora Pierce.” Katniss Everdeen is the heroine from the popular books-turned-movies The Hunger Games. Tamora Pierce writes fantasy quartets about young women who prevail in male-dominated medieval settings.

My daughter didn’t choose me. Does that mean I’m a bad role model? I hope not, for I wouldn’t have immediately indicated my own mother if someone had asked me the same question at that age. Yet my mother was a wonderful role model. She was my reality. Alanna and Cimorene were my aspirations.

No matter how hard to you try to choose your daughter’s role models, she will still choose her own.

As Minstrel’s popularity grows among teenage girls, it further reinforces my responsibility as a writer. I could write horror or erotica, but I prefer fantasy. I prefer a genre that is devoured by teenagers of both genders, whether or not it’s written for adult audiences. And though many of my author friends claim, “You can’t control what the characters do,” I disagree. My muse may guide, but I have the final say over my work.

I could have made Molly a simpering little waif who let herself get bounced around by whichever man claimed her. Aerdra could have let her people die, or begged her husband to defend her, instead of taking up a hatchet and fighting alongside him. Finola remained the voice of reason and morality for her daughters, while her son battled politics within the king’s guard.

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, is often asked, “Why do you create these strong women characters?” Joss’ answer has now become a mantra for feminism and equality within art: “Because you’re still asking me that question.”

Joss’ inspiring speech is here:

Other authors who write strong female characters stand out as remarkable, or even abnormal. To this idea, Neil Gaiman has replied, “Well, I write people. Approximately half of the people I know are female and they’re cool, and they’re interesting, and so, why wouldn’t I?”

Orison

Daniel Swensen, an author friend whose fantasy novel Orison is due for publication in 2014, had problems with his main character, Randoval. The novel was staid and boring, and Randoval didn’t have the potential he needed. Daniel examined Orison and realized he followed the trend that so many fantasy authors follow: the men were the heroes, and the few females were oversexualized. Daniel’s amazing solution, which changed the entire tone of the novel, was to flip Randoval into a brown-skinned woman named Story Kai Tann. Suddenly, perspective changed. Friends and beta readers were amazed. Daniel’s editor even said, “Story could never be a man! Story as a man = boring. Story as a woman = awesome.”

Daniel said of his gender-flip, “I’m not trying to teach the world to sing, or anything like that, I’m just writing the kind of book I’d like to read myself. I don’t for one instant consider Orison to be some sort of Important Feminist Work; it most emphatically is not. It’s just a good fantasy yarn, which happens to have a female protagonist who doesn’t get by on her bare midriff and her sexuality. And if that makes my novel out of the ordinary somehow, well, all I can say is, it shouldn’t. I think it should be both common and unremarkable.

You can find Daniel’s blog post regarding this gender-flipping decision here.

So what, exactly, is my responsibility as an author? First, let’s briefly look at some of Minstrel’s growing fanbase:

Though L’s parents are happily married, she’s strong in her faith, and her family has a dynamic that I envy, L and several members of her family are currently undergoing health problems that will alter their future. L herself holds on with uncertainty.

K is 11 years old. She has been the victim of poor choices made by the adults in her life, since she was conceived. Though she’s an honors student, K continues to struggle past the examples set by some of the most important adults in her life.

As she nears 16 years of age, A has become a driving force in the success of her peers. Blessed with a strong and loving family, she maintains a high moral standing in high school, surrounding herself with friends who are not so lucky.

Then there is the teenage girl who stopped by my table at a book signing and asked, “Dad, I really want to read that book. Can I please have it? Please?” I explained the book to the father, who promptly purchased it for his daughter. If she had simply seen the novel in a bookstore, she would probably have wanted it just as badly, without the author present to assure the father of the content.

Which of these girls deserves a trustworthy piece of fiction, with role models and ideals they can follow? How would my writing career, or the trust my readers have, change if I threw in f-bombs, sex scenes, or overt violence into the books? As a parent, I consider this broad demographic the same way that I consider my own children.

Sahara

My own daughter, S, lives two lives because she switches back and forth between two biological parents. When people ask about the moral character of her father, I simply reply, “Well… we’re divorced.” She is still growing, still reaching that critical moment when she decides who she will become. And, if my daughter is going to pick role models that she has never met, I want to be sure she has some she can look up to.

I don’t feel like I owe the world a story. I’m not writing for a teen magazine, or for a rally of any kind. I write entertaining fiction. But when parents hand my work directly to children as young as 11, trusting me, I feel my responsibility is to keep that trust.

As I write Vassal, as the heroine encounters compromising situations and has to take the high road (or doesn’t) through each, I keep these young women in mind. I don’t write for the young adult market, but I write for the ones who might pick up my books. They’re the ones who hand my book off to their friends. They are my fanbase.

Darrion by Marissa Ames

Voracious Reader

Today I am reviewing Darrion by Marissa  Ames.

darrion

 

Blurb: A short story set in the world of Tir Athair. The first time Darrion struck her, Lana loaded her wagon and left Cynegil. Two-year-olds should not hit like that. She draped the windows of her cottage with dense cloth and worked by a single candle. If she timed her flight well, she could pass through the market during changing of the guard. In another era, under another king’s reign, Lana would have rejoiced that Darrion had inherited his father’s gift. Now, if Lana does not present her son to the king, she could lose her head.

My Review: This short little prequel accomplished what it set out to do, sucked me in and made me want more. As with most of these little novellas or prequels it is way too short. Lucky for me I have the next book to…

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