Pre-Vacation Book Packing Struggles

I’m flying out for Japan on Tuesday which means at least 20+ hours of flying and 6+ hours of train rides.

This is the longest trip of my life and I am unspeakable excited. Not only am I going to Japan (I mean, JAPAN), but that’s approximately 30 hours of potential reading time ahead of me.

Ergo, I am faced with the exhilarating, yet frustrating task of packing books. I have decided to limit everything to my Kindle for space and luggage reasons. That narrows it down a little, but not much. My Kindle gets intermittent WiFi connection, so it’s not like I can download at will during the trip without a USB and laptop.

I have close to 600 eBooks and I’ve only read about a fourth of them. I feel terrible about this, especially because so many of them are from authors I know, who are waiting for reviews, and/or books I’ve wanted to give a go for weeks, months, years a long time!

I mean, there’s the second book in the Reign of Secrets series and I loved the first one. Then there’s the 7th book in Erica Steven’s The Captive  series or her Kindred series…those are badass, too. Not to mention Deathless, Snow White’s Revenge, Ironhand, Hand of Fire, Voices of Blood, The Blind Dragon, Blazed Union, Mortal Enchantment, and an ARC of AsylumAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! I will never be able to read them all!

There are so many options! So many books I’ve neglected for so long! I feel terrible!

Regardless, I’m sure I’ll work it out. I’m also not forgetting my own stories. You can bet I’ll be bringing a notebook and prepping for the release of the Fanged  prequel novella early June. More details will be following when I get back next month, but until then, feast your eyes on that cover!

Lovely, no? I can’t wait for you all to meet Fletcher! I fell in love writing him and I’m sure you will, too.

Now…I’m off to find travel toothpaste and make some final calls on what I’m loading into my Kindle. I also need to schedule some posts for while I’m gone. At least one…and I still have a Business Statistics final here at college. Ugh. But only a few more days before it’s me, my お祖母さん, and my Kindle in the Land of the Rising Sun. I can’t wait!

Tell me some of your pre-vacation book-packing dilemmas. How do you make the call which books to bring and which to not? 差王なら、皆さん!

Interview: Cait of @PaperFury

Today I am delighted to host one of my favorite bloggers of the vast internet, Cait of Paper Fury! She is an Aussie word ninja and lover of chocolate in addition to being a fantastic authority on all things in current bookish affairs!

Hello Cait! Thanks for stopping by. What first got you to start Paper Fury?

I actually had no idea at all of ever what a blog even was when I started! But my older sister convinced me that I needed one and, well, you DO what your older sister says, okay?! Safety first. I started out blogging with my little sister (I have far too many sisters apparently) about our month-long adventure in China and then she wandered off and it turned into a sole endeavor by me called Paper Fury: an entire blog dedicated to books. Because really, what else is there in life. (Well, apart from cake obviously.)

(Older sisters always know best. Speaking as one, I can confirm. 😉 )How has being a fiction writer influenced your blogging?

I blog so insanely differently to how I write that the two are like opposite worlds for me! However, blogging has definitely influenced my writing. Since I started sneaking about with the bookworms, I’ve taken notes on: what’s popular in YA, what topics readers are shouting for, what’s not being written about, and exactly how much cake people want in their books. (Spoiler: lots of it.) So blogging is definitely an amazing help to my writing career.

Hanging out with the cool kids sure can’t hurt. Have you ever gotten to meet any of your favorite authors?

No, sadly! All my most favourite authors are American and I live in Australia. And while I’d love to meet incredible Aussie authors like Jay Kristoff, Steph Bowe, Amie Kaufman, and Claire Zorn…I’m never close enough to the right cities! I shall just sit here and pout quietly and glare at the teeny tiny country town I live in.

🙁 Former small town girl here knows your pain. It really seems like you have to live in a booming metropolis.What is your dream job from any book you’ve read?

I would not say not to working in a bookstore with Sam and Grace out of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater. Or if there’s an opening for dragon queen, I’ll take that too. I can do both? Bookstores on the weekends. Slaying evil on weekdays. Multitasking like a boss.

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OH YES! I think we would all gladly play third wheel to Sam and Grace’s perfect romance! <3 How (if at all) do you think the bookish community in Australia differs from say, the US or the UK?

I’m honestly the kind of bookworm who frolics about in both communities so much they’ve all merged for me! I do think we Aussie bloggers tend to spend most of our conversations on twitter making fun of each other. Like the kind good souls we are. ‘STRAYA MATE. Friendly and relaxed.

Hehehe…it’s good you keep each other humble. Countries in books you’d like to visit? (Real or imagined.)

  • Paris because croissants and coffee and all the old famous authors used to go there.
  • Thisby from The Scorpio Races and not just for the November cakes…like it sounds all Irish and beautiful and full of deathly water horses and…November cake.
  • Red London from A Darker Shade of Magic, because I’m 67% sure I’d make a fabulous magician if I didn’t fall on my face and embarrass myself first.
  • Narnia, and I keep checking my wardrobe. It’s bound to let me through soon, right???

I’m strongly reminded you’re a Stiefvater fangirl and NARNIA ALL THE WAY. Favorite part of being a blogger/writer so far?

CREATIVITY. I absolutely adore creating worlds as a writer, or creating art as a blogger. And the amount of epic people I’ve met who are just as obsessed about books as I am?!? It’s marvelous. It’s also extremely satisfying to create a little bloggish kingdom out of nothing and gather the nerds to you so you can all flail together. MY PEOPLE.

Thanks so much for having me, Elisabeth!

The creativity really is a massive bonus and thank YOU again for stopping by! 

About Cait:

I am Cait. But I also respond to “your majesty” and “ruler of all”.

I read quite furiously and have been known to swallow whole books before breakfast. I’m taking over the world. It’s happening. JUST YOU WAIT. I also write and plan to be a famous author. Currently my stories are about sad characters with cake deficiencies. I’ve written 16 miserable manuscripts and someday you will read them all and either a) proclaim my genius, b) weep, or c) feel driven to eat cake.

I live in Australia. I’m 21. I’m agented by Polly Nolan of Greenhouse Literary Agency.

I make origami things and sell them. I love superheroes and comics. I read anything and everything YA. I’m 5’1. I play cello. I’m a very intense obsessive fangirl. My brain is extremely hyper but I am extremely shy. My bookshelves are arranged by colour. Humans make me anxious. I’m in love with my Nikon D300. My puppy’s name is Atticus. I like to zentangle. Cake is life.

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Are Indie Authors Worth Reading?

It may sound heretical for an indie author to ask, but I think it’s a valid question.

I take my writing seriously. I mean, get-up-at-5-am-to-write-before-driving-to-class, proofread-to-midnight, pay-for-cover-designers-before-clothes seriously. Most the other indie authors I know also put in the same ridiculous amount of time, effort, and exhaustive work. It can really hurt when we aren’t taken seriously by other people. There’s still a huge stigma towards indie authors, though it’s not as bad as it was even a few years ago. Still, a lot of reviewers, retailers, and some readers won’t touch our stuff just because it’s not tattooed with a Big Six Publisher’s logo. To add insult to injury, I actually understand why the stigma exists.

There are a lot of crappy self-published authors. A LOT. No way around that.

Hell, I was a crappy self-published author at one point. I actually reedited, redesigned, and republished my first five books because, let’s face it, the editing sucked and the covers sucked. (With their current versions, I can at least live with myself.)

 life all from we the incredibles GIF

Being an indie author comes with incredible freedom. We get to choose when we publish, what we publish, in what formats, the cover art, the audiobook narrators, the interior format, who we sell what rights, and literally everything you can possibly think of.

But like great power, great freedom comes with great responsibility.

I’ve seen a lot of indies (and I’ve already admitted I did stuff like this) upload a partially edited Word doc. to Kindle Direct Publishing, slap together an image drawn in Paint, and set it loose on the innocent world. This is what has flooded the market with the bad material that has given so many of us a bad name.

Regardless, there is no “right” way to be an indie author.

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Those of us who are serious all agree it’s imperative to produce quality work for our readers. That’s about as far as our consensus goes. Some swear we need a professional editor. Others rely on a team of trusted beta readers and brutally honest writer friends.

Some indies hire professional interior designers for eBook and/or print versions of their books. Others bootstrap it and study the formatting guides like the Bible until we know what we’re doing.

We all concur covers are second only to story, but again we diverge. While most of us (including Yours Truly) will scream we need a professional cover artist, I would admit others have done pretty well with a Shutterstock subscription and Adobe InDesign.

There are a vast number of ways to be an indie author. Therein lies the point and the problem. It’s all up to the individual!

But are indie authors worth it? Really, that’s up to you—our readers. 

You are the final judge of all things. We’re creating stories and delivering them straight to readers. That’s the point of being indies. We answer directly to you and we try to listen to what you want—those of us who take our work seriously, at least. And there are plenty of us who take it seriously, I promise.

In the end, I would encourage you to try indie authors despite the existence of crappy ones. Take a look at reviews, browse a few free previews, and see if anything catches your eye. Remember we write to please you, not agents or acquisitions editors. Until then, we’ll keep bringing our very best because, long-term, indie publishing is one of those things people only really do when they can’t imagine doing anything else.

When a Feminist Reads Sexist Books

Sexism sucks. I think we can all agree on that one. As a feminist, I acknowledge it still exists today and want to see it eradicated. That being said, I like a lot of literature that’s also sexist. I’m not going to deny it or try to make excuses for it—I may have fun reading it, but there’s definitely some inequality going on.

I don’t like misogynist works in general, but I’ve enjoyed quite a few. My favorite book category is the Swords and Sorcery subgenre of Fantasy and it has been dominated by male authors for a long time. As a result, it has been historically a bit male-oriented. Sometimes you get some pretty sexist crap—but there are still some otherwise pretty good books.

shrug marilyn monroe oh well some like it hot whatevs

A perfect example is the original Conan the Barbarian stories written by Robert E. Howard in the 30’s. I’ve been reading through them and yes, there is some heavy objectification going on. (Misogyny in Conan? Who’d have thought, right?) As for the Bechdel test, you can just forget about it right now.

So how can I stand—much less enjoy—this sort of thing? There are other elements to the story I genuinely appreciate. The descriptions, for one. Howard had a broad and varied repertoire when it came to setting a scene. The level of emotion and sensation he puts into his imagery is astounding. Sexist or no, he had talent. As a writer, I admit I’m envious.

Then there’s the action. Conan is considered the first in my beloved Swords and Sorcery subgenre and—just as you’d expect—there’s plenty of swords and gobs of sorcery. With unique takes on magic and detailed battles, no one can accuse the series of being passive.

conan the barbarian purpose meaning of life crush your enemies what's best in life?

This is just one example, but Dracula would be another. Bram Stoker’s original is chock-full of gender roles, damsels in distress, and men keeping facts from women because they “can’t handle the truth.” That last one did get annoying—just tell the woman why she can’t move the garlic, damn it!—but I still enjoyed it.

There was a delicious darkness and creepiness to Dracula. It was intense and scary. It made me keep the lights on and wish I hadn’t read it alone during a thunderstorm. I really do understand why it’s remained a part of pop culture for so long.

sesame street counting the count one bat ah thats one one bat

There are a number of other more recent works I’ve read (and liked) that are also casually sexist. It’s not necessarily women kept as concubines by the main (male) character. I see it as more subtle things like women’s lives being dictated by the orders and/or actions of men around them.

So why not just read modern feminist Fantasy/Sci-Fi/Thriller books instead? I feel that most the time, when feminist authors tackle certain genres, they get distracted. They focus on fixing the sexist history of the genre and sideline all the things that make the genre awesome to begin with. The monsters and sorcerers and assorted murderous marauders take a backseat—at least in the ones I’ve read.

I love feminism and as a woman, I need it. But as a fan, I also need my Swords and Sorcery fix.

Lots of times, it really feels like a no-win. Either I read something that’s feminist, but I don’t feel delivers the same “wow” factor, or I go for the misogynist book that’s otherwise pretty great. It’s more of a struggle than one would think.

Sometimes I wonder if, as a feminist, I should be reading these things at all. Maybe I should go reread some Charlotte Perkins Gilman instead (whose work is totally badass, even if it’s not my favorite genre). As much as I might love certain series, I see how they’re problematic, often in more ways than one. I’ll be the first to admit it, but I’ll also be the first to point out their qualities.

In the end, I want to read stuff I enjoy. Life is short and reading is meant to be fun. Just like how me liking a character doesn’t equate agreeing with everything the character does, me liking a book doesn’t equate agreeing with everything the author does.

Truthfully, I don’t think we’re ever going to achieve universal feminism, at least not to the point where everyone agrees. Too many people have different ideas of what equality looks like for women. Other people think Fifty Shades is about a woman’s sexual liberation, I think it romanticizes abuse.

There will always be books that fall outside the boundaries of feminism, at least each individual person’s definition of it. So do I ban books for myself? Do I forbid myself reading what I enjoy because there are some issues in it?

I don’t want to regulate myself to a little corner of “approved” books. Yes, there might be some issues with a story, but who knows? Maybe it will offer some perspective on something else. For example, one sexist book I read had some pretty awesome antiwar subplots and also tackled racism. That was totally unexpected and seemed kind of out of place, but it happened. Another one I read had one of the coolest magic systems I’ve seen yet. I’m really glad I read them both.

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I do enjoy certain books despite them being sexist. It might sound odd and some people might disagree that I should even keep those books in my home, but I say people should read what they want. So long as they are aware of what is going on and can acknowledge it’s wrong, why not? At the same time, if you’re uncomfortable with it, that’s fine, too.

Either way, if you’re not perpetuating sexism in reality by reading what you want, I see nothing wrong with it. As for what equals “perpetuating,” that’s up to every person to decide. Maybe you just don’t want to support an author who writes that way. It’s your right in the free market (yay capitalism!).

Regardless, I won’t let anything—even sexism—stop me reading what I really love. So long as I keep working to see people treated with respect and I’m not hurting anyone, I’ll go for the books I enjoy. I think everyone should do the same.

In short, read what you want and be a decent human being.

Top Ten Tropes in Fantasy Books That Make Me Happy

Just so we’re clear: fantasy books in general make me happy. However, there are just a few tropes and standards that I love a little more than all the others. Things that keep me coming back for more!

1. The “Prince Hector” archetype

I’m sure it has another name, but I associate this with characters like Wilek Hadar, Chaol Westfall, and Torian Ahlen. “Prince Hector” is the dutiful son, usually of nobility, with a strong sense of loyalty and morality. He values his people, his family, and his honor above life and how can you not love everything about that?

2. Redemption Arcs

There is something beautiful in watching characters redeem themselves after being evil. It reassures me that no one is ever too far gone and there is always hope.

3. Magical Beasts

I don’t think I need to explain this one.

4. Outlandish Cultures

While I have been known to rant over logistically/anthropologically implausible societies, I do like meeting new and exciting communities between the pages. It gives us a taste of possibility, of what the world could be like with magic, a certain technology, a curse, etc.

5. Earth Magic

I mention earth magic apart from regular magic because to me, it has its own unique charm. The very idea of tangible unity between oneself and one’s environment has a kind of enchantment. It serves as a reminder of how dependent we are upon the world we live in.

6. Dark Sorcery

Converse to earth magic, dark sorcery in books represents the fearsome side of people, the side we would rather keep hidden. Our destructive and self-serving tendencies. The description itself is pretty darn dark, but I appreciate how it explores such a deep-seated aspect of our humanity.

7. Monogamy

More specifically, lifelong marriages. I mean, the way things are going, this is becoming more fantastical than anything I’ve mentioned so far. The idea that people can fall in love and stay in love forever is just too good to pass up.

8. Chivalry

*swoons*

9. Battles

I love military history in general, so combining that with all the above? Yes, please!

10. Mercy

Tied to redemption is the idea that it’s possible for people who have been wronged to forgive even when the other person isn’t sorry. It is truly a massive part of healing and moving on.

What are some of your favorite things in fantasy books? Or just your favorite genre? Books in general? Let me know in the comments!

Feudalism and Modern Romantic Ideals Don’t Mix

I read an article on Tor.com a while back arguing for more modern relationship dynamics in fantasy. Specifically, the author was asking for more divorce since the honeymoon phase wears off for everyone at some point.

My first thought was along the lines of “oh, goody because I totally didn’t turn to fantasy books for escapism when my dad checked out.” My second thought was more of an anthropological “that probably won’t work.” Marital unions are too important to the traditional fantasy world structure.

marriage the princess bride mel brooks

Should every fantasy world have female oppression or forced marriage or mandatory chastity? Quite the contrary. However, dumping modern practices into a historical setting with a pinch of magic is not a recipe for an “innovative” or “realistic” fantasy book. Social structures and rules develop in order to solve problems and most fantasy worlds have the same problems as ours did in those periods.

Normalized divorce and sexual liberation in a feudal society where marriage also represents trade agreements and war allegiance is just not possible. Sexual liberation in a world without contraceptives or protection from venereal disease is also really not a good idea. (And don’t you DARE slap a little magic on it and walk away. That’s just cheating.)

Though, to be fair, love matches for royals has never worked at any time in history (arguably even now). But those are still fairly common in fantasy literature. Historically, the middle and lower classes were more liberal, but even they tended to marry for material gain.

disney marriage husband daisy duck

All the same, in a world where you are constantly at or potentially at war, you’re going to depend on your family most of all to watch your back. In feudal societies, this has been universally true. That is why a woman’s marital fidelity was so important—to them, knowing who was related was quite literally a matter of life and death. It’s also why even homosexual individuals were expected to have children with heterosexual partners (check out Edward II and basically half the Roman elite).

The only way to reduce the importance of marriage and fidelity would be to have another way of determining one’s allegiance. Maybe all the people who talk to horses belong to one tribe and the ones who talk to falcons belong to another. There are many options.

Gotham fox fox tv mad city impossible

The point is, cultural taboos (right or wrong) are the results of a culture’s problems. When you solve the taboos, but not the problems, you just end up with a wacky world that is more Wonderland than Westeros. Fantasy authors are meant to have the best literary imaginations, so why can’t they imagine new solutions? Maybe writers should just take more anthropology classes, I don’t know.

Writing Update: February 2017

Did you know this week is midterms? This week is midterms. It turns out taking 18 credit hours (including an internship and an 8-week class) is a lot harder than I expected. But I am still squeezing in the writing between study breaks, social gatherings, and Pathfinder—just barely. Geez, I’m already ready for the weekend. Anyway!

On the Argetallam Saga front, The Chalice of Malvron is now in paperback and I’m going through edits for the fourth book. Yay! The Temple of Tarkoth is set for release in May and I will be keeping you lovelies posted.

As for the Fanged series, I have written a Haddie and Fletcher prequel novella which is also set for release this summer. I am almost done with the fourth series novella which will be coming in October

Covers for all three of these 2017 releases are done and just waiting to be unveiled! Speaking of covers, I can’t get over the cover for Six of Crows.

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Isn’t it pretty? Best Valentine’s Day EVER!

As for Daindreth’s Assassin, it’s out for queries this spring and I’ve already gotten some encouraging responses. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m also putting together articles for publication on political sites. I may regret this. But it’s been fun so far and I’m excited nonetheless. Really hope this doesn’t veer south.

As for the immediate future, my goals for this month are to finish preliminary edits on The Temple of Tarkoth so I can nag beta readers and get some of those articles submitted. Fun stuff!

What are you all up to? Do you have any “must read” or “must write” projects right now?