I first found out about A.F. Stewart through her fantastic book, Horror Haiku and Other Poems. I was blown away by her ability to convey a full experience in three short lines. But she does not write only poetry! If you look through her Amazon page, it is clear that this is a versatile writer.
Ghosts of the Sea Moon is her most recent release. It is a fantasy maritime adventure. Here is the blurb:
In the Outer Islands, gods and magic rule the ocean.
Under the command of Captain Rafe Morrow, the crew of the Celestial Jewel ferry souls to the After World and defend the seas from monsters. Rafe has dedicated his life to protecting the lost, but the tides have shifted and times have changed.
His sister, the Goddess of the Moon, is on a rampage and her creatures are terrorizing the islands. The survival of the living and dead hinge on the courage and cunning of a beleaguered captain and his motley crew of men and ghosts.
What he doesn’t know is that her threat is part of a larger game. That an ancient, black-winged malevolence is using them all as pawns…
Come set sail with ghosts, gods and sea monsters.
When I read Anaerfell, it was more than a book to me. It was a complete experience. I even dreamed the world as I slept, silently trudging through an arctic landscape, eyes on the sky for dragons. I was overjoyed to find out that Joshua Robertson & J.C. Boyd have the next book in the series available to pre-order!
Anaerfell is significant to me for one other, more personal, reason. It was my gateway to becoming a member of the indie community. In addition to offering his own friendship, Joshua introduced me to writers who I now call friends. It completely changed my life as a writer.
Oh, I feel for Old Author Me, plugging away on my writing alone. It is a joy to find people who get you- whether it is to argue about comma use, ogle cover art, or debate Superheroes with on a panel.
Now that I've gushed, here are links so that you can meet this awesome author as well.
Joshua's Amazon Page
I found a lot of wonderful art in 2017. Although it pains me to distill all my discoveries down to a Top Ten List, I thought it would make a good blog to usher in 2018. In no particular order since they won for their respective categories:
Best Poetry Book: Black Tie Affair by JD Estrada
J.D. Estrada’s poetry book Black Tie Affair was a wonderful read. I paired it with whiskey and read it in one sitting. It’s one of those books that I know I’ll pick up again and again. Some lines smacked me across the face- and that is exactly what I want from poetry.
I was lucky enough to interview him on my youtube channel. Full of wit and wisdom, definitely bananas, 2017 gave me a huge gift in the form of his friendship.
Best Album: Painted Fan by Rabbit Quinn
After falling in love and writing to Quinn’s gorgeous debut album Lost Children, I enthusiastically backed Painted Fan on Kickstarter. I admit I’m biased- she is the only rock star to hold me as I swoon after a show- but this girl can sing, write, and play the piano with skill. And on top of all that, emotion drips from every note. Easily the best record of 2017 for me.
Best Steampunk Fantasy: License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe by Jacopo della QuerciaI had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. I was friends with Jacopo on twitter and bought it because of that. His tweets are fun, and smart, and often humorous, but his BOOKS! I admit it. I was book-smitten. He researches everything, provides footnotes for days, and weaves fantasy through historical events. I loved them so much I forced others to read them, who happily encouraged others to read them! Seriously, it was the greatest by-product. Bonding with people over shared joy of a book…He even inspired my first ever piece of fan-fic.
Best Romantic Suspense: Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers
I’ve been reading Carla Negger’s Swift River Valley series for years. I love them! Contemporary small town, east coast goodness which always remind me how much I adore maple syrup (Vermont has a lot of syrup. As a Canadian who has made her own, I approve).
I have no idea how I missed the fact that Neggers is also a romantic suspense writer! 2017 changed that. I started her Sharpe and Donovan series with Saint’s Gate. The heroine and hero are both in the FBI, but in totally different positions. And the heroine used to be a nun… add in the suspense, and I’m sold.
I don’t think I have ever read another heroine like Sharpe, and I have been reading romance since I was around 12 years old. Her unique back story added such a cool flavor. I can’t wait to read all the rest of the series.
Best Historical Romance: From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh
I loved the heroine who was a criminal out of necessity, and the unapologetic heat between her and the hero was appreciated. The most important part for me in the book is the way Leigh resolved the relationship between the heroine and her mentor. She comes to terms with herself and her own worth, and it makes the HEA that much more satisfying.
Best YA: The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani & Mindi Scott
This book was about grief and finding love. It was about growing up, and letting go, and holding on. I liked the back and forth chapters of the main characters, a guy and a girl. They processed the same events differently, which was interesting.
The story centers on the loss of the girl’s best friend, and the guy’s girlfriend. It sounds tragic, and it is, but what set this book apart was that it didn’t wallow. There was plenty of humor and romantic elements to balance out the darkness.
Best Dark Fantasy: Blood and Bile by J.C. Boyd & Joshua Robertson
Wow. This was dark. There were some rather gruesome moments. I didn’t even agree with a main character’s motivations. But it was riveting. Based on Norse mythology, this dark fantasy was unique. I’m used to the tried and true dragon fare, but it is absolutely a joy when you find a book that takes all your expectations and smashes them against the rocks with blood soaked glee.
I can’t wait for book two in the series!
Best Nonfiction: Insomniac City by Bill Hayes
I read this book at night, which seems right, with the Insomniac title. It was an emotional read, chronicling the life Hayes shared with Oliver Sacks toward the end of his life. I was profoundly affected by Sacks’ work, which is how I came to Hayes’ book.
His photographs went beautifully with the chapters, and through reading his book I got a sense of what it must be to live in New York, despite never having been there.
It was lovely. Just a lovely, lovely book. I am looking forward to reading more by Hayes.
Best Mystery: Anatomy of a Darkened Heart by Christie Stratos
I devoured this book. Each section built on the last leading to the stunning conclusion. I think I must have made a record for gasping as I read this one. I warred with myself trying to decide which main character I disliked most, even as they pleaded with me on paper to overlook their bad behavior because they have reasons for doing such bad things.
Very cleverly done.
Best Book on Writing: Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
I have a rather large stack of books on writing. A lot of them drone on for 300 pages and at the end, the mental fatigue destroys any value you might have found. Maybe that’s just me… But anyways! Hayes book on writing romance is short and sweet, with sass. She gets to the point. If you are looking for an easy to understand plotting book, look no further.
And that’s not all! She offers a free Scrivener template & printable beat sheets. I am currently using (and loving) the template for my WIP.
I am looking forward to all the wonderful art 2018 will have to offer!
Cross posted from Leaving Fundamentalism
Every time I apply for a job I have a pang of fear. Some jobs want to check your references. I am not afraid because I have a criminal history. I am afraid because my whole high school experience was a fraud. You see, I was home schooled. At first, I had big, thick text books with spines that smelled nice. I didn’t mind this as much, even though I was mostly left to my own devices to do my school work. I wanted to be smart. Discipline was not an issue. I wanted to go to college. I now see my naivety. I should have paid more attention when church members kindly informed me that college wasn’t for me or that god had other plans…
Before long, my mother had switched the whole curriculum up. I now was to do ACE which came in shockingly simplistic booklets, called PACEs. I was told it was much better, and I could work at my own pace. PACEs, get it? So for three years I stared at the PACEs, carefully filling in bubbles with my number two pencil. I can’t explain the boredom. I can’t explain the anger I felt with every depiction of a submissive woman making dinner. The curriculum featured multiple choice questions with only one right answer. There was no critical thinking involved.
I particularly hated the comic strips. I was in high school, and there was a cartoon man at the bottom of every page letting me know his thoughts on my obedience! There was always some moral to be found. Every subject was related back to the bible in the most annoying way.
Notice how the woman is in the kitchen drying the dishes, while the men have been out fixing stuff. In PACEs, women are always illustrated doing traditionally ‘feminine’ activities.My sex education was a picture of a chicken and an egg. I suppose I did not need the chicken picture as I had already learned about the birds and the bees from upstanding members of the community who liked raping young girls.
I am sure that the isolating nature of the program helped make me even more vulnerable. I was so lonely. Most of the other homeschoolers I was around were younger than me. It was a much smaller pool to draw friends from than a traditional school. When an adult man decided he was my boyfriend, I was flattered. Even after he started abusing me, I made excuses to myself because I wanted to believe him when he said he loved me. His family was viewed favorably in the church, as was his behavior. This adult man was allowed to be baptized with me in the context of a relationship. I can’t imagine now, as an adult, condoning an illegal relationship. At the time I didn’t see it that way, but that is why there are laws regarding this; it is never okay for an adult man to be in a sexual relationship with a minor. Of course, this is making ACE a spoke on a wheel of issues that surround fundamentalism.
ACE’s emphasis on modesty contributes to a culture of victim blaming and rape apology.Fundamentalists taught me from a young age to be compliant at every turn. They taught me to fear the outside world. They taught me that men are always superior. They taught me that if something is shameful, shut the fuck up. Suffering is a virtue. I could suffer so much I deserved a cross. I took pride in how much I could take without crying. What else could I do? The adults had chosen this whole life style for me. The point of my homeschooling was to further isolate me from “worldly” things. I think that is true for a lot of homeschooled children. I don’t believe that parents should be able to make this choice for their children. Teachers have to go through years of college to learn how to educate. Why do we allow someone to control a child’s education simply because they could procreate? Every child deserves meaningful education. They deserve science and math. They deserve to learn social skills.
Fundamentalists truly believe it is their duty to teach that only their world view is relevant. Every other world view is wrong and anti-god. The only education that truly matters to them is Bible-related. Everything else is “of men” and not necessary. It is too bad that what is not necessary often includes science, world history, and sex education. My educator took it one step further – anything that disagreed with the brand of fundamentalism I was raised to believe in was blacked out with a marker. I later read about how the Taliban does that. I read about the publics’ outrage and thought, this happens right here. Society allows black markers to be used in limiting an already limited education! It is protected under a proud banner of religious freedom. Should religious freedom involve allowing children to be taught outrageous lies as truth?
Every member of a civilized society deserves the ability to fill out a job application without dread that the education chosen for them will come back to haunt them. They should be able to make an educated decision about whether they want to be cut off from society or not as adults. Exposing children to only one opinion robs them of the ability to learn how to make good decisions as adults. Trying to merge with society when you have been willfully ill prepared is fraught with difficulties. It also seems just plain wrong. When I did graduate, I took the paper my mother had printed to the local college. I tried to get a scholarship with my high marks. I was denied. They would not recognize my diploma as legitimate. I had taken no standardized tests, even the SATS. The years of scribbling feverishly in PACES meant nothing. It felt like god was laughing at me. I was again comforted by members of the church that as a woman, I didn’t need college anyway. Why, soon I would be bouncing a baby on either knee! Of course, no good christian boy my age would want me as I was damaged goods. An older man might be interested…. Of course, older men were always my problem.
Perfect Break is now available on Amazon! If you are after paperback, don't worry. It is in the works and should be available soon.
The book follows the summer break of two best friends, Claire and Madison.
Here is the blurb:
When everything falls
Apart, people are just
Pieces of who they should
After best friends Claire and Madison are separated for the
summer, they promise to tell each other everything.
But when one of the girls starts keeping dangerous secrets, can their friendship
A novel told in verse
I'm so excited to finally be able to share this story with all of you! Thank you for reading!
I haven't posted in here for awhile. But I promise it is because I was hard at work. Was. Am. Because the
Nanowrimo spirit lives on in me! That's right. I am going to continue attempting to make absurd word count
In that spirit, here is what's on the horizon.
I have a YA novel in verse, Perfect Break completed!
I have another YA novel in verse, Underworld Aria almost done.
And a romance novel with a Christmas theme in the 2nd draft stage.
I hope all of you are doing well with your writing and your December in general!
Imagine, if you will, a writer banging away at her keyboard with none save her gnomes for encouragement.
A bit of happy encouragement came today from a non-gnome source! I had entered a poem, titled Not Just Jacob, to a contest held by Bars Without Rhythm.
I found out today that I WON! If you'd like to read the poem, head over to the Bars Without Rhythm website.
Trigger Warning- rape
Top Three Generic Victim Blamers
I was posting back and forth in a support group with other victims of child sexual abuse, tears in my eyes as we assured each other that we deserved better. Everyone was supportive, some disclosing more than others. It was a fragile process. Some people have never heard anyone say to them it is not your fault.
That’s when the generic victim blaming character came along. It always happens in these forums. Someone notices survivors talking and feels the need to point out all the ways the child could have contributed to their own abuse. They each have their own special brand of generic behavior. I’m going to cover the top three types of victim blamers I’ve encountered.
The Teary Eyed Rapist
Teary Eyed Rapist usually has a personal story they refer to of a child in their life that acted “seductive”.
The particular instance I’ll reference for the Teary Eyed Rapist type revolved around the ability of a ten year old year girl to “seduce”. The generic character argued that a “normal” child would be more innocent than a previously abused child, who would know exactly what she was doing as she seduced an adult male. He claimed that her behavior (much of what he described fits the pattern of children who have been groomed by pedophiles) needed to be addressed, as it made her rapist less guilty.
I refuted his claims. It started to feel uncomfortably like arguments I had with an adult man who raped me when I was underage. The assertion Teary Eyed Rapist put forward that if a child has been previously abused, she/he is no longer innocent and therefore less worthy of sympathy is absolutely abhorrent. The audacity of high jacking a group of survivors to blame them for being found “sexy” to their rapists made me feel physically ill. Teary Eyed Rapist said he was just trying to make sure all the factors are known. Because it matters to him. “If you’re going to defend the 10 year old stick to the facts…”
I’ve got one fact that renders all other considerations invalid- ten years old.
If an adult feels they can be “seduced” by a child, they are unquestionably the one with the problem.
Once it became clear that I would not accept that a ten year old seduced her attacker, Teary Eyed Rapist changed tactics slightly. He implored me to see beyond my obviously emotionally impaired judgement, so that I could see how he cared about the children so much. “It does no one any good if they can’t see the child’s portion of the blame.” He pleaded. When that didn’t work, he switched again. He said I was crazy. He attacked me with curses and said I obviously can’t handle the facts and should leave.
What he really wanted was me to admit my culpability so that he can assuage his own guilt over rapes he either committed or wanted to commit. Since it is such a generic argument rapists use, I know.
The whole time Teary Eyed Rapist maintained he cared about the children, which is why he noticed their seductive behavior.
The Worried about Rapists Therapist
This generic character is particularly insidious because people grant them immediate credibility. The Worried about Rapist Therapist inserts themselves into the conversation to inform survivors of how hard prison is on the perpetrator. They let us know how society has failed the sex offender, because they just need more rehabilitation programs.
Sometimes they tell us we need to read a book about empathy or some other self-help garbage. The therapist then demands we forgive the rapist, because that is the only way we will heal. They attempt to guilt trip anyone who is not agreeable to their ideals. I swear, this is a generic character.
Garden Variety Rape Apologist
Garden Variety Rape Apologists lurk around watching the conversation so that when they start to comment they come in strong, picking apart the survivor’s stories.
They will blame everyone in the world for the rape but the rapist. A lot of the time, they blame the rapist’s wife. If his wife knew, and did nothing she is at best a coward and at worst his accomplice, but he is still the rapist.
They blame video games, or pornography, or plunging necklines, but never do they blame the rapist. They will argue until they are blue in the face in defense of the rapist who could not help himself.
I’ve had it with people who work so hard to defend the honor of rapists. I don’t need someone to ask what I wore, how I acted, if I was previously abused, if I came from a broken family, if I was attractive to the rapist, ect. I don’t need to empathize with my attackers. If someone gets murdered, do people line up to ask if the victim was a jerk and therefore had it coming?
I’ve heard time and time again to tell. That telling is the absolute correct thing to do, and I hope the culture continues to shift in a way where justice is easier to obtain. But if you do disclose, the reality is you face an uphill battle against people who seek to blame you. It is unfortunate that it happens so often in the very communities set up for survivors to heal in.
Mrs Frank Millet ("Lily", nee Elizabeth Merrill) John Singer Sargent -- American painter 1885-1886) via Wikipedia
Continuing the Archie & Frank series based on Jacopo della Queria's book The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy...
Check out Jacopo's works here:
Raps at the door startled Archie. He lay his book flat on the end table, cursing himself for forgetting a proper bookmark. He glanced toward Frank’s closed door.
Archie hoped the visitor’s knocks did not disturb his beloved painter. Frank was finally shrugging off malaise. He’d kissed Archie quickly, dismissing him with a playful shove after breakfast. Frank had closed his door, and presumably was throwing paint around even now.
Archie tip toed past Frank’s door and down the hall. The visitor did not share Archie’s concern. Three forceful tat a taps rang through the foyer. He lunged the final feet to the door, throwing it open before another percussive set could echo throughout the house.
The visitor stared up at him from under the brim of her cloak. He stared down at her. She cleared her throat. Manners lovingly drilled into him from his mother saved him. It was muscle memory that made him say, “How may I help you?” when what he was thinking was What in blazes are you doing on my porch, you she-devil?
“I’m here to see my husband.” She said. “I thought you were in Italy?” Archie said, stepping back as she forced herself past him. “Pardon me. I meant to say, is the family well?”
She spun on her heel as he shut the door. She jabbed a finger into his chest. “You tell me. Is my family well?”
Archie winced. “May I get you some tea?”
She flounced down the hall. “No, you could offer to get my husband.”
Archie rushed after her. “He’s painting!”
“Ha! He’s painting! Did you know that is what he used to tell me when he met his other lovers?
That he was painting?” Her chest heaved as she flung open one door and then the next. “Afraid of what you might find, Archibald? He’s painting.”
Frank’s door swung open. “In this case, I am painting, Lily.”
Lily froze, her flushed face rapidly losing colour. Archie dove forward to slip his arm around her. She shrugged him off. She took a step forward.
Frank took a step backward.
“Where. Is. My. Anniversary. Present.” She said, her voice barely a whisper. Archie took several steps backwards, then turned and shut the door behind him.
Frank let out a sigh. He studied the wood grain of the door, the golden knob. There was a thin line of light coming through the space between the door and floor. Minutes passed before he forced himself to look up at his wife.
“I’m the mother of your children,” she said. She blinked, but tears slipped down her face anyways. Frank slid his gaze back to the thin space of light under the door. Archie was so much better with people.
“Do you want to sit in the garden for awhile?” Frank murmured. Lily liked flowers. Maybe she could be coaxed into a conversation about the proper soil for roses.
“Yes.” She sniffled.
They settled across from one another in the garden, under hanging ivy. The long green fingers dripped down towards them, casting latticed shadows across their faces. Frank watched the light play along Lily’s pale skin, shimmering dots like boiling water in a kettle until a cloud overhead dissolved them.
“I missed you.” He said. She dipped her head, saying nothing. He studied the fine lines etched into her lovely skin, the places time had claimed as its own while he wasn’t paying attention. His chest ached for her loveliness, not just the gleam of her hair as it turned silver, but the kindness she had extended to so many people through out their lives. He tried to be kind, but he was not Archie. He was not Lily. And they loved him, the both of them.
His eyes burned as he contemplated that love. Surely undeserved, the love of even one person of their calibre, but he had been blessed twice. Such blessings always come with their own responsibilities.
Frank leaned forward. He lifted his hand to reach her, but she didn’t look up. He dropped his hand.
Birds chirped. The trees and the wind danced with one another. Lily was silent.
Archie appeared and just as silently disappeared, leaving behind a tea service. Frank poured two cups of tea. He held out a cup to Lily, and mercifully, she finally looked up at him and took it.
“Lily, I-” he began, having no idea where his apology might take him. “Wait.” She held up one palm. He pressed his lips together.
“Do you remember when I was ill… oh, it must be twenty years ago now… but anyhow. I was sick and you carried me to the garden. We sat out there all morning, and you scolded me. Scolded me! You told me I had to get better.”
Frank leaned forward, daring to scoop up her free hand. “Yes, I remember.”
“You asked me who would take care of an old, decrepit artist if I gave out on you.” Lily squeezed his hand lightly, and then let it go. “We didn’t need to worry about that.”
“Do you worry about being taken care of? I promise you, you will never go wanting.” He said.
Lily raised her eyebrows at him. “Is that right? You of all people know there are various things to want.”
“I’m sorry. We can go to the country if you’d-”
She cut him off with a shake of her head. “I was angry. I wanted to be the only one.” She paused, sipping. “I knew about your lovers before, but I thought it was alright as long as you didn’t love them.”
It was his turn to avoid her gaze.
“I was angry all the way here, thinking about why I am not enough for you. Our whole marriage… I was not enough. I loved you. Love you.” She corrected. “No one tells you love is a complicated mess.”
“No, Frank, I don’t need apologies. I just want us to be honest. We’ve earned that, haven’t we?” Lily nodded her head in agreement with herself. “I thought the whole time it was about me. But it never was.”
They sat in silence, each lost in thought. Lily poured herself another cup of tea.
“It was Archie all along.” Lily said.
“What?” Frank said, confused.
“Archie sent me the anniversary gifts, not you.”
“I’m… I’ve been terrible. I just assumed you were getting along fine when I’m out of town.”
Lily laughed. It started quietly, but it turned into the full throated laugh that had first got his attention all those years ago. “When you’re out of town…” she wiped her eyes. “You are something. Well, in the spirit of honesty, Sam and I have been exchanging letters since his wife died.”
“Sam? Sam Clemens?” Frank asked.
“I knew you would think it odd.”
“Everything about you is a bit odd. But that’s what I like about you.” He teased.
“I’m going to see him.” She confessed.
“You don’t need my permission.” Frank smiled.
“I know. But… I wanted you to know.”
“Because you’re angry?”
They embraced on the steps, and Frank tucked a loose strand of her hair back into her hood. “You’ll come see me again before you leave town, won’t you?”
Lily smiled up at him. “Yes. You are my dearest friend, even though you annoy me so.”
“We’ll get you an anniversary present,” Frank promised.
“I’d like that.”
Archie was in the hall when Frank came back inside. “You were spying!” Frank said. He clutched his chest in mock horror.
“Of course I was spying!”
Frank pulled on his mustache. “Why have you bought Lily anniversary presents?”
“She’s the mother of your children.” Archie said, as if that settled things. “I can’t believe I forgot this year. I’ve been so busy, but I feel terrible.”
“I feel terrible. I’m her husband.” Frank said.
“Alright. You feel terrible. I’m going to pour a whiskey. Do you want one?”
“It’s my goddamn anniversary. Fill my cup.”