Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Cover Reveal for The Alchemy of Sorrow!

Image description: The image shows a green textured paper torn diagonally across a book cover. Not much is visible beyond the text “of Sorrow” a portion of a person’s head, and what could be some broken glass, plants, and a bit of broken pottery.

So, if you've been following my social media at all over the past few months, you've probably seen me mention The Alchemy of Sorrow at least once (but more likely dozens of times). It's the big project that has been taking up all of my waking hours since January of this year (aside from a brief break for QuaranCon2022). What is it you ask? Well, it's an anthology of SFF short stories that are all centered on the theme of grief & hope. We ran a Kickstarter for it back in February and it went pretty well (we raised over $24,000, which was almost 400% of our initial goal). One of the things we were raising funds for  was an awesome illustration by Zoe Badini to use for our cover.

If you're interested in the process for how we came up with our artist brief, read on! 

For the cover of The Alchemy of Sorrow, we wanted to create an image that was evocative of all the stories contained within its pages, without being specific to any single one of them.

Since most of our stories have female protagonists, we chose to center the image on a grieving woman. We wanted her to be a woman of color, to celebrate the diversity of our stories and authors, and to represent the majority of the world’s population. We asked the artist to portray her standing among ruins, with her grief transmuting into light, which in turn begins to transform her surroundings.

We also took inspiration from the Japanese practice of kintsugi - in which a fractured piece of pottery is restored using precious metals mixed into the lacquer so that the items cracks become a beautiful feature of the piece rather than a flaw to be hidden away - and we asked if the woman’s skin could feature cracks lined with gold.

From those sketchy details, Zoe Badini conceived of the stunning image you see below of a woman standing before a broken stained-glass window, with light coming from the cracks in her skin. The light forms swallows, a symbol of rebirth, and renews the dying jasmine around her.

The cover illustration for The Alchemy of Sorrow. Image description: to the right of the image (the front cover) a woman of color stands before a broken stained glass window. Her body is riddled with glowing golden cracks. A pair of similarly glowing swallows flitter above her hands, held at chest level. She is surrounded by dead vines that curl around the window as well--here and there, a few glowing golden flowers are blooming. To the left of the image (the back cover), a pair of glowing swallows face each other in midair, framed by a few glowing flowers. The rest of the cover shows dead vines and a sense of decay, including a broken ewer.

After receiving Zoe’s gorgeous artwork, the task then fell to me to design a text layout that didn’t detract from it. I did my best to convey all the information necessary and make it legible without obscuring too much of the artwork. And also tried to make certain pieces of the illustration pop more by adding contrasting darkness. Which lead to this:

The cover art for The Alchemy of Sorrow. Image description: to the right of the image (the front cover) a woman of color stands before a broken stained glass window. Her body is riddled with glowing golden cracks. A pair of similarly glowing swallows flitter above her hands, held at chest level. She is surrounded by dead vines that curl around the window as well--here and there, a few glowing golden flowers are blooming. To the left of the image (the back cover), a pair of glowing swallows face each other in midair, framed by a few glowing flowers. The rest of the cover shows dead vines and a sense of decay, including a broken ewer.  The text laid out across the front cover reads “The Alchemy of Sorrow” in gold across the top with a portion of the text hidden behind the woman’s head but still legible. Below that in white, the subtitle “A Fantasy & Sci-Fi Anthology of Grief & Hope” and below that, “ M.L. Wang, K.S. Villoso, Intisar Khanani, Sonya M. Black, Angela Boord, Levi Jacobs, Krystle Matar, Virginia McClain, Quenby Olson, Carol A. Park, Madolyn Rogers, Rachel Emma Shaw & Clayton Snyder” below that “Edited by Sarah Chorn & Virginia McClain”  The spine of the paperback layout shows the publishing logo for Crimson Fox Publishing the the bottom in a light gold color, above that the names Chorn and McClain written in white are separated by a pair of swallows depicted in line art in a light gold color. And above that “The Alchemy of Sorrow” is written out in a stylized font to match the front cover.  The back cover text reads as follows “Here be dragons and sorcery, time travel and sorrow. Vicious garden gnomes. A grounded phoenix rider. A new mother consumed with vengeance. A dying god. Soul magic. These stories wrestle with the experience of loss—of loved ones, of relationships, of a sense of self, of health—and forge a path to hope as characters fight their way forward. From bestsellers and SPFBO finalists to rising voices, 13 exceptionally talented authors explore the many facets of grief and healing through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi.” And below that it reads “Find out more at” and then next to the ISBN Barcode it says in small white text “Cover Illustration by Zoe Badini ©2022, Cover Design VM Designs ©2022”

And from there I set up the ebook cover which looks like this:

The cover art for The Alchemy of Sorrow. Image description: to the right of the image (the front cover) a woman of color stands before a broken stained glass window. Her body is riddled with glowing golden cracks. A pair of similarly glowing swallows flitter above her hands, held at chest level. She is surrounded by dead vines that curl around the window as well--here and there, a few glowing golden flowers are blooming.  The text laid out across the ebook cover reads “The Alchemy of Sorrow” in gold across the top with a portion of the text hidden behind the woman’s head but still legible. Below that in white, the subtitle “A Fantasy & Sci-Fi Anthology of Grief & Hope” and below that, “ M.L. Wang, K.S. Villoso, Intisar Khanani, Sonya M. Black, Angela Boord, Levi Jacobs, Krystle Matar, Virginia McClain, Quenby Olson, Carol A. Park, Madolyn Rogers, Rachel Emma Shaw & Clayton Snyder” below that “Edited by Sarah Chorn & Virginia McClain”

If you want to know more about The Alchemy of Sorrow here's the back of book description: 

Here be dragons and sorcery, time travel and sorrow.

Vicious garden gnomes. A grounded phoenix rider. A new mother consumed with vengeance. A dying god. Soul magic.

These stories wrestle with the experience of loss—of loved ones, of relationships, of a sense of self, of health—and forge a path to hope as characters fight their way forward.

From bestsellers and SPFBO finalists to rising voices, 13 exceptionally talented authors explore the many facets of grief and healing through the lens of fantasy and sci-fi.

And if you're thinking "This is awesome, Virginia! But when and where can we get a copy if we didn't back the Kickstarter?" The answer is that the public launch date is November 1st of 2022, and you can pre-order digital copies of the book here: Eventually, that link will also include audiobook pre-orders at the handful of audiobook retailers that allow pre-orders (which isn't many). The audiobook (which we funded with that awesome Kickstarter I mentioned) will go live on November 1st along with all other formats! 

If you are a print-only book person, don't worry! We've got you covered! The print book will soon be available for pre-order at most major online retailers and we'll post links for that here and everywhere else as soon as they go live, but they aren't ready just yet.

To help you find all the formats later, here are the ISBNs for each format!

eBook - 978-1-952667-92-3
Hardcover - 978-1-952667-93-0
Paperback - 978-1-952667-94-7
Audiobook - 978-1-952667-95-4

And here's a bunch of other facts about the book!

Sarah Chorn - lead editor
Virginia McClain - acquiring editor/coordinator
Stories by: M.L. Wang, K.S. Villoso, Intisar Khanani, Sonya M. Black, Angela Boord, Levi Jacobs, Krystle Matar, Virginia McClain, Quenby Olson, Carol A. Park, Madolyn Rogers, Rachel Emma Shaw & Clayton Snyder

And we are delighted to be working with Crimson Fox Publishing, an indie publishing co-op that will help us get into libraries and bookstores!

Monday, May 10, 2021

So much to catch up on, but first...

So, wow, it has been a long time since I've posted. I honestly have spent the majority of my time since December writing, rewriting, editing, proofing, and then publishing Sairō's Claw. (Which you can now find from just about every major retailer. Although due to a... let's all it a technical issue... it won't be live as an ebook on Amazon until Tuesday May 11th.) Anyway, here is the cover, which I am disproportionately in love with. 




Very soon I plan to write a big ol' post about why I wrote this book, but for bits and pieces of why, you can check out this interview with Fantasy Book Critic. Also, I wrote a whole article about how moms wind up getting sidelined in SFF over on the BeforeWeGoBlog which is directly related to this new book as well. And, finally, if you're looking for more insight into the hows and whys of this book you can check out this twitter thread I wrote on the subject. Oh, also, one last thing before we move on to the main point of this post: I am hosting a launch event for Sairō's Claw on YouTube May 11th at 7pm CDT, and you are invited to join me! The event will include an interview and reading! The video will stay up indefinitely after it goes live, so if you can't make it on the 11th you can catch it later, but if you're there live you can ask questions, enter a giveaway, and get a signed bookplate!

Ok, that covers launch stuff. But the main point of this post is to talk about a wonderful bookish event going on all through May -  #WyrdAndWonder, which is run by a group of SFF bloggers over on twitter

I have been in panic book release mode for the past week, so I have yet to delve into my TBR properly, but here's a look at some of the books I hope to read this month (and next month too, tbh, I don't know that I'll get through all of these this month even if I could go into full on relax and read all day mode, which I can't). Last night I finished Lord of Stariel by AJ Lancaster, and I am diving into its sequel right away, but I have always been one to read more than one book at a time, so we shall see which book I finish next! 

So, I have a lot of reading to do! (But that's always true!) And I'm really looking forward to reading more of these books and then sharing my thoughts about them on the hashtag #WyrdAndWonder You can join in the fun too, just check out the hashtag. There's also an instagram challenge, but I'm so terrible at those that I never enter them anymore. 

I am very much looking forward to diving into a TON of reading for the second half of May. It's been a long winter and kicking back with some sunshine and reading sounds like just the thing. Hope to see you at the launch or around the web. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

End of Year Wrap Up

Well, 2020 is almost done, not that I expect it will change much about the world, but it is certainly a year I will be happy to put behind me regardless. Does anyone else think that it's weird that we don't celebrate the new year on the Solstice? I mean, I know there's a bunch of roman emperors in there messing things up, but really, it would make so much more sense if the new year was on the solstice. Of course, half the world's winter solstice is the opposite one from the other half, so we would have to choose which one we wanted to make the new year and which one we wanted to make the halfway mark, but I'd really be ok with either one. It just seems kind of dumb to have a whole ten days left in the year after the solstice. Time is a human construct regardless, but if we are measuring trips around the sun, then why not measure them BY THE ACTUAL TRIP AROUND THE SUN? Ahem. And all the roman emperors are dead now, so it seems like we ought to be able to just ignore them and move on with our lives. I dunno.

Anyway, happy solstice everyone! I know it was a week ago, but I was busy hanging out with my family (the ones I live with in person, and everyone else over video chat) and I didn't want to be antisocial to write a blog post. 

This year... well it has sucked in a lot of ways. If you read my last blog post you'll know a big part of WHY it sucked. But of course, in addition to losing my parents back in June we've also lost some friends to cancer, and had a few other friends diagnosed with cancer who are thankfully still around and fighting. We've had friends lose pregnancies, and babies, and those aren't my stories to tell, but it's all awful, and it just hasn't been letting up. It's been an asshole of a year and no mistake. And that's just the stuff that feels big and bad and personal, there are of course, hundreds of even bigger issues that aren't so personal to me, along with hundreds of small hardships that make everything entirely overwhelming. So, I have to admit, I am going to firmly ignore ALL of that for the purposes of this post, and instead focus on the good parts of 2020, because I think we've all been getting hammered with the bad stuff every day as it is, and taking a moment to focus on the positives can really help to pull us through. Certainly, it will help me to do so, so here we go.

Good things that have happened in 2020 in the order that they occur to me which is random and at the whimsy of my odd brain:

  • It's weird to think that this was 2020, because it seems like ages ago, but I became friends with all the other finalists for the 2019 SPFBO back at the beginning of this year. We may have started the group chat in December, but the majority of our friendship has taken place in 2020 and I tell you, it has been one of the best things not just of this year, but of this decade. For me anyway. So, massive thanks to ML, Angela, Sonya, Alicia, Lisa, Rob, Rob, Darian & Levi for being the best friends a gal could ask for in the middle of a pandemic (or anytime). 
  • Many of my friends are welcoming new humans into the world, and new humans can be really cool. Welcome new humans! We have a lot of work to do before the world is a good place for you, but some of us are really trying, I promise.
  • My daughter is happy and healthy and growing every day and learning so much that its mindblowing. I have a feeling that by her next birthday she's going to be able to read full sentences, and that just... I am so excited for her. Books are such a huge part of my life and she loves to be read to so much. I can't wait for her to be able to dive into books on her own.
  • I finished the first draft of a new novel! I started it in November of 2019 and finished it in November of 2020. Now I need to revise the heck out of it for release at the end of March, but I am so excited to have a new book shaping up!
  • I got an official diagnosis for adult ADHD and a prescription to help manage it this year. It has made a really big difference for me, and is probably one of the main reasons that I'm managing 2020 as "well" as I am. (Note: I'm not doing particularly well, but I'm still here, and I haven't sunken into the despair that is constantly threatening to eat us all, so I am calling that a win.) 
  • We bought a used treadmill, Corey fashioned a desk to attach to the top of it, and I now use it for the majority of my deskwork. It is going a long way to keeping me healthy and keeping my brain away from depression. I sometimes use it for running as well (with the desk off). I have a love/hate relationship with treadmills, which is to say, most of the time I hate them, because they are repetitive and boring and I prefer to run, walk, hike, bike on trails. However, I am in love with this treadmill because winter in Winnipeg is often challenging enough to manage due to cold weather and a small human, and winter in Winnipeg with a covid lockdown is extra challenging. So, having a reliable place to stretch my limbs and create some endorphins is downright wonderful. I am immensely grateful that we were able to find a cheap one and fit it into our home. I'm extra grateful to Corey for making an awesome desk for it. (I am typing this post while walking a few miles at the same time!)
  • Having a woodland park nearby. On good days, we get all four of us (two adults, one two legged kid and one four legged kid) out to the park and into the fresh air. We are so freaking grateful to be so close to a small patch of nature even though we live in the city. It is a huge help to my mental health to have it there, and the time we have spent there has definitely been a highlight to 2020.
  • Video chats with friends and family we haven't seen in a while. Of course I would prefer to see people in person. Especially my family. We haven't been together since last January, and I would give almost anything (but not risking spreading covid around to them or anyone else, which is why we haven't done it) to see them and hug them again in person. However, we have had lots of video chats, and that has helped a lot. Also, we have had a few video chats with people we wouldn't have seen this year anyway, covid aside, so that has been really lovely, and I am very grateful for the technology that has allowed all of that.
  • I organized and ran a virtual SFF convention with the aim of keeping people entertained while staying the F home! It was really fun, and we're planning to do a second round in April of 2021, as we will likely still be unable to do in person conventions until much later in the year. I met so many fabulous people doing this, and I am excited to do it again (check out for details.)
  • I managed to read 70 books! Not only does that feel like an accomplishment, but reading is always a highlight for me in any year, and escapism was at a premium this year. 
  • Also, I FINALLY (after literal years of having it on my to-do list) recorded and released the audiobook for Blade's Edge! You can find all of the links to it all over the internet below. I haven't been able to record Traitor's Hope yet because we have been in lockdown since we finished recording Blade's Edge, but I hope to get started on it in late January or February. It is also my hope that I will get to record the Sairō's Claw audiobook soon enough that it will be released at close to the same time as the ebook and print formats! Yay!

                          Monday, September 14, 2020

                          An update on life (and death)

                          Well, shit, it has certainly been a long time since I posted to this blog. January specifically. Barely anything from 2020 at all. Honestly, for most people who have been conscious for 2020 that's probably not a surprise. I see that my last post was about the Authors For Fireys fundraiser, back when Australia was literally burning. Fast forward to September of 2020 when the entire world is figuratively burning as large parts of it also burn in a literal fashion. Again.

                          Good times. Good times. (<--- SARCASM ALERT)

                          So, yeah. I won't pretend that my 2020 has been worse than everyone else's, because I know for a fact that loads of people have been having a worse year than I have. However, my 2020 has not been a barrel of laughs either. There are so many things happening everywhere that it feels weird to list off all of the ways in which 2020 has sucked. Obviously the global pandemic has been a big deal. For me, so far (and I don't want to tempt fate by trying to suggest it couldn't be topped) the low point has been losing both of my parents on the same day back in early June.

                          If you follow any of my social media (FB, Twitter, my newsletter, etc.) you are probably already aware of this, but I realize that a few people only keep in touch with me via this blog, and those few people probably have no idea why they haven't heard from me in over six months.

                          So, if that's you, settle in I guess, as I explain why the past year has been a struggle.

                          Back in August my mom was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in her life. She had first been diagnosed with a form of ovarian cancer back in 2005 or 2006 and she went through a full hysterectomy and six rounds of chemo to treat it at that point. The last round of chemo almost killed her, and she had to have a couple of blood transfusions to pull her through, but she made it, and that cancer was in remission for well over ten years. (Around the ten year mark they stopped bringing her in for regular checks on remission, so we're not sure exactly when the cancer returned, but nobody caught it until August of 2019.) At that point, she had been unwell for at least six months, possibly longer, but in July of 2019 her right lung collapsed and that really got her (and her doctor's) attention. Many tests were run, and finally it was clear that it was cancer, and eventually they were clear that it was her ovarian cancer back again but metastasized to her lungs. Needless to say, that diagnosis doesn't come with a great prognosis. You'd never know that talking to my mom though. She insisted that everything was fine, that she would beat it, and that chemo had gotten way better than since her first run through. She expected to make a full recovery. 

                          A part of my brain realized this was unlikely, I had conversations to that effect with my husband and a couple of close friends, but my mom was insistent that she would get better and it was clear that was the story she needed/wanted to embrace so I joined her there. Naysaying wasn't going to help anything, so I bought into her narrative full on because positive thinking at least had some chance of helping her, and I would do anything to help. 

                          It was a rough road. The first few rounds of chemo seemed ok. At least from afar. I kept checking in with her via phone after a few visits when she first got sick in July and August, but didn't get a chance to visit in person again until December. But before that point the chemo seemed to be killing her again and they had to suspend treatment. Her blood just couldn't keep up. Then, the week before we were all due to visit for a big family get together she fell and broke her hip. And didn't tell any of us about it because she didn't want us to worry, but finally had to admit it because we were all about to arrive (to stay in a rental nearby thankfully) and she was still in the hospital. 

                          She was making progress with physical therapy, and she was doing better than I had expected once I heard what happened, but she was still having a rough time of it. I mean, come on, her body was trying to recover from chemo AND a broken hip at the same time. No small feat at any time but extra hard when you're in your mid seventies and it's your second battle with cancer. 

                          We still managed to have a lovely visit and with all the kids and grandkids surrounding her for brief visits after she was discharged we made some truly lovely memories despite everything. It was difficult to balance getting everyone to see her and not overwhelming her while we were there, but I think we managed it well enough. Thank Gwen we had a rental nearby and weren't all piled into her home. 

                          Later, in January, I went to stay with her for ten days, just by myself to visit, help out wherever I could, and to see with my own eyes how she was doing. When I first got there I was convinced it was the last time I would see her; she was so weak she could barely sit up for long, let alone stand or use her walker, she was out of breath just sitting up, and her skin was all the wrong colors. But as the visit progressed she started getting stronger and stronger. Her color got better, she was able to stand up with help and use her walker with a spotter, and by the time I left she marched herself to the car (with her walker) sat herself down and rode with us to the airport to send me off. By then I was convinced she would make it. She had made so much progress in such a short period of time.

                          Every time I called her after that she sounded so much healthier. She could talk without sounding out of breath, she told me about how she was using the walker to take short walks outside and using the wheelchair less and less. I started to figure out when I should go back down. Mom said I should come right away, but I had work to do, and Cedar missed me, so I figured I would wait a month or so. I had been there in very late January, we had travel plans for late February/March but I figured I would visit at the end of March.

                          Then, right after we got back from our early March trip, the world started to take covid seriously and traveling to the US from Canada became risky and against government advice, and then became a literal impossibility as the border shut down. We stayed in touch via phone, trying to make plans to visit in the fall when we (naively) thought that I might be able to travel again.

                          In March and April mom seemed like she was getting better still, but in May she caught a cold that turned into bronchitis, that turned into pneumonia. She was given antibiotics but they didn't do enough. By mid May her lungs were in an awful state and she was hospitalized once and then discharged with more antibiotics after a short stay. Then she was admitted again ten days later.

                          She was admitted via the ER, then transferred to the ICU. She never made it out. 

                          So, weirdly, my first impression back in January that it would be the last time I saw her was right. It was the last time I saw her in person.

                          Covid of course, made all of this infinitely worse than it would have been otherwise. I was not able to go see my mother while she was in the hospital. I was not able to hold her hand while she breathed her last. Thankfully, my siblings were able to be there, and they brought me with them on video, but it wasn't the same.

                          And to top things off, we lost my dad on the same day in a completely unrelated event. They had been divorced for 21 years, so there isn't even a pretense of "romance."

                          My dad had been suffering from dementia (his initial assessment by a specialist was Alzheimer's but we didn't ask for an autopsy or anything, so who knows) for years. For the past three or four years he had been living in a home because he was no longer able to care for himself and, due to occasional violent outbursts was not in a state where he could easily have lived with any of us (his children). We had been expecting things to get bad eventually, but we hadn't really expected them this year.

                          But he suffered a steep decline in May and eventually was placed in hospice care. My siblings and I were actually constantly having zoom meetings at that point to keep up to date with how he was doing before my Mom went to the hospital the first time, and then the zoom calls shifted to being about both of them. Then they both passed away on June 3rd about 7 hours apart.

                          In many ways we are lucky. We are lucky that we got to say goodbye to them, even if, in my case, it was only over the phone/via zoom. We are lucky that they were able to have in person visitors at all (in a very limited fashion in both cases, but at least my siblings were all able to let them know that they were loved). We are lucky that the most of our immediate family is ok (although we've lost other family members as well). And we're lucky that we still have our homes, and our livelihoods and each other, and supportive and loving communities. We really are so lucky.

                          But it still sucks. Both of those things can be true. We are lucky, and it sucks. It sucks that my parents are dead at all. It sucks that I couldn't be there in person to say goodbye to them. It sucks that I can't go be with my siblings through a stupidly sad and difficult period of our lives. It sucks that, since my siblings refuse to do any kind of memorial services without me (for which I am incredibly grateful) it may be more than a year after their deaths that we finally hold ceremonies for my parents. It sucks that, because we were still in lockdown when my parents passed away, even the people who showed up to support me, delivering food, books, wine, and other lovely distractions, were mostly unable to hug me and let me cry on their shoulders as they might normally have done (many of my friends offered to eschew this particular restriction, but I was reluctant to let them).  So many things about this suck.

                          And yet it's hard not to think about how much worse things could be. It's hard not to feel grateful about all the other ways in which we're lucky. It's hard not to look at my daughter, hug her tight, and be so grateful that for now we're all still healthy, happy, and here. 

                          So, I'm afraid I don't have any particularly strong message to send to anyone except to love the folks you love while you can, because no matter how long you have with them it will never seem like enough. Don't waste your days not loving the people who matter because one day it will be too late and you will always wish you had more. My mom was in her 70s, my dad was in his 80s. They both led lives full of adventure, travel, stories and love. I still wish there had been more. My daughter isn't four yet, and she spent time with both my parents and remembers them for now, but it's entirely possible her memories of them will fade away, and that makes me incredibly sad. I wish she had gotten more time with them. I wish they could live on in her memory as they will live in mine. I will have to do my best to make sure that they live on in stories and in her imagination, even if they can't quite remain in her memory.

                          Before the year is out I may write eulogies here to them both. If I can wrap my heart around the words enough to make them worth reading.

                          So, that's where I've been for the past few months. Doing my best to keep on keeping on in a world without my parents in it. Most days are fine. Some days are sad. Some days are full of anger. I'm doing my best to let those emotions roll through as they need to, and then keep on going the rest of the time. So far I'm mostly ok. I hope, if you're reading this, that you're ok too. Or at least as ok as people can be in a world like today's. 

                          Tuesday, January 7, 2020

                          Authors For Fireys

                          The SPFBO5 Finalists are joining forces with #AuthorsForFireys!

                          If you've been paying attention to the news, by now you've probably noticed that a very large portion of Australia is on fire. These fires are killing hundreds of thousands of animals, displacing thousands of humans, and have already claimed 20 human lives. They are the worst Australia has seen, and they look to only be getting worse. Australia's fire departments are largely volunteer, and these volunteers are working non-stop to control the fires as best they can. If you're like me, you've probably been looking for ways to support their efforts. There are lots of things you can do, from crafting items to help animal rescues to donating directly to various organizations in Victoria and many things besides. In my attempts to find ways to help I stumbled across #AuthorsForFireys on twitter, and it looks like a fabulous way to contribute. So, if you want to combine your love of reading with your support of Fireys you can check out the #AuthorsForFireys hashtag on twitter, and bid on some wonderful items that various authors around the world are donating. (And you can check the details of how it all works here:

                          The way it works: You locate an item you want to bid on in the hashtag (for example all 10 of the SPFBO finalist books signed and personalized and delivered to your door) and then you make a bid that is at least 1 AUD higher than the highest standing bid. The bidding goes until midnight on the 11th of January. Let's say that on the close of bidding YOUR bid is the highest bid. Then you go to the support the CFA page donate the full amount that you bid, and screenshot the receipt. Then show the screenshot of the receipt to the person offering up the auction item (in the case of the SPFBO5 finalists, that would be me) and then they will make sure that you get all your wonderful goodies. (In the case of our SFPBO5 Finalist Bundle, each of us will sign, personalize, and ship a paperback or hardcover copy of our finalist book straight to your door, and you'll wind up with 10 signed fantasy books to add to your shelf.) 

                          There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of wonderful items in the auction, and to browse them, all you need to do is search the #AuthorsForFireys hashtag on twitter. Authors like Leigh Bardugo, Sabaa Tahir, Lori M. Lee and hundreds of others, are contributing signed items and special schwag.

                          There are lots of ways to contribute to this disaster, and all of them count. If you don't currently have the means to bid on items, send money directly, or craft and mail stuff, consider boosting the posts of others on social media. That can help a lot, and costs nothing. And don't feel bad if you can't help. There's a lot going on these days and there's only so much any of us can manage.

                          I hope this message finds you well. The world is literally burning, so please remember to be kind to yourself and others. Doing the best we can is all we can do.

                          Monday, December 9, 2019

                          It has been quite a week... month... year...

                          I'm not sure I have the words to adequately talk about everything that has happened this year, especially because some of it involves my family members' health and talking about that on the internet without their express consent seems... not ideal. So, I won't go into details, but it has been a hard year emotionally.

                          It's still hard. I am trying to meditate and exercise often to stay on top of things, but it's getting colder now (it was -26 when we got up this morning, though it's currently only -16) and so it's getting all too easy to say "I'll run tomorrow." Thankfully, I have a weekly aerial silks class that I hate missing because it is the only thing that has made me feel strong lately, and missing one week tends to be a huge setback, so I've only missed one class since September. The class has been a big highlight for me, both physically and in terms of keeping my head clear. Regaining strength and flexibility is a very big deal for me, so even though I haven't been keeping up with cardio as well as I would like (I still get in about one run a week) I am feeling reasonably strong. That helps.

                          Meditating helps even more. I'd been having trouble sleeping for the past week or so, and I was doing sleep meditations but they weren't really helping. Then last night I did a series of guided meditations addressing some of the emotions I've been sorting through lately, and last night I slept blissfully well. Helpful tip, the meditations had me crying, and that was actually a big part of what I needed.

                          But things are alright for the moment, and I am holding it together, although it's not as easy as I might like.

                          In the meantime, there have been a number of really positive things happening. In fact, that was originally supposed to be the point of this post, but I'm not feeling as upbeat today as I was when I first planned to write this, and I think it's important to talk about the hard stuff too. But despite the hard stuff, I managed to write books four and five of the Victoria Marmot series. Which I released back in November to... crickets. Kind of. I mean, the individual books have sold fewer than a dozen copies. (Meanwhile, the Omnibus has already sold a bunch of copies!) So, if you missed it because you're not on my mailing list, or following my FB or Twitter accounts, know that Victoria Marmot and the Dragon's Rage, and Victoria Marmot and the Road to Hell are both available now in all formats! And, as you may have gathered from the parentheticals back there Victoria Marmot the Complete Collection is also available in both paperback and hardcover formats! Here are their glorious covers!

                          Back in November I sold all of my books at the wonderful even that is GeekGirlCon in Seattle, WA, and I had a wonderful time doing it. I got to see readers/friends from last year *waves to the ones reading this* and meet new readers/make new friends, and I almost sold out of my Victoria Marmot the Complete Collection stock. I did even better than last year in terms of sales, and I had a ton of fun being on a panel about Found Family in Pop Culture. The whole weekend was amazing, and made extra fun by having one of my best friends join me for the whole thing, and having another of my best buddies from high school actually be in town and available for catching up and chatting. I love that event so much, and I hope I get to attend again next year.

                          Then, after returning to Manitoba I had a week to get ready for the launch of Victoria Marmot the Complete Collection at McNally Robinson here in Winnipeg. I was nervous that no one would show up, but lots of people wound up coming out to support me and it was a fabulous event (except for the part that my nerves made me forget to thank Corey, Lindsey, and Quintin for playing tunes, and to thank Corey in general for supporting me while I work on this whole writing thing). Other than my lack of an acknowledgements section, the whole thing went well, and I had a great time! (And once again, I almost sold out of stock of the Omnibus!) 

                          Finally, there is one last piece of really uplifting news, and that is that Blade's Edge, my little debut from back in 2015 has made it to finals of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off. Which, if you go look it up on the interwebs, you will see is actually a pretty big deal. The other 9 finalists this year are top notch, and include The Sword of Kaigen--which was one of my favorite reads this year! So, if you are reading this blog, and have always meant to pick up a copy of Blade's Edge, but haven't gotten around to it, now is an excellent time to do so. I mean, especially if you were hoping for some external system to validate your choice in fantasy reading material. ;-) You can read the Qwillery's review of Blade's Edge here (they are the blog that nominated Blade's Edge for the finals). 

                          Ok. On that very high note, I am off to work on my latest project, which just happens to be the next book in the Chronicles of Gensokai. I'm very excited to be working in that world again, and I will let you all know more about it in the near future. Happy winter holidays (if you're in the northern hemisphere and summer holidays if not)! I hope this post finds you well. See you in 2020!

                          Saturday, June 29, 2019

                          Sorry I disappeared for a while there

                          So, I haven't written a blog post for a while. It hasn't been intentional, it's just that with everything else going on, blogging got dropped to the bottom of the list.

                          What's been going on you ask? Well, for starters I was depressed over the winter. Start and end points are kind of hard to pin down, but I spent a few months fighting my own brain trying to convince myself that getting up and doing things (even my favorite things) was worth it. The short summary is that clinical depression sucks. Contributing factors were lack of exercise (thanks, extra-cold winter), stress, my dad's decline with Alzheimer's, and a crappy life work balance. I started seeing a counselor in late January early February and that combined with meditation, and making a concerted effort to get outside and move my body more often slowly made the difference (along with the weather getting nicer). To be clear, it wasn't a sudden magical change, it took weeks, months, and I had a lot of support from my close friends and family as well as a counselor. I'm also super lucky in that (at least for now) I was able to manage the whole thing without medication. Not everyone can, and I want to make it really clear that I'm not suggesting that other people should be able to manage without meds. Depression medications are life savers for a lot of people and should not be belittled or disparaged. I just happened to be able to manage without meds, and feel very fortunate for that. There's no guarantee that meditation, exercise, and grief management will work in the future. I'm glad it worked this time.

                          Anyway, things got bad enough that for a few weeks I couldn't even write (normally writing is the one thing I can do to come back to myself), so my plans for Victoria Marmot Book Four got completely derailed. That turned out to be for the best though. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to have to rewrite a large chunk of Book Four, and I did that, but then, after getting notes back from my editor, I realized that the whole series would be better off if I could write Book Five before I finished revising Book Four. So, that was when I hatched a plan to draft Book Five so that I could rewrite books Four and Five together. Since I'd long passed any advantage I would gain by publishing Book Four quickly (read through, algorithm love from amazon, etc.), I decided it would be best for the books and for my mental health to put off Book Four until I had at least a draft of Book Five. From there I decided that I would just finish both books together and release them both in November. Giving myself (for once) a healthy bit of lead time. 

                          Now, it's June, and I have half of Book Five written, and plans to finish up the second half in the next few weeks. Which means most of July and August will be for revising both books and then sending them off to my editor. September and October will be back and forth with my editor and formatting.

                          I will have a bit of extra formatting to do because... I plan to create a HARDCOVER OMNIBUS OF ALL FIVE BOOKS! So for those of you who prefer print to digital, there will be a nice thick tome for you to enjoy that will be substantially cheaper than buying all five paperbacks. Yay! I should have it ready in time to take to GeekGirlCon in Seattle, so come find me there to get a signed copy. Also, I'll be having a launch for the Omnibus at McNally Robinson Winnipeg for anyone who wants to show up to that. The Omnibus will get its own cover (complete with a dust jacket) and be available through all retailers, including your local indie (they will likely have to order it rather than having it in stock, but at least you won't have to resort to Amazon if you don't want to).

                          Anyway, things have been much better in the past two months, and the main reason I haven't blogged in that time is that I have been too busy writing, enjoying life, and learning to advertise properly. I signed up for Mark Dawson's Ad for Authors course, and so far I've been very pleased with the results. Even with the course, it takes a fair bit of trial and error to get things right, but the course has enabled me to feel confident that I am trying (and erring) the right factors, rather than just throwing money down a hole and waiting to see if causes a fish to miraculously jump into my arms (which is what FB ads felt like before). I've also entered Blade's Edge into a new contest, and it has already helped generate some publicity for the book, so that's fun (it's called SPFBO and you can find more about it here if you're interested).

                          That's about it for what I've been up to lately. In less writing related news I've gotten back into running a bit, and I've started doing Aerial Silks again. Other than that, life continues as normal. Hope everyone reading this is doing well. Happy Solstice!

                          Thursday, February 14, 2019

                          Being an ally isn't easy, and you'll probably screw it up, but you should do it anyway, here's why:

                          This blog post is probably going to be uncomfortable for some people, but this is where we are.

                          The year is 2019 and with a very vocal minority in the US reclaiming their white supremacy in a horrifying way, the time has come for the rest of us to really up our game. 

                          I'm going to work on the assumption that some of you don't know what being an ally is, at least as it's meant outside of military usage. The answer is both simple and complicated. At its root the term fits the dictionary definition: one that is associated with another as a helper : a person or group that provides assistance and support in an ongoing effort, activity, or struggle (Merriam-Webster online dictionary) 

                          However, the term has come to mean more than that, or at least, what it takes to really be an ally versus simply calling yourself one, has gotten more complicated. 

                          If you have friends who are minorities of any variety, you probably consider yourself an ally, but how much are you actually doing to help their cause?

                          The thing is, most people think that not actively, intentionally, discriminating against a certain group of people makes them an ally, or at the very least it makes them not part of the problem, and that simply isn't true. Not intentionally harming people isn't the same thing as helping, and I think we all know this on a certain level but tend to forget it on the day to day.

                          For example, let's say I'm climbing a mountain with some friends.  We're all climbing along, struggling against the altitude, against how steep the incline is, blocking snow from our eyes, and suddenly, the person next to me slips, stumbles, and starts to fall. All I have to do to keep that person from falling to their death (and yes, it's that steep, and there is a cliff ledge waiting not far from the trail) is to reach out a hand to help steady my friend. I've got solid footing, and steadying them is not likely to harm me at all, though the effort might tire me out a bit. So, do I reach out a hand and steady them? Or do I watch them tumble sidelong off the mountain? I mean, I haven't done anything to them. I didn't cause their fall. I didn't push them. If they fall it's their own fault, they should have worn better shoes, really, and their pack seems weirdly overloaded and heavy, and there's always a chance they'll figure out a way to save themselves. Do I watch them fall and die? Or do I help? 

                          Obviously, I help. I don't know about you, but I would not be able to sleep at night if I didn't at least try to help, and I would feel fully responsible for my friend's death even though I technically didn't DO anything to cause it.

                          So, of course, this is an extreme example. I used mountain climbing, and life or death for a reason. It makes a really clear cut example of how "not hurting" someone isn't necessarily enough. Letting my friend fall is pretty close to killing them in this context, and that's important to recognize.

                          But now you might be saying, "Sure Virginia, letting my friend fall off of a mountain when I could have stopped it is bad, but how does that relate to being an ally? I'm not running around on weekends with a hood over my head beating up minorities, what more do you want me to do?" 

                          Right, so this is my point. Running around with a hood on your head isn't just watching someone fall, that's pushing them. Being a member of a white supremacist group is ACTIVE harm, no matter what you do when you get together with your white supremacist pals. I think most people recognize that much.

                          However, shouting "Racism is bad!" at people who wear white hoods on the weekend isn't exactly throwing a hand out to your falling friend either. That's more like shouting "look out for those rocks" at your friend who is already falling (or actually, it's more like shouting "Hey rocks, don't kill my friend!" after your friend is already falling). It's useless, and only shows a borderline understanding of the problem. 

                          The issue comes from the fact that racism in North America (and many other places, but I'm going to stick with what I know) is systemic, and it has been baked into the system since the first colonists arrived on the shores of what they decided to call the New World. A world that was actually already inhabited by many diverse populations spread out across the continent. We can call them indigenous peoples or first nations, but every time we lump them all together we lose a very important truth about the people who were already on this continent before any europeans arrived here; they consisted of multiple, varied cultures spread out across the continent that presented as much diversity those stretched out across Europe. But the Europeans who arrived here mostly viewed them as obstacles rather than people, didn't take the time to learn the differences between the groups of people, and they were systemically eradicated and displaced until they were no longer considered "a nuisance." 

                          And as if that weren't bad enough, the same europeans then decided that the most efficient way to succeed with their newly stolen land would be to steal a bunch of humans from a different part of the world and force them to work the land for them. 

                          And THEN the people responsible for all of those things set up a government and judicial system that made it incredibly difficult/impossible for any of the people who had been killed, displaced, and enslaved to ever escape what was done to them. 

                          Many of you may be saying to your computer screen, "Sure, but then the civil war in the 1800s and then civil rights movement in the 1960s happened and everything was fixed, right?"

                          Oh, if only that were true. Certainly the civil war put an end to slavery (more or less) and the civil rights movement in the US in the 60s made a lot of progress for minorities in the US. In fact it made so much progress that most white people decided they could safely clap themselves on the back and declare the country, "not racist anymore." But it is in fact, still quite racist despite all the progress that has been made so far, it is only less overt.

                          I should mention here that I am neither an historian nor a civil rights expert, so if you want to dig deeper into these issues I suggest you do your own research. For now, I am going to focus on the ways in which the US is still racist and what you can do to help.

                          There are so many ways that the US is still racist that I don't think I could address them all in one blog post, and indeed, I learn about more of them every day, so I wouldn't presume to be able to list them all. So we'll start with the biggest ones. 

                          The US Justice System is racist. Don't believe me? Please read the following articles written by far more knowledgeable people than me: this one is a report published by the United Nations in April of 2018. Or take a look at this report by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality that addresses incarceration along with MANY other points of discrimination in the US. 

                          In addition to the Stanford report, Harvard published a report indicating that racism in hiring processes has not decreased in 20 years (and yes, it existed at a detrimental level 20 years ago). 

                          I mention all of these reports because I often talk to fellow white people who don't believe that systemic racism exists and often ask me for sources. When I try to list all of the people of color that I've talked with (or exchanged text with via the internet) who have told me about their personal experiences with racism, the white people asking for sources often dismiss them stating that just because someone "feels" that they were discriminated against, doesn't mean that they actually were. 

                          To which I want to reply:

                          First of all, yes, feeling discriminated against is a huge part of discrimination, and not listening to people's accounts of the times they've been discriminated against just adds to the pain. (And no, it doesn't mean that every time someone was mean to you, you were discriminated against. This seems to be the thing that white people often struggle with the most, because most of us have so little experience actual discrimination. Power dynamic plays a huge role in discrimination. People can be mean to you in any power dynamic and that sucks, but it's not discrimination unless you are in a less powerful position.) This is where your friend on the mountainside starts slipping and instead of a reaching out a hand you say, "I dunno, doesn't look like you're falling to me. Are you sure that you're falling?" Not helpful. In fact, harmful.

                          Or, I also hear, "Well, I've never seen anyone being discriminated against." Right... so, there are two options here. One, you don't know what to look for because YOU'VE never been discriminated against, or two, you only interact with people who look just like you and so you've never seen racism in action.

                          And look, it took me a long-assed time to realize what modern, socially acceptable racism (and sexism, ableism, LGBT+ phobias) look like. I did not pop out of the womb woke AF and calling everyone out on their racism, their complicity, and their bullshit. Whooo boy, no I did not. I'm lucky that I wasn't indoctrinated into any hardcore hate groups as a kid (not even the ones masquerading as major religions), but I grew up surrounded by all the socially acceptable forms of racism, sexism, ableism, etc., that saturate our world, and I didn't know how steeped in it I was until I started to crawl my way out. So, if you are just now noticing that all is not as it should be, that the US isn't the land of equality that we've all been lead to believe it was since grade school... Don't feel too bad. History is written by the victor and in our society that meant it was written by old white dudes for a very long time. We are just now starting to change that, and honestly, a huge part of the reason that more of us realize how screwed up everything is, is thanks to the internet. The fact that we don't get all of our information directly from our family, coworkers, neighbors, and the local newspaper, has a huge impact on our worldview. But, if you still don't look farther than cable TV, or websites that you already agree with, for your worldview, then you might be missing something (or everything, YMMV). 

                          The truth is, it takes a lot of work to see past our own privilege (be that racial privilege, socio-economic privilege, heteronormative-privilege, or any other kind) and it's ok if you're just starting to do that work, or if you didn't realize that you needed to do that work but are planning to start now. The key thing is that you are starting to understand, and you are making an effort. 

                          Being an ally is hard, and it is constant work. There will almost always be a cultural minority that you don't know about, that our society has likely exploited at one time or another, and which you may be inadvertently harming with your actions or words, that you will need to learn about and try to fix. (For example please see the Romani Genocide and the racism the Romani people still face daily.) Unfortunately, if you are a white person in North America, you likely come from a long line of people who have never had to overcome the same obstacles as the minorities around them, and who may well have directly benefited from (and certainly indirectly benefited from) the oppression of others. Does that mean that your life, or your ancestors' lives weren't hard? Not at all. It just means that whatever made your life, or your ancestors' lives hard, wasn't your physical appearance. Wasn't something you couldn't change or hide in order to be treated the same as everyone else. Wasn't, in short, your race. And look, it's not your fault that the system is unfair, you didn't push your friend off that cliff after all. But once you see them falling, once you know that there IS a cliff and that they might fall over the edge if you don't put out your hand, why wouldn't you put your hand out? 

                          So, now that you see that the system is flawed, why wouldn't you try to help correct it? 

                          How, you ask? Well, that's complicated, and a single person can only do so much. You can start by listening to the people already in your life. When someone you know tells you about an experience they have had, listen to them. When your black friend tells you they were harassed by a cop, believe them. When your gay friend tells you they were called names at school or work, believe them. Whe your female coworker tells you she's tired of having her colleagues ignore her contributions, believe her. When your friend in a wheel chair explains that it takes them 10 times as long to get their errands run because of lack of accessible facilities in your town, believe them. And then, if it seems appropriate, ask how you can help. Remember it's not about you. It's not about how you can be a hero, it's about how you can make things a little bit less crappy for the people that the system doesn't support. 

                          It's also about calling people out on their bullshit when it's safe for you to do so. If you hear someone making a racist, sexist, homophobic, or ableist joke, call them out on it (if you can do so without endangering yourself). Even if there is no one around who finds the joke offensive (aside from you), allowing people to make those comments without repercussions is part of not holding out your hand to your falling friend. It's a small pebble under your friend's foot that might contribute to them slipping later, might twist their ankle as they go down, or might just get inside their boot and cause a blister, but no matter what, it hurts.

                          You don't have to fix everything (you can't even if you tried) and you don't have to pick your friend up and carry them to the top of the mountain (no one is asking you to do that) but you can and should reach your hand out to keep them from falling, ask them if they are ok, offer them some water, and ask if you can do anything else. Remember it's not about you.

                          And let's be honest, you might (probably will) slip up now and again. Humans aren't perfect and you're human. Also, it's impossible to learn everything at once. You don't go from "everything is fine" to "I understand every nuance of race and discrimination in the United States" overnight, or even over a decade. It's continual learning, constant discomfort, and yeah, a fair bit of worrying about how much of an asshole you unknowingly used to be. (I lie awake nights thinking about this sometimes.) But ultimately, the best thing you can do (the only thing you can do) is try to do better every day, and above all, be willing to listen. And maybe, if we all work together, we can not only get to the top of this mountain but build a nice wide path that lets everybody come on up and take a good look at the view. 

                          Notes: If you're wondering why I include so many additional forms of discrimination besides racism in this blog post, it's because I have found that being an ally for one marginalized group tends to lead to being an ally for all of them. The more we open our eyes to one form of injustice the less blind we become to all other forms of injustice. For me it started with sexism (the injustice that affected me most directly) and reached outward to racism, LGBTQIA discrimination, ableism, body type discrimination and... so much more. I should also point out that I haven't touched much on the racism directed at first nations people, especially here in Canada (where I currently reside) but that is only because I felt the scope of this blog was already escaping my abilities to write cohesively. It is a major concern that could easily encompass its own blog post (or a few hundred volumes of text). 

                          Friday, February 1, 2019

                          Victoria Marmot Book Four is delayed, but a winner is YOU!

                          So, some big updates. Victoria Marmot Book Four is delayed. I was half way through the rewrite when I realized that I was going to have to scrap almost 50% of the text to write the book it actually needed to be rather than the book I was forcing it to be. Oh well. It's a bummer to have to do that when I was already so far behind that I had no room left for error, but so be it. I want the book to be the best it can be. This series is supposed to be my fast-paced, whimsical series, but I still want it to be... a high quality version of fast-paced and whimsical. So, here we are. I will try to have the book ready by the middle of the month, but it might be more like the end of February. Le sigh...

                          Still, it does have a shiny new cover, and I am pleased to share it with you today!

                          I'm very excited about the cover for Book Four, and I hope you are too. What do you think?

                          Meanwhile, book four may not be ready yet, but in preparation for its release I have a bunch of fun giveaways for you. Actually, I have SO MANY giveaways set up for this month, that I am going to list them all here so you can find them all in one tidy place.

                          Where to start? 

                          1. Well, I suppose we'll start with over 30 fantasy books that you can get FOR FREE! One or two of the titles require you to sign up for the author's e-mail list, but many of them don't (and you get to pick and choose which titles you want). Included in the giveaway is... Victoria Marmot and the Meddling Goddess! So, if you've been tempted to start the series, but are low on cash, or just weren't sure if you would like it, the price of trying it out has never been better. As you can see from the illustration this giveaway lasts ALL MONTH, so you have plenty of time to check it out.

                          2. From now until February 5th you can enter the contest below for a chance to win over 20 excellent fantasy books (including Blade's Edge) AND a brand new eReader. Just follow some authors on BookBub to gain entries.

                          4. All February long, you can enter to win a brand new Kindle Paperwhite by signing up to a few authors' newsletters. (I use a kindle paperwhite for all of my ereading needs, it's awesome.)

                          5. From February 11th to 17th you'll be able to find approximately one hundred FREE fantasy and science fiction titles at this link

                          I think that's all of them, if I find I've missed any I'll come back and add them. Note that some of these links are time sensitive and they won't work until the dates listed in their images/descriptions, or they will redirect to a placeholder in the meantime. If you like receiving info on these kinds of giveaways you might consider signing up for my mailing list, as I generally share them all there every few weeks, and I don't always remember to cross-post them to the blog. Anyway, I hope you're able to collect a few good reads for February, and don't forget to pick up a copy of Victoria Marmot and the Meddling Goddess, so you can read the first three books before book four comes out by the end of the month! I'm off to go dive back into my book four revisions.

                          Happy reading!

                          Sunday, January 20, 2019

                          Victoria Marmot Book Four is Coming Soon!

                          Look, I'll be honest, I'm a bit behind on Book 4. The holidays got the best of me, we had a good friend visit for a while, and then it took me forever to get back into the right headspace to write. But, I should still have Victoria Marmot book four ready by the end of January or the first week of February at the latest.

                          And oh man, I'm going to have a cover reveal for you soon that I think you're going to love. At least, I love it, and I hope you will too!

                          In the meantime, to start drumming up some enthusiasm for book four. I am doing a giveaway for FIVE digital copies of Victoria Marmot and the Meddling Goddess (also known as book one) so if you haven't had a chance to start the series yet, now's your chance to try it for FREE!

                          Just a reminder of how awesome Book One is:

                          Book One description:

                          Victoria Marmot is just an average teenage girl... if by "average" you mean an orphaned, multi-lingual, martial arts expert who owns her own home and may or may not have magical abilities.
                          When Vic is told her parents didn't die the way she thinks they did, her world is turned upside down and she's left with the task of finding out what really happened to them. But when her quest to uncover the truth reveals a massive conspiracy by a corrupt magical government, will her efforts save the world or take the whole universe down with her?

                          And here's the giveaway:

                          So go ahead and enter, there are five chances to win, and there are lots of ways you can earn extra entries!