Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday Recs

The short list:

Lying with Scorpions by Aleksandr Voinov
A Case of Possessions by KJ Charles
The Gentleman's Keeper by Bonnie Dee & Summer Devon
Strain by Amelia C. Gormley

First up, my true love. Aleksandr's Memory of Scorpions series is one of my favorites in the whole world. I loved the first one, pretty much died happy when I learned it was going to be a series. If you want amazing fantasy, read these books. It's got the world building, the characters, the story, the whole damn set. The second is even better than the first, which almost never happens. I can't wait for the third.

Another excellent book two, and a series that is also fantastic for world building and characters. I was sad this book did not switch POVs, but that's a personal sulk, I can see why she stuck to just one POV this go round. Another one I am DYING for the third book, and all of this waiting friggin sucks (but given how many people are yelling at me for the next book in various series, I guess I'm getting what I deserve). If haven't gotten to this series yet, definitely do.

One of my favorite duos, especially when they do historicals :D I was slow to read this one because Samhain's epubs always have such tiny print. But me and iBooks are currently not on speaking terms, so I've been moving everything to my kindle app. Anyway, this was another solid historical from them. I like where they kept the focus, and that the whole story was not bogged down by the usual misunderstandings and such that crop up with this sort of premise. Theeeere should be a story about Ippy someday. If you like historicals, this is a good one to pick up ^__^

This book is definitely not my usual thing. I'm sort of hit/miss on the post-apoc type stories, especially when it's laden with fuck or die, dubcon type stuff. But I really liked Bitter Harvest, and Gormley is cool peeps, so I said why the fuck not. It turned out to be a truly excellent book. The premise was well-executed, the world building excellent, I like the characters (love love the Jugs) and how they handled some very complicated, difficult situations. If you like this sort of thing, or are willing to be adventurous, this book is worth every penny.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Princes of the Blood - Of Last Resort

This trilogy started from a few scattered pieces. The first two pieces were a couple of ficbits that I really liked, but didn't have time to do more with, and at the time no clear ideas on how to expand them. The next piece was LT3's Proud to be a Vampire call. As I am first and foremost a fantasy writer, I wanted to go full on high fantasy vampires.

So I went back to those old ficbits, and had a few ideas how to expand one of them. I got about 20k into that story before another one took hold too hard for me to ignore, and I realized I was going to have to work on it simultaneously in order to get a lot of details correct. In the end, that second story seemed a better fit for a serial. And I was nearly done with both of them when I realized I was going to have to do the third one as well, again mostly to make certain everything lined up correctly. Let me tell you the headaches I gave myself.

By the end of it all, the original ficbits bear almost no resemblance to the final story (I'm having the same fun expanding High King. It's definitely now going to be in the 100k range, which shakes things up significantly).

So my first step for building this world was to explain the vampires. They couldn't just be there, they needed to have a reason. I don't mean fight the bad guys type reason, but 'how are they made/born, how do they fit into this world' sort of reason.

There were a few possibilities here:

1) Classic undead
2) Even more classic demons
3) Something else entirely (science, spell gone wrong, that sort of thing)

I opted for demons, obviously. It gave me more flexibility than 'classic undead' but gave me a foundation to build on so I did not have to do everything from scratch.  For one, I had a religion to work with, though I obviously deviated heavily. Two, it meant I had a list of demons and angels to work from (and abuse and distort as I pleased), in addition to all the vampire lore and literature.

Going with demons also helped me build the whole reason people are putting up with vampires:  fighting fire with fire, so to speak. So I needed a world that was so dangerous, working with demons (by this point, I'd established partial demons) was considered the best method for handling them

Of course, none of this addressed the vampire need for blood. But that was a pretty easy one. Vampires need blood. Human blood. The best way to keep my vampires from being all powerful and shit was to severely limit that. One, has to be pure. Two, has to be hard to find.

And that gave me the rest of the world, the Legion, the Reaches, the Temples, basically the entire culture and some of the history of this verse.

 I was sad I could not actively include more of the Legion, but it would have been too much to juggle without making things confusing and would have done nothing to advance the story (one of the hardest things to admit in fantasy, because most of the shiny stuff we want to show off never actually makes the page /sigh).

The Paladins and Princes tend to steal all the attention, but briefly throughout the trilogy some of the other pieces get moments (some Titans and Dredknights get their asses kicked in the last book though).

If this seems all very rambley and scattered, that's because that's how a lot of world building goes at the start. The lists and charts and maps come after I've begun to properly organize all the jumbled mess in my head. Most of the time, the majority of it stays a jumbled mess in my head. The stuff I do write down tends to be very boring lists (like the names of all the hours, the legion, I have an excel sheet with all of the Princes, from Despair through Resort, that lists how many years they've been a Prince, how old they are, notes on appearance, when/if they get dead, etc).

One of the hardest things I had to do was map out the royal family. It is INSANELY hard to keep track of people when the king can have up to three wives, and in a culture like this where people can die by the hundreds in a single day, having lots of children is important. So I had to go back the previous king, map out his wives and children, see where King Waldemar fell, when all his siblings and wives and children died (or lived and how old they were in each story), then connect all of that to other characters, so I knew how old and experienced characters like Telme, Raffe, Dalibor, Alrin, etc were in each of the three stories.

That took me like a week. And many many beers. I'm still not convinced I didn't fuck up somewhere x_x

Then there's magic systems (hellish and holy magic do not place nice together, earth is the middle man weaker than both but able to fight both to a certain degree. All magic is hellish, holy, or earthly in origin. Hellish magic is generally summoned/stolen and is ultimately poisonous, holy magic is granted, earthly magic you must be born with. there are, as ever, exceptions and variations, because nothing is truly one way and one way only. Alchemists, for example, fuck with everything).

After that I had to build the Legion, which is broken down by power type, combat/non-combat, and martial/magic.

By Power, for example:
Holy: Paladins, Priests
Hell: Princes, Shadowmarch, Shades, Dredknights, Summoners
Earth:  Dragoons, Wolves of the Moon, Geomancers, Tamers, Gremlins
Exceptions: Sorcerers, Alchemists

Combat-wise, the Princes, Paladins, and Dragoons are the main strong arm of the Legion, backed up by the Titans, Wolves, and Dredknights

Mind you, very little of this is actually worked out before writing. Only little pieces. Even as I'm figuring this stuff out I am actively writing, and have to go back and change or tweak things as I build and build. The only time I ever did the majority of the world-building long before I started writing was Lost Gods, and if you've read that whole series you'll know why I had to know certain things about Chaos before I could even begin to start on Treasure.

Mixed into all of this are all the little things:  axioms, religious practices, curses, clothes, food, on and on and on. Names, too. I wound up using a lot of names with accents, something with which I am not remotely familiar past like the two I remember from French class in high school.  NEVER AGAIN. Mostly because Sasha and Samantha have threatened to end me.

Once I have a general idea of what's going on, or when I reach a point I really need to see what I'm working with, I draw a map. I have absolutely no idea how anyone else does their maps, or decides how their world looks. I try to make it as random as possible. The only details I know going in are things like I knew Guldbrandsen was by a river (and the Temple was on the other side of the river). I draw the country or continent or whatever completely at random, then mark out the provinces and such also at random, and basically make the story work around what they're stuck with. I think this tends to make things a bit more genuine than specifically adding mountains and forest and such where I need them to be. I only change something if I absolutely have to.

And by this point I have probably babbled at my poor readers enough. If you are not bored to tears, by all means ask questions and such. I never know quite what people want to know (and often what's interesting to me is not what's interesting to readers).

Much love to those who have read and will read <3 3="" p="">
Buy links:  LT3 | Amazon | ARe | B&N | Kobo

With Pride comes out April 16th, and In Despair comes out July 9th.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why LT3 will never attend Ahn!Con again

I've discussed my displeasure with Ahn!Con before, but to sum up for people new to this:  it's a small convention in Kansas City along the lines of Yaoi-Con. LT3 normally does well at anime conventions, so we decided to give this one a try.

For the most part it wasn't a bad trip. The con wound up being too small for us, but we weren't entirely opposed to maybe just sending one person in following years. We didn't interact with much of the staff, but the woman who came by to see if we needed water or anything was nice.

The only real problem was the vendor immediately behind us, who kept shouting (I mean SHOUTING) things that made us tense and uncomfortable. Having to listen to a man shout TITTY TITTY BANG BANG and other childish things for hours on end was misery. Listening to him proclaim (again loudly) that his friend had a rape face, did you see his friend's rape face, was even more miserable. So a few days after we got home, I wrote to Ahn!Con about it.

On January 19th I wrote:


My name is Megan Derr, and I attended Ahn-Con with my business partners this year, representing our company, Less Than Three Press. For the most part things went okay, if not fantastic. I was appreciative of the woman who came by frequently to ask if we needed water or anything.

However, I was not happy with the behavior of the vender behind us, Anime Source KC. One of the men at that booth (Alex, I think?) was constantly shouting things that were either just plain irritating and mildly offensive (Tittytitty bang bang) or were highly offensive and inappropriate (look at my friend’s rape face! Doesn’t he have a rape face?). He was loud, rude, and off-putting, to vendors and customers alike. At best made us feel comfortable, at other times flat out unsafe.

Highly more problematic, we felt we couldn’t tell anyone at the con because his gross behavior was constantly encouraged/abetted by the con staff who sat at the table across the way selling con t-shirts and such.

If I cannot trust the con-staff to address these matters when they’re right in front of their faces, then I’m not certain it’s a con worth attending again. Any explanations or assurances you can offer on the matter would be appreciated.

Thank you for your time.


Megan Derr

On February 8th, I received this reply:

Thank you for contacting us about your concerns.
We contacted several other vendors in your part of the room about the problems you experienced and only one could confirm any inappropriate behavior, but disagreed with your statement about feeling unsafe.  We have brought the issues to the attention of the vendor director, who was unaware of any problems, who in turn had a discussion about appropriate behavior with the vendor in question and a vendor staff who is friends with the vendor.  The staff member has been transferred to another department.
As these issues were not brought to the attention of con staff during the con, this is all that we can do about this issue at this time.  If you have future issues, we request you contact con ops and the situation can be monitored during the con and can thus be better evaluated.
Matt Weston
Industry Relations

Now, to be fair and give credit where credit is due, they said they had a discussion with the vendor and a staff person who was friends with them. And that staff person was transferred to another department. 

OTOH, I am well aware of the uselessness of talks and transfers. I worked in Corporate America for almost a decade, I have seen 'transfers' and 'talks' and know exactly how much they don't work.

Whatever steps they claim they took to correct the matter, I have two major issues that completely undermine their efforts:

The very first sentence dismisses my concerns because 'only one could confirm any inappropriate behavior, but disagreed with your statement about feeling unsafe'. This is such BS. This is exactly the kind of thing people say to call victims of abuse and rape liars and dismiss their concerns. Well nobody else has ever complained about X so you must be wrong or have done something to cause it. That no one else complained or felt unsafe should not matter. We complained. We felt unsafe. Three people, ONE PERSON, is enough to take a matter seriously. Unless you don't want to, which Ahn!Con apparently does not.

Two, the reprimand that I should have said something at the con, which completely disregards my statement that con staff was party to it and so I felt like I couldn't (and given the responses to my email, I feel I made the correct call. I have no faith they would have protected our identities to keep us safe, and instead we probably would have been made miserable for the duration of the con. Again, I have seen this all played out in office and other setting. When people behave like Ahn!Con has behaved, it is the victim who is blamed and punished).

This is coupled with the fact that the staff had, throughout the entire con, been treating two good friends of mine like garbage. That I cannot go into detail about because it's their story to tell, but suffice to say that poor staff seems to be SOP for this convention

Whatever Ahn!Con claims otherwise, I watched people, I exchanged looks and words with attendees. I know for a fact they were making other people uncomfortable, not just LT3. But I also know all about keeping quiet because the fallout of speaking up will be worse. And according to the above email, they only spoke to vendors, not the many attendees who got sick of it and just left.

If you want further proof of their attitude problems, read their replies to me (and the friends who stood by me) on twitter.

I fully admit I should not have told them to go to hell, that was me letting my temper get the better of me. But to be perfectly honest, I'm not as sorry as I probably should be. I started my initial email as I did because I'm so used to these situations going exactly as this one did, and I no longer have it in me to be sparkles and niceness.

I'm tired of this sort of behavior. All they had to do was reply to my email that action had been taken, apologize for the staff's role in facilitating the behavior, and perhaps offer that a policy would be put in place to curb such behavior in the future. But they didn't. They started off implying that I'm a liar, or that I must be wrong because nobody else complained, and ended with a reprimand, and then were snide and flippant on twitter.

This is exactly how an organization should NOT act, and if they're this dismissive and abrasive over one small incident, I don't like to think about how they address more serious matters.

And that is why LT3 has blacklisted Ahn!Con.