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Unicorns and dragons are the only two mythological creatures to be found in many mythologies. From Qilin, to Karkadann to rsya, unicorns have fascinated us for countless centuries.

My favorite story of a unicorn is found in The bejewelled summary of the origin of Khans : a history of the Eastern Mongols to 1662 by Sagang Sechen, Prince of the Ordos Mongols. He writes that a unicorn came before the Great Khan and bowed three times. The great Khan sat and pondered and then said, "This middle kingdom of India before us is the place, men say, in which the sublime Buddha and the Bodhisatwas and many powerful princes of old time were born. What may it mean that this speechless wild animal bows before me like a man? Is it that the spirit of my father would send me a warning out of heaven?" He then turned his army around.

Arisia: Con Report

I left Arisia tired by filled with stories I long to have time to write. My favorite is that of an alien species that communicates entirely by pheromones.

I got to meet some great people. Probably the coolest I met were Daniel José Older, Mikki Kendall, Tempest & Nisi Shawl. I was honored to sit on the same panels as Nisi, Mikki and Daniel.

This was my first time at Arisia. It was filled with imaginative and good natured people, but it is very much a monoculture. While the theme was Cross Culturalism, the sessions I sat in on and attended were almost all about racism and diversity. In an age when people of color can't let their kids run like the white folks do because they might get arrested as suspected thieves, this is an important conversation to have.

I'll start writing those stories after I'm done with the re-write of "hacker" and Absinthe. Both stories, however, will benefit from what I learned at Arisia.

Public Appearance: Arisia


The theme to Arisia 2014 is cross culturalism. As this was a strong theme of my Garden at the Roof of the World, I'm thrilled to announce that I'm in the program as a speaker, and a reader.


613 Narratives and Counternarratives Bullfinch Writing Sat 7:00 PM

As writers, how do we walk the tricky line between paying homage to and critiquing/subverting the racist and sexist baggage of the past?

703 Reading: Freedman, Hoffman, Kahn, and Williams Executive Board Room Writing Sun 7:00 PM

559 Creating Cultures Faneuil Writing Mon 11:30 AM

Religion, language, politics, gender roles, and treatment of the young and elderly are just a few elements to consider in making a culture seem real. How does one create a fictional culture without over-simplifying? How does one draw from culture and myth in the real world, without perpetuating racial, ethnic or religious stereotypes? What is cultural appropriation, and how we create fictional worlds while remaining mindful of inequalities in this one?

Hope to see you there!

Public Reading and Book Signing

I'll be doing a public reading of a chapter from The Garden at the Roof of the World and book signing on December 7th 2013 at the Monte Cristo Bookshop in New London, CT at 7 PM Eastern


Hope to see you there!
I've been thinking long and hard about some of the things that came up in my discussion with Dr. Gillian Polack in the CoyoteCon workshop on writing historical fiction set in the middle ages. She asserted that people write historical fiction set in the middle ages to explore the pageantry of the time, explore a thesis or educate the readers. My position was that you wrote historical fiction in any age to understand the people who lived then. After all, you can't understand what pageantry is without understanding the people who celebrated it.

We also disagreed on where you start in writing historical fiction. She posted that you start with the history, and I wrote that you start with the person and then look to understand them in their culture at that time in history. Now, I firmly believe that you can not separate people from their history, nor from their culture, so in a way, we were saying the same thing, like two sides of a coin. You can't understand people's decisions, nor can you make sense of their goals and what they were trying to achieve if you don't understand the history and the culture they lived in. However, what does it mean to start with history and culture, or to start with the person? Especially since the history, the culture, both impact the goals and conflicts that a person will face in their life. History will also impact their lives, as known events overcome them as the characters strive for their goals.

A person is much more than their time and place, however, their time and place define what the expected options are and offer up the consequences from deviation from them. As an example taken from my own fiction, a person in the eighth century France is not likely dreaming of a marriage to their beloved, but a person in the thirteenth century is not only likely to be hoping for a marriage to their beloved, their social institutions are changing rapidly to support these hopes while many held onto traditional views of parents choosing the right spouse for their children. So many of the stories of the era show this conflict unfolding. And if the character is from the south of France, they may be daydreaming of having many lovers instead of a loving husband, and the stories and songs of the region reflect this regional difference.

As an example, in the south of France, in the mid 13th century especially in the aristocracy, a woman was expected to court many lovers, and a man of station to court such women. In my Garden at the Roof of the World, the Lady Elisabeth du Chauvigny was raised to believe that one sought lovers, courting many a man to serve and worship her as their lady, but she lives on the edge of the ideas circulating in the north of France that one should marry for love. She lives in a region untouched by the Albigensian crusade, but the confusion of what is the right way to live and love complicates her life and makes her story that much more authentic to the time. As we live in a time when the definition of the right way to live out a loving relationship is also being redefined in our society, it is worth looking at her life and considering the impact of such change and confusion on the people we know and love.

Before you ask what kind of character you are writing, you need to understand the era, the culture of that time and place. That will help you define how others in your story react to the person, if their actions and decisions are viewed sympathetically or with disgust. However, in the end, a story is about a person striving, and every time and place have an infinite variation in the people who lived and strove. If you start with understanding the person, their goals, their hopes, their fears, their relationships and then put those things into the context of culture and history of the era, you will have a well defined person who fits within the history of the age, the culture of their society, and a story that pulls you into the richness of lives past and deeds worth telling.

Hop! Hop to the Blog Hop!

Tell us about your current release.

To save her brother's life Gwenaella risks her own in a magical forest to seek a unicorn’s healing magic. But the remedy comes with a steep price. She must commit to a perilous journey through Europe, the Middle East, India, to the high mountains of Tibet, to seek the hidden Garden at the Roof of the World and pluck a fruit that would restore the father of all unicorns to health. Joined by a few trusted followers called by the unicorns’ magic, she will face many dangers on her journey. To succeed, Gwenaella must find a balance between faith, friendship, and love and discover the true meaning of sacrifice.

Who is your book published through?

Dragonwell Publishing

Where can we find your book?

You can purchase from Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, the publisher's book store and other fine book retailers.

Where did you get the inspiration for this book?

The story started as a bed time story for my then 6 year old daughter, but I quickly realized that to fully explore the story, it had to be written for adults. I wrote it to answer the questions about faith, love, relationships, sex, gender and forgiveness that my children were not yet old enough to ask. Both my children are amazingly curious about the world, and natural skeptics.

How long did it take you to write your current novel?

The Garden at the Roof of the World took six years to complete, a lot of that time spent in researching the 13th century in Europe, the Near-East, India and Nepal.

What else are you working on?

I am writing a story of Alchemy and Absinthe set in pre-war Paris.

Readers love following their favorite authors, which social networking sites can fans find you? Please provide links.


Who reads the drafts of your novels?

I am a member of the Online Writers Workshop, an online community of authors who critique each others work.

Care to follow other blogs in the blog hop? Follow the links of your choice below!

Janine Chalfant
Paulette Harper Johnson
Hilary Grossman
T.B. Markinson
Andie Lea
Luca Rossi
Terry Cato
Sara Butka
Nina Mason
Katie McKnight

Banned Book Week Day 5

Today's banned book is one that too many people would like to ban.


Lolita is a story of a horrible man who wants to do horrible things, does them to the best of his ability, and is thwarted often by a man who is just as horrible differently.

Yet it is not a horror story.

It is a comedy.

A delightful and humanizing comedy.

By the end of the book you care for that horrible man. Nabakov is able to get the reader to understand that even the worst of us is human and break through the stupid idea that we are defined by what we do.

We are.

We do.

What we do may be horrible, but that is not who we are.

You can like who we are while despising what we do.

Once you come to that point, then you can have a means to resolve issues peaceably as actions can be changed if we don't tie our identities nor the identities of others too them.

You have the foundation of reconciliation.

This is why Lolita is a powerful book.

It gets you to wrestle with one of the greatest flaws in modern society.

And does so with a laugh.

Read this book.

Banned Book Week Day 4

Today's banned book was banned by idiots who thought it advocated witchcraft and satanism.

I guess they don't know how to read.

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most influential books of the last century. It has flaws, but I must confess one of the proudest moments of my life was when Publisher's Weekly compared my The Garden at the Roof of the World to Tolkien's work when they reviewed the draft of the novel submitted for the 2009 ABNA.

Years after it's publication, it still is one of the finest works of fantasy in print. The characters are memorable, the stakes are believable, the world unbelievably well constructed (the languages!).

And it has poetry. Good, vibrant narrative poetry. Simple fun poetry. Poetry that shakes the soul.

Don't believe me (because all you know is the movies where they've got none of this)

Read the book.


Read this book (yes it is one book).

(One book to rule them all, one book to bind them, one book to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. In the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.)

Banned Book Week Day 3

Some of the books that have been banned over the years have been uplifting stories, honest stories, horrific stories, or just stories that challenge the sensibilities of a people in an age.

Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer is all of those.

It is gross. It is profane. It is vile and decrepit, with a fare amount of obscene thrown in.

It is also honest.

It is also uplifting.

It is a story of a man finding his voice in the midst of heart break and the wallowing in self pity that often accompanies heart break. It is a story of poverty, not just being perpetually without money (which he is) but poverty of the soul.

It is one of those books that is more talked about than read. It is one of those books that people are often embarrassed to admit they've read.

It is also ecstatically written. The man wrote with a passion that comes through clearly. Those of us who are authors need to take note of that passion and question ourselves if it is not to be found within our own writing.

Read this book.
I read today's banned book when Margo was pregnant. That was a huge mistake. It brought me to tears. It was too close, too close to the fundamental fear in every husband as their wives near labor.

Ernest Hemingway's Farewell to Arms is a powerful book. Typical of Hemingway, the women in the story come across as more of an idea of a person than a person, but no book is without flaws.

This book was banned for its foul language and anti-militarianism. The foul language is needed to accurately depict the language of the soldiers and others in the painfully accurate world war 1 setting. The anti-militarianism is why everyone should read this book. He puts you in the moment and does not flinch from showing you the truth about war.

This is a must read book. It is that good.

Just don't read it if your wife is pregnant.