Why We Must Deconstruct Our Own Work

In Part 1 and Part 2 we took a look at what happened in Oz and why it’s just so dratted sad.  Essentailly, Oz suffers from a fourth wall blindness.  Everything takes place solely in the story, and it is not at all self aware of it’s own attitude.  The writers are fully immersed in Oscar’s story.  And you know, that’s understandable.  That’s why in these articles, I usually bash the story and not the writers.  It’s their job to be in that story.

But it’s also, their job to be above their story, too.  To be aware of the things their story is saying, beyond just the scripted words and actions.  Writers need to be self-aware of their work.  This is why we studied books and stories like “The Scarlet Letter” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” in school – so we could see examples of authors who knew exactly what the hell they were saying in the spaces between the lines.


Maybe a little more thought to it than this, but you get the idea.

Oz, and movies/books like it is why we need to deconstruct our own work.  I like to think that if the creators had realized what kind of movie they were actually making, they would have taken it in a different direction.  They would have said “Shit son, that’s not what we want to say.” and maybe actually turned the wicked witch angle on it’s head and put her on Glinda’s side.  Or Oscar would have actually realized what he’d done and sincerely apologized (recall, he never said “I’m sorry”, only acknowledged that it wasn’t Theodora’s fault) before he got the kiss from Glinda.

Just like Riddick, there were so many other options, just as awesome and exciting, and still with the fun(??) plot twists of “is he dead!?  Did he really leave!?” which could have saved the narrative of this movie.  But it’s like no one saw the problem… and that’s a problem.

I understand.  It’s scary to look at your work with the same eye that you would use in your English classes and really dig into what your subconscious has thrown in there.  You might find something you don’t like – such as an internalized romanticizing of rape, or that everyone who dies just happens to be female or male, or that all your villains are black, or fat, or disfigured, or asian, or that you’ve inadvertanly implied through the entire arc of your plot that all women besides your main, strong female character, are idiots, or crazy, or illogical.

It happens.  I found every single one of those in The Athele Series at some point.  Some of it is what you mean to say but not how you meant to say it. (Morgan intentionally disdains other women… but I didn’t mean to imply that the others who show up in the story aren’t of worth!).  Some of it is pure lazy writing or tunnel vision on my own words (Um, no, I most certainly did not mean to not have that woman not fight her rapist. That line about inevitability was not meant to be read that way!!).  Some of it is just assumption (no.  the man doesn’t always have to die to throw things into chaos, duh.) and some of it is just how you read the books before the one you wrote (you know, the bad guys in real life are often shockingly plain.)

The point is that you won’t know until you look.  Finding these things in your writing does not make you a bad person, nor does accidentally writing them, over and over.  That’s not what makes a bad writer.  Writing without mind, assuming that your words will come across exactly as you meant them to every single person from so many walks of life… that makes a bad writer.

Find a friend who can read from a standpoint entirely different from yours, who is practiced at reading mindfully.  I have two major ones (not including Michael), and they have pointed all of the above scenarios out to me, and discussed at length whether it’s a function of the story, or an unfortunate mistake in implication.  Write mini dissertations as to the deeper meaning of your work, your main character’s mind-set, your villain’s features and motivation.  Not only will it show you what your story is saying in the subtext, it will make for a stronger story.  Condense scenes and plots into one or two sentences.  Several times, focusing on different elements.

Have you done this?  Have you ever found distressing things hidden in the subtext of your writing?  What was the worst one?

Oz, Part 2

In Part one we discussed how Oz fails at making anything not about it’s protagonist.  It’s not just that everything the women do is focused or affected by Oscar though.  The worst part for me was the absolute fawning over Oscar’s womanizing.

In the beginning, Oscar decieves three women.  The ‘magician’s assistant’ the strongman’s assistant (off screen), and the girl he let get away.  He’s shown to be playing with the two assistants, and actually cares for the other girl, enough to let her go.



Because then he shouts, as the Tornado is sucking him in “I can be good!  I can change!  Just give me a chance!!”

And then he gets to Oz and he seduces Theodora with no intention on following through, first thing.

Great change there, bud.

It somehow manages to get worse.  Oscar’s seduction of Theodora was inelegant at best, but ok, sure, maybe she was taken in.  I’ll accept it.  But it just never lets up on that tangent.  Evanora uses his deception as a base to trick Theodora into the apple (I’ll give this to the creators, the little nods to Fairy Tales were nice).  Then, when Theodora realizes that she’s been tricked and misled, her sister is the evil one, is the one that was hurting the people she professed in the beginning to care so much for… she decides to hate Oscar some more?

Priority issues.

Excuse me, what?  Ok, sure I’d still be mad at the misleading bastard, but wouldn’t burning all the love out of you mean you no longer had loyalty to your sister who just fucked you over and turned you into a horrible creature?  I mean, shit, this was the part of the movie where even my mother, who doesn’t automatically deconstruct these movies like I do, went “Wait.  What just happened?” and I had to admit that I had no idea.

And then to top it all off, at the very end, when Oscar has sent the sisters running, and Evanora is defeated by Glinda, and hooray!  Just as Theodora is flying off on her broom, he says, all solemn like “I know this evil wasn’t of your own making…” and is all extending the olive branch of peace.  When it was his deception that hurt her, and his running off that set her off, and his duplicity with seducing her and then being all happy with Glinda that made it so easy for Evanora to fuck with her sister.  Evanora provided Theodora the apple, but Oscar might as well have hand fed it to her.

And at the end, he has the audacity to say “This evil was not of your own making”?!

What.  The.  Fuck.  

Damn right it wasn’t of her making!  It was yours!  And there is nothing to indicate he takes responsibility for it.  In essence, Oscar pulls the same shit (after promising to change, no less), but instead of learning his lesson, he’s rewarded.  

In character, yes, Oscar doesn’t know why exactly Theodora turned.  And neither does Glinda.  Which is probably why she gives him the traditional Hero’s Journey kiss at the end (fuck my life -.-) instead of telling him to fuck off when he invites her into a back room.

But just like Riddick, we’re not talking about the characters while they are in plot.  We are talking about them in a meta fashion – a magnifying glass through the fourth wall.  Oscar in the end, is a terrible character not only for what he does, but for what he doesn’t do.  Who is he at the end that he wasn’t at the beginning?  What growth does he actually demonstrate?  Worst of all, what does Oscar’s absolute lack of punishment for his deception of Theodora, thus creating a terrible villain for Oz to deal with later, and indeed, even being rewarded for his vanquishing of the villain he made say?

Nothing good, I hope we can all agree.

Now, you could try to argue this from the point that the movie was actually a warning about warring over a man.

Wait.  No, you can’t.  Because Oscar won, the day was saved, and the protagonist got the girl and learned that he was stronger than he ever believed.

Why?  Because he’s the good guy.  Duh.

Did this annoy you as much as it did me?  Sorry about all the cursing, but this is seriously skewed, and I figured it could benefit from a little strong language.  Part 3 will discuss what we can do with this amazing lack of self awareness in the story.

Oz the Great and Powerful


You all know something?  I would really like to get back to the happy rainbows of “this is how you can write better!” stuff.  And I still do that occasionally, and I will do it more once I settle into a better routine with my new job (working 50 hours a week is way more tolerable when you’re getting paid reasonably for it).  But what brings me to the blog (again) today is another “this is how you DON’T write” thing.

So I watched Oz the great and powerful the other day.  Beautiful visual effects, and it was kind of fun.  Dialogue a little clunky and on the surface it just seemed like the story itself was in need of less clumsy trying to shove the mythos of the Wizard of Oz into something which fit the vision of the writers.  And on the surface, all the women were powerful.  I mean, Theodora, Glinda and Evanora, had super powers basically, and were fighting each other for control of a kingdom.  Not too bad of a premise, I guess.

The point is that you could tell they were trying.  Really, someone was trying to make a woman power movie, I think.  They just completely failed to dig deep enough into their own work to realize that instead of lifting the women in their work up, they were chipping away at their foundations and reducing them to being all about the male protagonist.

It starts out promising enough – Glinda poisons father to make a grab for the throne, Evanora her out, take control for herself with Theodora as her right hand.  Cool.  Daughter wanted power, Advisor wanted good for the people, sister wanted good for the sister.  That’s fine.  Even after the big “surprising” reveal that Glinda is actually the good one, we *could* have been ok.  Glenda wants good for her people, Evanora wants throne, Theodora wants good for the people and is mislead by sister.  We’re still ok – they all want things which are higher causes, or for their own personal gain.

Except the protagonist, Oscar, is then thrown in.  Now, Theodora wants Oscar.  Evanora wants Oscar to kill Glinda.  Glinda wants Oscar to save the world and realize himself.  Suddenly, these three women who had their own thoughts and causes want…Oscar.

Well then.

Let’s address the prophecy right now.  “He’ll come and save us all!  That’s why they all suddenly focus on him.  Of course they do!”  Fuck that noise.  I work with prophecy in my own books.  Prophecy used right is seen all over the fantasy world.  Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  Just like magic, Prophecy can’t be used as the engine in the story.  It can be a tool, or fuel, or a cog in the machine, but it can’t be everything or it comes off as sad and dues ex machinaish.

One could try to argue that Oscar was the tool, and the women were merely using him.  If the movie had been from the perspective of the women, that would have been more believable, but Oscar was firmly the protagonist, first of all.  Second, Glinda is very purposefully trying to get him to understand his potential, not realize her vision of saving Oz.

It keeps going.  I had to split this post into three parts, so Part 2 will be out… soonish.  For now, what are your thoughts?  Did you have this problem with Oz?

Reviews and How to Handle Them…

So, Pandora’s Ring got a 2 star review.

My first reaction was “WAAAAAAAAAAH. WHHHHHHHHHHHHHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?” and lots of other mewling, moaning and otherwise carrying on.  It wasn’t particularly pretty and I’m not exactly proud of it.

Ok, to be totally honest with you all here, I didn’t really even read the review.  I saw the star rating and went “Nope.  Not reading.  Not now.”

So then I asked a friend to read it for me and tell me how bad it really was.

And now I wish I’d read that review a lot earlier.

You see, the reviewer (a friend of mine from college) had some really good points to make, and while the book only got two stars, it was backed up with a long, in depth review of what worked, and what I had been missing.  It was funny, reading it, because most of the stuff she said was things I’d heard before, from a variety of people, and they were all true.  There was lots of truthy truth, and really making it clear what the weaknesses in my writing were.

A blow to my ego?  Sure.  Yeah.

Invaluable critiscism?  Oh hell yes.

While I can’t go in and take her points into account on Sword’s Blessings (the file is already finished and populated into it’s digital book format.) I can go ahead and start fixing it right now in the third book, and I can take it in account while continuing work on The Athele Series.  I’ve also asked her to serve as a critical reader so that I can utilize her eye for plot and character.

Now, it’s not that I’m not disappointed with myself that dang it, that’s a two star review, and that’s really not a shiny thing.  However, I have to remind myself: this is the pregame.  Pandora’s Ring is not the end.  So long as I keep writing, and keep listening to reviewers and not letting my ego make me ignore these things, it’s not over.  Writing is like running.  It’s not about the one run, on that one night, or even that one race on that one day.  It’s about the long run, and it’s not over until I stop writing and give up.

So how do you deal with critiscism?

Finishing the Damn Thing

I have a problem with endings.  

Not what goes on in them, not how to write them, I know all that.  

It’s just I really enjoy writing my stories, so, just like when you read a book and then slow waaaaaay down right at the end, the same thing is happening in my writing.  It’s slightly maddening, because I know that I’m less than 10,000 words away from the end of the Cinereal Series.  And while I was going at a good clip there for awhile, you know, 1000 to 3000 words at a time… now I can barely manage 500.  

Once that final battle starts, it’ll be all over.  Everything will click into place and suddenly I’ll be saying goodbye to all these characters.

And that makes me super, super sad.  

Does anyone else have this problem?  

A Writer’s Responsibility

Ok, so here’s the thing.

We live in the internet age.  This is super special.  Why?  Because in the internet age, you no longer have to wonder  about anything.

“Gee, what shape is our heart, really?”
“How do I get this stain out?”
“Where do I find some bangin’ boots for my Halloween party?”
“How can I make this extremely odd dish?”

It used to be we’d ask our friends, and if they didn’t know, we’d call someone, and if they didn’t know, we might go to the library and browse some books, or maybe go to a specialty store that would know.

Nowadays though, we just grab our beverage of choice, sidle up to the computer, and ask Lady Google or that Yahoo gentleman.

This is a convenience and a trouble all in one.  It’s a convenience for the obvious reasons: now we can get information faster and easier than every before.  It’s a trouble because everyone knows you can get that information at the drop of a hat.  So if you’re wrong… you’re not only wrong, you’re lazy and wrong.

Which brings me to Riddick.  As I mentioned, Riddick relies a lot on it’s stereotypes, which should be faux pas enough thanks to tvtropes.com.  But there’s one particular stereotype, and the “plot twist” it takes, which makes me wonder what rock the writers had their heads under, and it all has to do with Dahl, the token strong chick.

Dahl.  Now, first, I want to emphasize that the actress did an amazing job with her part.  It was perfect.  I really loved the character, I’m mad at the writers who made the character.   Why?  Because either they were abysmally lazy in their writing, or straight up dumb in their research.

First of all, can we talk about her name?  Dahl?  For a girl?  Michael said he assumed it was a last name (which it was), but on hearing it the first time, my first thought was “why the fuck are they calling the token strong female ‘doll?!’”  It wasn’t until the credits rolled that I realized her name was spelled D-A-H-L.  Ok, I get it, symbolic naming, but really?  REALLY!?  I shouldn’t have to outline why this little homophone is uncool (hint; women as objects).  Smith would have been better.  By light years.

Next, if you aren’t aware of the movie’s “twist” regarding Dahl, sorry, you’ve had a few weeks to see it, so I’m going to spoil you.  You see, she proclaims that she’s a Lesbian near the beginning of the movie.  It is never indicated, by action or word that she isn’t telling the full truth.  There’s some seductive lines thrown at her by Riddick (I guess it was supposed to be flirting?  I didn’t think it came off that she was responsive to it.) and then by the end of the movie she magically wants to sleep with Riddick.  (Because he’s so Manly for nearly getting killed?  I don’t know.)

Why do I call this a research problem, rather than a lazy writing problem?  As I said, it’s both.  In the Lazy writing arena, it’s… it’s done to death, guys.  It’s even a tvtrope.  I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and mention that they may have been trying to imply that Dahl was lying when she said she didn’t sleep with men, you know, just saying it to try and dissuade the bad guys from hitting on her.  However, she never corrected that declaration either to the audience privately, or to any other character in the movie.  All of my problems with this character could have been evaporated with nothing more than a ten second conversation between Dahl and her superior:

“Why’d you say you didn’t sleep with men?”
“He doesn’t even deserve to think he has a chance.”
“Does that excuse even work?”
“No.  Figured it was worth a try.”  *gun cock*  “This is my plan B.”

Done.  That’s ALL THEY NEEDED TO MAKE THIS OK.  We can say “oh, but I assumed”.  That’s the problem though.  We can assume a lot, and a lot of people do, but when it comes to mindfully consuming media, you have to look at exactly what is given, not because we’re trying to demonize anyone, but because exactly what is given, that face value, is what worms into our subconscious and colors our perceptions of what is acceptable and what is not.

Now, let’s assume that it wasn’t merely a writing error, but that everything was meant exactly as said.  In truth, it’s probably some mix of the two of these extremes, but either way, there are several problems with the research there.  #1, if the writers had done even a little asking around, they probably would have found that “I don’t sleep with men” is not an excuse that works anyway.  Maybe that was the point?  Probably not, because, #2 Rape and harassment are not a ‘bad guy only’ thing.  The “Oooo, he’s so bad, he RAPES PEOPLE.” thing is kind of… tired, I suppose.  I was quite aware the guy was bad when he shot the prisoner in the back, I didn’t need the further obnoxiousness with Dahl.  And finally, the doozy, #3 if she’s a lesbian, she’s…uh… a lesbian.  Making her “turn straight” is incredibly offensive.

Why?  Ask yourself, what are you telling people about the LGTB community if you show Riddick’s manly manliness suddenly turning a Lesbian Straight?  You’re saying that homosexuality can be “cured” with some straight sex.  This has been the basis for lots and lots and lots of horribleawful things, all under the umbrella term of “Corrective Rape”.  That’s right, this idea is so prevalent, it has a name.  Do I think that the writers meant to perpetuate this idea?  No.  Do I think they did?  Unfortunately, Yes.

I can’t even give them the excuse of “this is a boy’s movie”.  It’s not.  I watched it.  My female friends had the intention of watching it until they read the reviews.  If you hadn’t noticed, Vin Diesel has a large female following, and Riddick does as well.  Half of all moviegoers are female.  I’m not saying please everyone, but not offending and alienating them would be nice.  The first two movies weren’t too bad for that – why did this one completely off the charts fail?

The research to understand why it was a bad idea to have this little plot twist in 2013 was all right there at google’s finger tips.  Go ahead – google “Make Lesbian Straight”.  You either get corrective therapy sites or “No.  That doesn’t happen.”  In the end, that’s why I’m writing this post.

Google is there, my friends.  I’m not saying you have to get it perfect, every time.  We’re all victims of our own blindness and privilege, and sometimes it gets the better of us.  I’m saying that if you’ve got something going on in your writing which you are not a part of (I’m white, writing characters of color, or a man, writing as a woman, etc.) pass it through someone who IS or STUDIES these things.  Analyze your words with a friend that has a careful eye.  Read up on the culture you’re going for, spend time with it on youtube or the web, or go to a board and say “Hey, I’ve got this thing, and I want to try and be right.  Someone help?”.

The information is THERE.  It is EASY.  There is no excuse.

Now for the caveat: if you liked Riddick, I’m not yelling at you.  As I said in the first post, I liked Riddick!  I really enjoyed the action, the “my side of the mountain” thing survival, the puppy dog (sadface.) and I thought it was really fun.  You are allowed to enjoy problematic media.  However, you do have to be mindful.  It’s hard, rage inducing at times, and people will get sick of you and ask “can’t you just enjoy the film/song/book?!”

The answer is yes, you can.  But we need to criticize it as well, take it in, and change the conversation to something less problematic.  That’s how you teach, that’s how we learn.  That’s the writer’s responsibility.

Lazy Character Development

A week or so ago, Michael and I saw Riddick.

I wasn’t expecting a lot – it’s a Riddick film after all.  He kicks some ass, survives the odds, maybe trades witty banter if we’re lucky.  I mean, I love Riddick.  First of all, Vin Diesel is hot.  Second, Riddick’s eyes are freaking awesome.  Third, I’m a sucker for big ol survival stories.

I wasn’t expecting like, earth shaking revelations or awe inspiring speeches.  I wasn’t expecting fantastic characters and depth from every secondary person I met.

However, I also wasn’t expecting everyone we met besides Riddick to be a straight up trope.  There was the ‘praying boy wonder’ the ‘evil but stupid’ the ‘raped female prisoner’ and of course, my favorite, ‘the strong female character’ .

Let’s be clear.  I don’t have a problem with tropes, in many cases.  Tropes and cliches are tropes and cliches for a reason.  The problem is when an author leans on the trope to do their character development for them.  No, being in a movie does not, in any way, excuse the writers for the fact that I could predict evil guy’s next move – not because I understood who he was and what his motivations were, but because the trope dictated that it would be his next move.  Can’t get the girl the first time?  Insult her!  Can’t get her a second?  Attempt to rape her!  Of course!  Praying boy shall pray, because that’s what we expect!  Surprise, though, this time it’ll work!  Strong female character shall declare she doesn’t like men, then she shall fight off rapist and then proceed to proposition the main character (oh believe me, more on that little faux pas later.)

The problem with Riddick wasn’t actually that these people did these things, but that there wasn’t a because.  (Besides, “because that’s just what you do!”) They just played their roles, and we watched.  We can’t answer why Dahl said she didn’t like men.  We can’t answer why Santana acts so big and tough when he’s clearly not.  We can’t say why the praying boy puts up with the gang of bounty hunters.  We can make it up – oh yes!  I can make up a million reasons for these things.  But here’s the problem, I’m not the one who was supposed to do that.  

Think of your favorite books.  Are you forced to come up with the character’s motivations for things they do?  Are you jumping through hoops to understand the character, or is the author offering you the viewing platform with a side of champagne?  Conversely, when you write, are you giving the reader a “because…” or are you making them figure it out for themselves?  Go back, find some character’s action and say to yourself “X did this because…” then go find the passage which explains it.

This is important.  Leaning on your tropes gives you shallow characters, which in turn gives you a shallow story.  I’ll admit, sometimes I’m just looking for explosions and man versus the world… but readers don’t only want the what.  They want the why.  Don’t make us fill it in for ourselves!

How to Start Over (in 1939348573948 easy steps.)

So you’re writing along in your manuscript and something just isn’t quite right.  There’s a plot twist missing, or someone is just giving too much information too quickly, but sadly, it takes you a few hundred words and several days of trying to choose the correct words, to realize it.


This is where I am right now.  (well, where I was.) Ugh.  It’s the most obnoxious thing to be crawling along with a manuscript for three days only to realize that the reason you’re mired is way back at the beginning of the chapter.  Someone said something (or didn’t say something) or did something (in this case, didn’t do something) they should have done and darn it, you didn’t catch that.

It’s cool, fellow writer.  Here are a few steps to taking a deep breath and restarting yourself.

#1 Pinpoint the moment of breakitude.

When did the manuscript stop?  Where did it go off trail and start wandering, exactly?  Find the precise moment, either by reading through what you have Yes, I know your manuscript might be 100,000 words.  For all you know, it went half cocked at word 5623.  In Sword’s Blessings I went back and realized that I have just straight skipped an important beginning scene; my story was off track as of word -400 or so.  Later, I realized I’d gone off again at word 3000 or so.

#2 Figure out the solution.

There are three options:  Delete.  Add.  Change.  Sometimes it might actually be a combination, but generally that’s about the gist of it.  Actually, a lot of the time my trouble ends up being skipping a scene which makes everything make a heck of a lot more sense, not writing scenes that aren’t worthy (though that’s happened too.)  Determine your solution.

Delete is generally something which you are doing now.  

Add is usually something you have to go back and do.

Change is often the most obnoxious of the three.  Especially if changing something involving gender pronouns.  But you gotta do what you gotta do.

#3 Start a new document.

This might just be me, but if I have to go back and do some major mucking with a manuscript, I usually take a whole new document, or save as a whole new version of the manuscript, name it descriptively (Such as: Yet Another book 3 beginning) and go at it there.  That way, in my head, I haven’t actually gotten rid of any words.  I have not failed.  I’m just going to a new place, a new direction.  It also soothes my worry that perhaps the new version I write won’t be as good as the original version (almost never true) and I’ll lose the original forever if I delete it!  (oh noes!)

Losing Sight of the Dream

I quit my job last week.  This has been a long time in coming, all the way back in May is when I started to make noises and sort of poke at other jobs.  But it only got important and imminent in the last few weeks.

Here’s the thing.  Writers generally need a day job.  It’s an unfortunate truth, and we all wish it wasn’t true.  But that day job doesn’t need to be everything in your life.  You’re trying to pay for your writing habit, not rule the world.

Then again, you don’t want to give up dreams of self sufficiency and owning a house and stuff like that.

And that was basically the choice I was facing.  The job I had offered lots of opportunity… later.  It offered few hours for lots of pay… later.  At the time I was working 60-70 hours and getting paid for 40 of them.  With a normal job, I can choose two between writing with michael, writing for myself, and running.  With this job, I was down to 1.  Maybe.  Most days it was ‘walk in the door and crash’.

And for awhile, I even thought it was worth it.  I could write later!  I could make my money now and then have lots and lots of time to do whatever I wanted later!

No.  I’m writing now.  I have life with me now.  So I walked myself out, worked really hard for a few weeks, and found myself another job.

We aren’t going to talk about the job connotations, how I was a touch fooled and dazzled with a possibility that was tenuous at best.  What I’m going to talk about it losing sight of the dream.

Writing takes practice.  Practice takes time.  Now, I wasn’t looking for a lot of time, I was maintaining everything fairly well at 50 hours a week.  But I allowed time and writing to take a back seat, and it very nearly derailed more than a year of hard maintained work.

I’m here to tell you guys.  Don’t do this.  Chase that dream.  As Yoda said, do or do not, there is no try.

That’s about all I need to say for today – has there been a time when you’ve nearly given up on a dream?  Or looked back and realized that you had let yourself down?  Let me know!

Sword’s Blessings Cover Reveal!

Are you guys ready for this?  No, really, are you ready?  This may be the most epic book cover yet, so I just want you to prepare yourselves.



Sword's Blessing by Kaitlin R. Branch

Folks of the blog, this is Giselle, the heroine of Sword’s Blessings, the second book in the Cinereal Series.  The soft spot I have for her is immense, because throughout the book she does the most changing (and just look at her!!).  Samantha and Eli are still around, complete with their easy going dynamic, as well as Cyrene and her delicious madness.  Plus, a new hero, Armand!

It’ll be February before Sword’s Blessings hits the waves (we’re currently on the second editing pass, which is where all the editorial griping was coming from) but it’s going to be an exciting time!  In the mean time, I’m going to take this opportunity to remind you that Valeria and Pandora’s Ring are both out, as well as One Cog Short of Paradise, in the Spark Anthology.

Ok, what do you think of the cover?  Renee is pretty much epic at this, isn’t she?