Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Coal Miner's Grand-Daughter

P.D. James once said that "All fiction is autobiographical"  ("and much autobiography is, of course, fiction.”

I think that's true. Where else do we get unique material but from our own lives--the people we meet, the experiences we have, the places we've been--and the stories handed down through family.

Many people believe that fantasy writers draw on some (drug or psychosis-fueled?) inner well of make believe in order to create fantastical stories. I've had more than one talented writer tell me, "I could never write fantasy." Sometimes this is accompanied by a kind of shudder that tells me that the tagline is, "and I would never want to."

I find that certain elements of my own story worm their way into my fiction again and again. It's not an intentional thing. Stories suffer when writers set out to teach a lesson or prove a point or make readers feel this way or that way. I never set out with an agenda. But when I'm staring at a blank screen with a deadline in front of me, I tend to gravitate toward certain kinds of characters and certain themes.

My grandfather is third from left
For instance, transformation stories have always given me hope. I'm the daughter of a truck driver, the granddaughter of a coal miner turned factory worker, and the great-great granddaughter of a man who worked in the iron furnaces of Appalachian Ohio. My ancestors were scrappy people who worked hard, lived hard, and died young. They also told stories.

Like how my grandmother's sisters owned a honky-tonk bar by the roadside and played banjo and fiddle in a hillbilly band. Or Uncle Vinnie Nash who used to steal his wife's shoes so he could go out and dance with other women. Like how my great-grandfather got drunk and went to the barn and was kicked by a horse, and he died. Or my great uncle who got drunk and set fire to himself and he died. Or my great-uncle Claude who was killed in a slate fall when he was forty-one years old.

The women were strong -- they had to be! Like my several times removed cousin who filed a paternity suit in 1871 against her employer's brother. Despite being called into court, where she was quizzed about relations with other men and forced to describe every time they "did" it, she won her suit. Strong women populate my stories--women of whom little is expected, who accomplish much.

Some people are born to privilege, and squander that opportunity. Others are born to fail, and find a way to succeed. I'm intrigued by how some people change and survive, while others don't. In my Seven Realms series, the streetlord Han Alister finds ways to repurpose the skills he learned on the mean streets of the Fellsmarch slums to survive among enemies in a ruthless court.

Readers of my fantasy stories might notice that coal mines and miners show up repeatedly. In the Heir Chronicles, set in contemporary Ohio, one of the characters is trying to protect her Appalachian mountain home from a mining company that wants to "mountain-top" it in order to access the veins of coal underneath. In Flamecaster, the first novel in my Shattered Realms series, one of the characters is a blaster in a coal mine who uses those skills as a saboteur fighting against the oppressive Ardenine empire.

 I'm a first generation college graduate. I've never stopped transforming myself. I've worked hard, I've been lucky, and I've done better than I ever could have imagined. And yet I've never lost my inbred mistrust of "the man" and the feeling that I'm just a slate-fall away from disaster. Those are the kind of characters I write about. Those are the kinds of stories I tell.  Welcome to a world where survival and transformation stories have   an overlay of magic.

Welcome to the Shattered Realms.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Meet Adrian sul'Han, Healer and Assassin

Wanna meet Adrian sul'Han, a main character in ‪#‎Flamecaster‬ ? Head on over to Dark Faerie Tales for an excerpt from the book and an "interview" with Adrian.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Faces, New Places: The Shattered Realms

Email from an Heir Chronicles fan awaiting publication of the Seven Realms: I just know there's going to be a MAP in the front of the book.

Like that's a bad thing. I must admit, maps are the hallmark of high fantasy. I mean, I could put a map of Ohio in the front of my Heir Chronicles books for all the left and right coast people who don't know where it is.

But generally it's assumed that interested people can find a map of Ohio if they need to. 

When I began writing The Seven Realms, I started plotting places on a crude hand-drawn map so I could remember where I put things. I am not making this up. If you mess up on these things, you will get emails. 
Full disclosure: cartography is not in my genetic blueprint. I've always had trouble with spatial relationships. Give me WORDS, dammit! I kept drawing it and redrawing it -- I even asked my son to redraw it in case I actually found a publisher. I figured they might change their mind if they saw my map. 
Anyway, here's how my map ended up: 
All the erasing makes it look like parchment, don't you think?
So when I DID find a publisher, fortunately, they hired a cartographer to redraw the map. Here is the result: 
Now much of the action in the first volume of the Shattered Realms takes place at Oden's Ford and the Ardenine Empire (which by now is pretty much everything outside of the Fells.) But toward the end of the book, a character arrives from overseas--from the fabled pirate hangout of Carthis. Some of the action in later books would happen there. More mapmaking ensued! Only now there was technology:

 Harper designer Erin Fitzsimmons and cartographer Laszlo Kubinyi worked on revisions, and produced the final map!

Welcome to the Shattered Realms...I hope you enjoy the journey.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Hi, everyone! There have been some additions and changes to my Flamecaster tour schedule since it was originally posted. I've updated that posting and you can check it out here

Friday, March 4, 2016

One Month Until Flamecaster!! Get in on the Preorder Swag and Grand Prize Giveaway

When you preorder a book...it's like a gift you give your future self, right? Well, here in the Realms, we're all about gifting. Now that Flamecaster is just a month away, it's time to roll out the gifts and prizes.

So here ya go:

Everyone (US and Canada) who pre-orders FLAMECASTER from ANY retailer–local, chain, online, hardcopy, digital–is eligible to win your choice of two epic prize packs:

  • A signed first edition hardcover set of the Seven Realms quartet (now out of print.) 

  • A signed first edition set of the Seven Realms quartet (UK edition.) You choose either 3 hardbacks and a paperback of Crimson Crown (the UK edition wasn't published in hardcover) or four paperbacks if you like books that match. 

  • Grand prize winners will also receive other swag, including a signed bookplate for your shiny bright copy of Flamecaster, signed bookmarks, a limited edition Flamecaster keychain/purse charm, and temporary tattoos.
  • The first 150  entries will receive a signed bookplate and other swag--just for entering--if you include your mailing address with your entry. 
  • This offer good only in the US and Canada. I'll be working with my publisher in the UK on a giveaway for those of you across the pond. 

Here's how to enter:

1. PLEASE follow these directions. I'm not very good at following directions, either, but I need your help in order to get you properly entered because I don't have minions. 
2. Send an email to cwchimapromo at gmail dot com. In the subject line, put PREORDER GIVEAWAY ENTRY
3. In the body of your email, include your name and snail mail address; which prize pack you prefer,  and how/if you would like your books to be personalized.
4. If you would like to receive a signed bookplate, bookmark, etc include your snail mail address. 
5. Make sure I have the best email to contact you
6. THIS IS IMPORTANT: Attach an image of proof of purchase for your preordered book, whether it's an online receipt, a receipt from a store, an email confirmation of an order, a notarized statement from your local bookseller--whatever way you can show me you've placed a preorder
7. Questions? Email me at that same address with the header PREORDER GIVEAWAY QUESTION

Thursday, March 3, 2016

How to Preorder a Signed Copy of Flamecaster

Flamecaster is just a month away! If you would like to pre-order a signed copy of FLAMECASTER (in fact, any of my books,)  you can order from my local bookshop, The Learned Owl, here  If you would like the book personalized, let them know that in the comments of an online order or on the phone. I'll be throwing in some juicy swag along with.

You can  probably also pre-order a signed copy of FLAMECASTER from any of the bookshops I'll be visiting on tour. My tour schedule is here  Contact your choice of store and see what's involved in placing an order.

Anyone preordering Flamecaster from ANY retailer will be eligible to enter my Flamecaster Grand Prize Giveaway. What's that, you say? Stay tuned tomorrow.