Divorce is About Power – Even in Fantasy Literature

divorce is about power - tornadoDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

A few weeks back Tor.com published an article written by Anise K. Strong called Beyond Happily Ever After Divorce Should be an Option in Fantasy Fiction. It was an excellent article, and it got me thinking about power, about who has it and who doesn’t, and how this is depicted and communicated in story. At its core, divorce is about power, and as such, is well worth consideration when building a world.

At the same time, patriarchy and sexism have actual societal consequences; you cannot just create a world where women can become fighters and everyone wears a magic birth control necklace and expect that nothing else will change.

The question of who has power and who doesn’t in the world you are building has a profound impact on the characters that move through it. Battle hardened women in control of their own reproductive fates are not likely to tolerate a governing system that treats them as second class citizens or attempts to control who they can have sex with. Abusive partners might think twice before battering a woman that is just as gifted with a sword as he is. Raping and pillaging takes a decided turn when those you want to rape and pillage fight back with equal vigor and strength, either physically or by turning the political or economic might of a nation against you for your transgressions.

There is no shortage of discussion these days about diversity in fantasy, and even in the realms of epic and high fantasy, the tides are changing in response. We see a lot of kick-ass women and people of varying races these days. But we’re not seeing a lot of divorces to go along with these changes, and we should be.

Anise K. Strong has a new book out called Prostitutes and Matrons in the Roman World. (Affiliate Link, see below.) It looks like an excellent reference book for anyone looking to bring additional dimension to their writing. As well, of course, as for anyone interested in Roman history!

I frequently use folklore, mythology, and history as inspiration for my books. My book shelves are lined with texts such as this one, so I have no reservation about recommending this book. And YES, this is an Amazon affiliate link. If you buy using this link I get some pie money. 🙂

 

 

 

A Dying Land – Cover Reveal!

A Dying Land CoverIt’s hard to believe, that A Dying Land is almost here, and I’m so excited to share the cover and blurb with you today!

A Dying Land is the second book in an epic fantasy/sword and sorcery serial series I’m currently working on. Each book is about 150 pages long, and a new book is released every January and June. It follows the trials and terrors of Ling, a young woman who discovers she’s actually a changeling.

She begins her journey in Across the Darkling Sea intent on finding the warlock that cursed her family and convincing him to break the curse. But she soon finds out there is much more going on than she ever could have imagined.

In A Dying Land Ling soon find herself embroiled in a centuries-long war between a species of magical beings called the Mari and the warlocks. She feels her original quest, to break the curse and restore Evelyn’s life, slipping from her fingers. How do you choose between saving those you love and saving… everyone else?

Evelyn always believed that warlocks and monsters were nothing more than fairy tales used by tired parents to scare their kids into staying in bed at night. The truth is far more terrifying.

Far from home and, with no one she can trust, Ling finds herself caught in the powerful currents of a centuries-long war that threatens the lives of everyone she holds most dear. As she journeys deep into the Colli Terra on the mythical island of Marique, she finds herself faced with a decision: Should she continue her single-minded quest to break the spell that holds her family in thrall? Or should she succumb to the pull of war and join a battle between two races fighting for their very survival?

I am currently looking to build a list of advanced readers for A Dying Land. If you are interested in getting an advanced eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review, please email me at k @ kferrin.com.

For more adventures, please check out my currently stand-alone novel Magicless as well!

 

Indie Author Month!

Across the Darkling Sea coverWow, what a start to the April celebration of indie authors! Only four days in but my reading list is already piling up! Thank you so much for joining us. I might be biased, but I think Indie authors are driving some of the coolest trends around when it comes to fiction. As a rule, they are a group of inspiring and talented authors interested in knowing every angle of the writing business. I knew from the beginning I wanted to go indie, and it is so much fun participating in this dynamic community.

If you want to start at the beginning (and I know you do) check out Zach’s post from April 1st. You can follow the chain from there! There are also a TON of other festivities this month, so don’t forget to check out our Facebook page for information on giveaways, read alongs and other cool book related geekery.

As for me, I like it weird. I’m a sucker for monsters, stories about bizarre folklore and superstitions, and the strange sorts of creatures born from the darker aspects of the human psyche. I write fantasy, but I often pull from folklore in my writing. I’ve discovered over the years that truth often is far stranger than anything you encounter in fiction. I’ve got an impressive book collection on the occult.

You can find some of my writings on these topics here on this blog. As a sampling, you can find stories about the Malleus Maleficarum (talk about some dark and scary stuff, all non-fiction), or horrifying stories about people’s belief in fairies and changeling’s that I dug up while researching changelings for my current series of books (more on this topic below). I’ve got all sorts of monsters over here, such as the the Naga dragons of Cambodia or the Native American Paisa. And of course, I’m a geek, so there’s plenty of geekery to be had here.

I also love pie. This might be the most important thing about me.

What else… I am a beekeeper. I’ve got two hives in my backyard, and when I go out to work on them I wear the full beekeeping outfit. I always feel like quite the fashion star while doing this. I’ve got a pretty large garden where I grow about every sort of fruit or vegetable that will grow here in Colorado, and I pickle it and preserve it all through summer. And I travel quite a bit. I’ve been to well over twenty countries. Also, I’ve eaten maggots. That’s a thing you now know. (Also, I feel compelled to inform you that I will not do it again. Except maybe in the event of a zombie apocalypse.)

Magicless book coverAnd of course, I’m also a fantasy writer. I spin magic into words, the way Rumpelstiltskin weaves straw into gold, and let them free in the world in the hopes of entertaining some of you fine folks. I have two books out now. The first, Magicless, is a stand alone YA fantasy novel. Across the Darkling Sea is the first in a new series I’m writing, the second book (A Dying Land) will be available in June of this year. I can’t share the cover with you yet, but I will be sharing it with my newsletter subscribers next week so sign up if you are interested. I’m also looking for advanced reviewers for A Dying Land. If you are interested in getting an advanced copy to review, please shoot me an email and let me know.

So now you know a little bit about me. What about you? I’d love to hear some interesting tidbits about all of you, leave a little something in the comments if you would. Tomorrow, hop on over to www.jpcawood.com for some Love From Mars, as well as some other stories.

Happy Reading,

K.

 

 

The Evil Eye – Alaia Baque

evil eyeMost of us have heard of the evil eye. This superstition holds that one person can cause misfortune or even bodily injury to another person by glaring at them malevolently. The oldest documentation of this superstition is from ancient Greece, but it has occurred frequently over the years in many cultures. Stories of the evil eye occur in the old testament, across Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Spain and Mexico, among others.

It would be easy to dismiss this as nonsense from a bygone era, but belief in the evil eye is still strong even today, all over the world. There’s even an online store that sells almost exclusively evil eye related goods.

All this is fine and dandy of course. Wearing evil eye jewelry is harmless, it’s just a matter of personal taste, right? Yes. Until it isn’t. A belief in superstition and folklore unmitigated by reason and science often leads to dark places and even darker acts.

In August of 2016, in Queens NY, a five month old girl by the name of Alaia Baque, died as a result of fatal injuries that included eight separate skull fractures as well as a hemorrhage in one eye suggesting she’d been violently shaken.

As the story emerged it was revealed that Alaia was a fussy baby, frequently crying. Her father, Jorge, felt Alaia was rejecting him, that she cried most frequently when he was around.

Rather than take the child to a doctor or reaching out to others for help, the parents reported that they rolled a raw egg — in its shell — on the baby’s skin to attempt to discover what the problem might be. Afterward, they cracked it open. They decided the yolk ‘looked bad’ and determined to take the child to a priestess for help.

They took the child to a  priestess (some reports say she was a voodoo priestess, but this does not seem to be corroborated) who purportedly swaddled the child and rolled her about on the ground in an effort to cure her of the evil eye.

The parents accused the priestess of killing the child, but investigators were not convinced. The injuries were consistent with being stomped or hit with a blunt object. The father has been charged and is awaiting trial.

k

10 Amazing Fantasy Authors Who Are Women of Color

women of colorLike most of you, I grew up on Fantasy. I’d have to verify this with my mom, but I’m pretty certain I came out of the womb with a fantasy novel in hand (much to her dismay). Also like most of you, for many years, the books I read took place in a European middle ages sort of setting, had male protagonists (always assumed white) and were written by white men.

This left an impression on me. When I first began writing, all of my stories took place in a middle ages European type of setting, they all had male protagonists (always assumed white), with as few women in them as I could get away with. None of those stories have even made it past my elementary school writing teachers. But they are back there.

In some ways, my winding path through fantasy over the years of my life has been about finding and discovering myself in the books I read. It has been an inspiring journey truth be told. There are some amazing women out there writing truly amazing fantasy. More recently, though, this search for women in fantasy has evolved into a search for something that seemed even more rare. Fantasy written by women of color.

For most Americans, we hear so infrequently about women of color writing fantasy that it would be easy to think they simply aren’t writing any of it. But you would be wrong.

Below is a list of ten authors, all women of color, you should definitely read this year if you’ve not read them already. And don’t forget, drop a review on Amazon and/or GoodReads after you’ve had a chance to read them. Reviews are gold for authors.

Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa  Tahir’s debut book, a young adult fantasy novel called An Ember in the Ashes, ended up on the New York Times Best Seller List and won several other awards in 2015. The second book of the series, A Torch Against the Night, is also available, and has also ended up on several best seller lists. These books are amazing. Don’t let the YA tag put you off, these books are gritty.

Octavia Butler

Truth be told, Octavia Butler is more of a sci fi writer than a fantasy writer, but many of her books blur the boundaries of these two, and I simply could not leave her off of this list. Regardless of which book you choose to start with, be prepared to head out on a deep and meaningful journey.

NK Jemisin

NK Jemisin burst onto the fantasy scene with The Hundred Thousand Kingdom’s trilogy and she’s not been out of the spotlight since. And rightly so. Her newest series, The Broken Earth, kicked into gear with The Fifth Season and won a Hugo for best novel in 2016. I’ve read her Dream Blood books and adored them. I’ll soon be sinking my teeth into The Fifth Season, I can’t wait!

Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is a new name for me and I’ve not read any of her books. When I posted a query to a Facebook group I’m a member of, however, her name kept popping up as recommended reading. I’ll be starting my exploration of her novels with The Salt Road, a Nebula finalist. If The Salt Road doesn’t grab you keep scrolling, she’s got a number of books out.

Nnedi Okorafor

I recently read Who Fears Death, a World Fantasy Award finalist, and I instantly fell in love with its blend of folklore, tradition, and fantasy. It was a wonderful story, in a setting quite far from the usual rolling green hills of England.

Helen Oyeyemi

Helen is another new author for me. But again, her name popped up frequently when asking for book recommendations. White is for Witching is at the top of my list. It is set in England (Oyeyemi is a British author), but it’s explorations of race, nationality, and family legacies makes it a compelling read.

Alaya Johnson

Set in the tropics of Brazil, The Summer Prince is the book that comes up most often when I talk with people about Alaya Johnson. It’s described on Amazon as “A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.” The setting alone is enough to draw me in, but the focus on art definitely sealed the deal.

Jewelle Gomez

I stumbled on Jewelle Gomez’s The Gilda Stories earlier this year while seeking out books to read on my vacation. I do like vampires, but I’m pretty picky about them. (They can’t shimmer in the daylight, as an example.) While The Gilda Stories didn’t have the same erotic overtones as other vampire novels, I believe that is exactly the point. I greatly enjoyed this book. It was sort of a Dickens meets Interview with a Vampire, and was quite wonderful.

Larissa Lai

When Fox is a Thousand hit my reading list in February. I’ve not had a chance to dig my teeth into it yet. I’m really looking forward to a lazy Saturday afternoon with this book open on my lap. Magical, poetic, rich with folklore and fairy tale are how others describe this book. I love the blending of folklore into fantasy, so this book is right in my wheelhouse.

Marie Lu

My first run in with Marie Lu was at a writers conference in Colorado a number of years back. She was delightful, and after hearing her speak and chatting with her I decided to pick up her young adult novel Legend. I was instantly hooked. She’s completed the Legend series, and has a second series out as well called The Young Elites that I’ve not had the opportunity to read as of yet.

 

I’m a book worm. I’d love to spend more time reading, but like most of us, I squeeze my reading time between my day job, my writing time, and trips to the gym. There are always more books being added to the leaning pile of books than I take off. This, however, is a wonderful problem to have! What are some of your favorite fantasy novels written by women of color?

k

Six Amazing Fantasy Pinterest Boards

fantasy pinterest boardsI love Pinterest. Yes, I do use it to house an ever growing list of recipes. And, yes, I do use it to get ideas for party themes and decor (I’m a huge Halloween fan, and throw a massive party every year). But I ALSO use it to feed my geeky fantasy loving soul. Here are some great fantasy pinterest boards to help you get your geek on!

Lego:

Oh lord Cthulu is there some awesome stuff on this board. Look, I don’t play with Lego. I also don’t have kids. But this site is filled to bursting with the sort of creative geeks that make us all swoon. Star Wars? Check. Terminator? Check. Dwarves? Check. Chickens with uzis? Yep. This board as 2,300 pins to keep you entertained, and 1.4 million (MILLION) followers. It’s well worth a visit.

Read more

28 Best First Lines in Fantasy

best first lines in fantasyThere is nothing like opening (or tabbing) to the first page of a fantasy novel you’ve just picked up and reading a first line that jolts you like a stab of lightening. It’s like the author reaches out of the page and wraps their hand right around your throat, yanking you right into the book. Or squirts gorilla glue into your eyeballs, pinning them open and focused on the book in front of you.

I’ve pulled together 28 of the all time best first lines in fantasy below, and at the bottom, what has to be my favorite all time opener. Sharpen you pencils! (Er, um… ready your keyboard.) Your to-read list is about to get a boost.

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Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor

Who Fears DeathThere’s nothing new about novels of the post apocalypse. But if you get most of your fantasy to-read list off American or European book lists, books that take place in post apocalyptic Africa may be new indeed. Who Fears Death (this is an affiliate link, see below), by author Nnedi Okorafor, is an award winning novel about a remarkable woman surviving the bleak landscape of a war torn post apocalyptic Africa.

Who Fears Death is more magical realism than full blown fantasy, but regardless, is well worth a read. I loved the folklore the author wove beautifully through the fabric of this story. Creatures and myth’s that are new and unusual to most American readers, and fascinating for it.

This book tackles some seriously weighty topics. Rape, genital mutilation, war, violence, feminism… all woven expertly through the pages of this book. It’s serious stuff, but don’t let that sway you away from this gem. Who Fears Death is well worth the read.

My only negative is I feel the middle does bog down a bit. There is a section of the book that comes late in the middle portion of the story that feels a little out of sorts, as if it were tacked on almost as an after thought, and didn’t really form organically out of the rest of the story. That said, it’s relatively short, and the rest of the book more than makes up for this little imperfection. Or, at least, what feels to me as an imperfection.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. The world, the magical systems, the folklore are all fascinating from the first page to the last. And I loved how the author wove real life struggles into the story. I definitely, give Who Fears Death a solid thumbs up.

Yes, this is an Amazon affiliate link! If you make a purchase using this link Amazon pays a bit into my pie fund, and that makes you awesome (and me a little pudgy!).

k

The Dark History of Magic: Malleus Malleficarum

malleus malefic arumWitches are an integrated part of our lore, our culture and our stories. We’ve all studied the Salem Witch Trials in school, and who hasn’t heard of Hermione Granger? Shows such as Charmed and Sabrina the Teenage Witch are ever popular, and few women have not dressed as a witch on halloween at least once in their lives –  pointy hat, broomstick and warty nose in all. But these fun fictions aside, magic has a way of bleeding into the real world in violent and unpredictable ways. For witches, this dark history is tightly tied to the Malleus Maleficarum.

Latin for “The Hammer of Witches” (or “Hexenhammer” in German) the Malleus Maleficarum is one of the most infamous and bloody medieval writings on witches, giving us some insight into how women were seen in the fifteenth century, when witchcraft was deeply feared. This book would have made Sabrina the Teenage Witch cower in a corner, as it described the rules and guidelines for identifying, interrogating, prosecuting, convicting, and killing suspected witches.

The History of the Malleus Maleficarum 

The Malleus Maleficarum was written – unsurprisingly – by two religious men. Jacob Sprenger and Heinrich Kramer, two Inquisitors for the Catholic Church, penned this guide in 1486. It was first read by the masses in Germany in 1487.

Jacob Sprenger was prior and regent of studies of the Cologne Convent. He later became Dean of Cologne University and in 1488, was named provincial of the Province of Germany. Heinrich Kramer was prior of the Dominican House in Schlettstadt in Lower Alsace. In 1474, he became inquisitor for several German provinces. In addition to adding fuel to the witch hunt fire, the Malleus Maleficarum was successful in large part to the reputations of its authors.

In 1484, Kramer and Sprenger were granted the power to prosecute those they deemed to be witches via a papal bull from Pope Innocent VII. The point of the bull was to squash protestant objection to the inquisition. Following the bull, the Malleus Maleficarum was widely adopted as a witch hunting manual by catholics and protestants in Germany, France, and Italy.

It may surprise you to learn that this witch hunting manual was banned in 1490 by the catholic church. There were people in the christian community (mainly scholars and theologians because educated people are always the ones with the most sense) who doubted the existence of witches at all. But the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum so passionately believed they were able to convince the majority of it’s necessity, saying “Whether the belief that there are such beings as witches is so essential a part of the catholic faith that obstinacy to maintain the opposite opinion manifestly savors of heresy.”

The book remained in use for 300 years across the world, especially during witch trials in England and scatterings of Europe. Thanks to his book, the misconceptions and fears about women who acted outside the norm – considered witches – were reinforced and given teeth. These misconceptions became irrefutable truth and gave accusers a tool to act on their fears.

The Malleus Maleficarum was the de facto guide for detecting and persecuting witches, including the rules and procedures by which their torture and death must be carried out. It is difficult to know precisely how many people lost their lives do to this inquisition. Estimates run from 600,000 to as high as 9 million. Whatever the real number is, it can be argued that this is likely one of the most harmful books ever written.

The Malleus Maleficarum cited reasons for accusing and punishing women for witchcraft as varied as:

  • Being old
  • Being a midwife
  • Being Jewish
  • Being a Gypsy
  • Having a weird birthmark or skin deformity
  • Living alone
  • Being mentally ill
  • Owning medicinal herbs

From our modern perspective such a list is nonsense. Most women, including myself, would fall under suspicion with standards such as these. But the fear that is birthed out of ignorance is never all that far away. Consider christian protestors today who believe that feminists are representatives of the devil as an example. Such views are most certainly on the edges of our modern world, science and reason have rightly pushed them there. But such things always lurks there at the shadowy edges.

Use in the USA 

Fear of witches spread all over the world, and was notable especially in the english settlements in America. We all know about the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. We learn about it in school and watch films (The Crucible is one of the best of these in my opinion) and plays based on the horrors that took place there. The Malleus Maleficarum gave these ideas the strength to travel across the sea and take hold of communities in the new world.

It is impossible to tell the exact effect the Malleus Maleficarum had on witch hunting in America. There is little to no documentation now how exactly the manual was used in trials. But it’s not hard to see that it added fuel to the fire. For example, witches were often tortured into confessing or naming other women to be witches. The number of confessed or accused witches grew and grew, which satiated people’s suspicions and quelled doubts. These confessions provided “frightful proofs that the Devil is still alive,” as it was later put in America in the Salem witch trials.

The Book Itself 

This awful piece of literary history is split into 3 sections. Part 1 discusses and defines witchcraft. It claims that women who are witches renounce god and catholicism, have “carnal relations” with the devil, and routinely sacrifice kids to the devil. It also adds in a clever little loophole to combat anyone who disagrees. There’s a bit that basically says that since the bible expressedly states that there are witches, not believing in witchcraft makes you a heretic.

Part 2 talks about all the awful things witches do and how they can be stopped. It targets all the things god-fearing men of the 1400s worried about. It claimed that witches frolic with satan, can ruin crops and kill cattle, and can cast spells against which they had no protection. The authors even made up some examples!

Part 3 is where things get legal. It thoughtfully outlines how to take testimony, how to question a suspect… and then how to torture the hell out of them. It gives rules and guidelines, like how the person being tortured has no right to know who actually accused them to begin with and how judges can lie in order to get the answers they want.

So next time you’re sitting down to watch Charmed, consider the lengths people used to go to to condemn a woman for doing anything they considered outside of the norm for the day. No matter what shenanigans Sabrina gets up to, she should consider herself damn lucky.

k.

 

Learn More:

http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/

http://www.sacred-texts.com/pag/mm/

http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/cienciareal/cienciareal12.htm

https://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/rschwart/hist257/stephwhit/final/malleus.html

http://www.malleusmaleficarum.org/carl-sagan-and-the-malleus/