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.

Read more

I Love My Pop! Funko Doll

Groot Pop! DollFor the first time in my life, nerd culture has become mainstream. In many ways that is so awesome! It’s never been easier to be a fan girl. With that mainstream popularity comes merchandizing like we’ve never seen before. There are entire stores these days that sell nothing but fandom merch. Even big box stores like Target are filled with it! I’m not much of a chotchky sort of person. I hate clutter. But if I’m going to make an exception, it will be for a Pop! Funko Vinyl.

They are just about everywhere and I love them. That simple squarish face with those big eyes… it’s impossible to pass them up! My absolute favorite? Groot. I’ve got a total  crush on Groot, not gonna lie, and I’ve got two of these awesome goodies.

The Company and How it Got Started

Funko, creator of those adorable, huge-headed figures, was founded by Mike Becker in 1998. He originally wanted the it to be a small project with the goal of bringing back nostalgic, low-tech toys to help combat a world obsessed with high-tech doobobs. The very first Funko bobblehead toy was the Big Boy bobblehead because Becker was in the market for a vintage coin bank depicting the mascot, but couldn’t find one for a reasonable price. He decided to produce his own replica by outsourcing the construction to China. The company, creating bobbleheads, banks, and hand puppets, began from this one little figure. (Side note: Remember Big Boy? It turns out, they’re still around. I had no idea!)

Becker sold the company in 2005 to Brian Mariotti. Mariotti has more or less kept the dream alive, but they’ve increased the scope of the products ten-fold. Funko LLC has around 180 unique licenses from movies, TV, comics, video games, sports, and other cultural icons. They have licensing deals with all the biggest players:

Marvel     DC Comics     Lucas Film     Sony Pictures     Paramount     DreamWorks     Hasbro

 

Warner Bros     Disney     HBO     Peanuts     Ubisoft     2K Games     Bethesda Games     and more

Mariotti says it used to be hard getting companies to agree to sign on with them. But now, brands are banging down their doors to get their characters as a Pop!  The vinyl dolls are still their biggest seller,  the company made about $40 million in 2013. In 2016 that number was $425 million. Pretty impressive if I do say so myself.

The Products

The vinyl bobblehead dolls we’ve all come to love and recognize haven’t changed much over the years. The first few characters included Betty Boop, Cap’n Crunch, and The Cat in the Hat. Over the years, the dolls took on human characters, exaggerating the heads and eyes. They are 3.75 inches tall with a square head and rounded edges.

Now, you can find a Pop! Vinyl Doll of almost any character you can imagine, even minor characters. The dolls aren’t limited to fictional characters either. You can find Pop! Vinyl culture figures like Johnny Rotten from the Sex Pistols and Tupac Pop-ified, too!

The vinyl dolls have branched out to include Mystery Minis, Hiraki, Legacy Collection, Mopeez, and Home & Accessories. The Home & Accessories collection specializes in ceramic mugs, which are basically just glass copies of the heads of popular figures, hollowed out with a handle on one side. Vinyl Sugar was announced at Toy Fair 2015, with offshoot lines including Dorbz, Vinyl Idolz, Vinyl Vixens, and Super Deluxe Vinyls.

From their first introduction at Comic Con in 2010, Pop! Funko Vinyl Dolls have blown up to include almost 3,000 unique pieces and 40 million units. They all have the recognizable Pop! Funko Vinyl style while boasting individual characteristics that make the character recognizable. They’re intensely collectable. Selling at only $10, you can build a huge collection quickly. There are also extremely rare, limited edition Pop! Vinyl Dolls. Funko created a Pop! Of JJ Abrams just for Kathleen Kennedy.

“You have to have the huge Walking Dead or Game of Thrones items that everyone wants, but you also need to do Firefly or Dodgeball. There are fans looking specifically for that and we might be the only company offering something to have on their desk,” says vice president of creative Ben Butcher. “It’s very important that we’re not just going for the big home runs.” Adds Mariotti: “If it doesn’t sell out, that’s okay. If everything was bottom line-generated, our line would be boring and probably wouldn’t be half as successful.” (I had to bold that out. It’s rare to find a company of this size that is willing to step out and take on a niche in this day and age.)

Next time you walk into a store that has Pop! Funko Vinyl dolls on display, take a closer look. It’s hard to come across a rare one and new reboots, new shows, and new movies mean Funko will never run out of source material. But know that each doll came from the singular idea to create something simple, fun, and cute for the fans.

k.

 

Additional Info:

Ever Hear of Funko?
Funko on Wikipedia
The Incredible Rise of Funko Pop!

I Hate Fan Theories

I hate fan theoriesI have a confession to make. I hate fan theories. Whether about film, television, books or any other medium, I can’t stand them.

I get it. I really do. When I fall in love with a book the first thing I want to do (after I mourn leaving the world behind of course) is find other people who loved it as much as I did. I want to talk about the characters, I want to get their thoughts on that store twist I wasn’t expecting or the plot tidbit that was not wrapped up at the end, and malign the big bad, or whatever. The point is, I want to connect with other readers who loved the book too. Read more

A Harry Potter Themed Babies Room To Die For!

Harry Potter Babies Room

I am most definitely a Potterhead, but without question, hands down, my SOs daughters have me beat. One of them recently had a baby and put together a harry potter themed babies room that was so damn cute I had to ask her to do a write up on it. Can you guess the inspiration behind the munchkins name? Eat your heart out Potter fans! 

It’s finally finished! Just in time for the Fantastic Beasts premier and about two months after our little muggle-born arrived, all mischief has been managed in Oliver’s nursery (or it’s about to begin!). Read more

Reading Pillows for Geeks

snorlax body pillow for geeksAs geeks, it’s so surprise that we love reading. From Harry Potter to those crappy yet awesome Star Trek novels to anime and comics, reading is a classic geek past-time. Nothing beats snuggling up and hiding from the world with a good story, and nothing can make reading better than snuggling up with huge comfy reading pillows for geeks!

Check out these awesome reading pillows for geeks that are cute, funny, and sometimes even sexy…

Creeper body pillow for geeksCreeper Body Pillow

If you’ve played Minecraft (and if you haven’t, GTFO) you are familiar with the Creeper. They are the villain we love to hate, an overall nuisance in the game. So if you can’t beat them, join them! Stop running away from these exploding pains in the ass and befriend one! As a pillow, they’re harmless, totally cuddly and (probably) won’t explode! This one is 50” by 20”, made of 100% cotton and guaranteed not to explode the castle you just built a week building.

You can find it on ThinkGeek.

 

snorlax body pillow for geeks Snorlax Oversized

This custom made Pokemon pillow is in the likeness of the sleepiest of the Pokemon – Snorlax. It’s big cushy body is perfect for cuddling up with a good book. Hopefully he won’t use Yawn, Snore, or Rest on you and send you straight to sleep. From this supplier you can get custom made pillows of any Pokemon you pick! Although a Snorlax is probably a much more comfortable reading buddy than a Geodude or any of the fire types.

Find it on Etsy.

 

Dr Who Reading Pillows for GeeksDoctor Who Throw Pillow

We all wish the Doctor would someday appear in our backyard in the TARDIS and whisk us away to travel through time and space. Probably won’t happen, but this amazing TARDIS pillow can go with you on all your reading and napping adventures. It even has a lantern on top that lights up and makes the signature TARDIS whooshing when you press on the keyhole! It’s perfectly cozy for reading and makes the perfect geeky addition to your home.

Find it here on Amazon.

 

Anime Reading Pillows for GeeksAnime Body Pillows

Anime is probably one of the most beloved and most sexualized fandoms in the world. Both the male and female characters are hyper-attractive and often displayed with clothing practically flying off. What better way to fulfill your anime desires than cuddle up with a good book and a half naked anime boy? No judgement, some people are totally into it! **This site is for grown ups.**

Find it at HelloCosplay.

 

fandom body pillows for geeksRealistic Multi-Fandom Body Pillows

Ever wish you could get Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch to snuggle up in bed with you with a good book? Now you can… in a sense. If you already have a body pillow, you’re one step closer to your favorite nerd character laying next to you in bed. YOu just have to get one of these sexy pillowcase covers that features, well, everyone! From Deadpool to Bilbo Baggins.

You can find these pillows at GeeksCrate.

Do you have a favorite reading pillow for geeks? Share in the comments below.

Five Reading Lights to Geek By

Books are hands down my favorite thing. I like looking at them, touching them, smelling them, and of course, most importantly, reading them. I do a good bit of my reading before I go to bed at night, so reading lights are essential. Of course, it must be fantastical, or what’s the point, really?

Here are a few of my favorite fantastical reading lights. Though, reading may be tough without a little extra lighting for some of these. But hey, form over function, right?

raven claw reading lights
I love this Ravenclaw reading light from StorybookCraftGroup on Etsy. Ravenclaw is my alma mater, so I was quite please to find this out in Etsy-Land. This one is their medium sized lantern, but they also have a large version.

You can get the other houses, but… why would you?

 

totoro reading lights
I sprayed geek love all over this Totoro light from LightGuild, also on Etsy. I’m a huge Miyazaki fan (I mean, who isn’t?), and while Princess Mononoke is hands down my fave, I love love love Totoro. This would go quite nicely in my fantasy reading nook.

 

 
tower of fantasy books reading lightsI love the idea of creating a lamp out of a stack of old books. I also simultaneously cringe about it. This one here is from HGTV, but of course I’d want it to be made from all seven Harry Potter books, or maybe Lord of the Rings with a bit of The Hobbit on top. But I have to admit it’s a bit hard for me to consider defacing such beautiful objects – even if they are mass produced paperbacks! Still, this has to be on my list for book nook lighting.

 

super mario brothers reading lightsNo list of geeky lighting options would be complete without a bit of Super Mario Bros. This one is by 8BitLit on Etsy. It’s not book related, but you can’t deny the compelling nature of the story itself. Yes, it was cliche (save Princess Peach!), but it was also the best video game of its day. Maybe it still is the best, for what it is. Regardless, I love it hard. The fact you have to ‘punch’ this to light it up makes my day.

 

paper mache mushroom reading lights
I absolutely adore this paper mache mushroom light from BostonePaperMache on Easy. It’s got a sophisticated feel to it, and the soft frayed paper edges give it a beautiful finish. It looks downright magical in these images. My finger is itching on that buy now button.

 

What are your favorite fantastical reading (or somewhat readable by) lights? I’d love to see your links below.

Happy reading,

k

When I’m Brave, Even Now, It’s Because of Puff the Magic Dragon

puff the magic dragonStories may consist of a mix of words and ink and paper, but they hold a powerful magic. They have the ability to change us, shape us, maybe even to save us, even long after they first touch us. I was struck by a poignant example of this today. I realized that when I’m brave, even now, it’s because Puff the Magic Dragon showed me how.

The looming release of Pete’s Dragon had me waxing nostalgic for some of the dragon tales of my youth and I’ve been walking around humming Puff the Magic Dragon for days. So today I thought I’d see if it was available on YouTube for a watch. It was, of course, because, literally everything is on YouTube.

The film does show it’s age in many ways. The 1978 animation and storyline are much different from the sorts of films we see today. But the message was surprisingly on point even now. I’m not ashamed to admit it choked me up a bit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if this tale of a young boy coming to terms with fear and the bewildering array of ‘shit’ in the world doesn’t choke you up at least a little, you’re just not human.

What really caught me off guard was just how much this little film influenced me. If you’d have asked me last week to list films or stories that had shaped my life Puff the Magic Dragon would not have made the list. But today, after a re-watch, I realize just how much it really did.

We all experience fear, after all. When we’re young it’s often from our own imaginations,  the terrifying  monsters we imagine living in the darkness beneath our beds or in our closets. We’re no more immune to fear as adults either, though the source of that fear shifts. We fear other people laughing at us, hating our books (me!), we fear failing at something, or even trying something and looking foolish in our clumsiness. Adults still fear the unknown too – our monsters under the bed become rapists, serial killers, immigrants, or the people who live on the other side of the border.

In Puff the Magic Dragon, little Peter Draper has become so afraid and so filled with self doubt he can no longer speak. But then Puff comes along and takes Peter on the adventure of a lifetime. Three little lessons forever changed Peter Draper, helping him realize things are not so scary as they seem.

Lesson One: See things as they really are. Not everything that seems scary is actually scary at all. And while it’s easy to imagine all the terrible things that can happen, how about imagining all the wondrous things that can happen too?

Lesson Two: Believe in yourself and have the courage to try. You may still fail, but at least you tried. The reality is that failure is rarely as scary as it seems (see lesson one).

Lesson Three: With the help of friends and family, we can do anything. No one is successful alone. We all need help from time to time, and there is real strength in those ties that bind us.

After watching this not-quite 30 minute cartoon I realized that I use these three little lessons almost every day. This is what allowed me to write and finish my first book, to write and publish more books, to start a business, and to write and publish this blog post. Even things such as how I think about politics, my attitudes on economics… all of these things are influenced by these three little lessons.

Now, I’m certainly not saying that Puff get’s all the credit here. We all have millions of influences in our lives that help shape who we are. But, stories… stories are one of the great influencers. And they are mighty. I think that’s why I have such a love affair with books. Who can resist that sort of magic?