Tag Archives: dark fantasy

ROOKWAR cover: revealed!

So here it is, the final cover of the final book in the Casting the Bones trilogy:



The book itself will be released in the next few weeks. As I’ve said before, it’s by far the longest, biggest, and most complex of the three books and of them, it’s the one I’m most proud of. Hoping people enjoy it.

Watch this space for further news.

RAVENFALL: win free books and handmade jewelry by me

Ravenfall comes out this week on the 6th, so I want to celebrate by giving things away, because it pleases me to do so. Starting on the 10th and running through the 16th, I’ll be drawing a name every other day; that person will win free copies of Crowflight and Ravenfall in your choice of ebook formats, and the bracelet (made by me) marked below.


all together now!

“Blood and Moonlight” – August 10

“The Lady’s Silver” – August 12

“Wing and Bone” – August 14

“Flight to the Stars” – August 16

Enter below! Promise I will not use your contact info for any sinister demon-summoning rituals.

July news, because there’s a lot of it

Okay, so somehow July ended up being the month where everything is happening. Here’s what’s on deck:

So wow, yeah. August should be more sedate, except for all the writing I’ll be doing. Rookwar will be finished by the end of this month, but then I have the as-yet untitled book I’m writing about Kae from Line and Orbit, and I have an idea for another tropey-as-fuck Big Gay SF novel (not Line and Orbit-related) that I hope to begin work on in the fall.

And I’m teaching an intensive three-week course and looking for a job. And I’ve decided to retool my entire doctoral dissertation.

Wheeee summer.

RAVENFALL excerpt: Chapter 1


As promised, here’s the first chapter of Ravenfall, free to read.

The Story So Far, by way of the back cover blurb:

In exile from her home and her people, Turn – once Crow and psychopomp-in-training – is living among the mysterious Ravens, a people steeped in magic and forgotten history. Despite a period of relative peace, Turn is restless and struggling to find her place among her adopted tribe. Complicating things are her feelings for her friend and companion Ava, which are both changing and intensifying. And of course, peace can’t last. Unexpectedly, an old friend appears bearing bad tidings, and the Ravens are faced with a choice between fight or flight. But the choice may not be as clear as it appears, and Turn suspects it may be informed by an influence that means to destroy them.

The lost tribe of the Moravici, supposedly stripped of power, are not as dead as they seemed, and are extending tentacles of control and dark coercion into places Turn didn’t believe possible. The Crows, convinced that the Ravens pose a lethal threat, are preparing to make war. In Sol, the world of the living, the dead are rising, and they have an appetite for flesh. The Ravens are arguing among themselves, unable to take action. Despairing, Turn sees little hope of saving anyone.

But of course, help can come from the unlikeliest of places. The question is what price it will demand.

Click the cut for excerpty goodness. And if you like what you read, please add on Goodreads. And buy. And if you buy, it’s always amazing if you review anywhere you like. I pretty much depend on word-of-mouth, so any help there is so appreciated.

Continue reading

Writing RAVENFALL: Gender, pronouns, and creating the character of Ava

Those of you who have read Crowflight will have met Ava, the Raven who saves Turn from starvation and an infected wound after she’s exiled into the Shadowlands. In Ravenfall, Turn’s relationship with Ava deepens, and the two of them take a journey that forces them to depend on each other in entirely new ways. By the end of the book, they’re closer than ever, and in Rookwar I’m happy to report that Ava is taking center stage in ways they haven’t before, mostly by virtue of their own demands to be allowed to do so.

Ava is an interesting character, at least to me. They’re strange, and for a while they were entirely mysterious to me. When I wrote Crowflight I knew I needed a character to act as Turn’s guide to the Ravens as a people and a culture; Line and Orbit had taught me that as Adam came to understand the Bideshi with the help of Kae and Lochlan. When you’re introducing both the protagonist and the reader to a new world within the world of the story, such a guide-character is not necessary but often very helpful.

So at first that was what Ava was there to do. But as Turn learned about them, I learned about them too. Or rather, I learned what I didn’t know about them, and how much of what I did know was somewhat contradictory.

I have no idea how old Ava is. They haven’t told me, so they haven’t told Turn, either. Ava is definitely older than Turn, and may in fact be quite a lot older, though I don’t think Ava is elderly. They aren’t elderly in any physically recognizable way; they’re slender to the point of serious thinness, but they’re extremely strong. Their face is essentially ageless, unlined but not at all young. They’re wise, but they tend to keep out of the way of any political or social power – perhaps because of that wisdom. They’re familiar with Raven blood magic, but don’t specialize in it particularly. They’re a skilled warrior, but prefer not to fight at all, and what role they’ve played in past conflicts is unclear. They’re devoted to the service of the goddess Atropos, but not especially devout or mystical, at least not any more than any other Raven.

They’re also devoted to Turn, but their other intense relationships – if any – remain a mystery. I know almost nothing about their parentage, their personal history, or their motivations before Turn came along.

Which isn’t to say I don’t know anything about their actual character. Slowly, as they’ve revealed their personality to Turn, they’ve revealed themselves to me. Ava is quiet, practical, but capable of intense emotion and possessed of deep convictions. They tend to be naturally skeptical, and to depend on little without evidence. From what I’ve observed of the way I write them, they’ve always been something of an outsider within the already-outsider Ravens, preferring to keep to the margins and make their own decisions independently of the group. Turn met Ava when Ava was camped some distance from the rest of their group; my sense is that Ava often did that before meeting Turn, retiring to the wilderness away from the primary encampment to engage in solitary meditation.

But on Turn’s arrival, Ava gained a kind of anchor. Ava was drawn to her instantly and provided Turn with not only a guide but also a companion at a time when Turn badly needed one. I think Ava was ready for one as well, after so much time spent alone. Now Ava serves as Turn’s companion and friend, as well as advisor of a kind. Turn is still quite young, barely out of her teens, and she needs one.

And then there’s the issue of gender. As soon as Ava made themselves known, my general sense was that they were a woman, but that quickly changed, and I realized that it made a lot of sense to write Ava as genderqueer/non-binary, which I’d been wanting to do with a character for a while. There is no place for non-binary people in Crow culture, but there is among the Ravens, who are both more and less bound by traditions (sharp-eyed readers may pick up some similarities between them and the Bideshi, some of which were consciously inserted and some of which were not). That means there’s a bit of a learning curve for Turn, and for a time she thinks of Ava using binary pronouns, which Ava allows.

But I knew pretty early on that I wanted to eventually go with the singular they, and I wanted to Turn to end up there as well. Some of it that was personal – I prefer that pronoun for myself, and it irritates me how much resistance there is to it, as well as to other non-binary pronouns – but some of it was also that I just wanted to see what would happen to the way I wrote if I abandoned binary writing with a character.

And interestingly enough, what happened was that Ava finally felt able to start asserting themselves not only as a secondary character but as a co-protagonist, which they pretty much are at this point. The simple adoption of a different kind of pronoun made a character come alive for me in a way they hadn’t before. The moment in Crowflight where Turn stops thinking of Ava as she and starts thinking of them as they was a major turning point for me as the author. From then on, writing Ava felt different.

Incidentally, she is simply what Ava offers as a pronoun for Turn to use, not one at which Turn arrives herself. Ava’s reasons for doing that are unclear to me, aside from graciously looking for a way to make Turn more comfortable while she settled into the idea of a non-binary person. Ava certainly doesn’t identify as she any more than they identify as he.

So what Ava taught me – among other things – is that pronouns matter a lot in writing a character, and playing with gender in a story can make an enormous difference in the end to how a character feels and lives and acts through an author. They also taught me that I could write characters like this, that I didn’t have to be afraid of it just because not many other people are doing it (though I’m so happy to see that it’s becoming less uncommon). I could open my fictional worlds up to people who are more like me, and while that might be obvious to some people, it’s also easier for some people, and it was liberating when I really started to internalize that.

So Ava’s important, and what they taught me has been important. I’m not sure what state they’ll be in at the end of Rookwar. But whatever happens between now and then, I’m grateful.

Later this week/early next week I’ll be posting the first chapter of Ravenfall, so watch for that.


Here’s the RAVENFALL cover and I love it



When we last left Turn, Psychopomp-in-training and now exile from the Crows, she was living among the mysterious Ravens, a people steeped in magic and forgotten history. For a time there’s been peace, but Turn is restless and struggling to find her place, as well as confronting her feelings for her friend and companion Ava, which are both changing and intensifying. And of course, peace can’t last. An old friend appears unexpectedly with bad tidings, and the Ravens are faced with a choice between fight or flight. But the choice may not be as clear as it appears, and Turn suspects it may be informed by an influence that means to destroy them.

The lost tribe of the Moravici, supposedly stripped of power, are not as dead as they seemed, and are extending tentacles of control and dark coercion into places Turn didn’t believe possible. The Crows, convinced that the Ravens pose a lethal threat, are preparing to make war. In Sol, the world of the living, the dead are rising, and they have an appetite for flesh. The Ravens are arguing among themselves, unable to take action. Turn faces despair everywhere she looks, and little hope of saving anyone.

In short, everything kind of sucks. But of course, help can come from the unlikeliest places. The question is what price it’ll demand.

This thing gets released in July. As you see above, it’s the second book in the Casting the Bones trilogy; the third book is coming this fall. Naturally I’ll be giving away free stuff, so watch for that. Might make some jewelry; haven’t decided. In the meantime, while you wait, Crowflight is available, and I hope you check it out and enjoy.


And it goes without saying that if you do, reviews – positive or negative – are massively, massively appreciated.


Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2014: Cover, ToC, AWESOME

Revealed, courtesy of Paula Guran, the cover and table of contents for The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2014, which I am in:

“No matter your expectations, the dark is full of the unknown: grim futures, distorted pasts, invasions of the uncanny, paranormal fancies, weird dreams, unnerving nightmares, baffling enigmas, revelatory excursions, desperate adventures, spectral journeys, mundane terrors and supernatural visions. You may stumble into obsession or find redemption. Often disturbing, occasionally delightful, let The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror be your annual guide through the mysteries and wonders of dark fiction.”

Contents (in alphabetical order by author’s last name):

  • “Postcards from Abroad,” Peter Atkins (Rolling Darkness Revue 2013, Earthling Publications)
  • “The Creature Recants,” Dale Bailey (Clarkesworld, Issue 85, October 2013)
  • “The Good Husband,” Nathan Ballingrud (North American Lake Monsters, Small Beer Press)
  • “Termination Dust,” Laird Barron (Tales of Jack the Ripper, ed. Ross Lockhart, Word Horde)
  • “The Ghost Makers,” Elizabeth Bear (Fearsome Journeys, ed. Jonathan Strahan, Solaris)
  • “The Marginals,” Steve Duffy (The Moment of Panic, PSPublishing)
  • “A Collapse of Horses,” Brian Evenson (The American Reader, Feb/Mar 2013)
  • “A Lunar Labyrinth,” Neil Gaiman (Shadows of the New Sun: Stories in Honor of Gene Wolfe, eds. J. E. Mooney & Bill Fawcett, Tor)
  • “Pride,” Glen Hirshberg (Rolling Darkness Revue 2013, Earthling Publications)
  • “Let My Smile Be Your Umbrella,” Brian Hodge (Psycho-Mania!, ed. Stephen Jones, Robinson)
  • “The Soul in the Bell Jar,” K. J. Kabza (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov/Dec 2013)
  • “The Prayer of Ninety Cats,” Caitlín R. Kiernan (Subterranean Online, Spring 2013)
  • “Dark Gardens,” Greg Kurzawa (Interzone # 248)
  • “A Little of the Night,” Tanith Lee (Clockwork Phoenix 4, ed. Mike Allen, Mythic Delirium)
  • “The Gruesome Affair of the Electric Blue Lightning,” Joe R. Lansdale (Beyond Rue Morgue: Further Tales of Edgar Allan Poe’s First Detective, ed. Paul Kane & Charles Prepole, Titan)
  • “Iseul’s Lexicon,” Yoon Ha Lee (Conservation of Shadows, Prime Books)
  • “The Plague” Ken Liu (Nature, 16 May 2013)
  • “The Slipway Gray,” Helen Marshall (Chilling Tales 2, ed. Michael Kelly, Edge Publications)
  • “To Die for Moonlight,” Sarah Monette (Apex Magazine, Issue #50)
  • “Event Horizon,” Sunny Moraine (Strange Horizons, 21 Oct 2013)
  • “The Legend of Troop 13,” Kit Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction, Jan 2013 / The Story Until Now: A Great Big Book of Stories, Wesleyan)
  • “Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell,” Brandon Sanderson (Dangerous Women, eds. George R. R. Martin & Gardner Dozois, Tor)
  • “Phosphorous,” Veronica Schanoes, (Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells: An Anthology of Gaslamp Fantasy, eds. Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling, Tor)
  • “Blue Amber,” David J. Schow (Impossible Monsters, ed. Kasey Lansdale, Subterranean Press)
  • “Rag and Bone,” Priya Sharma (Tor.com, 10 April 2013)
  • “Our Lady of Ruins”, Sarah Singleton (The Dark 2, Dec 2013)
  • “Cuckoo,” Angela Slatter (A Killer Among Demons, ed. Craig Bezant, Dark Prints Press)
  • “Wheatfield with Crows,” Steve Rasnic Tem (Dark World: Ghost Stories, ed. Timothy Parker Russell, Tartarus Press)
  • “Moonstruck,” Karin Tidbeck (Shadows and Tall Trees, Vol. 5, ed. Mike Kelly, Undertow)
  • “The Dream Detective,” Lisa Tuttle (Lightspeed, Mar 2013)
  • “Fishwife,” Carrie Vaughn (Nightmare, Jun 2013
  • “Air, Water and the Grove,” Kaaron Warren (The Lowest Heaven, eds Anne C. Perry & Jared Shurin, Jurassic London)

Writer Me from five years ago says: jesus christ look at who I’m in a book with

Crowflight: What the hell it is


I’ve been namedropping Crowflight a lot around here – for those of you just joining us, it’s the dark fantasy novel that I have coming out in September from Masque Books (Prime’s new digital imprint, which is now offering all kinds of tasty reads) – and I think it’s probably a good idea at this point to go into some detail about what it is.

SO. For your edification: A Crowflight fact sheet.

  • What’s it about? It deals with a young woman named Turn who’s in training to be a guide of souls into the lands beyond death. Everything is going according to plan, when a chance at a new level of training throws her into a conspiracy for which she takes the blame. Betrayed by everyone she ever trusted and thrown into exile, she ends up in the company of members of the Raven tribe, mysterious denizens of the equally mysterious Shadowlands, and people whom Turn was always taught to mistrust. But they appear to be the only friends Turn has. Forced to live among them or die alone, Turn begins to understand things that cast a very different light on the events that led to her exile. And her newly-gained knowledge is pressing her forward into a terrible responsibility and a task that might cost her everything she still has.
  • What’s the deal with the worldbuilding? The book is set primarily in Nicht, the Land of Terrible Night, and its sisterworld Sol, the Land of Dreadful Day, from where the souls that Turn and her fellow Psychopomps guide come. Sol is very much like early 20th century America or Europe, and while it contains more than one city, we only see one. Both worlds are smaller than ours, and in fact don’t even exist on a planet in the way that ours does. Rather, they should be thought of as two halves of a single small globe, a night side and a day side, both unmoving and both separated from each other by a gray haze of nothing in particular. They’re each lit by a single source of light and energy, Sol by a sun and Nicht by a moon – which are in fact the same thing. Nicht is populated by three tribes, the Crows, the Ravens, and the Rooks. The Crows are primarily responsible for the guiding of Sol’s souls, while the Rooks are concerned with order, law, and justice. The Ravens are nomadic magic-users and mystics, and are viewed with deep suspicion by the other two tribes. All three tribes worship a single goddess: the Lady Atropos, the mistress of death.
  • Where did the idea come from? Actually, it came from the idea for a book title. One day I suddenly decided that I wanted to write a book called A Murder of Crows, and then I had to decide what kind of book that might end up being. Obviously the title changed, but – also obviously – the book remained.
  • What formats is it going to be available in? Just ebook for the moment. Possibly print if it does well enough.
  • Is there a sequel? There is. The second book is halfway done and will be called Ravenblood. The third book, Rookwar, is in the planning stages. I aim to finish the remaining two books in the trilogy by the end of the year if possible.

Be on the lookout for goodies all this next month, including excerpts, a chance to win the book, and possibly book-related jewelry that I’ll be making.

Crowflight – cover art!


I want to stress that the series name is just a placeholder; we’re still flailing around trying to find something that works. But yeah, I’m pleased.

[ETA] Now with actual series title!

Novel news what is pretty damn exciting

So I’ve been yelling about this across various social media platforms, but here it is again:

I have signed the contracts for my dark fantasy novel Crowflight (which was formerly known as A Murder of Crows), which will be released in September by Masque/Prime Books.

Which is really very exciting except that now I have to go write the other books in the series.

Will update with more details when I have them.