Category Archives: Writing

Things Fall Apart – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

He sniffed the air. The scent of burnt bones and under it—blood. A lot of it. And the outhouse smell of violent death.

He walked the utility area carefully, reconstructing the deadly dance from a lifetime lived among its devotees. The spatters of brown flecks. The dust-free smears where a body had been dragged, struggling. A broken fingernail caught in the chain-link. The cloying smell of burning hair and garbage, and just a hint of cucumber. Acetone. At least they had destroyed the body, but it meant the attackers were not human. A human gang might have doused the body with gasoline to throw off the authorities, but they wouldn’t have brought their victim all the way out here, and it wouldn’t have been acetone. They’d brought it with them to make sure the body was gone. He sighed heavily. Perfect. He didn’t have time to pity the dead. This was just one of the sites he had been sent to check.

He opened the dumpster, holding his black sleeve over his sensitive nose, wishing the leather were doing a better job of masking the stench. The inside was charred black, the sides a little warped from the heat, but the accelerant had done its job. Nothing remained to mark this victim as different. Just a lumpy sort of ash. Shattered bone fragments and the occasional tooth. He could have his team sanitize the area, but they couldn’t remove the smell. If the authorities didn’t find the body they could smell, there would be more questions than a few teeth, they would never find a match for, would pose.

This city was a mess. Its preternaturals were out of control. Just short of all-out warfare between too many factions. It was getting worse, and more importantly, it was getting sloppy. That was something his masters couldn’t allow. The humans could never know who lived among them. They were a panicky breed and the only thing they liked more than killing each other was killing anything else. It would be open season on them all, and as superior as many preternaturals liked to feel with their extra strength or speed or longevity, there were billions of humans in this world. No matter his people’s advantages, they would lose any concerted war.

He heard a car approach, its tires crunching the gravel. He lowered the dumpster lid soundlessly and scaled the fence behind it, dropping to a crouch on the other side. He heard the ding of the car as the occupants left the engine running and the lights pointed in his direction. He sprinted for the tree line, trusting the dumpster to block him from view. He hurtled past the first line of trees and hauled himself, hand over hand with the ease of practice, into a tall one a few feet into the stand, coming to rest about fifteen feet up. Any higher and his weight was going to be an issue.

He watched from his temporary blind as a man and a woman crossed through the beam from their headlights. The woman wore a long dress and carried a large, floppy bag, from which she was pulling a flashlight and a few small bottles. The man beside her had his hand across his stomach, fingers under his jacket. He would bet most of his not-insubstantial resources that the jacket held a gun. The man’s eyes never stopped moving, searching outside their pool of light—muscle then, which made her the boss.

“I don’t like this. It’s too exposed out here. Let’s come back in the morning.”

“Etienne, it has to be tonight. Do you smell that? Tomorrow this place will be full of families and someone is going to notice the smell.”

The man frowned, and he stopped his scanning to look at her for a moment. “I smell it. Why don’t you go wait in the car? I’ll take care of it.”

She sighed and seemed to be counting to ten. “I know that you think you’re protecting me. You seem to think I’m much more fragile than I am. This is not my first burned body, Etienne. Not my first murdered friend. This isn’t even my hundredth. I appreciate you coming with me, but this thinking that I’m the damsel you have to save has got to stop. This is my city. I’m the Mulcahy now. You have to let me do my job or I can’t have you come with me again. Tell me you understand.”

The man’s body was tense, his face a mix of frustration, anger, and a touch of fear. “Winter, you can’t seriously expect me to—”

“Tell me you understand or go sit in the car. This is my job, Etienne. This is what I do. None of that has changed. I am responsible for keeping as much peace as can be had in this city, and barring that, for keeping things under wraps enough to not have us all killed by the Eldest to keep the Veil of Secrecy intact. Sometimes that means stopping fights before they start. Tonight, it means making sure that a missing lion’s body has been destroyed enough not to raise questions. A fifteen-year-old lion.” Her teeth and fists were both clenched as she spoke. “Who belongs to a very good friend. Tonight, my job is to make sure his body is unrecognizable. Tomorrow, it’s to talk to his Queen and tell her that my need that she maintain the peace is more important than her need for vengeance. So, tell me you understand. Back me up and help me do this impossible job or stay home.”

The man searched her face, and sighed heavily. “I don’t understand.”

The woman raised her hand to point at the car. “Then g—”

He caught her hand gently. “I don’t understand, Winter, but I’m trying to. Do your job. I’ll back you up.”

The woman struggled to control her face, but nodded, and turned toward the chain-link fence.

Winter… this was Winter Mulcahy. Seahaven’s wizard. The man in the trees had heard of her, but never met her. She was out of her depth, but it looked like maybe she was recruiting some help. He hoped it would be enough. Seahaven was winding up on his masters’ radar too often. The Eldest were neither patient nor forgiving. They couldn’t be.

He slipped silently out of the tree and into the darkness beyond. Lions. He couldn’t help Miss Mulcahy comfort her friend, but he could make sure that whoever was attacking the lions was too scared to do it again. His smile was feral as he ran toward where his car was hidden.

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Filed under Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles, Writing

There’s A Monster at the Door – A Books of Binding Flash Fiction

The little monster crept toward the door of the enormous stone house. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all. Her friends had dared her to come here. They’d called her weak and scared. She swore she would show them that she was made of tougher stuff than they thought. But standing here, at the end of the mile-long drive, the house gave her pause—squatting here on the edge of the world, nothing but water as far as the eye could see on the other side.

She eyed the door and tried to summon her courage. It was just a house. Nothing to fear. She stepped away from the comforting shelter of the bushes, squared her shoulders, and climbed the stairs. She raised her hand and—

The door swung open. Light poured into the night and framed an angry man holding a struggling grey cat. “You have your own door, cat. Why are you screaming for me to let you out this one?”

The monster froze, her arm still raised like a startled statue.

The man blinked for a moment and set the cat down. The cat apparently changed his mind. He sniffed the monster once, twined himself around the man’s legs, and disappeared into the depths of the house. The man took in the diminutive monster—her horns, her claws, her spotted fur, her row of sharp fangs, and the spiked tail that hung behind her. He studied her with a perplexed look on his face, then turned to call into the house for help. “Winter! There’s a monster at the door.” He turned back to her. “What do you want?”

His words unfroze her and she turned to run back to the shelter of the bushes and away. Who cared what her friends thought? She had come when none of them dared.

A woman came to the door, white hair in a bun. She gave the man an exasperated look and called out into the night, “Don’t go. You’re welcome here, little one.” She reached back into the house and pulled out a small cauldron, filled to the brim with candy.

The monster turned back, uncertain. The woman seemed nice enough. She came back toward the pair standing in the light and held up a sack, uncertainly. “Trick or Treat?”

The woman smiled and held out the cauldron. It held candy, but not the normal cheap kind that most people had. The cauldron was filled with full-sized candy bars. “Take all you want. Very few people are brave enough to venture out here.”

The monster straightened and smiled. She was brave. Take that, third-graders of Room 31! She reached her blue-furred hand into the cauldron and took her favorite, looking speculatively at the woman.

The woman smiled and nodded. “You can take as many as you like.”

The monster grinned and took two more. She tilted her face up to the woman and smiled. “Thank you!” She spun and ran down the steps toward the bushes and her bike. She put the candy bars into her sack but stopped when she saw a glimmer of light—a symbol that glowed for just a moment then disappeared when it touched the other candy. She looked back to the woman.

The woman tilted her head a little but smiled. “It’s alright, little one. It will keep you safe tonight.”

The monster considered that, then smiled at the woman. She put the sack in the basket on her bike and pulled back out onto the long driveway. She called back to the pair, “Happy Halloween!”

The woman, Winter Mulcahy, turned back to Etienne and shook her head, pulling him and the cauldron back inside and shutting the door.

Etienne looked at the candy and back at the wizard. “Is that going to be happening all night, then? Monsters at the door until dawn?”

Winter set the cauldron on the side table and headed back to dinner. “Not a monster. A witch.”

Etienne glanced back at the door. “A witch?”

Winter nodded. “She saw the glyph of protection. She’s one of us. Now come eat.”

Etienne sat and picked up his spoon. The night was a cool one and the stew was warm and filling. He glanced back at the door and the purple-spotted monster. He hoped the little witch would be safe tonight.

A grey form rubbed against his legs under the table. He pulled a bit of beef from the stew, blew on it, and slipped it to the cat.

Winter pretended not to notice.

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Filed under Fantasy, Flash Fiction, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles, Writing

Summiting Mount Writers’ Block

What is Writers’ Block?

Each writer defines writers’ block in their own way. To us, writers’ block doesn’t exist. We don’t actually believe in it. We believe in getting stuck. Often, to call getting stuck writers’ block is to give it a great deal of power over your creative process. It becomes an event. It becomes an insurmountable force standing in the way of you reaching your creative goals.

If Writers’ Block Doesn’t Exist, Why Can’t I Find the Words?

  6 factors getting you stuck

When you’re staring at the blank screen, but the words just won’t come, there could be one or more factors putting the brakes on your creative output. Most of these factors can be broken down into just six categories:

1.       Something is awry in your story

2.       Environmental factors are either not conducive to or actively stopping your writing

3.       You don’t have enough time to devote (or perceive that you don’t)

4.       Your stress level is too high

5.       Anxiety is overwhelming you

6.       Your block is actually depression

We’ll talk about each of these categories—how you can spot each one and ways to help you get unstuck if this is your challenge.

Its Broken—Something is Awry in Your Story

One of the primary reasons why authors get stuck is because something in their story isn’t working like they intended. There are three primary ways something can go awry:

·         You have fallen into a rabbit hole (and found dirt instead of Wonderland)

·         Your story doesn’t have enough conflict to drive it

·         A character (or characters) lack agency

Falling into a Rabbit Hole

Chasing Rabbits

Let’s talk for a minute about the pantsing vs. outlining debate.

There are two broad types of writers—those who start with an outline of the action to follow as they write and those who start with only a loose sense of where the story is headed. (This second group are called pantsers in reference to the idiom: flying by the seat of their pants.)

Outliners believe that carefully structuring the action before writing keeps them focused and on track. Many will prewrite important sections, much like a movie director creates a storyboard. Detail level in outlines can vary from those who know the general topic of a chapter to those who create a play-by-play of each scene. This method can be very effective, but critics feel that it can stymie creativity, locking in the action and leaving little room for exploration.

Pantsers believe that allowing a story to grow organically allows them to evolve ideas as they write. They may begin a story with an idea for who the characters are and what the cornerstone pieces of the action will be, but they allow the action in each chapter to lead them to what happens next. This method can lead to unexpected places—rabbit holes. Some rabbit holes lead to Wonderland—places that you never dreamed the story could go. These rabbit holes can enrich your story tremendously. On the other hand, some rabbit holes lead to a dirty hole in the ground from which your plot cannot dig out. These rabbit holes are the type we are talking about. (It is important to note that outliners are not immune from rabbit holes. They are simply more likely to have ironed out impossible plots before they began writing.)

If your words have stopped flowing, make sure that you haven’t fallen into a rabbit hole you can’t escape from. If you think you may have, you’ll need to figure out what about the plot has made it untenable. Follow the hole you went down backwards to find the last plot point that funneled you here. Examine that plot point. Was there another option available to your characters than the one they took? Try starting at that decision, but going in another direction. Giving your characters a do-over may be just what you need to get the words flowing again.

Not Enough Conflict

Beware the Overpowered Character

Another place where a story can run off the rails is where there isn’t enough conflict to propel the action forward. If you’ve found that you have pages and pages of characters doing inconsequential things or of characters doing much more talking about how past plot points made them feel, rather than participating in new plot points, your problem may be that there isn’t enough conflict in your story.

Look at each character and determine what they want. What is it that motivates them? What role do they play in this story? What characters or elements exist that stop your character from achieving their goals? You generate conflict in a story by putting characters in direct contact with characters or elements who want opposite things. Simply put—determine what your characters want, then throw increasingly difficult obstacles in their path.

This might be a good time to mention the concept of an overpowered character. Especially in speculative fiction, many characters have abilities that the rest of the world do not possess. It is tempting to keep adding power to your characters in order to make them able to overcome any obstacle. This can lead to problems because as a character gains power, unless the obstacles keep pace, soon the character has no risk in the story. Instead of conflict driving the plot forward, the story has become a scrapbook of your amazing character breezing through life. If you find yourself feeling like there is no energy to your plot, check to make sure that your character still has to struggle to succeed.

Lacking Agency

Characters Must Have Agency

The last place your story could be holding you back is if one or more of your characters lack the agency needed to affect the world around them. If you find that your writing is bogged down and you just can’t think of any way to move forward (and you’ve made sure that you haven’t fallen into the wrong rabbit hole) then check your characters to make sure that they have the means and influence to carry a story. Are they able to make decisions on their own? Are they merely reactive to the actions of others or are they proactive in their own story? Do your characters make decision that further the plot, or are they plot piñatas who are simply being battered about by the events around them?

If you find that your characters are far more reactive than proactive, you’ll need to take a hard look at the character and what function they serve in the story. If a character’s job is essentially set decoration and their only purpose is to react to the actions of other characters, that character—no matter how cute, tragic, attractive, or loved—is holding you back. Story thrives on conflict. If your character can’t contribute in a way that drives the action forward, then they are a prop. Stories can have prop characters as long as they are very minor. If you have a prop character sucking the energy from a large portion of your story, getting stuck is inevitable.

Locking the Door—Environmental Factors

Sometimes, what stops the flow of words has nothing to do with the story itself, but has triggers elsewhere in your life. Some of the most common factors that can derail you are components in your writing environment. These come in two broad groups: physical and social factors.

Physical Causes for Derailment

Check Your writing space for distractions

Some environmental triggers that can stop the flow of words are things that distract us that can be altered. Environmental factors like uncomfortable room temperature, distracting noises, constant phone calls, a disorganized space, and spending excess time on the internet can all lead to frustration which can build into an inability to concentrate and create.

These kinds of factors can be mitigated fairly easily. The use of fans or heaters to make your writing area comfortable, using music to help stimulate your creativity and drown out distracting noises, keeping your writing area organized in a way that makes sense to you, ignoring non-essential phone calls until you are finished writing, and setting boundaries for when you are working and when you can surf online can all do wonders for lowering your frustration and getting you back on track.

Social Causes for Derailment

Communicate About Your Needs

Some environmental triggers are not as easy to fix. The biggest is not having a social structure that is supportive of your writing or your need for a distraction-free time to pursue it.

When you live with others, it can sometimes be difficult for them to understand that writing is much more strenuous than it may appear. It requires a great deal of concentration. It may look like we’re “just typing” and that we should be able to stop abruptly then pick up where we left off easily. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most writers have some version of the writing trance. It is a lot like the zone that long-distance runners talk about. It is a place where the world around us falls away and we are completely present in our story with our characters. It doesn’t operate like a light switch. Like runners, most of us need a period to warm up and cool down around our emotional workouts. When people and animals in our environment continually interrupt this trance, it takes us far longer to get back into our trance than they may realize. This can lead to frustration and sometimes can derail us to the point where we completely lose our connection to the scene.

If you think that social environmental factors are affecting your writing, try talking to the adults in your life and asking for their help. Non-writers often have no idea how their “just a quick sec” interruptions affect us. Good communication may help you get the distraction-free environment you need. If the social factors are small children or pets, be proactive. Make sure that you have anticipated and tended to the needs of those who depend on you before you begin. In a hectic house, with constant demands from children and pets, changing the time of day you write might also help. Saving your writing time until everyone is in bed may give you the uninterrupted time you need to get words on the page.

Too Many Irons in the Fire—When You Don’t Have Enough Time to Write (Or Think That You Don’t)

It adds up fast

Sometimes, our lives are simply too busy to write. A new baby, a new job, and exams are all reasons why you really might not have enough time to get words on the page. But often, we fall into a pattern of believing that because we are active, but don’t have time to write. Chances are, you have more time than you think you do.

The average fantasy novel is around 100,000 words—probably more than you have time to do in a weekend—but it is not as many as it may seem. With an active schedule you may not have time to write 5000 words a day, but could you write 500 words a day? The average word length for the English language is 4.5 characters. If we round that down to 4 characters and a one character for a space, 500 words a day is 2500 characters, or the equivalent of 17.8 140-character tweets. That is easily in reach for even the busiest of us.

500 words a day might not sound like much, but if you find that small amount of time every day, in 200 days—less than 7 months—your 100,000-word novel would have a draft.

Saying that you don’t have time to write can be a lot like saying you don’t have time to exercise. There is a point at which it is a matter of setting priorities and deciding that your story is important enough to squeeze in your daily writing workout.

My Life Is Too Complicated—When You Are Too Stressed to Write

I just need it to be a little easier

We have all had those years, when the pressures of the real world—family obligations, trouble at work, money matters, illness, social upheaval, interpersonal strife—builds to such a head that it takes over every part of your life. These periods can make getting words onto the page a particular challenge. The brain power you need to bring to bear on your story is being used to process other priorities.

This type of stuck is one of the only times that it might be time to take a vacation from the story. You need to be gentle with yourself and do what you can to alleviate the pressure. If you’re not ready to call a vacation just yet, try some of the many techniques for lowering stress. Go for a walk, get a massage, take a hot bubble bath, play with a dog, meditate/pray. Find some time each day to do one small thing that is only for you.

Anxiety – When You’ve Talked Yourself into Being Stuck

Keeping Negativity at Bay

Sometimes we can’t get the words out because our fears about ourselves and our writing have taken over. Writing is not an easy thing to do. It requires an enormous amount of vulnerability as we lay ourselves metaphorically bare for the reader. We pour our whole selves into the page and then hand it to strangers and hope that is speaks to them. And fear that it won’t.

That fear—that tiny seed of doubt that you will never be good enough, that your writing will be rejected, that you will face ridicule, that you will never taste success—can fester inside you until you are locked up with it.

We all have tapes in our heads that play when we have doubt or when we are trying something new. Some of those tapes can be disruptive and lead us into a spiral of negative self-talk. We’re terrible. Our writing is bad. We have no original ideas.

Part of being an artist, of creating for others, is learning to insulate yourself from negativity. We love it when readers tell us that we have made a connection, but you have to know that your writing is good enough even without constant accolades. Bad reviews will come. You have to learn to tune them out, and more importantly to never keep a copy of the tape to play in your head as you work on the next story.

If anxiety has taken over and paralyzed your writing, you need to take control back. Remember why you began writing in the first place—because you love stories and want to share them with others.

Seek out the support of other writers. A writing group can be a wonderful way to realize that the tapes you are playing are wrong. Finding a supportive group to cheer your successes and help you when doubt rears its head can make a world of difference.

Make sure that your goals and deadlines are realistic. Demanding from your writing that you hit the bestseller list in two weeks is going to set you up for disappointment and doubt, but so is expecting that you will write 5000 words a day and finish a novel every 20 days. Set small, attainable goals and hold yourself accountable for your progress.

Depression—When It Is Not About Writing at All

You Matter More than you Think

Sometimes your inability to write doesn’t have to do with any of these things. Some of the hallmark symptoms of depression, especially the inability to concentrate and the lack of interest in activities you once found pleasurable, can be mistaken by authors as writers’ block. Depression is a serious illness that affects millions of people from all walks of life. With depression, it can feel as though your life is slipping away. That it is robbing you of everything you once thought was important. That you will never regain what you’ve lost.

If you are suffering from depression, please don’t suffer alone. There are resources available to help. You are valuable to the world. You make a difference in the lives of others, especially as an author. Depression will lie to you and tell you that no one will care. That you are a burden. That your contributions are not important. None of those things are true. You, and the stories inside you, are a gift to the world.

If you are struggling with depression, please ask for help. Here are some resources that might be of use to you:

·         https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Depression

·         https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/resources

·         https://www.betterhelp.com/

·         https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has a telephone number that is staffed by people who understand and can help. Their number is: 1-800-273-8255.

You are not alone.

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An Excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

With a little over two weeks left before release, we thought you might all like a peek at an excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding.  In the next couple of weeks we will be taking a closer look at many of the characters from Faerie Rising as well as releasing a few new flash fictions.  We hope you enjoy the excerpt!

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An Excerpt from Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding

The world shifted sideways. Winter braced herself against the wall with her one good hand, the chalk grinding against the concrete as she fought the initial wave of disorientation. Something was horribly wrong. Within the rift, power was building up, as if someone had just crimped a running hose.

And she was holding the nozzle.

Nine glyphs in the warding, each unique, complex, and time consuming. Each must be drawn with precision, or the whole seal would fail. Winter had never drawn glyphs so fast in her life, her hand frantically scraping the chalk against the wall in her desperate race against… against what? It felt like a tidal wave, rushing implacably toward her. Somehow, something was affecting the balance of power.

She spoke each glyph as she drew it, magic resonating in her voice with each syllable. Six glyphs to go. Its name spoken, the glyph would take on a glow, casting the hole in sharp relief, bringing out each line of exhaustion on Winter’s face.

Highlighting the growing cracks in the cement around the rift.

After the seal went up, the cement became irrelevant. It could be ground to dust, and the seal would hold. Before then, however… the seal needed a matrix, something solid to hold the lines she drew with the enspelled chalk. Before then, the seal was all too fragile.

When the surge hit, it would blow the rift wide open. There would be precious little left of Winter and probably the surrounding square acre or so.

Five glyphs.

She wasn’t going to make it. Winter’s shoulders were burning, her hand beginning to cramp and shake, her hurt wrist felt like it was on fire. The glow of the warding began to fade as her magic was drained by pain and panic and exhaustion. She needed more power. She did not have time to ground and pull power from the earth… leaving only one choice. “Karen!”

There is power to control in a name. She spoke the name with resonant Command, and suddenly the cougar was there, terrified eyes wide on the wizard beside her. Ruthlessly, she pushed aside the older woman’s flimsy natural protections and pulled what power there was into herself. It was wild, and tasted of dark places, pain-filled joy, and kittens warm in the den. This was not a wizard’s gift she used, but came of her mixed blood. The spell flared back to life, and Winter redoubled her efforts.

Four glyphs.

The hole began collapsing inward, little chunks of cement falling into the flame-wreathed darkness.

Three glyphs.

The chunks were getting larger, the cracks creeping closer to her fragile chalk lines.

Two glyphs.

The surge was now audible, a tsunami rushing toward them.

One glyph.

The ground beneath her knees was quivering with the building pressure.

The warding blazed just as the tidal wave of magic rammed it from the other side, the whole ravine shuddering from the impact, then the lettering settled into the cement, leaving the two women alone in the quiet night.


Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding will be available in e-book and paperback April 1, 2017.  Grab your pre-order at http://getBook.at/FaerieRising .

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Filed under Excerpt, Urban Fantasy and Other Trifles, Writing

Welcome to the Grand Reopening

Welcome to the new and improved A. E. Lowan. We have been on hiatus, rebuilding and reinventing. Please come in, excuse our renovation mess, and get to know the new team.

Kristin Vinck, One Third of A. E. Lowan

Kristin Vinck

Raised as a Navy brat, Kristin Vinck began writing as a child on the West Coast, learning her love of words at her mother’s knee. Her first story, composed at five-years-old, was an instant classic in her house. “Ghostie-Ghost” was a harrowing tale of the adventures of, well, a ghost, and her friends. Kristin won her first writing award for urban fantasy in Seattle at eight-years-old for a story about a city on a boat, pulled by dinosaurs. In her teens, Kristin moved from learning at home from her satirist mother to formal writing education at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri. After careening from career to career, or as she finds it more comforting to call it, sampling the human experience widely, she settled into the life of a full-time writer in the Missouri Ozarks where she is assisted by three narcoleptic dogs and three enthusiastically obnoxious cats.

Jennifer Vinck, One Third of A. E. Lowan

Jennifer Vinck

Raised among musicians in Kansas City, Missouri, Jennifer Vinck came to writing from another direction – poetry and song. She won her first writing award in the second grade, for a poem ironically also about a ghost. Poetry was her primary creative endeavor throughout childhood and when Jennifer was twelve-years-old she was asked to write the lyrics for a song used for All Species Day (a precursor of Earth Day) in Kansas City. She auditioned for the creative writing department at the Kansas City Middle School of the Arts and there discovered a new passion, speculative fiction. Jennifer met Kristin Vinck on the first day of school at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts and they were instantly inseparable. They began creating epic and urban fantasy worlds within minutes of meeting and have been collaborating in fiction and in life ever since.

Jessica Smith, One Third of A. E. Lowan

Jessica Smith

Jessica Smith found her passion for fantastical storytelling where so many young writers do – through the masterpieces of fantasy’s renowned matriarchs. As the pile of worlds inhabited by dragonriders, wizards, and fair folk caused her bookshelves to plea for mercy, the constellation of worlds inside her waiting for their story to be told grew and grew. With enough ideas to fill the state of Texas where she was raised, Jessica first took pencil to paper before she hit double digits with a story about reincarnation and memory. Jessica’s love of how the universe functions and the intricacies of the human mind led the way into deep scientific study, and from there into the field of medicine. It was her passion for writing that took her to the internet in search of fellow creators, of people who kept whole worlds in their minds. Jessica has been a staple of many online writing communities over the years, but it was on a fantasy-specific site, Mythic Scribes, where Jessica met Kristin and Jennifer. Her worlds and theirs collided as a whirlwind of collaboration began. Jessica writes with the assistance of a furry, opinionated office minion by the name of Sugar-Bear.

Together we comprise A. E. Lowan, the author of the dark urban fantasy series, The Books of Binding. We’re proud to announce that Faerie Rising: The First Book of Binding will be released in the spring of 2017. In the meantime, we will be introducing you to some of the characters from our world here and at our website, aelowan.com. Please follow us there to our new blog where we will be posting pieces of original fiction. Ranging from snapshot vignettes to longer glances through the curtain, we will be showing you early glimpses into the lives of our cast.

Thank you for sticking by us during our renovation. The paint is still fresh, the carpet just went in yesterday, and some of the fixtures are still on back order, but the doors are officially opening this spring. We hope that you all enjoy these sneak peeks into the world we have built. We are excited to begin this journey with all of you.

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The Characters of Faerie Rising – Jessie St. James

When Jessie St. James was twelve years-old she stumbled into Olde Curiosity’s Gift Shoppe, a little family-owned store full of herbal products. After taking a light-fingered look around she attempted to leave with some of the smaller merchandize and came face to face with one of the proprietors, the wizard Winter Mulcahy.  Winter had noticed that the girl was using magic to aid her shoplifting – but put a broom in her hand and had her do chores in the shop rather than calling the police.  At the end of the afternoon Winter rewarded Jessie’s good work with the items she had tried to steal.  Jessie has been Winter’s shadow ever since.

Jessie began training her magic with Winter’s twin cousins, Kelley and Martina, whose offensive abilities were more in keeping with Jessie’s flamboyant style than Winter’s tamer potion making. But that came to an end six months ago, when the twins were killed – the latest in the long line of Mulcahy wizards to die.  Winter has been forced to continue Jessie’s magical education as best she can, but with the crushing weight of her responsibilities Jessie is often left training on her own.  Most days she can be found at Curiosity’s after or, much to Winter’s eternal consternation, during school hours.

Sixteen year-old Jessie’s home life is a mess. Her parents, Joanie and Darryl St. James, are career alcoholics, controlling and verbally abusive towards their daughter and each other, and resent Jessie’s involvement with the Mulcahy family.  Not possessing any magic themselves, they are unaware of the preternatural world their daughter has whole heartedly joined and see Winter as a busybody.  Jessie in return does everything in her power to avoid her parents, taking advantage of their drunken forgetfulness to spend nights sleeping anywhere but at home.

Quick of wit, artistic, and unabashedly outspoken, Jessie has quickly made friends throughout the preternatural community, especially among the vampires of Seahaven. Many nights she can be found couch surfing at their Theatre in the Historical District when she isn’t hiding from her parents in the tiny apartment above Curiosity’s.

Winter is sick, falling apart from the strain of holding Seahaven together alone. Everyone in the preternatural community can see it, and they all talk to Jessie about it.  Jessie is desperate to help her friend and mentor, but Winter won’t let her.

But being told “no” won’t deter a young wizard like Jessie…

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Writing Diversity in Speculative Fiction

“Why is diversity important in speculative fiction?”  There are a few different answers to this, because it is not only important, it’s becoming increasingly important every year.

1) Diversity really is good.  I know this answer gets blown off, but it’s true.  However, it’s also a fast and easy answer, and doesn’t really get to the heart of the “why.”

2) Because readers want to see characters who reflect themselves and their lives.  This is the money answer, and readers vote with their entertainment dollars.  Readers, more and more, really are showing increasing interest in seeing a more diverse reflection of life in genre fiction – they want to see MC’s who are the single mother, the black dragon slayer, the space waitress, the gay squire.  The world, and the reading public, is not made up of straight white farm boys and princes, and they’re getting bored with reading about them.  So why not add richness, depth, and realism to our fiction while attracting readers who are clamoring for just such diversity, because they want to see characters they can identify with?

3) Because these are the stories that don’t get told. And here is the social justice answer – to be honest, it’s our answer.  Media has traditionally “white-washed” out most of the rest of society in favor of the perspective of the Straight White Male default.  Things are getting better, slowly, as eyes open and we realize a more inclusive media is a good thing, but the fact that we still wrangle in discussions like this shows that we are, indeed, still far off from where we need to be as a genre as far as recognition of social issues goes.  Within the umbrella terms of “diversity” and “equality” lie stories that until recently were only told in dark corners.  We, as writers, have the opportunity to bring them into the light.  Just think, we who so often bemoan the dearth of new stories, how many stories wait unheard?  Dark stories, many of them, but also stories of hope, perseverance, and determination.  And we don’t even need to make blatant social statements out of our plots or characters to tell them – in fact, it’s really better if we don’t.  All we need is for our characters to say, “Here I am.  I am a person, for better or worse.”  I think this is especially true for those who write YA, when young readers are desperately searching for characters who look like them, struggle like them, hurt like them.  They don’t need yet another heroic farm boy, they need an MC like them – be they awkward or brown or gay or gender-questioning.

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