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Elf Saga: Solarpunk has arrived!

solarpunk_2700Hello, readers! I know it’s been a very long time, but I promise it was worth the wait. I’m very pleased to announce the release of Elf Saga, Book 4: Solarpunk. The ebook is currently available on Amazon and Smashwords, and the paperback is on Amazon too.

What’s it about? Here’s the blurb:

This is still not your typical epic fantasy! When Zaya and her friends learn that the world is dying, they set out to play hero just like their ancestors did. But whole countries lie in ruins, armies of refugees roam the land, toxic storms ravage the earth and sea, and no one is coming to help them. Zaya wants a villain to slay, and Roxy thinks she can fix anything, but Adeja suspects this may be a fight that no one can win…

Explore a world of sword and sorcery that’s as classic as it is bizarre with ZAYA, an apprentice shaman who just wants to fight the undead, ROXY, a one-armed inventor with a healthy fear of dragons, BASTIEN, a romantic drunk who wishes he’d never become a healer in the first place, and ADEJA, a beautiful singer who just inherited the most powerful weapon in the world… and wants nothing to do with it.

What the heck is “Solarpunk”?

Glad you asked! It’s a pretty new genre, a bit similar to Cyberpunk and Steampunk, but Solarpunk is a utopian look at the future, with a focus on human ingenuity, finding ways to adapt to a changing world, and inventing brilliant, beautiful, and sustainable solutions to massive, life-threatening problems. And I thought it offered a fantastic, positive note to end the Elf Saga on.

Whoa! The end of the Elf Saga?!

For the moment, yes. I do have other Elf ideas, but I want to explore some different stories for a while. But if you’d really like to find out what happens in Elf Saga 5, pester me on Facebook and maybe I’ll get working on it sooner! In the mean time, check out my new website www.elfsaga.com for a little more info about the series, and about me.

Other news

Life has been pretty exciting lately. Mostly because I met someone, and she proposed to me, and now we’re engaged! So we’ve been moving her in with me and the girls, and rearranging our lives a bit. Adventure!

But now I’m ready to get back into the writing groove, and I’m planning to release my next series as an old-fashioned serial, with lots of short novellas coming out pretty quickly. What’s it about? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles… in space!

Thanks so much for your support, I really appreciate it!

ELF SAGA 4!!!

solarpunk_2700So, my patient readers, it is time. I have finished Elf Saga: Solarpunk, and it will be in your ereaders any minute now. So first, what’s up with that title? What’s “solarpunk”?

Well, it’s a fancy new genre in the vein of Steampunk and Cyberpunk, but with a few key differences. First, the style is very Art Nouveau, very stained glass and airy and light, but also homemade and recycled and natural.

Also, rather than the dystopian outlook of cyberpunk, solarpunk is utopian, imagining futures where we succeed in transforming the way we live and think to use sustainable technologies (like solar power) as well as a lot of ingenuity to recycle and reuse what we already have to live better lives in the world as it is (altered climate, aging cities, isolated communities, etc.)

What does that mean for Elf Saga? Well, ES has never been about old-fashioned “kill the Dark Lord” stories, so this fits right in. When the world is changing or even dying, eventually you can’t fight your way out, or even build your way out. You have to change, and adapt, and evolve…

Preview: Start reading ELF SAGA: PEACEMAKER right now!

ELF SAGA: PEACEMAKER [ amazon ]

Part One: Path of the Gunslinger

Episode 1

The elf in the white hat and long gray duster is waiting for me at the side of the trail, and in a way I’ve been waiting for him as well because it’s been a whole week since anyone’s tried to kill me. And that’s got to be a record.

“Hey you, stop right there. Yeah, I know you,” he calls out. “Winona Ocalla Marev, the girl with the golden gun. Lozen’s legacy, the hero of the Union. The great peacemaker.” The stranger squares off about thirty paces away, his eyes smoldering under the brim of his hat, his long coat tucked back behind his holster, his hand hanging by the butt of his pistol. “Yeah, I’ve heard of you. Everyone’s heard of you. And I know you’ve heard of me, too. Name’s Clay. Clay White Lance, fastest gun in the–”

I draw and fire. There’s a bang like a thunderclap and a flash of sapphire light, and the stranger spins sharply on his heel. Smoky blue threads of eldritch energy writhe and fade in the air around my gun as his body hits the ground like a sack of rocks.

For a moment I just stand there, staring at him, wondering if maybe, just maybe, he’ll be the last one. And then I holster my heavy pistol and continue up the trail by young Mister White Lance, tipping my hat as I pass. “Sorry, Clay. Never heard of you.”

He groans and grabs at his gun-arm. “What the hell did you do to me?”

“I shot you. Was that not obvious? I’ll let you in on a little secret. The first rule of battle is to always shoot first.” I squint at him. “So you should be very, very thankful right now that I carry a spirit gun instead of the usual sort. Because if I was slinging lead, I’d have split that ugly head of yours clean open like a grapefruit. And no one likes grapefruit, Clay. No one.”

“Spirit gun? What? What the hell’d you hit me with?” His face is all twisted up and red.

“Spirit energy, genius.” I shake my head. “Try not to think about it too hard because it gets real confusing, real fast. Right now, all you need to know is that it numbs you up and you knocks you out, so it’s all pins and needles for you, jackaroo. You’re welcome.”

“For how long?” he whines, clutching his arm. “How long am I gonna be like this?”

“Hard to say. Could be hours, could be days.” I keep walking. “So I hope that wasn’t your cheap date hand.”

The trail winds on up the slope through the sparse pines, and I pluck a couple of green needles to chew as I walk. As my bag starts to feel heavier, I shift it to the other shoulder, angling my head down so my hat can shade my face. I glance back once or twice, but he’s not following me. No one’s following me. But it feels like someone is following me. It feels like that a lot.

“Excuse me?”

I stop cold. Really? Two in one day? Now that is definitely a record.

This new stranger is wearing a short leather jacket and funny-looking hat that I’ve never seen before. His gun belt is low on his right side, but he’s not making ready to draw down on me. A glance at his necklaces, the silver earrings in his long ears, and the bright beadwork on his jacket all say northerner, maybe one of the Cloudfoot from the Kirakaw province. I knew some Cloudfoot once, decent fellas, so there’s a slight chance that this one won’t be a complete jackass. I pause in the trail and nod at him. “Yeah?”

“Hi.” He smiles. It’s a pretty good smile. “You don’t know me, but we served together for a few weeks at the end of the war. I rode with you at Demon’s Hill.”

I blink. This is new. “Oh.”

“Name’s Sota Longarm. Call me Sota.”

“Okay, Sota. Nice to meet you.” I squint at him, my hand still hanging by my gun.

“We’ve never actually met, but I know you from your picture in the paper.” He smiles again, a bit awkwardly, a bit nervously. “You’re even more beautiful up close, you know that?”

Oh, he’s one of those. Groupie. Fan boy. Horny jackass. I roll my eyes, adjust the bag on my shoulder, and I start walking past him.

He turns to walk along beside me. I sigh. He can’t take a hint. Big surprise.

“Demon’s Hill. That was a hell of a day, wasn’t it?” he says. “And that gunfight, you and that Virakan prince in the mask, that was a hell of a thing.”

Brilliant conversationalist, this one. Pity. And I had so much hope for him. Hope is for suckers.

“For a while there, I thought the stories were true, that he couldn’t be killed. But you blew him away.”

“I didn’t kill him,” I mutter. “Ain’t killed anybody in years.”

“Anyway, I was just so impressed. Especially when I heard about you bringing down that flight of Tenjian shrikes. That was just… wow. Blasting those dragons right out of the sky! So I started asking around about you, and I learned everything I could. About your aunt discovering the lost city of Yas Yagaroth? About your grandmother saving the whole world at Doomsday?” He nods to himself. “That’s a hell of a shadow to grow up in, a hell of family reputation to live up to.”

My grandmother is a psychopath and my Aunt Gen was just trying to save her own life, and mine. Not that this idiot deserves to know anything about us.

“I know something about that,” he goes on. “My family is full of great warriors and famous artists. There was plenty of pressure on me too, growing up.”

I walk a little faster. He walks a little faster.

“And I just got to thinking, now that the war is over, that maybe you and I could get to know each other a little better, seeing as we have so much in common.”

I keep walking.

“Oh, come on, don’t be shy. Talk to me. I came all this way just to meet you. I took the train in all the way from Silver Lake.”

“Didn’t ask you to do that,” I say, my eyes fixed on the trail ahead.

“Please, a beautiful girl like you? At least give me a smile.”

“I so don’t feel like smiling right now.” I tighten my grip on my bag and keep looking straight ahead.

“Hey, don’t be like that. Just stop a minute.” He puts his hand on my wrist.

I yank my hand away and keep moving. “Listen, I’ve got things to do, so if you don’t mind…” And I walk on.

“Hey!” He stomps after me. “Hey, I’m trying to talk to you. What the hell? What’s your problem?”

“Right now? Lack of sleep, stress about my family, weird pains in my knee, and some guy who can’t take a hint, I guess.”

“Hey, I’m being nothing but nice here. Why are you being such a bitch?” he barks.

Oh, no you did not.

I stop. I turn back toward him, my hand resting heavily on the butt of my golden pistol. In a low voice, I say, “A bitch? I’m being a bitch? You ambush me in the woods alone like a stalker, you dig up my family secrets like an obsessive psycho, you interrupt my day, which was pretty crappy to begin with, to make me pay attention to you, which is just plain rude, and then you lay hands on me, which is assault, last time I checked… and I’m the one being a bitch?”

He glares at me, but doesn’t say anything.

“You think I owe you my time, just because you show up here? You think I have to give it up to you just because you want it?”

He puts his hands on his hips, still glaring, but still silent.

“Hey honey, want to hear about my day?” I mutter at him, low and gravelly. “Ten minutes ago, some asshole in a white hat tried to put a bullet in my head, just to prove he had really quick hands, while I was out getting the groceries. And half an hour before that, down at the store? Good old Takoda made me tell the Demon’s Hill story to some buddy of his, the same story that still gives me nightmares, the story about how twenty of my closest friends got incinerated by dragons, and I watched the man I love take three bullets and five arrows to save my life. I almost had a panic attack just trying to pick up the stupid squash when I left the store. Yeah, good times.”

“Well, I…” He’s still glaring, trying to be defensive, like all of that crap isn’t his fault and I should just get over it and do… whatever he wants. Which is sex, by the way. I assume he wants sex.

“What did you think was going to happen here, guy?” I ask him. My heart is pounding so hard, my skin feels hot and tight, and my palm is sweating on the warm gold and cool dragonbone of my gun. “You thought you’d just throw some nice words at me, and I would drop everything to screw you? Is that what you thought?”

He winces and shakes his head. “No.” Not very convincing.

“Is that what makes you such a nice guy? Stalking me? Harassing me?” I ask him. “Yeah, I guess that is so much nicer than just beating me bloody and raping me as I scream for help. Gosh, how nice of you. Not hitting me, not raping me. What a saint you are, stepping over that very low bar. I should totally drop my pants for you right now.”

“You stupid bitch, I’m not like that!” He lunges and grabs my left wrist again.

The instant he touches my skin, I draw and fire point-blank into his chest. The blast of blue light singes his shirt and he falls to the ground, twitching and gasping like a cold fish on a dry rock. I stare down at him, wondering vaguely what sort of things he’s said and done to other women in the past, and will do again in the future. My heart is still booming in my chest and my skin is on fire. I want to kill him. The world would be a better place without him. Heck, I’d take twenty more quickdraw punks over this trash any day.

I flip my gun around, gripping it by the hot barrel, and drop to one knee as I bring the butt of the heavy golden gun down hard on his hand.

He screams.

I can’t remember how many bones are in an elven hand, but I know it’s a lot. I rise up to my full height again and slowly slide my gun back into its holster. My hand is trembling.

“I’ll be back along this trail in a little while,” I tell him in a low, steady voice. “You don’t want me to see you again. Ever.”

He’s still gasping and clutching his shattered hand as I turn and trudge up the trail with my bag digging into my shoulder.

I try not to think about him, about the way he smiled and the way that smile turned into a snarl the second he didn’t get what he wanted. I try not to imagine putting a bullet in his head, or setting him on fire. I really do try.

But by the time I get to the cabin, my head is ringing with more angry words that I want to scream into that bastard’s face, and I’ve imagined a couple dozen ways to torture him there in the woods where no one would ever find him. I’m walking fast, stomping up the trail, and not really paying attention, so when the cabin finally appears, the man in black takes me completely by surprise.

“Winona Marev!” He throws back his coat to reveal twin holsters with pearl-handled pistols. “I’m calling you out to avenge my–!”

My first shot smashes him right between the eyes, and the gunfighter tumbles back into the woods, staggering as he claws at his face and babbles meaningless sounds from his numbed mouth. I shoot him again in the chest, and then once in the leg, my gun roaring like thunder and flashing like lightning, and he drops to the ground and starts to roll down the slope.

I march through a cloud of twisting blue threads of spirit energy as I cross to the spot where he fell, and I take a good look to make sure that the man in black is still rolling and sliding down the steep hillside. And then I walk on by, yank open the cabin door, and toss my bag and my gun on the kitchen table. I pace back and forth in front of the table for a minute, digging my hands back through my hair. Every inch of me is shaking and throbbing with this heat, and I keep seeing their faces and hearing their voices.

I look up, hot and trembling, and stare out the window at the empty path, half expecting to see a fourth gunfighter hiking up toward me. Instead I see a dim image reflected in the glass. A man’s face. Chaske’s face. I blink and he’s gone.

“Yeeaaaagh!” I grab the edge of the table and flip the heavy old thing over. It crashes to the floor, along with my gun, and half the food spills out of my bag.

“Winny?” Grandpa staggers into the doorway across the room from me and stares. He was tall, once upon a time, but now he’s stooped almost to my height, with his thin shoulders and soft belly. The sun hasn’t been kind to his pale skin, leaving him spotted and blotchy, with only a few sad wisps of white hair swept back over his head. He looks down at the mess, and then back up at me. “Win? Are you all right?”

I nod and take a breath. “Sorry. I… sorry.” I carefully turn the table back over and pull up a chair for him to sit in, and then I gather up the groceries and holster my gun, and I sit down next to him. “Sorry,” I whisper again. I smooth back my hair and tuck my eagle feathers behind my right ear. I stroke the feathers gently, wondering why the hell I’m still wearing them.

“What happened?” He leans over to peer out the window, as though trying to spot some clue lying just outside.

I shake my head and exhale slowly. “Same old.”

Want to read more?

Get your copy of ELF SAGA: PEACEMAKER today: Amazon

New release: ELF SAGA: PEACEMAKER is here!

Friends, readers, and random strangers, I am happy to announce that my newest book ELF SAGA: PEACEMAKER is here! This sequel to DOOMSDAY and BLOODLINES features an amazing cover by series artist Linggar Bramanty and a pretty okay story by me,  and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with you today. So what’s it about? Ghosts and guns, dragons and death, riddles and Ravens, and more!

Over sixty years have passed since a group of women saved the world from Doomsday, and now their grandchildren have grown up to be gunslingers, pirates, and orphans obsessed with revenge! PEACEMAKER is a story told in three parts about three women: Winona, Ksenia, and Tsetseg.

Path of the Gunslinger – For five years, Winona was the hero of the Union, saving her people from countless invasions of dragons, sky ships, maskmen, and alchemists. But now with the war over, she’s desperate to escape from a life of gunfights and stalkers. Following the strange images in her dreams, Winona finds herself in a distant land with a dashing sky pirate and a grouchy old shaman, trying to save a city from ghostly parasites and reapers!

Revenge of the Dragon – All her life, Ksenia has dreamed of avenging her murdered family and restoring her people as the greatest dragon-riders in the world. But when she confronts her enemies for the first time, she discovers they are just as poor, lonely, and grieving as she is. Shifting her sights from revenge to justice, Ksenia sets out to bring peace to the spirits of her ancestors, and to the people of a city plagued by the dead!

War of the Spirit – Ever since she became a princess, Tsetseg knew that one day the people would rise up to destroy her family. But she didn’t know she would survive. Accompanied by her beloved unicorn Batu and raptor Enjin, she joins forces with a trio of foreigners to find the dark spirits that make her city erupt into violence every nine years. But can she soothe the raging phantoms while defeating an invasion of dragons, maskmen, and immortal war machines? (Probably!)


Discover the world of Vaenos, where dragons are weapons of mass destruction, faeries are pests, mermaids are monsters, and everyone has long pointy ears! This epic series spans four generations of women across a century of chaos, war, plague, revolution, and every other crisis imaginable. But it’s funny.

With heroines inspired by historical warriors and leaders from around the real world, this modern twist on old-school fantasy mashes up classics like Lord of the Rings with the funny, sexy, self-aware style of Supernatural, Buffy, Archer, and Rat Queens.


You can purchase PEACEMAKER on Amazon: ebook

You can also get several other books free when you join my mailing list.

Can men write good women characters?

This is a stupid question. Can men write good women characters? Obviously, the answer is no. Men are idiots. Wait. No, I meant to say the other thing. Yes, (some) men can write (fairly) good women characters (sometimes). No, the real question is this: why can’t all men write good women characters all the time?

Here’s the thing. I’m a man (you’ll just have to take my word on that). And I wrote Elf Saga: Doomsday, which has a primary cast of five women, and is written from the first-person perspectives of those women. Now, the vast majority of the reviews of Elf Saga are fantastic 4- and 5-star ratings, so clearly some humans think it’s a good book. But who are my fans and who are my critics? Men or women?

(And before we go any further, yes, I know that this post looks like I’m tooting my own horn, but just wait until the end, please, because I am trying to make a very serious point. Thanks!)

Now, let’s look at the numbers.

Currently, there are 47 reviews of Elf Saga on Amazon.com, with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 (thank you for that!). So let’s check out what the people are saying about the characters in Elf Saga, broken down by gender:

Gender Unknown

(aka “People who use weird screen names on Amazon”)

  • 3 stars: “I did enjoy the way the characters interacted with each other”
  • 4 stars: “the cast of lead characters are a well-written group of female protagonists, something I haven’t encountered too often in works of fantasy”
  • 5 stars: “The characters were great”
  • 5 stars: ” I love the idea of a band of adventurers that are mostly women instead of the standard fare of women being support only”
  • 5 stars: “I always love a good story with smart strong women kicking butts all the way”
  • 5 stars: “The characters are great”

Assessment: People of unknown gender seem to be consistently positive about the women characters in Elf Saga.

Men

(aka “Bastard-coated bastards with bastard filling”)

  • 3 stars: “for a group of supposedly seasoned warriors they seemed entirely too silly. The lead characters, who are all female, don’t really act like women. They act like what a man thinks women act like”
  • 4 stars: “very competent female heroes”
  • 5 stars: “each of our protagonists have their own particular quirks and personality traits. These ‘traits’ bloom and expand as the story proceeds”
  • 5 stars: “Lewis has awesome characters with personalities that remind me of guys I served with in the Navy”

Assessment: Aha! Here we go! So, a couple guys like the women characters, but the one 3-star-man thinks the writer-man (me) failed to create decent women characters, because the characters “act like what a man thinks women act like”, which apparently is wrong, because… real women act in ways that men don’t think women do? Maybe? At any rate, it’s clear that this reviewer-man feels he knows how all women act (because women all act the same way, obviously) better than the writer-man knows how all women act. So there!

Women

(aka “Actual real live women”)

  • 1 star: “The characters are good and it’s quite funny in parts”
  • 4 stars: “I approached this book with a bit of trepidation after seeing that a male author was writing a story with an almost entire female cast. I was pleasantly surprised at the nice job he did with those characters. He did a great job of meshing the characters with all their bantering and bickering, and ultimately with their trust in and loyalty to each other.”
  • 4 stars: “I liked the very strong female characters”
  • 4 stars: “The characters are each unique and have distinct personalities that I would enjoy watching grow”
  • 4 stars: “I liked the feminine point of view”
  • 5 stars: “The characters were each fully fleshed with their own distinct backgrounds and I would love to read a book about each of them in turn if given the chance. I have never really read many books with a feminine point of view but I must admit I did truly enjoy this”
  • 5 stars: “the person who complained about the women being too masculine must remember that all warriors are pretty much the same. I applaud the writer on his ability to keep my interest in this book”
  • 5 stars: “The group of elf girls are hilarious”
  • 5 stars: “I was pleasantly surprised as I finished up the last paged. The characters had such varied personalities”
  • 5 stars: “As the story goes on you get to know the characters and cheer for them or agree with their choices”

Assessment: Real actual women think that the women characters in Elf Saga are good (hilarious! strong! unique!).

So there we have it. In addition to giving me an excuse to post all about my own positive reviews, this little exercise has shown that a man is capable of writing a popular, engaging story about a diverse cast of women who appeal to both men and women readers.

And this brings us to the real question, the real point, the very serious issue that I mentioned at the beginning of this ridiculous post:

If I, a man who admittedly has no idea what he is doing, can write good women characters, why the hell are so many other men failing to do the same?

Culture, Media, and Elf Saga: Part Four

Read Part Three

When I create a fictional place that is meant to resemble a real place, I try to get the details right. The food, the clothes, the wildlife, the music, the architecture. But the more important issues are how the society functions, what it values, what it rejects, etc. These notions should inform how the society works and how the characters think and act. These are issues that I worry about.

And they are also issues that I tend to dodge. I admit that.

Elf Saga is a character-driven, fast-paced adventure. It’s all about the characters and their banter and shooting magic missiles at dragons. And yes, as individuals, my characters are partly informed by the cultures that they come from. But Elf Saga is not really about politics. My heroines spend most of their time in the wilderness fighting monsters, not in cities engaging in complex discourse on serious topics. Someone smarter than me should write those stories. I do these other stories.

With Elf Saga, I just want to entertain you guys. I do tackle real issues in other series (probably not very well), but Elf Saga is just supposed to be fun. And it’s supposed to be fun for everyone. I want all of my readers to feel like they have a seat at the Hero Table.

And logically, if you have an African Elf Princess, then you need an African Elf Country for her, etc. So I built a world, and while it may not be the most complete or believable world you’ve ever visited, I sincerely hope it’s one you enjoy visiting, where you feel welcome and visible and appreciated. Because you should be. And in my world, you are.

Holy crab, I’m getting sappy and sentimental, so that’s all for now.

Culture, Media, and Elf Saga: Part Three

Read Part Two

To offer readers a different sort of fantasy book, Elf Saga features elven heroines from countries that resemble France, Nigeria, India, Japan, and the Aztec Empire. Sometimes I used historical names like “Amina” and “Lozen” because I thought it wouldn’t hurt to nudge people into learning about the real queen Amina and the real warrior Lozen, but sometimes I just made up names like Jenavelle, because I’m super creative like that.

(The only caveat to names is that when I did make up a name, I would Google it to make sure I had not accidentally invented the name “Adolf Hitler” in another culture. Because that would be a major oopsy-daisy situation.)

Some Elf Saga characters are straight, some are gay, one is asexual. There is drinking and swearing. Some are big and muscular, and some are short and curvy. Some have chronic illnesses. Some have extensive facial scarring, and some have golden unicorn tattoos. Different strokes, folks.

But the story is never about “what” they are. That’s all just what they bring to the table. The story is always about who they are and what they do. No one cares if someone is gay. But they do care if they have to give up a life of sword-swinging dragon-murder to become a faerie priestess!

Continued in Part Four…