Free Books on 5/2/12 & 5/3/12–including The Universal Mirror!

This Wednesday and Thursday, you can download a Kindle copy of my novel, The Universal Mirror for FREE! This is also true of a number of fantastic books offered by my press, Hydra Publications. You can see (and find download links) for all the novels here.

But don’t think that the book is only being offered in the United States. You can also download it for free at Amazon UK, Amazon in France, Amazon in Germany, Amazon in Spain, Amazon in Italy, Amazon in Japan

I’ve only sold books in the UK and Germany so it’d be really fun to see someone pick it up in other countries.  (Though I note that it isn’t translated but is only available as an English edition.)

Here’s a little information about the book for those who haven’t heard about it:

“Not blood nor bone shall magic touch.”

On the island of Cercia, God is dead, killed by his followers and replaced with the study of magic. But the people are suspicious of magicians, believing them the cause of ill fortune. If the magicians aren’t kept in check, the people believe that they might wrestle God from his grave and take the universe for their own keeping. So the universities train magicians in the use of magic, as well as in the restrictions — or Heresies — that bind it. Magicians must not leave their homeland; they must not cast spells on the living—whether to harm or to heal.

Quentin, a young nobleman, and his friend Asahel are both magicians. But they come from very different backgrounds. Quentin belongs to an old bloodline, though his grandfather has whittled away the last of his family’s fortune. Asahel, on the other hand, always smells of the sea, his face smudged with dirt. He was decidedly out-of-place at the universities that trained magicians, since most of them came from the upper classes. Everyone but Quentin tormented Asahel in school; their curiosity,even now, is what binds them together. They both long to explore magic, rather than cage it.

Now, Quentin desperately dreams of healing the woman that he loves, Catharine. Catharine is pitted and scarred from the Plagues which came to Cercia just before she reached womanhood. She wants no part of Quentin because of her self-hatred, disliking it if he so much as looks at her. This husband and wife rarely talk, and what little time they spend together is fraught with tension. But Quentin adores Catharine. If he is to save her from herself, he must be able to use his magic to heal.

Learning to heal will take an act of desperation, an unthinkable rebellion — practicing on the bodies of the dead. It is madness — but Quentin convinces Asahel to go along with his plan. Under the cover of darkness, they dig up a grave to work a magic that affects life itself. Afterward, Quentin feels a terrible guilt for involving Asahel, who had defied authority by his friend’s side. Both of them are unaware that the search for this lost magic will bring them both to the edge of reason, threatening their very souls. How far are they willing to go for the sake of knowledge? What will they destroy to obtain it?

Now, I’m sure many authors and readers are curious as to why I’m so excited to give my book away.

First, it’s just fun to give away your book.  I write stories because I like to and it’s flattering to think that people own them and read them and often enjoy them.  I also admit that I like seeing how far up the sales charts my book can go, even if it’s free.  It makes me blush when I see my book anywhere near one of my favorite authors and well, as a small press author, this doesn’t happen that much.

Secondly… well, tell you what.  If there’s enough interest on this post, I’d be happy to write a bit about the experience of KDP Select from my point of view.  I feel that to do that, it’d probably be necessary to wait a bit but I can definitely compare and contrast this time and the last.  So if that’s of interest, please let me know in comments.  (Though know that I may be a little busy and not responding immediately as I try to give my book out to everyone!)

All of that said, I honestly appreciate everyone who follows the blog and hope that I can give a little bit back to you in the form of this sale.  If you’d like to share this post or a link to the book with others, please feel free.   (And in fact, I’ll adore those who do!)

And hey, if you like this book, I’ve got a sequel I want to tell you about. ;)

(And another, even more exciting, project in the wings.)

Free books today and tomorrow!

My publisher decided to run a fantastic sale (and by sale, I mean “give away FREE”) on all of the titles that Hydra Publications has out in e-format right now. Not just The Universal Mirror but also many other fantastic titles in a number of genres.

For February 8th & 9th, you can get any of Hydra’s e-books at no cost from the Amazon website. To peruse them all at once, go to the Hydra website.

This is pretty exciting so please take us up on this offer and give our writers the chance to give back to you, our readers! We’d love it if you can spread the word in any way possible.

If you don’t have a Kindle, consider downloading an ebook anyways to support us. You can download an app to read the book on your computer or phone.

As always, thank you for reading and supporting not just my work but that of my fellow authors.

- Gwen

One world… a few thoughts on GLBT characters in fiction

marriage - courtesy morguefile.com

Courtesy of morguefile.com


One of the articles that has been traveling through my corner of the internet this week is this Genreville post about how Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith tried to find representation for a YA novel featuring a gay character. The reaction to it is, as I’d expect, furious but both the subject and how people have reacted has raised some interesting discussions in my own household.

In the interest of full disclosure, I identify as gay and live openly with my intersexed partner who presents as female. I work at a very supportive institution who’s never made me or my family feel any lesser because of my sexuality or my partner’s gender ambiguity (and yes, we’re open about that too). We (and our three children) live in Tacoma which is definitely a “live and let live” kind of city. We don’t get harassed in public, our children have never been bullied at school.

In short, I operate from a position of gay privilege. While yes, I’ve experienced difficulties in my life due to my sexuality, I’ve managed to deal with many of them. I feel that this informs this post in part and thus I wanted to say it.

As a lesbian author, the Brown-Smith situation was distressing to hear. However, it made me consider what I’ve read in GLBT YA and what I’d like to see more of in GLBT characters in fiction in general, as well as how my own desires informed the novel that I completed this year, The Universal Mirror.

GLBT characters in fiction are too often driven by their sexualities. One of my friends talks about being tired of seeing “the coming-out story” and I completely relate to that. It’s an important story, yes, but it tends to be a constant and consistent theme of GLBT fiction. It’s very rare to see a story in which there is a GLBT character who’s comfortable with their sexuality before the book even begins. I’d love to read more books with young lesbian protagonists who know they likes girls from the outset and have even had relationships. (Okay, I’d love to see more books with a young lesbian protagonist. But that’s a whole different issue and one not to be addressed in this post but rather by writing my own book.)

The other aspect that drives me a little nuts here is that so many of these characters are their sexuality and in a more prominent way than straight characters are. A lot of that feeling is personal bias–when I tell people what I like, it tends to be things like “lampworking” and “history” and “George R.R. Martin,” rather than “women.” (Okay, so “redheads” may slip in from time to time but we all have our foibles.) I’m not sure I think of my sexuality as a defining part of my personality–it just is. My toes don’t define my personality either–they’re just part of the bigger picture of me.

And so in my own novel, while I have a gay character, I don’t think that he’s defined by his sexuality despite the fact that the society he lives in isn’t particularly open to or conducive towards it. I was much more concerned about what his family life was like, why he carried a sword constantly, and what he had to do with the Council that he serves. His sexuality informed some of those decisions but it doesn’t define the character. To me, Felix was interesting because of who he was–not that he happened to be gay. Nor is his sexuality the driver of the main plot–in fact, it’s peripheral at best.

An author who did this beautifully (and is a better example than a novel that’s currently under negotiation) is Lynn Flewelling. Her book, Stalking Darkness, presents gay characters without throwing a ton of focus on their sexuality. The plot is involved and intriguing and the characters have a lot of interesting traits. For me, where that series actually started to fall down, was when the characters began a relationship and proceeded to spend the next books angsting about the whole thing. (But that is the point where it became a coming-out story which, as I noted above, I’ve lost some patience for.)

Other authors/books that deal with GLBT characters in a way that I admire include Octavia Butler, Karen Lowachee, and Maureen F. McHugh. Each one of them deserves a post of their own in regards to what they write. I wish that I had male authors on this list as I look at it–clearly, I need to reexamine my own reading choices somewhat. :)

To jump subjects slightly, another aspect of the Brown-Smith situation that bothered me was in how people in my associated internet circles reacted to it or rather, felt that they needed to react. I noticed that most of what I read of people’s feelings on this came in locked or filtered posts and I found that troubling.

The fact that authors felt that they themselves had to ally with Brown and Smith by sharing their feelings but not openly is disturbing. It validates that situation. Am I myself jeopardizing my own hopes of a novel contract by sharing these thoughts publicly on a site that is clearly mine?

Yet, I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t exacerbate the problem. If publishers don’t see how many of us are writing about it–writing long blog screeds, in fact–how will they know that we want to see GLBT characters? And as I’ve said before in conversations of race and SF, maybe we all need to make more effort to put more of these characters in our own works, even just in the background, and encourage others to do the same. And by “encourage,” I mean, in part, nuture and coach for those trying to write about people that they aren’t rather than to tear them down for doing so.

Our world is not one race, one gender, or one sexuality. Let’s make it so in our fiction as well.