Five Favorite Winter Fantasy Books

In the winter, there are a few Fantasy books that just stand out. Granted, all these books are splendid reads any season, but their wintry settings make them the perfect fit for this frosty time of year.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

This is a Christmas as well as a Fantasy classic, so it’s only natural to include it. Lewis’s timeless tale of nobility, betrayal, redemption, and coming-of-age is a must-read for anyone.

Bonded by Mande Matthews

Taking place in a Nordic ice world filled with magic, danger, sword maidens, with a sweet romance, I definitely recommend this series. The prequel novella is free!

Twelve Days of Faery by W.R. Gingell

I am excusing this novella’s inclusion by virtue of the name. It has a cozy, cuddly feel to it that fits the Christmas season, but it’s snark, banter, and charm are sure to delight in any season.

Greta and the Goblin King by Chloe Jacobs

A bounty hunter hunts rogue monsters in an icebound world while concealing her humanity and hunting the witch who got her there. Labyrinth meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this debut novel from an author we should all watch.

Cornerstone by Kelly Walker

Taking place around the winter season, this book is filled with danger, intrigue, and a heroine who doesn’t need to do battle to be strong. I highly enjoyed this series and genuinely hope the author keeps her promises for a spinoff!


Krait’s Redemption by T.L. Shreffler

The latest installment from one of my favorite series, this book centers around the events leading up to and proceeding a grand Midwinter Ball. It’s only downside is it’s the fifth book in the series, but the first one is free and it is one of my top picks of all time.

With Christmas just around the corner, hopefully you’ll be getting in some quality reading time over the holiday!

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Merry (-11) Christmas!

Now available in paperback and eBook!

With -11 days until the big day, the pressure’s on to find the right gifts for everyone. My friends and family always seem to have this problem when it comes to me, though I’m not sure why. 

My list is the same every year: books, preferably involving swords, magic, mayhem, and girls who save themselves. I love that stuff, which is why I write that stuff.

If that sounds about right to you, too, The Lord of Adasha released yesterday. You can check it out below, but stay tuned for a print proof giveaway this weekend! The giveaway will be open internationally. Let’s spread the Christmas cheer global!

A year of living as Crown Princess of the Argetallams has taught Janir to watch her words closely and her actions closer. When Saoven and Karile arrive as ambassadors from Brevia, they bring an offer of peace in exchange for putting down a rising threat. Janir urges the royal court to answer their pleas for help and falls under fresh suspicion from her fellow Invulnerables. 

Loyalties are again torn as her father, the Lord Argetallam, and the other Argetallam nobles are eager to leave Brevia to its fate. But something is lurking on the fringes of Staspin, preparing to strike. And the threat may already be on their door step.

Deer in Fantasy Books

It’s that time of year again! We’re all hearing sleigh bells and reindeer are everywhere. I’ve discussed what Fantasy gets wrong about deer before since myth and magic surrounding deer aren’t limited to Christmas lore.

Deer have a proud and time-honored place in the Fantasy genre.

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, a beloved Christmas tale and forebearer of Fantasy genre, the White Witch’s sled is pulled by reindeer as is Father Christmas’s. A white stag is mentioned later in the book, promising three wishes to whoever catches him.

Deer continue to play important if secondary, roles in the Narnia stories. In The Silver Chair, Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum become determined to escape giants after realizing they’ve eaten a talking deer—an act akin to cannibalism.

Especially in the Celtic mythos, deer have a long and proud history.

In Arthurian lore, the White Hart is the beast that perpetually evades capture. His arrival marks the time for the Knights of the Round Table to start on a quest. A white stag is one manifestation of Herne the Hunter in Celtic lore, which seems ironic in some ways.

Mythologically speaking, the stag is king of the forest and protector of its creatures. Disney’s Bambi hints at this with the title “Prince of the Forest.”

Stags in modern Fantasy are still strongly linked to royalty, especially white stags.

Snow White and the Huntsman has a white stag identify Princess Snow White as the curse-breaker. A white stag is associated with a royal house in Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.

King Thranduil rides a large stag in The Hobbit movie adaptation by Peter Jackson. House Baratheon, the royal household in A Game of Thrones, also sports a stag as their family crest.

Whether they appear as heralds, royalty, or mounts, deer in Fantasy are rooted as securely as owls.

Speaking of owls, deer as patronuses feature prominently in Harry Potter. I don’t think any of us will forget “Always.”

The most original feature of deer I’ve seen is in John Marco’s The Saints of the Sword. A good chunk of this book features battle-elk ridden by ax-wielding highlanders and sword maidens. Truth be told, I have wondered if it was possible to ride an elk. I suppose now I have a tentative answer.

Christmas is the season when deer go mainstream, but Fantasy keeps them around all year long.

There is just something about the creatures that’s magically free and powerful. In the Bible, deer symbolize grace, swiftness, and sure-footedness—not quite the royal archetype we’ve made them out to be.

In some ways, it seems strange that we picked a prey animal, albeit a large one, to represent power. Then again, they do have a built-in crown.

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Writing is NOT My Therapy

I doubt the majority of people who claim writing is their therapy actually need clinical therapy.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was a crappy muse.

When I was truly having one of my bad days, it was a struggle to make eye contact and act like a human, never mind sit down and write. There might be some who can, but I couldn’t and most people I know of are the same.

I tried the whole “take it out on your characters” briefly and what came out of that was total garbage. I scrapped it and started over.

Writing is not about the writer, it’s about the reader.

Believe me, you don’t want the crap that I would have written on those crappy days. What’s more, you deserve better.

Not too long ago, I listened to a podcast with horror writer Michaelbrent Collings. He suffers from clinical depression but doesn’t use writing as therapy for this very reason. He puts his readers first and doesn’t want to give them his problems in print form. He was the one who first verbalized my feelings on this topic.

We like to romanticize mental illness for creatives, but it’s about as romantic as orc vomit.

I used to have panic attacks once a week or more. I had them in libraries, cafeterias, waiting rooms, and professors’ offices.

I’ve stabbed myself with tweezers over a less-than-perfect grade. I had people constantly bring up my mental illness just so they could win arguments.

Through all of that, I kept writing. In a lot of ways, God used writing to keep me alive.

Writing was not my therapy, it was my dependent—it needed me even if I was convinced the rest of the world didn’t.

Writing kept me from killing myself because I had something to finish, not necessarily because it made me feel better at that moment. It’s true Janir, Haddie, and Talitha have all been my reasons to get out of bed at one time or another. But I wouldn’t say any of them has been my therapy. I saved that for my therapist(s).

I would think about how I couldn’t die because then poor Janir would never get her happy ending. And what about Haddie?

To complicate matters, I had and have about a half dozen other series in different stages of development. The end is never in sight!

My books didn’t solve my problems, but they gave me hope the problems wouldn’t last. 

My books were goals, things to prove to myself that I was getting somewhere. I would finish another manuscript and be able to tell myself “I can still do stuff. There’s hope.”

It finally got so bad that I started begging God to break me. I told Him that He had to kill me or change me because I couldn’t live like that anymore.

A lot has happened since then, too much to properly explain here. It wasn’t quick, it wasn’t a “whoosh” miracle, but today I am completely healed of the anger, the depression, the suicidal thoughts, and the guilt.

For the first time ever, I’m happy and living my purpose—writing stories to help people see differently.

It’s been a year this week since my last panic attack. A bad conversation no longer means a bad day or even a bad half hour. I’m not where I’m going to be, but thank God I’m not where I was!

If I can get better, anyone can.

I pray the same hope that got me through my worst day touches everyone who reads this and everyone who reads my stories.

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Interview: Eli Hinze on Disability in Fantasy

Today I’ve invited a dear friend and brilliant author to tackle an issue I see discussed rarely, if at all. She’s one of those people who has never let life get the best of her and I’m more impressed with her every time we talk.

She’s an inspiration to me and I know she’ll inspire you. Meet Eli Hinze!

What are some things you would like the audience to know about you before we get started?

I’d like to establish real quick for the readers out there why you’ve asked me to write an article on disability in fantasy.

First off, I’m a long-time writer, working on a novella and my fourth novel right now, The Stolen Sun and The Immortal, respectively. Having been raised on a healthy diet of fantasy growing up, it’s my favorite genre to write and read.

As for disability, I have a variety of health conditions that make life pretty painful/difficult for me. (If you’re curious, they’re Ehlers-Danlos type 3, dysautonomia, and so forth. We’d be here a while if I tried to list them all!) Over the years I’ve gotten a black belt, published books, graduated university with a degree in international security, and just recently moved back to the States from China.

Because I’ve done all of these different things, I’m quite familiar with people’s judgments, misconceptions, or honest confusions regarding disability. And I’m honored to be here on your blog to share some of them!

Let’s start with the basics: what are the different types of disability?

I’d start by putting disabilities into two categories: visible disability and invisible disability. Visible disabilities are the ones that are readily noticed, such as missing a limb, MS, and so on. Invisible disabilities are those that aren’t as readily seen, because the condition leaves us looking typical on the outside—all while screwing up whatever it may on the inside.

My condition of Ehlers-Danlos, for example, means that my DNA builds all of my connective tissue wrong. For lack of a better term, it’s defective. This causes dislocations, tears, makes me more prone to organ rupture, and so forth. But from the outside, I look fine!

There are many different types of disabilities within these categories, but the above is what I’d most like to highlight.

What are some common misconceptions about disability?

Ugh, where do I start? The misconceptions are endless, but I’ll try to tackle the main ones here.

A big misconception is that people with physical disabilities are treated well—or at least better than those with mental conditions such as mood disorders or learning difficulties. This is flat out untrue, and drives a wedge between the disabled community. People tell us that we’re faking it, we’re not actually hurting, that it’s all a cry for attention, and so on. I’ve even had people push me when I’m using a cane, and not by accident either.

Lastly, there’s this belief that disabilities are too hard to write about, that it’d be improbable to have a disabled character who’d be able to ‘cut it’ in whatever society you’re writing. I’m sorry, but this line of thinking is just defeatist. We have talking animals and magic weapons, but we can’t have ramps or medicinal potions be part of the norm too?

What are the biggest or most common blunders in portraying disability that you’ve seen in Fantasy?

Stop curing us, damn it.

I don’t think people cure their characters out of malice, but rather because they want to make that character ‘normal’, make their lives ‘easier’. I think it’s well-intentioned. But for your readers out there, we see that, and we know it’ll never be our reality. We see that people think we were incorrectly made. Instead, we want to see a world of dragons and elves and cryptids that makes room for us, too. If all those other things can exist in a fantasy realm, why can’t we? Ultimately, people read and write to feel understood and inspired. We just want to be included too.

Another blunder—more so a trope—I see a lot of is the Magic Disabled Person. The blind wizard who’s blindness allows him to ‘see more’ than the normies. The person whose disability came along with powers or a curse. My hope is that I’ll one day see disabled people written as common, unextraordinary folk, the same as any market vendor or scribe. Because if the only disabled person you have is one who’s Magical and Special—and you don’t have a single other disabled person out there, when 1/10th of the population has some sort of disability… you’re divorced from reality, at that point.

Are there any books you’ve read that handle disability well? What are they and what did you like about them?

There’s only one book that comes to mind, and that’s Tower of Dawn. While the author does partly cure the disabled character, she writes his disability well. For me, my health was totally fine until I reached age 20, and then things began to quickly spiral downhill. The character is in a similar position, where he became disabled as opposed to being born with it. A lot of the emotions and experiences he went through, I identified with. It was the first time I’d seen a character go through what I’d experienced myself. She writes him as still being the same capable, smart, and driven person he always was, just this time with a differently abled body. Even when he’s cured, it’s not totally, and he makes peace with his limited mobility.

Aside from that, I sadly can’t think of any other examples.

What is your advice to someone who wants to write about a disability they don’t have?

Do your research. Do your research. Do you think you should do your research? Because, yes, you should definitely DO YOUR RESEARCH.

By ‘research’, I don’t necessarily mean learning the technical ins and outs of the disability. That’s important too, but I’d also encourage you to talk to the actual people who live with it. Even if it’s a rare condition, the internet makes it easy nowadays to connect with and learn from others. Above all you want to be respectful, but a good way to go about it is to simply read a forum or support page for people with the condition.

Again, an example from my life. My primary condition (EDS) is relatively rare. I was the only patient my doctors had ever seen with it—hence why it took my 6 years to get a correct diagnosis—I’ve never met anyone else who’s had it, and most people have never heard of it in their lives. But online? I can connect with other EDSers in an instant from all over the globe. We share tips on how to manage our symptoms on blogs, Facebook pages, Pinterest boards, everywhere you can think of. If there’s a condition you want to write about, I encourage you to get to know the very real people living with it.  

Do you have any upcoming projects and where can we find you online?

I have my fourth novel in the works, a standalone book currently titled The Immortal, which is about an anxiety-riddled teenager who’s enlisted by an immortal seeking a way to die. I’m on the second round of edits, and anticipate it’ll be another year or two before I’m ready to start querying it.

I’m also drafting a novella, The Stolen Sun, which is a Mesopotamian fantasy about a young boy and his ailing mother who are enlisted by the sun goddess to put her back in the sky.   

I can be found on my blog, Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. I post excerpts from time-to-time, and detail some of my writing journey as well!

Thank you for joining us today and for being so open! We’ll all be watching for your upcoming work and we can’t wait!

Unreasonable Standards for Heroes

For a long time, heroes in Fantasy were idealized. Look at Luke Skywalker or Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. For most of the genre’s history, heroes embodied the author’s ideal of purity and goodness. When they made mistakes, it was with good intentions.

To the average person, this makes righteousness (or goodness) unattainable. No one knows our mistakes like we do. Knowing how imperfect we are, seeing perfect heroes can be downright discouraging.

More recently, Fantasy has started lowering our standards for heroes.

We’ve started doing the opposite of idealism and embraced pragmatism. We have inherently flawed characters such as Deadpool, Arya Stark, Kvothe, and Honorous Jorg Ancrath. They all have their flaws, homicidal tendencies being the most universal.

We’ve started embracing heroes that make us proud we’re not like them (at least I hope so) rather than heroes that make us depressed we’re not like them. Is this really any better?

If we don’t have an ideal in our heads, how do we know who we want to be? And how do we go about becoming that person?

There has to be a balance of idealism and realism.

As a Christian, I’m given the mandate to speak positivity and hope into people’s lives. At the same time, no one can deny that evil exists in the world, bad things happen to good people, and we all fall short.

As a Fantasy writer, I want to create heroes that help people see themselves, but also who they want to become. Each of my heroines is a combination of who I am or who I’ve been. Each of them is also partly who I want to be.

We need more heroes who don’t just show us the ideal, but show us how to get there.

Vin of Mistborn has a total transformation through the book, but also the series. Bilbo Baggins enters the story a decent person but has grown tremendously by the last page. These characters had admirable traits to begin with, yet their authors made them far better.

They show not only how fictitious people can grow, but how we can grow. That’s what Fantasy should do—give us hope. We can overcome fear of attachment, insecurity, vices, and even things that aren’t our fault—like in the cases of illness and abuse.

Your past is not your future, no matter what it looked like. Just because you’re in a certain place now, does not mean you have to or will stay there.

We all make mistakes and we all have misfortunes, but mistakes and misfortunes don’t mean failure unless you let them control you.

Just because you fall short every day, every hour, or maybe even every minute, don’t let that stop you from working towards the goal of who you want to be. Who you want to be is who you can be if you don’t quit.

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10 Creatures from Fantasy I’m Thankful Don’t Exist

In the spirit of the holiday week in America, everyone is listing things they’re grateful to have. As human beings, we spend a lot of time talking about things we don’t have. But what about things we’re grateful we don’t have?

1. Nazgul

I’m glad screeching, dragon-riding demons don’t stalk the skies, but I suppose if they existed, then gigantic sentient eagles would also exist. There’s a bright side to everything.

2. Grimm

These negativity-attracted monsters from RWBY are worth noting. As someone who actively censors my words for negativity, I realize just how deeply we’ve programmed ourselves for it. Not to say that we can’t change (I’m sure we would if it was a matter of survival), but I’m glad my happiness crusade isn’t a matter of immediate life and death.

3. Tribbles

These little guys take “be fruitful and multiply” to an extreme. While adorable and fluffy, I’d rather not see what would happen the moment they encountered predators.

4. Shadrin

In Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule, these were vaguely described as tentacled cave-dwelling monsters with a taste for human flesh. They fall squarely into the category of non-enviable wildlife.

5. Werewolves

Werewolfism is basically lunar rabies on steroids. The existence of normal rabies is bad enough and I’m incredibly thankful I don’t have to worry about this, too.

6. Giants

The strain on natural resources and infrastructure aside, I don’t like looking up this far to talk to people. It’s a good thing giants aren’t around anymore.

7. Dementors

Let’s all be thankful for this one. Soul-sucking monsters invisible to the majority of people? We have enough that are 100% visible, walking and talking among us.

8. Whitewalkers

I don’t think I need to explain this one.

9. Kandra

These shapeshifting creatures from Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy can replicate the shape of any body (human or animal) they consume. The epitome of a “Lawful Neutral” race, they can be hired out by anyone regardless of purpose and often go months or years before detection. I am so, so glad these are not real.

10. Wilddeoren

Described by Arthur in the BBC Merlin as “giant baby rats,” wilddeoren are the size of large pigs, blind, and man-eating. As one who lives in a region full of caves, I’m doubly grateful there are none of these lurking beneath my feet.

When making a “thankful for” list in regards to Fantasy, it’s easy to remember what exists in those worlds that we don’t have here. Yet there’s always something to be grateful for, even if it’s not having some of their less savory elements.

I may not live in Narnia but thank God I don’t live in Westeros.

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Argetallam Anthropology (or I Solemnly Swear I Thought This Through)

I love anthropology—the study of humans—but sometimes it gets in the way of writing the way I want. I wrote a lot of the Argetallam culture while taking a cultural anthropology class. This highlighted some practical problems.

Culturally, Argetallams have faced genocide multiple times. It’s why they have trust issues when it comes to outsiders and why they culturally emphasize survival and greater good of their race. As a result, they have a perpetual war mindset and live in a state of readiness—which brings us to Problem #1.

Problem #1: Argetallams are all warriors

I’ve ranted before that it takes 100 civilians to support a single full-time fighter. While Argetallams spend time managing their vineyards and caravans, there weren’t enough leatherworkers, potters, weavers, masons, and other miscellaneous productive persons to make this work.

Solution to Problem #1: Lots of foreigners

The merchant and worker classes in Staspin are comprised almost entirely of foreign nationals and slaves. Argetallams are at the top of the hierarchy and make up the noble/ruling class. Even the lowest Argetallam is still legally ranked higher than the richest foreigner (though in practice the foreigner may enjoy greater privileges).

Problem #2: Lots of foreigners

Practically, I couldn’t just say that a few thousand people, who outnumber their Argetallam overlords 100 to 1, were happy with being second- and third-class citizens. What was to stop them from overrunning and revolting against the Argetallams?

Solution to Problem #2: Low birthrates for Argetallam/Argetallam couples

Because of low fertility among “pure” Argetallams, Argetallams take mates from foreigners as a standard practice. Most the foreigners in Staspin have an Argetallam relative. This is where the Argetallam emphasis on clan loyalty can provide these relatives with favor.

Problem #3: Low birthrates for Argetallam/Argetallam couples

This takes me back to needing lots and lots of foreigners. Couples made up of two Argetallams suffer high incidence of infertility—I haven’t explained why yet. Besides that, the rare children born from these unions are no stronger or more powerful than Argetallam with a non-Argetallam parent.

Doesn’t this take us right back up to Problem #2? Doesn’t that clan loyalty to non-Argetallam relatives in the last section make more problems? After all, division of loyalty between your family and your magical kindred could be difficult.

Solution to Problem #3: Equality Among Argetallams + Solution to Problem #1

We have the non-Argetallams to meet the workforce need, but they’re still unilaterally subjugated Argetallams.

But because of equality between Argetallams, even though many mates—especially female concubines—of Argetallams may be mistreated, Argetallam children will have the same rights, privileges, and upward mobility of any other Argetallam. Argetallams make no distinction between men or women and a minimal class distinction among their own.

Equality Among Argetallams encourages Argetallams to embrace their own, excel among their own, and for their non-Argetallam relatives to help them succeed.

As they say, the tide raises all ships. If your Argetallam cousin becomes a general, that’s a trickle down of resources and standard of living for you.

Anyone born an Argetallam in Staspin can start anywhere and work up to anywhere. The royal family is the exception.

Problem #4: Equality Among Argetallams

We now need to explain why there’s such a huge power distance between the Presiding Argetallam and everyone else. Also, why would a society with so many options for some limit the majority of their population?

They value individual merit and advancement. Why wouldn’t that include people besides Argetallams and why do they have a ruling dynasty at all?

Solution to Problem #4: Magic

We go more into the importance and power of the Presiding Argetallam in books #5 and #6. (You’re in for a ride in #6!) But ultimately, the Presiding Argetallam is the magical axis of the power matrix that binds their race.

Being born an Argetallam makes you a part of this matrix, regardless of rank, lineage, or location. This is both the reason for their group equality and the solution to it. This is the reason Argetallams can set themselves so far apart from everyone—including their non-Argetallam relatives.

Bottom line: magic solves all your problems.

In the end, only another Argetallam can enjoy the power of being one. It’s the reason for both their elitism and their egalitarianism.

In the end, the thing that defines the Argetallams is their immunity to and power to steal magic. Having that explain all their cultural idiosyncrasies is just logical. Therefore, my inner anthropologist is appeased.

Hopefully, this sociological obstacle course makes sense.

Download the first Argetallam Saga book for free on all platforms.

In a world where magic is revered, what could be worse than the power to steal it?

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Writing Women: When “Strong” Isn’t Enough

“Strong female character” has turned into a bit of a buzzword. I used to love it, but I’m not so hyped about it now. Don’t get me wrong, I’d much prefer a strong female character to a weak one. But “strong” does not mean “well-written.”

“Strong” does not necessarily mean “realistic,” “relatable,” or “presenting a positive view of womanhood.”

In pop culture today, we have three basic stereotypes/archetypes that only apply to female characters—the damsel, the evil queen, and the paragon.

Archetype #1: The Damsel (Mina in Dracula)

Helpless, virginal, prone to fainting/crying/screaming—this character is the one that exists to make us feel better about another character, usually the male hero. Though less popular now, the damsel archetype is still alive and well, sometimes even alongside the paragon—as seen with Princess Jehnna and Zula in Conan the Destroyer.

This is usually the archetype is usually cited as the one to avoid, drawing attention from it’s equally unfair and sexist counterparts.

Archetype #2: The Evil Queen (Bavmorda in Willow and Cirsei in Game of Thrones)

The evil queen is the opposite of the damsel. She is rebellious where the damsel is submissive, manipulative where the damsel is passive, sexually insatiable where the damsel is chaste, and power-hungry where the damsel is humble and “content with a simple life.”

Archetype #3: The Paragon (Alice in Resident Evil and Arya in Eragon)

The third unhealthy archetype, the paragon, is alive and well, too. This archetype shows a female (or can be any minority) character as hyper-competent. In the case of female characters in Fantasy, it usually takes the form of unparalleled fighting skill that levels armies and dominates men.

These characters tend to be emotionally detached and show a disdain for culturally feminine things and women who embrace them. They “don’t need a man” yet almost always have a tragic backstory involving a romantic interest.

Notice that two out of three of these tropes can be called “strong.”

The Evil Queen takes what she wants and stands up for herself. The Paragon takes what she wants and stands up for herself. I would say both could be considered strong, but neither is a healthy view of feminity and neither is what I want to emulate personally.

Unpopular opinion: Tolkien is criticized for his portrayal of women, but I still consider him far ahead of his time.

The warrior princess, Èowyn, has tender moments as well as moments of literally stabbing evil in the face. Galadriel, not her husband, is the one wizards and kings seek for counsel.

No, the trilogy doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test. No, it can’t be considered feminist by any stretch. However, like Shakespeare, I believe Tolkien deserves more credit for getting the ball rolling on empowerment in his genre.

As they say, if you see a problem, you fix it. That’s why I work to bring a positive portrayal of formidable women in my stories.

Whether you prefer the term strong, well-developed, realistic, or something else, my goal is to write my female characters with diverse personalities, abilities, and appearances—but also tenderness.

I want to show women can be cruel, women can be tough, but also that strength doesn’t mean you can’t cry or that you’re never hurt.

I set out to create empowered, independent heroines who are still allowed to have doubts, second guess themselves, and be vulnerable.

We ladies spend so much time telling ourselves we can be strong. That’s fantastic and I say that to myself and others all the time. But I think we forget sometimes that doesn’t mean we can’t be soft. In fact, you must be strong to be soft.

Being truly strong isn’t just about being outwardly tough, it’s about being inwardly tough. It’s about having healthy boundaries and not holding grudges so that you can love freely and forgive relentlessly.

I truly believe that if we are going to see the love, compassion, and tenderness our world so desperately needs right now, women are going to have to stand up against the lie that they must be harsh to be powerful.

It takes courage to be kind. – Maya Angelou

Download the first Argetallam Saga  book for free on all platforms.

In a world where magic is revered, what could be worse than the power to steal it?

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Making of the Sandsea: Troy and the Iliad

The inspiration for the world and characters of the Sandsea came from many places, but one of my first sources of inspiration was Homer’s The Iliad.

I’ve loved Greek mythology since my dad told my brother and I the story of Odysseus on our front porch during a rainstorm while making cheese. My favorite movie is Troy—a quasi-historical retelling of The Iliad.

Ashek was largely inspired by Brad Pitt’s portrayal of Achilles in Troy.

I generally spent most of the film mad at Achilles, but his character arc and development through the story is incredible. Ashek in my mind is a combination of Brad Pitt as Achilles and Jason Momoa as Conan with a bit of puritanism sprinkled in. (If you haven’t read the books, I know you want to now.)

Talitha is based on my favorite character from Troy—Prince Hector. I found his dedication to honor and his concern for country above personal cost unforgettably compelling. Talitha’s grandfather, Ensaak Morzei, was inspired Priam—the ruler whose fighting days are past, yet still pulls the strings.

But not all of my Hellenistic ideas for the Sandsea came from this one movie. The city of Ilios and the star-crossed lovers of  Ensaadi are based on the historical Trojan story.

“Ilios” itself is a modification of Ilium, another name for Troy and Naram is based on the infamous Helen.

Helen of Troy/Sparta was an actual person who really did run away with a Trojan prince. Contrary to the Orlando Bloom and Diane Kruger versions, it was probably motivated by politics and wealth than love.

As a queen, Helen would have been a prize and the Trojans possessing her would have been a massive injury to her husband. Men in Ancient Greece were actually in danger of losing their social status if their wives were unfaithful. For a king, it would have been even worse.

Paris “stealing” Helen would have been a low and brutal blow.

But the landscape of the Spartan coast and practicality dictate there is no way Helen could have been “stolen” as some painters and authors have tried to suggest. Getting her out covertly would have required cooperation and

Troy was a city of wealth and opulence, known for its spices—especially saffron—gold, jewels, and assorted riches. By comparison, Sparta was, well, pretty spartan. In The Iliad, Helen is chided for chasing after the wealth of Troy.

It seems likely that Helen’s reasons were for luxury and Paris’s reasons were for power.

I made Esreth’s motives personal, not political, but what Paris does is not far from what she does in stealing away Naram. When they reach Ilios, they are welcomed because despite Esreth’s rashness and hotblooded madness, she is one of the ensaak’s heirs.

In the same way, Troy would have welcomed back Paris—one of their own—and his high-profile prize regardless if his actions had been state-sponsored or not.

Ilios is the Troy of the Sandsea.

And that’s about as much as I can tell you without spoiling book #2.

Check out the first book here: