Category Archives: Fantasy fiction

Release Date

What with everything going on this May, (two birthdays, prom, two graduations, etc!), I have decided to release my novel in June. So the official release date for my e-book Dragon Venom will be June 29, 2017.

That’s the feast day of my patron saint, incidentally, which is why I picked it. But it also gives me some time to do the umpteen million things that I have to do between now and then and still have time to get the book completely ready for your reading pleasure. So, wish me luck, I will be very very busy for the next several weeks and I will need every bit of energy that I can muster to get everything done.

I’m excited!


Editing, the non-thrilling part of writing

So, I am about a third of the way through the final edit on the manuscript for my dragon novel, Dragon Venom. Oi, it’s a tedious process– going back and fixing all those little typos and dropped commas and whatnot. Also changing some of the names of places, as I wasn’t satisfied with the names as they were. I tried a naming scheme for the places that just didn’t quite work out, so all of those need to be fixed, doublechecked, and then the map needs to be re-drawn. My artist and my Photoshop consultant both need to be consulted regarding the changes, and the changes applied to those things.

But, it’s looking good. If I can keep things on track and get over this nasty cold that the kids brought home, I am looking at a June release date. Which, yeah, is ambitious, considering how crazy things are this month, but I am really looking forwards to getting this novel published and out there where people can read it. You can get all the feedback possible from your first readers, but there’s nothing quite like having actual readers reading your work.

I’m also working as an editor on another project, not for money, just for the love. It’s not a very big project, just a short story collection, but I hope to get it done very quickly. Then, I’m going to be working on the next novel in the dragon series, plus I am outlining a suspense novel. Whew. Lots to be done!


Better Late than Never– Story Online

Well, despite some severe setbacks, I have published my story today, finally, here on the blog. Here’s the link— A Dagger in the Rain by Marti Booker.

This is the edited version, slightly longer than the original story that was published in 2001 in the EXTREMES 5 short story collection.

I hope you enjoy it. Leave some feedback if you do!


Alright, Alright, Alright! Story Update

L1009540So, I found the copy of that story, the one I had intended to publish as a standalone short story for your reading pleasure, A Dagger In the Rain. I have it converted into Word (which was a royal pain, thank you Adobe for trying to scalp us continually for cash) and it’s ready to be edited, reformatted, and published.

SO, my Valentine’s gift to you all will be a FREE version of this story, available from February 14th until the 1st of March. I will have a link for you to download it from, and you can have it completely without charge until March. Just keep my name attached to the story if you pass it along to someone, and maybe send them to one of my websites if you’re feeling particularly friendly.

I will then be publishing it, along with several other stories, as a short story collection Unfinished Tragedies: Tales of Ghosts, Curses, and Revenge.

So, I expect to be extremely busy for the next month or so, but I will of course be checking my email so if you have any questions, feel free to shoot them over to me. The hardest thing is going to be training my younger kids what it means when Mommy is working– I haven’t worked as a writer in so many years that they can’t understand that “Mommy at the computer” doesn’t necessarily want to answer six hundred questions and have you cling to her knee, whining, when she’s not paying attention to you! But I don’t doubt that they’ll figure it out just like their older siblings did.

Excited!


truly, madly, deeply

I will be honest with you– in the past, I have been guilty of writing things that weren’t truly reflective of who I really am. I’ve written things just to try to sell them, just to try to break into a particular market, and written things that don’t actually reflect my ideals, thoughts, hopes, and morals.

Which is why I don’t really like to dig back into my past and publish my old stories and poetry. There’s very little in there that I am actually proud of, very little that I would want my grandchildren to read, so to speak. I wrote things that I thought would please my “market” and they are embarrassing to me now. Why did I write that, I ask myself. Was it really that important to sell a short story?

Some writers will tell you that writing “to a market” is just what you do. It’s the accepted practice– if someone wants to publish an anthology about freaky hermaphrodite clowns, then you write a story about freaky hermaphrodite clowns, even if you heartily wish that clowns were all stripped of their red rubber noses and forced to work at the DMV.

In some cases, the ideas spawned by certain markets, like anthologies and magazines, may, possibly, once in a blue moon, actually rouse your best creative force and you can write a heartfelt tale that sears the page in its beauty and passion. But mostly you’re just hurriedly grinding something out in the very slim hope that the editor will like it. Even though the editor is mainly counting on their friends and acquaintances to fill the anthology and is only holding out one or two slots for unknown writers, of course. And then you’re stuck with a story about freaky hermaphrodite clowns, which you now have to try to foist off on another market. (Those other markets know that this will happen, and cringe for months reading freaky clown stories.)

Sometimes, though, you’re just writing in a certain genre and you absorb the mores and cultural assumptions that are common to that market. Cultural appropriation is terribly common in science fiction and fantasy (ask me sometime about alien worlds who all seem to have desert areas with heavily draped peoples who call the area Something-istan. I start to foam at the mouth, I have heard.) So is writing about gay characters even if you yourself are not gay. Being progressive sells, that’s the heart of the idea.

I wrote a story once about a young woman in 1600-1700s Indonesia who was banished from her village, became bonded to a cursed knife, and then had the problem of how to remove the knife. Long story short: she gets her hand cut off, but decides, with the help of her lesbian lover, that the cursed knife must be destroyed for the good of her people. Because of the religious powers that were in that particular region at that time, I ultimately had my character pray to the Islamic god for his help in destroying the knife.

Now, if I was writing the story today, I would have found a way to leave Islam out of it ENTIRELY. Not simply to avoid offending the people of that faith (although that would be part of it) but also because it was just a hasty addition at the end, written under time pressure, and it wasn’t a very satisfying ending to the tale. I would have preferred it if the woman could have found some other ghost of her own people to banish her vile uncle’s spirit.

I guess it was satisfying enough to sell it, anyway– it was published in 2002 in a cd-rom anthology called “Extremes 5: Fantasy and Horror from the ends of the earth.” For, hah, an equal share of the profit. Sadly, after the editor had taken out his expenses, there was no profit, so basically all I got for tacking on this hasty religiously ambivalent ending was a copy of the cd-rom and a cramped hand from signing the sleeve inserts. Oh, and I was out about ten bucks for postage.

I would have made it more clear, I think, that the main character was only “gay” in the sense that she was heartbroken and suicidal and that she was responding to the other woman’s kindness and love. Two broken people clinging to each other in a storm. If it had been a man, she would have probably run in fear after her lifetime of abuse by men. Situationally, the gay character made sense. I don’t regret putting it in, because it was true to the character and the story basically wouldn’t have worked without there being someone else there to help her. She would have just given up and died, otherwise. I wanted people to feel that sorrowful weight upon her, and then to see at the end that she was, in fact, still broken– the love had not fixed the wounds in her heart. It just enabled her to endure the pain.

So I have decided that this week, in celebration of the idea of doing things “right” and true and writing from your passion and not your fear, I am going to republish this story, A Dagger in the Rain, on Kindle. I will be doing some editing to it first, fixing that problematical ending with the unneeded influence of an outside god. As an outsider writing about a distant historical place, and about ghosts in that place, nothing is ever going to be perfect. Even Joseph Conrad had to read several books about the Indonesian peoples before he dared to write about them, because he knew he wouldn’t get everything right without years of experience that he didn’t have.

The first step is going to be to find the disc. I know I just moved it into my closet right before Christmas! Then a quick edit and rewrite, and I will make it available for a nominal price on Amazon’s kindle page. I’d start tonight but I can feel my Ambien kicking in and my typing is starting to fall apart.

I am excited, I think, to try to make a story closer to my true vision for it. There are not many stories that I would bother fixing in this way– mostly my ghost stories, for those have always been the ones closest to my heart. When you’ve lived in a haunted house, ghost stories are always interesting ones.

My novel, thankfully, is only “not me” in one respect: I wrote it with a male protagonist. In hindsight, I still feel that he’s the best character for the job. I definitely wouldn’t want to put a female through all the stuff those guys get up to in their desert journey. But the fact that I wrote this novel to fit in with MY vision of what a fantasy hero should act like and do and feel and dream . ..  that makes it so pleasing to me. I didn’t sell out for this novel. Raban and Valerius are just who they need to be, where they need to be, doing what they need to do. And it was a labor of love to get them there.

I’ll announce the release when it posts. 🙂


Rain after drought . . .

So, yes, the rain has fallen and I’ve actually begun to write new stuff again. No, it’s not exactly what I planned on writing, but it’s . . . good. Different. It’s taking some of the conventions of the genre and up-ending them in a way that (I think) has some interesting ramifications.

In a way, it’s a departure both from “Harry Potter” and Lev Grossman’s “The Magicians”, steeped in science fiction, Star Wars, and hours and hours of actually dealing with children.

I’m excited about it.

But, I’m not going to spill it all out and waste that creative energy. I’m really happy to be writing again, though, and writing something with some meat to it. Flash fiction is all very well and good, but it’s hors d’oeuvres and not dinner. This is a lot more substantial fare.

Happy.


Gratuitous Gore in Game of Thrones

Caution: Extensive Spoilers Ahead! For both the Song of Ice and Fire books AND the Game of Thrones HBO series! Abandon Hope, All Ye who Enter!

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So, anyway, last night I finally caught up with Game of Thrones on my DVR. What can I say, it’s been a busy week. Anyhow, I was generally pleased by the changes that the tv series has made to the book storyline– at this point, I am almost ready to call it a completely alternate universe of Westeros and be done with comparing the two universes. Most of the main characters have been improved hugely beyond their characterization in the texts, and many of the pacing problems of the books have been avoided. One tiny little thing niggled at me, though, when the show was through . . . a tiny pinkie finger, and the torments thereof.

You see, in “A Storm Of Swords”, the book that Season 3 of the show is mostly following, we do not see or hear of the fate of Theon Greyjoy. He basically disappears from the text, only reappearing in the later books, transformed utterly by the experiences he’s had in the interim. Those experiences, at the hands of the bastard of Bolton, are essentially tortures that are almost unimaginable in cruelty and sadism. Thankfully, GRRM doesn’t subject us to every detail of them. The aftermath, and the slow reveal of all Theon’s missing appendages and broken bits, is horrifying enough.

The television series, on the other hand, has subjected us now to several scenes of graphic torture. I have to say that I entirely disapprove of this– not just because torture is sickening to watch (which it IS), but because it’s a lousy choice to portray something so graphically for such an extended time. Eventually, the audience recoils– if you’ve ever watched the movie “Casino”, I bet you can remember the point at which you sat back and said “Now, this is just sick for sickness’s sake.” There comes a point where the mind, in order to protect itself, just shuts down the empathy section and refuses to care about these characters anymore.

A lot of people had that reaction to Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, so it’s not just mobster movies that can tilt the emotional pinball machine. By choosing to hit us with graphic scenes of torture, both physical, as in the first scene of having his feet broken in the screws and the later scene where his finger is flayed, and psychological, as in the mind-boggling false escape and the later game of lies, the television series risks the very real possibility that the audience will just dissociate themselves from the events. I’ve read several comments on various websites that lead me to believe that a lot of people are having that reaction already. They’ve gone from squirming in their seats in horror to just walking out of the room to get a soda or something.

In a way, it’s a sort of PTSD of TV. Not to trivialize the very real disorder, but for sufferers OF those types of disorders, especially, these scenes may be unbearable even to read about.

I think GRRM chose the right path in his books. By letting us slowly see the results of torture instead of the torture itself, we are allowed to gradually build up some feelings for the broken betrayer of the Starks. He’s done hideous things, but what was done to him was, in a way, his payment for those crimes. The Theon at the end of Book 5 is not the Theon of Book 1. He’s been shattered and is slowly piecing himself back together. It’s one of GRRM’s better pieces of characterization.

By showing us the torture, perhaps the show’s directors felt they were making sure we knew that Theon paid his dues in the dungeons of the Dreadfort. I think it’s too much of an appeal to our worst sides, too much like what people call “torture porn.” There’s a faintly lascivious air . . . which is made even more apparent in the final scene of torment of the episode “The Climb” . . . a scene that I knew was coming but was very nauseated by anyhow.

I had a feeling that the character of “Ros” on the show was due for a death– she had no more real role to play in the events to come, and her usefulness was pretty much over once Sansa and Littlefinger went on to their next destination. I was expecting her to be written out . . . maybe not expecting her to be explicitly shown to be the harlot that Littlefinger sent to an unpleasant demise at the hands of a sadist. But her death scene, in her ripped clothes and cross-bow-crucified pose, was another instance of “too much” in the graphic (and sexualized) violence scale. Mercifully, the scene was brief, but the image lingers in the mind. It’s reminiscent of the queerly obsessive attention that we still pay to the Jack the Ripper Murders. Murder, when it involves a prostitute, seems to become another sort of “service” that they’re providing for the public. By being paraded around by the media in pictures (or carefully positioned and shot in a television reenactment), the public is led to what is, essentially, another exploitation of them.

Yes, yes, it’s all for the audience, and we keep watching so it must be okay with us . . . but will we keep watching? As the thousands of books, websites, and magazine articles about the Jack the Ripper case can attest, we probably will. The scenes of Littlefinger’s whorehouse are, mercifully, now at an end as he moves off to court Lysa Arryn, but the camera’s lustful eye will soon turn to Dorne and the scantily-clad southern women, to Meereen and the scantily-clad women, to Braavos and, well, more scantily-clad women . . . and then there’s the torments ahead for our various heroes and villains. How many more torture scenes with Theon do the directors expect us to endure? The one in this episode dropped my own internal rating of the show down. Any more, and I’ll be strolling to the kitchen instead of sitting on the couch . . . and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the people at HBO want me to do.

Cut the torment, Game of Thrones. Have some mercy upon your viewers, even if there is none (story-wise) for poor Ros and Theon.


Downtown . . . in Hemlock Grove

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a nice post, and anyone who really gets upset by sexual discussions might want to just scroll on past . . .

Ok . . .

We ready?

Yeah?

All right.

So, I spent several hours of my irreplaceable precious life watching Netflix’s newest “Made for Netflix” series, Hemlock Grove. And, yeah, it was a pretty silly way to waste 12 hours of my life, but I found it campy and amusing in its own way, and the kid who played the werewolf was, well, really cute, in an adorable “Don’t you want to pet him and feed him a sandwich and check his i.d. to see if he’s over 18 before you ogle him” kind of way.

I was most interested, however, by the way the show depicted sexual encounters. I’m going to give you a huge spoiler alert right now and say that, if you haven’t finished watching the show (or ever want to watch a silly “vampires-and-werewolves-fight-crime” show), you might want to stop here.

Spoiler space

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Okay, now that we’ve eliminated the readers who don’t like to discuss human sexuality and those who don’t want to be spoiled for Hemlock Grove . . .

(You guys HAVE stopped reading, right? Here’s your last chance.)

The whole show, since it’s a made-for-online show, doesn’t fall under the rules for TV shows, so it has some pretty explicit sexualized scenes. That’s not exactly surprising in a world where HBO is the big bad boy on the street. There’s one scene that’s a positively-portrayed sex scene between high school seniors, which is questionable at best. Since they are each other’s “true loves”, however, we’re supposed to let it slide. Another scene is, frankly, rape.

One spoiler that you’d need to understand the rest is that two of the characters, a mother (Olivia) and son (Roman) are basically vampires. They have mind-control powers. Roman is 17 and can force people to do acts against their will, although every time he uses this power, he gets a nosebleed. His mother never spills a drop of blood, although we highly suspect throughout that she’s controlling people more subtly. Roman doesn’t know he’s a vampire, however, and may just be a novice at the whole thing. He craves blood, especially during sex, and we see him cutting himself during sex in order to facilitate his little vampiristic bloodlust. Creepy, but, well, not the creepiest thing we’ve ever seen.

We do, however, see him a) spot a girl who is on her period, since she has a tampon sticking brazenly out of her purse, b) follow her to the bathroom, and c) persuade her (possibly with his mind-control, we don’t know for sure) to allow him to perform oral sex upon her.

That was pretty creepy. And, honestly, menstrual blood isn’t per-se blood, but that’s probably too nit-picky for most people. But it’s still a pretty questionable way for anyone to portray cunnilingus. Gross, really.

The two young lovers (the werewolf and his pregnant girlfriend) do use a little oral stimulation by the male before they get the bed rockin’, but it’s clearly foreplay and definitely a situation where it’s freely engaged-in and pleasurable for both parties. Applause, at least, for that.

The other two instances, however, are definitely questionable, and both for the same reason: the vampire mind control bit. The mother, Olivia, has a scene where she is receiving such pleasuring by her (married) brother-in-law. Afterwards, he stands up and straightens his tie and she sends him back off to work . . . we get a strong hint, here, that she coerced him to do this. In the last episode, we see her directly mind-controlling this same man, so it’s definitely a possibility that she’s been playing with his head all along (Don’t kill me for the pun, it was unintentional, I swear!)

The last instance is during the rape scene– Roman begins what seems like a consensual encounter with a young woman by giving her some rather perfunctory oral stimulation. Then he rapes her. After this very heinous and terrible act, he makes it worse by using his mind control powers to force her to forget the whole thing. It’s almost impossible to retain any sympathy for his character after this point, no matter what comes afterwards. All in all, it was a wrenching scene, made worse by the fact that he briefly made the young woman think it was going to be a good encounter– by doing that act which is, presumably, for the woman’s pleasure.

So, we have four instances of oral sex being performed upon a woman. Three of those are definitely not positive depictions of the act. The last one is . . . troubling. Not because cunnilingus is prohibited during the marital act, no, but because it wasn’t between a married couple, for one, and two because these two young people weren’t supposed to be adults.

That last fact was . . . dare I say it, unintentionally, rendered the most squicky and uncomfortable by its timing in the show– I’ll explain.

The young werewolf and his girlfriend are walking peacefully across a large lawn. They sit down on the hill, cuddle, and exchange soft words. The werewolf hunter, who is watching them with binoculars from afar, looks at them and says, “They’re children. They’re all just children.”

And then it cuts to the explicit sex scene.

If it wasn’t intentional, the director needs a kick in the nuts.

Ahem. Just my opinion, of course.

All in all, Hemlock Grove was not a victory for a discerning viewer when it comes to depicting oral sex. Some people may question whether it should ever be depicted, period– of course, that’s a problem in and of itself. I happen to think that, if it is depicted, it should be in a way that doesn’t make it either a) disgusting, b) non-consensual, or c) illicit. Possibly, that can never happen. I’m no expert in the field.

I am, however, disappointed, Hemlock Grove.

Very, very disappoint.

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Writing batteries

I’ve spent the past few weeks pondering the nature of blogging, as well as my unfortunate habit of acquiring books and then forgetting to blog for several months. I can’t really apologize, because, well, I’ve read 30 books in the past 3 months, and some of them were decidedly excellent page-turners that kept me up way past my bedtime. Only one of them was actually Bad, as in “the kind of bad that you read only to try to understand how this shit got published, ever”, and even then I came away from the experience wiser.

I have discovered that, yes, you DO have to build the characters up for the readers BEFORE you put them into emotional situations. If you don’t, well, the readers simply won’t care. You can’t tell your readers that your character is a good person worth caring about. They won’t just buy it. Especially if you show the characters acting like total jerks and/or idiots and still tell us they’re great. Mostly it will get your book tossed across the room, or, even worse, you’ll have a page on Goodreads with NO comments or juicy forum posts.

The things that make for juicy forums and busy Goodreads pages– details left unresolved, hints and clues, ambiguity, and characters with muti-layered personalities, as well as dense plotting.

Those things are hard to create, especially when one has been plowing through novels at a headlong pace. So, no, I have not been writing lately. I have been gorging on spy novels and crime television, glutting myself on the Big Fat Fantasy greats, and wading through schlocky romance books in search of something to replace several good series that have ended (alas, I still haven’t found a GOOD romance/family intrigue/dramatic series. Most of that stuff is phoned-in instead of actually written.)

Someday, I will write again. But, well, Game of Thrones is going into Season 3 soon . . . and in May, AMC will be playing Season 3 of The Killing. . . and, well, I used my birthday money from my dad to finance my space opera habit to the tune of several Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds novels, as well as the game “Fallout: New Vegas” which I will undoubtedly sink 60-80 hours into.

So, will I ever write?

I think so . . . I feel ideas budding inside my head, but they’re just not ripe yet. The idea of fusing genres is tickling at my nose, leading me through old spy novels from the Cold War and histories of WWII. There’s something there, something that’s going to be important in my next novel, but I have to finish digging it out. I know it will make for a much richer and more layered story than I’ve done so far. So I have to chase these ideas down for a while.

And then, I’ll write.


Very Special Snowflakes

Authors, I mean. I’ve been delving back into fandom recently. There seems to be a huge blind spot in fandom, wherein the members don’t acknowledge/admit that some of the author’s decisions were made simply to make the story work. There must be some REASON that all of the things written in the book happen. It must MEAN something larger. Conspiracy theory time!

Yeeeech.

Sometimes, we just make decisions based on “what has to happen to get the story to work.” Take GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, for example. In order for the plot to work at all, Tywin Lannister had to sit on his ass for 16 years, staying out of any political involvement in Kings Landing, just minding his own business at Casterly Rock. Otherwise, the Hands of King Robert wouldn’t have started investigating the king’s bastard children and threatening the stability of the Lannister’s hold on the throne.

Does it make a lot of sense that Tywin, who had already been a very successful Hand for several decades, would sit back and watch Robert piss away his grandchildren’s inheritance for 1 1/2 decades? Not really. Knowing Tywin, I’m seriously surprised that Robert didn’t have a lethal accident about ten years ago, with Tywin deftly stepping into the role of Regent at that point.

But, the whole setup of the novel wouldn’t work if that had happened. So the author left Tywin moldering on his Rock with Tyrion fixing his drains and ignored realpolitik for an unconscionably long time. This was, we were told, a man who was seething because Aerys had replaced him as Hand at the end of his reign. I don’t really believe he’d have let three more Hands serve without putting pressure on his daughter to at least get him a council seat. BUT . ..  for the author’s purpose, he had to act as he did. There would have been no series otherwise. But it’s still just an authorial decision. It’s not history. It’s not gospel. It’s just something the author manipulated to set things up for the plot of the book. If you ask “Why?” the only answer that matters is the author’s “Because I said so.” But it still is just a setup.

Similarly, he made Ned Stark have no close living uncles or brothers or sisters. If he had, then a Stark would have been in Winterfell the whole time. Again, ruining the plot of the stories. But authors aren’t more special than other people… they’re just better at telling stories. Stories can be amusing, entertaining, inspiring, and moving. In the end, though, they’re all just pretty lies. And the author is the Liar in Chief, making decisions ruthlessly just to advance the story he or she has in mind. Why do the characters do what they do? If they’re good characters, they’ll have motivations and reasons and justifications. But the author decided to put that particular character in just THAT place at THAT time, remember. It’s all a pretty mummer’s show. 🙂