Throne Price (with Alison Sinclair)
The Lorel Experiment
Guide to the Okal Rel Universe
The Okal Rel Universe Anthology I (edited with Virginia O'Dine)
Pretenders uses the familiar fantasy concept of a struggle for possession of a throne to explore how the characters struggle to play roles unnatural to them. I think of it as similar to the challenges we face every day of our working lives. Just more fun with higher stakes. Pretenders is part 3 of the Okal Rel Saga. It can be read as a stand alone book, but it will probably give the most enjoyment in the company of Part 1: The Courtesan Prince.
I am also editor of the ORU Legacy series. Next up in that line are Horth in Killing Reach by Craig Bowlsby and Okal Rel: Third Anthology edited by Jennifer Sparling. These are e-books which will also, soon, be available in print. See http://www.absolute-x-press.com
Books I Love
My favorite books change from month to month but three on the top of my current list are: Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond; The Merman’s Children by Poul Anderson; and The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan — each for very different reasons.
Characters in My Own Work
Amel is my enduring favorite, but I fall in love with other characters from time to time: Ann while writing The Courtesan Prince, Horth in Righteous Anger, and of course Di Mon and Ranar. I love Amel because he has the strength to keep believing in relationships no matter how often people let him down. He would like to be a tougher guy, but he’s stuck with his sensibilities, and he has to make a come back from a really bad start in life. None of my characters is me, but I put a bit of who I am into all of them. In my youth, I felt angry about the conflict of feeling sexually attracted to men when it always seemed to imply being dominated at the same time. But I didn’t act out a solution like my character Ev’rel! Amel represents my longing to be a good person, but I’m not as selfless or as brave as he can be although I can be as confused as he sometimes gets. I’m working on a new character, now, called Samanda, or Sam for short, who represents aspects of myself I am working through in middle life, although she’s going to have to grapple with them earlier. Ranar reflects my optimistic, humanist, pro-rationality stage of development. I don’t think I would like to be any of my characters all the time. I put them through some pretty rough stuff. But I would like to live on Rire even if many of my readers think the transparent society they take for granted is more alien and scary than the wackier, neo-feudal side of my universe. I would have enjoyed living in the Star Trek Universe, as well, but only the old one when the Federation could be trusted and things were pretty safe and well-managed back on Earth.
My First Novel
Part 1: The Courtesan Prince was the first novel I published, solo, and it took me my whole life to write. I can write a novel in six months now. I hope that means I’ve learned something. The hardest scene I ever wrote occurs in Part 4: Throne Price, which due to an accident of fate was actually published first. It was out of my comfort zone in terms of nastiness, as much for the emotional betrayals as the physical abuse concerned. I was pretty close to Amel in those days, too, in the sense of feeling things along with him while I wrote, and he didn’t want to do that scene! Anyone who reads Throne Price will know why. One young reader, Sarah Trick, who is now an adult friend, said she threw the book across the room. I’m glad she retrieved it and finished the book afterwards. It isn’t a scene that will rock the socks off any hard core horror buff or anything like that. If it has an impact, it’s because the reader is feeling along with the character — like I was. I wanted to make it painful because hurting people is painful and has consequences. We take it so much for granted that characters get hurt and get up and go on as if nothing much happened. That’s a bad way to act in real life.
I am collecting a following among younger readers than I had NOT anticipated when I wrote Throne Price, in particular. I think the most unexpected thing was discovering they liked to do art based on my series, and to dress up in costumes, and think of songs that match the situations in the stories. It’s delightful, of course, and in retrospect I shouldn’t be surprised since the roots of the ORU are in my own adolescence and rich with latent stories to tell. That’s why I started opening avenues to include talented people with a sincere interest in the themes and stories to take part in the joy of creativity with me. I also work with professional writers and artists but when work has value for me I don’t make a distinction. Two recent examples of young adult art are the commissioned picture of a grab rat by Lisa Proulx and the chibby versions of three characters, by Mel Far, which I included in The Encyclopedia: Guide to the Okal Rel Universe. I asked Mel what I should call the section of the guide book reserved for things like chibbys and she picked “Character Mockery” as appropriate. My characters are in still in shock but I don’t have to tell them everything.
Most Fun About Being a Writer
Connecting with so many different people is the part of promotion I like best. I do school visits, which can be scary (no one cares!) or exhilarating (they love you!). I have done a key-note address about the importance of science in the lives of young women, because without the skills you can’t “fly for your own reason” as I explain it in my online story “Going Back Out”. (Google “Going Back Out” in quotes).
I love interviews because I believe writing is about more than selling books. It’s about having something worthwhile to say. Or ask.
I love meeting other writers and creative people who are encouraged by the growing interest in my work, although as my daughter will tell you I lecture about “don’t give up the day job!” Some days it feels as if the world is too busy filtering their mail and responding to beeps to think about anything for more than thirty seconds, and it’s terribly depressing to me. I have made a career of working with applied computing technology, but I loved computers originally for the sake of the long, quiet hours one could spend in perfect communication with them, programming. So I say, if the Okal Rel Universe can find an audience in the world, the ability to think about something for more than 30 seconds, even for entertainment purposes, can’t be entirely dead.
The Day Job
Yes, I still have a day job and expect I will for the rest of my working life. It’s a good job. I am Instructional Designer for the School of Nursing at the University of Northern B.C. I hold an M.Sc. Computation and a Masters of Library Science in Information Technology. I’ve been an innovator in social computing for twenty years, from founding a freenet to introducing WebCT for online learning at my institution while I was Project Manager for E-Learning there. Some days it is frustrating not to have more time to write, particularly with a novel wanted every six months until I’ve completed the series, and a list of novellas waiting in the wings. But having a day job has benefits. It makes it possible to write for your own reasons, for one thing, instead of needing to cater to the hot topic of the month in order to pay the bills. I used to rankle at the advice on how to succeed which seemed to negate everything I cared about in my own work, but now I think of it as a choice. Dickens and Jane Austen were both great writers. Dickens was a pro who had to churn out work and do the promo circuit stuff every day. Austen didn’t have to feed herself with her writing, although money is always a nice thing for anyone no matter what their circumstances. There isn’t one model for how to be a writer in a meaningful way.
Tips for Writers
If you are a writer, accept it and find a way to make it work in your life. If you aren’t, find another way to honor your love of story-telling and be happy about it because it is all part of the same continuum. I know all too well the angst writers suffer, the hopes and the fears. I believe the world needs writers. But most of the time, being a writer feels like standing in the middle of downtown traffic, yelling into the wind. It is so hard to get a hearing, and it is hard to sell books once you land a publisher. I am making money these days, but I still invest more than I earn in the mission of promoting my work in the world and honoring the involvement of others who believe in it. I do it because I think it is worthwhile. Don’t let people tell you that your work isn’t worthwhile if you know better. Everyone’s got an opinion. Try to learn from your mistakes at the same time. If you are a writer, you will get published in the end, but the outcome may never match your wildest dreams of success. If you love the writing and you believe in your work, that won’t matter. So be sure you are doing it for the intrinsic rewards, and then you won’t be wasting your time, no matter how great or small your success in the eyes of the big, noisy world. Easy to say of course. Hard to live. I wrote a whole short story about the struggle, years ago, called “Going Back Out”. It helped me. Of course, the one thing I do know about this business is writers are as individual as snowflakes and I can’t know whether anything I have to say might be meaningful for someone else. All I can say is, if you are a writer, it’s your reality — embrace it. And ack rel! For English translation, see: (http://okalrel.org/saga/reference/glossary/ack_rel.html)