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Today’s guest is New York Times and USA Today bestselling fantasy author Jennifer Estep! She’s the author of the urban fantasy series Elemental Assassin, the young adult urban fantasy series Mythos Academy and Black Blade, and the paranormal romance series Bigtime (featuring superheroes/villains!). Crown of Shards, her epic fantasy trilogy beginning with Kill the Queen, was recently completed with the release of Crush the King last month.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep Book Cover Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep Book Cover Crush the King by Jennifer Estep Book Cover

Greetings! Thanks to Kristen for asking me to guest blog. I appreciate it. 🙂

Over the years, dozens and dozens of people have asked me why I write books. Of course I love books, reading, writing, and storytelling, but I especially love the fantasy genre. Assassins, gladiators, superheroes, mythological creatures. I’ve written about all those and more.

Why do I love fantasy so much? Because of all the possibilities. As a writer, you can come up with any kind of magic, spells, myths, creatures, weapons, and more that you want. The possibilities are literally endless in the fantasy genre.

I also think that many of the books, movies, and TV shows that we love as kids influence our writing as adults. For example, one of my favorite TV shows as a kid was The A-Team, which is probably one of the reasons why I love writing action/fight scenes so much. I also loved the Wonder Woman TV show with Lynda Carter, which is probably why I like superheroes so much.

Some of the first fantasy movies that I ever remember watching are the original Star Wars trilogy. (Even though there are spaceships and droids, I still think that Star Wars is more fantasy than sci-fi). But one thing always bothered me about the original Star Wars trilogy.

Why didn’t Leia ever get to become a Jedi?

Don’t get me wrong. Leia was cool, smart, confident, and kick-butt in her own way. But I always wondered why Leia didn’t go with Luke to confront the emperor in Return of the Jedi. Why didn’t she get her own lightsaber? Why didn’t she use the Force as much as Luke did? Why didn’t she get to help turn Darth Vader back to the light? After all, he was her father too.

I used to imagine that Leia did become a Jedi, that she did go confront the emperor, and that she and Luke defeated the emperor together. Sometimes, I would even imagine myself as a Jedi, wielding a lightsaber and battling the bad guys. (For the record, I loved that Rey got to do all of those things in the new trilogy and that the audience found out that Leia did train as a Jedi with Luke.)

In high school, I read fantasy books by David Eddings, Terry Brooks, and J.R.R. Tolkien, among many, many others. Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted to write my own fantasy books and tell the stories that I wanted to tell. Why? Because part of me still wondered why Leia never got to become a Jedi.

So here I am, more than 35 books later. I write in first person, usually from my heroine’s point of view, so a big part of my stories is having female characters who are the heroes and who do get to use swords and wield powerful magic and who do save their friends, families, and kingdoms. And I plan on telling those stories for many years to come.

They might not be Jedis, but my heroines will always be warriors.

What about you all? What are some of your favorite fantasy books, movies, and TV shows? What fantasy stories do you want to tell?

Jennifer Estep Photo Jennifer Estep is a New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author prowling the streets of her imagination in search of her next fantasy idea.

Jennifer writes the Crown of Shards epic fantasy series. Crush the King, book #3, was released on March 17.

Jennifer is also the author of the Elemental Assassin, Mythos Academy, Bigtime, and Black Blade fantasy series. She has written more than 35 books, along with numerous novellas and stories.

In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys hanging out with friends and family, doing yoga, and reading fantasy and romance books. She also watches way too much TV and loves all things related to superheroes.

For more information on Jennifer and her books, visit www.jenniferestep.com or follow Jennifer on FacebookGoodreads, and Twitter. You can also sign up for her newsletter.

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Today’s guest is K.S. Villoso, author of The Agartes Epilogues series and Blackwood Marauders. The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, the first novel in her epic fantasy trilogy Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, was recently republished by Orbit Books with the next two books in the series following soon—The Ikessar Falcon in September and the new conclusion next year. I’m excited for the rest of this series since The Wolf of Oren-Yaro is exactly the type of book I love to read: a character-driven story with a vivid voice that captured my attention from the very first line and kept me riveted until the very end.

The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K. S. Villoso Book Cover

Queen Talyien is a badass.

At least, this was the seed from which the entire concept of this series sprouted. She is the first woman I’ve written this way. Before Talyien, many of my women characters were not warrior types. Most were non-assuming, brimming with strength that bubbled beneath the surface as they faced their challenges with quiet resolution. Years later, when I started in the field of engineering, I learned the textbook definition of strength: a material’s ability to withstand load, to carry a burden.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t have the catharsis, the power fantasy that comes with the imagery. I enjoy the genre for much the same reason as many people—I really, really like swords, and fighting with swords, and the romantic notion that evil is something can be destroyed with a few strikes to the jugular. It is the allure of epic fantasy in the backdrop of a chaotic, unpredictable real life—the idea that our struggles aren’t senseless. That it will always lead up to a big, final battle that will save the whole world. And I’m not saying we can’t have that…

But I wanted Talyien to be more than her sword.

She has to be. More than a warrior, she’s also a politician and a mother and a person, and the answer to how to balance all these things—her responsibilities (deserved or not) against her personal desires—doesn’t lie in her ability to wield a blade. Otherwise, would she be any better than the men who laid the path of violence that led to the troubles of her life as it is? Would she be any better than her mass-murdering tyrant of a father? Ripping a body in half can’t solve all of Talyien’s problems, and it certainly can’t feed the poor. For a politician, it is a particularly dangerous road to walk down.

In many ways, I wanted to confront the idea of the male power fantasy with a female power fantasy, which in the current state of things is not at all as simple as cutting down enemies and bloodshed. I wanted to go beyond the woman who should have been a boy and start with a woman who has it all: power, family, purpose, physical ability, wealth, the confidence to chase after what she thinks she wants. Yet the issues unique to many women, even women in her position, remain: still that concern, deep down inside, about your choices, whether you’re a good mother or not or should’ve even been a mother in the first place, and the mistakes you’ve made, how the world judges you for it, but you’re the glue and it’s too much and you’re just one woman but you have to figure things out anyway.

That this physically capable woman is also given to second-guessing, and is sensitive and thoughtful on the inside, is not an accident. She could have ordered her husband killed in the first page, but she doesn’t. Talyien’s innate prudence might just very be her land’s saving grace: that the one person who has every reason to want everything go down in flames might stay her hand. And if she can learn the wisdom to be kind not just to others but also herself, learning to face adversity with true strength, then perhaps she might save her people.

There are, after all, many ways to be a badass.

 

K.S. Villoso Photo
Photo Credit: Mikhail Villoso
K.S. Villoso writes speculative fiction with a focus on deeply personal themes and character-driven narratives. Much of her work is inspired by her childhood in the slums of Taguig, Philippines. She is now living amidst the forest and mountains with her husband, children, and dogs in Anmore, BC. You can find her at www.ksvilloso.com, Twitter, or Facebook.

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Today’s guest is CW, owner of The Quiet Pond, a fantasy-themed book blog with an ongoing narrative centered on your time spent at the Pond with its magical animal caretakers running through it. It’s a unique, welcoming site inspired in part by a love of role-playing games, and I think it’s one of the best book blogs there is—not just because of the premise but also because of the friendly atmosphere, thoughtful reviews, diverse book coverage, and support of marginalized authors. I’m delighted that CW is here today sharing the story behind the creation of The Quiet Pond!

The Quiet Pond Blog Header

I have had the honour of people asking me about my inspiration for The Quiet Pond, my book blog. The short version of the story is that everything about The Quiet Pond was created by a series of, what Bob Ross would call, ‘happy accidents’. I picked up a pen, opened Photoshop Elements, and just drew, and that’s how The Quiet Pond was born.

Here, however, is the long version of the story.

Growing up, I always loved to draw. When I was as young as four, I was compiling compendiums of monsters and fantastical creatures for my parents to stick on their office walls. For years I wanted to be an ‘artist’. When I learned that there could be different types of artists, I decided I wanted to be an ‘illustrator’. And when I was filled with stories of how ‘artists don’t make money’ by well-meaning adults in my life, I changed my career trajectory and decided that I wanted to be an architect. (Not, I realise now, because I wanted to be an architect, but the idea of drawing all day, even if it was floor plans and houses, felt like a dream come true for me. Plot twist: I ended up studying Psychology and Sociology.)

So when I picked up the pencil and drew a mermaid for #Mermay in May 2017, it felt like a homecoming. I remembered why I loved art — I loved creating something, loved the idea that something that I created can take a life of its own. However, I was also struck with how out of practice I was. My skill was not on par with my vision — and this frustrated me. I decided that I would draw every day. I was starting to consciously incorporate diversity into my art, so I also decided that I would draw fanart of diverse books that don’t get that much fanart. I would practice every day, which meant that I would improve every day, which meant after months or years of practice, I could become the artist that I dreamed I could be.

Granted, if I had to pick a year to pick up art again, 2017 may not have been the best choice. I had just started my postgraduate degree, was balancing a volunteering job and was working two jobs. But, in my perception at the time, that didn’t matter. I wanted to be good at art, desperately. Sure, writing a research thesis while completing seven intense classes across the year was gruelling. But I believed I had to make room for my dreams and if I didn’t draw I wouldn’t improve and get better.

I started sharing my art on social media — it was a way for me to share what I had drawn with the world so that it could be enjoyed by others too. I also found that it kept me accountable. The first few pieces weren’t fantastic, but I was still relishing in the very act of drawing and creating. Sharing on social media felt like a bonus: I shared a piece, people liked it, and I rushed to draw the next fanart. I started figuring out my style and it was clear to me that I was improving with each piece.

I never realised this until much later, but sharing my art on social media became addictive. I genuinely believe that there are very few artists out there who will say that they don’t enjoy people loving and praising their art. I was no exception. Sharing art on social media started to give me that rush or ‘high’, the kind that made me feel validated and complete. But as we all know, what happens after a high is an inevitable ‘low’ — and I felt those lows intensely. After several months, I began chasing that high of sharing my art. I felt validated when people liked my art. I was crushed when people didn’t respond in ways that I hoped. Regardless of whether I was feeling a high or a low, both motivated me to improve, to get better, to work on the next piece of fanart. It became a vicious cycle, one that both fed me and made me insatiably hungry.

In the summer of 2018 (December to February for us in the Southern Hemisphere), I finished the first year of my postgraduate degree — and started getting daily anxiety attacks. Being an Asian woman who was surrounded by narratives of the importance of suppressing and swallowing my pain, I didn’t tell many people about my episodes. But of those that I told, they all encouraged me to see a counsellor because my episodes, initially lasting five minutes, began to stretch to three to four hours at a time. (It’s funny: if any of my friends told me that they were experiencing the symptoms and attacks that I was experiencing, I would single-handedly have hauled them to the counsellor’s office. I’m a Psychology major! And yet, when it came to me, I strongly resisted the idea of seeing a counsellor, even though it was free.)

So here I am sitting at the counsellor’s office. I tell her that it’s probably the after-effects of my intense year of postgraduate study. I went to my sessions diligently. I had just done a year studying emotion regulation — yes, the irony! — and used jargon from the academic literature that I was familiar with as a defense mechanism, to hide the fact that I actually did not know what was wrong with me. I wanted the counsellor to know that I knew my emotions because I studied emotions. But the counsellor whom I saw, in all her wisdom, saw through my bullshit. She asked me about the pressures that I was placing on myself; she had picked up on the language that I had used across our sessions and had noticed a pattern. Slowly, I stopped being a pain in the ass and started being more honest and allowed myself to be vulnerable. All of our sessions culminated to a single question, that I think genuinely changed my life: “Imagine your inner self as a child and all the pressures that you put on yourself are adults telling you what to do all the time. How would that inner child feel?”

Reader, I had never felt so vulnerable in my life. I promptly started sobbing my eyes out.

You see, across my sessions, I talked a lot about my art. Not consciously, but it was a big part of my life and I talked about my grand mission to improve. I think my counsellor saw through that: that, yes, I did want to genuinely improve, but I was tearing myself apart from the inside over this huge burden for me to draw, improve, draw, improve, draw, improve. I placed so much pressure on myself, for something I genuinely loved and gave me so much joy, that it was the reason why I was having anxiety attacks.

Needless to say, I was devastated. Perhaps I wasn’t that anxious anymore, because I had decided to step away from my art and take a break, but I was crushed. Reader, I can’t tell you how awful, how heart-breaking it feels to think that you have to choose between your health and your dreams. I chose my health, begrudgingly. If I hadn’t felt like my anxiety was taking away my freedom to be a person that was present and coping well with life, I would have chosen my dreams.

My counsellor then made a suggestion: ‘draw something that makes you happy’ and ‘try and not share it on social media; draw for yourself’.

Sometime after when I got over the heartache of giving up on art, I sat down at my laptop, opened Photoshop Elements, and thought deeply about something that would make me happy. Well, okay, I like animals. I was also very passionate about sustainability and conservation of endangered animals. Earlier that day, I ran into a friend from high school after not seeing her for many years, and an inside joke we had together as teens was this little axolotl dance that we’d do. Have you ever seen an axolotl swimming through the water? They wave their arms in little circular motions and it’s adorable. And because I had bumped into her, I remembered the ‘axolotl dance’ we would do together so I just… drew an axolotl. And what would make it cuter, just for the sake of it being cute? If that axolotl wore a flower hat!

First Drawing of Xiaolong
My first drawing of Xiaolong!

This sounds very dramatic, but something happened when I drew her: I just laughed. I’m not an expressive person when I’m alone, but I genuinely just started giggling because this little axolotl was just so darn cute. I had no idea at the time that the little axolotl that I drew would eventually become the main character of my book blog, The Quiet Pond. I called her Xiaolong, which means ‘small dragon’ in Chinese, so that an important part of me was now a part of her too.

For some reason, I felt very invested in creating a little universe of small animal characters. Drawing them was easy too and didn’t stress me out because they had very simple designs. Over the next few weeks, I drew Varian, who is a nonbinary toad who likes to sew, and then I drew Gen, a turtle who likes to do gardening, and then Amina, a hedgehog bard because I always found wayward hedgehogs in my garden. They all possessed magic because I just honestly love the idea of magical animals who aren’t really doing anything amazing or extraordinary, but are just living humble and quiet lives by a magical and mysterious pond that is capable of extraordinary power and goodness.

When I started crafting stories for them, something that was important to me was that I wanted Xiaolong’s voice to be full of hope. Xiaolong’s characterisation was easy — she’s a chipper axolotl who loves everyone, welcomes everyone, and accepts everyone for who they are. She is kind, she is sweet, and she is excited about life, not because she has a grand mission but because she’s simply in awe of the simple but daily miracles that happen every day. Although there are times where it feels easy to forget, I do genuinely believe in the things that Xiaolong says or thinks. I wanted Xiaolong to represent the joy that I want to see in the world and the kindness that I wish we all showed each other — and I subconsciously wanted to remind myself of this too.

At the time, I had no idea what I was doing it or why I was doing it, but I did know that drawing these magical pond animal characters, even if it didn’t really make sense, made me so happy. My motto when creating the Pond is to ‘make it happier, make it cuter’. Moreover, I found that, when things started to get difficult again, The Quiet Pond and its universe was my tether to joy. It reminded me of the good that does exist, what is worth fighting for, and even on my rainy and cynical days, that there is a part of me that believes in all the goodness that the Pond celebrates.

So that is my inspiration for The Quiet Pond: what made me happy at the time, in a time when I desperately needed something genuinely happy and good. The Quiet Pond, its characters, and its mission of promoting diverse literature and uplifting the works of marginalised authors represents my greatest and most daring hopes in the world. The Quiet Pond came to be because it was my attempt to craft my own joy. It’s only been a year and a half since I created The Quiet Pond, but all things considered, I think I did a good job. I am trying to be at peace with the present, to worry less about the artist that I want to be, to just enjoy art and what I can create for myself and for others, and to just continue making cute things that make people smile, even if it is tacky as hell.

CW CW is a Kiwi-Asian book blogger from the Aotearoa (New Zealand). She loves middle grade and young adult diverse literature, and you can find all her thoughts about them in her fantasy-themed book blog, The Quiet Pond. When CW isn’t reading, you will probably find her drawing wholesome and heartfelt art or taking photos of her five chickens.

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Today’s guest is science fiction writer Emily Skrutskie! She’s the author of The Abyss Surrounds Us, The Edge of the Abyss, and Hullmetal Girls. Bonds of Brass, her latest novel and the entertaining, fast-paced first book in a space opera trilogy about a pilot and his best friend/crush/formerly-secret heir to the Empire, is out today!

Bonds of Brass by Emily Skrutskie Book Cover

The Badass Mothers of SFF

Many readers have a BrandTM. A type of character you just can’t help but love. For some, it’s fancy sad boys. For others, it’s fierce girls with knives. But for me, there’s one character type that I rank above all others. One kind of character I just can’t get enough of.

Bad. Ass. Moms.

I’m not really sure where it came from. My own mother is a planetary geologist and badass in so many respects—a woman who’s held a career in a male-dominated field since the Voyager days AND finds the time to whip up the most incredible Slovak and Slovenian desserts when she’s not busy, oh, I don’t know, parsing data coming back from the New Horizons mission or jetting around the world to encourage other women to pursue STEM. Maybe it’s that. Maybe it’s the freshness inherent in the archetype. I’ve grown up with so many stories where young women go on adventures until at last they can comfortably settle into domesticity and live happily ever after. It feels like a breath of fresh air every time I see a story about a woman whose future included both homemaking and continuing adventures.

Whatever the reason, the fact remains: I sit up straighter every time a story throws a cool mom at me. Today, I want to share some of my favorites.

The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin Book Cover Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh Book Cover

1. Essun, from The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin. It’s difficult to talk about just one fraction of the Broken Earth trilogy without talking about the genius of the whole of it, but one of my favorite aspects of the book is how deeply it dives into motherhood and all its complexity. The story begins with Essun’s quest to avenge her murdered infant son and rescue her daughter from the father of her children, who has turned on them for their orogene abilities. As the trilogy progresses, Essun must reckon with her daughter’s world-shaking, possibly world-ending powers and her own, and the delicate interplay of managing your own abilities and trying to train the next generation to be better in the face of what might be the apocalypse-for-good-this-time had my heart in my throat with every page.

2. Mrs. Silver, from Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh. I was already all in on Silver in the Wood before Mrs. Silver showed up, but when she all but kicks down the door halfway through the novella, I felt like I’d been given the most incredible unexpected gift. The story is about Tobias, the wild man and local legend who tends the woods around Greenhollow, and Henry Silver, the hapless heir to the local estate who doesn’t realize that the gruff groundskeeper he’s been flirting with and the folk story he’s been tracking are one and the same. When shenanigans threaten Henry’s life, in storms his mother, a badass monster hunter ready to square up for her kid and team up with her son’s new flame to save his life.

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller Book Cover Bloodline by Claudia Gray Book Cover

3. Masaaraq, from Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller. I’m a known whale aficionado. I love weird mind-bonding tech. And when you tell me that a story has a lesbian grandma mentally nanite-bonded to an orca who kicks off a whole mess of trouble when she rides into town on its back with a polar bear in tow on a mysterious mission—well. Masaaraq is the beating heart of the story, and when Miller artfully draws all the threads around her and her role in her family, I wanted to shake his hand and thank him for writing my ideal read.

4. Leia Organa, from Bloodline by Claudia Gray. In Bloodline, Claudia Gray gives us our first real glimpse of Leia handling the complications of being a mother, a senator, and Vader’s daughter. The Star Wars films never gave her the time to process all these facets of herself onscreen, but Gray does it with a deft hand, painting an aching portrait of a woman exhausted by both duty and the vicissitudes of image that stand between her and doing her job. I deeply love seeing this era of Leia’s life, and it’s my secret wish that someday we’ll get to hear even more about it—especially if it’s Claudia Gray writing it, because she just nails Leia’s voice.

Jade War by Fonda Lee Book Cover Rebelwing by Andrea Tang Book Cover

5. Kaul Wenfrom Jade War by Fonda Lee. Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga is fresh as hell in so many aspects. It’s a fantasy where technology is somewhere around the 1970s, an East Asian spin on Godfather-style mob movies, and so richly built that you could lose yourself for days in its world. One of the freshest aspects—and the most appreciated for me—is Wen, a transcendent standout among fictional mob wives. The second book in the series sees Wen grow into her role in the No Peak clan and into motherhood as she and her husband Hilo start their family and expand their business. I absolutely love the way Lee writes Wen’s strategic, practical point of view, and I can’t wait to see where she goes in Jade Legacy.

6. Sophie Wu, from Rebelwing by Andrea Tang. Rebelwing presents an absolutely fascinating generational dynamic: the parents who won the revolution and the kids they raised in the new order. And of those parents, none is more delightful than Sophie, mother of the novel’s protagonist Pru and the woman who essentially authored the revolution with her writing. When her daughter gets mentally bonded with a cybernetic mecha dragon (I know, right?), Sophie is there to help her through her own revolution—and lend a hand if things get sticky.

Emily Skrutskie Photo
Photo Credit: Mariano Merchante
Emily Skrutskie was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She attended Cornell University and now lives and works in Los Angeles. Skrutskie is the author of Hullmetal GirlsThe Abyss Surrounds Us, and The Edge of the Abyss.

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It’s April, and for the ninth year in a row, this month is dedicated to highlighting some of the many women doing wonderful work in speculative fiction! Starting tomorrow, this blog will be featuring guest posts by women doing work in science fiction and fantasy, discussing everything from their experiences and inspirations to thoughts on writing and speculative fiction to the current pandemic. I’m incredibly excited about sharing their essays with you over the next few weeks!

Women in SF&F Month was created after some discussions that took place in the online science fiction/fantasy book community around March 2012 regarding review coverage of books by women and the lack of women blogging about books being suggested for Hugo Awards in fan categories. Seeing the responses to these—including the argument that women weren’t being reviewed and mentioned because there just weren’t that many women reading and writing SFF—got me thinking about spending a month highlighting women reading, reviewing, and writing speculative fiction to show that there certainly are a lot of us. At that time, April was the earliest this could happen, and I was astounded by the number of authors and reviewers who accepted my invitation to write a guest post, as well as their wonderful pieces.

Things have changed a lot since 2012 and the years that closely followed it, but especially given that everything has seemed under threat lately, I think it’s important that women’s voices continue to be heard and have run the series every April since. One thing that has not changed is that I continue to be astounded by all the wonderful essays that are part of this series, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has written a piece for it.

There’s also an ongoing recommendation list project that has been part of it since the second year. In 2013, Renay from Lady Business not only wrote about her personal experience with finding it difficult to find books by women when she was starting out as a young genre fan but also asked readers to submit up to 10 SFF books by women that they loved. Those individual recommendations were made into a list containing the number of times a work was submitted, and we’ve collected new book recommendations and added to the list every year since.

After combining the entries from 2019 with those from previous years, the list has grown to include 2,710 individual titles, many of which have been recommended multiple times. (There is one book that has been recommended 58 times!) Once again, you can add up to 10 favorite SFF books by women here. If you’ve already added your favorites before (or find it too daunting to narrow down all of your favorites to just 10 books), you can add up to 10 of your favorite SFF books by women that you’ve read in the last year.

If you missed Renay’s essay last year, she wrote about history and described lists like this as follows:

“This is one way of remembering the past and writing the story for the future to look back on. It’s small, but history is a collection of small stories of human endeavors.”

I love this description and think it gets straight to the heart of it. Thank you, Renay!

I’m excited to start the guest posts tomorrow! This week’s schedule is as follows:

Women in SF&F Month 2020 Week 1 Graphic

April 7: Emily Skrutskie (Bonds of Brass, Hullmetal Girls, The Abyss Surrounds Us)
April 8: CW (The Quiet Pond)
April 9: K. S. Villoso (The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, The Agartes Epilogues)
April 10: Jennifer Estep (Crown of Shards, Elemental Assassins)

The Leaning Pile of Books is a feature in which I highlight books I got over the last week that sound like they may be interesting—old or new, bought or received in the mail for review consideration (the latter of which are mainly unsolicited books from publishers). Since I hope you will find new books you’re interested in reading in these posts, I try to be as informative as possible. If I can find them, links to excerpts, author’s websites, and places where you can find more information on the book are included, along with series information and the publisher’s book description. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Once again, I hope you are all doing as well as you can be at the moment. And once again, I have not been very good at concentrating on getting any writing done in the last week, so it’s straight to the latest book arrivals today!

A Phoenix First Must Burn Anthology - Book Cover

A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope edited by Patrice Caldwell

This YA speculative fiction anthology with stories about Black girls and gender nonconforming teens was released earlier this month (hardcover, ebook, audiobook). It was edited by literary agent and People of Color in Publishing founder Patrice Caldwell and contains stories by her and 15 other authors, who are listed in the book description below.

The cover reveal on Bustle includes Patrice Caldwell’s introduction, and you can look inside A Phoenix Must Burn on the Penguin Random House website.

This has an amazing author lineup, and stories of hope sound especially wonderful right now!

 

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

With stories by: Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Patrice Caldwell, Dhonielle Clayton, J. Marcelle Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Nicole Davis, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Danny Lore, L. L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Additional Books: