An autumn of anthologies

As promised, here’s a look into what I’ve been up to…and it’s all about a multi-author series and anthologies!

First is the vampire romance series I co-organized with fellow fantasy author Ophelia Wells Langley, Bound by Blood. (You can visit the series website here to learn more specifics, but the first novella publishes September 1st.) The entire series of novellas is for spicy fantasy romance fans, and has a variety of books (contemporary, period pieces, second-chance romances and LOTS of LGBTQ+ rep), all linked by the common theme of spicy (open door) vampire romance.

Naturally, more than a couple of the stories involve some kind of forbidden romance!

My novella, The Tainted and the Tamed, is set in a brand new world. The country involved is called Kaiden and is heavily drawn from Japanese culture and history, almost like an alternate history of Japan if vampires were power players. I have a minor in Japan Studies, have been studying Japanese for many years (too many to still be this bad!) and was able to base story settings on places I visited while living in Japan when I was younger and more mobile. It was a really interesting (and nostalgic) setting to write.

The Tainted and the Tamed launches September 8th. You can preorder here for 99c if you so choose!

I created a concept of representative rule by secretive vampire chairmen, which opens the door to a whole series…which will be called Vampires of Kaiden. This will happen depending on reader interest…which is not to say that I might just go, “You know what? I feel like writing more vampires!” and write the darn thing anyway.

The second story I was working on this summer is a short story called “Bright Arrow.” This story is related to Horace and takes place within a couple years of those events (Sydney makes a cameo!). I’ll be submitting that to the Indie Fantasy Addicts anthology, which was newly opened to the general pool of writers this year. If it’s not chosen, I’ll probably add some additional scenes and publish it…but I hope I’m chosen! Wish me luck!

Anthology number three is called Shift of the Seasons, organized by MJ Marstens. (You can preorder it here!) Proceeds go to a breast cancer foundation, which is a cause near and dear to my heart. The story I’m writing for it is a “must choose/I won’t share you” MFM romance…that’s two males interested in the same female character, and vice versa. The story is linked to my Season of the Fae series and takes place in the Connor Court well before it was cursed and lost to history, and has a puca female lead.

That’s all the news I have for now! Thanks so much for reading!



Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott: How do I make my book covers shine on social media?

In this inaugural post of the Ask an Indie Author feature, indie fantasy author Ashley Evercott (Enchanting Fate) takes over the blog to solve a question every indie author deals with. Take it away, Ashley!

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott

Ask an Indie Author with Ashley Evercott: How do I make my book covers shine on social media?

The new age of technology has allowed authors to market their books through social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. These platforms can benefit authors and provide free advertising. However, as a newbie author with no graphic design, photography, or video background, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

I have also struggled with learning about this topic, but over time I have learned a few tips and found apps that have helped me make my cover and books shine on social media. Some of these tips/apps might seem obvious to those who excel in creating posts and videos already, but hopefully, they will help the new authors who don’t know where to start.


1. Canva

The first website/app that will be your best friend with creating beautiful Instagram posts is Canva. There are lots of different functions you can use to change a photo’s saturation, brightness, size, etc. You can add animation to your text and images to make your post stand out even more. There are video features you can use if you want to make a reel/TikTtok as well. You can use the free version or pay a monthly subscription for the full access to all their images, fonts, and other features. I personally have gotten by without having to pay the

Tip #1: Download the app on your phone

If you are making a Canva post on your computer, I would advise you to download the app on your phone and look at your design from your phone. The colors will appear different on each device, but the way it’ll appear on your phone will be more important because most people will look at Instagram/Twitter/Facebook from their phones as well.

Tip #2: Study popular author posts

This may seem self-explanatory but you should look up posts other
people have made and study them, especially if they’ve had a lot of likes.
If you’re thinking of a book reveal, or book cover teaser, look up the
hashtags and study what other successful authors did. You can learn a lot about how they compose pictures, use colors, and fonts to attract their audience. Of course, you should never outright copy someone’s post.

Collage maker

2. Collage Maker: Photo Editor

This is the specific app I used to create mood board posts on Instagram. There
are other collage making apps available but this is the one I prefer, and it’s free.
You can collect photos and create an image like the one I made for Instagram:

Moodboard by Ashley Evercott
Moodboard by Ashley Evercott

Mood boards are an excellent way to show your book’s aesthetic and draw an audience in.

Reels and TikTok logos

3. TikTok and Reels

TikTok and Reels have become great ways to post about your book for free. Many authors have found success with making videos on each platform. You can make an account for both and post the same video to reach a wider audience. Although I do not
have a large following, I have found that I have a spike in reads when I post a video about my book and so I highly recommend every author to post on these platforms.

 Tip #1: Learn from the trends

As with the picture post advice, the same goes for TikTok and Reels. Study what other authors are doing and pay attention to what sounds/songs are trending. Use those to your advantage.

Tip #2: You don’t need to show your face

If you are uncomfortable with showing your face on camera and talking, you don’t have to. There are many successful videos that showcase the book alone. For example:

1. Flip through your book’s pages, post quotes from the story and end the video by revealing the cover

2. Show a variety of pretty pictures that show your book’s aesthetic, providing quotes, or draw your audience in with a hook, and top it off with a trendy song.

Tip #3: Lip sync to make relatable content

If you are comfortable showing your face but you still don’t want to use your own voice, use someone else’s! Use a sound and make it about how writing is difficult, or how your characters have a mind of their own. Get creative and make it fun.

Tip #4: Don’t always make it about marketing

An audience will appreciate your videos more if you don’t shove your
book in their faces all the time. You can make videos about your favorite
books, your favorite or least favorite tropes, or, as mentioned in tip #3,
make it about the writing process.

CapCut logo

4. Capcut

Capcut is a video app you can download on your phone and my favorite way to make special effects I cannot create on TikTok or Instagram. There are many free features and fonts available, but if you want access to all the features, there’s a monthly subscription.

Tip #1: Use the 3D zoom effect

For my cover reveal for Enchanting Fate, I used Capcut’s 3D zoom effect on my video. Here is how I achieved that:

1. Insert your cover photo. Click on the photo until a white highlight appears around the photo. Under, scroll right until you find the style box. Click it.

2. Scroll Right and you will find two zoom options. Either will give you a cool effect and you can choose which one you like best.

Capcut with the cover of Enchanting Fate
1. Click the style box
Capcut with the Cover of Enchanting Fate
2. Choose from the two zoom options

Overall, there are many apps to help you with your marketing journey. These are the free tools I found most helpful to me and I hope they will help you make your cover shine, too.

Ashley Evercott

Ashley Evercott was born and raised where it’s mostly sunny and there’s always traffic on the 91. From a young age, she has dreamed of far-off worlds and star-crossed lovers. She is proud to pen these stories to life and combine fantasy and tension-filled, clean romance. When she is not writing, she is consuming as many books as she can and daydreaming at home with her cat and supportive husband.

Ashley’s next book, Enchanting Gold: A Rumpelstiltskin Retelling, will be published either this fall of 2022, or January 2023. Follow her @ashleyevercott on Instagram for more updates.

To learn more about this author, visit

5 Awkward Situations to Make Your MC Shine

Ah, the joys of writing life! In the middle of editing Girl of Glass and Fury (an ongoing endeavor) and reading great books like The Theft of Sunlight, I realized one common thread that makes characters instantly endearing: awkwardness. A special feature was born!


5 Awkward Situations to Make Your Main Character Shine

Since not every character can have the same traits, I started noticing how authors get around this. Awkward situations put a chink in the armor of an otherwise confident and strong character, leaving room for them to rise above, fail miserably (or endearingly) and allow the reader to feel closer to the character.

  1. They lack experience almost everybody has

A late first kiss. An inability to ride in a world of horses. A lack of taste at a highly refined court.

These are just a few of the circumstances that make characters instantly endearing (as long as they know what they don’t know, of course). Characters in these situations allow the reader to travel along with them on their journey. As long as the circumstances aren’t pitiable (think of Daine in Wild Magic, unable to read because of her isolated upbringing), they can bring the reader closer to your main character. Heck, your readers probably root for your MC all the more.

Awkward Main Characters are vulnerable, human and relatable. With the right balance, they can walk the line between cringe-worthy and loveable, especially in a would-be romantic situation. (Think Mr. Darcy.)

  1. A new setting is a lot more complex than they ever thought

When your MC is a fish out of water, it’s the details that really count.

In Intisar Khanani’s The Theft of Sunlight, narrator Rae arrives at court to stay with her cousin. But she has another mission: after a tragedy at home, she arrives with a question about what the government is doing to track the snatchers and help recover stolen children. All of this involves more opportunities, danger and perilous politics than she ever imagines. Yet it’s the moments in which she’s drowning in lace, and the one in which she realizes just what kind of person is helping her (he’s not as savory as country girl Rae had hoped), that we feel the most sympathy for her.

Rae’s life as the hard-working daughter of a horse rancher leaves her out of her depth in the alternately fancy and gritty capital. It’s these little scenes that endear her to readers, even more than her instances of bravery and her drive to do what’s right. We all know what it’s like to make it through any number of complex hard times, only to be overwhelmed by one detail too many. Rae’s character is deeply identifiable in those moments.

  1. Everything they know is wrong

There are a lot of ways to play this one. Here are just a few examples:

  • The privileged MC learns how hard the lives of others are; is she brave/foolhardy enough to try to change it? (Thorn, by Intisar Khanani)
  • The privileged MC who plays an active role in it and must repent (The Black Witch, by Laurie Forest) 
  • The struggling MC who must realize she isn’t the only victim (The Dark Angel, by Meredith Ann Pierce
  • The history the MC has been taught leaves out inconvenient truths and puts everyone in danger (yes, it’s a plug, because it’s one of my favorite devices. I used this one myself in Girl of Shadow and Glass)
  • The seriously misjudged social situation that leads to disaster (Jane Austen’s eternal classic, Pride and Prejudice)
  • The villain isn’t who the MC—and everyone at home—thinks (An Enchantment of Thorns, by Helena Rookwood and Elm Vince)
  • The unknown villain who makes things way more serious than the (in this case innocent) narrator ever imagined (The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden)
  • The MC who lands in a secret world (City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty)
  • The MC who realizes she’s not in the “real” world (Between Jobs, by W.R. Gingell doing double-duty in this post)

I’m sure you can think of even more examples of this!

  1. Their job isn’t what they thought

Your character’s job doesn’t have to say anything about them (after all, not everybody can control what they do. There’s a lot of MCs who end up as thieves). Your character’s approach to their job says a lot about them. Watching them change their views on it gives the reader a front-row seat to your MC’s inner character.

(Slight, vague spoiler ahead.)

Take Cleric Chih in The Empress of Salt and Fortune. They begin the story eager to be to the first to document Thriving Fortune, the former residence of the now-deceased Empress In-yo. Instead, Chih gets a tale of a revolution behind closed doors and all the secrets that entails.

Every character needs a flaw, a rude awakening and/or an unexpected outcome. In The Empress of Salt and Fortune, Chih thinks she has it all together until she hears more of Rabbit’s story.

Though Chih blithely tells Rabbit, the part-time narrator of The Empress of Salt and Fortune, that the abbey she comes from holds countless secrets, Chih doesn’t understand just what that means until they’re entrusted with them. By the story’s end, the pride that drove Chih to become the first to learn those secrets ends up making them shudder. As their companion, Almost Brilliant, puts it, Chih is experiencing duty for the first time.

Though the series moves away from Thriving Fortune, that telling change made me want to stick with Chih, who is a mostly passive MC in The Empress of Salt and Fortune, throughout their future travels.

  1. The unreal meets the everyday in their life

In Between Jobs, by W.R. Gingell, we see this happen in both senses: the MC’s everyday is interrupted by the unreal, and then the unreal is interrupted by the everyday.

When Pet ends up as an actual pet of two fae and one vampire who understands won’t speak English (not until he perfects it, anyway), she gets towed through the worlds Between and Behind, spots a sword pretending to be an umbrella, learns a little Korean on the fly and witnesses violent and bizzare battles she can’t understand. Being adaptable, she mostly manages to keep up, even if she can’t grasp everything she sees, and it’s interesting and hilarious to see her developing her new skills, often to the astonishment of her “three psychos.”

As fantastical (and often awkward) as that is, it’s when a policeman starts poking around that things get really interesting. Pet has to explain or redirect him from what was, until recently, unexplainable. She’s seen it with her own eyes, after all. Seeing those two (technically three) worlds constantly clashing, and watching Pet navigate it, makes for one endearing narrator and a very interesting start to The City Between series.

(Of course, you could also go the other way and have the MC blunder through the unreal. Dent Arthur Dent comes to mind.)

Have you ever put your MC into an awkward situation? Let me know in the comments below!

The Science of Phoenixes

The Science of Phoenixes

Recently, author Sarah K.L. Wilson (Sting Magic) posed a fun question in her newsletter. With her new series, Phoenix Heart, on the horizon, she made her own list of phoenix pros and cons (quoted with permission):


– they light things up!

– always good for toasting marshmallows!

– can’t keep them dead permanently

– vibrant personalities


– they tend to light things on fire by accident. Oops!

– these night owls are dead during the day – which is tough when you need their help!

– fiercely loyal to their riders, it’s hard to make them care about any other loyalties

– when you’re so beautiful, it’s hard not to look at your reflection in a passing lake.

Ms. Wilson then invited her readers to respond with their own pros and cons.

And that’s when I put my nerd thinking cap on.

I’ll be the first to tell you that, unlike my siblings, I’m not in STEM in any way, shape or form. I did pretty badly at science in school, as a matter of fact. But for whatever reason, science news really clicks for me. If only they could write text books like science articles, the whole subject would’ve made a whole lot more sense to me!

Some time ago, I heard an interview with a prominent figure in the field of neuroscience (I very much wish I could tell you her name), who discussed her theory on nutrition and human intelligence. I realize I’d never thought about the monsters and mythological creatures I read and write about that way: how do they eat, and what does that mean for how they function? Assuming this theory is correct, how creatures eat affects their behavior and abilities a lot.

After reading a recent Time article on why we dream, combined with some prior knowledge about neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to change), I also started to think about instinct in monsters and mythological creatures. So, without further ado…

A Scientific Look at the Pros and Cons of Phoenixes

by C.K. Beggan


– Phoenixes always cook their food, and can be persuaded to share.

– No raw meat breath!

The Science: According to a neuroscience theory, cooked food is the key to human intelligence. Cooking makes nutrients more accessible to animals with inefficient digestion (in the case of a phoenix, one can’t fly when it takes hours to digest a simple meal, so digestion must be quick. That means not everything eaten can be broken down and absorbed, which equals fewer nutrients). Cooked food is easier to process and absorb nutrients from, which allows humans to have way more brain function than other animals. It takes a lot of nutrients to keep all our brain activity going, so cooking is key (plus it allows us to eat otherwise poisonous/tough things and increase nutrient sources). Phoenixes are also highly intelligent (of course!) and therefore benefit from cooking food like we do. Their brains would require it!


– Phoenixes are highly adaptable (you’d have to be, to get reborn!).


– They’re vivid, active dreamers. Who wants to be kicked by a flaming bird dreaming about walking somewhere?

– Phoenixes are fairly helpless when reborn.

– Phoenixes may be prone to trauma after difficult or prolonged negative experiences.

The Science (!): Our ability to dream is a direct consequence of how adaptable our brains are (neuroplasticity). Without dreams, the human brain is so adaptable that it would lose space dedicated to sight when we sleep at night/during the long nights of winter when vision is limited. Dreams activate the vision portion of our brain and keep it intact. Animals born with a high degree of instinct, who can function well within hours of birth (e.g. species subject to predators that must be able to run away from day one) don’t have neuroplasticity/adaptability like we do. Therefore, they don’t require dreams like we do, because they won’t lose much by getting some shut eye. Their brains are more fixed. So if phoenixes are adaptable, they must dream like we do.

The consequence of this is that more neuroplasticity also means a period of prolonged danger or a traumatic event changes the brain. This is why humans experience PTSD (and/or effects on sleep, digestion, the immune system, you name it). A brain that adapts to danger helps a being in danger stay alive. Adapting back to safe conditions doesn’t happen quickly or easily, though. This could happen to anyone with an adaptable brain, even to the majestic phoenix!

Another example of this (if you even want one!) is that I was surprised by a spider in my bathroom recently. I am an arachniphobe. My brain considers spiders dangerous, so my fight or flight response was immediately triggered (I chose flight). Now I cannot go into that room without checking for a spider because my brain reminds me that spiders appear in my bathroom (and therefore the bathroom may be dangerous and must be approached with caution). Our brains are so flexible it doesn’t take much to create a new pattern of behavior! (On the other hand, if I saw an alligator in the lake, my brain would remind me to be careful around the lake and I’d be safer for it).

So a phoenix may have some hang ups like this, too. (My sister once worked with an arachniphobic sea lion, so even if your phoenix doesn’t have equal-to-human intelligence, it may refuse to go anywhere near webs and shriek). Therefore…


– Despite being mighty, fire-clad animals, phoenixes can be fearful of tiny creatures and refuse to approach them no matter how much you try! A phoenix frightened of pigeons would be VERY inconvenient.

– Travel delays shall ensue.

Thanks for joining me on this mythological geek-out! If you’re a writer yourself (or just a mythology buff), I hope it encourages you to think of these creatures in a whole new light.



PS: Do you think this should be a series of articles? What mythological creature do you think should be next? Let me know in the comments below!

Free and 99c Sci-Fi & Fantasy is here!

Hi guys!

The first 9 chapters of Girl of Shadow and Glass will be available as a free download through BookFunnel and this awesome sale…


The promo begins today (Feb. 19th) and ends March  1st. Check it out and let me know if you make any great new discoveries! I’ve found some interesting authors through BookFunnel, and it’s used by a lot of the great indie authors I review here, too.

Giant Coffee Mug on Books

What I’ve been reading lately

Twelve Days of Faery, by W.R. Gingell. A quick and joyful read, with Gingell’s unique brand of enchantress as a prominently featured character. I highly recommend it! The full review, though, is forthcoming.

Tapestry of Night, by Elm Vince. Just. Right. I loved all the plot elements, intrigue and especially the alchemist. Another review forthcoming! On a side note, the cover is pretty darn awesome.

What I’ve Been Working On

Comics! Princess Disasterface is in the works, and I can honestly say I’d be done by now if I was sticking with my old program. Sigh…time to go back I think.

What I’ve Been Crafting

Tunisian crochet mask extenders, for the whole family! If you don’t know what Tunisian crochet is, it’s like crochet with a very long hook and a knitting needle-style stopper at the end. And if you don’t know what a crochet hook is…I guess I can’t help you! (On a side note, there’s no shortage of Tunisian crochet patterns and stitch tutorials on Pinterest!)

Cheers and be well,


Riveting Reads Promo (KU and 99c Books)

I’m pleased to share a book promo with 90+ titles with you, each in Kindle Unlimited or for 99c. (Yup, I said 90!)

Included genres are action, adventure, mystery, suspense, sci-fi and fantasy. And yours truly is a part! I’ve extended the 99c sale price for Girl of Shadow and Glass until March just for this fun promo. Check it out!


What I’m reading: Anna Velfman’s Icedancer, at last! The sequel to Snowblind, a previous Indie Book Spotlight, has been high on my TBR list since it came out. And now it’s time!

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Contrast, Part III: Lessons from Bestselling Books

Welcome back to the last of this three-part blog series on how contrast makes for a great read. In this post, I’ll also touch on how classic techniques from another genre made a story more exciting.

Use Contrast Part III

III. The contrast of a known commodity and a total mystery

Want to keep the pages turning? Take a look at what Bethany C. Morrow did with her two teen narrators in A Song Below Water(You can also find my review here.)

Being a siren is dangerous—hated, too. Tavia is a black teenage girl dealing with how the world perceives and treats her. She’s also a closeted siren in fear of being ripped from the too-safe world her father created. To her father, the worst thing that could happen is if everyone found out who Tavia really is.

And then there is A Song Below Water‘s other narrator, Effie. Effie swims like a dolphin, suffers from itchy, dry skin that no lotion in the world can correct, and, for a few days every year, dons a mermaid tail. But that last part’s make-believe for a Renaissance fair. The rest of the year she’s (cheesy pun warning) a fish out of water.

Shy and in pain from the loss of her mother, Effie has never known her father. It’s clear that something is going on with her, but she has no idea what. The survivor of a frightening event, the strange and scary just keeps following her. Tavia knows exactly what can go wrong. Effie can’t even guess.

That undercurrent of fear and mystery helps keep A Song Below Water moving at a brisk pace. It borrows a few tricks from the mystery and horror genres to do so.

With Tavia, we immediately know she is under threat. Tav knows what could happen, and she has to stay one step ahead to stay safe. Will she ever stop running and confront what stalks her? With Effie, on the other hand, we see the wary detective on a case too close to home, full of the drive to know and the fear of what she’ll find. The few clues she has make no sense, and those who could help her aren’t talking.

Instant suspense. That tension is key to keeping the reader engaged.

The Lesson: The relationship between these two found-family sisters is beautiful. But the contrast between them—their opposing but equally anxious what-ifs as they question themselves and their world—keeps the reader moving in dogged pursuit of the outcome. A Song Below Water showed me a new rule for writing:

For every character certain of their abilities and who they are, there should be another who hasn’t got a clue.

That’s all! Thanks so much for joining me. I hope these posts will help you to take another look at your own favorite books. Write on!

Contrast, Part II: Lessons from Bestselling Books

Welcome to part 2 of 3 of this blog post series. Today I’m looking at the mind-bending, plot-twisting effect that differing beliefs about a beloved character can add to a story.

Use Contrast Part II

II. The contrast of how a character is perceived/how he perceives himself

This form of contrast can add depth to both plot and individual characters. The City of Brass is a masterclass in it.

Protagonist Ali is a morally upright (some would say uptight) djinn in S.A. Chakraborty‘s first-in-series novel. He’s wholesome and good amidst political schemers and tales of bloody sieges. He’s not without a temper and he can be subversive—if it’s for what’s right. But for a prince, he’s not great at politicking and pretenses. In fact, he’s easily fooled. Even Nahri, the story’s fellow narrator, can’t help but go against her streetwise, suspicious nature when she gets to know him.

Then there’s how others view Ali: he’s a zealot, a bigot, a person who’s unbending and who can be uncaring of those who don’t fit his world view (in this case, an entire tribe he’s supposed to protect). In the eyes of those in power, that makes Mr. Play-by-the-Rules as potentially dangerous as the rebels threatening Daevabad. (Reminder: he really is a protagonist. Right?!)

As contradictory as those views of Ali are, it’s all true. Ali gets to be the hero of his own story. He knows he has faults, but doesn’t see them all or understand they’re that big. Is he biased against the djinn? Sure, but to him they’re fire-worshippers; that goes against God’s law. In Ali’s mind, it’s all justified. He’s an upstanding citizen and a man of faith, a person trying to do what’s right. He certainly doesn’t realize other people’s view of him is so different from his own. Even when warned, he doesn’t get it.

At the same time, people close to Ali are swayed by their feelings and don’t perceive all of him. Which means everybody, including Ali, can’t possibly have all their expectations met—especially anyone who wants him to change. It’s realistic, and it’s a major plot point just waiting to happen.

Better still, he’s not the only central character who gets this treatment.

The Lesson: The City of Brass makes a theme of perception versus reality. This drives the plot effectively, and both the story and characters reach ever-greater depths because of it. The reader never quite knows what to think—and it makes The City of Brass so interesting, even after the last page is turned.

This technique is also perfect for a series. I still don’t know what to make of the characters in The City of Brass, and have been forced to reserve judgment until I read the other two books. Which means I feel that much more compelled to do so.

In short, if you want to add depth, interest and potential intrigue to your plot and characters, let one of your primary characters be the hero of his or her own story—and let the others disagree (or at least feel a lot less sure about whether that’s true).

This blog series concludes next week with Part III. See you then!

Contrast, Part I: Lessons from Bestselling Books

Over the next three weeks, I’ll be sharing some writing tips I picked up. Where did I find them? In some very famous books by skillful authors, books I couldn’t stop thinking about.

I wanted to know just what made these books so memorable, and what drove me to keep turning the pages. Some of it has to do with a generous helping of mystery, and some of it, like today’s tip, comes from a look into a character’s past. But after thinking about it, I noticed these books all have one thing in common: well-developed characters that leap off the page and plotlines that strike a chord. And to make that happen, the authors used contrast.

This is the first of three types of contrast that helped bestselling writers build deeper, more memorable stories and characters.

Use Contrast Part I

I. The contrast of innocence and (cruel) reality

In this lauded work of historical fiction, the contrast between the characters’ innocence and reality drives the main character’s choices and creates the book’s theme.

In The German Girl, by Armando Lucas Correa, heroine Hanna shares a free-roaming, adventurous childhood with Leo, who swears he will marry her as soon as they’re old enough. In the midst of being forced out of their homes by Nazis, their relationship is sweet and wholesome—with an almost inevitably tragic end. But it doesn’t truly end there.

Hannah carries Leo with her throughout the rest of her life. Through every atrocity she sees and no matter how she suppresses it, that bittersweet memory is there. Leo is a force long after he’s left the story, their innocent love representing everything that is simple and good.

This does three things: anchors the book in a relatable emotional core; portrays Hannah as more than just a victim (she gets a life of her own affected by but predating the forces of the story); and provides respite from (and therefore depth to) a tragedy.

That contrast is how the cruelty in The German Girl becomes more than just acts of outright evil: it’s also found in the indifference of the people around Hannah. If we never saw what no-strings-attached caring looked like in the story, that theme would be weaker and easily missed.

Here’s another example of it working, this time from the fantasy genre. In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, innocence versus cruelty is the reason the Hound’s attachment to Sansa lifts her storyline: it’s a break from the almost unending selfishness and cruelty in King’s Landing. If there is no touch of relatable innocence, all that backstabbing and abuse of power blurs together.

This contrast humanizes the Hound (there’s a heart in there somewhere) and gives supposed good guy/victim Sansa a critical flaw (she can’t see past how ugly and scary he is. Cersei ain’t the only selfish gal in King’s Landing).

See how innocence versus cruelty brings more to a story than just good versus evil?

The Lesson:  Innocence is something everyone relates to. It triggers the reader’s reflex to be protective, which makes the reader invest in the character’s fate. The Hound becomes unforgettable in an onslaught of characters and names. The German Girl leaves an indelible mark, but it’s pure-hearted Leo and his relationship with Hannah—the way these innocents only wanted to live a normal life together—that breaks readers’ hearts the most.


That’s all for now! See you next week for Part II.

Free ebook, (always free) comics!

First post of 2020!  I hope you all had a great New Year…and if not great, then perfectly quiet and uneventful. 🙂

A Shadow in Sundown is about to start a promotion (Jan. 8 – Jan. 12, 2020)…so, any second now!  The digital book will be free to all readers for 5 days only.  The writing is “clean” (no swearing or excess violence), it’s written in a unique but easy to read dialect (a combination of post-colonial American and contemporary informal/folksy) that really brings it to life.  It’s suitable for young adult readers on up (I personally still read a lot of YA–it is my first love, after all).

This is the story of a fragile, “frail” girl who gets caught between two worlds: the one she was born in and the one she visits every day, where she is taught by some very dangerous residents…Do check it out!  Don’t forget to write a review and be honest.

Here’s a little sample of Chapter 1 to pique your interest:

I’m five minutes late to leave the house when Mum starts sewing up my jumper, with me already inside it and raring to go.  I’m so hungry I can barely get my shoes on.

“I’m going to miss my meal, Mum,” I complain.

“’Course you won’t.”  Mum keeps sewing, and frowns when she runs out of fabric before she runs out of me.  “They wouldn’t let you starve.”

“Teacher Imila would.  She’s strict.”

“No one’s that strict, dear.  The shadows know they have to be careful with you.  Your father and I made sure of it.  Hold still, Kith.  You know I can’t have you catching cold.”

“It’s hot out, Mum.”

“Then I can’t have the sun getting you.”

I lift my arm despite her fussing.  I can count two ribs where the stiff fabric doesn’t meet.  The ancient bone needle is dangling, and Mum snatches it before it can graze me.  I don’t care about scratches from little needles, but I do care about missing my meal.

Mum tuts when I say as much, but then she makes a knot and breaks the thread anyway.  “I bet there’s ten-thousand shadows in their World, and out of all of them who might be teachers, Imila has to be yours.  Go on, Kith.  And slow-like!  Not like yesterday.”

As soon as I get my bark-bottomed shoes tied I ignore Mum’s warning and run straight out the door.  Home is up north of the Old Well, so it’ll take me much too long if I take a cautious walk, and then I’ll be hungry till goodness knows when.  Besides, there’s nothing like running through the valley with the warm wind of the yielding months slapping at my skin.  People like Mum can’t understand.  No one in Sundown can.

Of course my Auntie Arlhabee sees me while she’s out in the garden my mum helped her plant.  As soon as she realizes it’s me whizzing by, she starts to yell.

“Kith Canto, you stop your running right away!  You know what happens to children like you when they stumble and fall!  Oh, and look at you with your bare arms and legs!”

“Anon, Auntie, I’m late to get to the Gate and I haven’t any time!” I call over my shoulder.

I veer away from her garden, all nimble-like as only I can be.  She gasps when I almost stumble, but I manage and go on.  These shoes are supposed to protect my feet from twigs and stones and the like, but most of the time they just make things go half as fast and twice as clumsy, and it’s the Eighth Month besides.  I’d much rather be barefoot.

“You stop this instant!” she keeps shouting, and she looks like she’s about to pull out all her pretty, gossamer black hair.  “I’ll get your Uncle Cahn’s wheelbarrow and take you down there myself, before you break your neck!”

I just go on running and let the summer wind hit me in the face.  I get scolded wherever I go, and a couple of the more solid folk look like they might grab at me.  Once, I feel someone catch at the curls flying out from my back.  Thank goodness he or she thinks better of it and I can keep going without breaking stride.

I have to shorten up my steps to head down the slope, and that’s when I realize I got a follower for real this time.  I look over my shoulder and brace myself like I really am gonna get grabbed, but it’s only my friend Finchoa.

Finchoa looks like she’s been chasing after me for I don’t know how long, and she sure won’t be grabbing me ’cause she can’t hold on to so big and solid a thing as my thin little arm, even if she tried with all her might.  She looks like she’s breathing as hard as me just to skim on over.

I can tell she’s relieved when I stop between the willows, ’cause now there’s something to block the wind.  She’s a wispy one, and it’s hard for her to move around when there’s so much as a stiff breeze on.  She’s got no weight to her at all.

“Oh, Kith, why do you have to do that and scare everybody half to death?” she whines while I let her catch up.  I’m working on getting my breath back myself, and easing the pain in my shins so I don’t trip down the slope and land face-first into a big old tree.

“Nobody in all the World knows what it’s like to starve but me,” I tell Finchoa, “so I can’t be late, and you’ll just have to take my word as to why.”  I try to rub the cramping out of my shins while Finchoa perches beside me on the ridge, and I guess she radiates concern.  ’Course she’s concerned for the wrong reason, which she always is, being the worrying type.  The only thing I worry about is not getting my meal.

I’m so close to the Gate now that I can feel the hair standing on my arms and the back of my neck.  The wispy folk like Finchoa can never tell, but ones like me and my family can feel a shadow within a furlong.  Doesn’t matter what kind of a breeze there is, our hair is gonna stand straight up and our skin is gonna prickle when there’s a shadow on the frontier.  Sometimes I even get a cold feeling, like when I’m standing at the mouth of the old dried Well and the cool air comes up from underground.

I kind of hate my lessons with the shadows all hanging around me.  But I love to eat, and I need to eat, so what’s the use in complaining?  If it weren’t for the shadows I’d be dead.  That’s the awful truth of it.

Phew!  So that’s my sales pitch done.  In other news, we have a brand new episode of Princess Disasterface!  Episode 2.1 is here.  We’re back on our regular timeline, though it won’t be the last we’ve heard of Leona and that mysterious cheeseburger-topped present.  I think the final panel is my favorite I’ve drawn so far!

Cheers to you all,