This Saturday, I will be signing books and giving away swag at Baltimore Book Festival!

The Baltimore Book Festival features hundreds of appearances by local, celebrity and nationally known authors, book signings, more than 100 exhibitors and booksellers, nonstop readings on multiple stages, cooking demos by top chefs, poetry readings, workshops, panel discussions, storytellers and hands-on projects for kids, live music, and a thoughtfully curated  food, craft beer, and wine program.

If you're in the area, come out and say hello! I'll have something awesome to give you, and there will be tons of other authors there for you to discover, too.

Between travel, visitors at home, and a bachelorette party for my sister, it's been nutso these past couple weeks. But I finally got to sit down and focus long enough to share some exciting news I got last weekend:

Mud is Kindle Book Award Semifinalist!

Open to all books available on Kindle, this recognition was given to the top 20 selections in each of seven categories. I am so incredibly honored to have Adem's quest on this list, alongside some pretty awesome sounding titles.

See the full list here.

Remember how I told you the manuscript for Tides, the second full novel in the Chronicels of the Third Realm War series, was with my publisher getting all polished up and pretty? I can finally prove it.

The second full novel of the Chronicles of the Third Realm War series is releasing this October!

Check out the official teaser blurb:

Rona didn't ask to be brought back from the Underworld, and now that she is alive again, she’s angry enough to raise hell.

It’s a good thing too, because hell is coming for her. As the realm braces for another round of wars between the Gods and the demigods, Rona’s fate is entangled with the unlikely heroes responsible for bringing her back to life: a golem marked by the Gods and a man with the touch of destiny upon him.

As this questionable duo heads out to face the unknown and stop the realm from destruction, Rona will be damned if they’re going to stop her from coming with them. Together, they embark on a quest to stop the war before it begins. For if they can’t stop the demigods, the entire middle realm of Terath will be torn apart, and everyone in their way destroyed.

But the fate of the realm isn’t the only thing Rona has to worry about, because the past she killed herself to escape is about to catch up to her again.

That's right, I handed the narrative off to Rona, and hold on tight, because she is pissed. It's going to be so awful/amazing, you guys. I can't wait.

And hey, as the release draws nearer, I've got some pretty great opportunities coming down the pipeline, with chances for you to WIN BIG with some swag, gift cards, and my hand-picked all-time favorite novels for you to win.

You can get a jump on the first of these opportunities right now: Get an early digital copy of Tides before anyone else can get their hands on it! All you gotta do is leave a review on Amazon.

Sign up here -- there's going to be some great prizes involved for those who do it, with more details to come soon.

So that instantly infamous James Cameron profile released in The Guardian on Friday.

This is the one wherein Cameron spouted about his newfound ability to be nice on set, even though it doesn't come naturally to him, even though he's actually really nice in person.

And the one where he confessed the terrible catch-22 of being attracted to strong women, because they don't need him enough for the relationship to work, and that's why he's on his fifth marriage.

And the one where he had an odd outburst in response to the very pressing question, "Why didn't Jack just get on the board with Rose?" (BUT REALLY. WHY.)

But despite all this, the greatest contention of the article was Cameron's statement about Wonder Woman, deeming her unfit as a strong female protagonist:

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

Patty Jenkins, direct of Wonder Woman, spoke out in response on Twitter, and I pledged my allegiance to her for the umpteenth time:

“If women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven’t come very far have we.”

Hammer, meet nail's head.

As a female creator who creates female characters, this is a topic I think about a lot, so I wanted to lend my own two cents to this ongoing conversation too.

The idea that every female character needs to be a Sarah Connor is ridiculous, taking women out of one box simply to put us in a new one. It's so ridiculous, it feels more like a self-promotion move to me than a genuine criticism. Or, maybe jealousy.

If we extend this logic, is Rose not a strong female protagonist because she posed for Jack to draw?

Or the true question at the heart of all this, really, is: What is a strong female protagonist?

There are so many answers to this question, which has been asked for decades now, that it's been rendered meaningless.

I no longer care about "strong."

I think there are two crucial things women characters need instead of this.

The first has been talked about a ton: Female characters need agency. Ironically, the best discussion I've read of what this means comes from white male author Chuck Wendig, so go check him out to explore this further if you want.

The second thing women characters need is just more of them.

As long as any female character carries the burden of representing all women, we're not going to get anywhere. It's too much for any single character to represent, and the more generic you make a charact, to make her all-encompassing, the less compelling she becomes as an actual character ... because really, she's not one anymore. She's just the shell of an avatar.

So give me female characters who are loud. Give me female characters who are quiet. I want them tall and short, big and small, old and young. I want them grim and bitter, I want them bubbly and warm. I want them black and Asian and Latina and every part of the LGBTQ spectrum. I want lab geeks and soldiers, ballerinas and mothers. I want them beautiful, awkward, troubled, savvy, broken, wild.

In short I want a lot of them, and I want them to come alive with every shade of humanity. Give. Them. All. To. Me.

We need more stories about women, and we need more women in our stories. 

As an author, I will keep on trying to do my part.

In fact, I first started thinking about my responsibility in this battle about two-thirds through writing the first draft of my first novel, Mud. I realized that for some odd reason, most of my key players were male, and I was mid-arc of a traditional, patriarchal guy-saves-the-girl story. And that was not okay. I wrestled with it a lot as I finished my plotting, and a lot more as I revied, breaking the book back down and rebuilding in into something truer.

If you've read Mud, it probably doesn't take a lot of connecting the dots to see where the inspiration for some of those late-plot twists came from. And I thnk those twists are the best thing about that novel.

These questions and challenges stayed with me as I wrote RainIs Nia a "strong female protagonist"? Wow, even I am not sure how to answer that--it would depend on the definition of "strong" you were using. But she damn sure owns her own story.

I took all this glorious, important baggage with me again into Tides, and I feel it helped make Rona into a truly incredible character. She's not going to be easy to content with, and she's not going to make it easy to come to terms with her.

I can't wait to find out what you make of her in October. Because one thing Rona won't be is ignored, so I don't expect many will feel neutral toward her.

But I made these characters difficult on purpose. I don't want them to be easy to box away.

Because the one thing I never want female characters to be? Pigeonholed. 

The more different variations on female-ness our stories offer, the more complex they are, the more wrestling and consideration they demand of readers, the better it is for all the rest of us, both on and off the page.

 

So maybe you heard, I went to San Diego Comic Con. It was awesome.

The exhibition floor statues! The cosplay! The enthusiasm for everything I love!

But before I went, I was nervous. Really nervous. I was sure this event was going to maul me like a stampede of buffalos.

After all, this is an event known for mayhem, overwhelm and round-the-clock excitement. And I'm ... an extreme introvert.

Plus, I love a lot of geeky things, but am I geeky enough? In the week before the event, I developed an irrational fear of being pulled aside and quizzed by the geek police.

But it was great. I hope to go again sometime. And I learned a lot about how to get the most from the event. Thought I'd share a few tips:

  1. Forget Hall H

    In my opinion, don't throw your dedcation behind hitting Hall H your first time at Comic Con. Not only is that your entire day, it's also your day before. I definitely want to hit Hall H sometime, but first I wanted to get the lay of the land, and be free to chase something on a whim. Besides, I didn't bring my camping gear. (Yes that's right. Hall H requires camping.)

    Think of it this way: The major highlights of Hall H end up online. But that niche comics creator you worship? Her panel probably won't be.

  2. Walk the Gaslamp District

    Plan on some time to just people watch along this main strip directly across from the Conference Center. It's crowded and crazy, but it's amazing! Just like Times Square, but without the creepy off-brand Elmos.

  3. Go with what you love

    For all my fear of not having enough geek cred, several of my most exciting sessions had a ton of open seating. Talking about my heroes got blank stares from some of the other fans I talked to. You know what you love, so go with it. Forget FOMO--it doesn't matter if everyone else is in line for something "big" in the other wing.

  4. Bring snacks

    The food at Comic Con was fine, but at an event like this, every day is a big day. You'll save yourself a lot of money, time and likely some stomach cramps if you bring some of your own (healthier) munchies. I ate a huge breakfast at my hotel, grabbed lunch at Comic Con, snacked all day, and then caught a late dinner out in the city each night.

  5. Venture out

    Speaking of dinner in the city, I strongly recommend planning a little extra time to explore the area. San Diego's a cool city! The hubs and I were hoping to see La Jolla, but weren't able to find the time.

  6. Hit a party

    Typically, I opt out of evening activities at events like this as a critical survival measure. But the parties at Comic Con are designed to blow minds, and they truly deliver. I some some absolutely epic pictures from SyFy's incredible bash at the Children's Museum, and the Rave of Thrones sounded amazing too. I managed to weasle my way into a WETA indstury party. My head almost exploded, being so close to the business.

  7. Rest

    Sleep and downtime matter, especially for you introverts out there. When there is always something that sounds killer going on, at some point, you just have to listen to your body and say enough. Know when you're better off crashing, so you can enjoy the next day of events as much as the day before.

Have you been to San Diego Comic Con? Share your own tips in the comments!

 

I cosplayed! 10 points if you tell me who I am in the comments.

So I went to San Diego Comic Con, and I lived to tell the tale.

What did I bring back with me? A ton of pictures, a few fantastic stories, exciting new professional connections, new books, and a random collection of blurbs to share about what it was like.

SDCC is every bit as massive and overwhelming as the media buzz led me to expect. Madness! On every corner! It was every bit as amazing as I expected, and I hope to go back again sometime.

I hope to go back again in a few years. But for now, here are a few of my biggest highlights from my SDCC 2017 experience:

1. Talking to the other Con-goers

You may have picked up by now that I'm no extrovert. As a rule, I prefer as few peopel as possible. And to talk to those people as little as possible. I'm not shy. I just prefer to be in my own head.

But San Diego Comic Con, much like a writers conference, was one of those special places where odds are, almost anyone you bump itno is my type of people. 

More than once random small talk with someone next to me in line turned into an incredible conversation about the creative industry and craft, and I got to connect with a few awesome people family and friends have wanted me to meet for years. I also quizzed a few author vendors about the value of the con and buying booth space, and they were extremely willing and helpful.

2. That time I crashed an invite-only industry party.

Look. It was an accident. I was told to meet a person at a party, and it happened to be that this was an invite-only industry party. So I was invited, I just, you know, on the list.

Also I was told said party was on the ninth floor. So when I came in and saw the big flashy invite-only, check-in-at-the-door all-dressed-up party table for the third floor, I walked right past it, stepped onto the elevator and pressed 9, thank you very much.

Only when it became clear that there was definitely NO PARTY on the ninth floor did I then go to the third. And what can I say, the back door security was lax. The hubs and I looked at each other, made a silent pact to look like we belonged. Then we walked right past the security guard with a smile and ordered our complimentary movie-themed cocktail.

And not a single person asked us where our wrist bands were all night.

Movie models in the Exhibition Room

3. The Exhibition Hall: Just being in it. 

The spectacle that is the San Diego Comic Con Exhibition Hall cannot be overstated. I could have gotten lost in there, between the life-size statues of DC and Marvel superheroes and tables upon tables of books, for days. Case in point, I did in fact, actually, get lost at one point, and suddenly discovered I was going in the exact opposite direction than I thought. 

Watch your wallet in there--it has a tendency to lighten itself as you acquire one amazing discovery after another.

Rumor has it there was also an It school bus ride in there somewhere, too, but I never found it.

4. My creative heroes, within arm's reach.

Robert Kirkman. Karen Berger. Dave Gibbons. Gail Simone. These and many other of my creative heroes (authors, editors, illustrators, special effects masters) were all there. And I was utterly starstruck.

A side effect of geeking out over these geniuses was that most other Con-goers would give me blank stares. (To be fair, I did opt out of the Viking funeral, where a real viking ship was light on fire in the harbour, to go to a panel about Ray Bradbury.)

Fringe oddball, or out-geeking the geeks? I'm going with the latter...it's all about spin, right?

5. The Gaslamp District. That is all. 

After walking down the main strip of the Gaslamp District a couple times, I am forever convinced you could simply walk up and down this strip, straight across from the Convention Center, for the entire Con, and feel you got the full experience.

It was like Time Square, except without the creepy Elmo knockoffs. Just the most incredible cosplay you'll ever see, including a group of street-partying Storm Troopers and a Jesus heckling religious protesters with a sign that said, "Don't listen to these pricks."

Black Spider in the Gaslamp District and a child running away when he looked at him)

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of my thoughts coming out of my first San Diego Comic Con! Another post or two (or maybe even three if I get ambitious) are still to come as I continue to distill the experience into complete thoughts.

Got questions about San Diego Comic Con? Throw them in the comments below!

Another month, another awesome opportunity for you to discover a new favorite speculative fiction author with a promotional giveaway.

That's just how we roll around here.

My Royal Palm Literaray Award-nominated novella Rain is up for grabs, and so are 60+ other awesome science fiction and fantasy reads.

Go ahead, treat yo' self.

Comic-Con is here! Comic-Con is here! It's like Christmas, but the religion is your favorite fandom. And it's heeeeeeere.

I write this from the airport as I wait to be transported to San Diego, and not going to lie, I'm not sure if I'm more excited or intimidated. I've tried to get into San Diego Comic-Con for years, and now that I'm finally on my way, I hardly know what to do with myself.

Except cosplay. Obviously, when one Comic-Cons, one cosplays. (See a teaser of what I'm cosplaying as here.)

Beyond that, it's about all I can do to read up every newbie and 2017 guide, and hope that this event does not plow right over me and flatten me into the cement.

If you want to follow along from home (or are similarly cramming in preparation, like I am), here are the best resources I've found so far:

San Diego Comic Con: Your Complete Guide, Rolling Stone

A great look at the top anticipated highlights, broken down my franchise.

These Panels Will Bring Fans to Their Feet at SDCC 2017, Forbes

This article breaks down the major events by category, rather than company. Quite helpful. (And yes, Hall H is a category.)

Comic-Con 2017: You Don't Need a Badge for These 12 Fun Events, San Diego Tribune

If you want to hang out but couldn't snag a pass, this is the list for you.

Your Complete Guide to Comic-Con 2017, SDCC Blog

The official event's guide, with more links than you will ever be able to read.

Comic-Con 2017: 10 Things to Watch, San Diego Tribune

The hottest film and TV teasers at the show. Tough choices were made, but someone had to do it.

To say that  Greece had some of the most breathtaking, stop-walking-and-stare moments of my life would just be silly, because Greece is well known for this trait. (Just check Pinterest.)

But I have to say it, because I may never get over it--not just how beautiful scenes caught me off guard, but how frequently it happened. We're talking every few steps.

Nothing makes me relax like being near water. Water this incredilby blue and clear was awe-inspiring. If you ask me, as a writer, if you're not taking time to clear your mind and seek out inspiration, you're simply not doing your job.

From that perspective, I worked so friggin' hard on this trip, you guys. So. Hard.

So for today's Greek Week post, I wanted to share a few of those moments, even if my amateur no-filters photography can't come close to doing it justice. Enjoy!

So! If you get my newsletter or follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have heard. I went to Greece.

Greek mythology was the first mythology I learned, and I fell in love right away. The stories were just so strange, and the monsters were incredible. They blew open my imagination in new directions, and it plays a big role in how I write.

So a trip to Greece was high on my travel wish list. (And hey, who doesn't love a good beach?)

The trip was incredible! To share it with you, I'm posting pictures of my favorite moments all week.

Let's start with some classics--top ruins from Athens.

Temple of Zeus

Or at least, what's left of the Temple of Zeus. So many of the buildings from ancient times are still in incredible shape, it can start to feel like it's nothing special. I loved the Temple of Zeus because its partially-standing columns are a beautiful reminder of what an incredible thing it is that anything is left standing at all, thousands of years later.

The Carytids

Slipped right in with the rest of the majesty (and hoards of tourists) in the Acropolis, these four lady sculptures-turned-columns blew me away. There's ionic, doric, and corinthian ... and then there's this. Who are these ladies? My mind craves a story to go with them.

Socrates's Jail

This is where the actual Socrates was brought and jailed before his execution. A little morbid, I guess, but standing on that same ground had power about it. The philosopher has become just a big, vague concept to me. Standing at a place he was known to have been, too, made him incredibly real.

Hope you enjoyed these glimpses into my trip. More to come!