hrj: (Alpennia book-rose)
2017-09-05 07:34 am

Hyddwen: The Second Branch of the Merchinogi

How delightful to wake up this morning to find the release announcement for "Hyddwen" in my Twitter mentions! This is the second story in a series inspired by my love for medieval Welsh literature (and the gnawing feeling that what medieval Welsh literature needed was more lesbians). I love love love what Pip Hoskins, the narrator, has done with this one! If you enjoy "Hyddwen", you might want to go back and listen to "Hoywverch", the first story in the series, though you get the essential recap within the story itself.

If you enjoy fantasy fiction and listening to audiobooks, I strongly encourage you to subscribe to the Podcastle podcast. You may have read my occasional short reviews of some of their output. In addition to doing audio reprints of stories published elsewhere, they publish a lot of great original work and recently won the Best Fictional Podcast at the Academy of Podcasters Awards. All their podcasts are free to download, but if you like what you hear, you can support them through venues like Patreon.

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2017-06-14 07:12 am
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Reviews and Storybundles

I don't usually highlight reviews in my blog (I have separate pages for that), but I woke up to a really lovely Goodreads review of The Mystic Marriage from fellow Storybundle author K.J. Charles. If you have ever wanted to try some incredibly well-writen historical fantasy featuring gay male protagonists, K.J. Charles is pretty much the ruler of that sub-genre and I'm immensely flattered to be sharing a special LGBT+ SFF Storybundle with them and other equally talented authors. This truly is an unequally chance to think, "If I like the sort of writing and themes I find in the Alpennia books, what other authors are there writing similar work?"

[Amended to pronoun ambiguity until I have a chance to clarify my apparently erroneous assumption about K.J.'s gender!]

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2017-06-02 07:31 pm
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Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 10: Sappho of Lesbos

I'm doing a pair of podcast episodes on both Sappho the historic woman, and Sappho the legend and icon, including a tour through how her poetry was received and translated over time. I'd love for folks to support the existence of this show (part of The Lesbian Talk Show) with downloads and show feedback. Show my podcast host that people are clamoring for more stories of women-loving-women taken from the pages of history books.

Here's the current episode link.


And here's a page with links to all the past shows, so you can catch up.

I don't do the podcast for fame and fortune--I do it for love. It would be cool to get some love back. Subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast feed (such as iTunes, Podbean, or Stitcher) and it would be fabulous if you left a rating and review specifically mentioning how much you enjoy the history podcast.
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2017-05-31 07:11 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Archangel’s Heart

One of the things that struck me when I was reading through lists of November 2016 books was the number written by obviously prolific authors (based on series number) that somehow never get mentioned in the SFF blogs, or featured on SFF podcasts, or discussed in the social media spaces where I hang out. It makes me feel...well, not any less hungry for my work to be talked about, but at least a little bit less alone. I'm sure I've heard Nalini Singh's name before, but I was a bit startled to discover how prolific she is: Goodreads lists 164 distinct works! Archangel's Heart is the ninth book in her Guild Hunter series and that is far from the only extensive series she has written in the genres of SFF and paranormal romance.

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory. Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is. Nothing will ever be the same again.


I have no aspirations to write over 100 novels! But I love the sense of an expanding story, like a highway that will take me through mountains and over plains and into unexplored cities. Mother of Souls is another step on that road for my characters, opening them up to the larger world of mysticism and peril that was only hinted at in the earlier books.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-30 11:31 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: New Worlds, Old Ways

One of the most exciting developments in the speculative fiction field is the growing visibility and recognition of stories rooted deeply in cultures other than the default western European/American ones. I don't say "growing presence" because it is only the wider recognition that is new. Karen Lord has assembled this anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean to showcase some of the excellent SFF being produced in her home region.

Do not be misled by the “speculative” in the title. Although there may be robots and fantastical creatures, these common symbols are tools to frame the familiar from fresh perspectives. Here you will find the recent past and ongoing present of government and society with curfews, crime, and corruption; the universal themes of family, growth and death, love and hate; the struggle to thrive when power is capricious and revenge too bittersweet. Here too is the passage of everything—old ways, places, peoples, and ourselves—leaving nothing behind but memories, histories, and stories. This anthology speaks to the fragility of our Caribbean home, but reminds the reader that although home may be vulnerable, it is also beautifully resilient. The voice of our literature declares that in spite of disasters, this people and this place shall not be wholly destroyed. Read for delight, then read for depth, and you will not be disappointed. Includes brand-new stories by Tammi Browne-Bannister, Summer Edward, Portia Subran, Brandon O’Brien, Kevin Jared Hosein, Richard B. Lynch, Elizabeth J. Jones, Damion Wilson, Brian Franklin, Ararimeh Aiyejina, and H.K. Williams.


A solid "sense of place" can be a challenge to develop when creating your own countries or worlds. Even more of a challenge when creating a culture very different from the one I live in. I will make no claims regarding how well I have succeeded. But one of the things that warms my heart in reader comments on the series, is when they say that books like Mother of Souls make them feel like Alpennia is a real location--just one that somehow got left off the maps and out of the history books. If you enjoy that experience, then seek out fiction by writers like Karen Lord that really is about places and cultures that tend to get left off the literary maps and out of the genre history books.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-30 07:22 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: The Mountain of Kept Memory

We're back to the last couple of November releases that I'm including in this blog series. Rachel Neumeier's The Mountain of Kept Memory takes us to a fantastic secondary world where the gods take seriously their responsibility to protect--or their right to abandon--the realms they watch over.

Long ago the Kieba, last goddess in the world, raised up her mountain in the drylands of Carastind. Gulien Madalin, heir to the throne of Carastind, suspects that his father has offended the Kieba so seriously that she has withdrawn her protection from the kingdom. Worse, he fears that Carastind’s enemies suspect this as well. Then he learns that he is right. And invasion is imminent. Meanwhile Gulien’s sister Oressa has focused on what’s important: avoiding the attention of her royal father while keeping track of all the secrets at court. But when she overhears news about the threatened invasion, she’s shocked to discover what her father plans to give away in order to buy peace. But Carastind’s enemies will not agree to peace at any price. They intend to not only conquer the kingdom, but also cast down the Kieba and steal her power. Now, Gulien and Oressa must decide where their most important loyalties lie, and what price they are willing to pay to protect the Kieba, their home, and the world.


In many fantasy settings, one of the things that transports us away from there here and now is the overt presence of magic and the tangible presence of the divine. I always feel strange putting it that way, because many of my readers will assure me that the "tangible presence of the divine" as portrayed in the Alpennia books reflects their own real-life experiences. That can be a little unsettling for this atheist author! In Mother of Souls Margerit Sovitre finds her understanding of the divine nature of mysteries to be challenged by Luzie Valorin's music--a force with undeniable mystic power that seems to draw on a sources entirely unrelated to God and the saints.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.


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2017-05-28 09:18 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: A Woman of Strong Purpose

I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17. In A Woman of Strong Purpose, S. M. Harding has written a heart-pounding sequel to her romantic thriller I Will Meet You There.

Welcome to McCrumb County, Indiana, where retired Marine Corps Colonel Win Kirkland and Sheriff Sarah Pitt had hoped that their deepening relationship might bring some peace and order to their complicated lives. 

Freed from the closeted life after 25 years in the military, Win is fiercely out and proud—and ready for Sarah to move in. But the newly out Sarah has serious doubts about living as an open lesbian among her county’s conservative population. She longs to overcome her fear of exposure, especially since several gorgeous and exotic women seem intent on seducing Win—and she knows she could lose Win to them or to a bullet. 

Win and Sarah’s personal struggles are soon overshadowed by a series of local and international crimes that will blur the lines between hostility and horror, friend and foe, sacrifice and survival. 


How often have you read a book and thought, "But I want to know what these characters do next!" Authors can have that same impulse, leading to a series that moves beyond the first book's premise. When I finished writing Daughter of Mystery, my immediate thought was, "But what about Antuniet? What happens to her?" and hence The Mystic Marriage was inspired. Mother of Souls takes us further, not simply asking "what happens to these characters next?" but following the consequences of seemingly minor events in the previous books and tracing them down surprising new roads. Look for both A Woman of Strong Purpose and Mother of Souls (as well as many other books) on sale this weekend at Bella Books!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-27 08:35 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Vortex of Crimson

I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17Vortex of Crimson is the final book in Lise MacTague's Deception's Edge SF romance trilogy.

All Torrin Ivanov wanted was to get Jak Stowell back, that was supposed to be the hard part. In a cruel twist, Jak is hers again, but her girlfriend is literally losing her mind. The only help can be found on the last planet in the universe to which Torrin would like to return…To cure Jak, they must return to her war-ravaged home planet, Haefen. 

For Jak, returning to her home planet gives her the chance to make good on a promise too long deferred. But will she be able to finally take out her brother’s killer? Or will she be pulled into the dark undertow of local politics… 

The two women soon find that politics pale next to the threat of the one who still hunts Jak. This time he has bait—Torrin’s sister, Nat Ivanov. As their search intensifies, Torrin and Jak realize that despite all of the obstacles in their way, one thing is clear—they can at least depend on each other. But will that be enough?


Like Vortex of CrimsonMother of Souls is a third book, though the Alpennia series is both longer-reaching and less of a single story than the traditional trilogy format. The two books have one more thing in common, though: they're both on sale this weekend at Bella Books!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-26 08:23 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Tempered Steele: Hard Edges

I made a few teensy exceptions to my rules that books for this promotion had to be November releases. One friend had a re-release, one November release was short fiction that I used to bump mention of the related book, and when I mentioned the project on the Bella Books facebook group, a couple of my fellow Bella authors with October releases asked it I could include them too--which I did when I found I had some space open at the end of the month. (Ordinarily, I try to avoid scope creep because it hits my anxiety buttons.) I'm re-arranging the planned schedule a bit to move those Bella books into the next few days because...Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17.

Tempered Steele: Hard Edges by M. E. Logan is a follow-up to the post-apocalyptic dystopian  romantic adventure Tempered Steele: Stoking the Fire.

After a nearly apocalyptic earthquake engendered a societal breakdown, visionary Deborah Steele returned to her isolated family farm and turned it into a safe haven for women to escape from the increasingly misogynistic and dystopian world around them. Her fair and open system of contracting labor for food, shelter and security has bound them together and ensured their survival. So far… 

Outside the farm, however, others are using a contract system as a form of human trafficking. And Deborah’s attempts to protect her estranged love, Joanna Davis, will soon bring the women’s community unwanted visibility, putting them all in danger and forcing Deborah to choose between the sanctuary she has built and the woman she still loves. 


It doesn't take a dystopia for women to need to struggle against misogyny and a society that exploits their labor and denies them a full life. Challenging those forces will always put them in danger, whether of overt violence or the no less hazardous rejection of society. In Mother of Souls, Luzie Valorin faces the choice between acceding to those who think her musical skills are only suitable for domestic amusements--or to support a man's career--and reaching out to sieze the chance for greatness. Perhaps even to change the fate of Europe with her compositions!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events. And at the moment, some of those books are on sale!

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2017-05-25 07:16 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Illicit

I confess to an occasional bewilderment at the sub-genre of "shifter" fantasy that seems to have sprung up almost overnight. (Ok, ok, I'm showing my age, right? But I swear, it wasn't there the last time I turned around.) Cathy Clamp's Illicit uses shapeshifter communities to explore motifs of social conflict and hidden identities.

When a border dispute between two bear clans destabilizes shapeshifter relations throughout Europe and threatens to reveal their existence to humans, the Sazi High Council orders both sides to the negotiation table. The peace talks take place in Luna Lake, the American community where all shifter species—wolf, cat, bird, bear, and more—live in harmony. Diplomats, their families, and security personnel stream into town, among them Dalvin Adway, a Wolven agent. Dalvin is startled to find Rachel Washington in Luna Lake. The last time he saw her, they were children in Detroit. Then she was kidnapped and, he thought, murdered. But Rachel became an owl-shifter as a result of the attack and has avoided family and old friends ever since, knowing they would not understand her. She’s stunned to see Dalvin and learn that he, too, is an owl-shifter. Their wary friendship is on the brink of becoming something more when conspiracy and betrayal cause the peace talks to break down. The fight between the bear clans will be settled through a form of traditional challenge—a risky tactic that might lead to full-blown war. Rachel is determined to prevent that, even if it means taking up the challenge herself!


I confess I've been having fun finding ways to tie each book in this series into some aspect of my own November 2016 release, Mother of Souls. I suppose I should take satisfaction in how many times I could manage it naturally! A pity that, in this case, I'm not promoting my (not yet scheduled for publication) Skinsinger collection which has a rather different take on shapeshifting. So you'll have settle for this not-a-connection connection to my book.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-24 07:15 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Romancing the Inventor

This book really needs to go on my To Be Read list! Gail Garriger has several intertwined paranormal/steampunky series. Romancing the Invntor tosses in a lesbian romance as well as a mad scientist. Oh, and vampires. Mustn't forget the vampires.

Imogene Hale is a lowly parlourmaid with a soul-crushing secret. Seeking solace, she takes work at a local hive, only to fall desperately in love with the amazing lady inventor the vampires are keeping in the potting shed. Genevieve Lefoux is heartsick, lonely, and French. With culture, class, and the lady herself set against the match, can Imogene and her duster overcome all odds and win Genevieve’s heart, or will the vampires suck both of them dry?


It can be hard to find mainstream SFF books with "incidental lesbians" -- lesbian characters in stories that aren't "about" sexuality. Books like Romancing the Inventor give me how that some day publishing will be a place where books like the Alpennia series could have found a home in mainstream SFF. In the mean time, if you love mainstream SFF but wish it had more queer women in it, check out Mother of Souls.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-23 11:50 am
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Skiffy and Fanty Signal Boost Podcast

The SFF podcast Skiffy and Fanty interviewed me for their "Signal Boost" series and the show is now live. Check it out! I talk about the Alpennia series as well as the Lesbian Historic Motif Project. This is a really fun podcast show and you should consider subscribing to it.

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2017-05-23 07:25 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: The Winterlings

I pulled the titles to include in this blog series from a variety of sources: SFF lists, lesfic lists, LGBTQ lists. I don't exactly remember where I turned up Cristina Sánchez-Andrade's The Winterlings. From the blurb, it could have been any of several. The description sounds as if it's being pitched as a "literary novel" (in the genre sense) but I most likely found it recommended in an SFF context.

Galicia, Spain’s northwest region, in the 1950s. After a childhood in exile, two sisters return to their grandfather’s cottage for the first time since his shocking murder during the civil war. “The Winterlings” try to keep their dark secrets buried and carve out a peaceful existence in Tierra de Chá, an idyllic village host to a cast of grotesque but charming characters: a powerful psychic, a madman who believes he is a bus, a woman who refuses to die and the obese priest who heaves up a steep hill each day to give her last rites, a cross-dressing dentist who plants the teeth of the deceased in his patients’ mouths. Tension mounts when the sisters, once united by their passion for Hollywood cinema, compete for the chance to stand in for Ava Gardner in the nearby filming of Pandora and the Flying Dutchman. Meanwhile, a mutual suspicion develops between the mysterious sisters and the eccentric villagers: Why have the women returned, and what are they hiding? What perverse business arrangement did the townspeople make with their grandfather, and why won’t they speak of his death? Enchanting as a spell, The Winterlings blends Spanish oral tradition, Latin American magic realism, and the American gothic fiction of Flannery O’Connor and Shirley Jackson into an intoxicating story of romance, violent history, and the mysterious forces that move us.


Sometimes categorization of books can be confusing...or even feel misleading. Readers rarely approach a book without a "reading protocol" (to use Samuel Delany's term). Should The Winterlings be read through a fantasy lens? A magical realist lens? Or simply as a realistic story that may surprise you? The Alpennia novels have a tendency to confound expected reading protocols, whether the reader expects a romance novel, a lesfic novel, a swashbuckling fantasy, or a tale of magic. Mother of Souls breaks even the tenuous expectation of a romance plot that the previous books offered. If I could advise readers, I'd beg them to read Alpennia simply as stories of complex human beings, seeking purpose, connection, and community. If you find love, magic, and adventure, consider it a bonus.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-22 07:09 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Viral Airwaves

By delightful coincidence Claudie Arseneault's book Viral Airwaves is not only a November 2016 release (for the 2nd edition) but will be on sale this week. Check Claudie's blog for details.

Henry Schmitt wants nothing more than a quiet life and a daily ration of instant noodles. At least until he learns the terrible secret that drove his father away—the Plague that killed his mother and ravaged his country was created by those now in power. He has one chance to help expose the conspiracy: a ragtag band of rebels needs a pilot for their hot air balloon, where they can launch a broadcast revealing the truth. If Henry accepts, he can experience his dream of flight. But he would have to leave his safe, tranquil life behind … and bring the wrath of a corrupt government upon his head.


I'm always delighted when I have an opportunity to promote the work of writers who are also fans of the Alpennia books. Claudie featured the series several month ago in her occasional twitter series #indiemanche (it's a bilingual pun) that promotes the work of indie authors and creators. She has also created a database for science fiction and fantasy with characters on the asexual and aromantic spectrums.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that--like the third Alpennia novel, Mother of Souls--may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-21 09:43 am
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Joyeux - A Musketeer Space novella

One of the awkward things about re-booting November books is that several of them have been clearly marketed for the December holiday season. I decided to slip this novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts in anyway and do a two-fer by also mentioning the novel it's linked to, Musketeer Space (even though that isn't a November release). Gender-swapped musketeers in space? If that sounds like your catnip, this was written for you.

It’s festival time on Paris Satellite: a seven day whirl of drunken bets, poor decision-making, religious contemplation and tinsel. But mostly, poor decision-making.

Porthos and Athos aren’t going to sleep together, no matter what Aramis says. Aramis isn’t going to marry her girlfriend, Minister Chevreuse, which probably means they’re breaking up. Athos is not prepared to be visited by the ghost of his dead husband. Oh, and the Duchess of Buckingham is totally not going to hook up with the Prince Consort thereby causing an interplanetary diplomatic disaster… right?

When a group of “festive terrorists” start inflicting traditions from a very different midwinter festival on the space station via nano-virus, the Musketeers and the Red Guard are expected to work together to protect Paris Satellite. This isn’t going to end well.

Joyeux is the prequel novella to Musketeer Space, an epic gender-swapped space opera retelling of The Three Musketeers.


And here's the blurb for Musketeer Space itself:

“I haven’t got a blade. I haven’t got a ship. I washed out of the Musketeers. If this is your idea of honour, put down the swords and I’ll take you on with my bare hands.” 

Dana D'Artagnan longs for a life of adventure as a Musketeer pilot in the Royal Fleet on Paris Satellite. When her dream crashes and burns, she gains a friendship she never expected, with three of the city's most infamous sword-fighting scoundrels: the Musketeers known as Athos, Porthos and Aramis.

Even as a mecha grunt, Dana has a knack for getting into trouble. She pushes her way into a dangerous political conspiracy involving royal scandals, disguised spaceships, a tailor who keeps getting himself kidnapped, and a seductive spy with far too many secrets.

With the Solar System on the brink of war, Dana is given a chance to prove herself once and for all. But is it worth becoming a Musketeer if she has to sacrifice her friends along the way?


Adventures and duels and intrigues and the long, complex process of disparate personalities coming together to form a bond that goes beyond friendship! That was one of the atmospheres I wanted to evoke when I began writing the Alpennia series. My women lean more heavily toward intellectual duels and philosophical challenges, but there are still a scattering of swordfights, daring rescues, and breathless escapes. In Mother of Souls the stakes go beyond battles of honor to put the fate of Europe in play. And who would think that a composer's hidden mystical talents would prove the key?

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

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2017-05-20 01:09 pm
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The Great November Book Release Re-Boot: Two Souls by Kathleen Knowles

It's fascinating how the different communities we live in will shift and intersect in unexpected ways over time. Way back in the early '90s Kathleen Knowles and I worked at the same biotech company. I went off to grad school and then to a different biotech company, and she went in other professional directions as well. And then one day I went to a bookstore reading in San Francisco and found we'd come back on an intersection course as authors of lesbian fiction. Two Souls is the most recent book in a loose series beginning with Awake Unto Me, and A Spark of Heavenly Fire, set in turn of the century San Francisco and involving a social network of professional women. Two Souls brings the series up to the 1906 earthquake, which is a guarantee of drama for any historical San Francisco story!

Abigail Eliot is a brilliant naturalist whose entire life is dedicated to her work. When she meets an earnest doctor, Norah Stratton who’s new to San Francisco, they start an unlikely friendship. When the 1906 earthquake and fire strike, they’re both caught up in the event in very different ways. Will their tentative connection turn to a lasting love or will San Francisco’s great tragedy drive them apart?


One of the challenges in writing lesbian historical fiction set before the mid-20th century is to show women in the context of a like-minded community. How did they find and recognize each other? How did they come out to each other in a context when indiscretion could destroy lives? And how did that closed and secret aspect of their lives affect their personal relationships? One of the challenges and joys I've had in writing the Alpennia series--including the most recent book, Mother of Souls--is to create networks of this sort that are as realistic and believable as the rest of the historic setting.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.