What may still lie between the mountains and the sea….

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“…will you face east with me, and bow to that memory, and to what may still lie between the mountains and the sea?” 

Those enigmatic words seal a truce called in the fifteen-month war between the Empire and Linrathe, the country north of the Wall, binding the Emperor Callan, the Teannasach Donnalch, and their people. But in additional surety of peace, the truce requires hostages, children of the leaders. 

Lena is a Guardswoman on the Wall when this peace is negotiated, one of many women who rode north to defend their land. When the General Casyn asks her to take the place of one of his daughters as a hostage, Lena agrees, to learn that she will be sent to a Ti’ach, a house of learning, for the duration of the truce. Here, perhaps, she can learn more about the east, and what its place is in the history of the Empire.

 But not every student welcomes her, and Lena soon learns that the history of both the countries beyond the Wall and her own Empire are more complex, and more intertwined, than she imagines.  When circumstances take her even farther north, into lands of a people unknown to the Empire, all her skills of leadership and self-defense are needed to avert danger to herself, the Empire, and its fragile allegiance with Linrathe…at an ultimate cost beyond her imagining.

Empire’s Hostage, book II in the Empire’s Legacy series, is fast approaching release. It follows Lena, the protagonist of Empire’s Daughterinto a larger world and into greater danger, testing her loyalties once again.

ARCs will be available soon in either e-pub or mobi format.  Interested in reading, rating, and/or reviewing?  Send me a message.

Comments wanted!

Feedback on the proposed cover wanted!

Here’s a look at the proposed cover for Book II of the Empire’s Legacy series, Empire’s Hostage, alongside the very well received cover of Book I, Empire’s Daughter.  While I know there are a few tweaks needed – border size for one – I’d appreciate feedback on the background colour, tag lines, or anything else.  Thanks!

 

 

Empire’s Hostage: Status update and an excerpt.

Here’s a look into the opening scenes of Empire’s Hostage.

Yesterday I typed the last words of the first draft of Empire’s Hostage, Book II of the Empire’s Legacy series. Beginning about eighteen months after the end of Empire’s Daughter, the book opens with Lena serving at the Wall, as the war with the north continues.

Now, finishing the first draft isn’t the same as having a publication-ready manuscript; there’s a lot of work to do still. I will now go through the book scene by scene, adding detail (or taking it away), delving further into the emotions and reactions of my characters. Then I’ll do an analysis of each scene: what purpose does it serve? Is it consistent with previous action, reaction, character traits? (including what happens in Empire’s Daughter) – and make the requisite changes. Have I carried themes and images through the book? Is Lena’s horse the same colour in every scene? Large things and small: they’re all important. Finally, I’ll do a copy-edit, looking for formatting errors.

Once I’ve done that – all on the laptop – I’ll print a copy, go through it at least twice, and then and only then, prepare the copies for my beta readers. I’m hoping to have that all done by April.

I’ll do a cover reveal in a couple of weeks (that’s a little dependent on my cover artist), but for now, here’s a look into the opening scenes of Empire’s Hostage.

Chapter 1

The rain slashed down unceasingly, half ice, stinging exposed skin and making it nearly impossible to see anything in the grey light. When the sun, hidden now behind the thick layer of clouds, set–not long now, I estimated–the stones of the Wall and the native rock would lose what warmth they held, and begin to ice over. Night watch would be treacherous, tonight. I counted it a small blessing that my watch had begun after the midday meal.

I wiped a gloved hand over my eyes yet again and scanned north and eastward, not focusing on anything, but looking for motion, or for something that didn’t belong, as Turlo had taught me; something that moved against the wind, or a shadow that hadn’t been there yesterday. I listened, too, to the sounds beyond the noises of the fort and the babble of the stream behind me: the hoarse cry of a raven, the soft chatter of sparrows settling into their roost: no alarm calls. I walked the few steps across the watchtower and began my scan again, to the northwest.

Footsteps sounded on the wooden steps. I did not turn; only when my relief stood beside me, looking out, could I look away.

“I think the minging gods have forgotten it’s the first day of spring,” Halle said. “Anything I should know?”

“There’s a raven in the usual tree,” I answered, still looking outward, “but it’s not alarmed, just making conversational croaks occasionally. I saw a fox about an hour ago, when I could still see, and its mind was on finding mice in the rocks. No owls today but maybe they’re not hunting in this rain. But there could be forty northmen out there, and as long as they moved with the wind and stayed low, I wouldn’t know. But I don’t think so; I’m guessing there is one, or maybe two, watching us, no more.”

“Wrapped up in their cloaks, under some rocks or furze,” Halle said. “I’d rather be here.”

“So would they,” I reminded her.

She laughed, but without mirth. “Go and get warm,” she said. “The hunting party brought back a deer, so there’s venison stew to be had.” I glanced over at her; her eyes were on the land beyond the Wall, watching.

“Good luck,” I said, and turned. I took the stairs down from the watchtower as quickly as I felt safe; the movement warmed me, slightly. At the bottom, I stepped over the gutter, running with rainwater, and onto the cobbled walkway that ran along the inner side of the Wall. The Wall itself broke the wind, and the rain fell with less force. Still, I pulled the hood of my cloak over my head as I walked to the camp.

All the discipline of the Empire could not build a finished fort in a time of war, and while the tents and a few stone and timber huts stood in orderly rows, the roads and pathways between mostly were earthen – or mud, right now. Since the skirmishes had died down, some weeks earlier, work had begun on paving the main thoroughfares through the camp. A narrow, cobbled track ran from the Wall to the centre of the encampment, just wide enough for two people to pass, and I noticed it extended a few feet further into the camp than it had when I had left for watch duty. I stepped off its comparatively clean cobbles onto the slick surface of the hard-packed earthen path. It had been built to drain, and two ditches ran on either side of it, but I could feel mud sticking to my boots.

At the kitchen tent, I scraped the mud off my boots on the iron blade mounted outside, and shook the worst of the rain off my cloak. Ducking inside, I met a blast of welcome heat. I stripped off my gloves and cloak, and the thick tunic I wore beneath the cloak and piled them on a bench. A gust of cold air told me someone else had come in; I turned to see Darel already loosening the clasps of his cloak. He’d been on watch duty at the tower east of the camp.

“Quiet?” I asked. He nodded, concentrating on pulling his tunic over his head.

“Very,” he answered, when his tunic was off. His red hair, streaked with rain, stood up in clumps. He sniffed the air. “I hear rumours of venison stew,” he said. Caro, on servery duty, spoke up.

“More like thick soup,” she said, “but, yes, it’s venison. With some root vegetables and barley in with it. Sit down, and I’ll bring it over.” We did as directed, and soon enough two bowls of soup, or stew, stood in front of us, with a loaf of dark, hard bread. Darel cut the loaf in half with his belt knife, and passed one piece to me. I ripped off a chunk, and dipped it in the soup, and ate hungrily.

Caro brought over two mugs of thin beer, and for a space of some minutes we did nothing but eat. Others had come in as we ate, and the smell of damp wool began to overpower the scent of venison stew in the tent. No-one said much; another day of rain and cold and mud dampened spirits as much as it did hide and stone. The rain drummed on the tent, ceaselessly.

Caro put more fuel in the brazier and then slipped onto the bench beside me. We had ridden north together, from Casilla, half a year earlier, when Dian had come south to requisition food and horses and other supplies for the army. I hadn’t really known her there; she had worked at one of the small food stalls near the harbour, and sometimes on my way to or from my work on the boats I had bought something from her.

“How’s the soup?” she asked.

“Fine,” I said. It was; thick enough to be satisfying, and reasonably spiced.

“It was only a yearling,” she said. “Not enough meat to go around, really, so we had to make soup.”

Food, I knew, was becoming a problem. At the end of the winter, with almost all the army ranged along the length of the Wall, game within a day or two’s hunting was scarce. Sending men – or more likely women – south to the villages for provisions meant fewer of us to defend the Wall if another raid occurred. The truce, called ten days ago, could end at any moment; the Emperor and his advisors spent their days at the White Fort, east of our camp, negotiating with the leaders of the northmen. Fifteen months of war: eight to drive the invaders back beyond the wall; another seven, now, keeping them there, until the ravages of winter, little food, and the deaths of so many, on both sides, had led to the request, and agreement, to parley.

“Who brought it in?” I asked idly.

“Dian,” Caro replied. “They got two, both yearlings, but one went to the White Fort. Have you had enough to eat?”

I shrugged. “Enough,” I said. “Is there any tea?” Darel looked up.

“I could eat more,” he said, “if there is any?” In truth, I could have too, but knew I shouldn’t. Darel was so young, and growing, and thin as a starveling cat. All the cadets looked the same.

“There’s a bit,” Caro said judiciously. “Give me your bowl, and I’ll bring it back, and your tea, Lena.” She slid off the bench and went back to the servery. Darel stretched. “Dice?” he suggested. “After we’re done eating?”

I shook my head. “Not tonight,” I said. “My tunic needs repairing; one of the shoulder seams is splitting.” Caro came back, and Darel fell on his bowl as if he hadn’t eaten the first helping. I curved my hands around the mug of tea. It smelled of fruit: rosehip, I thought.

I sat, sipping the tea. Darel finished his soup, wiping every trace of liquid from the bowl with the last piece of bread, and pushed his bench back. He took his beer and joined a pair of cadets at another table, pulling out his dice. They would sit here, playing, all the rest of the evening, if Caro let them; the servery tent was warmer than the barracks, and there was always the chance of some scraps of food.

I finished the tea, idly watching the dice game. “Minging dice,” one of the cadets growled.

“Language!” Caro warned. She allowed no obscenities in the kitchen tent: another slip and she’d make the cadets leave, and they knew it. I’d got used to the casual swearing among the troops; ‘minging’, a lewd term for urination, was one of the most frequently heard. I even said it myself, now. I stood to take the mug back to Caro, along with Darel’s forgotten bowl. Suddenly, the clatter of hooves on the cobbles rang out in the night. “Who?” Caro breathed. The cadets dropped the dice, and stood. The tent flap parted, and Turlo – General Turlo, now, and advisor to the Emperor – strode in. Darel straightened even more; the presence of his father always made him conscious of his decorum.

Turlo blinked briefly in the light of the tent. “General?” Caro said. “Would you like food, or drink?”

He smiled at her. “We ate well enough at the Fort,” he said, “but thank you. No, I came in search of two soldiers, and I’ve found them. Guard Lena; Cadet Darel: please go to your barracks; pack your possessions and come back here as quickly as you can. You two – Cadets Lannach and Samel, am I right? – go to the horse lines, please, and bring back two mounts. And then retire to your barracks,” he added. “Go!” he said, not unkindly; Lannach and Samel scurried to do his bidding.

Darel had not moved, but looked over at me. “General?” I said. “What is happening?”

“I will tell you,” he said, “when you return with your packs. Bring anything you cannot live without, and your warmest clothes and boots, if you are not already wearing them. Quickly, mind!” It was mildly said, but still an order. I glanced at Darel; he had already turned to put on his outdoor clothes. I did the same, conscious of the racing of my heart.

If this has piqued your interest, follow this blog for upcoming information on the release. The first book in the series, Empire’s Daughter, is available from Amazon as an e-book or paperback.

Lena’s World: Sexuality in the Empire. Empire’s Daughter Backgrounder IV

Like most of the cultural structures in Empire’s Daughter, the sexuality is rooted in historical fact, although I do not pretend it is historically accurate.

This is the fourth in an occasional series on the history and geography that lies behind and informs my historical fantasy series, Empire’s Legacy.  Book I, Empire’s Daughter, is available on Amazon: Book II, Empire’s Hostage, will be released around June of 2017.

 

In Lena’s world, the world of the Empire, sexuality is varied and fluid.  This is, I hope, presented simply as part of the background and the culture of this world, but to some extent it is also based on history.

Sexuality is both innate, sexual preferences and gender identity something we are born with (and that do not necessarily conform to the gender identity we are assigned at birth) but the strength of sexuality as a basic human need can also mean that sexuality can be situational.  Men or women deprived of the company of their preferred sexual partners for long periods will seek and find sexual release and comfort where they can.  In the Empire, the structure of the society, where men and women live separately for all but a couple of weeks per year makes situational sexuality a normal and accepted practice in the lives of both men and women.

But of course, there is a wide range of sexual preference within this society, as there is in any, so the partnerships range from the men and women who prefer their own sex: Finn, the young officer; Siane and Dessa, at Tirvan; those who prefer the opposite sex: Tali, whose love for Mar keeps her living alone throughout her life; and those who are more fluid: Lena, the protagonist;  many of the women of the villages, many of the men of the army.  One or two characters may be construed as transgendered: Halle would be one.  My intent was not to define the characters by their sexuality, but let them be whatever they are, incidental, for the most part, to the story.

Where did this come from?  Greek and Roman societies were well known for accepting sexual love among athletes and soldiers of the same sex.  The Oxford Classical Dictionary, paraphrased on Wikipedia, states:

The ancient Greeks did not conceive of sexual orientation as a social identifier as modern Western societies have done. Greek society did not distinguish sexual desire or behavior by the gender of the participants, but rather by the role that each participant played in the sex act. (Oxford Classical Dictionary entry by David M. Halperin, pp.720–723)

The Sacred Band of Thebes was a 4th Century BCE troop of elite soldiers, comprised of 150 pairs of male lovers from the city of Thebes in Greece.  The troop, whose historical existence is accepted by most scholars, given its mention by classical writers such as Plutarch, was destroyed by Philip of Macedon (Alexander the Great’s father) in 338 BCE. Indeed, some military commanders of the classical era believed troops of lovers fought the hardest, because they were defending those whom they loved, not just the state.

Less is known about female same-sex relationships.  The Greek poet Sappho was head of a thiasos, an educational community for girls and young women, where same-sex relationships were part of life. The same may have occurred in Sparta.

Moving forward to the Roman era, many of the same attitudes regarding male to male sex continue, with the exception being within the military. In the Republican period (4th to 1st centuries BCE) soldiers were forbidden, by penalty of death, to have sex with each other, although sex with male slaves appears to have been acceptable. In the Imperial period, this prohibition may have been lifted, as marriage was forbidden to soldiers.

Hadrian, the Roman Emperor from 117 – 138 CE, whose British wall is the model for the

Wall in Empire’s Daughter (and the upcoming sequel Empire’s Hostage) had a lover named Antinous, one, likely, of Hadrian’s ‘harem’ of both male and female lovers.  But when Antinous drowned, Hadrian mourned him publicly, founding the Egyptian city of Antinopolis in the boy’s memory and having him deified, suggesting (strongly) that his attachment to him was deep and serious. In the British Museum’s exhibition marking fifty years since the decriminalization of homosexuality in England and Wales, the heads of Hadrian and Antinous stand side by side, honoring their relationship. (Hadrian’s the one with the beard.)

So, like most of the cultural structures in Empire’s Daughter, the sexuality is rooted in historical fact, although I do not pretend it is historically accurate. I write alternative history, or historical fantasy, (choose your category), not historical fiction!  But I also chose to honor the existence of these relationships in history, because so many books of this type seem to gloss over or totally ignore love that is not heterosexual, and that’s just not the way it was, or is.

For the previous installments in this series, click the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Lena’s World: MidWinter Celebrations (Empire’s Daughter Backgrounder 3)

While religion is a background element in Empire’s Daughter, not a component of the plot, its world would not have felt real to me without including some acknowledgements of how its culture marked the turning points of the year, especially Midwinter.

The Empire is a northern nation, analogous to Britain or northern Europe.  In common with its real-world cultures, Midwinter is a time of celebration.

“…Midwinter’s Eve being a traditional time of fun and feasting. I thought about the games and song and food I would miss tonight in the meeting hall at Tirvan. Even the littlest babies came, and toddlers fell asleep on benches or the floor as the night progressed.”

While religion is a background element in Empire’s Daughter, not a component of the plot, its world would not have felt real to me without including some acknowledgements of how its culture marked the turning points of the year, especially Midwinter.  The darkest days of the year and the rebirth of the sun – far enough north, that’s literally true, as the sun disappears for several weeks – have been marked by cultures around the world: by Jul, or Yule in pre-Christian Germany and Scandinavia; by Saturnalia in Roman culture, and in the cult of the Roman ‘soldier’s god’, Mithras, as the birth of the Unconquered Sun. It is this god that the Emperor Callan addresses when he says “The god of soldiers receive you, my brother, or I will know the reason why when I stand before him myself.”

So, both the women’s villages and the military celebrate Midwinter, although the women’s celebrations have more in common with Jul, and the military’s with Mithraic ritual.  The Empire’s tradition of making major proclamations at Midwinter, however, is based on the later Christmas Courts of the monarchs of England, when many political decisions (including coronations, notably of William the Conqueror) occurred (but not necessarily so formally as at the Emperor’s Winter Camp proclamations).

And here it is December 21st….at home in Tirvan, Lena would be partying at the Meeting Hall, eating and drinking, dancing and singing.  The Jul log, a massive root, would be burning in the hearth, the fire started with a piece of last year’s log.  Some of the women would stay awake until dawn, to greet the newly-born sun.

The military too has its Saturnalia: food and drink, dance and song, which Lena is happy to participate in, but somewhere outside the camp, a more secret ritual is taking place, acknowledging the birth of the soldier’s god. (This is neither mentioned nor described in the book, by the way, as it had no place in the story. But likely both Casyn and Callan are there.  Turlo?  Probably not.  I think he’s out on the hills with Pan, personally.)

Of course, Midwinter is a plot device, in that it is a turning point in the year, and a turning point in the story, for both the Empire and for Lena. The book begins roughly on May 1, May Day, Beltane, traditionally the day when young women can see their future husbands by various divinations (or, in the book, meet the man who will change their lives) and ends at Midwinter and the dawning of a new year.

The land has its rhythms and pacings, its periods of calm and its periods of change, reflected and acknowledged in the rituals and celebrations of pre-Christian northern Europe, which in turn provides the background structure to the action in Empire’s Daughter. Did I set out to do this, consciously?  No.  It seems that my own internal rhythms, which are set far more by the natural world than by the artificial calendar we have imposed upon it, simply insinuated themselves into the writing.  That doesn’t surprise me: so much of what we write comes from places inside us we barely know.

Blessed Yule, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa.  (If I’ve left your celebration out, it’s due to me not knowing about it, not a deliberate oversight, and I wish you joy.)

Sunrise photo: By Fabolu (selbst aufgenommen von Fabolu) [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Lena’s World: The Social Structure of Empire’s Daughter

As to why there is this tiny, isolated Empire at the edge of the world, underpopulated and ring-fenced by the Wall, the mountains and the sea….well, to say more would need a big SPOILERS alert!

In Empire’s Daughter, men and women lead very separate lives, the women living together, primarily in farming and fishing villages, the men in mandatory military service.  Male children are taken at age 7 to begin military training; girls are educated in their own villages, and then apprentice to a trade.  Where did these ideas come from?

There isn’t one source, one society that I borrowed from.  The idea of male children being taken at seven into military training is from the social structure of the ancient city-state of Sparta, where exactly that happened.  Spartan boys were basically cadets until age 20, when they took on greater responsibility in the military; they could marry at 30, but did not live with their wives, but stayed with their military comrades in barracks….and that was the germ of the idea of the men and women living almost completely separate lives, except for a couple of weeks each year.

The Roman Empire’s military structure also influenced how I envisioned the lives of menroman_soldiers_at_rest2 in the Empire. Roman soldiers served 25 years in the military, and could not (officially) marry unless they were of officer class, although they often formed permanent relationships with local women.  But again, it was that sense of a primarily masculine life that influenced how the men live in Empire’s Daughter.

The lives of women were influenced by a number of sources: Icelandic and Viking women, for one, where women frequently were completely responsible for farming and fishing and all the other work woman_blacksmith_-_eng-_i-e-_england_loc_24225694456while the men were at sea, either fishing (Iceland) or raiding (Vikings).  The apprenticeship of girls at twelve to a trade is simply based on long practice throughout much of the world, for both boys and girls: even my own grandfather was apprenticed at age twelve to a coal merchant in England, in about 1896. (The photo is from England, c 1915-1920)

Now, as to why there is this tiny, isolated Empire at the edge of the world, underpopulated and ring-fenced by the Wall, the mountains and the sea….well, to say more would need a big SPOILERS alert.  You’ll have to read the books to find out!

Empire’s Daughter, book one of the Empire’s Legacy series, is currently available from Amazon in e-book format or paperback.  Look for book 2, Empire’s Hostage, around June of 2017!

Roman soldier picture: By Pablo Dodda (Flickr: Roman Soldiers) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Woman blacksmith picture:  Bain News Service; taken in England c 1915-20; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  No known copyright restrictions.

 

Freebies and Giveaways!

Empire’s Daughter asks hard questions about gender roles, the personal price of a stable society, and the demands of love and loyalty in a time of war. Download for free on Amazon until Dec 11, or enter the Goodreads giveaway for a paperback.

Empire’s Daughter is the critically-acclaimed first book in my Empire’s Legacy series. Set in a world inspired by Britain after the fall of the Roman Empire, Empire’s Daughter asks hard questions about gender roles, the personal price of a stable society, and the demands of love and loyalty in a time of war.  For a few days (Dec 7 -11) you can download  Empire’s Daughter for free on Empires cover 3Amazon.

If you’d prefer a chance at a paperback, enter the giveaway on Goodreads (Canada, US, UK and Australia only for this one, sorry!)

Lena’s World: Empire’s Daughter Backgrounder part 1

I started writing Empire’s Daughter with nothing more than an image in my mind, an image of a young fisherwoman, a fishing village, and the harbour and hills.

This is the first in an occasional series about the historic and geographic background to my historic fantasy series, Empire’s Legacy.

Lena’s world, in the Empire’s Legacy trilogy, is imaginary, but at the same time it isn’t: it is firmly rooted in the landscape and history of Britain and Northern Europe.  I started writing Empire’s Daughter with nothing more than an image in my mind, an image of a young fisherwoman, a fishing village, and the harbour and hills.  But the picture in my mind wasn’t imaginary: it was Anglesey, Ynys Môn, an island off the coast of Wales.

porth_swtan_or_church_bay_-_geograph-org-uk_-_414251

So, when I picture Tirvan, this is, more or less, what it looks like in my mind.(Remove the modern aspects!)  The fishing harbour would be where the beach is; the village houses close to the harbour (perhaps the cliffs aren’t quite so steep, at least in one area), and the meeting hall, the baths, the forge and the sheep-fields further up the hillsides.

This landscape isn’t unique to Wales; you’ll find similar coastal coves along much of the West Country of England, on both coasts, and throughout Scotland.  And I’ve only been to Anglesey once, but still, it was that landscape that began the book.

And likely influenced its development.  Anglesey was a holy island to the pre-Roman people of Britain, and associated with the resistance of these people to Roman rule, that resistance centred in their priests, the Druids.  In AD 60, the Roman general Paulinus attacked Anglesey, destroying sacred groves and shrines, and in folk memory driving the Druids into the sea. It took a few years (and a few more battles for supremacy within Britain) but by AD 78 Anglesey was firmly under Roman control, the Romans building forts, mines and roads on the island. (At least one road is still in use).

I knew all this, from various courses I’d taken and books I’d read. So, when Anglesey arose in my consciousness as the referent for Tirvan, it brought with it all these Roman associations…which in turn led to me modelling the Empire’s military on that of Rome, and indeed the basic infrastructure of the Empire on that of Britannia (Britain) during its time of Roman rule.

In further installments, I’ll talk about how other aspects of Roman military and non-military life influenced Empire’s Daughter, and where and why it deviates completely from any known history. (That is why I call it historic fantasy; there’s no magic, which the word ‘fantasy’ usually connotes, but it certainly isn’t history! Maybe I should call it ‘imaginary history’!)

Photo: Porth Swtan, by  Graeme Walker [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Empire’s Daughter and LGBTQIA Rights

I have added LGBT to the Amazon description (that’s all they offer), because I feel that I need to let young readers know there is a fictional world (another fictional world – there are plenty of others) here where they may see themselves, while the world around them may become more discriminatory and more hateful.

I’ve been meditating since early Wednesday morning…about 3 a.m., when I woke up, looked at the news feed on my ipad, said something unprintable, and went back to sleep, what my personal response to Donald Trump’s victory should be. First off, I’m Canadian, and some will think I have no right having any response.  But the election of a U.S. President resonates around the globe, and has implications for all countries…and all life, human and otherwise, on this planet.

I have enormous concerns, about environmental issues, about military responses, and most immediately about human rights.  I am straight, of Angle-Saxon heritage, and past reproductive age, but that doesn’t mean I can’t to some extent empathize with the experiences and the fears of those who are not.  I’m a writer, and that’s what we do, to the best of our ability.

When I wrote Empire’s Daughter, the fact that it was set in a world where sexuality is fluid and to some extent context-driven wasn’t even a conscious decision.  The structure of the society, based as it is loosely on the structures of Rome and Sparta, indicated to me that this would be the most likely evolution of sexuality in the world that offered itself to me. Love is love, and when my protagonist Lena loses her partner Maya to exile, her grief is as honest and deep and painful as it would have been for a male partner. Empire’s Daughter is a coming of age story, a story of discovery and loss of innocence, of mistakes and attempted redemption.  It is a human story, not a story unique to those who identify as LGBTQIA.

But now I have added LGBT to the Amazon description (that’s all they offer), because I feel that I need to let young readers know there is a fictional world (another fictional world – there are plenty of others) here where they may see themselves, while the world around them may become more discriminatory and more hateful.  “Do small things with great love,” Mother Theresa may or may not have said….this is one small thing from me, one tiny spark of light, I hope, offered with love.

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