To Readers in the Trans Community

This blog post is specifically aimed to readers of my material who are trans or belong to trans families. I love you as an audience and love that several of you have talked to me about presenting your gender to the world. (Or in one case your mother did, but don’t worry – it was wonderful.) I will first tell you I am so honored to have your readership. Trans people in today’s world are braver than any fantasy hero, and I’m humbled to be in your beautiful presence.

I’d like to let you know that I haven’t got things quite right in my writing yet on trans, enby, or related issues. But I will try harder for my next series, so please stick with me. Spireseeker was well-intentioned but had several misses on gender. I still think it’s worthwhile and full of heart and spirit, and hope you will enjoy. As for Shkode, the passage in The Fettered Flame that discusses a trans identity is one my favorite. I’m so proud of it and hope you like it. But even The Fettered Flame doesn’t present things just how I’d prefer, and I’d like to explain to you why.

For purposes of spoilers, I am going to refer to two characters as A and B. Character A, and you will know them if you’ve read The Fettered Flame, is fighting against multiple types of prejudice. Basically, a character fighting for a cis identity. There are many more layers to it (related to privilege and hypocrisy—would love to discuss sometime but am worried about spoilers) but basically I thought this was an interesting spin on gender identity. (Whose inspiration maybe I’ll discuss at a later date.)

HOWEVER… as early drafts were shared, people—even people with modern gender views—were referring to A as a transgender character, when clearly they are not. In fact, the character struggles with their resentment against people thinking that one’s actions or appearance make them trans rather than one’s gender. I became worried this storyline would become confused with trans issues, including A’s comments that clothing does not define gender. In no way does this storyline or this aspect speak against trans identity – for example while clothing may be important to express gender, it certainly doesn’t define it. Gender defines gender.

So, in order to make clear the difference, I decided to introduce an open trans character, whom we will call B. This was after the storyline had been drafted. In my quest to create something meaningful, I picked a character of whom I was very fond, one who I considered a great hero of the story, and thought this aspect folded into their heroism well, and gave me the chance to contrast an actual trans character to A, who is fighting other types of gender prejudice, but who is solidly cis. The problem here was: B is a victim of violence, bringing me very close to the trope of trans character as violence victim. Once I realized this, I worked hard on crafting the words not to link the two, but I do understand any wishes this would not have been the case. I wish it too.

So, to you, trans readers:

  • I hope you appreciate B’s conversation with Jwala near the end of The Fettered Flame and know the love with which it was authored; I think B’s words should be an inspiration to all of us
  • Know that B’s status as victim of violence was not meant to be directly related to their gender or trans experience but instead to their heroism and conviction
  • Know that in my next series, I’ll make absolutely sure to feature an complex and heroic trans character and keep them away from problematic links. I mean, characters can be naturally problematic. But we haven’t come far enough on trans issues yet and so we need to be extra sensitive, in my opinion.

I hope you understand and I hope that you will read and enjoy my writing. It is sent to you—to all of you!—with such love.

With admiration,
E

My Fantasy

There are two questions I often get about my writing:

1) Why do you write fantasy? I don’t read that stuff.

There is often this sense that by putting a dragon on the cover, the book must be for “someone else” – someone who “likes that stuff” – that nephew they have that hangs out at the gamer store. I think it’s a shame that people limit themselves that way. This buys into a restrictive, cool kid mentality that I reject. Fantasy is wonderful and magical and fantasy is for everyone. Fantasy throws out the rules and the restrictions that confine us in our normal life. It lets us discover magic, or see the future, or befriend a dragon. In fantasy, everything is more vibrant, because we are unconstrained. We are free. It is a glorious way to write and to read.

The next sculpture was so low to the ground they almost didn’t see it. It was a field of low waves, like those upon the ocean near the coast. Cor was drawn to its grace. “This is beautiful,” she whispered.

Iohn studied it a long moment. “I don’t care for it,” he said at last in a decisive manner. “It’s exactly what the water was like before it froze. It’s pretty, but it’s not art. That’s just imitating what nature already did. If I wanted to see the ocean in summer I would just wait until summer, then go to the ocean.” He winked at Cor.

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 12: Heartbloom

2) What are you genre-bending? Bending fantasy and what?

Just as fantasy isn’t constrained by the realities of our world, I believe fantasy shouldn’t be constrained in the type of storytelling it undertakes. I’ve had people tell me my dragons are not accurate! Inaccurate dragons! I think they have forgotten: Fantasy is unconstrained. I believe in this. So in many ways, what I write is contemporary fiction. It’s relationships and social themes and dilemmas our world faces today. I just want there to be dragons and magic too because it’s more fun that way. The Shkode trilogy is fantasy and contemporary fiction. It’s also ripe with satire and philosophy, has a little humor, and toys with a little mathematical fiction. It’s all of that because I think the blend is more interesting, and has something for everyone. P.S. If you misread this and still think I’m talking about gender-bending, you’re not wrong either. I love that too.

“Ok. Maybe he’s you.” Iohn’s face twitched, as if saying it out loud didn’t make it any more plausible. “Why do you make him dislike women so much?”

“People enjoy it. Keeps them reading. But really, haven’t you heard of satire? It’s actually a thing now. Very popular. I figured if most women read it long enough, it would start to tick them off. Maybe they’d finally stand up for themselves.”

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 20: Until We Meet Again

In that case, what is the Shkode trilogy, anyway. Who’s it for?

To me, it’s about passion. The word shkode means fire in Anishinaabemowin, the native language in the Lake Superior region. It is a word that speaks to me, and symbolizes passion and struggle and glory. This trilogy is about characters who struggle to see their own potential. It’s different. It’s thought-provoking, satirical, and sometimes just silly. And it’s a piece of me that I want to share with you. Who is it for? It’s written for adults, appropriate for mature young-adults, and I’ve found that it’s liked by a fairly diverse audience. Some people like the fantasy setting, others like the social themes, and others enjoy the unique world-building and rich character development.

Jwala knew she should not speak, knew she endangered herself as her mouth opened. She begged herself to stop. But her body burned with rage, and in the decision to act, she felt the weight of her burden shatter—its invisible shards flying from her, clattering to the ground. It was enough.

– The Banished Craft, Chapter 06: A Change of Plans

If any of this interests you, here are a couple things I’d be humbled for you to check out:

The Fettered Flame Project – I won’t be able to continue editing, illustrating, and printing the Shkode trilogy without your help. It’s that simple. We need all levels of backers, from $5 e-books (these get us more visibility) to larger backers (there are some cool rewards like naming a character!). Please join me.

Mase: The Modern Dwarf – I wrote this short serial on Wattpad. It’s free and it’s ridiculous. If you like it, click the ★ to give it a vote.

Cheers, E.D.E. Bell – October 2015

Book 2 Title Reveal !

Let’s do this! Here is the trailer to Shkode: Book 2, the sequel to The Banished Craft. Click this magic link to reveal the book’s title! Many thanks to a great voice actor Anthony Sardinha for his fantastic rendition of Atesh.

Bottom line / TL;DR – Follow this link to Kickstarter. Pledge an amount. Get a copy of the book (and/or other cool rewards) when the book is done.

So, we are launching a Kickstarter project to run throughout October 2015. Here are a few things I’d like you to know about it:

Book 2 is better. Book 2 is better! It’s the best thing I’ve written yet – by far, I think. The characters are developed further, the flow is better, and there is more action. Yes, still two worlds and lots of characters, but that’s part of what makes it different and interesting. I am really excited about this book and I want to give people the chance to read it.

Argh, I don’t know what any of this is! I’ll explain it! The bottom line is I’m not making enough money with my writing yet to pay for continued illustration and editing of the series. But many fans of the series love the high-quality production, including the beautiful custom covers and offset-printed hardcovers. And they are telling me to keep writing! So what I want from you is to pre-order the book through Kickstarter.com between 1 and 31 October to provide enough money to get it edited and produced. You’ll be the first to get the book, and if it’s a hardcover it’ll have a first-day signature date. Which is fab.

Why am I giving you money? You’re actually pledging for cool rewards so I have money up-front to fund the project. Think of it as pre-orders, or just being completely awesome so I can produce this book. Your pledge helps me a great deal (really!), but it’s not a donation. All the money goes into the project, and you get rewards in return. It’s like a pre-order with extra love.

Why did you raise the Kickstarter amount from last time? There is no trick here. I won an award through my company in 2014 and I invested the award money into the production of The Banished Craft. There is no award this year, nor can I continue to afford to invest the same amount I have been. I need readers as well as general supporters of my type of genre-bending fantasy. I need you! The base amount of $7500 (remember, that includes fees, reward costs, and shipping – it’s a significantly lower amount we actually get) will cover the combined illustration and editing costs. What we’d really need to reach in order to fully cover our up-front costs (including minimum print set-up and basic promotion) is about $15,000. (Again, that’s the Kickstarter total, not the amount we’d get.)

Why should I support this Kickstarter again? If any of these reasons apply (doesn’t have to be all), I’d love to have your support.
– You’re supporting my dream! I love to write!
– You’re supporting indie writing. The Shkode trilogy provides readers something different.
– You’re supporting several other small businesses including editors and artists.
– You support integrating gender themes, equality themes, or LGBTQ themes into fantasy writing.
– You support integrating vegan, animal compassion, and non-violence themes into fantasy writing.
– You like to read books! This is a story! Read the Goodreads or Amazon reviews of The Banished Craft – people have enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

Thanks for your support! I appreciate it so much, and I hope you enjoy The Banished Craft and…well, Book 2. Go watch the video!

Cheers, E.D.E. Bell, 24 September 2015

Writing Adventures

I’m really tired. So that blog title will have to do.

Fortunately the reason I’m tired is that I’ve been hard at work. Here are a few updates –

The Banished Craft: Release date of 1 September is getting closer! Ah! We’ve got some fun events lined up for release, and we are sending the hardcover to print in just a few days. If you are interested in pre-orders (we sure appreciate them) the book is on Amazon (and Amazon Smile) and can be ordered signed and personalized at atthisarts.com/shop. Have you seen the Goodreads reviews lately? They are awesome! I’m so humbled!

Shkode Book 2: I’m over half-way through writing the sequel to The Banished Craft and I am loving it so far. I hope you will too! It starts with big plot twists in each of the first three chapters. When will I tell you the title? When we release the trailer as part of a new Kickstarter campaign, probably 1 October. We’ll offer cool rewards, so please stay tuned!

Spireseeker: Hardcover editions want to be purchased. Just sayin’. So the pacing had its issues – but everyone loves the characters! Join in! Don’t forget, they can be signed and personalized at our shop and I think they make a pretty interesting gift. P.S. Genderless elves.

Atthis Arts: We have two works currently in the editing phase. One is When They Come Calling, a modern ghost story by Sarah Fleming Mountford, and the other is a surprise yet to come. A tiny preview? Tween fantasy that is big on imagination.

Wattpad: So I am going to try and release a free (all the way free) serial on Wattpad late this summer. I am already designing the story and it’s cracking me up. It will, in essence, be a comedy. For updates on this and other projects, just follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Ann Arbor Book Festival: A special thank you to the organizers of the Ann Arbor Book Festival Street Fair and Moonlight Book Crawl. I enjoyed the events, and met so many great readers, authors, and others in the business. Had some seriously good local food too – thanks to Seva Ann Arbor, Detroit Vegan Soul, The Blue Grill in Milford, and The Lunch Room in Ann Arbor.

Hope you are having a great summer (or winter) –

Much love, E.D.E. Bell, 10 July 2015

WritingAdventures

Firestarter

I am hard at work on Book 1 of the Shkode trilogy, and have a Kickstarter campaign in the works. More to come on that, including a title reveal. In the meanwhile, let’s start talking about it. Since, you know, I think about it daily. Time to bring you in on that.

Five Things I Love About Shkode

1) It’s better than Spireseeker. This is no knock on Spireseeker – I am so proud of that story, and have actually been disappointed how many people don’t get what I was trying to do there. (And even more thrilled by so many of you who love it!) But I wrote Spireseeker with no editor (initially), no writing training, no experience, no beta readers — you get the picture. I’ve heard your feedback loud and clear, and know what to work on this time. And I’m a fast learner, which you’ll see when this series starts to come out.

2) It’s about wizards and dragons. Breathing and conjuring fire, and making cool stuff happen! Even I was astute enough not to burn this subject on the first try. But now I’m ready to give it a shot, and you know I would do everything I am able to give it justice. Wizards. And. Dragons. I’m even inventing dragon slang, like get out of the way before you get wingslapped.

3) I’m already in love with the characters. Even the misbehaving ones. The one consistently positive feedback I get on Spireseeker is that people love the characters. Great. Well, I’m determined to make sure you’ll really love these ones. I want you to know them, cry with them, and celebrate with them.

4) It’s crazy and quirky. My mind is a strange place, and I really hope I’ve come up with at least a few scenes, a few ideas, that you haven’t heard before. And that you enjoy! Sometimes, I just forget to follow the rules. And I hope you’ll join me for the experience.

5) It’s about hope, passion, and perseverance. Shkode means “fire” in the Michigan dialect of Anishinaabemowin, and this story, in the end, is really about the Shkode that burns inside each one of us. And to write with such a goal in mind—it’s a fulfillment all its own.

I look forward to the journey. Hope to see you there.

E.D.E. Bell
04 June 2014

I Think it’s Time to Tell You

Well, I feel I’m far enough along to make a big announcement. Ready for it?

The name of my next project is the Shkode trilogy. Pronounce it slowly, saying all the letters, and end with a sound that rhymes with how someone in Great Lakes area would say the ‘a’ sound in “sand.” (If all else fails, rhyme it with Minnesota.) To me, this word – which means “fire” in Anishinaabemowin – resonates with spirit and is the perfect title for my project.

So what’s Shkode about? It’s about everything I think makes a great story. Wizards, dragons, and magic – engaging characters, danger, adventure, mystery, discovery, and triumph. I’ve learned so much releasing Spireseeker, and my goal is to make this a story you’ll want to read again and again.

So here are the things I know. First, you are going to love this story, from the first page to the last. I’ve been working really hard on it, getting editorial services early, and using all the lessons I learned from writing and publishing the first time. Shkode will consist of three novels, completing an overarching story line, and the books will be released in series.

There is still some uncertainty also. I have working titles for each book, and will release them as we move forward. Also, I don’t know what the schedule is going to be without a more expanded base for my efforts. I want to get this out as quickly as I can, but I really need more support (more publicity, more fans, more sales!) of Spireseeker before I can realistically promote a Kickstarter campaign or otherwise lay out the significant funds needed to complete this project. This won’t stop me from working on the trilogy, but it may delay me from moving forward with professional editing and illustration until we can get more exposure for Spireseeker.

Shkode is going to be awesome. I promise you. If you want to see this exciting project become reality I need your help:

Like me on Facebook: http://facebook.com/epicheals

Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/@atthisarts

Like Shkode on Facebook: http://facebook.com/dragon.trilogy

Like Spireseeker on Facebook: http://facebook.com/spireseeker

And most importantly, tell people about Spireseeker. Rate and review it on Amazon or Goodreads. It’s tough to get publicity as an independent author, so buy yourself a copy, read it, and buy one for a friend. Pick up a copy on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Also the signed hardcovers (available at Spireseeker.com) are beautiful and make a great holiday gift – we’ll sign it, personalize it (if you want) and ship it right to your recipient – just let us know in the comments field when you place the order.

I hope you are excited about joining me in bringing Shkode to life. I am. And most importantly, I hope everyone has a safe and warm holiday season. And don’t forget to snuggle up by the fire with a good book. Perhaps a specific book, if you know what I mean. ; )

Peace, Love, and Joy to you and yours –

E.D.E. Bell
15 December 2013