Today is the release of my second book, Freed by Flame and Storm. This should be a celebratory blog post, but it isn’t quite.

This is the book’s dedication:

For Dad: Thanks for always letting me steal your books. (You're not getting them back, but you can have this one.)
For Dad: Thanks for always letting me steal your books. (You’re not getting them back, but you can have this one.)

My father passed away two weeks ago today. You can see how Freed’s release is bittersweet.

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It wasn’t until I was in college that I realized people thought of SFF as a “boy” thing. For me, it was a family thing. My mom loved Tolkien and Star Trek, and my older siblings showed me Star Wars at a very young age. And the rest — essentially all of my reading material from middle school onward — came from Dad.

Dad watching Tammy, my oldest sister, in the 60s.
Dad watching Tammy, my oldest sister, in the 60s.

The house I grew up in was in a permanent state of unfinished renovation. The work began when I was a toddler and ended… well, when the ceiling collapsed and my parents moved out, when I was in college. But the upshot is that one of the walls was unfinished. There was the drywall at the back, and the support beams, but no drywall closing them off. The beams in that wall became Dad’s impromptu bookshelf. It was stacked with paperbacks at least waist high, end to end, shoved between those beams. Scifi and fantasy novels spanning from the late 60s, when Dad first moved to the Ithaca area, through the years until my folks moved in 2004.

When I was in high school, there weren’t any convenient bookstores in the area. So about once a month, Dad would take me to Elmira, just short of an hour away. We’d go to the B&N there, buy a few books each, and then sit down for dinner at a restaurant and ignore each other so we could read while we ate.

I don’t know if Dad considered himself a feminist, but I do remember clearly on one of those trips, when I was 14 and had just begun dating my first boyfriend, he said to me very mildly, “You know, he’ll still like you even if he knows how smart you are.”

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I think it’s probably worth noting that for all the sexism in SFF, a lot of my dad’s favorite authors were women. He told me a few times that he didn’t care who wrote the book, as long as the characters were interesting. For every Xanth novel stashed in that wall there was a Pern novel to go with it. For every David Eddings tome, a Mercedes Lackey; for every Christopher Stasheff, a Tanya Huff. Patricia Wrede. Kate Elliott. Joan Vinge. Just about every volume of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress. If it had a dragon or a spaceship on the cover, Dad probably owned it.

Selfie with me, Dad, and Rachel, just a few months ago.
Selfie with me, Dad, and Rachel, just a few months ago.

(He didn’t discover Tamora Pierce until later in life – he and Mom read through her entire backlist together. Then they adopted a cat from her, since she lived only an hour and a half away and had far too many cats dumped at her house to take care of herself.)

Like I said, I didn’t know that reading SFF was considered a boy thing when I was growing up. I didn’t know that girls weren’t supposed to be the heroes of fantasy stories, because they were the stars of the books I liked best. I didn’t know that women weren’t supposed to write those stories, because they were the authors of the books I liked best. So naturally, when I started writing, I wrote stories like the ones that I loved the best. Angry, brilliant girls with swords and magic who got to save the day.

You can draw a pretty straight line between Dad’s makeshift bookshelf and the angry feminist fantasy I write being on bookshelves today.

Thank you, Dad. I miss you.

Dad reading the dedication in an ARC, two weeks before he passed.
Dad reading the dedication in an ARC, two weeks before he passed.

Freed by Flame and Storm is out as of today, 12/12/17! You can purchase it at Indiebound, B&N, Amazon, or the retailer of your choice. Curious, but behind in your book buying? Lucky you – Bound by Blood and Sand is on sale in e-book format through the end of the year! You can nab that at B&N or Amazon as well.

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