I know I don’t update this page often (hence the name–never say I don’t live up to my promises!) but this is still the most, um… “website-like” presence I have, so I kind of have to show this:
A MIRACLE OF ROSES will be published come Fall 2020 by Entangled: TEEN! This book’s journey was something, and I’m saving that five-part saga for my eventual newsletter. Which will go on my actual website that I can’t afford at the moment. Hah! Needless to say, it’s like a rollercoaster: lots of highs and lows, halfway a bird shat on me, I was screaming how I wanted to get off and never ride rollercoasters again, more birds shat on me, and amid the tears someone offered me a towelette to wipe my hair with saying “I’m not sure this will work, but hey!”, I accepted that towelette and then it didn’t just clean my hair, it cleared the skies and brought rainbows, then all of a sudden I had a bunch of different birds landing on me and offering me gifts. And then I got on the rollercoaster again.
(That someone was Jen, by the way, and I’m linking them because they absolutely deserve it for talking me down off several ledges. Go love Jen!)
The book is based on my hometown’s legend about the Holy Queen Isabel of Aragon, who married our King Dinis I. She’s HUGE in my hometown, and we even have the butt-fucking-ugliest statue of her up in the Castle. Many historical liberties were taken, so some of it is accurate, and some isn’t. There’s an Alentejo Mastiff dog named Lucas, and, obviously, lots and lots of food, and no buried gays!
How my bearded dragon accidentally became a support animal
Anxiety is no joke.
I’ve suffered from general and social anxiety for almost as long as I can remember. Actions that come naturally to others—such as looking people in the eye, regulating my tone, not overthinking every little interaction—take a lot of work for me. And although I’d love to have a therapy dog, I have neither the space, or the funds to give a puppy the life it deserves.
Some years ago, I met my first bearded dragon, Timóteo. He belonged to a friend, and the first day I met Timóteo, he climbed up my arm and spent an entire afternoon cuddling against my neck. His owner, Carlos, said he’d never seen anything like that, and his wife, whose name is also Diana, remained amazed at how Timóteo just stayed there for hours, even as I played with their lovely (but eager!) rescue dogs.
I fell in love with bearded dragons that day.
HE IS SO ADORABLE!
Timóteo, a friend’s beardie, peeking over my shoulder!
Before I got my own, however, I did some research. They were relatively cheap to maintain, and most owners said they tended to be calm and friendly so long as they were handled properly.
As soon as I got my first paycheck, I got my own beardie. The breeder everyone recommended happened to be running a promotion (making the terrarium extra affordable), so I went there to see the newly hatched dragons. I stuck my hand in the terrarium where all the babies were, and this tiny fella just jumps onto my finger and hangs on. He wasn’t a girl, like I’d initially wanted, but the breeder wasn’t finding any girls in the clutch, and I didn’t have the heart to put back the beardie back.
That little dragon was Norbert.
I’m going to skip the part where my parents threw a fit, and my mother refused to come to my home for half a year. I set up the terrarium, prepared the eye-dropper with water (baby beardies need to be given water that way until they learn how to drink it from the bowl), looked at the box of roaches with determination and dismay, and set to raising a dragon.
For the first too weeks, I couldn’t take him out of the tank. He was too small, and still not acclimatized to a new home. So I’d sit at the edge of my bed, arm in the terrarium, talking to little Norbert while I petted him. Trying to pick up roaches with tweezers was an exercise in frustration, and that eventually won over disgust. I started hand-feeding him roaches every two days, and vegetables once a week. Young beardies, unlike adult ones, eat mostly insects—so it was… fun. I never thought I’d go through so many boxes of roaches, but roaches are the best source so. Yay.
Note: if you’re going to raise a bearded dragon, handling insects is non-negotiable. Bearded dragons need a lot of protein growing up, so giving them roaches and/or crickets is mandatory if you want them to be healthy. Once, while coming back from shopping for groceries, I came across a guy walking his beardie, and after I unapologetically screamed, “OMG A DRAGON I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!” we talked for a bit. I thought the beardie (Stevie was his name!) was a juvenile because he was so tiny. NOPE. He was a rescue whose previous owner had refused to feed him insects.
Back to Norbert.
Once he was used to me, I started taking him out every night. I’d put him on my lap, I’d kiss him, I’d cuddle with him. We formed a bond. He started looking up when I came home from work and called his name. He was hand-fed, but because feeding wasn’t all I used my hands for with him, he wasn’t attacking my fingers thinking they were food. Because yes, if you hand-feed your beardie but don’t pet and handle them, they will associate your hand with food and strike at it.
When the good weather came (by February—thanks, climate change!) Norbert was around six months old. No longer the size of my finger, I could take him outside to enjoy actual sun. Naturally, that’s what I did.
There’s a nice park near my place where I used to hang out a lot as a student. There are tons of dogs after 6 pm, but it’s pretty chill before then. I took my notebook for some writing, my Kindle for some reading, got a towel to sit on the grass, and took Norbert with me.
I had to be extra careful, but most of the time, I found that Norbert just sat on my lap and basked in the sun. Some people screamed when they saw him, but I was surprised to see most reactions were positive. Grandmothers came to me with their grandchildren and told them, “Look, a dinosaur!” It was adorable.
And Norbert? He just sat there and took in the attention. Whenever a loud noise spooked him, I held him to me—eventually, he got so used to it he started climbing up my arm and nestling on my shoulder automatically. Soon, he was no longer bothered with loud noises, and he closed his eyes when strangers showered him with affection.
Then, I begin noticing something strange.
Usually, when a lot of people surround me and speak at me, I have panic attacks. When I’m alone in conventions and gatherings (like the Lisbon book fair,) I feel like a stupid dork wandering around, and my anxiety leads me to think everyone MUST be looking at me, even though I know they aren’t.
With Norbert, that all went away. Sure, I had more people than usual approach me, tons of people staring at me—except with Norbert, I know it’s not me they’re looking at, or me they’re curious about. It’s all him. So much so that when I have Norbert and someone comes near, I immediately think it’s for him.
And it is.
Thanks to Norbert, I’ve experienced some beautiful moments at the Lisbon Book Fair, at the park, at cons. Things that would’ve given me a crying attack no longer did. I had an entire class of 4th graders and their teacher come to me and ask about Norbert. I had a mom and her daughters come talk to me because the eldest girl had just done a report on bearded dragons and had never seen one. I ended up talking for hours with two random strangers from the same college I went to because Norbert decided he HAD to climb onto this guy’s lap and sit there. When I locked myself out of my house and had to call the police to break into my own home, four grown men lost their shit when they saw Norbert. To this day, I haven’t been charged for their intervention and I suspect that was all on Norbs.
I also found myself looking at people in the eye, something I’ve always struggled with and have been scolded for. I don’t find myself obsessing over what I’ve said or done, because most of the things I’ve said or done are related to Norbert, and Norbert is perfect.
I also had less beautiful moments. A lady found a cop in the garden and wanted him to arrest me. My own mom wishes Norbert would die because she hates him. I overheard people I knew from college saying, “She just wants attention,” when attention is the last thing I want and the exact reason I bring Norbert is to deflect it from me and onto him.
I can’t handle people as Diana, the person. But I have no problem talking to anyone as Diana, the dragon wrangler. And when I do get nervous, all I have to do is look down at Norbert and see him looking up at me.
There are limitations to bringing bearded dragons with you. For one, you can’t take them out if the weather’s too cold. If you do bring them, you have to make sure they catch at least 3 hours of sunlight, so there’s a lot of standing in the sun. But when you can take them, they’re wonderful, quiet, calm animals that ground you. It’s like they come with their own shield against anxiety. If Norbert was a pet in Pillars of Eternity 2, he’d give you +2 Resolve and resistance to Resolve afflictions. And yes, I’m still bummed I didn’t have enough money to pledge to name a pet in that game because in-game Norbert would’ve been A+.
Still, if you can’t have a dog, and only need a support animal for periodic situations, a bearded dragon might be perfect for you. I know Norbert is perfect for me.
Additional notes on bearded dragons:
If you want a healthy beardie, make sure to feed them insects! Crickets and roaches are great. If you can get silkworms and hornworms, give them those too because they’re high in protein—unlike mealworms, which are mostly fat.
Beardies require 12-14 hours of light exposure when in tanks. You’ll need an UVB and a heat lamp, and renew that UVB every 4-6 months. They lose efficacy and need changing regularly! If you have a yard you can release them in without worrying (or a yard you can stay and supervise), then 3-4 hours of daily, real sunlight should suffice.
Don’t use sand as a substrate, especially if you’re raising a hatchling! Beardies can be very messy eaters, and they’ll eat sand, causing impaction. I use paper towels and they’ve served me well.
Mist your beardie daily, or give him baths every week.
Beardies brumate in winter! They’ll be less active, and eat less as well. When he’s brumating, Norbert eats once a week, then as the temperatures go up, he starts eating more.
Give your beardie veggies! Green beans, dandelion greens, parsley, and coriander are some great staple foods. There are a lot more you can give them, just be sure to check! Norbert, for instance, loves hibiscus flowers. He also loves figs when they’re in season. Also, melon, papaya, mango, sweet potatoes, bell peppers (especially red ones), courgette/zucchini, kale, and so on.
If you get your beardie used to pooping in the bath (I did this accidentally by giving Norbert baths every 2-3 days when he was growing up) they will actually ask to be taken out of the terrarium so you can draw them a bath for them to poop xD When we’re outside, he’ll ask to be put down so he can poop as well.
Beardies also grow according to their terrarium, so try to have one that’s on the bigger side.
If you have other pets, be sure to monitor all interactions. Some dogs are very OK with beardies and won’t harm them (my vet has a Pit Bull that LOVES beardies and will let the lizards hop on him and won’t move until the lizards do), but either way, take extreme care. With my cats, Sushi completely ignores Norbert, but Jubas isn’t the same. I can never leave the two of them alone because while Jubas knows he can’t touch Norbert, sometimes he’ll get too playful and might accidentally do something to poor Norbs. So they’re never, EVER alone together, and when they are, I’m always nearby and paying attention.
Beardies live for about 10 years, give or take. They’re not a short-term pet.
As some of you might know, my cat Jubas suffers from bladder stones. Luckily we caught it in time, and he won’t require surgery like he did the last time. BUT he’s still on a special diet that is incredibly draining money-wise (a 5kg bag is €49 and it lasts half a month, plus vet visits and blood/urine tests). Norbert also needs two new lamps (a heating lamp, which is €7, and a UVB lamp, which is €35). This is Priority #1.
Adding to this, I got accepted into the wonderful Rainbow Weekend at the Writing Barn. I’ve applied for a scholarship, but it’s not guaranteed, AND the flight alone will be around €1000. Priority #2.
So, in an effort to help me come up with the funds, I will be offering art commissions at discounted prices, as well as query, synopsis, and submission package critiques.
Sketches: €5 per character without color, €8 with basic coloring Turnaround time: 24-48 hours
Portrait “speedy”: €25 per character if color, €15 if black and white Turnaround time: 3 days
High-Res Portrait: €45 per character with color, €35 if black and white Turnaround time: 5 days
Full Body: €70 per character with color, €60 if black and white Turnaround time: 1 week
Query Critique: €5 per pass
I will work with you on your query using Word Track Changes, addressing character, stakes, conflict, and clarity. Turnaround time: 24–48 hours
Synopsis Critique: €15 per pass
I will work with you on your synopsis using work track changes to make it clear, concise, and no more than 2 pages long. Ifyou have a 2-page synopsis already, then the price is €8 per pass
Turnaround time: 48 hours
First 5 Pages Critique: €15 per pass
I will work with you on polishing those first pages, addressing grammar, consistency, and if it’s where your story should begin. Please attach your query when booking this so I know what the book should be about! Turnaround time: 48 hours
Submission Package: €25 per pass
I will work with you on your query, synopsis, and first five pages as described above! Turnaround time: 3 to 5 days Rush fee: €10 for same day delivery
Sensitivity Reads: €200 for a novel
I will read your novel for potential harmful tropes relating to: bipolar disorder, depression, social anxiety, self-harm, suicide, bullying, bisexuality, and growing up on the spectrum without a diagnosis. Turnaround time: 2-3 weeks Rush fee: €75 for same week
Payment are accepted via Paypal. Please send all inquiries to pinguicha[at]gmail[dot]com.
Long time no updates! I should be better at updating this blog, especially since I’ve been producing a lot of portraits. So here! I cast Raise the Dead, prompted by this Sightwitch Blog Tour!
I got an e-ARC for the book from TorTeen, and I got to reading it right away. It’s an excellent addition to the Witchlands universe, and told in a rather unusual format: diaries, with illustrations to accompany it.
I adored Ryber’s POV, and learning how Sightwitches and their little society worked was fascinating. We get to learn a lot more about Ryber, as well as Kullen, and the book does a nice job expanding the world. I don’t want to spoil, but it hints at a very big mystery and now I can’t wait for Bloodwitch.
So here are my contributions! You might have seen Ryber already. I experimented with Gradient Maps and Brushes to make her skin have that gold/green hue.
And a new one! Ryber’s heartthread, Kullen! I used Teddy Sears as a reference when painting him, so any similarities are intentional 😛
Before Safi and Iseult battled a Bloodwitch…
Before Merik returned from the dead…
Ryber Fortiza was a Sightwitch Sister at a secluded convent, waiting to be called by her goddess into the depths of the mountain. There she would receive the gift of foretelling. But when that call never comes, Ryber finds herself the only Sister without the Sight.
Years pass and Ryber’s misfit pain becomes a dull ache, until one day, Sisters who already possess the Sight are summoned into the mountain, never to return. Soon enough, Ryber is the only Sister left. Now, it is up to her to save her Sisters, though she does not have the Sight―and though she does not know what might await her inside the mountain.
On her journey underground, she encounters a young captain named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he got there. Together, the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, their road filled with horrors, and what they find at the end of that road will alter the fate of the Witchlands forever.
About Susan Dennard:
I’ve come a long way from small-town Georgia. Working in marine biology, I got to travel the world—six out of seven continents, to be exact (I’ll get to you yet, Asia!)—before I settled down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor.
I’m the author of the Something Strange and Deadly series as well as the New York Times bestselling Witchlands books, Truthwitch and Windwitch, and if I’m not writing, then I’m busy slaying darkspawn or earning bruises at the dojo.
The next volume in the Birth of Saints series is available now!
Following Grudging–and with a mix of Terry Goodkind and Bernard Cornwall–religion, witchcraft, and chivalry war in Faithful, the exciting next chapter in Michelle Hauck’s Birth of Saints series!
A world of Fear and death…and those trying to save it.
Colina Hermosa has burned to the ground. The Northern invaders continue their assault on the ciudades-estados. Terror has taken hold, and those that should be allies betray each other in hopes of their own survival. As the realities of this devastating and unprovoked war settles in, what can they do to fight back?
On a mission of hope, an unlikely group sets out to find a teacher for Claire, and a new weapon to use against the Northerners and their swelling army.
What they find instead is an old woman.
But she’s not a random crone—she’s Claire’s grandmother. She’s also a Woman of the Song, and her music is both strong and horrible. And while Claire has already seen the power of her own Song, she is scared of her inability to control it, having seen how her magic has brought evil to the world, killing without reason or remorse. To preserve a life of honor and light, Ramiro and Claire will need to convince the old woman to teach them a way so that the power of the Song can be used for good. Otherwise, they’ll just be destroyers themselves, no better than the Northerners and their false god, Dal. With the annihilation their enemy has planned, though, they may not have a choice.
A tale of fear and tragedy, hope and redemption, Faithful is the harrowing second entry in the Birth of Saints trilogy.
A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.
On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.
The Women of the Song.
But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.
A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.
Michelle Hauck lives in the bustling metropolis of northern Indiana with her hubby and two kids in college. Besides working with special needs children by day, she writes all sorts of fantasy, giving her imagination free range. A book worm, she passes up the darker vices in favor of chocolate and looks for any excuse to reward herself. Bio finished? Time for a sweet snack. She is a co-host of the yearly contests Query Kombat, Nightmare on Query Street, and Sun versus Snow. Her Birth of Saints trilogy, starting with Grudging and Faithful (November 15, 2016), is available from Harper Voyager. Another epic fantasy, Kindar’s Cure, is published by Divertir Publishing. She’s repped by Marisa Corvisiero of Corvisiero Literary.
Whenever I see an author up in arms about how bad and horrible fanfic is, I can’t help but to scratch my head and ask, “But what is so wrong about it?”
Sure, the appearance and popularity of fanfic-turned-original-novel is meant to take some of the blame. Would 50 Shades of Grey be so popular if it hadn’t started out as Twilight fanfic first? Would EL James have gotten a huge following regardless? What about writers like Alice Clayton, Jamie McGuire, etc? Truth is, no one knows. But it opened the discussion of authors using their standing in fandom to garner a following, and whether was it right for them to pull-and-publish their fics with different characters.
Is it wrong? Unless someone’s lifting complete passages off your book, then no, not really, at least from a legal standpoint. Whether it’s morally wrong or not, jury’s still out on that one. But ask yourself: if you had a readership of millions, and got offered a book contract if you changed the names and setting, would you do it?
Personally, I don’t think I would. I think my fic is meant to stay in the confines of what inspired it, and it’s meant to be free. I may have created some original concepts in fic that I’ve then ported into original works, but those were original concepts. They were mine, and as such, I can use them as I see fit. At the time, I put them in fic to experiment, and those that worked, I decided to dedicate books to. So, in a way, fanfic helped me train. And if you ask writers, some of them will tell you the exact same thing.
A lot of the criticism for fanfic appeared during the 50SoG debacle. Before, some authors were vocal about their distaste for fic (such as Anne Riceand Robin Hobb) to the point sites like fanfiction.net forbade users from posting fic based off those writers’ comments. But the more 50SoG earned, the more comments I saw deriding fanfic, and the people who *gasp* like to write it in their free time.
Back in 2003, when Anne Rice told people not to write fanfic based on her work, do you think people stopped? You bet they didn’t. Some actually stopped buying her books, because they were mad. So, remember that every time you oppose fanfic, you may actually be alienating some of your own fans.
It’s not because they want to steal the characters. It’s not because they’re thinking about “oh, I’ll write this fic, become popular, then pull it, change names and get a million bucks!”
It’s because people love the work so much they feel inspired to write. They love the world, the characters so much, their heads won’t stop thinking about it. They will sit down and put said characters in situations the author didn’t. They devote time, put themselves out there in the fandom world, and hope others will like their spin on things.
And that is one of the highest compliments a writer can get.
You cannot keep people from writing whatever the hell they want. And if they’re choosing to write about your characters, for chocolate’s sake, let them.
“But if they become popular then they can make millions off a work that’s based on my work!”
Well, true. But so what?
If they make millions off a work based on yours, I’m sure it’s because you already have big recognition. All the “big” pulled-to-publish fanfics came from Twilight, and what did Twilight have already? That’s right, a huge following. Trust me, no fanfic of a small fandom is going to garner thousands of followers, much less a million-dollar-publishing contract. Not to mention EL James, Alice Clayton, and all the Twi-fic authors didn’t really steal readers from Stephenie Meyer. Meyer’s fans will still buy Meyer’s work. Meyer never really lost any readership from having people writing fanfic of her work.
And neither will you. Neither will anyone, really.
“But they should be spending time on their characters, not mine! They should be creating their world!”
People spend time doing whatever the fuck they want. If they want to write about your characters, they will do it. And the truth is, sometimes, people just want to write in a world’s that’s already set, with characters they already know. Believe it or not, it teaches them something. It teaches how to stay in character, how to use a world and follow its rules. Hell, even if it’s AU (Another Universe), it’s still a great training exercise, because you keep the characters but build a new world for them.
“People should be reading real books instead of fanfic!”
People should read whatever the hell they want. If it’s fanfic, then they are going to read fanfic. In fact, just last week, as I was playing Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice, I found myself craving serious Phoenix/Maya fanfic. So, I went and read some. And it was glorious.
Just like when I’m playing a Bioware game (it happens with Bioware games 99% of the time), and my future game husband is being overdramatic about lyrium addiction, you bet your ass I’m going to spend however long I want writing about it. Because it’s fun. It’s liberating. And sometimes, it helps connect to like-minded people. Fanfic led me to meet amazing people who I’ve stayed friends with for over ten years.
“But knowing how to write fanfic doesn’t mean you’re ready to write books!”
Sure, there are many things you do in fanfic that you don’t do in books, because fanfic has no purpose other than what you want it. Ultimately, though, more than it harms, fanfic helps. I know it helped me.
Fanfic helped me realize I did want to become a writer. Fanfic helped me improve my English, my prose, my skills. Sticking to a fanfic for years even though people rarely left comments in it taught me discipline, and it taught me how to write just because I love writing.
And if you, as an author, are inspiring people to write, take it as a compliment, because it is one. Obviously, don’t police the fandom, or participate actively in it (look at what happened to Marion Zimmer Bradley when she did), and don’t tell them to stop, because you never know how important it might be to them.