Artists are the soul of our society. The ones that influence as well as reflect — in language or other mediums — the morality, beauty and ugliness of our world. Writers, specifically, hold great power. Look to Stalin, Steinem, Nietzsche, Woolf and countless other literary exemplars to see that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. Writers hold influence, whether we accept this responsibility or not. Now, assuming that we do embrace it, bearing in mind that not everyone needs to, we then need to look at the finer points, the invisible moral signals behind our writing. What messages do our characters convey? How are we influencing our readers? For better or for worse? Depending on your politics and beliefs, the answer to that question will vary. For the purpose of this dialog between you and me, let’s assume that you’re in my camp: valuing freedom above oppression, with a mix of liberal and conservative opinions.
When I write heroines and heroes, I write them based on the role models that I’ve known in my life. Strong, but suffering moments of weakness. Brave, but not unflappable or made of iron. Smart, but not so smart that they’re annoying know-it-alls. You know, relatable, believable folks. Write a believable character, and you’ve won half the battle with getting people to like your book. These characters are the folk I’d like my children (whenever I’m blessed with having them) to hang out with. One of the reasons why I write such characters, and focus in particular on developing my female leads beyond stereotypes, is because I am quite tired of the tropes in current literature, especially young adult novels. I understand my influential role and I want to broadcast a different message. I think that there are better things to educate our youth on than love triangles and falling in lust with mysterious, broody, possibly vampiric strangers. In fact, those are probably two things that people can safely avoid until a few drunken nights in their early 20s — though that’s just my opinion and personal experience.
I best be gettin’ to some kind of a point. Points, rather. Here they are:
1. I believe that we (writers) have influence — an extremely powerful form of it, since we actually get inside peoples’ heads. A bit scary when you think about it! A novelist creeping around in there!
2. I believe that this — great — power should be used responsibly. As per Superman’s guidelines.
3. If you want to write within the norm, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. People need simplicity and comfort; they do not always need challenge and change. If everyone were a revolutionary, we’d have no stability. All I would ask, writer to writer, is that you are aware of what you are writing, and to whom you are writing.
4. If you, like me, aren’t a fan of the stereotypes being propagated in modern fiction: change the dialog. Blog about it. Write women (and men) whose lives you envy — not because of their fabulous Prada wardrobe, their Kardashian comeliness, or the dozen beaus chasing them — but because they are damn well fascinating people. For example, women working outside their prescribed skillset; explorers, warriors and scientists, who retain all the wonders and grace of their sex.
Men and women are different, yes. Although beyond certain biological particulars, they aren’t as emotionally different as we railroad them into being. We all love, hurt and need. We all have the same emotions, and if we could somehow strip away the pretence, and the generations of enforced “masculinity” and “femininity”, we’d find a near perfect commonality. We’d find some really interesting people, which is what we want to write.
That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. Until that Star Trekian era, just write stronger leads: male, female, horse and circus monkey. Write heroes and friends for our children. The world has enough Mary Sues and Sir John the Knights. We know those roles, and many are sick of them, only we’re so inundated in stereotypes that we don’t realize this is the case.
Grand ambitions? Empty bluster? I know that I’ve thrown my feet—and ideals—to the fire of my readers. I’ll let them decide. Are you brave enough to do the same?
Feast of Dreams
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Christian A. Brown
Genre: Fantasy Romance
As King Brutus licks his wounds and gathers new strength, two rival queens vow to destroy each other’s nations.
Lila of Eod, sliding into madness, risks everything in the search for a powerful relic, while Queen Gloriatrix threatens Eod with military might—including three monstrous technomagikal warships.
Far from this clash of queens, Morigan and the Wolf scour Alabion, hunting for the mad king’s hidden weakness. Their quest brings them face to face with their own pasts, their dark futures…and the Sisters Three themselves.
Unbeknownst to all, a third thread in Geadhain’s tapestry begins to move in the wastes of Mor’Khul. There, a father and son scavenge to survive as they travel south toward a new chapter in Geadhain history.
Available at Amazon Kindle and Paperback
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/rURqUni_lco
“My queen, it grows late.”
Queen Lila was about to address the enormous man casting his silver-hued shadow over her as Rowena. But no. Her sword was gone and neck-deep in espionage with the master of the East Watch, and a hammer named Erik was her guardian these days. What sad eyes the man had, more black than blue—as morose as those of an owl perched over a graveyard. She could see them glinting from beneath his darkened visor. Rarely did she spot the hard, hidden handsomeness of the man—his black hair, broken but appealing face, and stubble crisscrossed in scars. Come to think of it, aside from the moment his naked, scorched self had abruptly manifested in a cindery puff within the Chamber of Echoes some weeks ago, she hadn’t seen him without his helm. He was hiding then from the absence of his king or another private torment. She had been staring at him rather unabashedly for quite a spell. The sparkle of fiery colors off the immaculate polish of his pristine armor hypnotized her. His voice snapped her out of her trance. How quickly evening’s shroud had fallen.
“Time has escaped us,” commented the queen.
Erik gently led her from the bedside she attended. As they passed the hospice’s cots and floor pallets, the hands and voices of the wounded reached for her. Erik watched the queen’s remorseful looks and the aching way she touched the feet of certain sufferers or the backs of weeping kin. These days she was cold and ruthless in her judgments within the palace. She had become a steel queen to stand metal for mettle against the Iron Queen rising in the East. In these particular confines, however, where the faltering breath of the ailing made the air humid, and it was thick with the stench of eucalyptus poultices and incense to mask the rot magik would not heal, the queen’s mask cracked or was simply cast off. Genuine pity replaced it. She had come here each day for the past fortnight since the storm of frostfire had struck Eod. “The day of ruin,” the people called it—when first the skies were bare and then suddenly forked with red lightning, spitting shards of ice and arrows of flame to the earth. None of sound mind could have prepared for that wailing apocalypse. Thousands were killed instantly. They were boiled inside tarry craters the earthspeakers were still working to fill or entombed in buildings that could not hold against the storm’s wrath. The injuries were uncountable, and they were still being reported. Those with only singed or frostbitten flesh dismissed the pettiness of their wounds and carried on with tourniquets and grimaces. Others had to be scraped from streets or, if mauled but living, extracted from rubble and taken to a growing encampment of emergency sites erected near the palace. Here was where the queen always found herself once the details of war, supply lines, allies, enemies, and stratagems had worn her patience to a snappy disinterest. Somehow in these miserable hospices, the queen seemed peaceful, albeit sad.
Time and again Erik made one-sided conversation as he guarded his new charge—he never managed to say these words. You blame yourself for this or for my kingfather’s fate. You see these sins as your own. You feel the weight and needs of this entire nation upon yourself, and what a terrible weight that must be to bear. You are not alone, though, my queen. As adrift as you might be, I am here. I shall be the rock you need. I have made a promise to the great man who speaks to us no more.
The night he had appeared so rudely at her side, she held him and told him she could not sense the king anymore. The icy flame of Magnus’s soul had gone as cold as a forgotten hearth.
“What does it mean? What does it all mean?” she’d sobbed.
She was without her lover and partner in eternity, and he was without his father. They were agonizingly alone. Only on that night did she cry for the king and never since—as far as Erik had witnessed. He and the queen did not speak of their grief again or further pursue the reality that the Immortal King—missing and utterly quiet in his queen’s mind since the battle with his mad brother in Zioch—was quite possibly dead.
At the hospice exit, Queen Lila stopped so suddenly that Erik almost elbowed his liege. With what Erik perceived as a speck of wariness, she half glanced over her shoulder, and her gaze swelled wide with fear. She was staring at something behind them. Erik looked as well and reached a hand to his weapon. However, he saw nothing aside from the rows of squirming sufferers moving on their bloody, sweat-soaked cots like man-size maggots. What horrible times these were.
“Have you forgotten something?” he asked.
Queen Lila wished she could explain the hairs that prickled on her neck or the chill of Mother Winter’s mouth that blew the humidity from the chamber, but no one else seemed to feel it. Most of all, she wanted to find a less hysterical explanation for the shadow—tall as a mountain, black, and somehow bright—that hovered in the corner of her eye. She would not turn around and look at it. She could not. She was afraid that if she opened her mouth, she would involuntarily scream. What do you want, shadow? Why do you haunt me? Why do you come to me in dreams?
“No. I need nothing more,” she answered curtly and moved ahead, trembling.
Four Feasts Till Darkness
Christian A. Brown
Genre: Fantasy Romance
Date of Publication: September 9, 2014
Number of pages: 540
Word Count: 212K
"Love is what binds us in brotherhood, blinds us from hate, and makes us soar with desire.”
Morigan lives a quiet life as the handmaiden to a fatherly old sorcerer named Thackery. But when she crosses paths with Caenith, a not wholly mortal man, her world changes forever. Their meeting sparks long buried magical powers deep within Morigan. As she attempts to understand her newfound abilities, unbidden visions begin to plague her--visions that show a devastating madness descending on one of the Immortal Kings who rules the land.
With Morigan growing more powerful each day, the leaders of the realm soon realize that this young woman could hold the key to their destruction. Suddenly, Morigan finds herself beset by enemies, and she must master her mysterious gifts if she is to survive.
Menos was darker than usual: its clouds as black as the shadow of fear that haunted Mouse. The city felt more menacing to her. She saw shadows in every corner, noticed the glint of every ruffian’s blade or slave’s chain as though they were all intended for her. The warning of Alastair played inside her skull on a loop of nightmare theater.
A hand over her mouth startles her awake, and she twists for the dagger in her pillowcase until she recognizes the shadowy apparition atop her, who hisses at her to calm.
“Alastair?” she gasps.
The hand unclenches and the willowy shadow retreats to more of its own; she can only see the scruff of his red beard in the dark.
“Get up, Mouse. Get dressed.”
Her mentor sounds annoyed or confused; she is each, but finds her garments quickly enough anyway.
“I don’t like good-byes, so let’s not call this that,” Alastair says with a sigh. “But it will be a parting, nonetheless. You need to go low. Lower than you’ve ever been before. A new name won’t be enough. You’ll need a new face. I don’t know how or who, but the sacred contract of our order has been broken. Your safety has been bought.”
Mouse knows the who and how, and as she glances up from her boot-lacing to explain to her mentor her predicament, she sees that he is gone. Just empty shadows, echoing words, and the sound of her heartbeat drowning out all the rest.
She expected the dead man and his icy master to emerge from the dim nooks and doorways of the buildings she passed at any instant. With a hand on her knives and a fury to her step, she swept down the sidewalk; no carriages for her today, as they were essentially cages on wheels—too easy to trap oneself in. With its sooty storefronts and their wrought-iron windows, its black streetlamps that rose about her like the bars of a prison, Menos was constricting itself around her, and she had to get out.
You’ve survived worse than the nekromancer, she coached herself, though she wasn’t certain that was true. She hurried through the grimness of Menos, dodging pale faces and quickening her step with every sand. By the time she arrived at the fleshcrafter’s studio, she was sweating and stuck to her cloak. She looked down the desolate sidewalk and up the long sad face of the tall tower with its many broken or boarded-over windows. When she was sure she wasn’t being pursued by the phantoms that her paranoia had conjured, she pulled back a rusted door that did not cry out as it should have, given its appearance, but slid along well-formed grooves through the dust. She raced through the door and hauled it closed.
It was dark and flickering with half-dead lights in the garbage-strewn hallway in which she stood. Mouse picked through the trash with her feet, tensing as she passed every dark alcove in the abandoned complex. Hives, these places were called, and used to house enormous numbers of lowborn folk under a single roof. In Menos, even the shabbiest roof was a desirable commodity, so the building’s ghostly vacancy meant that it likely was condemned by disease at one point. Soon the stairwell she sought appeared, and she tiptoed down it, careful not to slip on the stairs, which were slick with organic grunge.
Couldn’t have picked a nicer studio, she cursed. I’ll be lucky if this fleshcrafter leaves me with half a lip to drink with. Lamentably, speed and discretion were her two goals in choosing where to have her face remodeled. Such stipulations cut the more promising fleshcrafters off the list and left her with the dregs. She hadn’t put much thought into what she would have done, or even if she would end up hideously disfigured. Monstrous disfigurement could even work in her favor, as she bore an uncanny resemblance to that crow-eviscerated woman whom she suspected was the object of the nekromancer’s dark desire. I’ll take ugly over dead. Over whatever he has in mind for me.
Bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Feast of Fates, Christian A. Brown received a Kirkus star in 2014 for the first novel in his genre-changing Four Feasts Till Darkness series. He has appeared on Newstalk 1010, AM640, Daytime Rogers, and Get Bold Today with LeGrande Green. He actively writes a blog about his mother’s journey with cancer and on gender issues in the media. A lover of the weird and wonderful, Brown considers himself an eccentric with a talent for cat-whispering.