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The Voyage to Voyager
Spotlight on Jim Doty’s The Thirteenth Man


Jim Doty has traveled a long way to get here, to his first book to be published by Harper Voyager. The Thirteenth Man is on sale at Amazon.

Jim Doty is a rising star.  That became apparent to me  as I watched him do all the right things, starting with write, write, write.  Since then, he has become a con staple that I look forward to seeing when I can attend. He wrote a  blog for Leasspell about his experiences early on has gone onto exciting things, including his first book to be published with Harper Voyager.  It’s the first time I’ve witnessed a friend going from indie to traditionally published author, and I could not be more pleased to share the press release from Harper Voyager.



After five years as a prisoner of war, Commander Charlie Cass-bastard son of the Duke de Maris-is finally home. But his arrival is cause for consternation as much as celebration, because when he was thought dead, he was considered a hero to the Empire.

Alive, he’s a political liability. Because the war with the Syndonese is not yet over, and while the King technically answers to the Nine-the Dukes of the various planets and moons of the Empire-there are others actually pulling his strings. And they certainly don’t need Charlie Cass messing up their delicate plans. Unfortunately for them, that’s what he’s best at. And when the next war always seems to begin as soon as the ink is dry on the peace treaty, only a true hero can set things right. Spanning the galaxy, The Thirteenth Man (ISBN: 9780062562081, on sale 08/23/2016, $3.99) blends the best traditions of space opera and military sci-fi into a non-stop adventure that’s as much Patrick O’Brien as it is John Scalzi.

 About the Author

jl-doty2Trained as a scientist with a PhD in Electrical Engineering (specializing in laser physics), J.L. DOTY has been writing science fiction and fantasy for over thirty years. He has nine published novels, including the three series: The Treasons Cycle, The Gods Within, and The Dead Among Us. Born in Seattle, he now lives in Arizona with his wife and three cats. He writes full-time now and continues to focus on speculative fiction, but never with lasers as a weapon, since most writers invariably get that wrong.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-1-55-14-pmAbout Voyager

Harper Voyager is a thriving global imprint dedicated to science fiction and fantasy. The imprint was originally founded as Eos Books in 1999 and relaunched in 2011 as a global brand, in conjunction with HarperCollins Australia and HarperCollins UK. Harper Voyager publishes some of the most notable names in science fiction, epic fantasy, and urban fantasy, including worldwide bestselling authors Raymond E. Feist, Kim Harrison, Robin Hobb, and Sheri S. Tepper. For more information about the publisher and other Witness titles, please visit:

Take My Breath Away: A No-Spoilers Review of Star Wars

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Wow, did I luck out.  I got up this morning thinking I was going to be cleaning house today and my husband says, “You’re going to opening day of Star Wars!”  Didn’t see that coming!  A friend had a couple of spare tickets because of last minute cancelations, so I put my hair up into Leia-like buns over my ears and off we went.

When I heard that Disney had acquired this franchise I was relieved that Lucas wasn’t going to be spinning out any more faux-marketable characters like Jar Jar or Ewoks (BB8 was as close as they got, and I’m good with that).  I trust Disney to know entertainment, and I was not disappointed.  The movie was absolutely a fun romp.  It was a cross between a remake of the original, an homage, and a family reunion.  I think they were smart to remind us what we fell in love with oh so many years ago, to show us the way again past the abysmal movies that are now labeled parts one through three.

Harrison Ford did not disappoint.  I loved visiting with Han again and was happy it was more than a walk-on cameo.  And with Chewy, it was like we were never away.  The actor could have stepped right from the last film into this.  All the beloved and familiar mannerisms were there. You just can’t go wrong with Chewy and Han.

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Like any real heroes, they don’t look back!
Daisy Ridley and John Boyega did good jobs as Rey and Finn.

I was happy with the acting of the new round of  hero-leads and was willing to buy into their characters.  Kylo Ren, the Darth Vader-like character, was pretty good, but suffered in comparison to the footsteps he had to follow in.  In Lord of the Rings, I heard they hired body coaches so that the elves could move in a more “otherworldly” fashion to make them more ethereal.  I wish they had done that for Adam Driver, the former marine who played Kylo Ren.  The body coaches gave the elves a presence that Kylo Ren could have benefitted from.  But I’ll give him a break. Following in the footsteps of one of the iconic movie villains of all time can’t have been easy.

Practically no need to mention the graphics; it’s Disney. They were great.  I loved the look of the whole movie.

It wasn’t all sunshine, though. In the In-and-Out-Burger postmortem our crew did of the movie, we decided the movie suffered a little in originality.  They didn’t really have any innovations that felt new to this iteration, either in look or tech or plot.  The ships were pretty much what we’ve seen already, and there were no real surprises.  You knew Kylo Ren would be related to someone we knew, you knew the good guys would save the day, and even the one big “shocker” of the film was predictable (no spoilers, but you’ll know when you see it).    We even came up with a few potential memes…Supreme Leader Snoke, the emperor-type character, looked a little like “What happens if Gollum had Kept the Ring,” an association reinforced by the fact that Andy Serkis played both characters.  And we decided the Harrison’s next movie might just have to be Indiana Jones and the Jedi Temple.

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What happens when Gullum keeps the ring.
Andy Serkis plays Supreme Leader Snokes, who might look a little like another character Serkis played.

The movie was fun, and it was comfortable.  All in all I enjoyed it more than most movies…


I wanted to fall in love with it.  I wanted to feel the way I did after I saw the first Star Wars, or Avatar, or Lord of the Rings, or even the first Indiana Jones movie. I’ll never forget how I heard the entire theater sigh in relief when Indie jumped out of the way of the boulder…and then how they groaned when he looked up and was surrounded by spears. Only time I’ve heard folks collectively and literally gasp in a theater was for that film and the opening of the original Star Wars when the battle cruiser flew over my head.   There was no gasping in this film.

I enjoyed it.  I would tell you if you ever liked any of the Star Wars movies, go and see it.  But it didn’t take my breath away…not literally like the first one did.


Pride of the Writer

By Brian Buhl

I’d been absent from the SF/F community for many years, and I’d decided it was time to reengage.  So I volunteered for the writer’s workshop at Westercon. I was quite pleasantly surprised by one particularly engaging story about a haunted car and a repro man.  Not only was the concept intriguing to me, but the writing was crisp and professional.  I’ve been a fan of Brian Buhl’s writing ever since and hope that some day soon, more than just workshop participants will get to enjoy his stories. 

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Pride, envy, avarice – these are the sparks have set on fire
the hearts of all men. 

~Dante Alighieri~

Writers are their own worst enemy.  They wield distraction as a weapon, striking down their creativity with mighty blows.  These distractions are often external, such as video games, social media, and cat videos.  Honestly, who can resist images of adorable kittens, when the Internet is practically made of them?

Of course, not all distractions are external.  From the primordial fluid of our imaginations crawl monsters and demons.  These hideous creatures attempt to wrest the pen from our hands and shred our work in wicked fangs and claws.  One of these monsters goes by the name of Fear.  I’ve described him before, and how he tries to keep me from finishing my work by filling my mind with uncertainty and doubt.

Today, let us examine his cousin, Pride.  For purposes of this discussion, I may refer to pride by other names, such as audacity or avarice.  These are not the same thing as pride, but as distractions, they are borne from the same place.

Pride works against writers differently than fear.  Fear tears the world down around the writer, making every step uncertain.  Pride, on the other hand, blinds the writer, closing off options the writer might otherwise consider.

Imagine receiving unfavorable feedback from a writing group or editor.  Imagine yourself saying something like, “But it’s my story!  They just don’t get it!” That’s pride, my friend.  That’s your ego inflated to the point that it is obscuring your vision, concealing the merit of the critique from your more critical mind.

I struggle to suppress reactions like this from time to time.  We’ve all been there.  We pour ourselves into our stories, breathing life into characters and living with them for weeks and months.  We sow ourselves into our stories, so when our stories are “attacked,” it feels like the attack is personal.  When someone reaches out to try to improve our work, pride refracts the message and distorts it, turning it into “your story isn’t good enough, and by extension, neither are you.”

Over time I’ve learned that this type of pride is like a bruise.  If I walk away from the critique for a little while, the swelling goes down, and I’m able to see clearly again.

Fear and pride differ in another very important way.  As a monster, fear is a giant spider that catches you in sticky webs.  It ties you up, bites, and fills your veins with poison.  Pride, on the other hand, is a powerful wolf.  You have to respect them both.  But where fear seeks to destroy you at every turn, pride can be tamed.  Pride can be your ally.

Consider what it is sell a story.  You are stating with a loud, clear voice that the product of your imagination, the words you’ve sewn together to form a unique whole, is worth time and money.  You’re saying that other people should close YouTube and the world of cat videos long enough to focus on your story.  What audacity!  What arrogance!

Fear wants to tell you that your work isn’t good enough, but pride comes to your defense.  Of course your story is good enough!  You wrote it.  Instead of calling this pride, we call it self-confidence.  Instead of blinding us to what we should see, it shields us from lies designed to tear us down.

Even when we’re not crafting our stories, pride prowls alongside the writer, always ready to cause trouble.  Consider George Lucas.  Watch documentaries early and late in his career.  In the early documentaries, while his star was still ascending, he can be seen consulting with his actors and crew, looking directly at them.  Compare that to later footage after he’d reached the peak of his success.  Watch his body language, and watch the faces of the people around him.  Young Lucas looks like he’s more engaged with the people making a film with him.  Elder Lucas appears to be surrounded by people that are wary and uncomfortable, and he doesn’t seem to notice.  That is pride, filling the creator with visions of his greatness to the point that he can no longer see what’s going on around him.

To be fair, those documentaries only show us what the camera sees.  We can’t really know with certainty what ran through George Lucas’s mind, at either point in the famous director’s career.  But the tale of pride leading a creator astray is not a new one, and it makes a lot of sense in this case.

Fame and monetary success are not requirements for pride.  Pride is present as soon as the writer declares themselves as someone with more than just a writing hobby.  It becomes part of our identity in the same way we sow ourselves into our stories.

For example, an easy way to get my dander up is to call me a “young writer.” I’ve been writing for more than 25 years, with more than one completed novel sitting in a drawer.  My pride straightens my spine and inflates my lungs with air, ready to bellow loud and strong that I’m experienced, and how dare anyone insinuate otherwise.

The reality is that I am still a young writer, and it’s not an insult.  I’m slowly and methodically improving my craft, learning how to improve.  Pride may want me to strut and preen, but that won’t clean up my unsold stories.  Pride isn’t going to make me more creative.

But pride can help me put my work in front of other people, because pride overshadows fear.

And with that said, I must thank my friend Jennifer for inviting me to guest on her blog.  It is the sort of gesture that feeds pride and keeps it healthy.  For to tame pride and make it work with you instead of against you, pride must be kept on a short leash and given the nourishment of praise.

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Pride, like the magnet, constantly points to one object, self; but unlike the magnet, it has no attractive pole, but at all points repels. ~Charles Caleb Colton~

Brian is a full-time programmer living in Northern California. He plays alto saxophone in the River City Concert Band. He’s been married about twenty years and has two children. He writes science fiction and fantasy often at his local coffee shop. He’s been writing off and on for more than 25 years. His blog is mostly about writing, and his journey to changing from a guy with a writing hobby to a professional author.

The Starting Pitcher:
How to Pitch an Agent in SF/F

By Sheryl Hayes

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My friend and fellow writer Elanor Hughes and I were checking out the newly released Worldcon 73 schedule on our phones. She held out her phone so I could look at the screen. “Hey. Did you see that they are offering in-person pitch sessions?”

“No,” I said, and scrolled to the description. “You know,” I said as I read over the entry, “I’ll have my latest draft of Chaos Wolf done right before Worldcon. Maybe I should pitch it.”

“Yeah, you should.”

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Later that day, I read the full requirements for submitting.  Everything was something I had already done or was planning to do. I wrote up a two hundred fifty word synopsis, made sure the first page of the story was in manuscript format, and mailed my request. A few hours later, I received an email stating my pitch time as well as the agent and agency I would be pitching to. Immediately I turned to Google and started researching the person.

The first thing I did was I looked up the agency. It was a respectable size and has several authors listed that I recognized and followed on Twitter. Then I read the agent’s bio. It included the usual instructions about documents being in manuscript format and how to submit online. Then I read what types of fiction he wanted to represent.

He listed several subtypes of science fiction and fantasy, so he was clearly not adverse to genre fiction. What caught my eye, though, was a statement about urban fantasy. He stated it was a tough sell with him because he is not the target market so he only accepts the best of the best.

My story is squarely in the urban fantasy subgenre.

Uh oh…

At that point, I decided I would look at this as a chance to practice my pitch and get feedback. If he requested pages to read further, that would be a bonus.

I returned to my research. I double checked Absolute Write Water Cooler, running a search for both the agent and agency. I found nothing that raised any flags. All the comments stated that he was a professional working with a reputable agency.

The next two weeks I spent practicing my pitch, mentally and audibly going over it. I memorized my page count. When I arrived at Worldcon, I attended a panel that the agent was on so I could get a feel for his personality before officially meeting him. By the time my ten-minute slot came around, I felt I was as ready as I would ever be.

Because this was a convention, I was wearing a fandom related T-shirt earlier in the day. Half an hour before my pitch slot, I ducked into the bathroom and switched into a dress blouse I brought specifically for the pitch. I wasn’t as dressed up as I would be for a job interview, since I refused to ditch my jeans and comfortable shoes, but I presented a business-casual look.

I arrived ten minutes early and checked in. After my name was called, I was pointed towards the agent I was pitching to. I waited as he finished speaking with the person whose slot was before mine. Then I took a deep breath, pushed down my nervousness as I shook his hand, and sat down.

The words I had practiced tripped out with only one little stumble. He had several questions about the story itself:

  • Where does it fit into the market?
  • How many words is it?
  • What are my plans for it if he does not request to see pages?
  • Was I aware that it would be a tough sell given the number of similar stories already published?

I had an answer ready for each of those questions. I felt it was new adult but it could be altered to fit into the young-adult market. It’s currently 100,000 words but could be edited down to 95,000 words. I planned to shop it around for an agent or submit it to slush piles for the next two to three years before looking at self-publishing. And, yes, I was aware that I am writing vampires and werewolves in an oversaturated market where people are looking for the next big and different thing.

The ten minutes passed quickly. In the end, much as I expected, I did not get a request for pages. He said, and I silently agreed, that he would not be the proper agent to sell my book. He did give me some suggestions for my pitch, about drawing out what makes the universe unique. He also said that he was very impressed with my level of professionalism when I mentioned that this was my first pitch I had done. While a request for pages would have been the icing on the cake, I walked away from the experience content.

So what is the takeaway from this?

  • Research the agent you will be pitching to.  This can involve searching the web and attending panels they are on.  Be aware of what they are looking for and who they represent.
  • Memorize and practice your pitch. Have both a short summary of one or two sentences and a longer one that goes into more detail.
  • Know where your story fits into the market.  What genre is it?  Is it long or short compared to other stories in the same genre? Who is the target audience?  Can you adjust it to fit another audience?
  • Know what the current trends are in your market and where your story fits.
  • Dress professionally.  You may be at a con, but don’t pitch your story wearing your hallway costume.
  • Be polite.  Thank the agent for his or her time.

Even if you do all this, there is no guarantee you will land an agent.  But you will make a positive impression.  The agent may not request pages from you on your current novel.  But he or she may want your next one.

Screen Shot 2015-10-22 at 6.37.42 PMSheryl Hayes lives in Silicon Valley, Ca.  Her three cats graciously allow her and her mother to live in their house.  In addition to writing her first series and short stories, she works full time at a private utility.  When she is not writing, she is knitting the costume she’s wearing to the next convention she’s attending, playing World of Darkness, or reading.

You can read her blog or follow her on Twitter @sherylrhayes or on Facebook.

Female Warriors in Fantasy Fiction
Part II: The Female Knight in History

By William Stacey

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Black Monastery was the first book I ever critiqued that got published… and I read it again! Stacey spins a good yarn and writes well. Can’t wait to try Fairy Tale and A Promise of Fire.

My last post examined the historical accuracy of female Vikings and super-cool shield maidens like Lagertha, the legendary—but likely imaginary—wife of Ragnar Lothbrok, who, let’s be honest, may also have been more legend than real. While there remains debate among some historians on the existence of shield maidens, I’m in the camp with the nonbelievers: the shield maiden is Viking legend. But, what about elsewhere in Europe? If shield maidens had no basis in historical fact, then what about female knights, female generals?

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There are, happily, many really cool examples of women in European history picking up swords and fighting—even leading armies—but they weren’t knights, at least not as we know them. Byzantine historian John Skylitzes notes that women fought in Bulgaria in 971, numbering among the fallen Varangian warriors (on occasion, Vikings were identified as Varangian). I don’t know how many there were, but apparently there were enough to stun observers with their presence. In a paper titled, The Woman Warrior: Gender, Warfare, and Society in Medieval Europe, Megan McLaughlin from the Department of History at the University of Illinois, documented numerous anecdotal examples of women warriors in medieval Europe—particularly during the central Middle Ages. Much as in Viking history, though, McLaughlin notes that women warriors in medieval Europe were hardly commonplace and, in fact, were unusual enough to be considered anomalies. Most of the occurrences had to do with “emergency situations: wives of nobles who defended castles temporarily while their husbands were absent, women who snatched up weapons in defense of their homes when invaders threatened…” This makes sense to me, especially given the gender-role expectations of the time. But, McLaughlin does note some women who fought and led armies for much longer periods of time. Aethelflaed, eldest daughter of Alfred the Great of Wessex, led her forces in attacks on the Vikings settled in the north of England—and not just leading, but actually taking part in the battles. In Italy, we see the Lombard princess Sichelgaita, considered a “fearsome” sight in her armor when she rallied her husband’s men at the siege of Durazzo in 1081. Other examples abound, but my personal favorite is the widow Arnoul II of Guines who from 1220–1222 commanded her soldiers in battles against her own son for control of her widow’s estate. Arnoul, hands down, you’re probably the coolest woman in history!


Twenty-year-old university dropout Cassie Rogan has returned to her small British Columbia home. Tortured by an accident that killed her parents, she drifts, failing life at every turn. When an uncanny lightning storm hits the forest, Cassie discovers that, after centuries of atrophy, the forces of magic are flowing back into our world, and Cassie can wield arcane powers. But everything comes with a price… Available on Amazon.

These examples, though, mostly show that female warriors in medieval Europe were predominantly noble, as McLaughlin wrote, “women of high rank, who might be called on at short notice to support their husbands in war.” This makes sense to me. Some of these women, perhaps even many, probably received formal military instruction for just such an occurrence. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies (a manual of useful information for noblewomen), Christine da Pisan suggests that the wife of a nobleman “ought to have the heart of a man, that is, she ought to know how to use weapons and be familiar with everything that pertains to them, so that she may be ready to command her men if the need arises.”

Overall, I think we can safely assume that some noblewomen did command medieval warriors, especially when those armies were domestically organized and included long-time family retainers and relatives. And while some may point out that commanding an army is not the same thing as being a warrior, as a former professional soldier, I’d have to disagree. Most generals don’t personally engage in hand-to-hand combat. Yet, we—and medieval soldiers—would still almost certainly consider a male general a warrior, so why not a female general? Seems like a double standard to me.

So, what about the state of female warriors in fantasy fiction? Women can be warriors and generals. There is historical precedence for this. But, if you’re going to include female warriors in your fiction, please do so in a believable manner. Martial training—and yes, sword-fighting is indeed a martial art—was a lifelong, physically rigorous study. If you’ve created a story world where women fight alongside (or even in place of) the men, make it as realistic as possible. Untrained people—men or women—who pick up swords and enter into combat with trained, physically fit warriors are going to die. Period. If you’re going to include a female warrior into your medieval Eurocentric story world, give her the size, strength, and training to survive combat. If your female protagonist is a 90-pound woman who has never held a sword before—let alone spent most of her life training for the crucible of combat—she’s not going to survive five seconds in a real fight. None of us would.

The medieval knight was trained from a very young age for the profession of fighting to develop the physical strength and skill to survive. Paul B. Newman in Daily Life of the Middle Ages (one of my favorite go-to medieval-source books) wrote that “knights were the most physically fit people of their day…. at the top of the food chain, so to speak, and had protein-rich diets to fuel their muscle development.” Knights were conditioned from youth to move and fight while wearing as much as 60–70 pounds of armor—comparable to what twenty-first-century soldiers fight with today. You needed to be fit, fit, fit to do this—you still do.

Happily, there’s a lot of help out there for fantasy writers. Use all the wonderful sources available to you on the Internet, like the website of the Association for Renaissance Martial Arts (ARMA) or source books like John Clements’ Medieval Swordsmanship (I found this one after G.R.R. Martin recommended it on his own blog—good enough for George, good enough for me) or David Lindholm and Peter Svard’s Sigmund Ringeck’s Knightly Arts of Combat. There’s no shortage of sources out there to help you write believable female warriors.

So, do like George did with Brienne of Tarth, create a believable female warrior.

‘Cause muscles are sexy on women, too!


I met William Stacey through an online writer’s group. His manuscript for Black Monastery impressed me so I reached out to him and became one of his beta readers. That novel did well, becoming a Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-Finalist on Amazon in 2014.   

He is a former army intelligence officer who served his country for more than thirty years with operational tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan; a husband, father, and avid reader with a love for the macabre; and last but not least a skilled and thoughtful writer.  I knew he would write a great blog, and he did not disappoint!  

Don’t miss Part 1: The Shield Maiden in History.