On having an ugly heroine…

I just read an excellent Buzzfeed article by Erika Johansen about ugly heroines (and now I really need to look up her book).

This struck a chord with me. Vivia, the protagonist of my novel The Secret Dead, is not an attractive woman. I deliberately wrote her that way because I was tired of the stunningly beautiful, yet sassy heroines that litter urban fantasy. Few of them felt very real to me.

Poor Vivia isn’t even plain. She’s outright ugly — the stereotype of a wicked witch with her pointy chin, warts and enormous nose. It was only when I was writing the book, and writing her as an ugly woman that I realised what a big thing it was. People react differently to attractive people, and having an ugly main character, especially a woman, meant that all the other characters would treat her differently to the standard sassy kick-ass heroine.

Unexpectedly, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from readers about it. Reviewers have taken pains to mention that they loved that Vivia wasn’t conventionally attractive. The demand is there for characters who don’t look like they rolled out of bed and into a make-up artist’s chair.

I think it makes the characters more realistic. Sure, some people are pretty. Some are drop dead gorgeous, but most people are just ordinary. If all your characters look like they walked out of an American soap opera, you lose a level of authenticity.

I’m not a big fan of romances, and anyone who has read The Secret Dead will know there is no love interest and no romantic scenes. The next in the series (which still has no bloody title-watch this space) won’t have much for Vivia either, although romantic love and betrayal are big themes and an essential part of the plot.

However, I’m not going to leave Vivia on her own forever. I like her and I think she deserves a little romance in her life. However I do it, there won’t be many romantic scenes — that’s not the type of book I write. Most of the romance and sex will take place off camera, but writing in a romantic relationship for an ugly character is going to be very different to writing it for a pretty one.

Actually, I just had a good idea about this while writing this article (*rubs hands together gleefully*) that I think is going to work out just great. And thus, this post ends because I need to get this down before I forget it!

Fall Into Fantasy – Strings

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 10: Strings by G. Miki Haydencover2500

Robert, an ordinary boy, finds himself in a newly chaotic world. Buildings move when and where they please, and time jumps around according to no known laws of physics. For Robert, getting to his regular school in the morning is next to impossible. As for getting home…

But then, Holden—a boy he and his friend, Nila, meet in a cave—offers them a string. No, not twine, but a string of the kind that forms the universe. Teeny and tiny, and invisible to the naked eye, this string will take Robert and Mila to their homes and way, way beyond…

Accompanied by a memorable cast of characters, Robert and his friends follow the string on a journey across time, space, and dimensions to discover the answer to a mystery: Who has caused the world to fall apart?

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Holden stood up, suddenly excited. “Yes, strings, Robert, strings. String theory says we live in a universe of multiple dimensions. Something is happening to the strings that form our everyday world, and now the universes are bleeding over into one another—merging. I have to figure out how to stop it, to separate the worlds again.”

“And we have to figure out how to get home,” Nila cried out. “What a mess everything is.”

The smoke from the small fire had made Robert’s eyes tear.



The author, G. Miki Hayden, strongly believes in alternate universes and has written about them in her adult novels Pacific Empire (which won a New York Times rave) and New Pacific.

“Nothing in time-space is fixed,” Miki says, a distant look in her eyes.

Miki won an Edgar for an historical crime story and has a couple of writing books in print.

At the moment, she generally lives with millions of other people in New York City in a three-dimensional, temporal world but is exploring other realms.

Find G. Miki Hayden online: http://gmikihayden.tumblr.com/

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Campaign for damp squid

Ever since seeing that one episode of the IT Crowd where Roy gets the term ‘damp squib’ wrong, I’ve wanted to propose a campaign for the term ‘damp squid’ to replace ‘damp squib’.

‘Squid’ is just so much better. ‘Squib’ is just boring. Of course, I can start using ‘squid’, but more than likely I’ll just get corrected and no one will believe me when I say I said it on purpose.

So, I hereby launch the official Campaign for Damp Squid. Pass the word along.

(We’ll leave ‘pedestal’ where it is. ‘Pedal stool’ is just silly.)

Amazon and Simon & Schuster agree a deal

So amid all the Amazon/Hachette squabbling, it turns out that Amazon has agreed a deal with Simon & Schuster in only three weeks, and well before their previous contract terms expired.  Amazing, huh? Considering how evil the big A is supposed to be.

I’m not going to detail why I think Hachette is behaving worse than Amazon in this. David Gaughran sums that up quite nicely on his website.  Take a look at his take on the S&S agreement while you’re there.

One way or another, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next.

I’m just going to add that  I particularly liked Yahoo Finance’s headline of:  Amazon settles book deal with Simon & Schuster; civilization survives. That just about sums it up, I think.


Fall Into Fantasy – The Heirs of War Series

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 8: The Heirs of War series

Book One: Heirs of War

Book Two: Heirs of War, Crown of Flames


Seventeen year-old Zelene has never believed in magic or been one to trust fate. Prophecies about princesses and long lost families were the stuff of fairy tales and had no place in her life. But then magic-wielding assassins attack claiming she is one of the five Duillaine Ainnir, the next generation of the most powerful women who rule over the worlds. Together, the five girls are prophesized to save the worlds from the war that has been raging for years.

As their enemies strike, the girls are taken back to their world and discover the ties binding them together. Rhaya has always had an uncanny knack for reading people, but can’t seem to unravel the mystery tying her to Isauria, the new friend she bonded with instantly. For years, Isauria has been dreaming of Terrena, a girl living her life on the run in a magical world ripped apart by the tragedies of war, but Isauria is completely unaware that she is psychically linked to the world she was born in.

Zelene views them all, especially the elders, with a distrustful eye, familial bonds or no. When she learns that her long-lost twin Ariana has been captured by the rebels, Zelene’s attitude changes. She doesn’t know what she can do when her own magic is still locked within her, but can she trust the elders to rescue Ariana when it seems their medieval politics are what brought about the war in the first place? With all that is at stake, the answer becomes clear to Zelene.

Screw the worlds. She’s getting her sister back.

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Weeks have passed since Ariana and Alec escaped from Kellen’s dungeon, but danger isn’t far behind them. The guilt of his past weighs heavily on Alec’s shoulders, and his secrets only push Ariana further away. As they travel through unknown lands and encounter multiple threats, their biggest challenge might be trusting one another.

The world appears to be going on regardless of the risks Ariana faces. The Duillaine insist that they are doing everything they can to find Ariana, but their actions betray that claim. Despite the danger and the war closing in around them, all of Anscombe seems to be more interested in the upcoming Imbolc festival and Terrena’s betrothal than rescuing Ariana.

Well…not everyone.

Tired of waiting for the Duillaine to help her twin, Zelene starts plotting on her own and finds a surprising ally in Rhaya, even as the Cynewards prepare to make a move of their own. But Zelene’s plans go awry when she finds herself with a new ability, a mysterious new friend, and more enemies within the walls of Anscombe than she thought.

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Or add it to Goodreads


Mara author pic

Mara Valderran is an author of young adult and new adult books, but she’s more than just a madwoman with a writing box. She is an avid reader and fan of all things sci-fi and fantasy. She loves roller skating and movies, though typically not together. She lives in Las Vegas with her husband and demanding cat. She hopes to one day meet Daniel Jackson from SG1, or at least the actor who played him. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, playing video games, or counting down the days until DragonCon.

Find Mara Online:

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Fall Into Fantasy – The Daath Chronicles

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Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 7: The Daath Chronicles

Book One: Broken Forest

Book Two: Wicked Path

Broken Forest Ebook Cover

Hopeless he’ll never be more than the boy who didn’t save his brother, 17-year-old Avikar accepts his life as the family stable boy, trying to forget the past. But when his sister, Jeslyn, is kidnapped, the thought of losing another sibling catapults him on a desperate quest. With his best friend by his side, and using the tracking skills he learned from his father, he discovers Jeslyn has been taken, kidnapped by one Lucino, the young lord of Daath, a mystical place thought only to exist in fables.

And Lucino has plans for Jeslyn.

His shape-shifting brethren feed off the auras of humans, and Jeslyn’s golden hue is exactly what Lucino needs to increase his power. The longer it takes Avikar to reach her, the more entranced she becomes with Lucino’s world, and the harder it will be for Avikar to set her free.

He failed his family once. He won’t fail again.

Buy it from: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo

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The wagons surrounded the site in a semi-circle. Sweat pooled in my palms. I had to take out the guards closest to that entrance. If I failed, so did the mission.

Get a grip.

I clenched the arrow in my right hand. Brushfire shifted nervously, sensing my fear. I rubbed her neck. I felt safer with her. She’d been with me since Jimri’s death. At night when the nightmares taunted me, I’d sneak out, riding until dawn forced us home. I’d rescued her from the burning woods, she’d rescued me from despair — today, I prayed both of us would make it out alive.


In Wicked Path: Book Two of the Daath Chronicles brother and sister are forced to opposite sides of Tarrtainya on a fast-paced adventure where the wildlife isn’t the only thing trying to kill them.

Three months have passed since Avikar defeated the Reptilian Prince, and he still can’t remember his battle with Lucino. On the hunt for answers, he returns to the scene of the fight and discovers a strange connection between his family’s dagger and the mysterious kingdom of Daath, and it seems only his distant father can reveal the truth behind it all.

Before Avikar can travel back home, Lucy assaults him in the market and forces him to flee to Nod Mountains—a place few dare to enter, and even less return from. With Raven and her childhood friend by his side, they must survive the treacherous journey through the pass with a vengeful Lucy hunting them. If they don’t, they’ll never see home again.

Jeslyn’s new life in Luna Harbor is the perfect remedy for her confused and broken heart. But when a group of mercenaries kidnap her beloved Grandfather, interrupting her daily routine as his jewelry apprentice, she’s forced to join forces with the one person from her past she tried to forget.

And his assistance comes with a price.

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Or add it to Goodreads



Author pic 1

Eliza graduated from Dowling College with a BS in Visual Communications. When she’s not arguing with excel at her day job, or playing Dragon Age 2, again, she’s writing.

Her YA stories hold a bit of the fantastical and there’s always a hot romance. She resides on Long Island with her husband, two kids and one very snuggly pit bull.

Find Eliza online:

Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Instagram / Pinterest / Google+


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