I guest blogged for MM Good Book reviews about my new book, Starsong: Book Three in The Sun Dragon Series. Check out the post about bone dragons here.
Lee Crawford is an awkward teenage girl. She’s a lot like me at age 15. Her standard uniform is a men’s Army coat, old boots and jeans. She doesn’t wear any makeup to speak of. Her day-to-day look says “It’s none of your business if I’m a boy or a girl. Back off.” But Lee is also a singer, and she can’t be so invisible when people are listening. That means dressing up for her part-time job singing at funerals, but it also means letting people see her real self once in a while. That’s one of her big dilemmas.
Lee’s story is about voice, as a metaphor and as a real thing. Specifically the voice of a young woman who’s gone through severe trauma. The Songbird Thief is a fantasy, so Lee has to literally wrestle with the magic power of her singing voice and learn how to control it. But it’s also about how Lee expresses herself — to strangers, to the people she loves, and to the people she fears. Survivors of family violence often find themselves examining how the past informs their choices in the present. It’s a step toward breaking the grip of the abuse. That’s also a major question for Lee.
When we first meet Lee, she’s convinced that she is going to turn out to be a bad person because she is half Winter Fey. Those are the evil fairies — or at any rate, they’re much readier to slit your throat than the Summer Fey are. Lee doesn’t think she has a choice about ending up just like them: capricious, cruel, with no morals at all.
But fashion. On her way to coming out of her shell, Lee also gains a healthy dollop of physical confidence — something I love to witness as a writer, since I adored shy Lee so much from the second I met her. She travels to the Winter and the Summer Realms, and in each place, they dress her up in fey clothes. They’re trying to flatter her; their ultimate goal is to harness her singing voice for their own use. But those fine outfits also give us a glimpse into how Lee secretly sees herself.
In the scene I wanted to share with you here, Lee is at a Winter Fey party. The fey are dangerous, but they’re also powerfully seductive, and being dressed by them opens a few doors in Lee’s mind that had been closed until now.
Excerpt from The Songbird Thief:
“No, I have to go home,” I say to the wall of silver-draped girls who have me trapped. I may not have a strong idea of where “home” is right now, but I definitely do not want to stay here. A girl with deep green skin brushes my mouth with her fingers, as if to say Stay. I shiver when she touches me and the shiver takes me by surprise, like my body is running away without my brain into some unfamiliar country. It’s a good-feeling shiver, but it scares me not to be in control. “I have to go,” I say again, and her mouth widens into dimples and she shakes her head.
There’s no escape anyway. I look around at the brown and teak and pale faces, and someone’s silver eyes smile at me out of a face painted with blue leaves. I feel the tug and press of fingers, the whoosh of cool air, the rustle of fabric, and when the fey girls pull away, my thrift-store dress is gone. In its place are a silver top and midnight blue trousers made of heavy silk twill that pools around my ankles, where they’re tucked into low suede boots. Around my hips is a leather belt with a row of silver rings in place of a buckle. It all fits the way my own clothes never do, not too loose in the chest or too short everywhere. I feel vulnerable, conscious of the snug fit over my hips and the low top leaving more skin bare than I’m used to, but I feel a rush of rock-star feeling too. I sway to watch the fabric bell out around my knees, and I hear laughter. One of the girls who dressed me holds up a silver-rimmed mirror, and I see that they’ve made up my face too. Where all I had on was lip balm before, now I have the smoky eyelids and dewy lips of a model. I look like a girl—a real girl, not a flagpole dressed in a man’s coat from the Army-Navy Surplus store. Even my hair is lying in glossy curls, not its usual fuzzy cap of neglect.
The silver girls stop smoothing down my hair and now they’re tugging at my arms, but I can’t go with them wherever they’re trying to take me. I want to leave. The girl with green skin gives me an appreciative look from boots to hairline, and her breath blows on my ear as she kisses my cheek, and I feel that shiver of pleasure again in parts of my body I’m not used to being conscious of when anyone’s there. Then she grasps my shoulders and spins me around to face the crowd.
Where’s the harm in a little petty theft now and then? Fifteen-year-old Lee is about to find out. Lee has a gift—the ability to use her songs to enchant prospective victims, making them easy to rob—but it isn’t without a price. The source of this mysterious ability is revealed when Lee comes to San Francisco, fleeing her stepfather’s abuse: she is half fey. This knowledge puts a strain on Lee’s relationship with her friend and secret crush, Sonja, since Sonja thinks entanglements with the fey only lead to trouble. As her adventure takes her deeper into the intrigues of the Faerie Realm, Lee discovers her power has the potential for more than fun and profit. Some would use it for evil, and only Lee can decide if there’s good to be found in her songs.
Skye Allen is the author of a YA LGBTQ+ urban fantasy novel, Pretty Peg. Her short fiction has appeared in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal and Of Dragons and Magic and her poetry in Insomnia and Sinister Wisdom. She is also a musician and occasionally performs around the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her wife, their cat and a flock of chickens. The Songbird Thief is her second novel.
Do Dreams Wear Dresses?
by Calista Lynne
Fashion has always been a bit baffling to me and people tend to label my style as “eccentric”. I don’t intend for it to be this way, it’s just that I have a few rules for my appearance: there must always be pink, glitter is vital, and my middle finger is never painted the same color as the rest. Also I have a tendency to wear birds in my hair. This does not come into play in my writing.
We Awaken is about two asexuals in a F/F relationship. It is YA Magical Realism, the magic coming from the fact that one member of the main couple is a creator of dreams. She inhabits sleeping minds and creates the locations where dreamers spend their time.
Trying to decide what someone like that would wear wasn’t the simplest. Here is the description I give of her entrance:
“I was walking along barefoot, making sure to dig in my toes with each careful step, when a figure appeared in the distance, a small shadow that enlarged as we neared each other. I was soon able to make out the outline of a cloak, flowing around its wearer and fluttering like butterfly wings.
No woman in reality could ever possess such grace. That’s how I realized it had to be a dream. Her skin was barely lighter than the dark of night and a hood was pulled so far over her head it was impossible to make out whether she had any hair. The whites of her eyes stood out greatly in contrast to her skin, matching the intense purity of the lace parasol hanging over her right arm. Her clothing was iridescent and looked almost like oil as it reflected cloudy rainbows with her movements.Whatever mystical material it was composed of was also utilized in the creation of the long dress she wore, which dragged along behind her but failed to leave a trail in the sand. We were close, barely two feet apart,when she began to speak.”
I’m not going to lie, the iridescent cloak and dress were mostly picked because it seemed mystical and cool. If I were composed of imagination and could create my own clothes, I’d want something neat like that as well. The parasol does have an explanation, though. While researching for this novel, I read up on the fairytale of the sandman. He’s one of the only other fictional characters I knew of who created dreams. In certain variations of the tale, he carries a colorful umbrella that he would hold over the heads of sleeping children and twirl to give them dreams. Giving my creator of dreams a parasol was a sort of salute to that.
Recently someone drew a very beautiful and shockingly accurate fanart of this character, so if you want a better visualization, check this out: Ashlinn by LayaArt
I try to make the clothing of my characters reflections of them. There is one who wears pleather and a cardigan with the words Cherry Bomb embroidered on it in red thread. Just by saying that, readers begin making assumptions about her personality and it does help with characterization. The other half of my main couple prefers to wear closed toed shoes because she’s a ballet dancer and they can have rather banged up looking feet. You can drop all sorts of hints about someone just by leaving clues in their clothing.
She is having difficulty adjusting to the lack of Oxford commas across the pond and writes because it always seemed to make more sense than mathematics. Look for her near the caffeinated beverages.
Here’s an excerpt of a Sun Dragon book review by Serena Yates at Rainbow Books (read the whole thing here).
“The imaginative and exciting world of ‘The Sun Dragon’ pulled me in from the beginning. Other than the magical prologue that sets up the problem explored in this series, Allanah’s teenage world seems utterly “normal”, i.e., nonmagical at first. That doesn’t last very long though, and soon the revelations, threats, and unexpected events merge into an adventure of the best and most fantastical kind. Allanah’s journey of discovery of her abilities, her heritage, and the magical world that has been hidden for centuries is breathtaking. There are epic battles, magic to be learned and understood, and all kinds of exotic creatures to discover. I loved every minute of this first book and already look forward to reading the next book set in this world.”
So, I’m delighted to take part in Annabelle Jay’s blog series, and I thought long and hard about which characters I could focus on. With the release of my second novel, FRAGMENTED, in 44 days I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a little about a new group of characters who have quite a prominent role in this book, which is the second installment of my dystopian Untamed Series.
So, allow me to introduce to you to the Zharat tribe, the largest surviving group of Untamed humans. These people have very strict rules and a set of way of life that they believe they must stick to if they are to continue surviving—after all, they’re the last large tribe left, and they believe their survival is down to the lifestyle.
The Zharat dress code is very important—and must be followed at all times. Wearing the wrong clothing can cause great offence to other members, and cause that individual to lose status.
In the Zharat tribe, clothes have one very important function, and that is to indicate a person’s status. Certain colors are reserved for certain people, and styling says a lot about the person. The Zharat men usually wear dark clothes—predominantly black items—whilst brighter colors are reserved for the women, with red indicating the highest female status:
A woman follows them. She has a small bowl in her hands. I strain my neck to see what is in it: some sort of black liquid. Her hair is piled up high on her head, in loose plaits. She is dressed in dark red, but the color’s not as deep as my dress.
As a result, the status of a woman within the group is obvious from one glance. Yet, the relationship between clothes and status is different for the men, namely because of the significance of tattoos for the Zharat men. Clothes therefore become an insignificant part of the men’s fashion, as it is their tattoos that provide a way for them to permanently wear their status. And, whereas a Zharat woman can lose her status by having her bright clothing taken away, a man cannot lose his status, as tattoos are permanent.
When Seven first meets some of the Zharat men, their tattoos are one of the first things she notices:
There are so many men, everywhere. And they’re all Untamed. So many of them. My eyes pick out their tattoos, and the more I look, the more of them I see. They’ve all got them, but the Untamed man who grabbed my ankle has got more. Matching designs. Silhouettes of animals, inked onto necklines, creeping onto jaws.
And Seven soon learns that the more tattoos a man has, the more status he has within the tribe—as such, a lot of the higher-status men choose to wear less clothes in order to constantly show off their tattoos, and status—which has quite an intimidating effect on Seven:
Both men wear loincloths. Nothing else. The sight of so much of their skin makes me uneasy.
As such, men’s clothes (or the lack of) become a symbol of their status.
Yet, there are two men who are exceptions to this rule: Manning, and his adopted son, Jed. Manning, as Zharat Chief, doesn’t need to constantly remind people of his status, and as such covers many of his tattoos with everyday items of black clothing—and his son, Jed, is equally confident in his own power and doesn’t feel the need to constantly show off his status. Indeed, in one scene, Manning wears a long black cloak, completely covering his body. Crucially, these men only reveal their tattoos in very important moments when it is absolutely necessary for them to display their status—such as when Seven and Corin first meet Manning:
“I’m the Zharat Chief,” Manning says. He lifts up his shirt, revealing a rather paunchy stomach covered in more tattoos: eagles and bats. I’m not sure what the action is supposed to convey, but after five seconds, Manning lets his shirt fall back down.
Therefore, in FRAGMENTED, when either Manning or Jed takes all his clothes off you know that something very important is about to happen…
I really loved creating the Zharat culture and exploring their lifestyle, and hope that you will too!
After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.
But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.
And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed—least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world… and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure that she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.
Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself.
Book one, UNTAMED, can be found at most major retailers in both paperback and ebook formats.
About Madeline Dyer
Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and holds a BA honours degree in English from the University of Exeter. She has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Her debut novel, Untamed (Prizm Books, May 2015), examines a world in which anyone who has negative emotions is hunted down, and a culture where addiction is encouraged. Her second novel, Fragmented, is set to hit shelves in September 2016.
Check out the interview I did for Prism Book Alliance here, and be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom! Just four days until Merlin’s Moon comes out!!
Here’s an excerpt from the interview:
What do you want to tell those who may be new to the series (if applicable)?
The Sun Dragon Series is unique in that each book is the next generation. Mani is Allanah’s adopted son, and the book following this one, Starsong, follows the generation after him (that book is also in the future, so there’s a lot of science fiction mixed in with fantasy). Each book also has an LGBTQ+ main character.
What about Merlin’s Moon makes you the proudest?
I’m really proud of the way that Merlin’s Moon takes classic Arthurian characters like Merlin and Guinevere and uses them to tell a completely different story that weaves into the Sun Dragon Series narrative. Pieces of those legends come back throughout all the books after Merlin’s Moon, but they’re the focus of this book.
Read more here!
About the Series
In the “Who Are You Wearing?” blog series, a bunch of wonderful authors will guest post about what their characters are wearing in a scene of their choice, as well as insider information on why they chose those outfits and how they characterize their protagonist or antagonist. Check back here soon for the schedule of author posts!
Your “Who Are You Wearing” blog post should be between 300-1200 words and include 1) a description of your character’s outfit and 2) the reasons behind why you chose those clothes. You can post a section from the book if you’d like, and sneak peeks are always appreciated! Please send the post (as a Word doc), a short third person bio, the back cover blurb and cover (if the book is already published), a picture of yourself, and any links you’d like me to include to annabellejayauthor (at) gmail dot com.