How Stories Save Us

Stories can heal and transform us. They can also become beacons of hope.

Quite a few years ago, when I was going through a difficult personal time, I came across a book about the inherent healing power of telling our stories. No matter how scattered or flawed our lives may appear, as we tell our stories, we gain something. Patterns emerge from seeming chaos, and our lives begin to make sense. It may be dreadful, agonizing sense, but even tragedies have order and consequence. I found that over time, the way I told my story changed, reflecting my recovery process and new insight.

The mirror side of story-telling is story-listening. While a confidential diary or journal can be highly useful, having someone hear our words can be transformative, especially if all that person does is listening. Not judging, not analyzing, not wondering how to respond, just taking in our words, a silent partner on our journey. Often we feel less alone in retrospect, no matter how isolated and desperate we might have been at the time. Additionally, a compassionate listener invites us to be kinder with ourselves.

Perhaps this is how Twelve Step programs work, apart from any Higher Power mysticism or Steps: that by simply hearing our own voices relate our histories, and having the experience of being heard, we open the door to viewing ourselves through the lens of new possibilities.

Personal storytelling calls for discretion, of course. Although it may be true that “we are only as sick as our secrets,” casually (or not-so-casually) violating a confidence from someone else is not the same as choosing to include the listener in our own private lives. Some of us never learned healthy boundaries about what is safe to share, and when, and with whom. We, or others, can be harmed by indiscriminate broadcasting of embarrassing, illegal, or otherwise sensitive information. The kind of storytelling I’m talking about, on the other hand, is as much about the journey as it is the facts.

Stories can get us through dark times by giving us hope and inspiring empathy. Stories work by creating a bond between the narrator or central character and the listener/reader. Who wants to read a story about a person you care nothing about? And if that appealing character has a different history or journey, or learns something the reader never experienced, so much the better. We accompany them into darkness and out again. Continue reading “How Stories Save Us”

Readings From the Treehouse

Logo for Virtual Events from FOGcon

Treehouse residents Nancy Jane Moore, Madeleine E. Robins, and Gillian Polack are all reading on Sunday, July 25, beginning at 5 pm PDT as part of FOGcon’s Authors Read.

Nancy is a featured reader along with San Francisco author Claire Light, and Madeleine and Gillian are part of the rapid-fire readers participating in FOGcon’s ongoing virtual event program.

The current schedule is three rapid readers, followed by Claire, then a break before three more rapid readers. Nancy will close the readings. There will be time for questions and the event will close with breakout rooms with each of the featured readers.

All of this takes place on Zoom. Register here to get the Zoom link.

Science Fiction and Sociology, Economics, History, Philosophy …

Once upon a time, there was a lot of science fiction in which tech discoveries saved the day. Or so I’ve been told.

If you asked me to come up with something like that, it would be The Martian, which is very recent. The so called “Golden Age” stuff that I’m familiar with isn’t all that tech-driven. Asimov’s Foundation was rooted in psychology tempered by history. All the Heinlein I’ve read is about his philosophy.

Truth is, I suspect an awful lot of science fiction that is touted as “traditional” and “the way it ought to be” is mostly about some white guy solving all the problems with a well-timed punch to the villain’s chin.

Still, there were a lot of stories from the 1950s and 60s that either focused on or mentioned amazing tech, especially computers. Now most of us are carrying around that tech in our pockets.

These days, a story about a fancy new technology is more likely to show up on the business pages than in an SF/F mag.

Where we need to deal with tech in SF/F today, particularly in near-future stuff, is how we incorporate it into our society in a reasonable way. That is, we need tech tempered by economics, sociology, history, philosophy. Inventing new things is nice, but figuring out how to live with them is crucial. Continue reading “Science Fiction and Sociology, Economics, History, Philosophy …”

A Few Links

I’ve done some posts on other blogs about my new novel For the Good of the Realm. Most recently, I did a post on the Milford SF Writers blog — which is the blog for the yearly peer workshop held in the U.K. (currently meeting in Wales) — on the way different writers are using 19th century (and some early 20th century) fiction in their stories.

Earlier I had a piece on John Scalzi’s The Big Idea series and also one on Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit.

All three will give you some good ideas of where my ideas come from.

For the Good of the Realm is available from Aqueduct Press.

For the Good of the Realm author's copies

Clarion West Write-a-thon and Some Thoughts on Why I Like SF/F

Clarion West Write-a-thon

I just signed up to participate in this year’s Clarion West Write-a-thon. Since this works as a fundraiser for Clarion West, you can sponsor me in my writing endeavors. Of course, this is also a tool for making myself write.

I’m planning to work on a sequel to For the Good of the Realm, which just came out from Aqueduct Press. I plan to do a little work on it each day. I notice in looking at the pages for this year’s Write-a-thon that there are many other things I may be doing, but that’s the starting point.

Signing up for this got me to thinking about Clarion West, past Write-a-thons, and the whole science fiction and fantasy world.

Going to Clarion West was one of the pivotal experiences in my life. The intensity of the process was crucial for me. It not only made me write, but it made me believe in my writing. But I think the key part was being a writer in community, doing the same kind of work along with others who shared my interests and desires.

I bonded with the people in my class. Twenty-four years later, I remain close friends with several of those people and can usually pick right up where we left off with most of them.

The Write-a-thon doesn’t bring that back, but it does make me remember Vonda N. McIntyre, who always participated and always sponsored other writers who were participating. Of course, Vonda was well-known for her generosity to other writers, so this was no surprise.

Signing up for the Write-a-thon reminds me of how much I miss her. Continue reading “Clarion West Write-a-thon and Some Thoughts on Why I Like SF/F”

Author’s Copies!

For the Good of the Realm author's copies

I finally got my author’s copies of For the Good of the Realm. (The post office seems to be particularly slow in sending books these days.)

So wonderful to finally hold the print version in my hands. I’ve had the ebook versions since right before it came out, but while they’re great for reading, you can’t hold them.

If you want one of your own, you can get one directly from Aqueduct Press, from Bookshop, or from the usual places.

The Three Musketeers With Women Having All the Fun

Here’s my review of For the Good of the Realm, by Treehouse Writer’s own Nancy Jane Moore (Aqueduct)

The elevator pitch for this charming historical fantasy is “The Three Musketeers With Women.” That does not do justice to the book by a long shot. The concept is familiar enough, from both the novels by Alexandre Dumas and the many film adaptations. In this swashbuckler tale, heroic, chivalrous swordsmen fight for justice and for their unbreakable friendship. The original, written in 1844, featured men in all the fun roles, with women being either weepy and weak or deviously evil. But why should the men have all the fun? I expect just about every female reader or viewer has railed at the injustice of depriving half the human race of such valorous deeds. Nancy Jane Moore, a thoughtful writer and skilled martial artist, has now set things right.

For the Good of the Realm is and isn’t like The Three Musketeers. There’s a realm like France, a royal couple divided by politics, each served by their own dedicated guard, and the head of the Church bent on cementing their own power. In this world, however, the Queen’s Guard is comprised of women, and the King’s Guard of men, and the queen’s advisors are largely women, as is the Hierophante. Add to this the existence of magic, condemned by the Church, arousing superstitious dread but freely used by the enemies of the Realm. There is no green recruit, D’Artagnan, but a pair of women friends from the Queen’s Guard – Anna D’Gart and Aramis, who fights duels as an amusement and cannot quite seem to give up her bawdy relations to become a priest. Each has a lover from the King’s Guard from whom they must keep secrets, but with whom they occasionally join forces.

The structure of this novel reflects the style to which it does homage. The point of view straddles the divide between third and omniscient, less intimate than is currently in vogue but marvelously evocative of Dumas and his contemporaries. Moore’s control of language and tone never falters as she draws the reader into not only a different world but a slightly different way of experiencing that world. Today we confuse “closeness” in point of view with emotional closeness to a character, but as Dumas and now Moore demonstrate, readers can feel very much in touch with a character through the careful depiction of actions and words. This is, after all, how we come to understand the people in our lives. “The adventures of…” implies an episodic arrangement, but here each chapter and each incident builds on what has come before and lays the foundation for what is to come in subtle, complex ways. The final confrontation between Anna d’Gart and the evil, scheming Hierophante is less a Death Star explosion than it is the inevitable showdown between two highly competent chess players.

In reflecting on the pleasure of immersing myself in For the Good of the Realm, it strikes me as a tapestry created by a master weaver. There is an overall picture but the intricate details and skill of the stitchery – the lives and relationships of the characters – are what lend it depth and resonance.

Order it from Amazon here or from your favorite bookstore.

Travelling as the Green Children Do

I’m mostly typing with my left hand still. One day my right hand will heal, just as, in Disney’s universe, one day a prince will come. In the meantime, something else is on the way. Let me give you a link: https://madnessheart.press/product/the-green-children-help-out/?v=6cc98ba2045f

It’s my new novel.

Some years ago I started work on an alternate universe where the English Jewish population is significantly larger than the one we know, where there are many types of magic and much administration to keep it polite and then I thought, “I want a superhero novel set in that universe.” More than that, I wanted the superheroes to come from our universe. I set up a pocket universe to bridge the two and wondered what it would be like if a twelve year old Australian girl entered by mistake and never left. I wrote a novella to test the idea and then I went to France in 2018, to research it.

I researched many other things at the same time, for I’m still and always an historian and I had many questions I needed answers for. My burning one (not for the novel) was what happens one hundred years after land is destroyed by war. How do people find culture, rebuild, talk about the past? I’ll write about my discoveries one day.

What I wrote into my novel was modern Amiens, and a town in my little pocket universe. The town’s architecture came from what I learned about post-war building and the dances and culture I gave the good people of Tsarfat began there but included more recent French culture, both the good and the bad.

While I wrote the novel I dreamed of a bal musette in a country where people have green skin. I dreamed of what powers people could win by going through a dangerous door, and I listed all the different kinds of magic England could have based upon its history and historical beliefs.

This is the moment before my dreams reach the outside world.

Each novel has its own path in the outside world. I have a deep and vast desire with this one that readers will take my dreams and add their own, that they will walk in my France and my England and my Tsarfat. I took hundreds of pictures as my world came to life in my mind. To make it easier, I plan to share my pictures, some on Patreon in a few days, others on any website or at any online convention that wants to join my magic journey.

Why do I have this deep and vast desire? An imagined journey is the perfect way to explore in this difficult time. I love the thought of safe excitement in the strange time we live in.

For the Good of the Realm Is Out

For the Good of the RealmFor the Good of the Realm made its official bow into the world today (June 1). This is my second novel, a tale of swordswomen and witches that owes a debt of gratitude to Alexandre Dumas and The Three Musketeers.

It’s from Aqueduct Press. You can order the trade paperback or ebook editions (both epub and mobi) directly from them. Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite.

Here’s what some others have had to say about the book:

Publishers Weekly: “This lighthearted, female-led fantasy adventure from Moore (The Weave) follows a pair of Queen’s Guardsstaid, circumspect Anna and feisty, impulsive Asamiras they become embroiled in the machinations of the rulers of Grande Terre. As the threat of war looms and a sinister undercurrent of forbidden magic becomes harder for Anna to ignore, the two women must out-fight and out-think the enemies of the realm in a series of duels and cloak-and-dagger intrigues…. With a principal cast of mostly women, this is sure to appeal to readers looking for stories of empowered female characters that go beyond simply giving them swords.”

Lesley Wheeler, author of Unbecoming: “For the Good of the Realm is a sparkling tournament of a novel, full of thrills as well as feats of storytelling bravado. Moore has invented a feminist medieval otherworld that is egalitarian in its sword and sorcery, yet political intrigue ultimately rules as Anna, a stalwart member of the Queen’s Guard, collaborates with a range of surprising characters to foil the nefarious plots of a power-hungry Hierofante. Spirited and funny, this is a great read.”

Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of Musketeer Space and The Creature Court Trilogy: For the Good of the Realm is a splendid, swashbuckling romp that captures the very spirit of the Musketeers. The author weaves palace intrigue, swordplay, romance, and divided loyalties into a deeply satisfying fantasy adventure with women at the center of the narrative, wielding and negotiating power.”

In addition to the publisher’s website, you can order this book through:

My Bookshop page

My neighborhood bookstore, East Bay Booksellers

Indiebound

Powells

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Stand Alone Short Fiction by Me

It turns out, lots of readers want stand-alone short fiction — short stories, novelettes, even novellas, which are basically short novels. They like being able to finish a story in a single sitting, as well as the conciseness and jewel-like precision of short fiction. I’ve been bringing out some of my best, most recent, in this format.

“The Poisoned Crown,” will be out on June 1 and is available for pre-order here.

The king is dead, long live the prince, but not for long if his stepmother the Queen Regent has anything to say about it. So he appeals to the one person he can trust, his father’s best swordswoman and secret lover. Venise wants nothing more than to bury herself in her grief at the king’s death, but her conscience will not allow her to abandon the young man who is so like his father. The only question is whether the two of them can stand against the Queen Regent’s black magic.

I hope you enjoy it! To whet your appetite, here I read the opening.