An analogy for white people: Walking while black, in the US, is as deadly as being a redshirt on Star Trek.

red shirt-002My dear fellow white science-fiction fans, let me use an analogy to try to explain one reason why people are so angry about what’s happening in Ferguson.

If you only watch one episode of Star Trek (original series), the fact that a guy in a red shirt dies is tragic, but eh— that’s television. But when you watch the entire series, you realize that a disproportionately high percentage of people wearing red shirts die.

It’s not that Captain Kirk has it out for people in red shirts. Heck, one of his best friends wears a red shirt. And Scotty never gets killed, so clearly not all red shirts die. And bad things happen to Kirk, too. But still— when you start paying attention, it’s pretty clear that wearing a red shirt in Star Trek is a death sentence.

That’s the thing that I see a lot of white people failing to understand about the anger surrounding the Mike Brown case. It’s not just one teenager and one cop. It’s a long series. When you start looking at the statistics, you can’t ignore that a disproportionately high number of African-Americans have been killed by cops every year for decades upon decades.

And this isn’t a television series that we can reboot and magically fix the problem. I’m lucky; the casting department didn’t hand me a red shirt, but I’m still living in a society that has a systemic problem. It effects everybody.

When you say, “But other people are killed, too,” you’re missing the point.  Wearing a red shirt hurts some of us at a disproportionately high level. And in the US, being born black is like being handed a red shirt by the casting department. Sure. You might be Uhura or Scotty. But they’re outliers and statistically, in a red shirt you’re more likely to be killed the moment you leave the ship.

This is, among other things, why people are upset. Because they know that they’ve been wearing red shirts and white people keep denying that there’s a pattern.


Further reading:

Chapter 11 and 12 are up of GHOST TALKERS and here’s a map of Le Havre from 1913

A map of Le Havre from 1913 has just arrived in the mail. Lovely condition.I actually posted chapter 11 yesterday, but the post wound up on the wrong date– long story, and boring. SO! Here is Chapter 11, along with Chapter 12. I am noticing that these chapters tend to be shorter than the ones in the Glamourist Histories, which I think is because this has more thriller pacing. Though I did still manage to work in a dance scene, because reasons.

The map just arrived this week. I picked Le Havre as the location for the novel for a number of reasons that relate to the plot of the book, and also because it was almost completely destroyed in WWII, which means that there are fewer people who can tell me that “No, such-and-such a thing was NOT there.”  Selfish?

Yes. Absolutely.

But I didn’t want to be completely free with history, so I found a map of the town from 1913. The novel takes place in 1916, so it gives me some structure without confining me.

Also, it’s pretty.

GHOST TALKERS chapter 10 is up

If you’re reading along, here is Chapter 10.

In theory, I’ve just hit the mid-way point on the novel. I say “in theory” because I often find that I need to add or delete scenes in the end chapters. So far the beats of the novel has stayed true to what I had planned in the outline. I’ve added a scene here or there, and certainly have fleshed out the outline as I’ve gone along, but the overall shape is staying pretty much dead on.

There’s a plot thread that I’m tempted to pull out. I can’t quite tell if it is a useful one, or if it is just distracting people to no purpose. I’m going to wait for a bit before I decide. That’s what revisions are for.

VALOUR AND VANITY is on the Kirkus Best Fiction Books of 2014 list

Valour and VanityThis is a very shiny thing. Kirkus put out their best of the year list, and Valour and Vanity is on it. Squee!

“Combining history, magic and adventure, the book balances emotional depth with buoyant storytelling.”

Renowned glamourists Lord and Lady Vincent become the victims of an elaborate scam that leaves them in dire straits until they conceive of a daring strategy to strike back.

See the full Best Fiction Books of 2014 list at Kirkus Reviews.

Ghost Talkers 9 is up

If you are reading along, Chapter 9 is up.

I stalled for a day because I realized that Chapter 11 had no visible conflict in it. There were plot things that needed to happen, but the outline just had them happening and it was… dull. So, I had a day of replotting that scene, which affected some of the latter ones. I like very much the changes though. La!

My Favorite Bit: Jessica Leake talks about ARCANA

My Favorite Bit iconJessica Leake is joining us today with her novel Arcana. Here’s the publisher’s description.

A romantic, suspenseful, genre-bending debut set in Edwardian London.

Amid the sumptuous backdrop of the London season in 1905, headstrong Katherine Sinclair must join the ranks of debutantes vying for suitors. Unfortunately for Katherine, she cannot imagine anything more loathsome—or dangerous. To help ease her entrance into society, Katherine’s family has elicited the assistance of the Earl of Thornewood, a friend and London’s most eligible bachelor, to be her constant companion at the endless fetes and balls. But upon her arrival in London, Katherine realizes there will be more to this season than just white gowns and husband hunting.

Through her late mother’s enchanted diary, Katherine receives warning to keep hidden her otherworldly ability to perform arcana, a magic fueled by the power of the sun. Any misstep could mean ruin—and not just for her family name. The Order of the Eternal Sun is everywhere—hunting for those like her, able to feed on arcana with only a touch of the hand.

But society intrigue can be just as perilous as the Order. The machinations of the fashionable elite are a constant threat, and those who covet Katherine’s arcana, seeking the power of her birthright, could be hiding behind the façade of every suitor—even the darkly handsome Earl of Thornewood.

With so much danger and suspicion, can she give her heart to the one who captivates her, or is he just another after her power?

What’s Jessica’s favorite bit?



I’m sure most authors can say this about their works, but there’s a lot I enjoy about Arcana. It has all my favorite things in a book: romance, opulent history, and magic. But when I thought about what my favorite bit might be, it came back to the very first scene I ever wrote—a scene that miraculously made it all the way through the querying-for-an-agent round, the post-agent-editing round, and even the post-editor round. It’s a scene that I wrote the whole book around…a scene that, unfortunately, is extremely spoiler-y as it occurs right before the main character hits rock bottom. I will therefore do my best to describe why I love it so without fully revealing anything that would ruin the scene for future readers.

To set the scene: Katherine, the MC, has been forced to partner up with someone who has treated her with malicious disdain since the moment they met. They are riding horses on the estate of the man Katherine has fallen in love with—a man who still knows nothing about Katherine’s abilities. As they’re riding, the malicious character becomes increasingly frustrated, and takes it out on her horse. The poor horse reaches the end of its patience and takes off with its rider, galloping at break-neck speed through the woods. It ends disastrously, of course, and Katherine is left with an impossible decision, one that has the potential to ruin her.

I love that the scene is centered around a riding accident—that sounds ridiculously morbid, but I love the drama of it. When I wrote the scene, my instincts told me that galloping a horse through the woods (something I never did when I was riding because I would be much too afraid) would be a horrible idea, but I confirmed it with my friend who competes in Eventing. She assured me emphatically that it would be terrible not least of all because a tree branch could come out of nowhere and smash into your face.

It’s also a scene where we see Katherine really using her arcana, which is always fun to write and imagine, but in the context of this rigid Edwardian era society, it also has serious ramifications. Not only are there social consequences, but physical consequences as well. Katherine knows all this, but as Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker: With great power comes great responsibility. She’s unwilling to stand by when she can help—even if it spells out disaster for her. We learn through her mother’s journal that this is a family trait, a legacy of self-sacrifice.

And that’s before she realizes the one person she wouldn’t want to witness using her powers has seen it all.

It’s an intense, exciting, emotional scene, one that changes the course of the story. It’s most definitely my favorite bit.


Book Links

Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Powell’s | Indigo

Jessica’s Links

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads


Jessica Leake has been in love with historical England ever since her first literary crush: Mr. Darcy. After embarking on a quest to bring her own intriguing and headstrong characters to life, she decided to quit her day job as a clinical therapist and spend her time weaving arcana with words.

She lives in Greenville, SC with her brilliant husband, three painfully cute children, and two mischievous dogs.

She invites you to visit her at

Mom and Dad, 50 years ago. Me, in the same dress, 13 years ago.

Mom and Dad had their 50th anniversary earlier this summer. Rob’s parents had their 50th anniversary last year.

They’re setting a good example, don’t you think?

I’m taking the day off from the internet to spend time with my husband. We…um…need to set an example. La!

GHOST TALKERS chapter 8 is up

Today while working on Chapter 10, I committed the typo, “The bulldong looked over his shoulder.” It was tempting to leave it as a present for my copy-editor.

Meanwhile, for those of you reading along, here is Chapter 8.

NaNoWriMo and a note to writers about process

Participant-2014-Twitter-ProfileDuring NaNoWriMo, it’s pretty common to see people who doubt that they can write, because they are struggling with NaNo. I love the event and it works well for the way my brain is wired. It’s not for everybody. Just because I work better with a deadline doesn’t mean you will.

I’ve also seen people slamming NaNo because it doesn’t work for them. Just because it doesn’t work for you, doesn’t make those writers that enjoy it wrong.

But really, this is true of every writing process under the sun. So here is the most important thing I can say to you about process from one writer to another.


Everybody’s brain is wired differently. The process does not matter. Only the end result matters.

If you work best solving things in outline before you get there, great! If you work best by discovering your story and then tossing the manuscript and writing an entirely new draft? Great! Try a bunch of different things. Figure out how your brain works best.

But do not judge your success as a writer by comparing your process to another writer’s.

Your audience will never see your process. They won’t see your mistakes and stumbles or any of that. All they will see is the finished book. Your process does not matter to them. Only the end result matters.

So if NaNo works as well for you as it does for me? Go forth and write like the wind this month. And if it doesn’t? Go forth and write in whatever manner works well for you.


Chapter 7 of GHOST TALKERS is up!

Last night I crossed the 25k mark in the race to NaNoWriMo winner status and am at 26,734 today. Technically, the novel is actually at 31,496 words but some of those were written before NaNo started.

Meanwhile, for those of you reading along, here is Chapter 7.

Chapter 6 is up

For those of you reading along with Ghost Talkers, I just posted Chapter 6. If you are curious, I finished the poem that is masking the book cipher and inserted it and the decoding into Chapter 5.

For those not reading along, this might be amusing and doesn’t involve spoilers. When I was writing the chapter, I didn’t want to have to stop to figure it out, so inserted a note to myself, which was this.

[In which I write a verse that is written in their cipher. I will hate myself later for having decided that this is how it works. Thank God, it doesn’t have to be good poetry.]

And as promised, it is not good poetry.

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Chapter 5 is up and I’m heading back to Chicago

For those of you reading along, Chapter 5 is posted. 

I am not finished with Chapter 7, because World Fantasy. However, since I’ll be on a train when I finish it, I figure I’ll go ahead and indulge by posting 5 now. I did fairly well at continuing to write during the convention, but obviously slowed down. It was a really great weekend.

I spent most of it going, “How did I acquire this life? Because this is amazing.”

Kudos to the entire staff of World Fantasy 2014.