Fantasy Spotlight on Incubus Honeymoon (Arcana Imperii #1) by August Li (guest blog )

This was an important post for me to write. Thanks to Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for the opportunity.

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Incubus Honeymoon (Arcana Imperii #1) by August Li

DSP Publications
Cover Artist: Blake Dorner

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with August Li

Trans and Enby Characters, Own Voices, and the Challenges Therein

I’ve written a lot of blog posts to promote this book. I was happy to see Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words offered a series of interview questions and that I wouldn’t have to think up an entire subject on my own. The interview starts with the statement “You can answer any or all of the questions.”

I only ended up answering one. You’ll see why.

How much of yourself goes into a character?

Quick answer: it depends. Empathy aside, a writer really has to draw on their own experiences, and if not specific experiences, then similar emotional events. Everyone has love, loss, frustration, and inspiration to draw from. A writer doesn’t need to deal with exactly…

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Advent Acceptance and Coming Full Circle

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I don’t remember exactly what year I decided to submit to Dreamspinner Press. I think it was 2009, maybe 2010. They were a newer company at the time, but I remember being impressed with the books they put out, with their editing and cover art. I wanted to work with them. I figured I’d start small, see if I was a good fit for them and vice versa. I saw they had a call out called Advent Calendar—a holiday-themed story a day in December. I thought I could try for that… and I did.

 

The call mentioned an openness to holiday traditions outside Christianity, and I have always tried to be different. I submitted Neskaya, a novella loosely based on Scandinavian pagan practices and beliefs. It had abortion-performing cannibalistic witches, human sacrifice, a decidedly morally ambiguous elf-like society, a twisted bargain, and odds my lovers couldn’t beat. And they didn’t. There was no way to avert the mounting tragedy and stay true to the characters and the story. So I didn’t. I ended up with something that Mary Calmes, one of the first DSP authors I met, described as “pain.” (She also said she liked it, though.)

 

Needless to say, that novella was not included in the Advent Calendar. But Dreasmpinner Press still wanted to publish it. Looking back, I can see how much that little book changed the course of my life. Things would be very different for me if they hadn’t decided to take a chance on me.

 

Since then, I’ve published… eight? Nine? I think it’s nine novels with Dreamspinner Press and their imprints, DSP Publications and Harmony Ink. It might actually be eleven. I’m hardly a celebrity and I’m not a millionaire, but I’m very proud of what I’ve put out, how much I’ve learned and grown as an artist, and the wonderful people I’ve met along the way.

 

It’s never been easy for me to write light, fluffy, and feel-good. But this year when the Advent Calendar call went out for Warmest Wishes, I had an idea. I’d try to write something with a happy ending. Yes, it might be weird Western/steampunky-urban fantasy/AU historical. It might even have a silver-haired Cantonese mage, a slatternly, less-than-truthful protagonist, a magical climate crisis, some observations on addiction, and a subtle theme about how we are screwing ourselves by pilfering and exploiting natural resources, but I promise it’s happy.

 

I’m happy to announce Colina de Lavanda was accepted as part of this year’s Advent Calendar.

 

I started this journey as an author with an attempt at a holiday story, and now I’m continuing with a successful attempt.

 

That feels kinda special.

 

And I’ve done it without the need to rein in my weirdness.

 

Much.

 

I hope you’ll all enjoy it when it releases this December.

 

But if you want to suffer read something now, take a crack at my first publication with Dreamspinner Press, here.

Cruelty-free Product Review–Henna Color Labs

 

henna.jpgI’ve committed myself to living 100 percent cruelty-free, and so I’m investigating products that don’t test on animals and are preferably vegan. The Leaping Bunny Program has been very helpful, and that’s where I discovered this Henna Color Labs dye. Since the price is reasonable, I decided to give it a try. I went with the dark brown, which is closest to my natural hair color.

I have some gray hair, and my main goal was to cover it up.IMG_1299 The Henna Color Labs kit very helpfully comes with gloves and a cap. You’ll need something to mix up the dye, such as a small bowl. The dye itself comes in powder form and is designed to be mixed with water until a paste forms. Easy enough, though I imagine having a professional-quality applicator brush is helpful.

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You will want a paste thick enough not to drip. There’s really no need to measure; just gradually add water until you have the consistency you want. This stuff has a vegetal smell, kind of like alfalfa or the grass clippings you empty out of the lawnmower bag. It’s a bit strong but not unpleasant. It’s quite different to the strong chemical odor of many dyes, and it also doesn’t burn or sting skin.

It goes on pretty smoothly, and for my hair length, half a packet was enough to get the job done. You’ll notice it’s still green on my hair, but brownish where it got on the mirror.

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I put it under the cap to process. The instructions say it can be left on up to two hours, and because of those grays, I left it on for the maximum time and opened up the laptop to get some work done. Because it doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals, it’s easy to forget it’s there. There’s no skin irritation or eye-stinging smell.

After the two hours, I rinsed and conditioned without shampooing, per the instructions. My hair felt soft and smooth, but the grassy smell hung around. Did it do as I hoped and cover the gray? Well, mostly. Some of those stubborn bastards resisted it. The overall effect was much improved; at first glance, the gray was not noticeable. However… maybe because I spend a lot of time in the sun and saltwater, the grays began to reemerge pretty quickly–after about a week or so.

Pros:

Natural and cruelty-free; gentle; application is easy; economical. It really is a quality product at an affordable price.

Cons:

Didn’t quite cover all the gray; seemed to fade rather quickly. They offer only a limited range of natural colors (no pink or green, for example.) You can’t drastically change your hair color with these products.

Conclusion:

This product will be just the thing for someone who wants to give their hair a tint or color boost without the use of harsh chemicals, and I have the utmost respect for Henna Color Lab’s commitment to producing cruelty-free products. For me, the gray coverage was not quite what I wanted, but I would be curious to see if others’ experiences have been different. If you’re curious, try the product. The price is not prohibitive to experimentation, and the absolute worst result is a little less dramatic color than expected. Add the cinnamon exfoliating soap to your order–smells amazing!

 

 

Cover Art for Renewal

front coverGood morning and happy Friday!

I’m pleased to share my artwork for Queer Sci Fi’s flash fiction anthology, Renewal. It’s the culmination of an annual contest to discover the very best in LGBT-themed flash fiction. Prospective authors are invited to interpret the theme, which was renewal this time around. As the cover artist, I did the same (with some helpful feedback from the project’s editor), and this is what I came up with. I hope you enjoy it, and stayed tuned for the release date on what’s sure to be a great collection of stories.

You can find more information on Renewal and other queer speculative fiction at the Queer Sci Fi site.

QSF-Renewal-Print