Athena Grayson ...Hacking the Great Narrative... Sun, 09 Dec 2018 04:47:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Athena Grayson 32 32 128824109 Strange Magics: High Fantasy with a Gothic Twist Sun, 09 Dec 2018 04:47:42 +0000 One of the most beloved elements of high fantasy is the feeling that you are in another world. Without the history or the limitations of our own world, the rules can (in theory) be anything you want them to be. Yet there’s a tendency to stick with a “medieval Europe” analogue that’s hard for a writer to break out of, simply because it’s rather familiar from the titans of genre who have gone before.

Part of the reason for that is everyone’s favorite twist–magic. The closer you get to the modern era, the more unlikely magic seems–the greater our need for some sort of quasi-scientific explanation. But what else is a technological advance than our ability to decode something that once felt like magic? In the world of Strange Magics, magic, like physics, adheres to certain rules that people have known for centuries and believe to be infallibly true. Just like we believed in the infallible truth of the “humors of the body” once upon a time.

The magics in Strange Magics stem from the patronage of the gods of the land, and their chosen people are the recipients of those magical gifts. But the strange in Strange Magics comes as the world is poised for change. Just like our world turns to change more frequently than not. Like our world, people in the world of Strange Magics can become hidebound and provincial. But unlike our world, the gods of theirs have been known to shake things up a bit.

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Indie Weekend: NaNoWriMo Mon, 05 Nov 2018 17:15:07 +0000

Ahh, November. When the autumn sets in for real (or the spring, if you’re in the southern hemisphere) and the weather’s firmly set on the next brutal season and the last vestiges of the previous one are fading. And writers everywhere hunker down in front of their keyboards and “go dark” in varying degrees on Social Media because November is National Novel Writing Month.

I’m no stranger to the NaNo craze – I’ve been “NaNo-ing” since 2002. I haven’t “won” every year, but I have learned tons about my writing process and about the creative process in general. This year, my goal is to Have Fun Writing.

So the headfirst slide into November via a thirty-day binge on making words? I’m there for it. I’ve got coffee, a half-formed idea, and a heavy-duty keyboard, and I’m ready to go!

Tithed to the Dread Lord actually started its life as a NaNoWriMo novel. I wrote it in what I still describe as an orgy of words. Sounds kinky, I know, but I had this idea one day, and it felt so complete and so much fun to do that I ended up writing the whole draft in a month (it was an October, but who’s counting). Ask any writer, and they’ll tell you that books like this one–that feel like they’ve sprung fully-formed from your head–don’t come around that often. When they do, ride that lightning and thank the writing gods for the gift. In the meantime, below is an excerpt. Clicking on the excerpt will take you to the book’s page where you can read the blurb and see where to pick up a copy.

Tithed Excerpt

Excerpt from "Tithed to the Dread Lord" by Athena Grayson. 


“This marks you as a Pure One, then. Untouchable by all but your goddess?”

She licked her lips again and nodded. She tried to catch his eye, but the shock of hair over his face hung down, obscuring his gaze and any thoughts she might read there. “I’m to wear it until I pass my trials of purification.”

His lips stretched in a cynical smile. “You will fail.”

She stepped back. “What?” Her lips folded together. I’ve had enough of being frightened witless, and enough of being left ignorant. “I’ll have that back, please. I’m sorry you didn’t like your tithe or the person who delivered it. I told them it was a bad idea to send an acolyte, but nobody ever listens to acolytes, and now you’ve gone and insulted me, too, so my day is complete and this task is done.”

“You misunderstand, my lady,” he said. “I offer no insult. I’m merely stating fact. Your Councilmen have taken a gamble with my good nature. And they have lost. Or more precisely, they have gambled with and lost you.”

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Introducing Strange Magics Wed, 24 Oct 2018 18:08:53 +0000
No one likes an ivory tower quite like a mage likes an ivory tower and no matter the school of magic, the world’s practitioners tend to keep apart. So much so that even though the farmfolk who follow the Corn goddess and the priest-caste who serve Lady Flame live together in the Barony, they don’t tend to mix much, and never take apprentices from outside their own peoples. They share the land, but the lines are clearly drawn.

Of course, the gods don’t care for lines drawn by men.

They certainly didn’t when they called Niamne of Sunvale to serve at the temple of Lady Flame. She was older than the other acolytes, and came from the farmfolk who worked the land and honored the Corn goddess. Strange magics were afoot that season, the elders claimed.

Of course, it wasn’t the first time strange magics had visited the people of the Barony. The Catacombs beneath the earth are as old as civilization itself, and far more vast than the sleepy hamlets and villages tucked into the green fields on top of them, and ruled by one man–the Dread Lord. The last necromancer, final heir to a tradition of the dead that some believe ought to have been long-dead and left in the dustbin of history in the face of progress.

Of course, the gods don’t like being told they’re out of date, either.

The dark Bone god may be so fearsome that none speak of him, but old traditions die hard, especially when they’re about honoring the dead. Orphios the Profane, the last necromancer, will have to remind the good folk that the oldest practices are traditions for very good reasons.


Introducing the world of Strange Magics

Slake your craving for gothic fantasy romance

He can tempt her into darkness, but can she lead him out of it?

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The Star Empire: Jumpgate Travel Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:19:38 +0000

Jumpgates are a necessity for interplanetary travel in the worlds of the Jewel, but travelers must use them according to rules both man-made and established by the nature of the Jump system itself. Unscheduled jumps are fraught with peril and only fools make them in the most desperate of situations. For everyone else, here’s how they work.

Direct and Connecting Jumps

Not every gate connected to every other gate. A few Jumpgates served as “hubs,” while many more gates only connected to far fewer–or even only one–other orbits. Getting from a hub like Capitol to many different orbits is as simple as logging your flight plan, queueing up, and going through the gate to come out on the other side, almost at your destination. It’s a little less direct to get from a quieter orbit like Tenraye to the inner worlds–you can make more jumps and get there in less physical time, or take fewer jumps and cover more ground. Orbits with remote Jumpgates tend to see less interplanetary traffic, especially if their only connection is to another remote orbit.


The Jumpgates aren’t programmable, as the early settlers found out. They actually run on a fixed timetable, and they always run on time. Each Jumpgate connects to a single other Jumpgate for a set number of hours, before transitioning to connect to a different endpoint. As long as you’re through the Jumpgate in the time window, you’ll reach your intended destination point. If you miss a window, however, you’ll have to wait until the gate cycles back around to your destination. At a busy hub like the Capitol, you could wait an entire day or even longer, which is why it’s important to log your flight plans in advance.

Jumpgates Past and Future

One of the greatest challenges to the early settlers in the Nine Sisters was deciphering how the Jumpgates worked. No one remembers quite who figured out what, but the instructions left on the gates themselves were simple and able to be understood given humanity’s then-current understanding of astrophysics. Centuries of safe and consistent use of Jumpgates has made them ubiquitous in the worlds of the Jewel system. Academics are always curious about the inner workings, and no entrepreneur has not dreamed of cracking the secret to creating new Jumpgates, but thus far, the realization of that dream is still the realm of con artists and gullible marks. There is, however, a persistent rumor that there are new Jumpgates out there, waiting to be discovered by intrepid explorers, but the appropriate response is to wish them safe travels and wave goodbye at the spaceport while keeping your credits far from their expeditionary funds.

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The Star Empire: Jumpgates Wed, 26 Sep 2018 15:19:07 +0000

Getting Around

Every space writer has to make a critical choice in their writing life whether or not to allow FTL travel. We currently have no way to beat the speed of light, and books would get reeeeeallly booooring if they were NOT “road trip” books and it still took forever to get anywhere fun. So throughout fiction, writers have come up with some creative hacks to work around the whole space-time speed limit thing. In the Star Empire, we have Jumpgates.

Jumpgates exist in almost every orbit. These ancient artifacts from a long-gone alien culture operate by opening temporary stable wormholes into “Jumpspace” between two gates, allowing short-term travel through folded space that cuts the sublight travel speeds of months (or even years) down to minutes and hours.

Interplanetary Speed Limits

In the Star Empire, travel can still take days or even weeks between orbits. As with everything in a marginally capitalist society, adding credits to the engines can shave time off your trip. Still, there are some hard limits even credits can’t buy you out of. In space, there’s still traffic. In the worlds of the Jewel, Jumpgate Traffic Control keeps things in order by queueing up vessels for entry into Jumpspace. It takes coordination and planning to get to where you’re going. Ships are required to log their travel plans with JTC. Routes are ranked in order of total travel time, number of jumps, and time in Jumpsace. Depending on your ship’s characteristics, choosing a route to your destination may involve more jumps and less travel time, or it may involve fewer jumps and more time in Jumpspace. 



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The Star Empire: A Short Spin Around the Stars Sat, 08 Sep 2018 00:41:33 +0000

A Family Affair

Even though the star cluster is called “The Nine Sisters,” there are only two main star systems in the old Star Empire – the worlds of the Torch, and the worlds of the Jewel. Even though both systems have plenty of planets, moons, and other celestial bodies, their cultures diverged significantly.

The Jewel: A Sprawl

The worlds of the Jewel are plentiful, and filled with a sprawl of humans, near-humans, and aliens that successfully intermingled for thousands of years, enjoying open borders and well-established trade routes and a robust Jumpgate system. The Capitol acts as a major Jumpgate hub, while other planetary systems exchange fewer Jumpgate paths between them, but few planetary bodies are truly isolated. The Jewel enjoyed a robust, freewheeling expansion period that came to an abrupt end when a surprise attack from out of the system destroyed a swath of Capitol. The attackers disappeared as fast as they appeared, but an indelible mark was left on the psyche of the Jewel’s culture and the aftermath caused a cultural shock that changed the starmap forever.

The Torch: Trapped By Hubris

The empire in the Torch experienced a different fate. An early terraforming disaster caused a cloud of debris and radiation that polluted the orbit of the Jumpgate hub when it destroyed the planet in that orbit. The disaster stranded the human settlements on the only habitable planet at the time, whose Jumpgate only leads to an empty orbit at the edge of the system. The planets in the Landfall orbit (Landfall and its four moons, and two smaller planetesimals at LaGrange points L4 and L5) are the only habitable spaces the empire can reach. With overcrowding on the main planet and a toxic combination of class inequality and genetic drift affecting the population, the human empire of the Torch is running out of room to expand, with no pressure-release valve in sight.

Indie Weekend: Summer of New Mon, 16 Jul 2018 16:21:24 +0000
I don’t talk about my books a lot. I don’t even talk about myself a lot. I’m one of those “extroverted introverts” – people who look like they love being around other people, but when the party’s over, we run into caves and don’t come out for half a year afterward and you realize you don’t know anything more about us than you did when you met us. But seriously, I can’t escape the fact that the only reason the six of you are here (or rather, five out of the six of you–Hi mom!) is for the damn books.

I’ll be honest with you–there is a metric fuckton of worldbuilding stuff that never makes it into the books. I love worldbuilding like other people love air conditioning in summer and heat in winter. But I’m nervous about sharing it because it feels incomplete to me–like parading around in my underwear. In fact, I think I’d rather parade around in my underwear. I’ve got alibis for all my physical imperfections. I don’t have excuses for why the planet of Landfall’s mid-levels are the best places to get food from carts and find funky cafes even if the atmosphere’s starting to become harder to breathe and easier to chew.

But it’s a good sign that if I’m uncomfortable doing it, or if I’m avoiding it, it’s probably a thing that I need to do.

Indie Weekend: Creative Bursts Mon, 11 Jun 2018 22:47:35 +0000

Once, I fancied myself one of those organized people who plans releases with plenty of time to complete them and meets their deadlines with consistency, grace, and aplomb.

Only once. I had a lie-down and disabused myself of that notion straightaway. My magic is messy. My creation is chaotic. I wish it weren’t so, but I sorta don’t because when I come out of it, I’m exhausted and drained but I’m proud of what I’ve bled out onto the page. And when I’m in the middle of it, I can achieve this meta-state where I feel like I really am digging deep to pull the best out of me. I don’t do drugs and I keep forgetting to day-drink, even though I’m in my 40’s and a mom so it’s sort of expected, but damned if I don’t get a contact-high off that creative buzz. If I time things just right, it expands and starts multiplying back on itself.

That sorta happened this past month. After a long time where I was depleted and dealing with a lot of external stuff, the pressure let up and the anvils stopped dropping. I found myself with a new venture on a new platform in a different sub-genre, a second book in the current series (which took longer than I thought because the series goes deeper than I thought), and more than one side-hustle for existing series and future projects that have had significant progress made upon them.

I still have anvils in the forecast–I don’t think I can escape that–but they’ve let up to a sprinkle, and in between the clangs, I’m getting hit with ideas. I’m grateful, but I’m also a bit wary. At some point, I have to choose the ones to work on and the ones to tuck away, and I hate picking favorites from all my little plot-bunnies. It makes the un-picked feel sad. Still, there are worse positions to be in.

Indie Weekend: May Flurries and Radish Coins Sat, 05 May 2018 19:45:44 +0000
I know, you’re thinking, “That better not be snow she’s talking about!” Haha, yeah, I know. There were snow flurries last weekend not too far away from me and that’s freaking ridiculous, but no, I’m not going to get Mother Nature any more punch-drunk than she already is. I’m talking about Flurries Of Activity. Specifically, book activity. Specifically, MY book activity.

Strange Magics

I just released a new book in a new series on a new platform. I know my sci-fi readers are waiting patiently for the next installment of Scions, too. The Strange Magics fantasy romance series kicks off with The Dread Lord’s Tithe as a Radish-exclusive. It’s something I set in motion several months ago while I was dodging falling pianos–I had the book ready to go for another project that fell through and the platform popped up on my radar. The pre-launch required minimal effort–just some formatting–and it was something I could do in the middle of mad housecleaning, getting rid of a lot of old junk I’d let pile up way too long, and fixing minor house repairs. Now, speaking of Strange Magics, I’m doing a little strange magic of my own to promote it. I’ve gone in with a handful of other Radish authors and we’re doing a Radish Coin Giveaway! We’re giving away 200 Radish Coins in our contest (coins are what you use in the Radish app to purchase episodes or chapters of your favorite stories and it’s how us authors keep our kitty overlords in catnip when you read). You can enter by clicking here on the graphic below. And a special shout-out to our friends at Romancing the Dragon for putting the giveaway together. Good luck!


But in the middle of all that–or I should say, as the bulk of the house work wrapped up–my fingers got itchy again and this time, I knew the path I had to take with Fallout (Scions book 2). Now, weird as it is for me to be working in a clean, uncluttered house (a clean desk is the sign of a sick mind, LOL), Fallout has fallen into place and I’m about ready to put up a pre-order link. It’s later than I’d hoped, but I’d rather be late than half-assed. I confess it’s a little scary–I had to rip this book apart once and put it back together, and for a person who writes continuing series, that can have…repercussions. But I’m glad I did the hard construction work, because it’s a better book for it.

Indie Weekend: Reading As Self-Care Fri, 13 Apr 2018 14:55:35 +0000

In the age of social media, sharing everything, and tagging yourself so that the whole world can see what you’re doing and where you are, reading, at least for me, is still an offline, solitary thing. Even though I’m charmed by things like the Kobo Reading App’s “achievement” badges (and yes, I get a little tickled every time I do something like “read 5 days in a row at lunchtime” or “binge-read three books” or something silly – hooray for human psych), reading is still something I do on my own, without needing to tell anyone about it.

Much of that comes from my upbringing, where I couldn’t disappear for days at a time to tear through a literary doorstop like Gone With The Wind all at once. I had to “be sociable” and interact with people. That’s something I can do, when necessary, and I even enjoy–a lot–when I’m not forced to do it. But because it was in the way of my book, I hated having to do it at the time, so I ended up doing a lot of my reading in the middle of the night, or in places where nobody knew I was reading.

But in those places, I made no apologies about what I chose to read. I didn’t have to explain myself or (in later years when I was away at college) read critically for any reason other than “Is this fun for me? Is it telling a good story?” I do read critically, and have often found myself going back to examine why I find something compelling, entertaining, thought-provoking, or attention-worthy in the first place. I’m comfortable with a certain level of saying to myself “I enjoyed reading this, but it bothered me because ___” or “I didn’t like the premise, but it worked because ___” (I do that last one with a lot more movies and TV shows than books, though. I have less patience with visual media probably because it’s inherently more “social”).

AR DeClerck

AR DeClerck isn’t afraid to jump genres between sci-fi and fantasy, or mystery and romance. Her steampunk stories come from the heart and are as satisfying as the steady tick-tick of a well-engineered piece of timekeeping elegance.

Aimee Easterling

Aimee Easterling isn’t afraid to cross the boundary between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance. Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to a fellow Linux user because open-source opens doors where windows sometimes get stuck shut.