Thursday, September 18, 2014

Guest Post by Beth Cato

Beth Cato's steampunk debut The Clockwork Dagger hit shelves this week and it's already earning some pretty nifty praise. PW called it a "rousing tale of airborne intrigue" and Cato "an author to watch" while Library Journal gave it a starred review and RT said "steampunk fans should take note." And take note I have! The Clockwork Dagger has taken up a top spot in my TBR and probably should take the same pride of place in yours :)

Here's a bit about the book from the publisher:

The Clockwork Dagger is the story of a gifted young healer, Octavia Leander, who sets off on her first mission. Her goal is to get to a plague-ridden village and help the people there, but a series of strange occurrences—including murder—rock the airship she is traveling on. The dashingly attractive steward may be one of the infamous Clockwork Dagger assassins, her cabin-mate hides secrets (and an alarming penchant for writing pulp novels), and Octavia is beginning to discover that her magical gift for healing may be even more powerful than anyone thought. In short, this airship voyage is much more eventful than Octavia expected, and she’s stumbled into the midst of a conspiracy that may reach the crown itself.

And thanks to the publisher, I've got a guest post from Beth as a treat for you today:

Colorful Secondary Worlds
by Beth Cato

In recent months, #WeNeedDiverseBooks has been trending on Twitter. One of the posts I contributed was, "#WeNeedDiverseBooks because epic fantasy worlds should be as beautiful & colorful as Earth."

This is something I had in mind a few years ago as I developed the world for my novel, THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER. I wanted to create a colorful world based on Earth. My heroine is pale-skinned, but her love interest is black. Alonzo is right there on the cover, looking debonair in a red coat.

I've seen other authors deal with this issue, so I know at some point, someone may ask, "Why is he black?"

My immediate response is, "Why not?"

My book does not take place on Earth, but it's based on Earth. I grew up in California. I took for granted that my fellow classmates reflected all colors and nationalities. This isn't a bad thing. It's not a threat. It's an asset. We learn from our differences, even if, yes, they create conflicts. Hopefully we emerge as better, more enlightened people.

That's the whole point of the character arc in a novel, too.

Alonzo isn't a token character of color. My book is populated by diverse skin tones, shapes of eyes and noses, hair styles, cuts of clothing. Racial and cultural dynamics vary greatly from what exists on Earth, and they play a major role in the plot.

So yes, if need be, I can justify why one of my main characters has darker skin. I can point out that he's one aspect of the complex world-building. It makes me sad that I even have to consider this explanation at all, but it all comes back to that hash tag--#WeNeedDiverseBooks. Alonzo stands out on the cover because he is a rarity. He shouldn't be.

The fantasy genre is not confined to white-skinned, European-based mythology. Earth is much larger than that. Other created worlds are also much larger than that. I think of awesome series like Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence and Brian McClellan's Powder Mage books. Their worlds are fresh and vibrant because they do drop the stale tropes that fantasy has relied on for decades. A good cover--an honest cover--demonstrates that to potential readers.

If anyone questions why Alonzo is on the cover, I'm ready for that debate.

About the author: Beth Cato resides in the outskirts of Phoenix, AZ. Her husband Jason, son Nicholas, and crazy cat keep her busy, but she still manages to squeeze in time for writing and other activities that help preserve her sanity. She is originally from Hanford, CA, a lovely city often pungent with cow manure.

Here, here, Beth! And big, big thanks for being on the blog today!

The Clockwork Dagger is out on shelves now.

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