Friday, October 21, 2016

Iron and Silk: Writing Manwe and Cleon's LGBTQ relationship

Love is hard, often drawing from people the best and worst aspects of themselves, and nothing is as hard as properly reflecting love in the most human fashion within fiction. I have written previously about Romance and Agency, but with this post I wanted to look at the challenges of writing a gay relationship between two of my favorite characters, Manwe the Panther and Cleon the Yellow, the mischievous/beguiling/ephemeral sorcerer that captures his heart within the pages of Thief of Secrets, the second installment in The Saga of the Panther.

Now, let me clear: I'm not gay. I've been in a very successful heterosexual relationship with the most wonderful woman in the world for almost 10 years, so when I set out to write my first gay relationship between two main characters there were a lot of concerns I had about accurately depicting the special dynamics that take place between two men when they are in love.

And to my surprise, I discovered that it was exactly like writing a relationship between a heterosexual couple. LGTBQ relationships come in a variety of forms, but the roles, behaviors, and customs found in these relationships are as ubiquitous to anything you will find between a man and a woman.

And there is the secret I think writers and readers should take away: to quote Lin-Manuel Miranda (and obviously others), Love is Love. I think this is especially important in light of National Coming Out Day this month, where we let our friends and family in the LGBTQ community know they have allies and are safe to be who they are. These people seek support, solace, and confidence in the people they choose to spend their lives with, which Manwe is given by Cleon the Yellow in his darkest moment.

So if you ever set out to write a relationship between two people of same sex or different gender identities, please make sure to remember it doesn't matter who or what someone decides for themselves to be--they love like everyone else does. They go through times of darkness and light, and often the presence of someone that is the other half of their soul is the salve to the spiritual wound we all carry when destiny splits us from a person we're supposed to be with (or someone we're not supposed to be around.) That salve is created when they come back together.

My only hope is that I did well by the thief and his sorcerer, the sorcerer and his thief.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Life After Fighting, Fighting for Life: a #HoldOntoTheLight post

I will start with a declarative statement:

After 30 years of life on this planet I am still alive.

This statement contains a story within itself, but it is far harder for me not to remember the other stories I've grown up.

My first cousin committed suicide when I was 13. Nobody knew he was depressed, save for a recent breakup, and nobody believed he had those thoughts until it happened.

In sixth grade I was awed by the news that an older boy, an eighth grader, had gone home and hung himself during the day. Another friend's brother shot himself in the head.

Then I got into high school and things got very real. From a significant someone who tried to snort her way to destiny to a very gentle girl that carved the inside of her legs with a needle because she felt awful about herself, unspoken problems involving mental illness ran amok. Her older sister, who had been a very talented writer from what I remember, scratched the inside of her arms with needles too. People were cutting but nobody wanted to talk about it--save for the few brave parents who tackled these things head on and, surprisingly, often caught flack for having the courage to actually do something instead of sweeping it under the rug. Some of those people were and remain as close to me as family.

Mental illness is an epidemic our society refused to even acknowledge for a long time, but for many of the communities I grew up in it was lingering specter above us all, an malefic spirit that always threatened to take another without warning.

Into my junior year of high school I had a friend who was addicted to heroin. His best friend, the dude that started shoving way too many heavy metal CD's into my hands, literally watched out for my-friend-the-junkie day and night. My peer group spent weekends drinking pretty hard and living very fast. It is not out of the way to remember how many people I knew that felt left out of things, how people floated in and out of their self-destructive packs, and how many who were simply lost.

Sure, these are often the stories about growing up, but it was always startling to see how many of those stories were haunted by mental illness.

Some of us (see: Jay) had real anger issues, others tough family situations, and there were a lot of kids and adults I knew that were strung out or pilled up on something. The last of the Gen-Xers, who I looked up to, struggled with their place in the world after college and a few were left behind when it broke them. Drugs were a constant reality. I probably smoked and drank too much myself to mute out the world, but so did a lot of athletes I ran with. From those on the high school wrestling team to the guys I rolled jiu-jitsu with in the strip malls, there were always problems with depression. Start adding concussions into the mix and guys would act very strange. One of my closer friends at the time lost his brother to suicide--a brother who was one of my little sister's closest friends.

College was worse.

Many of my friends were poor and struggling with un-diagnosed bipolar disorders, self-medicating to get through working and going to school full-time--and some of them were raising kids, which while wonderful was a colossal burden within itself. I met a mom who served bar and she was the nearest thing to Wonder Woman I've ever met. And she popped a lot of pills. A lot of people who were on some form of a SSRI.

And say what you want: The Bush Years were soul crushing. A lot of people went off to war and died. A lot of families were left with loved ones too damaged to make themselves a "normal" life when they came home. I knew a few soldiers that were taken by PTSD while I was in college. They aren't here to tell their stories now.

Here is the point where I insert myself back into it and admit my own demons: Since the time I was 14 years old I had wanted something all through high school and the beginning of college--a career in mixed martial arts--and through injury and purely bad choices on my part I screwed myself out of that. It took a lot of therapy before that period of my life and lot of therapy and love after that period to come to terms with the reality that I couldn't have what I wanted anymore.

That same reality almost took me twice and, if I'm purely honest, the same depression followed me into my destined career too. I know a good many writers in my community that really struggle with depression and suicide. I was, again, one of them not too long ago.

Yet for my part in this, I still remember the stories of others:

One roommate was so terribly broken by his experiences in the Bosnian War that he refused to act outside of a self-proscribed set of behaviors that inevitably led to self-mutilation and becoming one of the first people I know to be addicted to bath salts. The uncle who lost his son to suicide when I was 13 went through rehab not too long ago. The fight to stay sober, happy, and healthy is a hard one for him that he faces every day.

And there's the point: for people that struggle with mental illness, life is a fight, no matter if you are using your fists or not.

I make the statement "I am still alive" to write stories because I know of how many stories were ended because of cruel circumstance, or addiction, or depression, or something even deeper. The only reason I'm here is because I did something we are sometimes shamed in society for doing: I went and found help. I went to therapist, tried medication, took up meditation, and still work every day to fight the specter of mental illness. My best friends do too.

The best thing we can do is talk about mental illness is to tell these stories and let others know that somehow, somewhere, someone out there cares enough to help them. The more we talk about it the more we help others win their fight to hold on, endure, and find their own victories. It is a far better option than waiting until it is too late and having another tale lost.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to and join us on Facebook

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Fight Is Not Over

When I first sat down to write down a couple of blog posts to help promote Thief of Shadows, I found myself writing blog posts that were apologies for the stories contained therein. There are stories within this collection that are going to piss a lot of people off, and because of that there is this inherent fear that I am going to forever deny myself the opportunity to make myself attractive to current readers of Fantasy. We live in a society today where everyone has to measure their words carefully because nobody gives the benefit of the doubt when it comes to intentions, which is an odd place I think for literature to exist.

But literature, fiction or non-fiction, must be about an author's truth.

The truth of the matter is that I think we all know there is something going on in this world that is deeply wrong. Whether it is religious extremism, racism, elitism, cultural relativism, homophobia, transphobia, the destruction of our planet, or just downright being awful to people simply because you think you've earned the right to, the world has gone crazy to the point where people want to silence, exile, or kill others for simply having an opinion they don't like.

And for a long time I was the same way.

I often introduce myself at cons with "Hi, I'm Jay Requard and I live for revolution." And the truth is that I still do--I think we are currently mired in a system that is extracting our families, our lives, our time, our identities, and more insidiously, our morality. I believe that if voting, legislation, and democracy doesn't work to resolve this extraction we have to rise up and reset that democracy. Call me a crazy humanist, but I think the dignity that EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. is born with must be held up and protected, especially in the face of irrational evil.

But what many often conflate with the idea of revolution is a notion that equals the abject destruction of everyone else except them, I cannot simply support the idea in the face of the proposed action. I was first confronted by this six months ago when someone who holds the same revolutionary ideas as me openly attacked two people that would have been their allies if not for the fact they were of a different skin color and had a different opinion. In this faux-revolutionary's mind, everyone was an enemy and in the coming "revolution" even people who wished him no harm whatsoever would be punished. He took off his false mask to reveal an intolerance and racism that is akin to "an eye for an eye" instead of liberation. Even now, I am watching someone I care about very deeply get hammered because she is white and supports Black Lives Matters. Simply stated, there are zealots on both sides of this illusion we call "the political spectrum", and those individuals on the extreme ends would rather watch the world burn to have their way before they would even consider building a path for all that moves the world forward.

Manwe is confronted by this version in a blunt fashion, and like myself, he is exposed to the fact that there is a concept of revolution that is infantile and harmful and a concept of revolution that is transformative and liberating. And for my favorite thief it strikes at his heart like a sledgehammer blow, destroying the illusion that immaturity and willful ignorance creates. But he is also wise enough to know that he must change for the sake of himself and others.

For Manwe, he will to have to find what he truly wants to fight for in Thief of Secrets, and at the very least, he has snatches of what would be in my heart (taken from The Free and The Damned):

“What made you deter from the path?” She turned her head to study him. “You were out in the hills when the battle happened. What did you see?”
“Nightmares from my childhood, from the darkest corners of magic,” Manwe revealed, simple and to the point. He trained his eyes on one of the lamps at the foot of the goddess, its simple flame a match for a more recent, more horrid memory of a cackling shaman and fell ghouls. “I saw good men sell their souls.”
“So you aren’t aligned at the moment.”
Manwe squinted against the flame. “I’d say not.”
 Magera grabbed his hand, held it firm. “Then what would you see as fair, if you had your way?”
“I would keep you all well,” Manwe answered. “No man a slave, no woman a whore. Love and let live and be left alone. End the plight of the poor. That’s what I would want for myself.”

I hope that is something worth rising for.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I'm pleased as can be to reveal the cover for the next collection within The Saga of the Panther!


And it is available right now!

I can't say enough about the work of James R. Tuck/Levi Black, who really upped his game this time after turning out such a great cover for Thief of Shadows. I also want to thank John Hartness and Jaym Gates at Falstaff Books for sticking with me and believing in my ability to write the kind of Sword & Sorcery I would want to sit on my bookshelf.

Last but certainly not least, I need to thank Melissa Gilbert at Clicking Keys for guiding me with her wit, wisdom, and skill as an editor. These stories are the better because of my chance to work with her. She is an diamond in the rough that publishers should be seeking out (though they will have to fight me to get her! She's THAT great!)

And of course all my love to my fiance and soon-to-be-wife, Margo. My world would be darkness without you.

And to you, the readers who have put down their money and time to give me a shot--we're just getting started!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons Falstaff Books Rejects Your Work

Ever since becoming one of the main editors at Falstaff Books, I've come to appreciate the difficulty of sifting through the slush pile in search for that one gem. I've rejected a good bit by now, and the reasons for myself or another of Falstaff's editor rejecting work usually falls the same way surprisingly often.

The reason surprises me because I've been published since 2009 and not a lot has changed in terms of how they want work submitted to them, but then I realize that not everyone is involved or has the knowledge of the industry that they need to get their work out of slush and into the considerate hands of an editor. Hopefully this list helps people in that situation.

ATTENTION: IF YOU CURRENTLY HAVE A SUBMISSION UNDER CONSIDERATION AT FALSTAFF BOOKS DON'T PANIC! If you are guilty of some of these points that is okay--we judge the work first. These are just general observations to consider.

1. Your query letter lacks

Admittedly this is a debatable point, but I still see the value of a query letter in today's publishing landscape for the plain and simple reason that it reveals three very important things:

First, your query reveals that you know what story you are selling. I cannot tell you how many query letters I've come across that are a hot mess of jumbled ideas that don't feed necessarily into each other, or worse, they conflict. There are a lot of different ideas about how you present your work in the query, but here is my general advice: give me the protagonist and the villain, give me the plot, and raise the stakes immediately.

Second, your query tells Falstaff about how we go about selling you. One of the biggest mistakes I see when authors submit to us is that they provide us little in the way publishing history and instead try to wow us with the opinions of others. Speaking for myself, I don't give a royal shit about what a blogger or your family had to say about an unpublished manuscript when it comes to deciding whether or not it is right for Falstaff. They're not the ones who are going to be out there selling it at cons or trying to get it distributed in bookstores. What I do want to see are your credits, self-published or traditionally released. What I do want to see is the highest Amazon ranking and you patting your back about it. What I do want to see is someone that has been trying to build a platform for themselves or a list of credits to be proud of.

Third, a good query letter shows that you did your homework. It is simple: Salutation, statement of purpose, pitch/SHORT synopsis, brief bio, concluding paragraph starting with "Thank you for your time and consideration" (USE THOSE EXACT WORDS), and a Sincerely go a long way in showing us that you knew what you were doing when you submitted.

2. There's no story in the first three chapters

So the story really does need to start immediately from Page One. We will let you build to "the happening" to the end of chapter One, Debut the plot in Chapter Two, but we need to be well into a story by Chapter Three. And if that doesn't happen you will need to rely on writing so captivating that we ignore it. And then we still might reject you.

I've already read GREAT writing that I've rejected. What Falstaff wants is a GREAT story.

3. You did not follow the guidelines

Here they are. Follow them.

4. Your submission is not right for us

This is where people usually get mad, but as I've discovered a lot recently, this is not out of the norm of genre publishing. The Big Four-Five-Six and Amazon are in a really difficult place where they have kinda decimated their own economic models. Small presses are surviving and growing, a few are even thriving, but until distribution is much more open it is a toss-up. Micro-Presses, magazines, and e-zines are great places to go and get experience, start building a list, but they are never going to give you a livable income like they did back in the 1970s and 1980s. With the mid-list gone because of the disappearance of the small to mid-sized bookshop and the continued withering of the big box stores, digital is a bit of a Wild Frontier still.

We consider a ton of things at Falstaff when we get a submission. The work needs to be great, it needs to be in a place where we can provide enough time and effort for developmental and copy edits, but also time to produce a book wrap, e-book file, social media posts, distribution channels, pay those involved (which we do), and then create a timeline toward a manuscript's release. If a submission has a great story but the writing needs a lot of work to get there, we pass. If the writing is great but the story needs work, the severity of the the development might make us turn it down as well.

I also let you in on a little secret: Falstaff says that we take Urban Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy, but we have too much of it coming out right now. I would bend over backward to read about time travel, or a Sword & Planet novel, or a non-European Epic Fantasy. I would love a great mystery involving space aliens or a romance between two lesbian sorceress' that doesn't have a happy ending. But right now we have too much Urban and Contemporary on our plates. And we love them. But we want to love other things, too.

5. You haven't learned the rules of writing

Seriously, join a writing group that offers critique. I don't care if it is online, among your friends, or meets every Saturday. I don't care it if is made up of amateurs or bestsellers or just self-pubbed gurus. Get writing and get better. Self-publish, but get your work out there so it gets tested. Strive for publication with a great small press or The Big Four-Five-Six, and go try your skills out at the magazines, e-zines, and anthologies. Keep striving to spell better, tighten your grammar, try out new storytelling elements to your work, read wider, write more, submit more, and keep building momentum. One day you might crash through my screen and demand a contract.

Go learn the rules, then learn to break them, and then learn to grind. Grind yourself into your voice, your characters, your settings, and your plots.

Become the best writer you can be.

Monday, May 30, 2016

CONCAROLINAS 2016 and Falstaff Books

Hi all,

So I've been away from the blog for a bit. The reasons for that are myriad, but the biggest among them is that I took a position as the founding Editor as a small genre publisher called Falstaff Books, the same publisher that released my recent eBook, Thief of Shadows - Manwe The Panther Volume I.

During that time I've sank knee deep into more reading that I've ever had to contend with and that has caused me to put the blog to the wayside while I work on other authors's work, getting Manwe II out, and also working small freelance gigs here and there while I search out a full-time job. I'm doing fine, all things considered, but it has forced me to look at the blog as something different than it once was. I don't necessarily have the time to go out and interview, though I do have some lined up that I will fulfill before DragonCon 2016. I also have one or two reviews, as well as a lot of stuff lined up for Falstaff. This is all the while working on getting a website up for our publishing company and making good on the contracts we have signed authors to. There are also two podcasts in the works that are going to be very cool.

There's just a lot to do.

That being said, I'm going to try to do more around here more often. Things at Falstaff are going great, when all is considered, and I'm currently editing some of the best work I've ever read. Thief of Iron - Manwe The Panther Volume II is almost ready to go to the proofreader, and then Manwe III will hopefully be out before DragonCon, plus something else that is coming down the road that I can't speak on until it is a done deal. I feel like this is the year my career as an author really kicks off, and there are some really exciting things ahead for Jishnu, as well as the other projects I'm working on. I've rediscovered a love for The Craft that I think had flagged for a bit.

Business aside, ConCarolinas is just around the corner and this year I will be appearing as a guest! Below is my panel schedule! (Panels that I am moderating will be in italics! Exclamation points!) 


6:00 PM - Afrofuturism - Carolina C


10:00 AM - Small Press Spotlight: Meet The Publishers - Carolina A/B

3:00 PM - RetroRetrospective Podcast - Blue Ridge Room (upstairs!)

6:00 PM - The Business of Marketing Your Writing - Carolina A/B

7:00 PM - In The Towers' Shadow - Carolina C

10:00 PM - Race as Race in F/SF - Carolina C


9:00 AM - Epic Questing - Carolina C

2:00 PM - Are We Working Too Hard? - Carolina A/B

See you there!

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Green Dreams by Jay Requard

As you all know I sometimes post poems here because I know I'm not a poet, but in the tradition of my literary grandfather, J.R.R. Tolkien, though he was a master of the epic poem and his more folkloric ditties about Christmas and all that. I just have these things come to me and this one seemed good enough to share. It is in a free-form style.

Green Dreams by Jay Requard

Morning's first lucid light hearkens,
elderitch memories sparked by the grass,
where emerald scents mingle and fly,
ghosts upon a fresh day's breath.

Oh, how I've faltered,
lost in the ever-shifting, ever-changing,
cycle of Awen, where dreams hold fate
and doubt forges the shadow.

And yet a fresh day's breath,
a moment of illumination,
emeralds burn and become ghosts.
I find the everlasting.

Long lost is the shadow,
sent far to travel and sow
in the lands where green dreams grow
and holies shine in other-light.