Best of “Kindle Unlimited” Sara C. Roethle “Tree of Ages” Series

image from Goodreads.com

 

It has been a while since starting one of these recommend blogs.  In reviewing the others, it seems I always pick up a book with hesitation.  Tree of Ages is no different.  While I was fascinated with the idea a tree becomes human (I have a love for plant stories and non-traditional sentience), I was worried it would be one of those “chosen one with amnesia stories.”  We’d find out it wasn’t a tree becoming human but a human who became a tree and then returned human for— reasons.  It’s a fantasy trope.

And Tree of Ages is about a human-ish character who became a tree returning to her original form with amnesia.  So, if what I feared is true, why did I enjoy the series?  First, because tree girl insists for the first third of the story arc she IS a tree and if she is not a tree, she prefers being a tree.  It explores all the tree sentience vs human sentience desired, plus readers get to hear about tree superiority.  I enjoy stories where human forms are not the default “best” choice.  Through fantasy speculation of this variety, I think we invite conversations about different levels of humanity, and observing what may be just different instead of better or worse.  It also creates compassion and likeness to the rest of nature.

Tree of Ages has a HUGE ensemble cast and all of them are developed with story arcs.  There are fifteen characters I can think of just off the top of my head who connect with readers.  Granted Sara C. Roethle has five books to make these connections, but she starts strong in book one with eight characters and she keeps adding.

I appreciated that the story in these pages was about characters.  Yes, a bunch of action happens around the characters, but the action never drives the story, the characters decisions/desires/weaknesses move the plot forward.  It’s refreshing to have a solid sense of place, history, and change while also allowing the characters to use personality to move forward.  

Is the series perfect?  No.  I have conflicted feelings on how gay and bi characters were represented.  Kudos to Roethle for including diversity of gender and sexuality.  I loved how women were portrayed, but there are flaws in her portrayals of gay and bi characters.  All of her gay/bi characters start off or remain villains.  The one bi character is first portrayed as a lesbian and she falls in love with a male character as she “lightens” and becomes more of a good guy.  I don‘t know this was intentional, but I recoiled from that effect. 

 A gay sailor dies in pain from poison in the swamps and he dies cursing the protagonist.  This is sad because his death did not reflect his life.  While we, the readers, had minimal interaction, it was clear he had longstanding relationships with two of the cast and he was developing a friendship with Finn, our lead.  The bitterness he displayed in death didn‘t match his tone in life.  

Aed’s daughter (whose name I can’t recall) appears to be a lesbian (she uses sexuality on both genders but her attraction seems to be fore women), and she is the antagonist for most the series.  Even when she‘s not the antagonist, we have sympathy for her without ever liking her.  She has a superiority complex and manipulates family and lovers in ways I find abusive.  

Belinda, is the lesbian lover of Aed’s daughter and part of her guard.  Her arc feels glossed over and rushed in the book, like Roethle couldn‘t figure out her motivations or place within the story.  She becomes Finn‘s friend with ease, but she never connects with the crew on any side of the skirmish.  She has the opportunity to form lasting relationships with five of the characters and never does, which leaves her an odd and floating in space character.  

I’d overlook some of these messed up relationships but the straight counter parts are more healthy.  There‘s the ever present annoying love triangle and there is a lot of unhealthy baggage with it.  So much, I thought the characters would end up in a threesome (and note to writers, just add the threesome if that‘s what you want, don’t dance around it with a love triangle where everyone respects each other and is friends afterward).  Having deep relationships with both people at the same time feels a little like exploiting each person since it lacks an open conversation, but each relationship makes sense and appears to have the right give and take.  There‘s a marriage where the development seemed abrupt but over all healthy.  The bi character‘s straight relationship is healing for her (which portrays straight relationships as a positive WHILE implying that gay relationships result from trauma so double bad).  Even the villainous pair end up in what appears to be a loving straight relationship.

Overall, I recommend the series.  It’s a series where the goals change as characters learn more and evolve, but where readers are always rooting for their favorites.  I like that no one person’s destiny seems carved in stone and the cast changes rolls as the novels progress.  I wish the inclusion of gay/bisexual characters was handled more mindfully, but there‘s so much unique going on in the series, I can still recommend it as a whole work.

Take Aways from Sara C. Roethle’s Success:

1. Women have a place in high fantasy and you do not have to make them special or otherwise justify their presence.  Let male and female characters exist as they are without an exposition dump. (this applies to any “minority” character in any genre) 

2. While a strong sense of place and world building is necessary to creating memorable and lasting fantasy environments, it does not have to drive the plot.  Set the story, let it present options, but don‘t fight if your characters pick a third path the setting doesn‘t seem to offer.

3. Make your story about the character relationships.  It’s not “wishy washy” for characters to change their minds, become heroes/villains in their own right, or to decide something they never would consider 100 pages back.  So long as the change develops during those 100 pages it becomes a compelling full study of the decision along with the results that come from making certain choices. Write a complete story with a beginning, middle, and an ending.  Be confident in your characters and larger world building.  People will read more because they like what you wrote not because you left them on a cliffhanger.

4. Relationships can develop without a lot of angst or sexual tension.  While there are problems with how Roethle portrays relationships like some of the people who end up together show what I consider friendship without the push to romance (this is bad because it perpetuates the idea that close relationships=sexual elements and that’s NOT true in real life or in fiction), she does a wonderful job creating loyalty and tenderness in her characters. As someone who skips sex scenes and rolls my eyes when there’s too much “attraction” build up in a story, I appreciated that she chose to skip it.

Looking for other great Kindle Unlimited Series? Check out our earlier write up on T.A. White  or  Amy A. Bartol.

Wondering why Kindle Unlimited?  Check out my post: 7 Reasons I read Kindle Unlimited

What do I want in a book?  Here’s 9 elements I enjoy.

For further discussion on reviews try our “Would you Rather…” post that asks writers to pick between two different kinds of negative reviews. Or try Do Critical Reviews hurt me as a Writer? Or consider “9 Things that Make a Book Good (For Me), or “7 Steps I take Before Writing a Bad Review.”

How I Pick and Order Monthly Open Calls for Submission

image from openclipart.org by mairin

 

1. I use the resources on my page on my blog with the clunky title “Bloggers and Groups I Follow for Submissions and More”

2. I race through Submittable.  It’s a sloppy hunt, but I do my best to include EVERYTHING out in the world that meets my criteria

3. I order all the open calls by due date for an easy calendar style view, next I provide a word count so writers can best decide if they can create something that length in the time allotted.  Then I the story’s theme, if there is a response timeline, I add that, and I close with the pay.

4. I only include publications that include $.01 word pay out or a royalty pay out.  

5. I stick open calls I believe will interest my writers’ group.  Poetry, venues looking for the writers to represent a subgroup other than white male (though I do sometimes include women, queer, disabled calls as we have group members who qualify), some genre requests, and erotica calls are omitted.  

That’s it.  Over this year, it became an organized system I’m proud of, but it does take a long time to find the information and copy it all into the blog.  Hours across days go into what looks like a very simple post.  I hope it helps people and while you’re here go look at my December Round Up to see if anything appeals.

 

Enough about me, I want to hear from you.

 Are there other elements or organizations I should include?  Do you like how I organize the calls and the information necessary to submit?  How do you decide who to submit to?  Do you submit to publications that pay less than $.01 a word and if so tell me a little about why/what you believe you gain.

December Open Calls For Submission

from openclipart.org by Lazur URH

Dec 15th

Once Upon a Future Time: up to 15,000 words a scifi story that incorporates a fairy tale or folklore.  ALL AUTHORS RECEIVE FEEDBACK on their writing.   pay is $50 and royalties plus a copy of the book

Arsenika: up to 1,000 words all flash and micro flash or poetry.  They respond in 14 days of submission pay is $60 for flash and $30 for poetry

Matter Press: ???words suggests short? looking for anything that deals with the idea of compression.  Response time is 1-3 days and the pay is $50

Smoking Gun Press: 1,200-6,000 words “We welcome stories involving all types of supernatural beings… witches, zombies, vampires, ghosts, werewolves and other were-creatures, demons, and anything else we’ve left out! Mixing and matching of different types of beings in the same story is acceptable” all genres are acceptable pay is $20 and a copy of the anthology

Iridium Press: up to 5,000 words any story so long as it has QUILTBAG+ content pay is $.03 a word. 

Belanger Books: 5,000-10,000 words “this collection will feature all new traditional Sherlock Holmes adventures with a science-fiction edge. Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of Steampunk will feature Holmes in a futuristic Victorian setting.  See him deal with airship pirates and steam powered robots. Maybe he’ll even deal with a time traveler or with alien invaders.  ” pay is royalties

Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide: 3,000-6,000 words a YA/middle grade scifi genre story pay is $.06 a word

Selene Quarterly Magazine: up to 100 words between 101-1,000 words 1,001-1,500 words 3,000-7,500 words “Selene Quarterly Magazine publishes quality fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art that dwells in the shadows. SQM desires stories and poetry that are thrilling, reflective, and imaginative.” pay scale varies for length but all are at least $.01 a word

Dec 24th

Ulthar Press: 2,000-5,000 words ” looking for strange, gothic, and fantastic fiction in the manner of E.T.A. Hoffmann between 2,000 – 5,000 words in length. Stories that merely graft his characters into a new story will not be accepted.” response time is 60 days and the pay is $.02 a word

Dec 28th

Thuggish Itch: 1,000-4,000 words theme is theme park looking for horror, scifi, and speculative works.  pay is $5.00 under 2,000 words and $10 over 2,000 *to make this ‘worth it’ you need to write a 500 word pieceD

Dec 31st

Space Opera Libretti: 2,000-7,000 words “The short version of what we want: Silly, diverse sci-fi that involves music. If it’s actually about operas in space, all the better!” pay is $.06 a word

Inkling Press: up to 5,000 words “The first anthology released by Inklings Press was Tales From The Tavern – a short collection of five fantasy stories by some of the early, happy crew that thought it was time to have a go. You can still read that – it’s collected in the Tales From The Tower anthology that rounds up the first year of Inklings Press.”  flat $50 pay

Vex Me No More: up to 5,000 words “We want your witch stories! Though they do not necessarily have to be female-centric, they do need to be tales of powerful, unique beings. Remember, this is a horror anthology, so while you can have elements of other genres, we want to be scared.” pay os $.02 a word

Bad Dream Entertainment: 1,500-8,000 words “Bad Dream is now accepting submissions of humorous dark fiction. Editor Brett Reistroffer is looking for original horror fiction with a strong sense of comedy, and most themes, subjects, and settings are welcome but standard genre tropes are definitely discouraged (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.). The comedic aspect can be goofy and slapstick or black and morbid, just as long as there are equal amounts of darkness and humor” pay is $.06 a word plus split royalties 

Curse the Darkness: 3,000-10,000 words “For our inaugural anthology, Curse the Darkness*, we’re throwing our doors wide open and inviting submissions on the theme of darkness. That could be the absence of light, the presence of evil, or the sinister thoughts of the afflicted. However you choose to interpret the theme, just make sure you leave us afraid to turn out the lights.” pay is $75 flat rate

Alternate Peace: up to 7,500 words “is to feature alternate history stories where the divergence from our timeline comes from some kind of peaceful change to our past. It must explore the consequences of this divergence, not simply introduce the divergence. Stories featuring more interesting historical settings and twists on the consequences of the peaceful divergence from our timeline will receive more attention than those with more standard changes to the course of history. ” response by end of Feb 2019 pay is $.06 a word

Temporally Deactivated: up to 7,5000 words “is to feature stories where the author explores what the phrase “temporally deactivated” could mean with regards to a person, place, or thing. Stories featuring more interesting takes on the twisting of time and how it is integrated into the story will receive more attention than those with more typical twisted time stories. We do NOT want to see stories where “temporal deactivation” means simply death.” response by end of Feb 3019 pay is $.06 a word

Portals: up to 7,5000 words “is to feature science fiction or fantasy stories that contain a portal opening up between two different worlds and the consequences that come from that portal. We are attempting to fill half of the anthology with science fiction stories and half with fantasy stories. ” pay is $.06 a word

Nothing Without Us: 1,000-3,500 words “All works must be fiction—fiction based on lived experiences is welcome. The lead character must be disabled, blind, Deaf, Autistic, neurodiverse, and/or live with mental illness. We do not expect all of these in one character, although we’re sure that character would be amazing. We are accepting fiction in all genres with the exception of hard-core erotica. We are also only interested in previously unpublished works. ” “We welcome writers across the disability, mental illness, developmental disabilities, neurodiversity, blind, and Deaf spectrums. We welcome those who manage invisible and visible disabilities and/or chronic conditions. We welcome those who count spoons! We’re just looking to have an entire work where we elevate the stories written by the folks in our community.  We welcome the communities that intersect with the disabled, neurodiverse, mentally ill, blind, and Deaf communities, such as the LGBTQIA2 communities.” pay is $.03 a word

Allegory Online Magazine: up to 5,000 words but between 500-2,000 seems best “We specialize in the Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror genres. We will consider other genres, such as humor or general interest, provided that the work possesses an original, “quirky” slant.” pay is $15

Jan 1st

Cafe Irreal: up to 2,000 words “This fiction, which we would describe as irreal, resembles the work of writers such as Franz Kafka, Kobo Abe, Clarice Lispector and Jorge Luis Borges. As a type of fiction it rejects the tendency to portray people and places realistically and the need for a full resolution to the story; instead, it shows us a reality constantly being undermined. Therefore, we’re interested in stories by writers who write about what they don’t know, take us places we couldn’t possibly go, and don’t try to make us care about the characters.” pay is $.01 a word min $2

Crystal Lake Publishing: 500-5,000 words a non themed anthology in the dark fiction genre with fleshed out three dimensional characters pay is $.03 a word

Nexxis Fantasy: up to 15,000 words “Nexxis Fantasy has a twice a year publication. Our goal is to publish an exquisite science fiction anthology filled with the greatest works from across the galaxy.” the upcoming theme is “Lost” pay is $1 per 100 words