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The trees that line the streets of my home town, making me feel as though I’m living in a forest
My parents’ house, which will always feel like home
My lovely hometown library and bookstore
Things I am looking forward to about coming back to the UK:
My British family members
My British friends
Our wonderful dog, Maya, who is so beloved and so old and so creaky that every time we leave, I worry (a lot) about whether she’ll be waiting for us when we get back
Our house, which I love
My latte machine
Our back garden
My favorite cake shop in the world
Our lovely local library and bookstore
It’s both a good and a bad thing – and, I guess, perfectly appropriate for my dual nationality – that when I’m living in the UK, I miss America, and when I’m visiting America, I miss the UK. I’m very lucky to get to experience them both.
Hooray! Editor (and writer!) Heather Shaw has just launched a fabulous new magazine, Persistent Visions, and the very first short story they’re publishing is my funny werewolves-in-Pittsburgh story, “Pack Dynamics”! This is a Meet the Parents story gone wrong…with werewolves! It’s set in a neighborhood where I used to live (Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh), and it was so much fun to write.
Thanks so much to Heather for buying it, and to my brother Ben for inspiring this story as a Christmas gift! (He asked for another urban fantasy story in the same vein as “Undead Philosophy 101”, my vampires-in-East-Lansing story, and this was the result!)
That’s not the final cover of the book – that pot of enchanted hot chocolate actually comes from the back cover of the final book! 🙂 – but I adore it. And the UK cover artist, Freya Hartas, has also done gorgeous interior chapter-header illustrations that will probably appear in both the UK and US editions. She shared one of them here!
Now Patrick and I are about to go out to celebrate our (belated) wedding anniversary, which got delayed this year due to kid-illness and deadline stress. But we’re not waiting any longer! It’s time for movies and anniversary goodness. Hurrah!
WHEW. I just sent off my final proofreading notes on Congress of Secrets. They’ll be amended in the typeset manuscript, which will then be sent to print by Pyr Books this week…
…So in other words, I am really and truly done with this book. That is always a huge moment with each new book, exciting and scary both at once. This is it! There’s no more work to be done – and no more changes that can be made either. It’s finished!
And it’s an even bigger moment this time round, because – I just went back to my notes to check this date – I first began writing Congress of Secrets on July 7, 2005. That’s just over 11 years ago! I finished the first draft on April 6, 2006, did a few rounds of preliminary revision to it (in-between other projects, a dayjob, and big life events) that finished on July 27, 2007…
…and then I stopped. I set the book aside.
I knew it wasn’t right yet. It wasn’t ready to be published…and I wasn’t ready to deal with that in any way.
I wasn’t ready as a writer, because I was still at the stage where I could look at the draft I had and think “This isn’t right”…but I wasn’t experienced enough yet to know how to pin that wrongness down, or how to fix it.
More than that, though, I wasn’t ready as a person. Congress of Secrets is the most romantic book I’ve ever written, but it’s also the darkest book I’ve ever written, and in 2007, I was at a stage where I couldn’t cope with that darkness in my writing at all. I’d just been diagnosed with M.E./CFS, and I’d had to give up my dayjob because of it. I had no financial prospects; I was terrified about what the rest of my life was going to look like…in other words, I was struggling with more than enough darkness in my own life. I couldn’t deal with it in my writing, too.
I needed lightness. I needed fun. I needed an escape. I needed Kat, Incorrigible, and I’m so glad that I chose to focus on Kat and her family at that point. It was exactly the right decision for that moment.
I needed all these extra years in-between to grow as an author – to know how to take this book to the next level that it needed – and to grow as a person, too, who can manage her own darkness.
I’m so glad I’ve come back to Caroline and her darkness and her survivor-strength now…and to her unexpected romance, too! (My favorite quote from yesterday’s proofreading session: “Thank God for well-timed distractions from useless feelings.” 😉 The romance in this book is between two very cynical people, it arrives much to the shock of both of them, interfering with both of their plans, and it was SO MUCH fun for me to write it!)
There’s plenty of fun in this book as well as darkness, of course – it’s a thriller set in 1814 Vienna, with the royalty and aristocracy of Europe all gathered together and scheming all over the place. There was SO MUCH deliciousness to work with in that setting! I have absolutely loved re-immersing myself in it, and in my characters. Caroline and Michael are two of my favorite characters I’ve ever written – both super-smart, super-competent survivors with deep (and extremely well-hidden) vulnerabilities and a flair for wicked banter.
But now I really am done.
As I finished re-reading Congress of Secrets today, I let out a sigh of bittersweet satisfaction.
The event at Schuler Books last night went so well – hooray! It was wonderful to get to hang out with Jim and Merrie and Patrick, listen to their (wonderful) readings and chat about our books – and it was also really wonderful to see all the people who had come for the talk! I so appreciated how many people came for the event (even one all the way from Indiana – thank you so much, Maureen!). It was exciting to finally meet in person some of the people I’ve known for years online, and exciting to meet new people, too. And oh, it was lovely to have old friends from home come, too. Thank you guys!
The Art of Deception is my tribute to The Prisoner of Zenda, The Three Musketeers and every other cloak-and-dagger adventure that includes fabulous swordfights full of style. I wrote it as a gift for my brother Dave one Christmas (when he’d asked for a story with swordfighting, banter and a twisty plot), and it was published in the wonderful Australian anthology Insert Title Here, edited by Tehani Wessely.
Tehani is a fabulous editor, and I was so lucky to get to work with her on this story. She creates beautiful anthologies, and I strongly recommend the whole book! The other authors in the anthology are fantastic, and I was thrilled to be a part of it.
If you’re not in the mood for a full anthology right now, though, you can also now buy my story on its own as an ebook. Check out the beautiful cover by Jenn Reese at Tiger Bright Studios! I love it:
One of my very least favorite feelings in the world is saying goodbye to either of my brothers, and in the last 24 hours, I’ve had to say goodbye (for now) to both of them. Wahh! Luckily, my brother Ben is coming back into town next week with my wonderful sister-in-law, so I’m already looking forward to seeing him again soon, but it’ll be at least three months before I’ll see Dave again, and now I’m feeling sad and mopey.
This is the real downside to coming from a family full of people who like to travel – we’ve all ended up widely scattered across the world! In some (many) ways that’s great, but it does lead to mopey days like today.
On the upside, it was wonderful to spend time with both of my brothers while they were here, and on Saturday, Dave and Patrick and I all went out to finally, FINALLY watch the new Ghostbusters! Unsurprisingly, I adored it. I didn’t think it was flawless, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I had so much fun in a movie theater. The whole film was funny and smart, and it felt shockingly powerful to watch a whole group of women taking on the action scenes side by side, handling the bad guys with power and teamwork and awesomeness. Why can’t I watch that more often in movies???
All of the actresses were great, but OMG do I love Holtzmann as a character. LOVE. I need a poster of her!
(Also: How did I not realize what a great comic actor Chris Hemsworth could be? I’ve always liked him as Thor, but he was hilarious in Ghostbusters!)
Tomorrow is our big fantasy panel event at Schuler Books, and I can’t wait. Will I see any of you guys there?
Whether or not you’re actually coming, I’d love some brainstorming help. Are there any questions you’d be curious to hear discussed by me, Patrick, Jim and Merrie? Please let me know if there are – we’re coming up with possible discussion topics right now!
Also: if you come to the event, I’ve been given the OK by my American MG editor to show you guys the American cover for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, even though we can’t release any pictures of it online yet! I am dying to share it with people. So: COME! 🙂
Whew! I’ve been doing intense line-edits for one book or another ever since I got to America (first the Americanization edits for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and then the copyedits for Congress of Secrets), and now it’s time to dive into my first big rewrites for my MG spies-and-fairies novel (tentatively titled The Storyteller’s Secret). Someone referred to this time as my vacation recently and I may have laughed a little hysterically…but luckily, I really love these books, so I’m happy to be immersed in all of their different worlds again!
(And speaking of different book-worlds: my new Kat story was sent out to my newsletter subscribers this morning at around 7 a.m. UK-time – but when I woke up this morning in the US, five hours later, I saw that a few people had signed up for the newsletter just after this particular issue was sent. If you are one of those people who signed up this morning, and you were hoping to get the issue with the story inside, please let me know which email address you signed up with, and I’ll forward you the newsletter ASAP.)
I’ve also been reading myself, of course, and the book that I’ve been loving most this past week has been Kameron Hurley’s The Geek Feminist Revolution, which is smart and fun, powerful, thought-provoking, entertaining and inspiring. I’ve resonated with an awful lot of it – and even when I disagree with Hurley on specific points, I still love the reading experience. Highly recommended!
My seven-year-old was practicing with his camera one night and took a picture of me reading it. Don’t I look like I’m pondering Serious Philosophical Issues? 😉
(Sadly, the real truth is that he told me how to pose. But still! 😉 )
This week I also had good news for Congress of Secrets, which was that I got some really gorgeous new blurbs for it from authors I love. And when I say ‘love’…well, you guys may remember that the person who inspired me to write historical fantasy in the first place was Judith Tarr. I discovered her books as a teenager and thought: YES. Not only did I love them (I can’t even count how many times I’ve re-read Lord of the Two Lands!) but they showed me the way and I knew that THAT was what I wanted to do, too!
So when I saw this blurb…
Congress of Secrets is a feast for the lover of historical fantasy: rich, complex, beautifully researched and engrossingly told. Burgis is a new star of the genre, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
Judith Tarr, author of World Fantasy Award finalist Lord of the Two Lands
Now it’s time to dive into my spies-and-fairies book to try to turn it from a messy first draft into a slightly more polished Draft 1.5 to send to my agent. Luckily, I have chocolate on hand to help! 🙂
Hooray! We’re in America for the summer. I love living in Wales, but there’s nothing like the feeling of coming back to my childhood home. Total comfort!
It’s a working vacation for me, though. I just finished up the Americanization line edits (and last minute typo-catches!) for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart on Sunday, and now I’m deep in copyedits for Congress of Secrets. It’s truly excruciating, as a historical fiction author, to be away from my research notes while I make my last checks through the book…so thank goodness I grew up in a university town, with a large research library as backup!
And of course one of my very first trips, as always, was to my hometown library. I was so happy to be back!
And here’s my first haul of library books for the summer:
I’ve already devoured E.K. Johnston’s Exit, Pursued by a Bear, and it was AMAZING. You can read my full review here, but as a quick thumbnail: I can’t remember the last time any book made me cry this much, but it was also fiercely empowering and uplifting and I loved it!
Now I’m heading out to continue the only non-fun part of this summer, which is my epic glasses saga, because my vision shifted radically this spring – hello, 39th birthday! what an unpleasant gift to receive! – and my ongoing attempt to get new glasses that work has been both incredibly tedious and ridiculously frustrating. So I won’t burden you guys with the details!
But first, I wanted to let you guys know: there’s now a Facebook event page up for the fantasy panel I’ll be on at my wonderful hometown bookstore, Schuler Books, on August 9th (along with Patrick, Jim Hines and Merrie Haskell – so it should be really fun). I would love to see any of you guys there! If you’re on Facebook, please do RSVP on the page so that we have an idea of numbers, but don’t worry if you can’t. I’ll just look forward to meeting up on August 9th!
And don’t forget: my next email newsletter, on August 2nd, is going to include a new Kat short story. If you’d like to read it, just sign up here.
So here we are at the end of the school year…a bit early, since my poor seven-year-old has a sick day on what should have been his last day of school! Oh well. We’re cuddling up and watching dinosaur movies while we eat leftover apple cake from the birthday party this weekend. No complaints here!
In case anyone missed the cover reveal on Friday: check out the gorgeous cover for Congress of Secrets, designed by Nicole Lecht! I love it so much:
And it’s been a good last week. I finished the first draft of my MG spies-and-fairies novel last Wednesday – huzzah! – and then started preparing for MrX’s birthday party, which went really well. We spent the rest of the weekend hanging out with family here in Wales, and now we’re getting ready to spend the summer with family in Michigan.
(Have we started packing yet? Hahahahaha…soon. SOON.) (At least I’ve started making a packing list! – or rather…I’m ABOUT to start that list. Really!)
As soon as we get there (and I get over the jetlag!), I’ll be diving into copyedits for Congress of Secrets, but in the meantime, I wrote a new short-short story on Friday, which felt like a good refresher between novels (and functioned as emotional medicine to get me through more horrible news of the world).
And I wanted to let you guys know: there’s a new Kat short story on the way! The winner of my Con-or-Bust auction item this year asked me to write a story about Kat all grown-up and dealing with kids of her own. It was ridiculously fun to write! I sent “Flying Magic” to the winner in the beginning of July, and she gets it all to herself for a month, but on August 2nd, I’m going to send it out to my newsletter subscribers to share the fun. If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like to read the story, you can sign up here.
Now it really is time to get started on the packing…or at least on the packing list! But one last quick note: thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s already bought and read House of Secrets! I LOVE hearing from people about it – and thanks very much to the readers who’ve been asking about a full novel or a sequel to the story. Right now I don’t have any plans for more stories about Lily, but (a) I’m definitely not ruling anything out for the future, and (b) I can’t even tell you guys how much I appreciate the enthusiasm. You guys are wonderful!
What do you think? Personally, I love it. It was designed by Nicole Lecht, who also designed the Masks and Shadows cover, and I think she’s wonderful. She’s really captured the tone of both of my adult books.
Wooot! My YA Victorian gothic fantasy novelette, House of Secrets, is out today!
I wrote this one just for fun, to stretch myself by experimenting with a new style (moody, gothic, and intensely atmospheric)…and, of course, to distract myself from worrying about whether or not a particular book of my heart would sell. (And hey, that book was The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, which comes out next spring – so, there’s a double happy ending there!)
I had so much fun writing this novelette. I hope you guys will enjoy reading it! You can find an excerpt here on my website or buy the ebook at any of the usual online retailers. (And if you don’t have an e-reader, you can buy a printable PDF at Smashwords, too.)
In other news, we’re hurtling towards the end of the school year over here…and our upcoming trip to America! We’re spending our summer holidays there with my family, of course, but Patrick and I will also be doing a public event in August at my wonderful hometown bookstore, Schuler Books, along with fellow authors Jim C. Hines and Merrie Haskell – both of whom are not just great writers but also personal friends. So I really can’t wait! You can see the details here.
It’s all really exciting, but ohhh is there a lot that has to be done here first, from house-cleaning to child’s-birthday-party-hosting, packing and more – and my very top priority is getting a full draft of my MG spies-and-fairies novel finished! I wrote an incredible (by my standards) 3641 words on Monday, racing through the main climax of the book…and then had a horrible realization, Monday night, that I had gone in the wrong direction. Whoops!
So yesterday morning I backed up 3 chapters, re-plotted, rewrote (writing 3175 new words in the process)…and now I have just one scene left. So so so close! I’d love to finish the book today, but my older son has a playdate, the whole house needs cleaned beforehand…etc. We’ll see! But no matter what, this book IS going to be finished this week. I am determined!
And there are just two more days until the Congress of Secrets cover will be revealed on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. I can’t wait! Not only is it a great cover (by the same designer who created Masks and Shadows’s cover), but I am bursting to share photos of the first 2 ARCs that arrived here yesterday. It’s all becoming so real!
I have a book to finish, a house to clean, suitcases to pack, and more…
But because this is House of Secrets‘s release day, I’m going to be totally self-indulgent and post the blurbs that I’ve gotten for it here, just because they make me happy. Here they are:
“An atmospheric tale of family, dark magic, and the thirst of one girl to determine her own destiny.”
– Aliette de Bodard, author of The House of Shattered Wings
“A romance fit for fantasy and Gothic lovers both! Chilling, suspenseful, and extremely satisfying!”
– Tiffany Trent, author of The Unnaturalists
“A perfect gem of Gothic fantasy.”
– Beth Bernobich, author of The Ghost Dragon’s Daughter
“With its slowly unfolding mystery and atmospheric magic, House of Secrets kept me entranced until the final page. I loved the moody setting, the dark, unexpected turns in Lily’s story, and Stephanie’s rich and straightforward prose. It’s like a delicious slice of Gothic pie!”
– Page Morgan, author of The Beautiful and the Cursed
PS: As usual, any reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or elsewhere would be hugely appreciated – but no worries if you don’t have the time or energy. Most of all, I just hope that you’ll enjoy the story!