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Adventures, a Story Auction and a Giveaway

- 0 comments - auctions

In the last five days, I’ve led two writing workshops of my own, taken my kids to two more workshops, had a fabulous castle adventure and gone to the cinema with them, and visited the Bristol Aquarium as a full-family trip. So in other words, it’s been an excellent set of school holidays for all of us…

But now, like Pebbles, I am ready for a nap. ;)

However! I’ll be back to my usual writing routine tomorrow, and as of today, you can bid to win a brand-new short-short story written by me about any character from my novels – winner’s choice! This is part of the Con-or-Bust auction, which raises money for fans of color to attend fantasy & science fiction conventions. Bidding is open from today until May 7th, and there are many, many fabulous options to bid on. Find mine here!

This exactly how I came to write my short-short story “Flying Magic” last year – the winner of last year’s auction wanted a story about Kat dealing with her own kids. It’s also how I wrote my longer story “Forbidden Magic” – that particular auction winner wanted a story about Kat’s parents when they were young. Both stories were so much fun to write! I can’t wait to see which character this auction’s winner will choose.

I also managed to do just about all of my editing for my adult romantic fantasy novella, Snowspelled, over the past couple of weeks. (Right now I’m just proofreading with the help of some fabulous beta-readers and making a few last niggling line edits.) The final cover and blurb (and pre-order links!) won’t be ready to share until June, but you can add it to your Goodreads shelf now.

And speaking of Goodreads…

Patrick’s fabulous second novel, The Emperor of Mars, doesn’t come out until July, but you can enter a Goodreads giveaway for it now! It is SO much fun, and can certainly be read as a standalone adventure – but why not read Book One first? (Clockwork butlers, pterodactyls, girl inventors and dragon-tombs! <3 <3 <3 ) Either way, the giveaway is international, so enter now!

Happy Monday. :)

Art, Truffles, Books and Events

- 0 comments - events, giveaways, writing

It’s been a busy, chaotic set of school holidays – but then, I’m not sure we’ve ever had any that weren’t! But the kids and I have been doing Family Art Club almost every day,* we got to hang out with wonderful relatives last week, and I’m still eating the delicious Easter chocolates that Patrick gave me yesterday. (Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne truffles! Bliss!)

Also, I’m finished with all of my major rewrites of Snowspelled (my romantic fantasy novella for adults)! Now I’m just playing around with minor line-edits and trying to catch any final typos and inconsistencies, with the help of wonderful beta-readers…and, of course, Pebbles, who always helps with everything (at least when she’s not walking in front of my laptop screen, telling me to stop writing and START PETTING HER)! ;)

Snowspelled won’t be coming out until September, so I’ll wait a while before talking much more about it here, but: I am so looking forward to sharing this one with you guys! (If you want to make sure to get all the details of it ASAP, you can sign up to my newsletter.)

And! It was a sign of just exactly how chaotic our school holidays have been that it was a genuine shock today to realize that the North American edition of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is coming much sooner than I’d realized – May 30th is only 6 weeks from tomorrow! Woooot! (And eep!)

Next week, I’ll be giving away my very last ARC of it in my newsletter. If you’re a North American book reviewer/blogger/librarian, you can still request the e-ARC from Netgalley. And of course you can read Chapter 1 here and order the book from anywhere in the world!

I really, really hope you’ll enjoy meeting my fierce dragon-girl heroine!

And right here in Wales, I’ll be leading a fantasy & science fiction writing workshop for teens and adults as part of the Abergavenny Writing Festival this Friday. You can buy your tickets here! I’ll also be leading a dragon-themed workshop for younger kids at the Abergavenny Library on Wednesday from 2:30-3:30.

So it’s a busy week all round, but in a really good way. I hope your week is full of good adventures!

__

*Re Art Club: I am not one of those authors who is also a wonderful artist. But one of the great joys of having kids, for me, is letting myself do things with them that I made myself stop when I was younger because I didn’t think I was good enough. It turns out – shock! surprise! – that it’s *fun* to draw, even though I don’t draw well, when I just relax and let myself enjoy the process.

There is probably an important lesson in that…and maybe sometime when I’m a little less busy, I’ll let myself actually think it through. ;)

Lowering the Goal Posts

- 6 comments - writing

Thirteen years ago, I was a PhD student at the University of Leeds, and I was really, really stressed – to the point where I finally went in for counselling at the university counselling centre so that I could stop having physical panic attacks. Luckily, I got a wonderful counsellor. She was a perfect combination of warmth and brisk practicality, and as we talked one day about how stressed I was about constantly feeling so behind, she asked me how I set my work-goals each month.

I said, “Well, I figure out how long I have until my next supervision meeting, then I figure out exactly how much I could get done if I work REALLY REALLY hard every day until then – and then I set that as my goal.”

…Then, of course, I got incredibly stressed as I neared the date of my next supervision session, realized how unforgivably, shockingly behind I was, and drove myself to the edge of burn-out (or beyond) desperately trying to hit that goal, every time.

This was something that, by now, my counsellor knew about me. So:

“Hmm,” she said. “Interesting. But…have you ever considered, instead, figuring out exactly how much you could get accomplished if you worked moderately hard on most days and didn’t get anything done on a few other days along the way – and set that as your goal?”

I stared at her, genuinely shocked. “I could do that?”

It was one of the most counter-intuitive – and revelatory – suggestions I’d ever heard in my life.

(And yes, I know that that fact reveals soooooooo embarrassingly much about my psyche. But you guys all knew I was a perfectionist overachiever long before this blog entry, right?)

That meeting took place almost 13 years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it – and it’s resonating all over again for me now because we’ve just entered the kids’ 2-1/2-week school holidays, directly after a long stretch of kid-illnesses when a horrible stomach bug went around the family (and larger town), keeping one or another of the kids home for 5 out of the last 10 days of school. Those kid-illnesses meant I didn’t get nearly as much as I wanted done before the holidays began; the holidays now mean that most of my energy is going toward child-care (and that energy is even more limited than usual right now, anyway, because looking after sick kids took a lot out of me, and the M.E./CFS is demanding its payment now).

So.

I did have really high goals for what I would ideally get done by the end of April. But today, I’m remembering that long-ago counsellor’s face, kind and ever-so-slightly amused, as she said, “Have you ever considered…”

…and I’m re-considering.

Mini-goals.

Doable goals.

Today, my writing goal is to print out the critiques I’ve gotten for my adult novella and read through them…and that’s it. If I get started, that’s great. But if all of my other energy is used up when I take the kids out this afternoon for today’s mini-trip…well, then, so be it.

Whew.

What about you guys? If you have any small, do-able goals of your own right now, I would love to hear them.

Onward!

Three Things I Love That I’ve Been Thinking About This Week

- 0 comments - Reading, Short Fiction, writing

1. Toby Hay’s The Gathering

Lush, gorgeous instrumental-only folk music from Wales. Listening to this album makes me feel like I’m absorbing emotional sunshine! I love it, and I can’t count how many times I’ve listened to it since I bought it last week. You can hear the first song for free here.

2. Aliette de Bodard’s The House of Binding Thorns

Another lush pleasure! This time, it’s an adult fantasy novel set in a magically post-apocalyptic Paris with fallen angels and a fabulous, underwater dragon kingdom inside the Seine river. Ohhhhh do I love this book. I read it first as an e-ARC months ago and then started re-reading it yesterday afternoon as soon as my pre-ordered paper copy arrived. I’m loving it even more the second time through! It’s so rich and absorbing and magical and satisfying. It’s also the second full-length book in her Dominion of the Fallen series, and as much as I loved Book One (The House of Shattered Wings), this one is even better. I adore this whole series!

3. Tie-in-stories

I still like reading paper books most of all, but one of my favorite things about online- and ebook culture is that it’s now possible and easy for authors to publish all sorts of fun tie-in stories related to their series. After I read and loved Aliette’s The House of Shattered Wings last year, I devoured every one of her tie-in stories, which took the same setting and characters and gave them fun adventures and romances that had only been hinted at in the backstories of the full-length books. I adore them all (and you can find the whole list here), but my personal favorites are her Of Books and Earth and Courtship and Children of Thorns, Children of Water. Both of them give fascinatingly different perspectives and new insights on familiar characters from the series.

And I love getting to see the world made larger through those tie-in stories, too! Patrick’s YA novella The Dinosaur Hunters is a completely standalone story with original characters that don’t appear in any of his MG novels – but it’s set on the same world of Regency-era British Mars, and it all sprang from a throwaway mention in his first book. It’s one of my very favorite novellas ever, it is SO MUCH fun, funny and exciting (think: an Agatha Christie-style mystery with T-Rexes and girl detectives!), and – while you don’t need to have read any of his books before reading it – it gives a whole different view on the world of his books. (You can find out more and read the opening of it here.)

There’s a whole added pleasure for me as a reader to discover these smaller stories filling out side-characters and backstories from the larger novels and to get glimpses at the wider life of the world outside of the novels that I’ve loved. Each time I read a good tie-in story, I get to fall into the world again and again, and it becomes more real and rich to me with each new dip inside it.

Cover for Courting Magic

And of course, as an author that kind of story is just incredibly fun to write. Without ebooks, I couldn’t have published my own YA novella Courting Magic, a standalone story that gives my MG heroine Kat her own grown-up romance – much less Flying Magic (a short-short story about Kat’s own kids!), Dueling Magicks (a short story set between the first two Kat books) and Forbidden Magic (a short story about Kat’s parents that’s coming out tomorrow, huzzah)!

Novels work really, really well with traditional publishing, and I personally love publishing my full-length books that way. But when it comes to shorter, quirkier lengths and tie-in stories, it is SO great to have the freedom that hybrid publishing gives!

I’d love to hear about any of your own favorite tie-in stories to series that you’re following!

Deadlines, Tie-in Stories, and Two Workshops

- 0 comments - writing

It’s been Quite A Week over here in Wales. It started with a beautiful, sunny UK Mother’s Day last Sunday, which was wonderful, but then both of my kids caught a stomach bug over the last few days, so…yeah. I’ll leave the gruesome details from this latter half of the week to your imagination! ;)

On the upside, though, I still managed to get through my first big revision of my adult romantic fantasy novella Snowspelled this week, powered by rich, dark hot chocolates. Huzzah! I sent the new draft off to critique partners late this morning, and since I’m not expecting edits for my next MG novel until Sunday or Monday, I am – for the first time in a looooong time – temporarily deadline-free!

Needless to say, I immediately started trying to think of a new short story to write before my edits arrive. I don’t do very well without an ongoing writing project to keep me busy. ;)

And speaking of short stories, my Kat prequel story (about her parents when they were young), “Forbidden Magic,” will be published as a 99-cent ebook in just 5 days, on April 5th. You can find a full description, a brief excerpt, and the pre-order links here.

I originally wrote that story on commission earlier this year, for a charity auction winner who requested a story about Kat’s parents. It’s so much fun to write those tie-in stories! I love doing it. Of course I’m already contemplating my first tie-in stories for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. So far, though, my ideas have all been for stories following that first book, so I’ll have to wait until the book is safely out in America (on May 30th! less than 2 months away!) before I start writing (or at least sharing) them.

Still, if you’ve read the book and have any particular characters you’d love to read about in a tie-in story, do let me know, and I’ll make sure to keep them in mind!

And if you’re interested in talking more about writing with me, I’m going to be running two different writing workshops over the next month.

On Friday, April 21st, I’ll be running a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop for adults and teens, as part of the Abergavenny Writing Festival. You can find more details and book your ticket here.

And on Wednesday, April 19th, from 2:30-3:30, I’ll be running a dragon-themed writing workshop for kids at the Abergavenny Library. (No tickets necessary!) My 8-year-old is VERY excited about that one. :)

I’d love to see any of you guys at either of those workshops! Do let me know if you’ll be coming.

Hope you all have a good weekend!

Butterflies, Cats, Ice Giants and Temptation

- 4 comments - writing

I think my favorite discovery of my adult life has been butterfly houses. Back when Patrick and I lived in Vienna for 6 months in 2002, we had VERY little money, but we loved visiting the Imperial Butterfly House at the Hofburg Palace – we went there for my 25th birthday and again any time we could justify it, because it was so lovely to walk around the palm trees with butterflies flitting all around us. Last year, we learned that there’s a butterfly house not too far away from our home in Wales, so we went there for my 39th birthday, too, and we went back again this past weekend.

Sadly, I have no pictures to share (because all of mine include very happy little boys whose online privacy I’m trying to respect). But it was a VERY happy moment in our family’s weekend. :)

What I do have, of course, is dozens and dozens of pictures of Pebbles, because I can’t resist taking adoring photos of her every day. The M.E./CFS means I have to spend quite a bit of time every day lying down – but who minds lying down when they have such a sweet cat purring on their chest? And PhotoBooth makes it irresistibly tempting to take photos of her every day as she does it. I am restraining myself with a HUGE EFFORT from posting all of them here (because I know not EVERYBODY is in love with our new cat and really wants to pore through dozens of them)! But here is one picture of her sleeping. (Click on the photo to see it in full-size.)

Just one cat-photo per blog entry isn’t too over-the-top…is it? (Maybe don’t answer that question!)

And it’s been a busy week of writing. I finished up the first three chapters of my new MG project (tentatively titled A Grumpy Princess’s Guide to Ice Giants & Other Catastrophes) and sent them to my agent, who liked them, hurrah! Whether or not it will be my next contracted book (to be published in 2019) will depend partly on sales for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (since they’re set in the same fantasy world), so…in other words, now would be a lovely time to buy (or pre-order) The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart if you haven’t already! Because I would loooooove to be able to write the rest of my grumpy princess’s guide. It’s so much fun!

Next week I’ll be diving into edits for my spies-and-fairies MG book (to be published by Bloomsbury in 2018 – I just saw a first cover sketch for the US edition!), which I’m really looking forward to…and in the meantime, I’ve been working on my first revisions to my adult romantic-fantasy novella, Snowspelled, which should come out later this year.

So I’ve been busy with lots of different fun projects! And it’s been great to have a Pebbles-cat cuddled up against me as I work.

But I WILL NOT break down and post another photo of her now. Must…resist…temptation…must! ;)

(Ending this entry NOW before I lose control and post ALL OF THEM!)

Talking About Dragons

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I had really big news last week: I got my first-ever starred review, and it came from Kirkus Reviews, for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart! Woooot! I am so happy about this. Kirkus called it “A gloriously fresh story to be read with a steaming cup of chocolate at hand” – and you can read the full review here.

There was a LOT of happy-dancing in our household after that was announced! :)

And speaking of dragons, I had a great time guesting on one of my favorite podcasts, Bellwether Friends, which is run by a pair of fabulous librarians who’ve been Twitter-friends of mine for years. I’ve been listening to the podcast for years, so it was a total thrill to be invited to guest on it, and I loved getting to finally hang out with Anna and Alene in…well, not quite in person, but at least via Skype! Basically, since it was me and two librarians mutually geeking out about dragons, the whole podcast is filled with recommendations for lots and lots of dragon-related books and movies in multiple genres and for all age groups (ranging from picturebooks to adult paranormal romance). So: I hope you’ll have your library card ready when you listen! :) The episode went up today, and you can listen to it here or download it through iTunes.

(I should note in my own self-defense that we recorded this just a few days after my trip to England, when I was in the middle of a massive post-trip M.E. crash, so if I’m occasionally a little inarticulate, please put it down to my exhaustion! But I had so much fun anyway.)

Let me know if there are any books/movies we should have mentioned but forget! I always love adding to my list. :)

US Cover art by Petur Antonssen

And speaking of reading lists…are you a book-blogger, librarian, bookseller or reviewer in the US or Canada? If so, check it out: the e-ARC of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (North American edition) is up on Netgalley now! Hurrah!

Of course, if you’re in the UK or Australia, you can buy the published book now, and if you’re in North America you can pre-order it as a hardcover or an ebook – less than 3 months left before its May 30th pub date, huzzah! And it recently sold Polish and Romanian rights as well as French and German, so I hope to be announcing more international publication dates soon.

Finally, I have one shockingly NON-dragon-related rec to make: Lin-Manuel Miranda curated this salsa playlist on Spotify (any Parks & Rec fans will recognize the reference in its name!), and I’ve been listening to it nearly nonstop for the past few days. Perfect music for getting moving…even if only one some writing work! ;)

Charging Up With Joy

- 4 comments - events, Reading, writing

Every time I do an event for kids, I’m reminded of why I want to keep writing kids’ books forever. Last Wednesday, I got on the train to Oswestry, a lovely town just across the border into England, where I got to hang out in my hotel with fab authors Sibéal Pounder and Andy Griffiths, along with our wonderful publicists (Lizz from Bloomsbury for me and Sibéal; Catherine from MacMillan for Andy) and Carrie and Tim, the owners of Booka Bookshop, who had organised an amazing World Book Day Event for Thursday.

Thursday morning, Sibéal, Andy and I talked to 500 students from the local schools about World Book Day and of course our books. (Click on the picture to see the fullsize image.) Sibéal – with the kids’ enthusiastic direction! – dressed two teachers up as fabulous witches. I found out about some of the secret creatures hidden behind the kids’ own exteriors (just like my ferocious heroine Aventurine is secretly a dragon inside her harmless-looking human form). Andy had the kids literally screaming with laughter as he showed them through the treehouses of his books and played a balloon symphony for them.

Afterwards, as we signed our books, I got to talk individually to so many interesting, creative kids – who ranged from secret dragons to wizards, warriors, and even bats. It was so much fun…and it left me absolutely buzzing with inspiration. As I took the train home that afternoon, I felt charged full of happiness and wonder that I get to do this amazing job and connect with such enthusiastic, generous kid-readers.

Of course, the M.E./CFS always demands a physical payback after I make any big trip, so I spent the next few days resting instead of writing…but today I finished the new Chapter Two of my MG work-in-progress (veeeery tentatively titled A Grumpy Princess’s Guide to Ice Giants and Other Catastrophes), and I’m hoping to finish Chapter Three by the end of this week. I’ve also been in touch with a fabulous artist who may be doing cover art for my upcoming adult novella, Snowspelled, later this year. I can’t wait to share more details as I figure them out!

And if you’re a longtime reader and have ever wondered what my first heroine’s parents were like when they were young…I’m sending out my next newsletter on Wednesday with a brand-new short story all about Kat’s parents. If you’d like to read it, just sign up here!

Now it’s time for me to dive back into my new novel before the kids get home from school, but I can’t close out without talking about two things I’ve really loved over this past week.

I read Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together on the train rides back and forth from Oswestry, and oh, I devoured it! It’s so gorgeously written, so intensely compelling, and so uplifting. It’s one of my very favorite books I’ve read in a long time, and you can read my full Goodreads review here.

And – although I know I’m very late to the party here! – my kids and I watched My Neighbor Totoro yesterday and looooooooooved it. There was one point halfway through when I realized I’d just been grinning steadily for ages, and I kept on helplessly beaming at the screen for the rest of the film. It was so joyful and full of such a sense of wonder and love. If you haven’t seen it yet (is there anyone else who hasn’t seen it by now?): do it! You won’t regret it. :)

What about you guys? What’s one thing (book/movie/life event/whatever!) that’s made you happy lately? I would really love to hear about it!

Bad News, Good News, Chocolatey Goodness and a Giveaway

- 4 comments

Whew. Over the last two weeks, every single person in our house (including visiting relatives!) has been knocked down one by one, like dominoes, by a nasty feverish cold. I was the last one, and I’m finally getting to the end of it now (albeit with a veeery croaky voice – I REALLY hope that’s all better by the time I talk to 500 students in Oswestry next week!) – but oof, I am tired.

And in a good news/bad news day of writing, I realized today that I have to back up, delete Chapter Two of my new MG novel-in-progress (VERY tentatively titled A Grumpy Princess’s Guide to Ice Giants and Other Catastrophes), and rewrite it in a different direction. It’s a better direction! This is definitely a good move for the book!

But, but, but…well, the honest truth is, since my writing time has been SO hard-won over the last few tired weeks of half-term holiday and child-illnesses, I am of course totally weeping for those wasted days of work. (Those 3,000 words I’m cutting were HARD WORDS TO WRITE!) Ah well! Maybe I had to write my way through that first version to get to this better version. Maybe? I’m certainly going to tell myself that, anyway, to feel better.

And there has been some really wonderful news coming in for The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart! My 8-year-old subscribes to The Phoenix Comic, and his little brother loves it too, so we were sitting down for our weekly family read of it last week…when we found THIS! (Click on the image to see it in a larger size.) It was the most amazing thing to discover as a family! It’s now been selected as Book of the Week (in different weeks) not only by The Phoenix Comic but also in the UK magazine The Week Junior, the South Wales Evening Post (see their review here), and Books for Keeps (see their interview with me here), as well as being one of the Picks of the Month at LoveReading4Kids (where the kid-reader reviews made me melt).

Then, just a few days ago, Ana at The Book Smugglers gave it a really wonderful review, calling it “a delightful, funny, heart-warming romp” and saying “I am more than happy to recommend this delicious, charming book to both kids and adults.”

Yay!

After so much good news, I really want to give something back. So I spent the other day putting some of my chocolate-research to good use. (Yum!)

Of course everyone who reads this blog knows that I’m obsessed with dragons AND chocolate…so for everyone who reads The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and wants to know more about the chocolate itself, check out my new More About the Chocolate page! It includes happy geekery about historical chocolate-making (I had SO much fun researching this book!), links to drool over, and also a delicious downloadable modern recipe-pack from Bloomsbury.

And there’s more!

If you’re a knitter, just sign up to Ravelry (if you’re not a member already!) to see this gorgeous pattern (designed by Jenn Reese) for a Dragon with a Chocolate Heart hat! I love mine so, so, so much. (Dragons + mugs of hot chocolate & hearts! It is the PERFECT hat for my book – and I’ve been wearing mine almost every day!)

And since I feel really bad that my North American readers still have to wait three more months for this book…here’s a flash giveaway just for you guys!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The two ways to enter (you can do both!) are by signing up for my author newsletter or adding Dragon to your Goodreads TBR, if you have a Goodreads account. Just click “done!” on each entry in the Rafflecopter box once you’ve done it. And good luck!

Wishing everyone a very chocolatey weekend. :)

Amazing News and a Thank-You Gift

- 2 comments

This week started with amazing news: The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart is already going into a second printing, less than a week after its UK publication!

You guys are wonderful.

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who’s already bought this book, reviewed this book, checked it out from a library or spread the word about it. I appreciate you all SO MUCH! (And please do keep writing reviews on Amazon and elsewhere – they help so much!)

So I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to say thank you…and here it is.

For anyone who’s bought my book since it came out, who’s pre-ordered it or added it to their Goodreads TBR list, who’s written a blog entry about looking forward to it or reviewed it on Amazon or elsewhere:

There’s one particular set of lines in my book that my acquiring editor at Bloomsbury quoted when she explained why she wanted to publish it in the first place. They’re lines that apply to an awful lot of us – even the ones who haven’t started out with real, visible dragon scales.

And Jenn Reese turned them into a sticker design for me! (Just click on the image to see it full-size.)

So: No matter where you live, if you’d like a sticker (or 2 stickers, one to keep and one to give away!), just email me at steph @ stephanieburgis . com (deleting the spaces in-between the words) with your postal address. There’s no immediate limit to this offer – I’ll send them to any individual who emails me and asks, until I finally run out of them! :)

And for some more good news: I just got the official confirmation that Dragon is going to be published in France, too! It sold in a two-book deal (with its sequel, my spies-and-fairies book, coming next!) to Gallimard Jeunesse. Hurrah! My fierce dragon-girl heroine will be roaring in three languages. :) (It’s being published in Germany in August!) I don’t have a publication date for the French edition yet, but I’ll add that to the webpage as soon as I find it out.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!