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It’s just two and a half weeks until my romantic fantasy Snowspelled will be published (as both an ebook and a paperback)! Hurrah! Ilona Andrews, one of my very favorite authors, just gave a beautiful blurb for it:
In other news, I had a horrible moment last week when I realized I’d been going in completely the wrong direction with the edits on my next MG book and had to rip out the last 10,000 new words I’d written, along with the associated plotline. Argh! It took me a few days to bounce back from that (and it didn’t help that I ended up in urgent care a couple of days later with a weird infection that knocked me out and required antibiotics to resolve).
But! Yesterday I launched back into my rewrites, and I’m feeling SO much happier about them now. It can be such a hard balance to gauge, when you’re a professional writer. On the one hand, it’s vitally important to be disciplined and to get the work done even when you don’t feel like it. It takes stubbornness and determination and a willingness to push yourself through the hours of typing even when you don’t feel particularly inspired.
But…it’s also vitally important to listen to your instincts – and I had been feeling increasingly unhappy with that previous storyline, to the point where I felt miserable after every writing session, no matter how productive it had been. I kept going for far too long because I believe in being disciplined and pushing through – but there’s art as well as work in writing, and I wasn’t letting myself listen to my creative instincts. Now I finally am, and the book is back to feeling joyful again. Whew!
Every book is a whole new kind of journey.
But my youngest brother, who was here this past week, gave me a gorgeous new notebook for my fresh start. I wrote through yesterday afternoon until it was time to leave for our big event at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, and then after we got home at 10pm, I wrote again instead of going to sleep, not because I was being disciplined but because I couldn’t resist! And that is the very best kind of writing to do. :)
Wishing you guys happy breakthroughs in everything you’re trying for.
I cannot believe that anyone could grow up in America learning WWII history and somehow come up with the takeaway: “Nazis are cool!” Sorry, what?! I mean, I know I’m somewhat biased in that half of my family ancestry is Jewish, but all the same…really?! How???
I am thinking of Heather Heyer, a woman who died doing what was right, standing up to racism, white nationalism, and Nazism. I hope that we can all be inspired by her courage. Her last Facebook post said, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” We should all be outraged.
I am beyond enraged that the president of our country couldn’t even bring himself to denounce the KKK, Nazis, or other white supremacists by name until two days had passed after Heather Heyer’s death. (No, it’s not a surprise – he’s never been willing to denounce those groups before – but that doesn’t change how wrong and enraging it really is in the president of America.)
I am thinking of all of my friends and readers who aren’t blue-eyed and white and thinking how exponentially worse and scarier this must all feel for them. (I may be lots of things that Nazis hate, but they would never guess it from looking at me, which gives me a lot of privilege in this situation.)
And as always, I’m trying to figure out ways to help. These are the links I’ve come up with so far:
It’s so easy to sink into despair as we watch all of this happen. I felt that way yesterday. I just wanted to huddle under the covers and not even go out.
But I went and petted baby beavers with my kids instead. I took long, deep breaths, and petted baby Bella (shown in that picture!), whose fur felt very, very soft and whose tail felt hard and plasticky. Baby Bella was friendly, inquisitive and affectionate despite the painful history that had led to her being taken in by the wildlife refuge where we met her. It was impossible not to feel buoyed by spending time petting and playing with her. (You can see more pictures of her here.)
I came out ready to square my shoulders again and face the world.
Every single step we can take to help really counts.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks since we arrived in America. I’m surrounded by people I love, which makes me very happy. The kids are busy with great activities that make them happy, too. And I’m working on my edits for The Girl with the Dragon Heart, a book I love intensely!
Unfortunately, although the edits are going well, they’re also going sloooowly…partly, I have to admit, because I love this book and this heroine SO MUCH, and parts of it are SO personal to me. That’s making me a horrible perfectionist with this edit – I want it to be perfect! – which is, of course impossible for any book, but…I’m really trying!
In other words, this has to be a brief check-in, so that I can dive back into the book before my editors completely lose their patience with me. :)
Quickly, though, I wanted to share some of my favorite new discoveries of the past couple of weeks!
First, my favorite musical discovery in quite a while: Julie Fowlis’s Scots Gaelic version of “Blackbird”:
Then my favorite new graphic novel (collecting Issues 1-6 of the new comic series): Spell on Wheels, Volume I, written by Kate Leth. It’s an incredibly sweet, fun urban fantasy series about three witches (best friends) in their 20s on a supernatural road trip, and it’s perfect for fans of Practical Magic or Charmed. You can read my Goodreads review here!
And my favorite new card game (introduced to me by my brother Ben and sister-in-law Jenn): Fluxx! It took me about 5 minutes of feeling disoriented in the first hand we played and then it clicked…and now I love it! I’ve just bought myself a pack for our family to take back home to the UK later in the month.
Speaking of passing time…it’s exactly one month until Snowspelled will be published! Wooot! Patrick printed out a proof of the cover yesterday, and oh, the paperback is going to be so pretty! (You can see a whole album of photos here.) I love Leesha Hannigan‘s cover art, and I love Patrick’s cover design! I can’t wait to share this book with you guys.
I never know whether to refer to Snowspelled as a novella or a novel, to be honest. Officially, novellas are only up to 40,000 words while novels are 40,000+, and this story is 42,000 words. So…novel?
But then again, it’s a romantic fantasy story for adults, and most adult romantic fantasy novels would be at least 80,000 words. So…novella????? I don’t know! I’m calling it a novella to be on the safe side, but: it’s 8,000 words longer than my novella Courting Magic, and I hope that it’ll be a really satisfying length to sink into and enjoy. :) The ebook is currently priced at $2.99, but I’m debating whether to raise the price to $3.99 after it’s been out a week, to reflect the fact that it is longer than most novellas. I don’t know! I still haven’t made up my mind. But if you want to make sure to get it at the cheaper price, you might want to:
We’re in Michigan! And oh, I am tired, since I’ve been awake (thanks to my 4-year-old) ever since 3 a.m. Wahhh! But it feels so good to be back in my family home.
This is going to be an intense, working visit for me, since I have to finish up my edits for my next book – but I finally have a title for it, and it is absolutely perfect for the heroine and the story:
The Girl with the Dragon Heart
This one stars Silke from The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart – although of course Aventurine is heavily involved in the adventure, too. (Dragons do NOT abandon their friends.) The real jacket copy will be announced soon, but in the meantime, you can already add it on Goodreads.
I can’t wait to share it with you guys!
And while I won’t be able to be as social as usual during this summer’s Michigan trip, I am really looking forward to the two public events I’m taking part in over the next few weeks, along with Patrick, Jim Hines and Merrie Haskell. (Events with friends are the best!) We’ll be hanging out, reading from, talking about, and signing our books in Okemos, MI on August 9th and in Ann Arbor, MI on August 15. I’d love to see any of you guys there!
Today, I’m in full-on rest mode, between the M.E./CFS & jet-lag, but I’m getting through it by reading/re-reading (depending on the book) my way straight through Ilona Andrews’s Hidden Legacy trilogy from beginning to end. Hurrah! (I read and loved Book 1 when it first came out, and you can read my full review on Urban Fantasy Magazine; since Books 2 and 3 came out so close together, I preordered both but saved Book 2 until now so that I could devour the whole trilogy all at once.)
And! As soon as I’m back on my feet, I’ll be heading straight to the closest comic shop to get Issue #27 of Wonder Woman, because I read #26 (the beginning of a new arc with a new writer, Shea Fontana) last week and LOVED it. (I’d never read any Wonder Woman comics before – I only tried that one out of curiosity because my kids love Fontana’s DC Super Hero Girls MG graphic novels, so I was curious about what her writing for adults would be like – but I was blown away by how much I loved it, and I can’t WAIT to read the second issue in this arc!)
What about you guys? What are you reading right now?
Last night I finished Seanan McGuire’s fantastically fun urban fantasy novel Chaos Choreography (see my Goodreads review here), which is set in the midst of a reality TV show dance competition. The dancing was so vividly described, I kept wishing I knew exactly what the songs sounded like – so I was thrilled to find a playlist of songs the heroine had danced to at the end of the book. It was exactly the perfect way to round off that particular reading experience!
Right now, because I’m reading a paranormal romance with a Canadian violinist heroine, I’m listening to Canadian violinist Lara St. John’s classical/New Age/world-music fusion album Re: Bach, which reminds me of the musical style described in the book (as well as her breathtakingly gorgeous album of Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, just because I was reminded of how much I love that album).
So in other words, I’ve been thinking a lot today about the connections between music and books, and how nice it feels as a reader to get to enjoy both of them together!
Of course, my own most musical book was Masks and Shadows, which had a castrato singer as the hero and a setting at Haydn’s opera house at Eszterháza Palace. Yesterday, my sequel short story, Shadow Duet, came out into the world as a 99c/99p ebook. Hooray! So I thought I’d mention a couple of musical recommendations to go with it.
As with Masks and Shadows, I would absolutely recommend listening to the soundtrack for the film Farinelli, because that’s the closest approximation we have so far of what a castrato singer in his prime would have sounded like. (Also, it is just gorgeous music!) However, all of the music in that soundtrack comes from earlier in the century than “Shadow Duet,” which is set in London in 1781 (18 months after the end of Masks and Shadows). So for a period-specific music recommendation, I’d recommend Haydn’s six Op. 33 string quartets, which are wonderful.
I always keep a specific playlist of music as a soundtrack for each different writing project I work on, to get myself into the right mindset for that story every time. I haven’t always shared those playlists here, though, and I think I’m going to get better about doing that! I’d also love to hear about any music you ever looked up or listened to just because of a book you read – or any music that just feels linked to any particular books or stories for you. I love those literary/musical combinations!
Ahhh! It’s Patrick‘s book-birthday – well, his double book-birthday, really, because as well as The Emperor of Mars coming out in hardcover today, the paperback edition of his first book, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, is out in the world now too! (So if you’ve been curious about this series but waiting for a cheaper edition, Now Is Your Moment! :) )
I love both of these books SO MUCH. The Emperor of Mars stands alone just fine – it’s a fantastically fun adventure full of girl-thieves, wildly imaginative clockwork devices, divided loyalties, wonderful families AND scary sea-serpents! so there’s no prior reading required to enjoy it – but Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is so much fun, why not just grab them both?
The moons were high in the sky, wreathed in a faint mist, but still bright enough to light the cobbled street. I’d been told that Earth’s moon was much larger and brighter than either of Mars’s moons. That must be weird. I wondered if I’d ever get to see it.
I was still aching from falling into that beetle-vine cluster, and sandfish crystals had gotten into my socks and pantaloons. I glared at the moons, wondering exactly what they had to be so cheerful about.
And that was when I saw the fourth-floor window of Lady Harleston’s enormous town house shoot up and a figure dressed all in black emerge, carrying a sack over one shoulder.
I didn’t often go wandering about in Lunae City at night, but even I knew that this wasn’t usual.
A rope uncoiled and snaked down the wall to end five yards short of the ground. Then the figure swung over the ledge and scrambled down.
I had lived long enough with my little sister, Putty, to see a disaster when it was coming straight at me, and I’d learned not to hesitate.
I launched myself forward just as the figure reached the end of the rope and lost their grip. Feet crashed into my outstretched arms, the sack hit my head, and we both collapsed to the hard road with an explosion of breath. The stranger leaped up and I stumbled after, still half tangled with their arms and legs.
“Are you…?” I started, but I didn’t have time to finish.
The figure whipped away the scarf that had been tied around their face and let long, brown hair fall free. I found myself looking up into a girl’s dark eyes.
“Oh,” I said, letting go quickly and stepping back. At a guess, she was about a year older than me, but she was much taller, and I could see she was part native Martian.
She looked completely furious.
“What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
“What do I think I’m doing?” I spluttered. “What do you think you’re doing?”
She looked at me like I was an idiot. “I’m escaping. What does it look like?”
I glanced over her shoulder at Lady Harleston’s house.
“Who are you escaping from?”
The girl gave me a pitying look. “From whoever owns this house. Obviously.”
This conversation was getting away from me. My mouth opened and closed like a hungry fish. “Were you robbing it?”
“Let’s think,” she said. “You caught me climbing out of a house on the end of a rope in the middle of the night with a bag over my shoulder. What did you think I was doing? Cleaning the windows?”
“That’s wrong,” I said, realizing how stupid I sounded. I didn’t normally get this flustered, even when arguing with Putty. But Putty didn’t make me feel sweaty and fidgety, like I was wearing a shirt made from squeezethorn fibers. I wondered if falling into the beetle-vine cluster had made me sick.
“So what are you going to do?” she said. “Report me to the militia?”
I kept catching myself staring at her, then having to look away quickly.
“You’d be arrested,” I said.
She glanced around. “Look, where are you going anyway?”
I pointed up the road with a shaky hand. “Um. To the Flame House,” I said, giving the name the locals used for our new home.
“Well, I’m going the opposite direction. You can make yourself useful and help me with the bag if you like. I can’t wait here all night.”
I gawped like a confused marsh bat. “I’m not going to help you carry stolen goods.”
“Fine, then.” She hoisted the heavy bag onto her shoulder. “If I’m caught and hanged it’ll be your fault.”
I spluttered. “My fault? I saved you! You’d have broken a leg if I hadn’t caught you.”
“Don’t be absurd. I’ve done that a thousand times.” She sniffed and wrinkled her nose. “You smell really bad. Now, good-bye!”
“It’s the beetle-vine,” I mumbled, but she’d already turned on her heel and jogged away down a nearby alley, into the concealing darkness.
I stared after her. I wanted to say, Don’t go, but I knew how ridiculous I would sound.
Almost as ridiculous as I looked standing here, mouth hanging open, as though I were trying to catch glow moths.
My head hurt.
I backed away, and my foot hit something. It skidded across the cobbles, glinting metallically. I followed, then crouched to pick it up, frowning.
It was some kind of mechanical device—but old, like something that had been pulled out of a dragon tomb. It was cylindrical, the size of my fist, and cleverly made. I peered at it. Through a dozen small holes in the side, I saw fine brass cogs and levers, and the hint of a coiled spring deep inside.
I had no idea what it was. The thief must have stolen it from Lady Harleston’s house and dropped it when we got all tangled up. The thought made me feel uncomfortably hot in my jacket again, despite the cold air.
Perhaps she would come back for it.
I dithered, peering into the alley, the device clutched in my hands.
And a hand closed tight on my shoulder. “Got you!” a voice exclaimed.
I’m so proud of this book. I fell in love with Patrick’s writing (in our first week as students at the Clarion West writing workshop 16 years ago) even before I fell in love with him as a person, and this book is my favorite so far. I can’t wait to hear what you guys think of it!
Whew. Another kid birthday party has been successfully completed! As someone who struggles with domestic organization in general, running birthday parties for my kids (in partnership with my husband) has turned out to be a surprisingly intense challenge for me as a parent. But our four-year-old loved his day, and I love him, so it was totally worth it.
Now I would collapse in post-party relief…except that, whoops: DEADLINES! The kids only have a few days left of school (one day fewer than I’d realized until last week, actually, which was slightly scary to discover as a working mom with a writing schedule!), my edits are going well but sloooowly, and we leave for our yearly trip to the U.S. to visit my family next week. In other words, there are about a zillion things I ought to be doing right now and not nearly enough time (or energy) in each day.
However! I am really, really excited that Patrick’s second book, The Emperor of Mars, is coming out in the US and Canada tomorrow, along with the paperback edition of Book One, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb. These are fabulously zany MG adventures set on Regency-era Mars, complete with pterodactyls, clockwork butlers, and one of my favorite-ever fictional families. (Ohhhh do I love the hero’s sisters!) They’re full of adventure, imagination and real heart. I can’t wait for you guys to be able to read both of them!
One thing that’s been helping me get through my own edits despite a whole bunch of competing distractions and different pressures has been this app that was recommended to me on Twitter: Forest App. It builds on the Pomodoro technique for getting work done in cycles, which has REALLY worked for me over this past month (you work for 25 minutes without any interruptions; take 5 minutes off to relax; then work for 25 minutes, take 5 minutes off, etc, for as long as you can). The app makes it easy to time yourself for the Pomodoros but also turns it into a fun game (you grow trees on the app while you work), which honestly does help me to lighten up and feel more creative even when I’m worrying about deadlines, other pressures, etc. Highly recommended! And I’m looking forward to earning enough points on the game to finally grow a lemon tree. :)
(My paternal grandparents owned a lemon farm until I was in my mid-20s, and I spent a lot of wonderful summers there. So lemon trees have a lot of personal significance for me! If only the app could recreate the smell of a lemon grove, too, I’d be in total bliss.)
For the next few days, I’ll be using that app a LOT as I get through the last few days of the kids’ schooling for the year. Then I’ll spend the weekend frantically running around trying to remember everything we ought to pack for our trip…and then we’ll head to America! We’ll be there to visit with family, but Patrick and I will also be doing events at two different bookstores (one in Okemos on August 9th and one in Ann Arbor on August 15th) along with our friends Jim Hines and Merrie Haskell. I’d love to see you guys in person at either of those! You can find all the details here.
Please wish me luck with my writing for the rest of this week! And I’ll pop back in tomorrow to post one of my favorite excerpts from The Emperor of Mars. :)
I’m back! I had an amazing editing/writing retreat last week. Claire Fayers, who is both a wonderful writer and a wonderful friend, invited me to stay in her house for the 3-day retreat. She and her husband generously supplied me with delicious food, sweet cats to pet, and fantastic conversation in-between editing sessions – and within less than 72 hours, I got through over 13,000 words of intense rewrites on my MG spies-and-fairies book (including 6,000 brand-new words in the new plot arc I’m working on), which…well, it’s basically a miracle by my usual standards of writing speed! I am VERY lucky in my friends. :)
But oh, did I miss my family! Thank goodness for Skype, which makes so many things easier – I got to skype with the kids every morning before they went to school and again before bed (if not more, depending on the day) – which made the retreat so much easier for all of us. Skype is my very favorite modern development! As someone who moved to a different country as an adult, it has made SUCH a difference to me to be able to skype with my family and friends back home, and it means my kids can build their own relationships with their American grandparents every week, having real conversations (and playing silly 3-year-old games, too!) with them despite the distance.
One other thing that makes things easier: if you’re facing something intimidating right now, or know that you’ll be having a hard week sometime soon, I highly recommend subscribing to Esmé Weijun Wang’s Encouragement Notes. They go out once a day for a week, and honestly, starting each day of the retreat by reading that day’s note helped a lot with my courage as I faced the challenging goals ahead of me.
Now I’m back…and unfortunately, after spending Friday night awake for most of the night nursing my poor 8-year-old through a nasty stomach bug, I succumbed to the bug myself the next day. Alas! So it turned out to be a weekend of sick days. Oh well! Pebbles purred on my chest, I watched silly happy movies (My Big Fat Greek Wedding and its sequel – perfect sick-day viewing!), and we all got through.
I just saw this first photo of it (in e-ARC form) out in the wild, sent in by one of my newsletter subscribers who’d gotten an early copy, and it made me VERY happy. :) (Actually it was then followed by a second reader photo that showed a lovely rabbit next to the e-ARC…so now I’m kind of fantasizing about building a whole photo gallery of cute pets with e-readers showing Snowspelled, as an “extras” page for my website! I can always dream… ;) )
In other words, if you have any photos of your own pets near any of my books, I am ALWAYS in the market, because it’s pretty much designed to make my heart melt. :)
I’m still on my writing retreat (and have gotten through 10,000 words of rewrites in the first two days, huzzah!), but I had to check in to let you guys know that you can now see the gorgeous full cover of my upcoming romantic fantasy novella, Snowspelled, on The Book Smugglers – and you can enter to win a print of the beautiful cover art by Leesha Hannigan there, too!
You can also now preorder the ebook at Amazon, Kobo, and Smashwords, with more store links to follow soon – and I hope to have the paperback preorder links up within the next month, too.
Huzzah! I can’t wait to share this story with you guys.
This week I’m heading off on my first writing retreat in just over four years (!!!) – and because I have two little kids, I am feeling both extremely excited and deeply guilty/anxious about it. Ah, the joys of working parenthood!
The good news: I had a really good week of editing last week. I really, really love this book. I may even have an official title for it after Wednesday! (Crossing my fingers and waiting to hear the word back from my publishers.) Right now it’s still only known in my house and online as my MG spies-and-fairies book, but after Wednesday it may be known as…well, no. I won’t take the risk of jinxing myself by giving away any of the possibilities! :)
Aaaaand…on Thursday, the gorgeous cover for my upcoming romantic fantasy novella (for adults), Snowspelled (with art by the wonderful Leesha Hannigan), will be revealed on The Book Smugglers! I can’t wait for you guys to finally see it.
I also found out last week that The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart has already gone into a second printing in the US and Canada, less than one month after publication (!!!!!!!!!), so in other words, guys, I am feeling SO GRATEFUL to my readers right now.
And to show that appreciation…
OK, here’s what I had been planning to do in this month’s newsletter: give away two e-ARCs of Snowspelled to randomly-chosen newsletter subscribers. But then I got that news about Dragon‘s second printing…and I felt like celebrating. :) So!
This Thursday, after the cover goes up on The Book Smugglers, I’ll be sending out my July newsletter…and giving away seventy e-ARCs of Snowspelled to my newsletter subscribers! (The only catch is that I’m asking for people to commit to writing an honest review of the novella once it’s published. I really mean it when I say “honest,” though – I absolutely promise. EVERY review helps an author, no matter how positive or negative it might be, so no one should ever feel pressured to write a positive review!) Full details will be in the July newsletter – and you can sign up now to make sure that you get it on Thursday. :)
Now it’s time for me to supervise the kids at our local play barn, and then pack my bags for my writing retreat. I’m bringing along my laptop, thirty pages of notes I’ve made about my novel across the last week, the printed manuscript of the last draft, lots of pens, and of course lots of chocolate. I’m going to try to stay offline for most of the time that I’m on retreat…but I’ll pop back in on Thursday to link to the cover reveal.
I can’t tell you guys how much it means to me that so many of you are willing to follow me as I shift between genres from MG to adult and back again! Seeing that news about Dragon‘s second printing meant a lot to me.
And it has been SO motivational for me as I work on my still-untitled followup book, which is turning out to be one of the most personal books I’ve ever written. (I know that sounds weird to say when it’s about spies and fairies and dragons! But it’s true. And “personal” means “vulnerable,” so, guys – I REALLY appreciate the amazing support that you have all been giving my quirky, heartfelt stories, from Kat, Incorrigible through The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and more.)
Thank you all so much for keeping me company on this journey!