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A Mask for Masks and Shadows

Congratulations to whoever won the ARCs of Masks and Shadows on Goodreads! And for everyone else…well, since the ebook pre-order price just shot down in both the US and UK, it seemed like the right moment to say: anyone who preorders the book in any format, from wherever they wish, anywhere in the world, can enter to win a gorgeous mask of your own!

A mask sitting on top of Masks and Shadows ARCs

Isn’t it pretty? I came across those masks for sale in the British Museum giftshop last time I visited London, and I loved them SO MUCH. I bought some for my boys, and then I came home to Wales and thought: Wait! Giveaways! So my lovely sister-in-law who works at the British Museum sent me more. Yay! And of course I’m keeping one for myself. I couldn’t resist!

Steph wearing a mask

Just contact me with proof of pre-order to enter the giveaway, and I’ll announce the winner on April 11th (the day before publication day)! And remember, the giveaway is international.

Good luck!

A Really Important Reminder

Patrick and I have been going through boxes from our garage lately, sorting out what we want to keep and what we can get rid of. Mostly, we’re coming up with lots to get rid of, along with some nice surprises that we definitely want to keep…

…but every so often we find something really special.

I was in our room just now when Patrick came up, holding a sheet of paper he’d found in one of those boxes. “You have to see this,” he said. “And you have to remember this, every time you start worrying. Just look at it!”

So I did.

blurts-p1

(I know it isn’t clear enough to read properly, but I wanted to post the actual photo as evidence, before the transcript.)

It’s dated 14th March, 2003, and I wrote it inspired by an exercise in Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, where she suggests that you write out all of the awful thoughts that pop up in your head as “Blurts”, all in a row – writing them in a mad rush to get them all out there honestly, without reservation – and then counter them with “Anti-Blurts,” the reassurance that you would give a friend who had the same thoughts about herself.

And here, for posterity, were mine in March of 2003. It was two years after I’d attended the Clarion West writing workshop, but I hadn’t managed to sell a single short story since 1999 (and oh, was I trying, every single day!). I was living with (and loving) a writer who was selling tons of wonderful short stories to great magazines, and who had already gotten an agent – but I still didn’t even have the nerve, at that point, to revise the books that I’d first-drafted so that I could send them out on submission. I was too afraid to even try.

And these were the secret thoughts that haunted me as I tried to do my own writing. These (in case you can’t read them in that photo) are the Blurts that I wrote, almost 13 years ago:

“1. I’m never going to get any short stories published.

“2. I’ll never be as good a writer as Patrick is.

“3. I’ll always feel like a failure.

“4. I’ll never be a professional writer.

“5. I’m a really horrible person & small & yucky & monstrous for being jealous of the person I love.

“6. I don’t deserve to have any success in writing.

“7. I’m only a wannabe writer.

“8. I’m never going to have the success I dream of.

“9. I’m never going to be a real writer, much less a good one.”

Of course, I wrote Anti-Blurts back to myself, reassuring myself the way I would reassure a friend who said the same things to me. And it helped a little bit to do that…even if I didn’t really quite believe those reassurances at the time.

But now…

I didn’t even remember making this list (and crying as I wrote it – oh, I remember it vividly now!), until Patrick found it just now and brought it up to me.

“You have to remember this,” he told me, “every time you feel insecure. REMEMBER this! And look at where you are now!”

…Because here I am, at the tail end of the week where I announced my fourth book sale in just over a year, my seventh book sale in total. I’m working on revising my fourth (to-be-published) MG book and getting ready to revise my second (to-be-published) adult book…while I get my taxes ready, as always for the last several years, as a professional author. I’ve sold over 36 short stories since I wrote that list in 2003, and several of them have been reprinted.

I genuinely could not have imagined this situation 13 years ago, when I was writing those desperate, miserable, terrified blurts.

And even though it feels kind of scary and vulnerable to post that desperate list here for anyone to see…I actually think it’s really important, for the sake of every other writer out there who worries that they, too, will never get published (or never get published again), even when it’s what they want more than anything else in the world.

…For everyone who compares themselves to the writers they love and (in their head) always comes up lacking.

…For everyone who needs this reminder:

Have faith.

I believe in you (just like Patrick fiercely believed in me all those years ago, when he was the one getting sales and I wasn’t – but he REFUSED to let me act like he was “the real writer” in our partnership).

I believe in you.

And I hope you can believe in yourself, too.

Secret News Revealed

Aaaand…. *drumroll*: I can finally announce some news that I have been bursting to share!

This is the announcement that ran in Publishers’ Marketplace today:

Author of Masks and Shadows Stephanie Burgis’s CONGRESS OF SECRETS, in which a lady arrives at the 1814 Congress of Vienna with a supernatural secret and finds dark alchemy, old enemies, and an unexpected chance at love awaiting her, to Rene Sears at Pyr, for publication in fall 2016, by Molly Ker Hawn at the Bent Agency.

Woooooot! Congress of Secrets is my second adult historical fantasy, and it’s coming out later this year!!! After two years without any new novels being published, I have two coming out this year (and more MG novels next year, of course – dragons!), and I could not be happier about that.

Congress of Secrets is my love letter to Vienna, my favorite city in the world, where I lived for two years in my twenties (and which was my Croatian great-grandfather’s favorite city, too – he told stories all his life about the wonderful years he spent there as a tailor’s apprentice). It’s also my own dark fantasy take on Regency romance. This is, in fact, the darkest book I’ve ever written – it’s about survival and redemption and more – but it’s also the most romantic book I’ve ever written.

Here’s the full pitch that I sent my agent:

The year is 1814, and the Congress of Vienna has just begun. Diplomats gather to draw a new map of Europe, and aristocrats and royals arrive to celebrate the downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Among them is Lady Caroline Wyndham, one of the wealthiest widows in England. But, like so many others at the Congress, Caroline has a dark secret.

Caroline was born Karolina Vogl, the daughter of a radical Viennese printer. When her father was arrested by the secret police, Karolina’s childhood was stolen from her, lost in a pit of dark alchemy and despair. Now, under the protection of a new name and a new nationality, she has returned to Vienna to save her father at last. When she comes face-to-face with Michael Steinhüller, her father’s old apprentice, now a charming conman and professional survivor, they are both granted an unexpected chance at love…but the supernatural forces that shattered Caroline’s childhood still rule Vienna behind its glittering façade of balls and salons, and her disguise is more fragile than she realizes.

I can’t wait to share it with you guys.

And…can I admit here, in public, just how happy I am to have sold a second adult book? It’s the same feeling I had when I sold a second series in MG: Oh, thank goodness. The first sale wasn’t just a fluke! Where does that imposter-syndrome panic come from? I don’t know, but it’s strong – and I love feeling it finally start to subside.

Also…oh, do I have intense feelings around this particular book, because here’s a secret: this is the book that I was working on, several years ago, when I first got sick with M.E./CFS. I loved first-drafting it, pre-M.E….but I had to abandon it in the middle of revisions, because I could NOT take any more darkness in my work. Not then.

This is hardly a grim-dark book – remember, it’s my take on a Regency romance! There is banter, there are glittering balls, there are sinister bad guys (taken from history, with some alchemical twists), and there’s true romance (and hot chemistry!) between two sizzlingly smart, super-competent survivors who turn out to be perfect for each other. But Caroline/Karolina, for all her courage and ruthless intelligence, really is dark and damaged, and at that point in my life, I couldn’t bear to work through that darkness in the way that she deserved.

There was too much darkness in my life at that point – too much despair, to be brutally honest. I didn’t know how to write about other people learning to survive their own pain and get through it. I was too scared about how I could survive, myself. So I had to set that book aside, switch genres and switch topics and write something lighthearted and frothy, with a heroine who was bright and joyful and made me laugh, to pull me out of my own despair. Oh, I love Kat, and writing her books really saved me.

But I love Caroline/Karolina, too. And she kept on tugging at me, all this time. She deserved her romance. She deserved her triumph. She deserved to be heard.

Still, it felt so scary to finally summon up my nerve to come back to her, to this cynical, damaged heroine whom I’d abandoned because I’d identified too much with her pain – but when I finally let myself look back at that early draft, last year, I realized: Oh. I can actually do this now! So many years after I’d written those early drafts, I could finally tackle Caroline’s darkness – and my own – without falling into it and being lost in it anymore. I could see through it to the real redemption that she deserved. And I knew SO MUCH more about survival than I used to!

This is so much more personal a book now than it was in its first draft, pre-M.E. – so it feels both really scary and deeply validating to have it finally coming out now. Look: I did survive that darkness after all! And here I am, after all, stronger than I was before.

And Caroline and I both get happy endings.

Weekend Escape

So, last Tuesday, while feeling tired and stressed and like the walls of our house were closing in around me, I booked a spontaneous weekend away for me and the two little boys. Escape! Patrick had to stay home to work, sadly, but MrD, MrX and I took the train to Cardiff, a city I love, and we had a wonderful time.

My plan was to have fun in the hotel with the kids whether or not we ever managed to get out to do more tourist-y stuff – and just on our way out the door, I gritted my teeth and yanked my laptop out of my suitcase to leave it behind. So there! It was our weekend away, a holiday just for me and my kids, and deadlines or no deadlines, I was not going to bring any work with me!

It was such a good decision. We stayed at the Novotel in Cardiff, which was the perfect place for a family. The boys were greeted with stuffed lions as a welcome-gift, the meals were delicious, and the warm, lovely swimming pool was set up to make both kids and their parents very happy.

We swam, we played, and we could have had a great time all weekend even if we hadn’t ever left the hotel – but we spent Saturday afternoon at the National Museum of Wales, and I am so glad we did! As well as great dinosaur skeletons (my two-year-old was particularly excited by the T-Rex skull and by the full Edmontosaurus skeleton!), they have a fabulous Discovery Centre where kids can handle dinosaur bones and examine specimens under microscopes. Between that, the Lego store in the city centre, and the crépe café we went to afterwards, our minds were thoroughly blown. :)

Steph and both kids

Of course, my work deadlines hadn’t disappeared, and those deadlines are all a bit tighter after a weekend without work – but oh, am I better for it. This morning, I dived back into my edits, starting at the point where I’d stalled out at the end of last week, thinking (at the time): How can I do this? It’s too haaaaaard! This morning, I opened up the manuscript, gulped….and then deleted multiple pages in one quick swipe and wrote a new scene that took care of things. Done! Suddenly, I could see exactly how to do it. It’s amazing what a break and a change of scene (and getting the chance to gaze at dinosaur skeletons!) can accomplish. :)

Happy Monday!

PS: And don’t forget: one of the two international ARC giveaways for Masks and Shadows ends tonight!

Masks and Shadows – Giveaways for Everyone!

Ahhhh! Look what arrived at our house last week:

ARCs of Masks and Shadows

Advance Reading Copies of Masks and Shadows! They’re so gorgeous. I spent the first couple of days after they got here just carrying them around the house with me, gloating over them like a dragon with her hoard. But now it’s time to give some away!

First of all, if you’re in the US, Canada, the UK, or Australia, my fabulous publisher is giving away twenty (!!!) copies on Goodreads, so you should definitely enter the giveaway there. It’s open until February 1st. Woot!

And no matter where you are in the world, you can enter a giveaway (between now and next Monday at midnight) for one of my own ARCs, signed by me and mailed internationally:

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here.

Good luck!

And eeee! Less than 3 months to go until this book is published!

Secrets of The Dragon Tomb: A Love Letter

I still remember the first day that Patrick showed me the new novel he was working on.

I should probably say, for the benefit of anyone who hasn’t been reading this blog forever, that Patrick and I first met through our writing. We both applied and were accepted to the Clarion West science fiction & fantasy writer’s workshop in Seattle in 2001. I came from Pittsburgh; he came from Bristol, in England, which I (then) only knew through reading Mansfield Park; and I fell in love with his writing even before I fell in love with him as a person.

Ever since we moved in together less than a year later (living in Vienna first, because I needed to stay in mainland Europe for six months before moving to the UK, so that my dog Nika wouldn’t have to go into quarantine!), we formed a policy of always sharing our new writing, every day. So every day I read out loud what I’d written to him (because that’s the most helpful thing for me), and every day he gave me what he’d written for me to read to myself (because that works better for him).

Since we had kids, that’s become harder, but we still read every single thing that the other person writes, even if now we have to wait a few days sometimes before we can catch up.

So in other words, ever since 2001, we’ve read every single piece of writing that the other one has done, large or small. He’s read chunks of novels and short stories that I’ve never finished, and ones that I’ve finished but never published. I’ve read the same for him…

…And when I read this new opening, I was just totally blown away. Everything he’d ever written, I had loved. But this – it was another level entirely.

It was so, so funny! It was so original and so wildly imaginative! It was SO MUCH fun. I was just filled with delight.

And I am so happy that you guys finally get to share it too – with brilliant illustrations throughout by the fabulous Jeremy Holmes!

secrets-of-the-dragon-tomb-300

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb is out today in the US and Canada, and it’s available world-wide through Wordery and The Book Depository (or your local branch of Amazon).

It stars one of my favorite families ever. I love Edward, the responsible middle child who tries so hard to look out for his eccentric family and who wishes secretly to be a dashing spy; I love his reckless genius of a little sister, Putty, and his older sister Olivia, who seems so prim on the outside but is full of so much bravery and awesomeness. I love other characters I cannot talk about in public because of SPOILERS!

sullivan_FamilyPhoto

I love the clockwork crabs and the robot butlers and the fabulous adventure and action and the wacky, wonderful humor throughout.

I love this book.

I hope you guys love it too!

You can read the first chapter on Patrick’s website and meet the characters, too. If you’re in the US, you can buy it from Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon; if you’re in Canada you can buy it from Chapters Indigo

But no matter where you are, I can’t wait for you guys to read it so we can talk about it!

Big Week! With Photos, Covers, and a Bonus Latte

Today is a GOOD day, because a book-check arrived (yay! thanks, Bloomsbury!), and I dived back into my next MG book, The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, for the first time since June. Dragons! Chocolate! Happiness! And this has been a big week in both of my chosen genres, since I sent off my notes on the final proof of Masks and Shadows yesterday. In just about a week, it’ll be heading to print! Wow.

This week we also got Patrick’s author copies of Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, his awesome MG steampunk-on-Mars adventure, and ohhhhh are they beautiful. MrX thinks so, too! :)

MrX-with-books

You can see more pictures (all by me, of course, taken veeery professionally using my iPad! 😉 ) on Patrick’s blog.

And! I can finally announce two short story publications that will be coming out this spring, in two different anthologies.

The first one is one of my very rare science fiction stories: “Mums’ Group,” which – no surprise! – was written very much in reaction to my own experiences as a mother of young children. It’s going to be published in the anthology Futuristica: Volume One, and you can check out the full Table of Contents here. But meanwhile, check out the great cover!

Futuristica cover

I just saw the cover for Futuristica this week, but I saw the cover for the next anthology back when they held their original call for submissions, and honestly, the fact that I loved the cover so much seriously influenced my decision to submit to the anthology! :) Because…well, look:

Wax and Wane Cover

Isn’t it pretty? They’re going to be reprinting my story “Offerings,” which was first published in Fantasy Magazine. (You can still read the story online, but this will be the only way to get a paper/ebook copy.) And you can see the full Table of Contents here.

So! All in all, it’s been a big week over here. Now I’m drinking a big latte (my second of the day – I’m tired!) and looking forward to sinking back into my current read, an ARC of Megan Frazer Blakemore’s The Firefly Code, which is just WONDERFUL so far.

What about you guys? What are you reading right now?

Big Dreams and the Best Kind of Gift

Whew! Life is back to normal after the holidays. This morning, the kids went out to school/morning childcare, and I read through (and polished) the first 18,000 words of my latest freelance project (due on Friday). Then I sat down to try to do what I do every year around this time (and I’ve written about why I do it here): make a list of: 1) Do-able Goals for the year, 2) BIG Dreams for the year, and 3) !!!WILD!!!! Dreams for the year (with, yes, ALL of those exclamation points and italics, for emphasis).

…And then I stuttered to a halt. Because honestly, over the last several months, I’ve been so narrowly focused on hitting one deadline after another that…well, I’ve kind of lost my wider perspective.

So I found myself staring at my notebook, thinking: What DO I want this year?

…Which is an odd feeling.

Part of it, probably, is that last year was mind-blowingly full of the kinds of sales I’d been dreaming about for the last few years. Now I’ve actually got them, and got contracts reaching ahead of me for the next couple of years, and that’s a lovely, reassuring feeling. But ever since getting them, my whole focus has been on WORKWORKWORK – I have to MEET THOSE DEADLINES! instead of thinking: And what else might be fun to do, in the rest of my life?

Well. I did manage to write one thing in the BIG dreams category: Take the kids on TWO family holidays this year! That would be amazing.

But I’d like to figure out what to put next on the list, too! So that’s going to be one of my personal goals for this week, on top of polishing up the freelance project and starting edits on The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart.

And the new year has been starting in the nicest possible way this past week – with the first blurbs coming in for Masks and Shadows! I have been SO nervous about what people would think of this big leap between genres, because while M&S is another historical fantasy, like my Kat books, of course it’s aimed squarely at adults and it’s a much lusher, darker, and more romantic kind of fantasy than Kat (or than my other upcoming MG books, for that matter).

So it’s helped SO MUCH to see amazing blurbs coming in from some of my very favorite fantasy, science fiction, and romance authors: Judith Tarr, Delia Sherman, Jaime Lee Moyer, Justina Robson, Leah Cypess, Laura Florand, and Donna Thorland. You can see them all on my website, but here are just a few of the most recent ones to give a taste:

“I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first saw the announcement—and it is absolutely worth the wait. Wonderful setting, fascinating characters, and beautiful music. It truly feels as if the author has lived with those people in that period, and has written them from life—magic, demons, angelic singers, and all. I can’t wait to read the next. There will be a next? Yes? Please?”
Judith Tarr

“In Masks and Shadows, Stephanie Burgis has created a cast of remarkable and complex characters and set them loose in a story of intrigue, music, magic, love, and terror that kept me up late into the night.”
Delia Sherman

“Terrific. A lush adventure fueled by music and alchemy and peopled with irresistible characters. Masks and Shadows blends history and magic into a rich, believable love story fraught with royal intrigue. I finished it in one sitting.”
Donna Thorland

Getting these blurbs felt like the best belated Christmas gift ever!

And there are just over three months to go until the book is out in the world. Whew! I guess it’s time to get back to work on the next book…and figure out my other goals, too!

What about you guys? What are your big dreams (or do-able goals or !!!WILD!!! dreams) for this year?

Book Hoards and a Done List

Whew! It’s almost the end of the year. Christmas was lovely, and for the first time, both of the boys were old enough to be excited about it. I got fabulous gifts, including a book hoard worthy of gloating over in the most dragon-ish fashion:

Christmas-books-2015

I’ve already read Tamsin and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and I love, love, LOVED them both! You can read my reviews here and here. I’m still debating which book to start next, because they all look so good, it’s really hard to choose! Have you guys read any of them?

All I really want to do now is snuggle up and read my way through them all…

…But now that the new year is fast approaching, I’m thinking a lot about Done Lists.

If you guys are anxious perfectionists like me – the kind of person who tries a whole variety of tactics to manage that overwhelming feeling of “Never enough accomplished!” – then you may have come across the concept of Done Lists before. The idea is that they’re the opposite of To-Do lists. They’re lists that you write at the end of the day, noting everything that you’ve accomplished, no matter how large or small, to remind yourself that really, you did get things done after all. And maybe because I’ve been scrambling to fit copyedits into the spare corners of this holiday season (never feeling that I’m getting ENOUGH done every day!), I’m particularly in need of a Done List right now…so here’s mine for 2015:

I wrote:

– Two 30,000-word freelance projects

– The second half of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (about 30,000 words)

– The first 34,000 words of The Storyteller’s Secret

– One 12,000-word novelette

– One 3,300-word short story

I also edited Masks and Shadows and one of those freelance projects, and I revised The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart multiple times for submission.

I published:

– My short-short story “Marking Time” online at Daily Science Fiction and also as a podcast at Podcastle

– My historical fantasy story “Stitching Time” online at Grendelsong

– My swashbuckling fantasy adventure novelette “The Art of Deception” in the anthology Insert Title Here, edited by Tehani Wessely

(I also sold two more stories that will be published next year, not to mention The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and The Storyteller’s Secret, which will come out in 2017/18. Yay! And I’m really hoping to be able to share some more good news soon.)

This year, like every year, I’ve been tap-dancing like crazy, trying to balance writing and parenting young kids with minimal childcare, with the M.E./CFS inevitably complicating everything…so – like every year – I’ve worried constantly about whether I was managing to do enough.

Looking at this Done List really helps.

What about you guys? What are some of the things you guys are most proud of getting done this year?

Roaring with Cretacious Holiday Spirit

Today Toddler X and I braved the rain and the crowds for a final bout of Christmas shopping…and I am finally, finally done! Whew.

Now I just have to stop basking in my achievement and actually start wrapping some of those presents…tomorrow. After all, it’s only traditional for me to do it late at night on Christmas Eve, panicking! So I wouldn’t want to ruin my holiday spirit, right? 😉

And it’s definitely the holiday season now, because while Toddler X and I were in town, we stopped at the kitchen shop to pick out new cookie-cutters for our annual round of Christmas Eve gingerbread-cookie-making. Every year, the boys get to pick out one new cookie cutter each, and although poor MrD was too sick (with a rotten cold) to come along and pick his out in person this year, I thought it might take a while for Toddler X to make up his mind. As I wheeled him into the shop, I resigned myself to patience and vowed not to check the clock, no matter how long it took.

Then we reached the rack of cookie cutters. His eyes lit up. He started frantically bouncing in his pushchair (stroller) as he reached out and bellowed:

“T-REX!!!!!!!”

Well. If there were T-Rex-shaped cookie cutters available…who wouldn’t choose them? Not my kids, certainly. And of course it was immediately obvious that we were going to have to get a second, identical one for his big brother, to avoid sibling rivalry…so apparently, a LOT of our Christmas cookies are going to be T-Rex-shaped this year.

Happy holidays! I hope, no matter what (or if) you’re celebrating this season, your days are roaringly full of happiness. :)