Tag: Photos

Cats and Dragons

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It’s been a tough couple of weeks, between my horror at so much of the recent political news (in both the US and the UK) and my personal grief over losing our sweet old dog, Maya. We will never, ever forget her.

But there are some really wonderful things happening this week for our family…and one of the most important ones happened this weekend. Meet Pebbles! (And as always, if you click on the picture, you can see a larger image.)

Pebbles is about two years old, and we found her through Usk New Start Cat Rescue. She has an amazing purr, she loooooves being petted – and our whole family feels very lucky to have found her.

She was nervous at first but has gotten more and more relaxed and comfortable every day. Unfortunately, tonight will be her first trip with us to the vets, for a vaccination and also treatment for a minor eye infection – I hope it won’t be too much of a shock/betrayal for her! Please cross your fingers for us – and if any of you are cat-owners, I’d love to hear about your favorite cat toys (or see pictures of your pets)! While we were waiting to collect her, I asked friends on Facebook (in a public post, visible to everybody) to share cat pictures and cat stories, and it turned into a really lovely thread – definitely worth checking out if you could do with some adorable cat pictures right now!

Meanwhile, my wonderful local Waterstones is gearing up for my upcoming launch party in the most amazing ways!

Abergavenny Kids just posted an interview with me about both the book and the launch party – which is only five days away now! I hope to see some of you guys there.

The official UK publication date is February 9th (this Thursday!), but it’s already in stock at lots of Waterstones and Foyles branches and online bookstores – and I would love to know whether it’s in stock yet at independent bookstores too! If anyone glimpses it on a shelf in any shop or library, please let me know – or better yet, take a photo and send it to me! I would LOVE to see those pictures.

I’m sorry that North American and Australian readers have longer to wait! It’s coming out in Australia on March 1st and in North America on May 30th. But no matter where you live, you can read Chapter One online now!

I finished the first draft of my first adult romantic fantasy novella (Snowspelled) last Friday, so now I’m working on my new short-short story about Kat’s mother (on commission for the winner of my last charity auction item!), and then I’ll leap back into my next MG novel, which is all about grumpy princesses, goblin girls, and really annoying older sisters who think they rule the world (because they do).

…or at least, I will if I can convince Pebbles that she should let me use my hands for writing instead of typing. (You wouldn’t believe how long it’s taken me just to type this blog entry! Silly kitty…but very, very soft kitties with loud purrs can be very persuasive about things like this, as I’ve discovered in the last few days.)

Happy Monday!

Nerves, Butterflies, and Magic

- 0 comments - writing

It’s three weeks to the day until Congress of Secrets will be published. Yay! And eek! In very good news for calming anticipatory author-nerves, it’s been getting some amazing reviews. Booklist says it “[will] delight her fans and fans of historical fiction in general with its spin on political intrigue, historical romance, dark alchemy, and romance” and RT Book Reviews says:

Below the surface of Burgis’ tale of intrigue, political tension, the dark arts and Vienna’s history lies a multi-layered story that is a perfect combination of romance, historical fiction and fantasy. The lush tapestry includes fictional and historical personages, actual events and surprising elements of magic that capture the imagination and chill the soul. Burgis displays wonderful storytelling and a gift for the imaginative.

You might not be able to believe just how many times I have re-read both of those reviews as publication day approaches. ;)

The funny thing is, Congress of Secrets is going to be my fifth published novel. There was a long time in my life – reaching up until quite recently – when getting five books published seemed like a fantasy too good to ever come true. “Five books” sounded like such a solid number to me – the number that would make me feel like a really established author. Surely an author with five books out wouldn’t ever feel insecure anymore?

Well. Hahaha. Anyway!

The best cure for writer-nerves is always, always to do more writing. Unfortunately, ever since I sent off Draft 1.2 of my MG spies-and-fairies book to my UK editor just under three weeks ago, I’d been feeling a bit lost. I’d spent the last year frantically racing to meet one deadline after another (which was both the up- AND the downside of having 3 books + 1 big freelance project published in less than 12 months!) and once I hit that final deadline, I just FLOPPED. The creative well was empty!

But I hate not writing. I mean, I really hate it. So I wrote an essay for one exciting submissions call; I wrote a few guest blog posts; I played with two or three different random book openings just for practice and to keep my hand in. (That kind of practice-writing feels a lot like playing scales on the piano; it’s never going to be exciting, but if you don’t keep your muscles trained that way, you won’t have much luck playing your next concerto in public!) I’d written the first 1000 words of an adult novella a while back, and that was clicking REALLY hard for me (I love the heroine! I love the voice!), but somehow I couldn’t quite move past its first scene to figure out the rest of the larger plot.

You never know what will be the key to finally escaping one of those creative dry spells…but this time, for me, it was a gift from a friend.

Back when I was powering through my rewrites of my first rough draft of The Storyteller’s Secret (my MG spies-and-fairies novel), I posted on Facebook about my progress for the sake of public accountability. One of my friends cheered me on there and promised she’d send me a reward if I got it done on time.

And look what arrived last week:

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Gorgeous butterfly nail wraps! They were such a perfect gift for my spies-and-fairies novel. I laughed out loud with delight when I saw them! I didn’t end up putting them on until last night. But then…

Ohhhhh, do I love having butterfly nails! I smile every time I look down at my glittery, magical nails. They’re so fun and magical – the perfect cheer-me-up combination!

And this morning, when I was staring at my computer screen at the same opening scene I’d stared at many times before in the last three weeks, uselessly trying to figure out what happened next…I caught sight of my butterfly nails. And I thought: Wait a second. It needs to be more magical! THAT’S it!

I grabbed some headphones. I turned on an album (which is now my soundtrack for the project). I started to scribble notes…

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And then pretty soon I’d typed 699 words of my novella (working title Snowspelled), aided by that perfect visual reminder of just how fun and magical I wanted the story to feel.

I may never stop feeling pre-publication nerves, as a writer…but there’s nothing that feels better than writing and sharing my stories with other people.

And I’m so grateful for friends who help with that! :)

Great Night, Great News, and a New E-Book!

- 0 comments - awards, events, New Publications, Short Fiction

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!

Jim Hines posted an album of photos of the event on Facebook, and Schuler Books also posted this photo of the event as a whole:

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Afterwards, we went out to eat with a few friends, and when I checked my email, we got to toast great news together – my novelette The Art of Deception is one of the finalists for the WSFA Small Press Short Fiction Awards! The other writers on that shortlist are amazing, and I am really honored to be part of the list.

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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:

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Right now you can find it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and every other branch of Amazon in the world!

(I’m not offering a printable PDF version of this one, but you can absolutely read it in paper by buying the paper version of Insert Title Here. And then you’ll get lots of other great stories, too!)

In other words, it’s been a really great 24 hours! Thank you so much to everyone who’s been a part of it. :)

Friends, Dragons, Happiness

- 4 comments - writing

This has been a week of hanging out with friends, and it’s been lovely. On Monday, it was such a warm, sunny day, a good friend came over (carrying lunch with her! Yum!) and she and MrX and I hung out on a picnic blanket in our sunny garden, eating lunch, chatting, and knitting. (Well, okay, MrX didn’t knit. But he did chat and play with dinosaurs and playmobil!) It was just idyllic.

On Wednesday, our friend and Clarion West classmate Emily Mah Tippetts (who writes fabulously fun books as E.M. Tippetts and creates wonderful jewelry and more as Emily Mah) came to visit with her husband and we all had lunch and chatted about books and more…and look what she’d made and brought for us!

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Gorgeous dragon pens! And they came with such perfect timing, because guess what the manuscript underneath is? The hardcopy first-pass pages of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, which also arrived on Wednesday.

Talk about a perfect match of pens to content! ;) So, after spending Monday and Tuesday working on the first draft of my MG spies-and-fairies novel, I spent the next couple of days (dragon pen in hand!) with The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. At this stage, I’m really just proofreading and trying not to let myself fiddle too much with other changes, so it’s the first time I’ve been able to read the book – laid out beautifully, just like it will be in published form! – mostly for pleasure instead of for revision. It’s a nice feeling!

And then on Friday afternoon, the week wound up with cake and coffee with my weekly coffee group of good friends, a group of fantastic women who’ve saved me multiple times over the last few years, in so many ways. Hanging out with them always feels so good.

Work, family, and friends. Just the right combination. :)

Storyspinning and Smartphones

- 0 comments - writing

For years, I was a cellphone Luddite. It took me forever to get a cellphone in the first place, and even longer to start giving people my number. But even after that, I kept on buying cheap pay-as-you-go cellphones, long after all of my friends had smartphones.

No, I couldn’t go online with my cheap, basic phones, and I couldn’t take pictures with them either, but why would I need to do any of that? I had a camera for taking pictures, and I had a laptop for going online. All I needed a cellphone for was to make and get phone calls when I was out of the house…and since I usually forgot to charge my phones, they often ended up lost for weeks at a time, unusable even for that one basic function.

But a smartphone felt like a totally unnecessary, decadent indulgence. How could I possibly justify spending that kind of money on a tech toy?

Then, a month and a half ago, my parents came to visit, and my dad really generously passed on his old iPhone to me. (Which – thank goodness! – comes with a “Find Your Phone” beeper app which has saved it sooooo many times since then. I am not good at remembering where I set things down!)

I was thrilled by the gift…but honestly, I had no idea just how hard I would fall in love with my smartphone, as a writer who is also a mom.

Here’s the thing:

Before I was a mom, I would often get random short story ideas while I was out of the house, because going out – getting outside stimulation – is so good for creativity.

So I’d be out walking around town (or in a forest or a ruined abbey or wherever) when some vague, tenuous glimmering of a story idea would suddenly start to tease at me…and then I would sit down for as long as it took to daydream my way through that thread, and finally I would write out either a paragraph or so about that idea, or else a few paragraphs of basic description of wherever I was, to help myself recapture that mood and moment later.

That was before I had children.

Now I’m the mom of two young children – two wonderful, creative, lively, curious, adventurous, and frequently squabbling young children – and when I leave the house, 90% of the time, either one or both of my kids is with me. That means that 75% of my attention (at the bare minimum!) is focused on monitoring and responding to my kids, and a bare 25% is left to focus on our surroundings.

For the past several years, whenever I’ve been out and had that familiar tingling of my senses that signals a possible story idea in the air…one of my kids needs something that moment. Or one of my kids starts to do something unsafe, and I leap to stop them. Or they ask me a question, or they want me to look at the very cool thing they’ve just done, or, or, or…

And the moment is gone. That tenuous fragment of possibility has disappeared before I could capture it. There is no way I have time, in that situation, to stop, divorce myself from the rest of the world, and dream my way through that fragment of possibility into a real story idea – let alone sit down and write 2-3 paragraphs of description.

So that was it, for years…until my smartphone arrived!

Guess what? There’s a reason it’s so great to have a camera in my phone…because unlike my regular camera, I carry my phone with me all the time nowadays.

Sometimes (okay, most of the time) I just pull it out to take a quick snap of my kids, because they’re adorable and I want to capture the moment.

Sometimes, too, I pull it out when I’m away from my kids and I see something I want to share with them:

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(I can’t even tell you how many times my 2-year-old has asked to look back at that photo of a neighborhood cat that I took almost two months ago! The kids still haven’t met up with the cat themselves, but MrX asks to see the picture of “that cat neighbor” on my phone all the time!)

But then there are moments like the one that happened the other night.

I’d taken the kids around town all afternoon, running errands and eating in cafés and attending clubs. At the end of it all, in the early evening, we wandered down to wait by a nearby stream for Patrick to come pick us up. I’ve been to that stream many times, but this time, as I looked into it with the kids, I felt a sudden tingle – a story possibility, hovering there. I almost had it…

“Mummy! He took my stick!”

I defused the situation, I looked back at the stream, and as my kids raced along the bank of the stream, I realized that there was NO WAY I could take the time to sit down, pull out a notebook and write a description of what I was looking at, to capture that atmosphere and moment for good…

Aha!

I pulled out my phone.

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It’s not a great or artistic picture – but there it is! My moment, captured. I look at that picture, and I have the story in my head.

And OMG does that make a difference for me!

So in other words, years later than all the rest of my friends, I’ve finally realized: you were all right. Smartphones aren’t just fun tech toys. They’re amazing.

And Dad, thank you so much. That was a really great gift!

Now I’m going to do some more writing before it’s time to take over with the kids again. :)

Reddit AMA today!

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Hi guys!

This is just to let you know that you can Ask Me Anything over at Reddit today between 3-5pm EST (a.k.a. 8-10pm UK-time).

Here’s the link to the AMA.

I’ll be there answering questions from 3-5 EST, but if that time doesn’t work for you, don’t worry! You can post your questions to that forum earlier in the day and I’ll answer them as soon as I get there. (The link should stay up afterwards, so you’ll be able to read the whole AMA at your convenience.)

Meanwhile, I’m spending today playing frogs with my two-year-old, packing for an upcoming family holiday, and sighing happily over more photos of Masks and Shadows in the wild. (This one is from a B&N in New Brunswick, and the placement made me ridiculously happy!) (Lois McMaster Bujold’s book next to mine! Ahhhhhhhhh!) (Oops. Please excuse the squeaking noises over here… ;) )

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Please keep those photos coming! They are making me so happy.

And thank you so much to everyone who’s already reviewed Masks and Shadows. I appreciate it SO MUCH!

The Great Unboxing

- 6 comments

Aaaaahhhhhh! My author copies of Masks and Shadows arrived today!

(And can I say just how much I love that my author copies always seem to arrive while my parents are visiting me? Thank you, Universe! That is a really, really nice touch. :) )

Poor Mr D is still sick home from school, but at least that meant that he got to supervise the unpacking of the box, which he did with great authority. He would not be photographed, but he was very involved in the unpacking! :)

And here are the photos I did take:

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So many gorgeous books! As soon as the box was opened, Mr X said: “Your books!” Then he pointed to the author photo on the back of the book. “That’s you, Mama!” And to the next one on the next copy: “Again!”

Then he presented me with a whole book for a picture:

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(Please ignore the bits of play-dough on the floor! The boys were in the middle of a building session when I interrupted them to unpack my books.)

And finally I got to hold one myself:

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There’s lots of work still left for next week’s house move, and the M.E./CFS is being a total pain, but…

Today, I am very, very happy. :)

(And don’t forget that you can read Chapter One of Masks and Shadows now!)

ETA: And Patrick reminded me that I ought to put the pre-order links here, too, for anyone who wants a copy of their own!

Standing in the TARDIS

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Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!

Today Patrick and I got to walk around the actual TARDIS set in Cardiff, and I am still giddy with delight!

Here’s how it happened:

A few weeks ago, I booked a trip to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff (which we’d never visited before) as a belated birthday treat for Patrick. (It is one of the great joys of my life that I married a man for whom this would be a great gift…because OMG do I love Doctor Who! So I was really excited about getting to go with him!) The Doctor Who Experience is a museum of props, costumes, and old Doctor Who sets, and it also includes a fun half-hour interactive experience where you have a mini-Doctor Who adventure.

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If we’d just gone to the Doctor Who Experience, on its own, we would have had a great day. It was so much fun to get to see all those monsters and props and sets in person, the adventure was silly and awesome, the whole thing was creatively inspiring, and I would have been thrilled just to do that…

But a few days after I originally booked the tickets, I got an email from the booking agency, saying: “The BBC has just opened up the TARDIS set for tours from February 20 through March 6. Would you like to upgrade your tickets?”

OH. MY. GOD.

Would we????????????

It was incredible.

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Honestly, I expected the TARDIS to feel like…well, a set! I figured it would look right on one side, but be all plywood on the other sides.

I was so wrong.

When you step inside, it really, genuinely feels as if you’re stepping into the TARDIS. It feels utterly real all around you, in every direction! Apparently, it took them 6 months to build this set, and it shows. Everything about it feels like you could just move in.

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The books that fill the bookshelves above the main control center are real books (selected by Peter Capaldi). Nothing looks fake.

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We were standing in the TARDIS.

And it was incredible.

Today, as we ate lunch at the museum cafe after the Doctor Who Experience, before the set tour began, I found myself remembering that one night, about 32 years ago, when my family stopped at a motel somewhere in the American southwest, in the middle of a week-long roadtrip. We turned on the TV…and I saw a show I’d never seen before.

I’d never seen anything LIKE it before.

It was Doctor Who. (The Tom Baker regeneration.)

It was AMAZING.

We watched two episodes in a row. By the end of the second episode, I was in love. My best friend and I watched every episode we could. She had a Doctor Who board game and a trivia book that we pored over.

Today, not only did I get to see one of the costumes Tom Baker wore in that very first episode that I ever watched, but I got to stand in the current TARDIS set and actually feel like I was standing in the TARDIS.

It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.

And while Patrick and I didn’t get any of our own writing done today, despite looming deadlines for both of us…we both agreed that this was one of the best things that we’ve ever done for our writing. Because: oh, wow, was everything about that trip a potent reminder of the power of stories and storytelling! For about 50 years now, groups of amazing, talented people have been working together to create this fabulous imaginary world and character that millions of people want to be true.

We got to stand in the room where it happens…

And oh was that inspirational.

I’m still giddy. :)

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(And you can see even more pictures from today in this photo album.)

Last Week, Family Love, and a Call for Votes

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It’s our last week in America. Wahhh! But it’s been a really good week so far. Yesterday morning I got to meet up with an old friend in the park where we both played as kids, and we shared a picnic with all of our children. The day before yesterday, I celebrated a whole bunch of really wonderful professional news (which I hope to be able to share here sometime in the next few months!) by eating ice cream with my family, then going out to dinner with my oldest friend at a really great Mexican restaurant. We sat in an outdoor booth on the rooftop while sparrows flew around the tables, and talked about everything.

And oh, thank goodness, I finally got some new author photos, with a LOT of family help. Can I say just how grateful I’ve been for all of my wonderful sisters-in-law over the years? My last author photos were taken by my sister-in-law Gail (a former professional photographer, now anthropologist), back in Leeds six years ago, and she went make-up shopping with me first, loaned me her straightening iron for my hair, and generally talked me through the whole process of getting ready for a professional photo.

This time, it was even more of a full family process, because my mom (an amazing photographer who has had photos on magazine covers) took the photos for me, and my sister-in-law Jenn not only went make-up shopping with me to help me pick out what I needed (and loaned me her straightening iron! thank goodness my sisters-in-law are all more prepared than I am), but also finally put on my eyeshadow for me when I gave up, since I am totally clueless in the whole cosmetics department.

99% of the time, I go without makeup and feel good about it. But every so often, I really want to wear it, and I am so glad to have fabulous, supportive women in my life who are willing to step in and help me when I need it! And oh, is the whole process of photo-taking so much more fun when I’m hanging out with people I love and laughing through the process. I tend to get really self-conscious about having photos taken, but getting them taken with Mom and Jenn was just perfect.

If you read this before the end of August 19th, I’ll still be trying to narrow down my choices – I need to send two photos to the publishers of my upcoming adult novel, and I’m trying to decide among three finalists:

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If you have any opinions, voting is not only allowed, it is hugely encouraged! I would love any help, and people are already voting over on my Facebook page. (But if you read this after the 19th, I will have already sent off the photos, so it’ll be too late.)

Right now, I’m figuring out the stories of two different novels, in different genres, that I want to write…I’m trying desperately to read as many library books as I can before I have to return them all in the next few days…and I’m trying to fit in as much hanging out with old friends and family as I possibly can, while knowing that it will never feel like enough.

But I’m so glad to be here!