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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…
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!
It’s been a busy, chaotic set of school holidays – but then, I’m not sure we’ve ever had any that weren’t! Still, 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!)
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. ;)
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!)
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!
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 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.)
For the last several years, I’ve been linked into social media for most of my waking hours. Sometimes I worried about whether I was too linked in, but mostly I enjoyed the connection too much to worry about it.
This weekend, though, I finally downloaded the SelfControl app to cut the link, because in a time when a LOT of us are feeling anxious, that constant feed of (completely justified) anxiety was sending my own emotions skyrocketing out of control.
Now I’m using SelfControl to turn off Twitter and Facebook for all but half an hour a day. Half an hour is long enough for me to check in; it’s enough time for me to see most of my friends’ activities online and also keep up with the serious issues that people are bringing up for our attention.
Every day by the end of that session, I try to take at least one positive action (whether that’s phoning my congressman, donating to a cause, signal-boosting a petition, or…) to fight against my biggest fears.
But then I turn off the feed, because otherwise, I get so overwhelmed that I can’t do anything but worry. And that’s no good to anyone.
The next time I buy a piece of jewelry with words on it, the words may well be: Write Your Own Escape. Writing has been what’s saved me this past week. I’m over a third of the way through my novella Snowspelled, which has the fun, frothy feel of a grown-up Kat story (although it’s set in a different, alternate historical version of Regency England with completely different characters). It’s full of powerful women, magic, sisterhood, families, romance, and hope. I’m trying to write as much as possible of it before the edits for my next MG book arrive.
I hope that when it’s ready for you guys to read (sometime next year), it’ll give you a feeling of escape and hope as well.
And when it comes to the book of mine that just came out – Congress of Secrets was reviewed in Paul DiFilippo’s column for Barnes & Noble, and it’s a wonderful review! He called it “The Count of Monte Cristo meets Darth Vader,” which of course made me happy – and here’s a snippet from the review:
Burgis’s recreation of period Vienna is sensual and vivid, stemming from much good research and from personal familiarity with the modern city. She does not betray the authenticity of her historical figures, and renders her imagined folks thickly enough to go toe-to-toe with the big guys. The reunion and subsequent love-hate relationship between Carolina and Michael is sweet and teasingly well done. Suspense and thrills abound in what is essentially a caper novel. But Burgis also layers in some potent subtext about authoritarianism and the freedoms we take for granted.
And more to the point: look at Caroline on that front cover! I love, love, love the way this cover portrays her strength, her cool calculation in the midst of high intrigue, and her utter determination to carry her plans through, no matter what.
I finished the (very rough, and VERY different from the final version) first draft of this book on April 6, 2006. It wasn’t ready for publication then; I wasn’t ready, as a writer, to give it all the layers that this story really deserved.
Now, though, over ten years and six months (and many, many intense re-drafts) after I typed “THE END” in this manuscript for the first time: just look at all those finished copies!
I can’t wait to finally share it with you guys. Less than two weeks to go before publication day! :)
Of course, Congress of Secrets is a standalone novel. You certainly don’t need to read Masks and Shadows beforehand; it’s set 35 years later, in a different city, and there aren’t any shared characters between the books. But! If you’d like something else to read before CoS comes out, and you haven’t read M&S already…
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:
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…
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! :)