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Purring, Baking, and Strange Practice

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It’s a bright, cold day here in Wales, and Pebbles is purring on my chest. This morning, I sent my wonderful agent three chapters and a pitch for a new MG novel that I’m excited about; in a little while, I’ll be getting up to work on some house-cleaning (which, let’s face it, is desperately needed after far too many weeks of family illnesses and several months spent in intense editing mode, when nothing except my book and my kids got any attention).

Right now, I’m enjoying the vibration of Pebbles’s rumbling purr through my chest, and I’m tucked up under my great-grandma’s quilt against the cold. I was up far too early this morning baking last-minute cookies for my older son’s class bake sale; luckily, I’ve been conducting a Great Chocolate Chip Cookie experiment over the last few weeks, trying out lots of different recipes recommended to me on Twitter, so I knew exactly which recipe would be the quickest and easiest.

(My very favorite recipe so far is this one from Smitten Kitchen, but it takes a tiny bit more effort and preparation, and I was too tired to get up any earlier today! Still, you can see photos and read my full report here. I’ve been taking this experiment SERIOUSLY. ;) )

I’m reading Vivian Shaw’s Strange Practice right now, a really fun adult urban fantasy novel set in London and starring a doctor (Dr. Greta Helsing) who specializes in treating supernatural creatures, including the undead. I first heard of it when I read this great interview of the author on Tor.com, and when I saw it in my local bookshop yesterday, I couldn’t resist. If you like Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series, I’m pretty sure you’ll love this one too!

This weekend, I’ll be making my next round of chocolate chip cookies (this time trying a vegan recipe for Patrick’s sake), working on the house, and writing a short-short story about Silke (from The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart) for the winner of my latest short story auction. If you’d like to read it, too, make sure to sign up to my newsletter! I’ll send it out to my newsletter readers one month after my auction winner gets their copy.

Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!

A November Love List

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It’s a chilly grey day here in Wales, and this week has been full of middle-of-the-night child wakeups and even more germs brought home from school by the kids. Soooo…it’s definitely time for me to come up with a Love List, because I need to focus on some good stuff right now!

In no particular order, then, here are some things I’ve loved over this past week:

1. A Māori language version of the Moana soundtrack has been released online! It has some of the same cast members as the original soundtrack (Jemaine Clement, for example – I now love BOTH of his versions of “Shiny”!), some new ones, and a wonderful new cover of “How Far I’ll Go” by Maisey Rika, one of my very favorite singers. My kids and I have listened to the original soundtrack SO often that we have all of the lyrics memorized by heart, and we’ve all loved listening to this new version too. Right now it only seems to be available for streaming, not purchase, in the UK, but if it ever goes up on sale, we will definitely be buying it!

2. Over the past week, my new MG book idea (my goblin girl book!) finally, finally clicked together enough that I could really dive into it, and on the two days this week when both kids were actually in school, Patrick and I went out for two joint café writing dates, my very favorite way to get my writing done. (We sit across the table from each other, drink tea/coffee, eat yummy treats and each get our own work done…which we HAVE to because the peer pressure is intense and EXTREMELY helpful. ;) One of the greatest advantages to being married to another author!) Now I’m midway through Chapter Two and really loving my fierce goblin girl, the snarky cat she lives with, and the Worst Unicorn in the Entire World (whom my Twitter followers helped me name over this past weekend – thanks, Twitter!). (I’m still in the process of dreaming up the story, so it’s way too early to guess when/whether this one will be published, but it has been so much fun to dive into this one!)

3. I am finally reading Robin Stevens’s First-Class Murder (the UK title for Book 3 in her Wells & Wong series), and it is so much fun. Daisy and Hazel on the Orient Express, with all sorts of deliciously sinister characters and so much humor along the way! This is the only one of the Wells & Wong books I hadn’t read yet (I’ve read them all out of order), and it may well turn out to be my favorite. So far, it’s a tight race between this one and Mistletoe and Murder, which is set at Cambridge University over the Christmas holidays – another favorite kind of setting for me! (And you can read my full review of Mistletoe and Murder on Goodreads.)

4. The family finally got out last week to see Thor: Ragnarok, and I loved it SO MUCH! It had even more of the fun zaniness that I loved in the first Thor film (and missed in the second), but it was bigger and better and just outright hilarious – and surprisingly heartwarming, too. Also, the soundtrack was amazing! I am really, REALLY hoping to see it again in the cinema with my nine-year-old once he recovers from his current bug, but I’ve also already preordered the DVD, too. I feel very confident that it will be a comfort re-watch many, many times in the future, the way the first Avengers film has been for me – and it may well be my favorite Marvel film so far.

What about you guys? What little or big things have you loved lately?

Halloween Happiness and Cranky Unicorns

- 0 comments - writing

Happy Halloween! We have two very excited little boys over here, and I’m getting ready to head out with them for trick-or-treating. Sugar buzz ahoy! ;)

We all need this fun, though. In the last couple of weeks, first I got tonsillitis, then both of my kids got sick just afterwards; and all in all, our family had six (!) urgent doctor’s appointments in the space of just six days. Patrick and I had to cancel our attendance at BristolCon, which was really frustrating and disappointing, but it was definitely the right thing to do – both kids were far too ill to be left with any babysitter.

Thank goodness, everyone’s finally starting to feel better now. It’s half-term here in Wales, meaning that there’s no school, so I’m not getting a lot of writing done, but I am playing with the openings for two different possible MG novels (I’m still trying to decide between them right now, but they BOTH involve cranky unicorns, so that part is absolutely happening ;) ), and I’m having a lot of fun with both of them. I’m also partway through a novelette about Amy and Jonathan from Snowspelled (set about 15 years before Snowspelled), which should be coming out in a fun anthology sometime next year. Also also, I’m daydreaming ideas for the short story I’ll be writing about Silke (from The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart AND The Girl with the Dragon Heart) for my auction-winner in the next couple of weeks.

So a lot of writing is on the way, even if half-term holidays mean that not much of it is happening today.

US Cover art by Petur Antonssen

And I had a wonderful Halloween gift arrive today: A Mighty Girl (one of my favorite sites) selected The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart as their Pick of the Day! They called it “a delicious tale, perfect to enjoy with your own cup of hot chocolate. Highly recommended for ages 8 to 12.” Hooray!

Wishing you guys all the Halloween chocolate you want this year. :)

(And PS: if you haven’t read it already, you can read my own Halloween short story, “Clasp Hands,” here. Witches and mothers and powerful aunts! It was published in Daily Science Fiction a few years ago, and if this is your first time discovering it, I hope you’ll enjoy it.)

Happiness and New Story News

- 2 comments - auctions, Short Fiction, writing

Hurrah! At long last, I sent the edited manuscript of The Girl with the Dragon Heart to my editor yesterday – and then promptly collapsed in a puddle of happiness and relief. This was the hardest edit of my life, but it was so worthwhile! I love this book and this heroine so much, and this edit forced me to dig even deeper into Silke and her story. I cried at the ending this time ’round! (But in a good way, I promise – my books are always guaranteed to have happy endings, because I write comfort books, not tragedies).

I really hope that you guys will love it too. I don’t have a specific publication date yet – only probably-the-second-half-of-2018 – but I’ll make sure to update everyone as soon as I find out all the details.

In the meantime, I’m taking a break before the next round of edits arrive in three weeks. (There are always multiple rounds of edits for every published book, from structural edits – the kind I just did, where you’re rearranging big chunks of story, deepening character arcs, writing new scenes, etc – to smaller line edits, then copyedits, first-pass pages, second-pass pages, and more). And because I am a writing-addict/me, I am going to refresh my brain and take that break by…writing something completely different! :) I’ve promised an adult romantic fantasy novelette to a fabulous anthology put together by friends, and this one will star Amy (Cassandra’s beloved sister-in-law) from Snowspelled.

This one is for everyone who’s asked for a prequel story about Amy and Jonathan’s own romance, and it’s full of underwater magic, complicated families, and, of course, the politics of the Boudiccate (since Amy is a born and trained politician). I’m diving into it today!

And for all of your other character/story requests…check out this fabulous auction raising money for hurricane relief for the U.S. Virgin Islands! There are SO many wonderful offerings from authors, agents, and editors – including a brand-new short story commission from me. I’ll write a short story (up to 1,500 words) about any character from any of my published novels or novellas – winner’s choice!

The winner will get to have the story exclusively for 1 month after I send it to them, and even after that month is up (at which point I’ll send it out to my newsletter subscribers and may also publish it as an ebook) every edition of the story will include a prominent dedication, with thanks, to my auction winner.

The auction opens today at 9a.m. EST (2pm UK time) and ends at 9pm EST on Thursday, October 19th. Check it out!

ETA: The auction is open NOW. :)

An Anniversary, A Giveaway, and a Family of Dragons

- 0 comments - giveaways

It’s exactly one month since Snowspelled came out in the world, and in lovely serendipity, today was also the day that it hit the magic number (in the publishing world) of 50 reviews on Amazon.com. (What happens when you hit 50? I’m honestly not quite sure, but it’s a number that’s passed around among authors so frequently, with so much significance, that I really am excited about this.)

In celebration, I’m giving away a signed paperback copy on Twitter! The giveaway is international and open until 8pm (UK time) tomorrow, 5th October.

Seriously, guys: THANK YOU for all the support you’ve given to my just-for-fun, quirky fantasy novella full of elves and trolls, a Regency Angland ruled by the Boudiccate, and loads of romance!

When I first decided to self-publish Snowspelled (because the only trad-publishing options that I could find for such a romantic fantasy novella paid so, so very little), I honestly wondered whether I’d ever make back the money that I spent on commissioning the beautiful cover art. Not only have I already exceeded that by quite a way, but I’m already pretty sure that I’ll be able to ask Leesha Hannigan for another cover for Thornbound, the sequel (coming in 2018)! And if both novellas do well enough, I’ll be able to justify writing the third book in the series, which would make me really happy.

So: thank you to every single person who has bought a copy, taken the time to review it, or spread the word in any other way. I really appreciate it! I love Cassandra Harwood and her family and fiancé, and I am so happy to get to keep on playing in this world.

(In case you’ve ever wondered, my big goal, as a writer, is to publish one MG novel every year and one adult novella or full novel every year. I love both genres too much to want to ever give either of them up!)

Good luck in the Twitter giveaway! And if you’re not on Twitter, never fear – my next giveaway (when we hit 75 reviews on Amazon) will be on Facebook instead. At that point, I’ll be giving away the chance for one reader to pick my next tie-in short story (connected to this series or any other books that I’ve written!) and I can’t wait. :)

And speaking of tie-in stories…I’m sending out a new short story connected to The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart in this week’s newsletter (going out on Friday)! This one was commissioned in the Authors for Grenfell auction this year by a girl who wanted a story about Citrine, Aventurine’s older sister, back when she was young. It’s called “The Dragon with an Unbearable Family,” and it was SO much fun to write. :) If you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up here to read the story for free on Friday! I hope you guys will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Three Piles of Paper – a Story About Editing and an Apology

- 8 comments - writing

Here is a picture of a novel edit in progress. It could also work, I’m afraid, as a cautionary tale about authorial hubris…because after I’d had six novels traditionally published, along with nearly 40 short stories, I’d truly believed that getting edits done in time, when it came to my own work, was just a matter of professionalism and determination and understanding that deadlines matter.

Hahaha! *SOB*

Anyway! The photo:

The pile of pages on the left is made up of the first 62 pages of The Girl with the Dragon Heart, which I completely retyped from my last draft. I printed out the last draft and set it beside me on my desk as I retyped it from the beginning, so that I could work from what I already had but rewrite it throughout, line by line, to amend plotlines/character arcs/emphases, etc, following my editorial letter from my insightful editor at Bloomsbury.

It took me one week to retype/rewrite those first 62 pages, after which, my wrists ached – but it was worth it!

Then…I got to page 63. And from that point onwards, I had to throw out the old manuscript entirely, at least up until p113 of that last draft. I would eventually return to the final third of that draft, but in the meantime, I had to come up with a brand-new middle of the book, from page 63-113, with all-new things happening along the way that would still naturally lead to the same page 113, eventually.

Well.

I started writing that new middle for the book on July 5th, hoping to have the whole novel-edit finished by July 21st – or by the end of August at the absolute latest.

Deadlines matter to me. They really do. Have I ever mentioned that I was an obsessive, perfectionistic student when I was younger, and I always HATED getting less than top marks? (Honestly, anyone who’s been reading my blog for a while could probably guess that for themselves.)

I wrote and wrote. I came up with new plotlines. I forced my characters down them, because I HAD to. I had to get this book done in time for my second deadline, if not my first! I kept on writing new scenes and then completely rewriting them because those first versions felt so painfully unconvincing – but the rewrites didn’t make me feel any happier about the story.

In total, I wrote 20,000 words over the next 5 weeks (which is a record for me – in the last several years, I’ve only managed 10K a month at my best). Every writing session left me feeling horrible. But I didn’t let that stop me from working even harder. I wasn’t some moody artist who would stop just because she wasn’t having fun! I was a professional! I meet my commitments!

…I really hated what I was writing.

And finally, finally, on August 9th, I admitted it: I’d gone in completely the wrong plot-direction. I hated everything new I’d written, and my heroine (whom I adore, and who did not deserve that version of her story) would never, ever have done what I was forcing her to do.

…Which meant that I was about to miss my second deadline in a row, after a career in which I’d prided myself on ALWAYS meeting editing deadlines.

I cried a lot when I figured that out. I apologized to my agent. I apologized to my editor. They were both wonderfully understanding and supportive. My editor did not tell me to cancel my contract and never darken her door again. Instead, she told me that she wanted the best book I could write, not just the fastest.

The pile of papers in the middle of that photo is the all-new middle section of the book, from p63 to p127 (it turned out a little bit longer than planned!), which I finally – FINALLY finished drafting yesterday, September 27th, nearly three months after I first started writing that middle section, and over two months after I’d originally promised to turn in the completed book.

The pile on the right is the final 101 pages of the older manuscript, which I still need to retype and rewrite. (I hope it goes as quickly this time as the retyping and rewriting of the first 62 pages went, all those months ago. Knock on wood!)

That middle section, of course, is all still a rough first draft, which will need to be polished before I can turn in the edited novel.

This has been the most challenging edit of my entire life – made even more complicated by international travel and a series of family health issues across the last few months – and there were SO many points (really up until I finished typing that final scene!) when I wasn’t sure that I could really do it. Yesterday afternoon, when I wrote the final words of my last all-new scene, I had to fight off tears of sheer relief. I kept feeling them burning behind my eyes for hours afterwards. Last night I drank a glass of sparkling prosecco with my dinner to celebrate the achievement – and I still couldn’t quite believe it!

Today I’m getting down to work on the much more usual kind of rewrite for the rest of the book. These last nearly-three months have been brutally stressful, intensely challenging…and they’ve resulted in such a better story for my heroine and for my readers.

I am so grateful to my editor for pushing me to write the best book that I could.

But I am so sorry that you guys are going to have to wait a bit longer than planned to read it because of how long it’s taken me to do it. Bloomsbury was originally planning to publish the two books a year apart, but now, of course, because I’ve taken so long with my edits, we’ll have to wait a bit longer for it to be published on both sides of the Atlantic. I still don’t know the exact publication dates, but I do know they’ll be in the second half of 2018 rather than the first half.

I sincerely apologize for the delay to everyone who’s been so fantastically supportive of The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart. I know you guys have been expecting to read The Girl with the Dragon Heart next spring. I really wish I’d been able to do this faster.

But I can absolutely, 100% promise that you’ll get a better book in the end because of that delay. I hope that you’ll find it worth the wait!

And now I’m getting back to work – because that third pile of paper is waiting for me. :)

Getting Crafty, Tackling Challenges, Reviews and a Reading Rec

- 0 comments - Reading, writing

So. Today is the first day EVER that both of my kids have been in full-time school, and I am…well, honestly I’m in shock. But it’s a good kind of shock! (I think!) ;)

Of course, for as long as I’ve had young children (nearly nine years now!), I’ve thought: Once they’re in full-time school, I’ll get EVERYTHING done! – Whereas actually, today, all I want to do is *flop*…because for the last nearly-4-weeks we’ve had one family health (mini-)crisis after another, and honestly, I’m exhausted.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a parent, it’s that you cannot count on getting any long stretches with both kids in school. If I take a day off just to flop, I’m more than likely to find my next two days lost to the newest set of germs to be brought back home by one of the kids, so…it’s time to get back to work!

But I really do need some tricks and self-persuasions to get it done when I’m so tired. So I’ve gone art-and-craftsy with my rewrites for The Girl with the Dragon Heart. The other day, I printed out my whole manuscript and put it in a box file decorated by print-outs of the cover art – the UK art on one side and the US art on the other. (The one bonus of being late on my edits: I have seen my beautiful cover art already. Talk about the perfect – and most seriously motivating! – art to be able to glance at as I write! :) I truly wish I could share it with you guys here.)

I also have this motivational figurine sitting next to me. She may not have much in common with Silke, my fabulous, tricky, storytelling heroine, but to me, Diana symbolizes the quintessential heroine being told that something is too hard – even impossible – for anyone to ever do…and then doing it. Which – as well as being thematic to my book – is quite a helpful symbol for me as a writer tackling a big rewrite in the midst of health mini-crises, etc! ;) Would Diana give up in the face of any of these challenges? Never. So: onward, Amazons!

And oh, I’m so grateful for everyone who’s already taken the time to review Snowspelled on Amazon and elsewhere! In the last few days, I saw two new book-blog reviews that made me really happy. Writing & Coe said “It’s fairytales, Regency house-parties, feminist worldbuilding and magic all mixed up in a political mystery, along with a large dash of romance – and it’s fabulous.” (Full review here.)

And A Fantastical Librarian said, “When I was sixteen I fell deeply and utterly in love with the writing of Jane Austen. […] Fast forward 22 years and here we are in the present where I fell in a similar kind of love with Stephanie Burgis’ latest novella Snowspelled, the first in The Harwood Spellbook. […] Snowspelled is a delightful start to what looks to be a fantastic series.” (Full review here.)

And for a reading recommendation of my own: have you guys all read Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library series yet? I just finished reading Book One yesterday, adored it (you can read my full Goodreads review here), and have already dived into Book 2 (The Masked City). The Invisible Library really was the most purely fun, witty and delicious fantasy adventure novel for adults that I’ve read in a long time, and I’m so glad to have the next two books in the series already out in the world and ready to devour (with Book 4 arriving in December – so there’s time to catch up now!).

Happy Monday, everyone!

Giveaway Winners, Chocolate Experiments, and a Guest Post

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Huzzah! Random.org (my go-to random number generator!) has chosen a winner of last week’s hot chocolate giveaway, and it is: Rene! And oh, I do love this photo she posted for the giveaway:

What a good dog! :)

My new order of Winter Spice hot chocolate (one bag for me, one bag for the giveaway winner) arrived today from Black Mountain Gold, and it included a lovely surprise – they’d included one of their newest Dragon Bars, Mombar Dragon, with the note that it’s “super healthy and yummy.” Honestly, I was not only nervous but downright skeptical when I looked at the full list of ingredients. I don’t like liquorice in general, and: cumin? turmeric? coriander? in a chocolate bar? really? – but I love Black Mountain Gold chocolate in general, and I wasn’t about to turn down a free gift…so I thought, okay. I’ll just take a small bite.

Guess what? It is, in fact, super yummy. You mostly taste the mint and dark chocolate in the first bite, but then there’s a really unexpectedly pleasant warmth of aftertaste where the cumin/turmeric/etc gives some warm, savory heat that somehow blends beautifully with the sweetness rather than clashing with it at all.

I was only going to take one taster bite, just to sample it, but…well, you can see the situation it’s in now, just ten minutes later. Oops! ;)

(PS: the Mombar Dragon Bar and the Winter Spice hot chocolate aren’t listed on Black Mountain Gold’s website yet, but you can already order either of them by emailing through their contact email address – that’s how I did it! They’re really friendly and efficient – I emailed my order yesterday morning and it arrived less than 24 hours later.)

Thanks so much to everybody who’s already reviewed Snowspelled on Amazon and elsewhere. I really, really appreciate it – every single review makes a huge difference! (I’m crossing my fingers that we might actually hit the magic number of 50 reviews on Amazon this time round – we’re already getting close on Amazon.com! Remember: even one-line reviews like “Excellent” / “Horrible” / “I loved it” / “I hated it and need to drink an ocean of hot chocolate in order to recover from the trauma of reading it!” totally count. ;) )

It’s been getting some really lovely book-blog and other online reviews, too. I was really, really happy to see it reviewed in the latest Book Riot Romance newsletter (a newsletter I’ve subscribed to for ages! so I loved seeing my book there), which said

“The compelling plot and the effortlessly diverse world kept me smiling and sighing in this single-sitting read.”

Hooray!

And today I’m guesting over at Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog, talking about just why Snowspelled was such a personal story for me. This was, to be honest, a very vulnerable blog entry to write – I’m talking there about my own M.E./CFS and the fact that Snowspelled (for all its frothy magical and romantic fun) is the first time I’ve really written about my experience with chronic illness. (This is also – being vague so as to avoid spoilers! – one of the reasons why I’ve been so happy to see people resonating with the ending of the story. It’s very personal to me.) Anyway – check out the blog entry!

And now I’m going to drink some lovely Winter Spice hot chocolate to buck myself up after having exposed my vulnerabilities in public. ;)

Guest Post: False Lights

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Today I’m really happy to host K.J. Whittaker on my blog, talking about the research and worldbuilding she did for her new alternate-history Regency adventure novel, False Lights. I’ve only just started reading False Lights, but I am really enjoying it so far!

(The first sentence of the book is: “Hester killed her first man at Castle Bryher.” So in other words, it is a rollicking adventure from the very beginning!)

This is the blurb for the book:

Wellington is in secret captivity in the Scilly Isles and the Cornish are threatening to join forces with France against the English. Against this tumultuous backdrop, Hester Harewood manages to escape from the French soldiers who have killed her black sea captain father. Her rescuer – Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas – takes her to shelter with his aristocratic family in London.

But soon they are embroiled in a web of treachery and espionage, as plans are laid to free Wellington and lead an uprising against the French occupation. Meanwhile, Crow’s younger brother throws in his lot with the Cornish rebels and threatens to bring Hester and Crow’s elaborate plans crashing down, as this spellbinding story builds towards its violent and gripping endgame.

And here’s KJ’s post:

Research for False Lights
KJ Whittaker

False Lights is an alternative history – in it, Napoleon wins the Battle of Waterloo and Britain is invaded by the French. As we all know, in reality Wellington won that battle and Britain was never invaded, although Wellington did afterwards admit that it was ‘the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life’. But even though I made an enormous change to the face of Europe in False Lights, I still wanted to get the details of the Regency period right as far as I could – as well as find a convincing way of not only allowing Napoleon to win, but also to paint a realistic picture of the battlefield at Waterloo as my hero, Crow, would have experienced it.

I definitely struck lucky whilst researching my Waterloo scenes for False Lights: I was invited to the site of the battle itself by Waterloo Uncovered, a team of archaeologists – many of whom are also veterans themselves. I actually got taken on a tour of the battlefield so that we could figure out exactly where and when Crow would be as Wellington’s defeat gathers pace, even down to the tree-lined drovers’ road he runs down, desperately trying to deliver a crucial message to the Duke. Waterloo occupies an iconic position in English history. Before my visit to the site of the battle, I was in danger of glorifying or even romanticising it. Many of the archaeologists at Waterloo Uncovered are veterans now living with PTSD, and I began to understand what it can really mean to experience a theatre of war – a valuable lesson that changed how I wrote the book.

As for the wider world of False Lights, I’ve been fascinated by the Regency period since discovering Georgette Heyer, the mother of all Regency romances – her novels are whip-smart and very funny, but it’s also clear how much effort Heyer put into carefully researching everything from clothes and modes of speech to the social issues she touched on. Georgette Heyer’s books gave me so many hours of pleasure that I couldn’t resist dipping a toe into the glittering waters of the Regency myself. The more I researched, the more I learned of a dark underbelly to a glamorous world of officers in scarlet regimentals, private balls and debutantes. I inhaled book after book – Napoleonic code, kitchen remedies, poisons, fashions and slang. One of the many books that has really lingered in my mind was a compendium of letters between several generations of Georgian women. For me, it drove home the restrictions even very privileged women lived beneath. Of course, I’d expected to hear that women were subordinate to men, but what I hadn’t truly appreciated until I heard those women’s voices in their letters was how they were expected to always present an amiable face to the world. Women’s thoughts, feelings and emotions were always policed. And these were highly privileged women – life was infinitely harder for others. One of the most profoundly moving research trips I made was to the Black Georgians exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton. I listened to a recording of a first-hand account of children dragged from their parents in a slave-market, likely never to see them again.

False Lights changes history, but like all historical fiction it attempts to recreate a lost world: is it possible to ever really understand how people thought and felt two hundred years in the past? Their attitudes and lives were formed by situations thankfully unknown to most of us, even if you only consider how easy it was for women to die in childbirth, and that a six-year-old child could be hanged for stealing. I did my best to create characters who think and behave as though they were born more than two centuries ago, but also had to treat modern readers with the respect they deserve, without sugar-coating the presence of evil and injustice in our own history.

You English do not like to hear anything bad of your own country, although you are so fond of abusing other nations
—Napoleon, September 4th, 1817

***

About K.J.:

K.J. Whittaker is the Carnegie-nominated author of six YA novels published by Walker Books under the name Katy Moran. She works part-time in a bookshop, and lives in Shropshire. You can find her on Twitter as @KatyjaMoran.

You can find False Lights at Waterstones, Amazon UK, and The Book Depository (with free international shipping).

A Snowspelled Book Birthday and a Hot Chocolate Giveaway

- 6 comments - New Publications

Woooot! Snowspelled is out in the world today, full to the brim of magic, romance and spellcast danger – not to mention scheming lady politicians, bickering gentleman magicians, elves, trolls, interfering family members, and an infuriating ex-fiancé. It was SO MUCH fun to write – I am so happy to finally be able to share it with you guys!

Blurbs for Snowspelled

This novella (or short novel – I’ve never really known which label to give it!) is the first time I’ve mingled the lighthearted, frothy fantasy fun of my MG novels with the intense romance of my adult novels. (This is a novella for adults, not kids, although I think most teens would be just fine reading it.)

I let my imagination go wild, inventing a 19th-century Angland ruled by a group of pragmatic, authoritative women known as the Boudiccate (while gentlemen are meant to stick to magic, due to the “more emotional” nature of their sex) and dived into it as the comfort-writing project when I was horribly stressed by politics last November

It was so much fun to escape into Cassandra Harwood’s world of magic and fun, romance and adventure. I hope it’ll be a fun and comforting escape-read for you guys, too!

For this first week of publication, you can buy the ebook for just $2.99. So if you’re curious about it, do grab it now! And then tell me what you think of it. :) I’ve been waiting for ages to be able to talk about it with you guys!

And…of course I’m holding a giveaway, too!

This weekend I discovered my new favorite hot chocolate mix in the whole world. It’s made by my local chocolatiers, and it’s their Winter Spice blend, which mingles dark chocolate with cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger (!) and more. It is gorgeously delicious, spicy and warming in the best of ways, and the perfect hot drink to accompany this snowy, romantic fantasy novella.

I’ve been drinking it all weekend (sometimes more than once a day, because I couldn’t resist!) and now I’m going to buy another bag to send to one of my readers. All you have to do to enter this giveaway is to take a picture of your copy of Snowspelled (in either ebook or paperback form – I don’t mind which!) and post it somewhere online, whether it’s Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/your own blog/wherever!

Then come here and leave the link to your post in the comments. I’ll pick a random winner next Tuesday, September 12th (to make sure any paperback-buyers have time for their copies to arrive so they can enter, too).

Good luck!

And oh, I really do hope you guys will enjoy Snowspelled. It was so fun to write! I’ve been really, really impatient to share it with you. :)

PS: If you can take the time to write an honest review on Amazon after you finish (even just one line is fine!), I would be intensely grateful. Amazon reviews make a huge difference for visibility – or in other words, for sales and the success of the series! The second novella in this series, Thornbound, will absolutely be coming out next year, but then I’ll have to make some very hard choices about whether or not I can justify taking the time to write a 3rd and 4th story in the series…so, if you enjoy this one, please do tell people about it! :)

Happy Monday!