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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!
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!
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).
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! :)
Last night I finished Seanan McGuire’s fantastically fun urban fantasy novel Chaos Choreography (see my Goodreads review here), which is set in the midst of a reality TV show dance competition. The dancing was so vividly described, I kept wishing I knew exactly what the songs sounded like – so I was thrilled to find a playlist of songs the heroine had danced to at the end of the book. It was exactly the perfect way to round off that particular reading experience!
Right now, because I’m reading a paranormal romance with a Canadian violinist heroine, I’m listening to Canadian violinist Lara St. John’s classical/New Age/world-music fusion album Re: Bach, which reminds me of the musical style described in the book (as well as her breathtakingly gorgeous album of Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, just because I was reminded of how much I love that album).
So in other words, I’ve been thinking a lot today about the connections between music and books, and how nice it feels as a reader to get to enjoy both of them together!
Of course, my own most musical book was Masks and Shadows, which had a castrato singer as the hero and a setting at Haydn’s opera house at Eszterháza Palace. Yesterday, my sequel short story, Shadow Duet, came out into the world as a 99c/99p ebook. Hooray! So I thought I’d mention a couple of musical recommendations to go with it.
As with Masks and Shadows, I would absolutely recommend listening to the soundtrack for the film Farinelli, because that’s the closest approximation we have so far of what a castrato singer in his prime would have sounded like. (Also, it is just gorgeous music!) However, all of the music in that soundtrack comes from earlier in the century than “Shadow Duet,” which is set in London in 1781 (18 months after the end of Masks and Shadows). So for a period-specific music recommendation, I’d recommend Haydn’s six Op. 33 string quartets, which are wonderful.
I always keep a specific playlist of music as a soundtrack for each different writing project I work on, to get myself into the right mindset for that story every time. I haven’t always shared those playlists here, though, and I think I’m going to get better about doing that! I’d also love to hear about any music you ever looked up or listened to just because of a book you read – or any music that just feels linked to any particular books or stories for you. I love those literary/musical combinations!
If you see it on a North American bookshelf, will you please take a picture? I really want to see it there!
I would love to hear what you think of the book once you’ve read it. And if you can take five minutes to post an honest review on Amazon after reading it, I would be incredibly grateful. Even a one-line review is really helpful!
Don’t forget to pick up a hot chocolate recipe on my website so that you can drink while you read! I’ll be celebrating at home today with two of my favorite birthday gifts, which seem very, very appropriate today. (Just click on the photo to see a larger image!)
This is my first new MG novel to come out in North America in over four years (!!!), so this is a VERY big day for me. And oh, you guys, this is such a book of my heart – full of hope and love and dragons and chocolate! I am so excited to FINALLY be able to share it with you. :)
(But whoops, that all got a lot more rhyme-y than I’d intended. Sorry! I’m a little bit giddy right now, as you can probably tell. But the book itself doesn’t rhyme, I promise! ;) It’s not that sort of book at all, as you can tell if you read the first chapter.)
It all started late one night, about 2 years and 4 months ago. I’d finally, finally gotten my younger son (still a baby) to sleep, so I’d turned off the light and was just starting to fall asleep myself (and oh, I DESPERATELY needed that sleep, by then!)…when suddenly an opening and a heroine flashed simultaneously into my mind.
A delicious opening.
A wonderful, fierce dragon-girl.
A passion for chocolate.
I couldn’t wait. For the first time in months, I didn’t even care about sleep!
I jerked upright, opened up my laptop, and with the light from the screen casting an eerie glow through the darkened bedroom, I started to type.
Once I’d finished writing down the first scene, I went to bed smiling, with all the different characters playing through my head all night long.
I am so happy that I finally get to share them with you guys!
The Bookseller calls it an “irresistible fantasy adventure”; School Library Journal calls it “a delicious fantasy treat that will satisfy readers who hunger for feel-good tales that pack a girl-power punch, like Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted or the movie Moana“; and in a lovely, serendipitous book-birthday gift, the UK’s Reading Agency has just selected it (in an announcement made today!) for this year’s Summer Reading Challenge (a program my own kids take part in every year through their local library – so I am REALLY excited to see my book on this list)!
You can find The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart (or request it) at any physical bookshop in the UK, and you can order it from any online bookseller. I’m afraid there’s a little longer still to wait for Australians (who will get it on March 1st) and North Americans (who will get it on May 30th)…
…But if you do read it now, will you please let me know what you think? I have been waiting SO LONG to talk about it with you guys! I want to know who your favorite characters are! And what your draconic passion would be! (Trust me, that question will make far more sense once you’ve read the book. I promise!)
And if you’re able to take the time to write even just a very short review on Amazon or elsewhere, I will be so very grateful. ALL reviews, good and bad, make such a huge difference to a book’s success!
And I ALWAYS love seeing pictures of the book out in the wild. :)
Sadly, my poor 8-year-old is home ill today, so I can’t go out to celebrate the official book birthday. But I can’t wait for the launch party on Saturday – I’d love to see any of you guys there! And today, I’m having a yummy at-home party courtesy of my agent, as you can see. Mmmmm! The perfect way to celebrate this chocolate-filled book.
Thank you guys so much for celebrating with me. Chocolate to everybody!
Every year, I tell myself that I’ll (somehow) get loads of writing done over the children’s school holidays. This year, I tell myself, I’ll definitely find a way!
And every year…
Quite. We’ll just leave it there, shall we? ;) (…says the woman who’s managed a grand total of 430 words over the past 3 days…ah well.)
To comfort myself, though, I’m choosing today to post my yearly list of publications. (Because seriously, I need to remind myself today that it has been a productive year, even if the next few weeks won’t continue that trend!) So here they are:
Masks and Shadows – Opera, alchemy and romance in an 18th century Hungarian palace, published by Pyr Books
Congress of Secrets – Disguises, deceptions, dark alchemy and unexpected romance at the Congress of Vienna in 1814, published by Pyr Books
“Flying Magic” – my Kat-all-grown-up-with-kids-of-her-own short story, self-published as a free ebook and also free to read online
Now I’m 3/4 of the way through the first draft of my adult fantasy novella, Snowspelled, I should be getting an edit letter for my MG spies-and-fairies novel sometime in the next month, and I’ve just started writing the MG novel that will probably come after that. (Grumpy princesses, inconvenient giants, philosophical dragons, and complicated sister-relationships ahoy!)
So, OK. Even if I don’t manage to get too much written over the next 2-1/2 weeks while the kids are off school, things will probably Be Okay.
Now it’s time to dive back into frantic Christmas preparation (because that is a VERY pressing deadline right now).
PS: Have you seen the movie Moana yet? Go see Moana! It made me SO happy, and our whole family loved it so, so much. The boys and I have been listening to the soundtrack almost nonstop ever since, and I’m already plotting a second trip to the cinema to see it again. MOANA!
Hooray! Editor (and writer!) Heather Shaw has just launched a fabulous new magazine, Persistent Visions, and the very first short story they’re publishing is my funny werewolves-in-Pittsburgh story, “Pack Dynamics”! This is a Meet the Parents story gone wrong…with werewolves! It’s set in a neighborhood where I used to live (Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh), and it was so much fun to write.
Thanks so much to Heather for buying it, and to my brother Ben for inspiring this story as a Christmas gift! (He asked for another urban fantasy story in the same vein as “Undead Philosophy 101”, my vampires-in-East-Lansing story, and this was the result!)
That’s not the final cover of the book – that pot of enchanted hot chocolate actually comes from the back cover of the final book! :) – but I adore it. And the UK cover artist, Freya Hartas, has also done gorgeous interior chapter-header illustrations that will probably appear in both the UK and US editions. She shared one of them here!
Now Patrick and I are about to go out to celebrate our (belated) wedding anniversary, which got delayed this year due to kid-illness and deadline stress. But we’re not waiting any longer! It’s time for movies and anniversary goodness. Hurrah!
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!
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:
Wooot! My YA Victorian gothic fantasy novelette, House of Secrets, is out today!
I wrote this one just for fun, to stretch myself by experimenting with a new style (moody, gothic, and intensely atmospheric)…and, of course, to distract myself from worrying about whether or not a particular book of my heart would sell. (And hey, that book was The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart, which comes out next spring – so, there’s a double happy ending there!)
I had so much fun writing this novelette. I hope you guys will enjoy reading it! You can find an excerpt here on my website or buy the ebook at any of the usual online retailers. (And if you don’t have an e-reader, you can buy a printable PDF at Smashwords, too.)
In other news, we’re hurtling towards the end of the school year over here…and our upcoming trip to America! We’re spending our summer holidays there with my family, of course, but Patrick and I will also be doing a public event in August at my wonderful hometown bookstore, Schuler Books, along with fellow authors Jim C. Hines and Merrie Haskell – both of whom are not just great writers but also personal friends. So I really can’t wait! You can see the details here.
It’s all really exciting, but ohhh is there a lot that has to be done here first, from house-cleaning to child’s-birthday-party-hosting, packing and more – and my very top priority is getting a full draft of my MG spies-and-fairies novel finished! I wrote an incredible (by my standards) 3641 words on Monday, racing through the main climax of the book…and then had a horrible realization, Monday night, that I had gone in the wrong direction. Whoops!
So yesterday morning I backed up 3 chapters, re-plotted, rewrote (writing 3175 new words in the process)…and now I have just one scene left. So so so close! I’d love to finish the book today, but my older son has a playdate, the whole house needs cleaned beforehand…etc. We’ll see! But no matter what, this book IS going to be finished this week. I am determined!
And there are just two more days until the Congress of Secrets cover will be revealed on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. I can’t wait! Not only is it a great cover (by the same designer who created Masks and Shadows’s cover), but I am bursting to share photos of the first 2 ARCs that arrived here yesterday. It’s all becoming so real!
I have a book to finish, a house to clean, suitcases to pack, and more…
But because this is House of Secrets‘s release day, I’m going to be totally self-indulgent and post the blurbs that I’ve gotten for it here, just because they make me happy. Here they are:
“An atmospheric tale of family, dark magic, and the thirst of one girl to determine her own destiny.”
– Aliette de Bodard, author of The House of Shattered Wings
“A romance fit for fantasy and Gothic lovers both! Chilling, suspenseful, and extremely satisfying!”
– Tiffany Trent, author of The Unnaturalists
“A perfect gem of Gothic fantasy.”
– Beth Bernobich, author of The Ghost Dragon’s Daughter
“With its slowly unfolding mystery and atmospheric magic, House of Secrets kept me entranced until the final page. I loved the moody setting, the dark, unexpected turns in Lily’s story, and Stephanie’s rich and straightforward prose. It’s like a delicious slice of Gothic pie!”
– Page Morgan, author of The Beautiful and the Cursed
PS: As usual, any reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or elsewhere would be hugely appreciated – but no worries if you don’t have the time or energy. Most of all, I just hope that you’ll enjoy the story!
Wooooot! Patrick’s standalone YA novella, The Dinosaur Hunters, is out today! I love this story SO MUCH. It’s a witty, exciting Agatha Christie-style mystery set on Regency Mars WITH DINOSAURS and a fabulous cross-dressing heroine. It is absolutely my catnip!
You can read my full Goodreads review here, but as a quick sum-up, I’ll just say: I feel 100% confident that if you enjoyed my Kat books, you will LOVE The Dinosaur Hunters!
So I asked Patrick to do a guest blog for me here, so I could share an excerpt of the piece with you guys. Here he is!
When I wrote my first novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, and its sequel, The Emperor of Mars (due out next year), I got to do one of the things I love doing most: building a whole world, with its own history, alien creatures, and strange technology. Being able to create such a wild, unlikely, and (hopefully) believable world gave me the chance to let my creativity run free, as well as to pay homage to some of the books and stories that I most loved when I was a teenager.
Even though my characters don’t encounter it all in the novels, I had great fun with this version of Mars. There are great swathes of the world they don’t visit and of history which they don’t know about or which they completely misunderstand. And the wonderful thing about creating a world like this is that it cries out for more stories. My characters in Secrets of the Dragon Tomb and The Emperor of Mars are dealing with the biggest events of their era and uncovering completely unexpected secrets.
But out there, other people are having adventures. They’re dealing with their own crises, tracking down murderers and thieves, and discovering their own secrets. That’s why I decided to write The Dinosaur Hunters, and why I’ll probably write more novellas in this world.
In the novels, dinosaurs are oddly absent. There are pterodactyls and plesiosaurs, but no actual dinosaurs. So now it’s time for us to visit those dinosaurs and get caught up in a deadly conspiracy. Welcome to The Dinosaur Hunters.
Harriet George had been dressed as a boy for the last week, and she still wasn’t sure her brother-in-law had noticed.
“The thing is, Harry old thing,” the Honorable Bertrand Simpson said as he hunched morosely over his twelfth cup of tea that morning, “disguises are such dashed confusing things. Can’t tell if a chap is a chap or, you know, another chap.” He stirred his tea listlessly.
It had never been entirely clear to Harriet how her brother-in-law had managed to work his way up to the post of Inspector in the Tharsis City Police Service. As far as Harriet could tell, Bertrand had never solved a single case in his entire life.
Unfortunately, Harriet suspected that she wasn’t the only one who had figured that out. It was the only reason she could think of as to why Bertrand had been given the job of capturing the Glass Phantom. The Glass Phantom had evaded police forces in France, Austria, Britain, and Chinese Mars. He’d helped himself to the Crown of Charlemagne from under the nose of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard and had stolen the Orlov Diamond from the Imperial Scepter of Catherine the Great. No one with an ounce of common sense would risk their career tracking down such a notorious and difficult-to-catch jewel thief.
Which was why Bertrand, who wouldn’t have recognized an ounce of common sense if it had fallen into his morning tea, had leapt on the offer like a piranha-mouse on a stray muffin.
Bertrand came from a good family – his father was the fifth Baron Heatherstone – but his family’s estates on Earth had long ago been sold off to pay their debts. Bertrand’s father had brought the family to Mars to seek his fortune on a new world, but it hadn’t made any difference, and Bertrand scarcely had a penny to his name. In his position, he should have married a young lady with a good dowry. Instead, he’d married Harriet’s older sister, Amy. If it hadn’t been for Bertrand’s job, Harriet was certain they would have starved within the year.
And then, five years ago, Harriet and Amy’s parents had died, and Amy and Bertrand had taken Harriet in. She knew it had been hard for them, and she knew they’d given up a great deal for her. She owed them everything.
When Bertrand failed to catch the Glass Phantom, he would lose his job and it would be an absolute disaster for them all.
Harriet would not allow that to happen.
“You know, the Glass Phantom might not actually be in disguise,” Harriet said, trying to cheer her brother-in-law up. “I mean, why would he?”
Bertrand groaned. “That makes it even worse. If he’s not in disguise, how am I going to tell who he’s not disguising himself as?”
Which, Harriet thought, summed up rather neatly why her brother-in-law never actually caught anyone.
To make matters worse, now that Harriet had turned sixteen, Amy was determined to make a good marriage for her, a prospect that Harriet regarded with complete horror. Within a year – two at the most – she would be expected to “come out” in Society, find a husband, and live the life he chose for her. She was already thoroughly fed up with the bother of being a girl, and this was the final straw. She’d never seen the point of sewing or playing the pianoforte or endless, tedious social visits to neighbors, and what was more, she had very little interest in young gentlemen. If she was entirely honest, very few young gentlemen showed any interest in her, either. But Amy had set her heart on Harriet marrying well. She seemed to think she owed it to their late parents, and Harriet couldn’t live off Bertrand’s generosity forever, particularly if he lost his job.
Which left Harriet with only one option: she would have to solve the case for Bertrand, and she would have to prove to her sister that she could support herself without a husband.
Patrick Samphire started writing when he was fourteen years old and thought it would be a good way of getting out of English lessons. It didn’t work, but he kept on writing anyway. He has lived in Zambia, Guyana, Austria and England. He now lives with his wife, Steph, and their two children in Wales, U.K. He has published almost twenty short stories for adults and writes fun, funny, exciting books for middle grade readers. His first novel was Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.