New and Improved

When our kids were really little – like, baby and toddler – I spoke loftily about how they would always share a room, how even if we lived in a place where they could have their own bedrooms they wouldn’t, that learning to compromise and share and work with another person was so important, and that sharing created a special bond between siblings even if they hated it sometimes.

Then, when they were about five and three and we were living in a house with four bedroom, I found myself putting them in separate rooms. Gracie had started a habit of whispering to her sister half the night, and Joy was getting cranky and miserable from never having a place to go where her sister couldn’t follow. The guest room was transformed into Joy’s room, and life became much happier for everyone.

Now we’re in a two-bedroom apartment, and not-sharing is not an option, though at this point all of us wish it was. Joy is deeply introverted and high sensitive, and is reaching the stage of wanting her space to be neat, tidy, organized, and open. Grace is a chatterbox with no sense of boundaries, and still likes everything she owns to be out all the time, scattered everywhere. Things get tense.

While we can’t give them their own room – and safety rules on campus mean we can’t even let Joy go outside to play by herself – Carl and I did put our heads together to come up with a plan for making life a little better for them.

Behold: desks.

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We cleared out probably half their toys and even some books (weep) and rearranged their room to be able to give them each their own desk, on opposite sides of the room. The desk is each girl’s own space, which the other one is not allowed to touch without permission. Eventually I plan to rearrange the books left in the crates so that the ones that are more Joy’s interest are with her desk, and the same with Gracie.

And we probably lost our security deposit with these, but I don’t even care:

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Above each desk are two shelves, also for that girl alone, for trinkets and special things. And books, of course. The shelves transform the feel of the entire room; I love them so much!

We also bought some rolling carts with drawers, and shallow boxes to go under the bed, and are in the process of organizing their remaining toys so that they are clearly labeled and separated. I’m also thinking of some decorating improvements – new curtains, maybe even an area rug to go over the nasty brown carpet everywhere in the apartment.

It’s not a perfect solution, but what ever is? It’s better than it was, and that’s enough for now. Hopefully, when the girls look back on their years here while Dad was in seminary, the good memories will be the ones that have stuck.

DE Stevenson

“I am grateful for all my blessings; amongst them the Gift of Storytelling, which seems to please and amuse so many people all over the world.”

“It seems to me that this job of interpreting my own people to other people is the most important contribution I can make to the world and to peace.”

-D.E. Stevenson.

I discovered D.E. Stevenson thanks to Goodreads recommending her “Miss Buncle’s Book” to me based on my fondness for Miss Read. Curiously enough, the Miss Buncle series are among my least favorites of her work; I prefer her stand-alones, or the ones with two or three loosely-connected books. However, they were enough to get me intrigued, and now I’ve read everything of hers our library has, and am starting to expand through ILL to others in our network.

Like Miss Read, Stevenson writes stories about ordinary people, stories in which (generally) not a lot happens. Nice, friendly, meandering stories, that give you a glimpse into somebody else’s life and fit into their shoes for at least a few brief moments. Stories which, as a kid, bored me to tears, and now I love.

And along with enjoying her books, I appreciate her philosophy as well. Aren’t those quotes up above lovely? Sums up a lot of my feeling toward writing and storytelling.

So, if you enjoy “quiet” stories, give D.E. Stevenson a try! She wrote dozens of books; if you enjoy them, you won’t run out of reading material for a long, long time. Also? She was the cousin of the great Robert Louis Stevenson!

From the Shadows Cover and Synopsis!

You guys, the time has finally come.

It started as a novella, back last June. After over half my beta readers said, “turn this into a novel!” and I said “no, no, this is fine just as it is,” and then a few weeks later began turning it into a novel, after editing and polishing and more rounds of beta-ing, I am finally close enough to seeing the final product that I think it’s safe to reveal the cover.

I’m excited! I love this story so much. It’s inspired by Star Wars and Star Trek and the Vorkosigan saga and A Wrinkle in Time and Cs Lewis’s Space Trilogy. It’s got moments of pure insane fun, and moments that ripped my heart to shreds when I wrote them. It has a song, of all thing, which I heard so plainly in my head when I was writing it that I started to worry I was unconsciously ripping it off of another artist (I wasn’t; I checked). Naturally I promptly forgot the tune, but I saved the words, and maybe after reading the book some brilliant musician will find the tune again for me. It has shiny silver aliens and humans from every corner of this beautiful planet of ours, a spaceship, honor, friendship, and a heroine who is so very dear to me I sometimes forget she came out of my head, and isn’t real.

My wonderful husband has endured a year of me peppering him with physics questions; my beta readers have endured countless emails from me on it; Amanda of Fly Casual was so gracious toward my finickiness toward every detail of the cover.

I have a projected publish date of November of this year – fingers crossed that we make it, guys – and so, without further ado, here is the cover and official synopsis for From the Shadows.

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it's possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn't sure she's up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try ...

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, widowed folk musician Riss Waldon must first figure out how she got there, and then if it’s possible to get home. Before long, she is visiting strange and deadly planets and meeting new alien races, and forming friendships with the crew. Even as they strive to discover a way for her to return, she wonders if it possible to step out of the shadows of her past life and stay here. But when the well-being of the entire crew rests on her shoulders, she isn’t sure she’s up to the task. What if she fails them? All she can do is try …

Isn’t it gorgeous? Amanda did the cover art for Magic Most Deadly as well, and I’m so in awe of her talent.

Coming soon! Spread the word! It’s gonna be a fantastic ride …

Magic Most Deadly Sequel! (Soon)

Well!

Thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo, I managed to get the entire first draft of Magic Most Deadly’s sequel written in a month. One month! I started at the end of June, and finished right before the end of July. That’s … mind-boggling, really.

Now granted, it’s just the bare bones of the story. It needs about 20,000 more words, not to mention more clues, more suspects, more red herrings, more everything that makes it a mystery. But the skeleton is there, and fleshing it out will be the fun part (is that a gross metaphor? Sorry).

This sequel … I’ve been working on it ever since I published MMD, so … since fall 2013. That’s almost two full years, and it’s taken me this long to get the first draft written. So you can see why I’m pleased.

I like the direction it’s taking Len and Maia – some of the plot twists surprised even me, leaving me scrambling to catch up. I like the character developments, getting to know these people a little more, digging a little deeper into who they are than I did in the first book. And I like the plot, messy as it is right now! I think it’ll be a lot of fun once it gets cleaned up, and I hope will leave readers guessing until the final reveal.

One of the fun things about this book is that I was inspired to break out of my preconceived notions of 1920s England. I did some research, and as a result I get to introduce some new and diverse characters in it. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Julia and Dan and Sgt. Andrews and all the rest from MMD, but it was really exciting for me to broaden my scope and take the notion that magic breaks down class and gender roles, and realize that means that it would also break down racial walls, and then explore what that looks like.

I’ll be doing more posts about the world of MMD and the characters in the upcoming months, as I work on the next draft, so let me know if there are any questions you have or topics you’d like to see me tackle!

For now, I’m taking a little break to let the story settle, and working more on From the Shadows, which I hope to be able to publish late fall or early winter. And I haven’t forgotten about Rivers Wide, either! That’s due to begin serialization also this winter. It’s going to be a busy season, but a fun one!

Camp NaNoWriMo Thoughts

A little under 10,000 words to go on my Camp NaNoWriMo project … I can totally do this.

(Except not if I keep having days where I barely manage to squeak out 400 words, and all of them likely to get cut in the next draft because they’re only filler and/or meaningless dialogue.)

(Taking days off for traveling and sewing is probably not the best plan either.)

I’ve enjoyed my two stints of Camp NaNo this year – in April and now during July – but I’m not sure I’ll do them again. The discipline to write every day has been wonderful, as has the companionship with other writers. On the other hand, the pressure of it meant, back in April, that I wasn’t able to write anything at all for a few weeks after finishing up, and I suspect I’ll have to take a lengthy break in August as well. Which undoes a lot of the good from the month of writing, productivity-wise.

But, like I said, the discipline for writing every day (or almost every day, when I’m not traveling or sewing – sometimes even when I am sewing) has been wonderful, and that is something I am hoping to keep up even after this is done (and after whatever break I need in August). To sit down and write, even if it is a measly 400 words that will get cut in the next draft.

Which is kind of funny, because I’ve talked on my blog here about how the mantra “write every day” isn’t one that works for me. And it wasn’t – at that point in my life, and in my writing journey. And once school starts back up with the kids, it might not be feasible once again. But right now, for where I am at this moment as a writer and as a person, writing every day (within reasonable limits) is right for me.

Isn’t that one of the beauties of being human? We grow and change, and shift, and things that once worked for us do not at a later point, or we might return to them again years down the road. We grow, and our needs and goals grow right along with us. It’s kind of exciting, actually.

So, that’s my main take-away from Camp NaNo this month. That, and writing would be a whole lot easier if life didn’t keep interfering. But then, what would be the point in writing?

Summer Doings

From the Shadows is on its last round of betas before being sent to my editor.

Rivers Wide is a complete first draft, and is simmering before I tackle the second.

I am 5 1/2 chapters in to Magic Most Deadly’s sequel, and the plot just clicked into place while I was preparing supper tonight, leading to a frantic scramble to jot down the outline and how everything connects together while simultaneously not letting the food burn. (The glamorous life of a writer!)

I also discovered Azalea’s Dolls the other day, and have been happily procrastinating whenever I hit a stone wall in my writing by creating dolls of my characters. The options are limited for creating outfits that look even remotely 1920s-ish, but …

Maia Whitney, practicing magic

Maia Whitney, practicing magic

Maia Whitney, dressed up for the Magicians' Ball

Maia Whitney, dressed up for the Magicians’ Ball

Maia's magician friend Helen Radcliffe, also ready for the Magicians' Ball

Maia’s magician friend Helen Radcliffe, also ready for the Magicians’ Ball

 

As you can see, I’m making do.

In other news, we recently spent two weeks visiting family, and one week recovering (i.e, sleeping), are doing our best to keep from melting in the heat, and are planning a fun getaway for next weekend, when Carl and I celebrate our 11th—11th!—anniversary. The kids will go to Grandma’s and pick raspberries and swim in her pool, and he and I shall go to a B&B in the White Mountains, and everybody will be happy, including Grandma. This will be Carl’s and my first time getting away without the kids since having kids. I think it’s time!

I’ve been doing Camp NaNoWriMo again this July, and while I really sputtered with getting started, I’m picking up steam now. I would love so much to get the first draft to MMD’s sequel completed this summer! But we’ll see. Of slightly more importance is making sure this summer is a time of rest for all of us, so that we can face the fall routine gladly when it comes.

Or if not gladly, at least without being so exhausted it makes us want to cry. (Which is what happened to me last year, and which I would really like to not repeat …)

How is your summer going, friends?

Comfort … Snacks?

I loved hearing about all the different comfort drinks that people crave – thanks so much to everyone who chimed in with an opinion! It’s always immensely fun for me to learn about the ways in which people are similar, and where they’re different. (Why no, I’m not a character-based writer at all, *coughcough* yes I totally am.)

Prompted by the variety of comfort drinks people have, I asked on Twitter about comfort foods, specifically snacks, and so of course now I want to expand that here on the blog as well. Dark chocolate is a common theme (count me in on that one), as well as various baked goods.

So, what’s your comfort food, more specifically your comfort snack? That which you eat alongside your comfort drink?

I love food, a lot, so it’s hard for me to narrow it down. Basically, if I can eat it easily in one hand while reading, and it goes well with a cup of tea, I’m going to enjoy it. But like I said above, dark chocolate is definitely toward the top of that list. Scones, also, or biscuits, or homemade bread … I’d better stop there, or I’ll make myself (and all of you) too hungry.

Have at it in the comments! I’m having a blast with these posts.