Sand & Storm Review

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An enchanted desert … an arranged marriage … a looming apocalypse …

Student mage and amateur archaeologist Faryn is off to excavate dragon coffins—right after she exposes a local factory for animal abuse. Then activism gone awry lands her on the doorstep of Shaun Valerian—her professor of magic and secret crush—and Faryn stumbles into a conspiracy whose stakes are nothing less than control of the world’s magic. But epic battles pale next to the chemistry flaring between herself and her professor.

On the other side of the empire, lonely heiress Cora has turned herself inside out to make a success of her arranged marriage. But when her new husband cancels their honeymoon to drag her into the middle of a desert, then loses her, Cora ends up spending her wedding night with another man—a very powerful, very attractive man. And as destiny thrusts her into the center of the battle for magic, Cora finds herself torn between duty and desire.

To survive the coming storm, Faryn and Cora must stretch their powers and wits to the utmost. But to choose the right man, they will need something even stronger than magic.

***

I don’t generally do book reviews on this blog, but I am making an exception in the case of Sand & Storm, by Stella Dorthwany. I was sent an ARC of this book, and ended up devouring it. The story swept me up right away, and I couldn’t put it down. Between the richness of the prose, the vivid characters, and the tightly-paced plot, I had to keep going to find out what would happen next. I agonized with Cora over the troubles with her marriage, and cheered with Faryn as she sharpened her wits against conspirators and love interest alike. The denouement had me on the edge of my seat, and while it wrapped up satisfactorily, I’m already waiting for Book 2!

If you enjoy clean, romantic fantasy, hop on over to Amazon and pick up Sand & Storm! I am quite certain you won’t regret it.

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Magic & Mayhem Release Date

And we have a date!

Magic & Mayhem, the Whitney & Davies short story collection, will be available on April 7! That’s less than two weeks away!

4 exciting new short stories set in the magical England of the Whitney & Davies series! 

The Third Thief: Maia Whitney has returned home for her sister’s wedding determined to stay aloof from family dramas. Alas, the disappearance of a valuable and possibly cursed bracelet alters her plans. Can this magician’s apprentice solve the crime and save her sister’s wedding from doom and disaster?

Many Magical Returns: On Susannah’s seventeenth birthday, she learns why her mother has always insisted she never use magic in front of Uncle Ernie. Escaping her uncle’s greed and learning magic on the run are tall orders, but one thing is certain: this is a birthday Susannah will never forget.

Passion & Practicality: Steady, sensible Evelyn has always looked after and protected her flighty, feather-brained older sister Violet. So when Violet accidentally kills a man, of course Evelyn is going to take the blame. But her former fiancé Henry, now working for the magicians’ Domestic Protection Agency, has other plans.

Masks & the Magician: Who is the mysterious woman? Is she the Grand Duchess Anastasia, as she claims, or a fraud? The English magician calling himself Merlin has his own ideas, but untangling truth from lie is a difficult task in this mission. When everyone wears a mask, who can be trusted?

I had so much fun writing these stories–two featuring our intrepid detectives from Magic Most Deadly, two with brand-new characters. I am also thrilled to be able to include a sneak peek at Glamours & Gunshots, the next novel in the W&D series.

Mark your calendars for April 7th to receive this next installment of the Whitney & Davies series!

(And might I suggest, if you haven’t read the first book in the series yet, now is a good time to start? It’s only $2.99 on Kindle–an astonishingly good deal for an 80,000 word book. You certainly can read and enjoy Magic & Mayhem without having read Magic Most Deadly, but it will be twice as delightful if you have already been introduced to Maia, Len, and their cohorts.)

Magic & Mayhem

A long time ago–in 2013, which is about 200 years in book publishing reckoning–I published Magic Most Deadly, a fantasy-mystery set in England in the 1920s, described by one reader as “Dorothy L Sayers with magic” and another as “Agatha Christie meets Diana Wynne Jones.” It featured a reverse Tommy and Tuppence pair, where the woman was reliable and practical, ruthlessly logical and devastatingly honest, and the man was impulsive and intuitive, a dreamer and an incurable romantic. Together, they used magic and their own wits to solve the mystery, defeat more than one enemy, and forge a firm friendship.

It didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it did garner a small fandom, and I immediately set about writing the sequel.

And learned the truth of all the statements about second books being so much harder than first books.

It was so hard, in fact, that I finally abandoned it to work on a project-from-my-heart, the recently re-released From the Shadows. With that one finished, I went back to the next Whitney & Davies book.

And promptly hit a wall again. And again.

With the release of yet another non-W&D book this December, the mystery novella Candles in the Dark, my readers might be justified in thinking I had left behind this world, and these characters, for good.

I am here today to tell you that is not the case.

No, this isn’t an announcement of the sequel, although I am in the line-editing stage of that and hope to have it out to the copy-editor soon. What I am announcing is an in-between project, something to both remind readers of this world (and possibly introduce new readers to it), and tide them over until the sequel does come out.

It is …

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Magic & Mayhem, a collection of four short stories set in the Whitney & Davies world (one each featuring our intrepid protagonists, two featuring brand-new characters).

And that’s not all! Magic & Mayhem also includes the first chapter of the sequel to Magic Most Deadly, titled Glamours & Gunshots!

So, my faithful friends who have stuck with this blog and this writing journey of mine for the last five years, your patience will have its reward at last. Four short stories and the sure promise of the next novel in the series.

I don’t have an exact release date for Magic & Mayhem yet, but it will be out soon, and I will update here as soon as I have more solid information.

In the meantime, back to editing I go …

Where Are Your Roots?

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The great lady herself

I follow Susan Cooper’s fan page on FB, and when I saw a couple weeks back that she was going to be doing a book signing/reading/talk in Cambridge, MA, I gasped in delight and immediately told my husband we needed to go. After a bit of comic misunderstanding of him thinking I meant “our” Cambridge, Cambridge, England, and trying gently to remind me we didn’t have money or time for unexpected trips across the channel, and me trying to figure out why he thought we needed to plan so far in advance for a town less than an hour’s drive from us, we got it straightened out and scheduled it in our calendars.

It was rich. It honestly would have been worth flying to Cambridge, England to experience it (plus, you know, Cambridge. You wouldn’t have to twist my arm to get me back there; I’ve missed it every day since we returned from our visit last year). She was so full of warmth and wisdom, joy and humor. I couldn’t even think of any questions to ask during the Q&A session; I just wanted to sit and soak in whatever she had to say, from children’s instinctive aligning with the land and nature versus the adult idea of progress, to her anecdote of CS Lewis and Tolkien teaching them at Oxford to believe in dragons, to her advice for helping reluctant writers.

One thing she said that really struck me was when she spoke of how much her writing is all rooted in a sense of place. The best writing, it’s always seemed to me, does have a rootedness in something beyond the immediate story or theme. For Tolkien, it was language (and myth, and Story, and … look, he had a lot going for him). For Lewis, it was the notion of Truth beyond religious packaging. For someone like Lloyd Alexander, I believe it was joy. Madeleine L’Engle’s work was rooted in the idea of names and naming.

What, I mused on the way home, and that night, and the next day, and on into the next week, is my writing rooted in?

Oh, there’s lots of themes that wind their way through my writing. Joy is a big one (there’s a reason LA is my favorite author of all time). The notion of Story is another, most especially Truth as Story. Finding one’s own place is something else that comes in to most of my stories, whether overtly (as in From the Shadows, where it’s pretty much the whole plot), or more subtly (Magic Most Deadly isn’t quite as blatant, nor is Candles in the Dark, but the idea is there with both of them). Still none of those felt quite like the answer.

The answer in fact came to me just a couple days ago, as we were walking through the nearby bird sanctuary. The setting sun shone a golden, warm light on the fields and trees as we made our way back out of the woods, and I found myself stopping to take pictures, just like I always do, despite the fact that I have dozens if not hundreds of photographs of different qualities of light already.

And that’s when it hit me. Light. That’s what my stories are all rooted in. The idea of light. That’s why I write, to be a light. That’s what I most deeply resonate with. This is what my self is rooted in, so of course it is what my writing springs up out of.

Sometimes it’s a warm light. Sometimes it might be a harsher one, even blinding. Sometimes it’s the sun on the water, sometimes a candle in a window. Whatever the type, that’s where my stories are born.

It seems rather fitting that this revelation should be inspired by the woman who wrote an entire series based around the struggle between the Dark and the Light. Even more fitting that one of the books she signed for me was The Dark is Rising, the first book in that series I ever read.

I am grateful.

(Also on that same day we went to hear Susan Cooper speak I got in the mail the edition of FrostFire Worlds containing my short story “A Spot of Orange”! It is available to purchase at the Alban Lake Shop, if anyone is interested in a copy of their own. fullsizeoutput_3266 It was a really good day.)