Sand & Storm Review


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.


New Series Logo!

You might have noticed a change up on top of this website–thanks to my fantastic cover designer Amanda McCrina (side note: you should all go buy her book), I finally have a logo for the Whitney & Davies series!


I wanted something that conveyed both “1920s detective story” and “magic,” and I think this logo definitely does that.

The starburst, or lux fiat spell, if you’ve read Magic Most Deadly, is the first spell Maia masters:

“There is light even in the darkest night,” [Len] said with a laugh. “That sounds like a proverb, but I mean it literally. I felt where the strands of light were, and pulled a few together to make this–which is, by the way, a very useful sort of spell, as you can imagine.

“Imagine drawing bits of pieces of that light to yourself, wrapping it up into a small ball you can hold in your hand. When you are ready, focus everything you have on bringing that ball into existence while using the Latin phrase for ‘let there be light’.”

Maia did so. “Lux fiat!”

Lennox laughed in pure astonished joy, and she opened her eyes.

A silver ball larger than her head hovered above them, illuminating the entire grove with its gleam. Hanging like a miniature moon, it showed plainly the wonder and pride on Maia’s face.

Magic Most Deadly, pg 298-300

That scene is one of the most important in the entire book, and is remembered in an unusual way in the upcoming book-which-I-will-tell-you-more-about-soon … but I won’t tell you how the spell is remembered, I don’t want to spoil it for you! Without me necessarily intending it, the lux fiat spell has become a bit of a trademark of the stories, and so it seemed fitting it should become the symbol for the overall series.

The Whitney & Davies books have been hard to clarify from the start–are they fantasy with a mystery twist? Cozy mysteries with a magical twist? Straight-up Golden Age detective fiction against a backdrop of hidden magic? That last comes the closest to defining them, but boy is it a mouthful. I’ve finally started summarizing them as “Magic and mystery in 1920s England,” and I think this new logo does a wonderful job of conveying that information without me having to use words at all.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

So there it is, a new logo for a series which will continue with the next book soon … more information on that to come after Candles in the Dark is published!


Carry the Light


Dorothy, Betsy, Trot, Ozma

Lucy, Aravis, Jill

Vesper, Eilonwy, Joy-in-the-Dance, Mickle

Eowyn, Arwen, Galadriel

Leia, Mirax, Mara, Iella, Tyria

Janeway, Torres, Seven, Kes


Ista, Iselle, Betriz

Cordelia, Elena, Ekaterin, Tej



In order of when I met them, the ladies of speculative fiction who were formative and transformative to my life, from childhood on to now. They were (and are) friends and companions along the road.

Carrie Fisher brought one of the best of them to life. I’m so sorry she’s gone, and so thankful for what she did in creating Leia. She was much more than Leia, of course–her courage, her steadfastness, her honesty, her humor, her fight, her humanness are all what made her a shining light to all people, whether they loved Star Wars or not. Yet much of that very same personality leaked into Leia, and even as other authors and voice actors and the like developed the character further, Carrie Fisher provided the template.

And she is truly immortal for it. When we look at Leia, we see not only a space princess, but a woman who suffered deeply and loved hugely and kept the faith through it all. We see Carrie. And we pick up the torch and carry it for her. We keep it going.

We create characters of our own to honor her legacy. We speak out against injustice. We make good art. We don’t give way to the darkness. We stand with those who are oppressed. We keep loving even when the entire galaxy tells us to quit. We get angry when we need to. We scorn evil. We bear the light.

That’s what all those ladies at the top of this post taught me, in one way or another. And that’s what Carrie Fisher, very much not a fictional person, did as well.

Thank you, Carrie. We won’t let you down. We’ll all carry a piece of Leia in our hearts, and we’ll teach future generations to do the same.



No, You Move

By now, everyone has heard about the mess Marvel is trying to make of Captain America, right? They’re not exactly being secretive about it. A cynical person might even suspect this is a move driven not by artistic standards but by an attempt to whip up interest and sell more comics.

I haven’t read the comic in question, but in case you haven’t seen the reports all over the internet, [SPOILERS], they have written it as canon that Cap is and has been secretly working for Hydra all along.

I’m just going to come right out and say it: This is not true.

Oh, it may be real. They may be really turning Steve Rogers, Captain America, Cap, into a despicable, worthless excuse for a human being, undoing all the good he’s ever done and ever stood for.

But it’s not true.

You can make up all the lies you want about Steve Rogers and call them canon and sell them and make millions of dollars off of them and even make it so nobody else can legally tell any other story about him—but you can’t make it true.

I don’t care if Steve Rogers is a fictional character. He’s true. Madeleine L’Engle said in her book Walking on Water: “Hamlet is. When the play has been read, when the curtain goes down on the performance, Hamlet still is. He is, in all his ambivalence, as real as Byron; or as the man who cried out, Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief! or as Ivan Karamazov.” There are certain characters, certain stories, that transcend their creator and become true by the virtue of the truth they represent. Steve Rogers is one of them.

I have long held that superheroes are America’s mythology. Great Britain has King Arthur, Robin Hood, St George—we have Captain America, Ironman, Wonder Woman, Superman. They are part of our mythos, they are the stories we tell as we try to shape and make sense of our culture. They both represent who we are and give us something greater to hold on to. Nobody embodies this more than Captain America. Heck, it’s even in his name. (Subtlety: not exactly our strong point, as a culture.)

The difference is, of course, that no matter how many different versions of the King Arthur story people tell, no matter how they change it, no matter how many people portray Arthur as a bad guy, the heart of the legend remains the same. It belongs to the culture, free to be interpreted however people need to interpret it at any given time. King Arthur, whether he was a historical character or not, is true. The idea of a post-Roman, Celtic Arthur fighting for the light in a time of widespread darkness is one that has resonated with me ever since reading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Don’t ever try to tell me he isn’t true. Was he real? Irrelevant.

The difference, of course, is that King Arthur belongs to all of us. Mostly to the Brits, of course, but they are gracious enough to share him with the world. Steve Rogers technically belongs to Marvel. Which means they are free to interpret his character however they want, and even destroy him, and the rest of us are helpless.

Oh, but we aren’t. Because I don’t care who owns the copyright on Steve Rogers, he belongs to us all just as much as Arthur does. Captain America—who can own someone like that? Who can own an ideal? Who can own a myth? Legally, sure. But Cap’s got nothing to do with copyrights and legalities. He transcends that.

So go ahead, Marvel, and say what you want to about Captain America. But you’re wrong, and the story you are telling is wrong, no matter how you may try to spin it later. HydraCap? Never. That’s a cheap move for shock value, and it’s a vile lie. Steve Rogers stands outside your grubby little hands, and is above whatever canon you create for him. Cap belongs to us, to all of us, and we aren’t going to let you try to tear him down. He’ll still be representing the ideals we hold so dear long after you are gone and forgotten. Because he’s true.

Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world—No, you move. (Steve Rogers, Amazing Spider-Man #537)



My good friend A. M. Offenwanger published her third book yesterday! I got to beta read it, and loved it even in its “raw” form; I have a bit of a cold today so I spent all morning curled up on the couch under a blanket reading the published version, and I loved it even more. If you enjoy light fantasy, with close-knit families and warm friendships, where the villains don’t have glowing red eyes and black cloaks and are all the more nasty for their everyday qualities, where a hero doesn’t need a magical sword, just a big heart and courage to do the right thing no matter how big or small … if you enjoy all of that, check out Checkmate and the rest of the Septimus Series!


Greetings and Salutations

Hello! I am here! Did you think I had dropped off the face of the earth? Or the blogging-earth, anyway? (Is that even a thing? Is that like Middle-earth? … sorry, I just finished re-reading the LOTR trilogy, so my mind is a little full of elves, dwarves, Rangers, hobbits, orcs, and Ents.)

I learned something about myself this past year, which is that I am really not a great blog-writer. Non-fiction tends to not be my niche anyway, and blogging, where you have to combine wit and wisdom in a short, snappy post which both enlightens and entertains … I can work at it, or I can accept that it’s not really my preferred area of writing, and spend more time on fiction, which IS.

But I don’t want to never blog, either – much as I enjoy interacting with people on FB and Twitter, blogging is its own unique community which I don’t want to entirely lose – so my hope is to still pop into this ol’ blog once in a while and touch base with you all.

So, once again, hello! How are all of you? We have started the third of Carl’s spring semesters here at grad school (we find ourselves measuring all our time by his school right now), which means it is our second-to-last, and wow. I realized yesterday that this summer will be our last full summer on the North Shore, which is an even bigger WOW. We are keeping busy with homeschool (love our Classical Conversations homeschool co-op we joined this past fall!), ballet and gymnastics (for the kids), trying to stay healthy (Carl and me), being friend- and community-minded (all of us), and for me, of course, writing.

Honestly, I haven’t done much writing since publishing From the Shadows in December. This is not so much of a slump as it just happened – I published the book, we jumped right into Christmas happenings, then we traveled to visit family, then we came back just in time to get back into CC, ballet, and gymnastics, and then Carl’s semester started. It’s been BUSY. But I’m starting to ease back into things, and am working on Magic Most Deadly’s sequel right now. I recently read a poorly-constructed detective novel with a friend, and breaking down the faults in that made me realize I was committing many of those in this book, so that was good (to realize this before I presented it to the world), and has created a lot more work for me. Which is fine! There’s no point in even starting a book if you aren’t willing to work with everything you’ve got to make it as good as you can.

In other exciting news – well, exciting for me – I’ll be making my first “author appearance” in one month. On March 2nd, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be giving a talk at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library in Hamilton, MA, on the importance of stories and speculative fiction, and doing a reading from From the Shadows, followed by a Q&A session. It should be fun! I’m looking forward to it (and am also wicked nervous). If you happen to be in the area that evening, you should come check it out!

Meanwhile, it is February 1 and feels like May 1 outside, so I think I shall wrap up this update and make sure all our windows are open. Happy February, friends!


From the Shadows … Here!

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 …

It is book release day! My second novel, and in some ways this is even more exciting than the first one. Certainly less nerve-wracking.

From the Shadows started as a fun “what-if” … what if an ordinary person from this world got swept up onto a spaceship centuries in the future? What is it wasn’t a matter of being a Chosen One or Super Special, but this person just had to adapt and find a place? How would that play out? What would it look like? How would she (this character was “she” by this point) have even gotten there, if there wasn’t some Master Plan Behind It?

From such seeds is a story grown.

First it was a novella, with a surprisingly poignant turn, as Riss, my main character, struggled with her sense of self-worth. It wasn’t all angst, all the time, but the poignancy surprised me (wait, when did this become the theme? When did this story develop a theme anyway?). I was pleased with how it turned out, and sent it to my beta readers and contacted Amanda at Fly Casual for a cover, thinking it would be a quick, easy publish and then I could go back to working on my “real” books, Rivers Wide and Magic in Disguise.

Heh. Not all, but enough of the beta readers sent it back saying “This needs to be a novel! What you have here is a good start, but you need to flesh it out more, you can’t just leave Riss half developed like this, as well as all the other characters.”

Nah, said I, this was just for fun! I have real books that need my attention, I can’t turn this into a novel. It will be fine as a novella.

A couple weeks later, I found myself sitting down and working at making it a novel. About a year after that, I finally sent the finished product – a short novel at about 65,000 words – to my editor. And now here it is, published and ready for the world.

I hope you enjoy it. I really, really loved creating it. The characters, the world, the relationships, everything. It’s a story very dear to my heart, and I am delighted to be able to offer it to you, my friends and readers.

From the Shadows is available in paperback and Kindle edition on Amazon, and in ebook form through Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. Kobo and iBooks will follow shortly – I’ll update this post with links as they go live.

Happy reading, my friends!