1920s, publishing, Sci-fi, writing

Spring, and a New Look!

Hullo and welcome! Notice anything different around here?

It’s an updated website, with a different theme and an added page–but most importantly, more organization, especially of the main reason we’re all here: the books!

I’ve been wanting to create separate pages for my books, organized according to series, for quite some time now, and when better to do that than while self-isolating, right? If you go up to the main menu, you will find there is now a drop-down menu under the “Books” tab, and further drop-down menus under that for the Whitney & Davies and Pauline Gray series respectively.

And while I was at it, I cleaned up the Books page itself, changed the theme, added some photos to different pages, added in a page to link to StarDance Editing (yes, I’m still offering manuscript critiques and proofreading services at my sister site), and oh yeah–notice anything special on the Whitney & Davies page and the Pauline Gray page?

Anything?

Like maybe, oh I don’t know … some new titles? And a release date?

That’s right! The second Pauline Gray novella, Diamonds to Dust, is coming out in 2020–that’s this year! I am planning a cover reveal soon, so stay tuned for that.

As for Whitney & Davies, the third book does not have a release date yet, but it does have a title.

Death by Disguise

The first draft is done, and I’m looking forward to getting deep into edits (which at this point will probably involve an entire rewrite, but even so, I’m looking forward to it) as soon as D2D is out into the world.

I know life has been topsy-turvy for us all, but I hope and trust that with spring approaching, we can all find some new vigor and joy.

And don’t forget–Magic Most Deadly, From the Shadows, and Candles in the Dark are all still free (everywhere but Amazon, but only $0.99 there)! The sale lasts until at least the middle of April.

Happy end-of-March!

My mother’s chickens have been enjoying the warm sunshine lately, and clearly are not concerned with social distancing.
writing

Comfort, Hope, and Joy

Pussy willows mean spring is on its way

Since moving back to the US, our family has been bouncing between western MA and northern NY, staying with our respective parents until our own living situation is in place. This week we’re in both places at once, as Carl and the kids are with his mom and I’m hanging out with my folks. Yesterday, in between measuring and cutting out pieces for the girls’ flower girl dresses I’m sewing for them for May, my mom and I went for a walk and brought back a bouquet of pussy willows. Always my favorite harbinger of spring!

This is a wild time in our world right now, as the CORVID-19 pandemic spreads further and further across the globe and new measures pop up every day to contain it and protect the vulnerable in our societies. There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty, but also a lot of beauty. It’s wonderful to see people coming together to protect the elderly, the immune-compromised, and those who can’t protect themselves. I’ve seen offer upon offer crop up of people volunteering to grocery shop for their elderly neighbors, for children now at home to write letters to people in nursing homes, of educational websites offering content for free, of places like the Metropolitan Opera streaming operas for free … people offering what they can to take care of each other.

In that spirit, I’m adding my own small offering to the pile of good things coming out of the pandemic, a way to bring comfort to those now stuck at home with too much time on their hands and too much frightening and negative information pouring in on them from various sources. From now until the end of April (possibly longer, should the self-isolation period continue past then), I’m making three of my books–all my first-in-series–free*.

Magic Most Deadly: Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon

For Maia Whitney, life after the Great War is dull, monotonous, and drab. Nursing soldiers in the bloody fields of France hadn’t been easy, but it was better than life at home, standing in her sisters’ shadows. There seems no chance for a change until the night she witnesses a murder in the woods.
The last thing Magic Intelligence Agent Lennox Davies needs is this outspoken, independent lady crashing his investigation. Bad enough that a murder happened on his watch; much less that she had to see it happen. He works alone, and he does not have time for Miss Maia Whitney’s interference.
But as Maia’s own magical talent blossoms and danger thickens around the two with every step they take, before long Len and Maia must rely on each other in a fashion neither has ever done before. If they can’t learn to work together, England itself might topple. Even worse, if Maia doesn’t learn to control her magic soon, she might do more to destroy them even than their shadowy enemy.
Can they set aside their stubbornness and self-reliance in time to save themselves—and all England?

MMD is my first novel, and first in the Whitney & Davies series, followed by Glamours & Gunshots and Magic & Mayhem (the latter being a short story collection). The third novel will be coming out sometime in 2020–I can’t give away too much information, but I can tell you that it is set in Cambridge, an area of England I can now claim to know rather well after living there for a year and a half!

From the Shadows: Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon

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 …

FTS was originally intended to be a stand-alone space opera. It was also originally intended to be a lighthearted tribute to Star Wars and Star Trek and other such shows. Somewhere along the line it developed a lot more depth and heart, and by the time it was finished I couldn’t bear to say goodbye to the characters forever. A sequel had to wait until the right story presented itself, but recently it did, and I’ve been tapping away at it off and on when my time hasn’t been taken up with moving concerns.

Candles in the Dark: Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, Amazon

Pauline Gray, journalist by day and novelist by night, discovers anonymous letters are being sent to a young widow, insinuating that her husband did not die by accident. Pauline’s compassion and journalistic instincts combine to help her to seek an answer to who is sending these letters, and why. Was Bob Ferris really murdered, and if so, by whom? Before long, Pauline is uncovering evidence of a local smuggling ring and stirring up secrets some people would rather remain buried along with the dead. Despite the danger, Pauline won’t stop until she has shone a light into the hidden places of the past and seen justice done for the grieving widow and her son. No matter what the cost …

Candles is an unusual story for me–no fantastic elements, for one thing. It’s a novella, for another. My wordy self usually needs the room of a full-blown novel to spread out properly. It’s set in my hometown, a little village in the northern foothills of the Adirondacks, in the 1930s, and it is as much a tribute to community and family as it is a story about justice and compassion. The second novella in the series will be published soon–it’s in the final stage of edits.

So there you have it! My small offering to hopefully bring some light, some joy, and some comfort in the midst of these troubled times. No strings attached, no requirements from you (though obviously if you did choose to leave a review on any of them I’d be thrilled–but that’s not an obligation by any means). When we are so physically limited from each other, it’s good to be able to reach out in other ways, and this is mine.

*Amazon will not let me lower the price to free on their website unless I sell exclusively through them. I’m not willing to do that, so the books can only go to $0.99 there. If you want them through Amazon and you want them free, your best option is to click on their “report lower price” button and put in the link to any of these other retailers. If enough people do so, they should (emphasis on “should”) price match. It stinks, but it’s the best I can do.

Books, Sci-fi, seasons, writing

Sparks of Light

There’s a lot of heaviness in the world right now. The holiday season can be rough–while there is a great deal of joy that comes with Christmas, it can also be a time of sorrow and/or weariness to many. Even in my own family, we’re struggling to maintain a Christmas spirit against 3+ weeks of illness and some unexpected travelling for Carl to be with his family in their time of need, as his aunt is in the hospital with pancreatic cancer.

Here in the UK, there’s been a lot of stress and tension over the recent general election, and a great deal of fear on all sides about what comes next. The US political scene isn’t much better, frankly.

Sometimes it can feel like the darkness presses in too closely, and looking around, there’s very little hope to be seen.

So on an impulse this weekend, I chose my most hope-filled book (aka the only one without any murders) and made it free until 1 January. No gimmicks, no strings, just my way of lighting a candle against the dark.

Kind of appropriate, when you think about it, that this book should be titled From the Shadows. Here’s to stepping out of the shadows and into the light.

Whisked from her troubled, solitary life to a spaceship centuries in the future, the young widow and 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 …

Available at:

Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Amazon (Amazon will only let me drop the price to $0.99, but if enough people report it as free elsewhere they just might lower it all the way there as well–it’s worth a shot).

May this be a season of hope for you, friends, whatever your circumstances. That is my earnest prayer for all of us.

writing

On Stories

‘We love stories, then, because our lives are stories and in the attempts of others to move, temporally and painfully, we recognize our own story. For the Christian, the story of Jesus is the story par excellence. That God should be with us in the story of a human life could be seen as a happy accident, but it makes more sense to see it as God’s way of always being with human beings as they are, as the concrete, temporal beings who have a beginning and an end—who are, in other words, stories themselves.’

Hauerwas, Stanley. “Story and Theology.” In Truthfulness and Tragedy.
writing

StarDance Editing

I am so happy to be able to introduce the sister site to StarDance Press: StarDance Editing. Offering manuscript critiques and proofreading for now, hopefully expanding to copy edits and content editing as I get my feet under me.

This is an exciting new step, though it’s one I’ve been contemplating for almost a year. I’ve always enjoyed critiquing and proofreading short stories and novels for friends, and as more and more of those mss I had a hand in birthing saw publication, I started to realize this was something I could do for others, as well. Knowing from personal experience how difficult it is, especially as an indie author, to find editors within one’s price range, I knew there was a call for this sort of service!

This year seemed a good time to begin this business, as I am taking a step back from my own writing projects. It’s a way for me to stay connected with the world of storytelling without feeling the pressure to create my own stories. In fact, polishing up someone else’s creative work to shine even brighter ought to be wonderful inspiration to me when I do pick up the pen and paper to start writing again!

If you or anyone you know is in need of a manuscript critique or proofreading, I hope you’ll visit StarDance Editing and see if it would be a good fit. I look forward to working with you!

goals, Life Talk, seasons, writing

Sabbatical

For a few years now, I’ve been stifled creatively. I’ve tried all sorts of ways to overcome it–perseverance with writing in hopes of pushing through the creative block; pursuing other creative outlets like knitting; getting more exercise; writing just for fun instead of publication; writing longhand with a fountain pen and a nice notebook instead of typing on the computer, etc.

Nothing has really helped.

Even the two books I published during this time–Glamours and Gunshots in the Whitney & Davies series, and Candles in the Dark as the start of a mystery novella series–felt forced, causing more stress than joy in the process of creating them (I had more fun researching Candles than writing it, which really isn’t how it’s supposed to go).

Moving to England was supposed to be a creative re-awakening for me. When we visited two years ago in March, I felt more alive than I had in ages. I was sure coming here to live would have the same effect, only more so. I was sure I would find my creative flow again.

I haven’t.

Since arriving, I have toyed with the idea of taking a month-long break from writing. Maybe longer, maybe six months. Maybe a year? But then I would have the idea for another story, and I would think that maybe I just had been tired. I would start to write the story … and everything would collapse on itself again, like an overdone soufflé. The story that had seemed so vibrant in my head would get stuck somewhere between my imagination and my fingers, and only something lifeless would appear on paper (or computer screen).

So last week, I made up my mind, and realized that I need to state it publicly or else I’ll be tempted to go back on it at some point. Accountability is important!

2019 is my sabbatical year for writing. I’ll still be doing my weekly journal posts and monthly flash fictions for Patreon–and at some point I will write a short story for the higher-level patrons–but aside from that, I am Not Writing. Maia and Len, Pauline, all the other stories I’ve been working on behind the scenes … they will wait until 2020.

It’s a little scary to think about. It’s also exciting. Taking a break from writing gives me a chance to pursue other interests for a change. I can study some of the subjects that fascinate me but I never have time for. I can finally finish all the knitting projects I have in the works! I can devote a proper amount of time to learning French (and Italian, in preparation for when we get around to visiting Rome). I can work on figuring out whether I’m a soprano still or if my voice really has changed to alto, and if the latter, how to sing harmony.

More importantly, I can stop feeling so torn between responsibilities and calling, and can try living a more whole life.

I will post occasional updates here throughout the year to keep you all informed as to how it’s going. Wish me–not luck, but a good journey!

Books, characters, families, heroines, Sci-fi, stories, writing

Home is where you find it

A few years ago, as I was struggling to find my footing for the sequel to Magic Most Deadly, I was struck instead with inspiration for a science fiction novella, a tribute to Star Wars, Star Trek, and other hope-filled space operas. It demanded I put aside everything else and write it–so I did.

(That version of MMD’s sequel was terrible, anyway.)

Somehow or other in the writing of it, the story turned into so much more than this light-hearted tribute I had originally intended it to be. A theme of found family, of home, of finding the place where you belong, wound its way through. It became a letter of solidarity with all the other people in this world who feel stuck in the shadows of life and have a hard time feeling they belong in the light.

When I finished the novella (the song in the final act was written late at night, after I was supposed to be sleeping, because it came to me complete with tune and I was afraid that if I waited until morning I would lose it–which proved to be a good call, as I re-read the song the next day and said, “Wait, I wrote this?”) and sent it to my beta readers, they one and all sent it back saying it needed to be longer; it needed to be a novel.

Nah, I said. The story did what I wanted it to do. It was just a fun side-project. Now I needed to get back to my real work, that darn sequel.

But the story wouldn’t let go of me, and finally I broke down and expanded it. Filled out the side characters a bit more, developed the plot more deeply, made the protagonist’s journey a bit more winding, less jumping from Point A to Point Z without anything between. As usual, my beta readers were right. This was what the story needed.

This was the second book I self-published, and I made a lot of technical mistakes with it. The font was too small, the margins off, etc. So a couple years after publishing it, I went back to it. I loved this story, and I believed it deserved a better package. I went through and did a basic copy-edit, cleaning it up a bit without changing anything significant. I altered the font on the cover and made the back copy a bit cleaner. And I fixed the font and margin size and other issues in the physical copy. I added a brand-new short story at the end as a bonus, since the novel itself is on the shorter side of the spectrum.

From the Shadows is still my least popular published book. Yet those who have read it and reviewed it love it just as deeply as I do. My friend Laura still nudges me every so often asking when I’m going to write a sequel (I keep trying, but so far all the plots are too dumb or contrived. If it’s meant to happen, eventually something will come to me). My dream for it is that eventually it finds its own family, that the people for whom it will mean the most will discover it and take hope and encouragement from it.

To that end, I occasionally do things like write this blog post, reminding people that I did, once, write a story that was not a detective and/or fantasy tale, and that if space opera, character-driven stories, found families, and found homes, sound like something you would enjoy …

Here it is. Available on Amazon and Smashwords, as well as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

As a favor, to those of you who have read and have not yet left a review anywhere, would you mind doing so, either on one of the above sites or on Goodreads? They really do go a long way toward helping others who might also enjoy the book discover it. Those of you who have already done so: thank you! The more we all spread the word, the more we help this story, and these characters, find its, and their, home. After all, as one of the major themes of the story and the title of this post says …

Home is where you find it.