Haven

I am so tickled to be able to say that my story “Haven” was a runner-up in the Writer’s Domain’s Star Wars fanfiction contest!

I first discovered Star Wars when I was around twelve years old, and I was hooked. At that point in my life I had never heard of fanfiction, but oh, I wrote plenty of it in my head over the next several years. I discovered the Expanded Universe–what is now considered “Legends,” and devoured every book and short story I could get my hands on. My favorites were the non-main character stories (even though I identified wholly with Luke), most especially the Rogue and Wraith Squadron books. The stories I told in my head started to weave around similar squadrons and pilots, out fighting for the Rebellion and doing good, saving the day behind the scenes without ever having to use the Force or get involved in the “big” events.

Even though “Haven” is a long way from the high dramas and impossible adventures my teenage self liked to create all those years ago, I’m pleased that the roots of it go all the way back to those stories, with a main character who echoes the characters I used to dream up, and a closer look at the everyday heroes that made the Rebellion what it was–and the Resistance what it could be.

I’ve loved Star Wars from the first, and I’m so pleased to be able to share that love in this story.

watch-star-wars-online

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Top Ten New-to-Me Authors in 2014

0e479-toptentuesday2Check out The Broke and the Bookish for more great lists

I was surprised, when I looked at my list of 2014 books, how many of these authors were new to me this year – I feel in many cases as though I’ve been reading them for years! Always a good sign, when an author feels like an old friend upon the first read.

Sage Blackwood I read Jinx on January 2 this year, I believe. Just barely squeaked in for being new in 2014! I adore Jinx and the gang, and am eagerly looking forward to the final book in the trilogy, coming in 2015. As a bonus: I’ve gotten to know Sage through Twitter, and she’s an awesome person as well as awesome writer.

Rosamond Hodge I’m not always on board with fairy tale retellings, but hearing that Cruel Beauty was based more off the Cupid and Psyche myth than Beauty and the Beast, and that Hodge was inspired greatly by CS Lewis’ Till We Have Faces, I knew I had to read it. And I was not disappointed. Can’t wait for Crimson Bound, her next novel.

Helene Hanff I can’t believe I made it to the ripe old age of 30ish before discovering 84, Charing Cross Road. On the other hand, I might not have appreciated it fully had I read it when I was younger, so there is that.

RJ Anderson So I pretty much can’t go for too many blog posts before singing the praises of Anderson’s books. I like the Faery Rebels series, but my real love is for Ultraviolet and Quicksilver. I also kind of love the fact that RJ was a fanfic writer before her own work started taking up all her time, and that she still is a huge supporter of it. Woo-hoo! She’s also on Twitter, and also great to chat with there.

Jaclyn Moriarty I haven’t loved all Moriarty’s books equally, but the ones I loved, I really loved, and even the ones I didn’t like as much I still enjoyed. The only one of hers I didn’t care for was The Murder of Bindy MacKenzie, and that was mostly because I disagreed with some of her basic assumptions about teenagers in that book. All the rest of them, though, especially The Year of Secret Assignments and A Corner of White, I found great.

Martha Wells Another author for the “how on earth did it take me this long to discover her?” list. Wells writes fantasy, and I’ve yet to find a book by her – and I’ve read many this year – that I dislike. All of them thoughtful, nuanced, original, and grand.

Anna Dean A writer of Regency mysteries who doesn’t butcher the era! It’s a miracle! When looking for something fun, light, and not-irritating, these books are a great choice. Just try to ignore the blatant Emma references which give away half the plot in A Gentleman of Fortune.

Merrie Haskell Another writer of fairy tale remakes, but with such a thoughtful (and thought-provoking), lyrical, and lovely way of doing so that I don’t even mind. Castle Behind Thorns is my favorite of hers so far.

Andrea K Host Indie writer from Australia – do you really need me to say more? Yes? Well then, how about that I tore through her Touchstone trilogy, leaving most of my household chores undone to do so, in record time. Incredible world-building and convincing characters, with none of the pitfalls to which we indie authors are prone (in other words, well-edited, formatted, cover-ed, and just plain well written). I’ve also read her Medair duology, and am looking forward to delving into more of her works in 2015.

Sharon Shinn My most recent discovery. I’ve read Troubled Waters and its sequel, and loved them both. Shinn’s writing is quiet and strong, carrying you along with her characters and weaving you into her world almost without you even realizing it until you come up for air and wonder where you are.

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There you have it! 2014 proved to be a very good year for me, new author-wise. Hard to believe 2015 could match it, but then, I think I said the same thing in 2013. We shall see what the new year brings!

Writing Update

I chat so much, so casually, about my book projects on Twitter that I forget sometimes to talk more in depth about them here. I thought today might be a good time to give you all an update on what I’m working on.

First: From the Shadows, most often abbreviated to FTS (which I’m sure also stands for a less savory phrase, but whatever. I’m not exactly inclined to Google it to find out).

From the Shadows is a space opera which started out as a novella, and then grew into a novel. When it was still a novella, I was planning on publishing it late August or early September; obviously that date had to be pushed back when the story got expanded. I was stuck on a couple of plot points for a while, but a few emails with one of my betas helped me over that (a thousand thanks, Laura!), and I am ready to move forward with finishing the changes, and beginning (again) the editing process.

I’ve loved space opera ever since I was a kid. Star Wars, movies and novels, had a huge impact on shaping me into the person I am. Star Trek, while not quite as influential, is also special to me. Firefly, Doctor Who (some of it), the Vorkosigan saga … honestly, I don’t read/watch a ton of sci-fi, not compared to fantasy, but I do love it, and it does stir my imagination in a unique way. I’ve found writing sci-fi to be incredibly difficult (that whole “science” aspect of it, not to mention universe-building, something hugely daunting to a dedicated soap-bubble world-builder), but also incredibly rewarding. I’ve allowed myself to get more raw, and more real, in this story, than in any other I’ve written thus far, and I love it. I can’t wait to finish it so I can share it with all of you.

Second is Wings of Song, or WOS. A title which will almost certainly change when the story actually gets published (sigh).

Wings of Song has a complex background. See, about ten years ago, as a newlywed in a strange city, with no job and no friends (and no car), I discovered the sometimes alarming, sometimes marvelous world of fan fiction. I started reading the stories in the LM Montgomery section, and was inspired to write my own, which turned into two, then three, then an entire series. When I finished with that series (five stories in all), I started another. Both featured Anne’s children and grandchildren, and mostly used LMM’s rich world as a jumping-off point for my own original characters and stories.

WOS, originally, was going to be a reworking of some of the stories in that first LMM series, to take away the connectors to Anne &co and make them wholly original. A simple enough edit, I thought. Until I sat down and realized that the characters, taken away from Anne’s world, verged on insipid, and the plots on non-existent. I turned to the second LMM series I wrote, written much later after the first, when I was a stronger writer, and decided to blend the two series together, picking and choosing the best parts of each, to write an entirely new story with its own characters.

What has emerged in something similar in flavor to my fanfics, but its own unique story. Some names and relationships have carried over from the other stories, but personalities and plot and character development are all new. It’s turned into a much more grueling process than I blithely imagined at first, but also rewarding.

Recently, I’ve been looking into ways to self-publish it as a serial – preferably as a newsletter from this blog, if I can get the technical know-how to make that work. I always enjoy playing with new ideas and forms of publishing, and I think this sort of story, a slower, simpler tale of an eleven-year-old growing up along the St. Lawrence River during the 1930s, is perfectly suited to a serial. I just have to figure out how to make it work!

If I do publish it serially, my plan is to have all the chapters written in rough draft form first, and then edit them one at a time before publication. Less of a daunting task that way, and a better chance at getting each one out in a timely fashion.

Third, and finally, Magic in Disguise. (Or MID. Or Book 2 of the Intelligent Magic series. Or “the second Maia & Len book.” Whichever you prefer.)

Second books in a series, so I’ve heard, are hard. I never had any problems with that in my fanfics, but it certainly is proving true with this. It’s been the extremely weird experience for me of for once having a really good plot, and not being able to make the character come to life. Since my problem is usually the opposite, I’ve struggled with how to combat this. I love Len and Maia still, and Becket, and I’m very fond of the new sidekick character I’ve introduced, and the plot has flowed together nicely, and yet overall the story has a lifeless feel to it, and I gleefully take any chance to leave it alone and work on something else. Hence FTS and WOS.

However! I am not giving up. Right now, the plan is to finish FTS without any more dawdling, and then to finish the rough draft of WOS so I can begin serialling (so not a word) that, and THEN to devote my full attention to figuring out what the heck is going wrong with MID, and either fixing it or starting over from scratch. Len and Maia mean too much to me to either abandon them or let them settle for a half-rate book!

I have plenty of other story ideas swirling around in my backbrain right now – a possible sequel to FTS, as well as some short stories set in that universe; an Intelligent Magic prequel set during the 1830s; a sequel to WOS; editing and polishing up that fantasy I speed-wrote earlier this year … but if I have learned anything from having three full-size book projects going on at once, it is to pace myself, and never attempt more than two at a time.

So there you have it, a probably-more detailed update than you even knew you wanted!

Shaky Ground

I knew, before publishing Magic Most Deadly, that almost all authors go through a stage of ennui, discouragement, and even fear that they’ll never be able to write again after they publish their first book.

So when it all happened, I was prepared for it.

I just wasn’t prepared for it to last so long.

I am writing again—but it’s hard. Nothing flows. Nothing feels right. There’s no spark. I find myself putting off writing to read, or to wash dishes, or bake, or any of a hundred other numerous things that are good and important in and of themselves but should never come in the way of my writing time.

Part of it is disappointment. I knew MMD wasn’t going to set the world on fire. I knew the internet wasn’t going to explode over it, that people wouldn’t be lining up to buy copies, that nobody would be pounding on my door to beg an interview, that publishers wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to offer me a contract. And yet … the fact that it came out with a whimper instead of a bang, and fizzled almost at once was—and is—hard.

If I didn’t care about people reading what I write, I wouldn’t bother with publishing at all. I’d just write my own stories for my own amusement and leave it at that. But there is something deep inside me that needs to share my writing with other people. It is deeply important to me. Not for fame or for money (although, not gonna lie, I would sooo love to be able to support the family while Carl’s in seminary, rather than him having to work and do school), and I’m not even sure why, but there it is.

So when I offer the world this story, and the world doesn’t even notice it was offered, yes, it stings. And it makes it hard to remind myself that my voice counts, that my stories matter, even if they are just light-hearted and fun.

It makes it hard to persevere.

am persevering, because like Emily Starr, if you took everything else away from me I would still write. I can’t not write, but it has lost, I hope temporarily, much of its zest and joy for me.

Carl has reminded me that it is winter, and I went through the incredibly painful process of losing my grandfather in December, followed immediately by a whirlwind of holiday busyness, followed by sickness felling everyone but me in the family one by one in recent weeks (thank you, thank you God and vitamin supplements, for fixing my immune system so that thus far I’ve resisted the illnesses), and that it’s natural for me to feel discouraged this time of year, whatever is going on, due to lack of sunlight and fresh air and constantly being cold (although I’d actually rather be perpetually cold than hot, but that’s neither here nor there). So I’m trying not to take the discouragement too seriously. At the same time, I don’t want to dismiss it altogether.

Last night, once again frustrated that everything I write lately never gets beyond surface depth, and yet doesn’t have any of the humor I value so much either, I re-read something I’d written about two years ago. A crazy fan-fiction mash-up of all my favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories, with me in the thick of it (yes, a self-insert, but not technically a Mary-Sue since nobody fell in love with me, and I didn’t save the world and die tragically) (well okay, I did sort-of die tragically, but not for real, and Voyager’s doctor and Mara Jade brought me back to life, and it was mostly a plot device to let them be grumpy and snarky, not for me to be a Heroine), with not much plot but just a whole lot of fun.

I actually laughed out loud at parts, bits I had forgotten I had ever written, and other parts made me really impressed with their unexpected depth. It was simultaneously great and awful, because it told me that I can write humor and passion and Truth, but it also made me wonder if I can only do so when playing with other people’s characters, in a story never meant for anyone’s eyes but my own.

I don’t have a neat, pithy ending paragraph to end with here. I guess the title of this post says it all, really—I’m not sinking, but I’m not on solid ground, either. Everything is currently very shaky beneath my feet. The best I can do is keep cautiously inching my way forward, hoping to eventually get out of the mire and back onto the firm path, and can move forward once more.

New Book!

Just in time for the holidays!

My cover designer finished the cover for my short story collection (can I call it a collection if it’s just two stories? And if not, what SHOULD I be calling it? Seriously, this has been driving me nuts. A duology? But they aren’t connected to each other, just similarly-themed) a couple months sooner than I was expecting. The stories themselves have been ready to go for ages, so all I had to do was fix up a little bit of formatting, and voila! Just in time to add to your Christmas wish list:

If This Be Magic & The Traitor and the Spy, available now at Smashwords and Amazon, and soon to be available in print.
Here’s the blurb for If This Be Magic:
As if being the worst student at Miss Cranston’s Select Seminary for the Study of Sorcery weren’t bad enough, now sixteen-year-old Sophie Abbott suspects her uncle, the most respected magician in Boston, of secretly working for the Kaiser. The year is 1915, and though America isn’t in the war yet, Sophie can’t sit by and do nothing. Before long, she and Uncle Edward’s apprentice Owen are deep in danger and treachery, and Sophie’s unique ability to see magic as a spiderweb of spells might be the only thing that can save them. Time is running short and Owen’s life is in her hands. Every spell she has ever attempted has failed spectacularly – can Sophie trust her magic now?

And for The Traitor and the Spy:

Philomena Stirling-Vane is fourteen years old in Victorian England, and in the unhappy position of having accidentally inherited the family magic. Her father is outraged, and her mother nearly prostrate with grief over the unhappy prospect of a lady magician in the family. When Jonathan Kempson, Mr Stirling-Vane’s former apprentice, requires another magician’s assistance to track down a traitor to the Council of Magicians, Phil sees her chance. Disguised as her brother, she accompanies Mr Kempson to London, where they must overcome their mutual dislike and learn to work together to unweave the tapestry of deception laid around them.

I was immensely proud of Justice’s Mask, and still am, but these two are even closer to my heart. They are fantasy, for one, which is my first and best love. They also both have a great deal more humor than Justice’s Mask, and while the more serious tone fits JM, I really do prefer to keep a more light-hearted tone when I can.

They are also set in the same world, though different eras, as my forthcoming novel Magic & Mayhem (I am aiming for a summer publication – we’ll see). This is my first attempt at playing with different stories and different characters in the same fantasy world, and it’s been so much fun.

Also, the cover. Isn’t that just gorgeous? I am so in love with it. It was created by Kathryn Jonell, and I highly recommend her work for anyone looking for a cover designer.

I have two more short stories and a novella from my summertime non-novel writing. I’m not sure when or how I’ll publish those, but for right now, I am so, so pleased with the three I’ve already published.

I hope you all enjoy them as much as I do!

Influences: LM Montgomery

I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t acquainted with Anne Shirley. I can’t quite remember now which came first, watching the movie or reading the book, but they certainly happened close together. Thankfully, the movie never ruined the book for me, and while these days I have to grit my teeth through parts of the sequel (and I refuse, utterly and completely, to ever watch the third), even knowing and loving the books as well as I do, I can still watch the movie without flinching.

This fellow might have something to do with that. Oh, Gilbert!

I’ve never been as big a fan of the Emily books – I adore Emily of New Moon, but the later two books of the trilogy get under my skin in parts. Frankly, Emily herself infuriates me the older she gets, as does Ilse.
However, as one who grew up in an extended family that can only properly be called a clan, with aunts and uncles and cousins galore, as well as second cousins and the like (my father is the oldest of eight; his father was also the oldest of eight, and his mother was one of five), my favorites out of all of LMM’s works would have to be the Story Girl books. And not just because my sister and I watched Road to Avonlea every week on CBC when we were growing up! The books are so different from the show.
For one thing, the books didn’t have him. Oh, Gus!

Ahem.
I love LMM’s writing style. I even love her “purple prose.” I’ve been writing LMM fanfiction since 2005. I started it as a bored and lonely newlywed, while Carl was at work and I needed something to distract me from my loud and inconsiderate neighbors, and the fact that I had no car or any way to get away during the day. Escaping to PEI, and a simpler time, more romantic way of life, an era I’ve always loved … well, it just might have saved my sanity. It certainly brought me some wonderful friends (hi, Adrienne and Cathy!) who shared my love for LMM and her works. 
Thanks to LMM, I learned how to explore different genres of writing besides just YA fantasy. I learned to play with different styles, to change my tone depending on what type of story I was writing. I learned that, as Mr Carpenter tells Emily, “pine woods are just as real as pigsties, and a darn sight more pleasant” – meaning, don’t let other people force you to write ugly things just because they are “realistic.” I learned how to write gentle romance (romance of any kind always having terrified me before).
I also developed a mad, passionate love affair with adjectives and rambling descriptions, which I am now desperately trying to combat. Not all influences are good!
I recently started my eleventh LMM fanfic (yes, for those of you who follow my LMM stories, that would be Gwen’s WWII story). I am not exactly working hard on it, having a few original projects that are taking most of my attention, but it is growing in my brain and a little bit on paper. No matter if I ever get published, or wherever my writing takes me, I suspect I will always have some LMM story brewing on the side.
It’s the least I can do to honor the woman who brought such magic to my childhood (and adulthood, if I’m honest).
Did you grow up reading the Anne books? Did you have a crush on Gilbert Blythe (or Gus Pike)? Is there a book that you have read for so long that you can’t remember a time when it wasn’t part of your life? Do you write or read fanfiction at all?