Category Archives: Books

See You on the Other Side

My first book was first published nearly four years ago, and it’s been with me in one form or another for far longer than that. There have been a number of instances since that have made me feel like a “real” author, but honestly, with the launch of my second book newly behind me, a signing at my favorite local independent bookseller is the realest.

I love signings and I’ve written before about how conflicted I feel when I listen to other authors read and discuss their works, when I throw my money at them for a signed copy and some swag. I’m an avid reader and fangirl, and that’s not something that’s like to change, ever. But getting to be on the other side of the table, even once, it gives me thrills just thinking about it.

If you’re in Cincinnati or near to it, I hope you’ll consider stopping in and saying hello. I’ll be at Joseph-Beth Booksellers at Rookwood Pavilion at 7 PM, discussing and signing both books. I’m going to be making buttons at our local library’s MakerSpace to give away, and I’ve also ordered cookies that will change your life. And, of course, there will be books!

Two Trick Pony

It seems foolish to dream for years (and years and years) about becoming a published author only to have pretty serious impostor syndrome once it finally happens. Despite continuing to write and being under contract to deliver the sequel to The Hidden Icon, I’ve felt with only one book under my publishing belt like a one trick pony.

But today, I guess, I can do flips and kicks. Can jump fences and braid my own mane? I don’t know. What sorts of tricks do ponies do? I’d probably honestly be the sort that just munches oats and lazes about.

While The Dread Goddess has been cropping up on shelves the last few days, it is now officially out in the world. You can buy it. You can read it. You can worry the pages thin, or use them for découpage projects if you don’t like how I’ve handled something. I’m thrilled to share it with you, and to continue Eiren’s story.

I do hope you like it. I loved writing it.

You’re a Wizard, Harry

I traveled to Orlando in February for work and I absolutely took advantage of being down there to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter for the first time. And my goodness, friends, it will not be the last.

As a teenager, I remember thinking that I wasn’t quite sure I bought into the idea of an afterlife, but if there was a heaven, it would for me be the ability to pass in and out of the innumerable fictional worlds that I loved. I still feel like this would be a pretty boss way to spend the life eternal, however unlikely it is.

But, at least I will die someday having spent time in Diagon Alley. Everything I read before our trip stressed that the meticulous and loving attention to detail in the parks is what makes them so special, and I couldn’t agree more. I wandered and wondered, making time to see (almost) everything. Rowling’s world as imagined in the films is so faithfully recreated I just sat down at one point, nursing an ice cream cone from Florean Fortescue’s and soaking it in. Every shop front was spectacularly eccentric, and once inside, most shops took advantage of high ceilings to extend the world building above patrons’ heads. I was liberal in my abuse of Instagram’s Boomerang feature, capturing parts of the rotations of various animatronics throughout the park.

I patiently waited my turn behind children to cast spells with the ivy wand that chose me – YEAH THAT HAPPENED – my favorite being the slightly sinister chuckles granted by the spells particular to Knockturn Alley.

I rode Escape from Gringott’s and The Forbidden Journey several times each, and the theming while we waited in line was just as delightful and immersive as the rides themselves. I love a good roller coaster, and dark rides are especially lovely for suspending disbelief. By the time I got over to Hogsmeade I was alone, so I didn’t even get to see most of the cool stuff in Hogwarts Castle – good thing I’m going back next year.

I’m not even sure that I can choose a favorite thing to see or do, but I will say that the wand choosing ceremony is a must – I only got to participate because it was just us when we went there right as the park opened, and I went again later to watch another, more appropriately aged individual brought up. My wand was also the only thing that I bought myself, and worth every penny galleon. Wandering the parks casting spells – and finding the secret ones! – is an unparalleled treat. Ollivander’s is honestly probably the most magical shop, though Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes is a very close second. I also loved the puppet show in Diagon Alley, and the ride on the Hogwarts Express was incredibly charming – and surprisingly intimate.

Have you been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios? What did you love?

 

Author Life Month? Author Every Month.

The author’s photo a day challenge I am participating in on Instagram this month is absolutely sustaining me. It only feels fitting to be sharing it with you at the tail end of Valentine’s Day, as every new day feels like I’m adding a line to a love letter addressed to readers, to Eiren’s world, to the craft of writing. I’ve always had good intentions when it comes to photo a day challenges but have previously lacked follow through. Not so this February.

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The prompt for this one was “killed darlings,” and this was one of oh-so-many I had to choose from. I always write more pretty things of little substance than I need.

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And “where I write,” which I’ve elaborated on before. But I felt this one showed some love to the stickers so rarely seen on the back of my laptop.

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These two were each collages of character inspirations, for Eiren and Gannet, respectively. You can read more on the original posts.

If you aren’t already following me on Instagram, please do. It’s the rare social media haven I can haunt on the regular right now – I feel rather guilty for my prolonged absence from Twitter and Facebook, longer even than was required for the heady rush of editing that consumed my January, and resulted in one of the strongest drafts I think I’ve ever written. Come May, I hope you think so, too.

The challenge carries on through the end of February and I think I’ll be looking for another one after. Any recommendations?

Five Favorite Reads of 2016

I’m not gonna lie, I really killed it in 2016. I always make time for reading, but as a working, writing, mothering adult I don’t usually manage quite so many books. There was a fair amount of escapist reading in there, but I’m still absurdly pleased.

Even if it makes picking five favorites rather more of a challenge this year than in previous years.

The Forbidden WishJessica Khoury’s The Forbidden Wish was a clear winner for me for 2016, though. I listened to it on audiobook first, and then I read it, and then I listened to it again. It has everything I need to absolutely lose myself in a book: a genuinely complex heroine, the supernatural, a rogueish romantic interest, and just enough authentic drama to keep me up at night – and mooning over the story the next day. If you read even one book I recommend this year, it should be this one.

Not surprisingly, Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom were flawless – and I told her so and she tweeted back to me so THAT HAPPENED. Bardugo is a national treasure. Each tremendously gripping and masterfully-crafted in their own right, they hung together in all of the right places and diverged in surprising, delightful ways. I do not typically enjoy books that switch perspectives, but her pacing was spectacular and I cared so much about everyone that I was all too willing to follow her characters anywhere.

Vassa in the Night

Sarah Porter’s Vassa in the Night was a grim, glorious little surprise. I’d read a review that said if you liked weird, you’d like this book, and do I love some weird. But there’s more to it, even, than that. Reminiscent of Kelly Link but with more to hold on to and a far greater investment in the lives of the characters she’s tormenting, I took my time with this one, savoring the strangeness of the world and the hot-beating heart at the center of it.

I read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians a few years ago, and Quentin Coldwater was such a selfish prick I almost didn’t finish the series. While I get he had some growing up to do, I found it so stifling to be limited to his perspective and spent most of the book wanting to throttle him. The Magician King, with Julia’s voice, was a breath of fresh air, and Quentin’s growing maturity was dynamic and believable. The Magician’s Land knocked my socks off, and I am so glad I gave the series another chance.

The Forgetting

The world-building in Sharon Cameron’s The Forgetting was inventive and unique, and I was bound to love a book where writing one’s own story played so central a role. I really enjoyed the narrator and the detail that was put into her culture, and the direction the story took was surprising. I appreciate when books aren’t what I expect, and books that remind me of some of my favorite episodes of Star Trek.

What did you read this year? What did you love?

Under the Covers

My second book has a publication date, a title, and now it has a cover – along with a matching refresh of the first book which will be re-released in paperback at the same time. I haven’t been belting it from the rooftops because I am wildly superstitious. If I celebrate too soon, it won’t actually happen, right?

But, it is happening, so I’m going to make a little noise.

Here’s this first lovely little mystery. I feel so lucky to have seen my first book baby realized in not just one but three separate covers, and this one has a sweeping depth to it that I really love. I also had the opportunity I am sure far more deserving writers have dreamed of: to revisit a few sticky places in the story and make small but mighty edits to a book that was first published three years ago.

The Hidden Icon

I want to go to there.

And here, too.

The Dread Goddess

The Dread Goddess follows Eiren in her flight from Jhosch, from Gannet, and from herself as she attempts to reconcile who she knows she is – a gentle-souled storyteller – with the monstrous dread goddess who dwells within her. There’s more of her world, more stories, identities literally and figuratively unmasked, madness and havoc and kissing. I am extremely excited about continuing her story and I hope that you are, too.

And I won’t be sitting on my hands until their publication on May 30 of next year – I’ll be working on the third and final book, partnering with the spectacular Nita Basu of Diversion Books on some promotional fun times, and blogging and reading and mothering and dreaming. If there’s something I can do for you or questions I can answer about how I am not going slowly insane managing all of these things, you know how to reach me.

Meet Me at CONjuration

I didn’t anticipate returning to Atlanta until next year’s Dragon Con, so I was surprised and delighted when I received a last-minute invitation to CONjuration, a fan-driven convention celebrating all things Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and other magical literature, movies, and experiences. It’s being held November 4 – 6 at the Marriot Century Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

I wonder if we'll get sorted? This lovely piece from rienfleche on DeviantArt is making me waffle about my hoped-for House.

I wonder if we’ll get sorted? This lovely piece from rienfleche on DeviantArt is making me waffle about my hoped-for House.

I’ve scrambled to acquire more copies of The Hidden Icon and also to assemble chapbooks of The Two Sisters to disseminate. I am positively stoked to be sharing a table in the vendor hall – aptly named Diagon Alley – with Lee Martindale, and trying to figure how many goodies I can squeeze into my suitcase along with clothes and a Yule Ball gown. Priorities, friends.

I’ll also be on a few panels.

  • Saturday, 4:00 PM, Tail and Tongue: Don’ t Step on the Worms – Grima Wormtongue and Peter (Wormtail) Pettigrew both get a bad rap. Yes, they were pawns of their evil lords. Yes, they betrayed their own kind. Could they really help it or were they victims, too? Did their deaths give them any redemption or did they just confirm their roles as tragic characters and tools cast aside by their masters?
  • Saturday, 6:00 PM, Stranger Things: The Magical Influences – Drawing from such influences as Dungeons & Dragons, Tolkien, Magic: the Gathering, Stephen King, and the movies made by Chris Columbus and Steven Spielberg, the supernatural, enchanted elements of Stranger Things fairly drip from the screen! The series’ surreal atmosphere is propelled forward by humanity’s lack of understanding of the paranormal. The unknown science is magic!

In addition to some seriously cool programming – really, I don’t know how much I’ll be willing to stay at my vendor table because everything looks so fun – there are opportunities to win House points, live performances, and of course, a Yule Ball. I am also over the moon excited to meet Juliet Marillier, who will be launching and signing her latest book at the event, and whose writing has been influencing and inspiring me for more than a decade.

So, if you’re in the Atlanta area, I don’t think you’ll want to miss this, and I won’t want to miss you.

Books are Forever

ShelfieWhile I love me some libraries, I’m also thrilled to finally be in a financial position as an adult and grown ass woman to buy books (almost) whenever I feel like it. For Christmas this past year my husband gave me a year-long membership to one of my favorite local booksellers, and I began working within a block of another. And if I was going to take advantage of the discount at the first, I really ought to grab a coffee and a paperback on my lunch break at the second.

Filling the shelves – and the mantle – of my new home with novels that lack the used college bookstore sticker on the spine has been an absolute treat.

It used to be I would only buy books I knew that I loved, and even those, rarely in hardcover. There’s a book festival in Cincinnati where I’ve been caught up in the happy moment of chatting with an author and purchased an unread story, because it makes everybody feel good, and leads sometimes to beloved friendships.

This year I have bought more books than ever, and while I’ve certainly loved some of my acquisitions less than others, I’m keeping all of them. When my girls are grown I want what I wanted as a child: a room full of books and books in every room. My parents weren’t readers, but they went out of their way to be sure that I was. They provided me that early and everlasting love of libraries – I’d be warned when I started reading books in the car on the way home from our local branch that it would be a whole week before I would have new ones – and a handful of yard sale-acquired paperbacks you can still find peeking out from in between weightier tomes on my shelves.

I was a reader well before I was a writer, and when I am a mad, half-blind old woman raving about the way paper books used to smell, I expect I will demand that one of my great-great grandchildren read me the latest Margaret Atwood.

A few years ago I vowed to buy an eBook for every overpriced cup of coffee I bought, but I was pretty broke that year and am also desperately addicted to coffee. I didn’t commit. But, I am trying to make up for it. One of my 34 in 34 goals is to read as many books, and ideally, I ought to own them. I suppose I’d like you to think, too, about how you could bring more words into your life. Please read, and please talk to me about what you’re reading. Show me what it looks like on your digital and literal shelves. Because you’re not just pumping blood into an author’s heart and vital air into their lungs, you’re bringing friends into your home. Adventure. Whimsy. Gravity.

Clothes and coffee are temporary treasures. Books are forever.

Meet Me at Imaginarium

Excitement! I’ll be participating in the Imaginarium Convention this coming weekend, 7 – 9 October, in Louisville, Kentucky. I’ve been trying to attend this convention pretty much since it began, and my babies kept being born and preventing me from doing so. If you’re local to the area, it looks to be a pretty fabulous event for reading, writing, gaming, and cosplay. I’m on a few panels with some cool folks and I’m practicing my jokes so they aren’t lame.

Except, my rehearsed jokes are possibly lamer than the spontaneous ones.

I'll be at Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, 7 - 9 October.

My schedule:

  • Friday, 5:00 PM, Slow Down, Hot Stuff! – If you’re into waiting a solid six hundred pages before characters jump into bed together, instead savoring meaningful glances, heated accidental brushing of hands, and lots of dancing around feelings, have we got some book recommendations for you.
  • Friday, 8:00 PM, Author Signing in Vendor Hall
  • Saturday, 11:00 AM, How to Fracture a Fairy Tale – Fairytale and mythic retellings are a popular storytelling device – some might say too popular. How do you pull it off in a way that feels fresh and interesting?
  • Saturday, 5:00 PM, What’s In a Name? – How to create names for your characters that fit your world’s language and culture.
  • Sunday, 1:00 PM, Bad Boys (and Girls)! – The anti-heroes, the lone wolves, the ones so bad they are good. Why do we like the bad boys and anti-heroes sometimes more than the white knights?

Guys, I bought the good treats for my signing and will have paperback copies of The Hidden Icon available for sale – the very same editions you can no longer buy on Amazon, or ever again, as it will be re-released along with the second book next year. Consider yourself bribed.

What’s Your Fictional Type?

I definitely have a “type” when it comes to fictional characters. These are the sorts of folks who I wouldn’t find myself associating with in real life: they’d be unbearable to be around, impossible to talk to, or just intimidating as hell. But on the page or the screen? It’s true love.

The Strong, Silent Type

John Thornton

Dudes who are supremely self-contained, whose moods occupy the eye of the storm until they are the storm itself, who communicate volumes with their eyes alone… it’s no surprise I love them, right? One of the first – and possibly most embarrassing – fictional crushes on this sort of fella was Conner McDermott from Sweet Valley High: Senior Year. When you identify strongly with bookish, rule following Elizabeth Wakefield as a teen, it’s kind of hard not to fall for the boy you 100 percent shouldn’t. But, this archetype is an interesting one, and has appealed to me the longest possibly because I want to believe there are hidden depths to everyone… or want to justify my tendency to lose my tongue in the company of quiet, steely-eyed, handsome dudes. Noteworthy SSTs: Bran from Son of the Shadows, Mr. Darcy, John Thorton from North & South.

The Scoundrel

Malcolm Reynolds

I really ought to know better about this one, and while I’ve certainly crushed hard on some real-life troublemakers in my time, I much prefer the fictional variety. No consequences with those – and no need to confront the reality that you neither can nor should try to change who someone is to accommodate your love of law and order. This guy can make a girl laugh even when he’s about to get her killed. I’ve not found many mischievous book characters I find believable or likeable, which makes me worry about attempting to write this sort of person myself. But I’m sure someday I’ll try. Noteworthy miscreants: Han Solo, Sky Masterson, Malcolm Reynolds, Rosto the Piper from Tamora Pierce’s Terrier and Bloodhound.

The Boss Bitch

Aeryn Sun

I want to be her and I want to be her best friend. She’s tough, smart, and capable. There’s not a day in her life she’s taken shit from anybody. I like that these women are strong, physically and emotionally, and I swear half the reason I’ve been working out lately is to be more like the fictional women I admire. I doubt my capacity to ever write this sort of woman, though, because I am, regrettably, too much of a pleaser. I blame being raised in the Midwest, and, as my best friend recently pointed out to me, the sort of person who apologizes when other people bump into me. Noteworthy bosses: Katniss Everdeen, Beka Cooper from Terrier, Bloodhound, and Mastiff, Garth Nix’s Sabriel, Aeryn Sun.

So, who’s your type?