Midwinter Magic and Mayhem

Hello, and Happy Halloween, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos, and Fete Ghede. This is a fun season, indeed!

Recently, I contributed a story to a fantasy anthology called Midwinter Magic and Mayhem. The stories involve ghosts, supernatural entities, or magic. I will be interviewing authors from this anthology and posting said interviews on this blog. First up is Frances Evelyn, who edited and compiled the anthology. 

Here is my interview with this wonderful author and editor….

1. What should the readers of my blog know about you?

I’m a British writer of real-world fantasy. I’ve published a standalone novel called The Bookseller’s Apprentice and, more recently, the fifth and final installment of The Changeling Tree series. I’m also really excited about Midwinter Magic & Mayhem, an anthology of fantasy short stories by all my favourite indie authors.

What I try to do in my writing is create characters that readers will care about, with convincing relationships and motivations. Then I put them into impossible situations to see how they cope. I love writing dialogue, and I enjoy giving my characters distinctive voices, but I don’t visualise (I have aphantasia), so I have to remind myself that other readers want descriptions of characters and places.    

2. What supernatural forces or beings appear in your novels? Why have you chosen these forces/entities?

The Changeling Tree series grew out of the medieval idea of a Faerie world where human time doesn’t apply. The Faerie have to tell the truth and keep their promises, but they only care about their own pleasure, not the harm they cause others.

Having the Faerie characters move the humans through time meant I could mess with timelines and create a tangled family saga where a daughter, mother and grandmother meet up at different stages of their lives while they’re figuring out how to take back control.

I’m working on a new series at the moment called The Spirit of Agatha Drummond. Agatha, the spinster daughter of a Victorian vicar, is the spirit guide to a medium called Maria. Maria’s twin sister, Annie, is a sceptic who’s convinced (for good reason) that Maria’s faking it. When Annie starts receiving mysterious messages from beyond the grave, she refuses to believe they’re real.

The reason I wanted to write about spirits and mediums was that I find the idea of seances fascinating: there’s so much evidence of fakery, but people still believe. Out of curiosity, I went to a couple of spiritualist events with a friend and there was nothing to challenge my scepticism, but other members of the audience seemed convinced they’d been in touch with lost loved ones.

What really threw me was the mediums, who weren’t the slick fraudsters you see on TV, but very ordinary people (mostly middle-aged women) who seemed genuinely kind and caring. I thought it’d be fun to have a medium whose messages weren’t kind (Agatha is very judgey) and to challenge a sceptic by giving them concrete proof.

3. Do you believe in ghosts or spirits? Have you had any supernatural/creepy experiences?

I don’t and I haven’t. If a door slams in an empty house, it’s the wind. If something inexplicable happens, it’s a coincidence. If headless horsemen start jousting on my front lawn, I’m closing my eyes and going la la la.

I’m actually very easily spooked but refuse to admit it.

4. What are two of your favorite authors? What works do you recommend?

I love your books, of course, especially The Garden of Stone Houses, but I don’t want to sound like a creep, so I’ll go for Ash Fitzsimmons, who writes really fun contemporary fairy stories, and Shirley Gilmore, whose Lukefahr Ladies series is richly weird. 

5. If you could be transported to a point in history, when would you choose?

That’s really difficult because the past was tough for women. I can’t think of any period when I’d have the freedoms I have now, and I wouldn’t be willing to give them up.

But, if you’re promising me that I can pop back and leave whenever I want to, I’d use the opportunity to solve a family mystery. My great-grandmother was adopted in Birmingham sometime in the 1880s, and never knew who her birth family were. Her first name was Christine and she adopted Cambridge as her last name (believing that was where she was born), but there’s no birth record to back any of that up.

I have managed to identify her father through DNA matches (stand by for the book, because that’s a bloody good story right there), but I’m still looking for her mother. If I could go back and fill in some of the gaps in Christine’s early history, I wouldn’t even mind putting a dress on. The trouble is, you get there, and you see this poor child all alone in the world, and you can’t just leave her there …

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I want to thank Frances Evelyn for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. I highly recommend you check out her Changeling Tree series, as well as her book, The Bookseller’s Apprentice. Here are the links to these works and my reviews!

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The Star Gatherers

It’s been almost a year since my last post. Last year, I started an awesome new teaching gig, which took a bit of time. All of that said, the sequel to The Moon Hunters is done! The book will be released on September 1, 2022. The title is The Star Gatherers. Here is the cover!

Here is the synopsis 🙂

Weeks after Leilani and Jenay Lo leave Ani Island in a desperate attempt to find help, Dr. Deanne Ambagu and members of the United States Coast Guard arrive on site—ready to offload crucial supplies. But when Deanne’s landing party loses radio contact with the ships, the rescue mission turns into a hostage situation. Leilani thought evil on the island had been defeated with Marit Simi’s death, but she was wrong. She and Jenay forge an unsteady alliance with Lieutenant Commander Adair Simpson, an officer with a shadow agenda, in order to hopefully free the hostages. Will they succeed, or will Ani Island claim more victims?

Sequels, prequels, and survival tips.

So, good news! My editor and I are in the process of editing the sequel to The Moon Hunters. We’ve been tackling some developmental edits to make sure that the book makes sense. I don’t want to write a sequel simply because it’s possible: I want to write one because Leilani’s story demands it. We are making steady progress on it, and while she has the manuscript, I continue writing the prequel. 

Revisiting The Moon Hunters universe is fun. I also remember all of the details I took out of the book because it dragged down the story. The researcher in me wanted to keep those details in, but my writer self acknowledged they weren’t relevant. I’d done research on how people on a remote island could live without access to much technology or contact with the “modern” world. I learned about bamboo architecture, water purification techniques, crop rotations, herbalism, etc. My main character, Leilani, would not be imparting all of those details to the doctor who rescued her. 

It was for this reason that I decided to use this blog as a place to communicate this information. I read books and articles, and I found informative videos on YouTube. Let’s not forget the wonderful survival techniques I found on Naked and Afraid reruns and other survival shows. 

So, the purpose of this blog post is to inform about water filtration using charcoal. People on Ani Island boiled water to purify it, but I also gave them rain collection devices that led to cisterns. Charcoal filters are a great way to purify rainwater.

Want to find out how? Click the link below 🙂

http://www.practicalprimitive.com/skillofthemonth/charcoalfilter.html

For extra purification, people can use activated charcoal. How to do that? Add lemon juice, an easy thing to find on a tropical island. 
https://homesteadsurvivalsite.com/make-activated-charcoal/

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My historical fantasy book is coming out on Feb. 1 :)

Well, I evidently didn’t keep last year’s resolution, which was to post more often on this blog. I did jog metric eff-tons inside my house and around my neighborhood because I didn’t feel safe working out in my gym. I also learned how to make my Ukrainian Pascha (Easter) bread and a host of other things. Perhaps the biggest change of all was job-wise. I resigned from my full-time gig and transitioned into remote teaching. I missed having my own classes, and there was also a pandemic raging in my state. 

To sum up, it’s been an insular year with my husband and dog. Instead of going to the Cyclades with husband, my mother, and mother-in-law, we watched Tiger King with slack-jawed awe and learned to appreciate little things and social gathering via video conferencing. 

As for writing news: my historical fantasy, The Garden of Stone Houses, is coming out on Feb. 1 🙂 I wrote this book before I signed The Moon Hunters with Chandra Press, so Chandra decided to publish it before the sequel to The Moon Hunters. Rest assured, the sequel to TMH is written, but it needs a couple of rounds of editing. 

Here’s the cover of this book. I posted an earlier version of the first chapter on this blog, so if anyone is curious, check it out 🙂 I’m excited for this book release. I promise the sequel to The Moon Hunters is coming, too. I just want it to be the best book possible 🙂

Inspiration in Unlikely Places

So, I submitted the first draft of the sequel to The Moon Hunters on Friday evening, just in time to have a chill Valentine’s evening with my husband. To celebrate, I poured myself a drink and then ordered us some yummy curry. I was tempted to hold onto that draft for a bit longer, but that’s that part of me that wants to tweak little things forever. It’s much better (for me) to submit when I need feedback on the developmental elements. I can tweak the minor stuff later.

The main point of today’s blog post, though, is to talk about unlikely sources of inspiration. About a week ago, my husband and I were watching The Morning Show (the Apple TV show starring Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell) as I was writing. In the episode, news anchors were covering California wildfires. The way that the fire glowed behind the mountains appeared so spooky and menacing that I wanted to incorporate that imagery into my book.

How to do it? Well, in the backstory for The Moonhunters, readers learn that Leilani’s great grandfather hauled everyone from California to escape the plague. California has wildfires, so there’s that obvious connection. Also, the cult Leilani grows up in believes L.A. is infested with monsters. Many legends have a root of truth to them. As such, I turned the fire into a way to create dread and represent a metaphorical monster of sorts when Leilani reflects on various elements of her upbringing in the sequel.

The fire behind the mountain is also an element I’m channeling into the prequel, which is from Samilla’s point of view. Samilla is Leilani’s grandmother.

Anyhow, I didn’t expect to find inspiration in a TV show, but there we go.

The Benefits of Less-Than-Stellar Feedback

Good news about my second book, the historical fantasy currently called The Garden of Stone Houses. Chandra Press wants it, too!

When I was querying to find The Moon Hunters (then called The Children of Lehom) a home, I started on a second novel. Beginning a new project is a good thing to do when in the querying trenches. It took my mind off of the rejections that inevitably come with querying. Lo and behold, I had a second novel. I didn’t shop The Garden of Stone Houses around because before I finished editing it, I signed The Moon Hunters with Chandra Press. I put The Garden of Stone Houses on the back burner so I could focus on my first novel’s launch. Anyhow, I’m happy my books will all be in the same home. It feels right to me.

Now, onto today’s blog topic: less than stellar feedback and reviews. Authors are going to encounter less than stellar opinions of their books. It’s inevitable. Look at any book’s reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find some one-star reviews and two-star reviews. That can be disheartening at first. Then again, this critical feedback can be invaluable because it helps give writers legitimacy and different points of view about their work.

Don’t lose heart, in other words.

For more, read Michael Alvear’s take on the benefits of critical feedback, click here.

I leave you with a picture of a stingray. Don’t be afraid of them even though they seem scary. They’re just like cats of the sea. Well, the ones in Grand Cayman are, anyway 🙂

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Resolutions for the New Year

This time of year, people tend to have one last hurrah before committing to another set of resolutions. My resolutions for 2020 don’t quite fit that scenario. 2019 was a great year. The Moon Hunters was published, and I started Marie Kondoing my house because I discovered that I wrote better when I didn’t have tons of clutter to distract me. I also have just under 70k words of the sequel to The Moon Hunters written. I’m happy with that progress.

So, what are my resolutions for 2020? For one thing, I’m going to make sure I keep up the writing momentum. I will finish revising the sequel in the early months of the new year and also want to get the first draft of the prequel written by the end of the summer. These are doable goals. What I do need to work on, however, is keeping up with my blog. This is where I’ve slacked off.

What to do? First, I need to create a reasonable goal, which for me is 2-4 blog posts per month. I don’t want to write fluff, so I need to think creatively about what to post. I aim to think of that as a fun challenge instead of a burden.

Another goal? Keep my house free of clutter.

I wish everyone a very happy New Year. Now, go and enjoy your last hurrahs 🙂destin 1

Two Weeks Post Launch :)

Two weeks after the book’s launch, I know that the final product is so much better than what I submitted to Kindle Scout about a year and a half ago. Books take work, and I was too close to my writing to transform the story the way it needed to be transformed. Thanks, Chandra Press!

An author’s work doesn’t end when the book hits Amazon, though. I’ve been typing away at the sequel, making connections with people on Twitter, and supporting other writers however I can.

I also signed up with Instagram. I never thought I’d do it, but I’m really liking all the artsy posts. It took me a few tries to get something semi-decent. Here’s an example. I took it at my BFF’s full moon party. I like the results.

Well, back to writing now 🙂

 

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Lady Samilla Ani: Character Expose

I won’t drop any spoilers from The Moon Hunters here, but one important supporting character in the book is Lady Samilla Ani, the protagonist’s grandmother. One thing Samilla does is give Leilani some money, coins she secreted away from household funds over the years. Women in the Village of Lehom aren’t usually allowed to keep money for themselves because that would make them too independent. Controlling societies often keep people marginalized by isolating them and restricting their economic means.

This event was inspired by my maternal grandmother. When I was about six, my grandmother told me she’d bought diamond necklaces for me and my younger sister. She also told me she’d skimmed money from her household money and personal shopping allowance to buy them. I didn’t know what to make of it at that young age, but I do remember she told me not to tell my grandfather.

I never told, and after she died, my parents kept those necklaces for us. I still have it. It’s a little necklace, nothing gaudy, but I remember her every time I see it. My grandmother gave me that necklace, and perhaps my story shows some remembrance of her in the character of Samilla. Maybe.

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