Friday, September 17, 2021

Autumn 2021 Reads

 First things first: Gilded in Ice releases in ONE WEEK! Or less if you're reading this after Friday. HUZZAH! Now I just have to finish the final proof (which would've been finished at least a week ago if I'd gotten my blog posts done when I meant to . . . stupid pneumonia) and write the rest of the seventeen blog posts for which I am in some way responsible and which needed to be posted between this morning and end of day next Saturday. (Ok, in all fairness, I'm only actually writing twelve of them. But still.) If you haven't yet, make sure you preorder the ebook and add it on Goodreads!

Of course, my book is far from the only book coming out this month. There's actually quite a list of shiny-looking new releases coming out this month or in the next two months! My original list had fifteen or so, a notable improvement from summer's somewhat sparse pickings. Of course, in the interest of not spending all night on this post, I've cut it down a little bit. So, what's on the list? Let's find out.

(Quick sidenote first, though: today is the last day to vote in this year's Silmaril Awards! So make sure you take the time to support all your favorite characters! Ok, that's all. On with the post!)

Autumn 2021 Reads

1. The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley (September 7). This maaaaay end up being darker than I like . . . but it does sound really cool. Historical fantasy featuring a tightrope dancer (who apparently dual-wields swords?), a tournament, and the potential end of the world? That's hard to resist, y'all. Let's hope it lives up to what it can be.

2. Rose Petals and Snowflakes by Kendra E. Ardnek (September 25). Our first Frosted Rose! Kendra blends Snow White and Rose Red with Sense and Sensibility, which is not a combo I would've come up with, but is pretty cool. No pun intended. The release date for this one just got moved back a few days, which is unfortunate — but as a beta reader, I can say with confidence that, if you're a fan of Austen or fairy tale retellings, the extra few days are worth it. (You'll have to wait until the tour starts on Monday to get my full review, sorry.)

3. Runaway Lyrics by C.O. Bonham (September 21). Another Frosted Rose that I've actually read already, this time via ARC. (Again, though, I'm not giving away my full thoughts until the tour . . . well, technically I already posted a review on Facebook, but y'know.) We've got steampunkery, two sibling pairs, and music magic, so that's very much worth looking forward to.

4. As Long As We Live by Cortney Manning (September 22). This is the Frosted Rose I know the least about, but it's promsied me fae (including a fae prince in love with a human girl), sisterhood, magic, and treachery, so obviously I'm hyped. Also, Cortney wrote one of my favorite stories in the Five Poisoned Apples collection, so I know she's good.

5. Secrets of the Mountain by Wyn Estelle Owens (September 23). Wyn's stories tend to be full of family, magic, and mingled humor and epicness, so it should be no surprise that Secrets of the Mountain is the Frosted Rose I'm most excited about (other than my own). I loved The Dragon's Flower and The Dark King's Curse, and I'm sure that Secrets of the Mountain is going to be just as awesome. (No pressure or anything, Wyn! Not that I know if you still read my blogs . . .)

6. Gilded in Ice by Sarah Pennington (September 24). Oh, look! It's me! By now, I think that everyone's heard about Gilded, but in case anyone hasn't: it's the sequel to last year's The Midnight Show (though you could probably read it without having read The Midnight Show first if you really wanted to), and it features a semi-magical cat, two cases for Bastian to solve, and lots of sibling banter. 

7. The Bear by Rachel Roden (September 25). I'm really not sure how you pull off a non-magical, Western take on Snow White and Rose Red. But apparently it's a mystery! In the sense that it's about a mystery, not the sense that how it was pulled off is a mystery. And I look forward to finding out how it works out.

8. Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber (September 30). I have mixed feelings about Caraval — mixed enough that I never actually got around to reading the other books in the trilogy. (Maybe I will eventually . . . but not today.) But I know a fae story when I see one (even if they don't explicitly call the Prince of Hearts a fae), and we've got an ill-advised bargain and a curiosity shop, and, ok, yeah, I have a pretty good guess where the story will end up, but how it gets there is (hopefully) going to be delightful.

9. Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson (October 5). AT LAST. Margaret Rogerson returns! I'm excited enough about this that I preordered the OwlCrate special edition — and I never preorder books, much less special editions, so that's saying something. Vespertine sounds deliciously creepy and perfect for the Halloween season — and it's a nomance. I mean, Rogerson does a great job of writing romance, but I love it when authors recognize that not every story needs it and choose to focus on other types of relationship. (Also,can we take a minute to appreciate THAT COVER? Because, wow. I wish I could make covers that gorgeous.)

10. Gothel and the Maiden Prince by W.R. Gingell (October 1). It is a testament to how much I love W.R. Gingell's books that I even get excited about the ones that are marketed as being primarily-romance. (Well, this is romance and fairy tale retelling, but most of the marketing for the Villain's Ever After series seems to emphasize the romance bit.) Gingell has been sharing snippets on her Facebook and Discord, and Lucien and Gothel's dynamic reminds me a lot of Eurion and Carys (from Lady of Weeds), but with the added factor of a Rapunzel who might be more perceptive than Gothel would like? Suffice it to say: I am very excited and will probably devour this rapidly after it becomes available. Not quite as rapidly as I did Between Family, but still.

11. The Sorcerer and the Swan Princess by Lucy Tempest (October 8). I don't know if I'll actually end up reading this one or not? On one hand, I have yet to read Lucy Tempest's books, even though I have several of them on Kindle, and, again, it promises to be romance-heavy. On the other hand, I've never seen a Swan Princess retelling before, and I am immensely curious how they manage to redeem the villain. I think it'll be on Kindle Unlimited, though, so if I don't have to spend money (and if initial reviews are good), I might just give it a chance.

12. Curse of the Midnight King by Yakira Goldsberry (November 9). I just realized that 70% of this list is fairy tale retellings. Wow. Anyway, Curse of the Midnight King is a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, so it should be no surprise that I'm excited — but I also have high hopes for a deliciously dark and engaging villain, and maybe some Hades and Persephone vibes? It's going to be great. (And I have an ARC, so I get to read it just as soon as the Frosted Roses and the Silmaril Awards are over!

13. Critical Role: Vox Machina — Kith & Kin by Marieke Nijkamp (November 30). Have I watched the first Critical Role campaign yet? No. Am I likely to watch it anytime soon? Also probably not, unless you use Aslan's definition of "soon." (Not because I don't want to, but I'm still stuck in the middle of Campaign 2 because I am just not vibing with Raini.) Have I gotten attached to Vex and Vax anyway by way of fanart, animatics, and the Critical Role: Origins comics? Yes. Am I probably going to try to read Kith & Kin if I can get my hands on it? Absolutely.

What book releases are you excited for this fall? Do you prefer romances or nomances? And have you voted in the Silmaril Awards yet? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 3, 2021

August 2021 Doings!

Hello all! We're into the last stretch of summer and the beginning of fall . . . and also the last stretch before the release of Gilded in Ice and the other Six Frosted Roses books! If you haven't already, make sure you preorder the Gilded in Ice ebook (unless you're holding out for the print version, which I totally understand). Also, signups for the Frosted Roses blog tour and Frosted Roses ARCs are still open, if you're interested! Your support is always welcomed and appreciated.

And with that, let's get on with the Doings!

Writing!

  • I started editing on Gilded in Ice a little later than I anticipated due to various forces beyond my control — but, thankfully, I made far better time than I expected. Case in point: my first week of edits, my goal was to get through five chapters. Instead, I managed to edit at least half of the book — I don't remember the exact amount, since I didn't write it down. (I probably should've.)
  • And it's a good thing I got so much done, because the following week I got . . . very little done. Fun fact: if you're sick enough to be stuck in bed most of the day, you don't really get any editing done. (More on that later, though.) Thankfully, I rallied in time to finish that round of edits, write a new chapter, and do a third edit (focusing on language) the week after.
  • This past week, I've been working on formatting and word-level grammar and spelling-type edits . . . slowly. This is my least favorite stage of the editing process, so I've been rather more distracted than I was in the previous stages. (It didn't help that I had some very good stories — both on the page and on the screen — calling my name.) But progress is being made! And I hope to have the book done to the point of ordering a proof copy this weekend.
  • Also, on a side note: I got a widescreen monitor this month (for non-writing-related-reasons), and it makes editing so much easier. I can have my working document and my beta document up side by side at an easily-readable size on the monitor, and then I have my laptop screen for internet searches, referencing previous versions of the story, or checking things from The Midnight Show. It's amazing. If you have the money and the desk or table space, I highly recommend the investment; it'll make your life way easier.
  • On the D&D front, the group I run didn't meet much this month for a variety of reasons, but we did manage to finally finish the climatic battle of the arc! The Defenders of Serys have survived an encounter with a young kraken, and only two people almost died. The module I've been writing is almost done as well; I just need to sort out the climax. (This is one of those modules where I had lots of ideas for the middle bit of the adventure, but no clue what was going to happen in the ending. I do prefer those to the ones where it's the other way round, though.)

Reading!

  • Ohhhhhh boy was this a good reading month. Look at all those books! Thirty-five of them! That's more than a book a day! (Ok, two of them are short stories. But that's still thirty-three books and two short stories.) As it turns out, when you have one week with no writing projects to work on and three weeks stuck at home, that translates to a lot of reading time.
  • Over half of those books (twenty, to be exact) are by one author: W.R. Gingell. I literally read everything she's published except for four books — one trilogy in which I read the first book and decided I wasn't a fan, and one very early work. Most of those were read all at once, and before you ask — yes, I did have a massive book hangover afterwards because there's no authors quite like Gingell. I'll give you thoughts by series so this section doesn't get too long.
    • I've already told everyone how much I love the Two Monarchies Sequence, particularly Spindle and Masque, which I reread, but I did finally read the newest book, Clockwork Magician! It wasn't my favorite in the series, but Peter also isn't my favorite character in the series, and Isabella and Melchior were both woefully absent. So I'm not terribly surprised by that.
    • I also expressed my love of the City Between novels earlier this month, but thanks to a free Kindle Unlimited subscription that I picked up, I got to read Book 9, Between Family, the day it released! Some of y'all might've seen me raving about it on Facebook and Instagram, but if you missed that, just know that it was truly excellent and brought me much happiness, but I am undone by the ending. Not quite as undone as I was by the ending of Book 8, but still. Undone.
    • The Shards of a Broken Sword trilogy was another very enjoyable fae story. I didn't love it as much as I do Two Monarchies or City Between, but I'd reread it. (It does have dragons in it as well as fae . . . but oddly enough, the dragon-focused book was my least favorite in the trilogy.)
    • Playing Hearts was an interesting take on a Wonderland retelling, but I never got super attached to most of the characters? It's probably my least favorite Gingell — which is to say, it's still better than even the best of some authors I've read, but it's not one I'm going to be raving about anytime soon.
    • Finally, we have the Lady series, which I enjoyed much more than I expected. They're slow, and they're very romance-focused, and both female leads are, I think, intentionally a bit standoffish and prickly? Which should add up to something I don't especially enjoy. But instead, I found myself liking them quite a lot. The first book, Lady of Dreams, feels something like an Austen novel, but sneakier and vaguely Korean and with some fantasy elements mixed in. And then the second book, Lady of Weeds . . . I don't know. It just has a vibe that I really enjoyed, and it's full of mystery that kept me interested even during the slowest bits. I think you have to be in the mood for them, but if you are in the mood, you'll really enjoy them.
  • After Gingell novels, the second-biggest category of the month is rereads — nine of them in total. I revisited Pilgrim's Progress at the beginning of the month, which I've been meaning to do for a while. That was an interesting experience; I'd forgotten how much of the dialogue is basically just a theological treatise. Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens were both as excellent as ever, as were the first three Invisible Library books. (I intend to reread the whole series, but I was interrupted by Between Family.) The Books of the Infinite trilogy was another I'd been meaning to reread for a while, and it was even better than I remembered. Conversely, The Paper Magician was a bit disappointing the second time round, but it was at a disadvantage, since what I really wanted at the time was more W.R. Gingell.
  • That just leaves a few non-Gingell new-to-me reads. The Heir and the Spare was excellent — very character-focused, but in a good way. Midnight for a Curse and Dawn Bringer were both a bit disappointing, especially compared to Wrought of Silver and Ravens. Maybe I would've enjoyed them more at another time; I don't know. And then the first two Stariel books were a lot of fun — fae magic mixed with psuedo-rural-England drama mixed with romance. However, I don't think I'm going to continue the series unless they get rave reviews from someone I know; I liked The Lord of Stariel better than Prince of SecretsPrince of Secrets had a perfectly satisfying ending, and some of the reviews of books three and four make me concerned about where the series is going content-wise. 
  • And I think that covers it! I apologize for the length of this section, but if I can't use my blog to rave about all the excellent books I read, what's even the point?

Watching!

  • So, what did I watch this month? Pretty much everything except Critical Role, which I'm procrastinating on because the next three episodes are guest player episodes, and I don't enjoy those nearly as much as I do the regular episodes. I'll get to them sometime.
  • On the upside, my Critical Role procrastination means I finally started watching Leverage! I'm about eight episodes in (or possibly more if I had time to watch some last night), and I can say with absolute certainty that Eliot is hands-down my favorite character. (Hardison and Parker tie for second place — which is to say, who I like better shifts based on what happened in whatever episode I just watched, so it's easiest to say they're tied.) But I really enjoy the concept of the show, and I think it's well-executed. The heists are clever, the character dynamics are delightful, and there's just the right amount of humor. (Granted, some of it is based on secondhand embarrassment, but so far, I've been able to fast-forward past the worst of those moments without too much trouble.) My only quibble with the show is that Nate and Sophie's definitely-into-each-other-but-not-going-to-act-on-it dynamic is already getting old. I don't always dislike that type of relationship — I was fine with it in Firefly, and I actually write it my stories periodically (it works very nicely with both slowburn and rogue-and-princess romances, which are the two types of relationship I most enjoy writing), but the way it's written in Leverage just . . . it bugs me, y'know?
  • Other than Leverage, I watched a few things with my family. We started the month with The Return of the King, which was obviously great (though not my favorite movie in the trilogy). Later in the month, we watched some classic Star Trek (the best of what I saw was "The Journey to Babel," which is the one with Spock's parents in it), the first episode of The Mandalorian (interesting, but slower than I expected; I want to keep watching, but only if I'm doing it with someone), and an old live-action Disney movie, The Love Bug (which was . . . um? it's not a bad movie, but it was weird and I still don't know what to do with it).

Life!

  • So, this has been a weird month. It started out fine — business as usual at work, church and D&D on the weekend. Then I came down with what I thought was a bad cold — which was fine. I took it as a sign that I should actually buy an external laptop monitor like I'd been thinking of doing for months, hooked up my laptop to my work's remote access, and worked from home for a week, figuring that I'd be better by Monday. And then my symptoms took a turn for the very-not-cold-like and got bad enough that I thought maybe I should go to Urgent Care . . . where they informed me that I probably did not have a cold and did have pneumonia and sent me to the ER, where the doctor and nurses, after stabbing me with needles far too many times, agreed that I probably did not have a cold and did have pneumonia and that I should not go to work in the morning.
  • (Side note, the ER visit and the day immediately preceding the ER visit — when I ended up very dehydrated — were the worst parts of this whole ordeal. The rest of it was tiresome, but otherwise not awful.)
  • So, yes. I won't say which not-a-cold virus I had, but you can probably guess. I spent about three days (two due to fever, one due to just being tired) lying in bed, reading books, listening to The Anthropocene Reviewed, and occasionally managing a nap before starting to be up-and-about more on Thursday. By the following Monday, I was operating at about 75%, which was sufficient for me to get back to editing (well, technically I started editing again on the weekend, but I digress, though my supervisor wouldn't let me work from home. (In her defense, that was probably the wiser choice, since it meant I only spent half the day staring at a screen. In my defense, I was stressed about how much time off I was taking, and I knew I was well enough that I wasn't going to sleep during the day, which is what I think she thought I'd do.)
  • Thankfully, this week I'm pretty much back to 100%, which meant I was able to go back to work and catch up on all the stuff that hadn't been done for two weeks . . . and also start work on the most intimidating project I've had all year. It's not big, but it's very freeform, and the material that needs to go in it is not terribly conducive to any particular format I've come up with. A solution will be found, but frustration will be found first.
  • Outside of the whole being-sick thing, I've started to get back into doing Scripture memorization (and also poetry memorization, just to switch things up now and then). My long-term goal is to be able to pull out applicable and accurately-quoted-and-understood Scripture (and poetry) for various situations without having to look it up (and also to make sure I don't lose my ability to memorize stuff). At the moment, I'm doing one longer passage per week (where "longer" is defined as anywhere from six to twenty-something verses, depending on where natural breaks are and how much of the passage I've previously memorized as single verses), with one week per month dedicated to poetry. It's going well so far, though I think I may have to adjust a few of the passages I have planned for future weeks. I definitely have a much easier time with really long passages when they're poetry or at least poetic rather than prose.
  • Right before I got sick, I also made it to my church's how-to-lead-a-Bible-study-group training, which means I'm qualified to start a group! Unfortunately, a lot of my planning got . . . ah, you know. Delayed. So we'll see what happens with that.
  • The last thing of note that happened this month was that I finally revisited the Journey video game. I managed to get past the point where I was stuck last time, but then I got stuck again a few levels onward, and I know I kept missing stuff in other levels . . . gah. It's very frustrating, and I honestly don't know if I'm going to finish the game at this point.

September Plans

  • Y'all, September is going to be busy. Why? Well . . .
  • As I mentioned at the start of this post, Gilded in Ice releases this month, which means I'll have plenty on my plate doing final formatting and edits and preparing for the blog tour. (I have so many posts to write, y'all. I was supposed to work on them in August, but, well, y'know. That didn't happen.)
  • In addition, September is the Silmaril Awards! Nomination posts will go up on Monday (so soon! I know!), and we'll have voting midway through the month and the awards ceremonies the last two weeks of the month. (Yes, they will overlap with the Frosted Roses blog tour . . . thankfully, my ceremony isn't until the week after.) I'm SUPER excited for my category this year, but it's also going to be a lot.
  • But wait! We're not done yet! Fall is also when things start ramping up at the church where I work, so my workday might be getting a bit busier soon as well. (Or it might not. It's hard to say. It might not really get busier until October, when the new Kid's Ministry Director takes over.)
  • I'm also hoping for more regular D&D sessions this month . . . which means I need to finish that module I'm writing. And start on the next module. On the upside, I have plans and at least three weeks of material already finished. On the downside, I actually have to write the plans. I am not the type of DM who can just go into a session like "Well, I have a rough idea of the storyline. That's good enough!"
  • And then on the reading front, I'm signed up for review copies of all five of my fellow Frosted Roses, which I'm excited about — plus I want to finish rereading the Invisible Library books, and I really need to catch up on some of my specific reading goals. I think that my epic-length fantasy goal is a wash at this point, but I probably have a chance with some of the others. Probably. Maybe.
  • (Plus, of course, the onset of fall means the possibility of cooler weather . . . which means the lure of the hammock may be quite strong on Fridays when I'm supposed to be productive. We shall see how well I manage to resist.)

How was your August? Any exciting plans for September? How was your reading this month? Have you watched Leverage, and if so, who's your favorite character? Do you do regular memorization, whether of Scripture, poetry, or something? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 27, 2021

Five Favorite Fae Tales

 Hello, everyone! It's no secret that I love a good fae/fair folk story, whether it takes the form of a fairy tale retold, an urban fantasy escapade (or mystery), or a classic fantasy adventure. There's just so much to enjoy, from the intrigues of the fae courts to the eccentricities and strong personalities of the fair folk themselves to the dynamics between fae and humans. And because I've been reading quite a few of these kind of stories lately, I thought that I'd take this week to spotlight some of my favorite novels featuring the fair folk. (Also, I haven't done a "favorite ____ books" post in a long time, and I figured it was as good a time as any to remedy that.)

Favorite Fae Tales

  1. An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Is it weird that my favorite fair folk story is one that, in many ways, deconstructs the fae and reveals the hollowness of their courts and revelry? Maybe, but this is a delicious story anyway (which I really should reread sometime soon). I love the author's take on the fae (wild and beautiful and powerful, but crippled in their inability to create) and the seasonal courts, and I love the characters, human and fae alike.
  2. The City Between series by W.R. Gingell. I just shared all the reasons I love the City Between books a couple weeks ago, so I won't repeat myself too much . . . but this series is awesome, full of magnificently dangerous fae and other Behindkind. The interactions between the fae worlds of Behind and Between and the human world are one of the places where the series really shines, though.
  3. The Dark King's Curse by Wyn Estelle Owens. Though the fae in this book are far less other than in some stories on this list, it's still an excellent take on the fair folk and the seasonal courts. More importantly, it includes Laisren, who's probably on my top ten list (if not my top five list) for all-time favorite fae characters!
  4. The Masked City and The Mortal Word by Genevieve Cogman. I probably could've just included the whole Invisible Library series on this list, but I decided to limit myself to the two books that best showcase the fae of this series. The Invisible Library fae are creatures of chaos, driven by narrative; they shape themselves to an archetypal form and manipulate the world around them to suit the story they wish to tell. I would argue that they're one of the most dangerous versions of the fae on this list — true, Behindkind may be more deadly, but Invisible Library fae are harder to resist. That said, they're also one of the most fascinating fae types I've encountered . . .
  5. Tales of Goldstone Wood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I was going to narrow this one down to specific books as well (probably Starflower and Shadow Hand), but some of my favorite faerie-central scenes are in other books (notably Moonblood), so . . . yeah. While not always as fae/faerie-centric as some of the books on this list, Goldstone Wood (and, in particular, one faerie cat-bard) is the series that first raised my interest in fae and the fair folk. And I love the author's take on the Wood and the faerie demesnes, which are often as alive and as strong of characters as the faerie folk who dwell in them.

What are your favorite stories of fae and the fair folk? I'd love to get some new recommendations! Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 13, 2021

You NEED to Read the City Between Series If . . .

 G'day, all! So, this week, I have learned two very important things. One, it is, in fact, possible to drink too much tea. Two, W.R. Gingell's City Between series is MAGNIFICENT, and I wish I'd read it sooner. I mean, I did read the first two books a while back, but then I just . . . stalled? For some reason? (Probably because something else was higher-priority when it came to spending my book money.) But then I binge read the entire eight-novels-and-two-novellas lot over the course of the last week, and so now I'm here to ensure that you don't make my mistake — by telling you all the reasons why you might need to pick up the City Betweenbooks as soon as possible.

 

You NEED to Read the City Between Series If . . .

  1. You loved The Werewolf of Whitechapel, JackabyThe Invisible Library, The Dresden Files, or The Midnight Show and you're looking for your next urban fantasy mystery fix. Alternately, if you wanted to read The Dresden Files but you were scared off by the level of Questionable Content, these are an excellent, arguably more enjoyable, alternative. The City Between series follows the adventures of two fae, a vampire, and one rather unique human girl as they solve the more magical mysteries that crop up around Hobart, Australia — both on the human side and in city Behind and Between. If you remember me raving about Masque, you know that Gingell knows how to write a good mystery . . . and she proves it again and again in this series, with stories that I literally could not put down. (I had to go to bed early more than a few nights just so I could make sure I wouldn't miss out on too much sleep when I inevitably got caught up!)
  2. You can't get enough of narrative voices with character or clever, sarcastic leads with more courage than is probably good for them. The series is narrated by Pet — a function, not a name, but she adopts it as her moniker early in the first book. After all, when you're dealing with the fae, handing out real names is a dangerous thing. And while I love a lot of characters from this series, it's not a stretch to say that Pet is my favorite. She's spunky and sarcastic and clever (which makes her voice a delightful one for telling the story), quick to care for others and quick to stand up for those who she sees are lacking a voice — in this case, the humans who get caught up in the machinations and murders of the fae and other Behindkind. You can't help loving her . . . and, quite frankly, neither can a lot of the other characters (often against their better judgement).
  3. You love a colorful setting and wish reality had a lot more magic to it. I'm reasonably certain that Hobart, Australia is either the author's hometown or somewhere she lived and loved for quite some time, because the city comes alive under her pen — both the human side and the magical side. As we learn in the first book, there's the human world, and the magical world, and there's the bit where the two merge together — the bit that curls into reality in the corners of your eye. The three "worlds" are distinct, and yet they're one almost living thing, and the story slips between magical and mundane as seamlessly as the fae themselves do. 
  4. You want stories and characters that can make you laugh . . . but will also stab you in the feels. We already talked about Pet, but there's so many characters to love here, from the overly dramatic Korean vampire JinYeong to mysterious, morally grey fae like the deceptively-genteel, tea-loving Athelas (arguably my second-favorite after Pet, though it's a close race) and the stoic Zero to the in-over-his-head, why-do-I-keep-getting-dragged-into-this Detective Tuata and more (who I can't mention because spoilers). The characters all, if you'll excuse the cliche, seem to leap off the page, sharp-edged and broken in ways they're slow to admit, becoming friends and family in ways they're equally slow to admit — honestly, it's kind of funny how reluctant they are to allow any affection. Or, that is, it's funny until you discover why they're reluctant. As I said, these stories will stab you in the feels — and Gingell knows that the course of character growth never can run smooth.
  5. You want a highly bingeable series that still has a nice bit of meat to it. Like I said, I read eight novels and two novellas over the course of about seven days. All the published books in the series are available on Kindle Unlimited if you have that, and if not, they're pretty reasonably priced if you have money to spend. And let me tell you, once you start the series, you won't want to stop, especially not once you get to book three or so. (Plus, if you start now, you'll won't have long to wait for Book 9 to release — which will be lucky for you, because even the nineteen days that I'll have to wait feels like an eternity.) But despite being reasonably quick, addictive reads, there's plenty of substance here. There has to be in order to have a good mystery — but besides that, you have hurt and heartbreak and trauma to unpack and messy character relationships and revelations and just so much goodness.

Are you convinced yet? If not, let me offer one more compelling argument: these stories are probably as close as we're ever going to get to if a modern-day Diana Wynne Jones wrote a YA urban fantasy mystery series, and I don't say that about just any book. It's just that good. Alternately, if you've already read the City Between series, what do you love best about it?
Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 6, 2021

Editing Tips and Tricks

Hey'a, all! As I mentioned in my July Doings post, my big project this month is editing Gilded in Ice (again) based on feedback from my beta readers. In honor of that project, I thought I'd share some of my favorite tips and tricks for making editing as painless — or, at least, as effective — as possible. Hopefully these will also be helpful for anyone who's now facing the challenge of editing their Camp NaNoWriMo novel.

Editing Tips and Tricks

  1. The first time you edit, retype everything. Or, at least, as close to everything as you can. This is a technique I picked up by necessity — again, until 2020, I've generally written all my first drafts by hand — but I've continued to use it even for stories I draft digitally. For me, at least, retyping everything makes it easier, both practically and mentally, to change what needs to be changed and to look for those changes. After all, if you have to retype it anyway, making adjustments isn't so bad. (This also helps me make my prose more concise, since I often want to shorten the amount of time I spend editing.)
  2. Change the font from version to version. There are a few different reasons why I do this — admittedly, one of them is that I don't write my first drafts in what you'd call professional fonts. Why you should do it, though, is that changing the look of the page helps you break out of the urge to skim or to zone out because you've seen this so many times, especially in late stages of editing. Of course, there are a lot of ways to accomplish similar changes: printing your manuscript, switching from black on white to white on black, or even just adjusting the zoom level. You don't necessarily need a new font for every version, just for the first one or two major rounds of edits and any time you feel you're growing too complacent. (As a bonus, changing your font means you don't miss any mistakes in punctuation because your font hid them!)
  3. Many eyes make easy edits. Look. No matter how skilled you are at grammar, you will miss stuff because this is your story and you've seen it a hundred times and you're attached to all your little stylistic bits and bobs regardless of whether or not they make the story better. So get another person to look at it at some point in the editing process, whether that's a paid editor, beta readers, or a fellow writer who you trade manuscripts with. Just make sure they understand your style and have a good grasp of the laws of grammar.
  4. Save what you cut! The hardest part of editing is cutting lines, paragraphs, and sometimes whole scenes that you really loved . . . so make it easier on yourself both now and in the future by saving what you cut! The easy way to do this is just by creating a new version of the document for each stage of edits, but you can also copy bits you cut into a separate document and save that. Then, in the future, you can come back to those pieces to reuse them if they fit somewhere else . . . or you can realize they really aren't that great and feel good about yourself for removing them.
  5. Don't rely too much on spellcheck — of any kind. If you're a fantasy author, you're already used to ignoring spellcheck to some degree. But no matter what genre you're writing, you have to know: spellcheck will fail you. It doesn't matter if it's Microsoft Word, Grammarly, or something else entirely. It's a useful tool that will catch some mistakes, but it won't catch all of them — and sometimes it'll flag things as mistakes that are either correct or (more frequently) are deliberate stylistic choices. Or it'll get confused by too many changes and try to suggest changes that aren't correct at all, regardless of whether or not they're necessary. The point is: if you only trust spellcheck, it will fail you.

Do you enjoy editing? What are your favorite editing tricks and techniques? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 30, 2021

July 2021 Doings!

 

Hey'a, friends! It's the end of the month, which means it's time for another Doings! post! On a side note, I'm going to officially make a slight adjustment to the Doings! schedule: going forward, Doings! will be posted on the Friday closest to the last day of the month. I've been using this schedule for a fair bit already, but I wanted to make it official because I had gotten a few questions about why I was posting a week early.

Now, with that out of the way, let's get on with the post!

Writing!

  • The official cover reveal for Gilded in Ice occurred earlier this month, along with the announcement of its upcoming release on September 24 as part of the Frosted Roses Arista Challenge Group, and the preorder launch. If you want to preorder the ebook, it's available via Amazon; for a paperback copy, you'll have to wait until the release proper.
  • Speaking of the release, you can now both sign up for the blog tour and request ARCs. If you want to help support the release of Gilded in Ice or any of the Frosted Roses books, this is a great way to do that! You can find all the book and tour details on this post.
  • Aside from the Gilded in Ice cover reveal, this month has been very quiet on the writing front. I've laid my plans for the next few adventures in my D&D campaign, though I've made less progress writing them than intended. And I did most of the work on the paperback cover for Gilded in Ice, which isn't writing, but is writing-adjacent. Otherwise, though, I've been taking it easy and spending time catching up on reading, gaming, and spending time with family and friends.

Reading!

  • Despite the fact that I said I was taking this month off to catch up on reading, I didn't actually read that many books in July — only six. Of course, of those six, one was fairly long . . .
  • Most of this month's reading was dedicated to finishing the Green Ember series and its two spinoff short-story series, which I really enjoyed. There's such a beautiful message and promise of hope that runs through the narrative to the very end. Pair that with a lot of emphasis on friendships and family relationships and you've got a story I'm very likely to love. I'll probably post more thoughts later this month, so keep your eye out for that!
  • I also finished rereading the Lord of the Rings trilogy this month with Return of the King! So that was fun. I have concluded in the process of rereading it that, of all the minor characters in LOTR (not counting The Silimarillion), Beregond and Bergil are the most underrated. (For those who forgot or don't know: Beregond is a guard of Minas Tirith who befriends Pippin; Bergil is Beregond's son.)
  • Theoretically, this should be the bit where I reread The Silimarillion . . . but I'm still kinda intimidated by that. We'll see.
  • And, yeah. Five Green Ember books, the Return of the King, and I'm done. (Well, I did reread some Fellowship of Fantasy short stories throughout the month when I wanted something short and contained before bed. But I don't count that.)

Watching!

  • We did not watch any LOTR this month, but we were kind of too busy. I did watch quite a few other movies, though!
  • We started out the month with An American Tail for Independence Day, which was . . . darker than I remembered. In all fairness, I hadn't watched it since I was . . . eight or nine, at the oldest. It sparked a lengthy conversation about movies that are theoretically made for kids but which would probably traumatize small children and what movies some of my friends were and weren't allowed to watch and why they weren't allowed to watch them and so on. It was a good movie, though!
  • The next weekend, we re-watched The Music Man, which is always a favorite. I've said this before, but Harold Hill's character and arc is basically one of my favorite archetypes/tropes, and I will never get tired of it in any form.
  • I did manage to mark another movie off my to-watch list, though, by finally watching The Emperor's New Groove (which I voted for when we were picking a Disney movie because it gets referenced SO MUCH and I wanted to understand the references). I actually enjoyed it a lot more than you woud expect, given that it's a movie very reliant on the humiliation of a central character and I suffer from intense secondhand embarassment. I think the fact that you aren't supposed to like Kuzco until a fair way through the movie helped. The story overall was rather different from what I expected, but it was fun.
  • And, as per the usual, I'm still watching Critical Role. Slowly. I'm only partway through Episode 72, but, again, I've been busy. The Clay backstory was cool, though. Also, I think this is the episode where Stuff Happens With Fjord, but as of the writing of this post, I haven't quite gotten there yet. (By the time you read this, I probably will have watched it, and if I've watched it, I suspect I'll have Opinions.)

Life!

Almost everyone died in this game of Sentinels . . . but we still won!

  • Storms and stars and satellites, was this a busy month or what? (Spoiler alert: it was a busy month.)
  • 4th of July weekend was probably one of the two quietest weekends of the month. We didn't go see fireworks, but we got together with some Bible study friends for s'mores and mountain pies, which was fun, and my dad, sister, and I went to the shooting range.
  • The following weekend, my grandpa came down to visit. He hasn't been down in . . . probably two years, honestly, though we've gone up to visit him at his house, so that was nice. That weekend also featured a chocolate raspberry mousse cake, which was so good. Utterly delicious.
  • (I also ended up working Saturday morning that weekend, filling in for the usual slides-and-sound person at a funeral at the church where I work. It was a very nice funeral, and it was clear that the deceased was well-loved by many, many people. It did go kind of long, though, which was, y'know, fine other than the fact that I needed to get home and make rolls to go with dinner.)
  • We had about a week of quiet after my grandpa left, and then our next visitor arrived: my college roommate! So that was SUPER fun. She stayed for just under a week, and we spent most of that time playing board games, and by "board games" I mostly mean Sentinels of the Multiverse. Her visit was also when I watched The Emperor's New Groove for the first time.
  • Probably the highlight of her visit was Friday, when we got together with my sister's roommate (who lives in the area) for a full day of fun. We visited an escape room, which we solved with just ten minutes to spare. Then, after stops at the board game store and an ice cream parlor, we returned to my house . . . for more board games, obviously. My sister's roommate had brought some of her game collection to complement what we had, and she introduced us to a new game, The Crew, as well as some new heroes and hero alternates for Sentinels. Then we finished out the night with pizza, a cheese night (which, for the uninitiated, basically means everyone brought fancy-ish cheeses and we ate them with crackers and sparkling juice), and Mysterium (like Clue, but 500x better).
  • In addition to all that, I've been going through my church's membership class so I'll be qualified to volunteer, lead a small group, and otherwise get connected as I choose. That's been interesting.
  • My sister and I have also been continuing through Portal 2, and she was appropriately surprised by the twists in the storyline. I also gave Journey another try, restarting the game completely so I can try to figure out what I missed that got me stuck on the third stage. I've only replayed the first two stages, but now that I have a better idea what I'm looking for, I think I'm enjoying it more.
  • And, of course, work continues. Not much to say about work other than it's been quiet and I continue to enjoy it.

August Plans

  • My big projects for August are edits, formatting, and blog tour prep for Gilded in Ice. I'm starting to get back feedback from my beta readers, and I'm looking forward to polishing up the story and getting it ready to share with the rest of y'all. (I'm also a little nervous . . . but nerves always kick in around the editing stage.)
  • My sister returns to college partway through the month, which means we need to make sure we finish up everything we wanted to do with her during the summer, including games and watching The Return of the King. That also means I'll have to get used to not having someone to chat with over dishes again.
  • My D&D group should finish up this season/arc this month — I think we only have two, maybe three sessions left. We're halfway through the climax now, and . . . let's just say that the most intense part of that battle is still to come.
  • On the reading front, I'm torn between the fact that I intended to read more classics and epic fantasy this year and the fact that I got four months of Kindle Unlimited for free and I want to make the most of them . . . which mostly means reading all the City Between books and miscellaneous other indie books that I haven't convinced myself to spend money on yet. We'll see which urge wins out.
  • Yeah. I'm hoping August will be a quieter month than the last two. We'll see if that works out or not . . .

How was your July? Any exciting plans for August? Have you played any board games (or even video games) lately that you really enjoyed? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 23, 2021

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 1: July 202

Hello, hello, hello! So, for a while now I've been meaning to start a new regular blog series, one that would orient readers both old and new to the "big picture" of what's going on in the world of what's-Sarah-writing-now. My daily and weekly writing goals (posted on Facebook and Instagram), I think, do a pretty good job of showing what's going on right now, and, of course, my Doings! posts include monthly progress updates. But I also want y'all to know how those daily and monthly updates fit together in the long term, which is the gap I hope this series — On the Taleweaver's Desk — will fill.


On the Taleweaver's Desk will cover four categories of projects, which I'll explain once I get into them, and will include both projects-for-hopeful-publication and side projects that are just for me and my friends (aka D&D campaigns, because I like talking about them, they're important to me, and they do take up a decent percentage of my writing time at this point). It'll go up four times a year; I'm thinking a month into each season. (So, July, October, January, and April.) It'll be posted on Light and Shadows, Dreams and Dragons, and my author site, so you'll see it no matter where you follow me.

And now, with those words of explanation out of the way, let's get on with the actual post!

On the Taleweaver's Desk Issue 1: July 2021

On the Desktop

These are the projects you might find open on my laptop or desk if you took a peek at it during a normal day. They're currently in progress and at the top of the priority chart.

Gilded in Ice (Bastian Dennel, PI #2)

What is it? Gilded in Ice is my next upcoming book and the sequel to The Midnight Show. It's a mystery retelling of "Snow White and Rose Red" and "East of the Sun, West of the Moon."

Status: Waiting for beta feedback, working on preliminary formatting

Not a lot has changed with this project since my last Doings! post. I've started to get a little bit of feedback from some of my betas, which means I can begin thinking about what needs to be adjusted in edits. The paperback cover is about 90% done (I just need to adjust the spine width), and the actual content formatting is . . . well, I haven't started that yet. But, since a lot of it will carry over from The Midnight Show, it technically isn't completely yet-to-begin.

D&D Campaign: Defenders of Serys

What is it? Defenders of Serys is the homebrew D&D campaign that I run for my D&D group.

Status: Writing Season 4 and thinking of what to do during our break.

As a word of explanation, since this campaign started during our senior year of college, I set it up to run more like a TV show than your average D&D campaign, with linked one-shots and breaks every so often for me to take a break from DMing and get ahead on writing the adventures (thus the term "Seasons"). While we've shifted from the linked one-shots to a more traditional campaign format, we still take breaks every so often, and we're coming up on one now. I've written all I need to get us to that break, and I've started prepping the first adventures for when the break ends. I have three in mind, and I'm very excited about ALL of them.

Stacked on the Side

These are the stories that I'm not actively working on (at least not officially), but I'm keeping close at hand because I plan to get back to them soon (or I just work on them sporadically as the urge takes me).

Blood in the Earth

What is it? Blood in the Earth is the sequel to Blood in the Snow and a retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with the myth of Hades and Persephone.

Status: First draft finished; awaiting revisions.

I finished the first draft of Blood in the Earth last October, right before I started writing Gilded in Ice. It's a mess, but there's a lot of good bones in it . . . it's just that the bones are, currently, the narrative equivalent of a Brontosaurus: mostly the right pieces, arranged in the wrong way to create an incorrect story. I'd like to start edits on it sometime this year if things work out.

Once Upon a Dream

What is it? A light steampunk (or gaslamp fantasy?) Sleeping Beauty retelling; the predecessor to The Midnight Show

Status: Edited several times over. Awaiting another round of rewrites/expansion/edits.

Once Upon a Dream was the novella I wrote, oh, some years back for the Five Magic Spindles Rooglewood Press collection. Like Blood in the Snow, it was a finalist in the competition, but it didn't make it into the actual collection. I've been meaning to polish it up and expand some of the parts of the story so I can publish it for a while now, especially since The Midnight Show and Gilded in Ice are set in the same world (albeit several decades later). That said, it's not a top priority, especially since I'd like to get at least a few more Bastian Dennel, PI mysteries written and published before I jump back in time.

A Tower of Portals Campaign

What is it? A second D&D campaign inspired by one of my favorite video games.

Status: On hold; worked on when I have new ideas.

This is a side project that I worked on for a few months in 2020, but which I set aside once I started running up against deadlines on other projects. It's very different from any of the other writing I do, and the format of the campaign and the need to adapt certain elements from the inspirational material to D&D 5e in a way that's interesting and fun and isn't just a carbon copy of the original makes it an interesting challenge. I'm not actively working on it, but when I have time and come up with ideas for a new section, I'm prepared to pull it out and write more.

Shelved for Now

These are stories that are also on hold, but which I don't have specific plans to work on very soon. They're still within easy reach should I decide to return to them, but they aren't a top priority.

Dust of Silver

What is it? Classic-ish fantasy retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses crossed with Rapunzel, the first book in what has the potential to be a rather long series. Also, a rewrite of a book I wrote years ago that won't let go of me because CHARACTERS.

Status: Several chapters into the rewrite.

So, yeah. I started rewriting this for the Golden Braids Arista Challenge, about two or three years ago. I didn't finish rewriting it because I decided to rewrite Mechanical Heart instead . . . I think because I thought it would be less work, or at least easier to finish on time? I'm not sure. I want to get back to it eventually because I want to eventually write the whole series and do all the characters and relationships the justice they deserve. (This is one of the most romance-heavy series I have, which . . . is still not saying a lot, to be honest. And most of the couples don't really show up until the sequel. But two of them get their start here, and I'm very excited about them.)

Between Two Worlds

What is it? A portal fantasy adventure about what happens when you come home from the adventure, only to discover that the adventure isn't quite as done with you as you thought.

Status: The first draft has been done for some time; the second version should probably just be restarted at this point.

This story sits near and dear to my heart, and I am going to finish it and publish it if it kills me. (It won't kill me. Unless I die of self-inflicted feels because there is so much pining in this book.) However, since it's not a fairy tale retelling or a D&D campaign, it hasn't fit nicely into my writing schedule since I started publishing things. That's ok, though, since this book gets into the multiverse of my storyworlds more than anything else on this list, and I really should have the workings of said multiverse figured out before I start doing more stuff with it. On the upside, I think rewriting it will take less work than some of the other projects on this list when it does move up the priority chart.

The Way of the Pen

What is it? Self-aware fantasy adventure about a girl and her author.

Status: The first draft is sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting for its turn back in the spotlight.

I wrote this around the same time as Between Two Worlds — I think Between Two Worlds came first, though I could be wrong. Anyway, they've both been sitting on the shelf for a while. Again, I love this story, and I want to go back to it, and I think it could be rewritten with less effort than some other things on this list, but it hasn't fit neatly into my writing schedule. Quite frankly, Rinna would probably be very happy if I just moved on and continued to leave her alone, but the whole story is about her dealing with being in a story, so I'd hate to waste all that character development. This is also one of the few books that still doesn't fit in the multiverse as a whole (or if it does fit, it does so in a different way), so it's my best candidate if I decide to submit something to small-press or traditional publishing.

Berstru Tales series

What is it? A classic epic fantasy series and the longest-running series I've worked on (either in the number of books written or in how long I've worked on it.

Status: Needs to be rewritten from the ground up, but the bones are good.

Some people might question why this is even on the list. I started writing it almost ten years ago at this point, and it shows in the storyline. But, as I said, the bones are good, and the characters are good (though some of their ages will need adjusting), and — look. The Way of Kings originated from the first character Brandon Sanderson ever wrote. The character and the story around that character changed and grew a lot before it became the story we know today, but I'm calling that proof that I shouldn't give up on Berstru just because I wrote it so long ago. It's going to take a lot of work when I do go back to it; like I said, it needs as dramatic a rewrite as Mechanical Heart did. When I go back to it, it'll probably be a project that I do primarily for myself (and to set up some other elements of the multiverse) more than something I write because I know a lot of my readers will be super into it. But I'm not letting go of it — not when I find myself thinking about it on a weekly, even daily basis at times.

Awaiting Delivery

These are the stories that are on their way, but haven't quite arrived yet to the point where I can write them: ideas I'm toying with but haven't even started to draft because they're still too nebulous.

Novellas from the world of Blood in the Snow

What are they? Currently, three and a half ideas for spinoffs, most of which are also fairy tale retellings: one Puss in Boots (no, really), one Orpheus and Eurydice (probably crossed with a similar Japanese myth, Izanagi and Izanami), one Snow Queen (that's the half an idea), and one that's not currently a fairy tale retelling but would be about Gan and Azuma before they were animal-keepers at the emperor's palace.

Status: Well, one is, as I said, only half an idea. Of the others, I have rough ideas of scenes in two of them, and a general concept for the last.

I'm not sure what else there is to say about any of these? I think they'd be fun, but the actual sequel takes precedence. Also, of the two I'm most excited about, one (the Orpheus and Eurydice one) doesn't even take place until after said sequel, and the other (the Gan one) would, I think, be best read after the sequel as well.

Mechanical Heart Sequel

What is it? Exactly what the title says.

Status: Half-formed ideas that have yet to coalesce into anything actionable.

I will be frank: writing a sequel to Mechanical Heart is not a priority right now. It ranks above some of the Shelved for Now projects, but not above all of them. Why? As things stand, it works well as a standalone, better than anything else I've published thus far. Also, Mechanical Heart was hard to write even though I loved the story, so I don't want to start a sequel until I have a well-formed idea that I'm really excited about. I apologize to anyone who's disappointed. (Don't worry, I doubt I'll be able to stay away forever. I never can.)

Unnamed Fantasy Murder Mystery

What is it? Exactly what the headline says. A prominent noble is murdered; his adoptive daughter is poised to inherit his lands and position — but some are saying her hand was behind his death.

Status: A growing, but often-shifting idea.

I've had this in mind to write for a while — since before Cedarville, in fact. I've mentioned it in a few posts, though none are recent. But until recently, I haven't had the courage to try my hand at writing a true mystery, let alone one that would be so heavy on politics and so light in magic. That's probably good, since that gave this story enough time that I think it's stronger now than it would've been if I'd written it when I first imagined it. Still, I don't think I'm going to tackle this until Blood in the Earth is done.

Worldhoppers Inc./Mythology D&D Campaign

What is it? Yet another homebrew D&D campaign. Or two. Technically it's two possible themes for series of connected one-shots and short-term adventures, with a few adventure ideas for each theme and a chance that I'll just try to combine them.

Technically it's two separate ideas that I might combine into one. Idea one focuses on Worldhoppers, Inc., an organization that takes care of your magical, strange, and paranormal problems . . . for a price. Idea two is more of a series of one-shots and short-term adventures based around fairy tales, folktales, and myths. If I combine them, Worldhoppers, Inc. becomes a more noble organization whose agents maintain the storyline in both fandom worlds and folktales.

Status: Mixed?

So, these ideas came from a few places — a realization that a particular Welsh myth would make a pretty good D&D adventure (though it wouldn't fit into my current campaign), players in my current campaign commenting on how fun it could be for their characters to end up in different fandom worlds, a few songs that gave me concepts for adventures, and so on. Eventually it settled into two ideas — Worldhoppers, Inc. (think adventuring guild, but in multiple dimensions!) and the mythology campaign (in which storylines would be pulled from myths, folktales, and fairytales) — which might be combined into one concept (an organization that deals with magical problems throughout realms while making sure the "storyline" of each world isn't interrupted). A few of these adventures, I'd like to write so I could have them on hand if I'm asked to run a one-shot or a mini-campaign. But, like many things on this list, I haven't had the time yet, especially since I prioritize novels over D&D writing.

All right! Hopefully that was interesting. I recognize that it was a lot of information; in future posts in this series, I hope that the status of most of the non-active projects will be much shorter. (I also hope to use some of this post to update my Novels page on this blog so I can point people there for more information.) But I think writing all this down was helpful for me, and I'd like to think it was helpful for some of y'all to read.

Is there any story or project in this list that you're especially excited for me to write? What are your current projects that you're working on? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Revealing the Gilded in Ice Cover!

 

Hello, everyone! I've been talking about Gilded in Ice, the sequel to The Midnight Show, for . . . storms, eight or nine months at this point? And I mentioned that I finished the cover around the end of last month . . . and now I get to show it off! Now, some authors might drag this sort of thing out, but not me! Not much, anyway.

 

Bastian has two new missing person cases. One is cold. The other is his own sister.

Since his success solving the Midnight Show disappearances, Bastian Dennel is sitting pretty. And with the new high-profile cold case that just got dropped in his lap, he’s pretty sure things will stay that way for a while. But when he finds out his sister has gone missing without a trace, he’s determined to find her and bring whoever’s responsible to justice — even if his only lead is a stray cat with a knack for vanishing unexpectedly.

Kona Dennel’s plans have already been upended, so when the talking cat she’d befriended asked her for help breaking an enchantment, she didn’t see any reason not to say yes. She didn’t expect to be trapped in a frozen mansion or to be drawn into conflict with a mysterious lady of the fair folk. Even the cat is hiding more secrets than she realized. It’ll take a skilled detective to untangle this web . . . but since Bastian isn’t here, Kona will just have to do it herself.

Secrets abound, and the one creature who knows the truth isn’t talking. Can Bastian and Kona outwit a fae who’s been at this for centuries? Or will thawing out the long-frozen truth drop them in over their heads?

A magical mystery reimagining Snow White and Rose Red and East of the Sun, West of the Moon in the jazz-age world of The Midnight Show.

Releasing September 24, 2021

Preorder on Amazon || Add to your Goodreads shelf

For those curious: yes, I designed the cover, just like I designed the cover of The Midnight Show! Speaking of The Midnight Show, the Kindle version is free on Amazon today through Saturday, July 17!

As some of you know and others of you may have guessed, I'm releasing Gilded in Ice as part of the Frosted Roses Arista Challenge group. This is my fourth year participating in the Arista Challenge, and it's a new adventure every time. You can check out the full author lineup by reviewing last night's Facebook reveal party or visiting the release info page. And if you want to help spread the word about the release (or these snazzy new covers), we have several ways for you to do that. You can share the covers (info packet here) or sign up for an ARC or the blog tour! (If the info isn't up on the sign-up post yet, just check back in a bit. Kendra's in the process of putting that together.)

As a final note, we are currently running two special promotions! For the duration of this week, all of the Frosted Roses preorders will be only $0.99, and if you preorder all six and forward your receipt to Kendra, you'll get a special gift. And if you share the covers this week, you'll get another special gift! Find all the details on this post.

 

I can't wait to share this story with y'all. Thanks for your support!

Friday, July 9, 2021

2021 Mid-Year Book Celebration

Here we are, halfway through 2021, and you all know what that means! It's time to check in with my reading for the year! As promised, we're renaming this because, let's be real, "Book Freakout" is not accurate. From here on out, these posts will be the Mid-Year (or End-of-Year) Book CELEBRATIONS! Because what are they, really, but a space for me to recognize and rejoice in all the awesome stories I've enjoyed?

As always, we're going to start the party with some statistics and updates on my reading goals. Thus far, I've read 44 books and 15.5K pages this year, which puts me a bit ahead of schedule for completing my overall goal of reading 75 books this year. It also puts me behind what I had read around this time last year (by about 14 books and 4K pages), but I have, y'know, a job this year. On the upside, I've liked most of what I've read; my average rating is 4.2 stars. As for my more specific reading goals:

  • Towards my goal of 12 books written or published before 1975, I have read . . . 1 book. Wow. That's even worse than I thought — I expected that The Last Unicorn, at least, would have fallen into the "older books" zone, but it was published in 1986. That means the only book I've read that was published before 1975 is The Two Towers. (On the upside, I'm currently rereading Return of the King, so I'm about to have two books for this goal!)
  • I've read 4 books outside the speculative fiction genres . . . sort of, at least? Three (the Jenny Lawson memoirs) definitely count. One (Isle of Swords) is . . . I think technically historical adventure fiction? But I can't remember for sure if there's any elements that would edge it over into historical fantasy.
  • As for my goal of 1 epic-length Tolkien or Jordan novel every 2 months, I've read . . . again, one book. I briefly misremembered this goal as "one epic-length fantasy every 2 months," and if that were the case, I'd be doing great with my Sanderson reread. But nope. I even specifically said "non-Sanderson" in my original version of the goal.
  • Finally, I have not been keeping up at all with my goal of tracking my reads in more detail. I meant to make a spreadsheet, and then I just . . . forgot. I went back and made a spreadsheet this past week of my reads thus far this year, though, so we'll try to do it for July and see how it goes. (Technically, my goal was only to do it for one month, so I haven't failed yet!)

And now, with those statistics out of the way, let's get on with the celebration proper!

2021 Mid-Year Book Celebration!

1. Best book you've read so far in 2021:

It's a tie, but not between the books you're thinking it will be.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Werewolf of Whitechapel by Suzannah Rowntree

There is absolutely no way I can pick between these two. They're both magnificent urban fantasy adventures — one modern-ish, one historical. Neverwhere is probably one of the best showcases of Gaiman's magical writing style I've encountered, and it has mythical and fairy-tale vibes that can't be beat. On the other hand, The Werewolf of Whitechapel is a fantasy-mystery with a storytelling voice I just love and a heroine I couldn't dislike if I tried. Not that I'd want to try.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2021:

And here are the books you thought would be the answer to question one — another tie between two amazing books —

Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson

Return of the Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Again, I can't choose between these. Rhythm was epic and explosive and heavy — literally and figuratively. Like Words of Radiance, it had some of the deepest darkness and most brilliant triumphs in the series to date. But Return was all I could've wanted from the conclusion to one of my favorite series — and then some.

3. New release you haven't read yet but want to:

Literally almost anything from my last two new-releases posts, ha! I've been mood reading a lot, and I've been playing catch-up since, I don't know, probably since 2015 to be honest.

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year:

Mine.

But also . . .

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

Margaret Rogerson is one of my favorite authors, and the blurb for her next book reminds me of Abhorsen, which I also love, and I am SO PSYCHED. (It's also going to be a nomance! Which is FABULOUS.) I may or may not have joined the OwlCrate mailing list solely so I could order the special signed edition. I have no regrets.

5. Biggest disappointment:

The Unicorn Anthology

I don't DNF books very often, but this anthology just made me sad and angry, and it was full of stories by people who really wanted to be writing Literary Fiction but were, for some reason, writing fantasy — and so, to spite the fantasy crowd, they filled their stories with the same sort of misery that permeates the worst of literary fiction.

As for books I actually finished, The Last Unicorn probably takes the spot. I'm glad I read it once, but I really do not want to repeat the experience.

6. Biggest surprise:

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

I read this book because I heard it had Kaz Brekker in it. I didn't even enjoy the Kaz Brekker bit that much. But the rest of it, I enjoyed far more than I expected based on the previous book. Less angst, more clever, desperate people being clever.

7. Favorite new-to-you author:

S.D. Smith, author of the Green Ember series

Other than Redwall, I generally haven't been one for the fantasy subgenre I like to refer to as "small creatures with swords." (That might be its actual name? I don't know.) But this series kept popping up on my radar, and I knew the author was associated with Andrew Peterson, so I figured I would give it a try . . . and storms, did I make the right choice.

8. Newest fictional ship:

  • This isn't new, but my appreciation for Gen/Irene, Helen/Sophos, and Adolin/Shallan has been renewed and lifted to greater levels than ever. Relationship goals, all of them. Some of them shouldn't be relationship goals, maybe. (Looking at you, Gen/Irene.) But they are anyway, and they're beautiful.
  • In terms of new ships, Lois and Chaiman are the sweetest and I shipped them before I was even certain there was any hope in shipping them.
  • Sharp/Short from the Miss Sharp's Monsters series also gets a shoutout. They're an excellent match.

Yeah. There's not a lot to mention here. Most of the new books I've read haven't been romance-heavy, and I like it that way. (Also, I reread a lot this year.)

9. Newest favorite character:

Again, this year has had a lot of rereading, so I've spent a fair amount of time just renewing my appreciation for old favorite characters. That said, there are a few new faces on that list . . .

  • Miss Sharp (Miss Sharp's Monsters) is whip-smart, stubbornly protective, and brave and loyal to a fault — not to mention quite witty. She's the best part of the series that bears her name — though I love many of her companions, allies, and sometimes enemies as well, particularly May, Inspector Short, and Grand Duke Vasily.
  • The Marquis (Neverwhere) is a magnificent character, catlike in all the ways that matter most. Any scene he happens to be in is a good one, and the short story he had all to himself was just as good as the full novel I met him in.
  • And from the Green Ember books, we have Helmer (grumpy, but heroic; I initially liked him out of spite for another character and then was pleased when my choice proved well-made), Picket (despite some initial frustrations and misgivings), Smalls (SMALLS!), and probably Weezie as well — I haven't known her quite long enough to be certain, but I very much like her in the half a book I can go off of.

10. A book that made you cry:

Rhythm of War didn't actually make me cry, but it did cause other distressed noises more than a few times, so I'd say that counts.

11. A book that made you happy:

Can I say The Werewolf of Whitechapel again? No? I have to talk about something else? Fine.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo was a very cool collection of in-world myths, fairy tales, and legends. I very much enjoyed it, dark though it was at times. Part of me wants to try to do something similar for some of my worlds, but we'll see.

12. Favorite book to film adaptation you've seen this year:

Fellowship of the Ring. Yes, it's a rewatch. I'm counting it because otherwise I have nothing to count.

13. Favorite post you've done so far this year:

I've been blogging a little less this year, but I still have a few posts that I really enjoyed writing and whose end result I'm pleased with.

  • "Old Years' Memories; New Years' Visions" — My annual New Year's short story chronicling the adventures of Carrie and Tamison! This one may be my favorite in the series so far, in no small part due to how many references I got to make to all the books I've written and am going to write.
  • Giving Fanfic Some Credit — I'd been thinking about writing this post for at least a year before I finally wrote it, and I really enjoyed being able to celebrate fanfiction, which is a large part of what's gotten me into more than one fandom.
  • Some Thoughts on Spoilers — I have strong-ish opinions about spoilers, and they run in the opposite direction to everyone else's strong opinions. Or so it seems sometimes.

14. Most beautiful book you've bought so far this year:

Behold: Spindle. It's beautiful, and it's mine, and I got so excited when I found it.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

Heh. All of them. (But I do have four months free of Kindle Unlimited, and I want to make the most of it, so . . . probably allllllll the indie fantasy/spec fic that I've been holding off on because I don't like buying ebooks unless I know they'll be good.)

What about you? What were your favorite reads of the year? Biggest surprises (for good or ill)? Are you caught up on 2021 releases, or are you just as behind as I am? And, if you're a fellow Margaret Rogerson fan, how excited are you for Vespertine? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!