Friday, March 18, 2022

Spring 2022 Reads

Hey'a, everyone! Spring officially begins in just a few days, which is lovely, and that means that it's time to check out a new crop of book releases! We definitely have some good ones coming out in the next few months, so that's lovely. As usual, I'm posting my full list here, but if you just want the quick top picks list, you can find that over on Light and Shadows.


Spring 2022 Reads

1. A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin (March 29)Asian fantasy! Tea magic! A heroine determined to save her sister's life! While there are other reads on this list that I'm more excited about, I'd still call this a good start to the season, wouldn't you?

2. Tall and Dark by Suzannah Rowntree (April 2). We're returning to the world of Miss Sharp, and I don't think I could be more hyped! I didn't think that this was coming out until August . . . and then Rowntree's latest newsletter hit my inbox and I learned that I only have two weeks to wait! In my case, not even that, because she was opening up ARC applications and I barely managed to finish the sentence before hitting reply to ask for a spot on the team. Miss Sharp herself doesn't feature in this new series, but Molly Dark sounds like a fabulous new heroine, and we have Grand Duke Vasily back, which is immensely exciting.

3. Hotel Magnifique by Emily J. Taylor (April 5). So, we've got two Belle Époque historical fantasies releasing within days of each other . . . but this one sounds like it'll have more magical realism vibes. The blurb suggests Night Circus vibes, which certainly sounds intriguing. And maybe we'll get a good sister relationship between Jani and Zosa? (Side note, I love the names here.)

4. Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher (April 26). I'm not sure what to make of this one — it sounds like it'll have some fascinating dark fairytale vibes, with strange tasks and weird magic and the youngest of three sisters out on a magical quest. On the other hand, I'm kind of concerned that it'll turn out like The Blacktongue Thief, which also had promising vibes but ended up just being unpleasant.

5. Crown and Cinder by Kendra E. Ardnek (April 27). It's the first of the Midnight Curfews and the second in Kendra's series of Austen Fairytales! I'm a beta reader for this one, and so I can already tell you that it's good. Pride and Prejudice derails Cinderella, and vice versa, to magnificent effect! We have some characters reappearing from Rose Petals and Snowflakes, if you read that, and we get a pretty fun take on Lizzy/Cinderella and her particular situation. If you want, you can preorder it now on Amazon — I'm sure Kendra would appreciate it.

6. Cindy Ellen by Rachel Roden (April 28). This is the second Midnight Curfew and the third book in the Wunstuponia series of Western non-magical fairytale retellings. While I still need to catch up on the series, I'm sure this new installment will be good. Again, it's up for preorder on Amazon if you're interested.

7. Mask of Scarlet by Sarah Pennington (April 29). We're so close to the next installment of Bastian Dennel, PI, in which Bastian finds himself on the job of finding Cinderella herself! I'm very excited to share this with y'all, especially after getting some very good feedback from my beta readers. We have more of Bastian, more of his sisters, a bit more Dayo, and some new characters who I think you'll enjoy meeting. If you haven't already, make sure you preorder on Amazon (unless you're holding out for the paperback, in which case, fair).

8. The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah (May 17). This sounds like it has Arabian Nights vibes, which is delightful — I don't encounter enough of these kind of stories. And I do very much like the dynamic of sheltered noble/streetwise rogue, whether it's platonic or romantic, and I think we'll be getting that in here too.

9. Murder for the Modern Girl by Kendall Kulper (May 24). This is Jazz Age urban fantasy, which means reading it definitely counts as writing research . . . right? We've got a mindreading heroine who's been dispensing vigilante justice and a genius shapeshifter who sounds like he has a scientific bent, so those sound like very promising main characters. I think this will be a fun read!

What book releases are you excited for this spring? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!


Friday, March 11, 2022

You Should Absolutely Read Cinderella Must Die

Good morning, everyone! So, this week's post was originally going to be about how I'd just finished reading Discworld after actual years and was going to spotlight my favorite books in the series. The one problem? I didn't finish the series this week like I thought I would. (Blame Snuff — it's a much thicker tome than I realized.) Instead, I'm going to spotlight a different book I just recently read: W.R. Gingell's latest release, Cinderella Must Die. Which, let me tell you up front, is an absolutely delightful romp of a fairy tale murder mystery. Intrigued? Good, let's go.

You Should Absolutely Read Cinderella Must Die

  1. Because Cinderella + murder mystery is the combo you never knew you needed. I mean, I'm a big fan of just about any blend of fairy tale and mystery (which should be a surprise to no one), but Cinderella as a murder mystery? With the stepsisters trying to clear their names before they can be officially accused as the murderers? It works so well, y'all. It's fabulous, and it's a very well-put-together mystery (also no surprise, since Gingell wrote a whole series of urban fantasy mysteries that are also awesome).
  2. It's the first roles-reversed/villainous retelling that's really caught my interest and carried through. Villain/hero swaps for fairytales are an interesting concept — I have ideas about writing some myself in the future. But the ones I've read so far tend to be . . . not what they could be, and the good ones aren't widely available. But Gingell handles both Cinderella-as-villain and stepsisters-as-protagonists very well and makes it convincing. Plus, it's not super dark, as I get the impression a lot of roles-reversed stories are — honestly, it's a very fun read.
  3. Jane and Charlie are an excellent sister pair. They come off as very realistic siblings — the kind who love each other have each other's back without question, but who also don't mind teasing each other. They actually remind me (in the best ways) of Azalea and Bramble from Heather Dixon's Entwined, which is awesome. They're clever and persistent and loyal and just excellent characters to spend the narrative with.
  4. The rest of the characters are also awesome. I can't list them all because spoilers, but I did very much enjoy getting to know them and seeing their interactions with the sisters. Some of them — Candace in particular — I'd rather like to see get their own spinoff. I will say that Harvey was rather annoying for a lot of the book, but, I mean, there was a reason for it.
  5. There's a very clever use of magic in here, and I can't say what it is, but I really love it. I wish I'd thought of it first. Yeah. Any other details will be spoilers, so let's leave it at the fact that Gingell did something very interesting and it makes for a better plot and some very good, well-handled themes.

Have you read Cinderella Must Die? If so, what's your favorite thing about the book? If not, do you want to read it? Please tell me in the comments!

(On a side note: W.R. Gingell just announced her next book, Castle and Key, which is a Bluebeard retelling, and — look, I am magnificently hyped. It sounds like it's going to be very much in the vein of Masque, which is the book that made me fall in love with Gingell's writing, and long story short, I am going to be so happy come July.)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 4, 2022

Writing Tips and Tricks (That Shouldn't Work as Well as They Do)

Hey'a, all! As y'all are probably aware, there's a lot of writing advice out there — in fact, depending on how many blogs and newsletters you follow and what kinds of things you search on Google, you probably can't open your email or your internet browser without running into someone telling you how to write better. A lot of that advice, especially in the area of tips and tricks, is pretty standard stuff, but there's some more unusual material out there too — and some of those more unusual tips work far better than you expect when you read them. I've been meaning to make a post for a while about some of the odd tricks that've helped me the most, and since I've spent the last several months Writing (and rewriting and editing) Like Mad, I felt like this was a good time to do just that.

Writing Tips and Tricks
(That Shouldn't Work as Well as They Do)

  1. Write in a non-serious font. The original version of this advice was to write in Comic Sans specifically — why? Because traditional serif and sans serif fonts (at least the readable ones) are, well, traditional. Serious. Clean. Meticulously shaped. They pump up the pressure to produce perfection. Comic Sans? It's chill. Relaxed. A little messy. It breaks past the block that makes you revise a sentence over and over again and just lets the words flow. And it works. It has a major benefit of handwriting (lack of pressure) paired with the major benefits of digital (speed and editability). It's wonderful. To be fair, though, any readable handwriting font will work in a similar way. I drafted more than a few college papers in Comic Sans, but I like more scripty fonts for fiction. For example, the Bastian Dennel, PI novels were drafted in Ink Free, and my Super Secret Mystery Project is in Segoe Print.
  2. Don't end your writing session at the end of a scene or chapter. Some people even say to end in the middle of a sentence, but I think that's a bit extreme. The point is to avoid the paralysis of figuring out how to start a scene before you even get your writing muscles warmed up — sort of to give yourself a runway for the next writing session. I confess that I haven't always used this one, especially when my inspiration doesn't extend beyond the chapter I just finished, but I'm making a point of doing it in my current project, and I think it's helping a lot.
  3. Write your way into a scene. When you don't have a runway from your last writing session . . . make one! It's a draft, you're going to edit anyway, so if you need to, just start writing with a messy description of what's going on as the scene opens and maybe where you're going with it and keep going until you can transition into the real prose. Then go back and delete all the leadup. I've only used this one a few times, but it does help — it's a little like the Draft Zero concept that Deborah O'Carroll has told me about or the similar method that Sylvia Mercedes uses to rapidly draft her books, just on a very small scale.
  4. Having problems with a scene? Change the weather. This is one I actually used in Gilded in Ice. (Chapter 15, to be exact.) The exact advice doesn't work for every scene, but the general principle does: if you're stuck on a particular scene, change some detail about the setting or situation and you might just find the words flowing more readily. Changing details like this — whether it's the weather or the time of day or the whole location — helps you pull away from the idealized version of the scene in your head and actually write the version that can exist on paper.
  5. If your story feels off now, the problem is probably about ten lines back. This one goes along with the previous tip, especially since I find this also tends to happen when you're trying to force the story or characters in the wrong direction. While it can be risky to engage your inner editor during a writing session, if you're stuck, it may be worth looking back at what happened earlier in the scene (or even earlier in the book!) and trying to find the cause. It's definitely better to look in the moment than to push on with the book and end up having more story weight resting on a cracked support

What are your favorite writing tips and tricks, whether odd or unusual or otherwise? Please tell me in the comments!
Thanks for reading!