Author Archive

Content NOT in THE BURNING SKY Advance Copies

September 16, 2013

The three last endnotes today.

[23] The golden age of elemental magic is generally considered to have ended nearly a millennium ago with the passing of Leopold Sidorov and Manami Kaneshiro, who spent their careers in a virulent rivalry and died in a duel that killed both, along with a number of unfortunate spectators. 

Hundreds of years went by without the next truly great elemental mage coming along.  It had become accepted wisdom that another one would never be witnessed when Hesperia the Magnificent came into her powers, one of the greatest among the great.

It rather gives us hope that we might yet see an immensely formidable elemental mage in our lifetime.

—From The Lives and Deeds of Great Elemental Mages

[22] The establishment of a permanent no-vaulting zone require a heavy initial investment of time—it cannot be hurried.  The setting up of a temporary no-vaulting zone, however, requires not time, but labor.

A few friends on a camping trip can manage a temporary no-vaulting zone around their tent in about an hour.  A few dozen friends can do the same for a small public park, to have themselves a party—provided they first secure the permits, of course.  Armies, with their much larger number of mages on hand, have been known to turn small cities into temporary no-vaulting zones overnight.

—From The Art and Science of Magic: A Primer

[21] The wyvern is the rare carnivore that consents to being domesticated.  But wyverns born in captivity tend to be slower and less ferocious.  This is fine for mages who wish to keep wyverns as pets, but unsatisfactory for mages who race wyverns or those looking for a fierce guard dragon.

Wyverns born and raised in the wild and subsequently tamed are, therefore, far more desirable.  It has become the established practice of stable masters to sneak eggs from their prize wyverns into the aeries of feral wyverns, then later track down the juvenile wyverns at a stage just short of maturity to tame and bring back into the fold.

—From The Dragon Watcher’s Field Guide

September 15, 2013

[20] It is difficult to predict how powerful a child elemental mage will become.  A toddler elemental mageling who can shift the foundation of a house in a rage may be able to lift no more than a quarter ton block of stone as an adult. 

Sometimes the reverse is true. An elemental mage who can move no more than a quarter ton block of stone under normal circumstances may very well manage to lift something twenty times heavier when his or her life depends on it. 

—From The Lives and Deeds of Great Elemental Mages

September 14, 2013

[19] As anyone who had read a story of misunderstanding knows, overhearing part of a conversation, without the proper context, can lead to devastatingly mistaken conclusions. 

For that reason, among seers, those who see future in long, unbroken stretches are considered far more gifted than those to whom only quick flashes are revealed, as short, chaotic glimpses are much more prone to misinterpretations, if they can be deciphered at all.

Even rarer are seers who can view the same set of future events repeatedly, allow them to notice greater texture and details with each iteration.  Such visions become the most unambiguous sign posts along the otherwise unpredictably swerving road that is the forward progress of time.

            —From When Will it Rain and How Much: Visions Both Luminous and Ordinary

September 13, 2013

[18] The power of a potent mind mage is often compared to that of a drill, boring through the skull to reach its quarry.  But the truth is slightly more complex.  In a probe, the mind of a mind mage, though dominant, is in a sense as exposed as the mind of its prey, as vulnerable as it is devastating.  

—From The Art and Science of Magic: A Primer

September 12, 2013

[17] The Bane’s public embrace of mind mages marked a watershed event in his ascendance.  Until then, mind mages, even those valued as tools of torture and extraction, had always been kept out of the view, not acknowledged and certainly never honored.

But the Bane brought them out in the open and gave them some of the highest offices of his empire.  And not just those of Atlantean birth, but mind mages from many realms, in the secure knowledge that their first loyalty would always be to him, who elevated them to positions of trust and distinction, and not to the native realms which had treated them with fear and loathing.

From A Chronological Survey of the Last Great Rebellion

September 11, 2013

[16] The Coalition for Safer Magic and The League of Sensible Parenting—henceforth referred to as the undersigned—hereby petition the High Council of the Domain to remove all mentions of mage-to-animal transmogrification from textbooks intended for primary and secondary educational establishments.

Each year, dozens of young magelings, piqued by the allusion in these textbooks, attempt such transmogrifications.  They concoct dreadful, frequently toxic potions, misapply spells, and cause fires and explosions at home and at school—not to mention harm to their persons.

In this past winter alone, there had been a mageling unable to breathe normally from having grown gills, another turned nearly blind after acquiring bat vision, and a third who lost all his hair by molting.  That the cases have been reversible do not mitigate their severity.

            —From Petition No. 4391, lodged with the High Council of the Domain 21 April, 1029

September 10, 2013 (One week from release)

[15] It bears remembering that advances in magic do not always follow a linear progression: Some developments commonly regarded as modern are but recent rediscoveries of what had come before.  Court physicians for the rulers of Mesopotamia, for example, had formulated entire classes of prophylactic spells.  The spells were eventually lost to war, fire, and other ravages of Fortune, but records survived to attest to their miraculous effectiveness. 

To consider a more current example, magical historians have argued for years that the venture-book, perhaps the most successful magical application in a generation, is but a commercial adaptation of devices that had been employed for centuries by the House of Elberon to instruct and train its young heirs, especially in times of adversity.  Newly unveiled documents concerning the Last Great Rebellion seem to indicate that Prince Titus VII indeed had at his disposal devices that performed many of the functions of present-day venture-books, except better.

   —From the article “Everything Old is New Again”, in the Delamer Observer, 2 December 

September 9, 2013

[14] It cannot be stressed enough that blood magic is not the same as sacrificial magic.  Sacrificial magic, needless to say, has always been taboo in mage realms.  Mages who choose to break the taboo usually do so among nonmages, manipulating local religious rituals to suit their own ends. 

Blood magic does not require the taking of lives or the severing of body parts.  Furthermore, its spells, contrary to popular belief, do not drain the body.  Only a very minute amount of blood is needed to power a spell and that blood must come from willing participants.  Forcibly spilled blood neither keeps secrets nor binds anyone in oaths.

—From The Art and Science of Magic: A Primer

September 8, 2013

[13] The following is a reproduction of a January Uprising-era underground pamphlet.

We have ill news from our friends on the Subcontinent.  The offensive in the Hindu Kush has failed catastrophically.  Survivors report of Atlantean aerial vehicles of type never before seen, armored and enclosed chariots that repel every known assault spell. 

To make matters a hundred times worse, the armored chariots spray a deadly potion in its wake.  The potion is clear and odorless.  Many of the resistance fighters on the ground first believed it to be natural precipitation and believed the demise of their colleagues to be casualties of battle.  But afterwards, when massive civilian deaths were tallied in the armored chariots’ flight paths, our friends had no choice but to conclude that Atlantis had unveiled a terrifying new weapon, death rain.

—From A Chronological Survey of the Last Great Rebellion

September 7, 2013

[12] Last week’s confirmation by the Citadel that Princess Ariadne is indeed expecting her first child ended months of speculation—and raised even more questions.

The decree governing succession to the crown specify only that an inheritor should be a firstborn child of the lineage of Titus the Great.  No mention is made of legitimacy.

With a few notable exceptions, most princely bastards have refrained from staking a claim to the throne.  But the Observer’s sources believe that Princess Ariadne intends to declare her firstborn an heir of the House of Elberon.

The declaration, should it come, would not be challenged on grounds of legality.  But most mages surveyed by the Delamer Observer are of the opinion that they deserve to know the paternity of a future ruling prince or princess.  The princess’s steadfast refusal to name the father of her child has damaged her erstwhile pristine reputation.  Rumors brew and froth, many casting doubt on both the princess’s character and her fitness to rule.

—From “The Princess’s Hurdle,” The Delamer Observer, 8 June, Year of the Domain 1014

September 6, 2013

[11] Not much will be said of otherwise charms here, given that they are both too advanced for the scope of this book and, more importantly, illegal. 

Love philters are often mistakenly pronounced the best known examples of otherwise magic.  The effects of love philters, however violent, are temporary.  The effects of true otherwise charms, on the other hand, are semi-permanent to permanent.  And they seek not to alter emotions and short-term behaviors, but perceived facts.  In other words, they are campaigns of misinformation.

Fortunately, it is not easy to implement otherwise spells.  If Mr. Stickyfingers is a known thief, no otherwise spell will not change that perception.  Nor will otherwise magic help someone already suspected of lying.  Otherwise spells are only effective when 1) the intended audience is entirely unwary and 2) the misinformation disseminated does not run counter to established facts.

—From The Art and Science of Magic: A Primer

September 5, 2013

[10] Do you need a wand?  The short answer is, no, you do not.  The working of a spell requires only intent and action, and it has been conclusively proven that mouthing or speaking the words of a spell constitutes action. 

Why then do we still use wands?  One reason is heritage: We have wielded wands for so long it seems almost rude to stop.  Another is habit: Mages are accustomed and attached to their wands.  But more practically, the wand acts as an amplifier.  Spells are more powerful and more effective when performed with a wand—reason enough to find one that fits well in your hand.

—From The Art and Science of Magic: A Primer

September 4, 2013

[9] It took more than fifty years after vaulting was first achieved for the general mage population to accept that vaulting is not a universal ability.  Until then, it was believed that with earlier and better training, and an ever-burgeoning collection of vaulting aids, every mage could be taught to vault.  Nervous parents regularly enrolled children as young as three in vaulting classes, for fear that should the tots start any later, they would grow up to be emus—flightless birds—disdained by their peers.  Medical literature of the day recorded multiple instances of dangerously premature labor, brought on by expectant mothers hitching too many vaults in misguided attempts to inculcate the process in the minds of their gestating babies.

But before society at large could accept that vaulting was not possible for every mage, it had to first accept that mages who could vault often did not vault very far.  In the heady early years of vaulting, mages were convinced their vaulting range would continue to improve, as long as they continued to practice.  When these pioneers began to be thwarted by personal limits, they attributed it to late starts, incorrect training, and a flawed understanding of the principles of vaulting—and encourage the next generation to push harder and more astutely.

The best data currently available suggest that between seventy-five to eighty percent of adult mages are capable of vaulting.  Of those, more than ninety percent have a one-time vaulting range of less than fifteen miles.  Only a quarter can tolerate consecutive vaults, the rest must wait at least twelve hours between vaults.

Moreover, it is now known that vaulting exacerbates pre-existing medical conditions.  Expectant mothers, the infirm, the elderly, and those recovering from serious illness should refrain from vaulting.  In rare instances, vaulting has been known to cause grave consequences in otherwise healthy individuals.

   —From The Mage’s Household Guide to Health and Wellness

September 3, 2013

[8] A quick word on countersigns before we move on to our first section of spells. 

The spells in this and many other textbooks do not have countersigns.  But no one ever became archmage using spells that can be found in public libraries.  Heirloom spells and cutting edge spells, considered far more powerful, usually operated with an incantation that can be said aloud—and therefore overheard by others—and a countersign that is never uttered, to preserve the secrecy of the spell. 

By the same token, countersigns are also sometimes used with passwords, to maximize the latter’s effectiveness and security.

—From The Art and Science of Magic: A Primer

 

September 2, 2013

[7] Magelings with elemental powers present additional challenges to parents and caregivers, there is no disputing that.  Most young children give into temper tantrums at least once in a while.  But a toddler elemental mage in a screaming fit is liable to shift a house from its foundation or choke the air from a playmate’s lungs–without ever meaning to.  And even when elemental magelings grow older, they might still inadvertently let their powers get the better of them.

In this chapter we aim to present a comprehensive list of training techniques for disrupting the direct connection between an elemental magelings’ anger and his or her instincts to turn to the elements.  It has been repeatedly pointed out that violence is hardly the best substitute, but until we learn how to perfectly control small children’s emotions, their tiny fists will remain preferable to their—at times—disproportionally immense powers.

            —from The Care and Feeding of Your Elemenal Mageling

September 1, 2013

[6] New Atlantis’s rise as a dominant mage power was, in many ways, a surprising event.

The island, while big—nearly twice the size of the Domain—is ill suited to large-scale civilization.  The volcanic frenzy behind its creation was too recent, its interior too steep and angular.  Much of the ground is basalt, arduous to walk upon, impossible to cultivate.  Sea life, astonishingly abundant when mages first set foot on the island, came dangerously close to irreversible depletion at several points in its eight-hundred-year history.

Two hundred of these eight hundred years, in fact, were known as the Famine Centuries.  The isolation of the island, the relative primitiveness of long-distance transportation of the era, and wide-spread corruption among members of the royal clan made aid campaigns mounted by other mage realms largely ineffectual.  At the end of the Famine Centuries, population on the island had plunged by at least seventy percent. 

The Bane is believed to have been born during the last decade of the Famine Centuries, into a devastated, lawless society.  Whether he would have still become the single most influential mage on earth had he come of age in a more prosperous realm, we can only speculate.  But there is no doubt that the chaos and deprivations of his youth influenced his desire for order and control throughout his career.

     —from Empire: The Rise of New Atlantis

August 31, 2013

[5] Soon after the advent of vaulting, mages realized that this revolutionary new means of travel presented a serious problem to the security of public institutions and private households alike.  A mage who has seen the interior of a building can vault back into it any time, which quite defeats the purpose of having walls in the first place.

A series of ingenious—and sometimes laughable—solutions came into being.  Who can forget the Nevor-Same™ Home, which changed the colors of a house’s walls and furnishing after every visitor?  Randomly, one might add, leading to some of the ugliest interiors ever to assault a mage’s eyes.

Nowadays we enjoy advanced and discreet spells to protect our dwellings from ill-intentioned vaulters. The spells listed in this section, when implemented properly, are guaranteed to repel any unauthorized attempt to vault into your home.*

*None of these spells, singly or in combination, work when a quasi-vaulter is involved.  Therefore we are terribly glad that quasi-vaulters have become virtually impossible to find.

            —From Advice to the Novice Householder

August 30, 2013

[4] These days, the term “beauty witch” has become quite diluted.

On the one hand, the leading ladies of stage and fashion are sometimes referred to as beauty witches.  On the other hand, it has also become an euphemism for prostitutes, much to the annoyance of beauty witches who considered themselves far above such common strumpets.

            For the purposes of this book, we shall cleave to the classic definition of beauty witch: a woman of great beauty and elegant taste who is well versed in music, literature, and art and can converse intelligently on most topics under the sun.  She may or may not depend economically on the generosity of a protector, but she has no profession other than that of her personal attractions.

            —From Sublime Loveliness: The Seven Most Celebrated Beauty Witches of All Time

August 29, 2013

[3] The separation of mage and nonmage populations has never been absolute, on account of vestigial mage communities that either opted not to join a larger mage society or subsequently left. 

The nonmages, with their burgeoning advances in science and technology, may someday pose a threat to magekind.  But throughout history, the greatest menace to mages has always been other mages.  Never was a successful witch-hunt mounted without the cooperation of mages willing to turn on their own.  For that reason, mages who dwell among nonmages are subject to the strictest regulation.

The Exiles from the January Uprising presented a curious scenario.  By the time revolt had been quelled, there were no other mage realms to which its sympathizers could flee: Atlantis was the master of the entire mage world.  So they chose instead to live among nonmages and to plot their return therein.

—From A Chronological Survey of the Last Great Rebellion

August 28, 2013

[2] The Domain’s classification as a principality rather than a kingdom has often confused mages. It is certainly not a micro-realm: At more than one hundred thousand square miles in area, it is one of the largest mage realms on Earth—and historically, one of the most influential.

Legend has it that the night before his coronation, Titus the Great, the unifier of the Domain, had a dream in which a voice cried, “The King is dead and his house fallen.”  To avoid that fate, he had himself crowned Master of the Realm, styled His Serene Highness, a prince instead of a king. The ruse worked: He lived to a ripe old age and his house has endured.  Today, when most other monarchs and princes are figureheads without actual power, the House of Elberon remains that rare phenomenon among mage realms: a ruling dynasty.

            —From The Domain: A Guide to Its History and Customs

August 27, 2013

I read Dune at a young and impressionable age. And one of the things I remember very clearly about the book was that each chapter opened with a short excerpt from a fictional history/encyclopedia/etc. That struck me as beyond cool. So any time I have tried my hand at SFF, I have always done the same. And The Burning Sky was, of course, no exception.

But we debated where to put these world-building tidbits. First they were chapter openers, then they became footnotes. In the end, they became endnotes. Because we took so long to come to that decision, the endnotes were not in the advance copies of the book.

So here then is content that is new, even for folks who have read the advance copies.

(I will be adding one endnote to this post every day, until I run out of them.  And I will add reference pages once I have final copies in my possession.)

[1] For centuries historians and magical theorists have debated the correlation between the rise of subtle magic and the decline of elemental magic.  Were they merely parallel developments or did one cause the other?  An agreement may never come, but we do know that the decline has affected not only the number of elemental mages—from approximately three percent of the mage population to less than one percent—but also the power each individual elemental mage wields over the elements.

Presently, quarry workers still regularly lift twenty-ton blocks of stone, the record of the decade being one hundred thirty-five tons by a single mage.  But most elemental mages make few uses of their dwindling powers and are capable of little more than parlor tricks.  All the more astonishing as we look back upon the great elemental mages of an earlier age, those individuals who set mountains in perpetual motion and destroyed—and created—entire realms.

—From The Lives and Deeds of Great Elemental Mages 

Category: General  27 Comments

Summer 2013 Mishmash

Cuz there is no unifying theme to the post, other than that it’s about the various whatnots of Summer 2013.

RWA 2013

I missed RWA 2012 in Anaheim, though I was only 90 minutes away in San Diego, because it was His Hawtness’s Brokeback Summer.  This year, he is super hale, getting up at the crack of dawn three times a week to run before work, and requiring no nursemaiding at all.  So I sashayed over to Atlanta–though my sashaying probably didn’t look all that pretty, when I was dragging my suitcases from the MARTA station to the hotel–and had myself a great time.

The entire mood of the conference was notably buoyant.  I remember RWA 2010, there was a pervasive sense of unease, and sometimes outright fear.   2011 was when we first started hearing about all the self-publishing successes–and the self-pubbing folks who wanted to give a workshop had to do it in the hotel lobby.

Since I missed last year, for me this is definitely the year self-publishing became the star.  The self-pubbing panels were held in the biggest rooms and every one I went to was well-attended. It is an exciting time to be a writer, with more avenues to success and profitability than ever.

But for me, the best part of the conference was RITA night, when my very dear friend Emily McKay won the YA Romance RITA, for her book The Farm.  I felt like the mother of the bride all night long, even though I had nothing to do with her book!

My second favorite part is probably McIrish–Kristan Higgins’s husband–taking to calling me “Trouble.”  Heh heh.  I am in fact a very untroublesome person, downright virtuous if we examine what I do and don’t do.  But sometimes it’s the mindset that comes across, and I am the sort to encourage my friends to take off their pants in public, in the hope of ensuing excitement.  :-)

New Website

It’s beautiful.  It’s functional.  It’s designed and coded by Frauke Spanuth at Croco Designs, whom I can no longer live without.

The Luckiest Lady in London

I have just turned in the galleys, or first pass pages, as they are sometimes called nowadays–and thoroughly enjoyed the read-through.  I even shed a tear, which came as a surprise, since I hadn’t pegged it as that sort of book.  But then again, angst is my stock-in-trade, so who am I kidding?  :-)

The Burning Sky Book Trailer

I like to make book trailers, when I have time.  Not that I ever expected them to sell books, it was more like a vanity thing, to give me a my-child-has-shiny-shoes kind of swagger.  (And which I have never experienced in real life, as neither of my children have ever consented to footwear that can be shined.)

For the first time, someone else has made me a book trailer, one that might actually accomplish the task of book-pushing.  The text is taken from the opening page of the book, so you could say I wrote the script.  But mainly what makes it work, for me, is the music, and the dramatic beauty of Eton.  (Seriously, I Google Earth’ed the heck out of Eton and looked at every image there was, and never realized the school was that pretty.)

The Dark Days Book Tour

I will be going on a quickie book tour, with fellow Harper YA authors Madeleine Roux, Rae Carson, Michelle Gagnon and Mindy McGinnis.

And these are the dates and the stops:

Sept. 25 – Las Vegas, NV
B&N Northwest, Rainbow Promenade

Sept. 26 – Highland Ranch, CO
Tattered Cover Book Store

Sept. 27 – Houston, TX
Blue Willow Bookshop

Sept. 28 – Austin, TX
Austin Teen Book Festival

Very excited about ending the tour in my hometown.   Would love to see you guys, if the tour comes near your usual haunts.

Covers

As I end a blog post, I ask myself, is that everything?  And the answer is often, no, it’s not, because I have a couple of new covers I haven’t posted yet.  I am, you see, a very serious cover exhibitor.   :-)  First up, audio Ravishing the Heiress.  This looks more like Isabelle than Millie, but hey, if it sells copies.

Ravishing the Heiress Audio Book Cover

Next up, the overseas cover for The Burning Sky.

And that concludes this edition of mishmash, which is probably the only thing we serve around here.  It keeps you cool in summer, and warm in winter, and makes children grow tall and beautiful. :-)

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The Luckiest Lady in London

I have finished copyedits on the The Luckiest Lady in London.  And thank goodness I didn’t need to rewrite half the book during copyedits–which isn’t something I can say about every book.  :-)

So here I should officially thank Loretta Chase, who is now responsible for a quarter of my creative output in single-title historical romances.  His at Night was my attempt at recreating Mr. Impossible–and like most my efforts at mimicry, ended up being quite something else.

The Luckiest Lady owes its genesis to The Lord of Scoundrels.  I read the book late in the previous century and thought to myself, Hmm, what if, after a pretty horrendous childhood, instead of turning into Lord of Scoundrels, a man turned into The Ideal Gentleman instead?  Two sides of the same coin, right?

And thus was born the fastest book I’d ever written, called, of course, The Ideal Gentleman.  I completed it in three months, loved it, and declared to His Hawtness that I expected to produce four books a year from there on out.  And then I promptly spent the next two month napping–I happened to be very pregnant with my second child and the lethargy was fearsome.

I did send the book out during my last trimester to an agent.  The day I came home from the hospital, Jr. Kidlet in tow, she called and offered representation.  Ah, what a happy week that was.  But the book would go on to not sell, I would go on to write manuscripts the agent hated, and we would part ways several years later.

But I never stopped liking the book.  After Not Quite a Husband was done, this was the book I tried to pitch as my next book–didn’t take.  Summer of 2011, I’d almost decided to self-pub it, when I realized that it actually fell under my option clause, and I would be violating my contract if I didn’t offer my publisher a first look.  And then, last year, when my agent said that I should not just walk away from historical romance, I said I would consider a new contract only if my publisher was interested in purchasing this one as part of a two-book contract.

And yes, my publisher was interested in the book.  And no major revisions required either.

Easy peasy.  I schedule the month of February 2013 for revisions and went back to working on the sequel to the YA fantasy.

Came February, however, I had a problem: I had changed since the last time I’d read the book and I didn’t like it as much anymore.  In fact, I’d turned completely against it.  The hero was a total wimp and the heroine far, far too smug.

Nothing to do but rewrite the book from scratch. And clearly the month of February wasn’t going to be enough.  So I asked for an extension, finished the first draft of book 2 of the YA fantasy in mid-March, and then set to work again on the historical romance, now rechristened The Luckiest Lady in London.

I have to say, I don’t remember having so much fun writing a romance in a long, long time. Now, the author having fun and the reader having fun are two entirely different experiences and may or may not overlap.  But I can’t help but believe that my own glee must come across somehow, somewhere.

The spine of the book is still the same, a boy with a horrendous childhood growing up into a paragon of manhood–or at least appearing to be so.  But underneath he is a bit evil and when the right girl appears, all that scoundrel-ness comes to the fore. And once the girl finds her footing–after all, one usually doesn’t expect The Ideal Gentleman to be anything but–a battle of the sexes ensues.

Telescopes are deeply involved.

Gigi, Lady Tremaine, makes a guest appearance–the incident is referred to in Private Arrangements. The year is 1888, she has just run into Camden in Copenhagen, and has returned to England distraught and in need of comfort.  What do you mean Lord Wrenworth, her good friend and former lover, has married in the weeks since she left to tour Scandinavia?

(Come to think of it, Lord Wrenworth and/or his estate has been mentioned in five out of my seven books. In Private Arrangements, he himself was on page.  In Delicious, the secondary heroine, Lizzy, had wanted to marry him because he was so rich.  In His at Night, when Freddie joins Vere at the beginning of the book, he’d just come from Huntington, his friend Lord Wrenworth’s place.  And from the Fitzhugh Trilogy, when Hastings finds out about Helena’s “affair,” they were at, you guessed it, Lord Wrenworth’s country seat.)

(Lord Wrenworth is the connecting thread in all my books!)

An excerpt is up on my website.  Click here to read.

And of course, there is no getting out of here seeing a couple of foreign covers.

Taiwanese RAVISHING THE HEIRESS

German HIS AT NIGHT reissue

Next up, romance-wise, the martial arts epic that had long baffled me over how to fit an enormous backstory and three effing separate timelines–and you thought my alternating timelines were bad–into the constraints of a historical romance.  (No, it wouldn’t have worked as historical fiction either, since it is pure, unadulterated wuxia, closer to historical fantasy than actual, history-based fiction.)  There is no doubt I have to throw out the whole coming-of-age backstory.  So now the question is, do I let go of it completely, or do I beef it up into a book of its own, a prequel to the portion that functions as a historical romance?

It would be fun–and probably lots of work–figuring that out.  But it’s totally work I cannot wait to do.

Overall, I am at a very good place writing-wise.  Everything on my plate is something I am itching to sink my teeth into, from revising Book 2 of the YA fantasy, to figuring out how to tackle the martial arts epic.

Hope you are having a fantastic summer too.

Category: General  25 Comments

A New Cover for THE BURNING SKY

Huh? you say. But it already has a fantastic cover.

I know.  Tell me about it.  I love, love, love the original cover to bits.  But covers change all the time–at least in YA it does.  The good folks at Harper reconsidered the cover and decided that they wanted an approach that more strongly evoked the epic fantasy-adventure feel of the story.

And I have to say, the final cover blew me away just as much.

The same artist, so definitely all the same epic feel. The image this time illustrates rather than contradicts the title.  Both ways work great: one magnifies the message, the other raises intriguing questions.  I’m just fortunate to have received not one, but two magnificently evocative covers.

And here, as promised, the snippet from the book that encapsulates the tipping point of the romantic arc.

But his expression, after an initial shock, turned grim. He pushed the sheet aside and struggled to get up. “Why did you not tell me sooner?”

She gripped his arm to steady him. “I thought you were drawing your last breath.”

He swayed, but his scowl was fierce. “Understand this: you will never again care whether I live or die, not when your own safety is in danger. My purpose is to guide and protect you for as long as I can, but in the end, only one of us matters, and it is not me.”

A bright pain burned in her heart. She might yet save herself from falling in love with him, but she would never again be able to truly despise him.

If that is not a Sherry Thomas romance, I don’t know what is.  :-)

What do you think about the new cover?

You can read an excerpt here and order your copy from Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Google, & IndieBound.

 

Category: General  9 Comments

The Luckiest Lady in London Cover Reveal

But first, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the lovely design–© Courtney Milan–for A DANCE IN MOONLIGHT, my novella that was first published in the anthology MIDNIGHT SCANDALS.

A DANCE IN MOONLIGHT is now available as a stand-alone, for the special, limited time price of $0.99. You can buy the e-version at Amazon, Amazon UK, Apple, NookAll Romance, Google, and Kobo. The print version should be available from CreateSpace in a couple of days.

And now, what you came for.  :-)

I really enjoy the color palette.  Now I should probably add a green dress to Louisa’s wardrobe. :-)

And since a blog post should be just slightly more substantial than two covers–not that it had ever stopped me from putting up two-cover posts before–I am going to include another snippet from THE BURNING SKY.

Those of you who have heard me give my subtext workshop know that I have always admired  the way TWILIGHT was packaged.  Not so much the cover, cuz I am more or less impervious to covers, but the back blurb.  In particular, this little excerpt:

About three things I was absolutely positive.  First, Edward was a vampire.  Second, there was a part of him—and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be—that thirsted for my blood.  And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

That was what got me to open my wallet and buy my copy.  So for the THE BURNING SKY, I wanted to do the same thing, but I wasn’t sure whether I could dig up such a passage that so succinctly encapsulates the entire romantic conflict.

In the end I copy-and-pasted a bunch of candidates and sent to my editor.  This is the one she chose.  Not sure if you will actually see it on the back cover, since the jacket is far from finalized, but at least you can see it here.

“Every place out there is dangerous for you. Have you not realized this yet?”

She wished he wouldn’t speak so quietly and reasonably. “More dangerous than here? You will lead me to my death.”

“I will lay down my life for you. Do you know anyone else who will do that?”

I will lay down my life for you. The words had a strange effect on her, a pain almost like a wasp sting to the heart. She shut the valise. “Can you promise me I will live? No? I thought not.”

This is actually my second favorite among the candidates. Next time I blog, I’ll post my top favorite snippet that would get me to open my wallet.

Hmm. For whom the microwave beeps? Ah, it beeps for me. My late lunch calls.  Toodles.  :-)

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THE BURNING SKY Cover Reveal

So there I was, doing what I do best–namely, tossing out large chunks of my manuscript while my deadline looms–when my agent started sending out emails about promotional plans for THE BURNING SKY.

Lo and behold, we were suppose to reveal the cover this week. For some reason I thought that wouldn’t happen for another month or so, but I have no objection at all to getting it done this week. :-)

And now, without further ado, the cover.

I am completely biased and think the cover is absolutely stunning.  Probably going to blow this up into a huge poster at some point and hang it on my wall.  :-)

And since we have the cover, why not a mini-excerpt to go with it?

But even as she assessed her new surroundings, she felt herself similarly appraised. This was not new. Ever since they first met, the prince had watched her intensely—after all, he believed her to be the means to his impossible ends. But since their exit from the Crucible, his gaze had seemed more . . . personal.

“What do you want now, Your Highness?”

He raised a brow. “I already have you. Should I want anything else?”

She pushed away her empty plate. “You have that scheming look in your eyes.”

He turned the handle of his own coffee cup, from which he’d yet to take a sip. “That is terrible. I should only ever sport a condescending look. We never want to give the impression that I am capable of—or interested in—strategizing.”

“You’re fudging your answers, prince. I want the truth.”

The corners of his lips turned up barely perceptibly. “I was thinking of how to best hold on to you, my dear Fairfax who would leave me at the first opportunity.”

She narrowed her eyes. “Since when is a blood oath not enough to keep a mage enslaved?”

“You are right, of course. I should not doubt my own success.”

“Then why do you doubt your own success?”

He looked her in the eye. “Only because you are infinitely precious to me, Fairfax, and the loss of you would be devastating.”

He was speaking of her as a tool to be deployed against the Bane. She didn’t know why she should feel both a surge of heat and a ripple of pain in her heart.

She rose. “I’m finished here.”

Ah, I love it when the hero and the heroine start off on the wrong foot, don’t you?  All that attraction+all that enmity=happy me.  :-)

 

 

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Your Wicked Heart, That Scandalous Summer, and The Luckiest Lady in London

It has recently come to my attention that no mentions have been made here of Meredith’s recent releases!  Which is a terrible lapse.  I’m not sure whom to blame so I’ll blame Meredith for her oversight.  :-)

Anyway, we are looking at the start of her new RULES FOR THE RECKLESS series, which has a lead-in novella, YOUR WICKED HEART.

Amanda Thomas is stranded a thousand miles from home. Jilted by a viscount and abandoned without a penny, she’ll do whatever it takes to secure a berth on an England-bound ship. But when the anchor lifts, she’s not the only impostor on board—for the stranger in her bed claims to be the real viscount. Can she trust this devastatingly attractive scoundrel? Or is his offer of friendship only a pretext for seduction…and revenge?

That tempting morsel is followed by the first full-length entry in the RULES FOR THE RECKLESS series, THAT SCANDALOUS SUMMER.

In the social whirl of Regency England, Elizabeth Chudderley is at the top of every guest list, the life of every party, and the belle of every ball. But her friends and admirers would be stunned to know the truth: that the merriest widow in London is also the loneliest. Behind the gaiety and smiles lies a secret longing—for something, or someone, to whisk her away…

Raised in scandal, Lord Michael de Grey is convinced that love is a losing gamble—and seduction the only game worth playing. But when duty threatens to trump everything he desires, the only way out is marriage to a woman of his brother’s choosing. Elizabeth Chudderley is delightful, delicious—and distressingly attractive. With such a captivating opponent, Michael isn’t quite sure who is winning the game. How can such passionate players negotiate a marriage of necessity—when their hearts have needs of their own?

You’ll find excerpt and purchase links on the side bar.  And of course, you’ll find everything you need at Meredith’s website.

(The name of Meredith’s new book, THAT SCANDALOUS SUMMER, reminds me that I have an old, old manuscript named One Wild Summer.  And it was so bad that after my then-agent read it for the second time, she pretty much–and rightly so–heaved me to the curb.  Some of us require more than a kick in the pants; I, for instance, needed a door slammed in my face in addition.) :-)

Now a quick change of gear.

Thanks to author Theresa Romain, I just learned that my next historical romance, THE LUCKIEST LADY IN LONDON is available for pre-order at Amazon.  (And wouldn’t you know, THE BURNING SKY, my YA fantasy, is also for pre-order at Amazon and B&N.)

I had thought I really wouldn’t have anything to say about THE LUCKIEST LADY–formerly known as THE IDEAL GENTLEMAN, though not quite in that way–until I’m done with a proper revision, since I tend to gut my first drafts pretty thoroughly.  But then I remembered that I gut the how, not the what of the story, so the back blurb that has already been prepared for the book is still perfectly valid.

Felix Rivendale, the Marquess of Wrenworth, is The Ideal Gentleman, a man all men want to be and all women want to possess. Felix himself almost believes this golden image. But underneath is a damaged soul soothed only by public adulation.

Louisa Cantwell needs to marry well to support her sisters. She does not, however, want Lord Wrenworth—though he seems inexplicably interested in her.  She mistrusts his outward perfection and the praise he garners everywhere he goes. But when he is the only man to propose at the end of the London season, she reluctantly accepts.

Louisa does not understand her husband’s mysterious purposes, but she cannot deny the pleasure her body takes in his touch.  Nor can she deny the pull this magnetic man exerts upon her. But does she dare to fall in love with a man so full of dark secrets, anyone of which could devastate her, if she were to get any closer?

There, now you know exactly what the story is.  :-)

On the fun<==>angst scale, this one leans more toward fun (but bear in mind I’m not a good judge of fun vs angst, as in, I consider Private Arrangements a romp).  It’s not going to rip your guts out but I am hoping it might turn out to be a rather delicious psychosexual battle-of-the-sexes.  Cuz no reader has ever thought to herself, I’ve had enough of these delicious psychosexual battle-of-the-sexes romances.

Or maybe when I say reader, I mean me.  :-)

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Excerpt and Covers

This is a content-free blog, more or less.  Just to let you know that I have uploaded a two-chapter excerpt of THE BURNING SKY to my website.  Click here to read.

And the busier I am, the cleaner I like to keep my virtual desktop.  Here’s a load of foreign covers so I can move these pics into their appropriate folders, off the desktop.  :-)

First, one of Meredith’s that I’d come across.

Complex Chinese BOUND BY YOUR TOUCH

The audio book cover for BEGUILING THE BEAUTY, not a foreign cover, per se.

Now a quartet of my actual foreign covers.

Russian HIS AT NIGHT.

Vietnamese HIS AT NIGHT.

Complex Chinese BEGUILING THE BEAUTY

French BEGUILING THE BEAUTY

Hope you like the excerpt.

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Presidential Post

What the heck is a presidential post, you ask?  Why, it’s a post from a president, of course.

And that president would be moi, who somehow ended up–through no fault of my own, of course–as the presiding officer of my local RWA chapter a couple of months ago.

(I’ve heard of RWA chapters with low participation by PAN (published author network) members, but that has never been a problem in Austin.  Other than myself, there are at least five other PANs on the board.)

Are you ready to be thrilled by by-law modifications and budget wrangling?  No, okay, I’ll back off.  :-)

One of my responsibilities is the writing of a monthly short post called From the President’s Pen, to be included in the chapter newsletter.  And since I’m a bad blogger, I immediately decided to reuse those posts here for content.

(I might have explained once before–here or elsewhere–why I am such a sluggish blogger.  That time, I said it was because I had nothing to say.  Which surprised some folks.  I have recently realized that it’s not that I have nothing to say, but very seldom that I have something I want to say enough to take the trouble to put into paragraph form.

I type fast.  But it takes me a while to organize and present information to my satisfaction.  And it’s just more fun to read or play games.  And doggone it, dinner needs cooking and Jr. Kidlet still doesn’t understand how or why WWI started.)

So without further ado, here’s what I wrote in our chapter newsletter for November:

It’s November, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.  The goal is to write a 50,000-word novel, or 50,000 words in your current manuscript, by the end of the month.  I have been writing for more than a dozen years, but have never had the opportunity to participate in NaNoWriMo, as for some reason I have always been in revision hell come November 1.  But this year, this year I am gunning for those 50k words.

So how did my NaNoWriMo go?  Err, I’ll let the December snippet answer that.

I would like to proudly inform you that I have reached the traditional NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.  But unsurprisingly—at least to me—I didn’t.  I ended November with precisely 10,000 words in my new young adult fantasy manuscript.

I could make excuses—the fatigue from getting backlist books ready for overseas self-pubbing at the end of October, the double-header workshop in Houston, the new responsibilities I’ve taken on as president of ARWA, the many, many hours spent on kicking juvenile asses into shape at home.

However, I am not going to make excuses.  J  You know why?  Because ten thousand words is not bad.  True, I’d have loved to have written more.  And true, the deadline is coming in four months, so I’d have no choice but to double my output.  But this foot-dragging speed is actually par for the course, when I start a new book.

Beginning a book, for me, is a bit like pushing a boulder uphill.  You grunt, you heave, and sometimes you manage to move that sucker only a few feet.  And sometimes, in a moment of inattention, the sucker steamrolls over you and you’d have to start all over again from the bottom of the hill.

But at some point, you pick up speed and the story acquires a momentum of its own. Suddenly you can work sixteen hours a day and produce 30,000 words in two weeks.

That is my pattern. 

And may the Words be with you.

That was written at beginning of December. The following describes the rest of it.

I will confess right here, I usually do nothing for the holidays.  Nothing.  My excuse for Christmas is that when I was growing up in China, there was no such thing as Christmas.  (But then I also don’t do Chinese New Year, and that was huge when I was growing up in China.) :-)

So, usually, nothing.  But this year, my beloved sister-in-law and my two adorable nieces came to visit from India and the family contingent from Dallas also came along.  So for the better part of a week I had thirteen people in my house.  And I baked and cooked.  Made-from-scratch fruit tarts, crème brûlée (my agent’s recipe), regular pancakes, green-onion pancakes, banana nut bread, many savory dishes and—drum roll, please—two hundred hand-rolled, hand-wrapped dumplings.

Maybe I did my copyedits in the middle of it, too.

But all that’s behind us.  January, ah, January.  Boring, wonderful January.  Nothing on the calendar, no one to shop for, no party to which you need to bring anything, just thirty-one cold, bland days for getting work done.

I actually started giving my fingers a workout back in December itself.  After the family contingent visited Austin, we returned the visit in Dallas, where I had nine blissful days of not having to cook anything.  So I hid in a corner and produced stuff. First draft stuff, but still, stuff.

It’s going to be a busy year, but that’s a good thing and I’m looking forward to shaping and reshaping stories that will be read by you this year and next.

Wish everyone a happy, healthy, and vibrant 2013.

P.S.  I’ll try to remember to take pictures of all the dumplings when Chinese New Year rolls around.  I may not know when it’s about to arrive, but my mom does.

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About That Historical Hiatus

This began as a reply in the comments.  But once it reached five paragraphs I figured it should probably be its own post.  So here it is.

My apologies on any anxieties I might have caused with my previous post, mainly, probably, this particular graf.

You might wonder why the heck was I in such a hurry to do everything.  Well, various reasons. But the main reason was that I believed I was leaving historical romance for the foreseeable future, and wanted everything wrapped up nice and neat before I dive into the second and third book of the YA fantasy trilogy.

First, I should never blog in the middle of the night–and post right afterwards. There is a reason I need such stringent editors and so many rounds of editing and that is my first drafts rarely actually mean what I want to say. :-) Usually for blog posts I will finish writing then come back half a day later and edit before hitting the publish button. But this time I just wanted to tick another item off my list and so I not only rambled, but rambled incompetently.

Two, as His Hawtness would tell everyone, “foreseeable future” for me means next week and not much more beyond.

Three, my agent is itching for me to write more historicals. We happened upon each other in San Diego this summer–she was in town for Comic Con–and when I moaned about not having anymore ideas for historicals, she said very calmly, “That’s what you say after every book.” And, well, she has a point. Not every book but after His at Night there was a serious, serious idea drought.

Four, I always come back to historicals. Even before I published, I would write other stuff between historicals. I have on my hard disk several science fiction romance partials, a complete martial arts epic, a Star Wars novelization (ha!) and goodness knows what else. But I always come back to historicals. So the pattern hasn’t changed. Just that now I would like to come back not because a contract makes me, but because I am so excited by an idea I don’t want to do anything else but write it.

Three full length historicals–plus a novella–in a row took a toll. I just need some time off. I already feel more refreshed after THE BRIDE OF LARKSPEAR, simply because no one pours tea.  Although one can make the argument that the books in the trilogy are each very different, they still take place around the same time and revolve around the same people and rather similar settings.  And therefore, endless cups of tea were poured.  At one point, I seriously thought I would burst a blood vessel if I had to write one more cup of tea.  :-)

Or at least one more cup of tea that isn’t in a context of mayhem, as there happens to be multiple instances of tea pouring in the YA fantasy–THE BURNING SKY, I need to get used to referring to it by name–but those are usually surrounded by @#$% getting serious and protagonists in mortal danger.  You see what I mean?

I am an action-adventure girl at heart–heck, I managed to insert a Jules Verne-esque airship journey into an otherwise most Downton Abbey-ish book*.  But the historical romance genre tends to put a lot of restriction on action-adventuring.  For example, the last time I got fed up of tea pouring and went far afield–Not Quite a Husband, that is–I paid for it in sales.  Wal-Mart would not carry His at Night, my next book, even thought everything about that book–virgin, lord, spy–is perfect for Wal-Mart.

Thankfully in this age of digital publishing one can now sell a lot of copies away from Wal-Mart.  But I’m still not sure how well an exotic setting historical will do overall, and that, at the moment, is the only kind of historical idea that excites me to any degree.  (And that’s not enough in and of itself, just to be excited about guns and danger and rough terrain, without a plot or a concrete conflict.)

I digress.  What I mean to say is that writing different things refreshes me.  By the time I was done with the first draft of THE BURNING SKY, my head spinning from plotting and world-building, I was so ready for drawing rooms, tea, and intricate scenes where the only danger was that of the heart.  So it is quite likely that by the time I finish the sequel to THE BURNING SKY, I will be ready, indeed, yearning to write a historical again.

*Ravishing the Heiress

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