AuthorCelia

Celia Lake spends her days as a librarian in the Boston (MA) metro area, and her nights and weekends at home happily writing, reading, and researching for her books about magical Albion. Born and raised in Massachusetts to British parents, she naturally embraced British spelling, classic mysteries, and the Oxford comma before she learned there were any other options.

Three Graces is here!

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As the war in Europe comes to an end in April of 1945, there’s finally a bit of time and space for Lizzie Carillon to work on an old mystery – what exactly brought about the death of the brother and sister in law she never met. Three Graces is about friends using their skills, what happens as war ends, and what it means to find justice in a community.

In 1922, Delphina and Temple Carillon died within days of each other, leaving Temple’s younger brother Geoffrey as Lord. Over the years, he’s figured out the cause of death – direct action by Albion’s Council. In 1935, he got more information about what brought them to that point. But no one’s known what started the whole awful problem. 

Lizzie brings in her friends – Alysoun Edgarton and Thesan Wain – hoping that the three of them might make some progress and get some answers. 

I loved getting a chance to spend more time with all three, and there are a couple of other tidbits tucked in here about how various other people are coming to terms with the Second World War and its events.

We also have appearances by a number of other characters. Geoffrey Carillon, Alexander Landry, and Isembard Fortier spend much of the novella in Europe, untangling ritual magics in the wake of the war’s end. We get a glimpse of Lizzie and Geoffrey’s eldest, Edmund. There’s a turning point for Garin Fortier. And we get to see both Lapidoth Manse and Reggie Hollis again, if briefly. And, of course, there’s Margot Williams, swanning through the plot in high-fashion clothes and a swath of questionable choices.  

If you’d like to learn more about all these people and where they appear, my authorial wiki has all the links and details.

And if you just want to get your copy, here are all the places you can get Three Graces.

Idea to Book: Ancient Trust

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Ancient Trust is the novella you can get by signing up for my newsletter. (More below on why I did that). You can unsubscribe after, if my newsletter isn’t your thing, I won’t take it personally. Just please, don’t mark me as spam!

It also is a story I wanted to tell since I had the opening scene in my head.

The cover of Ancient Trust on a tablet, surrounded glasses, bottles of alcohol, and a man in a tailored suit. The cover shows a man with a monocle in silhouette, leaning on a table stacked with books.

Ancient Trust takes place in 1922, when Geoffrey Carillon inherits the land magic from his brother. Carillon and his valet Benton are in Kenya, as part of a longer expedition between points in Africa, seeking specific materia (plants, minerals, and other items with magical potential) to bring back to Albion. He does it responsibly, but this period is toward the tail end of a massive exploration of natural resources that was not, shall we say, often managed well or sensitively. 

The Carillons

I knew I wanted to write something that was toward the beginning of the larger arc of the Carillon family in this generation. There are in fact a number of of beads on this particular necklace, running from Bound for Perdition in 1917 through the upcoming Three Graces in 1945 (out in December 2023) that will finally bring out some answers to the question of what actually happened to Temple. 

The Carillons are a longstanding family – Ytene, their landed estate, goes back to nearly the Norman Conquest in 1066. There’s a lot of complex history there. And of course, there are recent tragedies, beginning with the death of Geoffrey and Temple’s parents on the Sussex, which was torpedoed in the Channel in 1916. This is an actual historical sinking, and the history about it has a number of unclear aspects, including – regrettably – the total number of deaths. 

In the course of the Great War, Temple is doing secret research with a number of other people. It becomes clear that some of that wasn’t good for him, on an extremely direct level – but Geoffrey has no idea what he was doing, nor is he in contact with anyone who seems likely to know. 

Carillon and Benton

A second reason I wanted to write Ancient Trust is because I love Carillon and Benton together. (Not romantically or sexually, Benton would never. But in all the ways they’re absolutely chosen family for each other, yes.) 

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Benton definitely falls somewhere on the autistic spectrum, but his life circumstances have given him clarity around what rules and expectations apply right now. He started out working as a hallboy and then a footman in a country house. When the Great War began, he served in the trenches, before being assigned as Carillon’s batman or soldier-servant when Carillon was assigned as an officer to their unit. When Carillon was pulled out for Intelligence work, he took Benton along – and discovered along the way that Benton was capable of learning quite a lot more magical technique and practical skills than he’d been taught so far. (You can see some of this in On The Bias, in 1925.) 

By the point we see them in Ancient Trust, they’ve settled into a life of expeditions punctuated by a few months back in Albion. They’re always moving on into some new setting, but Benton is clear about what Carillon wants out of him, and which parts Carillon will handle. And Benton, of course, brings an absolute pragmatism and attention to detail to all his work. 

I loved getting to write Ancient Trust seeing both of their takes on what was going on, and what information was and wasn’t available. Their mutual comfort with each other and trust in each other is an absolute delight to me. 

Connections to others

The last part of this is what I knew I wanted to do with this piece. For authors, this kind of reader magnet is meant to be an introduction to your characters, world, and writing that hopefully entices people to try out more of your work. Obviously, this is going to work better (and honestly, also be more fun) if you can tie in more than a couple of people. 

I’d been putting off writing this piece (despite having the opening scene in my head for quite a while, including Carillon’s comment: 

“I fear, Benton, that we must accustom ourselves to a new mode of address.” 

But as I kept nudging the outline, I realised that the timing of this allowed me to do some fascinating things with other characters. Ancient Trust overlaps with Outcrossing, my first book, which meant I could show Carillon’s meeting with Rufus (the hero of that book) from the other point of view. 

I also knew that Carillon had been friends with Giles for quite some time, since before the Great War, and that one of the things he is quietly furious about is the sort of warfare that involves gas attacks, like the one that blinded Giles. What I didn’t entirely know – until I wrote Ancient Trustwas how the Edgartons fit into that. 

When Captain Kate Lefton (newly married) and then Richard Edgarton showed up at the end of Outcrossing, I knew that these were people Carillon trusted, but also that that trust was relatively new and untested. I also knew he was very new to his title and had only recently returned to Ytene, so he’s not yet confident in his own connection to the estate and the land magic.

(Including, in this case, whether he could reliably pull off the soc-and-sac judicial magic, which requires the Lord of the land’s permission, and also someone who has the land magic connection and judicial magic knowledge to make it work. Richard Edgarton, as a Lord in his own right and also a magistrate, makes an excellent substitute. But of course, when I wrote Outcrossing, there was a lot I didn’t know about any of these characters yet.) 

I loved having a chance to explore how Carillon comes into the Edgarton’s circle, why he trusts them as quickly as he does (largely because he trusts Giles), and he is absolutely clear they’re competent in their own areas of skill and knowledge. 

Again, if you haven’t read Ancient Trust, it’s a novella (so a quick read) and you can get it for free by signing up for my newsletter. Enjoy! 

Four Walls and a Heart is out!

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Four Walls and a Heart brings us back to 1884, and Gil and Magni’s romance.

They appear, some years later (in 1906) as secondary characters in Pastiche, where they’re able to help Richard improve his life in a number of ways. I’m delighted to have the chance to go back in their history, to when they fell in love – and more importantly, admitted it.

It’s also a book about figuring out what choices you have when your life has changed dramatically. It’s full of loving books and reading, and baked goods. (You might want a snack while you read, from what my early readers have said…) And it involves some fun at the seaside, in Brighton.

All in all, it’s a lighthearted cosy read, just the right treat for a break in your day.

Happily ever after, no kids

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One of my romance spaces was talking about romances that don’t presume a child is necessary for the happily-ever-after of the romance. If you’ve read my work, obviously I’ve got a mix in here. I thought it might be interesting to talk about the variations. 

(I obviously think people can find happiness in a whole bunch of different configurations and life choices. My characters make a wide range of choices, both in the immediate aftermath of a book and further down the road.)

Cover of In The Cards displayed in a gleaming silver frame, with purple flowers on the right and a purple velvet high-heeled shoes.
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Idea to Book: Complementary

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Complementary is a f/f novella in 1910, and it’s full of art, forced proximity, and a dash of folklore. 

Fundamentally, Complementary exists for two reasons. First, I wanted to spend a bit more time with Elizabeth Mason (who appears in several other books, notably Pastiche, The Fossil Door, and Old As The Hills.) Second, I knew people who were getting a collaborative project off the ground to feature f/f or sapphic romance, Kalikoi

A copy of Complementary lies on a table with various kitchen herbs and tools.

Elizabeth Mason

Mason – as she is widely known – and Witt are both Penelopes, a relatively small community of specialists who figure out what magical chaos has happened now and fix it (or at least get it stable). They’re Albion’s forensic scientist specialists, but they’re also the people you call in when someone has done something troublesome in an alchemy lab or with one of those ritual methods that really, no one should mess with. 

They were apprentices at the same time, and have worked together closely ever since, in the manner of people who can and do finish each other’s sentences. 

They’re not the same, though. There’s a theory out there – first put forward by forward by Dahilia Lithwick in 2012 that divides people and characters into Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets. (I should note that the original article discusses Supreme Court justices in the US in ways that have aged unevenly, shall we say.) 

This also applies to Penelopes. Mason is the Chaos Muppet of the two, and Witt is definitely the Order Muppet. On average, the Penelopes alternate when they do apprenticeships, though not entirely. (Lucy Doyle, who was Witt’s favourite apprentice and Gabe’s apprentice mistress is definitely also an Order Muppet.) Gabe, of course, is also a Chaos Muppet. Neither he nor Mason are precisely out of control, but they do definitely have unconventional solutions to a number of problems. 

Anyway, I wanted to spend more time with Mason, and in her head. (Want more Witt? You can get a brief section from Witt’s point of view in the extra “Three Times Told“, that takes place after The Fossil Door. There are a few more bits from Witt’s POV coming in extras for Upon A Summer’s Day.) 

Mason is an artist who has a hobby of forging historical documents for fun and education. (How do you know how to detect them if you don’t try making them yourself? I might also have been thinking of a particular episode of Leverage in there.) Complementary gives her a chance to show off her art skills as well as her investigation skills. 

I also had mentioned her partner Rosemary a few times, and I wanted to know how they got together. Rosemary is a midwife by profession, so keeps irregular hours and is also reasonably tolerant of Mason’s habit of covering every flat surface with other objects. 

Artist colonies

During the 19th and early 20th century, there were a huge number of artist colonies dotting scenic bits of the British Isles. Like the one in Complementary, they weren’t always terribly well organised. Basically, you’d get a bunch of people together, some amount of shared resources to rent somewhere to live and manage some amount of food, and then everyone would go off and sketch and paint and whatever. It was usually the more portable arts, of course, especially if you were ending up somewhere more rural. 

One of the things that was appealing about writing about it is that you have a range of personalities thrown in together who might not otherwise have spent a ton of time with each other. Add a bit of a challenge to solve and it makes a great setting. 

Folklore

Finally, I wanted to have some fun with folklore. That area of England turned out to have some delightful bits of folklore. King Onna, the barrow, the Black Shuck, and the Devil beating on the church of the door are all part of the ongoing lore and conversation. If you do a search on any of these and throw in the word “Southwold” or “Norfolk”, you should dig up several versions.

(Though to be fair, it’s hard to come across spots that don’t have some sort of legend about large black dogs. They’re as common as healing wells, you can’t avoid coming across them regularly.) 

The Deadman’s Barrow is actually relatively close to Sutton Hoo, a famous Anglo-Saxon burial site of the 6th and 7th centuries that was first excavated in the 1930s. You may have seen the famous helmet or other items from the site.

If any of this intrigues, do check out Complementary, a novella of 35,000 words, just the right length for a pleasant treat. 

Shoemaker’s Wife is here!

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Shoemaker’s Wife is about coming home from the Great War and trying to figure out your life now. It’s about the difference between falling in love and having a happy marriage. It’s about keeping a business running (and dealing with a difficult customer). It’s about finding work that will keep body and soul together for a bit longer. (And maybe something more.)

And it’s also got a theatre during panto season, a theatre ghost, and the art and craft of shoemaking.

And for those who loved Golshan, Seth, and Dilly (seen in Casting Nasturtiums, which ends about 8 months before Golshan appears in Shoemaker’s Wife), they all lend a hand.

Shoemaker's Wife with postcards and antique writing, and a purple hyacinth. The cover of Shoemaker's Wife has a man and woman in silhouette on a vibrant background of green shading through blue to purple. The woman is standing on one foot with one hand in the air, lifting the other and looking over her shoulder at the shoe while the man looks on. A purple 1920s shoe with a big blue ribbon bow is inset in the top right corner.

Fanfic and me

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I’ve had a couple of questions recently about how I feel about fanfic – so time for a post where I can lay it all out.

Short version: I love and approve of fanfic, but please don’t send me any fanfic (or related text, like ideas you’ve had for it) or otherwise directly wave it in front of my eyes. Sharing fan art, craft projects, and other forms of fannish goodness are all wonderful.

Read on for more of an explanation (and why I’m putting it this way.) 

Copy of Eclipse on a white cloth, with various small ritual items - sprig of rosemary, talisman, cards - beside it.
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What can you expect from this book?

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One of the reasons I’m excited about my website (and authorial wiki) updates is that they’re making it easier to share more about what you can expect from a given book. Time for me to talk about your options here, depending on what information you’re interested in, and whether you want to avoid certain kinds of spoilers.

Copy of Best Foot Forward lying on a wrinkled silk cloth, with a violin lying across it. The cover has a deep red background with map markings in a dull purple. Two men in silhouette stand, looking up at a point in the top left. An astrology chart with different symbols picked out takes up the left side of the image, with glowing stars curving up to the title.

Before we get into that, though, a general word about what you will and won’t find in my books.

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Upon A Summer's Day

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