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.

Idea to Book: Best Foot Forward

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Welcome to today’s Idea To Book post, this time about Best Foot Forward. This is the book that honestly has the best origin story. Kiya – my friend and editor – left a comment in Eclipse in February 2021 when we were editing it. It said: 

I now sort of want the buddy cop story in which Alexander and Carillon team up to utterly destroy a munitions smuggler.

I left it in the Google Doc when I sent it to my early readers, and every single one of them left comments thoroughly wanting this. My early readers are smart people and they have good ideas, so I started staring at it. I stared at it for over a year, honestly. 

At the time, I hadn’t intended to write past 1929 for a variety of reasons.

I wasn’t sure how to handle a number of the complicated pieces of history (some of which get very close to my own family’s history, as I’ll mention below). And yet, the idea was absolutely compelling. I’m so glad I did – and that I figured out a whole series arc for the Land Mysteries books. The final book, set in 1946-1947, comes out in May. That’s The Magic of Four. 

Best Foot Forward deals with the shifts that happen in Europe as the world heads toward war again, and it’s also about dealing with at least a little of the trauma and loss of the Great War, even if it’s been decades. Read on for more of the details.

Copy of Best Foot Forward lying on a desk with a dip pen, bottle of ink, and paper. 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.
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Extras in 2024

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Time for an update on extras – both how I think about them and where you can get them. 

Upon A Summer's Day displayed on a tablet in a sunset scene looking out across water to fields beyond, all of it glowing golden and sparkling with magic. The cover of Upon A Summer's Day shows a man in a suit silhouetted over a map of northern Wales in a muted green. He is gesturing, holding his cane in one hand, a cap on his head. Behind him is an astrological chart, with Jupiter and Saturn highlighted in the sign of Taurus.

Extras

Extras are one of the terms for, well, extra bits of writing. Different authors approach them in different ways. It can be bits cut out of the final work, or it can be a treat for readers. It can be things the author had to write to figure out how something in the main novel/novella/whatever went. Often it’s more than one of these at once. 

Some authors never share these. Some of us (hi, that’s me), share more. 

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Up for a 2024 reading challenge?

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It’s late December, which means it’s also the time when various sites post their reading challenges. If you’re doing one in 2024, here’s a guide to which of my books might fit particular categories. (If you’re doing a challenge not listed here, and other people can join in, send me a link and I’ll add it!) You might also want to check out my post about summer reading challenges from the summer of 2023.

The two challenges I’m pulling from for this post are the Book Riot’s Read Harder 2024 challenge and the 2024 PopSugar Reading Challenge. They have some overlapping categories, so I’m going to note which challenge applies, and the books I’ve written that might apply.

Copy of Best Foot Forward standing upright with leather bound books stacked behind 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.
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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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