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Alt-text and the author

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Recently, a friend commented on how much she loved the alt-text on my images, and I promised I’d do a post talking about how I think about that. I’m aiming this at people talking about things like book covers – whether you’re a reader, a librarian, or an author – though I’ll be linking to some more general resources as well, some of which talk about describing more complex images. 

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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All the information you might want

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Hello, and welcome to my newly redesigned website! I wanted to take a moment to share some of what you can find now. I’ve also revamped and redesigned my authorial wiki, and this post also has more about what you can find there.

My goals

I’ve written an ever increasing number of books, and I have a lot more in mind. While you can absolutely still read almost all of them in any order you like, I wanted to make it easier to find the books you’re interested in.

Cover of Fool's Gold displayed on a tablet, set on a desk with a pink rose, a fountain pen, a jar of ink, and paper.

Here’s what the website and wiki now make possible. Read on for more specifics and a lot of links.

A way to follow characters or larger arcs across multiple books. Are you curious about a particular character? The wiki will let you find out all the places they appear, and which books are significant. Curious about the full arc of the books about the Carillons or the Edgartons or the Council? You can find lists and brief notes about each book in one place.

A way to find the books you’re most interested in (or avoid the books that aren’t your thing, or not right now). To make this easier, I’ve created tags, content notes, and a list of books with context that let you browse for those things you want to read.

A way to put books in order in different ways. With books reaching from 1882 to 1940 right now (and expecting more Victorian-era books to come, as well as books up through 1947 or so), timelines and internal chronological order start becoming a lot more useful.

A site that fits the feel of my books – and highlights my gorgeous covers. I love my covers so much. Augusta does an amazing job on them. I’m delighted to have a site that puts them front and centre. You’ll notice other details like the header font matching my cover font.

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Summer (any time) reading fun

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It’s time for summer reading challenges where I am. Whatever time of year it is for you, I thought it might be fun to do a round up of some reading challenges. Some of these come from libraries, and some come from other groups. I’m still waiting on my local library’s challenge (out on June 17th), but I’m thinking about how I’d like to nudge my reading a little bit. 

Bound for Perdition displayed on a phone, standing on and surrounded by stacks of leatherbound books. The cover of Bound for Perdition has a man and woman silhouetted in dark brown on a green and brown background, with the woman holding a book while the man gestures. An open blank book and pen are inset in the top right corner.

(To be honest, a lot of it has been research reading, one way or another, and I would like to mix it up, and also just read more.) 

Here are some different challenges to check out. You can also check your local library systems (a lot of libraries put something together for adults, as well as for kids and teens.) If there’s nothing up yet, check back later in June, my local public library isn’t launching theirs until the 17th.

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Writing and the question of AI

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If you’ve been anywhere on the Internet recently, you’ve probably seen a lot of comments about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning when it comes to creative applications like art and writing. (Among other reasons, it’s a big part of the current Writer’s Guild of America strike.) It’s about time for a post from me about what that means for my writing, and then some general thoughts about the larger implications of these new and ever-improving technologies. 

One thing that’s making some of these conversations complicated is that people are using the terms “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning”  in a variety of ways. Here we’re mostly talking about situations where computers use information they’ve been trained on to give output (basically, making predictions of what makes sense based on what they’ve already seen.) 

A copy of Bound for Perdition lying on a piece of aged paper with elegant handwriting. The cover of Bound for Perdition has a man and woman silhouetted in dark brown on a green and brown background, with the woman holding a book while the man gestures. An open blank book and pen are inset in the top right corner.
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Reviews and how they help

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Reviews are a fantastic way for readers to help out authors they want to support. But a lot of readers are nervous about what to write, where to share them, and what they ought to know about the process.

Here’s a little demystification to help. I’m focusing here obviously on books, but the same basic process can help with music, podcasts, and all sorts of other content out there. 

The short version: Leaving a brief (2-3 sentence) review of books you love wherever you get or talk about your books is a fabulous way to both help other readers and the author. They don’t need to be long or complicated to help.

The cover of Old As The Hills displayed on a tablet in front of a pine forest, dotted with firefly light. The cover of Old As The Hills has a man with a can and a woman silhouetted on a green ground with a map. She holds out her hand, he is putting something into it, forming a doorway between them. An astrological chart behind them shows the symbols for Venus, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn highlighted behind a splash of glowing stars.

What kind of review are we talking about? 

When authors talk about reviews helping, what we mean is usually something simple.

We’re talking about a review of one to four sentences from a real human who read the book and wanted to share a couple of thoughts. You don’t need to be elaborate and you don’t need to include tons of details. Reviews like this help provide what gets called “social proof”, that real humans read the book and had a range of feelings about it. 

Detailed reviews and literary criticism are fantastic too – but they’re a completely different thing. Many people aren’t up for writing that (and certainly not about all the books or music or whatever else it was they enjoy).

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Pre-orders now available!

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Have you wanted to make sure you can get my books as soon as they’re released? Now you can pre-order them on Kindle, Apple Books, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords!

The pre-orders for Old As The Hills (out on May 5th, 2023) and Upon A Summer’s Day (out on June 21st, 2023, an unusual Wednesday release for me) are both available now – click through on the title to get all the links.

I’ll add the Gumroad link just before the release date, and the other ebook sources will become available as the files work through the various systems. (Once the book’s out, a request to your local library sometimes shakes things loose, too.)

Going forward, you can expect to see pre-orders coming out about 12 weeks before the book’s release date. Keep an eye on my newsletter for the latest and to get a glimpse of the covers.

If you’ve got questions, let me know through the contact form or reply to any of my newsletter emails.

Idea to Book: The Hare and the Oak

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Welcome to this week’s installment of “Idea to Book”, this time taking a look at The Hare and the Oak. It was a chance to take a look at three different strands I hadn’t spent much time wtih before. First, a deeper look at some of the implications of the Great War and the land magic. Second, what it’s like for someone who’s magical but not folded into Albion’s culture to figure it out. And third, a later in life romance (and what that means for Cyrus, in particular.) 

As always, there are some mentions of things that are spoilers (though I’m not getting deeply into the plot details of the book). 

The cover of The Hare and The Oak displayed on a phone, surrounded by a white peony, small pieces of jewellery. The cover has a silhouetted man and woman talking to each other on a green and brown background, circled by stars, with a hare leaping out of an oakleaf inset in the top left corner.

Land magic and the implications of the war

One of the things I think about a lot – fairly obviously if you read more than a few of my books – is the way the Great War changed people. Specifically, and also repeatedly, how it changed their relationship to the land magic. Great Britain and Ireland weren’t touched by direct fighting the same way as continental Europe war. (Or as they would be in the Blitz and other bombing raids of the Second World War.) And yet, there were an awful lot of changes to the land as a result. 

There were even more changes for the people who went and fought and came back. The sheer fact of being in the trenches would be destructive to many people’s land sense. That’s even before you get into issues like shell shock, trench collapses, or the sheer awful misery of trench warfare in general. 

A variety of experiences

Geoffrey Carillon, in his various books, recovered his through a set of chance timing. It brought him back to Ytene at a key point in his own life after he’d been pulled out of the trenches for other war work. Some people, like Adam in Mistress of Birds recovered some of it, but a lot more slowly and uncertainly due to other parts of their War.

Right now, I’m editing Old As The Hills and Upon A Summer’s Day, books that focus on Gabe and Rathna. More than one person notes that Gabe is unusual for not having had that particular damage to his landsense to work around. His injury happened just before he could have enlisted.

Other ways that could go

But there are lots of people who are still struggling with that, and who like Lionel did not necessarily get some of the tools or magical approaches that might have helped bridge the gap. It’s possible, for example, that if Lionel’s father had lived a bit longer, Lionel might have recovered enough of the land sense without being responsible for managing all of the implications yet. Or maybe not. 

A new view of Albion

One thing I wanted to do somewhere about this point in my writing, was have fun with a character who was coming into Albion’s culture – and especially its assumptions about that culture – as an adult. Nora’s not a point of view character, but her opinions about some of this nonsense are quite obvious on the page. She’s not afraid to question the things that seem foolish to her. But she’s also willing to listen to the fact there might be a reason for them. 

Nora’s a teacher by profession, and she’s curious. But she also doesn’t have a lot of previous experience to match against, because her background is so different. This means there’s a lot of fun to be had with Cyrus and Mabyn trying things out. They have to figure out what she responds to, and whether she can learn what’s needed promptly enough. 

A later in life romance (and Cyrus in particular)

Finally, I heard from more than a few readers that they really enjoyed seeing an older couple (in Seven Sisters). I wanted to spend a bit more time with a romance like that. Cyrus, of course, first got significant page time in Sailor’s Jewel, where he’s a significant secondary character. I wanted to contrast the death of his wife (very young, and in traumatic circumstances that led to a number of Cyrus’s later choices, including his challenge for the Council) with Mabyn’s. 

Her marriage was a good one by the standards of the Great Families, but it was not at all happy. It was emotionally constraining at the very least. Quite arguably it was emotionally abusive and neglectful for significant periods of her marriage. Seeing how she was willing to look at things again, and how building some trust with Cyrus in other areas changed her view of him – and other parts of her world – was great fun. 

I particularly love the way they balance each other, in terms of personality, magical interests, and background, without actually overlapping all that much except for both being on the Council. (Don’t worry, there’s more coming, as an extra, about Cyrus’s time as head of the Council starting in 1932.) 

Do these intrigue? Check out The Hare and the Oak.

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