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  • 7: Seven Sisters,  Books,  Mysterious Charm

    Seven Sisters is out now

    An ereader with the cover of Seven Sisters displayed on it rests on a bed of green leaves and pale blue flowers. The cover has a silhouetted couple in 1920s dress and suit on a purple and blue background, surrounded by vines.

    It’s an odd time to be talking about something as lighthearted as a romance book, but I write in large part because having hope the world can change is such a powerful thing.

    Seven Sisters is the story of Vivian, an investigator with secrets of her own, and Cadmus, keeper of his family country home turned boarding house. Cadmus would much rather be spending his time on his translation projects, but a serious of mysterious and dangerous events has him worried. For himself, for his nephew, and for all his residents.

    When Vivian arrives to investigate, things start accelerating, until Vivian and Cadmus must confront their assumptions and past histories to avoid danger to everyone in the household.

    This book is also of interest if you’ve wanted to learn more about the Fatae (the fae of Albion, or at least some of them…).

    Learn more on the book page, including an excerpt, or you can buy it directly from the links below.

    And other online stores are in the works – find them all here as they’re available. (If your favourite isn’t there, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.)

    Making the world a little better

    I’ll be donating a third of my income from release week (plus some additional money from my own day to day budget) split between the following two causes.

    We Love Lake Street  for rebuilding after the immense destruction there. (As I mentioned last newsletter, that’s near my old neighbourhood where I still have a number of friends, and many of the business are owned by immigrants and people of colour.)

    The NAACP Empowerment Program, which supports training, education, and advocacy as a voice for communities of colour. 

    There are so many other amazing organisations who could use time and money. If you’re able to, I hope you’ll find a way to contribute to the important work going on to make the world better for everyone. 

    I hope the world treats you gently, and that you have time for good reading, whatever it is you choose.

  • 6: On The Bias,  Books

    On The Bias is out

    Book cover for On the Bias: Two silhouetted figures on a green and purple backgroud with a rooster inset in the top right.

    More accurately, it’s been out for a week, but that means it’s past time for a little note on the blog.

    On The Bias is the book I’ve been referring to as “valet and dressmaker foil plots” along with three dangerous birds. It turned into a glorious chance to see how Thomas Benton, valet to Lord Geoffrey Carillon, sees the world. Loyal, extremely competent, and very observant, he turned out to be glad to talk about a number of topics that Carillon just brushes past.

    This book has a lot of details that amuse me in it. 1920s fashion, of course, has a lot of fascinating details (I remain a fan of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries as a show. It’s delightful, but also a complete pleasure to watch. The book series it’s based on is also great fun, though some of the long-term arcs are quite different.)

    It also owes one of the central plot points to a chance online discussion, as often happens.

    My editor, Kiya, was talking to a friend who had been reading machine-translated versions of romance novels, and the technology had decided to translate a particular explicit phrase as “He suddenly had a difficult rooster”.

    Kiya inquired if I might perhaps work that into a book. I’d actually already been looking for what kind of illegal setting Benton might find himself in, searching for more information, so I said “Sure! Cock fight it is!”

    And then of course, since I do like my thematic unities, I ended up inserting two other sorts of dangerous birds (swans and Theodora, the Eurasian eagle-owl). This of course meant a lot of necessary research and watching videos of falconry and swan upping. The lot of the author is often equally delightful and weird.

    If you’re interested in images that I used as inspiration for Cassie’s dresses (along with some other images of interest), check out the Pinterest board for On the Bias

    I’m hoping to release Seven Sisters, the last book in the Mysterious Charm series in May 2020 – we’ll see what the world holds! I’m currently writing book one of the Mysterious Power series, Carry On. You can get updates on what’s in progress on my coming attractions page, and I’ll be sending out some other tidbits via my newsletter.

  • 2: Goblin Fruit,  Ideas to books

    Idea to Book: Goblin Fruit

    Book cover: Goblin Fruit : Two figures in 1920s clothing about to dance, on a peach-red background with stars and a glowing golden bottle of liquid.

    The idea for Goblin Fruit was actually the first idea for the series. Long story short, it came out a fannish project where we were coming up with books and works that might have been read.

    I have loved the Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey books since I first read them (sometime in my early teens), and Lord Geoffrey Carillon is very much meant to be cut from a similar cloth as Wimsey. 

    They’re both intelligent men who underplay their brains to be more effective investigators in varied social circles, and they’re both younger sons of respected noble families. And they both had a bad war that included some amount of intelligence work in the midst or aftermath. But Carillon has inherited the title (and its obligations), and had to return from his explorations abroad to take over his duties. That, naturally, includes finding someone to marry so there is a next generation. 

    I’m also fascinated by Christina Gabriel Rosetti’s famous poem, “Goblin Fruit” about two sisters, one of whom tastes the food and drink of the trooping goblins and is enchanted, saved by her sister’s loyalty. That formed the core of the plot for this book, figuring out what kind of magical temptation would be there, and how Lizzie and Laura would deal with it. 

    I wanted to talk about tuberculosis. I knew from the beginning that part of the reason Lizzie was so protective of her younger sister was because Laura had been in poor health for most of her adult life so far. The more I thought about it, the more tuberculosis – still a very present threat in the 1920s before the discovery of antibiotics – was the thing I needed to talk about. I love how that plays into part of the solution of this book (skills that Laura learned from long years in sanitariums and dealing with medical staff) and how it plays out in Laura’s own book, In The Cards

    Other bits of worldbuilding: This was also an excuse to explore non-human magical beings (there is more of that to come, in various ways), and I loved the idea of exploring a magical costume party. (The women dressed as Upper and Lower Egypt may well make a further appearance down the road…) 

  • 5: In The Cards,  Announcements

    Hello, In The Cards

    Cover of the book: Two figures silhouetted against a purple backdrop, one turning away from the other. Stars frame their heads nad shoulders, and three small divination cards can be seen inset in the top right corner.

    I’m so excited for the release of this book. In The Cards is out now. As I write this, the Amazon editions are up, and others are rolling out. Join Laura, Galen, and his best friend, Martin, as they deal with Galen’s match-making mother, a brash American, a murder, and far too many family secrets.

    Writing a locked room murder mystery turns out to be a lot harder than I’d guessed, and the editing process involved adding three full chapters and a couple of half chapters, as well as moving a bunch of pieces around.

    But I love Laura, and Galen, and Martin, and the varying ways they interact. Coming up with (at least part) of a Tarot deck suitable for the story was also a great deal of fun, and something I’ll be continuing to explore in other books as it’s relevant.

    I’m planning a few posts here (and on Facebook) with some further thoughts about both the locked room mystery parts and the Tarot parts of this story over the next few weeks.

    (And if anyone reading this is an artist and interested in trying their hand at illustrating some Tarot cards, drop me a note through the contact form….)

  • 1: Outcrossing,  2: Goblin Fruit,  3: Magician's Hoard,  4: Wards of the Roses

    Recs and notes

    Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (who is deafblind) just won a Hugo Award (one of the major awards in Science Fiction and Fantasy) for her work on the issue Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction.

    She started a Twitter thread of recs and comments about works by and about people with disabilities – there’s some great stuff there from a wide range of genres and perspectives. (And a lot more I want to go read that I haven’t yet.)

    I don’t usually identify myself bluntly as disabled but I have half a dozen chronic health issues. They add up to somewhere between mildly and moderately disabling depending on what’s flaring at the moment, but my life is mostly set up that a lot of it isn’t that noticeable. Embodiment is weird.

    But I missed the Twitter thread originally because it was a migraine day. (Thanks, weather…)

    If you’ve read my books, you’ve probably noticed that they have a bunch of main characters with disabilities and chronic health issues that affect their lives. For the books that are out now, that includes:

    • Rufus and Carillon who both deal with with what we’d now call PTSD (trauma from the Great War) that come out in different ways. (They had different experiences and are different people, so that makes sense.)
    • Laura, who has survived tuberculosis (but spent the better part of a decade in and out of sanitariums and other treatment).
    • Giles, who was blinded in a (magical) gas attack in the war.
    • Magician’s Hoard doesn’t have a character with an explicit disability, but a main character has a highly stigmatised magical ability.

    And in books you haven’t gotten to read yet, we have Laura’s point of view (and romance), a secondary character with a major facial injury, a secondary character who is deaf and who signs, and an autistic hero. (Coming in the not too distant future!)

    How those stories come out on the page is (of necessity) mediated by the fact I’m writing about the 1920s. Our language and understanding of some of these things was different (and those communities and the tools people used were also different). But I truly want to write books that reflect the lives that I and my friends live – which are full of all kinds of people.

  • 4: Wards of the Roses,  Announcements,  Books

    Wards of the Roses

    Wards of the Roses is out today! (Head on over there if you’d like to buy a copy – this post is about some of the inspiration behind the book.)

    Wards of the Roses: a silhouetted man and woman on a cover shading from red to pink with a rose in the corner.

    I’ll be honest, this is my favourite title so far! It’s also the first book where I got to talk a lot more about how the magical community of Albion came to be.

    I’d been wanting to do a book about Kate since she showed up at the end of Outcrossing, as her confident secure self. Wards of the Roses is the story of how she got there, and how her relationship with Giles gave her a chance to grow into that confidence and competence. I wanted to write a bit more about how the Guard works, and how the politics of the Guard work, and show off a couple of their historical traditions, like the Lost Tongue.

    The 1920s is a fascinating time in disability history, in large part because of the Great War. Blindness is no exception to the general rule here – many of the modern tools we associate with people who are blind (like a long white cane or the use of a guide dog) come out of rehabilitation work done after the war. Those things don’t quite exist yet in 1920, and I loved having a chance to write about the important work of St Dunstan’s, and the tools that were available. (And of course, writing a character where blindness is part of his life, but it’s mostly the least interesting part.)

    For people who love worldbuilding, there’s more information about the series and the world in the About menu on the website. (And if you subscribe to my newsletter, you not only get told first when I have a new book out, but you get a longer guide to Albion and some other treats. I’ll be sending out a couple of interviews Giles did with other possible assistants later in August, for example.)

    Next up: getting In The Cards ready to publish, the story of Laura Penhallow.

  • 1: Outcrossing,  Ideas to books

    Idea to book: Outcrossing

    This post talks about the ideas behind Outcrossing. (There are no major spoilers here, but I do talk about some general setting and plot inspirations.)

    Having magic in your blood doesn't make you happy.

    Talking about the idea for Outcrossing is a little odd, because it wasn’t the first book in the series I knew I wanted to write. (That was Goblin Fruit). Instead, I wanted to think of a book that would set the stage for Goblin Fruit (which has a fair amount of explicit magical worldbuilding) and serve as an entry to the world as a whole. What does that mean?

    I wanted main characters who were not highly skilled at magic. I didn’t want to risk losing the reader in lots of complex magical theory early on, and one of the easiest ways to avoid that is to not have either of the main characters have much knowledge about it. 

    In this book, we have two different takes on that lack of skill. We have Rufus, magically quite powerful, but who has had only enough training to stop him being a danger to himself and others. Ferry, on the other hand, went to one of the best magical schools, and yet wasn’t allowed to take the courses that she might have been really good at. She did well in school academically, but it didn’t lead to a life she wanted to live. 

    I wanted a strong sense of place. Some of the books in this series take place more strongly in the magical community, but I wanted the first one to be in a village that would feel at least somewhat at home to anyone familiar with village life in Britain in the 1920s. 

    I wanted places I could suggest more complex magic and worldbuilding. There are mentions in this book of things I wanted to develop later on. The mention of a wand as a complex magical item that’s roughly equivalent to somewhere between a  high-end computer and a car. The idea of the Silence (and that some places are Silence-warded) without doing extensive explanations that the characters would not go into. The mentions of ritual magic at the end of the book. The fact there’s a Guard who does some kind of law enforcement. I didn’t want to develop any of these things too far, but I wanted to lay the seeds for what kinds of stories might come up further into the series. 

    From there, the plot was driven by those choices. Smuggling is an age-old activity along the southern coast of England, and there are quite a few stories of harrowing events in the New Forest and the nearby harbours. And of course, if you have magical creatures whose feathers or flowers have special properties, some people will try and steal them. 

  • 3: Magician's Hoard,  Books

    Magician’s Hoard is out

    Don’t tell my other books, but this one might be my favourite so far.

    Cover image of Magician's Hoard: a man in a suit and a woman in a 1920s dress stand silhouetted on a background that shades from turquoise blue to warm sandy brown. A small inset image has a brown and cream hedgehog illustration.

    It features Pross Gates (widowed bookseller who’s taken on some research projects, previously seen in Outcrossing) and Ibis Ward, Anglo-Egyptian researcher who’s using his skills to translate items in the Petrie Collection.

    Also:

    • The world’s most adorable hedgehog.
    • A thoughtful discussion of the complexities of Kipling and empire-building
    • A look at Schola (the most elite of the magical schools in the series)
    • Kemetic religious practices, including my ‘I can’t believe I just inserted a bit of a hymn to Hetheru (Hathor) in a romance novel, I love my life’ achievement.

    Many many thanks to Kiya, my editor, for not only for the usual amazing job taming my commas, wrangling my missing sentences, and telling me I need more ponies, but particularly for consulting on the Egyptology on this one. (Expertise on tap should be used and valued!)

    If this sounds like your kind of thing (or that of someone else you know), a proper blurb and buy links are available here. Currently available at Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, and others are working their way through the system.

    Also keep an eye out here and on my Twitter feed for some more posts in the coming days. I can’t resist sharing some awesome Egyptological images I’ve been stockpiling including adorable turquoise hedgehogs.

  • 2: Goblin Fruit,  Books

    Goblin Fruit is out!

    Welcome to 1924, when a mysterious, addictive, and quite possibly dangerous new magical drink is sweeping the house parties of Albion. You can read the blurb over here (along with links to purchase from your favourite sites).

    I’ve loved Dorothy L. Sayers and her mystery novels for a long time. I was introduced to them by my father, and read the copies I inherited from him so often I’ve had to replace them (a couple of them twice…) Goblin Fruit grows out of that love in many ways.

    Lord Geoffrey Carillon is not Wimsey – they differ in a number of specifics. But they both had a bad war, that shook their sense of self. Carillon spent several years on expeditions to wild and lonely places, before inheriting the estate from his older brother. There’s pressure on him to support and protect the people on his lands, marry, and do a dozen other things.

    Lizzie Penhallow has had a bad few years. She worries about whether her sister will have a relapse of tuberculosis, about how to keep the chimeny on their family home from falling down. And about whether anyone will ever hire her for anything she’s good at, after her father and uncle disappeared on an expedition (along with all the money invested in them.) Like Harriet Vane in the Sayers novels, she’s dogged by scandal, but also very practical about using her skills and her intelligence to try and find a way out.

    I’m mostly not a poetry person, but I’ve also been a big fan of Christina Rosetti’s poem Goblin Market for a long time, and been fascinated about the way the sisters interact. Lizzie and Laura here sometimes have a hard time. They don’t always trust each other, they get things wrong. I love having a chance to explore that (and don’t worry, Laura gets her own book down the road – In The Cards, book 5 in the series, tells a lot more of her story and what happens next for her.)

    There’s so much more to tell, so there’ll be a few more blog posts coming your way, as well as some short stories for the mailing list.

    Join me, and Carillon and Lizzie, in the revels and dreams of Goblin Fruit.

  • 1: Outcrossing,  Books

    Outcrossing is available now!

    Book cover for Outcrossing: a man and a woman in 1920s silhouette stand, her hand tucked into his arm.

    Outcrossing is the first book in the Mysterious Charm series, and I am so delighted to be able to share it with you. You can buy it as an ebook from a wide range of online stores (more in progress, but that link will have all the available ones in one tidy place), and print on demand via Amazon will be available shortly. If your favourite isn’t up there, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

    The official blurb is over here, but I want to take a moment to tell you why I love this book.

    I wrote this series because of my idea for the second book (coming in February, Goblin Fruit). I wanted to explore the kind of parallel magical community we see in the Potterverse. (Like a lot of people, I have a very complex fannish history with Harry Potter). This is my own take on how that might work, the demographics, the education, the communities.

    Outcrossing is a look at that world on a very small scale, the lives of people in and around a small magical village in the New Forest. There are ponies and runes and smugglers. There’s a folly – one of the ridiculous buildings on some grand estates used for summer parties and dalliances and an escape from the formal main house. It has magical creatures (fan art would be a lovely thing, if you’re inclined, and I’ll be glad to share it here and elsewhere), and seasonal traditions, and a bookstore you’ll see more of in later books. (Especially book 3, Magician’s Hoard, which features Prosperina Gates as a main character.)

    And it’s got an introduction to my glorious ridiculous homage to Lord Peter Wimsey, Lord Carillon. You’ll see a lot more of him in Goblin Fruit.

    This series is loosely connected, you see – you can read the books in any order, and each one has a happy ending with no cliffhangers. I really love a richly interconnected world, so there are characters who appear in multiple books, connections between places and magics and ideas. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the worldbuilding with me. As more books come out, I’ll also have additional resources here on the website to help you find more about particular characters or places.

    Please do let me know what you think and what parts of the world you’re curious about. I welcome notes through the contact form, or through any of the social media links.