One of the first things anyone learns while growing up in Maine is that winter weather means preparing, adjusting plans, or else spending some quality time stuck in a snowdrift. For us kids, a blizzard brought adventure and welcome days off from school, an extra morning or two of sleeping in, or an afternoon sledding and sneaking extra marshmallows into the hot chocolate. Snow usually meant extra fun.
But even Christmas wasn’t off-limits for those polar blasts that swept down out of the northern forests to whomp my hometown. One Christmas morning we woke up to a foot or two of the white stuff and more still falling. My sisters and I were in a frenzy of frustration because Grandma and Grandpa were supposed to join us after breakfast—already way too far in the future—and between Grandpa’s slow driving speed and Gram’s nervousness with regard to his driving and the weather, it looked to my siblings and I like the vital present-opening part of the day might get pushed back until the January thaw.
Dad stepped in to rescue the day, and his in-laws, by heading out in his truck to pick them up. While he was gone, Mom called our elderly neighbors and honorary grandparents to see if they’d weathered the storm. Yes, they were warm in their little farm house, but they wouldn’t be driving to their son’s home while snow was still flying.
“Go get them,” Mom told Dad when he’d returned from fetching the grandparents. “Patience and Karl won’t be able to get to Norm’s in this weather.”
“Okay,” Dad said.
“Patience will tell you not to bother,” Mom added. “Do not listen to her.”
“Right,” said Dad. (I think he liked knowing he and the truck could not be defeated by a little blizzard.)
So that was how we ended up eating Christmas dinner with both the grandparents we expected, and the adopted grandparents we hadn’t planned on. I always thought of that as the ‘Kidnap Christmas,’ but the truth is, that meal which we stretched a little farther, that table where we squeezed a little more, was one of the best holiday dinners I remember. The pictures from that day still make me smile.
Today the world seems a little colder, a little more unsteady than it did when I was a kid. But I haven’t forgotten the lessons of the Kidnap Christmas, and how little it took to make the world a better place for someone in a time of need. If we can help, through the Giftmas Blog Tour, to provide for families who are at risk, that will be one small way to keep the darkness and the cold at bay.
Light a candle. Add an extra leaf to the table. No matter the strength of the storm, there’s always something we can do to make a difference.
This year, the Giftmas Blog Tour is raising money for the Edmonton Food Bank. The link to our page is http://bit.ly/Giftmas2016.
Please help us to make sure some needy families have what they need for the holidays. No one should be going without a warm, wholesome meal.
Jennifer Crow has been writing speculative poetry for almost twenty five years now, which is probably a sign that her judgment is not to be trusted. Her collection of fairy tale poems, The First Bite of the Apple, was published in 2013 and nominated for the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s Elgin Award. She lives near a waterfall in western New York.
I’m excited to welcome Tina Connolly today! She’s the author of a whole pile of awesome novels from Tor and Tor Teen, plus a short story collection from Fairwood Press (that I happened to blurb). Her latest is the second book in her funny and fun YA series about a teenage girl, witchcraft, and all sorts of mayhem. Tina is kicking off a book tour and has an especially nifty incentive for buying her book: a one-page comic!
One of the most fun things about the Seriously Wicked series has been getting to collaborate with other artists. The series overall is about a girl who’s stuck living with a seriously wicked witch. But she also has to keep up her grades and pass Algebra and deal with everyday 10th grade problems, as well!
In the first book, Seriously Wicked, Cam falls for a cute boy-band boy who plays guitar. He writes a song about her, “Lion Tamer”, which is written out in the book. So when Seriously Wicked was released, I thought it would be really fun to have this song available to hear. I got my good friend Spencer Ellsworth to record the song and you can hear his awesome work on Soundcloud—lion roars and all.
In book two, Seriously Shifted, I knew I wanted to include another artistic character in the series. Enter slightly geeky Henny Santiago-Smith, who writes an online comic called Henny’s Pathetic Love Life. Poor Henny gets caught up in witchy things when one of the new wicked witch characters decides to make Henny’s life an absolute disaster. Henny flees to the girls’ bathroom, where she encounters Cam secretly working a spell.
In the book, this scene is of course from Cam’s point of view. But I thought it would be great fun to see how this scene looked from Henny’s point of view, as if she were writing it up (as she keeps threatening to do) for one of her online comics.
I contacted another friend of mine—amazing cartoonist Becky Hawkins—about developing a piece that would illustrate this scene. Becky writes a delightful comic called French Toast Comix, and it has a really playful, fun style that I could see fitting the work of an (obviously super-talented!) teen.
Becky came up with a one-page comic for me that is just fantastic, and I decided to use it as a giveaway on my upcoming book tour stops for Seriously Shifted. So come see me at one of those and you can collect your very own comic page that goes along with the book!
Here’s a teaser of the comic for you:
Alternatively, if you don’t live near my tour stops, you can email me (I’m tinaconnolly on the gmail) with a picture of your proof of purchase of Seriously Shifted (take a selfie with the book or a pic of the receipt or whatever works for you!) and I’ll send you one of these darling comic pages in the mail. Offer good to December 15, 2016, or while supplies last.
Here are the tour stops; read more details on my Appearances page on my website:
>Wordstock – Portland OR, Nov 5, 10am panel
>Powell’s Cedar Hills – Beaverton OR, Nov 7, 7pm
>University Bookstore – Seattle WA, Nov 14, 7pm
>Corvallis Library – Corvallis OR, Nov 15, 4pm
>Mysterious Galaxy – San Diego CA, Nov 16, 7:30pm
>Powell’s Cedar Hills – Beaverton OR, Nov 20, 4pm
>Another Read Through – Portland OR, Dec 3, 1:30pm
Many thanks to Beth for having me on the blog, and I’m delighted to see Seriously Shifted out in the wild at last!
I’m happy to welcome fellow Harper Voyager steampunk author Brooke Johnson today! Her newest novel, The Guild Conspiracy, came out this past Tuesday, and continues her Chroniker City series.
“Why I Love the Heroines of Victorian Steampunk”
When people think of steampunk, they usually think of the Victorian Era—bustles, corsets, rose-tinted glasses, gas lamps, parasols, and da Vinci-esque contraptions made of clockwork and steam—and for good reason. The romantic flair of nineteenth century Victorian Britain is the steampunk genre’s bread and butter.
Most modern steampunk is set in the prim and proper sociopolitical atmosphere of the Victorian British Empire, with daring heroines who face all manner of dark creatures and machines within the pages of their respective books. There’s a certain romantic quality to a strong-minded woman trying to make her way in man’s world, with sensibilities more fitting for the modern world than the straight-laced rigors of nineteenth century society—and yet, still relevant in the oppressive patriarchal society of today.
Here are women far braver and cleverer than those of us reading their stories. They inspire us to do better, to be better, because for all our troubles as women in the world today, the heroines of Victorian fiction have much greater obstacles to face—and that’s not counting the vampires, werewolves, governments, and conspiracies they take down along the way. Their problems are the same as ours: the trivialization of all things feminine, the disregard for women’s rights, the inequality between genders, the expectations of beauty, and the apparent necessity to appeal to the male gaze. For all our “social progress” since the 1800s, these same problems are relevant today, and seeing these steampunk heroines act against the injustices of their time, however small their actions may seem, or how insignificant their accomplishments are in the grand scheme of things, they refuse to sit by and let things continue as they are. They seek to change the world, to carve a place for themselves in a world where they are looked upon as the inferior sex.
It’s inspiring to read about their journeys, to see a part of ourselves in those characters and connect with them through their trials. Through them, we can dare to dream, dare to hope, dare to aspire to greater things.
That was my goal when I wrote The Brass Giant, the first book in the Chroniker City series. The main character of The Brass Giant and The Guild Conspiracy is a young female engineer who is forbidden to join the Guild—an exclusive brotherhood of engineering elite—for the sole reason that she is a girl. Despite that, she tries anyway, going so far as to risk treason to get one step closer to seeing her dreams realized. In a world where all the odds are stacked against her, she doesn’t give up, even when she fails, and to me, that’s admirable—even if it does get her into loads of trouble.
So, why do I love the heroines of Victorian steampunk? Because they are stronger, braver, and cleverer than me. They inspire me to be a better person, to stand up to the injustices of the world and make this world, this time-period, a better place for the generations to come—even if all I ever do is put pen to paper. I can only hope that my words inspire a young girl to dare to follow her dreams, to be unafraid of what the world may throw at her, and to show her that she deserves a place in the world just as much as any man.
Where to buy The Guild Conspiracy:
SOCIAL MEDIA LINKS:
Brooke Johnson is a stay-at-home mom and tea-loving author. As the jack-of-all-trades bard of the family, she journeys through life with her husband, daughter, and dog. She currently resides in Northwest Arkansas but hopes one day to live somewhere a bit more mountainous.
I’m happy to welcome fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author Bishop O’Connell! He has a brand new book out in his American Faerie Tale series. You’ll want to start with The Stolen, then The Forgotten, Three Promises, and The Returned. If you love faerie stories (note the spelling), give his books a try!
That’s a great question. One would assume, myself included, that as you get further into the series it would get easier to write, but that isn’t the case. It isn’t the stories that are hard though. I’ve got plans for several more books. The hard part is the foundation of the stories. Each is part of an overall series, and they do tell a larger tale, but I purposely set out to write each book so they could stand alone as well. I want readers to be able to pick up the series with any book and not be lost. This means that each book needs to summarize the events in the previous books, at least those relevant to the current story or character’s state of mind, without being a full on info dump. This is what is getting hard. I’m currently working on book four in the series, I count Three Promises as book 2.5, which means I have three novels, and at least a short story or two of events I need to include. True, I only need to include what the reader needs to know, but that gets increasingly more difficult as the series goes on. Much of who the characters are at this point is directly driven by events in previous books. It’s a fine line between exposition and info dump. I’m also learning that even if I did intend the series to be read in order, which does allow deeper understanding but isn’t required, that readers probably need to be reminded of events in books they might’ve read two years ago. The story ideas are getting easier though, and I’m really enjoying seeing the characters continue to grow and develop. Unfortunately, as I said, that’s part of why the background stuff is getting so hard to include in a succinct way. Thankfully I work with some really skilled editors who can help with this, and have done a great job. The Returned really is a tight, well-crafted story. In my eminently humble opinion.
- Which character of yours is your absolute favorite?
I’m sure like parents, writers aren’t supposed to favor one character over another…but I do. I just adore Wraith. I have so much fun writing her. She really came to life in The Returned. To the point that she almost seemed to write herself. I love her wit, her snark, and he determination. She’s also a badass, which is fun to write. I really have to say though, it’s her genuine “goodness” I really like. With her, I managed to create a character who has gone through some truly horrific things, but they didn’t break her. In fact, she came out the other end determined to help others, to do good, and try and counter the darkness she sees in the world. It can be hard to write a character like that without them coming off as unrealistic; a Pollyanna or Boy Scout. But Wraith just seems to take to this naturally. She is a genuinely good person. She’s caring, compassionate, but she has a temper and doesn’t suffer injustice lightly.
- This might delve into dangerous territory, but how should people spell “fairy?” Are you currently frothing because I spelled it like that?
*eye twitch, teeth grind* I’m fine.
Seriously, it’s not that big a deal to me. I spell it faerie, from the Irish spelling. For me, it breaks down like this. Fairys are the modern creatures from children’s stories. Think Tinkerbelle. In fact, many people hear the word fairy and think of her specifically. Disney has really done a number of the traditional faerie tale, softening it and making it more kid friendly for modern audiences. Faeries are the creatures from old lore and legends: elves, gnomes, sprites, pixies, dryads, red caps, giants, trolls. I’d even argue that Baba Yaga, and the witches from the old stories are actually faeries. To summarize, if you use fairy with me, I’m going to assume you’re talking about Disney characters and the like. If you use faerie, I’m assuming you’re talking about the real deal. Also, I reserve the right to correct you at every turn. Harry Heckel and I have a lot of fun correcting each other. I humor him even though he is spelling it wrong.
- Let’s talk you. Let’s talk beer. What are some of your favorite brews?
Yes, let’s! I really love beer. I’m long past my days of drinking to excess though. Now I enjoy beer because of the beer itself. The flavor and complexity of brews is a wonderful thing. Personally, I’m like my beers more malt forward over hop forward. I do not like IPAs. To me, it’s like getting hit in the face with a bouquet of flowers when I take a drink. But this is a great time to be a beer fan. There are so many great craft brews out there.
Over all, I love Cumbrian Real Ales. I found these while working in England a few years back. They’re brewed more traditionally, aren’t pasteurized, and are incredibly smooth. The bubbles are so small it’s like drinking water, they are truly refreshing. Sometimes you can find their like here in the states as “cask conditioned” ales. Theakston is my personal favorite and I’ve recently learned Old Peculiar is available in bottles here. Not the same as draught, but pretty good.
I also love me some Guinness, but I’d have my Irish heritage repossessed if I didn’t. The nice thing about Guinness is that it’s not just good to drink, but great for cooking. In fact, I shared my Beef and Guinness Vegetable soup recipe with you. It also mixes nicely with other beers. Most people know black and tans, though don’t ever call them that in Ireland. That’s Harp and Guinness. I prefer a Blacksmith, with is half Guinness, half Smithick’s ale. It also goes nicely with cider. Magners (or Bulmer’s as it’s called in Ireland) makes for a nicely balanced and refreshing summer drink. If you want something fancier, a black velvet is half Guinness, half champagne. They go so nicely with each other, though be warned, they can go to your head very quickly. I know many people who can put several pints of the dark stuff away before they get buzzed who are walking funny after just two or three black velvets.
Ciders are nice as well, I’m partial to Magners, Angry Orchard, and most recently I’ve grown fond of Bold Rock, a local Virginia brewer. Beer wise I like Newcastle Brown, Smithick’s, Boddington’s, Old Speckled Hen, Boulevard wheat, Tennet’s, Sam Adams (especially like their seasonal beers), Shiner Bock, and Harp.
All that said, while working in Indiana I discovered a local brewer called Iron Wood. They’re in Valparaiso and they make some truly amazing beers. Barb, the owner and brewmaster is really gifted. They have an Irish red that is great, and their dopplebock is to die for. She also makes her own mead, and even orange soda with cane sugar. In fact, a shandy of her wheat beer and the orange soda is a nice little treat.
- What writing projects are keeping you busy right now?
I have a couple of irons in the fire as it were. As I said above, I’m working on the next book in the American Faerie Tale series. It’s probably the biggest novel I’ve written, in terms of scope. It’s going to bring together a lot of threads laid out in earlier books and shift the story line pretty substantially. Some big changes are in store for Edward, Caitlin, and Fiona, not all good, and Wraith will find herself in a role, and at level of importance, she never saw coming. My hopes are that it will be released sometime early next year, but don’t hold me to that.
Additionally, I’m rewriting the first novel I finished. It’s a blend of high fantasy and urban fantasy. Meaning it starts in the modern age and then goes back to the middle ages. It’s a tie in to the American Faerie Tale series, and revolves around a character mentioned briefly in The Forgotten. It’s the first book of a trilogy. At first I thought I could get away with doing some edits and tweaks to get it ready for publication, but I learned that I’ve apparently grown quite a bit as a writer since them. This was both a source of pride, and dismay. Knowing I sent that book out to agents in the shape it was in is a little disconcerting, but I’m reworking it and I think it will make a great story.
On my to-do list, I also have a literary fiction piece I need to edit, and a fantasy-western short story I want to expand into a full novel, perhaps its own series. However I’m learning quickly that juggling multiple projects at ones isn’t easy, especially when you have a day job.
About The Returned:
Almost a year after their wedding, and two since their daughter Fiona was rescued from a kidnapping by dark faeries, life has finally settled down for Caitlin and Edward. They maintain a facade of normalcy, but a family being watched over by the fae’s Rogue Court is far from ordinary. Still, it seems the perfect time to go on their long-awaited honeymoon, so they head to New Orleans.
Little do they know, New Orleans is at the center of a territory their Rogue Court guardians hold no sway in, so the Court sends in Wraith, a teenage spell slinger, to watch over them. It’s not long before they discover an otherworldly force is overtaking the city, raising the dead, and they’re drawn into a web of dark magic. At the same time, a secret government agency tasked with protecting the mortal world against the supernatural begins their own investigation of the case. But the culprit may not be the villain everyone expects. Can Wraith, Caitlin, and Edward stop whoever is bringing the vengeful dead back to life before another massacre, and before an innocent is punished for crimes beyond her control?
(Paperback release to come!)
Bishop O’Connell is the author of the American Faerie Tale series, a consultant, writer, blogger, and lover of kilts and beer, as well as a member of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Born in Naples Italy while his father was stationed in Sardinia, Bishop grew up in San Diego, California where he fell in love with the ocean and fish tacos. After wandering the country for work and school (absolutely not because he was in hiding from mind controlling bunnies), he settled Richmond VA, where he writes, collects swords, revels in his immortality as a critically acclaimed “visionary” of the urban fantasy genre, and is regularly chastised for making up things for his bio. He can also be found online at A Quiet Pint, where he muses philosophical on life, the universe, and everything, as well as various aspects of writing and the road to getting published.
I’m happy to welcome Auston Habershaw to my site! The second book in his Saga of the Redeemed series came out Tuesday from Harper Voyager Impulse. You can read an excerpt here today, and grab the full book for only $2.99!
More about No Good Deed:
Cursed with a magic ring that forbids skullduggery, Tyvian Reldamar’s life of crime is sadly behind him. Now reduced to fencing moldy relics and wheedling favors from petty nobility, he’s pretty sure his life can’t get any worse.
That is until he hears that his old nemesis, Myreon Alafarr, has been framed for a crime she didn’t commit and turned to stone in a penitentiary garden. Somebody is trying to get his attention, and that somebody is playing a very high-stakes game that will draw Tyvian and his friends back to the city of his birth and right under the noses of the Defenders he’s been dodging for so long. And that isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is that the person pulling all the strings is none other than the most powerful sorceress in the West: Lyrelle Reldamar.
Tyvian’s own mother.
Now for sale:
No Good Deed Excerpt
The main courtroom in Keeper’s Court, Saldor’s hall of justice, had five sides, one for each of the arcane energies that made up the world. The accused stood in the center, chained by the wrist to a large squat stone at the center of the floor. Dull, black, and trapezoidal, “the Block” was so old that the courtroom itself was several centuries its junior. It was said that, in the old days, the condemned would have their heads struck off the moment the verdict was read. Those were primitive times, however—blood was no longer spilled in the Saldorian courts. They had other ways of making the condemned regret their actions. Ways that would not stain the woodwork or upset any children present.Read More
I’m excited to welcome my dear friend Sara Dobie Bauer as we celebrate the release of Bite Somebody from World Weaver Press! This book is fun and flirty, the very essence of a summer beach read.
Oh hey, I even blurbed the book! I said: “Witty banter and hot sexy-times make BITE SOMEBODY sparkle in all the right ways.”
Seriously, read this interview and go order this book.
Celia is so frumpy and utterly relatable. And Ian… yeah. You often use celebrities as an inspiration for your male leads. Was that true here?
In regards to Ian, yes … and no. There’s this one photo shoot of Benedict Cumberbatch that sort of nailed Ian’s “look.” I mean perfectly. However, Ian’s personality is a mix between the goofy Benedict I’ve seen in interviews, my husband’s general laidback-ness, and the sweet Boy Next Door stereotype. Ian is his own man, truly. He may have been inspired by outside sources, but he came to life when I wrote him. He’s so ingrained as a real person in my head, we sometimes play Jeopardy! together. Which isn’t weird, okay? It’s just a writer thing. Don’t judge me!
The romantic chemistry zings in this book. Is that sort of banter easy for you to write, or more slow and deliberate?
When I was single, banter was my Mona Lisa. Banter was my David. Banter was my 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers. Now that I’m married, I still banter with my Jake, but there’s a surplus of romantic one-liners in my head, which seems to come out on the page. I utilize dialogue to build chemistry, which might be a crutch, but it’s worked so far. If two people can talk to each other (through one-liners, innuendo, and even thoughtful confessions), romance naturally grows from spark to flame. I can’t do anything slowly or deliberately … except maybe mix cocktails. That’s an art form, damn it.
One of the things I appreciated about Bite Somebody was how you stayed pretty true to traditional vampire lore (no sparkles) while making it modern and fresh. What are some of your favorite vampire books?
This is weird, but I love dark and twisted vampire books, even though the only thing truly twisted about Bite Somebody is Imogene’s hair. My most recent favorite is The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman. (The man can do no wrong.) Funny, I grew up reading Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. I tried reading one recently and didn’t like it. Go figure.
Let’s talk setting. This is based on a location in Florida you know quite well, right?
You bet! Longboat Key! I renamed it Admiral Key for Bite Somebody, because I didn’t want to have to get everything exactly right, like street names and stuff. (Lazy writer.) I head down to Longboat Key every year for a pilgrimage with my Aunt Susie, where we drink rum punches and hang at The Drift Inn, just like the vamps in my book. It’s a place of peace, quiet, and immature hilarity.
How do you plan to celebrate on release day?
I’ll have a rum punch, put on my highest heels, and dance to 80s rock. While wearing vampire teeth.
Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model, and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. She spends most days at home in her pajamas as a book nerd and sex-pert for SheKnows.com. Her short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize, inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch. She lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she would really like to live in a Tim Burton film.