Showing posts with label Under a Winter Sky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Under a Winter Sky. Show all posts

Sunday, October 11, 2020

How I Gave Myself a Fire Lizard

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is the item from your books you most want to own and why.

In mulling this topic, I've come to an interesting realization: I rarely have interesting "items" in my books. With a couple of outliers, I don't really include objects of power or other magical artifacts in my stories. There's the Star of Annfwn in The Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms books, but it's not something I'd necessarily want to have. There are a couple of objects of power in my Forgotten Empires trilogy - most notably the orchid ring - but I wouldn't want that, even if it could be mine.

Mostly, the interesting stuff in my books that I'd like to have comes in the form of personal powers. And I'm noticing now how often the ability to control weather - like being able to make it rain! - crops up in my characters. So, sure, I'd love to have Lia's connection to the land and weather in the Forgotten Empires, or Salena's storm-making magic in THE LONG NIGHT OF THE CRYSTALLINE MOON in the UNDER A WINTER SKY anthology and the other upcoming Heirs of Magic books. I think it would be totally cool to be a shapeshifter as in Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms.

But those aren't items. 

The closest I can come is a familiar, which is a living being, not an item, but can be "owned," more or less. So I'm picking Chuffta from my Sorcerous Moons series. That's him, on Princess Oria's shoulder on the cover of book one, LONEN'S WAR. Chuffta is a telepathic, tiny white dragon. More or less. It's complicated. He's also Oria's best friend and staunch companion - even though he suffers from an unfortunate fascination with fire that occasionally gets him into trouble.
And yes, Chuffta is totally wish-fulfillment because I always wanted one of Anne McCaffrey's fire lizards for my very own!


Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is what's on our minds. For me, it's writing the novella for the upcoming anthology UNDER A WINTER SKY. With Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr, L.Penelope, and myself, this is going to be a bang-up collection of stories. Mine, The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon is a prequel novella kicking off my brand new series, Heirs of Magic. Book 1 in that series - directly following the events of The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon will be out in December.  I'm super excited for this new set of stories - quests! shapeshifters! magic! illicit love affairs! enduring friendships! - that it's really all I'm thinking about. Preorder links and more info below!

Four powerhouse authors of fantasy and urban fantasy bring you a feast of romantic midwinter holiday adventures. These heartwarming and pulse-pounding tales celebrate Hanukah, Christmas, the solstice, Yule – and holidays from worlds beyond our own. With fancy-dress balls, faery bargains, time travel, blood sacrifice, and festive cocktails, these stories will delight lovers of fantasy and romance, with a dash of seasonal joy.

Ballgowns & Butterflies by Kelley Armstrong

The North Yorkshire moors are always a magical place, but they’re particularly enchanting at the holidays…especially if one gets to travel back in time to a Victorian Christmas. For Bronwyn Dale, it is the stuff of dreams. Fancy-dress balls, quirky small-town traditions, even that classic one-horse open sleigh, complete with jingle bells. There’s just the tiny problem of the Butterfly Effect. How does a time-traveler make a difference without disrupting the future forever?

The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon, a prequel novella to Heirs of Magic, by Jeffe Kennedy

Shapeshifter Prince Rhyian doesn’t especially want to spend the Feast of Moranu at Castle Ordnung. First of all, it’s literally freezing there, an uncomfortable change from the tropical paradise of his home. Secondly, it’s a mossback castle which means thick walls and too many rules. Thirdly, his childhood playmate and current nemesis, Lena, will be there. Not exactly a cause for celebration.

Princess Salena Nakoa KauPo nearly wriggled out of traveling to Ordnung with her parents, but her mother put her foot down declaring that, since everyone who ever mattered to her was going to be there to celebrate the 25th year of High Queen Ursula’s reign, Lena can suffer through a feast and a ball for one night. Of course, “everyone” includes the sons and daughters of her parents’ friends, and it also means that Rhyian, insufferable Prince of the Tala, will attend.

But on this special anniversary year, Moranu’s sacred feast falls on the long night of the crystalline moon—and Rhy and Lena discover there’s more than a bit of magic in the air.

Blood Martinis and Mistletoe by Melissa Marr

Half-dead witch Geneviève Crowe makes her living beheading the dead--and spends her free time trying not to get too attached to her business partner,  Eli Stonecroft, a faery in self-imposed exile in New Orleans. With a killer at her throat and a blood martini in her hand, Gen accepts what seems like a straight-forward faery bargain, but soon realizes that if she can't figure out a way out of this faery bargain, she'll be planning a wedding after the holidays.

Echoes of Ash & Tears, an Earthsinger Chronicles Novella, by L. Penelope

Brought to live among the Cavefolk as an infant, Mooriah has long sought to secure her place in the clan and lose her outsider status. She’s a powerful blood mage, and when the chieftain’s son asks for help securing the safety of the clan, she agrees. But though she’s long been drawn to the warrior, any relationship between the two is forbidden. The arrival of a mysterious stranger with a tempting offer tests her loyalties, and when betrayal looms, will Mooriah’s secrets and hidden power put the future she’s dreamed of—and her adopted home—in jeopardy


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Critique, Alpha Read or Beta - Which Is What?

Here's a little tease for you of the cover of UNDER A WINTER SKY - the midwinter holiday anthology I'm doing with, well, as you can see! Kelley Armstrong, Melissa Marr and L. Penelope. An amazing lineup and a seriously gorgeous cover. Look for the reveal on Tuesday, September 22 on Frolic! Preorder links are here. 

Also, I’m super excited to be doing this online event “at” Love’s Sweet Arrow bookstore with my brilliant author friends Maria Vale, Amanda Bouchet, and Kait Ballenger. Danielle Dresser, Editorial Manager for Fresh Fiction will moderate. Join us on Saturday, September 26, at 3pm ET for fun conversation! You can register here. 

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is: How do you define Critique Partners, Alpha Readers, and Beta Readers?

I think this was my topic suggestion because I was sincerely interested in everyone's definitions. Seriously, I feel like writers use these terms very differently depending on the person. For me, I don't use "Alpha Reader" at all. I don't even know what that is except maybe a response to "Beta Reader." 

Can we divert a moment and discuss that simply adding the next Greek letter in either direction doesn't necessarily make the term meaningful? I mean, Beta Reader makes sense because it's like beta testing. The term "beta testing" comes from software development, where "the end-user (intended real user) validates the product for functionality, usability, reliability, and compatibility." Thus a Beta Reader is an end user - in this case, a reader - who takes the story out for a test drive by reading the completed work. Alpha testing, in its original sense, "is carried out in a much-controlled manner and it is not accessible by the end-users/market. Testing is carried out to simulate real-time behavior to match the usage of the product by the end-users in the market." To my mind, if alpha testing occurs entirely in-house, then Alpha Reading would be by the author. I am my own Alpha Reader, I suppose, which is just writing and revising. An "Alpha Reader" is not one step earlier in the process than a Beta Reader just because alpha is to the left of beta in the Greek alphabet. I won't die on this hill, but I did have to mini-rant about it.

Moving on!

What I think writers mean when they use the term "Alpha Reader" is actually a critique partner or group. Critique is the first pass by outside eyes. It's the thorough examination of the work by someone who isn't the writer. But, people don't seem to like the word "critique." It implies criticism and - let's face it - no writer loves criticism.

I think what's going on here reflects a level of author proficiency, too. It has certainly worked that way for me.

When I started out as a baby writer, lo these couple of decades ago, I took writing classes where we "workshopped" each other's writing. (Workshopping could be considered a deeper dig than critique, where other authors may actually help create and shape the story.) Some writers I met in those classes invited me to join their critique group. (Big milestone for baby writer me!) That first critique group really taught me a lot about writing and absolutely helped to launch my career.

After a few years, the group burned out - as these groups do, for particular reasons, though that's a whole 'nother topic - and I moved into using critique partners. These were writers I swapped work with. They've changed over the years, though some have been working with me for over ten years. (Hi Marcella!) We tend to hit each other up for specific projects/problems/questions these days, rather than regularly exchanging everything we write.

Fast forward to a few years ago and I was invited to join another crit group - this one specifically SFF. It ultimately didn't work for me. A writer friend suggested that the reason was that the group was trying to dig into my writing at a level I  no longer needed - and that I, in fact, found was harmful to my process. 

So guess what we've done? Formed a beta reading group! 

It's a group of writers all well-established in our careers, and we read each other's completed works. (Or completed chunks intended for submission on spec.) It's definitely a different level of analysis with thoughts on clarifications or missed opportunities. So far it's working great!

What's key is to figure out what will most help our process at that time. Not always easy, but like everything - a work in progress!