The Heartreader’s Secret cover & preorder!

I’m so excited to finally be revealing the gorgeous cover for The Faraday Files book number 3, The Heartreader’s Secret! In THS, Chris and Olivia are leaving the big city and their murders to solve a missing persons case in the country. You’ll get to see the world beyond Darrington, explore the motivations and hidden desires of the heartreader Rachel Albany, and, what everyone has been waiting for, finally meet Olivia’s mother!

3 The Heartreader's Secret final front cover final

Chris and Rachel look so amazing on this cover. Thanks so much to my wonderful cover artist, Amalia Chitulescu, for knocking it out of the park once again. Don’t you love the blue highlights and how they bring life to the image? Amazing.

You can pre-order The Heartreader’s Secret here on  More links to other vendors will be added later! The book is out in less than a month, which is just so exciting. I can’t wait for you all to read it!


The Glories and Pitfalls of Writing Fanfiction While Dreaming of More

Like almost all authors in my demographic, from the most wildly successful to the most pie-in-the-sky aspirational, I cut my teeth on fanfiction.

I was writing it before I even knew it existed. Family members and old friends can recount countless stories about me as a tot, directing the other kids in my elaborate games of “pretend,” which were really just live action recreations of my fanfics. From Nancy Drew to Rescue Rangers to The Adventures of Sinbad and right down the line to obscure Christian Middle Grade/Young Adult mystery novels, I was always thinking up new scenarios, characters, and relationships to explore in my favourite pieces of media.

I took my first early steps into original fiction in this timeframe, too! Of course, almost all of it was “inspired” by my favourite books, shows, games, and movies. And by “inspired” I mean “basically just recreated.” My characters and settings were reskinned clones of the stories that thrilled my imagination.

A particularly egregious example was the ten book series I wrote from the time I was eleven to thirteen. (Why don’t I have that sort of writing output anymore??) You can track my parade of interests and obsessions across the series’s timeline as characters and plotlines sprout bulbous tumours inspired from the next big thing I was into. I more or less abandoned the series when I got into Star Wars — it was impossible to graft that into my basic high fantasy universe, sadly.

It wasn’t until I was fifteen that I found out that fanfiction was real. It was an actual thing that people did, a popular and active hobby with websites and discussion boards and social networks devoted to it. It was a revelation. You mean I didn’t have to disguise my interests as other things? I could just actually write twenty thousand words of post-canon Final Fantasy VII where Jenova possesses Aeris’s body and comes back as a zombie and also write a bunch of frothing polemic about why Cloud should be with Tifa? Nobody is going to like… sue me for that? Not only that, people will read it if I post it?

And that was it. From the moment I posted my first chapter of my first fic, I was addicted. The instant feedback, the feeling of community, the ease with which you could connect to other writers… it was amazing! I spent all my classes scribbling fic away in my notebook, and I’d make revisions when I typed it up at my old Windows 3.1 computer later that night. I’d sneak upstairs at midnight to the internet-enabled family computer, drape myself over the modem to muffle the sound of the dial-up connecting, and then post the new chapters. The next morning in computer class, I’d be greeted with an inbox full of new comments, each one as precious as gold.

Even to this day, over fifteen years later,  I can’t overstate the value of that feeling of community. Every day is a writing conference. You can find anyone willing to engage with you about anything. Some just want to talk about the characters and the plots and the concepts. Others want to connect on a more technical level. I learned more about the nuts and bolts — about how to tell a compelling story, about how to make prose flow, and how to engage an audience — from fanfiction than I ever did on any more “acceptable” platform. I’d spent years looking for books and mentors to teach me how to write, but I got all of my best lessons from those early fandoms.

Shout-outs to them, now, by the way. Hi there, Final Fantasy. How are you doing, Seiken Densetsu 3? Always have a place in my heart for you, Fushigi Yuugi. Congratulations on curing me of my internalized homophobia, Gravitation. What’s going on these days, Fire Emblem? When I hear Bryan Adams sing about the Summer of ’69, these are the halcyon days of youth I go back to. I even met my future wife in these communities.

But there was a solid downside to those years. Though I was writing all the time, reading constantly, learning and growing and developing as a writer… I’d completely stopped writing original fiction altogether.

There were a lot of reasons for that, but I think it comes down to two major points.

1. Original fiction and fanfiction share a very similar toolbox, and one can teach you invaluable lessons about the other. However, they don’t share an identical toolbox. While focusing completely on fanfic, I lost touch with a lot of the tools you need to write good, compelling, publishable original work.

2. The feeling of community and collaboration and camaraderie are central to the fanfiction experience. And while enjoying those things, I developed an almost pathological dependence on the rush of immediate, gratifying feedback that writing and sharing fanfic gives.

Any moment I could spend on my original ideas seemed wasted. I could be devoting that time to a fic, which I could post immediately, which would get me immediate feedback. Writing an original project felt incredibly, suffocatingly lonely. No one cared about the characters I’d invented. I was lost without the feeling of engagement I had when working with familiar faces and playing to an audience who loved them. It felt terribly and echoingly empty. And maybe I could have gotten through it, but it also felt impossibly hard to introduce concepts, characters, and world building. I’d come to rely so strongly on the shorthand of fanfic that not having it made writing incredibly difficult. I’d become incredibly frustrated with my inability to operate without the “vocabulary” of a given fandom, its cast, its world, its rules. Even in the most AU (alternate universe) of fanfics, you’re using an entire canon’s worth of context to communicate with your readers. And after doing it for long enough, establishing your own vocabulary for that stuff is incredibly hard, and it only gets harder the longer you go without practice.

I wanted to write my own stories so badly, but the more time went by, the less and less I felt equipped to do so. My efforts made me feel isolated and discouraged. I started resenting fanfiction, blaming the amazing community for my own discontent, and I ended up in a place where I wasn’t writing anything at all. I had to slowly build myself back up to the place where I am today.

So this is the part where I say that you shouldn’t write fanfic, right?

Well, wrong. Like, super wrong.

The fact is, I still write fanfic. I still write a lot of fanfic. And I love doing it. It’s important and valuable and incredibly rewarding. Fanfiction still helps me improve, still lets me be experimental, still gives me a freedom that I can’t get anywhere else. It’s taught me so much about interacting with fans and how to interface with the people who consume my work. And that amazing community I talked about is still alive and well. You can get feedback and appreciation and concrit and then go on the pay it forward. I’m still learning and making friends from the community, and I don’t intend to stop.

There are also a whole lot of writing jobs where the skills you learn from fanfic are incredibly important. Ghostwriting, working on licensed fiction, and working in a writer’s room on television are all great career paths, and your fanfic skills will make you an expert at capturing voice and tone.

It’s good for you to write fanfiction.

It’s just not good for you to write only fanfiction.

Don’t let your original fic muscles atrophy. Put aside time so that you’re spending a good ratio of your writing hours on both. Learn to wean yourself off that rush of instant feedback, treating writing like a marathon with long term rewards instead of a sprint with instant gratification. Find friends and contacts who’ll engage with you about your original work. (The last is surprisingly easy if you put yourself out there! You’ll find the fanfic community is full of other aspiring professionals who need the same thing in return.)

It’s also good to read not only fanfiction. Open yourself to meeting new characters and going to new places. Don’t cling too hard to the comforting blanket of the wonderfully familiar. Take a moment out of your day to engage with a fanfic friend about their original work. Express interest in their characters. Pick up a book and try and make time to read it, especially indie and debut authors. Leave reviews and/or connect with the authors. Don’t do this instead of engaging with a fan community! Do them both, because both are extremely awesome and important and irreplaceable.

(I should also note here, just at the end, that not all fanfiction writers/readers are aspiring professionals. Some just really love fic for what it is, and it’s all they’re interested in. That’s awesome! None of this is for you. If all you want to do is fic, all you should do is fic! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, or that your hobby is ‘lesser.’)

Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly isolated and insecure, I still boot up a word processor to write fanfic just for the feeling of being connected and accessible and easy. And that’s not only okay — that’s healthy, smart, fantastic. As long as we don’t drink so deep we don’t want to venture back out.

Love, Marriage, and Fighting the Good Fight

They say that whenever you talk about politics or religion, you cut your audience in half. However, I write a book series where a closeted bisexual man slowly learns to love and accept himself amid some pretty blatant late capitalism/climate change coded fantasy stuff, so I think I might have already lost the portion of my potential audience who might be offended by the following statement:

The election of President Donald Trump was a hard, hard night for me.

See, November 8th, 2016, was four days before my wedding. To my wife.

I met Elzie in 2004. We were in the same very small fandom, and while our initial meeting was a hilarious cavalcade of fan-community flavoured teenage drama, we very quickly formed a connection that shook both of us down to our toes. We had everything in common, could talk for hours, and were united in our deep love of writing and sharing stories. Fanfiction at first, then original. She got me like no one else ever had. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was in love with her by the end of the first year of our friendship. But, perhaps because we’re both emotionally stunted goblins, it took us a long time to realize that that’s what it was.

The thing with bisexuality is that it’s confusing.

Growing up in the late 90s and early 2000s in Canada was a crazy time. That was when the gay rights/marriage debate was the topic on everyone’s tongue, the hot button issue of the day. I was raised as a conservative United Baptist, and we were on the front lines of the fight for “traditional marriage” — that is, the fight against marriage equality. Barely a Sunday went by when we weren’t getting a bulletin from the pulpit updating us on the status of the gay debate in Parliament, and one by one, the provinces started legalizing. It was a battle for the soul of the nation, and I was a flustered teenager in the middle of it.

I had a serious boyfriend. I was madly in love with him and incredibly attracted to him. So I knew I was ‘normal,’ and I tried not to give it more thought than that. But I also knew that I could never stop looking at the pretty girl in my Advanced English class, and that I seemed to like the female characters in my favourite books, video games, and animes a lot more than the males…

But it never connected. I had a boyfriend. I liked my boyfriend. I had crushes on actors and I thought Squall from Final Fantasy VIII was so dreamy, and therefore, those thoughts were just, oh, temptations of Satan, or a glitch in the brain-machine, or even just… normal. Something all good, straight girls experienced.

My church and our fellow soldiers lost the fight holding back gay marriage in mid 2005. I’d known Elzie for over a year, I’d just started to feel distant and alienated from my faith, and I was introduced the concept of bisexuality. It was strange and new, but it also made sense to me. Removing the binary thinking from the equation was something I’d never thought of on my own, but almost immediately, it was like I’d seen the light. I started very tentatively identifying as bisexual, though I never imagined acting on it. All around me, the authority figures in my life condemned the triumph of twisted morality. It wasn’t a good time to be queer. And I counted myself lucky. Being bi, if that’s what I was, meant that I could easily pass right under their noses, stealthily appearing straight even though I wasn’t.

But we don’t choose who we fall for. The mere capacity to be in a heterosexual relationship doesn’t mean that that’s what ends up happening. Elzie and I danced around each other for years, dating mutual friends and struggling with jealousy and alienation and failed relationships before we realized what was really going on. We’d joked about being a couple for years, but despite both of us being bi, we’d never considered it seriously until we suddenly realized that we’d been serious all along. By this time, I was out to my family and completely gone from the church. The lingering spectre of the war against the gays in my childhood was long gone, and shortly after we were officially engaged, gay marriage was legalized in Elzie’s home country of America.

We planned to get married at my parents’ house in eastern Canada.

purple and green was a recurring theme

It’s a beautiful home that we built from nothing out in the country. A blueberry field nestled into pine and birch trees used to stand where the house is, now. It has a big living room and an open concept. My younger sister had married her husband there a few years before. It was the perfect location. Neither of us wanted to wear white, so I chose green, her favourite colour, and she wore purple, which is mine. We ordered Christmas lights off Amazon and strung them all over the house. Friends flew in from all around the world, including Meg, who we’d never met in person, who came all the way from Australia.

We went to Starbucks at about 6 PM on the night of the 8th. Things weren’t looking good, but it seemed so obvious at the time that Trump couldn’t win the election. Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate, but Trump was a disastrous one. People around us in the Starbucks joked about moving further north and the world ending, but despite the humour, the atmosphere was tense. We all went back to the house to play board games and pass the time. We were pretty sure Clinton would be president-elect by midnight, and this weird moment in time when a Trump presidency looked possible would be over.

When we checked our phones between games, we got a rude awakening.

And it was tough.

I remember lying on the floor in the living room, staring up at the ceiling. I didn’t know what we were going to do. All of our plans suddenly seemed like they were made of cobwebs. I’d intended to move to the States with Elzie. After all, she’s a successful software developer and I’m just a writer. Would that still be possible? Was there a place for us? I was getting married in four days, and I was back in the early 2000s, when the debates raged and my pastor preached hate.

back to our roots.

We got married. It was the best night of my life at the time, and it still is to this day. Drinking champagne, dancing with friends and family into the night, we felt triumphant and powerful and undefeatable.

I’ve held onto that feeling. The last year has been long and challenging. As immigration times stretched longer than they’ve been in years, Elzie and I have been kept apart for longer than any married couple ever should be. I’ve undergone invasive medical examinations. I’ve been asked deeply personal questions. I’ve spent days on planes, in waiting rooms, and on the phone dealing with the bureaucracy of the situation. I’ve seen some truly power-mad people — along with a lot of wonderful, kind, compassionate ones — at all levels of the process. Every time I’ve faltered, I’ve remembered how I felt that night.

We set a rule for the day of the wedding: no talking about Donald Trump. At the time, we thought that he’d hang over everything like a cloud, ruining our day. But in truth, it all seemed a thousand miles away. The thing with the wars of my childhood is that they passed. Progress doesn’t always move at a steady pace, but it always moves forward. In twenty years, I don’t think Elzie and I will remember the shadow the Trump presidency threw over our wedding. We might not even remember Trump, himself.

Today, young bisexuals have more options and more clarity than I did. It gives me hope and joy to think that another eccentric teenage girl might not feel trapped between two binary options, neither of which make sense to her. And on my end, I write bisexual characters and bisexual experiences into my work to capture that moment of time I existed in, when neither of those two limited labels fit and it felt like the world was against me.

I moved to the States, permanently, this week. I’ll write more about my experiences with immigration later — it’s a doozy of a story with a million maddening, heartwarming, and hilarious little details. For the moment, I’m settling into a happy domestic life with my wife of one year. We’ll still be here when Trump is gone, and no matter what comes after him, we’ll face it together. That’s the thing about fighting a battle you’ve already won once, after all. Your adversity-tackling muscles are damn well-honed.


The Heartreader’s Secret pubs April 12, 2018!

At long last, it’s here! The promised, anticipated, long-awaited release of Faraday Files #3, The Heartreader’s Secret, has a firm release date! The book will be coming from Curiosity Quills on April 12, 2018, and will be available at most digital retailers!

This one has been a trial to get out of my head and into your hands. The actual writing process took forever. I didn’t outline nearly enough, and just told myself that I’d figure out the ending when I got there. Bad idea! I can’t make this work. I never could. I finally finished the book less than a week before my wedding to my frequently credited partner in crime, Elzie, who didn’t have the time to go through and edit my work on the book for almost a month, because… well, she’d also just gotten married! She finally got done with it only to inform me, on no uncertain terms, that the book was Extremely Bad.


So then began another several months of deep edits, which took longer than they otherwise might have, because, have I mentioned, I’d just gotten married? By the time it got to my agent, the book was looking strong, but we were miles behind!

It only snowballed from there. My agent was swamped, my publisher is in the midst of some really cool internal development that unfortunately slowed down publishing, and both my previous editors were unavailable! Just the act of scheduling this release date has taken two weeks longer than it usually does!

But here it is, written in stone, promised from the bottom of my heart. The book is no longer Extremely Bad. I have it on good authority from the wife that it is now, in fact, Extremely Good! Everyone who’s read it has said it’s easily their favourite of the entire series so far, and things are finally smoothing out and gliding to a graceful finish on the pub side of things. On April 12th, the book will be in your hands, and you’ll finally be able to experience the next chapter in Chris and Olivia’s story together.

More information, such as preorders and event info, will be forthcoming! For now, mark your calendars and get ready.22


*embarrassed cricket noises*

Ahem. Is anyone still here?

It’s been a quiet 2017, hasn’t it? Almost a year since my last update on this site. I’ve written some posts and then declined to post them out of guilt for talking about anything that wasn’t a release date for The Heartreader’s Secret…

Well, good news!

I still don’t have a release date that I can share with you, but we are close to giving you one. It’ll be in the first half of 2018 if all goes well. This book was hell to write and edit and get together, but I couldn’t be happier with where it is right now and I’m so, so excited to get it into your hands. I think it’s the best one yet, and my early readers have all agreed.

Thank you so much for all your patience with me and my business people during these long delays! Watch this spot for actual, firm news very soon, of which there should be a bunch coming all at once!

And now… back to work on the forth and final Faraday Files book. Because don’t worry! While The Heartreader’s Secret has been stuck in editorial hell, I have been hammering away at the first draft for The Spiritbinder’s Key! Hopefully it’ll be in your hands a whole lot faster than its prequel.


Drowned in Moonlight and Strangled by Her Own Bra

I rarely use my blog to talk about personal things that aren’t strictly related to my writing or my books, but the passing of Carrie Fisher has affected me in such a profound way that I find myself needing to put my thoughts down somewhere.

I was first introduced to Star Wars by my best friend in middle school, and I immediately fell head over heels in love with the feisty, brave, competent, and beautiful Princess Leia. Looking back now, with the hindsight of a queer woman, I was always pretty much in love with her. But more than that, I wanted to be her. I wanted to tap into that strength and fearless determination that she had and siphon it off for myself. I was thirteen, learning myself, and Princess Leia was a monument to what being a woman could be.

It wasn’t until years later that I started to really learn about the woman behind the character.

The first thing you find out about Carrie Fisher after loving her in Star Wars is about her struggles with addiction. There’s something transgressive and salacious about it, that the fresh-faced, spirited, confident princess was fueled by cocaine and LSD. “Carrie Fisher? She did some hard years,” people will say, nodding sagely. Which she did. But the story isn’t dark or deliciously scandalous. It’s about triumph.

Carrie Fisher, like me, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Everyone with this disorder self medicates one way or another. And Carrie fought to overcome that, to overcome all of it, and to become a self sufficient, self sustaining, and healthy woman. She fought and she won.

There’s a lot of reasons I identify with her, and some of it is that we had some of the same struggles. But a lot of it is that Carrie was a writer to her soul. Acting was never her dream. Writing was where her heart was. Princess Leia wasn’t just a character Carrie played — she was instrumental in the writing process. Check out Carrie’s handwritten notes on Leia’s dialogue for The Empire Strikes Back:


Carrie’s edits made it into the final film and flow so much better than the original lines. “With the rest of the garbage” is such an iconic Leia moment, accompanied  by that little smile she has when she says it. And did I mention that Empire was the film Carrie was high during? She did these great edits and played these scenes with such finesse while high.

Leia’s strength was fed by Carrie’s. The older she got, the more passionate she became, and she was a champion for feminism and the value of women past thirty. Her rants about that goddamn golden bikini were always so delightful. She claimed to “think with her mouth” and her off the cuff, short way of talking could be insightful, moving, or just laugh out loud funny. She loved to just talk, to share her feelings. She had no shame about anything at all, and that’s something I wish I had in me.

It’s hard to say goodbye to Carrie Fisher.

I’m not the sort of person to get sentimental about the passing of famous people I admire. I’m something of a bright-eyed fatalist, embracing the inevitability of death as a time to rest. But today has been hard for me in a way that nothing but the deaths of close family and friends ever is.

Part of it, I think, is that she just had so much left to give. Leia had finally come back to the big screen and Carrie was leveraging her visibility as a platform for everything from new books (The Princess Diarist just came out!) to twitter rants (her barely penetrable internet-speak was charming beyond words.) She was visible and loud and out there, and suddenly, because she picked a bad time to have a heart attack, she’s simply gone. I feel like I’ve been cheated of all the things Carrie the writer, Carrie the actor, and Carrie the personality had left to give me. I feel like the thirty years I should have had with her have been taken away from me. And it’s leaving an empty space in my heart.

But maybe part of it is that my view of the end of life as a time to sleep and be at peace doesn’t feel right for Carrie. She’s not the type to long for a chance to lay down and rest. Carrie Fisher was the very soul of life itself. Thinking of her as anything but living it what really hurts.

Here or gone, Carrie Fisher is always going to be someone I look to for insight and answers, a What Would Carrie Do? sort of figure in my mind. I hope I can continue to learn from her. I’m going to take the rest of the day to start reading The Princess Diarist and glean every bit of insight I can from the pages.

After hearing George Lucas’s half brilliant, half ludicrous explanation of why she couldn’t wear a bra, Carrie decided that it sounded kind of beautiful. She said that no matter how she died, she wanted everyone to say that she was drowned in moonlight and strangled by her own bra. So that’s what I’m going to say, when someone asks how she died. That’s what’s worthy of such an amazing, brilliant, multi-faceted, and fearless woman. And instead of saying rest in peace, I’ll say rest in riots, because I think that’s what she would have wanted.


Experience The Deathsniffer’s Assistant in a New Way December 15th!

The date is coming up on the audio book release date of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant!

cover for the audio edition!

Maybe you’ve been meaning to check out the book and haven’t been able to make time in your busy schedule. Maybe you’ve already read it and want to reread. Or maybe you’re like me, and think of audiobooks as a form of adaptation, and just want to see TDA adapted to a new format! There are tons of reasons to pick it up in either digital or physical format!

The audiobook of The Deathsniffer’s Assistant is published by Tantor Audio, performed by Romy Nordlinger, and proliferated by Audible. Here are some places you can pick it up!

Tantor’s Site: You can get the book here in physical form as either an Audio CD, which can be played in most CD players, and an MP3 CD, which will not work in a base model CD player, but will contain an MP3 that you can access from a computer or MP3 CD player!

Audible Site: If you’d rather go digital, you can get the audiobook off Audible! It can be purchased with either credits, if you have an Audible membership, or normal money! Through the audible app, you can listen to the book on your phone or computer easily.

Amazon: Finally, you can buy it in either physical or digital via Amazon! The physical version has Amazon Prime attached to it, so if you’re a Prime member, you can have it at your house in two days! Amazon also has the awesome functionality where, if you’ve already bought the Kindle edition of the book, you can get the audible version for only four dollars!

People are already asking me the big question, of course, which is — will The Timeseer’s Gambit also be out, and if so, when? And what about books three and four? The short answer is, it depends! Tantor wants to see how the first one sells before it commits to the sequels. The best way to make sure you get to hear Olivia’s first official serial killer case is to pick up the first one and give it a listen!


The Heartreader’s Secret is Complete!

After a solid two months of writing 40 hours a week, I have finally written the last word in the first draft of The Heartreader’s Secret, Faraday Files number 3!

It’s only been done for a few hours now, so there’s no news on when it’ll be in your hands. Hopefully not too long, but publishing takes a while… and there’s a lot of work left to do on the book. But this stuff is honestly the easy part, and I can’t wait until the book is in your hands!

Here are some quick facts about The Heartreader’s Secret:

1. The first draft has clocked at 144k words. The Deathsniffer’s Assistant finished at 160k. The Timeseer’s Gambit was 132. That puts THS firmly in the middle of the three so far. It’s worth noting that word count can change a lot in revisions, of course! TDA and TTG ended up essentially the same length as TDA lost scenes and TTG picked some up.

2. It’s the darkest book in the series. The Faraday Files book are meant to act as both self-contained stories and four acts of one narrative. THS is very much the lowest point for the heroes as we head into the climax and finale in the final book.

3. It isn’t set (entirely) in Darrington City. Olivia and Chris’s case in this book takes them out of the big city and to the rambling country estate where Olivia grew up. Summergrove has become a hotbed for activity, with Rachel Albany, Rosemary Buckley, Emilia Banks, and Francis Livingstone all out there — not to mention Olivia’s mother, Elouise Faraday! It’s inevitable that Chris and Olivia would find themselves out there, and in this book, they do.

4. The titular heartreader is Rachel Albany. Rachel has always been my most challenging character to write, and her prominent role in this book is part of why it’s taken me so long to finish it! But despite her title call, Rachel doesn’t play as prominent a role as Olivia and Will do in the first two books, or Rosemary will in book 4, The Spiritbinder’s Key. THS is the most ensemble book in the series, and pretty much everybody gets a lot of stuff to do.

5. It’s been the hardest book to write by far. TTG stayed miraculously on-point. It only very occasionally diverged from the outline, and only in minor ways. TDA was a far more rambling, out of control creature… but it was also my first book and was a simpler narrative. It was easier to course correct when it strayed. But THS would not stay on topic. Chekov’s guns refused to fire. Entire characters wouldn’t fulfill their designated role. Planned dynamics didn’t play out. New characters appeared. Events played out differently than I envisioned. This book just would not behave, and with so many moving pieces I needed to get squared away for the final book, it was a pain to restructure everything over and over again!

6. I know a whole lot about apples, ciders, and horticulture now. Like, too much. Olivia’s family runs a famous orchard, mill, and cidery. I have something like fifty pages of research about apples, of which I’ve used maybe three lines. Oh, well. I got to drink a lot of different hard ciders for research 😉

Hungry for more? Keep your eyes peeled for more information about The Heartreader’s Secret, coming… hopefully soon!


October Reads – Oct 2

Continuing my series of spooky SFF reads you can pick up to get into the October spirit, here’s day two!

The Poison Throne by Celine Keirnan

7302398What’s it about?

Daughter of the king’s trusted confidante, Wynter grew up close friends with the two royal princes. Returning to the castle where she was raised after a long absence, she quickly learns that something has changed. The king has become a malevolent shadow of himself, his eldest and favoured son missing, and gibbets, torture, and whispers of a horrific ‘Bloody Machine’ have turned Wynter’s childhood home into a nightmare.

This is the first book in the Moorehawke Trilogy, a dark but still airy-feeling character driven fantasy series by Irish author Celine Keirnan. They’re fast reads with really compelling relationships and a lot of diversity!

How SFF is it?

Very! It takes place in a barely alternate Earth populated by talking cats, friendly ghosts, and werewolves howling in the night. It has a late west European medieval/early Renaissance feel to it. While not really high fantasy — few characters have any sort of real magical abilities — it definitely fits nicely into what you’d expect from a fantasy novel.

Why is it spooky?

Those friendly ghosts I mentioned above aren’t being so friendly anymore. The castle the book takes place in is haunted, and where once it’s spirits were friends, they’ve turned strange and mad and malevolent. There are some really outright eerie sequences involving the castle’s undead denizens!

This book also just has a sense of creeping dread about it. There isn’t much action and it’s a very slow burn, but it works well with the heavy sense that Something Is Wrong, that terrible things are happening and are only getting worse, that there is some awful unknowable secret just under our feet.

Finally, there’s some grisly details that add a gothic tone to it all, with the tortures mad King Jonathan is inflicting on his subjects and the way the castle has changed.


October Reads – Oct 1

I looooove the fall!

Specifically, I love October. I love the cool air, the leaves changing, the pumpkin spice, and getting to break out my scarves and sweaters. The sights and smells and mood are all just one of my favourite times of year! Moreover, the third Faraday Files book, which I’m working at a breakneck pace to finish this month, takes place deep in the Harvest season! So the autumn mood is really inspiring me!

The centrepiece of October is Halloween, which I love best of all. I thought for this month, I’d share a bunch of spooky, moody SFF-ish books that you may or may not have checked out!

To start…

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Keirnan

What’s it about?

5356476After the suicide of her longtime girlfriend, author Sarah Crowe falls into a depression she can’t shake. Finding it impossible to write, Sarah impuslively spends a summer holed up in Rhode Island. She rents a little cottage whose grounds contain a gigantic, ancient red oak that has always been associated with mysterious, often gruesome circumstances.

This book plays havoc with your sense of what is and isn’t real. Sarah kills herself after the events of this summer. It sounds like a spoiler, but it’s more or less the first thing you find out when you start the book, because of the in-universe foreword by her editor. This is a publication of Sarah’s journals from that summer. And the real power of the book is that foreword, which holds just enough hints and glimpses into the real world, beyond the filter of Sarah’s madness, to confuse every attempt to decode what really happened.

How SFF is it?

Not very. This book is much closer to pure horror than anything else I plan to include on this list at this point. It has a contemporary setting and the characters feel like they live in the real world. At the same time, there’s very little communication with the outside world beyond the cottage and the red tree. It also feels very SFF to me, specifically in some of the weirder elements that I really don’t want to spoil! It’s also worth noting that the main character, Sarah, is actually an SFF author! Which is pretty cool.

Why is it spooky?

The kind of spookiness this book is going for is the idea of unknowable forces, of things that existed long before our civilizations, continue to exit in the shadowed corners of them, and will go on long after we’re gone. It taps into anxieties about the wildness of nature, the way that the natural world is in so many ways anathema to humanity and how we live, and the idea of vast powers and terrifying little glitches in the matrix that exist just below our feet.  It also plays with madness a lot, and the fear of the thing in the corner of your eye, and how you can convince yourself it was real… or was it actually real all along?