*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.

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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:

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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!

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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?

Backstage Character Pass — Emilia Banks

Some of my cast, like Chris, Olivia, and Rosemary, were important parts of the full series before they were even fully formed. Others didn’t really find their place until I started writing, like Maris, Will, or Kolston. The latest comer to the core cast is definitely the brilliant engineer Emilia Banks, which is funny… because she’s one if the most integral characters to the story as a whole.

Em’s origin story is a lot like Maris’s. As you might remember from my Backstage Character Pass on our favourite policewoman, Officer Dawson was added late when I realized that my first book didn’t pass the Bechdel test, and I think she’s a great example of how adding characters to fill a quota is actually a great thing! She contributes so much to the world and is so fun to write and adds such friction and spice to the rest of the cast! The series would definitely be worse off without her. Em is a lot like this.

After a single scene with Maris, I knew that this woman was gay as the hills. And I… kind of didn’t love it. In a lot of wars, Maris can seem like a lesbian stereotype. She’s stout, muscular, tough, no-nonsense, grizzled, and butch. I felt uncomfortable with having my lesbian conform to so many tropes. I turned to my lesbian friend and asked her how she would proceed and what she thought about this.

Her solution was pretty simple. Gay women, especially “mannish” ones like Maris, as often just gay as a character trait rather than an actual lifestyle. To avoid Maris being just a trope, I should give her a love story and make her lover as important to the story as Maris herself.

This right here is me miming a kiss to my friend. I really can’t thank her enough.

I thought about what kind of woman Maris would fall in love with, I thought about what blank spaces another cast member could fill in the world and the story, and I thought about the venn diagram where those two things overlapped. Like magic, Emilia Banks sprang to life.

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absolutely gorgeous fanart of maris and emilia at the piffleman’s gala house is illustrated by Doug @ greekburrito on tumblr!

Em is a lot of fun to write. She’s one of the most serious characters in my main cast, but she’s got some dry wit going on. She’s intelligent and kind and determined and deeply in love with Maris. She brings some much needed colour to Tarland’s isolationist racial purity, and shows us a bit of the world outside of Darrington’s sheltered walls. She’s also extremely logical and analytical. But I think what really makes her stand out is her passion.

There are two main types of character in the Faraday Files. There are the ones who are just trying to go about their lives and avoid the looming apocalypse scenario bearing down on Tarland, and those who have become ideologically embroiled in the politics and the discourse about what should be done about it. Em is neither. She is as disinterested in debating ideology as she is in putting her head in the sand. The debate about how to handle Tarland’s economic and social crises has been raging for a decade now without any real progress, and Emilia is so Done With It. People talk and talk and talk and talk and nothing ever happens, so why bother talking? Why not just get out there, headfirst, and do things?

One of my favourite things about Em is that she always puts her money where her mouth is. Both literally — she’s independently wealthy and uses her own money to fund her research — and figuratively. Emilia is dead set against categorization from top to bottom. It’s a corrupt, horrible system that is keeping Tarland in the dark ages, not the shining beaon of progress like so many claim. As a citizen of Tarland who has reached her majority, Em is legally obligated to undergo categorization, and she has. And yet, neither the reader nor the characters (other than Maris, of course) know what proficiency she has, because she won’t use it. Maybe it would make her life more convenient, or allow her to work legally and grow her fortune, but Emilia won’t play a role in the system she despises. I think that’s pretty impressive.

The Timeseer’s Gambit mostly serves as an introduction to the indomitable Miss Banks, but don’t worry — you’ll be seeing a lot of her in The Heartreader’s Secret. While the book is named for Rachel Albany, who has a big role to play, it’s as much Em’s book as it is Rachel’s.

Like Maris, I think Em is a great case for how a character added to tick a box can actually be a huge blessing to a story. I adore her, and response to her has been super positive! But she wouldn’t even exist if I weren’t committed to real diversity in my work.

So, what did you think of Emilia Banks?

The Timeseer’s Gambit Backstage Character Pass Series:
Kolston
The Deathsniffer’s Assistant Backstage Character Pass Series:
Chris
Olivia
Maris
Rosemary
Rachel
Will

Backstage Character Pass — Rayner Kolston

With the release of The Timeseer’s Gambit a solid month behind us, and, hopefully, most of my readers having had a chance to dig in and discover Chris and Olivia’s new adventure, I’m ready to start talking about the book here on my blog! I’ve got so much to say! But first up, the Backstage Character Pass series is looking incomplete.

How about those characters who solidified their position in the main cast a little later than the others?

Rayner Kolston was what I refer to in my notes as a “mystery character” in the first book. What that means is that, like Evelyn val Daren, Grandmother Eugenia, and Elisabeth Kingsley, he existed in the story primarily as a potential suspect and a source of investigative information for Olivia’s sleuthing. He established the val Daren’s family’s debts and acted as a slightly more reliable outside perspective on the Duke’s life. In the earliest outlines, this was Kolston’s entire role in the series, and he would disappear in future books once the case was solved.

But as I outlined his role and, eventually, got around to actually sketching out his scenes with Olivia, I found that I… actually really liked the guy. He provided something new and unique to the cast, and there was a role I could see him playing in future books. And I jumped on it, because the truth is, he’s just a lot of fun to write!

While most of the cast of these books are relatively respectable and on the right side of the law, Kolston is most definitely not. Chris often describes him like a rodent or an insect, and it’s a pretty apt comparison. Kolston scuttles around the edges of things, exploits the economic crisis to make his own personal fortune, and collects nuggets of information to sell to the highest bidder.

All of those traits are surprisingly useful. As you can see in The Timeseer’s Gambit, Kolston provides a window into the darker sides of Darrington city. He’s a contact Chris and Olivia can use to scrape the underbelly, which makes him a great character to have around for the mystery-solving aspects of the plot. He’s also great for when they need something untoward done and don’t want to or can’t do it themselves. In TTG, this all leads to Chris making a devil’s bargain with Kolston that will definitely come back in later books. And, of course, Kolston’s presence helps remind us of how grimy Darrington is getting as it loses more and more of its prestige and sinks deeper into a depression.

But I don’t think any of that is Kolston’s real purpose in the story. The true appeal of having him in the mix, for me, is the conflict he brings to Olivia and Chris.

I really wanted to show Olivia as a sexually confidant woman who doesn’t care about societal expectations. I also wanted to make it clear that she isn’t sexually attracted to Chris by demonstrating how she acts when she is interested in someone. But I didn’t want to clutter my already large cast by adding a character specifically for this purpose. However, I realized writing their first scene together in TDA that damn… she really digs on Kolston. He’s clever, willing to flirt shamelessly, and can actually keep up with her.

Not to mention, he’s just a good-looking guy!

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I’ve come to realize that my biggest inspiration for Kolston is the minor character “Badger” from the television series Firefly. Badger only has about thirty lines in the whole series, but I guess he made an impression on me!

Does that surprise you? After all, he’s always described as being sleazy, greasy, and rat-like. But remember… you’re seeing Kolston from Chris’s point of view, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Chris can’t see past what Kolston is: a carrion eater who lives in the sweaty buttcrack of polite society. But what Olivia sees is all rakish good looks and slick charm.

Kolston also helps remind both Chris and you all reading that Olivia’s moral compass is… crooked. She genuinely believes that he committed a horrible murder in cold blood and got away with it. It just doesn’t bother her. After all, she didn’t know the victim, it was just business, and legally, he’s been cleared. As Olivia starts opening up more to Chris and showing her softer sides, I like to keep it fresh in everyone’s mind that she hasn’t stopped being what she is.

As for Kolston himself? What he wants, what he values, what he loves, where his loyalties lie? Does he have hidden depths, or is he as petty and small-minded as he seems? Does he sincerely care about Olivia, or would he sell her out for a fiver? Is he bad or good or just pragmatic? I know the answers to those questions, but they’re definitely obfuscated on purpose! You’re just going to have to keep reading and find out. Maybe he’ll end up surprising you… and maybe not.

Do you like him? Or does he make your skin crawl? Do you think Olivia deserves better, or are they perfect for each other? Let me know what you think!

The Deathsniffer’s Assistant Backstage Character Pass Series:
Chris
Olivia
Maris
Rosemary
Rachel
Will

The Timeseer’s Gambit Releases!

Chris and Olivia are back! Join them and the timeseer, Will Cartwright, as they take on a serial killer, a historic trial, and their own relationships in The Timeseer’s Gambit!

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The Timeseer’s Gambit is now available from all major online retailers! You can pick up your digital copies from Kindle on Amazon, and physical copies from Barnes & Noble, Chapters.Indigo , or any of the worldwide Amazon sites!

I am really proud of this book and so, so excited to get it out there and into your hands! Early reviews are really positive so far and I can’t wait to see what you all think!

RELEASE DAY FAQ

Where can I get the book?

The retailers I link above are the best places to get the book! Here are some specific questions I know I’m going to get:

— LOCAL PEOPLE:
Unfortunately, I still don’t have physical copies on hand. They are coming! If you don’t want to wait, order a copy from Amazon or Chapters! If you don’t mind waiting, watch this space for updates on events.

— KOBO/NOOK USERS:
I hate to say it, but my books will not be available on these platforms. I know how bad it sucks. I’m a Kobo user for life, myself. But I have to make money for my work, and the past year has shown me that the vast majority of my writing income comes from the advantages that being Kindle-exclusive give, while my Kobo and Nook gains are, comparatively, very low. It sucks, but take it up with Amazon.

I read the whole thing already! Where is Book 3?

Coming!

Book 3 is the most complicated book I’ve written yet, and it’s taken some time to really get going on it. But it’s underway now and I hope it’ll be out next year. I hope. It might not be until 2018, but it will come, and, I hope, be so awesome that it will be worth the wait.

I read the whole thing and I want to hear you talk about specific things from it!

I have sooo much to say about the work I did on book 2 and how intensely personal a lot of it was to write. But I don’t want to jump out the gate and start spoiling things willy nilly! There are a lot of surprises in this book. I want you guys some time to think about them before I jump in start talking about my writerly perspective.

I want to help promote the book! How can I help?

Share it! This is the number one best way to help me out. Books are passed via word of mouth more than any other type of popular media these days, and the easiest way you can help me is by telling someone else to read it. Specifically:

— WRITE A REVIEW
Reviews spread the word! Positive (or even negative or neutral!) reviews help make a book more visible online to searches, and help increase eyes on the title!

— SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Just sharing a post like this one can help! It’s all about getting it out there.

— GIFT COPIES
If you want to be especially helpful, gifting copies to friends or local libraries is the absolute nicest thing you can do for me. Again: word of mouth is how books spread!