Seventh Son on Sizzling Summer Sale (or Something)

It’s summer! You need a beach read! (Or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere: It’s winter! You need a book to read by the fire!) So, here’s your Sizzling Summer Sale – better yet, it’s not a sale, it’s a FREEBIE!! You can get your very own e-copy of Seventh Son for utterly, totally and completely FREE!!! All you have to do is hoof it over to your favourite ebook vendor and click the “download” button. So go ahead, what’re you waiting for?

 

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Here it is on

Amazon

Smashwords (all ebook formats)

Kobo

Nook

iBooks

Life, the Universe, and a Sale on Seventh Son. Go get it, read it, then let me know what you think!

 

CHECKMATE!

Aaaaaand – HERE IT IS!! Please welcome:

CHECKMATE!!

Toddle on over to the page, where you can choose from a profusion of links from which to get your very own e- or p-(paper)copy of the newest instalment of the Septimus Series.

Here’s what you’ll find under the snazzy cover:

Rhitha’s life is miserable – but then she meets Bina.

Rhitha’s sister has been bullying her all her life, for no reason that Rhitha can see. But when they move to Ruph, there is a new friend in Rhitha’s life: with the help of Bina and her unique powers Rhitha begins to see that there might be more going on in her family than meets the eye. There is a secret nobody suspected…
Things come to a head between Rhitha and her sister in a clash that draws in everyone around them. Are the peculiar forces at play in Ruph responsible for fanning their conflict? Who is the mysterious stranger that appears at Grandmother’s door in the middle of the storm? And can Bina help Rhitha find the strength to stand up to the bullies and become who she is meant to be?

Read it, and then leave a review! Or just let me know what you think (good or bad) – I want to know!

Life, the Universe, and a New Book Baby. Isn’t it beautiful?

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Pictures and Pears and Other Randomness

Helen Jones, of Journey to Ambeth, just posted some lovely pictures for her “Thursday Doors” series, of the church in Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire. Take a look, here. I love the way Helen’s pictures can grab me and just, for a few minutes, toss me into another place, right across the other side of the globe. And then, bing, I’m back in my Canadian existence, just a little richer for my tiny little armchair travel experience. (Check out this crazy lapis-lazuli-and-gold swimming pool she posted pictures of the other day. I mean, doesn’t that make you feel like your mind has expanded just a tiny bit, knowing this ludicrously, gloriously extravagant piece of achitectural razzle-dazzle exists in the world?)

One of the things that caught my attention in today’s post, though, was the name of that one and only English Pope, Nicholas Breakspear (who apparently came from Abbots Langley, hence his inclusion in the post). I’d never heard of him before. Now, frivolously-minded person that I am, it didn’t make me think deep thoughts about history – it just set me to wondering if he’s any relation to The Bard. You know, 12th-century Breakspear to 16th-century Shakespeare… Maybe in the intervening 400 years, the family figured out how to wave about their weaponry without cracking it – from Nick “break spear” to Will “shake spear”… [Yeah, I know, it’s bad. I just couldn’t resist.]

Nicholas Breakspear would have been Pope right around the time Brother Cadfael did his sleuthing in Shrewsbury Abbey, and Catherine LeVendeur hers in Paris. As far as I know, those two never did cross paths, although I’m sure they would have got along swimmingly. Neither did Lord Peter Wimsey and Inspector Roderick Alleyn, although by rights they should have – both attended Oxford right around the same time, were younger sons of the peerage, had mothers who read almost like identical twins, and married women involved in the arts/writing scene. And that’s not even taking into account the Scotland Yard connection. Lord Peter’s brother-in-law, Charles Parker, in fact occupies Inspector Alleyn’s chair as Chief Inspector, right around the same time. We must be dealing with parallel universes here; I’m sure Scotland Yard Chief Inspectors aren’t as thickly strewn on the ground as all that. (While we’re at it, Carola Dunn’s Alec Fletcher, the Hon. Daisy Dalrymple‘s husband, is another contender for that Chief Inspector’s chair. That seat must have been one hotly contested piece of furniture in the 1920s.) IMG_20160211_125146

Anyway. To wrap up today’s silliness, here’s a picture of Steve on a laundry basket. Just because you, I’m sure, needed to see a photo of a bear sitting on a household implement today. You’re welcome.

Life, the Universe, Fictional Sleuths, Pictures and Pears. And bears, of course, as well.

PS: Have you put in a pre-order for Checkmate yet? Just eight more days…

PPS: Now that I think of it, none of this has anything to do with pears, just spears. But I like the alliteration.

CHECKMATE has a Due Date!

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We have a due date! One for the newest book baby. No, it’s not a due-back-at-the-library date, it’s the day Checkmate is going to be officially released: February 19th!

That’s not much more than a week away. Are you excited? Yes, you are, very excited indeed. Because you can’t wait to read about the further adventures of Cat, Guy, and Bibby (who’s now called Bina, seeing as she’s no longer a little kid – if you haven’t yet read “Lavender’s Blue”, go over here to find out about it). And there’s this new kid, Rhitha – what’s going on with her and her family? Why is her sister being so mean to her? You’ll find out soon…

So mark it on your calendar: next week Friday you can go online and get your very own copy of Checkmate. Or, even better, you could hop over to Amazon or Smashwords right now and pre-order the ebook, then you’ll get it delivered the moment it’s released!

Just nine more days!

Hanging Out My Shingle, or: A New Endeavour

It’s a new(ish) year, and time for a new endeavour. Remember I told you a few weeks ago that I was cooking up something new? Well, here it is: I’m hanging out my shingle as an editor. That’s right, I’m joining the ranks of the professional nitpickers. I aim to occupy myself with such questions as whether it’s “endeavour” or “endeavor” – or perhaps even “Endeavour” (which depends on whether it’s British, American, or the title of the TV series).

For now, I’m starting small, with copy editing and beta reading. The latter is really a form of content or structural editing, letting the author know what I think of their piece as a whole, as a reader. Copy editing means the nitty-gritty of mechanics – spelling, punctuation, grammar, word choice – and as such can even go into the realm of stylistic editing (smoothing language, clarifying meaning, making things sound better). All of which has the purpose not to tear down a work, but to make good writing even better.

It’s just a little scary to hoist my flag and announce to the world that I’m now available to take apart your writing (that’s “take apart”, not “take a part” – although, of course, by taking it apart I’m also taking a part in it). But, well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. And as I wrote on my brand-new editing page (that tab up on top of this page), helping a good story take shape and get ready to go out into the world to meet its readers is a tremendously rewarding thing for me.

So there it is: amo vitam Editing Services. I’m excited, and a bit nervous, and on the one hand kind of unsure of what I’m doing, but on the other quite certain that working with writing is what I want to do and that (not to boast or anything) I’m actually quite good at it.

Life, the Universe, and a New Shingle Hung Out. Do me a favour and pass the word?

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Required Reading

3268My friend over on Jangled Nerves just let off a blog post on classics – based on yet another post, here, that details “16 Books Every Teenager Should Read in 2016”. So, I toddled over to that post and checked out this list of required reading. I mean, I’m not a teenager – haven’t been one in quite some time (sorry if that bursts a bubble for you) – but if there’s a list of must-reads, I want to know what it is.

And you know what? Of that list of sixteen books, I’ve read all of five, or maybe six. One (or two?) I read under duress, aka Literature Class in school, the other four I read because I loved them. And I pretty much know the Cliff Notes version of several others, which is enough to tell me that I’m not, in fact, interested in reading the full-length feature.

I actually find myself rather annoyed at the title of that original post. “16 Books EVERY Teenager SHOULD Read”. Why on earth should they? Because these are good books? Good grief, if that’s the reason, picking just sixteen is ridiculous. But what’s more, this list is highly subjective. For one, it’s quite US-centric – Gone With The Wind tops the list, but it’s one of those Cliff Notes books for me. No, I haven’t seen the movie either, because frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn about that story. For another, it’s a girl’s list of books. Sense and Sensibility? Jane Eyre? Fabulous books (they are, of course, on the list of four that I read for sheer pleasure*), but I can just see giving them to 16-year-old boys to read. 19th-century emo chicks mooning over romantic heartbreak – “Oh, Willoughby, Willoughby!” and “Reader, I married him…” – just kill me now. This, coupled with horrifically disturbing weirdness like Kafka’s The Trial (see “reading under duress”, above), is what’s chiefly responsible for turning many, many teenagers off books for life. Thank you, high school English class.

It’s not that I have a problem with this list of books per se – they’re great books, from what I hear. It’s not even that I disapprove of suggesting books for people to read; far from it. No, it’s the dogmatic headline, the “Thou Shalt Read This” that gets my goat. Because like every really voracious reader, I want to make up my own mind on what to read. And I think teenagers should be making up their own minds, too.

I never filled my children’s plates with food and then insisted they finish every last bite. I did (and still do) insist that they eat some vegetables with their dinner – but I don’t cook them spinach, because I know they hate it. I quite like cooked spinach, thank you very much, but if the kids would rather have it raw with salad dressing, so be it. There is no law that says “Thou Shalt Eat Thine Spinach Cooked”, nor is there one that says “Thou Shalt Read Kafka”. There are far too many good books in the world to force people to read according to a predetermined list. The ticket is to offer the veg, to suggest the book titles. I love Jane Austen – but if you don’t, why not read Sir Walter Scott instead? Ivanhoe is a darn good yarn.

Life, the Universe, and Books You Ought To Read. But only if you really want to. When you’re done all those other great books you’re reading at the moment. And the ones your friends suggested. And that one that just jumped at you from the bookstore shelf. And… Ah, never mind – just keep reading. And let me know when you hit on a good one, I’ll add it to my list of books to check out. I might get to it when I’m 80.

*PS: the other book from that list, the one I’m not sure if I’ve read or not, is Death of a Salesman – I remember being forced to read some kind of weird gloomy drama in undergrad English class; it might have been that. You can tell it made a big impression on my life. The other two I loved were, of course, The Horse and His Boy, and The Hobbit.

Goodbye, Colonel Brandon

You’ve probably heard it by now: Alan Rickman died this morning at age 69. For most people, it’ll probably mean “Goodbye, Severus Snape”, but for me, it’s “Goodbye, Colonel Brandon”. That’s the first role I ever saw him in, and the one I’ve watched most often, over and over – Sense and Sensibility is only one of my top ten favourite films. I love it so much, I’ve written grad school papers on it – including a fairly detailed analysis of Rickman’s Colonel Brandon compared to David Morrisey’s version in 2008.

Rickman was the master of the black flapping cloak – an ability he rocked as Snape, of course, striding through the halls of Hogwarts with his gown swirling out behind him like the wings of an overgrown raven. But Colonel Brandon is no slouch in that department, either. “Give me an occupation, Miss Dashwood, or I shall run mad,” he begs Elinor in a broken voice, convulsively clutching at the wood panelling outside the gravely ill Marianne’s bedroom (the stage directions say “He is dangerously quiet”). Elinor (no doubt thinking that the last thing she needs now is an emo going off his rocker) sends him off to get her mother. He slams out of the house (cloak swirling), flings himself on his horse, and after one last desperate glance up at Marianne’s window from under his wide-brimmed brigand’s hat digs in his spurs and rushes off, ventre à terre, cloak flapping, to find relief for his beloved. We next see him galloping at full speed across the brow of a hill, silhouetted against the evening sky, his cloak – you guessed it – “billowing out behind him” (that’s in the script, verbatim) in the most impressively romantic manner.

Rickman’s interpretation of the character (going off Emma Thompson’s script) imbued Colonel Brandon with a romanticism that simply isn’t there in Austen’s book. Andrew Davies took this interpretation even further with his script for the 2008 miniseries – David Morrisey’s Col. Brandon is not only romantic, he is heart-throbbingly heroic – but he could not have done this had it not been for the Thompson/Rickman version in 1995. Scene after scene of the 2008 version is directly cribbed from the 1995 one: Brandon as music lover struck speechless by Marianne’s piano playing; Brandon as sensitive lover bringing Marianne thoughtful gifts; Brandon, frantic with worry, rushing out into the rain storm to find a wet-through Marianne and carrying her home in his arms… None of those scenes are in the book (Seriously! I know – they’re my favourites, too…). But once Rickman had embodied a Colonel Brandon who did these things, Marianne’s lover had become a romantic hero, and the flapping cloak was de rigeur.

So what could be more fitting as a tribute to the great man than this song, the scene that introduces Colonel Brandon to the film? “Weep you no more, sad fountains / Why must you flow so fast? …  Rest you then, rest, sad eyes, / Melt not in weeping / While [he] lies sleeping / Softly, now softly lies / Sleeping.”

I will miss Alan Rickman – but I’m so glad that we will always have his Colonel Brandon.

Reading Break

IMG_20151230_092227A friend of mine posted a meme on Facebook on Sunday. It went something like this: “Enjoy your last pyjama day. Tomorrow, we have to go back to adulting.” Sigh, yeah. Adulting. That’s where you have to get up in the morning, get dressed, and be responsible. You can’t just stay in bed all day and read books.

What, that’s not how you spent your holidays? I sure did. I had a great reading break. (That, my dear college students, is a break for reading, not from reading. Just in case you were confused on the matter.) Okay, maybe I didn’t stay in bed all day. I got up. I put on my house coat and slippers – sometimes even my leggings and a big T-shirt – and I went downstairs. And then I sat on the couch, and read books all day. It was awesome.

Even as a kid, that was what I loved most about school holidays, the freedom to indulge in fiction first thing in the morning. And I use the word “indulge” consciously: I was raised with the attitude that reading is indulgence – it’s being a couch potato, something for rest and relaxation in the evening and on days off, not something you do on a normal school or work day in the middle of the day. So parking my rear on the couch and vegging out with a book feels very holiday-ish and self-indulgent. [Heh – “vegging out” – “being a couch potato” – what’s with all those derogatory references to vegetables? The English language seems to be rather biased towards carnivores.]

I really had planned on doing a few other things during the holidays, as well – like maybe excavate my workshop and make some pottery; or go hang out with friends. But it all fell by the wayside. The people I did hang out with quite extensively were Sharan Newman‘s Catherine LeVendeur and her cousin Solomon of Paris, ca. AD 1145. (It’s a really excellent series; I’d highly recommend it if you like historic mysteries – I haven’t read anything this well-researched since Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael. Unfortunately, the earlier books are from the early 90s, so not as easy to find; I had to get several of them by Interlibrary Loan. But they’re well worth the effort.) And when I ran out of Catherine books to read, there were a couple new Shanna Swendson ones – e.g. the third in her Fairy Tale series (that’s the one on my Kobo, on the top of the stack). From 12th-century France to 21st-century New York with rogue fairies running amok – what’s not to like?

So, yeah. I had a good vacation. The house went to pot, we spent days eating Christmas leftovers (isn’t that the whole point of Christmas dinner, to have leftovers?), I didn’t talk to any of my friends – but I read my fill. For a little while, at least.

Life, the Universe, and a Reading Break. Do I really have to go back to adulting now?

Book Birthday Party 4, the Wrap-up

Aaaand the party is over. It’s time to wave goodbye to the guests, drink up the dregs of the punch (cheers!), put the leftover chip dip in the fridge, collect the streamers, and sweep up the confetti. It was a great Book Birthday Party – one more time, Happy Birthday, Seventh Son!

IMG_20151026_094055I did promise to reveal the winner of our big draw today, didn’t I? Never let it be said I don’t make good on my promises. So, without further ado, here is the lucky person who won a free print copy of Seventh Son (DRRRRUMMMMM RRRRRROLLLLLL……):

It’s CANDY C.!!!

Congratulations, Candy! Your book will hit the Trusty Post Office ASAP.

And thank you so much to everyone else who entered the Rafflecopter Contest. It was fun – I’d never done one of those before, but now that I figured out how easy it is, we might have a draw more often. Parties are always good, no?

So, once we get over our junk food hangover, it’s time to get back to daily life. But actually, I’m winding up for the next big effort – NaNoWriMo is just around the corner! In a sense, that’s actually Seventh Son‘s real birthday: it was November 1st, 2011, that I first went into labour with – uh, sorry – started typing the first lines of the story.

I wonder how far we’ll get with Seventh Son‘s little brother, this year? Well, not little brother – Jamie is more like another kid, not a brother. He sort of just drops in on the family in Ruph, quite unexpectedly (for himself and them), after he’s had a few drinks (and then a few more), swallows the red pill his friend gives him, and then wishes on the star in the strange blue stone…

Got your attention? Good. You’ll find out all about Jamie… eventually, once I know what’s happening in his life myself.

That’s Life, the Universe, and A Book Birthday Party All Finished. Thanks for coming!

Happy Birthday, SEVENTH SON!

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Happy Book Birthday, SEVENTH SON!

That’s right – it’s been a year since the publication of Seventh Son! I know, it’s hard to believe, isn’t it? But it’s true. And to celebrate, here’s two great things on offer [Drrrrrrum Rrrrrrrroll…]:

1.) In honour of its birthday, Seventh Son is on sale! Yes, the ebook is available for just 99 cents, for just one week! [flashes of fireworks, trumpet noises] If you haven’t got a copy yet, toddle on over to Amazon or your favourite other ebook vendor (such as Smashwords) and get yourself one.

2.) If you prefer reading the old-fashioned way, with a real-life paper-and-ink copy, here’s your chance to own one! I’m giving away one paper copy of Seventh Son, for FREE (as opposed to, you know, giving it away for large sums of money). All you have to do to enter the draw is sign up for getting my blog posts by email – at the top right of this window, just above the cover image of the book and below the picture of my bookshelf – and then enter the Rafflecopter draw, either here: Rafflecopter Draw for Free Copy of Seventh Son or on my Facebook page, here. Incidentally, if you win the draw and already have a copy (or don’t want one), I’ll send you an Amazon gift certificate for the value of the book, instead. And other incidentally, if you’ve previously signed up to follow this blog by email, go straight to the Rafflecopter Draw, and in the pertinent field tell me when you signed up so you can be in the draw. So go do that thing! The winner will be announced on October 26th!

And now we break out the birthday cake and light the candle. All together now:

Happy Birthday to yoooooou….

Life, the Universe, and a First Book Birthday! Pass the ice cream.