Changing the Label

Covers1-4CompositeI’ve been re-reading Seventh Son and Cat and Mouse, the print copies, no less. It’s been long enough that I can look at them with fresh eyes and a little bit of distance. (In the case of Checkmate, I’ve gone over it so many times in the last months that I have it practically memorised, and you know what they say about familiarity and contempt. I still find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that these characters, whom I’ve lived with for more than a year now, are still total strangers to you – you haven’t even met Rhitha yet, when she’s been a reality to me for so long… Well, just another four days, and you’ll get to know her!)

So, in re-reading the books, I’m seeing them a little bit differently. I’m spotting the odd tiny inconsistencies here and there that had escaped me before (and I’m not telling you what they are; you’ll have to find them for yourself. If you don’t, so much the better). And one of the things I’m rethinking about this series is its designation.

I’ve previously loudly protested that Seventh Son is not a YA novel. Cat (the main character) is 28 years old; she’s an adult, not a “young adult” (aka “teenager”, which is what YA translates to in book business parlance). However, when I first published the book, readers kept thinking it was a YA. One friend said it sounded like the books his daughters brought home from the high school library; several real-life teens read it and said they liked it; and I repeatedly got the label “sweet” for it. I was starting to react a bit (okay, a lot) to that epithet – “sweet” can have an undertone of “nauseating” (although, to be fair, none of the people who used that label for my books meant it in that way at all – that’s purely my own reaction to it). But I’m starting to come around to accepting that word, and, furthermore, changing my mind about the label that would fit the Septimus Series best.

It’s not only that Seventh Son is a “sweet romance” without “adult content”. The further along I get in the series, the more young characters keep popping up. Seventh Son is about adults in their late 20’s (and a small child). But Cat and Mouse prominently features a couple of young teen boys. Checkmate‘s main protagonist is an 11-year-old girl. And Star Bright, which is in the works, is centred around an 18-year-old guy fresh out of high school. Kids proliferate, and the more the series grows, the more we get inside their heads. Cat is still always one of the point-of-view characters, but we get to hear more and more from young people. I can’t help it, they’re asking to be written!

I figure I might as well admit to it: the Septimus Series is a YA series. I wrote (am writing) these books to suit myself – they’re books I would enjoy reading (actually, at the risk of sounding conceited, I am enjoying reading them. It’s a very satisfying thing when you like your own work. Much as I like my own cooking, which my waistline can attest to). I’m not a “young adult” by any stretch of the imagination; all the grey on my head would prove the contrary, were I inclined to argue the point. But I love books about kids (small or big), or traditionally classified as being for kids – many of my favourites come from the YA and JF (Junior Fiction) shelves of the library. In fact, I practically never browse the “General Fiction” shelves; it’s either YA, JF, MYS (Mystery) or SF&F (Science Fiction & Fantasy). So I suppose it’s no accident my own writing falls into these categories.

So, I’m changing the label. If you’re going to suggest the Septimus Series for purchase at your local library (please do!), mark it as a YA, so it comes to the attention of the right librarian and lands on the right shelf. And then forget about the sticker on it, and just read the books for enjoyment. What’s in a name? A series, by any other name, reads just as well…

Life, the Universe, and a new label. Just four more days to Checkmate!

CHECKMATE has a Due Date!

Checkmate_CVR_XSML

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!

Lavender’s Blue, the Song

“Lavender’s Blue”, the Septimus Series Short Story that I posted the other day (if you haven’t read it yet, go here, or here and download yourself a copy to keep), started with a song – well, actually, with a movie. That’s right, the Cinderella movie that I love so much.

The lullabye “Lavender’s Blue” features quite prominently in the film, and so afterwards, I had the song stuck in my head. And as I kept singing it, and thinking about Cat and Guy and the world they live in, a story started taking shape in my head. Voilà, “Lavender’s Blue”.

And here is the song (well, one version of it – it’s a folk song, so there are lots of different versions. The one Cat sings has a slightly different last line).

Life, the Universe, and a Lullabye. Enjoy!

Lavender’s Blue

So, that surprise I promised you to shorten the wait until Checkmate comes out? Here it is: a free short story!! It’s all about Cat and Guy and Bibby and something that happened about four years after the end of Cat and Mouse. Seeing as it is a quite short short story, I’m posting it here in its entirety. But you can also go over here and download it as a pdf, if you’d like to put it on your ebook reader or print it on paper (it’s only four pages). That page will stick around, so you can go back to it whenever you like.

So now, without further ado, I give you:

LAVENDER’S BLUE

Fresh lavender

LAVENDER’S BLUE

 

“Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly, lavender’s green,” Cat sang, “when you are king, dilly, dilly, I shall be queen.” The baby gurgled quietly to himself as he sucked his fist, and his eyes drifted shut, as they usually did when Cat sang him this song. He still hadn’t been named, this third one of her baby boys. With Cory and Kell, she had known what they were called almost as soon as she had realised she was pregnant, but this little one with his funny shock of hair that made him look like a red-crested cockatoo had reached the ripe old age of almost four weeks without a name of his own—he was just ‘Baby’.

“Call up your men, dilly dilly, set them to work;” she sang, “some to the plough, some to the fork. Some to make hay, some to cut corn, while you and I, dilly, dilly, keep ourselves warm.” She bent down and laid the sleeping baby into the cradle, his sandy lashes fanned out on his round cheeks.

“Speaking of working men and of forks,” Cat said, “it’s time for Papa to come for dinner.” She walked into the kitchen, where her stepdaughter and oldest son were playing on the floor. “Bibby, could you go get Papa please?”

“No, he’s not ready to come yet,” said the girl, who was in the middle of pulling a shirt knotted out of handkerchiefs over the head of a nondescript little stuffed animal.

“What do you mean, he’s not ready to come?” Cat put the dinner plates on the table.

“He’s still busy,” Bibby said. She was lisping a bit, in typical six-year-old fashion—she had lost both of her front teeth in the space of the last two weeks and wasn’t quite used to talking through the gap in her teeth.

Cory looked up from his block tower. “Mumma, I’m hungwy!”

“Yes, sweetie,” said Cat, “we’ll eat as soon as Papa comes in. Bibby…”

“I told you, Mumma, he’s still doing something! He feels rushed.”

Cat frowned at Bibby. What made the girl think she knew whether her father was ready to come for dinner? This was the second time in the last week she had simply refused to do something Cat had asked her to do, with the same reasoning. Cat knew that Bibby had the same intuitive ability she had herself that allowed her to sense her family’s needs—’being an Unissima’, they called it. It came from being your birth mother’s only child. Bibby supposedly had a double dose of it, being the only daughter of a woman who was an Unissima herself, but Cat had been under the impression that it just meant the girl had shown signs of her ability extremely early, when she was only a toddler. It wasn’t as if she could read minds—could she?

“I guess I’ll get him myself, then,” Cat said, trying to keep herself from sounding annoyed. She untied her apron, then stepped out of the cottage into the warm spring sunshine and went across to the workshop on the other side of the yard, sticking her head in the door. “Guy, dinner is ready! Are you coming?”

“Can’t right now, Cat!” He was standing over a large bucket, dunking a pottery bowl into a greyish slurry. He pulled it out, let it drip off, then put it on a board which already held a dozen of similarly coated dishes. “I have to get these bowls glazed; we’re doing a glost firing tomorrow morning. Don’t wait for me with dinner; I’ll come in when I have this lot done.” He gestured at another batch of bowls which sat on the worktable, waiting to be glazed.

“It’s okay, Mumma,” Bibby said when Cat came back into the kitchen. She twisted a red-gold curl around her finger. “Don’t be upset; Papa’ll come in soon. And I made Cory wash his hands for dinner.”

Cat shook off her irritation and smiled at the girl. “Good job,” she said, then picked up Cory and sat him in his place on the bench. “One potato or two?” she asked, as she began to dish out the food to the kids.

“Two, please,” said Bibby, climbed up on her chair and carefully set her stuffed animal next to her plate. “And lots of butter’n parsley. Flick likes butter’n parsley.”

“Is that what you call your stuffie—Flick? I thought it was Mimi.”

“Yup. I think it’s Flick now,” the girl said through a mouthful of potato. “It only was Mimi last week. Names change sometimes, you know, and you gotta listen and make sure they’re right. Can Flick have some cheese with his ‘tato? He said ‘please’!”

“Oh, very well, if he said ‘please’.” Cat handed her a slice of cheese.

Bibby gave her a bright gap-toothed smile, and let her stuffed animal take a pretend bite of potato from the end of her fork.

Cat sat down to her own dinner. She hoped Baby would nap long enough for her to be able to eat in peace; two-year-old Kell was still asleep in the next room, too, and he often napped right through the dinner hour, which sometimes allowed her an extra break.

She was in luck. Neither of the little boys made a sound until she had finished her meal and cleared up the dirty dishes. Perhaps she would even be able to sneak in a little rest herself before they woke?

Quietly she opened the door to the bedroom and peeked in. In the cradle, Baby was snoring a soft little baby snore like the creak of a tiny weather vane turning in the wind. And over on the boys’ bed—she couldn’t even see little Kell’s red hair; he had buried himself right under the covers again. He would get all sweaty and overheated; she’d better pull the blanket away from at least his face.

But wait—was that lump under the blankets a little boy’s body? Cat took three more strides, reached out a hand and pulled back the quilt.

No Kell. No Kell! Where was he? Her gaze whipped around the room, searching for her toddler. In the corner by the bathroom? No. Inside the open box bed? Not there either. Beside the big cupboard? No again. And then Cat’s eye fell on the outside door, and her heart leapt into her throat: the door was ajar. Just a crack, so slight that she had overlooked it at first, but the door was open! Had she forgotten to latch it? Or had Kell learned to lift the latch himself?

She ran over and yanked open the door. “Kell! Kellie? Where are you?”

No red-headed toddler anywhere in sight. Not by the pump, not by the big kiln, not by the firewood stack. “Kellie!!” Harsh fear clutched her by the throat.

Suddenly she saw out of the corner of her eye Bibby’s copper hair flying as the girl burst out of the front door and ran across the yard to the workshop.

“Papa, Papa,” Bibby called, “come quick, it’s Mumma!”

A moment later, Guy rushed out of the workshop on the heels of his daughter. “Cat! Cat, what is it? Are you hurt?”

“No, Papa,” Bibby called, “she’s over here, and she’s really scared!”

“What is it, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Kell!” A sob caught in Cat’s throat. “He’s not in his bed, and the back door was open! I don’t know where he is! He could be anywhere! Maybe he fell in the clay pit! Maybe he…”

“It’s okay, Mumma,” Bibby said, her big turquoise eyes on Cat’s face. “It’s okay, don’t be scared. You’ll get better.”

“It’s not me! It’s Kell! What if he’s hurt? What if…”

“But he’s not,” the girl said.

“How can you say that? You can’t know that! He’s not here, he’s not anywhere…” Cat could hear the rising hysteria in her own voice. “Guy, do something!”

But her husband’s eyes were on his daughter. “What do you know, Bibby?”

She didn’t respond, so he repeated himself, more sharply. “Ysbina! What are you saying about Kell?”

Her head flew around. “He’s fine!” she said. “ Don’t you know? It’s Mumma that’s scared and needs your help.” She looked from one of them to the other, a slightly puzzled expression on her face.

“How should we know that? We can’t know that! What if…” Cat began, the panic in her throat choking her and setting her ears ringing.

But Guy held up a hand as if to stop her. He was still looking at the girl. “Do you know where Kell is? Is he in the house?”

“No… No, he’s not in the house. I don’t really know where he is, but he’s fine. He’s happy,” she said. “Don’t you know that, Mumma?”

Cat couldn’t think. She couldn’t feel. She couldn’t sense anything but the overwhelming fear that something had happened to her little boy, that he was out there somewhere in the woods, perhaps bleeding, crying, frightened, that…

Suddenly she felt Guy’s hands cupping her shoulders, and his turquoise eyes bored into hers. “Cat,” he said firmly, “Bibby is right! Think, Karana, think! Do you know? You’re Unissima, you have the Knowing! Do you feel that Kell is hurt?”

And with the warmth of his touch, Cat could feel a calm flowing into her that drove the panic into the background. She drew a deep breath, then another one. A feeling rose inside of her that came alongside the fear and pushed it away, replacing it with a certainty of what she needed to do.

“The woods,” she said, “he’s in the Wald! And—no, he’s not hurt. You’re right, Bibby.”

“Yup,” said the girl. “And he’s—something with lavender.” She tipped her head like she was listening to something. “Oh, you know, Mumma.”

And Cat did indeed know. Not exactly what Bibby meant about lavender, but she knew where to start looking for little Kell.

“Watch the boys, sweetie,” she said. “Papa and I are going to get Kell.”

 

He was exactly where Cat knew he had gone, and it was his singing that guided them. A few hundred yards past the Septimus Tree, in a little clearing, they heard him.

“Wawember boo, diwwy diwwy, wawember gheen…” his little voice sang, and there he was, sitting in the middle of a big clump of blooming lavender, happily playing with a handful of flowers and two rocks.

Cat snatched him up and hugged him so tightly he started to squirm.

Guy wrapped his arms around both of them. “Well done, Karana; well done!” he said in Cat’s ear, then gave Kell a squeeze of his own. “Don’t ever run away like that again, you little rascal!” he said.

Kell thrust the lavender blossoms in his grubby little hand at Cat. “Fowers, Mumma!”

“Yes,” said Cat, her voice shaking, “yes, lavender!”

 

“Well done,” said Guy again when they got back to the cottage. “He really was in the lavender. Well done, Bibby Karana.”

The girl smiled a gap-toothed smile, then tipped her head to the side. “I think…” she said, “I think I’m going to be ‘Bina’ now. ‘Bibby’ is a name for little kids.”

Cat smiled back at her. “Makes sense to me,” she said. “You’re sure not a little kid any more; I can’t think what I would have done without you today. I didn’t know that Kellie was okay until you said so and made me pay attention to my Knowing. How did you know?”

The girl wrinkled her forehead. “What do you mean?”

“How did you know that Kellie was okay?”

“Well, you can just feel how people are feeling, can’t you?”

Guy smiled at his little daughter. “No, Karana, we can’t. Most of us don’t know at all what’s happening with other people unless we see it with our eyes, or they tell us. And even an Unissima like Mama doesn’t always know, right, Cat?”

Cat nodded. “I only know sometimes, mostly in emergencies. But you haven’t always been able to feel it so precisely, either, have you, Bibby?”

“I dunno,” the girl said, squeezing the tip of her tongue out between the gap in her teeth. “And it’s Bina.”

“Maybe your special Knowing is getting stronger because you’re growing up,” Cat said. “And you certainly are. So, you want to be Bina now? We’ll try to get used to it. Where’s Cory and Baby?”

“Well, when you and Papa went to find Kell, me and Cory looked at a picture book, and then Dilly woke up and I sang him the Lavender Song and Cory helped rock the cradle, and Dilly went back to sleep for a bit. Oh, but there he’s woke up again!”

They could hear the baby crying in the house, but Cat didn’t immediately go to him.

“Dilly?” she said, thinking hard. “You think Baby’s name is Dilly?”

Bibby—Bina now—tipped her head to the side again. “Yup,” she said after a moment, “seems that’s his name.”

Cat turned to Guy. “What do you think? Could that be short for something?”

“Dilly? Dil—Aldyl! With a ‘y’ in it. That was my grandfather’s name. I like it.”

“Aldyl—yes. It’s right. So Dyllie it is!”

They went inside, and Cat bent down and picked up the baby.

“Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly,” she sang, “lavender’s green; when you are king, dilly, dilly, I shall be queen.” She looked into Baby Dyllie’s slate-blue eyes and rocked him to the tune. “Let the birds sing, dilly, dilly, and the lambs play; we shall be safe, dilly, dilly, out of harm’s way.” She smiled across at Guy, who held little Kell in his arms, swaying with the music. “Who told me so, dilly, dilly, who told me so?” Cat sang. “’Twas my own heart, Dyllie, Dyllie, that told me so.”

More New Stuff, and a Surprise

You know how I’ve been promising Book 3 in the Septimus Series for quite some time now? Well, it’s getting close – really, really close! And just to whet your appetites, heeeeeere – DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! – is the amazing, snazzy, mysterious and oh-so-promising COVER (once again designed by the great Steven Novak).

May I introduce: CHECKMATE!

Checkmate_CVR_XSML

And of course you want to know what the book is about, don’t  you? Yes, you do. Here’s what:

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?

I know, I know – there’s nothing about Cat or Guy or Bibby in this blurb. Or is there? To find out, you’ll have to wait just a tiny little bit longer, because I have another surprise for you that’ll help explain – and that one is going to be free! A special treat, from me for you, to shorten the wait.

Life, the Universe, New Stories and Surprises.  Just a few more days!

News from the Writing Trenches, December Edition

IMG_20151210_194352So, you know how back in September, I said that I was hoping to get Checkmate published by at least Christmas? Uh, yeah. Not gonna happen. I’m sorry…

I don’t actually know what happened there. Where did October go? I mean, I must have done something during that month – other than cook Thanksgiving turkey, and wrap up the last bit of garden, and throw a book birthday party for Seventh Son, and stuff like that. It feels like I’ve been busy non-stop…

And then, of course, after that, NaNoWriMo hit with a vengeance, and I got off on a completely different track. Instead of hanging out with Cat and Guy and Bibby in Ruph, I was off in an as-of-yet-unnamed world, spending time with Lyulf and Kalyana (at least that’s what she’s called right now – that might change, still) and Little Nameless (he won’t talk, so they can’t find out his name) and Old Nameless (who also refuses to give his name), all in pursuit of the mysterious silver bracelet that glows, sometimes. Which was all great fun, but didn’t really help Checkmate along any.

IMG_20151210_194149So, I think I’m now at the point where I can slowly start breathing again, which does bode well for the progress of Checkmate and other writing projects. However, first I have to excavate my household from its NaNo-induced state of dire neglect, and play catch-up on the Christmas-preparations front. Not one cookie has been baked yet this season, barely any presents purchased (never mind hand-made), and as for Christmas cards – what Christmas cards? Ah well, I have two more weeks to do all that. TWO MORE WEEKS? Yikes, that’s not much time at all!

So you’ll excuse me if I sign off now.
Life, the Universe, and, umm, I dunno – where’s my to-do list? [rushes off frantically to check the state of the baking supplies in the cupboard…]

You Owe It To The Story, Or: A NaNoWriMo About-Face

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareI did a complete about-face yesterday. You know how I was going to write Star Bright, the fourth book in the Septimus Series, for NaNoWriMo this year? Yeah, well, I don’t think I will.

To date, the story stands at about 12,000 words – that’s from Camp NaNoWriMo this spring, and about 3.5k words earlier this week. But I found that the going got really tough. NaNo lore has it that Week 2 is the worst week of NaNo, but I haven’t found that. The last few years I’ve found the first week the hardest. It’s like walking through molasses, like chewing on that tough piece of pizza crust that really doesn’t taste good any more – you get the idea. I just wasn’t enjoying it.

So there I was yesterday, staring at the 300 words I’d written that day, and really not wanting to carry on with it. That’s right, I didn’t want to – it felt like a chore. And that’s silly. NaNoWriMo a chore? That’s completely against the rules. Actually, this is NaNo – forget rules. It’s against the spirit of the thing.

And there was another thing. My good friend E. L. Bates just published a blog post on why she’s not doing NaNo this year, and there was one sentence in there that pinpointed exactly the issue I was having. She said that, among other things, we need to “be[] responsible to the story itself by not rushing it”.

And that’s exactly what is the case with Star Bright for me right now. I was feeling rushed, pressured to produce word count – and I was failing the story in that. I care about that story. This needs to turn out, it needs to be a good story. This is about Cat, and Guy, and the kids, and a couple of whole new characters called Jamie and Daarshan whom I’m becoming quite fond of, and if I rush their story, I’ll be doing them a disfavour.

So I’m not going to do word sprints and insert random instances of the word “piano” in the text (which was one of the fun games we played at a recent NaNo event), because there are no pianos in Ruph. I need to write Star Bright properly, take my time over it, without letting the spectre of a NaNo fail scare me into filling the page with drivel.

But I still want to do NaNo. I still want to participate in the madness of cranking out words, of commiserating with my fellow Wrimos on the difficulty of finding the next thing to write, of watching each others’ wordcounts rise (there’s nothing so thrilling as watching the progress of the little blue bar below your profile picture on the NaNo site – and when it suddenly turns purple, because you’ve passed the 50k mark, WHOOT!! There’s nothing like it!) and cheering each others’ heroic efforts.

IMG_20151106_120153
Steve approves (that’s his approving face).

So you know what I did? I started from scratch. I opened up a new Scrivener file, named it “Nano ’15”, and started typing at random.

“The autumn mist hung thickly in the meadows by the river.”

That’s the beginning sentence. And off I went, producing more words in the space of an hour than I had in four or five before. I have no idea where this story is going – at the moment, it’s got no title, no plot, a whole bunch of mist in the river meadows, a protagonist (whose name I can’t even remember just now – the file’s not open), and a mysterious silver bracelet with interesting decorations on it.

I have no idea if I’ll finish NaNoWriMo with it this year – I’m already five days behind with my word count. But you know what? I’m excited about this story. I don’t know what’s going to happen, so I have to keep writing to find out. It might, in fact, be complete drivel. It might have a piano in it somewhere, although I doubt it. It might never see the light of day in a published version. But for now, I’m going to enjoy myself writing it. And I’m going to leave Star Bright for a time when I can give it the attention it deserves – because I owe it to the story.

Life, the Universe, and a NaNoWriMo About-Face. Now what exactly is it about that silver bracelet?

Cat Makes Ink

IMG_201510304_0221I picked black walnuts the other day, and decided to make ink. Just like Catriona does in Chapter 11 of Cat and Mouse. You haven’t read it? Here, that’s how it goes:

[Cat and Nikor, the little old town librarian, are collecting black walnuts husks in the garden behind the library.]
“You don’t mind my taking the nuts, do you?” she asked Nikor, who was busy gathering the husks into a large cast iron pot.
“Nuts? Nuts. Oh no, no no. Take the nuts, make the husks easier to find.”
Cat dropped a handful of the black husks into his pot.
“Too bad the pot is so rusty,” she said. “Won’t that harm the ink?”
“No, no no. Rust is good, makes blacker ink. New pots are no good for ink. Besides, ink spoils the pots, makes stains.”
“Well, yes, I suppose it would—it’s ink, after all, it’s supposed to stain. So how do we do this?”
They carried the pot, now half filled with the black walnut husks, into Nikor’s living space in the back room of the library.IMG_20151031_150145“Stinks, does ink,” said Nikor, “but don’t want to make a fire outside now. Prefer my stove.” He filled the pot with enough water to cover the husks and put it on top of the little potbellied stove in the corner of his room, which already had a nice little fire crackling in it. “Spoon, spoon—where’s the spoon?” he muttered, digging around in a box of cooking implements that stood on a shelf above the wood box.
“You mean this one?” said Cat, extracting a wooden spoon from between several stacks of books on the floor beside a worn leather-covered armchair. The spoon’s bowl was stained a deep mahogany colour, in contrast to the blonde wood of its handle. “What’s it doing between the books?”
“Books? Oh, yes. Mouse, hit at the mouse with it when I was reading. See, ink stains,” he explained, pointing to the discolouration of the spoon.
“Oh, that’s from ink?” Cat said distractedly, not listening to his answer. The top book of one of the stacks had caught her attention. […]
[Cat gets lost in reading the book, which is called The Rats of Chaelia.]
“Where is Chaelia?” she asked Nikor, raising her head to find that the room was much darker than it had been when they brought in the nuts. Nikor was nowhere in sight, and a frightful stink rose from the steaming pot on the stove. Cat felt disoriented. Hadn’t she only just sat down? It could hardly have been more than a few minutes ago, could it? She stood and took a look at the stinking pot. In the bottom of the container, a dark sludge was bubbling away. The walnut husks had mostly disintegrated into smaller pieces now, making the whole mess a deep, brownish black. Cat wrinkled her nose—the stench was quite pronounced, metallic and rotten at the same time.IMG_20151031_141935The door from to the main library room creaked open, and Nikor shuffled back into the room, carrying two more books.
“Found it, found it,” he said, dumping the books into Cat’s arms and picking up the wooden spoon to poke at the black sludge in the pot. “Ah yes, coming along nicely.”
“Found what?” Cat asked.
“Looking for the books of Chaelia, wasn’t I,” he said. He waved a finger at the book Cat had been reading. “The Rats is just one; there are others.”
“Just where is Chaelia? Is it one of the places in Isachang?” Cat asked.
“No, no no. Chaelia is Outland, don’t you know?”
“Outland? My Outland, where I’m from? You mean Earth, or America, or whatever?”
“Yes. No. No no. Not Arthur Pendragon. Other land, other Outland. There are many. Haven’t seen anyone from Outlands here in generations, many many generations, not since Septimissimus last.”
“There are other Outlands? Really? And—what did you just say, about the Septimissimus?”
“Septimissimus?” he repeated, stirring the ink sludge in the bottom of the pot, pulling out a spoonful and dribbling a bit on a piece of paper to test its tinting strength. “A few more hours,” he muttered.IMG_20151103_094006

My ink turned out a bit pale this time – but it works well enough. If you want (slightly) more precise instructions on making walnut ink, check out my blog post on the topic from three years ago.

Oh, you’re wondering what’s with this Septimissimus thing? You’ll have to read Cat and Mouse to find out, won’t you. You can get it here.

Life, the Universe, and Walnut Ink. Lorem ipsum dolor…IMG_20151105_104508

Mintbrew, or: Book Birthday Bash, Round 2

IMG_20151017_165534Just thought I’d share a couple of pictures from yesterday’s Book Birthday Party. Apart from eating and drinking, we mostly spent it on the couch, reading – I mean, how else do you celebrate a book birthday?

IMG_20151018_125359Of course, the drink of choice was mintbrew, out of hand-thrown pottery mugs. What’s mintbrew, you ask? Here:

The beginning of Chapter 10:

‘When Cat came back out of the bathroom half an hour later, trying to untangle her hair with her fingers, the kitchen smelled deliciously of hot soup and something tangy and clean that got up into Cat’s nose in a rather pleasant way.

“Would you like a cup of mintbrew?” asked Ouska, gesturing at a round-bellied teapot sitting on the deal table.

“Mintbrew? Like tea, you mean? I’d love some!” Now Cat knew what that lovely sinus-clearing smell was.’

And here’s another bit from later in the book:IMG_20151018_125445

From Chapter 17:

‘The kettle in the fire was starting to make hissing and bubbling noises, and steam was rising from its spout. Guy took the poker and swung the fireplace crane outward with the hook on the end of the tool. One of his squat brown teapots was waiting on the hearth. He threw in a handful of dry crumbly green leaves from a round pottery jar and filled it up with boiling water. Sharp, fragrantly minty steam rose into the air. Cat sniffed.

“Hmm, that smells good.”

Bibby got a mug of milk from the pitcher on the shelf, and the two adults enjoyed their tea. (Mintbrew, Cat mentally corrected herself. Mintbrew, and hedge pig, and—and marriage chain. And wisewoman. She was beginning to speak the language of this place.)’

If you’re wondering what the deal is with a marriage chain or a wisewoman, you’ll just have to read the book. And you can do so all week by getting the ebook on discount – links to vendors are here – or, even better, entering the draw for a print copy! All you have to do for that is follow my blog and let me know about it, so if you subscribed a long time ago, that still qualifies.

I’d share a piece of cake with you, but there isn’t much left. It was buttercream with strawberry filling, I’m afraid – not much of a chance of that staying around long. And the book blew out the candle – honest, it did! I waved it at the candle and that blew out the flame. My family says I’m weird.

Life, the Universe, and a Book Birthday Bash. Would you care for another cup of mintbrew?

Happy Birthday, SEVENTH SON!

seventh son
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.