Jaime Lee Moyer: Midnight Secrets and Lies
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Layering: Part two of Building A Better Princess

The beginning of this blog post is partly (or mostly) me talking to myself. Not only is writing this story fun, but it’s making me think about how and why I do certain things when I write.

Learning is never a bad thing, and improving is a worthy goal no matter where you are on the curve. I’m pretty sure I want to keep learning more about writing, and improving, my entire life. I want my next book to be better than my last, and the one after that to be better still.

As soon as I posted the first part of this story, (which I’ve decided to call City of Jewels) I saw a whole list of things I needed to add to the beginning. Most of what it needed were a lot more details and information.

Other writers might give this process a different name, but I call what I’d doing layering. Think of pastry built from filo dough, with all those thin, nondescript layers adding up to something rich and full. That’s how I’ve always thought of adding details to a story.

Beginnings of stories have to carry a lot of weight. I need to introduce the main, most important characters, establish the setting and start worldbuilding–which I always think of as letting the reader know they aren’t in Kansas any more. I have to start revealing plot and planting narrative questions in the reader’s mind.

You–meaning me–have to start establishing and front loading conflict, both the greater, overall conflict arc, and the internal conflict arc as well.

A beginning needs to start letting the reader know what the stakes are, large and small. How large and how small depends on the story you’re telling, but the stakes need to be there. I ask myself who is in danger? Why is what’s happening important to these people? How are the goals/wants/needs/desires of my protags conflict with those of my antags? How do I make readers care?

All of this needs to start from the first page. And it’s a balancing act between presenting enough detail–enough layers–to hook a reader and keep them reading, and overwhelming them to the point of boredom.

There are other things to think about, such as pacing, voice, and making your characters more than a micron deep, but I’ve already listed more than enough.

I looked at the beginning of City of Jewels that I posted and realized I’d left out way too much information, and left far too many unanswered questions. Why was Arlandria climbing to the top of this building, and for that matter, why was she in this city? Scaling a building in the dark implies not wanting to be seen, and maybe even underhanded motives. What did she and Mishka hope to gain?

There were other questions, other missing layers of detail. I needed to go back and clue readers in to what was in my head.

In the process the beginning almost doubled in size. It’s richer and fuller now, closer to what I want–but it’s still a first draft. If someday in the far, distant future I revise this, I’m sure I’ll see ways to make this better.

And at the end of this section I introduce Prince Rory Alexander, and more of what’s at stake. The story also begins to get creepy at that point.

Hey, this is me. What did you expect?

**** **** **** ****

Scrambling over rooftops wasn’t new, but the rounded tiles glistened with fresh rain, slippery and treacherous. Arlandria took her time climbing, using every trick she’d learned over the last three years. Mishka struggled to find his footing right behind her. He swore each time either of them slipped, the curses he called down on Prelate Manley’s head growing more colorful as the ground got farther away.

“Save your breath for climbing, Mish.” She found a stable handhold and hauled herself up another few inches. “You can curse the prelate later.”

They reached the roof’s peak and she leaned against the largest of five chimneys to catch her breath. The Sea Trader’s Hall was the tallest building in the city, the view unobstructed in all directions. From here they could map the boundaries of all the different districts, see which had spread, and which had gotten smaller. Getting their bearings before going after Rory would help them plan escape routes, and avoid being trapped.

Cold wind whipped Arlandria’s dark cloak around her ankles and worked its way under her clothing, a minor discomfort she chose to ignore. She wanted to savor her first glimpse of home. Three years was a very long time to be away.

The sleeping city of Talen sprawled before her, both deeply familiar and strange. Lapis blue lights still glittered along the harbor’s jagged edge, bright as the sea at midday. The tanner’s district was smaller then she remembered, but shone with the same faint golden shades of citrine. Emerald and jade lights burned for merchants’ shops and the homes of guild masters; amethyst for taverns. Each district gleamed with a unique color all its own, a piece of the founders’ craft that had endured more than a thousand years. Talen was the jewel city in truth as well as legend.

At the center of the city, lights the deep red-orange of carnelian pulsed, a beating heart that pushed back against the night. The color was closer to blood red than she’d remembered, but her father’s murder was likely responsible for the change. He hadn’t passed his kingdom to an heir. She wasn’t even sure the prelate’s soldiers had bothered to bury him before burning the manor.

Surrounding the bright carnelian was a void, a ring of nothingness that held no color at all. Watching how the darkness drank light made her shiver.

“I expected more changes. This is one time I’m glad to be wrong. Maybe the prelate isn’t as powerful as we thought.” Arlandria gripped the pommel of the short sword at her side. The blade woke, whispering Rory’s name and promises of revenge. “Rory’s down there, Mishka, somewhere on the other side of that dark circle. And he’s still alive if the sword can be believed.”

“Believing the ravings of a fae blade will get you killed, Highness.” He stood behind and to one side of her, tall and strong, watching Arlandria’s back as he had since they were children. “One day you’ll listen to me and toss that cursed thing into the ocean.”

Mishka had arrived in her father’s court the year they both turned seven, a scrawny, frightened orphan sent to be fostered by strangers. She’d become his friend and his champion within a day. Arlandria defended Mishka against anyone who’d mocked his accent or his clothes, not caring if those she fought were older or stronger. Her father hadn’t interfered unless blood was spilled.

“And one day you’ll learn the difference between curses and fate. Finding the blade was fate. That it talks to me is all the proof I need.” The sword purred under her hand, a cat who loved being stroked. “I need to talk to Callie when we get back to the inn. She might know what that dark ring means.”

He scowled. “It bothers me that we haven’t heard anything about this. The lights going out in a section of Talen is worthy of dozens of rumors.”

“That worries me too.” People should be talking, if not inside the city, then visitors who’d come and gone. Changes to a legend didn’t go unremarked. She pulled her cloak tighter. “There used to be a market full of weavers and booksellers’ stalls just inside the prelate’s district. We’ll find our way there after breakfast. Three more shoppers won’t attract attention. I want to see what the dark area hides.”

Mishka edged his way over to a smaller chimney a few feet to the right. He pushed against it, straining his muscles and putting all his weight on the mortared stone. When the stonework proved sound, he unhooked the coil of rope attached to his belt and looped it around the chimney three times before tying it off. The balance of the rope snaked down the roof tiles, and dangled off the edge, giving them an easy drop into the alley. “Nothing good. Definitely not anything I’d want to confront unprepared and at night. I must admit to a certain relief that you don’t want to charge in immediately.”

“Fate doesn’t make you stupid, Mish. If anything it makes you more careful. With Callie’s help we’ll find a way in, but first we need to know what we’re facing.” She tugged her leather gloves up tight before waving him toward the rope. “You first. If we fall I want something soft to land on.”

###

Prince Rory Alexander woke choking on panic and unable to breathe. Chains tethering him to the wall pulled him up short as he came up off the wooden pallet, the sharp pain in his shoulders and arms waking him completely. He flopped on the edge of what passed for a bed, panting and watching blood from reopened wounds on his manacled wrist flow down his hand, and wondered if he’d finally gone mad.

The whispers filling his cell lasted longer this time, words twisting around each other. He heard his name spoken in a harsh voice he didn’t recognize, a voice that uttered vows for vengeance against those who’d made him suffer, and made Rory’s heart pound in terror.

And this time he imagined hearing Arlandria’s voice amidst the tangled whispers. She was coming to find him, making plans with Mishka to take him out of this filthy cell and away from Prelate Manley’s tender ministrations and periodic rages.

That more than anything convinced Rory he’d lost his mind. Arlandria was dead and Mishka with her. He’d seen their bodies.

A deeper cold filled the cell, followed by the shuffling sound of something moving across rough stone floors in the corridor. Rory managed to pull the blanket around himself in time and lay down with his face toward the wall. Manley’s creature, a misshapen thing that might once have been a man, slid open the grate near the top of the door, peering at him through the metal mesh.

The grate closed and the creature moved away, but Rory didn’t dare move even after the room warmed again. He couldn’t risk attracting attention in the dark.

###

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The Build A Better Princess Project

Once upon a time, otherwise known as just a few weeks ago, while talking on Twitter with a couple of friends, the subject of the Mary Sue Princess came up. For those who don’t know, a traditional Mary Sue Princess is perfect, desired by every man who looks at her, and encompasses every fantasy cliche EVER.

And as we joked around, tossing cliches back and forth, a character tapped me on the shoulder, as they do, and said “You can do better than that, Jaime. I double dog dare you.”

Thus did the joke become sorta serious, and the build a better princess, website fiction project was born.

This is a strictly on the website, occasional feature, posted as I get more written. It will keep me sane, and writing, while I wait for option novel things to be resolved.

Be warned, I may never finish this story, but then again, I might.

Most important, this is for fun. I’ve been trying to remember fun in terms of writing for awhile now, the kind of fun divorced from deadlines, marketing concerns, and numbers. By jove, I might have found it.

Remember people, fun is the key word here. Fun might mean typos. It might be logic holes the size of Ohio. Just go with it.

*****

Scrambling over rooftops wasn’t new, but the rounded tiles glistened with fresh rain, slippery and treacherous. Arlandria took her time climbing, while Mishka struggled to find his footing right behind her. He swore each time either of them slipped, the curses he called down on Prelate Manley’s head growing more colorful as the ground got farther away.

They reached the roof’s peak and she leaned against the largest of the five chimneys to catch her breath. Cold wind whipped Arlandria’s dark cloak around her ankles and worked its way under her clothing, a minor discomfort she chose to ignore. She wanted to remember this moment.

The sleeping city of Talen sprawled before her. Lights still glittered along the harbor’s jagged edge, lapis blue as the sea at midday. The tanner’s district shone with the faint golden shades of citrine, emerald and jade lights burned for merchants’ shops and the homes of guild masters; amethyst for taverns. Each district gleamed with a unique color all its own. Talen was the jewel city in truth as well as legend.

At the center of the city lights the deep red-orange of carnelian pulsed, a beating heart that pushed back against the night. Surrounding the carnelian was a void, a ring of nothingness that held no light at all. Watching how the darkness drank light made her shiver.

Arlandria gripped the pommel of the short sword at her side. The blade woke, whispering Rory’s name and promises of revenge. “Rory’s down there, Mishka. And he’s still alive if the sword can be believed.”

“Believing the ravings of a fae blade will get you killed, Highness.” He stood behind and to one side of her, tall and strong, watching Arlandria’s back as he had since they were children. “One day you’ll listen to me and toss that cursed thing into the ocean.”

Mishka had arrived in her father’s court the year they both turned seven, a scrawny, frightened orphan sent to be fostered by strangers. She’d become his friend and his champion within a day. Arlandria defended Mishka against anyone who’d mocked his accent or his clothes, not caring if those she fought were older or stronger. Her father never interfered unless blood was spilled.

“And one day you’ll learn the difference between curses and fate. Finding the blade was fate. That it talks to me is all the proof I need.” The sword purred under her hand, a cat who loved being stroked. Fate or curse, freeing Rory was all she cared about. “We’ll come back after sunrise. I want to see what the dark area around the prelate’s district hides.”

“Nothing good. Definitely not anything I’d want to confront unprepared and at night.” Mishka edged his way over to a smaller chimney a few feet to the right. He pushed against it, straining his muscles and putting all his weight on the mortared stone. When the stonework proved sound, he unhooked the coil of rope attached to his belt and looped it around the chimney three times before tying it off. The balance of the rope snaked down the roof tiles, and dangled off the edge, giving them an easy drop into the alley. “I must admit to a certain relief that you don’t want to charge in immediately.”

“Fate doesn’t make you stupid, Mish. If anything it makes you more careful.” She tugged her leather gloves up tight before waving him toward the rope. “You first. If we fall I want something soft to land on.”

###






It’s always showtime, here at the edge of the stage

For the last week or so I’ve been stuck on listening to Talking Heads during my commute, mostly the Stop Making Sense album. I barrel down the freeway, singing along, while my brain works out plot and shiny bits for the new book.

The plot, and the shiny bits, and the sadness in this book don’t match the bouncy music putting it all in my head. Welcome to my brain.

I’m working out what I know about the two main characters, Owen and Marie, their relationship, conflicts and history. The spy and the alchemist have loved each other since their teens, the court functionary and the widowed young queen keep up the proper pretense in public–the bastard son of a duke and the woman who was never supposed to wear the crown know they can never marry.

Marie keeps asking him. Owen keeps reminding her of reality and saying no.

Other writers plot out each scene, each delicate plot maneuver and adjustment before they write. I figure out who my characters are first, how they feel, interact, fit with each other and in their world. The story grows from there.

This works for me. I don’t recommend that others try writing this way.

Other stuff. Because life is full of other stuff.

I will be at Armadillo Con for one whole day! Saturday, July 26h is the day. I don’t have any programming or panels to do, I know exactly three people going to the con who speak to me, but damn it all, I’m going. I plan to have fun too.

I finished this month’s OWW newsletter today, other than my introduction and a tiny bit of tweaking. That was a good thing. Probably boring to anyone reading this, but a monthly milestone for me.

If the stars align correctly tomorrow, I want to finish putting together a link post of all the guest blogs and interviews I’ve done over the last month or so. I want a record for me if for nothing else.

The other things I want to talk about–reviews, quality of books vs. sales, and other delicate subjects–require posts all their own, and for me to be awake enough to write said post. After midnight is not the time.

Goodnight, stars….






We’ll live happily ever trapped if you just save my life…

I’ve gotten out of the habit of talking about my life. Not the big events, or the major milestones, but the little things–good and bad–that add up to life.

There are reasons for all of that, needing sleep and not being able to stay up to blog being one of them. The Greek chorus in the background expressing horror over what I might say is another. But you know, I like blogging. It’s another form of storytelling. I’m going to do my best to get back into it.

A bits and pieces of me entry…blown hither and yon by the hot Texas wind.

1. Texas is full of bugs, most of them huge. I kid you not when I say most of them look like cast extras from an old black and white monster movie. What people call “palmetto bugs” and are really giant cockroaches, crawl out of drains and under doors. They cover the concrete surrounding the swimming pool after dark.

Most of them are more than three inches long, difficult to kill, and scare the hell out of my cats. You can’t escape them, and catch and release means you find the same bug staring at you from the towel bar. I did discover that bathroom mildew cleaner not only kills them quickly, the bugs…melt. I don’t feel bad about that at all, considering.

The store were I work has been invaded by two inch long black beetles. They drift and pile up along the walls outside the front door at night, dark shifting masses of bugs that huddle under the lights. If they stayed outside the store that would be bad enough.

These things are inside as well. I find black beetles inside drawers, under tables, under displays–everywhere I look there are beetles crawling. The entire staff steps over and around them, doing our best not to step ON any of them. Exterminators have come and gone (twice) but the bugs are stronger. We sweep up the beetles that do die with the dust bunnies.

A little boy somewhere between the age of three and four was at the registers with his mother not long after the invasion started. He was following one of these beetles, trying his best to stomp on it and missing. Finally he managed to step on the bug, and for good measure, stomped it again.

The little boy watched until the bug stopped twitching, leaned over with a scowl and said, “Are you dead yet?”

The bug, of course, didn’t answer, but it’s a question the staff keeps asking. We all wonder if the bugs are dead yet.

2. I’ve lost count of the number of times over the last few weeks that someone, usually an older person, has come up to me and said “Did you know the store is full of nasty/ugly/big bugs?”

Each time I have to stop myself from doing a double take, looking around frantically and saying “Bugs? Where!?!”

Being a nice person at heart, I rein in my smart-ass answers and tell them yes, we know, exterminators are on the case, etc. But oh, the temptation….

3. I had another dream about being lost last night, abandoned by everyone I’d come with after some kind of event or luncheon where I gave a talk. During the talk everyone fell asleep. Afterward I couldn’t find my way back to the hotel, and all the people I asked for directions didn’t know where my hotel was.

This dream was one in a series, a variation on a theme and a metaphor I don’t need interpreted. What all these dreams have in common, aside from me wandering lost in a huge crowd of strangers, is I’m always within sight of the ocean.

I knew I missed being near the water. I didn’t know I missed it that much.

4. The YA book wasn’t as ripe or ready for writing as I thought. It’s been put away for a while to finish cooking and grow a beginning. Middles and endings are awesome, but I still need a good, compelling place to start.

My writer brain helpfully supplied a novel that was ready to be written. More about that book later.

More about many things later. Time for sleep.

Goodnight stars…….






Where you can find A Barricade In Hell and get signed copies

Tomorrow is the official release day for A BARRICADE IN HELL. The book, being a precocious child, found its way on to the shelves at my local Barnes and Noble last week, but there are lots of places you can find Gabe and Delia.

And! If you want a signed copy, I have two options for that as well. Unless something changes, these are my only scheduled signings.

I will be at Murder By The Book in Houston on Saturday, June 14th at 4:30 p.m. You can call or email the store to order a copy of your very own, signed and personalized.

And I will be at Katy Budget Books in the Katy/Houston area on Friday, June 13th at 6p.m. for a Friday the 13th signing. You can pre-order a copy for me to sign from the fine folk at Katy Budget Books as well.

Other options, either strictly online or a combination of brick and mortar/online ordering.

Alibris Books. An online retailer that sells both new and used books, including mine.

The Strand Bookstore in New York. A fine indie bookstore that does online ordering as well.

Mysterious Galaxy an independent genre bookstore, both walk-in and online.

Powell’s Books a legend that needs no introduction. Someday I will make it to the Pacific Northwest to shop there.

Books A Million a brick and mortar chain that I hope continues to thrive and grow. They have a great online store too.

Chapters Indigo for my friends in Canada.

And if none of those work for you, use IndieBound to find an independent bookstore near you.

Barnes and Noble is always an option, and of course, the megacorp of your choice.

I’m really excited about A BARRICADE IN HELL going out into the world to seek its fortune. My hope is that many more readers will discover Gabe and Delia and fall in love with them.

That’s the writer’s dream, ladies and gents, that people will love your books. Some of us even implore the brightest star.






So I wrote these guest posts

And I was going to blog about them earlier, but I had another guest post to write, and a book to finish revising. So I’m late getting these up, but late is better than not at all.

Right? Right.

The first post about The Great War is up at Far Beyond Reality. Stefan Raets was kind enough to invite me to share some of what it’s like to write about character’s lives against a historical background.

The extra added bonus with this post is a chance to win copies of both Delia’s Shadow and A Barricade In Hell. Tor is providing copies of both books to one lucky winner.

Go read the post and enter to win books! You know you want to.

The second is A Special Needs in Strange Worlds guest column over at SF Signal. Writing characters with physical limitations is hard in any context. Adding a historical background ups the difficulty level. Getting it all right is harder still.

Both posts are much more interesting than my summaries make them sound, I promise. It’s late and I’m tired, and a small cat named Morgan is howling in my ear that’s it’s time for bed.

She could be right.






I should probably note

That the trade paperback edition of Delia’s Shadow came out today! Yes, ladies and gents, my book is available in both hardback and paperback at a bookstore or internet outlet near you. Same beautiful cover on both editions.

But wait! There’s even more news.

The Kindle edition has a new, lower price! It’s only $9.79.

And there’s still more!

Two weeks from today (June 3rd) the second book in the series, A Barricade In Hell, comes out! Pre-order now and you could have it on release day. Indie stores, such as Murder By The Book, and Katy Budget Books, love pre-orders.

And since I will be signing at those stores June 13th and June 14th, if you order either book right now, you can get a signed copy for your very own.

That’s all the news I have for now, but watch this space.






She spoke his name outloud again…

Not to bury the lead…

The trade paper of Delia’s Shadow will be out May 20th. Two weeks after that, June 3rd to be exact, A Barricade In Hell will be released.

Two books in two weeks, ladies and gents. I have no words for how crazed that is. I should probably start shamelessly self promoting.

Cats must be fed, after all.

In that spirit, I have two signings scheduled in Houston right after Barricade comes out. Friday, June 13th, I will be signing at Katy Budget Books from 6-8 p.m.

And on Saturday, June 14th, I’ll be back at Murder By The Book from 4:30 to 6-ish. I had a ton of fun there last fall, and I can’t wait to go back.

I will remind the world a few times between now and then. I’d really love to see people turn out for both signings.

Months back my external hard-drive decided to wipe almost all the music off my computer during the weekly backup.

As in ::poof:: gone. Bye-bye.

All the music was still on my old computer, and on the external drive, and it would play if that drive was connected, but the cpu never stopped running and nothing else worked correctly. The extra added bonus was that none of the music would go BACK on to the computer.

I was not a happy woman. I ended up ripping cds to the drive (again) and other fun things to get some of that music back. I write to music, so that was important.

This week the ranch was saved by a 16g thumbdrive. I got all my music–over 3000 mp3s, all of which I paid money for–off the old computer and back on the one I use.

Music makes me happy. Getting it back makes me happy. It’s all about the happy stuff. And if some people in the world think that’s silly, I really don’t care.

Awaken, aka the twisted fairytale, continues to grow. It’s creeping up on 10k, which as you know, Roberta, makes it a real book. My brain is giving me the story in chunks, and jumping around in time, and I can see I need to go back and layer in details. But on the whole, I get words when I sit down to write.

Time to write is the issue. I do need to sleep once in a while.

Changes passed down from the corporate level have made the dayjob a stress fest of epic proportions. Which is all I’m going to say about that.

Insert a primal scream here for the rest of real life. Interesting times, ladies and gents. I’d like a little boredom now.

Time to be productive before I leave for a night shift. Day 1 of 7 in a row.






Don’t worry too much about the happily-ever-after

I need to consult with my webmage about the cross poster here. Garbage code showing up with every apostrophe or em dash makes a blogger crazy. Not helpful.

Anyway. Twisted fairy tales and the writing there of.

I got AWAKEN up to just under 6,000 words over the weekend. This is a really real book in my head now, swelling to fill every nook and tiny crawl space. I had my doubts about there being enough story here when I started, but those doubts have vanished. In the time honored tradition of all my novels, the characters have stepped up to whisper in my ear.

I dreamed about this book last night. That’s the best sign of all the book isn’t going to flame out on me.

I figured out my owls yesterday. They aren’t owls like you and I know owls.

::looks around and whispers:: They sing.

And when one owl blinks, or swivels its head, they all do. In unison.

Yes, the owls are going to be fun–and slightly creepy. As long as I keep remembering we aren’t in Kansas (or San Francisco) anymore, this book is going to kick ass.

For a long, long time I resisted writing anything YA. I worried about being able to write “kids” or keeping the stories light enough to fit the genre and age group.

And it took me far too long to realize I didn’t need to worry about any of that. I needed to write the characters as people, no matter what their age, and tell the story that needed to be told.

As one does with any book.

Miranda, Oliver, and Wilhem are people, and Mad Elspeth isn’t mad no matter how history remembers her.

I promised some darlings, so darlings you shall have. Then I have to get ready for the dayjob.

Also! Don’t forget the trade paper of DELIA’S SHADOW comes out May 20th, and that A BARRICADE IN HELL hits the stores June 3rd. Pre-orders are good. They show publishers that people want these books and enable authors to write more.

End of shameless self-promotion. On to rough, raw, new book darlings, which are subject to editing at anytime. This is the opening scene, which sets the tone and Miranda’s voice. Not the whole scene, just part of it.

****

True stories all start in different ways, in different times or places, and one never knows if the ending will be happy until you get there. This tale commenced long before I was born, but the part of the story I can tell begins at midnight of my fifth birthday.

And I suppose I should start with my name. I’m Miranda Caitlin Annalise, Crown Princess of Shavano, Heir to the Roan Mountains and Guardian of the Shadowed Sea. Ambassadors and visitors to my father’s court are the only ones to ever use all those names and titles. Everyone else calls me Mira.

Five years of age was awfully young to be summoned from my bed for midnight conversations, to pad barefoot through the sleeping palace and cross the courtyard unseen. Doorways opened in walls where I’d never noticed a door, and stone stairs glimmered as I climbed, lighting the way so I knew where to place my feet. I never thought to be afraid of going to the top of a dark, silent tower, but I hadn’t yet learned what it meant to be afraid.

The room at the top of the staircase was warm and bright. A cheery fire filled the hearth, and dried herbs dangled from beams overhead, adding a peppery smell to the air that made my nose itch. Half-melted, blocky candles sat on either end of a soot-blackened mantel, their flames swaying in the breeze that followed me into the chamber.

An hourglass brimful of white sand sat in the middle of an old pine table. I stared at a spiral of shimmering grains, frozen in the act of falling. No one needed to tell me the hourglass was enchanted. The stories my nursemaids told were full of such things.

A woman I didn’t know sat at a spinning wheel near the fireplace, her slim hand making the great wheel twirl faster than my eye could follow. Her hair was dark like mine, falling in the same tight coils over her shoulders, and held off her face with jeweled pins. She didn’t dress like the weavers below stairs or the kitchen girls who fed me sweets when my nursemaids weren’t watching. The servants I’d seen spinning didn’t wear clothes nearly as rich and fine, nor sing somber airs as they spun.

The stranger saw me in the doorway and stopped her work, smiling encouragement when I didn’t come closer. “Come over here, granddaughter. It’s warmer by the fire and I have something to show you.”

Her eyes were like my father’s deep brown eyes, full of mirth and secrets, and I couldn’t help but be curious about her. I pulled back into the corridor, peering at her around the doorframe. Shadows at my back pressed closer, colder, driving me back into the room and toward her outstretched arms. I ran the last few steps. “Are you really my grandmother? I don’t remember you.”

“You wouldn’t remember me, nor would your father. My son was your grandfather’s grandfather.” She pulled me into her lap and wrapped me in a corner of her thick, crimson shawl. “I was gone long before either you or Stefan were born. Since then our family has done its best to forget the name Elspeth, but I’d like it very much if you remembered. Now give me your hand. This won’t hurt.”

I hardly felt the spindle prick my finger. My newfound grandmother gently squeezed out three bright drops to coat the iron shaft with blood. Elspeth pierced a fingertip as well, mingling her blood with mine.

“There, it’s done. You were very brave, Mira.” She brushed back the curls that had fallen into my face and kissed my forehead. “The pledge is renewed, blood sealed to blood. Go back to sleep now and I’ll send you home. Your nurse will sense woman’s magic on you, but that can’t be helped. You’re safer with the bond, as safe as I can make any daughter of our house.”






The only thing I’ll ever ask of you, you’ve got to promise not to stop when I say when

Who knew writing twisted fairytales was so much fun? So much worldbuilding, so many tiny details to think about, decisions, and so so much shit to make up.

There are so many owls in this story, peering from the rafters, filling the trees outside Miranda’s window, wide-eyed and knowing. I’m not entirely certain what they all mean yet, just that the owls belong here.

I love this part of writing. I love building stories and worlds and characters from the ground up, making them breathe and come alive. I adore twisting the familiar into something unexpected. That is real magic.

Also, that little shiver of delight is probably why I love writing flat out fantasy more than anything.

This book is still all cinders and sorrow, with a sprinkling of desperate hope. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean anything to anyone but me, but most of my books are all images and emotion and floating on music at the beginning. I know the plot, but knowing the plot is only a fraction of the battle to build a better novel.(tm)

AWAKEN is totally in love with the Foo Fighters right now. Not the music I’d have pegged as right for a fairytale, but I only work here.

And for the first time in almost three years, there seems to be poetry stirring in my head. I’d thought poetry had left me forever, but maybe not. Writing poetry again would make me happy.

Tomorrow I will post a darling from the new book, because I can. Tonight I leave you with the theme song of the week. There is a mandatory 8 a.m. dayjob meeting tomorrow morning, even if it is Sunday and my day off.