Here is a photo of me with a case of lazy bed head, holding a proof copy of my new novel, which I plan to release this month.
The Mermaid has been my project for the last two years or more. It began as an urban fantasy, but I decided to challenge myself and write it as a historical fiction. It was a much more complicated but rewarding experience; it will be the first book of what I foresee as a long series with lots of novella spin-offs.
I’ve been sharing teasers on Instagram and Twitter. I am very eager to be an active indie author again.
If you want to know what it’s about, here’s a blurb I wrote a while back; it isn’t perfect, but close enough!
While I haven’t decided on a release date yet, it’ll be before the 20.
Here are a couple of the teasers. I do hope you enjoy this book; it’s my baby!
I might be sending out some ebook copies for review; if you’re interested, let me know!
The butterfly is a flying flower, the flower a tethered butterfly.
—Ecouchard le Brun
Every spring we look into the flowerbeds, hoping to see their fluttering wings. They’re the daydream of the child, and the memory of the gardener. They inspire awe and wonder, and we create environments hoping to attract them.
Butterflies have enchanted poets and artists since the beginning of time. They are documented in field guides. We watch from April to September, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Swallowtail or a Monarch.
Many people do not know the rich collection of mythology concerning butterflies. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that they carry messages to heaven; you might count the spots on their wings to predict how many children you’ll have.
There are many more tales where those came from. Butterfly mythology is fascinating. Knowing what our ancestors said enhances the thrill that we feel, watching them vanish into the sky.
Here are three pieces of folklore involving these lovely insects:
In many parts of the world, pagan tradition has a special place for this elegant insect. In Ireland, it’s considered bad luck to kill a white butterfly—they’re believed to symbolize the human soul after death. Most of us don’t think much of the white butterfly, our eyes seeking out color instead. In Ireland, this cannot be; we must pay attention, lest we pass a spirit and not pay it due homage.
In other places, we should look for the red butterfly. According to Icy Sedgwick, red butterflies often mean important news is on its way. However, the Scots believed red butterflies were witches, an example of how two cultures can see a thing differently. It doesn’t end there: if a sailor saw a yellow butterfly, he might perish on his next journey.
When spring comes back around this year, keep an eye out the window for a red butterfly; it might be a witch. And if you are a sailor, be kind to the yellow butterfly, lest you get into a boating accident! Remember that, out in the garden, anything is possible.
Art is something that comes alive and seeks to change us forever.
Wonder at how, so many years later, the Mona Lisa still has lines after lines of people impatient to see her smile. Think of how certain quotes from certain novels echo down through generations, while most of our own whispers vanish into oblivion.
Art is the only true form of magic and only art is immortal. It can thaw the frozen heart when nothing else could. It brings us centuries-old pain, and also relief from that pain.
Don’t cast a spell; a poem will do.
I’ve always held this view. I used to think my preference for classic works was a result of my personal desire to be the next Dickens—but art does not work that way. We all hold it differently.
There is no way I can be the next Jane Austen.
Now I think my fascination is a result of nostalgia, one we all feel for times past. We all have heroes long-gone that we would love one hour with. There always comes a moment when the present, fast-paced world is not enough.
So we take up art, this shapeless and fiery thing, to recreate what no longer is but still is close to our hearts. We write back into history. We conjure our heroes, create unicorns, slay dragons.
Art is magic, and art is alive.
Now I look at myself. My heart is in a place long-gone when grand balls were popular, women wore dresses of flowing silk, and carriages rattled. This is what I will recreate with the magic handed to me; it is a lifelong goal.
It requires much, though. To uncover gems of story, I have to do research. To make my characters feel real, I need to know where they would go, what they would eat, how they would dance. As I grow older researching, my heart will be more caught in that time than this one.
Come to my blog and learn with me. Our Elizabeth Bennetts might seem far away, but using the magic of art, we come closer with every step forward that we take.
I am excited to be near the final edits for a project close to my heart.
The Mermaid of Rose Hill has been through several amazing beta readers; from each of these people I’ve received fantastic bits of advice, enough to polish it off. Enough, perhaps, to release it soon.
As you might expect, it hasn’t been easy. Even though I’ve always been an author of fantasy, I don’t think I’ve ventured this deeply into the genre. All of a sudden, I had to come up with folklore; it was terrifying.
Though Mermaid was meant to be a low-key historical fiction with fantasy elements that happened to be in it, the text lacked backstory.
I knew there were gaps that should be filled, and doing so would be fun, but fiction is scarier than reality. It needs to make sense. It might seem simple, from a distance, to add the “finishing touches” to a fantasy world; for some reason, though, when I thought of doing it, I froze up.
I think that the heavy book called Grimm’s Fairy Tales caused me to hesitate. I know that comparing myself to the Brothers Grimm is foolish, but I did not believe I could make up my own folklore. I looked at Tolkien’s imaginary world, as well, and knew I could never write something elaborate as that.
Still, something had to be done. I sat and started writing backstory in snatches and sentences. I quoted excerpts from news articles I might never finish about sightings that could be terrifying.
You build a castle brick by brick; I am building my mythology scrap by scrap.
This month, I am beginning what I hope is the final edit for The Mermaid of Rose Hill (though, if it needs more time, I won’t rush it). I think I have enough material to move on to book two.
I should have done this a long time ago, but I was afraid. Authors, when you’re intimidated, remember: castles are built brick by brick.
2020 is young, and sweet progress is being made. I’ve written 10,000 words towards my first novella of the year. I am hoping for four of them.
As I wade through the tale of Isolde and Gareth, I can’t help reflecting on how my writing process has changed since I began. It’s more mature; for instance, though I do not outline much, I need a checklist of events. I sort through scenes in my head, and try to pick those that are absolutely necessary.
With a goal of 30-33,000 words max for The Price of a Unicorn, it is important to choose the most necessary scenes.
My writing prompt app said today, Imagine success. That sent a wave of excitement through me. Though success comes in many forms (for instance, writing 10k is success) the prompt made me think of what I want from my stories.
I have a mermaid series in the works, and a fantasy trilogy loaded with magic; now, I have my side project of novellas. These novellas play out in my head like television shows, more than my books did. I might rewrite them in screenplay form.
When the new year began, I made plans for the next ten years. I want to read all the classic novels, including obscure ones you won’t find in bookstores. I want to be decent at the piano.
Most importantly, by the time 2030 comes around, I want to have plenty of stories published. I have all that I need to succeed as a storyteller; until this year, I only lacked motivation.
You ask me to imagine success; I see a shelf full of books with my name on them. I see journals of poetry. I see memoirs of my travels, articles, and anthologies.
The next ten years, God willing, shall be full of ambition and learning. It’s possible, when I quit procrastinating. It’s possible, when I believe in myself. I have so many stories to tell!
On my iPhone, I have an app that generates writing prompts. Yesterday’s prompt was “What excuses are you making?” When those words popped up, at once I pictured dozens of things I’d convinced myself were more important than my writing.
The foremost was, “Reading isn’t wasting time! Writers read.” Reading is important, but when it makes you so busy that the story is never written, you wind up wasting opportunities.
All sorts of excuses followed. I’m helping friends; I’m world building; I’m waiting for the right month in the summer. These were my excuses but, minutes away from beginning a new year, I could no longer allow excuses to slow me down.
If I wrote all the ideas in my heart, I would have a shelf of work. No doubt, the reading I’ve been doing would have helped with it—but, even though writers read, what they must do is write.
Here are my plans for this year:
My beta readers have given me fantastic feedback on The Mermaid of Rose Hill, so I will begin my (hopefully) final edit later this month. Before I go back to editing, though, I want to have a bit of fun.
I’m writing a series of fantasy novellas loosely based on the TV show Once Upon a Time, though the storylines aren’t the same. Knowing my writing speed, I can finish a novella in two weeks or less; today, I have been outlining it, crafting the characters, and trying to make everything tidy as possible.
I have another novel I wrote a couple of years ago that I’m also considering self publishing. Whatever happens with Mermaid, I will always favor the indie path, and a lot of people enjoyed the novel in question. I’d love to share it with you.
What excuses are you making? Every moment is a chance for you to improve as a writer, in ways that might surprise you. I’m planning my career for the next ten years, outlining novellas and giving ideas the attention they deserve. I’m applying dedication to the craft that I should have done earlier.
By the time this decade ends, I might be a successful author; I might not. At least I’ll have done what I loved, the craft that creates new worlds.
My plan for the new roaring twenties is to reach my full potential and stop making excuses.
Goodwill for the Gentleman is one of the warmest stories I’ve read this year. If you want to know why, check out my review here. It is an amazing joy to have contacted the author, Martha Keyes, with questions about this charming Christmas story that had me believing in happy endings again.
I believe that speaking with the author and seeing their view of the world adds depth to a story, and the answers to these questions certainly did that. If you have not yet started the Belles of Christmas collection, I highly suggest you do so; each of these tales will leave you with a light heart and a great deal of hope.
Be sure to check out Martha’s new novel, Cecilia, which was released this weekend. I can’t wait to get lost in it!
Without further ado, here are the questions!
1. What was the inspiration for Goodwill for the Gentleman?
A few factors played into this, actually. Because the book is part of a multi-author series, we had to decide a few ground rules at the beginning. One of those was the year the story was taking place. The year we chose (1813) was a very, very cold winter in England. They had very intense winter weather, and I thought about that quite a bit as I tried to decide on a story. Interestingly, I decided upon a title before anything else. I had been brainstorming things we associate with Christmas—words, phrases, smells, etc.—and I came upon the word “goodwill” and the phrase “good will toward men/man” from a couple of well known Christmas songs. I thought that was an interesting concept if I just changed it to “goodwill for the gentleman.” And from that, the beginnings of the story were born!
2. Is there a message you want readers to learn from it?
I really wanted readers (and myself) to think about the way we view the people around us. We are always operating with limited information as we make judgments and assumptions about others, just as Emma is in the book. She has taken the behavior of Hugh in jilting her sister and kind of assumed the worst of him. As she comes to know him, she realizes that there is so much more to him than the one thing she has judged him on and that even that action wasn’t as selfish as it appeared. I am a religious person, and I find that Christmas is a wonderful time of year for us to reevaluate any grudges we are holding and try to do for others what Christ does for each of us—believe in us and the believe the best of us. I hope that those things come through a bit in the story.
3. Do you have a nice Christmas memory or tradition you would like to share?
I grew up in a family that focused heavily on music, and one of our Christmas Eve traditions is for each of us to choose our favorite Christmas song or hymn to sing together while my mom plays the piano. There are eight kids in my family (plus a number of spouses), so it actually takes quite awhile to do this, but I think it brings a special spirit that only music can. Over the past five or so years, we have shifted things a bit to where we don Santa hats and go caroling to a few of our neighbors who are home-bound or elderly, bringing along a bag of caramels to gift them. I live in Utah, and we often have snowy Christmases, so we are all ready to cozy up when we get back from doing this. I love bringing a bit of Christmas cheer to people who might otherwise spend Christmas Eve alone.
Along with hundreds of writers all over the world, I began a new novel earlier this month.
When I chose to write a high fantasy this November, I expected it to be difficult. Self-doubt crept up; I almost chose to work on a series I’m already writing, because the setting would be familiar. High fantasy seemed a daunting challenge; I feared I hadn’t read enough of it to write my own.
Ten days later, I had written the fifty thousands words; the story breathed itself to life. I feel like the characters dictated their journeys, for they use their own voices. Every time I sit down for a writing session, I feel that I’m living a second life.
This month I remembered how it feels to write a new book, exploring new territory. Being a pantser most of the time, I wander without a map. 50k spilled out in ten days because my writing muscle had been neglected for too long.
Since January, I have been editing a book to publish next year; how refreshing it is to be in an unfamiliar world, where I can get lost and make up my own rules.
Things turned interesting when I decided to share snippets of my story on Instagram. I did it because I wanted to try something different; everyone clings to quotes about writing by dead authors, such as that about moonlight on broken glass.
Since it is my Instagram, I thought it would make the scene more personal if the words shared were mine. I wasn’t expecting so many people to enjoy the snippets; I’ve had offers to beta read when the project is done. Knowing that people look forward to the novel as I write it–oh, it keeps me motivated!
The working title for this novel is The Swan, but it is liable to change by the time the book is done.
Having reached the word count goal, I’ve decided to keep writing. I won’t rush it, though. I want to reach a satisfactory ending, since I don’t plan to make it a series; it’s going to be a stand-alone novel, a very long one. When it is on paper, whether traditional or self-published, the weight of those words will bring me joy.
This might be my one great work, or the beginning of many; I only know that the writing process has been a source of joy. It has helped me cope with dark moments as we enter a season plagued by grief.
When I read my draft, I can hardly believe that I wrote it. It’s brilliant, compared to my first books. One day, I hope you will be able to meet the Princesses Tressa and Roisin; they have become two very different sides of me.
On the most magical day of the year, I’m sure many of you are bracing yourselves for the winter, preparing to write novels, or simply enjoying your pumpkin spice while wearing oversized hoodies (I am).
With a new novel to plan myself, I’m staying in today, but that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore the occasion; every Halloween I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, a tradition I created five years ago. It helps get me into the mood.
I won’t dwell on the spooky in this blog post. I’ve just finished a delightful novel called Wild Strawberries by Angela Thirkell. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of her before. I got it as an eBook this summer before my trip to Europe, but did not get to it until yesterday. I was not disappointed; short, sweet, and humorous, it had a springtime vibe that made me forget the chill outside.
I’ve never before read a book that made me laugh out loud. Certain scenes had me in tears. Poking fun at aristocrats with their dignified houses, Thirkell has a writing style that leaves you wanting more. She crafts characters you cannot hate, even if they behave in ridiculous ways. It made me think of Downton Abbey, especially scenes where the butler participates, except this butler is more keen to cause a fuss than Mr Carson would be.
I thought I was good at crafting characters; now I envy Thirkell, with her ease for giving each protagonist their color. There is the quirky Lady Emily Leslie, sixteen-year-old Martin who is spoiled and seems to know it, Lady Emily’s daughter, Agnes, who pulls off the “simple-minded” character–I felt like the characters had already existed, and Thirkell was commenting on the things they did, almost in a bored fashion.
After I finished Wild Strawberries, Goodreads told me it is the second book in a series; this means I will need to find the first one. I don’t know where Angela Thirkell has been all my life, but like Rosamunde Pilcher, she is a new voice that I’m glad to have found. They have different tones: Thirkell is humorous, Pilcher seemed rather melancholic, but both told tales that engrossed me.
If you like Downton Abbey, read Wild Strawberries. When I read the other books in the series, I’ll report on those as well.
Enjoy your Halloween, and I hope you get lots of candy!
Thrift stores are exciting; one never knows what they will find. I’ve brought home things such as a teacup from Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation to a stuffed kangaroo. The clothes at thrift stores, at least in my experience, tend to be cozier; I’ve found my favorite sweaters there.
But what I find most enchanting about thrift shops are their books.
In thrift shops we find hardcover copies, most of them characterised by age and use. I have found poetry books in which passages were marked by the previous owner, little notes in the margins; it is a lovely sense of not reading alone. Also, thrift stores let us find novels that aren’t well-known; we rediscover the bestsellers of yesteryear.
I have felt tempted to weep at the books that exist but I will not have time to read. I am glad, though, that I discovered Rosamunde Pilcher in time to revel in her heartwarming stories. I will read as many of her books as I can; perhaps some brilliance will rub off on me. They have the feel of a warm cup of tea on an autumn afternoon.
The first book of Pilcher’s that I read was The Empty House. A powerful, clean romance, it gave me hope to follow Virginia’s journey as, after a tragedy, she found her own identity. She built herself from scratch, took back what was hers (including her children), and chose at last to live the life she’d dreamed of. She discovered what love is, and what it is not.
If you want a story that will make you feel good, The Empty House is a short read, and you will remember it. Not all books need to be long in order to make an impact.
It’s a lesson I learned this year: often the best stories are the ones that can be finished in a day. However, it will not be an ordinary day. If a story is good, if it has the author’s heart in it, the reader will never forget the day the book was read.
On the surface, The Written World looks to be a history book on the topic of literature. I discovered it was something deeper, far more delightful.
Author Martin Puchner has a love for books much like my own; this book is his journey to find the soul of literature, the source of her power, the reason she can change the world. Its reflective nature made it more powerful than a history book. Because the author included himself as the explorer, the journey feels romantic.
I have always had similar reverence for the power of reading. There is more to any book than symbols on a page; the classics, for example, have become immortal for a reason. Something about them reached into the soul of society; something about them survived, while other manuscripts vanished into history, only a few to be discovered later.
From this memoir, I gathered something I already knew: give someone the gift of literacy and they will never be helpless. Teach a child to read and you never know what they will achieve. They will discover topics that fascinate them; they’ll find their vocation, and perhaps go on to win Nobel prizes.
Of course, it suffices that they read. The power is, in the end, to read.
Once upon a time, books were expensive to own. Only the wealthy could afford to build a library. Books are more accessible now, but do people recognize their value? It is not the same to download a file off of the Internet. Books were expensive back then because of their power; let us not lose sight of that power now that they can be obtained for free.
The prices of books have changed; their value remains the same. A book can still turn the world upside-down. It was worth reading a book about books to put this into perspective. It was worth reading The Written World so that I could understand my place as a writer. It opened my eyes to the great power I have: I can read, and in doing so, I can change my world.
I have a confession to make: I almost did not leave England. I can’t tell you what I would have done should I have stayed, being utterly unprepared for a move to a different country. Still, I cried on the night before we were to fly out. It had been lovely to walk the streets, take buses, and admire old buildings. I knew I was going to miss them, and I already do.
I can’t say that, during this trip, I found the London I read of in books. I didn’t expect to, either. A lot of time has passed between now and the England of Charles Dickens. Buildings have been torn down or made into shops; skyscrapers have been built that he would likely have thought hideous.
Yet beneath all this change, this modernisation, something felt familiar.
I might have been a tourist with only distant relations to England (ancestors from Derbyshire) and I might not have known where anything was. Still, there was something about the air as I walked. In my heart I couldn’t help but think, Ah, this is familiar. I am where I ought to be.
What is this magic that made me feel as if I had been there before? I can only think it is the power of story. The novels I read paint a different place than that which I saw, but those words captured the soul of that city like a sponge. When you tell a story about a person, you’re speaking of the person, whether they change or not. The same is true for cities.
I almost did not leave London. The only thought that got me into the plane out was the knowledge that I hadn’t the money to start over. I also did not want to make a rash decision blinded by the charm of tourism. However, I have every intention of going back, and perhaps the second time I will stay.
I was in love with England from the moment I stepped onto her soil.
Ten days in England was not enough to see all I wanted to, but it was possible to cover the basics. Buckingham Palace, the National Gallery, the Tower of London–it was all lovely. Having said that, my favorite place was the Charles Dickens museum.
You might call my love for his work an obsession. He had a grip with the English language that I cannot find with other authors; if you know of someone else whose work I might enjoy that much, I am open to suggestions.
We visited the Charles Dickens museum on our last day, with four hours to go before a rush to the airport. We rose earlier that morning and my mother asked me, “Do you want to see the Charles Dickens house?”
I had resigned myself to putting off my visit for the next trip; it was a sweet, unexpected surprise when she woke me to such an invitation. I dressed in a heartbeat and we called a taxi.
I felt chills as we wandered the museum, which is actually his house. It is encouraging as a writer to know that one of the greatest authors of all time had a desk to work at, a piano to play; he needed a bed to sleep on, and he had a library. His talent was great, but he was human like me. I can be a successful author while being myself.
There came a moment when I was alone in his library, and I told him, “Thank you for the stories.” Maybe he heard me; if not, at least I tried.
I think some of his inspiration rubbed off on me, because now that I am home I feel like writing again. I feel like publishing another book. I want to go back to being a writer.
Until the day comes when I can return to England, I will read more about her. There is so much to know. I will learn her literature and poetry, I will explore my roots, I will improve as a writer.
This trip to Europe has done wonders for me. I doubt I will have my house made into a museum like Dickens’, but I will at least have a reader or two. I will at least write again.