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Chapter Six of Dead Magic

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Since Dead Magic will be coming out in a little less than a fortnight, I thought I would share the first few chapters here to whet your appetite for its release on November 10th. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be releasing a few more of the opening chapters. I hope you enjoy!
If you missed it, here are chapter one, chapter two, chapter three, chapter four, and chapter five.

Chapter Six
The Reading

Emmeline wasn’t certain what happened the night before with the book, but she didn’t like its aftereffects. Dressing that morning, she pulled aside the curtain and was pleased to find the road below free of spirits. At breakfast, she quietly picked at her eggs, listening to the sound of her uncle’s newspaper rustle while hoping her tea would begin working on her foggy mind after a restless night. She released a tense breath and tried to think about something other than how much she wanted to close her eyes. To sleep in meant she had to be ill and submit to her aunt’s examination, and that wasn’t something she could stand.

“What are your plans for the day, Emmeline?” Aunt Eliza asked casually, but Emmeline knew it was the beginning of an interrogation if she didn’t approve of the answer.
Pursing her lips, Emmeline fought the urge to spit back an answer that would only cause her allowance to be cut until she was sufficiently miserable. “I’m going to the Spiritualist Society and maybe have lunch or tea with Cassandra if I feel like it. What do you think I’m going to do? She’s the only one I’m allowed with.”
Eliza Hawthorne’s jaw dropped before snapping shut. As she began her usual diatribe on respecting elders, Emmeline’s eyes traveled to the door behind her. The door to her uncle’s laboratory had been constructed to blend into the wainscoting and the damask wallpaper with only the undersized doorknob to betray its camouflage. Normally, she scarcely noticed it, but now it was calling to her. Her aunt’s words died away as she watched the knob, waiting for it to turn. The room grew heavy as if a storm would burst at any moment, and amidst the faint rumblings, it felt as if someone waited on the other side. Her heart pounded in her throat as a voice rose from the threshold. It came as a gravelly whisper, barely audible, but with each hissing syllable, it became clear that it came for her.
I am strong. I decide who I read. No one can harm or speak to me unless I allow it. I am in control, she repeated to herself, walling up her mind against the invader as her mother taught her over a decade ago. When she looked up, the air had cleared and the figure had gone.
Emmeline shook off the energy humming through her. That hadn’t happened since she was a child. She had been so careful to keep her guard up in her uncle’s house. With the basement being used for autopsies and the occasional procedure, it could be a place where spirits who died violently might linger. Rubbing her eyes with her knuckles, Emmeline released a tired sigh. If only her mother was still here, she would know what to do.
“Emmeline, did you hear what I said?”
Looking up, she expected to find her aunt angry, but instead, she found her green eyes softened with concern. “Yes, Aunt Eliza. I’m sorry for being cross with you. I didn’t get much sleep.”
“Why don’t you stay home and rest?”
“No!” she cried a little quicker than she meant to. “No, I’m quite all right. I’m only going to listen to a lecture, nothing taxing.”
Eliza nodded, probing her niece with her doctor’s eye. “If you’re certain, but I will walk you there. Just in case.”
***

Shrugging off her aunt’s arm, Emmeline slipped into the Spiritualist Society, her mind far away as she unpinned her hat and handed it to the maid along with her parasol. She released a huffed breath and smoothed her dark curls in the mirror, which had become frayed in the humidity and were expanding at an alarming rate. She should have brought the book with her. Since leaving the house, its absence nagged at her mind like a bad itch. She couldn’t shake the image of masked bandits tearing her room apart and making off with the book before she could even properly look at it. Part of her wanted nothing more than to return home and make certain it was safe, but that was foolish. It would be fine as long as no one knew about it except her and Cassandra.
“Just the woman I was looking for,” Cassandra called with a smile as she emerged from the hall. “You have a reading to do in ten minutes.”
Emmeline bristled. “Are you joking? I didn’t have anyone scheduled today. Did Nostra do this? I was supposed to be attending Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s lecture. She knew that, and if I miss it, I—”
Grabbing her arm, Cassandra dragged her into the empty front parlor. “Just be quiet and listen. I did it.”
“But why? You knew I wanted to go.”
“Yes, but I think you will like this much better than a lecture on faeries,” she replied with a playful grin as her friend cocked a contrary brow. “It’s your Mr. Talbot.”
“Are you serious? Are you certain it’s him?”
“As certain as I can be. The appointment was made for Nadir and Leona Talbot. That’s his cousin, isn’t it?”
“So she’s taken her maiden name? Hmm. I guess the divorce is finalized.”
“You really need to stop reading the gossip pages.”
“Ugh! And today my hair decides to look dreadful,” Emmeline cried as she broke from her friend, and pawed at her hair in the hearth mirror. “Is he as handsome as the drawings in the papers?”
“Even better. Well, go on. They’re waiting for you upstairs in the Blue Room.” She waited for her friend to move or at least look pleased. “What’s wrong?”
Emmeline stared at her feet before meeting her friend’s tawny eyes. “What if I make a fool of myself?”
“I highly doubt you will ever play the fool.”
At the sound of Cecil Hale’s smooth voice, Emmeline whipped around to find him standing in the doorway watching them with an amused glint in his eyes. Her face and breast flushed at the skim of his gaze over her dark red dress.
“I’ve seen your abilities, Miss Jardine, and you have nothing to worry about.”
“That’s very kind of you, Lord Hale. Will you be going to the lecture?” Emmeline asked, shifting to put her best features in view.
Tilting his head back to reveal his long, graceful neck, he studied the ceiling’s tin tiles. “Actually, I was hoping to sit in on your reading if you don’t mind an audience.”
“I would like that,” she replied, ignoring Cassandra as she rolled her eyes.
With a smile, Emmeline kicked herself for agreeing to do the reading. She hurried up the steps to the Blue Room with Lord Hale at her heels, her heart racing at the thought of having her favorite author and Lord Hale in the same room. It was a dream she didn’t know she wanted to have until now, two men she admired, both watching her, maybe even wanting her. It was like a plot from one of her hidden books.
With a slow breath, she prayed to her mother to help her and opened the door. The room was as hideous as she remembered it with every surface, including the carpet and wallpaper covered in a blue paisley that had faded to periwinkle in the sun. Despite its hideous upholstery, it was her favorite room to work in. There were no tables or cabinets for a medium to hide behind in the Blue Room, and it was there that her powers shined.
Her breath caught in her throat at the sight of Nadir Talbot sitting on the sofa. She had seen etchings from the court case in the newspaper, but somehow, she had never pictured him as a living being. As the door creaked, Nadir rose and turned toward her, revealing a strong nose to match his expressive byzantine eyes and sensual lips. Waves of unfashionably long black hair dusted the shoulders of his fern-green suit, which had been expertly tailored to accentuate his gracile frame. He was as handsome as she had imagined, but as she approached her seat at the head of the circle, she tried to remember to breathe and not look too interested with Lord Hale hanging about. Sitting beside him was his cousin. While she shared his complexion and eyes, Leona Talbot’s expression was somber, dour even, as she stared into her lap. Like a Renaissance Madonna, her features were in the constant war between softness and severity. Upon seeing Emmeline, Leona’s reddened eyes ran appraisingly over her form before returning to her hands with a frown.
Curtsying to the Talbots, Emmeline bit back a smile at Mr. Talbot’s smoldering gaze. She had never expected to be so close to one of her idols. She had followed him through the murder trial, and even if his character was still seen as dubious in many circles, she didn’t take the lack of a conviction in the case to mean he was guilty. As Emmeline took her seat, she noticed how Cecil kept his distance, barely suppressing a sneer at her clients.
“Welcome to the London Spiritualist Society, Mr. Talbot, Ms. Talbot. This is Lord Hale, my associate. And my name is Emmeline Jardine. I’m a spiritualist medium.” At the word medium, Nadir Talbot’s lips twitched into a bemused grin. She knew that smile well; he was a skeptic. Locking eyes with him, she added flatly, “As you can see, my séances don’t involve a table or spirit cabinet. They distract from the experience and are the hallmark of a fraud. So if you’re expecting theatrics, I would suggest you find another medium. Now, who is the reading for or is it a shared relative?”
At her question, Mr. Talbot turned to his cousin. She released a tight sigh and reached into her reticule to retrieve a stack of letters tied in twine, their dark brown seals had cracked and their edges had been worn soft by many hands.
“He wrote these. Is that enough to—?”
“It will do,” Emmeline replied with a smile, but when she reached for the letters, Ms. Talbot hesitated before placing them slowly in her palm. “What is it you want to know?”
Leona Talbot stared past Emmeline as she drew in a long, slow breath. “I’m not certain. I guess I want to know if he’s all right… wherever he is.”
Emmeline nodded. “Now, let’s move closer and hold hands to keep our energy bound within the circle. Mr. Talbot, Lord Hale, please rest your hands on top of mine.”
Emmeline didn’t always tell her clients to join hands, but when it gave her the opportunity to be in contact with two handsome men, she would milk her gifts for all they were worth. Loosely holding the stack of letters she began to clear her mind until she felt the gentle pressure of a hand closing over hers. Nadir Talbot’s fingers were warm against her hand, and if she focused her mind, she could feel the scrape of callouses where he held his pen. Another hand clasped hers. Emmeline shivered at the hum passing beneath Lord Hale’s fingertips.
Closing her eyes, she fought to ignore the gazes of the men beside her and slowed her breathing. The sound of steamer cabs clattering a floor below disappeared and was replaced by the babble of water gurgling somewhere nearby. Emmeline’s nose flooded with the damp of earth and the fragrance of greenery. Opening her mind’s eye, she found massive palm trees rising all around her, turning the sun into panels of stained glass as it shown through their leafy boughs. For a moment, Emmeline thought she had been sent to a tropical forest or an uncivilized island, but as she pushed aside the branches before her, she found that she was encapsulated within a great steel and glass dome. Where had the letters taken her? A few feet ahead, the path curved out of sight into a patch of vines and low, scruffy plants. It was strange not to see the spirit standing before her. Usually, they were ready and waiting for her, but in this spirit’s world, she had no choice but to follow the dirt-dusted bricks into the mist.
As she came around the bend, the foliage peeled back to reveal a square pool framed by soaring white columns and mosaics of nymphs. Sitting at the water’s edge in a burgundy wingback chair was a man with a book. His aquiline nose and sharp grey eyes gave him the quiet ferocity of an eagle, which honed in on Emmeline the moment she stepped into view. Lowering her eyes to his chest, she could make out the faint outline of a ragged hole in his shirt and waistcoat, and as she locked onto his face, the image faltered. The stripes of grey in his hair overtook what was left of the brown, and for a moment, his face appeared wrinkled and pinched.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded, shutting the book and rising from his chair to loom over her.
His eyes sliced into her, lingering on her wild curls before running down her body in a languid line. Emmeline swallowed hard and steeled herself against his intrusive gaze.
“I was sent here to speak to you.”
“Well, I don’t want to talk to the likes of you, so get out.”
Emmeline rolled her eyes. So he was going to be one of those. Most dead were very happy to have a human ear to gab in, but those who tended to be hostile in life continued to hold to old grievances and bad behavior even in the afterlife. People never changed.
“The joke is on you because I can’t leave until you talk with me.” Defiantly meeting her gaze, he turned and headed for his chair, so Emmeline added, “It was Leona Talbot who wanted me to speak to you.”
He stopped mid-step, his eyes losing their edge for a brief moment. “Why?”
“She cares about you and wants to know you’re all right. I don’t know why she would care about a rude old man like you. If you don’t want to talk, I guess I will be going, then. You seem fine to me.”
Emmeline was about to leave the way she came when he called out, his voice less harsh than a moment before, “Leona asked you to check on me? Did she say anything?”
“No. I don’t think she knows what she wants to say. You’re Randall Nash, aren’t you? Her life is quite unsettled right now because of you. Is there anything you want to say to her that would make things better?”
“Tread carefully, little girl, you aren’t nearly as clever as you think you are. Leona was like you once.” Turning his attention to the temple behind him, his eyes locked on a bald spot in the garden. “You can tell her that my plant is in jeopardy, and I want it to be safe again. It’s the earl’s fault. If he hadn’t stuck his—”
Nash’s voice trailed off as he and Emmeline froze at a reverberation traveling through the earth. The water in the pool rippled and danced with a roll of thunder in the distance. The air in the greenhouse grew still, thickening with the taste of rain tainted with the scorch of burnt wood. Emmeline’s heart thundered up her throat as she met Nash’s light grey eyes.
“If you’re doing that, stop. You aren’t going to scare me off.”
Nash raised his gaze to the grey sky that had once been blocked by the greenhouse’s metal beams. Cocking his head, he seemed to listen to something beyond Emmeline’s senses. “They’re coming for you.”
Her pulse throbbed in her neck as another echo of energy passed through the garden and climbed her legs. It was like something out of a nightmare from her childhood. The giant’s heavy footsteps chasing her in his garden. Closing her eyes, Emmeline tried to wrench her mind out of the vision, but every time she opened her eyes, she was still in the spirit world. Oh, god. I’m trapped, she thought.
Emmeline opened her mouth to speak and found herself alone. Nash had disappeared along with the artificial forest. All that remained was hulking and ancient. Before her stood a gravel lane lined with towering yews. They had grown unnaturally tall, twisting in on themselves like a bonsai and contorting into the vague suggestion of faces or beasts. Emmeline’s breath came in icy puffs, roiling through the air before disappearing into the blackness pressing in around her. Something paced at the end of the path, and with each movement, the smell of water and fire grew stronger. The air suffocated her, burning her nose and throat. The thing was drawing closer. Emmeline willed her legs to move, but she stayed rooted in place. Where could she run to? When she had been in the greenhouse, everything had seemed so solid, so real, but now, the ground beneath her seemed only inches thick and would collapse under her at any moment, as tenuous as a puff of squid ink.
A face emerged from the shadows at the end of the lane. Emmeline’s heart pounded in time with the pulse of energy emanating from the creature’s body. It was barely more than the shades it hid within, but as it swept close, searching for her with wide, sightless eyes, she could make out the long face and branched horns of a stag. Where a body and limbs should have been, the darkness churned without forming anything that remotely resembled a body. A dozen skinny tentacles whipped toward Emmeline before sinking into its back, flicking out for a taste of her energy. They’re coming for you.
“What are you?” she yelled, her voice cracking with fear and her body trembling. “Tell me. Tell me what you are!”
Raising her gaze to the hollow points where the creature’s eyes should have been, the breath seeped from her body. There was no humanity in it. The cephalopodic monster had no life in it. Never had it been of her world, and as it fixed its gaze upon her, she could taste its hunger for flesh. Looming over her, it seemed limitless, the energy radiating from its wraith-like body overwhelming. Bile rose in Emmeline’s throat as she turned her head and closed her eyes at the creature’s tentacle skimming along the delicate aperture of her neck. It wanted her.
Emmeline felt the ground beneath her feet. She focused on the softness of it, the vision of it being no more than a shoe-sole thick. As the creature rose to swoop upon her, the ground gave way and she was falling.

 


If you enjoyed what you read, you can pre-order Dead Magic here and have it delivered to your Kindle on November 10th. Paperbacks will also be available closer to the release date.

Stay tuned for more chapters and previews to come.

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Want a glimpse of Dead Magic?

As promised on my Facebook page, here is a little unedited preview of Dead Magic. Coming this fall:

Immanuel looked over his shoulder and spotted a vase sitting in the center of the kitchen table, overflowing with ferns fronds, forget-me-notes, and periwinkle traveler’s joy. Adam had given them to him when he arrived, but now their edges were curled and turning brown while their heads dolefully flopped over the side. Immanuel set down his tea and picked up the vase. As he made for the sink, he turned, expecting to find Adam behind him but found nothing. He went to take a step forward but was knocked off kilter by something hitting his chest. Heat seared through his veins, snaking through his core until it hit his heart and shot through his body one beat at a time. Swallowing hard, he leaned against the counter, busying himself with the flowers to keep Adam from seeing the fear in his eyes. He took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes, hoping the stutter in his heart would stop.
“Immanuel? Immanuel, are you all right?”
Immanuel jerked back as water overflowed from the crystal vase and ran over his hands and cuffs. The creeping heat abated at the water’s touch until it only lingered as a tight ball lodged near his heart. Releasing a tight breath, he swallowed hard and carried the flowers back to the table without a word. As he raised his gaze to the dying flowers, his chest tightened. Before his eyes, the flowers’ heads uncurled and the bits of brown he had seen a moment earlier eating away at the edges of the petals dissolved. Across the table, Adam absently poked at a sugar cube bobbing in his cup, unaware of his partner’s sudden urge to pitch the plants out the backdoor. Immanuel averted his gaze, but when he looked back a moment later, the blues and purples of the forget-me-nots were more vibrant than the day he arrived.
Something was wrong with him. Something was very wrong.
“I— I think I’m going to lie down for a little while.”
Adam’s arm wrapped around his shoulders, pressing Immanuel’s back into his chest. “You look flushed. Are you feeling all right?”
“I’m fine,” he snapped but caught himself. “I’m just tired.”
“Well, I will come up with you.”
Immanuel crossed his arms. “I can get up the stairs by myself. I’m not feeble anymore.”
“I think you misunderstood me.” Adam slowly raised his gaze to Immanuel’s, locking eyes as he held his arms. “I want to come up.”
Immanuel’s mouth formed a soundless O, and before he could think about what Adam said, they were checking the locks on the doors and covering the windows. Darting up the stairs, Immanuel slipped off his jacket and tie and tossed them into his undisturbed bedroom as he passed. He waited at the threshold of Adam’s door, watching his companion carefully close the curtains to ensure no one could see inside. It had become a nightly ritual that Adam had started months before Immanuel moved in to help avoid suspicion from their neighbors. When the room was dark, Adam took his hand and led him to the bed where he snaked his hand under Immanuel’s shirt and ran along the flesh of his back. Even after a week together, Immanuel still hesitated, expecting someone to be just beyond the door. It seemed too good to be true to have such freedom.
“Mr. Winter,” Adam whispered into Immanuel’s skin as he planted a trail of hot, moist kisses down his neck, “I have been waiting for this all day.”
But why? He resisted the urge to ask a question that would only elicit a strange look from Adam and an equally awkward reply.
Before Immanuel could stop him, Adam’s fingers were flying over the buttons of his waistcoat and shirt. He resisted the urge to stiffen and cover his deformed chest with his arms, and instead he copied Adam. Beneath his bright dandy’s clothes, Immanuel was as solid and strong as Immanuel felt frail, all ribs and scars. Adam pushed Immanuel against the bedpost, catching his mouth. His pencil mustache scratched Immanuel’s lip as the redhead’s tongue plunged and grazed against his. The breath caught in Immanuel’s throat. Closing his eyes, he let his companion explore his mouth and his ever-changing body. Adam’s hands worked along his sides before sliding over the firm flesh of his buttock, eliciting a soft groan from his companion. Heat crept up Immanuel’s form, tensing every muscle in his abdomen and sending his heart out of rhythm. Immanuel blindingly undid the buckle of Adam’s belt and felt the slide of his fine wool trousers slipping down his legs. Reaching for his own, Immanuel kicked them off and pulled Adam toward the mattress.
The bed sighed under their weight as Adam climbed atop of him. His eyes drank in Immanuel’s form while his hands rested on his ribs. Adam caressed the dents where his ribs hadn’t properly knit together. Immanuel swallowed hard at the thought of being prone and unable to stop Adam’s mental dissection. He hoped it was too dark for Adam to see him, but his mind was silenced by a shiver rippling from his scalp to his curling toes. Immanuel raised his eyes to meet Adam’s gaze. A wordless conversation passed between them, and Adam’s lips curled into a knowing grin. Immanuel stiffened, his hips twitching, as Adam nipped at his collarbones and ran his tongue along his sternum and down the scant trail of hair leading to his flannel drawers. His fingers laced into Adam’s henna hair as a gasp escaped his lips at the rush of air and the goosebumps rising on the tops of his thighs as his drawers were pulled away.
“I want to make you feel better,” Adam murmured, his breath hot against his stomach.
Immanuel closed his eyes, fisting the sheets as Adam drew him in. He needed him, he needed this. He needed to be reminded that even after all that happened, there was still love in the world. More than anything, he needed Adam to make him forget.


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May 2016 in Review

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

Somehow I didn’t expect to be so productive in May, yet I feel like I’ve walked away with a lot of writing and ideas to use in June.

What I accomplished in May:

  1. Wrote 17,000 words on Dead Magic (hit 39,000 total)
  2. Wrote 8 blog posts
  3. Read 2 books
    1. Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
    2. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Heavily researched for an Ingenious Mechanical Devices companion novella
  5. Began cover construction for Dead Magic
  6. Finished the audiobook for The Winter Garden to Audible’s specifications (should be out within the next week)

What I hope to achieve in June:

  1. Write at least 18,000 words of Dead Magic (for 57,000 total words)
  2. Write at least 6 blog posts
  3. Read at least 3 books
  4. Begin outlining and writing one of the IMD companion novellas
  5. Write the back blurb for Dead Magic
  6. Do a preliminary edit of chapters 1-10 of Dead Magic

I can’t believe I wrote 17k words this month. March and April were so slow in terms of my word count, but it seems that once the story hits the 1/3 mark, it just starts to roll. Laying the foundation is the slowest part, followed by the end when I need to make sure that I’ve tied everything up. I’m hoping that June will continue the trend of the productivity.

I’m so excited to be able to share some random excerpts of Dead Magic. Writing it has been a blast so far with lots of dark things, some gore, a bit of magic, and having to do a lot of research on trauma and PTSD (sorry, Immanuel). My artist boyfriend/cover designer/Photoshop guru will soon be working on the cover for Dead Magic as soon as I finish the back blurb and convince him to do it instead of working on his new design shop, Regal Rook designs. I’m sure I’ll be posting more on that in the future as well.

The one major thing that was sacrificed this month was my reading. I meant to finish Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater in May, but I was busy researching and writing and it ended up sitting on the sidelines. It’s a really good series despite how long it’s taking me to get through it.

On Tuesday in my post Plot Bunnies and Projects, I wrote about the companion novellas I’m planning to write over the summer. I haven’t really begun planning them out yet, but I hope to have at least one of them written (probably Judith Elliott’s first). I’m super stoked to work on them because I really love the ideas I have rolling around, so hopefully, they’ll come out as good on paper as they are in my head. I will be updating you as I write.

At the top of the page is a little newsletter sign-up thing. If you want to get exclusive excerpts, ARCs, and messages about new sales/deals, sign-up. I don’t send them out often, so you won’t need to worry about me blowing up your inbox.

So what are you working on this month?

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Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

ravenboys

Title: The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle Book #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: Paranormal adventure

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

**Spoilers in this review should be minimal**

TL;DR: I LOVED this book. If you like well-rounded characters, an atmospheric setting, and a paranormal streak that crosses the globe, this book is for you.

Oh my god. I devoured the second half of this book, and immediately, dug out the second book, The Dream Thieves.

The Raven Boys centers around four boys in Henrietta, Virginia, who attend the local private school, Aglionby Academy, and their new friend, Blue, who is the daughter of a psych. Gansey, Adam, Ronan, Noah, and Blue become entangled with Henrietta’s local history and paranormal legacy as they search for ley lines, lines of energy that crisscross the globe, connecting sites of historical and magical importance. Gansey is searching for one thing, the resting place of the legendary Welsh king Glendower. Legend says that if you wake the kind, he will grant you favor, and Gansey knows a few people who could use some favor. Blue has always been mildly envious of her mother and her friends’ psychic abilities, but Blue has an ability of her own, amplifying energy, and she may be the key to helping the Raven Boys find Glendower.

What I loved about The Raven Boys was the characterizations, not just of the characters but of the setting as a whole. Everything, from the Virginia landscape to Gansey’s dilapidated car, has a soul, and these characterizations add a whole new level of detail and beauty to Stiefvater’s story. The settings are atmospheric and lend themselves to firmly integrating yourself within the book. Even the magical elements later in the book fall perfectly into the realm of reality because they are so believable and so in tune with the rest of the world.

Maggie Stiefvater’s characters shine brightly in a novel where they could easily be lost or flattened beneath the heavy mythos and mystery of the story. Each of the Raven Boys is very distinct, each with their own flaws, complexities, and reasons to love them. We have Gansey the driven adventure-seeker who wants nothing more than to search the earth to find Glendower. His life is complicated by trying to manage his wayward friends, Ronan and Adam, and not insult people by simply being Richard Gansey III (can you smell the old money?). Adam is a scholarship boy from a bad home. He tries to be all things, a research companion to Gansey, an independent man, an A student, but he flounders under the weight of his violent home life in the local trailer park. Ronan is the opposite of Adam, a fighter, a trouble-maker, a boy with all the money in the world and nearly nothing that makes him happy. Noah, is… well, he’s Noah. Then, there’s Blue. She’s a sensible free-spirit who wears homemade clothes and was born with the ability to amplify the energy of those around her, which is infinitely useful when you live with a bunch of psychics.

The story itself is a wonderfully complex paranormal mystery that spans four books. We begin the story at a graveyard that sits on a ley line on the one night of the year when psychics can see those who will die that year march toward the otherworld. From there, we discover how the ley lines connect with the mysterious Welsh king, Glendower, and the mysteries surrounding Henrietta. Despite all of the pieces that make up the mystery, Stiefvater makes it easy to digest and quickly draws the reader in to make them as obsessed with discovering Glendower as Gansey. It’s as intricate as The DaVinci Code but with a hundred times better characterization and atmosphere.

Am I looking forward to the second book? Hell, yes. The book may be labeled as young adult but the only thing juvenile about it is the age of the main characters. The Raven Boys is a story rich with history and texture with characters as complex as any book taught in a college classroom.

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Author Update

dead magic

I feel like I’ve been a very negligent author. While I have been writing (Dead Magic is at 15k words or so), I haven’t blogged much.

Part of that is because I’ve been feeling under the weather lately. I had the flu early in the month, and while I feel better, I still don’t feel 100%. It’s made me very tired, and some nights I come home completely wiped out when usually I would stay up and work on a new blog post or write more.

It’s frustrating to say the least. I usually make to-do lists for myself in my bullet journal, but recently, those lists have gotten smaller or have taken longer to get done. I’m hoping that over the next few weeks, I’ll finally shake off this illness once and for all and actually get back to blogging.

I’m really excited about Dead Magic, so I’ll be sharing updates and bits of the story with you soon. All of our old friends are back from The Winter Garden: Adam Fenice, Immanuel Winter, Emmeline Jardine. Dark forces are moving toward London. They want to tap into the cosmos and speak with higher beings, but to do so, they need a certain book. That book has fallen into Emmeline Jardine’s hands and she isn’t giving it up without a fight. All Immanuel wants is a normal life, but he finds that he is in possession of new powers he never asked for and that his life is threatened by an unseen enemy. Soon, Emmeline and Immanuel find themselves in a race against time and the dark magic that threatens to bring the country to its knees. The balance of life and death hinges on their actions. Can they follow the right path or will the temptation of power be too strong?

In a few days, I’ll publish a little sniplet of a new scene from Dead Magic (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #4). Stay tuned.

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Chapter Preview- The Earl and the Artificer

It’s less than a month until The Earl and the Artificer is released in ebook and paperback. Between now and January 30th, I will be posting about The Earl and the Artificer as well as the process I’ve gone through while getting it ready for publication.

If you would like to pre-order The Earl and the Artificer, you can here for 99 cents.

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As promised, here is the first chapter of The Earl and the Artificer, coming January 30th:

 

Chapter One:

The Ninth Earl

 

Elbow-deep in steamer engine innards and covered in grease was not how Hadley Sorrell expected her honeymoon to begin. The wedding and journey to Dorset had been surprisingly smooth, but their luck never lasted. She should have expected the steamer to pop and belch smoke in the middle of the road. Glancing over her shoulder, she watched her husband stare off, his grey eyes locked on the rolling waves as they lapped against the piebald coast in the distance.

“Hold my leg, so my dress doesn’t blow up,” she called. “Eilian!”

“Sorry!” He snapped to attention and held her billowing gown, his prosthetic hand resting behind her knee, as she looked into the hood. “Are you certain you don’t need help? I feel bad just watching.”

“It’s fine. I don’t think there is room in here for you, anyway.”

Leaning into the front of the cab, she brought her face close to the boiler as the heat of the kettle stung her cheeks. The metal coils of the heating element had melted into a blackened cake that smelled of burnt hair. Using the sides of the hood for leverage, she pivoted back until her satin boots met the road’s white gravel. Staring down at her cream dress, already streaked with soot and grease, she sighed and wiped her hands across it before smoothing a lock of henna hair behind her ear.

“I can’t fix it. It’s burned out.”

“We could take the bicycles into town. I don’t think it’s that far.”

“Let’s just wait for Patrick to come back. You know he won’t be long.”

As Hadley lingered in the road, reconnecting the pipes and organs from the disemboweled car, Eilian listened to the pastoral silence. Under the waves and the rustling trees, there was a faint noise he couldn’t identify and it was growing louder. Gravel hissed on the other side of the bend. By the time the steamer broke from the tree-line, it was barreling down the narrow lane. Eilian waved his arms to catch the driver’s attention, but he never slowed. Wrapping his arm around Hadley’s waist, he darted and turned, falling back onto the grass in time to watch the car hurtle past in a blur of steel and wood.

“Good Lord, he nearly ran you down!”

Hadley sat in her husband’s lap, arms and legs wrapped around him. As she tried to uncurl her legs from his lap, the muscles of her thighs locked and shook. Resting her head against his collar, she inhaled the sweet, earthy scent of sandalwood that lingered on his skin and let him hold her a little longer. If he had been slower— She shook away the thought.

“It’s no different from London. They would sooner run you over than look at you. Help me up, and I’ll finish before someone else comes.”

“No, let me do it. I’m already part metal. What’s one more limb?” he replied, kissing the top of her head and carefully disentangling himself from her skirts.

Watching Eilian from the grass, Hadley smiled to herself. The mechanized fingers of his right hand flexed at a thought, reattaching the engine’s cords and tubes with ease. It had been a year since they met, when she came knocking on his door with a tape measure and an idea for an electric prosthesis. They had shared a tent in the dusty lunar gorges of Palestine while she was disguised as a man, but there would be no more charades or mutterings from his mother about scandal or imagined impropriety. Now, they could finally be together. A thrill laced through her breast at the thought of such liberty.

“Incoming!” she called as a steamer chugged down the lane, slowing to a stop a few yards away.

Eilian stepped out of the way, his eyes trailing to the black-haired woman in the driver’s seat and beside her, his butler clamoring out the door. Patrick burst from the cab, sputtering apologies and half-formed phrases.

“Pat, slow down. I can’t understand a word you’re saying,” Eilian said as he joined him at the steamer’s hood.

Taking a deep breath, Patrick pushed his glasses up his nose and collected his thoughts. “Sorry, sir. She’s willing to take you and Lady Dorset up to Brasshurst Hall. I’ll stay behind and wait for the mechanic.”

The woman with the full features of a Caravaggian saint climbed out of her cab, her voluminous skirts rustling with each step. Her dark eyes ran between the young man with the wayward hair to the woman in the stained dress at his side. “Sorry to intrude, but your valet said you were headed for Folkesbury? I am headed that way now if you would care to join me.”

“That is very kind of you, Miss—?”

“Mrs. Rhodes,” she replied, walking back toward her steamer while the butler dithered between the trunks and bicycles tethered to the back of the hissing steamer.

Eilian held the passenger door open for Hadley to slide in. “I hope we aren’t inconveniencing you.”

“Not at all, I was heading back home. Brasshurst Hall is on the way.”

A pang of guilt rang in the pit of Eilian’s stomach as he watched Patrick grow smaller behind them.

“I was surprised to hear you were headed for Brasshurst. No one has been up there in ages. I almost didn’t believe Argus—my husband—when he told me the earl’s servants were coming up from London to clean the house. Are you his guests?”

Hadley’s lips twitched into a grin, and she shot her husband a knowing look. “He is the earl.”

“Oh.” Mrs. Rhodes’s eyes left the road long enough to search the nobleman’s face for any sign of offense while her own cheeks burned. “I beg your pardon, Lord and Lady Dorset. I— I was expecting someone… older.”

“No harm done, Mrs. Rhodes. You were probably thinking of my father. I have only been the earl for a few months, and I— Is that the house?”

Over the tops of the closely clumped elms and oaks, the spire of a tower rose. As they cut through the brush, Eilian’s eyes widened. Knowing his father, he had expected a conservative Georgian brick manor with a square roof and a smooth face, but the house was like none he had ever seen.

Brasshurst Hall was an asymmetrical monster. It had a Gothic portal and face on the front, a Palladian annex shooting off the side complete with columns and pediments. Straining his eyes, he could make out the latticed windows of a sultan’s harem floating above another layer of cathedral spires and pointed arches. The weathered grey-brown cloister stone was half-covered with ivy and wisteria. Following the gravel drive across an old stone bridge, the orangery appeared. The greenhouse’s glass and metal body bulged from the side of the manor like a verdurous boil. No wonder his father chose to move them to London.

When the steamer slid to a stop, Mrs. Rhodes swallowed hard, looking between her passengers. “I do hope you will call on us while you are in Folkesbury, Lady Dorset. My cousin is staying with us, and he has been eagerly awaiting your arrival. He lives in London, too, near Bloomsbury. You may have heard of him. Nadir Talbot, the novelist.”

“Yes, I think my brother read his last book, the one about Cleopatra. He enjoyed it very much.” When the woman’s eyes lit up, Hadley continued, “Thank you so much for giving us a lift, Mrs. Rhodes. I will most certainly pay you a visit once we are settled.”

Watching the steamer roll away, Hadley sighed as the grin fell from her cheeks. She would have to pay calls in a few days, drifting from house to house pretending she was the Countess of Dorset and not Hadley Fenice of Fenice Brothers Prosthetics. It was hard enough to pretend she was an aristocrat for a few hours at their wedding. How was she supposed to keep it up the entire time they were in Dorset? At least her etiquette books were packed in her trunk and Folkesbury seemed like a small town. Maybe no one would notice that she wasn’t a born aristocrat.

Eilian’s metal hand pressed against her palm. “So, what do you make of it?”

“It’s… different,” Hadley replied, her gaze running over the bright blue brace and ledge door set into the deep rings of the Gothic façade.

“I’m beginning to wonder if insanity runs in my family.” Eilian opened the door and turned to her with open arms. “Well, shall we?”

“You’re going to pick me up? Are you sure you can carry me?”

“I have before.”

Slipping his arms around her shoulders and behind her knees, he hoisted Hadley against his chest. She wrapped her arms around his neck and braced herself in case his prosthesis couldn’t bear her weight. Whenever he picked her up or held her close, part of her still wanted to look around to ensure no one was watching, yet she didn’t want him to stop.

“This is a silly tradition, Eilian. You don’t have to do this.”

“I want to; it’s good luck.” He kissed her cheek and pushed the door with his back. “The Romans believed carrying a bride over the threshold would protect her from evil spirits…”

Eilian froze in the doorway. The tunneled hall was dark, looming over them and pressing close to his head. While the floor had been swept and the old rug laid out, the ribbed arches were webbed with spider’s silk. As the dust motes danced and surged around them, he tightened his grip on her. Turning toward the sun’s rays, he reached to close the door but left it for fear of the shadows rushing in or what might lie beyond the threshold.

“I think we are a little late if we want to beat the evil spirits.” Hadley’s eyes roamed over the clots of long dead insects and debris spun into the grooves of the stone ceiling as he set her down. “I thought the maids were supposed to come and clean up.”

“They were. Maybe I didn’t send them early enough. There are only three of them, and I had no idea the house would be this large… or filthy.”

Taking Eilian’s hand, Hadley stepped into the great hall. The house groaned and yawned somewhere deep within. Hadley raised her eyes to the high Gothic windows and skylights she had seen on the drive up, but they were so choked with ivy they barely emitted enough light for her to make out the family coat of arms carved into the hearth on the other side of the room. A pile of furniture covered with once white sheets stood in the corner, blocking off the entrance to the dining room. The wood-paneled walls were caked in grime while the pointed arches in the upper arcade were cloaked in curtains of cobwebs as opaque as silk screens.

Rubbing her arms, Hadley stared into the mouth of the massive hearth. A granite lion’s head snarled back at her, a spider skittering from his drawn lips to his meager mane. She pulled a handkerchief from her purse and stood on tiptoe to wipe the crest above his head. An otter and a fox stood on either side of a shield surrounded by acorns and leaves. In the fox’s paw was a key while the otter clutched a scallop. Between them an oak sprouted, and a banner stretched across its roots. With her finger wrapped in the linen square, she scrubbed at the stone until the thin letters peaked through. It all had significance. If only she knew what.

“Eilian, what does it say?”

The earl squinted, tracing the letters with his fingertip as he pronounced the familiar phrase. “Salus in Arduis. A refuge in difficulties. Maybe in better days. Come on, let’s see if we can find the library or the orangery.”

Walking into the windowless hall, Eilian felt along the wall for the gas lamps’ switch but found only the dusty edge of a picture frame. He reached behind it, but when something in the shadows brushed against his hand, he lurched back, bumping into his wife. Raising his eyes, he met the face of a man in a powdered wig as the lamps lit with a gurgling sigh. The third earl stared down at him from the wall, the grey irises beneath the cocked brows and the signet ring on his finger were all that tied them together, and he still hadn’t been able to wear his father’s ring yet. He swallowed hard. So these were his ancestors. These were the men he had to live up to.

Eilian took a step forward but stopped, moving back with his eyes locked on the painting.

“What are you doing?”

“His eyes follow you.” He shuddered and tried it with the fourth earl’s portrait further down the hall. “Do we really have to stay here? Can’t we just go to Greece instead?”

Hadley rolled her eyes, avoiding the women hanging in a row on the opposite wall. Why look at them when she knew what she would see? They were a line of noblewomen, born and bred to be the wives of aristocrats, all perfected in oil and exuding a hauteur she couldn’t hope to emulate. She dreaded the day when she and Eilian would sit for their portraits, when their faces would be placed beside his ancestors and everyone would see the glaring deficiencies in the ninth Earl and Countess of Dorset. Reaching the end of the hall, she tugged at the pocket door. With each inch it slid, the thrumming hum of an engine grew louder, but on the other side stood the library. Eilian drifted in behind her, his eyes wide as they followed the bookcases up the wall where they melded with the coffered ceiling.

All of the houses prior eccentricities and sins were forgiven at the sight of the library, which rivaled his back in Greenwich. He ran his hand over the edge of the cabinet before turning the key and pulling it open. Books by Pliny, Archimedes, Al Jazari, and the Banū Mūsā brothers stared back at him. Carefully pulling the last tome from the shelf, Eilian cradled it against his chest with his prosthetic arm and turned the fragile vellum pages with the tips of his fingers. His gaze darted over the tight lines of Arabic and intricate schematics as he settled in at the divan under the window. He wondered who else had cared about ancient engineers.

Hadley’s cream gown floated at the edge of his vision until she knelt on the chair beside him and wiped at the window. She swatted at his shoulder, but his attention never wavered from the page.

“Eilian.”

He had never been able to find a pristine copy in Arabic, even in Cairo and Constantinople. His friends at the Oriental Club would be envious if they knew of his find.

Hadley gripped his shoulder and squeezed. “Eilian, look!”

Glancing up, he met her wide blue eyes, the freckles across her nose stark against her sudden pallor. She motioned for him to peer through the hole in the dust. Between the trees and dense foliage of the greenhouse, a figure sat in a wingback chair beside the algal pool.

“Someone’s in there.”


 

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Genre Fixation: Upmarket Fiction

In several posts, I have raged against the literary fiction v. genre fiction situation in the publishing world. One is held in high regard yet is often boring, the other is derided as trite or too commercial. As a writer who finds herself stuck in the middle of these two extremes and utterly frustrated by the hundreds of descriptors for genre and style, I never felt my work fit in any one category.

This week I discovered a new genre, upmarket fiction. This is the definition from editor Robb Grindstaff, “From an audience perspective, upmarket means fiction that will appeal to readers who are educated, highly read, and prefer books with substantive quality writing and stronger stories/themes. Upmarket describes commercial fiction that bumps up against literary fiction, or literary fiction that holds a wider appeal, or a work straddles the two genres.” The Book Genre Dictionary defines it as “Books in the upmarket fiction genre are made up of stories that merge the commercial and literary genres. The books appeal to well-read, sophisticated readers who want a high quality and complexity of writing, but that also have strong characters and plot. Upmarket genre books are often book club titles and inspire not only enjoyment of the story in a reader, but thought and discussion as well. The books consist of many layers of meaning and emotion, making them more complex.”

I must admit that I saw the definition and went, YES! This is what I have been looking for when describing my work. I’m not all genre and I’m not all literary, I’m somewhere in between. It’s always disappointing when readers see steampunk or historical fantasy and assume it will be action-packed. Sorry, readers, mine is not. There is action, but I find myself more focused on my characters. What are they going through? How are their lives affected by the events of the story? How are they changing through each story/trauma? I like to think of my characters are humans rather than archetypes or unchanging figures, which you sometimes see in suspense or action series where the main character goes on adventures through dozens of books. They stay in character for the entire series, but they do so at the expense of growth.

At its heart, I think this is what upmarket fiction is. It’s a book with genre fiction aesthetics (such as being set in a fantasy world, alternate history, or dystopia), but rather than focusing on the action only, the author pays more attention to the characters and plot than how much action drives it. The downside to upmarket is it sounds a bit… snobby. The main issue is where the definitions suggest only highly educated people will like upmarket, but I think what they really mean is people who want more than just 300 pages of action. Upmarket readers want a deeper connection to the plot and characters. They value complexity in not only the characters’ psyches but the plot. They want a book that makes them think.

I also tend to be a reader of upmarket fiction. I get frustrated with literary fiction when it’s a hundred pages longer than it ought to be and tends to ramble. With genre fiction, I get frustrated when the characters don’t change or don’t react appropriately to the horrors they are dealing with. A monster just tore his best friend to shreds, yet he decides to make out with his girl friend and only mourn his loss for two sentences. I need more substance but not the point of literary fiction where it once again becomes insubstantial.

Some upmarket books would be: The Golem and the Jinni, Water for Elephants, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and The Left Hand of Darkness.


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10 Bookish Confessions

To prove that I am a human being and to hopefully connect with my readers, I occasionally like to do “about me” posts. This time, I thought I would write ten book-related confessions about myself. Seems fitting for a blog about writing and books… and writing books.

  1. My favorite classic is Jane Eyre. I read it in 2013, and I was in love with Jane and Rochester (especially Rochester). Since then, I think I’ve read bits and pieces of it about four times. There’s something about a man whose ugly-handsome, scandalous, and willing to dress as a woman just to troll his date(s).
  2. I have a bracelet of some of my favorite novels. Yes, I’m a lit nerd, so much so that I commissioned an artist on Etsy to make a charm bracelet for me of my favorite books. The books in the pic are The Night Circus, The Mummy by Anne Rice, Jane Eyre, Souless, Frankenstein, and Johannes Cabal: Necromancer.bracelet
  3. My pets names have a literary theme. My dog’s name is Edgar, after Edgar Allan Poe. My cat’s name is Sherlock (Holmes), even though he’s more like a pudgy, blundering Watson, and my other cat, who passed when he was a kitten, was named Erik after the Phantom of the Opera.
  4. My favorite type of writing is that which is sensual and well-written. I love great plots and I love characters that grow, but what really draws me into a work is being immersed in it body and soul. I want to see it, I want to hear it, I want to experience every emotion that character is feeling. If the sentences aren’t good or the writing is flat, it immediately drops to three stars in my mind.
  5. My preferred format of book is paperback. I’m warming up to ebooks, but a paperback is still my favorite way to read a book. I like to hold it, display it, let others borrow it, and show it off, and with ebooks, I can’t do that. I tend to not read hardcovers because they’re cumbersome to lug around. My bag already is cripplingly heavy, and a two pound book doesn’t help. Also, I just find their bulk harder to hold. That and the ever shifting and sliding book sleeve.
  6. I’m a book-finisher. I can probably count one hand the books I’ve put away permanently because they were so bad. No matter how god-awful the book is, I feel the need to finish it. It may be cutting off my nose to spite my face, but there’s a part of me that still hopes the book will get better. Plus, no one can tell me that I missed the good part. No, my review stands because I read and finished the book.
  7. I will read erotica or romance, but I hate naked people on book covers. It’s a pet peeve of mine. I know sex sells, but not to me. I hate half-naked men and women equally. I don’t want to see your giant man-pecks or your pert derriere. An understated cover that is closer to sensual or intriguing than arousing is more my style. I tend to avoid books like that. This is also why I am on the look out for a better version of Teleny. I am embarrassed by the cover (not only half-naked but hideously drawn).
  8. Of my two books thus far, The Winter Garden is my favorite. I know we aren’t supposed to have favorite children, but I really, really love book two more than book one. There’s been so much personal and professional growth since I wrote The Earl of Brass, but I also just love the characters. Out of all of my characters, I think I connect the most with Immanuel. The Winter Garden is also a much darker story, and as a writer, I thoroughly enjoy writing twisted characters and delving into some rather complex emotions.
  9. I have a thing for fancy bookmarks yet rarely use them. I love fancy bookmarks. Ones with tassels, fabric ones, paper ones, metal ones, ones that are silly, ones that are artsy. It doesn’t matter, I want them. Oddly, I tend to use scraps of paper or folded post-its most often. Over the years, I’ve lost a lot of beautiful bookmarks, so now, I’m afraid I’ll lose them. Currently, I’m actually using adorable silicone seedling bookmarks my cousin got me.
  10. My favorite genres are: historical fiction, historical fantasy, and Gothic horror. When I say Gothic horror, I’m thinking like Dorian Gray or Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. Horror with some upper class panache. If the book has a tie to the past and is able to submerge me in it from cover to cover, I’m sold.

Well, there you go. Ten bookish things about the Awkward Authoress.


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Project Announcement: The Book Three Journey

The title of book three of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices will be:

the earl and the artificer titleThe Earl and the Artificer will soon have its own Goodreads page in a few weeks, once I solidify the plot a bit more and can come up with a working blurb.  In the meantime, I can give you a little background into what will happen in book three.

Eilian and Hadley Sorrell are back.  Newly married and at the urging of his mother, they journey to Dorset to visit his ancestral home, Brasshurst Hall, and meet his tenants. What they didn’t expect to find is a manor built on Ancient Roman ruins complete with a greenhouse that hides a secret, a plant long thought extinct that once drove the empire’s prosperity, and an estate manager who seemingly appears out of nowhere.  As Hadley comes to terms with her new role as the Continue reading

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On Being a Female Writer

The other day, I was required to read Virginia Woolf’s “Professions for Women” and A Room of One’s Own for my Women and Autonomy class.  I’ve read them both several times over the course of my schooling, but after publishing, I think they resonated more.  Both pieces discuss the issues and hindrances women have in the world, particularly the writing/publishing world, and despite the works being written about eighty years ago, I think a lot of the problems still persist.

Woolf discusses the prejudice women face when writing because the literary canon is male-dominated.  The publishing world was established by men, for male works, and often the only way for women to enter that field is through subversion.  In the 19th century, the Bronte sisters wrote as the Bell brothers in order to publish their works, and today, writers like J.K. Rowling use initials when publishing in fields that are “not for women,” like science fiction and high fantasy.  If Rowling was writing romance, chick lit, or bodice-rippers, then she could have easily used Joanna Rowling, but because she was writing a story about a young boy in a magical setting, her publishers believed her book wouldn’t sell as well with a woman’s name on the front. Pfft, I mean, women don’t write fantasy well, right? She adopted the initials J.K., which relate back to her real name, but they also harken back to J.R.R. Tolkein, one of the fathers of the fantasy genre.  When Rowling decided to branch out into crime novels, she switched pseudonyms to a outright male name.  Why would she do that if her name is already famous and would draw crowds? Well, crime fiction is another genre where women are often kicked to the curb.  Unless you’re someone like P.D. James (neutral pseudonym) or Sue Grafton (whose female detective hit me as a man masquerading as a woman), you will probably not be taken seriously. To break into this genre, Rowling and/or her publishers believed she had to be a man to do so.

Sadly, I have seen this in real life.  At a book fair, we were rained out, so I was parked inside next to a huge table of female romance writers.  As people walked past my table where I sat with my boyfriend (who came as a second set of hands and a coffee-runner), they asked about my little brown book… to my boyfriend.  Quite a few people thought he was the author.  I wondered why, especially when I was the one trying to engage customers. Did they think I was some lackluster Vanna White? My hypothesis is that my little brown steampunk novel is not what one would expect from a female writer. No stock photos of women in ballgowns or half-naked couples, which is what people seem to expect from female authors.

I recently read an article saying that in the New York Times’ book review section, books by men make up sixty-something percent of the reviews.  Why would there be such a disparity?  Men’s work couldn’t possibly be that much better than women’s writing, but the explanation may lie in what the New York Times deems worthy of review, literary fiction.  The definition they are using of literary fiction is a novel that doesn’t fit any genre conventions (no wizards, no space travel, no steam-powered devices, and no straight up romance. Plot vs. character driven is irrelevant at this point). It seems men write genre fiction and women do not. This little tiff between lit and genre can be seen in Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel The Buried Giant and how he made the comment that it wasn’t fantasy and that his previous book wasn’t scifi when the book had elements of it.  Ishiguro is automatically a literary fiction writer despite the fantastical elements in his work while a writer like Ursula Le Guin openly states her books are scifi.

Why is Le Guin okay with her books being “genre” fiction while Ishiguro isn’t? Because genre fiction is the niche women have carved for themselves over the last century.  Even though men still dominate certain genres, women authors are more likely to be found in the genre categories of Amazon than men. Even though amazing authors like Le Guin, Rowling, and Rice write in this area, the canon and literati consider it lesser than “literary” fiction.

The same is emerging with self-publishing. More women are self-publishing than men.  Why? Because they can subvert the traditional publishing industry, which has not been as open to them as it has been for men, and self-publishing is the niche where they can succeed.  Strangely, Woolf self-published all those years ago.  She had the right idea, and it’s lasted until today.

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