It should also become available on iTunes/Apple Books in the next few days. However, I am illiterate with that channel, so if the link is already up, I haven’t been able to find it. (Sorry ._. )
Of all my published works, this is the last one I expected to break into the audiobook market. While INGE is technically my bestselling title, it also sports a whole slew of Scandinavian names with somewhat different pronunciations than a reader might suspect. When my narrator cold-contacted me with an audition last fall, though, and promptly nailed all the names in her excerpt, how could I pass up the opportunity?
So, if you’ve ever wondered about how to pronounce Inge*, Gunnar, Jannik, Signe, et. al, wonder no more! (And if you haven’t wondered, maybe you should…?)
While we’re on the subject, I sold the audiobook rights to THE HEIR AND THE SPARE. Tantor Media has acquired it for wide release, so that title should appear on the audio market sometime in the next year.
(The acquisitions agent said it’s usually 3-5 months. It’s on their timetable, though, not mine.)
*does not rhyme with “hinge, singe, binge,” lol
It’s Release Day, my friends! THE HEIR AND THE SPARE is now available in print and ebook on Amazon.
First of all, a giant thank you to the pair of readers who not only waited up until midnight for the pre-order to drop, but then read the whole book and reviewed it. I discovered this when I went to check whether the paperback had linked in to the main page yet, and it made my day.
(Addendum: As of the writing of this post, a third reviewer has added their voice. Thank you!!)
Release Day Jitters
Full disclosure: my anxiety always flares whenever I push something new out into the world. I have a crippling fear of failure combined with a crippling fear of success, and I generally try to float between the two by aiming for mediocrity. (But not mediocrity of content, mind you, because I also have severe perfectionism at play. It’s a lovely cocktail.)
When I set up the pre-order, I made what I thought was a reasonable stretch goal, based on previous pre-orders and my intimate little author’s platform. If I reached that number, I could consider the book launch a success.
Well, multiply that “mark of success” by three. The response between my release announcement and today has overwhelmed me with gratitude and a fair degree of dread. I have been humbled again and again by how supportive and excited everyone has been for Iona’s story, and I truly hope it meets your expectations.
But if not…
(Haha, that’s the anxiety talking; I have to laugh it away. But seriously, if you hate this book, you have my apologies, and I wish you luck in finding a more palatable read.)
What’s this About the Author?
And now, for the actual purpose of this post. (Aside from the whole, “Yay! It’s Release Day!” sentiment.)
If you’ve followed my work for a while, you may have noticed that I like to play in the front and back matter. As a reader, prefaces and bios and such were the serious, official bits of a book that I always skipped. And then I started publishing and had to supply those for myself.
But I’ve never really taken myself seriously.
Long story short, I’ve put a different bio in 10 out of 11 books.
In the early days, this stemmed from my hobby-publishing status. I thought it funny to look at my life from different angles, twisted perspectives, etc. Since I haven’t done much more than education (boring) and writing (redundant information for a book bio), this ever-shifting self-definition helped me cope with having such a humdrum history to draw from.
When I formed my imprint in 2017, as part of my Official Publishing Persona, I decided to leave the quirky bios behind. I wrote a very staid, accomplishment-based summary and plugged it in for Namesake (2017) and Brine and Bone (2018).
And I would have continued on that track, except that my mom was like, “That’s so boring.”
My own mother.
Anyway, since then, the quirkiness has perhaps magnified. Soot and Slipper (2019) has a Shakespearean sonnet. Oliver Invictus (2019) has a mock-scientific field report. But if you’re looking at the back of the ebook for The Heir and the Spare, you’ll find a relatively tame, if not oddly ordered, account of my life.
That’s because the paperback bio is a crossword puzzle, and the ebook bio provides all the info you need to solve the starred clues.
I had considered leaving this as a fun little Easter egg for anyone who buys the paperback to find, but gosh darn it, that crossword was SO DIFFICULT TO MAKE AND I’M TAKING CREDIT FOR IT.
And that is that.
So anyway, in whichever format you encounter The Heir and the Spare, may you enjoy your sojourn through Wessett with Iona and Jaoven and Lisenn.
Seriously, everyone, thank you. This has been a lovely writing/editing/publishing experience, and I can now move onto the next project a happy little author.
Well, folks, the cat is out of the bag. My next novel, The Heir and the Spare, will release on February 19, 2021.
This is my first-ever kingdom adventure (fantasy without a magic system), and today I’m excited to bring you the summary and cover reveal!
The Heir and the Spare: A Summary
An evil princess, a ruthless persecutor, a wretched match.
Tormented at home and bullied during her studies abroad, second-born Iona of Wessett hides in the quiet corners of her father’s castle. Her art and music provide refuge, but her cruel sister Lisenn ever lurks like a monster stalking its prey.
Such has been her life for twenty years.
However, a promise of reprieve and retribution arrives when the neighboring kingdom of Capria proposes an alliance between their new crown prince and Wessett’s heir to the throne. The treaty will rid Iona of the toxic Lisenn, and the potential groom is none other than her erstwhile bully, Jaoven of Deraval. The marriage could not be more poetic: each deserves the misery the other might inflict.
Except that Jaoven, humbled by the war that elevated his rank, appears to have reformed, and the fate of both kingdoms now hinges on the disastrous union he’s about to make.
And the wrapping paper…
A big thank you goes to my brother, Russell. That’s his bougainvillea decorating the background. When he heard I was looking for a thorny, leafy shrub, he graciously volunteered it for the cause.
(I know you can’t see the thorns, but if you’ve ever encountered bougainvillea, you *know* they’re there.)
If you want a jump on this release, THE EBOOK IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER ON AMAZON.
Some fun facts
This is the first time I’ve taken a full-length novel from idea to publication within a period of six months. It’s also the first time I’ve used an epigraph rather than a dedication. Because of the quickness of the drafting/editing/publishing process, when it came time for me to make that decision, my mind drew a blank.
See, the family relationships in The Heir and the Spare are kind of strained, so I didn’t want the dedication to come across like, “Hey, beloved family member, this one’s for you!” *wink*
(Although, I guess I could have dedicated it to my cat.)
Dedication vs. Epigraph: What’s the difference?
A dedication marks the book as a formal offering to a person, cause, etc. as a symbol of the author’s respect or affection.
An epigraph is “a quotation that is pertinent but not integral to the text.” (CMOS 17th ed, 1.37)
In this case, I used Luke 17:3 (KJV), because forgiveness vs. retribution plays a thematic role in the plot. Also, that verse uses the subjunctive mood in two of its clauses, and I highly appreciate such nuance. #grammargeek4lyfe
Anyway, this whole project has been a whirlwind of fun from start to finish. I truly hope you enjoy it!
Author’s Note: This excerpt from THE HEIR AND THE SPARE is subject to change. Please excuse any grammar errors, typos, etc. that I haven’t caught yet.
Only two people had to die for Princess Iona to become queen: her father King Gawen, an aloof figure whose passing she would one day mourn, and her older sister Lisenn, whose grave she would gladly dance on should the occasion arise. Of course grave-dancing was frowned upon in Wessett and the likelihood of Lisenn dying first was minuscule, but that didn’t stop the younger sister from sheltering such an inclination in her heart.
And it had nothing to do with wanting the crown, because she didn’t.
“You look exceptionally nice today,” said a voice behind her.
Iona glanced up from the tray of art supplies she had been arranging—oil paints, brushes, pencils, rags—to her cousin leaning against the door casing. Aedan wore a kind expression in his drooping eyes, his brown hair framing his face in waves, perfect for a portrait. Shame he was supposed to be on the other side of the room, positioned between a pair of faux-marble columns instead.
“Thank you…?” she said, her intonation rising as though she were asking a question rather than accepting his compliment.
He pushed away from the jamb and strolled fully into her studio, hands in his pockets and a casual air about him. His dark eyes swept from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. “It’s your hair, I think. Your maid put in some extra effort this morning.”
Her fingertips ghosted against the style. Bina had insisted on working braids into her usual upswept knot, and Iona had been too sleepy to protest. While she preferred to keep her long blond hair in simple order, the occasional elaborate variation wouldn’t kill her.
Aedan shifted his focus elsewhere. “Sticking to your usual somber colors, though. You always seem like you’re in mourning.”
She looked down at herself and pitched her words to sound innocent. “The smock is white.” As if that counteracted the slate gray of the exquisitely tailored dress beneath it.
His mouth pulled to one side and he leveled her with a piercing stare. “Your sister doesn’t own the rainbow, you know.”
Iona suppressed a laugh and motioned him onward to his waiting perch. “I like my grays and browns.” When he made no move to ascend the set of his portrait, her nerves manifested in a warbling chuckle. “Bina did try to dress me in blue today. Heaven knows where she got the gown, but it was the color of a summer sky.” Wessett was barely halfway through spring, but the pale, incomparable blue had called to her nonetheless. It invoked warmth and brightness, a far cry from the thread of cool, damp breeze that wafted now from her row of open windows. Her studio, tucked into the ground floor of the castle’s eastern wing, had only an hour or two of good natural light in the morning, but never the warmth of the sun.
“You should have worn it,” Aedan said, with something akin to sorrow on his face.
Again she shooed him toward the set, impatient. “Why? I’d only get paint on it by day’s end.”
He gave her an odd look but finally walked on, hopping up onto the low scaffold to take his place between the columns. Iona, satisfied that they were beginning their session at last, picked up her palette and selected a long, thin brush from her collection. Before she could so much as touch it to paint, her cousin asked,
“What was the name you used when you were living in Capria?”
Her hand froze. A series of unpleasant memories flashed before her eyes. Carefully she broke the momentary trance and lifted her gaze to meet his. “Why do you want to know that?”
“Were you keeping it secret from me?” he asked, off-hand, and she had to concede the point. She’d told him four years ago, upon her abrupt return from the mainland, but she hadn’t spoken of Capria or her experiences there in ages. Plague her memory though they might, she refused to let them govern her life. Only her lady’s maid knew the full extent, and only because she’d witnessed it firsthand.
But refusing to speak of it when directly asked would only arouse suspicions. Even though Aedan knew a fraction of the truth, he needn’t suspect it still bothered her.
So, Iona focused on the half-finished portrait and quietly said, “I called myself Yanna of Ghemp.”
She leaned closer to the canvas, adding daubs of white to highlight the yellow-gold of her subject’s sateen breeches. “Because it lies in the furthest corner of their kingdom, with only a lower set of nobles who rarely sent their children to the Royal College. Why the sudden curiosity?”
Aedan didn’t immediately answer, and she might have let the conversation drop if not for the charged silence that possessed the room. After three more daubs of white, she stepped backward and to one side, the better to scowl at him.
“You don’t keep up with anything that happens at court, do you,” he said.
She huffed a laugh and resumed painting. “Why should I? I’m just the spare, here to ensure that my father’s bloodline continues on the throne into the next generation. If you want to speak of court, go find Lisenn.”
She didn’t miss the sneer that crossed his face, nor could she blame him for it. Had they been anywhere but her studio—had someone passed the open door to the hall or observed from the garden through the open windows—she might have rebuked him, but since they were alone and she shared his opinions of her sister, she merely allowed herself a wan smile and continued working.
His sudden interest in her time at the Royal College of Capria—four years, starting at age twelve—niggled at the back of her brain, but Aedan often wondered aloud about random things. Surely her parents weren’t considering sending her back, even if it was safe again. She dismissed the very idea.
The breeze helped dissipate the scent of turpentine, but it also worked a chill into Iona’s fingers. She had to pause to rub some warmth back into her joints. Had Aedan’s father commissioned the portrait later in the year, they might have set it in the garden instead of using the lavish backdrop of drapes and columns and worldly gewgaws angled in artistic opposition to one other, but the older generation loved their pomp and polished mementos. Perhaps she would propose a more casual study once this official one was complete. Aedan had an excellent face for painting.
But not, perhaps, a mind for tact. He abruptly said, “They’re coming to negotiate a treaty.”
Iona, absorbed now in the interplay of light and shadow on his canvas double, asked, “Who?”
“Capria. They sent the request last month. Their ship docked in the harbor this morning.”
She frowned, the words tumbling senseless against her own thoughts. Capria had fallen into civil war, the cause of her abrupt removal from its shores when she was sixteen. Of course she knew that conflict had resolved—such news traveled even to her neglected corner of the castle—but that had been more than a season ago. Wessett had helped the Caprian nobles with only a pittance of support during the worst of their battles, but the pair of countries had a troubled past so that hardly surprised anyone.
“Why would they want a treaty with us?” she asked.
“Probably to preempt your father from invading and taking them over when they’re already at their weakest.”
“Io, sometimes I can’t tell if you’re truly oblivious, or if it’s all an elaborate act,”Aedan said. “Capria has proposed a marriage alliance, their new crown prince with your sister, and the two thrones to combine in the next generation. They’re coming today to negotiate.”
Her chest constricted tight. She sucked in a controlled breath, torn between alarm and a strange, blossoming hope. “They’re marrying off Lisenn?”
“They’re negotiating it, I said. You little fool, do you understand what that means?”
The epithet didn’t bother her. Aedan used it more as a term of endearment than a malicious slight. His question, however, spiraled her into visual confusion.
Her cousin released a long-suffering sigh. “They’re sending their crown prince. He’s only a year or two older than you. That means you probably know him, and your parents will expect you at court as a member of the royal family to greet his entourage.”
Again she blinked, several times in rapid succession. Who was the new crown prince of Capria? The former prince’s assassination had kicked off their civil war, and his younger brother had died within a year. Both had been in their thirties, already married with small children, but traitorous militants had targeted their whole families. It stood to reason that the crown had fallen to another noble house.
But who? Someone near her age…?
The elite of the Royal College paraded through her thoughts, a catalog of proud and callous youths, scornful faces that delighted in tormenting their lesser peers.
In tormenting a nobody from backward Ghemp.
She almost flung her palette to the nearby table, fingers quick to work the buttons at the back of her smock. “Help me out of this,” she said on a gasp.
Aedan darted to her aid, deftly freeing her of the over-garment. “Are you going to wear the blue dress after all?” he asked, a gleam of approval in his eyes.
“What?” Iona peered past him to the open door. From further down the hall a set of footsteps echoed against stone walls.
“To court, to greet the—”
“I’m not going to court!” She shoved the wadded smock into his hands and bolted for the nearest window.
Aedan followed her to the sill. “But your parents—”
“I don’t care! I’m not going!” She was already slipping past the leaden frame, intent upon the narrow space between the bushes and the castle wall. As she dangled her legs off the ledge above the gravel four feet below, she glimpsed a figure in her studio door, and the voice of her father’s steward, Kester, filled the room she was in process of vacating.
“Your Highness, your most noble parents, the king and queen, request—”
Iona hit the ground running. If she never received the summons, she didn’t have to obey it. No one would expect her to attend the actual treaty negotiations. Or if they did, she could make her absence more prolonged. Perhaps she could masquerade as a dairymaid in one of Wessett’s far-flung valleys, or help with the early-season planting. The island was certainly large enough to hide her for a solid week or two.
Regardless, she could not meet the Caprian delegation. The nobles at the Royal College had prided themselves on who lay closest to inheriting the throne, and the lower that number, the more insufferable the bully. The worst of the lot, nine places removed from his illustrious birthright, had spearheaded every horrible movement within the school.
The war may have wiped out Capria’s royal family, but it had gutted their noble houses as well. Maybe he was dead. Maybe the crown had fallen to the twelfth in line, or the thirty-seventh. It didn’t matter. If they had a number, they behaved as monsters.
Kester shouted behind her. She glimpsed his more robust figure struggling through the window as she rounded the corner and passed beyond his line of sight. If she could reach the stable and commandeer a horse, she’d have much easier luck getting away, at least as far as the forest. The stablehands wouldn’t know she was expected at court.
Bina must have realized, though. That would explain the more elaborate hair and the plea for the sky-blue dress. Iona would have stuck out like a crocus in a snowdrift wearing such a color, and her sister would have wrung her neck. She thanked the heavens for keeping to her sedate gray, which might have passed as a servant’s garb if its make were not so fine.
Skirts hiked in her hands, she dashed across the back aspect of the castle. Gardeners lifted their heads from among the rose bushes and the flower beds, but she paid them little heed. The stable, with its long gravel courtyard, lay beyond the next corner. If she was lucky, Kester would give up pursuit and return to report her absence.
But luck eluded her, as it ever had. His shout echoed, the words lost on the wind between them.
Perhaps she would have to bypass the horse and rely on her own two feet. She barreled headlong around the next corner, into the shadowed porch that lay across the courtyard from the stable, only to collide with a body—or a whole collection of them. Swift hands grasped her upper arms to steady her.
“I’m so sorry,” she blurted, but as she lifted her gaze to the nearest face, the rest of her apology stuck in her throat.
She registered dark brown hair—cut close to the sides of the head in the Caprian style—along with an angled jaw and a pair of fine, hazel eyes she could never mistake. It was a face from her nightmares, Jaoven of Deraval, formerly ninth in line for the throne of Capria. He opened his well-formed mouth, presumably to inquire whether she was all right, but his initial concern melted into recognition.
A chill shot down Iona’s spine. The grip on her arms tightened.
“Yanna of Ghemp,” said her captor through gritted teeth. The flurry of movement her abrupt advent had created suddenly stilled, the air around her stiff and crackling.
“L-let me go,” she managed to say, but she only feebly struggled. She couldn’t escape his grip. She already knew as much. A fleeting glance toward the others of his party revealed more familiar faces, men and women who, though four years older than her last encounter with them, she could never mistake. She fixed her eyes on the most sympathetic of the lot, Neven of Combran, a brunet who had shared several of her art courses so many years ago. “Please.”
He offered her no help, though remorse practically bled from him.
“The rats always abandon a sinking ship,” Jaoven hissed, leaning in close. “So you fled to Wessett? And you’ve been living a safe and pampered life here ever since, while your countrymen fought and suffered and died—?”
Iona, cringing from her captor’s accusations, wedged open her eyes. Her father’s steward stood panting at the corner of the porch, one hand propping him against the stone wall as he gaped at the scene before him. His gaze traveled from Iona’s face to the hands that gripped her arms and then back.
Jaoven thrust her half-behind him, keeping a firm hold upon her as he said, with feigned cordiality, “Yes. I’m Prince Jaoven of Capria. We had the fortune of meeting one of our countrymen just now and were reacquainting ourselves.”
Kester’s attention flitted past him to Iona, a question in his eyes. She minutely shook her head, a silent plea for him not to name her as the true recipient of his message.
“You’re wanted at court,” he faintly said.
“Excellent.” A smile tinged Jaoven’s voice, his diplomacy on full display. “Do you lead us there?”
“Ah.” Kester looked again to Iona, but finding no command or contradiction, he skirted forward through the Caprian party. “Yes. Allow me to show you, please.”
Once the steward’s back was turned, Jaoven leaned close to her ear and whispered, “We’ll deal with you after this first introduction is over. You’re coming with us, but if you say a word out of line, you’re a dead woman.”
Then he passed her off to Nevan’s keeping with a muttered, “Do not let her out of your sight,” and pushed through his entourage to take the front position.
As the party moved together, bodies surrounded her on every side, men and women alike sparing her bitter glances. She didn’t recognize all of them. Some were certainly servants who would fall back before the official delegation crossed into the great hall, and others envoys who would participate in the negotiations but not this formal greeting. She picked out the nobles among them by the finery of their dress, six in total including Neven and the newly crowned prince. She could name five of them, fellow classmates from Capria’s Royal College.
Near the front, Elouan of Dumene—number twenty-four, in former years, and still as broad of shoulder and golden of coloring—pitched his voice low. “Jove, don’t let this put you out of temper. We need to make a good first impression on the royals here.”
“It won’t be a problem,” Jaoven replied, but the clenching fists at his side told another story.
Iona swallowed against a lump in her throat, her mind racing for any exit strategy she could formulate. To Neven she whispered, “You have to let me go.” As art students, they had shared many of the same woes four years ago. Surely he of all this group might sympathize with her.
Instead he dashed her fledgling hopes. “I can’t.” His attention flitted to the delegates and servants around them. “If your family abandoned Capria in its time of need, you have to face your punishment.”
With increasing dread, Iona buttoned her lips and marched. Strictly speaking, her family had abandoned the embattled noblemen of that land. What punishment it merited, though, was up for debate.
Neven’s hold upon her arm remained loose, but if she tried to break away, the others would dog-pile her. If he would only move to the edge of the group!
Ahead, Elouan and Jaoven continued their consultation. “Do you remember everyone’s name?” Elouan asked.
Jaoven snorted. “Please. I’ve recited them a hundred times since we got on the boat.”
“Say them again. If your mind goes blank at the wrong moment—”
“King Gawen, Queen Marget, Crown Princess Lisenn, Princess Iona. Happy?”
“I will be once this blasted meeting is over.”
“Because you’re looking forward to the days of negotiations yet to come?”
“Your father gave us very strict instructions.”
“Enough, Elou. I have too much on my mind already.” He cast a scowl over his shoulder, briefly meeting Iona’s gaze before resuming his purposeful stride.
Morbidly she wondered how his posture would change in the moments shortly before them. It was almost worth provoking Lisenn’s wrath.
They crossed the main courtyard and arrived at the entrance to the great hall. The Wessettan royal guards in their signature red cloaks lined the way. If any of them recognized Iona’s presence in the foreign delegation, they only raised their brows and shifted their attention elsewhere. No one meddled much with her doings, and because Kester led the group, her inclusion in it could invite no comments.
The steward paused on the threshold, turning back as though to speak. When his gaze met Iona’s her scowl prompted him to look elsewhere. “If you will wait here but a moment,” he said delicately to Prince Jaoven. Then, after a slight bow, he proceeded into the vast and airy room without them.
A crowd of Wessettan nobles lined the walls leading up to the central dais, where four thrones awaited the delegation.
“One of the princesses is missing,” said Elouan with a frown.
“Which one?” Jaoven asked, peering from the raven-haired young woman at the king’s right hand, then over to the empty chair at the queen’s left.
“The younger. That’s Lisenn next to her father.”
“Perhaps the other one’s absence explains the delay. They certainly left us waiting long enough.”
“Perhaps. Or she might not be in town. Our informants said they’ve housed their daughters in different areas of the country before, as a safeguard against any attacks upon the crown.”
Jaoven grunted. “Would that our people had been as wise.”
Iona bit her lips to contain a bitter laugh. She glued her eyes to Kester as he lightly hopped up the stairs to her father’s side and whispered in his ear. Lisenn’s pretty face contorted, proof that she overheard the hushed confidence, but she schooled her ire away again as her father responded.
Kester returned. He gestured inward with a grand, sweeping arm. In a voice that echoed from the vaulted stone ceiling, a cryer announced, “The crown of Wessett welcomes emissaries of Capria into its hallowed halls: Crown Prince Jaoven; Elouan, Duke of Dumene; Lady Denoela of Rosemarch…”
True to Iona’s expectations, the servants and untitled diplomats peeled away, leaving her and Neven near the back of the group, with only one man behind them. The list of names and titles continued as the official delegation processed across the checkerboard marble floor toward the waiting monarch. A murmur arose among the Wessettan nobles who noticed Iona in the foreign ranks. She resisted the urge to shrink out of sight, but it didn’t fully leave until she met Aedan’s gaze near the front of the room. He had every right to attend an assembly such as this, of course, but he must have bolted straight here the instant Kester followed her.
Which meant he either figured she’d get caught or else was curious about the Caprians himself.
When they locked gazes, he tipped his head, his brows cinched as though to ask if she had gone completely mad. She squared her shoulders and glowered at him.
The cryer finished his list of names and the delegation stopped ten feet in front of the dais. Prince Jaoven bowed and then straightened, waiting for his host to speak.
King Gawen, one hand tracing patterns on the arm of his throne, looked past the newly crowned royal to lock gazes with his own daughter.
“Iona, what are you doing?”
A stricken hush fell across the hall. The Caprian delegates exchanged confused glances, and Jaoven actually turned as though to discern where the king’s attention lay.
Iona, resigned to her fate, calmly extracted herself from Neven’s lax grip and skirted by the rest of the delegation. She spared Jaoven only a grim, sidelong glance as she passed, then she mounted the three dais steps and swept into the empty chair at her mother’s side. The fair-haired queen favored her with a smile.
Straight-backed and stoic, the second princess of Wessett met the horrified stares of her former classmates.
And she might have relished this wordless comeuppance had Lisenn’s glare not been drilling into the side of her head.
Thank you for reading Chapter 1! The Heir and the Spare releases February 19, 2021.
For the record, my parents taught me that gambling is wrong and nothing good will ever come of it, and they were 100% right. Don’t gamble. You will regret it.
The Bet Backstory
Five years ago in a fit of cynical self-reflection, I told my sister that I had reached market-saturation with my books, that I fundamentally lacked the skillset needed for successful indie authorship, and that I should quit and pursue another degree. (You know things are bad when Academia provides the most attractive safety-net.)
I love writing, but I’m terrible at marketing, and expecting my readers to word-of-mouth me into a higher degree of success was illogical. I needed to fish or cut bait, and since I knew nothing about fishing, the choice seemed obvious.
It was time to cut bait.
And she, in true caring-sisterly fashion, said, “No.” We went back and forth. I cited my dismal track record, my six obscure books, and my reluctance to publish in the first place. She cited nothing more than her unfounded optimism.
In the end she said, “Keep going, and five years from now you’ll see I’m right.”
Then she proposed a bet, and with all assurances of my looming literary failure, I agreed to her terms.
I even tweeted about it to mark the occasion.
The Bet Progression
This bet should have been an easy win for me. All I had to do was EXACTLY NOTHING.
Or so I thought.
2016 was a quiet year. I didn’t publish. Instead I vented my literary biases, through Average Everygirl, on this obscure little corner of the internet. To this day, I don’t know why my sales started picking up.
Was it the mysterious Amazon algorithm? Or some truly faithful readers? Did the simple act of blogging get my name in more people’s heads?
Regardless, by the time 2017 hit, my sister was like, “You know you already lost that bet, right?” And my mom would pipe up with, “I’m already planning to make your costume!”
So helpful and supportive.
On the surface, my life looks exactly like it did five years ago. I didn’t change houses or even tax brackets. I didn’t buy a shiny new car or receive a windfall of sweet, sweet cash.
And yet, by every metric publishing-wise, I’m better off. More sales, more page reads, more reviews than my cynical 2015-self could ever foresee.
So to all my readers—those who were with me in my pre-2016 doldrums, and those who have found me since—I can only say this: thank you.
I lost a bet, but the truth is, you lost it for me.
May the next five years bless you as the last five have blessed me.
Happy Halloween, all.
This week I completed my reformat of The Legendary Inge and officially transferred it over to Eulalia Skye. The revamped edition is now live on Amazon in both print and eBook!
Feast your eyes on this beautiful cover!
What’s new in this edition?
- The cover! (obviously, haha)
- Gone are the monochrome cartoon-style illustrations. The gray/blue color palette echoes the original’s cool tones, but with a more refined effect. (See further details below.)
- An interior bleed!
- The same ornament that graces the top corner of the cover repeats on pages within the print book: the title page, chapter headers, and front/back matter sections. This was my first time working with a bleed, and I love the result. It’s SO fancy.
- Discussion Questions!
- Handy for book clubs or other pondering purposes. Idk, guys. I wrote these up for a book club meeting a few years back, and I still had them. So, I tossed them in for funsies. You’re welcome.
- eBook only: Links to my newsletter signup and my Facebook Page.
- Oh, hey, I have a newsletter mailing list now (*cough* shameless plug *cough*):
FYI, if you’re new to this book and on the fence about whether to get it, the eBook will be $0.99 from July 3 – 5. I don’t do sales all that often, so take advantage.
If you previously purchased The Legendary Inge as an eBook, you have the option of updating your copy in the “Manage Your Content and Devices” page of your Amazon account. Amazon deemed this a minor quality update, so will not be notifying previous readers. Consider yourselves notified here.
Bear in mind that, due to the new formatting, the kindle locations have changed within the interior file. So, if you marked any passages in the old version, they might map to the wrong section in the update.
(I don’t know how, but Vellum apparently condenses the locations. Maybe it has more efficient coding or something. I only deleted like two words in my typesetter’s edit, so the book contents itself is basically identical to the original, minus a few embarrassing typos.)
And now for something completely different.
The Legendary Inge: A New Cover
My original cover took its inspiration from the Franks Casket, one of my favorite relics of the ancient world. In planning this reboot, I looked to a different style of Nordic relic: runestones. These monuments dot the Scandinavian lands, patterned with Viking carvings and winding runic text.
With that inspiration in mind, here’s the breakdown of elements in this revamped book-skin.
- Primary: Frances Uncial. I think what sold me is how much the letter <d> looks like an eth <ð>. I love the stabby serifs and the inconsistency between upper and lowercase letters.
- Secondary: Avenir Book and Junicode. Avenir is a lovely, no-nonsense sans serif, and its Book style has a nice, light weight to it. Junicode was non-negotiable (see items 5 – 7).
- Ringerike style ornaments. These come from designer Jonas Lau Markesson, who has some absolutely gorgeous Viking vector art. At only $15 for a commercial license, they were worth every penny. The ornament on the front also repeats on Chapter Headers within the print edition.
- Sword ornament: the crossbar of the hilt comes from a second set of Markesson ornaments. It’s also Ringerike style, but I had to add my own handle and blade to complete this. I love how the end product turned out. The book spine was the only place it could go without cluttering the aesthetic, but it fits well there.
- Forget-me-nots. I had to do it. That’s my favorite dagger in the book, and I think it represents my heroine well.
- Runic Text A lists some of Torvald Geirson’s smaller blades. From the top: Daffodil, Cricket, Forget-me-not, and Firefly.
- Runic Text B names some of the Virtue Swords: Diligence, Patience, Wisdom, Strength, Loyalty, Mercy, Valor, Respect, and Obedience (cut off at the margin). There were a couple more beyond the top of the book, but I wanted the most important centered in the line.
- Runic Text C is a transliteration of Beowulf 947-949a, the inspiration for this (ig)noble book.
Fun with Futhorc
“Oh, hey,” you might say. “Those runes are pretty awesome.”
And you’d be completely right. The runic alphabet (aka Futhorc, so named for its first 6 phonetic sounds) served as the writing system for Germanic and Scandinavian languages 1200 – 1800 years ago. Its design, primarily straight lines, makes for easy carving into hard surfaces.
If you want to play with futhorc runes, look no further than futhorc.com. This site makes phonetic transliterations from modern English words. It’s a lovely tool for all your runic needs. You must have the Junicode font if you want to use those transliterations digitally anywhere else, but that’s a free download and an extremely useful addition to any font inventory.
I used futhorc.com to verify the weapon names. I had to do the Old English lines of Beowulf myself, but I got to use stan and ear, so I have no complaints. (Stan reportedly has only one real-world attestation, and ear apparently belongs to Hel. So metal.) Anyway, not sure why I’m so obsessed with runes, but I jump at any chance to use them, so.
- The Legendary Inge is now part of the Eulalia Skye crowd
- The eBook will be $0.99 from July 3 – 5
- Previous eBook buyers can update their old version to the new one
- Futhorc is fun to play with
Kate’s List of Best Birds
#1: The Urutaú (Nyctibius griseus, aka Kakuy or Common Potoo)
Topping our list since 2018, this cross between an owl and a hand puppet finds its home throughout Central and South America. It doesn’t build a nest, but simply picks a post or upright trunk and lays an egg. Its finest feature is the self-satisfaction it displays when it tips its head skyward and pretends to be a piece of wood. While it doesn’t have the same spine-rattling moan as its cousin, the Great Potoo, its throaty little whistle is enchanting in its own right.
#2: The King Vulture (Sarcoramphus papa)
This beautiful scavenger silently judges you from a distance. Noted for his bright face and dignified plumage, he recently auditioned for the role of Hades in Disney’s upcoming live remake of Hercules. You may feel an unsettling desire to hug him, but resist the urge: his beak and talons can tear through human flesh. Like the Urutaú, he lives in Central and South America.
#3: The mockingbird who sings outside my window at night (Songus beautificus)
In a surprise upset, this humble singer rises to the third spot on our list. For the past week he has chirped his feathery heart out for hours on end, surrounded by darkness and an overwhelming desire for a mate. There’s something magical about birdsong at night, and since only the bachelor birds perform these little concertos, I’ll enjoy his musical etudes while I can.
#4 The Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae)
I mean, “superb” is right there in the name. This Australian native brings new meaning to the practice of mimicry as he struts around his rainforest. His tail feathers, when raised upright, resemble a Greek lyre, but he can also extend them over his head like a useless umbrella. He is currently in contract negotiations with Lucasfilm to provide sound effects for the next wave of Star Wars titles. Well done, little bird.
#5 The Snowy Egret (Egretta thula)
These unassuming gentlebirds inhabit much of North America, including my local riparian preserve. Smaller in size than their cousin, the Great Egret, they present a delightful, dignified form that includes bright yellow feet and a long neck that disappears when they tuck it close. Almost hunted to extinction in the 1800s they now thrive thanks to protections enacted on their behalf. This fortuitous conservation has enabled them to continue their long-running cosplay contest to see who can best impersonate an albino Frédéric Chopin.
- The Harpy Eagle, who would rip my face off if I didn’t at least give her a nod for how majestic/terrifying she is
- The Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, for being such an adorable little stink
Not All Procrastination
For the record I’ve also added 30K words to my current work-in-progress. That number should be higher, but I’m writing in 1st person POV, which I hate and which requires me to comb over a scene multiple, multiple times to make sure it’s not just talking heads and hand movements.
Did I mention I hate 1st person? I do. I can’t even stay present in my own brain for more than 5 minutes, let alone a fictional character’s. But, this story wouldn’t be the same in 3rd, so.
Anyway, which feathered friend tops your List of Best Birds?
(If it’s a shoebill, you can show yourself the door, and take that nightmare fuel with you.)
So in my pursuit of a productive year, I set myself some project deadlines and homed in on the first of the bunch. I’m happy to report that Goldmayne: A Fairy Tale has transferred over to my imprint. The updated ebook and paperback are both available.
The book received what I’m calling a typesetter’s edit. I.e., if a line or paragraph didn’t space itself well on the page I took the liberty of deleting a conversational tag or adverb. Sorry, not sorry. (There’s also a single line of dialogue that changed, primarily because it introduced a secondary context that wasn’t appropriate for the character speaking it, but I digress.)
Product Details, Ooh La La
The paperback interior is a VAST improvement over its earlier incarnation, if only in ease of readability. Typesetting guidelines put a boundary of 10 – 12 points for main body text. The old Goldmayne was in 10-point Garamond, because the book is ~122K words long. (My longest published work. Surprised?) Technically, that typeset met the prescribed boundaries, but the text was tiny, and I didn’t know at the time that Not All Garamonds Are Created Equal.
The new typeset is in 11-point Charter, with no hazards of eyestrain to be seen. It is lovely. It is also roughly a hundred pages longer, even though the text is about a thousand words shorter. (A prime example for why word count is the most accurate measure for the length of a book; page count is variable, depending on the set.)
The ebook got a reformat in Vellum, for a nicer, cleaner file. It just looks more professional all around.
And some extra good news? For this update, I kept track of any actual “quality” corrections I came across. The missing word in Chapter 16. An incorrect homophone in Chapter 2 (!). A couple of misspellings and some inconsistent usage (drily vs. dryly, for example). I finally gave up on “intransience” and replaced it with “permanence,” and I made a universal correction of “honed in on” to “homed in on.”
Which, to be fair, I’m still a little salty about. More on that below.
Long story short (too late), after I republished, I sent that list of quality changes to Amazon, and they have deemed this a “major update.” Meaning, if you previously bought this ebook, you should be getting an email that there’s a new version available. Whether you get the email or not, you can access the update in the Manage Content and Devices section of your Amazon account, if you so desire to have it.
- If you want to keep the old cover, don’t update the book. I have mixed feelings about the new cover, but it’s one of those things where I’m going to shrug and move forward.
- If you have highlighted passages you want to keep, maybe jot down their context on a notepad before updating. Kindle locations changed in the new formatting, so the whisper sync feature might map them to the wrong text section. (Idk, I never highlight in ebooks, so it’s not something I can check in my own copy of the file.)
And now, a usage aside.
Honed in on vs. Homed in on
In my ten years of publishing, no one has ever called me out for using “honed” where it was supposed to be “homed.” I am, quite frankly, shocked and disappointed in all of you.
No, no. I joke.
I discovered this usage argument a couple years back and was dismayed more than I can here express. The prescriptive rule states that “home in on” is correct and “hone in on” is an erroneous usage that has wormed its way into vernacular speech. “‘Hone’ refers to sharpening things! It has nothing to do with visual focus!” quoth the naysayers.
But here’s the thing.
My brain had a marked semantic difference between the pair of phrases. For my idiosyncratic usage “honed in on” denoted a sharpening of focus from across a distance, like a camera lens zooming in on its subject from afar. “Homed in on” implied movement toward that subject, like a homing missile closing in on its target. Basically, I had learned the “wrong” phrase as a separate semantic unit.
You guys, I get called out on the silliest things. Like, there are readers, bless their hearts, who delight in finding any little error they can (or perceived error, because they’re not always right, lol). This one would have been easy pickings. WHY HAS NO ONE EVER HOMED IN ON IT?
(Haha. I couldn’t resist.)
Anyway, after reflecting on the misalignment between my internal lexicon and the mainstream prescriptivism, this is an instance where I decided to capitulate. I have duly retrained my brain to save “hone” for sharpening tools or wits or talents, because it’s a good word and I don’t want it dragged through the mud any more than it already has been.
Thus, I’ve edited its misuse out of Goldmayne and the first two Annals of Altair. It’s still in the Ruses books and The Legendary Inge. (I mean, maybe. I haven’t actually checked, but I liked the phrase, so I’m assuming I used it on the regular.) Timeline-wise, I think I discovered the discrepancy during my drafting of Namesake, but if anyone comes across it there, feel free to snark about it. We can both have a good laugh.
Final Non-related Addendum
For the time being, I’ve set my whole website to shut off comment sections after 14 days. Too many Russian bots were bypassing my discussion filters, and I got tired of cleaning them out of my moderation queue. I’ll revisit this in a few months, but for now, if you want to comment, strike while the iron is hot.
(Unless you’re a bot, in which case, kindly take your shady pharmacy links elsewhere, please and thank you. Why you gotta ruin everything for everyone else, huh?)
At the beginning of the month, people on my social media feeds started announcing their word of the year. I’ve never done that lovely practice, but it got me thinking: “If I were to pick one word that embodied my hopes for 2020, what would it be?”
Ever so softly, the vast ether whispered back, “Discipline.”
And I laughed. Hahahahahahaha!
If there’s one thing I have lacked throughout my life, it’s discipline. In large part, my body has been a convenient vehicle to get my brain from one place to another. And since my brain’s favorite “location” is its daydream-du-jour…
Yeah. Exercise, sleep, and meals all take a back burner to whatever thought pattern I’m engaged in. I mean, I get to them eventually, but they’re not scheduled or anything.
Still, as much as I lack discipline, I idealize the concept as well.
Discipline: An Etymological Dichotomy
Discipline sounds austere, like a schoolmarm with a critical eye and a ready ruler. However, it also exudes wisdom, like an ancient sage who has mastered body and soul.
The word shares its root with “disciple,” both of them coming from the Latin discipulus, “pupil/student.” Earliest English usage had to do with the “punishment” sense of discipline, but as an outward sign of seeking self-control. People would discipline in order to invoke obedience to a certain discipline.
Thus the word speaks to a broadening of the mind through strict adherence to a study or process.
One who has discipline is learning and growing. They understand and honor boundaries, physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.
And ultimately, when I considered making it my 2020 theme, it begged the question, of what disciplines am I a student, and how well does my self-discipline reflect that?
Ideal Versus Reality
In my ideal, I’m a disciple of writing. In reality, I’m more accurately a disciple of YouTube. Much as I love daydreaming about scenes and characters and plots, the process of connecting the dots and developing all of those in a believable (or at least passable) manner is HARD WORK. It’s so much easier to pull up social media and see what their algorithm has to feed me.
So, in my quest to find self-discipline, I took a hiatus from the internet.
Last week, I had about four approved websites I was allowed to visit. Two of them were dictionaries. It was lovely and, yes, oddly liberating to say, “No, I can’t go there. I’m not doing that today.”
And what was the effect?
First and foremost, I got to bed roughly 2 hours earlier most nights. I had nothing to do in the evenings, so why not sleep?
Second, I found time to exercise (four days and a total of 150 minutes, up from zero the preceding week).
Work-wise, I re-typeset Goldmayne for its transfer over to Eulalia Skye. There’s a few tweaks left, but the book is basically ready for its cover. (And it’s going to be a fat book. 474 pages. Yikes. But the original typeset was in 10-point Garamond, and I’m not playing that space-saving game anymore.)
I also wrote about 1K words on Eidolon. Still wading through the weeds on how to connect all my plot-points there, but I ain’t gonna sneeze at what little progress I can make.
Long story short: internet bad, discipline good. So, for now, I’ll be keeping my online time to a minimum.
(But we loves it, precious, we does!)
For Discipline We Strive
In each of us exists both creator and consumer. We work, and we play, and we thrive when we strike a balance between the two. Right now, I need that balance.
So that is my word for 2020: discipline.
Wish me luck. And for those who have also chosen a 2020 word, good luck to you!