Books

Release Day is upon us! | The Heir and the Spare

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!!)

New release, The Heir and the Spare, opening line: "Only two people had to die for Princess Iona to become queen..."

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.

About the Author crossword in the paperback of Kate's new release, The Heir and the Spare

Here it is in all its glory. You’re welcome to try solving it if you can read past the blur filter I applied to the corners of the pic.

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.

The Heir and the Spare | Cover Reveal and Pre-Order

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…

cover image for The Heir and the Spare: a gold snake and bird face off against a leafy green backdrop

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!

The Heir and the Spare (Newsletter Excerpt)

Title plate: The Heir and the Spare, Chapter One

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.

Chapter One

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.”

“Why 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.”

She blinked.

“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—?”

“Your Highness!”

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.

Almost.

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.

You can pre-order the eBook now on Amazon!

The Legendary Inge: A Book Redesigned

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!

Cover image for The Legendary Inge by Kate Stradling

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!Interior of The Legendary Inge, including Ringerike chapter header ornament
    • 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.

Previous Readers

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.

Front and back cover: The Legendary Inge, with design features tagged by number

Not sure why this looks so green. Maybe because I made the .jpg from a CMYK-coded PDF.

The Breakdown

  1. Fonts:
    1. 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.
    2. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Forget-me-nots. I had to do it. That’s my favorite dagger in the book, and I think it represents my heroine well.
  5. Runic Text A lists some of Torvald Geirson’s smaller blades. From the top: Daffodil, Cricket, Forget-me-not, and Firefly.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

In Summary

  • 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

Homed in on a Book Update

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

Paperback

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.)

Old and new editions of Goldmayne: A Fairy Tale; the new one homed in on better readability

Old in front, new behind; what a difference a font can make!

Ebook

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.

Two notes:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?)

Oliver Invictus | Official Reveal and Pre-Order

If you read between the lines of my last post, this one will come as no surprise. I’m pleased to announce the upcoming publication of Book 3 of the Annals of Altair: Oliver Invictus arrives on September 18, 2019.

You can pre-order the ebook HERE. Hooray!

Oliver Invictus book cover

Summary: Oliver Invictus

Dead at Fifteen

Oliver Dunn’s life is officially over. Pulled from his bed in the black of night, he’s headed for the Prometheus Institute’s mysterious shadow campus, where anomalies like him vanish forever.

But no sooner does he leave Prom-F than the school descends into chaos. The student body revolts, classmates make a break for freedom, and one silent, powerful projector among them corrals the adults into a hive-minded collective of slaves.

Yanked back from his impending doom, Oliver’s mere presence restores order. The Prometheus heads demand that he ferret out the rogue projector, but he’d rather die than cooperate.

His life is already over. They can’t threaten him with any fate worse than his own. But they can threaten the one person in the world he actually cares about: his former handler, Emily Brent.

If you haven’t read the first two books of this series, that summary might raise a lot of questions. If it’s been a while since you read them, ditto. Because I’m a giver, I’ll go ahead and post links for those two books as well:

Book 1: A Boy Called Hawk

Book 2: A Rumor of Real Irish Tea

That’s it for the announcement part of this post. A new book! Go forth and pre-order!

Or, if you’re game, stick around and read on.

Background Notes

I always considered the Annals of Altair complete at 2 books. This is apparent in their structure, which is pinned to the US Constitution. A Boy Called Hawk uses the main body for its chapter numbering (Preamble, Articles, and Sections) and A Rumor of Real Irish Tea uses the amendments (27 in all).

My younger self thought it was funny to have the Constitution as a meaningless frame for a hypothetical future in which that document itself had become meaningless. Actually, my current self thinks it’s funny too.

So.

A third book was not on my radar. What was I supposed to pin it to, the tax code?

The Plot Thickens

Still, I had family members that asked for more, and I knew that more happened beyond the scope of those first two books. Besides, if the original structure was meaningless, and meaninglessness was the point, then abandoning it for a meaningless chapter-numbering system would be fine.

Confident in that reassurance and the knowledge that I don’t have to publish everything I write, I tackled a third book for NaNoWriMo.

Back in 2015. (Seriously did not realize it was that long ago, but the timeline checks out. Tsk tsk, Kate.)

The story stalled at the third act, as my stories chronically do. I played with it a bit over the years, but it was definitely a back-burner project.

Why?

Well, I’ll tell you.

This series gets the least amount of traffic among my literary canon. Not a surprise. It’s dystopia lite instead of the gossamer fantasy that is my usual fare, so it’s easily skipped. It was also more like a personal art project than a commercial endeavor. Hence, for a while, I saw it as my weakest link.

We don’t draw attention to the weakest link.

But I truly love the story and its cast of characters—on both sides of the conflict. My initial vision to spin a yarn about four kids escaping an oppressive government morphed into a tale about the rotten little antihero tasked with bringing them back. By the end of the second book it was clear that Oliver and Emily were more the main characters than Hawk, Hummer, Honey, and Happy. I’ve always known what became of them afterward, and part of me always wanted to write it.

However, it seemed self-indulgent to work on a book that strayed so far from my perceived fantasy brand, and that few people—if any—actually wanted to read.

So what changed?

For my birthday last year, I sat down and conducted an inventory of my writing: unpublished projects, planned-but-unwritten projects, and works-in-progress. The list was kind of a slap in the head: I had 20 books in some form of development, not including my notebook of story kernels, and not including the six published books I still needed to switch over to my imprint.

The creative pile-up weighed me down. When you have too much debt, you get rid of the smallest one first. Thus, Oliver Invictus, 75% complete, moved up in the work queue.

(As a side note, the idea for Soot and Slipper hadn’t even occurred yet. I’m not great at managing my plot bunnies.)

The final impetus to complete the draft came from a comment on my blog last April. It’s one thing for people you know to ask for more of your work—there’s always a voice at the back of the head saying they’re only being polite, or that it’s their way of expressing a compliment. It’s quite another for a stranger to speak up. That’s a call to action.

And, as it happens, answering that particular call was within my ability. So.

Long story short (too late)

I estimate that roughly twenty people outside my own family might actively want this book. I hope more than that will read and enjoy it, but if its total market saturation is only those twenty, I still consider it time and effort well invested.

Mostly because I want this book.

Whether Oliver Invictus has a large audience or a small one, I’m excited for its readers to experience the next leg of this upside-down world.

And why September 18th?

It’s Oliver’s birthday. It seemed a fitting day to bring his story to light.

Annals of Altair series book covers

Look at these covers, you guys! They look like they belong together! +1 Branding skills for me!

Soot and Slipper | Cover Reveal and Pre-Order!

Hey, remember how I was writing a sequel for Namesake? I wrote a Cinderella adaptation instead. It’s based on Charles Perrault’s version of the fairy tale, I’ve called it Soot and Slipper, and it releases April 1st.

Because April Fools! It’s the wrong story!

(But in all seriousness I’m still working on the other one, just slower than anticipated.)

Anyhoo, because this is only a novella (~35K words), the writing and publishing processes have seemed more like a whirlwind than usual. Today, I’m pleased as Punch to bring you the summary and cover reveal.

Soot and Slipper: A Summary

Eugenie lives in isolation on her father’s estate, with only her elegant stepmother and two stepsisters for company. When the crown of Jacondria announces a series of royal masquerades, she yearns to go. However, her stepsisters’ fortunes hinge on them finding wealthy husbands, and Eugenie doesn’t want to interfere with their odds.

Enter a mischievous fairy who has other plans.

A scant few hours of light-hearted revelry seems harmless enough. By the fairy’s own rules, Eugenie can’t stay the whole night, and with everyone in costume, her stepfamily will never know she was there.

Really, how much trouble can result from attending a masquerade or two?

And now for the eye candy…

Soot and Slipper book cover

Isn’t it pretty?! I have a soft spot for the pale pink/dark gray color combo anyway, and this just exploits that to its fullest.

But wait! There’s more!

Want a preview of the first chapter? You can read it over on novelthree.com.

More importantly, do you want the ebook added to your Kindle library on release day? It’s up for pre-order on Amazon.

Rejoice and wonder, my dear friends!

(Yes, this is the first time I’ve done a pre-order. And yes, that’s why it’s only a week in advance.)

There will be a print version as well, hopefully around the same time. I’m waiting for a physical proof in the mail, and if everything checks out, I’ll give it the thumbs up when the month turns.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Novella Release: Brine and Bone

So. My novella, Brine and Bone, is now available on Amazon.

Here are the links: print and eBook.

I hit “publish” at 12:01 a.m. yesterday and then went to bed. They say it can take 72 hours for the pages to appear in Amazon’s marketplace, but they were up by 8:00 a.m. However, the product image was missing, and I liked the cover enough that I wanted it there before I shared any links.

By the time it showed up, I had moved on to other things.

Which is why this announcement comes a day late.

(For shame, I know. I’ll go sit in the corner and think about my actions.)

Brine and Bone novella release announcement

A Novella Conundrum

Every time I release one of my monsters into the wild, I fight a raging temptation to make excuses for it. Usually I resist. Today, I will cave on two points:

  1. It’s only a novella. (Picture Patsy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail muttering that line.) The novella is a lovely medium, but it’s small and requires narrative constraint, by design.
  2. I’m playing in someone else’s sandbox. The story is pinned pretty closely to the Andersen fairy tale. Of course I interpret it through my own lens, but I also tried to honor that original source. (In other words, if you only know the Disney retelling, don’t @ me with complaints, lol.)

As a side note, Amazon’s spellcheck tool apparently dislikes words that rhyme with “bitter.” It flagged me for the variants of “chitter,” “flitter,” and “jitter” that occur within this book. I had a brief existential crisis before confirming that these were, in fact, real words.

And then I had a brief introspection on why my narrative might have gravitated so often toward *itter words. (Pretty sure variants of “glitter” and “litter” are somewhere in this book as well.) The jury’s still out. I will strive not to fall into a phonetic rut on future projects, though.

And that is all. Go forth, my beauties!

Summary and Cover Reveal: Brine and Bone

Merry Christmas, everyone! ‘Tis the season for a cover reveal!

Yes, miracle of all miracles, I have a cover and summary for my Little Mermaid novella, Brine and Bone. Without further ado…

Summary:

TWO WORLDS COLLIDE

Magdalena of Ondile adores the crown prince of Corenden, but she’d sooner die than admit it. Ejected from the royal court, she spends her days at a sage’s seminary, where her sparkling memories and destructive empathy magic prey upon her.

Until the ocean rips her charming prince into its depths.

When Magdalena discovers him washed ashore, her rescue-by-happenstance draws her back to the glittering palace and its stifling rules. But Prince Finnian’s miraculous return attracts more than the nobility of the court. The eerie creature that spared his life would gladly reclaim it, even if staking that claim requires a sacrifice of flesh and endless torment.

Cover Reveal:

Not sure why, but the .jpg looks a lot more blue-saturated here than in its preview file. There are some lovely silvery shades in the water ripples, but you cannot see them. Oh well.


Brine and Bone cover reveal

Release Date:

I told the Library of Congress that I was publishing in January 2018. They say to request LCCNs early, and I feel pressured not to let them know that they are the last item on my list of Publishing Things To Do. So even though they’ve always responded within 1-2 days, I push my deadlines back a month or more when communicating with them.

(Contacting the LOC designates true commitment. I like to keep open my option to abandon ship as long as I possibly can. But at least I have a deadline now, haha.)

It’ll probably be later in the month, because I still need to get my proof of the paperback and I refuse to pay for expedited shipping. I am toying with setting up a pre-order for the eBook, but as I’ve never done that before, it’s a toss-up whether I’ll follow through.

(Wishy-washy nature, thy name is Kate.)

Anyway, because this is a novella (roughly ~35K words), the eBook price will be $0.99. The paperback will probably be $7.99, and I think I can do a match-book to make the eBook free with purchase, for anyone who might want both.

(I know. Promises, promises.)

Long story short, I’m ready to have this thing off my projects list so I can move on to other more important items.

In the meantime, if you want to read excerpts, they are here and here.

And a Happy New Year to all!

And Suddenly, a Book Release: Namesake

I know I’m supposed to do something grandiose for a book release, but my anxiety is already through the roof. So, I’ve pulled the trigger and I’m moving on. Namesake is now available on Amazon.com.

This is your courtesy notice, haha.

Namesake book release

The Book Release Saga: What Took So Long?

One of the many issues that I battled last year involved determining where my writing was going and whether it was time to throw in the towel and move on. I love to write, but I’m not a responsible author.

(See the above casual book release for a reference point to that statement.)

The publishing world is flooded with hard-working people who seem to have clear goals and ambitions. I.e., the exact opposite of me. It’s easy, on reading their experiences or advice, to feel like I have no clue what I’m doing, that I’m only pretending, that I don’t belong in this industry, that I’m doing everything wrong, and that everything is futile anyway.

And when that happens, my anxiety disorder flares and claws its way up my throat from my stomach, and I unplug from life for a couple of days. NBD.

In late April, I went to lunch with a dear friend, Tamara Passey, who graciously discussed her first-hand experience as an indie author. During our conversation, she asked me what my goals were.

And I confessed that I didn’t have any, other than to write really, ridiculously well. (I’m working on it, guys. I totally am.)

Among other encouragements, Tamara gave me permission to make temporal goals. And she provided me with the framework for how to set up an imprint.

So I did.

And that’s what took so long.

Eulalia Skye Press

Eulalia Skye logoYou might notice, going forward, this handy little sigil in or on my books. I may or may not start switching titles over. I may or may not open those titles up for wider distribution.

I may or may not commit to half a dozen things, but here’s what I have done:

  1. I registered an imprint. It took me about a month and a ton of brainstorming to settle on a name. I love that it is oddly quirky and that it plays with fantasy elements while still having a sense of grounded-ness to it. Somehow, random as “Eulalia Skye” is, it fits my writing.
  2. I bought a block of ISBNs. This commits me to this industry for a few years yet, mostly because it wasn’t a block of 10. With seven books out, I’d blow through those without batting an eyelash. (Yes, I have 100 ISBNs. I’ve used 2 so far for Namesake. Only 98 more to go. Breathe, Kate.)
  3. I registered with the Library of Congress. Namesake has an LCCN. It’s listed on the print-edition copyright page and everything.

There have been a million other tiny processes and procedures. Each has been a personal battle, because in many ways I feel like I’m stepping down a path blindfolded.

But I’m doing what I can to move forward. One… terrifying… step… at a time. And, theoretically, the next book shouldn’t take nearly as long on the publishing side.

(Theoretically. Ha.)

Last Hurrah

If you’ve read this far, thank you. I have been blessed by so many who have given encouragement when they didn’t even realize I needed it. (And many of whom may not have known they were giving it.)

You guys are awesome and inspirational. When I grow up, I wanna be like you.