Thursday, 5 January 2023
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
― T.S. Eliot
The start of a new calendar year can be a bit of a strange time. For better or worse, the previous twelve months are over, and it doesn’t matter how you feel—good or bad, nostalgic or relieved—you can’t go back. But there is so much potential too. The future never seems more accessible than in the New Year. It’s right there at your fingertips, a bit like turning the page to read the second book in a series. Maybe you have some expectations based on what came before, and maybe there are a few things that you wish would go a certain way, but really, anything could happen.
Of course, real life is a little different because the year ahead hasn’t been written yet. We can choose. And to that end, today’s blog post contains my three reading and writing resolutions for 2023.
I have to admit, I didn’t make any resolutions for 2022 because I knew that real life was probably going to get in the way (and it did). I’m sure 2023 will bring its own surprises, but hopefully I’ll still have time to discover some new stories ☺.
1️⃣ Finish writing the fourth book to complete the Beyond Androva series
I can finally stop calling Averine’s story “the fourth book” because it has a title and a tagline! The title is Bound in Magic, and the tagline is below.
Divided loyalties. Stolen magic.
Some bonds are made to be broken.
Here’s a short extract:
I stared back at him, my throat so tight and dry that I couldn’t have said anything even if I’d wanted to. I felt about two inches tall. All day I’d been bracing myself for him to be angry about the bond, and I’d missed the point entirely.
2️⃣ Read a complete YA fantasy series from my TBR list
I haven’t finally decided yet, but I’m leaning toward choosing The Folk of the Air, by Holly Black. Everyone tells me that Jude and Cardan have the ultimate enemies to lovers arc, and I’ve seen some amazing quotes from the books that really make me want to understand the context.
“Cardan’s gaze catches mine, and I can’t help the evil smile that pulls up the corners of my mouth. His eyes are bright as coals, his hatred a living thing, shimmering in the air between us like the air above black rocks on a blazing summer day.”
“Have I told you how hideous you look tonight?” Cardan asks, leaning back in the elaborately carved chair, the warmth of his words turning the question into something like a compliment.
“No” I say, glad to be annoyed back into the present. “Tell me.”
“For a moment, Cardan just stares at me with stupid, crow-black eyes. Then one corner of his mouth curls. “Oh,” he says. “You’re going to regret doing that.”
3️⃣ Start writing something new
I’m going to explore one of the other worlds discovered by Androva before the treaty. I like the idea of keeping a link to the original series, although it won’t be a spin-off in the way that Beyond Androva was. Depending on how Bound in Magic ends, I think Galen and the others deserve a little peace and quiet!
Androva opened portals to seven new worlds including ours. So far, I’ve written about Imbera (Controlling Magic and Breaking Magic) and Xytovia (Beyond Androva series). That leaves Lignora, Hiberna, Trowen, and Distorra to choose from. Maybe Terra will figure again too—it depends how the world-building goes and whether it makes sense to include a Terran character. I can’t wait to find out.
Have you made any book-related New Year’s resolutions? And if you’ve read The Folk of the Air, would you recommend it? Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and I hope you have a brilliant 2023 💕.
“The world before us is a postcard, and I imagine the story we are writing on it.”
― Mary E. Pearson
An aesthetic is a form of visual inspiration. And when you’re writing a story, it’s also helpful if your imagination has a focal point—something to make sure you don’t get carried away with too many new ideas. Putting together a collection of images about the central themes and characters can be a great way to make sure you stay on course. Also, it’s a lot of fun ☺.
I’m past the halfway point in writing the fourth Beyond Androva book, and that’s when I would normally create a new aesthetic. But it’s also the beginning of December—time for Christmas decorations and holiday-themed reading choices. So for today’s blog post, I decided to include some seasonal aesthetic content too.
There are also a couple of Christmas stories in previous blog posts featuring the Legacy of Androva characters. The first one takes place at the end of Seeking Magic, and you can find it here. The second one is an epilogue to the series, and I posted it here.
A is for Averine
I’m really enjoying the challenge of writing Averine’s story. When I first started, I thought she had everything figured out in terms of who she was and what she was doing. That’s the way I tried to write her, but it didn’t go so well. Eventually, I realised my impressions of Averine were based almost entirely on what Kellan believed, and his perspective was incomplete. Averine’s reality turned out to be a lot more complicated! Which makes sense, I guess, especially after what her father did. And that’s without the additional complications created by a new villain and a dangerous magical bond.
Here’s the aesthetic. Most of the images are related to alchemy, Averine’s chosen profession, or Phidiom, the new territory she visits during the story.
B is for Blenheim
I visited Blenheim Palace last weekend to see The Kingdom of the Snow Queen. Blenheim is a famous stately home in Oxfordshire, built over three hundred years ago as a gift from Queen Anne to the first Duke of Marlborough. These days, it’s open to the public and famous for its Christmas activities.
I was surprised that the combination of extravagant fairy-tale decorations and a centuries-old palace worked so well. I don’t think my photos do it justice! And the storytelling journey was perfect, starting with a giant Christmas tree resting on top of the evil magic mirror, and ending with the Snow Queen herself.
Of course, I had to choose a Snow Queen retelling for this year’s holiday reading. I decided on Queen of Snow, by Laura Burton and Jessie Cal.
Welcome to the Chanted Forest, where Fairytales are real... but not as you know them.
After losing his grandfather, Jack feels lost, unsure of what his future holds.
Until he sees the reflection of a beautiful young woman inside his grandfather’s mirror. A mirror he never knew existed.
She beckons to him, and he’s pulled through a portal to the Chanted Kingdom where fairytale characters are real.
Princess Aria’s family was killed by the Evil Queen, and after spending a year running for her life and hiding with Robin and his band of misfits, she’s so close to completing the Mirror of Reason, which she plans to use as a portal to leave the Chanted Kingdom forever.
All she needs is to catch a young man named Jack in exchange for a mirror shard. Things get complicated as Aria’s feelings for Jack, as well as her ice powers, start to grow stronger. Soon, she finds that using her powers to save everyone she loves, will come at a great cost.
C is for Cat (or Christmas Cat)
The final aesthetic is just for fun. My cat is a big fan of Christmas because she thinks the tree and the decorations make perfect cat toys. Four years ago, she actually climbed the tree and knocked it over, but fortunately she learned quickly and hasn’t repeated the experience!
Thank you very much for visiting my blog today, and I wish you happy holidays and happy holiday reading 💕.
“Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle
Halloween is almost here, and the creeping shadows and chilly mists of autumn create the perfect backdrop if you’re in the mood to read a few scary stories. There is something magical about October in the fiery colours of the leaves and the golden sunshine that hasn’t quite lost the warmth of summer. But there’s also a sense of foreboding. Very soon, the leaves are going to fall. The days will become shorter. And anything that might be hiding in the darkness will have a lot more freedom.
Today’s blog post is the latest in my Five Fairy Tales series. Two years ago, I chose Beauty and the Beast. Last year, it was Rapunzel. This year, each of the five retellings is different, and because it’s Halloween, they’re all on the darker side.
I think it’s fair to say that most traditional fairy tales started out a little dark. Here are a few examples from the original versions…
It isn’t Snow White’s stepmother but her biological mother who becomes jealous of her daughter’s beauty. When the huntsman returns from the forest carrying what is supposed to be Snow White’s heart, her mother actually goes right ahead and eats it. And when Snow White marries the prince, he forces her mother to dance herself to death in red-hot slippers in front of all of the guests. Not the wedding entertainment you might expect from a fairy tale!
The story of Sleeping Beauty doesn’t end when she wakes up. She goes on to have two children with the prince, and it turns out that the prince’s mother isn’t happy about her new grandchildren. At all. She waits until the prince is away, then she orders her cook to kill the children and serve them for dinner. In an alternate version, the prince is already married, and it’s the prince’s wife who orders the cook to serve the children for dinner… to the prince. Fortunately, in both cases, the children are saved, and the guilty parties are punished. The wife is burned alive, while the mother-in-law is eaten by a barrelful of vipers.
And finally, Cinderella’s stepmother isn’t the only parental figure to mistreat her. Cinderella’s father is alive and well throughout the original version, and he actively helps the stepmother in her evil schemes. Later in the story, when the prince is searching for the owner of the slipper, the stepsisters go to extraordinary lengths to make their feet fit. One cuts off her toes and the other her heel. They are found out when their blood soaks through the slipper. And at the end, the stepsisters have their eyes plucked out by a couple of Cinderella’s vengeful white doves.
I frighten pretty easily, and my imagination needs no encouragement to run away with itself. Full-on gory horror isn’t my thing, but at this time of year, I enjoy reading something a bit scarier. As long as the lights are on and I’m not alone in the house of course!
Here are my Five Scary Fairy Tales accompanied by some short extracts. Does Halloween influence your reading choices? What’s your favourite scary story? Thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕.
Asleep, by Krystal Wade
Inspired by: Sleeping Beauty
Description: Rose Briar has been committed to an asylum by her parents. Her determination to escape is undermined by terrifying nightmares that make her question her sanity, and she no longer knows what’s real. Can she trust her doctor? Or is Phillip, one of the other patients, right about the doctor’s evil intentions?
Extract (Rose’s first night in the asylum):
This isn’t real.
But the lights wouldn’t turn off.
She tried the switch five more times, ten, fifteen, before movement out in the hall caught her attention.
“Hello?” Rose called again, turning the handle and yanking. Locked. Of course. “Please. Dr. Underwood, if you’re out there, I need your help. Something’s wrong with me. I don’t feel well. Help!”
A tall, dark figure cloaked in black rose from beneath the table where she and the guy had sat earlier. Oh so tall. The figure stood there, unmoving, the cloak billowing as if being blown by a breeze.
Rose rubbed her eyes. Not real, just a dream, she kept telling herself, but she didn’t feel like she was asleep. She didn’t feel like she could wake up either.
Fathomless, by Jackson Pearce
Inspired by: The Little Mermaid
Description: Celia has the power to see a person’s past, a power that seems insignificant until the day she meets Lo. Lo used to be a human and is now a creature of the sea, clinging to the shreds of her former self even as her memories are washed away, one by one. When a boy named Jude falls off a pier, Celia and Lo work together to save him from drowning. They become friends, but their friendship is complicated by their feelings toward Jude. And Lo is desperate to reclaim her humanity by persuading Jude to love her… and stealing his soul.
Extract (before Lo meets Celia and Jude):
And then he was dead.
And nothing else had changed.
Lo stared at her hands, at her feet, waiting for the pale-blue colour to turn back to shades of peach and pink. Waiting for the urge to surface, to gulp air happily, to swim to the shore and run on the sand.
It didn’t come.
“Everyone has to try it for herself,” Ry said gently, swimming closer. The boy’s body listed on the ocean floor like seaweed. Lo felt sick; she doubled over and hid her head. “We all did. But it never works. You can’t make them love you that fast.”
Vassa in the Night, by Sarah
Inspired by: Vasilisa the Beautiful
Description: Vassa lives in the enchanted kingdom of Brooklyn with her stepmother and stepsisters. The nights last a very long time in Vassa’s neighbourhood. Babs Yaga, the owner of the only store open past midnight, has a policy of beheading shoplifters—and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. When Vassa’s stepsister sends her out for lightbulbs, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. In her pocket, Vassa carries a gift from her dead mother, a tough-talking wooden doll by the name of Erg. With Erg’s help, Vassa might have a chance of surviving the night. But Babs won’t be playing fair…
Extract (Vassa leaves for the store):
“It’s after midnight,” I tell her, moving slowly down the stairs while I’m talking. I’ve decided I don’t want Stephanie to be able to pretend later that she didn’t know. “Steph said I should go to BY’s.”
I can’t see Stephanie from here, but I can see Chelsea’s face waking with outrage as she swings around to glare at her. “Stephanie! You know she can’t do that!”
“Why not?” Stephanie’s voice falls out of the door and bangs around the stairwell, bouncing off linoleum and glossy green paint. “They only kill shoplifters at BY’s. Scummy, sneaky thieves. Why would that be a problem for Vassa?”
House of Salt and Sorrows, by
Erin A. Craig
Inspired by: The Twelve Dancing Princesses
Description: In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed. Annaleigh has already lost four of her sisters, each to a death more tragic than the last. Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, she becomes convinced that the deaths were no accidents. The girls have been sneaking out at night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn. She isn’t sure whether to stop them or to join them. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?
Extract (Annaleigh describes her older sister, Octavia):
One of her favorite stories was of a girl who always wore a green ribbon around her neck. She was never seen without it, at school, at church, even on her wedding day. All the guests said she made a lovely bride but wondered why she chose to wear such a plain necklace. On her honeymoon, her husband presented her with a choker of diamonds, sparkling like mad under a starlit sky. He wanted her to wear them, and only them, when she came to bed that night. When she refused, he stalked away, upset. Later he returned to find her asleep in their big bed, naked save for the diamonds and the green ribbon. Snuggling next to her, he stealthily removed the ribbon, only to have her head roll off her body, neatly severed at the neck.
The triplets delighted in that horrid story and asked for it again and again. When Octavia died, they wrapped back crepe around their necks with ghoulish affectation.
Forest of a Thousand Lanterns,
by Julie C. Dao
Inspired by: The Evil Queen
Description: Eighteen-year-old Xifeng is beautiful. The stars say that in spite of her humble peasant roots, she is destined for greatness, that she is meant to be Empress of Feng Lu. But only if she embraces the darkness within her. And to do that, she must spurn the young man who loves her and use the callous sorcery of the god whose magic flows through her veins. A magic that draws its strength from eating the hearts of the recently killed.
Extract (Xifeng encounters the serpent god):
A voice spoke inside her mind, gentle and familiar, one that had spoken at the edge of her hearing many times before but never so clearly. The moon shines down upon us, beloved…
The images melted into each other, but Xifeng could still sense Guma there, sinking to her knees with her hands outstretched in prayer… or apology.
Something shifted in Xifeng’s chest. She had heard its growl of fury earlier when she saw Ning looking at Wei, but this was something else, something new: a lazy, satisfied preening, like basking in sunlight. If she closed her eyes, she might even be able to see the creature’s spiraling coils through the cage of her own ribs.
Embrace this boundless night, the voice said tenderly.
“Leave her,” Guma hissed from where she still knelt. “Let her be!”
Xifeng felt herself falling, heard the crack of her forehead against the edge of the table. Right before she sank into unconsciousness, she thought she saw the strangest thing of all: her aunt bending over her with tears in her eyes… as though she loved her.
Xifeng closed her eyes and let the darkness take her.