Blog tour ends today!

Today is the grand finale of my book blog tour! Make sure you scroll to the bottom to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway for copies of each of these books–I’m really pleased to be in such good company!

On tour with Prism Book Tours.

It’s the Fantasy Prism Tour Grand Finale for
Spindle
By W.R. Gingell
Servant of the Crown
By Melissa McShane
The Frey Saga
By Melissa Wright

If you love fantasy, we hope you enjoyed the exclusive content shared on the tour. 
If you didn’t get a chance to check out each book and their stops now…

SpindleSpindle
by W.R. Gingell
NA Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 300 Pages
August 10th 2015

She’s not a princess . . . but then, he’s no prince.

Polyhymnia is deep in enchanted sleep. High in a tower, behind an impenetrable barrier of magical thorns, she sleeps, dreams, and falls ever deeper into her curse.

Woken by a kiss, Poly finds herself in an alien world where three hundred years have passed and everyone she has ever known is dead. Luck, the enchanter who woke her, seems to think she is the princess. Understandable, since he found her asleep on the princess’ bed, in the royal suite, and dressed in the princess’ clothes.

Who cursed Poly? Why is someone trying to kill her and Luck? Why can’t she stop falling asleep?

And why does her hair keep growing?

Sometimes breaking the curse is just the beginning of the journey.

“What If…” Guest Post @ Mythical Books

With Spindle my what if? was what if Sleeping Beauty wasn’t actually the princess? From that first little seedling of what if? I also ended up with what if she slept for more than three hundred years instead of one hundred? I was fascinated with the thought of how much life would have changed for her. Language would have evolved and passed her by, her loved ones and family would almost certainly be dead, and both the political and social aspects of life would have changed completely.

More at Mythical Books.

W.R. Gingell

W.R. Gingell is a Tasmanian author who lives in a house with a green door. She spends her time reading, drinking an inordinate amount of tea, and slouching in front of the fire to write. Like Peter Pan, she never really grew up, and is still occasionally to be found climbing trees.

Website – Goodreads – Twitter

Servant of the CrownServant of the Crown
(The Crown of Tremontane, #1)
by Melissa McShane
Adult Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 405 Pages
July 15th 2015 by Night Harbor Publishing

Alison Quinn, Countess of Waxwold, is content with her bookish life—until she’s summoned to be a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Tremontane’s mother for six months. Even the prospect of access to the Royal Library doesn’t seem enough to make up for her sacrifice, but Alison is prepared to do her service to the Crown. What she’s not prepared for is Prince Anthony North, Queen Zara’s playboy brother, who’s accustomed to getting what he wants—including the Countess of Waxwold.

When the fallout from an unfortunate public encounter throws the two of them together, Alison has no interest in becoming the Prince’s next conquest. But as the weeks pass, Alison discovers there’s more to Anthony than she—or he—realized, and their dislike becomes friendship, and then something more—until disaster drives Alison away, swearing never to return.

Then Alison is summoned by the Queen again, this time to serve as Royal Librarian. A threat to Tremontane’s government, with her treasured Library at stake, draws Alison into the conflict…and into contact with Anthony once more. Can they work together to save the Royal Library and Tremontane? And can she open her heart to love again?

Exclusive Excerpt @ Brooke Blogs

“Without thinking, Alison whipped her hand out of his grasp and brought it around hard to slap the Prince’s face. The sound of her bare palm striking his cheek carried unnaturally far in the crowded, overfull ballroom. The dancers nearest them stopped to stare, and their stillness spread outward until half the floor was occupied by unmoving figures. The music went ragged and then stumbled to a halt. The Prince stood with his hand pressed to his cheek, his eyes wide and unblinking in surprise. Alison felt her breath coming in short, quick pants that left her dizzy…”

More at Brooke Blogs.

Melissa McShane

Melissa McShane grew up a nomad, following her family all over the United States, and ended up living in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains with her husband, four kids, and three very needy cats. Her love of reading was always a constant during those uncertain years, and her love of writing grew out of that. She wrote reviews and critical essays for many years before turning to fiction, and was surprised at how much she liked it. She loves the fantasy genre and how it stretches the imagination.

Website – Blog – Goodreads – Pinterest

The Frey SagaThe Frey Saga
by Melissa Wright
YA/NA Fantasy
Paperback & ebook, 779 pages
February 1st 2013

This collection includes The Frey Saga Book I: Frey, Book II: Pieces of Eight, the short story Molly, and Book III: Rise of the Seven.

Unaware she’s been bound from using magic, Frey leads a small, miserable life in the village where she’s sent after the death of her mother. But a tiny spark ignites a fury of changes and she’s suddenly being hunted by council and forced to rely on strangers for protection. But the farther she strays from home, the more her magic and forgotten memories return and she starts to suspect the band of strangers are not what they seem. They help her find her rightful place and destroy the bonds, but securing her future might be more than she can do with magic alone.

Exclusive Excerpt of book I, Frey, & Sneak Peek of book IV, Venom and Steel @ Beck Valley Books

    “The library was chaos. Books and pages, precious scrolls and ancient casting ledgers strewn over the wood plank floor. I’d never seen this room molested by their madness and the shock of it had me stumbling to a standstill. They had lost all regard for it, broken their own rules. They were a wild people, but they did have at least some barriers.

    If there was one thing the fey respected, it was knowledge.”

More at Beck Valley Books.

Melissa Wright is the author of the Frey Saga and Descendants Series. She is currently working on the next book, but when not writing can be found collecting the things she loves at Goodreads and Pinterest.

WebsiteBlog – Goodreads – Twitter – Pinterest – Instagram

Tour Giveaway

$30 Amazon Gift Card (INT)
Signed copy of Spindle (Us only)
Print copy of Servant of the Crown (US only)
Ebook of The Frey Saga (INT)
Ends September 18th

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Young adult fiction doesn’t equal safe

A few months ago I published my second book, THE SMOKE-SCENTED GIRL, and immediately noticed something interesting: a number of reviewers seemed to think it was a young adult book. It was a little disconcerting. I wrote it as an adult novel, with adults who have adult concerns–I suppose it could be called New Adult, since the characters are all in their early 20s, but I tend to think of New Adult as applying to contemporary fiction.

So I stepped back and looked at the book from what I hoped was an impartial eye, and found some traits I think might make THE SMOKE-SCENTED GIRL look like YA fiction:

  • There’s no sex or swearing. (I’m pretty sure about the latter. I tend to forget unless I’ve used really strong swears.)
  • The prose is simple.
  • The plot isn’t terribly complicated.
  • Adult readers, based on the response, are comfortable giving it to their teenage children to read.

And this is where it does get complicated. I spent years reviewing and critiquing young adult fiction (a subject for another blog post) and YA fantasy has always been one of my favorite reads. So I’m the last person to be embarrassed about reading, or writing, YA fiction. On the other hand, because I’ve spent so many years in this genre, I also have a good idea of what’s being published in it and what sort of books qualify for the category. My book really, truly doesn’t. YA fiction is not actually defined as “books teens read.” Teens read, and have always read, adult books. They’re assigned adult books in their high school English classes. And I’m not sure anyone’s willing to call A TALE OF TWO CITIES a YA book. I’ll address the difference between “YA books” and “adult books teens happen to read” later.

But it’s that fourth bullet point I want to look at more closely now. One of the things I’ve noticed over the years is that many parents who want their children to read, who want to encourage them to read, are lost when it comes to choosing books for their kids. With good reason. They can’t afford to read everything they give their kids. And a lot of these parents are concerned about the content of their kids’ books. So they go looking for ways to pick from among the hundreds of thousands of choices, and one of those ways is to look for the “young adult” tag, however it appears–books in the YA section of the bookstore or library, frequently. Their belief is that YA titles must be acceptable because they aren’t adult novels, with the swearing and sex and violence they contain.

But many parents don’t realize one important fact: YA does not mean “safe.”

The key distinguishing feature between a young adult novel and an adult novel a teen chooses to read is simply that YA books describe the experience of being a teenager. And that experience is not always pretty. Teens these days live in a world of violence, in which profanity is common (visit your local high school if you don’t believe that) and sexual experiences are becoming the norm. Divorce, abuse, rape, mental illness–all serious subjects that many teens deal with on a personal basis. Kids can’t be spared knowing about these things even if they manage to stay aloof from them. And kids need ways to process these experiences. That’s one of the things books do–give us ways to understand the things life throws at us.

Here are a few of the YA books I’ve had to defend to very surprised parents:

THE MONSTRUMOLOGIST, Rick Yancey: Though this is a horror/fantasy novel, and the protagonist Will Henry’s experiences are in no way realistic, dealing as they do with cannibalistic monsters and rotting corpses, Will Henry’s growth as a character comes from discovering who he is when he’s thrown into an adult world that makes no allowances for childhood or innocence.

SAVING FRANCESCA, Melina Marchetta: Harsh swearing and casual references to sex, a no-no for a lot of parents, but this also deals with the serious issue of mental illness and how it can tear a family apart. Francesca’s problems extend well beyond her mother’s mental illness, but this is also about friendship and what it means to no longer be alone.

FIRE AND HEMLOCK, Diana Wynne Jones: Incredibly complicated plot and a semi-appropriate relationship between a teenage girl and an adult man, this is still one of the great works of YA fantasy almost 30 years after its publication. This one isn’t challenged so much for content as for the idea that it’s too hard for a teenager. I’m pretty sure that should be up to the teenager.

THE HUNGER GAMES, Suzanne Collins: No one argues with me that this is YA fiction; the argument I tend to get is that it shouldn’t be read by teens because of extreme violence and “disturbing” images (not that I know what this means). Again, this is a story about fighting an unfair world, and what teen can’t relate to that?

DEERSKIN, Robin McKinley: The rape and incest are the more disturbing for not being described in detail, but I’ve had parents complain because they were familiar with McKinley’s other books and didn’t expect to find this kind of content in a retelling of a fairy tale. Never mind that most fairy tales, in their original versions, are dark and disturbing and terrifying.

I’m opposed to censorship. I’m not opposed to parents trying to make good decisions about their children’s reading. I’m not at all offended by parents thinking THE SMOKE-SCENTED GIRL is a YA book–I’ve given it to my own kids. But choosing a book solely because it’s marketed as young adult and thinking it’s therefore “safe” isn’t the way to achieve that.

What about you? What YA books would you defend as appropriate for teenaged readers despite their content?

 

New Release!

servant experiment 2My latest book, SERVANT OF THE CROWN, is now available for purchase in print and as an e-book at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and more!

NEW RELEASE—The Smoke-Scented Girl

The Smoke-Scented Girl

My new book, THE SMOKE-SCENTED GIRL, is available today! Set in a world very much like our own Victorian England, it tells the story of Evon Lorantis, a magician of the country of Dalanine who invents and refines spells for use in his country’s war against an implacable, seeming unstoppable foe. When the government brings him a mystery–a rash of fires, hotter and stronger than anything anyone’s ever seen–Evon sets out to discover what, or who, is causing them, hoping to be able to turn them to their country’s use in the war. But the truth behind the phenomenon is far stranger than Evon expected, and the woman responsible for the fires bears a secret that really might be able to win the war for Dalanine–if they can learn to harness it.

I really enjoyed writing this book. I wanted something that evoked the feel of early Victorian England, pre-Industrial Revolution but post-Regency. In Dalanine, magic is a commonplace, and even those who don’t study magic will have access to a few spells, particularly the communication spell that only requires a mirror and knowledge of the person you want to talk to. So in this world, magic takes the place of technology, and in Evon’s time people are just beginning to see practical, external applications of it, such as radiant heating and a form of X-ray “machine.” Eventually I plan to write a sequel featuring Evon’s best friend Piercy, who is a secret agent masquerading as a dandy and, like Evon, needs a change in his life.

Here’s the book for Kindle and in paperback.

Worldbuilding: The Gods of EMISSARY

Emissary

For my novel EMISSARY, the Pantheon was the first thing I created. I already had the idea of a woman who served the god of Death, and that this would be difficult because so many people feared that god, so I decided I needed other powers to balance against him. My husband (who is a long-suffering man who lets me bounce ideas off him) suggested that maybe these gods could come in pairs, one good, one evil. I liked the idea of pairs, but not of good versus evil because as far as anyone in that world was concerned, the god of Death was “evil” enough for any religion.

So I went with the concept of dualities instead: light and dark, creation and destruction, home and travel. There might still be “good” and “bad” paired with each other, but the idea was to show that each god was important and not necessarily harmful to humanity; destruction, for example, brings about new creation. I ended up with six dualities: sun/moon, sky/storm (this turned out far more complicated than I imagined), luck/fate, travel/hearth, forge/fire, creativity/madness.That gave me twelve gods, six male and six female. I deliberately didn’t make each pairing male/female, because I didn’t want the potential for one or the other sex to be identified with all the negative traits. This is how Kalindi, chief goddess of the Pantheon and goddess of the sun, is associated with her sister Kandra, goddess of the moon (and a whole lot of other things I’d love to explore in a later book).

Next I made notes about what each of these gods might be responsible for, other than the obvious. This led to the concept of people putting the sign of a god on their home or business, not just to proclaim their allegiance, but to invoke the good will of that god—which meant considering further about what that good will would look like. Nacalia’s supervisor’s “luck-eye” was a result of that thinking. It also meant working out what the worship of each god might look like. What would a mad god like Sukman want from his worshipers? Well, those worshipers probably would try to avert his attention by doing things that made them look already insane, so Sukman wouldn’t think they needed his attention. The theloi of Sintha, goddess of luck, put boxes full of tokens for people to take to see what their luck might be that day. Each god ended up with a longer list of things that someone might reasonably worship him or her for. (This resulted also in the creation of the twin gods, Hanu and Kanu, who are worshiped interchangeably because you can’t tell which you’re praying to until it’s too late. This is another thing I’d like to explore someday.)

Having established what the “portfolio” of each god was, I set about naming them. Some of the names, like Sukman, just came off the top of my head, but most of them were created with the help of the Baby Name Finder at www.babycenter.com. This is totally true. A good baby name generator is a writer’s best friend, because not only do you get names and meanings, you get countries of origin and alternate spellings and all manner of useful information. In this case, I typed in words like “home” or “destruction” and saw what names came up with related meanings. Then I took the ones I liked best and altered them a little, changing them until they sounded right. Some of them didn’t get changed much: “Chandra” (pronounced with a ‘k’ sound) turned into “Kandra” with just a spelling shift. “Ailausa,” goddess of destruction, was altered so much I can’t even remember what name it started as. Because symbols are important in EMISSARY, at this point I also came up with a symbol for each god. This was hard, because they had to be different from each other while still being related to the god they represent, and I’d already established some of the generic symbols Zerafine uses in her consolations. Sukman’s spiral ended up being more important than I’d first imagined, so I ended up glad that I’d put in that effort.

The last thing I did was just for fun: because I’d ended up with twelve gods, I figured I could map each god onto a month of the year, with five days left over for Atenas’s High Holy Days. It wasn’t relevant to the story except for a couple of comments Zerafine makes about the month of Ailausor (August) being so draining, but it was something I had fun with, and I’ve found I’ve never regretted being a little over-prepared. Again, it might come in handy in another book.

Having done all of this, I discovered that I had a very good sense of the world Zerafine inhabits—it wasn’t enough for a truly solid world, but it gave me a framework to hang things like government and architecture and social classes on. When I had to make later decisions about the world, I could refer back to the Pantheon and decide what would make the most sense in a world in which these particular gods governed much of human activity. Best of all, building the Pantheon was fun—and I’m strongly in favor of writing being as much fun as you can make it.