New release 12/17–EXILE OF THE CROWN

ExileoftheCrown-eBook (2)I never imagined, when I wrote the first three books of Tremontane, that Zara North would be so popular. In response to all the questions about what happened to her after SERVANT OF THE CROWN, I wrote a novella touching on a few events of her life over the fifty years (fifty years!) following her “death.” Titled EXILE OF THE CROWN, it’s available for preorder at–and it’s only 99 cents! I hope you’ll read it and enjoy it!

In other news, the third novel, AGENT OF THE CROWN, will be out early in 2016, and the fourth novel, VOYAGER OF THE CROWN, is due to be published by June of 2016. AGENT is the story of Elspeth and Owen’s daughter Telaine, and VOYAGER is Zara’s own novel. Following that is a trilogy about Willow North, the first North Queen, release date to be determined later.


Comfort Reading

It’s time to Tackle Your TBR Pile!

I admit it—my TBR pile is enormous. I buy a lot of books I fully intend to read sometime, honestly, or at the very least loan out to people, or keep on hand in case someone needs a book for a school assignment. So why do I so often, when I’m in need of something to read, return to old favorites instead of making a dent in the teetering pile?

Some days, when I’m tired or feeling a little low, reading is the perfect activity. But it’s those days when I’m least capable of tackling something new—when I really need an old favorite that’s worn grooves in my brain over the years. Sometimes it’s books I loved as a teen: Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia McKillip, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope. Sometimes it’s more recent favorites, like Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde (sequel coming out next year!), Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith, The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon, Sylvester by Georgette Heyer. I can slip into those worlds easily, knowing what to expect and matching the book to my mood. Comforting, and restful.

But there’s more to it than that. I may be reaching for these old friends for comfort, but I’m not the same person I was when I read a book the first time, or even the fifth or the twentieth time. Every time, I see something new, and in that sense even an old favorite is a brand new book. Sometimes that backfires: I’ve gone back to a book only to discover I’ve changed enough that I no longer love it, and that’s a horrible feeling. But mostly I find my comfort reads don’t change much over the years, and I’m grateful for it.

So here’s my challenge: what are your comfort reads? What stories do you come back to even though you’ve got fresh, new, potentially wonderful books at your fingertips? Leave your comments below from now until September 23, and one random commenter will receive their choice of one of my books—Emissary, The Smoke-Scented Girl, or Servant of the Crown. I look forward to seeing your titles—and would love it if some of them are the same as mine.

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Insert Title Here

lightbulbsI suck at coming up with titles. For EMISSARY, my husband the Plot Whisperer and I went around and around for a couple of days until I came up with the title. Then I went back into the book and changed it to fit the title. That’s how bad I am.

So after writing a couple of books and agonizing over their titles, I decided it was time to take a different route. I’d been reading the book Write Great Fiction: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell, and it has a whole chapter on brainstorming and a section on brainstorming titles. This seemed like the answer I was looking for. So I grabbed all the books near my work station, found an online searchable database of Shakespeare’s works, and started scribbling. The idea is to just flip through books or online sources and grab whatever phrases catch your attention. Then change them around. Extrapolate from them. Combine them and see where they go. Most of them don’t work out, or at least didn’t spark any ideas for me, but it was interesting to see what my subconscious came up with.

Here’s a few I don’t plan to use (NOTE: If you want to steal these, feel free, but if you do, and if they become runaway best sellers, please make sure you put some suitably taunting words in your acknowledgments page). From Matthew Arnold’s wonderful poem “Dover Beach” came On a Darkling Plain (which I’m sure has been used before) which turned into Darkling Rover. I wish I could remember the source of Night’s Ignorant Armies, The Melancholy Sea, and Discoverers of the Empty Sea, because it must have been something really interesting.

Then there are the ones I can sort of trace back to their sources. I think I was looking at the bookshelf containing Stella Gibbons and Dorothy Gilman’s books, because I’m pretty sure that’s where The Nightingale Diary and The Tightrope Maze came from. I ended up with three small-print columns of potential titles and a sense of profound satisfaction that I’d accomplished something that day. Some days are like that.

But narrowing it down was more difficult. In the end, I printed up a copy for the Plot Whisperer and one for me and asked him to go through the list and mark 5-10 titles that grabbed his attention. I did the same, hoping there would be some overlap. And, surprisingly, there was. Four of the maybe fifty titles on the list were ones we both liked. I stored those away for future use. (No, I’m not telling.)

There was one last thing. I had a strong preference for which one I wanted to write immediately, but I wanted to see what he thought. So I asked him to choose his favorite. He immediately came up with the same one I’d chosen—and that’s how I came to write THE SMOKE-SCENTED GIRL. Everything else—the characters, the magic system, the story—all of that came later. The title was first.

Much as I enjoyed the experiment—and the relief of knowing the title problem was sorted from the beginning—I don’t know that it’s the best basis for an entire writing career. But until I find a way to pay someone to write my titles for me, I’ll probably keep coming back to it.