Monday, July 21, 2014

Doings at Rooglewood at Last

Yes, this is a rather belated edition of the monthly Doings at Rooglewood blog post, but I do have a good excuse for my tardiness. Namely, I've been writing. Lots and lots of writing, which is bound to turn into lots and lots more.

"Of course," you'll say, "you are a novelist, so writing happens all the time, right?"

One would think. But looking back over this year's Doings at Rooglewood, how many months do you see me saying that I am doing almost nothing but writing? A few years ago, that would be the case, but life is just busier since starting Rooglewood Press.

Still, I have finally completed the major drafting what has turned into a much larger writing project than I first anticipated. And it's super secret still, so I can't talk about it much. But I will say I am thrilled with how it's coming together. It still needs a tweaking revision (as opposed to a full revision), and a copy edit (oh my! does it ever need a copy edit), but the book is pretty much itself now (if that makes sense to you).

It's a secret though. So I can't say much. Sorry! As soon as I can say more, I will. For now, however, all you need to know is that this has been my major doing.

This week, however, I am shifting gears had heading back into Golden Daughter work for a little while. It's galleys week (possibly two weeks). Which means I am reading over the typeset manuscript several times, searching for glitches, pet words, dropped words, typos, inconsistencies, and anything else potentially problematic that might catch my eye. Galleys are always a wee bit intimidating, but I must admit, this is probably the most intimidating one I have ever tackled . . . based entirely on sheer SIZE. This book is just so dragon-eaten big compared to my previous publications! Which means the potential for problems is increased by that much as well.

So I am reading the galleys backwards and forwards. Seriously, I am! I am reading it out loud to Rohan (with a pencil in hand to mark mistakes), and I am reading it silently and backwards to myself (also with a pencil). When I say backwards, I do mean I'm reading it last-chapter-first, second-to-last-chapter-second, etc. I'm not reading it literally backwards.

Thank the Lights Above, I also have two awesome proof readers and my copy editor checking for errors, so it's not as though the entire burden falls on my shoulders. Still, I'll be very glad when this stage is over!

 I'm getting excited for the Fan Fiction Contest these days! The first several submissions have already arrived in my inbox, and let me tell you, they are epic, dramatic, and tremendously fun. This year's contest may not be the biggest (though that remains to be seen!), but it will certainly contain the most fantastic submissions yet. I've had some fun designing the Title Banners to go along with each story as well. This year's banners are, I think, much prettier than last year's, and should compliment each story very well. Looking forward to showing you in September!

If you are interested in participating in this year's fan fiction contest, the rules (and prizes!) are detailed here. It is a totally fun and friendly contest, so don't feel shy! If you have a story to share, we are eager to read it.

The Five Enchanted Roses contest is definitely a subject of interest around Rooglewood these days. Submission forms are starting to arrive, containing intriguing titles which leave me eagerly guessing as to what the stories themselves might be about. I don't anticipate the stories themselves will start showing up until next month or the month after (authors do have to find the time to actually write, after all), but in the meanwhile, I sometimes will catch a snippet, excerpt, or hint on Facebook or the various blogs I (sporadically) read.

Are YOU planning on participating? Want to share your working title and a one-or-two sentence plot notion? We would all be delighted to hear!

Draven's Light, my 2015 novella, is also moving along in its various stages of development. Well, actually, no . . . It's kind of just sitting at the moment, waiting for me to have a chance to look it over again, poor story. But Rohan read it over this last week! Actually, he painted two bathrooms and part of our living room over this last week, but during the evenings, he read Draven's Light, staying up until 2 morning three nights running because he wanted to see how it would turn out--which, while not a smart move health-wise, was completely flattering!

 Over this weekend, I received a couple of exciting concept sketches from animator M. J. Morgan, who is creating a musical animatic based on Heartless and this song from the Goldstone Wood music contest. And Iubdan's Beard, are these sketches ever darling! I absolutely love all of them, particularly her character sketch for Princess Una, which is, in my opinion, completely perfect. I look forward to sharing this wonderful project with all of you . . . 

And the last doing of note . . . I am gearing up to start writing my next major novel in another few weeks. This will be my official 2015 novel, the book that follows chronologically after Golden Daughter. I am both very eager and tremendously nervous about this one. Technically, this is a story I've been planning to write for a good six years or more. But really, so many of the ideas (and my own writing abilities) have changed since its conception, I don't quite know what to expect from it. Also, conception is not the same as plot, and the plot itself is still a bit hazy in my head, I won't lie. So we'll see what happens! Once I get it well and truly started, I'll let you imps know the title, but for now, I'm keeping it all pretty hush-hush.

Here's some fluffiness to delight your heart:
Herein you see pictured Minerva, Marmaduke, Monster, Magrat, and Mutti. The only one of our kitty kindle not pictured is Makoose, who was grooming my elbow at the moment I knelt to take this picture, and therefore was unable to model himself. And isn't Mutti looking so relaxed these days? Every day, I see her making greater strides toward honest-to-goodness housecat-dom. She used to hide behind the piano most of the day and evening, but now she spends most of her day on the ottoman, and most of her evenings (after Rohan comes home . . . everyone loves Rohan) out in the living room with us. She even kept Rohan company while he painted!

It was just a year ago that I started seriously working with this feral kitty, wondering if I'd ever get her to let me touch her. How far she's come along!

All right, I can procrastinate no longer. The Golden Daughter galleys are waiting . . .

Tell me, what are your doings these days? Any great projects you're particularly excited about? Or summer trips, perhaps?

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Random Post About Chocolate

So my husband has quite a number of random little habits and quirks--as most people do, to be sure. But one of his randomest habits and quirks is (I kid you not) buying me chocolate.

He really loves to buy me chocolate. And not just any chocolate. I'm talking fancy gourmet chocolates from all over the world, all different flavors. Last week, we had some sort of Aztec chili-chocolate in the cupboard, along with a big bar of 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate, an almond-something from I don't remember where, an assortment of Ghiardelli sampler chocolates, and some great big bars from Trader Joes. And usually there are French truffles of some kind, which he keeps in the refrigerator because, according to him, cold French truffles make the best palate prep before . . . pizza. And curry too, I believe.

And let me clarify--while the French truffles are for all of us (everyone needs a proper palate prep before pizza and curry, right?), the rest of the chocolates are, by and large, for me. Oh, he'll snack on them a little here and there (and the bacon chocolate he bought a few months back were definitely his, though he kindly kept offering me bites). But most of them are mine.

Is he not every woman's dream?

But here comes the tragic part of this tale. You see . . . I'm not much a chocolate fiend. I mean, I like a little chocolate now and then (and some of you will remember a year ago when I went on a craze for Lindt's sea salt and caramel chocolate bars). But I really don't tend to crave chocolate that much or that often. Certainly not enough to keep up with his desire to buy it for me!

So we end up with stacks of chocolates in the cupboard. And my poor sweet husband will find a great deal or an awesome-looking flavor, purchase it, and come home only to find the last three bars he bought for me still stacked up and waiting. Which is always a little crushing to his kind and nurturing heart, I think.

Anyway, the point of this post is simply this: I adore that man. And this week was a rough writing week. And I found myself, in the midst of creative brainstorming and stress craving one thing . . .

You guessed it.

And we just happened to have PLENTY of it on hand, in all different flavors! As I am typing this post, I am happily munching on the last half of the 70% cocoa Belgian chocolate bar. I have successfully made it through a tough week, by the grace of God and the loving generosity of my handsome chocolatier in shining armor.

Life is lovely. And rather tasty right now.

(And I think we're having homemade pizza tonight--courtesy of Rohan, of course. I hope there are some French truffles still in the refrigerator so our palates will be properly prepped!)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Interview Feature: Shannon McDermott

Dear imps, I know you are all, like me, enthusiastic readers of fantasy and always on the hunt for another fantasy world to invest your heart in. Well today, I have the pleasure introducing you to a exciting author and her epic new fantasy release, The Valley of Decision. And I rather expect you will be eager to jump on the giveaway opportunity, for this generous author is offering TWO print copies of her novel!

First of all let me introduce you to the author herself:

 SHANNON MCDERMOTT is the author of the fantasy novel The Valley of Decision, as well as the futuristic The Last Heir. She has written the Adventures of Christian Holmes, a series of humorous detective novellas, and Beauty of the Lilies and Summer Leaves (Sons of Tryas, I and II).

Shannon lives in the Midwest and enjoys coffee, novels, and history.

Here's a little about the novel itself:

Where the Black Mountains pierce the sky, they divide the south from the north, Alamir from the kingdom of Belenus. Belenus, the undying master of the north, commanded Keiran - the Captain of the Hosts - to conquer Alamir. But the Captain is deep in conspiracy, and he has his own plans.

The Valley of Decision is a fantasy novel, a saga of slavery, freedom, and choices.


Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee? 

Shannon: Coffee. I like tea, especially on cold winter nights, but coffee is my pleasure drink.

My hobby (yes, hobby) is reading: novels, history, political and cultural articles online. And my personality … these self-assessments are hard, but here goes: I’m quiet, and somewhat introverted; my ideal evening is good coffee and good music, while I devote time to writing and reading. On the other hand, I have definite opinions and I’ve been known to argue them. People who meet me may not see it, but my family knows that I didn’t receive a fiery Irish heritage for nothing. 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? How did you get into publishing?

Shannon: I have been writing since I was little. It’s been an inseparable part of my life for so long, and I can’t imagine giving it up. 

I got into publishing through my parents, who own a small press. They used to put out a publication for homeschoolers, and I ended up working in that: copyediting, researching, even some writing. (My YA detective fiction, the Adventures of Christian Holmes, began as a series for this publication.) 

Tell us a little about your work! The Valley of Decision is not your first novel, right? What are some of your earlier publications? 

Shannon: My first novel was The Last Heir, published five years ago, and a very different sort of thing from The Valley of Decision. It’s soft-core science fiction, a political thriller set in space.

I’ve also published a number of novellas as e-books. Beauty of the Lilies and Summer Leaves (I and II of the Sons of Tryas series) tell the story of the painting emperor and his wild younger brother. These are the most character-driven stories I’ve ever written. I also have two humorous detective stories out: Inspection and Sweet Green Paper. 

Now tell us about The Valley of Decision! Where did the story idea come from? Is it part of a series? 

Shannon: The Valley of Decision began with a kernel of an idea that I gleaned, I admit, from the Lord of the Rings. I had noticed that in those books, the Dark Lord’s slaves were always enemies. Occasionally pitied by the heroes, often deceived by the Dark Lord, yes, but always enemies. Instead of heroes coming only from the free nations that fought Sauron, I liked the idea of heroes coming from the enslaved nations oppressed by him. A slave revolt against the Dark Lord would have been tremendous.

But, of course, it didn’t happen.

Eventually I wondered if I could write the story where it did. I began reading folk tales, researching the legends that have been told and even believed in our world long before modern fantasy came into existence. The Fays and the hobgoblins and the Trow in my story are inspired by the old fairy tales. When I wrote the human characters’ interaction with the Fays, I always had the folk tales in the back of my mind. Everybody knew in those old stories that Faerie was not safe.
I wrote a prequel novella called The Sunrise Windows, and I’ve kicked around the idea of writing a sequel, but The Valley of Decision is very much a stand-alone novel.

 Can you pick a favorite character from this new novel? 

Shannon: In a close contest between Keiran, the Captain of the Hosts of Belenus, and Caél the right hand over the Hosts … I’m going to go with Caél. Keiran is the protagonist, and he was always fun to write, partially because of his rough edges. But with my villains on the one hand, and my rough-edged protagonist on the other, I needed a nice-guy character. I gave that role to Caél.

But he also had to be strong. He didn’t get to be second-in-command over the entire army without being a skilled warrior, and moreover a warrior who has actually, you know, killed people. Nor could he be timid and stand up to Keiran. So Caél ended up a blend of gentleness and considerable strength, both inward and physical. 

What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration? 

Shannon: Just about anything can provide inspiration. An excellent book or movie leaves me wanting to reach such heights. Sometimes things in my own life leave me thinking, and then wanting to write about them. Everywhere you turn there is something to provoke a thought, an emotion, an image or an idea.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any place to turn when I need new inspiration. I mostly work through those dry spells. Sometimes that means pounding through a scene I’m not particularly interested in. Other times it means writing notes on the story, sometimes doubt-filled notes about what I need to change and what I’m doing wrong.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

Shannon: My least favorite part of writing is when I need to bridge the gap from point A to point B, while doing set-up work for points C and D, and I don’t know how. It’s worst, of course, when I descend into doubt-filled notes about what I need to change and what I’m doing wrong.

My favorite part of the writing process is finishing the polished draft of a scene in my computer. I write everything by longhand first, and it’s a longish process for me: First, make my notes; then, write the scene in a notebook; then, transcribe it into the computer, polishing and revising as I go. So when I finally finish, I have a satisfying sense of completion. 

If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be? 

Shannon: I’d choose G.K. Chesterton, reluctantly edging out the great C.S. Lewis. Chesterton is the most versatile author I admire, writing everything from poetry to novels to apologetics to cultural and political essays. He’s fascinating, even when he’s wrong. He is also the only poet whose work I really love, and the author I find myself most often stealing fr— I mean emulating. 

What are you actively writing right now? 

Shannon: I am writing a sci-fi novel called The Shameful Years. (Title taken from a Chesterton poem, by the way.)

There’s an old sci-fi trope about colonies being abandoned by the mother planet, for some reason or another. There’s also an old sci-fi obsession with Mars. I decided to revive both of these old ideas, but with a modern twist. The people on Mars are abandoned because Earth, in the wake of the Great Collapse, decides it simply can’t afford to provide food for them. 

I also decided to give full attention to both sides of the abandonment – not, as is often done in such stories, only to the forsaken colony. So I have two storylines running alongside each other, Earth and Mars. I think it will be unique. I’m trying hard to keep it from being unique-bad.  

Would you share a short snippet from The Valley of Decision?

 Shannon: With pleasure:

Excerpt from

The Trow kindled a flame in the fire-pot and then shared the fire with three torches. Then he turned back to Keiran. “I told you that Belenus does not come here. He does not deal with us as he deals with your kind. He does not take us from our mountain, or rule our homes, or try to possess us. But he demands our labor. He demands our skill. He sends orders to give him what he wants—tools and ornaments and weapons. We are smiths, tall man. Artists. His trinkets—they do not please the artist in us.”

            Keiran was still confused by the Trow’s behavior, but this amused him. “He has such bad taste, Kobuld?”
            “No. The Fays, they know what beauty is. But you cannot please the artist while you insult the Trow.”
            Keiran had always known of the use Belenus made of the Trow, but not until now did he really care. “Does he pay you?”
            “He protects us.”
            Kobuld’s tone was heavy with irony, and Keiran understood. He wondered if anything existed that Belenus would not exploit.
            “It has been thus for centuries. The Trow are weary of Belenus’ yoke. But I think that even we do not hate it as you do. You have suffered much more.”
            Keiran studied the Trow’s ugly face—and trusted him. “We are slaves, every one of us. Even I am. Our land, our work, our bodies, our children—all belong to Belenus. It’s a yoke of iron that we bear. Who would not hate it?”
            “No one. But who would do something about it? That, tall man, is a much more discriminating question.”
            “Are you saying I would rebel against Belenus?”
            The little Trow looked him in the eye and slowly nodded his old head. “I think you would. That is why I brought you here.”


Thank you for visiting today, Shannon. It was great to learn more about your work, your inspirations . . . and to glimpse that intriguing snippet of your novel!

There you have it imps . . . folklore, slave uprising, Fays, hobgoblins, and Trows. What more could you ask for in a fantasy? Be sure to enter your name in the giveaway and let your friends know about this story and fun opportunity! And feel free to pepper Shannon with questions about her work and writing and favorite coffees . . . and promises to go pick up the next G.K. Chesterton work you can get your hands on. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fan Fiction Contest Announcement!

The time has come for the third annual Tales of Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction Contest! This contest is my favorite event of the blogging year, a fun opportunity for all of you to create your own stories, making Goldstone Wood even more your own. The talent displayed these last two years has been incredible and tremendously fun, and I anticipate this year will be the best one yet.

Here are the rules for the contest for those of you interested in participating:

1. Your story or stories must be set in the world of Goldstone Wood with recognizable Goldstone Wood themes and elements. You may feel free to invent your own new characters and Faerie demesnes, just be certain that there are enough Goldstone Woodish aspects to make it recognizably part of this world. You may also explore aspects of the novels or characters you are curious about . . . Seriously, the sky's the limit!

2. Your story may be any length you like. Poetry is also welcome and encouraged!

3. You may submit as many stories as you like!

4. To submit your story, email it to me ( no later than August 25, 2014.

5. The stories will be posted on September 1, and voting will run through September 14. The winners will be announced on September 15.

6. The first, second, and third place winners will be selected via fan voting. (Note: If you are not a fan of the Goldstone Wood series, please don't vote on this contest. This is for fans only.) To place your vote, you will be asked to email me your top three picks in order of preference. The votes will be weighted and tallied (more info on that when the time comes).

Now . . . the prizes!

The First Place Winner will receive an ARC (advanced reader copy) of Golden Daughter two months before the official release date.

The Second Place Winner will receive an autographed print copy of either Starflower, Dragonwitch, or Shadow Hand.

The Third Place Winner will receive an assortment of Goldstone Wood paraphernalia, including a collection of bookmarks for each book in the series (including the pretty new Golden Daughter bookmark).

So what do you think? Are you excited to try your hand at a Goldstone Wood adventure all your own? And don't forget to visit Dame Imraldera's Library to read stories from the previous two contests! There is so much good reading to be had over there, and I'm sure you will be inspired.