Twiceborn Endgame is out!

Half human, half dragon, all vengeance: Kate is back for the final struggle that will tear the dragons’ world apart.

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No one said being half dragon would be easy, but Kate O’Connor’s life has gone completely off the rails. She thought she’d won the succession war between the daughters of the dragon queen, until a shocking betrayal changed everything.

Now seven new sisters have joined the fray, a sinister government taskforce is gunning for her, and the Japanese queen has hit town, bent on snatching the throne for herself. Worst of all, her beloved son has been abducted.

The shifter world has never seen a proving like this one, but then, there’s never been a dragon quite like Kate before. She’ll need her human ingenuity as well as her dragon magic to save her son and everyone she holds dear. The final moves in the deadly endgame take her from goblin caves to Japanese palaces as she races against the clock to snatch victory from the dragon jaws of defeat.

And that’s a wrap! Twiceborn Endgame is the final book in the urban fantasy trilogy The Proving. I’m so pleased to be finished. That’s something I can cross off the bucket list now—I’ve written a trilogy!

Twiceborn Endgame is available on Amazon now. Give yourself an early Christmas present and find out how the story ends!

Playing super ninja spy author

You’re writing along, making up a story, and the words are flowing—you don’t want to bring it all to a screeching halt so you can check your facts. You can do that later, in the editing phase. So you just make something up and keep going.

I had a lot of fun recently scoping out locations for Twiceborn Endgame, when it finally came time to check those facts. The Park Hyatt features in the story. I knew where it was, but I’d never been there, so one Sunday my very patient husband and I drove into the city on a factfinding mission.

This is the entry, which doesn’t look all that exciting, tucked into a little street right next to the ramps that feed onto the Harbour Bridge. You can see the hotel is not very tall.

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The view is all on the other side of the building, and it’s spectacular. The hotel is designed so all the rooms have the view. Now I want to stay there! The blue waters of the harbour are laid out before you, and the Opera House is so close you could almost touch it. That’s the front of the hotel on the left.

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It was kind of awkward and fun at the same time. We wandered in and I surreptitiously took photos of the foyer.

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I’d set some of the action in a room on the sixth floor, but neither of us were sure how many floors there were until we got there. We just knew it was a low-rise hotel. I also needed to know if you needed a room keycard to operate the lift. I felt like an imposter as we snuck into the lift. We were going to look pretty stupid if we did need a card and we had to get straight out again. At the same time I felt like some kind of ninja spy, sneaking around doing surveillance. It was really fun.

I know, the life of an author is so exciting. I need to get out more.

As it turned out, we didn’t need a card, and there is no sixth floor, so we went up to the third floor and I had a little peek at the décor, so I could get the descriptions right. This little statue even made it into the book:

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After that we drove to the airport to check out where the rich people board their private jets. My poor husband drives to the airport all the time for work, so it was hardly a thrill for him, but I got a good idea of the layout and how the action would have to go, so it was worth the trip.

Next step: set a book somewhere really exotic, and do a slightly more upmarket “research trip”. Might have to become a bestseller first, though, to be able to afford it!

Twiceborn Endgame cover reveal!

Drum-roll please! It’s finally time to reveal the gorgeous cover for Twiceborn Endgame:

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I love it, and I can’t wait to see it sitting side by side with the first two on Amazon. That should only be a couple of weeks away now. It’s still with the editor, but should be back any day now. Hopefully she won’t suggest too many changes, then it’s off to the formatter and we’re into the home stretch. Still have to write the blurb, though. I always put that off until the last minute! Considering how short they are, blurbs are surprisingly difficult to write.

This one will be a doozy, too. There’s so much going on in this book! So many threads to tie off, as it’s the last book in the trilogy. Lots of exciting twists, none of which I want to give away in the blurb, so I’m going to have to give it careful thought. Kate has more hair-raising adventures! And does kick-ass dragon stuff! (Sadly the blurb requires a little more detail than that.)

In other news, the second Fairytale Curse book has a name: The Cauldron’s Gift. It also has a most delicious cover, but I can’t show you that yet, as the book’s not due out for several months yet. I’ve had a stressful but exciting time lately working with the cover designer to come up with something that suited the book and was genre-appropriate. That’s another thing about publishing that’s not as easy as it sounds (though it’s a lot more fun than blurb-writing).

And of course it’s November, that time of year when crazy people all over the world commit to writing a whole novel in just one month. I was still finishing up revisions on Twiceborn Endgame when November started, and then I had a bit of a mental blank for a few days: what on earth would I write about? I was supposed to be writing the third Fairytale Curse book, but the prospect left me unenthused, so I sat down on November 5th and began a random new story instead.

So now I’m pulling my usual November stunt of madly scrambling to dream up enough story to be able to continue writing every day. “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” Well, the road is exeptionally foggy, but I’m motoring on, trusting to the process. Hopefully I arrive at the end with a finished draft!

How about you? Are you doing Nanowrimo? How are you going?

Procrastinators of the world, unite … tomorrow

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What do you do when you have a squillion and one things on your to-do list and deadlines breathing down your neck?

Why, you start crocheting a random shawl, of course. Despite the fact you’ve never worn a shawl in your life. And summer is approaching, and said shawl could not possibly be worn for another six months.

Hello, my name is Marina and I’m a terrible procrastinator. Well, actually I’m a darn good one. It’s my habit of procrastinating that’s terrible, and it seems the more urgent the tasks hanging over my head are, the more likely I am to skive off and do something else completely. It’s as if the weight of everything hanging over my head paralyses me and makes me incapable of doing anything.

I am enjoying crocheting again, though!

And the situation isn’t quite as dire as I’m painting it. I’ve written two scenes in Moonborn since my last post. Should have been more, of course, but two is better than none, and I only have five to go. I’ve finished the read-through of the first draft of Fairytale Curse 2, which is the first step in my revision process. I also finished up a beta read of a friend’s novel, so I haven’t spent all my time crocheting.

Funny thing about that, though. I realised some time ago that all my creative pursuits have fallen by the wayside since I got serious about this writing thing. No more quilting, crochet or scrapbooking. Each of those has been a huge part of my life at one time or another, and I miss the colour. I’m a very visual person. I love playing with fabric, and seeing a piece of art emerge under my hands. It still thrills me when I look over a piece of crochet forming and marvel that this object is taking shape from a single strand of yarn. I miss the tactile nature of practical crafts. Making up worlds and people in your head is a very different kind of creativity, and even though I love that, life has felt like it’s missing something since I started focusing so exclusively on it.

And sometimes, particularly when deadlines are looming, even the most creative enterprise can still feel like work. That’s when a hobby, something you do just for fun, no pressure, can be a wonderful release. Whether it’s baking, woodwork, gardening or crochet, there’s nothing like the feeling of creating something with your hands, and the quiet, contemplative nature of such creation makes a great stress release.

So maybe my shawl wasn’t so random. Maybe it’s my subconscious’s way of telling me to stop and smell the roses a little. That’s my excuse, anyway, and I’m sticking to it!

What activities do you turn to when you need to chill out?

What’s that whooshing sound?

As Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”

Well, I love deadlines too, for their motivational power. I have eleventy billion things to get done between now and the end of the year, so no whooshing sounds allowed. Writing down my goals helps me get my procrastinating butt into gear, so here are the big ones:

  1. October: Finish drafting Moonborn. Plan the revision of the second Fairytale Curse book and decide on its title. Incorporate beta readers’ feedback into Twiceborn Endgame.
  2. November: Nanowrimo time, yay! Draft a new novel. Incorporate editor’s feedback into Twiceborn Endgame, publish it and organise promo. Liaise with the cover designer for the second Fairytale Curse book.
  3. December: Collapse in a heap once Nano’s over. Revise Moonborn. Possibly even publish it, but most likely Christmas madness will intervene.

To help keep myself accountable, I’m joining in the final Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. That will encourage me to blog more than once a month, too.

Lots to do, and we’re running out of year! All the usual end-of-year things will start soon, including Baby Duck’s graduation from primary school. I can’t believe my baby will be in high school next year! It will be the end of an era for our family, with no one left in primary school. Next year will also be Drama Duck’s last year in high school, so more big adventures are on the horizon.

And some kind soul pointed out to me on the weekend that it’s only nine weeks until Christmas. Aargh!

Saying “I love you” with Weetbix

Weetbix as an artform? Breakfast is never just breakfast at our house. It’s an opportunity for whoever gets there first to leave a Weetbix artwork for the other. And given my general dislike of mornings, it’s usually the Carnivore leaving gifts for me.

Some mornings it’s a simple stack, or a triangle. Stonehenge is a popular choice, though sometimes it looks more lik Pi, with a bit of a lean on one of the legs.

Here’s a typical Stonehenge:

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Occasionally we have a flying Weetbix bird. Or maybe it’s a biplane. What do you think?

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And then there is that elusive beast, the Weetbix bridge. This miracle of balance and engineering is the rarest of masterpieces, often sought, but rarely achieved. Both the Carnivore and his apprentice, Baby Duck, were celebrating success when I came out for breakfast the other morning.

I present to you: The Weetbix Bridge

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It occurred to me the other day that relationships are full of Weetbix bridges—little things that people do for each other, for no other reason than to make the other person smile. Silly little rituals that only have meaning for the people involved, that are just another way to say “I love you”. Relationships, particularly longstanding ones, are full of in-jokes and personal histories that make them unique, and it’s capturing exactly these sorts of things in writing fiction that can make characters appear to be real people.

And besides, they’re fun! Do you have any little personal rituals, any “Weetbix bridges”, of your own? Share them in the comments!

Giant fantasy and sci fi bonanza!

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This weekend, the 12th-13th September, sees a great sale for fans of fantasy and science fiction. Aussie author Patty Jansen has organised a whole bunch of indie authors, who are all discounting books this weekend. There are over forty books at the bargain price of 99 cents, including my own Twiceborn, plus several more which are the first in their series at the unbeatable price of free!

There’s a range of books, from epic fantasy to urban fantasy, horror to science fiction, so there’s something for everyone. I have my eye on a few of these, and will be picking up some bargains myself. And if you like epic fantasy, I can highly recommend Pauline Ross’s The Fire Mages, which I’ve read and loved. I’ve read a couple of Patty’s too, though not the ones she has for sale here, and she tells a great story.

Go direct to the page of 99 cent specials here, or click on this link to take you to the main promotional page. From there you can access both the 99 cent page and the free page. (Fellow Aussies please note, some of these books may not be discounted until Saturday afternoon, since it will still be Friday in the US when it’s Saturday morning here.)

Happy reading!

One year ago

At the end of 2013 I bought a beautiful 2014 diary. I put it away somewhere safe and promptly forgot all about it, so I didn’t actually start using it until August 2014. When it came time to buy a diary for this year, I couldn’t find anything I liked, and there was this gorgeous 2014 diary, barely used … so I repurposed the 2014 diary and have been using it all year.

This week I have arrived at the point where I started using the diary last year. It’s like breaking open a time capsule, to see the items on my to-do lists this time last year. Things like “pay the orthodontist”. One year and thousands of dollars later, my daughter now has beautiful, braces-free teeth. Hallelujah! Or “tidy desk”. Sadly that one still needs to be on the to-do list, as my desk is never tidy.

But the most fun is seeing where I was at with my writing one year ago. I was making corrections to Twiceborn, putting the finishing touches on it. I was revising The Twiceborn Queen and trying to plan the third book in the series, then known as Twiceborn 3. Publishing was still a scary thing I was working towards, with things like “start mailing list” and “work on website” making regular appearances on my to-do lists. I remember well the feeling of nervousness: every step of the way there seemed to be some new program to learn, or another process to master.

And now, here we are, one year later. Twiceborn and The Twiceborn Queen have both been published. It’s quite a thrill, even now, to see those real live books lying on my still-untidy desk and know that I wrote them. They are both finding readers, which is lovely, and have been generally well received. I’m hard at work on “Twiceborn 3”, which is now called Twiceborn Endgame, so the end of the series is in sight.

There are other books, too, waiting in the wings. The first book of a new series has gone out for beta reading. It’s based on one of my favourite fairy tales, Toads and Diamonds, and I’m very excited to bring that one out. Can’t wait to show you the cover—it’s absolutely divine!

One year on, I’m finally feeling comfortable with the publishing process. I’m certainly no expert, but it’s good to get past the fear and uncertainty to a place where I know what I’m doing, more or less. I’ve made some wonderful author friends along the way too, who have helped me find my feet, and it’s great to have people to share the journey with. I wish I could go back a year and add an item to those nervous to-do lists: “don’t panic; it will all work out”.

But I probably wouldn’t have listened. Too busy panicking.

Writing the second book

So, you’ve published your first book—congratulations! That’s a huge achievement. Enjoy that feeling of accomplishment. But not for too long! Your readers will be waiting for the next book, particularly if the first one was the start of a series.

That should make it easier, right? If you’re writing a series, you’ve already introduced the main characters and set up some worldbuilding. Maybe you’ve even introduced a series-long problem for your main character to solve. If you’re really lucky, you might already know what the second book is going to be about. Piece of cake!

Or not.

Take The Twiceborn Queen. The mystery of Kate’s memory loss and what was really going on there, plus a big plot twist I won’t mention in case you haven’t read Twiceborn yet, were the things that made Twiceborn such fun to write. But those things were dealt with in Book 1, and Book 2 was going to be a much more straightforward action adventure as a result. I knew who Kate’s two main rivals were, and that by the end of the book she needed to defeat them. But how? And what was the rest of the story going to be about? “Kate defeats X and Y” is only five words long after all, and I needed about 90,000 words to make the book about the same length as Twiceborn. What were the other 89,995 going to say?

In fact, I was so uninspired that I took a year off and wrote a different book that had nothing to do with Kate and her problems, one that I felt enthused about writing. Meanwhile The Twiceborn Queen hung over my head, making me feel all kinds of inadequate. I’d loved writing Twiceborn! Why did the thought of continuing the story make my brain cells run screaming for cover?

Maybe it’s just me, and other writers don’t have this trouble. But maybe second-bookitis is a thing, and it might be helpful to some other writer to hear how I got over this horrible affliction.

First off I started by listing all the unresolved issues and sources of ongoing friction that remained from Book 1. Twiceborn was a complete story in itself, but I’d left a few loose threads hanging in the larger, trilogy-spanning story. Then I brainstormed for each one, thinking of all the possible things that could happen as a result.

Don’t censor your ideas at this stage! Write down everything that occurs to you, even if it seems like crap. Sometimes that crap will spark some of your best ideas. Try to stretch a bit, and think of some really outlandish possibilities. It’s all grist to your imagination’s mill.

Some of the ideas I came up with were clearly never going to fly, but I highlighted the ones that seemed useable, and at least the beginnings of a story started to emerge. I jumped in and started writing. Things went along quite well for a while, but eventually I got stuck again.

This is the part where having at least one completed novel under your belt really helps. You know you can do this, because you’ve done it before. Cast your mind back to what helped you when you got stuck on the first one. Long soaky baths? Going for walks? Timed writing exercises? Bouncing ideas off a friend? Whatever it was, try that now.

In my case, I remembered the planning stages of Twiceborn, and how much fun I’d had researching some new and different mythological creatures for my shifters. So I tried that again, and came across the kitsune, the fox-women of Japan. I’d read about them as a child, but never seen them in an adult fantasy. The decision to include one led the plot in a whole new direction, and gave me a very important new character.

Even better, it got me excited about writing this book. Writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. If you’re not bursting with excitement at the start, making it to the end is an even bigger feat of endurance.

So try to get back to that “this is gonna be so cool” feeling. What made you want to write the book in the first place? What was that initial idea that was so good you just had to turn it into a book?

Got it? Good. Now get writing. That’s the other thing I’ve learned. The more you write, the more ideas you get. Ideas beget ideas, and words beget more words. Don’t “stop to think” for more than a day otherwise, before you know it, Facebook, TV and life in general will have gotten in the way and a week will have gone by without writing—and you still won’t have any idea of what to write next. Just keep writing, fumbling your way forward through the story. There’s a quote I love from EL Doctorow: “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Sometimes it helps to have a deadline. Make a booking with your editor to give yourself a little pressure to get it done. If you’re particularly brave, you could even set up a pre-order on Amazon so you have a drop-dead “finish by this date OR ELSE” deadline. (Not for the faint-hearted!)

Hopefully by the time you get to the end you’ll find, as I did with The Twiceborn Queen, that you’re completely in love with this new book, even though a couple of months before you had no ideas and zero enthusiasm. It’s like a magic trick. You’ve created something out of nothing!

Congratulations! You’ve done it again. But don’t rest on your laurels—there’s still Book 3 to write!

The Twiceborn Queen cover reveal!

Finally! After months of work—more months than I’d hoped, due to the whooping cough making everything take sooo much looooonger—The Twiceborn Queen is almost ready for release.

Kate’s adventures continue and, while her situation may have become happier, life certainly hasn’t gotten any easier for my poor heroine. Writers are such sadists! We love throwing roadblocks in our characters’ way and seeing how they cope. The Twiceborn Queen picks up the story only a few days after the events of Twiceborn:

“Kate O’Connor’s had a rough week. Thrown into the middle of a war of succession between the daughters of the dragon queen, her introduction to the hidden world of the shifters almost proved fatal. Now, because of Kate and her new powers, that hidden realm has been revealed to the world, which hasn’t exactly won Kate any popularity contests.

Still, it’s not all bad news. After all, it’s not every day you regain a loved one you thought lost forever. Throw in a hot new boyfriend, and suddenly Kate’s got a lot to live for—which is bad timing, because now the queen’s set a bounty on her head and every shifter in Sydney is trying to collect it.

Kate may have defeated a dragon already, but there are plenty more where that one came from. As her enemies close in and the body count mounts, Kate begins a desperate search for allies. The deadly game of the proving continues. If Kate is to save the people she loves, failure is not an option. The rules are simple: win or die.”

And now, at last, I can show you the gorgeous cover:

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The book will be out next month. If you’d like to know when it’s released, and have the opportunity to buy it for only 99 cents, join my mailing list here.

Can’t wait to share this book with you!