Mental Health for the Holidays

I think November’s been tough on a lot of us, and December isn’t necessarily any easier. Personally, besides the obvious stressors, I’ve also had a truly hectic month at work and came down with two colds in quick succession. Seems like a good time to review self-care. So here are some reminders, for myself as much as for you all…

1. Take the time to do something you love.

I was lucky enough to attend not one but two contra (folk dance) weekends away from home in November. Lots of exercise, friends, wonderful live music, the state of flow, and a natural high, not to mention the excitement of a road trip. (Of course, that’s probably also where I picked up both of those colds. Argh.)

2. Do something creative. If you’re a creative professional (like a writer), do something else creative.

I’m a big believer in “creative cross-training”. We writers love to talk craft and work on improving our craft, which is important. But it’s also important to go and try something else — something that doesn’t have the same stakes and expectations attached. For me right now, it’s Instagram, contra dance, and occasionally tinkering in the kitchen.

3. Try something new.

At one of the aforementioned dance weekends, I got to try English Country Dancing (a cousin to contra) and swing dance, both new to me (swing dancing has footwork, ack, but the music is so much fun…). At the other, I got to try dancing …

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The Makings of a Princess Story

Hello, Turtleducklings!

Today I am super excited because I get to unveil…

THIS!

To Rule the Stars cover image

 

What is it, you ask? It’s our next release, an anthology of longish short stories by three Turtleduck Press authors, plus a sneak peek at our next novel. (Never fear, KD Sarge—our fourth author—hasn’t gone anywhere. Look for her next piece right here on December 1!)

And yes, each story features outer space. And at least one princess.

To be honest, I had a lot of trouble with mine. I didn’t want to go the route of Star Wars, with a grand space opera, since I only had the length of a novelette to work with. Next I ran through some classic Star Trek rip-off ideas and abandoned those as well.

But then what? How to reasonably put a princess in a space setting and give her an adventure…oh yes, and a romance?

Luckily, I already had a space setting—the steampunk ‘verse featured in The Haunting of Heatherbrae Station. It’s based on an alternate nineteenth century where a powerful source of energy, called ether, enabled humans to invent space travel more than a century early. Lots of fun…but I still wasn’t sure how to use …

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Mental Health Breaks and Mini-Staycations

Have you ever come back from a vacation and immediately felt like you needed another one? Or has it been a while since you’ve had one?

If you’re anything like me, you fall into habit during your non-vacationing life. Maybe you have a favourite coffee shop, or a park or a restaurant you love. Returning over and over again to places you enjoy is comforting, for sure. I do it a lot. But don’t underestimate the power of novelty for R&R.

Last weekend was my wedding anniversary. We took the opportunity to go on a mini-staycation, just the two of us. It was a lot of fun, and it wasn’t particularly expensive. We had dinner at a new-to-us steakhouse chain, went home instead of staying at a hotel, then the next morning, ventured into a trendy neighbourhood we don’t usually frequent, and wandered down the street and picked a restaurant for brunch at random (why yes, we are slightly addicted to Yelp, why do you ask?). Good choice, too – they had delicious house-smoked bacon!

That particular street was full of fancy/trendy furniture stores, so we poked around a few and drooled at all the gorgeous reclaimed wood and designer tables. We’re not even in the market for new furniture, and a lot of what we saw wouldn’t fit in our tiny rooms anyway (giant harvest table? uh, no), but window-shopping was fun! On our way back we picked up some bright yellow potted chrysanthemums to decorate our front steps …

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7 Lessons from the Garden

What I have learned about life gardening this year:

1. Some things take a lot longer than you think; be patient. Other things happen so quickly they’ll surprise you; be ready.

We planted radishes for the first time this spring. They were ready to harvest within a month, and went to flower (meaning no good for eating) just a few short weeks after that. Conversely, we waited and waited for last year’s snapdragons and this year’s wildflower seed mix. After we’d given up, both kinds of flowers emerged and were blooming by mid-June.

2. Novelty is always more exciting, but reliability is invaluable.

Every year we try a few new vegetables. This year: parsnips (very few came up), beets (yum), red onions (they stopped growing while still small), snap peas (double yum), and cucumber (it died in the summer drought). Every year we also fall back on our favourites: three sizes of tomatoes, hot peppers, herbs. (And every year we keep hoping for better luck with the carrots and sweet peppers.)

3. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

We’ve tried growing bell peppers several times. What we end up with are stunted, squashed bells that don’t ripen past green. (Climate? Nutrients? Dunno.) We do have luck growing hot peppers, but everything we’ve planted turns out to be VERY hot and I can’t handle more than a sliver of it. This year we bought a sweet banana pepper plant and I was excited. Turns out? Either it was wrongly labelled or …

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Brothers (A Fractured World Short)

by Siri Paulson

 

Astrolabe started out of a nightmare, his face wet with tears. Toric had been calling for him, his brother’s voice getting farther and farther away as the monster carried him off. It was a Type III monster, the ones with the legs that stayed long and powerful no matter how their bodies shifted. He had known it was pointless to chase the thing, but he’d been trying anyway, in his sleep.

His sheets were twisted and soaked with sweat, and the stump of his right arm ached horribly. It wouldn’t ease up until the doctor’s assistant came to change the dressing and administer his next dose of goatweed. No point trying to sleep again now.

He got out of bed and checked for daylight in the crack between the heavy shutters of the room where he was staying in the Medical wing. Satisfied, he unbolted them one-handed and pushed them open. The night chill was already fading, early morning was seeping across the sky, and he could see the fighter trios trickling back across the rooftops and the street in front of HQ. Some were limping or leaning on each other. Was Theo among them? He didn’t even know whether she was already back on patrol with her new trio, the two young fighters who had replaced him and Toric.

The fighters were only three stories down, but as Astrolabe leaned his head on the window frame to watch, they felt as distant, as …

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Mountain Memories

Two weeks ago, I blogged about my magical fantasy dream castle retreat, where I wished I was instead of plowing through a difficult month at work.

Last week, I got to spend some time in a place that happened to resemble it more than a little.

I spent the week in the Canadian Rockies, reconnecting with my siblings while hiking. (But not camping. Beds, showers, and easy meals are too much of a draw when you’ve spent the day walking.) I didn’t grow up there, but I did spend at least a week in the Rockies every summer, and they’re still one of my favourite places on the planet.

Here, then, are just some of the things I want to remember, like talismans against the sometimes-grind of daily life…

The way my siblings and I can still communicate with a look or half a sentence, or all acquire identical facial expressions at the same time, even though we are very different people and haven’t lived in the same house or even the same city for years now.

The Technicolor wildflowers all over the mountainsides. Kananaskis Country, where we were, is famous for them. Some of the meadows are sloped 30 degrees or more, making for a very unpleasant climb, but the flowers don’t mind at all. They’re busy making the most of the short mountain summer. So are the butterflies. I’m no lepidopterist, but we kept seeing orange ones with wings that looked like lace, and I even spotted …

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The Magical Fantasy Dream Castle Retreat

Guys, I’ll be honest with you. Right now I’m struggling. I’ve had a bad cold/cough on top of impossible work deadlines all month, and that came after a hectic June and…to be honest, this has been going on for a while.

Luckily, I only have to get through this week and then it’s on to Internet-detox-and-nature-with-family time. But that’ll be over soon enough. I need a better solution. So I give you…

THE MAGICAL FANTASY DREAM CASTLE RETREAT

(There’s no picture here. You’ll see why in a moment.)

One day, when I’m as rich as J.K. Rowling (hey, a writer can dream), I’ll build this castle. It’ll be in the mountains and on a fjord at the same time, with a deep dark forest behind and a quiet cove in front. There will be horses and a sailboat and a canoe and a hammock and a hedge maze. The mountains will have caves and high passes and valleys beyond. The forest will have trails (but not too many) and brooks and glades. There will be mighty trees, and a treehouse worthy of an elf or an Ewok, and a magical white deer (or maybe it’s a unicorn) that can only be glimpsed on a full-moon night.

Inside, there will be the library from Beauty and the Beast. There will be a grand staircase and stained-glass windows. The bedroom will have a four-poster bed with a canopy, and a window seat, and a balcony. The bathroom will have a hot tub. …

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Adventures in Marketing CITY OF HOPE AND RUIN

It’s been almost a month since City of Hope and Ruin was released, and guys, I’m discovering that the marketing phase of a book can be pretty intense. I’ve been doing some sort of promo (or networking for future promo) just about every day, while trying not to annoy my social media friends and followers too much. That’s a lot of brain cycles. Especially because it’s all new to me. I’ve been learning about book marketing for quite a while now, have done some already for Turtleduck Press, but this is a whole ‘nother level.

Of course, it helps immensely that there are two of us — our marketing power is doubled. Or even more, because Kit and I are in vastly different parts of North America, so we can each hit our respective local bookstores/libraries/conventions. We even managed to co-host a virtual launch party on Facebook. (We had lots of Q&As and some fun discussion, which you can still read at the link.) It felt surprisingly festive, and was a great way to celebrate our release date together despite the best attempts of geography to keep us apart.

I also held a local launch party at my favourite bookstore — one of those “dream come true” moments (except that Kit couldn’t be there). How did it go? Here’s the short version:

In actual words: I did a reading, then a Q&A (and people asked great questions), and finished off with a signing.

I have also had …

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The Imposter Has Arrived

I’ve written before in this space about my struggles with feeling like an imposter. Like I’m not a Real Writer, or not really meant to be a writer, or never going to be a writer.

Well…it looks like I was wrong. Because this is a real novel. That I wrote. (Well, that I co-wrote. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be writing this post tonight if it weren’t for Kit. The power of a co-author cannot be underestimated, guys.) It looks real — the cover art looks pretty darn official, and Kit did a phenomenal job with the interior formatting — but in a week or two it’s going to be in my hands, and I’m going to have to believe it really is real.

And I’m having a real book launch, and people I know are excited to read it (which is oddly terrifying), and it has its very own Goodreads page.

The funny thing is, I’ve been an author for a while. For the past five years, I’ve been steadily writing short stories right here on this site — you can find them under Freebies and in every anthology we’ve done — as well as a lot of blogging over here. And as for how long I’ve been a writer…well, since I learned the alphabet, pretty much.

But somehow a novel is different.

(It’s not the first novel I’ve written, not by a long shot. But it is the first one I’ve published. Again, …

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City of Hope and Ruin: Cover Reveal!

Kit and Siri are thrilled to unveil…the cover of City of Hope and Ruin.

 

 

Ready?

 

 

No, are you really ready?

 

 

Okay, here goes…

 

 

City of Hope and Ruin ebook cover

 

Isn’t it gorgeous? We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Here’s the book description again:

Every night the monsters hunt.

A city that is the whole world: Theosophy and her companions in the City militia do their best to protect the civilians from the monsters, but they keep crawling from the Rift and there’s nowhere to run. Theosophy knows she’ll die fighting. It’s the best kind of death she’s seen, and at least she can save lives in the meantime.

They say the Scarred carve you up while you’re still alive.

A village in the shadow of a forest: Refugees from the border whisper about the oncoming Scarred, but Briony can’t convince her brother to relocate his children to safety. Briony will do anything to protect them. She owes them that much, even if it means turning to forbidden magic.

When Theosophy and Briony accidentally make contact across the boundaries of their worlds, they realize that solutions might finally be within reach. A world beyond the City would give Theosophy’s people an escape, and the City’s warriors could …

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