Tea Princess Chronicles is Up!!

TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES is live now!

TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES follows the adventures of Miyara, a princess who escapes her meaningless life and goes into hiding, as she finds her place in the world serving a struggling community by running a tea shop that sits on the edge of a magical disaster.

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Check out Leigh Wallace‘s wonderful artwork!!

Chapters of the serial will be posted weekly, but you can read the first four chapters on the website here! After that, feel free to click over to the Tea Shop Interludes for side scenes featuring Miyara’s experience running the tea shop, each featuring a tea with a different fantasy ingredient. =)

If you’re interested in supporting my work, my Patreon is here with details about how to participate in bonus content I’ll be writing for the serial! Or, you can always buy me tea, which in turn powers the tea writing.

Happy reading!

Announcing: TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES!

It’s finally time! I’ve been working on this in secret for a while, and I’m so excited (and, not gonna lie, a bit terrified) to announce I will be launching a free web serial next Thursday, June 8th, 2017.

(AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!)

TEA PRINCESS CHRONICLES follows the shenanigans of Miyara, a princess who escapes her meaningless life and goes into hiding, finding her place in the world serving a struggling community by running a tea shop that sits on the edge of a magical disaster. I have three serial novels planned, but as this is something of an experiment for me the first will function as a stand-alone—we’ll see how it goes! =D

 

What do I mean when I say “web serial”?

Essentially, this means I’ll be posting a novel online in sections, each of which will be long enough and ideally have enough character/plot arc movement to feel like a satisfying read. Some serials do each released section episodically, more like a classic TV format where each episode can be watched in any order. The bulk of what I’ll be doing is putting up a chapter, about 3-4000 words apiece, of a book (and it will be fantasy book-length) weekly.

Up-front, I’ll post the first four chapters all at once to give people a sample of what they’re getting in for, and also because that’s the necessary introduction for people to enjoy the other side of this project: side scenes that can be read in any order about Miyara’s adventures running the tea shop, each of which will feature a different fantasy-ingredient tea blend. The novel portion is going to be freely available online, and I’ll write new side scenes as the Patreon I’ll be launching reaches new goals.

Basically, I’m going to give you a free book, and every Thursday you can read a little more of it!

 

Why am I writing a serial?

A lot of reasons! Ultimately, it’s a gift to myself.

First and foremost, it’s for my own sanity. In the months spent over the last year working on a serious and messy revision, having one day each week where I could work on something that was fun and easy reminded me why I do this—that it isn’t always awful, and that I’m actually pretty good at this writing thing in general, even if I happen to be working on something hard. That bright spot was a great motivator, because feeling more competent helps me actually be more competent. I need something easy and reliable that replenishes me creatively and doesn’t generate more work and expectations than I’m prepared to deal with right now, and this is what I came up with.

It’s also because I’ve put a lot of time and effort into writing, and I want to have work of mine available to point people towards! I’ve had enough feedback from professionals in the field to feel pretty confident that (while I certainly have growing to do and always will!) I’m writing at a high enough level to be traditionally published. But although I’ve written ten novels (a few of which, it must be said, aren’t worth editing, let alone publishing, and exist firmly in the “learning experiences” category), I don’t have any novels published yet. Even if I magically had a book deal tomorrow, it would be another year or two before the book was out, and I don’t write short stories to try to get published in the interim. A serial, at least the way I’m doing it, is what I like to call “novel-adjacent”—there’s enough overlap in craft skills I’ve already developed without interfering with an actual book launch down the road. Serialized fiction also has some added bonuses in terms of getting to interact with readers and what they care about, which I’m hoping to make the most of through Patreon!

And, I can’t lie, I do hope the Patreon I’ll be launching alongside the serial generates some money. It’s not my primary goal, but last year—between moving, surprise medical expenses, car accident, and sudden job collapse—was hard on my emergency fund. (And my car is 16 years old. While I hope it makes it out the year, I have Concerns.) I’m not in such dire financial straits I need to change my work situation, but if a similar conflation of expenses hit now I am not in a good position to address them. While my work arrangement is wonderful for many reasons, it’s not ideal for replenishing a savings account fast. And, again, even if I had a book deal tomorrow, publishing income is not steady or reliable, and it would great to have a more regular source of writing income. Backing the Patreon is absolutely not required to access the serial or for me to finish writing it, but I would be beyond thrilled to have any income from this craft I’ve worked so hard on.

 

Why am I terrified?

This is the first fictional work of mine that I’m making public. Like, ever. O_O I haven’t even posted fanfic, and soliciting beta reader feedback or submitting to workshops and critique groups isn’t at all the same.

It’s not edited. I’m posting my first work in public without any editing. I mean, I will certainly be proofreading, and I know how to spell and how semicolons work and such. But that’s not the same as a) other people’s eyes on the work or b) developmental editing.

No one has even read it. My wonderful critique partner Camille Griep commented on the first four chapters, but all the rest is going up without my having any idea what people will think of it. Maybe it will be bad! Maybe people will hate it! Maybe no one will read it at all! WE’LL SEE.

 

Why am I excited?

I’m having so much fun.

That’s it, really.

I worked really hard to set reasonable expectations on this project (I do not, as a rule, do reasonable expectations for myself >_>) for how much work I can put into this on a weekly basis and have it be rewarding and not draining, which is my primary goal. And it’s already paying dividends, because I’m snickering in glee every time I go to work.

I’m writing this for myself. I’m not asking anyone to pay for it, I’m not planning to traditionally publish it, I’m beholden to no one’s sensibilities but my own, and I can do whatever I want. This means if I want to write unreasonable amounts of dialogue and however little physical description I care about, NO ONE CAN STOP ME. I can write scenes that are totally silly even if their relation to the actual plot is slim just for the sake of fun. I can fill my world with all the magic and snark and female friendships, elevate tea to a sacred calling, make dragon and cat BFFs, and EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE GREAT.

The story is light, warm, and fun. I. And every time I sit down, it’s a joy to play with.

It’s the kind of story I’ve been craving to read, and maybe I’m not alone: maybe that’s what you need, too. I hope you enjoy it even half as much as I’ve been.

I’ll be back next week with links to the website and Patreon for anyone who wants to check it out =D. In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

Choosing Reads

A few weeks ago, I realized I didn’t want to read, which is a huge red flag for me. I’d had a stretch of books that either weren’t great or required more emotional bandwidth than I had handy. Since “not wanting to read” is pretty antithetical to who I am, it was time to employ emergency measures:

I picked a book to re-read. A book I already knew I loved, and a book I was sure would be exactly what I wanted.

A sad consequence of doing most of my reading on an e-reader is that I don’t re-read as often as I used to, because I can’t wander around my shelves and wait for a moment of yes, THAT’S what I need to read right now in quite the same way. But even scrolling through the e-reader library, I have that aha moment when I pass the right one, and it occurred to me that moment itself is telling.

I know there are people who never re-read, but it mystifies me. For me, choosing a given book to re-read says a lot about my mood, for one thing, and what my brain is working on—particular questions of identity, grappling anew with themes addressed in a work, a reflection of the mood I’m experiencing or feeling the lack of. And re-reading these books is a way of reaffirming myself, what matters to me and who I am, and I find re-reading to be an immensely clarifying, cleansing, and centering experience.

(Also I can skip to my favorite bits.)

In this case, the books I re-read (five novels and three novellas from Meljean Brook’s Guardians series, for the curious) underscored a trend not just in what I’ve been drawn to in re-reading, but also the kinds of books and writers I’ve been reaching for.

My to-read pile of books that are denser, require more time or thought, and especially ones that I know will require more emotional bandwidth (hello The Fifth Season, which I’ve started and is AMAZING and is also still waiting on my nightstand) are piling up. I’m in a state as, I think, many are, where I’m just about at my capacity to deal with all the awfulness going on around me. I have about as much challenge as I can stand, and I want more escapism.

Which is not to say I’m reading books that don’t deal with serious or complicated issues; I have perhaps less patience than ever for books with, for instance, unacknowledged sexism, or books that are fundamentally stupid or depend on me pretending to be. But one reason I realized I’ve been picking up book after book by Martha Wells is that I can trust I won’t be smacked in the face with unanticipated sexism when all I want was a transporting read.

These days the books I’m craving, the books I’m reaching for, aren’t just good, nor are they just thoughtful or inventive, as if those weren’t already rare. They’re comforting. They have optimistic outlooks and happy endings. They contain deep personal growth and beautiful friendships, adventure and exploration of worlds and ideas, and I don’t have to worry about being side-swiped by sexism, racism, queerphobia, ableism. They’re warm, welcoming, fun, and if not precisely light, then at least not grim. They’re hopeful, at a time when I could use more hope.

And they’re hard to find, because that’s a tall order. I’ve developed my own list of authors and books I trust, and no doubt yours won’t look the same, because we all pull different things from stories and need different things at any given time.

But, as I’m not just a reader but also a writer, it seems only logical that I should be writing the kind of stories I want to read, because maybe other people need them, too.

I’ve been vague-tweeting about a Secret Project for a few months now, but I’m nearly ready to share it with you all. So look for more details here next week… =D

Arthuriana and Fanfiction

Today my friend Tam asked whether fanfiction can exist without the original material, and this question, it turns out, is perfectly targeted Casey bait. After going on a lengthy Twitter tangent I decided it might be time to dust off the ol’ blog.

Hi friends! LET’S TALK ABOUT ARTHURIANA AND FANFICTION.

(I am so excited you guys. Buckle up; I’m going on the long side here. =D =D =D)

One of my favorite things in medieval Arthuriana is the trope of the “original” version of the King Arthur legend.

Note that I put “original” in quotation marks, because this is important: THERE IS NO ORIGINAL KING ARTHUR LEGEND.

(There’s no original, historical King Arthur, for one thing. But that is a whole other digression for another time when I don’t have important medieval fanfiction matters to talk about.)

Aside from references to King Arthur as early as the 6th century (Gildas), the oldest surviving story is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brittaniae, written around 1136—or, possibly, the Welsh Mabinogion; scholars are still arguing about the dates for that one. Both are so intertwined with mythology that it’s difficult to take either as the “authoritative” version in any real sense, or even to believe, given the prominence of oral tradition, they were the first or only stories.

But Monmouth does this thing where he starts out by claiming his source material is a mysteriously no longer extant ancient book, and he’s going to helpfully bring the story to the people of his time.

Monmouth, apparently, was a medieval trend-setter, and this became THE thing to do when taking on the Arthurian canon. Later writers made this into a trope of the genre, referencing an ur ancient record that DOES NOT EXIST.

I mean. It is technically possible that at one point such a record once existed, but, it’s not likely. And it’s especially unlikely someone like Sir Thomas Malory, whose work Le Morte D’Arthur, the earliest known print edition of which dates to 1475, is the basis for most of our contemporary Arthurian adaptations, had any knowledge of it whatsoever.

In other words, the thing to do was basically go, ‘oh, so inconvenient my source material is not accessible to the public, what a terrible shame, oh! but don’t worry guys, I happen to have studied it in detail before it mysteriously disintegrated and can tell you all the best DEFINITELY TRUE bits OMG IT’S SUCH A GOOD STORY ARE YOU GUYS READY’.

People made up, over and over, an original ur-Arthurian legend that never existed, referencing it for the sake of legitimacy to give them a kind of license to do whatever they wanted with the stories. And EVERYONE wanted to do their own thing with Arthurian legends:

Wace takes the HRB and translates it for an Anglo-Norman audience in 1155, expanding all the descriptions, and Laȝamon follows with his English Brut. Then in the late 12th century the French get a hold of the King Arthur legend, and with the adaptations of Chrétien de Troyes and Marie de France the epic tradition transitions into the romance tradition.

Lancelot? One of the core figures of Arthurian myth? DID NOT EXIST until this time. Gawain had previously been the canonical Mightiest Knight, but medieval French romances demanded someone less surly and more shiny, apparently. So a couple hundred years after our earliest record, we have a new main character.

The Lancelot-Grail Cycle (French Vulgate) in the early 1200s explodes the Arthurian canon even further, giving rise to the Stanzaic Morte Arthure. In the 1300s the English language recaptures the genre with the Alliterative Morte Arthure, much more in the epic tradition, and Gawain and the Green Knight. There are many more medieval adaptations, but these are among the most prominent prior to Malory (who worked mainly with the French Vulgate).

But Casey, I thought we were talking about fanfiction, you didn’t ask, backing away slowly from my enthusiastic medieval literary history lecture.

Here’s the thing: authors took what they liked from the adaptations they read and left out the rest; they changed characters and plot or created their own original characters as they saw fit with no regard for “authenticity.” Or rather, claiming in fact to BE the authoritative version.

Look at the time periods there, the different countries, the different literary modes (history, epic, romance, etc.). Each writer adapted the Arthurian legend for their audience, for their cultural values, for their literary trends. And they did it so well that hundreds of years later, most people familiar with Arthurian legend at all have no idea that Lancelot was a fanciful late-addition OC.

Arthuriana is fanfiction. All of it, straight-up, fanfic.

This is already long, so I don’t want to go into too much detail right now about the modern valuing of originality in storytelling over the way a story is told (but DO I EVER want to go into it sometime). But to a medieval audience, there would have been no conflict of authenticity between The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, a 15th century poem, and Chaucer’s version in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale”; both were re-tellings in a tradition of “loathly lady” tales.

Fanfiction, as a concept, is, accordingly, a pretty modern concept, and no one seems to agree on exactly where the line should be drawn. Today, if I were to write an Arthurian adaptation of my own, would it be fanfiction, or would it be original fiction? It depends on how you define “fanfiction,” of course, but I think it would be both.

At some level, all fiction is in conversation with other fiction. Art and scholarship are mimetic, using work that has been done before to create new ideas.

In this particular case, I think it’s useful (artistically; I’m not talking legal rights here) to think of fanfiction and fiction as more of a continuum rather than two separate boxes of art. In A Theory of Adaptation, Linda Hutcheon writes that the point of adaptation is to be “repetition but without replication, bringing together the comfort of ritual and recognition with the delight of surprise and novelty.” In that sense, fanfiction and fiction aren’t at odds; the main difference is the weight of the “comfort of ritual and recognition” is heavier in fanfiction. But fanfiction still brings novelty, and if fiction only brings novelty it’s not likely to resonate with a large audience.

The tropes of, say, grimdark fantasy can’t work without the tropes of high fantasy to subvert, but how many tropes can you steal before people start making accusations of being derivative? How much do you have to change? At one point does a trope become such a part of the cultural consciousness that you don’t have to do the same artistic work to either establish or distinguish it in the text? And it’s possible to write, read, and enjoy fanfiction without ever having engaged with an “original,” just with the fanfic “canon,” so do you even need the ur material to write fanfiction?

I think not, and I think Arthuriana is clear example of why not.

But depending on the execution, the fanfiction might ALSO be fiction.

House!

House! Oof, where to even begin.

I guess I begin with the fact that I’ve been promising to post pictures for months, but the prospect of MORE HOUSE related work made me shy away. So, here we are like half a year later… >_> But!

House! Pictures! Very Excite!

To be brief: I moved! Into my first house! IT WAS SO MUCH WORK. Partially because I cared, and partially because I wanted to be done all at once so I wouldn’t have to keep worrying about house setup tasks continually down the road. And let me tell you, now that I’m months down the road, that plan has actually been great SINCE finishing. But it made the moving process a little all-consuming.

See, while visual art is mostly beyond my abilities, I have Opinions about interior design. Because Opinions, I spent A LOT OF TIME choosing (finding, acquiring, assembling…) everything from tile to furniture to serving platters to trash cans (seriously you need a lot more trash cans when you move from a teeny studio apartment to a house). AND NOW I AM DONE. The backyard may remain tanbark forever, but INSIDE, where I have Opinions, I’m done.

I’m really happy with how the house came out. I’m going to post pictures of just some of my favorite parts here, because the alternative is I end up writing a blow-by-blow of how I did everything complete with the names of types of quartz and itemized budget lists. Unless someone asks specifically I’m erring on the side of no one besides me (and my mother) cares quite that much.

So! Welcome to the Wexlair.

Paws Here

Enter at risk of cats and puns.

 

We begin by passing through the entryway, a warning to all who enter.

Hallway Swords

SPOILER ALERT FANTASY BOOK NERDS LIVE HERE

 

The main section of the ground floor includes the living room, kitchen, and dining room.

Ground FloorLiving RoomKitchenDining Table

 

 

Downstairs is the library/game room. My significant other built 18 Billy bookcases in the span of like a week because he is a monster. If you need Ikea furniture assembled in record time, I know a guy.

Books!

Books!

Board Games!

Board Games!

 

Downstairs is ALSO the evil overlord suite. It comes equipped with a death star lamp, swords, D&D manuals and miniatures for plotting evil campaigns, evil overlording cloaks, and other surprises only guesting evil overlords will get to discover.

Evil Overlord Lair

Evil Overlord Lair

 

The master bedroom is upstairs, and while it’s not the most exciting of the rooms set up, it does include the world’s most comfortable bizarre lounge chairs. As an added bonus, they also make an excellent cat cave.

Master Bedroom

Pictured pre-curtains: as you can see, the view from the bedroom does not suck.

 

We put the prettiest surfaces in the house in the master bathroom. The counter has these blue flecks that in the light glint like buried sapphires, and the shower floor makes it feel like I’m standing in a river.

 

Last but not least among our worth-posting-photos-of-our-work spaces, we have our offices. I wanted a magical forest feel, so this is some of what I did.


 

And that’s the house, more or less! Now I never have to shop again, right? =D?

Favorite SFF Reads of 2016

SFF award season is upon us! I thought I’d share some of my favorite reads of the year that were published in 2016, in case either

a) you really liked some of these too and could do with a reminder they’re nomination-eligible, or

b) you’d like to check some of them out!

 

A few notes about my list here:

  1. They’re all novels, because that’s mostly what I read.
  2. There are no YA books, because this list would go on forever if I didn’t focus SOMEHOW.
  3. It looks like most of my favorite reads this year were not the first books in their series, so if you do want to check them out, keep that in mind when looking them up.
  4. I have not yet read everything published in 2016 that I meant or mean to. Story of our lives, I know, but there’s still time! If I’m missing something here that seems like it would obviously suit, though, that’s probably why.

Between moving and the election, this was a rough year for me, and I reached for a lot of stories that I either knew would be lighter reads or were set in worlds I was already comfortable with. I did try out new authors and series, of course, many of which didn’t make it onto this list — I’m picky, some were YA, many I enjoyed but weren’t my personal favorites (target audience is hard! taste is subjective!), etc. — but there are also some I desperately want to read and just haven’t gotten to due to limited mental bandwidth.

On that note, first, two shout-outs to books I’m really excited about and have on my e-reader, have started, have every confidence I’m going to love in their entirety, and have not yet had the brain space available to finish. I could just finish reading them before posting this, but if I delay I might never get around to posting at all, so. Really smart space opera and secondary world urban fantasy respectively!

  • Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1), by Yoon Ha Lee – from Solaris
  • The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth #2), by N.K. Jemisin – from Orbit

 

Without further ado, the rest of the list in order of publication, with some very brief descriptions of why they’re favorites:

  • City of Blades (The Divine Cities #2), by Robert Jackson Bennett – from Broadway Books
    • Secondary world urban fantasy. Mind-breaking and awesome in every way.
  • A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2), by V.E. Schwab – from Tor Books
    • High/portal fantasy. Action-packed and full of thieves, shenanigans, and feels.
  • The Edge of Worlds (The Books of the Raksura #4), by Martha Wells – from Night Shade Books
    • Best high fantasy world-building I’ve read in ages.
    • If you’re new to Martha Wells LOOK UP HER WORK NOW.
  • Children of Earth and Sky, by Guy Gavriel Kay – from NAL
    • GGK is the master of historical fantasy. Lyrical and dense.
  • Memories of Ash (The Sunbolt Chronicles #2), by Intisar Khanani – self-published
    • High fantasy, just straight-up fun. More thieves and magic and exploring an expansive world!
  • Four Roads Cross (Craft Sequence #5), by Max Gladstone – from Tor Books
    • Secondary world urban fantasy. Again with the “mind-breaking and awesome” descriptor.
    • Please believe me: you want to read the Craft Sequence. I promise.
  • Behind the Throne (The Indranan War #1), by K.B. Wagers – from Orbit
    • Space opera! Action-packed adventure and politicking.
    • (I believe K.B. Wagers is Campbell-eligible!)
  • No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished (Heartstrikers #3), by Rachel Aaron – self-published
    • Urban fantasy with dragons and sorcerers and adorable/terrifying demonic cat familiar. Definition of “changing the game and raising the stakes.”
  • The Guns of Empire (The Shadow Campaigns #4), by Django Wexler – from Roc
    • Military fantasy. Arguably his best yet.
  • Once Broken Faith (October Daye #10), by Seanan McGuire – from DAW
    • Urban fantasy, my favorite fae-based UF series to date. I love these characters so much.
  • Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9), by Ilona Andrews – from Ace
    • Urban fantasy of the shapeshifter variety. Case study in how to do a long-running series while still pushing the characters and having a functioning arc.
  • Unquiet Land (Elemental Blessings #4), by Sharon Shinn – from Ace
    • High fantasy romance? Character work is exquisite, and I love this world-building a lot.
  • One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3), by Ilona Andrews – self-published
    • I have no idea what subgenre this falls into, but I love it. Like a cross between urban fantasy and space opera.
    • You can try out the beginning of this serial on her website.

 

Happy reading! (And if I DID miss something you’re sure should be on here, please let me know so I can check it out!)

 

Easy Winter Beverages

 

I am COLD. In fact, I get cold more easily than anyone I know!

I am also always thirsty and drink on a semi-constant basis.

The solution to my problem here is clear.

 

So I bring you my five favorite easy and warm beverages to make in the winter!

All beverages on this list are nonalcoholic, largely due to the fact that I rotate them throughout the day. And I use “make” loosely, because I do mean easy–I am among the laziest chefs and also have books to write.

Without further ado:

 

  1. Chai.

    Tea in general is excellent in the winter, but if I must choose one, at the risk of waxing endlessly, chai is my favorite. Add in some milk and sugar and chai is probably the only reason I get out of bed.

    (No, really. I have to move out from underneath a cat. This requires extreme motivation.)

  2. Honeycrisp Apple Cider.

    I will accept other varieties of apple cider, of course, but honeycrisp apple cider is available by the jug here in Washington and it is AMAZING. I like heating it up with a mulling spice packet or cinnamon stick, but it’s good on its own, too. Honeycrisp apple cider is a permanent fixture at my house between November and February.

  3. Honey Lemon Tisane.

    This one’s especially good for when you’ve had enough caffeine for the day but don’t want to drink anything too filling. Put a couple dollops each of lemon juice and honey (do adjust dollops to taste–I am fond of sugar and err on the side of more honey always) into a mug, add a cinnamon stick, fill with water, heat, and stir. Done!

  4. Steamed Milk.

    A misnomer, but that’s how I learned to call it, and it’s a straightforward comfort drink after a hard or cold day. Add some honey to a mug of milk, heat, then add a couple drops of vanilla and stir. It’s that easy.

  5. Hot Chocolate.

    Last but not least, the classic. Adding marshmallows is traditional, but these days I love the variety of packets that come with salted caramel, cinnamon, or peppermint flavors. There are a thousand ways to do hot chocolate; you know what you like!

 

Combine warm beverage of choice with fleece blankets, a fireplace, and a comfortable cat or two, and I may make it through winter yet.

Let me know if you have suggestions for more winter beverages!