My latest novel is with the editor, and it’s time for the fun stuff: covers and giveaways and sneak peaks!
I’ll be doing a giveaway at Austenauthors in April, that’s my other primary blog spot, but if you’re in a hurry, I’ve got another giveaway active this month atAustenprose! There’s also a sneak peak at the novel there, an excerpt I haven’t shared elsewhere. Fun times!
When Lizzy Bennet spends the winter in Highbury, it will be anything but the dull visit she expects. Particularly with Mr. Darcy visiting his friend Mr. Knightley!
Between dueling with Emma over Harriet Smith’s future and discovering secret love letters to Jane Fairfax, Lizzy is soon invested in her new friends. Then she becomes an unwelcome witness to Lady Catherine warning Emma not to think of Mr. Darcy!
From there it is a carousel of mistaken affections, relentless gossip, repressed emotions, and fateful decisions.
How will the new knots ever be untangled?
Between winter balls, outdoor frescoes, and fireside chats, the Highbury community is in for all the drama their village can hold.
I was very excited to get a feature with Bookbub for January! They are pretty selective and I have been applying off and on for about six years. I was shocked when I received their acceptance for A Lively Companion as applying had become a habit, not an expectation!
Generally I try not to obsess about Amazon or other rankings–readers make a career, not rank–but I am making an exception and doing a big happy dance today!
Thanks for all the reads, purchases, comments, and encouragement over the years!
Also #5 in Canada and #16 in the UK! (Canadian readers don’t intimidate me, but British ones do. <Corrie waves nervously, knowing she’s doing it wrong.>)
In other news, my Emma/Pride and Prejudice crossover is also up for pre-order and the wonderful lady who edits for me, Gabriella at editforindies.com, will be starting on it in March before it goes live in April.
My latest science fiction offering is live on Amazon! It was a ton of fun to write this summer (harder to get further from lockdown than Mars), and its been a lot of fun to get it ready for publishing. As always, much thanks to Gabriella at Edit for Indies who did the copyediting. Hyphenated words and adjectives are the bane of my existence, and she helped me get all the spaceships and terms consistent. I tend to get excited and little details like NAMES get lost in the mix, which is no good for the poor reader.
So what is it about? In my head, I’ve been describing it as a mashup between The Martian (by Andy Weir) and Smart House, a fun campy Disney movie from my tween years. Lol, make of that what you will! It took a lot of twists and turns from the original premise, and I’m happy with how it turned out.
Here’s my description from Amazon:
If you love tense, survival sci-fi, join a pair of shell-shocked astronauts on a catastrophic day of dangers in Worst Martian Playlist, a short novel exploring trust, identity, and loyalty.
The first caverns of the new Martian base were dug by rovers, but when the first long-term crew is on its way, catastrophe strikes. Miranda Oceveda and Caleb Wexler are the sole survivors.
In the caverns and tunnels that comprise the new base, Caleb and Miranda have soldiered on for months, but it’s frustrating and exhausting with only two people. Their AI assistant helps with day to day tasks, but it can’t replace a living crew.
And Miranda isn’t at all sure that Caleb hasn’t cracked under the pressure–he’s angry and aggressive in a way he never was before. Of course, she isn’t sleeping well either, and they both probably have PTSD and adrenal fatigue… But they only have to hold out until the Respite crew arrives.
But with only two weeks to go, one fateful day of storms, solar interference, and human error, their survival will depend on trust and intuition… and neither has much to spare.
This post first appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on September 13, 2020 by Amanda Kai. I thought it was pretty great! Click here to read it in full.
Here in the United States, we are preparing for one of my favorite holidays coming up in a couple weeks: Thanksgiving! Where I’m from, we have many traditions around this holiday involving gathering… Personally, I plan to watch the Macy’s parade, cook a big meal for my family, and after we’ve all stuffed ourselves, have an Austen movie marathon. Which got me thinking, what if the Austen men were Thanksgiving dishes? Now, there are a LOT of men in all of Austen’s books, so to keep it simple, I included the main leading men, the secondary leads, and the rakes, plus a couple others, for fun. Austen wrote some very yummy male characters, and I just couldn’t help but compare them to some of my favorite foods.
Veggie tray- Mr. Elliot (Persuasion)
On the outset, it seems like a good option, right? After all, veggies are healthy! Until you realize that you’re adding all those extra calories by dipping everything in Ranch dip…not unlike the way Mr. Elliot turned out to be a real weasel. Besides, who eats veggies on Thanksgiving with everything else there is? Pass the mashed potatoes please!
Tossed salad- Mr. Elton (Emma)
Salad is another one of those dishes that likes to masquerade as a healthy option. And it can be– when it’s not loaded with fancy toppings and rich dressings. Mr. Elton, too, initially looks like a decent catch, but his haughty attitude and petty behavior is no different than drowning a good bowl of veggies in bacon, cheese, fried toppings, and full-fat creamy dressing (though to be honest, that sounds pretty tasty! Maybe I’m a closet Mrs. Elton…)
Ambrosia salad- Captain Benwick (Persuasion)
The flip-side to a Jell-O salad: an Ambrosia salad. They come in many varieties, usually with different types of canned fruit, marshmallows, shredded coconut and whipped cream. My sister-in-law makes an amazing one she calls “Heavenly Hash” that has maraschino cherries and pineapple in it, along with the other stuff, and we always beg for more! Captain Benwick reminds me of this salad: chock full of sweetness and good things. He’s a character that I wish we could have seen more of in the story. I would have liked some scenes of him reading poetry to Louisa Musgrove.
Green bean casserole- Edward Ferrars (Sense and Sensibility)
A crunchy exterior of fried onions, but underneath, the mushy goodness of green beans and cream of mushroom. Edward’s shy nature and untold secrets makes him a bit hard to get to know, but underneath that crust is a man with a soft nature and a heart of gold. Besides, aren’t the fried onions kind of the best part of the casserole anyways?
Deviled eggs- Mr. Wickham (Pride and Prejudice)
I remember my Nana used to make deviled eggs every year for Thanksgiving. Perfectly hard-boiled, the insides scooped out and mixed with mayonnaise, mustard, and spices, then stuffed back in the egg whites and dusted with paprika. Mr. Wickham’s one tasty devil too– charming to a T, handsome, but just waiting to give you trouble, like those eggs that have been sitting out way too long on the buffet counter, breeding salmonella…
There’s a ton more, plus all the pictures! Go decide what your favorites are and let me know. 🙂
After finishing An Austen Ensemble, I was ready to venture back into the world of speculative fiction. I love carriages, phaetons, barouches, curricles, tumbrils, and farm wagons, and all the details that go along with historical novels, but I was more than ready to MAKE SOME STUFF UP by the time I was done.
So… Thus came about my near-future story on an underground Martian base (as I blow a kiss to Elon Musk!) which takes place on a single terrible day in the lives of two astronauts.
I just got the book back from my wonderful editor, Gabriella West over at Edit for Indies, so I am just whipping it into shape before publication. I am also learning how to use Adobe InDesign for covers, because writing a novel for NaNoWriMo this month was not enough. (I peer dubiously at the schedule written on my hand… Was this the plan?)
Anyway, cover and blurb to follow soon! But here’s an excerpt while I get things ready.
Thanks for reading,
Best Martian Playlist
Tenacity Base, Tharsis Montes, Mars
“You should allow yourself to rest,” the AI assistant said, “as the vehicle is in crawl mode. You can close your eyes. Caleb is taking a surface walk to the solar array.”
Miranda half-reclined on the driver’s seat of one of the huge rovers, her feet propped on the locked steering wheel, her head tilted back. She stared at the line between the foil sheeting that partly coated the Martian tunnel and the raw rock beyond, her eyelids heavy. A few feet further and the tunnel disappeared into blackness. She tapped her tablet and spoke to the AI, Ero, through a painful yawn. “Shouldn’t I use the time he’s gone? You said you had a list of options…”
“Steps may be necessary today, but you’ll need to be rested. Shall I begin another album? I can make suggestions based on your profile.” Ero was originally one of Amazon’s proprietary personalities, so he was always trying to get them to try new music or binge-watch new series.
“No, just play the mix I listened to last night.” Miranda felt her shoulders ease and she relaxed for real, getting as comfortable as possible in the bucket chair as she sipped citrus-flavored water out of the tube in her suit. Her position would be ridiculously uncomfortable on Earth, but in the low Martian gravity, it was workable.
The tunnel was twenty feet tall; that was the current calibration on the digger machine that had gone through this tunnel first. And the walls, though still lined from the teeth of that machine, were relatively smooth, half-melted from the high heat that was used to fuse rock and dust into firm walls.
If the caves were natural, they’d be considered quite beautiful. Parts of the rock seemed to hang in long, vertical folds like the finest drapery on a Michelangelo statue.
The thick layers of magnetic foil sealed themselves to the magnetic crust of Mars and crinkled faintly as soft wheels pushed them into place. She could hear it in the pause between one of her songs and the next.
The rock wasn’t perfectly smooth, and the aluminum sheeting wasn’t shiny like kitchen foil, but Miranda could make out the wavy image of her own red and white insulated suit reflected back from the roof of the tunnel. Her reflection was surrounded by that of the huge maroon construction rover, which she affectionately called Ironman.
Miranda felt a sneeze coming and wiggled her nose futilely before sneezing three times in succession. She tried to point her face down to avoid splatter on her faceplate, but having just reclined, she didn’t entirely make it. Ugh…
Miranda released the double-locking ring at her neck with guilty pleasure, rotating it counterclockwise, and gratefully removed her helmet. These suits were streamlined, vastly improved from the first bulky EMU suits early astronauts wore, but a mask was still a mask.
Her hair was in a ratty ponytail, sweaty, and she used her hand to flick a little water from the reservoir tube over her face. She rubbed it over her forehead and cheeks with her gloved hand. Relief. Without the connection to the helmet, the purified air blew from an open valve past her neck. She used the tablet to shut off the suit and preserve its store of liquid oxygen.
With a low rumble, Ironman jolted sideways like a crab, repositioning further down the tunnel. Its spotlights illuminated the front and back rollers applying the foil sheeting up the walls and across the ceiling. Its flat center held the cylinders of aluminum foil like colossal rolls of metallic wrapping paper, and a large robotic arm slotted the next roll into place while magnetic clamps unwound a new section.
“You shouldn’t have your helmet off,” Caleb called down the tunnel.
Miranda flinched. As he came into the lights from Ironman, she saw he was suited in neon green, one of the upper-surface suits which were easier to spot on satellite or in the dark. “Shouldn’t you be at the array?”
“No. Ero just had me servicing tanks in the basin this afternoon.” He came down the tunnel like a lightning bug in the dim glow of her machine, his walk the weirdly bouncy one that they’d grown used to in Mars’s light gravity. His reflection bounced along with him on floor and ceiling as though he were skating on ice.
Miranda gripped the steering wheel, wondering why Caleb would lie, or if she truly was just going crazy.
With her helmet off, she couldn’t ask Ero, but even as she thought the question, her tablet lit up. A brief message from Ero read, “I apologize. I did not realize he chose to ignore the array assignment. Drones are recharging.”
Yeah, Ero would have told her if he knew Caleb was coming her way. She wished she could hit the gas on Ironman and drive away. Or maybe drive right over Caleb. “Do you need something?”
“Yeah. I need you to put your helmet on.”
Miranda used a rag to wipe her face shield before putting the helmet back on.
“Thanks,” Caleb said. “Ero’s telling me there are three new messages, but he won’t display them until you’re there.”
My kids have a great picture book called, “The Big Orange Splot” that I took this title from because it fits so well the intimacy that homes and houses represent in Jane Austen’s books.
There’s Lizzy running into Darcy at Pemberley, arguably the best scene in any of the movies!Mr. Knightley walking into Emma’s house at all hours (plus the pivotal scene of his reprimand happening at his estate). Captain Wentworth’s sister moving into Anne Elliot’s house. The symbolism of Barton cottage compared to Norland Park. Jane spending several days of sickness at Netherfield…
It’s only practical, of course, that many scenes would be set at one or other of the character’s homes, but there’s definitely a sense that a new level of intimacy occurs when the love interest visits (or lives!) in their significant other’s home. This is particularly true with the more reserved characters. Bingley is friendly and gregarious, so we tend to feel that he and Jane would have been totally fine without that house visit. With Darcy, on the other hand, Lizzy starts to feel that she’s violating his privacy before they even get to Pemberley! Anne Elliot, as well, is quiet and introverted, and the knowledge that Frederick will be walking around her house is enough to make her (and my) heart flutter. Then there’s poor Fanny Price, essentially homeless as she fits neither with her uncle nor with her family, who ends up with only a single, cold room to call her own, which she eventually fills with her books and plants and personality. It’s the room where she feels safe, and of course, only Edmund is a welcome visitor, which makes it all the more painful when she must listen to him praise another woman there.
And beyond personal identity, there is also the fact that being in someone’s home creates uncomfortable intimacy. That’s the tension us romance readers crave, amirite? It’s the basis for so many romance tropes like arranged marriage or the governess angle. Leaving Jane Austen for a sec and moving to the Brontes, I don’t think any book did it better than Jane Eyre. No matter what you think of the romance, the fact that Jane can’t easily avoid Rochester forces her to face what she feels for him. Over and over.
Some people just call this angst, but I confess I can’t get enough of it in the romance books I read. I want to feel the heart of the character’s emotional dilemma, and nothing does that like being unable to escape their S.O.’s presence or the intimacy of having them in their home.
In that vein, here’s a short excerpt from the second of my Austen Ensemble series, A True Likeness. In this book, in the interest of using the “forced to live with your crush” trope, I made Georgiana’s love interest a portraitist, hired by Darcy and Bingley to paint Lizzy and Jane before the wedding.
Georgiana felt restless with her brother gone, and when she felt restless, she played the piano. This pianoforte, in Miss Bingley’s style, was noticeably fashionable. The wooden panels were decorated in the Chinese style, with strange shapes and patterns. The edges of the panels were lined with black, glossy wooden trim. The tone of the instrument was… well enough. Nothing to scoff at, but still not to compare with the sound of her pianoforte at Pemberley. That one was of plain blonde wood, well-crafted and perfectly toned, but nothing extraordinary to look at.
Mrs. Annesley slipped in with some white work in her hands and settled down across the room near the window.She played several scales and arpeggios, mindful that she had not truly practiced in many days. Eventually however, she let her hands go to her favorite pieces.
Georgiana didn’t immediately notice when another figure paused outside the door, not until he shifted. Then she saw Mr. Turner leaning against the door frame, listening.
She smiled a little and somehow, when one song led to another, found herself naturally playing her favorite pieces, even the romantic sonata she had played for Wickham.
As the notes fell like raindrops from the instrument, Georgiana felt that two paths were opening up before her. There was Mrs. Annesley, who represented everything peaceful and proper in her life: a woman Georgiana genuinely loved. Then there was Mr. Turner. He represented something else, something exciting, challenging, and profound.
Mrs. Annesley could not see him from where she sat, nor could Mr. Turner see her companion. Georgiana was balanced between the two. He did not enter the room but continued to lean against the threshold with his eyes shut, enjoying the music.
She loved his square face and smudged hands and broad shoulders. She loved his intense beliefs, his self-control, and his gentleness. She loved his art and skill and humility. She loved him.Georgiana loved him in that moment, but she knew she could not choose him. Her future, like every young lady, was not her own to give away. But her heart was hers, and she could acknowledge what she felt for Mr. Turner. For John. Because she was in love with him.
She would not fancy herself a tragic character—many women loved when there was no hope of marriage, or like her cousin Anne, chose to marry without love—but she was quietly glad to acknowledge it was real. It was far more real than the giddy infatuation Wickham had encouraged in her. Perhaps someday she would feel something like this for another man, and she would know it was worth pursuing…
Thanks for reading!
“My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all my dreams.” – “The Big Orange Splot” by Daniel Pinkwater
A little while ago I was contacted by one of the awesome ladies who runs Austen Authors, a group blog dedicated to all things Jane Austen, and she asked if I was interested in joining. Was I?? Absolutely!
As I was finishing my Austen Ensemble series–and obsessively checking details as I went–I’d often stumble upon helpful posts at Austen Authors and then use those to refine my searches and research. I already knew this was a lively and fun community so I pretty much couldn’t say yes fast enough!
And today I get to have my debut post over there! Since my first Ensemble book is set in Tunbridge Wells, a charming little town I knew nothing about, I focused on that for my first post. Go check it out!
I don’t know exactly what makes me love a short story, but it has something to do with humor, surprise, and a “real” ending. I wish I could write them that way! Humor especially seems to escape me, and all too often my short stories turn into first chapters (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but sometimes they don’t have the ending feel that I want.
Anyway, that being said, I finally got to read the stories in 20,000 Leagues Remembered! And just in time for the Facebook launch party for the paperback.
There’s too many to write about every one, but here are my favorites, in no particular order:
At Strange Depths by Jason J. McCuiston – so clearly written, forgot I was reading. An eerie extension of the book just after Professor Arronax escapes.
The Maelstrom by Maya Chhabra – fantastic character study, dark and moody and richly textured. It braids Nemo’s former life with the present and has a satisfying end emotionally, possibly the best of the bunch for me!
The Silent Agenda by Mike Adamson – ha! A curiously engrossing fireside chat between a publisher and a translator as they plan to edit Verne’s work to oblivion. Great dialogue, makes a writer and book lover and historian just cringe! In a good way.
Fools Rush In by Allison Tebo – Cracked me up. The would-be thieves have great chemistry as a group. I wanted more! Juliette with her single-minded balloonist goals, Lopez depressed and fatalistic, Casper making glorious speeches at inopportune moments… probably the funniest of the lot.
Homework Help From No One by Demetri Capetanopoulos – Okay, wait, maybe this was the best of the bunch for me! I really tasted the ingenuity, danger, and wonder of the original with this one, and a great ending!
I enjoyed others as well, Raise the Nautilus by Eric Choi is great, particularly for hard sci-fi readers, Leviathan by Michael Winkle went all in from a sperm whale (cachalot’s) perspective which was super creative…
The first ebook in my Alien Cadet series is free today (ends at midnight!) so grab a copy if you haven’t read it yet!
Also, I am excited to have a story included in an anthology celebrating 150 years since Jules Verne published his famous novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. That book was published June 20, 1870, and it has inspired countless scientists, engineers, and explorers. And Captain Nemo, with his tragic past, murky motivations, and terrorist tendencies, is a conflicted (anti?) hero who honestly fits right in to our world in 2020!
This anthology is full of stories that pay tribute to Nemo and/or his ship the Nautilus, and it’ll be available June 20, exactly 150 years to the day! You can pre-order now on Amazon.
In other news, I hope everybody is hanging in there with lockdowns and quarantine. In the US, it seems like a lot of places are opening up and I hope that will mean more jobs will return, and hopefully we have learned enough to control any major Covid-19 spikes! Here in Los Angeles, things are a little slower to open, so I will continue to sit tight with my four kids while we make mazes, sketch pretty doodles, or watch the Holderness channel and laugh.
Don’t forget to pre-order soon! Happy reading, everyone!