On being precious, or, a bad case of fear and the ‘what ifs?’

Ugh. Please, not this.


As you are probably aware, I have a completed book ready to publish (actually, I have four that are finished and awaiting further editing, but I digress).  While I thought The Queen of England: Coronation was done previously, now I think it’s ready.  While I’m not 100% enamored with the cover, I do believe that it’s good enough to get the job done.  The real problem?  This is what I’ve been working on since I left the ‘real world’ last year.  This is THE thing I said I was going to do.  This is more than my other books, all of which were written, edited, and published while I was working full time.  In my mind, there has always been so much more pressure on the Queen trilogy.

It’s not a big secret that I’ve always wanted to support myself through my writing.  Not wildly successful, but enough that would justify this break I’m having with traditional employment.  I want to be proud of myself when I log into my Amazon author page and see there are plenty of pages read and books bought.  I want to see reviews (good or bad).  I would love to see fan art or fan fiction (yes, really).  I want to see people add my book on Goodreads.  I don’t care about awards, but I do want Juliette to find an audience with someone (I think she deserves that much).  I’ve read plenty of YA to know where I fit into the pack, but I also know I am not the worst (nor am I the best).  I am someone who, on paper, should have some success.  But…

What if I don’t?

What if it fails?

What if it fails epically?

What if no one buys it?

What if people hate it?

What if I’ve been wasting my time?

Do I deserve to call myself an author if no one reads my stuff?

What if the money I’ve put towards editors, etc. have been for nothing?

Yes, of course, I was always going to write this book, but what if writing (for me) will never amount to more than an (expensive) hobby?  What then?  Will that be enough for me?

At what point do I say, ‘no one wants to read what you’re writing, so just stop it already?’ (Probably my biggest fear).

The worst part is, of course, there are no answers to any of these questions.  I won’t know until I publish, but until I publish, then they are not possible.  I have Schrodinger’s manuscript at the moment (if you will).

I still can’t pick a specific day to publish, but I think it will be this month.  I’m not sure if I will feel relief or disappointment or (what I’m really hoping for) motivation to continue on and be excited about publishing the remainder of the series.

Locations I Need to Visit in England (Book 1).

It occurs to me that in a perfect life, I’d have some sort of unlimited travel budget in which to complete research for my novels (and eat at the best restaurants in the world).  Honestly, I did try to visit Socotra earlier in the year (and was unfortunately turned back by bureaucracy upon reaching Salalah).  While Ayah and my Fates project will have to wait for now (not to worry, as the project hasn’t gone anywhere in years), my adventures with Queen Juliette cover a unique cross section of geography.  Although I don’t think I will be able to make it to England, I decided to put together a hypothetical list of my travel plans for the manuscript.

Marginal spoilers ahead (nothing specifically related to the plot).

  1. Buckingham Palace

While I’ve seen the outside of this famous building once or twice, areas of the interior are open throughout certain parts of the year, and I would love to coordinate a trip to tour some of the locations that are not usually accessed.  In the meantime, there is a lot of rich content online that did help me at least get an idea of how things look (of course, there is a bit of poetic license, but for the most part, I tried my best to aim for historical accuracy).

2. Westminster Abbey

Sounds a bit like I’m doing a regular tour of London, aren’t I?  Well, as it would come as no surprise given the Queen of England is attending her coronation, I would love a walk through of the space.  Fortunately, this is a location well covered on the interwebs.

3. London Bridge

I told you this was a historical tour, did I not?  Well, I don’t want to spoil too much of my novel, but I will say that perhaps this structure gets a bit of a rehabilitation at some point during the book (and no, I’m not confusing it with Tower Bridge, which was completed well after the events of The Queen of England: Coronation).

4. Royal Opera House

Not a spoiler, but the climax of the novel takes place here (with a few steampunk type embellishments on my part).  As with above (and my writing in general), I’d love a few more details to make the space seem more realistic.

5. Langley Castle

A quick stop for Queen Juliette and her crew on their way to recover something of historical importance, but on the list all the same.  Even if the total in the novel would add up to about two sentences, at least those words would be based on actual experience.

6. Tadcaster (upon the River Wharfe)

A (real) location I chose purely for the whimsical name.  Google Maps, thank you for all that you do.

7. Old Haydon Bridge

A significant venue, and probably the place I’d most like to visit on this list (no, there’s nothing super special here, but in the course of the book, it matters). #vaguereasonisvague

8. Magna Carta Island

No spoilers here, but it’s a place of relative historical importance both in reality and the manuscript (and such a stroke of luck for me to find).

9. Readymeade

A waystation, but an important stopping point in our heroine’s journey, as she struggles with some difficult choices.

10. Red House

Another location that was a bit of a serendipitous find, and a place that acts as a safe house for some of the main characters during a difficult time.

11. Mayfair District

Home to the Queen’s former townhome, but also a fashionable destination for a ball early in the novel.

12. Arthur’s Seat

While not explicitly in any of the books, for a while I considered making the location an important place.  Now, with all my research about Arthur and Excalibur, it’s more an homage I would like to make.


Books 2 and 3 have their own set of locations that I would love to explore, and I hope to share them with you at a later date!



2017 Reading Challenge.

2017 Reading Challenge

I always love these challenges!  Maybe one year when I’m not working on a novel (or 3), I’ll be able to commit to them.

In case you’re looking for some matches with the above list, might I offer the following?

  • A book by an author who uses a pseudonym.  Look no further than Ann Benjamin (I also publish under my real name, Courtney Brandt).
  • A book involving travel.  While technically Room 702 stays in one place it could count, but Life After Joe is all about a road trip, so I think it definitely ticks the box.
  • A book that’s published in 2017.  The Queen of England: Coronation is definitely coming out next year.  Actual release date: TBD.
  • A book involving a mythical creature, kind of a 2 for 1 with above.  There is a unicorn involved.
  • A steampunk novel.  Yay, this makes the Queen 3 for 3.
  • A book with a title with title that’s a character’s name.  See, Life After Joe.
  • A book set in a hotel.  Room 702 is completely set in a hotel.

And there you have it!  Lots of good choices this year.

Did you complete the challenge in 2016 or another year?

Understanding My Genre: A Further Look at Gaslamp Fantasy.

The more I got into working on the Queen (and reading Steampunk), the more I realized I wasn’t a true fit for the larger genre.  Not wanting to upset potential readers, I’ve decided to market The Queen more as a gaslamp fantasy and less a steampunk novel.  In reading the definitions below, I knew I had the right genre for my book.  That isn’t to say that fan of steampunk won’t enjoy Queen Juliette’s adventures, it’s more about a correctly defined genre.

So, what is Gaslamp Fantasy? (Source).

Gaslamp Fantasy is a genre-bending sub-genre that belongs to both Fantasy and Historical Fiction and borrows tropes, themes, and even characters from Gothic fiction—the supernatural features heavily in sub-genre. Gaslamp was coined in order to separate works from the ever-growing Steampunk sub-genre because Gaslamp works are not ‘punk.’

The term was first used by Kaja Foglio to describe her comic series, Girl Genius. Sometimes called Gaslight, the term refers to lamps fueled by gas. Gaslamps have a particular ambiance—worthy of literary use and great for creating that atmosphere so important to Gothic fiction.

The first public lighting was in 1807—Gaslamp Fantasy takes place in the Regency, Edwardian, or Victorian era England (or a place with heavy British cultural influences). Gaslamps are a distinctive part of the setting because they were a relatively short-lived technology and provide a sense of nostalgia and historical authenticity. The ambiance of gaslamps is also a big part of the sub-genre’s visual appeal. There is a strong community of visual artists interested in Gaslamp Fantasy. Indeed, comics and graphic novels have a strong and defining presence within the sub-genre.

Gaslamp Fantasy Characteristics

  • Level of Magic, Moderate. Gaslamp Fantasy has strong associations with the supernatural, none of which are particularly inventive because the sub-genre draws so much from the conventions of other genres. However, magic does have a somewhat unique application, as compared to more traditional fantasy. The magic of the Gaslamp world is often intertwined with technology, or mechanical objects and as such must be a well developed system.
  • Level of Grand Ideas and Social Implications, Variable. Anytime the setting is an alternate history of some sort there is great potential for social commentary. Alternate histories allow readers to re-examine, not just historical events, but the societal and political structures that surround those events and to see them in a new light—in the case of Gaslamp Fantasy, with a bit of the magical and supernatural woven in.As always, not all authors will take advantage of its potential or, at least, of its furthest potential.
  • Level of Characterization, Moderate. Gaslamp Fantasy draws on several literary traditions and updates them for a modern audience. In so doing, the sub-genre will often use stock characters to populate its world, but the sub-genre also has the power to reinvent characters.
  • Level of Plot Complexity, Variable. There isn’t a standard plot for Gaslamp Fantasy and because the sub-genre draws from so many other traditions, the types and complexities of plots varies greatly. A plot may be a tangled web of social interactions, or a twisty-turny, page-turner uncovering clues and solving mysteries, or a historical retelling where the outcome is predetermined (or is it?).
  • Level of Violence, Variable. Gaslamp Fantasy crosses genre and sub-genre lines, and these other influences define the level of violence better than the term Gaslamp. For example, Gaslamp Fantasy that crosses with the Horror genre have higher levels of violence. Whereas stories in the Fantasy of Manners sub-genre have very little violence, instead focusing on wit and social intrigue.

Gaslamp Fantasy Isn’t For You If…

If you aren’t in the mood for all things British. Gaslamp is particularly associated with British history and culture—so even in an alternate history or setting, British influences are significant. So, if you’re looking for a story with a truly new, creative, and fantastical world, Gaslamp is not for you.

If you want a story about driving someone mad. Gaslighting, very similar in name to Gaslamp (a.k.a. Gaslight), is in fact a different term that means to purposefully alter a person’s environment in order to make a person believe s/he is going crazy, until s/he actually does. If you’re expecting a story about psychological tampering, this is not for you.

See more at: http://bestfantasybooks.com/gaslamp-fantasy.html#sthash.A1ImuqQA.dpuf

On the topic of patience.

So, I currently have the final draft of The Queen of England: Coronation.  And it’s complete.  Finished.  Khalas.  Yesterday, I was feeling weird about it.  After all, the (original) whole point of this year off was to produce something.  Y’know, like a book.  Which I’ve done.  And I’ve been struggling with whether or not it is ‘ready.’  As I’ve written 10+ books, I know there is a specific feeling when a book is done.  For whatever reason, The Queen is not ready to be shared with the world.  Even with lots of wonderful and supportive comments from readers.  Even with a cover.  Even with paying an editor.  I don’t have the feeling.

I was chatting with wonderful Elena, and realized (duh!): I can wait.  There is no publisher demanding the book.  To my knowledge, there is no audience demanding the book.  So, I kind of let all that sink in yesterday and woke up feeling much better about the whole situation.  As I reviewed my notebook (which includes pages of ideas to include in the series), I realized my next step is not publication, but instead editing the second book.  I have a feeling that the changes I make in the next draft of The Queen of England: Grand Tour will have a direct impact on the events of the first book.

Sure, I could make changes after publishing, but that doesn’t seem fair to me or the readers.  I want to get this right the first time.  So, as soon as I can get the 200 pages printed (damn, not having access to printers anymore), I’m going to roll up my sleeves and get to work on making the second manuscript better (believe me, this is going to take some effort).

I know Juliette is waiting, but when it’s time for her debut, I want her to move forward with the strongest possible launch.  While I wait, I may opt the manuscript in to NetGalley, but we’ll see.


For those who know me, patience is one of the adjectives I would least use to describe myself.  It feels strange.  The voice in me that loves to tick things off the to do list is frustrated, but the author voice is louder and it’s saying, clearly, it is not the time.

Here’s to waiting!


Sunday Sentence.

Note from the Author:  This novel is a work of alternate history. Adding magic to the mix meant that events didn’t play out the way they appear in history books. Some things are entirely different, and some things are happening at different times or in different places. Figuring out where the real history might fit in is part of the fun.

Rebel Magisters (Rebel Mechanics Book 2) by Shanna Swendson

As I close in on finishing the Queen (and still lacking any motivation to actually share it with the rest of the world), I really liked this intro at the beginning of the sequel to Rebel Mechanics.  While I enjoyed the second book, it didn’t reach the highs the original novel did for me.  I’m still invested in the characters, but I thought the story moved a bit too slow.  That being said, I appreciate Ms. Swendson’s world building and would read any future books in the series.