Letters from Mars (Blog)

Book Review: Snowspelled, by Stephanie Burgis

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This is the most charming, delightful fantasy novel you will read this year.

Set in an alternate-history England, in approximately the Regency era (early nineteenth century), this is the story of Cassandra Harwood, the first female magician in Angland. In this alternative reality, where Boudicca drove the Romans out of Britain, women hold political power while men have traditionally been the magicians. Cassandra was not only the first female magician, but also a very capable one. That is, until she tried a too-powerful spell that nearly killed her. Now, if she uses magic again, it will very likely finish the job.

Which would be all very well. Except that now she has stumbled into the path of a malevolent elf lord. If she can’t carry out his demands within a week, her life will be forfeit. But without magic, how can she hope to unpick the mystery and face up to his overwhelming power?

And if that isn’t enough, she’s trapped in the snow in a house party with her ex-fiance, her interfering family, manipulative lady politicans, and troublesome male magicians: her former colleagues, who never thought she should be allowed to be a magician in the first place.

Cassandra will have to find a way to neutralise the deadly elf lord and deal with her infuriating former fiance and the feelings she still holds for him.

Snowspelled is wonderful fantasy novel, full of spark, energy, and brilliant, sharp characters. There is a mystery, a romance, and a magical threat growing ever closer in a completely unique setting. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Snowspelled is a very short novel, just a little longer than a novella, but it is fast moving and you never feel like anything is lacking. The characters and plot are all fully developed. It’s the first of three novellas. The second, Thornbound, is due out in 2018, and I can’t wait!

Go and get Snowspelled right away.

5 Stars!

Buy now: Kobo | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Smashwords | Add on Goodreads

Publication Day!

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It’s publication day for THE EMPEROR OF MARS. It’s also the day that SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB comes out in paperback, in case you’ve been waiting for a cheaper version.

Publication day is always super busy, and I haven’t done nearly everything I meant to, but I did go out with the boys, eight-year-old MrD and four-year-old MrX, to a cafe and then a bookstore, so who can say fairer than that? To be honest, I’d happily do that every day…

If you haven’t read SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB already, THE EMPEROR OF MARS will work on its own, but I do think you’d have more fun if you read SECRETS first.

While you’re here, here’s a (spoiler-free) extract from Chapter Three of THE EMPEROR OF MARS. Enjoy!

THE EMPEROR OF MARS extract

In two days, the museum was opening a new gallery stuffed full of the amazing artifacts we’d found in our dragon tomb.

We pushed our way through the heavy, iron-studded door, and deafening noise immediately washed over us.

“Look out!” Putty shouted.

I ducked just in time as something swooped by, almost taking my head off.

The entrance hall was in chaos. For a moment, I thought the museum had been attacked. But it was almost worse: Dozens of junior curators were rushing around the lobby in panic, shouting and waving, while a cluster of automatic servants strained to carry a large, elaborate artifact toward a nearby gallery. One of the curators had even put on a pair of pneumatic wings and was flapping around, out of control, almost crashing into the other curators, the artifact, the walls, and us. The automatic servants wobbled, the curators shouted contradictory instructions, and any moment the whole thing was going to end in disaster.

“Hey!” Putty shouted. “That’s our artifact! You’d better not drop it!”

I’d never quite figured out what the artifact was supposed to be. It was made of hundreds of brass balls, each the size of Putty’s fist, all connected together with thin brass rods. We’d found it in the dragon tomb when we’d been taking shelter from Sir Titus. Before I’d had a chance to look at it, he’d smashed it to bits with his excavator. The museum had spent the last few months restoring it, but I still didn’t know what it was, and no one else seemed to, either. It looked a bit like a man crouching, ready to jump up. Or maybe like a bowl of noodles tipped over a sculpture made of marbles.

“Look,” Putty said. “There’s Dr. Guzman. Why don’t you ask him about Rothan Gal?”

I eyed the small, dust-smeared junior-under- curator standing on the far side of the lobby. “Why don’t you ask him?”

“He’s awfully boring. You deal with boring better than I do.”

“Thanks?” I said.

THE EMPEROR OF MARS

Find out about the book

Read Chapter One

SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB

Find out about the book

Read Chapter One

THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS

And, of course, there’s my novella, THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS, set in the same world but with different characters:

Find out about the novella

Read the opening

Coming up

Coming up sometime this year, I’ll be releasing a new short story, THE BAD GUYS, set right after THE EMPEROR OF MARS finishes. Hang around for it.

Right now I’m working on a new humorous middle grade fantasy which I hope you’ll all get to see before too long!

Upcoming Events

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I only get to America once a year, so I don’t get the chance to do many book events over there, but this year, if you’re in or near Michigan in August, I’ve got two events coming up. I’m going to be alongside the lovely, talented Jim Hines, Merrie Haskell, and Stephanie Burgis. We’re going to be doing short readings and a panel Q&A.

Hopefully we’ll see some of you there!

August 9, 2017 – Okemos, Michigan

Schuler Books & Music
1982 W Grand River Ave, Ste 715, Okemos, Michigan 48864

7p.m. – 8.30p.m.

See event on Facebook

August 15, 2017 – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Literati Bookstore
124 E Washington St, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

7p.m. – 8.30p.m.

See event on Facebook

Sorry I’m not going to have a chance to make it anywhere else this year. Maybe next!

Cover Designs

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I don’t get to spend much time on cover design anymore (or web design, for that matter) because most of my non-childcare time is spent on writing, but occasionally I get to do the odd cover. Here are a couple of covers I’ve designed for Steph in the last month.

First up is a cover for her short story, Shadow Duet, which is a sequel to her historical fantasy, Masks and Shadows.

I was particularly pleased with this one, because I made it entirely from freely-available, public domain images, so other than my time, it didn’t cost a penny.

The second cover is for Steph’s forthcoming novella, Snowspelled. My contribution to this was a little less, because I was working from a specially-commissioned artwork by Leesha Hannigan. All I had to do was add text, make a few subtle adjustments to make the text more visible, and add the frills. But I think it turned out really nicely. Here it is:

Follow the links to find out more about the stories!

Finished Copies and Free Novella

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It’s now just over three weeks until both SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB is published in paperback and THE EMPEROR OF MARS is published in hardcover and ebook versions. My lovely publisher sent me copies of each, hot off the press. Here they are:

And to celebrate the books coming out, I am giving away free e-copies of my novella, THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS, to everyone who is subscribed to my newsletter by June 29th, 2017. THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS is set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and THE EMPEROR OF MARS. You can sign up in the sidebar of this page or at http://eepurl.com/wy0hH.

You’ll also get an exclusive look at the opening of THE EMPEROR OF MARS, plus book recommendations and stuff about writing. How can you resist?

Later on, I’m also going to give away another short story that takes place directly after the events of THE EMPEROR OF MARS, but I want to give people a chance to read THE EMPEROR OF MARS first.

So, sign up to the newsletter now in the sidebar of this page (or below, if you’re using a phone or small tablet…)!

The Emperor of Mars: Book Giveaway and Sneak Peek

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In case you didn’t see it on Twitter and Facebook, I’m doing a giveaway for the so-far ONLY signed Advance Reader’s Copy (ARC) of my second book THE EMPEROR OF MARS (I may sign one other ARC closer to publication, but that will be it, so one day this will be worth millions*.)

*Or not.

ANYWAY…

THE EMPEROR OF MARS is the sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON and takes place eight months later.

Here’s the blurb:

A missing Martian. A sinister plot. A French spy.

If Edward thought life was going to be easy in Tharsis City, he was very, very wrong. The moment he intercepts a thief escaping from Lady Harleston’s townhouse, he is caught up in a terrible scheme that threatens the whole of Mars.

Soon he’s fighting off vicious sea serpents, battling a small army of heavily-armored thugs, and trying to unpick an impossible mystery. Meanwhile, Putty has declared war on her new governess, a war that, for the first time in her life, Putty may be in danger of losing.

Edward doesn’t know whom he can trust. Will he make the right choice? Or will his family – and his entire planet – fall victim to the treacherous Emperor of Mars?

Join Edward and his family for a whole new, exciting adventure on Mars.

And here are some of the internal pages from the book, with art by Jeremy Holmes (who also did the cover):

See the pages in full size.

(Do note, though, that the ARC is an uncorrected proof of the book, so there may be minor differences in the text and artwork between the ARC and the final version, and a couple of pieces or artwork aren’t in the ARC. But that’s what makes it special, right? ;) )

The giveaway is on goodreads and is open worldwide from April 24th to May 11th, 2017. Go and enter right now and be one of the first to get the book.

Three Months To Go…

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Wow! It’s only three months until SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB comes out in paperback, and also three months until THE EMPEROR OF MARS comes out in hardcover! (That’s July 18th, 2017 for those of you reading this in the future.) There was a time when I thought this was never going to actually happen, and now suddenly the books are going to come out after all.

Pre-order the paperback of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Pre-order the hardcover of THE EMPEROR OF MARS: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Or buy the hardcover of SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

The good news is that we should be in America pretty soon after the books come out, and Steph will have her US version of THE DRAGON WITH A CHOCOLATE HEART out just a little earlier, so we’re thinking about doing a joint launch party in East Lansing for our books. Keep an eye out, and we’ll announce it when we pin down the details…

Also, I’ll be giving away a SIGNED ARC of THE EMPEROR OF MARS via Goodreads next week. Watch out for that, too.

Now, back to writing my next book. The words won’t wait. :)

The Emperor of Mars: ARCs and First Pass Pages

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The Emperor of Mars is on his way. He’s been planning this for a long time, plotting, scheming. And now he is one step closer.

Yes, he has made it to Advance Reader Copy (ARC) status and First Pass Pages.

Here are *my* ARCs looking excessively handsome.

And here is our new cat, Pebbles, tolerating (just) being put in charge of a copy.

So what does it look like inside? Well, I’m glad you asked! Here it is. This is the first page, along with a new character, George Rackham.

If you can’t read that first page, this is what it says:

Chapter 1: The Trouble with Vine-Mining

I was twenty feet underground, surrounded by glowing blue sandfish crystals, with my head jammed in a beetle-vine warren, when I realized that vine-mining wasn’t for me.

I had seen the notice pinned up outside the local office of the Imperial Martian Airship Company:

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!
ROOT OUT BEETLE-VINES!
SAVE LUNAE CITY!
SIGN UP TODAY!
BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!

Perfect, I’d thought. What a great idea.

I had never been so wrong.

You might have thought that living in the middle of Mars’s biggest desert would mean that you never got wet…

* * *

I’ll post the rest of the first chapter closer to publication day (which is on July 18, 2017, since you asked).

I’ve been working on the First Pass Pages (basically, a printout of the ARC), fixing up any last errors, tweaking the odd bit, smoothing things a little, but the ARC is pretty close to what the published book will be. There are typos and a few other minor errors, but the story is the same.

While we’re all waiting for the final, finished book, if you want a chance to win a signed ARC, keep an eye open. I’ll be posting a giveaway in a few weeks time.

Until then!

(Note: cover and the internal illustration above are by Jeremy Holmes.)

2016 Year in Review

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Apparently, this is the end of 2016. I didn’t see that coming! I’ve only just got used to it being this year. I must have done something during the year, right? Right? Right.

Here’s my writing-related stuff from the year:

Published my first novel!

Yes, at last. I’ve been wanting to be a novel-writer since I was a teenager, and despite not really writing during my 20s, I never gave up wanting, and this year, my first book finally, finally came out (I actually sold it at the end of 2012, but it’s taken this long to be published).

SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB, in case you don’t know, is a “modern pulp” science fiction adventure for kids, and I love it.


Published a linked novella

I also published a novella set in the same world as SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB. THE DINOSAUR HUNTERS takes place a year before SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB and features different characters, and it’s aimed slightly older, but it’s still the same mixture of humour, action, adventure, mystery, and over-the-top ideas.


Revised the sequel

The sequel to SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB will come out in July 2017. It’s called THE EMPEROR OF MARS, and it takes Edward and his family on an even more outrageous and deadly adventure. I did a pretty big rewrite of it over the summer, and then the copyedits this autumn. I’ve also seen the internal illustrations for it by the intensely talented Jeremy Holmes, and they are amazing!


Wrote a new book

The book that will be going out on submission in the new year is (currently) called THE MYSTERY OF FIRELAKE HALL. It’s set in 1932, in England. My agent, the wonderful Jennifer Laughran, described it as “A little bit Agatha Christie meets Clue meets St Trinian’s meets WW1 meets MAGIC!” It also has wolves, because, you know, why not?

I actually wrote a version of this quite a few years ago, but it didn’t work, so I ripped it up and completely rewrote it this year, which is the first time I’ve ever done that with a book, and I think it worked!

Pitched a third SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB book

To be brutally honest, this book probably won’t happen, but I have an outline and an opening in case it ever does, and the first two books tie everything important up, I think, if it doesn’t. One day, maybe!

Whew

Okay, when I put it like that, it makes it seem like I really did manage some stuff this year despite having young children (the younger of whom is only in school 2-1/2 hours a day).

Now, I need a new book or two to write in 2017!

What did you do this year?

Secrets of the Dragon Tomb – New Cover

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Hey folks. Fantastic news. SECRETS OF THE DRAGON TOMB will have a new cover when it comes out in paperback on July 18th, 2016. I liked the hardcover version, but I think the paperback catches the book better. No need for me to waffle on about this. Here it is:










As with the hardcover, the art here is by Jeremy Holmes.

Find out more about the book here.