Inspiration and MASQUE

MASQUE will be 1 year old on February 1st! I’m going to be hosting a big giveaway early next year (keep your eye out for great prizes!), but in the meantime, here’s a blog post on my inspiration for MASQUE and–most particularly–Isabella Farrah.

Isabella Farrah is probably the most fully-formed character ever to spring from my brain to the page. The first moment I ‘met’ her, I knew almost everything about her. I knew she loved tea and fine biscuits. I knew she had red hair. I knew she had an irrepressible and somewhat sarcastic sense of humour. I knew she was nosy. I was quite certain she was stubborn. I had more than a hint of the fact that she liked fine clothes, assuredly didn’t like horses, and was always dressed to the nines no matter what the occasion. And as the daughter of the Civetan Ambassador, it was obvious that she knew how to handle people.

Knowing all that, MASQUE was the easiest book I’ve written. It was just a matter of my fingers trying to keep up with my brain. I may have even given myself typist’s sprain in several fingers.

Therefore it feels like a bit of a cheat to talk about inspiration when it comes to Isabella. You see, I didn’t exactly feel inspired by anyone or anything to write her. She was just there. I was excited at the idea of writing a Beauty and the Beast retelling, and Isabella simply swept in and took over the story. It wasn’t even a matter of me reading a character I liked and thinking ‘Oh! One day I’d like to do a character like that!’

MASQUE - 2000Isabella is certainly not free of inspiration and heritage, of course: she’s a product of a long and varied reading career. Built into her are thousands of hours of soaking up authors like Austen, Heyer, Pratchett, Aiken, Wrede, Wynne-Jones, and so many more. She is, however, the character who leapt most obviously from my own imagination. I can pinpoint the genesis of most of my other characters. Isabella feels like she was always there at the back of my mind, just waiting to come out and play.

MASQUE itself certainly has its own distinct genesis of inspiration. I had previously written a Red Riding Hood retelling (WOLFSKIN) that was seeing some pretty hefty revisions (aka, being rewritten from the ground up) and I knew that I wanted to write more retellings. Oddly enough, MASQUE came about because I was thinking of the fairytales that I wouldn’t rewrite. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairytales, but with such great contenders already in the field, I felt that it had been done nearly to death. What possible twist could I bring to the story that hadn’t been done before–not to mention being done better than I could ever do it? Then I thought: ‘But if I did do it, this is how I’d do it–“

–and the rest, as they say, is history.

Looking back on this first year of MASQUE, I’m delighted at all the new people I’ve met, and all the feedback I’ve received. So whether you’re re-reading MASQUE or diving in for the first time, I hope you have at least as much fun reading as I did writing it!

You can get MASQUE from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and Smashwords.

All About Wolfskin

Just a quick note to let you all know that Wolfskin is Finished, Done, Kaputt, Uploaded, etc, etc. It will be available May 1st, and if any of you out there on the interwebs are interested in getting your hot little hands on a review copy of Wolfskin, send me a note via the comments, the Contact tab, or email (gingellwrites AT gmail.com). Reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Blogs, and Kobo are very greatly appreciated 🙂

Wolfskin will be going on blog tour from July 6th, so reviews are welcome any time from May 1st through to July 26th. Later is fine, too, but I’d love to co-ordinate everything together if possible. If you’re interested in having me as a guest on your blog during this time (guest post, interview, excerpt, etc) feel free to contact me by the above methods.

I will also be setting up a Goodreads Giveaway mid-May.

See below for a blurb of Wolfskin, and if you’d like to check out an excerpt, click on the Excerpts tab.

Have a lovely week, all!

“If you want adventure, you have to march right up to it and kick it in the shins . . .”

At fourteen, barefoot and running wild, Rose is delighted to be apprenticed to Akiva, the witch of the forest.  She thinks it will be all enchantment and excitement, and not so much fuss about baths.  The reality is much more sober and practical- that is, until she meets a mysterious wolf in the forest and is tricked into stepping off the path . . .

In young, naive Rose, Bastian sees a way of escape.  Cursed to remain in the shape of a wolf after running afoul of a powerful enchantress, he has lived many decades under a spell, and now he is both desperate and ruthless.  But by breaking part of Bastian’s curse, Rose has caught the attention of Cassandra, the enchantress who cursed him: and Cassandra is by no means ready to forgive and forget.

Meanwhile, wardens have been disappearing from the forest, one by one.  Rose is certain that Cassandra is behind the disappearances, but can she and Bastian get to the bottom of the matter before Akiva disappears as well?  And are Bastian’s motives entirely to be trusted?

Sometimes the little girl in the red hood doesn’t get eaten, and sometimes the wolf isn’t the most frightening thing in the forest.

WOLFSKIN - 2000

Wolfskin Excerpt

Wolfskin is on its final edits and will be published May 1st, 2015! It’s set in the same world as Masque but is a standalone novel with separate characters. I will hopefully be doing a blog tour a month or two after publication, but in the mean-time, here’s a short excerpt for you to get a feel for the book.

Enjoy!

 

When I stepped from the thread to the path leading to Akiva’s front gate, there was a woman between me and it.

She was so beautiful. I’m not sure why I expected her to be otherwise. Her hair was black and glossy, and hung loose to her waist in a sleek, rippling sheet that mingled with royal purple satins and silks that were as sleek as her hair. Her eyes, framed by impossibly long, dusky eyelashes, were of an equally impossible shade of violet. I saw them and my herbs scattered themselves on the path, dropping heedlessly from my nerveless fingers. Those twin violets gleamed with the same darkness I had seen in Bastian’s eyes the first time I met him.  

Horned hedgepigs! I thought, swallowing. It could only be Cassandra.

She looked me up and down with those brilliant, purple eyes while I regretted fervently that I hadn’t been a moment quicker, and then said: “You’re not pretty.”

Her voice was bell-like in consideration; and, like every other part of her, breathtakingly beautiful.

“I know,” I said. Even if I had been as beautiful as Gwendolen, I couldn’t have hoped to compare with Cassandra. I eyed her unblinkingly, wondering why it mattered to her.

“You’re not pretty,” she repeated; a statement, not a question. “I didn’t expect that. He must be desperate.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said, scowling. I was coldly frightened, and that made me angry. Black, tarry magic was stirring around her, creating nasty pockets of corruption in the air that made me feel ill: it was vastly more powerful than anything I had ever seen.

She looked at me contemptuously through the haze. “Beauty is all that matters to him, stupid child. You can only lose.”

“Bastian isn’t here,” said Akiva’s voice suddenly and startlingly. I tore my eyes away from Cassandra’s and saw her, knobbly and infinitely welcome, leaning on a stick behind the enchantress. For a horrible moment it had felt like I was drowning in the brilliant lavender of Cassandra’s eyes.

Akiva hobbled past her and put a hand on my shoulder. I felt a sense of her power, welling up deep inside her, warm and comforting. I think I was still looking up at her with wide eyes when she said quietly: “Go into the house, Rose.”

As I closed the gate with cold fingers, I heard Akiva reiterate: “The wolf isn’t here.”

“I can smell him all over her!” hissed Cassandra.

There was a silence suggesting that Akiva was shrugging; then her old, firm voice said: “I sent him away: he knows what I think about him. Today was goodbye.”

Their voices faded with distance, but as I loitered on the garden path I saw the warm glow of an astonishing and formidable power rising to meet and match Cassandra’s. I recognized it as Akiva’s, hale and hearty, and stronger than I could ever have imagined. After that I hurried to get into the safety of the cottage, feeling the hairs prickle on the back of my neck, because I knew that it was no longer safe for me to be out in the open. Once inside, I plumped myself down in Akiva’s chair, absently staring into the fire and contemplating the extraordinary power I had just witnessed. For the first time in the excitement of my new magical prowess, I felt thoroughly humbled and weak. My own power, puny in comparison to that shown so effortlessly by both Cassandra and Akiva, was pitiful past thinking about. I was suddenly very thankful for Akiva’s protection. In the coldness of the moment, I knew there was no chance that I could ever hope to fight against Cassandra and win.

Wolfskin is available for preorder on Amazon and Kobo, due for release May 1st, 2015.

Cover Reveal: Wolfskin

I’m particularly excited about the cover for my next book. I love all the covers that Joleene Naylor has done for me, but I particularly love the colours in this one. (Why, yes: I am a joyless, crabbed little being who loves mossy greens and greys and browns.)

Below you can read a blurb for Wolfskin: an excerpt of the same will make its way to you when I get the chance. Wolfskin is set in the same world as the rest of the Two Monarchies Sequence, but has none of the same characters. Let me know in the comments what you think of the cover. Thusly: behold!

Preorder Available from Amazon and Kobo

Preorder Available from Amazon and Kobo

‘If you want adventure, you have to march right up to it and kick it in the shins . . .’

At fourteen, barefoot and running wild, Rose is delighted to be apprenticed to Akiva, the witch of the forest.  She thinks it will be all enchantment and excitement, and not so much fuss about baths.  The reality is much more sober and practical- that is, until she meets a mysterious wolf in the forest and is tricked into stepping off the path . . .

In young, naive Rose, Bastian sees a way of escape.  Cursed to remain in the shape of a wolf after running afoul of a powerful enchantress, he has lived many decades under a spell, and now he is both desperate and ruthless.  But by breaking part of Bastian’s curse, Rose has caught the attention of Cassandra, the enchantress who cursed him: and Cassandra is by no means ready to forgive and forget.

Meanwhile, wardens have been disappearing from the forest, one by one.  Rose is certain that Cassandra is behind the disappearances, but can she and Bastian get to the bottom of the matter before Akiva disappears as well?  And are Bastian’s motives entirely to be trusted?

Sometimes the little girl in the red hood doesn’t get eaten, and sometimes the wolf isn’t the most frightening thing in the forest.

Excerpt From ‘Spindle’: Current WIP

As Masque won’t be out for another 15 days, I thought I’d whet your appetite for my Two Monarchies Sequence by giving you a taste of my current WIP: Spindle. You may perhaps be clever enough to guess which particular fairytale I’ve messed with this time . . .

Anyone looking for this excerpt after it has progressed down the page need only click on the page Shorts & Excerpts to find it again.

Enjoy! (Bon Appetit?)

Excerpt from Spindle, chapter one

Polyhymnia knew perfectly well that she was dreaming.  Her hair was in pigtails and she was wearing a smock, which pointed to an age of perhaps twelve or thirteen; and the dream itself was a distant memory of a history lesson with Lady Cimone, her teacher.  She had been amused for a brief moment to find herself daydreaming during the lesson: dreaming, as it were, during a dream, while Lady Cimone pointed out the various flaws in Civet’s latest sally against Parras.
Oh, I remember this, thought Poly suddenly.  Parras tossed over one of our outposts, and we walked right into an ambush trying to retaliate.
Pain, in her left ear.  Poly clutched the injured member in surprise.
“Ow!”  She hadn’t remembered that.
“Perhaps you could pay attention to your lesson, now that you’re awake?” suggested Lady Cimone.  She always did prefer boxing ears to using a cane.  Maybe it was her idea of the personal touch.  “This is important, Poly.”
Poly let her younger dream-self murmur the appropriate response, her attention snatched away, because a gold-edged rift was beginning to form in the blue-painted wall behind Lady Cimone.
The lady caught the direction of her gaze and gave a sharp glance behind her.
“Bother!” she said.  She seemed annoyed rather than taken aback.
Before long the perpendicular rift was tall enough to admit a human, and Poly wasn’t quite surprised when a young man stepped through.  He was wearing a long, mud-splattered black coat that looked as though it had seen one too many days travelling, and he had an inquiring, dishevelled look.  His forehead was wide and square, with dark hair springing upwards and sideways from it, and his mouth was both determined and wistful; though the triangular set of his chin spoke more to determination than wistfulness.  Poly shut her mouth, which had dropped open, and took one involuntary step backwards as the man pulled himself fully into the room.  He was fairly glowing with residual magic, which set every alarm bell ringing in her head.
“Shoo,” he said to Lady Cimone, and stepped purposefully toward Poly.
The lady smiled a little grimly and said: “I am no more a dream than you are, young man.  Kindly be polite.”
Poly became her normal, older self in confusion, and the dream-memory of the younger her melted away, leaving Lady Cimone and the young man behind in the resulting void.  The young man seemed almost as bemused as Poly felt, but Lady Cimone was looking, as usual, serene and omniscient.
“I tried my best, but I’m afraid he got you,” she said to Poly.  “You’ll have to go with the wizard for now.  Your parents said they’d try to find you somewhere along the way, but things might be a little more difficult than they realised.  Try not to forget everything the minute you wake up, child.”
“But-” Poly began; but Lady Cimone was already gone.  Poly put her hands on her hips and surveyed the young wizard, who was still standing where he was, disturbingly real for a dream figure.
“Huh,” he said.  “Didn’t expect that.  Come here, princess.”
Poly could have said: ‘I’m not the princess,’ but it didn’t see worth arguing with a dream.  Instead, she said: “I don’t think so,” and slipped up and out of the dream.

It should have woken her.  For a moment, she thought it had.  She was standing in her own small, rounded chamber, stranded aimlessly between her bookcases.  Through her window-slit the outside world looked sunny and normal.  Then she saw the translucent something coating her hands from fingers to elbow, and belatedly felt the odd, sideways pull that had brought her here.
“Bother,” she said aloud.  The translucent something wasn’t quite magic, but it seemed to be the dream equivalent.  In real life, Poly had no magic.  It was the one consistent way to tell dream from reality when her dreams became too realistic.
Poly wriggled her fingers and the translucency shivered coolly across them with a sense of familiarity.  When had she started dreaming about magic so often?  In fact, when had she started dreaming for so long at a time?  She felt as though she’d been dreaming for years.
Time to wake up, Poly decided.  She let herself slip upwards and awake, and again found herself sliding sideways to the pull of something strong and unfamiliar.
Someone said: “No you don’t, darling.  Back to sleep with you.”
Poly gave a little gasp of indignation and fought against the pull.  It was ridiculous to allow her dreams to be hijacked by an unpleasant dream entity of her own creation.  Where was it coming from?
She dragged herself around in the direction of the voice, feeling the reality of her dream-chamber wobble around her.   A nasty quiver of surprise shook her at the sight of the hooded, murky figure that seemed to be more shadow than substance, cobwebbed in the doorway.
To give herself time to become brave, Poly said: “Now, what are you?  I know I didn’t dream you up.”
“You must have,” said the hooded figure, its voice soft and amused.  “Here I am.”
Too smooth for words, Poly thought, sharp with fear.  There was a prickle at her back that made her think the enchanter from the previous level was making his way through to her again.  A panicked, nightmare quality had settled over the dream like a wet blanket, weighing her down, and for a brief moment Poly found herself unable to think.
The same soft voice said: “Darling, you’re being difficult.  There’s no need for things to become uncivilized.  Be a good girl and go back to sleep.”
“I don’t like you,” Poly said experimentally.
“That’s hurtful, darling,” said the voice reproachfully.  “As it happens, I’m really quite fond of you.  However, needs must, and you really need to go to sleep.”

The reasonable tone to the shadow’s voice was hard to resist.  There was her bed, in the middle of the tower room where it didn’t belong, and Poly felt herself take one step towards it.

The sheets should have been cool and smooth when she slid between them.  Instead, they were fuzzy and warm, and Poly felt her eyes gum together in the last warning of approaching slumber, the prickle at her back fading in the warmth.
“Huh,” said a second voice.  “This is all very interesting.  Who are you?  No.  Not who.  What?”
“Undefined element,” said the hooded shadow thoughtfully.  Poly could vaguely see it through her gummy eyes, outlined in the brilliant gold of the wizard’s magic.  “You are not valid here.  Retreat or assimilate.”
“Tosh,” said the wizard.  “You’re what? A remnant?  Go away.”
“No, I don’t think so,” said the shadow; and it seemed to Poly, mired in sleep, that an impossibly strong magic was stirring in the room – no, in the very air – around her.  It was bright, fiery, and entirely translucent.
The wizard said: “Yow!” and did something golden and magical with more haste than precision.  Poly stirred, fighting against sleep, and saw his face briefly appear above her.
He said: “Well, better get on with it, then.”
Poly tried to say: ‘Get on with what?’ but found that she couldn’t move her lips.  It took her a shocked moment to realise that she couldn’t move her lips because she was being kissed. It took another to realise that she was waking up- really waking up.  Gold magic fizzed from her lips to her toes, and everything familiar . . . disappeared.