PLENILUNE Autographs!

Would you like an autographed copy of Plenilune for yourself or a loved one (or someone you hate but who still enjoys books) for Christmas?  Email me at

The Hours Seem Longer Now

This will be a combined update and snippets post, and neither component will be very long, I think.  The snippets section will be short due to the nature of my update.  On Wednesday 3rd, December, I delivered my daughter out of the alternate universe of the womb and into this world.  I am now, officially, the relatively sleepless and thoroughly ecstatic maman of
filigree marguerite freitag
Though I say it myself, she is beautiful and sweet, and with the incomparable help of an epidural, I look back on the affair with a weird sense of enjoyment.  I was expecting to have to tolerate the ordeal - I was not expecting it to be so painless, to have such a good time with my care-takers through the twenty-five hour labour, or to be able to look back on that time and think, "I could go through those hours again and not mind it."  And that is due to the wonder of modern medicine.  Now I have a beautiful baby girl of the sweetest calibre, and while I don't really feel any different being Maman, having and holding and loving my own child fills me with more than the mere names of emotions can possibly encompass.

Subsequently, my fake NaNoWriMo - really, any forward motion on writing - has effectively ceased for the time being, and there is not a large corpus of writing to cull snippets from.  I have, however, been reading Jane Eyre and feeling chills over the uncanny (and I mean uncanny) reproductions of details from Jane Eyre in Plenilune.  I have never in my life until this past month picked up Charlotte Brontë's novel, and yet not only details, but tone and approach and attitude between myself and the nineteenth century writer are so similar as to be unnerving.
There was one lone doll on the bed, propped up against the pillows. Raymond twisted and picked it up, setting it on his lap to study it. It was leaner than the others, its cheek-bones more pronounced and its visage slightly older, more mature. The skin was cast in a thin, exquisite porcelain, its golden locks were spun of the glossy cremello horsehair; its only fault was that the blue-glass eyes seemed to stare, soulless and blank.

The sense of shattered bone ricocheted up into his palm, into his arm, across his chest. Nike gripped him by the shoulders and shook him before he could slam the man’s head into the stone again, murmuring in flakes of husky gold—
He’s dead! He’s dead! You’ve killed a man! Let go!

Odd, how numb and feather-like grief could be. 

How he fought against that voice, he was never afterward sure; but he felt the scars of it on his soul well after he had blown out the light, and for a long while, lying in the breathing dark, he felt his soul bleeding on the bedsheets.

The door at the head of the stairs stood open; with an ungainly twist, Tamn got Raymond through and Raymond was blinking against a flood of light in the entrance of a long, wide loft floored in golden pine and beamed with smoke-blackened oak. The place was a single room, and spacious, sparely furnished, but clean: the scent of woodsmoke and rainy air played in Raymond’s nose.

He raised his head and felt the flint come into his face. “Where shall I begin?”
“Report,” said the old soldier.

I did not feel like being saddled with the first eligible male my father hauled out of the stud-book for me. Odd,” she broke off, frowning, “how they like to threaten you with that, because they know how much it will scare you…"

Shifting his hand out from underneath the crook of his other arm, he reached up and tugged the throat of his borrowed cloak close together around his neck. Somewhere out of the dampish, woollen scent of the fabric, his belaboured nostrils caught a flicker of perfume.

"He smiles, and you want to rip out your own heart and give it to him." 

World-Building: the Fundamentals of a Civilization

I'm not a teen, but I still follow Go Teen Writers because they frequently have articles hosted that I find personally helpful.  One recent post was so enlightening that I am going to credit it and then unabashedly steal it.

Shallee McArthur (science fiction author of The Unhappening of Genesis Lee), was featured on the topic of world-building and creating the culture of your story.  She referenced her opportunity to travel to Ghana, a culture which everyone told her would be inconceivably different from our own western United States.  Like anyone charged with the optimism of youth, she thought she appreciated this information and went buoyantly onward, unaware of the shock that was awaiting her once she touched African soil.
'Eventually I realized my biggest problem with culture shock was that I couldn't forgive Ghana and its culture for not being MY culture. I didn't understand the values behind the behavior, so I couldn't accept it. Once I was able to learn from the people around me, and to look at things and say, "this is the way it is because of this reason," I was able to love it.'
Her experience with a very foreign country has helped her get to the root of world-building.  It isn't different dress or language or even customs which make a culture so new to us, it's values.  Good, bad, mixed up or misplaced, values are the core of a culture.  This is something which I understood intuitively, but until she put it down in words and diagrams, I had not really looked the matter in the face.  As humans, we are (as much as we may try not to be) eminently logical creatures.  Purpose and reason define our functions.  We do not eat our food, put on our wardrobe, or order our days, without reference to some set of values which, to us, make sense.

The same applies to world-building in fiction.  Without values, anything we invent for our worlds has no foundation, no purpose or reason, and feels detached.  It runs the risk of lacking a certain depth which every writer covets for his writing.  But these values are at the core of a civilization.  How do you weave them into your novel when they lie beneath the surface of the visible attributes of your world?

A lot of people have mentioned to me that the main character of Plenilune does not ask some glaringly obvious questions when confronted with the brave new world of the novel.  Well, first of all, the main character doesn't have the sort of personality to immediately ask those pat questions we've come to expect of characters encountering new cultures.  Secondly, I don't feel like patronizing the reader and giving the fatal "info-dump."  These unspoken questions continue throughout Plenilune, and are subtly answered along the way as the main character begins to learn and appreciate the value-system of the culture she is experiencing.  As the reader and the main character begin to understand the value system of these strangers, and learn what they consider important, their moral sine qua non, their treasured beliefs, the structure of their civilization and their actions make sense.
what are the values of your world?

A Writing Virtue Learned Through His Absymal Sublimity, Undersecretary Screwtape

"Is description hard for you?"
I think at the time I was asked that, I said "no," because in general it isn't as if I sit hunched over my desk, rubbing my temples while I stare at the screen, wracking my brains for the right description.  In general, description comes naturally to me.  But the truth of the matter is, I've never analyzed what aspects of writing are hard for me and which are easy - plot arcs, character development, world-building, narration, description, dialogue, etc.  Usually, I am far too busy being concerned with becoming better at everything, and doing justice to the novel under my knife. 
it's all hard, after a fashion
I just finished reading a great little post from Go Teen Writers by Shannon Dittemore on sticking with your novel when the fire of your first love has died.  Most of us are plagued with numerous spin-offs and completely-other story ideas, which threaten to lure us away from our project when our project becomes work instead of fun.  I'm sure a lot of us are guilty of veering off and doing just that, leaving our original project languishing in the sad, uninteresting middle, cobbled together by vague promises that you will return.  But you know that as soon as you hit the rough patch of your new project, you'll be whisked off onto another story, leaving yet another story to die.  Have you done it before?  It doesn't feel very good to think about it, does it?
how do you stick with it?
Honestly, Nike is right: you have to just do it.  But that's not very helpful to simply say.  If you have a long history of starting-and-ditching stories, how do you break the habit? 

Perversely, I've really never had trouble finishing a story.  I am generally lazy and impatient, but when it comes to my writing, I can think of only two stories (still promising) which I had to set aside because something else needed my attention more.  This does not mean I don't get wild ideas for more stories while I'm in the middle of a project: my entire Plenilunar series is a testament to that!  But as far back as I can remember, all of my stories, all massive beasts, were started, worked through, and finished.  I've never developed the bad habit of running off after a new story in the middle of a current project.  So who am I to offer advice?
you don't plunge into the river to save a drowning man
I do know what it's like to lose that first flame and to feel like you've lost your way in the story.  Believe me, I feel like I've been wandering blindly through Talldogs in a passionless malaise.  How much more fun would it be to, say, tackle the character snarls of Maresgate or plunge head-long into the cataclysm of Cruxgang, and leave Talldogs until I "got more ideas" for its plot?  Well, it might be fun, but somehow I doubt it, because I'm not fooled into believing that the cycle can be broken by continuing to follow it.  Talldogs hasn't always been fun to write, so I had to do the only thing I could do, and Shannon Dittemore is absolutely right: you have to persevere.  There isn't a magic spell you can cast on yourself or your novel, there isn't a writing camp or a playlist to get you inspired.  You have to keep moving forward, believing that you will come through and that you'll have done the right thing, if not the easy thing.  Do you remember that quote by Screwtape?
"Do not be deceived, Wormwood.  Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys."
In a way this applies to Talldogs, and your novel, as well.  Even though long months felt like I was dragging the corpse of a once flourishing plot through a sorry Word document, I believed that in the end I would rekindle that blaze of life.  I couldn't see it, I couldn't feel it, I often did not know where I was going.  But I kept going.  And you know what?
the fire rekindled
I'm so glad I did not give up, and I think you will be too.

Keeping On Keeping-On

charm & gumption
tea is brewing
everything's going to be fine

I really don't let on how difficult it is being pregnant, for multiple reasons.  One is that my pregnancy has been textbook simple compared to the pregnancies of other people I know, so why seem like I'm complaining?  That's really bad form.  Another reason - while I want people to care, I really can't stand sympathy.  It makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed, and in the end I would rather tell people I'm doing fine.  When I'm with other people, I usually am, because I pull myself together and I make myself look great and feel great, so I don't lie when people ask me how I am and I say fine.  Reason number three, I'm tired of the casual disparagement thrown at child-bearing.  People assume it's going to be horrible, they make fun of it, they have no respect, and I'm sick of that.  So I get out of my pajamas, I put on my make-up, I slam my feet into the highest pair of heels I can manage, and I go out there and prove to them that, yes, pregnancy is rough on the body and often terrifying and confusing, but you can do it gracefully.
no pun intended, but you have to push
I do acknowledge my physical and mental limitations.  I'm carrying almost twenty extra pounds on my petite frame, and the frame is getting looser and looser as it prepares to shed that weight.  Movement, which was once taken for granted, is now carefully premeditated and provided for.  I know I only have so much energy in my body, and that energy level is usually less than what I have guesstimated.  When they talk to you about "pregnancy brain," do not scoff at them.  Chemically, it is a real deal that I have to own up to: I can no longer remember, or think, as clearly as I could.  It will pass, but at present it's a real struggle.

But I have things to do.  I want to keep reading, I want to keep writing, I want my house to not be a wreck.  When it comes to my writing, I'm actually grateful that it is November.  I haven't done NaNoWriMo in years, not officially - I'm not sure I've ever played by the NaNo rules, ever.  And NaNo is one of those cult-classics among writers that you can't say anything negative about, so my views on quality and my general independence from prompts stay on my side of my computer screen.  But this year the notion of NaNo has helped keep me going.  The daily wordcount (to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month) is 1,667, and so I have put it upon myself in the loosest terms to aim for that number each day.  Even if I write only a portion of that - even if I don't bring myself to write at all during a day - I start afresh the next day.  No worries, no pressure, just a goal.

In this manner I have pushed Talldogs well into the endgame of its plot, and I am currently writing this blog post from the auspices of a marvelously productive writing day (5,443!), which has made me happy.  I don't expect it to be repeated tomorrow, but that's okay.  I know my limits, and I've pushed the ones I can  Those who have been pregnant know that emotional stability during this time is important.  To me, staying creative and keeping my plot moving is also important.  I've managed to maintain these two in 1,667 words.
so, so close to the end!


For those of you who grew up in the nineties, I may or may not make a Carmen Sandiego joke.

This beautiful albeit scantily-clad map of Plenilune was roughly sketched out by yours truly many moons ago under the influence of a splitting headache brought on by an unconscious iron deficiency and the willing consent of a double dosage of Tylenol PM.   That it was brought out in such clarity is a testament to the problem-solving skills of the digital designer, who had to interpret my nearly-illiterate scrawl across two sheets of college-ruled paper.  And that is the brutal truth of the creative process of almost any artist the whole world over.


The Next-Best News on Talldogs

the first order of news
The Penslayer has been jam-packed with news about this debut fantasy of mine; and The Penslayer hasn't been as frequented with news as my Facebook and my Twitter feeds have been!  I am thrilled to be able to offer you this novel at last, to finally be able to share secrets that I have been hording like a dragon for years.  At last you may know!  ...Just don't spoil it for those who are a little slower getting their hands on the book.

Otherwise, my head has been insanely busy.  Trying to brainstorm through pregnancy hormones is like spinning tires in the mud.  To the relief of all, my sister-in-law just delivered her third child, adding one more amongst numerous end-of-the-year birthdays to our family (my mother's is November 5th - I know, easy to remember, right? and it coincides with the release of Rachel Heffington's new mystery Anon, Sir, Anon!).

I've been lazing around among Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer novels, because anything much more serious is beyond me at this point.  The majority of my cranial activity has gone, not to "nesting" or thinking about my first labour (I try to avoid overthinking that), but to plotting the ending sequences of Talldogs.  I am a step away from the endgame and I am that typical combination of excited and trucking.  If all goes as planned, it will have taken me a little over a year to have written the first draft.  We are currently at 109,448 words, and I am toying with the notion of leisurely Howling myself into pushing for 1,667 words each day through November until I finish the draft.  But don't tell me I said that, because I'll scare myself out of it.

snippets, anyone?

“…Small pressure needed, in the soft of the back, to put a knife through…”
“I know.”

Idly, Avery bent down and shifted up the coverlet, casting the glamour of a hunter’s colours through the golden gloom. “I will see that he finishes his supper.”
talldogs his mind’s eye he saw the inexplicable terror on his brother’s face, framed in the black-brown shadows of their room, staring at him as if for the last time.

Suddenly age and a war and a throw from a horse were visible in the man’s face. Wearily, he joined his hand with Raymond’s, and Raymond felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle as he was caught up and saw the small, personal, secret things in Bell-the-cat’s face which were not lawful for another man to utter. 

There was a squeal amongst the dogs’ noise, the crash of a door somewhere, and in a moment the rainy world was hammered apart by the ragged tattoo of a horse’s hooves. In a moment Geoffrey’s mucky brown came flying round the corner of the house, plunging sidelong into the stableyard gateway with its head flung round against the bit as Geoffrey swept his hand for a lost rein—then he was digging in his heels and the horse was shooting forward, head sawing, legs eating up the ground in a breakneck gallop. 

The gloom collapsed around us. We worked our way to the heart of the tangle, going it on hands and knees, the scent of hot earth in our nostrils, while the yew clawed at our faces and dragged our clothes at our shoulders. When it was almost black, with only spare bars of tiger-light leaking through the hedge, Pan Aeneas fell upon her side, flanks heaving, her hands clamped over her mouth. Under the roar of fire and the scream of men and horses, I heard the soft rustle-rustle of leaves beneath her shaking body, and realized that she was sobbing. The whites of her eyes flashed terror in the darkness.
Wordlessly, I rolled in the torn yew-brake and passed my arms around her head, pulling her close while the world burned over our heads and she cried.

She fell backward, the throat of a scream slashed open and bleeding in her mouth.

"Familiarity makes things small. You will grow into it, you'll see."

"When they threw you out of heaven, I think you hit your head in the landing."

"I desire his head upon a platter. Perhaps then," she concluded dryly, "it will have ceased speaking." 

The One Thing I Did Not Expect to Learn from Self-Publishing

Anyone who has self-published knows how blind and stressful the venture can be, especially if you are not naturally gifted in the arts of technicalities and marketing.  When I decided six or so months ago that I was going to self-publish Plenilune, I went into it knowing I was handicapped in some very important areas - pretty much all of them.  I had no idea what all it would require, I had no idea how much money it would cost, I had no idea if anyone would even care about the product I had to offer.  But I had a product that I believed in, and a waning appreciation for the traditional publishing route, so I went for it, literally in blind and foolish faith.

As many of you know, this year has been anything but calm.  I almost lost my father.  The economy necessitated our landlord to put his rental property on the market, which meant my husband and I had to begin looking for a house of our own.  My husband graduated from his five-year program at college and began working full-time with a landscape design firm.  We decided to have a baby.  I decided to publish a novel.  More huge unknowns have piled up in this year than I feel I have faced in my entire life.  I'll be facing more, no doubt bigger, unknowns as I progress through life, but just right now in 2014 I have had to shut my eyes and grow because there was no other option available.  Needless to say, it has been stressful and frightening and a lot to handle.

You figure, when you go through "life experiences," that you're going to learn a lot.  And you do.  I've moved, I've experienced that.  I have seven and a half months' worth of pregnancy experience under my belt - or I would, if I could physically wear a belt.  I've stumbled my way through the mechanics of self-publishing a very massive debut fantasy.  I've learned a lot.  But I've learned one thing that was wholly unexpected.
people have been there
Going into self-publishing, I had no idea what I was doing, I just knew that people did it and so could I.  The next thing I knew, I was being directed by friends who had self-published to people who knew how to help, to people with skills, to people who were willing to lend me a hand.  Out of nowhere I had a cover artist, I had a line-editor, I had people who could format manuscripts for several different venues.  I had people who were fine with my complete inability to grasp the basics of the technical aspects of self-publishing, let alone its niceties.  I had people who were happy to help.

I've tried the traditional publishing route.  I even pursued it with Plenilune for awhile.  But that's a big market out there, and while it is populated by human beings with personalities and feelings, it is kind of a monster, and I discovered that any up-and-coming author is competition, not always companion.  It is not a readily friendly world.  It is huge, and if you can make it, that is awesome: you can shoot to the top and shine.  But it doesn't care.  It's a dog-eat-dog economy in many ways, and you have to fight to survive, wounding people around you as you go.

I've learned that the independent publishing community is not like that.  I'm not a very personable person myself, although I like to be friendly, so I was expecting this to be an uphill battle the whole way.  I was expecting to have to win people with iron and conquest.  They came willingly.  To my shock, I discovered that they cared, that they were willing to go miles I had never asked them to walk.  Out of nowhere I was told that Plenilune had been nominated for a number of categories in the Annual Blogger Awards of 2014!  People have sat down at the computer and seemingly written volumes in praise of Plenilune with no other incentive than that they liked it: no "review this favourably and win a free copy!" carrot-and-stick-like prompting.  They cared.  They helped.  They gave.

I've learned that the "indi" publishing movement is a community.  No one is competition.  We're all here to give and take and help as we can.  How easy is it to host a cover reveal, to mention that a book is debuting, to share a status update on Facebook or retweet on Twitter?  So easy!  How much does it mean to the author?  A world of difference.  The old cottage-industry and its camaraderie is making a curious come-back in the wake of the internet, and the independent publishing community is one aspect of that.  It is populated by real people with products that they make and sell, and they are dependent on the give-and-take of charity and aid of others in the community, without which there would be very little material gain from the products themselves.  They call it "independent" publishing, but it is just the opposite.  If anything, the author is more dependent upon the community than he is in traditional publishing, and I have learned that the community is aware of that. 
so thank you.  thank you for making this possible.

PLENILUNE Paperback Release!

The paperback is available! 
A lot of people ask me, "How does the paperback printing work?  How do I get my copy?"  It's simple!  Primarily, people will order through Amazon (because that's the big gig on the block), the order will go to CreateSpace, CreateSpace will print the ordered copy, and it will be shipped directly to the customer.  Easy as pie!  

(Unless you're trying to make a gluten-free pie crust, which is a torment worthy of Hades.)

Plenilune is processing through to Amazon and will be available there within a few days, but CreateSpace offers the paperback direct from their site as well.  I also receive more of the royalties if customers order from CreateSpace because Amazon does not get a cut, which, from a self-published point of view, is great support.  Either way, here it is at last, the long-expected Plenilune paperback!

PLENILUNE: Defining Genre

elisabeth g. foley // review
While preparing for a party totally unrelated to anything literary, I stressed about how to define Plenilune.  You all know the struggle: the moment you mention your overarching genre, you feel you've been pigeon-holed as an author.  Plenilune is a fantasy, no doubt about it, but it does not lend itself to pigeon-holing.  So how did I present myself, as an author of fiction, with a book newly hatched on the market, without immediately consigning myself to the enormity of the fantasy realm?  How did I define my genre?

The last thing I wanted to do was hem and haw.  "Well, it's a fantasy, but - " long-winded back-pedaling.  "It's historical-fiction in the sense that - "  "But, you know, it's definitely a fantasy because - " "Only, you have to keep in mind that my style is very ordinary and doesn't hinge on the fantasy aspect..."  Kicking a lame tin can of rhetoric down the road is a great way to lose the listener's interest.  I needed to be short and snappy and know my stuff.  The problem was, Plenilune is complicated, and I'm so close to the mark that I have difficulty picking out its defining features.  In the end, I decided the best way to pick it apart was to look at some of its biggest aspects, its tell-tale, key features, and find their categories in literature.  I wound up modifying the fantasy genre. 
magical realism meets planetary fantasy
No hemming, no hawing: two legitimate sub-genres collide to define the novel, just forceful enough to stop people in their tracks on the way to the nearest pigeon-hole.  It adequately summarizes my approach to fantasy in general, it gives a glimpse of my style, sets my writing in the swath of literature to which it belongs, and you're left wanting to know, "Wot."

read the book

PLENILUNE Ebook Release & Goodies

October 20th!
Plenilune is now available in ebook format!  If you haven't pre-ordered it, you can buy it for your digital devices now!

Plenilune is available in ebook format through

In case you were wondering, that's not all.  I know many of you are disappointed by the paperback release delay (tell me about it!), but there are lots of Plenilune-related things to do in the meantime.  I have been incredibly impressed by everyone's enthusiasm for this book.  Literally, I cannot believe how thrilled people have been about it's release!  To help make this launch a success (because you are what make books a success), please do any or all of the following that you can.  Oh, and don't forget to buy the book!

Share the news on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, your neighbourhood Starbucks!

and remember
Christmas is coming

PLENILUNE Paperback Delay


Yes, you read that correctly.
there has been a delay in the release of plenilune in paperback
I suspected this was coming and I'm sorry I have to say it.  Due to technical hiccups, the paperback version of Plenilune will not be available by October 20th.  Hopefully these hiccups can be avoided with future titles, and in the meantime, Plenilune is all set to be available through multiple ebook channels!  The pre-order option has already been taken advantage of, and the interest turn-out on Goodreads has been wonderful.  There are more Plenilunar things to come, and the paperback progress to keep track of, so if you don't already, follow me on Facebook and like my author page!  Are you on Twitter?  Follow me there too! 

Fifteen Out of Thirty - An Interview For Plenilune

These are the last fifteen questions out of a thirty-question interview hosted for me by Joy from Fullness of Joy.  To read the first fifteen, check out her post!  There are some really good questions over there.  Now we're going to jump right in.

Have you ever met any people in real life that have inspired you with any of the characters we read about in Plenilune?
Not strictly speaking, no, I do not tend to model my characters off people I know. I’m not Dickens… I think Rachel Heffington believes that I came from Plenilune and that somehow I got stuck here. I am merely telling you about the people I knew there. I can recall no conscious effort to paint likenesses of people around me now.

Once, in a guest-post on Fullness of Joy you spoke about the significant power of reading and studying different philosophies in the process of writing a book of depth which explores themes of faith and different worldviews. In the case of Plenilune, what are some of the theological and philosophic themes/questions you feel the novel addresses, and what were some of the philosophic books that helped influence the heart of this tale?
Due to the nature of the interacting characters, I feel several theological and philosophical points are raised, but perhaps never fully addressed. Again, I never considered that the import of the novel. I’m going to chock this up to the fact that I don’t separate these topics from ordinary life, and so when they crop up, I don’t look on them as something wild and new which must be tackled head-on. This same view carries over into Plenilune, and so theological and philosophical questions and aspects are never the point of the novel, merely natural expressions of human life as I perceive it every day.

In one word each, how would you describe each of the main characters of Plenilune?
The Fool. The Gambit. The Magician. The Strong.

As you wrote Plenilune, were there aspects of the story that took you by surprise?
I’ve mentioned before that the ease with which the plot came to me, regardless of the usual hiccoughs in the writing process, surprised me a good deal, as no story had ever come to me that cohesively before.  In addition, I was not expecting there to be more.  The fact that Plenilune has turned into a casual series, when heretofore I never thought I would write a series in my life, has surprised me.

Do you outline your books or do you prefer to begin writing and let the plot sort itself out?
I let the plot sort itself out as I go. I have recently taken the tack of outlining from the antagonist’s point of view, to see what the protagonist is up against, but other than that, I work things out as I go.

How do you think the main characters of Plenilune would react if he or she were introduced to you?
Well, it depends on which character specifically I was meeting. I might be pleasantly tolerated, I might even be engaged with a degree of interest. I do not feel myself wholly equal to their company, but I think that might be recognized and accommodated for.

Can you tell us what are your current favourite movie(s), TV show(s), and/or book(s)? (Stress is on the current!)
Currently I have almost no time to watch anything, and since I am working on Talldogs (the third instalment in my Plenilunar series), I am at present writing more than I am reading. I can tell you that I have bookmarks in The Tulip by Anna Pavord, Holiness by J.C. Ryle, and The Charm of the English Village by P.H. Ditchfield (I like to think that surname is a joke). I’ll need another fiction presently, but I haven’t settled on one yet.

Having been already published through the traditional route through Ambassador International with your historical fiction novel The Shadow Things, what are some of the benefits you’ve experienced in self-publishing, and what have been its special pains?
Self-publishing has been a much more hands-on process, and while I am responsible for setting everything up and making sure publication happens, I like knowing what is going on. Thankfully, I have been gifted with a number of acquaintances online who specialize in aspects of self-publishing, without which I would be lost up the proverbial creek without the proverbial paddle. The special pain is simply the stress of it. All that responsibility is on my shoulders and since this is the first time I have self-published, this is all totally new to me. New waters are never calm.

Can you tell us a little about the amazing cover-design of Plenilune and how it came about (designer, etc)? It’s stunning, and quite wonderful!
An online acquaintance of mine, Elizabeth Liberty Lewis, is actually directly responsible for the gorgeous cover of Plenilune. She happened to pin a digital illustration by an artist, and I liked it so much (being on the hunt for a cover) that I searched the artist and discovered that he makes cover art for books. He agreed to take on my commission and after working with me for a few weeks, I was able to communicate what I wanted and he was able to deliver. I look forward to working with him on subsequent covers for my novels.

In offering advice to fellow young writers when it comes to sharing their stories, do you advocate they initially pursue the traditional mainstream route of finding an agent, etc and waiting it out, or do you consider indi publishing a healthy alternative?
I’m afraid I do not feel qualified or educated enough to offer that advice. I think it depends on the personality of the individual author, and the type of story whose publication is being pursued. Traditional and independent publishing both have merits, and it is up to the individual author to research and choose between them.

Was there any one moment when you were hit with an urgent need to invest your time to this particular work? What kept you going through the tough parts?
With Plenilune, no, it was not a question of laying aside another work to focus on this novel. And I kept going through the tough parts because I knew this was a good story. Every story will be hard at times: as much as I may complain about it, that’s just a fact of the creative process and is not usually a sign that there is something intrinsically bad about the plot. So I kept going, because I loved the story, and I knew it was a good one. It was worth it.

Can you tell us a bit about the new writing project(s) you’re currently working on now? Please do tell!
I am currently working on Talldogs, the third of my Plenilunar novels. Unfortunately, as I pointed out to someone in an email recently, I cannot give much detail on that novel without spoiling aspects of Plenilune. Go read Plenilune when it comes out, and then we can talk!

Out of the many themes and plots, what would you most like your readers to take away with them from reading Plenilune?
I’ve noticed that when people review Plenilune, they adopt a different tone of description and try to express emotions for which ordinary language seems to allow little room. These are tones and emotions which are rife throughout the novel, and it is encouraging to see them bubbling over and impacting my readers, to see them make a difference in the way my readers view their world. I want to make them stronger and braver and virtuous. I want to make them intangible to the world and more real than the momentary transitory things around them. Sometimes I hear that when the readers try to talk about Plenilune, and I know I have succeeded a little.

Kindle Pre-Orders For PLENILUNE

Ebook and paperback versions of Plenilune will be available by October 20th, so if you don't have an e-reader, no sweat!  Just hang tight.

Excited?  Spread the word!

Who Should Read "Plenilune"?

rachel heffington // goodreads review

Depending on maturity level, what age-audience would you begin recommending Plenilune to? In essence, how far does it get "dark" before the light of hope peeps through? 
Here is a question for Plenilune readers from another prospective reader.  What is the rating on this novel?  Who should avoid it?  Who should dive right in?  Are people going to be mentally scarred forever because they read this book?   (Well, one certainly hopes not.) This is a tough question, and I am not going to give you the orthodox answer.
"Do, pray, find me an eligible book!  I am not at all nice in my notions, and shall be satisfied with the barest modicum of virtues in my novel."
The reading "group" under which Plenilune would fall is "young adult" literature.  In short, it's not a children's book.  That said, I actually don't buy into the frenzy to rate fiction that is so common among the Christian community today, least of all do I consider it fair for me to give you a rating of my own novel (that is better served by third parties which are actually good at critiquing).  As true and admirable is the fact of the Kingdom, I take umbrage with the embarrassingly cloistered nature of the Christian community and its subsequent inability to comprehend the "outside world."  A few weeks ago I sat working on Talldogs and listening, for no reason than that I wanted to, to Billy Joel's "Piano Man," and it chanced across my mind that the lyrics were casually educational of the nature of people in general.

and the waitress is practicing politics
while the businessmen slowly get stoned
yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness
but it's better than drinkin' alone

It's not a song written by a Christian, it's not a song written for Christians, but in an arm's length of lyrics one gets an average picture of the fragile veneer of human happiness and the gaunt face of hopelessness beneath.  Again, educational.  (It's also a fantastic song.) When you pull your head out of cheap, "clean" Christian fiction and look around, there is a lot to be gleaned from other mediums of art, even from the unbelieving community.

Plenilune was written by a Christian (moi), and no doubt will probably best appeal to Christian audiences.  I have no problem with that.  But that is not the point.  The point is that I cannot tell the reader how dark it gets before it begins to grow light again.  For one, there is no standard measurement of that; for another, I cannot claim responsibility for the maturity of every reader who picks up my books.  Such things as human depravity and God's justice, as well as grace and mercy, are truths which I will not avoid nor dispute.  In what capacity the reader is able to face these truths, it would be impossible for me to account for.  In general, my literature will be gracious in tone, but my main concern is that it should not flinch, and the reader is responsible for appreciating that or not as he finds himself able.

As much as the next person, I get irritated when people use the excuse of "being real" to create an endless slew of rotten characters.  Being true to reality ought not give license to write all manner of subtly-veiled masochism on the part of the author.  Honestly, most folk look out for themselves, and do what they think is best for themselves, and as much as I seem to have garnered a reputation for being cataclysmic and colourful in my prose, characters in my stories are often small, law-abiding folk trying to make sense of feeling adrift, of realizing how wicked they are when they attempt to be good, and the subsequent tapestry which is created by a collection of sinful people living their lives side by side in a fallen world.
plenilune is fantasy, but - i hope - it is honest

PLENILUNE Cover Reveal!

yes, i know, everything after this image might as well be considered filler text
The fate of Plenilune hangs on the election of the Overlord, for which Rupert de la Mare and his brother are the only contenders, but when Rupert’s unwilling bride-to-be uncovers his plot to murder his brother, the conflict explodes into civil war.
To assure the minds of the lord-electors of Plenilune that he has some capacity for humanity, Rupert de la Mare has been asked to woo and win a lady before he can become the Overlord, and he will do it—even if he has to kidnap her.
En route to Naples to catch a suitor, Margaret Coventry was not expecting a suitor to catch her.

Cover reveals are awesome.  You get to see the face of the book you have been anticipating for so long, you get to meet it through a glass window and think, "Soon.  Soon, you and I will be inseparable.  Soon I will be able to hold you in my arms."  And most of the time, the cover art is crystalline and easy to see.  Not so the ultrasound.  I still have to wait until the beginning of December to have the cover reveal for my baby: it's a sort of cover reveal/release date all-in-one special. 
the game's afoot
october 20th

“Vous Êtes St. Jermaine?”

october 6th is just around the corner, which means
plenilune cover reveal soon!
I'll be emailing out the pertinent information for those participating in the very near future, so stay tuned for that!

After a convoluted discussion on flour, sugar, baking powder, and explosions, I am pleased to return us to the monthly topic of snippets.  It's either that, or discussing the fact that I have two more months left of carrying my baby, who has now moved into the stages of robbing me of breath and gifting me with crushing nausea.  Snippets seem more palatable to the crowd.

snippets du jour

I don’t suppose dead people say much,” [he] remarked. “And if you did, he would come back to haunt you while you went to the bathroom in the dark of night, and blow out your candle and shove you down the plumbing, and when we fish you back up, we will find you won’t have died of drowning, you’ll have cobbler nails in your throat!”

A brief shadow passed across the man’s face, but he gestured fluidly with the glass, saying, “Vous êtes St. Jermaine?”

Raymond was distantly aware of setting the silver down. It went down very softly, casting no shadow. His fingers were cold. His lungs hurt. He was conscious of a weight on his left side, dragging at his belt… 

She left the concept hanging open—it nagged at Raymond’s nerves, like a gate left unlatched.

For a dangerous moment, as [her] words had hung in that terrible silence, he had been blinded by the desire to strike out, to crack the flat of his palm across her face and see her wretched impudence send her sprawling.

She was picking up her bird-skirts, whisking down the steps to join him. He stood his ground as she approached and hated more things in that moment than he thought it possible for a man to hold.

They swung up and turned down the dark-red road with the evening sky smoked and blackened above them, a heavy imperial ribbon coiling among the treetops back into the town. The fireflies were their only light until they reached the first of the town houses where a lantern was set over the stoop, feathered in smoke and steady in the airlessness of the summer night.

For a moment no one moved. Even the horses, bellies half-content with grass, and sleepy with the warm night, stood patiently in the roadway and made no noise. Bell-the-cat stood on the broken stone threshold with his heels dug in and his hands plunged into the pockets of his rough hemp garment, incongruous samite cuffs bunched about his elbows. The lantern moths fluttered round his head, but he did not notice them: for a moment, to Raymond, he seemed intangible, and not to belong to the world at all. 

When he did speak, Avery said, “I think that man has prevented murder tonight.”
The horses’ hooves thumped in rhythm through the dark. Raymond posted in silence for several strides, then murmured, “Yes. And I think he knows it.”

I tried to be peaceable, which was the only recourse one had when going up against her irrational fury.

"Hast found thy phantom well in the wood, I see." 

"Your Hands Are Bigger Than Mine," He Said Lightly: "Consider the Glove Taken"

My little cup of coffee is still making its way through my veins, and I was not fully through my breakfast (of everything barring the kitchen sink fried in bacon grease) before my eyelid started twitching, so this may not be one of the most coherent posts The Penslayer has ever produced.  I expect you have come to anticipate that from me.  I will attempt to not write in the same broken, repetitive fashion in which I am dictating these words aloud. 

Rachel - Rachel - has tagged me in a long sequence of book-related tags which I have been watching make its slow progress through the blogs of my acquaintance.  Without further ado - because I am far too tired to prevaricate - One More Book-Related Tag.

Is there a book you really want to read, but haven't, because you know it will make you cry?  You are asking the girl whose go-to author of choice in her childhood was Rosemary Sutcliff.  I cannot at present think of any book I am actively avoiding because it will make me cry.  I don't mind crying: generally that means the author has done his job well.  If the sad aspect of the book is badly done, I just get angry and I read something else.  After I have fixated moodily on the annoyance for awhile.  In a healthy fashion.  Because obviously the author did it just to irritate me.

Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.  Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners.  It wasn't the nature of essays which I was introduced to (I've been reading those sorts of things for years), but the whole culture of Southern literature.  I'm a native to the South, but my parents are from the North, and looking along the line of my bookshelves, I see British - British - British - British - British - oh my lands, British.  The most American my library gets is Lew Wallace and Ben-Hur.  Even the copy of To Kill a Mockingbird (which I just finished and enjoyed) belongs to my sister.  It was Flannery O'Connor who introduced me to the fact that not all Southern literature is cast adrift in an esoteric milieu of Reconstructionist poverty, but may actually offer some precious gems through the unique lens of Southern experience. 

Find a book you want to reread.  Given the desperate, haphazard nature of my library, squeezed onto my meagre shelving like a Christmas jellyroll into a whalebone bodice, "find" is the appropriate word.  ...Just at this present moment, it would make for a toss-up between Beowulf and Watership Down.  Because those two are so markedly similar.  I don't currently have time to read either, but both are so rich and enjoyable, I could stand to read them again.
darlings, i think the coffee is finally catching up
Is there a book series you read, but wish you hadn't?  Yes, Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness.  At the time I read them, they were fun and exciting, but after awhile I realized they were totally unbiblical, took more liberties than made me comfortable, and in general the writing is shallow.  It makes me sad.  Once upon a time we produced Ben-Hur, and now we get books like This Present Darkness.

If your house was burning down, and all your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?  Well, assuming for the moment that my library had been previously divested of all titles which do not actually belong to me, I would be torn between my copies of The Divine Comedy (with its engravings by Gustave Doré), Augustine's Confessions, and my copy of Simon by Rosemary Sutcliff.  All other books can be replaced (if I actually remember what all I have in my library), but those particular copies are beautiful and/or expensive, and replacing them would be costly for me.

Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?  With all respect due to the ease and portability of the e-reader, I must maintain that a physical book wraps itself in so many layers of glamour, a marker both for the story within its cover and for the time of life and spacial situation in which it was read, which e-readers do not grasp.  A few of my books elicit unpleasant memories - the bitter taste of regretful circumstances in which they were read - but many of them are the happy milestones of a casually scholarly life.  With Ben-Hur, I am slung in a chair in a local airport, waiting for my flight on a clear day.  With The Eagle of the Ninth, I remember the era of spontaneous and extreme nosebleeds which would attack my sister, leaving behind a telltale mark on the front cover which I have never bothered to wipe off for the sheer humour of it.  The Scarlet Pimpernel - curled up on the couch at my old house, reading through the dark of an evening without any intention of stopping.  I am seated tailor-fashion on the sidewalk before my old mailbox garden, reading aloud while my husband works, when I turn over the binding of The Discarded Image, and when I pick up The Grand Sophy, I am curled up at my husband's feet while he reads aloud to me.

Find a book that inspired you most.  The Worm Ouroboros - "Dost think we are here in dreamland?"

Do you have any autographed books?  Yes, my copy of Fly Away Home was autographed and addressed to me!

Find the book that you have owned the longest.  My coffee is not working that well.  I cannot tell you which book I have owned the longest, but my earliest memory of receiving a book is my gorgeous hardback copy of Black Beauty, given to me by my parents on the Christmas of '99.  I would defy Gustave Doré to compose better line-art for the interior, and any of the Glasgow Boys to paint a better portrait for the cover.  A fitting casement for a story which, in my opinion, is as enduring, steady, and foundational as our own Ben-Hur.

Is there a book by an author you never thought you would read or enjoy?  "I was surprised by our conversation.  She has some first-rate qualities."  Honestly, I was not at all sure I would enjoy Nine Coaches Waiting.  I have a memory of toying feebly with the opening pages of Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave (Mary Stewart - an ill-fated kind of name), and I remember my sister being handed a floral copy of some romance-type novel by Stewart, which, let's face it, put me off merely by the cover.  I admit that the copy of Nine Coaches Waiting which I read was not the most promising either, and I can't really tell you how I managed to get sucked into those first few pages - perched in a chair with my heels kicked up on the hood of the Audi, I think, while my husband worked in the garage...  At any rate, there I went, and I didn't look back.  Nine Coaches Waiting remains a favourite of the year.
undoubtedly, books are odd creatures

There Isn't a Moral At the End of This

via moi
I have now been at Clickitting for a week (give or take a few hours).  I'm not going to lie, moving at six-and-a-half months pregnant is a wearying, emotional experience, but some people have put up with worse.  After only seven days, a few of which were interrupted by workers at the house and the general unboxing late into the night, I have not cobbled together any semblance of a routine.  Poor Talldogs, which had really begun to roll during my last days staying at my parents' house, is once more sullenly waiting for me to cease feeling like an ant whose anthill has been kicked over.  Clickitting is very long: I spend a lot of time walking, walking and complaining that my back aches.  And when I do sit down at the computer, I have a roomful of unpacked boxes behind me, silently judging my immobility.  It puts a damper on creativity.
They gave me this huge kitchen, which is awesome, but I'm the member of the family which is all, "IS FLOUR THE STUFF THAT EXPLODES I CAN'T REMEMBER."
Constructively, I have been answering some very lovely questions by a handful of bloggers, which will be posted along with their participating posts in Plenilune's cover reveal (October 6th), and I have been throwing pertinent information (including my edited manuscript) at my formatters.  I've been monitoring readers' progress on Goodreads, and I must say, the enthusiasm is wonderful!  October 20th will be here before we know it!


The Writer Is a Social Construct

first of all, we don't all get pretty desks like this
Rachel covered some of the typical author stereotypes and how she thoroughly fails to conform to them, which was all very relieving and hilarious.  Since I am continually baffled by the elusive creature Pinterest purports the writer to be (a writer which seems to have little time between one bout of brooding and the next to get any writing done), I have yoinked Rachel's blog post and will address these stereotypes as I, also, fail to conform without really trying...

writers never sleep

This one is hilarious.  Sure, my husband and I tend to stay up late.  For now.  But we like our sleep, and while I have the luxury of sleeping in of a morning (for now), we like to be together in bed at night.  Only rarely does a literary whimsy carry me past bedtime.  When I do come up with a pithy one-liner or a sparkling scene while I am awake in bed at night, as one is wont to do, I lie to myself, as one is wont to do: "That was awesome.  I will remember it.  It is too awesome to forget.  I don't need to get up.  Bed is so comfortable.  I will remember it in the morning."  And I never do.

writers are exotic creatures

I don't know about you, but when I'm in a social setting (already awkward, especially if I don't know the people present), one of the last things that will make me relax at once is to parade me around as a "writer," a curio of tea-temples and castles in the sky.  Being treated as a wild animal from another planet is just the sort of reception a shy personality wishes to receive.

Actually, writers are typically pretty normal.  I may get odd looks (these are generally due to my literary and historical references, not in reference to my writing), but I am in desperate demand of the comforts of life: security, love, acceptance, warm food, hot showers, caffeine in the morning, an opening in traffic so I can make the damned left turn.  All in all, I'm pretty normal.

writing is depressing, grueling work, full of angst and inner turmoil and an imbalance of the humours and an overabundance of alcoholic beverages

Contrary to what people may think of writers, I am not constantly on the edge of losing my sanity.  I am definitely an emotional, sensitive personality, but honestly, I am most sane and stable when I am comfortably following the plot of a novel.  Contrary to what people may think, writing a novel can be no more difficult than any other form of work.  I certainly find the maplessness of it trying, and I have plenty of fears and concerns, but I'm not a blithering alcoholic with a jaded view of the world, stared out at from beneath the shabby remains of a half-burnt writing-desk.  I like writing.  Writing is awesome.
(I'm also pregnant, so I avoid alcohol for the sake of la petite renarde.)

writers are obsessed with death and pain and killing characters

Thanks, G.R.R. Martin.  Thanks for perpetuating this twisted view of ordinary, sane, well-adjusted writers.  We all appreciate that. 

Once upon a Sunday, very recently, we were discussing true Christianity and the sad fact that true Christianity and merely outward Christianity often, to the casual observer, look identical.  How does one tell if the mint is true?  One tests it.  And the testing (as James points out) is very rarely pleasant.  It looks like trials and temptations.  It looks like forty years in a wilderness and sounds like God's silence.  It burns like fire.  But at the end, when the foundations are shaken and the chaff is threshed out, the true and the false will be clear.  In my opinion, this is the greater point of trials and temptations in my writing.  Unpleasantness and hard providences are equally reflective of actual human experience, and I do not put any of these things in the way of my characters because I get a sadistic thrill out of it.  All things have their purpose - although the characters, like ourselves, cannot and may not ever know why their author has done these things to them. 

writers spend all their time at Starbucks

How - how - how you can sit in a noisy coffee shop full of people babbling and yelling broken snatches of a foreign, coffee-related language, appended by the names of people who are not actually present, and write anything cohesive, is beyond me.   I need calm, I need pattern.  Inconveniently, I need them badly, which means any upset is liable to make it hard for me to write anything.  

writers obsess over the mechanics of making up character names

Nope.  My characters come quickly with names, and only rarely do I test-run one name only to give it up for another, better one.  Something - my characters or my subconsciousness - usually knows what it is about when it assigns names.  I almost never look names up: I wait until a name comes to me.  And they do just come, like Little Bo Peep's lambs.  Sometimes I don't like them, but they suit.  Trivia: I actually hated the names "Margaret" and "Simon" prior to working with characters by those names, I was indifferent to "Philip," and I had a grudge against "Skander."  True beans.

writers consider their characters to be their babies

As a writer who has made characters whom she loves, and as a human being who is making a baby which she loves, I can tell you this mental mix-up is not appreciated.  There is no comparison between characters and babies.

writers spend all their time on Pinterest

(Okay, that one is true.)

"Watchword & Battle-Cry, They're Both the Same"

did they tell you stories about the saints of old
stories about their faith
they say stories like that make a boy grow bold
stories like that make a man walk straight
rich mullins // boy like me, man like you

Like most novels, Plenilune needed an author biography.  I had been putting off writing it: how am I supposed to distil myself into a few pertinent (or impertinent) lines for the reader?  But I finally got the thing written to my satisfaction, all in one take.  It is equal parts bare fact and myself (I am rarely fact).  It is the effect of cumulative causes arising from my pitched wrestle with Plenilune & Co.

If you are a writer, you know how intricately entwined you can be with your writing.  I have long since got past the self-insert stage of scribbling, thank goodness, but I am the giant, great and still, which sits upon the pillow-hill, and sees before her, dale and plain, that pleasant land of Counterpane.  I am still all over and through my novels like lightning across a summer sky and gold in the rock.  Like any writer, I wonder what my readers will do when they wander through the stories and find me there.  I wonder if they will recognize me.  I wonder if they will hear whatever it is my subconsciousness is saying between the lines.  I wonder if they will wake up.

"You show me how splendid I could be and you awaken my aches."
"Good. I think somewhere beneath all the chaos of creating, that is one thing I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to wake up the kettle-drum sound of blood in your ears and put the sunset in your eyes and teach people how to be brave - or foolish - or faithful. Sometimes those things are all rolled up into one."

I am five feet tall and six months pregnant.  I have a voice which no one can hear because it is so small.  I have big brown doe-eyes and I have to make myself not look away shyly when I am trying to communicate verbally.  When you look at me, you do not see the snippets you read on The Penslayer.  But when you read the snippets - and Plenilune - you will be seeing me.  You will hear crack-backed knuckles and the sizzle and rip-tide of lightning; you might see what it is like to have every nerve traced with fire, or feel with it is like trying to hold an atom together and release it at just the right moment.  You might feel what it is like to breathe stardust and feel like you could pick up a mountain and hurl it end-down into the ocean.  You might feel what it is like to be desolate and brave and lost and triumphant all at once, because when I turn myself into whatever energy the written genius is, that is how I feel.

"The gods and demons in their palaces. Lewis writes that you never meet a mere human, and I know that is true. In light of The Princess and Curdie, one meets monsters and deities. Only, one can't always tell which, and people do not realize how splendid they might be, or should be, and don't wear their heritage like tattered gold cloaks. So I do not see the gods and demons of them, only the shabbiness, and I write the palaces in my novels to console my aches."

They say everything hums with the movement of sheer existence, and if you have the right mechanics, you can hear that music.  Whatever I am composed of, it hums inside me like the throat-snarl of a wildcat.  I want others to hear that hum too.  I want them to wake up and grow spines.  I want to patch together the old Gammage Cup cloaks and polish the light in the old Gammage Cup swords, and make us brave, because life wears us down and looks thin and shabby.  I want to light up the rim of the reader's world with apocalyptic fire and feel what I feel when the words come roaring and the wind picks up, and the deceptive shabbiness of the weary soul is scrubbed off like verdigris off precious metal. 

I want to make us bold and brave and steadfast, and not lie to ourselves and say we are not tremendous even while we are small.  That is why Plenilune catches you in the teeth.  I'm not hitting you with my little five-foot frame at the end of a small fist.  Whatever they mean by the halo in the old iconic paintings, whatever Lionel Royer painted into Julius Caesar's face, whatever the heart means when it is torn to shreds by a vicious joy, that is what I hit you with when I write.
man, walk at large out of thy prison