Stains of Grace: Supermurgitroid Cover Art!

Hello, my dearest inklings!

Today, I start my final edits on Stains of Grace, the third and final novel in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch. To celebrate, I’m giving you lovelies a preview of the Stains cover art, with which I am beyond thrilled. So, without further ado or adon’t, here it is:

HUGEST thanks to Julie V. Photography for the incredible artwork.

Another HUGEST thanks to Amy Nickerson Design for — as always — the superb trade dress.

These artists have done cover art and trade dress for all three Saltmarch novels. Their work blows my mind every time, and I feel that they make me look a whole lot more professional than I really am. ; )

Special thanks to the lovely Shauna, who was good enough to pose as main character Anne Waylock.

Stains of Grace is now on Goodreads, if you’d like to add it to your to-read shelf!

Specific publication date will be forthcoming. It’ll be before the end of the month, so I will keep you posted!

Being an author is so supermurgitroid, I can’t stand it. : )

Click to embiggen the cramazingness!

Court Can Wax Poetical

Greetings, all!

To celebrate National Poetry Month — which is now — craftsy knitter, editor extraordinaire, and Kindle All-Stars La Consigliera Laurie Laliberte is blogging various poets during the course of this month. And, much to my delight, she has chosen to feature me!

So, head on over to Laurie’s Big Girl Blog to read the nice stuff she says that makes me blush, as well as my poem entitled “night sunshine.” Please enjoy, and do feel free to comment!

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 2

This just appeared randomly a few days ago. 15 week, 5 days.

A little late (but late due to a good cause), here is the second half of my “Baby Factory 10 Things” list. If you missed the first half, check out numbers 1-5 here.

And so! Now that you’re all caught up, let’s proceed to…

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 2

6. There is this thing. It is called “food.” You will not like it.
It will taste funny. It will smell like feet. Your favorites will suddenly turn into cardboard or charcoal and make you gag. (As an aside, brushing your teeth will make you gag, too.) Even the much-praised saltine, upon which you munch to keep something in your stomach at all times, will eventually crumble to ashes in your mouth. This is not happy.

The reason this happens is, once again, Our Favorite Friend Progesterone. It changes the chemical composition of your saliva, which alters the taste of food. This is MADE OF WEIRD.

This is also frustrating and demoralizing, and you will get in trouble with your doctor for losing 9 lbs. between Weeks 5 and 8.

7. There is this thing. It is called “food.” You will crave it like a hyena craves a wildebeest.
The good news is that around Week 12, the flood of progesterone becomes less flood-ish. Bit by bit, things start to taste normal again. Sadly, some of your favorites will still taste and smell like feet. (I still mourn peanut butter.) But in general, you’ll start liking food again. Food will no longer bring on nausea at every longed-for bite. Suddenly, the vegetables you loathed in Week 11 taste like ambrosia in Week 14. This, my dears, is glorious, and you shall rejoice!

You shall also begin gaining weight like your doctor told you to do back in Week 8.

8. If this is your first, THEY are all experts.
THEY are women in your family. THEY are your female friends. THEY are your female acquaintances. THEY are women who’ve had babies. Sometimes, THEY are even women who haven’t had babies.

One and all, they will tell you what it is you’re experiencing. They will tell you how much they hearted being pregnant. They will tell you how grateful you should feel that you’re sick. They will tell you horror stories of bleeding and cramping — their own and other women’s. They will tell you all of these things even though you don’t ask to hear. And you will sigh muchly. And try not to freak out.

(The good news is that when you actually *do* request stories from some of them, there is much loving commiseration as soon as it becomes clear that this is what you need. When this happens, you will be quite glad to have so many experts in your life.)

9. At night, you will have an IMAX theater in your head.
Once upon a time, the husband said that because I’ve always has such vivid dreams, I must have an IMAX in my head at night. (He, on the other hand, is blessed with a calm, sleep-preserving, empty warehouse.) Well, Mr. Sandman seems to be taking hits of that famed, illicit drug Proges Terone — because now my dreams are more vivid and convoluted than ever. At times, I wake up to a flood of emotions that don’t even feel like my own. This, too, is a WEIRDNESS.

So far, the most memorable dream was the one where civilization had mostly recovered after the zombie apocalypse hit. I was waiting for my grandparents outside a convention hall because I was their driver. The convention was for The Church of the Protection of Zombies or somesuch; apparently, my grandparents had joined a cult that preached against the killing of zombies. Being a killer of zombies whenever opportunity struck, I disagreed with this religion and so chose not to enter the convention hall.

Yeah. So there’s that.

10. Your brains will fall out.
This, fortunately, has nothing to do with zombies — although it might seem like you’ve turned into a zombie, what with the bleary eyes, the slow shuffle, and the random bouts of feeding frenzy.

But no, what we’re really talking about here is the Infamous Pregnancy Brain. I guess it’s the hormones. Or maybe it’s the lack of sleep. Or maybe it’s that your entire being is subconsciously focused on assembling a brand-new other being inside of you. Whatever the cause, the effect is that you can’t think straight, you can’t process information in a logical manner, and you can’t remember squat.

Except where the ice cream is located. You can remember this perfectly well.

The bad news, THEY tell me, is that Infamous Pregnancy Brain doesn’t ever really go away. It turns into Infamous Newborn Brain and from there morphs into Infamous Toddler Brain. By this time, I don’t think we can blame it on the hormones anymore, so it’s gotta be the lack of sleep. And THEY tell me this doesn’t stop until the kid moves out.

Will I recover my brain then? Some say yes, some say no. I’m banking on the kid turning out a nightowl just like me, in which case we should be able to let each other get as much sleep as either of us could possibly want.

Shut up, experts. Lemme have my delusions. They ain’t hurtin’ nobody. ; )

BONUS
11. When you hear your baby’s heartbeat for the first time, you will sob like you did when Bambi’s mother died. Only happier this time.
: )

Death and Rape Threats

Today, I’d planned to post the second half of my top ten list about being pregnant. Instead, I read something this morning that turned my stomach and wore me out in a completely different way.

The something in question was “Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees: Gender and the Fallout Over Christopher Priest” by Catherynne Valente.

Valente is a bestselling fantasy and sci-fi author. Priest is a sci-fi author who recently took quite strong exception to the nominees for this year’s Clarke Award. There was much virtual hullaballoo and whatnot over the vitriol with which Priest chose to express his opinion.

But his opinion per se is not what inspired the Valente post or the post I’m writing now. What Valente chose to focus on is the fact that this was his opinion. As in, a male opinion. And, she asserts, had the same opinion originated with a female author, the backlash against this female author would’ve been a lot stronger than just some online tongue-wagging and head-shaking.

Go read what Valente wrote. It’s pretty convincing. Especially the parts where she gives examples of female bloggers who’ve received rape threats and death threats simply for stating what they think.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of vocal women being targeted online. I believe my first exposure to it was this post by Shauna James Ahern. She describes how she once posted a recipe for soft pretzels. Moments later, someone commented, “I hope you choke on your own pretzels and die, you bitch.”

Really, people? Over pretzels?

No. Not really. It wasn’t the pretzels, and it wasn’t Ahern (who’s also received comments such as, “I hope the pedophiles are watching and I hope they get your kid.”). It was the fact that this is an outgoing, optimistic, vibrant, popular, outspoken woman. The origin of the thoughts was female, and she wasn’t shutting up when told to do so. She wasn’t going away.

There’s also this article, which describes websites glorifying the “war on women” and encouraging misogyny and brutality — both online and offline.

Back to Valente, whose post made me feel the need to hijack my own blog today. She writes,

Most women who blog or are active in the cultural commentary game know that they have to watch what they say. Always. It’s a horrible balancing act, and one I rarely see men having to do.

…The fact is, to be a woman online is to eventually be threatened with rape and death. On a long enough timeline, the chances of this not occurring drop to zero.

…I keep trying to think of what a male blogger would have to say about science fiction to have someone say they hope he gets raped to death. I’m not coming up with anything.

Misogyny in the West is coming up and it’s a gross, miserable, chthonic thing swirling at our feet. It’s getting worse, not better.

Valente is right. Now, those of you who know me IRL know that I don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the news or to politics. The former is depressing, by which I mean that I actually do begin to have a dismal outlook on life when I regularly expose myself to stories of death, destruction, and cruelty; the latter simply disgusts me with its ubiquitous hypocrisy. BUT. There’ve been several news/politics stories that have caught my attention recently. And I can’t ignore them.

Have you been paying attention, my dears? Are you aware of the lawmakers who want to give employers the legal right to ask a woman why she is using birth control — and to fire her or not hire her if she’s using it to prevent pregnancy? Are you aware of the lawmakers who want to force a woman to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before she can have an abortion*? And require the doctor in question to perform the vaginal ultrasound before performing the abortion, even if the doctor doesn’t want to do the ultrasound?

And then there’s the old standby: Are you aware that a woman gets paid less for the same job a man does, even if her qualifications are the same as his?

Another old standby: Feminazi! I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this term applied to a woman who dares express a women’s-rights opinion that steps outside the accepted norm. Over and over again during college, I heard this term applied to one of my most respected professors. Why? Because she had opinions. About women. About women’s rights. About how men treat women. About how women respond to that treatment. About the right and the wrong of it all.

And she wasn’t afraid to speak those opinions.

Feminazi.

Really, people?

A woman has a solid core belief system and dares to open her mouth and let others know about it — so you equate her with a person who committed the atrocities of rape, torture, terror, murder, and genocide?

Really?

Women, these things are not something we can ignore. They’re not going to go away. They are getting progressively worse. The world we grew up in is not going to be the same world our daughters and grand-daughters grow up in. I truly fear that our daughters and grand-daughters aren’t going to enjoy half the freedoms that we’ve enjoyed — and our freedoms haven’t been anywhere as numerous as they should’ve been. Are you going to let this happen?

Men, these things are not something you can ignore. They’re not going to go away. They are getting progressively worse. The world your mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives grew up in is not going to be the same world your your daughters and grand-daughters grow up in. Your daughters and grand-daughters are going to live in tiny boxes made all the more confining by the knowledge that things could and should and used to be better. Are you going to let this happen?

I’ve been belittled, teased, and mocked because I’m female. I’ve expressed opinions and offered suggestions and been ignored — only to see those same opinions and suggestions be accepted when they came from a male.

I’ve never heard anyone say they hope I get raped to death because I said something they disagree with and in a way they disapprove of.

I am afraid to hit “publish.”

Will the threats start now?

And yet, I cannot remain silent. I will not.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

~Frank Herbert,
Dune

__

*No matter what my opinion about abortion itself (and I’m not going to discuss it here), a government should not be allowed to require a woman to have an object shoved up her vagina before she can have an abortion.

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 1

Hile, inklings!

As I’ve hinted in my last few posts, I have a few reflections to share about the joys of pregnancy thus far. In case you think this isn’t something you care to read, consider that the prepositional phrase ending the preceding sentence is a sample of deep sarcasm, which sarcasm might just be enough to make this post enjoyable even for you non-pregnancy-buffs.

Happily, the sarcasm is also an indication that I am feeling LOADS better. BANGERANG.

No baby bump yet. So here's a cute picture of my cat, instead.

So, to celebrate my return from The Nefarious Kingdom of Nausea and Exhaustion, I’ve put together a list of ten things that, if they didn’t surprise me entirely over the last few months, at least caused my expectations (expectations, get it? ha ha) to morph into something unrecognizable pretty much overnight.

As part of my celebration, I’m being rather more verbose than I’d anticipated, so I’m breaking up the list into two parts. Here, for your reading pleasure, is the first half:

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being A Baby Factory, Pt. 1

1. It can be horribly scary.
Okay, so this one isn’t going to be funny, and it doesn’t apply to every pregnancy. But yes, this adventure can be scary. I already knew this, because I’d suffered a miscarriage back in 2006. So this time around, when I started spotting during Week 5 again, I was terrified. A visit to the doctor and a blood test showed low progesterone levels. Granted, my doctor hasn’t said the low levels caused the spotting, and she hasn’t said that I would’ve miscarried without progesterone supplements. But I took progesterone supplements through Week 10, and the spotting stopped, and I’m still pregnant at Week 15, so there you go.

Part of this scary experience is that, because I’m human, the fear trumped the joy at being pregnant. Ed and I let family and friends know what was going on because we desperately needed the spiritual and emotional support. Family and friends were spiritually and emotionally supportive. This was awesome.

Family and friends were also happy and excited. This was not so awesome for me, because although I was happy, I was not excited. I was scared, and it took all my focus to keep the fear to a minimum. Honestly, I couldn’t let myself start to be excited until around Week 10. In the meantime, everyone else’s joy sometimes felt overwhelming.

Hitting Week 14 some ten days ago was a blessing of ginormous proportions, because that was the start of the second trimester, in which the risk of miscarriage drops significantly.
Even so, I still get a little scared sometimes. Prayer helps. : )

2. It can be messy.
So. Progesterone supplements. You take one supplement per day. You do not take it orally. You also do not take it anally. And that’s all I have to say about that.

3. You run a triathlon. Every. Stinking. Day.
Since the advent of Week 12, this part has improved somewhat.

But between Weeks 5 and 12, the level of exhaustion was un-freakin’-believable. I spent anywhere from 10-14 hours per day asleep; or, if I wasn’t asleep the whole time, I was sprawled languidly on the couch or in bed, continually debating whether or not the pressure in my bladder was worth the effort of dragging myself vertical and down the 100 miles of hallway to the bathroom. Twenty minutes of conversation left me feeling like I’d just spent two hours doing high-impact aerobics. The ten-minute car ride to the doctor’s office was the equivalent of a BodyPump class. Said doctor tells me, “You need to be walking every day.” I meekly nod as though in agreement and think to myself, Doc, you are a funny lady.

4. You will want to slice off your boobs.
Hormones! Ah, the joys of them! One of the fabulous things they do is make your boobs hurt. And when I say hurt, I mean HURT. Hugging people is painful. Stretching is painful. The touch of clothing is painful. Putting on your bra is painful. Taking off your bra is painful. The only thing that’s not painful is sitting still whilst wearing said bra. Lying on your stomach is a thing of sheer impossibility. The torture does not stop, and you will want it to stop badly enough that removal of your breasts starts to sound like an attractive proposition.

There will also come a time when you’ll need a bigger, better bra. And that’s all I have to say about that.

5. The baby is an interior decorator. Or maybe a Third Culture Kid.
The kid is growing. Yay! That’s what s/he is supposed to do, and that is a glorious thing. And s/he is not shy about making sure there is enough room in your torso for the accomplishment of all this glorious growth.

In a nutshell: Your interior organs get moved around, and it starts happening pretty early on. I almost don’t have the words for it. The closest I can come to describing it is pressure in odd places. It’s like somebody’s putting their hands flat against the inside of my abdomen and pushing out. This is not the baby’s kicks I’m feeling; it’s too soon for that. No, this is the stretching of uterus, the stretching of ligaments, and the rearrangement of intestine location. It’s WEIRD. And sometimes it keeps me awake at night.

If you don’t know what a Third Culture Kid is, here’s the brief lowdown: A TCK is a person like me who has grown up in two cultures and combined the two into one unique personal culture. This carries with it a host of odd quirks too numerous to go into now. But one of those quirks is the desire to move across the country (or across the world) every few years. When I can’t do that, I rearrange the furniture — just like this kid is rearranging my insides.

Okay, thus ends Part 1! Come back on Friday for the second round!

Guest Blogger: Writer and Editor Jessie Sanders

Happy new week, my beloved inklings!

Last week, I promised you some more updatingness of the goings-on in my neck of the blogging woods. Or, rather, my neck of the Life-the-Universe-and-Everything Woods. This post kinda sorta falls into the updatingness category, because it concerns a novel that I recently helped edit:

Young Adult novel Into the Flames by Jessie Sanders — who happens to be friend, fellow writer, and my editor.

Into the Flames, Jessie’s first novel, is the intriguing and suspenseful story of Rahab Carmichael, who’s desperate to fit in at her new boarding school. Trouble is, Rahab happens to have some special powers that keep her from fitting in — and send her right into the arms of the other “freaks” at school. Teens will relate to Rahab’s story quite well, as will we adults who remember those “awful” days of being relegated to the “freaks” pile. Superhero powers or no. ; )

To celebrate the new release, I asked Jessie to share with us what sparked (ha ha, sparked, get it?) the idea for Into the Flames and how that idea grew and changed over the years. So, without further ado or adon’t, here’s Jessie:

The world of Grover Cleveland Academy started from something as simple as watching a trailer for the movie Treasure Planet. Yes, the Disney movie based off of Treasure Island only it’s set in space. You see, when I saw the character Jim Hawkins sailing through space on his little hover board, I knew I wanted to write about a character that could fly — for real. Instead of using a futuristic board to soar among the clouds, the character would use her own superpowers to fly, strapping her snowboard onto her boots as she went.

That’s how Jean Elizabeth “Scout” Wren was born. Ten years later, Scout is merely a secondary character in my novel Into the Flames. I never intended it to end up this way.

I can’t really tell you how Rahab came into existence. I just know that by the time I was done writing Born to Fly (Scout’s story), I knew that the next year a new girl would be moving to Grover Cleveland — Rahab Sapphira Carmichael. And I found that I liked her even more than Scout.

Scout was a loud tomboy who would rather play baseball than read a book. Rahab was shoved to the back burner because she was the youngest, and she allowed herself to be forgotten so that no one would notice that she was different. But I wanted people to notice her. I wanted her story to be told. So I told it.

Now just because Rahab came to me complete with swimsuit, goggles, and bangs doesn’t mean that she was perfect from the start. She’s been through some major changes in her development, but at the end of the day, she’s a caring, sensitive girl who just wants to be allowed to do the thing she loves the most — swim. She loves animals and is deathly afraid of fire. She has two older brothers whom she admires but can’t relate to. She’s got a lot of hurt in her past, but now she’s ready for a fresh start at her shiny new boarding school.

I really started working hard on Into the Flames during my creative writing class my senior year of college. What I really wanted was a novel that was driven by characters and just happened to include a fantasy element, not the other way around. When my classmates told me they loved the development of Rahab and her friends, I knew I was on the road to making my dream a reality.

Creating the plot of Into the Flames was hard. I had my cast of rich characters, but what to do with them? Well, knowing Rahab’s fear of fire, I was certain that it had to play into the climactic scene somehow. I also knew that I wanted to include resident bad boy Bracken Carnegie in said climactic scene. For many years, cheesy lines and completely implausible scenarios ran through my head and were subsequently deleted from the bank. Finally, after many cumulative hours of talking to myself, lamenting to others, and scratching through pages of bad dialogue, I hashed something out.

So now, from a small spark of an idea that led all the way to an entire world, I humbly bring to you the first book in the Grover Cleveland Academy series. I hope you enjoy Into the Flames as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Courtney here again. Pick up your Kindle copy of Into the Flames for $2.99 and get to readin’! And don’t forget to tell Jessie how much you enjoyed it. : )