Giveaway! Giveaway! Giveaway!

Last month was the second bookiversary (or “book birthday”, if you prefer words my laptop doesn’t tag with a red, squiggly line as being not real) for my historical fantasy/horror The Half Killed. Now, I had it all planned out in my head. I checked the calendar, made certain I still had plenty of time to put everything together, and then – WHOOSH – August 25th came and went and here we are halfway through September and I’m late to the party. DSCN0498

So! Here’s the good part: You get a chance to win one of two signed copies of The Half Killed (signed by me, sorry) that will be delivered to your door (not by me, sorry) IF you win. And how do you win? Well, let’s see…

Rules:

To enter you must write a haiku. What’s a haiku? A poem that is 5-7-5, or five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the third.

I don’t like haikus.

But I like to win free stuff.

What a quandary!!!

See? That easy. Post your haikus in the comment section below, and I will read through them all!

More rules:

The contest will remain open until midnight (EST) October 12th.

Your haiku must stick to the 5-7-5 rule. Any shenanigans and your entry will be disqualified.

Your haiku must include the word bacon.

What was that?

Yes, it must include the word bacon. I might be lenient if you manage to reference or allude to bacon without actually using the word. Creativity counts!

I will be the only judge (possibly I’ll bring in my husband to help judge if I’m stymied.)

One winner will be selected randomly. The other winner will be purely my choice (Bias! Get your bias here!)

And with that, I wish you all good luck and happy haiku-ing!

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Halloween is Coming

It’s still August. I know. But the giant, inflatable pumpkin displays are already up at the grocery store, surrounded by troughs of candy corn and bags of mini-Snickers and there is NO WAY any of that would last more than a day in this house if I bought it to put away until the end of October. (Which is most likely their dastardly plan: Buy candy now! Give in to temptation and eat it all! Come back to buy more!)Halloween 026

But a step outside shows the leaves on the trees acquiring that late-summer tinge of brown (I’d say that the grass is dry and crinkling, as it usually is this time of year, but it’s incredibly wet so I’ll just scratch that one off the list) and the days are, whether I want to admit or not, growing shorter. Which can mean only one thing:

Halloween is on the horizon.

It’s one of my kids’ favorite holidays! Dress up and go begging for free candy? MAGIC, I SAY. But there’s another thing happening this year that is a first for me: I’ll be taking part in an anthology with several other authors.

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNN!

Wait. No. I’ve done that bit before. Hang on…

It’s a horror anthology!

DUN DUN DUNNNNNNNNN! (See? Better, yes.)

To tell the truth, I’m the biggest scaredy cat there is. I cannot watch or read horror and expect to live a normal and productive life for at least 72 hours after consuming such frightening product. So all of those Friday the 13th and Dawn of the Dead and blood and limbs and masks and teenagers being chased by a madman who likes to wear other people’s skin for a hat? Yeah, nope. Nope, nope, nope. Not gonna happen. I’ll stick with my Jane Austen and Narnia and comforting things like that.

And yet I wrote a short story for a horror anthology. I’m funky like that.

The story is actually a stand-alone prequel to The Half Killed, so it involves seances and possession and spirits that may or may not be what they seem. Because I’ll be honest again and admit that little does more to scare me than things like demonic possession/oppression and all of that Exorcist/ouija board kind of stuff. *shivers*

So why not write a story about it!

The anthology comes out in October (I’ll have more details soon, release date, cover, etc.) and just as a teaser, I’m posting the first couple of paragraphs (I won’t give out more than that, since it’s a short story.)

And with that, here are the first few lines of “With My Own Eyes,” a prequel to “The Half Killed.”

***

My hand trembles, and so I press it into my skirts, grasping at the fabric there until I fool myself with the belief that I can manage my own limbs again. It’s this moment I wait for above all others, the final drawing in of the curtain as a mangled prayer tumbles from my lips.

For the last hour, a hundred pairs of eyes have been upon me, their owners’ myriad shiftings and muffled coughs serving to highlight my every reluctance to open my mouth and speak. But I had no choice, and the words tumbled forth. Marta kept to her place in the wings, her chin raised so that the limelight illuminated the smooth, white expanse of her throat. She doesn’t allow me to hesitate for longer than can be attributed to my own quirks of performance, a pause here and there as I allow the spirits to seek out their communion with me. But the voices are already there, always there, clamoring for the smallest window through which they can flood my every thought.

Update! Update! Update!

Ah, there I go again, failing to update this ol’ blog. I do have reasons, though. Genuine reasons! (… aside from children, homeschooling said children, taking children to dance lessons, to the playground, errands, sleeping, taking pictures of clouds, the occasional shower or bologna sandwich…) DSCN5372

I have two deadlines looming over my head, one for June 1st and the other for June 2nd (Yes, you read that right). The first requires that I finish a 10k story by then, the second needs a first chapter and a synopsis. Plus I’m trying to revise An Unpracticed Heart in there, as well, because why not throw more stuff on the to-do pile.

I’m also in allergy hell right now. As much as I love this season, this season doesn’t love me. So when I’m taking medicine to stave off the urge to CLAW OUT MY EYES WITH A FORK OH MY LORD IT FEELS LIKE MY FACE IS MADE OF SAND, I also don’t get a great deal of… oh, let’s call it “thinking” done. So there’s that, too.

And I’m just tired. I really need a nap, people.

But! If I keep at this pace, I should make my deadlines. The first story  – “A Handful of Dust” – is at 6k words now and I have the ending worked out in my head. The second is titled “With My Own Eyes” and will act as a 10k-word prequel to The Half Killed (so if you love the Dorothea and Chissick dynamic, I’m sorry to say that the latter character only receives a brief mention) which covers events that pretty much lead up to where we find Dorothea, or rather WHY we find her in said situation, at the beginning of The Half Killed.

So. All of that. It’s a lot, but I’m managing it. I find that setting small word count goals for each story (say 500-700 words) keeps it from overwhelming me, and I’ve been okay jumping from story to story without an issue. Well, so far. Let’s see if I’m a gibbering mess once these deadlines have come and gone.

Oh! And in other news, a huge THANK YOU to everyone who picked up a copy of The Firstborn! This has been my most successful book release to date, and I am tickled that it didn’t sink like a stone right out of the gate. (Hmm, I think I’m mixing up my sayings there. And I rhymed. Hmm, I may need one of those naps. Or some bologna.)

 

National Library Week!

So here’s the deal: This week is National Library Week! Having been a bookish kid, a homeschooled kid, and a kid who grew up without a lot of resources, the library was always an amazing place to me.

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Now is my chance to help give back (and to one of the libraries I frequented the most while growing up, and that I still take my kids to today). For the next week, all proceeds from the sales of my books, paperbacks or ebooks, will be donated to the Juniata County Library. I didthis once before and raised a whopping $12.80! (Yeah, it doesn’t sound like a lot, but all of my books were on sale that week, which lowers the royalty rate to nickels and dimes.) I’d love to double that amount this week, and should I triple that amount – total pie in the sky, I know – I’ll even match what is raised and donate that portion to the Marysville-Rye Library here in my town!

I’ll post all important links below, and I’ll be a real irritant and post about this every day this week.

Thanks in advance to anyone who helps this cause. I love my local libraries, my kids love the library, and I want to do everything I can to help them!

The Half Killed ebook
(Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/Half-Killed-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B00YWLVX4K
(Nook): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-half-killed-quenby-olson/1122532399?ean=2940152797008
(itunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1087871546
(Kobo): https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-half-killed

The Half Killed paperback
(Amazon): http://www.amazon.com/Half-Killed-Quenby-Olson/dp/0989446069
(Barnes and Noble): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-half-killed-quenby-olson/1122532399

Knotted ebook: http://www.amazon.com/Knotted-Quenby-Olson-ebook/dp/B00DBT0MQE

Knotted paperback: http://www.amazon.com/Knotted-Quenby-Olson/dp/098944600X

A New Year, New Chances, New Goals, No Naps

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Here I go again, always saying I’ll get back to blogging and to keeping up with things, and then life gets in the way and I feel like the only things I’ll have to talk about are my kids and what my kids are doing and getting my kids to eat new foods and my kids kids kids kids kids kids…

There. Now it doesn’t even look like a real word anymore.

But kids. We took a break from homeschooling (following fast on the heels of the break we took while I was in Morning Sickness Hell) and we’re starting up again tomorrow. Freja is doing a mix of first and second grade work, Ola is doing a mix of pre-k and kindergarten, and Will is trying to get in everyone’s way and hit his sisters over the head with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Kids.

But it’s going to be tough to get back into the swing of things, I know. I’ve had twelve days at home, eleven of those days with my husband also at home. So it’s been this magic time around here, when I could take a shower in peace, or use the bathroom in peace, or go upstairs to put laundry away and not worry about someone finding a pair of scissors and deciding that their clothes needed to be more aerated. And we cooked wonderful meals everyday, and baked wonderful desserts, and went for walks (whence the above picture came from), and slept in, and watched movies, and read books, and it was all MAGIC.

And now tomorrow is back to work and back to school and back to taking the kids to their extra-curricular activities.

But I can’t stop writing. Oh, no. I think I have about six or seven projects that I’d like to see completed before the baby arrives (May 7th is the day highlighted on the calendar. That is, if he decides to be punctual) and so I cannot be resting on my proverbial laurels for the remainder of this winter and into spring.

The projects I want to finish?

The Bride Price (Regency-era romance)

The Ivory Fan (working title, also Regency-era romance)

The Firstborn (possible working title, also also Regency – HEY! I think I’m sensing a theme here!)

Early Victorian-era romance. (Seriously. I don’t even have a working title for this thing. But, OOH! Look at me, mixing it up with my nineteenth century romance novels!)

The Scarlet Feather (Working title. Blah blah blah.)

And… I think that’s it? Then post-baby should bring a lot of napping and drooling (baby and Mommy included) and looking at locking in outlines and rough first drafts of sequels to The Half Killed, Knotted, and possibly First Position.

I plan on posting excerpts of the above works-in-progress as the next weeks come along. The Firstborn is the furthest one along (I am working on the penultimate chapter as I type! Well, sort of. It’s open in another window and I keep bopping over to it.) so I should have some character descriptions, blurbs, and other goodies to post about in the days and months ahead.

And now I’m off to eat dinner (the husband is making homemade potato soup, the kind with hard-boiled eggs on top) and start on the final season of Downton Abbey.

And, no. I haven’t watched the Sherlock special, The Abominable Bride, yet either.

Because kids, believe it or not.

Happy Birthday

Today is my book’s birthday. The day The Half Killed is thrust out into the world, naked and squalling and…

No, no. Scratch that. Not that kind of birthday. But it is new, and this is the day when it takes on a new life, so to speak. A life as something that no longer belongs to me, and me alone.

This is only my second novel, so I don’t have a tradition I celebrate with each book’s release. There’s no champagne here, no party, no special dinner or anything of the like. I have to go grocery shopping today, and I have to fold laundry, and I will no doubt have to change diapers and make macaroni and cheese and settle myriad squabbles between my children. And I will try not to spend too much time watching the sales rankings or wondering if and when new reviews will come in. Perhaps one of the kids will spill their chocolate milk on the carpet. That should keep me occupied and away from the computer for a little while.

And so I’m sitting here, much too late at night, wondering what I should put down in this post to commemorate this momentous event. I mean, this book took eight years to find its way out of my hands into… well, other people’s hands. (You can tell this is late at night, right? Words are dribbling out of my head as my brain slowly slips into slumber while the rest of my body remains irritatingly alert.) I researched into the wee hours of the morning. I kept copious notes on the most insane details and minutiae of nineteenth-century life in London. A London I then had to skew just a few steps into the realms of fantasy and the supernatural.

One option I have is to go over all the things I’ve mentioned in various places while I twiddled my thumbs leading up to this point. I could mention that you can read the first three chapters here, or that there are several other excerpts and deleted scenes here, here, over here , and one more right here. Or I could even link back to other posts on other blogs about writing historical fiction.

Or I could go short and sweet, and simply post the dedication I wrote for my husband:

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(Okay, it’s just a tad blurry. But it’s a new camera, and I was still working out all the settings.)

Or I could post my acknowledgements, my thank you to the people who dealt with me over the last eight years of literary gestation:

I could not have done this without the help from a great many people, a few of whom I will go out of my way to mention here: A.J. Navarre for her tremendous artwork (along with the motivation it gave me to cross the finish line). K.S. Villoso for constantly nudging me along, nit-picking, and reminding me of the myriad spelling differences that exist from one English-speaking nation to another. Amanda Bohannan for her amazing, amazing editing skills. I also can’t leave out all of the folks at Breaking Quills and World Tree Publishing for their talents in beta-reading, editing, proofreading, and listening patiently as I nattered on about the most irritating of plot and historical minutiae. To all of these and many, many more…

Thank you.

I could link to The Half Killed’s Goodreads page, where the reviews have been trickling in.

Or my author page on Facebook, where you can… watch me natter on about writing and books and other general things. (I should be better at selling myself by now. Which… Hmm, that sounded worse than I meant it to. But I trust you know what I mean.)

I even considered coming up with a list of reasons why you should Buy My Book. I didn’t get very far with that one. It was mostly filled with desperate and dramatic tales of having to eat Ramen noodles or drinking tap water instead of bottled. But I already drink tap water (sometimes), so that one didn’t really gain much momentum.

So all I can say is that if you bought my book, or are planning to purchase it, I hope you enjoy it. I love this book, I love its characters, and I plan on spending more time with some of them in the future. And I hope you will, too.

Thank you.

***

The Half Killed is now available on Amazon! In both ebook and paperback! Go, me!

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Dorothea Hawes has no wish to renew contact with what lies beyond the veil. After an attempt to take her own life, she has retired into seclusion, but as the wounds on her body heal, she is drawn back into a world she wants nothing more than to avoid.

She is sought out by Julian Chissick, a former man of God who wants her help in discovering who is behind the gruesome murder of a young woman. But the manner of death is all too familiar to Dorothea, and she begins to fear that something even more terrible is about to unleash itself on London.

And so Dorothea risks her life and her sanity in order to save people who are oblivious to the threat that hovers over them. It is a task that forces her into a confrontation with her own lurid past, and tests her ability to shape events frighteningly beyond her control.

Strong and Sweet Shall Their Tongues Be

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When one thinks of Spiritualism, often mediums and seances and well-executed sleight of hand tricks come to mind. It’s easy to throw everything under the same umbrella as psychic hotlines and crystal balls, but where did the Spiritualist movement begin, and why were women so often seen at the forefront of it?

It began in upstate New York, already a religious hotbed with the advent of Mormonism and also the activities of the Second Great Awakening. And it began with three sisters, the Fox sisters, who claimed that on March 31, 1848, they had made contact with a spirit.

This is where the practice of “rapping” has its start, where one would ask questions to the air and hope for a response of knocks against the tabletop standing in for speech, like a ghostly Morse Code. The Fox sisters were quickly taken in by the Quakers, and from there the movement spread, other young women stepping forward with claims of having been visited by spirits, healed by spirits, receiving vital messages from spirits. And the women were often young, often lovely, and so able to draw a crowd.

Spiritualism appealed to the upper and middle classes, and especially those who had recently lost a loved one. And with the Civil War breaking out only thirteen years after the Fox sisters responded to those first knocks, thousands and thousands of families watched their sons march to battle and never come home again. The search for life after death began in earnest, beyond Christianity’s teachings and promises of eternal life for the soul. Seances soon became the order of the day, despite their being likened to the practices of witchcraft (and even being blamed for the Civil War on at least one occasion) Seances were even conducted in the White House during the years of Abraham Lincoln, and Spiritualism was often embraced by those who shunned organized religion.

Which is not surprising that the two didn’t go hand in hand, as both Christians and Jews adhered to the verse in Leviticus 20:6 that states: “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.”

Well, then.

But many seances or “sittings” at the time had overtones of attending a small, intimate church service. The attendees would often pray, asking God for guidance in their search for knowledge and attempts to communicate with the spirits who were believed to exist on a higher plane than mere humans. Christian hymns were sung, verses from the Bible were quoted (though not the one from Leviticus, I’m sure.) Everything was meant to have the feel of something like a Bible study or meeting at someone’s house. Nothing one would usually associate with a movement later exposed as being riddled with fraud and chicanery.

Which isn’t surprising, really. During a time when hundreds of thousands of men lost their lives to a hideous war (and Spiritualism would see another surge in popularity after World War I took the lives of over seventeen million people), the scientific community was buzzing with the findings of Robert Chambers, who published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation in 1844, and Charles Darwin, who published his Origin of Species in 1859.

And along with these things, slavery was on its way to being abolished in the United States (and had already been abolished in England in 1833), and with the move into the Industrial Age which allowed more women into the workforce, women began to fight for the right to vote and for equal pay. So during all of this upheaval as the western world was thrust into the modern age, as people became disillusioned with the organized religion of the nineteenth century, it’s not surprising that some people began the search for something that would give them proof of life after death, that there was still something more for them beyond this existence, and that not all of life’s mysteries had been solved by the scientists and industrialists of the age.

And it was women who often stood at the head of the Spiritualist movement (though many men became famous mediums as well). Women, who were believed to be more sensitive to the messages being sent from the other side of the veil. Though this perceived weakness in their sex allowed many of them to become adept businesswomen and performers, touring across the United States and Europe to sold-out crowds. That is, until many of their lauded tricks and materializations were discovered to be nothing more than animal livers and old sheets.

Spiritualism still exists today, mostly stripped down of its hallmarks of levitating tables and automatic writing and ectoplasmic figures. But for many years it drew interest from people like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, and Pierre and Marie Curie, and even Queen Victoria was rumored to use the services of a medium to contact her beloved Prince Albert and hear his messages to her from beyond the grave.

In writing The Half Killed, I researched a religious movement that traced its origins to three sisters in upstate New York and followed its spread across the continents. Women sometimes benefitted greatly from the Spiritualist movement, suddenly finding themselves in places of power and recognition, their voices not only heard but revered. Despite the steady disintegration of the movement in later years and the skeptical eye laid on it as the nineteenth century wound to a close, it signalled a change in how women were regarded in matters of religion, science, and industry. Changes that are still rippling through the ether to this day.