January 2020 Ishness!

It’s only been FOREVER since I posted one of these, but I want to get back into the habit of writing Ishnesses, so here’s a recap of January!

Today I’ve got an update on my writing/reading/watching/listening, as well as some photos I took, and other thoughts. So let’s get to it!

(I plan to have a 2019 recap post soon too, but I got this one done first. XD)

WRITING

I took a writing hiatus in January, and it was so refreshing! After writing 50,000 words in November for NaNoWriMo, and another 7K (finishing my WIP novella!) in the midst of Christmas craziness in December (which is when I usually take a writing break), I was ready to recharge.

I did start a new writing journal, though—a gorgeous Christmas present that I’m in love with! It’s my 11th in a series of yearly writing journals I start every New Year.

I also popped out of writing hiatus to write the second installment of my Urban Fantasy serial Girls, Spies, and Other Things the Faeries Stole, which I posted last week!

(Images via Unsplash)

That was the first writing I did this year (decade??), and it felt marvelous to dive into after a three-week break following finishing Double Lives at Kedran’s Wood in the final days of December. Also, I wrote it on my “Writing Day” (January 20th), on which I’ve written at least something every year since 2010. (Bonus: that’s also my character Tare’s birthday.)

I’m not sure what my writing goals are this year, but after taking a month off to refill my creative tank, I’m looking forward to dipping back into writing again now that it’s February. 🙂

READING

I read fifteen books in January! (I use the term “book” loosely. XD)

Seven novels (ish?), four short stories (one on audio), two anthologies, and two nonfiction works about writing.

Some of these I beta-read or copyedited (I edited 400,000 words in January, so . . . that took up some time. XD), and there were a couple of review books, and the rest I just slipped in for fun.

I’ll post a complete list on my book blog with brief thoughts on each, later, hopefully. 🙂

Highlights were Winter Spell by Claire M. Banschbach and The New Emperor’s Concerto by Hazel B. West! Both are releasing this month (I can’t wait to see their covers!) and y’all need them in your life!

(The physical books I read in January.)

WATCHING

My watching this month has been rather assorted. A couple of random action movies, re-watching the first Thor movie (I forgot how much fun that one is!), finishing the first season of Trollhunters, finishing the sixth season of NCIS, a couple of random fantasy movies (Dragonheart and Earthsea, both . . . strange but with good parts), and Arthur Christmas—which was hilarious and so much fun. XD

LISTENING

I’m still obsessed with Burn the Ships by For King and Country. *grinning*

I planned to get back into audiobooks this year, and I did! Albeit in a small way. I listened to a short story, Elapse by Sarah Holman, and quite enjoyed this Kingdom Adventure tale, which made me excited to read the next book in the Tales of Taelis series.

BLOGGING

(Most of these were on my book blog.)

Cover reveals

Other posts

LIFE / PHOTOS

I got a nasty flu a week into January and spent most of the month sick and trying to stay on top of work and commitments. But it was a good month, regardless. 🙂

I went to a writer event and got to see authors and talk with friends new and old, which was fun.

Those are the main things not represented by pictures. XD So here are some photos from this last month!

It’s the little things. Drinking lots of tea from this new mug I got. Setting up my new journals for the year. Getting back into using calligraphy pens, to spice up my journals.

Nature pics from rain and sunshine! My cat and a good book helping me beat the flu. Sparklers on New Year’s Eve and watching the decade turn at midnight. Going to a horse farm event where I got to see an old friend and watch talented people train and ride gorgeous horses.

I got to trek through some rainy woods and while I was looking at a HUGE tree my brother snapped this picture of me. (Sometimes I forget my hair is that long because I don’t see it!)

MUSINGS

I absolutely love this quote from Winter Spell (by Claire M. Banschbach)—a book that I copyedited this last month. I loved this so much I had to write it out in calligraphy and prop it on my nightstand as a reminder. It’s been so inspiring. ^_^

Other musings and things I’m learning include that I’m afraid of change (I’m Baggins-ish and don’t always have that Tookish adventurous spirit!), but that even when things are scary it’s still probably going to be okay and I need to stop worrying so much.

Breathe. I’ve been thinking a lot about this word. I don’t really choose a word for the year like some people do, but if I did, I might pick this one. Breathing is literally the number one thing that keeps us alive, physically, and this might be a hint about needing to metaphorically breathe—to rest and take time between things. I spend a lot of time feeling stressed or behind or trying to conquer the never-ending to-do list. But slowing down and taking time out for resting and recharging is so important. I’m trying to remember to stop and breathe in this way. Last week I took a whole day with the internet turned off and my to-do list cleared, and I rested up—I read some short books, napped, watched a movie, sat in the sun for a few minutes, and just breathed and de-stressed, and it was fabulous. Just a reminder (mostly to myself!) that we are not machines and we can’t keep going every minute, nor should we.

FEBRUARY PLANS

I’m hoping to make some writing goals and get back to that, as well as catch up on review books, keep up with editing jobs, and finish up some other life projects. We’ll see how the month goes . . .

It’s February Fantasy Month, hosted (for the fifth time!) by the fabulous Jenelle Schmidt! So be sure to check that out for giveaways and fantasy awesomeness! Not sure if I’ll have a chance to do much for that, but I hear there’s a tag, and an Instagram challenge, and I might post some reviews . . . We’ll see!

Also . . . we get a leap day. How cool is that? 😀


That’s all I have for you today. I hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into my January! If you read this far, you deserve a cupcake. *offers virtual cupcakes*

What have you been up to so far this year, and what are your February plans?

Thanks for reading!

Girls, Spies, and Other Things the Faeries Stole (Part 2)

I’m back with a continuation of that urban fantasy flash fiction I posted back in October! I had a blast writing it for a prompt, and now that I’ve survived NaNo, Christmas, and a bit of a writing/blogging hiatus (yes, hello, I’m back!), I wanted to write the next part of the story — and there was a perfect new prompt which pushed me into doing it!

It’s Snow Queen month over at the Fairy Tale Central, and this prompt is part of that on the fabulous Arielle Bailey’s writing blog, Intuitive Writing Guide.

So today’s short story/serial chapter/whatever it is, is inspired by the Snow Queen, but also continues the story I wrote for the Twelve Dancing Princesses prompt. (This will make the most sense if you read that first, but it’s not 100% necessary. XD)

I had so much fun writing this (it’s about a thousand words, like the first one) and I hope y’all enjoy it!

  • Part 1: featuring The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Read it HERE.
  • Part 2: featuring The Snow Queen. Today’s post! Read on…

Girls, Spies, and Other Things the Faeries Stole

Part 2

by Deborah O’Carroll


I nearly turned around when I saw the river. Lights from a palace of some kind on the opposite bank gleamed gold on its surface in the darkness. One by one, the twelve girls stepped into twelve small elegant boats which began crossing the river—soundlessly, fae, not propelled by anything I could see.

I could leave. I should leave. Going near the water wasn’t worth it—not for the half-million reward or to solve the mystery of where these girls went at night. I knew already. I could go back. I glanced back up the path lined with trees that looked like they were made of jewels, silver, and gold—fake. Fae illusions.

The foot of the winding staircase was just visible through the trees, waiting for me to dash back up it and get out of there.

But the symbol I’d seen etched at the top was burned in my brain. It meant he needed help and that he was expecting me. Finding him was the real mission anyway, and now I knew he was here—or had been.

And much as I wanted to, I couldn’t just leave him.

Not even to save my hide from those important selkie shifters.

“Kelpies take you, Riel,” I muttered, and jogged to the end of the dock, where I managed to slip into the back of the last tiny boat, just as the final girl sat down in it.

It rocked slightly and she glanced over her shoulder—straight through me.

At least the invisibility cloak, slung over my battered leather jacket, was doing its job. She had no idea there was a guy crouching behind her in the boat—the last place I wanted to be.

I wiped my palms on my torn jeans, resisting the urge to check that my gun was still tucked behind me, and avoided looking at the water as we crossed. Maybe they wouldn’t sense that I was near the water if I didn’t touch it.

When we reached the shore, if I’d had my motorbike with me, I’d have roared up the winding path to the palace, away from that river faster than a faerie flying from iron, but I had to content myself with stalking quietly behind the twelve dancers to the double doors flung wide.

They were ice. The doors, not the girls. Well, as far as I knew; I hadn’t had time to assess their personalities. The whole palace was ice—or looked it. I slipped inside after the young women, past the fae guards who didn’t see me—although one was busy muttering into a cell phone pressed to his ear (yes, faeries have technology too; they just magic it), so it wasn’t like he was paying much attention anyway.

Once inside, I took in the scene from the shadows. A habit of mine, hard to break even while wearing a cloak that made shadows redundant.

A vast, cold, vaulted hall. A ballroom of ice, filled with dancers—faeries and at least a few other species I didn’t have time to study, and the girls I’d followed, who immediately swept into the dance. Elegant icy pillars ringed the room, carved with wolves and roses, moons and ravens, snowflakes and reindeer and mountains and vines of ice. Music filled the air, as cold and beautiful as the palace. The lighting overhead resembled the northern lights and I wasn’t sure how it was done. Faeries. Typical.

The floor was like a frozen lake—I hoped it wasn’t actually a lake—and in the center was a throne, like frozen blocks of ice with the back tipped with icicles pointing the wrong way.

It didn’t look terribly comfortable, but the woman sitting on it didn’t appear to care. And neither did the young man next to her on a smaller seat of ice, sprawling comfortably with his legs crossed and his arm thrown across the back of his chair.

Gabriel Kenworth. Right in the middle of everything, like he always had to be.

I shoved down the rush of relief at seeing him alive. On the one hand, at least I didn’t have to go looking for a dungeon somewhere to find him. On the other hand, it was almost annoying how easy it looked. And I didn’t trust that one bit.

Pulling the invisibility cloak tighter, I reluctantly left the shadows. I crossed to the center dais with the throne, quickly, avoiding the dancers sweeping this way and that. Hopefully my reflection, which stared furtively up at me in the mirror-like floor, was only visible to myself.

I stopped on the steps to one side of the dais, planning my next move.

Close up, the queen on the throne was as perfect and stunning as you’d expect a fae queen to be, and almost carved of ice, she seemed. She wore a gown that looked like it was made of a million snowflakes, with a white fur wrap around her shoulders. She was young but ageless, despite the white hair twisted elegantly on her head. A silver-white crown coiled around that. Her eyes were silver starlight, but sheer cold, directed at Riel sitting next to her.

She laughed. “Go on, Kay.”

Kay.

At least he had the brains to use a false name.

Not that being here in the first place showed that he had any brains at all.

Then again, I was here too.

“Oh, I was finished,” he said pleasantly. “That was the end.”

“Mm. A fine story,” the queen said. She fell silent and watched him.

He watched her back, raising his eyebrows ever so slightly under the wave of blond hair over his forehead, as if in question.

“Well, are you going to kiss me or not?” she said finally.

Riel flashed a smile which didn’t reach his eyes, but it was all charm. “We’ve been over this, Your Majesty. Kissing you would kill me, and I happen to value my life right now.”

I snorted.

The queen looked up and glanced around. She shouldn’t have heard that over the music. Riel didn’t react much but a very slight smirk grew in the corner of his mouth. Come on. He couldn’t have heard either.

But the queen didn’t see me, and looked back at him after a moment. She stood quite suddenly. “I’m going for a drink. Care to join me?”

Riel straightened the cuffs of his nice charcoal suit-coat. “If it’s all the same to you, I’ll wait here.”

She awarded him a dazzling smile, gorgeous and deadly, and swept off down the steps and through the dancers, who parted before her.

Riel sat like an ice statue. I climbed the steps and stopped by his chair, still invisible.

“Ah, Sean. How are you?” he said, not looking toward me.

“Better than you, Gabe,” I said, “by the looks of things.”

He frowned almost imperceptibly at my barb and the nickname he disliked. “It’s good to see you too, old boy.”

“You can’t see me,” I growled. “And you’re older than I am.”

“Figure of speech. Both of them,” he said, unfazed. “I knew you’d come.”

I snorted. “Oh, did you?”

“I figured I’d be missed.”

“Nobody missed you,” I lied.

“And yet here you are.”

I folded my arms, even though he couldn’t see me. “You think you deserve to have everyone running to the end of the world to find you?”

He smirked. “Not everyone. Just you.”

“When we get out of here, I swear I’m going to punch you.”

“Yes. Well. There might be some difficulty with that,” Riel said, his expression strained for the first time.

“I don’t see why. You have a face. I have a fist.”

“I meant the getting out of here part.”

I huffed a breath, frosty on the frigid air. “I knew it. Well, out with it. Tell me what you’ve gotten yourself into this time, so I can get you out of it, as usual.”

Riel gave a tense smile. “I think it’s out of your league.”

“It can’t be worse than the selkies,” I muttered.

His shifty look told me more than I wanted to know. It was worse.

“Oh, come on,” I said.

To be continued . . .

Flash Fiction: Girls, Spies, and Other Things the Faeries Stole

Hey guys! Today I’m excited to share a flash fiction/snippet/beginning of a story/SOMETHING.

Basically, I wrote it for a Twelve Dancing Princesses prompt and wanted to share it.

October is Twelve Dancing Princesses month over at The Fairy Tale Central. (If you don’t follow them, YOU SHOULD, because they’re amazing and all about fairy tales.)

As a part of that, Arielle Bailey, one of the Fairy Godmothers who run the site, has a writing prompt themed after the fairy tale of the month.

This month’s is . . .

And then you pick one of these answers to use . . .

You can join in the prompt and find all the info HERE!

(I cheated a tiny bit because I moved the prompt lines later in the story instead of starting with it, because I wanted to start somewhere else, buuut you know. :P)

I wasn’t NOT going to write something for this — I mean, it’s my favorite fairy tale!

And then I had a dream about writing something for it and took something from that, as well as a title I’d been meaning to use, and a couple of other orphan ideas waiting for a story. (By which I mean that they’ve been quietly insisting they would like a story of their own and I’ve been pretending they don’t exist because I already have TOO MANY.) And there you are!

(I apologize that it ends as it does; I hope to write more someday, when it’s not less than two weeks until NaNo. XD)

Enjoy, and thanks for reading!


Girls, Spies, and Other Things the Faeries Stole

Part 1 (?)

by Deborah O’Carroll

I dismounted from my old motorbike and surveyed the huge mansion silhouetted against the lake. The location being near water was less than ideal, given the rather important selkie shifters I had offended, but this job shouldn’t involve going near the water. I hoped.

I pulled off my sunglasses and hung them on my collar as I stepped into the sunset shadow of the looming mansion and knocked on the huge elegant doors at the top of a stairway I tried not to let impress me.

A man in a suit opened the doors almost at once and looked out. “Good evening, sir. How can I help you?”

Sir, indeed. My battered leather jacket and torn jeans didn’t exactly look like sir material, and the man was three times my age. But I let it slide, just this once.

“I’m here to collect that half-million reward,” I said.

“That would require solving the mystery.”

I smirked. “Oh, I intend to.”

“And where did you hear of this opportunity?”

“Craigslist,” I grunted. He didn’t need to know that an . . . acquaintance of mine had already come trying to solve this and had disappeared.

Satisfied, he nodded and stepped back. “Right this way, sir, and I’ll introduce you to Mr. King.”

“Don’t ‘sir’ me,” I said, and adjusted the handgun tucked into the back of my jeans under my jacket as I stepped through the doorway.

“Of course not, sir.”

I shook my head, following him into the depths of the mansion. Butlers.

My interview with Mr. King was brief—he was bored and impatient, and since I liked to think that people didn’t react that way just because of me, I figured he was getting kind of tired of this whole business after the dozens who had come in search of the reward and gotten nowhere—or if they had, nobody knew where, since they’d all disappeared.

Honestly, you’d think that would be more worrying than a billionaire’s twelve adopted daughters wearing out their ballet slippers every night, but there was no accounting for the rich. He said they couldn’t perform ballet in the daytime if they did it all night, and the stage was missing them.

Whatever he wanted to do with half a million was his business, and I could certainly use it to take care of a few things, on top of tracking down my . . . acquaintance.

So here I was, in a corner of a room full of chattering teenage girls, pretty much the last place I wanted to be. Well. Other than somewhere near water.

At least the invisibility cloak I wore kept them from knowing I was here—helpfully provided by Mr. King to aid in the investigations, with an enchantment on it to return to its proper hook hanging on a wall in his office at sunup every day to prevent unwarranted thefts. Otherwise I’d have suspected the previous investigators of having made off with it—it would explain their disappearances, and one of these was worth a fortune.

As part of the pre-arranged plan, I’d slipped in while the butler brought an evening snack to the teens—well, maybe a few of them were a smidge older, closer to my age; I was terrible with ages—and waited, Mr. King’s weary “good luck” still swirling in my ears. I guess if neither the wards around the house nor the security cameras could figure out where his girls were going or how, and they seemed to be in their room from ten p.m. until morning, that had to get kind of stressful.

The girls were either chatting, reading, engaged on phones or laptops, or doing some kind of crafting. One was practicing ballet steps in the corner opposite to mine.

Absolutely nothing interesting happened until the clock hit midnight.

They all stopped what they were doing and watched the huge wall clock finish chiming, then stood up—all except the one who seemed to be the youngest, who had fallen asleep reading a book.

She woke up and groaned. “Just one night. Can’t we sleep for just one night and forget all this?”

The eldest snorted. “Sounds great. Except for the part where we’d all wake up as ghosts.”

“Come on, you don’t really believe that, do you? Just because they told us—”

“I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that faeries can’t lie,” said another girl.

“And I’m pretty sure that’s just a rumor they spread around to make themselves sound trustworthy. Have you seen how sarcastic some of them are? I’m pretty sure sarcasm is a kind of lie and I doubt they could do it if they had to tell the truth.”

I smirked. That was definitely true.

“Come on, you know why we have to—and you usually love it. If you’re tired, you can just as easily nap there. Let’s go. One more night.”

The other girl got up and they put on their ballet slippers, then lined up, following the first girl.

I tensed, ready.

They walked right into the wall and vanished.

Well.

I quickly slipped after them. The wall let me through, fortunately. On the other side, a dark shadowiness waited. I could feel that we had passed through a barrier and were now somewhere else entirely.

Faeries. This was going to be interesting.

I spied the girls disappearing in a long spiral down a winding staircase with a gleam of light waiting at the bottom.

About to slip after them, I paused. A scratch on the banister at the top caught my eye. A symbol I knew well. He had been here. And the only reason he would have left that mark was if he was in trouble and thought I’d be following and would find it. Of all the entitled—

I growled. What did that idiot get into now?

I pulled my cloak of invisibility tighter around myself and stepped onto the spiral stairs, following the twelve girls toward the source of light—and what sounded like waves.

Which meant water.

I groaned. This was not my day.


To be continued . . . ?


And there you are! I hope you enjoyed it despite ending sooner than we might like it to. XD I do really want to continue writing it sometime. Thank you for reading!