Guest Post: The Secret Lives of Royals by Shalini Dua

Happy Tuesdays, squiders! Today I’ve got a guest post on process from Shalini Dua as part of the tour for her YA/NA fantasy novel, The Secret Lives of Royals.

BLURB:

Olivia can’t take it anymore. She’s had enough of the big city and it’s lack of fulfilling her dreams. Then, just when she’s about to give up and move home, out of the blue, she is offered her dream job. Olivia is suspicious but that could just be the New York in her. She decides not to pull at threads. Despite her best efforts to remain blissfully oblivious, the secret to her life upgrade is soon uncovered when she finds herself invited to be part of a secret society.

Olivia learns that there is a thin curtain separating our world from theirs. Just beneath the surface, an entirely different one exists. One that is controlled by those of Royal lineage. The chosen ones, the Royals, hold the fate of the world in their hands. Will Olivia be able to bear the weight of the crown?

Confessions of a Shopaholic meets The Adjustment Bureau, this contemporary fairytale is both relatable and aspirational. Taking a look at the current balance of media and power with a healthy dose of humor, fashion, food and wanderlust.

EXCERPT:

I’m getting a very weird feeling. I consider turning around and leaving, but getting a cab on a cold rainy night before 2AM is going to be tough as they don’t begin frequenting the area until the bars start to close, and the nearest Uber appears to be 25 minutes away. Plus, I did go to all of this trouble to get my lazy self dressed and over here.

There is a crest engraved in brass metal on the front of the red door, an intricately designed crown and some lettering. I tilt my head to read it all the way around. ‘Alea iacta est memores acti prudentes uturi modus operandi’ I read aloud, and below, ‘Posteriori’. I recognize the language as Latin from the three weeks we spent on it during Intro to Languages, which was designed to help us choose one to focus on during our tenure at the university.
—–
Against my better judgment, I push on the heavy door, which creaks open. I enter into a cold stone-walled hall with a stone slab floor, lit by what appears to be a row of fire lanterns on each side. I guess this place is a bit behind the times in converting, or maybe they think it’s super ironic and hipster to not jump on the modernization bandwagon. Or maybe it’s me. I’m not exactly the authority on architectural trends. Maybe converted vintage is over and re-vintaged vintage is back in. Ugh, I can’t wait until I’m old and have an excuse not to be hip.

I walk down a windy stone hallway that seems straight out of a period film. Wow, they are really taking this theme seriously. How cool would it be if this stuff was authentic? I take a few pictures with my phone just in case. I mean as Cultures Editor, it’s always nice to be the one to discover the next big thing, like Connor said.

As I round the corner I hear, before I see, a British male mumbling to himself, apparently in debate.

“It’s so bizarre. But it couldn’t be. Could it? Stranger things have happened.”

I find myself face to face with a short-ish man, though taller than me, with glasses, wearing a sports coat with suede elbow patches. I scream in surprise and jump about five feet in the air. He seems slightly taken aback as well but less jumpy than me, or at least less vocal about it. He’s good looking in an intellectual sort of way and his dark floppy hair is conservatively combed back. I’m not sure if he’s startled by our unexpected encounter or my scream, but he does a bit of a double back.

“Sorry,” he recovers charmingly, “I didn’t see you there.”

“No, me either.” I try to breathe. I feel like I know him from somewhere.

“Stuart Stephens.” He proffers his hand in greeting.

“Olivia Grace Thorpland.” I shake his in return. “But you can call me Gigi.”

“Hello, Gigi. Nice to meet you.” He is impeccably mannered even after our near death collision. Must be the British thing.

“So are you here for the party too?” I inquire. “Do you know where it is?”

“Party?” he asks, confused. “No, I just had a meeting here.”

“Ah, I see,” I say, although I don’t, given the hour. I definitely know him from somewhere. Got it, he’s a comedian.

“Well, care to join me anyway?” I offer politely. After all, he’s British, I’m being a good ambassador. He appears a bit bewildered.

“No, thanks. I best be going.”

“Are you sure? My friends are in there.”

“Really? Your friends are in there?” He seems surprised to see where I’m gesturing.

“Yup,” I tell him confidently.

“Oh, well, thanks for the invite, but I’m completely sure. Thanks anyway,” comes his nervous reply. “But, can I ask you a question?” I nod. “Is this all, um, kosher?”

“I, I, don’t know.” I hesitate. Is he Jewish and British? Is that a thing?

“Well, I’ll let you get on,” he says. “Have a good night.”

“You too. Bye,” I reply. And with that, we walk off in opposite directions.

Finally, I reach a semi-circled entryway that has the option of five doors, one straight ahead and two on either side. These are not your ordinary doors either. They are heavy, arched, rustic, dark brown, slated wooden doors. I’m not really in the mood to crash a wedding reception, murder, or worse, a live band performance; and, given that anything could be behind these doorways, I’m about to give up on this expedition completely, when one of the doors, the entryway smack dab in the center, starts to creak open, apparently of its own accord. A feeling of unexpected dread overtakes me. I brace myself, unsure of what to expect to find behind it.

You can pick up the book here: ( Amazon | iBooks )

AUTHOR:


An international upbringing and a love of stories laid the foundation for wanderlust. Shalini aspires to spend her time country-hopping and consuming pop-culture, comedy and good food but the reality is often frantically downing coffee, meeting deadlines at exactly the last second and working her unglamorous corporate job to fund all of the other pursuits.

The Secret Lives of Royals is Shalini’s debut novel. Her other work includes published poetry and scripts only she has read.

( Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Website )

 

 

GUEST POST ABOUT PROCESS:

My writing process is a bit haphazard and involves lots of procrastination. I get really hungry, get creative with my snacks, binge watch Netflix for a while. It’s the only time I clean my apartment. And then, just when I’m about to go to sleep, inspiration hits and I stay up all night writing.

Beyond the daily struggle, The Secret Lives of Royals has been rattling around in my head for years. Inspired by school history lessons, my travels and wanderlust for places I haven’t yet managed to visit, and by my love of food and art. I absorb inspiration from all of my experiences and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to a lot of places.

In addition to my suburban Northern Virginia hometown in the States, I’ve lived in London and New York and visited many wonderful and exciting places around the world. Walking past the eclectic doorways in New York, getting lost in the small back alleys of London’s side streets, enjoying cafes along the cobbled roads in France, sitting in view of the Italian ports and eating gelato, walking Barcelona’s gothic district, with its beautiful historical architecture, and visiting the palaces and mosques of pre-colonial India have all inspired so much of my storytelling.

I always wonder what is going on behind those varied and intricately designed doors as I’m walking past and what amazing things might have happened in the past that shaped our history. I think about the people who have walked these streets before me and imagine what their lives must have been like. Those musings eventually end up sparking story ideas.

Olivia’s story is a culmination of my journey thus far and the daydreaming I’ve done along the way. I tend to fill in the spaces in between my experiences with my imagination and google.

Shalina will be awarding a $50 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Enter to win a $50 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Revisiting Time Travel a New Way

We like science fiction an awful lot on this blog, squiders, and I, at least, also like a good time travel story.

(If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll know I come back to this topic every few years.)

Time travel can take a ton of different forms, of course, from being the main mechanism in a story to just some flavoring for another type of story (historical fiction, romance, etc.). So I was a bit amused recently when I found myself reading two different books, written almost 40 years apart, that used the same time travel mechanics, and ones that I’m not sure I’ve seen a lot elsewhere.

The books in question are Version Control (Dexter Palmer, 2016) and Thrice Upon a Time (James P. Hogan, 1980).

(I suppose this could potentially be spoiler-y, so read with caution.)

In both, time travel is treated very scientifically, with proper skepticism and with believable limits on how far you can go back and how the mechanism works. As such, we’re not jetting back to the Middle Ages or going back to assassinate Hitler or anything of that ilk. (Version Control deals with a limit of a few years, while Thrice Upon a Time deals in months.)

But both also include the fact that the new timeline overwrites the old timeline. Change something in the past, and the future that did the changing never existed. Not even the time traveler remembers.

(This is handled masterfully in Version Control, and even though I’m a bit sad about the ending–especially since there was another option–I understand why it went the way it did.)

So there’s no hints that the timeline has been changed (unless there’s a purposeful message left–in Thrice Upon a Time messages can be sent from the future to the past, but the act of sending/receiving the message is what erases the previous timeline) and no way for the people in the new timeline to know what happened on the original timeline or what, specifically, has been changed.

So it opens up very interesting questions like: what if you actually made things worse? How can you tell if it’s worth the risk to change the past when your present will no longer exist? If you did change that one event, would you actually accomplish what you meant to?

And no way to test, because the previous timeline is gone and can’t be recovered.

Very interesting take on the concept. Less adventure, more think-y.

I enjoyed Version Control and am not quite done with Thrice Upon a Time, though at this point I’m not sure if I would recommend it. It gets bogged down in long infodumps in the first half of the book, but has improved now that we’re finally using the time travel concept instead of just talking about it.

Know another book that uses this same time travel mechanic, Squiders? Read these books? Thoughts?

Writing Around Life: School/Kids (Older Children)

Good morning, squiders! Is it hot where you live? It’s hot here. Man, summer.

Today we’re going to be looking at how to write around both school and older children. Like last week with the younger children section, this will be divided into part-time school/older children and full-time school/older children.

In this case, older children includes children who are going to school on a full-time basis, so essentially ages 6 and up. The nice thing about older children is that they begin to be self-sufficient to some extent. Even a 6 year old can dress themselves (though admittedly, not always appropriately for the season/occasion) and can probably get themselves simple snacks. (They probably still need help tying their shoes, but oh well.) By the time you get up to the tweens and teens, your kids may only need you to make them dinner and drive them places.

NOTE: All children are different, and all have different needs. You know your own children best, so use your discretion when applying techniques. ‘

Like last week, this section assumes that you have a childcare solution for when you are at school.

The biggest thing you can do, no matter if you’re in school part or full time, is to work when they’re working. Homework starts early these days. Even kindergarteners may have the occasional 15-minute assignment they need to do at home, or they may need to practice reading. Working next to your kids accomplishes a couple of different things:

  • If they need help, you’re readily available
  • It somewhat counts as family time, even if you’re not directly interacting
  • It helps the kids work because you’re setting a good example
  • You’re getting stuff done

And then, when everyone’s done, you can all go off and do fun things, and your schedules are (hopefully) in sync.

Part-time students

Again, how these strategies will work for you depends on how many classes you’re taking at a time. One or two is generally the most doable when also having to take care of your children, but you know what’s right for you.

  • Utilize the time while your children are at school

The average elementary school student is in school for about six and a half hours a day.  Even if you’re using several hours of this a day for schoolwork (homework, or doing online coursework) you can still probably set an hour or so aside to work on writing or other creative projects. It can help to differentiate school work from creative work–perhaps an hour before the kids need to be picked up, you go to a cafe or a library and work there, then get the kids on the way home.

  • Make use of childcare

If financially viable, you can use after or before school programs to get in a little extra time. After school programs are often less than $20 per afternoon, and you can get 3 or 4 more hours of work. Used once a week or even every other week, this is still a decent amount of extra time to get things done. Likewise, if you’re already using childcare (if your classes don’t correspond with when the kids are in school), perhaps you can add on a little extra time by dropping the kids off a little earlier or picking them up a little later.

  • Set a dedicated writing time once a week

Even when life is crazy, there should be an hour or two a week you can claim as writing time. This should be some time when someone else can watch the kids (or while they’re at school) and should be as consistent as possible to help build a habit. By having a dedicated time, you can make sure you’re making at least a little progress.

Full-time students

Unfortunately, a full-time college schedule isn’t as consistent as a K-12 schedule, so you may be taking classes outside when your kids are at school. Again, these techniques assume you have childcare in place.

  • Work during breaks on campus

You may have short breaks on campus that aren’t long enough to work on school projects or head home. These can be great times to get a little bit of creative work done. Make sure you’re carrying a notebook or a laptop or a writing instrument of choice with you. (Not too hard, since you probably have some for schoolwork anyway.)

  • Set a writing time at the beginning of the week

Since college schedules aren’t always consistent (you may need to go to office hours one week, or meet extra with your group another, for example), you may not be able to set a time each week for writing. But you can look at your schedule each week and block off time you know you’re busy (it also helps to block off homework time) and choose an hour or so for writing. Things may still happen, but having it on your calendar makes it more likely to get done.

As mentioned previously, school comes first, and it does end eventually.

Thoughts about writing around school and older children, squiders?

Cover Reveal: Fireborn by Erin Zarro

Fireborn, the second book in Erin Zarro’s Reaper Girl series, will be out on August 1! But for now, get a load of this cover.

Fireborn cover

Man, that’s pretty.

Here’s the blurb:

Former Grim Reaper Leliel and her new husband Rick have settled into a routine of normalcy after their life-changing trip to the Underworld. They can finally relax and be married and deal with mundane problems, like money and learning to use all the modern-day technologies that are new to Leliel. But they’re up for the challenge.

Until Leliel starts having frightening visions of people on fire. The fires appear to be suicides—young adults—but something isn’t right. She senses that they were forced to act against their will. This isn’t their time to die. Even though she’s no longer a Reaper, she needs to fix it. Somehow.

When she and Rick investigate, they encounter resistance from not only the police but also the families and friends of the dead. Complicating factors are the Tarot cards left at the scenes, the mysterious happenings at the college that all of the dead turn out to have attended, and the disturbing new abilities that Rick is developing.<

And then Leliel’s own Tarot deck turns up the Death card–twice–and she realizes that she’s gotten the attention of something evil…something she must face without Rick by her side.

Meanwhile, the deaths are mounting…

Sound interesting? If so, look for it in a few weeks!

Writing Around Life: School/Kids (Younger Children)

This post is going to be divided into part-time school/young kids and full-time school/young kids. In this case, young kids essentially means any child who is not also going to school full-time, so infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers.

This is a tough combo, no way around it. Young children need almost constant supervision, and it’s hard for them to advocate for themselves, so you need to make sure you trust whomever is watching them while you’re at school. Cost can also be an issue, since you’re probably not working (if you are, please see the work/school/kids combo section).

But, for the sake of this book, let’s assume you have a child care option that is working for you that allows you to attend school. So we’re going to look at the time you have outside of school where you have to balance non-classroom course work (such as homework and projects), watching your children, and hopefully getting a little writing in.

NOTE: It’s okay to let writing fall by the wayside if you have a hard semester. School is finite. It ends eventually. Your children are only young once. You will have to be the judge of this, of course. If you have time to spend an hour or so a day playing MMORPGs or catching up on your favorite television show, you have time to write. If you run around all day and crash once the kids are in bed, then you might not.

For both part- and full-time students, short breaks are your friend.

Long breaks between classes aren’t the best time to try and fit writing in because they’re better for other things. You can take the kids home and feed them lunch. You can run errands. You can meet with groups and get homework or projects done.

Short breaks are golden because you can’t do anything else, but 10-30 minutes is more than enough time to think through that plot snaggle, write a couple hundred words, outline the next few scenes, and so forth.

Part-time students

Some of these strategies depend on the number of classes you’re taking at a time. I tend to take a single college-level course at a time, which generally means that it requires two hours or less of work on any particular day. Adjust as necessary to your situation.

  • Add half-an-hour on to your child-watching situation

Depend on who’s watching your child and how much you’re paying (and whether you can afford any more), see if you can add an extra half hour on. Maybe your mother-in-law is perfectly happy to watch little Susie for a bit longer while you camp in the lobby of your school and get some writing done. 30 minutes isn’t a lot, but it adds up over time, even if you can only do it once or twice a week.

  • Get a night out

See if your spouse or a family member is willing to watch your children one night a week for a few hours on a regular basis. This has the added benefit of getting you out of the house as well as giving you the opportunity to write (or do school work, as necessary).

  • Exchange time

Perhaps you have a friend who also needs some child-free time to get some stuff done. Maybe she can watch your kids on, say, Thursday, or whenever you need it the most, and you can repay the favor on Fridays, when you don’t have class and your classwork is done for the week.

  • Work while they sleep

Sleeping children are the best. I wouldn’t recommend trying to burn both end of the candles (i.e., staying up late after the kids are asleep AND getting up early to work before they wake up), but doing one or the other and also working during naps can be a great boost to productivity.

Full-time students

If you’re on campus all day and have full-time child care, you’re actually ahead of the game. A full-time day care provider typically charges by the week, so the actual hours your child(ren) is at day care don’t matter as much. Even if a relative is helping you out, you’re probably on campus all day and can spend breaks between classes as you see fit.

Of course, school should always be the top priority, and sometimes you may find yourself inundated with work that needs to be done. But it does tend to balance out. Very few courses keep you super busy all the time. Make use of your small breaks when you can.

If you’re not on campus all day, or if you’re doing online school where you have more control over your schedule, try out some of the techniques listed in the part-time section.

Anything to add, Squiders? Thoughts on writing while doing both school and having young children?

Hooray for July!

Oh man, squiders, you have no idea how happy I was when Monday rolled around. All the craziness of May and June are finally behind me and I feel like I can breathe again.

It is lovely.

Now that all the sundries are taken care of, summer can finally begin.

(The relaxing part. It’s already ungodly hot. Booooooo.)

Here’s how July looks from a writing standpoint:

  • Still working on the space dinosaur story. Now that the madness is done, I hope to actually get some decent wordage going on it. I am having a bit of an issue where my Google Drive isn’t syncing on one computer, which is frustrating. Oh well. Old fashioned way it is until I have time to figure that madness out.
  • In theory, it should be my turn on the sequel to CoHaR’s draft next week. The sequel is gooooing slowly but the good news is that the publication schedule has moved out by a few months, so we should still be okay.
  • My scifi serial continues. I thought I was almost to The End but then there was a rogue plot twist.
  • I have the itch to write a short, but I don’t actually have any ideas floating about. I wrote that one back in April/May and then promptly forgot to do anything about it, so I should probably edit it and find it a home.
  • We have a Fractured World-related anthology coming out at the end of the year, and I suspect I need an outline if not a partially written story by the end of the month. So that’s pretty high on the to-do list. I have characters, premise, and setting, but am sadly lacking in plot. I will have to poke it fairly actively to get something percolating.

That ought to keep me extra busy. It’s probably too ambitious, especially since the small, mobile ones are home and bored, but hey, one can dream.

Any fun plans for July, squiders? Aside from writing, we’ve got a couple festivals planned (uuugh, nothing like wandering around outside when it’s 100 degrees) and are apparently climbing the second-tallest mountain in the continental United States next Friday.

Writing Around Life: Work/School (Full-time/Part-time)

We’re continuing our work/school combo this week, squiders. This week we’re looking at fitting writing time in when you’re working full-time and going to school part-time, or if you’re going to school full-time and working part-time.

We’re not going to talk about working full-time and going to school full-time. If you’re doing that, first of all, wow, good on you. That’s a major commitment. But second of all, your free time is probably few and far between. Trying to fit in regular writing on top of that may not be possible at this point in time and that’s okay. You may still have writing time–maybe you do have regular blocks of time that you’re otherwise not using, or maybe you have the opportunity to write here or there–but sometimes it’s fine to realize you have other goals at the moment and it may not be feasible to add on additional goals.

Now, back to our full-time/part-time combo. Full time in this case means 40+ hours of work or 12+ credit hours of school, and part-time is less than 30 hours or work or less than 12 credit hours.

The first thing to do is to realistically look at your time. It is possible to write on a regular or even daily basis with a full-time/part-time combo–I’ve done it myself–but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best thing to try and do. Spend a week or so paying attention to how you spend your time. When do you feel like you have the most creative energy? Does it conflict with something else? Do you have blocks of time that easily lend themselves to writing? Or are you stressed all the time, rushing from place to place?

If you feel like you don’t have enough time to get everything done, do not add in something else. I cannot stress this enough. It’s not worth your mental health to run yourself ragged. School is finite; you will not be in it forever. Some semesters/quarters will be harder than others, and if you do want to add in a writing habit and are having issues, it may help to change up your schedule, such as taking fewer classes at a time.

Scheduling is going to be your friend here. Try to get your schedule as regular as possible. Most people go to their full-time position during the day and do the part-time one in the evening, but depending on your personal schedule, you’ll probably have some time between the two or after the evening activity. This is probably your best bet for fitting writing in. It’s not necessary to write every day; you may find that days you do homework you don’t have enough brain left over for writing, for example. And your schedule will probably change each semester unless you’re taking courses online.

(NOTE: If you are taking one or more online courses, you may have more leeway in your schedule since many of them allow you to watch lectures and complete work at your own discretion. There are still due dates for classwork and group projects, but these are often assigned a week or a month at a time, which allows you to spread out the work or do it all at once as best fits your personal working pattern.)

Aside from that, you can still use some of the techniques we discussed in the work and school sections. Some of them may be more limited because of the increased amount of responsibilities, but it won’t hurt to try them out and see if you can make them work.

If you do find yourself with a regular block of time, I recommend consistency of some sort. Personally, I like to work either with a set amount of time (say, an hour) or a goal of a certain amount of words. Consistency helps build habits, which can help you continue to make progress even if your first inclination may be to veg out on the couch after a long day.

What do you think, squiders? Anything to add?