Bricked by allergies, and some news.

Spring has come, and brought with it agony and misery, especially here in the South. I mean, it's beautiful here with all the trees in bloom, but I haven't been able to breathe through my nose for a month now. I've also received my copyedits for Wintersong, so I've also been holed up in my office with supplies: music, coffee, tissues, Twizzlers, and every allergy medication known to mankind.

Along with copyedits, I've also seen my cover, and y'all it is so, so beautiful, I can't wait to share. And those of you subscribed to my newsletter will be the first to see it! Stay tuned. :)

Before we get to this month's sneak peak behind the scenes of Wintersong, I do have some news I would like to share with y'all.

Wintersong's release date has been moved from Fall 2016 to Winter 2017.

Why? There are a number of reasons why, which I will detail on my blog when I am given a new official publication date, but the biggest and most pressing one is because Wintersong will be making its debut as a YA title.

Say what?

I know a lot of people assumed Wintersong was already young adult, considering my past career as a YA editor and my visibility in kidlit spaces, but it was actually acquired by Thomas Dunne Books to be published on their adult list. So why the change now? 

Wintersong has always been something of an in-betweener, neither young adult nor adult in terms of voice and content. It is first and foremost a Bildungsroman,* a coming of age narrative, a story a young woman who grows into herself, a theme commonly found in young adult literature. But there is apparently a quality to my voice that reads a little older, and many people, including my agent and editor, thought it might be a little mature and therefore a better fit for the adult market.

My early readers, too, were all over the map. Some critique partners thought it was YA, others thought it was adult.** A similar push-pull happened at my publisher; some thought it was adult, some felt it was teen. There were conversations between my agent, my editor, my and my marketing and publicity team as we tried to figure out what was best for the book without compromising anything about it. Should we push harder into the adult market? Or should we repackage Wintersong as YA?

As you can see, ultimately, we all decided that putting Wintersong on the teen list would be the best thing for my potential audience. And because the title was initially launched as adult fantasy, this necessitated an in-house re-launch of Wintersong as YA, which pushed the book back a season.

I know some of you may be disappointed to wait a little longer to see Wintersong in print, but the good news is we will be getting getting early ARCs now that we have a few more months between now and publication. My subscribers will definitely get the chance to read Wintersong first, so I hope you stick with me. 

Thanks so much for reading, and I promise I'll make it up to you with even more Wintersong goodness. :)

* Or more properly, a Künstlerroman, an artist's journey coming into maturity, to trot out my unused English literature degree. 
** It is "adult" in, ah, more ways than one. ;-P

Lexical Gap: Torchlusspanik

We'll be riding the German compound noun train for a while because I love them and collect them the way other people collect stamps. This month's lexical gap is Torchlusspanik, literallly "gate-closing fear," or "the fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages."

I'm thirty years old, y'all, so Torchlusspanik is something with which I am fairly well acquainted.

In this issue:

2. LEXICAL GAP: Torchlusspanik
3. BEHIND THE SCENES OF WINTERSONG: Part II of the Long, Shitty Synopsis



Wintersong's Long, Shitty Synopsis: Part II

Previously, in Part One, Liesl's sister, Käthe, eats forbidden fruit at the Goblin Market, leaving her susceptible to otherworldly forces. Käthe begins to act strangely, leading Liesl to suspect her sister may be under the influence of Der Erlkönig. Liesl's suspicions are confirmed when she stumbles upon Käthe and the Goblin King together in the woods. She turns to her grandmother, Constanze, for help, but Constanze says it too late, for Käthe is for the Goblin King now...
PART TWO: As I mentioned previously, where the first act ends in my synopsis is not the same as the first act break in the actual novel. Therefore, parts of my synopsis here are in different places than in the finished books, and the events as they happen are not the same.
Liesl is determined to find Käthe and rescue her sister. Everyone’s in a panic—Anna is worried about Hans, Hans thinks he’s been betrayed, and Georg is drinking himself into oblivion. Liesl asks Constanze how to find the Goblin King. Constanze says she’s known people who have been taken, but never anyone who has willingly offered themselves up. Liesl keeps pressing until Constanze finally says that the goblins love beauty and sacrifices. Liesl must find something of herself to sacrifice to the goblins, since she is obviously no beauty.

That night, Liesl walks into the woods with an offering of wine, honeyed cake, and her music. She has one candle with her, and she plays her music on a simple wooden fife. The night is cold, but she keeps playing until darkness claims her.

She feels someone gently pick her up. At first she thinks it is Hans, and then she feels long, elegant fingers run down the length of her neck to rest lightly on her collarbones. The fingers caress her skin light, and then she remembers no more.

When Liesl wakes up, it’s in a cozy room. She is naked, with nothing but her flute beside her. She tries to find a way out of her chamber, but can’t. It is made of dirt, her bed made of roots, her mattress stuffed with the crackling of dead leaves and loam. She panics and tries to find a way to escape, fearing she is buried alive. 

Looking around, she sees that food, drink, and a beautiful gown have appeared in her room. The food is simple: bread and water, obviously human-made. Liesl eats the food and eyes the gown. She tries to put it on, but it is complex and requires attendants to lace her up. As soon as she steps into the gown, two giggling goblin girls appear. They say Liesl is to attend the Fairy Ball that night. Liesl demands to see her sister, and the girls (twins?) say she will see Käthe at the ball. As they dress Liesl, they chatter about her music and how they hadn’t heard such beautiful melodies since the last age of the world, and that her music so impressed the Goblin King that he allowed her entrance to the Underground. Otherwise they would have left her to die, frozen to death. Liesl asks what the Goblin King intends to do with Käthe. They tell her he intends to take her to wife.

Liesl arrives at the ball, where the denizens of the Underground are dancing to eerie, fey music. Liesl looks around but doesn’t see Käthe or the tall, elegant man. Feeling out of place, Liesl takes up a fife and joins the musicians. She feels a thrill as she plays and improvises with them, the music swimming through her blood, turning her limbs languid, her breathing strangely erratic.

A laugh breaks Liesl out of her trance. Käthe has entered the party on the arm of the Goblin King. He is splendid—his otherworldly fey face beautiful and frightening in this setting. The drab moss green wool coat she saw him in before has now given way to a luxurious velvet frock coat of leaf green, worked through with gold and copper thread. His hair is both silver and gold, a wild tangle of curls and thistles like a thornbush. Käthe is in a sky-blue gown, incongruous in this realm that never sees the summer sky. She is wearing a mask fashioned like the faces of the goblins about her (and hilariously, the goblins are wearing fashioned like human faces—grotesque and ghoulish). 

“Liesl!” Käthe cries. “Have you come to the ball?”

Giddy with delirious happiness, Käthe takes Liesl’s hands in her own and whirls her sister around. Liesl is alarmed by her sister’s flushed cheeks, the pallor beneath them, the hollows beneath her blue eyes, and the fact that she seems thin, as though she is wasting away. Goblins bring Käthe food and drink. To Liesl’s horror, the “grapes” are staring eyeballs, the “chocolates” are beetles, and the goblin fruit revealed to be rotten and putrid. She tries to get Käthe to stop eating, but Käthe grows irritated and brushes Liesl off, going to dance with other goblins made in the mold of the Goblin King: tall, elegant, languid, cruel.

The Goblin King himself appears at Liesl’s shoulder and asks why she isn’t partaking of his hospitality. His breath on her neck is cool and smells faintly of the wind before a snowstorm. She shivers. Trembling, she answers that she isn’t hungry. The Goblin King smiles and says that few mortals can resist the glamour put over their food, and that Liesl must be special. She asks if it’s because she walked into the Underground with her eyes open. The tips of his sharpened canines show. “Perhaps,” says the Goblin King.

Gathering her courage, Liesl asks for a private audience with him. “Why?” asks the Goblin King.

“For my sister’s life,” she replies.

“Go dance,” he orders her. “Dance, drink, indulge, and I shall grant your request. But at my leisure. Go forth and enjoy my hospitality. But beware,” he says with a predatory smile. “Mortals starve on enchanted fruit. The body starves while the mind satiates. If you want to keep your wits about you, touch nothing but bread and water.”

Liesl returns to the fray, trying desperate to speak with Käthe, but her laughing sister keeps spinning out of her grasp, and one of the tall, elegant men presses lips to the inside of Käthe’s wrists, up her arms, along her collarbone, up her throat, avoiding her lips. Another slides his hand along her delicate ankle, then her stockinged calf, then along her bare thigh…

Liesl blinks and the ball is gone. She’s left in a large underground burrow, simply and sparsely furnished, save for a throne carved of alder roots. Lounging in the throne is the Goblin King. His frock coat is slung over the back of the throne, and his shirt is open, a state of half-dishabille that makes Liesl blush. With a start, she realizes she is in the Goblin King’s bedchamber.

“You asked to speak with me?” says the Goblin King.
For a moment, Liesl is unable to speak, feeling bizarrely as though she is trespassing on the Goblin King’s privacy. He is wearing no trappings of office, and his half-undressed state leaves Liesl feeling as though she has stumbled upon an intimate scene, and heat creeps up the back of her neck.

“Where is my sister?” she asks when she’s recovered, casting about for a glimpse of sunshine curls in the Goblin King’s bed.

“She’s not in my bed, if that’s what you’re wondering,” he says, sipping wine from a goblet. He gestures to the decanter beside him. “Drink?”

Liesl shakes her head. “Then where is she? Is she all right?”

“She’s sleeping off the effects of goblin wine,” he says. “It is potent, even for us.” He smiles, but the smile is cruel.

“But is my sister unhurt?” Liesl presses. The question unasked is, “Is she still untouched and pure?”

“She will come to no harm.” The Goblin King waves off her concern. “For now.”

Liesl again asks the Goblin King to set Käthe free. He asks why. Liesl says because they need her at home. She tells him of Josef, the music master, and of Hans. He counters and says that Käthe is also needed Underground. Liesl is stunned, but regains her equilibrium quickly.

“Not as much as we do,” she says quietly.

The Goblin King stares at her with his multi-coloured eyes. She can feel his cool gaze on her skin like a caress.

“You mortals think the world revolves around you,” he says. “What do your puny, pathetic needs compare to the demands of the entire Underworld?”

Liesl is furious. “I may not be the ruler of a goblin kingdom, but what on earth does the Goblin King need from a young, innocent girl?”

“Is she truly so innocent?” he asks.

Liesl goes still.

“A girl well acquainted with temptation, a girl with an inviting laugh, a fickle heart, and an adventurous soul. A girl given to self-indulgence, who reaches for the low-hanging, forbidden fruit and eats of it against the wisdom of her older sister—can such a girl truly be called innocent?”

“Yes,” says Liesl fiercely. “For she does not know what she does.”

“Choices made in ignorance do not point to an innocent heart.”

“Her innocence is what she makes of it,” Liesl says. “I shall not judge her.”

The Goblin King lifts his brow.

“You still haven’t told me why you need her,” Liesl says angrily.
The Goblin King tells her that they need a queen or else they will all die. In days gone by, the mortals above used to sacrifice a maiden, to keep the land living. Now they must steal by guile.

“We do not truly live,” he tells her. “Our lives are given to the earth, and without blood, without heat, without life, we wither and fade away. Her life sustains me. My life sustains my goblins. Their lives sustains the earth and makes all things grow.”

“I am sorry for you,” says Liesl. “Truly, I am, but you may not have my sister.”

The Goblin King contemplates her with his hooded gaze. Liesl feels the blood rush to her face.

“I am willing to be generous,” he says. “Your sister may return to the world above.”

Liesl cannot believe her good luck.

“But,” he says, “as long as you find a way to pay me in return. For what you take from me, you must give back. You must give me a mortal life.”

Her heart sinks. 

“Who shall it be?” he asks. “Your mother? Fading beauty, but strong and resilient? Your father? He has music in his soul. Your aging grandmother, so close to death already? Or your younger brother, so talented, so beautiful, and so young?”

Liesl knows the answer he wants.

“Me,” she whispers. “I offer you myself.”

The Goblin King rises from his throne and stalks toward her.

“You?” he asks, walking slowly around her. She can feel his eyes on her every part of her body: on her neck, where her shoulder blades disappear into the bodice of her gown, the line of her collarbones as it leads to her décolletage, the swell of her breasts as she breathes, she can feel his gaze transforming her, not into someone beautiful, but someone desirable, someone feral, someone sexual. “Why you?”

“Because,” she says, swallowing hard. “Because I have an adventurous soul. Because I have music in my blood. Because, although I may not be beautiful, I know beauty. Because I am not innocent. I know temptation, and I know lust, but until now, I have not known self-indulgence. And because,” she says, “Because…” His breath catches. “I am willing.”

He does not answer for a long while. He turns his back to her and a shudder overtakes his slender form.

“All right,” he says in a voice scarce audible in the cavern. “I accept your sacrifice. Your sister may go, and you shall be my queen.”

End of act two.

Further Reading

Previous Issues of Lexical Gap:

  1. Sitzfleisch and Backpfeifengesicht
  2. Kummerspeck (Synopsis Part One)
My name is S. Jae-Jones, but JJ, if you please. I'm an artist, adrenaline junkie, and author Wintersong, forthcoming from Thomas Dunne in Winter 2017. 

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