Site Changes Coming in August

The Short Version: Athena Scalzi is coming on board as a writer and editor starting August 4. She’ll be taking over some administrative tasks, posting her own entries and helping me update and possibly expand the site.

The Less Short Version: Athena is taking a gap year from college, more or less, partly because she (and we) are waiting for the US to figure out what the hell it’s doing with the coronavirus. Prior to the shutdown, she’d been working out in the world, but at this point, between the rapid spread of the virus and the fact that aggressive, ignorant dipshits will scream about muh rights when they’re asked to wear masks or take other precautions on behalf of others, it doesn’t seem the risk-to-reward ratio for working in the service sector is all that great. Athena has also been wanting to focus on writing, and on building skills and knowledge that would be useful to writing and publishing, and content creation in general.

As it happens, Athena knows someone who could be useful in helping her develop all of those skills: Me, who has worked as a writer and editor for years, and knows all about publishing and content creation. And as it also happens, I’ve been aware for while that my current workload with books and other projects means this site is increasingly a last priority for the day. It could benefit from some more regular attention, and someone to handle tasks I have less time for now. Athena interned on the site a couple of years ago, so I know she understands the site, and I know I can work with her. Also, you know: I’m personally invested in her learning these skills in any event, and she’ll be at the house anyway.

So: Starting on August 4, Athena’s coming on to as a writer and editor for the site. She’ll be handling some administrative tasks for me, writing her own entries based on — yes — whatever it is she wants to write about, and working with me to plan the future of the site and to possibly create new and interesting features. You know: stuff. Don’t ask for too many details right now, we’re going to be making this up as we go along. But I’m happy both to have her here to handle some things for me and post her own things, and to be able to be useful to her as she builds up her skills and experience.

To answer some questions I know people will have: Yes, it’s totally nepotism, ask me if I care; No, I don’t know how long this new arrangement will go on, but I suspect for a bit because if nothing else we as a nation are not exactly on top of this virus thing, now, are we; Yes, this does mean I’ll now actually act like a real editor for the site, which means some formalization of what has been to this point a largely informal thing; No, I don’t know if you’ll notice any of that, other than seeing Athena’s byline on the site. There’s a bit to Athena’s new gig that will not manifest itself on the site in any obvious way. The answer to all other questions at this point is likely to be: shrug, you got me, guess we’ll find out.

I’m excited for this new chapter for Whatever and I think it will be fun and I’m looking forward to what we get to do here. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Cindy Lynn Speer

So, what is The Key to All Things? Aside from the title of the new novel by Cindy Lynn Speer? The good news is, we have Speer here to tell you what it might be, and how it relates to her tale.


I came through the central driving idea for The Key to All Things in a rather circular way. I was watching Lady Hawke, and thinking about all these great love stories that seem to be so resonant. These glorious adventures and (spoiler, sorry) Happily Ever Afters.

And then I thought, what happens if the happily ever after turns false? So the original story was about a man who was once part of a Great Love Story – until she betrayed him. He needed to go and get something (A sword?  I don’t remember?) and set off on a quest. The second main character was a younger woman who had grown up hearing this story, and felt like this story set the bar for all her expectations for love and romance. It would have been a story about redemption (which the current one still is, to be honest) and love.

I liked the idea – I always like the “that’s very nice but what if…” kind of ideas, but I wasn’t sure what I was trying to say. If I even liked what I was saying. A couple times I tried to resurrect it…but I never really was sure if it was working so I let my people sleep.

And then, a snow storm happened. Which meant I was able to sleep in, and the story came back to me. I was well rested, in a great mood, and all of a sudden things came together in an almost audible click. I knew where the story was supposed to go and how to get there. New characters took the field, though they were the same basic shapes. Edward DeVere, the handsome captain of the human King’s guards still loved the wrong woman – Catherine of the Willows, who threw him aside to grab power and become the Queen of the Fae. He still fell – and his story was still loved. So loved, in fact, that variations of their forbidden love (human and fae aren’t supposed to be together) became a powerful tale. So powerful that it pushed out every other story. No more songs, unless they were about Edward and Catherine. No more poems or pulp novels or anything save about…yes. The Sapphire Queen and her lost human love.

And then, there is Avriel. The woman – about Edward’s age, this time – half human, half fae, working as a double agent in both courts. During the day the story itches at her, makes her sad, and she pushes it off, not understanding why – and then nine o’clock at night chimes, and for three hours, she knows the truth.

Edward was not Catherine’s lost love – in fact, he rather detested her. Edward DeVere was actually Avriel’s husband. Avriel, under a new name, was relegated to the back pages of the cheapest versions of the story. Avriel, a woman who is more powerful than she knows and who is determined to fix the world and get her life back.

But is one woman as powerful as a story?

And that was what I realized I wanted to talk about. The power of story itself. Also a love story with mystery, intrigue and some sword fighting scenes. Avriel and Edward both have to fight the narrative to get what they want, which is something I think we all do in our lives. We fight the story we tell ourselves about not being good enough, about – whatever. Even now we are fighting stories, fighting narratives that have been whispered and taught to us all our lives.

Because stories are power.  They are, indeed, the key to all things.


The Key to All Things: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Kobo

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow her on Twitter.

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