I wrote a middle grade magical girl fantasy!
Aaaand if you’re still here, I’m going to assume that header didn’t scare you off.
So, in previous posts, I referenced a “mystery project” that I promised to publish on some platform under some name before the end of 2022. Since this series will be younger-skewing than my earlier works (yes, even the YA ones), what I’ve decided to do is split my “”brand”” in two. I’ll be continuing to publish adult fantasy and sci-fi under M. L. Wang while publishing YA and MG titles under Maya Lin Wang. The idea is that these names are similar enough that readers can probably remember that they belong to the same author but can also discern whether they’re browsing in their desired demographic.
Without further ado, I give you Maya Lin Wang’s mystery project:
Sailor Moon meets Cobra Kai in a sapphic portal fantasy for the scrappy magical girl in all of us.
For compulsive doodler, Wren, finding out that magical beings exist is a bit of a shock. Finding out that her childhood friend and unrequited crush, Laura, is one of those super beings? Less of a shock. Laura has always seemed supernaturally gifted at everything from school projects, to karate, to writing epic storylines for Wren’s long-running superhero comic.
Before inter-dimensional fairies called Volta brought their rivalry to the sleepy town of Hartwood, Wren’s biggest fear was that Laura would leave her behind for cooler friends when they started high school. Now, as light and dark forces converge on Laura’s burgeoning magical signature, Wren will do anything to protect her friend—magic or none.
Alongside a headstrong sonic-powered Volta named Jackie, Wren must stand up to a team of dark magic users, help Laura realize her latent powers, and maybe find her own strength along the way.
Title: Girl Squad Volta
Demographics: YA (Young Adult) & older MG (Middle Grade)
Genres: magical girl, portal fantasy, progression, contemporary fantasy, martial arts, action & adventure, academy fantasy, teen drama, LGBTQ+
For fans of Marissa Meyer, Rick Riordan, Sailor Moon, She-Ra, Avatar, W.I.T.C.H., Winx Club, RWBY, and Karate Kid
Release Date: March 1st, 2023 on Amazon / NOW on Wattpad & Ao3
Other relevant links: Maya Lin Newsletter, ARC request form
If Girl Squad doesn’t sound like your thing, not to worry! This project has not and will not affect my Gunpowder Magnolia posting schedule nor the 2023 release of Blood Over Bright Haven. In fact, the only reason I pushed myself to finish Girl Squad as fast as I did (aside from it being fun) was that I was disappointed with having to delay Bright Haven until next year and wanted to have something to show for my 2022.
If you’re not sure from the above info whether this is a book you’ll enjoy, I’ve included a short sample at the end of this post. Also…
(Yes, I’m counting this as “publishing” a book in 2022; let me have this). If you enjoy the free Girl Squad content, you can subscribe to my Maya Lin Newsletter to get updates on the official release and/or apply for an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), which brings me to…
The exciting thing about the ARCs:
Since Girl Squad Book 1 is already available in its entirety online, the ARCs I send out before release will be an omnibus that includes Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 of the series. I’ll be providing a limited number of these omnibus eARCs and an even more limited number of physical ARCs. If you’d like to be considered for one or both, you can apply here.
A note on my existing titles:
Before Girl Squad Volta releases, I’ll be taking my two YA books in the Theonite universe (Theonite: Planet Adyn and Theonite: Orbit) off my Amazon page. You’ll probably still be able to buy the paperbacks from third-party sellers for some time after that; I just won’t be selling them as ebooks anymore. This is for two reasons:
First, I’m not really happy with the contents of those books anymore and, consequently, don’t feel great collecting passive income from them (even if it’s pennies compared to what I get from Kaigen).
Second, as I explained above, I’m trying to separate my YA and adult works into the Maya Lin and M. L. catalogues respectively. This means that, if I do republish those first two Theonite books in some form, I would want them to be under Maya Lin, not M. L. In general (and I do mean in general; if you’re an exception to the rule, that’s awesome and I obviously love that, but you are the exception) my Sword of Kaigen readers are not interested in my YA Theonite books and vice versa. By the same token, I don’t see Girl Squad Volta and Blood Over Bright Haven sharing a significant audience, so I think it’s better for all if I keep the two sub-brands distinct from one another.
With that in mind, I know that most of you who read this blog found me through The Sword of Kaigen, so I will be neither shocked nor offended if you don’t run in droves to pick up Girl Squad. Part of the reason I held off on announcing the new pen name was so that I could have a head start building a younger readership through other avenues. However, if there’s a kid (or inner child) in your life who likes high-stakes martial arts action but also sparkly dresses and earnest teen drama, consider this book for her… or him, or them. All are welcome ♥
Girl Squad Volta Sample
When you first become a dark cosmic entity, the mortals do all this handwringing about how you got to be that way. But give it time, eat a couple galaxies, and they forget that you were ever one of them. I suppose it’s the kind of thought that soothes the tiny mind: That could never be me. I would never…
But the truth is that all great and terrifying beings in the multiverse were once babies. I, for one, was a frumpy little girl who loved drawing comic book characters with great boots, long capes, and big swords.
Naturally, this was before I actually saw a sword in action. When you’re a nine-year-old sketching the sweep of that katana, you’re not thinking about what that sharp edge is really for. You’re not thinking about how much blood comes out of a person with a flash of that steel through flesh. At least, I never thought about it until I was fourteen years old, watching Shademare of the Xin Volta drag her katana across a man’s throat.
Or I think I did. At that point, I couldn’t really hear anything over the shrill “oh no, oh no, oh no!” of my own internal monologue.
The smoky tendrils that formed Shademare’s dress lapped at the dying man like snake tongues, absorbing what little energy was left in his body. His life force vanished into her ink-black aura like starlight into a black hole. The hand on his trident went limp, and the weapon slipped from his grip to clatter down the rocks into the sea.
Quenched, Shademare let out a sound of satisfaction and cast the guy’s armored body after his weapon—like an empty soda can. I flinched as he crashed limply off the rocks to break the waves in a froth of foam and blood.
“Well, Wren Li-Lazzaro.” Shademare turned her gaze on me, eyes steely cold beneath the hacked line of her bangs. “Looks like it’s just you and me.”
Panic set my brain jittering in circles like a busted wind-up toy. Twenty feet of seething ocean separated me from Shademare, but I didn’t think for a moment that a little water was going to slow her down. I took a step back, my bare foot slipped on the wet volcanic rock, and she let out a chuckle.
“If you want to fly away, I won’t mind. That is, if those newbie wings will even carry you.”
Oh god, would my wings carry me? They’d get me into the air, sure, but not fast enough to escape a Volta like Shademare.
“Go on.” She smirked. “I won’t follow. What I really want is behind you.”
That should have been my cue to make a break for it. Instead, the words made every muscle in me clench. They reminded me why I was there: to protect what was behind me.
I met Shademare’s eyes, planted my feet, and breathed in power. Energy burned a pair of lines against my shoulder blades and rushed to fill my chest. When I breathed out, my aura flared purple around me—for all the good it would do me.
“Are you sure about this?” Shademare sounded as amused as she was surprised. “You know you don’t have the power to fight me.”
She was right, of course. My few hundred volts were no match for her nine thousand—or whatever the heck she was at after magically cannibalizing that guardsman. But not every fight had to come down to raw power. Eight years of karate had taught me that much.
Hernandez Sensei said that most martial arts weapons were just farm tools, adapted to fight well-trained, well-armed samurai tax collectors… I spread my fingers at my sides, visualizing steel, mentally sketching the arcs of twin sickles. The glow of my aura raced to my hands and concentrated there, ready to fill the shapes in my mind.
At my limited power level, a Volta had to choose between flight, shielding, and summoning. Forming weapons would mean fighting Shademare grounded and unarmored. But what difference would that make, really? At its strongest, my aura wouldn’t protect me from Shademare’s blade any more than a denim jacket would protect me from… well… a regular katana. It didn’t matter how I allotted my voltage; if Shademare got a decisive cut in, I was fish food.
“Are you trying to summon?” Shademare laughed as a tendril of her dress wiped the blood from her katana and flicked it into the sea.
Some martial arts historians disputed the claim that kamas had originated as farmers’ sickles, but in that moment, I wanted to believe that a peasant could stand down a samurai in full armor. I needed to believe it, or this was never going to work.
“Do you even know how to manifest a weapon?”
I should have said something badass like ‘Come and find out,’ but that’s the kind of thing I tend to think of way after the fact. Instead of wasting breath, I set my stance and glared in challenge. Like the idiot I was.
Wings flicked like switchblades from Shademare’s shoulders, and she shot toward me, the tip of her blade slicing a spray through the waves.
I lifted my hands—and summoned steel.