Wednesday, December 8, 2021

FIRE OF THE FROST Fantasy Holiday Romance Yumminess

This week at the SFF Seven we're doing a little winter holiday self-promo! Many of you know we had to push back the release of FIRE OF THE FROST, but it's coming soooooon! We are on target to release on December 22. So if you are someone who celebrates Christmas, this should hit your eReader just in time to relax and enjoy some holiday downtime. 

And if you don't celebrate Christmas, there's lots of midwinter, romantic holiday goodness for you, too! Only Amanda's story is literally Christmas. Everyone else's is a fantasy midwinter holiday. Mine includes a magical sleigh race and elemental festive lights. It's a story that takes place in the Bonds of Magic world, roughly after DARK WIZARD and semi-concurrent with BRIGHT FAMILIAR. It takes place at Convocation Academy and you just miiiiigght see some of the characters in GREY MAGIC

The delay means you have just that much longer to preorder the anthology for the special preorder price, before it goes up on release day.


Here's the official (still in progress) blurb:

A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology…

From Darynda Jones, a standalone novella set in a world where vampyres are hunted for sport. The only thing standing between them and total annihilation is Winter, a warrior bred to save them from extinction. Forbidden to fall in love, Winter cares only about her oaths… until she meets the devilish prince of the underworld.

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet

The Kingmaker Chronicles meets modern-day New York City! Piers, an exiled warrior from Thalyria, finds himself in the Big Apple just before the holidays. The world and everything in it might be utterly foreign to him, but that won't stop Piers from helping to complete a vital mission for Athena and protect Sophie, a French teacher from Connecticut who's suddenly knee-deep in inexplicable phenomena, danger, and henchmen after an Olympian treasure that should never have ended up in her hands—or remained on Earth after the Greek gods abandoned it.

The King of Hel by Grace Draven

A novella-length expansion of a stand-alone short story in which a cursed mage-king from a frozen kingdom is obligated to marry a woman of high-ranking nobility but meets his soulmate in a lowly scribe.

Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy

It’s holiday time at Convocation Academy, but best friends Han and Iliana are finding it hard to celebrate. As a familiar, Iliana is facing her assignment to a life of servitude to a wizard, very soon. And Han… despite being tested by the oracle daily, he is still uncategorized. As Iliana and Han face being separated forever, they at last find the courage—or desperation—to break the rules and acknowledge their deeper feelings for each other. But it will take more than true love to save them from the laws of the Convocation…


 And here's a little snippet from my story, Familiar Winter Magic:

Once the races finished, Iliana let Han talk her into more dancing. With the excellent whiskey warming her blood, not to mention the heady glow of Han’s undivided attention, she could hardly resist. She loved him so much and he was right: this was their last Founding Festival together. Rather than try to hold him at arm’s length, in anticipation of their imminent parting, she decided to enjoy his company while she could.

Han at his most charming was impossible to refuse. Which would be a major problem when he manifested as a wizard, but she wouldn’t think about that tonight. Since it was a holiday, the thought-seekers gave everyone a break—and were celebrating themselves. The festival was a rare excuse for everyone to loosen up.

A little bit tipsy, the lights and dancing making her feel giddy, she danced with Han until she was so warm she had to shed her cloak. Among his many skills, Han was also an excellent dancer—far better than she, but he was so skilled that he made his partner look good—and they found themselves more than once in a circle of cheering spectators as he whirled her through the vigorous dances.

Then the music slowed, and she fanned herself, blowing out a breath, and headed off the dance floor. Han caught her hand. “Hey, where are you going?” Expertly he twirled her under his arm, then snugged her close, a hand on the small of her back as he led her through the dreamy rhythm.

Iliana braced one hand on Han’s chest, his heart thumping rapidly beneath her fingertips, his blue eyes lambent in the starry light. “We never dance the slow dances,” she breathed.

“A grievous lapse of judgment on my part,” he murmured, gaze traveling over her face. “You feel perfect in my arms, lovely Iliana. I want you here forever.”

She tore her gaze from his heartbreakingly beautiful face, focusing on his throat instead. That wasn’t much help, as his skin begged to be kissed and nibbled. “I don’t understand what’s changed between us, why you’re being so…”

“Seductive?” he suggested in a warm purr. “Devastatingly handsome and charming?”

Snorting, she made a face at him. “Aggressive. And annoyingly persistent.”


Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Stay Warm This Winter, Take Home an Immortal Spy

 As the temperatures outside dip, curl up in a snuggly blanket with a steaming cuppa at hand and enjoy the completed Urban Fantasy series The Immortal Spy. From the Norse Under World to the alleys of Washington D.C., adventure alongside a cosmic gatekeeper as she recruits Fates, gods, dragons, and angels to defend the Mid World from foreign invaders. 

Buy The Series Now In eBook or Paperback from:

Sunday, December 5, 2021

The Witch Collector

Hi all! This week's topic at the SFF Seven is pretty simple. It's Winter Holiday Self Promo. What better than a story that takes place in an enchanted, frozen wood?

If you haven't heard, The Witch Collector, book one in the Witch Walker trilogy, released November 2nd. I'm so thrilled with the book's reception. Readers and bloggers have made this an exceptional debut experience. The Witch Collector even hit #1 in the UK in Fairy Tales and #2 in the US. I've been walking around pretty stunned since 11/2. 

So what's this book about? First off, it's a romantic fantasy with mid-level, open-door steam. There are witches, magick, curses, ancient gods, immortal rulers, forced proximity, enemies to lovers, and a villain you will love to hate.

Here's the blurb:

Every harvest moon, the Witch Collector rides into our valley and leads one of us to the home of the immortal Frost King, to remain forever.

Today is that day—Collecting Day.

But he will not come for me. I, Raina Bloodgood, have lived in this village for twenty-four years, and for twenty-four years he has passed me by.

His mistake.
Raina Bloodgood has one desire: kill the Frost King and the Witch Collector who stole her sister. On Collecting Day, she means to exact murderous revenge, but a more sinister threat sets fire to her world. Rising from the ashes is the Collector, Alexus Thibault, the man she vowed to slay and the only person who can help save her sister.

Thrust into an age-old story of ice, fire, and ancient gods, Raina must abandon vengeance and aid the Witch Collector in saving the Frost King or let their empire—and her sister—fall into enemy hands. But the lines between good and evil blur, and Raina has more to lose than she imagined. What is she to do when the Witch Collector is no longer the villain who stole her sister, but the hero who’s stealing her heart?

"If you like your fantasy with complex magic, an intriguing protagonist, a powerful romance, and a great cast of supporting characters, I highly recommend The Witch Collector. Charissa Weaks's high-stakes storytelling will leave you waiting eagerly for the next installment." — Juliet Marillier, award-winning author of the Warrior Bards series 
"A romantic, fraught and fantastic journey through war-torn lands and a deliciously malevolent enchanted forest. I loved the voiceless heroine who wields magical sign language and the tormented hero determined to keep her alive and save an empire. Welcome to a compelling new fantasy world and a truly epic tale!" — Jeffe Kennedy, award-winning author of The Forgotten Empires and Dark Wizard 

If this sounds like a book you might enjoy, you can add it on Goodreads or purchase online, anywhere books are sold. The Witch Collector is available in ebook, paperback, and a beautiful hardback with character art on the jacket flaps. (see below). Book two, City of Ruin, releases on August 9th, 2022.

If you'd like more info, you can find me on Instagram, and if interested in exclusive content and early review opportunities, you can join my Rebel Readers Facebook Group. I'd love to chat and get to know you!

All Photos Courtesy of Marcia Deans

Thanks for reading!!

Friday, December 3, 2021

The Best Medicine

Your heart pounds so hard it hurts. Your breath rasps. Your mouth is dry. Your blood in your ears roars. Your insides feel scorched by the constant rushes of adrenaline. You might complain about the weight on your chest. 

It's either a heart attack or it's stress. In the US with its pathological worship of busyness, it's probably stress. We've built a society that's really, really good at piling it on and one pathetically bad at releasing it. Science tells us all the time that chronic stress causes and exacerbates disease. It really is in our best interests to figure out how to turn down the dial on stress. 

The funny thing is: Stress evolved to be a lifesaver. Trust humans to turn it into a killer. 

Stress isn't supposed to be a bad thing. It's supposed to help, not harm. But to help, stress needs to be a cycle - a cycle that gets completed. At the dawn of humanity, a critter charged you. Stress dumped flight or fight or freeze chemicals into your body. If you were going to survive, you either ran or you fought. Either way, living meant physical exertion. Once you either defeated or outran the critter trying to turn you into a snack-pack, you returned to your tribe, told your story, and celebrated living another day. Defeating stress in the modern world means recreating those steps. Burnout by Emily and Amanda Nagoski lays out the means of doing just that. 

I'm not going to talk about exercise, because yeah, yeah, we all know. No, I want to focus on that last bit: Celebrating.

What happens when you recount some amazing feat to your friends? Wide eyes, appreciative, empathetic, maybe sympathetic noises from your listeners. Amazement, broad smiles, and laughter when your story concludes with triumph. Or at least with you not being made a chalk outline by some saber-toothed something. 

Laughter. You know. That stuff that's supposed to be the best medicine. Because laughter signals your system that stress is over. It's at an end and the alert system can relax. 

When the stress gets to be too much, I break out the cat toys and the catnip. There's nothing like a bunch of drunk cats butt wiggling and pouncing on string (and one another). Brown paper is also a good source of feline comedy.

If laughter feels too far away, affirm life in some fashion. Our ancestors made art. They drew on cave walls, or put up hand prints - something to say 'we're still here', 'we survived another day'. Watching the last of this season's monarch caterpillars change into butterflies does the job for me. Getting to release a brand new butterfly into the world dumps cold water on stress. It's pretty tough to stay keyed up and agitated when an endangered bit of technicolor beauty takes her first flight.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Reading Yoga


Alexia, wearing a 3/4 dark red sleeve shirt and black pants, in yoga Warrior Two pose while holding a book.
Reading Yoga

Destress: What’s one thing you do to keep (or reestablish) your equanimity when life is too much?

If there were one thing we could do to destress…well, we’d all be doing it and thriving! So that’s the thing, it takes more than one trick to keep the stress at bay.

Jeffe gave a great run down on how our bodies are hard wired to respond to threatening situations: alligators. The Mayo Clinic has a nice little post if you’re interested. 

For me, I ignored the alligators for far too long and ended up with a chronic disease. Now I have an arsenal of tools to handle stress. No, they’re not perfect because when you throw some bugs into the system I flare up and then the mental struggle gets real. But here’s my top three bring-it-down-a-level tricks:


I’ve mentioned before that I had to relearn how to breathe, here, and doing yoga is my daily reminder to reset. I known I’ll get knocked off my pillow again and again, but I’ll keep getting back on.


According to my Goodreads I’ve read 127 books so far this year, and I know I’ve got two finished ones sitting on my desk that are awaiting reviewing. Why so high this year? Because I read to escape and when I’m lost in another world or the lives of characters I leave my own stress behind. 

Get Outside

I’m incredibly thankful for my husky pup, Ullr. He makes me get outside—especially when I don’t want to. Inevitably, being out in nature is what I needed. It clears my head.  

I haven’t invented anything new, though I did manage to combine all three for my image for the week. And really, what's better than slow, concentrated movements that improve your health while being swept away into a fantastical world?! Well...regular yoga is great too. 

If you are feeling the pressure I hope you give some of our week’s suggestions a try. Trust me, don’t ignore the alligators. 

Is one of my top three a go-to for you? 

Alexia's reading yoga book stack resting beside her gray and white Teema towel as she does yoga: Recoil, Polaris Rising, Fate of the Tala, Project Hail Mary, Den of Wolves, and Pie Academy

my reading yoga book stack—each one is highly recommended!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

3 Tricks to Destress (and Non-Coincidental Release Date Changes)


This week at the SFF Seven we're talking destressing. We're asking, "What's one thing you do to keep (or reestablish) your equanimity when life is too much?"

That's always the question, isn't it?

It's especially pertinent for me today because I've been stressing about whether I can get GREY MAGIC, book #3 in Bonds of Magic, written in time for release. See, I've known for a while that I wouldn't make my original release date of December 20. Yes, the December 20 that's nineteen days from this post. I made a deliberate choice there when Agent Sarah asked me to write more on a book she really wanted to take on submission this fall. "I'll just postpone the release date," I thought to myself. Then, yesterday, I was deciding what I should push the date to, as Amazon requires that we change the date at least five days ahead. Yes, that still gives me two weeks, but I wanted to get a feel for that - and if it means I also have to push the release of THE STORM PRINCESS AND THE RAVEN KING. (Reader: I do. Apologies! These things have a cascade effect...) 

So, I was picking my ideal, least-amount-of-stress date when I realized: Amazon only allows us to push the date by 30 days. For those not wanting to do the math, that made the new release date January 19. At first I tried manipulating my schedule and wordcount goals, considering writing on weekends, which I normally take off to relax and refill the well, and then I realized that I would be incredibly stressed trying to do that. I ended up soliciting advice. My plan is to call Amazon and see if they'll grant me dispensation to push both release dates out to a comfortable distance. Apparently they sometimes will, and I stand a good chance as I haven't done this before. Wish me luck! And I'll report back. 

Fair warning: those dates I'll be requesting are mid-February and mid-April, just to give myself plenty of room since I don't want to have to try to change them again. 

Onward to the actual topic!

Stress isn't easy to combat, especially since it can be so insidious. Our neurological systems are built to constantly re-establish baselines, so we can be alerted to new dangers. This means we become inured to the presence of chronic stressors, in order to be aware of acute ones. In essence, we forget about the alligators in the watering hole that are always there, so we can be alert to the arrival of the tiger.

But only our conscious awareness "forgets" about the alligators. Our adrenal system is revved about those stinking alligators, punching up our nervous system every time we take a drink. For modern humans, our alligators are those constant concerns of our lives: money, health, family, deadlines, politics, etc. We think we're not stressed about these things all the time because we're used to it. Often it's only when the stress relents that we become aware of its absence - with sheer, blessed relief.

For me this means being proactive. I make an effort to combat stress even when I don't feel particularly stressed. What do I do?

1) Take deep breaths. I know this may feel like hackneyed advice, but really is the best. Studies have shown we hold our breath when reading emails or when social media notifications arrive. By reminding myself to consciously and conscientiously breathe deeply, I release and fend off stress.

2) Speaking of email and social media notifications, I silence as much as possible. All those pop-ups, pings, and badges? Turn them off! Very little needs our immediate attention. For email, I try to confine my engagement with it to once a day. Much like the paper mail. I treat it like it arrives once and I read and respond then. 

3) I try to be kind to myself, doing those things that others have mentioned here. Yoga is great, not only for the energy realignment and breathing (!), but also because it makes me step away from the phone and computer for an hour and be only in my body. Being outside works for this. Long walks. Reading in the sun. Unplugging and focusing on non-monetized creative tasks.

What do you all do to destress?

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sometimes You Can't Control Your Reaction to Chaos

 What do I do to maintain/reestablish my equanimity when chaos abounds? 

violently rubs face

Dear readers, I'm a classic introvert who suffers greatly from general anxiety and panic attacks. It doesn't take much to destroy my equanimity. I'm a recluse by design. 

As a classic introvert, my first step toward sanity is to claim solitude. Introverts gain energy when they're alone and expend energy in groups. As such, I have to retreat from whatever social/familial demands are draining me. I know my limits and enforce my boundaries. I'm blessed with a family that totally gets it without taking offense. Acquaintances, on the other hand, consider me a haughty bitch or a total nutter. Eh, whatevs. 

Second step, hug a beastie. One of my coping aids for living with general anxiety is my dog. She's accustomed to random snuggle attacks. Aside from a grunt and "hooman, you're hot" groan, she endures until the episode passes. Puppy kisses are included in the services she provides. Dog hair is absolutely part of my regular attire.

In situations where panic is taking hold and I can't escape nor is my dog with me, then it's all about finding a safe place to park my butt, applying the cold compress I always carry with me to my wrists and nape, and practicing measured/controlled breathing. The cold compress helps assuage some of the physical symptoms, while focusing on my breathing and the sensation of cold derails the thought spiral causing the attacks. It's not 100% effective, but it's something.

While I'm easily thrown due to issues that seemingly should be under my control but totally aren't, I've learned that "powering through" often leads to a "mandatory system reset" that takes more time and effort from which to recover. Save the superhuman behavior for true emergencies. Be good to yourself every day. You deserve it. 

Monday, November 29, 2021

Managing stress

 This week's topic is one I'm very fond of, namely how to manage stress. 

Stress will do you in. It can cause writer's block, ulcers, temper tantrums, and, of course, the grumpies. None of which are recommended. 

So what do I do about it?

I read. One of my favorite pastimes.

Or I write. 

Or I pull out the Sculpey and work on a small bust of one of my characters or ideas.

The trick, near as I can figure it, is to do damned near anything to stop thinking so hard. 

Life will crush you down if it gets the chance. There are any number of obstacles between you and your daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and lifetime goals, and there always will be. what is the possible benefit of reward without challenge? Okay, let's be honest, we could all do without the challenges. But they exist just the same. the catch is not to let them crush you, and sometimes I fear we truly are our own worst enemies.

For me, the trick is to just breathe for a while Let it go and focus on one of my hobbies. I'm not all that complicated a soul, really, and I can do without the drama of real life. I'll gladly trade it for the drama of a good story, either told to me or written by me.