Sunday, December 16, 2018

A Fab Year Ahead for SFF Romance!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is books we're looking forward to in 2019.

Can I just say ALL OF THEM???

Okay, I'll try to hone it down to a few. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the final book in my Chronicles of Dasnaria trilogy, WARRIOR OF THE WORLD, will be out January 8. A fine way to kick off 2019! This trilogy has been a great ride and this will be the last in the world before the final book, which I hope to have out in spring of 2019, THE FATE OF THE TALA.

I'm also super thrilled that THE ORCHID THRONE, the first book in a totally new world, The Forgotten Empires, coming from St. Martins Press September 24, 2019. In one of those serendipitous alignments that only further proves that Grace Draven and I share a common destiny along with a lasting friendship, the second book in her Fallen Empires series (I swear we didn't plan ANY of this!), DRAGON UNLEASHED, will also release in September 2019. I wish I could share her truly gorgeous cover here, but she's revealing it Tuesday. I might come back an add it, so you all can see.

The other two fantastic authors who are also in the SEASONS OF SORCERY: FANTASY ANTHOLOGY with me have exciting releases this year, too.

Jennifer Estep is continuing her Crown of Shards trilogy, following up her delicious KILL THE QUEEN with PROTECT THE PRINCE, scheduled for release July 2 2019. No cover for that yet, but I can't wait to see it.

And Amanda Bouchet is kicking off the debut in her new series with NIGHTCHASER. She's departing from Fantasy Romance and dipping her toe into Science Fiction Romance this time. It releases January 1, 2019 and I've got it on preorder. You know how I'll be spending my New Year's Day! Can't wait to read it.

What about all of you - what are you looking forward to reading in 2019?

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Fantasy & SciFi Romance Mostly - My Favorite Reads from 2018

I read pretty voraciously when I'm not writing my own novels, so when I saw this topic, I figured I go with the books that came to mind immediately.

First is Arrows of the Heart (The Uncharted Realms Book 4)  from Jeffe Kennedy. I'm a huge fan of Jeffe's Twelve Kingdoms and then of course this follow-on series. Her blend of fantasy, adventure and romance is irresistible to me and her characters have such tremendous arcs of personal growth...

Ocean Light (Psy-Changeling Trinity Book 2) from Nalini Singh. I've loved her original Psy-Changeling series since I first discovered it and this second entry in the follow-on series was terrific, taking the action under the seas and finally giving us a look at the ocean dwelling changelings.

Grace Draven's Phoenix Unbound was amazing and compelling...

I've been snatching up Martha Wells' Murderbot series as soon as each new book was released. I totally love the central character and the endless rapid-fire choices they have to make...

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone isn't in any genre I normally read, but I saw so many people raving about it on twitter and the premise was highly intriguing that I HAD to read it. Once I finished the first page, I was hooked and read it in one sitting and then reread it. Wow. Edge of the seat stuff, a taut thriller and you're definitely rooting for Jane all the way.

So where's the science fiction romance, you ask? Since that's my own genre and I write about it literally all the time for various platforms, I'm loathe to single out just one or two books here. I have many favorite SFR authors and read every book they release, often in long running, terrific series...but okay, here are a few new ones from 2018 that fly into my mind, in no particular order. (The librarian in my mind doesn't alphabetize or use a Dewey Decimal System LOL.):

Undying and Claimed by an Alien Warrior from Tiffany Roberts...
Champion (Prison Planet Book 3) by Emmy Chandler...
Unit 77: Broken (CyBRG Files Book 1) by Mina Carter and Evangeline Anderson...
Dark Strength (Refuge Book 3) by Cynthia Sax...
Guardian (Galactic Gladiators Book 9) and Cyborg (Galactic Gladiators Book 10) by Anna Hackett...
Taming Chaos (Dark Star Mercenaries Book 1) by Anna Carven...
Breakaway (Verdant String Book 1) by Michelle Diener...
Edge of Insanity (The Alliance Book 6) by SE Smith...
Cyborg by Miranda Martin...
Lost Valyr (Project Enterprise 7) by Pauline Baird Jones...
Barbarian's Beloved (Ice Planet Barbarian 18) by Ruby Dixon...


Friday, December 14, 2018

Favorite Reads of 2018

Favorite Books of 2018?

Book Cover for A Study in Scarlet Women
Book One of the Lady Sherlock Series

Elementary, my dear Watson.

It is no mystery which books I most enjoyed reading in 2018. It's all three books of a trilogy by Sherry Thomas. Yes. The first book came out two years ago. It simply took me a bit to get through my TBR pile. I'm glad I did. Charlotte Holmes is the youngest of four daughters and a little peculiar into the bargain. She has a fondness for cakes and an incredible mind for nuance and detail. She is also possessed of a keen notion of what she does and does not mean to accept from the lot in life prescribed to her both by her parents and by society's expectations. She devices a plan to thwart any notion to marry her off and finds there is a desperate price to pay.

In the company of Mrs. Watson, a widowed former actress, Charlotte begins unraveling mysteries - mostly for other young ladies of society. Word gets out, of course, about Charlotte's desperately ill (and fictional) brother Sherlock whose stunning intellect can solve a mystery merely from hearing it recounted by his devoted 'sister'. Still. Some secrets cannot stay secret forever and success comes with its own risks. A few of those might be fatal.

The books are beautifully written. The characters are wonderfully drawn. I love that Charlotte isn't neurotypical. Without a set of ironclad ethics, she'd be a serial killer in a skirt and it's a joy to be in her head staring at that line.

Fair warning. These books are not romances, but they are lush and rich. Well worth reading.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Four books I loved in 2018

2018 was a weird year for me personally, and my reading habits reflect that. For the first time in a long time, I read books I just plain wanted to read -- not for market research or contest judging or what-have-you, but merely because I knew this particular thing was going to engage my brain and remove me from real life for a little while. And by and large, my selections did just that. These ones especially:

The Hollow of Fear by Sherry Thomas. I have loved all of Thomas's Lady Sherlock books, but this
one especially rocked. Charlotte Holmes protags in this gloriously feminist in-your-face-Victorian-England way, and I dig it so hard. In my estimation, she is the awesomest Sherlock ever. Fight me, Cumberbatch fans.

The Jane Hawk series by Dean Koontz, starting with The Silent Corner. I binge-read through this series and then pre-ordered the new one coming in May 2019. Jane Hawk y'all. Fear her. But also respect her.

Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawking. If popular science is your happy thing, this one won't disappoint. Also, the framing -- the book was published posthumously and has a long foreword by a colleague and an epilogue by Hawking's daughter, Lucy--is unexpectedly poignant.

And finally, John Scalzi's second Interdependency book, The Consuming Fire. Gotta confess I had two problems with this read: first, there's a lot of discussion of horrible people doing horrible things to each other, which is not my thing and frustrated me (horribly?); second, someone needs to, as Gwynne Jackson puts it, "de-fuck" this book. Seriously, the swearing is off the charts, and I am not in the least bit a prude when it comes to salty language. So, those two things might have caused some face-palming, but the story is strong and when the actual heroic characters get their hero on, they are such a pleasure to read. Plus, I won't spoil anything, but Scalzi threw some of my all-time-favorite tropes in here, and I luff them they are my own my precious. So yes, I enjoyed this book.

What about you? You got a 2018 read that we should all read?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Most Memorable Book Read in 2018: THE HOUR OF MEETING EVIL SPIRITS

This week, we're chatting up our Most Memorable Book(s) of 2018. Of late, I've been challenging myself to learn more folklore, myths, and legends from around the world. Combine that with my envy of appreciation for talented illustrators, and it's little wonder that the book that stuck in my brain is one part art book and one part reference book of Japanse Folklore.

An Encyclopedia of Mononoke and Magic (Yokai Book 2)
by Matthew Meyer (

Want to learn about Tesso the Iron Rat?

How about the ghosts of vengeance known as the Goryō?

While Meyer has a lot of the content from this book and the first in the series up on his website, it is totally worth owning the paperback.

Here's an example of his illustrations...


TRANSLATION: living ghost
ALTERNATE NAMES: shōryō, seirei, ikisudama
HABITAT: inhabited areas
DIET: none; lives off its owner’s emotions


Sunday, December 9, 2018


Due to a desperate case of GOTTA FINISH THIS BOOK OR MY EDITOR WILL KILL ME I do not have a post for you today.

Apologies. Bills gotta get paid.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Screwing with Your Characters' Heads

Apologies for a slightly tardy post. The entire development lost internet and the ISP spent the bulk of the day and night setting that straight. I hesitate to say much more lest this brief window of stability shatter.

Sex in my novels. Yes. I do write sex into most of my novels. The intensity varies based on the needs of the characters and their stories. So far my sex scenes swing from sweet to just shy of erotica.

As to when and how I use sex scenes, my intent when I write them is usually to mark passing a trust milestone for hero and heroine. But. When I look back at the scenes I've written, they almost always slant into being a means of prying up the edges of my characters' defenses in ways they never imagined or intended, especially in the SFRs. I like a lot of action in my stories. I'm all about the good guys being chased by bad guys with guns. Into that action, a lull must come. A tiny space suspended between conflicts where two people who've been forced to learn to work together while battling insurmountable odds can finally explore the physical attraction that's brewed throughout the story. Yes. In the SFRs I make them wait. Mainly because most of those books are enemy to lovers stories and building trust to the point of a sex scene not being forced takes a little time. Still. In each of those sex scenes, there's a power dynamic in play and that enemy to lovers energy is never far from the surface. It's because when something like sex, intimacy, and vulnerability break a character open, it's the perfect lead in to shattering the trust that's been built. It's the perfect time to force these two changed characters back into the enemy roll they'd once fit into so easily - only now it pinches in the worst way. So yes. If my characters are gonna get it on, I'm going to use it to fuck with their heads and their hearts. Always.

In the urban fantasy books, sex is a means of establishing control. It's a little more graphic, but, I hope, not rape-y. The heroine absolutely buys into the activity and gives enthusiastic consent, but she's also possessed by a demon who's tried using sex to debase and humiliate her. Isa manages to turn the tables on him. When the demon possessing you doesn't consent to sex but you do, what is that?? Regardless, the point of that scene was to complicate relationships and up emotional stakes for all three characters involved.

So sex scenes. When? When the characters and the story need them. When a sex scene would enhance or heighten conflict or increase stakes. How graphic? Depends entirely on the needs of the story. I know we all keep saying that. But everything that isn't sex scene in your story has a specific tone that dictates what you can and cannot get away with in sex scenes. If you read widely, you very likely already recognize this. How does it change my characters? Sex scenes usually break my people open. They demonstrate both to the reader and to the characters that they've passed a threshold and can't go back to what they once were.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Fade to Black

So, it's time for those end-of-the-year lists, and one of the classics is the Bad Sex Award, and this year it's some really glorious badness.  Looking at these ignoble entries, I'm reminded of why I tend to err on the side of "fading to black" when things are going to go much past kissing. 

Of course, anything resembling erotica or explicit sex would not fit in with the tone I've set for the Maradaine books.  Those tend to fit in the same category as PG-13 movies/primetime television, in terms of what I'm going for with them.  Not quite YA, but certainly friendly to a YA-seeking audience. 

BUT-- I've got a non-Maradaine project on the horizon, just in the planning stage, and I think the tone and feel for that one is going to want something a bit more explicit.  We'll see.  Still sorting it out, but I'd like to think this is an opportunity to build a new set of tools for my writing toolbox.

Or an opportunity to make that year's awards. 

But that's a challenge for tomorrow.  Right now I'm working on Shield of the People and The Fenmere Jobboth of which will have their share of kissing and fading-to-black.  Who's kissing who, and when do we fade?  Well, you'll have to see.  But I will say that characters who were noted by some readers as not getting to kiss anyone in earlier books will be kissing people in these.

Back to work.