Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Toast for the New Year

I certainly wish everyone well in the New Year! and I'll share this saying from ancient Egypt:

May the gods stand between you and harm in all the empty places where you must walk!

Friday, December 30, 2016

New Year Blessing

Your slightly pagan-ish New Year Blessing
(admittedly very northern hemisphere biased which is a pity)

Hail the growing light. Turn your face from the depths of the dark and carry the new borne light within you into the world which cries out for it. As the sun returns in the northern sky, may your hopes and dreams grow in the burgeoning light. May you know prosperity. May you know well-being. May you know joy. May you know peace. Blessed may each of you be.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

End of the year

It's the end of the year, and I've finished the rough draft of Lady's Henterman's Wardrobe, and I've just about gotten the rewrite of the Series Four novel done as well. So with the new year upon us, I leave you with this blessing that's always been a favorite:
May you live as long as you want, and never want for as long as you live.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Release Day: @JeffeKennedy's The Edge of The Blade

We're adding another reason to celebrate this week: Jeffe, our Sunday captain, releases her latest novel in The Uncharted Realms duology. It's a perfect blend of romance and adventure for fans of High Fantasy.



The Twelve Kingdoms rest uneasy under their new High Queen, reeling from civil war and unchecked magics. Few remember that other powers once tested their borders—until a troop of foreign warriors emerges with a challenge...

Jepp has been the heart of the queen’s elite guard, her Hawks, since long before war split her homeland. But the ease and grace that come to her naturally in fighting leathers disappears when battles turn to politics. When a scouting party arrives from far-away Dasnaria, bearing veiled threats and subtle bluffs, Jepp is happy to let her queen puzzle them out while she samples the pleasures of their prince’s bed.

But the cultural norms allow that a Dasnarian woman may be wife or bed-slave, never her own leader—and Jepp’s light use of Prince Kral has sparked a diplomatic crisis. Banished from court, she soon becomes the only envoy to Kral’s strange and dangerous country, with little to rely on but her wits, her knives—and the smolder of anger and attraction that burns between her and him...

BUY IT NOW:  Amazon   |   Barnes & Noble   |   BAM!   |   IndieBound

Monday, December 26, 2016

Holiday Toasts

May the New Year bring you joy, prosperity, and good health and may you have infinite reasons to smile.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Holiday Toast

I'll keep it simple, as my Grandmother would always say...

Happy Days!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Status Update on the GOALS

Time to examine the year in retrospect and see how I did against the goals I’d shared here at the end of 2015, when we were still Word Whores LOL. The goals for 2016 and my comments on status, which are in italics:

1. Release four books and two audiobooks.
Released five books and one audiobook, plus participating in three anthologies with original short stories or novellas.

•   I have one completed and fully edited manuscript - Lady of the Star Wind, a portal fantasy romance at about 125K words. It's on hold for the moment while I work on the next book in my Star Cruise series. I think my readers would prefer to have that SFR next, you know? I got Lady of the Star Wind released…

•    As far as Star Cruise: Outbreak is concerned, I'm at about about 20K words on the first draft and moving forward. I have a cover! I got Star Cruise: Outbreak released….

•    I want to write the sequel to Wreck of the Nebula Dream this year. I want to write the sequel to  Dancer of the Nile this year. I want to write the story of Johnny, from Mission to  Mahjundar. I have oh-so-many other ideas but those are the ones I plan to TRY to get done. Unless I fall madly in love with some brand new plot. I make no promises!   I wrote and released Star Survivor, the sequel to Wreck of the Nebula Dream and I wrote and released the story of Johnny (which became Hostage to the Stars). I also wrote and released Trapped on Talonque, which is a scifi take on Sleeping Beauty. I didn’t get to the sequel for Dancer of the Nile although I did develop the plot.

•      My wonderful audiobook narrator Michel Riffle is beginning work on Star Cruise: Marooned now so I will have that one released in a couple of months. I think before 2017 rolls around we might get another one done. We did release Star Cruise: Marooned but didn’t get to the second one, partly because the way Amazon now prices its Whispersync feature at $1.99 or $2.99 makes it extremely difficult for the author to recoup the production costs, let alone break into profit territory. Audiobooks run $2K and above to make, depending on the length. Readers are asking me for more audiobook versions, which is GREAT, but we’ll have to see in 2017. The audiobooks do sell at full price on iBooks and, which helps matters. (OK, rant over.)

2. Meet tons of readers at the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas! I'm doing a panel on science fiction romance; co-hosting the Intergalactic Bar & Grille event with other authors and doing the big book signing. Fun will be had! Fun was had! And I also got to be on a fantasy romance panel with Jeffe and other lovely authors…

3. Make it to Romance Writers of America Nationals in San Diego. I didn’t go to San Diego – travel takes a toll on my health and while my daughter went with me to RT and helped me out so much in between her own author activities – she’s also a published romance author – there wasn’t anyone available to go with me to RWA. There’s always the future J.

4. Continue to blog for USA Today Happily Ever After and also Amazing Stories, where I just joined the team. And I'd never give up being the Saturday Word Whore, or my Here Be Magic group. I did continue to blog for these four platforms and I recently joined Heroes & Heartbreakers as well, to talk about science fiction romance on a regular basis. I also do a guest post once a quarter for Romance University.

5. Surprises and adventures! I got to record the part of a Starship Enterprise Red Shirt Crew Member on the audiobook version of Harlan Ellison’s “City On The Edge of Forever,” which became an AudioFile Magazine Best of 2016 selection (but not because of my 7 words of dialog, I assure you). I was privileged to interview Michelle Lovretta, the creator and showrunner of “Killjoys”, as well as a number of the actors from the show and the “Dark Matter” cast too. All thrills for this science fiction fan! On the personal front, my older daughter got married….

6. The two goals ALWAYS on my list but not in my personal power to achieve? Win the big Lotto jackpot and see one of my books made into a movie! (Hey, a girl can dream big, right?)Um, ok, nothing happening here that I’m aware of. But I’m always hoping for the phone to ring! And I did win $20 on a scratcher Lotto card yesterday…

So there you have it. (Jake the Cat says to tell you his goal is to be petted, amused and fed, and have warm places to sleep by the way. Keanu the Cat wants much the same but also to NOT have his photo taken or ever be required to darken the vet's door again.) Jake accomplished his goals except for one  reluctant trip to the vet for an ear problem. Keanu totally declared victory and wins 2016. (Well, yes, I did take his picture...)

Friday, December 23, 2016

Sum Total of the Goals

I hope a bright and happy solstice was had by all and that the forthcoming holidays will also delight you and yours.

Do y'all remember back to January of this year? I only barely do. Apparently, I went on a rant against the abomination that is Western Civilization's obsession with New Year's Resolutions. It was my screed against listing out goals for other peoples' consumption and/or guilt-making. And though I was ranting against the load we seem to want to place upon ourselves with goals and resolutions and all manner of betterment (as if we aren't enough in and of ourselves) it turns out that ranting against goals is actually making them. They went something like this:

  1. Pledge to be gentle with yourself - adopt a policy of nonviolence in thought, word, and deed concerning yourself. Seriously. Just listen to how you think at yourself. You will be horrified by what you hear.
  2. Make time and space for doing nothing at all. It needn't be much time. Fifteen minutes a day. Not for meditation. Not for reading. Not for yet another course on how to do or be The Thing. To do nothing. Most of us have forgotten leisure and how to be alone.
  3. Vow to help someone else. Whether you volunteer on a regular basis or just offer a cup of coffee to the homeless kid on the corner once in a while - totally up to you. But if you want the cure for a bad day, bring a smile to someone else's face.
How'd I do with these? Erm. Uh. Okay? I guess? The first one lasted for maybe a week before I fell back into old, nasty habit. I am still working on that. Too much research in the world proves that negative feedback does not produce results. Being mean and calling yourself names in your head does not do the job you want it to do. It produces little to no motivation. Positive motivations (having something to shoot for that matters to you) is far more productive. Reprogramming one's brain to DO that is not the easiest. Let's call this a work in progress.
I did nail the last two. Self defense on finding time to do nothing. Migraine sufferers know something about that - usually after a major migraine, you spend several hours, one the pain and sickness are gone, just looking around. Going through life gently. Yes. It is in fear of the migraine returning. But the point is that taking a few minutes each day to do nothing is now part of my self-care.
Helping someone else - Ballard has a population of homeless folks. You get to know who they are and you get to know their needs. So making sure that there are extra hot drinks on cold days, or a box of feminine hygiene products left for the young woman on the street with her partner - those things are easy to do. Supporting Best Friends and Big Cat Rescue with 10% of every dime I make is my other thing. But my favorite was seeing a young woman walking the street in the greatest, should be in a movie, velvet trench coat (bright scarlet). I was behind her and her friend. They went into a restaurant. I followed and touched her elbow. The two women turn to look at me. Faces blank. I said, "Truly epic coat." The gal's friend grinned, pumped her and crowed, "Told you!" The young woman in the coat lit up. Lit up so bright it brought tears to my eyes. Dumb, huh? But it happened. I liked that. Think I'll put it on my list for next year - to see if I can make someone's day like that at least once.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

STATE OF THE WRITER: Goal Completion for 2016

So, let's take a look at my stated goals for 2016:
COMING OUT IN 2016First, there will be the things I have coming out in 2016.  The Alchemy of Chaos, of course, comes out in a few weeks, and the second Maradaine Constabulary book, An Import of Intrigue, comes out in November.  So that right there are two big things.
Well, that was a goal I made, obviously.  Both books came out, and I finished all the things involved in getting them out.  (Of course, when I wrote the goal post last year, there was nothing left to do on Alchemy but wait.)  But the point is: I said two more books would come out in 2016, and I made good on that.  
Next part:
Here’s where I need to be vague.  Over the next twelve months I will need to:
Polish “Manuscript X” and turn it in.

Finish draft of “Manuscript Y”, edit it, and turn it in as well.
Finish draft of “Manuscript X2”.
Polish outline of “Manuscript Z” and get started on it.
So, at the time I couldn't talk about this stuff, but now, of course, I've been talking about it plenty.  Let's decode:
Polish "Manuscript X" and turn it in.This was The Holver Alley Crew, which was, of course, polished and turned in, followed by the copyedits and proof checks to hit your hot hands in March.   (Of course, if you're on NetGalley, you can read it now, and then tell the world your thoughts...)  So: Accomplished.
-Finish draft of “Manuscript Y”, edit it, and turn it in as well."Manuscript Y" was The Imposters of Aventil, which: finished, edited, turned in.  All that's left is the post-"final" draft work (copyedits, proofs, cover, etc.)-- but the creative work is done.  And that'll hit the world in October 2017.  Accomplished.
-Finish draft of “Manuscript X2”.
This is Lady Henterman's Wardrobe, and I haven't quite hit the goal on this.  As of this writing I'm just shy of 100K and have five more scenes to write (and three more to rewrite based on some beta comments), and then I'll send it to Sheila for her thoughts.  So, not fully accomplished, but close.
-Polish outline of “Manuscript Z” and get started on it.
So this is referring to A Parliament of Bodies, and I've gotten started on the re-outline process, but there's still a lot do to to fix the outline of this.  And therefore, I've not properly started the manuscript for it yet.  Partly because I've not finished Lady Henterman, and also because of the thing I've been doing that wasn't on this goal list:
-Rewrite "Manuscript W" Manuscript W?  What the heck is that?  Well, I've been less that circumspect that there is a fourth Maradaine series in the works, and that's exactly what this is-- the first novel of the Maradaine Elite series.  For various reasons, it was important for me to get it nailed down before finalizing the outline for Parliament.  Now that's nearly done as well.  (Minor rewrite notes on a couple chapters, rewrite notes on three scenes, and one completely new scene.)  I'll be submitting that and proposals for the other Maradaine Elite novels in the near future.  
On top of all that, various other things have been in the crockpot of creativity.  We'll see that stuff come into fruition, hopefully with more news in 2017.  
And speaking of... time to get back to work.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Looking Back at 2016 Goals

In a post dated 1/6/16 I noted my writing goals.

My 2016 goals are: 

1.) Finish Persephone #7.

2.) Hopefully spend some time doing the 'author/editor back and forth dance' on an unrelated fantasy novel that *should* come out fall of 2016.

3.) Finish and find a home for unrelated modern fantasy A or unrelated modern fantasy B. Or both. A has a good start, but short. B is 60% done...but the ending wasn't coming together...until, while watching a speculative TV show, something they said sparked a wild idea that over the course of an hour blossomed into the ending I'd been searching for.


1.) I did not finish Seph #7 but I have completed the plotting and did get it up to about 50k. I told people it would be out late 2016 or eaerly 2017, as my plan then was to self-publish. But other things have come into play with another publisher and until that is decided, no Seph. /sorry, I want it too!!!/

2.) I have done the dance. Publisher went through some internal changes to spring from just ebook to include print and distribution, so their pub dates were pushed back. I will do a cover reveal in the weeks to come for the book to be released in May 2017. -SQUEE-

3.) I have worked on both A and B and garnered some interest in both but, alas, I have no specific news to report on either.

While 2016 was not a rousing career related success, it was a spectacular success on the personal front.

At the onset of 2016, my goals seemed like a study of character internal and external motivations.

I was a single mom with a slightly-better-than-minimum-wage job with no hope of income growth. Although my workplace was a positive place to be, I was actively looking for something with better pay and benefits. I was also the only employed person in the house with two boys, a live-in mother and my nephew.

Something had to give and, honestly, it was me. It was always me. The octogenarian mother wasn't going to work. That was a no-brainer. The children weren't going to work. That only left me and a lot of weight on my shoulders. Looking back, I completely understand the inability to sleep and the depression.

My personal goals were:

Internal  I wanted love in my life. Someone to hold on to and be held by, someone to share everything: the good the bad, the laughter and the tears, the joy and the burdens.

External   I just wanted the time and focus to write well and the chance to continue building the career I wanted, the career I had for a time and seemed to have lost.

Neither seemed possible. Right after Christmas, with the taxes and the homeowners insurance bills looming, a leaking hole in the roof forced me to take some kind of action. After consideration, I had two options...and I pursued both. 1.) I worked two jobs in February and March. It felt like I would never get to write again...but people were fed and the house payment made, the leak fixed, and the heat was still on. That was most important, right? And 2.) I did something I didn't ever want to do: I hired a lawyer and sought child support for the first time. I had to assume that it would ruin the 'hospitable' relationship with the ex. With my boys "in the middle" that was not a decision I made lightly.

For the vast majority of creative people, this is the very thing that restrains: life and the the day-to-day responsibilities. Stress eats creativity like a ravenous animal with a delicacy -- no savoring, no consideration, just a one-gulp devouring of that stuff of dreams.

But I am stubborn. A writer is who and what I am. I cannot not write. But having touched the profession and being unable to maintaint my grip in that world left me feeling inadequate, fraudulent, and a failure. But, let me say it again, I am stubborn. I want what I want. And there are some things my spirit has not the capacity to give up.

That persistence served me well. Things began to turn around.

Concerning the external frontier, Ragnarok bought one of my older novels. It's been reworked a bit and will be released in May 2017. It is a story I am quite proud of.  The other books will be getting attention soon -- a lot of attention. I am once again in a position to write during a majority of my time. Now settled into the house and the new{old} routine, its all coming back to me.

Why? How? That al stems from the internal...

Concerning the internal frontier, a man I loved twenty years ago re-emerged into my life. This time, everything fell into place and fit like puzzle pieces. We got married and bought a house. It has been a whirlwind year, and I couldn't be happier (ok, well a NYT bestseller could make me happier, but yanno).

I love and am loved. I have met goals and made new ones. I know joy and I try like mad to spread it around. I wish this for you all, right now.

May you have the Merriest, Happiest, and Most Joyful Holiday with the people you love most around you, laughing, hugging, and making memories you will cherish.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

KAK's 2016 Goals in Review

Ah, the 2016 Goals. I was so ambitious. I came close to achieving some of my Big 5; others I missed by a mile. Fortunately, there's always 2017, right?

End of Year (EOY) progress updates in-line in purple italics.

1) Achieve Balance -- This is a lifestyle goal that affects my writing, both in quality and quantity. As a control freak, it is very easy for me to obsess to the point of counter-productivity, even harm. Balance is my go-to word, my mantra reminding me to back out of the weeds and end the vicious cycle. Balance in all things. Mind & Body. Active & Repose. Creative & Analytical. Social & Solitary. Spirituality Without & Within. I've reached that stage in life where it's not about More being More or Less being More, it's about achieving Balance and living joyfully within its fluid state.

EOY: While I'm better at this than I was at the beginning of the year, I didn't come as far as I'd hoped. I'm too much a devotee of sloth and distractions.

2) Write Four Novels -- Three released during the year, one in the throes of professional edits by EOY. As an author-publisher, I can control 90% of the timing of the releases. The catches, however, are goals 3 & 4.

EOY: Oh gods, I really wished had nailed this one. Instead, I completed writing/editing one book (still have to go through the cover art process), have another ready for CP review (one step away from professional edits), and a third chasing its tail in the draft of the first arc. I tracked the had babits that derailed me, so at least I'm wiser on that front. I also learned I can probably do three novels in a year, but not quite four. We'll see if I'm right about me in 2017.

3) Establish More Realistic Estimates for Writing an Editor-Ready Novel -- I'm a slow writer who has yet to establish a baseline of time needed to write a 125k novel.  I've written one in as little as 45 days and another in as long as 7 years. Thanks to the advice of my fellow bordello-mates offered in posts here on the blog, I've a better plan of attack.

EOY: That referenced plan of attack? First casualty of the year. I think I made it to March before it went up in smoke. Mores the pity, because my fellow SFFers are pretty damn smart and very open about their processes.   

4) Be in the Black for the P&L of Publishing -- This one I can only somewhat control. Much of it depends on the sales of published book(s). It's one thing to write two, six, or twelve books a year; it is something else entirely to finance the all the bits that come between writing and release day. Owning the costs, of course, is the downside of being an author-publisher.

EOY: If I didn't hit Goal #2, I had no chance of hitting this one. I have a feeling I won't hit this goal until 2018.

5) Complete a Reasonable Number of Honey-Dos -- I've a long list of Want To Do, Like To Do, and Need To Do things that take time away from writing, yet are necessary if I want to avoid turning feral. This ties back to the goal of Balance. I won't bore you with details of caulking, decluttering, etc., at least until the end of the year.

EOY: I did well on this one. Perhaps a little too well since I didn't hit the writing goals. Reckon this goes back to Goal #1. Looks like I have another point of balance to strike. 

Cheers to Health & Happiness in this new year!

And in 2017. May we all survive the coming apocalypse!

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016 Goals-Hits and Misses

I hit most of my goals.

Understand, I tend to be relatively nice to myself. Most of my goals are fairly simple, like sell a novel. Write a novel. Make sure you remember to take the trash out at the right time. Pay my bills on time. Mostly easy stuff.

Maybe a little harder than that. I tend to want to write four novels a year. and sell four novels a year.

Written: Well, I'm on novel number four TIDES OF WAR: FALLEN GODS. I'm behind on that, so this post will be short. I have to finish a short story for a top secret project (I really do prefer saying what it is, but there are contracts and handshakes and promises not to tell everyone the cool stuff until the publisher gets a chance.) Then back to the work in progress. This is, of course, the sequel to THE LAST SACRIFICE, which is out in about 12 days.

That's when it's due, by the way. About 12 days. Will I make it? Who can say, but I'll try.

I finished work on the mosaic novel INDIGO. Ten authors, most of them far more successful than me, one guy editing Christopher Golden, in order to make sure that everything makes sense. Then novel is done and comes out next year. it's a hoot. The authors? Charlaine Harris, Christopher Golden, Kelley ArmstrongJonathan MaberryKat RichardsonSeanan McGuireTim Lebbon, Cherie PriestJames A. Moore, and Mark Morris.
Seriously, a blast. It was a lot of fun and I look forward to holding the actual book in my hand as I always do.

I've done several short stories this year, done a few personal appearances and worked on my author profile, so, you know, maybe people know who I am.

It's that time of year. I won't run across you before then so here's hoping all of you have wonderful holidays! Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, the whole nine yards. Oh and may the new Year bring you joy, prosperity and good health!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

2016 Goals - Hits, Misses and Surprises

As part of our end-of-year wrap-up, the SFF Seven are Looking Back on 2016's Goals: How'd We Do? What Was Our Biggest Deviation from the Goal or Plan? Why? Most Satisfying Accomplishment?

I always find it interesting to look back on what I thought would happen during the year, then compare it to what actually occurred - and try to parse why. It helps me plan for the coming year.

It was a particularly interesting year for me in that it was my first full year as a full-time writer. Since getting laid off in October 2015, my biggest goal was seeing if my husband and I could make it without me having to get another job. Our situation is compounded by the fact that he doesn't have a salaried job either. So this meant dealing with fluctuating incomes and me paying my own health insurance.

Biggest hit? Nailed it!

I almost can't believe, but we're making it. And things are getting better all the time. Whew! Huge win right there.

The biggest miss is that I thought I'd be able to write about 25,000 words/week. I had a good reason to believe I could, as 5,000 words/day is doable for me. Instead, the graphs look like this:
 While I did hit 20K/week a few times, my average for the year turned out to be about 7,000 words/week. Very surprising to me. In fact, my overall annual word count went down for the first time in four years.
Now, I still wrote over 400,000 words in 2016 (with a couple of weeks left), so I'm not beating myself up about it. I think a few things happened to account for this:

  1. I blogged a LOT less, a number I had always included in my word counts. Some of this is because I quit a couple of group blogs that felt like they weren't doing much for me - a refocusing of effort on my part - but I also posted less to my personal blog. Conversely, I posted to social media more, word count numbers I don't track. This felt like a natural drift to me.
  2. I taught more, which means stuff that I used to write for blog posts, I wrote for online classes, and I didn't track those word count numbers.
  3. I spent more time on business and business-related activities.
  4. I wrote in a more focused way, not playing around with stuff, but concentrating on producing specific stories.
  5. I did a couple of major revisions, including revising an entire novel I would have been better off simply rewriting. That project accounts for the low word counts of August-October. 
  6. I went to a lot more conferences.
  7. It seems to continue to be true that I pay for high word-count productivity with rebound phases. I'm not sure I can escape that. Notice that my high-count weeks are followed by low-count weeks.
  8. Finally, related to #7, I tried to be kinder to myself. If I needed to take days off, I did. For the first time since summers off as a kid, I didn't set an alarm in the morning, which meant I found my natural sleep calendar and that felt really good. In fact, my Fitbit graph shows a very interesting seasonal rhythm to my sleep cycle, which I had already suspected might be the case. 
The most satisfying accomplishment was also the surprise from 2016. I got serious about self-publishing, in order to establish a more regular income,
With the two-month lag in royalty payouts from retailers, along with time for me to get previous obligations handled, then new projects written and edited, the ramp-up was slow. But, once it kicked in, son of a gun, it worked! Having this option for authors makes a huge difference in whether we can make a living at this profession. 

I think the take-home from this is that we can set goals, but we can't always be sure what will really pay off. Which keeps life interesting!

Finally, to compare to what I set for goals at the end of 2015 in this post, I said:

1) in 2015 I made twice as much from writing as in 2014, but in 2014 I made five times as much as in 2013. Since I'm no longer working the day job, I *really* need to make a living wage from writing this year, so I really want that every-other-year thing to kick in. Five times what I made in 2015 would be awesome. Putting it out there.

I did not make five times what I made in 2015 - what a dreamer Past Jeffe was! - but I did make over twice as much. So, go me.

2) My agent has a book out on submission for a new epic fantasy series. It's a rework of the second novel I ever wrote and I love so much about it. In 2016, I want to either see it published or firmly in the publishing pipeline.

So did not happen. For Reasons. This is still a plan for 2017.

3) We're also going out on submission with a new contemporary romance, the first in a trilogy. That one is getting published in 2016, one way or another.

And... no. What it got was the Revision That Would Not Die. But it's a way better book now. My agent said: "Words cannot express how impressed I am with this new draft. You have taken something I thought was enjoyable and fun and turned it into something raw and meaningful and powerful." 

I'm still calling that a win. 
4) I have a third series that's been parked for over a year. The first one is going out in 2016 or it's in an amazing confirmed pipeline. Enough already.

Also did not happen, but mostly because I decided to back-burner it in favor of another project, which is the one that accounts for most of the self-publishing sales, so I think it was a good choice.

5) I'm making this last one vagueish. I have numerous plans. Hopeful plans to help secure the future for me and my hubs. This is the blogging equivalent of throwing my prognostication penny in the well of good fortune. I totally promise that, at the end of the year, I'll report back on what worked. But I'm too superstitious to unveil them beforehand.

Totally worked! Woo hoo!!!

For 2017, I'm mainly going to work on evening out my production. I'd like to see if I can consistently produce at 15,000 words/week, which works out to 3,000 words/day, which seems to be more sustainable for me. We shall see!

What about you all - what was a surprise win from 2016? Goals for next year??

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Three Most Memorable Reads of 2016

When I'm talking about memorable books, I go by two things: do I still recall large chunks of the plot and details of the romance long after I finished reading the book? Or even better, has it become one that I reread when I'm in just the right mood?

Being a voracious reader, I go through tons of books during a given year, usually on my trusty kindle.

In no certain order then, here are my most memorable of 2016 (I tried to stick with books released in 2016 since like Jeffe mentioned earlier in the week, I often read ARC's of future books that aren't out yet and/or I read books that have been out forever but I just found them):

Michelle Diener’s Class 5 Series (three books): Dark Horse, Dark Deeds, Dark Minds. Although the first book was released in 2015, the other two came out this year and the series as a whole is excellent. I’ve written about, talked about and recommended these books everywhere. I loved the three smart Earth women heroines and the spooky smart Class 5 Artificial Intelligences, AND the alien heroes were excellent stalwart military dudes with sexy Tolkien elf-like pointy ears. Definitely in my "I remember the book" and the "I reread the book" category.

Writings from Ancient Egypt by Toby Wilkinson. I do plan to get back to writing new books in my
paranormal series set in ancient Egypt, hopefully in 2017, and the author has translated all kinds of highly useful and fascinating writings  of all types. Reading through the selections gives good glimpses into daily life and the way people felt and believed. Yes, I write fantastical adventures, not historical novels, but I like to do as much research as I can and this book has been terrific.

OK, I do really badly with these numbered lists because there are so many good books.....I usually cheat and list more than I'm supposed to...

But (I'm heaving a DEEP sigh here), ok.....for my third choice I'm going to list A Faerie Tale: The Enchanted and A Faerie Tale: The Beloved, both by Genevra Thorne. Her use of language is wonderful and really put me into the world of the Fae. Her plots were cool and twisty and I wish there were more in the series. I didn't expect to fall so much in love with the characters and the settings and then I did. 

But in fairness, I must also mention our Jeffe's Pages of the Mind, which I adore, and  Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs and Dark Planet Warriors by Anna Carven.

OK, I'll get off the stage now!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Levity, Science, and a How To for 2016

Have you ever had one of those weird prescient moments where someone recommends a book and you get it even while thinking, heck, none of this applies to me and then WHAM. So relevant it gives you migraines? That was the first of my most memorable books of 2016.

How to Care for Aging Parents by Virginia Morris

Not the kind of adventure I'd wish on anyone, much less recommend to anyone. However. We all end up here at one point or another if the parent(s) have survived into old age. I read this a good five months before Dad suffered his heart attacks. This book gave me very accessible, easy to understand and implement advice on dealing with my father's doctors, his nurses, my father and my mother. It's a great book for pointing out options you might not know exist (I didn't.) So while I hope no one needs it, I am eternally grateful I'd read it before Dad's health challenges. The coping skills suggested in this book gave me the fortitude to be Dad's live-in care giver for the first three weeks of his recovery without being a nag, and no matter how badly I wanted to, I didn't try to wrap the man in bubble wrap. Very valuable book. Hope y'all can wave it off for many years to come.

Do you read less than you used to? I do. Used to never be without my nose in a book. Then we moved aboard the boat and I had to convert my paper books to Kindle versions. Paper and water, you know. Not to mention storage space and that whole 'no sinking the boat' rule. I kidded myself that I'd just run out of time for reading, but a part of me called bullshit on that. I knew I'd stopped reading. I just didn't know why. Then someone loaned me a print book. And I inhaled it in a day. It's possible a tear was shed when I realized how much I'd missed reading. Turns out, I can't see the Kindle print very well. Yes. I need glasses. No. It doesn't seem to be a monetary priority. So they go unpurchased. But it means that the deterioration of my eyesight made reading on the Kindle harder and less enjoyable to the point that I just quit without realizing WHY I'd quit. Until the experiment with a paper book. When I can see the damned print, I adore reading. To celebrate finding this out, I bought myself scifi. Because scifi. And this turned out to be one of my fav reads this year: The Martian by Andy Weir. What's to say? Mars. Left behind. Certain death. Science!

My last book is a bit of a cheat because I haven't gotten to read it yet. But I am SO looking forward to reading it that I'm including it.
The Angel Wore Fangs by Sandra Hill

The hero is a Viking, Vampire Angel. An angel. Who's a vampire. And a Viking. Seriously. How could you not love this? I am counting on this book to be a complete send up of every romance trope available to the market. Counting on it. This is slated to be my guilty pleasure holiday read.

It was this or stock up on Chuck Tingle titles. That may yet happen. Either way. I'm looking forward to some levity.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Great Books for 2016?

This is the time of year where one is supposed to talk about the great books of the past year, the things you read, the things you recommend for awards, and so on.
I have to confess, this year?  I got nothing for you.
This year I did a lot of starting-books-and-bouncing-off-them.  The things I did read to completion?  They were... fine.  Nothing that I'd be "You Must Read This Book!"  (Or, at least, none of it was from this year.  I don't exactly keep records of my reading, but I think I read The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson and Rules for Werewolves by Kirk Lynn in 2016, but they were both 2015 books.)  
Other than that?  The best thing I read I actually can't recommend because it's an unsold, unpublished book that I read for blurb-giving purposes.  
But part of that is because, as I said-- start-and-bounce.  A lot.  That isn't something that should reflect on those authors, and I won't call out people whose books I didn't get into.  Because that's about me, not them.  Their books didn't click with me.  That is OK.  Not every book is for everyone.  Heck, if you start-and-bounce with my books?  That's fine.  Really.  I mean, don't go giving them one-star reviews or anything.  That's not cool.  
I know at least part of my bouncing on other people's books ties to what I'm doing, writing-wise.  I have a lot of stuff to keep track of, a lot of process and writing craft stuff going on in my head.  I can't read without going into diagnostic mode now.  Again-- this is on me, not the writer.  I can be all "Oh, that's a really well crafted thing they're doing", and I make no emotional connection to the story.
So I'll throw it out there: what should I have read?  What should I be reading, especially if I'm going to be doing any award nomination stuff?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

My 2016 Recommendations

Linda's 2016 Recommendations

The Red Queen  (link here) by Victoria Aveyard

A well reviewed debut novel that got my attention. In this world people have red blood or silver, and the silver-blooded are royalty and have power. Mare, the main character, is a red blood who ends up in front of the Silver court and there discovers she has power ofher own, which, of course, the king wants to hide from other red bloods.

The Silent Army (link here) by James A. Moore

I love this series and Moore is a great guy.

I recommend this one on audio book. There are many odd words/names/places which I adore in fantasy, but if you have any qualms about such, then the audio book smooths that right over. Also, the narrator for this has his narrator voice and gruffer voices for character dialogue which suits this telling well. Check the link above and click the listen button under the cover image.

A Curse on the Land (link here) by Faith Hunter

First in a new series set in Faith's Jane Yellowrock world.

I also recommend this one on audio book. Check the link above and click the listen button under the cover image because the reader has a southern tonality that really sells this story/character.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Happy Between Aces: My 3 Most Memorable Books of 2016

My Three Most Memorable Books of 2016...

10% Happier by Dan Harris
My mom sent me this book three times. I figured if I read it once, it'd make me 30% happier.  I'd be full ebullient mode 24/7. Or Not. Maybe. The book isn't about finding your favorite tree to hug. It's about coping when your mind turns against you.  Dan Harris is a national news anchor. The book opens with the day he suffered his first panic attack live on air. It gives a fascinating look into his early career working for Dan Rather and going to Afghanistan to cover the war.

Between You and Me, Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
If you've ever had a copy editor bleed all over  your manuscript, this book will remind you that you are not alone. Norris uses humorous vignettes of her storied personal life to embed grammatical lessons. It's a light read that's worth the time and might save your copy editor a few gray hairs.

Aces Wilde by Jenn Stark
An Urban Fantasy with flying swords on the cover...what's not to love? This action-packed story is about an artifact hunter who uses Tarot-Cards to find her targets. This time, she's inherited the head honcho spot for the criminal syndicate of the House of Swords. Naturally, an outsider being handed the reins doesn't go over well, and in this line of business it's fight or die. Magic might save her, but her relationship with the Arcana Council's seductive Magician just might ruin her forever.

Monday, December 12, 2016

MY top three of 2016

Damn, that's a seriously hard list. I mean that. I haven't read nearly as much as I wanted to this year, but still, what I have read has been a whole lot of good books. I started a few lemons, too, but i set them aside, because life is too short for the bad books.

I used to make myself read them. I felt an obligation. Not any more. that stuff goes to the wayside very quickly these days.

So here they are in no particular order:

I'm a sucker for high tension suspense. I thrive on horror that creeps in and chills you without necessarily getting all kinds of gory. I love a good time travel story. the Obsidian Heart series has all three and that's just in the first book. I have the other two short-listed in my TBR pile. You know, along with about a hundred others.

2) Christopher Golden's DEAD RINGERS
I love a good mystery. I love a good ghost story. I love a tale that mingles both and DEAD RINGERS is flawless at it. Golden continues to challenge himself with his characters and continues to be up to the challenge. An added bonus for me is that I now live in Massachusetts and when visiting Boston recently I could actually see some of the places listed in the book. Damned fine read.

3) Jonathan Maberry's KILL SWITCH
I enjoy a good series as much as the next person. I love a great series. The JOE LEDGER series by Maberry is one of the best. I'd put it up there with F.Paul Wilson's REPAIRMAN JACK series and that one is my all time favorite. In this tale Echo Team goes south, as into Antarctica, and encounters the sort of nightmarish creations that leave a chill which has noting to do with the weather. Great subplots, loads of action. I loved it.

Honorable mentions: E.J. Stevens' HUNTING IN BRUGES is the first in a spin off series (Spinning off from the Ivy Granger Series) and it's a fun ride. Lots of action, a solid mystery and a healthy heaping of snark. Dennis Lehane's A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR. I'm behind the times when it comes to reading Lehane, but, damn, he's good! I just read the first two books in the series and I'll be reading the rest in short order. Joe Hill's THE FIREMAN. I'm not even going to try to explain the book properly. It's amazing, it's different, it's fun. Highly recommended. Thomas Sneigoski's SAVAGE is a book that lives up to its name. Nature strikes back and strikes hard. Bracken Mcleod's STRANDED is a hard, brutal and utterly delightful read. It might seem like he's coming out of nowhere, but the author has earned his chops.  Lastly, Hillary Monahan's series BLOODY MARY: THE SUMMONING and BLOODY MARY: UNLEASHED are delightful YA stories that merge proper horror and local folklore to potent affect. Gruesome, scary and everything that a tale of a vengeful ghost should be.

Okay. Ten instead of three. I said it was a good year for reading and I meant it. I could go on and name more, like the latest from Tim Lebbon, or Wesley Chu, or Paul Tremblay, but I think you get the idea.

I hope 2017 brings you endless good books to read, folks.

Bracken Mcleod reading from his novel STRANDED at the release party. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Top Three Books of 2016: Jeffe's Picks

Every year since my birth, my mother has given me a Christmas ornament. She usually gives it to me at Thanksgiving, so that I have it for decorating my tree. This year she gave me a NambĂ© star for a tree-topper. I may have made a special request, as I love all things NambĂ©, and I love this, in particular. One day I hope to have Santa's sleigh, but ... alas the price! 

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is a round-up of our three most memorable books of the year. I think it's interesting that we frame it as "most memorable," as opposed to the best, or most loved or favorite. There's a difference, isn't it?

So when I went to write this post, instead of first combing my list of five-star reads, I thought back to what books stood out in my mind. The first that popped into my head was one I loathed - not only for the story itself, but for the blatant manipulation of the reader. I ranted already about it here, so I shan't give it any more press than that.

Another book that jumped immediately to mind turned out to be one I read in October 2015, and so not eligible. However, I figure any book with that kind of impact deserves an honorable mention, so I'm including it now: Everything I Left Unsaid by Molly O'Keefe. What a wonderful story. I've recommended it any number of times to people this last year, so I think it totally counts.

Otherwise, I made a list of the books that loomed large in my head and checked those against my lists. As many of you may know, I keep a spreadsheet (OF COURSE) of everything I read in a given year. That includes work for critique or editing, and so includes my own books. My goal for the year was to read 150 books. That was a reasonable (I thought) and optimistic increase from the 122 I read in 2015. Right now I'm at 88. There's some reasons for the lower numbers, along with other ways that 2016 was a strange dip year for me, which I'll talk about that more next week when we explore how our 2016 goals turned out - both accomplishments and deviations.

But for now... My Three Most Memorable Books Read in 2016!

The High Ground

This is the only book in my top three for 2016 that was actually published in 2016. Time is ever a problem for me. This year I read books that will be published in the future, some published long ago, and very few in the narrow twelve-month window that makes them award-eligible. I'm trying to get better about this (which did factor into the fewer books read), but I'm not where I'd like to be on this.

I met Melinda for the first time in May when we did a signing together. She bought my book, I bought hers, and we became friends - which is cool since we live quite close to each other, New Mexico-landscapewise. This sort of buying-each-other's books thing can be fraught as there's always the possibility you won't like the book, and then you see this person you like again and it's all weird and awkward. Happily, I loved this book! Fortuitously, she also liked mine. Regardless, this is a wonderful first book in a new space opera with a tasty slow-burn romance. The world - one where corporations are the aristocracy - is oddly prescient of our current political climate, but not so much that it will make you think of modern politics. Can't wait to wrest the next book out of Melinda's paws!

Wishful Drinking

I came at this book through a winding path - mostly due to having my iPod on All Songs Shuffle during a June solo road trip. Paul Simon came up and I listened to songs from Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints for the first time in ages. I loved those albums in the day, so the revisit felt wonderful and magical. In the ensuing years, I'd come to understand the significance of him being married to Carrie Fisher, who also resurfaced this year in my mind as an enduring hero - and totally badass in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Simon's songs tell stories and, listening, I began to wonder which were about Carrie and their marriage. A LOT OF THEM it turns out. I downloaded the audio book and listened to it on the trip home. Her stories made me think about art, creativity, love and being drawn to other creative types. Fascinating stuff that fed into many of my ideas this year.

A Game of Thrones

I tried to read this book a few years ago. Before I kept a spreadsheet, in fact. I'd read my requisite 25% and set it down as a book that would not make me happy. When the HBO series came out, we starting watching that and I felt validated in my perception that, yes, this is an author who will break my heart. I even got rid of my paper copy finally.

Then it came to be that my friend Anne Calhoun talked me into reading it. We are embarking on a project, a book club of two, to read epic fantasy and learn from them. I'm on page 539 of 802, so it might be a bit of a false positive that it's a memorable book of the year.

And yet... I don't think so.

One thing I've noticed in reading this book is that it's invaded my dreams - and has done so from the first page. I think about the characters and I freaking worry about them! This is one reason I abandoned it before, because I don't WANT to be this involved with people I know will face horrible events, including their deaths. But it's also amazing that an author is able to do this. Anne has called reading this book a master class in writing and I think she's right.

It's also an interesting bookend to these three that George is longtime friends with Melinda, so now I'm friends with them both.

It's been an interesting year!

So, what about you all? Most memorable books? Most loved??

Saturday, December 10, 2016

SciFi Twelve Days of Christmas

So the way I understood this week's challenge was to take one of my favorite Christmas carols and rewrite it, sort of flash fiction-y. (And if that isn't the challenge, well fa la la la la because that's what I DID...)

I've always loved "The Twelve Days of Christmas," although being an impatient person, I'm skipping all the verses and going straight to the big finale:

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 12 Star Lords leaping...
On the 11th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 11 Vulcans vamping...
On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 10 Ewoks dancing...
On the 9th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 9 Transporters humming...
On the 8th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 8 Wizards wanding...
On the 7th day of Christmas my true love gave to me: 7 Mermaids swimming...
On the 6th day of Christmas my true gave to me: 6 Dragons diving...
Four Shooting stars...
Three Red Shirts...
Two Baby Groots...

Here's the obligatory article on how much the traditional set of gifts would cost this year, from The Fiscal Times.... LINK

And a fun version of the song from the Straight No Chaser group, which is their version of carol flash fiction!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

"Santa Claus is coming to town."

"Uh huh."

"Santa Claus is coming to town."

"Don't know how it's escaped your notice, Joe, but we're on Mars. Also. Your culture. Not mine. And while technically, the planet does have a north pole . . ."

"He knows."

I rolled my eyes. "When you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. Yes. Yes. I know the song. What the hell is wrong with you, Joe?"

I shot him a glance, but kept a firm grip on the sample isolated inside the sealed chamber where we performed soil tests in a thus far fruitless search for signs of life. That would be a hell of a Christmas present, should I suddenly take up observing a holiday outside the purview of the Buddhist philosophy I'd grown up with in rural China. Finding life. Life outside of the increasingly odd expedition leader who'd brought me this set of samples from a tunnel bored deep into the flanks of Olympus Mons.

I studied the man. His breath fogged the clear glass shielding his face. Even so, I detected perspiration beaded on his pallid forehead and upper lip. His golden brown eyes didn't quite focus upon me. I frowned and gently set my soil sample back into the stand awaiting the test tube. I wrestled free of the thick gloves that provided my access to the flat gray-brown mud. Actual mud. That meant water. Water meant the remote possibility of life. Even in the lightless depths of the last place on this dead hunk of planet that might retain traces of life-giving warmth from the cooling core. I shook away my curiosity and speculation about the sample and approached my colleague. "You okay, Joe? You don't look so good."

"Oh, you better watch out. You'd better not cry." He reached for my air hose.

Ice dripped down my spine. I started and stepped out of reach. "I'd better not cry? Joe . . ."

"What do you want for Christmas, Mai?" Another slow move, this time for my faceplate.

"That's it." I turned for the door.

He stepped in front of it, trapping me in the increasingly small lab. "What do you want for Christmas?"

I blinked, recalling my stupid wishful thinking - that it would be fun to find life on the Red Planet. I gasped, stared at him, and couldn't stop the whisper. "Life?"

He nodded and stepped closer. "You'd better not cry. You'd better not shout. I'm telling you why."

I swung around an instrument table, scooping up a scalpel. Tiny. Ineffectual. Sharp enough to put a hole in his pressurized suit if he kept trying to get my air supply away from me. "Joe! Stop it! You're sick! Running a fever. That must be the problem. We've got to get you to the infirmary. You need treatment. Who knows what a simple infection - - " I stopped mid-sentence to listen to what I'd said. "Infection. My God. Life. Infection. Is that it? I won't find life in that sample in there because somehow you breached containment. You're hosting -- whatever."

"You'd better not cry. You'd better not shout."

I reeled. 'Don't shout.' He meant don't call out for help. My heart quaked and I couldn't get my breath. How could I not? Joe might die. And if he did, my first chance to catch a glimpse of an actual Martian organism would die with him. Yet if I alerted the rest of the base, a round of antibiotics or antivirals later, and I'd have lost my chance just the same. "If I don't tell anyone," I began, "will you let me take a blood sample? I want to see."

His teeth flashed in a grin. He caught my wrist in a tight grip that set my teeth on edge. Prying the scalpel from my fingers sliced through his gloves. Blood seaped through the cuts. My breath came in short, useless bursts. I yanked against his hold. No effect. He cut my suit and me where my gloves met my pressure suit. My blood welled up. I yelped.

"Santa Clause is coming to town." He smeared pressed his bloody fingers into the cut on my wrist.