Friday, November 30, 2018

Favorite Holiday Reads

This book has already been mentioned. In fact, I think I bring it up every single time we do the holiday book thing. Here it is again, with good reason. It's my favorite. Has been for decades now. The story is aces. The art is utterly haunting - even though it's cartoon water color, it's vivid and fluid and alive. You feel like you're actually striding the strawberry fields. It doesn't matter how often I read the book, I end up on the emotional roller coaster of the story whether I mean to or not.

So sure. It's a silly little holiday book. A trifle. A book for kids and for kids at heart. And if you read it to one of your favorite kids, the art and the story will stick with you for days and days. Maybe for the entire year until the next time you read it to someone. Or have it read to you.

If you're of a certain age, you recall exactly what it was like to go see E.T. in the movie theater for the first time and to expose yourself to the master emotional manipulation that defines that movie. Red Ranger Came Calling is the watercolor and blue haze of swear words hanging over the fields and frightening the rabbits version. It's sublime emotional manipulation. 

To my mind, that makes it Art. Fight me. Just remember. I have back up.
Photo credit: Faye Heath

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Holiday Books

So, I have to confess, I'm not much of one for holiday books.  I certainly would struggle to pick a favorite.

Of course, I do have a deep fondness for A Christmas Carol.  It's a fantastic story, that's at the same time deceptively simple in structure, yet rich and complex in execution. And I kind of love that it went from concept to in-stores in six weeks as a "damn I need some fast money" ploy.  Which: mad respect.

On a simpler level, I love A Visit from St. NicholasIt's such a pure and delightful story of Christmas joy, and there was a time when I could recite it for memory.  Now I might stop and stumble a bit if I tried.  But as a story, as a piece of poetry, it's a deep favorite for me. 

I think both, for me, represent something fundamental and pure about my feelings of the season.  Like: hey, here's a little bit of the magic of Christmas, and maybe, just maybe, experiencing it will make you a slightly better person. 

That's how I like to think of it, at least.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

5 Christmas Books to Read Nightly

Eep. Just had a bout of mild panic because it's twenty-seven days to Christmas and I couldn't find the books. The important books. The books we read almost nightly but definitely eleventy billion times at least in this interstice between Thanksgiving and Go Day. What in the world did I do with The Books?!

Outside of house is festively bedazzled. Tree is lit (in the lighting sense, though we also do have nog). Mantle is strung with Yoda lights and littered with figurines of mice and chihuahuas in winter clothing. (I have no idea why this is my thing, but this is my thing.)

But the books are the most important part. Because the books are family. We read them together, and recite the funny parts and make up silly voices and ... aha! There they are. Downstairs by the board games cabinet. Well of course.

Now, which books? Oh, right. These ones:

1. The de rigueur no-movie-will-ever-be-as-good-as-the-original seasonal classic.

2. For the emotional heft and modern sensibility, and also because we are a pet-centered family:

 3. Read before 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. It adds context. Also muy relatable if you've ever had the flu on Go Day. Which we have. As a family. Twice. Good times.

4. Of all the versions, I like this one with Mary Engelbreit's illustrations best. Good old Santa, creepy as ever. And yet we all still keep letting him invade our homes in the middle of the night and eat our cookies. We are a weird people.

5. And this one, to cap off the night of readings. Berk Breathed is mostly known as the writer of the long-running Bloom County comic strip, but he also turned out this gem of a book. If you haven't read it, you need to. I don't care what you believe, the message in this book will resonate. Also, that last page. *grin*

So THANK YOU to SFF Seven for putting the fire under my feet to locate these books before The People come home from work and school and such and settle down for a warm winter's read. When they ask tonight, I will be prepared.

Now to practice my silly voices.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Cover Reveal: The Hanged Spy

Yes, yes, yes, our topic this week is "what's our favorite holiday book." Dear Readers, this year, my favorite holiday book is the fourth book in my Immortal Spy series. It drops on December 27! While Bix isn't participating in the holiday spirit in this story, she does have the impeccable timing of helping me hit my personal goal of releasing four books in one year. I may be delivering on that goal by the skin of my teeth, but deliver I shall!

(The Berserkers are all about the winter holidays in Book 3, The Captured Spy, FWIW).

With another amazing cover by Gene Mollica Studios, here is Bix gearing up for her next mission to save the Mid Worlds...

Immortal Spy: Book 4

Stealing the build specs for a prototype Mid Worlds defense system pits Bix and her team against the pantheons'  elite wet works unit. Bix’s only chance at success rests in the scarred hands of the Hanged Spy…
Pre-Order the eBook Now:
Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Nook   |  Kobo

Paperback available on Dec 27.

Monday, November 26, 2018

A Christmas Carol

My favorite book for Christmas time is none other than A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

Honestly, can there be any doubt? It puts a few of my favorite concepts in one wonderful package. We have Christmas, pf course. And the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Be. We have the bitter old man, who has not kept Christmas in his heart and the stories of the people around him throughout his life who did. We have actions and consequences and we have, of course, a chance at redemption.

I just don;t think it gets any better!

Don't have a copy? Here, take a look.

Of course, you can always start a new tradition, too. Take a look at HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SCREAM!  Trust me, the stories are a dark and often comedic blast.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Jeffe's Favorite Holiday Book

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is our favorite holiday book. I have a Christmas tradition that involves my favorite seasonal books. I keep them in the bins with the decorations and bring them out only at Christmastime, when they occupy a pride-of-place position on an end table.

I haven't brought them out this year yet, as I'm a strictly no-Christmas-until-after-Thanksgiving kind of gal, but they include A Child's Christmas in Wales, A Christmas Carol, and some pretty-picture books like Santa Fe Christmas.

I at least flip through them every year - and many of them are from my childhood, so they're a reminder of the continuity of those family celebrations.

But the one I think of first, and always with a smile, is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

It was published in 1972 and I think I might have a first edition. (I'll have to check when I get it out!) My stepdad Leo married my mom in summer of 1973 and I remember him getting that book and reading it to us out loud as we sat in the living room, between a lively fire in the fireplace and the towering, twinkling Christmas tree.

This book is so damn funny. I remember we all laughed until we wiped tears from our eyes.

Revisiting it as an adult, I've discovered this book says so much about the true values that Jesus taught - loving our neighbors, practicing tolerance and compassion, including everyone in celebrations, not just those we approve of. It's about people learning to be better - both the "awful" ones, and the ones who already thought they were good.

Highly recommend.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

I Talk About #SciFi Romance Books (and more) All the Time

‘Blurb a buddy’ is this week’s theme.

I don’t do book blurbs. I’m also not a reviewer. I do, however, spend a LOT of time talking about science fiction romance and attempting to share my love for the genre with a wider audience, to entice readers to give it a try (and oh, by the way, if they’d like to read one of my scifi romances some day, that’d be very cool!)

In pursuit of this goal, I interview authors for USA Today Happy Ever After blog, I write a bi-weekly column for Amazing Stories Magazine blog on SFR and I do 3-4 mini reviews of current SFR novels for the Love in Panels platform once a month. I also run a weekly post on my own blog of new releases in SFR, fantasy romance and paranormal romance.

So, having said all that, let me share with you the last three books I highlighted over at Love in Panels (link to the full column):

Cyborg by Miranda Martin: “When an author can get me to read a book based on a trope I’m not overly fond of – in this case amnesia – and I stay riveted to the pages, reading the story in one sitting and loving it, I’m thrilled…”

Dark Cure by Cynthia Sax: “I’ve been a fan of USA Today Best Selling author Cynthia Sax’s Dark Refuge scifi romance series since the beginning (and loved her sizzling cyborgs before that). I’ve also been one of those readers pestering her to tell the story of Gisella, the Refuge’s chief medic…”

York by Laurann Dohner:  “A series which has been percolating along nicely is …The Vorge Crew, about the individuals on a pretty unique interstellar ambassador’s ship, and the human women they interact with, and of course fall in love with. I’ve been a fan of Dohner’s for a long time and I’m happy to report that this new series is fun. York, the third installment, takes a nice turn…”

For Amazing Stories Magazine most recently I shared the SFR winter holiday new releases

And on USA Today Happy Ever After, I interviewed the four authors of the Seasons of Sorcery (I cover fantasy romance sometimes!) because I so loved all of the stories…which of course included our Jeffe Kennedy’s The Dragons of Summer. Here’s how I began the column: “I love reading anthologies! I enjoy reading shorter works by favorite authors, set in worlds they’ve established in series, as well as discovering new-to-me authors included in the selections. A new fantasy romance collection, Seasons of Sorcery, from four amazing authors — Jeffe Kennedy, Jennifer Estep, Grace Draven, Amanda Bouchet — fulfilled my reading desires in high style…”

My most recent hard SF recommendation over at Amazing Stories was The Rising Tide, a generation ship novel by J. Scott Coatsworth…

For the most part, I’m not recommending all the new releases in my weekly blog post on my personal Wordpress site. I’m reporting that ‘here they are!’ and if I do have a specific input because I’ve read a book or loved the series, or a blogger/reviewer/reader I respect has recommended a book to me, I’ll add that note. 

I curate the list to a certain extent because no one human person can possibly list ALL the new releases in 3 genres every week so I do pick and choose. I give weight to previous reviews, of the book and/or of the author, if any, especially when there are repeated mentions of quality issues. But I include books that might not be to my personal taste in every respect – I just can’t get into reverse harem for example, but I respect that many readers do enjoy the subgenre and so I happily include those new releases. I’m not a huge steampunk fan either but I’m thrilled to find a new one to bring to the readers. I have fun compiling the list, seeing all the new books, relishing the covers, observing the trends…

And that's me, talking about other people's books pretty much all the time when I'm not writing my own! Happy reading, folks!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Happy Yeah This Topic Isn't Gonna Work

It's 9PM, Thanksgiving Day. I've spent the past three days cleaning and cooking two separate menus in preparation for hosting 12 people for dinner. (2 of whom are Whole Food, Plant-based vegans.) I think my father-in-law counted something like 26 separate dishes. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day filled with family, laughter, and way too much food. I haven't gotten to host and cook a major holiday since we moved aboard the sailboat ten years ago. It was a great joy to have my family and my husband's family all together at the table. They're a good group of people who all genuinely like and appreciate one another.

But it comes down to this. I'm stuffed and I'm tired. Not to mention that the buddy (not counting the buddies on this blog who have all had recent releases! But we were trying to pimp some new blood.) a new Fantasy Romance release coming out soonish - her first - doesn't have a cover quite yet. At least not one I can publicly share so far.

So Happy Thanksgiving those of you in the US and if you do Black Friday, remember the body armor. I'll be at home, writing, sipping tea, and eating pumpkin spice scones with caramel/pecan glaze drizzled on them. Well. And trying to  keep the kittens from dumping my tea or walking across my keyboard and adding their editorial opinions to my prose.

Instead, talk to me about amazing Black Friday deals. Where do you go and what kinds of things do you look for? Do you go in with a list? Or do you decide what presents people are getting based on what's on sale?

I, for one, am all about the notion of giving books as gifts. Isn't it supposed to be an Icelandic thing - you give books on Christmas Eve? I love it. Fiction, nonfiction - I wouldn't care. In fact. That's the perfect anodyne to too much rich, holiday food. I'm going to go peruse my TBR pile and make reading my Thanksgiving Day dessert. May your holidays be just as sweet.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

TITANSHADE: The Debut You Should Get Next Year

Happy Thanksgiving, all!  Today I am thankful for all the love and joy that I have received this year, and especially in the last week.  PhilCon was a lovely time, and the folks running it were all wonderful.  Plus I got to see some old friends that I hadn't seen for decades, which was lovely as well.  And now I want to pay that love forward, by talking about a new debut that you should put on your radar.

I am talking about TITANSHADE by Dan Stout.  This book looks like a heck of a lot of fun.  When I read the description I jokingly called it Scorcesepunk, but it is a secondary world fantasy of tough street-cops in a world of 8-tracks, disco and sorcery.  It looks like everything you wanted Bright to be if it had been made in 1976.  I am deeply excited for this sucker to come out, and it will on MARCH 12th, 2019.  So GO PRE-ORDER THIS BABY.

This noir fantasy thriller from a debut author introduces the gritty town of Titanshade, where danger lurks around every corner.

Carter's a homicide cop in Titanshade, an oil boomtown where 8-tracks are state of the art, disco rules the radio, and all the best sorcerers wear designer labels. It's also a metropolis teetering on the edge of disaster. As its oil reserves run dry, the city's future hangs on a possible investment from the reclusive amphibians known as Squibs.

But now negotiations have been derailed by the horrific murder of a Squib diplomat. The pressure's never been higher to make a quick arrest, even as Carter's investigation leads him into conflict with the city's elite. Undermined by corrupt coworkers and falsified evidence, and with a suspect list that includes power-hungry politicians, oil magnates, and mad scientists, Carter must find the killer before the investigation turns into a witch-hunt and those closest to him pay the ultimate price on the filthy streets of Titanshade.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Give thanks, read books.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Plz read these new releases cuz I can't

Dude! There is a lot of brand-new (very probably) excellent stuff out in the land of speculative fiction. But because I'm spending most of my time tending to a sick family member (she's recovering, and she's gonna be okay; this is just time-consuming for all of us), I haven't really been able to read much lately. Here are four books I've bought in the last month and am *itching* to read but can't, so click 'em and let me know what you think:

Cara Bristol's latest Intergalactic Dating Agency SFR, Caid: Dakonian Alien Mail Order Brides #3, released November 8 and is sitting purchased but unopened on my Kindle. Cara started out writing erotic spanking stories but bloomed on the science fiction romance scene with Breeder, which is awesome and the first book I rec to folks who have read a lot of romance and are considering a jaunt on the spec-fic side. She wields language with sophistication and ease, pays a lot of attention to details in her worldbuilding, and bundles it all up with charm. I have no doubt this one will be as fun as her previous books.

Chanta Rand's brand-new Androids and Anarchy (Intergalactic Huntress Book 1) looks super tasty. I mean, intergalactic bounty hunter facing mutants and rebellions and an evil aristocrat villain and she is a badass gal with superpowers? Yeah, this one presses all my buy-this buttons. Sadly it has no reviews yet, so please, if you do read it, put some stars upon thars.

I've been reading Rebecca Royce for years. She started out writing shifters, but she's gone in several fun directions since, including SFR. Her latest co-written piece with Ripley Prosperpina, Lightning Strikes, is a post-apocalyptic zombie reverse-harem adventure, and I have no idea how Rebecca and Ripley have made that work, but they are both accomplished writers and I trust I'm gonna like this one.

And that's about all.. Oh, wait. I actually have read one new release in the last few weeks. Well, okay, I listened to it. Does that count? John Scalzi's The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency Book 2) came out back in October but was released simultaneously in audiobook, so I spent an Audible credit on it and enjoyed the hell out of it. It's short, especially considering the price tag on the ebook (whoa), but it's crammed with tropes I adore, excellent pacing, and that signature Scalzi irreverence, so I'd rec it, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure it broke records for Most F-bombs Ever in a Book Not Actually About Fing. Or maybe they were just more noticeable in the audiobook? *shrug* Fair warning for pottymouthness.

Anyhow, that's my recent-release reading to-read list. I could tell you loads of others in genres that aren't spec-fic, but here on SFF Seven, if we do nothing else ever, we FOCUS!

(Which is totally why I whiffed on my Wednesday post the week before last. Not that you noticed, probably/hopefully. But still: sorry 'bout that.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Fans of Urban Fantasy: If You Were Imbued with Power of a Single Tarot Card...

A magical whodunnit against a backdrop of Tarot brought to life sums up the new series from Jenn Stark featuring Sara Wilde as the recently ascended Justice of the Arcana Council. With appearances by The Magician, The Devil, The High Priestess, and Judgment; Justice Wilde is learning the hard way the price of evolved powers and dangerous responsibilities.

Wilde Justice: Book 1

New world order, new job, new mission.

As the first Justice of the Arcana Council in two hundred years, Tarot-reading Sara Wilde is tasked with taking out the most dangerous magic-wielding criminals on the planet. Her first assignment? A killer known only as the Red King, who’s systematically picking off the world’s most gifted magicians in the rollicking streets and storied canals of Venice, Italy, on the eve of Carnevale.

Amidst the festival’s music, masks, and brightly colored costumes, Sara must unravel the truth about a brutal murderer from Venice’s own murky past, navigate the twisting political currents of magicians who seek to rival her own Council, and keep one costume change ahead of a conjurer whose lethal spells could end Justice—permanently. Good thing the diabolically sexy and deeply powerful Magician of the Arcana Council has Sara’s back…if only he didn’t hold so much of her heart as well.

The canals of Venice will run with blood when you deal in The Red King.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | iTunes | Nook | Kobo

Monday, November 19, 2018

Map of Moments and more

This week we're supposed to blurb a friend/ I'm doing two for the price of one.

So Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon are friends of mine and they have collaborated several times in  the past.
A truly spectacular series of books they did came out a while back. The first book out in the series was THE MAP OF MOMENTS, which has been re-released recently. In December the second book in the series MIND THE GAP is being re-released. The other two, THE CHAMBER OF TEN and THE SHADOW MEN will be coming out soon after

Do yourself a favor: READ THESE BOOKS! They are brilliant. Each novel stands by itself as a story worth reading but when they are put together they are something even more spectacular. How good are they? I'm damned jealous of the gents in question. I rather wish I'd written them myself.

The four  books, when put together, make the picture you see below.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Blurb a Buddy? Seasons of Sorcery!

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is: Blurb a Buddy: Have an author-buddy with a recent/soon-to-be released book? Promo them!

What can I do? All my besties DID just have a new release - but with me! So I'm sharing SEASONS OF SORCERY, with amazing stories by Amanda Bouchet, Grace Draven, and Jennifer Estep. I've read them all and they're each delightful, as varied as the seasons we all selected.

Oh, and there's one from me too. And we finally have All The Buy Links!

An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . . 

The stretch of sea known as The Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced. 

A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves. 

As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

As a bonus, our Saturday Siren Veronica Scott also had a new release this week! 

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Even When Not Writing Are You Writing?

Not the Author

“Even when you’re not writing, you’re writing.”

Hmmm, looks at this week’s theme backwards and forwards, diagrams the sentence, searches for inspiration…

OK, here’s how it works for me, which is all I can speak to:

Writing, or telling stories, is as necessary to me as breathing is, and has been an integral part of my being since I can remember (wrote my first book at age 7). I have a vivid imagination.
A Muse. Not the proper one for writing perhaps but I like her
light hearted spirit
 I’m very superstitious about my Muse and how she works (you may groan now if you’re a regular reader of this column and have seen me address this before!). If I think too much about a story, then my brain or my Muse or whoever/whatever is in charge up there in the Creativity Module says the story is done. Complete. No need to write that one down. And I NEVER will be able to.

I used to have a very long commute to the day job. I like to ponder plot issues while I’m driving, especially with loud music, BUT one day the commute took an extra long time, I told myself a fabulous Halloween type scifi tale – it was so good I got goose bumps! – and then…it was done. I never did write it down in any form at all. Just no creative push to transfer the story from my brain to the paper. I don’t even remember all the aspects of the story any more.

I’m not one of those authors who soaks up the people and places around me and puts them into my stories either. If we’re out for lunch or dinner I’m not also busily making notes of cute things people have said, or interesting real life vignettes to stick in my next novel. Doesn’t work for me. I can only remember a few times when I’ve drawn upon an actual life experience of my own to put into a book and that was chiefly atmospherics from climbing a pyramid in Mexico and another time the definite evil I felt emanating from a statue of the Aztec god of death. Or the general impressions from being surrounded by the marvels from King Tut’s tomb…but in all those cases, I waited years to pull on those experiences and add them to the plot mix.

On occasion a news story will trigger my imagination and I take off in a mental riff about it, or enlarge upon it, or grab one aspect to use in a novel.

Sometimes the first conscious thought in my head in the morning – even before “feed the cat” – will be the answer to a plot problem, or a neat twist for the current book I’m writing. Clearly the Muse/subconscious/creativity module has been working away overnight to come up with that. This is the only time I guess I could truthfully claim to be “writing when I wasn’t writing.” But I can’t take any credit for the achievement since I have no idea what triggers the serendipity and it doesn’t happen every night.

So I guess a part of me is always alert and pondering creatively, possibly synthesizing a lot of varied inputs that will hit the page when I do sit down to actually write, but it’s not necessarily a conscious process.

I do keep a huge folder of plot ideas, clippings, notes etc., for possible stories that came to me at odd moments but you know what? I almost never even open that file. It's a one way funnel. When it's time for me to write a new book, there's always a bright and shiny idea waiting and I can't wait to get to the keyboard to start telling the story.

And in case you somehow missed the new of GABE, my new release this week, plus I love these covers!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Sneaking Out the Back to Write

Even when I'm not writing, I'm writing.

Always. I mean, I assume everyone has felt like a stranger in a strange land in this life at some point. I cop to having felt that way most of my life, but I cannot be the only person who feels like a tourist to this planet and the guidebook omits some really critical information regarding the habits of the natives.

So I stroll the edges examining, observing, and taking field notes. It's what a writing teacher told me once. Our jobs, she said, are to see all of the things most other humans either couldn't take the time or couldn't bear to look at. And then we had to put it all on paper in some form or another. It does mean that no matter where I am, no matter what I'm doing, I'm observing. Cataloging. Parsing emotion from verbal content, shaking it all out, and mounting each nuance very carefully on well-labeled cards so I can rifle through them later looking for that single emotional response that's perfect for a scene.

If we're hanging out and you feel like I'm not entirely present, you're probably right. There's that part of me that always sneaks out the back to ideate. I don't mean it. Never do. Ask my long suffering family.


Watching is part of the process, I cop to that. But there's nothing quite like doing. I'd rather be writing.

For those following along, the boys are 10 weeks old now. Here's Corvid suffering from a nap attack. Those gray lips slay me.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

New Release: GABE A Badari Warriors SciFi Romance from Veronica Scott

I was thrilled to release the fifth book in my award winning Badari Warriors scifi romance series this week!

Here's the blurb:
Gabe Carter, hotshot pilot and exSpecial Forces soldier, is far from his home in the human Sectors, kidnapped by alien scientists to be the subject of horrifying experiments.  Shot down by the enemy over desolate territory far from his Badari allies and gravely injured, Gabe’s only hope is a mysterious woman on the run herself.

Keshara has to decide whether to abandon the human to die of his injuries on a windswept mountain top or give up her own quest for freedom and take him to a place he can be helped. The undeniable spark between them complicates matters.
His attraction to her is off the charts but when she betrays him to the Khagrish enemy, Gabe doesn’t know what to believe. Trapped inside an alien lab bursting with mysteries and lies, his only hope may be to trust her…again.

Because the renegade alien scientist running her own private experiments wants to use him to accomplish her goals and perpetuate the evil, no matter what she has to do to ensure his compliance. Keshara’s life hangs in the balance and Gabe has to make a choice.

This is the sixth book in the Badari Warriors world (and the fifth book in the series) and each novel has a satisfying Happy for Now ending for the hero and heroine, not a cliffhanger. Some overarching issues do remain unresolved in each book since this is an ongoing series but romance always wins the day in my novels!

Buy Links: Amazon      Apple Books    Nook     Kobo     Google Play

TIMTUR (issued under the In the Stars Romance banner)


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Writer brain: the perpetual machine

“Even when you’re not writing, you’re writing.” That’s our topic this week.

Thing is, I’m not always writing. But I am always writer-braining (totally is a verb).

Example: This morning over coffee, hubs and I were talking about the new Stephen Hawking book and how in it the (sadly, late) professor laments the current glut of published research. Fifty years ago, you could read everything that had been published on a slice of science. Now, though, even if you narrow your field strictly, it is impossible to consume every scientific paper published on the topic. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day… for a human person.

And just that easy, I slip into writer-brain/questions mode: For a computer, though, what if it was possible to process every bit of information, to hold it all in sacred data storage and constantly analyze it? How long would it take the computer to realize it knows more than the humans? I mean, if it was doing deep learning, I’d give us, what, ten years? Twenty? Maybe not even that long.

Would the (omniscient, if not omnipotent) computer, knowing also everything of human psychology research, be kind to us? Or would it judge us? Or would it just let us run on our little hamster wheels while it—the real intelligent species now—went on and took over the world and colonized space because clearly we are too limited a creation to participate in the Big Projects.

What if there is already a computer right now doing the Big Projects while we run furiously on our political WTFery and social media and vapid entertainment hamster wheels?

And poof, there’s a story seed. Right there in my brain.

I will never write that story. There are literally hundreds of similar “what if…?” files on my computer and in my Things Of Coolness spreadsheet. They might inform pieces of the stories I write someday, but mostly they are the cogworks that make up the squeaky, rusty, slow-moving machinery of my writer brain.

I bet you have those, too. Yours may be shinier.

The point is that you can take a writer’s fingers off the keyboard, but you can’t really stop a stop her brain from iterating. So let it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Release Day: Seasons of Sorcery (A Fantasy Anthology)

Congratulations to Jeffe on her short story in the Seasons of Sorcery Anthology, out today!

A Fantasy Anthology
by Jeffe Kennedy, Jennifer Estep, Grace Draven, Amanda Bouchet

An assassin at a renaissance faire. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, if you’re Gin Blanco. This Spider is trapped in someone else’s icy web—and it seems like they don’t want her to leave the faire alive . . .

The stretch of sea known as the Gray rules the lives of those in the village of Ancilar, including widow Brida Gazi. In the aftermath of an autumn storm, Brida discovers one of the sea's secrets cast onto the shore—a discovery that will change her world, mend her soul, and put her in the greatest danger she's ever faced.

A malevolent spell strangles the kingdom of Leathen in catastrophic drought. Prince Daric must break the curse before his people starve. A once-mighty goddess trapped in a human body might be the key—but saving his kingdom could mean losing all that he loves.

As unofficial consort to the High Queen, former mercenary Harlan Konyngrr faces a challenge worse than looming war and fearsome dragons. His long-held secrets threaten what he loves most—and he must make a choice between vows to two women.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | Nook  |  Kobo

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Writing Never Ends

Simple fact of life number seven: The writing never stops.

When I'm reading s comic book, a short story, a novel or watching a TV show or a movie, I am always looking critically at what is going on. its not because I want to, mind you, but it has become the nature of the beast.

I cannot look at a story without going over the basic plot, the twist, the writing, the grammar and the characterization. I can no more do that than a mechanic can look at a car--jalopy or high octane, high performance vehicle--without automatically wanting to pop the hood and see what is what.

There are remarkably few authors that I can read simply for the sake of reading. In most cases there's a compulsion to look over sentences that ring true (or that feel like lies) and make sure I understand why those sentences evoke those emotions Magicians study each other's work and writers do the same.

Simply put, it's part of getting better at your craft. If you don't look at the work of others and examine the minutiae either you are sublimely confident or a fool. Possibly both.

Let me give an example: A few years back--more than I care to think about, actually, I had a publisher come up to me and as if i was interested in writing a big, fat juicy vampire novel for him. I had no desire whatsoever, Seriously. I'd worked for White Wolf Games on their World of Darkness books for some time, really and I'd written all i wanted to say about vampires.

That feeling lasted exactly 2.3 seconds. By the time the feeling was fading I was already in negotiation about what sort of prices we were talking for an advance and what formats the book would come out in. In this case it was cooing out as a signed limited edition in numbered and lettered formats. Maybe 550 copies all told.

First rule: If you are a freelancer and someone offers you a reasonable deal you say "Yes." I was and am a freelancer. I said yes.

Then I did my research. I read every vampire book I could get my hands on. That means THEY THIRST, by Robert R. McCammon, I AM LEGEND, by Richard Matheson, 'SALEM'S LOT by Stephen King, DRACULA, by Bram Stoker, LOST SOULS by Poppy Z. Brite, THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES by Anne Rice, VAMPHYRRIC by Simon Clarke, ANNO DRACULA by Kim Newman, THE TOMB OF DRACULA comic books by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, everything and anything vampire related that I could find. And then I did the same thing with the movies and TV shows. I studied as much lore and legend of vampirism from around the world as I could, making sure to note the differences as they came around. I bathed in the stuff like it was blood and I was the Countess Bathory. I might not have a doctorate in vampire fiction, but it wasn't for lack of trying.

Why? Because if you are going to walk in familiar territory, you want to make that territory your own. I wanted to make sure I wasn't rehashing what had already been done as much as that is possible in a genre like vampires. Because, by God, I wanted MONSTERS, not sparkly things that claimed they were creatures of the night.

I read, and I read, and I read, and while I certainly got some enjoyment from the act, I also studied every story I could find from VARNEY, THE VAMPIRE, by James Malcom Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest to FEVRE DREAM by George R. R. Martin. It's how we learn, isn't it? We study much, we see much. We make sure we are doing our best to be original in an area inundated by vampire tales.

The end result was BLOOD RED, a novel carefully studied and examined and then written faster than any NaNoWriMo novel ever was. I had an editor going over every chapter with me seconds after it was written, to correct typos and keep me on track. 127,000 words, give or take and finished with the first draft in three weeks. It's a personal record though I know others have beaten it.

A few years later I repeated the process to write the sequel, BLOOD HARVEST and I'll be doing it again, soon, when I start the last book in the series, BLOOD TIES.  I do these things because I must. Because, really, I need to make sure I'm not copying something I only vaguely recall reading from years ago. I don't want to make the mistake of attempting to rewrite Dracula. Bram Stoker did a much better job than I ever will with that character, but I must confess, I still love vampire stories, even after all of these years.

Monsters, not tragedy, that is my goal. I'm finishing one novel now and then, almost immediately thereafter, I'll be starting BLOOD TIES. It's due in a few months, you see, and I hate being late, regardless of how often I find myself in that state of delinquency.

I will read many books. I will watch movies new and old. I will absorb them all and I will enjoy them, but make no mistake, I'll be working very hard at the same time.

That is, of course, before the first word is typed in the manuscript.

James A. Moore
The covers for BLOOD RED and BLOOD HARVEST by Edward Miller. from the Earthling Publication Limited Editions.

And HERE is a link to the short story that started it all. 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Why Building a Writing Habit is Essential

WARRIOR OF THE WORLD, which comes out January 8 2019, is being featured in a Goodreads giveaway until November 27! Great opportunity to win one of a hundred free copies! Kensington has also started a reader Facebook group called Between the Chapters. Lots of great giveaways on there - along with author chats. I'll be doing one in January, so join up and enjoy the party!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is one I suggested, on the idea that “Even When You’re Not Writing, You’re Writing.”

It's a good one for NaNoWriMo month, because there's so much fierce focus getting words on the page - which is something I absolutely believe in. NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month, for the uninitiated) is fantastic for building a writing habit, something that's essential for being a writer. There's a lot of reasons for this - as it's something I talk and blog about frequently - but one of the things that building a writing habit does is it allows your mind to work even when you aren't.
This can get dicey because people can be so good at denial. I can't tell you how often someone has said to me "I've got the entire book written in my head - I just need to write it down."

If you have written books, you know very well how much is packed into the space of that hyphen. If you haven't written a book, and revised it, preferably several of them, then you might not realize what a huge disconnect there is between those two ideas.


Seriously. It's hard. So difficult that most people never make it to the other side of that hyphen. Or they start and never finish.

Writing the story down, getting it right, is where all the craft, skill, dedication and perseverance of being a writer come in. You can market your little heart out, but if the story isn't there, if you haven't gotten the words down and refined to the utmost agree, you've got nothing to sell readers. 

This is why authors build and maintain writing habits. You don't get better until you write A LOT. Some say a million words to get there and I think that's probably a reasonable number. That means that even if you "win" NaNoWriMo and write 50,000 words in the month of November, you've still got 95% of the work to do to get to the point where your writing begins to hang together and actually be *good* - or, put another way, do NaNoWriMo for 19 more months.

Ouch, right?

By that I don't mean you have to write 50K/month for two years, but if you spend two years writing consistently - whatever works for you, whether every day or not - then you'll be getting somewhere. That can be offputting, but every successful writer I know has some version of that as part of their story.

The best part is, once you build that writing habit, something magical happens: the story really does begin to write in your head. Even when you're not actually putting words on the page, part of yourself is brewing the story, so that when you go to write, it's there for you and flows out.


This is a really huge BUT -

Remember that this is on the OTHER SIDE OF THE HYPHEN. If you think the story is all written in your head, but you've never written and *finished* an entire book, you're very likely kidding yourself. There's just no way around that.

So cheers to all in the middle stretch of NaNoWriMo! This is when it starts to feel grueling. Remember that you're building a great habit. Keep it up!

Friday, November 9, 2018

No Crossing the Streams

This is what wildly inaccurate reviews feel like. You press the publish button, something goes clunk, a review for a book that bears remarkably little resemblance to yours comes in, you blink, and you wonder what the hell just happened.

In this case, an aged Cuisinart lid gave up its seal, and here I am, wearing a gritty, smelly slurry of chicken liver and feline supplements. The only option for this was a washdown of the kitchen and a shower.

Recovering from a review that deliberately twists, misreads or otherwise misinterprets your writing is a little harder. On one hand, you want to correct the misconceptions, but holy cow. Where to even start?? Not to mention that it's thankless. On the other hand, there's that pesky truism about the book being the purview of the author and reviews being the purview of the reader and ne'er should the twain meet. It's sort of a Ghost Busters quote. "Don't cross the streams."

Am I saying you just have to sit on your hands when someone butchers your story in a review or blog post? Yep. Do not respond at all. That way lies madness. Your only real option is detachment. Develop the means to convince yourself that the moment you hit publish, your book is no longer yours. You've flung it out to the wide world and it now belongs to anyone and everyone who reads (or misreads) it. 

Remember this vital fact: a review says as much or more about the reviewer than it does about your story. Someone ripping up your story when all the other reviewers seem to like it? It's because you wrote the idea that reviewer has been nursing, but not writing, for decades. Someone assigning events to your story that aren't there? Reflection of the crap storm of their lives when they read.

A few of us on this blog have seen what happens when an author engages a reviewer who got the facts of a story dead wrong. Never, ever, ever have I seen it end well, no matter how respectfully the author approached the conversation. So just don't. If inaccurate reviews twist you up, DON'T READ YOUR REVIEWS. Not even kidding. Know your limits. 

And then, finally. Trust your readers. In the single instance when someone confused one of my books with -- I don't know -- a hallucination maybe and wrote a review based thereupon, other reviewers called them out in their reviews. You can't count on that, of course, but plenty of reviewers hate seeing factually inaccurate reviews, too, and will take pains to correct the misunderstandings. And that's super complementary, I think. 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Embracing the Hostile Read

There's an old saying, "No text can survive a hostile read." 

I also like this exchange from the West Wing, when Sam Seaborn is told that a passage from a speech given by the First Lady has angered an activist group.
SAM: I don't see it.
CJ: You have to want it to see it.

Here's the thing about writing anything: everyone is going to come at it with their own biases, their own take.  Once you send it out into the world, you have no way to control how people are going to take it.  And, more specifically, if people are going to want to misread your text, bring their hostile read to you, you really have to just take it.

I'm not saying this to address any specific or recent review-- in fact I've been quite pleased with the recent reviews for THE WAY OF THE SHIELD-- but more as a sort of zen reminder that people will find the things that they connect to, that they can interpret with their own biases, and even though it doesn't match my intentions... that doesn't matter.

I'm kind of arguing for "the death of the author", I know, but the point is, all I can do is put it on the page.  If the reader finds something there I didn't intend, that's how it is.  In fact, I think it's great to embrace that, and see what I can learn.  Isn't that what it's about, after all?  Constantly trying to learn, grow and improve?

That's my goal, at least.
Hey, are you in the northeast?  What are you doing next weekend?  Me, I'm the Special Guest at PhilCon!  If you can, come on out, and come say hello!   

Tuesday, November 6, 2018


It's Tuesday, November 6th. Here in the US, it's Election Day. 

Whatever your political opinions, go VOTE. 

Sunday, November 4, 2018

When Reviews Get It Wrong - *Really* Wrong

This was my view from the bed this morning when I woke up. The mountain bluebirds love this water fountain - and they always feel like a good luck visitation to me!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Dealing with an almost willful misinterpretation of the text."

It happens to every author. Probably to other artists, too. Hell, I even remember this sort of thing happening in the corporate world. Someone points to a problem in a document you produced, explains how it's wrong and why. And then you sit there, blinking at them, and wondering how on earth to respond since they ENTIRELY MISUNDERSTOOD AND IT'S NOT INCORRECT AT ALL.

It's kind of bizarre when it happens in a book review - and can be super upsetting when the reviewer pans the book because of it. I'm not talking about the reviews where the reviewer misspells the characters' names or gets some nuance wrong. Those are irritating, but whatever.

This is this kind of thing where they say "I hated this book because in the end it turned out to be all a dream and that kind of thing kills the story for me." An understandable critique in most circumstances.


It DIDN'T turn out to be all a dream and they misread.

Or misunderstood.

Or willfully misinterpreted?

Sometimes I wonder. And it's not just with my books. I've seen willful misinterpretations of classics or famous books that have me shaking my head. Sometimes I wonder if they're trying to gaslight people - give wrong information to create confusion.

When it happens with my books? Yeah - I often *really really really* want to explain. Not even to refute the negative review, because whatever, but to clear up their obvious confusion. But, the author rule of thumb not to respond to reviews unless invited to holds true.

Also, I do believe that most interpretations of a story belong to the reader. If the story lives in their head in a certain way, that's up to them.

BUT... I do have a little trick for dealing with stuff that feels like willful misinterpretations. At my next opportunity, I blog about or otherwise discuss that plot point or character, explaining something about it that refutes the misinterpretation, or explains that aspect of the story as I intended it. Just my little way of fact-checking and putting the good information out there, in case anyone wants it.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Scary Books? Read Bird Woman!

To close out our scary books week, I first have to say that I don’t read horror as a rule, or watch scary movies. As others have said, with my vivid imagination, the images and the scares stay in my brain wayyyy too long after I’ve finished the reading or watching experience.

I could give you a list of non-horror books that I found to be scary in other ways, on the topics of climate change, ebola-like viruses and the like, but that’s not really what we were going for with the theme, not in a week that included Halloween. (I wore a rainbow colored wig with a unicorn horn and purple ears BTW, to the delight of my toddler grandson….I also may have eaten a few too many Nestle Crunch bitesize bars…)

There is one scary book that always comes to my mind immediately when the topic arises and that would be Jeffe Kennedy’s Bird Woman. Here’s the very terse blurb: A psychological thriller set in the Pacific Northwest, the true story, told in essay form, of an encounter with the paranormal: a vengeful goddess in the Pacific Northwest.

It scared me to death when I first read it a number of years ago and I still remember it vividly. If you haven’t read it, go forth and do so!

I used to be able to read Stephen King and enjoyed his books quite a bit. Not all of them – some were totally not to my taste but for example, The Shining was one of my favorites. If I had to pick a second scariest book I ever read, it would probably be something by him, except I had to stop reading him years ago. I don’t know if he got even more ‘horrific’ in his writing or if I just got older and less able to shed the horror after reading it like most people do, but there was one novel of his (the title of which I’ve blocked from my brain frankly) where I spent an entire night having nightmares and couldn’t get his imagery out of my head. So I was done. Kudos to him for being such a powerful writer but I can’t even crack open any of his novels any more.

I do re-watch the TV movie version of “Langoliers” on occasion. For some reason I quite like that one…

Another book that stayed in my memory was Barbara Michaels’ The Crying Child. That one still gives me goosebumps. Not that she was writing horror, per se, but the power of some of the scenes really got to me. Ammie Come Home was another of her books that I read and re-read. She could spin a good tale with romance and an HEA, but scare me a bit in the process!

I think the common elements that scare me are a small group of people (maybe even just two people as with Jeffe's book), stuck in an isolated locale (islands seem to terrify me in this regard) and an eerie, threatening otherworldly presence bent on doing evil.

I don't write horror obviously but here's a snippet I shared last week for Halloween from one of my books, Mission to Mahjundar, where I took the Aztec god of death and adapted him to becoming an alien deity and then made my characters confront him. I'm pretty sure I wrote this particular sequence to get said deity off my mind because when I stood in front of a statue of him myself, in a museum in Mexico, the pure evil that radiated from that effigy was breathtaking. This scene is just the beginning of their encounters with the alien god...