Friday, December 31, 2021

New Years Eve

New Year, new stray cat in the neighborhood who found the sucker sign hung out on my door. This is Hemingway. He started coming around in the early morning darkness to get yelled at by my cats. He wouldn't let me even look at him. He'd charge away at a dead run. The good part is that someone had clearly already caught him once. He's ear tipped, which means he's already neutered and vaccinated. He went on being really shy and elusive for months. It was clear he had someone caring for him. His body condition was too good.

This holiday season, though, something changed. He began coming around more often. A lot more often. I managed to get a plate of cat food out to him one morning. Instead of running away, he crept onto the back porch and ate like he'd never seen food before and might never again. He was skinny. I suspect whoever had been feeding him either got sick or moved away. Our handsome, solid black cat with gold eyes shows up every evening and most mornings, ready for his hand out. And yes. He is a polydactyl. The boy is graced with a couple of extra thumbs on each front paw.

My cats have gone from being offended by the trespasser (and complaining loudly about it) to sitting at the back door to watch him eat. I'd like to trap him and bring him in to assess his socialization. If a cat can settle into life indoors with humans, a cat should have that opportunity for two reasons. First - cats live longer, healthier lives indoors. Two - outdoor cats have a hand (a paw?) in stressing songbird populations. 

Since Hemingway has warmed up quite a bit - I'm now allowed within three feet of him. He'll look me in the eye and ask for more food. I'm comfortable saying he's not really feral. It's clear he knows what people are and I think he's learning from my cats not to be afraid. The only hitch is that he's trap wise. If I put the live trap out, he won't come anywhere near. So I'm going to have to be much sneakier. However, the rescue I usually work with is currently shut down to quell a terrible upper respiratory infection that's running rampant through their cat population. So we're all on hold, caught in the liminal space between aspiration and action. Seems appropriate for New Years Eve when you're waiting for the old year to end and for the new one to begin.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Adjusting Those Variables for the New Year


This week at the SFF Seven, we're sharing thoughts about the changing of the year.

I like the reflection the end of one year and the beginning of a new one brings. You all know I'm into metrics, so the end of a year - however arbitrary a measure - provides me with a milestone to group data. I can look back at the past year, compare it to previous years, and make plans for the one ahead. 

Am I a maker of resolutions? Some years more than others, yes, but mostly I look on the process as adjusting my variables for the year ahead. Life is an ongoing experiment this way. We try stuff, see how it works out, then make changes accordingly. This is how all experimentation works: make a hypothesis, test it by gradually adjusting variables, and keep track of the resulting data.

I know a lot of people react negatively to the concept of new year's resolutions, especially given the daunting statistics about them. For example, from this article, after 6 months, only 46% of people who make a resolution are still successful in keeping it, and by the end of the year only 9% feel they are successful in keeping it.

Interesting to me, a third of the people who failed to keep their resolutions didn’t keep track of their progress and another quarter of them forgot about their resolutions. This may sound funny - I laughed! - but it's actually super easy to forget those aspirations in the tumult of daily life. 

One year I tried writing down goals for the coming year and sealing them in envelopes to be opened on New Year's Eve, so I could see how I did. People, I'm telling you: if I hadn't made myself a reminder to open the envelopes, I'd have forgotten they existed! Reading my goals from Past Jeffe of only a year before was truly eye-opening. It almost didn't matter which goals I'd met, exceeded, or fallen short of - simply comparing the reality with my aspirations taught me a great deal.

This is partly why I'm a believer in tracking all kinds of metrics about myself. Remember, a third of the people who failed to keep their resolutions didn't track their progress while another quarter forgot about them! That's 60% of the failures that might have been successes if they'd had daily tracking and reminders. 

So, I'm doing a series on my podcast this week about the metrics I keep - particularly regarding my writing process - along with the how's and why's. Feel free to ask questions! 

And Happy New Year to all!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

A Wish at the Changing of the Year


As we depart an angst-laden 2021, I wish for you, our dear readers, a joyous new year filled with good health, abundant hope, sufficient wealth, and many occurrences of happiness that warm your bones and thrill your heart.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Happy New Year!!!

 May the new year bring you all joy, prosperity, and good health!  

May you have endless reasons to smile.

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Day Before Christmas

Not a creature is stirring (except to change who gets to snooze under the tree) this day before Christmas. Arya and Cuillean want to remind you that the smallest things are often the greatest gifts. 

May you and yours find peace and joy this holiday season.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

DIY Holiday Cheer!

A solid-core door cut in half and flipped to make a Christmas tree, painted bright green, and strung with white lights. 

Baking, decorating, wrapping...crafting decorations. Whatever you're up to this week I hope you enjoy! I finished turning this solid-core door into a Christmas tree. 

If you have an old door sitting around, collecting dust, give this a go!

  • Cut the door diagonally in half
  • Paint it! I went with a bright Christmas tree green
  • Flip one side so it takes a tree shape and reattach the hinges
  • Set upright and enjoy!

I’m excited about the stack of books waiting for me. Coffee and reading, that’s my Christmas morning plan. After the kiddos wake us up for presents that is. But after dealing with puke this week, I’ll gladly wake up early if it means they’re feeling good.

I hope you and yours stay healthy and joyous! 

Merry Christmas! 

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A Midwinter Holiday Gift - FIRE OF THE FROST Is Out Now!

 Today is release day for FIRE OF THE FROST


A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology…

A Wynter Fyre by Darynda Jones

In a world where vampyres have been hunted to near extinction, the daughter of a demon is sent to save their race. Wynter ends the Blood Wars, but a single drop of vampyre blood accidentally crosses her lips. As punishment, she’s encased in stone for a hundred years. When she awakens, she vows revenge. Even if it means her demise. Her quest leads her to the vampyre prince who supposedly started the wars. He comes to her aid after she’s attacked, and Gareth’s deadly prowess may be exactly what Wynter needs to defeat the woman who created her. Or exactly what she needs to thaw her frozen heart.

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet

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

The King of Hel by Grace Draven

Castil il Veras, daughter of lesser boyars, attends the gatherings that celebrate her best friend's upcoming marriage to the cursed king of a sorcerous kingdom. She soon learns that even marked by the magic of the Wastelands, Doranis of Helenrisia is everything she's ever desired in a mate—and absolutely forbidden to her. Bound by duty to crown and country, Doranis has traveled to the Caskadan empire to marry a woman who loathes the sight of him. During the prenuptial celebrations, he meets a scribe who finds him fascinating instead of repellent, but Castil is beyond his reach. Fate, however, would have it otherwise, and a beseeching letter from a dying queen will bring them together again in a land gripped by endless winter and old magic.

Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy

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


Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Happy Yule!

A happy Yule and 

joyous winter solstice to you and yours!

As part of the 12 days of celebration, I'm sharing one of my favorite Yule pictures by artist Iren Horrors:

Support the artist on:

Monday, December 20, 2021

Happy Holidays!

 May your holidays be filled with joy and may the new year bring you endless reasons to be grateful.

Friday, December 17, 2021

My Three Favorite Backyard Visitors

In the My Favorite list, I'm coming in with my three favorite backyard visitors. 


1. Colorful insect life. Mom and I wanted to plant flowers that would support pollinators. We've succeeded. The bees love our yard. As a bonus, we've seen a startling array of fluttery, colorful butterflies and moths. The runner up for this stunning blue butterfly is the hummingbird moth. They visit to feed on my salvias  in the early morning, but there's no hope of getting a photo of them.
2. The bird life. The sand hill cranes wander through all the time hunting for frogs, snakes, and other tidbits to eat. We also see ibis, pelicans, great blue herons, little blue herons, little green herons, cormorants, anhingas, and all kinds of ducks. It's a never ending parade.
3. Then there's this doofus and all of her brothers and sisters. That's the bbq grill she's stuffed herself underneath for a snooze. They are definitely my favorite wildlife.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Favorite Things ~ 2021 Edition!

two compostable cups of coffee from BlueNose, both sitting in snow covered, green clover next to a weather worn tree stump.

This week is an absolutely wonderful topic: Favorite Things! 

So far my favorites list has grown. Charissa had some excellent choices and reminded me it's writing glove season, KAK left me craving ice cream, and Jeffe made me realize it could be fun to write a short for an anthology! 

a light grey compostable coffee cup being held up to the ceiling strung with Christmas lights
Without further ado, I give you three things I’m loving right now:

BlueNose Coffee has the best hot drinks around. If you're ever in Minnesota, best make a swing through the southeast metro. My newest addiction is their eggnog chai latte—pure heaven! And it tastes even better while hiking in the snow.

a pile of Baker Creek Heirloom seeds, the top one is a Push Asta Black carrot seed pack with dark purple carrot slices on it.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is one of the top places I order my seeds through. I’ve always had excellent germination rates and receiving their annual seed catalogue is akin to the Sears toy catalogue arriving in the mail as a child! If you enjoy growing things you won’t be disappointed in their variety, or their beautiful seed packets!

cover of hardcover book: Pie Academy by Ken Haedrich with a lattice topped blueberry pie
Last but not least, a book. Pie Academy by Ken Haedrich is my go-to pastry book. There are pies in there I’d never heard of—but you can be sure I’m going to try them all out. If you’re a pie baker, or maybe you’re interested in giving it a go, Haedrich’s recipes are simple enough and the images drool-inducing enough to make it all worth the effort. 

There are a few of my faves…what are some of yours? What has you hooked right now?

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Three Reasons I've Loved Doing FIRE OF THE FROST!


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our three favorite... anything!

Since I'm down to the last few days of coordinating the upcoming FIRE OF THE FROST midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology, I'm thinking about my three favorite aspects of putting together this annual project.

The anthology releases next week on December 22, 2021 and you can still preorder it for the special sale price! The price goes up on release day. 


Working with My Friends

I always say one of the perks of being an author is getting to be friends with your favorite authors! While I love chatting with them online, putting together these group projects is the most fun. We get to collaborate in the best of ways. This year, working with Darynda Jones, Grace Draven, and Amanda Bouchet has been a real treat. 

Getting to Read the Stories

Did I mention these friends are all authors I love??? I just finished Amanda's delightful Of Fate and Fire, and am diving into Grace's The King of Hel. I can't wait to read Darynda's foray into fantasy, A Wynter Fyre.

Sharing the Cross-Promo

What makes this project so great, too, is that we share the promotion and cross-pollinate with our readers. It's super fun to see readers say "I discovered this author through your anthology!" It's a celebration of each other and something lovely to share with our readers. 

Only a week away!


Tuesday, December 14, 2021

My 3 Favorites: Ice Cream Parlors


In honor of my two towns, I'm going to share my three favorite ice cream parlors.

1. Graeter's Ice Cream -- Greater Cincy

Ice cream is their thing, particularly thick, satiny ice cream and huge chocolate chunks. Their flavors are fairly traditional, no lavender avocado here, but Buckeye (peanut butter n' chocolate) is absolutely a thing. Black raspberry chocolate chip is their mainstay and cinnamon shows up with peppermint stick during the holidays. They ship nationwide, have distribution via some major grocery chains, and have dine-in and drive-thru parlors in the greater Cincinnati area. Many parlors have bakeries too for those of us who take our coffee frozen in a pint and our apple strudel to go. 

2. Aglamesis Bros. -- Greater Cincy

Okay, it's another ice cream shop. Their champagne sorbet is absolutely delightful and their milkshakes make me trill with glee. That said, they're my favorite for their chocolates. Yep, bonbons. Buy them by the pre-packaged half or whole pound or build-your-own. Dark or milk chocolates, their confections are silky and flavorful without being too sweet. They don't skimp on the stuffings either from mint truffle to opera creme to coated nuts, their chocolates are divine.

3. Casa Rosada -- Old Town Alexandria, VA

Yep, going three for three with ice cream, but not quite ice cream. It's gelato based on the family's Argentinian roots. The shop is a classic a small biz run by a husband and wife team. What started as a hobby became an avocation. During the pandemic, they offer pick-up at the street-side window. Among the traditional flavors, uncommon flavors abound from haroset to sweet corn to malambo. For the vegans out there, they've got you covered too. It's a special treat for my family to get a multi-layered tri-flavored "cake" from here (ordered a week in advance). 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things...

This week at the SFF Seven, our topic is Favorite Things. I'm supposed to share three items that I love, and they can be anything. Funny, I started making a Favorite Things guide on Instagram to share with readers prior to the holidays, but I never finished it, so I'll post three things here--other than my family, my pups, and my laptop ;) Take a look! You might find something you like!

This West Elm blanket. This might seem like a weird Fave Thing, but I cannot live without it. It's so soft, cool in the summer, warm in the winter, organic cotton, and it washes so well. I would give loads of these blankets as gifts if I could. I'm obsessed and recommend it ALL THE TIME. I have one on every bed in my home, and I hope they never stop making them.

Storiarts Gloves. I love these so much! Storiarts carries a wide selection of fingerless gloves and other apparel and home goods with excerpts of classic novels (and some modern tales) printed on the fabric. They're a very soft cotton and wash well with no shrinking. No itchy wool. I'm always cold, so these fingerless gloves save me when I'm trying to write during Tennessee's icy winters.

Last but not least: All things Papier. If you're a writer and would like a nice note card that says FROM THE DESK OF {Insert Your Name}, this is where you need to shop. You can personalize the note cards any way you choose, and at a 5x7 size, they're large enough to write as much as you want. Papier also has planners, notebooks, stationary, invitations, and journals, all of which are excellent quality. There are so many lovely prints too, and most of their items can be personalized. I'm sharing this planner (which I don't have--yet), but I do have FROM THE DESK OF note cards that have a beautiful magical vibe with gold foil, and I love them.

That's it! Maybe you found something you like, or a good option for a gift. Christmas will be here in no time!

Happy Holidays,

Friday, December 10, 2021

Fluffy, Fun Mind Candy Self-Promo

Ah, the self-promotion thread. This was a post I did not want to write. Not just because I'm uncomfortable with self-promotion (because I'm a socially awkward dork) but because doing this post forces me to admit that the past two years have been a creative wasteland for me. Am I sitting on a work in progress where I know what happens? Yes. It is on contract? Yes. Have I been able to make a damned bit of progress on it? Not so far. Working on changing it - on changing me. Until then, if you want a low cognitive lift, fun and games story, I've got you covered.

The last thing I wrote and published is a fluffy little bit of mind-candy about a witch forced to work with a vampire to solve a murder.

Someone is sacrificing innocent people in the Seattle Underground. The murderer is trying, and succeeding, to raise a rogue vampire assassin. Rose Buchanan has the magic and the will to stand toe to toe with Vampire Magic. Including that possessed by the gorgeous blue-eyed vampire assassin who kidnaps her in a bid to pull a suspect list from her mind. When he can’t overcome her will, he releases her and sets out to woo it from her instead.

When she’s freed, Rose is more than ready to stake herself a vampire, but he’s a witness to the three murders. She can’t destroy him. Yet. Worse still to have to try to work with him when he keeps dialing the charm to 13.

Gethin is a vampire assassin forged long ago to police the Vampire Nation under the control of the Vampire Council. Now, the council believes the time of the assassins has passed. One by one, Gethin’s fellow assassins and their Blood Knives have been destroyed. Only he remains, his Blood Knife in the hands of a murderous, unhinged human.

Rose has a choice to make. Destroy Gethin or find a way to free him and make the entire Vampire Nation her enemy. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Character Driven Sci-Fi: THE MARS STRAIN

Image of a solar eclipse, fiery circle around the moon, and over that is the audiobook cover for The Mars Strain banded in Recorded Books red and an image of the Red Planet.









Narrated b: Morgan Hallett

Length: 10 hrs 28 min

We’ve colonized Mars, but we never should’ve come back.

When the first astronauts of the Mars Colony returned to Earth, they brought a mysterious, metal box they had found half-buried in the red dirt, called the Mars Cube. The scientists assigned to uncover its secrets tested it, scanned it, tried to blow it up, and everything in between. Then they accidentally opened it.  

Biosafety level-4 laboratories, BSL4, hold the most deadly viruses on the Earth, and Juliet handled them daily. Her research at the CDC landed her a position on the Mars Cube Investigative Team in the world’s only BSL-5 lab. The only drawback: Her ex was one of the astronauts that brought back the Cube. 

What was held inside the Cube shouldn’t have gotten out. It shouldn’t have ever been exposed to our planet because the Mars Strain is now loose and killing at a 100 percent mortality rate. Juliet is fighting for our very existence, Jake is working with the Mars Colonists to decipher the Cube’s holographic message for a clue, and someone wants to take over the Mars Program for themselves. They’re all watching the clock, and it's about to run out.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

FIRE OF THE FROST Fantasy Holiday Romance Yumminess

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

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

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


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

A midwinter holiday fantasy romance anthology…

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

Of Fate and Fire by Amanda Bouchet

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

The King of Hel by Grace Draven

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

Familiar Winter Magic by Jeffe Kennedy

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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