Thursday, August 31, 2023

Summer Book Recs!

Summer is winding down where I’m at—the fields of corn and beans are yellowing, the garden is slowing, and a few leaves have fallen. But we’re clinging on to the last bits of hot sun this week with our topic: Summer Promo! 

I don’t have anything new to share with you, but I have read some great books recently! In the beginning of August I shared a couple of sci-fi recs, which you can find here, Recoil and The Blighted Stars. And I can’t not put another science fiction book on the list, and this one has a heavy dose of romance to compliment the exemplary tech! Book three in the Starlight’s Shadow series:

book cover of Capture the Sun in oranges and reds, a man and woman's profiles silhouetted against a planet.
Capture the Sun

by Jessie Mihalik

Acclaimed author Jessie Mihalik returns with the thrilling conclusion to her Starlight’s Shadow trilogy. An intergalactic thief must join forces with the charming teleporter who stole her last job—and may now be her only hope for saving her former crew. As a recovery specialist, Lexi Bowen’s jobs typically require more trickery and thievery than honest work. Her former captain might not approve of her flexible morals, but stealing artifacts for rich assholes pays the bills, and Lexi’s had enough of war and death. The FHP left her to die once; she doesn’t plan to give them a chance to finish the job. Unfortunately, her latest contract takes her to Valovia itself—and right back into the orbit of Nilo Shoren, a Valovian teleporter who already cost her one payday and nearly stole her heart. Armored against his clever charm, Lexi plans to get in, get the job done, and get out. But when her former crew goes missing in Valovian space, Lexi will have to work with Nilo to figure out what happened—and stop it—before the galaxy’s two superpowers can use the disappearance as an excuse to return to war.

If you’re in the mood for some fantasy on the high seas I highly suggest:

Dark Water Daughter

by H.M. Long

A stormsinger and pirate hunter join forces against a deathless pirate lord in this swashbuckling Jacobean adventure on the high-seas.

Mary Firth is a Stormsinger: a woman whose voice can still hurricanes and shatter armadas. Faced with servitude to pirate lord Silvanus Lirr, Mary offers her skills to his arch-rival in exchange for protection - and, more importantly, his help sending Lirr to a watery grave. But her new ally has a vendetta of his own, and Mary's dreams are dark and full of ghistings, spectral creatures who inhabit the ancient forests of her homeland and the figureheads of ships.

Samuel Rosser is a disgraced naval officer serving aboard The Hart, an infamous privateer commissioned to bring Lirr to justice. He will stop at nothing to capture Lirr, restore his good name and reclaim the only thing that stands between himself and madness: a talisman stolen by Mary.

Finally, driven into the eternal ice at the limits of their world, Mary and Samuel must choose their loyalties and battle forces older and more powerful than the pirates who would make them slaves.

And one last, fantastic read. The magic system and all their rules is so good and the relationships will suck you in, proving you can run but you can’t hide—book two in the Renegades of Magic series!

Rogue Familiar

by Jeffe Kennedy

He left to save her from herself… But who will save him from her?

When Lady Seliah Phel wakes from a drugged sleep to find herself abandoned by her newly bonded wizard, she vows revenge—and to hunt him down. Tracking him through the familiar wilds of the marshlands of her home is the easy part; learning to use her nascent magical skills is something else entirely. So is facing the vast, uncaring society of the Convocation in a time of brewing war.

Jadren El-Adrel is not known for doing the right thing, but getting as far away from Seliah as possible before he drains her dry will be his one noble gesture. So what if she weeps a few tears. Better than her dying in his service—or enabling him to become the ravenous beast that crawls beneath his skin. Unfortunately, in his self-imposed exile, and without the power of his familiar, Jadren quickly runs afoul of the enemy.

As her vengeful quest for recapture becomes a rescue mission, Selly faces all she still doesn’t know about the greater world of wizards and familiars. And Jadren, once determined to walk his own path and stay far, far away from the idealistic fools of House Phel, finds himself aligning with them against the house of his birth. War is coming to the Convocation, which means a clever wizard should pick the side most likely to win.

Sadly, Jadren has never been all that clever…

I’ve shared some of mine, do you have any book recs for me?

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Preorder Now! TWISTED MAGIC (and a Snippet)

I'm working away on TWISTED MAGIC! The preorder links are mostly live. (I use Smashwords to distribute to Apple and Scribd. They flagged the book because I used the keyword "adult," saying I must categorize it as erotica. Which, it isn't. I meant adult fantasy as opposed to YA fantasy, but apparently adult means erotic now and I can't even.) Anyway, you can preorder pretty much everywhere now. 

And, because you all have been waiting so patiently, here is a snippet from the book in progress :-)

Jadren heaved a sigh and rolled his head back, staring at the ceiling. “If I were to hazard a guess, which I apparently am being coerced into doing, I’d say that she means she thinks I ran away only as a bargaining chip. She won’t believe that I don’t truly want, in the charred cinder of my withered heart, to be Lord El-Adrel after her. Katica can’t conceive of anyone not wanting her power. She’s used that to play her heirs against each other all these years.”

“Do you?” Selly asked.

He lifted his head and gazed at her. Blinked, long and slow. “Do I want to be Lord El-Adrel? Dark arts, no! What would possess you to even ask such a question?”

“It’s a reasonable question,” she answered, studying him.

“Not unless you think I’m enough of a monster that I want to become my mother,” he spat back.

“See, that’s not a reasonable answer. You can head your house without becoming your mother.”

“Oh, and I suppose you believe I should follow the example of the sainted Gabriel, Lord of House Phool?” he sneered. “If my choices are to become a tyrannical megalomaniac or an idealistic idiot merrily leading my house to doom, or a passive/aggressive wannabe like Chaim Refoel, then I’ll take option D: none of the above.”

Or,” she retorted, “you could make the role your own. You’re not one of your mother’s automatons, plodding along mindlessly in the footsteps of others. If you became Lord El-Adrel, you could make the house over into what you want it to be.”

He curled a lip. “Why, Seliah—have you been harboring a secret desire to become Lady El-Adrel? Perhaps all that half-feral swamp beast behavior of yours has been a cover for a heart that quietly yearns for the power and glory of a high house.”

“Be nice,” she warned him. “You know I don’t care about heading a high house and, for the record, I don’t care if you are Lord El-Adrel or not. But I think your people deserve better. And,” she added after a moment, “the house deserves better.”

“The house is a house. She doesn’t deserve anything. She can’t, because she’s not a person.”

“Then why do you talk about her like a person instead of an ‘it’?”

“Because she’s a right bitch,” he observed without rancor. “You saw what she did to us.”

“She helped us to escape,” Selly replied remorselessly. “Besides, I think she wants you to be Lord El-Adrel.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not letting an over-magicked dwelling make life choices for me.”




Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Summer Reads: Meet the Gatekeeper on a Mission from Hel

Book Cover Image: The Burned Spy
Gods. Always ready to screw you.

When Bix the Gatekeeper is summoned from exile by the goddess of the Norse Under World, the former Dark Ops agent knows there’s a catch. On the surface, the terms of the deal are simple. Someone attacked the pantheon’s ambassador to the Mid Worlds and left the ambassador in a coma. In exchange for early parole, Bix must identify the perpetrator and drag their soul to Hel.

It’d be a sweet contract, if not for the details. The ambassador is Bix’s ex-girlfriend, the lead suspect is the key witness from Bix’s trial, and the organization leading the official investigation is the same intelligence guild that disavowed Bix when a covert op went pear-shaped. Undeterred, Bix returns to her old stomping grounds where clues in the smoldering woods of Centralia, Pennsylvania, lead to the waterfront of Washington, DC, and Worlds beyond.

Once valued for her skills in creating passageways as small as a capillary or as large as a continent, Bix’s success now depends on the relationships she was forced to abandon. As she squares off against friends who betrayed her and enemies keen to destroy her, Bix follows a trail of secrets, torture, and treason that leads to the very superpowers who banished her. With her freedom on the line and revenge within reach, this highly-trained operative will take on Fates, dragons, angels, and gods to get exactly what she wants.

Hel hath no fury like a burned spy.

BUY IT NOW: Amazon | BN | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Read the Completed Series: THE IMMORTAL SPY

Friday, August 25, 2023

Career Mulligans

 Who among us hasn't wished for a mulligan in career, relationships, or just life in general? We want do overs for a rough day or a shitty week or, if we really messed up, for an even longer stretch of time. Whether it's wisdom or naivete on my part, I don't entertain regrets about career much. There's no point. If I make a mistake, my only goal is to learn from it and do better going forward because there is no going back.

That being said, I feel pretty strongly that every book offers us a do over for free. I won't lie that I wish some things about my career, my life, and about me in general were different. I do. I wish I weren't a slow writer. I wish I weren't enmeshed in the life circumstance that I am WHILE AT THE SAME TIME recognizing just how privileged the circumstance is. I'm insane and I own that but I don't have to like it.

I did discover something quite by accident the other day about procrastination and I'm still processing it. It feels a little bit like a I got to pull all new cards from the deck, though, so I'll mention it on the off chance it's helpful to someone else. If you self-sabotage and you've done all the regular self-help work around it but can't seem to get traction, it's because you need to forgive yourself for past mistakes. Whatever they maybe. This can be old trauma - anything you wish had never happened. Maybe you hurt someone's feelings and were never able to make it right. Maybe you were a 9 or 10 year old kid home alone when something bad went down outside and you didn't know what to do, even though you tried, and there was no one around you could trust to ask for help and because of all of this, someone died. Oddly specific, I know.

I'm not saying you have to forgive someone else. If you were hurt, you don't have to forgive whoever hurt you. I'm saying it's time to give yourself grace and forgiveness. It's vital because no matter what happened, until you forgive your younger self for not knowing enough, not understanding enough, not being enough - you subconsciously carry around a weight that says you don't deserve any good thing. Forgiving oneself isn't easy but it is necessary. We're monstrously unfair to our younger selves because we look back with the wisdom of knowing what we ought to have done, said, or been and unfairly judge the ignorance of our inexperience.

If you're in a position to wish you could have a do over for just about anything in life, it's a fair bet that you need to practice forgiveness for yourself first. Recognize that you did the best you could with the information you had at the time. Then get busy shaping your future.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Would Today Make a Good Groundhog Day?

Alexia standing in her long floral dress in the middle of her cottage garden, holding a large, green, bok choy plant

Today is my birthday! 

I had a wonderful day and it ended with a beautiful sunset. There’s nothing about the day that I’d do-over. Which happens to be our topic of the week—is there a point in your writing career that you wish you could do-over? 

Like everyone, I make mistakes. They sometimes make me cringe and sometimes make me frown, but I like to look at mistakes or failings as points of growth. If I chose to re-do anything I would be doing so with knowledge gained from said instance…which would mean I would... lose that wisdom…? At that point I think it starts to become a convoluted loop of linear timelines that only the Flash can traverse. 

Oooo, which gives me a great plot idea!!! 

See! A cherry on top of an already great day! 

May your coming weekend be filled with words!

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Career Do Overs: In The Beginning...

 This Week's Topic: Do I have a point in my writing career that I wish I could do over?

Hahahaha! So many. {facepalm}  If I had to choose, I'd go with the beginning of my career. To give a sense of era: I started writing when queries were still done via snail mail and mss were printed and shipped between author and editor. In hindsight, I would've paid less attention to the gatekeepers of tradition and rolled more with the innovators and risk-takers breaking ground in the indie market. When I think of all the money spent, time invested, and expectations contorted just to get three minutes with an editor from a big publishing house or an agent with a golden key to the Big 6....{wince}. Don't get me wrong, the folks were nice enough, but it was akin to being an Idol wannabe showing up for an open casting call at the convention center. The odds were not in my favor. Alas, the end of the printed communications era led to the era of "no response means no" from the gatekeepers, which exacerbated the wretched situation of not knowing if your query or requested mss was received when sent into the maw of slushpiles. Hence, why in-person meetings with gatekeepers increased in value, though the odds of getting The Call didn't. In the beginning, I invested too much in playing the meet-and-greet game and not enough in putting my work in front of a hungry audience. Had I been braver (and less arrogant, tbh) I would've embraced indie publishing long before I actually did.

Sure, I definitely needed to be rejected and fall flat multiple times to hone my craft and find my voice. I wouldn't do away with those early experiences. Nor do I wish to unmake the friendships and acquaintances from that time--we were all hungry, desperate, and disillusioned together. Wait, we still are! Only now we bemoan capricious ad platforms, series that miss when we could've sworn they'd be hits, and emerging technologies that harm more than help. 

I certainly feel I have more control over my career now than I did in the beginning, and a lot of that comes from lessons learned from the good, the bad, and the oof-that's-leaving-a-mark. 

It's said if you wish you could go back and make different choices, it means you've not only recognized your mistakes but also have learned from them. Thanks, School of Hard Knocks!

Friday, August 18, 2023

Social Media Trap or Marcella Goes Off the Deep End

"I wanna be where the readers are.
I want to see them reading.
Carrying around those -what do you call them? Oh. Right. - BOOKS.
Out in the sun. Or in the shade.
On the beach or in a cafe.
Read in a bar.
Wish I could be a Tik Tok star."

My apologies to The Little Mermaid.

Social media is hailed as The Way to sell books. You need to know Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram, the rotting corpse that was once Twitter. . . It gets overwhelming fast. Publishers push authors to do all the things! Yet experienced indie author Kristine Kathryn Rusch likes to remind authors that the best advertisement for your current book is your next book. Cal Newport argues that your best, most creative work  comes from flow state and that flow is achieved best in deep work - those times and places where the external world goes away and you descend into deep brainwave activity wherein you lose track of time and are absorbed in your material. This state is predicated on not being interrupted, not having your attention fractured by anyone or anything. He argues that readers shouldn't necessarily have access to you. You have a job. Writing.

I suppose if you compartmentalize extremely well, you could make an argument for engaging in deep work for a few hours each day and then indulging in a little social media promotion. Fair enough. I'm having to think a little harder about that because I don't compartmentalize well. Maybe not at all. It doesn't help that earlier this week, I heard someone mention that cell phones are black mirrors. This rocked me. 

If you aren't familiar, black mirrors are scrying mirrors used in ritual and divination. They are powerful tools and most of us familiar with them keep them carefully wrapped and hidden away from casual glances. This is because a part of you travels when you scry. Part of you goes bye-bye. It's one thing to do that intentionally and for a purpose and then to shut down the mirror after and to reclaim every part of you that went traveling. 

Black mirrors drain energy. It's not malicious. It's just part of the work done with them. They don't have intent, but their utility is the emptiness that draws practitioners out of their human shell to journey for answers to a question or for a vision of something. Used consciously and safeguarded appropriately, they're harmless and helpful. 

If cell phones are black mirrors, they are black mirrors that are used utterly unconsciously. They aren't warded or guarded. We stare into them without regard for where we go when we do. Just try to get the attention of someone absorbed in their phone. Where do we go when we stare in that black mirror? Where does our energy go? I'm not saying that cell phone are traps devised by the Fae. I am saying that if the Fae wanted to build irresistible traps for mortals to fall into, they could have done worse than to have invented cell phones.

Social media, cell phones not withstanding, isn't evil. There are plenty of benefits: engaging with people you enjoy but maybe have never met in real life, finding new-to-you info and books and music, in a world still constrained by pathogens, social media can be a glimpse into a larger, more diverse world. We should absolutely enjoy and contribute to those things. But if we're going to social media *just* to sell books rather than build relationships we enjoy, we'll do more harm than good.

So before you stare into that black mirror in your hand, think long and hard about what you want to get out of it so you know exactly what and how much to put into it.

Thursday, August 17, 2023

Cover Reveal: TWISTED MAGIC!

I'm a day late posting because yesterday was crazy. Lots going on here, all good. I hope to share with you all soon! 

In the meanwhile, the news you've all been waiting for, I know: TWISTED MAGIC, Book #3 in Renegades of Magic, has a cover and a release date!!! It will be out October 30, 2023. The preorder links are still going live, but we'll add them to the website as they do. As always, you can preorder directly from me via the website. That includes print (which isn't available for preorder anywhere else). I'll have the back-cover copy and tagline soon, as I'm well into writing the book. At last!! Hooray!!!


Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Social Media Engagement: There's Always a Cost

This Week's Topic: Social Media Engagement

{steeples fingers}

{stares into camera}

Your time is a commodity. A very valuable one. 
Your emotional investment is an undervalued yet critical commodity.
Not every commodity is measured in money.

There's a lot of advice on where, when, and how authors should engage with their audiences. There's even pressure from publishers of all sizes for authors to grow their audiences to the magical level of "influencer" (thus, making the author the owner of the marketing burden, aka the marketing costs). Taking on the social media challenge is all well and good for authors who enjoy virtual engagement, but there's a significant portion of authors who don't, and that's okay too.* 

Social butterfly or not, the minimum requirement in the virtual space for an author is a website that lists your books, preferably by series then by reading order. That's it. No engagement necessary. Your website exists for readers who've stumbled on your work(s) and want to read more. All the other stuff that authors of small, medium, or large readerships have on their sites is there because the author either: a) has the time and desire to offer and maintain it, or b) pays someone else to do it for them. Either way, there is an out-of-pocket cost in cash and time. 

If you want to be more aggressive, get your name out there, and develop an auto-buy readership, a robust social media presence is certainly one way to do it. However, understand that the pressure on authors to be active on social media comes from the misbegotten notion of "free advertising." Just because you're not paying money to exist in a virtual "public" space doesn't mean that you're not paying in opportunity costs, in your time, or in your emotional capacity. Lots of writers prefer to spend those resources on writing their next book. Is engaging in social media a direct 1:1 cost exchange for a writer? Of course not. Your personal resource values are unique to you, and only you can truly know the costs. 

For some authors, it's cheaper to pay big platforms like Facebook, Amazon, or Bookbub to run ads than it is to build brand awareness and loyalty through social media. It's certainly easier to measure ROI on an ad campaign than on a Discord server.

Don't allow external pressures to force you to do more than you can afford, be it in finances, time, or health. 

By contrast, be aware that the less effort you put forth, the fewer sales you get.

When it comes to social media,
you should do what enjoy
and discard all that gives you angst.

*Note: If you're under contract with a publisher, be sure to read and, if necessary, modify any clauses that stipulate your web presence and/or participation. You don't want to be in breach of contract just because Instagram is an anathema to you.

Friday, August 11, 2023

What's On My Mind

I wish I had something sexier for you. I don't. What's on my mind is Covid. Not just because it's surging in the US and around the world but because it came in my door 14 days ago. It got Mom first. Then it go the rest of us. We did the Paxlovid thing and are dealing with the rebound now. Y'all. There have been SO many runs to Urgent Care. It's silly. Anyway. You know why I missed last week. I felt like hot garbage. I'm feeling better than that, now, but this rebound nonsense is zero fun. 0/10 do not recommend. 

So. Stay safe out there. We masked everywhere that wasn't home and it wasn't enough to keep us safe. Thankfully, so far, my father (the objectively most vulnerable) is the one skating this with the fewest issues. Anyway. Look out for yourselves and your loved ones. I wish this on no one.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Best Laid Plans and Magical News!

I had Plans for today's blog post here at the SFF Seven. But we know what the poet said about best-laid plans...

Yes, my day has gang agley. 

All in a good way, though. I got a lot done. Important stuff, just not quite the several steps required to post what I hoped to post today. So the short and dirty update is:

  • TWISTED MAGIC will have a release date and preorder link soon!! (Though you can already preorder it on my website.)
  • Of my new book that I've been writing, the one I wasn't supposed to be writing, but that insisted on being written, which I've been calling ONEIRA, Agent Sarah said: "You’ve crafted your very own fairytale, Jeffe and it’s magic."
  • We strategized today, so look for more news on ONEIRA soon! And on TWISTED MAGIC!

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

On My Mind: Marketing Ouches & Ought To's

 This Week's Topic: On My Mind

What's on my mind this week? Marketing plans. Coming up with an improved version that will hopefully net more sales with a positive ROI. I've subscribed to assorted marketing guru sites and newsletters, enough to make my mailbox weep from the digital space hoggery. Some guides are useful for general sales, others for books, and still others for fiction. Of that, maybe 2% is relevant to selling fantasy novels. That's the kicker with most marketing resources, very few are applicable to novels. Fashion? Beauty? Tech? Resources abound, but selling books is a different beast. Moreover, selling fiction is different from selling non-fiction, just as selling Inspirationals is different from selling Grimdark. The key to successful marketing is to get your product in front of your target audience without getting too niche. There's a cost to micro-refining your audience, both in higher monetary cost as well as loss of potential audiences. 

Don't get me wrong, this isn't bitch post. It's a statement of the opportunity landscape. Speaking of opportunities, the places to advertise--both digital and print--for small businesses with small budgets are very limited. Conversely, the publishers (indie, small, and trad) number in the millions and are all vying for that limited space. Apply the basic economics of supply and demand, and it's no wonder advertising costs are rising while sell-through (actual sales) are stagnant (or declining. Yoiks!

Wah wah wah. {Tiiny violin.} What's to be done? For me, I gotta get over my strong distrust of certain digital institutions that offer small business advertising platforms (lookin' at you, Meta) and reevaluate venues that generated negative ROI 5+ years ago to see what's changed, what's improved, and what's best left untouched. Additionally, I need to catch up on the tech advances of certain sales/advertising resources and update what promotions I have running. Oh, right, I also need to create an advertising calendar that empowers me to develop, engage, and track promotions, instead of pantsing and forgetting (doh!). 

Yeah, I reckon I oughtta get to getting on my list Ought To's instead of weeping over the derth of sales. After all, I can't whine if I'm leaving opportunities on the table. 

{Well, I can whine, but. that'd just make me a big 👶}

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Card carrying fan-girl

Question of the week: Do I read in the genre I write?

This question is an easy one for me, because I’m very proud to have been an avid reader of my niche, fantasy romance, long before I was a writer. To be honest, I'm a little skeptical of writers who say they don't read in the genre they write. This cynical attitude probably comes from being a part of romance spaces where the voracious readership means that sometimes people who know nothing about romance think writing it is an easy way to make a buck. With no appreciation for a genre and what makes readers love it, an author is just going to flounder.

At the same time, I'm totally sympathetic to authors who started writing from a place of love--as a fan of their genre, whatever that genre might be--and now struggle to find the time to read as much as they used to. I certainly go through reading dry spells when I'm more interested in my own stories that anything written by some one else. There is also something to be said for taking a break from reading works similar to yours when you are in the midst of drafting in order to hold onto a purity of your own voice.

But my own reading dry spells never last long—reading is just too important to me, and has always been my favorite way to relax. I also enjoy engaging with readers over our shared love of books. It’s fun to get recommendations from readers, or to be able to point them at books I love when they are looking for a specific trope or theme. If I’m not reading widely in my genre, then I feel like I’m missing out!


Jaycee Jarvis is an award winning fantasy romance author, who combines heartfelt romance with immersive magical worlds. When not lost in worlds of her own creation, she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her spouse, three children and a menagerie of pets.


Thursday, August 3, 2023

Sci-Fi Book Recs!

This week we’re talking about one of my favorite subjects—let’s talk about books! 

It never fails to blow my mind when a writer mentions they don’t read. Maybe you’re one of them. But I firmly believe, and will continue to say,  that reading will improve your own writing. 

Yes, you can take classes and get degrees that will teach you how to write. But if you don’t read and absorb emotions from the page, it’s like following a recipe step by step but never stopping to taste what your cooking. 

Back to my favorite topic! Books! I write both fantasy and science fiction, and though I read basically all genres (sorry gridmark, you’re a touch too dark for me) I glom SFF reads. Recently I’ve devoured some excellent sci-fi! So, let me gush:

book cover for Re-Coil with rainbow colored circle and an astronaut in a white space suit floating in the middle

Re-Coil by J.T. Nicholas

Out on a salvage mission with a skeleton crew, Carter Langston is murdered by animated corpses left behind on this ship. Yet in this future, everyone’s consciousness backup can be safely downloaded into a brand-new body, and all you’d lose are the memories of what happened between your last backup and your death. But when Langston wakes up in his new body, he is immediately attacked in the medbay and has to fight once again for his life—and his immortality. Because this assassin aims to destroy his core forever.

Determined to find his shipmates and solve this evolving mystery, Langston locates their tech whiz Shay Chan, but two members are missing and perhaps permanently killed. Langston and Chan are soon running for their lives with the assassin and the corporation behind him in hot pursuit.

What Langston and Chan ultimately find would signal the end of humanity. What started as a salvage mission just might end up saving the world.

This futuristic, as opposed to near-future, sci-fi plays off the idea of our souls consisting of the neural pathways that we’ve been able to contain on a computer chip and when you die, you can be re-coiled into a new body. 

There’s quite a bit of repetition in describing how different people mentally handle being re-coiled into various bodies. Some readers/writers go the repetitive route, some, like me, avoid it. To each their own. But the plot line is tight, intriguing, and the emotional connection between Langston and his former crew mate is intense. 

I highly suggest this if you’re in the mood for a sci-fi with a heavy dose of mystery, tension, and a nice romance sub-plot.

book cover for These Blighted Stars with dark, grey-green scale scene of a man and a woman standing on a bleak landscape

The Blighted Stars by Megan E. O’Keefe

When a spy is stranded on a dead planet with her mortal enemy, she must first figure out how to survive before she can uncover the conspiracy that landed them both there in the first place.

She’s a revolutionary. Humanity is running out of options. Habitable planets are being destroyed as quickly as they’re found and Naira Sharp knows the reason why. The all-powerful Mercator family has been controlling the exploration of the universe for decades, and exploiting any materials they find along the way under the guise of helping humanity’s expansion. But Naira knows the truth, and she plans to bring the whole family down from the inside.

He’s the heir to the dynasty. Tarquin Mercator never wanted to run a galaxy-spanning business empire. He just wanted to study rocks and read books. But Tarquin’s father has tasked him with monitoring the mining of a new planet, and he doesn’t really have a choice in the matter.

Disguised as Tarquin’s new bodyguard, Naira plans to destroy his ship before it lands. But neither of them expects to end up stranded on a dead planet. To survive and keep her secret, Naira will have to join forces with the man she’s sworn to hate. And together they will uncover a plot that’s bigger than both of them.

This sci-fi follows off the same theory that our souls can be downloaded into new bodies, making us near immortal. And it’s immortality that’s driving a dirty hunt for an element that will enable us to live even longer. 

Filled with political intrigue, undercover spies, a young scientist, and tangled emotions, The Blighted Stars is a fantastic other-world read!

I know, the second blurb was short. They’re both fantastic reads, I’m just running out of time. I need to catch a plane! And yes, I’ve packed two paperback books and have two queued up on my kindle….I hope I don’t run out of things to read! 

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Writing What I Read

This week at the SFF Seven, we're asking: "Do you read in the genre you write?"

What's funny is that my answer is absolutely yes - but that I didn't always write in the genre I read. Does that make sense?

I have always read Fantasy and Science Fiction, since I was a little kid, and I've been reading Romance since I was old enough to walk to the used bookstore to buy my own books, as my mom wouldn't let me read "that trash." (Because she thought Romance was low-brow and anti-feminist, not because of the sex.) But when I started out as a writer, I wrote Creative Nonfiction.

Some of this was timing and coincidence. When I decided I wanted to be a writer instead of a scientist, one of the first classes I took was "Essays on Self and Place," from a visiting writer at the university. I fell easily into writing essays and had success with them. My first book was an essay collection. And, sure, I read some essays. I read a lot of essay collections and memoir. But I was always reading them as research and reciprocity.

All that time, what I read for pure enjoyment? Anything with a paranormal/SFF element and plenty of Romance.

It was only after my first book came out that a friend - a bookseller who knew my tastes and sold me hardcover releases of JD Robb, Laurell K. Hamilton, Stephenie Meyer, and Jaqueline Carey - asked me why I wasn't writing in the genres I so clearly loved to read.

Funny that. It simply hadn't occurred to me. But then I started to, I wrote this Fantasy Romance* (not a genre then, but what did I know??) that was SO MUCH FREAKING FUN TO WRITE. I couldn't believe how much more fun I had writing my crazy tale about a scientist who falls into Faerie, becomes a sorceress, and ends up in a bargain with a fae lord to bear his child. I even got a really nice rejection on the book from Stephenie Meyer's agent! (Though it took a long time for me to sell it, which is another tale.)

The rest is history. ~ Waves at catalogue of Epic Fantasy Romances ~ I haven't looked back. Writing what I love to read has absolutely been a great decision.

*The book that became ROGUE'S PAWN


Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Read Broadly and Deeply

 This Week's Topic: Do I Read in the Genre I Write?

Absolutely. I like to keep abreast of evolving reader expectations, emerging storytelling styles, and exploratory concepts while evolving my skills. Of course, there's the blossoming of ideas and methods that come from studying what my peers are doing and what the "old masters" did that can be applied today. Naturally, some of what the old masters did needs to stay in the past as cautionary tales of the public mindset of their era. 

Do I also read genres other than what I write? Ayup, yup, yup. A story well-written is a story from which I can learn something. I can toss the takeaways into my bag of exponential holding and "fantasy it up" for my WiP. 

By and large, there are very few genres I avoid under the fiction umbrella. I won't read certain genres (or themes, or tropes) because of my innate biases. (Just thinking about them makes me angry.) Besides, there are too many books I really, really, really want to read so why would I force myself to suffer through something I don't want to read? College made me do enough of that.

To me, a great author reads broadly across many genres and deeply into the sub-genres.