Books I’m excited about!

We received some pretty bad news this last weekend regarding one of our cats. Through all the ups and downs, all the fostering and adopting in and adopting out of companions, our male cat population (a.k.a the boyos) has remained steady.

No longer, and it looks like we’ll see the summer in with one less cat in our household. This is horribly depressing. . .

. . . so i’m more than willing to distract myself with books.

In exciting book news: the proofs for From the Roaring Deep went out to the various contributors *waves hand* to do one last look at our various contributions, and should be moving further along in the publication process after the 8th. (How interesting, the 8th as a deadline for a Poseidon devotional). I contributed an article on prayer beads that I’m quite happy with. I’m tempted to read the whole damn thing NOW, but no, no, I’ll wait. I’ll wait for the real deal. Really. . . . maybe . . .

I’ve also — thanks to Rebecca Buchanan — discovered a nice handful of new authors with work to devour, and I want to talk about the two I’m most excited about (Read: the two whose works I’ve read out of the handful of new material waiting on my Kindle.)

First: Jordan L. Hawk’s work, specifically her Whyborne and Griffin series. I’ll admit I’ve only read the first book so far, but I’m putting off reading more merely because I want to make the series last. This series open in a steampunk-esque (does it count as steampunk if it’s not England?) Massachusetts. It’s alchemy and occulty and just . . .  I want to go and visit the city they’re in. I want to sip tea and soak up the atmosphere. I love, love, love Hawk’s world crafting, and I love the character she creates with Whyborne. She uses dialogue as much as anything else to breathe life into her characters and does this very, very well.

From the author’s website: Repressed scholar Percival Endicott Whyborne has two skills: reading dead languages and hiding in his office at the Ladysmith Museum. After the tragic death of the friend he secretly loved, he’s ruthlessly suppressed any desire for another man.

So when handsome ex-Pinkerton Griffin Flaherty approaches him to translate a mysterious book, Whyborne wants to finish the job and get rid of the detective as quickly as possible. Griffin left the Pinkertons following the death of his partner, hoping to start a new life. But the powerful cult which murdered Glenn has taken root in Widdershins, and only the spells in the book can stop them. Spells the intellectual Whyborne doesn’t believe are real.

As the investigation draws the two men closer, Griffin’s rakish charm threatens to shatter Whyborne’s iron control. When the cult resurrects an evil sorcerer who commands terrifying monsters, can Whyborne overcome his fear and learn to trust? Will Griffin let go of his past and risk falling in love? Or will Griffin’s secrets cost Whyborne both his heart and his life?

Second: Meghan Ciana Doidge’s work, specifically her Dowser series. I read the first book (available for free!) after I read Hawk’s book, and I have not stopped yet. I don’t know that I’d say I like it better than Hawk’s series, and I certainly can’t say it’s a lighter story, because it’s not that. I can’t even say that Doidge is a better writer — they are both fantastic writers whose worlds one can slip into seamlessly. There’s none of that “get used to a new to you writer” feeling that you sometimes have to get through. Her books aren’t even faster paced. Something about them (the chocolate, maybe?) makes them seem lighter in tone, even though both series deal with things like demons threatening the world and the danger of magic in the wrong hands. Maybe it’s that Jade (Doidge’s point of view character) is more sarcastic? Maybe it’s that it’s less of a period piece and thus easier to just sink into? I don’t know.  It’s easier, for whatever reason, and with Bad Days Ahead, I really want easier.

From the author’s website: If you’d asked me a week ago, I would have told you that the best cupcakes were dark chocolate with chocolate cream cheese icing, that dancing in a crowd of magic wielders — the Adept —  was better than sex, and that my life was peaceful and uneventful. Just the way I liked it. That’s what twenty-three years in the magical backwater of Vancouver will get you — a completely skewed sense of reality. Because when the dead werewolves started showing up, it all unraveled … except for the cupcake part. That’s a universal truth.

So far, the sex bits in these two series is a lot more explicit and steamier in the Whyborne series. For those of you who care about such things, Whyborne and Griffin have male/male pairing. (I don’t care about these things — give me a good story, and steamy sex is nice, too!) Oh! Maybe, just maybe, part of the reason I like the one better than the other is the potentially not-human romantic interest. Yes, that sounds like me, actually . .  .

Book Release: A Fading Amaranth by Shauna Aura Knight

To make this clear: This is not my book that’s being released. Shauna’s new novel, A Fading Amaranth, is out in e-book with a print release to follow. I haven’t even actually read the book yet — but I have read portions of it, and I have read her other fiction, and I am so excited about this I cant stand it. I have a small number of obligatory reads to get through first, but this baby has mode to the top of my list once that’s done because, you know, vampires. *rubs hands gleefully*

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From the blurb: Nathaniel’s been a vampire long enough to grow weary of glamoured seduction, and he’s lost his poetic muse. He meets reclusive artist Alexandra—her telepathy has overwhelmed her for years, and she can bear no one’s touch. However, she can’t hear Nathaniel’s thoughts, and she’s immune to his vampire glamour. During scorching nights together, they rediscover their passion for life.

When a Faerie creature stalks Alexandra, the lovers find themselves snared in a paranormal battle alongside Chicago’s mage guardians. Worse, Nathan’s rising bloodlust places Alexandra in danger. Will she master her abilities before going insane? What will they risk to be together?

~*~*~*~*~

Look, if you haven’t checked out Shauna’s fiction by now (what’s wrong with you?) that’s okay, you can fix that. As an author, her world building is detailed, lush, believable, and fits the stories she’s telling. I love when writers manage to make the world around as much a player in the story as the characters are. Alexandra and Nathan are interesting, intriguing people, and I love seeing them interacting together . .. and, you know, ‘interacting’ together. Because, be advised, Shauna’s stories run hot, if you know what I’m sayin’. I am so looking forward to diving into this book!

Paying Attention to the Story

Story telling is more than just the technical bits of getting words onto the page, right?

By now I really should know things — most of the things — about my storytelling process. It’s a bit annoying (and humbling) when I realize I don’t.

In January I was making great progress with the WIP. In February I added a non-fiction book to my WIPs ‘pile’. (file-pile?). In March I effectively slammed the breaks on all writing, and have done nothing beyond blog posts since. This week I finally cracked open the fiction WIP, discovered that in the time between January and now I convinced myself that I had 8k words less than I actually have, and that the scenes sucked.

They don’t suck. They are awesome, and I love them, and rereading them brought me to a place of, “*I* wrote this? Really?? But, this is *good*!”

It also helped realize that a huge portion of my reluctance to write is that I don’t like what I have planned for the next 2-3 chapters. I like where I have my MCs going, I agree that they need to get to that point, but I don’t like how I’m going about it, it does not fit them or their relationship. Yes, as I work toward the climax of the book I need to do terrible, awful, horrible things to Charlie and Roern . . . . but they have to be the right terrible, horrible, awful things and, more to the point, the reactions that Roern and Charlie have (especially Charlie) need to fit their personalities.

So tomorrow I’m writing a new outline and then diving back in!

My only regret is that I wish I had realized earlier that this was why I was dragging my feet. The second I say, “Meh, I don’t really want to write,” really ought to be the second I realize something is off with my story. I’d decided, in my mind, that since I’m outlining now, my standard MO of having the second half of my longer works fall apart to reform into how they are really meant to be would no longer happen — but that’s maybe not going to be true. Maybe what outlining is going to do for me is help me realize sooner when I’m off track? In my defense, there was a lot of nerve pain and health issues, so I was distracted, but I’d like to know sooner that the “eh, writing, bleh.” is about the actual story and less about me being tired/sick/in need of mental refueling.

So far, I have *not* finished the first book in the series, though I’d planned to be on book 2 (and halfway through it) by now. Alas. I still hold out hope that I may get them all written this year. But if not . . .well, my plans were over-ambitious, and I realize that.

The Emperor’s Edge series by Lindsay Buroker — a review

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Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

Thus kicks off a seven book series (with an assortment of ‘in between’ shorts and an eighth book that’s related) which follows Amaranthe, Sicarius, and an assortment of unlikely companions as they do their best for emperor and country . . . and if doing their best results less in reward and more in bounties on their heads, surely that’s just misunderstandings, right?

~*~*~*~*~

I am so happy to have discovered Lindsay Buroker’s writing. I came across her work first in the Nine By Night bundle, which contained the first book in her Rust and Relic series. I snagged Emperor’s Edge in December, after reading the available Rust and Relic books, because I needed more of her writing; I was expecting to enjoy this series. I wasn’t expecting it to become my favorite of her work thus far. Lindsay handles a wide cast of characters with seeming ease. While Amaranthe and Sicarius are the main main characters, the rest of the team gets a decent amount of screen time, and the chemistry between them all is believable. Her mastery of pacing and tension is a delight to read, and she weaves connections between the characters with a skilled hand. I cannot, cannot recommend this series highly enough. What do you have to lose? The first book is available for free, still, so you may want to hop on that.

Mistwalker — Saundra Mitchell — a review

Oh, this book. This book, y’all.

I don’t go browsing shelves that much these days, preferring to do my browsing in the comfort of my home, but there’s something to be said for ducking in and checking out physical shelves now and again. It’s an engagement of chance, of happenstance, and sometimes the best discoveries are made this way.

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Saundra Mitchell’s Mistwalker is one of those best discoveries.

First things first: sometimes covers really do their job well. Catchy, somewhat spooky title? Young woman staring up at a fog-enshrouded light house? Yeah, that alone is enough to rope me in. But then, oh, then, the blurb:

When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visit the Grey Man. Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls. Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?

Is this not the perfect book for me to want to read? Why, yes, yes it is, please let me devour that, thanks.

This is a heart-breaking story, and from page one I was with Willa as she struggled to deal with the grief of having lost her younger brother. Worse, to feel responsible for his death, Willa has a weight dragging at her that she cannot shake lose. All around her family and friends are continuing with their lives, but she watches the ramifications of a tragedy  which she’s put in place, and she knows — she knows — that it’s all her fault. Her heart longs for the comfort of the sea, to be out on the open water, to escape from this hell that her whole world has become, and in this yearning, she becomes someone the Grey Man can reach out to. She is pulled, more and more, to the haunted light house that stands sentinel over her island home.

The Grey Man — or, Grey, as we come to know him — was not always the monster he is now. He was not always a prisoner of this curse that chains him by a sea he despised during his lifetime. No, once he was a foolish man who made a foolish promise, and now he’s caught, forced to capture a thousand souls or forever remain trapped in the light house, alone, not dead, but not alive. That is, unless he can get someone to take his place . . .

Mistwalker is romantic, not so much in the ‘will they jump each other’s bones?’ sort of way, but in the classical, tense-ridden, yearning for so much more than just physical contact sort of way. It is a dance between freedom and enslavement, a dance between right and wrong, between the mystical, the magickal, the unseen, and the very, very mundane. It’s a story filled with the superstitions of the sea, the history of people living life at the sea’s mercy, of human courage and human failings. This is a beautiful book written by an author who has a mastery of setting. I’ve longed for the east coast, during the reading of this book, like I haven’t in quite a while. I did not just read about a small fishing town in Maine. Mistwalker picked me up, transplanted me, and stuck me down by the docks while I watched this story unfold. I loved this book. I can’t wait to gobble up the rest of  her books — though I suspect this one shall remain my favorite.

 

 

Currently reading, and last five?

Just because I like to take a peek into other people’s bookshelves/towers . . .

I’m currently making my way through the Percy Jackson books (I’m on my second go of Sea of Monsters). These are ending up being fun, light, bed-time reading, though I’m starting to read them to Corbie as we go, because he enjoys story time, and he prefers boy protagonists. Am not sure how he feels about the god angle, but he’s not a super fussy audience.

I’m also reading (a lot more slowly) The Myths of Narasimha and Vamana, which is a study of, well, the myths of Narasimha and Vamana, two avatars of Vishu, what their lore and worship-history looks like, how they differ in their approach to problems at hand, and how two such different beings could be, ultimately, the same at the source. The writing is very approachable, and the author does a great job of making sure even people with a very superficial understanding of the Vedic sources *waves hands* has an idea of what she’s talking about. So, yay for that.

My last five reads? The Lightning Thief (reread #3); Osun Across the Waters; Dead Heat (the newest Alpha and Omega book, and oh my god, do I love Anna and Charles? Yes, yes, I love Anna and Charles); Bringing Race to the Table: Exploring Racism in the Pagan Community; after that it gets jumbled. There have been a decent amount of nonfiction, enough that I’m craving another fiction splurge . . . Which is nice enough, because I’ve got some fiction waiting for me . . .

What are your last five?

Chapter Three will be going out in a couple of days! Also, some babble.

Just a reminder on that! Remember, if you’re interested in signing up and getting the previous two chapters, you can! Just leave a note when you’re paying and I’ll send those along, too.

Remember how I said I’d be curtailing my social media presence in February in order to buckle down? Remember how I said I really wanted to meet my (albeit self-imposed) deadlines? Remember how I’ve talked about realistic goals, and knowing thyself, and all that crap?

Yeah.

So, to recap: going in to 2015 I recommitted to Writing All The Things. All the things in this case was: get the Marriage trio (need a serial name!) written (three books, roughly 50k each), using the 1st which is halfway done as the Story Subscription to give myself cushion to finish it, and get going on the next two. I also wanted to get Poseidon: A Narrative print ready. And I wanted to maybe find some time to write some short stories. Full time job, part time job at Fiberwytch, and the Story Subscription alone is a part time job, too. (An AWESOME part time job. My favorite job right now.) To that I wanted to add a second full time job, writing.

And maybe that was do-able. Maybe it still is. I’ve failed at my mini-goals, my deadline to get the first book’s rough draft done by the end of February, but the big goals for the year are still attainable . . .

Except, I’ve opted to participate in the Pagan Experience blog project this year, and I’m enjoying it, and I want to keep doing it. Beth and I have made significant headway into a book we’re writing together which, tragically, has required some research done and extra, unanticipated reading *cough*.

So, on the one hand, I failed at my mini-goal to have A Marriage of Land and Sea completed by tomorrow, but on the other had, I have met my word-count goals. I’ve also remembered something really important:

I hate writing every day on the same project. Deciding I’m going to write at NaNo pacing for the whole of the year on one project is worse than silly — it’s ignoring what I know about myself, my writing habits, what works for me, what doesn’t, and it’s making sure I fail before I’m even out of the gate.

What works for me? While I’m working full time at a day job, having some evenings home when I can veg out, knit, or read works for me, so it’s important that I have two days set aside to get large amounts of writing done. Having a goal of 10k for two days is a tad on the high side. 8-9k seems more sustainable. Part of the joy of working for yourself is making your own schedule, right? Who says you have to spread your work out over a whole week? Writing 1-2k a day on something 4-5 days a week bores me to tears, and by week two I just don’t want to see it anymore. Why set myself up to not want to write? I love writing.

Not over-committing myself works for me, too. This is frustrating, because I want to get more wordage out this year, I want to see a few projects through to completion, and I love fiction writing. I don’t have a huge blog following, and I’m not looking to becoming a blogger-name, but I’m owning up to the fact that writing blog posts count as writing and, more to the point for me right now, I really like writing nonfiction, tooWriting theological, spiritual, or even mundane nonfiction helps me internalize, reflect, and grow. It makes sure that I’m not just sitting and not engaging. It’s important, as important to my well being as writing fiction is. So committing myself to nothing but fiction? Not a good idea. I’m glad I committed to the Pagan Experience. Part of me knew this, because as soon as I said, Fiction Year! I came across the project and jumped in. There was some internal scramble to help me save myself from myself.

So, to re-prioritize these goals. I want to have A Marriage of Land and Sea done by the end of April. If I give myself one day a week to work on that and one day a week to work on the non-fiction book, I’ll be happy. (I suspect). And, obviously, I can tweak that as needed. But deciding at the start of the month that i’m going to write every day, 4-5 days a week, on a project? Psychs me into being tired of that topic before I even start. I suppose I could muddle through it and sacrifice the enjoyment I get in writing, in letting the next chapter or next scene steep in my mind for days until I sit down and let it go like a flood released from a dam, just so I can say I have discipline . . . but why? I don’t want discipline beyond upping my wordage and producing material. How that looks day to day doesn’t matter so much, and I’d rather be disciplined in knowing what my strengths are and then working with them, rather than against.

I have, over the course of last year, thanks to Beth and also to Shauna, admitted that writing nonfiction still counts as writing, even when it’s my own writing.  This year? This year I need to admit that I do know my strengths and it’s time to work with them toward my goals. I’m standing in my own way. Again. MOVE, Jo.

(I also need to stop deciding that easing off FB browsing will mean I can’t interact with people I only interact with on FB, or mostly on FB. Once I said I’d be backing away to focus on the writing. I was all I MISS YOU!!!!! and on even more. Feh.)