Category Archives: books

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!

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.

 

 

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.)

 

First weekend of 2015 — 9k words!

While it’s true that I still have to go through the earlier chapters of A Marriage of Land and Sea to polish them up, I can say with confidence that as of today I have seven chapters written in this book. My goals, as I’ve talked about elsewhere, is to finish this trilogy up by the end of June, to get back to the edits on Poseidon: A Narrative, and to get a few more stories written. Those of you who’ve signed up to get A Marriage of Land and Sea via the subscription service will receive the second and third books at no charge — because, damn, do I appreciate you.

I’m excited, because this weekend was my first weekend implementing my plotting and chapter mapping, an idea that I came across in 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love by Rachel Aaron. Oh, I’d already sat down and figured out where I needed to go with the whole series — the end goal, the signpost stops along the way, the overarching plot along with the individual, building the story up as we go plots of each book. I even figured out my typical chapter word count range (4k-5k), figured out how many chapters the book would have, and outlined what needed to happen in each one, for the first book, to keep the pace going. Much of Rachel’s advice was stuff I’d heard before, though I’ve been clinging to the idea that I am a Pantser, not a Plotter, all these years. And, yeah, maybe I am, but I’ve said again and again and again that I want to increase my output — so, maybe that had to change.

What really floored me in Aaron’s book — which should really be so obvious — was the idea of sitting down during each writing session and planning what your goals are for that specific session. In any other job, this would be your work list. Your tasks for the day. Why wouldn’t I do that when writing? Why would I sit staring at a blank page without any idea of what I need to accomplish beyond some vague notion? Why would I be willing to write thousands upon thousands of words, only to realize at the end of it all that they were all of them utterly wrong? There’s this idea that there is not such thing as wasted writing — I’ve said this mantra time and again over the years. It’s true, in that sitting and writing hones your skill as a writer, and in that having  the dedication and discipline to park your arse in the chair and write is never wasted, no matter the wordage you end up with. But, it’s also wrong — or, at this point in my life it’s wrong for meI work full time, I write part time, and I have another part time job besides that. I cannot give my time to words that aren’t going stick if I want to increase my output beyond the story subscriptions.

Er. I digress. The point is, this weekend was the first weekend that I was producing new material, rather than getting chapters two and four straightened out. It was the first time that I sat down, spend fifteen minutes jotting down what needed to happen where, and going along that list. It wasn’t perfect — chapter six came out of nowhere once I realized I needed to fix my pacing and give Roern another pov chapter before what I had planned as chapter six could take place. So, yesterday I sat down with a surprise! chapter, and did I take the time to plan that out? Did I take advantage of my new day off home alone to fly through writing?

Ha! HA I tell you!

I managed just over 2k yesterday. Frustrated, I went to bed, then mapped out the rest of surprise!chapter six. I finished it off (it’s awesome!!), mapped out chapter 7, and wrote it. It’s taken me all day, so I’m still slower than I’d like to be (I started around 11:30 today, and it’s 5:10 as I write this, which clocks me at just under 1k an hour. I want faster than that, but not at the quality’s sake) My hands are killing me, so I’m stopping. But, I’m pleased with this week’s work, with the result of taking the time to sit down and figure out before I start where I want the writing to go.

I think I’m going to like plotting out chapters.

Neech the Anti-Muse does not approve of the Plotter method. He will use his powers of Chaotic Neutral to thwart your progress.

Neech the Anti-Muse does not approve of the Plotter method. He will use his powers of Chaotic Neutral to thwart your progress.

 

Nine By Night — an awesome book bundle you need to have!

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So, I had this sitting on my Kindle for ages. Months, even. I purchased it specifically for the Annie Bellet novel, but the problem I have with Kindle books is the lack of a physical TBR pile. I forget about books if I don’t jump on them right away. To celebrate finished (and finished) NaNoWriMo, I decided to reward myself with reading for December (and it says something that I’m two weeks in and plotting out the next series I’m writing, right?). I bought a bunch of books — and I’ll write about them, in the future, because I found some gems I wasn’t expecting. But I also rediscovered this bundle, and I decided to leap in.

Now, I’ll be honest — there are some books that I didn’t care for enough to continue, and that I might go back to. I’m not overly found of New Adult as a category, and I’ll readily admit that disliking that new-fangled genre descriptor is making me reluctant to read much with that label on it. Someday I’ll get tired of this snobbery and force myself to deal with it, but December is/was going to be a no-responsibilities/no-guilt reading spree, so opting to not read books was acceptable.

That said? This bundle — oh this bundle! I’ve already purchased second books in a number of the series that this bundle introduced me to, and reading so many entertaining books with new-to-me voices has rekindled my love for urban fantasy. Many of the books herein are available individually for more than what this bundle costs. Do yourself a favor and buy this.

Any fans of Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, C.E. Murphy or Seannan McGuire will find something to enjoy in this bundle. Seriously. Go. Buy. Do it, thank me later.

Banned Books Week is nearly here!

Every year, when this celebration (celebration? Protest?) rolls around, I remember that I wanted to make a concerted effort to get some of the books into my TBR pile. Every year, I look at the hills of books I already have waiting for me to get to (Five from the uni library, and I’m needing to be honest, Aidos is not going to be read, not now, not by me — how do you take such a concept and make it so boring?? Why, oh why, academia? — and seven out from the public library, and a few e-books that are waiting for me to finish reading) and I realize, it’s going to slip past me this year, again. A fine opportunity for activism (activism through reading! YES! Put me on THOSE front lines, thanks!) is wasted.

Every year I’m grateful all over again that my parents never policed my reading habits. They are why, when my peers were reading Sweet Valley High books, I was devouring the works of Stephen King and V.C. Andrews, John Saul and Dean Koontz. I came across a challenged books once in all of my school years, and the school allowed the student whose parents were protesting to read a different book, but it never went further than that — we kept on with our pagan friendly, magical, fantastical novel (Lloyd Alexander, if you must know) and that was that. I do think parents have a right to decide what they’re kids read or don’t read — I don’t think that one parent, or even a group of parents, get to decide that for a whole class. I certainly don’t think that people get to decide for other people, across the board.

Censorship is bad, m’kay? Yeah, it makes us have to deal with ignorant people getting to publish ignorant ideas — and that’s being kind — but that’s a necessary annoyance, a price that we should *gladly* pay, in order to avoid censorship.

So — anyone doing anything for Banned Book Week? What banned books have you read?

Currently Reading?

Despite working many, many hours a week (thankfully that will be getting back to normal here in the next week or so) (please, gods), I have been managing to keep at my stack of books that I’m reading these days. The non-fiction reading has slowed way, way down, but I still managed to finish not only Aphrodite’s Tortoise (which I will be reviewing for Eternal Haunted Summer once I can sit and write the darned thing!) but also managed to wrap up Introduction to Roman Religion finally. Not a very meaty book to have taken me that long, but that’s in part due to the fact that the book is very state-focused and I find state-focused material a tad boring. Normally I can soldier on through — usually wanting to have read a book more than makes up for how sleep-inducing the book may actually be. See above, re: overtime.

I’m also reading Daniel Abraham’s Dagger and Coin series. I’m only on the first book, and I actually forgot I was reading it until someone on my FB feed mentioned it — again, pesky overtime! I’m so very glad they did, because I thoroughly have enjoyed what I’ve read so far. I haven’t read any of his material before, yet I slipped seamlessly into the first book of the series. There was none of that awareness that I was reading a new-to-me author that I sometimes get. I love when that happens!

I’m also picking through Aidos: the Psychology and Ethics of Honor and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature and my word, that book! So dense! Such complex sentences! There’s a saturation of word-pretzel-yoga-poses going on, and I simply love it. I’m also about five pages into it . . . I think this one is going to be slow going.

That’s my book pile right now. What are you reading?