Talkin’ Books: October 22, 2014

Books Finished:

Kindle Books In Progress:
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Print Books in Progress:
Innocent Blood by James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell

Comic Books:
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

I know, I missed last week’s post, but you really didn’t miss anything. I’ve been working my way through Tatterdemon, and finally saw a post from Steve (the author) saying it’s 400 pages long. And I’m reading it on my lunch hour. No wonder it’s taking so long to finish!

My trusty kindle says I’m at 70 percent, and I have to say, I think I might finally see an endgame in play after an insane amount of what almost feels like gratuitous gore. We’ll see. It’s weird, because I’m not particularly “enjoying” the story, but I can’t look away now – I need to know what happens next. Although if the ending is like that of The Ruins, I’ll be very sad to be reading on my kindle instead of a paperback. I will not damage my tech, no matter how badly a book sometimes makes me want to…

Other than that, I’ve gotten no other reading done. I’ve been up late writing, trying to finish these drafts, and working on crocheted christmas gifts, plus the new TV season is underway with all my favorite shows and some new favorites as well. I’m sure I’ll feel a reading binge come on just as soon as NaNoWriMo is underway next month though. You know. Procrastination.

I do have next week off work, so perhaps I’ll squeeze in some quality reading time around all the writing and Halloween stuff I need to get done. Cross your fingers.

Now, back to my drafts…

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On Prep: Halloween, Vacation, & NaNoWriMo


Yes, I have some lovely navel-gazing posts lined up for this space, but they’ll have to wait a few more weeks. Right now, why life pretty much revolves around prep work: getting the yard decor up for Halloween, working on finishing up some work projects and getting the rest to good stopping points before I take a week off for a vacation the last week of October, getting a couple books ready to publish, finishing a couple more drafts, and plotting out this year’s novel for National Novel Writing Month.

Fall is usually the busiest time of year for me. This is actually pretty normal, busy as it sounds.

The Halloween decor is a slow process this year. Neither hubby nor I have been terribly motivated, and I’m not quite sure why. We finally got started this weekend, and I didn’t come up with this year’s theme until about five minutes before we headed outside to start working on it. I was subconsciously inspired by last week’s post, I think, since I finally settled on a haunted campout. So far, it’s looking pretty good, I think. I’ll have more photos & such on Alex’s blog tomorrow.

As for work, I normally take the last week of October off from the day job in order to finish up the Halloween decorating and make sure we’re all ready to scare children in time. This year, I wasn’t sure I was going to take more than just a couple days off at the end of the week, but it all worked out. First a co-worker (my back-up) thought he might leave town, but decided not to. Then I was going to have to be there in the middle of the week for a blood draw anyway (long/boring/ranty story), but ended up not having to do that after all, and finally decided to just go ahead and take it off as usual. Not the most convenient week to be out of the office, but I do need a break, and this year I won’t be spending as much time on Halloween (and no deep cleaning like my “vacation” this past summer either!).

No, most of my vacation week will be spent right where I’m sitting now, in my little red writing booth, finishing up the remaining drafts I have going and plotting this year’s NaNo novel. It’s actually going to be a pretty tight week in terms of getting everything done, but I’m looking forward to it, and it’ll be a nice change of pace. If I manage to get my writing stuff done early, that’ll just leave more time for reading and crocheting – excellent incentives, if I do say so myself.

I’ve only plotted out one NaNo novel before, and it…didn’t turn out well. I have issues with plotting (most of them mental), but this year I’m writing in such a different genre and style that I feel like I don’t really have any other choice. But I’ll talk more about that next week.

Now…sleep, so I can hit the ground running when I wake up. Or at least not crawling. Standing would be good.

Have a good Monday, peeps. Or at least a passably decent one. ;-)

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Serial Story: Under His Wing, Part 41

This story is presented weekly in draft
(unedited) form. Each installment is available for one week until the
next is posted. Miss one? Email me, and I’ll hook you up. Enjoy!


Dunning Manor, Book 1

Under His Wing
Part 41

For a long moment, the hall was deathly quiet. Katie glanced at her friends, still apparently stuck in some trance, and then back to the monks, those glassy black eyes staring right through her, or so it seemed. They didn’t move a muscle, and she frowned, wondering if they were even still alive.

Finally, they stood in unison, the action forcing her to take a step back. They began to walk in a circle around her, kicking up a slight breeze that gradually grew in substance, though apparently only within the circle they’d created.

“Katie Watson. Your enemy has been vanquished, and the warrior returned to the manor, but for bringing your enemy here rather than taking your warrior’s council, you will not be allowed to break the curse. As per the requirements for aide from the manor, you are hereby banished, and are never to return again.”

“Wait! No!” The wind swirled around her like a miniature cyclone now, and she tried to push through it, tried to get to Thomas, but it flung her back every time.

“You can’t do this! You can’t keep us apart! It’s not fair!”

The wind turned to a cloud, the cloud dark and angry around her, and tears slid down her cheeks as she felt herself lifted off the ground.

“No!” she screamed into her swirling cocoon. “I’ll find you, Thomas – I swear! I won’t give up!”

The cloud disappeared in a puff and she dropped to the ground, hitting hard and collapsing from the impact. Stunned, she rolled to her back and saw stars – real stars in the vast, navy blue night sky above. Crickets and frogs chirped in tandem as her fingers curled around dirt and grass. She sat up, looking this way and that, but though she was sure this was the right clearing, there was no sign of the manor anywhere.

“No,” she murmured, swiping at the tears on her face. “They can’t do this. I won’t let them.” She didn’t want to leave, but there wasn’t anything else she could do here, and she was pretty sure those damn druids wouldn’t be coming back.

After one last long look, she ran back to the car and slid behind the wheel. It was a good half hour before she was able to drive, and she peeled off the gravel shoulder and onto the pavement, only slowing when a local cop flashed his lights at her on his way to somewhere else.

She needed help. Someone who had seen the manor, who knew the legend, and someone who knew about druid magic, whatever that was. She had no idea where to find such a person, but the internet seemed like a good place to start.

When she reached her house, she ran inside and grabbed a pen, a notepad, and a couple sodas from the refrigerator before heading to her computer desk. Her fingers flew across the keyboard as she entered the first search terms and started scrolling through results.

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Serial Story: MacKenzie Saves the World, Part 30 (Final)

This serial story is presented in draft (unedited) format. Each new installment will replace
the one before. If you get behind, email me and I’ll hook you up with the missing chapters!


MacKenzie Saves the World
Part 30

The next morning MacKenzie stretched, trying to remember why her muscles were so sore, and how her bed had gotten so soft. Her hands and feet both hit barriers before she opened her eyes and recognized Josh’s living room.

And the man himself, fast asleep in his chair across from where she lay on his couch.

She smiled at how peaceful he looked. The past month had been so busy, but they’d made time for each other and she’d gotten to know him – not just what he liked and how he thought though they’d certainly spent plenty of time talking about…everything, but she knew his expressions, his habits, every line and crease on his face. And everything she knew about him just made him that much more dear to her. She couldn’t imagine life without this amazing, resilient man.

Careful to be quiet, she moved the blanket aside and stood, unable to resist just one more stretch up high overhead. When her heels finally touched down and she looked over at Josh, he was looking at her, something in his eyes that she couldn’t quite decipher.

“You’re beautiful,” he said, setting his own blanket aside. She rolled her eyes at him as he rose and came toward her.

“My hair’s a mess, this dress is trashed, and I’m sure my makeup’s all over my face. But thank you.”

He leaned down for a kiss and she met him half-way, surprised when he released her quickly.

“Everything okay?”

He nodded, reaching into his pocket. “Better than okay.” He pointed to the ottoman. “Can you sit down for a minute?”

Kenzie sat, her stomach flipping in anticipation. And when he knelt in front of her, she could barely focus for the pounding in her chest. He held out a small black box, still closed on the palm of one hand, and grasped her hand with the other.

“You know I love you, MacKenzie. And I can’t imagine my life without you. Will you marry me? Please?”

She couldn’t have held back a wide smile if she’d tried.

“Of course I’ll marry you. I love you so much.” She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him, throwing them both off balance. When they were both laughing on the floor, he rolled to his side and held up the box, a teasing glint in his eye.

“Do you want to see your ring now?” The way he said it, the look on his face made her curious.

“Absolutely.” She reached for the box, but he pulled it back out of reach. Laughing, he opened it where she couldn’t see it, and then slowly lowered it down to eye level.

Kenzie looked at the dark, almost black titanium band inlaid with two lighter bands top and bottom. A pink oval diamond was set deep in the center, the top flush with the band so it wouldn’t get caught on things. She stared for a long moment, not sure whether to laugh or cry as Josh took it out of the box and slid it on the ring finger of her left hand. she wiggled her finger, watching the light flash through the stone.

“I can’t believe it,” she breathed, unable to take her eyes off it. “You had Charade’s ring made. How did you do it?”

Josh reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips for a kiss.

“I had Kevin get me your sketches, and took them to a jeweler I know. One of his designers made it happen. You like it?”

MacKenzie shook her head. “No, I love it. You are amazing.” She pulled him down for a kiss, needing him close.

“Superhero amazing?” he murmured against her lips, rubbing his nose against hers. She giggled.

“My own personal superhero, without a doubt.”

The End

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed MacKenzie’s story! The edited, final version will be out in print and ebook on November 14th.

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On Brain Drain, Craft vs. Art, & Mountains

If you saw the post-that-was-not-a-post I put up yesterday, then you know that while I was off work for the holiday, I was finishing up one of the three outstanding drafts I want to get done before NaNoWriMo starts on November first (now two, thankyouverymuch). I was especially motivated to get this particular draft done for my horror/suspense alter-ego because it’s scheduled for release on Halloween, and with time for editing and formatting, etc, I’m cutting it pretty close. I was supposed to have it done last weekend, but decided to add another plot twist to the end that required extra words/writing time. And then even this weekend as I was writing, I twisted it yet again. Such is the way a pantser works – my plotting often happens right in the middle of scenes, which is a fun way to work, but not necessarily the most efficient.

It’s hard to describe what my brain feels like for the rest of the day when I finish a draft. It’s difficult to really do much thinking about anything, because there’s this…void in my head that makes me feel like every thought is sucked into a black hole as soon as it’s formed, and I can’t quite hang onto it long enough to actually process or dwell on it. Just writing this post is an exercise in extreme determination. I tried several times earlier tonight (it’s around 12:30am on Tues as I’m writing this), but my mind just couldn’t handle the focus required (and it’s still fighting me – crazy).

Once I sleep, I’ll be fine. It’s like my brain just needs a hard reset before it can fully recover from that intense “zone” I get into when I’m nearly at the end of a draft. I feel fortunate that I’m only down for the rest of the day, and not weeks like some writers are.

In any case, as I was finishing that draft this weekend (and surfing social media on breaks), I came to some realizations about the craft of writing vs. the art of stories, and which might be the weaker link(s) for me and how to fix it/them. My brain being the swiss cheese that it is, I’m not coherent enough to discuss it now, but I think there’s probably enough material there for a weekly discussion feature, either here, or over at The Drafting Desk. Your thoughts? Any opinions?

Finally, as I was writing I was thinking about some different discussion topics for Alex’s blog about certain parts of the story – like setting. And thinking about the setting for that story got me thinking about my settings for other stories, which made me realize that I haven’t been up in the mountains for awhile. Like, years. I was born here in Montana, and escaping the heat of the city by heading up into the mountains was just what we did in the summer. Aside from church camp up on the Boulder River every summer when I was a kid, my parents used to take us hiking and backpacking for family vacations. I remember one backpacking trip particularly well – I couldn’t tell  you where we were, but I can still see the multi-colored shale cliffs towering over an impossibly blue river and a dead elk on the trail with bear tracks nearby. I even had my own backpack that trip – not just a knapsack like you toss over one shoulder in college, but a big, bonafide, steel-framed pack I was pretty proud of that year. No, I don’t remember the year, or how old I was at the time. I’ve never been good at keeping memories on a timeline.

And then came adulthood and responsibilities and laptops and yes, laziness.

Long story short (because I need to sleep), I realized that I miss the mountains. I miss hiking on rough trails, hearing the wind in the trees, and the insects buzzing. The sound of a natural waterfall and the river it flows into.  But apparently I’ve become a city-slicker…it’s been years since I’ve been anywhere even remotely wild.

I think next summer I’ll have to fix that. I’m more than happy to skip tent camping, as sleeping on the ground has never been something I liked even as a child, but there are gorgeous mountains just 20-30 minutes from where I live, and plenty of good hiking trails. I should probably warn my husband, so we can both start getting in shape now…but next summer, there will be hiking.

Sometimes, a girl’s just gotta reconnect with her roots. Doesn’t hurt a writer to get a refresher course on how things look and smell and feel and taste either.

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Talkin’ Books: October 8, 2014

Books Finished:
Death, The Devil and The Goldfish by Andrew Buckley

Kindle Books In Progress:
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Print Books in Progress:
Innocent Blood by James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell

Comic Books:
Harley Quinn (Future’s End #1)
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

As you can see, I finally finished Death, The Devil and The Goldfish! The whole thing is hilarious and witty, and the story itself is absurd in a topsy-turvy-twisty sort of style. I highly recommend it.

The other book I finished was a Harley Quinn comic book of the The New 52 Future’s End series from DC. It was, as usual, quirky and funny and I just adore her because she’s such a nutjob. Highly recommended for that one too (and it has a really cool 3D cover too!).

I’m working on Tatterdemon again (’tis the season, after all), and surprisingly, I didn’t have to go back and re-read much to pick up the story thread again. Or this one, at least. There are quite a few of them (story threads, I mean). I’m still not entirely sure who the protagonist is, or if there even was one, and I’m not really sure there’s a point to all the gore and killing either. But we shall see…

I haven’t gotten back to Innocent Blood all week, sadly. Or JTHM either. Next week, hopefully.

That’s it for this week, really. I’m desperately trying to finish writing another draft, so that’s where most of my free time is going right now. Which kind of sucks, because I’d really like to finish Innocent Blood soon…

Until next week, happy reading!

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On MSTW, Ambition & Business…

First off, I need to show off the new cover for MacKenzie Saves The World (because I think it’s totally cool):


I have the edits back and I’ll be working on those just as soon as I finish up one more draft that’s *this close* to being done. I’ve pushed back the release date for MSTW to November 14th, which I know is a long time to wait, but I’ll be setting up pre-orders soon on Amazon and any other online retailer that will allow it, so I’ll let you know when that option is available for those who’d like to “set and forget” it for your ereader.

I’ll also have the print copy ready by then, and I’ll be setting up a Goodreads giveaway within the next week or so for advanced copies – I’ll let you know when that goes live.

I’ll also be starting up my monthly newsletter again in November, and it will contain something special for subscribers that won’t be announced or offered anywhere else, so watch your inboxes the first week of November for that (if you’re not signed up and want to be, there’s a sign up box on the right side of the blog…).

I know, I haven’t sent a newsletter in a long time. And I haven’t published a book in quite awhile either. It’s been a busy writing year.

A couple years ago, I decided to back off pretty much all promotional activities and focus on writing and publishing several books per year. The writing thing worked fine, but for the last two years in a row I’ve sabotaged myself by taking on too many projects at once and not focusing on what I already have going, which results in longer times to finish drafts and less books published in a year (exactly the opposite of what I’d been going for). So many fun ideas, so little time…

In any case, with very (very) little promotion and long wait times between books, sales have plummeted, which is good in a round-about way because the need for my book business to pay its own way (and the fact that it currently isn’t, but has in the past) has given me a nice little shot of ambition to stay on track and make/meet writing & publishing goals going forward.

I’m glad I took the time to just write for these past years, because not only do I have a clearer plan of what I’m capable of in terms of projects and deadlines, but I’m also in a far better position now to leverage promotional opportunities *and still get my writing done* than I was before. So even though I delayed things a bit, in the grand scheme, it was still a good decision.

Now, it’s time to get back to work on the business side of things, and ironically, that means slowing down for the next few months while I finish up current projects and organize the next few releases for maximum exposure.

It also means sticking to my scheduled bedtime to get enough sleep so I can tackle both the day job and the “night job” without getting too burnt out.

Here’s to new books, cool covers, and being indie, which means I can figure this business out at my own pace. ;-)

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Talkin’ Books: October 1, 2014

Books Finished:
How To Catch a Wild Viscount by Tessa Dare

Kindle Books In Progress:
Death, The Devil and The Goldfish by Andrew Buckley
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Print Books in Progress:
Innocent Blood by James Rollins & Rebecca Cantrell

Comic Books:
Johnny the Homicidal Maniac: Director’s Cut

I have to say…I was a little disappointed in how the werestag story turned out (see Tessa Dare, above). I mean, it was fine as it was, I just felt like it fell a little flat. Still, a nice little short story if you’re so inclined.

And I’m pleased to say that I finally got my kindle synced properly with Death, The Devil and The Goldfish, so I’ve been diligently working on that and am 73% done, according to said Kindle. It’s so…interesting, and silly, and fun…seriously. Go grab a copy. I might even give one away over the holidays – it’s that good.

I got a few more chapters done on Innocent Blood, and judging by looks alone, I can safely say I’m about 75% done with that one. Most excellent, and I have no idea how Rollins does it, keeping the story going and interesting for *so long*, but somehow, he makes it happen. Crazy talent, that.

JTHM is a story at a time sort of a thing, and yes, I’m still enjoying it in a very dark and twisted way.

I got new comic books last weekend, but haven’t had a chance to read them yet, or even take a picture of the cool 3D covers on the new Harley Quinn issue, or the new Superman & Wonder Woman 3D cover issue (I don’t read it regularly, but I really love the artist and pick it up purely for the art sometimes). Next week, promise.

I’d do it tonight (Tues. night), but I still have a scene to finish writing before bed, and I need to get this scheduled so it posts tomorrow while I’m at work, so…no rest for the weary. Once I get another draft finished, I’ll have a little more time than my stolen moments at lunch and odd other times here and there for whittling down the TBR piles.  Which will make me nervous, and I’ll have to go buy more books (can’t have a shallow to-read pile – what if I run out?!). ;-)

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On TV, Billiards & Bedtime Fails…

Last week was the start of the fall TV season, and premieres for prime time TV have been trickling out ever since. I’m not as bad as a lot of people I know – I don’t like the TV on all the time (if no one’s watching, I don’t want it on just for noise), but when it comes to prime time in the evenings, and crime dramas especially, I’m all “shh!” and “don’t call me, I’ll call you when it’s over”. There’s often so much good stuff on in the fall that we’re recording one show while we watch another, which fills up our weekend evenings too (conveniently enough).

Not that we’re fiction junkies, or anything…(we totally are).

So what are we watching this season? Glad you asked. I’d link, but it’s late and I’m lazy. Google is your friend.

New shows for this year marked (N):

Once Upon a Time
Madam Secretary  (N)
The Big Bang Theory
Scorpion  (N)
Sleepy Hollow
The Blacklist
Person of Interest
Forever  (N)
Criminal Minds

Stalker  (N)Not back yet, but coming eventually:

The Flash  (N)
The 100

Selfie (saw the pilot & thought it looked interesting – modern day My Fair Lady).  (N)

Hubby doesn’t watch those last four with me – I catch up with those on Saturday nights while doing my nails.

So far, my favorite new show is Scorpion. The pilot wasn’t entirely plausible, but I really liked the cast, the interplay between characters, and the way the interpreter is set up. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves over the next season.

As far as returning shows go, Sleepy Hollow gets best first show of the season so far from me.  And not just because I had to move mountains just to see it (no FOX signal in good weather and an 8 day wait to watch online that had to be circumvented). It was intense and chaotic and clarifying and completely freaky all at once, and I can’t wait to see the next one.

It is sort of interesting that my favorite new show and favorite premiere were on at the same time, same day just different channels. But so far, I haven’t been disappointed by any returning shows, and we’ve scratched a few off the list as well. Over all though, it looks like it’ll be a very good season. After the long summer dry spell, it’s nice to have some good fiction to watch after work again.

Wednesday nights we record of course, because hubby’s pool league plays October through March at local bars. This week is the first week of the season for that as well, so Weds night, we’ll be at Hooligans to start the pool year off. I used to go every Weds without fail to watch and cheer the guys on – I started going along to be the designated driver, and now no one drinks enough to need one (usually), but up until we adopted Mica a few years ago, I went along anyways just to watch and hang out.

Mica had issues with being left alone all day while we were at work, and then again in the evening. If we did that, we’d come home to a dog with way too much energy who refused to let us sleep until he was ready to, making for some awfully late nights. So to solve that problem, I’d drop Brent off at pool, go home to spend time with the dogs, and then go back to watch the last few games and bring Brent home again.

Over the last couple of years Mica has mellowed though, and now we can leave him occasionally when we need to go out on a work night without too much of a problem. So this year, I’ll be headed to watch the guys play pool for the whole evening again, and we’ll see how that goes. It’s fun to watch them play, and good to get out once a week…not to mention that the bar is a prime spot to watch people and be inspired. Many of my books started as overheard conversations or interesting characters spotted in a bar…

And now I’m officially past my “last good” bedtime yet again. I’d planned to get this post done early, and then…well, things happened, as they so often do. I plan my bedtimes around the 90 minute sleep cycle (because that works best for me – outside those cycles, I tend to feel groggy all day the next day), and since I have to be up by 6am on the weekdays, that means I need to be in bed either at midnight or 1:30am for the best possible rest.

I never make midnight, and while I’m better at hitting 1:30am, it’s usually close. Right now, it’s 1:45am, and I still have to schedule this.

Next weekend, I *will* be in bed by 1:30am Sunday.

I will! Stop laughing…

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Talkin’ Books: September 24, 2014

Books Finished:

Kindle Books In Progress:
How To Catch a Wild Viscount by Tessa Dare
Death, The Devil and The Goldfish by Andrew Buckley
Tatterdemon by Steve Vernon

Know how I was going to finish a couple of books this week? Yeah. That didn’t exactly happen, because other stuff happened. As happens all too often, dang it. But one of these weeks…well, no promises. I blame it on the authors who write insanely huge books (yes, that would be the kind of book I used to spend all weekend doing nothing but reading, and now takes me several weeks to get through. Whatever.).

Stupidest reason *ever* for not finishing a book goes to my epic screw up of Kindle syncing for Death, The Devil and The Goldfish. The day I was going to fix it, I forgot to grab my phone to get the location for my kindle before I sat down with lunch in my lap. So I started How to Catch a Wild Viscount (which I got free, and it looks like it’s still free as I write this, so go download if werestags are your thing) instead, because it’s a short story and I figured I’d just read it in a day or two and then get back to the other. But then lunches got derailed by chatter, and long story sort of shorter, I’m still working on the Viscount. Or rather, Cecily is. I’m just along for the somewhat unusual ride. Run. Whatever.

ANYways…Innocent Blood is very close to being finished, and because I decided I’m not going to bother catching up with the rest of the Batman Eternal series, I went ahead and started in on Johnny the Homicidal Maniac.

Wrong though it may be, it’s cracking me the heck up, so thank you, Ford Forkum, for recommending this. Now, please note that you really have to have a specific sense of humor to enjoy this, so if you like Harley Quinn, or if you read my alter-ego Alex’s work (not that that’s humorous, but it is mostly “killer’s point of view” work), then you’ll probably like Johnny. Or maybe not “like” him, but appreciate the view, so to speak.


And will you look at that – what are those things dangling from my JTHM paperback? Why yes, I do believe that’s a bookmark! I haven’t used an actual bookmark in years, so this is kind of a red-letter (or maybe blue works better here) day. I dog-ear pages when I’m reading print, a practice which many readers will gasp in dismay at, but I’ve been doing it forever, because there’s nothing worse than being a thousand pages into a book and having the stupid bookmark fall out (okay, there are worse things, but when you’re young and reading nearly constantly the list is shorter). Dog-earing ensures I always know where I left off, and they fold back out easily enough when I move on.

But JTHM is a “graphic novel”, and I can’t very well mar the artwork now can I? So…bookmark it is. I feel so…literary, which is rather ironic in this particular case.

So to recap my reading week…an absurd story unfinished for an equally absurd reason, a rather freaky serial killer who is actually still not quite as freaky as some of the blood-suckers in the vampire paperback I’m working on, and a werestag. Because…well, just say it out loud, and you’ll get why it amuses me so.

If you’re so inclined as to comment, what’s the weirdest/oddest thing you’ve read lately?

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