Friday, January 29, 2016

Reading Roundup January 2016

Time for another roundup of some more books I've read and can recommend. I've got quite a backlog, and this won't be all of them, but the book I'm reading right now, The Bonehunters by Steven Erikson (book 6 of the Malazan Book of the Fallen) is about a gazillion pages long (over 1200 in the paperback, 17500 locations on my Kindle), so it's taking a while to read, which will let me get caught up with the reading roundups.

Oh, and while I'm here on the blog, if you're wondering about progress on For the Wildings, it's coming along steadily. I finished the major revision and am now on the editing pass where I fine-tune the dialogue, descriptions, action, and pacing. It's over 74,000 words, quite a bit longer than the other books in the series, so it's taking a while, but I am making steady progress.

And now, on with the books.
Nica of Los Angeles (Frames, #1), by Sue Perry
If you think you've had weird days at work, wait till you read about Nica's day. It starts with three new sets of clients for her new private eye business: pushy godparents looking for their missing goddaughter, a couple of sinister meth heads, and an otherworldly pair with strange abilities, and ends up with Nica embarking on an adventure through parallel worlds filled with talking buildings and murderous books to uncover and stop a danger that brings all three of her cases together and threatens all the dimensions. Witty, cerebral, surreal, terrifying, and entirely original urban fantasy/mystery. Highly recommended.

Ghost in the Stone (Ghosts, #5), by Jonathan Moeller
This series keeps getting better. Lots of exciting fun as Caina deals with a complex assassination plot, a mysterious force turning her fellow Ghosts to stone, an assassin she keeps crossing paths with who she finds herself attracted to, and, oh yeah, the spirit of a dead evil sorceress who's living inside her. Caina's a great character, tough, smart, focused on her ideals and willing to do whatever is necessary, but also vulnerable enough to make me hope everything will turn out ok.
Ghost Light, by Jonathan Moeller

The Fall of Kyrace, by Jonathan Moeller
A couple of exciting short stories from the world of the Ghosts series. Ghost Light has Caina facing another bizarre magical incident, while The Fall of Kyrace goes back into history to give some backstory. Fun, quick reads for fans of the Ghosts series.

Ghost in the Forge (Ghosts, #6) by Jonathan Moeller
And still this series keeps getting better. Caina, her new guy Corvalis, and the rest of the gang are off to a mysterious city of sorcerers to try to prevent them from auctioning off a devastating weapon to the highest bidder. Danger, action, and sorcery abound, and I liked seeing Caina grow as she deals with trust issues in her relationship with Corvalis and faces her prejudice against sorcerers in dealing with his sister, a renegade Magus. Plus, magical mechas. What more do I need to say?
The Mages of Bennamore, by Pauline M. Ross
Another intelligent, engaging tale from Ms. Ross's Brightmoon Annals. Prickly, secretive Fen is facing middle age without family, friends, status, or security in the rigidly-ordered Holdings when her employer commits socially correct suicide after his fleet sinks. Badly in need of new employment, Fen, a Recorder (something like a secretary and business manager) accepts a job with the new mages in town, sent from conquering Bennamore to grace the people of the Holdings with their magic. Highly recommended if you like intelligent, original fantasy with a hefty dose of romance and characters who've already experienced a good bit of living. (full review)
Klondaeg Saves Fromsday (Klondaeg, #1.5) by Steve Thomas
A Very Special Holiday Episode in the saga of Klondaeg the Monster Hunter. Klondaeg goes to spend Fromsday, the holiday honoring Fromdon, god of coconuts, with the frog-people, and, with the help of a dangerous and stubborn tree-ape, helps a father and son discover the True Meaning of Fromsday. A fun and hilarious sendup of all those heartwarming Very Special TV Episodes, but not without its own heartwarming message.

Smite Me, Oh Dark One, by Steve Thomas
Discover the true origin of the "farmboy with a destiny" in this tale from the world of Klondaeg the Monster Hunter about the pantheon of gods (including O'Plenty, God of Pots of Gold and Other Treasures, Fromdon, God of Coconuts, and Buti'col [say it out loud; took me a while to get it!], Goddess of Whatever Passes For Love These Days). Acerbus, God of Darkness, tries to avoid carrying out his duty to destroy the world; hilarity and millennia of fantasy tropes ensue. Very funny, and also thought-provoking at the same time.

And that's it for now. This is only half of the books on my list; I'll be back with the rest soon!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Featured Author: Elle Jacklee

Once again, I'm pleased to feature Middle Grade/YA fantasy author Elle Jacklee, this week's spotlight author in my Goodreads group. (Read more about Elle and her books here and here.)
The Wunderwood Series

The Tree of Mindala (Book 1): Miranda Moon’s vivid imagination has gotten her into trouble more times than she can count. This time, she’s been suspended from school. So her straight-laced younger brother, Marcus, blames her when they’re relegated to their late grandparents’ old cabin over Halloween weekend. But when Miranda finds a curious trinket, they’re mysteriously whisked away to Wunderwood, where magic flows through the trees and everyone already knows their family name. A place even Miranda never imagined.

Just as they arrive, a sinister warlock, Thornton Crow, is freed from a long banishment. He resumes his deadly agenda to find The Tree of Mindala, the source of all the realm’s magic. As Miranda and Marcus discover branches of their own family tree that they hadn’t even known existed, they learn that Thornton has a score to settle with anyone in their bloodline. Especially them… Though justice has always had a way of being naturally restored in Wunderwood, Thornton’s latest evil deed just may be the tipping point.

When Miranda discovers her own role in Thornton’s release, she knows it’s up to her to stop him from stealing not just magic, but also hope. With travel companions that could as easily be foes as friends, and only the cryptic words of a prophecy to guide her, Miranda must decide if she can carry out the task that will either save Wunderwood… or doom it forever.

The Tree of Mindala is available at Amazon.

Watch for The Triad of the Tree (Book 2) coming in mid-March!

Etchings and Embers (A Muirwood Novel):
Mairryn knows she will never be a learner at an Abbey. The sheltered daughter of a humble farmer, she dreams only of traveling the realms and learning from experiences, if not from tomes. But now she’s married to Earl Magnus Adair, and people are calling her Countess. After her father’s recent death and a season of storms that ravaged her family’s crops, the Earl’s proposal had seemed like the solution to their problems. But from the beginning, he’s far from a loving husband, and the nagging mystery of why he’d pursued her so relentlessly is never far from her mind.

Theobald Cirun, a young steward from Forshee, is given the unlikely task of teaching Mairryn to ride horseback. His lessons are one of the few highlights in her mostly-desolate days. Theobald opens her eyes to a whole new world, and soon Mairryn discovers her own connection to the Medium and the shocking answers to the mystery that’s plagued her.

But when Earl Magnus’s own horrifying secret is revealed, Mairryn must decide if she can make an impossible sacrifice for someone she loves. Someone only she can save. Someone she hasn’t met yet…

What Jeff Wheeler, author of the original Muirwood trilogy, had to say: “I’ve read all the new Muirwood stories on Kindle Worlds. What impressed me about this one is the author took a very minor character (Colvin’s Pry-rian steward ‘Theobald’ who gets maybe two or three mentions in the entire trilogy) and provides a wonderful and detailed story involving him and ties in several other mysterious elements of my plot. And not only that, she made it into a novel! This is exactly the kind of story I was hoping to see when I signed up for Kindle Worlds.”

Etchings and Embers is available at Amazon.

About Elle Jacklee:
My professional titles have included software programmer, bilingual sales rep, and proposal specialist. But my favorite title, besides wife and mother, is author. It’s the only one that lets me call daydreaming “research.” My love for the outdoors is my greatest inspiration. I live in Wisconsin with my husband and two young sons, none of whom are in a hurry to grow up, and that's just fine with me.

Where to find Elle:
Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Author Spotlight: Me!

Picture Hey, I'm the featured author in my Goodreads group this week, so I decided to give myself the spotlight treatment and interview myself!

1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Let's see, what's to tell that isn't already in my bio? I've lived in Arizona since I was a baby, but twice while I was growing up (when I was 8 and then again when I was 16), my family spent a year in Germany while my Dad, a physics professor, was a visiting professor there. It was an amazing opportunity to live in a different country and travel, and I have vivid memories of places and experiences that I still use a lot in my writing.

Also, I have a Master's degree in Music History, with an emphasis on choral/vocal music of the Renaissance. No, I don't sing, and I've never used that degree. Still, getting it was a lot of fun, and that's another experience that also spills over into my writing. Sarya's Song is the most obvious example, directly influenced by my training in musical analysis and transcription of older notations and by the polyphonic choral music of the early Renaissance.

2. When did you start writing, and why?
I've always loved to read fantasy and romance, but I could never find books that combined the two in a way I found satisfying. Twenty-six years ago, after I finished my Master's, as I was making the transition to life as a stay-at-home mom with my first child, I wanted a new intellectual challenge, so I decided to try writing the kind of novels I wanted to read.

3. What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
I write high fantasy (my definition: set in a different world, with a heroic storyline and magic as an integral part of the story) with strong romance elements. In my books, the romance and the fantasy are equally important to the story - if one or the other was missing, you wouldn't have a story. I write what I love to read - I love fantasy and magic, and I also love a good love story (and that happy ever after ending is a must!).

4. What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Right now I'm working on revisions on For the Wildings, the sixth and final book of the Daughter of the Wildings series. After this, I'll be returning to my world of Estelend with a couple of novels.

5. "Welcome To My Worlds": Tell us a little about the world of your latest book or series.
Daughter of the Wildings is set in a fantasy world inspired by the Old West. Settlers have come to the Wildings, the unsettled frontier, to escape from oppression by mages in the civilized land of Granadaia. It has cowboys and shootouts and cattle drives and saloons, but it also has wizards and magic. I thought the combination of the two elements, high fantasy and westerns, would be pretty cool, and it's been a lot of fun to write.

6. Introduce us to some of your characters. What do you like about them?
Silas Vendine, the wizard/bounty hunter hero of Daughter of the Wildings, is a fun character to write. On a character alignment chart, he'd be Chaotic Good. He has a very strong sense of honor and right and wrong that has little to do with the law of the land. If it comes to a choice between what's legal and what's right, he'll choose what's right every time and shoot his way out of the trouble he gets into as a result.

Lainie Banfrey Vendine, heroine of the series, also has strong ideas about what's right and the way things should be, but isn't always fussed by the realities of the situation. She's learned the hard way that you can't always make things be the way you think they should be just by wanting them badly enough, but that doesn't mean she's given up on her ideals. She grew up the only girl on a ranch, doing men's work and wearing men's clothes, but she's very feminine, in a practical, non-fussy kind of way. She can herd cattle and mend fences and shoot as well as any man, but she also finds value in caring for her home (when she has one) and family, and she loves pretty things.

7. A fun fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
In For the Wildings, for the first time in the series we get into the point of view of a couple of different characters besides Silas and Lainie. One is a character who's appeared before in the series; the other is a member of a group whose point of view might be interesting to readers.

I especially like this sentence from one of those scenes: "Now see here, Coltor!" the mayor protested. "You can't go starting a shootout in my office!"

So that was fun :-)

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to these nice people who have helped promote me this week:

Charlotte Chaffin
Tracy Auerbach
Steve Downes
Shari Sakurai

Go check them out!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Author Spotlight: Shari Sakurai

Meet author Shari Sakurai, last week's (yes, I'm running a little behind!) featured author in the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Readers, Writers, and Reviewers group on Goodreads.

Shari Sakurai was born in Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom. After completing secondary school she moved away from further education to work in administration.

Shari is very interested in other countries’ cultures and mythology; in particular Japan. Japanese themes and influences can often be found in her work.

Shari's debut novel Demon's Blood was released in ebook format on 25th January 2014. She has participated and won the National Novel Writing Month challenge for the past eight years.

Where to find Shari Sakurai:
website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Google+

Demon's Blood

Immortal blood is precious and Kokawa Taku’s makes him especially unique.

After vampire hunters force them to flee Tokyo, Taku and his lover, Thane, try to make a new life for themselves in England. But three months later Thane is still tormented by nightmares of the fire that almost cost them their lives. This leads to carelessness and the discovery of one of his victims.

When faced with threats from all sides Taku tries his best to protect them although his actions are met with disapproval and anger from Thane. Unknown to his lover, Taku is also struggling to keep hidden the truth of what really happened three months ago.

However, it is only a matter of time before Taku’s past and bloodline catches up with him.

Demon's Blood is available at Amazon

Picture Perfect World (Perfect World #1)

London, 2115

It is the year 2115 and the world is very different. With climate changes, natural disasters and war shaping the landscape, England has become a nation made up of several super cities and wasteland in between.

Eric Rawlins is a genetically engineered superhero created by the London Security Agency (L.S.A) to defend and protect the city against both national and international threats. With his superior abilities, celebrity status and beautiful girlfriend, Eric appears to have the perfect life. However, it is an illusion created by the L.S.A in order to control him.

Eric's nemesis is the charismatic Adam Larimore. The only son of billionaire business tycoon Victor Larimore, Adam is gifted with a genius level IQ as well as the same longevity as Eric.

When the actions of the L.S.A throw the two of them together Eric finds himself questioning everything that he has ever known as well as discovering the true course of events that led to Adam turning to a life of crime. As they become closer Eric realises that the L.S.A may be the real threat to London. But can he trust Adam or is he part of Adam’s plan for revenge against those who have wronged him?

Interview with Adam Larimore

Perfect World is available at
Amazon | Smashwords | iTunes | Barnes & Noble

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy New Year part 2: What's coming in 2016

Picture So the cold I thought was getting better when I wrote the post on Saturday got worse again yesterday, now today maybe it's a little better again... *sigh* But at least I'm able to sit up and write instead of being sick in bed, so here's a look ahead at my plans and goals for 2016:

For the Wildings, the conclusion of the Daughter of the Wildings series, is first up. It's still going through major revisions, with some editing stages still ahead, but is progressing steadily. I still don't want to give a release date, but will likely be in a couple of months. Now that things are settling down after the holidays and I'm not quite as sick as I was, I should start to be able to spend a little more time on it.

After that, I'll be returning to my Estelend word, the world of Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, and "A Cure For Nel". This world is built around the idea of physical features in the landscape (caves, springs, trees, water spouts, etc) that are Sources of magical power, and certain people are born with the ability to take in and use that power. The Source-Fixer (crappy working title) and Heir of Tanaris are both complete in first draft and will be my next two published novels, coming out this year (I hope; they both need a lot of work).

Along with getting these three novels ready for publication, I've committed to writing 1000 words of new prose every day, whether short stories, novels, or writing exercises that might turn into a story. Blog and forum posts do NOT count! My writing goal for the year is 250,000 words (allowing for Sundays off and other days when new writing just isn't going to happen, like Christmas and travel days). I almost made it 300,000 words, but while I'm still developing the habit, I don't want to overshoot myself. I may raise my goal to 300k later this year. It takes me about 30-45 minutes to write 1000 words, so it takes some portion of my 3-4 good working hours a day but not too much.

So, with writing 1000 words a day, that's a lot of new stuff. A lot of it is going to be short stories. My plans for those vary - put them in collections for sale, post some of them here, use some of them for freebies for my email subscribers. This is an exciting new direction for me, having more work to release and to be able to give away. And it should help fill in the intervals between novel releases.

In the background, I'm also planning a follow-up series for Daughter of the Wildings. If you've read City of Mages, you might have noticed a whole new source of conflict mentioned in the book, which isn't related to the main conflict of the Daughter of the Wildings series but which I want to explore more fully in another series. Of course, Silas and Lainie will still be the main characters :-) I've got the basic plot idea for the first book and I'm working on the overall story arc for the whole series, but can't give any kind of timetable yet for when to expect it. Hopefully, if the prep work comes together, I can start putting my 1000 words a day towards that project later this year. As with DoW, my plan is to write the whole thing all the way through, so the whole thing is finished and readers won't be left dangling for years wondering when (or if) the next book will ever be written. Should worse come to worst, if nothing else, I (or my heirs) can post any of it that remains unpublished online.

I've also got ideas for a couple of Silas and Lainie short stories :-D and there are a lot of possibilities left open in the books to fill in with more stories.

And I'm still mulling over the sequel to Urdaisunia. The DoW follow-up gets priority, but it's there in the background, humming along in the back of my mind.

And one of these days I'll also get to revising my Very First Novel Ever and its sequel.

So I've got no shortage of stuff to work on; the main issue is prioritizing and managing my limited energy as best I can.

On the reading front, I've set my Goodreads reading challenge to 30 books for this year. (I realized that some of my 62 books last year are my own books that I added, but since I read each of them 5-6-7 times before publishing them, I suppose that counts :-P) One of my specific goals is to finish reading (or make significant progress on) the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, by Steven Erikson. I love these books; Wheel of Time and Song of Ice and Fire just didn't do it for me but Malazan is amazing. And - bonus - the series is complete at 10 books. I've just started reading book 6, The Bonehunters; since these are massive books and very deep and heavy, it's probably optimistic to expect to read 5 of them in a year. But I'm going to try. I'm also planning to get started on the Stormlight Archives series by Brandon Sanderson (another of my favorite authors). And Larry Correia is a new favorite, whose books I'll be reading more of this year. But mostly, as the last few years, most of my reading will be indie authors. I'll keep doing reading roundup posts to share my recommendations.

As for my health, I've taken the concept of "one little word" (where you pick a single word to use as your theme for the year) and selected "nourish" as my word. This year I'll be taking baby steps to nourish myself, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most likely, I'm never going to recover from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but I can do things to help my body make the most of the health and energy it does have and increase them a little. And since a major factor in crashes and relapses is stress, finding ways to relieve/reduce stress and keep myself in better balance will reduce my crashes and increase my good, usable time and energy. Any success I have in this will hopefully manifest itself in greater writing productivity.

That's my plans and goals for the new year; wishing you health, happiness, and progress on your own goals and dreams in 2016!

And now, back to work.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Happy New Year! Part 1: Look back at 2015

Picture Well, so the second half of December just blew right by me. We went out of town the weekend before Christmas, for an early Christmas with our son and his family in their new house, then I came home with the worst cold I've had in years and was basically on survival mode through Christmas and the end of the year. Finally getting better, though the gunk is going to be hanging around for a while.

The result is that it's been more than two weeks since my last post and I haven't been around much on TweetFace either, so this is to assure anyone who's interested that yes, I'm still around and still working on the books. The revision of For the Wildings is progressing, slower than it might have been because I've committed to also writing new stuff every day, but it's coming along. Still can't say when it'll be released; it's up over 70,000 words now, by far the longest book of the series, and I've got several phases of editing left to go. I want to make it as good as I can, and I think (hope!) it'll be worth the wait.

Before going on with my goals and plans for this year, I wanted to take stock of what I accomplished last year. I published 4 novels (books 2-5 of Daughter of the Wildings), wrote 1 (Heir of Tanaris), and also wrote a couple of short stories. Late in October, I recommitted to writing new words every day, and ended the year with a total word count of 85,772. Heir of Tanaris was most of that, clocking in at 80, 272, the longest novel I've written in quite some time (longer than any of the Daughter of the Wildings books). One of the stories I wrote (Rescue From Suburbia) is here for you to read; the other, I'm saving to be published in a collection. For the seventh year in a row, I successfully completed NaNoWriMo, finishing November with 52,844 words written on Heir of Tanaris.

As far as reading, on Goodreads I set a goal to read 25 books and ended up reading 62! Ok, some of them were stories and short novels/novellas, but others were very long. I've got one more mega Reading Roundup post to do for last year's reading; lots of good books to recommend!

So that's the look back at 2015; time to go write now. Next up: what's coming in 2016! Some cool stuff and new directions.