5 PHOTOS with D.V. Stone: Snowball, Baby, and Beautiful New Jersey (#writerslife)

***** I’m scheduling “5 Photos” spots for early 2018. If you or your writer friends are interested in sharing some writer’s life photos, check out my new “Be My Guest” page and let me know!


Today’s guest is D.V. Stone, who is from New Jersey. Are you picturing the dense suburbs of New York or Philly? Or maybe the Jersey Shore? Her “where you’re from” photo shows us a gorgeous fall view of a different part of the state.

Welcome, Donna!

Something that represents something unique about you

I’m a Grandma with a Camaro! My husband surprised me at work with it. I named her Snowball.

Something that represents where you live

When people think of New Jersey they usually have no concept of where I live. My house backs up to the Appalachian Trail and the front is a beautiful lake.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

This is Baby. She’s wondering why he doesn’t love her back…

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Lack of time. As an author, wife and full-time employee my time usually runs out before I’m finished with whatever step I’m at. I’m thankful that I have an understanding husband who really stepped up in helping around the house and is supportive when I disappear for hours at a time.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

I have a knack for catching double rainbows. Being outside in the summer is the best especially when you find such a spectacular sight as a rainbow but then it gets even better when you get two.

Q&A

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

One foolish thought. One brutal act. Instead of a peaceful alliance––war

King Sahnan of Argatha, leader of a human realm, reaches out to Dar, King of the Darrian shifter nation. No longer able to remain disengaged from the world around them. It is time for an alliance between the two Houses. An old enemy has reemerged and seeks to take advantage of a divided Argatha. An argument on the road and an ensuing attack sink both Kingdoms into a desperate state. Felice is nearly killed, and in a bid to save her life, Abelard tells her he is Ayer, a simple soldier of King Sahnan. If she knows he is her sister’s intended, Felice will die before giving him her Shield.  In a moment of desperation they are bound, but what will it take to remain Shield-Mates?

What are you working on next?

Several things. Rock House Grill is a contemporary romance utilizing my experience as a former Emergency Medical Technician and owner of a restaurant. This manuscript is being considered by a publishing house and the editor and I are going back and forth with revisions. In between, I’m working on the book that started it all for me. Kingdom at a Crossroad. It’s a High Fantasy Epic in the LOTR style. I also have the second Shield-Mate book Kisa, Shield-Mates of Dar. I have Author ADD.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Diana Duvall’s Blade of Darkness and started Roxanne St. Claire’s Secret on the Sand. I’m waiting anxiously for C.L. Wilson’s The Sea King.

Jill: C.L. Wilson guest blogged here when she was promoting The Winter King. Check out her post “Ten Things I’ve Learned Since I Started Writing”.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Anything about RV’s. Retirement is in the next couple of years and my husband and I plan to travel this great country of ours. Coast to coast and border to border. I hope to find a lot of inspiration along the way.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Maleficent. I love the fact that besides wanting to be big, bad and vengeful, she is filled with love and compassion.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

As a self-published author I find myself lost in the pile. Marketing is a mystery and there is no magic formula that works. Getting noticed on social media that translates into book reviews and sales. I can get lost for hours trying to figure it out when what I want to do is create.

Thank you, Donna, for sharing your pictures and thoughts! 

Donna can be found online here: Website | Twitter | Amazon

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Words Books and Miles Update + Happy Halloween!

At the beginning of this year, I mentioned that I would track my success by the number of words I write, books I read, and miles I travel. The year’s nearly over, so how am I doing?

Words — not as well as I would like. I shared in my newsletter that Noon #5 will be pushed back until 2018. That was never my plan. After not publishing anything in 2015, I swore I’d never go a year without publishing anything again. But… life, you know.

Books — around 28 so far, although that includes a handful of picture books and doesn’t include the myriad non-fiction books I’ve skimmed while working at the library (way, way, way too many to list, among them Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats and, most recently, How Art Can Make You Happy, which seemed like the art version of The Little Book of Hygge meets Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Miles — Biking? Unfortunately, less than 100. Hiking? Even less. Flying? Craig and I played hooky one day this fall while Penny and E were at school. We flew down to Cape May, had lunch at the Blue Pig, checked out the Washington Street shops, bought a stack of books at the Cape Atlantic Book Company (including Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson), and watched the gulls take flight. Distance from MTN to WWD: 83.56 miles.

Back in September, I flew from BWI to DTW (408.08 miles) and then drove another 204 miles to hang out in a beautiful, peaceful lakeside cottage with friends. I read Black Rabbit Hall there, which seemed fitting because the book was set in Cornwall and — in my imagination anyway — the shores of Lake Huron = the shores of the Celtic Sea, right? ;-D More on that trip and that book later.

Looking further back, I’m going to throw in the miles from our annual road trip to Tennessee (540.4 miles) for a grand total (so far) of 1,236.04 miles.

So, how about you? How many words have you written in 2017? You know, NaNo‘s starting tomorrow. November’s a great month to catch up on your WIP.

How many books have you read? Anything recent that you want to share?

How many miles have you hiked, biked, walked, ran, traveled? Commuting miles don’t count because where’s the fun in that? 😀

Best wishes for a safe & happy Halloween!!

5 PHOTOS: Libby Doyle (#amwriting from #Philly)

Libby Doyle is here with some fantastic writer’s life photos — one of a martial arts tournament in Japan; one of her cats, Mao and Neko; and a beautiful picture of the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. 

But before we get to Libby’s photos, a quick note about my recent guest post for Natasha Lane. She invites authors to share writing tips and I picked How to Write a Terrific Book Blurb. Writing book blurbs (or back cover copy) is hard, so it’s hubris on my part to think I’ve mastered it. But I had to pick something! Writing the post got me thinking about best practices for blurb writing, which isn’t a bad thing. If you are a writer currently struggling with your WIP’s blurb, check out the post and vent your frustrations in the comments. 😀

And now… Welcome, Libby!


Something unique about me

I have a black belt in Shorinji Kempo. Here I am at a tournament in Japan. I was a brown belt at the time. Learning martial arts in Japan was a fantastic experience. One thing is certain. I will never, ever forget the Japanese word for pain: itai. We used it as the signal when our sparring partner had effectively applied a technique, which usually meant we were face down on the mat.

Shorinji Kempo is great for dealing with attackers who are bigger and stronger than you because it uses joint reverses, pressure points, and escapes, techniques based more on physics than strength.

Unfortunately, I’ve let my skills fade. You need to train all the time to be good. It really is a way of life. I’ve may have retained a bit of the attitude, though. 😉 Also, the knowledge helps with my action-packed books. My training helps me write vivid fight scenes.

Something that represents where I live

Philadelphia City Hall, from the courtyard. One day my husband posted a meme on Facebook that said: “People in Philly whisper ‘What the—?’ to themselves twenty times a day.” I laughed, because it’s true.

I set my books in Philadelphia because I know it so well, but also because it has a rich history and the kind of character that comes with age, diversity, and a powerful (and infamous) ornery streak. Plus, its people have a truly world-class sense of humor. For example, one morning while I’m riding my bike to work, a gang of us are stopped at a red light. When it changes, some random portly guy with a mustache yells, “And they’re off! Cabbage Cabbage takes the lead on the inside!”

Something I Care For

Our cats, Mao (foreground) and Neko. Mao is the Chinese word for cat. Neko is the Japanese word for cat. We got them because we had mice, and boy, have they been effective. If it’s small and moves in our house they will catch it. Of course, at this point it hardly matters. We’ve fallen in love with their fuzzy cuteness and hilarious antics. Most excellent cats.

Something that really frustrates me

My day job. This is the view from my office. Yes, a nice view, but I’m so busy I can hardly look up from the computer screen. And the hours! I want more time to write, dammit!

Something that brings me joy (besides writing)

I love mountains. I took this photo while hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho, a range that inspired a character. The heroine of the Covalent Series, Zan O’Gara, hails from the Sawtooths. She has the toughness and self-sufficiency that comes from growing up poor in a harsh climate, and the reverence for Nature that comes from waking up every day soaked in that beauty.

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

My latest is The Pain Season: Book II of the Covalent Series. I like to describe the series as Highlander meets Paradise Lost meets The English Patient. It’s an epic love story between an emotionally damaged FBI agent and a superhuman alien warrior from another dimension.

What are you working on next?

The Vengeance Season: Book III of the Covalent Series, to be released this winter. Like all my books, this one is shaping up to be a real ripsnorter. Over the first two installments of the series, Barakiel (Bah-rack-ee-el), my hero, dealt with his father’s attempts to either kill or enslave him. His father is Lucifer, a mighty Covalent warrior who rebelled against the rulers of their world and was driven from their city. He fled to the Destructive Realm, where he learned to harness its power. The only thing that holds Lucifer’s attention as much as his desire to destroy everything is his dangerous obsession with his son.

Barakiel has also fallen in love with Zan O’Gara, my heroine. Their devotion makes them both stronger, but they’re put to the test when Barakiel’s love turns Zan into a target. At times this is a dark story, filled with political intrigue, violence, tragedy and war. But my heroes are equal to their challenges. And, I should mention, this story is high heat. Scorching hot.

What are you currently reading?

Feast of Fates by Christian A. Brown, Book One of the Four Feasts Till Darkness Series, a superior epic fantasy. Brown has created a rich world, so real I can taste and smell it. I’m in love with his characters.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

The Deuce on HBO

Outlander on Starz

Fear the Walking Dead on FX

Jill: How excited are you for Outlander S3, E6? I heard we have to wait until 10/22. NOOOOOO!!!

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Hands down, the dragons from Game of Thrones.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Getting your books noticed in the sea of offerings, many of them excellent.

I’m also concerned about Amazon’s power in the market. The company can do anything it likes to independent authors. We are completely at its mercy. I think it’s a shame when books become more about the delivery system than the stories.

Jill: I don’t think a reader buys a story because of its delivery system, but delivery systems that are too complicated or burdensome can have a dampening effect on sales.

How can we meet that challenge?

I have no idea. I’m not in KDP Select. I chose wide distribution, but I do sell the great majority of my books on Amazon. Sigh. I would love suggestions, about getting noticed and about handling Amazon.

Jill: I’m not in KDP Select either, although I don’t rule it out for future books. (It didn’t make sense for the book I self-published, which was a follow-up to three trad published books.) For each book, an author should carefully consider all their distribution options. Having an income stream from multiple sources for at least some products is a wise choice for any seller.

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts!

Where to find Libby

Website | NewsletterAmazon Author PageFacebookTwitterGoodreads

#WritersLife: 5 PHOTOS with Claudia Blood (#dnd #Minnesota)

My guest today is Claudia Blood, who’s shares her five writer’s life photos. Welcome, Claudia!


Something that represents something unique about you

This is a picture of 3.5 D&D books, dice, and a dice mat.

I’ve been playing D&D for most of my life. I started in the third grade when my Dad was the DM. THAC0 is a great way to practice math. (THAC0 – To Hit AC 0)

All the good boyfriends (and husband) played. I didn’t have any female friends that played and, in fact, I was told once a female D&D player was a mythical beast (horn not included).

I brought up D&D on the first date with my husband. Shockingly enough, he thought admitting to still playing D&D was not chick magnet material. Little did he know who he was dealing with.

Twelve years later, we host D&D parties every four to six weeks at our place. My husband has been playing with some of the people for 30+ years. One of them travels six hours to attend. We start at about noon and end – well, we have gone to two or three o’clock in the morning. Okay, that was pre-kids.

Even without the super late nights, there is still so much food and laughter.  (Did I mention food?) And I finally have a couple other women that play. How cool is that?

Something that represents where you live

Minnesooota. (with accent) Land of 10,000 lakes and snowy winters. This was taken out of my back window in the middle of a storm that dropped a foot of snow. My daughter had school the next day.

It was that same winter that we hit -20 in the morning. I was on a conference call with my day job with a mix of people from Texas and Minnesota. Having a new kindergartener who had to be at the bus stop right after the call, I asked them if I should walk her to the bus stop or drive her to school. The Texans all asked why there was school. And the Minnesotans said to bundle her up and walk.

We walked.

That’s Minnesota for you.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

This is Daisy. There are organizations in Minnesota that go down to southern kill shelters and bring back animals. Daisy had been an owner surrender in Tennessee. I set up the appointment to see her, but the only time they could meet was when the kids and I were away. My hubby met her and liked her, but wanted to talk about it with me before we committed. The guy told my husband to take Daisy home for a trial.  Well, you know how that goes. Two years later we are glad we got her.

I am guessing that the previous owners gave her up because she was high energy. Which is not a problem in our household. What we did not expect was how good she is with the kids. This is a picture of when my daughter decided that Daisy needed to have a dress, a sweater, and a head scarf. Maybe for the cold Minnesota winters.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

My driveway combined with ice. Yes, I live in Minnesota, but we used to get more snow than ice. The last couple years we’ve gotten more ice than normal. I then have an-even-with-parking-brakes-on-slide-into-the-cable-box kind of driveway.

Fun fact, it is possible for a car to slide down a drive way in such a way to be parallel parked at the end when it is done. Who knew?

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Knickknacks. I love art dolls and paintings and books. This is a picture of one of my book shelves with some of my art dolls. It’s a good thing I don’t have any talent creating dolls, or I would be surrounded my a small army (or two) of art dolls.  Etsy is like crack. There are some crazy cool artist out there.

Interview

What are you working on now?

Book of Secrets

Three hundred years ago the human world and the world of Myth merged in a cataclysmic event. Head of the Human Protection Agency, Joshua Lighthouse, is obsessed with three things: ignoring his psychic powers, catching a supernatural serial killer, and a picture of the human he is meant to love. That is if he can find her.

Serene of the Pack is on the run. Framed for the arson of the HPA research labs, she will stop at nothing to get justice for her murdered Pack. Even seducing Joshua, the man in charge of the organization she blames.

When Joshua’s investigation uncovers a plot to UnMerge the worlds, he is betrayed and hunted and alone. His only possible allies are those creatures of Myth he used to hunt, and Serene, the woman from his picture.

Can two sworn enemies join together to defeat evil and not lose their hearts?

What are you currently reading?

The Writer’s Journey – Christopher Vogler. I have P.C Hodgell’s latest, The Gates of Tagmeth, sitting in queue next. My TBR is embarrassingly long with a busted queue system.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I have a four and six year old, so a “Pup named Scooby Doo”.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

The creatures in Fantastic Beasts were wonderful. I love monsters. I still like to peruse the D&D monster manual.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Writer’s ADD. I can somehow use three hours looking at writing stuff on the internet. I hop from writing blog posts, to writing Pinterest, to writing FaceBook groups, to writing emails, to articles about stuff I will someday add to a story. (You may see some Etsy, Kickstarter and … okay back to writing)

It is all a distraction from focusing on putting words on the page.

How can we meet that challenge?

Internet free writing time. I guess I could put parental controls on the internet and give my husband the password.


Thank you for sharing your pictures and thoughts, Claudia. I enjoyed hearing about your WIP and life in Minnesota. Best wishes!

#WritersLife: Ed Hoornaert (a.k.a. Mr. Valentine) shares his 5 PHOTOS (adorable animal pics, an update on my garden, and more!! :-D)

My guest today is Ed Hoornaert, a former principal oboist and current romance writer, who shares his Five “Writer’s Life” Photographs. I couldn’t resist adding a couple of mine. Loved this post and hope you do too!

Something that represents something unique about you

Two things about this pic. First, the beautiful lady is Judi, my high school sweetheart whom I married a week after graduation. We’re still living the HEA 48 years later. Lordy, I’m getting old.

Second, my first teaching job was a one-room school on isolated Gilford Island in British Columbia. Judi and I had to fly in on a floatplane; we had no television or radio reception; people lived on floathouses; and since there were no roads, the students came to school on a schoolboat.  A fisherman tamed the island’s deer and threatened to shoot anyone who hunted them—and people believed him. Judi is feeding a carrot to Sassy.

Jill: That is so neat! Gilford Island sounds beautiful, quaint, and charming (all except the man who threatened to shoot people 😉 ). The picture of Judi and Sassy reminded me of one my husband took of me a while ago in western Pennsylvania.

Something that represents where you live

Since I now live in Arizona, I considered a saguaro cactus or maybe the Grand Canyon—but no, too predictable. Instead, here’s a sunset pic taken from my front yard, with a mesquite tree in the foreground and palms in the background.  Sunset colors are caused by light filtered through particles in the air. Deserts have lots of dust, hence spectacular sunsets.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

Behold my dog Twiggles, a tailless schnoodle whom we adopted from an animal rescue organization three years ago. Although she’s terrible at walking on a leash, she’s tempered, friendly, and loves my three-year-old grandson. We’ve had many dogs over the years, but Twiggles is one of the best.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Weeds! We have a corner lot with much space for errant plants, and I feel a modicum of pressure not to have the crummiest place in the neighborhood. You might think the southern Arizona desert wouldn’t support many weeds, but you’d be wrong. It’s a lush desert, with almost too much rain to be classified a desert. Weeds grow like, well, like weeds.

Jill: Weeding was a popular answer for this question this summer. (See Diane Burton’s and Renee Regent’s 5 Photos post.) I get it! Weeding drives everyone nuts!! In Diane’s post, I shard that the weeds in our back garden were so bad, we decided to just plant grass back there this year and take the summer off from growing our own vegetables. The grass is coming along. We planted morning glories along the fence (still growing) and there’s some mint left from the herb patch we had. Next summer, we’ll probably turn that area back into a vegetable garden, but some other ideas we toyed with were more bees, chickens, goats (I don’t think there’s enough room), and making the whole thing one big strawberry patch.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

This is a picture of a picture on my music room wall, my lone souvenir of the last time I performed a solo concerto. I’ve been a musician far longer than I’ve been a writer, serving as principal oboist of one orchestra or another for 40 years. As I said above, I’m getting old. These days I play for fun, not money. This weekend, we played Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes and Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony—and I loved every minute of it.

Jill: Awesome!! That’s fantastic that you still enjoy performing. Have you seen Mozart in the Jungle? I started watching and enjoyed the episodes I saw, but I’m very behind. If you’ve seen it, wondering what you think…?

 

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

She was born to kill. Not love.

Jo Beaverpaw is born fully grown, well-armed, and impatient to tackle her destiny … which is to kill her alien nation’s most wanted fugitive. Her life is pre-programmed and straightforward – until she meets the sexy bodyguard of her intended target.

Wonder what would happen if Schwarzenegger’s robot assassin in the original Terminator had been a bad-assed (yet petite) female?  Find out in Newborn.

What are you working on next?

The fourth novel in my Alien Contact for Idiots series is tentatively titled Rescuing Prince Charming.  Although it follows Newborn, both books stand alone.  The manuscript has been a real problem child; this is my third attempt to salvage it.  Sigh.

Jill: I feel like all of my manuscripts were problem children. 😀

What are you currently reading?

Unsportsmanlike Conduct by Sophia Henry, a New Adult novel that blends two things I love: hockey and romance.  So far I’m extremely impressed.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

I recently finished watching seasons one through nine of Murdoch Mysteries.  In general, though, I don’t watch much TV.  I’d rather spend the time writing.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Standing out from the hordes of books and authors to get an audience.

How can we meet that challenge?

When I figure that out, I’ll let you know.

You can find Ed online here: 

Thanks, Ed, for guest blogging today!

5 PHOTOS with Diane Burton: Is editing like weeding? (#writerslife #gardening)

Spring has finally sprung! Where I live, the sun is out, the temperature is up, the windows are open (the allergies are out-of-control 🙂 ). My guest today is cozy mystery writer, Diane Burton, who’s sharing her five writer’s life photos. One of them got me thinking: is editing like weeding? Is writing like gardening?

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

After moving several times for Hubs’ job, we built our final house. It was a wonderful experience. Not many people say that. Yes, it ended up costing more than projected, and Hubs hates the word “upcharge”, but we don’t regret doing it. The house has felt like home from the day we moved in.

Something that represents where you live

We live close to Lake Michigan. There’s something magical about living near the water.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

My flowers. Most came from my mother’s garden. I’ve had the same flowers at every house I’ve lived in and brought a few of each to every new house.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Weeds. No matter how often you pull them, they keep coming back.

Jill: Because it’s spring, I’ve been thinking a lot about gardening. For years, we’ve had a back, fenced-off area that we used for an organic veggie garden. But – wow! – the weeds. We’ve used ground cover sheeting with some success, but over the last year, the weeds took such hold that we were half-tempted to spray the whole thing down with Roundup. Instead, we decided to join a CSA farm and turn our garden into grass for one season (which should get rid of most of the weeds naturally).

Hypothesis — writing : gardening :: editing : weeding…? Basically, if you like to garden, then you don’t want to quit, even when parts of it aggravate and frustrate you. Same with writing. There’s always another book… another manuscript… another story that has to be pulled, pruned, snipped, clipped, and/or coaxed into something beautiful. It doesn’t matter what method you use to shape your creation as long as you (mostly) enjoy the process as much as the product. 😀

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

(Besides my family.)

The Mackinac Bridge connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. It is such an exciting site, whether from the park (where this was taken) or coming around a curve in I-75. As a kid, I watched the bridge being built when we took a car ferry over to the Upper Peninsula. I always get a thrill upon seeing it.

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Go on an adventure with PI Alex O’Hara as she solves another case. Nick’s mother has moved in with Alex, putting a crimp in Nick and Alex’s romance. What’s a girl to do? At least the latest case is an easy one.

What are you working on next?

A science fiction romance, The Spy, is part of my Outer Rim series about strong women on the frontier of space.

What are you currently reading?

NIKO: Licensed to Kill by Vonnie Davis. Love her writing, especially the comic twists she adds to serious situations—like being chased by terrorists. Just finished Danger in the Stars by Veronica Scott, a science fiction romance. It’s part of her Sectors series that I thoroughly enjoy.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Murdoch Mysteries (aka The Artful Detective) takes place in the late 1890s and early 1900s. I love the relationships within the series. I’m eagerly awaiting the return of Dark Matter on the Syfy channel. Again, it’s the relationships between the characters that make me watch the show.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

Gandalf, especially the way Ian McKellen portrays him. In both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings series, Gandalf is the impetus to get the MC to go on the adventure. We all need someone like that in our lives, someone who will force us out of complacency.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Getting noticed. There are so many good writers that nobody knows about because they’re lost in the plethora of books released every day.

How can we meet that challenge?

Dogged determination. An online presence: blogging (both on one’s own blog and guest blogging—like here), Facebook, Twitter. More importantly helping/supporting other writers. I truly believe that what goes around comes around and paying it forward. Word of mouth is the best advertising.

Thanks, Jill, for having me here.

My pleasure, Diane. Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts.

More about Diane

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three grandchildren.

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Newsletter

More about The Case of the Meddling Mama

Once again, Alex O’Hara is up to her ears in mysteries. After surviving an attempted murder, all she wants is R&R time with Nick Palzetti. But his mother leaving his father (“that horse’s patoot”) and moving in with Alex puts a crimp in their plans. Then Nick leaves on assignment and the teen she rescued from an abusive father believes his buddy is doing drugs. Meanwhile, Alex has two easy cases to take her mind off her shaky relationship with Nick—a philandering husband and a background check on a client’s boyfriend. Piece of cake.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

5 PHOTOS: Nancy Northcott + THE 6 PLACES I FIND NEW BOOKS/AUTHORS! (#writerslife #giveaway)

Programming Note: I’ve been treading water with this blog for a couple of months now, getting by with Reading Challenge posts and 5 Photos posts. I also haven’t been on Facebook or Twitter other than to briefly check in. There are good reasons for it, but they have nothing to do with writing or blogging. I’ll try to do a more personal post soon. In the meantime, please enjoy the wonderful guest posts!


Today, Nancy Northcott shares her five writer’s life photos. Her post touches on all sorts of neat things — the Wright Brothers, backwater peat bogs, bulging bookcases, Dragon Con… It’s also packed with reading and watching suggestions and a chance to win a signed print copy of her latest book. At the end, I share the half-dozen places I find new books and authors. Welcome, Nancy!

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

So far as I know, I’m the only romance writer regularly using the Okefenokee Swamp in her books.  My Light Mage Wars/Protectors paranormal romances feature mages fighting ghouls and demons in south Georgia near the Okefenokee (though one novella, Sentinel, is set in Macon, which is closer to Atlanta).

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not Ms. Outdoors.  I like my surroundings climate-controlled and my wildlife safely distant, but I fell in love with the Okefenokee, which is actually not a swamp but a blackwater peat bog, when I went with my family to research it.  The place is so different from anything else I’ve seen, yet it’s beautiful and wild and captivating–and spooky at night!

Something that represents where you live

I live in North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers first flew.  Our license plates claim we’re First in Flight, and we have a genteel feud with Ohio, whose plates claim it’s the Birthplace of Aviation. This airplane hangs in one of the departure lounges at the Charlotte airport.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

This is our dog, who thinks all routes in our house should pass through the kitchen.  She looks irritated in this photo because no one is moving toward that area.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

This bookcase illustrates an ongoing problem, too little space for books.  I love comic books and speculative fiction, but I also love history.  I’ve been a history geek all my life,  mostly reading American and British history with a little Ancient World mixed in. I collect books on topics I have used or might want to use for worldbuilding, but I also just simply enjoy it.

Hence the problem.

And yes, those are books stacked in the left of the photo. *sigh*

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

I love going to science fiction/fantasy and comics conventions.  Here I am at Dragon Con a couple of years ago.  I was in the lobby of one of the convention hotels on Thursday morning of the con weekend.  By lunchtime, that area was hopping.

I’ve loved comics, science fiction, and fantasy, along with other things of course, since I was in grade school.  The people who go to the cons, whether or not they like the same things I do, are my tribe.  I love the fannish energy in the air and the enthusiasm for the various guests.

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

My latest novel is The Herald of Day. It’s the first book in the Boar King’s Honor trilogy, and it represents a new direction for me.  Instead of contemporary paranormal romance, it’s historical fantasy with romantic elements.  Here’s the pitch:

A wizard in 17th century England has altered history to set up a dictatorship of the mageborn.  Standing in his way are a cursed wizard and a Gifted but untrained tavern maid. If they can’t figure out how to stop him and put history right, he’ll crush England under his heel.

What are you working on next?

I have three projects in varying stages of development.

I’m collaborating with Jeanne Adams on a new space opera series.  It’s about a world (and a space station) that are officially dubbed Paradise Station but, because they’re in the armpit of humanity’s galactic frontier, are more commonly known as Outcast Station. We plan to launch it this summer.

I’m also working on the next Light Mage Wars book, Nemesis, which is a second-chance-at-love story.

Finally, I’m doing research for The Steel Rose, the next book in the Boar King’s Honor series.  It’s set during the end of the Napoleonic Wars, with a climactic confrontation during the Battle of Waterloo.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Josephine Wilkinson’s The Princes in the Tower: Did Richard III Murder His Nephews, Edward V and Richard of York? It’s a slim book that focuses only on that question, but it provides a careful examination of the various sources, including contemporary ones, that address the issue.

Next up is KJ Howe’s debut thriller, The Freedom Broker.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

We love NCIS:LA and Supergirl, and we’re having withdrawal over Grimm.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

That’s a tough one.  I had to think about it a while, and I pick Nighteyes, the wolf that bonds with Fitzchivalry Farseer in Robin Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies.  He shows us a lot about Fitz, but he definitely has a personality of his own.  He’s a brave, steadfast, loving companion.

An alternate choice would be any of Anne McCaffrey’s dragons–which also happen to bond with their humans.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Aside from the longstanding one of learning to be the best writers we can be, I think it’s getting readers’ attention in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

How can we meet that challenge?

If I had a guaranteed answer for that, I’d bottle it and make a fortune! *g*  I think we have to learn how to market ourselves. I couldn’t sell toothbrushes to benefit the marching band in my hometown, so I have lots to figure out, but I’m gaining ground.

I also think we need to be flexible.  What worked last year might not work this year, and so on.

Thanks for having me today, Jill.  I’ve enjoyed it.

My pleasure, Nancy. 🙂


More about The Herald of Day

A wizard’s fatal mistake, a king wrongly blamed for murder, and a bloodline cursed until they clear the king’s name…

In 17th century England, witchcraft is a hanging offense. Tavern maid Miranda Willoughby hides her magical gifts until terrifying visions compel her to seek the aid of a stranger, Richard Mainwaring, to interpret them. A powerful wizard, he sees her summons as a chance for redemption.  He bears a curse because an ancestor unwittingly helped murder the two royal children known as the Princes in the Tower, and her message uses symbols related to those murders.

Miranda’s visions reveal that someone has altered history, spreading famine, plague, and tyranny across the land. The quest to restore the timeline takes her and Richard from the glittering court of Charles II to a shadowy realm between life and death, where they must battle the most powerful wizard in generations with the fate of all England at stake.

More about Nancy

Nancy Northcott’s childhood ambition was to grow up and become Wonder Woman.  Around fourth grade, she realized it was too late to acquire Amazon genes, but she still loved comic books, science fiction, fantasy, history, and romance.

Nancy has taught a college course on science fiction, fantasy, and society.   She has also given presentations on the Wars of the Roses and Richard III to university classes studying Shakespeare’s play about that king.  A sucker for fast action and wrenching emotion, Nancy combines the magic, romance, and high stakes she loves in the books she writes.

Library Journal gave her debut novel, Renegade, a starred review, calling it “genre fiction at its best.” Connect with her via her website, Facebook, Goodreads or Twitter: @NancyNorthcott.


More about the Giveaway

Nancy’s giving a signed, print copy of The Herald of Day to one commenter, so tell her how you usually find new authors and what you’re reading now. I’ll pick a winner by midnight DST on May 15th. (For my complete giveaway rules, click here.)

Here’s my TBR list for this month, although I’ll likely only have time to read one of them. As for how I find new books/authors, here are my Go To Resources:

  1. My local library: I’m a part-time librarian and, in direct contrast to my local indie bookstore, my local library just doubled its square footage and the size of its print book collection. I love looking through the new release shelves.
  2. Early Word: a resource for librarians that alerts us to books with high hold ratios, movie tie-ins, early reviews, upcoming releases, etc. Even though it’s geared toward librarians, anyone can read/subscribe to this blog. If you miss GalleyCat or think EW‘s book coverage is spotty, this would be a great resource for you.
  3. Genre-specific blogs and other authors: Speculative fiction blog The Qwillery highlights the work of debut authors. They also review other genre titles and provide some industry coverage. Plus, they have a fun Cover Wars contest every month. Suzanne Johnson’s blog (formerly Preternatura) has a nice comfortable feel. She blogs about her author life, various things that interest her, and shares a weekly New Releases list that features paranormal, UF, and fantasy reads. Veronica Scott lists new releases for SF/fantasy romance every Wednesday.
  4. Word of Mouth: I’m always asking people what they’re reading and what they think of it.
  5. My book club: I’ve read some books this year that I wouldn’t have picked up but for my book club. It’s good for authors to expose themselves to genres other than their own. You don’t want your work to be derivative or so full of generic tropes that it lacks any sort of personality or voice, right? Well, reading widely is one thing you can do to avoid that fate. Joining a book club also reminded me that there’s value in a book beyond its entertainment or educational value — its ability to spark discussion. My book club uses Book Movement to keep track of its book choices, meeting places, etc.
  6. Amazon: I still prefer browsing in a bookstore to browsing online, but when I know exactly what I’m looking for, want it immediately, and don’t care about owning the book in print, Amazon’s convenience is hard to beat.

We’d love to hear from YOU. How do you find new books/authors? Do you have a book blog or follow one that you can recommend? Just “liking” this post isn’t enough. Give your favorite blog a shout out!! 😀

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts, Nancy!

5 PHOTOS with Vivien Jackson: Castellan, caterpillars, and cyborgs (#writerslife #SFR)

Today’s guest is Vivien Jackson, author of the recently released science fiction romance, Wanted and Wired. She’s here with her five writer’s life photos, as well as her thoughts on the biggest challenge facing writers today. Welcome, Vivien!

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

I’m a huge gamer: console, PC, tabletop, RPG, you name it. This is a game board from Castellan. I won. 😉

Something that represents where you live

Texas, but specifically Central Texas, is both yee-haw and laid back. It’s a weird mix, and in fact that was a city slogan for a long time: “Keep Austin Weird.”

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

I have adorable pets, but this pic isn’t them. We live in the path of the Monarch butterfly migration, and we keep milkweed plants to help out those little bugs and keep the migration happening. We had nine caterpillars at once on our milkweeds last year!

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Waiting.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Gonna cheat here and use a pic of something writing-related:  opening a box one morning and finding copies of my book inside. That was a huge emotional moment for me. There might have been some happy tears.

Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Wanted and Wired is a hair-raising, gunslinging kissing story set in a bleak and broken near future world. It’s about a Texas girl who screws up, gets herself and her cybernetically enhanced partner into a heap of trouble, and then ends up having to save them both. Basically, the plot is a noodle bowl of things I find way-cool—hot cars, space stations, personal sacrifice, friends-to-lovers, cyborgs, true love—tossed with spice and served hot.

What are you working on next?

There are two more books coming in this Tether series, follow-ups to Wanted and Wired. Perfect Gravity releases November 7, 2017, and we’re still working on a title for the third book.

What are you currently reading?

Alien Mate by Cara Bristol. I LOVE her science fiction romance books.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Doctor Who. Sometimes I think I’m the only person who likes Peter Capaldi’s 12th Doctor, but I’m really digging the dynamic with his new companion, Bill.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

In books, Snape. In film, Prince Nuada from Hellboy II.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Having to be all the other things: marketers, brand managers, social media mavens, document conversion specialists, production managers, graphic designers, copy editors, web developers. And this on top of the fact that most writers have a day job as well.

How can we meet that challenge?

Man, I don’t know. Right now, my agent and publisher are helping me with these things, bless them. But I see a lot of my friends who are doing it all, and wow, they amaze me. I have such a hard time with multitasking.

Thank you, Vivien, for sharing your pictures and thoughts!


Vivien Jackson writes stories with robots, grenades, pixies, and always, always down-home salacious kissery. She’s an unrepentant fangirl of many fandoms and would love to discuss your favorite ships here or here or here.

5 PHOTOS: Jenna Barwin (#WritersLife – #vampires, bloody fish, and bromeliads!)

Please welcome Jenna Barwin, who’s here to share her five “writer’s life” photos!

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

I shoot underwater photography. Recently, I considered whether there was a link between the sea creatures I photograph, and my fiction writing. Denizens of the sea and vampires share this in common: they can be both beautiful and dangerous.

For example, this lionfish elegantly floats through the water, and is quite lovely to watch, but its spines contain a nasty neurotoxin. Unlike vampires, they aren’t aggressive, and they move slowly through the water, so it’s easy to avoid them.

Something that represents where you live

Dana Point is named after Richard Henry Dana Jr. He wrote Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840, which chronicles his two-year sea voyage to California. Dana Point hosts a tall ships festival each year, and you can sail on craft similar to the one Dana wrote about. I had a great time at last year’s tall ships festival, and took this photo while sailing aboard the Spirit of Dana Point.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

My mother passed away in 2004. She had a green thumb, and I have a thumb tattooed with a skull and crossbones. Plants I take care of rarely thrive. Well, I inherited her potted plants, including this bromeliad. I’m proud to say I’ve kept it alive 13 years, and it’s still going strong.

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

Software updates are like Russian roulette. When I press “update now,” I can almost hear the gun’s cylinder spinning. Will it really update overnight, or will I come back in the morning to find it stuck in that endless spinning wheel of death? And after it finishes updating, will my programs stop functioning? I’ve lost days of writing time to updates that froze my computer. And anything that gets between me and writing frustrates me.

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

Nature photography, both underwater and on land, is a source of great joy for me. This was the hardest photo to pick because I have so many favorites. I chose this great egret, taken in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The bird was hunting along a river, stalking a fish, and struck, spearing its dinner. With a little shake of its head, the egret caught the fish in its mouth and gobbled it down.

Your outdoor photos are beautiful!

The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

A research scientist is forced by her people to spy on the vampires she’s trying to help. One of those vampires is an expert winemaker with eyes the color of dark bourbon—and just as intoxicating—who’s hiding his own deep secrets. In the end, he learns to love again, and she learns to embrace her own decisions, which includes choosing him.

Dark Wine at Midnight, the first book in my urban fantasy Hill Vampire series, is available on Amazon.

What are you working on next?

Dark Wine at Sunrise is book 2 in the Hill Vampire series, and I’m currently editing it.

What are you currently reading?

Jeaniene Frost’s Into the Night, the final book in her series about Leila and Vlad the Impaler (just don’t call him Dracula). Jeaniene writes “couple series”—a series of books featuring one romantic couple. Once I fall in love with a couple, I like following their story through multiple books.

My Hill Vampire series is a couple series, although there may be other characters who find love too.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

The Magicians, season 2. I love the college angst mixed with superb writing and great characters.

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

My favorite villain is Dr. Horrible from Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Joss Whedon did a fantastic job directing this short video story, which exemplifies a saying we writers often hear: the villain is the hero of his or her own story.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Getting discovered. Indie publishing opened up the world of publishing to many books that the Big Publishers were afraid to take a risk on. But it also increased the number of books readers can choose from. It’s easy to get lost in the volume of new books being produced.

How can we meet that challenge?

First, deliver top quality writing and don’t skimp on the editing process. Second, put ourselves out there through social media and other reader-oriented opportunities. Readers won’t just stumble across our books. We have to go to where they are. Third, work with other authors to promote each other’s work. Working together, we’ve got this!

Where to Find Jenna

Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter: @JennaBarwin | Goodreads

Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts, Jenna!

5 PHOTOS: Viola Carr, author of THE DASTARDLY MISS LIZZIE (#steampunk #giveaway #writerslife)

Steampunk author Viola Carr’s latest Electric Empire novel releases today! She’s here with her five writers life photos, more info about The Dastardly Miss Lizzie, and a chance to win the previous two books in the series. Welcome, Viola!

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

Viola: Well, I’m not sure it’s exactly unique, but I love to play my oboe. It’s a quirky instrument that I think was invented by the same people who decided it would be fun to make that ancient Greek bloke push his rock up the same hill for eternity. You have to learn to play it over and over again. For some reason, this is fun…

Jill: Neat! I’ve been watching Mozart in the Jungle lately, which has given me a new appreciation for oboists.

Something that represents where you live

This is the park just out the back of my place. Yes, we really do have kangaroos in the suburbs! We live on the edge of a nature reserve where they rehabilitate endangered native species, which actually involves keeping these handsome creatures out. Kangaroos are a pest in this area. But it’s nice to see them when I go for a walk.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

I have 2 pics here – is that cheating? Here’s the cat, Leeloo, having a nice sleep on my lap. And this is the dog, Arnie, looking sour, interrupted while chowing down on his bone. Writing is often a solitary job, and these two drive me insane…. erm, keep me company when no one else is home.

Definitely not cheating. You can never have too many pet pics! 🙂

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

This is my book nook at home. Don’t get me wrong – I love love love books! What’s frustrating is all the books in there I haven’t yet read. Nasty, insidious things. They whisper to me, accusing, late at night…

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

I love to travel! Last year I returned to Venice, one of my favourite places. I spent a few days wandering the streets and soaking up the sights and sounds. It has a unique, piquant atmosphere. There is no place like it.

More about The Dastardly Miss Lizzie

In the third book in Viola Carr’s fantastically fun and wonderfully edgy Electric Empire novel, set in the gritty world of alternate Victorian London, Dr. Eliza Jekyll must team up with her secret other half, Miss Lizzie Hyde, as her world comes crashing to a halt when a madman begins targeting the city’s most important scientists, and sorcerers threaten all she holds dear.

Crime scene physician Eliza Jekyll is trying to share a life with her rebellious second self, Lizzie Hyde. But being two people in one body isn’t easy, not when Eliza has a professional reputation to protect and Lizzie is veering headfirst into a life of debauchery and crime with an increasingly demented Mr. Hyde. Not to mention the difficulty of making a respectable marriage with Remy Lafayette–Royal Society investigator and occasional lycanthrope–while Lizzie enjoys her own dubious romantic entanglements. And with England on the brink of war, Remy’s secretive mission in sorcery-riddled Paris grows ever more sinister. Has he been an enemy agent all along? Or is Eliza finally going mad?

Now, she’s confronted by her most baffling case yet: an evil genius with a penchant for theatrics is murdering eminent scientists in the most inexplicable ways. Her investigation uncovers a murky world of forbidden books, secret laboratories and bleeding-edge science punishable by death–and a shocking connection to her father’s infamous experiments. Desperate to learn the truth about her past, she must infiltrate a cabal of fanatical inventors bent on a discovery that will change the world–or destroy it.

With London under attack by sorcery-wielding terrorists, and the Royal Society’s enforcers determined to bury her evidence for good, Eliza needs all the friends she can get if she’s to thwart the killer and keep her head. But when Lizzie’s criminal shenanigans get Eliza fired from the Metropolitan Police, and Remy is implicated in an act of bloody vengeance he didn’t commit (or did he?), she’s on her own.

Except for wily, resourceful, mercurial Lizzie. But Lizzie’s got her own life now. And she’ll do anything to keep it. Even if it means attempting the unspeakable and finding her own body. Even if it means throwing Eliza to the wolves, and letting the world burn…

Amazon     BN     HarperVoyager     BD    Kobo     iBooks

More about Viola

Viola Carr was born in Australia, but wandered into darkest London one foggy October evening and never found her way out. She now devours countless history books and dictates fantastical novels by gaslight, accompanied by classical music and the snoring of her slumbering cat. She likes steampunk, and thought it would be cool to investigate wacky crimes with crazy gadgets…just so long as her heroine was the creator of said wacky gadgets: a tinkerer, edgy, with a dash of mad scientist.

Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Facebook

More about the Giveaway

At the end of her blog tour, Viola is giving away one set of the previous two books in the Electric Empire series — The Diabolical Miss Hyde and The Devious Dr. Jekyll (US only). Click here for the Rafflecopter link and here for Jill’s complete giveaway rules.

Thank you, Viola, for sharing your pictures with us! Have fun on your tour!

5 Photos: Marie Johnston (#writerslife)

Today’s guest is paranormal romance author, Marie Johnston, who is sharing her five photos, a little bit about her latest release, and who she’s currently reading. Welcome, Marie!

The Photos

Something that represents something unique about you

I play hockey, which isn’t terribly unique, but I didn’t learn until my thirties and I’d only ice skated once or twice before I began. My stops need improving and I’m working on skating backwards, but each time I build my skills. And even better, falling with all that gear on is so much nicer! My league plays for fun and it’s an incredible environment to learn in.

Something that represents where you live

I’m not too far from the Canadian border where winter brings a lot of snow and cold. Most winters we get brutally cold, occasionally reaching -40°F. Then add in the wind, and a -60°F wind chill isn’t unheard of. Snow amounts vary, but this winter we got hit with four blizzards in 6 weeks, each packing anywhere from 8-18 inches of snow. And since we don’t own a snowblower, we gutted through it all with a shovel.

Jill: Meanwhile, in Maryland, it was the Winter That Wasn’t.

Your pet(s) or plant(s) or thing you care for (besides your human family/friends)

I actually have two pets, an old kitty and a new puppy, but there’s no way the cat would agree to a photo-op together. My kitty is seventeen years young. We call her our little old lady who still goes out for bingo and happy hour. I think she’s good for a couple more years and that’s why we got the dog. The cat is the last of three we’d raised and we kept saying we wouldn’t get a dog until she passed. But year after year went by and she’s still with us, so we rescued a puppy. The dog thinks she fascinating. She thinks he needs to mind his own business.

She’s adorable! 🙂

Something (not someone) that really frustrates you

I don’t know what I would’ve done if the mismatched socks craze never happened. I don’t know where they all go, but I can buy a brand-new pack and wash them before anyone uses them, and they’ll still come out of the laundry without mates. That’s just one of my irritations with socks. The other is finding dirty socks EVERYWHERE—shoved into the cushions, behind the couch, scattered all over the floor, stuffed in the corners of our vehicle. I cleaned out our vehicle a few weeks ago and found six or seven (none matched). In fact, going through the pictures, I noticed a sock wadded up behind my skates…

The other day I found a pair of socks in my car too. They were black and my car mat is black, so I didn’t see them the day before. I think my daughter changed her shoes in between track and running errands? Kids! I also thought about sharing a picture of the laundry basket I have that is ENTIRELY FULL of unmatched socks. I need to just throw them out, but I keep thinking I’ll find their matches. Laundry (and unmatched socks) are one of my greatest frustrations too!!

Something that brings you joy (besides writing)

I grew up out in the country and my husband grew up farming and ranching, but our kids are first generation city kids. For years, we wanted to move out in the country and last summer we finally sealed the deal on our little slice of paradise. There’s no house yet, but some days, we take the kids and dog out so they can run wild. My favorite memory of the land so far is when my parents and the kids’ great-grandpa came out with us and they were helping the kids identify wildflowers.

Beautiful!


The Interview

What’s the elevator pitch for your latest published novel?

Kaitlyn Savoy’s shifter abilities came as a surprise and except for the pesky side effect of blacking out after shifting, she’s adapted well. If only her fellow Guardian, Chayton Eagle, would overlook her failing. When they’re ordered to work together, she suspects he uses derision to keep his distance—because while they may be destined mates, he reveals he’s promised to another. But no excuses, Kaitlyn deserves better.

What are you working on next?

Bishop is both the name of the book and the name of the character. It’s the third book in my vampire series and I hope readers still love vampires as much as I do. He’s the big teddy bear of his team until a demoness tricks him into a bond. Now she’s on the run from the underworld and he’s determined to reach her before anyone else. But his reasons for catching her change over the course of the book.

What are you currently reading?

Karen Marie Moning’s Feversong. I’ve had it on my Nook for a while, but hadn’t charged it because I had too much to get done. I still don’t have a binge-read opening, and it’s hard sticking to my routine when I want to ignore everything and read, but I’m almost done.

On my TBR list.

What are you currently watching (TV shows)?

Way too much. Elementary, Lethal Weapon, Big Bang Theory, Alone, and my hubs and just finished Lucifer—and Pioneer Woman because that one totally fits in.

J: 😀

Favorite fantasy creature, villain, or weapon not from your own work?

I had a hard time figuring this out until I started Feversong and there he was. Jericho Barrons. I love how dark and mysterious he is and totally dedicated to the cause, almost to a fault. He’s definitely a fantasy creature. In a way, he’s a villain, depends on the character and the day. And most definitely he’s a weapon.

Biggest challenge facing writers today?

Finding readers. So many books to choose from, how are any readers ever going to find ours? It’s hard to express how much I appreciate each and reader who gave my work a  chance.

How can we meet that challenge?

Find ways to connect. Newsletters seem to be the most efficient, but learning how to express ourselves and sell ourselves is a tough balance to find.

www.mariejohnstonwriter.com


Thank you, Marie, for sharing your pictures, stories, and thoughts! 

Asteroid Day… Etc.

I’m back! After blogging nearly every day during the first part of June, I went radio silent for the last two weeks. Part of why was that we went to Florida for a while. Bucking social media trends as always, I almost never post during my vacations. I’ll share a little bit about that trip in a later post. Here’s a hint about where we went:

Waiting for the bus...

In any case, I returned from vacation with an elephant-sized pile of laundry to do, a Nile-length list of emails to slog through, and a new summer schedule to get used to.

Did I mention that I’m a part-time librarian now? I am!! 😀

My local library just underwent a big expansion/renovation and, as a result, they hired a handful of additional part-timers. Considering my love of books, research, chatting with people of all ages about stories in any format, and my desire to find a steady source of bookish income, the job is PERFECT FOR ME!!!

Our new library is beautiful—twice the size now with all sorts of nice features: meeting rooms, reading nooks, public computers, as well as laptop bars for patrons who bring their own, teen/tween/children’s areas, and a maker space, which is one of the neatest parts. Libraries are doing their best these days to transform their spaces into places where all members of the community can meet, learn, read, and create. Maker spaces/tinker labs provide a place where artists and other creators can come together to share tools, knowledge, and camaraderie.

Writerly news: I’m expecting my editor’s notes on Pocket Full of Tinder any day now. Once I get them, I’ll have a better idea of how long it will take me to revise (ahem, maybe even rewrite some of it). Part of me now thinks I’m EVEN MORE INSANE THAN I PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT for deciding to continue the Noon Onyx series on my own.

When I decided to write and publish book 4, I didn’t realize that not having the rights to books 1-3 would limit me as much as it does. That doesn’t mean I regret publishing with Ace!! (as if) It just means that I didn’t realize, before I committed to self-publishing Pocket Full of Tinder, that not having control over series pricing and packaging means that I won’t be able to offer “first in series free” deals or boxed sets… etc…

(For background on why series get orphaned, see my contribution to SF Signal’s 8/14/14 Mind Meld, “What’s Your Take on Author Legacies? Should Unfinished Series Remain Unfinished?” or, more recently, Suzanne Johnson’s post from today, Shop Talk: Why Series Are Orphaned.)

That said, I’ve got my hands full with just trying to publish B4 let alone do any collective anything with respect to the entire series. I’ve loved certain aspects of self-publishing (working directly with my cover illustrator/designer, being able to hire an editor who only needs to worry about the manuscript/story), but I can’t say with any credibility that I’m loving trying to juggle everything by myself.

That’s all for now. If you’re a new blog subscriber or just stumbling across this post–final reminder! Today is the LAST DAY to sign up for my newsletter in order to be eligible to win my June prize:


Fireball Laser Cut Wood Earrings + small SWAG pack
-OR-
a book from Book Depository (up to $10)
(winner’s choice)

Goodies in the SWAG pack include:

Atomic fireballs (super hot cinnamon candy!)
Book cover charms
Artist Trading Card created and signed by yours truly
Bookmarks
+
Misc bibliophile buttons (wear with pride, people!)

Contest is open to international, however, any winner who does not have a U.S. address will receive the book. All newsletter subscribers as of June 30, 2016 will be entered. I’ll announce the winner in my next newsletter and will also get in touch with them via email. Complete rules for my giveaways can be found here.


Oh, and – hey! – today’s Asteroid Day.

These Lakes Are Actually Craters Made By Asteroids” is my favorite article from today about asteroids. Enjoy!

The Birds and the Bees… and Julia Child (#WritersLife)

At the end of March, I mentioned we were getting bees. Yep, bees. As in honey bees and a hive. As in a Queen Bee and her whole brood of hard-working sister-bees. Lots of bee jokes here for a while. (“What kind of bee can’t make up its mind? A May bee.” “What did the sushi say to the bee? Wasa Bee?” hahaha — where is WordPress’ Face With Tears of Joy emoji?) In any case, I’m NOT a fan of stinging insects (seriously, who is?). But I love raw honey and the thought of having my own little bee box was appealing. Also, not to get too environmentally preachy, but colony collapse disorder is no joke, and while returning to a one beekeeper, one hive system probably won’t cure it… it can’t hurt either. Most people’s reactions were along these lines:

“We’re getting bees.”

“Bees?”

“Yeah, bees.”

“You have bees? Because I know somebody you can call…”

“No, we’re getting them. Craig built a bee box for them and the queen and hive are being delivered this Saturday.”

[blank look]… Then an [you’re OUT OF YOUR MIND look]

Then: “Well, sign me up for some honey.”

LESSON: Honey is better than cups of sugar for winning over skeptical neighbors. 😀

So the bees arrived. The first drawer or flat or whatever it’s called arrived with a bunch of bees and no queen. They were doomed for sure. So they had to be sent back to the bee farm (where, presumably the High King of the Bees will get them a new queen. Somehow…? Not really sure how that works.) But the next drawer arrived fully stocked and we were off!

Except for this damned weather!!!!!!! No good for the bees… or me! 😦 I joked last Friday that I felt like we were living in Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day.” Well, that day was Mother’s Day. One brief, 24 hour burst of sunlight. Lawns were cut, gardens were weeded, and bike rides were taken. And now… we’re back to rain and fog and clouds. If you live somewhere like Oregon, you may be used to it, but we Marylanders are not! (My youngest said that Mother Nature must be going through a break up because she’s been crying a lot. 😀 )

Despite the weather, there are other signs of spring… like the catbird nest in the hanging flower basket on my front porch. Every year, this happens, which we don’t mind, although the bird’s nest ends up killing the flowers eventually and the mom bird raises holy hell whenever anybody gets near. The pic below was taken when she was not in situ. See that speckled egg? I think it’s a cowbird egg. Sly, lazy cowbirds! 🙂

[UPDATE 5/17/16: Craig tells me I mixed up my birds’ nests and their eggs. Pretty sure the bright blue eggs in the flower basket are robin eggs (see pics below) and the others are…? That nest is in our backyard. Regardless, the speckled egg is definitely a free-loading cowbird. 😀 ]

Last Friday, I also mentioned that the only thing I wanted for Mother’s Day was for my husband and older daughter to cook something for me out of Julia Child’s MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING. (They love to cook.) But — Wow! Okay, I should have known — you know, it’s Julia Child for crying out loud; her reputation was earned for a reason — but those are some serious recipes!! I chose the one I thought would be the least difficult (are there any in that book??): Chicken Fricassee. (Which, btw, always reminds me of Sebastian singing “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid).

SIX HOURS. That’s how long this recipe took to make. Now, granted, some of it was shopping time, and this was the first time either of them had made either fricassee or a Julia Child’s recipe. But still… Six. Hours.

The verdict? Fricassee was clearly the inspiration for the term awesome sauce. Because it was… AWESOME! 😀

In other news…

It’s Friday the 13th! Hug your black cat, pitch a tent under a ladder, and say Happy Birthday to Suzanne Johnson! 🙂

Blog theme update: I’ve had the same theme since I first started blogging – Elegant Grunge. So I decided (on a whim) that it was time to refresh the look of my site. I switched to Rowling and, so far, love it. Everything transferred (posts, pages, links, photo gallery, etc.), but I had to redo my menu, widgets, and fix the formatting on the front page. I’m still getting to know Rowling, but two things that I liked immediately were the social media button menu option and the featured photo option for blog posts. I also love that when you click on my “BLOG” page, there’s now a menu of my recent posts instead of just the latest post. Check it out and tell me what you think!

Revisions: ongoing. I’m always stressed about how long it’s taking, whether it’s any good, whether Noon fans will still be around to read it, and what they will think of it (Pocket Full of Tinder is both lighter and darker than past books). In any case, I feel constant pressure to GET IT OUT THERE balanced by my stubborn insistence to try to publish something that’s at least as good as the other three. I realize, business-wise and in hindsight, that continuing a series my publisher declined to may not make sense, but I’d already put a lot of work into the manuscript (not to mention the series as a whole) and I want to wrap things up in a way that feels satisfactory to me.

Cover: ongoing. My illustrator is behind schedule (that makes two of us), but she’s shared some sketches and a preliminary mock-up. I’m REALLY excited to have an original cover and I think the final is going to look amazing. If she agrees (I don’t have rights to the sketches, etc., only the final), I’ll share the sketches in next month’s newsletter. Sign up if you haven’t already!

That’s it for now. I’d apologize for the long, rambling post but this is partially what you signed up for, people. 😀

So, how about you?

Are you superstitious? Love or hate Friday the 13th? 

Love or hate bees? Honey bees? Honey? 

Are you a beekeeper? Would you ever become a beekeeper?

Thoughts on catbirds versus cowbirds? (I’m waiting for the superhero movie… they make one for everything else).

Love or hate cooking? Have you ever made something out of MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING? What did you make? How did it go?

Reading anything fun or interesting?

How’s your writing going? Are you making headway on your 2016 resolutions?

HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND, EVERYONE!

Do you use Snap Chat? Did you see Zootopia?

WHAT’S UP WITH ME FOR 2015 (#Writing Life and #Reader Appreciation)

Enough of you have checked in about what’s next for Noon (and possibly Night) that I figured I’d just do a post that I could refer to when answering.

My 2015 plans are still somewhat in play. But here are a few things I’m working on:

A SUPER SECRET NEW PROJECT

Ok, it’s not 100% secret bc I mentioned it when I did my release day party for White Heart of Justice. This project is my YA duology. It’s a two book “series” – no more, no less. I’ve got the whole thing plotted out, start to finish, and am currently slogging my way through the first draft of book #1. I think it’s a really cool, fun, creative, amazing project, but I’m admittedly biased. 🙂 Ideally, I’d like to find a traditional publishing partner for it. So that’s why I can’t say much else about it now.

THE NOON ONYX SERIES

There will be at least two more books. In a perfect world, I would release the fourth book myself sometime in 2015 – and that’s my goal. If I’m lucky enough to find a home for my YA deuce, however, then I’ll need to prioritize that. While this might be disappointing to some Noon fans, I’m hoping you/they will understand why I would prioritize “guaranteed money in” (an advance) versus “initial money out” (self-pub).

That said, Noon fans are owed a bit more news than this. So what else can I share?

When I finished WHOJ, I was at a crossroads. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to continue the series. Some of you suggested that I write a novella to wrap things up. And this was a great suggestion. I love hearing from readers, especially readers who care enough about the series to share specific thoughts. But in for a penny, in for a pound and all that. When I started writing the series, I envisioned seven books. I’m not sure it will end up being as long as that, but a novella won’t give me enough room to tell what’s left to tell. So… my intent for now is to write two more.

What about Nightshade?

I haven’t forgotten about him and I hope you haven’t either. I’ve mentioned doing something with him for years. He is a great character with lots of potential. In 2015, readers will get either a short story or a novella, depending on how long it is when it’s done. Here’s the blurb:


 

PORTENT OF LOVE… AND DANGER

SCARLET AUGUR

A NIGHTSHADE NOVELLA

Nocturo “Nightshade” Onyx has the sinister looks of a Maegester but the soft, healing magic of a Mederi. Eighteen months ago he joined the progressive Demeter Tribe so that he could hone his skills. He now wields surgical scalpels, defensive daggers, and waxing magic with ease. But his greatest challenges are still to come: trapping an injured demon and capturing a young woman’s heart.

Aceraceae “Acer” Feldspar’s healing magic only works on one person: her. Losing her mother at the age of seven to a disease she couldn’t cure, she was determined to find a way to use her magic to help others. Now, at nineteen, Acer protects her tribe’s perimeter. But the intrusion of a scarlet augur – demon harbinger of passion, pain, and tumultuous change – threatens far more than Acer’s pride.

 HE WANTS TO HEAL IT; SHE WANTS TO KILL IT

ONLY ONE THING IS CERTAIN:

WORKING TOGETHER WON’T BE EASY


 

From SCARLET AUGUR, Chapter 1:

The blackbird lilies were well and truly black instead of their natural brilliant red. Every part of the flowers – leaves, stems, calyces, and corollas – seemed to thrum with dark waves of infrasound. But Night knew it was just the absence of color he was sensing rather than sound. These plants looked dead, which was extraordinary considering where they’d been cultivated: Demeter’s third largest greenhouse. Frowning, he set his watering can down amongst some martagons and crouched down for a closer look.

Nightshade’s given name – Nocturo Onyx – and his grim, foreboding looks belied his medic profession. Kneeling in the dirt between two wooden tables loaded with zinnias and orchids, he looked like a Haljan impossibility: the love child of bloodthirsty Bellona, Patron Demoness of War, and virile Vervactor, Patron Demon of the Plough. He wore a loose linen shirt, soiled with fresh dirt and rolled up at the sleeves, with a puce-colored kilt and filthy, steel-toed, worn leather boots. Strapped to his left arm and right leg were two small knives: the short, but deadly sharp, pugiones that many of Demeter’s Mederies carried.

The sun had barely begun to rise, but under the glass, it felt like midday. Night rubbed the back of his neck, which was already wet with sweat – Luck, how he hated the greenhouse! – and thought about what the blackening might mean.

The sweltering summer heat ruled out a furnace failure or frost as the cause.

Mold?

Maybe. But if so, it was unlike any mold that Night had ever seen.

This was no mottled splash of sage, smoke, ochre, or ink. Instead, the blackening was preternaturally uniform, as if the lilies had been carved out of lead, dipped in nacreous pitch… or brushed with waning magic.

Nightshade reached out toward the closest lily, catching the tip of one of its black petals between his thumb and index finger. Immediately, his first impression – that the blackened greenery was giving off some sort of subsonic hum – intensified. His arm throbbed but instead of pulling his hand back, he sent a pulse of waxing magic from his fingers into the petal in an attempt to coax any latent life back to an active, healthy state. But Night’s waxing magic pulse instantly mirrored telling him that the plant’s organic compounds had already begun to break down. His magic was powerful enough to bring simple organisms back from the brink of death, but even he couldn’t bring something back to life after it had passed into its next stage of existence: decay.

He sighed and stood, glancing around the humid interior of the greenhouse. Though the possible causes of death were few, it was still hard to accept that waning magic had killed the lilies. There were only two kinds of waning magic users in Halja: Maegesters and demons. The former were human, the latter were shapeshifting beasts, but neither of them were often seen in Maize.

Night pulled a small wooden box out of the sporran hanging from his waist. He withdrew his shorter pugio from its sheath, deadheaded one of the lilies, and placed its top in the box. Later, he would prepare a few slides for his microscope. If some new type of fungus killed these plants, Linnaea, the tribe’s monarch, would want to know.

And if it had been a demon… well, the best that could be said was that it hadn’t been intentional. Otherwise, every single plant in the greenhouse would be dead.


Nocturo Onyx, Nightshade, Scarlet Augur, Jill Archer
“She had only one vulnerability – and it wasn’t demons.
It was Nocturo Onyx.”
– Acer Feldspar
Acer Feldspar, Scarlet Augur, Jill Archer
“Pretty as a milkmaid, but instead of carrying a pail,
Acer wore mail.”
– Nocturo Onyx

DREAM, INTERRUPTED

Yes, I can understand if you’re just a wee bit tired of hearing about this project. It’s only 13,500 words and yet I’ve done at least a few posts about it. Why? Well, I never did a blog tour for it bc it’s just a short story/novelette and yet I had things to share and say. In fact, you’ve likely not heard the last about it because I hope to make an audio version of it. I think it’s a story that would be well suited to that medium so it’s something I want to explore. For now, all I can say is working with my cover designer to create a cover for it has been FUN.

book cover, mock-up, Dream Interrupted, Jill Archer, dark fantasy, Corelei Neverest, gothic romance, mystery
MOCK-UP COVER FOR
STAND-ALONE VERSION OF
DREAM, INTERRUPTED

OTHER STUFF

There’s more?! Well, not in 2015. But I’ve got two other adult fantasy series ideas that I haven’t yet developed into proposals. Depending on how the first half of 2015 goes, I may move them forward. I’d love to work with my Ace editor from the Noon Onyx series again. I’m committed to trying to be a hybrid author.

So let the juggling of projects begin! Thank you to each and every one of you who have contacted me via various channels to inquire about what’s next. Stay tuned…