NaNoWriMo ate my brain

woman-sitting-at-table-and-working-with-computer.jpgI forgot it was Monday.  So I didn’t write a blog post and now I’m in bed and have no energy to come up with one, so instead, I’m offering a small piece of Book Five, which I’m trying to complete under the NaNo guidelines.  So here, completely raw, unedited, and totally unrevised, is an excerpt from my work-in-progress.  Let me know what you think!

Kai ended the call a moment later with over polite farewells, then frowned at the phone when it rested back in its cradle.

“Who was that?” Seb asked.

“That was Lloyd Franklin, city inspector.He wants to come inspect,” Kai answered.

“Inspect what, exactly?And why?I thought we’d finished all that.” Sebastian pressed, and Kai had to shrug.

“I have no idea.The roof, I guess.Maybe the clubhouse since that was sort of a last minute thing.We’ll have to make sure that there’s no suspicious informal coffee shop stuff in there, I guess.”Kai frowned at the phone again, then shrugged and returned his attention to Gabe.“Now then, back to your problem.”

“Oh thank god,” Sebastain groaned.“If I had to spend one more hour working with the gloomy yawn machine here, I was going to run away to the Carribean.”

“Oh come on, it’s not like you’ve never showing up here exhausted from not sleeping,” Gabe shot back.“Just because my excuse isn’t as pretty as yours is, doesn’t mean you need to rub your nose in it.”

Sebastian just grinned broadly.“Sarah is pretty, isn’t she?Maybe she’ll come with me to a tropical island and neither of us will have to hear you yawn.”

“Okay, both of you,” Kai cut in.“I swear, it’s like preschool in here some days.Gabe.Let’s go through your grounding ritual real quick and see if that helps drain off some of these unscheduled nightmares.”

“I hope I never want to schedule a nightmare,” Gabe grumbled, but he kicked off his shoes and socks and stood, barefoot, to head to the small manmade spring.

“And then after that, I want you to go with Sebastian to The Apothecary.Doc’ll take one look at you and you’ll be set up with some tea or something that’ll help you get some decent rest.”

“Seriously, Gabe.I don’t want you working around here when you’re exhausted.It’s unsafe,” Sebastian agreed.

“Exactly.And it’ll get the both of you out of my hair for a while so I can get some actual work done instead of having to hold storytime and recess for you children.”Kai started toward the door.

“So you’re sending us off for naptime and a timeout instead?Very clever, Mr. Kai.Can we have art class later?”Sebastian’s voice followed him out the door and as it closed he flicked a ball of foxfire back into the room, laughing at Sebastian’s sudden yelp.

I hope it’s not too terrible.  Also, the preorder for Brewing Trouble is still up until next week!

A second sneak peek!

Here, my lovelies, is another peek at Brewing Trouble.  I hope you enjoy!

Brewing Trouble ebookIt was Tuesday and the whole atmosphere of the shop was filled with absolute insanity in Sarah’s mind.  She’d started getting phone calls while Sebastian served up dinner the night before.  A couple of the kids in the Village had come down with something and Sarah had to spend the evening doing research instead of relaxing like they’d planned, before she finally gave up and called Doc’s phone since hospital visiting hours were long over.

Doc pointed Sarah in the right direction and it was a damn good thing, too.  This bug going around wasn’t anything terrible, but it was still something that needed to be treated.  Doc told her how to make up the medicine that the kids would need and how they should take it, and said it should start working for them pretty quickly.  She also warned that the number of cases would increase before the kids started getting better.  She hadn’t said anything about almost every kid in the Village coming down with it at the same time, nor that every one of their parents would be calling Sarah in a panic.

So, Sarah had been effectively trapped in the back of the shop all morning, mixing batch after batch of the potion that would help the kids get over the worst of it while they recovered.  Now it was just after one in the afternoon and she’d had to field about thirty phone calls of varying intensity and reassure everyone that she was making the potion as fast as she could and would have the first batch ready by around 3 for Sebastian to come and pick up for delivery.

The fact that it just needed to simmer for a while inside the grid of magic that she’d set up around the portable cooktop on the workbench for an hour was more of a relief than Sarah had imagined it would be.  It meant that she could sit down for a few minutes before hopping back up to make a few phone calls.  She had run out of two ingredients, unfortunately, and needed to replace them before she could start the next batch.

Before that, though, she needed to check in with the actual shop.  Gabe could handle most things, and she thanked all the gods she could think of that he was in today.  Still, it was technically her job to be in charge, and they’d been busy every time she stuck her head out front.  Not swamped enough to call for reinforcements, but busy enough that none of them had taken a break since opening.  Sarah decided that she would let Meg take a break, then Gabe, then use her own break to go pick up the ingredients she needed.  By the time she got back the first batch would be cool and ready to bottle.

As she approached the curtain that draped over the opening to the kitchen serving the cafe, she heard the normal hum of chatter die away and a man’s voice carried over top, raised in irritation.

“If you can’t even get my order right, what’s the damn point of taking it?” he said.

“Sir, I’m sorry you’re not—” Meg tried to answer, but just as Sarah emerged from the kitchen, the man who had been yelling reached out and shoved Meg’s shoulder hard enough to send her stepping back.  The whole room full of people watched as she tried to keep the tray of used dishes steady while stumbling backwards to regain her balance.  Even the nasty customer seemed somewhat surprised by the result of his actions as Meg took one last attempted step back and got her foot snagged on the leg of a chair.

That was all it took.  Meg went tumbling back and caught her elbow on the edge of the cafe table on her way past.  Cups and saucers and silverware went flying to land in a cacophony of splintering china that bounced and scattered all over the room. Meg grabbed at the table’s edge, trying and failing to save both it and herself. It landed heavily against the display case with Meg’s momentum behind it.  The crack of shattering glass replaced the crash of the table once it smashed through the front of the display.  Meg shrieked and let go of the table to wrap her arms protectively over her face to fend off the newly created daggers that fell around her like rain.

There was a moment of dead silence in the shop as everyone stared at the disaster that was still skittering to a halt in shards of glass and ceramic and a smear of chocolate cream where a cake had once been.

Book Report: Fire Mage

Okay, I grant I read this a little ways back, so my memory is a wee bit fuzzier than I’d prefer as I write this, but honestly, I think you all would enjoy the heck out of it, so here I am.  Fire Mage was one of those books that my husband had to force me to put down so I would actually sleep at some point, the night I picked it up.

StockSnap_Vinicius_AmanoThe two lead characters were both compelling and each had completely believable reasons for going out on their respective adventures, and I rather liked them both.  Scarred since childhood, Jena has spent the past few years in the best place she can remember.  The great mage Thornal shelters her and, despite the prohibition on women using mage spells, teaches her all he knows.  When he is killed at the hands of elite royal assassins, he spends the last of his power to keep her safe and destroy the very thing the assassins were sent for.  As Thornal instructed with his last words, Jena uses her illicit mage skills to destroy her mentor’s hut, reach the supposed safety of the Forest of Ghosts, and get past one of the forest’s creepy guardians.  Once there, she learns more about her late mentor and discovers a sister, Bree, that she never knew of.

Jena is plucky and determined, and as we learn on the way also pretty powerful with a Super Secret Super Power, but she’s not all powerful.  She’s also not prone to fits of hysteria or sulking or any of the common heroine tropes.  She’s inexperienced and aware of it,  and she’s scared, with good reason.  The only complaint I really have is how easily she falls into accepting her newfound sister, and how she’ immediately tries to be close ‘like sisters are.’ Yes, they’re blood relatives, when they both thought they didn’t have any, but sharing DNA doesn’t always automatically mean that people will be close, or even like each other, necessarily.

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Nate is rescued from being murdered by those very same royal assassins by a mercenary under a geas.  This man explains that the Crown Prince— and soon to be king— wants him dead since Nate is in actuality the Long Lost True Heir.  Nate is, shall we say, skeptical.  While he appreciates Argus saving his life and all, he’s clearly a bit cracked if he thinks Nate is anything other than a bastard and a failed mage.  And his refusal to say who he’s working for makes Argus somewhat less than trustworthy.  Argus turns out to be right about one thing, though: Nate is definitely being hunted.  Nate can also see and interact with ghosts, so when he is suddenly haunted by the ghost of a particular, recently dead mage who helps him tap into powers he never knew he had, Nate finds himself on a journey he never wanted, just in a bid to keep himself alive.

I like Nate.  He’s not the sort of hero that simply accepts everything he’s told by whoever he runs into on the journey.  He questions everything, doesn’t trust his companions outside of a narrow band of behaviors, and has a more than healthy amount of skepticism.  It’s a pleasant change from the standard ‘I’m on an adventure s everyone must obviously be just what they present themselves as!’ Attitude that so many heroes adopt the second they set out.  Frankly, I wouldn’t trust Argus either, Nate.  Good call.

Naturally, these two meet up in the Forest of Ghosts when Nate and Argus are desperately trying to outrun some nasty dark rider style creatures made up of thousands of flies.  Not corpses.  Not smoke or brainwashed humans on aggressive horses.  Horse and rider are both made out of flies.  That is both creative and super gross.

Anyway, Nate and Argus make it into the Forest, though Argus is poisoned by the fly-rider things, and from there it’s a merry-is band of four as the sisters, the mage, and the mercenary set out with the vague aim of making it to Argus’ master’s house.  Not that any of them trust the guy, but it’s the only lead they’ve got.

This is already dragging on a bit, so I’m going to wrap up by pointing out that these characters are well worth spending a few hours of your time with. Nate and Jena do feel an attraction to one another, so there is a potential romance floating in the plot.  It’s a series, so the bigger plot doesn’t wrap up, either.  There’s a healthy bit of story left to go in this universe, and frankly, I look forward to going over it.  What, exactly, does it mean that Nate is the prophesied Fire Mage?  How can he leverage that to keep himself alive, and presumably save the world on the way?  How does Jena manage to keep herself alive even though she’s clearly a mage of no small skill herself, which as a woman carries a death sentence?  What happens to Argus and Bree?

The book does end on a cliffhanger.  They reach the interim goal they’d set for themselves, but the book doesn’t take them further than that, and I definitely can’t help but feel like this whole thing is a setup for badness.  As cliffhangers go, it’s a good one.  I definitely want to know what happens next.

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Photo credit: OFTO via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

In the end, this was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure with characters I didn’t get tired of and a decent take on the old Rightful Heir trope.  I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun high fantasy escape.  I have a feeling that book two is going to be worth the wait.  In the meantime, I’m going to check out a few of Trudi Jaye’s other books.   If you want a copy, now’s your chance.  Giveaways don’t happen EVERY day, but aren’t they fun when they do?  What’s next on your TBR list?

Into the wild!

Finding Insight E-bookToday is Release Day for Finding Insight, the story of Sebastian finding a street kid with a secret that could threaten them all.  I admit that I’ve developed a soft spot for Gabriel, the street kid in question.  He never belonged out there, but you know how it goes.  You do your best with whatever your author throws at you.  I’ve been seeing foxes everywhere lately: my front yard, the corner of my street, on the drive home at night in a few different places…  I feel like Sebastian is trying to tell me that he’s excited, too.

I have a few other random things but man, my brain is bouncing around like a playground ball.  First, I guess, is that the paperwork is moving now for our move to Tokyo, so things are about to get interesting.  This, in turn, has prompted me to start thinking about a few changes in my work plans.  I am still ironing out Book Four but should start work on it in the next week or two.  I also have a few other goodies in progress, but more about them later.  I’ve got some plans forming and changes coming.

But I was listening to a podcast on the business of writing the other day and I was hearing about bookmarks and magnets and character art and maps and all sorts of other fun things, and it got me excited and thinking.  The question I have is what do you want to see from me?  Is there anything fun or fancy you’d like me to work on?  I can’t promise anything, but I definitely want to know if you guys have any requests!  Let me know!

While I’m trying to nap

Insomnia sucks, especially when I’m too busy to take a dang nap.  Here’s something that Finding Insight E-bookmight tide you over until I get back to functional:  Finding Insight is up for pre-order!  This one’s about Sebastian, and his new friend Gabriel, who isn’t a spirit but still has a few secrets of his own.  The special launch price is $0.99 though the first week of July.

Sebastian is determined to keep his people safe.  Even those who don’t know they have magic.

Sebastian Russell is fiercely protective of his family, and of the secrets of his community at the Village at Rancho San Calafia apartments.  Still reeling from the violent betrayal of his human brother, he continues to do regular patrols around the area, looking out for anything that might threaten those he loves.

One night he stumbles across a young man sleeping in a makeshift camp at the entrance of a nearby cave.  The boy is plagued by nightmares and looks far too thin.  After a chance encounter with the boy during daylight hours, Sebastian realizes that there is far more to young Gabriel than first appears.  And when the two people harassing the young man turn out to be Hunters, Sebastian has some quick thinking to do.  Not only do the Hunters want Gabe’s special skills for themselves, but once they have him, they will use him to hunt down and kill every non-human spirit they can reach.

Gear ratio

As I mentioned last week, I’ve been trying to sort myself into some vague semblance of organized.  I know, I know, it’s a bit of a dream, but even a little effort can make a huge difference.  But there’s so much to do and so many different ways to do most of it, and so many ideas and projects and schedules and people to work with and… Well, it’s pretty overwhelming.

gnome-garden-decoration-dwarf-littleSo… last week my anxiety started to get the better of me, and I spent most of my morning chatting with my husband over the internet.  Unfortunately, since he already lives in Tokyo, he had to go to bed at some point though I’m pretty sure he stayed up late for me.  So I was left to myself around lunchtime and my brain started spinning out of control.

So.  Many.  Projects! Holycrap!!

And each project has a damn to-do list as long as my arm: get an outline started, get the thing written, get it edited and critiqued and edited again, get a cover for it, figure out a title and a blurb… And that’s just writing the stories.  There’s a laundry list of behind the

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Photo credit: rachelkramerbussel.com on Visualhunt / CC BY

scenes stuff going on too, and the move and general day-to-day living and parenting and on and on.  And my brain started to kind of blow up a bit.

I may have sent my friend Mookie a panic-drunk text.  He’s been a professional writer for well over a decade and immediately sympathized with my lunacy, and he talked me back from the ledge.  He gave me the best advice that we’ve all already heard, but usually forget when it all blows up: take everything one step at a time.  Don’t try to do everything all at once.  Slow down, make a list, and then start locking that shit down.

So, I did.

First up, the Finding Insight pre-order should be up in the next couple of days.  Amazon is being slow in approving it for some reason, but then giant multi-national corporations don’t exactly move cheetah fast.  While I’m waiting for that I’m buckling down and working on sketching out my outlines.  I’m likely to keep pantsing a bit, but having that framework already laid did help me finally finish Insight, so I’d like to try it from the beginning.  I’m talking to my cover designer about the next Los Gatos book (don’t get too excited, it’s months off yet.  I’d just like to have the cover ready to go.)

So I have a list now.  It’s about 2 pages long, but still.  It’s a list, in pretty much the order I need to do stuff in.  I’m sure I’ll find out other things I need to add, and I’ll change my mind on others.  No doubt moving will make a significant dent in my best-laid plans.  We’ll see.  Still, the Anxiety Gnomes didn’t even get off a real attack this time, so I’m calling it a win.  How do you keep your brain from spinning out when there’s too much going on?  I’d love to have a few more tricks up my sleeve for next time!

Book Report: The Wood Wife

So this week of previews at the theatre is almost over.  I have two shows to go till my day off— a matinee and an evening performance— and we’re all pretty ready for a break.  The horrifying awfulness of so much of the show is starting to wear off a bit as I get the shape of the show and my cues through it all into my bones.  That’s usually the hardest part of a show, and for this one, it’s been extra difficult.

But what all this means is that my mind is starting to come back online, which means I’m starting to think about writing and other work again.  Two of my co-workers united to spark an idea for a series of short stories, and I’m finally going to sit down and plan out the next novel or two.  But for now, I’m still just reading to balance my emotional strain a bit.  Have I told you guys about The Wood Wife yet?  I haven’t?  It’s one of my favorite books ever, let me tell you about it.

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The Wood Wife is the story of a poet remembering that she is a poet.  It’s also about a poet who lived on a mountain and drowned in the desert, all for his lover who was a surrealist painter.  It’s also about the mountain they live on.  And the past, and the present, and the forces that run through a place and the people affected by both the place and the spirits that weave through everything.

It’s a hard book to describe, really.  The language Terri Windling uses had me wrapped up from page one where she describes the night of the elder poet’s death and the creatures that mark his passing even as he is left, drowned in a dry wash that hasn’t seen water in decades in the middle of the Sonoran Desert.   Even though she’s properly at home in Britain, she manages to evoke the American Southwest in a way that I’m sure I couldn’t.

I love Maggie Black, the main character.  She moves into the house of Cooper Davis on a wild mountain near Tuscon after he leaves it to her in his will.  She takes it as a sign that he’s finally granting permission for her to write a book on him, though he’s refused to even meet her in person for years.  Naturally, once she gets there, she gets caught up in the slower life, the more remote mountain and the interesting characters that live there, and along with them she gets swept into a battle for the supernatural balance of the area.  At least Maggie is let in on the supernatural aspect of it— not all of them are.  And on the way we get to watch her journey from tired, slightly defeated writer trying to break out of her magnetic ex-husband’s orbit back to energized, driven poet who can honestly be fond friends with her ex, but no longer elastically tied to him.

It’s not a fast-paced, snarky, city adventure by any stretch.  It’s a slow, almost hushed build to the climactic gathering of all the characters, but once you get there the pay off is well worth the reader’s patience, and the journey there is entirely enjoyable.  I can’t recommend this book enough. Seriously.  Go read this one.

Ten out of 5 rutabagas.  Seriously.  I love this book.

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Photo credit: akseabird via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

Golden Rule

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One of the things I mentioned last week is that I’m falling down on reading books to review here.  I basically haven’t read any urban fantasy for a few weeks, and the reason for that is pretty much the same as the reason I write it: most urban fantasy these days is full of horrible people treating each other badly.  I have picked up several books lately that sounded great from the description— interesting characters, exciting plot— but the interaction between the characters was so negative that I couldn’t stick with it.

In one case some manipulative parents actually had me punching the wall in frustration and man do I regret that.  I had to get an ice pack.  And I did not finish that book.

No genre is immune to people treating each other badly, and it’s difficult to tell it’s coming from a blurb or description.  And honestly it’s not a terrible way to set up a character’s life if that’s what’s necessary to get the story rolling, so I can’t argue that it’s absolutely the worst, but as a reader, I really need to find my reading material more hopeful.  I need to see people making friends and allies rather than losing them.  There are books out there that skirt the issue, slightly.  Like Dead Man.  It’s a good book, I won’t lie, but at the end of it, Cisco still alone and lacking answers because nobody will talk to him.

Real life is too harsh, especially right now, for me to want to immerse myself in poor behavior and bad manners.  I’m not looking for rainbows and flowers at all times, but at least, for the love of storytelling, let the main character have some loyal friends, please?

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Photo credit: Bennilover via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

Next up…

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Well, first things first, I suppose.  A Spirit’s Kindred is now available for pre-order!  Launch day is March 11th, and the promotional price will last for another week past that, so if you want the fancy pants Launch Price, now’s your chance.  I hope you enjoy Kai’s story!

It was a tough one for me to write.  I had to go back several times and redo large parts to avoid Kai falling into the whiny jerk role.  I think he’s got some fairly legitimate concerns about his own abilities, but as any writer (or artist, or actor or…) can tell you it’s really easy to take a legitimate concern and turn it into crippling self-doubt.  When there are external forces pushing you down that road as well… Well, you’ll have to tell me if I did an acceptable job or not.

Other than that, we spent this weekend here in Maryland trying not to get blown away by “windmageddon.”  It was the first time I’d heard about school being closed for wind, but then it was the first time I saw a street sign blown flat over without a hurricane behind it, so maybe the school system was on to something.

Hunkering down gave me plenty of time to think about the plot for the next Los Gatos book, and I think I might be on to something interesting.  We’ll see how it all works out this week.  It seems like I’ll be spending my time outlining and plotting.  I live to make life complicated, it seems.  Well, some lives, anyway… Sebastian and Doc don’t know what they’re in for.

 

Fresh News!

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It has been gloriously springlike here in Maryland.  Rainy, yes, but we’ve needed it badly.  The drought here isn’t as bad as it was in California before I moved, but it’s bad enough to warrant concern.  Besides, I love the rain.

Even though the weather outside is gorgeous and seductive, I’ve been inside pounding away at the keyboard.  I finally got to write the wonderful words The End at the bottom of Brian’s latest adventure.  After all the trouble this one’s given me I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see those six little letters.  Of course, the thing needs some major overhaul work on it, but I’ve sent it to my Alpha Reader for a once over before I return to it for the first round of edits.  Overall I’m pretty pleased though, and I think that the bones are good.  Look for news on a release date and so on.  I’m thinking soon, though.  Once I broke past the wall, it went fairly quickly.

A Spirit’s Kindred is coming out sooner though!  Slated for March 11th, I will put it up for preorder hopefully over the weekend, for a special reduced price for launch.  The cover is shaping up and looks amazing, you guys!  You’ll get to see it on Monday I have no doubt.  I’m being a little extra picky with this one, though, which is why it’s taking so long.  I’m pretty sure my cover artist is about ready to plot my death via thousands of paper cuts.

I’ve also got a special promotion slated to run at the same time.  Sarah’s Inheritance will be free from March 9th through the 13th if you haven’t picked it up yet.  Hard to beat free as a price point!  Anyhow, that’s all the news from here for now.  I’m hard at work on a few projects:  Brian’s adventure (man, I need a title for that!) and a new Los Gatos novel is slowly forming in my mind,  and maybe a fun short story or two for my newsletter readers are starting to come together a bit. Basically, the next few months should be a lot of fun, don’t you think?