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

5102859889_0e03eba831_b

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.

red-heart-in-open-book

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.

5417368203_495d9c768d_z

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

Golden Rule

males-man-personable

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?

35599527141_3a1fa0a68d_z

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

Next up…

A Spirit's Kindred.jpg

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!

Placeholder Image

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?

Book Report: Hands of Lyr

red-heart-in-open-book

So I promised a Book Report on Monday and here it is.  The Hands of Lyr is one of my all-time favorite fantasy novels, and Andre Norton is a phenomenal writer, so there you are.  My honest opinion.

What?  Wait, you want more detail than that?  *Sigh* fine.

So I first read this book, oh, years ago.  Before I even moved to California, so you know it’s been a while.  Well before ebooks were a thing, back when I thought the idea of me being any sort of writer was a ridiculous pipe dream rightfully and entirely crushed by creative writing classes in college.  I didn’t know until very recently (like, maybe a few months ago?) that it’s part of a series called The Five Senses.  I haven’t read any of the others (yet!) but if they’re anywhere as good as this one I’m definitely in.  Okay.  Deep breath, here we go.

HandsofLyr.jpg

I… don’t really understand this cover.  It is still 100% better than the paperback I have on my bookshelf though.

The story follows two people, both young and essentially alone in the world, and both with good reason to be both angry at the world in general and distrustful of each other specifically.  Alnosha— Nosh to her friends— was being driven to her death for reasons we never learn by faceless soldiers intent on dragging their prisoners through this inexplicable death-march.  They are being dragged through the Ryft, a barren, deadly place where even the dust is poisonous, and she is rescued by an old woman.  Over the years she learns that she has a gift, given to her by the goddess Lyr, whose valley the Ryft once was.  After many years of learning and surviving, she and her friend are driven to flee the Ryft and the old woman takes Nosh straight to the mountains and a band of outlaws.

 

Amongst these outlaws is a young man named Kryn who was barely grown when he watched his noble father give his whole family and all they owned and controlled to the Temple and the oily, power-hungry High Priest.  Kryn escaped the fate of the slave collar by sheer chance, having happened to be touring a holding on the edge of their territory on the day his father made the decision.  He steals his family’s heirloom sword back and makes a run for it into the mountains, where he meets and joins the outlaws, a group made up of others like him whose families were led mindlessly to Temple slavery.  He distrusts anyone with even a hint of magic since that is how the Temple has been destroying noble families one by one and leading the King into destruction and madness.

HandsofLyr2.jpg

See, this cover actually makes absolutely no sense whatsoever and is only related to the book in so far as there are 2 characters on the cover.

Naturally, Kryn is commanded to guard Alnosha on her mission as she journeys through the world to find the ten crystal fingers, restore the hands of the statue of Lyr in the Ryft, and break the grip of the evil wizard behind the High Priest and the blight on Lyr’s valley.  Needless to say, they have many adventures, and learn to not only respect each other but become fairly fond of one another.  The dangers they face are not constant, nor are they always end-of-the-world stakes.  There are magic attacks from far off, bandits attacking a caravan, a scheming merchant bent on ruling a far-off city-state, and a sudden ice storm to be somehow survived as they search for the fingers and learn how to defeat the wizard.

 

Nosh is a pragmatic, determined young woman who does her best to be polite and respectful but spent much of her life being an honest to god(dess) hermit.  Kryn is hostile, but understandably so and does learn that magic is only as evil as the person who wields it.  The gradual journey between them from prickly hostility to grudging respect to friendship is so natural and understandable as they alternate rescuing each other that by the time you end the book it feels like such an obvious outcome that anything else seems laughable.

So, I don’t think you’ll be shocked to hear that I rate this book 5 out of 5 rutabagas.  I love this book.  Norton is a pretty major influence on my imagination and, I hope, my style.  I hope I have some small influence on your reading lists, and if I do, I hope you put The Hands of Lyr on your to-read pile.

5417368203_495d9c768d_z

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

Cover story

StockSnap_3BWN7KIF4T

So one of the things I’ve been working on lately while I’ve been failing to get words on (digital) pages and editing Spirit’s Kindred is lining up book covers.  I’m sure many of you haven’t given a lot of thought to them.  After all, for an average reader, they’re just the pretty picture that may or may not be your sort of art.  Thing is that’s the whole point.   A cover is the very beginning of whatever story is contained behind it.  It’s what a reader hits before the first line of the book, before the synopsis or blurb, and often it’s  even before the title.  So it’s got to be solid.

Sarah’s Inheritance is a totally different kind of cover than I’ve used before, and I’m Sarah's Inheritanceactually somewhat excited by it.  I like the painted feeling of it, and it fits in quite nicely with other covers in the genre rather than standing out, which is more important than I knew when I started.  See, going back to the ‘beginning to tell the story’ point I made a second ago, what a reader such as yourself wants to know about a book when they scroll by it on the ‘Zon, is what sort of story it contains.  If a book has a tough looking pair of people in full combat gear and bazookas, you’re not going to pick it up expecting a sweet teen romance coming of age story, right?

But a decent cover can really cost.  Anywhere from $150 and up for a custom created book cover that a writer can be proud of, and that can really put a dent in the proceedings.  So I’m looking at my calendar and pondering the projects I have lined up, and I’m trying to figure out timing and designers and what sort of images to put with which story (which is not a skill I excel at, let’s just say shall we?)

The upside, however, is that I’ve gotten to look through a few amazing portfolios of some really fantastic artists.  Not that I can afford $500 for a single ebook cover right now, but hey, a girl can dream, right?

Big Reveal

You guys, I have a cover!  I have a couple, actually, but one of them’s for the newsletter folks.  ANYway.  I got the cover for Sarah’s Inheritance, and I’m super excited!  Wanna see it?  Oh, okay then, I guess I can show you.

Sarah's Inheritance

Pretty wild, huh?  I deliberately wanted this cover to be different from the Riverton Novels since it’s a distinctly different universe.  I don’t have a ton to say about it here, but I’m really pleased.  I’ll be finishing pulling the book together today or tomorrow, and make it available January 28.  Here’s the ‘back cover copy’ (even though there isn’t a back cover right now…)

Sarah knew she was getting a house.  She didn’t know about the rest of it.

Learning of her grandmother’s death shook Sarah Richards.  She hadn’t seen the woman since she was a child, kept far away on the other side of the country by her controlling mother.  They had built a long-distance relationship though secret phone calls and unmentioned emails, and even though Sarah was now well into adulthood she still hadn’t gathered the courage to go visit the grandmother she missed, and now it was too late.  Now, though, she owned the house Gran had lived in, and Sarah was determined to break free of her mother’s grasp.  Moving from New York City to a town just outside of San Jose, California was scary, but she felt drawn there to learn more about her grandmother, and if she was lucky, to find her own path in life.

What she didn’t expect was to be thrown into a supernatural battle between monsters from her worst nightmares and Gran’s strange, not-quite-human friends.  It turns out that the house was the least important part of what Rosemary Richards passed down to her granddaughter, and now Sarah has to decide if she is willing to learn more about the world she’s been dumped into or if she would rather go back to her mother where life was dull, but at least it was safe.

Sarah’s Inheritance is the first book in the Spirits of Los Gatos series.  If you like Andre Norten and Jaymim Eve, you’ll enjoy this tale of one woman finding out what she actually wants from life.  Buy Sarah’s Inheritance now and see what secrets Los Gatos is hiding.

StockSnap_3BWN7KIF4TI’ve been chipping away at Brian, as well.  It’s a pretty rough first draft so far, and I feel like it’s really short.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do about that, but I’ll get it off to my alpha reader in the next couple of weeks I hope, so we’ll see about all that.  Spirit’s Kindred is bubbling along as well.  It’s out to my beta readers right now, and I’ll be hopefully starting edits on that in a week or so.  I’m really afraid that I’m going to have to push the publication dates back a bit, though.  Life has gotten way more full of assorted crap than I’d left time for, so it’s all going a bit more slowly than I hoped, so we’re looking at end of February maybe early March for the Sarah sequel.  We’ll see.

Anyway, what do you think?  It’s pretty different, isn’t it?