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Archive for the 'Reading' Category

Friday, November 25th, 2016
Book Review: The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal

I like Christmas romance, and especially this year, it seems like a good inoculation against the unhappiness in the world and the stress of life and the holidays. I picked up Eve Gaddy’s The Doctor’s Christmas Proposal off NetGalley. I really like Eve’s writing and expected to really like this book. And a lot of it I did. But one unfortunately central element kept bothering me and while it was addressed somewhat at the end, not enough for me.

So here’s the story (blurb off Amazon):

Betrayed by his ex-fiancée, Dr. Wyatt Gallagher turns to the one woman he can always trust – his best friend, Mia Watson. 515tvf7nqlAfter moving away, Wyatt has realized he wants more than friendship with the beautiful artist. With that in mind, he convinces Mia to come to Marietta for the Christmas holidays. But wooing Mia is surprisingly difficult — especially given the passionate night they’ve already shared.

Though Mia Watson has loved Wyatt Gallagher for years, he’s always seen her as a friend, never a lover. Except for one unforgettable interlude when comfort turned to passion. Then Wyatt moved back to Montana, leaving Mia with an unexpected consequence of their night together–and soon, heartbreak to follow.

Faced with the fulfillment of her dreams, Mia knows she must reveal the consequences of their night together to Wyatt. But having withheld the truth for so long, will her confession destroy his trust in her, ending their friendship and any hope of a future together?

So obviously there’s some cool angsty stuff going on. Also, the setting is Montana, and having lived there for 15 years, I loved reading about it. From that third paragraph, you can guess that Mia got pregnant from Wyatt on their one night stand years before (which for her was not one, and for him–very confusing). More on that below.

The family and secondary characters were fun and interesting and warm. This isn’t a book of high drama, it’s quieter and more family focused. It’s a fairly gentle story in many ways. I liked Wyatt and Mia quite a bit and felt that their emotions and feelings for one another were real and strong.

Now this is going to be a spoiler, so if you don’t want to have that, don’t read more.

Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Sirens Anthology Release Day

This is a really cool anthology that I wanted to share with you. I asked Cynthia, one of the contributors and one of the people who came up with the idea of the anthology, to come and talk to you about Sirens, her story, and the anthology in general. So without further ado, please welcome Cynthia:

My name is Cynthia Porter.  I’m here today to tell you that writing a blog post about Queens & Courtesans: A Sirens Benefit Anthology, is only slightly easier than writing my short story, Affairs of State, that is included in its pages.

Sirens is a conference dedicated to women in fantasy literature.  The conference describes itselfqueens as “part scholarly conference, part enthusiastic convention, part networking weekend, and part personal retreat.”  Attendees include readers, authors, librarians, booksellers, educators, scholars, and publishing professionals.  Queens & Courtesans is a labor of love created to benefit the conference where we all met.

This is the first time I have ever written a story to a writing prompt.  When we created the idea of the anthology, the request was for stories with a Queen and a Courtesan.  None of my current projects had characters like these.  I had to almost start from scratch.  The almost part was because the world I chose to set the story in was one I’d created years ago.  I shifted south of where my other stories have taken place and found myself in a royal court.

I knew I wanted my queen to be a mature woman, not a teen/young woman who has no idea of the trials ahead of her.  I wanted my characters to know who they were, to be confident in their abilities and their lives.

I think I wrote three drafts before my queen character finally got her name.  This is very unusual for me.  My stories are character driven.  Typically I know nothing about a story until I have a name.  That name brings the character’s personality, their back story, their hopes and dreams, and the plot!  With a normal story I’m stuck without a name.  Except for this queen.  She was more than happy to share her story, she just didn’t see the need to share her name with me.  It drove me crazy.  I would talk to her while staring at the story on my computer screen.  “Name, name, name– you need a name!”  She’s one of the rare ones who knew who she was without a name.  I had to work to find a name that fit her temperament.  Not my most difficult character ever, but absolutely one of the most quietly stubborn.  She was the Queen.  What more did anyone need to know?  Her name, as it turns out, is Arcalys.  True to form, it took about four drafts of this post to realize she’d done it to me again!

Lenzienne, or Lenzi, my courtesan, knew exactly what her name was from the very beginning.  She walked into a room, completely furious, and snarled her opening lines.  Her name flowed onto the page and the story followed.

The really difficult characters in Affairs of State were the secondary characters.  Three of them hung on to significant roles in the story.  A couple more exist as, well, names and nothing more.  The others all got cut from various drafts of the story.  Why?  Because they thought they were populating a novel.  I prefer the longer forms of storytelling because invariable my characters bring big ideas, themes, plots trailing behind them—none of which fit into a short story.  Borders, Barriers, Refugees, Magic, all this exploded into larger and larger arcs.  I shoved most of them aside, telling them “later”.  My editor, Jessica, jumped on several more.  She helped me focus what was more of a prologue for a novel down into a short story.

While my queen and my courtesan are happy with their “little” story, I’ve acknowledged that their novel needs exploration.  Once Queens & Courtesans is well and truly launched into the world, I’ll be letting all those characters, all that world-building, all those themes and plots to swirl out from the door where they’ve been lurking.

To get your copy of Queens and Courtesans in print or ebook, click here for Amazon, or  here for BN.

 

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Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
Link roundup

I am over the moon to say that Eloisa James likes my books! In an interview, she says so. I’m so very excited!!!!

In other news, Path of Fate is on sale this month on Amazon for $1.99. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s the time!

Theodora Goss has posted a lovely poem about being a witch. I adore it.

Ilona Andrews made a post about Russian history and dress with a link to some stunning pictures. Visit her post first because the explanation is really cool, then go look at the pics.

BookPushers posted a very nice review of The Incubus Job.

This has been my go-to fast chocolate cake recipe for birthday cakes. It’s incredibly chocolatey and moist and delicious and not a lot of work.

I’ve just read through all of Lexi George’s Demon Hunting in the Deep South series. It’s over-the-top romance in some ways, but doesn’t take itself all that seriously in that regard. Really funny stuff, though. And all the side characters are just too much fun. They are total candy/popcorn reads, and totally worth it.

 

Friday, September 2nd, 2016
Poisons

For no particular reason, I started looking at poisons today. I figure it’s something I’ll stash in the back of my head for future writing use.

The one I discovered today is Thallium Nitrate, which is odorless, colorless and tasteless. It’s a heavy metal. It cause hair to fall out, vomiting, organ failure, and general system failure, plus causes a burning/prickling sensation in the limbs. It will kill you in a high dose, but in low doses, it’s a slow road to death. There’s no antidote for it, and if caught soon enough, you can survive. It can be found by blood, urine, and hair. It leaves the blood pretty quickly, though, so if the blood test is all there is, then it might not get discovered.

I thought it could be a pretty good poison for a poisoner. Especially if it can be put into food. Be good for someone who wanted to cause a slow, diminishing death.

The stuff was used in the 50s in rat poison.

I’ll probably talk about more poisons in general. I find them interesting. I’m working on some murder/suspense stuff that could benefit from this sort of info.

In the meantime, I’ve a bunch of roses to plant and the weather is fine and the puppy boys are happy. Been reading Lexi George’s Demon Hunters books and they are frequently very fun. Just like candy, and funny urban fantasy romance.

Saturday, August 6th, 2016
Book Review: Follow Me by Tiffany Snow

Received from Netgalley.

I enjoyed Follow Me by Tiffany Snow. It’s romantic suspense with a fair bit of geekery, which made me happy. Here’s the back of the book description.

China Mack is a fabulous character. Snow made her feel not only real and interesting, but made her believable as a genius. I also liked and disliked Jackson and Clark and thought the ending was about perfect. The plot of the suspense made sense and didn’t have big holes in the logic. The only major issue that I have, and it’s my own issue, is I’m not a fan of love triangles and I have no doubt like it’s coming. Snow has planned at least one sequel with these characters and there’s no doubt that she’s set up the triangle.

As an additional note, I’m really glad that Clark wasn’t a dick (as he said). Or at least so much of one that he went through with what he was up to. That would have squicked me beyond redemption.

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Friday, August 5th, 2016
Book Review: Sins That Haunt, Lucy Farago

Received from NetGalley.

Sins That Haunt by Lucy Farago is a romantic suspense novel. Here’s the back of the book blurb:

Civil attorney Shannon Joyce walks the line of law and order, but she learned from day one how to put up a good front—faragothanks to her con man father. Thirteen years ago, she left the east coast and her life of crime behind. Her high school sweetheart, Noah, was collateral damage, but some things can’t be helped. But now there’s no escape when her past comes roaring down the Strip—in the oh-so-tempting form of the man she left behind…

Special Agent Noah Monroe has Shannon exactly where he wants her—in the back of his car in handcuffs. Her grifter father has been murdered, and the FBI needs Shannon to keep one of his scams in play to bag the big bad guy who was financing him. Once again a pawn in someone’s else game, Shannon will have to trust her instincts to survive both the peril threatening her—and the passion Noah reignites…

I liked this book with some minor qualms. There’s a history between the characters and the initial meet made me wary. It seemed a little bit contrived. But then things quickly moved ahead and I was immersed. I thought the overall suspense arc was quite good and their history and backstory made a lot of sense and powerfully impacted the here and now. I do wish that Shannon, who is very smart, would move forward a little quicker in terms of Noah. The things that hold them apart otherwise are important and work well. I liked the twist at the ending–really, both twists. I did doubt her mother could drive the backhoe, but maybe that’s because I’m a ranch kid and driving a tractor isn’t that easy. Or didn’t used to be. Maybe it’s all very automated and simple now.

The way the end built up with multiple climaxes to various arcs was powerful and compelling.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016
Book Review: Romance, Hard to Handle

I received this book from NetGalley

The book is Hard to Handle by Raven Scott. It will be published August 30th by Kensington Books. It’s romance with some suspense thrown in.

Here’s the description:

A covert ops specialist, a cyber-surveillance expert, and an unmatched international security and recovery pro. These are the men of Fortis. When money is no object, discretion is essential, and the police are not an option, the wealthy and powerful call on this trio of former government agents with elite military training—not to mention charm and good looks…

Samuel Mackenzie has his hands full with Fortis’ latest assignment. Their client is a European real estate investor who is trying to close a multi-million dollar acquisition. But a competitor is attempting to block the deal by any means necessary, including threats and vandalism that quickly escalate to life threatening assault. For Samuel it’s all in a day’s work—except for one unexpected twist…

The mission requires protective detail for the client and his mistress, who is also his personal assistant. But the mistress is Mikayla Stone-Clement—the only woman Samuel has ever loved, and who always seems out of his reach. Yet things aren’t what they seem. Because Mikayla has a hidden agenda of her own, one that puts her directly in the crossfire. Now Samuel will have one chance to save her life…and make her his forever.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Parts of it a really liked, parts of it annoyed the heck out of me, and parts of it made me feel a little uncomfortable in a weird way that I will delve into a little bit deeper here.

So first, the good: Overall, I thought the romance was pretty good, and the suspense plot well designed and laid out (except for the bad guy because he came out of nowhere.) I thought the security stuff was believable and I thought the development of all the actions really smart.

That leads me to the bad. One thing drove me seriously nuts. That was Scott’s inclination to use a lot of book saidisms–insisted, muttered, yelled, etc., when people talked. That was okay, but I felt like they were frequently off. Like when people yelled when they really didn’t. Maybe they raised their voices a little–but yelling jarred me because it was wrong for the scene. Likewise, using insisted when there’s nothing to insist on. Like saying, I’d like a yogurt, only writing it as: I’d like a yogurt, insisted the girl. When no one is protesting that she have a yogurt. And then when one character mumbled when he really was murmuring, because mumbling means unintelligibility of the words. It drove me batty and threw me out of the story.

The next thing that drove me up the wall were the over-the-top connection between the two leads. I loved that there was a time when they forced themselves to keep their hands off each other because of emotional tension, but it annoyed me early on when they couldn’t because it seemed too much for these very controlled people. I think that was the writer’s point–that their passion for one another overcame their usual control–but I had a hard time buying it.

I was really annoyed that the actual bad guy wasn’t even mentioned until they pegged him as the bad guy. I wanted him at least mentioned far earlier.

Finally, and this last one may just be me, but one of the things that threw me out of the story was something that seemed to be missing. Many of these characters were people of color. While I am glaringly white, I do know that POC face various kinds of discrimination based on their skin color on a daily basis. There was no hint of that in this book and it struck me as odd. Or maybe the word is artificial. I thought this particularly for Kaylee, who is not only a black woman, but she works in a field dominated by men. In fact, she’s worked in two fields dominated by men. So I kept waiting for someone to be obnoxious both because of her gender and color and there was nothing.

Now, this may be the fantasy of the book–that there’s a world where POC don’t have to worry about their skin color any more than white people do. And maybe it’s the Black Lives Matter movement that makes me extra-sensitive to those elements in society right now. I’m not judging the writer or the book on this one. I’m trying to figure out if this is a reasonable thing to expect in a book or not. I don’t know. In expecting it, am I doing making demands of a text that I have no right to? I’m interested on what anybody here might say because I think it’s important to discuss and frankly, I’m interested in being corrected if I’m way off base.

All things taken together, I’d give this book a 3/5 stars.

Friday, July 8th, 2016
What I’ve been up to

I went to Westercon last weekend and it was a lot of fun. Had some great panels with some terrific people and the audiences were attentive and smart and asked great questions. Pretty much a perfect storm of panels. And people came to my reading, which was on the first day and I wasn’t sure anybody would.

I got back on the fourth and zoomed out again on the fifth at 6 in the morning. Drove with my folks to CA for my mom to see a doctor. Amazingly, it’s been much cooler than normal–which is to say, I haven’t whined that much and I’ve been able to get out walking. The oaks here are amazing and the scents of the summertime dried grasses, certain weeds, dirt, and oaks just bring me back to childhood. I’ve so been enjoying that. I got to see an enormous vulture in a tree very close up. I didn’t impress him. Or her.

The only downer has been I seem to have had a bout with some food poisoning. Last night on the way home from dinner, I started getting an awful headache and nauseous, and then I got home and upchucked everything. It wasn’t long after that that I started feeling better. I’ve been able to see some people–my father-in-law, my brother and niece, and tonight I’ll get to see another niece and a nephew.

Saturday we drive back. My poor mom’s face is terribly swollen–she had a bit of skin cancer removed–and it’s given her a black eye and half her mouth is swollen. Poor thing.

I’ve been reading some. One book by a popular romantic suspense author that I think must have been written in the eighties because the male lead is an alpha asshole and the woman is sort of a door mat. I read the whole thing, but I didn’t enjoy it the way I wanted to. Now I’m reading one by Iris and Roy Johansen. It’s not really romantic, but the lead character is a lot of fun and I am enjoying that. I’ll report back on it later.

Also, Lois Bujold has a new Penric novella out. If you haven’t read the first, do. I’ve not read the second, but I plan to.

Monday, June 20th, 2016
Magic day

There’s something magic about the solstice and on top of that, a full moon, too. For me, it’s all stirred into the fact that today is my birthday. I don’t have big plans. Mostly to write and to catch up on stuff I’m behind on. And pet dogs, bed and rcause yanno, dogs and cute. And read. I think I’d like to read. I’ve been on a romantic suspense kick. Laura Griffin is my current favorite, but have had recommendations of other writers I”m working on trying out. Oh! And another birthday!!!

Devon Monk’s new book, Death and Relaxation, hits the shelves today!  You should check it out. I’m thinking it’s an excellent birthday present for me. Hey! That’s what I can read today! Yes, I’m a little slow on the uptake today.

I finished proofing all the Path books for their ebook reissue. I have to say that I was happily surprised. First, that they were really good. So I haven’t read these since I wrote them. I have always feared that they weren’t that strong. But I was really happy with them. I loved what I did with the characters and how they grew and changed. I really liked the narrative layering in the last book. It reminded me that that’s okay to do. I know, that’s weird. But I’ve been deliberately avoiding too many points of view. And by too many, I’ve been stopping at two. But if I do it well, I can get away with a lot more of them. And it makes the book a lot richer. This is what I needed to remember for the last Crosspointe book, and maybe for this Diamond City Magic book I’m working on right now.

The second thing that surprised me was how well they held up. It shouldn’t be that surprising, really. They are traditional fantasy, so the decade+ since their release hasn’t aged them in terms of cultural references. But I am proud of them. Really proud of them. I want to tell everybody to read them.

 

 

 

Thursday, June 16th, 2016
I bet you’re wondering

Did you think I fell off the face of the earth? Almost. I received proofs for all the Path books and have to read and proof in a little over a week. I’m done with Fate and Honor, and partly into Blood. Then the kids had their last couple weeks of school and we’ve been having some family issues that I won’t talk about here, but suffice it to say, the focus has been on those.

Then the Orlando massacre happened and I was lost at sea for a bit. What I know is this: hate is wrong. We need to care about each other. We need to be generous, charitable, and tolerant. We need to accept that no everyone will agree with us, but that doesn’t mean those who do deserve violence and death. We are a country built around tolerance and the urge to escape persecution. Let us live by our values. Let us talk to one another, accept each other, help each other, protect each other.

I’ll be at Westercon 69 in Portland over fourth of July weekend. Here’s my schedule. I’d love to have a chance to meet with you.

Other than that, things are going along well. And because you may have not noticed, up there on the Books Tab, you’ll see a Free Reads menu item. Go there for some short stories you might enjoy.

I’ve also got a post up today on Magical Words if you’re interested.