ROW80 Check-in: Celebration Week

Because of all the plans we had around birthday celebrations this week, I didn’t really expect to be productive much. The nice thing about low expectations, though, is that when you do manage to accomplish stuff, you feel like you really accomplished something. I blame it on the ridiculous COOLness of Chris Isaac’s concert Wednesday night:

Chris Isaak in concert

When you watch someone bring that much joy to their creativity, you can’t help but be inspired. The birthday roses and snapdragons may have also helped:birthday roses

Wonder of wonders, I participated in 3 #wordmongering sessions yesterday and produced over 2K words, which puts me over 15K for Blood to Fire.

My other words for the week continued to be marketing (guest blog posts, author interviews, etc.) and blog work, but I also read the last in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, and the first of Tracey Sinclair’s Cassandra Bicks series. You’ll see those reviews later this week.

I’ve set the personal goal of getting Dementional to my editor this week, so I don’t know that I’ll have any kind of word count to add next week. I do like the subtle nudge of the weekly check-in to keep me at least somewhat on track with all the various balls I have in the air. It may also help that my dismal June sales have already been doubled in July, so I have more reasons to forge ahead.

Until next week, then, I’ll continue with my promoting, but hope to have Dementional shipped off for a good edit, too.

Here is the Linky for the other check-in posts. How are you other ROW80 writers doing?

Indie-Pendence Week: ROW80

Grave Tells Indie-Pendence WeekThis is my big-push month on publicity for Dust to Blood, so I’ve joined the Gravetells Indie-pendence week blog hop event, which means you get a chance at a free copy of my book. (Check out the Rafflecopter giveaway at the bottom of this post for ways to earn entries to the drawing.)

I’d like to expand a little on the comment I made in Monday’s post regarding writers as entrepreneurs: The hurdle I’ve always faced in generating regular freelance work is overcoming the inertia of getting new work in the door. The corollary for an author is the inertia against getting new words on the page. I don’t know how many times I’ve read the injunction “everyone would be an author if all that meant were ‘I have this great idea’.”

In fact, I gestated my great idea for almost two years, wondering how I would approach writing it, when I would find the time to write it, how the story might develop, what the character motivations would be. I know I’ve claimed before that I’m a pantser, going with the story flow as inspiration directs; the number of times I wrote chapter 1 in my head and considered tone and direction and voice, though, argues that I spent those two years plotting. Maybe. Because none of those thoughts made it past the original dream journal entry that was the genesis of the book and the series.

I was the classic wannabe author with the great idea–and no idea how to overcome the intimidation of producing a book-sized mound of words that actually read like a story.

Then a colleague told me he was going to try NaNoWriMo once again, to see whether he could pull off the feat of producing a novel. When I looked into it, I discovered not only geeky tools that would allow me to track and chart my daily word production, but also a community of writers who were all working together under the same crazy deadline. Something about the combination of the two pushed me over the hump, and I managed the first draft of Dust to Blood in November 2010. I did it again for a new book (Dementional, unrelated to the Red Slaves series, slated for release in August) in November 2011.

Now, I’m getting feedback on Dust to Blood, and readers are clamoring for book 2. So is my publisher; in fact, she wants all three in the series complete by the 2013 DFWcon. That means that even though I utterly failed at Camp NaNo this past June, I need to find some sort of accountability to keep me on track for a couple of stretch goals this year.

Enter Round of Words in 80 Days, the brainchild of Kait Nolan. Since there are too many family obligations and distractions in the summer, I’m going to be taking advantage of a new community and set of tools to keep up with what I need to accomplish. Part of the rules include stating clear, measurable goals at the start of the round (Monday), and reporting in on Wednesdays and Sundays to document progress.

Since my aspiration is to get to the point where I have a full-time writing career (i.e. it supports me with income equal to or greater than what I have now with a day job), and the key benchmark authors who are in that position tell us is having a long back-list of books available for purchase… I better get writing.

So my writing goals by the time this round ends in October:

  1. Participate in 2 writing sprints 5 nights a week, producing a total of no fewer than 5,000 words per week;
  2. Finalize print formatting for Dust to Blood;
  3. Finalize first round edits for Dementional;
  4. Send Dementional to editor and finish final edits; and
  5. Format Dementional for eBook release.

I’ll keep it to that for the moment, because as miserable as the weather currently is this summer, I’d still like to take some time to enjoy it with my Dear Husband before we get to the cold darkness that is November… when I’d like to see if I can continue my streak of November NaNoWriMo wins going, to complete the Red Slaves trilogy. A task that may be complicated by a completely unrelated goal to take advantage of free education from my employer to earn my MBA. Somewhere in there I know I’ll have editing tasks, and I’d like to squeeze in some pleasure reading too (I’m looking forward to the final Gail Carriger Parasol Protectorate book arriving this weekend, and know I won’t be able to resist that for long). Taking nice walks with the dogs & DH ranks high on my list of important things as well.

Prioritizing those million things, figuring out whether I need to keep asking for new reviews or pursuing other promotional opportunities are all stressors.

Looping this back to the indie theme I started with: A supportive community is one of the hallmarks I’ve discovered with these writers (actually, most writers, generally). They’re willing to share not only their experiences and advice, but also tools that help those following in their wake to succeed. Here’s to the #wordmongering, #amwriting, and related online groups who tweak each of our competitive natures to drive us all forward, while holding our hands to keep the crazy-making fears and inadequacies at bay. I suspect being pulled out of our solitary word-smithing to compare standing on a regular basis is making us all more productive and positive. In fact, I’m counting on it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blameless Review

blamelessSince I’ve loved this entire series, now, and can’t wait for the next installment to come out (according to Amazon, that won’t happen until June 28, and I’m having a hard time containing myself in my excitement over its release!), I can’t avoid this third book in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series–despite my hesitation due to potential spoilers… I have to figure, though, that if you’re looking for a recommendation on whether to continue reading, that you already know Alexia had been settling into happily married life with the Earl of Woolsey until the very end of the last book. At which point she’s thrown out on her ear.

So this book starts with Alexia re-acclimating herself to living with her silly mother and sisters and the scandal attached to her rather public disagreement with her husband.

As usual, events accelerate quickly from the sour domesticity that introduces the tale, and soon Alexia is having to rely on friends from the previous books to help her find an explanation for the “inconvenience” brought on by her husband’s enthusiastic pursuit of marital relations.

We learn more about the politics of vampires and werewolves, as Alexia is restored to the Shadow Council in absentia, but the bulk of the story deals with the supernatural community’s obsession of what the result of the mating might be. Through the device of an unsavory scientist we learn even more about the “science of soul”.

This book cements Carriger’s status as a talented author with a unique (and British-dry humorous!) tone and style, who offers a tale with fascinating implications about the nature of soul. I’m absolutely hooked, and again have no hesitation recommending the book for anyone interested in alternate history, steampunk, or urban fantasy genres.

Changeless Review

Gail Carriger‘s engaging Parasol Protectorate series continues where it left off in “Soulless,” with “Changeless.” Alexia’s character continues her logical, phlegmatic, cuttingly witty development in this second installation, while the world around her continues its madcap evolution.

The original leitmotif regarding the levels of soul necessary to be/become supernatural beings is further fleshed out, while Alexia tries to adjust to her new status and be helpful to the other characters in the book.

And now I have to pause to ponder how to proceed in my review…

Necessarily, character development means that the adventures in a given series build somewhat on past experiences. But a reviewer can’t comment on the new experiences without giving away significant plot points from the earlier installation. So I will remain cryptic about who Alexia is becoming, and laugh up my sleeve about her first flight in a dirigible, while coming to the main point: In some series middle books feel like an annoying, necessary bridge to further the plotlines the author is pursuing. Carriger escapes that tendency with another delightful romp in alternative history England, in a story that could stand on its own without suffering from lack of background, but impels me to seek out the next in the series. Once again I have to give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to anyone who likes to read stories driven by feisty female main characters.


Since Gail Carriger is a new discovery to me, and her Parasol Protectorate series is my introduction to the steampunk variation of alternate history fiction, I am happy to begin my online review career with an assessment of her work.

The series kicks off in high style with Soulless, a tale of Alexia Tarabotti’s young life in a late-1800s London not too far off from what we know from any other historical romance, with the key difference that Vampires and Werewolves are “out”. In fact, Carriger’s thesis is that the rise of the British Imperium doesn’t make sense without some supernatural intervention, given the small size of that nation.

The story is immediately captivating, both for its droll turn of phrase, and for its underlying metaphor: In this version of our world, there are people with an excess of soul who are eligible to be turned into supernatural beings (naturally enough, artists and actors and others typically seen as being easily overwrought); and then there’s Alexia, who has no soul. Not because she’s evil, but because some etheric component is missing in her make-up. As the story unwinds, there are many potential theories about whether this is an entirely genetic flaw, but ultimately, the reader, like Alexia, comes to the conclusion that the cause doesn’t matter as much as avoiding unnecessary attention. Unfortunately for Alexia’s peace of mind, she has a genius for getting herself involved in crazy circumstances, including, eventually being courted by the alpha werewolf, Lord Conall Maccon.

I’ve always been a fan of historical fiction for what I can learn about bygone eras. In this case, given the speculative elements added to a decidedly Victorian setting, the author is able to highlight the soul leitmotif in such a way as to make the reader wonder whether there’s any chance there could be more than a grain of truth to it. Certainly, I was left wondering whether I would want too much or too little for myself.

Alexia’s path evolves naturally, though by the end of the book I was a little tired of being reminded, yet again, that she’s half-Italian and at the fringes of acceptability to her society. For all that repetition, though, the story maintained its fast pace through to the end, and I had to immediately grab the second in the installation.

I would not hesitate to recommend this to anyone who’s inclined to historical fiction, werewolf/vampire fantasy, or romance. Since I’ve never read a steampunk genre book before, though, I couldn’t say whether this is a representative sample–though I will say it has set my standard for the style. Definite thumbs-up.



I have a catholic range of interests and a voracious appetite for the written word, whether it’s in English, French, or German. Not many people read as much as I do, so I’m making this my space to ponder what I’ve read — and maybe develop a following for my own written words. I plan on posting no more than once a week (mostly Sundays, or Wednesdays) with my main focus on books and authors in as broad a sense as I can manage.

Other than words and languages, I may also use this space to consider web & social media issues; share the latest cuteness and heartbreak of my Siberian Huskies; or relate interesting cooking experiments. I support natural health choices, so am also likely to shill for my husband’s acupuncture practice.

On the topic of earning money… I am an Amazon Associate (kind of goes with the territory of being a marketer by training and work experience), so links to items I review will point to Amazon, where I will earn a small kick-back for anything purchased. I also freelance as an editor, and tend to get enthusiastic about my clients’ work, so expect to see the “I edited this” disclaimer on a semi-regular basis. 😉

Semi-related, since I have a day job and career as a project manager, posts on this blog are prepared by me in my personal capacity and on my personal time. The views and opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy, opinion, or position of my employer.


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The Builders

Previewed during F/February at Lloyd Reads.

Kindle Scout campaign page (live from August 24, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT to September 23, 2016 at 12:00 AM EDT)

Reviewed by Lesbrary (February 9, 2017)

Interviewed (with six other F/F scifi/romance authors) on the USA Today Happy Ever After blog. (February 23, 2017)

Writing Is…

My Twitter addiction introduced me to G. L. Drummond, so I suppose it’s only fair that she’s pushing me to longer-form responses now. Her latest nudge is an Internet meme asking us to explain what writing means to us…

Honestly, it’s almost something I take for granted. I do it every day for my office job. I even have sufficient linguistic expertise that I’m regularly invited to improve others’ writing. But when I consider both the level of illiteracy and the frequency with which women are oppressed the world over, I know I should take this opportunity a little more seriously.

So. I’ll go with: Writing is a concrete result of being able to exercise our innate imagination, creativity, and inventiveness. It’s a way to dream out loud, and impact the world around us with thoughtful, reasoned presentations–even if those come out resembling inchoate rants out of the mouths of obstreperous characters in our stories, or dark tales of disaster. I especially like it when writing is a way to look at what we might have done differently, and imagine ourselves into circumstances that improve our existence.

I love it that the society in which I live has prized the written word from the hands of magicians and priests, who long insisted on being the intermediaries and interpreters of arcane texts, and delivered it into the hands of everyday people. I love the metaphor that knowing how to read and applying that skill is like deciding you no longer need an intercessor, but are now fully capable of living for yourself, accepting whatever consequences arise from your own actions.

So now I’ll pass the hot potato on to a few other writers I know online:

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