My Favorite Books (and Comics!) of 2014

Ah, 2014. What a year. Not only was it an exciting year for me professionally, but I was able to read SO MANY books and comics this year that I absolutely loved. I thought I’d share some of those here.

Favorite Novels of 2014

(Note: I read them this year. Not all of them were published in 2014. And I know this list is very indie-heavy, but that’s what I read. :) )

the-singer-c-copy-190x3001. Elizabeth Hunter’s The Singer. Just….gah! I loved The Scribe. I’ve been honored to have beta read both books in Hunter’s Irin Chronicles, and damn did my girl out-do herself with The Singer. Hunter’s writing has this kind of haunting, rich quality to it that sticks with you. Her ability to describe a place to the point where you swear you can even smell the scents permeating the air… it’s just amazing. I loved the first book in the series, but The Singer is in many ways an unforgettable book.

2. Grace Draven’s Master of Crows. I was introduced to Draven by Elizabeth Hunter, and I’m so glad for it. Master of Crows is fantasy romance at its best. There’s a darkness there, a sensuality, and characters that stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. Draven’s writing is best described as lush. Sensual. I swear the woman could describe beige walls in a way that would make them sound sexy. This is a must-read.

3. Meljean Brook’s Frozen. A unique take on Beauty and the Beast (one of my favorite stories, ever) but with… frost giants. Oh, yeah. This book had me on the edge of my seat the entire time — full of tension and sensuality.

4. Eve Langlais’ Welcome to Hell series. I read this entire series over the course of a couple of days and honestly laughed out loud several times. Langlais has a wicked, sometimes twisted sense of humor, and this series was both hilarious and sexy as hell. (Ha. Hell. Get it?)

5. Nora Roberts’ Cousin’s O’Dwyer trilogy. Witches, Ireland, horses, gruff sexy Irishmen… what’s not to love? I’ve alway loved Roberts’ writing, and the way she describes the setting in this series makes it feel like one of the characters; it’s that integral to the story. Loved this series.

 

Favorite Comic Series of 2014

images1. Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Val De Landro. Yes. I know we’ve only had one issue of it so far, but it belongs on this list because reading it was like being punched in the gut. I had a very visceral reaction to it, and I don’t react that way very often to comic books. Aside from the story and art itself, both of which are amazing, has been the reaction to the series. It has been kind of amazing to see women embracing the “Non-Compliant” label that has been the series’ handle since shortly after Kelly Sue started talking about it. And the essay by Danielle Henderson at the end of the first issue beautifully explains why, I think, I and so many others had such a strong emotional response to it. From the essay:

“The striking thing about Bitch Planet is that we’re already on it. We don’t have to get thrown on a shuttle to be judged non-compliant – be a little overweight, talk too loud, have an opinion on the Internet – or be a woman of color…”

In a year in which we’ve seen female game developers and journalists threatened in sickening ways for daring to exist and have opinions, in a year when we’ve seen, once again WAY too many stories about women being harassed, harmed, and belittled… I think this was a year in which something like Bitch Planet was exactly what some of us needed. It’s hard to explain. And I also have to confess that I just wasn’t sure how into this I’d be. I love Kelly Sue, but this didn’t really seem like my “thing.” Very glad to say I was wrong.

2. Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron. When Aaron tells a story, the man goes BIG. This series, from beginning to end, was an amazing ride, and I was sorry to see it end. But, not really, because it led to…

3. Thor by Jason Aaron. The new Thor, who also happens to be a lady (yes!) was one of my favorite comics moments of 2014. I wrote about it here, and I’ll admit that re-reading that issue still gives me chills.

4. Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick. This is another series I’ve loved from the beginning, but this year saw Carol Danvers going into space and being an absolute badass punching spaceships and beating up on aliens. What’s not to love?

5. Rat Queens by Kurt Busiek. Foul-mouthed, tough, hilarious characters make this one of my favorite comics EVER. Add to it the fact that anyone who’s played D&D, Warcraft, or any other RP games feels very much at home in the world Busiek has created, and I’m pretty much in comics heaven. I love the Rat Queens, I love the secondary cast of characters, and I love that there are no delicate little flowers here. It is perfection, and I have yet to read an issue that doesn’t have me dying of laughter at least once.

So, there we go. There’s my year in reading. I didn’t realize until just now how much girl-power my favorites had in common, but I guess it makes sense. I can’t wait to see what next year’s reading brings me!

Announcing: “Soulhunter,” a new HIDDEN story for newsletter subscribers!

It’s time for a new story for my newsletter subscribers, and I have a feeling many of you will be excited about this one — I know I’m loving writing it!

Before we go any further, though: if you haven’t read NETHER yet, stop here. Major spoilers ahead.

You’ve been warned. :)

 

Right. So… new story. How about a synopsis?

 

soulhunterWhen the god of death asks for a favor, saying “no” really isn’t a smart thing to do.

…And when the god of death is your best friend, the thought doesn’t even enter your mind.

 

When Eunomia left Detroit and her team to find herself, she imagined she’d spend some time traveling, and then head home to take her place on the superhero team she’d come to think of as family.

 

Life never does work the way you expect it to.

 

Her homecoming is cut short when the god of death gives her a task only she can accomplish. And it may end up being exactly what she needs:

“There are souls that elude the ravens, that hide from my judgment. Find them, and bring them back to me.”

Eunomia. Right hand of the Angel. Guardian.

The last of her kind, is now….

Death’s Soulhunter.

And the most lost soul she’s hoping to find, is her own.

 

This is Eunomia’s story, and it takes place after the events of NETHER. If I find that I like writing this, and you guys like reading it, I can definitely see Soulhunter becoming a spin-off series. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ll start sending chapters in January — there’s no point in trying to get anything like this going during the holidays. As with Earth Bound, the installments will come weekly, and the stories will be released as ebooks after my newsletter subscribers have had the opportunity to read the entire story. I hope you enjoy it!

And if you’re not already signed up for my newsletter… this might be a good time to do that. :)

EDIT: Many of you know that I keep Pinterest boards and YouTube playlists for each project. You can find those here, if you’re into that kind of thing:

Playing with Words

I’m hard at work on Copper Falls #1 — I should actually have a title for it soon so I can stop calling it that. Titles are hard.

I’m still grinning over the response Nether has received. I seriously have the best readers in the world, and Nether has stayed right around or higher than #1,000 overall on Amazon since its release. So thank you!!

I was talking to my husband last night about writing stuff, and we got into a discussion about the fact that, at our core, writers are entertainers. We may not see ourselves as having anything in common with a comedian standing on a stage or an actor shooting a scene in front of a camera, but we are entertainers just as much as they are. We talked about how, when I let myself get too bogged down in worrying about responses to things or “being taken seriously” the writing suffers. I get timid, and I start dreading the page.

But when I remember that writing, at its core, should be nothing more and nothing less than playing with words, with entertaining myself first, the writing flows. And it’s fun. Still hard a lot of the time, still something I struggle with, but I enjoy the struggle.

That makes no sense. But it’s true.

I started writing Hidden because I couldn’t not write it. Because I had these characters in my head and they were interesting and I wanted to see what they would do. The entire Hidden series was written in that spirit. I never expected anyone to read it, so when I did crazy shit like kill off a major character or add a crazy twist to Molly’s heritage, I didn’t do it wondering if I’d be taken seriously. I did it because I wanted to see what would happen next.

It’s easy, when you make your bread and butter from selling books, to obsess over rank and awards and the number of Twitter followers you have who actually give a damn about your books. But when that happens too much, we lose sight of what we’re really supposed to be doing: playing with words.

My Writing Warm Up

I don’t know how common this is, but I find that I need to warm up to write in the morning. I get up around four, take the dog out, pour some coffee down my throat, and try to get my brain in working order. (I am not, nor ever will be, a morning person. Having four kids requires me to get up and write early to have that time to myself.) And I can’t launch right into the current work in progress. I don’t want to goof around on Twitter and Facebook, because you lose hours that way. So I usually work on a story I’m writing only for me, something I don’t expect anyone to ever read. I’ve written stories about my World of Warcraft hunter, stories about characters who I just find interesting and I want to see what happens to them. The stories are never structured, and they usually just kind of end abruptly when I’m tired of them — I don’t have to finish, because they’re only for me.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 12.07.53 PM
Iounn and Zig-Tarash have a complicated relationship.

My current writing warm up? Smut fiction about my warlock from World of Warcraft and her wrathguard. I don’t actually write erotica, obviously, but I’m having fun and seeing what happens next. And I find that, once I’ve reached my couple-hundred words of that story, I can launch into Copper Falls easily, my brain already working and ready to create. Giving time to something I’m doing just for fun, I think, extends that sense of fun and “let’s just see what happens” into the work I’m actually planning on publishing. It lets me take risks, try things out, without worrying “oh, I’m going to have to revise the hell out of that later.” I can play, and stretch my boundaries, and then come to the pages of my current work-in-progress in the right mindset.

This is also a great tactic for those struggling with writer’s block. I suffered awful block during the writing of Nether (again, because I let myself become WAY bogged down in worrying about how it would be received) and I started a romance fanfic about a comic book character I like. I remembered what fun it is to play, and the writing of Nether went a lot easier after a while.

So, it’s something to try. And I think it’s something I’ll always have to remind myself, especially when the writing gets hard. I need to remember that instead of taking myself seriously, I need to let go and play.

Grateful…

This Thanksgiving, I’m truly grateful for my life. Not only do I have an amazing family, a comfortable home, and good food to eat (things that, unfortunately, many people do not have) but, in addition, I’m able to support my family by doing work I love.

I write. And people are willing (and sometimes, very happy!) to pay me to tell them stories.

Do you have any idea how insane that is? This is something I’ve wanted since I was eleven years old and I sat scribbling really bad fanfic (was there a word for it then? Because that’s what I was writing) and I was getting to a point in my life in which I was starting to think I’d never actually do it. I was writing and proofreading for a living, and had nearly reached the point of settling on that being good enough. I scribbled down the beginning of Molly’s story when I was pregnant with my son. I wrote between taking care of my kids and feeding my newborn daughter and being sick and tired… because it was fun, and because it made me happy.

I never, in a million years, expected it to go anywhere.

As much fun as writing is, it’s kind of incomplete unless there’s someone there to read it. And that is where you come in. This year, some of those long-held (and nearly abandoned) dreams of mine came true. Thank you for helping make that happen.

(Related: Nether’s release was my second-most successful release day yet — Strife still holds the record for biggest release day. I don’t think the timing was great on my part, but for a holiday week release, I’m very happy! So thank you again!!)

XO,

Colleen

Nether is here!

Nether_UpdatedCover_700Here we go — NETHER! It’s here!

Here’s the description:

Molly Brooks has faced every foe thrown at her: power-hungry gods, hateful spirits, plotting demons, and everything in between.
She has been betrayed. Lied to. Tortured. Possessed. And she has fought her way back from the brink, time and time again.
It all leads up to this.
Two Titans, formerly imprisoned by Molly’s family, now walk the mortal realm.
The vengeful ancient, Nether, finally freed from her prison, longs for revenge against those who decided her fate.
And this time, Molly just might not be enough to fight them all, despite having everything to lose.
This is the final installment in the Hidden urban fantasy series.
It was almost exactly a year ago that I published Lost Girl. What a crazy, amazing year this has been. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me. Words can’t express how much it’s meant to me to hear that people love Molly and her crazy friends. I never imagined my weird little story taking off the way it did, and for that, you have my eternal gratitude. Thank you so much!
I can’t wait to hear what you all think! Your reviews are very, very much appreciated!

Friday Reads – 11/21/14

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done one of these Friday Reads posts — final edits on Nether took up pretty much all of my time! Unfortunately, it’s also meant that I haven’t done as much reading as usual (and the new Warcraft expansion is also partially to blame for that! :) )

Here are a few of the things I’ve read that I’ve absolutely loved.

I was fortunate to be able to read Elizabeth Hunter’s entire Shadows and Gold novella (thank you, my friend!), which she’s currently publishing as a serial on her website. AMAZING. Tenzin is one of my favorite characters of Hunter’s and this, as well as her other Tenzin novella, The Bronze Blade, are both fantastic reads.

I’ve also read the first two books in Eve Langlais’s Kodiak Point series, Kodiak’s Claim and Outfoxed by Love — both very fun reads, and I definitely plan on reading the rest of the series. Eve also has a Kodiak Point book in the Kiss of Christmas Magic collection, which I’m currently reading my way through  — if you love paranormal romance, you need to grab this collection! It’s only $0.99 and contains 20 never-before-published novellas by some of the bestselling authors in the genre.

As far as comics, I’ve been catching up and revisiting some of my favorites via trade paperback. Hawkeye vol. 3, Captain Marvel vol. 1, and Lazarus vol. 1 and 2 (which I’ve read before but wanted to read again — glad I did. It’s probably one of my favorite comics right now) were all part of the rotation these last couple of weeks.

I’m also currently reading Amy Elliot Bragg’s Hidden History of Detroit, which has been on my TBR pile for quite a while.

I’m hoping to get more reading done over the next few weeks. I’m currently beta reading for a Twitter pal of mine and I have books on my Kindle by Killian McRae, Jill Myers, Jasinda Wilder, Marjorie Liu, and Amber Jaeger that I’m looking forward to reading. I’m also anxiously awaiting the trade paperback of Kieron Gillen’s The Wicked + the Divine, which will be out later this week.

So, that’s my list of recent and future reads. Any recommendations?

Monday is Nether Day!

Nether_UpdatedCover_700We’re almost there, lovelies! Nether, the final book in the Hidden series, will be out on MONDAY. 

Wow.

This book felt like it took so long to write, and now we’re here and I’m wondering where the time went. I’m so excited to share this story with you. It was hard to write, both because of some of the plot points and because I really, really want this to be a fitting end for the series. I’m proud of it. I told the story I wanted to tell, and it ended the way I’ve always known it would.

I hope you love it. Monday! I’ll send out a reminder newsletter and if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll definitely be mentioning it there as well.

In other news, I found out last week that Home: Hidden Book Three is one of the finalists for RT Book Reviews Reviewers Choice Awards for Best Indie Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance Book of 2014. 

That is… I’m still in shock. Thank you, RT Book Reviews!

Okay. The next time you hear from me here, it will be about Nether! Have a great weekend, all!

Earth Bound is Available Now!

EarthBound_UpdatedCover_700-2Happy Halloween! Just wanted to drop in for a second here and let you know that Earth Bound, the most recent Hidden novella, is available now! And for today only, you can snag your copy for free on Amazon.

Here’s the blurb:

Hephaestus. God of fire. God of blacksmiths. Reviled son of Zeus and former husband of the goddess of love. He’s found his place in the mortal realm, working with his friend Molly and her team of supernaturals. And he’s fine. He’s good. There isn’t a single thing he needs.

Until the day a witchy waitress walks into his life.

Can he get over a lifetime of rejection and the dangers of his own past and finally give happiness a chance? Or is he destined to spend his long life alone?

**This is a novella set in the Hidden world. It takes place after the events of Strife, Hidden Book Four.**

I hope you have as much fun reading it as I had writing it! As always, reviews are very much appreciated.

Have a great day!

Colleen

Lost Girl: Hidden, Book One Audiobook is Now Available!

LostGirlAudioBookCoverIt’s a busy week over here — two releases in one week! The first is the audiobook for Lost Girl, which is now available on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes! (I teased a sample of the audiobook in this post, if you’d like to have a listen.)

I can’t fully express what a great experience this was for me, and I am looking forward to working with actress Tonya Cornelisse and the awesome team at Punch Audio in bringing the rest of the series to life.

I should also mention that if you don’t have an Audible account, you can open one and get your first book from Audible for free — so that may be a nice way to have a listen and see if you like the audiobook experience. I think you’ll really enjoy this one. Tonya did an awesome job bringing  my characters to life. It really is almost like listening to a radio play by an amazing one-woman show.

Imps, man. You need to hear her as the imps. That’s all I’m gonna say.

Oh, and that moment Molly and Nain meet for the first time? She nailed it.

Oh, oh — and that letter at the end? I cried, and I was the one who wrote the damn thing. :)

Anyway. I hope you’ll check it out. Here are those links again:

 

EarthBound_UpdatedCover_700-2As for the second release of the week — Earth Bound will be out on FRIDAY! As with Forever Night, it will be free on release day so my amazing, loyal readers can grab it for no additional cost. Reviews on both the audiobook and Earth Bound are, as alway, very much appreciated.

Have a great day!

Sneak Peek (Listen?): Lost Girl: Hidden, Book One Audiobook

I have had the pleasure of working with actress Tonya Cornelisse and the team at Punch Audio in producing the Hidden audiobooks, and they just wrapped production of the first one! It should be available for sale in the next couple of weeks via Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

This has been an awesome experience. Tonya is a very talented and busy actress (check out these interviews with her here and here) and our engineer, Samir, has been awesome even during those times when I forget check my email and he’s waiting on me to listen to things. :) Tonya will be the narrator for the entire series, so there’s definitely a team-type feel in making these audiobooks. Here is a first listen, just a taste, of Lost Girl:

Aaaah! Don’t you love it? The first time I heard Tonya’s voice, I swear I shivered a little. Her voice is just how I hear Molly in my head, so I was thrilled when she agreed to audition, and, even more so, when she accepted the offer to narrate. I am so excited about these, and I can’t wait to share more with you!