New Teaser! Shadow Witch Rising

We are about a week and a half from the release day for Shadow Witch Rising, so I think it’s time for another teaser! This little peek gives you a bit of insight into Sophie’s powers, as well as introduces you to two of her oldest friends. I hope you enjoy it!

* * *

ShadowWitchRisingCover_200Sophie drove home from work, singing along to Taylor Swift and, as always, enjoying the scenery on the meandering two-lane highway. Forest on both sides, and the leaves were starting to turn, shades of red and orange adding to the lush beauty. The sumac at the base of the trees along the roadside were already crimson, like rubies dangling from arching branches.

The sun was just starting to set, washing the landscape in deep orange. She drove with the window down, and let the cool breeze reinvigorate her after eight hours of cleaning up other people’s messes. Not that she wasn’t grateful for it. She was happy to be back in the place she’d grown up, and happy she could support herself. Not only had it been the place she’d spent the happiest times of her childhood, not only was it the only place she’d ever lived where there was actually a community of “others,” including witches and shifters, but it was more friendly and welcoming than anyplace she could imagine. The year-round residents all knew one another. Her first winter, no less than six people she knew from town had driven out to check on her, knowing she was a city girl and, most likely, needed help. She hadn’t, but she’d been touched by the gesture, especially after spending most of her teens and twenties utterly alone.

She rounded a curve in the road, and noticed a large form lying at the side of the road. As she got closer, she recognized it as a deer. Its legs were moving, but it seemed to be struggling.

Sophie pulled over onto the shoulder and got out of her car, leaving the car running and the headlights on so she could see clearly in the darkening evening. She reached the deer and crouched down near its head. It was a doe, she realized. She caught movement in the brush at the side of the road. When she looked, there were at least two fawns there.

Looking back down at the doe, she noticed that its left shoulder was bloodied. She touched it gingerly, felt bone shift beneath her fingers, and the doe let out a pained call.

“All right now,” Sophie murmured, keeping her tone low and soft. She rested both hands over the wound, focused. The doe calmed, stopped flailing, stopped its mournful calling. Sophie closed her eyes, focused what little Light magic she had. From what she’d read, she was basically doing everything wrong. It seemed that many Lightwitches felt and went by instinct more than anything else. Maybe it was because Sophie’s power was so meager in the first place, but she didn’t rely on feeling and intentions. When she closed her eyes, after a while, she could see, in detail, the way the deer was injured, worked her magic in and around it as if binding the broken bones. Her magic wasn’t a sensation or a spirit or whatever her fellow Lightwitches called it. Maybe that was the way it was supposed to be. That was entirely possible. But to Sophie, her magic was and always had been more like a tool, something she could focus and use to her own will. There was really nothing ethereal about it, not the way she used it. Maybe if she’d been trained by another witch instead of learning on her own, it would have been different.

It worked, and that was all that mattered to her. Even with the meager amount of Light magic she possessed, Sophie soon felt the doe’s shoulder healing, bones knitting back together. Had the break been more substantial, she knew she wouldn’t have been able to fix it. Minor wounds, she could heal. Anything beyond that was impossible for her. Her real power seemed to be in protective wards. This was just a side thing she’d figured out as a teenager.

Pulling her hands back, she opened her eyes and looked down at the doe. She was no longer bleeding, and was already trying to stand. Once on her feet, she gave Sophie one final glance, then bounded toward the woods where her fawns were waiting.

Sophie smiled and stood up. The after-effects of using her magic left her warm and peaceful. And, just as the few times she’d managed to heal before, she felt a little more powerful, almost as if Light itself was rewarding her for doing something good with her power. She actually knew it to be true. Her magic had been almost non-existent, just the barest threads of power. Each time she’d done something worthwhile with her magic, she’d felt herself grow a little stronger. Not by leaps, but by bits. Enough to make a difference and enable her to ward herself from danger and use her magic for good things.

Sophie got back into her car, took a couple of wipes from the canister she kept in her back seat, and cleaned the drying blood from her fingers. It was dark now, and the woods looked less friendly. Time to get home.

She put the car into drive and maneuvered onto the empty highway. When she pulled into her driveway, she shook her head. The twins’ familiar convertible sat in her driveway already, the sisters sitting on her porch waiting.

She got out of her car and slammed the door.

“Finally!” Layla said, and Cara elbowed her.

“You smell like deer,” Cara said in greeting.

“Nice to see you, too, dear,” Sophie said. “What are you guys doing here?”

“Were you saving wildlife again?” Cara asked with a wry smile.

“Maybe,” Sophie said.

“You know we’re probably just going to hunt it later, right?”

“Don’t. You. Dare,” Sophie said, and Layla laughed. “She’s a doe, with fawns. Be nice.”

“Fine,” Cara said.

“Come on. Go wash the deer stink off you… although, maybe not. That might actually work for you,” Layla said, and Cara laughed.

“What in the hell are you even talking about?” Sophie asked, unlocking her front door. The twins followed her in.

“We’re going to Jack’s. And you’re coming with us,” Layla said.

“Oh, hell, no. I am not. I’m going to take care of my goats, and take a shower, and read…”

Cara let out an exaggerated yawn.

“Babe, you’re gorgeous, sweet, and you have the kind of boobs I can only get from a really expensive push-up bra. We need to find you someone to get friendly with.”

“I do not need to get ‘friendly’ with anyone.”

“Girl, if that stick gets any further up your butt, I’m gonna start calling you Popsicle,” Layla said, and Cara snorted. “You need to let loose a little and get your mind off of all of this crap for a while. Now, let’s go.”

Sophie rolled her eyes. “What are the chances you’re just going to get up and go without me?”

“Right around zero, Popsicle,” Cara said, and Layla erupted into a fit of giggles.

“Ugh,” Sophie said, though even she had to laugh at the ridiculous nickname. “Fine. Let me go take care of the animals. Are we in a hurry?”

“Not really. We don’t work tomorrow. You?”

Sophie nodded. “Later shift, though.”

“Good. Go do your thing. We’ll be here, rummaging through your cupboards.”

Sophie grabbed the bucket off of the back steps, shaking her head to herself. They did this every once in a while, got it into their heads that she needed to be more social, that she was sinking into melancholy. And, usually, as with now, they were right. She always felt better after a night out with them, so she didn’t put up much of a fight anymore. And they were stubborn as anything. Crazy wolves.

She milked the goats, secured them and the chickens for the night, then carried the milk bucket back inside, put it in the refrigerator.

“It’ll be a few minutes,” Sophie said.

“Take your time,” Layla said, flipping through a magazine from the coffee table.

Sophie headed into her bedroom, grabbed a gray tweed skirt, a form-fitting black sweater she liked, and her pair of knee-high black boots. She showered (pulling her hair up and stuffing it into a shower cap, because it would take forever to dry and even the twins wouldn’t be okay with waiting long enough for her to mess with her crazy mop of hair). Makeup, clothes, arranging a few of her curls that kept trying to twist funny, and she left the room.

“Okay?” Sophie asked, holding her arms out.

“You are so gonna get laid,” Layla said, and Cara whistled.

“I am not going to get laid,” Sophie said. “I’m going out to have fun and relax and stop thinking about the jerk across the road for a while.”

* * *

Shadow Witch Rising is available for pre-order now on Amazon, and will be out on February 23rd!

On the romance genre as a punch line

It started when I was scrolling through Book Riot this morning. The post was typical February/Valentine’s Day fare: books to read about love. All right, fine. I like books about love! Love is awesome. And then I read this:

If you want to dip your toe into girly-romance but want something decently-written…

Uh.

Wait, what?

And on first blush, it’s so easy to say, “oh, relax. This is one blogger, one person’s opinion, and they probably didn’t even necessarily mean it the way it sounded.”

Except, no. That statement above and the attitude behind it are not at all uncommon, and it suggests that, as a whole, the romance genre is full of badly-written work. It is dangerous territory, through which one must tread carefully, because landmines are everywhere, and you’re more likely to come across purple prose and mentions of “throbbing members” and heroes “sheathing the sword” than actual, meaningful stories.

And you know what? It pisses me off. It’s not fair, and it’s not true. I went off on a little bit of a Twitter rant…

twitter

Of course, I’m not the first person to say this, and there’s no way I’ll be the last. In her fantastic article on Writer Unboxed, author Barbara O’Neal writes:

“And yet, romance novels continue to be the most disdained of all genres. Often not just disdained or dismissed, but reviled with an unbridled hatred that oozes and splutters.

Why is that? Serious question.

Genre novels such as mysteries or science fiction are often dismissed, but they are not often reviled the way romance novels are. Why is it so much more ridiculous or ignorant to read and write romance novels than something like Game of Thrones or the latest gory offering from Patricia Cornwell?”

Part of it, certainly, could be outdated ideas about romance novels and their role in society. Maybe we hold to the idea Germaine Greer once espoused about the genre, when she stated that the romance genre encouraged women to accept and, even more, welcome, “the chains of their bondage.”

Uh. No. I’m one of the most feminist bitches you’ll ever meet and I would not love this genre as much as I do if that were the case.

Maybe we believe romance novels are nothing more than “mommy porn.” Which is utter bullshit, first off because the term is stupid, but even more because… yeah? So what if that was the case? I’d never call it that and I disagree that that’s what it is (not even close, actually) but even if it was true it’s certainly not a reason to deride an entire genre. Many comic books, military thrillers, science fiction novels and a wide range of primarily male-dominated genres are nothing more than male power fantasies for the most part. Why aren’t those genres a ready punchline whenever a discussion of books comes up?

Maybe we believe, as the aforementioned Book Riot blogger, that the genre is mostly poorly-written slop. There is no accounting for taste, of course, and people have different preferences. Are there poorly-written romance novels? Of course. Are there poorly-written mysteries, thrillers, westerns, horror novels? Yep.

Yet only one of those is a ready punchline.

Do I seem irritated? Good. Because I am.

Here’s the thing. I love this genre. I love sweet romance, and spicy romance. I love paranormal romance and western romance. I love this genre in all its diversity.

Yes, diversity. Because while the rest of the world seems to think the genre is nothing more than “girl meets boy, girl wants boy, girl may or may not shag boy (often or less-often, depending on the type of book), girl loses boy, girl finds happily-ever-after” — it’s so much more. It is a genre filled by heroines and heroes of all backgrounds, belief systems, and challenges. It is a genre in which, first and foremost, the story is about the woman. The woman is the focus. She has agency — she is not there merely as the hot girlfriend or the object of affections for the hero, or, worse, to get fridged so the hero has a reason to go out and kick ass — it’s HER. goddamn. story. It’s about her desires, her life, her goals… and when she meets the hero (or heroine) and decides to let that person into her bed, her pleasure matters. And while the happily-ever-after is important, the ways of getting there never fail to surprise and delight me.

The heroine may be a doctor, a lawyer, a vampire killer, a stay at home mom, a college student learning what it means to be out in the world. None of them, nor the women who write them, deserve the easy derision they receive.

And that’s all I have to say about that. Time to go write some books about awesome women living their lives for my audience of (mostly) women who find joy in these books.

And none of us are a goddamn punchline.

Update: BookRiot has since improved the post, changing the headline I and many other authors and readers found fault with. Kudos to Elizabeth Hunter, Kat Bowen, KT Grant, Chloe Neill, and many readers for raising a little hell on Twitter. Nice job, all! :)

 

 

 

Copper Falls: Inspiration and Other Miscellany

ShadowWitchRisingCoverI mentioned on Facebook that I’ve had a few questions about the Copper Falls series, and I thought I’d answer those here as well, and also include some other background information for those interested.

First off, I’ve been asked if the series is urban fantasy or paranormal romance. It’s paranormal romance. You’ll find that the pacing and feel of the series is very different from Hidden, because they’re two very different things. Which leads us to the other most common question…

“Is Copper Falls like Hidden?” And the best answer I can give is: in some ways, maybe? It is similar to Hidden in that the series focuses on a female protagonist (Sophie) who is strong in her own way and has to find a way to deal with both external and internal challenges. It’s similar to Hidden in that, obviously, it’s written by me, so you’ll see some familiar things and themes popping up, such as mentions of gardening and old cars and Detroit and (my biggie) the question of what strength looks like. Because there are many ways someone can be strong. Molly was physically/magically strong. She was strong in her sense of right and wrong, and in her devotion to helping. She was weak in other ways. You’ll find that Sophie is also strong in some ways and not so strong in others, because that’s realistic and I like writing those kinds of characters.

It’s not like Hidden, however, in the pacing and overall feel of the story. It’s just different, because that’s what this particular story required.

Inspiration?

I wrote the original set of notes for the series that has since become Copper Falls back in 2010. I wanted to write about someone who had almost no power, magically speaking, but was forced into a situation that seemed impossible given how little magic she had. And I had already written the first draft of Lost Girl and knew who and what Molly was and how her power would evolve, and I liked the idea of writing about someone very different.

Detroit is practically a character in Hidden. The story, for me, had to take place here. The setting is just as important in Copper Falls.

We took a few long camping trips when I was a kid, where we’d travel through Michigan over the course of a week or two, and one of my favorite places in the entire state was Copper Harbor, which sits at the very tip top of the upper peninsula. I still can’t explain it, all these years later, but something about the place just spoke to me and has stayed with me. It is wild and beautiful and touristy… yet not such a big tourist spot that it loses its small town feel. So Copper Falls is based on Copper Harbor somewhat (based on what my favorite things were when I was last there). The falls that are a recurring theme in the books were inspired by the  Manganese Falls in Copper Harbor, which I rode my bike to when we camped nearby. It was a long ride, and it was an accomplishment just to reach them. And then when I did, I’d just stand there, mesmerized. Being a city girl, there was just something magical about having a waterfall within bike riding distance, and that feeling has stuck with me ever since.

There was also this crazy thing where you could go to the town dump and watch black bears come to scavenge for food. People would just sit in their cars and dozens of black bears would show up around sunset. It was really probably stupid, but those bears… they stuck with me as well. :)

I can’t wait to share this story with you. It is up for pre-order right now, and will be available on February 23rd!

In the meantime, I know my newsletter subscribers are waiting on the next installment of SOULHUNTER. I was wrapped up in revisions this week, so I didn’t publish a newsletter on Friday. You will definitely get an installment this week, though!

Thanks for reading!

XO,

Colleen

 

Shadow Witch Rising – Now Available for Preorder!

ShadowWitchRisingCover_BiggerCVHello, lovelies!

Today is a big day — Shadow Witch Rising, the first book in my new Copper Falls series, is available now for preorder on Amazon! You can click to order it now, and it will be waiting on your Kindle as soon as the book becomes available in the Amazon store. It will be released on February 23rd.

I had many people asking me to make the HIDDEN series books available for preorder. At first, that wasn’t an option for me because only certain high-profile indie authors had that ability. They recently made it available to all authors, so I hope this makes the ordering process even more streamlined for those of you who want to make sure you have the book ASAP.

If you’re interested, you can find that preorder link here. Thank you so much  — I am so excited to share this story with you!

Cover Reveal and Release Info: Shadow Witch Rising!

I am so excited to share the cover of Shadow Witch Rising, the first book in my new Copper Falls series! My designer is my amazing husband, Roger Vanderlinden. I have loved every one of my book covers, but I literally squealed in excitement when he showed me this one. So… here it is!

ShadowWitchRisingCover_BiggerCV

Gah!! I just love it! For those who missed it, here is the synopsis:

Two people, bound by a powerful curse. 

When Sophie Turner finally returns home to the sleepy tourist town of Copper Falls, she imagines the kind of life she’d always dreamed of: calm, quiet, and peaceful. After years of having her steps haunted by a powerful and devious stalker, she is now living on land settled by her ancestors. She can feel the magic in her blood responding, and she feels like she finally has the chance to build a life.

Until he comes along.

All of her dreams of peace and calm come tumbling down the second Calder Turcotte enters Sophie’s life. The danger he brings threatens everything she’s worked for, everything she’s tried to build for herself.

He gives Sophie an ultimatum: break the curse her ancestor set on his family, or lose the very land that’s allowing her to heal. And as much as she despises him, as much as she fears him, she’s equally drawn to his icy gaze, his strength.

Helping him is the right thing to do.

She never would have guessed how much she’d end up losing to save him.

Links, Pre-Order, and Release Dates

There is an entry for Shadow Witch Rising up on GoodReads — thank you so much to those who have added it already! If you want to see a teaser, I posted one on the blog earlier this week.

Shadow Witch Rising will be available for pre-order on Amazon on January 26th. It will be released on February 23rd.

I cannot wait to share this story with you guys! I’ll have more information about the setting and inspiration as we get closer to release day, but I can tell you that this is a story I’ve been living with for YEARS and writing it has been both maddening and emotional at times. Just as HIDDEN was, in some ways, my love letter to Detroit, Copper Falls is my love letter to the astounding beauty of Michigan’s upper peninsula, which I fell in love with as a kid during the family vacations we took there.

Since this is a new series, any help you can give me in spreading word and sharing the cover, adding the book to your shelves on GoodReads would be hugely appreciated. You guys have always been great at supporting me in that way, and I hope you know how much I appreciate it.

Have a great day!

XO,

Colleen

Extended Teaser: Shadow Witch Rising

I promised my lovely readers over on Facebook that once we hit 300 likes on the page, I’d share an extended teaser from the first Copper Falls book, Shadow Witch Rising. Well, we’re over 300 now (thank you!!) so, as promised, here is your teaser. Enjoy!

* * *

After a few hours of sorting through dusty, grimy boxes, mostly filled with old clothes and other useless crap, Sophie was ready to head back downstairs and declare defeat. Why did people hold on to stuff like this? What good was an entire box of plastic dishes, or boxes and boxes of paperbacks, which had been chewed mercilessly by mice? Books should be read, should adorn a room so you can look at them and remember the amazing places they took you. They should’t be boxed up and stuffed in an attic, left to rot.

She had to grin as she looked though them. Someone, it looked like in the seventies or eighties, had been a big paperback romance reader. The covers, complete with bodice-ripping heroes holding their prizes, made her roll her eyes. Not in a bad way, though. She remembered the same books in her grandmother’s bedside table. She’d gotten her love of books from Nana, and she knew that those stories were a part of what she was now.

She set the books down, shaking her head.

She got back to work. If there were answers to be found about Calder and his curse, she’d find them. She had to.

After another few hours, she had about half of the attic sorted through. She had a few boxes of things she could use, mostly kitchen and gardening equipment, along with some decorative things that had caught her eye. She had a pile of clothing to donate, several boxes of paperbacks (that hadn’t yet been chewed by mice) and other miscellaneous stuff to donate. She’d already tossed several garbage bags outside. She’d have to drive them to the dump later.

Sophie carried the “donate” boxes out to the front porch and stacked them along one side. She reminded herself to call Purple Heart to come and pick them up. She went out back and did the evening chores in the dark, feeding and watering the animals, giving the goats their second milking  of the day.

As she did, she thought. A name. A date. Something. She didn’t know anything about her family other than Edie and her family’s almost non-existent magic. If Calder had been looking into the curse enough to know (supposedly) that it was her ancestor, then he must have names or dates or something to base that on.

Sophie finished up, washed up a little, then headed out the front door and across the street. Calder was pretty much where he’d been earlier that day, hunched over the car.

She walked up to him and leaned against the side of the car, watched him for a few minutes. He didn’t acknowledge her, and she tried not to let that irritate her.

“Can you tell me anything about the curse? What does it do, exactly? Which of my ancestors did it? Anything you know would be helpful, since I know absolutely nothing,” she said softly.

Calder kept his eyes on the engine. After a few more minutes of tightening things and fiddling around, he stood up and started wiping his hands. “What have you been doing all evening? I knocked on your door twice trying to talk to you.”

“I was in the attic. There’s so much stuff up there, going back who knows how long. I’m hoping I can find something up there that will help me figure this out. But I figured if I can find out what you know, that will give me a head start. And maybe I’ll know what I’m looking for when I find it.”

He nodded and headed toward his front porch. He settled his huge frame on one of the steps, and she sat beside him.

“It happened nearly two hundred years ago,” he began. “My ancestor, Luc, was involved with your ancestor, Migisi.”

She watched him. “What kind of name is that?”

“Ojibwa, we think,” he said.

Sophie pulled the small notebook out of her jeans pocket, wrote the names down. “I was always told there was some Native American in my line, but no one knew much,” she said as she wrote. “Did she live in my house?”

“She at least lived on the land. We’re not sure if she was the one who first lived in the house or whether it was her decendents.”

“Okay.”

“So they were involved, and from what I understand, she was completely in love with him. But Luc had a wandering eye, and she caught him with another woman. She was heartbroken. And pissed off.”

“Rightfully so,” Sophie said, raising her eyebrow.

“You’ll get no argument from me on that.”

Sophie laughed a little.

“Anyway. The story goes that when he went to her to apologize, she had a curse waiting, and she did the spell, and that was that. She moved on. Married another man and had children. Luc spent the rest of his life cursed, mated, and the next generation was born. Cursed, just as he had been.”

“Can you tell me more about the curse?”

Sophie watched as he looked down at his hands. “Our line are shifters. You already know that.”

Sophie watched him. “What do you shift into?”

“Bear.”

“A bear?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Are you the bear my friends smelled around my house?”

“Yeah.”

“So you were spying on me?”

“I was making it clear that was my territory.”

“Why?”

“To keep others away,” he said.

“Is there something I need to be worried about?”

He looked up, met her eyes. Her heart stopped at the intensity in his gaze. “No. Nothing’s going to happen to you.”

“Except for you taking everything I own if I can’t figure this out.”

“I’m desperate, Sophie. It’s getting worse, and it’s only the last few generations that stopped being stupid about the curse and actually started researching how to break it. Started tracing her line. And what we kept finding was that for the most part, you’re powerless. Until you. I was prepared to make the move down to Detroit, but this is so much better. You came here for a reason, and it’s clear you need this place.”

“Lucky you,” Sophie muttered.

“For what it’s worth, I don’t make a habit of bullying women.”

“Congratulations,” she said icily.

He took a breath, and she shook her head in irritation. One bright spot in the situation was that she had a couple more months in her house. Of course, that would probably be it, because her chance of breaking a curse as powerful as this one was probably less than zero. “The shifter part isn’t the curse, though,” she finally said, determined to at least try to figure it out.

He shook his head. “We were born shifters. And, until we hit puberty, we can shift into our animal without any problems. After that point, shifting becomes a punishment of its own. When we take our animal form, we become more beast than man. You have friends who shift. You know that even though they have the senses, reflexes, and instincts of their animals, their thought processes remain human.”

Sophie nodded, watching him. Why did he have to be so good-looking? It was hard to hate him when he looked at her with that intense, serious gaze, when she could still see the boy she’d been so enamored with.

“Okay. Well, with the men in my family, we start losing that humanity. At first, it’s just…” he paused, shook his head.

“Calder. I need to understand. Okay?”

“At first, it’s like your beast starts taking control when you’re in that form. It does things you’d never do, out of its mind, and all you can do is watch. You’re still in there, but you’re powerless to do anything other than wait it out. At first, it’s really only a problem on full moon nights. The rest of the time, we hold it together, and it’s almost normal. Full moons are a nightmare.” He paused. “And its not that our beast is evil. It’s just desperate. The real thing with the curse is that it makes you just endlessly dissatisfied. There is no such thing as enough food, enough water, enough violence, enough…” he trailed off, and she caught his eyes sweeping over her body before he looked away. She felt a blush rise to her face. “Never enough,” he continued. “We want it all, all the time, and getting it never satisfies. It’s like having an itch that never stops, and slowly but surely, it drives you mad. And the more insane you get, the less of your humanity you can remember, until, even in your human form, when you can remember to take it, you’re like an animal.”

She was watching him, and the concern, the empathy in her eyes made it hard for him to breathe. Her scent surrounded him, and the warmth radiating from her body made him want to touch her so badly he burned with it. He forced his mind back.

“My father hasn’t shifted back to his human form in over six monhts. He is likely lost to us. The best any of us can do is keep him contained, so he doesn’t hurt anyone. My younger brother cares for him, but it’s not easy on him. We agreed that I would be the one to… convince you to help us. And I can feel the curse strengthening in me as well.”

“And your brother?”she asked him.

He shook his head. “It only affects the oldest male in each family. And we’ve tried ending it that way. Tried not getting anyone pregnant, or killing off the eldest son before the curse begins… it either jumps to a younger siblling or to a male cousin. She wasn’t messing around when she made that curse.”

She was quiet for several moments. “Your dad and brother. Do they live around here?” she asked, and the tremor of fear in her voice grated at him.

“No. They live in they middle of one of the larger state forests. Almost entirely isolated.”

She nodded, and he watched her. She seemed to be thinking.

“So, the hunger. That’s the real part of the curse. Right?”

He nodded. “That seems to be it. That we would never be satisfied. That the constant dissatisaction eventually drives us mad.”

She was watching him. Jesus she smelled good. His bear, his beast, practicaly rumbled in ecstasy at her scent. So warm beside him, her curvy body warming his, her thigh almost touching his.

It was hard to breathe.

“And you say you’re starting to feel the effects of the curse?” she asked softly.

He nodded.”I still mostly have control of my beast.”

“Mostly,” she repeated, and her fear scented the air, made his beast raise its head in interest.

“It’s bad around the full moon,” he said. And he knew, already, that this next full moon would be absolute torture. There was something he suddenly wanted more than just about anything else, and it would make his beast even crazier. “The equinox is hell. That’s why I put that deadline in there. This is the first year I’ve started losing control, and I know from watching my dad that the equinox is a nightmare. Fall and spring,” he added.

“Why?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I think it has to do with the bear part of what we are. Fall, a bear would be preparing to hibernate. He’d be stuffing himself with food and getting sleepier. And spring,” he forced his thoughts away from that.

“What’s with spring?”

“That’s mating season,” he answered, trying to keep his voice flat.

“Oh,” she said. She looked away from him, tapped her pen against the small notebook she’d been jotting things down in.

“So, Migisi. Do you know anything else about her?”

He shook his head. “The only reason we know her name at all is because there’s this story that Luc ended his life in front of his own son, and he screamed “is this what you wanted, Migisi?” right before he jumped off one of the outcroppings on Brock Mountain.”

“Is that how it usually ends?” she asked quietly, and the compassion in her eyes made him hate himself even more.

“Sometimes,” he answered. “And sometimes, we go beyond the point where we even have enough sense to know we should end it. My father is there now. Even if he wanted to end his life, he’s too out of control to even attempt it. It’s like he’s hardly in there at all anymore.”

“It seems like she went kind of overboard on the curse thing,” she said. “Is it possible there’s more to it than that?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s possible. All I know is what’s been passed down over the years. We lost track of her line for a while. Your place sat empty for decades in the early 1900s, I guess. And then we found Edie, which led us to you. Edie didn’t know anything about anything. She knew you all have some magic, but she also knew that it was pretty much nonexistent in her.”

“My mom had no magic at all,” Sophie said. “I didn’t know anything about witchcraft in my family until I felt the first bit of power in me when I was a teenager. I asked my parents, and they told me it was nonsense. And then we moved away from here. I think they thought that would end it.”

He watched her, felt the almost irresistible urge to try to comfort her. It wasn’t the words, necessarily. It was something behind them, some sense that she’d been through more than her share of bad.

He couldn’t afford to worry about her feelings now.

He looked across the road, at her little cottage. “Have you found anything up there?” he asked, gesturing toward the small window in the attic.

She shook her head. “Not yet. But at least maybe I’ll know it when I see it. If there’s something up there that can help, I’ll find it. And now I have names to work with. What was Luc’s last name?”

“Same as mine. Turcotte,” he answered, watched her write it down. “Sophie,” he said, unable to take his eyes off of her and hating himself all over again.

“What?” she raised her gaze to his, and heat shot through him at just the meeting of their eyes.

He almost said it. Almost apologized for the mess he’d made of her life, for the way he’d strong-armed her into helping him.

“If you find anything out, let me know,” he said, aware of the short, gruff tone of his voice.

He watched as she withdrew into herself again. There was still that compassion in her eyes, but it was like watching a door close, watching her pull away from him.

What did he expect?

“I will. And I should get back to work,” she said, standing up.

He stood up, too, walked with her down his driveway.

“You don’t have to come with me. It’s not like I’m going to get lost or anything.”

He smiled a little. “I know. ”

* * *

There we go! I should also have a cover reveal for you pretty soon. I am so excited to share this story with you!

My Word for 2015: Better

This Captain Marvel t-shirt says it all.
This Captain Marvel t-shirt says it all.

It’s been a few years now since I started adopting a word for what I want for my life in the year ahead. 2014’s word was “forward.” And, damn, did I move forward in 2014. I didn’t accomplish everything I hoped to, but, at the same time, I did much better in certain areas than I could have expected last December when I was planning the coming year.

I knew, in December of 2013, that I wanted to finish the HIDDEN series in the coming year. I knew that I wanted to continue to make my living from writing (at the time, most of my income came from my job with About.com) and continue to grow the small audience that HIDDEN had at the time. I wanted to get healthier. I wanted to read more.

“Better” might seem like a stupid word. Of course, the whole purpose of setting goals is to get better, right? But “better” has to be my word, because it would be all too easy, considering the year I’ve had (a year that saw me selling WAY more books, to a much more positive response, than I ever could have imagined), to let up a little and rest on my laurels.

The good thing is, I’m not very good at that whole “resting” thing.

But we all slip, and I want to stay driven. Focused. I want next year to be even better than 2014 was. I want to be better. (And, as a side note, the only one I want to be better than at the end of 2015 is the Colleen I am right now.  I’ve never seen myself as being in competition with anyone other than me.)

So what do I want? What does “better” look like to me?

1.) I want to be a better writer. I want every book I put out to be the best it can possibly be, and every book after it to be better than the one before it. I want to continually grow as a writer. I want to push my boundaries, venture out of my comfort zone. I want to write things that will keep the lovely readers who buy my books up at night, unable to stop turning pages. That’s what I want.

2.) More reading. This one isn’t even that hard, because I love it, but I want to focus on reading more widely next year. I read a lot in my own genre this year, and it was a lot of fun, but I also think it would be fun to venture out of PNR/urban fantasy once in a while. :)

3.) Healthier. Outwardly, this is a simple “lose 50 pounds,” but it’s not just the number on the scale. The thing is, I’m quite happy with the way I look. I don’t hate my body or myself because I’m carrying more weight. I don’t have any health issues, and I know my husband thinks I’m beautiful. This is just one of those things for me. There are a couple areas of my body I could be more pleased with, and I recognize that losing weight will make me happier about those areas.

4.) More present. It is very, very easy for me to kind of get stuck in my own head. It’s very easy to obsess over parts of the writing business I can’t control. What I can control, and what will ultimately make an actual difference in my life and my overall state of well-being, is being present and attentive in the other parts of my life. Being there, really there, with my kids and husband makes all of us happier, and I want to focus on not letting myself slip into glancing too often at my phone or laptop when we’re all together.

So, that’s it. Better. That’s what I want to be at the end of 2015.

Happy New Year, lovelies! Thanks for helping me make 2014 one of the best years of my life. <3

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.