Pestilential January

Someone in my house has been sick every day since New Year’s Eve. I’ve been feeling like crud for the last two weeks, and those of you who are parents know how much fun it is to feel like crap, take care of kids who feel like crap, still kinda sorta keep the house running, and manage to work as well.

It’s been… not a great start to 2020. But I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m excited about this year’s publishing plans. So much fun stuff coming up this year, across all three of my pen names. But more about all of that another day. Here’s how I spent my January so far.

I worked. And worried about sick kids, and wondered if we all REALLY have to eat dinner again today. I mean, we just had dinner yesterday, isn’t that enough?! And with the pestilence that has hit my household, I’ve gotten very familiar with the various cold and flu meds available OTC. Here is my very random review of what we’ve tried:

Dayquil: Tastes like death, but the faces my kids made when taking it were priceless. Seems to work for a few minutes, but that’s mainly because you’re so distracted by the horrid taste that you don’t realize how sore your throat is or that your nose is running yet again.

Theraflu AM/PM: For cold medicine, I guess the flavor isn’t horrible. Except that you get to drink it piping hot over the course of several minutes, thereby extending the joy. I don’t think the daytime formulation does much of anything. The nighttime formulation does seem to make me feel sleepy and for about four hours, I stop coughing, which is nice. Sleep is good.

Mucinex AM/PM: Pills so large, my daughter couldn’t swallow them to take them, so I ended up taking these. They do stop you from coughing when you’re trying to sleep, but good lord the amount of ick you cough up when you wake up again. Gross. But effective.

Cough Drops: (Because even after all of that shit, your throat will still hurt)

Chloraseptic MAX: Very medicine-y. The back of your tongue will be numb and sorta tingly. And then there’s a weird semi-gelatinous medicine center to finish it off. But my throat did feel better for a little bit after taking one.

Halls Defense: We’ve gone through two giant bags of these. They don’t taste like death, they’re actually fairly soothing on the throat, and you get a little extra vitamin C, which probably isn’t a bad thing.

Home Remedies:

Mullein/Chamomile/Orange Peel tea: I brewed this with herbs I dried from my garden, and it worked very well in helping soothe my throat and make me stop coughing for a little bit. BUT, like the Mucinex, when I started coughing again, all sorts of ickiness came up. Which is great, but something to keep in mind if you’re planning on eating anytime after drinking it, and then you end up coughing your chicken noodle soup all over the dining room table. Yuck.

So, that’s what I’ve learned during the first three weeks of 2020. Even so, I will have a book out very soon, and I’ll share more about that as well as my other 2020 plans very soon!

Disclaimer: Amazon affiliate links, partially because I was being silly, but partially because I know the crud is going around and maybe some of this might work for you!

Review: Coffee Girl by Sophie Sinclair

Fashion consultant Kiki Forbes is… not in a good place. Set up on a string of disastrous blind dates by her well-meaning best friend, suddenly unemployed, facing the prospect of working as a nanny for her sister (think Bridezilla crossed with a deranged version of Martha Stewart), she leaps at the chance to work as an assistant to a country band’s stylist. Sure, country isn’t her thing, but it’s better than what she has going on in San Francisco. Plus it’ll help build her resume. A few months on a tour bus, and she can figure life out afterward.

Enter sexy country superstar Tatum Reed and his green eyes and smooth voice and cocky, sweet demeanor, and suddenly nothing is simple. The attraction is immediate, but what really drew me in was how Sinclair built a realistic relationship between two people with very different lives. Flirting and friendship becomes more, and soon you’re just as caught up in Kiki and Tatum’s tender, sexy as sin romance as they are.

Of course, one of the trademarks of any great contemporary romance is a stellar supporting cast, and Coffee Girl has them in droves. From Kiki’s crazy sister to Tatum’s ex (now THERE is a piece of work), to the band and the other crew members, and even Kiki’s cat, every character in this book feels alive. It would have been easy to make a few of the more antagonistic characters into cardboard cutouts, but Sinclair does an excellent job of writing them in a way that feels real…. even when you kind of want to dump a latte over their heads.

This book hits all of my contemporary romance buttons: hot sex, adorable banter, a fun supporting cast, gleeful highs and heartbreaking lows. There were several moments when I wanted to smack Kiki upside the head, but love can make even the smartest among us into idiots at times, and I couldn’t fault her for those moments.

Coffee Girl got me out of a weeks-long reading slump. If you’ve ever been in one of those, you know it takes a certain kind of read to get you out of it. This book did it for me. Five enthusiastic, rhinestone-studded stars.

About Sophie Sinclair: Sophie is an avid reader of contemporary romance and suspense thrillers. She lives with her husband and two daughters in North Carolina. When not hunkered down writing, she’s either driving the kids all over town or taking care of their three rescue dogs, rescue cat and a guinea pig named Fluff.

Connect with Sophie Sinclair:

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Disclaimers: This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you click them, I will receive a small commission. I received an ARC of Coffee Girl from Reedsy Discovery.

Friday Reads: Contemporary Romance Obsession Edition

It was a very good reading week for me. I read two novels and started two more. Both of those I finished were 5-star reads for me…

Which leads me to a bit of a tangent. Looking through my GoodReads shelves, I have lots of four and five star ratings for the books I’ve read. At a glance, this makes it look like, wow, she likes everything she reads! The truth is I start WAY more books than I finish. I can usually tell within a chapter or two if something is going to do it for me, and in the cases in which a book isn’t working for me, I have ZERO guilt about setting it aside and starting something else.
Because I have a TBR list that I’m never going to finish anyway, and it keeps getting longer, and life is too short for books that don’t grab you.
So yes, I start reading plenty of duds. But I don’t finish reading them and I don’t bother reviewing them, because I’d much rather highlight things I loved.
Now, on to this week’s reads.

Grit: A Love Story on 7th and Main by Elizabeth Hunter

Full disclaimer up front, Elizabeth Hunter is a friend of mine and one of the people who encouraged me most when I started publishing. That said, I was a reader of her books before I was her friend, and I would have loved this book regardless of who wrote it. It had everything: a strong, independent heroine; a grumpy, gorgeous, competent, loving farmer hero; an adorable, goat-obsessed pre-teen daughter; and a town full of people I wish I knew in real life. I was able to read an ARC of this, but you can pre-order it now. Grit will be out on September 3rd, but if you simply can’t wait that long, the first two books in her Love Stories on 7th and Main small town romance series are also amazing, and you can read them now!
I’ll be interviewing Elizabeth here on the blog during Grit’s release week, and I’ll have a longer, more in-depth review post up so that should be a lot of fun, as well!

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I want to kick past me’s ass for not reading this book immediately upon hearing about it. Another smart, vibrant contemporary romance, The Kiss Quotient is about a heroine with Aspberger’s Syndrome. She’s an economics wiz and very, very successful in her career. However, her Aspberger’s makes it hard for her to relate to people on a personal level, and that’s even more true when it comes to romance. She doesn’t know how to interact with people, she feels like she always says the wrong thing, and she simply can’t relax or enjoy sex. Her mother starts pushing her for grandchildren and threatens matchmaking. Stella (the heroine) decides to hire an escort so she can get used to sex. The escort she hires ends up being much, much more than just someone to have sex with, and she and the hero, Michael, find themselves drawn together and growing as people, taking brave steps neither of them would have thought possible before. I devoured this book, and immediately put a hold on book two, The Bride Test, on my Libby app. Unfortunately for me, I have to wait 14 weeks for my turn. Cue sad trombone.

Currently Reading:

I’m reading The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay, which I checked out of the library. It’s about an eccentric bookseller and a literary mystery, which seems to be one of my reading obsessions of late. So far, I’m enjoying it.
I’m also reading Zoe York’s Love on a Summer Night (yes, another small town contemporary!) and am already having a hard time putting it down. I’ve never read a Zoe York book that didn’t pull me in, and this is definitely doing it for me so far. Hopefully I’ll be reviewing it for next week’s Friday Reads!
That’s it for me. What have you read this week? Help me add to the ever-growing TBR list!

Cover Reveal: Two of Swords

IT’S HAPPENING!

Two of Swords is almost here, and the second it’s live on Amazon, I will be shouting it from the rooftops. This book had so many false starts, so many scrapped drafts… a year’s worth of them! But I have a book now that I’m proud of and I’m so excited to share it with you.

Two of Swords

Moira Chase, Book Two

All she wanted was a quiet life. A bakery, a new life focusing on nothing more exciting than kitchen magic. Moira paid her dues during her time as a supernatural bounty hunter in Detroit. She’s retired and more than ready to leave the chaos of her past behind.

With her bakery, wonderful friends, and the beginning of the kind of love she’s only thought was possible in dreams, it feels like her life is finally starting to come together.

That is, until an old contact from her bounty hunting days insists on her help with a case that’s right up her alley. And until the man she loves finds himself in the middle of a turf war he never asked for.

Moira has a choice to make, and the lives of those she loves most hangs in the balance.

It’s almost here! I cannot wait to share the next part of Moira’s story with you, and unlike the LOOOOONG wait between books 1 and 2, book three will be out later this summer!

Things I Loved This Month

May was a whirlwind. But I’m trying to keep track of the things I enjoyed each month, both the big and the small, because it’s so easy to lose sight of those things when life is crazy. Which mine is. All the time…

So in no particular order, here are the things that made me happy in May.

  1. Finishing Two of Swords. You heard me. It’s done! Expect a cover reveal this week, and a new book available on Amazon during the first week of June.
  2. Strength training. I’ve been slowly but surely getting my shit together health-wise as well. I did a Whole30 during Lent, and am about to start one again, and I’ve felt my energy levels improving. I took up strength training again this month and remembered how much I loved it. It’s so rewarding to feel myself getting stronger, improving my balance and energy. Excited to keep going with this.
  3. My Crusaders reader group on Facebook. This group is just the best. Even during my long silences of late, the group keeps going, sharing talk and memes about comics and superheroes and books, and I just adore them. We’re actually going to be starting a group read of one of my books, which the group is voting on now, so it’s a good time to join us!
  4. Good books! I’m currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and Elizabeth Haydon’s Rhapsody. Definitely in more of a fantasy mood of late. I’m thinking of re-reading Sara Douglass’ Troy Game series, which has long been one of my favorites. Curious to see if I’ll love it as much now as I did before.
  5. Spring blooms, finally.

So there we go! Five things I loved in May. I’ll be back later this week with a cover reveal and blurb for Two of Swords. Thanks for reading — I love you guys.

Writing Update: Two of Swords (and a snippet!)

This is the first of my weekly writing updates, and I’m happy to report that Two of Swords is moving along pretty well! I struggled with it a bit and came to realize that the problem was my outline. I was trying to force Moira and company into a script that was starting to feel unnatural, and it was showing.

I’m a huge proponent of outlining. I love my outlines and character sketches and charts and all that fun stuff. But with this book I’ve once again learned that the outline is supposed to serve me, not the other way around. So once I realized where the problem was, I tossed the outline and wrote what felt natural for these characters at this particular time in their story arc. And it’s been much easier since I allowed myself to do that.

My goal is to have Two of Swords available on Amazon before the end of the month. It’ll probably be sometime during the last week of February, fingers crossed that the revision and editing all goes well.

One of my Two of Swords mood/inspiration boards.

What Else Am I Working On?

Aside from Two of Swords, I have been trying to figure out a serial for my Patreon supporters. For a while I was planning on writing and releasing Haunted that way, but it’s just too hard for me at this point to write part of an ongoing series that way and release it a week at a time. I’d rather release Haunted when it’s all finished, because I know where I want to go with that.

It struck me that secondary characters work really well for serials. I get to tell the story of characters that you guys love but maybe don’t know as much about as you’d like. So I polled my Crusaders group and it looks like I’m going to be telling a Jenson (from StrikeForce) prequel story for the Patreon serial. The first episode will be up on Patreon on Friday, and supporters who pledge $1 or more per month get to read it as it comes out. Once Jenson’s story is told, I’ll release it as a novella, much as I did with the Hidden side story novellas.

That Snippet I Promised You…

He smiled at me as he started the truck, and within moments we were driving out of town, the highway taking us out to the countryside. The windows were open, and I breathed deeply, taking in the scent of sun-drenched pine forest, the late strong afternoon sunlight warming my arm as I rested it on the passenger side door. We pulled up at the last stop light at the edge of town, and I turned my head to see Michael watching me, warmth like honey in his dark eyes.

“What?” I asked, feeling a blush rise to my face.

He shook his head and smiled. “I wish you could see yourself at moments like that. You looked so peaceful, so whole. Powerful, really,” he added quietly, hitting the gas as the light changed.

“Yes, my pies and I are very powerful,” I quipped, and he smirked and shook his head.

“It’s this place. And you. My grandma always said the Chase witches were the lifeblood of this place. But maybe this place is your lifeblood, too.”

I didn’t answer. There was no need to. I felt the truth of it deep in my bones. And he saw it. Saw me. Not all of me, of course. Not the parts I worked so hard to hide. But he saw the me I most wanted to be, and there were no words for the magic in that one simple fact.

I reached over and rested my hand on his thigh, and he immediately let go of the wheel and placed his hand over mine, twining our fingers together as if this, us, was the most natural thing in the world.

“How was your thing yesterday that you had to deal with?” I asked. He gave my hand a light squeeze and sighed.

“Not as good as I could have hoped.”

I waited for him to go on, but he didn’t.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

The corner of his mouth quirked up and he glanced at me. “Do you want to talk about what you were doing for Director Jones yesterday?” he asked in response.

I smiled. And then, to my surprise, I started talking. Because damn, yes I did want to talk about it, and talk about it with him. This, he could be a part of. This, I didn’t have to keep from him the way I kept my dhampira hidden.

So I talked. I told him about all of the ghosts at the resort, and about Ethan Edwards, and about feeling like he knew more than he was telling me. I told him I’d have to go back.

“You don’t sound happy about it.”

I shook my head. “I’m not. If I go back, I’m probably going to have to talk to the ghosts. Which isn’t usually a problem, now that I have the amulet, but the amulet has its limits. It broke up on me when I was there yesterday. It’s not meant to handle more than a ghost or maybe a few at a time. The amount of spirit energy is just too much.”

He was quiet for a moment. “So you’ll have to use your necromancy,” he said quietly, and I nodded. “Which you don’t really want to do.”

“Yeah. I had to use it a little yesterday when the amulet started fritzing on me. My kitchen magic hasn’t been right since that thing a couple months back, and it feels even weaker now.” I didn’t have to tell him what “thing” I meant. We both knew, and we both still knew he had questions about it all.

He didn’t respond for a few moments. “What is that like, though? I mean you can clearly still cook,” he said, nodding toward the tray of pies on my lap.

“I guess.. The only description I can give is a kinda weird one.”

“Hit me. You’ve met my family.”

I chuckled. “It’s like being blocked. All you want is to use that magic, and you know it’s there and it wants to be used so bad it hurts. But you can’t, and the longer it goes on, the more it hurts, and you start thinking, ‘damn, what is wrong with me? Why can’t I do something so basic?’” I glanced up. “I’m bad at analogies.”

He shook his head. “Nah. I get it.”

“You do?”

A nod. “That’s how it feels when my wolf wants to run, and I can’t let him. Usually when I’m working or something. And then if I go too long before I’m finally able to shift, sometimes the shift comes hard and it hurts so bad I can hardly breathe.”

“It does sound similar.”

“Except that I don’t have something else wanting to rush in and take the place of my wolf. That’s what it sounds like the issue is with your necromancy, that it wants to be used.”

“Exactly. And the more I use it, the more I feel my kitchen magic slipping away.”

“Then don’t.”

I turned to look at him. “It’s not that simple.”

“Sure it is.”

“It’s really not.”

“You’ve been blessed, or cursed, if you want to look at it that way, with talents in two very different types of magic. It sounds like you have to choose one, whether you want to or not.”

“Right.”

“So choose the one that makes you happy. If it’s kitchen magic, then do that.”

“Believe me, that’s all I want.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“Kitchen magic isn’t saving anyone, you know? Necromancy… I’ve saved lives with it. Moira the Great is always on me about how I’m spitting in the face of what the Universe has given me, that someone as strong as I am in necromancy has a duty to use it… and I mean, she’s not wrong. Necromancy comes to me like breathing. Kitchen magic, I have to work at. I have to finesse it, focus on it. And Jamie seems to agree with Moira the Great. I’m good at necromancy and I’ve done good things with it. No one’s life is being saved by eating a scone imbued with calming magic.”

He turned and pulled into the driveway in front of the white clapboard farmhouse his family lived in. I could hear the shouts of children playing in the yard, smell the scent of meat roasting over the large grills the family used frequently on warmer evenings. Michael turned the engine off and looked into my eyes.

“What do you want, though?” he asked.

I looked down at our hands on his lap, shivered as he lightly brushed his thumb over mine. This. This was what I wanted. But I was too much of a coward to tell him that.

“What I want and what I should do aren’t always the same thing,” I finally said. “You can’t tell me you don’t deal with that sometimes too. You’re the alpha. I’d imagine that your own wants and needs get put on the back burner from time to time for the good of the pack.” I shrugged. “Not that I’m anything like that. Just… I don’t think they’re wrong, when they say that it might be selfish of me to pick my happy magic over the life-saving magic I’m good at.”

He nodded, still grazing my hand with his thumb.

“So when do you get to be happy, Moira?”

*****

That’s it for today! Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed that little tease of Moira and Michael. I love writing them so much!

Sunday Truths: “Tell us what you’re writing”

It was a well-meaning comment. I know it was, because my readers tend to be lovely people.

I wrote a post about what I’ve been reading/listening to/watching, and the first comment I received was just this: please tell us what you’re writing. Meant in excitement, I know, but yet it made me feel small. And that’s on me, not the person who commented.

I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to get myself right. Self-publishing success came out of nowhere with Hidden. I had readers! A lot of them! Authors I loved were talking to me and considered me to be one of them. Authors I loved also accused me of being a hack, which was super fun.

And then life stuff happened. We moved. We lost a loved one. I had health scares. Book publishing slowed to a halt, and because I never planned for this, never learned the business side of things and how to market my back catalog, sales ground to a halt as well.

A funny thing had happened in those few years when things were going well. I’d started aligning my self-worth as a human being with how many books I was selling and how good my reviews were. The fact that I have an amazing marriage and four wonderful kids and that I’d met so many writing goals I never could have dreamed of began to pale in comparison to those numbers.

And when the numbers started going down, my sense of self worth plummeted with them.

I’ve spent the past several months trying to get myself back, learning to see myself as a whole person again and not just one thing. That thing, the writing thing, is an integral part of who I am and always has been. But I’ve had to find a way to see it as one part, one thread of an intricate tapestry that makes up Colleen, intertwined with everything else to create the whole picture. And I needed to ensure that if that thread was pulled again, the whole thing would not unravel as it did before.

And this well-meaning comment that I know came from a place of love had that little voice that every one of us has, that vile little voice that insists that we are not enough, just chortling with mirth.

My inner critic looks an awful lot like this bitch…

“See. You’re nothing. No one cares about you, silly girl.”

And this made me see that I have more work to do. I’m in a place now where I was able to get past that stupid little voice and recognize the comment for what it was: excitement and curiosity. But the fact that I had that reaction at all, that my inner Critic got even a tiny foothold, tells me that there is more work to be done.

So I picked up my old copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I’ve had the book for years and for whatever reason, only made it through the twelve week study once, a very long time ago. But it’s time now. All of those little pieces of me, the ones I’ve hidden or lied to myself about or tried to deny, need to be dealt with.

Writing still makes me happy. I love falling into the worlds of my stories, making my characters live and breathe. But there’s still some block there, something that is preventing me from feeling the complete joy I want to feel when I’m writing. When I wrote Lost Girl, and Broken, and Shadow Witch Rising, and Between the Lines, I felt like I was flying. I want to feel that way again, without all the bullshit that’s been holding me back.

This Blog, and Why It Exists

This blog is a little bit of everything. Part journal, part day-in-the-life, part promo when I have something to promote. At this point in time, it’s another way for me to get words out of my brain and out to those who might want to read them. I’m a firm believer that writing begets writing, that the more time I spend in a place of creation, the easier creating becomes. I promise that when I have a book coming out, if you follow me here, or on social media, or you subscribe to my newsletter, you’ll know about it. And I recognize too that some people just want to know about the writing side of me.

For those lovely people, I invite you to check out the blog on Mondays, when I’ll focus on my current work in progress and share snippets.

The rest of the time, I’ll be writing about everything from books to Warcraft to crafting, because I’m trying to get back to a place where I recognize that all of those weird little parts of me are what make up Colleen Vanderlinden, writer. I’ve ignored the other parts too long, determined to be a SERIOUS AUTHOR.

But, I’m just me. Falling apart and putting myself back together, over and over and over again. After all, there’s nothing wrong with breaking every once in a while and remaking ourselves, becoming what we want to be. It’s never-ending. It’s life. As someone who dislikes change, this pisses me off mightily. But breaking is sometimes essential, and I’m embracing that fact, along with the rest of me.

January: What I Read, Watched, and Listened To

Is it just me, or did everyone else feel like they aged about 5 years during January too? Such a loooooong month. But we’ve made it through. It’s a new month, and we’re that much closer to spring in my neck of the woods (she says as she sits two feet away from the woodstove, permanently encamped there until this cold snap lifts.)

I thought it would be fun to keep a monthly log of what I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to each month. It’ll be interesting for me to see how this changes with the seasons and then I can easily look back at the end of the year and remember what I loved and what I maybe didn’t love so much.

What I Read

I read 8 books in January, three comics trade paperbacks (Rat Queens volume 1, All-New Wolverine volumes 1 and 2), one writing-related book, one self-help book, and three novels.

The comics are something I’m letting myself count toward my challenge again. It’s stupid to try to pretend they don’t count as reading just because they’re shorter. My only parameter is that I’m only counting graphic novels or trade paperback collections, not single issues.

James Scott Bell’s The Mental Game of Writing is a book I’ve read before and it was a good, inspiring kick in the pants to start my writing year off right. I highly recommend his books — I’ve read several of them and have always learned something or been inspired.

My self-help read for January was Rachel Hollis’ Girl, Wash Your Face. I think sometimes the right book finds you at just the right time, and that was the case with this book. I have to admit that I put off reading it because it seemed very… EVERYWHERE. It felt like everybody and their grandma was reading this book and there’s some weird little part of me that rebels against doing what everyone else is doing. I don’t know. But I put it on hold via the Libby app a while back and it was available to me in early January, so I read it, and I’m glad I did. It made me take an honest look at some aspects of my personality and gave me some clarity I wasn’t even sure I was looking for.

The fiction I read was fabulous this month. Naomi Novik’s Uprooted lived up to the hype, and I read the final two books in Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, which I started reading because my teenage daughters love them and I am going to listen to their book recommendations from now on, because that whole series was fabulous. I was sorry to see it end when I turned the final page of Winter.

What I Watched/Listened To in January: Super Quickie Reviews

Movies

  • Chocolat — loved
  • Kill Bill — despised

TV Shows

  • The Punisher (season 2) — meh
  • Supernatural (season 12/13) — loved
  • Once Upon a Time (season 1) — it’s growing on me
  • Tidying Up with Marie Kondo — loved. I have KonMari-ed most of my house and I’m so glad I did.

Music

  • Hamilton the Musical soundtrack — never, ever gets old
  • Nirvana: Live and Loud — amazing
  • Supernatural soundtrack on Spotify — all the classic rock you could ever want!

I think that does it for this month! It was a good month overall. What did you absolutely love reading/watching/listening to in January? Tell me about it!

Five Things I Learned in January

One of the things I look forward to at the end of every month is reading Anne Bogel’s “what I learned this month” posts, an idea that she got from Emily P. Freeman, whose blog I also enjoy reading. I’ve wanted to start doing the same for a while, and it seems like a good time to start.

Here’s what I learned in January — the big, the small, the serious, and the silly:

  1. I can easily make my own chocolate-flavored coffee creamer from a couple of simple pantry ingredients. We try to avoid leaving our house as much as possible during the winter (we live about ten miles out of town, down a very hilly highway — not ideal for slippery winter travel!) We’ve found that if we stock up as much as possible on meat and dairy and produce, we can go about three weeks without having to shop again, thanks in part to the miracle of grocery delivery from Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Anyway, I ran out of the chocolate Coffee-Mate I like to add to my coffee from time to time (hey, you have your vices, and I have mine, okay?) and I found that I can easily make my own. One part cocoa powder, two parts sugar, and it’s actually more chocolaty and less sweet than the store-bought version. Win!
  2. Twitch isn’t just for game streamers. I know this might be old news to some of you, but it’s opened up a whole new world for me! Aside from the usual video game streamers, there’s a whole category of crafty streamers making everything from intricately carved clocks to amigurumi stuffies. I found several that I love and I have them on while I’m cooking or dealing with email or whatever. As a bonus, they’ve gotten me back into crafting again!
  3. I spent too much time planning and not enough time doing. I got obsessively into using a paper planner last year, and decorating it with stickers and washi and color coding and making all of these lovely lists and goals and… not getting shit done. Turns out, spending a bunch of time writing or talking about your goals flips a little psychological switch that gives you a sense of accomplishment as if you’ve ALREADY done the thing. False satisfaction. Stupid brain. Anyway, I’ve super pared back my planning and the time I spent making lists and schedules, and my productivity so far has shot through the roof. As with any habit/lifestyle thing, your mileage may vary, but for me, cutting back on the planning really helped a lot.
  4. I’m super picky about books. I looked back at last year’s GoodReads challenge, and I didn’t even come close to meeting my goal of reading 75 books. But comparing it to my journal, in which I listed every book I started reading… I ended up tossing aside about two-thirds of the books I started reading. I’ve finally gotten over my old English major need to finish EVERY book because I just might learn something, damn it, and it shows. If something isn’t grabbing me, I don’t stick with it. As a result, I read fewer books last year, but also a lot less crap, which was awesome. I’m planning to keep that up this year.
  5. Warcraft challenges provide a whole new way to enjoy the game. I’ve been playing WoW for a long time (going on ten years now, I think) and you get to a point, especially if you’re like me and not super into raiding or dungeons, that you feel like you’ve done everything. Enter WoW Challenges, specifically the Iron Man challenge. Simply put: crappy gear, no potions, and if you die, you lose. It, along with our family’s Friday night PvP, has given me a whole new love for the game.
January saw the birth of Team DeathGnome. My husband, teenage daughters, brother-in-law, and I all made death knight gnomes to quest with. We’re super serious players, guys.

So that’s it: five things I’ve learned this past month, from the deep to the slightly silly.

November Goals

I can’t believe it’s November already! Halloween has come and gone, and all that’s left is pumpkin carcasses and my children jumping around the house like small junkies strung out on Starbursts and M&Ms.

The troops, pre-candy.

I feel like I’ve turned a corner. Those of you who have been with me from the beginning of my publishing adventure know that  I usually publish 6 to 8 books per year. This year, we’ve only seen two releases, but the good news is that the last two months of the year will have not one, not two, but FOUR new releases from yours truly!

So what’s on tap? Three of the books are a new project I’m working on, which I’ll talk about in a minute. The fourth is book 2 of the Moira Chase series, Two of Swords, which will be out in early December!

New Adventures

So this new series. It’s a little different for me, but I can tell you that it’s helped me get my writing chops back, so I love it. I described it to my beta team for the project as “Supernatural meets paranormal romance.” The books are short, novella-length adventures, each focused on one couple, with a paranormal mystery that needs to be solved and plenty of sexytimes as the hero and heroine work together to figure it out. It has been a BLAST working on and it was just what I needed.

If you’ve read much of my stuff, you know that usually, there’s some big, earth-shattering stake involved. Hidden, Copper Falls, Exile, even StrikeForce, to some extent, have heroines with the world on their shoulders. At this point in time, with our reality in this country… the way it is (let’s just go with that before I start ranting).. I just can’t find any joy in writing death and anguish. I can’t. Moira was a good move toward a more light-hearted series, and I’ve loved writing her too, but I know that when I want to escape, I want to read something fun and sexy and unapologetic in the fact that it’s pure entertainment. So that’s what this upcoming series is all about!

With all of that in mind, here are my goals for November:

  1. Release the first two Tameless books.
  2. Finish revising Two of Swords
  3. Get at least one short story out for my newsletter subscribers.
  4. Decide what to do with Wraith & Ruin. Whether to continue it or just set it aside indefinitely.
  5. Start writing here more often and sending newsletters more regularly.

I feel like I’ve been numb for the last year or so, and I’m at a place where I’m starting to get back together again. It feels good to be moving forward, and I’m grateful for all of you who are with me along the way. <3