Monday, February 19, 2018

Beyond Barnes and Noble

Last week, Barnes and Noble conducted its own version of a Saint Valentine's Day massacre by laying off many of its most experienced employees--including receiving managers, the people who keep the shelves stocked. While this move is meant to save them money, my gut feeling is that it's a desperation move that isn't going to save them. Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader gives the chain nineteen months before they go under. I'm not that optimistic; I think they'll declare bankruptcy in less than a year.

Before I got married, I used to hang out at my local Barnes and Noble when I wanted to get out of my apartment for a while. It was nice to browse, buy some books, and get a drink and a treat at the cafe while I wrote. These days, I seldom make it to the bookstore, and I don't spend as much there as I used to. Many of the books I buy are ebooks, and when I do order a paper book, I tend to get it from Amazon or at a convention. So while I'll be sad to see Barnes and Noble go, losing it won't have a big effect on my daily life. It'll be much more difficult for all the people employed by Barnes and Noble, and for authors who see a drop in sales through no fault of their own.

That said, when Barnes and Noble goes, there may be more opportunities for local bookstores, especially if they can host readings and other activities. Personally, I think Amazon will continue to be my default book store due to convenience and selection.

What kind of bookstores do you have in your area? Would you be affected if Barnes and Noble goes bankrupt? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Favorite Literary Couples

Happy Valentine's Day! I'm doing better, though it'll probably be a couple more days before I'm feeling 100%.

In honor of the day, I thought I'd mention some of my favorite literary couples. In general, I like reading about relationships where there's more focus on witty banter than body parts and the love develops over time. For banter, I like Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing (particularly since I've seen the movie version a few times) and Alexia Tarabotti and Lord Maccon in Soulless. (In my opinion, their banter is best in this book.) I also liked The Time Traveler's Wife, since we see Henry and Clare's relationship develop over time (though it does feel a little odd that she developed a crush on him as a child).

What are your favorite literary couples? And would anyone be interested if I wrote a four-part series about the couples in the Season Avatars series? Let me know in the comments.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cupid and Psyche and Romeo and Juliet....

I was originally planning to post this on Wednesday for Valentine's Day, but I got the flu over the weekend. Although I'm doing better now, I wasn't up for blogging much on Sunday, so I decided to switch the schedule around a little. Hopefully I'll be ready to post something longer on Wednesday.

Anyway, if you're looking for something to read for Valentine's Day, why not consider my short story "Letters to Psyche"? Here's the blurb:

When the Greek god Cupid visits Verona, he foresees no problems uniting the Montague and Capulet families. But when Elisabeth Capulet and Giovanni Montague's love ends in tragedy, Elisabeth places a powerful curse not on just the families, but Cupid himself. Unable to visit his wife Psyche, he sends her letters detailing his efforts to undo the curse. Can the two of them save another generation of lovers, or will Cupid and Psyche be forever parted?

Available today (and always) for $0.99.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

IWSG--Genre Love

February's post for the Insecure Writer's Support Group is hosted by Stephen Tremp, Pat Garcia, Angela Wooldridge, Victoria Marie Lees, and Madeline Mora-Summonte. To learn more about the IWSG, check out their website, Facebook group, and Twitter feed.

For this month, we've been posed the following question: What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

 I write both science fiction and fantasy, though the majority of my work is fantasy. One of the main things that drew me to both types of speculative fiction is the chance to escape the everyday. Part of my author tagline is "A sense of wonder," and that's what I seek in both my writing and reading. Wonder is an underappreciated emotion, something many of us lose forever once we're past childhood. Without wonder, we take the world for granted. These days, I tend to experience wonder most in science or in museum exhibits; I've read so much it's a rare book or author that can surprise me. I still strive for wonder as a way to unleash curiosity and creativity.

Speculative fiction, particularly fantasy, is a flexible genre. It can be set in any world imaginable, tell any type of story, and be blended with other genres. You can ask any type of "What if?" question and create your own answer. Themes can range from so-familiar-they're-comfort-reading to revolutionary ideas that inspire scientists.

Finally, fantasy and magic can feel very empowering. Who wouldn't want the ability to cast spells like Harry Potter or Hermione, wield lightning like my Season Avatar Kay, or bond with a magical telepathic horse as in Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books? Many fantasies employ a "Chosen One" motif, but there are others where an ordinary person is able to have an extraordinary adventure.

What's your favorite genre? Feel free to share in the comments.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Maintaining Author Websites

Every time I publish a new work, I try to update my website. I maintain it myself. (I'm switching back and forth between this blog and my website as I write this post.) I'll feature my latest work with the cover, blurb, and buy link on the landing page and update any notes I've shared about work in progress. I'll also add the book or story to the appropriate page. If any of my links are broken, I fix them. Sometimes I also change the background or theme to freshen my website's appearance.

Authors, how often do you update your website, and what do you do to it? Readers, what are you looking for when you visit an author's website? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Season Avatars Complete Box Set Now Available! (and Update on 2018 Goals)

 One of my goals for this year was to prepare a box set of the complete Season Avatars series. Despite some hiccups with formatting and cover requirements (special thanks to Maria Zannini of Book Cover Diva for preparing two separate versions of the cover), the box set is finally available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Apple. The set includes the prequel Seasons' Beginnings, short story collection Young Seasons, and the four main books in the series (Scattered Seasons, Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Seasons.) You can find it at your favorite eBook store by using this universal book link. To encourage downloads and reviews, I'm offering the collection for $0.99 through next Friday, February 9th. After that, the normal price will be $9.99. That's still a savings over buying the entire series individually.
As for the rest of my 2018 goals, I've made progress by submitting one short story to an anthology, revising another to submit next month to a different anthology, working (slowly) on Dryads to Discover, reaching 1000 subscribers for my newsletter, sending out my first newsletter for the year, scheduling two ads and two Instafreebie book giveaways for February, participating in the Elgin Literary Festival, crocheting about a dozen Porg, trooping once, and reading fifteen books. Yes, I've been busy, but I have plenty of other projects to keep me occupied for the rest of the year.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Series Panel and Snowy Wings Publishing Sale!

I wasn't able to spend much time at the Elgin Literary Festival this year. My son had a friend sleep over the night before (so they got very little sleep), and since we had two other activities that day, I took my son home right after the series panel I moderated. There were three other local authors scheduled to be on the panel: my friend Lauren Jankowski, A.J. Pine, and Gregory Thompson. Keynote speaker Chuck Wendig was added at the last minute.

Overall, the panel went well. We covered topics such as why write a series, plotting a series, creating a series bible (which is done in some instances by traditional publishers), and marketing. There were about fifteen to twenty people attending, which isn't bad for an early morning panel. Since Wendig writes in the Star Wars universe, I approached him after the panel and told him I was a member of the 501st Legion and Midwest Garrison. He's familiar with them and their work and had noticed the Midwest Garrison hat my son was wearing. I didn't have a trading card with me, so I gave him a challenge coin instead. I didn't feel comfortable asking for a picture with him or an autograph for Alex.

Lauren is part of a publishing collective called Snowy Wings Publishing. She and some other members of the collective have books on sale this week for $0.99 through February 1. Here's a list of the titles:

Sere from the Green by Lauren Jankowski
Cheerleaders from Planet X by Lyssa Chiavari
Phoenix Descending: Curse of the Phoenix by Dorothy Dreyer
Let Me Fly Free by Mary Fan
Ballad of the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty

 I hope you check them out!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Elgin Literary Festival 2018

This Friday and Saturday will be the fourth annual Elgin Literary Festival. (You can see me in this picture from a previous festival--I don't remember the year. I'm the one writing on a laptop with my foot up.) I'll be moderating a panel Saturday morning on writing a book series. Other participants include local authors Lauren Jankowski (a friend of mine), A.J. Pine, and Gregory Thompson. Other panels cover topics such as poetry, independent publishing, and marketing. There will be books for sale (I'm not in the marketplace this year), and Chuck Wendig will be a keynote speaker. You can download the full schedule from the website. If you're in the area, hope you can make it!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Short Story Titles--Votes Needed!

I'm finishing up a short story that I want to submit to an anthology by the end of the month. (Hopefully I haven't jinxed myself by mentioning the anthology!) The short story is set in my Season Avatars universe, and the anthology has a shards theme. Additional details might spoil Summon the Seasons, so I won't describe the story here. Based on what I've said, which of the following titles would you find most intriguing?

Shards of Four Colors
Shards of a Summersman
The Shards Left Behind

You're welcome to suggest tweaks to these titles as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Library Books

It's funny how I can go into a library intending to get just a couple of books and end up with a stack. I put two books on hold Sunday and picked them up yesterday after work. But first I had to see what was new in the Science section and then in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and my son had expressed interest in World War Two, so I picked up a couple of books for him. I wound up with eight books, six of them for me. When I was younger and had more free time, I could finish them all before they were due. These days, I'll probably end up renewing some of my books. I guess that's why I still have so many paper books I haven't read and thousands of samples in my Kindle library--as soon as I see a book that looks interesting, I grab it, no matter how many others I still have to read.

How many books do you check out on your typical library visit? Do you finish them before they're due, or do you have to renew (or let them become overdue)?

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World

In my opinion, the title "The Runaway Species" doesn't do its book justice. At least the subtitle "How Human Creativity Remakes the World" is a better fit.

The beginning of this book discusses two types of creativity (Picasso painting one of his masterpieces and NASA saving the crew of Apollo 13) that seem wildly different but aren't. Eagleman states there are three ways we can creatively alter something: by "bending" or distorting it, by "breaking" it into components, and by "blending" it with something else. (I can attest to the latter, as I tend to throw several different ideas into a single story.) He lists several examples of each type of change. We can adapt to new things very quickly (witness how much we're tied to our smartphones), so the pleasure we find in getting something new fades. On the other hand, something too different from the status quo will be rejected by society. (The example given in the book was Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, which was the finale of a quartet. Contemporaries hated it so much Beethoven had to remove the fugue from the quartet and publish it separately. Luckily, society caught up with Beethoven, and we are able to listen to the Grosse Fugue today.) One of the reasons we change things so much is to seek the sweet spot between familiarity and novelty. This is a constantly moving target, which is why companies must continue to innovate even when they're currently very successful.

The second part of the book discusses how to cultivate a creative mentality. Part of this requires coming up with many different options, working in a variety of fields, and being able to accept failure. The final section deals with creativity in schools, in companies, and in the future.

Anyone interested in creativity will find this an interesting book to read. The hard part, as always, is implementing its ideas in daily life.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Writer's Retreats

I had a chance to chat with some writers last night, and one of the topics was writer's retreats. One of the writers takes turns with other writers in her region to host a retreat every three months. Another writer talked about renting homes, in particular, Rudyard Kipling's home. It has ten bedrooms and rents for $700/night, which isn't bad if you split the cost among ten people.

I haven't done a writer's retreat yet; it can be difficult enough just taking a couple of hours to hang out in a coffee shop or the library. But I wouldn't mind the chance to go somewhere scenic for a few days and perhaps stay at a bed and breakfast.

Have you ever been on a writer's retreat? Did you go by yourself or with other writers? Was it productive? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments.

Monday, January 08, 2018


Ever since we watched The Last Jedi, our family has become obsessed with porg, the rotund birds who were apparently designed for cuteness, not aerodynamics. I have one (named Pascal) attached to my car window, and my son got one that came with a blanket. My son even created camouflage armor for his using duct tape:

Yes, we have Paratrooper Porg. He also has boots, which Alex created after this picture was taken.

As for me, thanks to this pattern created by The Geeky Hooker, I've started crocheting my own Porg Collective. See below for the picture. They're pretty easy to make (especially since they only require about half the rows of some of the other Star Wars characters I crochet); the hardest part is switching between three colors. The facial expressions could use some work too. I may wind up spending all my free time creating porg. Guess I'd better schedule some writing time in there too if I want to finish my next novel before Episode Nine premiers.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

IWSG--Writing Schedule/Flaming Crimes Blogfest

Today's post covers both the monthly topic from the Insecure Writer's Support Group and a blogfest. Let's start with the IWSG. This month's co-hosts are Tyrean Martinson, The Cynical Sailor, Megan Morgan, Rachna Chhabria, and Jennifer Lane. Our question is What steps have you taken to put a schedule in place for your writing and publishing?

Well, since I'm a working parent, my job, my family, and domestic chores take up most of my time. That means I have to fit my writing/publishing time in the free spaces. It's actually easier to do this during the work week, when I have a defined lunch hour. (And yes, I insist on taking my full hour.) The early part of the evening is usually devoted to family/household chores, so I write, blog, and do publishing things later in the evening, while my son is getting ready for bed. Even this time gets interrupted for time with my son right before he goes to bed. On weekends, it's more challenging because our schedule can change. If possible, I try to take some time to write Saturday afternoon and prepare blog posts Sunday morning. Otherwise, I seize time to write when I can.

Chris Fey is hosting the Flaming Crimes Blogfest today to celebrate the release of her latest book, Flaming Crimes. She gave us this prompt: What is something ridiculous you would save if there was a fire? Ridiculous is the keyword there. After your family, pets, and important items are safe and sound, what is the one odd thing you'd want to grab from your home?

When I read this prompt, the first things that popped into my head were the Star Wars costumes I troop in as part of the Midwest Garrison. I currently have two, a Jawa and a Staff Imperial Officer. (See photos.) I sewed the Jawa robes and hood myself, so I have sweat equity in it. It also has more sentimental meaning to me, since I've trooped more frequently in it. However, my Imperial Officer boots are custom-made for me (since I had trouble finding suitable boots that would fit), so if I had to choose only one costume, I'd probably save the Imperial Officer. It may be an odd choice, but I wouldn't call saving my costume ridiculous. After all, ownership of a screen-accurate costume is required to maintain membership in the 501st Legion. At least it would be easier to save than my son's Lego collection.

Series: Disaster Crimes #4
Page Count: 304 
Digital Price: 4.99 
Print Price: 16.99
Rating: Spicy (PG13) 


BLURB: Beth and Donovan are now happily married, and what Beth wants more than anything is a baby. Her dream of starting a family is put on hold as fires burn dangerously close and Donovan becomes a victim of sabotage.

Donovan escapes what could've been a deadly wreck. Their past enemies have been eliminated, so who is cutting brake lines and leaving bloody messages? He vows to find out, for the sake of the woman he loves and the life they're trying to build.

Amidst a criminal mind game, a fire ignites next to their home. They battle the flames and fight to keep their house safe from the blaze pressing in on all sides, but neither of them expects to confront a psychotic adversary in the middle of the inferno.

Their lives may just go up in flames…

About the Author: Chrys Fey is the author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance, crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur Press.

Author Links:

Feel free to comment about either your writing schedule or what you'd save from a burning house. Humm, can one pull time from a burning house? That seems to be the best way to merge these topics....

Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 Reading Review

Happy New Year! I'm sure no one is actually reading this blog at midnight, so I hope you had a good time celebrating and are ready to tackle the challenges of a new year.

Every year, I set up a reading challenge for myself on Goodreads. My original goal for 2017 was 180 books. (Since Goodreads counts everything from individual short stories to multi-book box sets, I'll just call everything a "book" for convenience.) I lowered my goal to 160 books a couple of months ago, but I had a bit of a challenge meeting even that number. I had to remove a couple of books that were counted twice, and at some point, I set the wrong "finished reading" dates for books I read prior to 2017 but were counted for that year anyway. I compensated by reading a short story and a novella yesterday, so by my account, I reached exactly 160 books. (Ironically enough, I didn't include my short story collection or Summon the Seasons, though I probably should.) Here's the breakdown by genre:

Science Fiction: 24
Fantasy: 72
Other Fiction: 19
Non-Fiction: 45 (this includes 7 books on writing and 27 science-related books)

The vast majority of books (about 70%) were eBooks. I read 38 library books, and some of them were eBooks too. The shortest "book" (actually a short story) was 19 pages, and the longest was a four-book box set that totaled 788 pages. The total number of pages was around 41,000 (I'm underestimating Goodreads' number to compensate for books that I didn't actually read this year.)

I recommend the books listed below, even if I'm too lazy to link to each listing on Goodreads.

Sprite Night
Watership Down
The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories
Getting to Green
This is Your Brain on Parasites
I Contain Multitudes
All of Us Were Sophie
The Ancestor's Tale
The Paper Magician
All the Single Ladies
You're More Powerful Than You Think
Earth in Human Hands
Pemberley: Mr. Darcy's Dragon
Queen Mab
Tinder Stricken

 Let me know if you have any questions about them.

As for my reading goals for this year, I'm lowering my count slightly to 150 books. After all, I do have a lot of writing, publishing, and costuming, and crocheting to do in 2018. One of my self-challenges is to read at least one "diversity" read by a minority author each month. I also plan to read at least 10 books this year on writing and/or marketing. Guess I better get started!

What were your favorite reads in 2017? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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