I'm a reader and a writer of young adult and adult speculative fiction--from fantasy to steampunk to romance to horror. I'll read anything you throw my way, but paranormal is my passion. Just give me popcorn to eat while I'm reading.
Somehow Fortune has smiled on me and I've managed to fall in with some of the most awesome Indie authors around. It happened with the Celestial anthology and now it's happening again.
The Blazing Indie Collective writers have inspired and taught me so much over the past few months. Although I think they were all born with super-human doses of energy and ideas -- and I can barely keep up -- I was able to sneak my way into an upcoming box-set of novellas that will be published this summer. Check out our FB page for the collection: Falling In Deep
I'm working on the book right now and, while I don't normally love research, I'm loving this!
The novella, Immersed, is Steampunk that takes place in Chicago circa late 1850s. Now I knew that Chicago was built on marshland and was basically sinking into the muck. And I also knew that disease was rampant in this environment, since the sewer system needed to be overhauled, and good. But I didn't realize how the city streets were actually RAISED between four to eight feet to accommodate a new sewer pipes, gas pipes, etc.
This meant that since the streets and sidewalks were raised, the buildings needed to be as well. Using jacks, buildings were lifted several feet and new foundations were laid underneath. But not all owners wanted to do this or could afford to do so. Therefore, some decided instead to relocate entire buildings, pulling them down the street on rollers! And others...well, others just decided to leave their homes as is. That meant the ground floor became the basement, and the second story was now the first! You can still see houses in certain areas of Chicago that were never raised:
from urbanohio.com /Pilsen Plus on photobucket
Now, seriously? How cool is that?
Check out some blogs and webpages on the raising of Chicago streets: An Illustrated History from Chicago Magazine, Street Grades from Encyclopedia of Chicago, Raising of Chicago on Wikepedia
I opened my e-mail to some great news the other day: Untethered was awarded an Indie B.R.A.G. medallion!
What does that mean, you ask? The Book Readers Appreciation Group is an organization of readers around the world. According to their website all books sent to them go through a serious selection process including:
" ... an initial screening to ensure that the author's work meets certain minimum standards of quality and content. If it passes this preliminary assessment, it is then read by members drawn from our global reader group. They judge the merits of the book based on a comprehensive list of criteria, including;
One final factor our readers use to judge a book is whether or not they would recommend it to their best friend.
On average, 50% of the books submitted to us fail to pass the initial screen and another 40% are subsequently rejected by our readers. Thus, only 10% of the books we consider are awarded our B.R.A.G. Medallion."
On their website they have a large list of books that have already gone through this process and been awarded a medallion. Check them out and get some awesome indie books: http://www.bragmedallion.com/
The absolutely awesome Wendy Storer tagged me in the Chocolate Book Challenge. She figured with my living in Switzerland, I should know a thing or two about chocolate. And I do. Like most Swiss, I eat it all the time --the Swiss eat an average of 12 kilos of chocolate a year!
I also read books. While eating chocolate (and popcorn!).
The challenge is to list one book for each type of chocolate -- dark, milk and white. I'm going to list one book for each but add more chocolate types, because there's a variety of chocolate out there that deserves to be covered. As for authors, I'm sticking with mostly indies here, but there are a couple more well-known ones thrown in.
Dark Chocolate is for the adult in us. It's rich, but somewhat bitter. Right away, The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood comes to mind. Adult in intelligence and theme, bitter in outlook, but sooooo rich in language. A classic, but I had to list it here because it is a book that I read twenty years ago but that still sticks with me.
Dark Chocolate with Hot Pepper. Adult in a very spicy way. Deer in Headlights by Staci Hart combines mythology with some adult action. It's hot and satisfying.
Dark Chocolate covered Caramel. Less adult, but very, very dark. You'll want to chew on it for a while. Angelfall by Susan Ee is probably one of my all-time favorite YA books ever. It keeps you turning pages and it also makes your skin crawl.
Dark Chocolate filled with Liquor. A mix of taste and texture with an attitude. Chasing the Star Garden by Melanie Karsak is a steampunk adventure that involves airships, absinthe and opium.
Dark Chocolate (can you tell I like dark chocolate?) with Lemon filling. You'd think the two don't go together -- the super sweet lemon and the bitter dark chocolate -- but they're divine together. Until the End of the World by Sarah Lyons Fleming is a zombie apocalypse novel that is full of lovable characters. Zombie but not horror.
Milk Chocolate is all about indulgence and fun. Obitchuary by Stephanie Hayes is a romp in the world of chic lit crime stories.
Milk Chocolate with Krispies. Fun with some snap, crackle and pop. Miss Hyde by Imogen Bold is an historical romantic YA take on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story.
Hazelnut Milk Chocolate. Fun and a little nutty. Waking Up Dead by Margo Bond Collins is about the ghost of a young woman who wakes up in Alabama. It just gets crazier from there.
White Chocolate is for the younger crowd. It's sweet but rich and good to savor. Where Bluebirds Fly by Wendy Storer is a middle-grade novel about a girl in a school for kids with emotional problems. Deep and heart-warming at the same time.
White Chocolate with Nougat. Still young, but the nougat adds an adult aspect. Someone Different by Kate Hanney is a tasty upper middle grade romance about two kids from opposite sides of the tracks.
So there you go. Go out, buy a variety pack of chocolate, and fire up your kindle. Time to read....and time for me to tag the next round of chocolatiers:
I tag two of my favorite book bloggers, Lexxie at (un)Conventional Book Views and Toni at My Book Addiction. And author Stephanie Hayes.
Doing a Kindle Countdown and hoping to get some new readers to discover (and hopefully enjoy) Untethered.
A change from pics or reviews. Prose poem for in between books.
She stares up at the ceiling fan, the gold chain shimmying in the moonlight.
Dim light seeps through the curtains, colliding with the dresser, lamps and scattered clothing to create chaotic patterns in the room.
A body is next to hers. Warm. Hairy. Snoring.
Just moments ago her own body had rubbed against his. Tongues, lips, limbs crashing. They’d been thirsty for each other and had scraped teeth and banged heads in their impatience.
Like many times before, like many years in a row, they’d melted together.
She counts the clicks as the fan turns round. She feels the body next to her, his breath moist on her shoulder, his hand sticky on her thigh.
If he were any closer he’d be on top of her and yet…
He sleeps next to her, smiling. He’s there, so why does she feel so utterly
Thinking of becoming a writer? It's fantastic and fulfilling. It's introspective and inspiring. It's awesome. Writing can broaden your mind and free your spirit, but it also has...well...side-effects. If I were to create a warning label for writers, it would look like this:
Writing makes you fat. Unless you have a mega-metabolism, it's almost inevitable. All that sitting in front of a computer. Better buy bigger jeans right now, because one morning you won't be able to pour yourself into your regular ones. Know a skinny writer? Hmmm. My guess is she is going at it all too quickly. Her writing could be much better. Stay at that computer longer and rewrite, babe. And have some M & M's while you're at it.
Writing gives you insomnia. Think you can just slide into bed and drift off to dreamland when you are a writer? Think again. That moment between falling asleep and being asleep is when the best ideas come, and if you don't write them down, you lose them. Be prepared to get super comfy then think of something and force yourself up to jot thoughts down several times a night. There's a reason writers like coffee.
Writing makes you appear insane. Sitting in a Starbucks trying to get things right in that next scene? Does an explosion sound like Ka-Boom or Pa-Pow or Grumble-Rumble? You'll be saying it out loud, unconsciously making gestures to go with it in order to figure it out. Next you're pulling a face and watching your reflection in the shiny handle of a spoon to find the right expression for your character's feelings. A female writer may even go as far as stuffing a pork loin in her pants to see what it is for a man to sit with something between his legs. A male writer might try on lipstick or study dress sizes. It's normal if no one ever wants to be within five feet of you.
Writing gives you manic mood swings. You finish a story or novel or essay and send it off for publication. You feel on top of the freaking world. It's awesome. It's unique. It's the best piece of writing ever...and then you get the rejection form. You realize the piece was drivel. Tripe. Unbelievably unworthy. That is, until someone else reads it and likes it. Then you see it's pretty damn good. You write something else. It gets rejected. You hate yourself and think you have no talent. But you push on and rework it. Publish it. You get fan letters and feel on top of the world. This up and down emotional yo-yo is now your life.
Writing makes you mad. And confused. And stubborn. You know that piece-of-crap novel out there? The one that has the shallow characters, a thin plot and in which the writing is way closer to lousy than lyrical? Well, it's a bestseller. And the novel you worked on for years to make meaningful and beautiful is dying a slow death on virtual bookshelves. It's not right, you rant. It's not fair, you rave. Don't people know what good writing is anymore? Why are they buying such slop? You will be ticked off and resentful and confounded. But you will use these emotions to spur you on. You will continue to write, continue to submit, continue to publish. Because you know this is something you can do. You will do, dammit. You'll do it if you have to die trying.
And you just may.
1. Slamming your thumb in the car door. Did this when I was eight and still remember the agony. But I'd do it again in order to avoid writing a synopsis.
2. DIY bikini wax on a veritable jungle. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. But I cried and never, ever tried it on myself again.
3. Trigonometry. Geometry. Algebra. Calculus.
4. Childbirth. Too late for an epidural. And with a baby the size of a freaking watermelon. Where labor lasts 13 hours. Begging for death...just not a synopsis.
5. Getting cavities filled when the local anesthetic is too weak. Feels like the drill goes from your tooth straight to your brain.
6. Listening to Rush Limbaugh. Hmmm. Hesitating on this. It might actually be less painful to write a synopsis.
7. Whiplash from being rammed from behind in the car. Then chasing the damn guy all over to catch his license plate...only to discover he's not insured and can't pay for your medical bills.
8. Walking face first into a telephone pole. Yeah, I know. Duh.
10. Writing an entire novel. Ripping it to pieces. Rewriting it. Rewriting it. Rewriting it. Rewriting it again. Yeah, even that is less torturous.
A year ago, you'd have been hard-pressed to find books by indie authors on my Kindle. It wasn't that I was actively avoiding them, but more they weren't even on my radar.
Then I started my own publishing journey. I realized there are great indie writers out there I was overlooking -- with over a million books on Amazon it's too easy to slide down the charts if you don't have a big marketing budget. And as a reader, it's too easy to just choose the top sellers rather than dig down a little bit further to find gold.
Thank God for book bloggers. They do that digging for you. Most of my fave finds come directly from their suggestions.
I've read several indie books this past year. There are some I hated, some I liked, some I loved. This is not an all-inclusive love list. That would be too long (sorry!). In fact, I even will have to break this list up, so you'll get four more titles at a later time. All on this list surprised me, inspired me or just really got to me:
Chasing the Star Garden (The Airship Racing Chronicles) by Melanie Karsak
Okay. I'm already cheating with this list. I haven't technically finished reading this book yet. But I'm halfway through and I freaking ADORE it.
I'm not normally a big steampunk novel fan (I do like the cool gadgets), but Melanie Karsak just made me one. The writing and the world building are stellar. And the characters, too -- Lily is a kickass air jockey and like no other character I've ever encountered. Karsak has written a fully rounded novel that engulfs me in 3D every time I turn a page.
Fairy, Texas by Margo Bond Collins
This novel reminded me why I ever started reading and writing YA: It's fun. That's all there is to it.
Margo Bond Collins takes me back to high school and fills the halls with mysterious winged creatures -- not angels for once! The dialogue in this novel is outstanding, as is Bond Collins' use of romantic tension. You can leave me in a room with Mason or Josh anytime, babe.
Deer In Headlights (Good Gods Series #1) by Staci Hart
A totally modern take on Greek gods and how they pass eternity, this book by Staci Hart blew me away. It's innovative, intelligent and funny.
Yes, there's a lot of sex in this novel. Yes, Hart totally got me me hot and bothered. But the thing is, this book is soooooo much more than that. And the kicker? She even got those Greek myths I've always forgotten to stick in my brain.
Rapeseed by Nancy Freund
The story of an American expat in England dealing with secrets that threaten to pop up, this book isn't what I usually read -- it's much more literary. But it's accessible, enjoyable, and beautiful.
The writing is fantastic. Really. Freund's fiction borders on poetic at times. It's the kind of book that if you start highlighting pretty turns of phrase, you'll end up with a novel that's as yellow on the inside as it is on the cover!
So those are my first four. If you follow my blog, you've seen some of the novels I read earlier that I fell in love with --- Until the End of the World by Sarah Lyons Flemming, Someone Different by Kate Hanney, and Where Bluebirds Fly by Wendy Storer, among others.
And what about you? What are some books by lesser known indie authors you've discovered and would like to share with the world?
The last time I did this was July 2013. I figure it's time to get the kids' perspective on book covers once again because, well, it's just plain hilarious.
So here's the deal: I show the girls a book and ask them what they think the book is about based on the cover and title. To see their responses from last July, go here.
What's in a cover and title when you haven't heard the hype?
Emma: A girl runs away from home and goes to the woods and finds a portal to another world.
Elodie: A girl walks in the forest and meets an animal. She tries to pet it and do lots with it, like talk to it and stuff.
Emma: It's a beautiful girl that kills people in secret.
Elodie: She's a pretty girl who kills monsters but then there were even bigger, more terrible monsters and she want more power to kill them so she killed a person while training and then she killed all the monsters!
Emma: I think it's about a devil who is disguised as an angel.
Elodie: There was a dead angel but nobody knew it and nobody knew how he was killed. Then there were some people who found old stuff [a.k.a: archaeologists] who found the wings and knew it was an angel and figured out how he died.
And my new cover. They're somewhat familiar with the book, but based on the cover:
Emma: *Sighs* When you know the story already you can't think of it as anything but that. It's this girl who has power to go out of her body and...there you go. You know the rest, Mom.
Elodie: There was a girl with another girl. One girl was dying and was losing her body and the other girl looked at her and was sad. Can I play the Wii now?
Thank you, girls! You're still a little warped. Guess it's true that the apple doesn't fall far from tree.
Tonight the girls and I made pizza and ate it in front of the TV while we watched Home Alone.
Right before the movie, I fiddled with my computer, as it had been giving me problems all day.
Right after the movie, I checked my computer to see if all was fixed. It worked again, except I couldn't find any of my documents anywhere. Anywhere. They were just...gone. I stood in front of the screen, my vision swimming, and barked at the girls to brush their teeth.
I helped the kids into bed, first tucking in Emma, then Elodie, but every moment away from the computer made me feel like I was suffocating -- every moment made my lungs grow tighter with panic. I had to get back to it. I had to recover my work.
I quickly kissed Elodie and said, "I'm sorry, Sweetie, no story tonight. Mommy's freaking out about losing all her writing on the computer. I need to find it. You understand?"
She burrowed further under the duvet until it was up to her ears, then rolled onto her side. "I understand that it's not a good job to be a writer."
I brushed the hair back from her forehead and moved to turn off the light. "You've got that right, kiddo. As a writer, you're reliant upon your computer, there's no money in it, not much appreciation --"
"Yeah," she cut me off, her voice low. "And you don't get to spend much time with your kids."
My fingers froze near the light switch. A cold and heavy glacier filled my chest. "What?"
Her blue eyes met mine, her gaze way too serious for a seven-year-old. "Every time I call you and want you to come, you're too busy at the computer."
The glacier shifted and ice trickled into my blood. The back of my throat prickled with mounting tears. I thought about this past month. I'd been writing and rewriting and when I wasn't writing I was staring at the screen wondering why I couldn't write. I thought of all the times I'd told Elodie, "Just a minute" but ended up taking an hour.
I read somewhere that men -- family men -- take "selfish time" for themselves to write and pursue their creative endeavours in ways that most women can't or don't. I'd been trying to take that kind of time for myself this past month to finish off a couple of projects. I'd decided it was of utmost importance to get that writing done. That it was the most important thing in my life.
But I was wrong. The most important things in my life were tucked into their beds, and one of them was watching me, expecting me to turn out the light and rush back to my computer.
I turned away from the light switch and pulled a book off of Elodie's shelf. "You know what? I think I'll read that story after all."
If my documents were lost for good, they'd be lost for good whether I took the time to read a story or not. And if they could be found, I'd find them just as easily twenty minutes later.
But if I threw this moment away, I knew I'd never get it back. So I took Elodie's soft hand in mine and held on tight as I read out Puss in Boots.
I let the computer screen go black.