Sunday, November 29, 2015

Finding My Smile

Posted by: R.L. Naquin
2015 has been a rough year. The previous year, my dad had a stroke, and we spent nearly a year taking care of him and hoping he’d get better. This year, we said goodbye to him. Having never before lost anyone close to me, let alone a parent, it rattled me pretty hard. It's easy to wallow in the hard stuff, especially with the holidays here, and somewhere along the way, I'd lost my smile. I’ve had to take stock of my year and try to refocus on the good things that happened instead.

Not only did I find a lot of good in my year, thanks to modern technology, my phone kept a photographic record to remind me. Let me show you.

In January, I published my short-story collection, Transmonstrified. In March, Phoenix in My Fortune, the final book in my Monster Haven series, came out. And in July, Unfinished Muse, book one in my new Mt. Olympus Employment Agency series, released. Book two, Unamused Muse will be out before the year is over. I wanted to do more, but I've learned where my limits were, at least while dealing with grief. Still, I'm really pleased with how much I managed to get done. Four releases in a year means I'm finally getting the hang of this. But work isn't the only good that happened this year.

I love going on adventures, and this year, that was how I coped. Adventures can be grand and planned out, or they can happen in the quiet moments when you're feeling your lowest. You just have to be open to them. Here are some of mine for the year:

 One afternoon I took a long drive to clear my head. I came around a corner and found a herd of reindeer in an enclosure. Since then, I've visited them several times and come to realize they're probably just regular deer, but in my head, I found magic reindeer. No matter what they are, they were beautiful and unexpected.

My husband and I went on a drive-through safari. This zebra looked up from his grazing, made a beeline for me, and stuck his head in the car for me to scratch. He stayed a long time, even though we weren't feeding him. It was magic.

Mother's Day this year was all about dinosaurs. Because I love dinosaurs and my family loves me. My daughter made me this T-Rex pancake, because when your children grow up, they can do loads of cool stuff for you. 

I was a guest at Kansas City's SFF convention, ConQuesT. I was on several panels, met new people, drank a lot with my friends, and pretended that George R.R. Martin was too shy to approach me in the bar. Bless his heart. I am intimidating.

We went to a Huey Lewis/Jimmy Buffett concert. My first. It was spectacular.

Went to the drive-in for the 4th of July. Best non-Disney fireworks I've seen, plus a double feature afterward. In jammies. With snacks. You can't beat that.

We spent the night in one of the most haunted rooms in the Stanley Hotel. Though we failed to see or hear anything supernatural, we did freak ourselves out. There was also a weird moment where the front desk guy came to our room because he thought I wanted corn. I did not. But the question was--if he thought I wanted corn, why didn't he have any corn to give me?

I went to Denver to hang out with my best friend since third grade. We went to a butterfly garden, tried on squid hats, and went to the Celestial Seasonings factory. The factory was already closed, but we drank tea samples and spent money on tea-related goods. The next day we all went to the museum and saw dinosaurs. Did I mention I love dinosaurs?

Not exactly an adventure, but I bought a new car. (My daughter was using my old one, which left me stuck at home all day, every day. So, I needed a car for adventures. And sanity.) She's purple in the sunlight. I named her Iris in honor of a certain skunk ape from Monster Haven. 

We went to the Oztoberfest and watched the Oz shenanigans while eating lunch from a food truck. Then we tasted many different wines from the Oz Winery and bought several bottles. Lest you should think the Oz winery was a spontaneous side trip, you should know the bartender recognized us from several earlier trips, despite the unusually heavy crowd. Oz wine is special. It comes from the other side of the rainbow.

A lot of other things happened this year. Two of my dearest friends were married. My daughter started college. My son moved out, but started coming home most days to have lunch with me. My friends showered me with love and support. My readers were enthusiastic and patient. My brother and I grew closer through all the difficulties we shared. And as always, my husband stayed by my side no matter how grouchy, sad, or introverted I became.

So here we are, nearly at the end of the year. Not a bad year after all, was it? I looked for the good, and I found it. And in the end, I remembered where I left my smile.  I hope your year has been filled with more good than bad. And I hope you never lose your smile.

Rachel writes stories that drop average people into magical situations filled with heart and quirky humor.

She believes in pixie dust, the power of love, good cheese, lucky socks and putting things off until the last minute. Her home is Disneyland, despite her current location in Kansas. Rachel has one husband, two grown kids and a crazy-catlady starter kit.

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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Top 10 Reasons Why Shifters Are the New Black

Posted by: Marie Harte
I love shapeshifters. Vampires used to be the most popular paranormal beast out there, but then the shifters took over. And for good reason. Here's my top ten list for why shifters deserve to be number one beast on the block:
  1. FIDELITY: There's nothing more romantic than a shifter who, once mated, can't stray. 
  2. DESTINY: Fated mates. Takes away all the difficulties with trying to find that special one.
  3. ALPHA MALES: Who doesn't love a beast in the bedroom? And someone who can kick major butt when the need arises.
  4. SENSITIVITY: Nothing like those enhanced senses to make kissing even better.
  5. NEVER DIET AGAIN: Shifter metabolism rocks. You'll never have to diet again.
  6. SUNLIGHT: Unlike vampires, shifters can handle the sun no problem. 
  7. HOWLING: And hand-in-hand with sunlight, moonlight makes them howl and brings on the beast.
  8. SUPER STRENGTH: Never lift weights again. Automatic increase in muscle mass once you turn furry.
  9. LONGEVITY: Seems like lycanthropes live longer than normal people. At least, that's what my Uncle Harry tells me. Ha. (Okay that was bad, I admit it.)
  10. FAMILY: There's something satisfying about a pack. Safety, family, built-in togetherness. What's not to like?
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, and try not to turn too beast-like during these hellacious shopping days.

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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Top Four New (to me) Series of 2015

Posted by: Nicole Luiken

1/ Gini Koch’s Katherine “Kitty” Katt series. (SF) I read book one Touched by an Alien in February. I immediately needed book two. I caught up with the latest book in the 11-books-and-counting series by June and am looking forward to book 12, Alien in Chief, coming out in December.


2/ Brent Week’s Lightbringer series. (epic fantasy) Book one: The Black Prism. Even more amazing than his Night Angel trilogy. Love the light-and-color-based magic. Love the characters. High action and man, oh man, some of the plot twists! Am dying to find out what happens next. I’m lobbying to convince my husband and son to start reading the series so I can justify buying book four in hardcover when it comes out.

3/ Diana Pharaoh Francis’s Diamond City series. (urban fantasy) Book one: Trace of Magic. Every bit as good as the author’s Horngate Witches series. Cool magic, lots of action and peril and some steamy romance scenes, too. Two books out so far.

4/ Carol Berg's Sanctuary Duet. (fantasy) Book one: Dust and Light. I'm super excited for the release of book two Ash and Silver to come out in December. I love Carol Berg’s world-building, and she's very good at putting her characters in tough places.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

Posted by: Janni Nell
When I was considering a topic for this post, I realised that it's almost Thanksgiving in the U.S. and that got me thinking...

Thanksgiving isn’t really celebrated in Australia, but there are plenty of reasons we should give it a go. I mean, what’s not to like about having time off work and totally pigging-out on turkey with all the trimmings. Of course, it’s hot in Australia at this time of year, so I’ve thought about what Thanksgiving might be like Down Under.

The Venue: Outdoors. Maybe a picnic. Definitely near water—a beach or river, the harbour or just a backyard swimming pool.

The Dress: T-shirt, shorts, thongs (flip-flops), or a light summer dress and sandals. (Don’t forget the hat, swimmers and sunscreen.)

The Food:  BBQ bush turkey with chilled cranberry and avocado salsa, sweet potato and bush tomato salad, green bean and macadamia nut salad, pumpkin scones.

Dessert: fruit salad with pumpkin seeds, pecan ice cream, pumpkin and apple pavlova.

The Drinks: pumpkin beer, apple cider, cranberry wine.

The People: It’s all about family. Doesn’t matter whether they’re blood relations, or randoms who have come together just because they like each other.

The Sentiment: I figure that’s the same wherever you come from. Taking time to give thanks for what you have—whether it’s a lot or a little—sharing time with family and friends.

So, here’s what I’m thankful for:
Good food and wine
Line dancing
The time to write stories
And the freedom to self-publish.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Looking for Holiday-Themed Spec Fic Romance Recs!

Posted by: Jenn Burke
One of my all-time favourite
holiday romances.
It's that time of year again...when romance readers scoop up all sorts of holiday-themed books. There are some fantastic ones out there. One of my favourites (which I just re-read) is Amy Lane's Christmas Kitsch, a story about a college kid who might not be the brightest star in the sky when it comes to academics, but he's got an amazing heart and soul. When he kisses his best friend/new boyfriend at Thanksgiving, he's thrown out by his parents and needs to define a life for himself. I highly recommend it.'s a contemporary romance. I find most holiday-themed romances are. And don't get me wrong...I love contemporary romance. Spec fic romance, however—sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal—is my favourite.

So, any suggestions for this holiday-loving spec fic romance reader? I love romance of all sorts, but I'm particularly interested in LGBTQIA romance these days.

I know Indra Vaughn has a new book out called Winter Spirit, all about a lonely B&B owner and his cupid-like, matchmaking ghost. Looks fun!

Winter Oranges by Marie Sexton (out soon!) also looks great, with a twist on the Christmas ghost theme.

Go ahead and list your favourite holiday romances! I know I asked for spec fic ones, and I'll love you forever if you have a few for me to add to my ever-expanding to-be-read list, but feel free to suggest anything—contemporary and het romance included!

Happy Thanksgiving (week) to my American friends. I hope you'll find some books on this list to enjoy after the turkey's done!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

Cover reveal!

The much-awaited third book in the award-winning Ravensblood series is coming in February!  

The reformed dark mage Corwyn Ravenscroft, Raven, has finally found his place in the world. He has a fiancé, friends, and meaningful work. Yet a shadow hangs over everything. His former master, the darkest and most powerful mage of their time, the man he betrayed, the man he thought he had killed, still lives. William is determined to destroy everyone and everything Raven ever loved.
Will Raven find a way to defeat him, once and for all? Or will he see the life he has built crumble around him as William rises once again to threaten the Three Communities, perhaps even the world?

Jeffe Kennedy is participating in the Worldbuilders 2015 Fundraiser for Heifer International, sponsored by Patrick Rothfuss. The high bidders can win a manuscript critique and genre analysis from her, or she'll name a character after the high bidder in her next Twelve Kingdoms book, THE EDGE OF THE BLADE. Lots of other great stuff to bid on, too!

We're thrilled to report the Here Be Magic box set charted as an Amazon best seller in its first week! Thank you to all the readers and we hope you're enjoying the stories!

Available at ebook retailers.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Food. Glorious Food!

Posted by: Jenny Schwartz
Food is so important in storytelling. Who else remembers the orphanage food scene in "Oliver"?
Food sets the scene in so many ways. It employs the senses - taste and smell. How it looks, the crunch of it, the slurp of a villain - it adds both to characters and setting. Personality is revealed in the foods we enjoy and share. A sense of where we are is established by the food we eat.

My books tend to feature food. Not to the extent some books do, where they actually share recipes in the back pages, but I do like to imagine my characters eating. Interesting discussions happen over a meal.

If you write fantasy or historical fiction, or are simply interested in history, What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank by Krista Ball is good reading.

I love imagining great restaurant food. It's an excuse to check out menus online, and then, inspired, make up my own perfect meal - without messy cleaning up or the frankly impossible price.

I also share food ideas from my own life. If my characters are in a rush, I try to think what I'd cook in such situations.

It's interesting to read contemporary novels from different eras and see how eating trends shift. Stirfries, pasta, pizza, bbq, all have their time, and then, become dated. Have you ever read a novel where the character uses a pressure cooker? It's so 1950s. Food is a subtle way to position a novel in time.

Last, but not least, food is sensual. In a romance novel, as the characters dance towards intimacy, food can play a major role. It is sharing, indulgence and celebration.

I guess I'd better wind up the post with a recipe, except ... I really don't feel like cooking, today. Nope, not even fictionally.

Anyone want a donut? And while you contemplate that sugary-overload, do you have a book you love for its food?

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