Review Excerpts

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Hilarity May or May Not Ensue

So, I think we've all realized by now that I'm not one of those people who is SUPER SERIOUS, ALL OF THE TIME about her writing. That's not to say I don't write serious stories, because I definitely do...I just frequently laugh at myself while doing so. To be honest, I often find people who always take things seriously (assuming it's not a life-or-death situation) to be exhausting, but hey, you do whatever you need to do to get through your days.

I won't make any comments as to whether or not I'm "funny," as I know how subjective humor is. Maybe I've made people laugh here a few times over the years, maybe I've just made them roll their eyes at my flippant attitude before they move on. For what it's worth, while I have my "fiction writing" voice, as we all do, my "writing about writing/blogging" voice here is pretty close to what real-life me is like. I've said before, while I'm sure I'm not everyone's cup of tea, I like to think I'm fun to be around in most situations. But again, who knows.

On to the writing about writing part! I've written in a whole lot of romantic sub-genres, but I don't know if I've ever set out to write a true "comedy." Some of my books/stories are intended to be lighthearted and maybe a little fluffy, and even in some of my darker stories, the occasional odd situation or snarky remark slips through. (That might be tied to my "real me" voice, but I digress.) And now that I'm thinking about genres, I'm starting to wonder—can you even write "just" a comedy without including some sort of sub-genre? (Romance, mystery, adventure, etc.) Like, is "contemporary comedy" a thing just like "contemporary romance" is? Clearly, I am not among the people getting paid to create categories on Amazon.

(I just took a tiny break from writing this blog post to take a look. Lots of romantic comedies out there. There was a "wilderness" comedy on the first page of Amazon hits, which I would file under "adventure." And Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine was also near the top, which I did enjoy, and parts were funny, but I don't know if that was the point of the story? Moving right along.)

Outside of my little website here, I have written stories explicitly intended to make people laugh, in the form of fanfic. I'd even venture to claim I was successful, in that my old Dragon Age and Mass Effect comedies were always my most popular fics, and they're still getting hits and comments and bookmarks and everything 7-8 years later. (UGH, I'M OLD.) Recently, I've been experiencing the same trends with my Fire Emblem: Three Houses fanfic. So, I know I *can* do it, but I'm also aware of the contextual differences between writing something humorous in an existing universe vs. starting from scratch with everything.

I'm still making great progress with my new project, Elemental Forces. I'm still not sure if we've established it can be a "comedy," but it's definitely on the more lighthearted end of the spectrum. I'm not attempting to land joke after joke after joke, but I made an effort to set the tone early on, and that tone (hopefully) is "this book will make you smile and feel good." As I mentioned in my last post, it's heroic fantasy and, of course, romance, since I consider myself a romance writer first and foremost. Since it's romance, there will be some emotional and poignant scenes in addition to the fun ones, because I'd argue you can't really have a romance without those, but THAT is another topic for another post.

In the meantime, I'll switch back to my Word document now, because I am still writing up a storm and it feels GOOD! (Might as well end on a "smile/feel good" moment!)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Full Speed Ahead

 (requisite reminder that Blazing Justice is available on Kindle Unlimited now!)

Guys. Everyone. Y'all. Something crazy is happening.

I am writing and I am writing fast.

Well, fast for me, anyway. I know there are writers who crank out thousands of words a day and go back to edit them later, and I know there are writers who lovingly pore over each word as it caresses the page and have little editing to do at the end. Neither of those approaches is right or wrong. I personally tend to hover near the slower end of the spectrum, like it or not.

I've discussed before about how once I had kids, it was often difficult to 1) carve out time for writing and other hobbies, and then 2) actually be productive and not just zone out in a rare quiet moment. The kids are getting older (they started virtual kindergarten this week!), and while I wouldn't necessarily say things are getting easier, the new sets of challenges maybe aren't as physically draining all of the damn time. There are definitely days where once they're in bed, I just want to park myself on the couch and click around on the internet, but I often try to at least get something done.

So. The new project. I spent some time this summer writing Fire Emblem: Three Houses fanfic and marveled at how quickly I could pop out a short story. Maybe it was finally time for me to apply that to my own original writing?

I decided I wanted to stick to a similar genre in the hopes that the energy would carry over, so I started my new heroic fantasy* romance on August 30th. For the most part, I've been maintaining my pre-childrearing rate of at least 500 words a day, and I'm four chapters in. Since it's fantasy, I'm relying on some popular tropes (because everything uses tropes to some extent anyway and you will never convince me otherwise), but I'll be playing around with some of them at the same time. It's light and fluffy, but the characters have depth and heart. Most importantly, I'm having fun, and that's contributing to the words spilling out on the page. 


*Before getting started, I spent some time, of course, on TV Tropes reading about the differences between high fantasy, low fantasy, heroic fantasy, etc. This is definitely heroic fantasy. The dragons show up in the third sentence.


Will I be able to keep this up for the whole project? Perhaps. I'm bound to hit a slump eventually, or have to deal with a section that's just not working out quite right, and so on. But for now, I'm really satisfied with my writing output for the first time in a very long time.


New title tag in 3...2...1....

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Blazing Justice - Available Now!


It's release day! As promised, my little experiment with Choose Your Own Adventure-style romance is available on Kindle now. Free for Kindle Unlimited people, $2.99 otherwise, because formatting this thing was its own adventure. I'm working on setting up some promo events, so as always, watch this space. (Standard reminder about signing up for the mailing list.)

In the meantime, here's the blurb and excerpt. Happy reading!


One murder case, three sizzling endings….

In the suburbs of New York City, prosecutor Celeste McConnell is called to a crime scene in the middle of the night. The gruesome stabbing is the most brutal murder the quiet little town has seen in many years, and both the police and the District Attorney’s office are determined to arrest and convict the killer. Celeste is resolved to follow the proper procedures and seek justice for the victim, but as the case progresses, she wants to be sure the right person is held accountable for the crime.

Choose Celeste’s path in her quest for the truth and decide who she can trust the most. Whether she follows the lead of her suave, assertive boss at work, confides in the charming and sweet detective assigned to the case, or embarks on a thrilling adventure with the potentially dangerous murder suspect, each unique ending offers an unforgettable night of passion for Celeste and her chosen partner, as well as a conclusion to the murder case that brought them together.


Chaos erupted at six o’clock on the dot, when several things happened all at once. “This is getting ridiculous,” Lattimer said. The force with which he stood up sent his chair skidding backward into the wall. “I don’t know what else I can tell you, and I’d really like to go home now.”

My cell phone rang again. “Celeste? What is going on over there?” Hints of annoyance tempered Colin’s voice. “I expected to hear from you by now.”

As I filled him in on what had happened since arriving at the police station, two more officers entered the room. They spoke with Captain Redding, whose eyebrow shot up at whatever they told her, and she looked over at me. “Hold on one second,” I said into the phone.

“They came from the crime scene,” the captain told me. “And they found a bloody knife in a garbage can behind Nick Lattimer’s unit. We won’t know if it’s Sherri Strahan’s blood until the tests come back, but….”

“Right.” I turned my attention back to the phone. “I don’t know if you heard any of that, but what could possibly be the murder weapon just turned up near Lattimer’s apartment.”

“Hmm.” Colin sighed. “Between this discovery and the thing with his brother, it’s enough. I don’t want this guy disappearing on us.”

“Got it. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”

Lattimer paced back and forth behind the table. “You can’t just keep me here like this,” he said, moving toward the door. “I’m leaving.”

That was my cue. I entered the room; now it was my turn to block his path. For a fleeting moment, our gazes locked together. His gold-flecked eyes burned into me and my breath caught in my throat.

“Miss McConnell?” Delgado said, shattering the growing tension.

I looked away and swallowed. “Arrest him.”

Friday, August 28, 2020

Change of Plans, and a Sneak Peek

Over the past few months, I've been discussing releasing old projects that never found a home, plus the new situation of having the rights to a lot of my old books revert back to me when the publisher closed and having to decide what to do there. I thought I'd had a plan for at least what to do next, but as we all know, plans can change in an instant.

I was chatting with friends in an online group about a month ago, and some of them mentioned how fun it would be to have a book that was like those Choose Your Own Adventure books we all read as kids, but an adult romance. As luck would have it, I had exactly that sitting in my files. A number of years ago, I wrote the story for a particular website that dealt with CYOA romance, but then the site shut down, and I didn't think I'd be able to successfully shop it around anywhere else, so it's been sitting untouched...until now!

One friend did mention that she'd read an Austen-esque CYOA romance; when I did some poking around on Amazon, I found a couple more, but not a huge amount. I went back to my Word document to reread and decided I still liked the story and characters, so I abandoned my plan to re-release The Edge of the Sphere at the end of the summer and focused on cleaning this up instead. I think it's a fun concept, and who knows, if other people feel the same way, maybe I'll think about writing more of them.


This is just the sneak peak, so for now, I'll just mention that I have the book up for pre-order on Amazon, AND I'm also trying something new and I have a few ARCs available on Booksprout. If you find joy in reading books before anyone else can and writing reviews, go take a look!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Starting Something New (Spoiler Alert, It's a Newsletter)

All the cool kids have one, so I guess I should too? Something like that. A few posts ago, I mentioned how the rights for some of my earlier books have reverted back to me, and I plan on gradually re-releasing them. Combined with me also occasionally releasing shorter works that never found a good home, this all means that maybe, just maybe, I might have more than one new release a year. Either way, it's not a bad idea to have a quick way to announce news for people who don't check the blog and/or social media.

The form to sign up is over there in the right column, or you can use this link if you're on a mobile device or tablet. I promise I will not spam you. Hell, some months I barely remember to keep up with this blog, right? My current plan is to send an email whenever I have a new release or a big sale going on, and maybe a monthly roundup of blog posts or something like that.

I'll be keeping it simple and I'm sure I'll be working out the kinks along the way. If there are glaring issues or if you just want to say hi or whatever, the contact form in its own tab always works, as does emailing me at thea at thealanden dot com.

(See? Short and sweet. Just like any mass emails I'll send.)

Monday, August 3, 2020

Summer Reading Roundup

We're back at the Cape, and for once, I'm still reading up a storm. I organized my "read" list on Goodreads by "date read," and man, there are a lot of sparse areas over the past few years. (I blame my children.) Oh well, I guess we can call this making up for lost time! Here's what I've read so far this summer:

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie
I'm a big Agatha Christie fan. When pressed to choose just one favorite book, I always go with And Then There Were None. Somehow, though, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd had escaped me over the years, so I set out to right this wrong. It was everything I hoped it would be, even though I prefer Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot, and I couldn't put it down.

Without spoiling anything, there is a huge! plot twist! at the end. I honestly can't remember if I'd heard about it before reading the book, or just knew there was a twist without knowing exactly what it was, or none of the above. Either way, I actually figured out who the murderer was before the end for what was probably the first time in my life*, but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book at all. If you love mysteries, there's a reason this one is considered one of the classics, and I highly recommend it.

*I'm TERRIBLE when it comes to foreshadowing. Like, you really have to smack me across the face with heavy-handed hints to get me to pick up on it at all. That said, my one claim to fame in my family is that I figured out the twist in The Sixth Sense well before the end. But that's it. Never has that glorious moment repeated itself until now. Oh well, at least I'm happily surprised and entertained a lot.

Do Not Become Alarmed, by Maile Meloy
I actually took this one out of the library twice last year, wound up reading a different book instead, and didn't like what I'd chosen to read. My mother read this book last year and liked it a lot, so I was sort of kicking myself for those decisions. The e-book was still available through my library when I was looking for reading material, so I finally committed to reading it.

It was very good, but not really what I expected from the blurb. (Which is probably more of a failing on my part than any problems with said blurb.) I was expecting more of a mystery/thriller, and it was kind of more of a character study. Either way, I found it hard to put down, but the ending did peter out a bit. I'm still glad I (finally!) read it.

The Body in Question, by Jill Ciment
There are certain books where I think your age/life experiences at the first time you read them have a big impact on how you feel about them. (The Catcher in the Rye is probably the most famous example of that theory.) This book might fall into that category—overall, I did like it, but considering all the main characters are at least ten years older than I am, I'm wondering if I would have liked it more if I were closer to their ages. The book is split into two distinct parts, and while I think the structure worked, Part 2 kind of veered off in an unexpected direction. There are also some plot points that don't get wrapped up in a pretty little bow by the end, which I'm sure is intentional, but part of me still wanted to KNOW WHAT HAPPENED THERE, DAMMIT. Still, though, I liked it and breezed through it fairly quickly.

Educated, by Tara Westover
This is not light summer reading. As I said to my husband, I'm glad I read it, but I'm also kind of glad it was a library book that I didn't pay money for. Unlike the previous two entries on this list, this one actually picks up steam as it chugs along, but a lot of it is still pretty dense and heavy. I don't know if it's worthy of its incredibly high Goodreads rating (some reviewers do claim it's overhyped and unrealistic), but I liked it well enough. I just don't recommend bringing it to the beach.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


I'm too lazy to look, but I'm pretty sure I make a post every year about how I usually don't get a lot of writing done during the summer. I am still plotting my next project, I'm getting The Edge of the Sphere ready for re-release by the end of August, and I'm also working on some website/marketing/behind-the-scenes stuff that is either boring or not ready to be unveiled yet. So, while I guess that all counts as being productive, I haven't written any new words since the short fanfic I finished at the beginning of the month.

We did make it up to Cape Cod last week, which turned out to be great. I was worried about how the trip would go, both due to the virus and my mom not being there, but overall, everything went well. One of my biggest concerns was stopping at the rest areas on the travel days, since it's too long of a trip to make without stopping at least once. I intentionally picked the smaller ones, though even the big ones looked less crowded than normal, and everything was fine. I wouldn't want to travel anywhere outside the northeast right now, but as our neighbor who lives up there full-time told us, everyone's pretty much been behaving themselves in our town. We usually ate the vast majority of our meals at the house anyway, and we're lucky enough to have a small private beach at the end of the street.

To be fair, our house isn't in one of the super-touristy areas, and we've decided not to do activities like mini golf and go karts. We did, however, drag the kids out hiking with us, and while there was some whining, they did well for the most part. We'll investigate some new trails next time we're up, especially since the ones we went on were not crowded AT ALL in the morning.

Yeah, I'm not stepping on those wooden planks again.

We could definitely tell there's fewer people around than is typical for this time of year, but hey, I'm not complaining. I know of at least three families who canceled their rentals up there because they're "restaurant people", which is fair. (Or, as one of them told me, she wasn't going to pay a lot of money to listen to her family whine about not being able to do anything they wanted for a week. You can get that at home for free!) I wouldn't say it's completely empty up there, but there's definitely a decrease in traffic.

The reviews for this trail said it looked like something out of The Hobbit. I wouldn't know firsthand, but sure!

I kept saying that we'd see how the first week went and then make our decisions for the rest of the summer. When I was stressed out up there last year, one of my coworkers/friends summed it up perfectly: when the kids are young, it's not a "vacation", it's a "family trip". This was probably the first time in a long time I was really sad to leave. The current plan is to go up again on Sunday, stay for two weeks, come home for a week, and then go up for one more. I'll be bringing my work equipment to work remotely if necessary, and if school is going to be mostly virtual, we might even stay a little longer.

No one else was here when we visited. NO ONE.

I might as well mention that I finally read two books last week I'd been meaning to get to for a while and liked them both, so that was another plus. There are quite a few ebooks on my to-read list that have no waiting list at my library at the moment, so I'm hoping I'll be equally lucky this trip. I also picked up my knitting project I'd abandoned around February in favor of the baby blanket, made a big mistake, but then managed to fix it without having to rip it out. Everything seems to be going so relatively well, maybe I should attempt to write a few words!

As always, I hope everyone's staying safe and healthy. Enjoy your summer as best you can, and be sure to take care of yourselves, too.