Review Excerpts


Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Summer!

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.


Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Choosing a Direction

In my last post, I made a short vague statement about revisiting an old project/idea, accompanied by a promise to write a blog post about it. You know how sometimes when you sit around thinking about something, debating all the pros and cons and everything, if you wait long enough, a decision is made for you? That's kind of where I'm at right now. So, here's the promised post.

A couple of weeks or months ago (time has lost all meaning in this pandemic), I was thinking about some of my earliest books. I reviewed my contracts to see when the rights would revert back to me, and I was there on most of them. I was debating emailing the publisher to clarify a couple things, and then working on a plan for what I want to do with the books. I ran this by usual sounding board buddy Boobulon, and his immediate reaction was to encourage me to do this, reminding me that the works are mine, and if enough time has passed, I should take advantage of the reversion clause. I thanked him for his input, and ultimately filed the whole thing away in the "stuff to maybe get to someday" mental folder.

Then this morning, I got an email saying that the aforementioned publisher is closing/being absorbed by another company, and all rights have reverted. Okay, that's taken care of, I guess. There was a list of options regarding relisting with the new site, paying a fee to retain cover art and formatting, and so on. I've given all of this some thought, and luckily, for what I want to eventually accomplish, I don't have to *do* anything or contact anyone. The rights are mine, and I'm not going to have the books listed with the new site.

To steal the title from my last blog post: So, what now?

That's where things get a little trickier, and I will actually have to do something other than sitting around on my butt. Some decisions are clear, while others, I haven't formed a definite plan yet. In no particular order:

For all of them: Redoing the covers. Whether that means throwing together something basic on my own or paying someone to do it for me, we'll see. (Maybe a combination.) I also decided to do all the formatting on my own. The Kindle publishing platform is less finicky than it used to be, and while yes, it's another chore to do, it's not the worst thing ever and I can handle it. For availability, as of right this moment, I am leaning toward making them all Amazon exclusives, free for Kindle Unlimited members, and a low-ish price for non-KU people. I have Feelings about Amazon becoming a monopoly, but for right now, I think it's the best way to go.

The Edge of the Sphere: This one's the easy one. New cover, check the formatting, done. I think I'll try to get this done by the end of the summer.

Disintegration/The Fall of the Midnight Scorpions: Since these two go together, I guess I should come up with some sort of branding and scheduling plan. Also, there's a glaring typo right in the beginning of TFotMS that's been bothering me since it was published, so I can finally fix that, at least. I've been poking around on stock image sites, and I may wind up outsourcing the cover design for this one, but we'll see. Not a priority right now, although I do still love this set of stories.

Searching the Skies/Defying the Skies: Arrrrrrrrgh. Lots going on here. This was actually what made me start thinking about looking into the rights reversion in the first place. I'm sure I mentioned it at least once here, but once upon a time, this was intended to be a trilogy, and then for a variety of reasons, the third book never happened. It has a pretty good outline, but I never even started writing it. Another complicating factor is that when I first got this idea, I went back to review, and StS needs a lot of work to make me feel comfortable rereleasing it. A LOT. The foundations are there, there's still a lot of the story I love, but there's a lot that makes me cringe because I know I can do better now. I'm not talking a total revamp/rewrite here, at least, but it definitely needs some polishing. (DtS has held up better. Yay for growth.) Yet another thought I had was, if I did clean up Book 1 and wrote Book 3, if I want to shop this around to a new publisher as a completed set, rather than doing it all on my own.

Then that leads us to perhaps the biggest question of them all: How much time do I *really* want to spend on this? Which is the better use of my time—giving these existing books the best shot I can, or focusing on the future with new projects? I mean, I can try to do both, but I also know my limitations.

To steal the overused emoticon from my last blog post: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

My tentative plan is to get The Edge of the Sphere back out there soon-ish, but also focus on the new project I've been outlining and work on that. The other books will be relegated to the backburner for now, but I guess if I get into a writing slump with the new project, I can work on rereleasing the old stuff. As far as writing the third book of the Skies trilogy goes, I really don't know. It's not the priority now, but who knows, I may get excited over the idea again. At least it looks like I'll be keeping busy!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

So, Now What?

Since last checking in, the world seems a little bit less on fire, but not significantly so. Throughout the whole lockdown, I saw a lot of authors and fellow writing buddies posting on social media about how they didn't feel like writing AT. ALL, and dude, I totally get that. Trust me, I do. And even though we all have a whole laundry list of valid reasons for not being able to be creative and productive, that didn't save us from the shame spirals.

People have also been talking about "the new normal" and what that's going to look like. Considering how much is still up in the air, I think the answer is pretty much: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. But even though a lot of things still suck right now, and I wouldn't say life is much less stressful than it was a month ago, maybe some of us are starting to adjust to the world in its current state.

I am still playing the hell out of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, and it continues to be both the escape I need and just a plain ol' GOOD piece of fiction on its own. After poking around the fandom a bit, I started writing some fanfic. Then I wrote some more. For a while there, I was in a pretty good writing routine, for once. Which then led me to think...is it time to start applying this creative burst to my own original projects?

The answer: still ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. And then that leads into the next obvious question, what should I write? I haven't touched Sonata for Springtime since last September or so, and I already have the first third done, so that was a possibility. I've had a dystopian romance mentally plotted out for a couple years, and I'd planned on that being my next project following Hunting Astrid, but I think it's understandable that I am NOT in the mood for dystopia right now. And there's another old project/idea I thought about revisiting, which I'll eventually dedicate a blog post to, but I'm not 100% sold on it yet.

So, I thought about what's been making me so happy about and motivated to write FE3H fanfic. Although Hunting Astrid is in a totally different setting, I realized there were some similarities that made me excited about writing: fast-paced, plenty of action, and, above all, FUN. At this point, I definitely need my writing to be FUN right now. Sure, it can be fun to write darker stories, with all sorts of Very Important Feelings, and I still plan on doing that sometime in the future, but FUN is taking priority at the moment.

I could go on for another several paragraphs about the age-old "where do ideas come from?" but two days ago, I came up with the most basic of plots in the most basic of settings with three basic characters, and since then, I've been fleshing those out. I'm in no rush to start, especially since my free time is being devoted to a crocheted baby blanket that has a very firm deadline that is fast approaching, but the details are gradually surfacing, so I think I'll be good to go soon enough. I've blogged before about how I have a tendency to not write a whole lot during the summer months, but this is a new world, so who knows what will happen. But I have a plan, and plans are good. Plus, even if the writing goes slowly, I know I'm not alone.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Statement, and a "Coming Soon!" Announcement

It seems strange to write about my writing life without mentioning current events, so I'm going to fumble my way through that first. Saying "oh, I don't discuss politics on my writing website!" is taking the easy way out, and I need to do better than that. I'll keep it brief, because 1) there are others who are far more eloquent and inspirational than I am, and 2) as an upper middle class white woman, I need to listen more than I talk right now. But I will say Black Lives Matter, I support the demilitarization of the police and want to see their funding appropriated in a better way, and I am using my time and money (so, privilege) to support those causes as best I can. If any of that makes you want to unfollow me or burn my e-books, you can see yourself out. I won't miss you. I won't chastise you either, but I will toss out the reminder that history skews liberal for a reason, because people never, ever stop fighting for their rights, and I would like to one day say I was on the right side of history.

It also feels strange to segue from that right into some self-promotion, but it's Pride month, and I've got a kickass lesbian romance to announce. I just signed the contracts for Hunting Astrid, so I'm super-excited, because this one is just FUN. You know the drill by now: blurb, excerpt, stay tuned for further announcements, etc.

And if I haven't lost you yet: wear your damn masks, we're still in the middle of a pandemic.

Blurby McBlurbface:
Astrid Carlisle enjoys her job at Satera Industries, the massive interplanetary organization whose enigmatic leader is concerned with profits first and legalities second. Stationed at company headquarters, she can stay out of harm’s way while making good use of her programming skills and keen eye for talent acquisition. Unfortunately, both the busy nature of her work and her office’s remote location leave her feeling dissatisfied with her personal life.

Fresh out of the Central United Space Marines, Tabitha Knox is ready for change, hoping the next stage in her career can take place in the private sector. Employment with Satera Industries would offer her the exciting, fast-paced work she craves, with generous financial compensation to match. All she has to do is get through the rigorous screening process and prove her worth.

The two women meet during the early stages of Tabitha’s application, and their mutual attraction is instant. However, Astrid has been hurt in the past and is cautious about moving too quickly, leading her to devise a plan. She suggests the pair enter the simulations used to test applicants and fight their way through the various environments. If Tabitha can successfully track her down in each phase, she’ll win the ultimate prize: a lucrative job, plus Astrid’s trust and submission. Everything she wants is within reach, but will she be able to achieve her dreams while hunting Astrid?

Excerpt McExc—oh, never mind:
A new idea began to take shape in Astrid’s mind. “If you’re so confident—which I do like about you, don’t get me wrong—do you want to make it interesting?”

Tabitha leaned forward, bracing her hands on the inside of her legs. “I live for interesting.”

“Then I think you’ll like my suggestion of what we should do the next time we get together.”

“Do share.”

Swiveling on the grass, Astrid turned to face her. “I’ll check our master calendar, and on a quiet day, how about you and I go back to headquarters and run through a couple of missions in the simulator? A little friendly competition, if you will.”

“Huh.” Tabitha tapped her fingers together in front of her. “I thought you just helped design the simulations. I didn’t know you actually went in and played around in them.”

“Somebody’s got to test everything out.”

“Right. But I didn’t think you were—” She shook her head. “Never mind. You’re right, your plan does sound interesting. But if you’ve worked with the simulations so many times before, won’t it give you an unfair advantage?”

“I won’t have any of my monitoring tools inside, and I’ll make sure we have all the same equipment. No cheating, I promise.” Lifting her chin, Astrid pretended to look her up and down, her lashes fluttering. “But if you don’t think you can beat me….”

Tabitha let out a loud laugh, a genuine smile lighting up her face. “Very cute attempt at baiting me, though I would have agreed to it, anyway.” Her hair tumbled over her shoulders as she leaned forward again. “So, what’s the prize if I win?”

Astrid straightened and held her arms out. “Me.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Oh? Please elaborate.”

The familiar heat rose in her cheeks, and she hoped the effects of her throbbing heartbeat weren’t noticeable. “I’ll make a better effort to not overthink things and go with what feels right. Whatever you want to do afterwards, I’ll be your willing participant.”

The hunger in Tabitha’s stare did little to slow her pulse, and she struggled not to squirm. “All right. I accept all your terms and conditions.” Pursing her lips, she gave Astrid a sly wink. “Game on.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Drinks Are On Me

Unfortunately, I need to start with the sad news: my mother passed away last week. We knew from the beginning that her diagnosis/prognosis was among the worst you can get, but even her doctors were surprised this happened so quickly. Obviously, the global pandemic didn't help matters any, but we're trying to find some solace in knowing we all did the best we could with what we had, and I don't think anyone could have done anything differently at any point. We were lucky she was able to be moved to hospice for her last two weeks, and hospice care is everything people say it is. Despite all the difficulties of the situation, the staff there took care of all of us as best we can.

We're all devastated, of course, especially since there's not much else to do right now other than what we've been doing for the past weeks/months while stuck at home. It's hard, but I'm trying to find some positive, happy things wherever I can. (Even when it seems like an impossible task.) The next part of this post may seem like an advertisement, but 1) I promise it's not, and I am getting no compensation from it, and 2) literally everyone I've told about this has responded with, "Why didn't I know about this? I want one!" So here's my attempt to put some joy and fun back into the world right now.

When we were first at the beginning of the end with my mother, my Facebook ads were actually relevant for once, and I learned that Keurig, the company behind the single-serve coffee makers, has come out with an appliance that makes...wait for it...chilled cocktails. As a bonus, they were running a Mother's Day promo for $100 off. My mother and I loved online shopping, our Keurigs, and fun cocktails, and she would have loved the hell out of this. In different circumstances, I totally would have ordered two of them and given her one.

"Chilling." Like we've been doing anything else at home recently.
The alcohol is already in the pods. (And if you think FedEx actually cared about having someone 21+ sign for them when my pods were delivered, like they're supposed to...LULZ.) I was a little wary at the beginning, but I am here to tell you they are not skimping on the alcohol content here. At all. For what they are, I would say the pods are reasonably priced; more expensive than if you had all the ingredients at home already, but quite a bit cheaper than getting the same thing out at a bar.

The selection is pretty good! In addition to this peach sangria, I've also had a vodka lemonade, "lemon bubbly," and a Mai Tai. The other adult in this house had a strawberry margarita last night while half-assedly paying attention to a webinar for work that was even more of an advertisement than this post.
I actually had some issues setting everything up, which I won't bore you with here, but I will tell you that their customer service is excellent and I'm very happy with everything. Will this be as long-lasting as the coffee makers have been? Who knows. But with everything going on now, I just needed something that was fun and silly, and now that we're past the initial hurdles, I'm very happy with it. Regardless of what you're drinking "in these uncertain times" (take a shot!), have one for my mother and me. And as she was saying for the past couple weeks, make it a double for her.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Video Games, Part Whatever - Fire Emblem: Three Houses

My go-to answer for anyone who asks how lockdown in NY is going is "we're hanging in there." We've had our ups and downs, and I'm really not up for discussing the downs right now. I started playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses on the Switch...last week? Two weeks ago? Time has no meaning right now. Either way, the game is about the only thing keeping me even partially sane right now, so even though I'm only halfway through it, I figured I might as well sing its praises in a blog post.

I've never played a Fire Emblem game before, nor did I know anything about the series going in, other than some general awareness of its existence. But once I acquired a Switch (hidden in a dark corner of Costco; there were only two left, so I'm kind of proud of myself for finding one), gaming/creative buddy Boobulon recommended Three Houses, assuring me I'd either like it or love it. We've never steered each other wrong before when it comes to gaming recommendations, so I got the game. As I mentioned, I just passed the halfway point, but so far, so good!

In no particular order:

Characters: Probably what's impressed me the most about this game is the character development. The cast is HUGE—we're talking at least 30 individual characters, and while of course some are more significant than others, there really aren't a whole lot of what I would consider "minor" characters. Naturally, the game does rely on some tropes; it would be impossibly not to. But while it would be easy to have some characters be reduced to nothing but one-dimensional tropes or stereotypes, everyone's got different traits and backstories to fully flesh them out. And while I have my favorites, there isn't even anyone I really dislike, which is also impressive.

Setting: Since I haven't played any other games in the series, I'm sure there's a ton of lore I'm missing out on. Even without all that context, though, it was easy enough to learn about the fictional world in its state as of the time of the game. It's pretty basic medieval-ish fantasy—all humans, fighting with weapons like swords and axes, but some characters can use magic, and there's mystical creatures/monsters like dragons and wyverns and such. There's a definite class system, with nobility vs. commoners being A Thing, and there's also a centralized religious institution playing a role in all the political drama. Again, I'm sure there's stuff I'm glossing over since I don't have the context of the past games, but it all makes enough sense to me.

Plot: As always, I try to remain as spoiler-free as possible before playing. However, I'm pretty sure it's even in the game's description (the blurb, if you will) that close to the beginning, you have to choose one of the titular three houses to align yourself with. That right there increases the replayability factor, since while you can build relationships with people in other houses, it's more challenging. I also knew going in that the game is clearly split into two halves, with a time jump in the middle. I know there's a lot of differing opinions out there about time jumps, but personally, I don't mind it. I don't consider it lazy writing, and I think it allows for a lot of character growth. (Probably one of the reasons Dragon Age II is my favorite of that series, since I think it has the strongest companion characters, and the time jumps allow for that level of development.) Aside from the house selection at the beginning, there are also some places where the plot branches out in different directions, so I know I'll need to go back and replay for those choices, too.

Aside from the structure, everything else seems well-organized and planned out. Some big plot events were heavily foreshadowed, so I wasn't surprised at all when they happened. On the other hand, there was a big twist I didn't see coming AT ALL, to the point where I was shouting profanity at my TV screen and was PISSED for the rest of the night (but in a good, entertained way!). And then once I got over my surprise, I realized that looking back, there were quite a few hints dropped leading up to it, which just makes it even better.

Gameplay: I'm playing on the easiest mode, so I won't go into a whole lot of detail here. It's turn-based combat, which I know some people don't love, but I like the logic and thought and planning that goes into it. Then there are little side things, like gardening and fishing, and leveling your character up, and choosing how to develop the skills of the rest of your team, etc. Some parts of it I think are as easy or as complex as you make them, but I haven't gotten frustrated with anything yet.

So there we are, a little past the halfway point, and about 60 hours in, according to my main save file. If you need a distraction to get your mind off of everything else that's going on right now, either on a global level or a more personal one, I highly recommend the game. (I'm assuming nothing's going to happen to change my opinion to a negative one by the end, but I suppose you never know....)

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Andromeda's Tear - Available Now!


Apparently my pandemic personality type is "restless evening energy." Long story short, I felt the need to do something, so I decided to go back to some of my short stories that never found a home, make a cover for them, and put them up on Kindle Unlimited for free. (Or $0.99 if you're not a KU person.)

Or! If you want some free reading material to keep you busy for half an hour or so and you're not a member of KU, contact me either via the contact page or thea at thealanden dot com, and I'll send you a PDF. I'm being absolutely serious right now. This is not about money or royalties or profits right now.

To quote from the little forward I wrote for this, I’m definitely not going to pretend I’m saving the world by releasing this short story, but it’s something. Just a little bit of something, but something nonetheless, you know? Whether you need a lighthearted escape to a better world or just one more thing to help pass the long hours at home, I hope I can help, even just for a little while.

Anyhoo! You know the drill by now—make way for an incoming blurb, excerpt, and buy link!

Blurb:
Sienna seems to have it all: a lavish home on an upscale space station, a lucrative job waiting for her at her father’s company, and a wealthy bachelor chasing after her. Just because she has an enviable life, however, doesn’t mean she’s satisfied with her place in the universe. When she meets Ace, a teleporter repairman by day and enterprising criminal by night, she spots an opportunity to make some much-needed changes and quench her desire for excitement. Together, they plot to steal a priceless sapphire from the man Sienna’s parents want her to marry. Will their interplanetary jewel heist succeed, or will their attraction to each other get in the way?

Excerpt:
Ace drove down to Spectrum’s docks, our vehicle picking up speed as we left the space station. “Do you have everything we’ll need?” I asked.

“I hope so.”

We left orbit with an explosive burst and flew toward Titan. Ace didn’t say much while he maneuvered through the skies, and I wasn’t sure if he was interested in conversation or not. After all, I had pretty much blackmailed him into this little excursion.

Titan grew larger before us and I started having second thoughts. “You know, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea,” I stammered. “We don’t have to do this if you don’t want.”

“I thought we had a deal.”

“We did. I mean, we do. It’s just….”

His alluring chuckle rumbled throughout the spacecar. “The first time’s the worst,” he said. “But, like many other things, stealing gets easier the more you do it.”

Warmth spread over my face and neck. “Is that so?”

“Yep.” Ace glanced at me and one side of his mouth curled up in a smile. “Who knows. We might wind up making a career criminal out of you.”

Well, that would be a change from someday taking over my father’s company. “Let’s focus on getting through tonight,” I said.

“Good plan.”

We arrived at Titan, slowing down as we neared the capital city. Ace eased back on the controls and the spacecar straightened out to hover above the streets. He drove to a multi-story garage and parked on one of the upper levels.

“What are we doing here?” I asked. “Brooks’s apartment is halfway across town.”

“Exactly.” He reached behind the seat to grab a satchel and slung it over his shoulder when he exited the car. “We don’t want to leave an obvious trail.”

“Oh. Right.”

“Also, I have it on good authority that half the security cameras in this place don’t work anymore. For most people who visit here late at night, their presence is enough of a deterrent.”

He’d know more about these things than I would. “Fair enough.”

He came around to open the door for me and helped me out. Once I stood up, he didn’t let go of my hand. “Unless this is all some big ruse to get me in trouble, you need to trust me,” he said. “Follow my lead, and don’t do anything unless I give you permission.”

My mouth grew dry as I gazed up at him, my fingers enveloped by his. I swallowed and tried not to lose myself in the depths of his cobalt eyes. “Okay.”
 


Available Now at Amazon.com 

(Completely unintentional that this cover/theme matches the blog's new theme, but it's fun nonetheless!)