Review Excerpts


Sunday, October 18, 2020

Nothing to Be Afraid of Here

We're well into October, and everywhere I look, people are embracing the Halloween season. Honestly, I don't have strong feelings either way about Halloween. I mean, it's fun enough, but I was never the type to go completely crazy over it. And I'm old enough to think having leftover candy in the house is more dangerous than fun.


With that blasphemous intro, I'm sure I've lost a lot of readers by now. If you're sticking with me, thanks!


During this shitshow of a pandemic/lockdown/whatever we're calling it now, I've been trying to make more of an effort to connect with people, from reconnecting with old friends to making new ones. I've been spending more time on Twitter, for better or worse (though I still refuse to put it on my phone), and interacting with people I've "met" via the #WritingCommunity tag. It seems like so many writers have something in the horror genre, or paranormal, or anything else that can fall under the "spooky" umbrella in honor of Halloween that they're talking about and...I don't. I'm neurotic enough as it is, so my interest level in horror is so low it's practically non-existent, and while I've read and enjoyed some paranormal books/stories, it's also not really my thing. Obviously, not every writer is going to write in every single genre—in fact, it's probably the opposite in that most find one thing that works best for them and sticks with it—but it's no fun to feel left out.


But then I got to thinking about the books I have written, and their origins. And I remembered once upon a time, very, very long ago, what eventually became Elysium was originally going to be a ghost story. If memory serves, I think I saw some sort of writing contest for either Halloween or Christmas, and I got the idea of a woman somehow getting together with her dead husband. However, this was when I was in college (I TOLD you it was a long time ago!), and life was quite busy back then, and the story never got written. About ten years passed before I revisited the story idea, and I don't even remember how I made the leap from "dead husband is a ghost" to "dead husband appears via virtual reality", but I finally wrote something based on that old idea.


I've probably said it before, but even now, I still think Elysium is one of the best (if not THE best) things I've ever written. Its origins as a ghost story are way in the past, but maybe I'll choose to celebrate it this October anyway! (Should we have an excerpt of the first appearance of the dead husband? Sure, why not?)

Elysium

I noticed the billowing skirt swishing against my knees. It belonged to the yellow striped sundress I’d worn to a friend’s barbecue a couple of summers ago. I’d always liked this dress, but I hadn’t worn it since.


Crouching down, I pressed against the paved trail. The stones were cool and solid beneath my touch. I reached out and tugged at a single blade of grass. It snapped off and I rolled it back and forth. A green smear darkened one fingertip, and it even smelled like grass. Incredible.


I didn’t have long to marvel at Drew’s genius, for footsteps approached behind me. Straightening, I gradually turned in the direction of the sound. What I saw froze me in place.


He wore his dark hair buzzed short like always, and his skin was tanned as if he’d never spent one day out of the sun. A plain blue T-shirt the color of his eyes stretched over his thick chest, tucked into his favorite pair of jeans. He strode toward me, every detail of his movements captured with perfection. I even saw the scar from a childhood accident spanning the top of his left hand.


He stopped a foot away from me and grinned. His lips, his teeth, his jaw, everything flowed into the cheerful expression I’d missed so much.


“Hey, kitten.”


His voice sent shivers down my spine. I clapped one trembling hand over my mouth and rocked from side to side. The corners of my eyes stung with a whirlwind of emotions and my throat tightened so much I could barely whisper.


“Kevin….”

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Structure/Pacing in Romance (specifically THOSE scenes)

I'm still happily chugging along on Elemental Forces. I passed the 20K word mark and have plenty of story left to tell. While I don't have a firm word count estimate just yet, this is shaping up to be the longest book I've written in quite some time.


Believe it or not, I don't have a written outline here. At this point, everything's plotted out pretty well in my head, so maybe I'll never get around to making one. But as I've been thinking over the structure and pacing in this project, I realized that I have two distinct categories for my books, and most romances probably fall into one or the other. And those categories are differentiated by...wait for it...*drumroll*...the sex scenes.


(The rest of this post will probably not be sexy. Sorry to disappoint.)


Category 1: One Sex Scene

All the novellas go here, which makes sense. (Hey, sex scenes take a lot of words!) I guess in these books, the primary plot/conflict/focus/whatever you want to call it is the good ol' "will they or won't they?" and everything gets wrapped up in a pretty little bow at the end when the characters finally bang. Excuse me, get their "happily ever after." Sure, other plot stuff happens, but it's all leading up to the big moment. To be fair, in some of my novellas, the one sex scene doesn't come right at the end, as the characters still have to work out their relationship issues before riding off into the sunset, but the concept stands.


Nothing is absolute, though, so there are some slight exceptions. Elysium, while novella-length, *technically* has two sex scenes, but they're back-to-back, so lumping them together is fair. Likewise with Seductive Suspect, which hovers on the border of "long novella" and "short novel" - the two sex scenes are adjacent to each other, and then the resolution of the mystery part of the plot comes afterward.


Category 2: Multiple Sex Scenes

It's not a surprise that the longer books go here, and then that got me thinking about various plots and their purposes. "Happily ever after" is still always the primary goal of romance, but the length of the route to get there varies. I admit this is where I sometimes struggle with the pacing. When the main characters get together relatively early on, the plot has to keep moving. It's easy to say "time for a sex scene, yay!" but the scenes also have to mean something and not feel gratuitous. I also realize this is highly subjective, as a look at any book with conflicting reviews will indicate. This also probably gets into the topic of romance vs. erotic romance vs. erotica, which I'm not going to touch here.


When writing Disintegration (which I'll likely re-release sometime in 2021), I was extra super careful while plotting out the progression of the sex scenes in the book, of which there are many. Almost, if not all of them are relevant to the plot, each building on the one that came before it. On the other hand, in Fire Beyond the Frost, there might be one or two in there that aren't necessarily relevant to the overall plot, but hey, they're fun, so why not. Then, while I was reviewing The Edge of the Sphere for its eventual re-release (no date set yet), there was even a sex scene I'd completely forgotten about. OOPS.


So, those are my two categories I've discovered. Is one better than the other? No, of course not. Does one take more careful plotting than the other? Eh, possibly. Most writers have cut huge chunks of work out of their final product, and I'm no exception. As noted above, there's no right answer for when to include these scenes, or how many to put in, and so on. If it works, it works, and I try not to ask too many questions when it *does* work!

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!


Blurb:

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.


Excerpt:

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

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!) 

Friday, April 3, 2020

Makeover!

Some bandwagons I jump on. (Though I still haven't seen "Tiger King." But maybe soon.) Everyone else seemed to be giving their sites/blogs/whatever makeovers, and I figured it was time to do some updating here as well. Quite a bit of the previous version was a lot of placeholders and "eh, good enough," but I think this is much more reflective of my personal aesthetic. Whatever that may be.

I've been futzing around with the header for a while and I'm still mulling it over. I may still tweak it a bit, but it'll be close to what's up now. (Or I may stick with my usual "eh, good enough.")

I also debated for quite a while about whether to keep the dark text on a light background or make the switch to the reverse. Ultimately, I like the light-on-dark better, but it became apparent that that affects the legibility of some past posts, as I manually changed the text color for things like blurbs and excerpts. As of right now, I'm going to make that sacrifice, but who knows—I may just eventually get bored enough that I go back through and fix it.

Everything else is basically the same, and of course, there's a new sidebar over there. I'll probably play around with it a little more here and there, but for now, I like it, and I hope you do too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Promo - Shade Addiction, by Lea Bronsen

New York is on lockdown, as are many other parts of the world, so rather than freaking out nonstop, I'm choosing to take this to mean NO EXCUSES FOR NOT READING BOOKS. Especially wild rides like Shade Addiction, by Lea Bronsen. You know the drill—keep reading for the blurb, buy links, and a tantalizing excerpt.

Blurb:
Ex-boxer Mike Logan struggles to put a brutal past behind and make ends meet as a bus driver. When a young runaway settles for an all-night ride, he seizes the chance to do a good deed—get her home safely. But first, they’ll drive around and talk.

What he doesn’t anticipate is that this broken night angel is also a sexy little minx needing a lot more…and not just the gentle kind.

(This is an expanded edition of the story previously featured in the anthology Passion, Pleasure, Pain in 2019)


Excerpt:
She gives me a long, languorous look. I think I know what it means: She’s interested by my wild side. Dark attracts dark. She believes she’s found the same kind of fallen angel as she is, a soul mate.

Wrong, kiddo. What you need is someone good, not broken like me.

She reaches over the table to pat my chest. “So hard. Jesus. You definitely work out.”

Her touch sends electric sparks to my groin. My cock pulses. I push her hand away. “Don’t do that.”

“Why?”

“It’s inappropriate.”

“Why?”

I sigh. “I’m thirty-two, you’re what?”

“Nineteen.”

“Nineteen, that’s very young. I could easily be accused of taking advantage of you. Did you see how the waitress treated me?”

She crosses her arms underneath her boobs. “But I’m an adult, and I have boyfriends.”

“You have boyfriends.”

“Yeah.”

“Like, many?”

“Yeah.” She holds my gaze.

I don’t know why I had to make a deal of that.

She continues, “So, it’s not like I’d let anybody touch me if I didn’t want them to.”

“Well, I don’t want you to touch me. Let’s go.” 




Available from



Universal buy link

Put the book on your to-read shelf on Goodreads
 



About the Author:



Lea Bronsen likes her reads hot, fast, and edgy, and strives to give her own stories the same intensity. After a deep dive on the unforgiving world of gangsters with her debut novel Wild Hearted, she divides her writing time between romantic suspenses, dark erotic romances, and crime thrillers.



Meet Lea Bronsen on