Review Excerpts


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




Saturday, March 21, 2020

Done With a Capital E

As we're all aware of, the world is a crazy place right now. I waffle back and forth between "this will eventually blow over, most people will be fine" and...well, the opposite. Somewhere in all of this, I did, in fact, finish up Hunting Astrid earlier today. I actually have no idea how, since most nights after the kids are in bed, I've been catching up with the news and trying to keep calm and often landing somewhere in a field of "mentally checked out/rather numb." Like the basic bitch I am, I literally can't even right now. But it got done, so I'm not going to question it.

I still need to proof/edit, and write the blurbs (UGH), and all that other fun stuff before sending it off. That, too, will get done. I guess maybe a part of me subconsciously realizes that now, more than ever, perhaps, we need art to keep us sane and human, and I can do my part to contribute to that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not overstating my skills here—this book is in no way a literary masterpiece, but there's nothing wrong with quick and fun. We might even prefer stuff in the "quick and fun" category right now.

And fun it is. I still like the characters, I thoroughly enjoyed writing the plot, and I tossed in an emotional moment near the end because why the hell not. Again, it may not be the most gripping or poignant book I've ever written, but it accomplishes what I set out to do. For those keeping track, my original word count estimate was "around 22K, definitely more than 20K, probably less than 25K" (yes, I copy/pasted that), and before any sort of editing, I came in juuuust under 21K. Close enough. Firmly a novella, which is where I wind up most often.

So...done. Now I'll go to my very neglected reading list, work on crocheting a baby gift that must be finished by September, and maybe finally get around to finishing up Life is Strange 2. The wheels are already turning for my next project, of course, but I might wait until things settle down a little bit. Or not. Who knows. Nothing is set in stone for the coming days, so let's all just do what we need to do to get by and stay safe!

*This title is from an episode of Mythbusters where they were testing something (I don't remember what) in a laundromat, and the old-school digital screens displayed "donE" at the end of a cycle, prompting one of them to say "Done with a capital E!" I was watching with my college roommates, and we all thought that was hilarious and repeated it frequently throughout the rest of the year whenever we finished something. And now I'm realizing that that was almost 15 years ago and I am OLD.
**Now I'm kind of wondering if I've used this title for a similar blog post in the past, but I'm too lazy to go back and check. Just more evidence that I am now OLD.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Beat Goes On

When last we left off, I posted something about how I was moving right along on Hunting Astrid and should finish it up relatively quickly unless a meteor struck. (Paraphrasing here.) Well, the meteor did, in fact, strike, and I'm not just referring to whatever plague-ridden dystopia we're living in right now.

Usually it's me with all the issues, but unfortunately, a few days after my last post, my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer. It pretty much came out of nowhere—one week she was fine, and the next, she really wasn't. Obviously, we're all devastated. I've been railing against the universe about how unfair this all is, and I'll spare you all my rantings, though rest assured, there have been many. While the head oncologist doesn't like putting specific time frames on these things, the prognosis isn't good. Or, as he put it, this doesn't get cured, this just gets treated.

But. While there were tons of tears, then came anger and determination. The aforementioned meeting with the head oncologist came about four days into her chemo and radiation, and what do you know, she started really responding to treatment the very next day. We've always said that sadness doesn't accomplish much, but anger gets shit done. She said she needs to have goals, including going on all our planned vacations, and I said even if she needs an aide to come along, let's fucking do it. It's probably going to be a terrible year, but we're going to try our hardest to make sure there are some good moments in there, too.

I forget exactly what we were talking about when I was visiting her last weekend (before her rehab facility went on lockdown due to Covid-19), but she did tell me that life has to go on. And she's right, it does. It's still a horrible situation all around and I can find nothing good to say about it, but we have to keep on going.

Not long after that, I finally reopened MS Word, after it had been sitting neglected for a couple weeks. It took some time, but I eventually built up some momentum again. I think I can probably get this book done by the end of the month and be happy with the results. If nothing else, I know my mom has always been tickled by the fact that I write trashy romance as a hobby (she's read a couple of my books, but I've held firm that WE WILL NOT BE DISCUSSING THEM, EVER, NO REALLY, THAT CONVERSATION IS NOT HAPPENING), so that should be another reason to keep forging ahead. I don't think lesbian sci-fi is quite her cup of tea, but in case it wasn't blatantly clear with my all caps, if she reads it anyway, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW.

So that's what's been going on here. I keep saying it's not the tip of the iceberg, it's more like the base of the iceberg, as it's the biggest, most inescapable problem, and there's been plenty more piling on top of it. Stress levels are high, the world is a shitshow, but life does go on. And this book will hopefully be finished soon, dammit. Because persistence and determination run in the family.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Momentum

The tonsils are out, and while I've had my ups and downs this past week, it's not the worst. Not particularly fun, but not the worst. So! Since I'm not completely miserable and I have passed off most of the care of my children to other adults, I've actually gotten quite a bit of writing done. Yay me.

When I last blogged, I predicted Hunting Astrid would go eight chapters (or so). I debated whether or not to split one chapter into two, and ultimately did so, so it does look like I'll wind up with eight, plus a short epilogue. I finished Chapter Six today, but the next two will be long, so don't expect a finished draft any time soon. For total word count, I'm predicting...let's say around 22K. Definitely more than 20K, probably less than 25K. Either way, it'll be a cute, fun little novella that didn't take me a ton of time, assuming I don't get struck by a meteor or something in the next few weeks. Another win.

I'm still patting myself on the back for deciding to work on this project and shelve Sonata for Springtime for the time being. 4th Quarter royalty statements just came out, and while I admit I still don't know all the ins and outs of the Kindle Unlimited program, Fire Beyond the Frost did do well, I'm happy to report. At least better than a lot of my other books upon release. KU tracks pages read instead of books as a whole, and if I did my math right (which I TOTALLY might not have), it translates into a triple-digit number of readers. Or, for all I know, one or two people who liked it so much they read it a bunch of times. As someone who is far from a world-famous author with a huge following, I'll take it.

I'd suspected for a while that the more specific your categories/genres/niches/whatever you want to call it, the more successful a book will be. (Unless you're really savvy with your keywords and marketing, which I am not.) We'll see if I can keep the momentum going with Hunting Astrid, and if lesbian sci-fi romance turns out to be my true, yet somewhat specific, calling, so be it. I'm not saying I'll never write in another genre again, because I know that won't be the case, but for now, we'll see where this path takes me. Either way, I'm finally writing like crazy for the first time in years, and if I'm having fun, I'm hoping readers will, too.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

New Project, and a New Year, Part the Next

Happy New Year! Writing-wise, 2020 is off to a great start. Before we get to January, I'll follow up a bit from my last post to provide some general advice to anyone who may want/need it: Remember how I'd considered bringing a notebook with me to Disney World juuuuust in case there might be a few spare minutes to write? Ha. Hahahahaha. HA. Yeah, no. Disney is crazy on its own, and as the Official Organizer of this trip, who had to keep track of everything including two 4-year-olds and two 70-year-olds...I didn't even open the book I brought to read, either. But although we got zero down time and my darling children refused to sleep in any buses or airplanes, we had a fantastic time. Which we can probably do all over again in another two to three years....

For the Disney uninitiated, if you want to get the most popular meal reservations, you need to get up at 6:00 a.m. EST 180 days before the first day of your trip to book them all. Since the Be Our Guest restaurant is the only place to meet the Beast, that's a popular one. Yeah, I didn't care what the rest of my family did, I was the one who got up before 6:00 that day, I was getting a picture with the Beast, dammit.

Now onto writing. The new project, which has been titled (and officially tagged here as) Hunting Astrid, is still going well. Honestly, this is probably some of the fastest writing I've done in years. Maybe not necessarily the best, but it's something. If nothing else, at least it's a great baseline/first draft I can always clean up later, right?

I just finished up Chapter Three, and as of right now, I'm predicting around eight...ish? That's the other thing about this project—I'm definitely pants-ing more than plotting this time out, and THAT'S OKAY. My two main characters still have placeholders instead of last names. SO WHAT? I still haven't worked out 100% of the issues I worried about at the time of my last blog post. I'LL FIGURE IT OUT SOON ENOUGH. I've been working to getting back to these writing habits for a long time, and while I'll always have bouts of overthinking things, at least it feels more effortless. I'm hoping to keep it up.

One more not totally writing-related point before I sign off: After dealing with recurring issues for the past six months, it's been decided that my tonsils are coming out sometime in February. Yes, we're all aware that, in my mid-30s, I'm practically ancient in the tonsillectomy world, but it's got to get done. (I'm about ready to reach in and rip them out myself.) I've been told that the older you are, the worse the recovery is, and the ENT told me to prepare for at least two weeks of that. In a perfect world, I'd be able to use some of that time off to write, but we'll see. I'm just hoping I won't be zonked out on the couch for two straight weeks and can at least catch up with some knitting and Netflix.