Balancing Act: Wire Walking for Writers

I am, by far, not the most coordinated gal. I have a tendency to take on too much, get overwhelmed, and find it impossible to accomplish anything. Back in May, I tried the “sticker thing,” where you assign a task/goal to a sticker and then you get a sticker for doing it. Easy, right?

I promised myself a red star for every thousand words written, a orange star for 500, and a yellow start for going to the gym.

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11.5k in two weeks isn’t half bad. Over all, I wrote over 20k, which isn’t NaNoWriMo level word counts, but I was impressed with myself. There’s even a 2k day on there! I advanced the WIP from 15k to 40K. I wish I still had a photo of the completed month, but alas, it is gone.

Sadly, June went up in smoke. I didn’t follow the star pattern, even though I really enjoyed doing it and I liked how glittery my day planner was. The WIP hit a wall and I couldn’t see my way around, through, or over it. If you read my Whatcha Reading post, you know my creative well ran dry and I was effectively beached. In fact, in a moment of self-doubt, I quit. Forever lasted about six days this times, but I was spent.

I bought a new planner, and I swore up and down that I’d try again. And would you look a that:

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So sparkly.

If you can’t read the guide, the red stars are 500 words, the yellow are gym days, and the orange is two chapters edited. Part of my learning to balance is making time to write AND revise. If I hit 500 words, I’d switch and edit. Two chapters down, and (if time) I’d go back to writing.

As you can see, I work a varied schedule at The Day Job, running anywhere from 6am to 11pm. Some days, it’s difficult to find time, and clearly, I didn’t write every day. I feel like “not finding time” is a poor excuse, but remember what I said about being overwhelmed? It doesn’t help when your Day Job involves dealing with the public. I find people draining, especially when my work week is 4+ days long. I can’t always find time in between to recharge, and that effects everything else.

In the interim, I’ve been dealing with my autoimmune disorder and an unfortunate allergic reaction to one of the medications. Being itchy for three weeks was not really what I wanted. Being sick is also very tiring, and I often feel limited when my symptoms flare. I want to use that “sick time” to write, catch up on blog posts, but 9 times out of 10, it’s me watching YouTube tutorials and contemplating peeling my skin off with a potato slicer.

In assigning “tasks” to stars, I felt more in control of what I could manage and when, and damn is it nice to see what I’ve accomplished. Writing is kinda of like exercise in that you don’t necessarily see your progress because you’re staring at yourself the whole time. The stars let me step back and gain a different view.

They also told me I need to hit the gym more.

I wrote 13.5k this month, with a 2.5k day in which I finished the draft. It’s now tucked away, resting. In a little less than two weeks, I did the first revision pass on my YA. While that, too, gains some space, I’m picking at a new idea, code name: Black Magic Book, and going back for another round of revision on my adult novel.

I feel balanced, which is something I haven’t felt since I started multiple projects. Learning to write and edit is step one. I’m not particularly fast regarding either task, and that’s perfectly fine. At the moment, I have to space and time to work at my own pace. No deadlines (unless it’s a review or something for one of the two sites I freelance for), no pressure except that I place on myself.

The big lesson is that I really do need to be nicer to me. Take myself out for a chai and relax and pick away at a new book or an old chapter. Don’t berate myself for being run down, but replenish my energy.

Finally watch Deadpool five months later.

Hopefully, I stay on the high-wire. My goal is to get ahead with a couple of blog posts, some LONG over due, prepare to take the YA out for querying (which I’d intended to start in May and the LIFE happened), and maybe even rack up a couple of scripts for my poorly treated podcast. Research is another thing I need to make time for.

My tendency to jump into things isn’t always rewarded.

And with this, that’s one blue star for me, and we sally forth into August.

…How the hell is it August?

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Whatcha Reading? June/July 2016

Well, I sure fell off on these, didn’t I? June was an exceptionally trying month, reading-wise.

I started with Alison Goodman’s The Dark Days Club, which my friends had all told me was excellent.

They were not wrong. It was great.

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I don’t often read Regency-era novels, but this one is true to period, also mentions Lord Byron (whom I love), and presents a unique “superhuman” circumstance in giving super strength and the power to stop monsters to a titled society lady. Helen’s reluctance to accept her gift warring with thoughts of “Lord Carlston’s lips” was a fairly compelling story line. Goodman balances the era’s perception of women with opened-minded characters who encourage Helen to embrace her strengths. I really enjoyed this one, and I’m looking forward to book two!

Unfortunately, June took a deep nose-dive when I received an ARC of Arsenic with Austen for review. I believe in reading outside your comfort zone; though I’m not a big fan of the cosy genre, I thought this one had potential, and I was sort of hoping the title was an allusion to the debate on whether or not Austen died as a result of an overdose of arsenic. You know medicines in those days weren’t exactly… helpful.

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This book began decently and quickly dissolved into a massive train wreck. Set in 2013, Emily, a professor at Reed College in Portland, receives word that her great aunt has died. Okay. She’s left an inheritance. Okay. It turns out to her aunt’s estate, $6 million dollars, and half the town of Stony Beach. Okay.

Except the lawyer mailed the death notice to the college and if she “hadn’t checked her box, she might have gotten it next fall!” No. That’s not how that works. Emily has a peculiar habit of verbally speaking to her late husband’s ghost, like, in actual questions she’s mentally answering for him. Oh, and my favorite: the unrequited teenage romance she dare not think of, but mentions every five minutes. The writing is poor, coupled with what I assume were supposed to be “humorous” quips regarding how Emily’s aunt drilled proper grammar and diction into her from a young age. The author also makes a point to call out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, not as retelling of Austen she didn’t care for, but for being a work she can’t fathom being published by a serious house, let alone how the indie and self pub works make it into proper bookstores.

Here’s a tip: maybe don’t insult indie and self pub people. The road is different for everyone. Don’t knock someone because they didn’t take the same path you did. Did I like P+P+Z? No, I don’t begrudge it being in Barnes and Noble. There’s no reason to kick someone else, especially when your work is also flawed.

Aside from the eye-roll worthy dialogue, there’s no actual plot. Whole chapters pass by in which Emily is actually taking a survey of the townspeople asking how they feel about increasing the tourist trade; of course, the mayor and a seedy vampire-esque realtor are totally trying to get Emily to sell, to the point where they may have murdered her aunt.

Yeah, no. The author needed to do more research on how dead bodies work and how to investigate a crime.

No one dies from “acute gastroenteritis.” If your housekeeper breaks her neck falling down the basement stairs twelve hours before you return, you won’t smell blood and rotting flesh. In fact, you won’t smell blood unless someone bleeds out, which breaking your neck does not cause.

Most importantly, real police don’t watch episode of tv shows wherein the guy you suspect murdered your aunt played a murderer to “see how he did.” What? And for some reason, Emily doesn’t know what Netflix is. Okay. My mother is also 51, and SHE knows what Netflix is.

It’s also not a murder “mystery” if all of your “suspects” turn out to be involved in the murder.

The unfortunate consequence of this book was that my well ran dry. I struggled to come up with something decent to say, ended up profiling the book, and scrabbled around trying to replenish myself. Bad books are draining.

I picked up Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful as my reward for completing that daunting task.

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Leanna is a dear friend of mine, and this book is actually a re-release of her first two novels, The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker and The Darkly Luminous Fight for Persephone Parker. I’ve long been a fan of Leanna’s work, having come aboard with Darker Still. Hot guys trapped in portraits and needing rescuing by daydreaming heroines? Yes, please!

Strangely Beautiful was an interesting read, like the X-Men, but with ghosts. I really like the Guard, especially Elijah. It wasn’t so much the story that got me as seeing the progression in Leanna’s writing. It’s clearly her voice, her signature level of detail (especially regarding dresses!), and her flow, but it’s a rare opportunity to get to go back and see where she started, and since I was having difficulty regaining my own voice, it was a tremendous comfort and help. Plus, the image of Hades/Death unhinging his jaw and vomiting pomegrante is both horrific and delightful.

Following that, I got the chance to read Leanna’s next Eterna Files book, Eterna and Omega, before its August 9th release!

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Leanna gets the best covers. I read this book in three days and it only took me that long because I had to attend The Day Job. I even brought it with me to the gym. I wrote a review for Eterna and Omega for Criminal Element, so when that’s up, I’ll cross post it here.

If it wasn’t painfully obvious, I loved this book and I love this series. It needed more Lavinia, but that’s a personal issue and not one having to do with the book. The great thing about being a book reviewer is getting to read things before they come out. The bad thing about being a book reviewer is than having to wait until NEXT August for book three, which Leanna is still writing. Oh well.

So that’s it! Giant post, three good books, one book I deeply regret. On the slate for August is an ARC of Whispers Beyond the Veil, and my poor attempts to shuffle through my TBR.

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Whatcha Reading: May 2016

May was a bit of a wash. I read two really great books, most of a book that just didn’t do it for me, and got 15 pages into another before I quit due to overwhelming interior design. I’ve debating talking about the books I didn’t enjoy. I feel… guilty… when people rave and I find it just wasn’t for me. I also know that’s silly. Reading is as subjective as writing. So let’s start with the ones I loved.

WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT by April Tucholke

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Occasionally, I wonder how I’ve acquired my peculiar and wonderful set of friends and I’m always baffled by April’s work. She’s such a vivid storyteller and everything she writes has a distinctly modern Gothic vibe to it. It’s like catnip to me. WINK, POPPY, MIDNIGHT is a short read, but damn did April pack in everything I’ve come to love from her work and then some.

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

I can’t wait to see what she does next. We have plans for a midnight tea party and séance in the future.

STRIKE by Delilah S. Dawson

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I really enjoyed HIT, the precursor to STRIKE, and I was hoping reading a more action-based book would help me on my quest to write an action-based book. Though I didn’t enjoy it as much I did HIT, STRIKE had the same snarky teenage humor and it’s kinda gratifying to read a book set in places you frequent. Delilah and I live in the same town, and this book is based locally, so it was kinda cool.

As for the other two…

I don’t want to name names. I don’t really want these things to be reviews per say. The first book I was really excited about. It’s a retelling of an old pirate story, and while it started out fine, I found it extremely slow and unfortunately tropey. The multiple POVs felt unnecessary and detracted from the story, and the plot was extremely obvious. I made it 90% through, leaving two chapters unread. Why? Because I didn’t care enough to find out what happened. I read that far hoping it would pick up, but alas…

The last book wasn’t so much a story issue as a design issue. I’ve learned a lesson in that I need to look at the interior of books before I buy them. This book I’ve heard rave reviews over, and I was excited to pick it up. Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life for those of us who’ve studied designed that over-designing ruins your life. This book is formatted to look like a journal, with sticky notes (printed, of course), different “handwriting,” medical logs, etc.

A LOT of money was sunk into its production.

Unfortunately, that leaves it basically unreadable for me. I don’t like “noise” when I’m trying to get into a story. I made it 15 pages before I developed a headache. It was just too overwhelming. I know some people love that, but it isn’t for me. I might check out the eBook and see if that’s a better solution for me, but sadly the physical copy is too overdone for me to focus.

Both of these books are in the donation pile.

So, what’s on the slate for June? I’ve finally start THE DARK DAYS CLUB by Alison Goodman. So many of my friends recommended this one, and I have to say so far it’s pretty good. I’m only 50 pages in, but I’m enjoying it so far. I’m very very slowly chipping away at the dreaded TBR pile.

What have you read this month?

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Whatcha Reading? April 2016

I surprised myself by still managing to read three books this month despite traveling. Philadelphia was absolutely amazing, and as I predicted last month, I stepped into the Mütter Museum and immediately teared up.

DR. MÜTTER’S MARVELS by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

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This book is amazing. I picked it up on a whim a year or so ago without really knowing what it was about. I expected a sort of biographical read about medicine and history, but what I got was an immersive exploration about not only Dr. Mütter’s life, but the lives of many of the professors and doctors at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia.

And yes, at the end, when Mütter meets his untimely death (hey, it’s not a spoiler considering he’s long dead at this point), I sobbed. It’s all so unfair.

Stepping into what he essentially bullied the College of Physicians of Philadelphia to construct to house his collection was an astonishing moment. Though it’s not the original building, the fact that I was looking at specimens and wax casts that have survived two hundred years was breathtaking. Yes, I assume some find them gross and disturbing, but I wanted nothing more than to sit and sketch all the skulls and figures and instruments.

If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a medical history fanatic. An enthusiast.

Wicked Ever After by Delilah S. Dawson

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While on the plane, I began (and finished) the final book in Delilah S. Dawson’s Blud series. Wicked Ever After catches back up with Trish and Criminy, and includes a tale of love, loss, betrayal, learning to let go, and of course, really hot blood-drinking vampire magicians.

It’s a bit bittersweet. I met Delilah just before Wicked as They Come launched (in fact, I was the fire dancer at her launch party). Seeing the series come full-circle has been a neat experience. This one is eBook only, and I miss not having one for my shelf, but I did enjoy the ride.

The Cormorant by Chuck Wendig

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Have I mentioned how much I love the Miriam Black series?

Another great, fast-paced read. I’m attempting to get more action-oriented books in my head in the hopes it’ll help me write action. I’m more of an atmosphere gal, so the fact that my WIP has three fight scenes in five chapters is throwing me a bit.

But a challenge is good, right?

Miriam kicks ass and takes names. I love the back and forth, past and present storytelling aspect of this book. I love how everything ties together. I did have a moment of confusion because it’s been a while since I’ve read Blackbirds, but I caught up quickly enough. Good stuff, this one. Unfortunately, I have no idea when The Thunderbird is coming out, which I believe is the last book.

 

I’m starting May with Delilah S. Dawson’s Strike (the sequel to Hit) and an absolute determination to carve through my TBR before buying more books. Which, of course, is exactly what I did in Philly. But I only bought one.

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Whatcha Reading? March 2016

Truth be told, I didn’t read as much as I wanted to this month. Work kept from words (but money means I can buy more books!), but I did enjoy what I devoured.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.

Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her ‘proper adventure’.

But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.

I’ve had this book for a while (and it’s sequel I bought the day it came out), but I finally gave in and read this on the insistence of a friend. I’m not usually one for fantasy, but parallel words, working magic, smugglers and thieves? Yes, please.

I loved it. Couldn’t put it down. I was lucky enough to meet Victoria a couple months ago at a book event, and she’s pretty freaking awesome as a person in addition to boasting one of the finest talents for world-building, voice, and basically everything. She’s got the Word Magic.

One of my favorite literary things is the combination of magic and science. This is more in the realm of physics than my medical tendancies dictate, but I love that the parallel worlds make sense within their own existence and within the connections to each other.

So it should come as no surprise to you that the next book I read was the next in the series.

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A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

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Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

Can we talk about the cover art for a minute? I love them. So graphic, so simplistic, so impactful.

This round I loved how detailed Red London (and the world outside it) is. I loved the inclusion of other cultures, the different dynamics in the magic system (in use and in belief), and again–couldn’t put it down.

I texted said friend the day I finished it, equally elated, pissed, and a shade jealous. It’s going to be a long year until book 3, but damn, am I looking forward to it.

Barnes and Noble

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

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I read the first Miriam Black book, Blackbirds, a year or two ago, and I absolutely loved it. I generally don’t go for first-person present, but Wendig is fast-paced, hard-hitting, and Miriam is a straight up badass chick.

Occasionally, I don’t know why it takes me SO LONG to continue in a series I enjoy. Also, more fucking gorgeous cover art. Damn. I picked up books 2 and 3 (The Cormorant) on sale.

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

But this whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going for her just isn’t working out. She lives on Long Beach Island all year around. Her home is a run-down double-wide trailer. She works at a grocery store as a check-out girl. And her relationship with Louis–who’s on the road half the time in his truck–is subject to the piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

It just isn’t going well. Still, she’s keeping her psychic ability–to see when and how someone is going to die just by touching them–in check. But even that feels wrong somehow. Like she’s keeping a tornado stoppered up in a tiny bottle.

Then comes one bad day that turns it all on her ear.

I had a moment of sympathy when this one started with Miriam as a checkstand clerk. Boy, do I know THAT life. And I’ve dreamed many a day (and night) of doing exactly what Miriam does: saying Fuck You and walking away.

But Miriam has bigger fish to fry when she stumbles into the future victim of a serial killer, and well… Miriam just has to change fate. Again.

I’m eager to see where this series goes. I already have the next book, and I’m eager to get started.

Barnes and Noble

I ended March by picking up Doctor Mutter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz. I wanted a change of pace from fiction, and I’m paying a visit to the Mutter Museum in mid-April, so I wanted to properly fangirl. If you’ve been here for any amount of time, you know I’m obsessed with medical history, specifically late 1700 to early 1900. Those Victorians, I tell you what.

I’m really, really enjoying it. In fact, I might just be a little in love with Thomas Dent Mutter.

Between The Grand Philadelphia Adventure and The Day Job, I’m not sure how much I’ll manage in April, but I’m so looking forward to vacation and unwinding.

What did you read this month?

Until next time,

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Pride+Prejudice+Zombies: A Review

Jane Austen and I have always had a tumultuous relationship. I’ve never liked Pride and Prejudice (not the first time I read it, not the second). Actually, I prefer Sense and Sensibility, but in general, my feelings about Jane Austen’s work reflect her feelings about the Bronte sisters’ work: she didn’t dig it.

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of throwing zombies into the mix either, but what can you do? I didn’t read that version, either, but I did take my little sister to see the movie over Valentine’s Day Weekend. If there’s one thing I can get behind, it’s celebrating a holiday I don’t care about with a movie about killing the undead.

Pride+Prejudice+Zombies was as hilariously horrible as I expected it to be. Men and women are sent to China (for the poor) or Japan (for the elite) to learn to the art of fighting and combat. The costumes were lovely, the scenery perfect. Point: at least Jane, Lizzie, and the other girls wore respectable (if not entirely historically accurate) clothing. There was a shade too much decolletage, but what did I expect? At least they stuck to full-length dresses and not skimpy “battle attire.”Plus, the knife holsters were an excellent addition.

The storyline was not what I expected. It’s vaguely like Austen’s novel, and Lizzie still gets to be the snarky delight she is, but they didn’t really develop the other characters. I’m not sure if they were relying on viewers having read the original zombie-free version. There was also a glaring lack of transition. The narrative bounced back and forth like a loose brain. The casting was hit-and-miss: Matt Smith was an excellent and thoroughly annoying Mr. Collins, Lily James was a great Lizzie Bennett. I wanted Lady Catherine (Lena Headey) to be a villain, but she was not. I had been convinced she had a legion of zombies set to keep Lizzie and Darcy apart.

Jack Huston was the BEST Wickham I’ve seen. Well, the best version of Wickham.

And I know this is going to be shallow, but I felt that Darcy could have been… more handsome. Bingely was super pretty. Darcy… meh. Maybe it was the styling. I liked him way more as the crow-man in Maleficent.

I do feel like they gave us an homage to the BBC version, starring Collin Firth, as this Darcy also has a dramatic swan-dive into a pond, from which he rises in a dripping puffy shirt. I might have cackled in the middle of the theater. Okay, I did.

Darcy confessing his “inappropriate” and “horrifying” feelings for Elizabeth was definitely improved matching verbal sparring with a literal knife fight. It was probably my favorite moment in the whole thing.

The highlight of the film was how well they maintained Lizzie’s character. I might not like Pride and Prejudice, but I’ve always appreciated Elizabeth’s steadfastness and confidence in herself. The addition of zombies only allowed her to be stronger. Counterbalancing Darcy’s earlier… demand that Lizzie marry him, at the end, he asks not for her to be his wife, but if she’d allow him to be her husband.

Alright, maybe that was my favorite part of the movie.

I’m a bit upset I paid so much to see it in theaters, but my sister enjoyed it, so it was worth the cost. If you missed it on the big screen, well, you didn’t miss much. I’d wait to rent it. A dollar feels like a more reasonable price.

What did you think? More over, what do you think Jane Austen would think

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Whatcha Reading? February 2016

I’m sure I’ll think of a better name for these posts at some point, but I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about the books I’ve read each month. I know people are always looking for things to read (I know I am), and while reviews are great and incredibly important to authors, I’d be here forever if I did an in-depth review on everything. Instead, here’s a brief tour of February’s books!

Finding Center by Katherine Locke

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I’ve never really been one for romance, but I absolutely adore Katherine Locke’s District Ballet Company series. I read Turning Pointe and Finding Center when they first released, and though I’d pre-ordered Finding Center, I didn’t get around to reading it until now. Sometimes I forget I have an eReader and even more books to go through.

The romance is flavoring on top of book devoted to portraying mental illness, therapy, and recovery in a positive light. It’s an incredibly accurate depiction, and the writing is gorgeous.

Zed and ballet are my two greatest loves

It took all of Aly’s strength to get them back after a tragic accident ripped them from her six years ago. A long road to recovery led to her return, dancing full-time for the District Ballet Company and carrying Zed’s child. But Aly is slipping. Each day becomes a fight to keep her career from crumbling under the weight of younger talent, the scrutiny of the public eye and the limitations of her ever-changing body. A fight she fears she’s losing.

I’m scared Aly is broken to her core

Zed recognizes the signs, but he doesn’t know how to fix her. The accident left him with his own demons, and while he wants nothing more than to take care of the woman he loves, it’s getting harder the farther downward she spirals. When Aly’s life is threatened and Zed’s injuries prevent him from saving her, he’s never felt so useless, so afraid he’s not capable of being the man Aly and their child needs.

With new life comes new hope. And with their fractured lives already hanging by a thread, Aly and Zed must discover if they have what it takes—both together and apart—to rebuild and carry on.

The prequel novella, Turning Pointe, is free if you want to check it out, which you do.

Second Line and Chasing Ghosts by Kira Butler

These two short stories are part of Kira’s Short Fictions and Curiosities series. I enjoy serialized fiction, and there’s a new story posted every month, for FREE.

Chasing Ghosts was essentially a dash through a time-capsual manor, where everything was left in media res. Second Line was a beautiful ghost story set against Katrina-ravenged New Orleans. I enjoyed both very much, and I can’t wait to read what’s up next.

The Damsel and the Daggerman by Delilah S. Dawson

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Remember when I said I sometimes forget I have an eReader? It’s always a nice surprise to find a Blud book I haven’t read.

Bad boy knife-thrower Marco Taresque is the hottest and most dangerous performer in the caravan. He keeps to himself until a pesky female journalist arrives, anxious to interview him about his checkered past—his last assistant disappeared under mysterious and bloody circumstances, earning him the nickname “The Deadly Daggerman.”

Unsinkable journalist and adventurer Jacinda Harville doesn’t take no for an answer, and she’s determined to wear down Marco no matter how threatening—or incredibly desirable—he might appear. He agrees to an interview—but only if she’ll let him strap her to a spinning table and throw knives at her body. How can she say no? And how can she resist him when he leans close for a kiss that strikes her more sharply than any blade? It’s the first time she’s let a man get the better of her, and she’s determined it will be the last…

Like all of Delilah’s Blud books, Damsel doesn’t disappoint. There’s a nice subversion of tropes, more caravan adventures, and some infuriating and sexy banter. Bonus: you don’t have to read any of the novellas in order.

Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen

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This one I wasn’t sure about. Weird West, much like romance, isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse. When I found I was on the Diversity in Weird West panel, I pulled Wake from my shelf so I wouldn’t feel like a total poser. Touted as Lonesome Dove meets Buffy, I was sure what to expect.

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound ability is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding — at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin… if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.

I should have expected an insanely intense ride. Nettie, a biracial, genderqueer bronc wrangler turned monster hunter, has an incredibly strong voice, and the pacing is phenominal. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book so quickly. Just go read it, okay? The sequel, Horde of Crows, comes out later this year, and I can’t wait.

The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude (ARC)

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If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen that I was commissioned to design eight character cards for this book. Though I spoke with Sarah about design, inspiration, and the personalities of her characters, I wasn’t going to get the chance to read it until May.

Until an ARC fell into my outstreched claws.

Stay on the roads. Don’t enter the woods. Never go out at night. 

Those are the rules in Rowan’s Glen, a remote farming community in the Missouri Ozarks where Ivy Templeton’s family has lived for centuries. It’s an old-fashioned way of life, full of superstition and traditions, and sixteen-year-old Ivy loves it. The other kids at school may think the Glen kids are weird, but Ivy doesn’t care—she has her cousin Heather as her best friend. The two girls share everything with each other—or so Ivy thinks. When Heather goes missing after a May Day celebration, Ivy discovers that both her best friend and her beloved hometown are as full of secrets as the woods that surround them.

The May Queen Murders, much like Wake of Vultures, blew me away. The setting echoes M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village, with plenty of twists and surprises along the way. I’m kinda of mad at myself for failing to puzzle out the mystery. Okay, I’m really mad at myself. It was great read, full of suspense and superstition, and it was so refreshing to see a Mexican-American main character. There’s plenty of diversity, and of course, my favorite–murder.

It’s available for pre-order, so get on it.

Follow @SarahEJude on Twitter to check out the character cards, and stay tuned to find out how you can get a set of your own.

And that’s it! That’s everything I’ve read in February. I think. This month is starting off with Cecilia Dominic’s The Mountain’s Shadow, and hopefully many more.

What did you read this month?

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AnachroCon 2016 Track Schedule!

I’m so thrilled to be back at AnachroCon this year, and I cannot WAIT to spend the weekend meeting new people and gushing about the things I love! If you want to see me, here’s my tracklisting for the weekend:

Friday:
3:00 p.m.: Spiritualism and Horror: Connections
5:00 p.m.: Horror Television: Penny Dreadful, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural
8:00 p.m.: Ghost Story Readings/Tellings

Saturday:
10:00 a.m.: Crimson Peak and the Gothic Horror Romance
11:00 a.m.: Stoker and Poe: Influences on Contemporary Fiction
3:00 p.m.: Magic, Miracles, and Medicine: Healing and Experimentation in Alternate History
4:00 p.m.: Diversity in the Weird West
5:00 p.m.: Research in Alternate History

If at any point this weekend you want to find me, 90% of the time I’ll be in Dunwoody 2, either sitting at the table or sitting in the audience. For the full schedule of events, including Victorian Astronomy, signings, and tea dueling, you can download the schedule here.

I’m so excited to be back, and I hope to see you there!

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Courting Casualties, Ep.9: A Brief History of Grave Robbing

Before being a doctor or surgeon was a respected trade, the need for cadavers for study created The Resurrection Men.

Play in iTunes

Courting Casualties is produced by me, Meghan Harker.

Since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with monsters, and that remains true today. I specialize in Victoriana, and I’m currently working on my own Gothic horror novel.

In the modern world, I’m the Horror Writer for GirlsInCapes.com, where I talk about horror in books, television, and film. I also write for CriminalElement.com, where I talk about American Horror Story and Hemlock Grove.

You can find me on twitter @ExquisitelyOdd, or on my website, ExquisitelyOdd.com. I’m also on Instagram at Meghan_Harker, where I post in-progress and completed artwork.

In case you were curious, I draw monsters, too.

The music in this episode is Vanes, composed by Kevin MacLeod and used under the Creative Commons license. If you enjoyed this show, please consider subscribing. Reviews are also appreciated.

Thank you for listening, and as always,

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I Have a Shop!

Do you like my artwork? Do you like cool stuff?

Now you can buy my artwork ON cool stuff!

I’ve opened a Society6, where you can find art prints, cell phone cases, and eventually other items. I’m both excited and terrified, but if you don’t challenge yourself to do the things that scary you, you’re not really living, right?

Click here to see the shop, or click SHOP in the menu bar.

I’ve got a couple of last year’s Drawlloween sketches up, a few of my Pinup Monster girls, and a couple cute Monster Girls. Swing by, leave a heart, share with your friends!

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