March 2018 : Goals

Ugh, February. It’s such a short, difficult month. I’m glad to see it go, but sad that I did not perform very well on my goals. The good news is I got a puppy, which always makes everything better.

Shadow the border collie mix is a loyal, curious, utterly devoted little sweetheart. He is currently sitting in my lap as I write this blog post. He has good balance and a particular ability to insert himself into laps unexpectedly.


Last month I over ambitiously thought I could do all this despite the distraction of that adorable puppy face:

  • DAUGHTER of FORTUNE REWRITE- HALF-CHECK? I got about halfway through this revision. I’ll plod on through it next month.
  • FORMATTING PROJECT- QUARTER-CHECK? It’s coming in slowly, in bits and pieces. It will also roll over into next month.
  • ALASKA ESSAYS-CHECK! The draft is now out for review with the principle players. The deadline for final revisions is March 20th, which means the project really should be drawing to a close by the end of March!
  • LIGHT AND SHADOW TWEAKS-HALF-CHECK: I got about halfway through this one, too.

I DID do a revision with Tamara on one of our Eden Reign projects (The Eighth Octave) and we prepped for publication for River Running. If you’d like to read more about that, head over to Eden Reign’s March goals blog.

Next month I’ll be playing catch up on everything that I did not finish this month.

March Goals:



Eden Reign’s River Running comes out March 6th. You can still pre-order!

RRfinalMASTER11.23.18 ebook




The Top Ten Books I read in 2017

I went into 2017 aiming to read diverse fiction books and non-fiction. I definitely read diverse books, though I failed to read many from earlier eras.

I also set out with the idea that I was going to use my reading as an escape. I’d been feeling pretty down at the end of 2016 after Election Day. My therapy for my disappointment was reading whatever I wanted during 2017.

Looking back over the books that really left an impression on me in 2017, it turns out most of them weren’t escape reads, though I did read quite a few I would consider as such.

As ever, my reading list is comprised of books I read in 2017, not necessarily books published in 2017. See my entire 2017 reading challenge here.

My stats:

Total books read: 103

Total pages: 36,334

Books by men: 36

Books by women: 63

Anthologies or co-authored works: 4

Fiction: 78

Non-fiction: 23

Poetry: 2

Indie-pubbed: 10

Books by minorities or people of color: 21

Books from 21st Century: 92

Books from 20th Century: 9

Books from other centuries: 2

My Top Ten, in no particular order:

1) The Moral Arc by Michael Shermer (2014): At its heart this is a hopeful book, and I read it at a time when I needed hope. I appreciated Shermer’s ambitious attempt to offer a philosophy of morality based in science and reason, although I do think at times he neglected to account for the darker angels of our nature in favor of focusing on the better ones.

2) Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011, 2014): In a year when “science” faced political and popular opposition, Sapiens stood out as a proudly scientific book full of interesting information about the history of Homo sapiens. I appreciated the information, but not always the tone of this book, which sometimes slipped into somewhat dismissive or over-generalized musings. That said, the profound and thought-provoking examination of the human species was worth the irritation. I also read the next book by this author, Homo Deus, in which he tries to predict the future of humanity, but I think he was at his best when firmly grounded in evidence, without so much speculation.

3) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016): One reason I love fiction is how a story unfolds on so many levels. This book is a beautiful example of layers—layers of time and history and memory and experience and how they come together to create a character’s story. This was one of those precious books in which the total effect was more than the sum of its parts. I don’t rank this list, but if I did, Homegoing would be in the spot of #1 for my 2017 reads.

4) The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: After the self-important voices of The Moral Arc and Sapiens, The Hidden Life of Trees offered a delightful alternative in my non-fiction science reading. This was a book of passion, written by a forester with a profound relationship with his trees. I found myself utterly caught up in his joy and excitement as I read about the fascinating lives of trees. A breath of fresh air!

5) Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2014): This book came highly recommended, but I was a little worried about reading it. I was already feeling a little bruised and battered by trying to talk about racism in America with what I’ll call racism “deniers.” I feared reading this book would only make me sadder. However, Just Mercy armed me with more concrete information, which is always helpful. I read this back-to-back with Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning. The two books taken together provided me with a deeper understanding of America’s enduring shame.

6) Missoula by Jon Krakauer (2105): I’ll read anything by Jon Krakauer. I appreciate his accessible approach and his genuine curiosity as he examines diverse topics. In the case of Missoula, I did fear the heavy subject matter (rape) was likely to depress me again in a social climate exploding with the misogyny that led to 2017’s #metoo scandals. But Krakauer did a fine job with this book, using a specific case of one city to show problems in how we attempt to deal with rape in our culture. I was a little startled that he his posited himself as unaware of the magnitude of this problem, but if one thing has come out of 2017’s turmoil, I’d hope it’s that no one is left unaware that one in four women experience sexual assault in their lifetime.

7) The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (2015): This was a fun read that blended the best of fantasy and Regency romance. I picked it up on a lark at the library because I liked the cover, and it turned out to be one of those books I simply couldn’t put down, right on through the next book in the series and a related novella. I look forward to the third installment.

8) An Ember in the Ashes/A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (2016, 2017): This is the unfinished fantasy series keeping me on tenterhooks, supplanting Games of Thrones and The Name of the Wind as the top “next installment” that I will devour in one night when it finally is released. Ember in the Ashes has it all: an exciting story, deep world-building, juicy intrigues, epic familial drama, diverse and dimensional characters, and a slow-burning romance with a love triangle. The only trouble is the release date for Book Three keeps getting moved further out…Sabaa, please. Stop listening to all that music and get that book written!

9) His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet (2015): This was another serendipitous find at the library, a random book I picked out for no particular reason except that I felt like reading a historical novel with a touch of mystery. I found a well-written mind-bender of a story that held me captive from start to finish. Thought-provoking, chilling, and intense, it transported me back in time in the same way Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood did, years ago.

10) We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2017): Ta-Nehisi Coates does not write to make you feel comfortable or hopeful, nor to provide solutions. But he’s a thoughtful writer, concerned with exposing the interior of his mind in the most precise way he can. I appreciate his embrace of the essay form and his painstaking explication of his thought process and his experience, and how the personal relates to the political in understanding racism in America. Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates asks you to listen in the deep way that only reading can train you to do.

Goals : November 2017

October proved to be an excellent writing month, as Tamara and I plunged into a Nanowrimo-before-Nano in order to draft the sequel to River Running in one month. After an early rocky patch, we pulled it off, and happily we now hold an 82,000-word draft of Wind Winging in our blistered hands.

Up next, we face the real National Novel Writing Month, during which we intend to write the sequel to The Eighth Octave. This book is titled The Seventh Symphony, and we are well prepared with an epic 19-page outline.

In other news, we have had some bites for River Running and The Eighth Octave from small presses. We are still deliberating about what the best direction will be for these two book-babies and their associated sequels, but expect some news someday in the near-ish future.

My October goals were:

  1. FINISH LIGHT & SHADOW rewrite/revision- CHECK! This was easy, as expected. Light & Shadow is now marinating until December, when it will come back into the line up for read-through and revision before being sent out for line edits.
  2. WRITE STONE SPEAKING first draft with Tamara. CHECK! We ended up renaming the book Wind Winging during the drafting process. 

My November goals will be:

  1. WRITE THE SEVENTH SYMPHONY first draft with Tamara- We plan to have a draft by Thanksgiving Day, ambitious women that we are.
  2. WRITE NEW BOOK IDEA, possibly titled Myra Justice- I don’t expect to have much time for this, but I’d like to at least get down a chapter or two. I have an outline, a few images, and an idea vaguely based on a (female) Thomas Cromwell-like character.
  3. Odds & Ends- I’m working on two related non-fiction editing projects having to do with rural life in Alaska, and Tamara and I are hoping to make some forward progress with the submissions for RR and TEO. Wish us luck!

And here’s a little treat for you–an attempt at a cover for River Running. This was just for fun. Eden Reign is a nom de plume Tamara and I made up to possibly use on our co-writes.

I’m always looking for ways to learn about photo-compositing in Photoshop. Can you guess what I worked on here?


Goals: October 2017

September was a strong and consistent month of writing for me. I’m nearly finished with my Light & Shadow rewrite and Tamara and I managed yet another small revision on The Eighth Octave after a revise & resubmit opportunity from one of the agents we pitched in New York.

In October Tamara and I have big plans to get a jump start on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, usually November) by writing our sequel to River Running, tentatively titled Stone Speaking. Can we write a whole book in a month, and then turn around and write a whole other book, the sequel to The Eighth Octave, tentatively titled The Seventh Symphony, in November? Two drafts in two months? Why not?

Last month my goals were:

  1. FINISH River Running AND The Eighth Octave REVISIONS and submit to requesting agents- CHECK. We are eagerly awaiting replies. We’ve had a few partial requests get bumped up to full MS requests, and we actually turned down an offer for publication that did not suit us last week. We hope for more news on our submissions this month.
  2. CONTINUE LIGHT & SHADOW rewrite/revision- CHECK I have only 2 chapters and an epilogue to go! I’ll finish the draft in October for sure.


October Goals:

  1. FINISH LIGHT & SHADOW rewrite/revision- Nearly there, this should be manageable.
  2. WRITE STONE SPEAKING first draft with Tamara. This will take up the bulk of my writing hours in October, but I look forward to the madness.



Fan Art Friday: Week 3

This week on Fan Art Friday, in celebration of the release of Mage and Source, I’m offering up two new covers for my own books, The Gantean and The Cedna.

My real book covers feature portraits of my narrators, but for a different concept, I decided to show the magical aspect of the books and the ongoing saga of the Ophirae stones, the connecting plot arc of the entire series of Tales of Blood & Light.

On the cover of The Gantean, you see the mysterious red Ophira stone that Leila brought with her from Gante in her “barbarian” necklace:


On the cover for The Cedna, you see the Opal Ophira, which the Cedna awakens during her tragic love affair with Onatos Amar:


These two books were originally conceived as a duet within the series, and I like to think these new covers reflect that, with aspects of the images reflecting each other, the watery center of The Cedna‘s stone matching the watery background of The Gantean.

Next week I’ll reveal the Ophirae covers for Sterling and Mage and Source.

Interview by Mark A. King

Mark asked me some fun questions about Mage and Source and other various topics over on his blog. Read the full interview here: Yu’ll get to see a few images ideas for Gante, as well as my soundtrack pics for the book’s opening scene.



Fan Art Friday

This week I’ve spent some time making use of my new Photoshop subscription, experimenting with images to make faux/alternate book covers for some of my friends’ books. It’s been so fun I’ve decided to try to do it as a feature for the next few weeks.

So, welcome to FAN ART FRIDAY!

First off, we have the image that began it all, for Allison K. García’s Vivir El Dream.  This idea for this image came into my head on Wednesday while I was walking to meet my carpool, and I couldn’t get it out until I made it!



Then I made a set of three covers for Tamara Shoemaker’s Heart of a Dragon series. A lot of YA-fantasy books have two sets of covers, one set a big, bold, colorful free-for-all that is eye-catching and directed towards the younger readers, and another that is discreet and elegant, for the grown-ups who still love to read YA-fantasy (guilty here). These are my take on the “grown-ups-can-read-these-at-the-airport” version of Tamara’s titles.




I hope you enjoyed this episode of FAN ART FRIDAY. I’ve already started two covers for next week.

Image credits:

“Take me to the zombies” CC 2.0 by Esparta Palma
“The Hungry Mexican Restaurant on Bolton Street” CC 2.0 by William Murphy
“Carina Nebula” public domain
“American Flag background” public domain
“Nightfall of London” CC 2.0 by H. Michael Miley
“Fire (III)” CC 2.0 by H.P. Brinkman
“Fire! Fire!” CC 2.0 by Michael Mol

Dragon pendant image by