Cronyism (6 authors you must read)

I have a confession to make. When I like an author, I shamelessly stalk them–their other books, their blogs, their Twitter–and sometimes we get to be friends. If I REALLY like a book, I’m not above sending them a private message to obsess over their awesome book.

Now, for big name authors with hundreds of fans, this is probably just annoying. But for lesser-known authors? It’s great fun. So here’s a few authors I’ve found and gotten to be friends with, or wish I could be friends:


Rebecca Minor. I found Becky when she offered her first novella on sale on a writers forum I visited. Although I don’t like elves, I enjoyed her snarky, grouchy hero, and her veiled jabs at Christian fiction tropes. She’s also a talent artist, and runs the ever-more-popular Realm Makers conference.

Her books:

beckybooks


Robert Mullin. He was showing off the cool cover for his new book on the forum I visited. I asked him what it was about. “Soul-eating vampires,” he replied. Ever one to take a chance on a fantasy book containing soul-eating vampires, I snapped it up. I devoured it, and informed him, “This is too good for Christian fiction.”

His books:

robertmullinbooks


Jess E. Owen. I actually happened across her because of following Nambroth on deviantart. She was doing some really gorgeous griffin artwork. Surprise, it was a book cover for this author. I offered to proofread an ARC, and oh man. What at lovely book series it has been. I compared it to the Lion King with griffins early on, but once the backstory gets rolling, and the dragons/wyrms come in, it gets much grander and more dramatic. It’s more like Dragonlance meets Lion King.

Her books:

jessbooks


Rachel Meenan. She used to hang out on my old forums way back in the netraptor.org days. By and by, I heard that she was working on a novel, and asked if she wanted me to beta read it. I did, and advised her to cut the first 11 pages, as well as a lot of other things. Many drafts later, she’s finally published:

Her books:

rachelbooks


Heidi Lyn Burke. She’s in my writer’s group on Facebook, and seemed pretty cool, as well as very prolific. She had books coming out all the time. So when the final book of her Dragon series launched, I grabbed the whole series and read them all. I became an instant fan–her books are light, fun, often funny, and heartwarming.

heidibooks


Rachel Aaron/Bach. She was on my radar because of the blogpost about how to write 10k words a day. When I saw one of her books in a book deals newsletter, I snapped it up to try out her stuff. And it was GREAT. I’ve read a lot of lackluster urban fantasy while trying to find somebody as good as Jim Butcher, but Aaron is poised to steal his crown, I think. Her Nice Dragons Finish Last is like a combination of Dresden and Shadowrun–magic, computers, monsters, and psychic hackers.

Her books:

racheaaronbooks


So that’s 6 authors whom you must absolutely must check out if you need a great read. As you can see, my tastes run toward fantasy, so if you’re at all inclined toward fantasy, check them out!

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When chickens turn evil (or just hungry)

Once upon a time, I had chickens.

We raised them in our backward, and they laid eggs for us. One of my favorites was an Arucana (Easter Egg) chicken named Benadictine, after another chicken story from Readers Digest. She laid olive-green eggs, and she was a stinker.

One time my brother and I had let the chickens out on the lawn. He went and made himself a ham sandwich.

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Benadictine wanted that ham.

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So she sneaked up on him …

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… and pecked the ham out from between the slices of bread.

My brother was not happy.

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He stormed inside and made himself another sandwich. Meanwhile, I laughed myself silly.

Benadictine ate that whole slice of ham, and was very happy about it.

Carrying too many feathers (you mean I’m not immortal?)

“If you’re carrying all the feathers you can carry, can you carry one more?”

A few weeks ago, I had a wake-up call–I had to say no to a project.

It was an art project, and usually I can knock out art projects no problem. This one sounded really fun–draw pages for a graphic novel. It used the Disney style, which isn’t too difficult to learn. I started practicing.

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As my art inched from “suckitude” toward “maybe passable”, the art director informed me that I would have to draw three pages a day.

Three pages a day doesn’t sound like much–especially since each page has a maximum of four panels. That should be easy.

Then I tried it, and timed myself.

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Sketching, inking, and basic coloring took me two solid hours. For one crappy little comic gag. Possibly one panel.

I have five small children, one of whom is five months old, and gets tired of sitting in my lap at the computer. While I could scrape two hours out of the day for one page, I don’t have six hours for three pages. The currency just doesn’t exist. And I’m pretty darn good at time management.

It was with massive amounts of regret and humiliation that I had to back out of the project. Back when I was single and lonely, I could have knocked a project like this out of the park. But today? I’ve got too many feathers to carry. This would have been like dropping a brick into my armload of feathers.

POOF.

Being mortal is such a hassle. What do you MEAN I have limited mental resources, and only 12 hours in the day? That is so not fair. Sleep is for the weak, right?

As it turns out, my life right now isn’t as permeable as it used to be. Lesson learned. Sigh.


My latest book, a historical paranormal romance called Outfoxing the Wolf (it has a werefox) is now available on all retailers, and is .99 for a limited time! Grab it now!

Werefoxes (what they are and where to find them)

Ever since I got into the whole werewolf genre, I’ve wanted to see a werefox. People do all the other big predators–weretigers, werepanthers, werebears, weredragons. I’m pretty sure there’s even wererats out there. But foxes just aren’t as widespread.

Upon hunting around on Amazon, I turned up a few werefox books. This one, Bronze Fox, is about a guy who turns into a fox in a kind of steampunk setting. It was interesting. From what I gather, anyone who turns into a fox will have vulpine characteristics–cunning, crafty, quick, all that stuff we associate with foxes.

Wolves, on the other hand, are the ever-popular pack hunters of the night. More dangerous, I suppose. You never hear about people being killed by a pack of foxes. The worst thing they do is kill chickens or cats.

But maybe a smart hero is intimidating–after all, most werewolf stories these days are romances. “We don’t want our men smarter than us!” the ladies shriek. “We want him with rippling abs, not a brain!”

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Werefox by someone I’m not sure who (will attribute once I know!)

I wanted a werefox story. I hunted Amazon, I hunted Wattpad, and turned up a whole lot of NOPE. Oh, there’s werefoxes out there, but it’s just an orange-colored wolf. There’s little exploration of how different foxes are from wolves, or that they’re crafty, and make different sounds, and even snarl differently. (Wolves bare their teeth–foxes open their mouths all the way.)

So I set about writing a paranormal romance that features a werefox. I wanted it to be a wolf guy and a fox girl, so they could deal with their animal differences as well as their human ones.

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Werefox by Akineza

This brought up another question–do people have to be bitten to become a werefox, the way they do with werewolves? Or do they transform a different way?

This led me on a tangent into alchemy, particularly their bonkers teaching that all matter can turn into all other matter–the “mutability of form” principle. Alchemy isn’t too far off our modern-day chemistry, actually. I had to really dig around to find the crazy stuff. But it added a really fun angle to this particular story.

Because it’s me writing, it turned out as more of a romantic suspense than a straight romance. Come on, there has to be a proper fox hunt at least ONCE, right?

Anyway, Outfoxing the Wolf will launch on all major vendors later this week. Maybe you, too, will enjoy the ins and outs of a werefox vs a werewolf.

Cozy with mysteries

A while back, I got an idea for a cozy mystery series. It goes like this:

Ice cream + dragons

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White pastel dragon with mint ice cream by SweetMayDreams

When I was a kid, fantasy books for kids were pretty much limited to Narnia and oddball outliers like The Dark Is Rising. So I read animal books and mysteries. I lived and breathed clues, suspects, missing diamonds, poison–and wolves, horses, dogs, and every other animal that was ever featured by Walter Farley, Walt Morey, or Jim Kjelegaard.

I worked my way through the mystery series books in the library kids’ section (ahh, the Three Investigators!). Harry Potter hit the spot because it’s mysteries in a wizard school. Rock on.

As a young adult, I discovered the YA section, which lives and breathes fantasy. I read adult fantasy. I found Tolkien and Diana Wynne Jones.

But that early foundation in the mystery genre persists, the way onions and garlic undergird taco seasoning.

So, this idea struck (people who turn into dragons! Selling ice cream! Having relationships and secrets! Urban fantasy, only cozier!) And I realized that I’d better read a bunch of cozies to learn the genre.

So here’s what I’ve read so far:

Thanks to Amazon’s Top Free Cozy Mystery list, I can pretty much read a brand-new book any time I want to. Of course, there’s a lot of drek on that list (I downloaded several books and deleted them because of the horrible writing/formatting), but eventually you find some good stuff.

So far, cozy mysteries seem to be:

A mystery

With food or some other craft

There are shoes

The sleuth is usually female

The boyfriend is usually a cop

Sometimes it’s mostly a romance novel

There are lots of long scenes describing the venue, the food, and the oddball inhabitants of the area

The crime is usually murder

Poison is usually the weapon, because there’s no blood

In paranormal cozies, it’s always about ghosts or witches

There are often cats

Sometimes dogs

Agatha Christie is invoked as the pinnacle of the genre

I’m halfway through a fourth one with a male protagonist, sort of a wacky Britcom, and I’m enjoying it.

Do you read cozies? Is there any key ingredient that I’ve overlooked? Would you be even vaguely interested in reading about dragons who solve mysteries?

Mysterious flying humanoids (secret flying jet suit?)

I heard somewhere that there was this mythos of flying humanoids out here in Arizona. Always being keen to learn more about my current domicile, I started hunting around on the internet.

People see weird stuff in the sky, all right. Aside from Arizona’s copious UFO sightings, I found a bunch of intriguing stuff about flying humans.

From The Truth Behind the Scenes, I found these spiffy photos, taken from folks in Mexico:

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As you can see, they resemble a human figure flying on a jetpack of some kind. You can even see the thrusters in some cases.

Then, while poking around, I found this video on Youtube.

It’s labeled “lizard man”, but you can clearly see thruster jets at the end of each limb. To me, it looks more like a really bulky Iron Man, like the MK 1 suit.

Here’s a series of screencaps:

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As you can see, the object shown here deforms itself in flight–the way a human would move around arms and legs to control a powered suit in flight. There also seems to be a large jet on the back, and possibly the stomach. It’s more like a human is hooked into a flying frame than a proper suit, maybe.

powersuit-sketch

To wrap up, I think this is some new secret technology being tested by the military. There’s a ton of military bases in Arizona, and people are always seeing weird stuff they’re testing (like the Arizona Mystery Lights, which turned out later to be of terrestrial origin.)

A little dragon birthday

This week, my third daughter turned 5. She’s my dragon lover, and asked for dragons for her birthday.

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She played with friends all day, and ate cake all evening, and mostly just had a great time. Because she got that Lego Elves dragon, all the kids are now enamored of that particular series. If it was a TV show, they’d watch it religiously. They’ve already consumed the one tiny video on Youtube and wish for more. Because dragons.

All I wanted was a donut (short story)

Here’s a short story which crosses over the heroes of my Spacetime books with my friend R.A. Meenan’s Zyearth military sci-fi. Carda and Indal arrive on a distant world, which purportedly makes the best donuts in the multiverse. But before they can get one, they have to solve a little matter of theft and kidnapping. Contains humor.

Continue reading “All I wanted was a donut (short story)”