Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Weekly news round-up, the slightly late edition

So yeah, it’s been a few weeks. First I had an eye infection, complete with an ulcerated cornea, which meant absolutely no screen time. Then I went away to GNEW and was busy taking down my pavilion and driving home, so there was no posting. I meant to do it Monday, but I woke up with a migraine and, well. Yeah. So it’s been a while.


Today, I am the only one at Creatives. It’s a rainy day, and I’m enjoying the Acoustic Covers playlist on Sp0tify, and reveling in the fact that I don’t have a migraine. I have a chai latte with almond milk, an iced raspberry green tea, and, for the first time in a LONG time, a workable plot for Advent this year! YAY!


You guys, you have no idea how happy I am to have a plot. Carter’s Cove is easily my most popular story, but it’s HARD to write. Plot-wise, anyways. Because see, bodies and violence and save the world are easy to plot. It’s the fluffy, feel-good but not be total sugar because that’s boring stuff that is hard.


I’m also going back on a mini-reset this week – doing a Whole10 with my Facebook group. I need to get back on the wagon, and this seems the best way to do it. Also, I’m adding in a fitness goal, because I want to get my stamina up. Also, I need to get more Pokemon. Because, well, Pokemon won’t walk themselves.


Since I haven’t been posting, I’m going to just start my goals over.


Oh, and I finished Hope Never Dies and I have to write a review. Mini review: I loved it. I also saw Ant Man and the Wasp yesterday. Go see it – it’s fun.


Morning Pages: Going for all 7 days, per normal.

Non-writing goals: 1 more coif made for Her Highness for Pennsic. I want to do 2 more if I can, but the goal is 1. Also, 2+ hours on Conri’s trim. I’ve got 1 cuff for that done, and need 1 more cuff, the neckline, 2 sides, and the hem.

Writing goals: Plot out Advent this week. I can do this long-hand.

Fitness goals: Make my step goal (currently 3500 steps per day) all 7 days.

Weekly news roundup – The Remicade week in review

This week was a bit of this and that, but this seems to be a good headline for this post for the nonce.


My week got thrown for a bit of a loop because I needed to do some hard things this week, but I did them, and I’m very proud of myself for it. Let’s look at last week’s goals.


Last Week’s Goals:


Morning pages: Going for all seven days (Sunday to Saturday). I made it 5 days again – missed Friday with a migraine and Saturday to just bleahs. Grey days seem to be hard.

Writing goals: Writing will happen on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. I need to re-juggle a bit of the Advent calendar, but that shouldn’t take long. I want 2 days written, and some work on a Sapph or Spike short. Writing did not happen on either Wednesday or Saturday. It will happen today, so yay? Although this goes on this week’s goals technically. And I did the book review for Perils of Prague, which you should check out.

Non-writing Goals:  I need to write up Brian’s page for the EK 50 memorial wall. No more delays. Also, now that the caftan’s design has been agreed upon, I need to get the waste canvas on it and decide how I’m going to do this. I might try doing embroidery on the waste canvas and see how that works. Not sure yet. More progress here! I got Brian’s page done on Saturday, which really hit me harder than I thought it would. But it’s done, and he’ll be in the Memorial Garden at EK 50 if you are going. I also figured out how to do the embroidery for the caftan, and started most of a crochet bag. And I finished the embroidery for the first favor. I also figured out taxes for my father’s companion, and finally called about my car accident.


So yeah, in retrospect, I think this was a successful week, even without the writing I wanted to do. So, on to this week’s goals!


This Week’s Goals

Morning pages: Sunday to Saturday again. I’m building a good habit, even if I don’t hit the full week yet.


Writing goals: I need to restructure Molly for this year, since I’m not trying to do 2 Advents this year. That’s the goal for this week. Today (Sunday), I’m going to do some writing on Sapph, I think. Also, Wednesday, I am putting the two first Molly books into Archivos, so I can start working forward. Before I do any more writing on the Carter’s Cove series, I need to get the bible going.


Non-Writing goals: This week, I need to finish my market bag that I am crocheting for myself, and do the test pattern for Brewcie’s caftan. Then I need to measure the pattern, and measure out how much I need to make the actual trim.


These are all good goals, and doable. Keeping this weekly post going has really helped keep me on track, and I’m finding that I’m getting stuff done. So thank you, all, for putting up with me while I do this!

Don’t forget, Winter Storms is currently out! Catch up with the second adventure of Molly and Schrodinger!

As always, you can buy me a cup of coffee on Ko-Fi!



(book review) The Perils of Prague

Recently, I finished The Perils of Prague, by Doc Coleman, and I thought, what better way to kick off my intermittent book reviews (as in, when I finish a book and feel like reviewing it) than by sharing this with you! Disclaimer: Doc is a friend of mine, and I received an e-copy of this book for free in return for a review.


We already know I like steampunk, and this book is a fun romp through the streets (and underneath) of Prague, which is not your normal setting for a steampunk. This Prague is under the control of Victoria, the Eternal Empress, who has been on the throne of the British Empire for 175 years at this point. Yes, you saw that right. This world is a world dominated by the British Empire in all her glory, complete with lighting rifles and the might of the Eternal Empress. The technology is fascinating, mostly because we are experiencing the world through the eyes of the narrator.


Who has a name that apparently is so vile that we can’t know what it is, thanks to a grandfather with a sick sense of human. His Lordship (which is how he is referred to) is stuck with this name, and trying to figure out what to do with his life when he is shipped off to Bohemia to spend some time learning from his uncle, the Duke of Prussia. The Duke introduces him to Professor Harmonious Crackle and his assistant, Titania Bang. The two of them then proceed to turn His Lordship’s world upside down and inside out in a way that had this reader both cheering and wincing for him.


I liked this book. It wasn’t the deep, dark, gritty, soul-searching steampunk that I’ve seen before, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t have meat. The characters grabbed me, and the story itself was well-constructed. I found myself wishing that I could have seen more of Prague through these sets of eyes, and I can’t wait to see what Doc has in store for us for the next book. If you like steampunk, and you’re looking for something that isn’t the same-old, same-old, I highly recommend trying this out.


You can order The Perils of Prague on Amazon in either Kindle or paperback form. If you are a Kindle-unlimited subscriber, it’s free right now!


Life reboot: 2.0.

Life has been weird lately, and I’m not sure why.

Of course, I just got home from Balticon, and I’m sick (again – I swear Maryland is trying to kill me), so that might be part of it. I’m still glad I went -I spent a lot of time going to panels on the business of being an author, which is very different from the art of being an author, and one I’m learning about. I’d love to make a living out of being a writer, if only for the fact that I could share my writing with lots of other folks. I’ll always need a day job, sadly, because of my medical condition. And really, I like having a day job. It means I can pay my bills and not have to stress as much if I go to a con and don’t sell any books.


But being an author is expensive, guys. And it’s not just bandwidth for the website, or money for notebooks, or supporting my tea habit (which is not cheap, let me tell you). It’s buying swag to hand out at cons or signings. It’s gas money for conventions. It’s paying my editor, my cover artist and my book designer. It’s paying my artist friend to design the calendar. It all costs, and while I’m lucky that so far, I’ve managed to sort of break even, I really need to start doing things like marketing, which I will admit scares and intimidates me. For all that I’m not a shy person, going out and saying, “I wrote this awesome thing and you should buy it!” scares the snot out of me. Seriously. So I’m going to be very awkward as I figure this out. Consider yourselves warned.


I’m starting by getting my email list set up today, and I’ve got a Ko-Fi page, if you want to throw some money my way. I’m going to start blogging once a week (on Sundays, when I know I will be sitting down and have a steady internet connection, if nothing else), and those Sunday posts will include my plans for the upcoming week, and how I did on last’s week’s plans. So let’s get that started now.


This week, I’m working the day job on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, because Thursday, I have a colonoscopy scheduled. Yay! (not really) Because of my Crohn’s disease, I get to enjoy one of these every other year. Doesn’t that sound like a blast? Okay, that was an unfortunate turn of phrase. I blame Deadpool.


However, because of that, my goals for the week are modest. I’m working on the 2017 Advent story (which will start June 30, just so you know). My goal is to have 2 days written by the time next Sunday rolls around, and to set up my email newsletter. Also, I need to finish the Perils of Prague so I can give you all a review. So that’s in the list.


Non-writing goals: well, I’m working on a cardigan for myself, so I’d like to have that finished. For at-work projects, I just got some queen’s favors, so we’ll work on that as well. Time to work on my embroidery stitches! Goal is to have 1 favor embroidered by next Sunday.


We’ll see how I do. I’m setting modest goals for the most part, because I’m a great one for making unreasonable goals and then watching them fly by.


Also! The next Carter’s Cove book, Winter Storms, is out! I’d love some reviews, if you’ve read it! Let me know!

(writing/poetry/stuff) All the things swirling in my head, like blood in fog

I’m writing again. I’m also starting to venture slowly into poetry, which is weird, because I never thought of myself as a poet. But Amber introduced me to Rupi Kuhr, and I am in love with words again. She is amazing and wonderful and I highly recommend her to all people. Even if you think you don’t like poetry. This, to me, is more thoughts in motion than anything else.


I’m also working on books. I’m getting myself back into Advent, and will be re-releasing last year’s unfinished story in July, along with the ending. So this year you get two Advents! Because Molly and Schrodinger will be back in December as well. I’m also releasing Winter Storms, the second book in the Carter’s Cove series, this year. So much Molly! My mother’s smiling, I know she is.


I’m working on a few other things too. I’ve got an odd short story that I’m working on finishing up, about ghost helpers and the little shop they run. And I’ve finally started to work on Resonant Frequencies, which I’m hoping to submit to Viable Paradise in a month. If I don’t get it to the shape I want it to by the deadline, I’ll continue to work on it and go for next year. This year is the year of me doing things to push myself. Reconnect with myself.


I’m also still playing with Shanna and Talia but that’s kind of on hold. I’m trying to get my world bibles in order (using Archivos, which is amazing and you should all look into it) and so I’m doing more of worldbuilding than anything else. She will be getting her story. I promise. Just not right now. Both of them. And Faerytale Princess as well. I have so many stories, guys. So very many stories.


OH! And I’m going to be doing some book reviews too on here! First up, once I finish it, is Perils of Prague by Doc Coleman. Steampunky goodness. I can’t wait. Yes, I will be doing others, but I’m not sure what ones yet.


Finally, I’m starting to do The Artist’s Way again. I’ve decided that I’m not going to be online after 9 pm ET most nights, so I can keep my sleep habits healthy. My evenings are going to be spent writing by hand, since that’s something that feels comfortable to me.  More as I come up with it.

(book review) The Street, by Paul E. Cooley

The Street by Paul E. Cooley (art by Scott Pond)


I promised some book reviews, so here’s the first!  This is an amazing book.  It is a horrifying, twisted, sick, wonderful book.  I really really really enjoyed this.


The Street, by Paul E. Cooley, (available here with his other amazing books) explores what happens to Sesame Street, the Muppet Show and Jim Henson’s other beloved creatures when the neocons take over and cancel PBS.  A puppet’s gotta make a living, after all, and when everything’s taken away from you, what do you do?


Whatever you have to.


In Cooley’s dark world, our narrator/guide is none other than Oscar the Grouch, who’s become the Nero Wolfe of The Street, as it’s now known.  Paid in Tuaca, Oscar leads us through the nightmare that is his world, as rival gangs divide up their turf and sell dough (cookie), seed and the services of puppet whores to whoever can afford to pay for them.  The Street that used to be clean and happy is now a drug-filled hellhole of broken dreams and trash.


Oscar isn’t a saint either, but he’s the closest thing the Muppets have to a good guy.  In this rough world, if you need to find a puppet, or stop a killer, you go to the guy in the can.  If he can’t help you, well, you’re screwed.


I loved this book.  Seriously.  I love the Muppets and always have – I grew up watching Sesame Street, Labyrinth, and the Muppet Show.  This takes those characters to a dark place, and they survive, because that’s what puppets do.  They survive.  You will never look at the Muppets the same again, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  I can’t wait to see what Paul does next (I’m kind of hoping for a Neighborhood of Make-Believe crossover soon).


Disclaimer: Paul and I are friends.  I bought his book and was not paid for this review.

(writing) Thoughts on writing, process, and language

I threatened a rant last week about chat-speak (I loathe it, for the short version of the rant), but as I didn’t have time to write it out when I was annoyed (probably a good thing, come to think of it), it mellowed and got intertwined with some other things.


Namely, this.


I love reading John Scalzi’s blog, because in addition to being a great writer, he has a wonderfully moderated community that actually TALKS.  Which I appreciate.  Because there is nothing guaranteed to make me grind my teeth faster than the “OMGWTFBBQ ur RONG!!!!” that are in a lot of other comment streams out there.  Yes, I know, the Internet is a wonderful place, and even those who can’t spell/don’t have a good grasp on grammar have things to share.  They do.  I don’t dispute that.


But for the love of whatever gods you hold dear, please stop making my eyes bleed.  Especially if you are chatting with/emailing someone in a professional capacity.  This includes writing your blog (especially if you are a writer), emailing your benefits center, or chatting with someone in a professional capacity.  Because really, to me, nothing says “I don’t actually care about what I’m doing here” faster than when I see an email on an account that starts “I c my acct, but I don’t c the option to do X. Pls process. Thx.”


Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  (And yes, I write just about everything out.  Even text messages.  Ask my friends.)  But that’s neither here or there.  This is a piece of professional correspondence.  Which looks like a 3rd grader with a smart phone sent it.  Is that really the image you want to send?


Sorry, but that’s a huge pet peeve of mine.  And I see it every day (I work as a chat associate for a large financial organization).


I thought of that again today when reading Scalzi’s blog, because the comments talk about some things that self-publishers should be looking at.  And I realized something about myself.


I have a day job.  I have a day job that (luckily) pays my bills at this point, a day job that I enjoy (for the most part) and that I’m not planning on leaving.  My writing is for me to share with people.  While I have no intentions at this point of quitting my day job (even if I got a big contract), I don’t mind getting a bit of money from my writing.  But for me, at this point, it’s not going to tip the balance one way or the other .  (At least, not as long as my hubby is also working.)  That being said, I do self-publish some things, and I’ll continue to do that.  And when I do it, I don’t have a problem paying for things I can’t do.


I’m not a graphic designer.  I think in words, not pictures.  Which is why I pay talented folk like Starla Hutchton and J.A. Marlow to design my covers.  I am, however, a darn good proofreader and copy-editor, so people pay me to do that.  I sometimes swap services for services.


I also give away stuff for free here on the blog.  I will continue to do that, as they come up, because, well, I like to have people read my stuff.  And that’s the crux of it all.


I’m a writer.  Even if I never made another dime on writing, I would still write, and I would probably still share it here on the blog, if nothing else.  I get crazy when I don’t write regularly.


But I’m working a schedule now that means that I probably can’t write every day.  And I’m coming to terms with that.  It’s okay.  As long as I write on my days off (Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays), I think I’ll be good.  I just need sleep on the other days.


So yeah.  That’s what’s been going on in my brain lately.  Along with some other things.  I’ll be trying to write more on here too.  I’ve got two reviews I want to write ( for Feed by Mira Grant and The Street by Paul E. Cooley) that should go live either this weekend or next week.  And I think I’ll be dropping some other things too.

(personal/writing) Blowing off the winter dust

You know, it’s been a LONG winter.  Maybe not GRRM long, but longer than I wanted.  Much longer than I wanted.


But it’s finally warm out.  The snow is gone and there is music in the morning when I go out.  I’m still adjusting to my work schedule, but it’s getting easier.  I’m not fighting it as much.  Now, of course, I have allergies, but I’ll take allergies over snow pants, seriously.


I’m still sort of on crutches, although I’m not using them very much.  I go back to the doctor’s on the 30th, and hopefully they’ll finally give me the go-ahead to stop using them fully.  I’m walking on May 5 in a charity walk, for MS research, and I will be damned if I do it on crutches!  But hey, if I have to, I have to.


Writing is going good – I’m working on the rough draft for Deep Waters, the 2nd Pendragon Casefiles novella.  The first one, Into Thin Air, is on schedule to be released at Balticon, and I’m hoping to have copies soon for reviewers.  Want to review it?   Drop me a line at val at and let me know!


I’m also working on FaeryTale Princess again.  I’m really liking this story, and my writer’s group is intrigued.  Also, at this point, the hero is kind of an ass.  Which is fun to write.  Don’t worry, he won’t always be.  It’s sort of a romance, after all!


I’ll have cards for my proofreading business and swag from Lake Knight Paranormal (the ghost hunting group in Pendragon) at Balticon.  I might even read from the first novella!


So yeah, life is looking up.  I find it usually does in the spring.  I just wish it wouldn’t take so darn long to get here.

(reviews) The 33 by JC Hutchins


JC Hutchins has done it again.  The creative genius behind 7th Son and  Dark Arts has come out with a new project: The 33.  It’s an episodic storyline, sort of like a TV season, but in words.  My favorite kind of serial.


The concept is simple and yet immense: 33 people, with special skills, who are called together to save the world.  The kicker: they’re not really good people.  In fact, from what I can tell, they’re pretty much people who have nothing to lose, which is why they were chosen in the first place.  And the main character for this particular episode is a man called Addison Creel, who we meet in a hotel room.  But that’s later.


First, JC introduces us to the weirdest dinner party I’ve read about in a while.  No spoilers, but yeah, this episode starts with a bang.  Then we’re swept to Japan, to meet Addison Creel.  And then things get really weird.


JC has always been a master of combining the mundane and the weird, with more than a healthy dollop of horror and violence.  He’s definitely one not to pull any punches, and this is NOT a story for kids, obviously.  But as an adult who enjoys side trips into the mirror universe that JC channels, I can only say, I can’t WAIT for the next episode of The 33.


As I said on Twitter, dammit, JC, write faster!!!!!


For the rest of you, get out and check out The 33.   You won’t regret it.

(book review) Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman



No, it’s not my reaction to last night’s Red Sox – Orioles game (although boo to Baltimore!  How do you keep winning against us???)  Baltimore Blues  is the first book in the Tess Monaghan Mysteries series by Laura Lippman, and I am very, very thankful that my mother introduced me to this unlikely sleuth.


Tess Monaghan used to be a reporter.  Then she was downsized, and now she works in her aunt Kitty’s bookstore, does some work on the side for her uncle Donald, and is basically treading water.   Her one passion was writing, and she can’t seem to find anything to do besides be stuck in her rut.  She rows, she exercises, she eats and she sleeps.  And she has an off-again, on-again relationship with a fellow reporter, one who DIDN”T get downsized out of the industry.


Then her friend Rock comes to her with a problem.  His fiancee Ava is hiding something, and he’s not sure what it is.  He asks Tess to help him find out – and he’s willing to pay her to follow Ava to find out.  Tess isn’t a private eye, but she’s willing to try.  And that’s the first thing that gets her in trouble.


Soon, Tess discovers Ava’s got a habit of taking things that don’t belong to her.  Then Ava’s boss, lawyer Michael Abramowitz, ends up dead, and Rock’s the lead suspect.  But there’s more, much more to the story, and Tess shows why she was a good reporter as she starts to hunt it down.  The problem is that she doesn’t know what she’s doing as a private detective, and she very nearly ends up on the hit list.


I liked the writing style and the voices in this.  It was a good, taut story, but it had humor as well.  Tess is a great main character – she’s not perfect, far from it, but she’s human, and she’s a fighter.  I’m waiting for the second novel, Charm City, to come into the library right now.


If you like mysteries, check this one out.