Heads up, y’all! I’m preparing to release the Grant Wolves series on Apple Books, Kobo, and other retailers. To do that, I have to pull them out of Kindle Unlimited, and Grave Rites (Grant Wolves #6) is coming out a few weeks ahead of the others. If you want to read Grave Rites in KU in the meantime, you can still get it in the Grant Wolves Box Set.
Witch Hunt is the third book in the Secondhand Magic series, but it’s also a bit of a landmark release for me. It’s my tenth full-length novel! Well, at least my tenth released novel. Regardless, what a long, wild ride this has been.
Witch Hunt picks up a couple of weeks after the bomb dropped about the Circle’s investigation into Emily’s activities. Does she have the right to call herself a witch? The relentless Deputy Archon won’t stop until he has the truth, and that’s a risky proposition for a “null” with highly unusual powers who doesn’t want to be anyone’s lab rat.
And that’s not all Emily’s got on her plate, either. She’s still got a case to solve, a lawsuit to plan, and a friend’s unsettling vision of her future on her mind. Which straw will be the last?
Find out in Witch Hunt, the explosive third book in the Secondhand Magic series!
On my last trip to New Mexico, I picked up some postcards to send out to readers. I couldn’t let go of them without taking pictures, though! By now, everyone has received their postcard, so I thought I’d share the collection.
When was the last time you received a postcard from a friend? I try to pick up a few whenever I travel. If you’re interested in getting one from me, sign up for my mailing list and keep an eye out for future opportunities.
Don’t let being outside the USA stop you—I’ve got International stamps!
As little as possible. No, really! I tend to sketch out the basics when I’m planning a new series, but the rest grows more organically as I write. I love being able to make stuff up as I go and add it to my “world notes” for future reference/consistency. It’s part of what keeps the world, and the writing process, fresh for me.
I’ve also been known to remark that one of the reasons I enjoy writing urban fantasy rather than, say, epic fantasy is that I get to be a little lazy about world building. I don’t have to make up the whole world, I just have to decide in what ways my world is different from the real world. I can use existing cities, countries, cultures, etc., and it gives me the opportunity to do something I really enjoy: research and learn new things.
The flip side is that, if I’m not careful, I can fall way down a deep, dark research rabbit hole and forget I’m supposed to be writing!
I’m not currently planning any more Grant Wolves books. I had a six-book arc plotted, and it’s finished. I love the world and characters I created, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a spinoff series somewhere down the line, but for now I’m focused on Secondhand Magic.
Can a witch without magic defeat a legendary boogeyman?
Find out in Hollow Witch, the much-anticipated second installment of my Secondhand Magic series!
Choosing a quote for a promo graphic isn’t easy. I mean, you want something that’ll get reader attention and make them want to pick up the book. But at the same time, you don’t want anything that requires too much context or gives too much away. I thought this time I’d share a few alternatives I considered:
“You’re smarter than I give you credit for.”
“That’s kind of a backhanded compliment, but I’ll take it.”
“I stood there for a long moment, shaking like a leaf. That was no random encounter. They knew I was a witch, and it’s not like I was wearing a scarlet W on my chest.”
“Glad I’d put on sneakers on my way out the door this afternoon, I ran after the guy like he had a batch of fresh, pillowy sopapillas under his arm.”
Decisions, decisions. Anyway, happy book birthday to me! Hollow Witch is available for purchase on Amazon. It’s also available in Kindle Unlimited.
The end is nigh!
What do you get when you cross a werewolf pack, an insular coven of witches, and a shocking murder that neither can ignore?
Find out in Grave Rites, the epic conclusion to the Grant Wolves series.
Plot, generally. But they go hand in hand.
Obviously, if I’m writing a book in a series that’s already established, I have a basic cast of characters to work with already. But when it comes to a new series or a short story that’s independent of a series, I tend to start with a scenario or general plot idea and build from there. Null Witch started from an idea for a witch born without magic who moved far away from home to get away from her family. That’s more about the character than the plot of the book, but it’s definitely the setup for the plot! That’s why I say sometimes they go hand in hand.
Once I have a general idea, the protagonist is the next thing I tackle, and then the rest of the story. Sometimes it’s hard to know where you’re going if you don’t know who is making the choices that will get you there. But I try not to go too in-depth when it comes to fleshing out my protagonist. I sketch out a basic idea of their age, sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, strengths & weaknesses and fill the rest in as I go.
I don’t usually write more than one thing at a time, because I don’t want to run my well dry. But I’m often brainstorming & outlining other things while I’m writing or editing something else. That way, I can dive right into first drafting when I finish the current project.
Occasionally, I’ll write a short story for an anthology alongside whatever project I’m working on.
I’ve been in the mood for a crafting/farming game lately, but have had a hard time scratching that itch. I can’t say that Graveyard Keeper does that, per se, but it has been a delightful adventure.
In Graveyard Keeper, you play… a graveyard keeper. But it’s not all landscaping and corpse-planting. You’ve been transported to a strange world through some method you don’t truly understand, and are stuck on graveyard duty while you do a wide variety of dubious favors for some pretty strange people as you try to figure out how to get home to your beloved.
If you’ve ever played Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon, this game will seem immediately familiar to you. I don’t know if they all use the same graphics engine or what, but they’ve got a very similar look and feel to them. You explore the world, chop down trees, mine rocks, plant crops, talk to villagers… very similar.
But there are a number of things that set Graveyard Keeper apart. The first of which is, well, you’re a graveyard keeper. A communist donkey delivers a corpse to you each day and you have to deal with it somehow. You can bury it. You can burn it. You can autopsy it and harvest cartoony organs for alchemical experiments (or, um, food). If you can’t be bothered to do any of that, you can chuck it in the river and be done with it.
You’re also a clergyman for a strange flock. The local bishop tasks you with fixing up not only the graveyard but also the church. Once a week, you can deliver a sermon to earn a few coins and faith points, which can be used to create new sermons, research the various resources of this strange world or… make zombies.
Yes, that’s right. If you decide not to burn, bury, or float your daily corpse, you can turn it into a zombie and put it to work harvesting resources, farming, even making wine. Yes, that’s right, you can have a zombie vintner.
On the whole, Graveyard Keeper is a fun little adventure for people with a semi-dark sense of humor. The storylines are quite funny, and there’s always something that needs doing (and usually something you have to do in order to do something you have to do to take care of that something).
How will it end? I dunno. I’m 33 hours in with no end in sight.
My family is quite supportive of my writing. My husband is one of my alpha readers, and his feedback has been invaluable over the years. My mother and grandmother both read my books once they’re published (which I try not to think about while I’m writing them), and one of my aunts is a fan too. I’m so grateful and fortunate to have their support!
A couple of years ago, I took a trip to New Orleans with a few fellow authors, and while I was there I was introduced to the concept of mind mapping by one of my cohorts.
What is a mind map? You’ve probably seen one before, you just didn’t realize what it was. According to mindmapping.com, “A mind map is an easy way to brainstorm thoughts organically without worrying about order and structure. It allows you to visually structure your ideas to help with analysis and recall.”
Here’s an example of a mind map drawn by a friend of mine about… wait for it… mind mapping!
The general theory behind mind mapping is that your brain doesn’t work in a linear/logical fashion. Different parts of the brain are responsible for different activities, and we process the world around us by taking in and categorizing everything we experience. By breaking a big topic down into related sub-topics, you’re actually making it easier for your brain to process. And the more parts of your brain you involve, the better.
Sometimes mind maps are drawn like branches of a tree. Sometimes they’re just clusters of ideas grouped together. Colors link related ideas, which can be a helpful mnemonic device. Yes, mind maps can help you memorize things!
Check out this super cute gingerbread cookie recipe mind map I found. I think it’s in Italian?
Anyway, inspired by my colleague’s colorful mind maps, I immediately set out to make mind maps of my own. I mapped out my writing & publishing goals for the next year. I mapped out character traits and motivations. But, more recently, I started using mind maps as a brainstorming tool for plot & story. (Because in my life, everything I learn tends to turn into ‘how can I use this in/for a book’?)
You see, mind mapping is all about breaking big concepts down into smaller, related concepts. While planning Secondhand Magic #2, I created an Act I map, two Act II maps (I ran out of room), and an Act III map. I was able to create “branches” off of the act for the various plot threads I was keeping track of, and fill them out. It really helped me flesh out Act II and figure out where the investigation part of the plot was going.
I looked through my existing mind maps for various books I’ve written for an example I could share, but they all had massive spoilers. So, instead I created a new one for Early Grave, Chapter One, so you can see my process in action. (Okay, so it’s a little spoilery if you haven’t read it, but everything here is in the free sample on Amazon!)
As you can see, my mind maps are a little different from the “traditional” ones (I am really not much of an artist), but in the end you have to do what works best for you. Usually my subtopics have more branches, but I was working with fairly limited subject matter.
So, next time you’re mulling over something, I encourage you to grab a pen and paper (or a tablet & stylus, which is what I prefer) and go to town. Whether it’s a personal, professional, or scholastic problem, mapping it out might just help you get your thoughts (or the facts) in order.
A veterinary ophthalmologist.
I know. Specific, right? You see, my grandmother got a collie when I was a kid, and collies are prone to a variety of medical conditions, one of which is eye problems. It had never occurred to my adolescent mind that animals might have problems with their eyes the way humans did, and from that moment on… I wanted to be an eye doctor for animals.
I grew out of it, as kids usually do. By the time I hit high school, I wanted to be a music teacher. That didn’t pan out either, but I’m happy where I ended up.
Season 5 of Netflix’s Queer Eye recently dropped, and the timing couldn’t have been better. I’ll admit, I wasn’t super interested in this series when it first came out. I’m not even sure what made me decide to give it a try, but it hooked me from the very first episode of season 1.
I remember Bravo’s original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, though I’m not sure I ever watched more than one episode. I remember it being a little campy, that the Fab Five would teach hapless straight guys how to be a little more metro. This version is so much different.
I mean, for starters… they don’t just makeover straight men. Men, women, gay, straight, trans, it seems like they’ve done it all. And there’s such a positive message to it. They don’t teach people how to be fashionable, they teach them how to shop for clothes that look good on them based on their body type. (And what sizes actually fit them!) They teach them about self-care and tackle social, professional, and/or personal problems they’re facing. And they do it all with compassion, flair, and a generous dose of humor.
This show makes me laugh, and it make me cry. I’m two episodes into season 5, and it’s already choked me up once. At a time when so many bad things are happening to good people, it’s incredibly refreshing to see good things happen to good people for a change.
So, if you need a little pick-me-up, this show is a great place to start. I’m trying not to go through the season too quickly, so I can drag out the feel-good effects as long as possible. This goes against my bingeing nature, so we’ll see how long my resolve lasts.
Nope! They are completely different worlds.
However… I wrote the first draft of Null Witch one year before Early Grave, and it was rattling around in my mind that Emily and Emma might be the same person while I was writing Early Grave. The worlds quickly diverged, both in my mind and on the page, and the two characters ended up nothing alike.
I love storms. I can’t remember ever being afraid of them. My mother might be able to tell another tale, but she’s not here. I am.
So… I love storms. I’ve always loved storms. I took a meteorology class in college (during which I quietly fangirled about the professor being a local meteorologist I’d watched on TV for years), and one of my all-time favorite movies is Twister. (And in case you’re about to tell me what a shitty movie that is, save yourself some trouble because you’ll never change my mind!) I’d like to go storm chasing one day, so I can see a tornado in person.
From a distance. In broad daylight. Because I’m not suicidal.
But it turns out that storm touristing is actually rather pricey (several thousand dollars per person). I have a friend who has gone a few times, and she seems to think it’s worth it. I’d like to go with her, but I am more miserly. But maybe some day I’ll save up and go do it. Doing it with a tour group is probably more responsible than driving to Tornado Alley on my own. (Side note, that friend also wrote a great storm chaser romance.)
Anyway, nothing puts me to sleep faster than the sound of rain on the roof. I used to have a noise machine that would play rain and thunder sounds at night. At some point, it broke and I never got around to replacing it. These days, I wait for mother nature to make her presence known, but I greatly enjoy listening to a storm at night. Some of my most productive writing sessions have been during rain storms.
I do get nervous about severe weather, especially now that I have cats and live in a house where the only ground floor room with four internal walls is a tiny half bath. In a pinch, I think my husband and I could shelter in there, but the odds of getting all three cats in there with us are not great. I keep thinking I should get a weather radio, but haven’t pulled the trigger.
My father had a brush with a tornado a few years ago. It ripped right through the tiny town he lived in, knocking down power lines and disrupting phone (and cellular!) service. It took me days to get in touch with him afterward, and that was scary. A cinder block crashed through the roof of his apartment, and he had to vacate until the building could be repaired and inspected.
Fortunately, the closest I’ve ever come to a twister is one touching down a couple of miles from my house. That’s one of those things you don’t hear about until the next day and you’re like… holy crap, I am sooo lucky. But I’ve had hail pound dents into my car. (Like a good neighbor, State Farm was there.) My neighbor’s tree was struck by lightning last year.
Hopefully that’s not Mother Nature slowly zeroing in on me, because I just put a new roof on the house. Oh well. It’s under warranty.
I am not one of those write every day writers. When I’m working on a first draft, I write 5-6 days per week for 1-2 hours, more if I’m in a really good flow.
I schedule writing sessions on my calendar, and I often employ a sprint strategy, breaking the allotted time down into smaller chunks, to stay focused.
I don’t play a lot of single-player games anymore. Sure, I cut my teeth on Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt as a kid. But the rise of Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games like Everquest and World of Warcraft got me more into the social aspect of gaming as an adult. I’ll take a fun co-op game like The Division, Borderlands, or Minecraft over most single-player games.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was strongly recommended to me by a friend, and it was on sale on Steam for something like $15 a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve tried Assassin’s Creed before and it didn’t quite grab me. The biggest lure for me this time around was the option to play a female character for the whole story, which was a first for the franchise (and it must’ve been popular, because they’re doing it again for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla this fall).
I’ve put 42 hours in so far, and I’m just over halfway through the main storyline. It’s rather easy to get distracted by side missions, because it’s an open world game. Needless to say, I wouldn’t have put 42 hours in if I wasn’t enjoying it, but… I’m really enjoying it!
The graphics are terrific, and the world is just so, so beautiful. Kassandra is an amazing character, and I love how they made her tall and strong, as opposed to a skinny little waif that looks like she shouldn’t be able to lift a sword.
The story is also captivating. I minored in Classics in college, so that probably contributes to my fascination with the story. You brush elbows with historical figures and see ancient locations as they once were—full of color and life rather than ruins scrubbed to bare stone by time and the elements.
My only complaint? Snakes, snakes, SNAKES. I have a serious snake-phobia, and the first time one attacked me out of nowhere I came out of my chair like a bagel from a toaster. (Suddenly, violently, and utterly without warning.) Then I started noticing them everywhere, from frescos to stonework to jewelry… I never realized how into snakes the Greeks were.
Anyhow, that’s what I’ve been up to for the last couple of weeks when not busy writing and editing. My adventures in ancient Greece (and Sparta!) have been giving me some story/plot ideas, too.
And I’m 99.99% sure those stories/plots won’t involve snakes.
How didn’t publishing my first book change my process of writing? Ha!
Before I started publishing, I wrote on a very laissez-faire schedule. If I wanted to write, I did. If I didn’t, I didn’t. That meant not much writing outside of November (NaNoWriMo season), honestly. I started a weekly write-in at one point so I would have at least one day a week where I did some writing.
Now, the tables have flipped. I write 5-6 days a week when I’m in drafting mode. (And when I’m not, I edit 5-6 days a week. I have a calendar and a schedule for publishing books, because I have readers that are waiting for that next installment of my active series. I don’t write just for myself anymore.
I saw an ad for this new Amazon Original shortly before it came out and made a mental note to watch it, then got completely absorbed in other things and forgot about it. Fortunately, I did remember it before too much time had gone by, because it was a delight! Here’s a quick synopsis from Amazon:
“In the future people can upload their consciousness to a luxurious digital afterlife. When party boy Nathan gets uploaded to a virtual resort he meets the down-to-earth Nora who starts as his customer service “angel”, but becomes so much more as she helps him find friendship, love and purpose.”
Of course, a little blurb like that can’t cover everything—like the fact that that “luxurious digital afterlife” is only available to people who can afford it. That even once you buy your way in, there are still the equivalent of “in-app purchases” everywhere. That if someone pays for your upload, they also control your afterlife.
I expected Upload to be a little cheezy, but it was surprisingly thoughtful. There were laugh out loud moments in almost every episode, but the writers didn’t go for the low hanging fruit. Some of the jokes are extremely subtle, and their vision of the future isn’t so far removed from our own that you can’t see things evolving (or devolving) that way. The protagonist, Nathan Brown, starts out as a cringe-worthy self-absorbed douchebag but very quickly becomes relatable—even likable.
I won’t ruin the story for you, but I will tell you that this is a great show and if you like tongue in cheek sci-fi and comedy… take the plunge. It’s already been green-lit for a second season, so no worries about getting hooked only to have it canceled after one season! However, the way the pandemic has film/tv production shut down… it might be a bit delayed.