I know that everyone has challenges right now, and when a friend asked me to send a card to her dad who had just gotten out the hospital (her dad LOVES getting mail) I wondered if anyone else would love a surprise in the mail.
So I asked on Twitter and FB what you thought. And you overwhelming told me a huge and unqualified, YES. Okey dokey. So I got out every coverflat I had tucked away in a closet.
Coverflats from 24 books. (Here is just a sampling.) I got out bookmarks and postcards. Then I asked some friends to send along some–because that adds a bit of surprise, don’t you think? And then I put them all together in packets and ended up with a little over 100 of them.
And now it is your turn. Go here and sign up for the drawing (before April 5th) and then after that start watching your mail for a blast from my past.
In the meantime, a big hug to all of you, my very dear readers. Stay healthy and safe. Please.
I’ve been–for a bit–on a Fantasy reading binge. But oh, there are some great stories out there that I would be remiss in not sharing. They have everything we all love about romance, but also that wonderful reach into another world and acres of adventure. So I offer up these books as something to try if you are looking for new reads:
Crush the King
The 3rd entry in Jennifer Estep’s A Crown of Shards series, I have to admit, I loved Crush the King, the most. (But don’t get me wrong, I raved about the 2nd book, Protect the Prince here).
The series just got better and better. Loads of intrigue and adventure, magic and mischief. Queen Everleigh Blair of Bellona is a smart, strong and savvy heroine who survives on her wits and daring. You’ll adore her. I was lucky enough to get to read an ARC, and I’ve been busting to tell everyone I know to GO READ THIS SERIES.
Well, they are now all out, so what are you waiting for??
The Curse of Chalion
Paladin of Souls
I have a group of authors I spend my Wednesday lunch with and like most weeks, we end up talking about, you guessed it, books we are reading or books we love or just books. And a month or so back, one of them mentioned Lois McMaster Bujold–who I had to admit I had never read–and one of the authors waxing on, gushing really, over Paladin of Souls. But, she cautioned, you would most likely want to read The Curse of Chalion first.
Such a hardship. Do note the air of sarcasm to that statement.
These books are, as the kids say, the GOAT. I was in awe of the character development, so perfectly nuanced and elegant. Dive in and read both books. I just couldn’t put them down. And the best part–is the softly brewing romance in each. Sigh.
The Brazen Trilogy
Just a reminder that the Brazen books are available on KU, and for the time being, are on sale for $1.99. This boxed set includes, Brazen Angel, Brazen Heiress, and Brazen Temptress.
If you’ve read them, why not surprise a friend and buy them a copy?! We all know folks right now who might need something fun to brighten their day, or in this case, their entire weekend. LOL
Oh, who doesn’t? Sometimes you want a wonderful book that let’s you escape, have all the feels, and just leaves you ever so hopeful. Then I recommend you give Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce a try.
Hope is what this book is all about.
This debut novel is a delightful story of WWII and the young and often inexperienced women left behind to cope in war torn London. The story, despite the grim setting, sparkles with hope and grit in the face of bombings, fires, and personal tragedies. If you are looking for something earnest and sweet, this is your book.
Wow! Only a few days left to get And The Miss Ran Away with the Rake on audiobook for $3.99. This deal is good through February 4th. Links below.
Check your favorite audiobook retailer to see if they also have this deal. Or if you want to take a sneak peek inside, read the excerpt here.
I recently gave workshops on Research for Writers, (at Women Writing the West and Surrey International Writers Conference) and rather than do printed handouts, I am posting all the information here so it is readily available and clickable.
Librarians to follow on Twitter: @surlyspice, @superwendy
Bowling Green State University Pop Culture Library @BGSU_PopCultLib
BGUS also has an “Ask Us” feature on their website.
New York Public Library: @nypl and @askNYP
This hashtag on Twitter can be a great way to find answers to really obscure research questions: #AskALibrarian
Finding Research Books:
A caveat and caution here–not all the books you may find via these links are legitimate legal copies. Always use caution when downloading books, and use to due diligence to ensure that it is available in the public domain.
Check your local library’s online offering of databases–many will be accessible without having to pay. Some popular ones include:
200 Best Sites for Writers – A wide range of links for writers.
Google cheat sheet:
In my recent workshop, The Character Arc, for Women Writing the West and the Surrey International Writer’s Conference, I referenced several books and a blog post/video that I would encourage everyone to check out.
Build Better Characters by Eileen Cook
Writing the Breakout Novel and The Emotional Craft of Fiction, both by Donald Maass
The Character Arc by K.M. Weiland
Write Your Novel From the Middle by James Scott Bell
How to Plot Your Novel in One Page
Because more books is never wrong. Am I right?
Here is a list of my “21 Favorite Writing Books” all vetted and recommended by me and my writing friends.
Happy reading and writing!!
I asked my Facebook page folks if they had any questions for me, and they came through with a bunch of them! So I thought I would answer them over here as well, since not everyone follows me everywhere. (But if you want to, please visit me on FB, Twitter, Instagram…. LOL)
But anyway, the first question really hit me.
Yes, yes, and absolutely yes, I am writing.
I’ve been hard at work on a historical fiction set in a small town in Wyoming. It has all the elements you will love–great friends, a few wacky characters, big hearts and lots of story. LOTS of story. It has three story lines that I couldn’t pick which is my favorite if I tried. So they all have stolen my heart.
This Book is currently clocking in at around 500 pages, so it is going to be a BIG book with lots to read and yes, some bits of romance. I hope to have it done this summer and shopped in the Fall.
At least that is the plan.
I chose this path because this book is the story of my heart. I have wanted to write about this place, these people for nearly 10 years. And finally I came to a point in road where I knew it was now or never. And I am not someone who likes the word never. So I took a huge gamble–or as my husband calls it, “my endless unemployment” and dove in. And it has not been easy, but like any change, it comes with lessons and I couldn’t be happier.
I know it has been some time since I had a book out, but life has also presented some struggles–I had to have wrist surgery just after Six Impossible Things came out, and with recovery and rehab, it was nearly six months before I could truly sit down and type. I used that time for research and taking tons of notes. Since then, I’ve been writing and rewriting. I can see the end now, and I’m so excited to get this book done.
So please, hang in there with me. If you haven’t read everything I’ve written, what are you waiting for? And if you have, well, please keep recommending my books to friends, (Might I suggest starting at the beginning with Brazen Angel?) and meanwhile I’ll keep working away.
A few years ago, I wrote this post and was looking it over recently as I found myself searching for a spot in my busy life to GET AWAY and just WRITE. The advice here is still relevant and if you can find a way to take time with friends and spend a weekend writing, I promise you will walk away with so much more than just pages…
Your Writing Retreat
I’ve listened to friends go on and on about writing retreats for years. Holing up in a hotel for a weekend to escape family demands and meet a deadline. Taking off for a family cabin with a group and spending a weekend plotting. Finally it was time to dive in and here is what I learned:
1) Find friends who share your goal for the retreat. If everyone is on the same page (literally)–writing pages or plotting or critiquing–then things will most likely run smoothly–as no one is interrupting another’s pursuits. For our weekend, the four of us all had books in progress that needed to be jumpstarted after the holidays. So our goal was simple: Pages. Lots of pages. We wrote on our own, we used group sprints (1k words in one hour) and took breaks together to unwind, chat about road blocks, to share music tracks. Then it was back to the pages. Relaxed, yet productive.
The Perfect Spot
2) This, I think can be the hardest part. Finding someplace easily accessible and affordable. Jane Porter and I lucked out at a charity auction and won a big condo in Palm Springs. The place was amazing. Far more than we expected–it was so perfect. Two large bedroom suites, an individual bedroom, big living room, dining area, big patios. Perfect–because everyone found their favorite spot and hunkered down to write. We were not shy about moving furniture around to suit our mood–including taking the dining room table out on the patio so we could eat and write outside. I loved the patio off my bedroom–bright light, privacy and fresh air. Perfect.
Think family cabins, house shares, off season rentals. Ask around and check with friends as to where they’ve gone. The perfect spot is out there waiting for you.
3) Collaborate ahead of time. We had a flurry of emails the week before–on goals, expectations, food, groceries, and it all came together quite effortlessly. At least it felt that way. We shared cooking, making coffee and tea. We took turns with those chores and were respectful of each other’s time.
4) Clear your head and keep a clear perspective. Too much writing and togetherness, especially for writers–since we are usually solitary creatures–can be a bit stressful. Take breaks. I went for walks. I went to mass. Closed the door on my room. And bit my tongue a few times. Anyone who knows me, knows that is me showing huge restraint. In other words, it is only weekend. And if things bubble a bit, well, consider that is writers being writers and it is after all, only a weekend.
5) Come prepared to work and share and learn. I had my scenes all mapped out, my notes in order and my pages with me so I could take additional notes as needed. I had them all in one of my Levenger Circa notebooks. I tend to think this is the way everyone writes–only to discover that everyone of us worked so very differently. The coolest part of the weekend were the times we each shared our writing process and explained how we work. Fascinating and so amazing. And yes, I will share what I learned.
I have been on a total fantasy reading kick. Maybe it’s in anticipation of the return of Game of Thrones. But one thing is for sure: I read one and then I dive into a whole series. Come along with me…
So when the Nebula Awards were announced a few weeks ago, I realized I’d only read one of them (The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal–which BTW so belongs on this list), so I ordered up Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (since I’m a fan of hers already, having loved and adored Uprooted) and also Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.
I devoured Trail of Lightning. The book grabbed me from the first few pages with tremendous world building and a cast of characters that hit all the notes. This is a take on the post Apocalyptic world that we haven’t seen as readers–at least I haven’t–and it is a gripping, page-turning story. The next one—Storm of Locusts—comes out April 23rd, so you have time to read the first one and do what I’ve done: pre-order the 2nd one.
In the category of finishing up series, I couldn’t stop myself and dug into Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb. This series is so good. I mean, so very good, and the last one had me in tears by the end. There are more books in this “world” so I, of course, got my hands on them and they are patiently waiting for me in my overflowing TBR.
Speaking of series, don’t hate me but I got an Advance Reading Copy of Protect the Prince by Jennifer Estep and LOVED it. I think I liked it more than the first book, Kill the Queen. I’ll review it more in depth closer to its release in July, but I just wanted you to read the first book so you are ready for the second one.
See a theme here? Because I’m thoughtful like that. LOL.
I always smile when I see this date. You see, April 1st has a different meaning for me–not the day of pranks and foolery, but the day I began my publishing career.
Not the day I sold, but the day I turned in the manuscript of Brazen Angel for the Dell Diamond Debut contest. To me, April 1st is the day it all began.
Now there is a HUGE story behind my first book, and you can find it here. Go read it, then come back. I’ll wait.
And this year, I wanted to remember it all over again. The Brazen series has all new covers, AND they are back in print editions, something they haven’t been in a long time. So whatever your jam, ebook or print, try the series that launched my writing career.