Retreat: v. - (of an army) withdraw from enemy forces as a result of their superior power or after a defeat.
Retreat: n. – 1. an act of moving back or withdrawing. 2. withdraw to a quiet or secluded place.
I have always wanted to go on a writer’s retreat. It sounds romantic, to be able to move away from the world and surround oneself with the creation of words and nothing else. A writer’s retreat is something real writers do, the kind of writers with books on the shelf and a room of their own in which to write.
Hogwash, all of it.
This past weekend, I went to my family’s lake house with four other women who write. Three of them write Christian genre fiction and one of them is working on a Christian nonfiction. I was the odd woman out, writing fantasy romance, but we had an amazing time.
For me, the weekend was a withdrawal from enemy forces. My enemies being two large dogs, two small boys, and one wonderful husband.
They allow me to write often enough, sometimes every day, but their demands are many. Even now, I am writing at the table with one boy eating a meal I prepared and one demanding to sit in my lap. Previous to this paragraph, I was interrupted by poop (not mine), an argument (in which I was called in to referee), and a consultation about clothing choices for the day. It gets wearisome.
I am not a part of a f2f writer’s circle. I have friends online to which I pose questions on craft or business, but I have never shared my work in real time. It was eye-opening.
Humans are, at our base, social creatures who desire community. Though writers create in isolation, is was nice to create in a shared space for a short time.
We would work on our own, then come together to read paragraphs, read openings, work out sticky plot points, and discuss the publishing industry. During meals, we shared our lives and got to know each other.
My goal for the retreat, which was only about 26 hours long, was 10,000 words. I was a couple hundred words shy, but I ended in a great spot.
The retreat reinforced that we all feel inadequate, we all juggle complicated lives, and a room of one’s own may look more like a corner of the couch or family table and less like a writer’s hut. Of course, if anyone would like to re-purpose an old Airstream, cabin, or train car into office for me, please, feel free to do so.
–Jane, writer of magical things
I am taking a class on query and synopsis writing. Most of the class is basic marketing with a publishing spin. The package sent to a publisher is, in its essence, the author marketing themselves and their work to an editor or publisher. We all know this, but it is nice to hear an editor’s POV when they are reading the stuff we send them.
Thinking about how I sell myself and my work has forced me to think about what I want from a publisher. A query is like any job hunt and any interview is just as much about how much they like you as how much you like them.
There are many flavors of publishers out there, from the big behemoths to tiny e-presses. There are benefits to the different choices and disadvantages to others, as there is with all things. Going through this process, I have created a list of things I want and look for when searching out places to market my work.
Here is the general list:
I want a publisher who emphasizes ebooks. I know electronic format is the future and I want to be somewhere this idea is valued. I like and read print books, but they are not the future of the industry.
I want a place I can grow as an author. I am not looking for an opportunity to publish the next blockbuster, though I would not turn that down. I have more realistic goals. I want a place to stretch my wings and I want an editor who can guide me on that path. Behind every great writer, is a brilliant editor. Developing a cooperative, trusting relationship with an editor is one of the things I am looking forward to the most in this process.
I am halfway through a cross genre series, a traditional fantasy with strong romantic elements, and my next series will probably be a scfi/space opera with strong romantic elements. I need a publishing company that is not afraid of cross genre work.
I want to be a marketing partner with my publishing company and I evaluate their webpages accordingly. No matter what size or prestige of a company, if their social media links are hard to find or contain terrible content, that is a huge red flag for me. In fact, this is a red flag for any company with which I want to do business.
That is my list. Short. Sweet. Not too complicated, I think.
After my post about my mixed thoughts on both traditional and self-publishing, I have continued to think about the purpose of what I do and yesterday, I had a big thought.
When I wrote Mob Rule Learning, I did so because the topic is important to me. I believe strongly in the power of a group to do amazing, revolutionary things. Our country was created by a group of passionate people who came together and made something new, a mob passionate for freedom.
I wrote that book because the idea has power. When people tell me they like Mob Rule Learning, I smile and am happy knowing that they understand the power of people too. I thought if anyone ever read my fiction and liked it, I would have the same kind of happiness. It is the happiness like-minded people find in a good conversation.
I think I vastly underestimated my own feelings about fiction and how that would tie into my feelings about my writing.
Something happens to me when I read fiction that does not happen when I read non-fiction. Every once in awhile you read one of those books. You know the ones. The ones where you fall down the rabbit hole and you never want out. The ones where you are afraid to get to the end because you will miss the characters. The ones that make your heart beat faster. The books that make you fall in love and you want to read over and over and over. The ones you stay up all night reading and then have troubling going to sleep because the whole thing is there in your head.
Perhaps some of you feel that way about non-fiction, but for me, it is fiction.
One day, I want someone to fall down the rabbit hole into a world I made. I want them to fall in love with the characters from my head. I want to give that to someone. Even if this only ever happens once and even if I never know, that is the reason I write fiction.
It is not the only reason. The characters in my head never leave me alone until I write them down and I am a much happier person when I have a little time to write, but those are not the secret-wish-in-my-heart reason.
I want to give back to the world once what I have been given many, many times over. I am, after all, just a bibliophile.
–Jane, always reading
I am in the process of querying the first novel in my fantasy romance series. I decided to directly query publishers, without an agent, because most of the publishers I wanted were epubs who took unagented submissions. I feel good about that decision, most days anyway, but I still have very mixed feelings about traditional publishing in general.
Disclaimer: I love books. I love reading books. Print books. Ebooks. As long as it has words in it and is a genre I like, I will read it so I am not snobby about format. I also buy my books and ebooks from a variety of sources: Amazon, used book sales, brick and mortar book stores, direct from publishers, and places like Smashwords, so I am not snobby about where the book comes from either.
The trouble comes when I start looking at numbers comparing traditional publishing to self publishing. Courtney Milan wrote an honest discussion with Ask A Mermaid recently where she discussed how to do a Profit and Loss (P&L) analysis for a book. Milan is a very successful romance author with an established author platform. She started doing P&L comparisons for books when she received an offer from Harlequin for a book she was also considering for self-publishing.
So if I only looked at the first year of my P&L, I would have said to go with Harlequin’s offer. But year two was where I thought I would get ahead: I projected about half the sales from year 1 in year 2, making the worst case scenario $12,568, the best guess scenario $39,000, and the best case scenario $77,775.
Doing the P&L this way forced me to accept that I was taking a risk—that there was a real chance that I would lose money by turning down Harlequin’s offer—but that the upside potential for the book was much, much larger by choosing to self-publish.
Milan’s established platform has allowed her to be successful publishing both traditional and self-published books. The catch here is that she had a very well established author platform.
Recently, Mike Corker, founder of Smashwords, shared a long post which analyzed the indie book market using data from Smashwords. Smashwords enables authors to publish their work and easily distribute it to all major eretailers while allowing them to retain their rights and keep 85% of the net profit. The standard net for authors from traditional publishers is 25-40% for ebooks and range from 10-20% for print.
The analysis of the data from Smashwords is fascinating in terms of title length, price points, and word count. Where it really drives home, though, is author profit:
Allow me to break it down this way. An indie ebook author earns about $2.00 from the sale of a $2.99 book. That book, on average, will sell four times as many units as a book priced over $10.00. In order for a traditionally published author to earn $2.00 on an ebook sale, the book must be priced at $11.42 (if the publisher has agency terms, as Smashwords does) or $16.00 (if it’s a wholesale publisher). Remember, traditionally published authors earn only 25% of the net, whereas Smashwords authors earn 85% net. If your book is traditionally published, and your publisher sells under the wholesale pricing model, you earn only about $1.25 for a book priced at $9.99, whereas an indie ebook author would earn $6.00-$8.00 at that price.
If a reader has the choice to purchase one of two books of equal quality, and one is priced at $2.99 and the other is priced at $12.99, which will they choose?
The numbers are staggering, but Corker’s last question is an important one and too often overlooked. There are buckets full of arguments for or against self-publishing. Some of those arguments have merit and some are just people being ugly to the wild child threatening the marble halls of the publishing industry.
As a reader, I choose, almost always, to buy the cheaper, equal quality book because I can only buy so many and I would rather have more for my money. If I am going to spend over $10 on an ebook, I spend a long time thinking about it. Sometimes, I spend so long considering the purchase, I forget to buy it, even for authors I love. It is the main reason why there are some very popular series on my TBR list where I am more than one book behind. I love them, but I do not $10 love them.
Not only are books and ebooks from traditional publishers often more expensive, less of that price goes back to the author. Now, I know all about overhead costs with traditional publishing. I know why publishers price their books the way they do, but there will come a day, and that day might be now, when the way we do publishing changes and those price points will change too.
I did not decide to start writing for the money. No person with any bit of sanity and self-preservation does this for the money, but that does not mean I do not compare the number 85% and 40% and see the difference between them. I may not be great at Math but I can do addition and subtraction well enough.
There are costs to self-publishing, if you do it well. Editors, book covers, and marketing take both money and time. A P&L, as Milan pointed out, is essential to understanding the business behind your book. Even with these costs, if an author intends to build a platform over the course of a lifetime, self-publishing seems to be a better deal.
Recently, an author behaved badly and ranted about how good books do not earn money but popular trash, in this case erotic romance, sells well. (The original post was deleted by the author, but Heidi Cullinan’s response is brilliant.) Writers hear advice all the time about not writing to the market and writing the story they want to tell. That is good advice, but I am realistic. I know romantic epic fantasy is not a high selling genre. I have seen editors share frankly on Twitter that people say they want fantasy and sci-fi romance, but the sales numbers do not support it.
Sadly, if you go on almost any sci-fi/fantasy blog or website which reviews or lists books, there are very few by women and even fewer with romantic elements. Without some romance, the stories always feel flat to me. I want romance in the books I read and I want to write those books. I have done enough reading on the industry now, though, to know my audience is probably going to be small. I am fine with that, but a publisher may not be fine with the smaller earning potential.
Controlling my copyright is also important to me. It is hard to imagine signing over a significant portion of copyright for a small share of the profits. It breaks my librarian heart. I have done it for non-fiction in the past and it was hard to sign that line. I did it because I knew I had to sign to get what I wanted: a pretty print book in my hands. That is not to say I did not love my non-fiction publishers and editors, I did. They were wonderful to me.
When I started talking to Mr. Rochester seriously about writing fiction, he suggested I self-publish. I shook my head. I wanted a contract with a publisher, the golden ticket of affirmation in my hand. When I told my friend Jason Griffey I was writing fiction two years ago, he immediately laid out all of the reasons I should self-publish, most of which I have discussed in this post. I told him I would think about it, but what I was really thinking was that was not for me.
I have learned in two years things I did not know then, about writing and about the industry. My opinion is still evolving, but indie publishing has grown from a squalling infant to a college graduate, eager to please and show what it can do. I think the potential for indie/self-publishing is enormous I think the way traditional publishing stands at this moment there is no growth potential. Traditional publishing is having growth and change pains. They will figure it out eventually, but it is going to be a messy, rocky road.
I have been querying publishers for almost a year now. I am waiting on four more responses. If they all come back negative, I am going to make a detailed P&L for self-publishing, draft a plan for editing and marketing, and then move forward. If I receive an offer from one of the publishers, I am still going to do a P&L and I am going to think very long and hard about saying yes.
I want a better share of the profits. I want more control over my copyright. I also want that golden ticket of affirmation from the industry, but I want to build a platform over the course of my career more than I need a publisher’s approval.
–Jane, happy to be writing
This review is for the first two books of the Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren. The third book comes out today, so guess what I am doing for the rest of the day. You can read a mini review of the first book, How Beauty Met the Beast in my Books read in 2012 post.
Here is the blurb from the publisher for the first and second books:
How Beauty Met the Beast: Book 1
Scarred. Damaged. Living with a terrible secret. Agent of the Underlight Wesley “Hauk” Haukon has nothing left but the fight for liberty against the oppressive Order of Ananke. He’s starting to lose hope…and then he sees her.
Despite her night job as a burlesque dancer, grad student Jolie Benoit has always played the mostly good girl. That all changes following a scorching sexual encounter with a stranger whose face she doesn’t see. After she’s kidnapped by thugs and rescued by a man with a very familiar voice, Jolie becomes a pawn in a struggle she never knew existed.
Hauk knows he cannot have her, and resolves to protect his heart and his secrets. But as they work together and grow closer, he finds new reason to keep fighting. Dare he risk hope in a new life, one where Jolie can see past his ravaged face and where their friendship can grow into something more?
How Beauty Saved the Beast: Book 2
Jolie Benoit left her old life behind to become an agent of the Underlight. Training under Sergeant Wesley Haukon, she’s honing her combat skills, all the while coping with the intense sexual attraction she feels for Hauk. She keeps their friendship casual, but when his high school sweetheart transfers into their division, Jolie finds herself grappling with jealousy.
The Underlight gave Hauk a purpose, but he can’t escape his past completely. The physical and emotional scars from the fire that killed seven fellow Army Rangers will mark him forever. Jolie sends his protective instincts into overdrive, but he’s convinced he’ll never be worthy of her love.
Hauk is determined to keep Jolie from harm. But when the Order of Ananke ambushes them with a new weapon that neutralizes Hauk, making him vulnerable, it’s Jolie who must tap into her hidden strengths to rescue him–or risk losing him forever…
A tortured hero makes me swoon. A tortured hero who is a gentleman and does not use his baggage as an excuse to be an overbearing idiot is even better. A tortured hero who is also not conventionally handsome hits all my spots, the good ones.
Hauk is isolated physically and emotionally from others, even his friends, and this distance makes his growing relationship with Jolie nail biting. The way they gravitate towards each other, only to fling themselves away, builds the tension between them. Garren crafts Hauk and Jolie perfectly so their relationship woes are never forced or irritating to the reader. On the contrary, the reasons, especially on Hauk’s side, were heart wrenching.
Jolie has had all of the advantages of a privileged upbringing but has retained a decent moral character. Unfortunately, this has isolated her from most of her family and leaves few she trusts. Unlike Hauk, who is isolated because of his appearance (and that pesky thing about being suspected of murder), Jolie is isolated by her last name and her money. Both of these characters have some serious baggage dragging along behind them.
The pages are fairly smoking from the chemistry between Hauk and Jolie. The first novel starts off with an encounter that could set a sheet aflame (ahem) and the tension never drops from there. Hauk and Jolie, after the initial encounter, do not touch often but the reader keenly knows every time they do. By the time I finished reading the second book, the book was scorching my hands.
The romance is great, but the plot is not too shabby either. There are pagan, excuse me, heathen gods, good guys fighting evil power hungry men, magical mysteries, and people trying to build a better world. There are subtle, and not so subtle, references to steampunk, anarchy, fairy tales, science, burlesque, and Austin culture in the story line. It is a wild mix that Garren weaves together fluidly for a very fun ride.
These are books that I frequently recommend, and by recommend I mean beat over the head with, to people, and by people I mean anyone unfortunate enough to admit they read books. There are three books in this series, all increasing in length, and all very reasonably priced from the wonderful Carina Press. The third book, How Beauty Loved the Beast, comes out TODAY.
Do yourself a favor and make a very nice lady (Jax Garren) happy. Go. Buy. Read. And fall in love.
P.S. I will admit without coercion that I have read Met three times and Saved twice and all the bits around the web as well. I am head over burlesque heels.
Jane, has received nothing for this review except perhaps the right to stalk Jax Garren at the next conference we both attend.
In February, I helped the women’s ministry at my church come up with value statements to go with our new mission and vision statements. I had less than 60 minutes to get a room full of opinionated women to agree to seven or less short statements of value. Here is how I did it.
Before you start planning, I suggest you watch the Digital Strategist’s videos on Mission, Vision, and Value statements. She has an excellent way of explaining the purpose of each and simple ways to craft them. They are very short.
For this exercise, you will need:
- Post-its, regular size, one stack for each participant
- one flip chart post it
- pens for everyone
- a room of passionate people
- a good facilitator
- one hour
The women in the room had already discussed the new mission and vision statements so they were familiar with them and had already bought into them as a group. How we created group buy-in is another topic for another post, but your group needs to believe in what they do for this to work. The individuals do not need to be the same (personality, training, etc.) just passionate about what your group is doing.
I began by explaining that value statements tell others what you believe in and hold to be true. They do not express individual beliefs. They are not one word, but a phrase or statement. They are designed to bring our actions into alignment with the words of our mission and vision statements. This explanation and question time took less than 10 minutes.
On one of the large post it pages, I wrote the following question and posted it for the room to see: What are the guiding principles that dictate how we treat each other and how we treat our women? (or others?)
Each woman was asked to answer that question on their sticky notes. One answer per note. They had to write at least one and could write as many as they wanted. They created a pile in front of them or kept their notes in a stack. I gave them 10 minutes to do this.
While they were writing, I posted six flip chart post-its in a cluster.
When they were done, I instructed them to come and place their sticky notes on one of the six flip chart pages and to cluster their own that were similar together. After everyone had posted their notes, the group was then instructed to arrange the statements into categories. Things that fell outside of the six groups could be placed off to the side.
The area in front of the emerging categories was crowded, so we did it in groups. Half the ladies went and then after a few minutes, I made them rotate. I did that a couple times to let the groups rearrange and move things. They could make no more than seven category groupings. They had 10-15 minutes to do this.
If you are keeping track, we are about 30-35 minutes through the process.
Everyone then sat down. Our group had four distinct groups and only a few outlying sticky notes. We focused on the four groups and for each one I asked: How would you describe these statements with only a few words. What word ties them all together?
I labeled each groups with the words they chose. This took less than 5 minutes.
Next, I pointed to the first category and asked them to make a phrase with those words (the labels they had created). I warned them that this was not word smithing, but more like brainstorming. On the flip chart, I wrote what they said. The group came up with three or four statements for each category and I helped them reduce it to a single short statement. We did that for each of our four categories. This took us about 15 minutes, but allow for at least 20 when planning in the event your group creates more categories.
We had enough time to create final value statements so we did word smith a tiny bit.
Viola! That is it.
Bonus: If you have time, do something fun at the end. Ask them to write on a sticky note what they loved most about the day, exercise, retreat and post them on the wall for others to read. We were behind schedule that day, so I actually had less than 60 minutes for my section and we did not get to the extra fun stuff.
You can see my original notes here.
This works because the power of a group is huge when they are all passionate about something and you push them to think big.
If you are curious, and I know you are, the values my women’s ministry crafted that day are: We pursue and love others. We are growing in Christ and reflecting God’s love to others. We encourage one another with love, grace, and mercy. We strive towards being transparent and humble.
Is there something different you have done to make mission, vision, and value statements more collaborative?
–Jane, loves a motivated crowd
I have a set of Tipples out today with FreePint Newsletter (scroll to the bottom). Tipples are quick tips for staying informed.
It was excrutiating to boil down my information consumption into 4-5 places/tools with general appeal. The things I chose to include are things which have stood the test of time, but after making my list I realized this:
The number one thing keeping me engaged, up-to-date, and informed is my community.
My community, tribe, mob, crowd, or whatever label you give it is what influences what articles I read, what books I buy, what RSS feeds I subscribe to, in some cases where I shop, and how my opinion on a topic evolves.
I participate in different communities, because each one offers me a different information set and, occasionally, different values.
The tools and websites I mention are all well and good, but they are nothing without the community behind them and I am nothing without mine.
If you do not participate in different communities or even one community online, you are missing the point of this beautiful, living thing called the internet. Newsflash: It’s not just for porn anymore!
–Jane, loves her tribes
Every couple of weeks, I see authors I love remind other authors to just be nice already. Today, I came across a writer (no I will not link there) who has an entire website devoted to how much the genre they love has begun to suck and thus this person has decided to do the world the immense favor of writing non-sucking books for all of the languishing fans of that genre. I am not even going to touch the fact that this writer bashed women authors of the genre for being too touchy-feely, but stick with the main task at hand.
I understand that the range of tastes are immense and we all have our preferences, but there is a difference between bringing up critical issues with something and being a douche.
Be constructive in your criticism. If you have a complaint, explain why you believe the issue to be an issue. Painting everything or everyone else as crap because you do not like it, is not constructive. For example, in romance the rape scene as titillation, which was popular in the 80′s and 90′s, is problematic because it normalizes the belief that “she really wanted it so it’s not rape.”
I can have this opinion and not think that all authors who participated in this trope are terrible. Some of the authors I like have written books with this trope. I just choose not to like those books. If you have a problem with a trend within a genre, then talk about the trend with other adjectives that do not involve excrement or expletives.
Offer a solution to the issue at hand. If you see something wrong, offer ways that issue can be fixed or another way to handle the challenge. If there is a problem in your organization, brainstorm some ideas on how YOU can make it better. If we are talking about writing, write something different and then let your writing stand on its own merits. There is no need to bash other writers of your genre as you seek to instigate change. That brings me to my last point.
If you can not be constructive or offer a solution, be nice. If you feel you can not have a civilized discussion, do not have the discussion at all. Instead, find an author, company, or person who is doing something right and applaud them. Point out all the ways they are doing the opposite of the thing you dislike. Cheer on the people you think are doing a good job.
In the words of Wil Wheaton, “Don’t be a dick.”
Jacob, the BeerBrarian, has an excellent post on why men should just be nice to women already which goes along nicely with my directive to be nice. Jacob’s post is a good example of pointing out issues without being a douche. That and the gif on his post is fabulous.
Perhaps, if we all spent more time applauding the good, the bad would get less airtime and thus seek our attention less.
I do not want to be perceived as a Pollyanna. Readers who have been around for a long time know that is not me, at all.
However, when we have conversations about how we dislike this thing about a genre or that thing about a company, can we please be constructive and seek to solve the problem? If you can do neither of those things, can you choose to be nice instead? Because if you are just mean and complain about everything and everybody, you are being a douche.
–Jane, don’t be a douche
Updated to add the Wheaton quote because I did not want my nerd cred to be revoked.
Dr. McDaniel teaches history at Rice University, which is just a few miles down the road from where I live in the south suburbs of Houston. This semester he is teaching a survey course in American History (I can see some of you are already falling asleep. Wake up!), but he does not want this to be a traditional survey course. Dr. McDaniel is going to teach this survey course starting in the present and going backwards into the past.
This is not an entirely new concept, as McDaniel points out in a very well reasoned argument about why a survey in history especially benefits from starting at the end. While the idea itself is compelling, it is the methodology of the course he envisions that strikes my imagination.
Dr. McDaniel wants the course to be question driven. Questioning the material and facts is a level of learning that students never achieve simply listening to lectures. It forces students to understand what they are learning and create new avenues of thought based on those new facts.
Students will read and review primary sources and then investigate some aspect of that source, an unfamiliar name or event mentioned in the source, for example. Based on their investigation, the students will then create a list of questions.
In class, the questions and issues the students have generated will be discussed as a group. The class, as a group, decides the top questions they wish to explore further. On the next class day, Dr. McDaniel will give a lecture that addresses the questions the class has identified as the most important.
This backwards, participatory approach not only forces the students to be engaged in their own learning process, it gives them the ability to control the direction of the class. It is mob rule learning at its finest.
As Dr. McDaniel points out, this process will also develop information literacy in his students. He says,
“Focusing my efforts on “historical thinking” will, I hope, better prepare students to critically analyze the history and pseudo-history they will encounter throughout their lives, whether at the movies, on cable news, or in written form.”
Dr. McDaniel has developed a course that teaches students how to navigate and evaluate information they will encounter in the real world, not just memorize facts on a timeline. I hope Dr. McDaniel updates us on the progress of his class over the semester and at its conclusion. His new approach has all the hallmarks of a course in which the students will be engaged and aggressively seeking a new understanding of their world. Bravo, I say, bravo!
–Jane, thanks to my friend Andromeda for sending this my way
Total Books Read: 69
Most Books Read in One Month: November, 9
Least Books Read in One Month: February, August, and September all had only 4 books
Summary: As always, my list is dominated by romance, with a smattering of other things lest I become boring. There are a ton a good books on the list and a lot of returning authors I love. I could go on for paragraphs about many of them, but I will spare you. I wish I had more time to write reviews, but I can not do everything I wish. Almost everything I read was an ebook.
Favorite Reread: The rereads on my list this year were all Harry Potter books. We are reading them to Gideon and as I am doing some reading and listening, in turn, I included them. My favorite reread this year is not actually on the list because technically I did not read the entire thing, but the story is funny enough I wanted to share. While doing some research for the book I wrote last year, I wanted to flip through some books to see how they handled a couple things. I picked up Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab and started reading a few chapters in. I think I started a little before the scene with the bat. It was a quiet evening, Mr. R was playing on the computer, and I kept reading and reading and reading. Before I knew it, I had finished the entire book, again, in one sitting no less. Somewhere in Germany, Sandra is laughing at me.
Favorite New Read: I hate this category every year because I can almost never pick one. This year is no different. I have a short list of books that I positively swooned and swooned and swooned over. You must all go read these books right this moment. For different reasons, each of these books or series grabbed me and still have not let me go. Here they are:
The Blades of the Rose Series by Zoe Archer (April) – This is a great historical series with some steampunk and steamy romance. The characters are delightful and the stories, which revolve around different cultures and artifacts, are interesting and filled with adventure. The romances in all four books will delight. Archer writes dialog that sticks with you and brings her characters from the page.
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison (June) – This urban romance is the first in a wonderful series. You will love the main characters, but the supporting cast is equally delightful. It will make you laugh and the romance will make you grab for a glass of ice water. Urban fantasy is a saturated market, but Harrison stands out among the others. Dragon Bound won a RITA Award from RWA last year.
The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas Series) by Meljean Brook (August) – Oh My Goodness. The first two books in this series completely blew me away. Brook has a way with words that brings new worlds to life with poignancy. The steampunk world she has created in this series is gritty and damaged, but the ability of people to overcome war and circumstances shines in this novel. The hero is definitely an alpha, but he won my heart. I had given up on steampunk, but this series has be begging for more. Brook is a master.
Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant (November) – ZOMBIES! This book is part zombie thriller, part political commentary, part media commentary, and all fun. They are hilarious, tense, and sad all at once. Grant has created the best zombie book since World War Z. The pop culture references, instead of being dated, are fabulous. If you even remotely like zombies or you want to give them a try, this is a magnificent place to start. ***Repost Freely*** ***Repost Freely*** Georgia Mason Lives. ***Repost Freely*** ***Repost Freely***
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren (also November!) – November was a great month for books. This is the first of a trilogy. The next one comes out February 11th, which gives you plenty of time to read the first one. This book is set in Austin, the capitol of my home state. I adored this story because it is a beginning, one that starts with a tentative friendship between two people you fall for, hard. Plus, it has burlesque dancers which is all kinds of awesome and win. Hauk is a war veteran, horribly burned, and a member of an underground society with some steampunk elements. Jolie is a graduate student and a burlesque dancer. Their friendship and budding romance is sweet and full of all kinds of warm fuzzy things. You will never look at a sheet the same way, either. Though this is a novella, it did not strike me as too short. I am often frustrated by novellas, but this one left me just satisfied enough with the story and aching for the rest of the tale. I have so far resisted the urge to reread this, but I think I will give in right before How Beauty Saved the Beast, the second book, comes out.
January – 7
(W)hole by Ruth Madison
Falling Hard by J.K. Coi
Witch and Wizard by James Patterson and Gabriella Charbonnet
Dangerous Magic by Alix Rickloff
Slip Point by Karalynn Lee
Entwined by Heather Dixon
The Viking’s Sacrifice by Julia Knight
February – 4
Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving
Marry Me by Jo Goodman
Viper’s Kiss by Shannon Curtis
Chaos Tryst by Shirin Dubbin
March – 5
Miss Foster’s Folly by Alice Gaines
Homespun Bride by Jillian Hart
Lament: the Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater
Chesapeake Blue by Nora Roberts
Charming the Shrew by Laurin Wittig
April – 5
Hunger Aroused by Dee Carney
Rebel: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Scoundrel: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Stranger: the Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
Warrior: The Blades of the Rose by Zoe Archer
May – 7
Super Zero by Rhonda Stapleton
Wolf Signs by Vivian Arend
Reiver’s Bride by Amanda Scott
What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: the English Experience by Michael Prestwich
Ashfall by Mike Mullin
June – 6
Snowbound With a Stranger by Rebecca Rogers Maher
Chain Reaction by Zoe Archer
Ruined by Rumor by Alyssa Everett
Skies of Fire by Zoe Archer
The Restorer by Amanda Stevens
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
July – 6
Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson
Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert, and Richard Isanove
Serpent’s Kiss by Thea Harrison
Geekomancy by Michael R. Underwood
Slow Summer Kisses by Shannon Stacey
August – 4
Kilts and Kraken by Cindy Pencer Pape
The Iron Duke by Meljean Brook
Beyond the Night by Joss Ware
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
September – 4
Heart of Steel by Meljean Brook
Burning Up by Angela Knight, Nalini Signh, Virginia Kantra, Meljean Brook
All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey
Stolen Love by Carolyn Jewel
October – 7
Inheritance by Christopher Paolini
Chains and Flames by G. A. Aiken
Dragon Actually by G. A. Aiken
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
Matt Archer: Monster Hunter by Kendra C. Highly
Never Seduce A Scot by Maya Banks
Beast by Marian Churchland
November – 9
What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long
Feed: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
Deadline: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
Blackout: Newsflesh Trilogy by Mira Grant
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Heart of the Dragon Realm by Karalynn Lee
Moonlight and Mechanicals by Cindy Spencer Pape
December – 5
All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey
Shattered Magic by Rebecca York
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling
A Galactic Holiday by Anna Hackett, Stacy Gail, Sasha Summers ed. By Angela James
An Infamous Marriage by Susanna Fraser
–Jane, thinks her time this year was well spent