Farewell, Faithful Friend: Titus Pullo Smith 2005-2017

Dear Pullo,

It breaks my heart that our family will be starting over in Wyoming without you. Even though you probably would have hated it, you never did like the outdoors, you would have loved being with us. We had you for eleven and a half years before old age and arthritis finally took too heavy a toll.

You were an adorable puppy and I adored you. Even from the beginning, your tongue was rarely in your mouth.

We took you camping, which you hated, and walking, which you also disliked. We even bought you saddlebags, which you wore like a champ even though you detested hiking.

There were a lot of things you loved.

You loved your family. You were an awesome snuggler, even if you hogged the bed or couch. Your favorite place was with your people.

Christmas was a favorite time of year for you. You especially loved scratching your face with the tree branches and snoozing amidst the presents.

You took three new additions to the family, two boys and another puppy, in stride. You were unsure about Wicket for almost a year before you decided you loved her and she could share the couch.

Thanks for bieng my first “kid and for always loving me. Today was the hardest good-bye I’ve ever had to say.

I love you, puppy dog.

Love, Momma.

 

Cover Reveal: Plagues of the Heart

I can finally share with you the beautiful cover of Plagues of the Heart, the fourth book in the Turning Creek series.

 

Colorado 1863

Dora Aello, descendant of brutal harpies, has built a life in Turning Creek where she can use her hands to bring healing instead of pain to others. Her new life helps her control the mistakes of her violent past but Dora is afraid she will not be able to keep them at bay forever.

With the blood of healers in his veins, Lee Williams could use his power over life and death as a way to gain wealth and social standing, but that was his father’s way, not his. He has come to Turning Creek to start over and prove that he is worthy to bear the burden of the power of Asclepius.

An ancient evil is unleashed on Turning Creek and it ravages the residents with a cascade of misfortunes. To save the town they call home, Dora and Lee must race to find the source of destruction and stop it before all is lost. Dora will have to relinquish the control of her nature and come to terms with her own desires or risk losing the lives of everyone she loves.

Pre-order it now!

Releases July 27, 2017

ebook: Amazon, iBooks Google PlayKobo

There is more great Turning Creek news coming soon.

 

Web of Blessings

Preparing to move has been overwhelming at times, exciting in others, and frequently filled with dust. My major accomplishments this week include packing all the books in the house, with the exceptions of childrens, cook books, and antiques, putting an offer on a house, and choosing a moving company. As I go about my days, living my normal routine and doing moving prep, I encounter people I have become friends with over the years, people who have been a friendly face in my day, and people who have touched my life in countless ways.

This constant reminder of people has led me to believe that we all live in a web of blessings. My life touches one person’s life, they reach out and love someone else, and that person befriends another. Each touch of a life reverberates like the strings of a web, alerting all that there are connections both deep and shallow and all make an impact. We can make no movements without effecting others. This is one of the things that makes us human.

Humans are social beings. We were made for relationship. In preparing to leave many of mine geographically behind, I have become reminded how large my web has become and I am grateful. I have been richly blessed with people that I love. I want to hug as many as possible, share a drink and a laugh, and remember my blessings. Thank you for being my friend.

Geography and Other Challenges

We have gotten a variety of interesting comments about moving to Wyoming from people that have reinforced my beliefs that Texans are bad at geography.

This will probably come as a shock to no one who has ever spent any time with a Texan. If it is not in Texas, most Texans do not know where it is and there is a good reason for this. Have you looked at a map? Texas is huge. You can drive for 8 hours in multiple directions and still be in Texas. Most people who are born here, do not leave often because it is a pain in the butt to get anywhere else.

For my fellow Texans, here is a primer on Wyoming based on the comments I have gotten.

Wyoming is not South Dakota. Many of you think we are moving to the Black Hills. While Wyoming is just to the west of South Dakota, the topography in Wyoming is very different. Wyoming has more plateaus, canyons, and mountains than South Dakota. In fact, we will be living within sight of the Big Horn Mountains.

Wyoming is not next to Canada. It is closer to Canada than Texas, but most other states are. Montana, the state directly to the north of Wyoming, is, however, next to Canada.

Yellowstone National Park is in Wyoming. It is not, to the surprise of some, in California.

Yes, we are moving out of the Bible Belt, but we see this as a good thing. We are called to be salt and light in the world. It is hard to be salt to others if you stay in the shaker. There are churches in Sheridan, Wyoming and we do plan on finding one to join because that is important to our family.

Speaking of religion, while there is a greater percentage of the population in Wyoming that are Mormon (11.53%), Texas has a greater number of LDS congregants by volume and more temples than Wyoming.

Wyoming does trend towards being a red state, but so does Texas. Yes, I do know they are conservative there, but I have always been a liberal surrounded by conservatives. I think I will continue to survive and make friends.

Wyoming is full of cowboys, ranches, and farms, much like Texas. I do not expect to go into much culture shock in that regard. I think the biggest adjustment for us will be moving to a smaller, much much smaller city. The Houston metroplex contains over 650 million people. The suburb of Houston I currently live in contains over 100,ooo people. Sheridan, Wyoming has a population just north of 17,000.

It is cold in Wyoming in the winter, but it is absolutely beautiful in the summer. My family is going to get to enjoy a slate of outdoor activities that the heat here renders miserable. For the record, I think the winter is pretty as well, even if it is more work to get around.

Thank you to everyone who has wished us well, even if you were not sure entirely where we were going.

It’s Off to Wyo We Go

Going to the mountains is going home. -John Muir

I have lived in the Houston area for 32 of my 38 years. Those that are missing, I was still in Texas, just up the road in College Station and then Dallas. This is the place with my roots and my large extended family. As an adult, it has also become the place where I have started raising my own family and found a church that is like family. There are many wonderful things to recommend Texas, but this is never the place I wanted to be forever.

 

Mr. R, as many of you know, is an engineer and his job has kept us here, but it is no longer his passion or what he feels called to do. This shift for him and my strong desire to be in the mountains has led us to look elsewhere. This past weekend, my wonderful husband accepted a position at Blacktooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming.

We are moving our family to the edge of the Big Horn mountains! I will finally be in a place I always wanted to be and Mr. R will have a job he finds fulfilling. We have deep roots in Texas, so we will be back to visit. We hope some people come visit us and see the beauty of our new home state.

I plan on chronicling some of our move and transition in this space because there is a lot of things I need to learn about living in a cold climate and you will need to laugh at me as I learn. In the midst of all this, Plagues of the Heart (Turning Creek 4) will be released so there are a lot of exciting things ahead.

Off to a new adventure!

Mourning, Silence, and Moving Ahead

I have been struggling lately. I have sat down to write often over the last few months and every time I do, I stare at a blank screen. This has happened when I try to write for this space, for my newsletter, and even for my books. My creative drive has been in a cave, replaced in my spirit by sadness, disappointment, and anger.

One of the booktubers I watch, Marines, posted a video recently on creating in difficult times.

I watched it at work and almost cried at my desk. Her words perfectly described the feelings that have been plaguing me. She used a particular word to describe the way she felt. Mourning.

That word snapped something into place for me. It’s not that the candidate that I liked best lost. That was disappointing. It’s that the candidate that won so obviously and literally detests and devalues who I am and who so many of my fellow Americans are as people, as human beings, that has wounded my heart.

It has been painful to realize that people I love, respect, and do life with think a man who sees women only as sexual objects, handicapped people as the butt of jokes, people of color as entities to be feared, and the poor to be crushed is a person who is morally fit for any job, let alone the presidency.

And so I mourn. I mourn what I thought I knew about people I loved. I mourn the loss of our compassion, empathy, and values. I mourn the fight we must now engage in and stay informed for. I mourn for all of us in this world we have created with our own fear, complacency, and privilege.

Mourning is a hard place in which to be creative. What little I muster, I have been funneling into getting Plagues of the Heart (Turning Creek 4) completed. I am happy to tell you that a release date is on the horizon.

If you, like me, have been in a period of mourning, it’s all right. Take your time. Just remember that there us a battle being fought and we need you when you are ready.

If you have read this and do not understand or you think I am overreacting, that is OK too. I ask that you look with compassion on those around you and react with love.

For my part, I will try to not let this space be silent. A new book is coming and there are many things to be thankful for and thankfulness is how we move past this place of mourning.

Books I Read in 2016

**Photo by Pimthida**

Total Books read: 86
Most books in one month: 14 in August
Least books read in one month: 4 in January and April

I do not have a great reason for the low numbers in January and April, but I know exactly what happened in August: The Olympics. Don’t get me wrong. I love the Olympics but my husband really, really, really loves the Olympics. He watched hours and hours of water polo. A lady can only take so much water polo. A lady with a book, however, can withstand endless hours of it.

Books I Loved
I hate picking favorites. Here are all the books that stood out to me this year and a one sentence or so blurb for each:

  • Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream – A retelling of Cinderella with werewolves that was delightful.
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – This book! It was my favorite this year, see below for a full swoon.
  • Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab – An almost perennial reread for me with characters that I love smack in the heart of the gothic Black Forest.
  • Must Love Breeches by Angela Quarles – A combination of Pride and Prejudice, time travel, and excellent dialog meant I was guaranteed to love it.
  • Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole – This is the first of a post-apocalyptic series that managed to be witty, heart-breaking, action-packed, and sexy.
  • The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre – This is the first in a new shifter series with great world building from an author I already liked.
  • The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston – This is take on Norse mythology was a wild ride and I loved every single minute of it.
  • The Trouble With Women by Jacky Fleming – Fleming has created a book of drawings that it humorous, illuminating, and thought provoking.
  • A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet – This is one of the best romantic fantasies I have ever read, hands down.
  • Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh – This was a reread for me. It is the last in a wonderful series with elements of Pride and Prejudice, the best dialog, and characters I adore.

I have a lot of trouble picking my favorite book of the year. How do you choose from all your friends? All the books that made the list had things that made me want to squeeze them tight and never let go.

My top pick, if you force me to make one, is Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This book, y’all. This is space opera at it’s very best. There is an evil corporation, refugees on the run, science gone awry, an AI coming into its own, and humanity on the brink. If that was all this book had, it would still have been amazing. But wait, there’s more. The format is what made this book shine above the rest. It is told in redacted emails, direct messages, video surveillance, and ship schematics. Illuminae sucks in you and refuses to let you go until the very heart-stopping end. The follow-up book, Gemina is also on my list of books I read and it was a great follow-up. I can’t wait to see what these two authors do with this series.

Trends
As always, my list is comprised mostly of things in the Romance genre. There are plenty of shifters, mythology heavy books, and books of various heat levels. In January, I read For The Love by Jen Hatmaker and it is one of those books I wish everyone would read because it is good for your soul.

Happy Reading. Here is the list.

January – 4
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane by Elizabeth Boyle
Restaurant Success By the Numbers by Roger Fields
For The Love by Jen Hatmaker

February – 5
Wolf’s Ascension by Lauren Dane
Whispers of Shadow and Flame by L. Penelope
Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley
Stalked In Flames by Susan Illene
Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien

March – 7
Queen of Starlight by Jessa Slade
A Brewer’s Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery by Dan Woodske
*Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream
Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop
Sworn to the Wolf by Lauren Dane
Kilt in Space by Ella Drake
Captive Dragon by Ella Drake

April – 4
The Alchemist Of Souls by Anne Lyle
Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas
Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle
The Lawyer’s Luck by Piper Huguley

May – 8
The Goblin King by Shona Husk
Leveling the Field by Megan Erickson
*Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Stone Cold Lover by Christine Warren
Kiss of the Goblin Prince by Shona Husk
Eagle’s Honor: Ravished by Sandra Schwab
One Bite by Jennifer Blackstream
Golden Stair by Jennifer Blackstream

June- 6
All For Rose by Jennifer Blackstream
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon
Barbarian Alien by Ruby Dixon
Mercenary Instinct by Ruby Lionsdrake
Lionmeade by Linda Mooney
How to Catch a Wild Viscount by Tessa Dare

July – 10
Barbarian Lover by Ruby Dixon
Trial and Temptation by Ruby Lionsdrake
Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews
*Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
*Must Love Breeches by Angela Quarles
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarles
Renegade Leo by Delores Diamond
Renegade Orion by Delores Diamond

August – 14
Barbarian Mine by Ruby Dixon
Freeker by Ella Drake
Her Guardian Wolf by Jax Garren
Talk Sweetly To Me by Courtney Milan
Diablo Lake: Moonstruck by Lauren Dane
Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan
Sleeping With the Wolf by Maddy Barone
Desert Hunt by Anna Lowe
Desert Moon by Anna Lowe
The Taming of Jessie Rose by Beverly Jenkins
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
*Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
Signal Boost by Alyssa Cole
Mixed Signals by Alyssa Cole

September – 7
One Week in Wyoming by Alexis Anne, Audra North, Julia Kelly, and Alexandra Haughton
Mr. Right Next Door by Farrah Rochon
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole
A Perfect Holiday Fling by Farrah Rochon
How Beauty Met the Beast by Jax Garren
How Beauty Saved the Beast by Jax Garren

October – 6
How Beauty Loved the Beast by Jax Garren
*The Leopard King by Ann Aguirre
Broken Resolutions by Olivia Dade
Out on Good Behavior by Dahlia Adler
Scorched by Mari Mancusi
Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

November – 6
*The Unleashing by Shelly Laurenston
Gemina by Kaufman and Kristof
*The Trouble With Women by Jacky Fleming
The Bear Who Loved Me by Kathy Lyons
License to Shift by Kathy Lyons
My Reckless Valentine by Olivia Dade

December – 9
Mayday by Olivia Dade
*A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet
Bringing Christmas to the Dragons by Rinelle Grey
The Centurion’s Choice by Sandra Schwab
Reluctant Mate by Lauren Dane
Pack Enforcer by Lauren Dane
All Star Superman vol. 1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly with Jamie Grant
The Prize by Julie Garwood
*Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh

 

Silence is Damaging

Before the first Presidential debate, I had a discussion about the political climate with some other authors online. There were some great comments made by everyone, but I put to words something that has been bothering me about my response to the current election.

 

You see, I live in a firmly red state and, while I believe this will change as we become more diverse in Texas over the next four years, for as long as I have been a registered voter, I was almost always the lone Democrat in the room. Usually, I take that in stride. I keep my mouth shut and avoid the subject of politics unless I am in the company of very (and I do mean very) good friends. I can honestly say, there are many of my very good friends who I wouldn’t dare bring up politics to because the resulting discussion is just not worth it.

Especially this year. Especially this election. Even now, given the revelations of the weekend this is still a hostile place for someone not firmly in the red. I have stayed off Facebook, where most of my conservative friends live and kept to Twitter, where I follow mostly librarians, authors, pop culture aficionados, and artists.

More and more though, I have been thinking about what silence means and I have been thinking about this quote:

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

–Martin Niemoller

I think about Niemoller’s words and I know that history will not look kindly on this election and it will not look kindly on the kinds of words that have been used in it nor with the hatred with which they have been spoken.

I think about all this and I am tired of being silent. I was tired when I first wrote this post weeks ago. I am tired now. My heart hurts even more, knowing I waited to put these words up. I waited while they came for everyone else and I stayed silent. That silence hangs around my neck like a weight.

No more.

For the record, I like Hillary and I want to vote for her. My vote will not be a protest one, but I am done being silent. I am finished with keeping my mouth shut about the kind of man I think Donald Trump is because he is a contemptible person and his words are damaging.

They are as damaging as my silence on the matter. I do not want my silence to be taken as approval.

I cannot, with good conscience and my hand firmly wrapped around my moral compass whose true north is Jesus, condone anyone who supports a man who seems to hold in contempt almost everyone around him. Whose business is categorized by bankruptcies and refusing to pay smaller businesses money they were promised. Who has no idea what sacrifice and honor mean and who would deny refuge to victimized, suffering people because they have the unfortunate luck to be from a Middle Eastern country. Who clearly doesn’t understand minorities and views half of the people in this country as objects for pleasure whether consent is given or not.

Voting is important. Everyone over 18 should be voting this November. Everyone over 18 should vote every November (and in local elections too). Do some reading from credible news sources. Watch the debates. Make an informed decision and be able to look yourself in the mirror afterward.

The time for silence has long since past. I am sorry I held mine so long.

 

 

What I Did This Summer

Summer vacation is over. School started yesterday and my emotional state is somewhere along these lines:

freedom-braveheart

It has been a good summer, but everyone in our house was ready for school to start. I have two children in school (Thank you, Baby Jesus) because the youngest is entering Kindergarten. Life is a beautiful thing. I put those small male humans on the bus yesterday and then felt like the rest of the day should be margaritas and dancing.

We had some fun adventures this summer that looked like this:

 

One of our college friends was nice enough to get married in one of my favorite places in the world, Jackson, WY. It gave us an excuse to pack up and head to the mountains.
One of our college friends was nice enough to get married in one of my favorite places in the world, Jackson, WY. It gave us an excuse to pack up and head to the mountains.
We went north to Yellowstone after the wedding and spent a week camping there. This nice gentleman blocked traffic our first day and let me take a great picture.
We went north to Yellowstone after the wedding and spent a week camping there. This nice gentleman blocked traffic our first day and let me take a great picture.
We went hiking, looked at geothermal sites, and saw many animals. The boys loved it and I did not want to leave.
We went hiking, looked at geothermal sites, and saw many animals. The boys loved it and I did not want to leave. Seriously, I cried when we left.
How could anyone want to live at sea level after seeing thus?
How could anyone want to live at sea level after seeing this?

If you have been around this space with me long enough, you know the mountains have always called to me. I was born in Texas and live in a swamp (marshland, actually, but still hot and humid), but this is not where my soul loves to be. Houston is where we will probably be forever for various important reasons, so I will strive to be content in my circumstance. I have decided to pepper my house with mountain pictures, which will either make me exceedingly happy or depress me. We shall see.

I did do some writing this summer. Despite crazy schedules and trying to write a business plan for a brewpub, I still managed to write almost 30k words on Plagues of the Heart. I am about 20k away from finishing the draft, but it needs some tweaking. I do not have a publication date for it yet. Sorry, gentle readers. Words take time and sometimes time does not extend to all the things I wish it to.

I read quite a lot this summer. My reading numbers were boosted by a long car vacation and a husband who is obsessed with the Olympics. He wanted to watch ALL the sports, so I read and partially watched. Here is a list of what I read:

All for Rose by Jennifer Blackstream
Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon
Barabrian Alien by Ruby Dixon
Mercenary Instinct by Ruby Lionsdrake
Lionemede by Linda Mooney
How to Catch a Wild Viscount by Tessa Dare
Barbarian Lover by Ruby Dixon
Trial and Temptation by Ruby Lionsdrake
Magic Stars by Ilona Andrews
Castle of the Wolf by Sandra Schwab
Must Love Breeches by Angela Quarels
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
Must Love Chainmail by Angela Quarels
Renegade Leo by Delores Diamond
Renegade Orion by Delores Diamond
Barbarian Mine by Ruby Dixon
Freeker by Ella Drake
Her Guardian Wolf by Jax Garren
Talk Sweetly to Me by Courtney Milan
Diablo Lake: Moonstruck by Lauren Dane
Sacrificed to the Dragon by Jessie Donovan
Sleeping With the Wolf by Maddy Barone
Desert Hunt by Anna Lowe
Desert Moon by Anna Lowe
The Taming of Jessie Rose by Beverly Jenkins
Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

By the end of the summer, I realized a couple things. One: Most of my reading this summer involved aliens, shifters, or shifter aliens. I am not sorry about that. Two: I have not been including enough writers and characters of color in my list. I am sorry for that and have been remedying that post haste.

I wrote some guest blog posts around the web which you may find amusing:

Gifts for Fathers of Fiction on Here Be Magic

Book Review of The Geek Feminist Revolution on That’s Normal

A Few of My Favorite Things on Suzanne Johnson’s blog

Luke Cage is My New Crush on That’s Normal

Most of all, I had fun with my boys. What was your favorite thing you did this summer?

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Sometimes Writing Looks Like 5am

Photo by Riccardo Meneghini
Photo by Riccardo Meneghini

The longer I do this thing called life the more I realize I don’t know and need to learn. Recently, my learning has been around changing schedules.

Before kids, I had the luxury to sit for hours and read or write. Then I had a baby, and I couldn’t do anything alone and my precious time without another human clinging to me was limited to brief nap times (why did my boys never sleeeeep???). I had to relearn how to write.

Gone were the hours of writing. With small children, you have to write in small bursts because that is all they allow you. They are constantly in need of clean diapers, dry clothes, food, and snuggles. So needy!

Then, they got older and our schedules shifted again.

I would do the bedtime routine with my boys, then spend a couple hours writing before seeking my own pillow. It was beautiful. I wrote three books that way.

A year ago, I got a new job, one which requires longer hours and more use of my brain and emotions. By the end of the day, I am exhausted. I am done and my brain has nothing left to give. All I want is a spot on the couch, a beer or a wee dram of scotch, and whatever show Mr. R and I are binge watching (currently Tru Blood season 4).

Writing has been slow and I am trying to finish the second half of the next Turning Creek book. By slow, I mean it has not been happening much at all.

It has been hard to admit that my schedule has shifted yet again. I feel like I have to learn how to write all over again.

I have, of course, tried getting up early to write. I write best in the morning but I share my house with boys who possess a particular skill. We call it Momdar. It is a much more sophisticated version of radar. Unlike a radar, a momdar does not just detect, it thwarts whatever plans the mom has planned. No matter how early or how quiet I am when I get up, my boys know and leave their beds to join me and interrupt whatever I am doing.

Momdar has prevented me from writing in the mornings whenever I sneak into the study.

At the suggestion of Mr. Rochester, I have tried a different approach.

I leave a bean bag chair, my laptop, and my series bible in the master bathroom when I go to bed. Instead of creeping through the house to the study when my alarm goes off, I creep into my bathroom, plop down in my bean bag chair, put in my headphones, and write until 6:30.

It has worked brilliantly.

I have met people who tell me they would love to write a book, learn a new skill, or start the dream that has burning a hole in their pocket… if they only had the time.

I am here to tell you the time is now. The trick is finding the routine that works in your life right now and realizing that in 6 months, a year, or two years, your time and schedule may demand that you do things differently.

It may demand that you get up at 5am.