What I Did This Summer

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


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?


Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I want to have a break-up conversation of the “It’s not me, it’s you” variety. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, chocolate, or ice cream and let’s discuss book break-ups, aka the DNF.

I used to feel guilty about DNFing (Did Not Finish) a book. Maybe it was a holdover of well taught Catholic guilt, but I never DNFed a book, no matter how poorly written or how much I wanted to strangle one of the characters. I persevered through countless books I ended up hating because I felt bad for them. I couldn’t help it.

I no longer have that problem. I say no, guilt free, to plenty of books these days.

This change of heart happened because am an actual adult now with an actual job and a family who expects me to spend time (time I used to spend reading) doing crazy, time consuming things, like cooking/serving 2+ meals a day, laundry, dishes, a paying job, and just enough housework to keep Mr. R from getting annoyed. In between my adult duties, I self-publish my own books and read, a lot. I average about a book a week, more than most I know, but less than others.

The blunt point is my reading time is precious and less frequent than it used to be. I refuse to waste it on books I don’t like.

If you, like me, have found your time is too precious to waste, here are some guilt free reasons to DNF a book. Bonus: with Liz Lemon.

#1 – You are not in the mood.

Yesterday, you really wanted, no needed, to read that post-apocalyptic erotic romance by Kit Rocha, but today you need something sweeter. You should not feel bad about putting one book on hold to start another. Unlike past relationships, books will always wait for you and you should pick that Rocha book back up later. When you are in the mood. Go binge those dragon shifters then flounce back to Regency romance. All is well.

#2 – The character/plot/writing style is so awful or insipid you are afraid that if you keep reading you may strangle the character/author/or yourself.

Just say no to this one. Put it down and do not look back. I give a book 100 pages or about 50% to turn around a bad plot, a TSTL character, or mediocre writing. If, after that, the book is still making me want to claw my eyes out, I switch books and never look back. It is also unlikely I will go back to that author unless I get a great recommendation from someone I trust.

#3 – A TSTL or useless female lead or an alphole hero.

This one is related to #2, but has it’s own category because it annoys me that much. Sidenote: I will also breakup with TV shows displaying one of these two characters without relief. If the female lead always needs rescuing and is a complete idiot, I can’t like her enough to care that she is in peril and I definitely do not want her to get the guy. Alternatively, if all the female characters in a story are two dimensional or completely absent (not in romance usually, but other genres populated by men*), I am out. I want to see myself in the story and I am neither an idiot nor useless.

If all the males, and especially the lead, are alpholes, I am gone. An alphole is a term in the romance community which means an alpha asshole. A good, recent example of this is Christian Grey. You know this guy. He treats other people like dirt and he always has to be in charge because he is better than everyone else… in his own mind. The worst part is there is usually no true redemption or grovelling. If you are an alphole, there better be some epic character development and groveling. Hands and knees, flat before God groveling. And even then, I may not forgive you.

#4 – I need a break.

Sometimes, I read non-fiction or heavy fiction (Literature)**. I read a little and take breaks, interspersing my forays into improving my mind with genre fiction. After some nice shifter or regency or post-apocalyptic novels, I will go back to the non-fiction or Literature. Most of the time. Sometimes, the non-fiction is too boring or the fiction is so prose heavy and sad, I just can’t, so I leave. No looking back.

That’s it. Those are the four reasons I DNF books or take a break from them. All in all, I probably only DNF about 5-7 books a year.

Next time you start feeling like you just can’t bear another page. Quit. Say no guilt free. Life is too short to spend it reading books you don’t like when there are so many great books out there.

*wide generalization, sorry, it is sometimes true and sometimes not.

**Let’s not start in on the whole what is “literature” argument. It is a good conversation and I have opinions, but not right now.

This month I am giving away ebooks to some of my newsletter subscribers and I promise, you will not want to DNF them.

Free Books and Unicorns

Photo by Andrew Kuchling.
Unicorn! photo by Andrew Kuchling.

Today, you will find me over at the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance Writers’ Blog talking about copyright and the internet for authors and humans beings in general. It’s fun, sexy stuff. What? You don’t think so?

Because I have been remiss in sending out monthly newsletters, which are really just an excuse for me to give away copies of books I love, I am going to give away three ebooks this month to three different subscribers. Join my mailing list (below) for a chance to win one of these wonderful reads.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – It’s still my favorite book of all time and it should be yours too.
Unmasked Heart by Vanessa Riley – A Regency Romance with a surprising heroine.
Rock Hard by Nalini Singh – I do not read contemporaries very often but this one is swoon worthy.

An Honest Look at the Finances of an Indie Author

Photo by Bart Heird.
Photo by Bart Heird.

One of the things I love about the writing community, and the indie author community in particular, is its transparency. Gone are the days when discussions about contracts and money were things you just did not do. I applaud authors who are forthright with what contracts say and how much they make. This transparency helps us all learn and be realistic about our prospects.

I have had books on sale for over a year and I completed my first tax return in which I had sales to report. Since today is officially tax day, I thought it would be beneficial to share what taxes look like, honestly, for newbie indie author.

This was not an easy post to write. I will admit that being this transparent is nerve-wracking, but I believe it is important.

Disclaimer: I did not become an author to make gobs of money. I became an author because I have stories to tell and I love writing. Yes, I want people to read my books and like them, but even if I never published another book, I would keep writing. It is part of who I am.

Another Disclaimer: I am in this writing books thing for the long haul. I have done my industry research and I know I will need more books in my backlist before I start making any meaningful money. I define “meaningful money” as my books pay for themselves and that book reading habit I have.

Here are the numbers:

First, I tracked how much production cost for each book I have produced. This only includes my outside costs. It does not include my own labor cost for things like formatting.

book cost totals




Content Edits include developmental edits and line edits.
Copy Edits are the last round of edits and include copy editing only.
Covers also includes all the Twitter and Facebook banners and other graphics for each book.

These numbers do not include an entire hosts of other expenses which includes, but is not limited to the costs of: ISBNs (I used to be a librarian. I think these are expensive but important.), proof copies of the paperbacks, software I use to compile the ebooks, traveling to a writers conference, traveling for research, copies of the print books I order to do giveaways, other giveaway items, envelopes for mailing, postage, marketing, writing classes, books on writing, domain costs, web server costs, professional organization dues, or the sheer amount of caffeine I consume in the form of tea and coffee per year.

If you total up the production costs (not including anything from the paragraph above) of putting out three books, the total is a whopping $3,965, averaging $1,321.67 per book.

There are cheaper ways to make books. You can forgo hiring a professional editor. You can hire a cheaper editor. You can buy stock covers or make your own. You can rely on readers or beta readers to do your copy editing.

You can. You can do all those things, but I do not. I want to put out the best possible book I can write. That means, I contract out the best people I can find and pay them decent money for the very hard work they do for my books. Some authors pay more than I do. Some pay less. The best thing about being an indie is I choose, and this is the path I have chosen. Your path may differ and that is okay.

Now for the hard truth. My tax returns included sales for the first two books which combined cost me $2,630.50 to produce. The third book, Letters in the Snow, did not go on sale until early in 2016. I included it here for comparison purposes.

With two books on sale, I made a whopping $448 last year.*

I did not forget any digits. That is $448 before taxes.

This is the hard truth of self-publishing, but I have friends who have gone the traditional route and their finances do not look that much better than mine.

What it means:

I am not going to lie. The numbers are disheartening, but I know they can get better. They will, eventually.

I still have a ton of work to do. I have mountains of words to write. If I want to make more money, I have to write more books. Good books, maybe even great ones. Books people want to keep reading at any rate. The ones out already get fabulous reviews, so I know I have the start of an audience and that is an amazing thing all by itself.

If you are new to publishing or thinking of jumping in, it is absolutely worth it. I did not write this post to scare you. I did it so you do not work under the belief that writing, packaging, and marketing books is an easy wave your wand thing to do. Mrs. Weasley is not going to do all that work for you, my dear. It is work, rewarding, but work.

For most of us, it also takes time. This is not my full-time job. It is another job I do, in addition to many other things that require my attention. I wish I did hide in a little hut all day and write, but that is not reality. I am learning to be content with the time I am have and be wise in my use of it.

My best advice? Do your homework and make an informed choice. Even more than that, find a circle of cheerleaders who will jump down the rabbit hole with you.

The even better advice? Keep writing, my friends.

*Updated: That is gross, not net. I lost money in the long run.

A Consuming List

I’ve been working on Turning Creek 4, Plagues of the Heart, though lately in the evening I have been too tired to write. I am not, however, too tired to binge on Daredevil or read. Here are a few books that have captured my attention in the past week. In order of most recently read:

Captive Dragon by Ella Drake – Paranormal Romance (shifters) It’s a sea horse, y’all.

Kilt in Space by Ella Drake – Scifi Romance (humanoid) A nod towards Beowulf with kilts!

Sworn to the Wolf by Lauren Dane – Paranormal Romance (shifters)

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop – Paranormal (shifters)

Before Midnight by Jennifer Blackstream – Paranormal Historical Romance (shifters) AND a Cinderella retelling FTW

A Brewer’s Guide to Opening a Nano Brewery by Dan Woodsky – nonfiction

Queen of Starlight by Jessa Slade – Scifi Romance

What I am reading right now:

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle – fantasy (maybe with romance)

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg – graphic novel

As you can see, I have been on a shifter kick lately and most of the romance books are definitely on the steamy side. I blame this on Lauren Dane. I read Wolf’s Ascension a little over a month ago and have been craving that sub-genre ever since. Everything on the list was a great read.

Last month, I also went to see Anne Bishop at Murder by the Book. I enjoyed her reading from Marked in Flesh, which you will notice is on the list above.

Anne Bishop
I am sporting my Sunnydale High School t-shirt.

Letters in the Snow is Out Today

Break out the confetti, Letters in the Snow is live today.

Liz Lemon

Go buy yourself and all your friends a copy.

ebook: Amazon, Google PlayKobo, Nook
print: Amazon

I will be celebrating by taking the day off work, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and and reading things on the internet. Oh, and giving some stuff away.

0224161511 (2)

This book revolves around some key letters Iris receives from different people and we all know letters are vitally important to Iris. Thus, the giveaway includes: one signed copy of Letters in the Snow (because you all need one of those), a set of 36 door note cards (I adore pictures of doors), a set of 10 friendship note cards (because you all have some friends, right? maybe one?), 10 brightly colored pens for writing (who wants boring old black and blue?), 3 tiny composition books (for leaving in your bags and around the house for when genius strikes), and a notepad that says you are awesome (because you are). Iris would approve. Open to US and Canada only.


Cover Reveal: Letters in the Snow (Turning Creek 3)

I am so pleased to finally be able to show you the cover for Iris’s story, Letters in the Snow. Alexandre Rito, who has done all the Turning Creek covers, did a beautiful job, again, on this one. I was concerned Iris’s wing would come out yellow on the cover, but Alexandre managed to make the wing look luminous in the snowy winter sky. I adore it.

The story takes place, appropriately, in February when spring still seems very far away. As suggested by the title, letters are integral to the plot. Many of my favorite books use letters as a plot device. Two of them stick out in my memory. Mr. Darcy writes that beautiful not really an apology letter to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Folie and Robert fall in love through letters in My Sweet Folly by Laura Kinsale.

Letters in the Snow officially launches February 25th. You can pre-order ebooks at these fine retailers:  Amazon, Google Play, and Kobo.

The week before it comes out, I will be giving away some free copies to my newsletter group. Sign up for a chance to win a copy before you can buy it.

Subscribe to my newsletter


So you want to see the cover?



Do you?



Are you sure?



Here you go!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00071]


Release Date: February 25, 2016

Pre-order ebook now on Amazon, Google Play, and Kobo.

Back Cover:
Iris is a simple postmistress in the small town of Turning Creek, Colorado. Simple, except for being a descendant of a Greek myth, having a pair of golden wings, and possessing the ability to speak prophecy. She has had her hands so full guiding the harpies towards their destinies that she has forgotten to seek out her own.

A mysterious letter from an anonymous admirer begins a correspondence that weaves itself into Iris’s heart and awakens a longing for a love of her own. The letters keep arriving, and Iris is increasingly more aware of the charms of Jacob Wells, a newcomer to Turning Creek. She wonders if the letters are from him. But even with Jacob’s charisma and the lure of a new relationship, Iris discovers the heart can’t be contained, and that her heart’s desire might be for someone who was there all along.

Unfortunately for Iris, the letters and the resulting affairs of the heart are not the only perplexing things happening in Turning Creek. Something more than nature is burying the town in a deadly winter blanket, and a closely guarded secret that will change Turning Creek forever is revealed.

Giveaway for Storm in the Mountains

In anticipation of Letters in the Snow coming out (release date to be announced with hoopla soon!) I am giving away some signed copies of Storm in the Mountains.

Marina Ocypete is a harpy, a Remnant of the Greek myth living in a small town in the Colorado Territory She would rather start a decent fight than sit around idle. The local sheriff offers her a job as a deputy which seems like a better choice than suffering from boredom, but Reed Brant has a way of getting under her skin.

With the influx of Remnants in his town, Reed needs Marina’s skills as a harpy to keep the peace. His head knows she is not the get married and settled down type he wants, but she might be just the thing his heart desires.

When women start disappearing in Turning Creek, it will be up to Marina and Reed to find the cause behind the fear gripping their town. Marina will have to choose between a fate she never questioned and the man who makes her believe even a harpy can have a heart.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Storm in the Mountains by Michelle Boule

Storm in the Mountains

by Michelle Boule

Giveaway ends February 08, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

I Met Kevin Hearne and Life is Very Good


Staked is the latest book in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne and this copy is ALL MINE.
Staked is the latest book in the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne and this copy is ALL MINE.

I went to a local bookstore, the delightful Murder By the Book, last week to see an author I liked an awful lot. It was so fabulous, I left loving Kevin Hearne (but not in a weird creepy way) (I swear).

Kevin Hearne writes an absolutely wonderful fantasy set in modern day Arizona whose main character is a witty last-of-his-kind druid. The pages are filled with interesting villains, a hilarious side-kick dog, and side characters that refuse to leave their share of the lime light. The first book is Hounded and you really need to go read it right now. I have not read all the books in the series yet. Part of me does not want to binge through them, afraid I will forget to savor them as they should be savored, like a good beer at your favorite pub. Relax, enjoy these wonderful words.

I have followed Kevin Hearne online for awhile now. He is smart, funny, geeky, and supportive of his fellow writers online. He loves craft beer and is an English teacher when he is not writing, being a dad, husband, and person in the world. I can now attest he is the same in person as he is online to people. He was worth every minute of the hour through Houston traffic (save me) that it took me to get there. If you look at his Twitter feed, you can see all the pictures he posts of fans. It’s amazing. I love it.

He answered a ton of questions, told funny stories, and admitted his writing has a higher purpose. Namely, he thinks we should all be good humans and be nice for Pete’s sake. He was gracious and obviously appreciated the crazy people who turned out to talk to him for ten seconds and buy a book. Worth. Every. Moment and Penny.

This whole post is really a love letter to authors I love that I have fawned over online and in person. Thank you for being gracious when I act ridiculous when I meet you. Words are important to me. I love to write them. I adore reading ones I did not slave over. Thank you for being good humans online and in person. Thank you for writing characters I cry over, cheer for, and think about long after the book is over.

Yours truly,

A grateful consumer of words