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.

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


Finding Safe Harbours

Photo by Chad Sparkes.
Photo by Chad Sparkes.

If you talk to me long enough, you will probably know a few things about me. I am a Christian, I read a lot, and I am a geek girl to my core. My dad raised me to love Star Trek and scifi and it was the one lesson I never argued about.

I loved Joss Whedon before he directed The Avengers and non-geek people took notice of him. My movie collection contains Buffy, Angel, multiple copies of Firefly and Serenity, and a fan film (not made by me). I have books that discuss his world creation and the fandoms that have resulted from the work of this geek god.

I tell you this so you will understand that I love him with zealousness, but I realized last week that he does one thing that I do not like.

He never lets his characters be happy and he keeps a sense of realism by killing off characters we love. Main characters that are unhappy, unfulfilled, or facing the yawning portal of doom drive forward and move the plot along.

This means, as a viewer, I always knew that, while the bad guys might get caught, relationally everything could go to hell (literally in Buffy and Angel) in a moment. If two characters settled down and were happy, one of them would die, or leave, or have a pesky soul getting in the way of them consummating their relationship. If two characters had been pining for each other, the moment one decided it was time to move the relationship forward, the object of their desire would move on, tired of waiting.

It ripped out my guts. It broke my heart. I can describe all those heart-wrenching scenes from those shows because they slayed me. (word choice intended)

I still love Joss Whedon. I think he is a genius, but all that emotional upheaval without some safe harbour is exhausting.

This lack of safe harbour is one of the reasons why I broke up with the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. For the non-geek, they are the Game of Thrones books. I read three or four of them, praying they would get better, but my prayers were in vain. Nothing good ever happens in those books to the characters and if it does, they die a horrible death or want they want/need gets horrifically snatched away. It was emotionally draining and no amount of great prose and character development made up for the way it hacked away at my heart with no glimpse of it ever making a turn for the better.

Recently, I read At Blade’s Edge by Lauren Dane and I realized Joss Whedon and the Martin books scarred me. At Blade’s Edge is the fourth in the Goddess With a Blade series and I highly recommend it. Like drop everything and read this book, recommend it. In the fourth book, Rowan, the main character, has finally found a safe harbour in the midst of a very violent and responsibility filled life. Her harbour grounds her, makes her stronger and lets the reader know that things can still be going to hell in a hand basket, but there is hope.

The entire time I as reading At Blade’s Edge, I was waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me. Dane has never done this to me as a reader, the way Whedeon and Martin do, but a sense of dread followed my reading. I was so caught up in my worry, I failed to let myself become emotionally attached to the relationship cementing on the pages. I was waiting for the worst to happen and for Rowan’s harbour to be smashed to pieces. I wanted desperately for that not to happen. It did get dented, but at the end of the book, Rowan’s harbour is, mostly, in tact and that made me realize something.

There is power in a safe harbour.

I want the characters I love to have one good thing even if the world around them is crumbling at their feet. I need them to be able to come back to one person they love and who loves them back. I want an HEA* or some semblance of it. I need it. Not only do the characters need a safe harbour, so do I.

I am not talking about a unicorns pooping rainbows kind of HEA. It does not have to be perfect, but I do want some hope at the end, a light that tells me all is not lost for the characters I have come to love. I think everyone deserves some peace and happiness.

I know that real life is not like that. I know many people live desperate, horrible lives filled with pain, abuse, hunger, and death. Life on this planet sucks an awful lot.

But sometimes it doesn’t and we need to be reminded that life can be good. Life can be great, fantastic, and amazing.

When I read a book, I want to be entertained by hope and happiness. You can take me to hell, but I want you to drag me back from the brink before you write The End.

As a writer, I can promise, even with only a few books under my belt, that I will never leave you without a safe harbour to dock your ship, fold up sail, and have a nice rest with someone you love.


*Happily Ever After


On Marriage, Sexuality, and Sassenachs

*Minor Spoiler alert for both the show and the book*

I was in high school when I finally read something that stole my heart and soul enough to supplant Little Women as my favorite book. I was never without a book in my hand, and that is still true, so giving a book the title of favorite has significant meaning. I bestow the title with reverence.

That book which replaced Alcott was, and still is, Outlander. You may have heard of of this book recently because Starz has created a very successful show from the book.

I have been swooning over this book for the better portion of my life. No matter how many times I reread the books or listen to the audio books, my heart and soul are mesmerized.

It is not just the romance which is striking, though that is part of it, which makes Outlander the powerhouse it is to so many readers. Starz has done an absolutely phenomenal job transferring the book to the screen with integrity to both the story and the characters. Their social marketing campaign has been fabulous too. More on that another time.

For now, I want to tell you why this book, and now the show, are important and why, after all these years, it is still the book I recommend the most. Even if you have never read the books, the show is well worth your time. The history, costuming, and characters are fantastic.

Reason 1: Men in Kilts

Let’s just get this out in the open early. Kilts are sexy as hell and when you have an entire cast of men running around in them, I do not give a fig what they are doing while kilted. Can you just show off those knees a little more? Thanks. I’ll be in my bunk.

Reason 2: Dialog

Gabaldon has her characters going from serious to witty in less time than Jamie can throw Claire’s skirts over her head. The dialog is honest, true, poignant, and laugh out loud funny. The writers of the show have highlighted some of the best lines from the book and put in many more to showcase some of the characters (Angus and Rupert, you dogs. I love you).

Reason 3: Real Marriage

Marriage is messy, sexual, heart-wrenching, beautiful, and work. Jamie and Claire, once they figure out how much they do love each other, love hard, but that does not mean their marriage is easy. As a reader, and now as a viewer, we are privy to watching how a real marriage works. It is rare that I see a marriage which reflects my own healthy relationship with my husband on a screen. The only other example I could think of this week was Wash and Zoe from Firefly.

Jamie and Claire argue with flair and heat and in the beginning, they argue a lot. They yell at each other and occasionally throw things, but they always make up. They are a team. Jamie tells Claire in the beginning, “It’s the two of us now.” It is them against the world and they never forget where their loyalties lie even when they do not agree.

Ever since the hype of The Wedding episode started, I have been thinking about healthy sexuality in marriage and what a good example Jamie and Claire are of this. As an aside, the episode was a shining example of the Female Gaze and it hit all the right places, for everyone. Here is a controversial truth: Married people have good sex lives. Our culture has people fooled into thinking that the only people having frequent, good sex are single people in their twenties. I am sorry to say this is simply not true and it is amazing to have this portrayed so vividly before us, both in print and on screen.

Jamie and Claire give and take in a way that is realistic and beautiful. Growing with them as they figure each other out in the bedroom and watching the awkwardness of the first few encounters is priceless. We can all relate to the awkward moments because we all have a few of our own to share.

As the series progresses, we travel with them as they deal with separation, loss, tragedy, and war after war. We are able to watch them as they continue to work together as a married couple to navigate the world. It is a treasure to see and I am grateful to have been a witness on their journey so far. Through it all, they are a team who communicates and loves the way a healthy married couple should.

Reason 4: Claire is not a trope.

I have grown incredibly tired of watching otherwise great shows in which every single woman in the cast is either a bitch, a damsel in distress, a manipulator, or a slut (or hoor as the highlanders say). There are many popular shows on right now, even some written by women, who do not have one redeeming female character. Gabaldon created a female lead who is flawed, but not a trope. Best of all, Claire is a sexual being who is celebrated instead of punished for it.

Don’t get me wrong. Claire has her moments of idiocy and she has trouble keeping her twentieth century opinions to herself, but she is rarely a simple bitch. She is a compelling character you forgive and love and the men around her respect her, even if they do so begrudgingly. They are not that enlightened after all. It is the 1700s.

Claire has a healthy sexual relationship with both her husbands and she is never portrayed badly for enjoying this aspect of her married life. It is refreshing to see a woman allowed to be sexual without being labeled a hoor. Women are sexual beings too and we should not be punished for something that is natural.

Reason 5: JAAMF

James Alexander Malcolm McKenzie Fraser. I have been pondering marriage and why Jamie is so appealing. I can only come up with one reason: he is the perfect man. A mix of innocence, but with a hearty dose of knowing exactly who and what he is. His vows mean something to him on a visceral level. Jamie pledges to Claire, “You have my name and my family, my clan, and if necessary, the protection of my body as well.” Repeatedly, Jamie makes good on his promise, compromising himself to ensure the protection of his wife and others he considers his.

This is the kernel of his character which draws people in.

Jamie is a servant leader. He rarely asks to lead, but when it is his duty he does so without reservation and with the needs of others always fixed firmly in mind. He gives every ounce of himself to his purpose. Other men recognize this and willingly place themselves in his hands.

On top of all the uprightness of character, Jamie is so obviously, even in the beginning, quite over the moon for Claire that you fall for him hard and fast. As the years pass and their relationship endures, he still loves her with a fierceness that any lassie would be blessed to call her own.


A Week Off

I am taking a week off of the Writer’s Devos because it is spring break here and we have been having way too much fun for any of our usual stuff.

To divert you from all the snow you are having, if you live in the great white north, here are some fun things to do while you are not working or not writing.

Emma Approved – A fun video series based on Austen’s Emma. Brought to you by the same group who did the fabulous Lizzie Bennett Diaries.

Legography – Photographer Andrew Whyte takes pictures of his Lego minifig and they are amazing.

Do some swooning by poking around on the Outlander series site. Can it please be summer already? I have my bottle of scotch ready.

Book Review: Tales of the Underlight series by Jax Garren

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

The Beast

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.

The Beauty

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.


The Back-up Plan

In light of NASA’s trouble with the Constellation Project and a possible end to his employment, Mr. Rochester informed me yesterday that he has a new plan for our financial future. Of course, this plan involves my labor and ideas, but who’s counting?

He informed me that I should be able to write something better than all the vampire fluff YA stuff* that is out there. He told me that instead of writing boring nonfiction books, I should just reuse an old story, slap some new mythology into it, and write a bestseller.

Sure, I said. I can do that.

The conversation then wandered into the publishing field and alternative ways to get a book published thanks to the power of the internet.

–Jane, soon to start working on a novel of fiction, tomorrow

*Mr. Rochester has a general disdain for fluffy vampires of the YA variety. He watched Twilight, but he is generally tired of seeing it EVERYWHERE. I tend to like vampire/fantasy/whatever, but we have had many conversations about how YA vampires (thanks to Meyer) are toothless. The Edwardesque vampire is gloomy and emo. We like our vampires edgy, brooding, and bad: Whedon’s version. Or perhaps you prefer Spike? Or perhaps even Jean-Claude who is definitely over-sexed but still very deadly.

Flexible ePaper from LG

According to Tom’s Hardware, LG has announced a 19 inch epaper display that, unlike its predecessors, is flexible. LG uses a foil substrate instead of glass so that the entire display can be bent.

I am not sure about other people, but I immediately thought of the paper sheet that Badger shows to Mal, Zoe, and Jayne with an alert for a “rogue vessel, classification ‘Firefly’… spotted pulling illegal salvage on a derelict transport.”

–Jane, wheel never stops turnin’