Vote for the best stories of 2016

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It’s time to vote for best short story/novella and novel of 2016! The voting base this year has been expanded so have a look to see if you can cast your ballot for the winners!

You can check out my nominations in a somewhat bumbling post here

Also, a reminder that the book giveaway that I’m sponsoring in honor of Teen Domestic Violence month ends tomorrow. If you’d like a chance to win one of the awesome books I’m offering, have a look here (Look toward the bottom of the post for the giveaway info)

Happy voting and Happy Monday!!

Planetary Awards

We’re expanding the voting pool for the awards this year, so read this entire post to find out if YOU are eligible to vote.

But first, here are the 2016 stories nominated by book bloggers across the internet:

Short Stories / Novellas

“Athan and the Priestess” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Thune’s Vision

Awakening” by Susan Kaye Quinn

“Edge” by Russell Newquist, found in Between the Wall and the Fire

“The Gift of the Ob-Men” by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #1

“The Glass Flower” by George RR Martin, found in Volume 2 of Dreamsongs  [DISQUALIFIED]

“Images of the Goddess”by Schuyler Hernstrom, found in Cirsova #2

Paper Cut by Aeryn Rudel, found in Issue 1 of Red Sun Magazine

“Purytans” by Brad Torgersen, found in the July-August issue of Analog Magazine

Novels

Arkwright by Allen Steele

Babylon’s Ashes by James SA Corey

The Girl with Ghost Eyes by MH Boroson…

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Love Is Respect

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First off, many apologies for the blog silence the past couple of weeks (If you didn’t notice, then uh, never mind). My house and all my minions came down with a lovely cold/flu bug, followed by stomach flu, so it’s been all sleep deprivation, dwindling tissue supplies, and an orchestra of whines and coughs. And that’s just when I finally came down with it *hilarious mom joke – insert canned laughter here*

In other news, my husband had his procedure to remove the cancer they found last December and I’m happy to report that they think they got it all! He’s got follow ups and other checks coming to make sure all is well and stays well but things are looking good. Thank you everyone for all your prayers and well wishes! They meant a lot to me.

To those of you still waiting for the review of your book:

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The reviews are coming! I have definitely been reading and hope to get back on track with my review schedule soon. Thank you so much for your patience! I have definitely noticed that you have not hounded me about it. My sincere gratitude for your patience.

A couple other updates I wanted to mention: I’ve pushed out the release date for a couple of things I’d originally wanted to publish this month. The first was the conclusion to the Insurrection series. Book five is nearly there but with all the personal goings-on I haven’t had time for proper revision. Since this is the finale to the series I delayed its release to make sure I have the enough time and focus to bring it to a satisfying conclusion.

New estimated publication date: March

I also wanted to publish Submerged (Salt & Waves: Book One) a Fantasy Romance story on Valentine’s Day but for the same reasons noted above (and because my cover artist wasn’t available until later) I’m bumping that publication date out a couple of months. Love and ocean mythology are never out of season though, right? I’m planning a giveaway with this one so look for more news on that in the near future.

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Dark Frost, the first book in my YA Fantasy series Sundered Kingdoms that is slated for publication at the end of the year, is still on track. (Small mercies since my personality is not one that loves changing a deadline once it’s set.) Writing Young Adult has been a new experience for me and I really enjoy it. I know many people refer to it as a genre — the YA genre — but it’s actually not. It’s a reference to the intended audience or age range of the book, including the themes that said audience deals with. I’ve been reading a lot of YA lately. I mean, A LOT. It’s an amazing catalog of stories filled with all sorts of struggles and triumphs that make being an adult seem like a piece of cake. Lord, I remember being a teenager. That was a rough gig.

So, you’re wondering at this point why I’m bringing this up and what it has to do with the title of this post.

Love is Respect

Well, YA books tend to have their share of romance as well because, obviously, you can’t be a teenager without also grappling with heartache and feelings that are difficult to express let alone comprehend. This is a vulnerable time for them, a time when they aren’t 100% sure where their boundaries are or what boundaries even look like or what to do/how to know when someone they’re in love with crosses them. And as much as I love YA books I have noticed a concerning trend in some wherein the male love interest behaves abusively to the female main character (This is a heterosexual example) but the behavior is never called out as abusive. In fact, it’s portrayed as forgivable without any redress between them.

Recently I had the disturbing experience of reading a scene like that in which the girl’s internal dialogue blamed herself for the guy’s abusive actions. To be clear, abuse doesn’t just take the form of physical assault, but also the threat of physical assault — making someone feel like they’ll be harmed. That was the case here. The guy discovered a secret she’d been keeping from him concerning her identity (which in no way hurts him). He confronts her. The secret is confirmed. Then he proceeds to tear apart the room around her, smashing the furniture, breaking everything in sight — with his SWORD no less, so now we have a weapon involved (we’ll set aside for the moment the fact that he’s disrespecting his sword by chopping wood with it).

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This sword has been in my family for five generations. It has never known defeat. Until now.

He’s roaring and growling and when he’s done busting everything in sight, he backs her up against the wall, crowding her. She’s afraid of him at this point (duh). Did I mention she was recovering from a stab wound? She’s NAKED, injured, and the guy who supposedly loves her has her backed up against the wall, inches from her face. She’d tried to grab a blanket to cover herself but he’d ripped that away. He accuses her of making a fool of him, that everyone knew this secret except him. Well, gee, buddy, I wonder why she never told your dumb ass. Could it be she thought you’d lose your friggin’ mind like you just did? Also, she doesn’t owe you a damn thing.

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As you can imagine, there was steam coming out of my ears at this point. And this is a really popular YA Fantasy series. I’m not going to say which one but ARRRggh!! The alpha male crap that I’ve seen in books drives me to madness. Couldn’t he have just asked her point blank about it? And hey, if she lies, that’s another conversation they’ll need to have because it speaks to a trust issue. Hers and his. And if it continues down that path, well, then other decisions can be made, like whether or not to stay together. Sure, there might be yelling, but I’ll be damned if he’s entitled to make her feel afraid for her safety, if he’s allowed to intimidate her, humiliate her because he’s pissed off. The fact that this is never addressed in what’s supposed to be an epic romance between them upsets me to no end. And what does this tell our teenagers about relationships when a scene like this takes place in the books they read? “Hey, it’s okay if he treats you like trash when he feels you did something wrong.” Is that it? I would argue that this is exactly the moment when a girl can tell whether she has a keeper or not. Is he still loving/respectful even when he’s mad as hell at you?

February is Teen Domestic Violence month.

Attention to domestic violence, its forms and its prevention, is important for all age groups, genders, and sexual orientation, but I’m glad that the month in which Valentine’s Day falls is dedicated to the teens. Love is such a huge emotion for their immature brains to grapple with, it’s no wonder that studies show that the lion’s share of relationship violence occurs between ages 16 and 24. This can seem hard to believe, but it’s true. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. It’s ever more vital to ensure that the stories young adults are reading depict love as a partnership, not a hierarchy, and definitely as a relationship based on respect.

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In Dark Frost, my main character Sakari is dealing with the trauma of a past abusive relationship. There’s plenty of good ole Fantasy elements around her–magic, battles, goblins, and sword fighting–but at its core, its about a teenage girl’s recovery after abuse, finding a way to trust herself and others again, understanding what love is and what it is not. Its a theme I chose because it has personal meaning and also because I feel its something not explored enough in YA. And it should be.

Now, on to something lighter since it IS Valentine’s Day and I absolutely love “Love”…

Let’s have a BOOK GIVEAWAY!!

Today is the Two Year anniversary of Amid the Imaginary! I can’t believe it’s been two years since I began tapping out my opinions and subjecting all you innocent bystanders to my oddball ways. You all are awesome and it makes my day every time you Like or View my posts. So in honor of my followers, this blog, and Valentine’s Day, I’m giving away a print version or eBook version (winner’s choice) of any of the following Fantasy Romance books:

Option One:

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Read my review of Radiance here

Option Two:

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Read my review of this series here

Option Three:

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Read my review of The Scribe here

The Giveaway runs for one week, so until 12PM CST on Tuesday, February 21st.

All you have to do to enter is retweet anything from the Love Is Respect twitter account –an awesome organization dedicated to empowering young people to end dating violence. (Please include @AnelaDeen so I see your retweet).

Not on Twitter? Then just post a comment to this post or on the blog’s Facebook page with your thoughts about romance in YA books (Your likes/dislikes, things you’ve noticed, trends).

Or, if you’d rather not post your opinion on this subject publicly, just send me an e-mail to Amidtheimaginary@gmail.com, ATTN: YA. I understand it can be a very personal subject so this is absolutely fine.

And that’s it for me today folks! Thanks so much for hanging in there on this long winded post. Happy to be back and I wish you much love, friendship, and goodwill today and always!

Another Perspective

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When I was ten years old I began experiencing a persistent pain in my lower back, usually while walking. Since I hiked about a mile to elementary school each morning, you can imagine this became a frequent annoyance. Interesting thing about kids: they don’t always know when something is wrong. At least I didn’t. The pain was there when I walked but I just dealt with it and got on with things.

It all came to a head when my mother returned early from work one day and saw me struggling home while clutching my lower back. After a short conversation in which I explained I always had back pain, off to the doctor we went. Being a mother now, I can understand that what looked like anger on her face for my omission was actually fear. A few X-rays later and the doctor returned to our little room and announced unceremoniously, “Well, she’s going to need surgery.”

Not sure what he said after that. My entire being snagged on those words. My mother too I think because the doctor darted a look between us and murmured he’d be right back. As soon as he left the room the two of us clung to each other and dissolved into frightened tears.

The Diagnosis: Spondylolisthesis

I nicknamed it “Spondy” because, really, why are these medical classifications so ridiculous? This condition results when one vertebra slides over the bone below it, causing pain, numbness, and weakness in one or both legs. And there was ten-year old me walking a mile to school each way every day with it. I was a scrappy kid. Spindly, but scrappy.

I’ll spare you the gritty details of the days leading up to the surgery, the waiting room outside the prep area on the day itself, the wacky anesthesia induced hallucinations as I went to surgery (they used gas on kids back then), and the two week recovery in the hospital. When it was all over, I was looking ahead at three months in a body cast to give my spine time to heal while immobilized. The cast encircled my ribs and encased one leg to just below the knee. Being the kid I was, I took it in stride. Hey, the pain was gone. Things aren’t so bad. Of course, I hadn’t figured out that I’d have to deal with the world while wearing this thing. In point of fact, I didn’t realize there was anything to deal with at all. Then came school.

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Having been able-bodied all of my life up to that point, I knew full well what other kids called the handicapped school bus I had to ride. I’m betting the disabled kids knew it too. The Retard Bus. The one that doesn’t look like the other normal buses. Everyone’s head swiveled to watch us unload from it and my awesome body cast made me walk with a hampered, jerky limp. Oh the stares. The frowns. If reality had text bubbles that showed people’s thoughts, they would’ve read, “What’s wrong with her?” “She walks funny.””I don’t like it.” That last was the big one, the way people seemed simultaneously repulsed by the way I moved and drawn to watch.

Yet, I was lucky. I had an amazing homeroom teacher who took the time to explain what was going on with me to my classmates (after clearing it with me), what surgery was, what a body cast was, and most importantly, that I was still me while inside it. She normalized it. She made it okay and everyone followed her lead. She also threw down the hammer, telling them that if anyone knocked me over that person would be in more trouble than they ever thought possible. To this day I appreciate her ferocity and her understanding. (Ms. Seamen, you’ll always be my favorite.)

It occurred to me, even then, what might things have been like if she’d been like the ones who stared? While we can forgive little kids for not knowing how to behave, what does it say about our society when adults do the same thing because, oh man, I experienced plenty of that. Sometimes I rode in a wheelchair, particularly in malls where my limp made distances difficult. I was never prone to self-consciousness until then. It came with the unease of others, the way people avoided looking at me but looked at me when they thought I couldn’t see, the way they edged away, the way I existed too much or not at all. There was never a moment when I could simply be in a place as myself and not as the disability they observed. It was impossible to ignore. That was hardest, this loss of self. Am I still me when no one else sees me?

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The answer, if I could talk to my ten-year old self, is yes, of course you are still you, but you’ll have to fight for it because the rest of the world will try to tell you that the extent of your “self” is the body you inhabit, not the soul inside. As an adult I look back on that glimpse I had of disability and imagine what it’s like for those who can’t remove it like I did the body cast. It’s something I reflect on frequently, especially these days, and is an influence in my writing.

Over on Intisar Khanani’s blog, she is doing an amazing series of posts on disability in fiction which everyone should check out (The first post can be found here). As a kid I loved books and the adventures they took me on (ahem, and as an adult too) though I find it hard to come up with a title with a hero/ine who wasn’t able bodied. There’s the occasional side-kick or family member (or villain), but even if those character presences aren’t polluted by unflattering tropes, they aren’t the main character. The absence of these voices in fiction and on TV deprive society of truly understanding itself. If there was more visibility would it improve the way the disabled are viewed/treated? I think it would.

Need an example?

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Take Tyrion from Game of Thrones, a favorite character for so many. Have you seen the forums? They discuss the man inside, his intelligence, his empathy, his smart mouth. They also discuss the things he deals with because of his dwarfism. The show and books bring that experience to light for those who know nothing about it. Now imagine the story without this voice. It would be lesser for it. The same is true for every world, with or without dragons.

What are your thoughts on disability in fiction? Are there any titles you would recommend?

Because, Star Wars

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With more than a little trepidation, I ventured out to see the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Why was I nervous? Well, in recent years the Star Wars franchise has jerked me around so much with its piss poor plots and shallow, underdeveloped, annoying characters, that they have pretty much destroyed my sense of security in their ability to put out a good story in that universe. I won’t even go into the Star Wars episodes I – III. As far as I’m concerned, those Do. Not. Exist.

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And if the new episode VII (The Force Awakens) is anything to judge by, then the coming movies are headed for the same situation. I realize a lot of people liked it, but I just couldn’t get over the Grand Canyon sized plot holes in it and unbelievable junk that occurred. Seriously, Han Solo just fell back into his smuggler life after EVERYTHING he went through? Seriously, Rey can just access the Force by closing her eyes and concentrating super hard-sies? So much so that she can outmatch a trained Sith Lord? This is a joke right? Not to mention that said Sith Lord doesn’t hold a candle to Darth Vader as far as presence and terror, and good gawd did he have a punch face. I hope they aren’t aiming for him to have a moment of truth and reform his baddie ways–or maybe they will since pretty much the whole plot was a watered down, half-ass version of the original, down to the super weapon (another one???) and family member who went to the dark side and reclusive old Jedi (as if Luke would just cool his heels at some ass end of the galaxy while it all went to crap. The Jedi are made of stronger stuff.). Obviously, my disappointment was a raw, ugly thing.

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Yeah, it’s hard to recapture the magic of the original trilogy. Everything they did was new, from the no-nonsense, butt kicking Princess who took over her own rescue, to the scrappy smuggler with a heart of gold, to the unprecedented special effects and the cockpit view of the pilots in their fighter wings–anyone else feel the loss every time one of them blew up? If I say Wedge Antilles, Star Wars fans know exactly who I’m talking about and the guy had only a handful of lines. Now that’s good writing.

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So I went to see Rogue One, nervously. A couple of friends told me it was worth it so I decided to give it a chance, hope in my heart. What did I think? *relieved sigh* It was good. Not amazing, blow me out of the water good, but I really liked it. I liked the main characters. I liked the main thrust of the story and the side characters that went with it. There were some flubby parts, places where I was supposed to feel more invested than I actually did, but some of that is because they just didn’t have time to dedicate to the emotional stuff with all the plot stuff happening. Well, I’m sure Joss Whedon could’ve gotten it done but we can’t have the man oversee everything. I was worried I’d hate the droid side-kick, but he turned out to be fantastic and hilarious. The voice actor delivered his lines perfectly. I had a feeling where things were going to lead in the end and that’s what happened, but they did it really well. In fact, the ending hit all the awesome buttons and synced flawlessly with where A New Hope began.

And I’ve got to talk about this one Darth Vader scene *giddy shudder* that was done so well that you could feel how much the people making this movie loved his character. Whatever Vader was holding back when fighting Luke is absent in one jaw-dropping battle in which you realize the Sith Lord isn’t so much a minion of the dark side as he is a weapon of mass destruction. And trust me, that knowledge is stamped on the faces of the rebels the moment they see him approach.

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*claps* Well done. Honestly, thank you. That was an epic Star Wars moment worthy of its name.

One of the biggest pros of this Star Wars story is that it’s a self-contained tale. You will not have to wait two years to see the ending. For once, we’ve got a beginning, middle, and end. If you’re like I was and can’t make up your mind as to whether to risk another disappointment, give this one a try. You’ll be glad for it.

The trailer: CAUTION: Contains Star Wars feels:

Okay, and here’s another one because, you know, I’m exited about it:

Has anyone else seen Rogue One? What did you think?

2016 Planetary Awards Nominations

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The time has come again for me to make my nominations for the Planetary Awards for 2016 and oh boy am I ready!

For those unfamiliar with these awards, they are granted to Science-Fiction and Fantasy writing, nominated and voted for by book bloggers, podcasters, and booktubers. Last year has some great winners and nominees. You can check out more about the awards and 2015’s results on the Planetary Awards website.

Things have been simplified this year and there are two categories:

  1. Shorter story (under 40,000 words/160 paperback pages)
  2. Longer story (novels)

I’m super pleased to announce my novella nominee for Shorter story:

SUNBOLT by Intisar Khanani

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An awesome and utterly unique Fantasy story, I can’t rave about it enough (although I’ve tried). You can read my review here or for the link lazy, here’s the synopsis:

The winding streets and narrow alleys of Karolene hide many secrets, and Hitomi is one of them. Orphaned at a young age, Hitomi has learned to hide her magical aptitude and who her parents really were. Most of all, she must conceal her role in the Shadow League, an underground movement working to undermine the powerful and corrupt Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame.

When the League gets word that Blackflame intends to detain—and execute—a leading political family, Hitomi volunteers to help the family escape. But there are more secrets at play than Hitomi’s, and much worse fates than execution. When Hitomi finds herself captured along with her charges, it will take everything she can summon to escape with her life.

This novella is currently FREE on InstaFreebie if you want to pick up a copy. You can read more about that here

The sequel, Memories of Ash (a full length novel), came out in 2016. Seriously, get started on these books if you haven’t already!

On to my nominee for best novel:

The Legacy Human (The Singularity Series) by Susan Kaye Quinn

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Really, the whole series is amazing, each one it’s own fully realized section of the story without pulling a devastating cliffhanger on its readers. This Sci-Fi story is unlike anything I’ve read and should be on the radar for any fan of the genre. Here is my full review of the series and below is the synopsis:

What would you give to live forever? Seventeen-year-old Elijah Brighton wants to become an ascender—a post-Singularity human/machine hybrid—after all, they’re smarter, more enlightened, more compassionate, and above all, achingly beautiful. But Eli is a legacy human, preserved and cherished for his unaltered genetic code, just like the rainforest he paints. When a fugue state possesses him and creates great art, Eli miraculously lands a sponsor for the creative Olympics. If he could just master the fugue, he could take the gold and win the right to ascend, bringing everything he’s yearned for within reach… including his beautiful ascender patron. But once Eli arrives at the Games, he finds the ascenders are playing games of their own. Everything he knows about the ascenders and the legacies they keep starts to unravel… until he’s running for his life and wondering who he truly is.

I actually had a hard time deciding which shorter story/novel to nominate this year as I’ve been fortunate to have had some fantastic reads. Excited to see what worlds and universes await my reading eyes in 2017!

UPDATE 1/13/17: Okay, because I’m an idiot I nominated books not published in 2016 but that I’ve read in 2016 (obviously not the same thing, duh me). The sequels to the books of this post were also spectacular though both are novels, which leaves me with a little problem since I’m supposed to nominate one in that category. But then, huzzah! solution!, the Singularity series also has short stories in its universe that I adore, one of which was published in 2016, woooooo!

So, here are my new nominations, though I still heartily recommend with full tilt enthusiasm the books above.

For the novel category:

Memories of Ash (The Sunbolt Chronicles Book 2) by Intisar Khanani

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I’m not including the synopsis to avoid spoilers but if you’ve read Sunbolt you can find my review of its sequel here

For the short work category:

Awakening (Stories of Singularity #5) by Susan Kaye Quinn

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Sister Amara prays she won’t be the last of the twelve sisters to reach her awakening—after all, the salvation of their Masters depends on them. But with the interrogations growing more deadly, being last may be best… especially when you’ve been created to touch the face of God.

Awakening is a standalone novella that provides a glimpse into a dark corner of the Singularity novel series.

The Stories of Singularity can be read independently from the Singularity novel series.

There you have it and thanks for bearing with me and my blunders!

A Work In Progress

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Well, we’ve arrived again at that time of year when everyone reflects back on the past 365 days, their missed and achieved goals, where they went off track or how they managed not to, etc. etc. etc. As if, unless we tally up the things we’ve done and graded our productivity, we’ve somehow missed the point. Or worse, we run the risk of complete and utter disorganization in the year looming ahead (God forbid we don’t have a ten point plan). Don’t get me wrong. Goals are important. Setting your sights on what you’d like to do is important, as is taking stock, but I often feel like these “To Do” lists inevitably lead us into a negative zone because, honestly, we put too much on them. That we should aim high and expect the best from ourselves goes without saying (I hope), but I often worry that in our hard scrabble pursuit to get where we want to be in life, we forget to appreciate where we are now.

At this point you’ve probably figured out I’m not in not in my happy place at the moment. Just before Christmas my husband got some test results back. He has cancer. He got the news through one of those nurse phone calls where they dropped the C-bomb on him and then proceeded to prattle on about next steps and appointment setups while the poor guy’s ears are still ringing from the word. They said it’s entirely treatable and will require just a bit of surgery, probably no radiation. “If you have to pick a cancer, this is the one to have,” the doctor said, at which point I wanted to find the nearest rock to hurl at that idiot’s head. How about we don’t want to pick a cancer? How about he’s only 36 and we have three children ages five, three, and one? How about this just massively sucks and that’s all there is to it? FYI, if anyone tells you they or a loved one has cancer, the best and only thing you should say at that moment is, “I’m really sorry. That really, really blows.” and NOT, “Bah, he’ll be fine, don’t worry. They know how to deal with that stuff these days.” Yeah, not reassuring. And when it’s you it DOES NOT feel that way.

Okay, I realize I’m transferring my struggle with this onto the reaction of others to the situation. The sad truth is that I find myself seeing the whole thing in the context of its impact, and potential impact, to me and the tidal wave of agony I feel about this news. Which is terribly selfish, even if it is terribly normal (a word which doesn’t often come up in a sentence where I’m involved).

Here’s the thing:

This happy, loving marriage I enjoy with my husband, it’s something I hoped for but little expected to find. I come from a family of women with a long history of domestic abuse. I’ve had my own personal dealings with it as well. I mention this to emphasize how incredibly unlikely I figured it was for me, someone who grew up in that environment and the subsequent man-hating aftermath, to find myself with someone like my husband, someone who even ten years into our marriage still writes sweet notes for me to find, who buys me chocolate, who still gets that I’m-about-to-pounce-on-you look in his eye when I put on that dress he likes so much…or a fitted shirt, or my PJs, or, well, anything really. He’s a randy lad. And before anyone quirks an eyebrow my direction, not to worry, he gets plenty of care in return. In fact, he recently got a shiny new, longed for PS4 Pro that I managed into our budget through tricks and treachery.

He and I are by no means perfect at all times. We’ve had some rockin’ arguments as well as those piddly ones about nothing, but I’ve always felt safe which is a huge deal for someone in my shoes. So, you can imagine this whole cancer thing, well…Let me put it this way: There are people who love me in my life, but precious few who are loving. My husband is and has always been the one who occupied the top of that list. My self-worth is not dependent on him, but we built this life together and I like it as is. We don’t have much, but have found our wealth in our children and in each other. Team Deen, we call it. Cancer has no place here.

In a few days, it’ll be a new year. Yes, I’ll be thinking ahead to goals I’d like to accomplish with plans to be productive. I’ll still be writing (because I’ll go crazy if I don’t, especially now) and finishing projects, but this year my number one is to remember what I have. And if you’ll allow it, cliche as it might seem, let me leave you with this thought: Appreciate the moment–No, not just because it’s fleeting or gone-too-soon, but because it’s yours and always will be if you remember to keep it close. Add it to your pile of riches, the ones that last forever. When you write that “2017 To Do” list, be realistic with it and don’t add so many things for Future-You to get through that Present-You doesn’t have enough time or peace of mind to recognize what you already have. I’ll admit that I’ve been as guilty of this practice as the next person. Want to talk New Year’s resolutions? Want to talk Work-In-Progress? This is mine. We all have places to go in our lives, that glowing “one day” we want to get to, but don’t forget the right-now. Right now is precious too.

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Recommended: A Christmas Romance

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Just a quick recommendation if you’re looking for something sweet and romantic to read this holiday season. “All the Stars Look Down”, a Christmas romance duo from Elizabeth Hunter and Grace Draven, had two endearing tales of love by this pair of amazing writers.

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In SUNDAY’S CHILD, Grace Draven heats up a cold and lonely Christmas when museum archivist, Claire Summerlad, meets a mysterious new co-worker. Andor’s past may be a mystery, but is a future with Claire possible with a centuries-old punishment hanging over his head? Father Christmas meets Norse mythology in this brand new Christmas novella from the author of Master of Crows.

In LOST LETTERS AND CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, readers return to the Elemental Mysteries in an all new novella by Elizabeth Hunter. Giovanni Vecchio and Beatrice De Novo travel to Rome when an new mystery interrupts their Christmas. Fina Rossi may have been the director of the Vecchio library, but she wasn’t expecting vampires for the holidays! Christmas takes an unexpected turn when she meets her employers’ old friend, Zeno Ferrara. He has the key to solving a mystery plaguing Beatrice’s client, but he’s taken a far more personal interest in Fina.

Buy it on Amazon for only $0.99

I absolutely adored “Sunday’s Child” because, seriously, how can you go wrong with a Saint Nicholas-Norse Mythology combo? Draven always delivers something unique and heartwarming. “Lost Letters and Christmas Lights” is similarly enchanting. The only addendum I’d add is that if you haven’t read any of Elizabeth’s Hunter’s Elemental series, there are mild spoilers in it, but nothing that should hinder your enjoyment if you decide to dig into that series later.

Give yourself or a romance reader a little love this Christmas and pick up this great read!

Under the Sea

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Another NaNoWriMo came to a close and as a participant I think I’ve almost recovered from 30 days of frazzling intensity that comes with using every spare minute of life toward reaching the 50,000 word goal. The good news? I MADE IT!! Yes, it came down to the very last day. And yeah, my count was 50,003 words, but it counts baby! This is the first time I’ve won so there was a lot of fist pumping and I might have done a victory lap around the room…followed by tripping over one of the thousands of Hot Wheels my boys have parked around the house, followed by graceless hopping and cursing under my breath. Motherhood keeps one humble.

I’d mentioned before that I used NaNo to move forward on three separate projects I’m working on. Last year I dedicated it to a single project so maybe the trick is to have multiple WIPs, kind of like dipping sauces in an eating contest so you don’t burn out on one flavor.

Ahem, anyway, when the NaNo dust settled the 50,003 word allocation broke down thus:

Martyr (Insurrection Book Five): 12,335 (Like book four, this one is shaping up to be longer than novelette sized, but it’s the conclusion to the series so I’m fine with that)

Dark Frost (Sundered Kingdoms Book One): 22,450 (added on to the approximately 40,000 words I already had. That glorious first draft is in sight!)

Salt & Waves: Fantasy Romance Novella: 15,218

I’m still working on a permanent title for the fantasy romance novella. I have a couple in mind but can’t seem to commit quite yet. I hinted before that this story involves North Sea and ocean mythology and, wow, that lore is chock full of some pretty rad and hair raising creatures. Of the oodles of things I read and researched, only a few will be included in the final version of the novella so as to avoid the ole “look how much I know and now feel the need to teach you about” syndrome that bores and irritates the hell out of readers. Some details I adjusted to put a new twist on the myths but here are a few creatures of that folklore who made the cut:

The Nine Sisters of the Northern Seas

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Also known as the billow maidens, these ladies were the nine daughters of the God Aegir and Goddess Ran, the father and mother of the sea. The daughters personified the different aspects of waves. The eldest, Kolga (shown above) makes an appearance in the upcoming story. She is of the arctic ocean, of icebergs and the coldest parts of the seas. Yup, I totally worked with those elements.

The Graeae – Sea Daimones

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These creatures were three ancient sea-daimones who personified the white foam of the sea. Daughters of the sea-deities Phorcys and Ceto and sisters to the gorgons. The graeae took the form of old grey-haired women but I have found them depicted as beautiful as well (as shown above). Yeah, I’m going for the more freakish version of them because, seriously, they share one eye and one tooth, which they take turns using. Grotesque possibilities abound.

And of course, one can’t forget

Merfolk

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I decided against mermaids (enough with the seashell bras, already), opting for a merman instead. In general merfolk are not considered the gentle and benign creatures that Disney made them out to be – sorry Ariel. What I read of them made me think more of sirens than anything else, sweetly luring sailors to their deaths and then gnawing on their bones. Rude. Merman tales are harder to find but it appears they aren’t deadly like their female counterpart. There’s a nice windfall for the ladies.

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One other thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of underwater mythology has a lusty feel to it, as if the unpredictable nature of the ocean makes it intrinsically wild and wanton. All great elements for a romantic tale, am I right?

Opposition Effect (Syzygy Book 2)

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Title & Author: Opposition Effect (Syzygy Book 2), J. K. Ullrich

Genre & Publication Date: Science-Fiction/Cli-Fi, October 23, 2016

Book Description: “In this second volume of the Syzygy series, colonial hero Ash and renegade Skye forge an uneasy partnership, launching an unauthorized mission that could mean survival for the lunar-dwelling remnants of the human race. But when their distrust undermines the effort, conflict between their teammates leads the entire company into disaster. Can Ash and Skye survive each other, and the shocking discovery that shatters every belief they held true?

Fans of contemporary science fiction classics like Orson Scott Card’s “Ender’s Game” and Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake” will enjoy the “Syzygy” novella series.”

First Line: “I can’t believe you talked me into this,” Rowan grumbled, drifting in front of the shuttle’s hatch.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

The continuation of this Sci-Fi series takes readers on a return journey to Earth with a mission that could either be a complete disaster or the salvation of the human race — love it when a story puts the stakes as high as they can get. The mission itself is clandestine in nature because the leader of Ash’s colony flat out told him not to do it, but since the death of someone close to him (avoiding spoilers here), Ash isn’t quite as biddable as he once was. He wants a way to get humanity on its way to making Mars the new home in THIS lifetime, rather than the achingly slow progression it’s taking now. Even if the information source behind this mission comes from an enemy (our second protag, Skye), he’s willing to risk it. It’s a bold move that makes me really like the guy. Skye is still an enigma to me and her demeanor can seem chilly with a pinch of snark, but yet there’s this inner pain she struggles with that keeps her in my good graces. Most of that bluster comes from her struggle and her desperation. The interactions between her and Ash had me smirking frequently.

The mission itself is helluva rollercoaster with one obstacle after another thrown at them. Action, intrigue, and a load of twists that I did not see coming which is something I don’t say often!

The Magical: The reveals at the end, definitely! Of course, I can’t tell you why because that would be spoiler-y, but what a crescendo!

The Mundane: I thought Ash should’ve put a bit more thought into who would be on his team for the mission. The trust he placed in the person who helped him make his choices seemed a little flimsy considering he’s leading the mission. He’s not usually a leader though so maybe that’s why he dropped the ball on that part.

Summary of Thoughts: This second installment is an awesome follow-up to part one (read the review of the first novella Transient Phenomena). Things are escalating quickly, the intensity of the story along with it, leaving me and my theories of what was going to happen in the dust. I can’t tell you how much I hunt for that sort of thing in my reading  and how rarely I find it. If you haven’t gotten into this series yet, get started now. I definitely recommend it and cannot wait for part three!

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Many thanks to author J. K. Ullrich for providing a copy of the book!

Want to learn more about this author and her work? Explore her website here

FREE Book for a Limited Time!

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Need a Sci-Fi fix or just a quick escape from the realities of Christmas shopping? Right now Subversive (Insurrection Book One) is FREE on Amazon!

Go grab your copy!

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In a not so distant future, an unprepared humanity barely managed to repel the Locusts when they invaded Earth. But the long war left its mark on mankind and the Establishment was founded to ensure it would never come so close to destruction from an alien force again. Now, decades later, the world is run by this single governing entity. Loyalty is rewarded. Disloyalty is met with corrective action.

As an inquisitor for the past twenty years, Gemson used torture and interrogation to root out subversives. He’d worked hard to earn his cold, hard reputation. Now he finds himself on the subject’s side of the interrogation table. Loyalty? Some bonds transcend the laws of State.

Subversive is FREE through Sunday only so don’t miss out!

For more info on the series check out its dedicated page here

Happy weekend!