The Dark World 

Set in the 1700s-1800s this tale is an intriguing take on vampire myths. 

It follows Xavier Delacroix, the heir to the King of All Creatures: Dracula. Dracula’ grandaughter, a human woman, is being hunted by Lycans– Xavier’s brother Christian almost died trying to save her. Eleanor Black, a past flame, dies mysteriously in front of Xavier and he is reeling from grief. Will he be able to protect the human? What role does she have to play? Secrets abound. 

The setting was unclear at first. There are no mentions of time and no identifying technology.  It could be the 1600s for all I know. London is a sprawling town. The only identifying detail for time is I believe someone mentions a newspaper but I might be remembering that incorrectly. They could have just asked if the other was familiar with the stories about the murders. 

Time aside, it was well written and visual. 

There were few female characters and few people of color, which surprised me since the author is an African-American woman. 

This book does not pass the Bechdel Test. There are two women who are POV characters- Lillith and Mara. Lillith, Princess of the Vampires, was a disappointing character. She is important to the plot, and yet a weak Mary Sue. We are not in Mara’s head very much. Xavier’s brother, Christian, could have been a Christina and this would have made the character more interesting and might have made a few things make more sense. 

I do look forward to reading the future books.  

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Recommendation Overload: So Many Books and Not Enough Time 

Amazon has 1.8 million books. According to techcrunch.com there is one new book on Amazon every 5 minutes. 


On one level of thinking, many of those books are self-published and didn’t go through the rigorous editing and revision that a book coming from the Big 5. At the same time I have read indie books that were excellent. 


It’s impossible to read *all* the books. An article I read a while back opined that suggesting books and TV shows to others is rude, intrusive, and not helpful. At the same time, when people find out I write then they inevitably tell me who their favorite author is and recommend a book. Sometimes the suggestions seem worthwhile and I note them. Other times they sound awful and I mentally block the book. 


At times I’ve felt like I don’t know my genre as well as I should because I haven’t read all these books. Other times I’ve realized that the suggestions I receive have little to do with the books I enjoy most. No wonder I haven’t read them: I don’t like supernatural romance. I’m not into YA urban dystopianism. In fact, as sacrilegious as it may sound, I don’t enjoy YA fantasy that much. Three of my favorite authors write YA fantasy, but recent YA hasn’t hooked me. I want to read about adults- not children. I want to read about the distant future or a far off world; I want an element of escapism and not a book club type contemporary fantasy with low fantasy. 


How does one find the next book to read? At The Seymour Agency’s Writer’s Winter Escape, it intrigued me that the agents said these sub-genres like the cozy mystery were pretty much invented by bookstores. At the same time it’s easy to see why that’s a practical move. There are three sources that have pushed me to read books beyond just random suggestions. 


The first is finding an agent I like and reading the books that agent represents in my genre that have been recently published. This shows me what sold in the recent past. 

The second source that’s influenced me is looking at the catalogs online of the Big 5 and seeing what they’re putting out and what of that catches my eye. 


Lastly with Amazon there are several ways to explore new books – relevance, average customer reviews, and new releases. In Joanna Penn’s How to Make a Living with Your Writing, she talks about how much of a funnel Amazon is with books. 

People want a book for entertainment, inspiration or information. If you’re not a brand-name author already, your non-fiction book is more likely to be discovered if it answers someone’s question or helps them solve a problem.
So how do people find these books? They search by category on the bookstores and they also use the search bar to try and find something relevant. They type in keywords or keyword phrases into Amazon or Google and see what comes up. Amazon is basically a search engine for people who are actively ready to buy…

With books, like TV show recommendations, if a name keeps popping up then it grabs my attention. Otherwise I take recommendations with a grain of salt. My tastes are probably not the same as yours. My goals for reading may not be the same as yours either. Find what works for you, and don’t let yourself be bogged down in recommendation overload. 

Not the first time 

We turned on the TV and a pundit on “Real Time with Bill Mather” who claimed that in 230 years of American History the first woman to run for president was Hillary Clinton. 

The first woman to run for president was Victoria Woodhull in 1870. 

Women’s equality has been a long journey and we haven’t reached the destination yet. 

Long Time No Post 

I learned a lot from the Seymour Agency’s 2017 Writer’s Winter Escape. This has made me want to reinvent my blogging experience completely and I haven’t entirely worked that out lately. I’m still doing a lot of reading. 

So very soon you can expect a post on a book I read and loved (The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms) and board games we’ve bought over the past few months (Back to the Future, Mysterium, and a few others). 

On the topic of board games, my husband and I went to MACE West a few weeks ago and I was exposed to some wonderful board games that I can’t wait to share with you:

– Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure 

– Nevermore

– Defenders of the Realm

– Cave Trolls

– Fury of Dracula
This year has been full of changes but I”ll soon catch my rhythm. 
Best Wishes! 

Rise of the Seven

Frey’s memories have been returned to her but reconciling her past self to who she became without her memories is a challenge. Not to mention there are even more attempts on her life and her kingdom is in turmoil. Will she risk war with the Fairies? And what shall she do about the mounting tension between her and Chevelle? Her guard of seven will be instrumental in keeping the peace. 


I enjoyed this book. Ruby continued to be one of my favorite characters. Steed and Chevelle finally have a showdown. 

The development of the risk of war with the Fairies was intriguing. 

Again this book passes the Bechdel Test

There’s more action in this book than in the second and less sleeping. 

Chevelle becomes more developed in this book. One reviewer said she liked Chevelle in the second book because he is perfect.  I like characters to have more complexity than that. Granted we see everything from Frey’s perspective, so perhaps she overlooks his flaws. Love is blind and all. 

I look forward to the fourth book, Venom and Steel, set to come out this year. 

#amreading the best of this week

1 – 32 Secrets of Confident People

The gem:

Our mind is a very powerful tool, and the impact of our thoughts and words cannot be underestimated. Our thoughts create our emotions. Our emotions create our actions. Our actions create our life. Confident people have greater control over their minds and have tuned their mental station to one of ‘I can.’


This is my word for the year. By the end of the year will I be confident? Will I have transformed from my demure self? Maybe not but I hope to make progress.

2 – Altered Perceptions

The gem:

 It’s also important to realize that it doesn’t necessarily matter OUR perception in the creative process either, because our readers are inevitably going to make what they will of the characters and the plot points. 

I recently read another article about how each person reads a different book because they go into the book expecting different things. We have different human experiences and have read different books so we each bring something different to the table.

3 – Be Fearless and Conquer All That Life Throws at You

The gem:

Instead of praying for sanctuary from fear and doubt, pray for courage and strength to confront fear and doubt.


I think we could all learn from Xena from time to time.

4 – On being free

The gem:

There’s nothing worse in a democratic country than feeling powerless, feeling as if your freedom is being taken away a little bit at a time.

I’ve had a difficult time with the Trump administration and get a feeling of dread each day when I watch the news, but there are other countries also facing difficulties that I don’t hear on the national news.  I don’t know what news sources you watch, so I’m not sure if you’ve heard about it, but Romania is undergoing protests because of corruption being basically legalized.

Yes, our country has problems and some of them have international repercussions.  We cannot ignore the other problems that are going on in the world.


While we had a Women’s March (which I agree with), Russia was taking a step backwards in women’s rights and decriminalized domestic abuse.  Should we ignore that women in the US have unequal pay? Or that birth control is difficult for some women to access? Or that we live in a rape culture? No. We shouldn’t be silent about women across the world, though.

Also in international news, Civillians killed in worsening Ukraine Conflict amid concern Donald Trump’s stance could be emboldening rebels. We owe it to the world to not remain silent when we see injustice.

5 – The Scary Truth about Writing Strong Themes

The gem: 

True things have a way of changing people’s lives. Who knows? Maybe that person will even be you.


Writing about real life experiences is scary. People read them and then give you feedback and it’s like they’re commenting on your history. I talked about this in Writing about What Hurts, I talked about this. When we are real we can finally communicate the truths we want. It’s worth overcoming your fears to be real. 

#TuesdayMotivation Finding Solidarity 

This week I’ve struggled with some weltschmerz. Today I’m going to talk about the origins of my pain and the two things that alleviated it. 


Fear, The Unknown 

It’s been difficult for me to find not only a sense of hope but of solidarity in these past few days especially with the #MuslimBan. These people around me and in our country have such a sense of hatred and fear towards the unknown, towards Islam. 

There is so much irony in the fact that right after International Holocaust Remembrance Day we are challenged with a zeitgeist of exclusion and the demonization of an entire people group. Are there evil Muslims? Yes. There are also Christians who bomb abortion clinics and perpetrate gun violence and terrorism


A few years ago I saw a fearmongering book at a relative’s house about Islam. Curious, I read the back cover copy. It was in that instant that I knew what I must do: arm myself with knowledge about Islam so I could be set free by the truth and escape fear. 

Over the next few months I read several books that changed the way I view Islam:

Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in an Age of Globalization 

Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace – One School at a Time 

Our Last Best Chance: The Pursuit of Peace In A Time of Terror

No god but God:  The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Am I thinking of converting? Not a chance. Do I feel like an expert now? Not at all. These books, however, took away my fear of the unknown, of Islam. It is a complex, nuanced religion built around community. There are also Muslims who protect Christians and in fact this is a (somewhat) forgotten tenet of Islam

Being a Unitarian Universalist, the religious freedom of others is very near and dear to my heart. 

This is one of my favorite quotes:


We are not enemies, but friends. 

One of my cousins is so often a source of inspiration to me. He is truly an incredible person. He shared this powerful video and it brought calm to my heart. 

We Will Make Our Voices Heard All Around the World 

Growing up in a conservative household I often saw on Fox News claims that the liberal media was attacking the truth. I believed them. Now I know that the media is not truly as liberal as they claimed and that liberals are just as attacked as conservatives. The truth is out there but it’s more difficult to find than turning on MSNBC. I recommend looking for an objective opinion — the BBC — as they have no horse in this race. Vice News is also dedicated to pure journalism without entertainment/opinion. 

I went to college for Political Science and wanted to become a journalist and promote the truth. It was there that the chaff burnt away and I began my transformation into my purist self: a liberal. 


Knowing how to think for myself, I quickly realized that I was a liberal at heart. It was hard for me to find a spiritual home in the mountains of Western North Carolina. One day my husband and I took the Belief-O-Matic quiz and both discovered Unitarian Universalism. In a matter of moments we found our spiritual home: the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Franklin

Seeing Facebook posts from one of the most politically active members has given me a sense of community. What really put me over the top, though, was this video of Elizabeth Warren:

I hope you found that as unifying as I did. This country was founded on religious freedom. With that we have the responsibility to let all people seek the truth for themselves. Your truth and mine may not be the same but I will fight for your freedom. 

From an Upworthy post :

Get ready. Your active citizen hat is going to be on for awhile.

Pieces of Eight

Not about Spanish currency of antiquity. 


The second book in the Frey Saga is an entertaining quest to restore an elf maiden’s fractured identity. 

There is less action in this book than the first. It is, however, an intriguing jaunt through another world. 

I enjoyed it very much.  It also had the challenge of the first book of hypersexualized male characters. I have to say I enjoy Steed’s flirtations with her more in this book. Chevelle, the male lead, is underdeveloped. He is dark and brooding but otherwise almost flawless (he does have a jealous streak when it comes to Steed). 
Being that it was written by a woman I took it for granted in the first book that it passes the Bechdel Test. This book also passes the test and Ruby remains one of my favorite characters. The current book I’m reading does not so far and it was also written by a woman. 

I enjoy being in Frey’s head, though she is very different than me. 

One criticism I read in another review of this book is that Frey is frequently sleeping. This is true , but I didn’t find it boring and it served the plot. She evolves through the book. 

One quote I particularly enjoyed:

Somewhere, in the mess of my mind, I’d understood that acquiring the magic and memories would not release me from the difficulties of my life. 

Pieces of Eight was a diverting, easy read.  I highly recommend it. 

Frey

Frey felt life was unfair as an elf who has no magic until one day she finds herself accidentally practicing dark magic. Things get worse from there. A dark and handsome stranger appears and her world is soon thrown off kilter. Will her mother’s diary hold the answer to her fractured memories? Will she find any magic that is not dark? 


This story was appealing because it focuses on a strong female lead who fights against the odds. We can probably all identify with feeling out of place from time to time.  

In this world the genders feel pretty equal, though two of the male characters are hypersexualised. Although one of the elves, Steed, is quite comical with his forwardness. His personality reminds me of a married man that used to hit on me. I didn’t think it was so funny at the time. 

The story seems to follow more of a Freytag model than a traditional three act structure.  That’s okay; my book, Threads of Fate, follows this model and is based off Blake Snyder’s beat sheet.  

Ruby was one of my favorite characters. She is strong and mischievous, so a little unpredictable. She definitely has agency. This book passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors. 

There were a few moments that felt unrealistic. Chevelle is particularly brooding and in one spot does not speak to Frey for an entire day. I can’t imagine traveling with someone for a full 24 hours and not breaking the silence. 

I wish there was a little more description about things like the colors of the horses. I can’t recall what color her horse was and those kinds of details draw me in being a visual person. 

The book was an easy read and I’ve already read the next one, Pieces of Eight

#TuesdayMotivation Set Yourself Free

One of my dear friends told me that the theme for her in 2017 is forgiveness. This quote has inspired me in writing Syzygy. I challenge you to not only forgive others but to also forgive yourself. 

Self Compassion. I’ve not had a problem forgiving other people. My worst enemy is often no further than the closest mirror. Forgiving myself is difficult. 

The way I talk to myself and the harsh way I deal with myself is not how I would treat others. I’ve admitted this before

If you’re like me it’s easier to let go of what other people did than to give yourself compassion. Compassion is vital and it needs to start internally. For us to be healthy, functional people we have to own our flaws and move beyond them: we have to forgive ourselves. 


Let It Go. If you’re holding on to bitter thoughts about someone, I challenge you to let them go. Madeline L’Engle said, “Hate hurts the hater more than the hated”. While you may not actually loathe the person who has wronged you, holding onto negativity just bogs you down like a ball and chain. 


Take a moment and think about the negativity holding you back. Decide to forgive and feel the ball and chain disintegrate.