Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Tag: Slay Bells Ring (Page 1 of 2)

On writing and schedules and a bit of promo

One of the biggest questions authors, especially indie authors, have to answer is how often to publish. Some authors will tell you that you need to put out a new title every quarter. Some will tell you every two months and others think every six month. Then there are those who tell you not to rush it. That you need to take as long as needed to write a book.

None of the answers are right and yet all of them are. Yes, I know that is contradictory but it’s also true. Why? Because there is no right answer and it all depends on you, what you can do and what you write.

Trends I have seen in my own writing is that my science fiction and fantasy books tend to sale steadily and without major drop-off in numbers for three months after release. The urban fantasy/paranormal works sell well the first month and then drop off. However, they then go through a slow growth pattern. The romantic suspense is a mix of the two.

If I wrote in only one genre or even if I had only two series going on, that wouldn’t be a problem. However, I write in multiple genres and have four series ongoing right now. Yes, two are about to finish their current story arcs. But one is brand new and the other is halfway done. So I have to figure out the best way to keep the sales up on all of them.

To do that, I’m going to try something new. This month is the start. For the first time in, well, forever, I’ve published two new titles. They are related, sort of, and while one is a full-length novel, the other is a 30k word novella. I’ve included links and blurbs for both below.

My plan is to try to put something new out each month starting next month. Some months that will be a novel. For example, next month, Dagger of Elanna will go up for sale. With the holidays coming up and all the distractions they bring, I’m still hoping to bring Victory from Ashes out in December. However, in case that gets sidetracked, I will bring out another short story in that universe. I’ll also put some of my work on sale for the holidays.

I’ve challenged one other author — so far — to keep me honest with this plan. I’ll see how I do over the next six months, both with managing to get out a title a month and with regard to sales, and will update you then. It will be an interesting experiment.

Better yet, adding a short story or short novella to those months when I don’t have a novel coming out shouldn’t put my schedule behind. Why? Because they don’t take that long to plan or write. A short story is no more words than less than a week’s worth of blogging. I manage to put out a blog in half an hour or so a day. So, instead of staring into my coffee mug that extra half hour each morning, I’ll write on the extra title.

Hopefully, too, this will keep Myrtle the Evil Muse satisfied — or exhausted — enough that she won’t start gifting me with new series ideas.

Now, for the promo. Yesterday, I published Skeletons in the Closet (Eerie Side of the Tracks). It’s the first in a series of what will probably be three novellas. They are set in Mossy Creek, the same setting as Slay Bells Ring and Witchfire Burning.

Lexie Smithson’s family had never been what most folks would call “normal”. They had more than their fair share of oddballs and loners and even crazy cat ladies. Most families in Mossy Creek did, especially if they lived on the “wrong side of the tracks”. But things took a decidedly sharp turn to the left of weird the day Lexie’s sister came home from school, complaining about how Old Serena Duchamp had given her the evil eye. When her mother decided it would be a good thing to confront the town’s resident witch, Lexie knew life would never be the same. How could it when their loved ones began returning to the old homestead the day after their funerals. Lexie knew she should be happy none of her neighbors reported mutilated cattle or corpses with missing brains. But that can be hard to do when your loved ones have passed but not passed on.

As mentioned above, this is the first of a series featuring Lexie, her family – both living and dead, not to mention furry – and their friends.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1)

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Slay Bells Ring

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

Slay Bells shares the same setting and some of the same characters as the other two and it hints at the magic in town but the magic isn’t as much of an integral part of the story as it is with the other two.

Witchfire Burning is now live!

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1) is now live.

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Witchfire Burning is the start of a new series. However, it takes place in the same town as Slay Bells Ring and some of the same characters are present in both. Both have a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. Witchfire adds in an urban fantasy note as well. While it wasn’t a book I had planned when I sat down at the beginning of they year to figure out my publication schedule, it’s one that decided it needed to be written and I had a blast doing it. I hope you guys all enjoy reading about Quinn and company as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Also, for those who prefer print versions, it should be available in approximately two weeks. I’ll make an announcement when that version is ready.

Witchfire Burning

I’ve discussed before the novel that demanded it be written. Okay, I’ve had several like this but this particular one was very loud and would not sit on the back burner after I made enough notes that it should have been quiet. What made this particular novel interesting in that infuriating kind of way is that it didn’t have a title. Usually, I know the title of a book by the end of the first chapter. This one, nope. Myrtle the Muse used this particular book to torment me in a number of ways. The title, the fact she didn’t reveal who the bad guy was until I was more than halfway through, etc. What I hadn’t expected was that I would come to love the characters as much as I did or that it would wind up tying into a book I’d already written as a stand alone.

wf3withtagI guess this is all a roundabout way of saying the book has a title now, as well as a series title, and a cover. Witchfire Burning, as I said over on Mad Genius Club, is something of a mash-up of Slay Bells Ring (a romantic suspense) and Skeletons in the Closet (UF/modern fantasy and still unpublished). That’s mainly because it demanded it take place in the same setting as Slay Bells but it has elements of modern fantasy/UF. Oh, and it has a semi-sentient house. There are also character overlaps between the books. Below is an excerpt. There may be changes made, including fixing spellings and punctuation, before the book goes live. Also, the usual cautions apply. This is my work, copyright 2016 by Amanda S. Green.

Chapter One

It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cellphone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Momma, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, recognizing the area code if not the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a woman asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. She might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about her voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, she had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Carli Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Ms. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you, but have you spoken with your mother recently.”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want to worry her.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there’s no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I’d moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mom belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?”

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” I thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they’ve heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I didn’t wait for her to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cellphone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor, was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case which I locked and then dropped inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Momma, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

Life has been interesting

The blog has been silent for the last several weeks and I apologize for that. I won’t bore you with all the details but life has been interesting and there are just some times when it is best not to say anything. No, nothing is wrong with me or mine — well, nothing that dropping temps below triple digits won’t cure. The simple truth is that I had to pull back from social media for a bit or I was going to do or say something I would regret. This political season seems to have brought out the worst in everyone. Making matters even worse is that it doesn’t seem limited to just politics. It is as if some cosmic force hit most of humanity with a stupid bat. Or maybe a contrary bat. I’m not sure which but I swear almost every ounce of common sense seems to have gone down the drain. So has common courtesy.

So, instead of going ballistic here or on FB or elsewhere, I stepped back. Yes, I’ve been busy. I have to start out by giving kudos to everyone who helped with the Bedford (TX) Library Friends book sale this weekend. The sale was a roaring success and well worth all the hard work everyone put in on it. For those of you who live in the DFW area, if you haven’t discovered the Bedford Public Library, take a few minutes to do so. I think it is the best library around and the staff is the friendliest and most helpful there is.

I’ve also been busy on the writing front. The draft for Dagger of Elanna the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), is finished. I am working on the second draft — which is usually what goes out to beta readers. I hope to have it done by then end of next week. I have also finished the outline (something I rarely do to the detail it happened this time) for a novel that will sort of bridge Slay Bells Ring and Skeletons in the Closet. This novel uses characters from both and brings in some of the supernatural/paranormal elements from Skeletons. I know. I know. My muse is strange but this is the book it demanded I take time out to get the details down before I could go back to Dagger. I also have Victory from Ashes, the final book in the current story arc for Honor and Duty (3 Book Series), plotted out. So there has been writing going on — plus I have been editing a wonderful first novel by a friend of mine. More on that after I send back the edits (hopefully this weekend).

Oh, I have also done a lot of reading. I highly recommend the latest in the Monster Hunter International series. Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. I had been looking forward to this for quite awhile, ever since John Ringo started posting snippets on FB. Yes, my friends, this is what we have all been looking forward to — and what a certain group of folks have dreaded. John Ringo and Larry Correia have joined forced to product Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge. It is a great read, lots of fun and, while it is definitely Ringo, it is also Correia. I cannot wait for the next book to come out. Fair warning. I am not responsible for any lost sleep you experience because you can’t put the book down, nor am I responsible for any ruined keyboards, etc., caused during the reading of this book. Ringo. Correia. ‘Nuff said.

I also read a series of books by a well-known, non-Baen author. While most were enjoyable, I noticed something that really bothered me as the series progressed. The women in the books, each book featured a different member of a close group of women as one of the two main characters, started out being competent, strong and still women. They weren’t “men with boobs”. Initially, they didn’t need a man to “save” them. But, as the series went on, even the strongest of the women turned into something I kept expecting to have the vapors and faint dead away in an oh-so-ladylike swoon. As this happened, their male counterparts became more alpha — to the point where they weren’t particularly likable.

In some ways, reading this series was like watching a train wreck. You know it isn’t going to get any better but you keep hoping. Then you get to the point where you don’t want to look away. You want to see just how bad it will get. Then, that part of your brain that reminds you that you can learn even from badly crafted writing, you keep reading and making notes so this doesn’t happen to your books.

What I did like was the way the author made the setting and the town itself something close to characters by the end of the series. But I found myself not cheering the leads in the last few books. That’s a hard thing for me to excuse, especially in books where you are supposed to identify with the characters, when you are supposed to hope everything works out for them in the end. Instead, I was really hoping for a precision missile strike.

Characters are supposed to grow. They are supposed to meet challenges and sometimes make mistakes. They have to stumble and even fall on occasion. But you don’t take strong characters and, without explanation or warning, turn them into wilting flowers who need someone to protect them and stand up for them. If, in book one, the main lead is a strong, capable woman — be she a cop or computer nerd or whatever — who doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is needed to protect herself or her family/friends, don’t have her waiting behind like a “good little girl” while the men go off to deal with the bad guy in later books. At least don’t do it without explaining why she suddenly not only lives with a bunch of macho chauvinists but accepts and likes being “put in her place”. If you have a character who is a medical professional and who is willing to risk her life for a stranger, don’t have her agreeing not to do everything she can to save her sister a few books later because it might put her in danger — at least not without a valid explanation of why.

In other words, this particular author set up a world and expectations for their characters and then broke the rules without foreshadowing or explanation. I hate that. But it did serve as a reminder that it is easy to do — especially if you are feeling deadline pressures and decide that taking the easy way out will be okay just this once.

And now I am back — back to writing, back to blogging and back to being a pain in the backside of my muse.

A quick note

Thanks to everyone for their support of Taking Flight (Honor and Duty) and Battle Bound (Honor and Duty). I promise to get Battle Wounds, the third short story in this particular story arc in the Honor and Duty universe out in the next month to six week. I am going to take a bit of time away from the short stories, however, in order to finish up Dagger of Elanna (Sword of the Gods, Book 2) and star the final edits on Victory from Ashes (Honor and Duty, Book 4).

When I started Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1), I never expected it to morph into a series. At least not like it has. Nor did I expect to write any short stories in the universe. But Ashlyn Shaw and company have become some of my favorites and it will be difficult to say goodbye to them when the times comes. When that will be, I’m not sure. The current plan is to finish the Honor and Duty story arc with the next book. However, I have a feeling that is most definitely not the end of Ash’s story. Plus there are other characters in the universe who want their own stories told. So, I have a feeling I won’t be leaving Fuercon or the Devil Dogs any time soon and I’m happy with that.

As I’ve noted before, I have the very rough outline done for Dagger of Elanna. One of the things that has been holding me up has been finding the voice for one of the new characters who is being introduced in this book, one who will wind up playing a major role in the series before everything is said and done. I finally found that voice yesterday. That’s one of the main reasons I want to get back into Dagger. I don’t want to lose the voice.

After Dagger, I’ll finish up Victory and start the next Mac Santos book. Somewhere in there as well will be another book along the lines of Slay Bells Ring. Whether it will follow someone from that book or not, I’m not sure — and, yes, Pat. I know you want more from those characters. But I have a plot already playing around in the back of my mind.

So I guess I’d best get back to work. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen this post from The Passive Voice, go check it out. Pay particular attention to what PG has to say about the Shatzkin article. I think PG is right on the money. Statzkin purpetuates the mindset of many in traditional publishing and, in doing so, ignores so many of the challenges the industry faces. It is time for those in their ivory towers of publishing to pull their heads out of the sand. They need to listen and pay attention to what readers and writers are saying. Until they do, and until they change their business plans, traditional publishing will continue to struggle.

Now, for the blatant self-promo. If you haven’t checked outHonor and Duty (3 Book Series), why not give it a try?

 

 

 

Time to get to work

I think that’s the question most writers have asked themselves at one time or another. It usually isn’t because we have no ideas but because we have too many. We might be in the middle of writing one book when the idea for another suddenly pops into our head. We might have finished one book and be ready to start another, only to have a chorus of plots and characters all singing — or screaming and yelling — for our attention. It doesn’t matter what the schedule is, all too often there is the pull of another story that wants to be written.

I find myself in that position right now. It’s not new. Those of you who follow this blog, or who read Mad Genius Club, know that very same thing happened during the course of writing Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I had to stop for a couple of weeks and pound out Slay Bells Ring because the book simply wouldn’t be quiet long enough for me to finish Honor. Now I am trying to write Dagger of Elanna, the follow-up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I know the basic plot. I know the twists and turns it needs to take. I have characters I love — and who I love to torture (hey, I’m a writer. It’s what I do.). Instead of being able to focus on swords and a bit of sorcery, I have spaceships and the dead rising, but not as zombies or vampires, a local witch and more than one mystery to solve. And no, that’s not all one book — thankfully.

I have Skeletons in the Closet wanting to be finished. It wouldn’t take much but it is a voice and head-space I’m not ready to get into right now. The main reason is because the voice is so different from everything else that I wouldn’t be able to work on any other project at the same time. So I am trying to tell Lexie and company to give me another six weeks and then I’ll give them my undivided attention.

I also have the new title in the Honor and Duty series — no, not Victory from Ashes, the next in the series. This is the standalone short story or novella I’ve discussed writing as a reward for all of you who stuck with me during last week’s Amazon snafu. While I love the series and characters, I wasn’t prepared for the number of ideas that have been coming to me as possibilities. I need a little time to figure out which one — or ones — will work best in helping shape the characters.

Then there is Mackenzie Santos and her friends. Mac is standing in my mind, tapping one booted foot, telling me it is time to write her next book. After all, I’ve put out two novels since Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4). She’s been patient. Shouldn’t I reward her for that?

Okay, she isn’t being quite that nice about it. She is rather demanding, in fact. And oh the look she gives me when I remind her that I hadn’t planned on writing Slay Bells, so it doesn’t count.

In other words, this is another typical Monday morning in this writer’s life. What is really going to happen is I get to play catch up today. I need to do a follow-up email to my contact at Amazon, letting her know that the problems continued to exist for some of you through the weekend. Then I need to finish putting together print files for several of my books already out in e-book format. Then I need to do some yard work and clean house. Oh, somewhere in there, I must find more coffee and food. If I forget the latter, no biggie but nothing will get done without the former.

Then and only then will I be able to sit down and write. Yes, it will be Dagger of Elanna. But I am also plotting out Victory from Ashes as well as the untitled short story/novella in that same universe. Once that is done, I will finish Skeletons (which shouldn’t take more than another week or so). Then it will be the next Mac Santos book.

And who said writing wasn’t a real job?

Writing and editing and reviews, oh my!

I am head down, butt in chair busily working on the final edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). As I’ve noted before, I had planned for this third book to be the end of not necessarily the series but this story arc. Of course, with my muse being evil, the plan changed and there will be one more book in this particular arc. What happens after that waits to be seen.

This is part of the joy and frustration in being a writer. Sometimes a story takes a turn you don’t expect, no matter how carefully you plot it out beforehand. I know plotters who will come to a complete standstill with a project when that happens. Me, I’m a hybrid between a plotter and pantser. I know the end point of the story and I know the main story points that need to happen between the start and the end. What I don’t always know is what comes between them — or when the plot will diverge for a bit before coming back to the main road. It can be a fun and frustrating ride, especially when a carefully planned series suddenly adds a book or two to it.

As I work on the edits, I am also making notes for Dagger of Elanna, the follow up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). I am also working on finishing Skeletons in the Closet — and deciding if I will publish it as a single volume or as two or three smaller volumes. This weekend, I will be finalizing the print editions for the three books I’ve fallen behind on. In other words, I’ll be doing the business end of writing, the end I know I am the weakest at. That includes not only getting the print versions out but dealing with promotions, the accounts, etc.

I have also, as you can tell by the more frequent posts here, decided to use blogging as my morning writing prompt. I haven’t quite made it habit to do a new post every day but I’m getting there. The reality is, between my posts here, on Mad Genius Club and According to Hoyt, I am doing close to 10k words of blogging a week. So far it hasn’t cut into my writing and has, in fact, seemed to spark it. Maybe it is because it has gotten me back into a “work day” mentality. Perhaps it is because the blogs are my morning prompt and get the creative juices flowing. I’m not sure and I am keeping track. The moment I feel they start cutting in on my “real” writing, I will see what needs to be cut back.

Now, reviews. I don’t often read them. However, there are a couple of reviewers I always read when I get notice they have commented on my work. Sure, I go in cringing because I am always afraid they won’t like my baby. It’s foolish because both are ethical and believe in talking with an author before posting a negative review. I appreciate it and am relieved that neither have felt the needs to have such a conversation with me — yet.

The first of those reviewers, Cedar Sanderson, I linked to earlier this week when I reblogged her review of Slay Bells Ring. The second reviewer is Pat Patterson. Pat is one of those reviewers you want to get to know on a personal level. His reviews are honest and, as I learned in the first one he did for one of my books, laced with humor. He is a blogger as well as a reviewer and his blog always leaves me smiling or thinking or both. Most of all, I love the way he talks about his wife. He calls her his “gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother”. It is clear from every word he writes about her that he adores her. He has to. He read my paranormal books to her. Not many men would do that.  😉

Anyway, Pat’s review of Slay Bells Ring went live on Amazon yesterday. I don’t know if he will be adding it to his blog or not. I’m just thrilled to have it on the Amazon page. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (I am leaving in the link to Pat’s Amazon page so you can check out the rest of his reviews there. I also highly recommend you check out his blog, linked above.)

I want a series! Make it happen!, February 25, 2016
This review is from: Slay Bells Ring (Kindle Edition)
SLAY BELLS RING

Ferguson, Ellie; Green, Amanda S. (2016-01-14). Hunter’s Moon Press. Kindle Edition.

This is not a Christmas book!

I don’t care what you see on the cover, and I don’t care that the title is a goofy pun (and by goofy, I mean stupid). It’s not a Christmas book.

Now, Christmas does figure in to a wee, small, tiny, minuscule degree, in that it does establish a deadline for the protagonist to solve the murders before everyone’s schedule gets mixed up, but that’s it. It’s not a Christmas book.

Wait! I forgot one thing: it does provide an opportunity for bonding and healing through charming invitations to Christmas events. But that’s it, and I mean it this time. NOT A CHRISTMAS BOOK!

It’s a good, dare I say great book, though. I was drooling over it from the beginning, and that’s even before I got to the cuddly scene. (it’s a really nice cuddly scene, too. Just enough; not too much. Tasteful.)

Annie works for the district attorney in Austin, Texas, and is building a nice career, when she is called back home to Mossy Creek by her grandmother. It seems her aggravating and irritating mother has been arrested for murder; in fact, the police discover her clad only in her nightgown, standing over the body of the decedent, holding the murder weapon. And although no one who knows her mother would ever believe that she would commit such a tremendous social faux pas, no one would have believed that she would have been shacking up with an odious character like Spud Buchanan in the first place.

It is now time for me to pay homage to an author skilled in her craft. We know from the very beginning that Annie is a highly competent lawyer, and that the main reason that she had to leave for Austin was to get away from her mother. I had every expectation of reading chapters filled with the details of conflict between mother and daughter.

It doesn’t happen. Not once. The story unfolds seamlessly, we are introduced to characters from Annie’s past, as well as people she is meeting for the first time; we understand clearly where everyone stands on the issues; and we never hear one single word of vicious, nasty, catty, ugly infighting. Not only does this, in retrospect, seem like a refreshing brain cleanse, it also paves the way for realistic scene of reconciliation.

I really like Annie’s character. She is smart, highly skilled, tough when she needs to be, and she gratefully accepts the help that is offered her, even though it is often unexpected. Now, Mossy Creek is a pretty sedate town, so she may not have a lot of adventures ahead of her; on the other hand, Jessica Fletcher never seemed to suffer for mayhem in Cabot’s Cove.

On writing, gaming and drinking coffee

Yes, yes, I know. I promised a snippet and you will get it. Not today or even tomorrow. I am going to start doing snippets on the weekends. I am hard a work on the final edits for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). I am also starting the preliminary draft for Dagger of Elanna, the follow up to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). After that, not necessarily in this order, will come Nocturnal Challenge, a secret project I can’t discuss just yet, Skeletons in the Closet, and a host of other books demanding to be written.

One thing I’m learning is that I have to take a little bit of time between projects to not only switch “voices” but to decompress. That week or so is when I try to catch up on my reading, see movies and trying out new video games. I don’t buy a new game after every finished product but I do when something interesting catches my eye or someone I trust recommends a game.

That’s why I played — and later reviewed — Rise of the Tomb Raider – Digital Deluxe Edition [Online Game Code]. It is why I am now playing Assassin’s Creed Syndicate – Gold Edition – PC. This is the first time in a long while I’ve bought the actual disc for a game. But this particular edition was a much better buy than going to Steam and paying for the game and then buying the season pass. So, I bought the disc, installed it on my laptop and started playing.

And found what has, so far at least, been my favorite Assassin’s Creed game to date. Part of it is the story and mechanics. Part is the fact I can, on many of the missions, choose which character to play. I can go more for brute strength by playing Jacob or stealth by choosing his twin Evie. Yes, for those who feel there needs to be a female playable character, Ubisoft has given you one.

I’ll follow up with a full review when I finish the game but, for the moment, I am enjoying it a great deal and it has helped with the decompression from finishing Slay Bells Ring and doing edits (which I hate doing) on Honor.

So where, you ask, does coffee come into all this? That’s simple. Like a lot of writers, I seem to live on caffeine. My brain doesn’t get going in the morning without that kickstart you can only get from a cup of coffee. I grew up in a household that used a Corningware stove top percolator, even after the company recalled them. My dad’s philosophy was that your coffee wasn’t strong enough unless your spoon could stand, unaided, in the middle of the mug. Not that he would ever ruin a cup of coffee by adding anything to it. Coffee was meant to be drunk black as night and hot as Hell (or cold as the Arctic in the summer).

Fastforward to today. I’ve done the Mr. Coffee route and the Keurig k-cups. Mr. Coffee and those type of coffeemakers can leave you with scorched coffee because you leave it on the burner. The alternative is to brew into a carafe that is a bitch to clean. K-cups will never, ever make a full-bodied cup of coffee. Sorry, it just isn’t going to happen.

So someone finally recommended Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee, The World’s Strongest Coffee, Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic – 16 Ounce Bag. I balked at first. After all, you may as well say it is $20/lb. Ouch! Then I started looking at what I was paying for Peet’s or Starbucks to put into the reusable k-kups as well as what I spent to drink regular k-cups. By the time I added up the cost per cup and how many cups per day I was drinking, I thought I might as well give Death Wish a try. After all, if it was as strong as they said, I might not drink as much.

Boy has that been a good decision. My four or five cups (read large mugs) of coffee each day minimum I’d been drinking is down to two cups max. A pound of Death Wish lasts approximately 2 weeks. So my monthly coffee budget is $40. If I were buying k-cups (Green Mountain because that is the brand the rest of the family likes), and if I were averaging 4 cups a day, my monthly budget would be over $80 ordering from Amazon. It would be less if I were lucky enough to find a sale locally but those are few and far between. Starbucks whole beans would run somewhere between the two. So, for a great tasting coffee that has enough caffeine to get me going and that doesn’t leave me crashing later in the day, I’ll pay the price. It works out to be less in the long run.

Now, if only I could find chocolate as good as Death Wish is as coffee and that was as affordable per use, I’d be a very happy camper, er, writer.

Awesome review

Cedar Sanderson, one of my cohorts over at Mad Genius Club, published a review of Slay Bells Ring yesterday on her blog. I always hold my breath when Cedar, or anyone else for that matter, reviews my work. Like most writers, I am my own worst critic. The means I halfway expect an honest reviewer — which Cedar is — to see all the faults I do, even if many of those faults are in my head. So, when she posts a favorable review, I want to do a happy dance.

Anyway, here’s her review. For other reviews, as well as posts about writing, art and food, be sure to check out her blog.

Review: Slay Bells Ring

So this is a Christmas book, sort of, and it’s chick-lit, sort of. Or at least that’s what you might think when you first picked it up. Sure, it’s set at Christmas time. But why not read about the festive season year round? And sure, the main character is a woman. But that’s where you’d be wrong to dismiss this book. It’s a fun murder mystery with characters who will win you over if you take the time to sit down and read this one.

Juliana Grissom is a lawyer who left her small-town background and never looked back. It wasn’t that there was trouble in her past, no, it was that her family was back there and they all wanted her to come home and fit into the pre-determined fate they wanted her to fulfill. But when she gets the call that her air-head mother has been accused of murdering the one man Juliana knows her mother hates, she doesn’t have a choice. She’s got to go home again, even if it means losing her big-city job, taking up the inheritance she didn’t suspect, and worst of all… interrogating her mother about her sex life.

Slay Bells is a fun, fluffy read with a zany mustery that will go in directions you don’t expect. It’s got heart-warming moments, and a bit of romance, but mostly it’s about family, and coming home again, whether you want to or not. Ellie Ferguson, the penname of Amanda Green, delivers the goods if you enjoy cozy mysteries with a side of wit and wisdom. You might not like them, but they are family, and when the chips are down, they are the ones you can rely on.

The sun, it burns

Like many this morning, I look out the window and groan as the sun peeks over the horizon. No, I didn’t party too hearty yesterday. I’m just not a morning person. Add to that the fact I finished the rough draft for Skeletons in the Closet Saturday and my brain is still a bit fried. So, with the exception of going to my critique group yesterday, I took the day off. I will probably take it a bit easy today, re-reading Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) and Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) in preparation for starting the final edit round on Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) , the third book in that series.

What surprised me with Skeletons is how the book wound up playing out.

When I first started writing it, and I will admit the first chapter hit paper a couple of years ago and then the project was shuffled to the back burner, I didn’t know where it was going. That’s the main reason I let other projects go ahead of is. I dusted it off when I needed something light and something I thought I could simply put aside again while I got my head into the right space to finish the edits for Duty. What I didn’t expect was that Lexie, Granny and company would demand I finish the book.

More surprising was where this book ended. My novels generally run in the 80k – 120k word range, depending on genre. Skeletons hit its natural ending around 40k words. That means, after final edits, it will come in somewhere around 50k words (there are those pesky little details and descriptions that need to be added in, as well as a couple of scenes that need to be fleshed out). However, that wasn’t the only surprise the book presented to me.

Oh no. Not at all. Whether my evil muse — Myrtle, in case you forgot her name — took inspiration from my posts last week about how books become series or what, the natural ending point for Skeletons isn’t the end of the story. Not by a long shot.

Sigh.

So, unless I want to fight the muse, I have just found myself with another series. At least this one has a very clear ending and will only be one more book (okay, maybe two. Myrtle the Must is evil, remember.) Now, what this means is that the title of this first book will change. Skeletons in the Closet will be the series title. What the new title will be, I’m not sure — yet. Unfortunately, Myrtle is saying I haven’t had enough coffee — even if it is Death Wish Whole Bean Coffee, The World’s Strongest Coffee, Fair Trade and USDA Certified Organic – 16 Ounce Bag — to wake her up.

With Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) coming out in April (and it is available for pre-order now), I’m not sure I will get Skeletons #1 out before then. I am going to try, but I don’t want to rush either book. So, I guess this is my way of saying I will keep everyone in the loop.

In the meantime, check out Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4).

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

For a change of pace, if you enjoy a little bit of romance with your suspense, or a little bit of suspense with your romance, check it out Slay Bells Ring.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.

Snippets for Skeletons in the Closet will continue through this week and then I will start snippeting Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3).

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