Some nuts and bolts

First of all, Carrie over at Carrie’s Urban Fantasy Corner wrote a review of the first three books of Demonic Café. It’s a neat review, even though she has some serious criticisms of Sam’s behavior (wait…don’t we all?) I hope she keeps up with the blog because there’s a serious lack of this kind of thing online. Urban fantasy usually gets gobbled up into a larger fantasy category, which is then dominated by Epic fantasy. So definitely check the blog out today!

Next, the first three books of the series are now available on non-Kindle ereaders; the fourth book will also be available shortly, I just need to wait a few more days before its Amazon-exclusivity period ends. This means that the books are no longer enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, which is only for Amazon exclusives. I’ll miss being a part of that program, but there’s such a big world out there that I didn’t feel like being tethered to Amazon was the best choice for my series anymore. Now all the people who own Nooks and Kobos and all that other good stuff can have some demon-enhanced reading material.

Lastly, Book Five is coming along. I thought I was going to take a break after Book Four and work on some other stories, but the DC characters are very impatient and kept telling me to write their series. Yes, I hallucinate getting lectures from my own characters, what’s the problem?

Hope you’re all safe and sound and enjoying the wrap-up of summer. I’m hoping to get in one beach trip before the weather changes; wish me luck.

Review: Any Witch Way You Can

I read this book because I was trying to figure out just what the heck is going on with Amanda M. Lee, the author. Apparently Ms. Lee has been writing something like 20 books a year for about a decade, and now has over 200 books to her name. How is this possible? How can anyone write decent books at that kind of crazy pace? What is this SORCERY?

Well, I still don’t know what Lee’s secret is, but at least now I know that she does write decent books. Any Witch Way You Can didn’t rock my world, but it was a perfectly entertaining cozy mystery…at least, I think it’s a cozy mystery. More on that in a minute.

The Wicked Witches of the Midwest series has a clever premise. The small town of Hemlock Cove saw its businesses move elsewhere, so instead of giving up, the town rebranded itself as a kitschy tourist town. The whole town is witch-themed, kind of like Salem, Massachusetts but without the historical connection. In this environment, the Winchester women– a family full of real, honest-to-Hecate witches– can live freely, knowing that everyone will assume that their oddities are just part of the witchy role-playing that everyone in town does. On a meta level, there’s something darkly humorous about the idea that, in the face of globalization, the answer is to become a witch.

Any Witch Way You Can is the first installment of the Wicked Witches series, so a lot of page real estate is spent introducing Hemlock Cove and the various Winchesters. The story mainly focuses on Bay, editor of the the town’s weekly “newspaper,” (It’s more of an advertising blurb) and her younger cousins, Thistle and Clove. I know Lee has real newspaper experience, so I enjoy the details about Bay’s job. The other two sisters work at a magic shop, which sounds fun. I want to work at a magic shop that sells crystals and herbs and stuff!

Besides the above, the main thing you need to know about this series (and Lee’s work in general, from what I’ve heard) is that the characters are constantly arguing with each other, holding grudges, getting revenge on each other for slights real or imagined, etc. Lee even apologizes for this in the afterword, saying that she has a particular sense of humor and not everyone likes it. I’m on the fence myself: sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it just makes the characters seem incredibly immature, like they’re in middle school. Also, even when the characters hijinks are funny, it gets old when it just. Keeps. Happening. Always.

That said, I’m currently in the middle of Book 4 of this series, so obviously the style of the humor didn’t put me off that much. It’s still an entertaining series of mysteries…I just wish that this brand of humor could be toned down, not taken away entirely. Then again, Lee seems to be very successful in her niche of the mystery world, so I can’t think of any good reason why she should listen to me.

I’m honestly not sure if this is “cozy” mystery. For cozies, I imagine a nice lady who bakes pie every day and slowly investigates who stole the float for the town parade, or something mild like that. This book features two fairly gruesome murders, and to me that takes the coziness factor away. Is it possible cozy mysteries have been this hardcore for a while now, and I’m just showing my ignorance about the genre? I have much to learn about pie-baking sleuths, apparently.

So I recommend this series, with the caveat that if you like your protagonists to act smart and mature, this is probably not a story for you. But in the book I just read, Thistle and Bay had an angry snowball fight and Thistle dumped fresh snow down the back of Bay’s coat, and I am here for it.

Review: Vampire Girl Series

One of the things I’d like to do on this author blog is review some series that are in my preferred genres, so why not start today? This is a little bit risky, because someone might react to a critical review by having their fans review-bomb my books, but I’m not going to worry about that too much for right now. Today I’m talking about a series that I found pretty enjoyable, so that’s a non-issue. I mean…I think it’s a non-issue. You guys are nice, right Karpov Kinrade fans?

So, Vampire Girl! For starters, I’ve never read an ostensibly vampire-led series where vampirism is less important. Despite the title, the lead character is not a vampire, and blood drinking almost never comes up. There are a lot of characters who are vampires, but just about all of their blood-drinking occurs off-page. I can’t say the vampire angle is totally avoided, since there are a few scenes where it becomes relevant, but it’s an interesting choice to sideline most of the common vampire tropes. Maybe the author thinks we’re bored with them? They may be right.

(psst, Karpov Kinrade is actually a team, hence calling the author “they.” I’m not sure if I’m supposed to pretend it’s actually one author, but they’re pretty open about the situation so I’ll just go with “they” as the pronoun of choice here.)

The reason why this series can get away with playing the vampire business so lightly is because it’s really an epic fantasy dressed up in urban fantasy clothing. That’s not a bad thing (at least, not for me), but there’s an element of bait-and-switch here. The first 50 pages or so feel like an urban fantasy, with main girl Arianna hanging out in modern-day Portland, then she gets transported to the world of Inferna and the real world never matters again. Wait, no, I can think of one time where it matters, but that’s it. As much as I enjoyed the story, I do wish the real world featured more in it.

Once Arianna gets to Inferna (what we mere mortals might call Hell), there’s lots of problems to dig into. The vampires hate the fae, the fae hate the vampires, and there’s vampire-fae hybrids that are hated by everyone, and so on and so forth. Inferna is an interesting locale, but I’m not certain it ever felt truly real to me. Sometimes it felt like the place was really huge, and sometimes it felt really tiny, and that didn’t sit right with me. It’s a minor issue overall, but I think the worldbuilding could have been tighter.

Arianna has to date the Princes of Hell, all sexy vampires, if she wants to complete her quest. You’d think we’d be in paranormal romance territory…but actually, not so much. Once again, the set-up is deceptive. It seems at first like seeing all the different vampires romance Ari is going to be the main draw, then it quickly becomes about Arianna addressing the myriad social problems of Inferna, and dating takes a backseat.

Ari is a likable heroine, one who throws herself into the action without waiting for permission from anyone. She’s in danger of being too perfect, but her headstrong nature does count as an imperfection, I suppose; it certainly worries the Princes of Hell enough. This is where more time spent in the real world would have been helpful, because we’d learn more of what Ari is like when she isn’t in her prophesied-princess role, which comes with its own extensive list of tropes. As it is, we know her as well as we need to, and no more.

The series has two main arcs– the first four books, and the last three. During the first four, I was pretty engaged with the story, even though it made me raise an eyebrow at times. During the second arc, I was partially checked out. This is where Kindle Unlimited makes a difference, because it was easier to commit to finishing the series when I wasn’t paying for the books. If I didn’t have a KU subscription, I might have stopped somewhere in the middle of book six. The second arc isn’t bad (and the first-person narrative is fun), but it’s less compelling.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy both urban fantasy and more traditional fantasy; if you only like one or the other, this series may annoy you with its habit of being about 12 genres at once. If you’re looking for paranormal romance, this series has what you’re looking for, but only in small doses; hardcore PNR fans may want to look elsewhere. Then again, even PNR fans like to read a nice epic fantasy with princes and princesses sometimes, right?

Yet More Free Books

Despite the fact that you all clearly love my books and keep your Kindles under your pillows, I realize that it’s within the realm of possibility that you MIGHT want to read a book by somebody else now and then; crazy, I know.

If you are one of these disloyal interlopers who want to read books by OTHER AUTHORS, there’s a neat little promotion going on right now with lots of urban fantasy and PNR books available. All of the books on this page are currently free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription; they may not stay that way, so if you see something that intrigues you, don’t hesitate:

Price Drop on all Demons

I feel like one of those guys in a late-night infomercial. “Blow-Out prices! EVERYTHING MUST GO! YOU WON’T BELIEVE THESE PRICES!” That doesn’t really apply here, since even if I wanted to sell out of ebooks, I couldn’t (since there are technically an infinite number), but that’s kind of the mood I’m going for. I just dropped a bunch of prices, and now I feel pretty pumped.

My first book, The Problem with Black Magic first in the Demonic Cafe series, is now $.99. All other DC books are $2.99. I don’t know if these prices are going to stick, so if you’ve been planning to try out the series (or if you just need something to read when you need a break from your relatives over the holidays!), now is a good time. Of course, the books are all free to read for those with Kindle Unlimited subscriptions.

Free Parody Story

Penguin of Fortune, my urban fantasy parody story, is free this weekend in the Kindle store:

I had a blast writing this back in the day, and I look forward to writing a sequel. I’ve held off on doing another one for a while because I just haven’t had a good idea for what to do next, but I think paranormal romance is ripe for some parody….

Free Book

My first book– also the first book in my Demonic Cafe series– is free today in the Kindle store:

This is the last free promotion day I have scheduled for the year, so if you’ve been thinking on giving this series a try, this is your opportunity. The first book is a pretty quick tale of supernatural suspense, so give it a go if you like exciting quick reads, magic, and scrupulous attention to beverages;)

The Hollows Fan Art

Over on Goodreads, Kim Harrison is leading a read-along of her The Hollows urban fantasy series, leading up to the release of a new book in 2020. The Hollows is one of my favorite series, and undeniably a big inspiration on my own fiction.

For a while I had a love-hate relationship with it because as much as I enjoyed the books, some things about the story just didn’t make sense to me. My husband found it amusing how I would rant and rave about the things I didn’t like about the series, yet would devour each new book in one or two sittings. What I’ve eventually come to realize is that I like the series so much that the few parts I don’t like really bug me, and that’s okay. Now the love-hate angle is fading and I just love it outright.

I started drawing some fanart for the series and found it a lot of fun. I know, I know, I should be drawing my own characters, but sometimes it’s fun to take a break from your own world and visit someone else’s. Besides, I used the portrait of Trent and Jenks to test out the drawing capabilities of my Surface Pro, which I’ve been meaning to do for a while. So that’s totally productive, right?

Take a gander at this here fanart. If you don’t know who any of these people are, try reading The Hollows; if you like urban fantasy, chances are you’ll really enjoy it.

Rachel, as she’s first described in Dead Witch Walking, complete with a tiny Jenks. Jenks is too big here though.
More Rachel and Jenks. This would be fun to color.
My first attempt at Trent, complete with Confused Mink Rachel. I think Confused Mink Rachel should become a meme. I’d like to do a more finished version of this, which would require looking up a model for Trent’s suit. I still can’t draw suits well without a reference :'(
Trent and Jenks! I think I finally got the size of Jenks right…well, close anyway. This is the image I used to test out my Surface Pro 6. So far I’m really happy with it as a drawing tablet.

Bonus Story Audio Version

If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed yesterday that a bonus story just went live: Demonic Café: Extra Hot. It’s really more a collection of vignettes than a story per se, but it does feature Sam and Cassie’s first meeting.

I also recorded an audio version of the main story. This is a test: I’m not sure if this is the set-up I’m going to use to record my audio going forward. I’m not sure if the vocal quality is good enough; it’s fairly clear, but there’s a kind of graininess to it that I can’t seem to counteract. Maybe this is as good as I can get without investing in a $200 microphone, or maybe I just need to optimize my recording room some more. In any case, I’d love to hear feedback about how the audio sounds.

Yearning for Australia

The above is a photo my Uncle Mary took in Brisbane’s West End neighborhood. In the second book of my romance novella series, which I’m working on now, Daniel and Nora visit Australia. I’ve been trying to figure out where a certain character might live in the city, and my aunt and uncle have been generous enough to send me their thoughts and photos.

I purposely picked Brisbane as a location because it’s one of the few places outside the East Coast of the US that I’ve actually visited; however, my visit was practically a lifetime ago. I visited in the mid-90s, as a child. Any city would have changed in nearly 25 years, but from what I understand, Brisbane has changed more than most. When I visited there wasn’t much to do in the city proper; most of the attractions my family took me to see were on the Gold Coast, or over the border in New South Wales. Now, Brisbane is a full-fledged international city, filled with all the coffee shops, festivals and art galleries you could want.

Now I wish I could go back to Australia again, and I guess that’s the danger of writing this series. It’s supposed to be about experiencing, through fiction, the joy of exploring a place you haven’t been (or in this case, a place you visited so long ago that it’s changed completely), but I can’t help but want to visit in reality the more I research. It’s not completely out of the question that I could visit Australia again, but I’d have to conquer my fear of flying…not impossible, but hard to grapple with.

The thought of that 16-hour flight makes me want to hide under my bed and never leave, but then I think about the look on my little girl’s face at the sight of kangaroos, and I think maybe…maybe….

Rescued From Retail 2: Brisbane will hopefully be out by November. I’m trying to have a trilogy of them out before the end of 2019, but we’ll see how it goes. I may post more about Australia as I fantasize about going there do more research.