The End of the Month Wrap-Up: April 2017!

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It’s raining. It’s been cold and damp and gray all month, as if the weather knew my mood.

In April, for #readselfpublished, I read six books. For some people, that’s great–for me, that’s a slump. I haven’t felt like reading. I am now declaring May to be Read Whatever the Hell I Want Month. Not that I won’t be choosing books I’ve got set aside for my various challenges, but if I want to read a cheesy romance because I’m in the mood for fluff, I will. If I want to barrel through the rest of the Dark Tower series, I will. If I feel like abandoning the written word for comics (I’ve got Sandman and Preacher sitting around waiting for me) I will. Maybe it will pull me out of the slump.

That being said, I did stick to my vow to post Goodreads/Amazon reviews for all of the #rsp books I read. Reviews are vital for independent authors!

On the writing and journaling fronts, April was bad. So bad I don’t want to talk about it, it’s not going to make me feel better to beat myself up in public. Moving on.

In May, I’m promising myself to do better. I will write or edit every day, barring illness. I will journal or draw or color every day to alleviate stress and anxiety. I will exercise more days than not, including today.

It’s raining, it’s cold, and it’s gray, but I’m going for a walk anyway. Time to start taking care of myself again, and everything else will come easier.

This Week, I Read… (2017 #15)

50 - The Redwood Rebel

#50 – The Redwood Rebel, by Lorna George

A fairly standard fantasy-rebellion plot that gets upstaged by the FANTASTIC culture-clash romantic subplot. Seriously, most of the time when the romantic leads come from different fantasy-lands, one culture is “good/educated” and the other is “evil/savage,” or sometimes, even, they’re portrayed as civilized/backwards on the sole axis of modern feminist ideals.

Don’t get me wrong, I want women to be empowered, but if you want to make a culture “bad” just by making it not-feminist, that’s a lazy way out. Dig deeper, or at least work out the full implications of how your “bad” society would effectively govern and function, please.

Anyway, I’ll step down from my soapbox now.

Here, some standard fantasy tropes are subverted, especially regarding virginity, both male and female (yay!)–and neither Naomi’s nor Arun’s cultural biases are wrong, they’re just different. I feel like I’ve been waiting to see a romance like this one FOREVER, and they’re not even really together yet! (More, please. I want to see how these two stubborn babies reconcile their differences.)

The one major flaw I saw in this work was the weak villains. Adrienne’s only two character traits are being spoiled and stupid, and Cygnus is an underdeveloped behind-the-scenes manipulator type who uses her to gain power. There’s a lot of potential there, but they never feel as authentic as Naomi or Arun.

That being said, I still had a hell of a good time reading this.

The #readselfpublished Blog Tour!

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Hello, readers and fellow authors participating in #readselfpublished!

I’m Elena, I write romance, and I’ve got two books following one couple past the end of the world as they knew it.

Is there room for love in their lives when mere survival demands so much? Find out in What We Need to Survive, book one in the What We Need series.

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After the plague, the world became a web of silent roads stretching between empty towns.

Paul discovered he had a knack for living on the move, finding supplies and trading them with other survivors, never staying long in one place, or with one person. But he wanted to. Life would be easier with someone to watch his back.

Nina found her own way to survive in the ruined world, but the choices she made left her guarded and mistrustful. Not a woman likely to care for a handsome stranger who falls in with her group of survivors.

Attraction can be ignored, and trust has to be earned. But the days spent searching for food and shelter, and the nights spent keeping watch, don’t satisfy their truest need…

Each other.

When danger is never far away, is love a luxury they can’t afford? What We Need to Survive captures the tension, fear, and hope of two people struggling to build a new way of life from the leftovers of the old, deciding what to hold on to, and what to leave behind.

If that intrigues you, one copy of the book is available through the #readselfpublished giveaways (here’s all of them, so many! Mine’s near the top, April 2nd, and there’s a few days left to enter.) Or dive right in with a digital copy, only 99 cents on whatever platform you prefer!

But Paul and Nina’s story doesn’t end there, oh no. The dangers of the world aren’t finished with them yet, as they travel on together in What We Need to Decide.

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Planning a future is a tricky thing, more difficult than picking the best route off a map–especially when the world lies in ruins.

Paul doesn’t have any doubts about Nina. She chose to follow him, and to love him, more every day. Life on the road will never be easy, but with her by his side, he can do anything.

Nina never hoped for much, before the plague, or after. Having Paul to love, and to love her, was more than she’d expected. No matter what else is wrong, being with him feels right, and she sets aside her armor to let him in.

But when Nina reveals her deepest secrets, Paul realizes the life he hopes to have some day might be out of his reach.

And when Paul shows her his darkest side, the piece of himself he can’t accept, Nina wonders if she’ll lose the man she loves to his own demons.

Will Paul and Nina allow the struggles of their pasts to define their future?

What We Need to Decide continues their story, begun in What We Need to Survive, following them as they face the dangers of a world that isn’t as empty as it seems, and the challenges of forging a strong bond under the worst conditions.

I do love reading romances that tie everything up in a neat Happily Ever After bow at the end, but I also love series romances that give you more time to get to know the characters before the journey’s over. Stick with Paul and Nina through theirs with What We Need to Decide, book two of the series, available here. (Paperbacks for both works available through Amazon.)

The series will conclude with the third book, What We Need to Rebuild, coming in Summer 2017! No blurb or cover to share, yet, but if you want to make sure you don’t miss the release announcement, follow my blog here or connect with me any one of these places:

Twitter :: Tumblr :: Facebook :: Goodreads

Thanks for stopping by, and continue on the tour tomorrow with Sarah K. L. Wilson!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #14)

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#49 – Royal Thief, by Laura Kehoe

The bones of an interesting epic fantasy story, marred by a lack of cohesive or in-depth worldbuilding. I never got the sense that there was anything distinctive about the setting–it’s a kingdom, with a bad king and The Resistance, and there are other countries too, and it’s a pretty box-standard fantasy world beyond that. There’s not much history or cultural nuance to give it any flavor.

There were also some worldbuilding issues with what was there–why does the king take the Resistance seriously when it’s only a hundred people total? Not even a hundred fighters, but one hundred including the elderly and the children. How big a threat could that possibly be, if they were nearly wiped out in a single battle years ago and (spoiler!) basically are again at the end of the book? Why does the Resistance constantly refer to their rebellion as a “war” when they’re not doing anything to engage the king’s forces in any way? Why are the king’s forces usually called “guards” even when they’re clearly soldiers? Infantry, even? “Guards” guard things. Like the king’s personal guard, sure, or men stationed about the castle or the walls or town gates. But troops marching to fight the Resistance aren’t “guarding” anything. I know it’s a small thing, but it irked me every time I read it.

All that being said, the characters are decently developed within the constraints of the world, and a few (Elaise, Amara, Catrain) are particularly engaging and memorable. Some of the conversations got a bit repetitive–yes, I get it, the Resistance needs supplies, you don’t need to say it every three pages–but when the characters simply get to talk to each other without plot-dumping, they shine.

This Week, I Read… (2017 #13)

48 - Kiss Me Hard Before You Go

#48 – Kiss Me Hard Before You Go, by Shannon McCrimmon

A lackluster effort riddled with redundant filler, spelling errors, incorrectly used words (“libel” is not the same as “liable”–no one is libel to do something) and unnecessary stage direction. This is a first-draft level story that needs several layers of editing.

First, the plot holes. Why is there a skating rink on the farm? (“To make extra money,” I know, but since we hardly see Evie or her father doing actual farm work, maybe they should start there?) What nights is it open, and does anyone else run it when Evie’s not there? Because she only seems to be there when a plot point needs to happen at the rink. It never stops her from being somewhere else when she’d rather be. Then there’s her best friend, whose pregnancy subplot is thin and pointless–as near as I can tell, she’s only pregnant so Finch can punch her jerk of a boyfriend once to impress/defend Evie. There’s no other relevance to the main plot.

Second, the writing clean-up. There’s so much filler. People “remember” something in one sentence then start “reminiscing” in the next. They take whole paragraphs to move across a room, every motion requiring description. Missing or misplaced commas abound, clauses dangle wildly, and I had to reread many sentences due to pronoun confusion, leading me to believe one character was performing an action when it was someone else.

Evie and Finch were dull protagonists who I never got excited enough about to root for, and honestly, there wasn’t even that much conflict in their relationship. Her dad’s prohibition on the “carnies” talking to Evie is abandoned right away (or else there wouldn’t even be a story) but the father doesn’t even give Finch a hard time when they meet before one of Evie’s dates. And Finch leaving with the carnival isn’t addressed at all until right before it happens, then the weeks he’s gone are compressed into about a chapter, leaving the reader to feel it’s hardly been any time at all before he’s back.

Had I not been reading this for #readselfpublished in order to give an honest review, I would not have finished this.


Yeah, so, I only read one book this week? That’s unusual for me, but I’ve been spending quality time on editing WWNTR again, after the writing slump, and I’ve also picked up knitting again after several years away. I used to knit TONS and now that I’m doing it again I think it was an unconscious self-medication for my then-undiagnosed anxiety. Because man, knitting feels good, so I’ve been doing that (while bingeing on Person of Interest) instead of reading. But I will read at least one book for next week!

This Week, I Read… (2017 #12)

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#46 – The Princess Saves Herself in this One, by Amanda Lovelace

The emotion is real, the topics are heavy, but the packaging? Simple, obvious, even at times juvenile. I suppose I’m too much of a classicist when it comes to poetry. I know styles change, and I know everyone has their own voice, but the poetry I studied was, at its heart, filled with memorable imagery and keyed to the sounds it would make being spoken, even when it didn’t rhyme.

This, to me, doesn’t have any of that. It’s brutally honest, it contains valuable messages of self-love and empowerment that have obviously connected with a great many people, and it’s framed thoughtfully as the emotional progression of a life; but this is more like reading someone’s diary than a book of poetry. The single- or double-word lines strike me as space-filler; each page has no more than a sentence or two of text total, and I read this in fifteen minutes.

I don’t doubt it was a labor of love, but I can’t help wishing it had more sophistication and polish.

47 - Welcome to Paradise

#47 – Welcome to Paradise, by Rosalind James

It’s rare that I like a book better as it goes along, but this story started out with two major strikes against it: a HUGE cast of characters, and Mira, who as our heroine was on the borderline of TSTL. Or at least, too stupid to date, because Scott is never anything but a Grade-A controlling asshole. It was hard for me to believe anyone could fall for his blatantly obvious emotional manipulation.

However, like any contest-style reality TV show, the huge cast of forgettable characters quickly gets pared down to a small handful of memorable ones, so I guess the initially overwhelming amount of names is forgivable. I mean, I love Top Chef, I can probably name all the winners if I dig through my memory banks, but the people who got eliminated in the first few challenges each season? There’s no way I remember their names.

And Mira, well, we get to know Mira, and it turns out she’s not as stupid or naive as she first appears. I’m not entirely sure I ever really liked her, but by the end I could tolerate her.

So why does this book still get four stars from me? GABE. I like my heroes thoughtful and considerate, and boy howdy, is Gabe just about the best of them. Can I marry Gabe? Because I would.

The End of the Month Wrap-Up: March 2017!

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This month was rough.

I read twelve books. No problem there. When the weather cooperates, I’m reading outside, which is nice.

I did not finish editing or start the publishing work on What We Need to Rebuild. I was on track to, but early in the month, our family suffered a loss. I don’t want to say anything more than that–I’m still processing, and it’s been difficult. But I couldn’t summon the energy to do any writing or writing-adjacent work for over two weeks.

Depression bites.

I’m trying not to beat myself up about it, but that’s not easy, either, because I was so driven before to have this done by now, to write(/rewrite/edit) every day, and the gap does feel like a failure. It’s not, on one level I know it’s not, but it’s still hard to accept.

I am working again, that’s the important thing. April is the second annual #readselfpublished month, and last year it was such a boost to my sales and my fan base, I’m looking forward to participating in the expanded version this year. (I’m hosting a read-along for What We Need to Survive, if you missed that announcement!)

Journaling and exercising have been a total wash this month as well, but it’s sunny today, so I’ll be heading out for a walk shortly.

Given how spotty March was for my social media presence, I hope to write all my blog posts in April, on time even, and keep up with all the #readselfpublished goings-on. More on that Wednesday.

Until then, tell someone you love how much they mean to you, and if possible/appropriate, give them hugs. Many, many hugs.