Monday, April 30, 2018

Behold: The Power of the Schedule

A post by Mary Fan

A little over a year ago, I found myself in over my head in terms of book projects. Looking back, it was bound to happen. I kept starting new things, then wanting to expand on those things while also starting more new things. For instance, we were publishing a second volume of BRAVE NEW GIRLS, and I had 22 short stories to edit. Also, I was doing an offset print run for STARSWEPT and formatting the book myself. Oh, and I wanted to have them done by Gen Con, which was coming up in a few months. Meanwhile, I’d signed up for a full-novel critique with my local writing group, and I was in the midst of writing an all-new manuscript. 

All of these things involved a LOT of work, and all of these things had unmovable deadlines. Gen Con wasn’t going to delay itself, and since it’s my biggest annual show, I would’ve kicked myself if I hadn’t had my latest release ready for that. And my writing group had already scheduled my critique date. Plus, I was also traveling a lot and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, which meant there were days when I couldn’t get any work done.

Just trying to keep track of what had to be done by when was giving me a headache. To make this publication date, I had to get that formatted by whatever date, but I also had to find time to do this other thing… I started panicking a little when I realized just how much I had to do.

In my day job, I often have to act as a project manager, shuffling pieces of projects from milestone to milestone in order to hit deadlines, accounting for the fact that somethings depended on others. Any given time, there might be a half-dozen projects at varying stages of completion. To keep track of what was what and where everything was, I used spreadsheets.

Well, I thought, maybe I should try that for my writing stuff too. Once upon a time, when I was a newbie writer, things were easy to keep track of. I just had whatever book I was working on. But then I dove into the world of indie publishing, and suddenly, I wasn’t just the author anymore. I was essentially running my own nano-publishing house for my own stuff.

So I set up a spreadsheet to keep track of what I should be doing on any given date. First, I created columns for each project, with dates running down the left side. For example:






Then I color coded it so I knew which days were weekends (since I can get more done on weekends than in the few evening hours after work… also to help me keep track of which weekday was which):






After that, I put in my deadlines and blocked off dates I knew I wouldn’t be able to do anything. Example:




Manuscript due to critique group
Out of town

Send manuscript to formatter


From there, I worked backwards to fill in what I had to do each day to meet these targets:


Write 2,000 words

Write 2,000 words

Manuscript due to critique group
Out of town

Send manuscript to formatter


Write 2,000 words

I also made sure to give myself extra time wherever I could. For instance, I know I can write 3,000-4,000 words in a day when I’m on a roll. But I also know that there are days when I’m just tired, or my brain just isn’t functioning, and I struggle to get even 1,000 words written. Or maybe I’m feeling sick and can’t write at all. So if, for instance, I need to get a 10,000 word short story done, I’ll give myself two weeks, even though I know I could do it in a single weekend if in a bind. (This also accounts for how much I procrastinate…)

Of course, juggling all these projects means I sometimes have to bounce around between books. Because of the other stuff I was working on, last year, I wound up writing STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON in fits and spurts. I went at it strong for one month, then put it aside to edit BRAVE NEW GIRLS and do post-production-type stuff with STARSWEPT (proofreading, formatting, etc.) so I could meet the publication deadlines for those two. After a month or more of not looking at my WIP, I picked it up again and kept going.

When I created that spreadsheet in February 2017, I thought it’d just get me through the next few months or so. BRAVE NEW GIRLS and STARSWEPT would release in August, STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON would go to my critique group in June, and I’d be golden. But I found that I actually really liked having a schedule to keep me on track. Plus, I went right back to overcommitting and found that I seriously needed the spreadsheet to keep myself sane. 

At this very moment, I’m a) Editing a third volume of BRAVE NEW GIRLS b) Writing a sequel to STARSWEPT c) Committed to another full-novel critique session in August, for which I want to submit a new standalone WIP d) Expecting developmental edits on STRONGER THAN A BRONZE DRAGON, which I'll have 14 days to complete e) Publishing my YA dark fantasy, EDGE OF EVIL, in two weeks. Though that’s tame compared to a few months ago, when I also committed to writing a bunch of shorts for various anthologies (by the end of this year, I will have been in six that released in 2018 alone).

I think maybe the reason I committed to all that is because of the spreadsheet. Since I was able to lay out everything I needed to do, I knew what I had room for. I also knew when to say no (usually to myself). For example, I originally wanted to write a third FIREDRAGON novella and publish it plus the two already out there in an anthology in time for this year’s Gen Con. Yeah…. That’s not happening. And thanks to the spreadsheet, I realize that now instead of a week before the con.

Anyway, how do you juggle your writing projects? Do you keep a schedule too, or do you prefer to wing it?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Retreat repeat

Hey guys! What a day, huh? Who's following the news about the Golden State Killer?! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to Google and then read Michelle McNamara's book, I'll Be Gone In The Dark, which is a chilling account of a serial killer and serial rapist who terrorized people in California in the 70s and 80s. McNamara spent her adult life researching this crime and her book was finished (posthumously) with the help of her husband, Patton Oswalt, and other researchers. Check it out.

And, you're welcome.

In blogger news, I am going to my third annual writers retreat this weekend. Woot! You can read about last year's rendezvous here. In the previous two years, I went with my friend Katie to a hotel in the Poconos, but this year Katie is too important and too busy for the likes of me. I kid on the snark, but seriously, the girl is too damn busy doing super awesome author things and she couldn't go. But, not to fret, Mary of ATB fame is coming with. And I couldn't be happier.

We're going to the Highlights Foundation and doing, what they coin, an unworkshop. For $130 a night, you get a room all to yourself and meals and snacks, and you just write. Someone else worries about feeding me and all I got to do is put words down in Scrivener?! Sold!

I can't stress this enough--whether you're a writer, artist, scrapbooker, whatever--if you're a mom (especially) you need a retreat of some kind. Forty-eights hours to simply draft. No interruptions, no housework, no errand-running, no yardwork. Just a laptop and the good company of a good friend (that's you, Mary). It's a gift I give myself and I intend to do it every year.

Lucky for me, Highlights is only a 45-minute drive. Where I live, nothing is that damn close. I'm so excited to head out Friday, and I'll report back after the weekend.

Wish me a high word count.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Done in Six

To say that life’s been a bit crazy these past few months is an understatement. I haven’t had much time to finish my WIP—I haven’t even had time to write up my blog posts. I also haven’t been able to make my last couple monthly critique group meetings (which was keeping me on track of at least getting a chapter done a month).

I’ve been working on this book for 3 years. I have a boatload of reasons why I’m not getting it done, and some of them are actual reasons rather than excuses. However, there are some things that I could be sacrificing for my writing.

I currently have just over 83k words done. That’s a legit novel length. The end is within reach, yet if I don’t make a point to push past all the obstacles currently in my way then before I know it summer will be here, then my daughter’s birthday, then the start of school, then the start of my daughter’s activities... Yeah, and before I know it another year is gone and the book is once again not done.

And that’s just not acceptable.

So I’m saying it here, for public record—I WILL complete the first draft of this book by the end of May.

I have no idea how many words I need to bang out to get to the end, but I know if I make a goal of one chapter a week then I’ll get there because I honestly don’t think the story has more than six chapters left in it.

There. It’s done. Once I publish this post I’m on the hook and you all will be expecting me to give you an update in my next post on May 21st.

Now I’m off. I have some distractions to tie up so I can crank out that chapter over the next few days.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

That Moment When You Finally Get To Visit The Place You've Been Writing About: Part 1

Hi all! I'm so excited to write this post today. I'm finally going! To the place I've been writing about.

A little background before we get there. I've mentioned my epic experience with my WIP a couple of times here at Across The Board, but just in case you missed it... I started writing my first (and only) book back in 2005. So thirteen years ago, give or take. I know. That's a really long time. It wasn't a constant writing every night thing. In fact I've trashed four different drafts  (I had a lot of learning to do), started five different jobs, moved six different times during that period-- just a lot of transition. But I did finally finish a rough draft (which is worth a lot more than an unstarted/unfinished one, right?) a month before my son was born (so 3 years ago)-- and I honestly haven't done much with it since. I have slowly been going through and editing, slowly being the key word.

I can't exactly say why. Well, I guess I can. My writing routine (pre-kid) was 8pm to whenever I had 1,000 words down. Well, that routine has been replaced by another. Dinner for the kid, bathtime for the kid, bedtime for the kid, and by then I'm spent. He was also a pretty sick kid, so it's been a tough go all the way around. But everyday he's getting easier to handle-- and I'm feeling the itch to finally finish this project that's been hanging over my head for the past century. And I'm hoping I'm finally doing something that will give me the motivation to start. I'm finally going to Space Camp, which is where my Middle Grade novel starts and finishes.

For those of you who don't know, Space Camp is kind of an overnight, junior astronaut training program for kids (there was a movie made about it in the 80's), but it's also a place you can visit/tour/ride rides on a daily basis. I'm writing this post while I'm on vacation in Destin, Florida. Well, on the way back my wife and I have decided we're going to drive two hours out of our way to visit Huntsville, Alabama so that I can do some book research and hopefully get the motivation I need to finish my book. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it! I've studied Space Camp through Google Earth so many times I've lost track. But to be on the ground, in the place that I've imagined/written about so many times is going to be amazing. I'm definitely going to take a ton of pictures and report back on next month's post (That Moment When You Finally Get To Visit The Place You've Been Writing About: Part 2).

Anyway, below is the premise of my MG novel if anyone is curious:

Working Title: Mac Magellan and the Gathering of Galaxies

Premise: The first child born in outer space ends up at Galaxy Camp, Space Camp's counterpart in  the stars, where he must protect a peaceful gathering of aliens from an ancient evil born of black holes

So if you all have ever had a similar experience, where you've gotten to physically visit a place you've imagined in your mind/written about, please share in the comments below. And as always, thanks for stopping by!

Monday, April 16, 2018


Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey everybody!  I was delighted and honored to have my short story "Deep into that Dark One Peering" included in CLICKERS FOREVER: A TRIBUTE TO J.F. GONZALEZ.  The anthology is available as of today on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and ebook.  You can also add it to your Goodreads TBR pile.

For those of you who may not be regular horror readers, J.F. Gonzalez was one of the seminal authors of the young millennium.  Unfortunately, he passed away from cancer three years ago, tragically young.  Still, despite his premature passing, he had a wide and ranging body of work, writing in the sub-genres of occult horror, post-apocalyptic horror, cosmic horror, and serial killer horror.  He was perhaps best known, however, for his monster horror, in particular, the CLICKERS series, which consists of:

- CLICKERS VS. ZOMBIES (a crossover with THE RISING)

And this anthology is a spiritual successor to those.

The clickers are small (well, they range in size, but usually start out small) virulently venomous crustaceans usually described as a blend of lobster, crab, and scorpion.  You can see a picture of one with its claw around the Statue of Liberty's head in the cover above.  So you can see why I say they range in size.  :)  They often come in waves for some "Gremlins"-style muncher horror, but the appearance of gargantuan clickers also allowed for some "Godzilla"-style kaiju horror.

The reason for the various predations of the clickers onto dry land vary from story to story.  They were initially implied to be a colony of prehistoric throwbacks, hidden away deep in the ocean somewhere (think a more vicious coelecanth) who surfaced due to earthquakes or human activity disturbing their home.  Sometimes they're also associated with the occult, and believed to come from alternate dimensions, or due to black magic.  Commonly, they're driven on shore deliberately by the iguana-like Dark Ones, a more intelligent and overly malicious race of aquatic monsters.  You can see a Dark One in the foreground of the cover, holding a semi-organic trident.

"Deep into that Dark One Peering" was my chance to take a crack at what the psychology of a Dark One raised by humans would be like.  Jade, my viewpoint character, was taken as an egg during one of the various incursions of the clickers and Dark Ones.  She was "raised" by a cruel scientist who insists on being treated as her father rather than a slavemaster, which would be more accurate.  I've always enjoyed the chance to humanize monsters and to make monsters of humans, both of which I got the to do with this short.  And, of course, I didn't fail to take the opportunity to stage a clicker rampage at the end.  (It just wouldn't be a clickers story without one, right?)

But the anthology's not all just about me.  In fact, I think it's fair to say I'm one of the also-rans.  Consider this lineup (and this is just a brief highlight reel):

Jonathan Maberry
Monica J. O'Rourke
John Skipp
Mary SanGiovanni
David J. Schow
Kelli Owen
Gabino Iglesias
Jonathan Janz

These are some of the biggest names working in horror today.  It's a veritable embarrassment of riches.  Not to mention a posthumous piece by the man himself.  How I got in there, I can only imagine.  Must've slipped by the post somehow.

All the proceeds from this anthology are going to benefit Gonzalez's family, so I hope you'll consider picking up a copy.  And remember to share online and in real life.  Word-of-mouth is vitally important for the success of any book, and I'm particularly rooting for this one be successful for the Gonzalezes.  Thanks, everybody!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Bonny McClain - Humble, Terrific, Radiant

By Cheryl Oreglia

My author du jour is Bonny McClain. She hosts a wildly successful blog called Data & Donuts. I met Bonny at the first ever OnBeing Gathering, Krista Tippett’s invitational conference, held at the beautiful 1440 Multiversity Campus. An encounter with Bonny is simply an extraordinary encounter, she is the epitome of Critical Yeast (a term coined at the conference), as she commonly “rises up” to protect the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.  

I sat down next to Bonny at breakfast on a whim, she is statuesque, bright eyed, with dark curly hair. Immediately I noticed (appreciated) her accepting, engaging, and warm nature. In fact the Chaplin sitting next to me whispered, “I am thrilled she is not an introvert,” we both smiled, and rested in Bonny’s unique charm. If you haven’t stopped by her amazing blog - Data & Donuts - your depriving yourself of a unique treat. 
“I organically feel like critical yeast and knowing there are like-minded people feeling deeply, and meaningfully, and desperately trying to make a difference is basically the world to me,” in reference to the OnBeing Gathering 2018.
When asked about significant childhood influences Bonny responds, I was always an avid reader, my earliest memories include Pippi Longstocking. (Maybe where she got her sense of adventure?) I grew up happy in spite of a tumultuous home life with an alcoholic dad. When I was working as a temp in a financial services company in San Francisco, early 90’s, I was invited to a cocktail party. Discussion about the crisis in Bosnia became my Tara (Gone with the Wind). I quietly vowed ‘to never read fiction again’, I felt dumb and uninformed, from that day forward I read to learn…

On becoming a writer Bonny says, “I was writing my thesis - wait for it - Constraints of Landscape Pattern and Fish Mobility on Ecological Genetics of Lake Trout (Salvelinus Namaycush) and Arctic Char (Salvelinus Alpinus), and figured I nailed it. I won a 5th grade English award so was pretty chuffed, when my advisor edited out all the flowery prose and carefully selected adjectives and adverbs I was shocked but intrigued. Apparently, science writing was a thing onto itself and I sucked at it.” 

But this is not the case with Bonny today, “I enjoyed the writing that followed even more than when the subzero fridge went on the fritz in the middle of the night and I needed to rescue DNA samples. Okay, maybe that was too easy. I enjoyed writing more than the strange fruit fly mutants that hitchhiked home in my long curly hair only to be liberated in the hallways of our house. I definitely enjoyed it more than bench science, so following graduation - I wrote.” 

Bonny was a medical writer for many years. She notes, “as an employee of academia, industry, agencies, medical education companies and even a freelancer in health economics, policy, and clinical medicine (Cheryl inserts, don’t let this scare you off, she is actually quite normal) I wrote whatever I was asked. Until I got curious. I started looking at the data and asking questions. Initially brushed aside with ‘oh that is too technical, don’t worry about it’ I saw disparities and myopia in the important data and what was being written or reported. I write about healthcare from the intersection of health policy, health economics, and clinical medicine for the data curious.” 

There is no way around it - Bonny is a science freak (I mean that in the best way). She says, “my first opportunity as a full-fledged medical writer was writing about HIV and Aids research. The geographic gods smiled on me as I was in close proximity to groundbreaking research at Chapel Hill - opportunities at Gene Therapy Center followed - I was hooked.” 

Bonny’s audience is unique, largely CEO, healthcare, and writers/journalist following on LI - as a percentage of the whole (and me). She would like to see her audience “as anyone with a curiosity around how the sausage is made in healthcare”. 

Her goal is to ask better questions and question established answers (what a rebel). She says, “I first heard this when the BMJ (British Medical Journal) convened a bunch of journalists together to figure out how we can best make a difference...I think of it like telling important stories about data - and looking at the data that drives stories in healthcare.” Bonny is a data visualization expert first but writing is how she communicates and tells the story, she says, “data needs a voice.” 

Bonny shows up. She writes everyday. She reads voraciously. It’s important to Bonny to be authentic and earn the trust of her readers. She shares everything for free and only charges when clients “need to scale beyond their abilities.” She has press credentials and tries to be the “ears” on the ground for her network. She travels so they don’t have to. (Track Bonny down when she dips into your area, she’s always happy to meet for coffee and donuts!)

Bonny likes interesting people (perhaps that’s why she bought me a glass of wine). She says “if they happen to write - and most do - all the better.” She has a page on her blog called “for writers only” full of engaging and practical information. Check it out after you finish this article - clearly.

I’m a little jealous that Bonny is able to read three books a week, “the paper kind, not e-books. Electronic devices are for looking at what your friends ate for lunch - not learning. Lol.” Reading and writing on a feedback loop interspersed with podcasts help to strengthen and stretch her skills. “Mo’ curiosity, mo’ better writing,” I quote.

When asked about writing rituals Bonny responds, “ I head out for 1.5 to 2.5 hour runs several times a week (over achiever much - just saying). I queue up podcasts and let the system thinking begin. My apple watch (and Siri) allows me to send thoughts to Notes in Apple so all my insights are waiting for me back at the office. I love to write in my office. Obviously, I need to adapt for the road so that is where I need to be mindful of what I can’t live without - and pack it up. Usually a microphone, audio recorder, laptop, and iPAD (works as second monitor).” She’s totally killing it.

One of my favorite things about Bonny is our mutual love for Seth Godin, if you know him, you love him (even though he did not agree to an interview - I’m the forgiving type). “Seth Godin is my spirit animal. He takes the form of the little duck I gifted him at OnBeing Gathering. I hear his voice when I am tempted to measure value based on clicks, likes, follows, whatever. Over the year I have gained focus and direction as to my purpose. It isn’t for everyone and now I can say - well, I didn’t make it for you. It’s more fun out here on the edges need to race to the bottom or toward mediocrity (a Sethotomy).” Bonny does use social media as a distribution channel. Her RSS feeds have surpassed any of the social media platforms but she enjoys the engagement and has been able to meet “far-flung like-minded folks.” 

Bonny seeks “active engagement and dialogue extending beyond just my brain.” Most recently she has been reading a book by self-described renegade economist Kate Raworth, Doughnut Economics - 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st Century Economist,” and this has been her talisman (I just finished Charlotte’s Web - in fact humble, terrific, and radiant would be good words to describe Bonny McClain - spoiler alert - the spider dies!)

When asked to consider how the OnBeing Gathering changed, illuminated, embodied, directed, or oriented her work towards civil conversations, Bonny said, “I write against the prevailing ideology in healthcare. If I were a tattooing type I would have 3 - It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it - Upton Sinclair." She believes this is what fails the patient at the point of care as well as the healthcare provider. (That is a rather long quote? Along the arm? Down the leg? As a belt? I’m curious?)

Her second tattoo would definitely be an anklet “Forgiveness is the scent the violet imparts to the heel that crushes it.”

Her final tattoo I see in elegant print along the backbone, “There will come a day I won’t be able to do this. Today is not that day…”

Follow Bonny on Twitter.

If you were the tattooing type what would your image contain? 

Me? "Everything is copy" - Nora Ephron (at the base of my backbone)

I'm Living in the Gap, enjoying a Donut with Bonny, drop in anytime. 

Monday, April 9, 2018

How I Learned to Embrace Romance: A Personal Romance Evolution (Guest Post with Karissa Laurel)

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

Hey everybody!  Let's give a kindly Boarder (Boardie? Boardigan?) welcome to today's guest, the extremely talented Karissa Laurel!  Let's meet her briefly then jump right in to the festivities.

About Karissa Laurel:


Karissa Laurel lives in North Carolina with her son, her husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Her favorite things are dark chocolate, coffee, super heroes, and "Star Wars." She can also quote "The Princess Bride" verbatim. Karissa is the author of two novel series: THE NORSE CHRONICLES, an urban fantasy trilogy from Red Adept Publishing; and THE STORMBOURNE CHRONICLES, a young adult fantasy series from Evolved Publishing. The first two books, HEIR OF THUNDER and QUEST OF THUNDER are currently available, and Book 3, CROWN OF THUNDER, is coming soon. To find out more about her books and writing, visit her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

How I Learned to Embrace Romance: A Personal Romance Evolution 

I just signed a publishing contract for my first romance novel (TOUCH OF SMOKE, from Red Adept Publishing.)  It’s not the first book I’ve ever published, nor the first with romantic subplots. It is, however, my first novel with a storyline dedicated solely to the development of the romantic relationship between the two lead characters. TOUCH OF SMOKE is a romance in the sense that satisfies the major definitions of the genre:

1. If the romance is removed, the story falls apart; or there’s no story at all.

2. The novel ends with a Happily Ever After (or at least a Happy For Now) resolution for the two main characters.

Why is the fact that I wrote a romance novel worth mentioning when there are already thousands on the market? Because I want to talk about how long it took me, as both a reader and an author, to reach the level of confidence and understanding required to write this novel. Not because I doubted my writing skills, but because I had, for so long, held the belief that romance was a lesser genre. Something to be talked about with a blush, shifty eyes, and the disclaimer of “guilty pleasure.” It’s fluff. It’s forgettable. It has no lasting impact.

Boy, was I wrong.

I don’t remember the first romance novel I ever read, but I’m pretty sure it was one by Jude Deveraux back when I was in high school. I was immediately hooked and read her entire catalogue—whenever I could find her books at the local second-hand book store or library. Add Nora Roberts, Fern Michaels, and Diana Gabaldon’s OUTLANDER series, and you could probably say most of my leisure reading was devoted to romance in one form or another.

After college I set out to rediscover my love of reading, having abandoned most for-the-fun-of-it books during those years of academic study. I found myself devouring John Irving and Margaret Atwood novels and Che Guevara biographies—all highly recommended, but, you know... “serious.” Many of those post-college reading years blurred together. I’m sure I mixed in plenty of commercial fiction, but nothing stands out in my memory as much the moment that a co-worker put TWILIGHT into my hands.

To be clear, I’m not discussing the merits, or lack thereof, of TWILIGHT. I’m only saying that novel marked a benchmark moment, a clearly defined instant when a single book triggered my re-connection to romance. In fact, because of TWILIGHT, I was reading more of everything, particularly books in the speculative fiction and YA genres. And when I set my eyes on my first urban fantasy novel (DARKFEVER by Karen Marie Moning), given to me by the same friend that gave me Twilight, I knew I had found my genre heart-song.

Intermixed with my romantic reads during high school, I was also sucking down Christopher Pike, Stephen King, V.C. Andrews, and Dean Koontz. Looking back, it makes sense I would be drawn back into a love of books with paranormal elements, but it had not consciously occurred to me that anyone could successfully combine paranormal with romance. The results of mixing those genres by authors like Moning, Ilona Andrews, and Richelle Mead were so compelling that I found myself eager to write my own stories.

But even then, I wasn’t quite willing to go all the way. I was still hearing voices in my head saying romance wasn’t legitimate or respectable. Intent on honing my craft, I dove headlong into writing short stories for professional, speculative fiction markets. Those markets leaned more towards the literary, and, in my mind, there was no place for “common” romance among the more erudite offerings. Meanwhile, I published my first novel, MIDNIGHT BURNING, which relied heavily on Norse mythology, magic, and adventure. I allowed my characters to pursue romantic sub-plots, but never at the cost of the main story. I was still reading plenty of romance, but writing it was a line I couldn’t allow myself to cross.

But around that same time my network of writing friends was expanding. I started spending more time on Twitter, stalking other authors, reading their threads, their links, their opinions and experiences. I was looking for advice in general, but found myself paying attention to what some of those writers had to say about romance. Thanks to those influential Twitter accounts (particularly Bree Bridges aka one-half of the author team called Kit Rocha, Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, and The Ripped Bodice), and critique partner/mentors Mary Fan and Erica Lucke Dean, my views and understanding of romance—in both the literary world and in the feminist movement as a whole—evolved.

Many things to which women have devoted their time, money, and passion have been regularly dismissed as irrelevant or less-than, and it was a trap I had fallen into. Why couldn’t something mostly written by and for women be as legitimate as any other genre? And was I going to allow myself to perpetuate that stereotype?

Yes, not all romance is good (What genre is always good?), but when it is, it can be powerful. Oh, the things one can do under the guise of a “simple love story.” Oh, the messages of empowerment, equality, and respect that could be shared among women in a medium dedicated almost expressly to us. Studying those authors also showed me how much work still needed to be done to expand our understanding of women’s sexuality, agency, and consent, and how romance novels could be a critical tool in that endeavor.

I also learned that if a romance offers nothing more than the comfort of a guaranteed happy ending, that’s okay too. More than okay. Happily Ever After is sometimes the perfect balm to the soul of the tired and weary. Comfort and pleasure are legitimate reasons to both read and write—a validation I believe in, but am still working to internalize.

So, yeah, in TOUCH OF SMOKE, a boy and a girl fall in love and go on to live happily ever after. This novel has, I hope, all the things that make any story compelling such as the innate conflict that arises when two people start a new relationship and explore complex emotions and universal themes like trust, loyalty, respect, and forgiveness—with the added tension of will they or won’t they fall in love. TOUCH OF SMOKE is a romance, and I’m finally proud to admit it.

For more thoughts and theories on romance that have recently influenced me, see:

· A [Twitter] Thread on the Notion that Romance Readers Need to Be Challenged by Tessa Dare.

· “Romance as Resistance” by David Canfield (Entertainment Weekly, November 03, 2017).

· A thread on how romance novels subversively teach women to have sexual expectations by Bree Bridges:

· Trashy, sexist, downright dangerous? In defence of romantic fiction by Dr Elizabeth Reid Boyd.

· The Romance Novelist’s Guide to Hot Consent by Kelly Faircloth (Jezebel, February 14, 2018).

· It’s Still Complicated: Romance Publishing by Betsey O’Donovan (Publisher’s Weekly, Nov 10, 2017).




Solina Mundy lives a quiet life, running the family bakery in her small North Carolina hometown. But one night, she suffers a vivid nightmare in which a wolfish beast is devouring her twin brother, who lives in Alaska. The next morning, police notify her that Mani is dead. Driven to learn the truth, Solina heads for the Land of the Midnight Sun. Once there, she begins to suspect Mani’s friends know more about his death than they’ve let on. Skyla, an ex-Marine, is the only one willing to help her.

As Solina and Skyla delve into the mystery surrounding Mani’s death, Solina is stunned to learn that her own life is tied to Mani’s friends, his death, and the fate of the entire world. If she can’t learn to control her newfound gifts and keep her friends safe, a long-lost dominion over mortals will rise again, and everything she knows will fall into darkness.


Alone and exhausted after her month-long sojourn as a shooting star, Solina Mundy flees to southern California to lie low, recuperate, and plot a survival strategy. The one person she trusts to watch her back is her best friend, Skyla Ramirez. But Skyla has been missing for weeks. The arrival of a dangerous stranger and the discovery of a legendary weapon of mass destruction force Solina out of hiding and back into the fight for her life.

Solina knows she won’t last long on her own. She must find out what happened to Skyla and unite her contentious allies if she hopes to track down this devastating weapon before her enemies use it to burn the world to ash.


While recovering from a devastating betrayal, Solina becomes increasingly drawn to Thorin as he helps her hunt down Skoll, the mythical wolf who vowed to kill her. If she can find and destroy the beast, she’ll bring a swift and brutal end to her enemies’ schemes. But nothing ever goes as planned in Solina’s strange new world.

During her search for Skoll, Solina uncovers a plot to unleash a battalion of legendary soldiers and launch an apocalyptic war. Before she and her allies can locate the fabled army, several ghosts from her past return to haunt her. Solina must fight for life and the fate of the world, or her hopes for love and a peaceful future will go up in flames.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Back Jacket Hack Job -- Title Hack Edition

So, it's my turn to do a Back Jacket Hack Job, which is where we Boarders take a turn writing our version of the "real" back jacket copy of the book of our choice. I have to be honest...I've been writing back jacket copy IRL and it's pretty terrible, so I'm going to spare you my version and twist it up a bit. Welcome to BJHJ - Title Edition! 

And for what it's worth, these are all 5-star reads from yours, truly. So, you know, go check them out.

This one is an easy one. ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS NOT FINE. NOT AT ALL.
(If you haven't read this book, it's *amazing*. Move to the top of your TBR right now.)

This one could be called WHEN THAT SPAM EMAIL ISN'T SPAM AT ALL AND YOU'RE REALLY BETROTHED TO AN AFRICAN PRINCE. (Too long? Okay, fine, but this one just might have you giving your spam a second look. Just saying.)

Let's call this one SUPER COOL HACKER GIRL IN TOKYO. (True confession: I haven't read READY PLAYER ONE yet, but I'm guessing fans of that are going to love Lu's latest. Video games, a kickass female hacker and Tokyo -- what's NOT to like? Also, FWIW, The Boy loved this one, too.)

Without a doubt, the best hacked title I can think of for this YA is WHAT PRICE BEAUTY? (I've not read a dystopian like this and I venture to say unless you've read this one, you haven't either.)

This one is another easy one. Hacked title: YOU WILL SWOON. (I'm a huge Lauren Layne fan and this is absolutely my new favorite. I actually got it from the library and then bought it b/c I loved it so much.)

To finish it off, a thriller/suspense. I'd title this one I BET THIS KIND OF THING HAPPENS EVERY DAY AND WE HAVE NO IDEA. (I gravitate towards romance, obviously, but I belong to a book club that gets me out of my comfort zone and this one was one I would NEVER have picked up on my own. But I read it in a day and I bet you will, too.)

And there you have my 6 title hacks. Have you read any of these and would mash up a different title? Or do you have a great alternative for a book you've read lately? I'd love to know in the comments!

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