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Short Tuesday #45: “Outside of Omaha” by Ray Nadler

We’re back for another Short Tuesday! Today I headed back to Nightmare Magazine, this time to read “Outside of Omaha” by Ray Nadler. You can read the story here…

I loved this story from the very first sentence: “You would have hated your funeral reception.” Such a striking sentence, and as the rest of the story reveals itself, the author spins a quiet tale of a man, his unearthly wife, and a hatred for others that knit their relationship together into a hidden paradise. This is a story beautifully told, especially in terms of pacing and language.

On the days I went to town I felt as if, as my mule stepped out onto the country road, I was crossing a barrier beyond which was another place, not our own. Inside, our world was bright and cunning as a painted Persian box, where I lived in lacquer with someone strange and stranger than myself. And I would unlid for no-one what was inside.

This is the kind of muted, subtle tale that you can’t help but love. Not much happens, just hinted-at secrets and a richly detailed description of an unlikely relationship. Yet the whole mood of the piece can’t help but draw you in–I was loving the feeling of a dusty, forgotten America where monsters hide in plain sight. It’s a story on the shorter end, so if you’re wanting a palate cleanser with purposeful, gorgeous language and a philosophical feel, give this one a try.

The Rose and the Thorn by Katherine Macdonald

This year it’s seemed like every other book I’ve read has been a Beauty and the Beast retelling–and that’s hardly an exaggeration of the real numbers. I’ve read seven retellings of the classic fairy tale in 2020 alone, and more last year besides to survey the field as I finish up my own sci-fi retelling.

And somehow this “tale as old as time” never gets old. I once heard an academic say something to the effect of how the basic story concept of Beauty and the Beast is about as close as you can get to an ingrained female myth. That’s a sentiment that’s really stuck with me; I adore the BatB framework, whether that’s the beastly male character who must be tamed or the overall concept of slow-burn romance. I’d even argue that the popularity of vampires with female readers, myself included, taps into that same psychological itch. It is deeply alluring to imagine yourself in the MC’s shoes as a woman powerful enough in her beauty and character to “tame” her beastly love interest.

So I was absolutely delighted when I bought indie author Katherine Macdonald’s book The Rose and the Thorn on a complete whim and unexpectedly dove into one of my favorite reads of the year thus far. This book really caught me–I spent forty-eight hours binge-reading, while I neglected work, chores, and, to my husband’s dismay, an early dinner. (“Just ten more minutes, sheesh!”) There are so many elements here that I love–lyrical language, thoughtful character development, just the right level of description, the perfect amount of whimsy without veering towards the saccharine sweet, and a grounded first-person POV. I was getting Robin McKinley vibes throughout, which should say a lot about this author’s competence; those who loved Beauty will likely have a fun time with this one. A fair warning that anyone who gets annoyed by slow burn might want to steer clear, since this burn is sloooooooooooow… but for me, this was well up my alley.

Isn’t this the wonderful thing about the indie sphere? It feels like in trad publishing nowadays you hear about the same books day in day out. (Sarah J. Maas and Taylor Jenkins Reid, anyone?) With indies, though, there is always that potential to discover a new favorite whom you’ve never heard of. I can absolutely say that I’m now a huge fan of Katherine Macdonald, and I’ll be buying her new retelling of Sleeping Beauty one its day one release August 22nd.

Short Tuesday #44: “Spider Season, Fire Season” by Carlie St. George

We’re back (finally) for another Short Tuesday! I was so happy to head back to Nightmare Magazine, this time to read “Spider Season, Fire Season” by Carlie St. George. I’d read a different story of hers last year which I adored, “Some Kind of Blood-Soaked Future,” so I was excited to read something else by this author. You can read the story here…

I thought this was a fun read, though it didn’t wow me as much as St. George’s other story. It’s a story in detached parts about a pregnant woman who can see ghosts, and it’s the kind of story where you have to be paying attention and fitting together the pieces. (I still don’t quite understand the section with Dot.) The mood is just right, and I especially enjoyed the main character’s matter-of-fact interactions with the ghost in her house.

The man is gone. It’s just a woman now, in her late twenties or early thirties. Dark frizzy hair, pale skin, a soft, sagging belly underneath a sleep-wrinkled tank top. “I don’t suppose you remember me yet,” the woman says. “I’m December, and that’s Clara. We’ve done this a few times now.”

I do wish, though, that this was a longer piece; it’s on the shorter side at 3700 words, and there’s a lot that’s going on here, especially given the jumps in time. I think this could have been a more satisfying story if it was given a bit more space to breathe. Nevertheless, it was a fun read, and I’m definitely up for reading more by this author.

FINAL CHAPTER of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustratoin courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The final chapter of The Gold in the Dark is finally out, with the last, brilliant chapter illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad. It’s hard to believe that all the chapters are finally posted–it’s been a very long time coming! Oddly enough, I received another offer a week or so ago to sign a contract for the book with another one of these Wattpad competitors, this one run by Chinese corporate giant Tencent. A Google search quickly helped me decide not to sign, but it’s funny that that’s the second offer I’ve received for the book in one month. I must be on a list somewhere. Rest assured that, at least for the time being, The Gold in the Dark is going to remain absolutely free. In fact, I’m putting together the ebook edition right now with the plan to release it for free in the next week on Kindle, Kobo, and all the other usual suspects.

As for what else is going on in my life–well, I will be honest and say that this past week has been very difficult for me personally. I had to put my dog down, which was incredibly hard. That was then followed a few days later by Tropical Storm Isaias, which knocked out our power for fifty-something hours.

However, there have been some happy moments as well. I learned that Specter is a semi-finalist for the BBNYA 2020 Awards, and in my senseless quest to read all the Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve discovered a new-to-me indie author who is just fantastic called Katherine Macdonald. Check out her book The Rose and the Thorn–I can’t recommend it highly enough!

With the last chapter of The Gold in the Dark now posted, let’s talk a little bit about the state of this blog. Umm… I’ll just say it: updating the blog in the wake of COVID-19 has been challenging, to say the least. I love blogging when I do it, but I haven’t managed to get into a proper routine of it while working from home. But I really don’t want to stop blogging, so my immediate goal for the rest of this month is to fix that. I want Short Tuesday to be a thing again. I want to post reviews again, and fun blog posts, and bookish thoughts… So I’m going to be pulling out all stops to meet that goal.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy the final chapter. Or, if you’ve been waiting for the whole book to be posted before jumping in, get started with Chapter One right here. ❤

Chapter Forty of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustratoin courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The fortieth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

There’s only one more chapter of The Gold in the Dark to go after this week! Like I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been spending a bit of time thinking about what I want to do with the book after all the chapters have been posted. One really interesting thing that happened a few days ago was that I was actually approached by a competitor to Wattpad, asking if I’d be willing to sign a contract with them to have the book on their service. The indie author in me balked at signing away rights to the book (including not only the ebook rights, but also hardback, print-on-demand, game rights, etc.), and the company’s business model didn’t seem like it would prove successful in the long term, so I didn’t sign–but still, it was a nice ego boost. 🙂 I figure even if I don’t have plans to make money on this book right now, I still want to have full control over the book in the event that the book does prove valuable to me sometime in the future.

I’m still hard at work on Beauty and the Beast and Aliens. We’re at the 70k mark, and… somehow there’s still a lot to go. Ah well, such is life. It will be out sometime, lol.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Forty.

Chapter Thirty-Nine of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-ninth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

I’m going to keep it very quick this week! Not much has changed–I’m (still) chugging away at my WIP, and the story just seems to grow and grow and grow. I’d initially envisioned this project as a short book–no longer! Now I’m wondering if it might come in close to 90k, or maybe even higher. I’m also starting to get that writer fear that nobody’s going to like it–too long, too weird, too rambling, not enough plot. Specter wasn’t a book where I had that concern, since it so related to the Stranger Things zeitgeist and had tons of forward plot momentum, but my untitled problem child is turning out very different from Specter.

Oh well. Time will tell, and at least I’m proud of it. It definitely felt like one of those stories that needed to be told, as opposed to the random story ideas you can get that might not be deserving of a full book treatment.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Nine.

Chapter Thirty-Eight of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-eighth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Well, it’s the same old story these past two weeks–I’m still working hard on my problem child WIP, Beauty and the Beast and Aliens. It’s the type of story where I’m forever realizing that there’s something else I need to add to the narrative, so I go back and do that… then realize there’s something else I missed too… Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Is this an exhausting way to write? Yes, but it’s just the way I work, and on the positive side of things, this way of working normally means that my first draft are normally quite clean and don’t require major changes. So let’s cross our fingers and hope that this WIP needs minimal editing.

The Gold in the Dark is also in the home stretch of having all chapters posted! This has been a real marathon, not least for Ally, my illustrator extraordinaire. I’ve been trying to think of what I want to do with the book once it’s fully illustrated and posted. I definitely don’t want to sell the book for money, since its story arc demands a sequel and it doesn’t have one yet. I’m not sure if I will complete a sequel since I’m pretty devoted to other projects right now, but I do have about 30,000 words of one done, maybe more… It’s been a while since I took a look at the Scrivener file.

(I’m also kind of thinking that it makes a lot of sense to get the sequel done and hopefully bring the story to a close so that I could have a complete series and a reader magnet… But the idea of doing that is a little exhausting, so we’ll place that on the back burner for now. :P)

But to go back to the original question about what to do with The Gold in the Dark in the here and now… well, it would be nice to have it available in mobi/epub format and also to get it listed on Goodreads. Kindle Unlimited is out of the question, since that would mean I would have to pull it down from my website and Wattpad, so I’m considering offering it as a free download on Amazon. Amazon technically doesn’t allow authors to list books as free, but there’s a workaround where you can list the book as free on other marketplaces and wait for Amazon to price-match (which they will eventually). So that seems like the best option right now.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Eight.

Chapter Thirty-Seven of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-seventh chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

Not much is different these last few weeks–I’ve just been working more on my WIP. The plot and character realizations are coming fast and furious now; I love that happy stage when everything seem to start coming together into a cohesive story. Is there a lot of editing to do? Yes. Is it going to be a good book in the end? Also yes, I think.

I know my posting on the blog has been (extremely) scarce–I’m okay with that, as long as I’m drafting. I miss doing reviews, but I know I’ll get back into them again once I’m done drafting. Lord knows I have thoughts aplenty about the books that I read, but one only has so much capacity for creative attention, and I feel like I’m putting all of it where it counts most, which is in finishing my next book. So no excuses from me–I’ll settle back into blogging soon enough.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Seven.

Chapter Thirty-Six of The Gold in the Dark and a Writing Update!

Illustration courtesy of Ally Grosvenor.

The thirty-sixth chapter of The Gold in the Dark is out! New chapters, complete with brilliant chapter illustrations courtesy of Ally Grosvenor, release every other Sunday at 11 AM EST (and many times earlier)! You can get started on the series with Chapter One right here or on Wattpad.

I’m so happy that these past two weeks I’ve been continuing to plug away at my WIP. I’ve reached the 60k mark, but somehow feel there’s so much more to go. (!!!) I can’t believe that I once thought this would be a short book; it seems like it’s turning out to be anything but. One thing that’s been a big help to me creativity-wise has been the easing of quarantine here in Connecticut. I can’t go write in coffee shops or at the library yet (even Barnes & Noble is only doing curb-side pick-up), but I’ve been going to my writer friend’s house a few times each week so that we can write together. We’ve made Zoom calls work these past few months, but it’s such a nicer experience to be together in person. ❤

Another notable thing that happened recently is that I found another writer who did a take on a Beauty and the Beast retelling with an alien framework! Or, at least, Amanda Milo’s novella Contaminated claims to be a retelling of the classic fairytale; I did think that claim was a bit looser than most.

It can be a bit alarming as an author to hear that another book has a seemingly similar premise to your own. It stands to reason that I’m not the first one to think that an alien-human romance is ripe for a Beauty and the Beast take (the idea is kind of obvious if you think about it), but I hadn’t been able to find one on the market until now. Fortunately it turns out that Contaminated, while a very cute story, isn’t at all like my WIP. And that’s the thing: a similar premise approached by two different writers is bound to end up being different, because every writer brings their own creative lens and background to the table. That’s why my writer friend wasn’t at all concerned when she told me her plans to write a cozy cat shifter book–and then she encouraged me to write my own as well when I told her it was one of the best ideas I’d ever heard. Here’s something else to consider: if a reader really likes a book, they seek out other books that will scratch that same itch. So it can actually be a good thing if your book has some similar elements to other works, because readers are often on the hunt for more of the same. How many times have I picked up a book hoping it will be like my beloved Sookie Stackhouse books? The answer is a lot.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap it up here. Have a great (and healthy) rest of your weekend, and enjoy Chapter Thirty-Six.

Blog Tour + Review: A Royal Kiss and Tell by Julia London

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. A Royal Kiss and Tell debuted May 19th.

I adored last year’s The Princess Plan, so I made sure to be first in line for an ARC when the sequel was posted on NetGalley. I love your typical snag-a-duke historical romance, but the Royal Wedding series takes the fantasy to the next level with handsome princes and court intrigue. Let’s get the details out of the way, then get to the review…


A Royal Kiss & Tell
London, Julia 
FICTION/Romance/Historical/Victorian 
Mass Market | HQN Books | A Royal Wedding #2
9781335136978
$7.99 USD | $10.99 CAN

Blurb

Every prince has his secrets. And she’s determined to unravel his…

Every young man in London’s ton is vying for Lady Caroline Hawke’s hand—except one. Handsome roué Prince Leopold of Alucia can’t quite remember Caroline’s name, and the insult is not to be tolerated. So Caroline does what any clever, resourceful lady of means would do to make sure Leo never again forgets: sees that scandalous morsels about his reputation are printed in a ladies’ gossip gazette…all while secretly setting her cap for the rakish royal.

Someone has been painting Leo as a blackguard, but who? Socially, it is ruining him. More important, it jeopardizes his investigation into a contemptible scheme that reaches the highest levels of British government. Leo needs Lady Caroline’s help to regain access to society. But this charming prince is about to discover that enlisting the deceptively sweet and sexy Lady Caroline might just cost him his heart, his soul and both their reputations…

Author Bio

Julia London is a NYT, USA Today and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of historical and contemporary romance. She is a six-time finalist for the RITA Award of excellence in romantic fiction, and the recipient of RT Bookclub’s Best Historical Novel.

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Buy Links

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Review

I adored the first book in this series, The Princess Plan, last year, and was so excited to get a chance to read this second book! Like the previous book, the characters in this book are excellent; one thing that London does so well is craft characters who feel solid and utterly unique. On that note, I can see a potential for some readers to be turned off by the MC, Caroline; she’s impetuous to an extreme and isn’t shy about making her opinions known. These traits often land her in sticky situations that can get cringy, so anyone super sensitive to cringe might find this a tougher couple to fall in love with. I was quite taken with her, though. 🙂

Due to the royal focus and the invented kingdom of Alucia, this series has a slightly more fantasy feel than your typical historical romance (a genre which, let’s be honest, is its own strain of fantasy, anyway.) Anyone looking for historical accuracy should perhaps keep browsing, but for those of us who just want to imagine a scenario where we get to fall in love with a dashing prince, this book is just perfect. The dialogue is great and the prose is strong, with the right amount of whimsy that doesn’t cross into saccharine sweet or precious territory. I also appreciated the court intrigue plot thread; astute mystery readers might unravel the mystery before the end, but I didn’t anticipate the twists and turns myself. All in all, this was a great read, and I’ll definitely be first in line for the next in series.