Monday, September 28, 2015

#Mondayblogs: Chapter 1 of Dying Light #amwriting #amreading

Only 5 weeks left until the release of my fourth novel in the Jesse Sullivan fantasy series, Dying Light.

Because I'm so excited I could pee myself, I'm going to give you guys a special sneak peek. Here's the first chapter, as told by Jesse herself:

Chapter 1

Come on,” I wail. “Jumping out of a burning building is not the craziest thing we’ve ever done!”
“If you hadn’t panicked, the building wouldn’t be on fire,” Ally snaps back.
“I had to do something,” I say, defensive of what I thought was my one good idea on this mission. “If I hadn’t we’d still be stuck with him.”
We both turn our gaze to the locked door twenty feet behind us. A row of unoccupied desks rest between us and where we entered. The open office is spacious, with rows of desks running between the entry and the windows behind us. Spacious—but not enough for me when a homicidal maniac is just on the other side of the door.
The sound of a body slamming into the locked office rattles the walls again, as ominous black smoke oozes through the crack beneath the door.
“Just because we’ve been reckless before doesn’t excuse it now,” Ally says. She holds a wrapped bundle in her arms like a swaddled baby. Her blond hair is disheveled, hiding most of her face and half-covering wide terrified eyes. She looks out the window and down to the street below. “God, Jesse. No. We’d never survive a fall from this height.”
I shrug and sputter my lips. “Ha! It’s fine. I’ve fallen from higher. We’ll be fine.”
She just blinks at me.
“Really, we’ve got this,” I say. I’m talking out of my ass here, but what choice do I have? The earlier blasts have no doubt left the building unstable, and it’s only a matter of time before it falls down around us, or the ten-kinds-of-crazy in the hallway gets into this office and rips our heads off.
The door rattles for the fourth time and a thick crack appears to the left of the jamb, allowing more smoke to pour into the room. Then the first hint of flame licks at the ceiling.
“We don’t have a lot of options,” I tell her. I go to the window and press my hands to the floor-to-ceiling glass. It’s cold under my palms and my breath fogs on the clear patina despite the growing heat of the room. I can feel sweat forming at the hairline under my ponytail and in the folds where my coat sits snuggly against my body. The city shines bright around us, each pinpoint of light a beacon calling us to shore.
“I don’t like this option. Think of something else.”
“Ugh,” I moan and resist the urge to throw her out of the window. “You’re the smart one. You think of something.”
My gaze flits from building to building, but I don’t see salvation. We aren’t close enough to another skyscraper to signal for help, or do anything sensible. No scaffolding or window-washer platform is available to carry us to the safety of solid ground or to the roof above, where we were supposed to meet Jeremiah.
Ally’s com buzzes incoherently for the billionth time, but we can’t understand the message. Whatever the Hulk out there is doing to the building interferes with our technology.
Ally hisses in irritation again. When the com stops crackling, she mashes the speak button flat with her thumb. “For the thousandth time, we can’t understand you. Something is wrong with our com. If you can hear us, we are on the 34th floor of the Jensen building and we’re trapped. Send help.”
“He’s going to kill us,” Ally says. A look of absolute resolution solidifies on her face.
“No,” I insist. “Me? Maybe, but I’ll die before he puts a hand on you.”
She cocks her head in warning. “We talked about this. No more dying. It’s too dangerous.”
“And getting ourselves locked in burning buildings with rageaholic madmen on the other side of the door is playing it so safe.”
“You know what I mean,” she says, resuming her search of the useless room for anything that can help us. “And you’re not helping.”
I throw my hands up and do another search of the room. No doors. No escape. I pick up one of the office chairs and immediately know that this flimsy ergonomic piece of crap won’t be able to break the window. Sure enough, when I throw it, it just bounces off the glass and comes back at me with a vengeance. It clips my knee and I swear.
It’s not safe. I grumble, rubbing my knee and stumbling to another desk. Sure, every time I die I lose a little bit of my sanity, but at least I can resurrect. If Ally dies, she’s not coming back. What choice does she give me when she keeps insisting that we help commando Jeremiah and his team save the day?
I have half a mind to remind her that it wasn’t my idea to come to Chicago. I was happy in Nashville. Sure, my boyfriend—ex-boyfriend—wasn’t talking to me, but everything else was okay enough.
Caldwell is up to something in Chicago. We’ve tracked quite a few strange movements lately. It would benefit us greatly if we would join our team. Jeremiah knew just want to say to get bleeding heart Ally on board. But I agreed to come, so I can’t be pissed about it now.
Even if I about to have my arms and legs torn from my body.
I’ve scanned half a dozen useless desks while the door rattles and cracks on the other side of the room. I’m about to give up when Gabriel appears at a desk two rows up from the one I’m searching. He flickers in and out, unable to hold his form with another partis—a weirdo with powers like me—nearby. This is real inconvenient given that I need him most when the others show up looking for a fight.
“Here,” he says, stretching his black wings long before tucking them in to lay flat against his back. “You can use this.”
He points at a giant rock sitting on top of one of the cleanest desks I’ve seen yet. No, not a rock, I realize as I run up and place my hands on the massive stone. It’s an amethyst the size of a grapefruit. Beside it sits a little note: Don’t touch me. Please. You’ll change my energy.
I look up but Gabriel is gone again.
“Sorry,” I say and heft the rock off the desktop into my palms. “But I need your energy to club this fucker.”
“Get over here,” I shout to Ally. She’d moved steadily away from me as we searched the room. No doubt she’d been looking for a way to not jump out of the window.
Ally only makes it halfway to me when the door explodes inward in a rain of splinters the size of my legs. I freeze, clutching the gigantic stone to my chest.
Standing in the flames, his body smoldering but not burned, Jason steps into the room. His face twists into a murderous scowl.
“Stop running,” he yells at me. “Let’s do this.”
His blistered arm goes from burnt to scabby to pink before my eyes. He smiles at me as if seeing my jaw on the floor amuses him.
“Just think, this power could be yours if you’d just face me already,” he says and takes a step toward me.
I see flashes of black wings and smell rain. Gabriel is close even if he can’t quite materialize. And I can feel him dialing up my power. My muscles contract and my whole body itches. I can’t stand still with my skin thrumming like this.
“I don’t want to fight.”
“It’s what we’re built for,” Jason says, his smile tight at the edges. He’s trying to talk himself closer, as if I’m too stupid to know what he’s doing.
“Don’t you have someone else to play with?” I ask him. “How about my father?”
Jason’s face twists up in fury again. “After you.”
“Why does everyone keep saying that?” I say with mock anger. “Why doesn’t anyone think I’m as badass as he is? Is it because I’m a girl?”
“You’re smaller.”
My temper flares. “You’re trying to kill me because I’m short?”
Ally begins to cough beside me as smoke fills the room. My eyes sting with it and I blink away tears.
I look away just long enough to wipe my eyes, and rough hands shoot through the smoke.
Gabriel’s voice booms in my head and I feel my soul rip open, power exploding out from the center of me in all directions. The walls and ceiling shudder with the force of it, raining dust and plaster down on our heads. The smoke whooshes back away from us, carried by the force of my blast. Glass explodes out behind me as the windows shatter. When I open my eyes, I see Jason sprawled on the office floor, unconscious. My power blast knocked him out, burned his skin again, but didn’t kill him. His flesh is already healing before my eyes as I step closer to him.
I force myself to relax despite the power shaking me. Ally shakes glass out of her hair and checks the bundle wrapped in her arms. Cold air rushes into the room, swirling the black smoke around us, fueling the flames in the hallway and inviting them into the office.
Kill him, Gabriel says in my ear. The weight of the amethyst doubles in my hands. Kill him.
The idea of killing Jason and taking his healing powers appeals to me, of course. Instead of having to die in order to heal myself, I could simply stay alive, and after a few breaths, be as good as new again. Wasn’t that a hell of a prospect? Less pain. Less wasted time. Less danger for myself and the people around me.
I lift the amethyst without thinking, my eyes fixing on his skull, the perfect target for my strike.
I lift the rock a little higher.
Ally’s face appears in front of mine. Eye to eye, she blocks my view of Jason.
“Baby,” she whispers. “We need to get out of here.”
The murderous feeling entwining itself with my muscles and mind relaxes.
“Come on,” she says, pulling at the rock until it slips from my hand and rolls along the floor.
“I’m sorry,” I begin, but I don’t get to finish. Jason is climbing to his feet. He snatches up the amethyst and throws it at Ally.
“No!” I scream as the rock sails through the air. Gabriel!
My shield goes up around Ally and the rock ricochets off the force field, shoots through the broken window and out into the open night sky. Jason runs at her, but I pulse again, knocking him back into a desk.
“Fuck this!” I say and run. I grab hold of Ally and yank her forward. Before she can process what is about to happen, I shove her out the big window, holding onto her.
She’s screaming.
I suppose this is a perfectly natural reaction to your friend shoving you out of a high-rise building. I hold her against me.
“It’s okay,” I tell her. “My shield will keep you safe.”
Right? I ask Gabriel.
“What about you? What about you!” she screams.
You will not survive the fall. He plummets with us, his wings folding back to embrace the drop. You must shield yourself.
No. I insist. Ally lives, not me. Ally always lives. We have a deal.
You must shield yourself also, he says, but he knows I don’t know how. The purple shimmer of my force field only encapsulates Ally. I watch it shine about an inch or so above her skin. I’m hoping that my brain doesn’t splatter on the pavement below because if it does, I won’t be waking up this time.
I wonder what it will look like, my brains all over the concrete. I start to picture it, but the purple shimmer intensifies. I look down to see the force field growing, covering first my hands, then my forearms.

An explosion of pain erupts through my legs, my back. Before a scream can even escape my throat, the whole world goes black.


Dying Light is on preorder now (Amazon) for a special price of $0.99. The price will rise on release day (November 2nd), so if you like what you read, I encourage you to snag your copy now.

Friday, September 25, 2015

#Read a #poem #Friday

Next Time Ask More Questions

Naomi Shihab Nye1952

Before jumping, remember
the span of time is long and gracious.
No one perches dangerously on any cliff
till you reply. Is there a pouch of rain
desperately thirsty people wait to drink from
when you say yes or no? I don’t think so.
Hold that thought. Hold everything.
When they say “crucial”—well, maybe for them?
Hold your horses and your minutes and
your Hong Kong dollar coins in your pocket,
you are not a corner or a critical turning page.
Wait. I’ll think about it.
This pressure you share is a misplaced hinge, a fantasy.
I am exactly where I wanted to be.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

SFSE 2015

I received my conference schedule for the Speculative Fiction: Southeast 2015 conference this weekend. 


On Friday, 9/25, I'll have about 3 hours between when I touch down in Orlando until my first panel Once Upon A Time kicks off at 6PM. I'll get to hang out with the likes of Kiersten White, Carrie Jones, Laurie Faria Stolarz and Elizabeth SchecterWith plot, character, and setting prompts from the audience, these panelists collaborate for turn-taking storytelling.... I can't wait to see what kind of crazy *&^% these ladies come up with. :)

On Saturday at 4, I'm going to give my talk about how to get reviews for your book. I've really got no selling point with the exception of the 280+ reviews I have for Dying for a Living, so I hope they find it informative if nothing else! :)

Are any of you going to be at sfse16? Will I see you there?

Monday, September 21, 2015

#Mondayblogs: 2015 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship #amwriting

As taken from the SFWA blog:

2015 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship Open to Applicants

From the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon:
The deadline for the 2015-16 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship has been extended to 5 pm, Thursday, October 1, 2015. Applications and questions should be sent to The 2015-16 Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Society, Robert D. Clark Honors College, and University of Oregon Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA).
Purpose: The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight. SCUA is also in the process of acquiring the papers of James Tiptree, Jr. and other key feminist science fiction authors. For more about these collections, visit
Fellowship description: This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2015, $3,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections. The fellowship selection committee will include representatives from the Center for the Study of Women in Society (CSWS), Robert D. Clark Honors College (CHC), and SCUA.
For complete information and application requirements, visit:

Friday, September 18, 2015

#Read a #poem #Friday

A love poem in honor of my partner, whose birthday is tomorrow:

"I loved you first: but afterwards your love"

Poca favilla gran fiamma seconda. – Dante
Ogni altra cosa, ogni pensier va fore,
E sol ivi con voi rimansi amore. 
– Petrarca 
I loved you first: but afterwards your love
    Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
    Which owes the other most? my love was long,
    And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
    Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
    With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
         For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
         Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

When I'm Not Writing #Writerprobs

The renovations continue!

I can't take as much credit (as with the kitchen) for the project I'm about to show you. I picked out the colors, painted some of the trim and made demands--but most of the hard work goes to my friends on this one. I had several very sweet volunteers (shout out to Abhi, Kim, Kelly and Elizabeth)--especially Adison, who did the most work on making my new office space lovely and inviting.

Here are the results:

This is the customary "before" picture, including the
 previous owners' decor 
I chose a light green called "cloistered garden" for the walls and "nova white" for the trim and bookcases 
The windows and door trim were painted white to match the white hatchwork (or whatever its called) inside the windows. I think the white-brown-white sandwiching is super cute. I haven't decided if I'm going to paint it eventually or keep it wood. At this point, poor Adison was released of her duties and allowed to go home.

I kept on unpacking and organizing until I got this:

And there it is! All the books you'll read from me in the future will be created here in this space. Hope it was worth it :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

#Mondayblogs: #amreading The True American

This semester the college I teach for as chosen The True American by Anand Giridharadas as it's "One Book". One Book, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, is when a school or community (usually the public library) hosts a program for its members where everyone reads the same book. 

As a reader, I always like to know what the book is, even if I do not always participate in the "challenge". So when researching the book, I found this Ted Talk, where the author Giridharadas, gives a passionate and articulate explanation of the book's subject and it's inspiration.

In the video alone, he had my crying by the end. If he writes HALF as well as he speaks, I think I will be blow away. So, needless to say, the book is in my queue . And for those of you, like me, who care a great deal about social justice issues, or have some kind of connection to the horrible events of 9/11, this book might be of interest to you as well.

If you've read it, I can't wait to hear what you think. But no spoilers please! I want to actually read this one for myself ;)


Friday, September 11, 2015

#Read a #poem #Friday

Prospective Immigrants Please Note

By Adrienne Rich

Either you will
go through this door
or you will not go through.
If you go through
there is always the risk
of remembering your name.
Things look at you doubly
and you must look back
and let them happen.
If you do not go through
it is possible
to live worthily
to maintain your attitudes
to hold your position
to die bravely
but much will blind you,
much will evade you,
at what cost who knows?
The door itself
makes no promises.
It is only a door.

Adrienne Rich was an amazing poet. Learn more about her here.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When I'm Not Writing #Writerprobs

As you may or may not know, Kim and I have recently bought a house. So, my life has been full of boxes and paint and I've pretty much scrapped paint out from under my nails every night since we moved in on the first.

But here is one result of my hard work!

I began in the kitchen:

This is the customary "before picture"

First I painted the cabinets white (after removing all the freaking hardware and the doors and then reattaching everything)

Then I painted the counters with Giani Granite (an idea from Pinterest of course). This is the White Diamond Kit.

Ta da!

It looks good together, no? 
I think it looks much better than before, even though I made some mistakes in the countertop painting. Oh well, I'll touch in up in a couple of months.

Friday, September 4, 2015

#Read a #poem #Friday


by Oscar Wilde

Tread lightly, she is near

Under the snow,

Speak gently, she can hear

The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair

Tarnished with rust,

She that was young and fair

Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,

She hardly knew

She was a woman, so

Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,

Lie on her breast,

I vex my heart alone,

She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear

Lyre or sonnet,

All my life's buried here,

Heap earth upon it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Adventure: Reading at the Old Town Grocery Store #amreading

Sounds weird, right? A reading at a grocery store? But it actually turned out to be a delightful event! However, let me tell you, it was not easy making this happen. Let me explain...

When Dan Combs invited me to a local authors' event in my hometown, it was May and the sun was shining. There was no sign of the insanity that would be become by late summer, so I said "Yes", I'd love to give a short reading of my work, get to meet a few other creative-types in my hometown and get a better feel for the local scene, which I know absolutely nothing about.

Then about four weeks before this event, all hell broke loose (mid-July). We found out the the owners were foreclosing on the house that we were renting and we had to get out pronto. Kim and I knew they we were going to be in the area for a couple more years at least and decided that it was just better to buy.

Then began the insanity that is finding a home and closing on it before we no longer had a place to live (September 1). For anyone who has ever tried to close on a house, you know exactly what I am talking about.

To further complicate things, one of our close friends had a sort of family emergency, which meant that she and her mom and another one of our friends needed to stay with us that week in August (19-23). 

Complication #3, classes started that day (August 20) and this semester alone, I am taking 3 classes and teaching 5.

Despite all of this, I somehow arrived at the grocery store, on time and in a decent mood with my book to read from and my freebook coupons. I even had a smile on my face!
Me. Smiling.
The grocery store was actually one of those unique little shops that had ALL THE THINGS. I was fun to look at everything and buy some Traverse City Cherry Salsa before the event. 

The grocery also had a nice little outdoor space, which is where we did the reading:

Notice the is common in Michigan, the weather took a sharp turn for the worse and it became a challenge to read without letting my teeth chatter.

I also got to hear other local authors read and hear some impressive talent. So even though I'd spent the day on mortgage paperwork, prepping for classes, chauferring house guest and trying to make it to the reading--I'm glad I came.

It was a nice little respite from the storm that's been this August.