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Reading progress for this year…

So, I’ve been doing a lot of reading this year. I’m tracking my progress over on Goodreads, as part of the 2013 Reading Challenge. For those that haven’t known me long, until sometime last year, I had actually gotten to the point that I had actually stopped reading completely. Between my eyeglasses prescription being horribly out of date, and my arthritis in my hands making it physically painful to hold a mass market book (nevermind the hardcover monstrosities that I love so dearly)… I just couldn’t do it anymore.

Some lovely friends of ours from Romance Divas (a site that Nonny and I help admin at) ended up sending us a Nook Color out of the blue as a thank you for all that we had done. I’d been considering getting one, but at the time I was still a contractor at Livemocha and dealing with insurance (and Drake *sigh*), so I didn’t think I’d be able to afford it anytime soon.

It made a huge, huge difference in our lives. We rapidly prioritized getting Nonny one of her own, so we didn’t end up squabbling over them (which I’m ashamed to admit did happen initially. I was still on / recovering from the prednisone at the time, I believe).

This year I wanted to read even more, so I set a goal of 250 books. So far, I’ve gotten 158 down.. which sounds a bit more impressive than it actually is, as a bunch of those have been comics, novellas, and short stories. To give you a better idea, let me show you some graphs from Goodreads:

Books by year:

booksbytitle

Pages by year:
booksbypages

As you can see, there’s a significant discrepancy. Lately I’ve actually been reading on an iPad 3 which I have on loan from my work, which is working out really nicely with the size and weight (and it can handle streaming video, where the Nook Color kind of choked on that). That’s been a big bonus for getting into comics, because the added screen real-estate makes a big difference (especially on PDFs).

I’ve really been loving the BN store, it’s really easy to pick books up at 2am without needing to leave the house. There have been a few incidents of “I dont remember buying $50 worth of books last night, but I was on Ambien”, but not really many… and Nonny’s done the same thing once or twice, so I don’t feel bad. The Seattle Public Library has an amazing digital selection as well (including of digital comics, too, which is all kinds of awesome!), and since I have a job in Seattle I have a card through there and the local Timberland library (which doesn’t have nearly the same kind of selection, but occasionally comes in handy). I’ve ended up reading a LOT of books borrowed from SPL, and I’m really grateful for them.

And really? I owe the fact that I can still enjoy reading to some amazing friends who surprised me more than I will ever be able to thank them enough for.

 

Posted by on June 29, 2013 in General

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Review for The Long Way Home by Jessica Scott

The Long Way Home CoverI recently had the pleasure of getting a digital advance reading copy of The Long Way Home from Jessica Scott in exchange for a review. I’ve been following her writing career since she released Because of You, which I had bought at the time but hadn’t had a chance to read yet given the size of my TBR pile. She’s active on Facebook and I know a good number of the people she’s working with in her writing career, such as editor Sarah Frantz (whose website I host) and cover artist Shawntelle Madison (who is an active member of Romance Divas, a community of romance writers that I help administrate).

I have to say that I don’t typically read non-fiction books pretty much ever, with the exception of writing reference books or technical reference books. I never was one for the many biographies that my parents had me read while I was being home schooled, and since I’ve been on my own, I’ve never had a lack of fiction books to occupy my time. Quite the opposite; I’ve had a huge lack of time compared to the mounds of books in my long TBR pile (somewhere around 400 books at this point according to GoodReads).

With both of those disclaimers out of the way, I can say that I was absolutely riveted by this book. I started reading just a little bit, curious about it but intending to go back to the fiction book I’m currently working on after a chapter or two. Once I finished that, I was intending to go back to the ARC so that I could write the review for Jessica.

Yeah, so that didn’t happen. I read the book straight through, unable to put it down. It is at times humorous, heart-warming, and heart-breaking. Her writing is real and vivid, and paints a very candid picture that we rarely have the privilege of seeing… the chaos that is involved in the life of a soldier returning home after serving in war time. There have been many books written about soldiers serving in wars, but very few (at least, that I’ve ever heard of) about what happens after they return home. I think that the fact that she is a writer helps her memoirs immensely, as they are the exact opposite of the dry historical reads that most memoirs I have read have been.

In her case, both she and her husband ended up being deployed at the same time. They had to leave their two daughters with her mother while she was deployed for a year, and a good part of the book covers how she had to pick up the pieces of the fractured relationships in their family. Once she says in one of the opening chapters that she was prepared for her daughter to tell her that her daughter didn’t love her anymore, but was completely shocked and heartbroken when her daughter told her that she didn’t believe that she loved her daughter. From that scene on, I was hooked– I had to know how things turned out, and how they got past that as a family.

You get to see her coming back to her role as a mother, and rebuilding her family in the absence of her husband. You get to see the development of her writing career and the struggles she faced along the way (including one of her major writing proposals being denied by the Army ethics committee). And you get to see her as she steps into the role of commander of Fort Hood… and juggles the other two parts of her life as well. And how she deals with the guilt of having left her children behind, even though it was a necessary sacrifice in the name of her country.

This is one of the best books that I’ve had the honor to read this year, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This is truly one of those books that I wish I could give more than 5/5 stars.

Image of Jessica Scott She covers many different topics during the course of the book, including some that are political. However, she approaches each of these from the perspective of how they affect the military, not from the platform of any political party. It’s refreshing to see someone discuss political topics without having any idea what party they belong to, because they left that bias at the door before starting the discussion.

Once I finished with it and sent her some of my comments, I promptly went and read Because of You and the novella sequel Anything for You, both of which I enjoyed immensely as well. I’ve also picked up To Iraq and Back, which is her memoirs of her time serving on that Iraqi deployment, and I’m looking forward to reading it greatly. Jessica is now one of my “must-read” authors, and I recommend that others take the time to get to know her work as well.

Buy it now at: Barnes & NobleSmashwords | Amazon | Kobo

 

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Cover Reveal for The Long Way Home by Jessica Scott

I’m thrilled to announce that after a long way, the cover for The Long Way Home is finally out. The fabulous Shawntelle Madison did an amazing job with this, didn’t she?

Want your own copy? Buy it at: Barnes & Noble| Smashwords | Amazon | Kobo

The Long Way Home cover

The Long Way Home cover

From the back cover:

My name is Jessica Scott. I am a soldier. I am a mother. I am a wife.

In 2009, Army second lieutenant Jessica Scott deployed to Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn. She thought deploying was the hardest thing she’d ever do.

She was wrong.

This is the story of a mother coming home from war and learning to be a mom again. This is the story of a lieutenant making the grade and becoming a company commander. This is the journey of a writer persevering through a hundred rejections. This is the story of a soldier learning to be a woman again. This is the story of a wife waiting for the end of a war.

This is the journey as it happened, without commentary.

This is her blog. There are many blogs from the Iraq war, but this one is hers.

Check out the :

Below is an exclusive look at :

The Long Way Home – Excerpt

Make sure you check out the reviews on Goodreads and if you haven’t already, add it to your shelf!

Get your copy today: Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Amazon | Kobo

The rest of the bookstores links will be live soon!

 

Posted by on March 17, 2013 in Fellow Writers, Promotion

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2012 Reading Progress (and a special Thank You)

So I’ve been participating in the GoodReads 2012 reading challenge. So far, I’ve read 55 novels / novellas this year. That’s pretty amazing, but I have to back this up a bit to explain why.

As I’ve mentioned before (either here or in other places online) I deal with a lot of health issues, including rheumatoid arthritis. Last year I tried signing up for something like 100 books, and I didn’t come close to making it (I got 45). Partway through the year, about the time I was rereading the A Song of Ice and Fire books (because I was inspired by watching the first season of the show on HBO), my arthritis got so bad that I couldn’t hold a book (especially one as thick and heavy as Martin’s) while managing to turn the pages. My hands just ached too much, it was just too painful. I tried small paperbacks like the old Anne McCaffrey Dragonriders of Pern books, and even those were too much. Add to that, my reading ability had already been diminished by nausea due to my medications and degrading vision.

Then a miracle happened. Some dear, dear friends sent me a Nook Color as a gift. I can literally say, without being the slightest amount trite, that this device has changed my life. While I still was dealing with the nausea, I was able to hold the Nook for long periods of time without much pain and get back into reading. I went through Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series like a breeze (and her books are about on par with Martin’s for thickness!), rereading the ones I’d gone through before and catching up on the new ones I hadn’t read. I was able to borrow books from the library again, without having to worry about whether or not someone was going to be able to drive them back to the library before they became overdue (assuming I had finished them in the first place…), and I was able to do it at 2am in my pajamas without leaving the house. And I was finally able to get to reading some of the ebooks from my friends who write (because I’ve never been able to read books on the computer). The last 20 books that I read last year? They were ones that I read on my Nook. Just under half the books I read were in the last few months of the year, because it didn’t hurt anymore.

I debated for a little while, but after some research to ensure I could do no permanent damage, I went ahead and rooted the device so that I could run Android applications not available in B&N’s (very limited) market. Not all of them have played nicely with B&N’s tweaks to Android for the Nook, but most of them run flawlessly. I can read Kindle books on my Nook (although I usually buy from B&N instead, this is handy for snagging free reads). I can log into World of Warcraft’s guild chat to socialize with my friends when I hurt too much to sit up and play. I can use Trillian to instant message with my wife in the other room because I can’t get up and walk to talk to her in person (or, for that matter, stand long enough to have a decent conversation). Or I can respond quickly to people from my work messaging me for help. I can check my email so that I can respond to work and personal emails promptly throughout the course of the day even when I can’t sit up and use the desktop or the laptop. I can keep tabs on Facebook to avoid feeling socially isolated by my disability. I can keep up with some of the forums I participate on, especially Romance Divas which has a great mobile theme to make using the site easier on a tablet. And listening to music via Spotify is quite nice. 🙂

Now, some of this I also do on my Droid phone that belongs to my work, too. Typing is certainly easier with the slide-out keyboard, for sure. But that’s not my device, it’s the company’s. The Nook is mine, and it’s become an incredibly important assistance device in managing my disability. The wider screen makes reading emails and chats a lot easier. And I can adjust the fonts so that when my vision isn’t doing so great, I can still read things clearly. I can even stream TV shows using Plex, although that’s a little choppy (I’m sure the newer Nook models would do a better job with their dual-core processors).

But a year ago, I thought that I was going to lose my ability to read for pleasure and continuing education. And this year, I’m well ahead of schedule to meet my goal of 60 books this year. I’m more productive and more in touch with my colleagues.

And I owe it all to my friends.

 

Posted by on October 11, 2012 in General

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Time for a change…

It’s been a rough set of years. I’ve been dealing with a lot of health issues, and I’ve gotten sicker and sicker. Between dealing with the pain and the side-effects of the pain meds, writing had to be mothballed, because I just couldn’t handle it. I was able to think logically, but thinking creatively was just beyond my capabilities. A lot has changed during these years; my health, my identity, my job, which coast I live on, and I’ve been feeling that a lot lately. I started on a new med a few months back that has helped me amazingly; I still deal with a lot of problems, but I’ve been able to pull full hours at the day job, and I’ve started brainstorming on my WIPs again, which is incredible… I had feared that my ability to write might get lost forever. I haven’t actually sat down and created new words yet, but I’m working on getting back up to speed on my WIP Blood of the Goddess.

As part of the identity changes, my wife and I recently discussed names. We’d been wanting to change our legal names for some time now, but we had some mis-communication around last names. We ended up choosing Blackthorne together just recently; it’s what we want to have as our legal last name. It’s going to be our family name. It’s also part of what I want to publish under. I bounced around ideas about domain names and pen names and such with the folks at RD and with Nonny and she suggested Jas Blackthorne, which really fits me. I’ve gone by Jas as an abbreviation for the character name I play in online games for years, and it’s a gender-neutral name. Gender-neutrality is important to me, because I self-identify as genderqueer at this point. This has taken a bit to come to grips with, and I’m still figuring out the details on that. So I’m moving away from the pen name Alan Morgan to Jas Blackthorne instead.

I had originally intended to use a female pen name when I got to publishing my romance / erotica. The more I thought about it over the years, the lest I liked that idea, however. Readers who find out that I’m male-bodied will feel duped, and that is a compelling reason to not go down that path. Some readers may feel duped that I’m using a gender-neutral pen name, but if you’re one of them, I’m sorry; gender-neutral is closer to the truth for me than male is. So I’m retiring Aeryn Morgan and re-posting a few bits of the content I had on that site up here.

I’m also going to be working on overhauling this site; it needs a face lift. The autumn leaves look pretty, but it’s time for something new, to better match the new identity.

The winds of change keep blowing…

 

Book Recommendation…

I don’t often pimp books. But this time, I’m going to have to. Rogue, by Rachel Vincent, is on sale now, and if you’ve read the first (Stray) you know what a good writer she is. Rogue is even better.

Here’s the blurb:

Okay, so cats don’t always land on their feet

I know that better than most. Since rejoining the Pride, I’ve made big decisions and even bigger mistakes: the kind paid for with innocent lives. As the first and only female enforcer, I have plenty to prove to my father, the Pride, and myself. And with murdered toms turning up in our territory, I’m working harder than ever , though I always find the energy for a little after-hours recreation with Marc, my partner both on and off duty.

But not all my mistakes are behind me. We’re beginning to suspect that the dead are connected to a rash of missing human women, and that they can all be laid at my feet–two or four, take your pick. And one horrible indiscretion may yet cost me more than I can bear…

This is a 5 out of 5 in my book, pardon the pun. She advances left-over plot threads from Stray, and then goes and pulls out further plot threads from Stray that you didn’t even realize were there. Now that’s the mark of a good writer… to hide something in plain sight and you don’t realize it until the second or third book.

Buy it now. And if you haven’t read Stray… buy them both.

 

Posted by on March 26, 2008 in General

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Chapter 17 Snippet

It’s been some time since I updated this blog, so here’s a snippet for your patience:

They rode in silence, neither really in the mood for small talk. Glenn pulled into the parking lot behind his apartment, and unlocked the security door to the building. As he held it open for Shiobhan, she “accidentally” brushed up against him with her ass. He grinned and ushered her up the carpeted stairs towards his apartment, tossing his keys on the empty counter and lightly kicking the door closed behind them.

Shiobhan smiled, wrapping her arms around him, running the palms of her hands up along the muscles of his back, pushing him towards her. Their lips met, igniting the passion that had sparked in every silent look they had shared on the ride over. He pulled her closer, his hands sliding down to cup her ass as her body molded against his. She fit against him like she belonged with him, like she had always belonged with him, a missing part that completed him when he hadn’t even realized he was incomplete. “Gods,” he said when the kiss finally ended, shaking his head.

“What?” she asked, unzipping her jacket and hanging it on the back of a chair.

“I had no idea what I was missing,” he said with frank honesty. “It’s been a long time since I felt a fraction of the passion…” Shaking his head again, he took off his coat as well. “Where are my manners?” he asked, crossing the kitchen to the fridge. “Would you like something to drink?”

“Sure. What do you have?”

“Killians, water…” Taking a sniff of the milk container and wincing, he set it back in the fridge and kept looking. “That’s about it, actually. Sorry, we usually keep things stocked a bit better, but…”

“Killians is fine,” she said, smiling as he popped the top of the bottle and handed it over to her. He started to reach into a cupboard for a glass, but she raised the beer to her mouth and drank, her lips wrapping around the bottle while her eyes looked straight at him.

Damned if she isn’t a lively one, he thought to himself, taking a long swig of his own bottle.

“So what’s with the decoration?” Shiobhan asked, looking around the empty apartment.

“You like it? I thought I’d go for a new look– noveux Spartan, I like to call it.” Sighing, he said, “Truth is, Melissa cleaned out just about everything that was hers or ours. She left my stuff alone, but if she had any claim to it, it’s gone.” He shrugged and took another drink. “Truth is, in a way I’m kind of glad. A clean break is always quickest to heal, and now I don’t have anything to remind me of her. She’s obviously not who I thought she was, so I think it’s for the best.” His gaze roved over her, suddenly hungry. “But you didn’t come here to hear me talk about her.”

“Indeed,” she said, slipping out of her shoes. “I assume there’s still a bed left?”

“Bought and paid for long before I met her.”

“Good.” She slid her blouse over her head and dropped it on the floor before unzipping her jeans and stepping out of them. Standing before him in a dark red lace bra and panties, she crooked a finger and then turned to walk towards the other room. Glenn swallowed, his eyes drawn to her curves, the smooth white flesh, the sway of her hips as she moved. Tossing him a look over her shoulder, she asked, “Are you coming?”

 

Chapter 15

Despite migraines, arthritis, and other assorted health issues, chapter 15 is complete and sent to the beta readers.

 

Posted by on August 6, 2007 in Blood of the Goddess

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Plotting…

I’ve been a bit stuck on Blood of the Goddess for a bit now, and a thought came to me while I was driving in to work tonight. A while back I’d been part of the “Above and Beyond” class over at Evolution Writers, which my wife Nonny had been teaching. Thinking about A&B, I think some of the exercises might help me sort through the problems I’m having and help me move on. For the curious, I’ll post these publically, though most of it will be behind a cut link so as to not spam you.

I’m skipping the first exercise as it was mainly designed to help you pick an idea to work on in the class; that’s already a given as to what I’m going to apply the course to. The second exercise is about the story premise:

* * *

Premise:

Siobhan runs a florist shop in the heart of Providence near Thayer Street, close to Brown College and Johnston & Wales University, called The Wild Rose. It also serves as a New Age store, selling pagan books, herbs, and oils for use in ritual. The shop has been in the family for many generations, though the New Age materials were added by Siobhan when she took over running the shop after her mother Mary’s death.

Her father moved away from Rhode Island, seeking to start a new life and to distance his daughter Sarah from the influence of her older sister. Years have passed without contact between them, until one day Siobhan receives a call from James asking for her help. To her surprise, James is acknowledging his own talents, and a vision of danger gives him great concern for Sarah or one of his roomates.

Surprised to learn that her sister is going to college in Providence– and upset that she was not told before– she agrees to look in on Sarah. She can tell that James is wrestling with his conscience, but his Native American heritage makes it clear to him that gifts are not given without reason. The catch: Sarah hasn’t talked to Siobhan in years, and James has convinced her that her sister is a devil-worshipper.

While trying to track down her sister, she runs into an attractive ex-Marine who is under attack from someone with dark talents and her ex-fiancee Robert, who turns out to be a werewolf. While both men try to help her find her missing sister, they both have their own problems that require her aid. Soon she starts to see that their problems and her sister are connected, and she’s in over her head.

Can she find her sister and stop the evil rising in the heart of Providence before it’s too late?
Read the rest of this entry »

 

Progress & Title Change…

Did some 414 words this morning on Providence, kicking off Chapter 15. I’m not sure exactly what I want to do with this chapter; I know the first half of it, but I can keep it just to Shiobhan and Robert, or have Glenn come back and get involved in the conversation. Really not sure just yet. Cleaned up the outline the other day, but haven’t really planned out the next set of chapters yet. Need to do that soon– before I can finish 15, I think.

Also, I’ve decided to finally give Providence a tentative title: “Blood of the Goddess”. There’s two meanings to this, which won’t be clear until the end of the book, but I think it fits. I was going to try to use a theme for the whole series, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. Guess I’ll take it as they come, one step at a time.

(Disclaimer: rant ahead.) And can we pretty please get rid of the fucking snow and freezing temperatures already? I want my damn spring already, my arthritis is sick and tired of winter, thank you very much.