Looking for Fantasy Romance Recommendations

I’m looking for recommendations for good fantasy romance novels.

enoughbooks

Okay, yes, I have a pile of Regency novels, but these aren’t my preferred genre. They are just easy to find.

I prefer high fantasy with elves, knights, dragons, wizards and the like. Though, at this point, I’ll take recommendations for anything.

Happily-ever-after is a must or it isn’t a romance novel.

I don’t care if it had graphic steamy scenes, but I’d prefer no graphic violence.

66dacbee5639277a8a7a3f98618ac03e
This is fine. I mean, it is fantasy.

I’ll even take something that fits this as a beta-reader or advanced copy reader and give an honest review in return.

Beach Reading Without Getting “The Look”

I want to be reading more, but it’s been a hectic summer with all the activities for the kids, DH having a much heavier than normal work schedule, and events for family and friends. Our vacation was less than spectacular, and we failed to potty train DD2 during it.

Now that summer is in its last throws and we’re gearing up for school to start, we’re taking one last long weekend. I haven’t gotten in much reading this last month with everything else going on, so I want to pack some beach reading.

vacation2
What I plan to be doing. Wishful thinking with a toddler, I know.

This means no iPad. While I do really like my iPad, it doesn’t like sand or water. And, it’s pretty tough to read in direct sunlight.

So, I have to find some actual, real paper books. I have mixed feelings on this. See, I love holding a real paper book in my hands. There’s just something about it I enjoy.

What I don’t enjoy is the traditional half-naked romance cover. On the beach. With the kids. And all the other snickers from family that come with it. Invariably, someone comments on it.

DevilinWinter
So, even dressed, still obvious.

I don’t *hide* that I love reading romances, though most people don’t think I’m your typical romance reader. They’d be wrong, as demographically, I fit the profile perfectly.

The iPad hides this cover beautifully, and no one ever need know I’m reading either a bit of Regency, a retelling of a fairy-tale, or if I’m really lucky, a love story with dragons instead of the Economist.

I wish Amazon sold romance books with an optional hide-what-I’m-reading cover. Make it a plain and boring cover without eve a title. Or a title like Complete History of the Napoleonic War. So us Regency readers know exactly what that means, but the rest of the beach can be blissfully unaware.

I don’t know why DH can bring a book with space ships and laser battles on the front, and no one looks twice. But a half-dressed hot guy and suddenly it’s nothing but snickers.

Stross
A book by DH’s favorite author. Less clothes than the romance novel, still gets fewer comments.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll have to borrow one of his space ship books. He’s been trying to get me to read more than the one book I did by Charles Stross anyway.

 

How about you? How do you read at the beach? Or on vacation? Do you prefer to read on an electronic device or a book? If you read romance, do you have any tricks to disguising your reading fare? Or maybe you just don’t care? Or maybe your family is less prone to teasing you?

Practice, Practice, Practice

My daughter was recently in a dance recital.

She had begged to get to take a dance class, and knowing how much work she needs on her gross motor skills and coordination, we agreed to let her attend.

There is a huge recital at the end of the year that parents are required to attend. A four hour recital, but I digress…

dance1

After watching her dress rehearsal, and that of the group before and after her, she came back out from back stage and proclaimed that she was the best the dancer out there. I smiled. It’s not uncommon for children her age to be quite full of themselves.

When I didn’t agree, she asked me directly if she was the best.

I told her “no”.

Harsh, maybe, but I then explained that while she’d done a good job of going to class and listening to the teacher, she hadn’t practiced outside of the class. Her friend, who happens to be a year older, had gone home and practiced every night. It showed.

I told her if she wanted to be really good, she’d have to practice more than once a week.

She was not happy with me. She argued that she didn’t have a partner to practice with at home.

I agreed with her, but told her she could still practice her parts. She could always use a stuffed animal as a stand-in for her partner, like her friend had.

My daughter was still skeptical, but as we talked some more, she decided that maybe next year she would practice more. Which means she wants a second year of dance…

practice1

I know this sounds harsh, and this next bit may sound like a deluded parent, but DD1 is very bright. A lot of things have come very easily to her because of it. She’s not yet in kindergarten, but she’s reading at a 2nd-3rd grade level. Why? Because she wanted to read, was determined to read, and had taught herself to read by the time she started 4K. She was one of two children that could read at the end of her 4K year.

We encourage her love of reading, of course, but she’s the one that practiced and practiced. That pushed herself, especially when she saw some of the cool books out there that she wanted to read without help. She’s starting to eye up early chapter books as she saw a few of those that were My Little Pony.

TwilightSparkle
This one, to be exact. Which, of course, features Twilight Sparkle.

Her math skills have also came easily to her so far.

We practice a system of rewards for good behavior. She had six behavior points and knew she needed fifteen to get the treat she wanted. She was able to devise that she needed nine more behavior points to get the reward without any help from me.

Also, if you send her to her room and tell her to count to one-hundred before coming out, you must specify she must count by ones. Otherwise, she’ll count by fives or tens to get out faster.

So, yes, I’m glad she’s got drive and some natural gifts in these areas. I’m also not upset that she isn’t naturally gifted at dance. I’m glad she still loves dance and wants to be good at it. I want her to have to work for it, to have to practice for it.

I want her to see she won’t always be the best at something just by showing up. But I want her to have fun along the way.

She’s my Type A child. She’ll push herself hard, and I want her to learn that it’s okay to not always be the best. That it’s even okay to fail as long as she tried her best.

I bit of wisdom in there I should perhaps practice as well as preach…

 

How about you? Ever had something come easy? Something come hard that you really had to work for? Did the extra practice make you the best? Were you proud of your accomplishments even if you weren’t the best?

One Month

I’ve made it through one month of strength training.

Eleven sessions in four weeks. Not quite the three per week that is ideal, but not bad either. It’s a start to rebuilding the bone I lost when I had my little ones.

But now to stick with it.

See, I hate strength training. I don’t like the feel of heavy weights in my hands. I don’t enjoy the feel of a bar across my back or the burn in my legs as I squat. I just don’t.

gym1

I hear “do something you love” all the time. I get that I’m much more likely to stick with an exercise I love.

Sadly, that’s not easy either. See,  I don’t love much exercise. Reading. Yup. Writing. Mostly. You’ll notice neither of those are exactly physical activities.

I loved tennis in my youth. There was something about chasing the little fuzzy ball that kept me entertained. I’d spend hours hitting the ball against a backboard to force my backhand to improve. I even found lighted courts so I could play at night.

gym2

I learned to ignore the bats that came out to eat the bugs the lighted courts drew. I found ways to practice even in the winter. I loved the sport.

But, in my very early twenties, I learned I had a genetically bad back. The twisting motion from tennis was aggravating it, and I had to stop.

So I did.

Was years before I took up walking with my husband. We started small, but soon, we were traipsing around the neighborhood. Everyone knew us as “that couple we see walking”.

We’d literally walk for an hour or two every night after work. We’d talk about our day, hopes, wishes, dreams. Then, we started playing an RPG, and we started talking about characters.

That’s when the walks got really long.

We loved making characters. Seeing what they would do in different scenarios. It was a fabulously creative way to spend the evenings. We both dabbled with our writing, but neither of us had really taken it seriously at that point. After all, I was finishing graduate school while working full time, and after that, we were planning to start a family.

And start a family we did.

Complications in the pregnancy made us give up walking, but eventually, we had an amazing little one.

We just didn’t realize we’d never be able to have a grown-up conversation again. At least not while she was awake.

Once we were able to take walks again, talking about anything that did not directly involve her was impossible. She started talking at 11 months, and hasn’t stopped since.

little-girls-walking-773024_640

We bought and elliptical machine and treadmill and plopped them in front of a 60 inch TV. We thought we could watch a movie or catch up on a few shows while we worked out.

You already know how that went for us. DD1 was not tolerating being left upstairs while one of us went to the basement. Sure, we could’ve ignored her tears, but I get two hours with her a day. Less, if you include that part of that time I’m making dinner.

Gotta say, Sesame Street and My Little Ponies are NOT conducive to a strong workout. Even with an audio book playing, I still can’t concentrate on it with the sound and motion.

gym4

For me, working out consistently for a month is an accomplishment. May not be for most other people. But I’m not them. I’m me. I have to compare me to me. And, I’m giving myself kudos for making it a month.

If I make it another month, I’m rewarding myself with a massage. I may not like exercise, but I can like the rewards that come with it.

 

How about you? Do you love exercise? Hate it? Find it boring? How do you motivate yourself to do it, especially if it’s not one of your favorite things? Any treats you give yourself, or maybe something else?

And Another…

Order from Scholastic Book Club.

Yes, my daughter came home the other day with yet another Scholastic Book Order. These things seem to be quite prolific.

If you’re not familiar with them, this is a pamphlet of books your child gets through school. You can then order your kids books, sometimes at a discount, and the school gets some free books in return.

It’s a win all around. Or, it’s supposed to be.

My house is filled with books. Book shelves are overflowing. Book bins are so stuffed, they are too heavy for DD1 to slide back into place.

Mountains of books.

book1
Looks about like my daughter’s room. Or my living room some days.

 

So, I inwardly groan when she brings home another book order with half the books circled. Okay, maybe not half, but darn near.

Does she really need more books? Shouldn’t all the ones we have at home be okay?

I mentioned my daughter wanting so many books during water cooler talk at work, and the other parents told me to be happy.

One mom had to force her kid to sit down and read for half an hour a night. Her son hated reading, and it was a battle that she dreaded. He’d actually take most punishments over being forced to read, but she didn’t want him to see reading as a bad thing to be endured, either.

Another mom told me to encourage DD1’s of reading any way I could. It would help her in everything. Her daughter had struggled with reading, and despite tutors and extra help at school, it had taken her to eighth grade to read at grade level.

I felt a little sheepish.

Of course my daughter reading is an excellent thing. I do promote it. And they’re right. I should rejoice when the book order comes home and she’s so excited to read she wants “them all”. The fact that my pre-kindergartner is reading Fancy Nancy by herself is a source of pride. I even let her stay up a little later on nights we open up a new books so she can pour through what we read together and learn the new words in it.

It was a reminder to count my blessings. Sometimes, the glass is half full. And yes, I am going to let her have the books she wants. Most of them, anyway.

book2

 

How about you? Did your kids love the Scholastic Book Club? How did you feel when the order form came home? Did your kids love to read? Hate to read?

Consume vs. Create

It’s so much easier for me to consume than to create.

I think we can agree that it’s easier to sit down to a delicious supper than it is to make one. Easier to wear a clean shirt than do laundry. And it’s easier to read a book than to write one.

You’ll note from the number of book reviews lately that I’ve been doing a lot of reading. As a writer, you’d think that would be a good thing. Maybe it is. Or maybe it’s a symptom of a much nastier beast.

The decision to consume someone else’s work rather than make my own. And, I’ve been consuming a bit of it lately. Some of it’s good, some of it’s not, and I have been trying to make a point of figuring out what works in the different novels I’ve been reading. That’s one of the reasons I write the reviews.

kyinc

 

I’d love to say that while I’m reading, I’m also taking time in the same day to edit. But that’s not true. I have a limited amount of non-work, non-kid time. If I’m reading a lot, you can guarantee its cutting into my writing time. Or devouring it altogether.

I could say I’m toying with ideas. That would be true. I have ideas for two more stories percolating. But that’s not what’s consuming my time.

yodaa

I could say I’m listening to my muse, studying steamy scenes, or any number of other things. But, they’d be lies. The truth is that I really don’t want to edit my story. The POV edit for a book is brutally hard. Harder than any other edit I’ve done, except the last POV edit. Does it need to be done? Probably. I mean, yes.

And maybe therein lies part of the problem. While my brain knows I need to do the rewrite, my heart is a little bitter. I still read authors who write with the POV I did on this novel, but they’re best-sellers, and I’m not. They get to do it, and I don’t. So does it need to be done? Yes. Do I want to do it? No. And there’s the difficulty.

64514455

If we boil it down, it sounds an awful lot like procrastination dressed up as research. Because of course I have to read books in my chosen genre to become a better writer when I should be editing.

Yup. Procrastination.

Sneaky little sucker. Apparently, the brain can trick you into procrastinating, making you think you’re doing something else.

procrastination1234

But, this rewrite won’t write itself. I’ve already put so much into this book, I can’t leave it as electrons in my machine. The hero is one of my favorites I’ve ever written, and he deserves his story told and his happily-ever-after.

Back to the grindstone. Giving myself a deadline on Crowned Prince (possibly renamed to Dracor’s Chosen) really has helped. Perhaps I should draw a line in the sand and say I’ll have Knight of Valor’s POV rewritten by September 1st. There, I said it.

*gulp* Time to edit. Right after I finish Dracor’s Chosen. Still have until the end of June…

 

How about you? Ever had procrastination hide as something beneficial? Or do you always know when you’re procrastinating? Do you find it easier to consume than create? Maybe you like editing more than I do?

 

8 Things I've Learned About Being a Writer

The one thing about us writers is, well, we write. I’ve been writing on-and-off since I was twelve, but I’ve been known to put it down altogether for long stretches.

Perhaps you’ve even put it aside from time to time, too.

For me, the longest I stopped writing was when we decided to start a family. There was an amazing amount to do to get our lives ready and *so* much to read.

Why don’t babies actually follow what’s in the books?!?  Do you know how many times I showed my infant what the “experts” had written as she continued to never sleep unless she was being held?

parent-meme4

Even with all this preparation, we were totally unprepared for the realities of being parents.

I fell into the routine many new mothers do and spent very little time on myself. If I wasn’t at work, I was with our little one.

After my second daughter was born, I watched a lot of TED talks. They were interesting, and they didn’t mess with my new-mom emotions. This one by Larry Smith , convinced me to start writing again. I literally got an old notebook that afternoon and started jotting down ideas.

I attempted to write that story. I mapped it all out, complete with plot and character outlines, applied bottom to chair, and churned out 50k words in five months.

Then shelved it.

The characters weren’t working. The plot was there but forced, even though I’d diligently followed my outlines.

a9ed842f739e930dc8e9340bafbbaeaf77994c50c74fc6a86b046b54cb9b2c59
Except, you know, when they don’t.

I tried revising it, but my hero would’ve rolled his eyes at me if he could. It wasn’t his story. I’d been so busy sticking to my plot-points and outlines that I hadn’t listened to the characters.

I gave up and started a new novel. I plotted nothing. I let the story unfold as I wrote it. I completed the first 50k draft in three months. It was a rough first draft. Very, very rough. But it worked, and I loved the characters. I wanted to see them get together.

I still remember the climactic ending coming to me as I was driving to work after dropping the kids off at daycare, and I had to pull the car over and write it down before I forgot it. That’s when I knew the story was really working.

I’ve managed to write three more full novels in the year-and-a-half since, in addition to my full-time day-job, blogging, and two small children. Here’s what’s worked for me:

 

  1. Write Every Day – I’d originally thought the more I wrote, the more burned out I’d get. Not true. It’s amazing how creativity inspires more creativity. Writing is a skill, just like anything else. The more you do it, the better you’ll be. Sure, I can still get on a bike and pedal it, but teaching my oldest child to ride a bike made me realize that the elliptical machine does not keep you in shape for bike riding.

 

  1. Carve out Writing Time and Defend It (Even from Yourself) – My spouse has been amazingly supportive of me getting back into writing, and he’s agreed to be the primary parent for an hour each night after the kids are supposed to be in bed (yeah, you other parents out there know that’s a big “supposed to”). But if I spend that hour surfing the net, I’m stealing the time from my writing as surely as my daughter is stealing my patience when she comes out for her third cup of water.

aw

  1. Keep a Notebook – my mind does amazing things while I’m walking, driving, or when I first get up in the morning. But those thoughts will dissipate like fog in the noon sun the moment I get back inside, the engine turns off, or I swing my legs out of bed. I need a notebook to write these amazing bits of creativity down. My phone works well for this, too.

 

  1. Perfection Is the Enemy – get that rough draft down on paper. If you want to make changes, make a note of it and keep going. You can polish a rough draft. There’s nothing you can do with a blank page. Finish the story. Crappy is still done and gives you a place to start rewriting.

 

  1. Give Yourself a Couple of Months Before You Edit – This is one of the biggest things I learned with my first completed story. I was too close to the characters, the plot, and even the writing itself. I spent a lot of time “editing” that was really just patting myself on the back for what I’d written. When I went back and looked at it two months later, I had a much clearer view of what needed help.

 

  1. Find a Good Beta Reader – a good beta reader is worth their weight in Starbucks. They’ll help you see plot holes, character issues, and other things you’re too invested in your book to see. If you’ve got a good beta reader, of course you’re going to follow their advice even if it means a painful rewrite.

beta-reader

  1. Read, but Read Critically – Lots of writing advice says you have to read a lot to be a good writer. I think this is over-simplified. Reading is helpful only if you take the time to figure out why one author engages you but another doesn’t. Why do you like a character, hate them, or think they’re too stupid to breathe? Why are you on the edge of your seat reading this thriller but not that one?

 

  1. Take What Works for You and Toss out the Rest. Writing is a creative endeavor. What inspires my muse may drive yours away. Some writers swear by an outline, whereas it brings out my type A personality.

 

 

How about you? Any good writing tips you’d like to share? Anything that’s worked for you? Anything that hasn’t?

 

Common Writing Advice That Doesn't Really Work

Some of the most common advice I’ve heard to a new writer is read more to write better. I’ve heard this a lot lately, and those touting the advice quote none other than J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. So it has to be good advice, right?

I can’t decide if the people telling this to authors are:

  • Telling us what we want to hear. Most writers love to read.
  • Using it as an attempt to sell us more books.
  • Genuinely misunderstand how humans learn.

This is pretty dense, but it’ll tell you that to learn, you need to engage the brain. If you tell the brain what it already knows, learning doesn’t occur.

Think about your morning commute. Ever arrive at work uncertain how, exactly, you got there? Happens to me more than I want to admit.

dailly_commute

Just reading is similar to this. You read the book. You finish the book. You either like it or don’t, and then move on to the next book. Kind of like your morning commute.

What’s missing from the advice of “read more” is the critical element of analyzing what you’re reading. Even if you’re not in a formal book club, you can still ask questions of yourself:

  • Why did you like the book?
  • What didn’t you like about it? Why?
  • Would you read it again? Why or why not?

 

After you have the answers to these questions, dig deeper.

narrative-794978_640

If you loved the hero, why did you love him? If he was too stupid to live, why did you feel that way? Did you want him to succeed in the end? Why or why not?

How do authors engage your senses to make you feel like you’re riding along with the characters? How do they connect you so you care what happens?

I normally love to read romance novels, and I write them, but lately, I’ve had a bad run of them. Characters I hate, situations I find contrived at best, love stories that are a study in lust. But, they have taught me a lot. And not just because I’ve read them.

I may not even finish a book, but I can learn a lot if I take the time to figure out why I didn’t finish. Were the characters not compelling? Was the situation so contrived that my eyes got stuck when I rolled them?

I want the happily-ever-after ending, but I want the characters to earn it. I’ve learned this about myself, and I try hard to put it into my writing. I also want the love story to be believable. I need the characters to earn that, too.

But learning how to do this takes more than reading. It takes the time, patience, and brain engagement to really analyze what I’m reading. I can learn a lot from the bad as well as the good, but I still have to take the time to think.

 

How about you? Do you find reading improves your writing? Do you stop and think about why you love or hate a book? What makes you love a story? Hate it?

How I Finished My First Rewrite

I finally finished my first rewrite of my second novel.

fireworks-574739_640
Let the celebration commence!

 

I’d love to tell you I did it through sheer determination and laser focus. The truth is it had more to do with my bad habit of not being able to set aside a crummy book than any inner will power.

The book I’m reading is terrible. I don’t like the hero or the woman he thinks he wants to marry. The woman the author is setting him up to fall in love with started out fine, but now she’s annoying me. The plot is so sparse as to be non-existent, and a single two minute conversation which could’ve and should’ve been had would have solved all issues up to where I am in the story. Which is page 239 of 321.

But it did mean when I stopped writing and opened up my kindle app, I didn’t actually want to read what was there. And I am terrible about putting a book aside . . .

So, I focused on my revision.

After finishing the revision, I went back through a couple more times to smooth it as the revision was more like rewriting over half of what was there. I’m sure I have a lot more fixes coming, but at the moment, I want to wait and see if my beta readers find any glaring errors in the characters or plot.

I am considering setting aside the fantasy romance I’ve been writing and trying my hand at a Regency novel. I read them and enjoy them as I haven’t been able to find much in the fantasy romance genre but can always find Regency. As such, I’ve read a great many Regency novels of late even as I’ve been looking for more with knights, magic, and maybe an elf or three.

Failure of the One Week Ban

I completely failed not reading for a week. As a matter of fact, I failed within 24 hours of making the post!

fire-1391676_640
Resolution up in flames.

It’s just too easy and too enjoyable to kick back and open a book while I sit with the kids and they play. So much better than Sesame Street, let me tell you.

And once I’m into the book, I want to see it through. I want to know what happens, and will usually keep on reading even if the story is a train wreck. That’s something I need to be better about, but then I do sometimes learn something from the bad as well as the good. I just don’t need to spend quite so much time with the bad.

Perhaps the ease is part of the problem. My Kindle app has made it so easy to get new books, and so easy to read them that I am perhaps spending more time reading that writing.

Okay, I am definitely spending more time reading that writing.

Not that it’s an entirely bad thing for a writer, but it’s still a thing.

I won’t lie and pretend it’s research or that it will make my writing better by simply reading. I know that it takes thought to turn what you read into a lesson of what to do or not do with your writing. Best of all worlds is to have someone to critique it with, especially if they don’t agree with all of your views.

While I don’t have a critique partner, I do try to force myself to think through and write a review. Still working out the best review format for others to decide if they want to give the book a try and for me to get the most out of writing the review.

I suppose there are worse things I could be doing than reading.

Or better. Like reading while on the elliptical. Or actually writing.