Review: Circle of Magic - Tris's Book
Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Tris's Book (Circle of Magic, #2)Tris's Book by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Circle of Magic quartet, each of which focuses on one of the four main characters. Tris is the surliest of the four kids, which makes her a little harder to connect with, but it's not like she doesn't have reasons for the chip on her shoulder. I liked that we got a better window into her backstory with the introduction of her cousin. I'm still not entirely sure why Tris's family didn't figure out that she had magic (it seems pretty obvious), but we can at least understand how they wouldn't want her around with all of the freakish weather she causes.

This book also features pirates! And who doesn't like a good pirate story?

Personal Demons Excerpt: Demon Vision
Saturday, September 16, 2023

Seeing the world through the eyes of a demon...


The airboat bumped and jolted beneath Mira as it raced through the Everglades under tio Rafael’s guidance. Rain fell in curtains from the slate-gray sky. Dense stands of cypress choked off the grassy fields that had, at first, stretched to the horizon. The waterways narrowed, forcing the boat to slow. The increasing canopy caught a portion of the rain, but heavy drops continued to pelt the boat’s passengers. Dead wood and creeper vines laced the tree roots, creating walls. Alligators floated like driftwood just beneath the agitated surface of the water. The air, still thick and warm despite the rain, gusted in Mira’s face and tangled her wet hair. She took a deep breath and pressed her palms to the vibrating metal surface on either side of her crossed legs.

Review: Big Magic
Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearBig Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent book for anyone pursuing a creative life--meaning people who like to create, be that as a career or hobby. While I don't adhere to all of Gibson's beliefs about ideas being living entities with their own plans and desires, it is a novel concept that was fun to consider. And I do agree with her on many of the general principals put forward in this book, such as the concept that we must allow ourselves to be enchanted by the process of our own creativity rather than trying to control it, that we don't need anyone's permission to pursue our dreams (many people look down on creativity because it is often an impractical career choice), and that often the best way to succeed at creative living is to remove the burden of success from the equation.

Personal Demons Excerpt: Here there be monsters.
Saturday, September 2, 2023

It's hard to see yourself as anything but a monster when that's the way the world has labeled you.


Energy surged through Mira. The old man’s blood trickled over her fingers where they gripped the knife hilt. She dared not remove the blade even now, with the demon sufficiently entangled. He’d surprised her with his power. Most demons grew stronger the longer they were in the mortal realm, kind of like the buildup to one last, grand finale before they burned out their host and were pulled back to the Rift to wait for another likely target. This one must have been within a day or two of its end, and pretty damned strong to start with.

Sifting for Colorado Gold
Sunday, August 27, 2023

With the Colorado Gold Writers Conference right around the corner, I want to take a moment to talk about the process of judging a writing contest. One of the major features of this annual writers conference is their Gold Rush Literary Award, which is a chance for unpublished writers in a variety of genres to get their works in front of literary agents during the conference. This year, I served as a judge for this contest. This was my first time judging a writing competition, and I have to say, it was a strange and eye-opening experience to see things from the other side of the fence.

Personal Demons Excerpt: To go, or not to go?
Saturday, August 19, 2023

Mira's avoided going home for over a decade, but she can't hide from her past (and her family) forever.


Mira lifted the lid of her laptop and pressed the power button. The ancient device hummed to life. A small icon pulsed at the bottom of the desktop, indicating she had a new email. She opened the browser and found a message from Father Bembe, a priest she’d known as a child. She’d helped him with a demon that had targeted his congregation. Her hand dropped to her thigh. One of those lines, the very first one in fact, was for a blue-eyed girl who’d killed eleven churchgoers before Mira put her down. She shuddered. That one still gave her nightmares.

Review: Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic #1)
Monday, August 14, 2023

Sandry's Book (Circle of Magic, #1)Sandry's Book by Tamora Pierce
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a great time reading this first book in the Circle of Magic series with my daughter. First-off, since this is a middle grade level book, let me just say that my daughter (11 years old) LOVED the book and is excited to continue the rest of the series. She's really taken to both the world and the characters, so I'd say she gives this book 5 stars.

As a grown-up reading this book, I enjoyed the world and characters as well but thought the plot was a little lacking. Most of the book is just introducing each of the main characters and describing how they came to be at Winding Circle Temple (basically a magic school for slightly unusual mages). The writing was smooth and engaging, and the characters were all endearing with unique backstories and voices. They are all outcasts in their own ways, and they're all from very different backgrounds, which provides the reader with a lot of handy windows into the world.

Personal Demons is now available for preorder!
Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Personal Demons: Includes bonus short story - Magicsmith Universe (The Rifter Series Book 2)Personal Demons: Includes bonus short story - Magicsmith Universe by L.R. Braden

I'm so excited to announce that Personal Demons, the sequel to my multi-award-winning series-starter Demon Riding Shotgun, is going to be published on September 29th and is now available for preorder!

While this is book two in the Rifter series, and I highly recommend reading book one, it is not strictly necessary to read the books in order.

Behind the Scenes: How I develop my settings (Part 1 - real places)
Thursday, July 20, 2023

I just spent two days learning everything I could about the abandoned subway structures under Philadelphia (which I didn't even realized existed until about three days ago). Before that, I used Google Maps to virtually walk the Northwest Territories of Canada in search of the perfect, secluded spot for a secret conclave.
Setting my stories in real world places helps ground the otherwise fantastic tales and (hopefully) makes them more believable, thereby allowing readers to fully embrace the less mundane bits without any hiccups. It adds a sense of "this could be true" to the tale. But crafting fantasy settings out of real places comes with its own set of pitfalls.