Saturday, December 31, 2016

Taste the Book: SU-MA

"Face it," Su-Ma muttered to herself, as she reached the three steps down to the next level of the third floor, leaving that wing of the house. "You're still a screw-up. Can't even handle the switchboard. No way anybody's giving you any road assignments further away than the garage." Taking deep breaths, she focused on willing away the throbbing in her leg. In her nightmares, a bullet drilled straight through the bone, leaving fractures like a windshield hit with a cinderblock.

In reality, the bullet had only chipped her leg bone and hadn't damaged tendons or ligaments. Her doctor and physical therapists had all told her just how lucky she had been, avoiding long months of rehabilitation. When her leg ached like this, Su-Ma wondered just how anyone could call it "luck." She had the choice of walking it off or giving in and taking a pain pill. A third option would be to go to the kitchen for an ice pack and one of Brooklyn's herbal tea miracles.

Neither the tea nor the ice pack would do much good without Brooklyn to give her some sympathy and a little humor-laced advice. Or even a lecture to help her straighten out her thinking. Brooklyn was still in Harper's Point, cleaning up the mess with the mayor, a drug operation, and her brother, the sheriff. It had gotten tangled enough to involve the DEA, FBI, Joan, and Nikki. Su-Ma still couldn't get over the concept that Brooklyn had a brother, and they had worked for MI6 together, when they were younger. That was much cooler than the hints of the dark past that Vincent and George shared with McAllistair, the man she had met in Greenleaf just before Mike McCoy shot her and killed BooBoo.

"Don't go there," she snarled, and stomped the last dozen steps to the stairs.

Su-Ma focused on the phone call. She needed to report to Elizabeth right now. Maybe she should call Xander, since their lawyer friend had the unpleasant task of dealing with this problem.


Her foot slipped at the top of the stairs. She clutched at the bannister as her heart hit overdrive for a few seconds, and scolded herself to slow down. That was the key to avoiding mistakes -- slow down. Look ahead. Think. Make lists. Listen. Pay attention. Keep quiet.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The War Room

Wow ........ happy (almost) New Year!

Three days left to the year.
I think it's getting too late to reach some of those 2016 goals.
There are a couple movies on my list I'll manage to get in today and Friday.
And I did send another Wildvine book to my publisher.
Didn't get The Sword of Faxinor, the 4th Faxinor Chronicles book revised and polished and sent to the publisher ... but I'm getting there! Definitely get it in January.
And I'm doing Music in the Night, the next Guardians of the Time Stream book for JaNoWriMo -- like NaNo, but in January -- and I have the book outlined and even a resurrected/recycled short story I wrote 2 years ago that will go in near the beginning, so that puts me about 18K words ahead of the count already.
And I did manage to persuade a fantastic agent to have mercy on me and give me a chance.  (may God have mercy on your soul ... and your sanity ...)

So yeah, I reached a good number of 2016 goals and am gearing up for 2017.

What do we have to look forward to in 2017?
Jennifer -- Quarry Hall Book 11
Tris -- Quarry Hall Book 12
Sanctuary -- Guardians of the Time Stream Book 2
Music in the Night -- Guardians of the Time Stream Book 3
Growing Up Neighborlee -- further messing with the timeline of the Neighborlee, Ohio books -- telling the story of Lanie Zephyr from infancy -- set chronologically before all the published Neighborlee books
Living Proof -- a Neighborlee, Ohio short story, included in the Crossover Alliance's next anthology, coming out tentatively in March/April
More Wildvine books from Writers Exchange

I have gobs of projects I'm trying to get started -- proposals for publishers, worldbuilding, outlining series, that sort of thing. There are the humorous adventures of the crew of an experimental starship. A semi-pseudo-secret agent who's stuck in a boring assignment that turns strange. High school kids kidnapped and shipped to an alien colony. Werewolves. Shapeshifters. A faerie tale princess who is majorly messed up by her faerie godmother and decides she's allergic to magic. And hopefully a few more books roughed and revised and polished dealing with the history of the Commonwealth Universe. It all depends on how well other projects progress and how much energy I lose to frustration and rabbit trails.

Gonna have fun in 2017, and I hope you'll come along for the ride!

If you want inside info and sneak previews of cover art, and you wouldn't mind helping promote upcoming releases, essentially being my street team, look for me on Facebook and ask to be invited to the Croo, a private group. I'm also on Twitter -- @MichelleLevigne -- though I have to admit, I'm not talking much right now ...

2017's gonna be a blast!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Off the Book Shelf: CINDER, by Marissa Meyer

Lunar Chronicles, Book 1: CINDER, by Marissa Meyer.

At a writing conference last summer, Kathy Tyers read several opening paragraphs/scenes to give us great examples of hooks that draw the reader in and give a solid feel and image of the fantasy or SF world of the story. She read us the opening few lines of CINDER and ... the rest is history.

I just wish I hadn't taken so long getting the first few books and then reading them!

CINDER is basically a retelling of Cinderella in a science fiction setting. Yeah, "basically." Except that instead of losing her shoe, Cinder loses ... her foot. She's a cyborg -- half-robot, due to massive injuries when she was a child. In this futuristic world, cyborgs basically have no rights. They're considered property, even though they still have human minds and feelings. And that's just the tip of the iceberg of Cinder's problems and the insurmountable barriers between her and happily-ever-after with her prince.

Come to think of it, the book doesn't end with Cinder and her prince riding off into the sunset. It ends with her about to escape prison, and the last we see of her prince, who has just been crowned emperor, he's holding her broken cyborg foot.

Gotta read the next book, SCARLET, fast!
Yeah, that good. More, more, more!!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Taste the Book: SU-MA

From my newest release: SU-MA, Quarry Hall Book 10, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

"Yes, you told me," Haley said, trying not to let her exhaustion show in her voice.

A sob caught in her throat. She should have given up on this quest a month ago. Lately, it seemed she persisted more for Gabe and Xanadu than for herself. And yes, maybe to prove something to her parents. After all, they insisted all religious people were hypocrites, working off some horrid guilt complex, trying to earn their way into a heaven that only existed in their minds. Stopping her quest now to work for the Arc Foundation would be admitting they were right: religious people were only in it for some fleeting psychological euphoria.

She had to prove what she believed was real, no matter how much it hurt.

"Y'know, my lawyer -- my ex-lawyer -- he suggested mediation. All of us get together, talk things over."

Her phone buzzed. She lowered it enough to see a text coming in, while the second woman on this morning's call responded.

"I will pass your suggestion on to my superiors."

"Why can't you--"

"Do you honestly think someone with any authority would be answering the phone?" The chuckle in her voice was warm. If Haley had been in a better mood, it might have invited her to smile and join the joke. "I can't make you any promises. I'm sorry."

"No you're not. You wish I'd just shrivel up and blow away."

"Why do you want to work with us?"

"Haven't you read my cover letter?" She closed her eyes and wished there was a wall close by to bang her forehead into.

"Seriously, why do you want to work with us? I'm working on my counseling degree, and from a student's point of view, you have a lot of issues pushing you. Maybe part of your... your discomfort through all of this is that you don't really want this, but you're holding on as a matter of honor."

Monday, December 19, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: THE HIDDEN ORACLE, by Rick Riordan

This book starts a new series by Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan. THE HIDDEN ORACLE is Book One of the Trials of Apollo.

Instead of demi-gods going on quests and tests and fixing the things that their non-human parents either messed up or won't deal with themselves, we have Apollo, son of Zeus, who gets stripped of his powers and immortality and dropped onto Earth in the flabby body of a geeky teen.  Turns out Apollo has gotten Zeus angry with him before, so he knows the routine -- bind himself to someone he has to serve, go on a quest, perform some labors, and earn his way back to Olympus.

Only this time, it isn't going to be so easy. The world of the demi-gods is still reeling from the fallout of the battle that took up the last Percy Jackson series, and the biggest problem is that demi-gods and heroes can't go on quests without an oracle speaking -- but the oracles are either silent or missing, so someone has to go on a quest to find and fix them, but how do you go on a quest without an oracle speaking?

It gets even more complicated from there.

Everything is seen through the eyes of Apollos. I got tired of his constant whining and ego-trips. Maybe it was supposed to be funny ... this one was fun, but sorry, I'm not in any hurry to read the rest of the books.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Taste the Book: SU-MA

"Not you again," Su-Ma muttered, seeing the phone number displayed on the switchboard screen, identifying not just the number, but the location, whether it was a cell or landline, and the last time that particular number had called in.

Why now, with less than ten minutes until her morning shift on the switchboard ended? Anonymous lunatics who claimed God had talked to them through the cat and insisted everyone had to vacate Quarry Hall so they could move in and prepare for the Anti-Christ's siege during the Tribulation which had started two weeks ago -- that kind of caller she could handle. Not this repeat, whining nuisance. Knowing who was calling before she opened the line just made it worse.

Sometimes she could hate how much Joan and Sophie loved tinkering with the phone system and computers in general. Then again, it was fun having James Bond-type gizmos. Su-Ma envied her adopted sisters' ability to dream up new programs and security features and actually make them reality. Most of the time it was a good envy, wanting to be like them, having an example and role model to follow.

Anne, the last one to deal with this particular caller, had assigned a specific ringtone to the number. Even as she grinned, Su-Ma could almost wish they were back to a standard switchboard that simply read out the number and gave no history. Maybe the da-dum-da-dum-da-dum theme for "Jaws" was fitting, but Petra's "Witch Hunt" was more appropriate.

"Please, God, help me be kind," she whispered as she tapped the mouse to open up the line on the third ring, before the voicemail system picked it up. "Good morning, this is the Arc Foundation switchboard--"

"Put me through to your boss," the tense alto voice said before she could finish the standard line of, "To whom do you need to speak?"

"God is my boss, and the last time I checked, you can still speak directly to Him," slipped out.
Silence. For five seconds. Su-Ma muffled a giggle as she thought, A new record! The worst thing she could do was giggle. The young woman on the other end of the phone took herself far too seriously. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The War Room

11 days until Christmas.

Are you ready? All the fussing and preparations and shopping? All the errands?

More important ... is your heart ready?

The gifts and decorations and parties aren't the reason for Christmas. We're celebrating the fulfillment of prophecy and the first stage in the Great Plan of Salvation. Yeah, if you want to get picky with details, Jesus wasn't born in the winter -- common sense says when the shepherds were in the fields with the sheep, then it had to be spring or summer. And yeah, the ancients appropriated the winter festivals, but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. People needed the light, the warmth, the celebration, the promise of life returning to the world. The festivals were no longer needed to bring life back, but to celebrate the fulfillment of the promise.

So let's celebrate Jesus ... and all year long.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: BREATHING ON HER OWN, by Rebecca Waters

Like still waters, quiet books run deep. (not an intentional play on the author's name, but if the imagery fits ...)

BREATHING ON HER OWN by fellow ACFW Ohio author Rebecca Waters is a story of family tragedy and pain and growth and triumph.

Molly and Travis are loving parents and grandparents, looking forward to retirement a few years in the future. Then their quiet, comfortable life is shattered with the news that their oldest daughter, Laney, has been in a terrible accident. For a while, it seems like every step forward is followed by two steps back. Paralysis, death, possible drunk driving charges, the stress on their family, rehabilitation concerns, and all the questions that are shouted at God in times like this make Molly question her faith. As their family slowly adapts and adjusts and settles into a new way of life, everyone has growing and learning to do.

Why did God allow this tragedy to strike them? Many parents ask that question in multiple variations. Sometimes the answers don't come in this life.

Becky Waters does an incredible job with this debut novel of family pain and growth and strength. Be ready to cry and empathize and take the journey with Molly and her family.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Taste the Book: SU-MA

My newest release: SU-MA, Quarry Hall Book 10, from Desert Breeze Publishing.

"I think you should keep trying," Gabe said, when Haley met him for her lunch break.

She had cooking duty this Sunday at the Lighthouse Women's Shelter, and had gnawed on the problem the entire time she made breakfast for forty women and children, then prepared the sandwiches and soup for lunch.

"I mean, yeah, your roommates might be right, but maybe you should try one more time. Make sure you talk to someone with some real authority. After all, how much authority does a switchboard worker have? You never got any further than the switchboard the whole time you've been talking to actual people -- if they really are real people there, and not a bunch of computer programs."

His words earned a snort from her, and he winked.

"And look at it this way, your lawyer did say you had one last chance of getting what you want without legal action. Ask them for mediation. What could it hurt?"


Gabe was right, she decided, as she hurried back to the Lighthouse to figure out what she had on hand and plan the menus for the coming week. She needed to talk to someone in charge, the people who made the real decisions. At her first break the next morning, she would call.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: DIVERGENT, by Veronica Roth

Yeah, yeah, I know -- What took me so long to read this one?

I actually DVR'd the movie months ago, maybe going on a year ago, but haven't watched it yet. That shows you just how crazy-busy my life is. Maybe I should watch it today while I have the house and the TV to myself ... but I have editing to do and book deadlines to reach and ... yeah. That's my life.

Anyway... I can see how this book and the resulting ones just took off like wildfire and why they had to be made into movies. Roth has a clean, clear, easy-to-read style, so you're not aware you're reading. You're inside Tris' mind, sharing her fears, her worries, her hurt and questions. It's a frightening futuristic world she lives in. What makes it so frightening is that the divisions of society -- factions, where people live according to the guiding principles of life and how they should interact with others -- seem so utterly rational and workable. Of course, there are people within the factions who are manipulating things for their own benefit, and some who believe sincerely that the other factions are liars and hypocrites and cheating everyone else. So since their faction is what they believe in, that justifies what actions they take. No matter who gets hurt.

Along comes Tris, at the age when children in all the factions decide if they will stay with their parents' faction or move to another, choose a different life philosophy. As Tris learns when she makes her choice, one choice will change her, and her whole world. The faction she chooses seems exciting, then frightening, then brutal and cold, when even the friends she makes are forced to work against her, and she learns the power of forgiveness, and refusing the forgive.

Can't wait until I work through the HUGE stack of YA fantasy and SF I bought a month or so ago, so I can justify buying the rest of the books in the series and see how Tris' journey ends.



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Taste the Book: SU-MA


 Starting today, a new feature: 

TASTE THE BOOK

Whenever a new book comes out, the whole month will feature samples, bits and pieces from the pages to whet your appetite. 

Today starts the taste tests for SU-MA, Quarry Hall Book Ten, from Desert Breeze Publishing: 


"What is it?" Su-Ma stepped around him, to see what had caught his attention on the table. Just kitchen items. Mismatched plates, stock pots, dutch ovens. She was about to make a joke about someone having cleaned out a restaurant kitchen, but George reached out a visibly trembling hand and slowly wrapped his fingers around the handle of an electric teakettle. There were a number of electric appliances, such as three waffle irons, four Foreman grills, an electric skillet just like the one her grandmother had loved -- more than she ever loved Su-Ma -- and two blenders. She wondered what about the teakettle bothered him.

"This is -- no, it isn't the one -- but it's just like the one." George closed his eyes and made a visible effort to let go, but his fingers wouldn't quite unclench enough.

Shuddering, trying not to, Su-Ma inserted her fingers between his and the kettle handle, releasing his hand. She glanced around. No one seemed to notice. Sliding her arm around his waist and grasping his arm pressed between them, she led George away. There was nowhere to sit, unless she took him inside to the food court. If he collapsed on her, would she be able to get him inside?

"I'm okay," George said, his voice just raspy enough she couldn't believe him. He patted her hand. "Snow would laugh. He'd call me a crazy old soft-hearted weakling."

"Snow is dead," she insisted with more sharpness than she intended.

"The old man is dead," he crooned, his voice cracking but managing to hit half the notes of the song they had sung in church two weeks ago. "Long live the new creature."

"George--"

"I'm okay, honey." He squeezed her hand and hauled himself straight with a shudder. "Did Anne ever tell you what I did to her?"

"What Snow did to her, not you," she insisted. They stepped under the shade of the produce awning and wove their way between shoppers, aiming for the doors to get them indoors.

"You're a good girl. Maybe a little stupid, being so loyal." A cracked chuckle escaped when his words wrung a squeak from her.

"You're punishing yourself, and you shouldn't. You're not Snow. God killed him."

"Shadow killed Snow," he muttered, his mouth flattening, eyes half-lidded, and his voice going cold, just for those few seconds. Just long enough for Su-Ma to glimpse the evil man he had been.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The War Room

November 30.

National Novel Writing Month is officially over as of midnight.

WHEW! So glad I made it. I crossed the 50K goal mark about 2 weeks ago, and last week I registered my work-in-progress book, "Growing Up Neighborlee Book 2" as a winner. Which is a good thing because my life got really complicated and hectic the last few days.

Then this morning I decided that 13K words of "Growing 2" didn't belong. OUCH! Surgery, even if it's in the 1st draft of a book, is painful! Well, I decided the subject matter and how the heroine handled the problem, and the timing of how the problem unfolded .... well, it needs to be handled later in her lifetime, later in her storyline/character development arch. Like 3 books further down the line.

Anyway, GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, the 1st book in the series featuring the life and adventures of Lanie Zephyr, Neighborlee's resident comedienne, will come out from Uncial Press April 2017. We don't have a release date for Book 2, the one I'm working on right now, but I would hazard a guess on it coming out in April 2018. So in 2019, start looking for the LIVING PROOF books, some of which have already been rough drafted, featuring Lanie and her semi-pseudo-superhero friends in action, and dovetailing into the timeline of Neighborlee, Ohio books that have already been published. Yeah, didn't know you'd be time traveling with these stories, did you?

TOMORROW, Thursday, December 1:
A New Book!
SU-MA
Quarry Hall Book Ten
From Desert Breeze Publishing.

Still suffering from the death of her companion dog, Su-Ma's mental state affects her body, confining her to a wheelchair. Looking at life from doorknob level changes her perspective. Despite self-doubts, she accepts a touchy, crucial assignment.

Haley is being used to infiltrate Arc. Su-Ma must mentor her and keep her from betraying them all. They play "God's 2X4" for each other, and work past old hurts and pride. Su-Ma lands in the unaccustomed role of counselor when Haley discovers the depths of the betrayal and manipulation, setting her up to destroy Quarry Hall from within.

As the enemy's plan unfolds, Su-Ma regains her spiritual, then physical feet. She surprises herself when she stands up against attack, defending her home and family. Encouraged, she takes her first steps on a new path in life.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: HEARTLESS,by Marissa Meyer

Everybody knows Marissa Meyer for her Lunar Chronicles. I first heard about them -- at least where the title and the concept of the stories stuck in my head -- at the Realm Makers conference when Kathy Tyers (Firebird series) gave the opening lines of CINDER as an example of a great hook, to pull readers into the story and the story world.

CINDER, SCARLET, CRESS and the other books in the Lunar Chronicles retell classic faerie tales in an SF setting. For instance, CINDER is the story of Cinderella, but the heroine is a cyborg and the glass slipper is her mechanical foot ... go read it for yourself. I'm still waiting to read the first 3 books in the Lunar Chronicles. Yeah, I keep saying I'm not going to buy more new books until I've made a massive dent -- more like a crater -- in my to-be-read pile/bookshelves.

So why HEARTLESS? The Cuyahoga County Public Library regularly brings in authors to speak about their books and sign autographs -- and oh, yeah, get copies of their brand new books. So less than a week after this book was released, I was sitting in a jam-packed auditorium with a copy in my hands, listening to Meyers talk about the Lunar Chronicles, about HEARTLESS, about her writing process, and writing in general. Pretty cool.

HEARTLESS is a pre-history of ALICE IN WONDERLAND, where the Queen of Hearts is still a young girl, the daughter of nobility, whose dream is to have her own bakery, rather than become queen of the land of Hearts. You really can't blame her, after you've met the king. He is no prize. Cath is a great baker, and she is never so happy as when she's in the kitchen, covered in flour or dreaming up recipes. Unfortunately, her parents are determined she make a good match.

Hearts is a magical kingdom, populated by Humans as well as magical talking animals, just like in Lewis  Carroll's books, with playing cards and the Cheshire Cat, food that is somewhat dangerous to eat, and plants that invade Cath's bedroom as a result of her dreams. Which is convenient when she dreams up lemons and key limes, to go in her baking. Plus there's the Jabberwock. There is also warfare going on, in the neighboring kingdom of Chess, between the red and white queendoms. Cath gets tangled up with and thoroughly messed over by some spies who come through the Looking Glass from Chess to Hearts to obtain something to save the White Queen.

There were times I found it hard to keep reading because I liked Cath a lot, and if you've read the books and seen any of the movies, you know what the Queen of Hearts is like. So HOW did Cath get this way? Well, duh, look at the title. If you're looking for a happy ending and for true love to triumph ... *sigh* ... you should still read this intriguing, imaginative book that had me muttering a few times, "Wish I'd thought of that."

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The War Room

I'm coming around the final bend in National Novel Writing Month!

Past 80K words with "Growing Up Neighborlee," the 2nd book. In fact, I could stop at any time -- at least, with reporting my words written each day, for the ongoing tally on the NaNoWriMo site. I could upload the manuscript for the official count and be declared a winner.

But doggone, I'm so close to finishing the book. Just 3 key episodes left to write in the life of Lanie Zephyr as she grows up and learns what it means to be a semi-pseudo-superhero, as well as a guardian of the weird little town of Neighborlee, Ohio. Some heartbreak -- well, not heartbreak, but more on the lines of heart confusion -- from a college romance that goes south. Then the loss of a good friend. The entrance of a new member of the cast into the story -- very necessary, since this person has shown up in Neighborlee stories that are already published, but which take place chronologically after the events of "Growing Up Neighborlee." So I write all over the timeline -- sue me! (after you buy the books, please?) I didn't realize I needed to write these stories of Lanie and her friends growing up and discovering their talents and duties until after other books had been written. Then the book is capped by a story that is already written, and will answer the question a lot of people who have read other Neighborlee stories will be asking. At least, I hope they'll be asking: How did Lanie go from track and basketball coach and yearbook editor and sports reporter to life at doorknob level -- in a wheelchair? Well, that's what happens when you have the ability to kinda-sort fly, it's Senior Prank Night, the kids in Neighborlee try very stupid, risky stunts, and your semi-pseudo-superhero powers DON'T include invulnerability.

Just saying.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? A couple years, I made it my goal to get my shopping done before Thanksgiving and Black Friday, because I just did not want to mess with the traffic and crowds and insanity and general nastiness that ensues. This year, I might order a few things online .... today! But shopping just doesn't do it for me. I guess some people treat it like a marathon or a treasure hunt and love the challenge. Nuh uh. Not me. I plan on taking it easy on Friday and staying off the streets. Or at least as much as I can, considering that my office is across the street from a shopping center that has been doing major renovations, and should be hopping very early in the morning -- or even the afternoon before. I mean, there is a WalMart within line of sight of my office. I wonder if the 5 Guys burger place will be open on Black Friday. It's directly across the street from me, and I've been watching it being built and set up for weeks now ....

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2016

From the Bookshelf: GAME OF THRONES, by George R.R. Martin

Yeah, I know what you're thinking. The book has been around for years, the series has been around for years, millions of people are anxiously waiting for the next book, there's a hit HBO series -- and I'm only reading it NOW for the first time?

Well, I've been busy.

Found an excuse. I'm working on a big sprawling ancient civilization fantasy series, putting everything together, designing different countries and prophecies and maps and such, and I'm trying to think ahead about pitching the whole idea to my agent and to various publishers. I came up with the brilliant idea: It's like Game of Thrones!

Yeah, well, I can't say that, and know what what I've picked up about the books and TV series is true, until I've read at least one book, right? Not honestly. Not without shooting myself in the foot if I'm wrong.

WOW. The copy I got from the library was 700 pages. To get the thing read in time for another book report, some nights I had to read more than 100 pages. But once I got into it, it was enthralling. And grim. And bloody. And sometimes I just wanted to reach through the pages and slap some sense into some people. And slap more than sense into other people. And then the author goes and he KILLS Sean Bean -- sorry, he kills one of the main point-of-view characters, who is played by Sean Bean in the HBO series. Seriously? Please tell me it's a lie, and they put someone else's head on the pike, someone who only looked like Lord Stark, that he's languishing in a dungeon somewhere, and it's all a nasty trick to discourage the rebel forces.

Whew! I don't know when I'll be able to pick up the next book in the series, but I know I gotta. Despite the grimness and the cruelty and the filth and desperation and good people turning utterly nasty for survival and stupid simpering girls who betray their families and woman who have to send their sons into battle and all the wretched politics (I loathe politics) and the scheming and lying and ... yeah, it's addicting.

Have I mentioned what the book/series is about? This fantasy world has years-long seasons. The long summer is ending, winter is coming, and legendary creatures who thrive in the cold are stirring in the north. The heroic king has grown fat and too concerned with his pleasure and comfort, so he turns to his war buddy to support him, because his own family is against him -- in fact, the queen's family has been scheming from the beginning to steal the throne out from underneath him. Well, our hero, Lord Stark, would rather stay in the north, where he knows he can do some good, because he knows winter is coming, but he has to obey the king. His family is splintered, half staying in the north, half going south with the king, and rebels are raised up and psychotics are given too much power and good people trust the wrong people and ... Wow.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The War Room

Crazy busy!
Which is good. Most of the time.

I crossed the 50K words mark in "Growing Up Neighborlee" book 2, working title "Dorm Rats," which is my National Novel Writing Month project. In fact, I crossed it on Monday, which means if I keep up the pace I'm at, I'll have over 100K words by the end of the month.

Hmm, maybe not. But close!

The title refers to the main character, Lanie Zephyr's, adventures in college. Specifically, with the psychology and sociology professors are given -- or, as the case may be, they finagle and even steal -- permission to run an experiment on all the incoming freshmen. Specifically, playing with their dormitory assignments. What happens when all the geeks and freaks and creative types end up on one floor, and then a magical object that taps into their power of belief is inserted into the mix?

Well, I'm still finding out. Yesterday's writing had a Robbie the Robot toy come to life. Who knows what might happen in today's 3 or 4K words?

What else is happening?

Well.... I just finished the 2nd draft of "Jennifer," the 11th Quarry Hall book. It's due January 1, and I'm really hoping to get it done and sent to my publisher, Desert Breeze Publishing, before December 1. So I can get started on some new projects. I'm working on a big, sprawling series of fantasy books set in an ancient land, a combination of Babylon and Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece, those sort of cultures. It's going to be huge, and I need to do a lot more research and planning, creating maps, deciding on different mythology, different political structures, social customs, how long the days are, how long the months are, etc. It's kind of fun, but it's a lot of work! Which can be fun -- and a good excuse for reading other people's books and buying books and playing with map software. Just to look ahead, the working title for the entire series is TAPESTRY: Servants of the Unseen. A cast of thousands, and across several continents and multiple generations.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: SABOTAGED CHRISTMAS, by Carole Brown

Life is way too hectic nowadays.
That's a complaint and an excuse.
This book, by a friend and fellow member of ACFW Ohio, has been on my to-be-read bookshelf, then on the table next to my bed, and in my to-be-read list on Goodreads -- and even marked as "currently reading" -- for far too long.

Aaahhhhh! The glorious feeling when you snag a couple solid hours to just lie back and read straight through, instead of just nibbling at the book, a scene here, a scene there, in between chores and obligations and activities.

SABOTAGED CHRISTMAS is set in Carole's fictional, charming, small town of Appleton, WV. Our heroine is Toni DeLuca, a young woman who has inherited her father's construction business, and learns she has inherited a whole lot more. The only problem is that it's all wrapped up in secrets and schemes and old grudges, and people blaming Toni and her father for things they never did, making untrue accusations, and resorting to sabotage and intimidation to stop her from doing something she doesn't even know she's supposed to do.

Confused? Just imagine how Toni feels. Add to the mix college professor Perrin Douglas, who has come to Appleton with his pre-teen son, Blake, to get some writing done and get some peace from the ghosts and guilt of his past. When he reluctantly gets involved in Toni's problems, neither one of them is sure what they're feeling, what's smart, or who to trust.

I've had the privilege to hear Carole talk about further books planned in this series, and I suggest you plan on taking a trip to Appleton on of these days.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The War Room

Busy, busy!

Proud to say I'm averaging about 3.4K words each day in National Novel Writing Month. I'm working on "Growing Up Neighborlee, Book 2."

Book 1 is coming out this April from Uncial Press. It's the story of Lanie Zephyr from the day she's found as a toddler, abandoned by the side of the road, told in her words -- and attitude!

I'm delighted to announce that Uncommon Universes Press has accepted DOORKEEPER, the first in a hopeful series of paranormal adventures, getting about as close as I will ever go to writing horror. Andi is just a plus-sized waitress in a small diner in Medina, Ohio, when two childhood friends walk through her door. The only problem is that one of them is dead. Or is she?

Have you checked out OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse? There's still time to fill up your shoebox with gifts and hygiene supplies and school supplies for a child in a foreign country, to brighten their Christmas! Go to Samaritan's Purse and click on Operation Christmas Child to find out more. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: MIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE, by Jenny Nimmo

This is one of YA books I picked up at the Half Price Books blowout sale at the fairgrounds. I had actually been looking at the series whenever I visited the store, because there were so many of them. I figured, a series that kept going like that ... well, it must mean it's good.

Warning. There are 7 of these books (so far, could be more) about Charlie Bone and his friends with strange talents and destinies and mysterious, creepy opponents. The series is called Children of the Red King, and we're told right from the beginning that some are good, some are bad, and just because the parents are good (or evil) doesn't guarantee the children are good (or evil). They keep switching places.

Don't worry. I won't read all of the books in a row. I have to read A GAME OF THRONES and get it back to the library. Weird, huh, reading a popular book for homework? Well, I'm laying the groundwork for a fantasy series and I thought I'd pitch it as, "Like Game of Thrones," but I can't say that until I've read at least the first book and maybe watched the first season on DVD, right? But if you want to see some of the images I'm gathering for the books, it's on my Pinterest boards under "Tapestry: Servants of the Unseen." Gonna be fun!

Anyway, back to MIDNIGHT FOR CHARLIE BONE. Charlie is a little boy who thinks he's pretty ordinary. He lives with his widowed mother and two grandmothers, and his eccentric great-uncle who never comes out during the day and keeps to himself. Then one day he realizes that he can look at pictures and hear what the people in the pictures were thinking and saying. Grandmother Bone is delighted -- or not -- and she and her arrogant, nasty sisters insist Charlie has to go to Bloor's Academy for gifted children. Warning: it is not a nice place. Lots of creepiness, starting with the head of the school and his bully son. Charlie falls into a mystery, and makes friends, and learns to stand up for himself. He solves one mystery, dealing with a kidnapped little girl, but many more are ahead of him. Including evidence that his father isn't dead after all.

Seven books. I'm going to try for one each month, to kind of savor them. If you're thinking Harry Potter with this series, there are some similarities, but this story and hero stand on their own very well.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Spotlight Saturday: FINDERS KEEPERS, The Hunt Book 4

This month starts another giveaway -- that means you have a chance to win a FREE BOOK from Goodreads -- and from me, of course.

Go to Goodreads and click on the information for giveaways, and look for FINDERS KEEPERS, the 4th book in the YA fantasy series, THE HUNT.

Who are the Hunt? Children sent from an endangered world in another universe/dimension of reality, to protect them from a despot who wants to command their Talents. Given into the keeping of the Hounds of Hamin, the members of the Hunt have been separated by time as well as distance. They know each other by the scars--rows of teeth marks--on their wrists. Some have been in our world for decades, others have only been here for a few years. They have to find each other--and soon, before more enemies show up to destroy them--and find a way back home to save their world.

Finders Keepers


Iris Davenport hated the memories that came with world-shaking thunderstorms -- because she didn't want to remember she was a member of the Hunt. She was perfectly happy with her adopted parents, helping run the lodge on Smokeytop Mountain, exploring the mountainside, and doing search-and-rescue. The last thing she wanted was to face one of the Hunt and be reminded of the vows her parents had made when they gave her to the guardianship of the Hounds of Hamin.

But when a plane taking a sick boy to a a life-saving operation crash-landed on Smokeytop in a thunderstorm, Iris had to help. Even when one of the searchers turned out to be a member of the Hunt, who reminded her of everything she hoped to forget. She had her own life now -- a home, friends, parents, and a boyfriend. None of which she was willing to give up for a world she barely remembered.

Until the past caught up with them in the form of a traitor to the Hunt, and pieces of an old puzzle that could get her and her boyfriend killed if they didn't find all the clues in time.
ISBN/EAN13: 1922066656 / 9781922066657 

Monday, October 31, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: A FAIRY BAD DAY. by Amanda Ashby

I just stocked up on gobs of YA and NG books. Half Price Books had a humongous sale at the fairgrounds last weekend, where everything was $2. A bibliophile's dream! And torture, because how in the world can you look at every single title in two huge interconnected barns, filled with long rows of tables? Impossible. Especially since they restocked every day. While you're looking at the books already on the tables.

So anyway, that was just warning that I'm going to have a lot of YA and NG book reports. If you don't know what YA and NG designations are ... does it really matter? Because a good book is still a good book!

A FAIRY BAD DAY tells the trials and tribulations of Emma, who goes to a special school for the sighted -- meaning those who can see the evil magical denizens of our world. Meaning magical creatures who slipped through the gate from their own world before it was closed and sealed. These kids, at academies all over the world, are trained to hunt and fight and destroy those creatures, to protect the rest of us who aren't sighted. Emma's mother was a legendary dragon-slayer, and since Emma showed an affinity for dragons from childhood, everyone rightly assumes that will be her role.

Not so fast. When the day comes for everyone in her class to get their designations, Emma gets ... fairies. Yeah, little creatures with wings and snarky attitudes who devour Skittles and hang out at the mall, causing mayhem. Emma first gets herself in trouble when she tries to convince the principal that the tests are wrong and she is better suited to fight dragons -- then gets in even more trouble when she sees something really nasty threatening the school and nobody else can see it. When she tries to fight it, everyone thinks she's faking. Can you say "detention" and possibly even "expelled"? Then it gets even worse when she's teamed up with the cute guy who got "her" dragon designation and it's pretty clear -- to her, at least -- that he's embarrassed to be seen with her. The school's golden girl is suddenly a clod and klutz and delusional in the bargain.

Yeah, this was a fun one, and I'm gonna do some searching to find more books by this author. I sure hope she wrote more books about Emma and her gang as they finish training and protect the world from nasty things we can't see.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The War Room

Aarrgghh!
Yes, I've been so busy with deadlines and projects and just being disorganized that I missed by scheduled Wednesday check-in.

Which is good, in some ways. Being busy. Although right now, with the gobs of books I picked up at the Half Price Books sale at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds last weekend -- everything was $2!!! -- I just want to take an entire day to curl up and read a book or two cover-to-cover. Maybe this weekend...

I'm delighted -- and relieved -- to report that I finished the next draft of SANCTUARY, the next scheduled book in the Guardians of the Time Stream series. I would dearly love to turn it in ahead of schedule, just because I have so many other things going on. Deadline is December 1 -- goal, November 15.

I made a little bit of progress in FIRST LAW, the next Commonwealth Universe novel, dealing with the Khybors as they develop brain-ships, at the point in history when they shift to being Leapers. I had one of those bad brainstorms this morning -- I realized that I might just be messing with the timeline of the Commonwealth and the history of First Civ .... so I have to go back through the books that have already been published and take notes and make sure I know what happens when and who is alive and what I've said in other books about the Downfall era. Yes, I know, I've been saying for years that I need to create a guidebook to the Commonwealth Universe, listing all the people and places and technology and events. The page on Commonwealth history on my website just gives an overview, and is what I've been working off for years. But here's the problem: as I WRITE the stories, I get a more detailed view of events and it's starting to get complicated.

More on that later.
Would anyone be interested in getting a copy of the Guidebook to the Commonwealth Universe if I ever put it together? You'd need to get regular updates ... hmm, maybe that can be something exclusive to Croo members, or at least people who check in on my website regularly .... Bribery!

Two big things happen in November!

First: OPERATION CHRISTMAS CHILD
An activity of Samaritan's Purse, Christmas Child involves filling shoeboxes or plastic boxes the size of shoeboxes, full of gifts for a child in a foreign country -- school supplies, hygiene supplies, toys -- to give them for Christmas and demonstrate the love of Christ. I have the best fun shopping for the boxes my Mom and I do every year. Here's a table-full of goodies for this year. I still have to get pads of paper. We already have toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, pencils, crayons, stuffed animals, rubber balls, cinchsack backpacks, and more!

Check out Samaritan's Purse for info on Operation Christmas Child and consider putting together a few boxes, won't you? You'll be glad you did!

Second: NANOWRIMO
Otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. When thousands of people around the world commit to write at least 50,000 words in the month of November.

This year I'm going to work on the next novel set in Neighborlee, Ohio. The Neighborlee books are published by Uncial Press. Right now we're gearing up for GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE, told from Lanie Zephyr's point of view, to come out in April. You've met Lanie in other stories -- the newspaper reporter who does comedy on the side, has some "extra" talents, and sees life from doorknob level because of an accident where she broke her back. My NaNo project is GROWING UP NEIGHBORLEE: Book 2. It will end with the accident where Lanie breaks her back and proves she is definitely one of Neighborlee's guardians.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: ORDINARY MAGIC, by Barbara Satow

Don't you just love watching a friend's kid grow up from newborn through middle school and high school and then graduate and go out into the wide, wonderful, sometimes frightening world?

This is how I feel about ORDINARY MAGIC.

The author is a friend. We met at a Vo-Ed school writing course and when the class ended we kept meeting with a third student from that course and pursued our writing dreams. She was there when I won Writers of the Future and I was there when she was invited to pitch script ideas over the phone to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I got to hear her work through the ideas and then the scenes and the problems and plot turns for ORDINARY MAGIC.

This is fantasy and romance, an adventure, with some humor and a mystery. Just great fun. The essential story line combines a feisty young upperclass woman who runs away from the marriage her penny-pinching bully of a brother-in-law tries to force her into (with a fat lecher), with a duke who's been accused of high treason and is trying to clear his name while preventing his best friend, the king, from making a huge mistake that could hurt the kingdom. Their flight across country, running into trouble, battling evil magic spells and interfering idiots is great fun from first to last.

And even though I knew practically every scene that was going to appear in the book, there were still some surprises, some changes, some characters and developments that all combine to make this a success.

Dang -- I stayed up until 2am reading it. Is that endorsement enough for you? Even more -- I was reading this during Game 3 of the ALCS between the Indians and Blue Jays. Well, yeah, I only read during commercials and when Toronto was batting, but still ....

I happen to be "in the know" that Barbara plans several more books in the adventures of Emma and Wesserick, their friends, their daughter, their country. Do me a favor -- after you read the book, leave comments on Facebook and other places urging (nagging) her to get the other books finished and published. I guarantee you'll want to read them, too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The War Room

Progress report:

A good start on FIRST LAW, the next Commonwealth Universe novel. SF.

About 1/3 of the way through the next draft of SANCTUARY, the next book in the steampunk Guardians of the Time Stream series. Have you looked at ODESSA FREMONT or THE BLUE LOTUS SOCIETY yet? Might want to.

I've been brainstorming like crazy some ideas to pitch to various publishers.There's some SF, some near-future set-on-Earth ideas, and this morning I got something that looks like it's influenced by the upcoming Halloween season and all the ads for haunted houses and monster movies. Kind of taking horror tropes and mixing them with faerie tales and setting them on their heads. Or ears. Or something you don't expect.

Feedback question: If life is restored to a body that's been dead for a while, and the decay is reversed, what guarantee is there that the person who was there before will come back? What might "move in" if the original owner doesn't return?

Feedback question #2: If someone had the power to restore life and reverse decay, would they consider it a gift or a curse?

Speaking of BLUE LOTUS SOCIETY, I will be launching a promotion on Story Cartel in the next week or so. The deal is that ebook files for the book will be offered free for download, in the expectation that you will post a review of the book. So look up Story Cartel and register and find out what's up with the whole deal. It looks like a great place to get free books -- as long as you do your part and write reviews! That's how people find out about our books -- word of mouth and reviews.

Speaking of word of mouth ... would you consider joining my CROO?
I have a private Facebook page/group called the CROO. Other writers refer to this as their street team -- people with inside info, sneak peeks at upcoming books and cover art, a chance to ask questions, maybe get word ahead of time about things like free downloads, etc. I would really love to have some people step up to help me promote my books, and if you like what I write, and you wouldn't mind some goodies once in a while, maybe T-shirts, customized mugs, things like that ... sounds like a deal, right?
Contact me on Facebook and say you want to join the CROO, and I'll send you an invitation.
I would be ever so muchly grateful!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Off the Bookshelf: ASHES and RISE, by A.C. Williams

Why two books by the same author?

Because they're e-short preludes to the book, NAMELESS.

The two stories are from the viewpoints of two different men on board the ship, Prodigal. Talon, the captain, and Devon, one of the team of bounty hunters.

Yeah, bounty hunters. With a super-tough chick for first mate. The shorts are very short, just detailing some "turning point" moments in the lives of the crew, taking on a new crewman and going after two fugitives to make payroll to pay the bills. Reading them will give you a hint of what is probably going to happen in the book. Might leave you feeling just a little apprehensive, and eager at the same time, with a healthy dose of, "Whoah ... okay ... interesting..."

Someone said, "Think Firefly," when they were talking about the shorts and the full-length book. Yeah, Firefly was gritty, and Serenity was even grittier, darker, messier ... and if you don't know what I'm talking about (what rock have you been living under?), first look up Joss Whedon's filmography, then rent the TV series and the movie -- in that order.

Then seriously consider reading these two shorts and the full-length book, which is in my to-be-read queue on my iPad.

It's a dark, dangerous, filthy, grim world in the future. This band of bounty hunters and their ship have caught my attention.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The War Room: Launch

Today is the first of what I hope -- HOPE -- to be a regular, weekly update on what's going on.

As in my writing, various related activities, promotions, etc.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. It's a strange world inside any writer's head, and since there are so many universes struggling to expand inside mine ... lots of chaos here, folks!

Why do I say I HOPE this will be a regular, weekly update? Because anyone who checks back here regularly will see that first, my Monday book reports don't appear every Monday. It's pretty sad when I'm so dang busy that I can't even read ONE book each week. I remember back when I rode the bus to work three or four days a week, with an hour-long ride each way, depending on the bus schedule, and I would plow through two or three books each week. Ah, the glory days!

And for another ... I had planned on launching the War Room ... yesterday! Yeah, that's how busy.

But it's a good busy, in this case. I had a goal of finishing the first draft of JENNIFER, Quarry Hall book 11, by the end of the week. Since I had finished an editing assignment, I pushed everything else aside and concentrated on JENNIFER all day yesterday. Ah, ecstasy -- I wrote nearly 11K words. My progress averaged under 2K every day since I started roughing this book at the start of September. It was kind of vital that I get this rough draft done in a timely manner because JENNIFER has to be turned in January 1, for release in May. Keep that date in mind!

My projects for the rest of October:
2nd draft of SANCTUARY, the next book in my Steampunk, Guardians of the Time stream series from Desert Breeze Publishing, which also publishes the Quarry Hall books. Due date for SANCTUARY is December 1, with a release in April.

Speaking of Guardians of the Time Stream .... last week I announced that THE BLUE LOTUS SOCIETY had just released. Well, I'm delighted and proud to announce that the cover art for BLUE LOTUS is in the cover-of-the-month contest at In D'Tales magazine -- the Creme de la Cover contest. Would you all be darlings and go over there and vote for BLUE LOTUS? Gwen, the cover artist for the whole series is a lovely, talented person who is currently on maternity leave (talk about creative!) and this would be a lovely present for her, to have another cover win! ODESSA FREMONT, the prequel for the Guardians of the Time Stream series, won its week a couple of weeks ago. Let's go for two out of two!

Thanks muchly.

And my new project, which I will work on in the mornings before going to the office (because that's how I get so many projects written, by rough drafting in the morning, earning a living in the middle of the day, and revising a different project in the late afternoon and evenings) is a new book in the Commonwealth Universe SF series, published by Writers Exchange. Finally -- and my publisher is going to be glad to hear this -- I'm starting on FIRST LAW. Yeah, I kept promising Sandy I would get to work on it, but life sometimes gets in the way, and deadlines for other books, and .... you know how it goes. FIRST LAW is from the beginning of Commonwealth history, before the Downfall, when the previous galactic civilization was called the Central Allied Worlds. Not a nice place at all. The Khybors, ancestors of the Leapers, have a long-range goal of finding some place far, far away from the prejudice and fear and abuse that seems to follow augmented folk from colony to colony as the CAW expands. In the previous book, SLIPPING THE WEAVE (currently in pre-production at Writers Exchange), we saw the genesis of brain-ships, and the first hints of Khybor pilots being able to pierce the fabric of space-time with their minds, augmented by their ships. The ability to escape those who want to destroy their entire race is within their grasp. In FIRST LAW, they will start making allies, while dealing with some traitors within their midst.

I'm kind of excited about getting to work on this new project, which will take me the rest of the month, and probably into November to get the first draft done. But doggone it, I was planning on doing the next Neighborlee, Ohio book for NaNoWriMo in November ... better get writing FAST, you think?

Want to be part of helping to promote my books, and find out ahead of time about free downloads, new releases, sneak peeks at cover art in the development stage, and a chance to win goodies -- essentially being my street team? Contact me on Facebook and ask to be invited to Michelle's Croo, a private Facebook group. You can also follow me on Twitter @MichelleLevigne (though I admit I'm not chatting much there....), and I'm even on Pinterest. You can look through my boards and see pictures I'm saving to give me inspiration for current projects, and a board called Future Scenes, that I think would make cool settings in upcoming projects.

That's in for now.
Are you afraid yet?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Spotlight Saturday: BUTTERFLY, The Hunt, Book 3

This month starts another giveaway -- that means you have a chance to win a FREE BOOK from Goodreads -- and from me, of course.

Go to Goodreads and click on the information for giveaways, and look for BUTTERFLY, the 3rd book in the YA fantasy series, THE HUNT.

Who are the Hunt? Children sent from an endangered world in another universe/dimension of reality, to protect them from a despot who wants to command their Talents. Given into the keeping of the Hounds of Hamin, the members of the Hunt have been separated by time as well as distance. They know each other by the scars--rows of teeth marks--on their wrists. Some have been in our world for decades, others have only been here for a few years. They have to find each other--and soon, before more enemies show up to destroy them--and find a way back home to save their world.

Butterfly


Beth considers herself a geek, one of the invisible and awkward in her school, too smart for her own good, part of the Gifted and Talented program. During a summer internship at a government weather station, she notices strange weather patterns. The storms remind her of the ones when she was brought to Earth by the Hounds of Hamin. Remembering that she is a member of the Hunt, Beth sets out to remake herself, to be ready when the gathering of the Hunt occurs.

When she returns to school in the fall, she is a new person, physically and mentally, and she attracts the attention of another member of the Gifted and Talented program: Tommy DiCorsi, supposedly one of the "bad boys" in town. As their friendship grows, and Tommy protects her from trouble and learns about the Hounds and the Hunt, Beth learns he isn't at all what he appears, either. Then another member of the Hunt shows up, and both their lives are changed forever.
ISBN/EAN13: 1922066648 / 9781922066640

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

New Release: THE BLUE LOTUS SOCIETY

Now Available!!!
THE BLUE LOTUS SOCIETY: Guardians of the Time Stream book one, is NOW out at Desert Breeze Publishing: 

Sequel to ODESSA FREMONT

A traveling exhibit of Egyptian artifacts is threatened by thieves.

Pinkerton agents, including Ess Fremont, are providing protection. A midnight vigil brings Ess face-to-face with the reason behind the thefts -- and the two groups seeking what is hidden within the artifacts.

Encountering her missing grandparents' allies, Ess can reclaim her heritage, but hesitates. They aren't being honest with her. How can she join a battle affecting the entire world when she doesn't understand the reasons for the war? There is more to the Blue Lotus Society than protecting Egyptian history and culture.

As the exhibition crosses the country, Ess approaches the tipping point, when her decision could be made for her. Who can she trust? Who is lying to her and using her? When the enemy strikes, she discovers that making the right choice can't always wait for answers.