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: 


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."


"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.