When I read Anaerfell, it was more than a book to me. It was a complete experience. I even dreamed the world as I slept, silently trudging through an arctic landscape, eyes on the sky for dragons. I was overjoyed to find out that Joshua Robertson & J.C. Boyd have the next book in the series available to pre-order!
Anaerfell is significant to me for one other, more personal, reason. It was my gateway to becoming a member of the indie community. In addition to offering his own friendship, Joshua introduced me to writers who I now call friends. It completely changed my life as a writer.
Oh, I feel for Old Author Me, plugging away on my writing alone. It is a joy to find people who get you- whether it is to argue about comma use, ogle cover art, or debate Superheroes with on a panel.
Now that I've gushed, here are links so that you can meet this awesome author as well.
Joshua's Amazon Page
I found a lot of wonderful art in 2017. Although it pains me to distill all my discoveries down to a Top Ten List, I thought it would make a good blog to usher in 2018. In no particular order since they won for their respective categories:
Best Poetry Book: Black Tie Affair by JD Estrada
J.D. Estrada’s poetry book Black Tie Affair was a wonderful read. I paired it with whiskey and read it in one sitting. It’s one of those books that I know I’ll pick up again and again. Some lines smacked me across the face- and that is exactly what I want from poetry.
I was lucky enough to interview him on my youtube channel. Full of wit and wisdom, definitely bananas, 2017 gave me a huge gift in the form of his friendship.
Best Album: Painted Fan by Rabbit Quinn
After falling in love and writing to Quinn’s gorgeous debut album Lost Children, I enthusiastically backed Painted Fan on Kickstarter. I admit I’m biased- she is the only rock star to hold me as I swoon after a show- but this girl can sing, write, and play the piano with skill. And on top of all that, emotion drips from every note. Easily the best record of 2017 for me.
Best Steampunk Fantasy: License to Quill: A Novel of Shakespeare & Marlowe by Jacopo della QuerciaI had no idea what to expect when I picked up this book. I was friends with Jacopo on twitter and bought it because of that. His tweets are fun, and smart, and often humorous, but his BOOKS! I admit it. I was book-smitten. He researches everything, provides footnotes for days, and weaves fantasy through historical events. I loved them so much I forced others to read them, who happily encouraged others to read them! Seriously, it was the greatest by-product. Bonding with people over shared joy of a book…He even inspired my first ever piece of fan-fic.
Best Romantic Suspense: Saint’s Gate by Carla Neggers
I’ve been reading Carla Negger’s Swift River Valley series for years. I love them! Contemporary small town, east coast goodness which always remind me how much I adore maple syrup (Vermont has a lot of syrup. As a Canadian who has made her own, I approve).
I have no idea how I missed the fact that Neggers is also a romantic suspense writer! 2017 changed that. I started her Sharpe and Donovan series with Saint’s Gate. The heroine and hero are both in the FBI, but in totally different positions. And the heroine used to be a nun… add in the suspense, and I’m sold.
I don’t think I have ever read another heroine like Sharpe, and I have been reading romance since I was around 12 years old. Her unique back story added such a cool flavor. I can’t wait to read all the rest of the series.
Best Historical Romance: From Duke Till Dawn by Eva Leigh
I loved the heroine who was a criminal out of necessity, and the unapologetic heat between her and the hero was appreciated. The most important part for me in the book is the way Leigh resolved the relationship between the heroine and her mentor. She comes to terms with herself and her own worth, and it makes the HEA that much more satisfying.
Best YA: The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani & Mindi Scott
This book was about grief and finding love. It was about growing up, and letting go, and holding on. I liked the back and forth chapters of the main characters, a guy and a girl. They processed the same events differently, which was interesting.
The story centers on the loss of the girl’s best friend, and the guy’s girlfriend. It sounds tragic, and it is, but what set this book apart was that it didn’t wallow. There was plenty of humor and romantic elements to balance out the darkness.
Best Dark Fantasy: Blood and Bile by J.C. Boyd & Joshua Robertson
Wow. This was dark. There were some rather gruesome moments. I didn’t even agree with a main character’s motivations. But it was riveting. Based on Norse mythology, this dark fantasy was unique. I’m used to the tried and true dragon fare, but it is absolutely a joy when you find a book that takes all your expectations and smashes them against the rocks with blood soaked glee.
I can’t wait for book two in the series!
Best Nonfiction: Insomniac City by Bill Hayes
I read this book at night, which seems right, with the Insomniac title. It was an emotional read, chronicling the life Hayes shared with Oliver Sacks toward the end of his life. I was profoundly affected by Sacks’ work, which is how I came to Hayes’ book.
His photographs went beautifully with the chapters, and through reading his book I got a sense of what it must be to live in New York, despite never having been there.
It was lovely. Just a lovely, lovely book. I am looking forward to reading more by Hayes.
Best Mystery: Anatomy of a Darkened Heart by Christie Stratos
I devoured this book. Each section built on the last leading to the stunning conclusion. I think I must have made a record for gasping as I read this one. I warred with myself trying to decide which main character I disliked most, even as they pleaded with me on paper to overlook their bad behavior because they have reasons for doing such bad things.
Very cleverly done.
Best Book on Writing: Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
I have a rather large stack of books on writing. A lot of them drone on for 300 pages and at the end, the mental fatigue destroys any value you might have found. Maybe that’s just me… But anyways! Hayes book on writing romance is short and sweet, with sass. She gets to the point. If you are looking for an easy to understand plotting book, look no further.
And that’s not all! She offers a free Scrivener template & printable beat sheets. I am currently using (and loving) the template for my WIP.
I am looking forward to all the wonderful art 2018 will have to offer!
Cross posted from Leaving Fundamentalism
Every time I apply for a job I have a pang of fear. Some jobs want to check your references. I am not afraid because I have a criminal history. I am afraid because my whole high school experience was a fraud. You see, I was home schooled. At first, I had big, thick text books with spines that smelled nice. I didn’t mind this as much, even though I was mostly left to my own devices to do my school work. I wanted to be smart. Discipline was not an issue. I wanted to go to college. I now see my naivety. I should have paid more attention when church members kindly informed me that college wasn’t for me or that god had other plans…
Before long, my mother had switched the whole curriculum up. I now was to do ACE which came in shockingly simplistic booklets, called PACEs. I was told it was much better, and I could work at my own pace. PACEs, get it? So for three years I stared at the PACEs, carefully filling in bubbles with my number two pencil. I can’t explain the boredom. I can’t explain the anger I felt with every depiction of a submissive woman making dinner. The curriculum featured multiple choice questions with only one right answer. There was no critical thinking involved.
I particularly hated the comic strips. I was in high school, and there was a cartoon man at the bottom of every page letting me know his thoughts on my obedience! There was always some moral to be found. Every subject was related back to the bible in the most annoying way.
Notice how the woman is in the kitchen drying the dishes, while the men have been out fixing stuff. In PACEs, women are always illustrated doing traditionally ‘feminine’ activities.My sex education was a picture of a chicken and an egg. I suppose I did not need the chicken picture as I had already learned about the birds and the bees from upstanding members of the community who liked raping young girls.
I am sure that the isolating nature of the program helped make me even more vulnerable. I was so lonely. Most of the other homeschoolers I was around were younger than me. It was a much smaller pool to draw friends from than a traditional school. When an adult man decided he was my boyfriend, I was flattered. Even after he started abusing me, I made excuses to myself because I wanted to believe him when he said he loved me. His family was viewed favorably in the church, as was his behavior. This adult man was allowed to be baptized with me in the context of a relationship. I can’t imagine now, as an adult, condoning an illegal relationship. At the time I didn’t see it that way, but that is why there are laws regarding this; it is never okay for an adult man to be in a sexual relationship with a minor. Of course, this is making ACE a spoke on a wheel of issues that surround fundamentalism.
ACE’s emphasis on modesty contributes to a culture of victim blaming and rape apology.Fundamentalists taught me from a young age to be compliant at every turn. They taught me to fear the outside world. They taught me that men are always superior. They taught me that if something is shameful, shut the fuck up. Suffering is a virtue. I could suffer so much I deserved a cross. I took pride in how much I could take without crying. What else could I do? The adults had chosen this whole life style for me. The point of my homeschooling was to further isolate me from “worldly” things. I think that is true for a lot of homeschooled children. I don’t believe that parents should be able to make this choice for their children. Teachers have to go through years of college to learn how to educate. Why do we allow someone to control a child’s education simply because they could procreate? Every child deserves meaningful education. They deserve science and math. They deserve to learn social skills.
Fundamentalists truly believe it is their duty to teach that only their world view is relevant. Every other world view is wrong and anti-god. The only education that truly matters to them is Bible-related. Everything else is “of men” and not necessary. It is too bad that what is not necessary often includes science, world history, and sex education. My educator took it one step further – anything that disagreed with the brand of fundamentalism I was raised to believe in was blacked out with a marker. I later read about how the Taliban does that. I read about the publics’ outrage and thought, this happens right here. Society allows black markers to be used in limiting an already limited education! It is protected under a proud banner of religious freedom. Should religious freedom involve allowing children to be taught outrageous lies as truth?
Every member of a civilized society deserves the ability to fill out a job application without dread that the education chosen for them will come back to haunt them. They should be able to make an educated decision about whether they want to be cut off from society or not as adults. Exposing children to only one opinion robs them of the ability to learn how to make good decisions as adults. Trying to merge with society when you have been willfully ill prepared is fraught with difficulties. It also seems just plain wrong. When I did graduate, I took the paper my mother had printed to the local college. I tried to get a scholarship with my high marks. I was denied. They would not recognize my diploma as legitimate. I had taken no standardized tests, even the SATS. The years of scribbling feverishly in PACES meant nothing. It felt like god was laughing at me. I was again comforted by members of the church that as a woman, I didn’t need college anyway. Why, soon I would be bouncing a baby on either knee! Of course, no good christian boy my age would want me as I was damaged goods. An older man might be interested…. Of course, older men were always my problem.