Launch with Verity Weaver

Fancy a new science-fiction audio adventure? Maybe one with a female lead and lots of questions about life and purpose and class ethics along with the exploding spaceships and things?

Verity Weaver audio drama spacescape

Let me introduce Verity Weaver, a new sci-fi drama following the tough choices and adventures of the titular Verity Weaver, a space miner given a no-brainer — and yet impossible — decision.

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The Umbrella Academy: A Viewing

The Umbrella Academy Dark Horse comics and Netflix series

Last night I told my husband I was interested in seeing the new Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, about which I’d heard good things. I didn’t know much of the plot, but the teaser trailers had the right mood. The problem was, I said, that it was ten episodes and I was way too busy, behind on lots of things because of my Antarctica trip and in general, to start a series. (I don’t watch a lot of television at all anyway.) I was still working up until ten p.m., when I decided to forcibly reschedule my remaining to-do task and take a break.

So at ten last night Jon and I decided to try The Umbrella Academy. But just one episode. “Two is my absolute limit,” said Jon, who also had some extra commitments to take care of today.

And that is how we went to bed after seven this morning, while the light rose palely through the bare winter trees and the birds sang and the sleepy dogs wondered why we would change locations after spending the night on the couch.

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Faithless, with Janeen Ippolito

man in buttoned coat flees before storm, title Faithless by Janeen Ippolito

Today we’ll hear from Janeen Ippolito, editor, publisher, teach, author coach, and author of a number of books including the upcoming Faithless.

What’s Faithless? It’s the latest installment in the Ironfire Legacy series, and, well, here’s the back cover copy:

One wild night, Shance Windkeeper discovers he’s married to a death unicorn.

But that’s the least of his troubles.

As an agent for the Lawless, Shance is working with dragonshifters Kesia Ironfire and Zephryn Nightstalker, trying to end the dragon-human war and the organization that masterminded it. While on a mission in the Scepter of Knowledge, the Lawless is hit with a devastating death unicorn attack.

Out of the wreckage new allies emerge: Lirome Ukerys, and his twin sister Maira, the death unicorn queen—Shance’s long-lost wife.

Recently freed from captivity, Maira is fighting to regain control of her herd. Lurien Alistil, a rogue death unicorn, has bespelled the Scepter of Knowledge and taken Maira’s son. When Kesia unexpectedly challenges Lurien to a public debate over the fate of the city, the Lawless has a chance to break the usurper’s hold. To obtain vital information they must infiltrate her lair—and as the husband of the death unicorn queen, Shance Windkeeper is the perfect prize to go in.

But Lurien’s power is stronger and more insidious than they realize. And if the final pieces of her plan fall into place, not even Shance’s newfound Talents and knowledge will be enough to stop her.

A steampunk fantasy adventure with much intrigue, unexpected romance, sudden tragedy, and a snarky cat-dragon.

Cool, right? Here’s some book chat direct from Janeen!

What inspired Faithless?

Janeen Ippolito

Janeen Ippolito

Faithless in particular was inspired by the profound idea that I have signed a contract for a five-book series with Uncommon Universes Press.

Haha, I was also quite giddy to bring dragons, death unicorns, and a cat-dragon all together in one book. And this book uses some heavily-tweaked plot ideas from an obscure Grimm fairy tale, The True Bride, and those were a ton of fun. 

And after the intro book that was Lawless, it’s been great to dig a lot more deeply into the story, character arcs, and world of The Ironfire Legacy.

Which books or authors have influenced you the most?

Too many to name! So I won’t. ?

What is your writing process like?

A lot of starts and stops. Days and days of steady work, and then maybe a few days off, and then a day of writing four hours straight—and then maybe I get stuck and don’t write for a week. I like deadlines, but I tend to resist too much regimenting of the process to get to that deadline.

What gave you the most difficulty when writing Faithless?

Oh, I had to do a number of Hard Things in Faithless that pushed me to the limit. One of them is a major spoiler—and it made even the marketing for Faithless a challenge! 

What is your favorite writing fuel?

A glass of water. Sometimes with ice. Occasionally I shake things up with some iced tea or wine or a mixed drink, but usually just plain water.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from this book?

Hope in the face of tragedy and personal faithlessness. And strength from community and the grace there. The necessity of a cat-dragon for life.

Also, I hope readers immediately have a desire for more books!

What’s your next project?

I’m working on Destroyer, the first book in a prequel duology set in Elotrin, the country to the south of Sekastra where The Ironfire Legacy takes place. Destroyer takes place about fifty years before the events of Lawless and shows how Maira Ukerys and Shance Windkeeper met under terrible circumstances, and then teamed up to destroy the evil city of the self-made gods. And also, there’s Ademis the cat-dragon. And Lirome the Death Unicorn of Judgement when he’s a little less weighed down by the world.

This book has been a long time coming, so I’m excited to see it finished!

You can find Faithless at any major book retailer, and Janeen at

Cover Reveal: Severed Veil

I’ve got a pretty for you today.

Bethany A. Jennings is a marvel. She writes, she edits, she homeschools, she created and organizes the #WIPjoy hashtag game quarterly, and she runs not only her personal and author social media, but also runs the @sandwichmaven Instagram. (Go ahead, but don’t be long, we’ve got a cover over here.) She’s the kind of person you’d hate for making you feel inadequate if she weren’t so darned nice.

And she has a new collection of short stories coming soon. Ready for the cover?

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The Last Will and Testament of Captain Nemo

Need an autumn read (or a spring read, for my southern hemisphere friends)? Today a writer friend’s book is free, so I’m helping to spread the word.

The Last Will and Testament of Captain Nemo

From the tragedy of The Little Mermaid, and the mystery of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, comes the truth that ties them both together: the story of the love that saved a life and started a war, of the quest that became an obsession…of the seaman who, for love of a mermaid, became a legend.

“An absorbing twist on the classic tale that will fill your head with nautical fantasies and make you wish for a very different film version of The Little Mermaid.”

Evangeline Denmark, author of Curio

“A wonderfully creative blend of fairy tale and steampunk sci-fi. Mary Schlegel has written a charming, yet poignant story that manages to rework and blend two seemingly disparate myths. I really enjoyed this. Five starfish rating!”

Mike Duran, author of the Reagan Moon novels and The Telling

Fans of Verne or mermaids will want to grab this while it’s free. Enjoy!

Trial on Mount Koya

Trial on Mount Koya by Susan SpannToday is the release date for Trial on Mount Koya by Susan Spann, which is what happens when you put Agatha Christie in a blender with shogunate Japan and add a seasoning of ninja.

I had a chance to see this one in advance and I read it in a single sitting. It’s your iconic scenario of a group trapped together without escape (here, in an ancient Buddhist temple atop a sacred mountain) while one of them kills off the others one by one (and in this case, poses the corpses like the Buddhist judges of hell). The race is on to find the killer before he murders the entire cast. Continue reading

Notebooks & Writers

I haven’t handwritten stories since… elementary school, I think. /thinks back/ Oops, no, there was some terrible self-insertion fanfic I wrote during pre-algebra back in middle school, before I knew that even had a name (because we didn’t have public internet yet, for which I thank God, or I might have posted it). Anyway, I adopted typing for storytelling early on, as soon as we had a Tandy computer from Radio Shack.

I do know some writing friends who handwrite their first drafts, however, and quite a lot who handwrite their outlines and notes. And there is evidence that writing by hand helps you retain more, if taking notes, or be more creative, if inventing.

Energel Pen affiliate link to Amazon
And it comes in glorious colors.

I resisted. But eventually I found a pen I loved, in an elegant metal form which feels so classy, which can be refilled so it’s environmentally responsible, and I discovered that I actually don’t dislike writing by hand nearly so much as I dislike writing with lame pens. A quality instrument made all the difference. I got a notebook, and then another, and I filled them with plot notes, lines to be tucked into dialogue, ideas, etc.

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Youkai Charms

youkai phone charmsOkay, lemme be honest: I have never liked phone charms. I don’t like dangling things which catch and snag and serve no useful purpose (I rarely wear bracelets) and frankly most charms just aren’t that, well, charming.

So you know that these charms have to be adorable, because I kind of want one. Or two. Or a set.

There are five of these available now, and I’m thrilled to see some variation on the usual youkai offerings. Not that I don’t love kitsune and kappa, because I do (especially the older, scarier versions), but because there are more youkai than just the kitsune and kappa, okay?

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Guest Post: Garrett Hutson on Choosing a Place and Time

Please welcome with me to the blog today Garrett Hutson, whom I have the advantage of having as a very useful critique partner in my writing group. Garrett writes mysteries and spy novels set in various historical contexts, and I always learn something new when I’m reading his pages! He’s come here today to talk about choosing a time and place for his new mystery series, which starts with The Jade Dragon.

Choosing a Place and Time

I was surfing the internet a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a news story about a sort of rebirth of the old Shanghai jazz scene from the 1920s and ‘30s, and it really intrigued me. I followed links, learned more—and in the way internet surfing often does, it led me down all sorts of rabbit holes of information about the golden age of Shanghai, the “Paris of the Orient,” with its glitz, glamor, and intrigue.

Perfect back-drop for a story, right? That’s exactly what I thought.  With all of the corruption—I mean, the head of the largest opium syndicate in Asia was the commissioner for the Anti-Opium board in Shanghai, so come on!—I knew it was ideal for a murder mystery.  There was so much potential in this setting—radical extremes of wealth and poverty, even more than usual for the 1930s; an International Settlement governed by representatives of fifteen nations, but under nominal Chinese sovereignty; Korean exiles maintaining a provisional government right under the noses of the Japanese—I was in love with the idea.

I began to imagine a basic plot—a pair of Americans out on the town, enjoying the famous Shanghai nightlife, when one of them gets murdered.  I would need lots of potential murderers, of course, and the world of 1930s Shanghai offered all kinds of possibilities.  There could be some connection with the drug gang, of course, and maybe corrupt police.  There were Chinese communists hiding out in Shanghai at the time, waging a clandestine war with the government, so that could be fun to bring in.  Oh, and a Japanese spy—I’d weave that in somehow.

I’ve always loved imagining what it was like to live in a different place and time, so naturally History was my favorite class in school, and as both a reader and a writer I have been drawn to historical fiction.  History is so much more than dates and events—it is about people and their stories.  As a writer, I have been drawn to the lesser-known stories, which is why I had a ball researching the world of Shanghai during the inter-war period.

I found all kinds of fun things, including a 1934 Guidebook chock full of authentic details on anything and everything, and the published memoir of a British police officer who served on the Shanghai Municipal Police from 1929 until 1936.  Both were invaluable, and made the setting real.

There is a wealth of stock photographs of Shanghai from this time period that really helped to bring the setting to life for me.  I learned that many of the Art Deco buildings from the time are still standing, and modern tourists have posted beautiful color photos of these places on their travel blogs.  These made it so easy—and fun—to immerse myself in the setting, and really imagine what it was like.  Real people passed through these places, with real dreams and concerns, and I wanted to make it feel that real to my characters—and ultimately, to my readers.

That is my favorite part of writing a novel, and I am so excited when it comes together as it did.  If readers love it as much as I did, then my joy is complete.

Garrett Hutson is the author of The Jade Dragon a literary historical mystery set in 1935 Shanghai, available from Amazon. For more information about the author and his books, visit his website at

Like Garrett, I sometimes come across a setting which begs for a story, instead of inventing a premise first, and it’s great when that happens — because then I know the story will be organic to that setting, rather than shoehorned in and ill-fitting. And sometimes we’d never have the audacity to dream up stuff as wild as real life, such as the opium syndicate head serving as anti-opium commissioner! Truth is truly stranger than fiction.

The Jade Dragon released June 4, 2017, and is available in ebook and paperback.

The Death of Baldr

This entry is part 3 of 9 in the series The Songweaver's Vow: Easter Eggs & Background

Spoiler alert: Baldr dies.

River Song warns you of spoilers.

Okay, seriously, there be spoilers ahead. Mythology nerds likely already know some of what goes down in The Songweaver’s Vow, but if you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you grab a copy and then come back for the background material. (Though to be perfectly fair, even knowing the base myth won’t give you a complete picture, so as long as you’re fully apprised of the spoiler-ific nature of this post….) 

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