Things I Read in 2014

I read 63 books in 2014, which seems like hardly anything. 2014 was the year I discovered Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, the year I attempted to appreciate Anita Blake, and the year I treated myself to binge reads from Seanan Macguire and Jennifer Estep. It was a year for expanding my knowledge of urban fantasy, and keeping up with new releases. It was the year I decided to stop rating books and just to love them. I’m feeling pretty good about that decision.

The list (check Goodreads to see the covers and link to summaries):

Stolen (Women of the Otherworld #2)
Armstrong, Kelley

The Laughing Corpse (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #2)
Hamilton, Laurell K.

Claimed By Shadow (Cassandra Palmer, #2)
Chance, Karen

Embrace the Night (Cassandra Palmer, #3)
Chance, Karen

Firestorm (Weather Warden, #5)
Caine, Rachel

Thin Air (Weather Warden, #6)
Caine, Rachel

Gale Force (Weather Warden, #7)
Caine, Rachel

The Heist (Fox and O’Hare #1)
Evanovich, Janet

Red-Headed Stepchild (Sabina Kane, #1)
Wells, Jaye

Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)
Wendig, Chuck

Cape Storm (Weather Warden, #8)
Caine, Rachel

Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires, #9)
Neill, Chloe

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)
Briggs, Patricia

Up From the Grave (Night Huntress #7)
Frost, Jeaniene

The Undead Pool (The Hollows, #12)
Harrison, Kim

Black Arts (Jane Yellowrock, #7)
Hunter, Faith

Shattered (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7)
Hearne, Kevin

Undone (Outcast Season, #1)
Caine, Rachel

Unknown (Outcast Season, #2)
Caine, Rachel

Total Eclipse (Weather Warden, #9)
Caine, Rachel

Unseen (Outcast Season, #3)
Caine, Rachel

Dirty Magic (The Prospero’s War, #1)
Wells, Jaye

Unbroken (Outcast Season, #4)
Caine, Rachel

On the Edge (The Edge, #1)
Andrews, Ilona

Divergent (Divergent, #1)
Roth, Veronica

Angels’ Blood (Guild Hunter, #1)
Singh, Nalini

Web of Lies (Elemental Assassin, #2)
Estep, Jennifer

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)
McGuire, Seanan

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2)
McGuire, Seanan

Vamped (Vamped, #1)
Diver, Lucienne

ReVamped (Vamped, #2)
Diver, Lucienne

Nightlife (Cal Leandros #1)
Thurman, Rob

An Untamed State
Gay, Roxane

Bayou Moon (The Edge, #2)
Andrews, Ilona

Midnight Crossroad (Midnight, Texas, #1)
Harris, Charlaine

Nightshifted (Edie Spence, #1)
Alexander, Cassie

Venom (Elemental Assassin, #3)
Estep, Jennifer

Between (The Between, #1)
Schafer, Kerry

Fate’s Edge (The Edge, #3)
Andrews, Ilona

Steel’s Edge (The Edge, #4)
Andrews, Ilona

Charming (Pax Arcana, #1)
James, Elliott

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires, #10)
Neill, Chloe

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)
Butcher, Jim

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, #7)
Andrews, Ilona

Half-Off Ragnarok (InCryptid, #3)
McGuire, Seanan

Tangled Threads (Elemental Assassin, #4)
Estep, Jennifer

Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum, #19)
Evanovich, Janet

Spider’s Revenge (Elemental Assassin, #5)
Estep, Jennifer

By a Thread (Elemental Assassin, #6)
Estep, Jennifer

Widow’s Web (Elemental Assassin, #7)
Estep, Jennifer

Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin, #8)
Estep, Jennifer

Cursed Moon (The Prospero’s War, #2)
Wells, Jaye

The Winter Long (October Daye, #8)
McGuire, Seanan

Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20)
Evanovich, Janet

Outlander (Outlander, #1)
Gabaldon, Diana

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin, #9)
Estep, Jennifer

The Spider (Elemental Assassin, #10)
Estep, Jennifer

Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander, #2)
Gabaldon, Diana

The Witch With No Name (The Hollows, #13)
Harrison, Kim

Voyager (Outlander, #3)
Gabaldon, Diana

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)
Carriger, Gail

Shifting Shadows: Stories from the World of Mercy Thompson
Briggs, Patricia

Wakeworld (The Between, #2)
Schafer, Kerry


5 Reasons You Should Do NaNoWriMo Next Month (And 1 Reason Why I Won’t)

1. You’ve never been able to finish a novel. Let’s be clear. You’re not going to leave NaNoWriMo with a ready-to-publish masterpiece. You will, however, make it all the way from “Once upon a time…” to “…happily ever after,” and that’s an amazing feeling.

2. You don’t have a writing support network. Or, at least, you don’t have support network like the NaNo network. Literally, thousands of people will cheer you through NaNoWriMo. They’ll join you in the teeth-gnashing and the triumphs, the weepy worries of week two, and the wonder of week four. You ain’t never had a friend like 300,000 writers working towards a common goal.

3. You say “but” a lot. There are no buts allowed when you’re writing 50,000 words in a single month. So just stop. Hundreds of thousands of other people have managed to do this. You can too. This is your chance to prove it to yourself.

4. You’re really hard on yourself. The best thing about a tight deadline is that you don’t have time to second-guess yourself. That can be a huge blessing for a writer prone to self-sabotage. And, let’s face it, we all are.

5. You haven’t tried it yet. There’s a crazy energy in the air during NaNoWriMo, and if you haven’t done it before, it’s worth doing just for the experience. Who knew tapping away at a keyboard could provide an adrenaline rush?

After all that, you’re probably wondering why I’m not doing NaNo this year. I have a lot of reasons, but it comes down to: been there, done that. After nine successful novel-writing Novembers, I’ve managed to nail down a process that allows me to write year-round… except in November, when my business takes center-stage. Rest assured, I’ll be cheering hard from the sidelines. And even better, Palimpsestic donates a percentage of revenue to NaNoWriMo’s parent organization, The Office of Letters and Light, every month! I may not do NaNo myself anymore, but I believe in the magic of it, and that will never change.

Cleaning the Office (and Other Excuses for Not Writing)

Normally, when someone asks for a photo of my office or studio space, I go with this lovely view of my desk:

Keeping the Office Clean

Isn’t it a beautiful, serene workspace? Don’t I live a perfectly perfect life? Don’t you just wish you could be me, typing away in your banker’s chair with the filtered sun warming the succulents on your desk, back cradled by a fluffy, design-magazine pillow?

Let’s step back:

The Truth

There’s the truth; I work in chaos.

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending Robin D. Owens’ “Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!” workshop at Colorado Gold. She spoke about eliminating the negative in our writing environments: adjusting the light, sound, smell, and yes, tidiness of our workspaces. One writer raised her hand and asked, “What if I have to clean my office?”

“You don’t have to clean it. It just has to be comfortable for you.”

“But what if I have to clean my office? What if I can’t possibly write until my office is clean?”

Ah. That’s a different story, isn’t it? Sometimes, nothing seems more important than cleaning the office. Or doing the dishes. Mopping the floor. Scrubbing the toilet.

Owens’ advice? “Use a timer”

I love the timer. It’s easily accessible on the iPhone (just swipe up from the bottom…you don’t even need to unlock the screen), and it’s useful for everything. Uncontrollable urge to clean the office during writing time? Set the timer for 15 minutes. So don’t feel like washing the dinner dishes? You can do anything for 10 minutes. Need to buckle down and get some major work done? 25-minute sprints, with 5-minute breaks in-between. For me, the timer is better than just about any other incentive I can offer myself. Better than Haribo frogs. Though I hate to admit it, it’s more effective than shoes.

Looking at that second photo, I’m feeling the pull to clean my office. The need to clean my office, despite the fact that I have a synopsis that needs writing and 15 chapters that need polishing. This afternoon, I think I’ll set that timer. The office gets 20 minutes. Then, I swear, it’s all about the manuscript.

Urban Fantasy Autumn Reads

I’ve almost made it through my stack of summer reading…and just in time. The new crop of autumn urban fantasy releases starts hitting shelves in about a week and boy, oh boy, are there some books I’m excited to read.

A whopping five of my favorite series have new titles coming out in the next three months. Here’s what’s in the queue:

Shifting ShadowsMercy Thompson. Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson is one of my favorite heroines. She’s a tattooed, martial artist, Volkswagen mechanic, who also happens to be a Native American coyote shapeshifter. Briggs has built a nuanced world for Mercy—an alternative American West, filled with werewolves, Fae, shamans, and witches. Regardless of any individual book’s plot, the realistic politics and complex relationships in Mercy’s life make the whole series worth reading. The upcoming installment, Shifting Shadows, is a short story collection, including four never-before-published pieces. It’ll be out September 2.

The Winter LongOctober Daye. Seanan Mcguire’s coffee-guzzling changeling, Toby Daye, straddles two worlds—a modern, fae-infused San Francisco and the classical, storybook kingdoms of Faerie. Mcguire’s characterization and world-building are impeccable. I binge-read the first seven books in this series without so much as a pause, and then promptly sought out the rest of her books, as well. The eighth Toby Daye book, The Winter Long, comes out on September 2.

The Witch With No NameThe Hollows. I almost can’t think of this release without crying. For twelve books, I’ve been following Kim Harrison’s Rachel Morgan on her voyage of self-discovery through a magic-broken Cincinnati. Even her sidekicks (Ivy, a sexually-charged living vampire, and Jenks, a high-strung and smartass pixie) have grown and changed over the course of the series, with story arcs almost as big and important as Rachel’s own. Harrison’s Witch With No Name, out September 9, will be the last Hollows book. It’s time to say goodbye, and I’m so not ready.

Broken SoulJane Yellowrock. Jane is a vampire-hunter working for vampires in post-Katrina New Orleans. It’s not so hard to wrap your mind around. In Jane’s world, the vampires police their own, just as humans police other humans. Of course, vampire justice is a bit more swift than its human counterpart. Jane also has an advantage when it comes to bounty-hunting. Not only does she have her own, ancient shape-changing magic, she shares her body with the soul of a real mountain lion. I love Jane Yellowrock and all her motorcycle-riding badassness. And, book after book, the master plot keeps getting more satisfying. Book number eight, Broken Soul, comes out October 7.

Black WidowElemental Assassin. Jennifer Estep actually released another Elemental Assassin book over the summer, and I neglected to mention it, because I’d only just discovered the series. My bad. Seriously, Estep’s Gin Blanco is the ultimate anti-heroine. She’s a retired assassin with elemental powers over ice and stone. The woman kicks five kinds of ass, knows what she’s good at, and is utterly unapologetic about it. And yet, there’s no question about whether to root for her, because from page one, I liked Gin. Let’s face it, my real life friends aren’t particularly nice either. I’m still not entirely caught up on the Elemental Assassin books, but you better bet I will be by the time Black Widow comes out November 25.

There’s already a nip in the morning air here in Colorado, and soon it’ll be high time to curl up with a cup of tea and get lost in a good book. What’s on your autumn list?