A Fall Update

Hello! I’ve been gone for a while and a lot of exciting things have happened over the past six months.

1) I got married on October 1st! It was every bit as magical as I’d hoped it would be. A truly amazing day and week of friends and family and love.

Photo: Gabriel Conover Photography

2) A friend brought me a copy of Cursed Collectibles to sign at the wedding (truly a 10/10 author moment!) and the eBook is now on sale for $0.99 until Halloween.

This is a great time to snag a spooky (but not too scary) eBook of short fiction that is PERFECT for this week leading up to Halloween! 🎃🦇💀

About Cursed Collectibles:

“Spend an afternoon antiquing and it’s not hard to figure out why picking has become one of America’s fondest pastimes. It’s treasure hunting while connecting with history. But what if those treasures hunt us back?

From old books, to vinyl records, antique mirrors, vintage figurines, or a Bob’s Big Boy piggy bank, curses have no limits.”

Top Customer Review:

“Creepy, scary, freak-you out. But in a good way.

I loved the collection of stories. Think little red riding hood meets Stephen King. No, more like Hermione Granger’s wierdo little sister working at Needful Things. Or maybe “The Twilight Zone” in short story form, put together by a group of authors who are totally fine if you’re a bit haunted by the imagery provoked by these tales. Great fun—I highly recommend them!”

Get your copy now!

3) My story, “The Weight of Promises Kept,” was published in the Orpheus + Eurydice Unbound anthology by Air & Nothingness Press earlier this year. Find copies here.

4) I sold another, “Last Light in the Dark,” which was published in an anthology from Third Flatiron, called After the Gold Rush. Get your copy here.

5) My story, “Pour One Out,” was just published in the most recent issue of DreamForge Anvil Magazine. Read it for free online here.

6) This summer, I traveled to England for the wedding of one of best and oldest friends and it was absolutely magical. I loved every second of it and am so, so grateful I was able to go. I even took myself on a mini writing retreat out to the gorgeous Cotswolds.

7) In the middle of all this craziness, I finished the first draft of another book, a science-fiction novel this time. I’ll be starting revisions next month.

I think that’s all the major updates! With wedding season behind me, look for more regular updates and book reviews on the blog again.

Realm Breaker

Realm Breaker by Victoria Aveyard

A strange darkness grows in Allward.

Even Corayne an-Amarat can feel it, tucked away in her small town at the edge of the sea.

She soon discovers the truth: She is the last of an ancient lineage—and the last hope to save the world from destruction. But she won’t be alone. Even as darkness falls, she is joined by a band of unlikely companions:

A squire, forced to choose between home and honor.
An immortal, avenging a broken promise.
An assassin, exiled and bloodthirsty.
An ancient sorceress, whose riddles hide an eerie foresight.
A forger with a secret past.
A bounty hunter with a score to settle.

Together they stand against a vicious opponent, invincible and determined to burn all kingdoms to ash, and an army unlike anything the realm has ever witnessed.

I’ve previously shared how much I enjoyed Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series. However, Realm Breaker is a book that couldn’t be more different from her other series. Which is potentially good news and bad news. Good news if you didn’t care for Red Queen – you might actually really like this one. Bad news if you were hoping for Red Queen redux.

Realm Breaker evokes the best of classic high fantasy stories told with an eye for contemporary tastes. The chosen one is a girl for starters and we not only get representation for POC, there is representation for the LGBTQ+ community as well. All of this is achieved with a deft hand, widening the world of what otherwise feels like a love letter to the greats of fantasy (particularly to Tolkien, who was named as a huge inspiration by the author).

While Realm Breaker lacks the breakneck pacing of Red Queen, Aveyard shows her versatility in crafting a wonderful epic fantasy tale with multiple POVs. We are given a lot of detail about Allward, all its different kingdoms, and its past history. Fans of sprawling fantasy stories will definitely find themselves satisfied by the information that’s spooled out over many pages and POVs. Though some readers cited that they were bored by all this detail, this is one area where I think Aveyard understood the assignment of the genre and story she was going for. A+ from me. I also particularly loved how the “gathering of the Fellowship” or the “gathering of the dungeon party” trope played out in this book. Finally, Realm Breaker contained everything I loved about Aveyard’s writing and storytelling in Red Queen so as a fan of her debut, I was not disappointed by her new series.

With Blade Breaker releasing later this spring, I was left satisfied by the first book. I think this story is locked and loaded to really go off in the second act. I definitely have my favorite characters already and hoped nothing bad happens to my cinnamon roll, Andry!

God of Neverland

God of Neverland by Gama Ray Martinez

Peter Pan is missing; Neverland is in trouble. For adults, that might not matter all that much, but for children–whose dreams and imagination draw strength from the wild god’s power–the magic we take for granted in the real world is in danger of being lost forever.

Such is the life of a now grown-up Michael Darling.

Michael returned from Neverland with the dream of continuing his adventuring ways by joining the Knights of the Round, an organization built to keep humanity safe from magical and mythological threats. But after a mission gone terribly wrong, he vowed to leave behind the Knights and finally live as a “civilian,” finding order and simplicity as a train engineer, the tracks and schedule tables a far cry from the chaos of his youth.

He hasn’t entered the narrative in years. So what could they need from him now?

Maponos–or how he’s better known, Peter Pan–has gone missing, and Neverland is now on the edge of oblivion. Michael realizes he has no choice and agrees to one last mission. Alongside the young Knight Vanessa and some old friends, Michael embarks on the ultimate adventure: a journey to a fantasy world to save a god. Determined to stop evil, fight for Neverland, and find Maponos, will Michael be able to save the magical and physical world? Or will his biggest fear come true?

The clock is ticking, and in Neverland, that’s never a good sign.

Is there anything better than when good things happen to good people? I met Gama Martinez several years ago when I attended Superstars Writing Seminars for the first time in 2018. It only took me about two seconds to realize that he is one of the nicest, kindest, and most dedicated people out there. An established writer on the indie scene, his career has since grown, and now his first adult novel is out this week from Harper Voyager! Congrats Gama!

I was lucky enough to get an early review copy of this book from Gama, and I devoured it in just a couple of days. With such a fun, interesting premise, God of Neverland quickly gets down to the business of adventure from the very first chapter. Easy to read and brimming with imagination, I found myself grabbing the book to squeeze in another chapter during lunch or treating myself to a quick reading break from work.

Even if it’s been a while since you visited the world of Neverland, Gama does a great job reminding you of the previous adventures of the Darling children and Peter Pan while putting a new spin on an old classic. Weaving together bits of other familiar stories and lore, this Peter Pan novel is less of a retelling and more of a sequential entry into an established world. Told with a refreshing sense of wonderment and humor, God of Neverland is a book for adults that doesn’t lean heavily on darkness and grit to tell its story. Instead, God of Neverland asks us to consider what it means to reconnect to the child-like part of yourself that never quite grew up. After the last few years we’ve had, it’s hard to overstate how nice it is to read a book that is just so unapologetically fun.

“The Weight of Promises Kept” to Be Published by Air & Nothingness Press

2022 is already off to a great (and busy!) start! Very excited to share that I’ll have a story in the upcoming Air and Nothingness Press anthology, Orpheus + Eurydice Unbound.

This anthology challenged the writers to reimagine specific parts of the famous Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. I chose “the wedding” portion of the myth and reimagined it as a gender-swapped sci-fi story set in space. “The Weight of Promises Kept” is about the people we love and the lengths we’ll go to keep our promises to them.

While the pre-order for the anthology isn’t up yet, here is a sneak peek of the cover below!

2021 in Review

2021: the year the pandemic raged on, I struggled through it like everyone, and read some big, chonky books. Looking back over the year, about 1/3 of what I read was over 500 pages! I did read some good books though and I’ll be catching up on my reviews in 2022. If you missed my last post, my goal this year is to return to weekly postings here on the blog.

HOW MANY BOOKS READ IN 2021?

–35 books

FICTION/NON-FICTION?

–  25  Fiction /    10 Non-Fiction

MALE/FEMALE AUTHORS?

–    12  Male /   12 Female

OLDEST BOOK READ?

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie (1926)

NEWEST BOOK READ?

Slushpile Memories: How NOT to Get Rejected by Kevin J. Anderson (August 26th, 2021)

LONGEST BOOK READ?

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (908 pages)

SHORTEST BOOK READ?

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman (32 pages)

ANY IN TRANSLATION?

Not this year!

BEST BOOK READ IN 2021?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

MOST BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN BOOK IN 2021?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

MOST SURPRISING (IN A GOOD WAY!) BOOK OF 2021?

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I would consider myself a fan of Leigh Bardugo, but until this year I’d only read her Six of Crows duology. I had heard some negative things about her first series and thought I might find it lacking after Six of Crows. While it wasn’t as good in my opinion, it did have all the signature aspects of her writing that I enjoyed with the duology: a strong voice, good banter, intriguing worldbuilding, and great pacing.

MOST THRILLING, UNPUTDOWNABLE BOOK IN 2021?

Origin by Dan Brown. In the latest Robert Langdon thriller, I was reminded why Brown is a master of this genre and why The DaVinci Code became a global phenomenon.

BOOK THAT HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON ME IN 2021?

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman. The delivery of this poem during the inauguration was just phenomenal. I’m excited to see what’s next for Gorman.

BOOK THAT HAD A SCENE IN IT THAT HAD ME REELING?

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. This book has some really tough scenes in the middle. Pretty much every trigger warning you could have is encompassed in this book. Still, it is a stunning book and if you can depictions of physical violence, sexual violence, death, and racism, I would highly recommend the read. It didn’t win the Pulitzer for nothing!

BOOK I MOST ANTICIPATED IN 2021?

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin. I’ve been wanting to read this book for years and finally got to it.

MOST MEMORABLE CHARACTER IN 2021?

Amos from The Expanse series. I read 3 of these books this year. And then Vataea the vicious mermaid from All the Stars and Teeth.

HOW MANY RE-READS IN 2021?

None!

BOOK I READ IN 2021 I’D BE MOST LIKELY TO REREAD IN 2022?

On Writing by Stephen King

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Clockwork by Mike Michalowicz

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin.

FAVORITE NEW AUTHORS I DISCOVERED IN 2021?

James S.A. Corey, Shelby Mahurin, Adalyn Grace, Matt Haig.

MOST BOOKS READ BY ONE AUTHOR THIS YEAR?

A tie: 3 from Leigh Bardugo and 3 from James S.A. Corey

FAVORITE COVER OF A BOOK I READ IN 2021?

FAVORITE PASSAGE/QUOTE FROM A BOOK I READ IN 2021?

“The only way to learn is to live.”

– Matt Haig, The Midnight Library

DID I COMPLETE ANY READING CHALLENGES OR GOALS IN 2021?

No. I read A TON of chunky books this year which slowed me down and kept me from hitting my goal.

BOOK I CAN’T BELIEVE I WAITED UNTIL 2021 TO FINALLY READ?

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey. I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about The Expanse book series and tv show. Definitely really enjoying this one even though this is probably the most hard sci-fi series I’ve ever read (even if the authors don’t think they’re hard sci-fi themselves lol).

FAVORITE BOOK OF 2021?

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

An early winner from 2021. Short and easy to read, I highly recommend it!

The 10th Anniversary of Isle of Books and a Pandemic Writing Update

This month officially marks TEN YEARS of Isle of Books on the internet!! It’s crazy to think I’m still here, holed up in the same corner of the internet – and even crazier to think how much my life has changed over the last ten years.

Thanks for being here and reading – some of you have been around from almost the very beginning.

This year, I posted very little. The least amount of any of the years this blog has been up. Like much of the world, the pandemic yanked my life off track in weird ways, while accelerating it in other ways. I’m still reading, still writing, still life-ing, but the blog sort of fell by the wayside.

While thinking about exactly how to get this blog going again, I realized I haven’t given a real writing update here in a long time so it seems fitting to close out the year with that and talk about my plans for 2022.

Since the start of the pandemic (March of 2020 in California), I wrote a lot. Some creative people struggled to create anything. I, on the other hand, benefitted immensely from the lack of activities and social obligations.

In the last two years, I’ve managed to complete:

-1 Novel

-2 Novellas

-6 Short Stories

This not only seems like an astronomical output for someone with a full-time job, it is one. Since late summer when it dawned on me exactly how much writing I’d gotten done in a short span of time, I’ve been making a conscious effort to slow down. It’s created a weird sort of adjustment period that I’m still finding my way through. Sometimes it leaves me cranky because there’s too much life-ing and not enough creating happening. But as I’ve learned more than once, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. As much as the world tells us to embrace “pushing our limits” and “breaking outside your comfort zone” sometimes limits exist for a reason. Know them, interrogate them, and honor them if they make sense.

It’s not all bad though. Due to this accelerated output, I’ve learned some things about my process that will serve me well in the future. I’ve learned that if I do a good outline before I start, the first draft comes out very clean. However, I should always leave ample time to rewrite the ending as sticking the landing is something I struggle with uniformly. Plotting just ensures I have good bones and plenty of tools to work with for round two.

Perhaps most importantly of all, I finally feel settled in my own voice. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. And that makes the game easier, when you know what you need to compensate for and where you can take your foot off the brake.

Sitting down to write now is like settling into a well-worn and well-loved chair. Like coming home again. So, while I realize I need to course-correct, I’m also grateful for this time that led me to so many new conclusions about my style and my process.

Me with a few of the publications that contain my stories which were all published over the last ten years. More to come in 2022!

I’m excited to see what’s ahead for 2022 and how my writing continues to develop. This year will be a very exciting one on a personal level (I’m getting married in October!) so slowing down will not only be a good idea, it will be necessary. All that said, I’m hoping to complete the draft of another new book by the end of 2022. Maybe squeeze in a few short stories if I have time. We’ll see!

I’m also planning to get back to weekly posting. I think I can manage that so long as I don’t overcomplicate it (I’m great at overcomplicating). So expect more book reviews, more writing updates, and more literary fun on Isle of Books as we step into the next ten years of this blog!

I hope this new year brings you good news and better adventures. Happy New Year!

“Pour One Out” to Be Published in DreamForge Anvil

I’m super excited to announce that I will have a new story published next year in one of the 2022 issues of DreamForge Anvil.

“Pour One Out” was inspired by the birthday trip we took to Belize in January 2020 (just before the pandemic shut the world down). It features a down-on-his-luck travel show host who has one last chance to find a lost treasure that’ll put his show on the map and fulfill the dying wish of his close friend. However, he’ll soon find out that the treasure is more than just legendary- it’s said to be guarded by a shapeshifting jaguar.

This story took a village to complete and I’m so, so grateful to not only Scot Noel for taking the story, but also to Wulf Moon and my cadre of beta readers who helped me get this one to its final form (Kristin, Alex, Eli, Austin, Tyler, and Brian). Thank you all!

New Story in Slippery Elm – Available Now!

Happy Monday friends! A couple pieces of writing news for me:

-First, I got my copies of the new issue of Slippery Elm which contains my short story, “Cold Bluff.” If you haven’t read my other published work because it sounded too dark or too scary, then this is the one! It’s a lovely little contemporary fiction short about an old man who gets drawn into a mystery when a lone white horse wanders onto his property. You can buy a copy of the new issue here.

-Second, my new, unpublished novel called “Death Rides in Autumn” won the Southern Pen Bookshop First Novel Award from the Southeastern Writers Association! I’m so excited about receiving this award which was based on the first chapter and a synopsis of my book.

-Third, I also entered my flash fiction piece, “Uncanny” in the Microcosm Awards and it took 3rd place!

-Finally, just another reminder the Halloween sale for Cursed Collectibles is still going on! This anthology contains my story, ‘The Garden Party,” and lots of other stories about haunted antique store finds, collectible items, trinkets, and more. The Kindle edition is available for just $0.99 and the paperback is on sale too! Click here to grab a copy if you haven’t already.

Halloween Sale for Cursed Collectibles!

Long time, no blog! Definitely working to get back to posting more regularly. I’ve still been reading, just not reviewing anything. Looking forward to getting a few reviews up here before the end of the year. And I have some project updates to share about my writing, including a recent research trip to South Dakota!

First up though, Cursed Collectibles is now on sale for Halloween! If you’re looking for something spooky (but not too frightening) this collection of original short fiction pieces should do the trick! The Kindle edition is available for just $0.99 so it’s definitely worth picking up a copy to put yourself in the Halloween mood. This deal ends 11/1/21!

Cursed Collectibles contains my short story, “The Garden Party,” which is about a couple whose already rocky relationship is tested by a visit to a weird antique store.

About Cursed Collectibles:

Spend an afternoon antiquing and it’s not hard to figure out why picking has become one of America’s fondest pastimes. It’s treasure hunting while connecting with history. But what if those treasures hunt us back?

From old books, to vinyl records, antique mirrors, vintage figurines, or a Bob’s Big Boy piggy bank, curses have no limits.

Featuring stories from D.J. Butler, Joy Auburn, Martin L. Shoemaker, Jessica Guernsey, John D. Payne, Jen Bair, Karen Pellett, Steve Ruskin, Tanya Hales, Lauren Lang, Frank Morin, Mike Jack Stoumbous, Kelly Lynn Colby, Jace Killan, Jo Schneider, Gama Ray Martinez, Martin Greening, Chris Abela, A.J. Mayall, Heidi A. Wilde, Shannon Fox, Lauryn Christopher, and Mark Leslie.

Get Your Copy Here

Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem Wins Colorado Book Award

I’m excited to announce that Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem won the 2021 Colorado Book Award for Best Anthology!

This anthology came out last summer and contains my short story, “Hyde Park.” It’s about a young writer-director who’s keeping a monstrous secret about his overnight Hollywood success.

This is such an amazing anthology full of delightful stories, the recognition is definitely well-deserved. It contains twenty-three stories celebrating monsters and the movies from authors Jonathan Maberry, Rick Wilber, Brendan Mallory, Ryan F. Healey, Hailey Piper, Julie Frost,  Karina Fabian, Charles Maclay, Jesse Sprague, Kevin Pettway, Luciano Marano, Linda Adams, Cindy Hung, David Boop, Phyllis Irene Radford, Andrew Hearn, B.D. Prince, David Gerrold, Ben Monroe, Shannon Fox, Steve Rasnic Tem, Fran Wilde, and Sam Knight.

This anthology was produced by a cohort of Publishing MA students from Western Colorado University. Published by WordFire Press, it was edited by Kevin J. Anderson.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this fantastic project!

If you haven’t purchased a copy yet, click here to get it.

And if you want to get two books for the price of one, Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem is part of a special pre-order promotion from WordFire Press – click here to take advantage of that offer before July 1st, 2021!

About Monsters, Movies, & Mayhem:

Lights! Camera! Monsters?

Sometimes you go to the movies. And sometimes, the movies—and their monsters—come to you. At any moment, without notice, monsters once relegated to the screen become a reality. Aliens and demons, dragons and ghosts, werewolves, vampires, zombies, and seemingly ordinary people who are just plain evil.

Join award-winning authors Jonathan Maberry, Fran Wilde, David Gerrold, Rick Wilber and others for 23 all-new tales of haunted theaters, video gods, formidable demons, alien pizza, and delirious actors. Each story takes you to the silver screen with monstrous results. 

Funny or grim, unsettling or cozy… You’ll laugh! You’ll sigh! You’ll scream!

Grab popcorn—and good running shoes—and enjoy the show.

New Story in Particular Passages – Available Now!

I’m super excited to share that I have a story in this anthology that just came out this week, Particular Passages! My story, “The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast” is a historical fantasy set in nineteenth-century San Francisco.

About Particular Passages:

15 Stories, 15 Authors

Down a forgotten hallway lie rooms no one has entered.

Each room contains a world waiting to be explored.

Some beautiful and full of wonder, other dark and full of terrors.

You won’t know which until you step inside.

So take a deep breath, and open the door…

Featuring stories by Elmdea Adams, Jen Bair, David Boop, J.T. Evans, Todd Fahnestock, Arlen Feldman, Shannon Fox, Jessica Guernsey, Sam Knight, Chris Mandeville, Kim May, John D. Payne, Wayland Smith, Stephannie Tallent, and Marie Whittaker

An excerpt from my story The Pirate Prince of the Barbary Coast:

“December, 1899

From his position behind the cargo crates stacked on the pier, James could just make out two men patrolling the deck of the S.S. Kingston. The rigging creaked eerily in the night as the ship bobbed on the water, occasionally obscured from view by the dense San Francisco fog. The ship had arrived from Honolulu earlier in the day carrying sugar, coffee, lemons, and the rumor of a prize that was worth more than all the rest of the cargo combined – a golden egg that had once belonged to Queen Liliʻuokalani herself.

James had watched the ship all day as they’d unloaded the cargo. And he’d observed other men peel off in pursuit of the wagons, certain the Queen’s golden egg was tucked into one of the packing crates inside. They’d never suspected that in order to keep the egg safe from thieves like them, it’d been left aboard the ship.

But James knew. He could feel the presence of gold, an insistent tug that beckoned him to come closer. He wouldn’t be able to resist its call for much longer. Nor did he want to. He didn’t plan to return home without that egg.”

Order your copy of Particular Passages Anthology on these available outlets or on Amazon today!

“Cold Bluff” To Be Published in Slippery Elm Literary Journal

Some stories take longer than others to find a home. In the case of my short story, “Cold Bluff,” it took almost two years of consistently sending it out for it to be picked up by Slippery Elm Literary Journal. I’m so stoked that this story is going to be featured in such a fantastic publication! A friend had their story published in Slippery Elm last year and it was such an amazing piece, I can’t to see what else had been picked up for the 2021 publication. I know it’s going to be an incredible issue!

About Cold Bluff

When a lone white horse shows up on his property, old Will Ritter finds himself caught up in a mystery that hits close to home and forces him to confront the strained relationship he has with his daughter.

I’ll share more details about when the story will be available and how you can get a copy once I know!