One hundred to one

I was discussing reading in my writing class, and some classmates noted that they hadn’t read any fiction in years. This blew my tiny mind. I only started writing because I was reading so much: reading converted to creative fuel for writing. It can also function as creative fuel for making and running games, but writing’s what I’ve been doing the past year and some. I did some arithmetic and figured out that I read about a hundred times the words I write. People have different paces and ratios, I’m sure. I don’t think mine is unusual, though.

Sixteen years or so ago when Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark-Hunter series was taking off, she had profiles of a lot of the Hunters with their theme songs, which were inevitably hard rock or metal. I’m a big metal fan myself, and use a lot of music to inspire and drive my writing words. A decade ago I read less and was making music instead. Crafting music and words are both important to me, and someday I’d love to do both, but for now I like the money a full-time job offers me. My ratio of songs listened to versus written is probably higher than a hundred to one…maybe I’m a more efficient writer than composer, or maybe I’ve just gotten more productive as I’ve gotten older.

Book Review: Eros Element by Cecilia Dominic

Eros Element Cover Art

The time and place

London, Paris, and Rome. An alternate summer of 1870 in which the American Civil War is still going.

The suspension of disbelief

Scientists have discovered aether, the substance between matter, and can isolate it. It’s the “stuff” (medium) light passes through. There are airships with floating gondolas. Also, some people have psychic powers.

The quick summary

Iris McTavish, an archaeological expert, stands in for her father on a scientific expedition to find ways to use aether as a power source. She needs the money the project backer promises to retain her independence from an unwanted and unscrupulous suitor. While on the expedition, she finds herself drawn to Edward Bailey, the aether scientist. But nobody on the expedition is what they seem to be. With enemies determined to disrupt the trip at every turn, can Edward and Iris unlock the potential of the Eros Element?

My squees

Not everyone would like the hero, Professor Bailey, but he makes me go squee. He’s querulous and neurotic and sweet and intelligent and tenderhearted. The high-maintenance professor type. His admiration for Iris is a complex thing: they share a passion of discovery while constantly challenging each other.
Our heroine, meanwhile, is plenty paranoid. If she touches significant objects with her bare hands, she has uncontrollable visions of the people and places the object has been associated with, and this has made her see ugly things. She chafes at the restrictions her gender and economic consequences have placed upon her. At one point, someone calls her on her detachment, thinking it’s unnatural for a woman to be so composed when she’s witnessed something so horrible. That’s her way to cope, though, she’s smart and means well. The secrets she keeps are understandable and she has good reason to not confide in people.
The baddies are convincing. There’s a visceral immediate threat, and also a more mysterious far-ranging one.

My grumbles

Despite the title, this book is PG. I don’t mind that when I expect it, but I did wonder if there would be more of the sensual in dealings with the Eros Element.
I felt that the cast’s traveling around was a whirlwind, and I didn’t get the feel of all the cities as differentiated from each other (except the culinary details).
There was also lots of setup done in this book that fleshed out the secondary characters, not because of their importance now, but because they might be the foci of later books in the series. The book raises a lot of questions it doesn’t answer probably until later in the series.

Read if you

  • Require keen intellect in your reads
  • Enjoy ensemble casts
  • Are interested in ancient conspiracies

Skip if you

  • Want a he-man hero
  • Are looking for a high heat level
  • Hate airships

Final thoughts

I chose to review this book because its hero is a little different. There’s a mix of science and the paranormal in this steampunk read.

Resources: Author site / Goodreads / Amazon / Kobo / iBooks / Google Play

First milestone

I finished my first draft of my first novel! It’s over 100k words. There’s a story in there, but it’s going to require plenty of revision and then editing. I anticipate the process will take several years. I may put it down to work on other stories or games.

I adore big projects. Having finished phase one of this one feels wonderful. I baked a pumpkin bread loaf in celebration.

For now, I’m going to write filler scenes and perspectives, do some writing exercises so I can get to know the characters a little better. I’m working on the Nancy Kress prompt: describe a character through another character’s eyes. I’m working on multiple characters and multiple perspectives, and I’ve discovered some things already.

Then it will be November, and I’ll take a two month break from my novel. I might write a bit of something else, but I’m looking to read and review other books to fill my creative well. I’ll be traveling most of November, too, so I can make a dent in my to-be-read pile!

Book review: Through Uncharted Space by Anna Hackett

through_uncharted_space cover


The time and place

The far future, all over space. We see action aboard a deep space convoy, Planet Sulla, and a marine planet. Planet Sulla has a very civilized-looking society with some giant underlying problems.

The suspension of disbelief

Humans have colonized the galaxy after they made Earth uninhabitable with nuclear weapons. There are plenty of humanoid aliens around, but I’m not clear on whether they are offshoots of humanity or were already out there by the time we were exploring space.

The quick summary

Scam artist Dakota Jones is on the run from terrorist organization Golden Nova, which she infiltrated in order to steal a treasure map from. When she finds the treasure, she’ll sell it so she never has to be dependent on anyone again. However, the convoy she’s escaping on is run by Dare Phoenix, who figures out she’s not the meek worker she’s pretending to be. He offers his protection from the assassins after her if he can join her search for the treasure. She agrees reluctantly, because Dare Phoenix is dangerous to her heart. He in turn is intent on finding all there is to know about her, in every sense.

My squees

The underwater exploration sequences are amazing. All the action is clearly described and well-paced, so I felt excited but never lost. Fight scenes and adventure are well-choreographed. And of course, there’s plenty of steam (with some kink that I didn’t find distracting) so our heroes can, er, let it off when they have some moments to themselves.
The factions and locations in this story are original and detailed. Nothing feels lazy in the construction of societies and motivations. The characters are unique and fun, so I don’t have them confused with each other, or characters from other novels.

My grumbles

The situation on Sulla didn’t seem resolved, and I wondered what would become of the characters that we’d met. The planet isn’t mentioned again later, so I felt like I’d been left hanging.
I was also confused about the final confrontation with the planet’s inhabitants. After some of the trouble they’d caused, I was puzzled when they just let the Phoenixes and Ms. Jones go. I think I would have caused more of a fuss.

Read if you

  • Like undersea nature documentaries
  • Enjoy risk-taking, independent, scrappy heroines
  • Want ziplines and other action thrills to go with your sexy scenes

Skip if you

  • Need a detailed twisty noir
  • Avoid any mention of spanking or bondage
  • Require complex villains with inscrutable motivations

Disclosure and final thoughts

I received a free copy for review purposes because I am on Anna’s launch team. This is a comfort food book: if you’ve read other Hackett books you’ll be pleased to know it’s what you’d expect. To keep things interesting, the underwater world and light D/s elements aren’t something I’ve read in her other books.


Author site:

Resources: Goodreads / Amazon US / Amazon Not-US / Kobo / aRe