Binge-worthy series for the holidays

Blog Series Spotlight

Winter (in the northern hemisphere) holidays are coming up: whatever you do or don’t celebrate, you may get some time off to relax. When I have a chunk of time, I love to binge-read a series. Here are some romance and science fiction series I recommend for this holiday season if you haven’t already read them. All of them are complete.

The Brothers Sinister by Courtney Milan

brothers sinister box set cover image

Historical romance series set in Victorian England. Features intelligent, complicated characters I can’t forget. Favorite character: Violet Waterfield in The Countess Conspiracy. Some would call her difficult. I find her amazing.

You can buy the whole darn thing as a bundle, too.

The Phoenix Adventures by Anna Hackett

box set cover imagereturn to dark earth cover image

I’ve made it clear that I adore Anna Hackett’s books. Lots of action, monsters, treasures, and other discoveries make the lives of the protagonists very interesting. Favorite character: Nera Darc from Return to Dark Earth. Quiet, deadly, and kinder than she lets on.

Hackett also made a small box set to start you off on the series.

Darkest London by Kristen Callihan

Paranormal historical romance. Callihan presents non-traditional supernatural creatures in a way that always kept me guessing. Watching the characters fall in love was mesmerizing. Favorite character: Hollis Evernight of, well, Evernight. I sympathized with her specific communication struggles.

Paradox series by Rachel Bach

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Feel like some action-packed science fiction with romantic elements that will remind you of Mass Effect? Go read the Paradox trilogy by Rachel Bach. Since there’s only one protagonist, I won’t pick a favorite character, but Devi’s voice is engrossing and I was always rooting for her.

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Favorite albums of the year, part II

Blog

The year isn’t even over yet, but so far I’ve found more wonderful music that inspires me and keeps me forging ahead in life.

Seventh Wonder – Tiara

Lovers of prog metal, rejoice! Seventh Wonder are back. Science fiction story, virtuosic passages, non-standard time signatures, amazing vocals…it’s fantastic either because there aren’t any surprises or in spite of it. If you like outer space, apocalypse scenarios, or fantastic vocals, you’re in for a treat.

 

Between the Buried and Me – Automata I and II

Between the Buried and Me are a different kind of prog metal than anyone else I can think of. They use swing elements. Or anything they can think of. It feels like the kitchen sink, but it also just works. This year they released two parts of Automata and it’s way too big to fit into my head.

 

Kobra and the Lotus – Prevail II


Just plain good fun heavy metal. Sing along and rock along. Kobra and the Lotus make music that makes me happy and ready to take on tasks I don’t want to.

 

Amaranthe – Helix

Warning: video contains blood. Like a lady in a tub full of it, and then she vamps. A lot. Pun possibly intended.
Poppy metal with dubstep in it. There isn’t anything I find deep in Amaranthe‘s music, but it’s good schlocky fun. Good music for programming when I’ve already had my caffeine for the day.

 

Some humans can’t work with music on. I find it difficult to work without! Maybe someday I’ll write music again.

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Favorite albums of the year, part I

Blog

I whine about there being many books and little time quite a lot. But it’s also true that there’s a ton of wonderful music (okay, mostly metal) I listen to every year. This year brought me some anticipated progressive metal releases and some pleasant surprises.

Kamelot – The Shadow Theory

Okay, to me this album sounded like a second pressing of Haven– which is my favorite Kamelot album, but I didn’t feel like I learned anything new in The Shadow Theory. The compression in the production is a bit much. But there’s amazing guitar work, synths, and the vocals are fantastic. Add in the cool science fiction story and it’s worth a listen if you’re already a Kamelot fan.

 

Chthonic – Battlefields of Asura

I discovered the band this year, and they already have a special place in my heart. The frontman is my grandmother’s congressperson. Weird and awesome, right? Chthonic¬†show the world the tumultuous 20th century history on the island of Taiwan and that the struggle for democracy is something recent and special. This album makes me hopeful for the future. Also, the music. It doesn’t quite sound like any other band. Worth a listen for anyone interested in traditional Taiwanese music or any kind of metal. Also deserves some distinction for the lone woman in the band not being the singer.

 

Light the Torch – Revival

Howard Jones got eaten by stress and diabetes. Being a vocalist has its own perils because of all the touring, and that the instrument is so delicate. So in the past six years, Jones has apparently gotten control of his blood sugar and is back with Light the Torch. Revival is their third effort (this band was previously known as Devil You Know and changed its name when it changed some personnel). I enjoyed the elements of metalcore, prog, catchy choruses, and of course Jones’s amazing big voice.

 

Angra – Omni

Angra offer something other power metal bands generally don’t: awesome South American folk elements. Bittencourt and co.’s latest offering holds together better than most of their other albums. The band tries a little of everything while still making a cohesive listen.

 

 

 

 

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Adventures in NaNo

Writing

I’ve been revising and editing for long enough that I’d forgotten what putting words to keyboard/screen without having it all sketched out feels like. Granted, I still have a rough outline for what goes into the scene, but now I have the freedom to play with more generative plot hooks.

The key is finding that balance between freedom and having something to write about. If I don’t have enough guidance for myself, I run into choice paralysis and can’t write anything. But some good things do come to me spontaneously while I’m drafting, and I don’t want to miss out on too many of those. I would bet that the balance is different for every writer.

So far in drafting, I’ve unearthed some interesting character details and an important motivation for the antagonistic forces. Maybe the month will bring me more storystuff to fill in the plot holes. But for right now I’m plowing ahead with what I already outlined.

Anyway, if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, best of luck to you! Whether you’ve written a hundred or a hundred thousand words by the end, you’ll have something you wrote. You’ll have created something.

 

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NaNo, giveaways, and Japan

Blog Writing

My trip to Japan filled my creative well. I read less than I’d aspired to, but I managed to soak in many new and unfamiliar experiences, especially in Sapporo . That’s what I require in order to create.

I’m happy to announce that I’m giving print books away via Whiskey With my Book. If you somehow read this blog and don’t read that, then I recommend rectifying the situation.

I’m also trying NaNoWriMo this year. I last participated three years ago, and got a chunk of my first manuscript done then. Since I want to work on something new, this is a good opportunity to grind out a good bout of words, get some momentum going. I’d love to get to 20k this month, but I guess I could shoot for the full word count.

In preparation, I’m making a skeleton outline and preliminary beat sheet. I have the beginning and the end of the story worked out: but how do they get from point A to point B? I hope I find out soon!

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