It’s ALIVE!!

We have officially made it through the longest month on record: March 2020, which clocked in at about three lifetimes. I hope you all are doing well and staying home as much as possible.

Austin remains on lockdown, so Dustin and I are both working from home. We try to get out for a run or walk every day (while maintaining appropriate distance from our neighbors), but otherwise we’re at home all day.

So I decided to get a pet.

Probably not the kind you’re thinking.

Behold, my sourdough starter! I’ve nicknamed him Sludge, though Sir Doughy (a recommendation from @WriteByJeannie on Twitter) was a close second.

A quart mason jar half full of sourdough starter on a wooden cutting board on my counter.

Sludge is a vigorous little fellow. I got him from my BFF on Sunday and fed him for the first time yesterday morning. He was still firmly contained when I went to bed last night, but I woke up this morning to this:

A quart mason jar of sourdough starter, with the starter overflowing into the wide, flat bowl it's sitting in.
It’s alllliiiiiiive!

Luckily, Dustin suggested the extra bowl last night, even though the jar wasn’t yet full. Smart fellow, my husband.

We don’t eat much bread usually, but with the longer times between grocery store trips and the desire for comfort food, I’ve taken up baking more often. Yesterday, I made a loaf of Irish soda bread with some leftover buttermilk. It turned out a little misshapen but delicious.

I’m going to try my first loaf of sourdough tonight. I’m starting basic with the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for Almost No-Knead Sourdough. I’ve had very good luck with ATK recipes, so I’m hoping this one will deliver, too. I can get more artisanal after I remember how to make bread at all. 😂

If you want your own pet to love, you can create a sourdough starter from flour, water, and time. King Arthur Flour has a good guide.

And if you need a smile today, here’s Samuel L Jackson giving you some excellent advice (warning: language). It should auto-start about 6:10 in, or you can jump there manually.

Stay safe out there!

Video Game Recommendations

So with the worldwide pandemic, a lot of people are finding themselves at home more than usual (if you can, please stay home and help flatten the curve). In addition to my book recs, I thought I’d recommend some video games. A lot of these can be played co-op, since that’s what Mr. M and I usually play. So find a friend and play together!

Phone/Tablet Games

All of the following are available on iOS, but I’m not sure about other platforms. Links are to the iOS App Store.

A couple of the phone games I play are digital copies of boardgames we like: Ticket to Ride and Pandemic. Ticket to Ride is nice because the game keeps score for you, so you don’t even have to do math. And while Pandemic might be a bit too on the nose right now, it certainly is satisfying when you wipe out the in-game viruses.

When I just need something to fidget with, I play Threes, 2048, or Spider Solitaire. I’ll often play these while Mr. M is watching TV because I can listen to the show and play a game at the same time.

We both also played a lot of Game Dev Story, Grand Prix Story, and Dungeon Village. These single-player games have an interesting interface because I think they were originally for phones with number pads instead of touch screens, but they are super cute if you like building and managing type games.

And if you like Harvest Moon-type games (virtual farming, romancing villagers, exploration), then check out Stardew Valley (also available on PC and game consoles).

PC Games

If you play PC games, these won’t be new, but these are my comfort games.

Stardew Valley is available on PC as well as tablets, but with co-op so you can build your farm with friends. And as far as building/exploring games go, Mr. M and I have spent literally hundreds of hours playing Terraria and Starbound. Both are co-op, so play together! Build yourselves a 2D palace of wonder.

We’ve also been playing a lot of Borderlands 3, which just recently came to Steam if you were waiting out the Epic Store exclusive. I don’t play too many shooters, because I generally prefer swords and sorcery, but BL3 is more of an action-RPG than a straight shooter. Plus the writing is terrific.

Our favorite oldie but goodie is Diablo 3, and we just started playing again for Season 20. We play in Adventure mode now because we’ve played the story so many times. It’s basically click monsters, get loot, and I find it very soothing. Especially because this season I’m playing as a Wizard—not my usual style because I prefer melee builds—but destroying huge swaths of enemies with spells is fun.

Switch Games

We also each have a Nintendo Switch and I’m currently obsessed with Rune Factory 4. It’s not co-op, but Mr. M and I are playing at the same time. It’s like Stardew or Harvest Moon in that you can virtual farm and romance the townsfolk, but you can also go slay monsters and build weapons and armor. It’s super cute and I want to play it all day instead of working. Alas, so far no one wants to pay me to play games.

We also own Stardew Valley on Switch (because of course we do) and the Switch build supports co-op. Yes, we have farms on every system, lol. :)

Need to get in some exercise but don’t want to go to the gym? Try Ring Fit Adventure. It’s not going to replace a heavy lifting routine, but it gets your heart rate up and has a little strength-building with the resistance ring. Plus it masquerades as a game, so it’s more fun than staring at a treadmill screen.

If you play games, what have you been playing lately? Stay safe, friends, and wash your hands!

Chaos Reigning Chapter One!

Yesterday, I turned in the first pass page proofs for Chaos Reigning. This is when it really starts to look like a book, because the PDF is formatted like the print book. For example, here are the title page and first page:

Don’t those look like real book pages? Yay! The page proofs are the last time I’ll read the book all the way through, and my last chance to catch any mistakes. I’ve read it so many times at this point that catching mistakes is difficult, but the formatted text makes it easier to see if I’ve overused a word in a paragraph. Which I do. A lot. :)

Page proofs also mean that the text is 99% done. There may be questions from proofreaders that change a tiny bit later on, but it’s mostly set in stone at this point.

And that means I can post the first chapter! 🎉

If you mosey over to the book page, you’ll find all of Chapter One in its (nearly) final glory.

We’re just a smidgen over two months out from release (May 19!!), and I can hardly believe it. I don’t know what happened to January and February, but I would like those months back, please and thank you.

If you haven’t preordered yet, now would be an excellent time. Or ask your library to buy a copy. Or your BFF. Or your dog. (Send me photos of that last one!)

CHAOS REIGNING cover. A woman with dark, curly hair, in a long leather coat, facing right and holding a blaster. The background is an alien landscape with a planet and two moons in the sky and everything is shaded green-blue.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple Books | Kobo | Google Play | IndieBound

This is the Consortium Rebellion trilogy’s last hurrah, and I would be delighted if it went out with a bang, because that ups the possibility of more Consortium stories in the future. Thank you all for sticking with me for my very first trilogy!! 😍🥰

Borderlands, Plants, and Theater

I had a restful weekend. I’m about halfway through copyedits, so I took the weekend off. I’m still trying to remind myself that work-life balance is a thing, and just because I’m behind on everything doesn’t mean I have to work all the time.

On Saturday, Mr. M and I used the outdoor ceramic cooker my parents brought us to smoke a pork butt. It took most of the day and we had to babysit it, so we played Borderlands 3 all day. It. Was. Awesome!

We did take a break in the middle of the day, once we’d transferred the pork to the oven, to go for a walk and enjoy the nice weather. The trees are going crazy even though we’ve been having some late-season cold. This tree was more berries than leaves.

Our new neighborhood is much hillier than our old neighborhood (which was basically flat), so walking and running are far more challenging. And any direction we pick, there are hills. Some are bigger than others, but there’s no avoiding them. If I keep it up, I’m either going to be in awesome shape or dead. 😂

On Sunday, I started the day with a yoga class with my BFF, then Mr. M and I headed to a nursery to pick up some plants. He is starting a garden this year and I went along for moral support. :) He was there for veggies, but I took pictures of some of their beautiful flowers.

Sunday night, BFF and I had theater tickets to see Come From Away. Thanks to a series of unfortunate events, we were about 15 minutes late. Thank goodness our seats are near the edge. 🙈

Even missing the first couple of songs, the show was incredible, easily one of the best of the season. If you get a chance to see it, I highly recommend it!

Now I have to finish CR copyedits, start writing (again) TQT, and continue to noodle on the new series. It sounds so easy all typed up in a single sentence, but reading it causes me to break out in hives, lol. I hope you all had a nice weekend!

Chaos Reigning Copyedits and a Snippet!

Yesterday, the copyedits for Chaos Reigning landed in my inbox. That means we are inching ever closer to release, which I can hardly believe. This will be the final book in the Consortium Rebellion trilogy and the the final book (for now) set in the Consortium universe.

I have ideas for future books, but they’ll have to get in line behind all of my other commitments. Speaking of, I haven’t forgotten about TQT, but it’s been eclipsed by contracted work, including the proposal for my new series (yay!!!), as I warned was possible. I promise I’m still doing it, just much later than I had hoped. :/

But enough with the sadness—time to celebrate CR being almost a real book! Here’s a little snippet to tide you over until copyedits are done and I can post the first chapter. And if you haven’t yet, now is an excellent time to preorder because the book comes out in May! ;)

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I stared at myself in the bathroom mirror and willed myself to calm down. Alexander—now Alex—had flustered me, and I felt like I needed a cold shower. I shivered as I remembered his knowing grin. Maybe two cold showers.

After I’d dawdled as long as I could without looking like I was hiding, I returned to the bedroom. Alex was sitting on his pallet on the floor, looking at his com. He glanced up, and I tilted my head toward the bathroom. “All yours.”

He nodded his thanks and gathered his bag. Once he was gone, I slid into my enormous, fluffy bed. I looked at his sad little pile of blankets and hardened my heart. No. This was his decision. I’d offered an alternative and he’d chosen this. He could live with his choices.

“Jarvis, lights twenty percent.” The overhead lights flared to life, slightly brighter than a night-light setting. Alex would be able to see, even after coming out of the fully lit bathroom.

I set the windows to gradually lighten in four hours. The sunlight would wake me without the need for a harsh alarm. I checked my com one final time, but I hadn’t gotten anything else from Bianca. I wondered if she was getting updates from Alex or Aoife, or if she assumed no news was good news.

With nothing left to do, I turned off my bedside lamp and closed my eyes. Restless energy pulsed under my skin, but I feigned sleep.

Alex returned with a whisper of sound. He settled on his pallet and turned the overhead lights off. He was perfectly still and quiet, without so much as a discontented sigh. It would have been so much easier to ignore him if he’d acted disgruntled, but his quiet acceptance sent sympathy and guilt swirling through my veins. He had to be uncomfortable, but you’d never know it.

I lasted for maybe ten minutes before I sighed and whispered, “Are you awake?”

“Yes.” His voice rumbled from the dark. “Do you need something?”

“Jarvis, lights five percent.” The room was still deeply shadowed, but I had excellent night vision and could see clearly even in deep darkness. However, this would be easier if I could pretend the shadows hid us from each other. “Bring your pallet. You can sleep on the other side of the bed. On top of the covers.”

There was a long, silent pause. Finally, he asked, “Are you sure? I don’t mind sleeping here.”

Continue reading “Chaos Reigning Copyedits and a Snippet!”