Friday, October 21, 2016

NaNoWriMo Prep Talk

This week I was honored to sit down with teens and young adults to discuss novel writing and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Sharing my love for writing (and some of the tricks of the trade) is one of my favorite things no matter the age group - but there's something special about meeting young people who are so enthusiastic and serious about writing, and sharing with them things I wish someone had told me when I started this writing journey!

If you would like to learn more about or help spread the word, feel free to use my PDF presentation, "NaNoWriMo Prep Talk." The presentation gives a general overview of NaNoWriMo and some of the strategies that help authors push through to that 50,000 word goal. I don't explain the strategies in the PDF (I did that in person) but you can follow the resource links at the end and use the lists as a springboard to google more about them.

View and download the PDF here. Download and share the PDF however you like!

If you have anything else to add, or a blog post related to NaNoWriMo and novel writing, please share in the comments.

Ready to write a novel for November?

You can add me on as mrsmica. Signing up at is free and serves as a unique chance to keep track of your progress while connecting with other writers, and the NaNoWriMo newsletters offer advice and encouragement all through November and a little throughout the rest of the year.

As for me, I'll be working on my fantasy series Dragon Islands. One NaNoWriMo I wrote over 80,000 words to start the series off (no one was more surprised than me when I hit 80k in a month!). Through subsequent editing, outlining and writing parts of the rest of the series, that draft has literally doubled in word count and become the first two books. Most of the editing and beta-reader feedback has focused on the first book, so for this NaNoWriMo I'll be going through the second book and possibly writing the draft for the third book. At the time I'm writing this post, I have done exactly 0 prep for November (sob, irony) unless you count all the years of writing and editing the first two books, so I'll be spending the last week of October mentally preparing myself by reading over what I have so far and notecarding. I don't expect to hit 80k again due to life complications (3 young kids, haha) but I would be ecstatic to reach the end of book 3, and happy to at least go through the second book with edits and added scenes. Those are my super goals and goals, respectively.

Good luck, everyone!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Dragon Apocalypse" and Review: "Bitterwood" by James Maxey

I recently read the Bitterwood quartet by James Maxey on recommendation by another speculative fiction author (Alethea Kontis) and picked it up for a steal (it's currently still a steal). I've included a review of Bitterwood below, but first I want to let you know about James Maxey's newly completed series that I can't wait to read! 

Dragon Apocalypse is, as James Maxey says, “bad girls, big dragons.” He gives a great description of the book and how it is different than “Bitterwood” here on his blog:

Cinder, the 4th book in the series, just came out, and you can get the complete quartet here.

And, oh my gosh, that cover! I noticed the author's announcement on facebook because of the cover. I see so many things on my social networks that sometimes I accidentally keep scrolling, but this one really grabbed me. The cover is by Hugo award-winning artist Julie Dillon.

So, if you've gone and read Maxey's post linked above, you already know that Dragon Apocalypse has a different, lighter feel than Bitterwood. Even so, it was Maxey's great plot and world development in Bitterwood that makes me so excited to read Dragon Apocalypse. If you do not like anti-heros and other dark tones, you'll still want to check out Dragon Apocalypse.

The Bitterwood quartet by James Maxey is a complex speculative fiction tale of bitterness and revenge that at first presents itself as a dark fantasy. The narrative draws back proverbial veils throughout the quartet, in the end revealing a deep history in an expansive post-apocalyptic, SF world. Maxey weaves plot in a way that makes big things happen in an otherwise small and petty world inhabited mostly by small and petty people. Many of the characters present as anti-hero to begin with and change their alliances throughout the series. The combination of high-tech and complex characters makes for a thrilling plot that takes unexpected turns.

Although I was drawn in from the start, it took me longer before I could appreciate the characters. Jandra in particular started as a seemingly flat character – a flatness brought on by her sheltered upbringing – but in time she grew to become a character that I enjoyed. Antagonists such as Blasphet grow alongside the protagonists, a dynamic that, along with the complicated world, allows the story to explore many themes and subplots appropriate to a SF quartet patterned after epic fantasy. The bad guys (and sometimes the good guys) offer up plenty of deception and misuse of religion that go along with the many layers of the history and world of Bitterwood.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review: Humanity 2.0 edited by Alex Shvartsman

Humanity 2.0
Alex Shvartsman brings us another excellent anthology with Humanity 2.0, a collection of stories that explore how interstellar flight might alter the path of humanity. Fifteen diverse stories show what it means to be human in the future — often the far future, and sometimes with genetic code that no longer reads as homo sapiens.

With Humanity 2.0, Alex Shvartsman once again shows that he knows how to pick ‘em and how to arrange them, so that each story compliments the preceding and the following in an even mix of reprints and new fiction.

Humanity 2.0 opens with excellent mixed narrative“The Waves” by Ken Liu, whichs asks readers to compare ancient origin myths with the high-tech life of the far-flung future. The theme of the issue begs an examination of topics such as multi-generational colonization and each author brings their own perspective and flare to Humanity 2.0. In "The Right Place to Start a Family" by Caroline M. Yoachim, Yuna ditches crowded Earth to colonize a distant planet and soon discovers that her expectations are rigid and unrealistic.

Shvartsman’s anthology is a great mix of positive SF and those of a heavy-hearted nature;

"A Lack of Congenial Solutions" by Kenneth Schneyer presents a philosophical bent that takes a darker turn when enslaved races overthrow humanity. And if you like your fiction even darker, Cat Rambo has you covered in “Angry Rose’s Lament,”a piece where a recovering addict feels he must pull off his negotiation with the wasp-like Solin aliens, or else he and his colleagues will fall back into temptation. "The Hand on the Cradle" by Brenda Cooper deals with themes of abuse and discrimination when cyborg Colorima is tortured for her supposed knowledge of her colleague’s radical resistance movement. "EH" by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro takes creepy to a whole new level when humans jump at the chance to become enhanced and then discount the side-affects of their genetic alterations.

In the middle of the anthology, “An Endless Series of Doors” by David Walton shows the pros and cons of portal travel and of the human condition by telling an adventure from the perspective of a hopelessly selfish, ultra-rich party-goer.

Towards the end, Mike Resnick brings us a powerful, multifaceted story with "The Homecoming," in which Jordan resents his son Phillip for taking on the form of an alien and leaving Earth. When Phillip returns home for a visit, he discovers his mother in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's.

For more stories on the lighter side, body modder Niko takes readers on an adventure on the lam in "Green Girl Blues" by Martin L. Shoemaker. "Star Light, Star Bright" by Robert J. Sawyer ends the anthology with a sweet exploration story full of hope.

Humanity 2.0 releases Nov. 24th, 2016 from Pheonix Pick.

Pre-order Humanity 2.0 at [ Amazon ] to get your copy delivered Nov. 24th!
Visit to see Shvartsman’s many anthologies and short story publications.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Review: Decision Points edited by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

When I saw the author list, I knew I had to have this anthology!

Decision Points is an exciting YA anthology with many strong stories, including:

"Sisters" by Jonathan Maberry, in which two sisters find that zombies are not their biggest enemy.
"The Prince of Artemis V" by Jennifer Brozek, which centers around a haunting fae dream realm.
"Aftermaths" by Lois McMaster Bujold, which deals with the carnage left by a war in space.
"My Father's Eyes" by E. C. Meyers, in which a disease robs its victims of their intelligence and sends them back to primitive existence.
"Like a Thief in the Light" by Alethea Kontis, which deals with death and gargoyles.
"Clockwork Fagin" by Cory Doctorow, in which orphans take over the orphanage and build a clockwork man to fool the adults.
"Rivalry on the Sky Course" by Bryan Thomas Schmidt, which ties into Schmidt's Saga of Davi Rhii space opera.
"An Echo in the Shell" by Beth L. Cato, a haunting tale of a grandmother who is turning into a giant bug.
"Blood and Water" by Kate Corcino, in which the protagonist is asked to murder his girlfriend.
"Newts" by Kevin J. Anderson, where a separatist war rests on the shoulders of an emotionally neutered protagonist.
"Shade" by Steven Gould, where a dire water shortage in Africa is alleviated through magic.
"The War of Gifts" by Orson Scott Card, which ties into Enders Game and deals with childhood abuse and religious hypocrisy.

Decision Points on [ Amazon ] and on [ Baen ]'s website, as well as most other places where books are sold.

Don't forget to leave a review, event a short one, to support your favorite authors!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Review: The Worker Prince by Bryan Thomas Schmidt

In The Worker Prince, emperor tyrant Xavilar orders all first-born male slaves killed. One boy gets away – Davi, who is adopted by none other than princess Miri, Xavilar's sister. When Davi finds out that he is the progeny of slaves, and witnesses the slaves' treatment first-hand, he confronts his uncle and lands himself in more trouble than he could have imagined.

The Worker Prince is a story of family, with Davi as an inverted prodigal son. Davi loves his adoptive mother and his uncle, the tyrant emperor, even as his definition of family expands to include his biological parents and cousins. Xavilar makes a great villain in part because he also cares for his family as part of his skewed moral code. The tyrant's soft spot for princess Miri allows her to raise Davi to think for himself, setting events in motion beyond the emperor's control. Part of Davi's journey is his realization that his own moral principals differ greatly from his uncle's, and to a lesser extent from Miri's. The Worker Prince offers the reader many heart-warming scenes that line up characters like dominoes for the action-packed end, which in turn leads into an exciting sequel (The Returning).

The Saga of Davi Rhii series is also a story of war – of a long-brewing conflict that comes to a head when Davi meets the rebels. While Davi's influence as a prince and as a fighter pilot is important, we also see how smart and capable the rebels are, as are the emperor's lackeys who hunt them done. A lot of the rebel's planning and infrastructure is already in the works when Davi shows up, which makes the rebels' ensuing battles feel realistic. Schmidt does an excellent job of weaving realism into The Worker Prince through carefully chosen details that mimic real life conflicts – from mass graves to Xavilar's gradual erosion of the counsel's powers. And where Davi is sometimes a naive, as befits his age, many of the supporting characters are not, and together they make big events possible. Davi's confrontation with the emperor and his interactions with the rebels force the hands of supporting characters like Miri. Of course, emperor Xavilar has a large military with trained officers and many ships at his disposal, so when the rebels launch their attack, soldiers die. But as with many rebellions, there is no turning back once the ship has launched – or in this case, the fighter pilots.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt's Saga of Davi Rii is an engaging space opera about standing up against abuse even if that means defying public opinion and the Emperor himself.

Check out Hugo Nominee Bryan Thomas Schmidt's website to read more about the books he writes and the big-name anthologies he edits: