Author Archives: terraluft

About terraluft

Writer; wife, mother, survivor, and impulsive bitch rarely capable of saying no. Fueled by coffee, yoga and sarcasm. (She/Her)

Now Available: ReminiScents

It’s been a little quiet around here, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been working hard on new things. Last year I wrote a very cool story that just released in this new collection focused on scents called “Trace Amounts.” I had a blast writing this one, and have no idea how to adequately describe it without giving away the ending. A little paranormal, a little new age, a little romance, with a little horror like a cherry on top. If any of that appeals to you, I hope you’ll pick this one up and read it.

Here’s what the publisher has to say about the whole collection:

The smell of your favorite spaghetti sauce. The pungent bite of eucalyptus. A waft of long-forgotten perfume. A particular scent transports us to a place and time like nothing else. Whether these memories are welcome or wanted, they are waiting to be relived. In this collection, you’ll experience how smells elicit the emotions of the love and loss of family, premonitions of death, fear of the supernatural, and so much more.


This is available now in both ebook and print HERE or wherever you buy books.

Book Archive 2022

Look at me, recapping the last year of reading while it’s still the first week of the new year! If 2021 was summed up as the end of grad school and a return to recreational and leisure reading, then 2022 was a record breaking year of reading. I read 103 books last year. Yes, a hundred and three books! I chalk this up to discovering that I can borrow audiobooks via an app through my library that completely transformed my audiobook game. It’s like I went back in time to the late 1970’s when I had a shiny new library card and could check out five books at a time only now I’m an adult and it’s audiobooks I can listen to whenever I’m doing anything I can do by rote. It was a lot and I realized that I also needed this year of reading to refill my creative well for my writing, too. The more books I read, the more ideas I had flowing. More to come on that at a later time! For now, here’s my own personal recap of the year with notes for anyone looking for a quick list of recommendations (or warnings in some cases!)

Books I Read in 2022 (in chronological order)

  • The Book of Accidents, Chuck Wendig – enjoyable horror story from an author I have read a lot about and learned from at conferences but hadn’t picked up many of his books. This one caught my eye and it was really cool without much gore (if I remember correctly).
  • Malibu Rising, Taylor Jenkins Reid – great story of flawed people
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir – the second time I read this because a friend and I gushed about how great it was at a writing retreat and I got a physical copy. So good even a second time.
  • People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry – split timeline romance novel that was really well done with a great ending
  • The Egg and Other Stories, Andy Weir – a collection of short stories because I was curious if everything he had ever written was just amazing. I learned that authors of amazing books all have to start somewhere with not everything being amazing. It gave me hope as an author myself.
  • Come as You Are, Emily Nagoski – a nonfiction book about how people are wired differently when it comes to sex and how to just accept yourself
  • Recursion, Blake Crouch – hard sci fi that was very well done. I really like everything I’ve ever read by this author.
  • The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1), Lyssa Kay Adams – a romance from the point of view of the man? It was interesting and enjoyable and was recommended by a friend. Definitely worth a read!
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth – a book recommended by an “Empowered Women” resource group through work and a great nonfiction pick
  • Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life, Susan David – another “Empowered Women” recommendation that I liked even more than Grit. If you’re into self-help and psychology I recommend it.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reed – one of the best books I read this year! Highly recommended
  • How Women Rise, Sally Helgesen – another nonfiction from my “Empowered Women” group that was geared toward how to get promoted in the workplace.
  • The Child (Kate Waters #2), Fiona Barton – book club pick that was a satisfying mystery and reads like a stand alone novel even though it is in a series
  • Billy Summers, Stephen King – I had zero expectations going into this since King’s writing lately has been hit or miss for me. I really liked this one which is his take on being in the mind of a hitman for hire.
  • The Shadows, Alex North – I wanted to love this one more because it was by the same author of one of my favorite reads last year but it was not as good.
  • An Absolutely Remarkable Thing (The Carls #1), Hank Green – very true-to-life/plausible scifi that a friend recommended and was very good. This one is good especially if you are fascinated with the appeal of social media
  • Beautiful World, Where are You, Sally Rooney – the first Did-Not-Finish of the year. This doesn’t happen very often but when it does I feel sad. The characters were flat and a third of the way in I couldn’t make myself give a single shit about any of it so I put it down. At least these days I don’t waste audible credits on books like this that come with a LOT of hype in the book reading community.
  • Dark and Shallow Lies, Ginny Myers Sain – a young-adult murder mystery that I thing was well done for YA but could have been so much better if written deeper and with more horror for the adult market. If you like to read murder mysteries but don’t love to be scared then this would be a great pick for you.
  • A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor (The Carls #2), Hank Green – the second book was just as good as the first one!
  • Will, Will Smith – I wanted this to be mindblowing (again, thank you book marketing hype) but it was merely an interesting telling of Will Smith and how he grew up and became famous. I learned some cool tidbits but nothing earth shattering.
  • Anatomy: A Love Story, Dana Schwartz – a book club pick that was a fun read about a woman who wanted to be a doctor at a time when it wasn’t allowed that had a romance element to it as well. A fun read!
  • The Kind Worth Killing, Peter Swanson – psychological thriller recommended (and gifted) from a friend. It was a really good read if you like that genre!
  • 1984, George Orwell – I know I read this when I was a kid for an English class but I couldn’t really remember it so I read it again. I just don’t like the writing style from the time and the themes of the book are just as disturbing to our time as they were back then. Am I glad I read it? The jury is still out.
  • Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1), Talia Hibbert – do you like strong a diverse female character romance? Hell yes this is a series for you.
  • World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks – this one had been on my to-read list for a while and someone mentioned it in a book discussion so I put a hold on it from the library. I had seen the movie by the same name but this was done in a very interesting way and it was in some ways better than the movie that tried to tie it all into a single person experiencing the end of the world. The book is always better, folks!
  • Dare to Lead, Brené Brown – a re-read with a group of leaders at work. Just as good the second time
  • A Pale Light in the Black (NeoG #1), K.B. Wagers – a fantastic scifi adventure set in space with found family themes. I loved this book and couldn’t wait for the second one!
  • How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, Barbara F. Walter – super disturbing to read how bad things really are/could be in the USA if we don’t look around and pay attention in several areas.
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab – this was a re-read because it got picked for my bookclub. I read it again anyway because it was the best book I read in 2021. The whole group loved it. So much better the second time!
  • Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2), Talia Hibbert – more diverse female character romance that was just as good as the first. I think this was my favorite in the whole series.
  • The 7 Secrets of the Prolific: The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism, and Writer’s Block, Hillary Rettig – someone recommended this one as a writer reference book. I didn’t know how much I was suffering from perfectionism and how much THAT was driving my writer’s block and struggles to get back into writing. I am so glad I picked this up on Kindle and read it at the perfect time after grad school!
  • A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, Holly Jackson – another young adult mystery that I didn’t hate. Honestly, after all this time I just know that I am unsatisfied with the YA genre so it shouldn’t be surprising that they are just okay when I read them.
  • Act Your Age, Eve Brown (The Brown Sisters #3), Talia Hibbert – third in the series and so much fun!
  • Perfectly Undone, Jamie Raintree – I picked this up because I follow the author on social media and use tools she sells for productivity tracking for years. I was curious having seen her journey leading up to this novel being published. It was not a genre I usually love but enjoyed reading this one.
  • The Lighting Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1), Rick Riordan – my kids have both been begging me to read this damn (MIDDLE GRADE) series for them for years. Pretty sure they tricked me by making me choose either this or Harry Potter and because I really dig mythology I thought this would be the lesser of two evils (and I don’t have to burn Audible credits anymore thanks to library books!) We listened together on our spring break road trip and I didn’t die.
  • Utah’s Best Poetry and Prose 2022, League of Utah Writers – I was curious to read the winners of a writing contest I was thinking about entering so I picked up the curated winners from the previous year to get a sense of the types of things win. It was a great little collection and inspired a short story that I will have published in 2023 as a result.
  • It Ends with Us, Colleen Hoover – this was recommended by one of my bookclub friends and I had mixed feelings when it was over. It is about generational abuse and I wasn’t sure why it wasn’t living up to the hype until my daughter also read it and nailed it that it is an interesting story but not well written. Flat characters and a lot of “telling” instead of gripping scenes that just unfold in your imagination. It had so much hype and neither of us could really understand why.
  • Aurora Blazing (Consortium Rebellion #2), Jessie Mihalik – finally this series was finished so it was time to read the second. It was as good as the first in the series. Strong female leading character, scifi space action, and steamy romance make it a perfect series for me.
  • The Last Thing She Told Me, Linda Green – book club pick that is a generational secrets thriller/mystery that kept me guessing all the way through but could have kept me more on the edge of my seat. It was pretty good but not memorable.
  • The Love Hypothesis, Ali Hazelwood – I think this is one of my new favorite romance authors because her books are all filled with female scientists as main characters. This was the first of many I read of her this year thanks to a friend who recommended it.
  • The Awakening, Caroline Peckham – another dud for me that comes with a warning. This is probably considered “new adult” where the characters are in high school/early college and coming of age. It was a hot mess of every cliche trope you could throw in: vampires, sirens, mermaids, werewolves, lost magical babies raised in the mundane human world and not knowing their true identity. Add to that a boatload of non-consenting sexual encounters that were borderline rape and it was a hard hell no to any more of this series.
  • The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller – an amazing and beautiful retelling of Achilles and Patroclus. It is written for the YA audience but I didn’t hate it and would have loved it even more if I hadn’t recently read a similar retelling not long ago that frames their relationship as it always was (we seriously need more LGBTQ+ positive stories that normalize queerness in literature!)
  • Chaos Reigning (Consortium Rebellion #3), Jessie Mihalik – third in the series which I thought would be the last and turns out is not. Now I have to do what I hate doing and wait for another one to be published!
  • November 9, Colleen Hoover – why the hell is this author getting so much hype!?!? Now that I’ve read several by her there is a theme to her writing that somehow normalizes that abuse is normal? Expected? Okay as long as you are strong and can get through it? Um, NO. Please stop reading this author!!
  • This is How It Always Is, Laurie Frankel – A bookclub pick. This was an achingly beautiful and at times very hard to read book about a transgender child told through the eyes of a set of parents who just wanted to love their child and keep them safe. I cried and rejoiced and my heart broke for anyone trying to navigate this reality. If you want to understand without any preaching about how you “should” feel on this topic, I highly recommend it.
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea, T.J. Klune – this had so many recommendations from fellow authors that I put it on my hold list at the library. It was a beautifully written magical story about found families.
  • The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol 1: At the Edge of Empire, Daniel Kraus – really long and hard to read horror novel that I picked up because the author was announced as a keynote speaker for a conference I was attending. It was not my kind of horror novel but I don’t regret reading it.
  • Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman – So many people say this is their favorite Gaiman novel. I love several of his novels and I always thought I was missing out by having not read this one. Turns out this is my least favorite one. Now I know!
  • The Girl with All the Gifts, M.R. Carey – book club pick that I’d had on my to-read list for years. It was a very interesting take on a world coping after a zombie apocalypse.
  • Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1), Katee Robert – I saw someone I know reading this series and it looked like a very intriguing and adult take on mythology retelling (and after Percy Jackson I needed this in my life.) It did not disappoint although if you’re not into bondage and exhibition (like I’m not) the steamy parts may not be as enjoyable as others in the series. The romance story is SO good, though so I just read fast through the parts that didn’t do it for me.
  • Permanent Record, Edward Snowden – nonfiction account of a fascinating person who changed history and yet is still alive. I had seen the movie they made about Snowden and worried it was not going to be worth reading this book but I was wrong. I especially enjoyed hearing how he had grown up with the internet in the exact same era that I did. It was like reliving my early years online and realizing that it had all happened literally in my lifetime. Fascinating read!
  • Rotters, Daniel Kraus (plus a re-read because it was that good!) I literally read this back to back – first on audible and then I bought a physical copy because it was that good and because I was asked to be on a book discussion panel and I needed to be able to make notes and do analysis to prepare. It is a YA Horror (which you don’t see that often) and was SO good.
  • The (Un)Popular Vote, Jasper Sanchez – a diverse YA romance novel with a side of politics recommended by a friend. This one was SO good I binged the audiobook in a single afternoon in my hammock on the mountain. Give this one to your teenagers!
  • The Night Tiger, Yangsze Choo – a bookclub pick in the historical fiction genre that introduced me to a time in history I knew very little about. It was full of so many characters it was difficult to follow but overall I am glad I read it. Better on audible was the consensus of the group.
  • Rock Paper Scissors, Alice Feeney – this hit my list because my oldest got all excited about a book that hadn’t even been released yet (thanks a lot, TikTok) and I realized I had read another book by this author that I had really liked. So instead of being mad about waiting for one to come out, I picked this one up instead. I really liked it although it is set in the UK and sometimes culturally those don’t always hit the same for me.
  • The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – this is another book that’s been on my to-read for years and thanks to library cards and someone recommending it again recently I finally got around to reading. It was nothing like I thought it would be. I’d been led to believe it was all about a journey of enlightenment and new age zen and instead it was steeped in christianity wanting us to believe it was enlightened. I was very disappointed.
  • They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera – this was a fantastic and emotional read that kept me thinking about it long after it was done. Yes, they both die at the end but the story of the last day of their lives knowing it is the day they will die, was so touching and beautiful. Highly recommended!
  • The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss, Jason Fung – I’ve already discarded all of the “diet culture” bullshit but this was science based discussion about what actually drives the number on the scale written by a doctor and recommended by a doctor (although not my own, but a friend’s). It was scientifically interesting but not mind-blowing. Surprise, insulin is at the root of so many things and there are SO many things that affect insulin that no one ever talks about. This was the last push I needed to finally find a functional medicine doctor to sort out all my hormones that are (surprise!) way messed up. Why aren’t all doctors focused on hormone regulation? Okay, I’m off my soapbox now… I return you to your regularly scheduled book review post!
  • The Three-Body Problem, Liu Cixin – scifi translated into english from another language often hits differently and this I fear had some of that going on. Recommended by several reader friends, I picked it up and had probably higher expectations going in than I should have. It was an interesting concept and hard scifi like I usually love but it wasn’t compelling enough to continue with the series.
  • Bent Heavens, Daniel Kraus – I actually met the author and was on a horror panel with him at The Quills Conference in which someone asked him if he’d ever written a book he regretted. He immediately said yes, that this book he felt had gone too far down the horror path. Of course that made me want to read it. I can confirm it was very dark and very horrific (and written for the YA audience even!) but I also really enjoyed it and am glad I read it.
  • I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette McCurdy – I remember this child actor from one of my oldest’s favorite TV shows growing up. She read it first and gushed about it so I also read it. Talk about a horrific family to grow up in. The title is a raw and truthful summation of the book and by the end I was also glad the woman was gone.
  • Verity, Colleen Hoover – I gave this author one more try but even a novel about a writer was full of weird manipulation and abuse and somehow paints the main characters as somehow not victims of said abuse? It is like reading something and then thinking you’re in the twilight zone hearing so many people say how much they love it. Seriously, stop the insanity!
  • Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few, Robert B. Reich – this is a dated nonfiction book but all the concepts in it still hold true. It made me sad for where we are in society and how politics have put us here.
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Taylor Jenkins Reid – second read because I picked this for my book club to read. We all loved it and it was even better a second time!
  • The Last House on Needless Street, Catriona Ward – a fantastic horror novel
  • All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries #1), Martha Wells – this was a novella that I read really fast. It was entertaining but the world was not that compelling and I haven’t picked up another installment yet.
  • A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature’s Deep Design, Frank Wilczek – another dud for me. I heard someone talk about how this was their favorite book and how it was all about quantum physics and so amazing. I’m mad that I actually spent an audible credit for it because it was all about trying to reconcile the concept of God and religion with science. That’s a hard pass for me, sorry. Another one that I refused to finish.
  • Upgrade, Blake Crouch – this was another hit from this author. This one about hacking our DNA and the ethics of it. Super great read for any scifi fan.
  • Spells for Forgetting, Adrienne Young – one of my favorite books this year that I picked up just because it was a beautiful cover at my local bookstore. My daughter and I listened to it on a road trip and both loved it.
  • The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, Judy Batalion – book club pick that was so bleak and hard to read but also such an important piece of history I had never even heard about. Glad I read it but such a hard one!
  • Electric Idol (Dark Olympus #2), Katee Robert – my favorite in the series so far. If you like steamy romance and mythology stories set in current times, this is a fabulous series.
  • The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson #2), Rick Riordan – just slogging through this series to make good on my deal with my children. I’m not unhappy that there are always really long wait times from the library. Don’t tell them I said that! If I struggle with YA, you can imagine how it feels to read middle grade. At least the humor and the mythology are decently entertaining.
  • Just Like Home, Sarah Gailey – what an amazing horror novel and psychological thriller with some paranormal thrown in. The perfect combination of things I like from an author who writes really well. I loved this one!
  • Daisy Darker, Alice Feeney – this is the one that had pre-release hype a plenty. It was also one that lived up to the hype.
  • Hold Fast Through the Fire (NeoG #2), K.B. Wagers – the second in the series and just as satisfying as the first. Now I have to be patient for the next one to release! (In case anyone is wondering, I’m still not a patient woman!)
  • All Boys Aren’t Blue, George M. Johnson – this was on a banned book list one of my local teacher friends shared and picked for a community book club. The proposed ban is probably because it has some graphic depictions of sexual encounters yet is a YA memoir. I am glad I read it but I kind of agree that it needs some content warnings if included in a high school library so readers aren’t shocked by the content. (It is NEVER okay to ban books in my opinion!)
  • The Atlas Six (The Atlas #1), Olivie Blake – I didn’t hate this but I also didn’t love it. The characters were flat, and there was no real motivation for any of the things that happened. Magic is cool but it can’t carry an entire book alone. Not sure I’ll pick up the next in the series.
  • Say Yes, Elle Kennedy – a very steamy novella!
  • The Hating Game, Sally Thorne – another romance because I apparently was on a bit of a kick for that this year. This one was okay but the setup had some holes in it for me that just didn’t make sense and thus I wasn’t a huge fan.
  • The Deep, Rivers Solomon – book club pick that was a very interesting read. I think I liked it better the longer I thought about the themes that it left me with and AFTER the discussion with the group. It is a very meta book that I really loved after the fact.
  • Stuck with You, Ali Hazelwood – another sexy scientist romance that I really enjoyed
  • Under the Whispering Door, T.J. Klune – a second by this author and recommended by a friend. I did love the story overall and liked the unique take on the afterlife.
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir – yes, this is the third time I’ve read this book. Don’t judge! We listened as a family on our road trip and it was still so amazing! First time for hubby and little sister.
  • Upgrade, Blake Crouch – another family road trip book but a re-read for me. Hubby liked is just as much as I did!
  • Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell – another from the local district banned book list and one which has nothing questionable about it unless it is somehow not okay to authentically portray poverty and abusive step parent situations? People need to stop with the book banning bullshit already!
  • Below Zero, Ali Hazelwood – another sexy scientist romance because I love them
  • Fairy Tale, Stephen King – I wanted to love this so much especially when I realized it was another tie-in to the Dark Tower world. It was good, but not amazing, sadly!
  • The Summer I Turned Pretty, Jenny Han – my kids made me watch the television series based on this book series. I must say that I liked the book much better!
  • Beach Read, Emily Henry – what an amazing romance with a side of being a real author and some family trauma thrown in. I really loved this one.
  • We Are the Ants, Shaun David Hutchinson – local bookstore banned books group read that I didn’t really love. Nor could I figure out why anyone would want to ban it?
  • The Inheritance Games, Jennifer Lynn Barnes – a YA read that my daughter convinced me I would like. Surprise, I kind of did and now I’m waiting for the next one on my hold list.
  • Lies Like Wildfires, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez – this one (another YA) fell flat for me. I didn’t like the main character and the mystery was shallow.
  • Where I Left Her, Amber Garza – a fabulous psychological thriller with at least one twist I didn’t see coming at the end. Really loved this one!
  • Wicked Beauty (Dark Olympus #3), Katee Robert – another fabulous and steamy adult mythology. I have no idea how many there will be in this series but I’m going to keep reading them!
  • Under One Roof, Ali Hazelwood – yet another sexy scientist romance… I see a pattern here!
  • Renegades, Marissa Meyer – another recommendation from my daughter although I didn’t truly love this one. Didn’t hate it, but not sure it is worthy of continuing the series.
  • Lifted: Adventures in Ride Sharing, Jared Quan – a story collection written by a friend who I knew WHILE he was collecting these stories. I loved hearing these stories and am glad it was available via audiobook!
  • The Girl Next Door, Jack Ketchum – holy shit this one blew my mind. I was reading a writing book about how to write horror better and this was used several times as an example so I picked it up. It was so horrific but also I couldn’t put it down. This is my kind of horror!
  • Bones & All, Camille DeAngelis – I saw the movie first and then wondered if the book was better. Surprise: it WAS! (Not a surprise to anyone, right?) I really liked this horror novel that was NOT as gory as the movie was.
  • The Anatomy of Story, John Truby – a great writing reference that teaches the difference between story and plot. If you know you know, if you don’t get this book! Although it took me over a year to skim the last half that became very formulaic after the theoretical beginning that I liked the best.
  • Writing in the Dark, Tim Waggoner – best book on how to write horror for authors and aspiring authors. One of the few writing craft books that I read the entire way through and took insights from every single chapter. Highly recommended!

Now Available: Within Reach

Another new story out in the world for you to enjoy. This one is a science fiction story called “Intersections” in a themed collection focused on touch. If you love quantum physics and exploring the idea of alternate planes and multiple lives then you’ll love this story.

Here’s what the publisher has to say:

Nothing is more intimate than the soft caress of a hand or the gentle touch of a finger on your forearm. We all long for a warm embrace tying it to memories that we hold fondly.

Whether that touch goes wrong or right we attach those emotions with the action and how it feels on our skin. And every skin carries its story tight within.

Within Reach

Even more exciting, I entered my story in The Olive Woolley Burt Awards writing contest and it just won an Honorable Mention for Prose: General & Literary Fiction.

Available in both eBook and print HERE. As always, I’d love to hear what you think if you want to drop me an email!

2021 Book Archive

Somehow it’s the beginning of the second quarter of 2022 already and I haven’t recapped my year in reading for 2021 yet. It was a banner year where the avid reader in me rejoiced at finishing grad school and getting to make up for lost time by reading exactly what I wanted for leisure again! A total of 76 books, to be exact. I haven’t read that many books in a year since I’ve been keeping track on Goodreads. Something very worth celebrating. I do these posts mostly to document for myself, but maybe there’s folks out there who also are looking for recommendations here. Enjoy!

  • Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar H. Schein – Grad school assigned reading of the business self-help variety
  • Anxious People, Fredrik Backman – this was a book club pick from an author we had read before. This one was a great mystery with a satisfying and emotional ending
  • We Were Liars, E. Lockhart – my oldest daughter (an avid reader herself) brought this one home and it looked interesting so I also read it. Very good mystery that I did not see the ending coming with.
  • Contemporary Business, Louis E. Boone – more grad school required reading textbook. Think of it as a mini MBA…
  • Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey – one of my favorite actors and an interesting memoir. Did it rock my world with revelations? No.. But do I have a greater understanding of the person behind the actor? Yes
  • Leaving Time, Jodi Picoult – this was a book club pick that was surprisingly good. Interesting to learn about elephants, but also some great thriller/mystery/who done it elements that were very satisfying
  • The Winter People, Jennifer McMahon – I picked this one up from a local author event the year before not realizing it was a second in a series. I think I would have liked it better if I had read the first one in the series as well
  • Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia – this was a book club pick for my writing group which was honestly kind of a dud. I guess I either am not a fan of the “gothic novel” or I’ve desensitized myself with hard core horror because this was more ew than scary
  • The Night Swim, Megan Goldin – this was a recommendation from a friend and well worth the read! I was on a serious thriller/mystery kick and this was a real gem
  • Second Skin, Christian White – this was an Audible Original that was free with my account. It was supposed to be super scary about a reincarnated girl and it was kind of a dud. Not memorable except that it failed to meet any of my expectations
  • Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1), Leigh Bardugo – there was so much hype about this book and my daughter begged me to read it. It was really good especially if you are a fan of the young adult genre, which I’m not. While it was a good story, it wasn’t compelling enough for me to keep reading the series
  • A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1), Alyssa Cole – this was a guilty pleasure romance that a friend highly recommended. It had been a while since I’d read any romance and it was very enjoyable with not only some steamy scenes but a plot that could stand on its own
  • Queen’s Peril, E.K. Johnston – I picked this up because I love Star Wars and the author was going to be a keynote at a conference I was attending. I enjoyed additional layers of Star Wars than you get with the movies, but I also realized that there are probably good reasons I don’t read novels like this in licensed franchises because it feels like I’m reading fan fiction about beloved movies
  • When You Find Me, P.J. Vernon – a fantastic mystery/thriller
  • The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V.E. Schwab – one of the best books I read this year! My oldest insisted that we had to read it on our spring break road trip and she was not wrong. We all loved it and I
  • That Inevitable Victorian Thing, E.K. Johnston – a wonderful book with alternate history and inclusive characters. Highly recommended!
  • The Star-Crossed Sisters of Tuscany, Lori Nelson Spielman – book club pick that was so great. We also listened to this one on our road trip and even the hubby was interested and talking about it when it was over
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens – so much hype and for good reason. This was an incredible read and I loved it!
  • Managing Business Ethics: Straight Talk about How to Do It Right, Linda K. Trevino – assigned reading for grad school
  • Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, Emily Nagoski – recommended by my therapist and one amazing book. The first chapter alone changed my life
  • The Midnight Library, Matt Haig – I read this for both my neighborhood and my writing group book clubs. It was good especially since I love stories about alternate universes, but it didn’t strike the same chord as many others I know who also suffer with mental health challenges
  • Queen’s Shadow, E.K. Johnston – more Star Wars fan fic
  • Before We Were Yours, Lisa Wingate – this was almost a book club pick that looked really good so I read it anyway. It was a really good family drama with a very satisfying ending
  • The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years, #1), Sarina Bowen – another romance recommendation that was okay but not amazing based on college life
  • A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2), Alyssa Cole – more romance, this one a second in the series that I had really liked earlier in the year that was also really good
  • The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1), N.K. Jemisin – this was a sci-fi/fantasy by a Nebula nominee (or maybe winner?) that I wanted to read to see what kinds of books win those awards. It was a little too fantasy for me and while I did like it, I didn’t love it
  • Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, Byron Katie – another recommendation from my therapist. It resonated with me because I had done similar work about twenty years ago and it built on some fundamentals I had forgotten. Not sure I would have liked it as much without that prior info but it was a good reminder
  • The Flight Girls, Noelle Salazar – a recommendation from my sister that I enjoyed. I used to fly (and wanted to fly in the military back when I was in high school) and this was just enough historical fiction from WWII and female pilots to make me very happy
  • The Four Winds, Kristin Hannah – this was a book club pick. While it was an amazing historical fiction about the Dust Bowl of the Great Depression, it was also a really heavy and difficult read. I’m glad I read it but it isn’t for everyone
  • The Queen’s Gambit, Walter Tevis – I loved the Netflix series and assumed that the book would be better. However, it was such a well-done adaptation that there wasn’t any additional depth that I got from reading the book
  • Change Management and Innovation, MindEdge Inc. – grad school assigned reading
  • The Afterward, E.K. Johnston – another young adult that was good but the whole genre leaves me wanting. This one was unique in that it was about super heroes after the end of their heroic journey
  • Unfuck Your Boundaries: Build Better Relationships Through Consent, Communication and Expressing Your Needs, Faith G. Harper – an amazing book that I highly recommend. I think I found this because Audible recommended it based on the other self-help books I’d been reading. Of course the name was intriguing and so I had to pick it up. It did not disappoint! Highly recommended if you find yourself wishing you could have more effective relationships with people
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir – another best book of 2021 that I devoured. I loved Weir’s first book and this one was even better. I recommend it to everyone even if you aren’t a sci-fi reader
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living, Jes Baker – another recommended to me by Audible because of my reading history that did not disappoint. It was my first foray into the whole body positivity movement and this idea of rejecting diet and fitness culture as harmful. Very interesting
  • Magic Hour, Kristin Hannah – I love everything I’ve ever read from Kristin Hannah, this one included. Kind of hard to read about ferrel children and intense neglect and abuse but well done
  • Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, Evelyn Tribole – this book changed my relationship with food. It is a much more healthy way of eating and approaching the world and part of the rabbit hole I started down with my health coach a few years ago
  • It’s Not All Downhill From Here, Terry McMillan – a book club pick that was so amazing especially for aging women
  • The Lost Apothecary, Sarah Penner – another recommendation from a friend that did not disappoint. It is a weave of history and current events tied to a city. Very great read
  • Crafting & Executing Strategy: The Quest for Competitive Advantage, Arthur A. Thompson Jr. – the very last assigned reading for grad school before I finished
  • The Power, Naomi Alderman – book club pick that was legitimately amazing. Dystopian and feminine empowerment with a science fiction twist and feel. This one stayed with me for a while!
  • Radicalized, Cory Doctorow – a short story collection that I picked up after seeing the author as a keynote at a writing conference. It was enough to know I liked his work and add a novel-length work to my to-be-read pile
  • Not the Girls You’re Looking For, Amina Mae Safi – a great read with diverse characters by another keynote speaker who I was very impressed with. This one was also a young adult but I really enjoyed this one!
  • The Lost Queen (The Lost Queen Trilogy, #1), Signe Pike – a book club pick in the historical fiction genre, this time an Irish/Scottish tale about a character who probably came to be known as Merlin in the King Arthur tales. Hard to read, but also fascinating. Better on audiobook to hear the accents read for you and the pronunciation of all the names
  • Tom Clancy’s The Division: Hearts on Fire, Kc Wayland – another audible original that I got for free. If I’m being honest, I picked it up because it was narrated by one of my favorite actors from my BSG fandom. It was a fast and fun read that reminded me of a video game
  • Aetherbound, E.K. Johnston – this was a scifi young adult. I really like this author but YA just is blah for me. Not really sure why…
  • Little Brother (Little Brother, #1), Cory Doctorow – this was social commentary and social justice/the future is a shit show like I really enjoy. If that’s your thing, you would love this book as well. If it isn’t, you probably hate this book…
  • Forty Acres, Dwayne Alexander Smith – a very interesting take on slavery and finding a way to heal our past but in fiction form. I picked this up from recommendations and was not disappointed
  • The Hiding Place, C.J. Tudor – a pretty creepy psychological thriller with some supernatural woven in for good measure. This was a recommendation from a friend that did not disappoint
  • When We Believed in Mermaids, Barbara O’Neal – another thriller/mystery because I just couldn’t get enough of these. It was really good and recommend this one for anyone who loves a good family drama with a little bit of mystery
  • Restless, William Boyd – a spy who got out kind of story about a woman who comes clean to her daughter about her secret life many years after the war.
  • On the Beach, Nevil Shute – a book club pick that I just didn’t like. Mostly because I can’t stand reading older fiction (this one was published in the 50’s) where the blatant sexism of the time period comes shining through
  • The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher – another psychological thriller
  • The Scent Keeper, Erica Bauermeister – I devoured this book while on a beach in Mexico with my sister celebrating graduation… it was an amazing book that I highly recommend!
  • Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston – romance of the highest and best kind with diverse characters and accurate portrayal of romance and real life. So good!
  • Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell – a book club pick in the mystery/thriller genre which was very well-done
  • Boyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material #1), Alexis Hall – more great and diverse romance
  • One Last Stop, Casey McQuiston – this was paranormal, diverse, and amazing all wrapped up together. I love this one!
  • Trailer Park Trickster (Adam Binder #2), David R. Slayton – an urban fantasy with my kind of witchcraft. I think I liked this second in the series even better than the first which is pretty rare for me
  • The Last Thing He Told Me, Laura Dave – more mystery/thriller but also really well done
  • The Guest List, Lucy Foley – mystery/thriller that had great potential and kind of left me wanting with the ending
  • Peeps (Peeps #1), Scott Westerfeld – eh, another YA that I didn’t hate but also didn’t love. At least I’m consistent, right?
  • Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam – a story about the end of the world where that isn’t central to the plot and instead is about people thrown into weird situations trying to cope. It didn’t really love this one especially the ending
  • Cytonic (Skyward #3), Brandon Sanderson – a rare YA series that I’ve kept reading and don’t hate
  • Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid – an interesting read with undertones of dealing with privilege and race issues that I really liked
  • In Five Years, Rebecca Serle – this was a surprising find that I expected to be fluffy and trivial but that turned out to be very deep and with some heavy adult themes. Very good one!
  • Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters – a very difficult read for non-trans (and especially cisgenered, heterosexuals like me) that is also one of the most impactful books I’ve ever read. I’m an LGBTQ+ ally and thought I had enough friends and people I care about who had shared their experiences that I knew what their lives were like. This book showed me that I knew almost nothing and gave me a deeper empathy for everyone on this path
  • Devil Versus Alpha (The Millennium Wolves #1) – I got sucked into some free reading app with a teaser chapter on Facebook because what’s more guilty pleasure than sex and werwolves?
  • Ghosted Soul (The Millennium Wolves #2) – who knew I was already reading the second book with that teaser app…
  • The Vanishing Half, Brit Bennett – another amazing novel that gives needed glimpses into #ownvoice experiences of the African American experience
  • Ravel, Cassidy Ward – a novella from one of my personal writing friends. Knitting and unraveling strands of reality? Yes, please!
  • The Wife Upstairs, Freida McFadden – a psychological thriller recommended by a coworker. Very enjoyable and very well-done
  • Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5), Brandon Sanderson – I’m trying not to give up on this series but the books are slow to be released and major tomes to read when they do. This felt like a dip of toes into the world without a 54-hour audiobook commitment
  • Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre, Max Brooks – this one was fun but also not that scary or amazing given my previously mentioned desensitization toward “scary” books

Now Available: If Not Now, When?

More publishing news! Is there anything more exciting for an author than announcing that something new is out in the world? I argue, no. This one is especially noteworthy for me for two reasons. First, this is a collection from my primary writing group, The Infinite Monkeys. I wrote the forward of this collection since it also marks the last one I helmed the group as the president for. I will miss being in charge, but am also excited for all the time I will have now to focus on my own writing.

Second, this collection contains my first published poem, “Time to Go.” It is gritty, and dark, and reflects the frame of mind I was in at the end of 2020. Be warned, there are content warnings for this one for a reason if you’re a sensitive reader. Most of the stories and poems in this collection are not dark, so don’t be afraid to pick it up otherwise. That’s the beauty of an anthology (aka story collection) so there’s something that everyone will like.

Available in both eBook and print HERE. I’d love to hear what you think of this, dear reader, if you want to drop me an email!

Now Available: Perchance To Dream

I love announcing publishing news. This is another collection published by one of my writing chapters, The Salt City Genre Writers. It contains the first of several stories I have releasing this year and represents the creative triumphs I eeked out from the overall bleakness of 2020. If you’re like me, you’ll take positives from 2020 wherever you can find them.

My story, “Fog of War,” is a scifi/dystopian tale about the last remnants of the human race who no longer fully believe the mythology of their history. It was a cathartic tale I wrote during the height of the social unrest during 2020. I look forward to the catharsis you will hopefully feel when you read it and see the echoes of our world in this fictional one, if you look hard enough. For long-time fans, you’ll recognize the world and several of the characters from my story “Reflections” in Secrets and Doors. i hope you’ll like revisiting this world and seeing another point of view. This collection, focused on dreams, encompasses many different genres and hopefully has something for everyone. Available in both eBook and print HERE.

I was hopeful enough about where the world is heading (out of the pandemic I hope!) to order physical copies in anticipation of local author signing opportunities for those of you in Utah. Once details are known, I’ll announce them here as well.

COVID-19 Pandemic: One year time warp

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

It’s officially been a full year of pandemic and living with all the things that have come with it. 2020 both feels like the longest year I’ve ever lived, and that it sped past so quickly that there’s no chance it has already been a year, right? I look back on my post from the six-week mark and it is laughable how we thought it was somehow going to end soon. I’m somewhat at a loss for words of how to adequately sum up what the last year has brought but feel like, as a writer, I must try.

Many feel that 2020 was the worst year ever. Certainly there are many reasons to think that way. 500,000+ Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, and people are still dying. That’s a lot of people grieving the loss of friends and loved ones. In America violence and hatred abound, politics are like a dumpster fire, and the new adults joining the scene believe they will see another Civil War in their lifetimes. But all that aside, I’d rather look at the positives and silver linings of what living through this experience has taught me.

Social Media

Dear god, is there anything more toxic in our society right now? I argue, no. I remember many weeks last year where I thought I was being helpful and sharing legitimate science and research as things were shared with me by medical experts – remember, my day job is in healthcare – only to be met with rage and conspiracy theories and general negativity from many of my “friends” on social media – particularly FaceBook. I got so spun up and would sit around the quarantine dinner table venting about the drama of the day, feeling all the anxiety and frustrations it brought with it. Around the same time, I watched the documentary “The Social Dilemma” which rocked my world. Seriously, if you haven’t seen it, check out the trailer HERE!

Go on, I’ll wait….

See what I mean?

Sometime mid 2020, I got really clear on the effects that social media was having on my sanity, and my health and wellness overall. This led to what I refer to as The Great COVID Purge where I took my social media back for myself. For years – since I became a published author – I had been juggling this weird dichotomy of “needing” to be a public figure and still somehow protecting my private life. Gone were the days where I didn’t connect on social media with people unless I would both recognize AND stop to talk with someone if I ran into them in a public place. Now, I had a completely segmented audience with “Acquaintances” that were separate from my “real” friends and family. That way, I could limit who saw posts with my kids and my intimate private life. What I realized was that this is merely a manipulative way to measure self worth by external validation and that instead I had become this weird pseudo public view of myself. I deleted hundreds of “friends” who over the years I couldn’t even remember where I had met them and who I didn’t ever interact with. These strangers got to see details of my life just because we had attended the same writing conference at some point and met.

My new motto: if it doesn’t make me happy when I see your posts or I wouldn’t be happy to run into you in real life, you don’t get to see me and what I post on social media. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that many actual people I know and even people I share DNA with in some way are not in that category. For those, it was harder but not when you look at people like my husband who isn’t on a single social media network and still maintains quality relationships. It doesn’t make us not connected in other ways, just because we aren’t connected on social media. Read that again because I’m pretty sure a lot of people have become so consumed and manipulated by social media that they don’t know how to do that anymore. Myself included until this epiphany midyear.

It felt like an extreme weight lifted off my chest and I’ve never been happier on social media minus those early days when it was all brand new. I also have completely changed my social media habits. It used to be that it was the first thing I checked in the morning and constantly checked in throughout the day. Now, I could go all day without popping on. I’m still trying to find the best balance between all the different platforms but overall I have really enjoyed being more authentically connected to people that uplift me and add to my joy in life.

Quality over Quantity

I have always been a very social person with a lot of friends and colleagues in circles that I participate in. But I’ve now been super high risk for DYING if I contracted this COVID-19 virus (remember my shitty kidney disease? Yeah, that has been terrifying!) I couldn’t be with people safely and I literally stayed home to stay safe. For a year. As an extrovert, this was hard when it was happening. It required me to set and maintain boundaries with people who weren’t at risk like I am. Coming through it on what I hope is the tail end, and as with anything, hindsight is much clearer than life as it unfolds around you.

Over the course of the year, it turns out that while I didn’t get to see a lot of people, the people who found ways to stay connected to each other did it in very creative ways. My social circles shrunk, but the quality of my relationships improved – even without social media, go figure. This was also true of my little family – my husband and kids and our pets. We watched a lot of people talk about how their lives were worse because it was so hard to entertain their kids or be with their spouse ALL DAY or whatever it is that lots of people struggled with. Our world became each other. We continued to build on achieving our dreams together. We grew as people and as a family. We laugh and we talk and we connected in a deeper way than we would have if pandemic life hadn’t been forced onto us. For this alone, where we are almost to the phase of life where our children are grown and will soon launch into their own lives, I’m grateful for this silver lining. There’s still no one I’d rather spend time with more than the guy I married over a quarter century ago. That makes me happy.

I also have a shiny new therapist… in case you’re wondering. I argue now more than ever every single person in the world needs one of their own.

So here we are, a year later, lots and lots of people dead, vaccines rolling out across the globe, and hopes rising that it might be over soon. I am re-emerging from this year that happened with not a lot to measure its passing and reconnecting with all the things that make me feel like I’m living rather than merely surviving. Most notably, that includes my website, which has been woefully neglected while my job supporting and innovating in the healthcare IT industry to support frontline workers took far more of my time than it ever has before. I hope your “lost year”, as I think of 2020, brought at least some things you can classify as positive to outweigh the trauma and stress we’ve felt on the global stage as a society.

2020 Books Archive

How is it already time to look back on and recap another year of reading? 2020 started out so beautifully, and hopeful, and quickly went down the pandemic drain for basically everyone on the planet. The only “normal” activity I did last year was reading – an activity which I did a whole lot of. Fifty-seven books of the super-aggressive-stretch-goal of sixty books I set for myself. Here’s my rundown of all the books I read, mostly for my own benefit, but also presented as a way to share high level book review details in case anyone is looking for their next read. Also, a plug for GoodReads if you are an avid reader who likes to keep track of such things like I do. Their yearly Reading Challenge keeps me motivated all year, year after year.

  • The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin – one of the many I hauled home from a writing conference that also focused on reading widely. Great family drama with lots of diversity that lived up to the recommendation.
  • A Memory Called Empire (Teixcalaan, #1), Arkady Martine – a very political, not-based-in-our-world and science fiction read, also hauled home from a librarian/bookseller recommendation, I picked up in an attempt to read outside my preferred genres. It was a difficult read to get into but paid off greatly. If you’re into the genre, it is a great one.
  • One Small Sacrifice (Shadows of New York, #1), Hilary Davidson – also hauled home from librarian/bookseller recommendation in the crime/thriller genre. I really enjoyed it.
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy – I picked this one up since it had been on my list forever and is considered a must-read. It proved just as difficult to read as I had assumed based on the movie they made from it but it is also in my preferred horror/dystopian genres and I enjoyed it.
  • The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy, Erica Layne – the first nonfiction of the year. I’ve been trying to declutter my life according to the recommendations and concepts ever since. A great place to start on this very popular trend lately.
  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman – book club pick that I didn’t know what to think about in the beginning and which turned out to be hauntingly good with a very satisfying ending. We had a great discussion about it as well.
  • Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1), Neal Shusterman – I typically don’t love YA books, but I couldn’t get enough of this one that was recommended and co-read with my daughter.
  • Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng – a haunting read about a child who doesn’t connect with her family and their discovery of this fact in the aftermath of her death. This was a great read!
  • Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2), Neal Shusterman – See, I liked the first one so much that I had to keep reading!
  • The Toll (Arc of a Scythe, #3), Neal Shusterman – a very satisfying conclusion to this YA trilogy with just enough politics and morality to satisfy my adult reader tastes. If you haven’t read this series, I recommend it.
  • Trail of Broken Wings, Sejal Badani – a book club pick which was amazing. About an immigrant family and the abuse the women of the family share in looking back over the course of their life when the family patriarch falls ill. A great book club pick.
  • The Science of Sci-Fi: From Warp Speed to Interstellar Travel, Erin Macdonald – this was an Audible Original that satisfied my inner sci-fi geek who wonders just how much of the stories and movies I love could ever be plausible. Very entertaining and accessible.
  • Tell Me Lies, J.P. Pomare – another Audible Original that I listened to as a distraction from all the things going on in the world. Psychological thriller has apparently become my go-to genre. This was nothing memorable but was not terrible either.
  • November Road, Lou Berney – I wanted this to be so much better than it was. I picked it up during the holidays and, while it had promise, the end was just dismal and bleak. I don’t regret reading it, but by April of 2020, I needed something that was far more hopeful.
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – another psychological thriller that kept me guessing until the very end with a twist even I didn’t see coming. Highly recommended.
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott – if you’re a writer, this is a fantastic and frank look at what it means to be creative with honest and straightforward advice.
  • Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story, K.M. Weiland – I keep trying these craft books and occasionally I can come away with some nugget of possibility that might improve my own process, but usually it’s just another writer telling us what works for them without anything concrete to take away from it. I fear this one is in the later category.
  • ITIL Service Transition, Cabinet Office – I’m a glutton for all things process and this was a textbook/certification book that I read just because I needed a deeper understanding of building processes at work. Yes, I know I’m crazy!
  • The City We Became (Great Cities #1), N.K. Jemisin – I wanted to read something from a Hugo Award winner and this one looked interesting. It did not disappoint! I loved this book. Great SciFi/Fantasy with tons of diversity.
  • Write Naked: A Bestseller’s Secrets to Writing Romance & Navigating the Path to Success, Jennifer Probst – read as part of my exploration of other genres and to get a glimpse into this whole romance thing. It wasn’t anything super earth-shattering or memorable this far down the road after reading it, unfortunately.
  • Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng – a book club pick and an amazing book. Family secrets and intrigue might be my new guilty pleasure genre!
  • Bird Box (Bird Box, #1), Josh Malerman – I loved the movie on Netflix and wanted to see if the book gave more depth to the story. Unfortunately, it didn’t. I’m not sure I would have loved it as much if I didn’t have the images of the movie to fill in some of the blanks. Kind of disappointing.
  • Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, Brené Brown – I love everything Dr. Brown does and recommend this book to anyone looking for ways to feel like they truly belong in a see of judgement and societal pressures. I will definitely re-read this one.
  • How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi – part of my journey this year to be an ally and to check my own inherent bias. It was a hard read in many ways because it spoke so much truth and exposed a lot of things I hadn’t even considered. Highly recommend this one!
  • Silver Sparrow, Tayari Jones – another book club pick that was fantastic. Raw, real, and hard to put down. This story stayed with me long after I was done and I even told my kids about this one. Highly recommended.
  • The Mountain and the Sea, Kwame Dawes – an Audible Original when I needed something light between college assignments. I loved this one but only because I had no expectations going in and found it about a mature woman who finds herself in the context of her encounter with another person. Very literary and very good. Don’t expect a romance, but definitely read this one.
  • Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues, Molly Harper – an urban fantasy, also a quick Audible Original between school assignments. It was good but not memorable.
  • Starsight (Skyward #2), Brandon Sanderson – my kid loved this one more than I did but it was a well-written YA like only Sanderson can do. If you love the genre, then this one is a good one.
  • The Whisper Man, Alex North – super satisfying psychological thriller with a side of serial killer. Suprisingly, my kid bought this book for herself and I stole it to read one weekend in the woods this summer. It was so good! Spoiler: I’m going to pick this one for my book club to read in 2021!
  • By Virtue Fall, Bryan Young et all – disclaimer: I have a story in this one. I read it cover to cover and am amazed at the level of talent there is in this collection. The editors were amazing and the writers are all very talented. If you’ve ever wanted to pick up a collection to sample local Utah authors, this is one I recommend for everyone.
  • City of Girls, Elizabeth Gilbert – a book club read that I absolutely loved. Women’s lit at its finest and a period piece on top of that. We had an amazing discussion. Disclaimer: there are some very mature themes so if you’re sensitive to sexuality be aware you’re in for some with this although it is not on the scale anywhere near erotica.
  • Mindtap Business Communications, Mary Ellen Guffey – textbook for my Master Degree. I’m counting it anyway since a book is a book!
  • The Institute, Stephen King – after so many years of being a King fan, his novels all start to tie together and his universe is vast. This one had a lot of things to make you think about the current world we are living in with a side of horror thrown in. I liked it, but I wonder how many brand new King fans there are born every year and how much someone who wasn’t already a fan would think of this.
  • The Roommate, Dervla McTiernan – a crime story Audible Original. They kind of all are just okay and something to entertain. I use them to keep reading without derailing myself in the middle of other large projects.
  • Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb #1), Tamsyn Muir – This came highly recommended and it is in the fantasy genre which I don’t read widely in. I really enjoyed it but it took me a while to really wrap my head around the world and what was happening. The learning curve is a little steep for those who don’t read the genre often. I’m very glad I stuck with it because it was very good overall.
  • Managing Human Capital, Jean M. Phillips – textbook… need I say more?
  • The Wife Between Us, Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (re-read) – I loved this book so much that I made my book club read it when it was my turn to pick. They all agreed that it was a good book with lots of twists that left us all satisfied. I thought it was super predictable in the beginning but I was very wrong so stick with this one if you pick it up.
  • The Decision: Overcoming Today’s BS for Tomorrow’s Success, Kevin Hart – hands down, one of THE BEST books I’ve ever read when it comes to personal development/self-help. Yes, it’s by THAT Kevin Hart. It is super entertaining, very authentic and real, and hits you in the gut with reality and tools to eliminate the bullshit everyone has in their life that holds them back from achieving full potential. I wish that this came in physical book because I would have it highlighted and dog eared and flipped through all the time. Unfortunately, it is only available on YouTube or Audible and is read by the author. Highly recommend this one to everyone!
  • The Forgetting Time, Sharon Guskin – fascinating book club read about what happens to us after we die. It was so interesting to watch the story unfold and it wasn’t until the book club discussion that we all realized it was rooted in someone’s actual theories.
  • The Outsider, Stephen King – I’m a sucker for Stephen King – have been since I was a kid. This one was one of his better ones from recent years. How do you discount a crime when there’s indisputable evidence but also proof against it? A story of being in two places at the same time.
  • White Trash Warlock, David R. Slayton – the debut novel of a friend and also an amazing urban fantasy about witches and warlocks and magical realms. It was also super diverse with LGBTQ+ characters that was refreshing to see done so well. I devoured this on Audible!
  • Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting out of the Box, The Arbinger Institute – a leadership self-help book that doubled as a textbook for a class. A pretty good concept but lots of anecdotal stories to lead you by the nose to the point.
  • As Bright as Heaven, Susan Meissner – book club read set against the backdrop of the Spanish Flu in America. It was fascinating to watch this historical piece (written years ago and not recently) play out and see the parallels to the current pandemic we are living through. A poignant family drama period piece that was well done.
  • Leadership 2.0, Travis Bradberry – another leadership book for a class
  • Humble Leadership: The Power of Relationships, Openness, and Trust, Edgar H. Schein – and another leadership book for the same class. Although I thought this was a nice approach to looking at some aspects differently.
  • Feed, M.T. Anderson – a disturbing look at our future where people have hardware jacked into their brains to see social media feeds and the evolution that young people take. It was written several years ago and is very relevant today.
  • Dune, Frank Herbert – I’ve seen the movie years ago, it is a classic, and they are doing a new movie. I finally made time to put it on the top of my to-read pile and finally see what all the hype was about. It was good, although the style is very 1960’s science fiction which has become a little hard to read and enjoy for me.
  • The Cuckoo’s Cry, Caroline Overington – an Audible Original set in Australia at the beginning of the COVID lockdown. A family drama/thriller that was entertaining but a little difficult to read since it was so close to current events. If you read to escape reality, this one isn’t for you.
  • BattleTech: Honor’s Gauntlet (BattleTech Novel), Bryan Young – a novel written by a friend in the BattleTech licensed universe. I was told you didn’t need to be a gamer to understand or enjoy this and it was true. It was a fast read that felt like Pacific Rim in space/on other planets. If you like scifi, this one is worth picking up.
  • The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James – Volume 1, M.R. James – an Audible Original that was supposed to invoke terror and which was a childish ghost story collection at best. I was disappointed.
  • Ink, Jonathan Maberry – horror and tattoos, what more does anyone need? This was a fascinating take on the concept of someone stealing your memories that I really enjoyed.
  • The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch – a memoir I stumbled across on a Twitter feed of recommended books. I listened to this amazing and literary treasure while I wrapped all my gifts one weekend and am so glad I found it. Very heavy read, but beautifully written, raw and real.
  • Mars One, Jonathan Maberry – I liked this author so much that I picked up another standalone about the first trip to Mars. It was more of a YA that was not as gritty or satisfying as the last. Still an entertaining and fast read for scifi fans.
  • King of Sting: The Story of Australian Conman Peter Foster, Justin Armsden – an Audible Original that sounded like a podcast that was packaged together about someone I never heard of and who didn’t do anything all that unusual. Kind of disappointing.
  • Silverswift, Natalie Lloyd – had a fascinating premise about mermaids and their hidden island but turned out to be more of a middle grade. An Audible Original that would appeal to kids or someone who wants a whimsical little adventure story.
  • Evil Eye, Madhuri Shekar – a surprisingly good Audible Original about an Indian-American with a fantastic twist at the end. This one is not what you think and is well worth the read/listen.
  • Harrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2), Tamsyn Muir – It took me two attempts to finish this sequel because it was SO confusing at the beginning. I think I liked it but probably would need to read it again to fully grasp all the things that happened and the complexities woven into it. Probably why I don’t read this genre very often. Still glad I read it.

Now Available: By Virtue Fall

Cover art of By Virtue Fall book
By Virtue Fall – The Salt City Genre Writers 2020 Chapter Anthology

2020 appears to be the year of publishing announcements without release parties, since here is yet another for me that I’m super excited for but won’t get to celebrate with a book signing or in-person celebration. However, in the midst of all the pandemic divisiveness and fear, I’ll take the bright spots wherever I can get them.

This collection is a collaboration with fellow Utah authors and another story that benefitted greatly from amazing editors. My story “The Last Yoga Class” is a horror tale about the end of the world. I first wrote it as part of my Advanced Creative Writing class back when I was finishing my undergrad degree – which feels like a million years ago given all that has happened in the eight months since I graduated. Available in both eBook and print HERE.

There are all kinds of genres in this collection, not just horror. If you’re looking for a good read that is easier than a novel to pick up and put down amid summer activities, a story collection like this one is a great option. I’d love to hear what you think if you do end up picking up a copy. I’ll be celebrating and pretending we are doing it together.

I Did A Thing – The flash fiction edition

Have you ever done something on a total whim and surprised yourself? One of my writing groups does a flash fiction contest every month and the top four stories are featured in their online magazine. In May, I went to one of the meetings where a perfect storm of things came together.

  • It was the last day before the deadline
  • The theme resonated with me and immediately a story idea popped into my head
  • The President of the group said “It’s only 1000 words, just sit down and write it – what do you have to lose?”

It was like he was speaking directly to me, although he was in fact talking in generalities to the entire group that day. Call it procrastination because I truly needed to be working on a paper for my class, but it felt so good to just let myself write something.

It was the submitting it to the publication that was the whim. Like fiction writing so often is for me, just the act of writing something cleansed a little piece of my soul that has been suffering amid all this pandemic and social unrest of the last few months.

Dandelion gone to seed blowing into the wind with sunlight behind it.
Photo by Nita from Pexels

Imagine my surprise when a few days later I learned that mine was one of the stories they had picked to feature the next month in the online magazine, Salt Flats. Here’s a link if you want to check it out on Medium:

Say What Is Truth – The Terra Episode

Say What Is Truth logo

This whole global pandemic has preoccupied me… I blame my day job in the healthcare industry for the loss of the last three months which seemed to fly past in a blur of overwork and stress. Amid all that distraction, I failed to share one of the coolest things I’ve done in quite a while.

I was a guest on my favorite new podcast – one that I was witness to the birth of. It was so much fun to record and see behind the scenes of a creative outlet that I enjoy as a listener as well. If you ever wanted a glimpse of what makes me tick and secrets to my overachieving – or just wanted to hear what the sound of my voice is like for those who only know me from my online presence – here is your chance! Joni and I chatted and she knew just the right questions to get to the heart of me. Her podcast, Say What is Truth, is a bright spot to my weeks since it began, so check out the other episodes, too!

I’d love to hear what you think either in the comments or via email. Hope you are staying both safe and sane since it appears there is no end in sight with this pandemic, at least in the U.S.!

Now Available: Within Earshot

Book cover of "Within Earshot: Rumors, Whispers, and Lies" A Blue Quill Anthology
Within Earshot: Rumors, Whispers, and Lies – A Blue Quill Anthology

It’s been a while since I had a story released in print. I’m thrilled that my story “Fly On The Wall” was included in this collection. It’s a quirky story that has taken a while to find a home. I had an amazing editor who helped me transform it into a better version than ever before, and this collection was a perfect fit for it. Disclaimer: it is kind of creepy since it is horror science fiction. Hopefully readers of my writing already know what to expect from me, but if you’re new, I kind of tend to write dark stories.

This release feels anti-climactic since this crazy pandemic has postponed all plans for in-person celebrations. Nevertheless, it is available now on Amazon in both print and ebook formats HERE.

I’m making my way through the whole collection and the first few stories are great. From romance to contemporary to horror, you’ll likely find something here to enjoy! I can’t recommend enough picking up a short story collection right now. The world feels on edge and settling into a full length novel is likely difficult for many readers. Plus, it’s a great way to find new authors you like.

The very best way you can support authors is by leaving reviews so if you pick up a copy, I would be ever so grateful if you take the time to leave one. Happy reading!

Observations from Six Weeks of Quarantine

It has literally been six weeks of quarantine due to COVID-19 – a novel coronavirus spreading mayhem and death across the globe. The first weeks everything happened so fast and we all scrambled to adjust as quickly as possible. So much so that March and much of April was essentially lost in a roller coaster of emotions and reactions. Highs and lows and everything in between.

Image source: CDC

How will history remember this time where the entire world shut down and economies shed all the non-essential and superfluous trappings of society in an attempt to slow the infection rate, so hospitals could treat and save as many lives as possible? It depends – like it always seems to – on where you lie on the political and religious spectrums. And in the US, it also depends on which state you live in, since there has yet to be a coordinated national response.

The US is divided along party lines. One side focused on responding to a pandemic threat to public health – one they saw coming as far back as January and to which Federal government did nothing to respond to until over a month later. The other side focused on responding with cries of civil liberty violations and lamenting the collapse of an economy built on the need for people to spend every last dollar they earn while unemployment numbers skyrocket. It is a vicious circle where no side is completely right or wrong as most moral and ethical dilemmas so often are.

Here in Utah, schools were closed on March 13, 2020 for initially a three to four-week timeframe, later extended to last until May 1st, and finally through the end of the current school year by the Governor – the only thing consistent across the state. The same day, March 13th, my work embarked on a capacity test of how many people we could support working remotely. The next day it was declared that if you could do your work from home you should – until further notice. It has now been six full weeks of 100% remote working. The county I live in has designated essential businesses that are allowed to remain open, everything else ordered to shut down to enforce social distancing and slow the spread of this contagion. Only one other county has similar orders to stay at home. Where so many people live and work in different counties, this feels like chaos or a non-response for many.

  • I work in heathcare. I see and am privy to the emergency and crisis planning happening for the communities we serve, and it inspires me
  • I personally have a kidney disease (of the autoimmune kind) which puts me at extreme risk, with loved ones in all of the highest risk categories for which contracting this disease would also likely be fatal
  • I’m watching friends and neighbors lose loved ones, unable to bury their dead with the type of ritual and gatherings that one would expect. I can say I’ve attending a virtual graveside service via video conference
  • I have two kids adjusting to schools that were cancelled for the remainder of the school year, with zero notice, who three days later started learning online with teachers who are not nearly appreciated for what they do in normal times but who are now not only caring for and focused on my kids and what they are learning but are themselves having to adjust to a new normal

The first month was hard. But now is much harder as the economy crashes around us and the divides that have existed in our society are exposed for the crisis they should always have been. While leaders debate about the right time to ease the quarantine restrictions to stay home, I wonder why we aren’t focused on the larger problem: why our economy is so broken that this many people can’t afford to miss even one paycheck without facing financial ruin. I’ve seen articles written that call this proof that we are living in a failed state. I both hope that isn’t true long-term and fear that it will be.

I find myself in the middle ground on the current stay-home vs. reopen-everything debate. Because, as usual, it is in the gray area (aka the hardest area) where most fall. There are no easy answers right now. There is nothing black and white about choosing life over money because we are all so entwined with the various aspects of the pandemic response. My wish is that people who protest, or gather together in a way that goes against social distancing, had a way to fully own that right by also waiving their privilege to healthcare when they blatantly disregard the recommendations from experts trying their best to give us all the best way to achieve those middle-ground options. How difficult is it to stay home as much as you can and socially distance when you don’t? To do otherwise is literally a slap in the face to those who will suffer as a direct result of large scale gatherings. Don’t believe me? There’s already reporting of spikes in confirmed infection cases in the states where large-scale protesting occurred in the last few weeks. You can’t argue with epidemiology, no matter how hard you try.

I will continue to observe and report. These are historic times, friends. I hope everyone I know is staying safe – and has enough toilet paper to meet first-world standards. (Will this be the joke of 2020 when it is all over? I wonder.) I have personally left my house a total of 5 times in six weeks and foresee that trend continuing for the majority of summer – or until we understand this disease more. I wonder how history will see this in hindsight and hope I’m still around to witness that as well.