Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year's Kiss

Sixteen years ago tonight I kissed a boy at the stroke of midnight, fell in love, and discovered The Beatles for the very first time. What strange worlds we construct for ourselves, and even stranger still are the choices we make about the people we invite inside. Most maddening and wonderful and magical of all are the ones we decide to keep, and who keep us in turn, even when the road turns rocky in this strange country where we are off the map and may never completely learn the other's language.
But still we try, and play some music, and shake it off, and try some more. And at the end of it all, I'll look forward to a seventeenth New Year's kiss.

A Playlist:

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Top 10 YA Books of 2011 (Indie)


Again, I don't think all of these were published in 2011, but most were, and that's when I finally got around to reading them. And therefore...
The Winners Are:

1. Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan










2. Red by Kait Nolan










3. Heart on a Chain by Cindy Bennett










4. Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire










5. Callum & Harper by Fisher Amelie










6. Compis by Kate Copeseeley










7. Glow by Stacey Wallace Benefiel










8. Ethereal by Addison Moore










9. The Mind Readers by Lori Brighton











10. The Second Ship by Richard Phillips


Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Card from Me to You:

Happy Holidays, Everyone!


Enjoy a selection from my Holiday Playlist:


Delorean, "Violence in the Snowy Fields"

The Year in Review: Final ROW80 Update

As I'm writing, I'm having my first cup of coffee from my brand-spanking new Kuerig coffee maker. I feel like I've died and gone to coffee heaven. My old one did die, actually, and I complained about it on Twitter. Within less than a minute a representative of the Kuerig company replied to my tweet with condolences and a number for a customer service rep who replaced it for free. No more slow-drip Folgers! Plus that's some hellacious customer service.

But I'm supposed to be writing about ROW80 as Round 4 closes. Like an idiot, I did not copy my overall goals into my little ROW80 tab up on my nav bar like I usually do, so I'm doing my best to remember what they once were. I think it was all centered around word count and specific texts I was working on. But midway through Round 4, my goals changed radically when I signed with Curiosity Quills Press for a four book deal. Suddenly I had deadlines that weren't self-imposed, and my goal became to keep up with those as best as possible.

Having a publisher really changes things. It became critical to meet deadlines, and to do that I had to establish a pretty set schedule. I pretty much work straight through the mornings now, and the early afternoons. My days before my kids get home from school are consumed with writing or editing. As a result, I'm farther ahead with the "big books" I contracted for, The Chronicles of Nowhere 1-3; one of them is set for press as I write this, and the other is over half finished. So I am over half way to my goal there. The serialized fiction I'm writing, Daughter of Glass, is also going well, but I do manage to run a little behind my goal of a chapter a week. It's more like  week and a half, to be truthful. My goal in between ROW80 rounds is to work on upping word count. Having never written serialized fiction, I've been unsure how to pace myself. Overall I seem to be averaging about 2,000-4,000 words per week.

That's not as much as I would like, but that's before I factor in all the editing I'm doing. This round I started doing editing as a side thing, and it's to the point that I do more of that than actual writing of my own. I really do enjoy it, and I think it helps me become a better writer. However it's the same juggling act the rest of us face: trying to fit it in the writing in the face of other responsibilities. This leads me to the one big fail of the round: that I don't have the third and final book of my trilogy out yet. It's in good shape, and ready for release soon, but it keeps getting pushed back because I have these publisher deadlines to meet. I can only hope the fans will understand, and know that it really won't be much more of a wait. January seems to be crunch time with CQ, and I hope to be able to get it out then.

So going forward, that's my big focus from here on out: getting Blood Redemption into the hands of readers. Additionally, I have some blog posts and a radio show coming up in January, a co-writing project with the fabulous Stacey Wallace Benefiel, and a new adult romance being released in conjunction with the IBC's Blog Tour de Force event. So all in all, a busy schedule. And I have the feeling things aren't going to get any easier- just busier, and if I'm lucky, more organized.

I can't thank the organizers and participants of ROW80 enough for being there for me when I needed it; for all the encouragement; and for helping provide and environment in which I was comfortable pushing myself. I've been a sponsor for three out of four rounds now, and I think I'll be sitting this next one out (as a sponsor, I'm definitely taking part) unless need arises. This will also be my last blog of substance before Christmas; I am letting my holiday from blogging officially start today. Don't be a stranger, though, because I'll be posting custom-made Christmas cards and playlists of Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck right here, just for you. So until the New Year, here's wishing you the best of holidays and a heartfelt thank you for all your roles in ROW80.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Ten Best YA Reads of 2011 (Mainstream Publisher)

Admittedly, not all of these were released in 2011, but this was the year when I finally got around to reading some of these fantastic books. In a lot of cases, I felt like smacking myself; I mean, who waits until now to read Evernight, or Blue Bloods? But in other cases, I simply didn't know they existed until now, as with the fantastic Willow by Julia Hoban. What puts something on my Top 10 list, besides fabulousness? These are the kind of books I will not only recommend, but read over again. For me, that's saying a lot, considering how huge my TBR pile has gotten. The Top 2 slots are so competitive, it was difficult to differentiate, but in both cases, I can honestly call the reading experience life-changing. Stay tuned for my Top 10 Indie Reads of 2011, and here they are, in descending order of favorite-ness:

10


9.



8.



7



6. 



5. 



4. 



3. 



2. 



1. 


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Update: Nearing the End

As ROW80 round 4 draws to a close, it makes me think back to all that's happened since the beginning of the year. And wow, has that been a lot. Without ROW80, I don't think I could have done most of it. Here are just a few of the ways the community has helped me, some of them writing related and some of them life related.

1. I got so much encouragement and support when our house got hit by one of the tornadoes that plagued the South this past April, causing extensive damage and injuring my husband. This happened just days before I was scheduled to release the sequel to my first book, and I was already a bundle of nerves. People came together for me with words of encouragement, reminders not to panic, and stories of disasters of their own that they could finally laugh about.

2. As far as the actual writing process, I've never found a more supportive community than ROW80. There are no rules, no requirements, no "do this for us and we'll do something back." The laid back attitude goes well with my personality, and I've found a lot of like-minded compadres here. I've made friends and found beta readers; review partners and other writers to exchange excerpts with; Twitter sprint buddies; writers and the nearly-published who are now good friends. 

3. Encouragement and accountability. I get this for my most off the wall ideas- there's always someone who'll drop by my blog and listen to the weirdest plot twists, and then give me their honest opinion. And the SNI squad? I think I owe you my firstborn for the number of times you've kept me from starting four books at the same time when I need to stay focused on what's in front of me. 

These are just a few of the reasons I owe ROW80 a huge thank you. I'm sure I'll think of more between now and my next (and last- gulp) post. But as far as accountability this week, how did I measure up?

1. I'm establishing a regular schedule with my serialized fiction. Basically, I owe the publishers a chapter a week. Daughter of Glass hasn't started posting yet, but once it does, I'm going to have to be on top of my game. They have several chapters in reserve, but I'm managing to adhere )mostly) to a schedule to get this writing in to them every week. Basically, I've set the weekend as my cut-off time; if I don't have it finished, or significantly finished by Sunday, then I consider myself late. Today I have an almost 2,000 word rough draft of a DoG chapter finished. It needs some editing, but I'll get to that after this update and some Christmas shopping I have to do, or I'll finish it up in the morning and send it off. 

2. I have an official release date for the first book in my new series, The Chronicles of Nowhere. That's the placeholder cover, btw. (I've seen the galleys for the real cover and it's all colorful and prrrettty!) On January 14th, Worlds Burn Through will hit the world. Have I mentioned I think this is the best thing I've ever written? This baby has three years (yes, three. years.) of hard labor poured into it, and I'm really excited it's finding it's way out into the world. e-ARCS should be available as early as Wednesday. The publisher is giving out a limited number, but if anyone has a review blog, or is interested in doing an advanced review, please let me know and I'll see about getting you a copy. Since I'm not in charge of distribution this time, I can't promise I can get one for everyone, but I can do my best!

3. I have done so much editing I don't even know how to tell you about it. You might not believe me. Suffice to say, if your book is on my TBR pile, it might be there a while still. It's nothing personal, its just that I'm editing instead of reading for fun. And that's kind of only half-true, because most of the things I'm editing are really great books in their own right, and editing them is reading, after all. It's like I have an assignment sheet for reading time now instead of Free Choice Friday or something. So that's all good, just time-consuming. 

That's probably more than enough for now; as ROW80 Round 4 draws to a close, I'm feeling nostalgic and emotional, with the desire to account for every little thing. Thank goodness there will be more rounds to come in 2012 so I can keep the accountability and fellowship coming. 



Sunday, December 11, 2011

Short Sunday Update

Hello! Nearly-teenagers can eat a lot of Christmas cookies, so I'm going to make this quick so I can go restock. Strictly for them, mind you. I don't want any Christmas cookies. Of course not! :)
It's update time, so I'm here with a recap of the week's activities:
1. Working on publisher deadlines, I'm over halfway done with the second Chronicles of Nowhere book, Shadowed Ground. It feels weird to be working on a second book while waiting for the first one's publication, but I've been getting a whole lot of writing done, at least. This week clocks in at around 4,000 words.
2. Editing proceeds at a breakneck pace: not only my own, but for others. They seem pleased, though, and have requested to keep working with me.
3. Publicity/ book stuff: Make sure to check out the IBC's 12 Days of Christmas Blowout, where lots of ebooks are on sale for 99 cents. I helped make the banner! http://www.indiebookcollective.com/IndieBookCollective/Home.html

That's really it for today, besides Christmas cookies and cold weather. Thanks, and happy writing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Christmas Mixes Vol. 4: The Naughty List

Songs guaranteed to get you on the Naughty List, if you aren't there already. It includes some of my all time favorites, including "Ain't No Chimneys In The Projects," which solves the age old question of just exactly how Santa squeezes his fat self down all those fireplaces, and "Baby It's Cold Outside," just because. Who can resist a swingin' song about getting your attractive female guest drunk so she can't go home? No one sings it like Zooey.

Enjoy!

There Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects (Sharon Jones)
Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight) (The Ramones)
Police Stop My Car (Felice Navidad Parody) (Bob Rivers)
Baby It's Cold Outside (Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel)
Merry Little Christmas From The Family (Robert Earl Keen)
Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas (Staple Singers)
Christmas Card From A Hooker In Minneapolis (Neko Case)
Merry Christmas From A Bar (The Starkweathers)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday Update: Writing to The Christmas Mixes

Update time! I've had a good week as far as word count goes, hitting over 4,000 this week. I have numerous Twitter sprints to thank for this. If any of you ROW80 peeps ever want to sprint and you're around at about 9 am Central, or sometimes in the afternoons, give me a holla. I can't tell you the difference these 1k/1hr sprints have done for my word count.

I've made really good progress with the second Chronicles book, Shadowed Ground, and written another installment of the serialized Daughter of Glass. Saw the cover for the first part of Daughter of Glass and was totally blown away. The story deals with emotions so strong they manifest as actual beings, and so CQ had the idea of doing a different illustration for each emotional avatar. The one for Anger is really cool- lots of red and metal. I love the artist and hope I get to keep her for the other covers.

Other things in the writing world: I was on the radio this week, courtesy of the IBC's weekly radio show. Amber Scott and Rachel Thompson played hosts, while Kelli McCracken, Gayle Ann Williams and I fielded questions about everything from trends in publishing to our favorite writing music. It turns out Kelli McCracken also plays the same song on a loop when she's really into a scene! I thought I was alone!

Lots and lots of editing. I love doing this, because I'm getting to meet some neat new authors and read books outside my normal genre. This has had such an impact on me, in fact, that I'm trolling outside my usual YA horizon for SF thrillers and more adult-ish PNR. So yeah, it's a good, if demanding, role.

This brings me to my last item: The Christmas Mixes. I have three prior playlists under the umbrella title, "Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck" if anyone is looking for such a thing this holiday season. I know I usually hate Chrsitmas music, and that's why I take pains to assemble playlists thtat don't choke us with reindeer and the word "jolly." I've really enjoyed writing to them, so if you're looking for seasonal music to write to, feel free to take a peek. I hope everyone's having a great week, and will have an even better one coming up as we head into the end of ROW80, Round 4! (Can you believe it? That's a whole year of ROW80 for me!)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Christmas Mixes, Vol. 3: Christmas Shopping Comedown

The malls are crowded, kids are screaming and Santa really needs a drink.
Yep. Sounds like a Christmas shopping day to me!
For those of you spending your weekend battling crowds and (heaven forbid) plotting your Coup de Last Tickle-Me-Elmo, here's a little something for when you get home. Grab your favorite beverage and chill.

'Cause Cheap is How I Feel (The Cowboy Junkies)
Violence in the Snowy Fields (Delorean)
The Fairest of the Seasons (Nico)
Cold Blue Halo (Jason Collett)
Snow Don't Fall (Townes Van Zandt)
Listening to Otis Redding at Home (Okkervil River)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Christmas Mixes, Vol. 2: Whether the Weather

The Weather That Won't Make Up Its Mind... So Neither Will I 

I like to think of this mix as background for one of those days during the holiday season when you're not quite stuck inside, but you decide to be, because the weather mostly sucks, but not debilitatingly so. (How's that for a run-on? And a made-up word?) It's time for coffee or cocktails- whichever you prefer- and warm blankets, eating just a bit too much, and (of course) a good book.

As for me, I'm reading Meg Cabot's Overbite, drinking a pumpkin spice latte (much like my protagonist, Caspia), and watching little plot bunnies scamper about the room. Also, I'm periodically shouting at the puppy to stay out of the Christmas tree, but that runs counter to the image I'm trying to paint. (Drop it, Shiloh. You cannot eat the ornaments!) Plus it highlights my weakness as a puppy owner. (Ok, whatever. Have a plastic one. Mommy's having a latte.)

1. Skating (Charlie Brown Christmas)
2. December (Teenage Fan Club)
3. Purple Snowflakes (Otis Redding)
4. Snow Day (Matt Pond)
5. The Winter is Coming (Guided By Voices)
6. Winter Wooskie (Belle and Sebastian)
7. Coats of Ice (Damien Jurado)
8. Hey Parker, It's Christmas (Ryan Adams)
9. Do You Realize? (The Flaming Lips)
10. Long As I Can See the Light (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

(Yes, I know they're misnumbered, hence the above list. Sorry.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Christmas Mixes, Vol. I

When the holidays roll around, I turn into a twinkling, fairy-light, sugar-plum of joy.
Well, not literally.
But I really love Christmas.
However: I generally think the music sucks. So do the crowds and the over-commercialization. Notice I added "over-" because some commercialization is just fun. I like presents! I've been good! But it's easy to go overboard and find myself exhausted and grumpy, or obsessive about getting it right, like Christmas is some test I have to pass. I think it tends to go a little better with Christmas Music That Doesn't Suck. To me, Christmas music that compulsorily mentions reindeer or Santa or crap stuff like that every time just isn't in the spirit. So I try to take a broader view, passed down to me from a friend (right, Fezziwig?) and cull for the themes behind the season. Many of the songs say nothing about Rudolph and elves. I like it better that way, and so do most of my friends. I hope you do too! And so I am pleased to bring you the first of my annual Christmas Mixes, of which there will be many, along with more holiday cheer for the lazy/ busy person. You can stream through the player to listen just by clicking on it.
Thanks!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Update

Just a brief update for a relatively uneventful (writing-wise, at least) post-Thanksgiving check-in. We had relatives visit from out of town, and stay the entire week. Although it was wonderful to have my mom's homemade cooking every single day, it totally threw off my routine. (Not to mention my waistline!) That's why I haven't really written since Wednesday, but since my schedule goes back to normal today, I expect that to change again.

I guess I'm saying this last check-in was a great big ROW80 fail.

It was totally worth it, though. I swear I had the best apple pie I've ever had in my life this week. And I did continue with my editing commitments, so that's good. Is that half a fail? Oh well. What else to do but get back in the saddle?

To mitigate this sad, half-fail, lackluster update, here are some pretty pictures and some songs I like. Enjoy!
Silliness!
Prettiness!
Favorite-ness!














Dolorean, "Violence in the Snowy Field":

Malcolm McLaren, "About Her":


Dawes, "Time Spent in Los Angeles":


Thanks! Good luck with your goals, and have a great week! -V

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Gratitude

It's Thanksgiving here in the States, and besides family, food, and the requisite post-turkey nap, gratitude is on many people's minds. As the reason for the holiday, it's certainly is on mine. It's a busy day today, as I suspect it is for many of us, and so I thought I'd do a kind of writerly gratitude list/ combo ROW80 thing for my (late) update today:
1. word count: wrote a 2000+ word chapter this week.
2. turned in a massive edit
3. started reading another great book in preparation for editing; it's a ghost story, and I love reading those around the holidays. Dickensian tradition, I suppose.
4. won a free copy of Scott Nicholson's new book, Creative Spirit, which I look forward to reading and reviewing
5. got a chance to see some of the proofs for the cover of the new serial, Daughter of Glass
6. made progress on Daughter of Glass
7. brainstormed the Chronicles of Nowhere cover
8. got word that Chronicles will be published sooner than I expected
9. planning the Blood Redemption book tour
10. Gearing up for Bestseller for a Day on Nov. 30, when one of my current releases will be a "drafting title" available for 99 cents, and free if you want a PayPal rebate!

Non-writerly gratitude list:
1. All the amazing TV that's out this year. Seriously, TV land- if I let you, you could kill all my free time with your recent awesomeness, including but not limited to: Doctor Who, Fringe, The Walking Dead, Terra Nova, American Horror Story. And those are just the ones I've discovered recently.
Look, Mom! Homemade!
2. My growing Sims addiction, which has crept onto FaceBeast recently. Come play the SimsSocial with me! Join us... you won't get addicted... you can quit anytime...
3. That I'm NOT going Black Friday shopping. I will be asleep in my soft warm bed, and then I'll get up and drink coffee. In other words, no lines! Yay!
4. A huge homemade meal I actually helped cook
5. Pumpkin pie
6. Pecan pie
7. Pie-flavored pie
8. Pie with ice cream
9. My new puppy!
10. Editing- where else can you get remunerated for reading books? My life-long dream of being a professional reader is that much closer to coming true. Plus it validates years of grad school.
11. The Iron Bowl: Auburn v. Alabama. (You. Are. So. Dead. You know who you are.)
12. All that gooey stuff (no, not pie- covered that under numbers 4-8). You know, family, friends, having things I take for granted like health and home and love 'n stuff. Yeah, that kinda gooey.

On that note, I think that's it. Clearly, a lot to keep me busy and a lot to be grateful for. Not the least of which is the supportive writer's group I've found in ROW80. Having this kind of support really is a gift. It's always surprising to me how many writers work without a group; I feel fortunate to not only have one, but to have found a core group of talented betas, mentors, and friends.
Happy Turkey Day! I'm off for my tryptophan-induced nap.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Philosophy of Editing (aka Hocs and Locs)

Happy Sunday!
'Tis time for the bi-weekly update, and today I find my thoughts focusing on editing. I have a monster editing project at hand, in addition to having recently hung out my shingle for freelance work. Needless to say, in addition to my own writing duties and this thing I have called a daily life, editing has moved further up the queue in importance. So I dusted off some of my old materials from back in my teaching days, when editing was one of the last steps I taught a class. Of course, I taught non-fiction writing, but it surprises me how well those old lessons apply to fiction.

Before I start, have some music to listen to this Sunday morning! (Or whenever you happen to be joining us.) Editing manuscripts has somehow gained the reputation of being as much fun as doing calculus with your hair on fire, when really it can be quite painless. Bearing this in mind, here are three songs from Rough Trade Records, an independent label that just signed the amazing Alabama Shakes. So kick off your shoes, have a cup of coffee (or tea, if you must). The first one, Billie Holiday, an ethereal tribute to "My Girl," is my current favorite:

Ok then.
I found over many years of teaching that focusing on grammar and typos in a manuscript is the worst thing you can do. Don't get me wrong- these things are important. You can't ignore them. But what we've found is that the act of writing itself has layers of varying importance. Spelling and typos rank near the very bottom in importance as far as editing goes. What's most important then? It's simple, really: the biggest concerns, the foundation of your writing, is the most profitable thing on which to focus. Here's what gets me really excited about the subject:

When we focus on the larger concerns in our manuscripts, the smaller ones tend to disappear. Like magic, right? ;)

Ok, not like magic, but the basic principle is sound. If the foundation isn't solid, no amount of detail will save the house. That's kind of obvious. But what's so fascinating to me is that by focusing on the plot, issues with pacing, characterization and the like, many of your grammatical snafus and misspellings will disappear on their own. It's as if these Lowers Order Concerns, or Locs, are symptoms of bad writing rather than the cause. Fix the Higher Order Concerns, or Hocs, and the Locs often go away. Not totally, and there is no way to get out of proofreading, but they will at the very least shrink a bit.

Conversely, you can also look at a section riddled with Locs as a signal flag for deeper concerns. Odds are, if there's a section with lots of misspelling, passive voice, and unnecessary tense shifts, something bigger is going on. Try ignoring the Locs and plug the section back into your overall plan: are the characters not being themselves? Perhaps the whole thing doesn't relate to your meta-plot, and needs serious cutting. Maybe you need to go all the way back to freewriting, brainstorming, or whatever discovery process works for you.

In a nutshell: Hocs before Locs, everytime.
For more information about what exactly constitutes a Hoc and a Loc, check out Purdue University's Online Writing Lab, or OWL, (slathering on the acronyms today, aren't I?) It's one of the best writing resources out there, bearing in mind it's set up largely for academic non-fiction. It's an engaging site,  and if you think of things like "thesis" as your main message or central polt, then it's easy to transfer these ideas to fiction.

And now for the ROW80 report:
1. Word count for this week: roughly 3,000. Making good progress towards publisher's deadlines and my own, indie-pub ones too.
2. Number of pages edited: 600ish?
3. Blogging: missed on Wednesday but did my epic Blood Redemption reveal on Monday. It's the last blog entry if you're a fan of the series and missed it.
4. Reading: In this case, I'm going to count the editing as reading. Perhaps that's cheating a bit, but you do have to read the book before you can edit, right?
5. What else? Marketing/ the business of books? I got a press release this week! Crazy, huh? Check it out here, and my author page is up at Curiosity Quills. Also, on Nov. 30th, I'm going to be one of the "drafting titles" for The Indie Book Collective's Bestseller for a Day. (Or the IBC's BFAD, to continue with the acronym trope.)

I think that's everything. I always have that feeling like I'm forgetting something important when I make these updates. Grr! Oh well. I often have that feeling in all areas of my life. Oh, wait, we dodged another tornado this week, but only just. An F2 long track touched down 1/4 mile from my home. So many of our neighbors were without power, and lost roofs and cars and such. We sustained no damage, thank goodness, except to my sanity when I looked out the back window and saw a fallen-leaf shaped funnel cloud in my own back yard. It was the rotating winds, not the actual tornado. Still, this whole storm business is getting ridiculous. I do not, supposedly, live in the tornado belt, but the weather seems to have forgotten this. As we head into Thanksgiving, I hope those who celebrate it have a great food, fun, family and friends filled weekend. If you don't celebrate, I hope you have all those things anyway! Until next time, V

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blood Redemption, Book III of the Angel's Edge Series: Preview Now!

Trapped in the Dark Realms, Caspia finds herself the unwitting leader of a growing Nephilim rebellion. Plagued by strange dreams and intrigue, she learns to master her Azalene abilities when all she wants is to find her way back home.

To Whitfield. To Ethan. 

When they meet in the Dreamtime, Caspia can tell something is wrong. Whitfield seems increasingly militarized. Ethan is agitated; Asheroth makes less sense than ever; and the Blackwood witches are teaching Logan deadly gifts. Most disturbing of all is Belial, who is as charismatic as he is cruel. 

But Belial isn’t the only one threatening Whitfield. To avoid another Nephilim war, the Realms of Light decide to attack their ancient enemy first. Caspia, her hometown, and everyone she loves happens to be in the way. With the Light poised to strike from one side, and the Dark Realms on the other, she and Ethan must fight their way back to each other and try to protect the life they’ve built.

Coming December 2011

Download the first two chapters in three different formats here: Mobi (Kindle); .rtf (Word); or EPUB (Nook)

Read the excerpt on Goodreads here;

Or read the excerpt online here:


Blood Redemption, Book III of the Angel’s Edge series
By Vicki Keire
Copyright 2011
All rights reserved

Chapter One: Bonefire

I had come here with a plan.
I thought I knew what I was doing.
I thought there would be at least one person I could trust.
     Was it the drops of angel’s blood throbbing through my veins that made me such a dangerous combination of arrogant and stupid, or was that a trait I could claim solely as my own?
      As I sat half-curled around my knees, I tried to breathe through the panic that threatened to pull me back into a dead faint. Sucking cracks of eye-stinging pain centered in the back of my skull and radiated outward. I kept my eyes fixed firmly on the jagged flagstone floor. The heavy dark stones were so cold beneath me that my butt and thighs were going numb through the thin barrier of designer French denim. I winced as I remembered how quickly I’d thrown the jeans on in one of Asheroth’s identical white bedrooms. Had it really been only a few hours ago?
     I trusted Ethan. I had trusted Jack. Both of them knew exactly who ruled the Twilight Kingdom.
     Now I did, too.
     Whatever you do, don’t scream.
     There is some hope your innocence may protect you.
     I felt sick, and it went much deeper than a head wound.
     I kept my head down, my long hair the only barrier I had left. My hands twisted the denim just below my hips. Making fists helped the nausea a little, but didn’t do a thing for the anger I knew ebbed against my temporary stupor.
      When warm rough fingers brushed my hair behind one ear, I froze. His touch felt so familiar, like Ethan’s before he changed. It was a touch so familiar I wanted to lean into it. But a demon’s embrace was the last thing I needed when I was sick and hurting and afraid. I launched myself backwards and away before I could stop to think.
      Jack was at my side in an instant, his arms around my shoulder, his intense whisper in my ear more hiss than comfort. “You hit your head.” He tugged on me like he wanted me up, and quickly, but I shrugged him off. His words became rapid fire bullets. “You should try to stand, Caspia. If there is any way at all you can stand on your own two feet you had better do it now because it might be the only way he’ll let you walk out of here.” I stared at him, this flesh and blood version of my dreams come to life.
More like my nightmares.
      “I can’t trust any of you,” I hissed back. “You knew about this.”
      He swept his eyes around the room and touched the back of my head. Bottle rockets of pain exploded across one small area at the center of my skull. “There is no one else.” My blood covered three of his fingers. He brought them up between us like he was making some kind of vow. “Remember that. If you don’t trust me, fine. But don’t trust anyone else in this place either. That would be the worst mistake you could make.”
      “Enough,” said the low cultured voice I remembered from before I passed out. “I don’t want Miss Chastain bleeding from a head wound on my floor.” And I found myself swept up in arms so familiar, so momentarily welcome, that I almost forgot where I was.
      In a place called The Twilight Kingdom. With Belial, a demon who’d been hunting me for an as-yet-to-be determined amount of time. A demon that looked almost exactly like my Ethan.
      I wrenched myself backwards, but Belial held me tightly by my forearm. “Let me go,” I growled.      The sudden movement made me dizzy again and I stumbled.
      He fixed his eyes on me, and I suppressed the urge to shriek. I knew they were dark where Ethan’s were bright; they were, in fact, the last memory I had before passing out at his feet. But now, pulled right against his face, I could suddenly see that his eyes were a single dark abyss pulling at me. Variegated shades of the darkest kinds of twilight swirled there, obscuring any irises, if he had any. I felt myself go cold despite the burning stone fingers that held me.
      Belial was blind. Or sightless, I should say, because I had learned over the long years of working for     Mr. Markov that lack of sight did not necessarily mean lack of vision. My boss had fired more than one person for making that mistake. There had been the high school senior who harassed me and Amelie when he thought no one was looking. We’d suffered through exactly one weekend shift of unwelcome pinches and grabs before he suffered a nasty steam burn across both hands. Mr. Markov told him not to bother coming back. I had a feeling Belial wouldn’t be so gentle.
      Dimly, I heard Jack arguing. “I’ll take her,” he insisted. “Miranda’s rooms aren’t far from ours. She can have her healed in minutes.”
      “But there is the problem of transport,” Belial mused, still just inches from my face. His hand had begun to heat through my cashmere sweater. “No, Jack. I understand your eagerness. But you are dismissed.”
      “But,” Jack tried to argue some more. Whatever he had been going to say was cut off with a muffled punching sound followed by a soft grunt. I dragged my eyes away from Belial’s face, which took more mental effort than I would have believed. Jack was on one knee, his head bent, with both arms around his stomach. When he looked up, banked fury burned back at me. Eyes wide, I pulled even harder against Belial, trying to go to him, but he stopped me with the tiniest shake of his head.
      “I’m fine,” I lied. I didn’t know where to look so I studied the flames in the fireplace. There was no wood in it. Bones lay heaped and burning in a pile in the center of the huge fireplace. I remembered how there had been no trees when Jack and I walked here. What else would they burn? Bonefire, my shocked mind tried to process, but couldn’t. I filed it away numbly. “I can walk on my own.” I forced my lips to form the words.
      Bones. The warmth I felt came from bonefire. What kind of bones, I didn’t want to know. Ever.
      Belial ignored me. “Go. Now,” he commanded Jack. His words were clipped.
      Jack nodded and swallowed hard. He jackknifed to attention, bowing slightly from the waist as if he hadn’t just been punched there. “Of course.” He wouldn’t even look at me. He spared one nod for Belial before spinning on his bare heel and practically sprinting back the way we’d come.
      Leaving me alone with a demon who wore my boyfriend’s face.
      That face smiled at me now. “Good. I’ve waited quite a long time for your arrival.”
I nodded hesitantly. The movement made me wince. How to ask what I really wanted to know without giving away too much? “I… When I left. There were,” I exhaled against the sheer insanity of the word. “Hellhounds. Attacking my town.”
      His eyes narrowed. “No questions.”
      I could only stare at him. “What?” I asked, confused.
      “No questions.” He released me and reached for the beautiful fox with the reddish gold fur, cradling it like it was something very valuable to him. “You’ll come with me, and do as you’re told, and ask no questions of any kind.”
      Logan has always told me my temper would get me in terrible trouble one day. I used to laugh and tell him I didn’t have a temper, that surely he had me confused with his other sister. But I felt the truth of his warning now. I forgot that I was in the Dark Realms, face to face with an ancient creature that literally held the power of life or death over me. I didn’t care what he might do to me. Instead, I advanced on him. “Like hell I won’t.” My hands formed into fists on their own. “I will ask any question I damn well please, and you’d better answer it.”
      He looked more amused than anything else. When my fist actually connected with his face, amusement changed to something else. Something sharp and eager. As I felt the bones in my hand break, I heard him murmur, “How this will hurt him.”
      For the second time in one day, I passed out at a demon’s feet.

Chapter Two: To Drink with Demons

      I awoke with most of my clothing gone, replaced by something soft and thin. I was flat on my back between silken sheets and a heavy coverlet. My hand, wrapped tightly with a bandage, throbbed dully, along with my head. The room was dim and smoky. Not smoky, I self-corrected as I tried to see in the semi-darkness. Blurry. My vision was blurry, from pain and perhaps drugs. Great.
      “Tell me about my brother,” Belial’s deep voice demanded before I could even focus my eyes.
      “Why?” I asked, resisting the urge to curl back in on myself. I would not make myself look more vulnerable than I already was, here in the center of Belial’s broad fur bed. “Why do you want to know about him?”
      He appeared to think this over for a moment, very deliberately, pale fingers dusting the tops of cut crystal bottles that flared into focus when my vision cleared. “For reasons that are my own,” he said at last, very slowly, very deliberately. By chance or habit he picked the brightest bottle of all, a squat thing half full of clear crimson liquid, sheer but brilliant, like blood stretched across fire. He held it towards me as if he would have me drink. “Don’t you have a brother?” Two full glasses of the liquid waited at his elbow. I had not seen him pour.
      “Yes,” I answered carefully, staring at the little port glasses. I did not want to drink with a demon.
      “Yes, I knew that you did.” Belial carried the drinks toward me slowly, deliberately, as if I were a wild bird he did not want to startle. “I also know he was dying.” He measured his words to cover his actions; his next carried him right next to me on the bed. “He should have died.” I shifted my weight sideways but he was faster, abyss-eyes and strange crimson liquid right in front of me before I could move. “But he didn’t die, did he? And then my brother arrived in your life.” Hot fingers pinned my uninjured ones around the crystal. He tossed his back in one fluid motion. “At least, that’s what my spies tell me. Drink.”
      “No.” I wondered if he could feel my good hand trembling underneath the pressure of his hold.
      His fox jumped up on his other side. He leaned into me just like a stalking animal. He had only to slide an arm beneath me to make it into an embrace. “Drink. If I wanted to kill you, you would be dead.” If he leaned much closer I was going to spill the red drink down my shirt. Once I would have thrown it in his face. Now, it was all I could do not to skitter away from him while I tossed it back.
But he didn’t release me. Curved over me, I had only to wrap my hand around the back of my neck and close my eyes. He could so easily be Ethan.
      God, I was in trouble.
      “That’s enough,” I said in a surprisingly firm voice. “I know how powerful you are in this place. I know what you can do. But I won’t let you bully me. I drank your drink. Now let me go.”
Surprise flickered quickly across his familiar features, but he masked it quickly. He slipped away from me, taking his fox with him. He studied the flames, his back to me, the silver of his black suede jacket shining brightly. “How did he do it? How did Ethan’i’el keep your brother from dying?”
      I remembered that moment, my own brother gone from me, Ethan there before me like the being of Light he kept hidden most of the time. I remembered the Light and life that had traveled between us, and I realized how angry I was. I vaulted off the bed.
      Bad move. Still dizzy from the head wound, I swayed and would have fallen. Thankfully, Belial’s bed had very thick bedposts. I clung to one with my good hand like a life preserver, realizing I was wearing an almost-sheer silvery nightgown. “No. No way. I don’t know what’s between you two, but that’s where it stays, ok? Ethan never once mentioned you to me. I’m here because you wouldn’t leave my town alone until you had me. Well, here I am, and I’m not telling you anything about Ethan.” I wouldn’t either; I had a feeling I would need every single memory of his touch, of every moment together, to survive this place.
      Especially considering who its keeper was.
      “You will tell me,” Belial said softly, but there was hatred there below his words. “You will tell me anything I want, when I want, and we will begin with how your brother did not die.”
      All at once, I was afraid. Truly afraid, and not because I was worried about my town or the people I loved. I was afraid of the creature in front of me. Suddenly he bore very little resemblance to Ethan at all. I could not explain what exactly happened to melt the semblance of humanity from his bones so quickly, but it was gone and its place was something that was the very essence of Darkness. Every abyss- wing and portal I had ever seen since meeting Ethan lead here, to the creature in front of me.
      “I know you can hurt me,” I said, doing my best to stand up straight, even though my knees felt like jelly. “I know you can do terrible things until I tell you whatever you want, do whatever you want. But that’s not the same as telling you, exactly. It’s being forced. Maybe it won’t matter in the end, but it matters to me.”
      I kind of expected the torture to start there, but he merely closed his eyes and petted his fox. A tiny bit of the evil fled the room. “No, I won’t torture you for anything I want from you. You’ll tell me willingly.”
      I felt the old familiar stubbornness settle in between us. He had no idea how stubborn I could be. “You don’t know me very well, then.”
      “On the contrary.” He put his fox down gently. I wished I hadn’t seen that; I didn’t want to see him be gentle to anything. “You will meet me for breakfast tomorrow morning, eager to tell me what I want to know. About my brother, and yours. And then we’ll have a history lesson.”
      “Why would I do that?”
      “Because.” At a gesture, two spectral gray shapes appeared on either side of him. “In exchange, I will grant you one request.”
      My too-good-to-be true radar started screaming even as I tried not to stare at the gray mist-figures advancing on me. “One request? What kind of request, exactly?” I prodded.
      “Anything you want. But just one. And just for one person. You can’t ask for every single Nephilim here to suddenly wake up in their beds, for instance.” He smiled much too smugly for my liking.
      “But I could request that one Nephilim wake up in her bed?” I asked dubiously.
      “Yes.” He began to flip idly through a book. I wondered why he bothered.
      “Then that’s what I want. I mean yes, let’s do it. I’ll tell you right now.” I crept closer, testing boundaries in my eagerness. The hem of my silvery nightgown looked like a living pool of mercury on the floor between us. I wondered if it matched my eyes. I wondered if Belial could tell, about my eyes.       He smiled to see my hesitant approach.
      “In the morning, Caspia. That is the bargain. The Grey Ladies,” he indicated the mist figures, “will show to your rooms, where you can meet the other gifted.” He leaned towards me, and in the firelight, he looked so much like Ethan again it made me ache. To think I could be back with him in the morning… but of course it had to be some kind of trick. I knew better than to bargain with demons and expect to come out ahead. He saw the doubt in my eyes, and said more gently, “If anything in your rooms is not to your liking, just tell one of the Grey Ladies. I’ve assigned the pair of them to wait on you while you’re here. And of course, Jack will be waiting to see you. He was quite upset at your sudden parting.”
      My head snapped up at the mention of Jack. “Is he ok? He’s not… hurt, is he?”
      Belial shrugged. “I really don’t know. I was much more concerned with you. He might be.”
      My alarm grew a little faster than my anger at his callousness. “What do you mean, you don’t know? You have a doctor here, don’t you?”
      “Demons don’t get sick.”
      “But… if you’re building an army…” Words failed me, and I stamped my foot. “We’re human, and we need… things,” I finished lamely. “Like doctors.”
      Belial raised an eyebrow. “I’ve been rather eager for your arrival. Some of the others have not been so fortunate. Go with the Grey Ladies. Go and see how the other gifted fare,” his snaky smile had slithered back in place. “Then tell me over breakfast what your request will be. Home, for you? Or something else?”
      No doctors. Jack, hurt? I remembered the time he Dreamwalked into my living room, battered and upset. “When a Hellhound takes a swipe at you, the wound pretty much cauterizes itself,” he’d said.
      I followed the smoky forms of two spectral women out into the stone hallway. Each step felt heavier than the last. I knew better than to drink with demons and believe in their lies. Something horrible was waiting for me, I just knew it. And I hated Belial even more because for a few seconds, I had actually let myself think I might wind up safely out of here. Now I felt selfish for even thinking it. He’d probably hurt someone to make me use my request just to torment all of us.
      One of the Grey Ladies paused in her silent glide. I couldn’t be sure, but I think she was studying me. I forced my shoulder back and my head up straight. I could not afford to show weakness in this place. No weakness, ever. But she merely hovered, waiting for me to pass. My shoulder and left arm passed right through her as I walked. I wondered if it was uncomfortable for her, to come into contact with human flesh, to see the mortality that had been stripped from her. I expected it to feel creepy when I passed through her, but it didn’t. Instead, it was just like walking through cool fine fog.
      Cool fog that smelled like roses and promised rain. Not unpleasant at all.
      When I looked back, she hovered in the hallway like a still cloud. I wished they had faces, the unfortunate Grey Ladies, so I could see what she was thinking, but she was even harder to read than Belial.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Weekened Update: Manageable Productivity

It's that time again: updates! And wow, do I feel productive. Funny, because I've had more productive weeks, but I tended to feel run ragged. This has been a week of peaceful, manageable productivity. I venture a few guesses as to why later in the post. but I have discovered: I will take peaceful, happy productivity over an epic word count any day.

What have I done since the last check-in? 
1. Written @ 1400 words
2. A whole lotta editing
3. Plotting, planning and brainstorming
4. Blogging- back on schedule with this, plus an extra Cover Love update yesterday
5. Organizing for "Bestseller for a Day"- an IBC book tour/ publicity op at the end of the month
6. Set up a photo shoot for new publicity pics- head shots and candids (this actually terrifies me because it involves going to the salon, possibly a manicure, eek! But at least the setting is outdoors, which I enjoy.)
7. Wrote a gift fic for a friend who's been having a pretty rough time.

What helps with being productive (for me):
1. Making lists
2. Becoming better about knowing when I'm veering off task, and either self-correcting or (gasp) taking a break
3. Using some of the wealth of character sheets, plot planners, outline graphs- any of the millions of tools available on the internet to help jump-start me when I feel like I'm losing focus, or I'm out of touch with whatever I'm working on. Let me repeat something from an earlier post: Kait Nolan and Susan Bischoff have a wealth of these tools available on their blogs, in the sidebar.
4. Limiting television time
5. Staying on top of other areas in my life. If the shopping, laundry, cooking, and what not are managed, or at least there's a plan in place, then it gets that much easier to relax and focus on the other things. I am certainly no expert at this, but it's getting better. It probably helps having a supportive spouse and almost-teenagers in the house. I don't think I could have pulled this off when my kids were babies, or unable to empty and load a dishwasher. I've even got one of them doing laundry. Parents of small children, do not despair! The day will come when they will hold their own!
6. Working in the mornings. With the exception  of something do-or-die, like putting dinner in the crock pot (because crock pots take all day and otherwise dinner won't be ready), I'm not allowing myself to put anything ahead of writing and/or writerly tasks.
7. Letting go of chronic overwhelm. In my case, I've been asking for help and remaining highly cognizant of my actual abilities to get things done. In other words, boundaries.
8. Respecting my workspace. I have a studio. I should use it. I get a lot more done out there than I do on the sofa, surrounded by family and interesting TV.

It's been working pretty well so far. I still always seem to over-estimate all that I think I can get done. But I have been getting more done than I'm used to. It feels good. So all in all, it's been a pretty good half-week since my last update. I hope all of you are having smooth sailing this week.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Cover Love

Cover art has been on my mind quite a lot lately. I've designed a cover or two in my lifetime. Ok, more than one or two. Usually it's one of the very first things I do when a novel gets to a certain point- design a mock cover. But this time around, I find myself stuck. I'm sure it has something to do with being so busy, but I kind of missing having the time to design my own.

But since cover art is so much on my mind, here's a peek at my latest cover loves. They're all forthcoming- I think 2012 releases. Quite a few are books I want to read, and some are from authors new to me. To the left are covers I love; to the right are covers I want to marry, starting with my favorite, and going down in descending order.



 




  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wednesday Update: Busy, Books, and More Busy

Hi all! It's time for a ROW80 check in, which is something I've let slide as I got busier and busier. It's funny, because if I was giving advice to someone else in my situation, I would emphasize how important it is to stick with your support group. It's so much harder to see what's good for me!

I won't rehash how productive/ busy this week has been. For more about the book deal, my last post says it all. I can say that it's starting to sink in- to go from ,"Yay! Shiny new book!" to "Ohmigosh, I have deadlines. Massive ones with teeth." And I wanted this??? Yes, I did. Among a storm of things, I've been compiling character background charts. I've never rally done this before, but I was asked specifically for it as an aid to the cover artist(s). I have to say, I found it extremely helpful.

I have to pause here and give a shout out to Kait Nolan. I found the character analysis chart on her website. I didn't even do a Google search for one, knowing how many resources Kait has in her website's sidebar. Susan Bischoff's is the same way; from name generators to entire plot maps, there's a wealth of links and such there. (Also Kait helped me proof a blurb on the fly, for which I am still very grateful. It underscored a cardinal rule: don't try to edit your own stuff, no matter how short or how good of an editor you are. At the very least, have a second set of eyes on it. Or three or four, if you can find them.

Mmm, what else in the ROW80/ writing world? This week, as far as actual word count, I did a 2300 word chapter, a 500 word blurb, and roughly seven pages of character analysis. Yep. Busy. No reading this week; for those of you whose books are in my TBR pile, please be patient with me! I'll get to them. Right now I'm committed to doing some beta'ing and editing for yet another project. Hard to complain, though. I love editing. You get paid to read books and help make them better! What job could possibly be better? (Except making things up for pay!) Speaking of editing, I got a shout-out in a review of J.L. Bryan's Fairy Metal Thunder, an awesome book I edited. It made me happy, and I think there's a giveaway on the site.

Blogging- yep, managing that on time for a change. :) I can't think of anything else... oh, wait! My son asked for a Kindle Fire for his birthday. He'll be the first in our family to have one. I can't wait to check that sucker out. We told him it would be a bad idea to take it to school, even though Kindles are allowed. To be fair, there have been a rash of portable electronics robberies there, but I must admit I smiled at the thought of playing with it during school hours. Not that I'll have a lot of time for that, but it's still a nice thought.

I hope all of you are having a good writing week. Happy Wednesday- halfway to the weekend already!

Monday, November 7, 2011

News: Four-Volume Publishing Contract with Curiosity Quills Press

This update has been a long time coming.
Today, I'd like to announce my four-volume publishing contract with Curiosity Quills Press.

I can't believe I just typed that. I'm grinning like an idiot right now.
Me... about to jump!

Curiosity Quills Press will be releasing my new series The Chronicles of Nowhere in three parts. 
I honestly believe it's the best thing I've ever written. 
It will then be collected into an omnibus edition and re-released. 
I hope to be able to pass along summaries, blurbs, excerpts, badges- all that kind of fun stuff- very soon. And of course, I'll be passing along release dates asap, but of course I don't have those yet. Because even though this series is the best thing I've ever written and is as polished as I know how to get it, the good folks at CQ still have to sprinkle it with a good dose of magic publishing dust. 

I'll also be releasing a new Whitfield story, Daughter of Glass, with brand new characters, as a serial with CQ. Once complete, it will be published as a distinct novel. 
I'm super excited about writing a serial. Some of you may recall posts I've written about serialization and how, when done properly, it's a perfect fit for the fast-paced, "feed the stream" environment created by the emergent rapid-release ebook market. CQ is on the cutting edge here. For an example of what I mean, check out Michael Shean's Dark SF serial Bone Wires. 

Writing "Daughter of Glass"
CQ is a small press with admirable resources, progressive ideas, and best of all, they've been able to give me attention and support. I've been at a point where things have been spinning out of control. The business of writing has been seriously cutting into the act of writing. I know a lot of us get to that point. I don't expect making this move to a small press will change all of that. (In fact, a friend asked me this weekend if I actually expected things to get less complicated instead of more. I don't.) But the point is, I need help. Not just with marketing and promotion and "magic publishing dust" kind of things. No, I need ideological help.  There's a point in this process, or there has been for me, where I find myself with ideas and projects ricocheting all over the place, until I'm just sitting there thinking, "Well, what the hell do I do next?" I have been almost paralyzed with directions and ideas. I know this is a blessing- believe me, I know that- but I've also been living with a chronic case of overwhelm. And that's not good for the muse. She gets cranky.

So the most important reason I'm doing this is because there's finally someone to say, "Ok, this is good, let's do this, but this needs work; try x and z, and then we'll see where to go." That is so incredibly helpful that I could almost cry with relief. A lot of different kinds of people and organizations fill this role for writers in different ways. Agents do it for some people, or truly excellent critique partners, or writer's groups. Rarely do I hear of this kind of relationship with larger houses, which is why I wanted a small press. (Not that it doesn't happen there too; it just isn't happening for me!) Personal attention, help of various kinds, progressive ideas, and did I mention nice? Nice is ridiculously important to me. Maybe it's the Southerner in me. 

Unofficial Badge
So what's up with my other projects? I'm so glad you asked! I do not have plans as of right now to change anything about the Gifts of the Blood series. (Except that I might finally get around to releasing them in print.) Blood Redemption, the third and final book in the series, has obviously been delayed. However, a lot of the actual writing for the new stuff is finished up on my end. (Obviously there will be edits and rewrites and such.) But I do not expect this to cause more of a major delay in releasing Blood Redemption. I plan to have it out this month. And for you Whitfield fans, don't forget about Daughter of Glass, which takes place in Whitfield as well. It reveals even more about my favorite spooky-chic city, as well as some edgy characters, and one of the most complex story ideas I've yet imagined.  

And after that? Well, that's the awesome thing about being Indie. What I do next is largely up to me and my readers. There's certainly no shortage of ideas, and now, enhanced resources a la the good folks at CQ Press. It's exciting times at the Keire household. My muse is off at the spa celebrating; I've run the poor thing like a prize racehorse lately. 

Hmm. Celebrating. That's a good idea. If I wasn't already feeling the consequences of a kick-butt, weekend-long full-body concert experience. (I celebrated early. Oh well. Now down to business.)  

Vicki the Bibliophile
So those would be my new ROW80 goals: meet my new publisher's deadlines, which I will translate into actual word count goals as soon as I can. Write more kick-butt fiction. Blog. Make regular ROW80 check in's. And just, you know, maintain. I have a good thing going here, I think- I love what I do. And that's key. I'd stopped having fun with it, caught up in a whirlwind of overwhelm. 

If it's not fun, people, then what's the point? 
Thanks for hanging in there with me thus far. I can't wait to see what comes next. I hope you're all with me when I do!