Hero Daddies

Hero Daddies, a charity anthology to support Unicef Ukraine, is live!

I’m so proud and pleased to be part of this anthology. Here’s a sneak peek at my contribution, “Warrin With An I”:

I take a handkerchief out of my breast pocket and wipe her face with it. “Who made you cry, little girl?”

Her eyes flash up to me and then to T-Sug. I shake my head gently.

“Was it someone on the playground?” I ask, guiding her into a fantasy we’ve played out before.

“Yes, daddy,” she says. “A mean boy pushed me down and called me names.”

He did a lot more than that to her.

“Do you have any boo-boos?” I ask.

She nods and lifts her elbows, showing me injuries that are imaginary now, but weren’t once. She has a lot of white scar-tissue on her elbows. And knees.

I lean forward and press gentle kisses to each elbow. “All better?”

She gives me a shy smile.

“Knees, too?”

She nods. I hold out my hand and when she puts hers in it, guide her hand to my shoulder for balance as I lift her legs, left then right, and kiss each knee. I take longer over these boo-boos, smoothing the old scars with my lips, looking up into her eyes as I do.

Her smile widens, becomes real. Her eyes sheen, but behind the tears, the soft brown brightens.

“Better?”

“Yes, daddy.” She leans forward and points at her forehead. “Boo-boo here.”

I brush a kiss across her forehead, letting my lower lip drag over her soft skin. With our faces so close, she whispers, “He’s going to k1ll you.”

Grab your copy here –> https://books2read.com/u/3JpzLK

Review – The Maid and the Orcs

I started crying at 16% and didn’t stop … in the best way!

I started crying at 16% and didn’t stop …

I love this series. It’s gone to the top of my TBR with each new release. And I think this is the best book yet. For a reader coming to the series fresh, I actually think this one could be read as a standalone. By tell the story from Alma’s point of view, the author has made everything fresh, the reader discovers things as Alma does. But reading the whole series gives SO much more depth to this story. Seeing the respect that the Skai scouts give Drafli. (Sniffle.) Finding out why Drafli stuck to the Skai ways for so long. (Sob.) Learning Drafli’s tragic history and the story behind his scar. (Waaaa!)

Nope, I never stopped crying. This story hit me in ALL the feels.

I’ve said in previous reviews how much I admire the worldbuilding in this series. Discovering who does the laundry in Orc Mountain gave this story so much depth. How they clean the floors? Brilliant. I’d never have thought of that. The author has always done a great job of making me feel that I was right in the story, smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting, and feeling this world right along with the characters. Never more so than this story. Given that the series is written in third person, which is not my preferred POV (but the author makes it work), that is a real feat and a testament to the author’s skill.

I’ve already re-read the book twice. I’m sure I will re-read it again MANY times. Highly recommended!

New Year, New Worlds

A few of my favorite scifi and fantasy romances that will transport you to another world.

Looking for a book that transports you to a realm both familiar and strange, which you can truly lose yourself in for a few hours? Come take a look at a few of my favorite scifi and fantasy romances that will transport you to another world.

From the dark desperation of Orc Mountain to the weird and wonderful hookup of a moth fae and a succubae, here are five books that will open your eyes and your mind:

https://shepherd.com/best-books/scifi-and-fantasy-romance

Blood Yellow

He’s back …

Demons.
Can’t live without them.
Can’t unsummon them. 

I tried living without him. I lost my powers. I slogged through days of dust. I couldn’t do it.

I called him back and he rose through the Gate on wings of flame. Wings no fire demon has ever had before.

I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know who he is. But I know some very powerful entities do not want us to be together.

As above, so below. War is coming, to both our planes.

Read Blood Yellow now, free on Kindle Unlimited.

Worldbuilding and the Orc Sworn Series

It takes a huge amount of imagination to envision a setting utterly different from our own, and a huge amount of talent to convey this world in detail after detail. Finley Fenn has both in spades.

Following on my reblog of Louise Hallett’s post on the mind-expanding qualities of speculative fiction yesterday, I thought this would be a good time to talk about world building. This is also going to be a fan-girl post. I’ve been reading Finley Fenn’s “Orc Sworn” series for over a year. The series is going from strength to strength: increasingly complex characters and relationships, higher stakes in the battle between the venal humans and the Orcs. The series is extremely steamy and that’s what gets a lot of focus in reviews and reader discussions.

But I want to talk about Fenn’s amazing world building.

What is world building and why is it important in speculative fiction?

World building is the creation of a cohesive setting for the story. I’ve talked about world building before and the importance of doing research, much of which never ends up anywhere near the page, to inform the narrative. But in this post, I want to talk about cohesiveness. Where an author is asking a reader to believe in things outside the normal frame–be it magic or faster-than-light travel or brutally hot but surprisingly caring Orcs–if the setting doesn’t hang together, the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief is ruptured and the pleasure of reading the story can be lost. All the pieces have to fit, or the whole structure falls apart.

Without wishing to ding masters like Herbert and Asimov, the old “trick” for creating a cohesive, but otherworldly, setting was a rather clunky framing method. Either with a long prologue to the story, or huge chunks of exposition in the first few chapters about what makes this setting different from our daily reality, the author dumps an alternative history on the reader. This alternate history can make enjoyable reading on its own (folks who love Tolkien’s “The Silmarillion,” I’m looking at you), but this framing method can also kill the pace of the story and make the first few chapters a long slog that the reader pushes through to get to the good stuff.

I’d argue that this framing method is one of the things that makes speculative fiction impenetrable to some readers. Not everyone wants to read (or write) chapters of backstory just to understand the rules of magic, or the three centuries of conflict between the Orcs and the elves, or the history of the galactic empire. When I engage with readers about my own speculative fiction, one of the things I hear over and over is that they read to escape and don’t want to have to think too hard about the story’s setting. They want to be immersed in it. They want to setting to be invisible while they enjoy the characters and conflict.

The rise of urban fantasy in the late 1990s and early naughties shook up traditional speculative fiction story structure by plunging readers right into the action. Urban fantasy writers “drip” in backstory to explain the rules of their world. There are few prologues and no “info dumps” of backstory. The world building is invisible to the reader because it’s parcelled out in a wealth of tiny, unnoticeable details. The husband/wife writing team of Illona Andrews in their Kate Daniels series are absolute masters of this form of storytelling. Over several chapters they drop in detail after detail of “the shift” and how waves of magic are now erupting over our once-familiar world. In this setting, there’s nothing unbelievable about lion shape-shifters and ancient Babylonian gods trying to take over the world.

Although the “drip” technique can be initially frustrating to readers trying to find their feet in the “new world” of the story, I’d argue it’s more rewarding in the long-run because the world built by the “drip” technique is more fully-fleshed, more completely realised. The “drip” method mirrors our experience of the real world. We don’t know everything about a new place when we arrive in it. We discover it, detail by detail, until we’re familiar with the place and immersed in a new reality.

The “drip” technique is not an easy path for a writer. It takes a huge amount of imagination to envision a setting utterly different from our own, and a huge amount of talent to convey this world in detail after detail. Finley Fenn has both in spades. When I read the Orc Sworn series, there’s never a moment where I don’t believe I’m inside Orc Mountain. From the emphasis on smells and textures in the descriptions–because it’s dark underground, so characters wouldn’t rely on sight–to the complex culture she’s built around the constant tensions of living together in small, enclosed spaces, Fenn’s world is richly, beautifully, masterfully realised. The setting permeates every part of her narrative. The Orcs are paranoid, isolationist, dominant (and sometimes domineering) exactly because they’ve been squirrelled away inside Orc Mountain, defending themselves against the hostilities of men. Where many stories spin outward from the characters to the setting, Finley Fenn’s stories spin inward from the setting to the characters. That gives Fenn’s stories a depth and realism that’s not always found in speculative fiction and why I’m an absolute devotee of the Orc Sworn series.

Tell Me Something Tuesday #TMST ~~ Sci-Fi Confessions

I’ve reblogged a wonderful post from Louise Hallett’s book blog, Life in the Book Lane.

Her focus on the transformative, eye-opening element of science fiction is exactly why I read (and write) sci-fi and fantasy – because thinking about alternate worlds, the “what if” of endless possibilities – expands and delights my mind.

I came into sci-fi with Frank Herbert and he remains one of my favorite authors, not just “Dune” but also the amazing (and shockingly steamy) Pandora Sequence. I hope the recent movie brings a new generation of readers to Herbert, because his books are masterpieces.

From Herbert and Asimov, I found the amazing women who were writing speculative romantic fiction in the 1980s and 90s: Jo Clayton, Tanith Lee, Mercedes Lackey, Octavia Butler, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Ursula K. Le Guin, Storm Constantine, Joan D. Vinge. I re-read these authors often. Their books can be hard to find now, but they’re worth seeking out, because they’re treasures.

A bunch of “new kids on the block” are currently blowing my mind as well. R. Lee Smith is firmly at the front of the pack with her epic “Last Hour of Gann.” I haven’t read world-building as meticulously detailed since Herbert and Clayton. Smith’s books are phenomenal. Amanda Milo is writing some truly challenging speculative fiction with her “Pet Project” books. They aren’t to be missed. And I want to give a huge nod to sometimes overlooked Omegaverse authors like L.V. Lane, Isoellen, V.T. Bonds, Merel Pierce, Alison Aimes, and Kathryn Moon. They’re on the bleeding (and knotting) edge of speculative fiction, a place that’s often uncomfortable for both reader and writer. They keep challenging our notions of self and other, of what makes someone monstrous, and what makes us human.

My hat is off to all of them.

Life in the Book Lane

Tell Me Something Tuesdayis a weekly discussion post hosted by Jen @That’s What I’m Talking About, where bloggers discuss a wide range of topics from books and blogging to life in general. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the questions from Jen’s blog and answer it on your own.


Sci-Fi Stories: do you read them?
Futuristic?
Machine?
Space Opera?
Sci-Fi Romances?

TL;DR – Why yes I do!

I always have, and always will, love both Fantasy and Sci-Fi. I love the “no-rules” aspect of them, the ability to take us to places unknown. One of my favourite childhood stories was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which with all it’s strange machines and inventions definitely gives off a Sci-Fi feel.

As a teenager I fell in love with both John Wyndam’s Day of…

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Book Review – Saint

Then the twist came and I just sat there staring at the page. Wow.

Saint by Ruby Vincent

This magnificent tale is a little slow to start but keep with it, because it picks up fast and when it does, it’s a heck of a ride!

Addy, Saint, Brutal, Cash, Mercer – I fell in love with these characters and the gritty world they inhabit so hard. And then the twist came and I just sat there staring at the page. Wow. I won’t say any more because you have to experience this book without knowing what’s coming to really enjoy it.

Saint is the first book in the Saint and Sinners series (four books and the series is complete). I’ve already started reading the second book in the series (Cash) and am loving it.

Saint is available to read here on Amazon and free in Kindle Unlimited.

Daddy P.I. 0.5 Glow Up

I’m working with a new cover artist, the wonderful Haelah Rice, who is doing professional glow-ups of some of my covers. I’m absolutely in love with her aesthetic and can’t wait to show you what she’s done for Teddy’s Boys!

Here’s the first one, the new prequel cover. If you already have the Daddy P.I. series prequel, you can download the new cover from this post or from Bookfunnel here!

If you haven’t read the Daddy P.I. series prequel, what are you waiting for?! It’s free!

Book Review – Priceless

This is a “pure” humiliation kink book, where the hero and heroine play humiliation games in private.

I discovered humiliation kink a few years ago, after many, many years of thinking it was beyond my personal squick level. (Never say never.) Although Priceless is new adult (college age), like many bully romances, but is not really a bully book. The hero and heroine have barely any interaction in public and what there is is actually nurturing and supportive. This is a “pure” humiliation kink book, where the hero and heroine play humiliation games in private.

I’m still up in the air about whether I enjoy the public bullying or private humiliation games more, but I LOVED this book and immediately went and bought it after reading it KU because it’s a rainy-day book that I’ll read again and again.

The premise is really simple: the heroine has poor financial control and gets herself in a tight spot where the utilities are turned off on a cold night and her party friends aren’t there for her. The hero, who has seen her around campus before, overhears her call to one of the party friends, realizes she needs quick cash, and offers her an opportunity to “earn” it.

The premise is simple, but the characters are not. These are nuanced, fully-fleshed, living, breathing characters who I wouldn’t be surprised to bump into at a campus coffee shop. What I liked even better? They don’t exist in a vacuum. They have people around them – some friends, some who look like friends and aren’t – who are affected by their actions. I absolutely loved the way the author traced through the ripple effect, particularly of the hero’s actions.

On top of this immersive characterization, the author writes BLAZINGLY hot s3x scenes. They are 🔥🔥🔥. I’m in awe. I’m now reading through this author’s back catalogue and love the next book I picked up (The Boys Next Door) just as much so far.

Priceless is available on Amazon here and free to read in Kindle Unlimited.

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