Sandy Williams
McKenzie Lewis takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

mckenzieicebucketI should have had Aren fissure me to some place hot, like Florida or Texas. The cool Colorado air will make this challenge worse than it needs to be, but my clothes – and everything from my normal life – are here at Naito’s house. I’m not worried about being cold, though. I’ve been through the In-Between often enough that a bucket of ice water over my head will feel like an easy swim in the Imyth Sea.

I set a bucket under the faucet. The bottom third is filled with ice from Naito’s freezer. I let the water run until it almost reaches the top then I lug it toward the middle of the backyard.

“Need help with that?” Aren asks. He’s sitting on the porch, lounged back with his arms crossed, looking all bemused. He doesn’t get why I’m doing this. The only incurable ailment the fae have in the Realm is the insanity and broken magic of the tor’um.

“I’m good,” I say. “But you can hit record on the camera if you want.” My voice is a mix of tease and dare. Tech and fae don’t get along. A quick push of a button won’t hurt Aren – it takes a lot more tech and a lot longer exposure time to permanently injure them – but most fae avoid direct interaction with it.

“For you, my nalkin-shom,” he says, adding an aristocratic accent to his voice that doesn’t fit him at all, “I’d do anything.” He grins as he rises, and it feels like the blue lightning striking across his skin strikes inside my stomach as well. I love him like this, when he’s relaxed and bathed in an easy-going happiness. We were enemies then allies then lovers. It’s a relief to know we’re friends, too.

“What do I hit?” he asks, stopping a pace away from the camcorder I set up on a tripod. He’s good at acting like tech doesn’t bother him, but I note with a smile the hand he rests on his sheathed sword. Even though the Realm’s latest war is over, he doesn’t go anywhere without it. That could be because he’s pissed off enough people that he needs to watch his back. Or it could be he’s hanging onto the past.

My smile falters. Aren misses the war. I’m almost sure of it. It gave him purpose. Something to fight for. Something to protect. He excelled at creating turmoil and subverting his enemies. That’s all changed now. He’s not even part of the new Court anymore, and sometimes, I think he feels lost.

Aren looks up from the camcorder, eyebrows raised.

And other times, I think he’s one hundred percent content to just be with me.

“The red button on top,” I say, finally answering his question. “And don’t hit it. Gently push.”

His attention returns to the tech. “And why are you recording this?”

“For evidence and to pass it on.” I’ve told him this a dozen times already, but he doesn’t get the concept of viral videos. The only thing that goes viral in the Realm is the rumors he spreads about the deadly, dangerous shadow-witch, a stealer of magic and tracker of souls who slays her enemies with her alluring lightning, her poison touch, and whatever other myths Aren pulls out of the sky. I’m none of those things. I’m just a girl who can map a fae’s shadows.

Aren finds the button, presses it, and a red light turns on. He moves away from the camcorder and leans a shoulder against the side of the house, that bemused little half-smile curving his lips.

Lightning ricochets through my stomach again. I tear my gaze away from him then focus on the camcorder.

“Hi, guys. My name is McKenzie Lewis, and I’ve been called out by my friend, Paige, to do the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I’m way past my 24 hour deadline-“ due to a shadow-reading that took way longer than it should have “-so I’ve already donated to the foundation. I’m going to nominate two kickass women you really should get to know: Devi Morris and Kate Prospero. Thanks and here it goes.”

I pick up the bucket. It’s heavy, but my time practicing my newly acquired fighting skills has paid off. I’m stronger than I was before.

I tip the bucket over. Ice cold water sluices over my body. My muscles tense. I gasp and jump, but it’s definitely not as bad as passing through the In-

A sharp shrrip to my left and a blur of movement to my right is my only warning. Aren’s there, pressing an anchor-stone into my hand.

“Don’t you d-“

His body and momentum propels us into the strip of white light that serves as a portal between worlds. The In-Between closes around us.

Now, I’m cold. Freezing. Numb.

I’d scream but there’s no air to fill my lungs.

An eternity passes. Then another. And another.

By the time the In-Between releases us, I’m glacier cold.

I’d call Aren a dozen unflattering words but my lips aren’t working. Neither are my legs. I stumble backward until I hit something.

Aren isn’t saving me; he’s falling with me, on top of me. I don’t realize where we are until the softness of my bed catches us. Then his mouth melts mine.

He tastes of the Realm, like light and nature, and I feel his strength in the way he holds me tight, containing my shivers. I return his kiss even though I should be pissed, but I always lose my good sense when I’m around him.

He releases his grip, lets his hands slide down my arms. Heat trails behind his touch, and I know if I looked, I’d see chaos lusters leap from his skin to mine.

Wrapping my arms around him, I pull him close.

He stiffens, then laughs, then lifts himself off me. “You’re freezing.”

“Oh, really?” I say, grinning up at him. His shirt soaked up some of the water from mine. The black material clings to his chest and the lightning striking across his left arm doesn’t hide his goosebumps.

He sits up, pulling me with him. “We’ll be warmer without clothes.”

I shiver again, but this time, it’s not from the ice water or the bitter cold of the In-Between. I pull him close and we kiss until the world becomes nothing but heat and light and sensation.

Why I Stopped Reading (and How I’m Going to Change)
Monday, August 25th, 2014

WHY II’ve stopped reading.

I didn’t do it on purpose, and it hasn’t stopped 100%, but I’ve only read 5.5 fiction books this year.

5.5 books.

That might as well be nothing.

I feel like I’ve lost a huge part of what makes me me. Like a lot of you, I grew up with books. In school, I finished my work as quickly as possible so I could get back to my stories. On weekends, I read multiple books (unless I was reading a fat fantasy) and any time I had down time, I was reading. I remember a couple of days when I worked as an elementary school librarian. I was reading the Hallows series by Kim Harrison, and I literally hid behind the circulation desk, finishing “just one more chapter” because I was so hooked by the story.

I even felt guilty because my emotions were so strongly invested into fictional characters’ lives. Something had to have been wrong with me because I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the real world.

How did I lose that passion? That love for reading? How can I go days, weeks, even months without reading more than a sentence or two of a book, then deciding to go to sleep instead of learning what happens next?

I have a few theories. The steep decline in my reading occurred in 2011, the year:

My first book was published. Perhaps become a writer has made me too picky? Perhaps having control of my characters’ lives makes me want to have control over other author’s characters, and I can’t handle not being their creator? Perhaps I don’t read because I feel so guilty about not writing faster?

I had twins. I will admit a large amount of my mind and my creative energy is consumed by them. They’re getting older and easier, but I still try to find ways to take care of them and teach them. I am so lacking in mom skills and ideas that I frequently get lost on  Pinterest. And then, at the end of the day when they’re in bed and I could be reading, all I want to do is go to sleep.

I started reading ebooks instead of paper. Does this have an affect on my reading? It seems like it could. Maybe, subconsciously, my brain doesn’t connect with digital as much as it connected with paper.

I got an iphone. I’m not sure when this happened, but it was around 2011, and I’ve started reading blogs, emails, news, Pinterest, etc on my phone. And I played Candy Crush. The digital books that I’ve read have all been on my iphone because I always have it with me. Maybe all the other activities I do on my phone take away from my willingness to stare at it any longer to read.

And maybe the reason I’ve stopped reading is a combination of all the things above. I’ve just had so much trouble “getting into” books, and after so many tries of different stories by different authors in different genres, it can’t be the books. It has to be me.

I hate not reading. And it’s especially bad because I’m an author, and I truly, honestly believe the most important thing an author can do to improve his or her craft is to read. It’s a requirement of this job, and I’m sucking at it.

But I’m not giving up. I’m going to fix this. I’m going to find my love of reading again. I’m going to:

1. Switch back to print books.

2. Set aside 30 minutes (or more if I’m hooked!) every day to read, no matter how good or bad my writing is going.

3. No more iphone in front of the kids. Only print books. This is better parenting anyway.

4. Check Pinterest only once twice three times a day.

5. Delete Candy Crush. (Already done. Take that level 305!)

Have you ever lost your love of reading? Do you know why? How did you fix it?

Real Life Stuff
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

(Please excuse me for this non-writing related post. Sometimes, I just need to write my thoughts out.)

My husband and I are evaluating preschools/daycares for our boys again. The school they’re currently in, a school which we love and can afford pretty well, has a policy that kids in their 3 year old preschool class are potty trained. Minion C is completely trained; Minion M absolutely refuses to go poo in the potty.

We’ve tried everything with M. It’s not a developmental thing because he went a few times in the potty back in April/May. He just stopped. And refuses to try again. We’ve pushed him to try to go these past two months because we knew we were on a deadline, but no luck. If we want him to be in a class with kids his own age instead of the 18 month – 3 year old class, then we have to switch schools. Plus, I’m done with trying to “force” him to poo on the potty. That’s not working, so I’m stepping back and letting him decide when he’s ready. No more pressure.

I’ve visited several schools multiple times these past couple of weeks. Our two good choices are both several hundred dollars more than what we’re paying. One school has computer time, a “gym” area, and yoga class, but I don’t get the warm fuzzy feeling from that school’s teachers. I get the warm fuzzyies from the other school’s teachers, but it’s several hundred dollars more than the other school, there’s no gym (it’s freaking HOT in Texas! I’d love for them to get indoor exercise in the afternoons) and computer classes cost extra.

I really don’t want to change schools. The teachers at their current school are loving, they’ve been there for years (teacher turn over is important to me), the office staff is great, they go to computer lab twice a week, have Spanish class (90% of the class is done in Spanish) twice a week, go to the gym twice a week, and have a music class once a week. All of those are given by teachers that are there specifically for those classes. We love the playground (lots of shades, room, bikes, etc). They even have a pool! Yes, a pool! Minion C got to go swim twice a week for 15 minutes (shallow area of the pool; there’s a deeper end for private/group lessons). I’m not quite sure why their school costs less than the others when it appears to be so much better. They had a tuition hike this year, but only by about $20 a week, and since our boys are 3 and not in the baby room, we break even on that.

Ugh. So stressed about this. I keep trying to write, but then think of something else related to school stuff and get distracted. Like… we’re lucky we have this problem. In a couple of years, when we go to public kindergarten, we won’t have a choice in schools. We won’t even have a choice in teachers*. Our kids will be shoved into a class with no regard for what works better for them, or what are preferences might be.** The only way we can have a say in the school is if we sell our house and move. It’s crazy thinking of the time and thought we put into this now, knowing that, in two years, we’ll just have to be satisfied with whatever we get.

It sure would help if Minion M would tell us exactly WHEN he’s going to decide to be potty trained. If it’s one or two weeks from now, we could probably stay in the school, but we have no idea if it’ll be six days from now, or six months. Thus, the move.

I’m thinking it’ll be a temporary move. We can go back to their current school when M is fully potty trained, assuming they have room. I just worry that changing twice in a short amount of time is too much change, and that they’ll miss out on something while they’re gone.

I’m probably over-stressing about this. Whatever we do, it’ll be okay.

 

 

* There are some really, really, really awesome teachers out there! And we’re fortunate that the schools around us, especially the elementaries, are filled with great ones. But there are some bad ones out there. I know that for a fact, because I was one of them. I taught 9th grade world geography for two years, and was abysmal at it. One, geography? Boring! Two, I don’t have that drive to make kids who don’t want to learn, learn. Three, I wanted a job that ended when I went home (so I could write!), and good teachers work all the freaking time. In fact, I get pissed when people talk about how teaching is such a great gig because the kids go home by 3pm and they get the summers off. Many teachers work in the summer and, in most districts, attending a certain number of development classes is required. That doesn’t even count the planning teachers do in the summers. Or the money they spend. Heck, my mom, who taught 1st grade for around 25 years, spent a fortune on things for her kids and classroom. Seriously, a FORTUNE. And she was always working. Good teachers work their asses off.

** I’m overreacting a bit here. My area has good schools. My reasonable, level-headed self knows that, if a classroom wasn’t working out for one of my boys, the teachers and staff would do their best to find a solution that worked for everyone.

 

 

New Favorite TV Show: JUSTIFIED
Monday, August 4th, 2014

I’m super picky about TV and movies. It’s hard for me to sit through a two hour show, and even one hour or thirty minute shows have a difficult time catching my attention.

This last year, though, we stumbled across the TV superhero show, ARROW, on Netflix. It was actually really good. Super hero shows tend to be… well, super cheesey to me. I mean, HEROES started off well – save the cheerleader; save the world – but by season two, I was done with it. It turned ridiculous, and I didn’t want to waste my time, especially when I have books to write.

But the whole first season of ARROW was excellent. And there were so many episodes! It took us several months to watch the season, and when it was over, I missed it. And my husband and I were out of things to watch.

justifiedseasononeI asked for suggestions on my Facebook page. We tried out three or four shows – SCANDAL, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, HOUSE OF CARDS – before we tried JUSTIFIED.

We LOVE it!

My husband is usually the one who decides what we watch, mainly because I don’t pay much attention to what’s out there. We’d both heard good things about JUSTIFIED, but because he was convinced it was a western (based on the cowboy hat and the fact that it stars Timothy Olyphant from the most excellent show, DEADWOOD (I’m still oh so sad they never finished that show!)), we never tried it.

We were both surprised when we discovered it’s not a western. It’s set in the present day. The main character, Raylan Givens, is a U.S. Marshall with the personality of an old west, shoot-em-up-at-the-OK-Corral cowboy.

It’s like urban fantasy.

Urban fantasy takes paranormal beings and throws them into a modern day, real world setting.

Justified takes an old west cowboy and throws him into a modern day, real world setting.

The result is an awesome show.

I was worried around episode two or three, that the show was going to be too episodic and police procedural for me. I don’t like episodic and police procedural. That’s why I don’t watch any of the Law and Orders or CSIs. I need a story arc that continues over a season or more.

Justified does that. And as an author, I really freaking admire the writing in this show. Timothy Olyphant gets some great lines. So do the other characters, and I’m surprised by how often I laugh out loud while watching the drama. No slap stick comedy here. It’s all sarcasm, irony, and situational humor. Love. That.

Have you watched Justified? Are you caught up on the seasons? I’m looking forward to starting season two!

 

Killing Darlings Means You Get a Deleted Scene
Thursday, July 31st, 2014

kill your darlings I love the internet. It makes it easier to delete scenes from my books because they don’t have to be permanently gone.

I’m deleting the scene below from my WIP. It’s not a bad scene. I kind of like it, actually, because it shows the type of person Rykus is. But I’m not so sure it moves the plot forward any. So, I’m going to cut it.

Maybe.

Dang it, I’m already trying to talk myself into putting it back in the book. Maybe I NEED a scene showing what kind of person Rykus is. This is a snippet from his real job, his normal life, and not from the main plot of the book.

Well, obviously I need to think about this some more. But I’m still posting it here. Because I can. :-)

 

 

“Come in, soldier,” Rykus said.

Henel strode into his office, came to a brisk stop in front of his desk, and saluted again.

“At ease.”

“Requesting permission to speak freely, sir,” the kid said.

“Go ahead, Henel.”

“I know why I’m not on the list, sir.”

“Do you,” Rykus said, his voice monotone, his customary scowl in place.

“Yes, sir. And while I respect what you’re trying to do, sir, it’s wrong. I signed up for the Corps after my father’s death. I know the risk.”

He almost laughed at that. Few people on board the Obsidian knew exactly what they were preparing for. If they did, Rykus would be hearing a hell of a lot less bravado in the corridors. All they knew was that the Fighting Corps was planning for an op important enough for the war chancellor to come on board. Most probably suspected the anomaly in the brig was involved in some way, too, but the rumors circulating about Ash were about as accurate as the council’s shipyard schematic.

“The rest of my bunkmates are on the op, sir.” He blinked when a bead of sweat slid down his nose. “I can’t be the only one who stays behind.”

“Perhaps you’re not on the roster because you’ve been in the Fighting Corps for less than three years and you have zero combat experience.”

Henel opened his mouth, closed it, opened it and made a strangled noise before he shut it again. Obviously, he hadn’t thought about that. If he had, he would have looked at the other names on the roster and known that a good number of men and women were in the same standing as him, fledglings in the Corps.

But Henel was exactly right. Rykus omitted his name from the roster for purely personal reasons. He’d made two promises. The first was to his father above Gaeles Minor, just minutes before their dead ship rammed a Saricean vessel, killing everyone but Rykus. The second was months later, when he’d visited Tressa Henel to tell her that her husband had died bravely.

J. T. was their only child, and Tressa needed him to be safe.

Rykus’s artificial shoulder throbbed with the memory of that catastrophe. He should have died on that op the same as the others, but some fickle twist of fate had not only allowed him to survive, but had turned him into a fucking war hero.

“Sir,” Henel said. “If that’s the case-”

“I’ll put you on the roster, corporal,” Rykus cut him off. “You want combat experience, you’re going to get it.” And I sure as hell hope you live to regret it.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll do my best to-”

“You’re dismissed,” he said.

Henel snapped to attention, saluted, then did an about face and exited Rykus’s office.

 

Back from the 2014 RWA National Conference
Monday, July 28th, 2014

I flew to San Antonio last week for my very first RWA National Conference.

It was awesome.

It was packed with authors who love and write romance. The workshops were phenomenal, and so were the keynote speakers. I left San Antonio exhausted, but rejuvenated, too. I can’t wait to publish my next book! I can’t wait to see the cover, work on the edits, then publish it and finish the next book. January 2015, you guys. It’ll be here sooner than you think!

Here’s a short video I put together with photos from the conference. My favorite workshop was Practical Self Defense for Writers and their Characters with Cathy Tully, Rayna Vause, and K.M. Fawcett. In just one hour, I learned a ton about my own personal self defense – tuck chin! drop! kick! run! – and some good stuff to put in my books. Yay!

 

Aren’s POV #1
Monday, March 17th, 2014

Fighting a cold today and couldn’t concentrate on my sci-fi project. So I toyed around with this because it was fun. Also because I miss Aren. :-)

Warning: First draft and written under the influence of cold meds.

Aren’s POV #1

The stone in the blacksmith’s hand glows blue as he drags it along my sword one last time, sharpening the blade with his magic. The metal is dark and unevenly shaded, not pure and pretty like the Court fae’s. But this is the way it should be. It will kill just as efficiently.

The blacksmith hands the weapon to me.

Aren,” someone calls out. I recognize the voice, and I roll my shoulders, loosening my muscles before I turn. It’s Isyll, one of our palace spies.

You’re early,” I say, keeping my voice calm and unconcerned. Isyll jogs toward me, breathing rapidly. Edarratae flash across her skin, protesting her presence in the human world. The bright blue lightning looks agitated, and the sweat beading on her forehead indicates she fissured multiple times to get here. Good. We can’t afford the Court fae learning our location.

The king knows,” Isyll says when she reaches me. “He knows we learned the shadow-witch’s name.

The blacksmith curses, and a murmur runs through the other fae who are near enough to hear her words. Trev, a fire-thrower who’s even more impatient than me to kill the shadow-witch, rises from the edge of the porch of the abandoned inn we’ve taken over.

We learned her name too easily,” he says, moving to my side. “The king has set a trap for us.

The king has made a mistake,” I say, loud enough for everyone to hear. “Wait here.

I open a fissure and disappear into the slash of white light before anyone says another word. The chill of the In-Between sharpens my mind, and an instant later, when I step into my room on the inn’s third level, I know exactly what we will do.

I grab a bag from a trunk in the corner and leave the room. Via the door, not a fissure. I can’t risk the In-Between stealing the contents of the bag.

Taking the stairs three at a time, I make it back to the front door within a minute of my departure.

We go after the shadow-witch, now,” I say, striding onto the porch. I loosen the drawstring on the bag then toss it to the ground. Dozens of anchor-stones spill out. “They’re imprinted with the location of her school. We’ll take her there.

That’s not our plan.

Trev and the other fae straighten when they hear Sethan’s voice. I don’t. I hop off the porch, pick up one of the anchor-stones, and toss it to my friend, the Realm’s future king. “I made a secondary plan.

Sethan catches the stone in the air. “When-

Naito looked up everything about her he could find.” Which, admittedly wasn’t much. “She has a class schedule. We’re going to disrupt it.”

Sethan’s brow furrows while he weighs my words. He has more concerns than I do. More responsibilities. He has to think about the repercussions of my actions, how they’ll be interpreted by our allies, and even by our enemies. I don’t care what the others think. I have one objective: to keep this rebellion alive and thriving. To do that, I have to take out the shadow-witch. She’s tracked down and killed too many of our fae.

No.” Sethan shakes his head. “We need her to be alone. We’ll wait at her home.

The king won’t let her return to her apartment,” I say.

We’re not certain the McKenzie Lewis we’re targeting is the king’s McKenzie Lewis.

Naito’s looked at all the possibilities. This one is the best candidate.”

I don’t want-”

Sethan,” I interrupt. “We need to do this. We need to eliminate her. She almost tracked me. If she crosses paths with you, and reads your shadows, everything you’ve worked for will be lost. This rebellion will end.”

He isn’t convinced yet. It takes everything in me to stand my ground, not to push him too hard on this. He’ll come to the same conclusion I have in time. But time is the enemy. If the king knows we know the shadow-witch’s location, he’ll send his swordmaster to save her. I would relish that fight, but not today. Today, we need to cripple the Court fae.

The nobles who support us are growing nervous,” Trev says beside me. “They’re afraid of the shadow-witch. They think she’s immortal and infallible.”

I fight to hide my smile. Perfect timing, Trev. Political pressure will bring Sethan to my view.

This opportunity won’t come again,” I say, just one more small nudge.

Sethan closes his eyes, and my adrenaline spikes. I’ve won.

Stay invisible,” he says. “Watch your weapons. I want no human witnesses.

I palm an anchor-stone. Trev and ten other fae do the same. I scan their faces quickly then meet Sethan’s gaze.

We’ll have only one human witness,” I tell him. “And she’ll be dead in a few minutes.

Grinning, I draw my sword then open a fissure. The king will soon learn what it feels like to lose a valuable asset.

Sleeping Hero Legends
Thursday, March 6th, 2014

I learned a new bookish term today: sleeping hero legends.

dauntlessI came across a link to this article on Facebook. It’s written by Jack Campbell, who writes an awesome military science fiction series. Seriously. Awesome. It holds my attention and keeps me breathless on the edge of my seat. And it doesn’t even have romance in it. A book that can do that these days is really, really awesome.

Campbell’s Lost Fleet series is a sleeping hero legend. The premise is that a spaceship captain dies saving a fleet from total destruction, but a century later, his escape pod thingy is found. He’s awoken from a long sleep and learns that his “last stand” has granted him hero status, and that the fleet idolizes him and his war strategies. It’s a really cool idea, and very well executed.

accidentalgoddessAnother sleeping hero legend that I adore? Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair. Again, this is science fiction, but it has romance! And it’s more of a space fantasy, so I think it probably appeals to urban fantasy/paranormal fans.

In this book, the heroine saves a planet in an epic space battle that leaves her presumed dead, but she’s thrown 300 years into the future and quickly learns she’s been turned into a goddess by the people she saved. I always have trouble figuring out which Linnea Sinclair book is my favorite, but usually, I choose this one. I’ve reread it at least four times, and for someone who very rarely rereads books these days, that’s something.

I want to read more Sleeping Hero Legends. Anyone have any recommendations? Amazon and Google both are failing me.

 

Do You Read Multi-Author Bundles?
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

nultiauthorbundleAround about a year ago, authors started banding together and releasing multi-author ebook bundles together. They priced them super cheap, usually $0.99 for six or more books. It’s a great deal, incredibly hard to pass up, and several of these bundles have gone on to hit the big lists: New York Times, USA Today, Amazon’s lists, etc.

I’ve bought several of these bundles. They were $0.99 so why not? I even thumbed through them on my Kindle.

But that’s all I did: thumbed through them. I haven’t read one full length book from a bundle.

I’m not entirely sure why. Usually, I bought bundles from authors I didn’t know. I was testing them out. Maybe I didn’t stick with the books for more than a page or two because I was extremely picky, and I had five or more other books from the other authors that I might have liked better?

I’m wondering if I’m a rare case. If most people who buy bundles usually read one or more books. Maybe they find their new favorite authors from the bundle?

If you have time, I’ve created a quick survey below. Let me know in the comments if you complete the survey and I’ll randomly draw a winner for a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

 

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

 

What I’m Loving Lately
Friday, February 28th, 2014

honorsknight1. Honor’s Knight. Still reading this, only because I’m a slow reader and my kids exhaust me in the afternoons so much that I tend to collapse into bed after they go to sleep. The book is just so, so good, though. It’s one of those books that makes me ask myself, “What the hell do I even try to write?” The characters are so distinct and well developed, I love the action, the mystery, the tension. And Devi is still fantastic. She might be my favorite heroine ever.

And I have a winner for this week’s giveaway!

J. Leigh!

Send an email to sandy AT sandy DASH williams DOT com with your address and your choice of Fortune’s Pawn or Honor’s Knight, and I’ll get the book to you next week. Hope you love it!

2. My Keurig. It’s actually my husband’s Keurig since he got it for Christmas, but I use it every morning. It’s how I’ve broken my terrible Diet Coke habit. I used to drink Diet Coke for my morning caffeine, but after having one, I’d have another. And sometimes another. Every day of the week. Even though I know how terrible it is for you. I just couldn’t drink water in the morning, and I’ve always hated coffee. But apparently, I just didn’t know how to drink it. With a bit of milk, truvia, and a tablespoon of Belgium Cookie syrup, it’s awesome. And I swear it’s saving me a fortune on Diet Coke and Starbucks’ Frappucinos.

les mills combat3. Les Mills Combat. I’ve been exercising 5 days a week for the last three weeks. Before that, I did Jullian Michael’s 30 Day Shred. Only the first level, because the second kicked my butt. Never attempted level 3. But my husband bought Combat a while back, so I decided to give it a try. It’s fun! It makes me feel tough, and I’ll admit it. Sometimes I channel Ramie Ashdyn – the kickass heroine from my current book – when I’m kicking and punching. It’s definitely not an easy program, though. My form pretty much sucks, I have to modify everything, and my back and shoulders have been perpetually sore since I first started it. But it doesn’t annoy me at all and I feel stronger, so WIN.

4. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Discoverability Series. Kris Rusch is an author who writes about publishing every Thursday. For the past couple of months, she’s been talking about Discoverability – how authors get readers to discover their books. What she writes is really smart, based on her experience and interviews with others, and it resonates with me on an intellectual level. I might not agree 100% with everything she says, and everything she says might not work for every author, but I love the perspective on the business of being an author. If you are a writer or aspiring author, her Thursday posts are a must-read.

5. Rykus, the hero from my work-in-progress. He’s such a hard, emotionless man most of the time, but Ash has clawed her way under his skin, and he’s such a softy on the inside. It’s coming out more in his thoughts. I particularly liked this little snippet I wrote this week.

Goddamn it, he wanted her. He couldn’t stop his thumb from sliding across her skin. Her arm looked small in his hand, undeniably soft and feminine. How was it possible for someone to be so fragile and yet, so strong?

Her hands shook again. He wrapped his around them.

She tilted her head up to meet his eyes. A hot wind blew strands of hair into her face. He resisted the urge to tuck them behind her ear. It would only have been an excuse to touch her cheek, an excuse to slide his fingers down that half-hidden lock of braided hair. He wanted to say so many things. He wanted to apologize for the bastard he’d been – the bastard he’s always been – and for not believing in her. He wanted to tell her she was safe now, she no longer had to fight, he’d take care of everything. Instead, he said the thing he knew she needed to hear the most.

“You’re absolved.”

What are you loving lately?