April is right around the corner and with that Spring. Officially Spring was the 20th of March but here at VeL live in New England. We’re lucky if it shows itself at all before May. With the changing of the seasons comes a slew of new releases in the book world. No longer do we need our comfortable stories to carry us through the cold harsh winters. Spring is the best time for some adventures. Here are the top four* titles we’re most excited to devour this spring.

DIAL A FOR AUNTIES by Jesse Q. Sutanto

We don’t usually stray from the SciFi/Fantasy genre but this book, by title alone, hooked us. It’s a murder mystery and rom-com all in one with a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture. This book is about what happens when one accidentally kills their blind date like Meddelin Chan does at the beginning of DIAL A FOR AUNTIES, who then calls her meddlesome mom who in turns called Meddelin’s even more meddlesome aunties all to get rid of the body. Sound interesting enough right there but author Sutanto then goes on to add even more chaos to the mix with the dead body accidentally being shipped in a cake cooler to a billionaire’s two thousand guest wedding. 

Then Meddelin’s long-lost love from college shows up in the middle of the wedding fiasco.

The chaos and hilarity this novel promises to bring have us counting the days down until it’s on shelves. DIAL A FOR AUNTIES will be released on April 27th. 

THE INFINITY COURTS by Akemi Dawn Bowman

What if Siri or Alexa even grew to full sentience and took over our afterlife? That’s kind of what happens in Bowman’s THE INFINITY COURTS. 

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is suddenly murdered on her way to a party. A very important party that her whole recently graduated class is planning on attending. Most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years is planning on attending. Once dead, she finds herself in a place called Infinity. Infinity is where the human consciousness goes when their physical bodies die. Sounds pretty cool, all except the fact that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used on Earth, has taken over Infinity and declared herself queen. Ophelia, if Alexa and GLaDOS had an AI love child. My guess is the cake would still be a lie in Infinity. 

Like GLaDOS, Ophelia has grand plans of eradicating human existence one and for all. 

Nami soon joins a team of rebels aimed at bringing Ophelia down, saving the humans imprisoned under her, and forcing her to reckon with her past. That line right there is so intriguing. What past does an AI need to reckon with? We’re hooked! THE INFINITY COURTS #1 will hit shelves on April 6th.

IN DEEPER WATERS by F.T. Lukens

IN DEEPER WATERS what happens when someone asks the question, “Could Pirates of the Caribbean could be gayer?” and the answer is yes. 

A young prince relies on a mysterious stranger to save him when he gets kidnapped during his coming-of-age tour. Prince Tal is a sheltered prince with forbidden magic that hasn’t been allowed to see the kingdom until now. All he wanted was a bit of adventure and two days into the tour, adventure finds them in the form of a mysterious prisoner on a burning derelict vessel. This mysterious prisoner, Athlen, forges a fast bond with the prince before leaping overboard and disappearing into the water of the open ocean. Tal thought that was the end of that but days later runs into Athlen on dry land right before Prince Tal finds himself kidnapped. His captors are held for ransom with the idea to reveal his rumored powers and start a war. Tal, with the help of Athlen, must escape in hopes of saving his family and the kingdom.

IN DEEPER WATERS is set to be published on the 20th of April and we can not wait to devour this one. 

WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD by Ciannon Smart

First, the cover of Smart’s debut novel is downright gorgeous. It’s both eye-catching and breathtaking all in one. It is the perfect cover for this Jamaican-inspired YA Fantasy novel about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy. Iraya and Jazmyne are exact opposites. Iraya has spent her whole life in a cell while Jazmyne is the Queen’s daughter. One dreams of freedom and vengeance while the other is dead set on not giving her life to strengthen her mother’s power. Like her sister had done. They band together to eliminate a mutual threat but soon find that the power is intoxicating.

Judging from all the great reviews on Goodreads from those who were lucky enough to get advanced reader copies, Smarts does an amazing job from start to finish. We can not wait to get our hands on a copy of this and devour it ourselves.

Come for the cover. Stay for the amazing world and characters of Smart’s debut novel WITCHES STEEPED IN GOLD, released April 20th. Between this and IN DEEPER WATERS, it might be a good idea to take the 21st off because there’s a high chance of binge-reading until dawn with both these books.

If any of these titles interest you, remember to get your preordering game on. 

*In lieu of recent news about one of the authors, we have decided to no longer endorse their books and themselves in any way.

All links within are affiliate links and all proceeds generated from sales are used to pay authors, guest bloggers included, and to grow the company.

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Nubia: Real One by written by L.L. McKinney, illustrated by Robyn Smith, and colored by Brie Henderson, is the next book you have to add to your already overpacked bookshelf.

Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

Since Wonder Woman, Princess Diana of Themyscira, first appeared in DCs All Star Comics #8 in October 1941 there have been countless stories, movies, and more about this well-loved character but did you know Wonder Woman had a sister? A long-lost twin sister even. Nubia, DC Comics’ first Black superhero character, was first introduced in Wonder Woman #204, January 1973 and has been popping in and out of the Wonder Woman stories since.

In the 40+ years since her introduction, her relation to Diana has varied from a fellow Amazon, a parallel universe version of Diana, as well as having inherited the mantle in a future timeline. When I was first introduced to her at the age of 11/12, she was Diana’s twin.

There was this hole-in-the-wall comic book shop a few blocks down from my middle school that I would walk to from time to time when the weather was nice. I used to go in there and browser to my heart’s content, the owner more than happy to indulge me. It was there that I first found Lady Death, Evil Ernie, Fables, and a slew of lesser-known comics. It was also where I caught up on Marvel and DC stories, starting my large comic collection off right.

I remember buying only a few Wonder Woman comics, never really satisfied with her character and stories until recently. If I was in the mood for a kickass heroine, I usually just bought a She-Hulk comic since she had a little bit more personality at the time. One of the few comics I did have had Nubia. It’s been a bit of time and I honestly don’t remember if I had any reaction to her introduction other than ‘oh, she’s cool’ before moving on. I was a ravenous reader and all except a few titles and characters never got too attached as I read. It was easier just because of the speed I devoured a multitude of stories at.

Sadly, Nubia overall was barely in the Wonder Woman comics which I only learned in the last few years, and was never really given the spotlight but she was well-loved by many diehard fans of color. McKinney, after being a fan of Nubia from childhood, pitched the idea to DC and they approved.

A little more than two weeks ago, Nubia: Real One was released. My Twitter feed blew up with it and I instantly had to order a copy.

Best book buy of the year.

Nubia: Real One is set in modern-day starting at the end of her junior year of high school. She’s seventeen and hiding her powers as best as any teenager could. Her two moms, one is an ex-Amazon herself, keep Nubia in the dark as to her true lineage and try to raise her like a normal American teen. The problem is Nubia is Black in a country that hates people who look like her.

This story beautifully blends the trials of being a teenager; crushes, parties, and parental nagging with real-life conflicts of today; racism, police brutality, and school shootings. Neither side is heavy-handed, neither is downplayed. They just go hand in hand for Nubia and her friends. The realness makes the story fly by, compelling the reader to just keep going, turning page after page.

McKinney does a great job with modernizing Nubia. In her appearances in Wonder Woman, she’s been the definition of the media’s portrayal of a Strong Black Woman. McKinney takes that and builds off it, molding Nubia into a believable character. She balances Nubia’s strength and vulnerability, keeping in mind that she’s just a seventeen-year-old girl trying to get through high school.

This was a character I would have loved to read about as a kid. A woman with a personality and flaws and one that just felt real. Yes, she can bench press a Buick but even with that, it felt like she was any girl of color in any American high school. One with overbearing parents, nosy friends, and maybe even a crush on a classmate. I love this.

Diana does show up in this book like one would expect, to give some backstory why she’s a full-fledged adult and Nubia is still a teen. I won’t spoil the details, promise. It’s short and probably for the best since having her around longer would derail the rest of the story and take away from Nubia’s identity struggles. I hope, in future books, that they do have more time to interact and form a real bond.

From start to finish, Nubia: Real One does its job and does it well. It blends modernization with the feel of classical superhero stories. It is thought-provoking, comical, and endearing. Once the pandemic is over and I can see people in person again I will be throwing this book into every one of my friend’s hands with a simple ‘you have to read this.’

Now, the big question. When’s book 2 coming out?

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Hard to believe it’s already March. It doesn’t look all that different from March last year for some of us.

For anyone curious as to what #onemillionwords is click here for the week 1 update which explains it all.

After spending a year stuck inside a 860 sq ft box of an apartment, I’ve come to some decisions. First, decision was made last May when I had decided to launch VeL to the best of my current ability. Not long after we published our first anthology, Graveyard Visits Vol 1, and for the first few weeks it was in Amazon’s top 1,000 titles for Horror Anthologies. Not bad for our first book. Next we’ve gotten a few dozen submissions which we’re still going through because we’re a small team here but it still blows me away anyone would look twice at us. Let alone, trust us with their manuscript.

It’s been a wild start but while this was all happening I was trying to find ways to better my work habits. We tried scheduling but that fell through after a week. Whiteboards, alarms, everything you could think of. It all came back to the fact that I am ADHD and I have executive disfunction and it had gotten worse during lockdown. Without concrete deadlines, I have been finding it harder and harder to get stuff out in a timely manner.

After talking it out with my husband, I called a mental health clinic and started seeing a therapist to get me back on some well needed Adderall. This time I won’t randomly decide I’m good without it, shooting myself in the foot for another ten years like I did right after college. Not everyone with ADHD needs to be medicate. I’ve learned over this past decade that I do. Think about what I’ve already accomplished without it and then double or even triple that. That’s how I am on Adderall. 

Why did I take myself off of it? It’s a long story but shortened version is I was 20, lost my pills for almost two weeks – they rolled off my desk and got lodged between my dorm room bedframe and mattress – and still did great in my classes. Figured, I didn’t need them anymore. Didn’t take into account just how structured college was, especially when you were taking 8-9 classes a semester because overachieving was the only thing to do in that dinky town.

That being said, I haven’t started on it yet and probably won’t until at least the end of April. For those who are not aware, Adderall is a very regulated med because of it’s ‘street value’. What this means is college students used to sell them all the time because for neurotypical brains, it’s like a massive energy drink straight to your heart. For people with ADHD, it’s the opposite. Because of this insurance might fight us for a few months just to fill it.

That all being said, my week of writing wasn’t as fruitful as I would have hoped. A good chunk of time and my brain power was focused on getting back into actually managing my ADHD again. Still, I wrote words. This is up on time. I’ve been able to accomplish some of my smaller goals, still wrote every day, and started outlining. That combined with still making sure I are three meals every day, showering and basic hygiene was still met, and I found time to cuddle both my cats separately. The week wasn’t 100% a success but it was more than enough for me right now.

Quick project update.

CHAINED HEAVENS – This project has been the easiest for me this whole week, which I am extremely thankful for. CH has the highest word count of all my project so being able to play a little catch up has been great. I am nowhere near where I should be in terms of word count but I’ve been slowly lessening that divide. As of today, I should be around 71k words but as of right now, I’m only at 43k. The goal is to make up the difference by end of April. By doing that I should have exactly what I need to start compiling the first volume of short stories which I will then have to find the time to edit and rewrite what needs to be before sending it off to the editor. Kind of an exciting thought to be that close to having something to show for all of this.

VeL – Like always, these are still hit or miss but I’m starting to see the curve of it getting easier. I had been lucky enough to get three posts completed with two of them going live this week and the third going live next week. If we have any downtime this weekend, I hope to get a few more pre-written and scheduled ahead of time. Trying to get better at that whole not leaving things until the last minute habit us with ADHD are known for. 

The word count, as of today, for where I’m supposed to be is just under 27k. I am at least well over halfway there with almost 16k words written. I’ll count that as a win. 

CLOAKED RITES – This project has been in a sort of stopping and starting pattern all week. It’ll probably stay like this until I can find the time to sit down and really plot it all out. I really am interested in trying the Snowflake Method but it seems like it’d take a full day to do from start to finish which needs to be scheduled for one of the days my husband is home since it’ll probably be best done with a sounding board at the ready. So, for this upcoming Monday, I have put it on my schedule to spend the day doing this instead of writing. No matter how caught up I am at that point. There’s been almost no progress to report.

The Stormbloods Saga – This is my only project that has exceeded the actual word count goal for the day. My aim for each installment when finished to be no less than 30k words and no more than 40k. I’m already at almost 18k words into the first installment and a thousand words over the daily goal. There’s at least 2k of filler in there that needs to be cut but I still feel really pleased about my progress. Also, thanks to this story I really want diner food again. It’s been too long.

DLPSW – Just over 12k in and I’ve finally gotten to the big trope in my first romance novel, the fake relationship. I’m a little behind where I should be but since I’ve passed all the setup and info dumps I have a feeling this story will start to write itself. The word count goal for today is just a touch over 17.5k which means if I really hustle in the next few weeks I could have two projects back on track or even ahead. I will say one of the hardest parts of the set up was finding a believable, more or less, way for the Werewolf pack to ‘by accident’ find out these two have been ‘dating’ and just didn’t tell anyone because of reasons. I had mapped out five possible reveals but ended up poking holes in all of them.

Finally, I just said screw it and started writing. If I write it odd or wrong, it can just be fixed with my editor at a later date. The most important thing was to just to keep the story flow going, to get words to page. Not sure who said it but a quote I try to remember often is ‘you can’t edit a blank page.’ Cliché but true.

I’ve also gotten into the habit of just glossing over scenes that I can’t get to work in the moment with a line in all caps telling me to work on this during revisions. I also try to put in a random word that I know probably won’t be written anywhere else in the project like for example, mopery. Mopery means a violation of an imaginary or trivial law. Nowhere in my manuscript will I ever actually use mopery so I put it there. That way later I can use ctrl-F and search for it.

If you think you’d like to use this method but don’t know what random obscure words to use, try wordnik.com. It’s very useful in that regard.

The Keepers Chronicles – This project is the furthest behind for many reasons. The first being, that even though I loved the characters from the first story I wrote, it was supposed to be a standalone horror short story. Now, I’m expanding and haven’t had to time to fully sit down with that idea. I’m aware now that this was short-sighted on my part when I set this all up. Next year I plan on structuring my projects very differently, having none but the major ones spanning the whole year. I’m over 10k short for this project and probably will be for a little bit until I can straighten out some of the larger word count projects.

To everyone else participating in #onemillionwords or just trying to do better this year, how’s it going? Let me know in the comments below

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It’s March again and some of us are still in lockdown. After a year, I thought I had binged all I would want to binge on Netflix but I was wrong. Earlier this week Netflix gave me a suggestion for one of their original series by the title October Faction. For all the comic book fans out there, yes it is the same OCTOBER FACTION as written by Steve Niles and illustrated by Damien Worm. Sadly, I have the first two issues but have never gotten around to reading it so, as if yet, I can’t tell you how it stacks up to the original material.

October Faction is a Supernatural/SciFi show that follows the story of a monster-hunting couple, Fred and Deloris Allen, who works for a secret non-government agency called Presidio. After the funeral of Fred’s father, they decide to settle back down in Fred and Deloris’ hometown. Strange things start to happen around the couple’s 17-year-old twins, Viv and Geoff. Viv ends up waking up a warlock hell-bent on revenge against the Allens and everyone involved in Presidio. Dark family secrets and truths about Presidio start to be exposed causing the whole family to lose their way and question their sanity.

The Netflix original series is ten episodes long with each episode ranging between 36 and 49 minutes. Timewise it was a very easy binge and was able to be done in one day, started mid-morning and finishing up not long before my husband got home. Perfect for sluggish days when even thinking about work is exhausting. Finding this show was perfect to end the string of rainy dreary days we had been having here in New England.

First, and as odd as this will sound, the show quality is middle of the road at best but because of its watch time, I’d still say this is well worth it. If you are looking for a new supernatural-like show to binge this will hit all the buttons perfectly, just not well if that makes sense. It reminds me of a lot of the more famous Sci/Fi shows that started off trying to be a super serious show but ended up leaning more into the comedy later on. Eureka is the first one to come to mind. The studio execs tried to make it a serious show with serious problems but the cast did their own comical thing thus the slapstick hilarious Eureka that we know today was born. Though, this show was canceled last year, so we won’t find out in which direction it would grow.

Wait, it’s canceled? Why are you still recommending it?

Usually, I wouldn’t but season one is still worth watching. Think of it like a mini-series. Plus, for those still in lockdown, our standards might a touch lower than before. It’s only ten episodes with episodes ranging in run time from 36-49 minutes. All the plots they introduced in season 1 are finished in season 1. The cliffhanger at the end is small and easily felt like a last-minute add-on. You can easily ignore it, enjoying the series as just a completed story.

The amount of plot and subplot lines is staggering considering, again, it’s only ten episodes long. I got the feeling that they had planned out enough material to cover 24 hour-long episodes but were told last minute to cut it down to 10 episodes. It reminded me of a child’s overstuffed luggage, not willing to leave anything behind, telling us every single item was of the utmost importance when in actuality some of the items are just broken toys. October Faction would have been a lot better if they threw away half the subplots or at least waited and put them into season 2. Then they might have gotten a season 2.

Each episode has an average of half a dozen plotlines running through. Every main character seeming to get more than one. None of them are completely fleshed out and all seem very rushed. When plotlines are rushed you lose the ability to have the characters react to some very big events happening because they just need to move on to the next thing. Because of this, all the characters had more than a few moments of just being completely cardboard or act out without having justification which just makes them come across horribly.

Don’t get me wrong, overall, all the actors did a good job with what they were given. I ended up spending the full ten episodes going back and forth on every character whether I liked them, didn’t like them, loved them, or could not stand them. Usually, when my brain has decided it likes a character it stays in that camp unless they do something really bad. Tamara Taylor, who played Deloris Allen and is most well known for playing Camille Saroyan in Bones, always does a great job. Her ability to deliver deadpan, one-liners always hits perfectly. Newcomers, Gabriel Darku who played Geoff, and Aurora Burghart who played Viv, blew me away with their abilities. I hope to see them in many more projects in the future.

It was sort of a mess from beginning to end but an interesting mess. I would love to see them try their hands at adapting it again. It really did have all the trappings of being good enough to send most of us fangirls into a fanfiction reading spiral.

The world is extremely interesting. I have a soft spot for the whole ‘secret monster hunter/supernatural spy’ thing. As of now, I’d rate this show a solid 2.5 out of 5. Not good enough for me to start reading fanfiction off of but not bad enough that I stopped watching after the third episode. Episode three is my make or break with Netflix shows it seems.
After this, I think it’s about time I go read the comics I bought at a free comic book event years ago. Maybe I’ll write up another review with a show vs comic comparison.

Thinking about binging October Faction? Let me know if you do and what you think of the show.

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Look at that, it’s an actual #onemillionword update posted on Friday and everything.

Two hands typing aware at a laptop, wearing black long sleeves. The laptop has a bunch of stickers on it and they are sitting at a marble grey and white table.

We are now at the end of week 8 which almost lines up with the end of February. A month that I am all too happy to say a proper farewell to. Over here in New England we’ve seen a lot of cold temps and a lot of snow which usually I’m fine with when I can also leave the house. This year with the quarantining, I don’t get any vitamin D during the week and I can’t wait for spring because of that. The ever so slightly warmer days that are slowly passing by have given me a little extra pep in my step in most aspects of my life. For one, I’ve already started our spring cleaning. The amount of tumbleweeds made out of cat hair my two make in a week is astounding.

Now, between the spurts of cleaning and trying to hit my word goal I’ve neglected a big part of my life; reading and video games. My husband and I haven’t been able to play WoW at all this winter which is when we usually hunker down for some good ol’ fashion raiding. This is because of my work and his plus homework. It’s been a busy pandemic.

As of right now, I am in the middle of four different books and three different video games with no progress made in any of them for weeks. What I’m getting at here is, I am horrible at the whole work/life balance thing. It’s not a horrible shock since I’ve been like this my whole life. Just comes with the territory of being ADHD. Though it did take me two months into the year to realize it too.

So the problem has been identified, now I need to fix it as much as I can. First, as of next week, I’ll be seeing an ADHD specialist which is great. I work best with structure and accountability. Regular check-ins to keep meds going does exactly that. Just being accountable to my husband doesn’t cut it, no matter how much he tries to be the hardass in the relationship.

From there I plan to try and write 6,000 words a day but only Monday through Thursday. Friday the goal is 4,000 words. Saturday and Sunday the goal is 500 words. Dividing it up like this should allow me to catch up as well as relax, regularly. If done correctly, I should have 29k new words a week which is 7k more than what I’d need just to stay afloat.

Some might ask, why write at all on the weekends? Shouldn’t I use those two days for a real day of relaxation? Especially since my husband works a regular 9-5. It’d give us more time to just hang out with each other. I’d 100% agree if I didn’t use a website called 4thewords.com to write and I have to keep my streak going. If you don’t know what 4thewords is, I’ll explain it below.

A cartoon colorful middle eastern style city.

4thewords.com is a website that is an infusion of a word processor and a flash video game. You start at level one with a basic avatar and level up by completing quests and ‘fighting’ monsters as you go. It has all the usual trappings of a fantasy video game so you may ask, where does the whole writing thing come into play? Well, to fight the monsters you have to beat them with word counts. Right now, I’m fighting a monster called a Nitana. Sort of looks like a toucan. To defeat the Nitana, I have to write 700 words in 130 minutes. How am I doing right now in this battle? I’m just under the two-hour mark and have written 289 words. Some battles are a lot tighter. For example, there’s an Assassin that you have to defeat by writing 1,400 words in 130 minutes. The largest monster I’ve encountered so far needs 2k words to defeat it.

There are probably bigger monsters in the newer areas but I haven’t done any quests there yet even though I’ve had those areas opened for months. The reason for this is because I’m a completist. I’ve slowly been going through and finishing up all the quests in the first 4 areas before moving on. Granted, right now I’m stuck in the desert area since I used up my last 20 coins to travel. I could wait ten minutes to slow travel for free but who has patience like that?

In addition to just writing, you can dress up your avatar in two different ways; aesthetic and battle gear. I used to raid ICC three times a week during the Lich King expansion so I am a huge fan of gear grinding. Feels nostalgic since no raid has lived up to ICC yet. Sorry, Blizzard. All battle gear has at least one of three stats; attack, defense, and luck. Attack gives you extra words. Having a +10 in attack will get you 1 extra word for every 10 you write. This lets you whittle away the monster’s health faster. Attack is a great stat to build up when going against the 2k monsters. Defense gives you more time. Not too sure about the ratio but with my attention span, more time is always good. Lastly, there’s Luck. Luck affects what items will drop when you defeat the monster. The higher your Luck means the more likely the monsters will drop rare items.

There’s even crafting and some great lore to round this all out. Not to mention the art is cute and well done. They’ve even introduced reaction emojis for the forums that use the same art style the monsters and world are in.

This all sounds wonderful, right? There is a catch. As you’ve probably guessed, it costs money. The good thing though it’s not that expensive, only $4 a month or less if you buy the crystals needed to get the subscription in bulk. It takes 44 crystals to buy one month. The largest bundle they offer is 2250 for $150. That makes it about .06 a crystal instead of the normal .09 cents. If you don’t have the money all the time, there are two ways to get a month or two free. One, they have a pool you can opt into that helps those without the means get subscription time donated to them. The other way is that there are quests that give you crystals. If you are smart and don’t spend them on some of the aesthetic items you can save those up easily to use on months that you don’t have the money.

Don’t be like me and waste them on boots and a kickass top the first minute of playing.

If you are at all interested in trying 4thewords, I’d really recommend it. They have a free trial is 30 days and allows you complete access to the game. If you decide not to pay after that then you can still access your work, you just can’t add or edit it on the site. You can copy and paste to another word processor.

Also, if you use my referral, we both get cool stuff; VNMLP95872.

Until I can find a better balance between work and play, this will probably be my only video gaming for the time for a little while.