Returning to Yoga

I happily returned to teaching yoga at the beginning of March. During the past year of the pandemic, I’ve learned to pivot by holding classes outside, teaching goat yoga, and teaching online classes. But there was a giddiness as “my” class came back together — in a large space where we could socially distance, wear masks, and practice safely. We all had so much to share with each other. Then we moved through our practice while the rain poured down outside, a reminder, perhaps, of our cozy position of watching from indoors and the future promise of colorful flowers. We finished with a reading about the Niyama of svadhyaya from Deborah Adele’s “The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice.”

In her book, Adele pictures each person in the world as a divine spark wrapped in boxes like a nesting doll. Each box represents things like how we identify ourselves, what we believe to be true, our preferences, country of origin, gender, town, ancestors, race, religion, and our personal experience. She writes, “Svadhyaya, or self-study, is about knowing our true identity as Divine and understanding the boxes we are wrapped in. The process of knowing ourselves, and the boxes that adorn us, creates a pathway to freedom.”

After class I was thinking about this in relation to a recent article from Yoga Journal, “Alabama House Votes to Overturn Ban on Yoga in Schools.” Turning over the ban seems like a good thing. There have been many articles about how yoga in schools helps students to concentrate, to ease anxiety, and to become more aware — why were some yoga teachers upset? And as I read, I started nodding my head in agreement. The article is worth reading, but the gist is that “allowing” a watered-down yoga into schools as a series of stretches that have animal names is wrong because it is erasing the history of yoga, erasing the culture that shares yoga, and erasing the language of yoga (Sanskrit).

Here’s a quote from the article: Anjali Kamath Rao also pointed out that teaching a “more digestible” form of asana and breathwork teaches kids to appropriate—instead of appreciate—Hindu culture. “We are also teaching these kids it’s ok to take what is helpful to them without any honest acknowledgment of the people that gifted them the practice. We are teaching their needs are more important than the feelings of the others in the room.” 

I thought about my own yoga class. Yoga is, literally translated, a “yoking” of physical, mental, and spiritual, not just stretching with animal names. But I also need to acknowledge that I am a Christian, white woman teaching a discipline from another culture. To me, the spark of Divinity inside every person is what Genesis 1:26 references: “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness…”(NIV), but I am wrapped in other boxes and those boxes influence my understanding, and therefore my teaching.

I bring my Christianity to my teaching. ‘Aum’ is a mantra and a sacred sound that is traditionally repeated at the beginning and end of a yoga practice. It is a Sanskrit word that translates to ‘source’ or ‘supreme.’ To me, it sounds a lot like what we did in the church where I grew up after singing: A-oh-men-pause. The hand mudra of palms facing up is an ancient posture of receiving a blessing or spiritual enlightenment. Its also something we’ve begun doing at the end of service at my current church. My meditation is to bring me closer to God. On the mat with my eyes closed is a time to pray to Jesus so that I can then “let it go.” This is my experience – remember each person has their own boxes – so I’m not speaking for any other Christians or yogi than myself. And if you want to argue with me about why a person can’t be both, well, keep it to yourself.

There has, historically, been push back from some churches about having yoga classes on their property and some Christian colleges have refused to allow yoga clubs. These churches and universities wanted the watered-down stretching with animal names described in the article about Alabama schools. I have to agree with Anjali Kamath Rao’s quote above. That is appropriating, not appreciating.

I want to make sure that I am honoring the history, the culture, and the discipline of yoga, but each person’s practice is going to look a little different because we are each different. There is not one correct way to practice yoga. Imagine three people working through the same pose. They are accommodating their own flexibility, their own injuries, and their own sense of balance.

But there is always more to learn. How can I do better?

I missed my next in-person training (working towards 300-level) because of the pandemic. So, I’ve signed up for an online class to study The Gita, one of the main holy scriptures for Hinduism and a story about a prince and court intrigue, dated back to the second century BCE. It will be taught by Anusha Wijeyakumar, a South Asian teacher raised in the philosophy of Sanatana Dharma. Reading a Hindu text does not make me Hindu, but if I acknowledge that everyone is a child of God, maybe I can set my ego (my boxes) aside, and maybe I can learn something I didn’t even know that I didn’t know. And then I’ll share it with my classes.

Cheers (and Namaste),

Sherri

Upcoming Stories and Events

This has been a snowy winter in Maryland and another storm is on the way. The family will be heading to the ski slopes once the storm passes!

In other exciting news, I’ve placed three stories in anthologies and they will be available for purchase soon.

“Mustangs and Colts” Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021 (Ebook and paperback in March)

“At the Night Bazaar” Black-Eyed Peas: An anthology of Hope (Ebook and paperback in March)

“My Own Skin” Once Upon a Dystopia: Twisted Fairy Tales and Fractured Folklore (Ebook and paperback in March)

Baby Yoda was crocheted by my daughter Evelyn — she and her friends opened an Etsy shop called Surprizle Crafts.

Farpoint Convention 2021 will be virtual this year and free to guests, donations appreciated.

My panels:

Writing in the New Normal Saturday, Feb 20th (12-1pm)

This Wasn’t the Dystopia I Ordered Sunday, Feb 21st (11-noon)

Balticon 55

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society will hold a free virtual convention Memorial Day weekend, May 28-31, 2021.

I’ll post my panels/readings when the schedule is out.

Nebula Conference 2021 June 4-6th, 2021. It will also be online.

That’s all for now. Drop me a comment and let me know how you are enjoying winter or if you have any exciting virtual events coming up. Stay safe!

Love,

Sherri

Tough Decisions

Some decisions are easy, right? Like, for 2021 our family switched to glass straws and corn-starch dog poop bags in one more step to cut down on trash and waste in landfills and our oceans.

I have a hard time with other decisions, though. I’ve read advice about making pro-and-con lists, about talking decisions over with friends, about throwing a coin in the air and crying ‘head’ or ‘tails’ as a way to figure out what you really want, about meditating and “finding” the answer in your uncluttered mind. But, for me, it’s often about making myself let go. I don’t have faith that something better will come. I’d rather stick with what I know, no matter how flawed, than embrace the next thing. I’ve been practicing letting go this January.

Our mini-van. It’s from 2008 and we’ve kept it going with regular trips to the car mechanic. Unfortunately, our neighbor hit it the other night. No one was hurt and that’s the most important thing, but our son was the primary driver and I liked that he couldn’t go super fast without the whole frame shuddering as if it were about to fly apart. I liked that he could drive his friends around and they weren’t leaving fast food trash in my car. And, I liked that he could drive himself to sports or the gym and the smell wouldn’t cling to my vehicle.

I think we all know that the vehicle is totaled and I have to let it go.

A more difficult decision was to put my horse up for sale. I inherited Noche (Spanish for “night” because she’s a bay) from my daughter, who is a better rider than I am but is away at an out-of-state college. There are so many wonderful things about Noche that even after I fell off and had to recover from a severe concussion, I got back on and continued taking lessons on her. We had some really great rides. I improved, but then she threw me off again this December and the fall caused a cracked rib and a herniated disk. It wasn’t her fault — she was so good in so many other ways that I wouldn’t let her go because I didn’t know if I would bond with another (lower level) horse or if I had the time and money to buy a horse for myself. If I deserved to follow this childhood dream when the world is so chaotic and the pandemic seems like it won’t end. I still don’t know those last things, but I do know that Noche deserves a better rider and I deserve to not be afraid of what my next injury will be. So, I’m letting her go to a better forever home. (Please know that the owner of the stable and I are being very careful as we meet and interview prospective buyers! Noche will stay where she is until we find the perfect home. I just won’t be riding her).

And that brings me to another difficult decision this month. The good thing is I’m finished the next book in The Misbegotten Series. Yay! I’m proud of it and excited to share. It is currently out with beta readers — those are readers who give an author feedback for another round of revisions. My work-in-progress title has been Tamaki and the Fox, but the real title will be: ASHES OF REGRET. What do you think?

Walking Through Fire, Book 1

Ashes of Regret, Book 2

Flames of New Babylon, Book 3

Stars Crash and Burn, Book 4 (Tentative)

The decision is that I’ve been trusting other people to negotiate and get the rights back to Walking Through Fire for me and I need to do it myself (with Mike’s help!). Other people don’t care as much as I do and I’ve lost a lot of time waiting. So, why did I do it?

  1. I have this feeling, often, that other people know better than I do. That they know the right way to do things and I don’t. That I’m somehow missing common sense that everyone has.
  2. I wanted someone to hold my hand through the process. I like being a teamplayer.

I’m moving forward. Humans grow their competence by doing, not by worrying about doing. I’m going to make mistakes — everyone does — but this year I’m going to meet the difficult decisions and not try to sidestep or postpone.

Let me know what you think about the titles in the comments and I’d love to hear your New Year’s Resolutions!

Love,

Sherri

Counting the Good Things

Well, folks, it looks like Maryland is about to regress to Phase 1 during this Covid Pandemic. I’m going to take a moment to focus on some positives. We can’t choose how we feel, but we can choose our words and our message.

One cool thing that happened this fall was that I was able to modify my yoga teaching by offering GOAT YOGA CLASSES! (Use the white circle to ‘slide’ between photos)

In October my co-parent and I flew down to South Carolina to check on my oldest child and left feeling really impressed at how she was stepping up to the (modified!) college experience. She dropped one class that was too difficult between virtual learning and no opportunity for study groups, but was doing well in all the others. We rode bicycles in a nearby park and took her to Walmart to stock up and then took her out to eat.

I also attended Capclave, a writers’ convention near D.C.. virtually and it was nice to “see” (Zoom) so many familiar faces and talk about books and publishing and to be around other people like me. Major shoutout to the coordinators of Capclave because it ran so smoothly.

Some other positives are that I had a story accepted for DreamForge Magazine Issue #7 (available late 2020). My story, “Monsters Beautiful and Bright,” is a twisted fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel where the house is not made of candy, but has fruit trees when the rest of the world is being taken over by rot. It’s a steampunk Lorax with a “crafty” grandma. I’ve seen the illustration for my story and it is GORGEOUS. I love the details pulled from my words.

AND

I have a story forthcoming (Feburary ’21) in the Crazy8 Press anthology, Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2. I wrote a Western (my first time!) about an angry cowgirl, a wild mustang named Woodrow, a feisty teacher, and mean horse thieves. This project is a Kickstarter. That means that money from preorders is raised BEFORE publishing and the amount of preorders determines how nice the project will be. For example, we’ve reached payment for the authors, but we need $1800 more in preorders to have enough money to include illustrations with each story. If you’re interested in supporting, click here.

Talking to Ann Hanlin, a mustang adopter, and Woodrow (SBF Mustang Eventing)

I know this is a hard time. Believe me. I encourage you to practice gratitude by making a list like I just did. Cut yourself some slack. And read a good book. I’m currently enjoying Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir. The cover blurb by Charles Stross reads, “Lesbian necromancers explore a haunted gothic palace in space!”

Love,

Sherri

Over 100 Days since Covid-19

Dear Friends,

Lately time has been difficult to pin down. I remember, clearly, teaching yoga the morning of Friday, March 13th and then our class being escorted out of the building and the sound of the lock behind us as the governor’s executive order tolled through Maryland. A shut-down as a new virus spiraled out of control.

And then time slows down and speeds up and people are baking all kinds of goodies and school is moving online and we have to wear masks to the grocery store. But there’s a sense that we’re doing this together. We’re going to flatten the curve.

And then times freezes as Ahmaud Arbery, an athletic young black man, is jogging in a neighborhood near his house and is hunted down. He is murdered, on video, by a father and son.

This hurt my heart so bad. My son is an athlete. He goes jogging. Sometimes outside of our neighborhood. Sometimes later at night than I would like — but that’s the teenager sleep pattern when there is no school, no sports practice, and nowhere to go. I couldn’t believe the video.

And then the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, an essential worker, a black woman murdered in her own home on accident. And then George Floyd. And riots. And peaceful protests.

And the news was pounding at us and we all wanted to do something and we felt so many things.

I believe and support police officers AND I acknowledge that a few have done horrible things. Does there need to be change? YES. Do we need to revile our friends and neighbors who are police officers? NO.

I don’t know who originally said this, but I believe it: NO ONE HATES A BAD COP MORE THAN THE GOOD COPS.

I believe black lives matter AND there are problems in our entire American system.

I understand why there are riots AND I mourn for the businesses that are destroyed.

I saw this mandala by Deonne Francewar and it’s a visual image of how I feel. Artists are so amazing, aren’t they?

I don’t think it’s black against white. I think, pray, and hope that it’s everyone against racists.

Also, today is my birthday.  Normally I feel sad about not hitting goals or not being good enough or some other whatever.

Today, I’m thankful for all of the people who believe that we can be better, that we can do hard things, that we can wear masks to destroy this virus, that we can listen to Americans who have different experiences than us, that we can be brave enough to imagine a new, better way to evolve.

I love you guys.

Sherri

This Weekend at Farpoint

Hello! This is just a short message to let you know that I’ll be at Farpoint Convention this weekend. Special guests from the Star Trek universe will be there and I’ll be on literary panels.

Here’s my schedule:

Sherri Cook Woosley

Tales Of Woe — And Healing – Friday 7:00 PM – Salon C

Book Fair – Friday 10:00 PM – Hunt Valley Foyer

Furry Familiars And The Like – Saturday 10:00 AM – Salon C (MOD)

Author Autographs (Stilwell/Woosley) – Saturday 1:00 PM – Author Autograph 1

Author Readings (Attico/Woosley) – Saturday 2:00 PM – Salon E

Building A Better World – Sunday 11:00 AM – Hunt Ballroom

Author Readings (Povey/Woosley) – Sunday NOON – Salon E

Setting As Character – Sunday 2:00 PM – Salon C (MOD)

Some more good news: I was honored to be nominated as an author and to have WALKING THROUGH FIRE nominated as best book by local author for the Baltimore Sun’s Readers’ Poll 2020. This would be really nice to brag about when I’m looking for a new publisher later this year, so please go to the People & Media section and VOTE. You can vote each day until March 6th.

And, (drum roll) I’ve finished a draft of the first part of GATES. To celebrate, here’s a snippet:

The Hotheads came around the corner, moving in uncoordinated motions. Tattered clothing hung off their emaciated bodies. Shuffling forward without apparent purpose, no handler in sight.  Used to be two men and a woman, based on clothing, although the bright red paint covered any distinguishing marks. They could be anyone. Or no one.
Just let them go. Scout’s voice pleaded inside her mind. They aren’t hurting anything.
Tamaki shook her head. She knew more than Scout did about this. And she also knew this was a test from the Alchemists. Deliberate or not, Nguyen would be reporting back to Gavin whatever happened in the next five minutes. Having her future threatened made Tamaki realize that she not only wanted to be an important part of the Alchemist’s future school, she wanted to be their candidate for the Council of gods. Maybe that was too ambitious, but it was what she wanted. It would take away the pain of her grandmother’s refusal to teach her. It would show everyone, objectively, that she deserved a place in power.
Nguyen looked at her. “Are you ready?”
“Yes.” Her voice was steady.
No, please no. Scout’s voice was frantic. Tamaki, remember what happened at Ekur Temple. Remember that this was your second chance.
It was her second chance. And she wasn’t going to screw it up.
Love,

Sherri

 

Book Review of BLACKFISH CITY and THE LESSON

Here’s my third and final book review of CHARM CITY SPEC authors and hopefully a helpful guide for your favorite book lovers during the 2019 holiday season. Did I choose these books because of the beautiful colors on the covers? If so, it was unconscious. I CONSCIOUSLY chose these two books because they have fantastic ideas, lyrical prose, and are so immersive that you will have a book hangover when you’re finished.

Such beautiful covers!

BLACKFISH CITY by Sam J. Miller

Genre: Speculative fiction, YA, dystopia

Premise: (back cover) When a strange new visitor arrives in a floating city in the Arctic – humanity’s last hope after the ravages of climate change – the city is entranced. She’s riding an orca and has a polar bear at her beck and call. She’s called “the orcamancer,” and she very subtly unites four desperate people to stage unprecedented acts of resistance. By banding together, they will learn shocking truths about themselves – and save their city before it crumples under the weight of its own decay.

Who would love it: Well, according to Miller’s Twitter account (@sentencebender), anyone who is “a fan of polar bears…or killer whales…or bad-ass lesbian grandmothers.”  Me. I’m a fan of all three. But, that doesn’t touch on Qaanaaq, the actual floating city he’s built, or the story of both refugees and elite within that city, or mysterious broadcasts or nanobonding. People who are fans of those things will also love this book.

Favorite character: Too difficult! I’ll go with a favorite moment instead.

The polar bear opened his eyes and looked at Kaev.

In the instant of that eye contact, Kaev felt like he had broken free of his body. A happiness surged through him, warm as the sun, blissful as a thousand orgasms. The peace he’d felt while sitting there had been ten times greater than the joy of fighting, but this new sensation was ten times greater than that peace had been.

“Hello, Kaev,” Dao said. He and his soldiers had their backs to the grid edge; they could not see the polar bear. “You’ve been sitting here for a long time. I’ve got to presume that means you wanted us to find you.”

But Kaev could not hear him.

We are one, he thought, eyes locked with the animal’s.

Final Thought:

Miller’s debut THE ART OF STARVING won the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction. His newest book DESTROY ALL MONSTERS dropped on 7/2/19.

 

 

THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull

Genre: Science Fiction

Premise: An alien ship rests over Water Island. For five years the people of the US Virgin Islands have lived with the Ynaa, a race of superadvanced aliens on a research mission they will not fully disclose. They are benevolent in many ways but meet any act of aggression with disproportional wrath. This has led to a strained relationship between the Ynaa and the local Virgin Islanders and a peace that cannot last.

A year after the death of a young boy at the hands of an Ynaa, three families find themselves at the center of the inevitable conflict, witness and victim to events that will touch everyone and teach a terrible lesson.

Who would love it: Wilton Barnhardt says, “I came for the aliens and a war of the worlds. I stayed for the deadpan St. Thomas humor, the complicated, charming, sexy island folk, and Turnbull’s delicious prose.”

Favorite character: Most people know that I have a soft spot for the familial, for the moments that ground fantasy in a web of relationships. Here’s our intro to Derrick (who is much more respectful that MY teenaged son).

Fifteen days before

“Aren’t you going to close the door?” Patrice asked.

“Grams said I can’t close the door if I have a girl in my room.”

“We grew up together.”

“That’s the problem. You grown now. Can’t have you up in my room with the door shut.”

Patrice glared at him, communicating all she could.

“Her words,” Derrick said.

“Boy, don’t you close that door!” Grandma Reed yelled from the living room.

“I know, Grams.”

“Come here for a second!”

“Be right back,” Derrick said. He grabbed some home clothes as he left to change out of his school uniform.

Patrice sat on Derrick’s bed.

Final Thought: Now I have to look up Turnbull’s Asimov’s short story “When the Rains Come Back” (made the Barnes and Noble’s Sci-Fi & Fantasy’s short fiction roundup in 2018) and Nightmare story “Loneliness is in Your Blood” (selected for The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2018.

Book Review of SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA and UNCOMMON MIRACLES

Here’s my second of three book reviews of CHARM CITY SPEC authors AND hopefully a helpful guide for buying gifts for the readers in your life during the holiday season.

For something a little different, I selected two short story collections: SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA and UNCOMMON MIRACLES. Short stories are nice for those who like to experience many different “worlds” and casts of characters, who want to answer one question or examine one moment in time rather than commit to a three-act structure, and for those who, practically, have less time to read. Convinced? If so, here are two collections that would make a wonderful gift this holiday season.

Storm sunning herself between books.

SOONER OR LATER EVERYTHING FALLS INTO THE SEA by Sarah Pinsker

Cover art by Matt Muirhead

Genre: Speculative fiction, literary

Premise: There are thirteen different stories, so there are thirteen different premises. However, Publisher’s Weekly gave this collection a starred review. Here’s what they said:

*This beautiful, complex debut collection assembles some of Nebula winner Pinsker’s best stories into a twisting journey that is by turns wild, melancholic, and unsettling…The stories are enhanced by a diverse cast of LGBTQ and nonwhite characters. Pinsker’s captivating compendium reveals stories that are as delightful and surprising to pore through as they are introspective and elegiac.”

If that’s too oblique, here’s some specifics: In this debut collection, you will meet runaways, fiddle-playing astronauts, a touring band, under-employed Americans, retired time travelers, and dopplegangers.

Who would love it: Readers who like WINNERS… BECAUSE Sarah Pinkser’s stories have won the Nebula and Sturgeon awards, and have been finalists for the Hugo, the Locus, and the Eugie Foster Memorial Award.

 

Favorite character: Grandmother Windy (from Wind Will Rove)

“My grandmother was an engineer, part of our original crew. According to the tale, she stepped outside to do a visual inspection of an external panel that was giving anomalous readings. Along with her tools, she clipped her fiddle and bow to her suit’s belt. When she completed her task, she paused for a moment, tethered to our ship the size of a city, put her fiddle to the place where her helmet met her suit, and played ‘Wind Will Rove’ into the void. Not to be heard, of course; just to feel the song in her fingers.”

Final Thought: Pinsker’s first novel, Song for a New Day, also released recently so you should buy a copy of that too.

 

One orea bunny, two white with caramel markings, one striped with a Harlequinn face, one striped with solid face, and two fawn colored with gray bellies.

UNCOMMON MIRACLES

Genre: Speculative, Weird

Premise: “Julie C. Day makes a bold debut with this genre-bending collection of stories. At times whimsical, at times heart-breaking, but always clear-eyed and honest, Uncommon Miracles proves that Day has joined the front ranks of the writers carrying American fantasy into a new golden age.”

Specifics: (18 stories) A grieving man travels through time via a car crash. A family of matriarchs collects recipes for the dead. A woman gains an unexpected child in the midst of a bunny apocalypse. An outcast finds work in a magical slaughterhouse. Whether set in a uniquely altered version of Florida’s Space Coast or a haunted island off the coast of Maine, each story in this collection carries its own brand of meticulous and captivating weirdness.

Who would love it: Readers who like stories that are more Alice in Wonderland than Hallmark movie.

Favorite character: Cole (from “Everyone Gets a Happy Ending”)

“Steph and I are stretched out on plastic recliners, our laps full of her offspring: six desert cottontails, and for some unknown reason, one of the English Spot variety. After all my careful care – changing the bedding in their crate, cradling them when Steph disappears from their sight – the English Spot is still the only bunny who greets me when I come near. I’ve named him Cole. A fact I don’t share with Steph, though I whisper it to him like a lullaby when she isn’t near.”

Final Thought: Day recently released a novella titled The Rampant, an apocalyptic tale by way of Sumerian mythology.  Also, I love the cover art (by Tiffany Bozic).

Book Review SONG OF BLOOD & STONE and SUPREMACY’S BOUNTY

Dear Friends,

All I want for Christmas (or Hanukkah or Winter Solstice) is more reviews of Walking Through Fire BECAUSE there is an urban legend among authors that if you have 50 reviews on Amazon then it jiggers the algorithm to show ads for your book. If I hit 50 then I’ll let you know.

I mean, also world peace and a solid Democratic party candidate and a plan for endangered species.

In the meantime, I’m going to post book reviews to hopefully help people with their holiday shopping. I’m not the most voracious reader because of the whole having kids and animals and a day job thing, but when I cast my mind back over the past year I thought of CHARM CITY SPEC in Baltimore and realized that’s been my reading list.

Gabe displays SONG OF BLOOD & STONE and SUPREMACY’S BOUNTY

First up is SONG OF BLOOD & STONE by L. Penelope. 

Genre: Fantasy, epic and romantic

Premise (back jacket copy): The kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar have been separated for centuries by the Mantle, a magical veil that has enforced a tremulous peace between the two lands. But now the Mantle is cracking and the True Father, ruler of Lagrimar and the most powerful Earthsinger in the world, finally sees a way into Elsira to seize power.

Jasminda has been branded an outcast by the color of her skin and her gift of Earthsong, but when a group of soldiers wander into her valley she learns from Jack, a spy, that their only hope to restore the Mantle lies in uncovering the secrets of the Queen Who Sleeps.

Who would love it? Me! I would love this book. Also, readers who enjoy world-building. Besides the kingdoms of Elsira and Lagrimar, the world has a religious order of the Sisterhood and an anti-religious order of Dominionists, secret societies (Keepers of the Promise), academics from Fremia, etc.

Who else? Readers who love the blurring of traditional genre lines. Against a backdrop of what is 1920’s technology, the characters are worried about war, worried about duty to family, worried about loyalty. But the big questions of life are really the small, daily decisions and Penelope really explores what it means to love. That is, perhaps, my favorite part of this book. Jasminda and Jack, Benn and Ella, even Oola and Eero are wrestling with how to love another person, how to have boundaries, how to sacrifice and when not to…this is so real against the beautifully fantastic world sung into a novel.

Finally, this book would appeal to people who enjoy the “feel” of the Pern series or the Broken Earth series in terms of ancient secrets, advanced societies that made mistakes and then generations pass…and our characters have to figure out how the sins of the parents have created the current conflict.

Favorite character: Zaura nyl Herrsen

Would you like to meet her?

The radio hissed. “Lt. Ravel, this is Private Teraseen. The old woman got away.”

“Got away?”

“Yes, sir. She was here one minute and then she told me she needed the privy. I turned my back while she set off behind a tree, and the next thing I know, she’s stolen my vehicle and driven off. High tailed it out of here like a woman half her age. I’m sorry, sir.”

Final Thought: Book 1.5 is titled BREATH OF DUST & DAWN; Book 2 is titled WHISPERS OF SHADOW & FLAME

Next Book for review is: SUPREMACY’S BOUNTY by T. Eric Bakutis

Genre: science fiction, grimsnark and military

Premise (back jacket copy): “I just saved your life, cowboy. You owe me.”

As a feared and respected bounty hunter, Mackenzie Flores enjoys the finer things in life: a dependable rifle, a clean glass of dirty whisky, and a reputation that leaves her flush with contracts and the freedom to pick and choose her jobs. At least until the Supremacy blows up everything she owns and takes her girlfriend away.

To rescue the woman she loves, all Mackenzie has to do is take down three crime lords, one planet of super soldiers, and a human trafficking base on the moon. Fortunately, she has powerful armor and smart bullets. Unfortunately, they’ve all gone missing.

Who would love it? Me! Okay. Maybe you predicted that, but I got to read an advance copy and I emailed the author in the middle because I couldn’t STAND it. I had to talk about what was happening. This story is that jerky roller coaster at Hershey park. The one that puts a crick in your neck even before you take the first hill. It’s nail-biting exciting and I finished it in two days because there is no place to stop. Seriously. Every scene is rushing your forward to a new, bigger disaster, but you can’t stop rooting for Mack.

Techies. Look, I’m a luddite, but the introduction of new weapons and technology did not slow down the story in any way. Nor was it incomprehensible. Somehow the author manages that fine balance of having the tech add to the story in a way that makes the reader complicit. I’m biting back a spoiler right now so PLEASE read this so we can discuss.

Readers who like to be messed with. Look, the author does that thing where he jerks you back and forth in time. (The Mousetrap, remember?) and IT WORKS as a device because you think maybe things will turn out differently if you don’t look away.

Those who like heist narratives. Who like not knowing who to trust. Who like hidden motivations and double crosses and simple contracts that turn out to be verrrrry complicated.

Favorite character: Jinx

Jinx was her support, communications, and tech expert, and she was sitting in a warm shuttle a half klick into the forest. “Alarms disabled, camera feeds cloned, comms monitored. Is there a problem?”

(spoiler: there IS a problem) (Second spoiler: this is the first page.)

Final Thought: This is a stand-alone book, but is in the DUELING PLANETS universe along with Supremacy’s Shadow)