Reader Expansion Challenge: Book by A Woman Whose Work You Haven’t Yet Read: Until You by Jeannie Moon

 

This month, the challenge was to read a book by a woman writer whose work we had not previously read.

I got some wonderful recommendations. I looked at several books; I have a huge TBR pile from those recommendations that is very exciting. Some of them are big books that will probably change my life.

Then, I saw a RT on Twitter (can’t remember from whom, but it must have been a fellow writer). It was about a writer I had never yet read named Jeannie Moon, who writes romance. A younger writer criticized her because her female protagonist is ten years older than the male love interest.

Say what?

As an unmarried woman who’s older than I ever expected to be, that offends me.

I’ve dated older; I’ve dated younger. I joke a lot about how my cut-off in dating is that don’t date a man to whom I could have technically given birth.

That’s not always true. I’ve sometimes dated men younger than that.

But, as I said, I’m older than I ever thought I’d be.

I don’t date them very young, because I don’t date boys, I date men.

Of course, there are plenty of males who are chronologically men but emotionally boys. I try to steer clear of them, too.

I hurt on behalf of Jeannie Moon, and I was offended FOR her. She gets to write whatever she wants. She writes romance. That means her characters find their Happily Ever After.

In my Gwen Finnegan series, Gwen is twelve years older than Justin. Does it cause problems? Hell, yes. Do they have great sex anyway? HELL, yes! Do they genuinely love each other? Hell, hell, HELL yes!

Granted, the Gwen Finnegan books are paranormal mysteries with romantic elements, not romance novels. But I believe everyone deserves a happy ending. A real one, not a nudge, nudge, wink, wink kind that’s paid for by old white men in Florida “spas.”

I looked over Jeannie Moon’s published books and decided to read UNTIL YOU for this month’s challenge. First, that was the book criticized. Second, the male protagonist was a professional hockey player.

I’m a huge hockey fan. I’ve written about hockey, both in fiction and by covering the sport. I even spent eight months with a minor league team (where, even then, I was already older than some of their mothers). No, I didn’t date any of them. I wasn’t even tempted, and I set strong boundaries. But I wrote about quite a few hockey players over a period of years who started out as talented boys and grew into terrific men. I’m proud of them.

I didn’t date any of them after they’d all grown up, either.

An aside: I once brought a date to one of the games. We went to the bar where we all hung out after the games. My date and I sat on our own, but I brought him over to introduce him to the players. As we walked away, I looked back at the table, and a handful of the guys with whom I was closest looked horrified and shook their heads. When I went to the rink the next day, they sat me down and gave me a serious talking to about how this guy was entirely wrong for me, and they were worried.

I’d already figured that out. But I thought they were adorable to care.

Back to Jeannie Moon’s book.

I really liked it. It was charming and funny. She’d done her research. She got the hockey right and the teamwork right and some of the not-so-nice aspects right. She got various settings right and they sang, supporting the story.

There was one plot development where I thought the book would lose me, because I am sick and tired of that choice being the endgame in too many books, especially romance novels. But then, it took a sad and poignant twist. The way the characters dealt with it was beautiful and true to their core integrity, and made me care about them even more.

The antagonists were drawn a bit too broadly sometimes, and I got ahead of them. I didn’t need scenes in their POVs. The scenes were fine–the writing was good, we got insight. But I didn’t need those scenes.

But the other characters and the way they grew and loved and laughed and cried and lived and fought and supported each other — it was beautiful.

I had a smile on my face by the end of the book. I look forward to reading more of her work.

I’m sorry Jeannie Moon was attacked for writing lovely, vibrant people who genuinely love each other; but I might not have found her work otherwise. She’s definitely worth reading.

So what’s next month’s challenge?

April’s challenge is to read in a favorite genre by a new-to-you author. We reconvene to share on Tuesday, April 16th.

Please share in this post’s comments what you read this month. I’d love to add them to my TBR pile!

Yes, these posts are more essays on my emotional responses to a book than a review. That is my choice. A review serves a different purpose. The point of the Reader Expansion Challenge is to get us reading in new directions and respond emotionally as much as intellectually. These posts are not reviews. They’re discussions of reading experiences.

Release day: MYTH & INTERPRETATION, a Gwen Finnegan novella

MYTH&INTERPRETATION Cover

Stuck in NYC when plans for their next expedition fall through, Gwen and Justin accept teaching jobs at different local universities. Adjusting to their relationship, and juggling the academic and emotional demands of their students, they are embroiled in two different, disturbing, paranormal situations that have more than one unusual crossing point. Can they work together to find the answers? Or are new temptations too much to resist? For whom are they willing to put their lives on the line?

This between-the-books novella takes place in New York City, shortly after the action in Tracking Medusa ends and The Balthazaar Treasure begins.

Released by Bluestockings and Gentlemen Press July 2018. $1.99
Universal Buy link:
https://www.books2read.com/u/4XKL57

Q & A with Devon Ellington:
Question: Talk a little bit about how Myth & Interpretation came about.

Devon Ellington: Originally, a handful of the scenes were in the opening chapters of the second Gwen Finnegan mystery, The Balthazaar Treasure. But they didn’t work. They slowed down the story. Yet, the readers needed to know what happened in between the end of Tracking Medusa and the beginning of Balthazaar. I talked to my editor. She suggested breaking it off and doing a novella. I outlined it; she worked with me to pare it down so it didn’t become a novel. And some characters that are vital to the series get proper introductions here.

Q: Justin is in an interesting position here. He’s always been the assistant. He’s always been in the position of less power. But here, he is the leader, especially when it comes to helping his student, Jessica.

DE: Yes, he’s growing into himself. He made huge strides when he and Gwen teamed up to find the Medusa statue. Now, he’s the teacher and he’s responsible for the next generation of his profession. Gwen’s done this before; he’s finding his way.

Q: Plus, they have to work out the dynamics of their own relationship.

DE: Which isn’t easy. Gwen’s been married and divorced. She’s worked and lived all over the world, and experienced her share of relationships. She knows what she needs and won’t put up with in a relationship. Justin’s still finding out, and he’s still playing by the rules he’s used to. They have to navigate. Gwen’s approach is simple: I love you and trust you. No games. Justin is used to games.

Q: At the same time, what Gwen chooses not to tell him here is interesting. You’d expect her not to want to have any secrets from him.

DE: Yes, and that choice is part of what fuels their conflict during Balthazaar Treasure. She believes that telling him certain things – can’t mention them here or they’re spoilers – would cause the type of drama between them she wants to avoid. Yet the choice to avoid drama now means she has to deal with it further down the line.

Q: And Karl stirs the pot. Again.

DE: As Karl does. Especially when it can annoy Justin.

Q: They stayed in New York for this adventure.

DE: And Gwen can’t wait to get back in the field. She loves her home, but she loves being out and about even more. Now Justin’s got field fever, too.

Q: I kind of fell in love with all the students in Gwen’s seminar. Even the ones who were a problem. Will we see more of them?

DE: In the original outline, they grew into a tighter group and had more to do. But, again, it was too much for the scope of the piece. Their stories definitely go on; how much directly intersect with Gwen and Justin, I’m still working on defining it.

Q: But we have to see more of Alec. And Jessica.

DE: Don’t worry. You will. In surprising ways!

Q: New York was a huge character in the piece.

DE: Yes, I’m creating my slightly alternate New York based on some of my favorite places. New York is rapidly changing, but my fictional New York, I hope, can retain some of my favorite places, add some fictional places, and still be believable for those who know the city well.

Q: The crossover that happened between the worlds of Gwen Finnegan and the world of the Coventina Circle happened again, with the Société Sortileger, the esoteric library on Orchard Street.

DE: Yes, that was fun. Since Gwen lives in almost the same New York around the same time as Coventina, even though they move in different circles (no pun intended) most of the time, it makes sense that they would end up in some of the same places, even if they don’t know each other.

Q: Harry Delacourte – he’s getting around. Kind of hard not to fall in love with him.

DE: He certainly is. He turns up in the next Coventina Circle, Relics & Requiem, too. Harry’s a busy boy. He and the staff of the library will likely cross over in several books in both series. He surprised me, though, when it turned out he was related to one of Gwen’s UK coven sisters. I have a feeling he’s full of more surprises. As are Gwen and Justin.

 

Excerpt:

Justin was grateful he’d prepared most of his lectures so far in advance. He was comfortable with the material, and he could make it through the lecture without worrying. He’d have to find a way to concentrate on the papers that were turned in today.

He pulled the piles Louis collected together, shoved them into a manila folder, and jammed them into his bag. He needed to get back to the hospital. His dad was scheduled for release in a few days, and Justin had the irrational fear he’d never make it out. He hadn’t dared to share this fear with Gwen. She’d comfort him, be logical, and he didn’t want that right now.

“Mr. Yates?”

He jerked his head up to see a young woman in front of his desk. He searched his memory. Florence. The Mayans. “Jessica? Jessica Sayles?”

“Yes. I’m glad you’re back.”

“Good to be back.” It sounded false and hollow. If he reached, he could remember the joy his first days of teaching gave him. They felt far away. “How can I help you?”

“I’m not sure.”

He noticed she looked tired. “Do you need an extension on the paper?”

“N-no, nothing like that. I turned it in. I hope you like it.” She looked down, her hair falling over her face, hiding it. After a minute, she took a deep breath, brushed her hair back and looked at him. “I’m afraid. And because you and Dr. Finnegan have the experiences you have, I thought you could help me.”

“Um, sure, I’ll try?” It sounded lame to Justin’s ears, but that was the best he could do.

Jessica took a deep breath and exhaled. “I think my roommate, Gina? The one who’s in Dr. Finnegan’s seminar? I think she’s trying to kill me.”

 

Available for $1.99 digitally on July 17. Delayed release on Amazon, but with the same link.

https://www.books2read.com/u/4XKL57

Visit the Gwen Finnegan website to keep up with all the latest!

 

 

 

TRACKING MEDUSA Re-Release

Tracking Medusa Cover 1

TRACKING MEDUSA RE-RELEASE

The first Gwen Finnegan mystery, TRACKING MEDUSA, re-released digitally on January 12, 2018. It’s got a universal buy link here (and should be back up on Amazon by the time this post goes live, included in the universal buy links, although I’ll have lost all its reviews).

***

Blurb:
Archaeologist Dr. Gwen Finnegan is on the hunt for her lover’s killer. Historical researcher Justin Yates bumps into her, on the steps of the New York Public Library, and comes to her aid when she’s attacked, sparking an attraction between them in spite of their age difference. After avoiding a cadre of pursuers at the Met Museum, Gwen impulsively invites Justin to hop a plane with her to the UK. The shy historian, frustrated with his failing relationship, jumps at the chance to join her on a real adventure. That adventure takes them through Europe, pursued by factions including Gwen’s ex-lover and nemesis, Karl, as they try to unspool fact from fiction in a multi-generational obsession with a statue of the goddess Medusa.

***
The Mechanics of the Re-Release:
The print version (a print run, not a POD), should come out either late this year, or at the beginning of next year, when the second Gwen Finnegan mystery, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, releases.

Sadly, due to issues with my webhost, 1and1.com, they will not allow me to post the cover of the book or a downloadable media kit, unless I pay them an additional monthly fee on top of the hosting fee I already pay. Have you ever heard of a host who claims simple JPGs are “double escape security issues” and demands extra payment? Websites need images. The Gwen Finnegan Mysteries website will move hosts shortly and be rebuilt — it will include the photos I took as I researched the various locales for the book and choreographed the chase scene inside NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and more.

Why the need for a re-release?

Unfortunately, Amber Quill Press, who was Gwen’s champion and great to work with, shut its doors nearly two years ago. Originally, I planned to go with the same digital publisher/distributor that released PLAYING THE ANGLES and SAVASANA AT SEA (as Ava Dunne) late last year — but then they closed their doors, too.

So TRACKING MEDUSA went directly to the new digital publisher/distributor, and I’ve moved both PLAYING THE ANGLES and SAVASANA AT SEA to this new digital home. Future digital releases in all three series will go through this distributor (unless they go under, too). New websites are being built for the series (and for everything else I do) and go live on a new webhost in the next few weeks. Stay tuned both here and on Ink in My Coffee for the details.

If you own an Amber Quill version, be it digital or print — the text is the same (my editor, copy editor, and I fixed some stylistic things to fit with both the digital and the print publishers’ house styles). It also has teasers for MYTH AND INTERPRETATION, a between-the-books novella that releases this summer, and the opening of THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, the second mystery, which releases in January 2019. But the book is still the book, and you don’t have to feel like you’re missing anything.

Tracking Medusa — Q & A About the Book and its Process:

Question: How did you come up with TRACKING MEDUSA?

Devon Ellington: The Medusa myth always fascinated me. I got mad in CLASH OF THE TITANS when she was killed. I felt she was marginalized and destroyed because she was powerful. I’ve always loved archaeology — when I was little, even though I always knew I’d be a writer, but before I made the commitment to theatre, I wanted to be an archaeologist. My life took a different path, but it always interested me. I also don’t think science and spirituality need to negate each other. I wanted to work with a character who was smart and based a lot in science and evidence, but was a practicing witch and able to use all those facets towards her goals. The opening scene, in the club at Gramercy Park, came early on.

When I lived in New York, I spent a lot of time wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York Public Library. The Justin character evolved out of that, especially when a group of us who were affiliated with PEN got a behind-the-scenes tour at the Library.

Justin was inspired by the same real individual who inspired Billy Root in my urban fantasy series The Jain Lazarus Adventures, but the two characters evolved very differently, and have grown into very much their own men. Justin’s journey through this series gets quite dark at times. Billy takes a very different route in finding his true purpose.

I also wanted to play with the age difference between Gwen and Justin. Gwen is a dozen years older than Justin — how does that affect their relationship? Especially since Justin’s emotional age is much younger than his chronological age.

It all started to come together one day when I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, wandering around the Greek and Roman galleries, which had just reopened, and the Egyptian gallery.

Q: Tell us about the background of the chase scene at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

DE: That was a lot of fun. I’d written my way a few chapters into the book, and I wanted to get it right. I took a day and went back to the Met, with my camera and my notebook, to choreograph the scenes. A couple of security guards asked me what I was doing, and I told them I was choreographing a chase scene through the Met for a book. They were enthusiastic, and offered ideas and feedback (while still keeping an eye on things– no one neglected their jobs)! They asked not to be specifically named in the acknowledgements, in case Management was unhappy about it, but at this point, I’m sure most of them have moved on to other jobs.

Also, at that time, Hatshepsut had her own room. It’s been dismantled now, much to my disgust, and the Hatshepsut sphinx was in the same room as the Temple of Dendur, last time I visited New York. She’s not too happy about it.

I find it insulting that she no longer has her own room — it was an important exhibit focused just on her and her achievements.

I’m putting photos from the Met and the Library and some of the places in Edinburgh and Ayrshire up on the website: http://gwenfinneganmysteries.devonellingtonwork.com. Once the webhost move is complete and the site is rebuilt.

Q: Did you ever get to study archaeology?

DE: Not traditionally. In 2013, I was able to take, through Coursera, an online class with Sue Alcock of Brown University called “Archaeology’s Dirty Little Secrets”, about some of the basics. I loved it, and I was lucky enough to head from the Cape to Brown to meet her. In fact, she got me back in touch with one of my favorite playwrights from my early days in New York theatre, who was teaching at Brown. In the edits, I fixed a few glaring errors in the manuscript, but I still have made, shall we say, “adjustments” in proper process to serve the needs of the story. I hope Sue will forgive me — and I plan to study more with her if the opportunity arises.

Q: The relationship seems more of a triangle that a couple, thanks to Karl. Can you talk about that a bit?

DE: Karl was originally going to be the primary antagonist — former lover gone bad. However, Karl had other ideas. The relationship between Gwen and Karl has gone through various permutations for over twenty years. Their bond is so strong that even the genuine love between Gwen and Justin can’t break it. Nor should it. This idea that fictional characters can only have a single relationship and everything else must come second is something I believe is harmful to teach readers to look for as human beings. We are capable of having more than one relationship without those relationships being a threat to each other, and I wanted to explore that.

Q: Then, of course, there’s Edward.

DE: Yes, there is. Again, Edward was supposed to be a very small supporting character whose purpose was to provide information and the next lead for Gwen and Justin to follow. But Edward had other ideas. I believe in following my instincts when characters want to take a different direction than the original plan. It’s the subconscious mind at work, which always knows more than the conscious mind. The subconscious embodies itself in the characters, so when you let that go, at least in early drafts, you can get to a better place than you would otherwise. When you write something that needs a structure, such as a mystery, then you take it and adjust the piece to the structure. Fortunately, the genre lines are blurring somewhat, and I take full advantage of that!

Q: Did you get any push-back because your vampire is named Edward?

DE: Because of Twilight? More power to Stephanie Meyer for creating a trilogy that connected to so many people. But I hadn’t read her books when I wrote this, and the only thing Edward Ramsey has in common with the other Edward is the fact they’re both vampires. One trusted reader who’s a big Twilight fan suggested I change his name, but Edward’s Edward, and there’s more than one Edward on the planet. My editor and publisher had no problem with it. I also wanted the vampire aspect to be peripheral to this novel. It comes more to the center in the third book, especially where Justin is concerned.

Q: So where do your characters go from here?

DE: You’ll have to read the books to find out! How’s that for avoidance AND self-promotion! 😉 Seriously, the second book, THE BALTHAZAAR TREASURE, is about salvaging a pirate ship, and there’s a murder, AND Gwen and Justin face new obstacles in their relationship. There are definitely some surprises in that one, for readers who think they have a handle on Gwen and Justin. MYTH AND INTERPRETATION, a between-the-books novella deals with what Gwen and Justin deal with in New York, trying to build a stable, adult partnership and some of the obstacles they face in the life/work balance. It’s vital information needed to go into what happens in BALTHAZAAR, but it ruined the pace and plot of BALTHAZAAR, so we yanked it out and developed it into its own novella.

Excerpt ( takes place on Lindsfarne, at the old kilns):

A clap of thunder followed almost immediately by a flash of lightning startled them. The lightning snaked out of the sky and struck the rocky beach close enough to them the hairs on their arms tingled.
“Whoa!” Justin yelled.
“The kilns!” Gwen said. “It’s too far to make it back to town.”
They grabbed their belongings and ran into the nearest small, arched doorway cut in the rock as the rain poured down. Once inside, they stepped back. The kilns were empty stone spaces now, with two small arched openings out to the rocky ground, another larger one, and a fourth smaller one. They leaned against the side wall near the back to avoid the rain whipped in by the wind. Gwen tried to shove the wet hair out of her face.
“That came in fast,” said Justin. They watched the storm race across the rocks, lightning reaching out like electrical, skeletal fingers.
“Storms do here.” She shivered. “The storms usually leave almost as quickly as they come in. I should’ve paid attention. And I should have found us a secure indoor place to work, like the Crown and Anchor.”
“We’d have been noticed in a pub.”
“At least we wouldn’t be soaked to the skin. Sorry.”
“I’ll dry off,” said Justin. “I’m kind of glad to be in this big coat, even if it makes me look stupid.”
“You don’t look stupid. You—”
“Bloody hell! We’re not being paid enough for this bollocks!” A voice floated to them from right outside the kiln.
Gwen and Justin exchanged looks. Gwen pulled Justin farther back into the kilns. They were in the backmost corner, hidden by shadows thrown from the other archways, but not much else.
Two men, bundled in heavy coats, ducked just inside the protected arch. They stared out at the driving rain. They were almost within arm’s reach of Gwen and Justin, who barely dared to breathe.
“Ye can’t blame ’im for the weather now,” said one of the men, slightly shorter than the other.
“I can blame him for bloody hell anything I want,” said the man who spoke first. “We don’t even know who they are. Just a man and a woman. She’s got red hair; he don’t.”
Gwen and Justin stared at each other. Justin pulled off his hat and handed it to Gwen. She yanked it down and tucked her red hair under it.
The shorter man chuckled. “He’s just a jealous bloke. Wants to know what the missus is doing when he’s not there.”
“I wouldn’t have agreed if I hadn’t had too many pints,” the man said. “I don’t like to put my fists to a man unless I have a personal argument with him. Besides, I hate this island. Haunted it is.”
“We just wait out the storm, then walk around a bit. There’s a pub or two. We can ask around. Someone will have seen ’em. Don’t get too many strangers ’round here. They’ll be remembered.”
Justin leaned close to Gwen’s ear. “Is there another way out?” She pointed deeper into the kilns. They’d have to cross behind the men, hoping they didn’t dislodge any stones.
“I’m not staying here. Bloody tide’ll come in and fill this place right up.” The taller man shifted in his coat.
“No, it won’t. These kilns have been there for o’er two hunnard year. They wouldn’t have built ’em if they couldn’t use ’em in bad weather. Seein’s as that’s all you get here.”
“’Twill now. With all that global warming bollocks.”
“Ye’re not going all environmental on me, are ye? Next step, you’ll be vegetarian. That’ll ruin a good night out.”
“Nah. I still like me pint and me steak. But I’m regrettin’ agreein’ to this.”
“We took the man’s money. We’re not killin’ them or nothin’. Just givin’ them a what-for so they stop sneakin’ around together.”
Justin and Gwen looked at each other again.
Suddenly, a long, low howl filled the air. Justin and Gwen jumped because it sounded as though it was right beside them.
“What in the bloody hell?” the taller man asked.
The sound of footsteps padding toward them grew louder, along with a familiar sound of ragged breath. Another howl rent the air. A large dark head poked around the side of the archway. The two men screamed and nearly climbed over each other as they scrambled out and ran through the central arch into the storm. The large black dog turned to look at Gwen and Justin, then turned away and padded off.
“Am I completely hallucinating,” asked Justin, “or did that ghost dog from hell just wink at us?”

***

TRACKING MEDUSA, the first Gwen Finnegan Mystery, $3.99 digitally here.