Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year Coming

Happy Holidays to all my friends out there!  It is almost 2012 and I am ecstatic.  As I type it is rainy and windy here in Seattle.   But I like the rain and the feel of a new year coming.  New Year means a lot me,  It is a new beginning to start fresh-all shiny & new.  We all have the similar goals in the new year like getting fit or losing weight or getting that great job.  Some people hate doing new year resolutions, but I like the ritual of it all. 
For me, (I have a great job at last, so no fuss there) among getting fit part, is the resolution to write more.  I have books to complete and a publisher to keep happy.  I have a couple short stories coming out soon, but I need to keep doing the books.  I also want an agent.  I want to finish The Rose & Sparrow: Goblin Cabal (working title, but a new fantasy book series I am writing) and finish another Familiar's Tale novel.  My publisher Joe swears it will be soon, as soon as we have the cover art.  So I am excited about that.   Reb Brown is a genius and I cannot wait to see his work.  So my goals are clear, which is a good thing.   I also want to develop more of a following for my fan base, especially for my novels.  So to any of you out there interested, become one of my followers on my blog and also on Facebook.   I will also be doing some exciting changes to my website soon with the help of my friend Sally.  She is a genius who did my website and I am forever grateful.  I may write on a computer, but comuters do not always like me.  With my new novel Tree of Bones coming out soon, I will be posting more chapters from Gate of Souls to read, and several chapters from Tree of Bones to tantalize my readers when it is released.

So Happy New Year! 

Verna McKinnon

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Respect The Pulp!

Hello Fantasy Friends,

I bought the new Conan the Barbarian movie and am going to watch it tonight with a side of chips and diet coke.  Personally, I thought Jason Mamoa made a great Conan.  This movie is (in my opinion and a lover of Robert E. Howard work) great.  Nothing will be exactly like the stories, but this adaptation is much closer to the wit,  personality & smarts of the Conan character.  Jason portrayed Conan as smart and clever, though with steely determination and a rough chivalry.  I will not comment on the first 1981 movie or the television show with the clone of Arnold.  I love old fashioned, gritty pulp writing.  Robert E. Howard short stories are the best in this genre.   Personally, I hope they make another film.   My biggest complaint is that they made is another revenge fantasy and Conan was all about the adventure and walking the misty roads of a magical, dangerous world with a glint in his eye and a sword in his hand.  Hey Jason-need someone to help with the script?  I write great dialogue and understand the genre (so  does my husband Rick Hipps).  Read my novel or check out one of my short stories.  I would love to work on a Conan film script.  A girl can dream.

Which brings me back to my first thought about respecting the pulp-understand your genres.

Back to the pulp talk.  People tend to assume a literature-fringed snobby attitude and claim they would never read this type of genre or watch films derived from it, yet so much of what we love to see in movies and read about bursts with pulpy goodness.  You think back to the greats-such as Robert E. Howard, H. Rider Haggard and many more writers that composed adventures with feral imagination.  Stay true to your story and its characters.  This goes for any genre.  The era in which Robert E. Howard wrote is gone forever, but his pulp stories will always survive the ages.  That is because pulp writing at its best conveys action and its characters spring to vibrant life off the page.  It is a genre to respect.  There are many genres because life needs variety to spice up the brain cells.  Romance has its place, as does horror, fantasy, mystery, true crime, drama, children, comedy, and more.  Pulp has many elements of course, because it can fall into any genre (crime, fantasy, horror, science fiction, adventure, etc.), but the execution of good pulp writing has a particular style of urgency.   Do not do a classic pulp-derived character like Conan and try to make a social commentary from issues in today's society.  Pick another genre for that.  For Conan and other great pulp characters, stick to the core of what the character is about-action, adventure, gritty sex, and epic quests.  Do not soften the tale with current social commentary.  Some things are universal in the world,  and do not need to be paired with unnecessary politically correct foot notes.  An example is making fairy tales politically correct.  Fairy tales are important folk tales that conveyed a harsh ancient morality and sense of justice for the suffering heroines.  They were meant to be dark.  The magic is meant to be dark.  They are not fluffy tales to read to your four year old while they hug their store bought teddy bears.  Changing them to a modern view is unpleasant and turns the characters & stories into stale white bread.  It destroys the magic.  The same goes for old-fashioned pulp-do not water it down.  Take the heart of what it is and honor it.  Do not destroy the magic.  So respect the pulp.
   

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween's 13 Most Fun & Scary

Happy Halloween!

I love this time of year and Halloween has always been my favorite holidays.  You get to dress up in costumes, be silly, eat candy, tell ghost stories, and watch scary movies.  There have been many great films and books about horror, but I am going to list my current 13 favorite classic movies.   I have other favs in my contemporary & TV genres, but these are classics from the 1930's to the 1960's.  Many of these films are from Universal's great horror vault where they carved out the horror genre with class and simple artistry.  Also, wonderfully scary stars like Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing & Christopher Lee lead the pack in this classic list of horror greats.

1. The Mummy (1932) with Boris Karloff and Zita Johann.  One of the early greats with a mixture of lost love, reincarnation, curses, mummies, and wonderful black & white film atmosphere. 
2. The Mummy(1959) with Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  There were many mummy movies, but after the initial classics, but they paled until this one with two giants of the horror genre.  These guys could act and always added class to the horror and fantasy films.  How could you not love Hammer Horror???  The basic tale retold with Hammer's signature mood and casting.  Always fun.    Pick any Hammer classic and you will have a good Gothic time.
3.  Dracula (1931)  This film made Bela Lugosi a star.  The signature spooky clack & white film and stark atmosphere still hold up today.
4.  Frankenstein (1931) Boris Karloff rose to greatness as Frankenstein's monster, adding yet another notch to the Universal Studios mastery of horror.
5. Bride of Frankenstein (1935) The continuation of the story finally appeared in 1935, with Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester playing both Mary Shelly and Frankenstein's bride. 
6.  The Thing From Another World (1951)  Howard Hawks production shines though it only touched on the original short story.  Both horror and sci-fi, it was great and also had strong women in the film.  A classic good for Saturday and your bowl of popcorn.
7. Curse of the Demon (1957) Dana Andrews stars in a chilling horror/film noir classic.  Though the demon might be silly by today's spoiled uber special effects generation, as a kid I found it scary.  The core of the story about cursing someone with a piece of parchment and a little poetic justice at the end still holds. 
8.  The Masque of Red Death (1964)  Vincent Price was a joy to watch in anything, but this is one of the truly dark efforts he made and his class lifted the film to a higher status.
10.  The Devil Rides Out (1968)  A rare & obscure wonderful horror film where Christopher Lee gets to be the hero instead of the monster.   There is a battle with a devil cult to save some souls and as always, if you have one of the greats like Christopher lee, how can you lose?
11.  Pit & The Pendulum (1961)  Vincent Price and Barbara Steele take on Edgar Allen Poe in this atmospheric horror film.  Gothic horror with a 60's spin.
12.  I Walked with a Zombie (1943)  A great little film with big spooky heart.  I regard it as a Jane Eyre type story with zombies. 
13.  House of Wax (1953)  Vincent Price shines in the horror classic.  There is tragedy, innocent maidens, betrayal, & horror chills.

Well, there you have it.  My list of 13 old classics of horror for Halloween.  Check them out and pop some popcorn.  Have a great Halloween!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Snow White Lives!

Hello all.  Just a quick blog to let everyone know a couple things.  First, my new short story, "Snow White: My Story," will be published by Mystic Signals in their February 2012 print edition.  The quarterly fantasy fiction magazine can be bought at their websites or Amazon.com.  I am proud because Snow White has always been one of my favorite fairy tales.  Many good (and bad) writers have done versions of this classic fairy tale.  I have kept my tale in a mythical fairy age time, but have given Snow White a stronger voice and added some humor.  I have also been bothered by obvious holes in the old story-Why the demand for her bloody heart in the iron casket?  Why do bluebirds land on her shoulder?  Why the dwarfs and who were they really?  What about stepmother's past?  Why the gruesome red-hot iron slippers on stepmother?  I have answered these and more, and yes- it is still funny and still dark. 

 Fairy tales should be dark.

But these old folk tales of magic, lost princesses, stalwart princes, and witches were also morality tales with stark fates for the good and the bad.  I love fairy tales, but the dark ones, not the sanitized tales that parents want to read to their five year olds.  That is not why fairy tales were invented.  Read them the Care Bears instead.

On another happy note,my husband Rick Hipps has a new short story accepted by Weird War Anthology.  The story is called "Hunter's Run."  It is through War of the Words Press and is a British print anthology.  I am so proud. 

That is all for now.  I am writing another short story and waiting to hear about another submission.

 Luv & Hugs

Verna McKinnon

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Red Palace: The house that darkness built

I have posted another "Tales of Obsydian Nights" short story for your reading pleasure.  It is the darkest and most violent of my Obsydian stories and was one of those published in Descending Darkness as part of my series (sadly that webzine is no longer).  Obsydia is darkness personified and clever in her cruel recruitment.   She demands worship and sacrifice, and knows how to play the weakness of the human soul.  

This story is important for another reason.  At the end of the story, when those poor folk that have not succumbed to darkness are escaping the city, we meet a powerful wizard helping those people.  His name is Neelam and he is important for many reasons, not only because he is a strong adversary to Obsydia in several stories, but because he is an important character that will be in my Familiar's Tale series starting with book 2, Tree of Bones.  Neelam is a wonderful no-nonsense character.   He is strong, gritty, and when I write him, the dialogue flows like water.  There are certain characters that rise to take control of their rightful place in the story.  Neelam is one of those.   So was Darcus, who started as a two chapter one-shot character in my book and blossomed into the weary and noble mainstay that refuses to leave the tale.  Neelam is someone I like to write, and his familiar Surya make a wonderful balance of wizard and familiar.  There will be more Obsydia tales coming-and Neelam will be in some of those fighting her evil with sword and magic. 

More later.  I await more news on my book cover for Tree of Bones.  Also, happy birthday to my publisher and editor, Joseph Dickerson.

Verna McKinnon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Conan The Barbarian-Jason Momoa and a rockin' Howard world

Okay, just in case you are a devoted Arnold fan and love the original film version of Conan the Barbarian, stop reading now.  Because as a devoted fan of Robert E. Howard and his work, the new Conan the Barbarian film with Jason Momoa rules in my world.

Few film adaptations of an author's work are like the original stories and  I was not expecting it to be.  You can only hope for a tribute of the writer's original perspective.  The 1981 film missed on every possible level, and though it can be viewed as a fun fantasy film, it was never Conan to me.   

However, this new film possesses the wild sensation and gritty life of Conan's world that I remember from the original stories.  Jason Momoa does a great job of portraying the bigger than life action hero.  He is basic and elemental.  A born warrior, wild and free, with an odd sense of chivalry and basic code of honor.  In the film, which is very violent as Conan's world was, he fights with lusty abandon and seeks to right the wrongs of his world in his way-by his sharp sword.  He moves as I imagined, like a panther and Jason was expressive without going over the top.  He has little dialogue, but then, Conan is a man of action, not windy speeches.  The supporting cast is great!  Rachel Nichols was cool but feisty.  Rose McGowan was very creepy as a witch with daddy issues.  We always love Ron Perlman, and his role as Conan's father was wonderful.  Stephen Lang was a great surprise as the main villain.  Leo Howard deserves cudos as the young Conan.    The visuals are a treat.  Vivid, colorful and raw-from the costumes to the fighting choreography to the cinematic portraits of the Hyborian age of ancient ruins and dangerous lands full of exotic spice and mystery. 

If you are open minded about a new Conan and can leave the 1981 effort in the past, please see this movie.  I loved it.  I cannot wait for the DVD!!! 

More later,

Verna McKinnon

Monday, July 25, 2011

Tales of Obsydian Nights

Hello Familiar's Tale Fans!

I have posted the first of several short stories set in the world of  "A Familiar's Tale" in my featured story section of my website.  "The Bloodstone Queen" is the first story and recounts the birth of the dark immortal
Queen Obsydia.  These stories are set a thousand years before Gate of Souls, A Familiar's Tale book One, but are very integral because it reveals important events of this world's past and also many important characters that are central to my current book series.  Every world has a past and this one is a stage of darkness where light was challenged.  You will meet a young Cathal and Belwyn, Neelam the Wizard and his familiar Surya, who are important characters in books 2 through 4 of my Familiar's Tale series.  You also will get to know first hand Obsydia, who will be a major force of wickedness in books 2-4 of my book series.  My second book is coming out soon, I just wish I could reveal more. 
I first wrote these short stories as a way to build the past of my fantasy world where our heroes Runa and Mellypip (and their family and friends) are thrust into a world of intrigue and magic battles, and it helped me as a writer to fully develop the current timeline of my characters and plots even more.  Many of these Obsydia short stories were published several years ago in a web zine under the series "Tales of Obsydian Nights," and I was proud of those stories.  Some of the tales are violent and dark, much darker than my books, but provide juicy knowledge into my world and its history. 
The eras of my world are broken into time lines using jewels as a reference for each era.  The Diamond Age, where the Eternals created the universe and walked the world when it was newly made, The Emerald Age, where life evolved and developed and the first peoples and animals were born, The Sapphire Age, where all the races achieved greatness, both mortals and mages, and life was bright and full of magic and light.  The fourth age is "The Bloodstone Age, when a dark star struck the world, hurled by a jealous Ahridum, Eternal  of Darkness and Chaos.  This plunged the world into a period of despair, death, destruction, and war.  Whole kingdoms were destroyed and evil took deep root.  This climaxed with the birth of Obsydia, who became the Bloodstone Queen and ruled the world. 
Light was dimmed, but heroes fought for the Light in this terrible era of shadow and blood.  There are tales where the heroes lose and some where they win, but it all leads to the exciting prologue that you will read in Tree of Bones, which recounts how Cathal and his brave companions confronted Obsydia in a great battle a thousand years ago.
Her fate is not set, however, as with most beings of immortal evil, they cannot die as we do.  We can only subdue (if we are lucky).  But even the most powerful sorcerous bonds are tested with time and Obsydia, the Bloodstone Queen, is difficult to imprison forever.

Enjoy the tales! 

Luv,

Verna McKinnon   
   

Friday, June 17, 2011

Alert Fantasy & Sci-Fi Girls!!!! RISE TO BATTLE

I'm very annoyed.   As time goes on, the more the media (books, but especially TV & Film) focuses all the their science fiction and fantasy efforts on the adolescent boy, or the adult male with adolescent perspectives.  The films are bigger with poofy special effects, but the stories are almost non-existent.   It is like bad junk food that lacks nutrition-no thought required.  It is all done to attract the male species into theaters.  But what about us girls, huh?  Those of us, and I know there are many of us girls, that love science fiction and fantasy. The powers in suits think that they need only make certain romantic comedies for us, (though those are even degrading into toilet humor-laced duds with one dimensional scripts) but I shout my defiance.  

I love science fiction and fantasy-big or small, silly or serious, but I demand some quality.  I am also one of the few women writers out there that loves Robert E. Howard and relish the sword & sorcery escapades of Conan (Jason Momoa-do not let me down!)  I just think that the folks in the TV and Film business need to broaden their perspective.  I think it is prejudicial to think women are not interested in science fiction and fantasy, as much as I think it is lame for these producers to believe that producing lame offal on a fancy patter of dazzling special effects will satiate the creative appetite.

So I want all of you ladies out there, be you teenagers or grandmas, to voice your demands for more quality science fiction and fantasy out there.  Rise up and be heard!  Write the studios.  Pitch your indignity to the TV stations and cable shows.   Write the producers of shows past and beg them to return!  Do not let them roll you into a boring statistic!

That is my rant for the week.  I want something to feed on, and Game of Thrones is almost done.  I will hunger again soon.  The days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Stargate Atlantis are in the past, but with me in the spirit of DVD,  I will need something fresh to feast upon soon.  It is sadly obvious that people are degrading into a murky swill of realty television drones.  I think we should resist that, else our cognitive functions will shrivel into acorn nuts.

Have fun my wonderful readers.  Watch something of quality and remember what once was.  I'm calling my editor (hi Joe :))  this weekend to check on my book cover for Tree of Bones and other literary things.  Bye for now.  More  later.

Love,

Verna McKinnon

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Crazy Fiction Time

Hello out there! 
My time has been crazy of late, so I have neglected my time blogging for my readers and friends.  Am so sorry.  But I have been writing and waiting to see the new cover work for my new book Tree of Bones.   Am so excited that Rob E. Brown is doing it. 

On the personal side,  I have been watching Game of Thrones on HBO.  The casting is superb and the writing excellent.   I hope George RR Martin is happy with it too.  The production values are amazing, but more importantly, there is a real adult fantasy on television worth watching.  Each episode leaves you hanging and breathless for the next episode.  It is not for children under a certain age, but that is fine.  A lot of great fantasy is for the adult mind, not kids.  I think people have forgotten that in the age of Harry Potter.  I am not knocking that, as my books fit the for all ages readership.  But there is a wealth of fabulous fantasy and science fiction out there that can only be given justice on film if it is in a quality series format-and a premium cable channel is best.  I pray that this series opens the gates for other great fantasy/science fiction works to be done.  Also, I cannot wait for the next George R R Marin book in this series.  He is one of the great masters.  I bow to you sir.

I also dream that someday someone will put my Familiar's Tale series to film.  I know some writers poo poo their works being turned into movies or television and often they are very right in their fears.  But I also believe in hope and so far Game of Thrones is providing a solid base for that hope.   Plus, I envision my entire story in a rich production movie form with a great cast (which I often change or update ), in widescreen format with a stunning Hanz Zimmer or Joel Goldsmith soundtrack.  Yes, I am fantasizing, but imagination is my job after all.  A girl must dream. 

I will be posting a new short story soon on my website, which is long overdue.  Until then, have fun and read some good books and eat some drobba.

Verna McKinnon

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Mourning A Legend: Elisabeth Sladen

I am barely over the fact that the world no longer has Brian Jacques or David Eddings in the fantasy/sci-fi world, but now another icon has passed-Elisabeth Sladen, the wonderful actress who immortalized the companion Sarah Jane Smith in the "Doctor Who" universe, died today of cancer.  She was the first companion of the Doctor I saw when I first began watching reruns of Doctor Who on my local PBS channel, and also enjoyed her character's return in the current run of Doctor Who adventures (with Tennant)and her own spin-off, The Sarah Jane Adventures.   I always liked the actress and the character.  She was one of the first great heroines on science fiction TV.  She was brave, plucky, caring, and clever.  She will be missed.

The world just sucks sometimes.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Book Cover News for Tree of Bones!

Hello Fantasy Fans!  I am very excited that my publisher Joseph Dickerson has made arrangements with Rob E. Brown to do my next book cover for the upcoming Tree of Bones.  Rob Brown is an amazing artist that has worked for many impressive venues such as Marvel Comics!  Also Rob is doing black and white drawings for inside the book.   I am thrilled and cannot wait to see his artwork for my book.
Also, tonight is a sacred time.  The first episode of "Game of Thrones," based on legendary George R.R. Martin's wonderful fantasy series starts tonight.  I have already watched the mini specials for Game of Thrones on the HBO and love the cast!  Some of my favorite actors are in it (Sean Bean!!!!), Lena Headey as Queen Cersei, Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, and more great actors.  The new faces are impressive too, such as Emilia Clarke they cast to play Daenerys Targaryen.  I will be watching these episodes over and over, I am sure.  Truly great fantasy to be adapted like this is rare.  It's like getting to have thick juicy sirloin after a diet of thin watery gruel.
Well, I am going back to my Game of Thrones mini specials, until tonight's episode finally comes on.  Talk to you soon.
 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Irish Eyes and Celtic Tempers

Okay, my bloodline is infused with a lot of Irish blood and the coming St. Patrick's day is irksome for because all the local great Irish pubs are always too crowded and you can't get in one to save your mother's soul.  Yes, I know it is holy day, but I am more universal in my spiritual philosophies.  But I will have a drink at home and think of the great story telling that the Irish are known for throughout history.  And I am not talking about leprechauns in neon green suits with orange hair.  The Hound of Ulster and Epona come to my mind.  Despite being a warrior culture the Irish were also know for their arts, music, and storytelling. 

So I shall put on some Chieftains or Clannad, and raise a glass to my heritage.  A great heritage.  One day I hope to visit Ireland.  Perhaps if I am ever successful as an author (I mean in the financial sense) I would like to live there.  So as I write my stories of magic and warriors, I cling to that hope.  The love of Ireland.
More next week. 

Love

Verna McKinnon 

 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spellbound by words...and Pilates

Hello Fantasy Fans and Friends,

As a writer,  I face a daily challenge of creativity on several planes of focus.  In this daily challenge there is a rim of terror-terror that my writing is less than worthy, my plots are mush, and my characters flat.  I could go on and on, but I shall edit myself and decline to bore you with the gruesome details that haunts authors everywhere.  Those who write speculative fiction especially have even more to agonize over.  We create new worlds and races, bring ancient legends to life, invent mythologies, compose exciting characters that wield magic, manipulate time and space,  have to write about things that simply do not exist in this realm of reality-at least that we know of.  Making it natural and real to our readers  (and publishers) is the tough battle. 

Two factors that writers need to focus on is character and dialogue.  Characters are the lifeblood of writing and dialogue an essential soul that brings it to life.  Complex plots and detailed storylines mean nothing without this central core.  Consider your characters and dialogue the Pilates of your writing routine.  It is your core-that important strength that holds up the rest of the body.    Without a strong core you have a weak body. 

There are some authors that shine in their expert characters and dialogue.  Two I will give as an example (of many I adore) are the late Brian Jacques and David Eddings.  I loved the works of these authors and sadly they have both passed from this world.  Their absence will be sorely missed in the realm of writing-and not just fantasy.  Their characters and dialogue support there novels and their ideas, and make them damn fun to read.  These essential attributes give  personality and depth and support the story.  They make the reader want to continue reading.  All the perfect syntax in the world will not make up for dull conversations and one dimensional characters.

The next thing to consider is the natural tone of your dialogue.  That can be tough.  I often read my works aloud along with traditional editing because if you have trouble speaking the words then it needs work.  You will find over time every character has a certain rythym.  Once you have it for that character then it becomes easier.

Now I must leave you again and will be back next week with more thoughts.  I have writing to do.  Characters and worlds to create and explore-and drobba to eat.  Lots of love.

Verna McKinnon



       



 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cold Magic and Hot Drobba

Okay, my characters are coming out of a long hibernation and despite the firm thread of winter's freeze, I am forced to respond to their incessant demands.  Dabiro and Belwyn are especially pushy.
But I am working a lot on book 3 (Fires of Rapiveshta) and I am anxious about finally seeing book 2 in actual print and the artwork.
I have run oodles of revisions on some of my characters and the various story lines.    There is a lot I cannot discuss because book 2, Tree of Bones, is not yet released and there are some new characters afoot-both good and evil-and I want you to be surprised.
What I have learned, is that you cannot set your story or characters in stone.  Changes happen.  They are demanded in fact.  I guess that is why I have such issues with book outlines.  They can only be most basic type for me.  My mind works a certain way in the creative process.  I know how a story will start and exactly how it ends for each book.  What happens in between in an evolutionary process that fills in my gaps.  I have blocks for each character and their story arcs.  I know what will happen to every character in my novels.   But I cannot use the outline.  As a writer you need to use what works for you.  Advice can be good or bad, so I pay little heed to the so-called experts.  Use what works for you.  The fun is getting there, along with some hot drobba as I weave the magic of words on my computer.  Magic is what you make of it, just add your own marshmallows and stir it up.
More later.  I need more hot drobba and Mellypip is tugging at my thoughts.
  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Madness and Magic

I am so sorry my fellow fantasy readers that I have been lax once again in my blogging.  I know I must be more frequent in such things, as it is a way for me the author to communicate, well,  to any one that thinks I am worth reading about.   The thing is I have been busy with a variety of traumas-the day to day human torments I shall not twiddle about here.  We all suffer the same there.
But the writing-the creativity that is the fountain of my work-has been busy on rising levels.  I am writing two novels right now, plus finished a my version of a classic fairy tale (Snow White-my favorite) for a contest.
Unfortunately, the contest is no longer an issue, so I must now also find a home for a humorous and suspenseful version of my Snow White at 11,000 plus words.  There is lots of magic and fun, and some darkness to tingle your spine.
But I am going to focus on my books, plus write some new short stories here and there.  
My editor promises my "Tree of Bones," the second in my "Familiar's Tale" series, will be out early this year. 
I love Seattle.  I am working on discipline, which for a writer can be difficult.  We are amazing procrastinators.  No one can create delays better than a writer.  It is a wonder we get anything done at all.
But I plan to get some things done this year-namely 2 novels and at least 3 short stories (though I may include my fairy tale in that batch).
Farewell for now.  I shall be back soon to share more writer wisdom or at the very least, a recipe for low fat brownies.
Writers do need to feed their brains you know.