This blog was originally titled "Indulge Yourself: Read what you want, watch what you want, and live a life that makes you happy" because that's what I write about here.
But as author Natalie J. Damschroder, aka NJ Damschroder, who writes romantic adventure and YA adventure—heart-pounding fiction with kick-ass heroes and heroines who fall in love while they save the world (or at least one small part of it), it seemed prudent to bring this blog into my author world. Thanks for visiting!
I know. It's been a minute, as they say. I stopped having so much to say, and social media took over the little bits I did have. And, I mean, who blogs anymore, amirite?
Well, today I do. Because I wanna. Because I connected with people here once, and after a year where people struggled to connect (or connected too much—Zoom OMG), it seemed fitting to go old-school.
(Let's see how much stale slang I can get into a blog post!)
Anyway. I wanted to post here because as much of a shitshow as 2020 was, nothing is all bad, and some things were really good. Like Enola Holmes! I loved that movie. And some of the final episodes of Supernatural. (We won't talk about which ones. We can each love our own.)
Probably because there was so much less TV overall, I read more. I'm at 146 books and counting. Jim Butcher and Susan Grant both had two releases! I absolutely adored King's Ransom by Suzanne Brockmann and A Cowboy to Remember by Rebekah Witherspoon and ohhhh, Relentless in Texas by Kari Lynn Dell was the book of the year for me, so bittersweet because she died shortly after it was released. We are so blessed to have gotten the books we did before we lost her.
Something to look forward to!
There's a lot to look forward to in 2021, too, including Misty Simon's new paranormal mystery series. (See the first cover at right, and preorder here!) And WandaVision, The Falcon & the Winter Soldier, Loki, and hopefully Hawkeye. Plus SO much other Marvel content! I know we can't expect it all to be great, but I am a huge MCU fan and love the direction they're taking things. Miles Morales, Kamala Khan... Though I have to say the next Peter Parker movie stresses me out with the way the last one ended.
2020 may have been the year I traveled the least, but I still managed some. In January, I had one last quick visit with my brother and his family in Massachusetts when I brought Number Two to her internship in New Hampshire. And then...that was it for seven whole months! Until we went to pick her up in July. It was a bit of a blessing that she had the internship instead of being in school with the chaos of lockdown/quarantine. She was able to do her fall semester here at home, and will do the same for her final one before moving back to New Hampshire for work.
We had to cancel our July vacation but with the "settling" of the pandemic in the summer, we managed a trip to Williamsburg to get a break. There's a lot of outdoors stuff to do where you can stay away from people, and I got a day on the beach, which kept my soul going as things ramped up again. (And by "things" I mean both work and COVID. So much simultaneous 👍 and 👎.
One thing that didn't stop: Writing! I hit 225,000 words this year. Yes, exactly. I took a writing break in December but wrote 205 words so I could hit that mark. 🤣
It’s been 15 years since Conrad Dixson and Skye Burgeson were not-so-friendly competitors in training and five years since Dix dragged SIEGE from the rubble of corruption. When someone targets both of them personally and professionally, they struggle to overcome old trust issues and an attraction neither one has room for so they can work together to save both companies.
As their investigation shapes a puzzle they can’t make any sense of, their feelings for each other become frighteningly clear. Dix doesn’t want to fall for the smart, clever, fearless woman who could be involved in crushing the business he’s put his entire life into protecting. And Skye is terrified that letting him in will threaten the life she’s built to honor her heroic brother who died in action.
The journey leads them to a familiar enemy who’s been using prime and petty revenge motivations to cover his true purpose, escalating until threats to the people Dix and Skye love force them to face unacceptable decisions.
Oakley Commton has been cursed. After minor exposure to an unknown element mined from an asteroid, she’s suddenly aware of being a heroine in a Natalie J. Damschroder story. And she’s pissed. Learning you’re not in control of your own life would depress anyone. Plus, Damschroder writes romance, and Oakley can’t tell what trope she’s using. Friends to lovers? Alpha male? Forbidden love with the boss? The only saving grace is that when she’s assigned to a mission that could lead to her death—or worse—she knows the outcome will be success. Damschroder only writes happy endings. But she’s sure going to make it difficult to get there…
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Backstory: I’ve been writing for a long time. Decades. And after I settled on romantic adventure, I noticed some commonalities popping up in my stories. Then, while reading a book by an author I love, I spotted her doing the same thing. Like, “someone says something about that in every book.” And I thought, “what if a character knew they were in a book by X author?” Okay, duh, X author would be me. I wanted to see what that would be like. So I wrote it. And it was so much fun. I hope my readers find it fun, too!
Next came The Reflection of Hope, the final book in my superhero trilogy, the CASE files. I think this could be my best book...
Vanessa Ripley (do not call her Vanessa) uses her rare combination of physical and mental super abilities only for consulting and training, staying out of the field after a catastrophic mission resulted in the death of a civilian. But now her old flame Evan Forgeron needs her help. His task force is this close to stopping the Citizens Against Superhero Existence (CASE), and he needs Ripley’s mental powers to do it.
When Evan’s in trouble she can’t say no, even if getting involved with him again threatens to tear both of them apart. Then CASE’s mission becomes intensely personal, ripping open secrets Ripley never knew existed and putting a target on Evan and every superhero in the country. If they can end CASE, she and Evan may have a chance at a future together. But if they fail, it will take everything and everyone they love.
So that got us into May... LOL I spent most of the rest of the year finishing The Solars Duology (which came out in October and November) and Phantom Power, a YA sequel to Manifest Destiny that I never realized I was going to write until I did it. LOL
Two new stories set in a world where people have abilities connected to the sun…with frightening and dangerous side effects and challenges.
Keegan Belcastro has always loved a mystery, even when it got her into trouble. When research for a school paper leads her to a haunted mansion full of desperate phantoms, learning who they are and how they came to be trapped there evolves into a quest for their freedom.
Shane Bitrec has been Keegan’s next-door neighbor and best friend for most of her life. High school graduation is going to mean big changes that she’s been trying to prepare for all year. But drifting away hasn’t been as easy as she thought, and when Shane gets involved in her quest, it disrupts more than just her independence. Confrontation gives rise to unprecedented feelings that threaten everything they’ve meant, or could mean, to each other.
When transitioning the spirits to the afterlife proves more dangerous than Keegan expected, Shane’s constant presence becomes both a vital tool and an emotional minefield. Investigating the mansion’s darkly complicated history leads to Keegan becoming tied to the energy of the house and its phantoms. Their desperation threatens her life, and only Shane can protect her. But who will protect him?
Whew. Blogging is more tiring than I remember it being. But then, I'm nearly 50. (I've been saying that for at least a year. In 2 days I have to stop. 😜)
Okay, one last thing. 2021. I haven't set my specific goals yet, but here are a couple things I know are in store:
Yes! A literal store! Where you can order signed, personalized print books from me at prices below the cover price, and maybe some other stuff eventually, too.
My next writing project. These are my short romantic adventures. Some you may already have read. Like Phenomenal Impact, which gave me the idea. Through the Void, the ridiculously named (and soon to be re-named!) The Tempest Turtle, both of which were part of The First Sentence and The Second Sentence anthologies. But then there will be Operation: Gratitude and the one I'm working on now and the three-to-five others that already have ideas.
Adrenaline Shots are short, high-stakes, romantic, quick reads that will be only 99 cents each.
Houseboys vs. Aliens
I think I'll leave that one as is. ;)
Please, if you want to keep in touch, or follow my work, or hear about cats and stuff on an occasional, random basis, feel free to:
As you may recall, last year I embarked on a new venture with four other authors. Misty Simon, Vicky Burkholder, Victoria Smith, Allison B. Hanson, and I all started with the same first sentence to write five independent stories.
It was really cool to see that while we wrote wildly different types of stories—from college students to married couples to space pilots—there were some overlapping themes and concepts. And of course, because they're all romances, they all end happily.
We loved it. So we made it A Thing. And on February 14, The Second Sentence will be released, and all five stories have the same SECOND (duh LOL) sentence. Later this year, we'll have The Third Sentence, and so on.
Here's the best part: Net proceeds will be donated to organizations dedicated to helping women in need, like Mary's Shelter in Reading, PA.
If you go to our anthology website, you can learn more about Mary's Shelter and even suggest additional organizations to benefit from the sale of these anthologies.
Here's more about the stories in The Second Sentence:
The premise: That if 5 authors start with the same sentence, they will all write vastly different stories. The results: A series! After the success of The First Sentence, we upped the degree of difficulty. These romantic novellas run the gamut of genres but all are inspired by the same SECOND sentence.
Catch of a Lifetime by Vicky Burkholder
Maren spent her year above the waves searching for a mate before her father marries her off to a stranger. Then she meets the one. When Kai meets Maren, the water around them sparkles with magic. Then he finds out who she is. With family honor at stake, can they trust their love to the fates?
Sing to My Soul by Allison B. Hanson
Ariah Bentley’s life is all about music, so of course she’s fallen for a musician. In the past, the guys she’s dated have pretended to be into her just to gain access to her record-producer father. She’s certain Jackson Slater is different. Not only has he asked her to move in with him, but she never told him who her father was. But could he still be using her to get to the top?
Written in the Cards by Misty Simon
Lydia’s broken heart does not need to be at a Ren Faire, but her friend Penelope insists. Codpieces and men in tights shouldn’t do it for her, but when she meets a tarot card reader who seems to see right into her soul, she might just have to rethink this romance thing and see what the future holds.
In the Heart of Chaos by Victoria Smith
When the residents of her small town begin exhibiting zombie-like symptoms, Mari will do whatever is necessary to survive. She meets up with Jason, the boy-now-man she has loved forever, and they work together to help their community survive. Along the way, they discover the feelings that had always simmered under the surface are real.
The Tempest Turtle by Natalie J. Damschroder
Using time travel to right wrongs has filled Amaya and Brody’s lives for 12 years. But when they learn what The Charge, their employer, is really doing with the power they’ve tapped, everything changes. Their purpose. Their choices. And their feelings for each other.
I don't like to be one of those people contributing to our ruin due to limited attention spans, but since this blog has been soooo stagnant, it's obvious I've also been corrupted by social media. I stopped having topics to talk about in this "long" form that I hadn't talked about before.
But today I was thinking about superheroes and mutants and other fictional extraordinary abilities and how I've felt about their portrayal in entertainment for a long time, and I thought, "that's way too big a topic for Facebook" and then I thought BLOG! So here I am.
I'm a longtime casual "super" fan. As in, I watched the X-Men cartoon with my husband when we first got married, and my brother and I played the Wonder Twins when we were kids, and I love "genre" TV and film and I write a lot of people with various kinds of abilities in my paranormal romances and YA.
There's been a trend I don't like over the past several years, not just with the whole "downside to being a superhero" approach that DC takes, but setting up an active negative societal attitude toward those types of characters. It used to be just the X-Men, but now it seems to be almost everything. As much as I loved Wonder Woman this year, I still felt empty when I left the theater because it was so bleak and lonely. That's one of the reasons I prefer Marvel (MCU, not TV), because they launched with Tony Stark fully embracing being Iron Man—and the world embracing it along with him.
Overall, the MCU still embraces the fun and adventure of being a superhero, even with its downsides, like in Spider-Man: Homecoming (which I loved!). But even Marvel got into the Sokovia accords and Civil War and using the premise that the world as a whole is against people with powers because we're afraid of them. I don't get why paranormal entertainment seems unable to get away from ostracizing people with extraordinary abilities. "People fear what they don't understand" is getting very tired, isn't it?
And besides...it's wrong.
Metaphor aside, let's look at how we handle the extraordinary people in our real world. People who have incredible talent like, say, athleticism or acting talent, or people who are really good at making "smart" accessible (Neil Degrasse Tyson, anyone?), or who create amazing things technologically or artistically. We revere them. We make them celebrities and toss pots of money at them. I mean, sure, we can't relate to them, but with social media and Comic-Con-type events and a million interview sources, we're trying pretty hard. We might not be able to fit into their worlds or become friends with them, but we're not running screaming from them or making laws against them.
Someone might say, "Yeah, but an actress can't hurt me with her acting the way someone with super strength can." Except...yeah, she can. She can use that talent to lie and rip your heart to shreds, or con you out of your life's savings. And despite the fact that athletes and Navy SEALs could do some serious damage to us physically, we don't treat them as if that's our first thought about them. Athletes get autograph and hug requests, not stones thrown at them.
I feel like as a society, if extraordinary people existed, we would look more to what they can do FOR us, not TO us. Take what's been happening this week. We are far more likely to react in fear and hatred toward people who can only hurt us emotionally, if at all, and celebrate those who display physical strength of some kind, for good or bad. We go after those who are vulnerable because we fear our own vulnerability. (Maybe. That's probably going way too deep for someone as shallow as I am and isn't the point of this post.)
THE POINT is...I want people to share! I want to find books, movies, and TV shows that celebrate people who have paranormal abilities, instead of shunning them, subjugating them, or otherwise forcing them into hiding so they don't get killed. I want fun stuff, light stuff, even heavy stuff where having abilities is a good thing.
Oh, and here's the big challenge: No vampires or shifters, please. I'm sure there are plenty of those that fit the other parameters, but they aren't what I'm looking for.
I had the pleasure of reading this book before release, and let me tell you, if you enjoy dark, emotional, dangerous stories set in violent worlds where survival is everything, this is the book for you! Also..OMG with that cover. I love it!
In Olivia Sanders' world, people like her don't survive very long. Special abilities are a threat to the corrupt government and those loyal. Olivia and those with similar abilities struggle to keep their secrets as new laws threaten them daily. Though hiding isn't enough for Olivia. A healer and firestarter, she works with the resistance to ensure the safety of the people of her sector, toiling in an unforgiving world without freedom or hope with the goal that someday they will find both.
Poisoned by someone she should never have trusted, betrayed by her godfather, the former governor, who is using disturbing methods to control the population and grow his army, Olivia is forced to seek help from Luke Jamison, the leader of the resistance. They join forces with his brother, Matt, and Jillian Derrick, a hard-as-nails woman leading a band of "undesirables" to safety.
As conditions in the sector deteriorate and the death toll climbs ever higher, Olivia and Luke, Jillian and Matt, cling to the miracle of found love while facing the horror of a future without each other.
Victoria Smith lives in Central PA with her high-school sweetheart and way too many animals. She writes paranormal, urban fantasy, and dystopian—all with romance, because who doesn’t love a happy ending? She publishes with Liquid Silver Books and Soul Mate Publishing. Visit her at http://vickismith.blogspot.com
Many, many years ago, I read a series by Maggie Shayne that contained a really evil villain. Who got a story of her own. That I loved. I couldn't believe I could hate someone so much and then come to understand them and root for them to find some happiness. The skill she used to make me feel that way awed me, and I never forgot it.
So when an author I really liked announced the next book in her series would feature a character she'd set up in previous books as not very likable, I went "eh." But then I remembered Maggie Shayne, and I really do liked this author's books, so I bought, read, and of course loved it.
Unfortunately, not all readers have that touchstone of a reminder. This was proven to me with Sunroper, the third book in my Goddesses Rising series. Marley was a woman who'd made a lot of mistakes in the first two books. I think Sunroper is the best of the three, that she becomes a very worthy kick-ass heroine who deserves her hero, but it's hard to overcome that "eh."
And here I am trying to do it again. :)
At long last, I get to announce the release of the final book in The Soul Series, with Soul Deep.
The hero is Tars Suinn, the villain from Soul of the Dragon(which is still free in digital form, FYI, and now out in paperback as well).
Ten years has passed since the events in the first book. Tars has worked hard to make up for the choices he's made, and the consequences of his actions. But he doesn't believe in his own redemption. He's disconnected from the powers he used to wield, and the world is a colorless place.
Until he meets Ke'an Oliviera. Series readers will recognize her from Soulflight, where she was one of the abductees that Samantha and Rock Davis (along with Alexa and Ryc from SotD) rescued from Pike Laurent. Ke'an was still suffering from the loss of her fiancé, and though it has now been 15 years since he died, she still hasn't really moved on. Until she meets Tars, who defies what she thought she knew of the men like him.
I knew back when Tars walked away from Alexa that he would need his own story. And I knew when Ke'an fought her way out of Pike's compound that she would need hers. And I freaking love the way it happens! (Note: I am not a plotter. I discover the story as it happens, just like a reader does, so I don't feel I can take credit for writing something that makes me happy. LOL)
A lot of things come full circle in Soul Deep. Tars' redemption, sure, and Ke'an choosing to live a more dynamic life. But the past has to be resolved before the future can be happy, and Tars' story isn't just about him. It's about the man he betrayed, too. And because I write action-adventure, you know there are some dire straits and chases and battles and all that stuff. There's a megalomaniac billionaire with more resources than sense and a stalker who shows what can happen when you can't find resolution with your past. You'll see a lot of characters from the previous books in the series, too. Some have big roles, some cameos, but all fun.
I really hope you'll give it a try! If you're not already a reader/fan of The Soul Series, you can find links to all the book pages here. Or, if you're ready to dive into Soul Deep...
I have a LOT of news coming over the next couple of days! Some really exciting stuff.
But let's start with this giveaway by Just Romantic Suspense! It includes a print copy of Soul of the Dragon, so if you've been patiently waiting for that, you can try to win it there.
There are 30 books by 30 authors. The first winner gets to pick 10, and the other two winners split the rest. Click the image to go to the contest page to review the prizes ahead of time. The giveaway opens on July 15. Good luck!