How Do You Organize Your Books?

One of my first freelance writing clients was a company called Onefinestay, which is like Airbnb for fancy rich people. I loved seeing all the photos of these incredible homes I was writing about — but one thing always struck me as odd.

Their bookshelves.

They were so…. stylish. 

Organized by color and height, like the one above — rather than…. you know.

By book.

I’ve seen this trend pop up a few times in the last few months, which has gotten me wondering — is organizing your books by color normal? 

Part of me really loves the aesthetic. After all, that’s how I organize my thread:


And in the header image, the shelf is small enough that you’d still be able to find the book you wanted to read.

But on a larger scale? Like this huge bookshelf?

How do you find anything!

What do you think? Do you organize your books by color, author, genre, mood, or?

Let me know!

Writing update

In case you’re keeping score at home, I did finish the revision on the first full-length Durga System novel — which is why I have time to muse about the Proper Way of Sorting Books. It’s been sent off to the editor.

Next up? Drafting the sequel novella to Starfall, featuring Starla and her cousin Mona getting into space adventures. I just ordered the cover by the same designer who did Negative Return, and I’m so excited to share it with you when it’s ready!

For your To-Be-Read list

I just finished the most delightful YA book by Lila Bowen (Delilah S. Dawson’s pen name): Wake of Vultures. It’s a fantasy western about a young girl who dresses as a boy, landing a job as a cowhand and fighting monsters in the old West. 

So, basically my every childhood fantasy as a tomboyish farmgirl with a vivid imagination.

It was fast-paced and exciting, with gorgeous descriptions and fascinating characters. I’ve loved Delilah S. Dawson’s writing ever since I read her Star Wars novel, Phasma, and I was not disappointed here. 🙂

Since it’s Pride month, I figured I’d highlight Wake of Vultures and a couple other of my favorite sci fi/fantasy books with queer characters. The other two books below — Kameron Hurley’s The Stars are Legion and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season — are both stunningly imaginative stories with incredibly deep worlds that are fascinating to explore.

If you haven’t picked up either of them, I highly recommend them.

(Want more book recommendations? Definitely check out this comprehensive list of LGBTQIAP Protagonists in Fantasy and Science Fiction from The Illustrated Page.)

Wake of Vultures


by Lila Bowen

Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She’s a half-breed who dresses like a boy, raised by folks who don’t call her a slave but use her like one. She knows of nothing else. That is, until the day a stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood and he turns to black sand.

And just like that, Nettie can see.

But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. Even if she doesn’t understand what’s under her own skin, she can sense what everyone else is hiding—at least physically. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead her to find her true kin . . . if the monsters along the way don’t kill her first.

Find it on Amazon, Kobo, IndieBound

The Stars are Legion


by Kameron Hurley

Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

Find it on Amazon, Kobo, IndieBound

The Fifth Season


by N.K. Jemisin


This is the way the world ends…for the last time.

A season of endings has begun. 

It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world’s sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. 

It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. 

It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester. 

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy. 

Get it on AmazonKobo, IndieBound

Hello! It is I, someone who maybe can write words.

Last month, I typed “the end” on the next Durga System novel.

(Novel! Full length!)

I stood up, stretched, and thought, “Just a light polish and we’ll be good to go!”

Then I gave the manuscript to my husband and it came back looking like the snippet in the photo above.


Anyway, all that to say that this is a short (and late) email because I’m in revision prison for another few days. But rest assured, a new Durga System story is on it’s way — and it’s gonna be good! 

For your To-Be-Read list

The one thing I have been doing lately (besides screaming into the editing void) is reading. And I have some recommendations for you.

You’ll find some great indie sci-fi, but the first book, Exit West, is a literary novel. It’s on here because I finished it last night for this month’s book club, and I can’t get it out of my head. 

It’s the story of two refugees — but more than that it’s the story of home. I keep thinking about it; if you grant me a moment, I’ll try to explain why.

Two things you may not know about me:

  • I grew up in a family with strong, relatively recent roots in the Old Country (The Netherlands).
  • I also grew up on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State, on land that my great grandparents — immigrants — bought from the Yakama tribe.

My whole life I’ve been aware of my family’s immigrant past, and very aware of our settler/colonist present. These two things together have always compelled me to think about what it means to be “from” a place.

I’m “from” the reservation, but not in the way my friends who are Native American are I’m “from” The Netherlands, but not in the way my cousins who grew up there are. I’m considered American, but I grew up with kids whose grandparents grew up with mine, and most of American society still calls them Mexican or Filipino or Japanese.

Exit West fascinated me because of the way it explores what it means to be “from” a place, and examines the beautiful and terrible ways we live together as a human race.

Who do we consider part of our tribe?
How do we find family?
How do we live in peace despite historic grievances?
How are we fundamentally alike despite our differences?

These have always been an underlying question in my books, too — I just tend to put more gunfights and aliens in than you’ll find in Exit West.

Anyway, for claiming this was going to be a short email I certainly did wax poetical.


By the way, what are you reading? I’ve gotten some awesome book recommendations from some of you over the past few months, and I love hearing what’s on your TBR list. 

Exit West: A Novel


by Mohsin Hamid

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair, and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through. . . .

Exit West follows these remarkable characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

Find it on Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, IndieBound

The Legion and the Lioness


by R.D. Armstrong

They said I would never finish flight school. Never rank at the top of my class. Never fly with the top aces. Never return from combat against the Kelton androids. Never survive emergency surgery. 

Here I am.

The year is 2151, Earth is gone. A hellscape. I’ve been unfrozen after 72 years of cryosleep on a medical facility on Saturn’s moon, Titan. I have nothing, no home, no friends, no concept of this new world, these Titans.

All that remains is the old conflict that has blackened my veins and memories of the ones I loved still fresh in my heart. Forgotten for decades.

But it seems war hasn’t forgotten me, no, even in my slumber. My name is Captain Victoria Ann Belic, I was a wife and an ace fighter pilot, and have been revived for one reason—to die again.

Get on Amazon (free on Kindle Unlimited)

Hands of the Colossus


by Nicole Grotepas

Holly Drake just wants one thing: to destroy the Shadow Coalition and the evil at the heart of their business. With an endless supply of tips from the secretive man pulling her strings, Holly and her crew swoop in, break up the cash drops and steal the money. If one or two baddies die on accident, no big loss, right? They could do this forever, picking the Coalition apart till not even bones remain.

That is, until someone goes missing. In that moment, everything changes.  

To save the victim, Holly and her team will put everything on the line. Treacherous journeys across the 6-moon system in space-zeppelins, dangerous infiltrations of the Coalition, bartering with thieves and relying on the seedy underbelly of the 6-moons. Anything it takes. 

But…is the whole set up a trap? 

Get on Amazon (free in Kindle Unlimited)

Is it… Adventure Time?

Years ago when I worked at the Seattle Repertory Theater as a house manager, one of my coworkers (Hi Rachel!) gave me this card. 

It made me laugh a decade ago, and it still does now. That’s why it’s still pinned above my desk, eight-ish moves later.

I like going on adventures, and although I’m not sure I’d take a chance on Omaha with Paco the trapeze artist, I get a kick out of imagining just what Omaha-ian wonders he could show me. 

I guess that’s why I’m a writer. 

And I guess going on adventures is why we both (you and me, I mean — not sure about Paco) like reading.

While I continue cooking up the next book in the Durga System series, I have some other fantastic book adventures to share with you. 

But… first I have a question.

Would you go to Omaha with Paco?

Let me know.

For your To-Be-Read list

‘Tis the season for book sales, I guess! The following books are all on sale right now for $0.99 — making them a great deal if they strike your fancy!

Speaking of, the ebook of Starfall is also on sale for $0.99 at the moment. 

Maybe you already have a copy — but maybe you have a friend who’d be interested in checking it out?

Now’s a great time to share the love!

Here’s the Amazon link for Starfall.
Here’s the rest of the vendors.

The Other


by Marilyn Peake

“Aliens, UFOs, time travel…..what’s not to love!”

With alien sightings on the rise and a mysterious virus ravaging the places where the sightings occur, many are beginning to believe the unknown pathogen may be extraterrestrial. 

Psychology professor Dr. Cora Frost had a different theory: the bizarre symptoms were nothing more than mass hysteria. But while in the midst of field research on an alien-worshipping cult in Roswell, New Mexico, Cora makes a discovery that upends her entire worldview. In a shocking series of events, her past and future collide, forever changing her life.

Find it on Amazon
Find it on other retailers



by JJ Green

“One of those can’t-put-it-down-until-the-end reads.”

Jas Harrington was only a baby when a massive fire at a fledging Martian colony took the lives of everyone close to her. After growing up in institutions on Mars and Earth, Jas travels to Antarctica to train as a deep space security operative.

All she wants is to graduate college and fulfill her dreams, but it isn’t long before she faces familiar prejudice against returned colonists.

For once, fighting her way out of her problems isn’t an option, until it is.

Starbound is the prequel to the fast-paced, action-packed Shadows of the Void space opera serial.

Get on Amazon.

Sowing words, reaping books

A few months back I agreed to run a St. Patricks Day 5k with a friend because I was drinking very strong IPAs and therefore more susceptible to making fast-and-loose decisions. 

A 5k? Never done one!

Sounds fun! Let’s do it! Cheers!

(Don’t make lasting decisions while drinking, kids.)

Fast forward to last week, when I remembered I agreed to run a 5k this Sunday, and decided I should start, well, running again. 

Fortunately, it’s actually a nice time of year to go for a run around these parts. Everyone’s yards are in bloom, cherry blossoms are scattered over the sidewalks, and people aren’t idling their engines while they warm up their cars anymore (cough cough).

I don’t like to listen to headphones when I’m running — I actually find it’s a great time to work out knotty plot problems. This means I often rush to my laptop as soon as I get home to type out a new scene or story idea. 

Running and writing can both be kind of a drag. But that rush of dopamine when you’ve finished a run, or wrapped up a killer scene? 


And so, one run at a time — one scene at a time — the next Durga System book is getting close to completion. 

Stay tuned.

For your To-Be-Read list

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, which has put me in the a good travel narrative. Fortunately, I had Anthony St. Clair’s Forever the Road sitting in my TBR pile. An immersive tale of backpacking adventurers in an alternative, magical Earth, this book is truly a delight! It’s especially fun if you like good beer — Anthony is a local (Oregon) beer writer, and definitely knows his stuff. 

Your next recommendation is a bit different: a podcast! Ink to Film is a podcast by author Luke Elliott and filmmaker James Bailey, and combines both their talents to discuss sci-fi and fantasy books that have been adapted for film. They’ve most recently covered new releases A Wrinkle in Time, Annihilation, and Netflix series Altered Carbon, along with many classic film adaptations. 

Cover photo by Dileep Kuriyedath on Unsplash

Forever The Road


by Anthony St. Clair

Their entwined fate becomes his impossible choice.

A strange eclipse looms above India’s city of the smiling fire. When an ancient evil awakens, the world teeters on a razor’s edge of life and annihilation. 

Rootless globetrotter Jay wanted Agamuskara to be just another place he visited, but the strange object in his backpack has other ideas. In the global secret order of Jakes and Jades, destiny-changing Jade Agamuskara Bluegold stands above the rest, all the while keeping up appearances as the humble proprietor of the Everest Base Camp Pub & Hostel. However, she struggles to untangle the terrible future she foresees and to ignore her doubts about her past choices. 

Find it everywhere!

Ink to Film Podcast


with Luke Elliott and James Bailey

The Ink to Film Podcast is the brainchild of writer Luke Elliott and filmmaker James Bailey. In it, we go first to the source material, read, discuss, and appreciate it before moving on to the subsequent film adaptation. Once we watch, we react to the movie based on its own merit, then compare and contrast it to the source text. We hope that it will provide a comprehensive experience for the passionate fans out there, and an easy access point for the curious.

Whether you’ve read the book or not, we think there will still be plenty for you to enjoy with our conversation. 


In praise of reading under the covers

When I was a kid I used to stay up all night reading — totally the stereotypical thing with a flashlight under the covers, devouring Madeleine L’Engle and Ursula Leguin and Nancy Drew and, well, anything I could get my hands on.

Last night I had flashbacks of childhood as I devoured Paula Hawkings’ Into the Water. I kept turning pages hours after my husband was sound asleep, unable to put the book down until the very last page.

It was awesome.

If you like thrillers and are looking for your next late night read, I highly recommend it. 

If you prefer thrillers in space, I’ve got a sci-fi recommendation for you today! Waypoint Kangaroo is a delightful debut spy novel by fellow Portland author Curtis Chen. (I think you’ll especially like it if you enjoyed the wry humor in my book Negative Return).

Into the Water

Into the water

by Paula Hawkins

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Find it at Amazon, Powell’s, IndieBound

Waypoint Kangaroo


by Curtis Chen

Kangaroo isn’t your typical spy. Sure, he has extensive agency training, access to bleeding-edge technology, and a ready supply of clever (to him) quips and retorts. But what sets him apart is “the pocket.” It’s a portal that opens into an empty, seemingly infinite, parallel universe, and Kangaroo is the only person in the world who can use it. But he’s pretty sure the agency only keeps him around to exploit his superpower.

After he bungles yet another mission, Kangaroo gets sent away on a mandatory “vacation:” an interplanetary cruise to Mars. While he tries to make the most of his exile, two passengers are found dead, and Kangaroo has to risk blowing his cover. It turns out he isn’t the only spy on the ship–and he’s just starting to unravel a massive conspiracy which threatens the entire Solar System.

Now, Kangaroo has to stop a disaster which would shatter the delicate peace that’s existed between Earth and Mars ever since the brutal Martian Independence War. A new interplanetary conflict would be devastating for both sides. Millions of lives are at stake.

Weren’t vacations supposed to be relaxing?

Find it wherever books are sold: Amazon, Powell’s, IndieBound   

Cover Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Happy January from Oregon!

It’s been ridiculously nice here, especially compared to last winter’s snowmageddon. (We got 10 inches overnight at one point, which stayed on the streets for the next week since Portland has no snow plows.)

So nice, in fact, that we’ve been out hiking.

The header photo is from a trip to the Painted Hills that my husband and I took over the weekend. Eastern Oregon is stunningly beautiful desert, a landscape that’s close to my heart.

I loved hiking through the juniper-and-sagebrush forests and driving through canyons slashed through with blue, green, red, yellow, and white.


(The Clarno Palisades at the John Day Fossil Beds.)

I love the desert. 

It’s inspired some of my favorite settings, including the desert planet New Sarjun in the Durga System series, the country of Laja Cian in the fantasy series I’m plugging away at, and the apocalyptic Southwest of the dystopian romance novel series that… will get done some day. 🙂

While I’m not out hiking or hunkered down writing the next Durga System book, I’ve been reading — and I’ve got some great recommendations this month!

For your To-Be-Read list

My book recommendations this month are both by local Portland authors. 

Erik Wecks’s Gravlander is the latest installment in the Pax Imperium series, but it works perfectly well as a stand-alone book. It’s a fantastic coming-of-age story in a fascinating sci-fi world — a good blend of character-focused adventure. 

Jason LaPier’s Unexpected Rain is the first in his Dome trilogy (it’s complete), an engaging mystery with a cool sci-fi twist. Plus, I can’t get over how great the name is! 



by Erik Wecks

Nineteen-year-old Josephine Lutnear is just months away from becoming the youngest fleet surgeon in history.

And she’s miserable.

As a young girl, Jo watched the Unity Corporation murder her family and barely escaped the moon Aetna’s destruction. Eight years later, the Unity started a war that left Jo running for her life. Alone aboard a hidden rebel fleet, she grew up studying the only academic course open to her: medicine.

The terms of Jo’s life have always been dictated by events beyond her control. Just once, she would like to make a choice all her own.

So when a band of genetic outcasts needs a doctor to cure a deadly plague, Josephine eagerly volunteers. But she will soon discover that the Timcree’s culture won’t accept help from a Gravlander like her. 
As her choices are once again taken away, Jo will stumble toward the truth—that she will never find purpose until she faces her past.

Find it on Amazon

Unexpected Rain


by Jason LaPier

In a domed city on a planet orbiting Barnard’s Star, a recently hired maintenance man has just committed murder.

Minutes later, the airlocks on the neighbourhood block are opened and the murderer is asphyxiated along with thirty-one innocent residents.

Jax, the lowly dome operator on duty at the time, is accused of mass homicide and faced with a mound of impossible evidence against him.

His only ally is Runstom, the rogue police officer charged with transporting him to a secure off-world facility. The pair must risk everything to prove Jax didn’t commit the atrocity and uncover the truth before they both wind up dead.

Get on Amazon.
Get it Elsewhere.