Saturday, December 24, 2016

How Many Novels Are In A Laptop?


And how many tears are shed when a novelist's laptop breathes its last?

The Scenario:

Guild Night with my gaming friends. Voice chatting on Discord. Laughing, conversing, having a great 'ol time. Then WHAM! The whir of hard drive dies. Monitor goes black. Chat cut off. Instantaneous death. I looked to the overhead lights. They are still on. Then I remember I have battery backup for my computer. This should not have happened.

The Panic:

It's over. We had been trying to hold this laptop together with figurative duct tape for the past year. Nausea wells as I realize it's time to dish out my savings and buy a new system. I'm still cringing over the size of that check.

The New Baby:

So yesterday my husband drove to the store to pick up the laptop we chose. I felt like he was bringing home a new baby from the orphanage. I want to love it. But I'm suspicious. Will it work as wonderfully as the old one did in the good days?

In truth, I should compare it to meeting a new coworker. A coworker I will be sharing my office with. Which means nearly every waking moment for the next x number of years. Will this machine be an able writing partner?

Here she is. My new writing partner. Overpowered for gaming. She looks like a race car, don't you think?

The Tally:

At dinner last night, I got to calculating. I purchased my old system with the royalties earned from the first two books of the Falcons Saga. I wrote Books 3 and 4 on that laptop, and well, half of Book 5. That took about 4 years (of heavy writing and heavy gaming) before the old dear was worn out.

So, this made me wonder how many novels are lurking in this new laptop? Two? Three? Four? That's the fun side.

The scary side is that those unwritten novels have to sell enough for me to buy yet a new system when this one croaks. A vicious cycle. So I feel like, now, I'm writing to keep a laptop on the table. Gross.

The Question:

Anyway, I'm curious. How many stories, novels, and poems has your current system helped you write? Are you attached to your system in an emotional way, like I am?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Review: NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff



Blurb:

In a land where three suns almost never set, a fledgling killer joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against the powers who destroyed her family.

Daughter of an executed traitor, Mia Corvere is barely able to escape her father’s failed rebellion with her life. Alone and friendless, she hides in a city built from the bones of a dead god, hunted by the Senate and her father’s former comrades. But her gift for speaking with the shadows leads her to the door of a retired killer, and a future she never imagined.

Now, a sixteen year old Mia is apprenticed to the deadliest flock of assassins in the entire Republic ― the Red Church. Treachery and trials await her with the Church’s halls, and to fail is to die. But if she survives to initiation, Mia will be inducted among the chosen of the Lady of Blessed Murder, and one step closer to the only thing she desires.

Revenge.

~Amazon

Review:

I utterly adored Jay Kristoff's Nevernight. Could not put it down. It usually takes me a couple months to complete a novel, but I read the last half of Nevernight while on a vacay last week. It didn't even occur to me that there was a television in the room and that I could watch it. That's how captivated I was by Mia and Tric and the rest of this bloody crew.

Some books are a challenge because I can tell the author thinks in a way that I can barely relate to. This book, the characters, the action, the balance between brutality and sentimentality, the humor, the grit -- I just got. It all resonated with my personality, my likes and dislikes in fiction. Will Nevernight resonate with you?

Thoughts on Influences:

Whether or not Kristoff is/was a gamer or is merely familiar with today's most popular video games (or neither of these), I did pick up on similarities with Skyrim and some other potential influences. Rather than detract from the enjoyment of the tale, I think fans of those games will be thrilled, mainly because they will easily relate to the world and its factions and characters.

Influences also draw heavily from Ancient Rome and Renaissance Venice. As a history buff, this is where I was slightly turned off. Not because, as a history buff, these cultures and time periods are distasteful to me, but because the similarities were so strong that the fantasy element at times grew thin, such as the city of gondolas that celebrates with masquerade balls; Senates and a Republic that are about to suffer a dictatorship under a Caesar-like ruler.

However, it's likely due to my own personal taste that fantasy worlds are somewhat less transparent in the expression of the influences behind their creation.

But make no mistake, these influences do not detract from the tale. Nevernight is a rip-roaring ride, from page 1 to the final paragraph. The momentum is non-stop, like a dagger in flight.

Unique Surprise:

Footnotes! I had never read a novel that featured footnotes. Again, being a history buff who loves the tidbits found at the bottoms of pages, I was instantly charmed when I discovered footnotes lurking like little shadows below the main text.

Don't cheat yourself and skip over these footnotes. I do believe the clues to Nevernight's ending lie in these little asides. At least, I'm pretty sure I've puzzled it out. See if you can.

Best of all, the personality of the narrator telling Mia's story shines in the footnotes, providing glimpses of a sarcastic, jaded sense of humor until the reader must ask, "Who IS this masked narrator?" If you think you've guessed, chances are you're wrong. At least I was. I think. Maybe. There's still room for a twist that will make me right. If I am indeed wrong, then my second choice for the narrator is ... no spoilers.

Conclusion:

Of course, it's how an author uses words themselves that make me fall in love, every time. And much of Nevernight is delightful poetry, alongside the swashbuckling pace. So I will be looking for other works by Kristoff while I desperately await the next installment in the Nevernight series.

I won't soon be forgetting Mia and the rest, so I'm giving Nevernight five magic wands.

5 of 5
Find Nevernight HERE.
Follow Jay Kristoff on his official site, Twitter, and Facebook.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Undreamed Shores...

I've found a new motto.



Of course Will was the one to pen it. Though I've never read "The Winter's Tale." Shame on me. Still, this phrase touches on explorations through words, through travel, both of which top my list of to-dos.

Insatiable curiosity.

Have you a motto? Care to share it?


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Progress Diary, Endgame Jitters

PROJECT: Fury of the Falcon, Book 5, Falcons Saga

Entry #17

(yes, I've skipped a few entries on my blog. The rest are posted on LegendFire, due to spoilers)

"Spin" by JasonTN @DeviantART
Have passed the 100k mark. The Endgame looms. Excited, but dreading the long, complex chess game ahead. The game begins this week with Chapter 30. After daring plans and betrayals, the pieces are in place. Now just to make things happen. Things are about to get bloody, people. All those deaths mentioned in Entry #1? Yeah, here they come...



I'm already sobbing my eyes out. Good sign? Well, I do have to see to type. 

*reaches for box of tissue*

(What does this mean in terms of completing the novel? With the holidays looming, writing will decrease a fraction until after the New Year. So give me several more months to wrap this up. Then the edits...)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane," A Halloween Story

In 2011, Brian Fatah Steele of Dark Red Press asked me if I wanted to contribute a story to a Halloween anthology he was putting together. Brian is a horror writer extraordinaire, so the prospect was intimidating. Luckily, he said my story didn't have to be horror, so I agreed.

The result was "The Witch of Mistletoe Lane," a novelette featuring small town boys who believe they have discovered a real witch living down the street. Their experiences, minus the witch, draw heavily from my own childhood. Because of that, this story was a blast to write.

The anthology, Past the Patch, is always available for free download at SmashwordsScribd, and a host of other sites. OR just read it all here.



Part 1 of 5


Every autumn, the clatter of leaves somersaulting along sidewalks reminds me of the October I met the witch. The small southern town of Saint Claire didn’t have a lot to boast about but the worst football team in the county, the annual watermelon festival, and Ag shows that brought the fattest pigs and beefiest steers to Main Street, where they showed their appreciation by crapping in front of the cafe, the antique store, and the True Value hardware that still sold hard candy from glass jars. Unbeknownst to the folks outside our insular world, Saint Claire had its very own witch, too. Mothers all over town scared the devil out of us kids every time they warned us to steer clear of the rickety old house that lurked on Mistletoe Lane. My own mother joined the hype. “Colton, you leave that place alone. I see you anywhere near it, I’ll bust your hide.” To which I inevitably replied, “But why, Mama?” She’d only respond with the look that meant, “You better do as I say.”

The first time I found myself outside the witch’s gate was a complete accident. Jimmy Harden and I rode our bikes to the cow pond on his grandpa’s place, hoping the fish liked the taste of the grubs on our hooks. They did, as it turned out, so we kept tossing our lines in till almost dusk. Realizing the time, we tied our stringers full of half-grown bass to our handlebars and hustled back to town. We were in such a hurry to avoid a whooping for being late to dinner that we turned one street too soon. Jimmy hit his brakes; his back tire left a black streak that must’ve been a mile long before he came to a stop. Pulling up alongside him, I stared in horror at the crumbling gingerbread house. I’d only ever seen it from the corner, in passing, as Mom hit the gas to get through the intersection fast as she could. Now that I was getting a good look at the place, I decided she’d been right all those years. It was a wonder anyone could live there at all. The house was scary as hell, staring back at us in the manner of Hamlet’s skull, pondering our demise. Weeds grew thick as jungles inside the leaning picket fence, and a pair of arborvitaes hid the front fa├žade like hands thrown over a face too hideous to endure. White paint scrolled from the eaves, the wood underneath dry and gray. A couple of upper story windows boasted holes big enough for birds to fly through. The whole place reeked of cat piss. 

To me, the creepiest part were the tattered Halloween decorations left over from years past. Though it was June, plastic jack o’ lanterns lined the walk to the front door. They used to be orange, but had faded in the southern sun to a whitish yellow, just like skulls of beheaded children. One of those ridiculous “crashed witches” was nailed to a giant catalpa tree near the rusted mailbox. Her broom had lost its broomcorn and was just a plastic stick that made a likely perch for blue jays. On the front gate hung a weather-beaten sign that read “The Witch Is In.”

Scared the witch might be watching, I backhanded Jimmy in the shoulder. “Let’s get outta here.”

Jimmy grinned in a way that said he was contemplating mischief and swept up a chunk of gravel from the ditch.

“No, man!” I cried.

He chunked it with his Little League arm; it sailed right through a window. Clink, clink, crash, went the glass.

We hightailed it for home, scared out of our minds and exhilarated at the same time, but Jimmy soon came to regret chucking that rock. The next week, his dad fell off a roof and broke his spine. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since. Then Jimmy came down with appendicitis that nearly killed him before his mom got him to the hospital. We never openly blamed these things on the witch or told our parents about the rock he threw, but he and I knew. That was when we were nine or ten.

The autumn I met the witch in person, I was thirteen, suffering through the tortures of Junior High and wet dreams about Elizabeth McDuffy, the Freshman cheerleader with green eyes and hair the color of autumn itself. It was Saturday afternoon, and the week before Halloween. A handful of jocks led by our star running back, Trev Reynolds, were conducting the yearly cat round-up. It was an unspoken tradition. Though all of us Saint Claireans knew about it, we openly denied its existence. For the whole month of October, the town’s cat lovers locked their pets indoors to protect them from the annual purging. It was the vagrant alley cats and their unwanted litters that satisfied the grotesque human desire for destruction. Me and Jimmy, along with Adam Laughton and Tyrone Banks, weren’t invited to take part. The secret ritual belonged to the cool older guys, not green, virginal junior high boys. We could only stand back and watch Randy Tillman’s black pickup truck painted with orange flames roar past just like a dragon. Piled into the cab and in the bed, our heroes hollered and cussed and displayed their trophy: another plastic grocery sack writhing with an irate cat.

All we had was our bikes, bigger and better ones now that we were older, but we were still unable to catch up. At Jimmy’s urging, we tried. We pumped those peddles as fast as our scrawny legs could go. Our war cries sounded less inspiring, because our voices were cracking and we kept choking on the dust kicked up in the pickup’s blazing wake.

Out on county line road, Tyrone hit a pothole and flipped over his handlebars. We stopped to shovel him off the asphalt. “Ah, hell, Ty,” Adam complained. “We’ll never catch ‘em now.”

Tyrone’s hands were bleeding, so was a gash on his leg where he’d caught the jagged edge of a peddle. He groaned and cussed, and Jimmy said, “Shut up. I hear something.”

We listened. Rrreeeeow! A cat in distress!

Up ahead, the road crossed Tallulah Creek. A dirt trail, no more than twin lines of red earth veered off the main road and plunged out of sight. We tossed our bikes into the ditch and followed it to the creek bank. Tyrone hobbled fast as he could, dragging his bleeding left leg. Randy’s black truck crouched at the end of the trail, silent and sleeping. The jocks clustered under the bridge, struggling with a manic beast. Rrreeeeow! it shrieked. The bridge amplified the protest. I imagined a creature the size of a panther, but when the hunters tugged the rope and hoisted up the noose, all I saw was an ordinary alley cat, orange and white. Her teets were heavy. She had babies somewhere. Jimmy, Adam, and Tyrone cheered with the big guys as the cat kicked and scratched at the noose around her neck. I watched, mesmerized and feeling like I might throw up. The cat was so scared it dropped feces, and the big guys jumped back, squalling and cussing as if the cat had done it as a purposeful act of revenge.

It was then that a couple of the jocks noticed us and chased us down. Trev Reynolds grabbed me and Tyrone by the scruff. Joey Osborn, the coach’s son, caught Adam by the shirttails. Jimmy stopped halfway up the trail and measured his options. Ditch his friends or help them out. He was a beefy kid by now, but nowhere near big enough to stand up to these guys. He crossed his arms. “We just wanna see!”

The rest of the brave and bold hunters saw that they’d been caught, and some began to panic. “Ah, man, they’re gonna tell Coach!”

“He’ll kick us off the team,” said Randy Tillman.

Joey Osborn said, “You dumbnut, we are the team! What’s he gonna do?”

“My dad’s the Baptist preacher! He’s gonna kill me.”

“They won’t tell,” said Trev Reynolds. He had eyes like a snake, real cool and mean. They looked straight at me, then at Tyrone and Adam. “We’ll beat the shit out of ‘em if they do, and they know it.” He jabbed a finger at Jimmy, lingering a safe distance up the hill. “You! Get down here.”

Jimmy craned his neck, likely hoping there was some kind of help coming along the road. No luck. He did as he was told and crept back down under the bridge. Trev Reynolds grabbed him by the shirtfront. “We’ll let you see, but you gotta get us another cat. All of ya! Go find us another cat and bring it to the dumpster behind Al’s shop. We’ll meet you there. If you don’t show, we’ll find you and hang y’all up instead.”

Over the crowd of taller heads, I saw the cat. Her eyes were popping and her tongue stuck out of her mouth. She no longer struggled. Three others hung from rafters under the bridge.

Reynolds slapped me upside the head. “You gonna cry? Go with your girlfriends, Colton Brisby. Yeah, I know who you are, and I know where you live, too. Go get that cat.”

#

“Ah, shit, we’re dead. We’re dead!” groaned Adam. We walked our bikes back to town, our enthusiasm as withered as nuts dunked in ice-cold water. “We shouldn’ta listened to you, Jimmy.”

“Did they mean one cat for all of us, or a cat apiece?” asked Tyrone.

“Ah, shut up, man, we’re friggin’ dead.”

“Quit whining!” Jimmy bellowed, and Adam shut his trap. “We’ll stop by my place and pick up an arsenal and catch as many cats as we can. Then they’ll let us be.”

Our arsenal consisted of the pair of slingshots that Jimmy and I used to shoot frogs at his grandpa’s pond. He held mine out, but I shook my head. I didn’t want to shoot a cat, not after watching that alley cat strangle to death. But what’s a guy to do when his friends look at him like, “What the hell’s gotten into you?”

“Hey, I want it!” Tyrone grabbed the slingshot and practiced aiming with it. The rest of us loaded our pockets with bright steel shot and took off before Jimmy’s mom could ask what trouble we were up to.

The first cat we found was slinking around behind the police station. “We can’t shoot that one,” I said. “What if Wade comes out and sees us. He might arrest us for cruelty to animals or concealed firearms.” Saint Claire was so small we only had three town cops; Wade was the police chief.

Jimmy shook his slingshot in my face. “Not very concealed, is it, dimwit.”

“Well, for brandishing weapons inside city limits, then.”

Jimmy rolled his eyes. “How ‘bout jaywalking? We been jaywalking all over town, stupid. Everybody does it, and nobody gives a shit.”

“Jaywalking don’t hurt nothing, dumbass!”

Adam, at least, saw my reasoning. He broke up the argument before fists started flying. “C’mon, let’s find a different cat.”

We searched and searched, and the longer we searched the more Adam panicked. By late afternoon he started looking downright sick, trailing along behind, holding his stomach. We’d raked the town and finally found ourselves on the northern edge. Past Seventh Street, there wasn’t much but cow pasture.

Tyrone stopped cold and cried, “There’s one!” A giant beast slunk through the tall grass in the roadside ditch, on the prowl. He turned those malevolent yellow eyes on us and darted off. “It’s a black one, too! Get it!” Tyrone wasted three good shots trying to hit him on the run. Jimmy took slow, careful aim, leading the cat by a few inches. Then the stupid animal paused in the intersection to glance back at us. Jimmy let fly. The steel ball lit a bright streak across the breeze. The cat yowled, spun, looking for the source of its pain, then took off like a bullet. We loosed our war cries and gave chase, leaping fences and flowerbeds and scrambling over cars parked in driveways. For a while we thought we lost it, but it darted out from under Mrs. Stein’s garden shed, a dozen yards away. We were nearly on top of that poor cat, when it turned onto a dilapidated street. I stopped so fast that I nearly ran out of my Converse shoes. Mistletoe Lane. And that black cat was limp-running straight for the witch’s house. The guys seemed to realize all at once, and stopped in the middle of the street. Panting and sweating, we stared at a shadow moving across a window. The front gate was propped open and the ragged ol’ sign said, “The Witch Is In.” The cat hobbled through, leaving a bloody paw print every time it stepped with its back foot.

A strangled, gurgling scream came from the house. The screen door banged shut and a woman ran up the sidewalk between the faded jack o’ lanterns. Except for the green skin, she might’ve been the twin of the Wicked Witch of the West. Long chin, hook nose, bony fingers, everything. Her black hair was a wild mess of frizz, and her eyes bugged out of her face, full of madness. She scooped up the wounded cat and cradled it like a baby, cooing and whimpering in a strange, ungodly language.

The four of us backed away slowly, but she looked right at us, and her free hand flicked and snapped out some symbols. Jimmy wailed, “No! Nooooo!” He turned and fled. The rest of us weren’t two paces behind.


(continued in Part 2, HERE)

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane" copyright 2011 by Court Ellyn. No part of the story may be reproduced without written permission of the author.

Image credits -

background: FantasyStock
texture: GrandeOmbre-stock
fog brushes: BBs-Brushes


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

When Words Fail...

Project: Fury of the Falcon



That moment when you realize you should have written down the amazing, natural-sounding, perfectly-flowing dialog you thought of weeks ago. Because now you have arrived at that very scene, fingers poised over the keys, and you have no idea what to write.

I know better than that! I know to scramble for the nearest scrap of paper and sketch out at least some of the dialog that surfaced in that brief moment of clarity and genius.

Now it will likely take me the rest of the week to piece together something that sounds crappy and stilted in the end. Ugh. Writers, commiserate! Readers, I really need some comfort food.


Something like this will do...


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Progress Diary: Character Overhaul


Project: Fury of the Falcon (Falcons Saga, Book 5)


Character expansion = extricating a neglected, flat, blurry character from the obscure corner where they are lurking and bringing them into the spotlight, giving them new roles, bigger page-time, deeper significance.

The alternative is murdering them, according to William Faulkner (and other writers who know what they're doing).



So I decided to save a darling from gruesome, bloody deletion and overhaul him instead:

(MINOR SPOILERS FOLLOW)

Those who have read Sons of the Falcon know who Kethlyn and Carah are. Turns out that their father had a fling in his youth (alluded to in Book 1) which resulted in these siblings having an older brother whom they didn't know about. In the ancient, deplorable original draft of the story, this older brother serves little purpose. He comes along in time to cause some scandal and heartache, then manages to save the life of the younger brother who despises him, then he happily fades back into his old life.

Well, many, many years ago, my mother said, "I thought he would play a bigger part." I could tell she was disappointed. So, at last, I have heeded her advice and expanded the role of this illegitimate brother. I didn't expect to have so much fun with the process. There has been brawling and verbal battling so far. Lots of fun tension. And it turns out this older brother (who has no filter, no understanding of the term "politically correct" when speaking to a noble) is now key in helping Kethlyn get over himself and face up to his treachery in a more honorable, mature fashion. This illegitimate brother will now actually have a motive for saving his younger brother's life, which can only be a good thing.

However! I haven't yet decided if this illegitimate brother is on the list of characters to knock off. (He just overheard me say that and is giving me a startled sort of look. I smirk back. The scissors hover, and the thread is thin.) I guess I'll be as surprised as he is, when the time comes.

(END SPOILERS)

Point is, readers are generally right when they voice their expectations and disappointments. Good to heed them.

* * * Would love to hear about the characters or plots that have disappointed you, and how you would rewrite them, if you could.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Planar Scars, Winged Outcasts, and Mad Scientists

Okay, to me, the elements in that title sound like a delectable cocktail. Am I wrong? Pff, of course not.

Over the last couple of years I've determined to broaden my reading scope. I had gotten into a rut of reading and (re-reading) about three authors, and so I started collecting books and collections by authors whose names I knew but whose work I hadn't taken a chance on.

I'm one of those people who is afraid of "new" and "spontaneous" and "change." So it felt like a risk peeking into some of these covers and seeing what words lay inside. Like peeking down someone's shirt. What the heck is in there, and do I really want to know?

Some time ago, my writer-friend Brian Fatah Steele (who has had so much influence in pushing me in new directions) suggested China Mieville's novels, so last time I was perusing the book store shelves (yes, I still prefer actual physical bookstores) I picked up the only Mieville novel I could find (sad, but selection is dwindling on store shelves), and it happened to be The Scar.



Reading this novel was like wallowing in stellar energy comprised of colliding words. Gah! Never mind that the story, that the world-building, that the characters were utterly magnetic, grotesque, gritty, and unique. I'm a sucker for a beautifully turned phrase. I will sit paralyzed by a startling combination of words for minutes at a time.

Because there is so much to savor in The Scar, it took me a long time to finish reading it, then I sacrificed everything else that needed doing to finish the last third in about three days. Point is, I am utterly in love with Mieville's writing. The dude's a poet, and the words themselves are as delectable as the world and characters they describe. They are a pleasure in and of themselves. (Isn't it a shame that this isn't usually the case?)

So now I've moved on to Perdido Street Station. Yes, I'm reading the "series" out of order, which I hate to do, but the novels seem to be standing well on their own.

How does a single brain come up with all this stuff? It feels like walking into a banquet hall and being surrounded by unrecognizable and tantalizing dishes, and where does one begin? At the same time, that description doesn't fit at all, because most of Mieville's inventions belong in slimy gutters and underworld sewers, but these are your dinner guests. Steel your stomach, grit your teeth, and wade in. Beauty in the ugliness, ugliness in the beauty, and all that, but often things are just downright freakish. 

Refreshing. Fabulous.




Sunday, June 19, 2016

So ... how did the book signing go?


I survived! My first book signing event is under my belt, and I'm so proud. The event took place in the La Vergne Public Library in La Vergne, Tennessee, which is just outside of Nashville. A beautiful building with wonderfully friendly people.

At six o'clock I began my presentation, talking about how I got into writing fantasy, when that genre wasn't my first choice. When I first started writing, I intended to be a historical fiction author instead.

The presentation led into the reading. For two months I practiced and practiced reading my selection aloud, and I'm so glad I did. I rocked it.

After the reading we did a brief Q&A and was offered some wonderfully insightful questions -- which I could actually answer in an intelligible manner (mostly).

All the while, there was a cameraman from a local station filming me. But did that shake me? Pff, never.



I learned several things:

1. I can present myself with confidence and poise, even despite a "disaster" that shook me badly right before I had to begin. (my biggest worry was that I would crack and my brain would go blank at the worst possible moment, but that didn't happen. Not even close.)

2. Do not expect loads of people on a first signing. (I prepared myself for this anyway, having heard this many times before, and it's 100% true.) I read for 8 people and signed for 3.

3. Do not expect your venue to do enough (or appropriate) marketing on your behalf. (A writer-friend warned me about this, and I saw it in action. You must do marketing yourself, if possible. Take your own posters/billboards and have them set up at the venue in obvious places an hour or so before the event begins. Make sure the posters point visitors in the right direction, especially if the venue is large. One of my guests got lost looking for me and missed half the presentation.)

4. It's going to take a LOT of signing events, swallowing a LOT of pride, and exposing myself to potentially humiliating situations to push my books effectively. (But it's all for the art, right?)

Overall, the trip was wonderful. In addition to the new experience, I got to see a new city, just as Nashville was kicking off the CMT Awards, so visiting downtown on Tuesday morning was like going to a festival. Just too bad all those people were there for country singers to sign stuff instead of my books, right? LOL. If only I could have snuck a booth in there ... ah, well.



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Progress Diary: When Laptops Go Haywire

Entry #3

I am ahead of schedule. Hurray for me!

Week one: completed drafts of chapter 1 and half of chapter 2. Quota: one chapter per week. Diagnosis: success.

I might have nearly finished two chapters this week, but my computer was abducted by aliens and reforged into a new version of itself, which put it out of commission for most of Friday's writing period.

Alien abduction, not cool
Wait, literally aliens? No, not literally, but it was invaded and taken over by the un-American, freedom-of-choice-stealing Windows 10 update. I didn't see it coming. I had been ignoring those "Update now?" windows for so many months that when the window changed and told me (apparently) that the update would happen that night, I didn't notice it or read it and x'd out of it instead of clicking the option to postpone. So here I am, home alone, without my computer-guru husband within 800 miles of me, and this stupid process kicks me out of Guild Wars 2 near midnight and takes over my computer and changes it utterly and forever, without my permission. MY COMPUTER! MINE. MY WORKZONE. Not yours, you evil devs and the eviler people giving you orders.

Yeah. Pissed.

Worst of all, some setting that came with Windows 7 was moved over to the new OS instead of being reset properly. This caused my beloved laptop to lock up any time I tried anything. Yeah, I couldn't even SAVE MY EFFING NOVEL DOC without my laptop going haywire and locking up. What do I have to do? Reboot it. Again. Like 7 times. But did that fix it? No! I LOST CONTENT!!!

Fortunately for the Windows devs, I lost all of two sentences. If I had lost more than that? Oh, yeah, I was going to mail 100 rabid monkeys to Windows HQ and have them set loose on the tyrants who fucked up my baby.

But, like I said, lucky for them. I was (sorta) able to reconstruct those two lost sentences THE NEXT DAY after my husband worked a miracle. He's doing training in Ohio, right? When he learns of this situation, that he must know has me in a panicked state of banshee-shrieking madness, he spends his evening (when he's already exhausted) downloading this software that allows him to access my laptop from half the country away. After a couple hours of poking around, he found the screwed up setting, fixed it, and voila! Miracle. Laptop back to normal. NO THANKS TO DEV TYRANTS IN SEATTLE WHO DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT MY WORK OR ME AS A PERSON WHO CAN'T FIX THIS STUFF HERSELF. (and now, thanks to them, every time I turn CAPS on or off, there's a stupid/pointless window that pops up and tells me that  CAPS is on or off. No shit?!)

Point being, goal for next week:

* complete chapter 2
* start chapter 3
* slander Windows' name forever
* drink less because my husband is awesome and I don't have to be shrieking like a banshee from hell.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Progress Diary: Writing Magic


Entry #2

I've broken ground on Fury. Day 1 is an immense success with a final tally of 2,745 words. My usual quota is 1,300 words, on a good day, so I'm ecstatic. Also, greatly surprised that I was able to connect with these characters as deeply as I did after having not written on them since last November. The morning was rough, I doubted every word and wondered how the hell I was going to express all that needed expressing, but then ... MAGIC. The faucet turned on, and my brain poured out the words, and this is what every writing day should feel like.

What a world away from the rough start that Cry suffered. The two writing experiences don't compare at all. If the rest of Fury goes this well, I'll be in writer's heaven.

God, I hope I didn't just jinx it.

"Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy, then an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, and then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant and, in the last state, just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public."
Winston Churchill (1874-1965) - November 2, 1949

Ah, the brutality of writing. Reflects what will happen to some of these characters as well. And what should happen to others, but doesn't. Delicious...


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fury of the Falcon: The Work Begins


This week I began work on Fury of the Falcon, Book 5, and the last installment, of the Falcons Saga. Which means that I dragged out the last block of paper that contains the Saga's original twelve-yr-old draft and am giving it the once-over, so that I can remember what happens and why. Since I don't. I've slept since then. A lot. Like if I add it up, I've slept almost six years, and written other things for the other six. So yeah... I need the reminder.

This has led to a couple days of outlining, brainstorming, groaning, and swallowing puke, since the old draft stinks worse than last week's garbage. It's 12-yr-old garbage.

It's so gross it's like sucking lemons till your teeth fall out.

So to begin, here's this writer's account of manuscript overhaul:

PROGRESS DIARY

Entry #1

In only two days, I've gone through the entire ms and marked all the main events with stickies. The block of paper now thinks it is a porcupine's cousin. Have read through the first 100 pages or so and discovered what I feared -- the text amounts to a massively detailed outline. It's almost all tell and almost no show. It's atrocious. It's beyond atrocious. It's puke-worthy. Some of the dialog is fun, but that's the extent of the text's usefulness.

To attempt to remedy this pukiness, I've brainstormed the opening sequence, to completely reorganize the info, increase emotional tension, and cut the boring CRAP that plagues the ms like boils on a monkey's ass.

So far, I've found elements to cut, and scenes to add:

Spoiler Warning! (I'll try to leave things vague and cryptic, regardless)

Old content to cut:
* the Great Summoning, whatever the hell that is. Something that tries to sound significant, but isn't.
* Ice Elves. We don't need no more damned elves, okay? We got enough already. Give all dialog and action to Daryon, Miragi, or Dagni.

New content to add (spoilers, really, stop reading now):
* Thorn must test his invention on an unlucky test subject. Evil scientists, beware. There's a pissed avedra on the loose.
* Thorn and Daryon must put their inventions together, which makes foes even more unlucky.
* Kethlyn must deal with the rebellion on his hands, but he's drunk, so it won't go well. Where's Mum when he needs her?
* Valryk must get out of that dungeon cell. Old lovers prove useful after all. He then must go on a journey of twisted self-discovery and vengeance. I mean, it's everyone else's fault that he tried to have them murdered.
* Lothiar must expend his rage against his own people.
* Dax must try to sway Alyster to do nefarious things.

/spoilers

And that's not including all the content that remains (like Carah's storyline) and must be overhauled to match a more mature, sober tone.

Just to add, I've realized that this is the volume that will read like a George RR Martin episode. If a character is slated to die, they will mostly all die within the same hundred pages or so. (Yeah, I can think of 5 main or side characters that have it coming. Don't curse me, it's not my fault.) It will be over-the-top drama and bloodshed. Delightful.


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Celebrating Shakespeare!

Looks like the western world is gearing up to celebrate the life and works of the Bard. Four hundred years ago, on 3 May 1616, at the age of only 52, Will Shakespeare died, leaving behind one of the most treasured collections of plays and poems the world has ever known.

William Shakespeare, 400th Anniversary
To offer my own tiny tribute, some of my favorite quotes:

(from Macbeth, Act V, scene v)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

(from Hamlet, Act V, scene ii)

Not a whit, we defy augury: there's a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be
now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he
leaves, what is't to leave betimes?

And for drama at its best, Lady Macbeth going mad with guilt (from Macbeth, Act V, scene i):

Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,
then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?--Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him.
The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?--
What, will these hands ne'er be clean?--No more o'
that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with
this starting.
Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!

"Ophelia: and he will never come again"
 1865, Arthur Hughes
I guess it's obvious that my taste leans toward the darker side of things. So many exciting passages to quote, I had a hard time choosing. The words are like dark chocolate on the tongue. Delicious and rich and a little bitter.

Fun stuff found on Twitter:
@Shakespeare_400
@s400events

Care to share your favorite quotes? Any other worthwhile sites dedicating time and bandwidth to our favorite Bard? Please share!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My First Book Signing!

I am so excited to get to blog about this at last.

My first ever book signing is scheduled for the evening of June 6, at the LaVergne Public Library in LaVergne, Tennessee! Woot!

LaVergne is a burb of Nashville, a city I've always wanted to see. So this should be an interesting learning experience all around.

The event will also include a reading. I've never read my fiction aloud to strangers before, only some of my poetry, years ago in college. It was nerve-wracking, but fun. I've chosen my selection, a scene from Cry of the Falcon (that one, riiiight there -->), and my nerves have quieted. For now.

I have a month and a half to prepare. Book copies are arriving in large heavy boxes, just in case someone is kind enough to purchase something, and I've ordered business cards and a display banner.

As long as I can get to the library on time, I'll be okay. Best thing, I'm not going alone. Family got my back, so I'm toting along my mother and a cousin. I will probably be a wreck on the trip out, so I hope they can put up with my insanity. These were the same two wonderful ladies who I traveled with to Stuttgart, Paris, and Rome in 2009, so at least we know we can survive each other. Should be fun. As long as I don't freak out.


geek freaking out

I hope to bring home a basket full of new knowledge so that I can set up signings closer to home. OKC, Tulsa, Dallas, Kansas City maybe. And I have friends in Denver. I foresee a signing there too. Hmm, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's survive the first one, and then ... who knows?

Have book, will travel...


Friday, March 25, 2016

Adventures in Editing

My favorite part of the writing process has long been the editing. Writing first drafts frustrates me. But during the editing I get to relax, build out the characters, the setting, increase the tension, etc.

So as part of my "who am I?" journey, I've dived into my first foray as an editor of someone else's novel. It's been scary. Lots of pressure to catch the obvious along with the hidden problems lurking in a manuscript. And I've learned one thing. Editors don't get paid enough. Editing is hard work. I mean, I knew it would be, but by the time my work day is over, my brain has turned to mush.

It's amazing to me how we writers can be so close to our story that we are unable to see the contradictions, grammatical slips, and vagueness that an objective pair of eyes can pick up on.

Whenever I subject my own stories to critiques at LegendFire, it's usually with a face burning with embarrassment that I read over the issues the critiquers found, as if I've been caught being less than perfect.

Writer's Disappointed Face :(

Why do I do that to myself? Probably because during the editing of my own story, I will think I've caught all the glaring errors and fixed them, only to see that, to my reader, the story still has shortcomings. Editing, I've learned over the years, is to benefit the reader, not the writer.


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Falcons and Free Books

Cry of the Falcon is selling, and it's awesome to see the number downloads climb. Last night I received the final proof for the paperback as well, and it's gorgeous, so the print version is now available as well. Hurray! (may take it a couple of days to show up on Amazon)

Kicked that kid out the door, and he's on his own. Hello, universe! Sink or swim, baby.

So far, my baby is doing all right. The initial reviews are very promising, and I have no idea who posted any of them.

In honor of both digital and print versions being finalized, Cry of the Falcon will be available for FREE this weekend, starting Friday, March 4, through Sunday, March 6. Then again on March 12-13.

Woot! If you've read it and you like it, tell somebody.



Thursday, February 11, 2016

Press Release...


…yes, press release, in a literal sense. Today, February 11, 2016 marks the official launch of Raven Eye Press. Check it out HERE. Pop goes the cork. Champagne time!



(If the technical details matter, read about the press itself on REP's About page.)

Why today? Because it has happened:  I’ve re-released the digital versions of the Falcons Saga! I grabbed the polish and the buffing brush and gave shined them up a bit. Each of the three books has had a few typos fixed and some inconsistencies and phrasings revised. And Blood of the Falcon, volume 2 is now available as Sword of the Falcon, with an all-new cover.

Find it HERE

Ain’t that pretty?

Better! If all goes well, Cry of the Falcon will be available for download this weekend. If that’s the case, then I nailed my Valentine’s release date. Woot! "Celebrate good times, c’mon!"

Print versions will be available before the end of the month, I hope. I’m having some trouble with CreateSpace and titling, but maybe we can have that ironed out soon. Crossing fingers. If not, I’ll be ranting and raving, and you’ll hear all about it.

But let’s leave the bad news and muddy shoes at the door. Today I am celebrating the opening of REP, my falcon kings, and my twins. Have some more champagne, on me.





Friday, January 29, 2016

CRY OF THE FALCON, to be released in February!

FINISHED!!! Cry of the Falcon is finished. Just a few days to format and correct a few typos, then I can push this one out the door. This was a loooong haul. Arduous, agonizing at times. I just told my husband, "I feel like I've birthed an army of ogres." If you haven't read my books, you won't get the joke. Shame, shame. 

Yep, I'm a proud, happy mother:


Isn't he kewt? Okay, so this is NOT how I envision my ogres, but those muscles are still cool, right?

So what's next? Lots of exciting stuff in the works. Not only will Cry of the Falcon be released in February, but all the earlier books in the Falcons Saga have received a make-over with a few typos and inconsistencies edited, new blurbs, and slightly new covers. All this because Blood of the Falcon, volume 2, is getting a new title, new cover, and new interior, and throws off all the other books. So I've been doing lots of work on all of them.

I hope to re-release the entire Saga with the publication of Cry.

Secondly, and here's the exclusive scoop, the never-before revealed funness (no, "funness" is not really a word):

*drumroll*

... the unveiling of Raven Eye Press. All the re-releases will include a custom logo designed by graphic designer Elle Boozer and will be listed on a new site dedicated to the press. The site has a bit more work to undergo before it's ready, so I still have much to do before I can take a vacation.

More to come...