Archive for June, 2019

Halfway Through the Year

Madness!

(Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement about both PowerPoint and my class in general on Tuesday. You’ll be happy to know that I did finish the class and now just need to record the audio and get the thing posted.)

(Even thanks to Rick, who expounded on the value of using an overhead projector. :P)

Where is the year going? It’s half gone. It’s half gone and I am not being nearly as productive as I would like to be.

May was a wash, of course, due to certain unfortunate circumstances that we’re still dealing with, and June hasn’t been much better around the small, mobile ones being out of school (and some of us having been too eager when signing people up for summer camps). February was my surgery, and there was the car accident in March (insurance guy is not currently calling me back, go figure).

I think, maybe, around mid to late July things will start to calm back down.

But, I mean, is anyone ever exactly where they plan to be in terms of productivity for the year? Maybe. Maybe there are people out there who are better at estimating how long it takes to do something and how much time they’re likely to have to do said thing.

It’s not all bad, though. I’ve gotten things done.

  • I finished my serial story, which I’ve been working on since 2009.
  • I have edited almost all my nonfiction books (on the last one) and have made all associated workbooks/journals.
  • I finished the dummy of my first picture book and have done some editing on it.
  • I’ve written a few new short stories, one of which was published on June 1 (here).
  • I’ve been working on getting critiques on books that are in the revision stage (expecting one back sometime in the next few weeks, yay!).
  • I’ve been working through a writing class that I bought ages ago and have a decent start on a new novel.
  • I’ve been writing drabbles in established universes for fun and practice.

So not terrible. Not where I wanted to be–I did want the nonfiction stuff ready to do a few months back–but it’s not nothing. And we’ll keep on trucking, and everything will eventually get done.

(And then we’ll start new stuff and the process will be neverending.)

How’d the first half of 2019 go for you, squiders?

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PowerPoint is Hard and Boring

Happy Tuesday, squiders! It’s a busy week around these parts (again) (we may have overbooked ourselves just a tad) but it’s fine. Everything is fine.

::nervous laughter::

So, if you guys have been around the last few months, you know I’ve been working on a Skillshare class to supplement my nonfiction book series (also in progress). There are, of course, a number of ways to make a class, but seeing how, at least for this first class, I’m not actively demo-ing anything, it seemed to make the most sense to make a PowerPoint with a voice-over track. (The intro and projects videos will be true videos, but the main content is in PowerPoint.)

Great, right? PowerPoint. I used it all the time back in high school and college for presentations. Very helpful.

I don’t know what’s changed, honestly. I mean, they moved the menus around, but they did that for all the Office stuff, so not that weird. I found the animations and the drawing stuff and, really, what more do you need?

So that’s not it. And the content is also fine–I’ve got a palette and fonts that match the workbooks I put together, and this is a subject I’m familiar with and am perfectly happy to talk on, so it’s not that hard to put the slides together.

Except it feels like pulling teeth. Why?

Best I can figure is because I’m writing out the script in the notes as I go. This seemed to make the most sense to me, so that I know the points I’m hitting/have hit and can keep track of what I’ve covered, and so that it will be easier when recording the voice over because I won’t have to think too hard about what I’m saying for each slide (and will hopefully avoid “um”ing all over the place).

Being prepared is a good thing, Kit.

I don’t know. It just seems way harder and more time consuming than it should be.

Any tips, squiders? Any thoughts why it seems like it’s taking so long? If you were taking a writing class (say on expanding ideas or learning how to outline) would you rather have the visuals of a presentation or watch someone lecture?

WriYe and Pen Names

Man, this week, squiders. The small, mobile ones have summer camps at the museum/zoo, which are conveniently next to each other, but are inconveniently an hour drive from our house. So I either have to stay here all day (and I have the smaller one for half the day, because she’s not old enough for full day), or I have to drive up, drop one, drive home, drive back, drop the other, get both, and then drive home again.

I am so, so sick of driving the same stretch of road.

And I’ve had to go back, because I have been sick. Apparently I have contracted tonsillitis from goodness knows where, and so I have had to go to the doctor’s, to make sure my tonsils don’t need to be removed. Yay.

(It’s excellent timing, as I’m supposed to be teaching songs to kids next week and can barely talk at the moment. Yay. I am so thrilled.)

But enough about that. Ugh, seriously.

Though I realize we’re most of the way through June, here’s the WriYe blog prompt for the month.

Real name vs pen name? Is one better than the other? Why or why not?

This is a question I struggle with all the time. Should I write under a pen name? Should I have multiple pen names for different genres? For adult stuff versus kid stuff?

It’s actually a subject I routinely bring up in discussions with other writers, who are probably all sick of me asking.

I’ve heard arguments both ways. Your real name is easily to maintain legally, if someone’s pirating you. Pen names help separate your real life from your public life. Using one name lets you show the breadth of your work, whereas using pen names lets you target specific reader groups so they know they’re going to get something they like.

I’ve given it a lot of thought, and to be honest, still have no clue. Right now I figure I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Bonus:
Which would you use? Real or pen name? Why?

Well, I do use my real name right now. It is nice and alliterative (I had another writer at a conference ask me if it were real once), and it’s also nicely gender neutral, which can be a plus when writing speculative fiction.

But I am still on the fence.

Next week I should have more time, squiders, so I’ll see you then!

Promo: Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall

Morning, squiders! Happy Tuesday! Today I have Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall for your perusal. (There’s an excerpt at the bottom as well.)




YA Fantasy
Date Published: June 18th 2019
Publisher: Capital Station Books

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Magic. Sailing. A murderer among heroes.

Gravedigger Volke Savan wants nothing more than to be like his hero, the legendary magical swashbuckler, Gregory Ruma. First he needs to become an arcanist, someone capable of wielding magic, which requires bonding with a mythical creature. And he’ll take anything—a pegasus, a griffin, a ravenous hydra—maybe even a leviathan, like Ruma.

So when Volke stumbles across a knightmare, a creature made of shadow and terror, he has no reservations. But the knightmare knows a terrible secret: Ruma is a murderer out to spread corrupted magic throughout their island nation. He’s already killed a population of phoenixes and he intends to kill even more.

In order to protect his home, his adopted sister, and the girl he admires from afar, Volke will need to confront his hero, the Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma.

A fast-paced flintlock fantasy for those who enjoy How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, Unsouled (Cradle Series) by Will Wight, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan.

About the Author


Shami Stovall relies on her BA in History and Juris Doctorate to make her living as an author and history professor in the central valley of California. She writes in a wide range of fiction, from crime thrillers to fantasy to science-fiction. Stovall loves reading, playing video games, entertaining others with stories, and writing about herself in the third person.

 

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Excerpt:

I outlined a fresh grave for the cemetery as bells rang from the isle’s tower, signifying the start of the celebrations. The soil reeked of ammonia and rot, but the crisp morning breeze washed the scent away, dispersing it over the ocean. I removed my shirt, allowing the wind to cool me while I worked.

Every ten years, the people on the Isle of Ruma gathered to watch the fledgling phoenixes bond with a few chosen mortals. Lamplighters did their duty despite the glorious sunshine, each lamp’s fire representing the flames of phoenixes. Merchants cleared their horses and carts from the main road in anticipation of the crowds.

This was my second Day of Phoenixes. A decade ago, on my fifth birthday, I missed the bonding ceremony to attend my father’s trial. He was convicted of murder, but because he hadn’t been born on the island, he was taken to the mainland for final judgement. That was the last time I saw him.

Although the last Day of Phoenixes had been inauspicious, I intended to change that. Once I had finished digging a shallow grave, I would make my way into town.

I slammed the shovel’s head into the dirt and scooped deep. The cemetery sat near the edge of the island, far from those gathering to observe the hopeful students trying to win the favor of the phoenixes.

Tradition stated that anyone who handled sewage, waste, and dead bodies wasn’t allowed to attend the bonding ceremony, which was just my luck. After my father was sent away, I could’ve been given to any profession for apprenticeship. I could’ve gone to the carpenter and learned the craft of woodworking, or I could’ve gone to the silversmith and learned the art of fine metal work, but misfortune hounded me like a shadow. I was given to the gravekeeper, slated to dig corpse-holes until the end of time, forever exiled from the festivities.

I still intended to go. Even if it meant ignoring the traditions of the isle—something unheard of on our tiny spit of land—no one could stop me from proving myself to a phoenix. No one.

I scooped another mound of dirt and tossed it to the side.

“You look deep in thought, Volke,” my fellow corpse-hole apprentice, Illia, said. “What’re you planning?”

“I’m waiting for the trials to begin.”

“And then what?”

“You’ll see.”

Illia sat in the shade of a cypress tree, her legs crossed and her chin in both hands. Most people hated the thought of sitting on graves, since it was supposed to bring bad luck, but Illia wasn’t like most people. She leaned back on a headstone and exhaled as the ocean wind rushed by, catching her wavy brown hair and revealing the scars on the side of her face.

 She held a hand over the marks, like she always did. The moment the wind died down, she pulled some of her hair around to cover her scars, hiding the old knife wounds that had taken her right eye.

 I finished one half of the grave and huffed.

Illia and I lived in a tiny cottage on the edge of the cemetery, apprenticed to Ruma’s sole gravekeeper. We both held the glorious title of gravedigger. Like me, she had no family. Well, we had each other, and Gravekeeper William, but he hardly counted.

For ten years, Illia and I had considered ourselves brother and sister, and siblings always know each other’s mood. Illia displayed all the telltale signs of irritation—narrowed eye, rarely blinking, her mouth turned down in a slight frown. She hated the fact I was keeping secrets from her. If I didn’t explain myself quick, she’d exact her revenge.

“I don’t want to become the next gravekeeper,” I said as I threw a mound of dirt off to the side.

With an eyebrow sarcastically raised, Illia asked, “So you’re going to impress a phoenix and leave this place, is that it?”

“That’s right.”

“Only two phoenixes were born this year,” she said, wagging her finger. “And the schoolmaster has already picked his two favored disciples to win the right to bond. No one wants you to take a phoenix from either of those try-hards.”

“I don’t care.” I scooped out another clump of dirt, my grip on the shovel so tight it hurt. “Bonding with a phoenix is too important. Besides, no one on this isle likes me anyway. Why should I start caring about their opinions now?”

Good Omens

Maybe it’s just my corner of the Internet, but Good Omens is everywhere. My entire tumblr feed–normally a mixture of Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, silly cat videos, and other assorted nerdy things–went COMPLETELY Good Omens.

This is, of course, because the mini-series came out on Amazon a little over a week ago, and apparently hit enough people’s buttons that the scifi/fantasy portion of the Internet picked it up and ran with it.

(I’m through episode 4 myself.)

While I’m not done with the mini-series, I am enjoying it. I don’t remember the book terribly well so I’m unsure how close it is to the original story. There’s obvious upgrades to bring the story into the present versus 1990 when the book came out (technology mostly), but beyond that, I just don’t really remember.

I mean, I do remember the book. Or I remember reading the book. It probably was at least a decade ago, if not longer. Books are interesting that way, aren’t they? Some stand out, and you remember them throughout the years. Others just fade away into a vague memory, and you couldn’t remember anything about them if you tried.

I remember Good Omens because it was the last chance I was giving Neil Gaiman. Have you ever run into that? You pick up an author that you should like, but something’s just not working for you. When I picked Good Omens up (and I actually think it was a birthday present or something) I had already read Neverwhere (lovely worldbuilding, lacking on plot and characterization) and Stardust (very different from the movie, more about that in a second) and had not particularly liked either of them, and was about to give Neil Gaiman up as Not For Me.

(I know the saying goes that the book is better than the movie, but I think that, objectively, this isn’t always true. My experience has been that it depends on which you did first, book or movie, and how much you enjoyed the initial version you were introduced to. Jurassic Park, for example. Movie first for me, and then I read the book some time after. It’s a fine book, but I prefer the movie. (The Lost World, however, is far superior in book form.) Stardust is the same for me. I really enjoyed the movie, and the book is very different, so I didn’t like it as much.)

(And then you have Howl’s Moving Castle, where the book and movie are wildly different and I adore both of them.)

But I liked Good Omens. I especially identified with Aziraphale, who basically just wants to be left alone to read his books. And I am glad I did read it, because my logic at the time was that, since I had liked it, and because I hadn’t particularly liked the other things Neil Gaiman had written, I should look more into Terry Pratchett, and the Discworld books are a gift (my favorite that I’ve read thus far is Equal Rites).

(And I eventually read American Gods, so Gaiman’s redeemed for now as well.)

Do I have a point? Not sure. I guess that Good Omens fits onto a short list of books that I remember where their being read affected something in real life. And that the mini-series is worth a look because it feels very true to the book, whether it actually is or not.

Watching the mini-series, squiders? What do you think? (Aziraphale is still my favorite.) Thoughts on Discworld or other Gaiman/Pratchett books?

Promo: The Mercenary Code by Emmet Moss

Good morning, squiders! Today I have a promo and excerpt for you for Emmet Moss’s new epic fantasy novel, The Mercenary Code, which is book 1 of the Shattering of Kingdoms series.


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Epic Fantasy
Date Published:  May 2019

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The Shattering of Kingdoms, Book 1
Break the Code. Shatter the World.

Centuries ago, the murder of a beloved king tore apart the Kingdom of Caledun. The land was plunged into chaos and thousands perished in the aftermath. A new order was established in an attempt to return Caledun to its former glory. It failed, but in its place rose the beginnings of the Code.

During this same period, the mystical caretakers of the Great Wood retreated from the world of Kal Maran, their disappearance an ominous harbinger of the suffering that was to follow. The Great Wood now grows out of control. Cities, towns, and villages have fallen before the relentless march of the forest. Without the former guardians to keep her tame, the wood has become a place of peril, and dark creatures of legend now hunt beneath its leaves.

The summer season is now a time of armed conflict. The fall of the old monarchy has brought about a ceaseless cycle of combat. Grievances are settled by the strict tenets of a binding Mercenary Code and the men who would die to preserve its honour.

However, change is in the air. Political rivalries have escalated, and dire rumblings of a revolution abound. Thrust to the forefront of the shattered land’s politics, a mercenary fights for more than just riches. In the north, a borderland soldier wrestles with his own demons and looks to find his true purpose. And in the shadow of the Great Wood, a young man’s chance encounter with a strange visitor gives hope to a land divided.



Excerpt
chapter IX

Bider’s gaze wandered over the assembled enemy troops camped beyond bow range on the outskirts of the city. At least a thousand men lay to the west, another four hundred were guarding any attempt at a sortie from the south gate. A dozen distinct banners flapped in the strong wind, with each company standard easy to distinguish from Bider’s elevated vantage point. He studied the banners and counted only one northern company among the groups to the south. Most were unfamiliar him, and his eyes settled uneasily on the symbol of the black hyena belonging to Khali’s Reavers.

Nudging Orn, Bider gestured out towards the standard. “What’s the story behind the Reavers?” he asked. “You’ve been around since the early days of the Fey’Derin.”

“The Reavers are a bad lot,” Orn said, spitting over the wall. “A very bad lot.”

“That’s what I know, not what I want to hear,” Bider pressed.

Orn gave his companion a deliberate once over before answering. “Over the last century or so, there have been several unspoken rules in our profession,” he began, “One, is to always minimize casualties of the innocent, especially women and children. Another is to always accord captured officers fair and just treatment. Although such rules were never written into the Code, mercenary companies don’t take kindly to torturers —”

“So Khali’s men tortured officers?” Bider interrupted with alarm.

“If you’re going to interrupt, I’ll stop right here and now,” Orn growled. “Now are you going to shut that trap of yours or not?”

“Yes, sorry.” Bider answered timidly.

“As I was saying, there are several actions that are widely frowned upon. The last revolves around a company’s base of operations during the winter months. Be it a temporary encampment, or a permanent home city, it matters not. You leave the men and their families alone. There’s plenty of time for killing when the spring arrives.” Pausing to take a long sip from his ever-present flask, Orn shot Bider a suspicious look. “You won’t say anything to the Captain now will you?” he glared.

“Not as long as I hear this story …” Bider responded carefully.

“Well, it was three seasons ago, the year before you came on as a recruit, and the company was staying south for the winter. It was the first time the Captain chose not to take us back north to Briar, instead planning to stay near the eastern edge of the Caeronwood. Sergeant Fenton and the Lieutenant left the autumn campaign early with our newest recruits and built a relatively comfortable camp for the men. Rumours began to swirl by season’s end that a few southern companies had been contracted out later than the usual, and many mercenaries across the region speculated at what might be developing. Seems a few of the nobles in the Protectorate territories held the northern companies in some contempt, deeming them unfit to fight in southern lands.”

“But the Code states that the whole of Kal Maran is fit for any company to do battle,” Bider retorted.

“That’s right, but it doesn’t mean it sits well with some of the noblemen hereabouts. The Code isn’t perfect, and men’s hearts can be easily twisted, even by the most mundane of things,” Orn continued. “After the Battle of Cobourne, where the Fey’Derin fought for Lord Erion Brawn, word escaped that an early winter bounty was out on our company. It seems the Captain’s choice of employer over the years had angered certain factions, most notably Lord Yarr and his ally Duke Garius of Imlaris.”

“I’m not familiar with that name.” Bider said.

“He paid a large price to spearhead the campaign against our recruits. They hit the camp before we could muster our strength and warn them. That twelve of the fifty-six men survived, including Lieutenant Burnaise, is something of a miracle. It was a slaughter, and our young men had no chance. Bran, that big brute of an Axeman, still sports a nasty scar under that beard of his, but at least he survived, unlike many of his friends.”

“And it was Khali’s men that attacked?” Bider hesitated to ask.

“Aye, it was. They showed no quarter. Women who had arrived from the north or sweethearts from the nearby towns, it mattered little. Khali’s men murdered them all. Sergeant Fenton died trying to protect his young son and wife,” Orn replied gloomily.

“The Captain was cold that day. He showed no emotion, and yet we all knew he was hurting. His vengeance was swift and as unmerciful as the unjust attack. He mustered half the company and ambushed Garius as he travelled between cities. No one walked away from that battle unscarred. Captain Silveron ignored the man’s pleas for mercy and took his head, sending it in a box to Gadian Yarr.  Then we travelled north, taking a winding road through the Erienn mountain range, passing by Dragon Mount and the Silveryn Mages.”

“And the Reavers?” Bider asked, entranced by the sorrow etched in the storyteller’s words.

“We fought them the following season. Sergeant McConnal nearly destroyed their vanguard single-handedly, and the Captain, well he was both terrifying and awe-inspiring to behold. We haven’t seen those bastards in well over a year now, and it’s all any of us involved in that ambush can do to hold our tempers in check. There’s a reckoning still to come. The Captain swore on those dead men that he would kill the man who coldly slaughtered those innocents, and if I know the Captain, that day is coming.” Orn hung his head as he finished, staring solemnly at the ground.

A long moment passed, and Bider felt a pang of guilt knowing that he had reopened old wounds. Ignoring Orn as he took a second and then third pull from his silver flask, Bider slipped down the stone staircase and left his friend alone with his thoughts.



About the author:

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Emmet Moss lives in Canada with his family and cat. He is a sports enthusiast and an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction. The Mercenary Code is the first installment of his Shattering of Kingdoms epic fantasy series. Book two, The King’s Guard, is set for release in Fall 2019.






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Flash Fiction to the Rescue

Morning, squiders! I talked a bit last week about how I’m having issues working on fiction with all that went down last month, and I think I’ve made a plan moving forward.

A couple years ago, I took a flash fiction course from Holly Lisle (you can find it here–it’s free). I was a little annoyed at the class set-up (you write all your beginnings, then all your middles, and then all your ends, and she recommends doing between 5 and 10 stories at a time) but I can’t argue with the results. I got four usable stories out of it, and I sold three without much trouble, which is pretty dang good odds.

(She also has a short story class–here–but I have not taken it and so cannot speak to its effectiveness.)

I’d remembered the class for some reason recently, and in my current state, it seems like as good a thing to go through as anything. I think I can tweak it a bit to aim more at 1000 words than the 500 the class is set up for, and also tweak it to get some stuff for specific projects.

I worked through the first part of the course yesterday (essentially identifying potential character motivations and the characters themselves) and already feel like I’ve got some solid ideas kicking around.

Of course, the challenge will be to see if the writing actually comes.

On the nonfiction front, I apparently got lazy on the last book when doing the posts on the blog, or else underestimated how much content I was leaving for the book itself. I’ve already written 3000 new words and still have two more new sections to put in. I’m also unsure about the book layout in general. Blargh. Things to have betas look at, I suppose.

I’m mostly annoyed because this is the last thing to get done before I can move into the beta stage, and it’s taking longer than expected.

How are you guys? Specific plans for the week or month?