Archive for October, 2019

Fantasy Cartography

Happy Wednesday, squiders! It’s been cold and snowy here, so we’ve been trapped in the house for essentially three days. The small, mobile ones are sad because Halloween things keep getting cancelled or delayed.

Nano starts tomorrow at midnight, and I’m essentially ready to go! I’ve got outlines for plot and character arcs, and I spent some time fleshing out my main and supporting characters. That’s typically all I need to get going–more than that and I start to lose interest or find the story gets a bit flat when I write it.

But a friend mentioned creating a map for her story, and that sounded like a good idea. I poked around the Internet for a bit and found a couple of different options, but some of them were not terribly intuitive with their controls.

I ended up with Inkarnate, which offers both free and paid options, and amused myself making islands across an ocean for several minutes. I like that it was kind of like your standard graphics program, where you can draw where you like, and change the size of your paintbrush to change the effects on your shorelines and whatnot.

I did run into some issues, though not with the program itself. My story for this year, World’s Edge, is based in the same world as my high fantasy trilogy that I’ve been working on FOREVER. The trilogy takes place on a single continent of this world, the geography/fauna/weather/etc. loosely based on Europe. At some point, many years ago, I did bother to create the rest of the world, but who the heck knows where I bothered to do so. One of my many planning notebooks? A Word document lost to the annuls of time?

(I did look through my oldest notebook that’s still floating around. Found lots of very interesting things. Did not find this information.)

(This is, of course, why it’s best to have a system for keeping track of your story information. This is something I have learned over time. Unfortunately this was a long time ago.)

(Wait, could it be in here…? No.)

Anyway, at some point I created the rest of the planet, and who knows where that has all gone. Not me! But it did cause problems when mapping, because I could recall that I had mapped this out once before, but could not remember what exactly I’d done. Three continents, I’m pretty sure. The trilogy one is well defined. A large one across the ocean is the goal of the characters for this book. The third one…? Did I decide who or what lived there? Did I name these other continents?

(There was another species in there, once, that I took out of the trilogy because it messed with its themes, but did I decide to get rid of the species altogether? This is the problem with working on something for 20 years and only starting to organize things in the last eight.)

Did I name the planet? Bad job, past!Kit. Keep track of your damn information.

But I have enough of a map for what I need, and I’ll keep an eye out for that old information, wherever it’s wandered off to. And, I guess, if I don’t find it soon, I should probably re-do it.


See you Friday, squiders, to see if I survived the kick-off party.


Promo: House of Ash & Brimstone, by Megan Starks

Good morning, squiders. I’ve got a book promo for you! Today’s offering is a paranormal romance, House of Ash & Brimstone by Megan Starks.

Hell has come to collect…

…but Gisele Walker has no plans to pay the debt.

As a half-demon paranormal bounty hunter, Gisele is used to flirting with death, but stealing a curio and opening a portal to Hell’s demon court is more than your average day job.

Now, she’s partnered with an infuriatingly handsome demon, Shade, who has more levels of grey than she can count.

Who can she trust to help save the city as Baltimore burns to the ground and ghouls roam the streets?

With a white-hot attraction burning between them and secrets blocking their path, Gisele must face her past and venture into the twisted heart of the demon royal court.

But with no memory of her past…

…will she be able to save their future?

Read an Excerpt

A jumble of computer equipment and business supplies littered the office floor. Orange, blue, and manila folders spilled from an overturned metal cabinet. And in the shadows, Shade sat slumped in her green swivel chair, the hundred-page contract in his hands. He’d torn half of the place and the whole of her desk apart. He’d rummaged through her files, knocked over her pen and paperclip jars, and ripped the bottom right drawer out completely, dropping it on the floor. It was the drawer she kept locked—the drawer she’d left the contract in.

Clearly, it was what he’d been searching for.

“Real mature,” she said, irritated with his reckless, temperamental violence and his blatant disregard for her privacy. “Find what you were looking for?”

No doubt he planned to tattle on her to their boss. Her contract aside, the grimgolem was going to blow a gasket when he accounted for the damage to their computers alone.

“I hope it was worth it for you,” she continued, “because I am not cleaning this up.”

Rather than glare at her, he looked away. His brows drew together, lips pressing a tight line. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way,” he said, voice raw. “They’ve tricked me.”

“Who has?” Gisele asked, but he ignored her.

The muscles in his arms corded as he gripped the contract tighter, crinkling the thick stack of pages, and she knew who he meant. He really was working with them—the elghoul and its master. For them. Working against her.

Son of a gun.

She chucked a stapler at him hard enough to bruise his chest, then crossed the room, closing the distance until she could have yanked him up by the collar of his soiled, bloody shirt. Instead, she smacked her hand on the desktop. Wood splintered.

“The woman in this contract? Who is she?”

“I can’t tell you that,” he answered, not even looking at her. Not even now. He sounded so defeated. “They’re going to kill you, and they’re going to use me to do it.”

“But why?”

“Because they’re cruel.” Bitterness swirled in his voice. “Because they can.”

And if they demanded it of him, he’d do it, just like that? What kind of a cold-blooded monster was he?

“Are you going to?” she asked, dreading his answer. “Going to rip me apart with your claws? Tear my throat out?”

The image of him, darkly winged and terrifying in the Office of the Paranormal, came crawling back, unwanted.

“Would you really do it?” she asked. It hurt, but she needed to hear him say it. “What happened to ‘I’ll protect you, so you don’t have to be afraid’?”

His little declaration hadn’t even lasted four hours.

“I won’t have a choice.”

About the Author:
Megan Starks is the award-winning author of the Gatewalkers urban fantasy series and a game writer at Obsidian Entertainment. A Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, Writers Guild of America award nominee, and Pitch Wars alumna with an MFA in fiction, Megan enjoys reading and writing paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and fantasy novels. Whether it’s dark demons, brooding vampires, howling werewolves, or feisty witches, Megan loves it all.

When she’s not penning novels about magic and strong, kick-butt heroines, she enjoys playing video games and spending time with her husband and their cat, Sushi, in California.

Look for Night of Sunder & Sorrow, the sequel to House of Ash & Brimstone, coming in Spring 2020.

Get a free prequel to House of Ash & Brimstone by joining Megan’s mailing list at:

Crave more #Gatewalkers? For updates and to chat about writing, video games, coffee, and cute kitty-cats, come hang out on any of the author’s social media sites.

Social media links: Twitter:

Buy links: The book is $0.99 during the tour.

Amazon Print (won’t be live until released day):
Publisher (City Owl Press):

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MileHiCon Aftermath (and More Pictures)

Woo, sorry about missing the second update last week, Squiders. It turns out that the combination of the spouse’s surgery and Fall Break was a bit of a mess.

But the con went really well! I had a great time.

Friday was my FTL travel panel, which went okay. Myself and the rest of the panelists had all come to the same conclusion with our research, in that it will probably be achieved via manipulating spacetime (warp bubbles, wormholes, etc.) yet the audience kept asking questions about accelerating matter past the speed of light, no matter how much we emphasized that that continued to be impossible. So! That was a thing.

Otherwise Friday was pretty chill, just getting the lay of the land, chatting with friends, checking out the dealers’ room and the art show. (If I had unlimited money to spend, the art show would be a dream.) I also wrote a thousand words on a scifi horror novella I’ve been working on and drew a picture for a story/art exchange I signed up for.

Saturday was pretty fun. Based on the costume dry-run, I bought re-wetting eye drops to go with the contacts, which made a world of difference. I wore the contacts for an hour and a half last Tuesday, and my eyes hurt for, like, 12 hours afterwards. But I wore them for eight hours on Saturday and was fine.

The costume turned out well, but was apparently not obviously a costume (though I got a lot of double-takes after people made eye contact with me, which was kind of fun). I was chatting with a friend when someone came up, stated they were taking pictures of all the cosplayers, asked for and took a picture of my friend, and then meandered off.

(My husband says that it looks like I’m dressed up for a presentation. Ha! Matches Book!Crowley, I suppose.)

Saturday morning I had a fandom panel, which are honestly my favorite, because we can all happily geek out together. Same friend from above was on the panel with me, and we discovered that we went to the same university, at the same time, and hung out with the same people, and yet had somehow never met at that point in time. (We met at a writing group about five-ish years ago.) Life is weird.

Mid-day Saturday I had a spot at the selling/signing table, and sold a decent amount of books and had good interest in general, which is always very lovely. Also, the other authors I was there with were great, and we talked marketing techniques and what was working and not. That’s really part of why I come back to this con year after year–the people who run it are lovely, and the other authors are just so great, and everyone’s willing to chat and network and share.

My friend Christy (the Aziraphale to my Crowley) showed up near the end of that. She couldn’t stay very long, unfortunately, but we had fun while she was there. And it turns out if you have both an Aziraphale and a Crowley, it becomes obvious you are cosplaying and people say nice things.

Near the end of Christy being there was the mass author signing, during which we discovered another Aziraphale and Crowley, played by Carrie Vaughn and her friend Wendy (whom I didn’t get to talk to for very long, but I liked immensely). So that was also fun.

Pictures, as promised (though the lighting is a little off, on which I blame the con):

Doppelgangers! Oh noes!

After the signing I had a panel on identity vs. memory, which was pretty interesting when I was doing research on it, and the panel itself was interesting (someone complimented me on in the bathroom afterwards), but I felt kind of useless, because half the panel was a psychologist and someone experienced in traumatic head injuries. Ah well. Can’t win them all.

Sunday I decided to bring the bigger, mobile one along because I realized he would totally be into the Critter Crunch, which is a robotic fighting competition ala Battle Bots. (Although, I learned this weekend, it turns out that the MileHiCon Critter Crunch is actually the FIRST combat robot competition, starting in 1987.)

So we spent Sunday morning watching the 2 lb. competition (BMO’s favorite was Sister Christian, one of those punching nun puppets that had been modified to shoot fire out of her mouth) and then the later afternoon watching the 20 lb. competition. The three hours in between we made rockets with the other kids and had some quiet time, where BMO designed cities on his tablet, and I wrote another 1000 words and drew some more pictures.

I wanted to show you guys the all-robot melee at the end of the competition, but it wouldn’t upload, so instead you get Toast vs. SOL. (Toast was advertised as being fully autonomous, and SOL stands for exactly what you think):

Of course, now the BMO wants to build a robot for next year, so that’s a thing. Mechanically I’m sound, but me and electronics have never gotten along so well (and I have the soldering scars to prove it). But hey! It’s a possibility.

So that was the con this year! It was lovely, I only got a little sick afterwards, and I have next year to look forward to.

How was your weekend, squiders?

MileHiCon (and Costume Pics!)

MileHiCon this weekend! Yaaaaaay. I’m mostly ready–just need to get marketing materials (mail list sign up, business cards) together, do some research for my panels, and put everything together some place where I can find it.

(To remember: book stand, credit card reader, water bottle.)

My costume is now ready to go. I test drove everything today with the exception of the nail polish, because I know if I do it now it will look bad by the weekend, and also I know how to do nail polish and it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Have a couple of pics:

Everything feels and looks pretty good! The contacts do tend to rotate, which I expected because of the reviews, but alas, they are what they are. (If you recall, this was the single pair on the entirety of the Internet that were generally the right color/design and also came in powered prescription.) Otherwise they’re great–the colored part doesn’t block my vision and they’re the right power, so I can see just fine.

And then later I realized I forgot to do the tattoo as practice and then had to do that separate.

Kind of hard to see, also alas.

That actually went really well too. Way easier to draw on my face than expected.

I’m on three panels for this weekend. I suspect I’m pretty low on the totem pole when it comes to panel assignments, because sometimes I end up with the weirdest topics. I’ve two this year that are a bit bizarre. The first is a panel on faster-than-light (FTL) travel, but from a real-life, scientific point of view. The panel coordinator emailed me specifically about this one, since she knows I used to be an aerospace engineer. I’ve tried to explain to people in the past that being an aerospace engineer is not actually that beneficial when looking at theoretical spaceflight, especially in a fictional context, but that never seems to stick.

(The book says it’s a panel of “scientists and experts” of which I am neither, so I definitely need to make sure I’m up to date on stuff so I don’t come off as an idiot.)

The second is about identity and memory, which is an interesting topic but, again, not one I really know about. Research!

I was originally on four panels, but two of them ended up being at the same time after the schedule was re-arranged, so I had to drop the one on Steampunk costuming. A little sad, as this is a topic I know about–I’ve done two different Steampunk costumes–but the other one is about fandom, and I love fandom, so it won out. Plus I know someone else doing that panel, so hooray, friends!

Plus I’m at the author’s table for two hours, and I’ll need to decide whether to do the big signing or not. It normally depends on if someone I know and like is also doing the signing. (What I find is that the guests of honor tend to get 85% of the attendance, and the other 15% spread out among everyone else, so having someone worth socializing with is a must.)

But yay! I love conventions!

(There is a slight damper on this weekend since the spouse is having foot surgery tomorrow and may or may not be functional. I will need to play that by ear and deal as necessary.)

Plus my friend will be there as Aziraphale on Saturday too, which will be nice, because it’s always nice having a friend about.

I’ll probably flail through on Thursday, so you’ll hear from me one more time before the Con happens.

Happy Tuesday, squiders!

I’ve Been Busy!

Sorry for the single post this week, squiders, but it’s for good reason! The first books for the Writers’ Motivation series are out! And despite the many technical issues, I also got my new SkillShare class up and published.

It’s been exhausting.

(I also finally bought boots for my costume. Hooray!)

But now I have lots of things to share!

Let’s do the SkillShare class first. This one is called Story Writing: Keeping Track of Your Story Ideas and is about setting up an idea storage system for writing ideas. It’s available here and is about 25 minutes long.

(I think I’m going to need to get a new camera before I film any more. Also apparently our local library has a recording studio you can rent out, so there’s something to ponder. But I’m not even going to look at the next class til December or, more realistically, January.)

And the books! Yay! (If you recall, I initially started working on the nonfiction books back in 2015, so I am so pleased to finally have them completed!)

The first book, How to Find Story Ideas: A Quick, Easy Guide to Making Sure You Have the Ideas You Need When You Need Them, is live and currently on sale for $.99, and the second, How to Outline for Creative Writing: A Quick, Easy Guide to Finding the Level of Planning that Works for You, is currently on pre-order for $.99 and will go live on October 22, which will give people time to pick it up before Nano if they so choose.

Both the companion books to the Finding Story Ideas books have also gone live (it did take the workbook the full 72 hours Amazon warns about). I waffled on the covers for these for a bit, but decided to go stay with the same cover image as the Finding Story Ideas book and then slightly vary the colors within the same color scheme so it’s obvious that they go together, but are not the same book.

(Sorry, I got distracted by my Amazon author’s page.)

Moving forward, the plan is for one book to come out a month, so Common Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them will be out mid-November, and so on moving forward from there until all seven books are out. (Though the last book, about Submission and Publication, could still use some tweaking, so if you’d like to beta that one, please let me know!)

And now, my next priority is being ready for MileHiCon next weekend (I’m on some more scientific panels and I’d like to do some research so I’m up to date on things, as well as the normal con-prep shenanigans. Oh, and the costume, of course.) and then beyond that, prepping for Nano. And then Nano!

How are you? Keeping busy? (Hopefully not as busy as me!)

Foundational Books: Everything by Bruce Coville

I initially got into Bruce Coville’s books the way a lot of my generation did–through the My Teacher is an Alien series. I think they may have been the first books I read that took real life and combined it with fantastic or supernatural elements. Before this, science fiction was something that took place far in the future with spaceships and whatnot.

From the My Teacher is an Alien series I moved on to his other series and books. There were the collections of short stories–ghosts, and aliens, and general horror–and more fantasy-oriented books, like Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.

(I see that he did eventually write more of the Unicorn Chronicles. Only the first book was out while I was still a child, and I always though it was weird that a series with “chronicles” in the name only had one book.)

And, of course, there were more aliens–the Space Brat series, for example, and Aliens Ate My Homework.

He’s written a ton of books other than those, everything from picture books to YA novels. Over 100, according to both Wikipedia and his personal website. Good for him!

Now, I will fully own up to not touching a single one of these books since about the age of 12. I don’t know how they’ve held up. (I think I have the My Teacher is an Alien books floating around somewhere, but I think I’ll give it a few more years before I give them/read them to the small, mobile ones.) But as a kid, they were great. Most of them combined humor and horror and were just really fun reads.

Read any Bruce Coville books, squiders? I feel like he and Louis Sachar were the reading backdrop of my childhood, since both were so proficient and seemingly omnipresent. I certainly read other things and other people (as we’ve discussed) but these guys were everywhere.

What was a book that really impacted you when you were younger?

Cosplay Update

Hooray! It’s October! 😀 😀 😀

(I’m always amused when arbitrary divisions of time line up with actual things. Yesterday it was 80 degrees. Today, October 1, we’re expected to maybe get to 60 degrees, and the rest of the week is likewise supposed to be appropriate for Fall.)

We’re now less than three weeks from the con I’m wearing my Crowley costume for which, wow, time got away from me there. (I suspect I just have a bad grasp on the passage of time.)

Things are coming along. My contacts should get here from Asia today, and my mother found this really awesome snake necklace that I need to go pick up from her.

I still haven’t bought boots. Whoops.

(I have a Stitch Fix coming today that is in theory sending me boots, so I’m waiting to see what I get. Tomorrow…probably buying boots.)

The biggest thing to do is to shorten the weird scarf thing. I looked into making it myself, but it ended up being way cheaper to buy a weird scarf thing off of the Interwebs. But it’s too long, so I’ve got to take like eight inches out of the middle and then sew it back together.

I do have pics for you guys.

First off, I have the glasses. I bought glasses off of Amazon that were perfect, except they had an extra bar across the top. I tried to take it off with metal snips which was a fail, so I had to get the spouse to dremel it off in the end. (There were sparks.)

I was a little worried about structural integrity, but it seems like that bar wasn’t doing anything anyway.

I’ve also been experimenting with the tattoo pen. I did a Starfleet insignia on my ankle a few weeks ago, which stayed pretty well. Didn’t rub off or smear, and yet came off with soap and water when I wanted it to, which is pretty awesome.

My biggest complaint is that it looks like you just drew with a sharpie on your skin. I did a basic snitch on my wrist today (so I can hide it under my watch band) and tried a couple of different types of make-up on it to see if it looks less marker-y, which didn’t particularly work. So it is what it is, I guess.

I also practiced drawing Crowley’s tattoo, both to make sure I knew how and so I’d have a guide to look at when I invariably try to draw it on my face.

Still having a good time working on the costume, and looking forward to wearing it in a few weeks, so that’s always good.

Anyway, happy October, squiders! I hope you’re having a great day!