Archive for December, 2013

Posting a little early because tomorrow I expect to be watching the parade and taking down the Christmas tree.

So, now it’s time to set goals for the year ahead.

  1. Publish THE BARD’S GIFT. I’ve already got the files formatted, uploaded, and checked. All I have to do is press the button. Release date is January 30th.TheBardsGiftCoverSmall
  2. Continue to query MAGE STORM
  3. Complete, polish, and publish THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and THE IGNORED PROPHECY.
  4. Complete the revisions to MAGIC AND POWER (or whatever the final title will be) and start querying that. It’s going to be awesome when I get through with it.
  5. Write something new, hopefully Weird Oz. Maybe, if I’m very good, two new things.
  6. Continue to learn and improve. Specifically, this year, really try to find the right formula for indie book promotion. The blog tour didn’t do a lot of good. Neither have Goodreads giveaways. I’ve got a whole month to figure something out for THE BARD’S GIFT.

Happy New Year Everyone

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I don’t make resolutions anymore, but I do set goals. And now it’s the time of year to look back and see how well I did. So here are my writing goals for last year and the results

  1. Prepare to query THE BARD’S GIFT. I did. I got it polished up and ready. I queried widely. And the only positive thing I got out of that was four personalized rejections variously praising my writing and the story. Rejections like that are not supposed to exist. Agents just don’t have time. I got four. If four agents took the time to do that, I can only conclude that they saw something good, but just didn’t think the story was commercial enough. THE BARD’S GIFT is now up next to be e-published, early next year.TheBardsGiftCoverSmall
  2. I also set a goal of getting my rewrite of MAGE STORM ready to query again. I met this goal, too. MAGE STORM is currently a first alternate in Pitch Wars. Wish me luck.
  3. Last year, FIRE AND EARTH was a first alternate (with a different mentor) in Pitch Wars. Ultimately, I decided to e-publish it.Fire And Earth Cover (Provisional)
  4. I set a goal to e-publish BLOOD IS THICKER and met that one.Blood Is Thicker Cover
  5. I intended to enter Writers of the Future at least once, but I didn’t. I just don’t write that much short fiction. The one I attempted this year turned into a novel.
  6. Write two first drafts. I guess I met that one, too. MAGIC AND POWER was a completely new first draft and I did a complete rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, too.
  7. Learn and improve. Well, that’s an ongoing goal and a little too vague, really. I met it, but for next year it might be nice to specify some target areas.

Next post, I’ll start looking ahead to next year’s goals.

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Posting a little early because tomorrow’s Christmas.

I finished this draft of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. It’ll need one more pass before it’s ready for beta readers, but not just yet. It should rest a bit first.

For now–and only for a couple of days–I’m taking a short break to recharge the creative batteries. I’ve been doing a little thinking about where the story goes from here. This should be the first of a four book series. I have a (very old) draft of the second book, THE IGNORED PROPHECY. It’ll serve as an outline, but will need to be basically rewritten, same as TSC.

I never got more than a few pages into the third book. That one will have a lot less sword swinging and spear wielding and more political upheaval. (It gets back to more sword swinging in book four.) I need to think out exactly how that’s going to work.

I’m also going to have to work out the bane of starting sequels (three times!) Providing enough grounding into a world and characters that have already been introduced for readers who start with a middle book without boring readers who’ve read the previous book(s). That, and giving a needed summary of what happened in the earlier book(s) without making it an infodump. Bothe are tricky to navigate.

For now, though, I’m just letting my imagination play with it.

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Not me. My writing is going pretty well right now. In fact, I’ve just about finished this draft of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. I’ll let it rest a while and then give it another go through before handing it over to beta readers in February.

No, in this case, I’m writing about the bane of this time of year–burnt out Christmas (or other holiday) decorations. Things that should light up, but don’t. I’ve been particularly plagued this year. But it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before. So, I’m going to depart from writing for this post to show you how I deal with it.

For example, this:

Reindeer Topiary

used to be a lighted reindeer lawn ornament. But then the light-strand burned out. And, of course, it wasn’t just a straight lightstrand that I could replace. So, after a little thought, I stuck the legs into some potting soil in a rectangular pot (which I happened to already have) and planted ivy at all four legs. It needs another year to really fill in, but it gave the old lawn ornament a new life.

This year, I’ve got two more outdoor ornaments that have partially given up the ghost. (Not to mention having to use a separate light strand to patch a gap in the pre-lit Christmas tree. But that’s easy.)

Spiral Tree

This one has decided that only the upper two-thirds will light this year. It’s going to be fairly straight forward to deal with, though. It also has a ground stake in addition to the patio stand currently in use. I’ll use another one of my unused pots, the ground stake,  and probably another ivy to grow up the spiral support. It’ll take a couple of years to reach the top, but I won’t have to go out and buy another one. (Not that I think you can even find these anymore.) Reduce, reuse, recycle.

This one:

Lighted Ornament

Is going to take a little more thought. The middle portion won’t light up this year. Right now, I’m thinking along the lines of a sphagnum moss hanging basket, but I’d have to choose the plants really carefully. Even here in Southern California, there aren’t that many things that bloom in December. Maybe foliage plants. Hmm. I wonder if there’s a ground cover form of holly.

Never give up. There’s always some way around any difficulty. Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice for writers, too.

Merry Christmas.

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It’s almost time to assess how well I did against this year’s goals and set my goals for next year. One particular goal has come into sharper focus over the last couple of days.

The next book I publish will be my alternate history/historical fantasy THE BARD’S GIFT about a shy girl tapped by the gods to save her people–by telling stories to inspire and direct those people.

I’ve already done the cover.


Here’s the first page as a teaser:

Astrid leaned into the freezing wind, staggering down the beach hunting for driftwood to feed their meager fire. She kept one eye open for anything edible. The gale felt like needles of ice penetrating even the thick white bear pelt she wore as a cloak.

The wind swept up the fjord straight off the icy sea, funneled by the steep hills on either side. Astrid paused to take shelter for a few moments under a rock overhang that blocked the gusts. With nothing to hunt for, she let her mind drift, retelling to herself some of the stories her grandmother used to tell her. It was almost as good as sleep to take her mind off her hunger and keep her company.

From her shelter, she could see one of the many islets in the fjord, one that would be a seal rookery later in the year. That made her think of the stories about selkies, sea creatures that could shed their skins and take human form once a year. She pictured them dancing down there on the beach, as the stories described. In her mind, the leader looked a lot like tall, red-blond Torolf. The stories said that if a human stole the seal skin while its owner was in human form, the selkie could be compelled to stay on land as the wife–or, she supposed, husband–of the thief. Pity the stories always ended with the selkie finding the stolen skin and returning to the sea.

She sighed. If it were only that easy. Why would Torolf ever give her a second glance if she could never manage to say a complete, coherent sentence in front of him? Well, Torolf wasn’t going to magically appear on the beach. She might as well continue her search. She had to go farther and farther afield to find anything these days.

Look for THE BARD’S GIFT early next year.

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And it feels good. Ever since my Weird Oz Story petered out on me, my productivity has been less than usual. Oh, I’ve kept on working, but I haven’t accomplished as much as I wanted to.

The decision to concentrate on one thing at a time (think of that) has helped. I’m making real progress on my rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE, adding depth and conflicts and all the things that will ultimately make the story even better. (Also longer, but I’m not going to worry about that.)

I also have some ideas on how to break up the log jam on Weird Oz, but I won’t tackle that until after the first of the year–probably not until after the conclusion of Pitch Wars. I’m going to have to go back and restart the story, but it won’t be the first time that’s happened.

Meantime, ‘ve put up another new chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER on wattpad, where you can read it for free.

Also, there’s only about another month to buy the Chimeria Omnibus,


containing both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER, for the price of either book alone. In mid-January, the price for the Omnibus will go up.

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Well, life is still crazy. Some things are anticipated–and then there are the surprises and unexplained phenomena.

I expect to have some work to do soon on my middle grade fantasy, MAGE STORM because I made it to first alternate in one of the Pitch Wars teams. (I’m on Team Jen Downey.) Yay! So now I can stop being on pins and needles about that. Which is good, because I’m still waiting for a couple of other things, including word on THE BARD’S GIFT. The submission guidelines say twelve weeks. Twelve weeks have passed and still nothing.

Meanwhile, I’ve mostly settled down at this point to finish this pass through of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. I’ll take the other revisions/rewrites one at a time. That way, I might actually make some progress.

Also, a post by the wonderful Susan Kaye Quinn  along with my ongoing reading of L. Frank Baum’s stories have given me an idea of how to unstick myself on my Weird Oz Story.

And one or two things are moving forward in real life, too. The pace is slow, almost glacial, but progress is being made.

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And it’s not just because of the season–although that’s part of it.

This post is a day late because life–and my house–got a little crazy on me yesterday. Oddly, most things seem to have returned to normal today. No better explanation so far than poltergeists. And, really, the only ghosts in this house should be friendly ones. Oh well.

I’m also feeling a little scattered–or maybe schizophrenic–because I’m trying to revise three different novels at the same time! I’m just waiting for the time I catch myself typing the name of a character from DREAMER’S ROSE into either THE SHAMAN’S CURSE or MAGIC AND POWER.

I may just have to decide to work on only one thing at a time. Think of that. If so, I’ll probably finish this pass through THE SHAMAN’S CURSE first.

My day was brightened by this very nice review of BLOOD IS THICKER this morning.

Blood Is Thicker Cover

Speaking of BLOOD IS THICKER, there’s a new chapter available on wattpad, too.

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I probably should be writing a mentee bio for Pitch Wars, but . . . well, that’s not really the kind of writing I’m best at–writing about myself–and, anyway, I feel that I’d like my story to stand on its own. Still, fingers crossed for MAGE STORM everyone.

Instead, I’m going to write about using stories as an escape. It’s one (only one) of the primary purposes of fiction–to take us away from our day-to-day lives and problems for a little while.

This post was inspired by a quote by Dorothy L. Sayers (who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries) I read somewhere:

Lord Peter’s large income… I deliberately gave him… After all it cost me nothing and at the time I was particularly hard up and it gave me pleasure to spend his fortune for him. When I was dissatisfied with my single unfurnished room I took a luxurious flat for him in Piccadilly. When my cheap rug got a hole in it, I ordered him an Aubusson carpet. When I had no money to pay my bus fare I presented him with a Daimler double-six, upholstered in a style of sober magnificence, and when I felt dull I let him drive it. I can heartily recommend this inexpensive way of furnishing to all who are discontented with their incomes. It relieves the mind and does no harm to anybody.

It’s pleasant to share time–either writing or reading–with a character that doesn’t have to worry about the same things we do. As a writer, I have more scope for this than my readers. I get to spend more time with the characters as I write and revise the story than readers ever will. Plus, I get to determine the backgrounds–privileged or impoverished–from which my characters come.

Of course, those characters do have to have problems or there isn’t much of a story. This wasn’t too much of an issue for Lord Peter, because his problem was almost always a mystery to be solved. Only a few times did those mysteries really impinge on his life.

For other kinds of stories–quests, for example, which are common in fantasy and even some science fiction–that won’t work. We have to put the characters in real danger, chase them up trees and throw rocks at them.

But, you know, even that is a kind of escape. Going along, from our safe arm chairs, on hair-raising adventures or romantic adventures, takes us out of the here and now temporarily. Some days, we all really need that. 

Good thing those stories are fun to write, too, isn’t it?

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Another reason for using orphan heroes, especially in middle grade or young adult fiction, occurred to me. Sometimes it means the hero has nothing to lose. This is certainly true for Harry Potter. Did anyone seriously doubt that Harry would go with Hagrid to Hogwarts rather than stay with the Dursleys? What did he have to stay for?

But isn’t it more interesting when the hero, like Frodo, has a real choice to make? When they are giving something up to follow the call to adventure?

Of course, there’s still another reason for using an orphan, abused, or misunderstood character–when it’s central to the plot. For example, I mentioned Menolly from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Song series in my last post. If Menolly hadn’t been misunderstood and neglected, she would never have been in that cave to find and impress the fire lizards and the story wouldn’t have been even vaguely the same.

Harry Potter, too. If Voldemort hadn’t killed Harry’s parents and failed to kill Harry, then Harry would not have been the chosen one who could ultimately kill Voldemort.

That, of course, is a horse of a different color. So, I guess the lesson is, if you’re going to use an orphan hero, don’t just use it as a starting point. Make it important to the story.


For another month or so, the omnibus edition containing both BLOOD WILL TELL and BLOOD IS THICKER is the same price as either one alone.

Also, another chapter of BLOOD IS THICKER is now available free on wattpad.


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