Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Cover Reveal: Cutlass

Ashley Nixon is publishing her book Cutlass, and I'm here to help with her cover reveal! Okay, so here's what you want to know...

Publication date: April 23rd 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult


Notorious pirate Barren Reed has one thing on his mind: Revenge against the man who killed his father. So kidnapping his enemy’s fiancĂ© seems a perfect plan…until he actually does it.

Larkin Lee is more than a pretty face and fiancé to a powerful man. Her fierce personality is enough to make any pirate want to push her overboard.

But when the King of the Orient comes to Barren with a task—to find the Bloodstone, a powerful gem thought only to exist in legend, Barren sees another opportunity to destroy his enemy. Together, Barren, Larkin and a crew of pirates set off to find the stone, only to discover it caused the death of Barren’s own mother and Larkin’s, too. As his strongest allies turn into his greatest enemies, and the life of the girl he kidnapped becomes more important than he ever dreamed, Barren’s quest for revenge becomes a fight to save the Orient.

Find it on Goodreads.

Author Bio

Ashley was born and raised in Oklahoma, where the wind really does sweep down the plains, and horses and carriages aren't used as much as she'd like. When she's not writing, she's hard at work on her Master's degree in Library Science and Information Technology, working out, or pretending she's Sherlock Holmes. Her obsession with writing began after reading the Lord of the Rings in the eighth grade. Since then, she's loved everything Fantasy--resulting in an unhealthy obsession with the 'geek' tab on Pinterest, where all things awesome go.

(I also grew up in Oklahoma. Unfortunately we never met, though we're the same age. Go figure.)

And now...the cover!


Free Copy

In case you didn't see it the other day, I posted an entry for Project for Awesome, my video here.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Project for Awesome

This is my entry for Project for Awesome, which begins tomorrow. I encourage you all to check it (P4A) out, and think about donating!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Win NaNoWriMo!

And since I've won, my motivation to keep going has dropped drastically. Still making progress toward "The End," but not as quickly as before.

Here's my latest vlog post:

In case you didn't catch it last post, I'm doing a Goodreads Giveaway for a hardcover copy of The Complete Guide to Being Evil. Check it out!

Have a happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Giveaway: Hardcover of The Complete Guide to Being Evil

I'm running a giveaway for the hardcover version of my book. Go here to enter to win!

And if you're looking for a deal on an ebook to give to your readerly friends for Christmas (or for yourself), it's on sale on Smashwords for $.99 from Black Friday through Cyber Monday, after which it will return to its regular price of $2.99.

Have a great Friday!

Friday, November 15, 2013

NaNo Update 2

So much to do this month! Promoting my book, work, children, husband, writing, vlogging. I think I need a vacation, or at least a fuzzy animal to pet and relieve my stress. Or a massage therapist.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Misha Gericke Guest Post

Today we have a guest post by Misha Gericke (which I am SO SORRY I put up so late today). Take it away Misha . . .

When Laura asked me to write about my plotting method for NaNoWriMo, I nearly burst out laughing. See it’s a bit ironic, because I always pants through my first draft.

And the reason why I pants through my first draft? Because The Vanished Knight was impossible to plot. As in… I tried multiple times, even on computer software, and no matter what I do, everything ends up looking like a mess when it really isn’t.

So I stopped plotting my rough drafts. After I did, I realized it actually makes a lot of sense to me. I draft by hand (which is a blog post all on its own), so if I veer off from the pre-planned plot, I’m going to have a heck of a time to get back to the story. Besides, I prefer my roughs to be about exploration and discovery. Not following some plan that might not live up to my imaginings after all.

In a sense, I guess I’m saying that I’m drafting to look for a plan. There’s no plan for a plan. There’s only finding it. So I mess up and get stuck and fix it and get plot bunnies and random new characters and figure how everything actually works together.

The only thing I must know while drafting is the climax. What’s the shock/horror/result of the whole thing? If I know that, I have something to write towards. Without it, I’d end up chasing my tail.

And then…

And then when I know how everything thing works together, I create a plan. Ooh… I’m hearing some brakes screeching in pantser minds. And quite a few “Oh-no-she-didn’t!”s. But yeah, it’s true. I open my writing program (Scrivener) and put down the scenes I know I want to write. This is far from cemented in my mind, though.

See the plan is for the rewrite (yes, I rewrite every single draft I ever create), and I’m still learning a ton from my story as I’m doing it. So often, I’ll rework the whole plan as I go in order to shift the focus in a way that improves the story. Which means that as far as planning goes, there’s really not much of a plan. Same rule as for the rough draft applies, though. I always need to know where the story’s headed. I don’t need details (although a bit more detail helps), but not necessarily step by step.

Yeah… I’m thinking I’ve convinced a few people I’m nuts, but hey, it’s a system, it works for me and I’m sticking to it.

How do you plan? Do you ever plan?

Thanks for letting me visit, Laura!


Since the death of her parents, Callan Blair has been shunted from one foster family to another, her dangerous secret forcing the move each time. Her latest foster family quickly ships her off to an exclusive boarding school in the Cumbrian countryside. While her foster-brother James makes it his mission to get Callan expelled, a nearby ancient castle holds the secret doorway to another land...

When Callan is forced through the doorway, she finds herself in the magical continent of Tardith, where she’s shocked to learn her schoolmates Gawain and Darrion are respected soldiers in service to the king of Nordaine, one of Tardith's realms. More than that, the two are potential heirs to the Black Knight—Nordaine's crown prince.

But when the Black Knight fails to return from a mysterious trip, the realm teeters on the brink of war. Darrion and Gawain set out to find him, while Callan discovers there is more to her family history than she thought. The elves are claiming she is their princess.

Now with Darrion growing ever more antagonistic and her friendship with Gawain blossoming, Callan must decide whether to stay in Nordaine—where her secret grows ever more threatening—or go to the elves and uncover the truth about her family before war sets the realms afire.

M. Gerrick (AKA Misha Gericke) has basically created stories since before she could write. Many of those stories grew up with her and can be seen in her current projects.
She lives close to Cape Town, with a view over False Bay and Table Mountain.

If you’d like to contact her, feel free to mail her at warofsixcrowns(AT)gmail(DOT)com, Circle her on Google Plus or follow her on Twitter. If you'd like to see her writer-side (beware, it's pretty insane), please feel free to check out her blogYou can also add The Vanished Knight on Goodreads.


And I have another vlog up below.

And welcome to my newest follower: shahwharton0472.

Friday, October 25, 2013

NaNoPrep and Game Spotlight: Terraria

I will be guest-posting on The Unpublished Writer's Guide to Survival on Monday, and on Tuesday we'll have a guest post from Misha Gericke, just in time for NaNoWriMo with her writing advice. So tune in! :)

Are you doing NaNo this year?

Edit: This is my 100th blog post! Party!

Welcome to my newest followers: Sanderella's and Nissa Annakindt.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

No Vlog? What am I Doing with My Life?

I do not have a vlog today! Between my basement flooding and attending the editing of my book trailer (should be done soon!), I couldn't find the time. I'll be back with one on Friday!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cover Reveal!

I'm not doing a huge blogfest for my cover, but I am excited to share it with you. Look at how beautiful it is!

The book is up on Smashwords for pre-order, where it's on Black Friday special for $.99 until the day after release.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

First Vlog: Twitter Rant

I am now doing vlogs instead of blogs, and here's my first one!

And don't forget to kick in to my Kickstarter project. Anyone who does so before the end of the 11th gets extra copies of the ebooks!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Which Book Should I NaNo?

That's right, NaNoWriMo is coming again. We have about one month to prepare for its madness. I have two book ideas in mind, and I'm trying to decide which to run with. So for today's Friday Fantasy Scene, I have a two-for-one. Side by side comparison of a (possible) scene from each story.

First, a note to the rules lawyers who hold sacred the guidelines for NaNo: I will not be counting these words toward the goal of 50k. I know you aren't supposed to write something for a book then continue it for NaNo, and of that I am guilty. But writing one scene can really help solidify a story idea for me, and I usually do so in the middle of plotting to firm it up. So yes, I'm technically going to be a smidge of a rebel.

Scene from Mage Assassin:

Steven set his hands on the glass that was still hanging to the car door, then opened his will to all that was scattered around. "Go back to your places," he whispered, and with a tinkling all the shards swept out of the car and off of the pavement, then rearranged themselves together in a very plain mosaic. He used a bit of will to pin them in the air, then said, "Grow hot, and meld back into one piece."

As the glass began to warp together, someone behind Steven said, "Turn around, hands in fists and tongue stuck out."

Steven froze, the bottom of his stomach dropping away, the glass going cold under his hands while still rippled and opaque. Crap. Crap, crap, crap. He put on his best innocent and pathetic face, closed his hands and put them over his head, and turned.

The man before him was muscled, tan, and wore a well-trimmed goatee. He was also pointing the end of a club toward him threateningly. A club?

"What the fuck?" the man said, lowering his weapon. "Here I thought they were paying me the big bucks to go after hardened criminals, not little teenagers who preform magic acts of charity. You are Stiofan Draper, right?"

"What? How'd you know--" Steven cut himself off, wincing. Stupid.

"Fuck." The man scratched his bristled chin, then shrugged. "Well, you should probably come with me, till I get this figured out."

Voice cracking, Steven asked, "With you?" He cleared his throat. "Why should I go with you? You just said you were going to kill me."

"No. I said I was paid to kill you, not that I was going to. I won't, by the way. Unless you start lighting old ladies on fire or something. Besides, even if you could get away from me right now, it'd still be a piece of cake to track you down again. And I wouldn't give warning first, next time. So if I do decide to kill you, you'd just be saving me a little time. You're definitely going to come with me."

Steven's shoulders slumped. "Got it."

"So get up, then. Come on."

Scene from From Unbreakable Eggs:

Bending over the river to drink, her reflection showed a very roughed-up girl. She splashed some water on her face instead, scrubbing with her palms at the grit and muck that had built up there. Vigil, all forty pounds of dragon, bounded up and leaned his head toward the water. He jumped back as if he'd seen a snake.

"What?" he said, then edged up to the water again.

She went ahead drinking, but raised her brows at Vigil.

He looked at her reflection, then up at her, her reflection again, and finally his own. He backed away. "Are . . . are you not my mother?"

Raina bit her lip. "I didn't lay your egg, no. But I've raised you--"

"We aren't even the same thing!"

"Species. No, we aren't. I'm sort of young to have children, anyway. I lived with my parents until--" She cut off as her eyes threatened to start crying.

Vigil stared at her a minuted before walking forward and laying his nose on her leg. "We are both without parents."

"We're orphans," she said, wrapping her arms around him and letting the tears come. She had a twinge of guilt for lying to him, but her anger at the rebel dragons fought the guilt, saying, With a mother like that, he may as well be an orphan.

Which one do you guys prefer?

My Kickstarter for The Complete Guide to Being Evil wasn't working, I've lowered the goal and will re-post it on Monday (the 7th). Thanks to all who spread the word or pledged. Please check it out again soon!

Also, my next post will be a vlog. That's right, I'm going video. I'll be embedding the vlogs here on my normal schedule.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What is this Shutdown, and Who's to Blame?

So, the shutdown.

First off, it's not one or the other parties' fault. It's both of them. We should fire them all, and get some third party people up there. But everyone's pointing the finger at the GOP, so perhaps their time has come and the Libertarian Party, as the third-largest party, can rise and take their place. With improvements. The LP stance is one in favor of personal freedom and, more importantly at this moment in history, lower government spending. One can only hope, I suppose.

Second, the shutdown is neither only a good thing or only a bad thing. It is a good and bad thing. The good part is smaller, it is that perhaps, with these continued failures on the part of our government, we can decide things aren't working and start over. Not super likely, but possible.

The bad part is that the continuous shutdown threats (there will be another on Oct 17th unless we reduce the debt) is a sign of a failing system, sputtering before it crashes. Great kingdoms have fallen before. The middle east used to be the crown of civilization, and now they live in squalor. The Roman Empire left the world in a dark age when it fell. And it's naive to say this can't happen again, or to our nation. And if our country fails, the rich will be fine, while the (tiny) middle class and the poor will have to struggle to survive, even more so than now.

I'm disappointed in our leaders, but not in a shocked way. More of a tired, but, "This was expected," sort of way. Isn't anyone else tired of them all? Why do we keep voting for the lesser of two evils? It doesn't help anything. The argument, "Well, isn't it better to have these problems than those others," is flawed, because all problems are leading us deeper into the hole. Stop voting for the guy with the smaller shovel, vote for the (admittedly less popular) guy with a pile of dirt.

Rant over. Sorry for being a downer. Hopefully my dismal thoughts have no merit and we'll keep chugging on.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Five Year Project Update

It's time for my Five Year Project Update! I know I've been updating you all a lot recently, but bear with me.

My goal for the Five Year Project is to self publish a book a year. This past month, I officially hired a cover artist and editor for my book, The Complete Guide to Being Evil, as well as a filmmaker and two actors for the book trailer. I made my Kickstarter project live, got more active on Goodreads, finally joined Twitter, and got my blog more visible in Google searches. I also narrowed down which book I'm going to write next to two options which I'm equally excited about (if you're curious, it's between Mage Assassin and From an Unbreakable Egg, summaries found here).

So many links!

Next Friday I will have, side by side, a possible scene from each of those stories. So come on back next week to vote on which scene and which idea you like best.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Kickstarter Video

You can find my Kickstarter project here. I also uploaded the video on YouTube, linking back to the project in the description. If you want to help me out, you can chip in to the project, or if you're low on funds, just watch the video and give it a thumb up. Thanks!

Finished! And My Kickstarter is Up!

My final revisions on The Complete Guide to Being Evil are done. I've got a few sketches from my cover artist, I've started my editor at work, I've finished my Kickstarter video launched my Kickstarter project! I've been uber productive this week.

I'm hoping within the next week to get my book trailer finished up and added to the Kickstarter. In the mean time, please check out what's there now and consider chipping in. I'd be eternally grateful.

In the next few months, I'll be making an appearance on a few blogs around, and hopefully a few well-watched book review vlogs. And on November 29th, my book will be published!

What do you plan to get done in this next week?

Welcome to my newest follower: BE Sanderson!

Friday, September 20, 2013

No Writing Juice to Spare

I'm revising. . .yeah, can't write new scenes unrelated to The Complete Guide to Being Evil right now. Sorry. Happy Friday!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Another Revision Update, and a Call for Help

I've had an explosion in revising productivity! This last week I tore through another 21.8k words of The Complete Guide to Being Evil (I've only got that much again left to go, now. Perhaps next Tuesday I'll be done?). And I officially hired a filmmaker (which I keep trying to spell flimmaker. Ew) for my book trailer, and today I begin casting for the actors.

Crazy! And that's while I had my worst two weeks (health-wise) that's ever happened to me. I had female issues, my mild IBS acted up, I got tonsillitis, I had a slight disk leak (thank goodness not a full-blown herniation), and then I got the sniffles. Blerg! But now that that's all (pretty much) over I feel packed full energy, and ready to do anything!

Except hiking. My feet aren't ready for that in combination with a full work week, yet. Plus it's still freaking 90 degrees in one of the northern-most places in the US. Wtf. Anyway, I'll get to that in the fall.

Call for Help: Anyone reading this who wants to help with my cover reveal? Shoot me an email at arbiterofsanity at gmail.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Night Alone

"Who is the girl who dances in starlight?" she sang, waving her staff. A column rose from the ground, stone grinding on stone. Stars streaked overhead, the meteor shower stronger than any she'd seen yet. She paused to stare at it, then twirled and went back to raising a new castle.

"Who is the girl whose soul shines so bright?" She gestured, and another column, identical to the first, rose nearby. With a point of her staff the torch on top lit up, providing a little more light to see by.

Another flurry of activity overhead. She glanced up at the sky, wondering where out there her home planet was, and if anyone there remembered her. One of the streaks of white, instead of fading, grew thicker.

She gaped.

As the line grew wider, it grew red. It became a line of flame, falling toward her lonely world. Then it impacted. A cloud of dust flew up in a cloud, obscuring a small portion of the sky.

She scrambled down to the ground, then skipped toward the landing site. Probably it was just a hunk of rock, leaving a crater in her perfectly-crafted world. But it was possible that maybe, just maybe, it was a capsule containing someone else to share it with.

"Who is the new bird landed here? And what new wonders will appear?"

Copyright Jacob Probelski, found here. This is the artist who will be doing the cover art for The Complete Guide to Being Evil!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Revision Progress

I've revised 11,300 words of my book, The Complete Guide to Being Evil, in the last week, which averages about 1.6k a day. Go me! I'll keep working as quickly as possible. Also in the last week I have found and settled on an editor and cover artist.

I spoke with a marketing consultant recently, and it sounds like I've planned out most of the steps myself already. Get a book trailer on YouTube, hire ad space, blog tours, focusing marketing online for my target reader. And I'd also thought of some things she didn't mention, like sending some well-watched vlog book reviewers a free copy of my book in return for a review, and paying Kirkus Reviews for their say.

So. . .do I really need a marketing consultant? It's starting to look like I don't. It would be cheaper and not that much harder to run my own campaign.

What steps have you taken to further your goals recently?

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Armed Gypsy

The fortune teller smiled at the man who entered her tent. After her eyes had readjusted from the flash of light to the darkness of the tent, lit only by candlelight, she shifted in her seat, allowing her earring and the bells on her wrap to jingle.

"I recognize your face. You have been to me before."

"That's the past, not the future," he grunted. "Get telling."

Her back stiffened. "You aren't really here for that, are you?"

"Oh, so now you can see some glimmer of what's to come, huh?"

"My gazing did not serve you well, then." She sighed. Truly she felt sorry for the man. But she had to eat somehow, and people gladly gave away money, most of them knowing it was all a show. A rare few, though, actually believed.

"You said to wait a little longer, and my waiting would pay off. I stopped looking for work I didn't enjoy, but I didn't get the job I wanted, either. I'm bereft! My wife left me!"

He was fiddling with something small. In the dark, she heard a bullet click into a clip.

Fool! she thought. He intends to shoot me, but didn't come prepared. She threw off her wrap--revealing a tight outfit that didn't inhibit movement, with two revolver holsters and a bandoleer strung along her hip. As she moved toward the tent flap, she drew and cocked her revolvers.

The man realized what she was doing and aimed his weapon at her.

She threw herself backwards, flooding the tent with light. He closed his eyes, just long enough for her to fire, pulling both triggers.

And now I continue to eat, and your misery is over.

Image found here.

Meh, not my favorite of my shorts. Whatever. I'm making good progress on my book, The Complete Guide to Being Evil. 20k of 60k done! And this image was done by another of the artists I'm considering using for the cover.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Winner! and My Goals

And the winner of the free critique is... Hanneen I Adam! Please email me your piece at arbiterofsanity at gmail.

So, as you may know from my last Tuesday post, I've decided to self-publish my novel, The Complete Guide to Being Evil. My plan is to use Kickstarter to pay for the marketing. And I think the best time to publish it would be Black Friday.

For that to happen, I'd need to have it funded by November 1st. If I let the Kickstarter run 20 days, that has it starting October 12th. For that to happen, I need to get it all revised in the next 5.5 weeks. I have another 47k words to revise, so I'd need to do at least 1.3k a day.

Challenge accepted!

Every week I'll let you know if I met my 9.1k per week goal, so that if I fail you can SHAME ME and I'll get back on track. Because I'm tired of sitting around wishing to be an author. It's time to go for it!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Caught in a Downpour

It was wet. The torrent had strangled the life from the sky, dropping the world into darkness at midday. As she walked along her feet squelched in her worn-out boots. Pretty amateur, letting her shoes go to the point they let water in. First priority of being on the move, after food and water are taken care of, make sure you've got reliable shoes. She'd probably catch a fever now.

Too late to worry. They hunted in the dark, so she couldn't stop to dry her feet. This whole storm was probably their way of extending the hours they could chase her. Had to keep moving, keep trying to shake them.

Not that she'd seen them for weeks. Or heard them, rather, since they kept to the shadows. Their rustles and thuds as they failed to be absolutely stealthy in their approach.

She'd thought of staying at an inn, where she could keep a fire going in the hearth through the night. But that didn't keep them from finding her--creaking on the roof by her window--only kept them at bay for a while.

A boom sounded around her, accompanied by a shot of light, exposing her position. A crackling laugh came from the dark.

They'd found her.

Image found here. One of the artists I'm considering using for my book's cover art.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I Have Achieved Google Success!

Google my name, and you come here. Hurrah!

See, when I started blogging, I had no idea how to add labels, or what they did. I only figured that out around May. Then I added labels, but not with my name. Then a few days ago I went through and added my name as a label to the past ten or so posts, and presto, I'm on top. Crazy!

I've been trying to figure that out for a while now, and I have to say it feels good. As a result, I feel like helping one of you out toward one of your own goals. That's right, it's a giveaway!

Prize: One free critique of up to 2k words of prose. This could be a query, a synopsis, or some random pages from your story. But I can't critique poetry, it's like another language to me.

Entry: Leave a comment to this post, letting me know what you like most and what you like least about my blog. The winner will be randomly drawn from the comments.

When I post next Tuesday, I'll announce the winner, and they may email me their piece for critique.

Thanks for helping me get this far by reading my blog. The next step: getting my book ready for publication. ETA three months. I want to roll it out during the holiday season, when people are buying Christmas presents for their reader-ly friends.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Post-SpoCon Thoughts, Plus a Decision!

Sorry I've been gone so long.

I went to SpoCon a few weeks ago. I met Brandon Sanderson, one of my favorite authors! I cosplayed one of his characters and went all fan-girly on him. Here's a picture:

I'm so cool...

Obviously I should have flared out the Mistcloak, and used a shimmery gray cloth instead of the dull black. I was in a hurry when I made it! It seems I've been in a hurry with so many things recently.

And during SpoCon, I reached a conclusion. I will be self-publishing. Not just as a back-up, but as my goal. The traditional publishing game is shaky as all get-out, and the giant Brandon Sanderson himself said that it didn't matter which route you took, as a breakout author you'd be doing the same amount of self-promotion.

Well that's what I wanted the traditional guys for...

But I've been doing some research, and I think I can handle the marketing beast with a little work. There's Kickstarter to help with the funding, Smashwords to publish the ebook, and Create Space to make an on-demand physical book sold on Amazon. Should be pretty good. My current step is finish the rewrite and send it out to a pro editor. All this research on marketing has dammed up my creative side it seems.

That, and how this past week I worked more than I've ever worked in my life before, all on my feet. It will all be worth it when my bank account reflects it, but until then, I'm exhausted. I wish I could burn pewter.

On another note, my entry got into Write Club, but it looks like I won't be winning my bout. I missed a grammar error before sending it, and there was a formatting error that popped up in translation between my email and the blog post which makes it look like I missed a second spot of sloppy writing... Frustration. Those who did vote for me said my piece was more moving and better written (barring the two sloppy spots), so I'm grateful for that.

Lately I've been getting the sort of feedback that makes me think I'm ready to publish, just as soon as I put that final shine on my book. If only I didn't have two young kids and an evening job! Eh, things can only get easier, right?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Desert Birds

He stood on the edge of the mesa, the ground far below. It used to be hard to breathe when he toed the cliff. Now he inhaled deeply, and tipped forward.

He accelerated quickly, the wind whipping through his plumage. Straightening his wings, his descent leveled, then reversed into an upward tilt. Pumping powerful muscles he thrust his wings down, gaining altitude. Behind he heard his mate flap against the air.

They were leaving.

The spot in the desert where they'd settled had too little prey, and they'd lost their eggling to malnutrition. So now they beat their wings to go higher than they did to hunt. He embraced the cold as he burst through a tuft of cloud, leaving a hole through it. Once above it the wind had less pull this way or that, and he could see only sky.

His breath came with a slight, pleasant burn. He would test his limits, flying where the air was thin all day. When he landed again he would find himself stronger, with more endurance. For a while.

If he decided to land. For now, he was king of the sky.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


First, I have no idea why they caps are the way they are in that, so don't ask me.

I'm entering! There's a raffle for $75 on Amazon, entered into by voting, so you should all check it out starting July 8th at DL Hammon's blog. I'm excited to see who wins.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Born

Her skin had itched for days, and her eyes had clouded over. She'd retreated to a secluded area of the forest and coiled up to wait it out. And though a deer and several rabbits passed by she didn't try to take prey. That was dangerous when blind, and she needed to conserve her energy.

The itching on her forehead intensified, and she couldn't resist. Her fingers clawed at her face, breaking through the layer of dead and touching soft, new flesh. She pushed her fingers under the sloughed surface, and pulled. It detached only reluctantly, clinging to her like web on a fly. Then all at once it was off--off her face, shoulders, arms.

The light was blinding for a moment, piercing white-hot into her head like a venom. And the air currents were so strong on her tender skin they felt like water, swishing this way and that with a chill touch. She blinked, and the world came into focus.

Crisp, sharp edges on everything. Individual tree leaves, individual blades of grass. The bark had infinite complexity. She could spot every bird that flitted to and fro, occasionally daring a decent to the ground to snatch at bugs. The greens, browns, yellows were all so poignant she could cry. Her shed skin draped her like a shawl, creating a buffer between her and the world now that her sense of touch had been magnified.

And between two stalks of lime-colored grass sat a squirrel, nibbling on a nut.

She licked her lips, the sensation of doing so sending chills down her neck. She normally wouldn't hunt such a small thing, but after shedding she was so hungry. She slithered slowly at first, hunched over, until she was within sprinting distance. Then she exploded forward, the force of her movements tugging the rest of her skin down off her tail. The squirrel, realizing its peril, froze for a half-second, its eyes growing comically wide. That moment of hesitation was enough to seal its fate.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Synonyms and Non-Synonyms

What is my most-visited website after Facebook, Gmail, Youtube, and my blog? My bank website, and xkcd. Okay, but after that it's a thesaurus! Because synonyms are one of my favorite things about language. Using them to get the exact right connotation with every word so that your exact meaning comes across and you have very clear language in the right style...ah. It's beautiful.

For example if your protagonist is smiling at someone they don't like you can say they're smirking. Or if someone is beautiful and also curvy you can call them sumptuous, but a beautiful skinny girl would be delicate or dainty.

(I realize now after rereading that paragraph that those are all three superficial examples. What does that say about me? Hm.)

What I don't like is when people use words interchangeably that are not synonyms. The problem with talking about these is that there's no word for them, because they aren't antonyms either, they're just non-synonyms.

As some of you may know, I work at a pizza parlor. While the word "parlor" may conjure up some classy image (especially if I spell it parlour as I'm used to seeing it since it's more in use in the UK than the US these days), let me assure you, this place is not. It seems like every other week I go in and we've changed one of the ingredients we use and it's a downgrade to save money.

What bugs me about on the same level as that is the customers who like to be argumentative about things, one of which, recently, was the use of the word "fresh." She told me she wanted fresh tomatoes on a pizza that comes with fresh tomatoes, and I pointed out they were always fresh. She said, "No, I mean don't cook them." So in my head while I was writing this down for the cooks I was thinking about how "fresh" wasn't the right word in that instance, because all the tomatoes we put on that pizza were sliced by hand in the store. The correct word would have been "raw."

And now some of you may be clicking on that thesaurus link and typing in "fresh" and finding that one of the synonyms is in fact "raw," and that is the danger of using only a knowledge tool without also using your brain. Technically they are similar, and can be used as synonyms in some situations, but this is not one of them. Since the tomatoes were not canned or frozen before ending up on the pizza, they would be considered fresh whether they were put on before or after baking them, whereas doing so changes whether they're raw.

So when using a thesaurus, if you find a word you don't know but it sounds cool and intelligent, don't just use it. Look it up on its own in the dictionary, and find out exactly how it's related to what you're going for. It may not actually be a fit.

What really got me is later when I read it back to her (and read it incorrectly when I had it written correctly because I'm so very bad at verbal communication), she corrected me, saying, "No, I want fresh tomatoes." So I gave her a blank look for a second and said, "Okay. You don't want the tomatoes cooked." Since I had already expressed my confusion when she used the word fresh and driving the point home more so than in a passive rewording would just have gotten me in trouble.

Can you tell I'm ready to be making money from books instead? Working for and with people who care about clarity and knowledge instead of consuming vast amounts of grease?

Tell me about a time you were annoyed at work.

"Why are your pizzas so expensive? It's a racket!"
"Because a large here would feed ten of me. This isn't Pizza Hut."
The background here is red because of the crappy red lighting at my work, which occasionally makes me want to stab someone, but more frequently just gives me a headache.

Friday, June 7, 2013


She skipped across the landscape, each bound sending her yards ahead, her dress whirling behind her. As her feet touched the ground earth elementals swam away through the dirt, looking for quieter places to rest. For though she made no noise herself there was a music about her, a rhythm in her step that almost made it a dance.

Sunbeams pierced the forest, lighting the air gold and expelling shadows. There was nowhere for her quarry to hide. Ghostly deer leapt around her, her past targets who were with her still, having taught her what she knew of hunting.

She landed by two trees which sprawled sideways at impossible angles in the light gravity, their mass jutted sideways over the world forever. Before her she could see it, her mark. She pulled her bow--the smoothest of hickory, oiled until it bled a spicy scent, bending with the strength of her arm--into position.

The world faded away until everything that existed was her, her bow, and her target.

She released.

Inspired by

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Creeped Out and Kid's Books

I don't know if it's just me or if this happens to other people, but sometimes the most random things will creep me out. For example, earlier today I watched the music video for "Somebody That I Used to Know" with his nakedness and hungry lips. Now I can't get that song out of my head, nor the pained expression on his face, and I have that gross feeling I get in nightmares when I grind my teeth.

I'm pretty sure tonight I'm going to have slimy dreams to do with strange, chilling men wearing only geometric paint.

Am I crazy?

Of course the last time I was creeped out by a guy this hardcore it led to a pretty decent villain, so you know. Silver linings and all.

News! I have begun outlining a new book, in the children's fantasy genre. My adult books are all too short, and I've had the beginnings of this idea for forever, so I've decided to sit down and write it. And it would be just my luck that my chapter book for ten year olds turns out to be 100k, just to rub in how The Complete Guide to Being Evil is still only 53k. I've been slowly getting that higher...

Anyway, I think kids need some more books to hook them on reading, don't you? Especially with our culture somewhat abandoning classics (How many kids these days have read more of Narnia than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe?) and producing 10 billion YA books a year, leaving little cricket noises in the children's section.

What's your favorite classic kid's book? (If your answer is "The Chronicles of Narnia" tell us which of the seven you liked best.) And what is most memorable about it?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day

I hope everyone had a relaxing Memorial Day. I know I did. We considered going to a theme park that had a veteran discount going on with another couple and their kids (so that one person could sit out the ride with the little ones while three people got to get on), but they never got back to us and we ended up staying at home.
"Today most Americans are not directly touched by war. As a consequence, not all Americans may always see or fully grasp the depth of sacrifice, the profound costs that are made in our name — right now, as we speak, every day."  --President Obama
I don't know about you, but this comment disturbed me. Speaking as a former Navy wife, I can say the most common sacrifice made by servicemen today is the lousy conditions they're asked to work in, even here at home. And the thought that most Americans aren't directly touched by the war is ludicrous. The war has bankrupted us, and all of the US is feeling that, severely, every day. Talk about making sacrifices.

What's incredible is that if we cut our military budget by forty percent, downsizing the number of service members while still paying the enlisted more (because right now they're making next to nothing. The postman gets paid more), we'd still have a more powerful military than the three next most powerful nations' combined. Why haven't we downsized? Because to do so is seen as unpatriotic, and not appreciating our troops.

Sometimes I feel like no one really cares how high our debt is. Gary Johnson, the only candidate who would have actually reduced it, got only 2% or so of the popular vote. But most people think voting for the lesser of the two big evils is the only way to have their vote count...heh.

I realize I've opened the floodgates here with political talk, but then Memorial Day to me isn't just a day of remembering, it's a day to look back on our mistakes and decide not to repeat them.

What are some mistakes you'd like to never see repeated?

Found this flag here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Straight Face

She wandered through the crypt, not remembering what she was looking for. Oh, right. A way out. Things had gotten so muddled since...since...

They fought side by side, valiantly, their swords ringing on shields.

When had that been? An hour ago, or a year? All she knew was she was lost. And that something had happened to her. Something...bad?

They vanquished their foes, sending each other a flash of a smile and gulping down healing droughts.

That wasn't bad. She dismissed it, turning her mind to other things. She stopped at an intersection and stared.  There were three possible ways to go. Which one had she taken before? She didn't remember. She couldn't remember most things, except when they surprised her in a flash of clarity.

They opened the next door--the last door--and gazed on their prize. The fabled statues of Alistamista, forgotten goddess born of Fitch and Weth. The wall behind them was carved into the top half of a woman, her arms coming to rest on the ground on either side of the group of statues, her face looking down on them wearing her holy mask of a blank face. The statues all wore the same mask, and stood the same straight-backed way.

She felt her back straightening as well. She took the right fork. She used to have a system, always following the...but she couldn't remember which wall she always followed, left or right. What did it matter which way she went? She'd never find her way out anyway.

As they widened their sacks of endless holding space to slide them down over the statues, the mask on the first statue began to turn. They paused to watch it. The mask tilted toward them, and they could see underneath. It was standing on six bug-like legs which ended in sharp points. After she felt a chill of dread but before she could do anything about it, the mask launched itself at her partner, landing on his face. As he screamed it dug its claws into his flesh, drawing the mask into place.

Ahead of her there was a light. She walked toward it, and found herself looking through an archway to the outside world. The long grass sighed under the wind, which was warmed by the rays of the sun. And yet she didn't feel what she'd expected to. What had she thought she'd feel? She'd forgotten. Because after what happened...

Rooted in place, she glanced at the statue without its mask, and then couldn't look away. There was little left of a face. The eye sockets were empty, there were gaping holes in the cheeks, and the top row of teeth had been knocked out, the lips there torn away. And she knew she and her partner were dead. Another mask began to turn, and this time it jumped at her.

Why did she care to get out? That part of her struggling to feel and remain autonomous...what purpose did it serve? She turned back from the archway. The others were more interesting than the outside. She'd go find them.

Welcome to Hanneen I Adam and K.E. Nowinsky, my newest followers!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Trip Thoughts

Yes, I changed my template again, and this time for good. The old one was too busy, it gave me a headache looking at it. Enjoy the new ease of reading!

As I settle in back at home I'll share my thoughts about my last trip with you.

The first and most blinding one is how the three of us (I took my two kiddos with me) must have set some kind of record for gathering the most ailments in one outing. First my daughter spent two days being sick from both ends, then she got a UTI as a secondary thing once that was over, then when she was finally better I got a horrible bowel problem for a few days, and lastly my son wound up puking. And NONE of it happened during the collective five days which we spent on the trains.

Second thought: long train trips would be really awesome without a two-year-old along.

Third, I am once again reminded that my parents will never understand me. When I told them (separately) about my success pitching to agents at the conference, they were each quiet a minute, then said, "I hope that works out for you," in a voice that implied they weren't holding their breath, then asked me if I'd thought about going back to school. To avoid conversations like these I spent most of my time there watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog which is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

Watching all of them took me longer than reading the book, but they're really fun. I've now decided I want Mary Kate Wiles, the actress who plays Lydia Bennet, to play the role of Kalara once my book becomes a movie.

Fourth, the conference was great. Can't wait to dig into my story and improve it, and I already enjoy blogging more after my social media lectures.

Have you seen the Lizzie Bennet Diaries? Who's your favorite actor/actress in them?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Floating Toward the Moon

The moon was up. It seemed bigger than normal, due to some horizon comparison theory, surely. But it wasn't next to anything. She looked for the horizon, and found it below her. She was floating.

Perhaps this should have frightened her, but for some reason it didn't. She gazed down. The city seemed so much more peaceful from afar. Quiet, and dark but for the sparkling of hundreds of balls of light. Softly smiling, she looked away with forgiveness, and saw what she was wearing.

It was a dress, in a blue almost as dark as the sky, flowing in a train behind her almost as long as she was. She didn't remember having a dress like this one. Of course, she also didn't remember why she was floating, so the origin of the dress shouldn't be any more of a mystery. Floating toward the moon...

Her eyes went up to it again, and it was even bigger than the last time she'd looked. She felt...expectant. She'd always longed for the moon. And now it was drawing closer...

My bad paint pictures return!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Agent Interest!

That's right, guys, the agents were interested in my book. Out of the three who I pitched, all three requested material. And later one of the people they were hanging out with told me to make sure to send it, because they were discussing my book, and said how cool it sounded! Of all the pitches they'd heard, they were talking about mine! Are there enough exclamation points?

They did have reservations because of the length, though. Obviously my next step is to extend it. The lectures I went to at the conference have gotten gears turning, and I've been thinking of possible sequels and the hooks I'd like to lay that will tie in with them later. It's going to be hard, but I'm ready!

My conference goodies!

The OWFI Writing Conference was very fun. I met Patrick Rothfuss, did the aforementioned pitches, and got to talk to Rebekah Loper face to face. The name tags were in super tiny print, so I leaned in awkwardly close to double-check it was her, which inspired some laughs all around. And I met Justin Herd, who told his wife I was her soul-mate, which I told him was a really strange thing to say to a spouse.

I also learned more about social media platforms, and as a result I've decided to change my schedule again. Friday will be reserved solely for the Friday Fantasy Scene, and Tuesday will be where I talk about whatever's on my mind. Those posts will be more focused, instead of sometimes involving four different topics. They'll also feature more bad photography a la me. And they're going to be more focused toward potential readers than other writers. (Sorry guys!)

So, potential readers out there: I'm working as hard as I can to come to a bookstore near you! Or more likely your Kindle/iPhone/Nook store, since more eBooks are sold than physical ones now. And I have a few questions for you.

Do you like reading sequels? What length should a series be? How many books is too many following one character?

And lastly, but not leastly, welcome to the following, David List!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Until Next Time...

In a few days, I leave for a three-week trip involving a writing conference, where I'll get a on-on-one pitching session with an agent. Be still my stomach! Along the way I will be focusing on editing, writing my synopsis, and the joy of my travel. I won't promise blog posts during this time. Fear not! I will return, and with more pictures.

As some of you know, one of my favorite current authors (along with Terry Pratchett and Brandon Sanderson) is Rachel Aaron. Today she wrote a really great post about the practice of writing. Go check it out!

I can't wait until I'm making money from writing. Not just so I can indulge myself when I want to buy that cute shirt in the mall window (or more likely that awesome-looking book), or just so I can live in a nicer neighborhood.

I can't wait because I want to be able to quit my minimum wage job, put off chores until the weekend, get a babysitter for the kids so I can go sit in a coffee shop, and actually get some writing done outside of NaNoWriMo. Because I know I could, were my circumstances different. And I know some people manage to write while holding down another job and raising young kids. God bless them. It's too stressful a situation for me to concentrate.

What roadblocks do you face writing every day?

For today's fantasy scene, I have the opening pages from my manuscript, the one I'll be asking an agent to represent.

The door Kalara and her attendants stood before was like every other door in the hallway—it had a high-sheen polish, with a brown mahogany stain that went beautifully with the rich cream color of the walls. Like dark chocolate drizzled on cheesecake. The door opened to reveal a tall man, with a long, bulbous nose that jutted from between a curtain of wrinkled skin, his eyes squinted almost shut underneath eyelids that had grown unwieldy with age, like twin giant tortoises. And he was wearing a black bow-tie. Obviously a butler.

“Neva and Tate, plus one,” Neva said rather loudly. Kalara's mouth quirked. Of course, who looking at him wouldn't assume he was deaf? His little wisp of paper-white hair looked ready to blow right off his head.

“Hm, herm,” the butler said, scrolling a finger along the guest list. Kalara's eyes wandered to the ceiling, with the irregular recesses. The motion might have resembled her rolling her eyes. Tate cleared his throat and, when she looked at him, raised his eyebrows. Be polite, those eyebrows said. You're our guest. Your actions reflect on us.

“Ah! Hum.” The butler's finger stabbed a specific line on the page. He stepped to the side—letting them see the sweep of the entry hall fully—and motioned toward Neva. “Hay hi hum hur hm?”

They stepped through the door, Neva whisking off her red fox coat and handing it over. While the butler fiddled with it, trying to match it to a hanger like an uncooperative puzzle piece, Kalara graded the room to herself. There were four mirrors, placed so she could see herself no matter where she stood. A little excessive. There was also a modern painting in the middle of the longest stretch of wall, breaking it up nicely. The art itself was dark, with a few tendrils of white, and a sharp stab of red on the side. The perfect sort of thing to make you seem deep, since there's no actual meaning in it.

The butler got Neva's coat hung up, and Kalara handed her own over. It was white ermine, with three main buttons to fashion it stylishly, and an extra one near her neckline for when it was really cold. The warm-up Neva's outerwear had provided proved useful, for the bulter only required a minute to hang Kalara's. While he was working on it, Tate reached past him and slid his own jacket onto a hanger himself.

When the butler finished Kalara's, he turned to Tate. “Huh?” He looked at each of them in turn, muttering, “Hun, who, hree...” He shook his head and started walking toward an archway. “Hum ahon.”

He led them through a hallway—also with a high mirror count—past two more arches, through with they saw the other party guests chatting in small groups, and into a dining room. It was done in antique cherry wood. There were high-backed chairs with woven, hard, black leather seats, and curved bars which were slightly thicker on one side than the other as the back support. The side that was thicker alternated from chair to chair. The effect seemed really reminiscent of something, but Kalara couldn't quite put her finger on it. And there were two mirrors in here, across the table from one another, so that anyone sitting at the table could discreetly check their reflection for lost lipstick or any food out of place.

The butler gestured to a set of open double doors, through which they could see several chefs working at various sauces, meats, and vegetables. “Here his he hihun.” He gestured to the dining room around them and said, “Here his hair hinnah hill he herve.” He took them back to the last archway they'd passed, where most of the guests were congregated in a group near the windows, around someone who couldn't be seen clearly through them.

“Here his hmser Hiccohm.” The butler bowed his head and went back into the foyer.

“Well,” said Neva. “It seems Whitcomb is quite busy at the moment. No matter, I wanted to see if Lucille Steer has arrived, yet, anyway.” She strode off, peering at each group she passed, and went into the next room.

Kalara looked at Tate, who raised his eyebrows briefly as if to say, Well, that was expected. Do as you like, then made his way to the wood bar in the corner where a few other men stood around sipping whiskey.

A serving man walked through the archway beside her, brandishing two trays of hors d'oeuvres. As she popped one in her mouth—neatly to avoid smearing her makeup—the large group parted, and she got her first look at Brentley Whitcomb. He had a great socializing smile, ice-blue eyes, and a full head of well-trimmed salt-and-pepper hair. As he turned one way and another, it didn't move a centimeter. It was absolutely perfect.

It wouldn't be polite for her to introduce herself. All she knew about him was that he owned a few funeral homes around The City, and he knew nothing of her. Only those originally invited had any connection to the host, and they RSVP'd saying how many extras they would bring, then tried to use the most interesting acquaintances in their repertoire as a way to be the most impressive at the party.

So she moved into the next room over, which was also a living room, to see where Neva had gone. She was in a cloister of thirties-or-so women, all with their noses up and none of their pinkies touching their drinks. Kalara decided to give her a few minutes before going over. Didn't want to seem like a lost kid with nothing of her own to do.

She still could not believe she was here. She sidled over to the big, wide windows with a small smile and gazed down at the Hudson, swirling with life under the bright sun. She'd now eaten in one of the richest condos in Manhattan, she was renting one of the most luxurious apartments herself, and she got to go to see Broadway whenever she wanted. She was certainly living the high life.

Then the feeling welled up in her, and she had to squelch it back down.

© Laura Stephenson

Friday, April 12, 2013

I Built My Desk

My desk is officially finished! Here are the pictures (notice it's already in use, because I was too excited to stop and take pictures before I had my computer all set up).

Ha, it matches all my links.

So, this being the first year I've lived in a place with a snowy winter and a warm spring (at least the first where I hadn't just given birth to my daughter. I lived in CT two years ago at this time), I finally understand spring cleaning. I just spent months feeling lethargic, trying to spend as much time under blankets as possible, letting the house go a bit, and now it's suddenly warm and I'm sick of the mess. Time to tidy up!

Are you doing any spring cleaning? What's the most important project (other than writing) you'd like to get done?

This week's short fantasy scene:

We'd heard legends of other planes. How when our world and theirs touched, angels and demons entered our reality. Now a legend stood before us. He had the shape of a man, but his back sported feathered, pure white wings. His eyes were yellow like the sun, and his hair shone as if it was made of silver. His eyes singled us out, and he said, "Are you the group that arrived yesterday?"

I quivered at his voice, a heavenly voice, and felt unworthy of hearing it. Beside me, one of my companions, Razor, crossed her jet black arms and narrowed her eyes. "Yes. And you are..?" I gulped. Of course a drow would show no reverence toward an angel. I wished I had been the one to answer, so that the first thing he'd heard from us hadn't been insulting. Too late.

He shifted to his other foot, the great sword strapped between his wings tilting as he did. It might have been frightening, but we were all armed as well, and we'd fought a varied assortment of foes in our time together. But his face remained calm, and he answered, "I am General Marcellus. I understand that you are to join our forces, but as a tactical assault group, meant to shore up weak spots and take down specific targets. I am the one who will be giving you orders."

Before Razor could mouth off again, I dipped my head, saying, "We will be honored to follow your lead, sir."

General Marcellus dipped his head in return. "For now, we are gathering strength. We'll be marching to Devat soon, perhaps a week from now. Until then, rest, gather what supplies you'll need, and be ready. That is all."

I saluted, Razor snorted at me, and the angel turned and left.