Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Update: What the hell have I been doing?

Dear Reader,

Hi! How have you been? It's been a while since I posted something with actual text of any worth to it. I'd like to apologize for that. I have been busier than I expected. I wish I could say that all of this activity that has been keeping me from blogging is a case of I'm getting a new book written. It is actually more along the lines of minding a sick 7 year old for the last week, gardening stuff, and doing all of those things that go into being a stay at home mom. Throw on top of that the fact that I have not been well and it has been difficult to do much aside from the essentials.

I have, however, been working on resolving problems with getting The Dragon Child of Evandar out for sale. (I have come to the conclusion that part of the problem is clearly something to do with converting the book from paperback to e-book. I have also been working on fixing issues with stuff like the cover.) I expect that will be resolved come the beginning of June. I am also in the process of getting book three of the series ready to go to the printer. The working title for that volume is Shadow Fall. There is more sword-and-sorcery action happening here, but also some politics. As I get closer to sending it to the printer, I will share with you the cover art.

Work is stalled a bit on book seven of the series. This is mainly because I have been having a hard time finding the time to sit down and just write the damn book. This, however, is something that I can resolve with scheduling (and not having any surprise issues I need to take care of, such as a little boy throwing up all over himself as we head out the door to do something). I will be adding a new pile of posts here, as I am going to transfer the book reviews I posted up on LiveJournal over here. It will have a separate page compiling all of those book review post links on it. I am also going to start posting reviews of what I am currently reading right now as I finish the books. This may even include a discussion in the near future about how I keep a reading journal (a paper journal in a miniature binder that goes everywhere with me when I am reading something, so I can note stuff with a reference to chapter, page, and line).

I am still working on customizing my bullet journal. I am currently working on the section where I put down details about how to format things for blog posts. It is taking a little longer than I expected. I, however, am not working on it everyday. I may start doing that for fifteen minutes or something. Either way, I am working on a laundry list of things and blogging fell by the wayside. I will work to correct this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Flora et Fauna: Images Pt 2.

Here is a sketch of Liar's Weed. I used my Sharpie markers for the coloring and the sketching was done with my Prismacolor .05 mm felt tipped pen. I'm not exactly thrilled with how badly I did the ombre shading, but you live and learn, right?

Monday, May 8, 2017

Flora et Fauna - Images Part I

Gentle Reader,

I did promise to give you illustrations of these plants I've been writing about, here is the first one. This is Beggar's Purse. I forgot to note anything about seeds when I sketched this up. I apologize for the lack of color, I can't find where my stock pile of colored pencils went. And I didn't feel comfortable using my boys' crayons for this.

As you may see, the blossom has a shape similar to a pouch. The leaves are similar to broad leaf platain and it grows fairly low to the ground. And the roots are fibrous.

Craft of Writing: Staring at the Page.

Image from Pexels
Sometimes writing comes to us pretty easily. Sometimes it is all we can do to keep up with the muse. And then there are the day where we feel like we're thinking through mud and honestly questions what we were thinking about attempting to be an author business.

I have been having more days where I stare at the computer with this horrible sense of dread that I must write SOMETHING. And my mind goes blank. Writing the Morning Pages exercises, as encouraged by Ms. Cameron in her book The Artist's Way, has even become difficult. It fills me with a sense of failure.

The amazing thing about being a writer, however, is that you have options. You don't have to write great work all the time. You can just sit down with a super cheap notebook and an even cheaper pen to write about how much you hate the writing process right now. I'm learning to be more flexible in what I do for my prepwork for writing. Just today, I sat down and colored in a wee little coloring book for about 15 minutes. I can't say that it cured the sense of writer's block that I have right now, but it did help. It showed me that I can still be creative, even when I am struggling in my preferred arena.

I am also doing things like making myself a schedule for writing time every day. I am one of those people who get cranky and in a foul head space when they don't get any writing time in on a given day. If I let it go too long, I then move into a sense of depression. As a person who struggles with Bipolar (and am presently slogging my way through a depressive episode), making regular writing time is a big thing for self care.

Self care is the key to getting out of that mental prison called writer's block. Sometimes writer's block is a minor form of burn out and your brain is forcing you to take a break. Sometimes writer's block is a manifestation of an underlying problem (in my case, it is a sign that I am going into or am presently in a depressive episode). And, sometimes, writer's block comes about because you are bored with what you are working on.

Boredom is not good for the creative person. It can kill. I think this is why Ms. Cameron so strongly encourages the people who are working through the Artist's Way to do things like take themselves on 'Artist Dates' and go do something novel or fun instead of keeping their noses to the proverbial grindstone.

Funny thing about grindstones and whetstones, you have to keep your blade at the proper angle and concentrate all the time on what you're doing. If your attention wanders or you just try to do it out of simple habit, you will mess up the angle on the edge of the blade and make something that is useless. As a result, you'll have to start the whole process over again.

So, when your attention begins to wander (which is one of the signs of writer's block), take a moment to back away from the grindstone and take a break to refresh yourself, this way you can reapply yourself to the task later with the same high level of attention to detail that you can accomplish when all is well.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Iron Lily - Part 12

Halthor's expression of pained grief made Moridan sigh. "Listen to me," he said to the builder, "When you reach Memmin, seek out Count Olerand. He should be able to help you. The journey to Memmin should not be gravely perilous but when you reach the flatlands, be wary of the ones who would offer to guide you. Look for the sign of the stag. If they do not have it, do not trust them. After you have found Count Olerand, you will know what you must do."

Halthor looked over at Moridan. "The hour of twilight has passed and deep night comes. Finish your fare, traveler," the old priest said, "You will have a comfortable bed tonight. The traveler's rest will not be quite so pleasant but my grandson will keep you well. The men from Wynnwode will seek to beset you at dawn. You will need to leave at the small hours of the night to avoid them. If the Light Father wills it, snow will cover the signs of your passing."

Ewen stood up, setting his bowl aside. "Father Moridan," he started when the old man lifted his hand. Ewen looked over his shoulder at the door. The persistent feeling that something ominous was waiting for dawn beyond the door. The ferryman looked back at his grandfather. "Grand-da," he said quietly in an urgent tone. Moridan frowned at him. "He needs to leave now," Ewen said, "Something waits and grows stronger as the night passes." Moridan looked over at Halthor and then back to his grandson.

"You must leave with him," the old priest said, "Guide him to your brother. You know the path and the dark should not be a trouble for you." Halthor looked over at the ferryman and noted his very solemn and troubled expression.

"What is going on?" Halthor asked. Moridan said nothing as he stood up. He found his way across the room and opened a chest. After shuffling a few things around, he stood up. The old man lifted a short spear from inside the chest. Halthor eyed the piece of equipment suspiciously, as he had never seen one that was shorter than he was tall before. The bronze head of the spear gleamed dully and Halthor questioned if it was even sharp. Moridan handed the spear to his grandson with a measure of finality in his gestures.

"When you return, you know what must be done. Your uncle and I will do our best to prepare," Moridan said as he set his free hand on the ferryman's left shoulder. Ewen nodded. Moridan looked over at Halthor. He made a gesture of blessing. "Go with the Light Father's blessing and mine upon you, young man," Moridan said. Mavora looked up. He saw the spear in Ewen's hand and sighed before shaking his head with a look of disappointment. He stood up and began filling a sack with foodstuffs. When he had finished, he walked up to Halthor and handed it to him. Halthor looked as though he was about to refuse this second sack of supplies when Moridan shook his head.

Halthor shook his head slightly with confusion and took the sack. He then found his goods where he had set them. Mavora and Ewen walked with him to the stable. Mavora loaded the pony with Halthor's goods and patted the hound that trotted up to him. The dog's tail seemed to droop and it looked as though it was upset somehow. Mavora turned to Ewen and clapped him on the shoulder. Ewen gave his uncle a brief, but strong embrace. The clouds above parted and the light of the mother moon and her daughter shone down brightly on the snow, making it seem almost as bright as day.

Ewen, bundled in his coat, heavy cloak, hat, and other winter gear looked apprehensive. When Mavora went back into the temple, Ewen took the pony's bridle in hand. "Come on," he said, "It draws closer. We must move quickly now." Halthor found Ewen's sense of unease contagious and he looked around himself expecting some foe to jump out of the shadows. As the pair moved briskly down the path out of the village of Hyle, Halthor's back itched between his shoulder blades.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Road to the North (Part XX VI)

Lady Al-Uzza was tired. The long hours of riding in the hot sun made her weary. She looked at Althos with something of envy. Somehow, the monk was cheerful and seemed to show no signs of discomfort for their travel. She ignored her secretary but suspected that the younger woman would be equally chipper. Althos laughed and joked with the guards. When a snake appeared in the path and his horse was spooked, the gravelly voiced monk laughed as he got the beast back under control. Then he dismounted, picked the serpent up, and tossed it aside calling after the creature that he wished it a swift journey. It brought some laughter from their companions. Al-Uzza, however, was not amused.

It was close to midday. They came to a village that the priestess did not think was large enough to support the few goats she saw milling about. The party stopped at the well in the center of the village. A woman drawing water looked up at them in surprise. When she saw Al-Uzza, she bowed deeply. "My Lady," she said, "may the Holy Mother bless you always." The woman's sudden, reflexive gesture of homage made Al-Uzza forget for a moment her discomfort.

She put on a benevolent smile and made a grand gesture of blessing. "And may you and your home be ever blessed, my child," she said, trying to sound as dignified and benevolent as possible. The woman did not straighten. She remained bowed and quietly asked how she may serve Al-Uzza. The priestess's smile turned to one of pleasure.

"Draw us water, my child, and all shall be as it must," she answered. Althos restrained the urge to scowl at Al-Uzza. The monk dismounted as the woman began drawing water up with her pail. He spoke to her in a small whisper. Then he began pulling water up from the well. As he poured it into the trough, the woman stood beside him with her hands clasped and her eyes lowered. When the trough was full of water, Al-Uzza began to motion her mount forward.

Althos stepped up and took hold of the bridle. "You must dismount so that the horse may rest," he whispered in his low voice. Al-Uzza's smile faltered. "May I assist you, my Lady," he said. Al-Uzza gave a nod. Althos's hands took of Al-Uzza's waist and he looked up at her. She awkwardly shifted her weight and Althos's expression turned to an inscruitable mask. "My Lady, if you would turn so that both of your feet are towards me, this would be most helpful," he muttered. Al-Uzza restrained the urge to huff in annoyance, deciding that it was more comfortable to be irritated with the man helping her than the fact that she had forgotten how to dismount a horse.

After an awkward moment, Althos successfully helped Al-Uzza to the ground. He lead her mount forward and began the business of getting it settled. Behind them, the rest of the party dismounted. The woman standing by the well began to draw water for the party when Althos turned to Al-Uzza. "My Lady," he said, "I ask that you allow this mother to rest." Al-Uzza squinted at the woman for a moment. There seemed to be a roundness to her belly that the priestess didn't note earlier. She made a dismissive gesture.

"Of course," Al-Uzza said, "And may our Lady bless you and your child for your service." The woman gave Althos a grateful look before taking her jug of water. As she began to walk off, one of the gaurds walked up. He lifted the jug and set it on his shoulder as he spoke quietly to her. They walked towards a house at the edge of the square. He set the jug down before the door. The woman stepped in her door when a boy stepped out and carried the jug inside.

Al-Uzza looked around the village, her stomach rumbling slightly. "Where are the people?" she said, annoyed that no one else had greeted her or otherwise given indication that they were aware of her presence.

"My Lady," Althos said, "The elders of the village are likely resting as it is the hour of the midday sleep. The able bodied men are away with the army, as her Serene Highness had called them to service. Our pause here will not be long because we are expected at Midloth when the sun is in the third quarter of the sky, a few hours from now."

Al-Uzza glared at Althos. "You do not rule this journey," she hissed at him. Althos straightened from drawing water to add to the trough. He looked at her with his earlier mask like expression.

"No, my Lady," he answered, "But I know that we must travel faster if we are to reach the city before the storm comes. Do you not feel the weight of the air? Do you not sense the way it grows thicker as we move north? A storm awaits us in the most physical sense, my Lady. I did not think you wished to travel in rain. Am I incorrect? I will confess, a bit of rain would be refreshing."

Al-Uzza scowled at Althos. He gestured to the east. She looked towards the hills and saw that the clouds she had been ignoring had grown darker. "No, let us go to Midloth. When the beasts are refreshed, we shall continue on." Althos gave Al-Uzza a bow.

"I defer to your wisdom, Lady Al-Uzza," he said. One of the gaurds hastily coughed to cover up a laugh. Al-Uzza would have turned to glare at the man but she wasn't sure who it was. The acolyte stood serenely behind Al-Uzza, holding the bridle of her own mount. As the priestess looked over her shoulder at the young woman in white, the acolyte gave Al-Uzza a bland look.

"Note this village," the priestess said, "Let the mother who served us be rewarded for it." The acolyte nodded.

Althos said in a dry tone. "My Lady is wise as she is benevolent." Al-Uzza scowled at the monk but said nothing.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Craft of Writing: To pre-write or not?

Image Courtesy of Plexels
Some people swear by pre-writing exercises before they sit down to work on a big project (such as a novel). Other people feel that it is just too much additional work. This is where the divide between 'pantsers' and 'plotters' comes from.  I fall in to the 'plotter' camp and I do pre-writing exercises. It is not, however, the case that my pre-writing work is going to be sitting down and writing up an outline.

Pre-writing is a practice that I got started on when I was in college taking English 101. My instructor strongly encouraged us to take time to write down at least one page of free writing that was unrelated to the task at hand. It may sound a little funny, but that one page of free writing actually did a lot to help me get into that mental zone for writing larger things. I have since moved up to writing 3 pages of free writing every morning (as per The Artist's Way from Julia Cameron, I highly recommend this book for anyone who is struggling artistically or just looking for a jump start for their creativity).

Pre-writing exercises can take a wide range of forms. It can be anything from writing lists of what you want to accomplish with your writing session for the day to free writing to purging your writing anxieties with some creative journal writing. The focus of pre-writing is to get yourself ready for your writing session. For some people, this may be as simple as spending fifteen minutes to list out what the major highlights of the scene they are writing and listening to inspiring music. For others, it is going to be a whole little ritual of getting their cup of coffee fixed just so, putting on some inspiring music (and their lucky socks), and organizing their writing tools. Usually, it does involve some form of writing, but it doesn't have to.

That is the beautiful thing about writing for yourself. You get to decide just how much and what sort of preparation is necessary for your writing session. You get to decide how much leg work is necessary (usually, college students and anyone writing something research based do have some things that are mandatory, namely research) before you start that first draft. This is sometimes intimidating because all of that freedom can be disorienting. But, it also allows you to tailor your work sessions to your strengths.

So, if you are like myself and you need your pre-writing session, don't feel bad about it. Just schedule that time in and use it as necessary. It may feel a little funny to first start out trying, but you may find that your pre-writing time leads you to develop more as an author and have an easier time finding your voice. And, it may just be that little bit of pre-writing time turns in some self-pampering which everyone could use once in a while when they are working hard. Writing is hard work, so time to reward and encourage yourself is always necessary.

What are your feelings on pre-writing and preparing for your writing sessions? Let me know in the comments!