Monday, August 31, 2015

Something On the Side.

When I am not immersed in my own writing, I do a lot of reading. I have a bit of a back log of books to type up reviews for. It is my hope with the beginning of school next week, I can get those finished up and possibly resume my old habit of typing up reviews as I finish up books. If you are interested, check out my Livejournal account. Here is the link to my latest review:

If you have any suggestions for books I should review, let me know either in the comments on my posts or with an e-mail. I hope everyone is having a lovely day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Work space!

In preparation of getting down to serious work in two weeks (because when the boys go back to school, I'm getting cracking on writing stuff), I am gathering up all my notes and supplies. Pictured to the right is my stack of notebooks and folders. Along with all of that written word, there is my trusty cup of coffee which powers my work and one of several mixed media works I have made based on my little world.

The notebook that my coffee is sitting on is falling apart, as the gap in the binding can clearly show up. It is the oldest of my notebooks. I sat down and realized that that notebook turns 20 this year. It was a sobering thought. I have been keeping notes and writing shorts set in this world for almost half my life. I handle that notebook gingerly because it is so prone to falling apart. It has pages falling out, other pages with notes on them shoved into it, and the binding one step away from disintegrating. Still, it is probably the most important of my notebooks. In here is the core of my world building. In here is the details of the story the entire series is going to tell. Yes, they are rough details, but they are written down and therefore precious to me.

The stack of five folders on the left holds the things I had written up on loose leaf paper. The red folder immediately below the picture holds my maps and actual sketches of persons and scenes in the stories. The folder beneath that has the rambling efforts I have made over the years to develop some kind of language for the elfin people and the rudimentary attempts to flesh out a magical system. I haven't done much with that material in the last two years. It was put aside for safe keeping but I have reached the point now that I need to blow the dust off and dig into that work.

The third red folder down beneath the picture has the disorganized material I developed while going through college. Working on my education full time, it made my efforts to work on this stuff challenging. But, somewhere in the midst of it all, I found time to do a series of pictures based off of stuff. Here's a better shot of a nameless protagonist watching the sun set at the edge of Dragonwoood Forest. I did this in 2000.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Office Supplies? YES PLEASE!

It is back to school season. Office supplies are priced dirt cheap to get you in the stores to buy things in bulk for people going back to school. While I am not excited about getting school supplies, I am a little giddy with excitement about acquiring more things to use in my world building. One of my major things is doing idea work long hand. Hence my stack of notebooks and new file card system.

I don't go so far as sniffing that new marker smell, though I know a few people who do. But my little heart goes pitter-pat over those virginal notebooks, the plethora of pens, and all the organizing supplies I could need. I have to go shopping with a list so that I don't get carried away buying things. It makes me feel a little silly to confess this, but I suspect that there are plenty of others who do the same thing.

In my most recent office supply shopping foray, I picked up some sticky tabs to create your own tab divided notebook. As I have been working on organizing all of my back story stuff in to something I could work from more easily, I realized that dividing my material up into their own sections in the notebooks would probably work out exceptionally well for me. I thought about getting a five subject notebook, but I'm not fully decided on that yet.

I realize, however, that to truly make my organized system work, I will have to copy over material from the other notebooks into the new ones to their correct location. It looks like it will be a lot of work to do it by hand. Honestly, a part of me says I should just type it up, but it is a concept that just feels wrong. I admit it, I do a great deal of my writing on the basis of how it makes me feel. I suppose you could to some extent call my writing method emotionally driven. I learned at college, however, that using organizational methods that don't feel appropriate ends in very poor quality of work for me.

My pile of notebooks and journals has been growing again because it is that time of year. The hyper-critical part of my brain decries my collecting of notebooks, journals, and pens as a wasteful thing to do. The rest of me hogties that part of my brain and throws it into the dark basement where even the lone light bulb doesn't work, and then I get on with my work.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Organizing Chaos.

Some authors don't go out and make tons of notes and plans for their books. The NaNoWriMo community lovingly calls them 'pantsers' ie writing by the seat of your pants. Then there are writers like myself who are referred to as 'plotters'. We make outlines and notes of all the details of what we want our book to look like. Some of us only do a rough outline. Others are meticulous and almost look like their final work is a matter of rearranging notes into the correct tense and doing a little window dressing.

I've written works as a 'pantser' and it was an interesting experience. Honestly, I can't say I hated the process but it was very frustrating. I'm still editing that work and finding 'bugs' in it. Two months of writing, in this case, has equaled approximately two years in editing, thus far. Like I said, it was frustrating and the effects still are somewhat frustrating. It was a thrill on the days that work flowed freely from my fingertips to the keyboard. I can understand the allure of that form of "no net, high wire" writing. When it is good, it is a high like nothing else. The bad days, however, were horrific for me because I literally found myself staring at the screen with nothing to write for an hour (which was the longest I could endure it, to be honest). I'm not going to do that to myself again.

I am happiest as a 'plotter' because my work before I write the first draft helps me to get a picture of where I want the story to go, get a feel for the settings, and flesh out characters before I start to play around with them. I previously used notebooks for my plotting. My first attempt at plotting a novel was writing an outline, just as if I was writing an academic paper. I was in high school. It felt like the right thing to do. I still have that outline and the manuscript that went with it. It was all of 6 pages in 12 point Courier New font. I looked at my end product and decided that my outline was too bare.

That was when I grabbed my first notebook and started writing backstory. Today, almost 20 years later, I still go back to that notebook and use details from it in what I'm writing now. My story has evolved considerably. I have a stack of notebooks that is approximately a full foot worth of paper that I used to develop the world I'm writing in. Characters that were created in those notebooks are featured in my work today. Some of the things that I thought were side tangents at the time have turned into core parts of the mythos of the world of Evandar. And things that I thought were fixed and never change have turned into secondary or tertiary elements of the major story arc behind the series, if not dropped to the side all together.

I've a new way to approach character development from those bare bones outlines of years passed. I have written up character profiles that read like miniature dossiers that describe everything from physical appearance to major life events and motivations. I am now using a note card system that condenses these profiles to a few lines. On a 3x5 index card, I note the following:

Given name/nickname the character is referenced to most. Apparent age and actual age. Gender. Their full name and aliases. Their likes, dislikes, and interests. The one to three word summary of their strengths and weaknesses. A quote that is their most frequent or defining statement. And their nemesis with the reason why.

I have also moved to using 3x5 cards to work up rough descriptions of settings and props. The 3x5 card thing is new, but the concept of giving a concise description of the relevant details is one that I had been doing for years. It was less organized, however, and finding my notes was not easy or pleasant. With the note card system, however, I can just flip through a few cards in a given section of my box and pick out what I need. It makes it possible to use characters in a consistent fashion through out the work by way of referencing the major details of who they are off my cards.

It also makes keeping my settings organized a lot easier. I can group geographic features together and organize them by region. It helps me to make sure that I describe the same place the same way each time it is encountered in the story. Sure, there will be minor variations to the descriptions because there will always be new little things to notice about a place when you go there. It happens in the real world all the time. Weather changes, plants grow and die, and buildings are erected or torn down on a regular (and surprisingly rapid) basis in our world. It makes very little sense not to reflect that in the setting of your story within a realistic fashion.

My prop cards are an idea that I stole from a LARP I participated in years ago. They had prop cards for player characters, because we didn't carry around things like mock high explosives, mock weapons, or 5 lb boxes of $100 bills. (It was a fun LARP that got a bit crazy at times. Some of that craziness... ok, a fairly large chunk of it was of my making. Mischief is my middle name, after all.)  I thought the prop card was a pretty genius thing. As I looked at it and thought about it, I realized that I could take that concise description of the item, what it does, and how it works and use it in my writing efforts. Now, whenever I need a prop that is exotic or special, I can just check my list and see if I have something suited for the purpose. And if I don't, I create one and a card for it. Then, every time that prop shows up, it has a consistent set of rules for how it works so that we don't have strange things happening at a spooky distance for no apparent reason. (Because sometimes strange things happen at a spooky distance for plot related reasons that are revealed eventually, so you can't completely cut that out.)

I have just started a new set of cards. They are my ritual cards and my conflict/consequences cards. The ritual cards help me keep track of magic stuff in my fantasy setting. My conflict/consequences cards serve to jumpstart ideas for how to have characters interact with each other, themselves, and the environment. While I could just pants the conflict things, I like having rules to work within and for my conflicts to possess some minimum measure of logic. It has always annoyed me when I encounter a conflict that fails to serve any purpose in a story, be it for the over all plot of the story or character development. Because I suspect that my readers would be upset with the same things for the same reasons, I developed this set of cards to prevent that from happening.

Amusingly, with all of this effort to organize my ideas, my workspace is chaos. I have piles of notebooks at hand on the desk and on the small table at my side. I have my box of note cards and some random sticky notes on the notebooks. Loose papers that relate to various projects (and stuff from my kids) are mixed with things like the stubs from bills I paid last week. And, then there is my stack of four tarot decks and two rune sets that hang out on the corner of my desk. Sometimes, when I am really stuck on something, I will do a little divination. Nine times out of ten, it works to get me out of the creative blocks I find myself in. And all this is how my desk looks right now.

For different projects, different notebooks come out and, when I need them, reference books will be out as well. (Yes, I am that author who will make sure that their 12th Century CE character has the correct language and clothes. I will have the stack of history and language books at my side to ensure it.) There is a lot of chaos in my creative workspace. (We won't talk about my fiber arts stuff except to only to say that there is a whole room dedicated to it and walking through there is challenging at times.) But through my notebooks, notes, and cards, I have a thread of order that ties everything together. It may only be in my mind, but it is there.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Languages in Evandar.

I am still in the process of working out the quirks of the languages in Evandar. There is a group whose linguistic background is developed out of Anglo-Saxon. I'm not calling them Anglo-Saxons because it isn't set in our world. That doesn't change, however, that the oldest language for the principle region where the action of the first few books is Anglo-Saxon. I have been using a translator/dictionary that I found online to work up phrases to use in the stories.

I want to have the evolution of the languages reflect the passage of time, thus there will be some who are geographically isolated who use a more archaic version and others that use a more 'modern' version with a greater variety of loan words from other languages to reflect the more cosmopolitan area they are in. The border cities, like Farden, are going to have something of a polyglot going on. I haven't really done much with that yet but that is because I'm literally still working on developing languages.

I was inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien and it shines through in quite a few areas. It was Tolkien who introduced me to the idea of generating languages for your fantasy world. I am not a linguist by any stretch of the imagination. Where as Tolkien had a great deal of study and expertise in how languages work, I am learning as I go along. Right now, I am focusing more on the roots of the English language because I am using it as the primary language of Evandar (with regional variations). Also, because I am most familiar with English since it is my mother tongue.

I think the language I am going to have the most difficulty in developing things based off of it will be Latin. I have no real idea what is going on with that language and I don't know anything beyond a few phrases and the names of plants. I am pretty intimidated by Latin but I know with some careful effort, I will get at least a minimum grasp on how words are structured so that I can develop my own Latin-esque words. I know that some people will jump to the conclusion that I am attempting to steal the idea from J. K. Rowling but that is not where it is rooted.

I have a region that is based off of the Roman Empire and I want the language and customs to reflect this. I am planning to eventually write something set in that region to reflect some of the clashes that happen between them and the peoples around them. The military history and the religious history of the Roman Empire has always fascinated me and I figured I could apply some of that towards my writing. That is the sort of thing that sparks ideas for me.

I'm attempting to build languages based off historical languages in our world. I will be inventing one or two whole cloth but those are going to be the exception. They're not going to feature heavily until much later into the series. And when these languages pop up, they will have a glossary of terms at the end of the book, so that you, the reader, can make sense of what the characters are saying. Because it never struck me as fair to leave the readers to guess the meaning of terms on the basis of context alone. You wind up unsure if your definition matches the one intended by the author and I personally find it a really awkward thing. It is my promise that I will not do that to you.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Covers!

Below is the front of the dust jacket for the hard bound version of The Dragon Child of Evandar. It is available for purchase via In the next 3-5 days, you will be able to locate it via and other book sellers. The paperback cover will be ready for viewing next week and ready for purchase towards the end of the week through Create Space's Marketplace.

Here is the front of the dust jacket for the hard bound version of The Dragon's Daughter. This is also still available for purchase via I've reworked the edition a little bit cosmetically. Thus, it will be another 3-5 days until it hits and other book retailers.

If you purchase these books via, there is a 10% discount off of the retail price. If you happen to be local to me and are interested in having me sign a copy for you, send me a message via e-mail! I would love to meet you and talk about what you enjoyed about the books.

As always, thank you for your continued support and encouragement.