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!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dacia's War: Departure (Part XX VI)

Al-Uzza looked at the party readying to go north. She scowled with displeasure at the glaring sunlight and the dry dusty scent in the air from the desert. Though Al-Uzza was born on the sands, she grew up in the halls of the temple proper, given to Julara as a tribute and as a way to make one less mouth to feed. She vaguely recalled her mother as a stern woman and had a dim recollection of her brothers. The black haired woman stood on the portico of the temple, waiting for the junior priestess assigned to her as secretary to arrive. The veil that Lady Al-Uzza wore was the deep blue-black of the higher ranking priestesses. A band of silver thread was woven into it on the left hand side, glistening like water in moonlight. Upon the hem where that narrow band ended at the front of the veil, there was a tassel of silver. This and the silver band marked her as the local high priestess of the district she was assigned to.

The tassel rested against her chest, winking in the light and distracting her for a moment from her bitter musings. She glanced down at it. As she set a finger against the beaded tassle, she marveled at how it felt cool to the touch despite the sun's heat. She considered her gown, of much finer fabric than what she had worn as a mere secretary, though that was also of high quality. The linen and silk fabric should have been uncomfortably warm, but it some how retained the coolness of the temple within it. Al-Uzza smoothed a hand over her shoulder when a voice behind her gave a small cough.

Al-Uzza looked over and beheld a young woman dressed in the pale grey of the acolytes who served as the keepers of lore. The woman wore a satchel of dun colored leather over her tunic, hanging on the left side. Al-Uzza knew the satchel well, for it was hers up until recently. Now, the woman standing at her left shoulder bore it and the combination of heavy books and precious writing tools. Al-Uzza's shoulder ached slightly in sympathetic memory of how the strap dug into her when she was sent to bear messages on the Empress's behalf. The young woman's hair was shorn and a grey kertchief covered the stubble. Al-Uzza gauged her companion's age as to be that of sixteen at best and shook her head with a slight look of distaste.

"Remember your vows," Al-Uzza said sternly to the acolyte as she looked forward, "Speak only when spoken to, maid. I will not tolerate frippery and foolishness. Am I clear?"

The young woman behind her answered in a voice that was quiet, almost timid sounding, "Yes, my Lady. I shall do as you command in accordance with Our Lady's will." Al-Uzza felt a measure of satisfaction with the apparent meekness of her secretary. The soldiers who had marshaled for the journey to the north had finished going over their orders. The mules and ponies that served as their beasts of burden had been loaded with their goods. A man dressed in robes the color of the burning sunset moved amongst the party. Al-Uzza frowned as he looked over at her.

Althos of the brothers militant was not a handsome man. But something about him made Al-Uzza highly suspicious of him. Perhaps it was the casual way he smiled at everyone in his party or the way his expression changed so quickly from that easy companionable smile to a look of sober consideration. His head was bald. Al-Uzza could not tell if it was because it was freshly shaven or if he was truly bald. Althos somehow managed to look rakeish in Al-Uzza's eyes, which simply meant he was not a hideous creature and was therefore suspect. He approached Al-Uzza. No smile touched his lips when he walked up to her.

"Lady Al-Uzza," his gravelly voice said, sounding jarringly harsh to her ears, "the party is ready to depart when you are. I have made sure that all beasts are well prepared and all provisions are secure." She wanted to say something stinging to him because of all the men present, it was Althos that made her uncomfortable and she wanted to diminish him somehow. She could not, however, find the words.

"Let us depart then," she said, "The sun is rising high in the sky and enough time has been wasted." Althos gave a graceful bow as he motioned Al-Uzza towards her mount. He stood at the side of the roan nag and made a step for her with his hands. Al-Uzza looked at the horse and found herself wishing that she had a block for mounting rather than the man's hands. He looked at her expectantly. With a small noise of annoyance, she set her left foot upon his hands and then moved to mount.

Though Al-Uzza was not a diminutive woman, she was surprised by how Althos aided her with out any sign of strain. She sat upon the back of the horse and looked down at the monk. He had turned away to help the acolyte upon her mount before Al-Uzza could possibly have considered he had looked at her bare ankle. He vaulted lightly into the saddle of his own horse and moved to the head of their group. Althos looked over his shoulder at the newly elevated priestess with an expectant expression.

Al-Uzza made a gesture in a forward direction. Althos arched an eyebrow. Deciding that her silent response indicated that she felt it was not necessary to invoke the blessing of the holy Yulara herself upon their journey, Althos deemed it necessary to call out to the members of the party to pray for the blessing of the Lady of Rivers on their travel through her lands. His voice was a loud, cawing cry as he shouted, "May the Mother of Life look kindly upon us and guide us in our wanderings over her green fields." The people around Al-Uzza answered with some muttered words, a few giving her uncomfortable glances as they did so.

Lady Al-Uzza could hear her clerk mumbling something indistinctly behind her. The priestess realized that she had broken some sort of taboo in failing to call for her goddess's blessing. She remained proudly silent, however, because the idea of somehow acknowledging her error was something that Al-Uzza believed would undermine her authority. Althos looked to the right. Upon a high balcony, he saw the Empress standing. He pressed his right fist to his left shoulder in a salute while bobbing his head in something that looked almost like it would have been a bow if he had been standing. Mina extended her hand in a gesture of blessing.

She watched as Al-Uzza looked up at her. For a moment, Al-Uzza's expression betrayed her loathing of her Lady. Then the party began to move and the haughty woman had to turn her attention upon keeping the horse following Althos. Mina watched as the party moved out of the temple gates. "I fear this will not end well," she sighed. A messenger scurried in the temple gates, the yellow band tied around his arm identifying him as someone coming from the black sands. Mina sighed and walked into the temple, unsure if the sense of weariness passing over her was because of her sense of foreboding about Al-Uzza, the desire to be done with the matters of war, or the fact that her sleep had been troubled the night before.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Food of Evandar: Roast fowl with Herbs

Image from Pexels.Com
It has been a while since I posted any sort of recipe. It is also a day where, at my house, we are dealing with a snow storm and I am interested in not making a whole lot of pots to wash even as the kids want to help cook. After a little consideration, I realized that what I am making for dinner would be rather common fare in parts of my little world.

Now the name of this recipe is an indication of how common it is. It is, however, a little bit deceptive. In the middle ages in our world, herbs was used as a general term for all parts of a plant and pretty much all manner of plant. It was applied to what we consider vegetables, herbs, and fruit.

The recipe itself is exceptionally simple. I am making a relatively small portion here because I have a household of four people (which has two children who are somewhat picky eaters on a regular basis). It is possible to do this with a whole bird. I, however, am using two chicken quarters cut into pieces with enough chopped vegetables to fill a 12 in cast iron skillet. My 'herbs' here are potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and radishes. If you were making something that reflected the Middle Ages of our world, the potatoes and sweet potatoes would not be part of this because they didn't come into European cuisine until the Renaissance period. (This is because they are native to the New World, along with corn, modern squash, and tomatoes.)

In my little world, the variety of root vegetables used is pretty close to what you would expect for medieval Europe. They would also include tubers like cattail roots and the more exotic plants native to the world. Lower class people would be having this simple meal with a dash of what ever savory herbs they had collected in the wild (such as dill or fireweed). The upper classes would include more exotic things to their region. Thus, it could have peppercorns, salt, or cinnamon in it. The dish consists of a cleaned bird flattened and roasted upon a bed of root vegetables with spices mixed into the vegetables and upon the bird. The bird would have butter rubbed on it and the root vegetables would be mixed with a portion of oil sufficient to coat them and enough water to keep them from burning to the pan.

The pan would then be covered and cooked at a moderate temperature until the bird was cooked fully. For our purposes, this would be approximately an hour at 350 degrees F. When I added oil to the vegetables, I tossed them with it and some pepper, salt, thyme, and paprika. I then added approximately a cup of water. The chicken was set upon the vegetables. I spread about a tablespoon of butter over all four pieces of chicken. It is probably a little excessive, but I'm not going to deny myself a little luxury after a long day with two boys having a snow day from school. I put the salt, pepper, and thyme on the chicken. I also added garlic instead of paprika.

I covered my pan with aluminum foil because the pot lid that fit it would not cover the pot completely with the chicken in the pan. You want to make sure that your chicken and meat combination is well covered so that the steam from everything helps cook it more completely. When finished, you would serve the chicken with the tender veggies along side. I am also going to be making a loaf of soda bread to go with it. I haven't decided yet if soda bread is a common thing or not, but in the world of Evandar, a loaf of bread would be served with this, as with any meal.

Given the heaviness of the root vegetables, you could do well to serve this with a hard cider. You could also do well to replace the water in this recipe with chicken broth or hard cider. I'm sure that you would get a good result from adding onions to the mix. (I was going to put onion in but then discovered that my onion had gone bad in the depths of the refrigerator sometime last week.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

An apology.

Hi there everyone!

I'm sorry I have not been as on top of posting of late as I truly would like to have been. Illness has made this difficult and so has some problems getting everything organized enough. I kinda feel like I bit off more than I could chew on this business of getting life into order. I am making progress but no where near as fast as I thought I was going to. (Being sick with a head cold and having kids home from school sick one week and then on winter break for another also throws a wrench into the works as well.)

This said, I am trying very hard to get back to posting in here more frequently. I feel poorly that I have not posted anything creative recently. I apologize for this lapse.

In other news, I am beginning to think I should buy stock in cold medicine or something. This makes round 2 of head colds for me in the last month. Schools are germ factories, I am sure of it. I may start dousing things in Lysol if this keeps up.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Flora et Fauna: Climate & Weather systems influence.

If one sits down and looks at the world, it becomes immediately apparent that the weather changes what can live in a given region. A location that has a lot of water can not support lifeforms that require a more arid environment. It would be easy to just ignore this thing and say 'oh, they just have what they need where they are.'  It can create a jarring disconnect from the reality you've built when you have a Saharan camel living on the Arctic tundra with out any modifications to the situation.

Now, it is fantasy or some other variant of fiction that you are writing and this gives you a significant amount of leeway as to how much you can bend the rules of what is 'real' and how far you can depart from what is commonly understood to be normal. I, however, find that realistic fiction elements will need to take in to consideration the very environment of the setting in the sense of what sort of weather and such there is.

Weather systems are a big driving factor in real world events. Storms of historic size and ferocity are more than proverbial plot devices. They can effect permanent changes to the landscape, the sociopolitical situation, and the most basic elements of the necessities for life. Just look at the difference of Louisiana before and after Hurricane Katrina. The differences are staggering (and, honestly, rather horrifying). It may be nice to say that the lovers take a romantic walk in the rain, but if you are at a place where rain is a frequent happening, this will change how the rain is viewed by even the characters themselves. Rain everyday for a two weeks means that you may have problems with flooding. And there is a good chance that the characters don't see that drizzly weather as something romantic but rather as another damned inconvenience.

Climates are interesting because when they shift they can make massive changes to an entire region. As a result, stresses between different groups become larger in some cases and smaller in others. Looking at Medieval Europe during the period of the Little Ice Age, we find that the great famine happened during this era. We find that there was a stark increase in problems that resulted in things like the loss of the Norse settlements in Greenland during the 15th century because they were unable to sustain enough crops of livestock to remain present.

It is no small coincidence that this period was one that saw a great deal more of conflict in communities and on the international scale. This, after all, was the period of the Hundred Year's War, the Black Death, and the Inquisition. When sufficient stresses pile up on a community, they become fractured and tend to ... well, eat themselves. Climate change can cause an enormous amount of stress to drive the conflicts within your works. The questions as to why a place is suffering bad droughts may be because of something shifting the weather patterns. The problems with droughts would lead to famine, problems in the economy, and loads of social problems. Conversely, a place suddenly blessed with good growing conditions and abundant resources would develop an entirely different set of challenges. Perhaps a case of the people who live in the areas of more depleted resources coming to acquire the resources of the others by way of sword and axe?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Craft of Writing: Organize it ALL (Part 3)

First off, I want to apologize for the fact that I haven't been posting as much as I thought I would be right now. I am elbows deep into this organize everything and schedule everything business right now. I am beginning to think I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Still, I have reached a point where I can share some of what I am doing here with you. There are going to be several pictures here. Some pertain to this blog and some pertain to others that I am working on. This is not a big deal because I am using the same methods for virtually everything.

So, in part one of this mess, I mentioned that I stumbled onto the BulletJournal concept. I have been working on adapting it to my needs and adjusting everything so that it can work across multiple platforms. I do a lot of work on paper and in digital format. It has been somewhat challenging to reconcile the differences between the two methods. Throw in my starting to return to doing artwork and there is a need to basically make everything make sense.

In part two of this mess, I shared how I was dividing things up in general terms. I am literally still in the process of putting together my notebooks by topics. It is something that is both challenging and oddly relaxing. I really don't claim to understand it. But, the process of making everything more orderly and collating material so that it easier to access has been helping lower my stress and anxiety as much as the medication adjustments that have happened recently.

What I have to share with you this week is what I am doing just in the blog format right now. I apologize for the poor quality of the pictures. I am not very good at using the camera on the laptop for photos. I'll get there eventually. In the meantime, I am going to do my best to walk you through what I am working on to organize and get the most out of my blogs. I am debating if I should make something like a few spreadsheets. Let me know in the comments on this post if you want me to. If I make them, they will be Google documents that are for public consumption. As per always, please credit me for my work.

This really was the seed at the beginning of the whole organization process. It was initially a little text document sitting on my desk top. Then I copied it over to this slip of recycled paper. If you look you may recognize the topic headings that I try to stick with for weekly posts.

The daily posts schedule started out working pretty well for me. Then I started to realize that I was producing so much content that I needed to organize that. Cue my beginning to search for something that was more effective and did a better job of helping me not make critical errors in my posts.

After reviewing several bullet journals that I saw others sharing on Pinterest and various blogs, I thought about what I needed. This lead to my developing something of a rough outline of what I figured my version of a bullet journal for writing would look like.

Monthly Stat Tracker: Readership Nos. & Posting
My outline is nothing pretty. Like all the bullet journals I had seen, there were sections divided up by monthly and weekly details. So, I took that idea and ran with it. I decided that I needed something to track statistics or some sort of tangible metric I could use to gauge my progress. So, I decided I was going to monitor my blog traffic on the basis of nation of origin (because I'm a wee bit nosy and curious where you come from - Privet to my readers from Russia. Please forgive me if I misspelled that. I hope that all two of you forgive my use of Google Translate to figure out how to say hello. ♥) and I decided to monitor my blog traffic on the basis of keyword searches. While I know that there are a lot of blogs out there by authors talking about their genre, the craft of writing, and the ups and downs of being published in any format, I wanted to know what about my blog was catching people's attention.

I also decided that I really needed to keep track of the days I was posting and the number of subscribers I have. This is to help me stay accountable to you, gentle Reader. I don't want to just be frittering my time away blathering about something that you don't find interesting most of the time. I know that I have some die hard readers who have been with me from the beginning that may even be happy to read my grocery list. (Spoiler: nothing interesting has been on it in a little while because I have been trying to use up stuff sitting in the pantry right now. Most exotic ingredient on my list last week was fresh tomatoes from somewhere sunny right now - I think it said Mexico or Argentina.) The rest of you, however, are probably looking for something better than a running report about how annoying it is to listen to my kids make train noises at the top of their lungs standing right beside me. (If you are interested in that more personal side of my life, I have yet another blog that I update with blatherings about that. Link > HERE <. I will apologize right now for the fact that I will be far less professional there. But you may find some stupid humor to make up for it.)

Weekly Planning Sheet
So, back to my outline for this monstrosity that is loosely based upon a bullet journal like how
Frankenstein's monster was loosely based upon Prometheus. I then set up weekly pages. For each day, I track my post count goals, my word count goals, and (ideally) viewership goals. Right now, I don't really have any data to go with this but that is because I have been excavating my desk from a mountain of papers. And, as with any project, a blood sacrifice has been made unto the gods for success. In this case by way of paper cuts under my nails. I honestly have no idea how I accomplished that. It has made doing housework interesting. Does this count as suffering for my art?

My weekly pages have daily outlines with some research notes and sources. I also am noting the tags I am using for my posts. I was somewhat haphazard with my tagging posts in the past. Now, I want to make this into a tool that helps me stay organized and helps you to navigate this blog. I also have set myself a goal of a minimum of two photo posts per week. You may notice that on the posting chart, I have a key for tags and then color coding to note the post's word count. I think this will be something that will prove super useful. Between the notation on the posting chart and the running numbers of viewership (which I will be taking in the evening before I log off the computer for the night), it is my hope that I can build a reasonable picture of what is working well for my posting schedule and what you are most interested in. This way I can tailor my work to what my audience (that's you dear Reader!) prefers.

Outline Parts 3 & 4: Content Focus & Budgeting
My outline for blog organization does not stop at weekly planning pages. You may have noticed, actually, that I have been slowly implementing changes that I have noted here. I am developing topic pages and making master lists of the posts under each topic. I have also taken my serial stories and added another (hopefully, better) layer of organization. This additional layer of structure is something that I am aiming to use to help me keep these large projects in order. I've realized that I am beginning to hit the point where I can't just write stuff off the cuff and expect it to work out well.

My passion for organization has also reached into actually sitting down and putting on paper the outlines for where I want these serial stories to go. I am separating them by region. And, in the case of a few shorts that I am going to be putting up here soon, by their point in the history of the world. I am also going to make a point of finding ways to tie these serial stories back to the novels. Because, honestly, this blog really is a platform to discuss these novels I am writing. Everything circles back to that, as it should.

In addition to organizing material for serial stories, I am in the process of developing some posts that are going to have multiple parts to them. Some are going to be discussing techniques and skills that I have found useful as an author. Others will be discussing details about the world I am writing in and there is going to be material that just goes off in tangents that may seem a bit strange until taken as a whole. (I confess, my brain works a little bit differently than your average person's. Strange tangents that seem to have no logical connection happens pretty regularly here.)

I am planning on becoming more vocal about social and community issues. This may cost me some readers. I'm sorry if this is something that is going to upset you. I feel, however, I can not simply sit here and deny that there are some very large and very pervasive issues that need to be addressed in the world. Thus, I am going to use this platform to attempt to address what I can in the hope that I can help effect a positive change in the world.

Finally, I have a section that is for what I'm doing regarding books and merchandise. This may sound a little silly, but I didn't realize that I needed to plan out how I was going to promote my material until after I finished The Dragon's Daughter and I had the final proof copy sitting on my shelf. After a little bit of panic, I sat down and started doing what I could to learn about just how this whole marketing concept works. (I still have no idea what I am doing. I have a feeling things are going to get weird before I figure it out.)

And, like anyone who is attempting to run their own business, there is the ubiquitous part for budgeting. I rather dislike budgeting because it is boring and stressful. That said, it really would be irresponsible for me to just leave that very important detail out flapping in the breeze like laundry on the line. So, I have things roughly out on paper for how to organize it. Now, it is a matter of filling in the details and making the posts.

Except I am drawing up all of my organizational stuff by hand. This is not a case of artistic expression. It is actually a measure of my feeling that I must have absolute control over all the things and (really the ONLY reason, to be honest) the fact that my printer is no compatible with this laptop. It was a very upsetting day when I realized that my printer was still perfectly functional but no drivers were available to make the stupid thing work with Windows 8. So, I am getting writer's cramp drawing up spreadsheets with a pen, a ruler, and a lot of vulgarity. (In other news, did you realize that the word 'fuck' is probably one of the most versatile in the English language? I had forgotten this fact until my pencil sharpener broke, my cup of coffee spilled over a stack of about eight written up sheets and into my lap. Fortunately, the coffee was cold. The pages were a loss and I had to replace the table cloth, though.)

But all of this mess is why I have been so quiet of late. I look forward to getting back to actually writing stuff here. I am almost starting to have nightmares of drawing diagrams. This didn't happen when I was taking Calculus in college, but it did when I was taking Geometry in high school.

(Dudebro's always have a problem with getting loans. They're tan and don't have a sign. So they can't get a cosign.)

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Craft of Writing: Organize it ALL! (Part 2)

Hi there, everybody!

I said that I was going to share with you some pages that I have put together for my own bullet journal like notebook. I do not have those pages ready to share yet. The reason is because I am having a rather difficult time winnowing down just what I am going to put on these pages. Having a creative mind is awesome, because you can come up with tons of great ideas. Having a creative mind is difficult, because you can come up with tons of great ideas. It is hard to pick what to focus on.

All of that said, I have decided on a few things. First is that I am going to keep my editing work separate from my organization work. This may sound a little silly considering how other people have organized their stuff. I, however, recognize that I need to keep my editing such that it is more portable than my organizing work. I have a nifty little red steno pad that I use. Each manuscript gets its own tab divider and then I go through and write down all my line edits with page and line number. As I make the changes, I check them off. It is a terribly dull system, but it works well for me.

Secondly, I am going to have all of my language developing notes in their own notebook. That one is something I'm still in the process of dividing up into sections. The wild idea that I should develop languages is something that came to me back when I wrote the very first rough draft of book one. (That would be way back in 6th grade. It was two pages. I still have it. It looks nothing like the final version. I still take it out and look at it from time to time though. Just to remind myself how far I have come.) Scattered through my various notebooks are bits and pieces of this language development stuff I have done. This new notebook is going to be divided up by languages. It is also going to be where I do things like develop the different scripts for the written version of the languages. It is one of those notebooks with grid style pages in it. (If I had realized I could have gotten a composition notebook in this style, I suspect I would have had an easier time learning linear algebra.) This is something that I will be doing on my 'downtime' from other writing projects. It is a long term thing that I am not going to pressure myself to do all right now.

I am going to be setting up pages for plotting out blog posts separate from my novel writing work. This is for two different reasons. First, I have different things I am trying to do with this blog and what I am trying to do with my novels. I need these things separate so that I don't confuse the details. It is less a concern that I will be confusing you, gentle Reader, and more an attempt to keep myself from getting confused. Life is complicated enough with what I have going on right now. All of this organization effort is an attempt to make things less complicated.

It is my hope that next week, I will have the pages for novel development put together. And I think I am going to have my pages for blog post development taken care of by sometime Friday evening, barring any unpleasant surprises. (It is stuff that would have been done last week, except I had a child home sick with a norovirus. These things are horrid and I sincerely hope that you or your loved ones don't have to suffer them. Gastrointestinal misery is not anyone's idea of a good time.)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Craft of Writing: Organize IT ALL!!! (Part 1)

A wise person once told me that to be successful with a large project, it is best to organize it like the storming of Normandy. I have to say, my Grandfather was right when he made that suggestion as I look at just how disorganized I have been over the last year with this blog and my other writing projects. As a result, I am spending the month of January organizing and planning how I am going to approach the rest of the year.

I am a bit late to the party with bullet journaling. That said, I am finding a modified version of this is helping me organize the rest of my life, so I am working out how to implement it in my writing. There is a staggering array of ways to do it and it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed with just all the different facets that you can customize. Just a quick search yielded over one million results. There is some schisms within the bullet journaling community on what the best type of notebooks to use are, how pretty you must make it, and what type of pens are best (among many, many other details).

I narrowed down my search to looking at how others were just dividing up tasks and such for their writing. That also netted me over one million results. (Google, you have a tremendous ability to find ALL THE THINGS. Don't stop being your glorious self!) I looked at the following and have developed something of a working understanding of how the process works.

Bullet Journal for Freelancers & Writers - Belle Cooper (Boho Berry)

Ms. Cooper set up some very nice examples of how she uses her bullet journal for her writing work. I was particularly impressed with how she kept track of all of her deadlines, invoices, and the publication status of her freelance work. It made a lot more sense than my pile of post-it notes and little scraps of paper taped to strategic points on the desk. She also mentioned something called 'sketch notes' which I thought was somewhat interesting. It is basically a combination of written text notes with small sketches associated with them. I like how it engages both aspects of the creative mind: visual and literary.

Bullet Journal: The (Writer's) Answer to Getting Thing Done - Jenni Myburgh (Jenni Myburgh)

Ms. Myburgh's post on bullet journals is fantastic. It is fantastic for two reasons. First, she gives very clear and concise descriptions of the concept and provides beautiful photos to illustrate them. Second, her examples show how they are truly very flexible tools and can be used for more than just staying on task with a single writing project.

Bullet Journal DOs and DON'Ts - Susanna (Zealous Mom)

Where the other two ladies gave very good advice on how to set up one's bullet journal, Ms. Susanna shares with us just what the experience of using one is like. It really was refreshing to see her very homey take on the topic and I also highly enjoyed how she was not shy about sharing what worked for her and what did not. It was good to see that people do have some difficulty starting out with this and that perfection is not the same thing as progress. And that your bullet journal needs not be Pinterest worthy to be effective.

I am still in the process of developing my lay outs and such for my own bullet journal-esque efforts. I will share more about that next week. I can tell you two things, however, about what I am doing. My first focus is on functionality and what is going to help me be most effective. I am saving artwork and other fun stuff for after I manage to get the whole process I am going to be using figured out. Secondly, I have a binder/folio/soft briefcase that I am using for my blogs and a separate one I am using for my novels. I am not going to limit myself to a tiny notebook that I can stash with my knitting. This is not because I need portability as much as I need something to keep track of everything and I have a whole lot of moving parts to keep track of. More space to work with is better for me. I have enough smaller notebooks I can dedicate to individual elements of things.

I may still be in a position where I must consider if buying stock in 3M and Mead (the people who make Post-It notes, notebooks, and filler paper for binders) is going to be something I should do or possibly get some sort of bulk rate on these things in a few months. But, I may have something more organized and easier to work with than the four inches of paper stacked up on and around the desk right now.

Sunday, January 8, 2017


A visual pun, if you will.

This Website!

I am in the process of making changes to format and a number of other things here. My plan is to have everything completed by the end of the month. I will be moving some material around to make things make more sense. Don't worry, the serial stories and the various themed content is not going anywhere. I am just going to try to reshuffle it so that it is easier for me to work and and for you to navigate.

Please, drop me a note if you have any suggestions or questions.

Thank you for taking the time and being so patient to come along with me on this journey as I muddle through 2017.

Happy New Year everyone. Let's make it a great year despite what ever gets thrown at us, eh?