Kindles, And Other Things

I finally caved and bought an e-reader. Kindle, because I'm already addicted to Amazon for a number of other things, and Paperwhite because I liked it better than all the other non-tablet options. I've had it for about three weeks now and I like it - but I had to swap my book list over to List view instead of Cover view because I was sad that everything has to be in black and white. I logged on to Amazon yesterday and saw an announcement for an all-new Kindle Paperwhite coming at the end of the month. Of course there would be- I just finally joined the e-reader masses. But I'm not missing out on anything essential, so that's a consolation.

One thing that they did announce for Kindle that I am very excited about is a "Coming Soon" integration with GoodReads. I sincerely hope that this integration will be available for all Kindle types, and not just for the latest models, because I love GoodReads, use it more than I should probably admit, and will not be upgrading my Kindle a mere six weeks after purchasing my original. So, we shall see.

In semi-related news, I am looking for bad books. I began this little endeavor while scanning through the free Kindle books and finding books so bad I couldn't stand to read more than a few pages. At first I was actually looking for good books to read and just finding all the ones that never had seen an editor or reviewer of any kind, but then , after a few particularly bad ones, I started seeking them out. I plan to sprinkle their special badness in with the other books I read - my hope is that they will be so bad they will be funny (which has happened on occasion) as opposed to so bad it tries to melt my brain. As a bonus, they will automatically give the other books I read a better light!

This whole thing got started when a friend and I were chatting and she told me about the worst book she had ever read, no competition. It was a delightfully entertaining discussion that ended with, "Seriously, it's the worst thing I've ever seen. Nothing happens. Ever. My brain almost died. Hey, you should read it!"

And for reasons still unknown to me, I let her talk me into it. I sat down and read it. And she was not kidding. I was prepared to be lenient, thinking it was an amateur writer, maybe just publishing an ebook as a trial run or for fun.

So wrong. Apparently this book is also available in paperback and is touted by some (I have no clue who) as the magical book that will keep kids off drugs for good. The reason for this still mystifies me, as the entire book is, in fact, an argument for becoming a drug dealer so that you can retire as a multimillionaire at the ripe old age of thirty-something.

Really.

So after forcing myself to read that mess, I have become determined to find a book worse than that. Specifically, books that have no discernible plot, or are so poorly written, or some other nearly-objective thing that makes it bad. (I'm not just going to pick a bunch of books in a genre I don't enjoy and rip them all apart. I can appreciate good writing and good storytelling, even if I don't personally enjoy the story being told.)

If anyone is interested in adding to my Bad Book Library, leave a comment with the worst book you've ever read and why it's bad. You don't need to go into full spoiler-review mode- just something like "the characters are all so dumb that they forgot to finish the story" or "I literally could not read this because the grammar/spelling/etc. was so terrible."

I am looking forward to writing humorous reviews about the worst books ever. I hope you enjoy the badness in all its glory. :)

Majesty Has a Nice Ring to It

As you may have seen on my sister site, AlexisHMasters.com, June was a busy month. I'm almost done with my reviews of the books I read during those four weeks, but in addition to all the other business that was going on (including a fantastic vacation to Texas to attend my very first convention ever, RTX, which will have its own awesome recap post up here soon!) I also got a bit distracted by an old favorite computer game called Majesty. It came up in conversation one day while chatting with my sister and I was hit with a burst of nostalgia, and regret that I didn't own the discs required to play it anymore. On a whim I checked Amazon, not expecting to find anything for a decent price... and was very pleased to see the Majesty Gold edition (downloadable to Steam) on sale for only $2.50. Yes, please! (Note: the sale is now over, so it's back up to the regular price of $5.00. Still less than the price of a lunch.) (Other Note: Looks like right now Amazon is running a deal on their digital games, where if you use the code "Gooncave" at checkout you can save %15. Not sure how long that will last, but might as well take advantage of it while you can.)

I've since then been going through my realm, reclaiming the wilderness and recruiting heroes to perform great deeds and save my subjects from various terrors, magically inflicted diseases, and monstrosities. Thus far, it has been going well. I've destroyed hordes of goblins and razed their camps, recovered a magical chalice to cure me of a dread illness, countered a dangerous hex that had turned all my subjects into witless morons, and survived a deal with a demon (just another reminder of what could be waiting for you if you get into debt over a bad deal...). I'm about to raid a dragon tomb and set out to conquer the Lich Queen.

If you have ever been interested in this game, or have never heard of Majesty but enjoy real-time strategy or RPGs, I highly recommend checking this out. For only $5.00, there's not much to lose. The basic premise is that you get to see what it's like from the perspective of a king or queen - you have a castle (your home and last line of defense), and you give orders to your peasants to construct various buildings to improve your city. You build camps and havens and temples and recruit heroes to join your cause, and you can set bounties on enemies or post exploration rewards in order to entice said heroes to do your bidding - but unlike other strategy games, you have no direct control over your people. You have to give them a place to live, and ensure that you're supplying them with needed items (like upgraded weapons and armor from the blacksmith, or healing potions from the market) and then trust that they like you enough to go kill the Big Bad that's threatening this corner of your realm.

It's pretty awesome. One thing I really like about it is that with every mission, whether a pre-built one or a freestyle one you create on the fly, there's always something new to do. Ok, you start out needing to build basically the same buildings, but sometimes you may not want rogues or rangers if you're being constantly swarmed by armies of skeletons - go for warriors instead, who use swords or clubs instead of arrows. Wizards are powerful but extremely fragile, so if you are fighting off swarm after swarm, they might not be the best choice. And there's never a long stretch where you have nothing to do. Sometimes, things can fall into a bit of a lull - cherish those moments. That's when you're allowed to breathe. Other times, you feel like you need to be a pro gamer just to click fast enough to keep your city from falling to the ground because of a sudden ratman infestation (squeaky little bastards - and they steal all your gold if they can, so kill those suckers quick!).

There's nothing quite like the satisfaction of your trusty Sean Connery-type advisor suddenly informing you that "We are victorious, Your Majesty!"

 

I mentioned that this is an older game - as a technical note, I have a fairly up-to-date computer running Windows 7 and the MajestyGold edition has had zero problems running. In fact, they even threw in an HD version so the loading screen and general graphics look nicer. It's good stuff. And if you don't have (or don't want) a Steam account, there's also a regular digital download available from Amazon, for the same price.

GoodReads and Amazon

Amazon Acquires GoodReads Not sure how I feel about this. I love GoodReads and I love Amazon, but for very separate reasons. I am hoping I will be able to have my Kindle purchases automatically added to my To-Read shelf on GoodReads; that would be awesome. Otherwise, I'm reserving judgment until I see what happens.

Thoughts?

Feast to Follow Famine

Please don't look at the date of my last post. I may have to hide. I made up for it though, honest! I give you... The Great Smorgasbord of March 2013.

Smorgasbord is such an awesome word.

 

Additional things not in AHM post: - Has anyone tried the latest version of Microsoft Office (2013)? I have it installed on my laptop right now and man, did it throw me. Some good, some bad, and a lot of WTF were they thinking? The most annoying thing to me is how all the tabs across the top are in ALL CAPS. Because we haven't already established that all caps is extremely annoying and no one likes being yelled at all the time...

- I recently got my first smart phone. I'm pretty sure I will never be productive again. But I can listen to Pandora and goof around on GoodReads, so it's all good... right?

- I carpool to work. Usually it's no big deal, since my ride lives in the apartment complex next to mine, so I just walk over the hill to her car. Since we got hit by snow storm Saturn, I now have about a foot of snow to contend with. (sidenote: I accidentally typed "snow" as "snot" for a second. So glad I don't have a foot of snot to wade through...) I quickly learned that this made for a cold, wet, and painful experience. Luckily, my friend is kind enough to drive over to my place to pick me up. I want to install a rope-tow and a sled, like the ones at snow tubing or ski hills. That may be an awesome way to start the day.

- Speaking of sledding, did you know it's very difficult to sled in a trenchcoat? Yep.

- I'm sitting next to two big piles of library books right now, one of which I'm about halfway done with. I'm pretty sure I can hear it calling to me, so I'm signing off to go finish that up. :)

An Impossible Task...

...but I think I'm up for the challenge. What my brain said to me:

- read 365 books by midnight, Dec. 31. Bonus points if they are all first-time-reads.

- since you're now hooked on Goodreads and have always enjoyed reviews, write a review for every one of those books you just read.

- Keep your day job, or you can't buy new books or pay for the Internet. And other things like food.

- Keep writing - just because you're tripling the amount of books you read in a typical year does not give you the right to slack off! And also, I'm on to you. You feel shame for not posting regularly so you dig through your archives for things you like. Fix that by writing new stuff you want to share. Honestly, why must I have to tell you this?

- Speaking of which, start using that list of literary agents you have and get submitting. Your book won't publish itself. (Yes I know there's a thing called self-publishing, but that still requires you to do work. The book doesn't actually do anything.)

- Sleep is for the weak.

 

My answer to all this?

BRING IT ON!!!

Oh, and... I am totally weak, because I adore sleep. Seriously. In fact, I'm writing this on my laptop as I lie in bed right now, and I'm envious of my hubby because he's doing the peaceful-sleep-breathe thing right now. Must mean it's time to sail away to Hushabye Mountain. (One hundred points to anyone who knows that reference.)

 

An Eating Order

I love food. For anyone who knows me personally, this may be the most "DUH" statement they have ever read, but it is relevant, I promise. I am a bit of a picky eater. Some of that is preference - for example, I'm fussy about the texture of the foods I eat (or, more accurately, I'm very specific about what textures I will not eat). Lima beans, peas, and anything else that has a similar dry, mushy taste all goes into the NO pile. Some pickiness comes from food allergies - being allergic to things that are found in just about any kind of cheap candy, gum, snack mix, ice cream, etc. is pretty sucky.

I am also a thin person. For anyone who knows me personally, this may be the second most "DUH" statement they have ever read. Again, still relevant.

I'm very used to reading the ingredients labels on anything before I eat it, because I have had too many bad experiences with food allergies sneaking up on me to leave it to chance. But I've noticed that more and more, people seem to think I read the ingredients (and nutrition info) because I am thin and therefore must count every tiny morsel I consume. There's been more than a few judgmental looks when a package of storebought cookies gets passed around and I check the label before deciding not to take anything. Clearly, my refusal is a judgment passed on all the people who did take a cookie.

Truth is, I love cookies. I love snacks, and candy, and healthy food too. I eat things I don't like because I need the nutrients (like the bananas I eat every morning, even though I hate the texture) and I eat things I do like because, well, I like them. And sometimes also because I'm hungry. (Mind-blowing, I know.) But I need to make sure I'm not blindly eating food I'm allergic to, and most of the time it's just easier to pass on the tasty-looking desserts than it is to chance getting sick.

There's no soapbox here, or angry rant. Just a note to everyone to say, "Hey, if you have a friend who happens to like food, and who also happens to not eat food sometimes even if she likes it, that's ok. Chances are, there's a good reason." I would say that there's even a possibility that she's not hungry, but for anyone who knows me personally, that may be the biggest "INCONCEIVABLE!" statement they have ever read. :)

I'm off now - I think I hear chocolate chip pancakes calling my name.

I Resolve to Make Lists

I hate New Year's resolutions, because I have never met anyone who has successfully kept to a single thing they set out to do for the entire year. I have seen lots of people make it up through May, but then they just seem to "take a break" for the summer and then just let it die out as winter looms closer. So instead of being resolute with my decision-making for the next 365 days (366? Is it a Leap Year? Not sure and I can't be bothered to check a calendar...) during the wee hours of the new year, I make lists of lots of things I would like to see or do. Some lists are important things and I take them seriously (for instance, last year I included "get new car" because our old one was terrifyingly old. We did end up replacing it - funny story, but I'll save that for another time...) Other lists are more fun. Something that's been on my long-term goal list every year, that I always fail, is to find a nickname that sticks. So far in my life, I have had one nickname, and now it's obsolete because I changed my name when I got married. So the search continues.

But I thought it would be fun (and interesting) to see what first comes to mind for my Fun List for 2013, now that I'm home again, it's 1:30 AM and I'm feeling a little warm and fuzzy towards the new year right now (no clue why that is, and don't look at me like that. The Bailey's was like that when I got here.)

1. Finish another novel (write and do at least two edit passes)

2. Write at least 1000 words every day (work meeting notes do not apply)

3. Torment the pets more often. They could use the exercise. :) (Note to self: this means you need to save orange peels.) (Second note to self: now you have to explain that story, too. Good job.)

4. Read some of the massive library you're accumulating on GoodReads/have on hold at the local library

5. Write a review for every book you read

6. Do more puzzles

7. Learn some form of martial art (yep, it's time. Suck it up and be a beginner.)

8. Remember that book you made for Erica? Yeah...

9. Finish and hang some of your cross-stitch projects

10. Spend more time with The Hubby - And all the new Xbox games you got for Christmas have co-op!

There will be more, and things will get scratched out and reorganized, but I like to throw things down when I first think of them. One major event in that list, a bunch of things I would like to be better at and have already started work on, and reminders to spend time with and care for the things you enjoy and the people you love. I'd say not bad for a first draft.

Do you have a resolution or new year's wish? I've got a comments thread where I would love to collect more ideas!

See you in the new year - I'm off to sleep for now. Free Hugs (internet style) for all!

Holy Cow I Survived

No, I'm not talking about Winter Storm Draco - although that's still going on and I can't really get out of my place right now. I have officially made it to my end-of-year vacation! Just in time, too, because my dining table is literally covered in stacks of books I want to catch up on. And there's all the writing I want to get done, now that I've lived through the last big work deadline of the year and have some time to let my brain relax... and all the cooking I need to do (ok, cooking Hubby needs to do, that I need to taste-test) and snacks to be made (and promptly eaten) and movies to see and presents to shake to determine the contents and pets to play with and games to play and puzzles to solve and waitasecondwheredidmyvacationgo? I suppose I had better re-think my no-sleep strategy if I want to be able to get any of those things done. Hmm. And seeing as it's after midnight now, I should probably stop this post before it gains a life of its own and tries to devour my life. (Hey, writing does that sometimes. Don't look at me like that.)

In other news, Head over to AHM for a quickie review of what may be one of my new favorite authors (spoiler alert: it's not even fantasy fiction!).

Blink and You'll Miss It - Also, Trees

Kallizar and Mahliz work together when their king is threatened - who knew?  

In other news, I got my Christmas tree up yesterday! We were a bit concerned because our dog is 7 months old and is utterly convinced that everything must go into his mouth, but the tree put up a good fight and survived while we were gone to church. It's an artificial tree because of my husband's allergies, and holy whoa is that thing sturdy. I'm pretty sure I could fall into it without knocking it over (not that I'm going to try, because I would probably crash it into the fish tank, and that would suck. Especially for our downstairs neighbors. And the fish.)

I still haven't worked up the courage to put any ornaments on the tree, but I did get the lights up - nice multi-colored LEDs that look like little fireflies when you shut them off. So cool! :) We actually bought some el-cheapo ornaments for this year so that none of our fragile, important ornaments get destroyed during the dog's first Christmas experience (or when the cats inevitably decide the tree is the new sweetest place ever for hiding from said dog). I fully expect to be getting ready for work one morning and see two pairs of cat eyes poking out at me from between the branches...

Still haven't figured out a good (safe) place to hang our stockings, but I'm determined to figure something out. That was one of my favorite things as a kid and I have gone two Christmases now without that ritual. Time to bring it back, even if I have to pin them to the wall or hide them in the library or something. I am not above drastic measures.

Random holiday fun fact: Cathedral Windows are possibly one of the best food inventions ever - nuts optional (but no coconut, thanks... *shudder*). Way better than fruitcake. Check them out, make them, and melt in their tasty deliciousness. :)

 

PS. My mind was just blown doing a Google search for the Cathedral Windows recipe - apparently it's really popular to make these with different colored jell-o? Weird. But I imagine also tasty.

Mmmm, food... :)

Totally Panthered

Panthers at my desk
Panthers at my desk

Over the years I have heard many terms/phrases for when someone is stuck with a seemingly impossible task: they're up a creek, caught between a rock and a hard place, they are toast (or toasted), doomed, etc.

For me and my office-mate, it's all about panthers. A deadline came up that, put mildly, scared the living daylights out of me, and I may have gone a little crazy. At the same time, my office-mate was fighting with some software that was doing everything in its power to flummox her and deny her the right to sanity. It won, for a bit.

Panther necklace
Panther necklace

We were so lost for words that the next natural thing to come to mind was panthers. It was funny - made us laugh and let us get back to the important stuff we were trying to do. But it kept growing and growing... and now, every time we are stressed out about a difficult or monumental task, all we have to say is "I'm totally panthered." We've even spread the word to a few of our friends.

Leopard
Leopard

Various indicators of panthered-ness have appeared in our office: small stuffed animals, sticky notes counting the number of panthers in the room (invisible, obviously), and most recently, little panther charm necklaces that we wear when in super dire need. One friend bought us figurines of other big cats (because he couldn't find any actual black panthers), so I have a tiger living on my desk, and my office-mate has a leopard.

Some days, it's not so bad to be totally panthered anymore. :)

Shelves
Shelves

Alexis H. Masters Alive at Last!

Last post I mentioned transitioning the majority of my writing-focused posts over to my new website, Alexis H. Masters. It's very cool and you should definitely check it out if you liked anything here. But what I didn't really mention was why I'm switching sites (or, more accurately, adding that site and changing this one). Once again, it goes back to the submission requirements from the beginning of the month. One of the fields asked me for my name; the next asked me for my preferred author name. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent trying to decide whether I wanted to use a pseudonym - and if so, what it might be. Eventually, after a long discussion with my sister (who is amazing :) ), I opted for pseudonym. And, once that was for sure, I pulled up a list of names that I have always liked but haven't found a character to fit them. It was a short list, and Alexis Masters was at the top. Since she will be much more Google-able than my given name (which I love, but is extremely common), she won top choice. I also decided to include the middle initial "H" for two reasons: 1. I love middle names and would be sad without one (yes, it does stand for something) and 2. adding the "H" gave me a unique domain name for my site which at the date of posting this is the #1 hit on Google for my new name. And that's pretty sweet.

Things you can expect to change:

RealmwalkerWriting will shift into a more casual blog style. I'm not sure exactly what I want to keep here vs. post exclusively at the AH Masters blog, but I expect to have more spontaneous, not necessarily writing-focused posts here. I want it to be fluid and fun.

AH Masters will become the main hub for all my writing, with a focus on things on the road to publication and/or important announcements from/about me as an author (for example, upcoming writing conventions I may be attending or the latest news that's relevant to new or aspiring authors). AHM will also pick up the random writing sketches that used to be posted here, so if you're interested in following more on characters like Alec, Akitis, KetKet, etc., AHM is the place to go. (Unsurprisingly, anything related to Kallizar will also be up on AHM, so all of those characters and any teasers I decide to throw out there will be over on AHM.)

You can also follow me on Twitter: AlexisHMasters

My hope is the AHM site will be useful and fun for anyone who is a fan of my writing (or of me, if that randomly happens)- that there's a central place where I can share the latest goings-on in my writing life and have a community of people who read and discuss and meet up there. High hopes, maybe, but it's a start. :)

Ok, I think that covers it. Go check out AHM and sign up to follow it to get sneak peaks and tasty tidbits of Kallizar's story that aren't out for publication (and won't be posted anywhere else!). Also feel free to answer the latest poll and leave your comments (there's no beep, but you can imagine one when you answer the poll question). :)

-Alexis H. Masters

New Name, New Face, More Great Stuff!

Really quick update - I promise to have a follow-up with more details, but I wanted to let you all know now. I have begun the transition over to my new blog site, AlexisHMasters. All my writing posts are already over there, along with all the comments you've left me about them. :) The plan is to use my new site as a writing/reading hub and build up my writer name. Look there to find more information specific to my writing and reading recommendations, upcoming schedules for any events I might be attending, etc.

Realmwalkerwriting (this site) will still be where I post all of my random character sketches, as well as whatever else comes to mind. I want this to be a bit less structured than the new official site - a place to have a bit of fun. I definitely plan to continue supporting it and posting new content to both sites once I get the last of the kinks worked out on the new site.

It would be awesome to see your support also over on the new site!

FITB: The Beginning

Meet Riat, Aeva, and Kallizar for the first time in this clip of the first one thousand words of Fire in the Blood.  

“Stand up, boy, and don’t make me tell you again or you’ll have my sword at your back!”

Riat tried to straighten his sore muscles, but they rebelled and he winced involuntarily. It had been a long, hard march to get to the slave markets, and it was only the beginning of a long and miserable day. He had no misconceptions about it being otherwise. Riat was twenty-three, and after eleven years in the slave trade, he knew exactly what was coming.

The trader glowered at him and drew his shortsword. “I said stand up!” he snapped, slapping the flat of the blade hard against the base of Riat’s spine.

“Careful, Maakus,” called another man from a few feet down. “If you hit it too hard, no one will want it.”

Riat, who had been knocked to his knees by the blow, did not know whether to thank the Sorcerer who had spoken or hate him even more. Not that it mattered.

Maakus grumbled but sheathed the sword. “Fine.” He grabbed Riat by the hair and yanked him to his feet, ignoring the young man’s cry of pain. He stared into Riat’s dark blue eyes with a creepy-looking smile. “Guess you owe Sorcerer Danis, now, slave.”

The Sorcerer grabbed Maakus and pulled him to the side. “Hush now. Here comes your first customer of the day.” He stepped away, adopting a pose of feigned indifference. His presence at the slave markets was required by law throughout all of Varaetí: a Sorcerer must be present to ensure fairness of deals and prevent stealing of slaves – or attempts at escape. But Danis had become a good friend of Maakus over the years, so he rarely did anything that would result in less money for the trader.

The customers did not know, of course. They knew that Sorcerer Danis was from the king: the tattoo on his left wrist proved him to be a registered member of King Steph’non’s protective network of Sorcerers. Of course he would be doing everything in his power to ensure fairness to the citizens of Varaetí.

Riat looked around dully for the first customers, wondering what kind of slaves they were after. It was an older man, which meant Riat was probably safe for now… although he didn’t envy the girl that would likely end up with him.

The man bought a tan-skinned brunette in the end, somewhere in her late teens. From what Riat could see, she did not appear to understand a word of what was being said, which meant she was probably from Fyan, the country across the sea. Riat looked down as the man, smiling too widely, took the girl by the arm and pulled her away.

Not long after, Sorcerer Danis suddenly stiffened. “Maakus, look sharp,” he hissed quietly. “We’ve got a Sorcerer on the way. A powerful one.”

Maakus grinned. Sorcerers were his best buyers. They loved to use slaves for all kinds of magical experiments.

Riat knew this, too. Please, Ri’hannon, he begged, praying to the god of mercy, please let the Sorcerer pass me by.

However, even as scared as Riat was, he could not look away when the Sorcerer entered the market. She was eerily beautiful, with short, auburn hair and pale skin that was just colored enough to hint at foreign blood somewhere in her line. Of more interest was the glow that seemed to emanate from beneath her skin. It was faint, but still there. Her clothes, Riat could see by a glance, were well-made – fine silk and soft leather, dyed a striking mix of red and black. He had done work for a tailor once, a few years back, but nothing like this.

Beside her, Riat saw a girl – a young woman in age similar to Riat. She had the fair skin of the Vaerish and Riat knew she was no relation to the Sorcerer. Her hair was much lighter, her stature much shorter than the tall Sorcerer.

Riat watched as the Sorcerer bent and whispered into the young woman’s ear. A friend, perhaps? Or a friend’s daughter? Riat latched onto his curiosity, using it as a guard against his fear.

Unfortunately it evaporated when the young woman pointed at him. The Sorcerer nodded and began to approach him. Why, why did it have to be me? Riat mourned silently, trying to look as useless as possible.

The Sorcerer came right up to him and then did something incredible. She knelt down and looked into his lowered face. Riat tried to hunch away without looking like he was doing so, but his sore muscles prevented him from bending that far.

“Hello, young man.”

Riat looked up without meaning to. Had he heard her correctly? Her words had a lilt to them, telling Riat that Vaerish was not her native tongue, but it was not enough to make him confuse that greeting. Then he saw her face and nearly fainted.

It was not terrible, or scarred, or filled with malice. On the contrary, the Sorcerer’s oddly pale skin gave her a strange kind of beauty. Her jaw was strong and her mouth was curved into a gentle smile. But her eyes quickly captured all of Riat’s attention. They were light grey, which was odd enough. But the truly frightening thing was the flames that burned behind them. They flickered and danced quietly, having no apparent effect on her whatsoever. Was she crazed? Taken by a spirit? Or was this merely a trick she had used in order to frighten him? Magic could do anything. He had seen Sorcerer Davis do some terrifying things on more than one occasion.

The Sorcerer blinked her frightening eyes once, and Riat realized something else: these eyes were kind. They held a look of kindness.

“Can you understand me, young man?” the Sorcerer asked.

Riat swallowed. “Yes, Sorcerer,” he whispered.

“Then could you please tell me, young man: what is your name?”

Riat was completely bewildered. She had asked him a question, not issued him a command. Moreover, she had asked for his name. No one, ever, had done that.

He tried not to hyperventilate. “My name? My name is Riat, Sorcerer.”

The Sorcerer smiled again and extended her hand to him. “Hello, Riat. My name is Kallizar, and I am here to buy your freedom.”

***

Kallizar waited a moment for her words to sink in.

Beside her, Aeva tried not to look uncomfortable. She remembered the slave trade all too well, having run away from it only one year ago. Running into Kallizar had been an accident, but it had been the best thing to happen to her so far. She hoped this Riat would be able to say the same thing.

Kallizar glanced at Aeva. “Stay with him while I go take care of… business.”

“Still in one piece, Kallizar,” Aeva warned quietly.

Kallizar ignored her and walked coolly up to where both Maakus and Danis stood, trying to look as though they had not just been in a heated discussion over what they had overheard.

Maakus cleared his throat and smiled. “Welcome, Sorcerer. I take it you have found something to your liking?”

Kallizar gritted her teeth. “The boy named Riat. What is his price?”

Maakus had to look down the line to see which slave Kallizar was referencing. “Seventy gold Daari.”

Danis paid no attention whatsoever to the following bout of haggling. He was much too preoccupied with the Sorcerer herself. Her power was immense! He could see it in her eyes as well as sense it around her. The flames of her magic roared in her eyes, and they burned with a strength he had never before seen. The flames in his own eyes were barely visible. He swallowed his jealousy quickly. If this Sorcerer was so strong, she could likely do anything she wanted – including make his life very good, if this sale went well.

When she handed over a large pouch of gold, Danis could not help but stare, his heart suddenly pounding. The Sorcerer’s left wrist was bare. She had no tattoo.

She was not registered.

Kallizar returned to Aeva’s side. “Riat,” she said gently, addressing him, “I have paid your price. You are no longer bound to Maakus.”

“Am I now bound to you, Sorcerer?” Riat asked. He smiled a very little bit. Perhaps this Sorcerer would be nicer than the rest.

Kallizar shook her head. “No, Riat. You are no longer bound to anyone. You are free.”

Aeva smiled at Riat. “It sounds crazy, but it’s true. She did the same for me.”

Riat was not so sure. “Then why are you still with her? Why didn’t you leave?”

Aeva shrugged. “Where else would I go? Kallizar has given me a home. She gave me more than I could have gotten if I had tried to go somewhere else. I’m safe with her.”

“Then if you’re not looking for a slave,” asked Riat, “why did you come to the slave market, Sorcerer?”

The seriousness in Kallizar’s gaze made Riat feel almost crushed beneath its weight. “Because I know that terror.”

Kallizar: Fire in the Blood

I've spent a lot of time with Kallizar's story. Submitting it was the scariest and most exciting thing  I have ever done, and I'm happy for the experience. I'm also happy that I was able to take a good long look at my work and decide what would be the best for it. In the end, I decided to cut it down from a trilogy to a stand-alone novel. The vast majority of the book was the script from Book 2, but is now entitled Fire in the Blood. (I'm not going to go back and edit previous posts that refer to the old trilogy setup, but I have changed the categories and tags around a bit to make things easier to find and to reflect the new changes.)

For a while, I thought this would just be a novella-length story about a Sorcerer named Kallizar who worked as the Court Sorcerer for a kingdom and uncovered a plot about one of the nobles trying to take over the throne. As I kept working on it, more and more craziness started popping up with Kallizar's history and suddenly she informed me she had major history with a guy named Tavius - apparently he used to be her student, but when he started messing around with twisted magic Kallizar kicked him out. The entire "noble taking over the throne" arc pretty much disappeared as I let the other characters just kind of take over the story.

I can't remember how it all ended, but I know there were far too many characters and not nearly enough continuity to hold it together as a novel. But I'd written the entire thing, beginning to end, and I'd even had to get out a second notebook. Exciting! I was about to be a sophomore, and I'd actually finished a story I had started.

During the rest of high school I didn't work on Kallizar's story much, but I did bring her to life when I went to the Michigan Renaissance Festival. That was a blast. :)

Fast forward a bit to college. I had clips and bits from dozens of characters and stories, but Kallizar was nagging at me. Finally I sat down and re-worked a bunch of her story to get her to shut up, and decided most of what I had written in high school was crap, but there were some really neat ideas that I could branch out with. I grabbed a brand new notebook and started scribbling, and by the time I was ready to graduate, I had the rough manuscripts for two books in a planned trilogy ready to be typed out and edited, and the basic outline for the final book.

Go forward another year or so and I have a day job and almost no time to work on refining my scripts. But eventually I get the first one done and have a friend (another writing geek) read it over. Terrifying. More terrifying because in going through it before I hand it over to her, I keep thinking how unhappy I am with the script. Some things just don't seem to want to fit right. But I suck it up and let her read it anyway. When I get it back, she tells me basically what I already know, which hurts like hell but drops a realization at my feet: I already have a story I'm happy with. The script from Book 2 is rough, sure, but I don't think of it and want to bury it in the sand. It's got strong characters and a much better flow than the first script. And good news - Harper Collins just announced that they are taking unsolicited manuscripts from new authors for the first time in over ten years! It must be time to sit down and make a decision: what do I want from my writing career? Am I going to hang on to old ideas I had just because I put a lot of work into building them, even if I'm not happy with the result? Or am I willing to value that work for what it is (mostly good practice), use it as a reminder that I'm still - and always will be - growing as a writer, and to take the initiative to put my best foot forward?

Clicking that Submit button was terrifying. But I'm glad I had the chance. Having that opportunity, and that deadline, forced me to look at the work I was doing and really turn it into the best story it can be... and if that means cutting it down from a planned three books to one, then great. Maybe I will come back to Kallizar and company with some short stories to fill in the non-essential but fun pieces that are now gone with the death of Book 1. Who knows?

In the meantime, I'm going to keep looking forward and take these moments as opportunities for self-evaluation. I'm excited for all the stories I've yet to tell.

One Step Closer: Submission Complete!

The weeks of disappearance and sleeplessness have paid off: I submitted my manuscript to a publisher today! This is a huge step for me and I am thrilled to be able to share it with so many people who support reading and fantasy fiction writers.

I will find out in a few months whether or not I am accepted. In the meantime, I'll keep right on writing and posting!

 

P.S. Watch for a few more big announcements in the next week or so. Exciting times...!

Short but Important

I'm terrified and excited to be actively working against my first major deadline - I will be submitting a manuscript for possible publication in October! This means I have been, and will continue to be, very busy working on making the script as good as it can be before I send it to give myself the best chance I can. This is a big step for me in more than the one obvious way. I've had some tough decisions to make about my books and other stories, and my writing career as a whole. It's been painful and needed and overall I'm pleased with the answers I've found for myself.

One of the most important things I realized about this submission opportunity is that I fully recognize the chances of an unpublished author getting picked up on the first try are very slim. But I'm not looking or thinking of that as failure - I'm excited to have the chance to submit my story, and no matter what the outcome, I will have gone through the process. Which in turn means that the next time won't be so scary, and I'll have learned things to make the next time around even better if/when this first opportunity doesn't pan out.

As I continue to refine my script, I am growing more and more certain of a few big changes I decided to make to the concept of Kallizar's story as a whole. Once the submission deadline passes and I have some time again, I will likely update the site to reflect these changes before I post new pages.

But until then, I thank all of you for your support and hope you have enjoyed the journey thus far. It's only the beginning. :)

FITB: Lee and Z

The manuscript for EUD (Book 1) is currently out to a friend for proofing. The manuscript for FHBB (Book 2) is finished, but I'm still in the first round of revisions. It's exciting, seeing the two big binders on the shelf with print-outs of my novels. Hopefully soon they'll be in real bound-print format. For those of you who don't know anything about FHBB, here's a fun introduction (taken from the script) to one of my favorite characters. And Lee takes great pride in his pirate slang, so he better not hear you mocking him. For those who do know more of this story, here's also the first mention of Z being uptight. I suspect The Glass may make an appearance in a future post to share this wonderfulness with everyone. :)

 

***

Even below decks, Kallizar could hear the shouts of the Saphira’s crew mixing in with the jeers of the pirates. One particularly loud man’s shout was audible even above the din. “Run an’ hide, ye cowardly Vaerish dogs! Cap’n Freeman’s come to get ye!”

“You won’t take me without a fight!” Captain Cath screamed back.

Someone laughed, and then Kallizar lost all traces of understandable conversation to the roar of the battle.

It did not last long. The merchant men, hopelessly outnumbered, were subdued in minutes. Some of them died, screaming or cursing, but Kallizar tried to ignore it. All that mattered was that Aeva and Riat were safe.

“Search the ship. Cap’n wants to make sure everyone’s up to see their cap’n dispatched,” a female shouted, causing a round of coarse laughter from the pirate crew.

Kallizar brought her magic to her hands. If they thought to take her quietly, they were mistaken. If Kallizar had her way, they would not be taking her anywhere.

Heavy footsteps thudded down the stairs. A huge, muscled man came into view, his eyes darting expertly around. When he saw Kallizar, he grinned. “Ye gonna play nice or is Lee gonna have to make ye come up?”

Kallizar recognized his voice as the man who had shouted the insult about the Vaerish dogs.

The man, seeming to get a better view of her, suddenly furrowed his brow. “Ye look awful too pretty to be a part o’ that rubbish crew,” he said. “Ye sure ye be on the right ship?”

Kallizar was completely confused by the man’s statement. “You mean, I should be on your ship?” she asked, not letting her defenses down.

The man laughed. “My ship?” he chuckled. “I’m not the cap’n, and the Fury not be me ship. But I have me place. Cap’n Freeman seems better than this what ye got yerself here.” He arched an eyebrow at her. “Or don’ ye know that this ship here belongs to one o’ the crummiest, scummiest, evilest cap’ns still sailin’?”

Kallizar did not know how to respond, so she said nothing.

“True, true,” he said with a shrug. “Creepin’ Cath an’ his two-timin’ trades.”

“Lee! Ye get killed down there, or what? By the Gods, ye take forever!” the woman called.

Lee rolled his eyes. “Zandra, gettin’ all uptight,” he explained to the surprised Sorcerer. “But I guess she be right. Come on, then.” He gestured for Kallizar to follow him.

“No.” Kallizar was mildly entertained by Lee’s nonchalant behavior, but she was not going to simply leave Aeva and Riat and follow him up into the middle of a bunch of pirates who were, doubtless, less casual than this one.

Lee frowned. “Come on, lass. I know ye be smart or ye wouldn’ be still standin’, talkin’ to me. Ye would have screamed or fainted or some other somesuch nonsense. I know yer not afraid, an’ I know why, too.” He pointed at Kallizar’s lightning. “Ye have the magic in yer blood. But I got a secret for ye.” He winked. “I’m not afraid of yer magic.”

Kallizar tried not to let her growing surprise show. “Do you have a proposition, or are you merely going to chat me to death?” Kallizar asked him. “Either fight or leave me alone.”

Lee smiled. “Those be bad choices, Sorcerer lass. I’d love to let ye stay, but I have me orders, and the Cap’n doesn’t take well to people not obeyin’ his orders.”

“Then I guess we’ll have to fight. How does your captain take to having dead crew members?” Kallizar retorted.

Lee shook his head. “Truth be told, I would take it much worse than the Cap’n if ye killed me,” he said, “but the Cap’n would still take it pretty bad.”

Kallizar shot a bolt of lightning at Lee’s knee, aiming to stop him without killing him. Gods help her, but she liked the man.

***

I Think I'm Having an Identity Crisis

More difficult to answer than you might expect, and a question I've been mulling over for some time now: Do I want to have my books published under my real name or under a pen name? I have reasons for liking (and disliking) each option and I haven't made much progress toward an answer.

What do you think about pen names? Do you "judge a book by its cover author name"? Are you more interested in unusual names (especially if the name sounds like it really fits the genre to which the book belongs)? Or does the author's name not matter to you?

In short - when you wander down the aisles of your local bookstore or library, does the author's name have any weight in what makes you pull an unknown book off the shelf for investigation?