blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I know I’ve been rather blog-quiet lately. There are two reasons for that.

First, y’all know I love my job giving whiskey tours. And I’m not working that many hours, all told. But making the transition has been a bit rocky in terms of time management. Some things had to give, and longer online pieces were the pieces that fell to the wayside for awhile.

Second, I’ve been struggling a little with my “online presence.” Frankly, I don’t even like to couch it in that term, but I haven’t another that’s any better. Weighing where I speak about what, and in what terms, and how often or seldom

Y’see, my online presence has always been just… me. Not Me Writer or Me Not-Writer. Just me. At the same time, Online Me has almost always been separate from Real Life Me, mostly because the majority of people I interacted with in daily life had little if any interest in Online Me and related pursuits. And Online Me always felt free to be me, but now that people I know in real life are hooking into Online Me, I feel all weird and exposed.

It’s all mixed up and jumbled and judged, and all the boundaries are smudged, and I’m second-guessing every time I consider posting here (and LiveJournal) because I’m certain you’re not interested in that, and my goodness this used to be so natural and easy, and maybe I’m posting on the wrong day for people to actually have time to read it, and am I really going to use that photo again, and I think I’d be infinitely happier if Facebook went away forever.

*insert flailing arms*

I’m figuring it out, slowly but surely. The closer I get to feeling certain, the more I realize what I’ve posted in the past is exactly what I want to keep posting going forward. It’s my attitude, not my content, that needs to settle down and move forward.

So you can look forward to more writing posts, more fighting posts, more disconnected musings on grief and puppers and wellness and whatever, and when the weather shifts, there will be the return of posts about camping and gardening. (Yes, gardening. My current yard is a sliver given mostly to puppers, so we’ll be experimenting with hay bales and the like.)

In the meantime!

Flesh of Strife has been steadily growing, and as it grows, the plot for the last novel in the series, Ash of Life, becomes clearer. There is fun stuff in there, and hard stuff, and true stuff, and kind stuff, and hopeful stuff.

Another novel, completely unrelated to the Desert Rising series, has taken form. I have been ruthless against its demand to be written right now, though. Flesh and Ash must come first, because that’s what my darlings are reading.

And the cookbook! We’re almost there! Right after Superstars next week, I’ll be sending out a final round of recipes for testing. Other recipes have been adjusted according to the fabulous feedback people so graciously offered. Some of those adjustments were in ingredients, but most were in the instructions, and I’m so grateful folks put a meal on the line to discover my errors.

The Patreon novella is still moving forward, and is in desperate need of a new section or two in February.

And my Patreon is still there, and I am amazed and grateful every month for y’all’s support there. It keeps me going, truly.

So… Here we are. A confession, a meandering, and an update all in one.

And if there’s anything else you want to know about, please tell me because I’m obviously having a hard time figuring things out in isolation these days.

#SFWApro
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
See that beautiful thing? It’s my Christmas joy, given by my brother-in-law as part of our family Secret Santa exchange.* He joked that he bought me one so I’d stop borrowing his. I told him it was his own fault for suggesting it would be a great camping accessory.

Yes, it’s great for emergencies--it’ll jumpstart a car, forex--but it’s the camping applications that make me love it so.

The last time I took my BIL’s charger along, I tested how much battery power it took to keep my Kindle and phone fully charged over three days. By the end of the experiment, I’d recharged my used-until-dead Kindle three times, and my used-not-as-much phone twice. The charging unit’s battery level had merely nudged down to around 97%.

Coming experiments will include discovering how long it’ll run my laptop, and what affects the power drain. The first attempt got around six hours of active laptop and wireless use (in addition to the two-ish hours I get from the laptop battery).

My writerly camping trips are about to get WAY more productive. Or at least differently productive.

Y’see, the usual writerly camping trip tends to revolve around plotting and editing, with some handwritten first drafting. Truly, I love writing by hand, and part of me misses the days when I wrote first and second drafts with black extra-fine Uniball pens on college-ruled notebook paper in a three-ring binder. But... I’ve also grown accustomed to the greater speed a keyboard allows me when my thoughts start running ahead of my cursive.

This lovely unit will permit me to flip open the laptop at those moments without fear I’ll suddenly run out of power before finishing.

Of course, now I desperately want to hide in a wooded campground for three days.

Alas, January!

On the other hand, March isn’t that far away...



*Our family shifted from the gifts-for-everyone model to Secret Santa many years ago, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is move into the holidays without massive financial and shopping stress. We draw names at the end of Thanksgiving dinner, keep our draw secret, then exchange the gifts on Christmas Eve. Yes, the kids still get Santa presents, and special presents from parents.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I was not as enthusiastic about MileHiCon this year for a couple admittedly ego-centric reasons, and because I was tired and had had such a wonderful and unique Sirens experience. But I'd made commitments, and so I went.

Thank. Goodness.

At the SFWA meeting, I in-person connected with Nathan Lowell--a wonderful indie writer I'd communicated with online, and waved to once at another local con. We chatted until needing to run off to respective panels, then met up again for whiskey in the afternoon. Eventually we were joined by three other writers--indie writers!--from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and I much enjoyed the three-ish hours we all spent together sharing experiences and encouraging more connections. There were dog stories, too, which makes everything more wonderful.

So now I'm looking at connecting with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, joining their indie publishing group, and picking brains about audio books and the like. And I'm looking at enjoying it.

(That last bit is important, you see, because I've determined life is too short to deal much and long with assholes. Yes, this limits my opportunities. Yes, I'm fine with that.)

Next year, I won't be at MileHiCon, though. It's the same weekend as Sirens. So I did spend some time convincing the folks I met they'd like to check out Sirens. :-)

As for NaNo... I've mentioned elsewhere I'm not doing the "real" NaNoWriMo. Truly, signing up on yet another website, proving my wordcount, and so on does not appeal to me. Besides, I'm starting with a pile of already-written material that will be shuffled in with newly written material, and methinks that's not in the NaNo rules. But for the first time ever, the month of November is one during which I can give writing more time and focus because I do not have children at home, holidays with family do not require extensive travel, and my son's early December birthday doesn't require much planning. Thus I'm doing the nose-grindstone thing for thirty days.

So this is what the next Desert Rising book looks like this morning:

IMG_20161031_100742_615

Most of that will end up trashed or set aside for another novel, since it was first written years ago. Today's task is to shuffle through those piles and pull out all the pieces I might want to use going forward, to integrate those pieces with the existing multiple-viewpoint outline, and translate those pieces onto the Magic Index Cards that will permit me to write the novel.

In other news, I'll be making three frittatas and homemade caramel for apple-dipping so we can have a Halloween family dinner + trick-or-treat this evening.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
If you’ve read most any other person’s experience attending Sirens, you’ve an inkling of what I’m going to say.

Yes, it is an amazing few days—surrounded by women and men (why, YES, men do attend Sirens, and enjoy it immensely) who celebrate who they are, and what and who they love. The conversations are far-ranging and tightly-focused, curious and passionate, overlapping and attentive. The interactions are both open and intimate. There is space and there is affection. Questions and affirmations. Challenges and comforts. Embracing old friends and picking up where we left off last year, and embracing new friends with the anticipation of connections yet to be formed.

Three cool things in particular, but in no particular order:

First: Conversations about grief and grieving. Not many opportunities come about in daily life for those. People close to me are much more interested in making sure I’m “all right,” which to them means I’m not expressing loss and longing. That makes it easier for me to talk about grief with people I don’t see all the time; they tend to be more curious than concerned, and curiosity is what opens doors in search of answers. Those chats are emotional gold for me—the chance to share in the hope it’ll help someone else, yes, but also the opportunity to better understand myself and the process.

Second: The Sirens Fight Club. Hooking up with women who understand the subtle and overt challenges of choosing to train—to openly enjoy—combat arts is exhilarating. Truly, I wanted another entire weekend to spend with these women, and I knew so within the first few minutes of our meeting. We’re going to plot out a proposal or two for next year. Truly, between us, we could offer a multi-day workshop!

Hmm…

Third: Laurie Marks. I’ve said before I am grateful for, and humbled by, the female fantasy writers who “raised” me in this crazy world of storytelling. Laurie was the first published writer I’d ever met, the first to teach me about critique groups, the first to give me feedback on my very first attempted novel. I was nineteen and stupid and arrogant and ambitious, and when she told me I used too many gerunds, I had to go home and look up the word (in an actual printed dictionary, no less!) because I hadn’t a clue. We lost touch a few years later, and the more years that passed, the more awkward it felt to pop back into her life with a “Hey, remember me?”

Twenty-five years passed that way.

Nervousness remained as Sirens came closer, until I passed Laurie in the hall on the second day and re-introduced myself.

And was given a full smile and a tight hug and an invitation to lunch with her and Deb. Catching up was wonderful and too brief, but there isn’t a shred of awkwardness or nervousness on my part remaining. There will not be a horrible time-gap again!

All of that was Sirens for me.

The conference will be in Colorado again next year, but this time up in Vail at a marvelous luxury resort that—and this is the incredible part—will cost little more than the rooms down in Denver.

You want to do this, my darlings. You want to do this so, so badly.

You want to come to Vail in October, when it might be clear and merely crisp at sundown only to give way to snow-covered mountainsides by sunrise. When we will celebrate the women of fantasy who not only hold power in their own right, but wield it as well. Women of strength. Women of magic.

Women we all know.

Women like you.

#SFWApro
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Sirens begins tomorrow!

(Well, Sirens Studio is actually already in progress, but I couldn’t swing my schedule into alignment until the conference itself.)

But I am excited! I pick up a friend at the airport tomorrow morning, then head to the hotel to meet up with existing friends and meet some new ones. A couple folks have volunteered to help out with “The Movement You Don’t See" (it’s a low-low-impact workshop, but I did want to demo a couple things that some might find uncomfortable), so I’ll get to meet up with them, too.

My son has been such a good sport, helping me decide what to leave in and take out of the presentation. My inclination is to teach a three-hour class, so keeping it all within an hour is a bit of a challenge.

So if you’re attending Sirens, find me and say hello! If you’re in the Denver area and not attending, drop me a line if you’d like to BarCon for awhile anyway!
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
For years, the Oster merchant Neb has been nagging at me to finish his story. For years, I've been trying to do so. But now--thanks to the whisper of another character who said simply, "It's me, ma'am. Don't worry about them."--the story is rumbling along apace. A truly, not a moment too soon. I needed a break from the heaviness that can be SheyKhala.

The Drunkard is set in the same lands as my novels, and readers will recognize reference to the land of Osterloh as the enemy not yet fully seen in the current storylines. We have threats and fights and battles and blood-hungry beings... but your narrator Neb is a sharp-tongued man with a knack for odd phrasings and secrets that are both softer and harder then he's really comfortable talking about. And no matter what you might hear, he'll have you know he is held in the highest esteem by those merchants who share his penchant for almost-licit dealings, and can count on any of them to nudge the border guards at the proper moment and with the appropriate coin (supplied, of course, by Neb himself).

The dear folks currently supporting me on Patreon will have exclusive, patron-only access to the novella as it unfolds. The first part is up at Patreon now. For a dollar a month, you can join up! I'll also be revamping my Patreon page and offerings in the coming month, so if you've some patron-input you'd like to share, please do!

So here's a taste of The Drunkard.

Um... wait, I didn't mean it quite that way...

Ahem.

The Drunkard

Here’s how those storytelling dimwits begin the tale:


He rode into town at sunset, just as prophecy had foretold. The folk feared to meet his cold stare as he reckoned the worth of their lives against the risking of his own, for he alone could deliver them from the ancient evil that had descended upon Entibar.


Pah.


Blah, blah, PAH.


First of all, there was no prophecy. Just some babble from old Plegar, who forgot more often than not to pull up his trousers before tottering into the hostel for breakfast. There was no impressive arrival, either. Near as I could figure, the drunkard staggered out of some tavern in Jendayi, passed out amongst sacks of goatswool in the back of my wagon, went overlooked at the border crossing from Calligar to Osterloh, and slept all the way to Entibar. That’s where I found him—just as I’d pulled the wagon alongside my humble mudbrick home—when I tossed a half-empty jug of cheap Calligari wine over the back of the wagon bench.


He yipped like a puppy over that little tap on the head.


"Who in all hells are you?" I demanded when he lurched to his knees. He answered by puking over the wagon's side. By the look of his shirt and open longvest, he'd given the same answer numerous times before since his last visit to the laundry.


I drew the knife I kept secreted under the wagon bench, then climbed down the wheel. The knife wasn't much, but I could stick him if I had to. Or run, despite my stiff back, and yell loud enough to rouse a warrior before the drunkard caught up. I lived outside town, but there was a watchpost over the hill. Someone would hear me if I made an effort.


The man wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. I assumed there were eyes behind the ropes of dark hair slung over his face.

"Gimme a drink," he slurred, his voice raw from retching. "Gimme a drink, old man."


I'm older, not old, so I kicked a cloud of dust at him—an insult that said I'd rather bury him than look at him. "Your last drink is in the dirt, dunghead. Scrape it up and take it with you."


He pushed his hair back to reveal bloodshot eyes amidst circles of bruises. Someone had given him the what-for with both fists. Probably someone familiar with his fine deportment and sweet discourse.


"You're not... Where am I?"


"In my wagon, dunghead."


"But I'm supposed to be..." He stared at his shaking hands. Without another word for me, he snatched up my wine jug like a dying man who'd found the elixir of immortality. I gaped as he gulped. I'd never seen a man so frantic for wine.


"More," he croaked when he'd drained the last.


"This isn't a hostel," I snapped back. "And I'm no hoskeep looking to please a customer."


"You don't want to see me sober, old man."


"I don't want to see you at all."


The drunkard swayed from the wagon's edge far enough to reveal what I'd not noticed before. A very long dagger, like those worn by Calligari warriors for the sort of up-close fighting Osters like me had nightmares about. There was peace between Calligar and Osterloh now, but it was still new and not universally favored.


And I'd thought to poke him with my knife, which now seemed as menacing as straw. Limp straw. My late wife always told me my temper would escort me to my grave.


He jerked his longvest over the dagger as if I'd forget it if I couldn't see it. "Don't run," he said. "Just gimme the drink, I'll be gone."

"I'll get to the watchpost and bring back warriors before you can blink. Sober warriors."


"Don't. Run."


I ran, forgetting to yell. Behind me I heard the clatter of my wagon's gate, then a solid thud. I rounded my home's corner and fell against the wall, sucking air through clenched teeth. My back was in worse shape than I thought.


All I heard was the rustling of tamarisk trees. Unless the Calligari was traipsing tippy-toe over the gritty earth, he wasn't pursuing me. I tightened my hold on the knife and peeked around the corner.


That drunken Calligari was sprawled face down in the dirt. The wagon gate hung open above him. I'd been meaning to fix the latch for a month, and decided the gods loved me enough to have made me procrastinate. If they loved me more, the Calligari had broken his neck. I squinted, counted to twenty, and never once saw him twitch.


I whispered, "Deliver me from malice and dishonor," then kissed my knife's blade as I'd been taught decades ago, during the few months I'd trained as a warrior. A fighter's life hadn't agreed with me then, and my present aversion remained quite hale.


Once I convinced my back it wouldn't hurt any worse if I moved than it did standing still, I faced my wagon. Goatswool wasn't a tempting prize for thieves, but silver was stashed amongst the wool, and those coins were necessary to keep me in the apothecary's good graces. My back wasn't getting better, and I suspected my knees would soon vie for attention. Without a medicinal or two, my trading days were finished, as well as my ability to meet other obligations.


So I determined to summon the watch after my silver was stashed elsewhere. No sense in encouraging questions I didn't wish to answer. I hadn't spent fourteen years guarding my nearly-licit trade dealings to have them spoiled by a drunkard.


Up close, he looked near enough to dead to be of no concern. Knife set on the wagon bench, I crept past him and hauled my aching self up the wheel. I'd be lucky if my back didn't cinch up in mid-reach. Fortunately, I never had to endure such torment. Unfortunately, deliverance came on the edge of the dagger that suddenly appeared between my arm and ribs.


"No time left," the Calligari said, his accent hardening. "Do you have another jug?"


A dozen answers of good wit came to mind, but none were so sharp as that dagger, so I merely sighed. "Two, to be precise. Beer."


He withdrew the dagger without so much as snagging my sleeve. "Fetch it."


"My donkeys—"


"Won't die out here. Keep wasting time, and we will."


Oh, lovely. I'd trundled home a drunkard bent on killing himself and present company if I couldn't keep him soused. I eased down from the wheel and faced my captor. He stank of sweat, mildew, and his recent digestive troubles. No squint-lines framed his blackened eyes, which bleakened my outlook for the future. Calligari warriors were half-crazy by nature, and this one had the aid of fermentation and youth to bolster his madness. I thought one last time of racing for the watchpost, my aching back be damned. But he kept his dagger ready, and running with a blade skewering my thigh would likely prove beyond my abilities.


"I shouldn't be here," he muttered.


"On that we agree."


He flinched, then bared his teeth as if angry I'd had the audacity to overhear him. "I can't fight the demons today."


I snorted, and hobbled toward my home. "No doubt your 'demons' are more terrible than anyone else's troubles."


"Pray gods you never find out."


I found myself abruptly and utterly lacking in curiosity, and opted against begging divine intervention. Since the gods had proved fickle with their favor, I'd be more particular with my prayers.



There's more to Part One--not to mention the many upcoming parts!--so if you're interested in going forward, please check out Patreon for more information.!



blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Here you go, my darlings!  All the links to author interviews and cool musings.  This post will be updated as new pieces come on line.

Here’s your direct link to the Weird Western Bundle, where you can choose to purchase four novels or all ten novels.  You’ll also have the opportunity to donate a portion of your purchase to Girls Write Now, a fantastic organization dedicated to teaching the writing skills necessary for success.

Here’s the launch post posted by Gemma Files, whose award-winning novel Book of Tongues is in the bundle.

All Covers Large

Joe Bailey, author of Spellslinger, chatted here with fellow bundle-author Kyra Halland (author of bundle book Beneath the Canyons) about mixing magic in Westerns.

Next up, Kyra Halland interviews Tiberius Bogg, the mountain man of Steven White’s Hair of the Bear and New World. You’ll find BOTH those novels in the bundle!

Now we have Steven White’s interview of Idyll author James Derry, chatting about writing, publishing choices, and his other-planetary Western.

Then Walt Starboard, the rancher’s son training to be a county doctor in Derry’s Idyll, tells you about life on the other-planet settlement, including his mother’s coma-inducing illness.

Update August 31:

JP Allen , author of West of Pale, talks with Joe Bailey about the deeper underpinnings that draw him to writing Weird Westerns and the upcoming sequel.

Next, JP Allen hosts Kenneth Mark Hoover, author of Haxen. He shares his thoughts on the importance of history, consistency, and worldbuilding in creating a strong Weird Western.

Once again, Kyra Halland opens her blog to host a bundle author, and this time it’s Judith Tarr, whose newest novel Dragons in the Earth is debuting in the Weird Western Bundle. She shares the Tucson Magic and love of horses that combine with dragons in this fabulous series opener.

More links to come!


blairmacg: (belt)

In 2013, I made a mistake that still affects my physical abilities—everything from Okinawan weapons training to using a screwdriver.

Two students, father and son, began classes at my dojo. The son was an energetic eight-year-old. The father was a six-foot-six retired drill sergeant who’d trained in a similar style about twenty years prior, but who wanted to start again as a white belt in order to train with his son, and had observed enough of my classes to decide he wanted me as an instructor. He was the kind of returning student who makes a sensei’s job easier by acknowledging long-ago rank is not a measure of present ability. He was fun, supportive of his son and other students, perfectly respectful, and quick to smile. I liked him. Still do.

As I mentioned in The Snarky Partner, I teach hold escapes not only as a basic self-defense technique, but as foundational training for partner work. That’s what the man and his son were learning, alongside another dozen or so new students. As usual, one of the first escapes I taught was a shoulder-hold escape: the bad guy grabs your shoulder, and you break the hold. It’s a totally simple technique I’ve taught and performed thousands of times. I not only know how to teach it in a few minutes, I know the counters, the means to avoid injury, the importance of release, and so forth. So I worked my way around the circle of young and older students, letting them each try it a couple of times with me as their partner, before reaching the father.

I reached up to take hold of his shoulder with my right hand. Just as I grabbed, a younger student starting spinning in place. I gave the child my attention for two seconds—”John, eyes on Sensei!”—and that’s when the father whipped his arm around to perform the escape.

Read more... )

No matter how nice and skilled a stranger seems, never assume you share the same ground rules for contact. Not even shared terminology is a sign of safety. My version of “testing strikes” might not be anywhere near what you expect. You do not want to discover that difference during the flash-second face and fist share the same space.

Sharing and exploring martial arts with others is an awesome thing, and anyone you’d want to learn with won’t be affronted by establishing boundaries and setting expectations before things get physical. Students well-trained will appreciate and share your insistence on knowing parameters ahead of contact.

As always, questions and comments are most welcome!

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon. So if you find it valuable and helpful, please consider becoming a patron  so I can continue providing the content you like!

For more self-defense and fight-writing related articles, check out this page.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

You’ll not be surprised, my darlings, to hear me admit a few things trigger me to rant on and on. You’ve seen this before, yes? Well, this time it’s the notion that a writer who says they haven’t time to write in truth doesn’t really want to write.

I don’t want to call out specific folks because the call-out doesn’t matter. Besides, some folks won’t understand the circumstances unless and until they find themselves hip-deep in them. But I do want to offer perspective to those who—right this moment, or in the past, or in the future—read those sorts of comments and opt to take them as truth. It’s for those who, already under stress, take the tossed-off judgment of those they admire as an accurate assessment of their own skill and determination.

ClearCamaraFeb2013 112

It’s for the person I was just a few years ago.

So.

Last summer, I sat on a panel at 4th Street focused on wellness for writers. I mentioned the idea that “real” writers write through pain, through dire life events, through depression and more, and answered it with, “That’s kinda bullshit.”

It’s actually real bullshit.

But I didn’t always think that way.

***

In my early twenties, I worked a fulltime office job by day and worked theater rehearsals and performances every night. I dragged a three-ring binder around wherever I went—scribbling out a few hundred words every day by investing my lunch hour and dinner hour in my stories. Two decades later, my acting buddies still recall how I huddled backstage, stealing a sliver of stage lights that spilled through the sets, to write a paragraph or two between my scenes.

Man, I was so busy! All I had was a lunch hour no one interrupted, time backstage when no one interrupted, and most of my weekends with nothing to do but domestic chores. So busy!

Then I had a child. My husband started a business while also working nights in a different city, so the care and feeding of another lifeform was pretty much my sole responsibility. Even when the business succeeded well enough for my husband to leave the night work behind, he was gone most of our son’s waking hours for the years of his young childhood.

Man, I was so busy! All I had (once we got past infanthood) were early evenings when my son was asleep, and the six hours a week I could afford to pay for a sitter who’d watch my son while I wrote. Unlike my pre-child years, I had not only inside-the-house domestic chores, but home maintenance chores, and evening karate teaching as well. Even though my husband did, frankly, more than his share, I still had more to do than before I had family commitments.

Then the business tanked, my husband broke his sobriety, and we lost our home. My son and I ended up living first with my parents, then on our own in a tiny refurbished Amish home on a farm owned by friends. Then the economy crashed, and I couldn’t even get a job at a fast food restaurant. Really, truly. When you’re fifty miles from a city, job prospects are few. So I learned to drive a tractor, to harvest and sell vegetables, to barter with my neighbors, and survive winters with the thermostat set at 52 degrees and months when the food budget for my son and I was under $150.

Man, was I busy! I took care of a 130+ acres’ worth of farm chores by day, and taught karate by night. But I still had household responsibilities as well, not to mention my son’s schooling and extracurricular activities, and the extra time involved in working with my husband (we never divorced) for visitation. All I had was the time after about nine at night, after a day of physical labor and intellectual work (I was homeschooling my son, remember), knowing for more than half the year I’d have to be up by dawn.

I didn’t write much.

Then my husband suffered two heart attacks back to back, and was soon diagnosed with terminal liver cancer and given four to six months to live.

Man.

Was I busy.

I didn’t write.

***

The next time someone tells you “everyone” can find time to write if they really, really want to, understand they’re using the wrong pronoun to express their personal truth. Understand, too, more than one person will read this and form a rebuttal with, “I didn’t mean that!

But you and I, my darlings, we both know how we might hear judgments when already under stress and feeling isolated. When already knowing our creative selves must wait weeks or months or years for attention, and when we can’t control how long that wait must be. Yes, yes, there is a portion of the seeking-writerly-advice audience who will suddenly become motivated by the realization they have hours a day they could spend writing. They tend to be more visible and vocal because, well, they have the time to be.

Those who don’t have time? That’s who I’m talking to right now—the folks I wish I’d had the time to talk with and hear from when I was fairly certain I’d never be a “real” writer because I couldn’t manage to write much in the sixteenth hour of my eighteen-plus hour day.

So take a breath, give yourself a break, and know most people who have not-writing commitments and challenges have all taken breaks–voluntarily or not–from story creation.  That’s not only normal, it’s healthy.

“I don’t have time” is not an excuse, my darlings. Quite often, it’s real life.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Common talk (and just about every critique group and workshop) says a writer should never use a prologue because prologues are so often written poorly. But… first chapters are often written poorly, too, as are fight scenes, descriptions, character backstory, depictions of horses, near-future science, and final chapters. But we do not advise writers to avoid writing them. We instead advise them to learn how to write them well.

So it should be with prologues. After all, not knowing how to write compelling prologues results in lots of bad prologues, which reinforces the mistaken notion that prologues are inherently terrible.

I’m no widely acclaimed or best selling author. I’m just a workaday gal who has to spend more time than others figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and why. So take my assessments with all the salt you wish.

Personally, I suggest smoked paprika instead. Or tarragon. Or fresh basil and black tea with a nice smoky whiskey…

Ahem.

Go ahead and add salt if you’d like.

***

So… Why write a prologue?

Let’s get the backstory question out of the way right now because, while prologues certainly don’t need to contain backstory, so many of them do.

If I put a heading of, “Indianapolis, 2015” above my novel’s first chapter, I have just supplied you with a massive amount of historical, social, and cultural backstory. The same thing happens if the heading is “Rome, 64 CE.” The reader might need a bit more information if the chapter heading is, “Qusqu, 1532,” but a couple sentences will settle the reader in space and time.

But stories set in secondary worlds lack the support of (usually) common historical knowledge. Thus there are many, many methods taught to writers who face the task of super-secretly teaching the reader about the new world’s unknown history that’ll drive the story forward.

Characters sit down to eat and/or have a drink, which seems to naturally trigger a very specific and story-relevant conversation about historical events or mythology. Or characters just happen to be researching something in the library, underground archives, university records hall, or some such, and must have a detailed conversation about the purpose and/or stakes of the search. Or an authority figure happens to deliver a lecture to a class, to wayward (chosen) children, or an especially gifted person who now Must Be Told the Truth. Or the characters happen to take a stroll through an historical site, or attend an ostensibly boring yet info-laden meeting, or discover a hidden packet of revelatory artifacts while, coincidentally, in the company of someone who knows absolutely nothing, thus giving the knowledgeable character reason to expound at length… You get the idea.

I came across one of those during a recent read, in fact. It’s a great story by a respected writer that came highly recommended… and the “Backstory Supper” is plopped right in the middle of an early chapter. It comes complete with Educated Person telling New Person With Obvious Purpose everything the reader needs to know to make sense of the world. I sighed and skimmed it with more exasperation than I would have a mediocre prologue , truly.

Y’see, all those backstory insertion strategies can be just as clunky as poorly written prologues. They’re a common source of “the later parts of the story dragged” critiques and reviews, and yet, for some reason, they’re considered far more worthy of a learning investment than prologues.

In addition to the super-secret nudge-wink methods of giving a reader blocks of backstory beneath the obvious, yet agreed upon as proper, veneer of action or conversation, there is the craft of disclosing backstory one small phrase or inference at a time. The reader’s experience becomes one of constant and subtle mental readjustments over the course of the story, because every backstory disclosure alters the character’s relationship to and with the world and plot.

I do love that as a reader. I love that type of story. But not every story needs to be, nor should be, the trickle-backstory-reveal tale. And not every piece of backstory is made for trickling.

So yes, a prologue can be an important tool for relaying large-scale backstory, especially the kind of backstory that would instead end up in one or more contrived scenes of thinly-disguised information delivery. It’s a means of introducing meta-events that will influence, drive, control, and overshadow the entire story with the same depth and power as, perhaps, a chapter heading of, “Paris, 1942.”

But discussing prologues solely in terms of establishing a story’s scope does them, and those who might write them, a great disservice. That way lies encyclopedic entries masquerading as story. The standard advice of, “Just make it compelling!” isn’t all that helpful because it prematurely leaves behind the question of purpose in favor of method, and assuming prologues exist for the sole purpose of relaying backstory is utterly disastrous.

***

Years and years ago, I was fortunate enough to act in a production of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone. It’s an incredibly awesome play about power, choice, justifications, and consequences, and it was the most challenging role I ever had the good fortune to take on.

But the role I found most awesome wasn’t mine. It was Chorus.

Chorus comes on stage to deliver the play’s first lines, and proceeds to talk to the audience for well over a thousand words. Chorus doesn’t interact with other characters here. They just tell the audience about them—who they are to each other, how they came to be here, and what their fates will be. It is brilliant and breathless storytelling, my darlings, not because of the telling and the backstory, and certainly not in spite of it. Chorus alone holds the audience for nearly ten minutes with the power of their tone. Their voice. Their attitude.

The audience could watch the entire play and not miss a smidgeon of the plot—not even the backstory, really—without the Chorus expending so much time and energy telling it. Anouilh’s dialogue within the play, at one point or another, touches on nearly everything Chorus mentions. But the audience’s experience of the story, emotionally and intellectually, is rendered completely different by the attitude rather than the facts. The audience rides the ensuing tragedy the way Anouilh wants them to, at the speed he sets, at the level of dread he desires, and with the knowledge the characters themselves are denied. The audience has been let in on secrets only retrospection can provide.

In short, Chorus delivers a beautifully successful prologue.

***

So let’s break it down a little bit.

The first line Chorus speaks is, “Well, here we are.” In those four words, Chorus establishes we’re all in this together. That might not seem like a big deal unless and until you understand the play ruthlessly examines resistance and collaboration under an authoritative government. That “we” is a harsh invitation to examine one’s complicity.

Throughout Chorus’s opening monologue, they treat the audience as an insider, as someone who understands, as someone who will appreciate not only the information, but the bits of snark that go along with it. Chorus shows up again later in the play to expound on the comforting blamelessness of tragedy, to ask why dirty work must be done at all, to close the play with a short speech that brings us right back to the beginning with, “And there we are.”

The writerly equivalent to Chorus would be an omniscient viewpoint—an outsider’s voice who knows everything the characters have yet to learn—and it’s underscored by closing the circle with similar phrasings and audience-chat at beginning and end.

But the same critical pieces—voice, focus, and stakes—will ride as equal purposes with successful prologues of any viewpoint.

Voice sets the tone for the reader’s experience, and this matters regardless of viewpoint. Prologues cue the reader to expect a little extra information, so a viewpoint that’s a tad more inclusive, a tad more open to sharing details privy only to the viewpoint character, will be more successful than a viewpoint that might be a tad more miserly with its revelations. It’s the difference between eavesdropping on a conversation and having the asides whispered to you. Prologues are the latter.

Focus gives the reader subtle cues as to what will be important in the pages ahead. For an example that’s likely more well-known than Antigone, consider Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The first four lines tell us this is not a love story, no matter how much we might want to make it into one. It’s a story about the breakdown of community and family and civility, and the consequences of hate. After that prologue, we know there will be bloodshed even as Nurse lovingly teases Juliet, even as the Friar tries to manipulate a bloodless solution, even as Romeo awakes in their wedding bed. The prologue doesn’t spoil the story. It changes the way we experience it.

Above all, a successful prologue establishes stakes that are often barely understood by, or completely/mostly/partially unknown to, the story’s primary characters. These are the threats others don’t yet realize is breathing down their necks, the events that turn seemingly-rational decisions into noose-tighteners. These are the deaths Chorus tells us will happen because “When your name is Antigone, there is only one part you can play.”

Few prologues are so straight-forward as that, but they do lay out hints and inferences aplenty. There’s a reason A Game of Thrones begins with its deadly prologue. There’s a reason Shakespeare wanted to set out parameters at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet. There’s a reason Shakespeare opted to implore the audience to provide “imaginary puissance” at the start of Henry V, and I’d say only about half that choice came from struggling with the limitations of the performance medium. (After all, the play’s “Chapter One” opens with a MASSIVE explanation of Salic law.)

Any of these stories without their prologues would be vastly different experiences. Better or worse? That’s for the reader to decide, my darlings. Some readers love the frame; some consider it an arrogant intrusion. Some readers enjoy the multiple purpose a prologue can serve; others resent it. And in the end, it’s up to the individual reader. Not the non-existent collective.

***

Will any of these pieces guarantee a perfect and reader-grabbing prologue? Be not silly, of course not. They’re simply the guidelines I’ve tried to follow as I write my own prologues. (You can check the Look Inside feature here to assess if I was successful or not.)

But thousands of additional words could be written about successful prologues that do few or none of these things well or at all, but do other things with amazing triumph. And even if you create the most masterful prologue, some will say you suck. Some will say you’ve resorted to a storytelling crutch that no proper writer would deign to snort at in public.

Some will say, “Cool, there’s a prologue!”

But most readers don’t have a passionate stance on prologues. They want a good story, and prologues are simply another tool intended to tell a different kind of tale. Like every other tool, it should be used with deliberation and purpose, not because it was the first thing that came to mind.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
I'm weary of referring to Book Three and Book Four, so I'm kicking around ideas.

I've mentioned before I want to keep the same rhythm for Three and Four -- NOUN of NOUN.

The frontrunners right now are a word-match of ash, flesh, flame matched with life and strife.

Flame of Strife
Ash of Life

Flesh of Strife
Flame of Life

Ash of Strife
Blood of Life

Flesh of Life
Ash of Strife

... I don't know. *stares at options*

And I don't yet have a clue what I'll do for covers. It's not as if I can have the heads pop in from the top and bottom of picture this time. :)
blairmacg: (belt)

One of my business writing clients is a company headed by twin brothers. Big twin brothers who have worked hands-on construction for almost forty years. On the business side, they’re great clients. On the personal interaction side, they are a great deal of fun. After a recent business lunch that included talk of martial arts, the few-minutes-younger brother asked if I thought I’d “be able to take” the few-minutes-older brother if he tried to attack me. I looked the older brother up and down and smiled. “Sure! My thumb will still fit in his eye socket.”

There was a moment of surprised silence before the laughter and nodding. It was one of those good-natured exchanges based more on fun curiosity and comfortable friendship than the need to challenge.

But friendship and curiosity aren’t always elements in those conversations, and when they’re absent…

Every now and then, the mention of martial arts in a group conversation results in an edged challenge from a stranger who—apparently threatened by the very thought of martial arts—wants to cut down that threat right away, with words or with fists. Most do come from men (though I did have a fearsome experience with a woman who claimed she had top-secret CIA training she wanted to demonstrate…).

While some challenges are set out with overt hostility, most are made in a mocking tone that quickly becomes, “What’s your problem? I was just joking!” if the conversation doesn’t go their way and the need to save face arises. In that way, it’s similar to the “I’m just awkward” creepiness seeking to cover its rear when exposed.

Depending on the setting and company, these challenges range from a middling annoyance to a heart-racing adrenaline trigger. Every martial arts student will have different reactions and different methods to deal with the challenges, depending on a combination of personality, experience, and training philosophies. Every instructor will have different advice, based on the same. This is mine.

***

Read more... )
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
So the appropriately named Rock-pocalypse (thank you,  [livejournal.com profile] gnibbles!) that devoured my sister's new-home experience also ate nearly two weeks of my life because... well, because someone tried to screw over my family member and that Will Not Stand. Everything in me that is Scots-Irish Sicilian came out in force, and there wasn't room for elsemuch.

I cannot go in to all the details quite yet (though I'm muchly looking forward to doing so, if for no other reason than to purge it from my brainspace). But I can say over two thousand square feet of two- to four-inch sized rocks were removed from my sister's yard this week. They removed enough rock from her yard to have filled the previous home I lived in with rock six to eight inches deep.

That's a fuck-ton of rock.

In case you missed it, here's what it looked like when they moved in:







Now she and her partner can move forward, with a large deck being built this week and the landscapers coming to finish everything off next week. By the 30th, everything needs to be in place, since they're throwing a huge party in that backyard to celebrate their marriage!

And this means I can move forward, too.

I'm wrapping up final commitments for a new StoryBundle I'm curating, answering almost as many emails as there were rocks in my sister's backyard, and sending over a dozen pieces of content for a client back and forth to ensure what I've said about their industry is accurate down to the last little word.

This weekend, I get to write, and to get Breath of Stone review and promo info out to willing folk.

I do not get to go camping. Two weeks out from my sister's wedding celebration, it would be bad familial form to, y'know, disappear into the woods. But this I know: much of September will belong to me and me alone. I intend to take advantage of that and disappear often.

In the meantime, I will be taking more afternoon wanderings. I've found a few removed places within an easy drive that both permit me to feel far away and offer writing-conducive atmospheres and resources. The far-away part is mostly psychological; I need to be somewhere that convinces my brain I'll not be randomly interrupted at any moment. Being in a house with a person who processes every single internal thought verbally (mother), and a person who will interrupt to first assure you he won't interrupt, then interrupt again to apologize for the earlier interruption (father), means I spend most of my home-time waiting for those interruptions. Somehow, someway, a fifteen to thirty minute drive fixes it. Whatever.

Book Three of Desert Rising is progressing. It feels so damn good to be writing it. I do need to nail down the title, because calling it Book Three is bugging me. :) I'm leaning toward another pairing--Flesh of Strife and Ash of Life--or something similar.

And a friend kicked my butt for not writing and publishing more non-fiction, and she's right. Recently, my non-fiction energies have flowed toward immediate client needs. If I'm going to build income rather than chase it, I must invest in my personal non-fiction writings as well. I've twelve months to meet my "hit the road with an RV" dream goal, so I'd best get cracking!


blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Thank you for buying Breath of Stone!  I hope you’re enjoying it.  If you’re so inclined to leave a review at the point of purchase, Goodreads, or both, I’d much appreciate it.

The next in the series is solidly underway.  There’s some plotting left to do, and a couple nifty ideas popped up to bump up my excitement level, too.  One cool aspect is the inclusion of a character created by a Patreon backer who looks to become a key viewpoint character.  I do feel as if I have a lovely running start at this one.

I’m also poking at a shorter work that is both loosely related and completely different.  We’ll see how it comes along.

For anything other than the basics of writing fiction, writing for clients, and Auntie-ing for my nephews, the month of July is all but gone.  Sure, I can catch the occasional meal with a friend, but I’m not seeing much time beyond that.  Lots of family events–moving, wedding, kid events, and so forth–shall eat the days before I know it.

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)
Topic the First:

4th Street was a great experience this year--a great and glorious disproving of my usual silly pre-con anxiety of "This time no one will acknowledge my existence." For me, the most wonderful parts are between and/or triggered by the scheduled events. It's the conversations about why some authors successfully cross genre lines, examining creeping biases, opening publishing opportunities, determining themes, working with and as a beta reader, and and and... Truly, I LOVE those free-ranging conversations. I love even more that I can share them with folks who equally love them.

Part of me would be just fine with a con that had a mere three conversation-launching panels a day, and that's the fault of fascinating people who are willing to share their thoughts and experience outside the panels.

As always, there is never enough time to talk at length with every person I'd like to. That's the downside to knowing a small handful of really cool people; they keep introducing you to other cool people! And though I did make an effort to be more deliberate in spending time with a variety of folks this year, I missed a couple folks I deeply wanted to chat with. (I'm looking at you, John Wiswell!) Alas, I think this is an unfixable thing for me, for even if the con were a day or two longer, I tend to hit the Wall of Introvert Overload at around 72 hours. I simply lose the ability to be intelligently sociable with more than one person at a time at that point.

Topic the Second:

Sirens Conference! My afternoon class proposal was accepted!

I'll be presenting The Movement You Don't See. The (still unofficial) description is:

Fight scenes require more than cool choreography, but not everyone has years to invest in fight-training before writing their epic adventure! Here's your chance to learn lesser-known physical details of fighting through the practices of kata--the martial arts training tool of choreographed techniques.

In this movement-filled workshop, you'll discover the internal landscape of a fighter--the grounding, power generation, body awareness, and exertion your fighting characters experience in action. Whether writing a training montage, or an experienced fighter's battle, having the "insider" experience will add depth and realism.

Physical activity is included, but not required. Observers and listeners are welcome.


Yes, it's exciting to present at Sirens, but it's also exciting to share why kata is such an effective training tool for mind-body awareness and self-defense. (Check out The Purpose of Kata for a preview on that.) It's the little things that matter, and I'm so looking forward to passing a few of those things along. How a pelvic tilt affects the strength of a block, how the angle of the back foot affects the strength of a strike, how the lift of the shoulder affects stamina... All these things and more.

Honestly, I wish I could get a two-hour block of time. :)

Topic the Third:

I'm in the process of putting reader feedback together with writerly goals to determine my upcoming project schedule. For me, determining a schedule that is both satisfying and realistic (and it's the latter I fail at, alas) required breaking down the projects by wordcount. The process revealed I've an estimated 1,135,000 words to write if I want to complete everything on my list.

This is exciting and comforting! Truly, I could fail to generate a new idea for about three years before running out of material. I'm set for the near future. :)

Topic the Last:

That hip dysplasia thing.

Remember when I fell down the stairs a couple months ago? Yeah. Well, I just assumed it happened because my left knee and ankle have always been weaker and more prone to injury. Come to find out that is true... but the reason it's true matters. When the left hip suffers from inflammation, it puts pressure on the nerve running down the front of my thigh, and the nerve doesn't then function properly, which causes the left leg to collapse. It's like trying to do push-ups with one arm having "fallen asleep."

The fact the nerve pressure isn't causing pain is actually a bad thing, in my opinion. If I felt pain, I'd know to take it easy. Instead, my "warning" that something is wrong usually comes in the form of the leg collapsing. That fall down the stairs isn't the first time it has happened, but it was the first in a series. Even now, as I'm sitting in a restaurant to write this, the front of my left thigh is getting that "falling asleep" sensation because I've sat in one position too long.

But here is the COOL thing. [livejournal.com profile] mrissa introduced me to a physician who also has a martial arts background, and who understood in a heartbeat my internal crumbling over this whole thing.* I'm still not at all ready to roll into surgery (not only for personal reasons, but financial and logistical ones), but her quiet words and empathy carefully tunneled through a wall others have beaten upon for quite some time.

She's one of those folks I wish I would have had more and more and more time with, truly. Medical stuff aside, she's a cool person.

So there's the lesson I can pass along today: One way to get someone to do something they don't want to do is to understand fully and deeply why they don't want to do it, and share that understanding without judgment.


There is no Topic the Fourth. I'll see what I can come with another time. :)




*Yes, I hid out to cry after our conversation. Truly, if you ever want to see my cry, don't try to insult or hurt me. Be nice and kind and empathetic. Does the trick every time.
blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Breath of Stone, the second novel of Desert Rising, is available now!

Bone returns to silt and sand,
Blood to salt and water,
Breath to wind and stone,
Soul to sun and storm.
The desert consumes us all.


Read more... )

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

Over the last couple days, I've mentioned here and there I'm in the process of evaluating career options, and a subset of that evaluation is choosing the fiction projects that'll come up once Breath of Stone is launched in the coming month(ish).


The overall career stuff is... complicated. A matter of deciding priorities, time expenditures, current needs, future plans, and professional satisfaction. Some things are working wonderfully, but I'm not certain I want to keep working them. Other things are more risky and will require time investment, but I'm drawn to them nonetheless. We shall see. :-)


Anyway! It was suggested I share my Next Project Dilemma to see what y'all might want to see next. So! *drumroll* Here are the fiction projects on the horizon!


Books Three and Four of Desert Rising: These are the SheyKhala novels, picking up after Breath of Stone. These are long books—at least 125K words each. They take awhile. That said, Book Three is completely plotted and partially written. Book Four is partially plotted.


Tomorrow's Bones: Continuing the story of Sword and Chant. Chant was written as a stand-alone, but was always the opening to something more. This is a story that nags me often, but has a much smaller audience (at least at this time).


The Slaughterer: Something completely different! A stand-alone about a bounty-hunter pulled into his family's decision to run a kind of Underground Railroad for magic workers.


Suffragette Story: This one dropped into my brain, almost fully formed, during last year's Sirens Conference. It's alternate/secret history of the fight to gain women the right to vote, complete with magic and martial arts.


The new series I still struggle to describe: If I had to describe it, I'd say it's paranormal rural, but sometimes urban, contemporary fantasy. There are ghosts and small towns and historical sites and some city settings and sentient elements being manipulated as weapons. Each book is shorter than my usual tome, and I'd likely complete three of them before even publishing the first.


So... There are considerations that must be taken into account. Current faithful readers, market sizes, audience potential, variable time to be invested on each project...


But I'd love to hear what you think! The reader's perspective, the writer's perspective, your perspective.


Help me out here, my darlings! Talk about preferences as a reader, scheduling experience as a writer, knowledge, gut feelings, EVERYTHING.

Crossposted at Blair MacGregor Books.  Comment here or there.



blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

If I haven’t made huge mistakes in the trauma/recovery area, I’m thinking I can wrap up revisions on Breath of Stone by the end of the weekend. I’d like to say sooner, but I’ve perhaps a couple hours a day for it through the next seven days. (When I sell more books, I’ll get to do fewer non-fiction projects…)  Then I must draft cover copy, and that’s just… SIGH.

I’ll be posting a couple chapters for patrons over at Patreon, along with this month’s article on injuries and trauma and healing.

There is a second Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off underway! I’m thinking of putting Sword and Chant in the mix. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it kind of novel. Even some of the most complimentary reviews mention it’s difficult to define. And it’s written in omni viewpoint.  More than ever, the response will depend on the reviewer randomly assigned the odd thing.

I’ve found new places I want to camp!  Pawnee Grasslands, Toadstool Geologic Park, Paint Mines, Palo Duro, Bisti Badlands….  And of course these longings are strongest when over a foot and a half of snow sits outside my door.

Have you see the schedule for the Nebulas?  There is cool, cool stuff happening there, and the cost of the conference itself is, in my opinion, darn good.  Alas, the Chicago location is far too expensive for me.  Maybe next time.

I’ll still be taping my own NOTx talk on the most important aspect of self-publishing!  I was trying to set up a small audience, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon, alas, so it’ll likely just be me talking to you.

Lastly, the ankle is improving more quickly than I would have anticipated.  Just walking, there is nothing but a lingering tightness.  Going upstairs is quite workable.  Going downstairs happens slowly and stiffly, one stair at a time.  Side to side motion isn’t all that fun, and rotation doesn’t feel very good at all.  But progress!  It’s healing!


And if you haven't yet picked up your latest StoryBundle, please amble on over and do so. Our charity this time is Girls Write Now--a fantastic group dedicated to mentoring girls and improving their writing skills for success in all life endeavors. You'll also find in the bundle ten great reads from ten fantastic indie writers whose creativity, style, and craft is exceptional!



And now, back to work!

#SFWApro

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)

My sis and her family live on a military base, and I’m on and off the base a few times a week to help care for my nephews.  The road through the base swings around a field of about five or six acres near the family housing.

As I was pulling onto that road last week, I saw a boy walking, leash in hand, toward a beautiful and tall Husky sniffing around the side of the road.  Behind him, his parents were splitting up to close off escape routes.  I drove a little farther down the road, stopped my car beside a couple other cars, and joined a half dozen folks who had the same idea I did.

The Husky walked back to the boy, ducked his head… then tore off for the field with his tail up high.

For the next half hour, I was part of an impromptu mission to capture the pup.  Men and women — some in uniforms, some not — running back and forth in lines and arcs to keep the pup from bolting for the gates, and to gradually shrink his romping area.

And romping he was!  Head up, he pranced and sprinted and leapt all over that field.  Time and again, he bowed down in front of one of us, tail swinging, waiting for a single twitch to tell him where we were going to play next.

Everyone was laughing.  Sure, it was important we catch that pup, but it was so clear the pup was having the absolute time of his life!  And as orders and warnings were called (“HOLE!” was the most common, since the field was riddled with prairie dog dens), we humans played his game in the bright sun and cool breeze until the pup stopped, shook himself from nose to tail, and trotted over to the woman holding his leash.

More laughing, an exchange of waves, and we all piled into our respective cars and went on our way.  I passed that kid I’d first seen, now holding a leash with a tongue-lolling dog on the other end, and grinned all the way home.

As I was driving home, I thought, “This is one of those things that would happen to [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume!”   Then, in the next moment, I thought, “No, her stories have changed the way I see things, and that’s an incredible thing.”

And then I thought I should tell her, and tell all of you, about the Husky and the military folks and the laughter and the sun, and the power of perspective to change a story and a life.

I might have gotten teary-eyed in there somewhere, too.

blairmacg: (FeatherFlow)


Darlings, I am so excited about this one, and would love to have your support in seeing these great writers connect with a wider audience!



“Ten fine bloggers and blog-sites spent a year considering almost three hundred self-published fantasy books to bring you their ten favorites. It’s hard to imagine you won’t find some gems among them.” — Mark Lawrence

This is a unique bundle to curate as its books were chosen not by me, but by reviewers who took part in the first Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off organized by Mark Lawrence. Each reviewer received over twenty-five books and a mission: Choose one. This bundle contains the books those reviewers put at the very top of their list.

The SPFBO Bundle includes some of the coolest indie fantasy around. Crista McHugh’s A Soul for Troublegives you a witch named Trouble, possessed by the god of chaos. William Saraband’s Shattered Sands follows a slave girl suddenly empowered by forces older than the desert itself. You’ll delve into the more-than-murder mystery of Matthew Colville’s Priest, and follow another priest trying to save the world after the gods disappear in Barbara Webb’s City of Burning Shadows. And The Weight of A Crown from Tavish Kaeden serves up the deep epic of a recently-united realm on the verge of fracturing.

There is the sharp warrior who knows the value of leaving heroism behind in Under A Colder Sun by Greg James, and the ruined hero who chances into a way to surmount the past in David Benem’s What Remains of Heroes. Plague Jack delves deep into a brutal world of conspiracies, consequences, and backlash against a conqueror in Sins of a Sovereignty. Ben Galley smacks a young man into a frontier Wyoming filled with blood magick and secrets in Blood Rush. And Michael McClung’s The Thief Who Pulled On Trouble’s Braids—the novel scoring highest in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off—races along with a sassy, smart thief who must find an artifact everyone thinks she already has before she’s killed for it.

StoryBundle lets you choose your own price, so you decide how much you’d like to support the writers. For $5—or more, if you’d like—you’ll receive the basic bundle of five novels in DRM-free ebook format. For the bonus price of at least $15, you’ll receive all ten novels. If you choose, a portion of your payment will go toward supporting different charities such as Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now. Over the years, StoryBundle and its participating writers have donated thousands to support awesome charities doing great work.

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Bundle is available for only three weeks, so now is the time to pick up this unique collection of reviewer-beloved fantasy novels, and discover new independent writers who want to take you on thrilling adventures through worlds you’ve never seen with characters you want to know (even if a few of them are rather terrifying).

So here’s how you get your hands on this marvelous collection:

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you feel generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format worldwide:


  • Shattered Sands by W. G. Saraband

  • The Weight of a Crown by Tavish Kaeden

  • Priest by Matthew Colville

  • What Remains of Heroes by David Benem

  • A Soul for Trouble by Crista McHugh

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $15, you get all five of the regular titles, plus five more:


  • Sins of a Sovereignty by Plague Jack

  • The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung

  • Under a Colder Sun by Greg James

  • Bloodrush by Ben Galley

  • City of Burning Shadows by Barbara J. Webb

The bundle is available for a very limited time only, via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.


  • Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.

  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.

  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.

  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to charity.

  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

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May 2017

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