Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

The Weight of Their Souls

How about a little mid-month marketing? Today I’m shining a spotlight on my Swords & Sorcery novelette, The Weight of Their Souls. It was originally self-published in 2017 and is still a great deal at just $1.99.

The Weight of Their Souls

The epic war is over, the great Enemy destroyed. A ragtag band of survivors makes their way home, only to discover there were survivors on the other side, too. And even a lesser evil from that vicious host can still be a deadly threat.

It’s swords against sorcery, with more than just their lives on the line. The travelers, who barely know each other, must summon the courage to face one more battle.

Get it now from Amazon or  in your favorite e-book format through Books2Read.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely relieved that the election is over with. What an ordeal! It seems like the campaigning went on for three years. That is way too long. If I could magically pass one thing into law, it would be to limit the election to one calendar year.

That said, a part of my mind is observing and cataloguing the human behaviors that continue to play out. The hopes and aspirations. The obfuscation and outright lying. The puzzle of why one promising candidate fizzles while the stranger ones thrive. It’s all fodder for a writer’s brain.

In SF fandom, it has become all too common to hear indignant outcries that “this novel/movie/comic book/video game is too political!” Usually they seem to come from white guys who are blind to the privilege they enjoy because of their race and gender.

It makes me laugh to hear them.

SF, Fantasy, and maybe especially Horror, have always been political. Let’s just look at one example: Star Trek, which was the main SF show on TV when I was in high school. Star Trek was created during the Cold War, and while America was in the midst of the Viet Nam War. Yet, the show featured a truly international crew. The all-American Captain Kirk was not just surrounded by European-descended allies, but also by African, Russian, Japanese and completely alien species such as the Vulcan, Spock. Contrast this with another show of the same era, Hogan’s Heroes. There, the “international cast” were mostly European with one token Black.

Don’t you dare try and tell me Star Trek wasn’t political. It was also hopeful and aspirational, suggesting that in the future people would overcome serious divisions to reach the stars. It’s a theme that carried through several sequel series, even when later iterations have tried to be darker and “more realistic.”

Genre writers today should not shy away from being political. It is one of the things that really sets us apart from other genres.

Have you read one of my books? Then it would be great for you to leave a review! Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about me and my work, check out my websiteFacebook, Instagram and/or CounterSocial.

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Tomorrow, December 5th, I’ll be stopping by the blog Entertaining Stories for another turn on Lisa Burton Radio. Author C. S. Boyack hosts these fun “radio shows” where his favorite character, Lisa Burton, interviews characters from other stories.

In my case, Lisa will be chatting with Tisha, one of the two main characters from Dancer in the Grove of Ghosts. Tisha is one of the good guys, unlike Zathi, the character who visited Lisa from The Tower in the Mist. This somewhat balances the scales, and I like that.

But what I’d really like is for you to hop on over this Thursday, December 5th, and join in the fun of the radio show. I’ll be answering everyone’s questions, so I hope to hear from you there.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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I mentioned that I’m into revisions on Ice Witch and the first page isn’t quite right. I’d like share the first few lines, so you can see what I’m working with.

On the deck of the trading ship Cross Current, Meven watched the shore of Eshur glide slowly closer. Gulls screeched overhead, perfectly expressing the dread that congealed within her gut.

Some things I like about this: a) It has the character, Meven, so we know right away who the story is about. b) It has a dual setting, on the trading ship, which is approaching a place, Eshur. I always like when one sentence does the job of two. c) It has a nice image, the gulls screeching, that connects to a powerful emotion, dread.

No matter what else goes on in a story, I believe that authors have to bring in an emotion right away. This will draw readers in more than anything else.

Now, things I don’t like: a) That first sentence seems unwieldy. I could make it more direct, “Meven watched the shore… from the deck of the trading ship Cross Current.” b) The final image, dread congealing in her gut, feels awkward. Meven has ice powers that don’t seem to fit with the verb, congeal. Yet I do want a sense of something solidifying and getting heavy as she approaches a place she dreads. I really need to get the right verb there.

Here is the next paragraph. These hast two weeks at sea had been a blessing and a relief. Born on the water, but for years confined to land, she had forgotten so much. The musky tang of salt water, the constant creak of rigging and slap of waves against the hull. The rhythmic dance of herself and the ship upon the tide. Even the way her clothing was always slightly damp and clung to her legs. She hadn’t felt so safe and content since she was a young girl.

Again, some things I like: a) It gives us a time frame for how long she’s been on the ship. b) It expands on the setting with sensory details. c) The sentence “Born on the water but for years confined to land,” tells some of her back story. d) “She hadn’t felt so safe since she was a young girl” gives more back story while also hinting at her goal, which is to live on or near water.

What I don’t like: a) The sensory details are great, but there are too many of them. Three details would have a better rhythm. b) The first two sentences connect awkwardly. My words need to flow like water (ha ha) and carry the reader along.

Some of you are new writers, and I wanted to share a bit of this process with you so that you’ll know you aren’t alone in trying to make it all fit together. For those of you more experience writers, I could use a few suggestions about that pesky verb in the first paragraph.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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Today I’m reading at Fall Folk Festival, but for those who live across the country (which is all of you) I thought I’d share a sample of what I’ll be reading there. Enjoy!

Transformation, by Lucy D. Ford

When the old witch Cariyu got sick, the things she had transformed began to change back.

At first, it was just a few oddments here and there. Melliar laughed along with everyone else when Mayor Torlig’s prized roses became butterflies and flew away. He was so proud of them, and always chased the village children out of his yard. The loss seemed almost fair.

But when Old Man Mixom’s walking stick turned into a snake and bit him, it wasn’t so funny. Luckily, it wasn’t a poisonous snake. Then the ever-playing harp in the Happy Lark Tavern broke a string. The beloved instrument burst with a discordant clang. Nothing was left but a broken cherry branch, hanging over the fireplace.

Papa laughed when Melliar’s younger brother, Detrick, brought the news home. “Maybe now we’ll be able to hear ourselves think in there.”

“Papa,” Melliar ventured, “these are all Cariyu’s spellcraft. Maybe someone should look in on her.” It was what her mother would have said, if she had still been with them.

“A young thing like you needn’t trouble yourself with the likes of her,” Papa scoffed.

Detrick, who always did exactly what Papa did, added his scorn. “That old hag? She can give you a look that shrivels your soul, but when has she ever done anything useful?”

Melliar had only seen Cariyu a few times, going about the village with her shopping. She hadn’t seemed like such a hag.

Papa frowned when Melliar didn’t agree with them. “Put your book away, girl, and bring me an ale.”

“Me too, Mellie,” Detrick added. “And hurry up with it.”

As an obedient daughter, Melliar set aside the ledger, where she kept the family’s accounts, and fetched the ale. Later that night, she got out a different book. Her mother’s old journals held a lot of gossip about Yoreville’s history. She read until her eyes burned, and found nothing about the witch hurting anyone without a good reason.

The next day, after Papa and Detrick had gone to work at the mill, Melliar sped through her chores and walked down the dell. Cariyu lived in a stone cottage surrounded by a garden of vegetables and herbs, just like any house in the town. The witch was sitting in her rocking chair, breathing hard. From the height of the weeds in the garden, it had been some time since she had enough strength to manage them.

Melliar helped her inside. Cobwebs draped the rafters and dust dimmed the shelves full of bottles, crocks and jars.

“What can I do to help?” she asked.

The old woman pinned her with a keen gaze. “Did your father send you over?”

“No, Madame Cariyu,” Melliar confessed. She was afraid the old woman, so clearly ill, would send her home. But the look the witch gave her did not shrivel her soul.

“I believe I should like a posset,” said the witch. So Melliar made one with the things Cariyu named from her shelves.

For the next few weeks, Melliar worked extra hard. First her chores and cooking at home, then the same for Cariyu, and then reading late into the night. Once Cariyu felt a little stronger, she sent Melliar to a hilltop overlooking Yoreville. A stone statue of a great black demon stood poised as if to soar down on the village. She returned to the witch and assured her there were no cracks or other signs that the statue might have moved from its place.

“Then I can rest,” Cariyu sighed. Her chin fell forward so quickly that Melliar had to rescue the posset from spilling down her front.

Despite her care, the reverse transformations became more serious. For years, a stray cat had been hanging around the Widow Gabrieth’s house. She was always chasing it away with her broom. Great was the mirth and scandal when the animal suddenly turned back into her “dead” husband. The ensuing argument could be heard all down the street.

“A tomcat, indeed!” Detrick hooted during supper.

“But the poor man,” Melliar said. Something awful must have happened, for Cariyu to impose such a punishment.

“Don’t be a sourpuss,” Papa quipped. He and Detrick roared with laughter.

Not long after that, water from the town well was clotted with strands of slimy goo. Then the church’s bell tower turned from red bricks into blocks of cheese. It sagged a bit, but held firm, although the scent of cheese was nauseating on hot afternoons.

“This is a cruel jest,” sermonized the priest. “The witch’s evil has eaten her mind away.”

Papa agreed. “It will be a glad day for Yoreville when the old hag is gone.”

Based on her mother’s journals, Melliar wasn’t so sure.

What made the villagers take the problem seriously was when a fancy ring in the silversmith’s window turned into braided grass during the night. This set off a stampede of the wealthy and well connected, all desperate to know if their gems and gold had turned back into pebbles and leaves. Some had, some hadn’t, and nobody wanted to admit which had happened to them.

Looking at the rose-less bushes and smelling the stench of sour cheese in Yoreville made Melliar wonder about the town’s future. Surely they had the basics for prosperity — the river and the green fields it nourished. Still, how much of its stability was built on Cariyu’s waning power? What would be left if the witch never recovered?

She didn’t get to ask those questions. Cariyu’s house now saw a parade of pouting daughters, sent by their wealthy parents to gain the witch’s favor. They made small talk about parties and gowns, all while trying to make possets when they obviously hadn’t the first idea how. Melliar was crowded aside, and Cariyu kept getting weaker.

The witch knew she was there, though. One day, when she stayed behind to clean up the mess in the kitchen, Cariyu called to her.

“Well, girl, wouldn’t you like to turn those snobs into scarecrows?”

“No, Madame,” Melliar answered, slightly shocked. “They don’t deserve that. They’re foolish, but not wicked.”

The witch had a knowing gleam in her eye. “There’s no one you’d want to pay you back? No one at all?”

The words made her think of Detrick, badgering her for ale as if she was a servant rather than his older sister. But she wasn’t here because of him. Melliar had read up to the fourth volume of her mother’s journal. The big black statue on the hill was what had her worried.

“No, Madame Cariyu. But if you’re feeling well enough, I wouldn’t mind knowing more about how you transformed the demon Nimmikal into a statue.”

“Oh, you’ve heard that story?” The witch cackled, but then she started coughing so hard that Melliar rushed to fix her posset. “Now then,” she croaked, and coughed some more. “Now then, girl, listen to me. I hear that you like to read.”

“Yes, Madame?”

Cariyu told Melliar how to open a hidden shelf behind the bin of firewood. A case of oiled leather held a very different book.

“That is an account of all my spellcraft. Take it,” the witch said faintly. “Lines with dull ink are dead, as I soon will be. You need not worry about them. But if the ink shines, even a little, you must visit and make certain nothing I bound has broken free. The task is yours, along with all I have gathered here.”

Melliar didn’t really hear at first. Her eyes were on the grimoire, which was not large, but felt heavier than it should. There were straps around it with a lock, but she knew where they key was. She had found it while cleaning behind one of the crocks on the upper shelf.

Now she pulled it down and set it into the lock. As she turned the key, a kind of breeze trembled through the cottage. She turned to look and was sad, but not surprised, to see the old witch Cariyu slumped in her rocking chair, dead.

Melliar kept a vigil in the witch’s cottage that night, guarding her body. She used the time to read through the grimoire. First, she looked for the paragraph about the demon Nimmikal. The ink was dull and dark. It was a relief to know that terrifying creature would never menace Yoreville again.

There were many other things to learn. She studied a few charms that would be useful if any would-be thieves arrived to plunder the witch’s cottage. It would take her weeks, months, years to absorb the rest. She had plenty of time for that.

There were other matters to settle, however. The stuffy priest in Yoreville would never permit a witch to have a church funeral. Melliar laid her in the ground, a little farther down the dell. Then she returned to her father’s house.

“Where were you all night?” Papa demanded. And Detrick complained, “We were hungry.”

Not worried about her, Melliar noted. Thinking only of themselves. “Cariyu is dead,” she explained.

“So what?” Detrick groused.

Papa was quicker to understand. “You’ve been studying with that witch?” he bellowed. “Get out of my house!”

Melliar was through being an obedient daughter. “I’m glad I have your blessing, Papa.”

Detrick stood with his mouth open while she collected a few belongings, most especially their mother’s journals. He didn’t offer to help her carry anything over to her new home in the dell.

Later, Melliar walked back to the church. The priest must have heard rumors. He blocked her way before she could enter the church yard.

“Away with you, vessel of evil!”

Melliar smiled pleasantly, though it infuriated him. “Shall I restore your bell tower, or do you prefer it remain a cheese?”

He sputtered, “What wicked foolishness! Who would build a tower with blocks of cheese?”

“Maybe they were in a hurry. I meant to ask Madame Cariyu, but I never got the chance.” When he didn’t move aside, she added, “I’ll let you decide what you want.”

As she walked through the town, pondering whether to deal with the polluted well or the weeds in her garden, a familiar voice called out.

“Mellie! Mellie, wait!”

She did not wait, but continued at her normal pace. Still, Detrick caught up with her.

“So you’re the witch now,” he spoke slyly. “I was thinking that you could change a bit of gold for me. It’s all well and good for Papa to work in the mill, but I thought I’d open my own shop.”

Melliar turned to her brother, who ignored her unless he wanted something. The church tower and well weren’t the only things in Yoreville that needed a transformation.

“Please call me Madame Melliar.” And she gave him a look fit to shrivel his soul.

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Would you rather… Publicize your book by taking on a daily blog tour for two weeks straight, or by reading in public at a book festival?

With a blog tour, you have the potential to reach a huge audience. However, if you make each blog unique, you also risk running out of things to say. Or of using up brain power that you might want to use for your next project.

At a book festival, you know you’re in front of an audience that loves books. The time commitment is less, since you only have an hour or so to do your reading. The in-person presentation might intimidate some of us, though, and it’s possible you’d have competition if multiple readings happen at once.

Maybe some of you have done both! I’d love to hear which one worked best for you.

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Would you rather… Start a new project in a genre that’s completely unfamiliar, OR revise a project that you know is a bloody mess?

An unfamiliar genre can be researched. Research can be fascinating and fun. As long as said research doesn’t become an excuse for not writing the story.

A bloody mess can be painful if you have to take out a favorite scenes or significantly change the plot. It is also intensely rewarding to salvage what seems like the ruins of your work.

What about it, writer friends? Would you rather start a new story in an unfamiliar genre, or revise a project that you know is a bloody mess?

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The demon, Discouragement, has been visiting my house lately. Mostly this is due to me starting the preparations for self-publishing my next novella. I’m trying to assess whether my marketing efforts have made any difference. This can be depressing for most of us authors, and I’m no exception.

One of my resolutions for 2019 was to work harder on publicity. In particular, I’ve worked harder on my author newsletter. So many sources say that the newsletter is the goose laying golden eggs, and if I can bring that to life, I’ll sell tons of copies.

Studying up on this, I followed the format of asking a clever or gripping question, followed by my schedule of appearances, and finally a snippet from a featured book of mine. I’ve included subscription links in every e-mail and blog post, my author pages on Facebook, Amazon and Draft 2 Digital, and more.

The response has been… nearly nothing. As far as I can tell, I haven’t sold a copy of anything through it. Each monthly newsletter seems to result in another bounced e-mail. Likewise, my personal author page, which I update weekly, generates no sales that I can tell.

Hence, my demon, Discouragement, comes knocking.

That doesn’t mean I haven’t sold any copies. They trickle in. It seems like the best response I’ve been getting is from my blog and the connections I can forge with other writers. So maybe what Discouragement is telling me is that I have been trying the wrong things. If the monthly newsletter and author pages aren’t working for me, then I need to let go of them.

A good example of this is how much response we’ve had to the blog visit last Saturday by C. S. Boyack. Even if folks mostly came to cheer Craig on, they at least got a look at Wyrmflight, too. Rather than work hard on a newsletter nobody notices, maybe I’ll just blog and hang out with you, my virtual buddies.

But, Discouragement, you really can go away at any time.

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This month sees a couple of appearances on the horizon. First, I’m making a visit to horror and YA author Teri Polen’s blog, Books and Such. She’s hosting her annual event, Bad Moon Rising, where horror and dark fantasy writers have a chance to stop by and promote our books. My date is October 12, and I can’t wait!

Another appearance will be here on Wyrmflight. My good friend, C. S. Boyack will be stopping by to feature his latest release, Viral Blues. The book is a grand team-up by several characters from his other books, and I’m really looking forward to reading it when I get a chance. So look for that on Saturday.

Did you know I have an author newsletter? You can get it! I’ll even give you a free e-book for signing up. Just click here.

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Early in my career, my husband would suspiciously demand, “Is this character supposed to be me?” I said, “No, of course not.” I’ve never been sure if he was happy with that, or disappointed.

To be honest, there was a bit of one of our friends in there, but only a bit. Using a real person in your made-up story seems like an ethical problem to me. I mean, a person’s individual name and appearance are their most personal possessions. They should be held private, as any other personal information is.

As a fan writer, I witnessed a case where a family was in turmoil and two family members wrote a story that was aimed at another. It got by me, until the victim pointed that out how a character who was just like her died at the end of the story. That was a lesson I’ll never forget.

Writing stories about other people gives us a unique kind of power, especially if those people are injured or humiliated during the story. It can easily cross into grotesque bullying. Let’s say there’s a public figure you don’t like. (We can all fill our own disliked public figures into that blank.) It might be satisfying for you to write a story where a character just like them is shot in the head, but for the person? I would take that as a personal threat.

Everyone craves recognition. Some authors, especially crime novelists, may run contests where people volunteer to appear as a victim. If they sign up for that, then okay. But nobody wants to be mocked in public.

Never do this, friends.

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