Thursday, November 17, 2016

Embracing Hope

Hope by IE Castellano hardcover version
Hope in hardcover

Writing has finished.  Editing has ceased.  Physical and digital manifestations of my words now appear in book form (at least in pre-order until Nov 22nd).  Hope (The World In-between, 5) is a reality.

Hope sees the worlds on both sides of the portal through different eyes.  Yes, Berty is still a major player in the book, but I decided to take the lens away from him.  The reader gets to know him better through his niece, Hope.  Who, in turn, gets a bigger piece of the adventure, whether she wants it or not.

Ten years after others fought the Battle of Fairyland, seventeen-year-old Hope struggles to find her place in the world.  Which side of the portal should she be spending her time?  Can she suffer through the rest of high school without detention?  What about college?  Neither magic nor archery are majors.  What exactly does a wood listener do with the rest of her life?  An unknown enemy shatters all her aspirations while attempting to subvert who she is and who she will become.

The World In-between (Book 1) introduced Hope, hinting at her magical abilities.  Bow of the Moon (Book 2) showed her magic in the hands of a young girl.  Secrets of the Sages (Book 3) brought Hope into her own, accepting her magic the only way a seven-year-old can.  Whispers (Book 4) glimpsed at the dynamic form her magic could become.  Hope (Book 5) challenges Hope to discover the limits of her magic.
Hope releases Nov 22nd.  E-book and hardcover can be pre-ordered at places that sell books.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night


A shrouded moon cast no shadows while he skulked from house to house.  The cool breeze carried a crisp aroma of decaying dried leaves.  Thunder rumbled overhead.  He hurried past flickering jack-o-lanterns.  A heavy deluge erupted from the laden clouds, washing red and yellow leaves into the gutters.  Lighting forked to the earth.  A loud clap made him race under the portico.  Shaking water off his coat, he pressed a doorbell.  A man with an eye patch answered the door.  He entered then removed his soaked coat and hat.  The door closed behind him with a bang.  Clutching an offered cup of blood red liquid, he joined the throng of ghosts, witches, vampires, monsters, and celebrity masks.

###

This time of year sparks the macabre imagination.  The combination of cooler temperatures, falling leaves, and ever earlier sunsets feeds into the concept of Halloween and its forebears.  Personally, I’ve never been one for the grotesque.  However, I do harbor a belief in versions of the supernatural.  Perhaps that’s why I gravitate towards fantasy in my writing.

Between bonfires and corn mazes and pumpkin pouring out of your ears, autumn has a magic all its own.  It stirs our primitive memories.  The instinct to preserve, to celebrate the harvest and its symbolism.  Watch horror movies.  Read books that will keep you up all night.  Wear your favorite costume.  Carve the biggest pumpkin in the patch.  Gorge on candy apples and popcorn balls.  Dark and stormy tastes sweet with a few spider webs and broomsticks in the background.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

September Update—Editing

Handwritten Page from Hope


The writing stage of Hope (The World In-between, 5) finished earlier this month.  As I type this blog post, the first editing stage is nearing completion.  I usually go through three or four edits before I hand it off to my editor.

Since I handwrite my manuscripts (still), typing it into a workable manuscript format becomes my first edit.  First drafts are messy.  Mine are no exception.  Many pages include scratch-outs, arrows, and words scrunched here and there.  The main goal of a first draft is to extract the story from your head.  I happen to find the pen a more useful tool than the keyboard for this process.  As I type, I change things.

Writing isn’t always fluid.  You stop and start, sometimes multiple times a day.  You may forget bits and pieces of what you wrote previously.  A certain word may get stuck in your head, and you end up writing it over and over.  Or, you simply don’t vary the sentence structure.

When I type the second draft, I tend to go deeper.  With every line, I ask myself, Does this line work?  If it doesn’t, it gets changed.  Sometimes, things need to be added or deleted to better develop places, purpose, or characters.


First Draft:

“Aye, nasty storm,” answered an old man at the next table.  He sat alone with only a tankard keeping him company.  “So, what brings agents of the Empire all the way up here?”

Second Draft:

“Aye, nasty storm,” answered an old man from the next table.  His weathered hand clutched a battered tin tankard.  He brought it up to a mouth hidden behind a full, wiry, gray beard.  His cloak told stories of blustery storms and wave-washed travel to distant shores.  The ancient mariner sat alone, the ale his only company.  “What brings agents of the Empire this far north?”


Subsequent edits involve more paper.  I keep at least one piece in front of me as I reread.  The top of the page has the book title and *EDITING*.  The rest of the page is where I scribble questions.  When writing a multi-book series, you need to keep things consistent from book to book.  I make sure names, places, and words I invent are spelled correctly.  If a character has light blue eyes in book 1, that must continue in book 5 (unless it changes via magic or contacts).  I also write down chapter numbers, their page numbers, and chapter title suggestions.

The second edit tackles grammar, sentence structure, consistency, and holey-ness.  Checkmarks on my editing paper indicate answered questions and resolved issues.  The third edit reads for flow.  I will sometimes read transitions and problem dialogue aloud to see how it all sounds.  A fourth edit will check for typos.  Then, I do a fifth edit where I read through the manuscript backwards, fixing typos and other errors.

After my editing process, I send this polished manuscript to my editor.  Who will, inevitably, find things I missed.  When all the editing stages end, the publishing stage begins.  And I write another book.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Channeling the Inner Teen


It may be a month behind schedule, but Hope is almost finished.  Only one major scene to go.  I’ve had the final scene for this book in my head for years.  It taunts me.  However, getting to the end has been the challenge.

I’ve had a few bumps when I started this book in the World In-between Series.  One, I needed a plot that gave a reason for the characters to be “there.”  Two, I needed a place to start.  Three, I had to change the tone to reflect the change in the point of view.

To overcome these, I looked more closely at the story I wove in the previous four books.  The plot came together nicely.  I started at the beginning, of course.  I set up the new point of view and the plot in chapter one.


“Miss Chase?  Are you with us today, Miss Chase?”
Tearing her eyes from the wooden ring resembling a flower on her pinky, Hope raised her head to look at her teacher who leaned against the metal desk left over from another decade.
“Good,” the teacher said with a patronizing smile.  Mrs. Kurlow always had one of those smiles at the ready.  Being the last class of the day, students’ minds drifted more than usual.  Of course, minds drifted in her classes at any time of the day just to get rid of her drawling voice that carried a smug air.  “I was hoping you would have the answer to the question I asked.”
The board behind the teacher gave no indication of the question.  The book sitting on the tiny writing platform that comprised her desk would have no answer.  “Forty-two,” Hope replied.


The change in tone had to reflect the life and mind of a seventeen-year-old girl.  In my daily life, I have no interaction with teenagers.  No nieces, no cousins, not even a neighbor.  However, as it happens, I was once a seventeen-year-old girl.


Staring out the window, Hope watched the streetlamps pass.  She did not want to add terrible rumors to her what-was-going-wrong-in-her-life list.  Something had to go right.  She sighed as Mike turned onto her uncle’s tree-lined street.
When he pulled into the driveway, he dared to say, “I don’t think anyone is home.”
Hope opened the car door.
Getting out of the car, Mike opened the trunk.  Hope snatched her bag from his hand.  Retrieving his coat, he followed her up the sidewalk.  “Hope,” he begged.
The stained glass door opened at her touch.  She entered the house, leaving Mike on the porch.  Without saying another word to him, she closed the door.


How do I tap into those feelings of being seventeen?  Seventeen catches one between child and adulthood.  At some point, decisions matter.  They determine a path down which one travels until the next fork.  It all hopefully leads to the answer of the ultimate question: Where do I belong in the world?


“Hope,” said Mike.
“Shhh,” she said.  She walked out the grove with Mike on her heels.  “I can’t believe you followed me here, of all places,” she muttered.  “I just want to be left alone.  Why can’t anyone understand that?”


The trivialities experienced at seventeen don’t matter.  As life marches forward, it is easy to forget those days.  You learn what you need and move on to the next lesson.  But if you stay true to the fundamental essence of “who am I?” and “where am I going?” mixed with “ugh school” and “oh my god everything’s so important at this very moment,” the elements you need to make a teenage character flow onto the page.


She held her hand up to quiet him.  Closing her eyes, she waited.  The rustling of underbrush found her ears.  She opened her eyes.  Stepping closer to Mike, she readied her bow under her cloak.  When two men with hard leather body armor emerged, the filtered moonlight shone across the embossed large tree with seven circles.  She lowered her bow.
“Tonight’s not a good night to hunt,” said one of the men.  “It’s not safe out here.”
“Have you come across anyone else?” asked the other.
“No,” Hope answered.
“Come with us.  We only have so long to get to safely inside.  The night is ripe for a Griffin.”
“Crap,” she said quietly.  With slumped shoulders, she followed with Mike by her side.
“Who are they?” he whispered.
“Empire Guard,” she replied.  “My whole weekend is ruined.”


All excerpts from Hope (The World In-between, 5), Chapter One: The Ultimate Question
Available winter 2016


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Chocolate Fix



I am a lover of all things yummy in my tummy.  Savory and sweet.  The kitchen makeover took longer than expected.  Finally getting fully back into the kitchen, I have been feeding my passion for cooking by trying new foods and recipes.  With this recent heat wave, the air conditioning is on.  That means warming up both me and my kitchen with baking.

Sour Cream Bunt
Jewish Coffee Cake
Lately, I have tried two new cake recipes—a sour cream bunt cake and a Jewish coffee cake.  Instead of using sour cream for both cakes, I used yogurt.  Both turned out scrumptious.  Also, tried a lemon meltaway cookie recipe of which I was not too fond.  Back to the cookie drawing board for something else.

In addition to new finds, I enjoy baking old standards.  One cake that my mom and I have been making since I was very little is Chocolate Pudding Cake.  And, my grandmother used to make this when my mom was a little girl.  This family favorite is simple and delicious.  Chocolate cake essentially floats on a lake of chocolate sauce.  I prefer it plain while my family enjoys it with vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream.


My first memories of making this cake have a yellow backdrop.  Somewhere, there is a picture of me dancing in front of the painted yellow kitchen cabinets.  Good thing there are no pictures of me climbing into said cabinets and removing all the pots which I made into a drum set.  Wooden spoons are so versatile.

Batter waiting for cocoa sugar sprinkle
Mom and I would make the batter right in the glass baking pan.  A sugar cocoa mixture gets sprinkled on top of the batter, then boiling water is carefully poured over the whole thing.  When it comes out of the oven, chocolate heaven. 
Pouring the hot water

The original recipe somehow got lost, as things do over the years and with multiple moves.  We found new recipes along the way.  Nothing quite tasted the same.  One more recent recipe used self-rising flour, which we never used in the original.  We converted it, but it never tasted quite right.  Over the years, we’ve been adjusting the recipe.  And it’s gotten better.  But, there’s always a but.
Almost done with the water

After another not quite right try, we decided to do a little internet research, again.  For the first time, I found a recipe on Hershey’s website.  Wrote it down and brought it out to the kitchen to give it a try.

First, I compared the ratios of ingredients.  Different.  More cocoa and more butter.  So far, so good.  Then, I began to mix.  The batter looked richer and stirred smoother.  The recipe calls for a 9 inch square pan.  The only available pan was an 8 inch one.  Other than that, I followed it to a T.  Finally, put it in the oven and waited (baking term for washing all the stuff used).

Took it out of the oven and waited again.  The smell…………  Hard to resist a tantalizing, warm chocolate aroma.  However, I did.  I made tea in the meantime.
Ready to serve

Buzzer.  Cut and serve.  My first spoonful brought me back to the yellow kitchen in which my mom and little girl me baked.  This recipe is a keeper.  I am going to increase it by two and a half to fit my 11 by 15 inch glass pan.  The more the merrier.

Half Gone
The top has this crisp, crunchy layer reminiscent of brownies.  Then, soft cake.  Finally, a luscious chocolate sauce that could be a cross between a pudding and hot fudge.  It begs to be scraped out of the bowl to the detriment of the ears of others.

Never be ashamed to lick the bowl.  Chocolate on the nose or chin is a testament to how much you enjoyed this chocolaty creation.



Recipe can be found here.



Tips:

Batter in the bowl
I sift my cocoa powder as it tends to clump.  I made the batter in a 3 quart mixing bowl using a rubber spatula.  The sugar and cocoa was mixed in a 1.5 quart bowl with a fork.  Because I baked in an 8 by 8 instead of a 9 by 9, it had to cook a few minutes longer.

When it’s done, the pudding bubbles through the cake and the cake itself dances on the pudding layer.  Since the toothpick method will not work, test for doneness by pressing your finger in the middle of the cake.  It should have a firm springiness.
Cocoa sugar mixture

An 8 inch square pan gives 8 servings.  Whatever remains in the pan should be left to cool completely.  Then, cover with plastic wrap and store in the fridge.  It is fantastic cold as well.  You could warm next day individual servings in the microwave, if you so desired.  I never have, so I can’t give you a good time for warming.

Double the recipe for a 9 by 13 inch pan.  Cooking time might increase by about 5 minutes.  Will give 12 decent sized servings.  I usually get 16 servings from the 11 by 15.


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Little Bit of Hope with a Side of Griffin

Griffin: Artist's Rendition


Epic fantasy has become my sole writing style this year.  My focus: The fifth book of the World In-between Series, Hope.  

Beginning ten years after the end of Whispers (Book 4), the story centers around the magical struggles of Berty’s seventeen-year-old niece.  Since she first crossed the portal ten years ago, Hope straddled two worlds—the mundane modern world and the magical world between the portals.  As a Wood Listener, she struggles to find her place in life.  Unbeknownst to her uncle, her parents, and her innocent friend trailing her, Hope stoles into the other side only to find her place fraught with danger.

For your reading pleasure: a sneak peek of Chapter 2.


Hope climbed the stairs of the quiet outpost.  She figured that not many guards occupied a peacetime outpost, especially one out in the middle of nowhere.  The second door on the left sat open.  She knocked.
“Yes?” came from behind a curtain of blond.  The hair hid a face buried in papers.
“Lieutenant, I have a question,” Hope began.
The blond head snapped to look at her.  Blue eyes studied her.
“Obie?” she said quietly.
His lips widened into a smile.  “Hope,” he said.  He rose from behind the desk.  “What are you doing here?  It’s so good to see you.”  As he approached, his smiled dampened.  “How…  Why are you here?”
“Do you really expect a Griffin tonight?” she asked.
His smile disappeared.  “Conditions are prime,” Obie said.  “This outpost gets attacked regularly.  After a while, you learn a lot about knowing when they're going to come.”
“Is that why the people in the nearby villages aren’t pounding on your doors for protection?”
Obie nodded.  “They’re safer where they are unless they are out in the open like you were.”
“Guess there’s no chance for a little rooftop time tonight,” Hope said.
Within Obie’s searching blue eyes swam an understanding.  That understanding always gave her comfort.  “I’ll take you up,” he said.
“I don’t want to take you away from your work,” she said, gesturing to the papers on his desk.
“Nothing that can’t wait,” he answered.  Ushering her out of the room, he closed the door.
“I got your letter,” she said as they walked to the staircase.  “Congratulations on becoming Lieutenant.”
He smiled again.  “Thanks.”
“Your letter said nothing about running an outpost.”
They climbed.  “I’m not.  Lieutenant Otho returns tomorrow.  I’m just filling in,” he said.  “You know, they say that this keep predates the Empire.  When the Empire found it abandoned, they made it an outpost.  Ten years ago, they restored it with the other older ones that were still in decent shape.  This is the only one that wasn’t expanded.  Something about the stonework that the Dwarves didn’t want to touch.”
“Lieutenant and Historian,” she teased.
Laughing, Obie said, “This place…  Most guards don’t stay here long.  I’ve done some research on the keep.  Well, as much as I could while being here.”
“How long have you been here?”
“Long enough.”  He led her through an opened trap door.  The few guards stationed on the roof barely glanced at them.
Rolling treed hills rippled in every direction.  “Wow,” Hope whispered.  She leaned against the keyed stone edge.  A flash of orange caught her eye.  “What’s that?”  She pointed above the trees.  Orange streamed through the distant sky.
“Dragon,” Obie answered.  “The border with the Dragonlands lies just over that second hill.”
A second Dragon spit fire.  It burned another creature in flight.  “Is that?” she asked.
“Griffin!” yelled Obie.  “Sound the alarm!  Barricade!”  He practically pushed Hope down the steps.  “Weapons and positions!”
Running, she heard a bell, then slams of wood and metal against stone.  “Hope?” called Mike.
“Here,” she answered.
Mike ran off the staircase with a sword in his hand.  “I took it from a sword rack downstairs,” he said.
Banging echoed throughout the stone structure.  Obie inventoried the relatively empty room in which they and the handful of rooftop guards stood.  “We’re here until it passes,” he said.
“What passes?” asked Mike.
“Griffin,” Obie said.
“A what?”
“A combo lion and eagle,” answered Hope.  “Don’t you read?”
“This is messed up,” Mike muttered.
“Maybe next time, you’ll listen to me,” Hope snapped.
Distant splintering carried down the staircase.  “Push that furniture in front of the door,” Obie ordered.  “Get ready.”  He glanced at the sword in Mike’s hand.  “You know how to use that?”
“Yes,” said Mike.
Claws scraped against stone.  A screechy roar resounded down the staircase.  The guards backed away from the barricaded door, weapons drawn.  Smashes and thuds echoed from the floor above them.  A tapping clicking hit each step on its way down.  The half dozen of them faced the door.
The wood door shuddered with rhythmic scratching.  Hope raised her bow with an arrow ready.  Wood cracked.  The furniture slid a little.  Keeping her eyes on the bulging door, Hope dipped her finger into a velvet pouch that hung from her belt.  She smeared a fingertip full of sparkling powder on her tongue.
“Did your eyes just darken?” Mike asked in a whisper.  “What is that?”
“Fairy Dust.”
“Sure,” he mumbled.
The door broke.  Pieces of wood slammed into the stone.  The Griffin roared at them.  Its talons thrashed the furniture while its angry, bird-like, yellow eyes glared at each of them.  Sconce light reflected on its magnificent tan feathers.  Its beaked snapped at the closest guard.  Hope released an arrow.  It bounced off the beast.
Free of the furniture, the Griffin slashed, meeting shields.  Obie and Mike attacked its other side with their swords, but the blades would not penetrate its hide.
“Fight magic with magic,” Hope said.  She tipped an arrow with Fairy Dust.
Obie retreated, producing a blue sphere with his hand.  He hurled it at the creature.  The Griffin dodged.  A crater pocked the rock wall.
Hope took aim.  She let her arrow fly.  Her eyes returned to their normal shade of brown.  It struck where its feathers morphed to fur.
Screeching, the Griffin lunged.  Empire Guards fell like bowling pins.  They scrambled to their feet, clutching whatever weapon was within arm’s reach.
Hope hit it again with a Fairy Dusted arrow.
The Griffin spread its wings, but they smacked against the low stone ceiling.  Its talons reached, slashing three lines in the air.  The fourth talon hit something or someone or ones.  Hope only heard the contact while she aimed for its exposed belly.
Obie threw his sword to another, then brought his wrists together.  “Push it up the steps!” he ordered.  A golden stream of magic erupted from his focused palms.
The beast writhed under Obie’s magic.  Its menacing eyes searched for a way out.  Hope fired arrows at its sides, attempting to steer it back to the steps.
Obie fell to his knees.  His magic diminished.  He struggled to keep the stream going.
Hope sprinkled a pinch of Fairy Dust into Obie’s stream.  The magic sparkled with a rainbow of blues and purples.
Turning, the Griffin rushed up the stone steps.
Hope followed the creature to the roof.  She raised her bow while it launched off the stone.  Obie placed a hand on her arm, stopping her from firing.  “Let the Dragons take care of it.  Clan Mithra hates Griffins,” he told her.  “Save your arrows.  You only have a few left.”
She watched it fly into the night.  Bursts of Dragonfire lit the dark sky as it passed.


Expect Hope later this year.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Am the Machine


One of questions I get asked most often is how much of me is in my writing.  Let’s ignore the obvious answer of everything is me since it’s a product of my imagination.

We’ll start with the house in The World In-between where Berty first meets Silvia.  The magical Victorian at 727 Oak Street is nowhere near an exact replica of any house in which I have lived or currently live.  Instead, it encompasses all my favorite old house details.  The back stairs, stained glass door, and deep porch are similar to the old house in which I live.  The wood paneling, the beveled glass inner doors, and intact gaslights are additions that give that house its own character.  The best thing about 727 Oak Street, though, has to be the magic.

In the series, Berty has an affinity with coffee.  Okay, perhaps it might be more than a simple affinity.  He may need it to start his day most days.  This love of two mugs of morning coffee is something Berty taught me.  However, I have always loved freshly ground beans brewed in a French press.

Berty also seems to have my distaste for white chocolate in Bow of the Moon.  And, we have similar writing backgrounds.  Prior to writing novels, I waded in the world of journalism.  While I still write the occasional press release, I prefer writing fiction.  Later in Bow of the Moon, Berty admits to taking French and forgetting most of it.  Je regrette.

Delyth’s long curly hair reminds me of the days when my hair cascaded down to the middle of my back, but hers is much better behaved.  We also share a proclivity for history and a penchant for shoes.

I scatter my experiences in bits and pieces.  A couple of Berty’s flashbacks are windows to my past.  The winter driving scene marries a few of my teenage driving experiences into one.  My own college graduation inspired the background for his graduation scene.  Hope’s new school is loosely based physically and structurally on a school I attended.  Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that I know firsthand how Hope feels in a few scenes.

Even some of the smaller details have flecks of me.  The squeaky swing set heard in the distance is a sound of childhood summers.  The mine carts ridden in multiple books are a token of my fondness for old wooden rollercoasters. 

The most extensive setting in the series is the forest.  Nestled in the forested mountains is where I feel the most at peace, the most at home.  The four seasons weave throughout the series in a familiar manner—cold, snowy winters, wet springs, warm, leafy summers, and colorful autumns.

Magic, to me, is seen in the everyday.  Myths and legends started with kernels of truths.  Why shouldn’t magic live in the forest, dancing between the trees?  Why wouldn’t these truths reside just out of sight, just beyond our reach?  All these stories are me and these little bits are the cogs that keep the machine moving.

Friday, April 22, 2016

April Showers and Kitchen Re-do

All lined and ready for doors

Slowly and surely, this tired, old kitchen is getting a long overdue makeover.  The light wood cabinets with large chrome knobs and chrome trimmed laminate counters were all part of a modern kitchen of the 50s.  At some point in the 90s, someone replaced the gas cooktop and wallpapered the walls, which are now a lovely shade of green.

The cabinets had this shabby-ness to them with the varnish on the doors coming off and the oversized chrome knobs rusting.  After a long deliberation about color, the cabinets finally have been painted an off white.  The doors and drawers came off and out for sanding and painting.  Hardware was removed.  Upon first moving in, new knobs matched the newly installed brushed faucet.  The faucet has since ceased operating properly.  The new one is now polished chrome.  The knobs no longer match.

At first, chrome pulls and knobs were bought.  They just didn’t do it for the kitchen despite matching the new faucet.  Besides, off white and chrome seems so boring.  After finding the coolest drawer pulls in black, black hardware was a must.  The knob options in black…  There was nothing wrong with the current knobs except the satin nickel finish.  A can of spray paint and a large box fixed that.  The painted black knobs look gorgeous.

While the doors were still off, the battle with contact paper began.  Turns out the cabinets are odd.  Lots of little cuts had to be made because nothing can be square and easy.  And measuring became a challenge.  Different measurements were taken depending on which part of the shelf was being measured.  My brother and I broke down into fits of laughter while measuring the last cabinet.  The contact paper itself did not want to work with me or stick for that matter.  At one point, I wanted to rip the lining to shreds in frustration.  But coolness prevailed.  And the paper lined the shelf well.

A day later, hardware installation began.  New black hinges were bought to match the knobs and pulls.  Those hinges are sitting in the box waiting to go back to the store.  Why?  It seems that the new hinges don’t fit on the old cabinets.  At first, the old holes on the doors did not line up with the new hinges.  After drilling new holes for the hinges, the doors will not sit flush against the cabinet facing.  No one wants to spend forever traipsing all over specialty stores (or online) looking for hinges that will fit.  The solution?  Buy another can of black spray paint.

Today it rains.  No painting.  The doors to the kitchen remain closed.  The dog and cats do not like their kitchen exile.  In the morning, Soba follows me downstairs.  I go into the kitchen to start coffee.  He sits outside the door, pounding to be allowed in with me.  When I emerge, mug in hand, he trots (yes, this cat trots) by my side to the office.  It’s cute until he tries to sit in the chair with me.  At least he doesn’t try to drink my coffee.

The hinges will take about a day or so to paint, depending on how many coats are needed and two days to cure.  They will look amazing.  They have that modern 50s aesthetic repeated elsewhere in the kitchen.  In the meantime, other kitchen related things can be done.  Such as resurfacing the countertop without removing the chrome trim.

I can’t wait to fully use the kitchen again.  Or to see the top of the dining room table again.  Or be able to keep the doors open again.  The nice weather craves meandering through the house.  And I crave freshly baked cookies.  The delay infuriates when completion nears.  However, it also allows for kitchen project contemplation and perhaps for better options to blossom.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring to Mind


Spring marches swiftly.  Robins poke at the grass outside my office window.  I spend mornings writing with the window open.  Chirping and increasing road traffic reverberate around my writing nook.  Although Hope (The World In-between, 5) takes place in the spring, the outside becomes background noise.

This one scene sequence constantly plays in my mind.  It doesn’t care if I’m not at that point in the story yet.  My main goal has been to get my characters there.  The scene is a major turning point in the story and in Hope’s character development.  I want to say that I didn’t plan that scene when I first started, but somewhere in my mind, I think I did.  Why else would I have dropped the breadcrumbs?

It’s funny.  In my literature classes, we were expected to deconstruct stories, look for meaning, what the author intended, et cetera.  When I walked across that stage and received my degree holder, writing had well taken hold of me, yet, becoming a novelist wasn’t in the plans then.  Five years after my college graduation day, I wrote down my imaginings—the beginnings of the first novel which will never see the light of day in its current form.  As I sit here, many books later, I ponder my own intentions in my stories, author wise.

For the most part, I don’t seem to have any.  I write what the story wants to be.  The details…  Yes, I research character names and choose them accordingly.  I research mythos, beasts, and legends.  I research facts.  Do I throw hidden meaning into my stories?  No.  Not intentionally, at any rate.

However, I have to wonder.  Does my brain work in more mysterious ways?  Does it know more than it lets me know?  Along the way to this moment, I learned the rules of writing, the rules of storytelling, allegory, the significance of characters, their props, and the story line itself.  For me, sentence structure is an unconscious decision.  Being proficient in diagramming sentences has allowed me to visualize grammar, clauses, and syntax.

I don’t concern myself with the hows, ways, and means of writing.  I just write.  Somewhere between my brain and my pen, those things just happen.  Readers see things I cannot or do not during my writing.  I say that I don’t outline my stories.  And I don’t or if I do, I don’t look at it again.  But deep within the folds of my cerebrum, a plan forms and I follow it, even when I don’t think I do.

The page in Hope where I am now has me wondering why I brought these characters to this place.  What are they supposed to learn here?  In essence, what is their purpose at this moment in the plot? Tomorrow morning, while the cat is torn between “helping me write” and keeping an eye on the birds out the window, I’m sure I will discover what bit of knowledge I am hiding from myself.

My writing nook’s window faces east.  Rays from the sun rising over the mountains spill onto my pages.  I find a comforting energy in morning sunlight, no matter what the season.  Although fall is, by far, my favorite season, spring brings something special.  Spring’s thawing warm weather wakes up the brain.  Sounds flittering through my windows bring me back to my childhood.  Spring also reminds us that we grow, that the seeds planted long ago have taken root, and that we use everything to make us who we are and direct us to where we go.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

For the Love of Reading


Love is in the air and the love of books and reading is no exception.

Laurel Highlands Publishing reduced prices on all their ebooks for the entire month of February.  This love of reading promotion includes my novels and books with my short stories.

As the temperatures drop, curling up with an e-reader or phone under a blanket is time well spent cozy and warm.  Discover some place new to love in one of my books at prices everyone can love.



The World In-between Series:
 
The Dragonlands

This short story prequel takes us back to the creation of the Empire during the Age of Dragons.  Learn how the Dragons escaped this world to live in the world in-between the portals.

Price Match at Amazon


 
The World In-between

Book 1 introduces Berty Chase, a newspaper reporter on the verge of nothing special until he meets Silvia.  She brings him into her world—one full of magic and those who wish to harness that magic.


 

Bow of the Moon

Book 2 delves deeper into the world Berty discovered, visiting places beyond the Sages’ Grove.  While trying to heal the open assault on the Empire, he searches for the legendary weapon that can give the Empire’s enemies a great advantage—a magical bow whose arrows cannot miss—the Bow of the Moon.



 
Secrets of the Sages

Book 3 unravels the secrets of the Empire.  Secrets that will be used against the Empire.  Unless Berty exposes these secrets, the world he has come to love in-between the portals could be lost forever.




Whispers

Book 4 reveals the ugliness of war and men.  To bring peace, Berty must fight with a sword rather than his pen.  The anti-imperialists invade every hill and dale in the Empire, working towards a source of immense magic—the Scepter within the Empire Tree.  Fluid loyalties threaten to destroy the fragile threads of the Empire’s only defense.  Fraying the threads are Whispers—unseen and unheard, except by the Whisperer.



 
Yuletide Magic

A short story about Silvia as a girl invoking the ancient magic of Yule.

Free Feb 15-19  Amazon





The World In-between 3 Book Box Set

Get the first 3 books of the series together: The World In-between, Bow of the Moon, and Secrets of the Sages.

$5.99  Amazon



Other Novels:

Where Pirates Go to Die

The first in the Space Pirates Series transports us to interplanetary space in a time where humans abandoned Earth, a home to which they could never return, and terraformed new homes across the Milky Way Galaxy.  Naria, a Pirate whose ruthless reputation runs rampant in every dark corner and every space hub, has a laser to thrust up the final frontiers of the Dignitaries of Milky Way Circle.  She begins a cat and mouse chase across the Galaxy, which may end where Pirates go to die.




Tricentennial

2075 CE or 20 NE: Enter a post-pandemic United States where survivors huddle in protected pod cities while nature reclaims the land around them.  Or, at least, that is the picture life in Pod City One-five paints for siblings Xavier and Nikki Kelton.  When their parents die within a week of each other, Nikki insists their father left them instructions.  Xavier, although unconvinced, follows his sister through the feared wilderness.  Together, they discover lies, corruption, and hope for a better future.




Short Stories in Anthologies:
 
All That Lies

Gunshots ruin a celebratory dinner.  Reluctantly leaving her bleeding husband on the kitchen floor, Lacy races to the safe room.  When she emerges, she must untangle the lies woven within her life.




Sector Three-Three

On Thelta, a planet far, far away, Vace Fantam dreams of a new life in space—if she can get there.  Her first attempt failed.  Only a few more days working for the kreel wells will give her enough money for a one-way ticket to the space station.  However, an anomaly in her sector during her watch threatens not only her second attempt but all life on Thelta.

Across the Karman Line: $2.99  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, GooglePlay, Smashwords



The Hunt

The Notkyn are a race of people who live in the shadows.  As Ghost Hunters, they keep the balance of between the beings of this world and the next.  When the balance tips, only newly chosen Hunter, Teeg, can stop the Hunters from being hunted.



Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year No Plans



Last year, around this time, I tried something new—made plans.  They say that things don’t always go as planned.  Maybe, it could be that I find that life is more interesting when I don’t follow any plan.  Plans, to me, are like outlines for my novels.  I write outlines, then never actually follow them.  I place that sheet or two of paper in my folder and never look at it again.  It always works out better that way.  Since I never looked at last year’s plans after making them, this year, like every other year, I’m not going to bother with plans.

What I do have are lists.  Here is a list of my lists:

Current Writing Projects
Future Writing Projects
Editing Jobs
Books to Read
Games to Play
Around the House Projects

I’m already about 15,000 words into Hope, Book 5 of the World In-between Series.  For a series where most of the books run about 100,000 words, 15 is a drop in the bucket, but it is shaping up well.  Once I get back into a post-holiday writing regimen, the words will be piling onto the page.

One thing I haven’t been doing is giving myself enough downtime.  All work and no play is counterproductive.  So, I am devoting time to play.  I may play a game, watch tv or a movie, and read more (if possible).  And I need to do this every day or every other day.

If I really think about it, reading isn’t considered downtime for me.  I typically finish a book in three days.  The next can start that day or a couple of days later, depending on the book.  However, it seems that the more I read, the more I write.

Household projects cannot be downtime either, although I’m not writing or editing.  I need time to recoup from those as well.  One project that does relax me is gardening.  Since my usual garden space has been overshadowed by the neighbor’s unruly hedge, a raised bed system needs to be built elsewhere.  The only other sunny location I have is filled with rocks and little dirt.  Once the beds are built and a cat and rabbit deterring fence erected, herbs and veggies can be wedged into the new soft dirt.  I love to sit and watch plants emerge from the seeds inches under the surface.  Watching my garden grow is in the downtime category unless I bring my writing outside.

Play will be looking for something interesting to stream on my tv, since I no longer watch television the usual way.  It’s been almost two years without tv service.  Best decision.  This leads to binge watching, sometimes multiple seasons of, shows night after night until I need to find something new.

Also in the play category will be games that aren’t word games.  That means no Text Twist, Decipher Me, and its ilk.  (I’ll continue to play them, just not as real downtime.)  I need to play more Planetside 2.  I only play once every few months and I kinda … I’m not that good.  For those who aren’t familiar with the game, it’s an online, free, player vs player, massive multiplayer, first person shooter game.  It’s great for shooting out your stress, unless you’re dying every five seconds because another faction zergs the base you’re defending.  For a more solitary gaming experience, I’m going to be installing Skyrim on this computer.  Yes, I’ve tried Fallout 4.  Wasn’t a fan.  Maybe I just prefer killing monsters with a bow and arrows.  I’m thinking my next computer purchase will be geared towards gaming so I can play more.

Not play per se, but definitely downtime would be cooking and baking.  With my last name, how could food not be a relaxing interest of mine?  Food has always been a big part of my life.  There is nothing better than eating something you've made with family and friends.  Watch my Twitter or Google+ feeds for sharing these culinary creations.

I am looking forward to all 2016 has to offer.  I’ve already abandoned the outline for Hope and now exciting things are happening.  This bodes well for the New Year.

Wishing all of you a happy and exciting 2016!