Monday, July 28, 2014

Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd, Princess of Wales

The surprisingly true tale of how my picture almost wound up in a castle in Wales.

Yep. You heard that right. I’m famous.

Or almost was.

While I was in the hospital, I received quite an interesting email. Came all the way from Wales. Apparently, a certain picture I took a while back of one of my characters made quite the circuit of the web, until the man who contacted me stumbled upon it while scouting for images to represent a princess of Wales from the twelfth century, Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd.

So, he contacted me to verify that the image was mine and request my permission to use it in an introductory panel in a castle in Wales.

IMG_3496editededited

(The photo in question)

My first thought: The costume isn’t historically accurate! How could they use it?

My second thought: If they don’t care, I don’t!

Sadly, being woefully ignorant of Welsh history, I had never before heard of Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd. So I decided to do a little bit of research and was completely fascinated by what I discovered—hooray for Wikipedia!

Gwenllian lived from 1097-1136, during one of the many conflicts between the Welsh and the Normans. She married Gruffydd ap Rhys, a prince of Wales, and joined him in leading daring raids against the Normans. Matters came to a head while Gruffydd was away on an alliance forming mission, so Gwenllian mustered the army and marched into battle herself.

Only to be defeated near Kidwelly Castle and beheaded by her enemies. A tragic end to the tale. But her example was an inspiration to the Welsh in their struggle against the Normans, and her name became a common battle cry throughout the conflict.

Fascinating, isn’t it? Check out Wikipedia’s article on Gwenllian ferch Gruffydd to find out more!

Research completed, I weight the pros and cons. I was amazed at the similarities between Gwenllian and the character in my novel that I had been depicting. Not only that, but her name is practically the same as mine! And who could say no to having their picture in a castle in Wales?

Pros won. Cons lost. So I said yes.

And immediately began planning ways to scrimp and save so I could eventually take a trip to Wales to visit the castle and research Gwenllian and walk the battlefield where she fought and died.

Only to get another email a few days later that regretfully informed me that they had run the image past a historian who rejected the photograph on the basis that the costume wasn’t historically accurate.

Ah well.

Should have listened to my first thought.

So there you have it. The fascinating tale of how my picture almost wound up inside a castle in Wales … and the even more fascinating tale of a princess of Wales who fought alongside her husband for the defense of her people.

I still intend to find out more about Gwenllian. Amazing character inspiration right there!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rallying the Clans—Operation Orphan’s Song

Most of y’all know that for me to say this summer has been crazy would be putting it mildly. Between my awesome but hectic job and exciting but looming writing deadlines, there was no time for planning anything by the way of cover reveals or news drops or future blog tours for Orphan’s Song which is going to be releasing this fall.

I was trying not to stress about it, and then everything came to a screeching halt a week and a half ago, when I got into a car accident, wound up in the hospital for a week, had two surgeries, and am now recovering … with a little bit of time to kill before I’ll be well enough to head back to working my day job.

(You can read the full thrilling tale here!)

Cue planning.

This my friends, is where y’all come in.

I am faced with a difficult mission, a task I can by no means accomplish on my own, so I have come to ask you to take a stand by my side. I am in need of a few good men and women, warriors of the pen, readers of fantasy, and bloggers of renown.

You see, some authors build tribes.

Other establish street teams or set up undercover operatives.

I on the other hand am establishing a clan.

clan image 2

The word clan carries with it a strong sense of family and community (not to mention incredible brogues and kilts). Clans are united in purpose and mind, with all the members pulling together for the same goal through thick and thin.

My goal is to gather together a clan of readers who get excited about the same sort of fantasy novels that I do and would be willing to stand by my side and help spread the news about Orphan’s Song and the future books in the series.

The requirements?

Clan members must have either a blog, twitter account, facebook page, or other online form of social media where they would be willing to post links, important announcements, and blog tour information. Brogues are encouraged. Kilts are not required. Remember, word of mouth is one of the best ways to spread the news about a novel!

In return, clan members can expect sneak peaks at future books, backstage character access, discounts, freebies, giveaways, and more!

Interested in joining the clan? You can either leave a comment with your name and email address, and I’ll add you to the list, or if you would prefer, you can send me an email at thesongkeeper(at)gmail(dot)com with your contact information.

Once you join the clan, you can expect to receive an email from me in the next few days with your first mission!

I appreciate your help as I try to prep Orphan’s Song for release this fall!

Monday, July 14, 2014

At The End of the Day, the Lord is Good

I apologize for the silence, folks. For the past several days, I've been trying to come up with some crazy exciting story to explain my absence - something involving portals, dragons, and a mysterious call to save he world - but once I sat down to write it, I figured there's actually no need to elaborate on the true story.

It's fairly thrilling, involving a death-defying escape and a helicopter ride and flaming vehicles.

Intrigued?

Well, long story short ... I was in a car accident last Wednesday. My truck spun out on a road with a speed limit of 70 mph and ended up slamming head first into a tree. Not sure if I blacked out completely or was just really dazed, but my first conscious thought was of buzzing in my ears and smoke everywhere and pain and something wet dripping on my hands.

Then somebody was pounding on the side of the truck, shouting "Get out! It's on fire!"

That brought me to pretty quickly. I tried the driver's door, but it was jammed. But the adrenaline was pumping hard enough that I managed to jump over the console into the passenger seat, open the door, and stumble out in the arms of the folks who had stopped when they saw my truck smoking.

From there, I watched as my truck caught on fire and was consumed by the flames - after my rescuers managed to salvage my laptop and all the important stuff I had in the front seat - and waited for EMS to arrive. A helicopter took me to the hospital where I've been since. Apparently I broke my jaw in multiple places and fractured parts of my face, so I've had one surgery so far and another coming up, and several days of napping in the hospital in between.

All in all though, this story is the most exciting story I could have come up with, because I can clearly see God's hand on the whole situation, and I am simply left feeling grateful. It could have been so much worse than it was. I mean ... I was able to walk away from the accident - sure, I didn't get very far, just out of the reach of the flames, and I had to take a wee detour past the hospital, but those are just minor details in the big scheme of things.

Nobody else was injured. My truck was the only vehicle involved. And yet once more God's perfect timing came into play when there were people who came along the road just afterwards who were extremely helpful! Throughout the length of my stay in the hospital, I have been overwhelmed with the kindness of friends and family and sometimes even complete strangers who have rallied around me.

I have so much to be grateful for.

Including a publisher who was very understanding when I had to inform him that my Orphan's Song edits were going to be just a tad late since editing a novel on high doses of pain medication doesn't make for the best combination.

So here we are. I'm alive. I have not forgotten poor Alexander and hope to be continuing his story soon ... though it might be a bit sporadic at first, since I'll be neck deep in the last of my edits post surgery!

At the end of the day, all I can say is the Lord is good!


Friday, July 4, 2014

When Destiny Comes Calling—Installment Four

Afraid I have to apologize for the lack of a post last Friday. It was a bit of a crazy week, and this week hasn’t been much different. I’m currently wading through the edits for Orphan’s Song, so needless to say, those have been consuming the bulk of my writing time.

Still, I wasn’t heartless enough to make y’all wait another week before you could discover what happened to Alexander. Once again, poor Alexander’s fate was decided by a single vote. So you see, your votes do matter. (Be sure to vote at the end of today for the next week!)

In case, you’re completely lost and have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, check out this post. It explains everything.

In the meantime, I’m very pleased to be able to announce the arrival of Installment Four!

Destiny - 4

Confound the woman! Of all the exasperating, irritating, high-falooting people he had ever met, she had to be the worst.

With mud plastered hands, Alexander tugged the hood of his cloak down over his sodden hair and squelched through the noxious pools of the swamp where Miss Destiny had deposited him.

Oh, no, Alexander. I’m sorry!” He muttered in an exaggerated attempt at a falsetto. “That would be telling, wouldn’t it? No, it wouldn’t! Because apparently it’s absolutely impossible for you to tell anyone anything! Like maybe that an umbrella would have been more helpful than dueling pistols!”

The tail of his cloak caught on a branch, and he yanked it free, splattering his face with mud droplets. He stood there, dripping wet, pistols damp and useless in his belt, while the swamp sucked noisily at his boots.

He watched the mud creep up toward his ankles and sighed. Miss Destiny must have also forgotten to mention the quicksand.

A minor oversight on her part.

Right.

Cold mud crawled up his shins. He fought the urge to panic and instead set his mind to mentally skim through all of the survival guides he had ever read. By the time he reached the chapter on Quicksand and How to Escape from It from A Ranger’s Guide to Roving, the sand had reached his knees.

After a moment’s refresher course, he flung himself forward and belly-flopped into the quicksand, tugging his feet free with a plop, then crawled forward on hands and knees until he reached a hummock of solid ground in the midst of the swamp.

He rolled over onto his back and stared up at the vines and shaggy moss dangling from limbs above. Brown, slimy gook covered every inch of his body, clothes, and equipment.

Paragraph seven of chapter thirteen of A Ranger’s Guide to Roving scrolled through his head, reminding him that he really ought to unsheathe his sword and pistols and tend to them to keep them from rusting. But for now, he was too exhausted to rise. Three days on the road with Miss Destiny was enough to try the patience of a mule. Three days of riddles with answers that weren’t really answers and Miss Destiny’s signature frosty glare, delivered with all the force and tact of a musket ball.

Then without any explanation whatsoever, she had led him straight to the edge of the swamp, and after a pursed-lip grin, a reminder to stay far away from ogre cooking pots, and a fluttering of her fingers, she had vanished.

Into thin air.

Or thick air, rather.

The swamp was about as humid, rank, and sweaty as the toes of the aforementioned ogres.

Something crashed in the woods to his left, and Alexander instinctively reached for his pistols. But even as his hand settled on the muddied grip, he knew it was useless.

Damp gunpowder was about as helpful as Miss Destiny’s instructions. And a simple dueling pistol didn’t use nearly a large enough caliber bullet to make a dent in an ogre, let alone kill one. Pity he couldn’t have brought his cannon along on this little misadventure.

So he simply lay there, flat on his back in the mud, as the thing crashed nearer and nearer, hoping whatever-it-was would go away, and hoping he wouldn’t scream, and hoping he wouldn’t die before he discovered the history behind his family’s curse.

Option 1:

“Get up, Alexander. Heroes don’t loll about in the mud.”

No mistaking that voice.

Alexander peeked one eye open and could just make out the stiff form bending over him, a familiar look of disapproval on her face. He closed his eyes again. “I’m not lolling. Just taking a very well deserved nap in the word possible location in the worst possible conditions in the worst possible company in the world! It’s a talent. One that I have to employ thanks to you.”

Miss Destiny sniffed. “You mean one that thanks to me hasn’t gotten you killed yet. You’re welcome, by the way.”

Insufferable woman.

With a groan, Alexander rolled into a sitting position, then did a double take. “Is that … is that ogre blood on your hem?”

Option 2:

The earth trembled as the massive thing crashed through the woods just a few feet behind Alexander. He lay very still, trusting in the fact that most monsters have notoriously poor eyesight. Unfortunately, there was rarely anything wrong with their sense of smell.

Or his!

He caught a whiff of something that smelled like it have been dead and buried for a week before being unearthed and left to fester in the sun.

Ogre. No doubt about it.

Something wet and sticky dripped on his face and crawled down his chin. He pinched his eyes shut. If he was about to die, he didn’t want to see it coming.

Option 3:

A high pitched scream brought Alexander reeling to his feet, pistols drawn.

“Hullo? Miss Destiny, is that you?”

He turned in a circle, scanning the dripping woods for any sign of the exasperating woman. He found it hard to believe that such a high pitched scream could have come from her throat. She just didn’t seem the type.

A second cry rang out, and this time Alexander dove into action. He darted off through the swamp in the direction of the cry, wet pistols held at the ready, wet cloak flapping about his legs, wet sword rattling in its sheath.

He could only hope he wouldn’t be too late.

Help decide what happens next! Vote by leaving a comment with your favorite of the three options!

Friday, June 20, 2014

When Destiny Comes Calling—Installment Three

This week has been a tad hectic, to say the least. First, my internet was down for a few days which kept me from getting on here and tallying votes until after I was supposed to have already written the next installment of the story.

So the following was written somewhat last minute to the accompaniment of an overabundance of two of my writing staples—coffee and Dr. Pepper—so I pray you bear with me through any of the odd typos or sleep-typing that may have slipped through.

In case you missed last week’s post, every Friday I intent to post the next installment of a serial short-ish story on here. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read the previous installments:

Installment One: In which Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III dismantles a cannon and has an unexpected brush with destiny.

Installment Two: In which Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III has an unpleasant surprise, and Miss Destiny appears to posses the ability to walk through walls.

The truly fun part of this story is that y’all get to help decide what happens. Curious how that will work? Read Installment Three to find out …

Destiny 3

“You’re Destiny.”

Destiny smiled then, and a cold, shark-like smile it was. “Indeed. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I am Destiny, and you are a Beauford.”

Alexander felt the cold fingers of fear crawling down his back like an army of spiders. “But … I thought that was just a legend. You haven’t been seen in over three generations of Beaufords.”

Destiny shrugged. “That’s the problem with a family curse. They’re often unpredictable, but always unavoidable.”

Well …

This was a conundrum and no mistake. Alexander scuffed a stockinged foot against the floor as he considered his options. It wasn’t every day one came face to face with a supposed family curse. What was the traditional protocol? His military handbooks had been disappointingly vague on the subject of family affairs—especially in regards to curses.

The way he saw it, he could make one of four choices:

1) Run for his life and see how fast Miss Destiny could chase him in her long dress and heeled shoes …

2) Beg for his life. Perhaps Miss Destiny would show mercy and leave him in peace.

3) Fight for his life. Between the cannon in the center of the room—that Miss Destiny was still using as a seat—and the various handguns and rapiers mounted strategically on the wall, he had a fairly good supply of weapons, should the curse necessitate defense.

4) Or lastly, yield his life in servitude as a good little cursed descendent of a cursed family should.

Four options …

But Alexander, being Alexander Scott Mitus Beauford III, heir of the Baron of Midsig, decided to follow none of them. Instead, he simply laughed, plopped down in Father’s leather desk chair and flipped open a massive tome to continue his research.

Curses were a thing of the past. Relics from a time when magic reigned supreme and fantastic critters prowled the night. They belonged to the era of swords and shields and knights clad in not-so-shining armor, not this modern age with its guns and cannons and firearms and research.

Destiny cleared her throat.

Alexander answered without lifting his gaze from the book. “Do you need assistance finding the door? Because that can be arranged, though we are a tad short on servants at the moment.”

“Stalling gains you absolutely nothing, you know.”

“More’s the pity.”

Miss Destiny took a deep breath, and Alexander crooked an eye at her over the edge of his book. She looked like she was about to explode.

“Time is wasting! And you, unfortunately, don’t have much of it! You know what they say, heroes always die young. Now shall we get on with it before I die of old age?”

What was that about heroes dying young?

Alexander tried to conceal his concern as he let the tome snap shut with a thump and rocked back in the chair with his stockinged feet on the edge of Father’s desk. Not that he was a hero … or anything approximating one. Not yet at least.

Still Miss Destiny certainly took the cake for persistency.

You know … I do believe I’m rather rusty on the details of this whole, nasty curse business. I can’t for the life of me remember who or what or how it all began … Care to enlighten me?”

“There simply isn’t time.” Destiny pursed her lips. “Suffice it to say that Emperor Caldwell has need of your services, and you, as a cursed member of a cursed family, are cursed to respond.”

Alexander’s chair settled with a thud. “And do what, exactly?”

Destiny’s eyes glittered. “That would be telling, wouldn’t it?”

“Fine.” Alexander pushed out of his chair, swiped his hands on his trousers again, took a deep breath, and pulled his cloak from the hook by the door and his dueling pistols and rapier from the umbrella stand. “Fine. Let’s get it over with.”

Help determine the course of the story by voting for your favorite next scene starter below! (Leave a comment with your vote.) And don’t forget to share the story with a friend!

Option 1) Confound the woman! Of all the exasperating, irritating, high-falooting people he had ever met, she had to be the worst.

With mud plastered hands, Alexander tugged the hood of his cloak down over his sodden hair and squelched through the noxious pools of the swamp where Miss Destiny had deposited him.

Oh, no, Alexander. I’m sorry!” He muttered in an exaggerated attempt at a falsetto. “That would be telling, wouldn’t it? No, it wouldn’t! Because apparently it’s absolutely impossible for you to tell anyone anything! Like maybe that an umbrella would have been more helpful than dueling pistols!”

Option 2) “Now, before we get started, there really are a few things we should cover,” Destiny said over her shoulder.

Alexander trudged along the road, feet already sore in his stiff leather boots, throat already dry with dust, and already hating the sight of the stiff figure in the gray dress marching briskly ahead of him. “Like what?”

“Rules of the road.” Without slacking stride, she counted them off on her fingers. “No dilly dallying. No complaining. No short cuts. And no asking if we’re there yet. Trust me, you’ll know when we’ve arrived.”

Option 3) “Don’t forget. Heroes die young.”

Destiny’s final, chilling admonition sent a shiver crawling up Alexander’s spine. He cleared his throat, straightened his black and white servant’s livery, then stepped through the massive double doors that enclosed the Emperor's great hall.

He couldn’t help rolling his eyes at the irony of it all. Only a short while ago, he had been complaining over the fact that he had to play servant in his own home.

Now he played servant for an Emperor.

A game that might very well get him killed.

Friday, June 13, 2014

When Destiny Comes Calling—Installment Two

The votes are in! It was extremely close by the way, and the winning option was determined by a matter of one point. Curious to know what it was? Read the next installment to find out.

In case you missed last week’s post, every Friday I intend to post the next installment of a serial short-ish story on here. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read last week’s installment in which Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III dismantles a cannon and has an unexpected brush with destiny.

The truly fun part of this story is that y’all get to help decide what happens. Curious how that will work? Read Installment Two to find out …

Short Story: When Destiny Comes Calling, Installment Two, Gillian Bronte Adams

So of course, Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III did what any reasonable person would do when confronted with such a statement. He smiled politely and slammed the door shut on Miss Destiny’s primly upturned nose.

The heavy paneling muffled her indignant cry.

Good riddance!

Alexander allowed the smile to remain on his lips as he marched back to the study to continue his research. The son of the Baron of Midsig had far more important things to do than bandy words with a madwoman.

Just as his hand settled on the latch, the doorbell began to ring again.

He growled, shoved the study door open, dashed inside, slammed it behind him, and flung his back against the door, breathing hard.

No more visitors.

No more interruptions!

He’d had about as much as he could stand. He really was going to have to talk to Father about hiring a new round of servants … or at the very least a butler!

“You really should answer the door, you know. It’s considered the height of rudeness to leave a guest standing on the threshold.”

Alexander jumped and nearly fell when his stockinged feet slipped on the wood floor.

She was here … in Father’s study.

Destiny glared primly down her nose at him, perched casually as could be on the barrel of his cannon. His cannon! A highly sophisticated, highly rare, highly valuable instrument of modern warfare!

Decidedly not a seat.

He resisted the urge to race over there and drag her away before she could break anything and forced a polite grin to his face instead. “You do realize you are sitting on an extremely dangerous weapon that’s covered in several layers of grime, mud, and powder residue, don’t you?”

“Indeed.” Destiny pursed her lips and scribbled a line in her notebook. “Manners: decidedly lacking. General appearance and cleanliness: atrocious.”

“Wait … what? What are you writing?” Curious despite himself, Alexander inched forward to snatch a peek at her paper, but Destiny closed the notebook with a snap of her wrist.

“Contender evaluation. Normal procedure.”

Indeed.

Because everything about this day was completely normal.

Alexander rubbed his aching forehead.

Destiny’s mouth quirked into something that no doubt was supposed to resemble a grin. It looked like she had been sucking on a lemon. “You do realize your hands are covered in several layers of grime, mud, and powder residue, don’t you?”

Apparently politeness could only carry one so far. “Look … how did you even get in here? What do you want?”

She flipped open her notebook cover, and her pen hovered once more over the page.

“And stop taking notes about me!”

“Like I said, it’s normal procedure. Gracious me, but you are a dull one.”

It hit him then. Like a twelve pounder cannon ball that barreled through and left the dead in piles and the living bleeding and gasping for breath. “You’re ________.”

Destiny smiled then, and a cold, shark-like smile it was.

You get to help me decide. Who/what is Destiny?

Or who does Alexander think she is?

Option One

“You’re one of them.”

Destiny smiled then, and a cold, shark-like smile it was. “Why yes, I am. Took you long enough.”

One of the Fey Folk …. here … in Father’s study.

Alexander took a deep breath and fumbled in his trouser pockets for a semi-clean handkerchief to wipe his forehead and hands. “Is this it then? Am I being summoned?”

Because if not, he had research to get back to.

Option Two

“You’re Destiny.”

Destiny smiled then, and a cold, shark-like smile it was. “Indeed. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I am Destiny, and you are a Beauford.”

Alexander felt the cold fingers of fear crawling down his back like an army of spiders. “But … I thought that was just a legend. A family myth. You haven’t been seen in over three generations of Beaufords.”

Destiny shrugged. “That’s the problem with a family curse. Often unpredictable, but always unavoidable.”

Option Three

“You’re one of them. This is a test, isn’t it?”

Destiny smiled then, and a cold, shark-like smile it was. “Indeed. How ever did you figure it out?”

Alexander snapped to attention, back straight, arms at his sides, shoulders and head erect. He was painfully aware of his stained clothing and stockinged feet, but there was no help for that now.

He couldn’t recall seeing any sort of a military emblem or rank insignia on Miss Destiny’s dress, but he might have overlooked it, distracted as he was by the whole surprise appearance thing she had going.

Vote in the comments. Share the story with your friends. Then stop by next Friday to see how your vote determines the course of the story!

Friday, June 6, 2014

When Destiny Comes Calling—A Serial Short (ish) Story

I’ve enjoyed our Friday Fantasy Reflections posts, but I thought I might try something new for this summer. This idea has been nagging at the back of my mind for some time lately, but I finally decided to make it happen.

So this summer, every Friday, I intend to post the next installment of a serial “short-ish” story for your enjoyment …

Nothing serious. Nothing edited or polished. Just something fun I’m scribbling on as the mood strikes me. A fun mash-up of something reminiscent of the early to mid eighteen hundreds with cannons and firearms, as well as magic and common fairy tale/fantasy tropes.

But that’s not it.

Not only do you get to read it, you get to help decide what happens. Yep. You heard right. Feel the power!

Curious how it will work?

Read Installment One below!

*    *     *     *     *

Destiny - 1

When Destiny comes calling, it’s usually best to open the door.

Promptly.

So Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III discovered when the passionate ringing of the doorbell disturbed his contemplation of the inner workings of a cannon. With a sigh, he set aside his wrench and pliers and slid out from beneath the twelve pounder, smacking his forehead on the barrel as he tried to sit up.

Clutching his head, he stumbled to his feet and nearly tripped over a ramrod. He surveyed the stain damage to his trousers and white shirt, and the cannon parts strewn across the wood floor of the study from the paneled door to the base of Father’s massive desk.

The mess was unavoidable. One could not become a militaristic genius without a considerable amount of chaos and destruction. But that did not mean Mother would be pleased. The Baroness of Midsig could spot a speck of dirt on the floor from a dozen yards away.

And to say the study floor was filthy might be putting it mildly.

The doorbell shrilled again.

Alexander—or Scott, as he often wished in vain to be called—swiped grimy hands across the knees of his trousers, shoved the flapping ends of his shirt into his belt, and muscled into his waistcoat and jacket.

It wouldn’t do for the son of the Baron of Midsig to answer the door in his shirt sleeves.

Then again, he shouldn’t be answering the door at all.

Good servants might not be hard to come by here in the center of the realm, but they were certainly hard to keep. He denied any part in orchestrating the mass desertions that took place nearly monthly from the servants’ quarters, but truth be told, he was scarce sorry to see the servants go. Most of them simply got in the way of important things like research.

Alexander made it halfway down the front hallway before noticing his stockinged feet and the hole over his right big toe. Shoes … shoes … of course, he would have left them in the study with the cannon.

Typical.

The doorbell rang a third time. A long, drawn-out buzz.

Alexander scuffed his stockinged feet against the floor. No time to go back for his shoes now. “I’m coming! I’m coming! Hold your horses!”

He flung the door open and poked his head out to see a tall woman in a fitted, steel-gray dress, standing on the stoop with a notebook and pen in hand and a disapproving expression on her face.

“Is this—” she consulted the notebook—“Is this the home of Baron and Barroness Midsig and their son Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III?

Alexander eased the door closed just a tad to conceal his shoeless state. “It is. Can I help you?”

The woman adjusted her spectacles, staring down her pointed nose at him. “That is the question, isn’t it? Ready or not, chosen or not, incompetent fool or not, I suppose we shall see. Follow me.”

She brushed down her already smooth skirts and glided down the manor house steps.

Alexander paused on the stoop. “Wait … what? I don’t understand? What’s this about? Who are you?”

The woman swung back around, graceful as a bird on the wing. “Your kind call me Destiny.”

So of course, Alexander Mitus Scott Beauford III did what any reasonable person would do when confronted with such a statement. He …

  *     *     *     *     *

What did Alexander do? Help me decide by picking your favorite of the three options below and voting in the comments. Thanks!

1) Smiled politely and slammed the door shut on Miss Destiny’s primly upturned nose.

2) Stammered an incoherent reply and beat a hasty retreat to the study where there were enough firearms on display that he should be able to defend himself against the attacks of any number of insane persons.

3) Swiped his hands on his trousers again, took a deep breath, and pulled his cloak from the hook by the door and his dueling pistols and sword from the umbrella stand. “Right,” he said. “Let’s be off.”

Tune in next Friday to see your vote determine the course of the next installment.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest Post: Sensational Descriptions

As I mentioned in my last post, summer has begun, which means my job has kicked into high gear. Something that usually results in a Sleeping Beauty-esque hibernation effect on this blog.

But not today!

[Insert inspiring speech reminiscent of Aragorn’s “But it is not this day!” complete with horse rearing and sword brandishing.]

Today, I am beyond thrilled to bring you a guest post from S.J. Aisling, author of The Chateran Series.

****

Have you ever wondered how to craft descriptions into a scene to make it stand out as vivid in the readers’ mind as if they were actually there? The key is to write in a manner than engages the five senses. This challenge may seem monumental at first, but by stockpiling sensory ‘imprints’ for you to insert into your writing and a bit of practice it can easily become second nature.

What is a sensory ‘imprint’ and how do I make one?

First, decide which of the five senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, or sound) you will start with. If needed, close your eyes or listen to music on earphones to block out other sensory stimuli to help you concentrate. Then take a minute or so and just focus on that one sensory aspect of the area you’re in.

Sight: tab any special landmarks such as unique or famous buildings, what makes the natural setting unique, and lighting (both sources, and how it moves/reflects/shine through your surroundings. What things would locals point out in describing this area to a stranger?

Smell: breathe deep for a while, taking note of which smells you catch first, and which ones take you some time to distinguish.

Touch: is probably the easiest sense to focus on, as (unless you’re in a zero-gravity room) you are always in physical contact with something – what does it feel like to move against the surfaces around you? How is the air shifting, and what is the temperature?

Taste: is a piece of cake (literally) when you’re eating, but it can be a factor in non-meal-related scenes, too; some smells can actually be tasted. See if there are any in the area, and breathe through your mouth for a few breaths. Even if you don’t eat anything while in this area, mentioning what kinds of food present there can add a lot to a scene.

Sound: list repeated noises that form an auditory ‘backdrop’, and those that occur less often but are nonetheless individual or usual in the setting you’re in.

While you’re focusing on each sense in turn, pause to write down your observations once in a while. But do not use the first words that pop into your head if you can help it. Download a thesaurus app on your smartphone if you have too, by all means – anything to help you avoid clichés. (Because the cliché is what most people’s minds jump to when describing and labeling things.) One thing I’ve found helpful in crafting creative descriptions is trying to describe one sensation by using another. For example:

~ What color is the scent? (Sight to describe smell)

~ What textures could describe a particular flavor? I.e. gritty, smooth, plush, etc. (Touch to describe taste)

You now have a mental (and hardcopy, if you do take notes) ‘diary entry’ or ‘imprint’ of what your senses picked up in the area you are in. Ta-da! Fodder for sensory descriptions! Now, when you come across a situation that reminds you of a scene you’ve written or want to write, take a moment to gather an ‘imprint’, and then use the sensations you gather to flesh out the descriptions. Which leads me on to the next part of this process...

How do I practice?

By writing. Just like with using silverware, riding a bike, or dancing, learning how to write scenes that engage a reader’s senses takes time and immersion in the process. When you’re next writing, pay attention to highlight the sights, sounds, smells, feeling, and tastes of the scene you are working on. Do not run through these as if they were a laundry list at the beginning of the scene, however. Begin with a few descriptions that are the strongest representations of the setting, to give readers a foundation to begin imagining the scene with.

The rich scent of freshly turned earth mingled with the overarching odor of animals and manure, all intensified by the sun heat that radiated off the road and up against my calves. From over the fields the gentle wind carried the grinding whir of machinery, and it toyed with my hair, lifting strands off my sweaty forehead.

With just the two above sentences, the reader is treated to the initial sensation of being outdoors at a farm in the middle of summer without describing every aspect of the scene. Throughout the action and dialogue you can sprinkle more descriptions in – the whir of doves flying from the loft of the barn, the way the gravel road crunches underfoot, and the earthy flavor of dust grit in your mouth. This builds the realism without being overbearing. You do not, however, need to describe everything. Leaving room for the readers’ imagination to fill in the gaps with memories of similar real-life experiences allows the scene to become more personal and real to them than mounds of information ever could.

So take heart! Building vivid descriptions that will tickle your readers’ senses isn’t really that hard – just practice observation and your writing craft, and you’re halfway there.

~~~

Self B&W

Stacia Joy is the author and illustrator of the newly released fantasy Becoming the Chateran (Book One of The Chateran Series). When not writing or obsessing over art, she spends her days immersed in numerous pastimes that include archery, Irish dancing, playing the folk harp, reading history and researching off-beat topics like medieval medicine, and tossing helpless people as inspiration into her books.

For years now she has been struggling with a bad case of sesquipedalianism, and can also be found nosing into almost anything or brushing up on her nearly-fluent sarcasm. Join Stacia Joy at her blog every Thursday for a delve into the art and agony of writing, a new book cover design, sneak peaks and backstories via Creating the Chateran, or book reviews! Book One Cover

You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, Wattpad, Pinterest, and DeviantART. You can find Becoming the Chateran on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads. Ask for it at your local bookstore!  

Thanks, Stacia, for stopping by! It was a pleasure to host you on the blog today!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

No News is Good News?

Some of you may live in parts of the world where ’tis always winter, but never Christmas. Or the end of school and the beginning of the summer holidays is at least another fortnight away. Perhaps even two.

But it’s summer time at camp in Texas.

And those of you who’ve followed this blog for any length of time know what that means.

The beginning of silence.

For those of you who scratching your head in bewilderment over the correlation between summer and silence, let me explain. When I’m not creating fantasy worlds, I work full time as a ministry specialist and equine program manager at a Christian youth camp.

As you might imagine, summer time is on time for us.

Fourteen plus hour days spent in the summer haze, full of activities and kids and behind-the-scenes-work and most important of all, the chance to share the Gospel … it’s my dream job!

One of them at least.

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At night, I’m busy working on book two of the Song of Leira trilogy. It won’t be long before I’m squeezing edits for both Out of Darkness Rising and Orphan’s Song in there too.

That said, I fully intend to pop over here at least once a week to keep the conversation going—whether it’s through a fantasy reflections post, updates, or something of either a heroic or villainous nature from the respective academies.

But for once know that silence is a good thing.

It means I’m working hard on polishing my books so you can read them. So if the silence ever gets too much for you, imagine the clicking and clacking of the keyboard as I type through the wee hours of the night to get the Song of Leira trilogy into your hands.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Orphan’s Song–Good News on the Publishing Front

For the past several days, I’ve been practically bursting to share some news with y’all. And yet, each time I fingered the keys and started typing this post, something held me back.

By the time you read this, I will probably have scrapped and rewritten multiple drafts only to pause at the very end with my cursor hovering over the “publish” button at least a dozen different times before finally summoning enough courage to release my news to the world.

It is good news, actually.

Thrilling news!

You see, the Song of Leira trilogy found a publisher!

(Thrilling, right? Cue whooping and hollering and dancing all around!)

The first book, Orphan’s Song, is slotted to release Fall 2014 from Marcher Lord Press! Many of my favorite books and authors are with Marcher Lord Press, so it’s an honor and a thrill to join the “team.”

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It’s been a long journey from start to finish, and it’s not over yet. There were many times along the way where I was temped to lose heart and wonder how I—an ordinary gal from Texas—could have been insanely confident enough to venture into the unknown wilds of the publishing world and expect to return with a contract!

To be sure, I had plenty of help and encouragement along the way, and an incredible agent in Amanda Luedeke!

More news will be forthcoming soon. I’m about to dive into the busiest time of my year, and I’m also pounding furiously at the keys trying to work on book two of the trilogy, but I will try to keep y’all updated as we reach the important milestones prior to the book’s release.

For now, to find out more about the series, check out the Song of Leira page. (Be sure to stop by and meet the characters too!)