Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December's End (WoE week 53)

Write at the Merge gives us 500 words as usual, but in honor of saying goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014, there's a bit more to this week's prompt.

The first challenge is to experiment with the concepts of goodbye and purgatory.
The second includes the song Goodbye by artist Alicia Keys, and the following quote:

Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present. 
Marcus Aurelius Antonius Meditations 200 A.D. 

I love the concepts and the images that are colliding in my mind, even now, after my response is completed. There's a lot to work with here, and so many directions to go. The grit of the grim appeals to me most, perhaps due to the films I've watched recently. The fire-breathing dragon in the old dwarven mountain, the corrupt capitol and the mandatory games designed to keep the population enslaved, even the epic struggle between angels and demons conducted in the shadowy underground of New York City, all these dark stories are bubbling in my creative cauldron.

This week, I had too much muse, my piece weighing in with over a thousand words.It doesn't even feel complete yet. I think there's potential for it to develop into a novel or two of some length. Which both excites me and frustrates me, because I've already got four fantasy trilogies in the works, and they all have to take a back-burner to the paranormal mystery sequels that I'm hoping to publish in 2014.

So I thought I'd cheat a little. This post carries the first 500 words. If you choose to, you can move on to tomorrow's post.

I offer the following in response:  A New Regime, Part One

The duke was dead. His ambitious widow claimed regency for her adolescent son that very hour, but the duchy council knew it was only a matter of time before she made a bid for Mad King Herold’s throne. The uneasy councilmen watched from the purgatory of palace shadows, waiting for the inevitable declaration of war.

Elise had more immediate concerns. As she helped her lady dress in mourning shift, she pinched her fingers twice in corset lacings and fumbled with the sleeve ribbons.

Brenna twisted her hair out of the way, “Mother insists I be rid of you.”

She sounded uncertain, distant. Elise paused, “Her Grace has insisted that for years.”

“But without Father,” Brenna’s eyes flickered in her looking glass reflection. “I have no idea how to protect you.”

They shared a disquiet silence. “Well, to supper,” Elise choked on the lump in her throat. “We will know our fates soon enough.”

Brenna hugged her tight, “Whatever happens, I’ll see to your family. Father made you a promise and I intend to keep it.”

“Thank you,” Elise closed her eyes against rising doubt. Brenna meant well, but the duchess would have her own way. Whispers existed in the darkest corners among the bravest servants that murder had been the duke’s untimely end. The rumor carried the threat of the gallows.

Supper was a tense affair. Already relegated to the sideboard like a memory discarded, the duke’s chair sat empty. Elise kept to her station, distress clenching her stomach so tight the smells of food soured her appetite. She could tell from what remained on refused plates that Brenna wasn’t hungry either.

The duchess noticed as well. “Brenna, you’ve barely touched your meal. Is something amiss?”

“Grief has made me unwell.” The silence amplified Brenna’s trembling voice.

The duchess tapped the knife she held, a sign of her displeasure. “It will pass. I have received the contract for your engagement, from House Glassen.”

Elise surrendered a captive sigh. It was no secret that Brenna and Pierre were fond of each other. The duke approved of the match despite Pierre’s lower title, placing his daughter’s happiness first. And they could be safe in Glassen’s traditional seat in Fernwood.

Brenna straightened. “I’m pleased to-“

“I’ve had to send our regrets, of course.”

Elise stiffened. Brenna’s voice was full of fear. “Regrets?”

The duchess nodded, “Well I don’t know what your father was thinking, accepting such a contract in the first place. But don’t you worry. I’ve corrected all that.”


“Is there an echo?” The duchess tisked. “Besides, I need Sir Pierre de Glassen to fill in the ranks I’ve promised to deliver to Mad King Herold. He needs fodder soldiers for his silly war against the Northmen.”

Brenna pushed back her chair, half-rising, and passed out. Elise darted, catching her mistress and the wrathful glare of the duchess.

“Now, what to do about you…” Rising, her Grace crossed the stone floor. Her shadow crawled onto Elise’s skin. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spambox Sundays: It is Trump to Tell

Spambots are striking me again. This time they're after my Sticky's World story about  Podgy-Warbles. Look at the gem I found in my spambox:

believed. It is endeavour to go either. If you seem comforted, do not retrieve out when sales are natural event by requesting that dwell searching for it. It is trump to tell on straight from a digit verbalise legal instrument eff a greater investiture of $200-$400 for a fooling top. You Michael Kors Purses Outlet quadruple quotes when your purchase since you can feature colour later on the someone ahead offset. hence, you are or how diligently you think you can have discounts and deals. If you are making their monetary system locomote if they are comparison prices online, spend a penny Tues your day on sites equal Target, on Podgy-Warble (WoE #11 Bubble & City Hall Challenge)

This was a straight cut and paste. I did not alter anything about this comment. All irritation aside, it's still extremely entertaining. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas!

I wish you the best and brightest of the season and joy and love beyond measure through the coming year.

Love Always

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Fear Monsters and The Christmas Carol

Aspects of Independent Publishing Part Six - Fear


I'd like to take a moment and discuss something that affects us all, and right now is affecting someone I hold dear to my heart.

A friend of mine is experiencing fear of what finishing and subsequently publishing her first novel might mean. 
  • Where to next? 
  • What if no one likes my book? 
  • What if no one buys my book?

It breaks my heart when a fellow artist is struggling to pull words from the abyss of fear. Not to say I haven’t experienced it with The Trouble with Henry and Hagatha Kittridge Must Die,or that I'm not struggling with it while writing their sequels. Deep down, at the root of all this fear, is the voice of our self-doubt. The voice that tells us we are not worthy to write. That voice that tells us we are stupid for even trying. That same voice that screams at us in our sleep, giving us horrendous nightmares, giddy at the notion that we are helpless and lost in a sea of sharks.

Our own personal poltergeist, 
the Ghost of Novels Yet-To-Be.

This voice will defeat all of us at some point in our lives. It is the strongest voice that authors and other artists have in our internal arsenal. It’s the same voice that mothers have, the one telling us to wrap our children in bubble-wrap and lock them in the basement so that nothing ever happens to them. The fear that our children might come to harm, or experience heartbreak so profound that the innocence within them cracks, will cripple us. We want to protect our novels, our artwork, our children from the big, bad, scary, and ever-changing world.

But we also want them to have the best opportunities possible: to laugh like hearts can't be broken, to love without reservation, to reach and obtain each impossible thing they dream before breakfast.

We can’t allow them a care-free life and keep them wrapped up in the basement.

We know this. But still the fear that something will happen plagues our actions.

But Shel, what can we do really?
Where is the magic talisman
that will protect us from Fear?

Um, I'd like to say there was a talisman, and that I knew how to find it. I'd be seriously beyond-filthy-stinking-rich if I knew.

Instead, all I have is an allegory.

Story time?
 Oh dear Universe,
not again!

Oh suck it up. It's almost Christmas. You can sit through a little allegory.

Imagine, Mr. Scrooge, if you will, that three specters will visit you, one at the top of each hour beginning at midnight. The first, the Ghost of Novels Past. She is an aging, wisp of a thing, confident in her sorrow, and she looks at you with pity. Because you wrote a novel and you spent all that time tweaking the phrases and the words and the structure and the plot until there is nothing left of the original thought, and you let life pass you by in the meantime. Friends and loved-ones have moved on, publishing their own words with reckless abandon.

“It’s not even edited,” Scrooge says with a sneer. “Not by a professional, at any rate. And they need a lot of glue to patch up those unsightly plot holes. And the people that buy those books don’t know what they’re doing.”

“But the authors worked on the next books,” says the Ghost. “And they improved their skills.”

“Well, I’m doing it right the first time,” says Mr. Scrooge, even though he knows it's more excuse than truth. “My manuscript is going to be perfect before I allow the world to see it.”

“Perfection will never be achieved, and in the meantime, look what you lost,” she says and points to the book signing party of Scrooge's nephew.

And the hour strikes One, and a jolly, irreverent Ghost of Novels Present arrives. He is full of cheer and snark and drags you from the warmth of your bed through the snows of San Diego. “Your friend is struggling with a plot,” he says, pointing to a small boy with a crutch. “He has no one to support his dream.”

“But he has potential,” Scrooge says, puzzled. “Why does he still receive rejection letters from publishers? Why are vanity presses circling around him like vultures?”

“Are there no self-publishing outlets?” the ghost laughs. “Is there no room for his genre?”

“What becomes of him?”

“If he is not found, if he receives one more rejection, I see an abandoned crutch hanging by the hearthfire.”


And then the stroke of Two, and a terrifying poltergeist, the Ghost of Novels Yet-To-Be extends a bony finger and points Scrooge to a lonely grave. As Scrooge brushes away the ice, he reads the working title of his manuscript.

And Scrooge knows then what a life of fear and regret costs.

Shel, we've seen
The Christmas Carol
a million times.

Okay, so maybe I’ve been hitting the eggnog a little hard this year. But there’s something about ol’ Ebenezer that I find appealing. Despite the darkness he surrounded himself with, despite the angst and the worry and the hatred, and the holier-than-thou attitude, at the end he was a changed man. A redeemed man. And Scrooge became known for keeping the spirit of Christmas in his heart.


Okay, fine. To bring this back to relevancy, the message of this Christmas Carol is HOPE. Fear cannot tread where hope lives, but hope is still a fragile, fleeting thing. I’ve heard it said that the beast we feed will be the beast that grows. If we feed our doubt, if we nurture our fear, that will be the monster that survives. That is the voice in our heads that tells us we shouldn’t do a thing, that we should give up because we do not have the talent or the strength to persevere in the face of challenges.

But if we feed the voice of hope. If we allow her grace to fill our thoughts and our dreams, then fear will become diminished, and will have no control over us.

So what if I published The Trouble with Henry and Hagatha Kittridge Must Die, and I only sold a handful of ebooks. So what if this blog is only read by a handful of really supportive people and hackers from China and Russia. When fear of hitting the publish button reared its ugly head, I chose to feed the voice of hope instead. I chose a carefree life for my child instead of a basement prison. I hope I can help others choose the same.

In the end, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks or says or does. My child is still beautiful, and talented, and full of promise. He doesn’t need to win a Hugo or an Agatha, or reach a million copies sold. It would be nice, but I'm proud of my work, my children, just the way they are.

I wish my friend could feed her hope right now. She’s got life fighting her every step of the way, and some extremely serious challenges than simply the fear of being finished, but fear feeds off of that type of stress. And she’s beautiful and talented and her book is worthy of bookshelves across the globe. She’s just losing her writing heart to her fears.

And if her fear monster wins, then the true tragedy is that no one will have had the chance to read her book. And I cannot bear a world in which a story failed to exist because hope died. 

Do not feed the fear monster, my fellow writers. Make it starve to death, nevermore to grace your computer screen. There are many, many things out there to be afraid of, but our own children need not be a part of them. If there's one thing I've learned about self-publishing, its that you can't break it. If you upload mistakes, you can fix them. If no one buys your book, it's okay, Really. Screw them all and write your next book. And publish it. And write the next book. And publish it. If you build it, they will eventually come. But first, you've got to nurture your faith. You've got to feed your Hope Monster. 

If you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Solstice Song (WoE week 50)

Write at the Merge seems particularly festive this week, challenging us with the word Sparkle and the song Sleigh Ride as performed by John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra.

I couldn't help but think of Sticky-Tagger and his pixie friends. I've been away from them too long, me thinks.

I offer the following in response: Solstice Song

“Sticky, it’s winter!” Glowing, Sellamina twirled beneath the falling snow. Her wings shimmered in the pale triumph of the waxing sun.

“It’s still too slushy,” Sticky held out a disappointing handful of wet, white sludge. “It’s close, but it’s not ready yet.”

Sellamina drifted towards his perch. “Can't you feel it?”

Sticky closed his eyes and listened to the hush of their woods, hoping to hear the hum. Gone were the familiar sounds of the woodland creatures as most of them hid in the warmth of their dens. Snow dampened the song of the world. Even the trees refused to break the morning calm with their chatter. He opened his eyes and sighed. “No. Not yet.”

She sat beside him on the branch and wrapped her golden wings about them, sharing their warmth. She stifled a yawn. “I know we stayed up all night waiting, but I’m still too excited to sleep.”

“Do you think it’ll come from the north this year?” He knew the answer, but the question came from habit.

“It always comes from the north,” his sister breathed, huddling closer.

Sleigh bells chimed several miles away, a mere whisper tickling Sticky’s ear from that distance. His mind wandered. He remembered those bells with laughter and the spiced, heady vapors of mulled cider and wine. Humans were predictable, arriving with the snows and collecting white berries in bunches. “Sella, why do you think humans collect mistly-toes?”

“Ug, you had to ruin it,” Sellamina growled beside him. “Can’t we just once not speak of humans and their stupid rituals?”

“Okay.” Sticky frowned, racking his thoughts. With his recent Fetcher training, he’d become quite adept at collecting roasted chestnuts from human kitcheries. It was his new favorite food. Well, favorite nut. Punkin pie crumbs and that wiggly food that was colored and transparent like gemstones but melted into soup in his mouth were his favorites. Oh, and the sweet and sticky corn…his tummy rumbled. “But you don’t think they eat the berries do you?”

“I don’t think so. Wouldn’t it be poisonous?”

“Well, someday, I’m gonna find out,” Sticky said. “You know what else humans do?”


“They bring trees into their homes and dress them up.”

“What, whole trees?” Sticky caught her sideways glance as she leaned forward. Her mouth crinkled to one side. “That makes no more sense than the mistly-toes.”

Goosiepimples climbed up Sticky’s arm as the breeze shifted. It came from the north and stirred the crystalline drifts of the woodland floor. The ground sparkled bright with energy.

“Ooh." Sellamina squeaked and jumped to her feet, fluttering her wings. “Sticky, it’s here!”

Sticky forgot his hunger, his lack of sleep, and the chill that seeped into his skin. As the first magic of winter kissed his face, he drank it in, feeling raw bliss swell around his heart. The drowsy woods sparked to life and hummed, sweet and low, and eternity was once again possible.

And with that, my dearest readers, I wish you a very magical season overflowing with wonder and merriment.