Pomegranate Seeds and Hungry Chicks

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Today is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so, today’s snippet is 4 lines from the 23rd paragraph (4/23). This is from my short story “The Pomegranate Tree.” Here, a mysterious woman has appeared by a well:

 The woman blinked slowly and her strange pale eyes reminded Callithoe of past years, of the great amber jewel her mother had worn during the harvest festival. 

Back when there was a harvest.

The woman looked at her, and unease struck Callithoe low in the belly. Callithoe seemed to be gazing into the eyes of some alien, unknowable creature, like a fearsome lion, or a hawk full-grown and in its glory. 

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

Also, I have another photo for Michelle’s Weekly Pet Photo Challenge. Last week, you may recall, that all the six baby cockatiels fit in a tiny little bowl. The little guys grow QUICKLY. Here is this week’s photo, with the old bowl as comparison. The two cockatiels with pinfeathers are 3 weeks old. The others are only 2 weeks old.

birds

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A Potpourri of Stuff

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I meant to post yesterday, but I was completely fried. A friend and I went to see the free National Geographic Photography Exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. Highly recommended! It ends on 4/27/14, though, so if you’re in the area don’t wait too long to see it.

So, in no particular order, are some updates:

  • For WIPpet, the weekly work in progress challenge hosted by KL Schwengel: I finished a major edit of City of Ages, and now I’m on to a short story for which I have a rough and wretched first draft written. This needs to be 90% trashed, but luckily, I have managed to plot out the story and I will be rewriting it as soon as possible. As of now I have only written the title, however. “The Pomegranate Tree.” Lovely, isn’t it? A more substantial post for next week’s WIPpet, I promise.
  • I’ve finished the audio version of The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior and am now waiting for it to clear the QC process at ACX. Here is the cover art for that.
  • Cat's_Guide_Final
  • I am ridiculously excited about my recently hatched cockatiels. They live in a gazebo in my back yard, nicely separated from the cat and dogs. Here is a picture of these frightfully ugly little guys. The two biggest ones are about a week older than the other little balls of fluff. There’s a total of six. This also serves as my first entry into Michelle’s Weekly Pet Challenge.

Baby cockatiels

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  • Finally, what is the below? Why, my wardrobe for WonderCon in Anaheim, of course! It starts tomorrow and I will be there in all my (ahem) glory. For those who have never been, WonderCon is a mini-Comic Con. I rambled about Comic Con over thisaway.
  • dress

My Writing Process Blog Hop

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K.L. Schwengel, fantasy author extraordinaire and founder of the weekly WIPpet (work in progress snippet) challenge, tagged me here to participate in a writing process blog tour. So here goes!

1. What am I working on?

Currently, I am finishing up the next to the last draft of the first book in my new historical adventure series, called City of Ages. I will be finished with that draft within a matter of days, and then it goes out to my beta readers and back to me for final fixes. I met some agents and an editor at last year’s Historical Novel Society Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida and I’d really like to get the book out to them sooner rather than later. I’ve written about 50,000 words of Book 2 in the series, but it’s a rather a rough state, so as soon as I hear back from the various agents and editors and figure out how the book will be published – hopefully via a traditional publisher, since that’s what I think would be the best fit for this particular project – then I will continue on with the rest of the books in the series. In the meantime, I will be researching and researching and researching some more.

Picture of books and files.

This is some of the research I have for City of Ages – the hard copy stuff anyhow.

I also have a fantasy series that I wrote 20+ years ago that I’m determined will see the light of day this year. So that will be my next major project, rewriting and editing and sweating blood over that one. It’s exciting, though, because I spent so much of my life, passion, and energy dwelling on it over the years, so the fact that might bear fruit soon makes me happy.

2. How does my work different from others of its genre?

Well, I guess that is different for two reasons:

a. Intense focus on characterizations and an accompanying fascination with their emotional journeys, which always forms the core of whatever I’m working on. I try not to be too heavy-handed with it, because such a thing is more of a theme than a plot device, but some sort of transformation and emotional journey/quest really forms the core of my work  more than anything.

b. Historical detail and setting/details in general. Throughout my life I’ve also kind of swung between obsession with history — which utilizes the more analytical, critical thinking centers of my brain — and writing — which utilizes the creative part of my brain. At this point they have merged together to produce historical fiction. I have a master’s degree in history with a focus on the Ancient Mediterranean, so the ancient world and its influence on the Early Middle Ages really floats my boat. The world and setting of my first novel Necropolis really has been influenced by this, although it is not a straight historical book but rather a fantasy world. It’s based on the societies of the Ancient Mediterranean rather than those of many fantasies, which are based on the societies of Western Europe.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Because there’s only one me, and despite the fact that I am only one small flickering light in the blazing sun of the universe, I have a unique take on certain things, or so I would like to think, anyhow. Because of that hopefully my work will appeal to other like-minded people. I had a rather difficult childhood and a lot of health problems in adulthood so reading has really been a wonderful escape for me from the pain of daily existence. I would like to bring that same escape and wonder to others.

4. How does my writing process work?

Sam and Dean Winchester from season 6 Supernatural

This bag from Comic Con hangs over my computer monitors as … inspiration.

Well, work wouldn’t exactly be the term I’d use for it LOL. Back in the day when I first started writing it was like falling in love, effortless and exciting and all-consuming. I wrote and wrote and wrote with nary a thought for passive verbs, run-on sentences, and stupid plot lines. Then I grew up and obsessed over those things for so long that I didn’t get any writing done for many years.

My latest book City of Ages started its life as fanfic, believe it or not. I’ve been heavily involved in a fandom which I will not name here, although you can figure it out if you look at the accompanying photograph, and I used the two lovely leads as inspiration for the main characters in this book. Justus’s physical appearance is based on the physical appearance of the blonde dude here, and Tristan’s is based on the physical appearance of the dark-haired guy. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, because their personalities are original, as is the storyline of the novel.

Anyhow, I participated in a fandom challenge that provided me with support and a deadline that I really needed to crank out the first draft of the book. It was quite a painful experience. I literally only wrote 100 to 200 words a day for months on end and it was like pulling teeth. I collapsed into a dramatic weeping heap upon finishing it because it had been such a difficult experience. Yeah, I wish I was kidding about that, but sadly, I’m not.

Upon reflection, I think that is because I allowed my critical mind – my editor’s mind – too much hold over me when I was trying to write the first draft. Plus I find plotting really difficult, and my process until now has been to just jump in feet first, and wander around like a lost little puppy trying to find the signposts that make for a satisfying story. Afterward, then, I figure out the book’s theme and write the one to two sentence logline describing what happens therein, and generally just figure out what it’s all about. My dear friend Cheryl Dyson introduced me to a different way of setting up and plotting a book called the Snowflake Method, which basically does this process in reverse. You figure out your book’s theme, then create a short description, in-depth profiles of characters, scenes that fill up the book, and then you write. It seems like a much more efficient and – hopefully – quicker means of writing. I’m going to give it a shot. Wish me luck!

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So here’s the place where I tag three other writers to continue on with the Writing Process Blog Hop. Since one of these writers is currently on vacation, I’m going to put the deadline for their blog posts out at April 21, 2014.

  • Cheryl Dyson’s father’s occupation as an actual cowboy caused the family to move around a lot – in fact, she’s lived in so many Western towns that she can’t remember them all. As a youngster, she competed in professional Appaloosa horse shows, winning numerous ribbons and trophies in varied events. Her favorite thing to do was ride a horse (at a dead gallop) to a nice, secluded spot where she could read in peace. When she eventually ran out of books, this habit led her to writing. Adulthood brought experience working in various accounting positions, all the while writing novels, short stories, and screenplays. Cheryl lives in Washington state where she spends her free time cooking, crafting, and—of course—reading and writing. Her status as Commander of the Universe, coupled with her prolific writing of Harry Potter fan fiction, has garnered her many groveling peons (and several marriage proposals) in the U.S., Russia, and China. Cheryl’s available ebooks include The Gauntlet Thrown and The Challenge Accepted, Books One and Two of the Gauntlet Trilogy.
  • Janet Loftis – Born and raised in the Midwest, Janet fled to sunny California to escape the cold, dark winters, only to now explore the colder and darker sides of human nature in her horror and fantasy fiction. With a BA in Anthropology and Archaeology, and a MA combining Cultural Anthropology with Creative Writing, Janet’s stories are inspired by the mythos of cultures around the world. From science-fiction to fantasy to horror, and from short stories to screenplays, Janet has seen her fiction published in a variety of online and print magazines, and placed in the finals and semi-finals of screenplay competitions. Next on Janet’s agenda are more horror shorts, a horror screenplay, and the marketing of (believe it or not) a family-friendly screenplay! Janet’s available story collections include Skin and BonesZombies and AliensMother’s Day, and Gnomes & Aliens.
  • Deb Ochery has had an interesting and vaguely checkered history, although it probably more closely resembles paisley than checkers. She has roamed the earth searching for suitable converts to add to her growing stable of sturdy boytoys and like-minded friends. She loves to meet new people and spends most of her non-writing time studying unsuspecting humans for fiction fodder, or sometimes bedroom fodder, or occasionally both. Deb has a deep and abiding interest in all things erotic with a particular slant towards romantic erotica. Let’s face it, sex is much more enjoyable with some nice foreplay, whether it be a glass of wine and dinner out or choosing a selection of silk ties and lubricants for the bedroom. Deb is very open-minded when it comes to sex and her books and stories reflect that. She believes human sexuality is fluid and ever-evolving and her characters often face some unexpected attractions that lead to difficult, albeit ultimately rewarding, choices. Getting there is half the fun. Her erotica novel Be Careful What You Wish For, the first book of The Kendra Chronicles, is available now.

Sales Psychology for Authors

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Xina Marie Uhl:

Another reminder of who I am and what I’m doing out here in the big bad world.

Originally posted on chrismcmullen:

Salesman pic

Introduction

I had been a salesman at Sears for several years paying my way through college.

  • But I loathed salesmanship.
  • So I found ways to help match people with products that didn’t feel like salesmanship.

Now I’m an author who has books for sale.

  • But I still loathe salesmanship.
  • Marketing is an important tool for selling books.
  • So I’ve discovered ways to help match readers with books that don’t feel like salesmanship.

Many authors feel like writing artists.

  • Their writing is fueled by passion, not by finance.
  • The reason they want sales is to share their passion with readers.

Many authors don’t feel like salespeople.

  • Yet they need to sell books in order to share their passion.
  • So they need to find ways to market their books that don’t feel like salesmanship.

Marketing without Salesmanship

What you want to avoid:

  • Hyping up the book to sound better than it really is.

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I LIVE IN THE MIDDLE

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Xina Marie Uhl:

I need to read this more than once!

Originally posted on Spirit Sunshine's Blog:

I am not better

I am not worse

I am not more

I am not less

I am not the enemy

I am not everyone’s friend

I connect with people

I have not met everyone

I am not in a relationship

I am not alone

I’m not love completely

Neither am I hate all the way

I am not lost

I am not found

I am not hungry

I am not full

I am not emotionally up

I am not emotionally down

I am not superior

I am not inferior

I do know somethings

I do not know everything

I am not the life of the party

I am not boring

Iam not the best writer (lol)

I am not the worst writer (lol)

I am not the best dancer

I am not the worst dancer

I am not rich

I am not poor

I am not perfect

I am…

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Travel East, Travel West

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I’m still working on my 2nd to last edit of City of Ages and it continues to proceed at glacial speeds. I had to come up with a spreadsheet to motivate my butt because I tend to lose interest and enthusiasm as I’m plugging along. For some reason, tracking how many pages I’ve completed per day, or words I’ve pumped out really makes this whole novel thing concrete.

Today is the day of the week where I share a little snippet of my work in progress, thus, a WIPpet. It is posted as part of a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel. My WIPpet needs to have something to do with today’s date. And so …

Today in 1595, Cornelis de Houtman’s fleet of ships set sail to Asia by traveling through the Cape of Good Hope. Just who is this gentleman, you might ask? It turns out that Cornelis ended up discovering a new sea route from Europe to Indonesia, an achievement that began the Dutch spice trade. This was a big deal since at the time the Portuguese held a monopoly on it. The voyage itself, though, was none too fun. Insufficiently supplied, scurvy set in after a few weeks. By the time they made it to Madagascar seventy sailors were dead. Further on, quarrels ensued and pirates attacked the vessels. De Houtman and his men decided to wreak vengeance on the locals for the pirate attacks, raping and savaging to their heart’s content. The voyage continued on, establishing trade relations to subvert the Portuguese. By the time the ships returned home only 87 of the original 249 crew remained alive.

Sailing was quite the dangerous enterprise back in the day, making modern-day cruise ship disasters seem ridiculously tame in comparison.

Anyhow, this snippet is ship-related, and focuses on landing just 50 miles from Jerusalem:

Docking had been more troublesome in Jaffa than anywhere else. Richende had watched from the deck as three dusky-skinned, robed port authorities inspected their papers and letters with suspicion. They clustered together to confer using fast Arabic and abrupt gesticulations for entirely too long. At last they called Justus over and demanded an entry fee so large that Justus’s eyes bulged. His voice became both deeper and louder as he spent nearly an hour negotiating and arguing in a broken mishmash of Latin, Frankish, Greek, and Arabic. Finally, Richende, hungry, impatient, and drooping with exhaustion, called to him.

                Justus came after a moment, long legs striding up the gangplank in a manner that betrayed the frustration he had been dealing with over the past hour. When he spoke to her, however, his voice held no rancor.

“My lady?”

          “Dear Commander, your efforts to reduce the port fees are duly noted, and greatly appreciated. But in this instance I’m begging you to relent to their demands.”

          “But–”

          “Please.”

          He gave an irascible grunt, his lips twisting into a frown. “I truly believe that another hour or so will profit us much.”

          Cristina, who had been watching the whole exchange near Richende, gasped and shot her mistress an exaggeratedly alarmed look. Richende ignored her.

          “Thank you, dear Justus. But no. Please.”            

Justus made a gesture of frustrated surrender and walked back into the office to follow her wishes. Once he had his fee in hand, the head portmaster’s mood brightened, and at once he became the soul of hospitality. He greeted Richende at the end of the gangplank, eyes gleaming, his smile solicitous.

Comments, reactions, impressions, constructive criticisms – all are treasured, should you choose to provide them.Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

 

 

 

Lighting Up the Dark Ages

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Good morning! Please bear with me as I try something a little different this morning. Wednesdays are the days that I participate in a challenge hosted by K.L. Schwengel that has me providing a snippet of my work in progress (a WIPpet). This snippet is supposed to be related in some way to the date, whether it be some sort of convoluted math equation (26th line of the 3rd chapter or 18 words arrived at by adding 3+2+6+2+0+1+4) or something which happened on this day in history (my personal favorite).

Last week I was visiting my chiropractor getting my back cracked back into alignment while he regaled me with writing ideas and suggestions. These usually involve something I am not in the least interested in, i.e. “You should write a 23 volume encyclopedia on the history of library cats in Idaho.” However, this day he began quizzing me about the setting of my new novel series, which occurs in the Dark Ages. It soon became apparent that he knew close to nothing about the age. He prides himself on a passing familiarity with history, so he suggested that I come up with an explanatory note at the beginning of my book orienting the reader in time and place. Have you seen other historical novelists include notes on the time period? What do you think of this idea? My main concern is that it would throw people out of the story. I worked up the following summary, which I can always use in my communications with agents and editors if nothing else. Your comments and impressions are greatly appreciated!

700 ad. It falls squarely in the middle the Dark Ages, an early medieval period whose lack of source material – letters, histories, accounts, and more – have conspired to veil the time in an obscurity lacking in other eras. Little is known about the inner workings of the surviving peoples of Western Europe.

The prevailing power in the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire, had crumbled away into dust, trampled beneath the feet of crude and desperate barbarian peoples from northern wastelands. The Christian church stepped into the void left by Rome, taking on the role of arbiter and agent for society, leading the flock by providing a bastion of law, charity, and education against the rough-hewn forces of chaos.

And while times were grim in Western Europe, the other frogs about the pond of the Mediterranean thrived. Islam united diverse desert tribesmen with Muhammad’s revolutionary teachings. Together, they exploded out of the Middle East in a conquering fury. The Roman Empire, while fallen and dissolute in the West, thrived in the East, around the bulwark of civilization that we know as the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines, despite the fact that they spoke Greek, called themselves Romans, for they were the rightful heirs of the Roman Empire. For a thousand years beyond the accepted date of Rome’s fall – 476 ad — Constantinople glittered on, a jewel of wealth, culture, debauchery and intrigue. So also did other, lesser known forces carry on with daily life – pirate fleets, tribesmen from the steppe, gangs of bandits, and more. The collision of cultures is evident everywhere the young knight Justus and his companions travel, for just because the age was dark does not mean it lacked spirit and vitality. Instead, it served as rich peat for the blossoming of power, passion, and adventure that begins in City of Ages.

Visit my fellow WIPpet participants here, or join the fun yourself:

Cats on the Move — Another Edition of Fantastic Gifs!

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I’m hard at work recording an audiobook of my humorous title The Cat’s Guide to Human Behavior and it occurs to me that I haven’t posted any crazy cat gifs in a while. I maintain a Cat’s Guide page on Facebook where I post funny cat pictures and links on a regular basis, but Facebook is not a fan of gifs. Therefore …

1. Tuesday is HOW far from Friday?

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2. “Oh, hi there, dog.”

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3.

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4.

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5.

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Like these? Check out my other gif posts: here, here, here, here, and here!

 

Cover Reveal: Emergence ~ Book Two of the Darkness & Light Series

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Congratulations to K.L. Schwengel on her cover reveal for Emergence ~ Book Two of the Darkness & Light Series! Isn’t it lovely?

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The battle for Ciara’s power has drawn the full attention of the Emperor and the Imperial Mages, forcing Bolin to put duty above safety and take her to Nisair. It won’t be an easy trip, even with an Imperial escort and a Galysian elder accompanying them. Especially since Donovan has found himself some new allies, one of who wields a dark magic that has literally gotten under Bolin’s skin.
For Ciara, coming to terms with the increasingly tangible manifestation of her power could destroy her. Even if they make it to Nisair–something that grows more unlikely by the day–there is no surety of safety for Ciara, or any of them. Not with Donovan willing to gamble everything to achieve his goals, or Bolin’s uncharacteristically reckless behavior, the result of which is the attention of something that has everyone worried.
Loyalties will be tested, lives will be lost, and no one will emerge unchanged as they find things are not always so clear on the line dividing Darkness and Light.

Interested? Why not start with Book One – First of Her Kind:

Everyone, it seems, wants to dictate what Ciara does with her life:  Serve the Goddess, destroy the Goddess, do as you promised your aunt. All Ciara really wants is to keep the two magics she possesses from ripping her apart.
And that’s not going to be easy.
Not only are they in complete opposition to each other, blood ties pull her in divergent directions as well. And then there’s Bolin, the man sworn to protect her. There’s no denying the growing attraction between them, but is it Ciara he wants? Or her power?
None of which will matter if Ciara can’t overcome her fear, and learn how to use her gifts. No one knows the depths of the ancient power she possesses, or what will happen if it manages to escape her control.
Will she lose herself entirely? Or be forever trapped between Darkness and Light?

Amazon~Kindle * Amazon~Paperback * Smashwords * Barnes&Noble NookBooks * Kobo

authpicAbout the author:

K. L. Schwengel lives in southeast Wisconsin on a small farm with her husband, a handful of Australian Shepherds, Her Royal Highness Princess Fiona the Cat, and assorted livestock. Growing up as the youngest of nine children, and the daughter of a librarian, Kathi spent many hours between stacks of books, and secluded away in dusty archives, drawn to tales of medieval heroes and conquering knights. With so many characters and ideas spinning in her head, she had to get them onto paper or risk what little sanity she possessed. She has been penning wild tales of magic and mayhem as long as she can remember, but opted to follow her artistic muse first. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts and spending many years working as a freelance artist, grocery clerk, art teacher, graphic designer, stable hand, advertising account coordinator, dog trainer, and process technician (among other things) she answered the call of her writing muse. When not writing, Kathi trains and trials working Australian Shepherds, still paints, dabbles in photography, graphic design, and anything else creative her assorted muses send her way.

Kathi’s work is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other on-line retailers in both paperback and e-book versions. Signed copies are available via her blog.

How to connect:

Blog * Facebook * Pinterest * Twitter * Goodreads

Travel Worries

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bags-166764_640When I get in a car to go on a road trip, or haul my suitcase into the airport to board a plane to some exotic port, I am usually too excited by the prospect of getting away from it all to spend a lot of time worrying. But, I must confess, that I do have some anxiety when my plane takes off, and also when it lands. The thrust of the engines, the shuddering of that metal shell suddenly seems far too fragile.

And as far as riding in a car, well, I can never quite forget that two close family members have been killed in separate crashes. Death is never too far from life, really. But giving in to fear is not something I do if at all possible. What remedies do I use? Just one, usually. Affirmative prayer. It is a type of prayer that is positive, and powerful, and gets right to the heart of what ails me. Perhaps you might find comfort in one of the below prayers, or  suggest them to family members or close companions anxious about your journeys.

Girl prayingBlessing for Autos
This is God’s automobile. God’s law of order is evident in every aspect of its operation. God’s wisdom inspires the driver to be alert, to use good judgment, and to make right decisions. Everyone who travels in this car is safe and at peace.

Blessing for Airplanes
This is God’s airplane. As God’s law of order keeps the stars in their courses and the sun and moon in their paths, so it guides and directs the pilot and crew of this plane. The presence of God fills each person on board with a spirit of peace. I rest secure in God’s protecting presence, and all is well.