The Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett

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Yes, yes, yes. Francis Crawford, you beautiful bastard, you!

Compulsive Overreader

lymond

(Apart from a spoiler for something that happens within the first couple of chapters in the first book, I’ve tried as much as I can to avoid spoilers in this review, because I really hope you’ll read these books).

Most of my February was swallowed up in reading this classic historical fiction series, which I had somehow managed to miss until now. Having heard several people rave about how great the Lymond Chronicles were, I decided to give them a try. I figured that with the sixth and last book having come out over 40 years ago and the author being safely dead, it would be a great series to read because it is definitively finished. I wanted to avoid the risk of a Game-of-Thrones-like scenario where I read faster than the author can write and end up impatiently waiting for the next book. Having read through these six chunky…

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How to develop a strategy for ebook sale promotions (Starting out as an indie author)

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Sage advice from a fellow author in the self publishing trenches.

Ruth Nestvold - Indie Adventures

Once upon a time, when I first started switching from traditional to indie publishing, all you had to do to sell books was to offer your works free on a regular basis and get a few thousand downloads. After the free runs, the books would be high in the Amazon rankings, which would provide the visibility to sell a decent number of books daily for a while until your book disappeared into obscurity again. My biggest income month as an indie author is still from those early golddigger days.

In that carefree time when I first started out, way back in 2012, even a *short story collection* offered free was enough to boost visibility and garner sales for the more lucrative longer works.

No more.

Now it is hard to even give short story collections away on Amazon (although they do still sell on other venues). And for a free…

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Leaving on a Jet Plane

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I loathe taking people to the airport. Not because I find it an inconvenience – I’m happy to do favors for friends and family. The reason I dislike it so intensely is because they are going somewhere and I am not. Jealousy, you green-eyed monster, you!

A lot of travelers hate flights in general. My husband is one of these. The cramped conditions, the noise, the germs from crying babies and coughing adults, all of it combines to make flying a thing of dread. I don’t mind it, though. I always load my mp3 player up with audiobooks and music, and make sure to bring paper and pen for uninterrupted writing time. I enjoy charting my flight progress on the interactive maps some airlines have. Looking out the window at the earth below is a favorite activity as well. Sometimes I’ll even snap a picture or two. This one was taken on a trip to Europe, as we flew over the Arctic lands. How beautiful and mysterious it looks from above.

airplane

Recently, I took a work trip to Jackson, Mississippi. I was only there for one night and was so busy that I had absolutely no time to see anything other than the (admittedly beautiful) hotel. On the trip there, though, I saw this out the window.

crop circles1

I think we were flying over Texas at the time, although I can’t be sure. The circles looked somewhat eerie. I assumed that they were farming plots, but now I’m not so sure. Do you know? Here’s a better shot:

cropcircles2

The lights of Dallas Fort Worth, on a connecting flight home, glittered like jewels on a sea of black velvet. The low lighted conditions and the shuddering of the plane didn’t make for ideal photography, but nevertheless, here is a shot:

night flight

The next time you are on a plane heading out into the great unknown, spend a few moments enjoying the beauty and mystery of the world beneath. You might just come away with wonderful memories from that alone.

A Walk on the Wild Side … of Spain – 217-229/300 Camino Photos

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It was early May, and I continued to walk the Santiago de Compostela, bloodied but unbowed. Well, all right. Not bloodied. And only slightly bowed. My feet, however, hurt. When I would sit for a rest I was all right – until it was time to get up again. That’s when the grunting and groaning began. I wasn’t the only one with such afflictions, and commiserating with fellow pilgrims helped somewhat. So did views like this:

Galicia Spain panorama

Galicia Spain panorama

Galicia Spain panorama

Before I left on the Camino, I daydreamed about how wonderful it would be to have a donkey as a companion on the road. Not only would he keep me company, but he could tote my cumbersome backpack as well. It soon became clear that such an endeavor would take more logistical energy than I had – where would the animal sleep, how would I feet it, where would I get it, what would I do with it when I finished my journey. I decided to let that dream go. Instead, I felt certain that God would bring a donkey into my Camino in some way. Sure enough, he did. I passed this duo on the way:

The donkey, perhaps, had much to eat along the way.

Camino 1613 (Copy)

Camino 1614 (Copy)

It was, doubtlessly, a blessing not to have to tug the poor creature away from such treats hour after hour.

Mileposts like these showed that my journey would soon be at an end.

Camino 1616 (Copy)

Reminders of a simpler life cropped up unexpectedly. I halted on the trail as a married couple herded their cattle past. They were old, and wearing ragged clothing and mud-slick boots. I spied a wound on one of the cattle, and a broken down dog wore a giant goiter around his neck. How awful it would be to eke out an existence in such poverty, with old age slowing your steps. What if I could not afford to take my animals to the vet when they needed it? I thanked God for the goodness I take for granted so often – my easy suburban life in sunny southern California.

Camino 1618 (Copy)

Between the little villages are peaceful places where nature reigns supreme.

Soon enough human habitations arise, made from stone, slick and mossy.

Camino 1623 (Copy)

Camino 1625 (Copy)

Little churches dot the wayside, like this one, Iglesia de Santa Maria de Leboreiro, built in the 14th century. It is simple and humble.

Camino 1632 (Copy)

And the torments of past terrors, such as the ones suffered by Saint Sebastian, are ever near.

Camino 1634 (Copy)

The Renaissance costumes betray a 16th century origin. Old to us. So old. Like the urge to walk onward, an instinct encoded in our genes from our days as nomads, wandering day by day.

My pilgrimage continues on in future pictures. Subscribe to see them, or backtrack, if it suits you, to other images in my 100 Spanish Photos series.

Author Tips on Writing Historical Fiction

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An excellent post for writers of historical fiction. There is power in the wisdom of others. And commiseration.

A Writer of History

Historical Fiction Writing TipsToday I’ve selected authors’ tips on writing historical fiction from around the web.

From How to Write Historical Fiction: 7 Tips on Accuracy and Authenticity by Susanna Calkins author of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate

  • Let the characters engage with the historical details – a variation on show don’t tell
  • Allow your characters to question and explore their place in society – doing so reveals the context of the times
  • Love the process, because readers will still find errors

From Seven Rules for Writing Historical Fiction by Elizabeth Crook author of The Night Journal: A Novel

  • Sweat the Small Stuff – small details allow readers to engage all senses in the past world you are building
  • Dump the Ballast – too much detail is a killer

10 Tips for Aspiring Historical Fiction Writers by Stephanie Dray author of Daughters of the Nile

  • Read historical fiction – sounds obvious doesn’t it but you…

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Over the Misty Mountains – 202-216/300 Camino Photos

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I was raised in the desert. I know heat, parched earth, scorching sun, and dry, dry air. The rain, when it comes, is either a light pitter patter or torrential floods. There is no in between, it seems. And so when I come to a place like the region of Spanish Galicia, “the country of a thousand rivers,” I find it irresistible. So much green! So much moisture. Misty and rain and moss. Mud and more. Gnarled trees and stone huts. All of them are here, and more.

Galician hills

Flat heavy stones are everywhere. Stacked to form walls, bridges, homes …

Galicia

Even charming old chapels.

Stone church

Grain is stored in these odd looking little huts to keep them safe from rodents. Every house seems to have one.

no 4 grain

Hills everywhere. An endless panorama of them.

no 5 hills

The sign beside it claims that this tree is 800 years old. Called a castaño, it produces chestnuts in the fall.

Camino 1492

I never tired of the overflowing streams, and the constant drip, drip, drop from above. I don’t melt, and my shoes are waterproof. What more did I need but a rain jacket and backpack cover?

no 7

It is in such places that I am constantly surprised about the many hues green takes.

no 8

Camino 1506

I took a longer route on this day’s walk, determined to visit the Benedictine monastery of Samos, founded in the 6th century.

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Along with two Finnish women, we toured the cloisters with a monk who spoke only Spanish. He showed us the lovely frescoed walls with pride. The Botica interested me as well, a long ago pharmacy.

no 11 botica

The monk blushed when I asked to take his picture. What a lovely, humble man he was. A credit to his profession.

no 12

More streams, as I traveled on.

no 13 bridge

More idyllic scenes.

no 14

And another bridge, leading to the unknown.

no 15

Join me, if you like, as my pilgrimage continues on. Or backtrack, if it suits you, to other images in my 100 Spanish Photos series.

Until next time, enjoy the new year. Indeed, we are blessed to experience it, with its many highs and occasional lows.

Adventure in the Suburbs – Oak Park, California

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I’m a firm believer that adventure lies all around us, if we only look. I’m privileged to make my home near the Santa Monica Mountains in southern  California, and the towns that surround it have wonderful parks and hiking trails hidden here, there, and everywhere. Last night the dogs and I went exploring at a nearby dog park that I hadn’t yet visited – Oak Canyon Dog Park.

It is nestled in a valley near the creek. Views of the mountains lie in all directions, as do the sights of happy, rambunctious dogs.

dog park

All three of mine come racing when I call like cowboys on horseback in a classic Western.

dogga wogs

It is such fun when you are leashed all your life to run free. Doesn’t Rudy’s expression say so?

rudy roo 2

rudy roo

To the side of the park, in the cold winter shade, lies a trail. Why not? I thought. Sure, it looks a bit steep, but I can manage it. What followed was twenty steps and a rest. Twenty-five and a rest. Twenty more and a longer rest. You get the picture. At one point I thought of turning back because it was too hard. Then my rebelliousness kicked in. “I’ve already come this far. What’s a little more?” Then up, up, up, and desperate hoping that a trail lay at the very top so that I wouldn’t have to risk tumbling down the hill on descent.

Gloriously, I made it! And promptly collapsed on a little flat space, catching my breath as the dogs and I surveyed the valley below.

hilltop

Then down, down, down to an oak grove both beautiful and serene.

oak

As the sweat dried on my back, I enjoyed the exhilaration of summiting another hill with the best companions of all.

What adventure will you find this week?

Fall Colors Southern California Style

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It may be December, but the temperatures have been in the 70’s and the colors of fall show up every now and again. My favorite time to hike the hills is just before sunset. I haven’t been on this particular hike for quite some time – I used to take my dogs Ubu and Sam on it regularly, but alas, both of them are gone now. I have a new crop of dogs – three this time, and they were happy to accompany on a little adventure.

This little valley lies around a mile from the 101 freeway, but it is sheltered from the noise and pollution that suggests. The trailhead lies down Sunset Road, off of Rimrock. There are lots of little ranches around, and I park next to this one.

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On the trail itself the dogs and I passed two women on three horses. Up and down we went until I spied poison oak looking quite pretty.

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It looks less pretty when it turns my arms bright oozy red. But I have learned from past indiscretions and wear long sleeves now.

After a good long climb and some copious, but cleansing, sweating, we reached the top of the trail. I love how isolated it feels.

Sunset HDR

I didn’t want to be caught out here after dark, though, so I headed back after taking this photo. The sun through the oaks said a pretty goodbye.

sunset thru oak

Yet as we loaded into the car a chorus of coyotes broke out in strange song. My most fiesty dog, Kima, looked concerned and eager to track them down.

alarm

Such adventures would have to wait for another day, though. As will further posts on my Camino adventures. I want to finish that photo series by the end of the month, but holiday preparations have cut into my blogging time. Soon, though. Yes. Soon …

 

Last chance (for the foreseeable future) to get Dragon Time for free!

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Don’t miss this opportunity to snag a great fantasy book from Ruth Nestvold.

Ruth Nestvold - Indie Adventures

I’m slowly but surely taking my short story collections out of KDP Select, and this time it’s Dragon Time. But you have a few days to get it free, if you are so inclined.:)

Here the description:

A collection of four previously published fantasy tales by Ruth Nestvold: “Dragon Time,” “Wooing Ai Kyarem,” “To Act the Witch,” and “Princes and Priscilla.”

Dragon Time: In Unterdrachenberg, time has stopped. After the death of his queen, the dragon king is mad with grief. Only a human woman can enter the dragon’s lair to fix time — a magic that is forbidden to women. Katja is the grand-daughter of a clockmaker, and she has watched her grandfather work with time for many years. But can she fix it on her own? More importantly, is she brave enough to try?

Wooing Ai Kyarem: Ai Kyarem calls no man lord. But what if…

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