Sunday, April 23, 2017

A sample of today's writing

I thought it might be interesting to take a segment of what I wrote today and post a teaser. I've been working on Enlightenment and am working on chapter 9. It's ROUGH DRAFT, so be forewarned. I can't say when this will be released as an ebook, but probably next year. I will be re-releasing Awakened sometime this fall.

Here's a sample of today's work:

“Well done, Lilly.” The quiet voice of Master Kimisu praising her filled her with pride.

She opened her eyes to the slight lift of his lips.

“You proved that you can, indeed, reach your luriel. You are much closer to Enlightenment than you realize.”

Her smile was forced, and he must have seen it. He studied her with a quizzical look for several seconds and finally said, “You seem…reticent about this stage. What holds you back?”

She’d always been a terrible liar, wearing her emotions on her sleeve.

The internal debate about what to tell him strapped her tongue. Worse was his quiet expectation while waiting on her answer. What should she tell him?

What might he already know? He knew about the Un’dei. What else had Mychel or the other Pallora Fen told him?

Maybe he’d make her leave if she told the truth. That would displease Mychel and make it possible for her to return home and try to pick up the pieces of her old life. There was nothing wrong with that. So why was she hesitant?

Just say it.

Before she could freeze, she looked the master in the eyes, in which she recognized a depth of understanding the world that fueled a respect for the man. In that fraction of a moment of realization, she understood that it was that level of respect that he’d sparked from that first brief encounter on their arrival that she didn’t want to disappoint.

Lilly took a breath and said quickly, “I don’t want to Ascend.”

His demeanor remained the same—no judgment upon her. Had he expected her to say that, so that it wasn’t a surprise to him?

Still, she held her breath on the expectation of a harsh admonishment. Ascension was the pinnacle of celemae development. How could she not want that? –That’s what he would argue.

Instead, his eyes glazed in that way people’s eyes do when they turn their thoughts inward.

He was considering her statement, and eventually, no matter how he looked at it, the inquisition would be the same.

She might as well leave now and rose from the grass mat.

“Why are you here?” His words stopped her from reaching for the door.

“I don’t know. Mychel forced me to come.”

“Did he? Did he tie you and gag you and drag you here? That is not what I saw several days ago.”

That's not everything and I'm not going to reveal much about it. I can say that this is definitely very rough and will be fleshed out in the editing process to come later. The important part of writing a first/rough draft is to get the ideas down. Everything can be edited later.

Friday, March 24, 2017

On a good day...

Spring is here! And for two days (minus the early part of this morning with the sleep med hangover) I've felt great. Standing at my desk is helping to stretch my shoulders and back, but I still caught myself scrunching my shoulders while working today and had to make an extra effort to drop them. I've been downing small pinches of salt throughout the day too--craving it--and feeling better as I reach some level only my body knows, so I'm guessing there are some adrenal issues that are preventing electrolytes from staying balanced. But by noon, I had no breathing issues whatsoever. It's been wonderful!

And then I went to enjoy this day with my boy:
He didn't want to stay away far enough for me to get a decent picture and kept crowding in on me for treats. At least for a moment, he took his mind off me long enough to check out a friend heading our way. This was after I was done playing with him and had taken him back to the pasture

When I had him inside, I turned him loose in the indoor arena to run and he stayed in a circle around me as if I had a lunge-line on him. He even put in a good crow-hop, about 2 feet off the ground! Also, the last few times I've been out, I've been working on him yielding his head in a relaxed way without hanging against the halter, picking up our yielding lessons again from last year in preparation for summer riding. Today, he finally gave me what I wanted, and when I released him each time, he let out a lot of tension in the form of yawns and deep breaths.

I had also expected to touch up his hooves. His heels that I noticed were contracted on Sunday looked improved today already, only five days after first treating them for thrush this year and giving them some touch-up trimming to encourage them to open. It's that time of year to stay on top of the thrush/hoof rot that comes from sloppy footing. I've learned from experience that contracted heels are a major source of pain for horses and are generally caused by two things--thrushy hooves and bad trimming.

I learned barefoot trimming a few years ago, but having been sick and not sure how much I could safely push myself over the last two years (and knowing that trimming is HARD work), I entrusted Buddy's trimming to someone else, although I know this person is a farrier and trims for shoes, whether a horse gets them or not. That is WRONG and can do a lot of harm.

When Buddy started getting foot fussy late last fall, I knew that something had happened the last time or two that the farrier had trimmed him, and I hadn't been there the last time. (Then it got too cold for me to spend more than a few minutes outside with heavy gloves before my fingers froze, so wasn't going to potentially spend an hour working with his feet.) This farrier knows I don't like what he does, since he ruined the feet of the horse I had before Buddy; but I didn't have much of a choice. *I* got that previous horse's heels to open up and soles to heal, despite the sidebone, contracted heels, and high, arched, thin soles that he had developed over several years with that farrier! (Alas, there was more wrong with Beau than his hooves and he dealt with a lot of sacrum, stifle, and general body pain, but I did everything for my beloved boy until he deteriorated too far to bear watching him suffer; and now Buddy reaps the benefits also of all the training I took on in hoofcare, body work, nutrition, and dressage riding.)

If Buddy hadn't just had his teeth floated (and a baby cap removed) a week ago, I would have put a saddle and bridle on him and at least started some lunging in side reins, if not also had a short ride indoors. It's too sloppy outside for him to stretch out in a run, much less for me to feel safe riding a young horse. He's pretty sure-footed, but I don't like to take unnecessary chances. I like to give the mouth at least a week to heal, even if he didn't have much done this time with the dentist. The mouth heals quickly, but why push it?

I was so pleased to see Buddy improved today and especially because I helped make that possible. I only regret letting him go so long without treating his heels for thrush--it was a loooong cold winter! But I know he forgives me, especially because I bring the treats ;) . Also, he now accepts me as a benevolent leader worthy of his respect. He's shown me that he lives up to his name :) .

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

the Importance of Ergonomics

I work at a safety organization and just finished putting together an office safety presentation for our trainers. I created the ergonomics portion as a separate presentation last fall, so you'd think I'd have realized this sooner, but my situation is different.

Something hit me today. It's happened a couple of times, but just little ticks, not the big knock that finally hit me today. I realized long ago that there was a musculoskeletal component to the air hunger that I've been experiencing. Stretching and massage have always provided temporary relief but hasn't kicked it out completely.

My work monitor, chair, keyboard tray, and foot stool all put me in the perfect position...for a normal visioned person. I am not normal; I wear bifocals. I've had them for so long that I don't often think about what I'm doing; I don't realize how I adjust my head to see things through the different parts of the lenses.

I realized today how far back I tip my head to read through the bottoms of my bifocals. I have to tip my head back farther than a normal person to read on my monitor, no matter the resolution. (Yes, my eyes are THAT bad!) I never have to do that at home when I have my laptop on my lap and I feel better and breathe easier.

So, I stood up and realized that, although my head is above the monitor, it was in the right position so that I wasn't straining my neck and shoulders to hold my head back to read through the bottoms of my glasses. It was actually perfect, partly because I'm so short. As an added bonus, the portion of my desk for my keyboard and mouse is adjustable and at it's highest is perfect for me standing. So, I have a standing desk! I was amazed at how much my shoulders stretched when relaxed and how much more comfortable I was looking down at my screen instead of up. And the air hunger improved slightly. It will take time to see if I'm on to the source of that problem, but if nothing else, I am more comfortable at my desk at work and am not just sitting on my butt all morning.

I've seen different ergonomics pictures, and most show the monitor below the level of the user's head for proper alignment. I'm hoping the new position helps correct this issue or at least lessen it (there may still be a physiological cause). I still have my other health issues, but only the insomnia is as frustrating as the air hunger. Everything else is a cake walk by comparison.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

some perspective on writing and the real world

Has anyone noticed this--I don't write stories strictly about rebels against a big bad repressive regime. Rather, I like to explore all sides and build up sympathy for even the "bad guys". I don't believe that any entity of many individuals is "evil". Rather, as the best writers have always preached, every character has a story. Even the "bad guy" thinks he/she is doing right for their own reasons and it's worth exploring by removing ourselves from our personal views and putting ourselves in their minds. I believe that adds incredible depth.

The best stories challenge our perceptions and beliefs, challenge us to step out of our comfort zones and look at the world from a different set of eyes, to, as the saying goes, "walk a mile in another's shoes." Unfortunately, much of the popular fiction in the last twenty years has lacked that perspective that I enjoy. That's one reason I write--to enjoy stories that I like to read. Granted, I like an underdog story, but I also like to to be able to see all sides.

I had a real challenge in Starfire Angels: Revelations to put some perspective on the situation with the alien parasites and made Leksel really give the situation a hard look in Nemesis. He had changed so much with training and started questioning the rightness or wrongness of everything. The answers weren't straightforward or clearcut after examining the different aspects of what was right or wrong. The lines blurred, and that's how real life is.

In my worlds, there may be an illusion of polarization, but I like to disintegrate that into a gray area where there isn't any easy answer except for the characters overcoming their flaws. It's not just Starfire Angels but also the Demon Age series, White Dragon books, and even the Luriel Cycle.

Maybe that says something about my personality or maybe it's just me wishing people in the real world could quit bickering and fighting about every little perceived "wrong" by another. What ever happened to "water off a duck's back" or "love thy neighbor" or "mutual respect"?

Sunday, January 8, 2017

re- Awakening

The other day, I picked up a print copy of one of my books that I had left off as an intended series--Awakening. It's a book that I pulled from sale over a year ago, when I wasn't sure I could continue the series. But in picking it up, I read a middle chapter...and couldn't put it down! The writing swept me away and I thought, "This is too good. I couldn't have written this." I love and loathe those moments, because it depresses me to think that I'll never write that well again, which is never the truth. At the same time, it pushes me to write better.

Original cover of Awakening
I have been totally caught up in the world I created in Awakening. And I have made tons of notes, which is probably just duplicating my efforts in some file on my computer somewhere. I had an outline for the series and have been really mulling things over in my head, and I decided that if I'm going to continue this, it will be a trilogy, not a 4-book series as I had originally thought.

When I had first conceived of this, I figured 4 books would be perfect--Awakening, Enlightenment, Ascension, and Eternal. But something was never quite right about that. I even had a tough time coming up with four cover ideas. Now I know why--it wasn't meant to be 4 novels, only 3. I've really been mulling over the outline and inspired ideas from rereading Awakening and see more clearly how the plot fits 3 books much better.

Now, if my muse sticks with me in this, I can finish the next two without distractions...other than the bad days from health issues. I am debating the middle book title--Enlightenment or Ascension--but definitely want Eternal as the final book in the series. This first book isn't changing--the story is the same. Only the unwritten books have a new plan.

And I think I will rename the series from Shadow Realm Saga to The Luriel Cycle. I think it sounds less dark--the story really isn't dark fantasy but a reshaping of angels and demons into something else. It has always been intended as a fantasy saga set on another world but with a modern technology society rather than a medieval, traditional fantasy setting. Magic and technology and science mix in this world and I love the concept as much now as I did when I first developed it.

Now, I'm glad I pulled it when I did. I can better organize how the rest of the story plays out. Everything happens for a reason, and this wasn't a fully developed plan when I first started it. It only took a few years to reach maturity, unlike Starfire Angels, which took twelve years from the first concept to what it became (the first book of my most popular series). Legend of the White Dragon went through a similar redevelopment in its own way also, and now that's been my better seller (helped along by riding the coattails of A Game of Thrones).

Those who did purchase Awakening with its original cover can claim a rare first copy.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Nemesis release and a correction

I want to say Merry Christmas to my readers...or whatever holiday you wish to observe. In any case, I was able to get Nemesis available at least in Amazon for the Christmas holiday. It will be available everywhere else on January 3, 2017.

At last, Nemesis is finished, and I am finished with Starfire Angels. This story wraps up the lives of all the major characters and I am very satisfied with how it concluded. I hope you will enjoy it.

Description (updated):

Since stealing Raea from Valdas and her team of Shirukan, Leksel was never on good terms with the Shirukan general. He sliced her face in the fight to take back the Crystal Keeper. She destroyed his wing in retribution. When circumstances bring them face-to-face through an unlikely source, a truce is tenuous at best. Leksel needs Valdas to guide him to the Keeper that set her free from the du’kir brood ship and to retrieve the Starfire shard on the infamous Annihilator, and Valdas needs Leksel to help her destroy those who betrayed her. Two former Shirukan working together to cut out the heart of the Shirat Empire might be a powerful alliance, if they can overcome their loathing for one another. 


On a side note, I wish to say that I corrected my review of Rogue One after my husband corrected me. I had thought that Tarkin was played by Wayne Pygram, and sometimes it sounded very much like him, but apparently, I should have looked closer. I have made the correction, but I sure could swear that it was Scorpius. Scary that those actors could have such similar voices and bone structure.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One, A Star Wars Story

Today, my husband and I had a movie day, sans kids. (Yay! They're old enough to stay home. Too bad they didn't get their chores done--we checked in on our home security system.)

We had the movie without the typical commentary from our oldest child, which made for a more pleasant experience. She loves to chat through the whole movie. Unfortunately, she probably gets that from me as I see a face I know and have to ask my husband who it is--he typically can identify the actors since we both tend to watch the same shows (science fiction and fantasy).

In the case of Rogue One, I heard the voice of Scorpius (Farscape villain) from Governor Tarkin, although it didn't quit look like him. My husband confirmed that, while Wayne Pygram played Tarkin in a small scene at the end of one of the prequels, this was Guy Henry, who was a minor character in the Harry Potter movies. The only problem I had was the bad CGI trying to alter the actor's face to make him look like Peter Cushing. I am not fond of the computer animation of real faces. It came off much better for Michael Douglas in Ant-Man, but there they just made him look younger. In this case, they were trying to put on a similar face and it looked too animated and not real, especially with all the other actors around him being live.

Other than that, I enjoyed the show. It felt more like it was meant to be an Easter-egg than a full-on Star Wars movie, something to appease the full-on fans like my husband. Don't be mistaken, I like Star Wars, but I don't need to know every little detail of every character or ship or planet or whatever. My husband role-plays and miniature games in the SW universe, so he's totally absorbed. I don't need that degree of immersion. That said, it had the feel of a fun side story, which, if I'm not mistaken, is what it was intended to be, something to fill in the gaps from the main canon.

The plot could have come from a YA/NA or animated series crossed with a SW Rebels story. In fact, there are references to the animated series in this--a call for Syndulla over an intercom and several shots of the Ghost. And one of the characters helping Jyn bore a striking resemblance to Kanan while another character was blind like Kanan but could as well have had eyes for his fighting skills (like Kanan). The supporting characters overall were largely caricatures of themselves, VERY distinctive traits perhaps exaggerated too much to make up for lacking real depth.

I will give kudos to the ending. It wasn't what I was expecting in some ways but how it played out for the main characters was the only way to explain their absence in A New Hope et al. I was pleased with it breaking from the typical Star Wars story. The events made the ending feel like it truly fit with the rest, and that brought me a sense of satisfaction; but others may not feel the same.