Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

I look forward to the start of a new year. 2014 was awful for me personally, and I almost lost my creativity along the way. But I am healing and moving on and finding the spark of creativity again.

Here's what I have going on:

1. I changed the covers of the Dark Angel Chronicles ebooks. I've been updating the last post as they get tweaked. I don't think there will be any more adjustments to them, so here are the new covers: (If you have trouble viewing them, they are on the sidebar of this blog.)

2. Now that the ebook covers are done, I'll start work on new paperback covers. I'm much happier going back to non-character covers. I tried the character covers and tried to be enthusiastic but they didn't work, so I'm going back to something similar to the original covers that I had prior to a year ago.

3. Psst! Spirit Blade (Demon Age Book 2) is going on sale for one week starting Saturday. Get it for less than $1 at Amazon next week.

4. When Angels Cry (Starfire Angels series) is on sale for less than $1 at Amazon for a short time. This weekend, it will be going up to its regular price. Get it while it's on sale!

5. In other cover art news, Fireblood (Legend of the White Dragon) will have a new cover by Paul Davies in the upcoming month. Paul has done the marvelous work on the rest of the series. This is the last book awaiting his handiwork. Tiger Born and Spirit Blade also display his artistic skills, and those are two of my favorite covers of all my books!

6. Enough about book sales and new covers. I'm still writing on Awakening (Shadow Realm Saga Book 1). Currently, I've passed 61,000 words. Hooray! It's going to be much longer yet. I still have far more to resolve in the plot before I can move onto the second book in the series. Sometime in the next month or two, I hope to have a cover for that and will reveal the artist at that time. I hope to have a first draft finished in February and publish it in summer 2015.

7. The other book I plan to publish in 2015 is Nemesis (Starfire Angels: Revelations Book 3). That was set aside a few months ago when what is now Awakening called me back to work on what had been started as a draft a few years go. Don't expect to see this one until the end of the year, sometime in December most likely.

8. I almost forgot. I hope to also finish a first draft of Enlightenment (Shadow Realm Saga Book 2) before the release of Nemesis.

**

These are my writing and publishing goals. If I can squeeze in a short story or two, that would be great, but I'm not going to push myself on anything. I'm doing this for the creative high. I write because I enjoy it, and that's how I work best. I've learned that turning a hobby into a business steals a lot of the joy. If my books find their audiences, I'll be happy with that. Everything else is icing on the cake.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New cover for Starfire Angels

I am in the midst of redesigning covers for the Dark Angel Chronicles individual books. These will replace all the covers that have come before.

Here is a sample idea of what I'm considering doing with them. Each will be slightly different but not by much. I may still tweak this one, but it's closer to what I had originally envisioned six years ago:



It's not character focused, so I'm not sure it will work as well for Young Adult, but I could sure use feedback. Change the cover to this or keep what I have? Would this stand as a professional cover? Is it good but needs a few changes--if so what adjustments should be made?

Thanks for your help on this.

Edit: Here is what the second book would look like:



And here is what book 3 would look like with the new covers, thanks to the input of some special artists:



And the last book in the series:



(Pretty much back to where it started, because I loved the cover for the most part.

As for Origins of Dark Angel, I'm still trying to decide on a central image for that. I'll update this post when that's determined, as I've been doing as I tweak these.

Update (12/29/14):


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Movie Review - The Battle of the Five Armies

I had read several reviews before Wednesday's release, 90% of them coming up negative. The one positive review I read was of someone who had clearly read The Hobbit, the original work on which these three movies were based. SPOILER WARNING!

I say "based" because, while they do follow the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Peter Jackson and his writing team took a few liberties. When watching the third and final installment, one has to take into account that this was the final part of a novel. It was not meant to be a complete story into itself but the final climactic conclusion.

The negative reviews made several points that I think are unfounded. First off, I did not see five endings to this. Rather, I felt as if this movie took its time to wrap up all the loose ends nicely in one big climax. It wasn't quick, but it sure felt that way for all that happened in the course of the final battle. Second, while I feel the battle and death of Smaug would have been a great ending of the second film and then the recovery afterwards a better place to begin this film, I understand that it was a way to keep audiences coming back for the full conclusion of the story. (As a writer who has broken up a novel for people to sample more for free, I can see the method behind this.) Finally, the reviews I had read said that Bilbo was hardly in this movie. Um...he hardly has a part to play in the battle of the five armies and goes home in the book. I thought his increased role in the movie fit perfectly.

The writers put a lot of effort into bringing in some of the outside (beyond The Hobbit book) events that tie this one very well into the Lord of the Rings movies. The battle of Saruman, Galadriel, and Elrond against Sauron to save Gandolf was a way to show them as more than we've seen previously. They actually fought! That was a small pleasure for me. Badass Galadariel ;)

The emotional links were much stronger in this trilogy than in the Lord of the Rings, imho, because of the liberties the writers took. I could have done without the love triangle of the movie-only character of Tauriel between Kili and Legolas, but I saw the purpose behind it as a means to show more depth in Thranduil, who gets very little mention in the book and certainly not much depth. And we see the mental illness that the gold causes Thorin and how he finally overcomes it. The deaths in the end also have greater meaning because of the care taken in adding character depth.

The one thing I could have done without was Alfred, who turned into no more than comic relief.

All in all, I enjoyed the movie and I look forward to buying this on blu-ray to watch back-to-back with the other parts.

I must admit that I probably enjoyed this more than many because 1) I have read the book a couple of times, although not for several years now, and 2) I had watched the first two movies in the last week to refresh my mind so that it would feel more like I was watching the conclusion of the story than a whole separate story.

Take this for what you will, but in my opinion, it was a well-done conclusion to the story.

A recap:



The trailer for this part:



Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Goodies

First of all, I have decided on a series of titles for the Shadow Realm Saga books. I've updated my website with the information on the page for the series. (www.melanienilles.com)

Book 1: Awakening
Book 2: Enlightenment
Book 3: Ascension
Book 4: Eternal

I've also begun work on a description of the first book, Awakening:
Daemons don't fall in love. When they cross from the Shadow Realm, their purpose is to destroy the celemae, the fledglings of their enemies, the luriel. Darrac has been doing this for thousands of years. Now, he's met his match. 
A luriel spirit has awakened in Lilly, and others like her will do all they can to protect her. The Pallora Fen is a group of others like her who train to empower their luriel and eventually to Ascend to the Shadow Realm to join the battle against the daemons. Her assigned protector and trainer, Mychel, has a challenge on his hands to gain her devotion. 
Lilly is determined to make up her own mind about what's right for her; but the fates of two realms and an eternal war depend on her choice.
It's not finalized, since there's still plenty of time to tweak, but this will give an idea of what's to come.

I'm hoping to finish the first draft in February, if not sooner. Once that's done, I'll be able to come up with a release date, maybe in midsummer.

I'd like to get going again on Nemesis for release before the end of 2015, probably in December of next year.

Last of all, I've fixed a few errors in Tiger Born. I have no idea how one of them got in there--some weird sideways "L" thing. While I was at it, I cleaned up some other things too. The ebook was updated several months ago. I finally fixed the paperback also. I now have a proof copy of the paperback and will sign it and give it away to someone who comments on this post with their interest. I'm not sure how long I'll wait, so speak up sooner rather than later.

Oops! One more thing. Paul Davies, the talented artist who redesigned the main Legend of the White Dragon books and both Demon Age series books, is finishing up work on the fifth White Dragon book, Fireblood. Look for the new cover sometime after Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2014

A couple notes to my readers

1. I posted this on Facebook but want to share it here also:

Hey, everyone. I've posted about this before, but I want to make it clear that next month, FB is instituting some changes that are going to make it unlikely that you'll see anything on this page without actually bookmarking this page and purposefully visiting. In other words, I'll be speaking to even more air.

If you want to keep in contact, please visit my website (www.melanienilles.com). I have my twitter feed there and a contacts page with links to where I am. And I'd love to be friends on Goodreads and G+ too, At least they don't try to squeeze $$ out of authors just to interact with readers.

I'll still post [on my Facebook page], but you may not see it, like you may not see many others. In my opinion, we're better off on Goodreads, for all authors and readers (and authors are readers too!).

2. Here's something I just posted on G+ :

I've had readers ask for more stories like Starfire Angels. I think those readers will like the project I'm working on now--the first of the Shadow Realm Saga. It's a bit of a mish-mash world like the Starfire Angels. In this case, slightly futuristic (from the perspective of our technological stage) epic fantasy.
Stay tuned for more information about the Shadow Realm Saga as I finish writing the first book!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Cuddling cats

Dargo (Siamese) and Suki (torbie) squeezing together at the top of their tower:


I had to hurry to snap this, or so I thought. These two are such buddies and snugglers that they'll snuggle together for the sake of warmth on a winter day any time. (Note the Christmas decor reflected in the window.)

I'd rather they snuggle together than when they both snuggle under the covers, one on either side of me until I'm roasting and have to kick them out of bed.

I love my kitties :D

Another shot a little while after the first but right before they started playing:


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Babbling

babble
[bab-uhl]
verb (used with object), babbled, babbling.

4. to utter in an incoherent, foolish, or meaningless fashion.
5. to reveal foolishly or thoughtlessly: to babble a secret.


Why can't I just copy and paste from dictionary.com without having to nuke the formatting?

Oh, well.

I wanted to babble about stuff, if anyone cares. Maybe it's the tone of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that has me in the mood. (I finally started reading it after years...and years...and years...and even more years of my husband suggesting it.) This is why I have to be careful about what I read while writing--it does affect my style, although less as I mature as a writer, unless I'm purposely trying to mimic something.

See, babbling.

For more, I was thinking about my writing projects. Then I got distracted by the massive formatting glut from copying and pasting from dictionary.com. So, never mind that. It's cleaned up.

Back to what was on my mind...

Is it weird that I can read something I wrote a few years ago and be awed by the ideas? I don't feel like I'm that creative any more, yet I've grown and am able to take those ideas and manipulate them into something even better. But I can't help wondering how I ever came up with some of those ideas. It astounds me some days.

I am truly enjoying rewriting what I have of the first of the Shadow Realm Saga books. I feel a little inadequate, in fact, in continuing it. Maturing is no fun. There's something about writing for pure exploration and abandoning logic and rules that makes it a pure joy. It's hard to describe, but you can see it when you read it--that love of the author for their work. It comes out. It's what I've been recapturing, and I love it.

And I will continue with Nemesis when I feel ready again. I left off around 35,000 words on that, so about a third into it.

Right now, I'm working through what I had written of SR1, tentatively titled Awakening, from a few years ago when I first started it. As of this writing, I'm at the 45,000 word mark on it with about 6K to go to catch up to where I start writing new material.

Enough for the break, I have kids who don't want to get to bed. I had my treadmill walk, so now I can sit down to re/write some more without feeling guilty about my health...once the kids go to sleep.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Goings on

It's nearly Thanksgiving here. I have a few things to be thankful for.

Writing:
I've been working steadily on Shadow Realm Saga Book 1. As you can see on the series page on my website, I've updated the brief description with what type of setting it is--urban fantasy / contemporary epic fantasy. Yes, there's a love triangle in this first book, but I'm planning 3-4 books and each will take on a new stage for the main characters, which will be changing throughout the series. This will take place over a twenty year period. So, although the first book is largely romantic, that won't continue in the other books. I say it's a contemporary epic fantasy because it is epic in scope and features a fantasy world in a contemporary setting but on another world like ours. I'm experimenting again, and I like it. :)

I've written a traditional epic fantasy (Legend of the White Dragon). For this current WIP, I wanted to imagine a world in the future that had passed the medieval period in their history and moved on. But this is more similar to urban fantasy as an alternative explanation of heaven and hell.

I'm so thankful that I can bring these ideas out. I've finally come full circle to doing what I want and not thinking about the market. Having a job and not relying on ebook royalties has given me that freedom. Whether it succeeds or flounders isn't an issue. I'm happy writing what appeals to me. I'm sure there are at least a few people out there who will like it.

And after I finish this, I'll jump back into Nemesis. I promise.

Readers:
I'm sure I speak for all writers in saying this: Thank you for your support. We write to express ourselves and we hope that we can touch others in some way. I'm grateful that you give us a chance. Entertainment is such a subjective industry.

Writers:
To other writers, thank you for writing the books I, my husband, our kids, and our friends and family enjoy. Thanks for all the variety. I'm proud of my kids for their reading habits that we've pushed on them through our policy of 1 min. reading = 1 min. digital device (usually games) time with a 1 hour minimum. Because we pushed, they had to work and that led to them finding books that engrossed them. They now often have their noses in books more than their eyes glued to a screen. Among all the choices, they are never without something that interests them. Both kids score very high on standard tests in all categories and perform very well in school. I'm a proud mom. :)


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Finding my pace

I'm not a fast writer. I can't "sprint". I've learned that my writing becomes flat and mechanical when I do, because I don't feel any more. Everyone has their own pace and I admire (and am more than a little jealous of) those who can write 2,000/5,000/10,000 words a day. If I can get 500 words a day, I'm good. If I get more, great. If not, I don't sweat it anymore.

I was actually burning out over the last few years while also maturing in my skills. It was a struggle. I've learned the many reasons why and made changes that are helping me. Part of that was finding the pace of writing where I was comfortable. Another part was having a terrible weight lifted from my shoulders that was increasingly pressing me into the muck of despair. Freeing myself of that burden has freed my mind and my creativity.

While these changes can't save the slipping sales of my present books, I'm no longer dependent on those sales for paying my bills. I have a part-time job where my skills are challenged, I can use my creativity and experience, and I can make mistakes without feeling miserable...not that I want to make mistakes, but I don't have to be hard on myself when it happens.

It all adds up to a happier me and that means a freer mind, which translates into having more fun writing again.

I've also been blessed to recover my family time and that has me feeling even more fulfilled. It's the little things in life that make it worth living. We don't have time to suffer in misery. I'm not worrying about ebook sales any more either. Rather, I've been able to appreciate what I have and stop trying to be competitive once and for all in trying to do what other writers with lots of sales were doing. THAT was the final thread holding me back. I can finally be myself again.

I have rediscovered who I really am.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Cat concerns

We have a problem. Our oldest kitty, Padme, was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. We tried felimazole crushed into her food and she took it for a few weeks with great results. Padme was playing again and perked up and her weight and coat were looking wonderful too. Then, she quit eating. I refuse to shove the pills down her throat because 1) they're dangerous to those of us with healthy thyroids and 2) she's a sensitive soul. So, we did some research and called the vet back and asked for alternatives that they would recommend.

One of those was putting meds in her ear. I was wary of this with good reason. She's a smart girl and doesn't like being forced to do anything. I was right. After the first treatment last night, she's already avoiding me. This makes me terribly sad, because she's very sweet but also timid to start. Giving her a reason to be more timid is heart-breaking. I like her cuddling with us and seeking attention when she's happy. Meds aren't going to work for us, which was why I didn't want to force her to take whole pills.

There are other alternatives, but the one we're considering involves being without our old girl for a few weeks. However, in the long term, it would be worthwhile. I've read positive results about the radioactive iodine treatment of I-131. The closest facility that does this is the University of Minnesota. The main campus is a good eight hours from us. That's a long trip for a sick cat who hates being in a car for 5 minutes to the local vet, and it would involve returning after 2-3 weeks, but she's worth the trouble. And it would most likely eliminate the needs for meds (95% positive results) to carry through with the treatment. The only negatives are the costs short-term and the chance that she would require a second treatment or thyroid meds if the thyroid doesn't stabilize (small chances). In the long run, however, the costs are less than life-long meds, which also have consequences to the rest of her body and risks to us. She's only eleven years old and could live another ten years in good health.

If anyone has any input about this procedure, please comment here. I'd like to hear from those who have had hyperthyroid cats. I'd especially like to hear from those who have had this treatment done of their feline friends and the details of your experiences.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

To my fellow authors

QUIT BEHAVING BADLY!!

First, Kathleen Hale posted her reveiwer-stalking story and now a reviewer friend of mine (not the one mentioned) posted this article: Richard Brittain Violently Assaults Book Reviewer.

This is not cool. This is illegal behavior. Seriously, people, chill out. You're entitled to your opinions, but not to hurting anyone, whether you're a writer or reviewer or anybody on the street.

Reviewers are entitled to their opinion ABOUT YOUR WORK. Once you let even one person read it, it's out of your hands. We all come from different backgrounds, which is the joy of reading, because one story has the power to affect a million different people a million different ways. No one is going to agree on everything.

Quit taking things personally that aren't meant to be personal. Reviews about a particular work are simply one person's opinion. As Elsa sang, LET IT GO! In case you haven't heard it or forgot:



And in this, you can follow the words. The meaning is clear-- "I don't care what they're going to say." That says it perfectly right there, along with this --> "It's funny how some distance makes everything seem small." Get away from it all and be your own person regardless of the condemnation of others. Just write and don't worry about what others think of it. Don't prove to people that you're a monster. Take your frustrations somewhere away from everyone else and let them go. Don't dwell on them.

Don't read reviews of your own books, and keep in mind that every writer gets negative reviews of their work, even the classics. We've all been there. It hurts, but you'll get over it. (A tub of your favorite ice cream or a glass of wine can help ;) )

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Writing Status

I have been writing away on an old-is-new WIP that I started a few years ago and left off when it wasn't working for me any more. For some reason (the whim of my muse), I jumped from Nemesis to  this one. The last time I looked at it--last winter--I had some idea to redefine it as a four-book series, the Shadow Realm Saga. I'm still hammering out some details *coughincludingthetitlecough* but overall, I'm getting into it like I didn't when I started it. I guess the time is right.

I also made some changes in my life that have given me more peace of mind, allowing me to rest better at night. My creativity has blossomed like it hasn't in a long time. I am finding renewed life in my writing and my family.

Last of all, I'm awaiting a new cover for Fireblood by fantasy artist, Paul Davies. I hope to have a new cover reveal by Christmas. And maybe by then, I'll have a title for Book 1 of the Shadow Realm Saga.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kitty pics

I just entered one of our pics in a contest to win $100 worth of cat toys.

Just click on the picture to go to the SnapYeti site and "admire" the pic:


Thanks for voting!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

this, that, and some of those

1. I am sick. Kids are in school. Fall is here. It is inevitable.

Last night, my youngest complained about tummy troubles. Who do kids go to when they feel sick? Usually mom. In this household, it's mommy. Guess who woke up feeling sick this morning while the kid was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed? Yep...That's me. Made it into work for an hour after the Pepto gave me some relief only to realize this wasn't some IBS incident that was over and done. I hate when kids share their cooties.

2. I have been counting down to an important decision that I made a week ago and have been crying every other day. I know I'm doing the right thing and feel better since confirming the decision after seven months of torment and the slow decline that crashed last month. It's harder watching that decline, but when I see how far gone they are, I know I'm doing the right thing. I've talked to many who have been in similar situations and those who know I did all I could, and they understand. That is easing my pain.

I will elaborate in two days.

3. Amid #2's troubles, I have managed some writing. I believe it's because of the indecision plaguing me since spring that has hindered my creativity most. It has led to a lot of sleeplessness and frustration and the lack of focus that goes with those. However, I am keeping myself going on one project or another. I've picked up on something from a few years ago and am rewriting. I can see that I've had a lot of growth since starting that project and am fixing the mistakes I made then. I'm not sure when I'll return to Nemesis, but that is the good part about writing for myself--I choose my own schedule.

4. I am working with my fantasy cover artist to rework the Fireblood cover. It will fit with the style of the other Legend of the White Dragon series that he's done. I hope to have that up by Christmas.

5. When that last cover is done, the artist will be designing a back cover to use interchangeably for all five books of the Legend of the White Dragon paperback books that I plan to release this winter. All 5 books will be coming as individual paperbacks.

That's it for now, folks!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lots of Giveaways!

Like to win free stuff? Love to read?

Then I have the right giveaways for you...

The Kindle Book Review is giving away a Kindle Fire and 4 x $50 Amazon gift cards by clicking here--a Rafflecopter giveaway. Contest ends October 25th.

Want to win a signed paperback of Spirit Blade? You have several chances through Goodreads, where I'm giving away ten copies (US residents only): https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/108876-spirit-blade. Contest ends October 20th.

Last of all, I'm also giving away one signed paperback and five ebooks of Spirit Blade at Coffee Time Romance: http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/ContestPage.html#.VDqqhL4tGfR. You'll have to scroll down for my giveaway, but there are many others to enter also.

Good luck!





Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Giveaway time!


It's time for some signed paperbacks! Here is the full cover as designed by Paul Davies with the back text and border added by me. (Note: the paperbacks don't have the border on them. This is only for print-cutting purposes.)

It's beautiful artwork, worthy of poster status. If not for the story between covers, the artwork alone is worth entering. I adore this cover and the details. Note the armor details on the back cover image for a hint of the story, along with the dragon on the background of the front cover.

To enter, you need to be a Goodreads member in good standing, but I also will be hosting a giveaway on Coffee Time Romance. This is a romantic fantasy story with a rich palate of characters and world-building.

For the Goodreads giveaway, click here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/108876-spirit-blade . I'll have the CTR link soon. The giveaway for that begins tomorrow.

If you don't want to wait, you can pick up the first two parts of the story as free ebooks from any retailer or the first part from my website at melanienilles.com.

And if you want more to read, the book that takes place before this is available. Pick up Tiger Born from any ebook retailer.


Monday, September 29, 2014

out of hope

My hope to ride Beau again is down the drain. I thought the Dex reducing the allergic reaction to his rabies shot might be the answer, along with some chiropractic work. However, Beau showed me tonight that he's still very sore. And it seems that the more I tried to work on him with some light stretches, massage, and general body work, the worse he became...This after he was apparently bucking and running up a storm in his turnout this morning. It broke my heart to see him try to lay down to roll on his right side and then not be able to go down all the way, probably because it hurt so much.

I brought my saddle home tonight. Now, all my hopes rest in Trigger, and that's a big "if" of a challenge considering whether I'll ever ride him or not. I suppose I should be thinking when rather than if. It will just take more time to get that one accepting of things.

I'm done, though. I've put in all the time and money and hopes and prayers that a person can. Beau has finally injured something or developed some condition that makes his right hind leg sore. It's not in the foot but higher up somewhere between the stifle-hip-pelvis. I give up. It's been too much for me dealing with all his problems. He couldn't even lay down to roll tonight on his right side. It just hurt too much.

I kind of wonder if this doesn't go back to when he had ulcers last year and had trouble with the right side. It improved some with treating the hind gut, but it was never truly the healed to how it used to be. I don't have any more money left to investigate this. Either he heals by next spring or...

I just don't have anything left emotionally to give.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dealing with Depression

Many of us are aware of what happened to Robin Williams. Depression is not an illness that is easy to see in another or even to identify within one's self. I know. I've had my share of downs.

I'm writing this because I recently suffered the worst depression in years. It used to plague me when I did daycare, but I've been good for a long time since getting out. Maybe that was why it hit so bad again--I did some summer childcare this past summer. Something about that stress brings it on; there is just too much stress. The downward spiral was already in motion when they were done, however. And then news stories and a slow down in ebook sales sent everything into a nosedive.

Depression is a soul-sucking monster that whispers lies and conspiracies about even the most innocent of ideas. I started questioning everything about myself. I felt worthless and scared. BUT I've been through this before. I was able to give myself moments of clarity, brief as they were, by reminding myself why it was happening. It was a struggle and I kept in mind the statement by Wil Wheaton: "Depression lies". It lies to you about your accomplishments, belittling everything and questioning your right to even modest achievements. It lies about other people, close friends and loyal family, turning them into backstabbers or making you feel that you did something wrong for which they are mad (especially those who never seem to take anything the wrong way) and telling you that you're not worth their attention. It steals your interest in your passions and makes you feel like there's no light left in the world.

I've suffered bouts of depression before, so I was aware of it happening when it attacked this time. That didn't make it any easier to deal with, especially since this was the worst it's ever hit. It had me in tears many times, hiding and lonely yet short-fused with my family. It was more vicious this time than ever, knocking me out to where some days I came home from a new job that helped distract me for a short time only to crash on the bed and be unable to get up the rest of the afternoon and evening. The job has been my saving grace by making me feel valuable again, a flicker of light in the darkness.

I've been able to stay off medication for some time. I don't like staying on meds for any reason. But after almost three weeks of some days feeling normal but mostly feeling awful about myself and my life, I decided to get into my doctor, or nurse practitioner in this case. I have a new prescription now, but I'm also waiting on blood work. Depression can be a side effect of something else going on in the body, and I'm not young any more. Parts will start to fail. I understand that. But that doesn't mean I can't do something about it. I would rather treat the problem than the symptoms. For now, however, I will do what I must to go on.

No one knew I was suffering. It's a silent illness and we learn to mask it to the outside world. Don't take that smile at face value. Behind it may be tears.

I've written about this before, and I do so to open the eyes of people. Until you've been through this, you don't know what true depression is. But for those who suffer, knowing that you're not alone and being able to recognize the lies of this beast are two vital keys to winning the battle. Seeking help from a medical professional is the third.

Friday, August 29, 2014

"You'll never know if you don't go."

I see time flies when one is busy, based on the length since my last post. Life is busy this time of year, especially this year.

1. Kids have been getting ready to head back to school. This has been at the top of my list. Like many parents around the world, I can't wait!

2. I decided that I didn't like worrying about whether book sales would cover expenses or not. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to make ends meet only on ebook royalties, and the summer-fall time periods are the worst for sales historically, so it's not going to get better any time soon. Two years ago was a boom, but things have been sliding since then. With my kids both in school, I have my days free. And in order to write what I want and relax and not feel the pressure to produce, produce, PRODUCE to "make it" as a writer, I need another source of income. I am not a fast writer, and even with my days mostly free, I've learned that, at my best, I top out at 2,000 words a day or am burned out. I've said many times in the past that I write slowly to give my brain time to digest the story. If I write any faster, the story suffers terribly and the writing becomes mechanical rather than expressive. I don't like rewriting. And I write for my pleasure first. I don't like turning it into a business. If others enjoy what I have to say, that's a bonus.

I'm not stiffing those who put out a novel a month, but I do loathe the "you must do this" scenario that many of them preach. There is no right way to write, except what keeps the writer interested and also pleases the readers. Those are the only two rules I adhere to in writing. In essence, #1. Write for the love of writing, and #2. Make it interesting to others. Don't write to the market. You'll never catch up. I am always struggling to pull myself from that inkling of wanting to imitate what other writers have done to mimic their sales, and then I have self-doubts, depression, and a lack of interest. That only makes matters worse. In other words, be yourself. I've had to cut myself off from some forums, ignore threads, and stop reading certain blogs. Whatever it takes to regain my focus.

I guess that's all the roundabout way of saying, I got a job, hired in the interview, which I had the same day I emailed my resume in. Nothing pumps up the ego faster than having someone validate your credentials after more than twenty years of always having to take sh*t jobs to slowly build up to the good jobs. Self-employment for the last ten years has helped me learn many skills in addition to those I had learned in other workplaces, and it's opened my eyes to a different perspective about working for others. I look forward to starting next Tuesday in a job that is a perfect fit for my personality and schedule. I applied because it was part-time and the pay was good. I learned that the setting and few people I'd interact with are just what I like. I'm counting my blessings every day and counting down to the kids starting school so I can start on a new endeavor. I loved my last office job (until someone pretty much stole it from me while I was on maternity leave with my first child). This one looks to have a lot of the same qualities that I liked about that. I can't wait to see if I'm right! I've never been so excited to go to work for someone else. I even have ideas from previous jobs that I think could help this small organization.

So, that has been going on this week--a few new clothes since I gave away my old, outdated wardrobe that I no longer fit right anyway and getting kids ready for school and general new job stuff.

3. I've also had some issues with my Surface Pro 2. Ugh! I won't even begin to try to explain. Let's just say that this machine and Windows 8.1 (okay, Windows isn't so much of a surprise for flaws) have me inclined to lean towards adopting my Macbook as my primary computer, or investing in an iPad once a few bills are paid. The whole trouble took a couple of days of hunting around the hard drive, researching online, and finally reinstalling everything. And it still has issues. *headdesk*

One good thing to come of it is that not having it available made me more eager to write. I'd been having trouble transitioning to the WIP. That changed when I couldn't write because of the attention to issues with my SP2.

Just like doing something else at a new job, the distraction took my mind off writing. For me, that time to focus entirely on something else actually helps my writing. Working at a job for a few hours a day will do that. By the time I get to sit down and write afterwards, I should be more than ready to focus on it. There's another reason for seeking an outside job--something to take my conscious mind off the story for a while every day.

4. Now, I can't wait to get into the WIP. I picked up where I left off a month ago and am loving it again. It was slow progress to get back into it until the computer issues. I'll reveal the WIP after I reach 30,000 words on it (my make or break point in a story). I've already revealed it to those on my email list. ;)

And since I'll have a second source of income, I don't feel the blocking sense that I have to write. I feel free to write as I want to rather than have to. Nothing is more liberating to the creativity for me. I can't write as a business. I gave it a shot and it's been nothing but stress. I have to write for personal enjoyment.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Spirit Blade Preorders

All of the individual parts and the full novel are now listed for preorder at five retailers:

Amazon
Apple
Barnes & Noble
Kobo
Smashwords

Hunters (Part 1) is now available FREE at many retailer's, including those listed above. Chains (Part 2) is available for only $0.99. Armor (Part 3) will be releasing next Sunday (24 August) for only $0.99. The final two parts (Guardian and Demonlords) are the longest and also available for preorder. But if you've sampled the part or two and like what you've read, you may want to preorder the full novel instead of each individual part.

Description:

Nadia wants no part of the shevoru, the dark blade that has gained power by possessing the souls of raging half-bloods and monsters she has killed. Since learning the secret of the dagger, she has freed herself from its influence and is finally ready to make the journey to rid the world of its evil by using the power of an ancient device.

But when a visitor from her past steps back into her life, Nadia will be forced to make a choice between two men and two fates that could upset the struggle for dominance over the world. Amid games of intrigue and blood, demons from a forgotten era rise again, and the shevoru, the spirit blade, may be the only hope to save the world from annihilation and reveal to Nadia who she really is.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

cats, writing, and other updates

I've been preoccupied lately, so please forgive me for my internet absence if you were expecting news.

I was doing some daycare for the summer to bring in extra income to pay off some bills and to entertain my kids. In the past, I haven't written much in the summer with the kids home. This summer, I didn't get much writing done, but I have been editing, polishing Spirit Blade to prepare each part for publication, and then going through it again, and again, and...you get the idea. Now, however, my kids are old enough to stay out of my way and let me work while they entertain themselves. And now I know that school-age kids are too set in their ways to adapt easily to someone else's household, where they're given more freedom but only in respect to meeting higher standards than they're perhaps used to at home. Next summer will be different.

Now, the extra kids are gone, the bills are caught up for a while, and I'm finishing the final touches on Spirit Blade. I've also started a new project that I've had to set aside, but it's a great start on a fantastic story in an existing series. That hit a snag after 9,000 words, and I returned to another round of editing Spirit Blade. In a pause from another round after that, I picked it up for another thousand words, in which I happened to get through the difficulty and move the story in the direction I wanted it to go in a way that works perfectly. The mind works when it isn't "working", the unconscious unraveling problems when not in the conscious awareness.

Spirit Blade parts 1 and 2 (Hunters and Chains, respectively) are doing well so far and part 3, Armor, will be available in eleven days. This was a book I really wanted to make happen, but I knew it would take me away from other stories for a while and be a risk. It's not dark like Tiger Born and has a different feel. I wanted to make it different, but I don't like be inconsistent with series. This time, however, I made an exception and listened to the story and wrote what I wanted the story to be, and I'm happy with it.

In another week, I'll get back to the new WIP. Once that hits the magic mark of 30K words, I'll announce what I'm working on. For those who don't know, for some reason, I need a story to hit 30K words or higher to know that it's working. Any less and I can't be sure. I've had stories fall apart before or right around that point. Once I get past it, the story is generally established well enough that it will continue to the end. I like that I have a project ready to go and waiting for me. It's been a year working in the back of my mind, so it's more than ready.

In non-writing news, I still have my horse and three cats. I've been considering switching the cats to a raw diet for some time. The canned food gets expensive, but the dry food is not tolerated by my favorite kitty. His IBD flares up something fierce with the smallest amount of dry food. He likes it, which is the problem, but he can't have it. Our cats like both the crunchy dry and the soft canned foods, but since the Siamese have their issues, they do best on canned. I want to take that a step further and go with raw or at least partially raw. Through Jackson Galaxy, I've become aware of feline-nutrition.org, so I'll give it a try and see if it can help us.

My horse has been having his own problems again. I hope it's only due to stamping from flies on hard-packed dry ground much of the last month and not something else. I'm tired of hoof and leg problems. Even after a day off of work, he's still sore in his hips and shoulders. I'm giving him two days off, but I will lunge him so he still gets exercise. His hooves are improving and only exercise can continue to help that, but exercise could damage soft tissues. In palpating his legs, I don't get any reaction. The only place he could be injured is in his hooves, and I pray there's nothing damaged in there as recovery could take over a year. He'd rip anything left on his legs to shreds, so I don't dare waste my money on fly boots. It's frustrating. I'll keep riding and bringing him back into condition as he gains weight and muscle tone and his hooves improve, and hope the problem resolves itself. I can't take any more issues when he's otherwise sound. This makes me anxious to get back to my barefoot trimming studies, which I had to take a break from to finish the last details on Spirit Blade.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Spirit Blade updates

Here's the rundown of what's happening with this novel...

Part 1, Hunters, is now available at ebook retailers, including Apple, Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, and a host of smaller retailers. You can help me get this free at Amazon by scrolling down the page to "tell us about a lower price" and inserting one of the links I've listed here where it is free.

Part 2, Chains, is also available at most of those retailers (Apple is slower to accept) as a preorder set up to release on August 7, a few days earlier than I had originally planned. I accidentally mixed up August and September dates in my mind and sent that out in my email newsletter, so August 7 unofficially and August 10 officially.

Part 3, Armor, is also becoming available for preorder, as is Part 4, Guardian. Part 5, Demonlords, preorder links should start going up by this weekend

Part 1, Hunters, should be FREE.
Part 2, Chains, is $0.99.
Part 3, Armor, is $0.99.
Part 4, Guardian, is $1.99.
Part 5, Demonlords, will be $2.99 (the longest of the parts also).
The complete novel will be $4.99 and is available for preorder at several retailers--Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Smashwords--but only by searching under "M. A. Nilles".

Choose your way to read and how far you want to go.

And I've finished the description of the complete novel:

Nadia wants no part of the shevoru, the dark blade that has gained power by possessing the souls of raging half-bloods and monsters she has killed. Since learning the secret of the dagger, she has freed herself from its influence and is finally ready to make the journey to rid the world of its evil by using the power of an ancient device.

But when a visitor from her past steps back into her life, Nadia will be forced to make a choice between two men and two fates that could upset the struggle for dominance over the world. Amid games of intrigue and blood, demons from a forgotten era rise again, and the shevoru, the spirit blade, may be the only hope to save the world from annihilation and reveal to Nadia who she really is.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Detox simply

I didn't realize that when I went no 'poo (shampoo-free hair cleaning) that I would be detoxing my body.

It started about a week after going no 'poo and has only changed more. I started noticing little things--feeling more alive, a clarity of thought I hadn't had in over a decade as my head grew foggier through the years, and more creative. A few weeks later, I started noticing that I wasn't craving sweets as much and that's grown to where some things just don't appeal to me anymore. I still have cravings on occasion, but after a bite or two, I'm done, or I just want fruit to satisfy the craving and that's it. No more binges. I've recently noticed a reduction in my appetite, which is a nice bonus. No 'poo for me is meaning weight control.

Today, I had a Dr. Pepper (favorite soda) at the theater (Guardians of the Galaxy = awesome!) and regretted it later. A movie "small" is more like a medium from McD's. I got terribly sick, although I'm sure the little bit of popcorn didn't help. I'm used to a few cups of green/chai tea a day, so the caffeine isn't so much a problem as the poisons in the drink. I haven't had a soda in several weeks, but this time I got so nauseated and tired with a slight headache and heart burn that I am adding soda to my offensive foods list.

I never imagined how stopping putting harsh chemicals on my scalp would change my body, but it has. It's made my body very sensitive to the toxic chemicals in processed foods and drinks. I'm better as I type this, a couple hours after the worst hit me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

An "Oh, @#$%!" night

I lost my phone tonight, canceled my husband's, and gave our three cats heart attacks. Okay, maybe not the third one, but I scared the hell out of them.

I was pissed at Verizon because I hate their menu options when you call (using my daughter's phone, since mine was missing). I had gone online and was certain I had checked to report mine lost/stolen. Then hubby said I should call them. I got so pissed by the stupid menu, that I wanted to hit something, so I was cursing so bad a sailor would blush and slammed my hands on the counter. The cats scattered. Mostly, I was pissed at myself.

I had agreed to take the girls to Barnes and Noble to collect on their summer reading (eight books earns a freebie from a small list of books for their ages, even if my kids are advanced readers). Youngest couldn't find her completed sheet and I had gone out to the pickup, set my phone on the side of the bed and forgot it there.

Need I say more or have you put two-and-two together?

For those who don't get it, I forgot my phone there and ended up driving away. I couldn't find it in my purse at the store and figured I must have left it in the house. After spending too much money on new books for both girls, we arrived home to find my phone missing.

That's when I panicked and tried to stop service and messed everything up. I learned by calling it that it hadn't been stopped.

But there's at least a satisfying ending to this story. After trying several times, someone picked up on my phone! He couldn't hear me, however. He finally called from his phone to my daughter's phone, which I was using. It turns out that, while I had lost the phone at an intersection about a mile from our house, he lived nearby--I walk past his house often. Unfortunately, the screen is cracked (badly) and one speaker is broken (why he couldn't hear me when I called it); but it works enough for me to get info from it.

Now, I'm waiting on a tougher phone--I am hard on my cell phones. Saturday should bring a phone so new that Verizon doesn't even have it stocked in the store. It's supposed to be durable, like my old Casio Commando, which I wouldn't have given up if not for the memory hitting its limit.

Apparently, this is a common way to lose cell phones--setting them on vehicles and forgetting them. Don't do it!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Spirit Blade

The cover is here...


Fabulous artwork by Paul Davies (pdportraits.co.uk).

The serialization schedule is posted on my website at melanienilles.com and links will be updated as they become available.

Hunters (Spirit Blade Part 1) is now listed as FREE at Smashwords and Page Foundry. It will soon reach other retailers and hopefully sooner than later become free at Amazon. For now, it's $0.99, the lowest price it can be until it price-matches.

For quick reference, here's the publishing schedule for the serial:

Part 1: $0.99 FREE (Available NOW)
Part 2: $0.99 (10 August 2014)
Part 3: $0.99 (24 August 2014)
Part 4: $2.99 (7 September 2014)
Part 5: $2.99 (21 September 2014)

Complete Novel: $4.99 (5 October 2014)

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Authors can "sign" ebooks

The service is called Authorgraph and it's very easy and free. Yes, it's one more account to sign up, but I find that it provides a unique opportunity to connect between readers and authors.

I am set up with my books here: https://www.authorgraph.com/authors/amsaph

You'll find a widget on my website and blog sidebar as an ever-present quick link to that page. It looks like this:

Get your e-book signed by Melanie Nilles

If your favorite author isn't there, I believe there's a way to suggest it, or you can find that author's webpage and contact them through it to suggest it.

Who says you can only sign print books? Where there's a will, someone will find a way! Ebooks are real books, just in pixels instead of dead trees.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Some thoughts on the new Kindle Unlimited

I've had this on my mind because Amazon is the leader in ebooks and 60% of my sales come from them. There, I've exposed some personal information.

I like Amazon. What they've done to change the landscape of publishing is a boon for everyone. They gave authors a choice of not having to live with publisher rejection and readers a wider array of books to suit their tastes. What's not to like?

What I have to say is only my opinion and my personal preference.

I do not believe that the Select program is good for all books, but I have seen how it has helped some authors. To be part of the new Kindle Unlimited ($9.99 monthly fee for all the kindle books you want to read, as far as I understand it), an author has to opt-in to say that Amazon will have their book exclusively for 90 day periods (after which they can pull them out).

As I stated above, Amazon brings in about 60% of my sales currently, but my books are available across multiple retailers. If I pulled them all to go exclusive with Amazon (a requirement to enroll in Select), I'd be cutting off a lot of potential readers. I like Barnes and Noble--my kids and I shop there on occasion and I also have a Nook. I have a Kindle too, plus smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc. on which I can read books from any retailer I want using their software or Adobe Digital Editions.

As an author, I don't have any intention of cutting off 40% of my readers and potential readers just because of a deal at one that may or may not increase my sales, particularly when it involves a flat, shared amount. My books range in price from $.99 on up to $9.99 (omnibus edition of Dark Angel Chronicles). I'd either be cutting off my income or increasing it, depending on what price a particular ebook is. For shorter works, I can see the benefit of being exclusive, and in that I may try it on the Adronis books.

And I'll bet a lot of authors will be considering the same thing. I can see the KU program becoming a short-story to novella mixture rather than novels that could be making more outside of the program.

As a reader, I don't read enough to make $9.99 a month worthwhile. I tend to read more nonfiction and, due to the nature of what I've been studying, I like to have the print book on hand for that. I rarely buy books by the big publishers. If I read one or two indie books a month at $2.99-$4.99, I'm better off paying the individual rates for the books and saving a few bucks, plus the authors earn more. However, If I was interested in reading something from big publishers, $9.99 for unlimited books that normally cost that much or more would be a sweet deal. Throw in a few indie books on the side and I'd still be coming out ahead.

KU can be a benefit to some or a money sink to others. Consider the cost-benefits to you as either an author or a reader, or both.

With it just unrolled, I think a lot of people will give KU a try and many authors not in the program may suffer a slump in sales for a few months, and going into end-of-summer and fall, that's a terrible time for a slump on top of the usual slump. I cringe and wonder how bad it will be but I also realize that some people will realize that it isn't worth their money, as the books they want aren't included or they aren't reading enough to justify the fee. Yes, I try to stay optimistic, but I've also been wrong.

There are no absolutes for authors or readers. As an author, we have our readership and financial situations to consider. As a reader, it's an economic and selection choice.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Weird Al

My husband, a different Weird Al (his name is Allen and he is weird at times--I make sure to tell him), shared this with me, so I'm passing it on because it's so appropriate. Enjoy!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Beau-jangles

The barn owner's husband has given my boy the nickname, but in all the crazy race horse and quarter horse names registered, I'm sure there's a Mister Beaujangles somewhere. :P

Beau is back to good health and soundness again. It's a relief to say it. After getting a new saddle which has set me back $$$ and a special girth, I darn well better get to use them. However, my first duty is to the wellness of my horse before my own riding.

It's been seven months of difficulties with a short spurt of riding back in March-early April. We had just returned to a bit of normalcy after last summer's extreme ulcer issues when the farrier trimmed my boy's heels too short in December. I still rode him, hoping that would help them grow faster. Not sure it helped in that regard, but by the first of the new year, I quit riding him and started hand walking. I did that for about four to six weeks while reading up on hoof issues and found some helpful advice.

After a few times of bringing back his toes while the heels grew out, he started to walk more comfortably. I've since learned that what I was doing was raising the angles of his hooves to where he could be comfortable again, where they were more correct. I had success and started investing in barefoot trimming books.

Then April came and with it, a horrendous coughing. I was still battling thrush in his hooves at this point. For another six weeks, Beau had respiratory problems that ended up making me give up riding. Then, as the weather improved so the barn owner could keep a hose out (without it freezing overnight) to water his hay, he improved considerably only to fall ill. He went off his hay for two to three weeks, was depressed and lethargic, and ended up with his legs swollen (stocked up).

That's when I had a breakdown of thinking I was going to have to put this boy down. I almost couldn't take it anymore. Almost. Something got me through and I had a talk with the barn owner. We made a simple deal that helped both Beau and I. Beau got time out on a small turnout pasture during the day and I had another project to keep be busy while he recuperated.

Beau did improve in both feet and breathing. But then he had issues with some winter hair not wanting to shed from his back and being ravenously hungry after being taken out of the pasture--sometimes I would get there to take him back to his dry lot. I observed in hand grazing that he had become very fussy about the grass, something that had never been an issue. Since he was better in the other ways, I asked that he be kept in his run and put back on hay. That helped, since he wasn't fussy about the hay.

Then, I noticed he wasn't putting weight on very well. With everything else improving, I couldn't see why, but I didn't want to start riding until he had a little more weight. Although the horses get regular deworming, upon the advice of my instructor, I gave him a complete dewormer. The next day, a bunch of that winter coat came out and about ten days later, he started to gain. Upon seeing that, I started to ride. That was last week.

It's been a long hard road for my big boy, but he's looking great and moving better. His hoof issues have prompted me to start studying barefoot trimming. I've bought a hoof angle gauge to make sure I don't take off too much heel myself, as I had done back in May while he was sick. I also switched thrush treatments and found that I like the Thrushbuster better than No Thrush. As a liquid, the TB gets into the deeper pockets of his collateral grooves more easily to control the thrush and allow his hooves to grow more healthy. Unfortunately, that's in his heels, which don't grow nearly as fast as I'd like. I don't know if we'll ever truly conquer thrush or just keep it at bay.

Throughout all these troubles, Beau has turned me into a very conscientious horse owner and made mt look at my own health. I've changed a lot to make myself better. And I invested in the new saddle and girth to make him more comfortable for riding.

Everyone who sees Beau says he's the prettiest horse at the barn. And he's one of the prettiest movers--he has some close competition from a couple of tall morgan geldings bred more for sporthorse than typical morgan showing. It's unfortunate that his beauty comes with such high price to maintain, but I've been counting my blessings that it's been possible. It's money I'd rather have spent on fun stuff (like paying for the new saddle already) or other projects (I'm sure my husband would have preferred some of that go to home projects), but at least I was able to provide the care he's needed to get through all the problems. Now, the object is to pay off that new saddle, which is worth Beau's weight in gold--it fits us both perfectly, allowing me to sit perfectly balanced to give him the best ride possible.

I'll continue fighting the fight for my Beau, but sometimes it can get overwhelming. Nevertheless, without him, I wouldn't be the rider or person I am today. I hope I can make him the best horse in the world.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

what's to come

Just a few small updates on Spirit Blade.

Editing is going well and I'm only waiting on the cover art to get the first part out.

As far as the serialization is concerned, I've decided to make a small change. In following the natural high points that come up in Spirit Blade, I'm going to break it into five parts. I don't want to break it up too much, but I want to stick to a natural flow to make this serialization the best it can be.

Finally, those on my mailing list will receive a coupon code for Smashwords for discount downloads to get the first part free immediately, and possibly the second part free ;) Sign up at melanienilles.com. This is just one of the advantages to signing up, besides book giveaways and knowing when new books are available at major retailers.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Success with No 'Poo

I just have to add my voice to the many in cyberspace touting the benefits of the no 'poo method of hair care. It's been two and a half weeks since I last washed my hair with shampoo and my hair is great. I survived the transition period, which went quite quickly for me.

I had a rough first week and my hair went super oily as my scalp adjusted, but about nine days since my last shampoo, I put my head upside down in the bathtub and washed the excess oil out with a few drops of Dawn dish soap (very much the same as shampoo, minus just a few ingredients) not touching my scalp. That helped tremendously.

Once that excess oil was out, all was well. That was about a week ago and I haven't had excess oil since, nor dryness. My scalp continues to be healthy--none of the itchy, flaky stuff that I'd had for years using shampoo.

I had to adjust the baking soda to water ratio a little weaker, now at one part baking soda to about five parts water, but we have somewhat soft water. I also use more and let it sit on my scalp longer and that's helped. I had to adjust the apple cider vinegar amount but have also given straight lemon juice a try and really like that. The problem with lemon juice is keeping it in the fridge. I have to remember to grab it before I get in the shower and put it back immediately afterwards.

My hair is soft. My scalp is fine. The acne on my back is clearing up. I use less water. I don't have to "wash" my hair (with baking soda mix) more than every other day and am even working up to only twice a week, perhaps to stretch it longer in time. In between, I merely scrub with water when needed. And I don't have to spend forever rinsing out conditioner. A quick squirt of either acv mix or lemon juice and a quick rinse and it's done. Saves a ton on water and time.

It's been over two weeks since I used shampoo and I'm very happy with this. My hair looks and feels great. I feel good too, and that's one less expense my family has (baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice are cheap and stretch out a long time for this purpose, unlike expensive shampoos and conditioners).

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Counting my blessings

Yesterday, I was thinking about independence. Today, I'm counting that as one of my blessings.

I did have contracts with a reputable small publisher six years ago, but after they delayed the release of my first book, I asked to be released from the remaining contracts. They agreed and, at the end of the contract period for the only book they published, I asked to end that. Today, I have twenty titles out and am proud to say I'm indie (although I own my own publishing company for business purposes). I count that as a HUGE blessing, because I retain all my rights and control all the minutiae that comes with publishing. I decide on my own covers, edits, etc. I am not bound to anyone else but myself and my readers.

I am ultra-grateful for my readers, the greatest blessing of being a writer.

I'm grateful for many things in all those, like finding the wonderful cover artist working on the Spirit Blade cover at this time and the usual--family, friends, health, etc.

Outside of writing, it was the weird incident of the storm changing course and avoiding us that prompted this post. Large hail and damaging winds would have pounded our house, but by some freak occurrence, the storm changed course and instead of continuing northeast over us, it decided to change to straight east, avoiding us completely. I'm grateful it did and feel like my guardian angels were watching over us here.

I will also be grateful to get my pickup back from the shop. That machine saved my life when a young kid sideswiped me almost four weeks ago. I want to hug the big gray heap of metal that protected me from the distracted kid who wasn't obeying traffic laws. And I'm grateful that the damage was less than what's required for damaged title reporting.

I'm grateful also that I've had the opportunity to work with a couple of horses this summer besides my own, who has been recovering from one thing after another. I hope he's finally fully healed and healthy and ready to continue on his career path, the reason I bought him almost seven years ago. Those small projects have kept me going, and I can't give enough thanks to the person who suggested I take them on when I said I wanted another horse to work with in this challenging time when I haven't been able to work my own. It's the process of training that most motivates me and having to give that up, even for a short while, has been debilitating on my psyche. It's been one disappointment after another, but having goals with other horses to work towards has kept me going.

I try to see the positive in most things, but there are times when it seems like I hit bottom. For a while this spring, I did hit the bottom of my faith in my horse's future; but I've seen that there are other ways to keep myself useful and not thinking about the problems. It's still not easy and I fear having to give up horses for whatever reason, but until that day comes, I will keep doing what I love.

The future hasn't happened, so one can say what will or will not happen. You can only live in the present and take each moment as it comes. There's an old saying that I can't remember the source: "Yesterday's history. Tomorrow's a mystery. And today is a gift; that's why they call it 'the present'." Live in it.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

It's the 4th of July here in the U.S. and that means a lot. It's the celebration of the day when the Declaration of Independence was signed by the founders of this nation.

On this Independence Day, independent authors are also celebrating the right to publish their works as they see fit, free of restrictive contracts (non-compete clauses, life-of-copyright stealing by publishers, etc.), free to market however we choose, free to mix genres, free to publish in whatever formats we choose.

We are grateful to our readers, to whom we sell our works with only one middleman--retailers--or none at all. We, the authors of this digital era, have declared our independence from the slavery of publishers and thank you, the readers, for supporting our right to price our products fair to you and in exchange for being allowed to make a fair wage by selling the fruits of our labors to entertain you.

If you would like to show your support, please do so by buying indie books, leaving reviews for your favorite authors, and spreading your love for indie books.

Thank you!!

www.melanienilles.com

Spirit Blade

The book is coming along well in the final stages. Editing is going smoothly. The cover is nearly finished. And now, I have this...

A description:

Nadia wants no part of the shevoru, the dark blade that has gained power by possessing the souls of raging half-bloods and monsters she has killed. Since learning the secret of the spell and dagger the sorcerers taught her to use, she has freed herself from its influence and is ready to make the journey to rid the world of its evil by the power of an ancient device.

But the shevoru, the spirit blade, may be the only hope to save the world from annihilation when demons from a forgotten era rise again.


--------

The cover will be revealed soon!

You'll find all the updates available also on melanienilles.com.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mail list sign-ups

As I posted on Facebook earlier today... "If anyone has sent a request in the last couple of months to sign up for my mailing list, you might want to send me a message directly. I just discovered a spam folder undeliverable message using an email I didn't recognize from the service that my website designer set up for that purpose. I caught it but now wonder how many others might have been deleted as spam, since I don't open any messages from emails that look suspicious. If I haven't sent a receipt confirmation in return, in the last few months (before then, all was well), please send me a message directly to my main email..."

Also: "ps--this is why I encourage people to follow me in multiple ways. One or another will fail part of the time. Technology is never perfect."

Now that I know what to look for in the error message, I am going through those messages in the spam filter as they appear. Unfortunately, I don't know how far back this error goes and how many requests may have been trashed, as I clear my spam folder on a daily basis.

The contact form at melanienilles.com/contact.html is working but was forwarding forms as error messages. My website designer is looking into the problem. In the meantime and probably indefinitely, I'll be looking more closely at my spam messages.

Thank you for your patience and loyalty!

Book sale

Tiger Born will be on sale for a limited time from most retailers, starting today, and free on Smashwords (check the listing for a coupon code to enter on checkout). That limited time will only last a week at most, except Smashwords. The SW sale runs all of July. You'll find several of my books on sale there. Click on the links below for your favorite retailer.

The second book in the Demon Age series, Spirit Blade, will begin serialization in a few weeks (aiming for my birthday on July 24 for Part 1) with the complete novel available October 5, 2014.

A cover for Spirit Blade is coming soon, along with a description:

My books on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/melanienilles

Tiger Born purchase links:

Amazon
Apple
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords

The building Spirit Blade page.

Friday, June 27, 2014

odds 'n ends

So many thoughts; I have to get them out of my head.

No 'Poo

I've been transitioning to no more shampoo or conditioner on my hair.

First, a little background...I switched to no soap years ago and my complexion really cleared up. I've always battled acne and scrubbing my face with only a washcloth and water has made a HUGE difference. I only use meds on occasion now. Of course, as I've aged, I've changed my diet too, eating more healthy foods and cutting out high fructose corn syrup foods where I can. According to my dermatologist, HFCS alters hormones which affect acne. Even if I do binge on occasion, the effects aren't as disastrous as before I quit using harsh soaps.

As for my scalp, I always had itchy scalp and used Head and Shoulders in the blue bottle on my scalp and needed a good conditioner to restore the luster of my locks. I dreaded not washing my hair because of the itch and gunk I'd find if I skipped more than 24 hours.

But I finally got tired of my dry hair frizzing around my face after some time since I first accidentally learned of the 'no poo' method of washing hair and decided to give it a try. I was scared because of the dreaded scalp itch, but it didn't happen. I actually made a mistake the first few days, but it worked out--using apple cider vinegar/water mix on my scalp instead of the baking soda/water mix. I never had scalp itch or gunk. I did that for several days, risking oily hair but nothing bothering my scalp. By the fifth or sixth day (not sure when I started last week), I switched to scrubbing in the baking soda/water mix on my scalp, rinsing, and pouring the ACV/water on most of the length of my hair. The oiliness went away on my scalp. Unfortunately, I need a haircut to rid myself of the damaged lengths from all those years of harsh shampoo but most of my hair looks great.

It's only been a week, but I'm very happy with my decision, and I've noticed feeling better mentally too. Not sure if that's the reason, but less exposure to harsh, carcinogenic chemicals is always a good thing, right?

Perler Beads

My kids love these little things and all the patterns they can make. I quit buying them almost a year ago because hubby and I tired of always ironing them, but with other kids in the house, I bought a bunch more colors from koolstuff4kids.com (Perler bead central!). They're a great rainy day activity limited only by a child's or adult's creativity.

I first became aware of these from my mother-in-law, who got our girls doing them years ago when we'd visit. I'm not sure how long they've been around, but the kids love them.

Writing

From my Facebook page: "I'm making slow progress on the latest project, but I'm not sweating it any more. I've told myself that I'll finish each book when I finish it. No more trying to write fast like "successful" authors. I have my own pace, and I'm more comfortable sticking to that, although there are times when I need to push myself (just not all the time--it's wearying). My brain is clicking away in the background more when I'm away so that when I sit down for an hour or two, I'm more productive than if I try to write for any longer periods. In other words, I'm going back to being me instead of trying to imitate other authors' methods."

Writing for pleasure rather than business = what I've been preaching for years. I got too caught up in all the "you must write lots and lots to be successful" hype that I started hating writing. It's time to practice what I preach. I'll write at a pace that best suits ME. When I like what I'm doing, it will come through in the writing and be more entertaining to readers.

Back to work now!

ps--I already wrote about my equine troubles last night.

keep on keeping on

I'm praying for my horse every day. The last six months have been difficult with only a brief glimpse of light glimmering between jumping from one problem to another.

It started when the farrier took heels too low and sored him in mid-December, prompting me to learn barefoot trimming, in which I've made a mistake or two, which healed quickly. Throughout that, we've had severe spring coughing and then some mystery illness that made him really depressed and unwilling to move for two weeks or even to eat much.

I'm trying to keep his hoof angles up where he's comfortable but not too high, fretting that tendons might be damaged, because he's still doing an occasional toe-first landing on his right front, although that could be due to some damage to his heels that the thrush and mechanics caused this past spring. I worry that I caused that in trying to get the thrush out of his hooves, so I feel especially miserable, although I don't know how I could have caused that. And he started toe-first landings last summer before I had the shoes pulled..

He is moving more freely again and I really want to get back to riding him but I don't want to push him too much and risk something worse. My 2nd level dressage horse hasn't done more than basic work in over a year, starting with severe ulcers a year ago that took me out of the saddle and thrush that kept him sore. I even had him in hoof boots until a few months ago. By the time I start getting him back in shape, something else comes up. I keep praying that's over and we can both return to steady riding again. I bought a new saddle for him specifically, which I'm struggling to pay off but it's worth it's weight in gold for as well as it fits us both.

I'm just praying for the health and soundness of my horse for the rest of his life, to put all these difficulties behind us for good. Unfortunately, bad farriery for too many years has taken its toll in making life difficult for both of us, because I didn't know any better. I hope the ground flax I started giving him is as much a part of that miracle as what I've read about it. I more or less live in fear of each day but also in hope of seeing improvement.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

An update post

Just a few things going on...

1. I'm waiting on artwork for Spirit Blade. Paul Davies (Legend of the White Dragon covers and Tiger Born cover) is working on this one too. I've seen the preliminary sketch and am excited for the final version. Just...wow!

2. I'm waiting on one edit of Spirit Blade before going forward with all editing suggestions. I want to be able to digest it all at once when I go through it next. After that, I'll polish up just the first part for release in July (mid-late).

3. I'm not sure what I want to work on next. I was going to try a short story and just couldn't get into it. I thought I'd start the next Starfire Angels book, but right now, I'm so deep into the Demon Age world of Derandria, that I want to stick with that a bit. I'm building my reference file of background information for the worldbuilding. It's so much easier to have something like this for a series than to have to guess or try to search through previous books. Nemesis may get pushed back.

4. I have two branches to take in the Demon Age series next, overlapping in time period. Yikes! No wonder I'm having trouble deciding what to do next--too many ideas, too little time!

5. Non-writing related, I think my horse has ulcers again. Thank goodness there's a generic omeprazole available. I can deal with 1/6th the price of the name brand product that's been the only real choice until the patent ran out this year.

6. I'm an aunt again :D

7. Enjoy the Summer Solstice! (Yes, I ran out of things to say. It's late and I'm finally tired enough to head to bed. Good night!)

Friday, June 13, 2014

How To Train Your Dragon 2

I wanted to see this for a long time and took my kids today for the first showing of the day. It was great to sit in the theater with maybe a dozen other people at noon on a Friday. Weekday matinee = Best. Time. Ever! Nearly empty theater.

I will give some spoilers but no specific points. You'll still have to see the movie for yourself. Oh, and pretend Riders of Berk and Defenders of Berk never happened. The movie seems to pretend those never happened.

Anyway, on to the movie. The first five minutes shown on Youtube doesn't show everything in the first five minutes. It leaves out some minor transition points...




Not everything is shown in this clip.

The second movie takes place five years later, and the kids are around 20 years old and still not married. In a kids' movie, that makes sense but if this were real Viking culture, they probably would have kids already. Minor nitpick. At least in this movie, they are interested in relationships, as demonstrated by the interests of Snotlout and Fishlegs for Ruffnut to the disgust of Toughnut (her brother).

And then there's the trailer:



Ruffnut finds a different man. I didn't like the twist with that in the end. It didn't feel like it fit after all the effort of showing her interest in Erit. Not a good twist.

But there was a twist that completely fit the story, and I'm not talking about the revelation of Hiccup's mother. I will only say it was necessary but very sad. In the events leading up to that and thereafter, however, I felt like the story was rushed more for action's sake and sacrificed the storylines of all the characters except Hiccup and Toothless.

The movie starts with a great, rich canvas of characters and reintroduces them all five years later but then grows thin for the sake of action. The fight scenes rush to the point, not really exploring the full risks to the characters. In the twist I mentioned, there's something that happens between Toothless and Hiccup that I felt was more of a forced point to move the story in the direction the writers wanted rather than being true to the characters, and of course that quickly changed with a word from Valka. As a writer, I can see a different route that would have kept it true to the characters--having Toothless back away in shame of what he'd done rather than Hiccup yelling at him would have been more believable, imho. I was disappointed by that.

In the battle between Alphas, I would have liked to have seen more about the dragons defending the white Alpha and perhaps a struggle of the smaller dragons to fight the control of the gray. This would also have been an opportunity to give the other characters more screen time. This was a place I felt was thin.

The final battle was interesting, but again felt rushed to get to the main points. I would have liked to have seen more attention on the other characters. Instead, the story focused solidly around Toothless and Hiccup and Drago and the gray Alpha. Not even Valka, a dragon expert, was brought forward with any ideas about how to defeat the Alpha. I felt like the ending was a copout in some ways just to show how strong the bond between Toothless and Hiccup is and to round out the plot about Hiccup's fate as the son of Berk's ruler. While the first half of the movie felt like a great return to the characters I loved in the first movie, the last half felt rushed and thin compared to the first half, where there were some expectations about the story set up that seemed to get pushed aside in the second half rather than fulfilled.

Overall, I'd give the movie a 7/10. I enjoyed it but felt it was lacking in some ways that could have made it outstanding.