Monday, April 29, 2024

writing update ... always something

Although I like sharing truths, I'm still writing fiction. I've been working on Book 19, which had hit a snag after a flying start.

I went too fast and didn't give it a chance to simmer enough. In that, I hit a wall at a certain point and had to go back and rewrite a lot, but I also had to realize that with this being a bit of a high fantasy-ish space opera episode, I have a lot more to consider. It's an interesting crossover, especially since it uses the science of my Starfire-verse rather than magic.

I did work through the issues I had and am now looking at the plot twists that have developed. I really need to plan these out more than outlines to keep the entire series on track for the basics. I outline to various levels, depending on the book. In this, I thought I had a good plan, but it turned out that I hadn't considered certain factors enough and the plot was... dull. I had to spice that up a bit. I've relied so much on action that I had to turn to other factors in the medieval setting. I also had to explain that in a way that was logical for the lack of technology, and I could still modify that reason, but for now, I'm working within as much of a plausible explanation as I can. I do like that technology dies on this world. It makes the system a sort of Bermuda Triangle for the space-faring races, a perfect place to leave a Starfire shard. And in that, there was L'Ni's cybernetic implants and energy weapons to consider. 

And visiting Starfire worlds is something I haven't written much on the page, except in passing, because Nya won't have an exciting time on most Starfire worlds. Most will be pretty routine, which is why I have had a few stories where I mention that they visited a world and were on to something else. A lot of the adventure is outside the Starfire worlds or incidental to their quest. And I leave time gaps between some books to allow for the monotony of life off the page. Of course, getting into trouble often becomes a bit of an in-joke for the characters, which is clear by Book 16, as they start looking at more precautions.

So, aside from the rambling, I have written over 25K words on Book 19 and am in a good place with it. I just need to write the last 15-20K words of this story.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Angel of God, my guardian dear...

I may write about alien "angels" in Starfire Angels, but each of us is actually assigned a real guardian angel when God infuses our soul into our body in the womb. St. Padre Pio was said to see and communicate with his guardian angel, as were several other saints.

I've heard my guardian angel on a few occasions and depend on him to wake me up in the morning for morning prayers--I never need an alarm clock--before I get ready for work. I've only kind of seen my guardian angel a couple of times in my life. I've never had a clearly defined image of his face, but their wings are of pure light, not feathers, which makes perfect sense as they are spiritual beings. I wasn't shown that until recently when being shown by my angel how to properly prostrate myself in respect to the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. (I saw him as if he was next to me, which is why I never saw his face, but the white robe and brilliant wings of pure light were amazingly clear!)

Anyway, here's something else to ponder about our guardian angels, from The Mystical City of God, Volume IV, by Ven. Sr. Mary of Jesus of Agreda (Spain), written in the 1600's:
At the moment in which a human being is conceived, the Lord commands the angels to stand guard over it and its mother. Afterwards, at the right time, He assigns a particular angel as its guardian, as I said in the first part of this history (Part I, 114). From the very beginning the angels enter into violent combat with the demons for the protection of the souls committed to their care. The demons contend that they have jurisdiction over the creature, because it is conceived in sin, a child of malediction, unworthy of grace and divine favor, and a slave of hell. The angel refutes them by maintaining that it was conceived according to the laws of nature, over which hell has no power; that, if it is conceived in sin, it was due to its human nature, by default of the first parents and not of its own free will; and that, even if conceived in sin, God has created it to know, praise and serve Him, and, by virtue of his Passion, to merit eternal glory; and that these high ends are not to be frustrated by the mere will of the demons. (par. 283)

If they are legitimate children, the angels allege, that the parents have received the Sacraments and blessings of the Church; likewise, that they have some virtues, such as having given alms, being kind, having practised some devotions or good works. The holy angels avail themselves of these things as powerful arms to ward off the devils and defend their charges. Over illegitimate children the combat waxes more difficult; the enemy exercises a greater right, because in the begetting of such children, wherein God has been so grievously offended, the enemies obtain a greater right and the parents justly deserve rigorous chastisement. Hence, in defending and preserving illegitimate children, God manifests his most liberal mercy in a special manner. The angels base their arguments against the demon on this mercy, and that, after all, the children are the results of natural causes, as I have said above. If the parents have no merits of their own, neither any virtues, but are sullied by sins and vices, then the holy angels refer to the merits found in the forefathers of the child, in its brothers or relations; to the prayers of its friends and acquaintances, and that it is no fault of the child if the parents are sinners or have committed excess in its generation. They also contend, that those children, if they live, may reach a high degree of virtue and holiness, and that the demon has no right to hinder them from arriving at the knowledge and love of their Creator. (par. 284) 

There's much more, but this chapter was an incredible revelation of what goes on in the spiritual realm and all that our guardian angels do for our souls.

As for the opening line of the prayer as the subject of this post...

Angel of God, 
my guardian dear,
to whom God's love 
commits me here,
ever this day 
be at my side
to light and guard, 
to rule and guide.

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Horse time

Spring is here, or at least trying to be here. Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and I spent it with my Buddy. I found out later that the world seemed to be falling apart while I was offline, but I can't do anything about it, so I'll go on living my life and enjoying the blessings God gave me.

I gave Buddy the winter off this year. I'd go out to check on him and give him treats and supplements regularly, but mostly let him be a pasture pet. He has good care where he's boarded--good hay and water and a big pasture with other geldings. I don't have to worry. I did get a call once that he had gotten out into a different pen somehow a couple of months ago, but he wasn't injured. Buddy is a pretty durable little guy (if 15 hands can be considered "little" when it's pretty average). He's built like a draft horse but without the feathers (thick fetlock hair) common to draft breeds.

The temps hit 80 F yesterday (but winter tries to come back this week)! I had to take advantage of it. The breeze wasn't an issue at that temp and in fact made the conditions perfect. I thought the barn would be packed, but that wasn't the case. It was like any summer day, a few people spending time with their horses. So, not crowded and somewhat quiet.

I figured it was time to get back on Buddy and get our first ride in after 6-7 months off. He's always been one that I could give him time off (winter) and get right back on where we left off. The only issue is his attitude on any given day, and that's not just time off. It's a Buddy issue. I'm learning that it's much worse when he has a heavy parasite load and now know that his extraordinary spookiness is one of the first signs, aside from the runny poops that come at a later point if I don't deworm him sufficiently.

This time getting back to riding was no different than any other year. He's eleven years old now and we've been together for eight and a half, so we know each other pretty well. He's my God-given life-saver. I bought him when my life was at a bad point with my health issues getting me down. He's a special case horse in personality that I knew would be ruined by most people and he's not registered and not very athletic, which means he'd have no future as a show horse. It was that sense of responsibility to make sure he didn't end up with someone who wouldn't understand his personality or ruin him that kept me hanging on when I hit a low point. That he would have eventually ended up at a kill pen was my fear. He's difficult to deal with because of his normal quirkiness. He's not a dead-head, no matter what desensitization I do with him.

Anyway, that's my Buddy. He's always been a bit unusual, but I've had sensitive horses before, so I can deal with that. Most people can't.

He enjoyed the winter off and wasn't anxious to get back to work. He saw me bring out the saddle, and I swear if he could have rolled his eyes, he would have. The look on his face and in his body said it all--"Not that again." Fat boy needs exercise. He wasn't as fat as I'd feared, however. I could easily get our normal girth on him.

I had given him some calming supplement before I tacked up, along with Platinum's Bio-Sponge in a small amount of beet pulp, since he doesn't like the Bio-Sponge much. It's helped him. I've been giving that to him throughout this past winter every time I'm out. But I wanted to see where his mind was and, after tacking up, gave him some round pen time. He didn't do anything stupid, not even when the stirrups came loose and flapped against his sides. He was looking outside a lot, although with an ear on me, so he was paying attention. He remembered how to round pen and didn't whinny for anyone; that silence is always a good sign. After the manager told me he'd worked up the big arena, we went up there to ride. I led Buddy around it once as a precaution and he seemed calm, so I mounted.

At my age, I take precautions when I'm not sure what his mind is like, especially after so much time off. The warm weather while he still has a winter coat, the calming supplement, and my prep may not have been necessary, but I'm getting too old to take things for granted and know him too well. He was the quietest he's ever been, but he showed signs of his gut being healthy too (always watch the poops). Even when we stopped in the past, he would rarely stand still. Yesterday, we'd stop and he wouldn't move a hoof. We rode and his head was long and low, not a bit of discomfort or tension or worrying about his herd or much else around him. It was a great first ride. He did everything that we've always done, although was a bit stiff in his lateral work and back to his old crookedness, so I had to keep correcting his balance.

It didn't take much for him to sweat through his saddle pad, and we rode pretty lightly, partly because he already had a touch of sweat before I even tacked up. I had counted on that working to my advantage keeping him from wanting to move too much.

Afterwards, I tried to get some pics, but he wouldn't cooperate very well for a selfie--kept looking off at another horse. And I didn't realize until I was home that I had posed him on a hill with his rump higher with his tack on, so I scrapped a full pic in his tack and I'm sharing a pic after I untacked him.

I also gave him a haircut before we rode. His mane was getting long and that gets in the way while riding. I don't like long manes, so I gave him his usual trim. He always looks better trimmed up.

After the ride

We're back in the saddle, and I'm hoping the rest of the summer goes as well as this first ride. Last year was awful. He was flighty stupid and had runny manure, and I didn't know why. Then someone told me they had their horse scoped and discovered how bad the bots were. The dewormer her vet recommended did the trick for Buddy--Quest Plus--and he settled down and his manure returned to normal. I hope bots aren't as bad this year, but at least now I'll know to keep an eye out for the signs in him.

The upcoming week is going to be terrible weather again, so I don't know when we'll get to ride next, but at least we're at the tail end of winter. I look forward to more saddle time with my Buddy again. 🐴

Friday, April 12, 2024

Book 19 cover reveal

I've had to take a break from writing the last week. Something had to be done about the cover before I could go on.

Every cover in the Starfire Angels: Forgotten Worlds series has something from the main location or an event of that book. I use stock images, some with a lot of Photoshopping, like this Book 19 cover (two pictures, actually). I do this for several reasons but mostly I hate the search for an artist whose style would fit the book. I would only include characters if I could find a single artist to design all the books, but with a series stretched out over several years like this, it would be a risk. Getting on their schedules, working with them to get things just right, and hoping I don't lose them and have to start the search over again is more than I care to deal with. I don't have the time and energy to go through all that, and it is a LOT of work. So, I decided at the beginning that I would keep the covers generic/stock and add some touches where I thought it was necessary.

Doing this also means the characters are left to your imaginations and not ruined by an artist or my impressions. I did create the AI characters for fun, but if you don't want to see them, you have to go searching. They aren't always in your face on a cover. You can avoid having your imagination ruined if you want.

Book 19 is something different. I've mentioned how it's high fantasy in my space opera series, but without magic. I envisioned a medieval/renaissance European-ish setting. For this, I wanted something of a castle, but I couldn't find anything quite what I pictured for the castle in the story. I had to compromise on the cover art.

I found two different pictures and had to do a lot of Photoshopping. Fortunately, I have an artistic kid who advised me on colors. She approved of this after telling me what she thought would work for colors. She still doesn't like the depth of the blue sky, but she likes the other touches I added.

The two pictures ( and work pretty seamlessly together, after the color adjustments to the stonework and other touches to the two images so they didn't quite look like photographs but more like illustrations.

So, here it is, the cover of Book 19, which still leaves a lot to the imagination for the reader to complete. And, of course, I had to add the feathers.

Now that I have the cover, I can relax and finish the story without worrying whether the cover image will match what I write. It doesn't reveal any exact details that might contradict the story. I've adjusted some of the stories to match the image I had found for the covers. In this case, I created the cover to match the story. That's a big weight off my mind.

The only thing that might change is the cover blurb. It's pretty good, but I might reword it before it's final.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Quick update

I had one of those problems with Book 19 where I get to a point that I realize something is wrong. I was already around 1/3 into the expected final word count. It took only a day or two for the ideas to clarify. I had been so intent on writing the story a certain way that I just ran with that, but I was running into deeper and deeper mud and finally had to stop and turn back. 

I realized that I had gone too fast, missed the scenery, and run off the road, to continue the analogy. In other words, the story was dull and missing something.

Fortunately, what I had written still had a lot of useful material. It provided some good ideas and also showed me some weaknesses. I had 17K words and didn't lose much of that with rewriting so far. I still have some material to rewrite, but it's better already with just a few changes and rearranging some of the early scenes. It definitely has more intrigue and action. Now, it's conforming to what I want from these stories--action and good pacing, not slow.

As I said in my previous post, this one drops Nya, L'Ni, and Zaer into a medieval fantasy setting, although without magic. High fantasy space opera! I'm hoping it works for readers. I've written fantasy before, but I much prefer science fiction. And while I don't like horror, I did my Starfire version of horror in Book 12, MESSAGES, with the derelict Urishan slave ship to do something different. I like the ability to try different forms of storytelling, even mixing genres. This series gives me a lot of freedom to experiment.

That's where I am now.

Thanks for reading.