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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Please read, but I worry you won't.

Here's a long one, but I wanted to say it. I am an author, you should know that by now. What you may not know is what is involved with being an author. Some have kindly picked up my book and some of those have read it. Few of those have left reviews. I get frustrated at that. But, I honestly don't think you know what it takes to be an author. Let me explain:

You start with an idea. That seems simple, but it isn't. Often I get people who aren't authors who explain a basic scenario that has been written a thousand times, or describe a scene with action or humor that would be neat. They explain that this would be the next big hit if only they found time to write it. What they don't understand is the depth of work goes into the thought process before the first keystroke of the story. Is the idea good? Who are the characters that make up the story? Why are they doing what they are doing? Will it make sense? Is it good? How could it end up? (That question will conjure about a thousand responses, but you must focus on the few that will make it a real story and not just an anecdote.)

Next you write. So you have come up with an idea of a story and fleshed out a few of the particulars in your head. You know kind of how you want it to begin. Mind you it probably has already been a while of thinking and pondering before you get here. But here the first work begins. This is the scary yet fun part of it. You dedicate time to write it. For me, that is at least one hour a day. I sit down and write for an hour or more each day. During this time I have to keep extensive notes outside and inside of that writing time. While I am constructing this story I have to keep up with the minor details that could come up later and I don't want to get them wrong. I also will be thinking about the story day and night while I am not writing. I will drift off into daydreams as I consider what scene will happen next, or I will come up with a new idea for something that will help build a character's story. So I scribble these notes down and keep them all around me. For me, at least three months goes into this, night after night I pour into this story. I am with the characters all the time. I dream about them, I talk to them, I hurt for them, I am happy for them. It is hardly different than reality during this time. (No I am not insane, just focused.) Often the story will lead me more than I will lead it and eventually come to its own finale that is far superior to the one that I considered when I originally went through the thinking process. Three solid months (or more) have been spent on a story just scribing the roughest draft of the book.

Next you edit. It is wise to take some time off of the book and let it rest so that you can distance yourself from it and not be influenced by the same vigor that was inside you while you wrote it. Now you have to read it to yourself and catch mistakes. You have to fix any plot holes that you inadvertently left in it. You need to make sure that that half a scene you thought you deleted is truly gone for fear of completely confusing the next editor. This process will often take a month or more just on your own, and that is only the first edit.

Next you get a friendly edit. This is my own process, but I think it wise for others as well. I get my mother or another friend to take a look at it. I don't need a deep critical analysis, just someone to pick out any plot holes I missed, glaring mistakes that I glazed over, and to give me a general review of if it holds water or not. Here is where I get the most info about scenes that make little sense to others that seemed to make sense in my own mind. So I am going back with all of the suggested corrections and putting them in. This involves a lot of scrutinizing of the messy scenes so that I can re-write them to make sense to others. This process can take another three months.

Next you get a basic editor to work on it. Here comes the bleeding on the page. The editor grabs his/her red pen and hits the grammar and spelling mistakes hard. No mercy is shown. They also catch any leftover mistakes in context that can be fixed by a few words. This is where it gets rough on me as the author. This editor will not hold back or be nice, they will tell it like it is. I get back their suggested changes and have to put them in myself. Keep in mind that I can refuse any correction suggestions, I am the author. Though I will most likely accept any technical suggestions. This will take at least three months, more if the editor has other jobs to take care of.

Next comes beta-readers. I call on friends and family to read the three times edited book and give me feedback. They too will find mistakes and offer suggestions. (Yes, even after three edits there will still be mistakes, no one is perfect) Their biggest contribution to the ordeal is pre-review. They tell me if the story is worthy. If the characters are good, the scenes are nicely described, the plot makes sense. It is here that you find out truly if the book is worthy of moving forward or is dead in the water. I take their suggested changes and opinions and look them over. I might have to go into the book and make even more corrections. This can take one to three months.

(It might seem odd to correct something so many times. But I look at it like a bed sheet. Throw it out without any effort and watch it lay on the ground. Then carefully pull, pat, spread, and tug until it is neatly flat and square. It takes time but eventually it will turn out presentable.)

Next comes query. A query is your application to an agent or publisher. Agents represent you to publishers, but some publisher will listen to you without an agent. So you need to grab the attention of one or the other. A query letter is a whole other monster. You have to introduce yourself, describe your book in a short but detailed summary
. Describe yourself and any worthy accomplishments in the publishing world. And then give them the amount of your book they require. (Some will ask for the first three chapters, others will ask for the first page. They only want to examine your style.) You send that off and then wait. More often than not six weeks is the shortest wait time, some go so far as a year. Often they will either send you a form rejection letter or nothing, you get to just assume after so much time has passed they passed on you.

(Note about writing the summery. You have just spent over a year on this book. It has been your baby, your brainchild, you devoted work. It will likely be between 80,000 and 150,000 words. But you have to condense that into a pitch of two to three paragraphs, which must be good enough for them to understand the book, its story, the characters, the feel, and the genre. Authors have given up the craft over the difficulty surrounding this. The most well know, well read pros out there hire others to craft the pitch they put on the book flap or back, because they hate doing it. We amateurs don't have the money, but are required to be no less perfect.)

For me, the next was to self publish. (Got tired of form or silent rejections) This requires the book to be formatted into the file type that will work with Kindle or Nook, or both. That takes a week or two just to get it positioned on the pages right.

After that comes the book cover. I am lucky that I have a bit of talent in art, and so I can draw my own covers. Otherwise it would cost or I would use something that isn't appealing that I just slapped together in paint. My covers can take two months of time to hand draw all the elements and then six to nine hours of time using a program to splice it all together. It still looks amateurish, but passable I guess.

Finally I get to the publishing. In an attempt to succeed you need to throw yourself a big party online to try and generate attention to the book and its author. You get friends to come and celebrate. You publish it and then say your prayers, cross your fingers, and wait to see if it sells.

Oh, wait, there's more. You have to promote. You grab chances to be on other peoples blogs, you pay for ad space on the cheapest sites you can (generally indie authors are the richest folks around.). You annoy your friends on all the social media sites until you feel like a jerk just for bringing your book up. You hand out business cards, write press releases in hopes that a local media outlet will give you five seconds of time, hold books signings wherever they will accept an indie, join countless self-promo groups online, create and manage your own pages, websites, blogs to keep your name fresh. The time spent here is immeasurable. It isn't a thing you can do for five minutes a day and succeed, you have to devote time and effort every day to make it work. Checking on it constantly, being aware of what is being said about you and your work. And even that is hardly a guarantee that it will do any good. You pray for time to write on your other stuff, or edit your other stuff, and if you have family, jobs, church, social activities, anything else, you are really spent.

Now, two years have passed since that first idea floated into your head. You check your numbers each day to find that few have even noticed you are alive and fewer still have bought any books. For those few books that have sold, less than one percent leave a review. You never really know if all of your time, energy, worry, work, and stress has meant a damn thing to anyone. And worse yet, you give some of your friends the book hoping they would enjoy it, but they cannot ever seem to find the time to read it. They act like this is a pass-time, a hobby, something done when you have “down time”. They aren't trying to be mean or cruel, you know that. But, they don't know how much of yourself you donated to the pages of that book so that it could come to life.

Do I hate writing now? No. But I want you to understand that this isn't a hobby, or a pass time, it is a dedicated way of life. Authors are traditionally hermits and/or single (me), but this is not just a personality thing, its a requirement sometimes considering the taxing nature of this beast. If I give you a book, please take time to read it. If you liked it at all, by all means leave a review. Your two minutes spent will help validate the years exhausted in the creation of that book.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan part 1

Hello all, happy Spring. I just love the spring time. It makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. I have to be warm inside, its cold outside. Oh, March, how you like to tease.

Okay, now for a special treat. I have written a continuing adventure for the Joshua of Egypt character. If you are a follower of this blog then you have read the introduction of the character in Curse of the Wicked Blue Djinn series from February.

If you haven't then read them first, here's Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

The continuing adventures of Joshua will take you on a journey that is a little different than most other stories I have written. These fictions, much like the Bark series, were written for a game. Unlike the Bark series, this game has little to no actual internal story, so I have created it myself. What this means for you is that the story is a little easier to follow as there is less established game info that you would already need to know. That said, please enjoy Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan.

Joshua and the Sword of Vulcan

Chapter 1: Meeting the Heroes 

The temple of Circe operated much as it has during these past few years. The war still raged, but had grown further away as the armies under Circe and her fellow gods continued to have victories. The chief priest in the new order of Circe sat in the central room and focused his thoughts. Majus closed his eyes and held his hands together. Harnessing that which was gifted to him by Circe, he thrust one hand out and a fireball flew through the air at a candle. Using his other hand, he directed the chaotic energy so it didn't merely blast a hole in the wall. The ball lifted slightly and flew right over the candle igniting the wick. Making a curve in the air it flew around the room and lit five other candles. Completing a circuit of the room it returned to him and he caught it with the hand that created it. In one motion, he pressed the fireball, and most of his arm, into a bucket of water beside him to douse the flame. All of this was accomplished with his eyes closed, which meant that he had to trust entirely in his magical skill or set the temple on fire. Few students here had the discipline or skill to master this technique.
“Well done, Majus.” A soothing woman’s voice startled the master wizard.
He twisted around in the kneeling position he had been seated in. In the motion, he produced a small staff of artistically crafted wood with an orb attached in his right hand and generated a spell of lightening in his left. This room had been locked and sealed by magic before he entered. Not just to keep his work private, but to protect anyone from unwittingly being set on fire. Anyone who could get in through his enchantments was a potential danger. What he saw made him fall prostrate on the ground.
“Lady Circe!” He dropped his wand and disenchanted his hand, putting both palms on the ground astride his head as he bowed low to the goddess of magic. Before him stood a beautiful woman dressed in amazing fabrics that accentuated her perfect figure. Her silky soft hair and draped down her shoulders to frame the amazingly gentle face which smiled at the lowly mage on the ground.
“Rise my student and present yourself.”
Majus sat up but kept his eyes cast downward. “My lady. What do you wish of me that you would present yourself in person now?”
“Majus, the master mage of my temple, what do you know of the dark palace in nearby lands?”
“I know little of that awful place,” Majus admitted, “only that it is fearful and controlled by a wicked warlord of a bygone era.”
“There is much about that place that worries me. Especially an artifact in the possession of the warlord.”
Majus bowed lower, “Do you want me to go and retrieve it?”
“No,” Circe stated frankly, “I do not wish you to go. Gather the four and prepare to travel.”
Majus cleared his throat and tried to contain his dismay at her request. “The four? Uh, are you sure? The others are difficult to work with and have such differing opinions. I can do this task for you, I am sure of it.”
“Do you doubt my insight?”
Majus bowed low in fear of her question. “Of course not, my lady.”
“I ask you to gather them not for the task of retrieving the artifact from the warlord, but to go on another mission.”
“Another mission?”
Circe smiled as she looked away toward the sea. “Yes. I sense someone approaching these lands, someone with a great and powerful destiny. They have the ability to complete this mission. But, they do not know this yet. Their skills are weak and their knowledge limited. The four will go and test this person through examination and interaction. If they pass the tests then I will give them a unique blood blessing.”
Majus gulped, it was a known fact that few had been granted a gift of the blood, in these lands only the four have had such an honor, himself being one. It was an awesome thing, but somewhat terrifying. “How will I know this person?”
“Travel south into the trees. Minions of darkness lurk there. This person will be traveling with a
companion through there soon in search of a path. Help them, watch them, study them there and bring them back to the temple.”
“As you wish.” Majus bowed low enough to touch his forehead on the ground. “If I may, my lady, you have not told me this person's name or even if this person is a man or woman.”
“No, I haven't.” Circe seemed to take delight in that and then vanished back into the god realm.
Majus waited a moment to be certain she was gone then lifted himself up. Bowing low like this each time she appeared always hurt his back. But, he was one of the rare few who had contact with someone like Circe, so he would risk his comfort for the insurmountable honor. Though, he did hate the way that these gods enjoyed being cryptic. He knew they took fiendish delight in confounding people as often as possible. How could he possibly pick out this person from the various travelers in the land? What if there is a bad attack in the woods and this person gets killed? What will Circe say then? He had to trust that Circe knew what was best.
Standing all the way up Majus stretched his back and heard it pop in more than one place. He snarled at the notion of what came next. Gathering the other three was going to be annoying. They were honored heroes and great warriors, but they didn't have the same level of discipline as Majus.
He liked working with the pupils of the magic school here, they were predictable and had manners. “Let's get this over with,” he muttered to himself and waved his little staff at the door, unsealing the charm he placed on it earlier this morning.
Joshua and Julia were below deck resting while the ship made its way toward the port. The night was quickly turning to morning and Joshua hadn't slept at all. They were given one hammock and the floor in the corner. Being the gentleman, Joshua let her have the hammock while he sat next to her on the floor.
Julia slept, but Joshua couldn't, he spent the night pondering his life. What if he couldn't find a way to break this curse? What if he was stuck this way for eternity? How could he return to the woman he loved looking like this? Suddenly he started beating his forehead with his fist. “She's probably married by now. Gah! Stupid djinn, why did you have to do this to me?”
“Who did what to you?” Julia was awoken by his outburst.
“Nothing, just go back to sleep.”
She stretched up her arms and yawned, “No, I'm awake now. What is bothering you so badly?”
“I couldn't sleep last night. I have been so worried about my problem that I...well I just couldn't rest my mind. I saw the way some of the ship workers and the other travelers looked at me, I know that scared look in their eyes is something I am going to have to get used to. Then I thought about that look in the eyes of the girl I am in love with. I couldn't stand to see that in her face. Then I realized that she will have long been married by the time I get back, which will make my interest in her completely invalid. All this because of that stupid evil djinn.”
Julia softly laughed, “My, you have been doing a lot of thinking.”
“Didn't have much else to do. Sitting alone all night sort of gives you time to think.”
Julia sat up, which was not an easy process in an old fish net turned into a hammock, “Night is a bad time to sit and think, for you will be alone with those thoughts. And, take it from somebody who has spent a lot of time alone with their thoughts, you always come to the worst conclusions and outcomes while you are pondering all of your iniquities.”
“You can't see it, Julia, but the looks in their eyes is fear, hatred, disgust. I can't help but be dismayed by what I am going to face from here on out.”
She reached over and held his shoulder, rubbing the fur with her thumb, “You are right, I can't see it, so I am left to judge you by your words and actions. How you treat me, how you speak to others, what you do about your problems, that is all I have to go on. That is how you should make them see you. Be a good man, don't respond to their knee-jerk prejudice about you. Prove your heart to them and they will forget what that wicked djinn put on your outside, they will understand that he didn't change your inside.”
With a smile, he reached up and held the hand petting his shoulder. "You're right, of course."
Just then the captain looked down through the ladder, “We will be at port in a little while. Get your stuff together, this is where you get off.”
“Thank you, captain.” Joshua answered, happy to know that outside of the first encounter the captain has at least not been as scared when he looked at the dog man.
Julia held tight to his shoulder while she got herself up from the hammock. “Alright. Lets make a list of items we will need to purchase at the port before heading toward the high road.”
“Do you know where we are going to head from the high road?” Joshua got up from the wooden deck and stretched out his legs.
“Not exactly. The first item we should get is a reliable map. Now help gather our stuff, it has moved since last night with the waves. I don't feel anything where I put it.” she was tapping the ground with her hands trying to locate her bag and staff.
“HA, HAVE YOU SEEN ANYONE EAT THIS MUCH FOR BREAKFAST!” A woman bellowed as she gnawed on a leg from the animal currently roasting over the cooking fire. The leg was in one hand and a pile of other various cooked parts were mounded on a plate before her.
Outside the Temple of Circe was a gathering grounds for all the students and priests that worked on the daily tasks. Two of the common guests of the temple were a pair of obviously non- native warriors. Brienne was a strong, well built woman with the courage of a lion, strength of a bear, and appetite to match both. Her attire wasn't common for warriors of her kind back home, but she enjoyed showing off her physique, it distracted many men on the battlefield. Most men would do just about anything to court such an attractive woman, but her blood stained giant ax tended to keep suitors at bay. Pointing a half eaten drumstick at the young kitchen assistant she bellowed, “Have you any ale this morning!?”
The young man gulped and almost answered when a gloomy voice interrupted. “Brienne, you know that they don't keep fermented drink around this temple, not since the change.” A dark, tattooed man wearing garb that helped conceal him in the branches of trees leaned up against a pole and flicked at his finger nails. On his shoulder sat a companion gifted to him by Circe herself, a large black bird that listened to one master.
Brienne slammed her fist on the table and yelled at the servant boy, “Find me some!”
“'am.” the poor young acolyte of the temple scurried off to ask his master once again about this request from the loud woman.
“HAHAHAHA! Don't you just love the way they run in fear!?”
The brooding man turned and sat at the table with his back to her, the bird turned and glared at her food as though it were about to feast. “They probably think you're going to eat them when you are done with that wild boar they cooked for you.”
Brienne slapped the table, which startled the bird. “BWAHAHA! Good one Crowe! I shall remember that one!”
Crowe reached over and picked up a knife the cook left behind on the table and calmly examined it. “Why do you think Majus asked us to meet him this morning?”
Brienne took a big bite of the leg and then spoke around the chewing, “Dunno. I hope he wants to go after that dark palace near us. I am itching to cut down some skeletons.”
Crowe suddenly threw the knife at the carcass on the spit and lodged it neatly in the shoulder. He snapped his fingers and the bird flew the short distance and pulled the knife out for him, taking a large chunk of meat with it. It returned and dropped it in his hands. He pulled the meat off and slowly took a bit for himself and then handed up a morsel for his pet, repeating this process until the meat was gone. “I don't look for combat just to quench some thirst for excitement. Though, honing my skills is always welcome. I must always be ready to take down the god that took my homelands and killed my family.”
Brienne snorted while she tossed a cleaned bone to the begging dogs on the other side of the fence. “Must you always talk of your mission for revenge? Just enjoy a good fight now and then. ITS GOOD FOR THE BLOOD! HA!” She had a hard time keeping her voice to socially acceptable levels.
At that moment, Majus and another mage approached the table. The other mage was an older man with a craggy, battle marred face. His name was Haman. He wore an outfit not unlike Joshua's, but with a few accents of gold and other precious decorations. Haman was from Susa, capital of Persia. His skill was not quite as good as Majus, but he was still a fearful warrior.
“Ah, I see you two made it.” Majus approached, smiling at the two strange people at the table.
Crowe handed the last bit of meat to his bird and then gave Majus a half-cocked look, “What did you want us for? Is Circe sending us on another crusade against a god minion?”
“Circe did call us together for a special mission, but it is not to fight a war, not yet. We are to seek someone else who she may bestow a blood blessing on.”
This got everyone’s attention. Majus had not mentioned this to any of them, even his fellow mage. Haman asked what the others were thinking, “Is Circe going to add to our group?”
Brienne swallowed her last big bite and slammed her fist on the table, “WHAT DOES SHE WANT?! TO TURN US INTO A LEGION!? A SMALL GROUP IS BETTER FOR PRECISION!”
Majus cleared his throat and waited while the loud woman settled down, “Whatever her plans are, we must obey. Circe is a wise leader and we owe her a lot. Right now, we are simply asked to find this person and observe them while we bring them back to the temple.”
“OBSERVE! Sounds boring. I'll stay behind and sharpen my ax.” Brienne snarled at the notion of a tedious mission. Though she would never have to sharpen her ax, it was magical.
Crowe said it before Majus could, “If Circe has asked us, we have to go.”
“Ugh!” Brienne scoffed.
Majus knew how to get her attention, “We are to meet them in the South Forest.”
“South Forest?” Brienne's smile grew at the mention of that place.
“Yes, where all the dark creatures have been seen recently. We are to escort them here, which means dealing with any problems. Do you still want to stay behind and sharpen your ax?”
Brienne stood up with a shot, nearly knocking the table over, which threw Crowe out of his seat. “While there are wild beasts to be killed! NOT THIS BATTLE MAIDEN! HA! LEAD THE WAY, MAGE!”
Crowe got up from the ground. “That got her attention.”
“Come, we don't have a lot of time. I don't want the dark creatures to find them before we do.” Haman directed them out. Majus was technically the leader, but Haman had been an important man where he came from and often attempted to appear as the commander. Majus was wise enough to know when to tell him to stop and when to let him walk at the front of the line.
Joshua carried a full bag and his cloak over one shoulder. It was warmer than he anticipated and there were likely to be few traveling the area they would be walking today. So not wearing that heavy cloak was alright. He held Julia's hand to guide her through the forest toward the high road.
“Wow.” He whispered, again.
“You have been awestruck often today. What is so impressive?”
Joshua guided her around a large tree trunk and then continued up the gentle incline. “This forest is amazing.”
She reached out and felt a tree. “Feels like another forest to me. What do you see?”
“Trees, lots and lots of trees.”
The way he said that with such earnest amazement made her chuckle. “It is a forest, so trees are going to be present. What about them is so amazing?”
“Just the amount, the height, the green. Where I come from there aren't as many trees around, not like this.”
Julia was directed around another large tree and then asked, “Do you like it? Do you like the forest?”
“I don't know. Its pretty and different, but so closed in. I can't imagine living where you can't see wide open spaces. Here each step is just another thicket of trees. I am looking forward to the high road, it won't be as dense as this.”
“I suppose a boy raised in Egypt might not understand living among so many trees. There are those here who would be startled and uncomfortable with a lot of wide open spaces, and few trees.”
Joshua was about to explain that it was impossible for anyone to not like wide open spaces when he heard something. Stopping he got close to her. “Did you hear that?”
She was startled by his abrupt stop and then by the way he was holding her close to him. “Hear what?”
Joshua's tall dog ears were pivoting slightly as he listened to the strange noise that caught his attention. “It sounds growling. Maybe heavy breathing.”
Julia smiled and let the silence of the moment enhance her hearing. “I do hear something distant. It is odd, most of the time I am the one who hears things first, being blind...WHOAH!” Suddenly Joshua shoved her down.
Joshua pushed her out of the way just in time to miss the swipe of a large paw from a strange beast that lunged out of the shadows of the forest. It was a creature unlike anything he has seen in his life. It had the face of a large bat, with enormous fangs protruding from its mouth. Jutting out from either side of its head were a pair of short, sharp horns. On the hump of its back was a third horn, which was three times as long as the others. Its legs were like human arms with four large, clawed fingers on each. The size of a bull and the scream of a banshee, this thing was hungry and ready to feed. With one loud screech it lunged again at Joshua.
“What is that?!” Julia cried.
Joshua gripped the beast by its forearms and jerked side to side with his head to avoid the snapping fangs of the monster. “I!” He lost the battle and was shoved all the way to the ground. With a giant chomp the beast bit down on Joshua's side to get a hearty helping. It yelled and jumped back.
Joshua felt that bite and was sure that he was done for. Then he noticed the beast was stunned by something. Its mouth was obviously hurt by the way it was clawing at its face with its paw. He reached over to check his side for pouring blood and found nothing wrong, other than a little soreness. On the ground near him was four inches of that beasts left upper fang, broken in half and clean of any blood. For a moment he tried to figure out what happened, but he didn't get the chance to ponder for too long. The monster got up as angry as ever and went in for a second try at lunch. Quickly thinking, Joshua grabbed the half of the fang the beast lost and used it like a dagger in his hand. He jumped away from swipe after swipe of the beasts claws. He lashed out at it with its own tooth, but couldn't make contact. He had survived one attempt on his life, he wasn't going to give it a second opportunity.
The beast slapped him to the side with one well-placed blow of its paw and threw Joshua into a tree. It jumped at him with the same motion as before, only this time Joshua plunged the broken tooth into its neck. It lurched back, digging at its neck with its paws. Joshua planted both feet in its chest and shoved, toppling it over. The dark red blood streaming from its neck splashing onto his shins.
“Joshua! Joshua!” Julia was scared and holding a stone in her hand as though she could frighten an attacker away.
“I'm...okay. I think.” He breathed heavily and used the tree behind him to stand up. His head was spinning a little by the blow against the tree, but he was otherwise okay.
Unfortunately, the beast wouldn't stay down. It had clawed the tooth out and though bleeding profusely, it made one final attempt on him. Joshua leaped over to protect Julia from the assailant and grabbed a stone to smash this things skull.
He didn't get the opportunity. A glowing arrow split the air and pierced the beasts side. Then an ax flew through the trees and lodged in the monsters neck, splitting its head partly from its shoulders. It crashed into the ground and slid to a stop right in front of the two. Joshua watched the arrow vanish away and the ax fly backward out of the beast and into the trees again.
“Joshua!” Julia grabbed his arm, “Oh thank goodness, you're alive. What is happening, please tell me what is happening?”
“I don't know. Someone just saved us...I think.”

Crowe put his bow back over his shoulder and clicked his tongue at the bird. His pet flew down from where they had perched in the trees and began to feast on the dead monster. The master archer jumped down and stood next to Brienne, who was wiping the blood from her ax. “I had it.”
Brienne scoffed at him, “It would have feasted before your arrows could finish it.”
“And you came very close to killing”
Haman and Majus stood there, watching their companions work. Haman looked to his fellow mage, “Do you think that man is another monster? He is most certainly not human.”
Majus squinted and looked at the odd couple gathering themselves near a tree in the distance. “I don't believe he is evil, look at the way he is protecting her.”
Brienne ventured, “Could be her slave.”
“Or pet,” Haman added.
Crowe cracked his knuckles. “Whatever. Majus, do you think that either of them is the person Circe wanted us to find?”
“Yes. See the garb that woman wears. She is a student of the Oracles. She must be the person that Circe has sent us to observe and protect.”
Haman didn't buy it, “An oracle student? Really? To what purpose would we need with a seer?”
Brienne loudly bellowed, “Mayhap she brings us a vision of glorious battle!”
Majus let out a sigh as he watched the two in the distance look their direction and become aware of someone approaching. “Whatever she brings to us, they are now quite aware of our presence here. Come, let us greet them and see if we can offer any aid to their injuries.” He walked on with Crowe at his side.
Brienne and Haman followed behind. Haman stated rather harshly, “Watch that mouth, you would do well to learn the skill of silence.”
Brienne snarled at him, she didn't quite like this little man. His people put women below the livestock, he never appreciated fighting along side one. But, they were allies and she wouldn't kill him today.

“I hear people speaking, do you?” Julia gripped Joshua's arm tightly out of fear.
Joshua helped her up while keeping a keen eye on the approaching band. “Yes, and they are almost here. They do not have their weapons drawn, and one I think is smiling.”
“Be careful. Bandits can be almost as bad as a monster attack.” Julia took up her stick to help guide her and let go of Joshua's arm. She stopped and whispered, “I sense something, something odd about these people?” Joshua would have asked about this, but their guest were upon them.
The four warriors approached and then Majus spoke, directing his words at the blind woman. “Greetings from the temple of Circe.”
“Circe?” Joshua frowned not knowing that name, his speaking seemed to intrigue the band of warriors.
Julia took his arm again, “Oh, no, Circe is a goddess. They are warriors of the gods.”
Joshua stepped closer to Julia ready to defend her. “What do you want with us?”
Haman cocked his head at the dog man, “Fascinating. What sort of beast are you?”
Majus held up a hand, “We can ask those sorts of questions later.” He showed his open hands as a sign of peace, “We do not come to attack, Circe has sided with the humans against the evil gods in this war.”
Julia could hear that he was talking toward her so she spoke, “What does Circe want with us then?”
“She extends an invite to her temple. She wishes to speak with you and perhaps offer you help. We have not been given much information, but even the Promethean gods are cryptic and often vague.”
“Me? What does a goddess wish with a simple student?”
Haman rolled his eyes, “As master Majus has already stated, we don't know. But it would be wise to come. Circe is a most benevolent goddess.”
Julia was understandably nervous. “Can my friend Joshua come as well?”
Brienne loudly announced. “Of course! Many a student has a pet! Though I dare say none have such a pleasing body as yours!”
“Pet?” Joshua caught that word immediately.
Crowe calmly stated, “As diplomatic as ever, Brienne.”
Brienne was intrigued by Joshua's body. He had good muscles, lots of hair, and strong hands, all the features she liked in a man. Without asking permission, she walked over and started feeling him, turning him around a couple times with her firm grip. “Wow, he must have cost a fortune, but I bet he was worth the price! Is he trained in pleasing you as well as serving you?!”
“Hey, watch the hands. WHOAH! Don't grab that! Pleasing her...? HEY!” Joshua was trying to stop her, but she was stronger than she looked, and that is saying something. Now her hands were in his mouth checking out the fangs.
“Good strong teeth! Huzzah! He is a finely bred slave!”
Joshua stopped fighting her and merely protested by speaking around her fingers. “Would you please take your hands out of my mouth and off of my chest.”
Haman came to his rescue, pulling Brienne away. “You can play with her slave later,” he nodded to Julia, “With her permission, of course. For now we must get them back to the temple.”
With a reluctant huff, Brienne dropped her arms, “Alright.” She reached around and gave Joshua's rear a nice, firm squeeze, “Later I find out if you are worth the gold paid for you! HA!” At that, she finally left Joshua to collect himself.
“Come, these woods are dangerous. We must be heading back.” Majus signaled for them to follow him up the hill.
Joshua picked up their belongings and slung them over one shoulder. He then reached out and took Julia's hand to guide her with the quick pace the others had started on.
“What just happened?” Julia asked.
“I don't really know. They must think that I am a servant of yours. Some sort of slave you bought for your trip.”
Julia was snickering, which only held back the laughter that was attempting to burst out.
Joshua took umbrage with her laughing. “It's not funny. That big woman scares me.”
“She might scare you, but she likes you. Imagine if she didn't like you.”
The image of her ax hacking part of that monsters head of in front of him filled his mind. His intentions of resisting her advances became that much more dangerous.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Cover Elements

Hello everyone, sorry that it has been a while since I posted. I have been busy, sick, a little iced in, and experimenting. "Experimenting?" you say. No, I am not trying out anything illegal. I wanted to see if anyone noticed the blog going silent for a while. Sadly, no one really spoke up. But, after saying something about this experiment a few others encouraged me to keep going. So, here I go.

For my first post in a while I would like to show you the elements of the cover for book 2 of the Legacy of the Dragonwand series. Creating a cover is hard work. Not only do I hand draw all the elements to make the cover. I have to blend them together seamlessly and attractively so that readers are encouraged to pick up the book. Before all that I need to make the decisions about what should and should not be part of the image.

A cover needs to convey mystery and excitement, at least for fantasy adventures I believe that is the case. The cover needs to tell a little story on its own, a sampling of what is inside the book. It should make enough sense for the reader to want to flip the book over and check out the mini-description on the back. (The backside material is a whole other can-o-worms but we won't worry about that just yet.) Last, personally I think a cover needs to be mysterious enough to make the reader wonder what it means, for it should have an deep meaning for the story, but not obvious enough to betray the mystery. The reader should come to a point in the story where they suddenly go "Oh, so THAT's what going on with the cover." To me the same goes for the title of the book and the title of each chapter. It should make sense only when you read further and realize what the title/chapter heading truly means.

That all said, here are the various elements that have gone into the second cover:

I started with the drawing of the dragon head, for the dragon was going to be the central image. I got the drawing done and then colored it a nice red color. I sat back and thought to myself "There aren't any red dragons in your book." I had to start over and give it a golden color, for there just happen to be a golden dragon in the book. So, the golden dragon here is going to be the covers central image.

I wanted to add something simple to the background so that the dragon head was superimposed over another image that fit the book. The characters spend a good amount of time in the Barren Mountains in the book, so I sketched a little line of peaks. I actually went for an "artsy" look. That way they would feel right being background images and not drawing the eye away from the center.


Last I wanted some secondary character images to complete the "story" of the cover. I first drew Treb with his bow out. I like it but it didn't feel like it would work all that well on the cover. He will likely end up inside the book, and will stay black and white. Still wanting another character on the cover I chose to go with the evil King. I drew the king. I separately his crown and then colored both. I think he will work and plan on shrinking him down so that he is more background than up front for the cover, leaving the dragon still the focal point.

I have some ideas about how to combine these images and what to do to make them a cover, but I will wait to show that to you until a later point. For now these remain the "potential" images that will be made into the second books cover. If history has taught me anything about my work its that things change. My first book went through five covers before I finally settled on the one I liked. But, I hope to start this one with a good cover and working hard to those ends is the key to success.

Why do I work so hard to draw my own covers? I have had people ask me this and offer me sites and names of cover artists that would do a fine job. Plain and simple answer; money. I respect why they charge so much, after having done all that I do for my own covers and the pro's do so much more. But, I just don't have the revenue at this time to put into the covers and that leaves it up to me.

Thank you for reading, have a blessed week.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Winter Wizard: Conclusion

Here's the conclusion of the story. Check it out. Also, to help me know if anyone is reading this. Please either comment here or on a link to it posted to Facebook. Let me know that I am actually reaching someone out there. Thanks for reading. Enjoy.
To read the first three segments, click the links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Chris! Chris!” His mothers voice woke him up from his deep sleep. Opening his eyes, he looked around the room to see that he was home.
Mom? Where am I?”
She smiled and laughed, “Honey, you have been asleep all day. Your father is angry with you. You were supposed to go out this morning and get him some wood.”
Chris sat up and felt his head, “I don't feel good.”
She nodded, “You weren't doing well, that's why I let you sleep. You had some kind of fever...or really a negative fever. Your temperature was really low. I guess it's a good thing you didn't go out there. You would've been caught in that freak snow storm.”
Chris stopped holding his head and his eyes bugged out, “Snow storm?”
Yeah. The news says that it's the weirdest weather this state has seen in two hundred years. They've already named it some silly name. I guess mother nature likes to play games. You get some rest and I'll bring you some hot soup.” She left him to lay in his bed.
Chris got out up and walked to the window. Opening it he found she was telling the truth. There was snow and ice all over everything. Could it be true? “Did it really happen?” He asked to no one in particular.
Yes.” the old wizards voice answered.
Chris turned around to see the man sitting in his room. “You.”
It is I, the king of the Wizards of Winter. Or, really, a shadow of my former self.”
So, it all did happen. How did I survive? I thought that crystal would've killed me.”
The wizard smiled and answered, “You were willing to sacrifice yourself to save the world. That was an impressive act.”
I had no other choice. It was all my fault. I released her.”
And your choice would have taken your life. But, I gave you a gift. I turned you into a winter wizard. Giving you my powers and my strength. That way you would survive.”
          Chris looked down at himself, “Me...a wizard?”
I defeated the queen over six thousand years ago and ended the ice age. Since then I have been keeping an eye on her and doing my job.”
"Your job is creating snowflakes?"
The old man laughed, "Not all of them. Winter wizards are artisans, crafting snowflakes is something I love. I can use them to create beautiful winter days, which I offer now and then. My real work has been fixing the damage from the war."
"So, what happened to the Queen?"
The wizard smiled, "She is gone forever. Your warmth killed her."
"My warmth?"
"Yes, the warmth of your spirit. Your willingness to put the worlds welfare above yours was enough to destroy her."
Chris shook his head, "What about that book? It showed..."
"Lies. It was created by her to mislead people.” The wizard looked away for a moment thinking back to the days of the first civilizations, “Back then the people did not know who to trust. Magic folk weren't uncommon, but strange to find around humans. When the lovely Ice Queen revealed her book to the people and implicated my kind against them, we became outlaws.”
So it was just a tool of propaganda.”
Not entirely. She also put into it spells, evil magic. The people weren't merely gullible, the dark magic within its pages corrupts thinking and sows the seeds of distrust and paranoia. She could've used its power to reestablish her own terrible strength."
Chris asked, “What about you?”
As I said, I'm merely a shadow. Once this shadow passes, I will be gone forever. You must be vigilant. The threats to this world are not yet over.”
Chris looked out the window, “Wow. Are you going to teach me how to....” he turned to find that the wizard was gone, his staff resting against the wall where he had been moments ago.
 Chris held the staff and felt the power surging through it. "All that I was, is now yours." The old voice proclaimed and suddenly Chris' room was filled with the snowflakes from the lair below. Chris smiled and pointed the staff toward the window. The gray skies melted away into a beautiful blue.
A new winter wizard was born.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Winter Wizard part 3

The continuing adventure of The Winter Wizrad. For the previous posts, POST 1 POST 2

They got to the top of a hill that over looked part of Gatlinburg. Chris stopped. "Where's my car?"
"Where are you going to take me?" She asked.
Chris realized he was nowhere near where he had parked this morning. “Home. We can figure this out from there. My parents are smart and can help, I am sure.”
No. Please, you must release me now. He will not stop looking for us that easily. If I am not freed, he will kill you and your family to get to me. I pose too great a threat to his plans.”
Okay, how do we free you then?”
The snowflakes are the key. Take them out of the book.”
Chris sat down on the ground and carefully put the crystal down next to the book. He opened the pages and pulled out the two snowflake ornaments. “Alright, I have them.”
The winter magic within them might be enough. Set them on the ground, one on each side of my crystal. Then step back. I will unleash their power and that will set off a chain of events that will release me. Now, get to it.” Her tone was becoming a little agitated.
He almost set them on the ground when he stopped, “Wait. You said that each snowflake contains all the power of a whole winter.”
Yes, that is true. Now set them down.”
Chris still held the snowflakes. “But, if I unleash two of them, won't that cause a double strength winter? That would be...bad. Right?”
Do not worry. I need the energy to rebuild myself. That will draw out enough of the winter magic to contain it from harming the mountains. Now, please hurry! He is bound to find us.”
Chris thought about this for a moment, realizing she knew more than him. If this wasn't a dream, he would be a hero. Leaning down again he set one down and then went to place the other.
STOP!” The booming voice of the wizard called out.
Chris looked up. “Oh great, it's him.”
Hurry, place the last one.”
A blue blast of energy shot the ground near Chris and created an instant ice sculpture. “STOP, Do not release her.”
Chris was frozen in fear. He forced himself to look up and saw not an evil look on the wizards face, but complete fear. “I have to.”
No, do not believe her words. She will destroy us all if you don't stop right now.” The wizard had his staff trained on Chris.
Do not listen to the old fool. He is the one trying to destroy us all. Consider the book, they almost destroyed the world once before, do not allow them to do it again.”
Chris looked up and then made the decision to trust her. He placed the flake on the ground and then braced for the attack that was sure to follow. But the wizard didn't get the chance. As soon as the flake sat next to the crystal, both snowflakes exploded outward with an amazing burst of cold wind and snow that threw Chris and the wizard away. The gray skies turned terribly dark and a thick snow quickly began to fall.
Chris held his arm over his face and forced himself to breathe against the pressures of the winds crashing into his chest. Abruptly the crystal ruptured with a column of blue energy forming a cyclone of snow around it. The snow started to coalesce into a large woman right before his eyes. She was holding her arms out and smiling victoriously. The skies boiled and turned into a hurricane of snow and ice that was already burying the mountain.
The woman laughed loudly and proclaimed, “I've won, old man, I've won! This world is mine to control, mine to turn into a vast ice wasteland. All will perish or bow before me, the Ice Queen!”
It did not take Chris long to realize that the old man had not been lying. She had betrayed him and now unleashed a terrible winter on the world. What could he do now? He was nothing compared to all this force around him, nature itself was turning to her whim. If this were not a terrible and vivid dream, he could be witnessing the end of civilization. And it was all his fault.
Suddenly bright blasts of blue light shot at her, going through the wispy body, but not actually hurting her.
She looked down and sneered at the old wizard. “You fool. It was inevitable that I would defeat you. The humans you protected were the very people who allowed my return. And now I will bring a new ice age to this earth and reign eternal as the Goddess of Ice.”
NOT IF I HAVE ANYTHING TO SAY ABOUT IT!” The old man used his staff to shoot over and over again at her in an attempt to destroy her, but she seemed unharmed by his magic.
Oh, how cute, you attempt to use winter magic on the Ice Queen.” she threw both hands forward and the entire blizzard sent him sprawling across and down the hill.
Chris staggered back to his feet, though his strength was nearly spent. “Oh, God, what have I done?”
The woman turned around and looked down at Chris. “You, mortal, you helped me and that will not go without payment. I like the way you cower in fear. Perhaps I will allow you to live to worship me. A gift to you I offer, a subject to the Throne of Ice.”
I...I...” Chris was scared to death and didn't know what to say. He didn't want to be turned into a slave, but what else could he do?
YAH!” She lurched and her translucent arms held her waist. She was losing cohesion and it seemed to cause her pain. There was a hole opening in her abdomen where the snow and magic reforming her body was being drawn away from her.
The old wizard was holding his staff out and forcing the blizzard to act like the winds in the cavern. It was turning her into a snowflake. “Not this day! Not while I live!”
She screamed and held herself as he dissolved her and started a new snowflake at the end of his staff. “You horrid monster! Stop!” she sent a wind to blow him down, but he was braced with a small mound of ice he had created behind his feet.
Your reign of ice ends here! I will not be so lenient this time, I will destroy you as I should have sixty five hundred years ago!”
She doubled over and was fading out of sight. Bringing her hands up, the winds quickly changed direction and threw him forward across the ground. When he seemed vulnerable she moved in for the kill. Rolling over he thrust his staff into her face. The snow flake at it's tip drew her in even quicker. With one hand she picked him, pulling his staff free from her face. “I WILL TAKE YOUR LIFE FROM YOU!”
The wizard gasped as the air was squeezed out of his body. With all the strength he had left he jammed the staff into her hand and started gathering again. Now both magical beings were locked in a combat that could only end with one destroying the other.
What do I do? What do I do?” Chris looked around and saw the crystal he had been holding. It was still on the ground, attached to her by the same blue light that was gathering the snow to reform her body. How could he stop it? How would he destroy it? It was pure cold, he had to make it warm. But, there was no way he could heat it up right here. The only warmth he had was inside him.
Then Chris made the only choice he saw to save the world. He shoved his way through the terrific winter winds and picked up the crystal, put it in his mouth, and swallowed it. The woman vanished instantly which caused the wizard to fall to the ground while storm above calmed down to a basic winter sky. The wizard waved his staff over the snowflakes and they stopped producing the weather.
The wizard rushed to Chris, who was still on the ground. “Boy! Boy! What did you do?”
Chris looked up and wasn't sure what he felt yet. It was cold, but it was hardly more than swallowing a large pill. Then it hit him. His whole body turned blue and glacial. He leaned back and screamed with her voice.
RELEASE ME NOW!” Chris said in her voice.
The wizard put his hands on Chris' face and began to chant a spell.
NO, I WILL NOT BE DESTROYED! NO! AHHH!” She screamed through Chris, “I WILL KILL HIM!” At that Chris shook hard and began to gag, she was killing him from the inside. His eyes rolled back in his head and he fell against the snowy ground writhing in pain as he fought to get any oxygen into his lungs.
The wizard put his hands on Chris' throat and started to chant loudly in a spell. A light blue energy passed from the wizard into Chris and then the wizard fell over and faded away. Chris gagged for a moment longer and then stopped moving as though he had died. All at once an amazing white light burst out of his eyes and mouth and pierced the clouds above, split the remnants of the storm and cleared the skies.

Chris took in a few deep but shaky breathes then passed out.

Check back tomorrow for the conclusion.