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Monday, February 24, 2014

Chained Up

This week I have decided to take part in a blog chain among authors started by the great Brenda Perlin. Next week will be Wendy Siefken. I am going to answer 4 questions and hope that you learn something about me and my work. Here I go.

Steffen with the tattoo
1: What am I working on? Wow this is a big question right now in my writing life. Normally I am working on one project at a time, but right now I have three. First: I am currently still in the process of editing and working on The Legacy of the Dragonwand. I have already edited this one twice, sent it off to a handful of beta readers, and then put it in the hands of a professional editor who currently still has it. When she is done I will be getting into that one hot and heavy. Second: I am still working on the second edit of The Crystal Needle 2: The Map. I have worked on it this one since around September of last year. I put a lot of work into it during NaNoWriMo this past November. Now I have edited it through once and it is in my mothers hands for the second edit. (trust me she is a harsher critic than most when it comes to my work.) Third: My current actual writing is being put into a unique story called Legend of the Mystic Tattoo, a fantasy set in a mythical land about a man with, you guessed it, a mysterious tattoo. What makes this story unique is that I am not writing this alone, I am writing it in tandem with Wendy Siefken. Instead of just co-writing the story, we each write a section and then pass it to the other person to add their next section. We can throw each other through loops by changing the story in a unique direction. I can attest to the fact that Wendy has thrown me several loops that have been fun getting into or out of. We had been publishing this story weekly as we wrote it, but now that we are both working harder on it, we think that it would be best to be kept to us until we are ready to publish it.

2: How does my work differ from others of its genre? I try to keep it clean. Okay, I don't believe that all other authors in Fantasy and Sci-Fi are guilty of writing lurid stories. Though many I have met or read about don't have issues with getting a little dirty now and then. I focus hard on keeping my stories clean to the point that they would garner at most a PG rating if they were movies. Where I focus on this is in the romantic sides of the stories. I look at the minds and heart of the romance, not just the physical attraction. In fact, if you have read my Crystal Needle, you will see that I write characters that aren't physically attractive but still find love. I know that I am not the originator of this style, but I do find that I am in a minority.

3:Why do I write what I do? Because I'm crazy and the voices would kill me if I didn't let them out. Okay, no I am not THAT crazy. Truthfully, I just love fantasy. I have since I was young. When I was playing with the kids on the playground, I turned playtime into a story involving magic or space ships. This part of me has been there since I can remember. Writing it down into stories is just a side effect of my love of creating imaginary worlds and people. (No I don't play with imaginary friends. I just talk to them regularly about their stories.)

"You should be writing!"
4: How does my writing process work? I sit and write. I know that isn't really the kind of answer you want to hear but it is a giant part of my writing. I force myself to sit and write every day while I am in the midst of story creation. Even if I have nothing in mind for the story I still write. Frankly, I would rather erase a crappy writing session than simply not write at all. As for story creation, its all in my head. While in the throes of creating a story I think about it all the time. I sit and stare while considering a conversation by letting my characters ask and answer questions, understand how and why they would answer it in whatever way they do. If I am stuck for a big action sequence in a story I put it to music, I will listen to sound tracks of movies or classical music that fits the bill. Often the music tells a story in my head that works out much better than anything I had been thinking of. Or better yet, the music I am listening to suddenly invokes a scene that I had not even considered yet but fills out the story in such an awesome way. The last way I answer this question is in this: I write in a line. I may know the ending, I may know where I want the characters to be by the end of a scene or section, but in truth I don't know how they are going to get there until I write it on the page. I let the story tell itself. Sometimes it stumps me and I realize that it is not working and I have to get the train back on the rails, but more often than not the story drags me along for the ride. 

Thank you for reading, now about those before and after me:

I was asked to do this by author Douglas Davis. He is the author of River Dream

About River Dream: 
Rhiannon has a rule against dating her best friend, Michael. Is it a rule meant to be broken, or a rule that will break her heart? 

Rhiannon and sailing are Mike's two greatest loves. Sailing's the one thing he can always count on. Rhiannon's the one he can count on to keep him confused.

As high school begins, the new girl in town sets her sites on Mike. What will Rhiannon's rules cost her, and will she ever get to show Michael she really does love him, too?

I have asked Wendy Siefken to follow me. Check out her blog. She is the author and co-author of several books. First of which is Kai's Journey

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fun Times

Good day to everyone visiting. Last week I talked a little about accepting feedback and how important that can be. In part of that I spoke about a contest I was entering and preparing a pitch for. Well, I entered that contest yesterday and am now on the sit-and-wait phase of it all. So, I want to just have fun today. Just like before, I am going to post some of my art, bookcovers I have designed, and a new review for my book. I hope you enjoy and as always, feedback is most welcome.

 These two drawings I did recently for two different books. The man on the right is from the Dragonwand story I have been working on. This is potentially a drawing of the main character.

The cat boy on the left here is Derek, a secondary character in the tandem story that Wendy Siefken and I are writing and posting.

  This is a bookcover I designed a while back to go into the file of free covers I give away to authors. Angela Fattig snapped it up as soon as she saw it and then had a big cover reveal party to celebrate. It was a lot of fun.

As you should know by now, I love taking pictures, especially of nature. On my way home a while back there were snow clouds coming in over the mountains. The sun was in the right place and so was I, so I snapped a few pics. Here's one of my favorites.

This is a practice piece I did to learn Tenneriffe Lace. Normally this is done with thin thread on a small loom, I used a knitting loom and yarn.

Last and but certainly not least, FEEDBACK. This  is not my creation only about it. These were written by readers recently and I wanted to showcase them here. It gives me such a warm feeling to read happy reviews. It validates what I do in such a nice way. You may have to click them to be able to read them.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Accepting Feedback

Good Morning, Evening, Afternoon, whatever applies to when you are reading this.

I want to follow up my last Monday post last week
about what it means to be an author with a life lesson I have had to learn. I have to accept feedback. As you may be aware of, my first officially published novel wasn't The Crystal Needle, it was The Jalan Chronicles. With that book I gained something unexpected, a troll. A person who spent his time and efforts trying to ruin me emotionally through nasty, underhanded online tactics. As you can probably guess, such an experience left me wary of accepting reviews and critiques of my work.

If you want to read more about my horrid experience with that troll and book, please click HERE

To be entirely honest, accepting critiques of my work has been hard my whole life. I have yet to meet an author who can say otherwise. We love praise but resent criticism. The real challenge is learning to listen to that criticism when it is meant to help. With my troll incident, he wasn't trying to help he was trying to hurt. But, when someone gives me feedback that isn't all glowing and positive I have to set aside my own pride for a moment and gain something from it. Grow through the advice and decide if it will make me a better writer for it. Often it does make me a better writer and sometimes it is just one persons opinion, either way it was never meant in malice.

Recently this has been a big issue with me due to a contest I plan on entering. This contest requires a pitch for my book to be written by me. A pitch is like that movie ad you watch that has you ready to watch the movie just because the ad was so good. It isn't a synopsis and it isn't a review, it is a pitch. I have to sell my book in less than 300 words to a judge. The judge will ONLY use the pitch to decide if the book is worthy enough to be passed onto the next level where they will actually read part of the book itself. Let me make one thing clear; I spent at least 3 months writing the first draft, around 2 months editing and refining to the second draft, another 3 months working with mother on creating the third rough draft, and then even longer working with beta readers and editors to get that to a point where I might consider it good enough to let a reader read it. After all this work pampering and babying a book, I am asked to turn all that into 300 words or less. Not only that, I have to make those 300 or less words be so inspirational about the book that anyone reading them should want to grab the book and read it. It isn't easy.

Fortunately I did not have to go this alone. There is a forum set up just to help the pitch writers for this contest. We get advice from successful authors and others going through the same struggle. Hardly ever is their critique of the pitch glowing, more often than not it is saying how it won't work. At first I just wanted to give up. I was frustrated and angry. Then I realized it wasn't my inability to write a pitch that had me upset, it was listening to negativity. Worse yet, it was the internal negativity that was inside me after reading a critique. Once I shoved my pride down into a hole and moved on by listening to them, I made progress. Now I have something worthy of the contest. Well, I hope it is but I am much more confident no matter the outcome.

Okay, that all said, you might understand better why we, authors, do enjoy reviews of our work. We struggle through that lengthy writing process, we stamp out our own ego and pride to listen to all the feedback, we pour our souls into something we know is going to be critiqued to within an inch of its life. When that is all through, having a reader just say, "This book was a fun read, I recommend it." justifies all that pain and anguish. So, be truthful with your reviews, be gentle but honest, but most importantly, WRITE THEM. We get enough negative and/or constructive criticism of our work to fill volumes of books, we need to know it was all worth it.

p.s. If you are wondering about the pics and how they relate to this post, they don't. I just thought some Valentines inspired images would be nice to decorate with this week.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo part 5

Last time on Legend of the Mystic Tattoo: Our heroes, having been caught in a sandstorm, were rescued by the dangerous pirates of the Blacksand. Rose, the captain of the pirates, divulges that she was paid to retrieve Steffen but not by anyone wishing him harm. Unfortunately for Steffen she has her own plans for him and throws them all into lockdown. Can Steffen escape her clutches? Why does the empire want him? What happened to the two villains that jumped ship before the storm? Find out in Part 5 of Legend of the Mystic Tattoo.

If you have missed the previous adventures, take a look here: PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4

Remember Wendy's writing is in black, mine is in blue so keep up.

Legend of the Mystic Tattoo:
“Show them to their quarters,” Rose said with a wave of her hand dismissing the pair still looking over the wanted poster.
With the same two guards who escorted them to the bridge also led them back to the bowels of the giant ship. The Scarvian in the lead took them past what looked like cells where he could see hands reaching through the bars from the darkness within pleading for food and drink.
“It can’t be!” Amara stopped suddenly in front of the last cell. No hands came forth begging for food or drink; she stared into the darkness waiting for them to come forth.
“So, we meet again,” Came a familiar voice from the darkness. The dark elf Steffan had caught when tossed off the Sapphire appeared from the darkness to stand in front of the barred window. A furry nose could be seen peering from the darkness as well.
“Why are they in here?” he asked the lead Scarvian.
“We captured them trying to sneak aboard the ship when we had touched down to gather your ship. We have a special reward for people who try to sneak on board.” His thin lips spread into a sickening smile.
“They are with us; we lost them when the storm came upon us so quickly. I respectfully request that you release them to us. I’m sure if I took this to Captain Rose she would be more than amiable to our request. ” Steffan said as he gave Amara a quick glance to silence any protest from her. The Scarvian who was behind them mumbled his displeasure but released the Ratling and the dark elf to the care of Steffan and Amara. Without a word they were then led to a door where there were bunk beds on both sides of the room. There was a large window opposite the door that let in plenty of light and fresh air. The only thing visible out the window though was the sky. The angle of the ship and where they were didn’t allow for any views of the ground and land markings. There was a wash bowl and pitcher of water to wash up with as well as clean towels. When they stepped in the Scarvians closed the door behind them. Amara heard the unmistakable sound of the soft click of a key being turned in the lock. Their accommodations were better than the locked cells but they were still prisoners aboard the ship. Soon she gave the all clear to Steffan who turned to the rat and the elf, “Once again I have saved you. I think we should chat and see what we can learn from each other since our paths seem to keep crossing.” He sat on the lower bunk across from the two.
“We are still locked up on this ship even though we have a better place to sleep we are no better off.” The dark elf growled.
“Au contraire, you see, when they catch people sneaking onto their ships they have a special reward for them. Rose has captured a sand dragon that does her bidding and she feeds the scoundrels who dare to board without permission.” Steffan said as he leaned back on his bunk. “I think we need to come to a truce between us to see where this venture leads us. Together maybe we can figure out the clues of this tattoo I have on my arm or maybe we will meet our makers at the mountain. Since we are stuck together we might as well learn each other’s names.” He gave them one of his most stunning smiles to show his confidence.
The dark elf stared at Steffan for a moment as if contemplating a move on a chess board. “My name is Finn and this here is Shade Longtail.”
Amara and the ratling stared at each other with pure hatred in their eyes. “What do we know you won’t kill us in our sleep.” The ratling sneered at the girl. “We have just as much to lose on this trip as you do. Seeing how we keep saving your worthless hides though I would think you would be a little more grateful and not try and kill us in our sleep as well. Look, like it or not we are in this together we might as well work together.” Steffan looked pointedly at all in the room. Amara huffed as she climbed up into her bunk. She sat with her back against the wall in cold silence. The ratling climbed up into his bunk and stared back at her. “Fine, I guess we can take turns watching each other through the night to be sure neither of us gets killed in their sleep.” Steffan said rather gruff.
Amara sat up quickly and put a hand to her lips shushing everyone in the room. The footsteps stopped outside the door and paused a moment as if listening.
“As I was saying, once we get the load and get to the next port, do you think we can get a hot meal there?” The dark elf said as if they were having a normal conversation.
The door opened and a Scarvian stepped in, “you have all been invited to dine supper with the captain in her quarters. We will be back in half an hour’s time to collect you so you can, freshen up a bit.” He said as if smelling something fowl in the air. No sooner had he spoken then once again the door was closed and the soft click of the lock returned to its place.
“Now what do you make of that,” Steffan strode to the door, checking to be sure that it was indeed locked.
Quickly they carried the water bowl and the pitcher into the smaller room that was a bathroom and one at a time cleaned up as best they could without any change of clothing. A sand storm can wreak havoc on your clothes and usually leaves them ready for the trash.
Promptly within the half hour the Scarvian showed up at the door once again to lead them all to the Captain’s quarters. They were lead through a maze of corridors that finally ended at a beautifully carved wooden door. Inlaid scrolls painted with fine gold and inset with rubies of varying sizes. The door had an ornate knocker to which the Scarvian rapped lightly several times, he stood back to wait for the door to open. A short rotund gentleman opened the door and bowed the guest’s in. The Captain’s quarters were as lavish as the beautiful Captain herself. Silks draped over the windows and a chandelier hung from the ceiling over the large dining table where the soft glow of many candles danced off the crystals and giving a soft glow to everything in the room, including Rose who wore a beautiful gown that showed her best assets and would make any man stop and stare. Her hair fell in soft ringlets framing her beautiful face and cascaded down her shoulders and her back. Graciously she waived her hand indicating for everyone to sit. She placed the dark elf and Steffan on either side of her at the head of the table. The ratling and Amara were seated further away.
“So, I see your little crew has grown from two to four. When we brought you on board there were only two of you. You wouldn’t be trying to trick us would you Steffan.” Rose said batting her eyes at him and putting as much sultry into her pout as she ran a finger down his powerful bicep, her painted fingernail leaving a light mark on his arm where it trailed down to his wrist.
“Yes its true there were only two of us when you generously rescued us out of that sandstorm but I fear the storm came upon us so quickly that our two newest crew members were blown off before you found us. I am very grateful you had found them as well and found it in your heart to rescue them as well.” He said showing her his sly smile that could melt a stone figurine’s heart.
“They don’t appear to be much in the way of ship mates.” She said eyeing them coolly.
“We all have to start somewhere and Finn and Shadow here wanted to try their hand at it seeing’s how their last endeavor didn’t turn out to be as profitable as they had hoped.” The round little man brought a large tray loaded with plates that he set in front of each seated at the table. The mouthwatering food smelled wonderful to all who were seated. All talk ceased as they ate the wonderful meal in front of them. Finally when no one could hold one more bite they finally pushed back from the table. “Steffan, that offer still stands if you have changed your mind.” Rose said as she pressed her breasts into his arm suggestively.
“I’m terribly sorry Rose but I need to tend to my ship. I fear that the sand storm will have not done it any favors and I need to start making repairs. We appreciate the room you provided us but we really need to return to our ship.” He said gently sliding his arm from her grasp.
“Fine, but I will have my way with you someday Steffan.” She said pouting once again.
“Why did the storm suddenly stop?” Amara asked her ears turning this way and that trying to catch the sound of the howling wind.
“We have entered into the mountain. Once inside we are protected from the storms and everyone on board is free to roam around. No one can leave once you have entered unless I say you may leave.” Rose said with a large smile on her face like a cat that finally got her prey.
Steffan and the rest bid farewell to Rose and thanked her for the wonderful meal before returning to the hallway only to find another of the Scarvians outside waiting to escort them. This time though he did lead them to his ship where he could start his repairs. As they walked by a window on their way to the loading bay they saw two massive doors shut blocking their view of the outside. They were now inside the mountain and it was very cavernous inside. The air ship took up no more room than the Griffon did back at the port. Steffan and Amara stared at each other silently wondering how they were going to get out of this one.

The emperor strolled through the castle with an arrogant look all over his figure. At the age of 24 Tiber is the youngest man in history to rule Aldaria. Charming, handsome, and quite the ladies man, Tiber had one minor flaw. He was an arrogant, power hungry tyrant. His own father attempted to disown him and deny him the throne, but he would have nothing of that. That is why Emperor Julius suddenly fell ill.
Upon reaching a room in the center of the castle Tiber opened the door and walked right in. Usually it would be a very bad idea to walk into the head librarians office without knocking first, or for that matter being invited, even for an emperor. But, Tiber wasn't a man who required invitation to do what pleased him.
“Spoth, Spoth! Where are you!?” Tiber called out.
An older man called out from inside a door to another room, “BE GONE! I AM BUSY!”
Tiber cleared his throat and calmly walked over to the door to the main archives. He pushed the handle and it didn't budge, the door was locked. He pounded on the door and then waited for a response.
Predictably the old mans voice came booming almost instantly to the sound of the knocking. “GO AWAY, GO AWAY! I AM VERY BUSY!”
“SPOTH!” Tiber yelled out which drew an immediate reaction.
The toppling of piles of books and scrambling of feet could be heard as the old man hurriedly made his way to the door. A heavy clunk could be heard as the lock was unfastened and then the door partly opened. An old man stuck his head out with a fearful smile on. “Oh, it is you, your highness. I am so sorry to have yelled at you. far too busy right now for anything, really. You may ask one of my apprentices for help if you need any research work done.”
Tiber put his hand on the door and pushed it open, nearly knocking the very old man over. “I am not here for a spell or any research. I need to speak with you.”
Spoth straightened up and then pushed books aside to make a path for the young ruler. “I am so sorry about the mess, I am.....looking for something.”
Tiber walked into the room and looked around at all the books lining the walls. The castle library and archives were held in a tower that spiraled up for fifteen stories. A circular staircase stood in the middle of the tower and followed the spiraling bookshelves all the way to the top. The organization of these manuscripts were strange but well kept by the librarians. This one tower held twenty five thousand books as well as countless scrolls and other items to keep information on. Right now, it was a mess.
Tiber looked back at the librarian and scowled, “I understand that you misplaced the codex.”
“Uh...which codex would that be sir?” Spoth should've known better than to ask such a foolish question.
Spoth gulped and held in the urge to shake, “Well, you see, a while back a request was made for Atlantian literature and we sent many manuscripts and ancient tablets to them. I knew that you didn't want that particular item sent, but one of my assistants made a mistake. It was sent. When I heard you were looking for it in here a few days back I have been looking for a copy.”
Tiber pinched the skin between his eyes and rubbed it for a moment while he controlled the need to throw this poor old man in the dungeon. After all he was only doing his job. “There is only one Atlantian Codex, it is against the law to copy it. If you found one than I would have to put you to death, so I guess you had better be glad you haven't found one yet.”
“Oh, thank you sir.” Spoth genuflected.
“Yes, fine.” Tiber let out a sigh and then asked, “Where was it sent?”
“Greystone City. The head librarian of the ancient library there made the request for all the literature. He was particularly interested in that codex, now that we speak of it. Perhaps he has some information about the ancient mysteries.” Spoth said this as if it would be celebrated by everyone.
Tiber gave Spoth a long, serious look and then turned quickly and left the library tower. “Tell the couriers that nothing is to be sent to Greystone without my approval from now on.”
“ once sire. What shall I do for now? Recall the books from the head librarian of Greystone?” Spoth stumbled over a pile of books as he attempted to follow the spry Emperor out of the tower.
Tiber stopped at the door and almost sneered back at the old fool, “No, for now you may just clean up this mess. I will take care of the codex.”

Jonathan grumbled as he thrummed his fingers across his desk. It had been six hours since they watched the Griffon get pulled down into that sandstorm. The storm was still raging and he was forced to sit here and wait for it to pass. Every half hour they adjusted their position so the slow moving storm didn't overtake them. Other than a strange hit on their radar right after the Griffon vanished, there had been nothing to do but wait.
“Sir?” A young soldier entered Jonathans office and stood at attention.
“Yes, what is it?”
The young man remained rigid while he gave his report. “Our scouts have still not uncovered any sign of the fugitives seen jumping from the ship before it vanished. We must assume they did not survive.”
Jonathan had a wicked smile cross his lips. He was bored and this boy just gave him something to do that he loved to do, make a young recruit sweat. “Oh, so now you are going to make the assumptions for me?”
“, sir. It is just the logical course of thinking.” The boy remained solid.
Jonathan got up and nonchalantly walked around his desk, “Oh, so you think that I need to have the logic spelled out for me then?” He heard the boy sputter as he attempted to answer that, but he didn't give him time. “You think that I cannot come to such simple conclusions myself? Am I so incompetent in your eyes that you need to draw conclusions on my behalf now?”
“Then are you saying that you gave me a false report then? Since I did not declare this logical assumption, you should be reporting that the search continues until I make that decision.”
“I...uh...meant no disrespect...uh I mean....the search is currently.....on hold. We....can continue....if you think that's best.”
Jonathan was overly enjoying the way this boy was now shaking all over as he attempted to hold his firm posture and not wet himself at the same time. “What do you think?” He asked this knowing full well that the boy was too scared to say what he thought about anything right now. He would be scared to say anything in case his commanding officer were to rebuff him again.
“I...I....” to his great joy a reprieve came to him. The royal watchglass lit up and a gong sound resounded throughout the room. This was a communication from the palace and even Jonathan couldn't do anything else but stop and answer it.
Jonathan looked back and nearly swore, he was having such fun and someone interrupted him. Knowing that it could be the only person in the entire Empire with the authority to command him he had to answer it. So he waved a hand at the boy and dismissed him without words. The poor junior officer nearly slammed into the door on his way out he rushed so hard to get away from this room.
Once the door was closed Jonathan locked it and then walked over to the wall where a large glass ball was resting on a pillow. The glass had a light green tint to it, but right now it was glowing on the inside with a spell that was cast upon it by the head librarian of the palace. Jonathan tapped the glass and it recognized him and lifted up from the pillow. Instantly the glass filled with a reflective image of the young emperor, and he didn't look pleased. Jonathan knelt down to the floor on one knee and bowed his head low. “Your highness.” was his response and he would hold this position until allowed to stand.
Emperor Tiber answered, “Stand and present.” which was the normal command, it allowed a soldier to stand up straight and look his commanding officer in the face.
Jonathan got back to his feet and asked, “What do you need?”
“Have you retrieved Steffen yet?”
Jonathan sort of glared toward a window that looked out over the billowing sand filled winds, “No. His ship was lost in a sand storm earlier today and we await an opportunity to go in and get him.”
“I am disappointed, you promised me that you would get him by now. What went wrong?”
Jonathan didn't sweat like his junior officers, for he knew how much this boy needed him. “My mistake was believing we could disguise our methods by sending out those foolish wanted papers to the underbelly of society. It blew up in my face. But, I was able to track Steffens ship and will have him as soon as this storm lifts.”
“We have other troubles.” Tiber stated clearly, “I am going to need you to abandon the pursuit of Steffen for now. I need to send you in to Greystone.”
“The old mountain town?” Jonathan was more than confused.
“Was I unclear about this?” Tiber barked back.
Jonathan didn't bat an eye, “I am sorry to question you, sir, but we are close to getting this Steffen and his map, surely we can wait long enough to get him before heading for Greystone?”
Tiber rubbed two fingers in between his eyes, “Trust me, Jonathan. I have reasons. You must get there as soon as you can and retrieve the Atlantian Codex from the ancient library.”
“The codex? What is it doing away from the palace?” Jonathan was surprised to hear this.
Tiber shook his head, “Spoth screwed up in trusting his foolish apprentices. The codex was mistakenly sent to Greystone and we need it back before they get any ideas.”
Jonathan now understood the urgency of this order. “At once, sir. Should we return it to the palace or keep it safe while we track down the map?”
“I want both here as soon as possible. Get the codex into your hands first, but once that is found, get Steffen. I trust you Jonathan, you will get this done with precision and scrutiny. I don't want anyone getting suspicious yet, we don't need any uprisings on our hands.”
Jonathan controlled the massive eye roll that wanted to come across right then. He was fully aware of what this boy was talking about, and that if their plans were discovered prematurely by the people, both he and Tiber could be lynched in front of the palace walls. But, he held in his annoyance and merely bowed his head, “I shall fulfill your commands to the best of my ability.” the ingrained response of every officer of Aldaria.
“Yes, you will.” Emperor Tiber replied and the ball went clear and rested once again on the pillow.
Jonathan stood there for a second and considered what they were up to. It was a massive undertaking, one that will alter the future of the world and touch the lives of millions. Not only that, they will be forced to hunt down and probably kill innocent people for this goal. It was a clear violation of his vows as an officer, but he wanted this outcome almost more than the boy emperor. His greed and lust for power won over his obedience to duty. “SOLDIER!” he barked loud enough to get the attention of the man stationed right outside his door. The door jostled and he remembered he had locked it. Unlocking it he let in the soldier who stood at attention. “Tell the helm to set a course for Greystone, as soon as the engines are ready we are to go.”
“Yes, sir.” the soldier bowed his head and then rushed to hand out the orders, never thinking to question this sudden change to their plans.
Jonathan stopped and looked back at the sand storm that had weakened slightly during that conversation. It would be nice if that storm stuck around long enough for them to go and get the codex and then come back and pick up the map, but that was unlikely. Greystone was on the other side of the mountains from here and they would have to get over Dragons Tooth pass and back which would take far too long for this storm. Oh well, it only meant extending the man hunt.

“Alright, first things first, what can you do?” Steffen stood on the deck of his small ship with Amara, Finn and Shadow. He was staring at the two newcomers to this crew.
“They'll probably get us killed.” Amara muttered.
Shadow shot her a sneer and then answered for himself. “Before I lose colony, I was woodworker.”
Steffen smiled warmly, “Good. Your job today is to inspect the ship's hull for any damage and help make repairs.”
“Can do.” Shadow nodded.
Finn leaned back and folded his arms across his chest, “I am a master at picking locks, pockets and girls. What do you think I can do for you?” he was purposefully being a jerk.
Amara scowled at him, “You can...” she was stopped by a big hand on her arm, Steffen knew that she would tell him which side of the ship to jump off.
Steffen cleared his throat and then answered, “I think your skills might prove very useful right now.”
Finn was honestly curious, “In what way?”
“We need to get away from here. The Sapphire is bound to catch up to us eventually and frankly I don't want to be caught in the middle of a fight between imperials and Blacksands. If you could manage to unlock the docking arms and the hanger door, we can slip out of here and get to Greystone.”
“Greystone?” Amara frowned at him, “That is over Dragon Tooth pass.”
Finn added, “And we are sort of sealed into this place. I can get this ship free of the Blacksand, trust me, but I don't think I can pick the lock of the mountain door that sealed behind us.”
Steffen smiled and shrugged, “Leave getting away from here to me.”
Amara liked that look on his face, it was handsome and strong. “Alright, lets get to work.”
Steffen walked with Amara toward the tiny engine room where he would make any repairs that were needed, and clean the sand out of the gears. Shadow started sniffing around the wood like a rat searching for cheese. He had a keen eye and clever wit when it came to wood working and this was a prime time for him to practice that skill. Finn stayed for a long moment before finally heading out to have a look at the docking arms.

The two Scarvian guards that brought this crew back to their ship both looked at one another and then hurried off to meet with their captain. Scarvians, being lizards, moved smoothly and stealthily Most humans were unnerved watching them move, it always appeared like they were hunting, but that was just the way they were. It also made them excellent crew members of a ship like this, they were fast, quiet and ruthless when the situation called for it.
When they got to the Captain on the bridge they stopped, bowed their heads for a second and then waited on her. Rose was seated at her command with her legs crossed and her hand up to her mousy mouth, delicately playing with her own lips. “What is it?” She hated being bothered while she daydreamed about her hunky crush.
One lizard spoke, “You wished to know if planning escape they are.”
“Well?” She asked while still playing with her lips.
“ Break free soon, they will.” the other answered.
Rose smiled staring at her hand, it was a lusty happy smile. “Good, then he remembers the way. I had wondered if he recalled the secret passage.”
“Captain?” One ventured.
She took a slow breath and then finally looked at them, “What?”
“Why captured them, have you?”
Rose uncrossed her legs and smiled even wider than normal. “Whatever do you mean? I have not captured them.”
“Lock their rooms, you ordered. Lock their ship down, you ordered?” One stated.
The other added, “Paid, we were, to bring them to Greystone.”
She leaned forward and patted one on the scaly cheek, “And, my lovely, that is exactly where they will end up.”
“Understand, I do not.”
Rose got up and walked passed them while she answered, “Sometimes it is nice to know that your lover has a healthy fear of you. The fact that he hasn't asked to leave yet, but instead chooses to break free, makes me know how much he loves me.” And there's that tinge of insanity.
“Oh.” Both said at the same time, as though they understood.
Rose laughed, “This baffles you Scarvians, I know. You have no notions about love in your kind, just mating and laying eggs. But, trust me, the game of love can be a violent and fun adventure, when played properly.” She bit her bottom lip thinking about how much fun it would've been to get Steffen alone just once.
“What now?” One of the Scarvians asked.
Rose turned around and donned a much more commanding appearance, “Now, we wait. Inform me when they break free and make a clean get away. Once they are clear we will head out, I don't care what Steffen says, I really really want to wreck that imperial ship.”
“Your orders, we will follow.” They bowed and then scurried off to silently watch her prey.

It had been two hours since Steffen started working on the engine. This old engine really was in need of repair, and if they were going to head through Blind Pass, they would need the engine in top shape. Or as good as this antique could muster.
Steffen's lower half was hanging out the side of the main engine as he cranked the bolt to get it into place. “AMARA, GIVE IT SOME THRUST!” He called out.
Amara shoved a lever forward and then pulled a cord on the engine to activate a part of it. It sputtered, rattled, and almost died. Then, all at once, a massive blast could be heard and a cloud of black smoke shot out from the hole Steffen was in. She was scared to death by this, “STEFFEN!”
“I'M ALRIGHT I JUST......NEED.....TO...TIGHTEN THAT....GOT IT! TRY IT AGAIN!” This time he was waving a hand out from inside the hole with a tool in it.
Amara only pulled the cord this time. It didn't do anything and she had to wind it back up and pull again, this time with a great yank and plop on the floor for her as she had knocked herself down in doing this. The engine didn't sputter or rattle, it came on as smooth as a kittens purr.
Steffen yelled out, “YAHOO! GOT IT!” with that he shoved himself out from under the engine and stood up. “Whew, that's done. I have been meaning to replace that gear box for nearly a year now. We wouldn't do well with it in the condition it was....what are you laughing at.” He couldn't ignore the way she was snickering into her hand while she covered her face in a bad attempt to hide this.
Amara looked up and down his beefy body, or really the black smoke layer that had covered him. “You look like my uncle, his fur was just that color.”
Steffen took the opportunity to show off, he held up his arms and flexed out. “I bet he didn't have this to show off.” In a juvenile act he actually kissed a bicep.
Amara scoffed and poked him in the stomach, “Stop showing off.”
Steffen gave off an overacted 'oof” and held his stomach, “Hey, watch the claws there.”
Amara threw a towel at him, “Says the man whose skin can deflect swords.”
Steffen started wiping off the soot and dust, “Hey, doesn't mean it don't hurt.”
“I have always wondered if that impenetrable skin is ticklish.”
Steffen, a touch oblivious to what she was planning at that moment, said the wrong thing. “Oh, you have no idea how ticklish I am.....” now he saw the look on her face and the fact she was holding up her tail with the tufted end prepared, “Whoa, wait just a minute, you absolutely cannot....get away from me!” he ran around the room as she chased him with her tail.
At that moment of levity Finn walked in and snarled at this sickening scene. “Hey, if you two are done with the engine we really should get the heck out of here.”
Steffen stopped running and was nearly knocked over when Amara ran right into him. He helped her up and then asked, “What's happened?”
Finn answered, “Nothing yet, but as I have been working I noticed a pair of those lizard guards watching us closely. I don't know what they are planning, but I doubt we will be left alone for much longer.”
“Are we ready to leave?” Steffen asked the lock picker.
Finn nodded, “Yes. Every single latch has been tampered with. You start the engine and the arms will break loose before they can seal us down. As for the doors below, I fixed it so that if a single bolt hits them, they will open.”
Amara asked, “Are you going to throw something at them to open them?”
“No.” he stated as though this should be plain for anyone to understand. “When those arms break, one is going to fall and open the doors. Boom.” he gestured with his hands like doors opening.
“Great work.” Steffen started walking for the steps, expecting Finn to go on ahead.
Finn didn't move just yet, he had one more thing to say. “This is a one time opportunity. If we don't get out of here, they will lock us down permanently and I doubt we will get a second chance. That Rose will put us all in her dungeon, well you'll probably be chained up in her bedroom, but the rest of us will rot in this ships belly.” he was well aware of Rose's flirtations during dinner.
Steffen didn't like the sound of that. “Good point. Well, lets make sure that the first time works.” Now they all left the engine room and got out onto the main deck.
Shadow came up quickly and reported, “The wood marked badly by storm, need work. But, nothing bad. It will hold.”
Steffen smiled and walked over to the helm, “Good, very good. Now, I want you to hold onto something and be prepared for a wild ride.”
Finn had to ask, “I am still unsure about all of this. We can get out of this hanger, but that mountain door is sealed tight.”
“Yes, it is. But, we aren't going through that door. Listen, you are going to have to trust me on this one, I don't have time to explain anything else. Finn, Amara, get on that pull cord and be ready to start the engine, Shadow when I tell you, pull the main lever to move the air screw.”
Shadow ran over to the large lever that opened the engine compartment and lifted the airscrew into place. Amara and Finn both got a good grip on the cord that would start the screw spinning.
Steffen looked around to make sure no one was watching. Though he hated doing this, he had to trust that elf did his job and they won't just destroy their own ship. “On my mark......NOW SHADOW!”
Shadow took a deep breath and then shoved the large lever over. The doors to the engine compartment parted and the screw started to lift up. Where they were it was not going to get very far.
“ALRIGHT, NOW AMARA, FINN!” He called out and the two at the cord gave it a massive yank with all of their strength. The screw started spinning. It was not wise to activate the screw before it was fully deployed, but they didn't have time for standard procedures.
The screws spinning rattled the ship enough to jostle the holding arms. To Steffens great relief the arm nearest him broke free, then the next, and then two more. In seconds the Griffon was floating free of the holding arms, but sinking fast toward the bay doors. The doors below were not coming apart as was promised.
Steffen looked over the side and called out, “FINN!?”
Finn ran to the side and looked down, “Damn!” He had expected one of the arms to fall and bang the doors open for he had unscrewed some of its bolts. “SHADOW! JUMP UP!” He yelled out and his friend knew exactly what he wanted. Shadow knelt down and put his hands together. Finn ran at him and put his foot into Shadows hands and was thrust upward into the door. Finn got to the deck floor and ran over to the unscrewed arm. Grabbing a pipe leaning against the wall he swung hard and hit the arm three times, the third swing was enough to break it free and it fell down, scraping down the side of the Griffon but doing no significant damage. The arm landed on the doors and they were flung open by the impact.
Unfortunately the Griffon was now getting too low for Finn to get back. “HEY!”
“AMARA!” Steffen yelled and she came running to him. He gave her the controls and then ran to the side of the ship. “JUMP!”
“Your funeral.” Finn stated and then took a flying leap off the side of the dock and headed for Steffen.
Steffen got him in a bear hug and both went tumbling down. It was a directed tumble to keep either from serious injury. Once they stopped Steffen still had a grip on Finn.
Finn pushed back on Steffen, “You can let go.”
Steffen let got of him and then got up, “You're welcome.” he shot back as sarcastic as possible.
“Steffen?” Amara was watching them lower into the darkness of the cavern below the Blacksand.
Steffen hurried back to her and grabbed the controls. “Alright, this is going to get very, very dark. I want everyone to get below deck and hold onto something fastened down.”
“What?” Finn asked, with a bit of worried anger in his voice.
“If you want to stay I can drop you on their deck.” Steffen gave his offer.
“Fine, just don't kill us.” Finn was as sour as ever.
Everyone, save Steffen, got below deck and then held on for dear life. Steffen pressed a button near the navigation controls and a lamp lit up at the bow of the ship. It was hardly enough light for this kind of darkness, but it was enough for him. Taking one last moment to gather his courage he finally shoved the helm forward and the ship blasted off into the darkness of the cave. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

What it means to be an Author

Recently I was speaking with someone and the conversation came around to me telling her that I am an author. She smiled and eagerly replied, “Wow, that must be so exciting!” It got me thinking. A lot of people outside of the authoring world look at us and think that we are all just like the heroes of fiction writing that they have seen in the movies and on the news. We spend our time at snobby parties, going to exotic places to get material, or sitting in luxurious rooms with our coffee and a computer so we can pen our next bestseller. Worst of all, they think we make money at it somehow.
This may not be the case for you because you know the truth, or you just don't have this illusion. But, I fear it is the case for far too many people. I want to tell you what it is like being an author from my perspective. It is like being:

A Hermit: A good number of authors spend a lot of time alone. This may be actual time alone or just being that person sitting in the corner of a coffee shop staring off in the distance for hours. In either case you are truly alone. You spend hours, days, even years working on that novel and making it so that you would be willing to allow an editor/beta readers to look at it. You hate when someone breaks into your alone time, you like your alone time and others just don't seem to get that being alone as an author is not painful or sad. It is our life.

A prideful parent: Yes, we know that we aren't perfect and that what we write needs work. It might need that technical touch that will make it readable. Or it might need that story touch up to help it read better and make sense. Do we like any criticisms of our work, no matter how small or how helpful they are? NO! Do we understand that you are just trying to be kind? Yes....but at first NO! Just like that parent who will not abide any critique of their child, no matter how needed or full of truth it might be. Authors are defensive of the babies they spent years making, feeding, caring for, loving, nurturing, and praying that one day will leave the nest and be a success.

A gambling addict: Yes, I said it. Authors are like gambling addicts. This one is particularly important for me to explain. You see, as an author I am required to ask for someone else to look at my work and then hopefully publish it. Or, in the case of an agent, decide to represent it to publishers. The trick is most of the time you ask you get a no so you must try again. It can take years. You buy that first ticket, you send in your submission to the first agent. You have read his/her requirement for submission and you are more than confident that your work is a PERFECT fit for them. You get up the next morning expecting that contract to be waiting for you in your mailbox. Nothing happens. Weeks pass, months walk by, then you finally receive a rejection notice. A form email that just says, no. You are crushed but you aren't broken. You search again, submit again, and feel that surge of confidence. You didn't win off that last ticket, but his time is the one, it HAS to be. You wait, wait, wait, and then boom....rejection. Again, your spirit is crushed and now beginning to truly crack. But, you are addicted. You have done more research in the interim and you know more about how to submit and what you probably did wrong. It certainly can't be your work, it has to be the way you're writing to that agent or publisher. So, you pen a better, cleaner, more professional letter and submit again. You wait and wait, then you receive yet another form rejection. You go through this process over and over. Each time there is a broken heart, there is a surge of hope, confidence is there with each submission, but that confidence is taking a beating with each form rejection. For some reason you simply cannot quit. You refuse to admit that you don't have what it takes, your work is as good as ever and you are going to make it. Those old, worn out, faded tickets from lotteries past clutter your room, your money and time have been a waste, you have aged faster than you ever thought possible. Yet, for all this, you still go out and purchase that ticket for the chance, the one chance in a billion, that it will be you who hits it big with the next one.

To make matters worse. As you gamble away your life, others are winning each time and you fight hard not to get bitter. Not to turn into the green eyed monster. Not to allow yourself to curse them for their success that should be yours. It isn't fair to them, and it certainly isn't what you should be doing, but those feelings well up each time someone ELSE wins and it wasn't you. This only makes you buy more tickets and keep the hope up, regardless of the true hopelessness of the situation.

In the end you have wasted a lot of time and money, and for what? Nothing. Some of the people you have submitted to don't even take the time to send you back a form rejection letter. You vow to give up, to go clean and never again buy another ticket. But, your friends encourage you to keep up the hope. You think that they should be forming an intervention by now, but instead they are forming a cheer squad for your addiction. So, the cycle continues on and on.

What I have described in these three attributes, especially the last, is the truth behind 99% of all authors out there. We all contain a thread of hope that is started out strong enough to pull the QE2 but now is so small that it looks to break at any moment. Yet for all its weakness, it still holds up and pulls you back.

The moral of this story: When someone tells you they are an author. Do not judge them on their success, do not assume success, just understand that they are doing what they love. Encourage them, but understand their plight.