Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Collaborative storytelling - The Enchantress of Tanglewood (Part II)

Rules: Read the episode below. Then VOTE in the Twitter poll, linked below, with your choice on how you think the story should continue.

To read PART I of the three parts, read HERE.

VOTES from Part I tied for having the main character "Use a Wiccan Spell" and "Appeal to the Entity" (The last paragraph of Part I is repeated for continuity)....

(Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay)

A fog formed around the thicket and coalesced around limb and leaf. The corpus of an entity emerged, its long limbs reticulating from downed wood. Its skin and breasts composed of the bark of trunks. Its long hair was formed of moss and lichen. And then it opened its eyes. Portals of darkness that swallowed Tarynn's attention. With words that spoke with the whisper of wind through the canopy, it said, "You have trespassed," and reached toward Tarynn.

But Tarynn was prepared. No stranger to the paranormal, she had grown up in the ways of Wiccan practice, her mother a high priestess in the local coven. Quickly Tarynn reached into her pack, rummaged past her mushroom bag, snacks, and a butane lighter, and produced a robin egg and a branch of mistletoe. She cracked the egg and let the yolk run upon the end of the mistletoe. Using the mistletoe to flick the yolk toward the entity, then rotating to each of the cardinal points of the compass, Tarynn called out, "By the Horned God, he who is the Holly King, I entreat protection from the forces of nature that threaten me. Protect me, my God!"

She flicked the mistletoe again, and continued, "And to the Mother Goddess, she who is maiden, mother, and crone, come to my aid and protect me! Envelop me in your light!"

As she chanted, Tarynn kept a wary eye on the entity. The entity did not retreat. It stood there, her lichen hair waving in a breeze that Tarynn could not feel. But its mouth moved in a smirk as Tarynn called to her gods.

Tarynn finished her spell, then stared at the entity. All fell quiet. She no longer thought of mushrooms. She only wanted to escape the entity and its woods.

"I … I  demand passage out!" Tarynn finally said.

"You may demand nothing," the entity rasped. "I am the Enchantress of Tanglewood." It stepped closer, its woody legs and feet crackling as it moved, lithely stepping across the forest floor until it was face-to-face with Tarynn. "What makes you think I am not in league with your horned god, girl?"

Tarynn held her breath, unsure what to say. She dropped the mistletoe and decided to change her approach. She got down on one knee and bowed her head.

"Forgive me," Tarynn said. "I did not realize I had trespassed. I ask your forgiveness. I only wanted to hunt for mushrooms." She looked up to the entity. "Will you show me the way out?"

The Enchantress leaned over and placed a soothing hand upon Tarynn's cheek. "Your spell was not in vain, child, for I AM in league with your horned god. Here he is the Green God. But I have my own price for you to pay before you achieve your freedom. I shall transform you into the likeness of a mountain lion, and you shall do my bidding!"

The Enchantress waved her birchbark hands, whispering arcane words in a chant. A fog formed around them both. As Tarynn looked into the fathomless eyes of the entity, she began to feel a tingling sensation inside of her and knew she was changing….

How should Tarynn respond in the conclusion of this story?

  • Let the Sorceress transform her and do her bidding
  • Fight the Sorceress and interrupt the spell
  • Make a run for it
  • Use her butane lighter to start a forest fire

 --> Cast your vote HERE by the end of the month.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

My first author event!

Last Friday I had my first author event, and I couldn't be happier!

The last Friday of each month is the Art Walk event in Cottage Grove, Oregon. Bookmine, one of three book stores on Main Street in that lovely little town, tries to feature a local author for each event.
Reading aloud from my book (photo by Mike Janes)

The owner, Gail, is a very pleasant lady and made a nice boutonniere for me. She's also been selling my book, Around the Corner from Sanity, there on consignment.

This particular Art Walk had a low attendance, generally. Perhaps because it immediately followed Christmas, or perhaps it wasn't well-advertised. But there were still a fair number of people who came in the store. I had great conversations with them, including one nice fellow who works for Amazon and bought a copy of my book. He was very interested in how my experience self-publishing on Amazon has been ("Generally very favorable," I told him). [HERE is my Amazon author page]

My book, Around the Corner from Sanity,
 on the shelf at Kalapuya book store
in Cottage Grove.
And I got to do a dramatic reading to a small audience. That was great fun! I read the first half of the story "Purgatory's Price" from my book, narrating in dramatic style, of course! One guy laughed and laughed. It was marvelous!

Afterward I took a few moments to check on my sales in the neighboring store, Kalapuya Books, too. It's always great fun to see my books on the shelf!

I'm definitely looking forward to my next author event, wherever that may be.

Cheers and happy reading!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Top 10 gifts for writers

Bitmoji Image
So you have a writer in your life and it's time to get them a gift. Sure, they like much the same sort of things as anyone else, but you want something that appeals to their gift of writing, right?

The great news is that, outside of a computer, paper, and printer, and maybe some nice pens or journals, their material needs are pretty simple that way, and they probably already have those things. So what else can you do?

Whatever the occasion, the great news is that most of the things you can give them or do for them are free!

So here are the top 10 things that I think a writer wants most:

10. Buy their book or read whatever they wrote
Seems like a no-brainer, right? It doesn't matter if it's not your genre ("Sorry, but I'm just not into Old West scifi romances."), or you're put off by that double negative in the very first paragraph, or you don't like the scruffy nerfherder character that's introduced in the second chapter. For a writer, every time a page is turned it's an endorphin rush. (And nothing is more crushing to a writer than having their work ignored by the ones they love!). Yes, you may need to plunk down a little money to buy the book, but it's probably no more expensive than a fast food meal and tons more entertaining!

9. Compliment them 
After you've read their work, thank them for sharing their work and tell them what parts were your favorites. See their faces light up as you remind them that their writing isn't total sh*t and they aren't an impostor. We can't all be Stephen King or Louisa May Alcott, but surely some scene in that book that took them years to write touched you in a way that made a lasting impression, right? This gift is free!

8. Leave a review
If they published a book and you read it, then by all means leave a review on their Amazon page (or wherever it is posted online) and on review sites like Goodreads. It only takes a few minutes to click five stars, write up a quick few lines about how the book was awesome, and click "publish". And, yeah, it's free. For a writer, seeing that someone has liked your writing enough to share it with the world is "better than medicine" (as my grandma used to say - and she was a writer, too!).

7. Gift their book to someone
Yeah, that means you have to spend a little money. But you're buying a gift for someone anyway, right? Books are awesome gifts! And by doing this, you've gifted TWO people for the price of one (since the writer will get a small part of the price as a royalty, not to mention their eternal thanks for sharing their masterpiece!).

6. Ask them to sign their book
Doing a book signing for a writer is like putting a camera on an actor. It validates their worth as a writer and acknowledges they've done something valuable. Plus, this way we can pretend that in 50 years it will become a rare commodity after we've hit the big time!

5. Follow them on social media
Most writers who are serious about their craft will have a presence on social media. Chances are you are one of the one billion people who are on Facebook, 330 million people on Twitter, 800 million people on Instagram, or 291 million on Pinterest. Maybe even all of these. It only takes a moment to go to their pages and click "Follow" or "Like". One of the first things a potential agent does when considering whether to pick up the author is to look at the number of followers they have on these platforms. Click "share" or "heart" or "like" on their posts, too. And, yup, it's free and easy to just click that button!

4. Visit their blog and/or webpage
Most authors have an online presence with a webpage and/or a blog. It takes time and skill to make a webpage attractive and useful and to populate the page with information to help them sell their writing. Their blog, too, has articles and entries that they write -- another outlet for their writing -- that you can read and comment on. Simply visiting the page gives them a higher "visit" count that makes the page move up in the rankings. Oh, and if they have ads on their page, click them. It will earn them a few cents. None of this costs you anything, and you just may be entertained and informed by it.

3. Ask a bookstore to carry their book
If they are a published author, it can be difficult to get local bookstores to actually carry the book on their shelves, especially if the author is self-published or an indie author. Asking the bookstore manager or purchaser to please consider carrying it, because you're a fan, will get the author on their radar, and maybe they will actually sell the book in the bookstore because of it. It's worked for me! And other than a little bit of time to call or visit the bookstore, it's free to you!

2. Caffeine
Most of us writers have dayjobs, children, the usual stresses and chaos in our lives, like everyone else. Yet somehow we find the time and energy to write. I tend to write late at night. Some writers do it early in the morning. Or during the lunch break. But we're tired. Lordy, we're tired! We often give up sleep for this passion. So give us the gift of caffeine. Offer us a nice hot mug of coffee or tea. Maybe even splurge a little and get it from a good coffee shop, eh? Yeah, there's a little cost involved in this one, but unless you're importing the coffee direct from Juan Valdez and his donkey, Conchita, then chances are you can afford it. Heck, throw in some chocolate while you're at it...

1. Time!
Speaking of that hectic life... with the dayjob, children, etc, there is precious little time left to sit down, clear the mind, and focus on typing away on our keyboards, lost in our strange little worlds, or staring off into space while imagining the plots of our stories, or holding conversations with our imaginary friends. And all too often that little bit of time is interrupted by the kid running in and wanting to play, or the spouse asking why the trash wasn't taken out yet, or the phone ringing. Trust me when I tell you it is incredibly frustrating not to be able to write. Give the gift of time by allowing the writer in your life an hour or two (or more!) every day to focus, undisturbed, and create the next masterpiece. It costs nothing at all other than a little bit of patience and an understanding that you are still more important to them. Writing is art, and art requires focus and passion. They will be happier and more relaxed afterward, and their writing will be better quality, too!

And, um, do these things for me too, okay?  ;)

Cheers and happy reading!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Listen to an excerpt of Into the Ruined Lands

Recently I published a fantasy short story entitled "Into the Ruined Lands," on Amazon.  In the story, two teen girls go on an adventure in the dangerous volcanic Ruined Lands to find a healing herb, which will be given to the mysterious Old Mother Aya to make a healing potion and save the life of one of their younger sisters.

But the Ruined Lands are extremely dangerous, risking their lives to dangerous beasts, volcanic eruptions, or harsh geography. And girls are forbidden to go on such adventures. They risk the ire of their fathers and the condemnation of their culture.

Once again, Overwrite Podcast has generously agreed to read an excerpt. Click below to listen to this exciting moment in the story.

Did that get your interest? If so, click HERE to download the short story for just $.99.

Overwrite Podcast has read two other excerpts of my stories in the recent past. One (HERE) was from my fantasy book in-progress, Footman of the Ether, highlighting a magical animal called a "guise cat." The other (HERE) was an excerpt of the big action scene from my story "Rabbit Cry," where a woman is running from a murderous teen who has aroused supernatural forces, from my published book of paranormal stories, Around the Corner from Sanity.

Cheers and happy reading!

Monday, December 9, 2019

OFFICIAL RELEASE of Into the Ruined Lands - a fantasy short story

Yay! Another release!

INTO THE RUINED LANDS is a short story (really a novelette), just for Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. It is the first in a series of stories, set in the world of Irikara. Others will be published very soon.

Into the Ruined Lands tells the story of two girls, Talay and Shaali, who live in an patriarchal society that frowns on girls being self-assertive or adventurous. But Shaali's younger sister has a wasting disease, and treatments by clerics have done nothing.

So the girls turned to the mysterious Old Mother Aya, who is rumored to be a witch. The crone instructs the girls to go on a quest to the Ruined Lands, a volcanic wasteland to the west, to pick a flowering plant called sulfur wort -- a necessary ingredient for a healing potion.

But the Ruined Lands are dangerous, even for seasoned warriors, with volcanoes, volcanic gases, desert-like conditions, and horrifying beasts. Will the girls survive? And if they do, what punishment awaits them at home?

Read it HERE!

Cheers and happy reading!

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My review of Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden

Are You Listening?Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This graphic novel had a lot of unexpected turns. It was surprisingly moving, as it touched on important emotions.

Two young women unexpectedly come together as they seek to escape their lives and problems back home. Through beautiful graphics and dialogue, Walden portrays their emotional fragility as they travel through Texas, but through strange terrain and sometimes spooky moments. They also come across a lost cat, which turns out to have unexpected powers, and attempt to take it back to its home. There were times when I was a little lost about what the story was trying to tell me, such as by unexplained panels, or dialogue that wasn't fully fleshed out. But in a way I think Walden wants us to be a little lost, like the characters, so it worked. Be aware that there are a couple moments of "tough" content related to sexual identity and sexual assault. Though it isn't in any way graphic and is presented in a meaningful and thoughtful way, just be aware that this book may not be for the youngest readers or those who are easily triggered by such content. In the end, I think both characters come out of the experience a bit wiser about themselves and each other, though you are left with a bit of longing and worry for them.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

OFFICIAL RELEASE of How Cold the Steel Hand - a robot story

I've just published a science fiction short story, and it's awesome.

Does technology make you feel more connected?
Are you sure?

HOW COLD THE STEEL HAND examines the juxtaposition of technology in how it can bring us together and yet give us a false sense of personal connection.

"Wow! Just...wow! What an incredible heartwarming and heart-wrenching story that is set in the future...! A short, but amazing read!" - Quoth the Writer Book Reviews & More @qtwreviews

Read it HERE.

In the not-so-distant future of this short story, telepresence droids, or "teledroids," are used in homes to interact with others, in battle as surrogate soldiers, or to visit far away locales. Gary Feltman is a young surgical specialist working from his compudesk in Chicago, performing surgeries via teledroid on patients across the globe. His important work and medical studies require constant focus and pull his attention away from family. Yet while he is connecting to others and saving their lives, the very same technology is shunned by his beloved Uncle Wallis, who lies dying from a cancer that Gary could have cured with his techniques. What would drive his uncle to make such a choice?

And in a world where technology is supposed to bring us together, why can't Gary seem to connect?
The cover image is from a local Eugene artist and roboticist, Gray Eldritch

Cheers and happy reading!

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