Traazorite Crusaders Kickstarter

Traazorite rider

The Keshark is the freeband’s leader, mounted on a Velozar.

I want to give my friends over at DGS Games a shout out for their Traazorite Crusaders kickstarter campaign. DGS Games is a small business that produces high quality miniatures for Freeblades, a fantasy skirmish game set in the vibrant world of Faelon.

In Freeblades, there is no good and evil, there are only the choices you make. Can you successfully kidnap the rich merchant, will you defeat the rampaging beast, can you fight your way through demons to close witchgates before your opponent, or do you simply wish to drive your opponent from the field of battle? These are only a few of the missions you may find yourself engaged in. Freeblades features league style play as well, allowing your freeband to grow as you acquire gold, and its members to gain experience and become more powerful or become injured and even die from their wounds.

sunbringer

My personal favorite, the Sunbringer.

The kickstarter project’s main objective is to fund the creation and production of the new Traazorite faction models for use in the tabletop skirmish game, Freeblades. Since the release of the Freeblades rule book in 2012, 8 of the 17 factions that live in Faelon have been produced. Your backing will help DGS Games expand their very exciting product line, taking the Traazorite Crusaders from concept art, to masterful sculptures and then into production to be delivered to customers like you.

AND – There are great gifts for all contributors! Pledge just $6 and you’ll receive one of the new Traazorite miniatures. Pledge more and you can choose from several expanded gift options, such as Women of Faelon, a collection of 19 female fantasy miniatures.

Visit DGS Games kickstarter page to find out more about the figures being developed for the Traazorite faction, and please consider making a pledge. This is a great small business, and they deserve your support!

Looking over the precipice. Again.

1a904-468px-caspar_david_friedrich_032I still remember the first time I shared a chapter of Eolyn with a writers group. I was as nervous as nervous can be. I didn’t know much about writing back then, so I had good reason to be worried. Still, my goals were modest at the time. All I really wanted to know was whether my little story might be interesting to someone besides me. The idea of publishing hadn’t quite crept into my brain, but it would soon.

As I began to engage more with writers groups and strengthen my craft, I harbored a hope that someday, when I had a better handle on what this writing thing was all about, showing my stories to others would become easier. In a sense, it has. I have more confidence in myself, and more strategies for letting less useful critiques, including outright negativity, wash over me.

But the vulnerability of that first moment, when I expose a new work-in-progress to the wider world, hasn’t changed one bit.

I relived this truth just last week, when I unveiled the first scenes of The Hunting Grounds to one of my writers groups. This is the fourth novel I’ve written, and yes, I’m still nervous on opening night! Even in a low stakes situation, with a group that is a proven safe space for new ideas and lousy first drafts.

Anxiety of this sort seems universal for all writers, no matter how skilled or experienced they are. The reasons are straightforward. It’s not about sentence structure, dialogue, or descriptive passages. It’s not about whether we’ve put in too many commas or cleaned up all the typos. It’s not about the soundness of our character arcs, or the overuse of cliches.

We get nervous because each one of our stories reflects a piece of our soul. It might be a small piece, it might be a large piece, but it’s soul, the deepest expression of who we are.

It’s not easy to carve out a piece of our soul and put it under the harsh light for everyone to see. This is one of the reasons why, even when I see and comment on serious issues in style and delivery, I always try to respect the author’s story, as well as the courage she had in putting it out there.

To my relief, the first scenes of The Hunting Grounds got a very positive response from my writers group. In fact, it was the most positive response I’ve seen on a first draft in a long time. That made me happy, and boosted my confidence for…Oh, I don’t know, about three days? Right up until it was time to post the next scene, at which point my confidence plummeted, and the anxiety started all over again.

It just goes to show that some things in a writer’s life never change.

They never change, that is, as long as you write from the heart.

 

Old Friends, New Moments

flamenco-female-dancer-silhouette-with-raised-right-arm_318-56498Sometimes I envy writers who understand all their characters before they begin a story. While I know a lot about my characters by the time I sit down to write, there is much more that I discover in the process of crafting their journey.

This is especially true of minor characters. Every minor character brings their own unique and rich history. While much of that history won’t be revealed in the novel at hand, every author worth her salt understands the importance of knowing the backgrounds of minor characters. It’s the blending of history, experience, and personality that determines a character’s motivation, their action, or non-action, in any given moment. And the actions of minor characters are often critical in driving a story’s outcome.

A friend once told me that he knew how each of his characters was going to die, whether or not that death was meant to happen in the story at hand. That comment stuck with me, and I’ve since found that knowing how a character dies does, somehow, illuminate the patterns of their life. This is somehow mysterious and counter-intuitive, but in the realm of story telling, it seems to be true.

Editing the second edition of Eolyn gave me a great opportunity to go back to early days of some of my minor characters, and to consider them in a new light, given all I’d learned about them while writing books 2 & 3 – including, in some cases, how they die.

Today, I’m sharing a scene, a sneak preview of the new novel, that features one of my minor characters, Renate.

Renate appears in book one as the dance mistress for Mage Corey’s Circle. She’s advanced in age, though not old, and she carries a dark burden, the details of which are never fully revealed. We do know that Renate trained as a maga under the Old Orders, and that she survived the purges by giving up her magic. Whether she also cooperated in hunting down her sisters is unclear, but she is haunted by guilt over their violent deaths.

I recently “discovered” Renate in a video by the group Iron and Wine; her personality is captured in the mistress of the flamenco dancers who interpret the song Boy with a Coin. The attitude, the grace, the severe expression; all of it is exactly how I envisioned Renate while writing these novels. I’m embedding this video at the end of the post, so you can see a little of Renate for yourself.

In the first edition of Eolyn, Renate did not have a proper opening scene of her own. Her first appearance consists of an argument with Mage Corey, described in three short sentences, almost an after thought on my part. When I came to this moment in the novel, I thought, “Renate deserves better than that.” So, this is what I gave her instead. Here we see Renate for the first time, from Mage Corey’s point of view. I hope you enjoy the scene.

Eolyn (Second Edition), Excerpt from Chapter 16

“Have you gone completely mad?” Renate cried, bursting into Corey’s tent the day after he hired Eolyn. “Putting that girl in your magic show?”

“I’ve been seeking an assistant for some time,” Corey replied evenly.

“She’ll be on the pyre within a week, and the rest of us may very well burn with her.”

“She will not do any magic.”

“Even the illusion of magic could—”

“She will not perform any illusions.”

“Curse you, Corey! I am so weary of the risks you take.”

“You are free to withdraw from the Circle any time you please, Renate.”

Renate set her lips in a thin line. Corey knew well the terror he invoked whenever he suggested she leave. Nothing waited for Renate outside the Circle, save solitude and fear, the unending torment of all her ghosts from the past.

Renate’s tone softened. “Corey, please. She’s just a child. Don’t make her your toy in this.”

Toy? Was that what Renate thought?

“I can’t imagine what you expect to gain from this folly,” Renate insisted, “but that girl, that beautiful, innocent girl, could lose her life. Is that a fair price for your amusement?”

Corey could not very well argue with that.

Well, he could, but why upset Renate more than necessary?

~*~

Like what you see? Read more! Eolyn will be released on March 31, and is available now for pre-order on Kindle.

And here’s the video I promised:

Back in the Saddle

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At First Friday in the West Bottoms last week.I’m down to my last copies of the old edition of EOLYN.

The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity, in part due to prep for the upcoming release of the second edition of Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web. We’re at the two-month horizon, and this means an important set of deadlines. Advanced reading copies (ARCs) must be sent out for review, on-line tours and blitzes must be booked, and if you’re smart, now is the time for pre-order options to appear on Amazon and elsewhere.

We’ve a couple more pieces left before everything is 100% ready for the launch, but I’m very happy with the schedule we’ve kept. There’s a positive energy about this whole endeavor. Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t help but think something good this way comes.

Still, it’s been kind of a scary time. Those of you who are privy to my inner circle know by now that I’ve decided to let go of my contracts with Hadley Rille Books. This was one of the toughest decisions I’ve made as an author, in part because HRB was such a good home for me for so long. But as I finished the third book and began to consider how to roll out Eolyn’s saga as a cohesive trilogy, it became more and more apparent that it was time for a fresh start.

The traditional publishing route still appeals to me. I’ve queried agents and new publishers, and will continue to do so going forward. But even as I’ve queried, I’ve been hatching a parallel plan. That plan includes releasing the second edition of Eolyn under my own micro press this spring.

So here I am, taking my first brave step into the world of self-publishing.

Self-publishing has changed a lot since I signed my first contract with HRB all those years ago. Back then, it was seen as the last resort of the desperate, or the first resort of the lazy. Now, self-published works make up a significant part of the market, and everyone seems to be taking independent authors more seriously.

For any author who has the skill set, motivation, and tenacity to oversee the entire publishing process, self-publishing can be a very attractive option. While I’m keenly aware a traditional publisher can offer certain things I won’t be able to do on my own, I have to confess I like the autonomy I’ve felt these past few weeks. There’s much to be said for having so much creative control over my own project.

As we’ve prepared for the release of the second edition, I’ve also learned some very important things about myself. First and foremost, I am much more confident as an author. I know more about the market than I did five years ago. As a result, I believe in my product in a way that I didn’t before. I am telling a story that needs to be told, from a perspective that isn’t explored very often. And I tell this story very well.

I wasn’t so sure about that five years ago, on the eve of the release of the first edition of Eolyn. Though I had written a fantasy, I wasn’t all that familiar with the genre, and I didn’t have a clear sense of my place within it. That’s changed now, giving me the sort of confidence I need to publish and market my own novel in my own way.

I’m not sure where this new path will lead in the long run, except perhaps, to new stories. Maybe the second edition of Eolyn will sell better than the first. Maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll pick up some new readers. Maybe I won’t.

But however I evaluate this experience six or twelve or more months down the line, I hope I can remember the sense of fulfillment I had on this day, when I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing.

First Friday in the West Bottoms

cc371-dsc07458This weekend, I will join twenty-two other area authors for First Friday in Kansas City’s historic West Bottoms. Rachel Ellyn, Andy Attwood, Aaron Hollingsworth, and Dennis Young are just a few of the many Kansas City storytellers who will be on hand to sign books and share their stories with Warehouse Weekend patrons.

Books in the Bottoms will also feature authors who note West Bottoms’ storied past and other regional true stories, such as Terence O’Malley’s works about organized crime, Tom Pendergast, Harry Truman, and Nelly Don, the world-renowned dressmaker in her time.

8b9c7-edthewizardcrop2The event includes fourteen different stores and shops in the West Bottoms, and will run from 9am to 4pm on Friday, February 4, and Saturday, February 5.

I encourage you to visit all the stores and meet as many authors as possible, but if you’re looking for me, I’ll be at Top Hat Mercantile on Saturday morning and Behind the Vintage Door Saturday afternoon.  In addition to having copies of the first editions of Eolyn and High Maga, I’ll be telling stories about my great-great grandfather, whose magic show was the talk of the town back in 19th century Kansas City.

For more information about the event, including a map and a complete list of authors, visit the West Bottoms web site.

Hope to see you there!

Cover Reveal: EOLYN, Book 1 of THE SILVER WEB

Eolyn cover flat2 reduced 1 22 16

In a land ravaged by civil war, the Mage King Kedehen initiates a ruthless purge of the magas. Eolyn, last daughter of the magas and sole heiress to their millennial tradition of magic, seeks refuge in the South Woods.

When she meets the mysterious Akmael, heir to the throne of this violent realm, she embarks upon a path of hope, seduction, betrayal, and war. Desire draws Eolyn toward Akmael’s dark embrace, but fate binds her to Corey of East Selen, a cunning mage whose ambition challenges the limits of love and loyalty.

Can she trust either man?

Hunted in a realm of powerful mages and brutal deceptions, Eolyn must find her own path to freedom or she will burn on the pyre.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes, with a romantic thread.” –Publisher’s Weekly

“Masterfully written.” –The Kindle Book Review

Cover art and design by Thomas Vandenberg.

Anticipated release: March 31, 2016 (Kindle edition)

Pre-Order your copy today!