Yeah, that’s right, Eternal bounced back up to NUMBER FREAKING ONE on Amazon in the LGBT Scifi category. Yeah, okay, it’s only going like hotcakes because it’s free, but still, NUMBER FREAKING ONE!!! Four days now. Woohoo!
Yeah, that’s right, Eternal bounced back up to NUMBER FREAKING ONE on Amazon in the LGBT Scifi category. Yeah, okay, it’s only going like hotcakes because it’s free, but still, NUMBER FREAKING ONE!!! Four days now. Woohoo!
I’m heading into the final stages of editing my overgrown story Firestorm, which means I’ve had someone read it and give feedback. This is an important process, I know. And it helps improve the final outcome, especially when one is self-publishing. Being a solitary writer can sometimes feel like shouting out into a vacuum, wondering if anyone will ever hear. At least that’s how it feels to me.
But this time the feedback made me realize it might be easier to go it alone sometimes. Wow. Made me feel like the shittiest writer ever, some of it, because I got the distinct impression that the reader wasn’t even reading my manuscript, but rather something completely different. Some of the comments had me going “Huh? What do you mean, being surprised by X? There was a whole friggin’ chapter about X earlier, how could it blindside you so bad?”
And yet, at the same time I want to forget all about other people’s opinions and just write for myself, I’m still happy I sent the sucker off to be picked on and misunderstood. Check it out. Every single time the person asked a clueless question, it pointed big shiny arrows at a flaw. Because if the area in question wasn’t boring or poorly written, then the person wouldn’t have asked questions about it. Right? Right. Plus, it made me think of something a friend said ages ago, about movie critics. Paraphrase: You don’t have to agree with the critic. If you know what they like or dislike, it can still give you a good idea if you’ll like the movie or not. So, and this is my interpretation now, if the critic hates lighthearted, silly space operas, but you love them, a bad review might be a nice indicator that you’ll love the movie. Especially if the critic rips on the character for wearing a spacesuit that looks like pajamas, but you love the cheesy pajama look on a bridge crew.
So I applied that manner of thinking to the feedback, and it helped a bit. What? You didn’t like that I left four millennia of history out of the action scene? I must have gotten the action right, ’cause I know you love slow, in-depth, detailed explorations of history. And you can’t figure out why a character would do something Not Nice? Awesome, I gave the character a flaw.
And yet, there’s that whole “shittiest writer ever” feeling… Argh. I’ll just keep telling myself it’s okay, the shittiest writer ever wouldn’t bother trying to find and fix the flaws.
Check it out! I got promoted by someone else, rather than the usual me waving someone else’s banner. 🙂
I just figured something out.
Ages ago, I had a friend read my current WIP, Firestorm, the one that’s galloping towards its release date, 08/13/18. And some of the comments left me scratching my head, because I just couldn’t figure ’em out. Well, I get it now! This person was griping because my characters have… wait for it…
The complaints boil down to “Why would he do that? It’s not nice!”
I feel better now. I don’t like writing perfect characters. I want them to screw up, to make wrong choices. Perfect characters are boring as anything, and haven’t got lives interesting enough to write about. If you doubt me, go look up Mary Sue online. She’s perfect. She’s almost universally hated by readers. I’ve been viciously guarding my work from Mary Sue for years now.
So yeah. There you have it. My characters are not perfect. And, in fact, they do some pretty shitty things to each other.
And I, for one, am one hundred percent okay with that.
Other authors do this stuff all the time. I always admire their promotional skills, their ability to promote their own work without blushing brighter than an average bonfire. But I tend to hide in a shadowy corner and shove my stories out in the wild and let them stand or fall on their own.
But… that’s hardly a strategy used by successful authors. Instead, they do this thing called “engaging the audience,” and that other thing called “promotion.” Yes, I have indeed used that word several times now, all within two paragraphs. But I’ve got a new release coming soon, and my usual hiding in the shadows approach won’t help it succeed.
So here you go. I’m pushing myself out into the internet’s face, waving around my author flag, and saying Read my stuff! I can write! See? I tell stories!
Cool stories. Fun stories. Remember Eternal? No? Damn, then who bought it and bumped it up to #1 on Amazon for a while?
Well, fine. It wasn’t you. So have a sample.
(excerpt from Eternal)
The full repair of the drive and all its crystals took three more days. It was exhausting, but so worth it. I learned a lot, as previously mentioned, about history, deep inside those spells. I even fancied I knew the mages who’d assembled this drive and all its component spells. There had been three of them, each with his—or her, one was a woman—own style and signature. Absolutely fascinating work.
Kai watched some of it. Not all, because clearly, for all his potential, he was no mage and couldn’t see most of the good stuff, but some. Like the connections getting re-established in the spell matrices. That had to look pretty cool, a complex, glowing matrix weaving itself out of nothing right there in the air over the drive pedestal. And as soon as I finished repairing the main flight spells, we took off into space. I could work on the others while we flew between planets and D-gates. Most of spaceflight consisted of boring plodding back and forth between planetary systems and the dimensional gates that warped space anyway, might as well use the time for an important purpose, right?
I finished the entire repair shortly before we reached the D-gate. That meant I was atop my cabin, on a sweet little observation deck complete with railing to make it look like a boat, when we approached it. The concept of observation deck took a little getting used to, at first. Because, of course, the containment spells are fully invisible, so it looks like I’m out in the vacuum of space, leaning on a fragile, thin railing, a feeling sure to incite panic in most sensible souls. But I’m hardly all that sensible. I love the feeling of space surrounding me in all its immensity. And more than that, I love watching the stars. This stretch of space is pretty bland and boring, no nebulae or anything interesting like that, but who cares? The stars are enough for me. Of course, now there’s a D-gate to look at, too, and only a fool wouldn’t be fascinated by one of those.
A massive, octagonal metal frame hung in space, a technological monstrosity to build the spell matrix on. An assortment of traffic surrounded it, and a heavily armed Gate Patrol craft hung menacingly over it all, keeping the peace. Every gate in the huge network, Imperial or not, had at least one Gate Patrol boat assigned to it, because no one could ever be allowed to take over a D-gate. The survival of modern civilization required the gates remain neutral, and functional. Otherwise… well, I’m no political genius, but I can see where there would be a big problem if someone started messing with the gates. So the Gate Patrol formed up, a neutral, independent force that protected and maintained the D-gates for all to use. And, of course, collected fees from all users.
The gate spell itself looked like a rainbow of shifting energy. The beautiful, shimmering sheet spread across the physical gate like a soap bubble on a wand right before a child blows it. I wondered if maybe someday I’d get a chance to work on one. Gate maintenance sounded utterly boring to some, I know, but I’d always been attracted by the complexity of the spells. They had to be so generalized, and at the same time so precise! Parameters for touching each and every other gate in the network, for the dimensions ships went to in transit, for protecting human life and the ships themselves, for keeping other entities out of our universe… and so on. Hundreds of complex spells, and every one had to be in perfect working order to let ships pass through safely. Not that I have any say in the matter, but if I ever do get the chance to work for the D-gate service, I’m on it.
Kai appeared on the deck beside me, and I’d been so wrapped up in thoughts of the beautiful gate that I twitched in surprise when I saw him. Starlight and shadows played across his skin, making him look rather magical himself.
Huh. That was an odd thought.
“What’s it look like to you?”
“Um… you mean the gate?”
“Yeah. To me, it’s just a big thing, something to get from one place to another. But what’s a mage see?”
I smiled a little. “Beauty. Complexity. Hundreds of interwoven spells, each depending on the other, each forming a perfect web of functionality.”
“Much more interesting than a shiny patch in space.”
“Well, we’ll be going through the thing shortly. We’re number twenty-four in the line.”
“Where we going, anyway?”
“Monrovia.” He grinned at my startled reaction.
“Same thing everyone else goes to Monrovia for. Shopping.” He poked distastefully at my robe, my bland, boring, ordinary as the day is long robe. “Can’t have you running around like that, after all. I’ve got an image to maintain.”
I snorted. Today he wore a full-out Romance outfit, burgundy, cream, and black, complete with poofy sleeves and tights. “Huh. Great. I’ve got no fashion sense, you know. Never even been shopping.”
“Nope, never. Not even once. No money, remember?”
“Huh. No need to worry about that now. I may be an exile, but I’m still smarter than the damn Emperor. He thought he’d do me real damage by exiling me. He even tried to have me declared officially dead, since he couldn’t kill me the ordinary way. But I could see it coming miles away, so I took my accountant’s advice. I liquefied all my assets and had accounts set up out here before he even thought about blocking that sort of thing. The exile didn’t do much except get me out of his sight. Which is probably why there’s so many assassins on my tail these days. Anyway, there’ll never be a need to worry about money.”
“As long as you like me, anyway,” I said, all too aware of how transient good fortune is in my life.
He smiled. “No worries there, either. You’re far too useful to have around. I’m not about to run you off.”
We stood quietly for a moment longer, watching the traffic around the D-gate, then Kai left for the control room. I didn’t. Are you kidding? When there’s a chance to watch a D-gate translation from what amounts to right in the middle of it? I know the containment spells on this ship, which I’d found out is named the Chaos Rider, will hold. Of course they will, I’d done ’em myself. So why pass up the chance to see the translation in action? Most people never saw such a thing, not even mages. Because, of course, most space-going vessels kept passengers safely locked away, with walls in between themselves and the black. One more reason to love a space schooner. There’s nothing that can adequately describe the feeling of flying through space with nothing but invisible spells and a big balloon between me and the stars.
We crept slowly forward, towards the gate, taking our position in line. Well, slow relative to normal space travel. Propelled by freshly-repaired spells, the schooner moved along at a speed utterly impossible in an atmosphere, where the gas-filled envelope kept the ship aloft and air dragged at its bulk.
Watching the variety of other ships out there, each waiting its turn to transit, I wondered what it would be like if we were in one of the other ship types. Boring, I’d bet. They were all so ordinary, more like stereotypes of spacecraft than anything distinctive. Why not do something more interesting with your spacecraft than make it either ovoid, or boxlike? Come on, there’s no drag in space, why not have more creative and fanciful shapes.
Boring or not, the other ships made their transits in smooth succession, and I got to watch the way the spells handled each from the outside, with tendrils reaching out to a ship as it approached, touching and identifying, interfacing with shipboard systems, then pulling the ship in. Then a great flash, and the ship vanished, to come out the other end somewhere else entirely.
Our turn arrived. I saw the seeking tendrils come out, felt one catch onto me, watched them pull us right in. Then came the transit itself. It went fast, but I still managed to catch a glimpse of the pocket dimension we made the transfer in, then the hand-off to the spell-tendrils of the receiving gate. Awesome!
I think I could watch gate transfers all day. I grinned and shook my head at myself. What a ridiculous obsession, a branching off from the whole thing I’d had with transportation as a kid. But whatever, everyone needs some kind of interest to keep them going.
* * * * * * * *
Oh hey, look at that, you made it through the excerpt! Awesome. Have an image. This is, after all, the thing I’m supposed to promote.
Coming soon, to an Amazon near you. 08/13/18.
Yeah, look out, people, it’s coming. Next thing you know I’ll even have a blurb and an excerpt!
Hmm. A Firestorm. Well, a personal answer is that it was a musical suite, a seven minute long symphony I played in a long-ago honor band, written to express the horror felt by the composer when he thought about the Allied fire-bombing of Dresden in WWII. Not ’cause the composer was a Nazi sympathizer or anything crappy like that. He wrote it because of all the beautiful art, architecture, music, and history that got destroyed. The word Firestorm, and all the crazy sounds that were rolled into that tiny symphony, have stuck with me since high school.
Okay, none of you care about that, but that’s one answer to the question. The more important answer is that FIRESTORM is the title of the novel I’ve been working on forever now.
Anyone read Eternal? No? Okay, go read it now. I’ll wait a week for you to finish it.
Right. You’ve read it. Now we’re all on the same page. Firestorm is the sequel to Eternal. It takes up the story of Kai and Jericho a few years down the road, eight to be precise. And guess what? After working on this sucker since NaNoWriMo 2016, otherwise known as November, 2016, it’s in the final editing stage. I think I might have even committed myself to a release date. That’s 08/13/18, if you’re curious.
It’s coming. It’s coming soon.
And because I’m feeling moderately evil, I think I’ll put up the cover image. Only… it’s not the cover image. It’s just a teaser. Because I’m a moderately evil author, mwahahahahaha!
Nika stumbled into the Big Barn, listing badly to the right from the drag of the gold. If she didn’t know she’d regret it, she’d drop the damn bag and just take a handful of the stuff. But she’d brought it this far, all she had to do now was haul the heavy load down towards the far end of the barn, where the horse she wanted should be.
She fixed her eyes on that distant stall, ignoring the calls of the horses even though they made her heart hurt. Stablehands weren’t immune to the illness, and most of them were gone, lost to the Blue Death like the rest of the Dominion. She knew at least two were still alive and working, but two people to care for hundreds of horses couldn’t do a very good job. The horses were bored, lonely, hungry, and the stable smelled worse than it should have. Flies buzzed everywhere.
But she made it. Plodding deliberately down the center aisle, Nika remained focused on the single horse she wanted. It wasn’t hers. Her horse was in here too, and she’d use it gladly as a pack horse. The gelding was a decent one, but nothing special.
She felt a tiny hint of desire for the lovely golden parade horse used by the Prince of Eagles, but passed it by. Beautiful coloring, absolutely perfect conformation, and not a brain in its perfect head. They’d gone ahead and gelded the horse a couple years back, when the young stud couldn’t figure out which end of the mare was meant for breeding. Pity, it would’ve been nice to see if the beauty would pass to the next generation, but mares had definite ideas about what to do with a stud that tried to mount her front half, usually involving teeth.
No, the horse she wanted, now hanging his head over the rope used to keep horses in place when the stablehands didn’t want to mess with the heavy stall doors, was a soft dapple grey. Not as flashy, no, but large and well-made, with speed to spare and enough endurance to outlast most horses currently alive. He’d belonged to Nika’s superior and good friend. Her own horse was six stalls away, a nondescript red chestnut named Berry. He could match Wraith in size, but not much else, and for some reason she’d never much cared for the gelding. The grey, on the other hand…
“Hey, Wraith,” she panted, dropping her bag with a clunk. The horse let out a shrill whicker and thumped her chest with his nose. “Watch over this, will you? I’ll be back.”
She scratched behind the horse’s ears, then moved far more easily towards the tack room.
What a mess.
Not her problem, though. She felt bad for the stablehands, but they’d figure it out. Maybe they’d find some helpers.
Sure. In this city where the dead outnumbered the living by far.
Nika paused for a moment, one hand on a sturdy field saddle, to let the bleakness wash over her, make her feel horrible, and then go away. Because she meant to leave, damn it, and that meant none of this was her problem. Not one little bit.
Field saddle. Pack saddle. Bridles. Halters. Blankets, brushes and hoof picks.
Methodically Nika worked her way through the tack room, recovering from the heavy workout as she did so. She piled her chosen gear in the middle of the floor, then started hauling it out and getting the horses ready.
One thing certain, this business of striking out on her own and making a new life for herself would get her back in shape in no time at all.
A while back, before I got so sick I quit doing much of anything, I worked through a map-making tutorial in Photoshop. I liked the result so well I named it Rulan and made up a bunch of countries and different cultures to inhabit the imaginary lands, and even wrote a respectable start to a novel or a novella, currently at 30K words. And then…
I lost the world map.
Yeah, that’s right, all my hard work went bye-bye. I couldn’t find the finished map, couldn’t even find the Photoshop file… you know, the one with all the layers, each bearing the name of a different realm. To this day I have no idea where it went.
But now that I feel better, and have infinitely more energy, and I have this massive amount of time off to work with, I’ve been poking around in old files. And I found a copy of my finished world map! Not the actual PSD, which is still lost, but the world itself. And looking at it I was able to remember a few of the names for the islands and sub-continents. This makes me very happy. 🙂 I even managed to come up with a few new names, and scare up some inspiration to get back to writing on the story, because I really like this crazy world called Rulan.
And just because I have time to do so, I decided to shout the good news to the whole wide internet, in case there’s any fellow authors or other creative people who can understand the joy of finding the Lost World. Here it is:
This here’s the part I never lost, the one that kept reminding me I had a whole world to play in:
And now, back to writing, after a brief time out for a happy dance.
The sound of a voice managed to penetrate the cloud of gray depression surrounding Nika Finmoralyn. She opened her eyes.
“You are alive, right? And an officer?”
The voice belonged to a man in the uniform of the Eagle Guard, Clerical Division. Nika nodded and struggled to her feet, trying to shake off the bleakness. The best she could do was push it aside a bit, enough to let her speak.
“Lieutenant-General Nika Finmoralyn. What do you need?”
The man, wearing insignia that marked him a Captain of his Division, sighed with relief. “You’re in charge now, aren’t you. Good. Tell me what in blackened hell I’m supposed to do with the payroll! Please.”
The despair came back, and Nika sagged back onto the bench. It overlooked the garden in front of the barracks, which had once been a pleasant, refreshing sight. Now the plants were straggly, untrimmed, with weeds sprouting all through the flower beds.
“Do whatever you want with it,” Nika said. “I don’t care. There’s no one left to pay.”
“What are you saying?”
Nika made herself look at the payroll officer. “The Eagle has fallen.”
The man shook his head in denial. “The Dominion is forever!”
“No.” Nika shook her own head slowly. “No, it isn’t. There is no more Dominion. I… I was assigned to complete a survey, a census, of the city and surroundings. Nine out of every ten people from the last report have died. The Blue Death has destroyed the Dominion.”
“But there are still people living! We can recover from this.”
“No.” She shook her head again, more emphatically. “I returned this morning, just in time to witness the death of the last Shining One. The Eagle has fallen. The Dominion is no more.”
“The Shining Ones… are gone?”
That news broke through to the payroll officer, and he sagged into a crouch, head hanging.
Nika felt the same. The Shining Ones had led the Dominion ever since the beginning. Without them, the Golden Eagle Dominion was nothing, a name without a meaning. Nothing but a rapidly dimming memory, doomed to fade into the dust of history.
“Right,” the man said, lifting his head. His face looked decades older than it had moments ago, haggard with sadness and despair. “The Shining Ones are gone. But we’re alive, you and I, and there’s a future ahead. It may not look like the future we’d expected, but I’m not going to lay down and give up. That’s not the Dominion way. Are you?”
Nika started to say yes. What did this world hold for her? Death. Everywhere. The city had suffered the worst, true, with nine out of every ten residents lost. But the Blue Death had chewed through the entire Dominion, nearly the whole known world, with a viciousness that left maybe a third of the world’s population alive, and it hadn’t finished yet. Who knew when the illness would run its course and leave humanity, whatever was left of it, to recover. The future looked unrelentingly bleak, and horrid. What point to living, when the force she stood second in command over had shrunk to less than a full division? She could take command, yes, because the true leader had fallen a week and more ago. But what was the point?
But then something stubborn, some little spark of life, flared up and Nika lifted her head higher. Officers in the elite Shining Home Division never gave up.
“Fine. No. I’m not going to lay down and die. But the Dominion is ended. I can see no future here, without the Shining Ones.”
“Good. Here’s what I propose. We can split the payroll between us, and use it to fund a future life. Go where you will, it won’t matter. I’ll record it properly in the books, no one will come hunting you as a thief. Is that a good plan for you?”
Nika shrugged. “Fine. I don’t care. Money is good.”
She followed the man out of the garden to a back gate into the Palace. A solidly built wagon stood there, drawn by a team of eight heavy draft horses. It held ten iron-bound lockboxes.
“That’s the payroll?” Nika said, incredulity beating out depression for a moment. She even felt a tiny spark of greed, having decided to live.
“Yes. Drawn from the vaults just this morning, that’s the normal amount to pay the entire Eagle Guard, from the Shining Home to the farthest-flung shock troops.”
“Mother of Eagles. And you offered me half?”
The man nodded.
“It’s too much,” Nika decided, despite the spark of greed. “If I’m to head away and start a new life, I mean to really head away. Out of the Dominion. Leave the past behind.”
“Fine. I’ll wager you can still carry more than enough to succeed. Here, look.”
The payroll officer hopped onto the tailgate of the wagon and opened one of the boxes with a key from his belt pouch. Nika tried to see, discovered the wagon sides were too high. So she scrambled onto the wagon beside the man.
“Mother of Eagles,” she said again. The box contained eight bags made from scaly ogroid skin, one of the strongest leathers known to humankind. “How much is in there?”
“Each bag holds a hundred thousand tarkins.”
Nika could scarcely imagine that much wealth all in one place, even while looking at it. Her own generous pay amounted to two tarkins a month, and she was the second in command of the whole damned army! “A hundred… Damn! I never knew there was so much money in the entire Dominion.”
“There is,” the man nodded, pulling one of the bags free with a grunt. “Here.”
Nika took it. Heavy, seriously heavy. Right at the edge of her ability to lift. “That’ll do,” she said quickly, catching his arm before he could pull out another. She had to set the bag down before she could move.
“You sure? I mean,” and he gestured at the other bags, the unopened boxes. “There’s more than enough to share. And just think, this is only three months’ worth. There’s a whole lot more where this came from.”
A hundred thousand tarkins. She opened the bag, looked inside at the fat gold coins. “This is plenty. Thanks.”
“Suit yourself,” the payroll officer shrugged, closing and locking the box. “Anybody left alive inside?”
“About half a dozen from the Shining Home Guard. The rest have deserted, or been sent out to various places throughout the Dominion, to see if they can help before they die.”
“Think I’ll share some of this out, then. Out of your half.”
He grinned, and Nika smiled back. “Go right ahead. And good luck in your new life.”
“Same to you.”
Nika picked up the bag and slung it over her shoulder. Why not, it didn’t weigh as much as a fallen comrade would, not that she’d been in the field recently. She staggered a little, shifted the load for balance, then started towards the stables at a slow, steady pace.
Started being the key word. She had to rest five times between the wagon and the stables. Not only was the bag beastly heavy, but the air was still thick with the smells of smoke and death, along with more ordinary stinks from garbage left uncollected and horseshit left to pile up on the streets. There was even a pyre out in front of the Shining Home Palace itself, watched over by a single gray-robed monk.
Yes, the Golden Eagle had truly fallen.