Dragons on the Loose

Dragons are on the loose!

My journey from traditional publishing to indie publishing is complete with the release of my last 4 books, a quartet set in a land of dragons and skyriders, mountain meadows and outland seas. The Moons mark the passage of the seasons in the books and here on my blog.

The Blurb-ish

In the distant mountains of the Mirror, exiled skyriders fly dragons in the old Way, merged in flesh, blood, and bone. Twenty years past, they fought for the freedom of the valley’s dragons … and lost.

Thus begins the epic adventure that stretches from the quaint village of Taran Leigh and the mountains of the Mirror to the Anghard Archipelago in the western sea. Welcome to a world where wealth and power rule, fear is the weapon of choice, and cruelty is the cost of a pocket of gold. It’s a world that forces a choice — indifference, complicity, or defiance.

The dragons of land and sea, souls of grace and beauty, hang in the balance. Will they descend into howling violence, lost to the terror and pain inflicted upon them by their tormentors? Or will they fly free, the creatures they were born to be? With each book, the stakes rise and far more than the dragon soul lies at risk.

“The chest rose above his head, long neck curving, aquamarine eyes fracturing the sunlight. This dragon’s scale gleamed blue and gray, sea-shaded with crescents of curling white waves. The webbed wings shone seafoam blue with ribbons of coral and the mottled green of seaweed. Kearney smiled. If the sea glimmered like this dragon, he’d have become a sailor.” – Mor Kearney, Clan Lord of Loughran.

Myths of the Mirror (Book 1):

Imprisoned in the stone lair, the captive dragons beat webbed wings and thrash serpentine tails. They tear their flesh and batter their bodies against the black bars of their cells, iron grating against iron. The once peaceful creatures howl, tormented by spine and spur, their fury matched only by their despair.

Treasa, the daughter of exiles, seeks the secrets of a hidden past and a father she never knew. Gifted with visions, she glimpses pieces of years long lost and a veiled future that only raises more questions. The dragons visit her dreams, laden with contradictions that tear at her heart — for one day she sails in unfettered flight, her arms thrown wide, and the next she writhes in tortured darkness, desperate to be free.

The lair’s black-garbed riders sense the dragons’ growing savagery. Yet Conall longs to grasp their power, to subdue them and soar, and he will endure the reek, filth, and terror of the lair to earn his right to fly. With a heart encased in steel, he masters the weapons of compliance to see his will done. At the cost of the woman he loves.

Then, a curved talon rends flesh and dragon scale, rattling against white ribs. Blood falls like rain and the world shifts. Treasa and Conall must decide who they are and what they stand for. Thus, the battle for the dragon soul begins again. Alliances form, old myths are revealed, and new myths are born.

Thanks again, my friends, for helping with the covers! 

Now, back to writing…🙂

Thirsty Moon

Thirsty Moon

In my fantasy world, the Thirsty Moon ushers in the last of the summer’s heat. Rain is scarce and rivulets run dry in sandy streambeds. Late season gardens thirst for a long steady shower after weeks of waterless weather.

It’s a time for pickling and  stacking wood, blackberries and swimming holes. And now and then, a morning chill slides down with the stars, promising warm pies from cider-scented orchards and hinting of autumn.

The full face of the Thirsty Moon shines tonight, August 18th.

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Excerpt from Thirsty Moon, Eye of Fire

The days ambled by, and Mirah’s garden transformed, weeds pulled in an ever-widening circle, beds edged, produce picked and preserved. She lugged water from the well, determined that her life would flourish, no longer choked by fear and loss. Her modest bounty she shared at the forge, delivering a basket now and then of just-picked greens. Brend smiled when he found her silhouetted in his doorway, her invitation hanging in the air between them.

At day’s end, she left him leaning on the doorjamb, arms crossed, watching her walk into the dusty lane. She strolled past her home, admiring her neighbor’s gardens, the round-bellied pumpkins and hard-shelled squash, bee balm and buttercup crowding each other for space in the sun.

Not long ago, Wyn told her that the myth of a person’s life entailed more than a compilation of facts, the particulars of one’s history. More importantly, one’s myth rose from the way a person was perceived by others and by what one believed about oneself. Myths were amorphous, changeable, imbued with feeling, rich with dreams and reflections. They could be altered by a change in perception or a change of heart.

Not ready for home, she climbed a narrow path to the meadow above Taran Leigh, a path she knew well, like the myth of her life. The air carried a hint of coolness, signaling the coming of fall. Pulling herself up over a stone stile at the top of a small rise, she paused, drawn from her reverie. The meadow unfolded before her, awash with blue dannies fluttering endlessly, delicate petals raised to the sun. The flowers filled her with memories as if they lingered there only for her to find.

When she stepped into the meadow, the petals closed around her, bearing her as if on a wave. Floating through them, she touched them with her fingertips, felt their soft kisses. In the center of the meadow, she surrendered her burdens, lay them down with her fear to be carried away with the flowers when the wind came. The graceful alder bent its branches, alone in the waterless sea. She gazed up at a sky as blue as the dannies and saw a glint of copper wings, a dragon coming for her.

Coming Next Week!

Broken Sign

Broken Sign

First off, thank you to everyone who offered suggestions on my dragon book covers. Once again, I’m grateful to the lovely bloggers who people this virtual world. I can’t describe my gratitude for the friendship and support. :-) I tried every single idea and used most of them.

Special thanks to Nick (better known as Babbitman) not only for encouraging me to design different dragons for each cover but for actually doing one of them when I felt overwhelmed by the mere thought! He came through gloriously, and after he finished one, I was able to dismember and reassemble the rest.

Nick’s short story “Broken Sign” is a favorite of mine. Original, clever, quirky, and entertaining. I’ve closed comments. So just relax, read on and enjoy!

Broken Sign

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the dangers of artificial intelligence with luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk warning that AI could be “more dangerous than nuclear weapons”. Science-fiction has been banging this particular drum for decades: from HAL 9000 to Skynet in the Terminator movies, there are dozens of examples of artificial intelligence going rogue. Which is why it probably comes as a shock to learn that the first truly self-aware artificial construct was an overhead electronic variable message sign on the northbound A46, a few miles outside Nottingham. (continued….)

I am Worldmaker

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I am Worldmaker. You know naught of me, yet behold me in the very fibers of the air, in the devices of my creation. My realm spans the chaos of stars, beyond time expanding, worlds shaped and dying. I am elemental, secretive, the spark that sets mystery in motion, the wielder of birth and destruction. Some name me God, but possess not a wisp of understanding. I am vaster than the reaches of imagination. Can you conceive, truly, of eternity?

My fingers roll as I breathe being into this gaseous inferno. I fling my fireball to the cold reaches of the void to cool and crack, to change the very complexion of space. There is a pattern in anarchy, a sublime collection of chance that in each moment transforms existence. Do you understand? That you are a miracle? Wondrous and infinitesimal, that you matter not at all?

Am I cruel, heartless? Do you find in my tale the fear of annihilation? Or in the infinite act of creation, am I the mother of life, an embodiment of love? Do I care for your ephemeral souls? I am none of your human imaginings. I am.

I am.

Curious.

I have contemplated myself in your corporeal image. You, the mere whimsy of happenstance. What is it that compels me to peer through the veil of stars to your blue orb with its wind-blown seas? You are nothing. In a sweep of my hand, I might hurl your planet into extinction, and in the dance of time, none would know or care. What is it that draws my gaze your way?

Hidden among you there is one who knows me, who has the power to read the runes burned in my countenance. He is the wyrd, Worldshifter, wandering in self-accepted ignorance while possessed unwittingly of truth. For to live without knowing is the doorway to wisdom.

He is a man grown now, rummaging through the hours you call time, hurrying over the surface of your mechanical planet, wasting breath and questioning why. I wonder at his constant seeking and inquisitiveness, his desire to part the veil and step into the mystery, even at the risk of his fleeting life. He might be foolish, yet I think he is, in fact, oddly courageous.

My latest world spins free with a turn of my wrist. It soars, whirling into other planets, colliding in a blaze of agonized destruction. In its debris new worlds will birth, new life that would not have breathed if not for death.

My gaze returns to him.

I gather stardust unto myself, shaping my vision of being into solid form as I plummet downward. The heat of your atmosphere burns me, peels away my identity in black cinders and powdery ash. Fear flares like a brand through white bones and scarlet blood. A shooting star, I plunge into your cool, gray sea.

Forgetting who I am.

I Need a Little Help with Book Covers

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I need your help with book covers.

My lovely book designer (for reasons beyond her control) had to back out of doing covers for my book series. My publishing deadline is August 20, which in book-time translates to pressure. I need to submit to Createspace on Thursday🙂 Yikes!

So, I spent the weekend pulling together some covers until my brain turned to mush and I lost all perspective. You are all so sweet and supportive, but I need honest feedback. Your candid opinions are not only welcome but invaluable! And don’t worry, I have armadillo skin.

Here they are:

Thanks!

Cover Myths - Final

Myths of the Mirror (Book 1)

 

Cover Fire - Final

Eye of Fire (Book 2)

 

Cover Blind - Final

Eye of Blind (Book 3)

 

Cover Sun - Final

Eye of Sun (Book 4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Another Note: I completely forgot to include in my Interview of Steven Baird the link to his blog. So, here it is: Ordinary Handsome. Definitely worth checking out (After you help me with my covers! Ha ha!🙂 )

Author Interview – Steven Baird

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This is a selfish interview on my part. I’ve been wanting to pick Steven Baird’s writer-brain since I began following his blog a couple years ago. I love his writing, his fresh, lush imagery, his exquisite word choice. I picked up his book Ordinary Handsome and then his book A Very Tall Summer. I became a groupie. My review of Ordinary Handsome is here.

So, I convinced him to answer all my questions under the pretense of a blog interview. I hope you enjoy!

1. Welcome, Steven. Thanks so much for letting me satisfy my curiosity about you and your writing. You state in your bio that you started writing at age 10. But you didn’t publish until 2015. What took you so long?

ordinaryhandsomeiiThat’s a good question. I have written a lot over the years, submitted some manuscripts, did some editing work, but nothing clicked. So I focused on improving the writing, experimenting with different genres, shifting pov’s, playing with the language. I wanted to see what I could do. It took some time because I am so self-critical. I had a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt, and that can be crippling. What did I have to offer, and was it worth the reader’s time? And now, yes, I think I do have something to offer.

When I started as a kid, I was cribbing off writers I admired, unconsciously mimicking their styles, and it was a terrible hybrid. The first attempt at a novel was after I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. Man, I dug into that… the story, the cadence, the narration, everything. And then Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. And then Faulkner’s ‘The Sound & the Fury’. My writing was awful, as you can imagine, but I was so excited! It was a melange of enthusiasm and bad writing! But it was a learning experience. I was putting things down on paper! In those days, that meant typing on a portable Brother typewriter… reams of paper and gallons of White-Out, and carbon copies of everything. It took a long time to physically prepare a submittable manuscript.

Back then, I sent out almost everything to publishing houses and magazines, and collected piles of ‘unfortunately, your work doesn’t meet our criteria’ rejection slips. Stories to Reader’s Digest, Field and Stream, and, yes, even Playboy. I kept at it. They should have sent me Christmas cards, I was that persistent. I published a couple of short stories in regional magazines, and poetry and weird little vignettes. I wrote a weekly humor column for the newspaper I was working for, and that lasted ten years until I gave it up… humor is a hard gig! Eventually, I found the whole ordeal of writing-and-rejection discouraging, and stopped writing anything substantial for about five years. My confidence was shot. And then I started again, working on a novel called ‘The Penitent Thief’. It was abrasive, violent, vulgar, and I fell back into it with gusto.

Self-confidence has always been an issue with me, and I couldn’t quite come up with a tone I was happy with. I have at least a dozen or more trunk novels stored away, and probably twice that number of unfinished pieces. I was learning.

I wrote a novel called ‘Cronic’ shortly after I was married. It’s available on Amazon, and it’s an unusual, violent story of a kidnapping. Creatively, it’s a transitional novel. I really played around with the dialogue and settings, and discovered a more confident, rollicking voice. And then I wrote – after a few false starts – ‘Ordinary Handsome’. That was the one. I decided to completely rework the core concept of ‘The Penitent Thief’. My voice was calmer, and the only similarities between the two are the main character – Jimmy Wheat – and the consequences of a tragic getaway, how they spread into other people’s lives. I couldn’t have written Handsome as a younger man. I didn’t have the experience or maturity.

2. I remember the old typewriters and correction tape. I don’t think I would have had your persistence without the advent of personal computers. I’m thrilled that you kept with it. What do you enjoy most about writing? What do you dislike?

I love those moments when it all clicks… when all the elements come together. I like how it still surprises me. How those big ‘what if’ ideas take shape and add texture and dimension. Honestly, I don’t know where the ideas come from, but sometimes they’re like bursts of fireworks, real ‘wow!’ moments. I didn’t know for certain how to end Handsome until I was closing in on the ending. Then it hit me, and I wrote the last couple of thousand words in a single sitting. It’s a huge rush when it works.

What I dislike is my own uncertainty. Can this work, is there enough of a story to sustain it, do I have the chops? Beginning a new book is hard because you’re still high from the last one. You have to invest so much of yourself: time, energy, and heart. It’s sort of like trying to fall in love again, and with this stranger who smiles and then shrugs. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

3. One of the things that impressed me about your prose is your precise word choices and rich sensory imagery. Does that come naturally or do you have to work on it? Any tips on writing prose that you’d be willing to share? 

verytallnewtrucover2Well, I really don’t like cliches. Everything’s been said that’s going to be said, so why not find an interesting way to say it? I’m selective and patient. Does it come naturally? At this point, I think so, yes, but after years of practice. The words are the ingredients in the stew, and I want that stew to have the right flavor. I play around with a lot of flash fiction pieces. Snapshots of characters and conversations. It’s a great exercise… there’s that freedom of not having to plot or finesse. And they’re great for coming up with larger, more substantial ideas.

4. I agree completely on the freedom of flash fiction – it’s all the fun without the labor. You describe yourself as a slow writer. Tell me about your process. Do you use a particular structure? Pantser or outliner?

I guess a little of both. Before I start, I let the idea grow in my head. Think about the characters, the setting, the overall story… map it out until it gels into something workable. Sometimes it’s a particular image: A woman standing alone in a cornfield; a boy dying at the side of a road. They capture my attention and I want to see more. I don’t write outlines, but I do develop the story in my head. Sometimes it pans out, sometimes not. I make cheat sheets on the characters, phrases, the geography of the landscape. I don’t have specific endings in mind, because I want it to be natural and not tacked-on or forced. I follow my instincts, and I trust my characters to take me to there.

When I write, I edit what I’m doing after the chapter is done. Immediately. Strip it down, tighten the bolts. I don’t like to open the document the next day and see messy, rambling copy. I cut a lot of the extraneous stuff, and there is a lot. I’m merciless.

5. Another thing I enjoy about your writing is that you write with an incredibly tight point of view. The result is almost no narrative backstory. Instead, the story percolates up through the characters’ (often unreliable) memories and perceptions. Tell me about this choice and how you balance the tight pov with your readers’ need for cohesion.

Well, thank you, Diana. It’s just the way that fits me, I guess. I know the characters very well, and I like to focus on what they’re seeing and feeling. Their past is a catalyst to how they react, and it feels more fluid if it’s revealed along the way. I want the reader to share the characters’ journey, involve them in the intimacy of the story rather than handing it out in large blocks.

I’m not really a complicated writer, but I try to weave the story so everything stitches together in the end. Sometimes a little reading patience is necessary, but if the reader is engaged, I think it’s worth the trip. So I have to make it engaging… through the characters, the mood, the flow of the story. Create empathy and believability. I think I do that.

6. That reader patience definitely pays off! I noticed a common theme in character and setting in Ordinary Handsome and A Very Tall Summer. Both have characters struggling with poverty in rural settings. Tell me about this choice and how it’s meaningful to you.

I’m familiar with poverty, or at least living paycheck-to-paycheck. I grew up with it and still struggle. I’m a working-class guy. I know these people; I played with them as a kid, I’ve worked with them, I’ve gone hungry with them. It’s real stuff. There’s no pretension: this is who I am, this is what I do, this is how I survive. Those are stories I’m interested in. There’s no abstraction in being poor. There’s grit, but there are also huge dreams, huge courage.

7. The grit, dreams, and courage comes through and gripped me as a reader. Both books I’ve read have a ghostly quality or “thin grasp on reality.” This gives your books a paranormal feel, but they’re more than that. How would you characterize your books? What kind of reader would enjoy them?

coveramazonI’d like to say I write literary fiction, but that sounds so fancy-pants. It’s not really supernatural or paranormal, but I’ve used those elements. I do like the concept of employing a dream-like reality, where these people have a fragile understanding of what’s going on, how they’re looking for the core of what it means. I think there’s a deep romanticism in the characters – and in me… a yearning for something better, something with a solid foundation. Literary fiction, I guess, is probably the broadest category to describe it. I hope any readers would come away with something that will stay with them for awhile, that it will be something relatable.

8. Your books do stick with a reader. I’m proof of that. Any advice for aspiring writers?

Read tons. Write tons. Believe in what you’re writing. Write what interests you, not just what’s popular or current. Learn the fundamentals: grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Don’t be afraid to fail… the more you write, the better you’ll become. Be daring!

9. What are you working on now?

It’s a fairly ambitious project titled ‘The Stone Age’. It’s set in the ’70’s, about three children growing up in Upstate New York. The title refers to a terrifying incident that happens to them that sets their childhood in stone and establishes who they become as adults. There’s love, betrayal, and a very human monster who shapes their lives. I’ve wanted to write something about childhood for a long time, about all its frailties and innocence, and how it fades into adulthood but never completely leaves. I can’t say more than that, but I think it’s going to be pretty substantial book.

10. Give us a teaser for one of your books.

This one comes from “Ordinary Handsome”. It’s a few quiet moments between the main character Jimmy and his dying wife. His confidence is badly shaken after a botched getaway, and his heart is breaking.

I kissed Arlene goodnight. The room was shrouded with blankets and black curtains. A dull 40-watt light bulb constantly shone on her night table, displaying a cluster of pill bottles and cups of stale water. Her forehead was warm, and her hair dull and fine. Her breathing was steady but shallow. The skin on her face looked too tight. And her hair smelled like black tea. I don’t remember if that was its natural smell or if it’s just a never-ending memory, a smell concocted from the drugs and the sweat of dying. I think her hair always had that smell, and it was something always uniquely Arlene. I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t dying.

I can’t tell you how much my heart broke with every goodnight kiss. I sat beside her for a few minutes each night and stroked her hair. I don’t know if she knew I was there, or even sensed it, but it calmed me. I would cup the side of her face and, though it was always damp and somehow greasy, I could feel the soft underneath-skin, the skin I caressed and kissed and marveled over. Minutes would turn to more minutes until I was afraid to leave her, afraid to stay. I don’t know that I had the courage to see her – feel her – die in my presence. I think that kind of courage was beyond me. But I would. I wanted her last physical perception to be my hand stroking her hair, with a kindness that let her know I was still amazed that she chose to be with me at all.”

newauthorpicblSteven Baird – Short Bio 

Steven Baird is an author, amateur photographer, and 36-year newspaper compositor. He does not like speaking of himself in the first person. He has published three novels, including his latest, A Very Tall Summer, and has been writing since the age of 10. He is a slow writer.

Steven is a native Canadian living in southwest Virginia with his wife Angela, a horse, dog, cat, and a Neurotic Band of Chickens (their official stage name). He does not take himself as seriously as his portrait would suggest.

Link to Steven’s Amazon Page:  Here

Steven’s Blog: Ordinary Handsome

Twitter: @SMBairdOrd

The Crypt #Writephoto

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Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo once again provided a lovely photoprompt to fire our creativity. Thank you, Sue.

The Crypt

The passage stretched longer than the old priest promised. A final door scraped open into a rectangular crypt, fluted arches interwoven in the dimness. Cobwebs luffed like gossamer sails as the air stirred. Eight slender columns splayed their stone fingers, supporting the vaulted ceiling, its paint flaking from the solemn faces of watchful gods.

In three rows lay the stone sarcophagi of dead kings, their likenesses carved into the dusty lids along with narrow slots for their spirits to breathe. The princess gazed straight ahead, whispering a prayer as she walked between the ancestral corpses, skeletal reminders of her royal lineage and her father’s impending doom.