The Melding of Aeris goes Indie

TMOA EBOOK

A month ago, I wrote a post about my decision to cancel my publishing contracts and go indie. The reason for the decision was two-fold. One, to gain control over the actual book: fix typos, edit back matter, and update covers. Two, to gain control over pricing, both retail and promotional.

The first contract came up, and The Melding of Aeris has new life.

Ta da!

Aeris4The most exciting part of the process was popping on the new cover designed by talented artist Jennifer Munswami. The new one is above and the old one at left. Sort of a no-brainer. Of all my books, this is my brother’s favorite, and he’s a wonderful supporter of my work. When he worked for the Navy in Alaska, the old cover presented a challenge. He couldn’t give it away. Covers matter!

How did the rest of the process go, you might ask? A breeze.

The downside? Yes, there is a downside, which I knew in advance. I lost my ranking and most of my reviews. (Amazon moved 6 to the new book. Why 6 ??) Despite the downside, I’m doing a happy dance!

(UPDATE 4/1/16 – All my old reviews have now returned. I seemed to just need some time. I did it by asking Amazon to combine editions. The result: no downside at all.)

Prolog – The Melding of Aeris

Lasandra’s new lips curved in a bow, blood red and as plump and luscious as a bruise. Barely clad, she posed before her silvered looking-glass, glimpsing in her reflection the potential for perfection. Her transfiguration was almost complete, the last scars faint red seams that would fade in a matter of weeks.

She wanted new eyes, green ones, the bright emerald of spring grass or fresh limes, and a cascade of long curls as black and thick as a moonless sea. She’d spotted the ones she desired in the marketplace. The woman sold yellow onions from a crudely woven basket. Poor and barefoot, she would sell hers, surely. Lasandra could afford whatever the woman asked, and she’d purchase replacements. She wasn’t merciless; she wouldn’t leave the woman bald and blind.

Her fingers traced the tiny jewels arching over her eyebrows, four on each side. She’d decided on fire rubies with simple gold settings, nothing ostentatious. Bone-studding was nothing new, but with the other modifications, the gems dazzled the eye. And it hadn’t hurt at all when Syr Sorelis drilled the dainty screws into her forehead. Thank the alchemists for that little miracle.

A sultry pout over her shoulder, she turned in the mirror, admiring her skin. The designers had schemed with her for more than a year, visualizing something asymmetrical yet precisely balanced. And the Bestiary had grown the species exactly to her specifications, no easy task. The serpent skin scalloped like black lace over fresh snow: sheer, delicate, and soft to the touch. It curled across her skin, beginning behind her ears and swirling across her breasts and belly, down the inside of her thighs where it tapered to slender points near the knees. It sheathed her hands and forearms like fingerless gloves.

The fur alone had required years to cultivate for she desired fine black and white stripes with the texture of velvet. The first animals had been deplorable, their pelts coarse, the fur long and thick. When finally a creature met her expectations, the transfiguration melded its skin to her shoulders like epaulets, formed a curved V down her back, and covered every inch of her legs where she hadn’t already melded the snakeskin. Stripes ringed her long, silken tail.

Undeniably stunning, a human art form…almost.

As she studied her composition in the mirror, it was all too evident that her brown hair and brown eyes simply wouldn’t do.

USA – UK Canada – Japan

(sorry it’s not available everywhere yet)

(BTW in Japan, the title is translated as The Melting of Aeris 🙂 )

The Stairway

northagain-073

I couldn’t resist Sue Vincent’s beautiful prompt. It was right up my alley … or down my stairway, so to speak. Stop it, Sue. I’m supposed to be working on my WIP! Check out Sue’s blog Daily Echo for some beautiful writing from a fascinating woman. Here’s my take on the prompt:

The Stairway

I lingered at the top of the stairway, teetering over the ice-laden steps, my head reeling. Before me arched a gateway of ancient stone and lofty evergreen, overhead boughs bent with old snow. Why hadn’t I noticed the stairs before; I’d walked this path many mornings over the years though never as lonesome as now.

The crisp sun glinted on the ice, dusted the air with a haze of enchantment. An illusion, surely, a trick of the light. Yet, a small wisp of me believed in magic. I trusted in dreams come true and happy endings. I didn’t live them, but I believed them. The gateway beckoned like a lover, teased, promised. I took a tentative step toward my altered future.

My foot slipped on the gleaming ice and shot forward. I yelped as my hip hit the top step and I bumped down, sleeves filling with snow splinters, my coat riding up, elbows whack, whack, whacking on each step. My bottom took the stairs like a toboggan, my mouth spilling squeaky oaths and ouches the entire ride. The magic portal disgorged me onto the crusty snow like a bad meal, and my feelings hurt as much as my bones. So much for magic.

“Are you all right?” A man’s voice, trying to sound concerned despite the muffled laughter. “Can I help?”

I looked up at his offered hand, the mirth in his eyes, his charming smile. I gave him my scratched hand and my aching heart… all those magical mornings ago.

Passion and Priority

pixabay image

pixabay image

Passion and Priorities may sound like a Jane Austin novel…but nope, nothing so restrained.

I’m talking about a circus act, a high-wire attempt at juggling while riding a unicycle with five bowling pins flipping through the air. It’s an act of balance.

Anyone possessed with an all-consuming passion, knows what I refer to. Whether it’s an artistic endeavor, a desire to race cars in the desert, to savor exotic foods, ban landmines, or never wear the same shoes twice, the need for balance occasionally sets that high-wire a-wiggling. Sometimes it’s the clown stomping around down there in the three rings, the one with the diapered terrier on a hip, pointing at the kiddie pool, demanding a reassessment of one’s priorities.

I walk that tightrope a lot, relishing the thrill, the single-minded concentration as I surrender to my passion for the written word. To immerse myself fully in my world of imagination, without regard for other priorities, is liberating. I’m spinning plates on spindly poles and no one’s shouting to save the dinnerware.

But I’m also that orange-haired, red-nosed fussbudget with her clown shoes slapping the ground in furious circles. Under my polka-dot skirt, I must mind my clown family and friends, a squeaky car that needs oiling, more terriers due for the vet, and grocery bags overflowing with bananas. I can pretend this part of me isn’t real or that she’s just a joke, but in truth, she’s a necessary part of the big show.

In my thirties, I used to wonder what I would do when I “grew up.” I remember those drifting days of waiting…for inspiration…for passion…for the circus to come to town. Always an eye on the magical tomorrow when something wonderful would happen. The big top finally arrived and I’m making up for lost time. Juggling those priorities, keeping all the pins and plates spinning in the air. It’s a grand problem to have.

Are you like me? How do you keep your balance?

Hungry Moon

pixabay compilation

pixabay compilation

In my fantasy world, the Hungry Moon ushers in the thaw. Days lengthen, trees blossom and nature knits an emerald coverlet over the wilderness. The blues and grays of winter surrender to a tapestry of fresh color, and the sun rolls around like an old friend. Yet, this is a hungry time, winter’s stores dwindling, the cellars and cupboards bare. The fields lie sodden and fallow, new crops a distant dream. The warming sun promises fiddleheads and dandelion greens, nettle and chickweed, wild pickings filling aprons for empty bellies. For the poor, it’s a thin, lean time, a cruel tease of the spring to come.

The Hungry Moon rises on March 23rd. Hang in there, spring will come.

flower-953553_960_720

Excerpt from the Hungry Moon, Eye of Blind

The hut warm, Starling listened to the timbre of Gallard’s voice, his feelings carried through the air. She heard the news as a faint echo, translating facts and events into an emotional unfolding, layered with nuance, thick, rich, and threaded with light. She barely saw bodies anymore, or faces, or remembered names. They comprised the trappings of essence. How else could she think of it? They glittered as if fashioned of stars.

She’d always called herself a Death Droom, and here she’d found there was no death. Merging with the dragons had fundamentally changed her. She no longer saw the faces of light descending so beautifully and peacefully to accompany the dying. Rather, she witnessed the infinity of soul, the stardust, color, and light that transformed but never altered. Spiraling circles of life, generation upon generation of birth and death, and yet the spirit remained unbound. The essence existed outside of form, vibrating in the void. She slowly became the World’s sublime song, losing a sense of her body and drifting more in otherness, oneness. At times, she believed she could walk through trees, dissolve into water, fragment and fly away on beams of light.

How Outlining Saved my Writer’s Soul

heavy-934552_960_720

all images complements of pixabay

Well, that’s probably an overstatement, but it did save years of revisions, which is almost the same thing.

I wrote my first book as a pantser, diving into the pages like a love-struck teenager. I was possessed, channeling characters like a medium with a direct link to the great novel in the sky. I loved the inspired feeling of freeing my characters to ramble shilly-shally where they would as they told their own stories. They had entire lives of their own; who was I to tell them what to do.

Halfway through my first draft, one of my secondary characters (a guy named Conall) informed me that not only was he refusing to die, but he wanted to be the main character! He lobbied the other characters, and being the personable guy his is, he got the other mutineers to agree. I was stuck and had to go back and rewrite the first half of the book!

Diana's BookAnd as you can imagine, by this time, it wasn’t your normal-sized book either. With all the escapades and tangents my characters insisted upon taking, the tome ended up a whopping 190,000 words.

Oh. My. Goodness. Help!

So, outlining is something that I learned the very-hard way. The end result of my initial foray into writing was two extra years of revisions. I pared away whole scenes, chapters, and characters – over 60,000 words. I felt like I was being flayed. It was excruciating!

I’m a true believer in the mighty outline.

For me, outlining a story is a monstrously important step in terms of how painful the editing process will be down the road. I learned that a well-thought out plot/outline is going to save tons of time, keep the story tight, the scenes relevant, and help tie up dangling threads. I won’t have big issues with wandering chapters, cavernous holes, and out-of-the blue surprises. I won’t be doing as much slashing, back-tracking, and rewriting just to get the story right.

GravestoneYet, what about the thrill, you ask? What about the addictive creativity of not knowing what’s coming next? What about inspiration, the free will of your characters? Trust me, as an outliner, you don’t have to erect a tombstone over your dead muse’s grave.

Aside from the usual wisdom to find what works for you, my advice would be to develop (or locate) an outlining method that still allows plenty of room for creativity. In other words, leave space for inspiration! My outlines are fluid and morph right up until I pop a period on the epilog.

This is going to sound like the polar opposite of “fluid,” but I keep track of my outlines in Excel. (Word, post-it notes, charts, and diagrams are fine too, of course). Most outliners suggest starting with the basic bullets of the story and growing it from there. I tend to jot down what I know from my musings – some of it detailed, some of it loose and full of gaps.

With those rough bones in place, the fun of fleshing out the story begins. I expand, add detail, fill logic gaps, and think through how to get from A to B and have it make sense. The joy of Excel is that I can insert, delete, reorder, and expand rows as the story takes shape. I can lump rows together into rough chapters. I can insert rows to capture bits of dialog or scenes that bubble into my brain.

At some point, hopefully, I’ve also started writing. Here’s where the old unpredictability and creativity kicks in. Over and over again, new ideas form, something unexpected happens, and characters run off and implement ideas of their own as if they’re in charge.

communication-73331_960_720

Like a benevolent dictator, I routinely call the insurgents into the boardroom for some outline brainstorming. We figure out where we need to backpedal, adjust dialog, add/modify/delete scenes, and place Chekov’s gun on the mantel. Together, we re-plan future scenes, trash everything they just wrecked, plug plot holes, mend broken threads, and get the whole outline making sense and flowing again.

By the way, outlines are also potent cures for writer’s block. I may not be in the mood to write, but I always know what comes next.

Are you a happy pantser, outliner, or something in between?

Happy Writing!

Female faces in Western Art…500 years

I love those graphics where faces morph into new faces. They highlight the great beauty and diversity of human features. In this short video, it’s the exquisite feminine face as seen through artists’ eyes over 500 years of western art. I couldn’t help but watch the way the artists captured the subtlety and beauty of emotion. I’m thrilled to reblog this piece from We Extraordinary Women. Enjoy.

We Extraordinary Women

500 years of beauty in art, captured in a video accompanied by music.

WeW

View original post

The Rose Shield

manipulated images from pixabay

manipulated images from pixabay

A peek at the start of my WIP. 

Darkest Night.

The ironwood pier below Mur-Vallis pointed like a sooty finger over the Blackwater’s swirling luminescence. Wraiths of fog pirouetted across the surface, trailing veils of white lace. Raker lounged against the piling where he’d tethered his boat, keeping an idle eye out for thieves. Not that anyone would bother his craft this night, not with finer prizes left unattended. Well-rigged riverboats and ferries floated at the wharf, thunking and clinking above the current’s hushed whispers.

With a bone-handled knife, he whittled splinters from a wood waterdragon no larger than his thumb. The solitude suited him, removed from the chaos of the warrens that crowded the dingy expanse below the city’s lowest tier. The welcome there was cold anyway, harsh enough to get a half-blood gutted. His slanted eyes, blue as rime, and three-fingered hands gave his heritage away.

The three pylons supporting Mur-Vallis soared into the vast night sky. Their lighted tiers lay open like petals on an alien flower, soft-edged and overlapping, the upper layers diminishing in size while increasing in opulence.

Or so he’d heard. No one he knew had climbed higher than the first tier, and only for a hanging.