The Rose Shield – Gannon

Rose Shield Gannon

You’ve met a few characters from my WIP, The Rose Shield, which I’m delighted to say is back in play after 6 solid months of editing other books. Here are some links to previous excerpts:

Catling, my six-yr-old protagonist on Hanging Day.
Whitt, her adopted brother, battling crajeks in the swamp.
Raker, the half-mad rafter who kicks off the series.

This is an intro to Gannon. He’s having a bad day.

Excerpt: The Rose Shield

Gannon woke in a cargo hold, his ankle manacled to an eyebolt in the rocking floor, his body weak as a feathered hatchling. He lay on his back, deep in a ship’s bowels, the vessel a seafaring hulk by the creaking and groaning as it smashed through the waves. Distant voices teased his ears along with a chorus of clanking metal and squabbling seawings.

The hold was dark, but not lightless. Crates and rough sacks crammed timber berths, strapped down with camgras ropes. Oily barrels perched in wooden frames to keep them from rolling. He needed food and water, and he stank to the stars.

He’d been captive in a ship’s hold before. Memories of his torture after the ambush in Mur-Vallis flooded his head. Panic broke out on his skin in a lurid sweat, and his heart leapt into a gallop. “Gah! Help! Ah. Get me out of here! Help! Let me go!” He thrashed the chain, kicked at a convenient crate, and shouted until a hatch cracked open and a spear of sunlight nearly blinded him.

A sturdy woman with chopped hair and a pickaxe nose climbed down the ladder. A scar wrinkled her upper lip, and her eyes shone in the dim light like chips of flint. She wore a black bodice and leggings, snugly fit and bordering on transparent. For ease of movement, a slit parted the front of her calf-length skirt, and her wide belt sported an assortment of bone-handled blades, none of them friendly. Though older than he and far from beautiful, she exuded an alluring confidence.

She was also Cull Tarr; he was shackled in a Cull Tarr ship.

Her hand dropped to her hip and she held up a key. “I won the wager.”

“Unchain me,” he demanded and shook his leg, clanking the chain. “Get this thing off me.”

“You might be dangerous.” Her eyes narrowed, lips turned up in a mocking smile.

“You’re delusional if you think I can slay you all and seize the ship?”

“Probably so. Still, why risk it?”

His heartbeat slowed its pace, and he stopped rattling his irons. “I give you my oath.”

“Ellegeans break oaths. They broke faith with the Founders.” She considered the key. “However, I’ll accept your word. If you break it, I’ll slice you up and feed you to the sea.”

He didn’t doubt she would. She knelt by his ankle and unbolted the lock.

“What wager did you win?” he asked, rubbing his ankle.

“I gambled on your life.” She hung the key on a nail “We found a sack of poisons on your boat. The others figured you for dead. If you didn’t wake up today, we planned to toss you overboard.”

“I’m glad you won.” He sat up and almost fell over. “I need food and a bath.”

“I’ll feed and water you, and give you a bucket.” She stood up and offered him a hand. “Maybe a fresh pair of trousers. You stink like a grounder’s shithole.”

He grabbed her hand, grateful for the help and unsteady on his feet. The ship’s roll did nothing to pacify the queasy swill in his stomach. “My respects.” He held onto the corner of a crate and managed a crooked bow. “I’m Gannon.”

“No fancy little surname?”

He shook his head. “Just Gannon.”

“A pity.” She shrugged and swung toward the ladder. “I’d hoped to ransom you. We’ll talk when you smell better.”

“Who are you?” He staggered after her.

“Emer Tilkon of the Wandering Swan. Shipmaster to the likes of you.”

Should You Edit Your Published Book?

When to edit

Like just about anything we do (paint, cook, dance, carpentry, write) we get better with practice. We learn better methods, the tricks of the trade, how to blend color and spices, cut a rug and cut a bevel.

We learn how to craft a tight plot and rich characters, show versus tell, reduce dialog tags, choose verbs, kill the adverbs. If we’re lucky, we get strong feedback from editors, critiquers, and beta readers. We take courses, read books on writing, and write, write, write.

Knowing that improvement is a given, the books we wrote five years ago might not look as polished as those we write today.

As I reclaimed my publishing rights from my publisher, I planned to reread my books to correct typos and buff them up a bit. I didn’t expect to do much rewriting – after all, the books were edited and they’ve received decent reviews.

I started reading … uh oh.

Look at all those adverbs…
Erm, telling words…
Yeesh, I could eliminate a lot of these dialog tags…
Hmm, this section doesn’t really advance the plot…
Oh dear, kind of wordy…

So the books got a much closer look than I intended, and I’m glad I made the effort. This exercise got me thinking about two editing questions related to previously published books.

yes-238378_960_720When is a re-edit of a previously published book a good idea:

After a while, most authors develop an inner “knowing” as to when their story is done, and it’s usually based on the writer’s current level of skill. It’s as good as they can write it at the time.

Thus, our first books are often, not always, a little beastly. And this speaks to why editorial feedback is so vital, particularly early in one’s career. I know this from experience; my first book was a warty little troll before an editor got her eager hands on it for a makeover.

Fortunately, like most skills we tackle, we make gigantic leaps forward in the beginning and then start to level off when we near our peaks. For this reason, revisiting previously published books makes the most sense after we are a few years into our writing careers. By then, we have pages of experience crammed in our back pockets.

Another time to revisit a previously published book is when it has few or mostly negative reviews. Early works may need anything from a major developmental edit of plot and structure to a simple scrubbing for grammar and flow. If a book didn’t run through an editor’s gauntlet the first time, it’s not too late.

As authors, we might weigh the impact of leaving older books out there if they’re not reflective of our current skill. The last thing we want is for a reader, once snagged, to walk away and miss the awesome talent infusing our later works. It’s a confidence boost to polish up the weakest links in our backlist chains.

no-238376_960_720When to stop re-editing a book (published or otherwise):

Your novel is done. Finally! But wait; maybe you should give it a last read-through for typos. Then there was that scene in Chapter 7 that gave you so much trouble. Just one more look. Wa-la! Oh, darn, there’s a telling word; are there more? What if I can cut another thousand words; maybe describe their clothing less; nobody cares about clothing. Okay, done! Maybe my protagonist should have a goatee…

Some writers never publish because they never stop editing. The editing loop can roll on forever and ever … even after publishing. Knowing when to stop isn’t always easy, but it’s important.

Here are some reasons to stop editing:

1. There is no such thing as a perfectly written book. And even if there was, someone would hate it. 90% Perfect and shared with the world is better than 100 percent perfect and wallowing in your head.

2. Endless revisions take time away from writing something new!

3. Over-editing can dull your pov characters’ distinct voices. This is especially dangerous when you’re editing in bits and pieces and lose the narrative flow.

4. You’ve done your major developmental edits, content edits, stylistic edits and proofing, and now you are increasing rather than reducing the word count.

5. Instead of improving your book you are only making it different. And maybe making it worse.

6. You haven’t taken a break from your book in a year. Time to let the beast sit for a month or so. You’re way too up-close and personal with your novel and both of you need some space to relax and think rationally.

7. You started the book when your kids were in diapers and they just graduated college.

8. You hate looking at your book and the thought of rehashing it one more time makes you want to barf. Time to shut it down.

Have you written a book? Are you writing a book? How do you decide when it’s ready to fly?

The Verdant Moon

Claude Monet

Claude Monet

In my fantasy worlds, the Verdant Moon heralds the high heat of summer. On the sea, winter’s iron clouds have long blown west and the island’s white bluffs are alive with nesting fishers and heckling gulls. The village shores idle, embraced by calmer waters, and small single-masted fishing boats rest on the beach, keels cutting long grooves in the sand.

No one lingers inside their narrow harbor homes when the markets brim with crabs’ legs and smoked redfish, squid with coiling tentacles, and the slimy innards of crusty shells. Summer brings more familiar fare from the dark-loamed farms: honeyed cakes and salty bread, ripe fruits, and bouquets of greens. Few go hungry during the Verdant Moon.

The Verdant Moon shines on the world tomorrow night, July 19th.

Vernal Moon

Excerpt from the Vernal Moon, Eye of Sun
The Dragon Soul Quartet

Treasach made the decision to sail the Seabourne onto the rocky shore of Anghard, and Morgen didn’t question the choice. The Rogue would impale her or drive her into the Narrows. The beautiful Seabourne would be lost regardless, so Treasach saved her crew.

He roared his orders with such force even Percy shut his gaping mouth and listened. In mere seconds, the men lashed themselves to the ship. Morgen swung a line around himself and the captain, tying them loosely to the helm. Arful stood at the bow, barking inanely at the gulls, and Morgen was helpless to save him.

Treasach spun the wheel and Morgen held on. The Seabourne plunged through the waves, her sails taut with wind when she slammed into the rocks that littered the shallows. The deafening impact ripped Morgen from the wheel and flung him under the line against the gunwales. Wood splintered and shrieked as the ship broke free and spun, the maw of the Narrows yawning open.

“Make for shore!” Treasach bellowed over the crush of fracturing wood, wind, and waves. The crew scrambled out of their bindings, and Morgen attempted to stand. The Seabourne smashed into the underwater shelf that would mark its grave, and the ship lurched, sending him sliding across the deck toward the sea. He caught a standing line and held on. Arful yelped and slipped over the edge as the ship groaned, cracked, and began to list.

“To shore,” Treasach yelled. For a heartbeat, the Seabourne stuttered, wedged on the rocks, but their chance of escape narrowed as she started to spin back into the current. Men scuttled down the slanted deck and dropped into the sea.

“Watch for rocks,” Morgen shouted. The water between the ship and Anghard’s shore wasn’t deep but treacherous, and the Seabourne offered small protection from the tide’s pull. He caught sight of Arful sweeping toward the Narrows and paddling for shore.

As men scrambled to safety Morgen counted them, and when satisfied, he slid from the ship into waist deep water. “Now, Captain!” he yelled for Treasach. The captain climbed over the gunwale, and before Morgen could shout a warning, he let go, falling onto a slick black rock. Treasach nearly drowned before Morgen grabbed him and hauled him ashore.

(Coming in August)

**Images from pixabay.

Your Life

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pixabay image

A little attempt at poetry. Inspired by a friend who honored her life’s journey despite pressure to comply.

Your Life

Squat on the floorboards
And let your life surge out of you
Hot, sticky, and wailing for attention
Red fisted fingers raised with demands

Your life wants you undivided
In tree forts and toeshoes
Clarinet howling at the mounting moon
Gyrating disgracefully to an untamed song

Be luminous, scraped and scarred
In mud and blood and bright green glitter
She wants shameless love to burn her
Brand her with its valor

She will seethe and storm and slam doors
Strand you with your reasons
Forsake your obligations
And fearsome insecurities

Your life would rather be held against a raw heart
With all the ache and passion and mess there
Than sit cross-legged in some therapist’s chair
Wondering why her soul is barren
Why she won’t squat on the floorboards
And bring her life to birth.

Reader Surveys by Genre and Gender

pixabay

pixabay

I’m one of those kids that learns by doing. Who needs research when you can tie your legs together, jump into the lake, and try to swim like a mermaid? With nine books under my belt and four more in progress, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to do a little research on who my readers are. Hey, the lightbulb eventually turns on; it just might take a while!

I found some interesting data on Statista about readers and made a few charts. The survey was taken in 2015 with 2,273 US readers.

The survey asked readers to identify the type of books they’ve read in the last year by genre. (Note that this is a survey of interest not volume. So, someone who reads 20 romances and 1 fantasy novel will check both boxes “yes.”) As with all surveys, take this one with a pinch of salt).

% Readers who Reported Reading Fiction

% Readers who read fiction books by genre

% Readers who Reported Reading Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction Readers by Genre

My genre, Sci-fi/Fantasy, is only read by about 25-26% of adult readers. Congrats to you Mystery/Thriller/Crime writers at 47%! This data won’t make me change my genre preference, but it intrigues me enough to explore the stylistic elements of that popular genre(s)!

The next chart looked at the same data divided by gender.

Reader Genre Preference by Gender

Genre preferences by Gender

I was curious as to whether most of my readers are male or female and discovered that Fantasy is one genre that’s almost evenly matched. In this sample, Sci-fi is statistically read more by men.

The reason for this tidbit of research is my book Sunwielder – though women do enjoy the book, men seem to give it the best ratings. It’s a time-travel (sci-fi staple) fantasy with a strong historical-ish component. The slight sway toward male readers makes sense when I look at the charts above.

I don’t expect any of this to change the way I write, but I did find the info interesting. The world of books is as varied as the readers who inhabit it, which is one thing I love about writing.

As a reader, do these statistics apply to you?
As a writer, is there anything here that intrigues you?

Lookout #Writephoto

lookout

This submission is for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo weekly prompt. I can’t resist these.

Without a choice, Kael crept through the sheeting rain toward the garden, the baby heavy in his arms. His other sister, Gitta, hid behind the trellis, paralyzed by the terrible stridency of murder. He took a step closer and ducked back, squatted and held his breath, stroking Clover’s cheek to keep her quiet.

A guard in a black cloak stood at the corner of the shed, a loaded crossbow resting in his hands. He squinted in the rain as he scanned the garden, pens, and moor. Gitta didn’t seem aware of the man’s presence, and Kael begged her to stay as if his will alone could bind her limbs and silence her tongue. “Stay there, Gitta. Please, stay there.”

The guard spit and wiped the rain from his forehead with a sleeve before walking toward the pens. Kael tossed a stone into the garden. Gitta spun and he beckoned. As she ran toward him, he retreated into the heath. “We’re going to hide in the old cairn,” he told her. “You lead, quiet as a mouse.”

Gitta nodded, eyes like winter pools, her body soaked and shaking. She set off and Kael followed. They squeezed through the gap into the stone hollow. Kael opened Clover’s blanket and wrapped it around both sisters. They sat near the back, snuggled together, the tight quarters offering shelter from the storm.

“No talking,” Kael whispered when words formed on Gitta’s lips. She nodded and pointed at his shoulder. He gave his bloodied sleeve a peek and shrugged, then placed a finger to his lips.

Heather broke beneath quiet footfalls. Gitta pinched her eyes closed and Clover pressed her face into Kael’s arm as the shadow of a man blocked the gray light. Kael looked out, meeting the dark eyes. The stocky guard combed thick fingers through his wild beard.

“Niall?” another voice called.

“Just taking a piss,” the bearded man yelled into the rain. He gestured for Kael to stay before he trudged away. “No sign of them. I’ll stay on the moor and keep an eye out.”

Kael swallowed a sob, motionless, listening. The autumn skies brought premature darkness, the rain falling in rustling gales. Clover slept in his arms and Gitta dozed, emitting small sleep-filled cries that grated his raw nerves. The wind keened, and rain-dampened calls kept him vigilant, the hunters still on the prowl. Sorrow pressed down with the unbearable weight of the old stones.

What it feels like to ride a Dragon

Dragon riding3

pixabay compilation

The meadow sings with crickets and dragons, swarms of bees and seeds on white wings. You wade into the blue-eyed grass, a waterless sea of larkspur, speedwell and mountain everlasting. Breathe the fragrance of a windless day when the energies of earth, water, and sky crackle in the air.

In the cloudless currents, dragons dip and roll with the grace of swallows. Silken wings billow, dyed by a blushing sky, light as windswept sails. The waning sun glints on scales of emerald and seafoam, coral and moonstone.

You know what to do.

Present to your perceptions, shutter your eyes and breathe until the rhythm of your heart entrances. The dark and stale corners empty, willing you to release the mind and be one, indistinguishable from the world. You call the dragons down.

A breath of wind whispers across your lashes. Risk a glance. The aimless whirl of wings transforms into a weaving dance of muscle, sinew, heart and soul.  Dragons ride the sky in undulating waves, a vortex swirling down to the mountain’s flowered sea.

Be still, a pillar of stone as the great dragons descend. A flurry of wings paints the air in hues of topaz, amethyst, and green tourmaline. Crescent scales shimmer like watercolor moons.

Wary, you exhale, mindful of those that huff and hum around you, sharing the air as if you’ve vanished into the breathing, living landscape. A dappled dragon rears before you. Wings of abalone sweep the sky. You do not falter, but surrender and approach.

Fingertips glide over the webbing’s hollow bones and brush pearly scales, bestirred by the softness. The long neck curves and cloud-gray eyes peer into you, a soul freed of fear. The dragon lowers a wing, the long-awaited invitation.

You open like a whisper, and in that pause between your heartbeats, at the precise point when the inhale becomes the exhale, the dragon slides  beneath your skin. Light streams into your heart. Particles of life that once comprised your body merge in tender intimacy with the world, and your essence radiates beyond your flesh, blood, and bones. You are luminous, sunlight and stardust, one with the dragon’s soul.

Stepping softly, you rise over the sleek back. Wings unfold beneath you, flowing and flaring outward as the last rays of day span the wilderness. They drum the petaled sea, and as one, you ascend, chasing the sun that rolls over the horizon. You lift your face and raise your arms for you too have wings and song and soar.

The dragon spirals higher, neck craned, eyes glistening in the golden glow of twilight. Wings fanned back, you fly faster, picking up speed, letting the world pull you around, faster, the wind singing in your ears. You sweep past forests of jagged giants, crest the snow-cowled peaks, and soar over the thorny rose that rims the craggy shore. Your heart surges as you sail over the wind-worn sea, embracing the utter boundlessness of flight, the freedom of the wing, the spinning of the world hurling you forward and slinging you into myth.

That’s what it feels like to ride a dragon.

Adapted from Myths of the Mirror – Re-release in August