The Rose Shield: Catling’s Bane goes Live!

Many of you have read the character introductions and heard me going on and on about getting this book ready. Well, that’s all in the past now as Catling’s Bane is live on Amazon!

Catling’s Bane is currently .99 cents 

Books 2-4 are available for preorder

Available in print too (here)

Many thanks to all those who read, commented, and encouraged me with your kind words over the past two years. Special thanks to my writer’s critique group and to an awesome bunch of beta readers who helped me with the final spit and polish.

The blurb

In the tiers of Ellegeance, the elite Influencers’ Guild holds the power to manipulate emotions. Love and fear, pain and pleasure, healing and death mark the extremes of their sway, but it’s the subtle blends that hook their victims’ hearts. They hide behind oaths of loyalty and rule the world.

A child born in the grim warrens beneath the city, Catling rues the rose birthmark encircling her eye. Yet, it grants her the ability to disrupt the influencers’ sway. Established methods of civil control disintegrate before her. She’s a weapon desired by those who reign and those who rebel.

To the Influencer’s Guild, she’s an aberration, a threat. They order her death and thus the betrayals begin. One woman protects and trains her, plotting to use her shield to further imperial goals. No longer a helpless child, Catling has other plans. As chaos shakes the foundations of order and rule, will she become the realm’s savior? Or its executioner? 

The Rose Shield Series – A blend of science fiction and fantasy.

Welcome to a world of three moons, a sentient landscape, rivers of light, and tier cities that rise from the swamps like otherworld flowers. A planet of waterdragons, where humans are the aliens living among three-fingered natives with spotted skin. Where a half-blood converses with the fog and the goddess plans her final reckoning.

Follow Catling’s journey as she grows from childhood into the deadly force that shapes the future. She is the realm’s shield, an influencer, assassin, healer, mother, and avenger. And all she wants is to go home.

The books of The Rose Shield Tetralogy
(Global Links)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank You!

Pinky the Cat’s First Blog Post

This is me looking debonair. I’m a boy cat. I don’t know why they named me Pinky.

Pinky the Cat here.

E*en though I’m a cat, I’m a big fan of Danny the Dog who blogs down in Florida on Andrew’s boat.  If a dog can blog, why not a cat, right? Cat’s Rule! (I said that just because Danny thinks that dog’s rule.)

I’d almost gi*en up on blogging, and then this morning, I got my chance. This is my first post, and I need to type fast. My human, Diana, usually hogs the laptop, and I miss out on telling the world about my ad*entures. She’s not ha*ing a good day, so this is my chance.

Where is she? What happened to her? Well, that’s an interesting story.

As you might imagine, I am her greatest inspiration and most conscientious writing partner. While her muse is out gala*anting in the forest, I’m here sitting on her keyboard and practically telling her what to write. I also keep her warm.

Another thing I do is keep her healthy. If it wasn’t for me, she’d sit in her recliner all day without a break. I ha*e numerous strategies, all tried and true and 100% effecti*e. For one, I bite her when I want her to feed me. She doesn’t like that at all, but she feeds me anyway because she adores me and doesn’t want me to star*e while she finishes “one more chapter.”

Here, I’m helping with editing

Also, e*ery hour or so, I go outside through the cat door, run around the house, and scratch on the window screen until my claws get stuck. I do this rain or shine so she can play the hero and rescue me. It’s good for her self-esteem.

Finally, I shred anything made out of wood. Diana and I li*e in a log cabin so there’s a lot of wood to shred. She puts me outside and then I run around and scratch on the screen. Keeping humans healthy is hard work.

But back to my story about where she is.

When I’m keeping her warm, she can’t resist patting me. Who could? I’m soft and I purr. I know how to play to the audience. Naturally, my handsome pink hair gets all o*er her laptop. She wipes it off, but, occasionally, so much pink hair gets under the keys that some of them stop working. She gets out the *acuum cleaner hose and *acuums her laptop keys. Sometimes, that isn’t enough, so she pops off the keys, picks out the hair, and snaps the keys back on. That usually does it.

You might wonder why she goes to all this trouble, but I am irresistible. Enough said.

Well, yesterday, a particular key wasn’t working, so she pried it off. She cleaned out my hair and popped the key back on. I don’t think she paid enough attention because she didn’t click it back on all the way. This morning, she used the *acuum cleaner. And you can guess what happened. Yup, the *acuum sucked up the key! You should ha*e heard her curse.

So, right now, she has the kitchen floor co*ered in plastic and she’s dissecting the *acuum cleaner bag looking for her little black key. She’s making a bigger mess than I e*er make. I think it’s almost time for a new laptop.

Thanks for reading my first blog post. Uh oh, here she comes. Where’s that publish button? There it is!

Writing Chapter One – Tips

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I’ve wanted to write about first chapters for a while, primarily because they’re so important. After all, they’re the gateway to Chapter 2 and getting a reader to Chapter 2 is a fantastic idea.

I did some research and almost instantly the rule-resistant rebel in me kicked in. She’s the writer who scowls at formulas, who insists that form has to fit the story, not the other way around. She’s the reader who doesn’t want to read the same story over and over with different titles.

Well, I suppressed the first-born smarty-pants part of my personality and learned a few things.

First, I learned that there are actually a number of perfectly legitimate types of first chapters. Writer’s Digest has a great article by Jeff Gerke that describes 4 approaches with examples (summarized here):

  • The Prolog – A prolog is an episode that pertains to your story but does not include the hero (or includes the hero at a time well before the story proper begins, when he’s a child). It might not be “Chapter 1” per se, but it can serve as a legitimate opening—if it works.
  • The Hero Action Beginning – In a hero action beginning, the hero is onstage, doing something active and interesting related to the launching of the core story (it need not involve explosions and car chases, but it certainly can).
  • The In Medias Res Beginning (in the middle of things ) – With in medias res, you start at a point deep in the story, show a bit of activity to intrigue the reader, and then you hit the rewind button and spend some or all of the rest of the book catching up to that moment.
  • The Frame Device – The final major way of beginning your first chapter is to use a frame device. In this, your story is bookended on the front and back (and usually a few instances in the middle) by a story that is outside the main story. The primary tale is framed by this other story.

With that out of the way, I went in search of tips that apply to Chapter 1’s regardless of the book, tips that I could apply as I conceive of, write, and edit my stories. As usual, there are exceptions to these tips, and the list is not exhaustive.

Context: Backstory, Setting, and Detail

  • Avoid backstory. Include the bare minimum necessary and trickle the rest in as needed.
  • Don’t overdo setting. Give a smattering of strong, vibrant details to establish a sense of place and time. Then fill in the rest later as the story unfolds.
  • Connect the character to the setting so it isn’t just a backdrop. You might show how the character interacts with the setting.
  • There’s no need to skimp on details that serve the story. If your story is about snipers, give sniper details. Make sure they’re sharp and interesting. Avoid being vague. Write tight!

Structure: Theme, Mood, and Plot

  • Start the book as late in the story as you can. Does your story still work if you start with Chapter 2? If so, Cut chapter 1.
  • Write a great first line. A great first line grabs the reader’s interest.
  • The theme is the argument that the story is making. The first chapter should hint at theme.
  • Establish your mood. Ask yourself how you want the reader to feel while reading the book.
  • Think of every chapter as a short story with a mini-plot and conflict, especially Chapter 1.
  • Avoid telegraphing. Let the immediacy of the action carry the chapter to the end. Keep your pov tight.

 Character

  • Most writing experts will recommend introducing your protagonist in the first chapter. Some recommend introducing your antagonist as well. Avoid opening with other characters talking about the main character.
  • Make your reader care about your character. How is the character at risk?
  • Have your character engaged – active versus passive.
  • Not absolutely necessary, but dialog is a great way to reveal character, and conflict and manage pace.

Conflict

  • Have some sort of conflict – physical, emotional, or mental. Conflict disrupts the status quo. Conflict is drama and it’s interesting.
  • You don’t need to spell out the stakes for the entire book in chapter one, but hint at why the conflict matters.
  • A note on action: Rip-roaring action might be fun, but it’s best if the reader cares about the character. Without an investment in character and context, an action scene can feel shallow.

Hooks

  • End your first chapter and each chapter with a moment of mystery, an introduction of conflict, or a twist of the tale. It doesn’t have to be a huge one; it just needs to be intriguing enough to propel the reader forward.
  • Mystery. While action needs context, one of mystery’s strengths is that it makes the reader wait for context. It’s okay not to explain everything. At the same time, mystery does not equal confusion – find the balance.

Happy Writing!

Why Books are Living Things

Pixabay image - Arthur Rackham

Pixabay image – Arthur Rackham

In contemplating what to write about today, I’ve decided to go a little off the deep end for the bewilderment of my readers. We writers can be a touch eccentric, and in order to perpetuate the characterization, I thought I’d chat about stuff I don’t know. That’s the fun of fantasy after all.

Those who’ve browsed my website know I love the idea of myths. To me, they’re the stories that define who we are and form the narratives of our lives. In my experience, perceptions alter our reality. We use perceptual narratives to filter our experiences, to guide our decisions, and create meaning in our lives. In essence, who we are, beyond our physical presence, is created based on our values and choices, how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us. In a way, we are the embodiment of stories; our lifetimes expressed in epic myth.

So, where am I going with this? Hang on, I’m getting there. One more piece of information and you’ll see.

While studying for a degree in a pastoral counselor, I took this great class called “The Spirituality of Relationship.” In essence, it described a relationship as a new entity, a created presence with a life of its own that requires nurturing and an investment of time to thrive. The discussion provided a new way of looking at loss posed by divorce. For, although children may retain healthy connections with both parents individually, they grieve the loss of this third presence, the un-tangible creation, the relationship.

Now my point comes together…

I believe, on an energetic level, that books are more than paper and ink or digital symbols. On some level, our creations are new entities with the ability to enter into relationship with others on a personal and emotional level, just as we do. Books and the people who inhabit them can open eyes, stir the heart, elicit a deep sense of longing or grief, outrage or fear. I’ve fallen madly in love with protagonists, profoundly altered the path of my life, made new choices, expanded my understanding of the world, all through my relationships with books. Some have stayed with me since the day I read them, hovering like spirits over my head.

What if, when we create worlds and characters, we create something that exists? How do we know that the myths we fashion in our heads don’t coalesce into something real and measurable? Simply because we lack the brain capacity and technology to perceive and quantify, doesn’t mean something can’t be. History chuckles at the folly of those shortsighted assumptions.

I’m intrigued by paradigms, the perceptual boundaries we cobble together to rationalize our experience. I love the idea of not knowing. I bask in the notion that we scarcely use a fraction of our brains and possess only the tiniest inkling of how the universe works. Our perceptions are so small, so limited, that to me anything is possible.

Other than a photo and a bio (based entirely on my myth of myself) you have no idea whether I’m a real person, right? In a way, I’m a manifestation of our combined imaginations. It’s possible that my characters are just as present in the fiber of creation as I am. I think so. I know them better than I know most people; I’ve interacted with them, lived with them, learned from them, laughed and wept with them. They will likely outlive me too. Cool, huh?

Well, I’m a fantasy writer after all. I can imagine you nodding your head sagely at this bit of information or muttering under your breath, “This woman is three tines short of a fork.”

All I can say is, “Welcome to my world.”

*** This post originally appeared on Chris Graham’s blog: The Story Reading Ape. ❤ ***

Thirty Years a Junkie

Young Andrew Joyce

Young Andrew Joyce

Writing deadlines are looming, and a death in my extended family put Tornado Boy in my care for the weekend. I didn’t have time to pull together a halfway coherent post for today. Yet, somehow the serendipitous universe understood. Andrew Joyce, author of The Swamp, which I posted about 10 days ago, asked me to share this story from his youth. It’s gritty – a story of a man’s life spiraling out of control, and the bravery and determination necessary to fight his way back.

***

Compared to some, I’ve lived an exciting life. At least parts of it were. However, compared to others, my life has been humdrum. The only thing I’m satisfied about is that all the drama took place when I was young and able to handle it. That would not be the reality today for I have grown old.

It’s confession time. I’m not looking for absolution. My only intent is to show some of you out there that there is hope. Nothing is forever. Perhaps my story might help you get to the next stage of your life. Maybe not, but I had help getting there, and I’ll tell you about it in a minute. First, a little background. And please, feel free to judge me. You cannot condemn me any more than I have already condemned myself.

When I was kid, I always had a wanderlust. I would see a freight train sitting on a siding, waiting to go on its way, and I would try to imagine its ultimate destination. Those open boxcars called to me. If I could only get into one of those cars, then I would be transported into a new life. Finally, I would see where the rails ended—that magical place. Then, and only then, would I know the secrets of the road. The secrets of the universe…

Source: Thirty Years a Junkie

A Writer goes to the Dump

images (1)From the Archives:

I’m a proponent of the belief that every experience contributes priceless raw material to a writer’s treasure chest. I’m a hoarder, cramming the niches of my brain with sensory inputs, emotional extremes, and reams of interesting and often useless information. No detail is too small, especially if it is painful or gross.

My husband’s back is on the fritz, so this morning I made my first solo trek to the town dump. Not a chore I anticipated with delight, I adjusted my mindset and used it as an experience-gathering expedition, adding several disgusting sensory inputs to my writing stockpile.

There are a few things you should know in order to fully appreciate this literary endeavor:

  1. It’s January in Oregon. That means it’s raining.
  2. Due to a series of unplanned mix-ups and timing obstacles, my husband hasn’t been to the dump in six months.
  3. Our trashcans are missing lids, having blown away during his previous dump trips (no comment).
  4. The back of our pick-up truck is full of logs.

After two cups of coffee, I don my wool hat, an old pair of mittens, a ratty coat, and my sneakers (a mistake). I clamber into the back of the pick-up, and start pitching logs over the side. My mittens are soaked within thirty seconds, and though I try to lift with my legs, my back is now whining like a teenager. Despite my freezing fingers, I’ve worked up a sweat and my wool hat is itchy on my forehead. As I kick a forty-pound log off the tailgate, I contemplate all the miserable discomfort I’ll subject my characters to and conjure up a few choice words for husbands that I stash away for future literary reference.

With the truck empty, I skirt the log pile and slog over to the trashcans. They’re lined up against a tall retaining wall with a mountain of trash bags piled on top of them. This was hubby’s solution to critters, which was not entirely effective, I might add. The top bags aren’t overly nasty, and half of them are bulging with stuff for recycling. I sling the lighter recycling into the truck bed and then lug the rest like a yoked peasant with no hope for a better life. Such is the back-breaking toil my villagers will endure for their cruel masters.  The conditions will be dismal—wet, filthy, and cold.

Now, I’ve unearthed the cans and, of course, the bags of rotted garbage are submerged (no lids, remember). They’ve been stewing in a fetid swill for months. I tip the cans over and the brown water pours out with a ripe stench that makes my head spin. It’s swamp water with half-decomposed bodies, the reek of a medieval midden heap. Thank goodness, it’s not summer or everything would be crawling with maggots and swarming with flies. I gag and breathe through my mouth.

The water-logged bags are bloated pigs and weigh a ton. I stab them with a pointed stick. Putrid water bursts out, drenching my sneakers. Lacking a choice, I heave them up with my soaked mittens.  They leak and dribble on my jeans. Not caring anymore, my brain numb to the horror, I grunt as I heft them to the tailgate. I’m a slave in the dank sewers outside the castle walls. I reek of death and drowning. Foul water splatters and pools in the truck bed. My poor characters are going to despise me.

The F350 is our chore truck, driven far less than our cars. I climb in and the distinctive odor of mouse shit assaults my nose.  Somewhere—in the seat cushion probably—a comfy little mouse family is waiting out the winter. To my core, I know the turds are lethal, but I make the ultimate sacrifice for the king of the castle and head to the dump. The truck smells so gross I roll down the windows for the ten-mile ride to town. Rain blows in with a stinging wind, but I bravely endure it over the stink. And I’ll remember this for when my protagonists hunker down in an old lean-to, thankful to suffer the icy drafts over the reek of vermin as they labor to rid the realm of evil.

Then, I arrive at the dump…

Happy Holidays

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I looked everywhere for a comprehensive list of holidays celebrated at this time of year. I wanted to list them all in their languages, but the task proved beyond my skill. So, in my own words, I wish everyone wherever you are in the world a heartfelt season of joy and love, and a new year brimming with kindness, compassion, and peace.

we are each authors
of the world’s love and kindness
be the words of peace

I’ll be taking a short break to spend time with Tornado Boy, family and friends. See you 2017!

Love, Diana ❤

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