New Year, New Book, and New Review

A Journey Through Time…and Time Again

I’m taking a break from my break to bring you a highly recommended series and new release from blogger and writer, Kennedy J. Quinn (aka Sheri). I’ve read the first two books in The Unwitting Journeys of the Witty Miss Livingstone series and bugged Kennedy for a year regarding the third. Finally it’s out. My review is below, but before going there, I was curious:

My Question for Kennedy: One thing that I noticed (and loved) in the very first book, as well as in subsequent reads, is Miss Livingstone’s distinctive voice. I’d swear a proper and very witty young lady was whispering her thoughts and dialog into your ear. Where did this voice come from and why does it feel so authentic? Are you secretly Miss Livingstone?

Kennedy’s Answer: This question (or questions) made me laugh. I’m delighted Miss Livingstone comes through to you with the unique verve I feel from her as I write. I confess most of my characters live vibrantly for me. They appear to me fully formed with vivid personalities, and I usually know their names without hesitation.

But Miss Livingstone is special. In a sense she does whisper to me, because if I struggle to write her lines here and there, she instantly demands correction when I stray – as forcefully as her in-story character demands everything else. She abides no weakness, though she gives room for innate faults and quirks with no need for apology. Her wit surprises me – perhaps as much as it surprises you – jumping out from all directions as I’m writing (or you’re reading) along. She doesn’t miss much and, again, demands I add in her brilliance.

Where her voice comes from, you may think you know at this point… sheer lunacy on the part of the writer, perhaps? But no, I think I’m as sane as any other fiction writer who ‘hears’ their characters. That leaves plenty of room for speculation on where any story originates in human psyche.

But a bit of insight on my background: My Canadian mum raised my brother and I with proper manners infused into daily living. My household was atypically quiet, and we did a lot of reading, art projects and other creative things – so imagination always loomed large and clear for me. Conservative values fused with dry or absurd humor. My well-read family thrived on astute observations and witty turns of phrase. I came to love British literature, music, drama and humor. I read mostly classics as a child and often still choose them for ‘light reading.’ So older style English and grammar come naturally. Though I purposely fuse simpler, more direct phrasing into the Miss Liv Adventures series while working to maintain a classic-nostalgic feel to the style.

So am I secretly Miss Livingstone? Her respect for proper behavior, yet inability to fully abide within it, lives in me. And I’d like to think I carry her boldness of spirit lit with a genuine heart. But I wouldn’t do some of the things she does… What fun to imagine I could! This boisterous, impetuous Miss Caprice Livingstone has a life of her own that bursts from the page and keeps me wanting to turn the next one. I’m thrilled to present Book III: Dreams Key. And I can’t wait until she tells us all more!

Thanks for asking, Diana! I’m pleased you enjoy the books, and it’s my pleasure to be spotlighted on your blog. Much appreciated!

Diana’s Review:

Miss Livingstone’s steampunk world includes time travel as well as dimensional travel, and the butterfly-effect gets everything incredibly tangled. Hold on to your petticoats! Lizzie’s access to magical gemstones and keys drops her into her past and future as well as into other versions of her life. Imagine her shock at suddenly finding herself in Scotland, about to give birth.

Several things stood out for me with this read. One is the complex plot created by the time/dimensional travel. Miss Livingstone might be witty, but she also has to use her wits to avoid causing a mess. She’s not the only one traveling which adds layers to the mysteries and shenanigans.

As in all the books, the characterization is fun and beautifully authentic. I enjoy Miss Livingstone’s personality which is genteel while it pushes at the boundaries of propriety with her sneakiness, guffaws, and occasional snorts. In voice, language, and good manners she is straight out of 1910. The same authenticity applies to the secondary characters though she is the most entertaining as she barges full steam ahead into any and every situation.

Book 3 picks up at the moment Book 2 ends, and Quinn doesn’t waste any pages catching the reader up. I’d recommend reading the books without too much time between them in order to avoid confusion. Recommended to readers who enjoy steampunk and fantasy with a turn-of-the-century flair.

Sheri’s Links:

Amazon Author page for Kennedy J Quinn: https://www.amazon.com/Kennedy-J-Quinn/e/B01M7TO14L

Miss Liv Adventures website: https://misslivadventures.com/

Kennedy J Quinn Twitter: https://twitter.com/KennedyJQuinn

Kennedy J Quinn Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KennedyJQuinn

FreeValley Publishing / FVP Books website: https://freevalleypublishing.com/

The Unwitting Journeys of Miss Livingstone Global Links:

Book OneBook TwoBook Three!

Happy Reading!

Pondering Time Zones

All images from Pixabay

Andrea (acflory) from Meeka’s Mind and I were emailing about time zones relative to my launch. Our discussion made me think of this old post from the archives. I hope it gives you a smile. 🙂

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No stranger to discussions of the fluidity of perception, I’m often pondering the different ways we interpret events, places, and people. I include myself in the mix. Who I am is entirely based on a host of perspectives, mine and others, and it changes minute by minute.

Even the date and time of my birth is subject to interpretation depending where you and I live relative to the International Date Line. Time is real, I suppose, but it’s also invented. When my brother used to fly back from Guam, he would arrive in Seattle an hour before he left Guam. Weird, huh?

When I started blogging, I became more aware of the play of time zones. I’m closer to the time-flip than quite a few readers so while I’m posting over a coffee and buttered bagel, some of you are slipping into your pajamas after a long day. If I post in the afternoon, you’re snoozing or rushing off to work… tomorrow.

WordPress occasionally confuses me. My stats show views on Tuesday while here it’s still Monday. My posts are time-traveling into the future! You’re commenting into the past.

Then it gets more complicated…

According to Kiss Metrics timing is everything and knowing when to post is “mandatory” for any successful blogger.

  • The highest percentage of bloggers read posts in the morning. Therefore, I should post occasionally at night?
  • A higher percentage of men read blogs in the evening and at night. Oh, so perhaps I should post in the morning…
  • The average blog gets the most traffic on Monday.  So, now and then I should post on Sunday which is Monday in half of the world.

To be fair, these recommendations are based on Eastern Standard Time, so it shouldn’t be all that muddling to me. Yet I care about my readers across the oceans and continents, and I think about them and where they are in their “times,” so near and yet thousands of miles away.

To finish off the stats here are the rest (based on EST):

  • The average blog gets the most traffic around 11 AM.
  • The average blog gets the most comments on Saturday.
  • The average blog gets the most clinks on Monday and Thursday.
  • The average blog gets the most clicks at 7 AM.

According to that round up, the best time for me to post is just before 4 AM on Saturday morning. Not gonna happen.

I’d love to hear about your slice of agreed-upon time. What day and time is it for you? When you blog, do you pay attention to time zones?

 

Make a Book Trailer with PowerPoint

I’m a cheapskate.

I’m also technologically impaired.

So when it came to making a book trailer for Sunwielder’s audiobook pre-release hype, I resorted to the old familiar standby from my years of selling office furniture – MS PowerPoint. The program’s been updated over the past 2 decades, but I still figured it out with some trial and error. And error. And a little more error.

The main thing I learned is regarding sequence:

1. Start with your text: Keep it pithy. I used my book blurb and pared it down to its bare essentials. That gave me about fifteen slides to populate with images.

2. Then add images: I took advantage of Pixabay’s royalty-free, attribution-free images for this one, frequently mashing them together to create a scene. Remember to check copyright details for the images you decide to use.

3. Add transitions: Don’t get too zany, but have fun. Timing is the hardest part. Just keep viewing and adjusting until you’re satisfied.

4. Add animation: Same as the above.

5 Add music: Once your presentation is done and the timing close to finalized, find a piece of music. I searched for royalty-free music about the length of the slideshow since editing music is beyond my brain’s ability. Again, check the copyright details. I added a slide at the end for the required attribution.

6. Tweak about 50-100 times.

7. Export from PowerPoint as an MP4 file.

8. Upload to Youtube, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Want to check it out?

Sunwielder: Coming Soon to Audible

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image from en.wikipedia.org

“I don’t think I can die, Estriilde,” Gryff said, his first words since the peak of the bridge.

“You’ve pickled your head in wine,” Estriilde replied. They hurried toward her tent, so close to being free of the wind.

“It’s not the wine. It’s the sunwield. I don’t believe it will let me die.”

“We all die, Farmer.” Her cloak opened as wide as wings, and she flew ahead. He plodded behind her, entering the dark tent as she fumbled to light her brazier. Sparks flinted to life, and the fire began its fight to banish the cold. He sank onto a stool as Estriilde sat back on her heels and studied him. “Every one of us dies in our time.”

He drew on the cord around his neck. The medallion rose from inside his shirt and hung exposed on his chest. She shuffled forward on her knees, close to him, and caught the bronze disk in her hand, silently counting.

“You have seventeen left.” Her gaze rose to meet his eyes. “That time may pass in moons or years. Every one of us side-steps death without a glimmer of awareness. We are a moment early or late before the arrow flies; we decide not to swim, to travel a lesser road. We aren’t hungry the day the food spoils; we leave the house before the roof collapses. We decide to ride the wild stallion the morning the placid gelding breaks a leg.”    -Sunwielder

***

I wrote Sunwielder eight years ago, and since then “sunwielder moments” have become a mainstay of my household vocabulary.

Sunwielder moments aren’t always those instances when a decision prevents unknowable catastrophe. How many times would each of us have died if not for the minute choices that led us down alternative paths? It’s a question without a reply.

Side-stepping unknowable death stirs a sense of destiny. Yet, for my husband and I, sunwielder moments tend to rise from our reflection on the choices that were pivotal in steering our lives. Each road traveled required another passed by. What if he or I had turned the other way?

There are thousands of them, long strings of seemingly inconsequential forks in the road that brought us to where we are now. Alter one, only one, and the dominoes would have cascaded down completely different paths. Even the wrong turns, the miserable things that happened in our pasts, contributed to where we are now.

If you think about it, the billions of choices made by your collective ancestors led to YOU. If a prehistoric youngster hadn’t chosen to clean the scratch on his arm, you might not exist.

Sunwielder moments extend beyond our individual lives as our power of choice impacts the lives of others. We may be the catalyst that unwittingly saves a life, transforms a future, or reaps despair. Even if ultimate outcomes rest on thousands of choices and influences, why not choose the path of kindness. You never know where that road will lead.

In Sunwielder, Estriilde focuses on the present — the past unchangeable and future unknowable. Easier said than done. As humans, we tend to spend much of our lives peering over our shoulders and inventing the scenery ahead. Randy and I are no exceptions to the rule.

Yet, as we grow, our sunwielder moments reside more frequently in our present. They appear on the cusp of choices, as we attempt to peek into the future and catch glimpses of how each decision may sway the trajectory of our lives and the lives of those we come in contact with. We attempt to live with more awareness of the gift and power of choice. For we, unlike Gryff and his sunwield, can’t journey back in time and travel the path unchosen.

Do you contemplate the sunwielder moments of your past? Do you choose with an eye on the trajectory of your future?

 

Sunwielder Gets a Makeover

EBOOK low res

As part of my conversion to indie publishing, my books are getting new covers. Once again, Jennifer Munswami of Rising Horse Creations has done her magic. This was a much more difficult cover because finding an image of Gryff as I pictured him in my head was impossible. Isn’t that funny? Writing and reading is so visual, and we become hopelessly attached to the pictures in our heads!

Now, what kind of author would I be if I didn’t try to hook you?

Prolog

The warrior rode in silence. Black oaks and silvergreen, dark with summer leaves, swathed the trail in shifting shadow. Shafts of sunlight speared the forest floor, altered only by the graceful sway of branches in the heated wind. She directed the mare with her knees, an arrow nocked in the recurve bow, a full quiver hanging from her pommel. A short sword with a breath of a curve rested in its scabbard at her belt, the ornate guard and curling quillon studded with moonstones.

Even this far from the battlefield, the land of Aldykar was riddled with brigands, deserters, and the soldiers hunting them. Yet she wore no armor, only the leathers of her homeland, tawny jerkin and breeches, soft-soled boots laced to the knee. Her hair, the red of old blood, flared in the filtered light, brushing her cheeks. Slanted gray eyes, pale as winter clouds, scanned the dark recesses of rock and fern in the hollows beneath the trees. The meeting place lay in a foreign wilderness, a place not unknown to her for she’d traveled the roadways and trails between Edriis and Mastrelle before, as maiden and warrior. Why the old woman chose the woods of Casbonny caused her wonder and filled her with wariness.

An owl’s solemn voice hooted in the moving shadows. The clearing lay ahead through columns of black bark, the round glade sunbathed and thick with fine grass. A young silvergreen grew in its center, branches filigreed steel in the pool of light. Her grandmother stood before the tree, arms at her side, gray hair plaited at her back. An odd expression imprinted her smooth face, a blend of relief, hope, and terrible resignation. “I am alone, Estriilde,” she said.

Songbirds quipped and called in the trees, offering no warning of predators. Estriilde relaxed her bowstring and slipped the arrow into her quiver. A long leg swung over the saddle, and she landed lightly at the shadow’s edge. “We live today, Grandmother,” she said in greeting.

“We live today.” Again the sorrow.

“Why all the trouble to meet at this place?” She tethered Morning Dove to a branch at the glade’s rim. “I ride to Angefell in eight days.”

That she’d received her grandmother’s missive at all seemed a toss left to chance, though she knew better. The old one glimpsed the endless arrays of time, how each moment unfolded like a fan with infinite future possibilities. She traveled them, followed their paths, tracked the splintering of lives, chose and chose through the moments to see where they wended and died.

“You know I bear a vision, my little one.”

Little one? Estriilde smiled. They were Edriisan, statuesque compared to the women of Aldykar, and she stood a hand taller than her grandmother. “This place is part of a path?”

Clasping her hand, the woman drew her into the glade’s light. “Every moment is a path. Yet this is the only one that will save you. The only one I could find. You have died a thousand times.”

Estriilde sighed. “Only today exists.”

“Only now exists, Estriilde. Only now, but I cannot help seeing what I see.”

“What will happen here?” She withdrew from her grandmother’s grasp and walked the edge of the grass in a slow circle, her right hand fingering the hilt of her sword.

The old one’s reply laced the air with ice, “The stranger will come when he hears you scream.”

“Am I to die today?” Estriilde slid the blade free, sunlight glinting on watery steel.

“It is the only way,” the gray woman whispered.

“You invite me to my death, Grandmother.” Estriilde gazed at the forlorn eyes, so like her own. “I will not die easily.”

“You will scream.”

Eyes closed, Estriilde raised her face to the cloudless sky. “Will you stay to see me fall?”

“I cannot, my child. But I will sing for you when you’re dead.”

The birds stilled, their calls frozen in the thick air. The debris of the forest floor rustled and snapped beneath the soft thud of approaching hooves.

“It comes now?” She cast a sideways glance through a wisp of blood red hair to find her grandmother gone.

Bearing weapons of war, the riders reined their mounts at the rim of the glade and slid from their saddles.

Then the screaming began.

Thanks for reading!

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pixabay

pixabay

 

Sunwielder – off to the press

Tomorrow Sunwielder heads to the printing press and a couple weeks after that it arrives on my doorstep. These are thrilling moments in the life of a writer – another book birthed, another soul-bearing to the world.

Sunwielder came out of my own musings. How many times have I gazed back at the path of my life and wondered how one small decision, one minute choice or event changed my course. Waitressing in a diner at age sixteen led to a number of years in  the restaurant business, which led to meeting my first husband, which led to a daughter and a new career, which led to my second husband who encouraged me to write. Even mistakes and disasters can inform our lives. The tragedy of 9/11 sent me off on a new career path after 18 years with one company, swapping business for human services. My brother’s murder in 2003 will run its ripples through my life and my writing for the rest of my days.

What if we could go back and remake our choices? Avoid our miseries? Make better decisions and new mistakes that open wonderful doors? That’s the magic of Sunwielder.

Sunwielder

 

In a land on the brink of war, Gryff Worden discovers his family slaughtered, his farm in ruin.

Mortally wounded, he stumbles upon a timekeeper, an old woman of the northern forests, one who tracks the infinite paths of each life. She offers him a sunwield, a medallion promising to return him to the pivotal choices that swayed his life’s journey. Her only condition—he must wear the bronze charm until the end.

Now his story remakes itself, casting him backward in time to moments of decision and death. His old life gone, he no longer remembers the purpose of the medallion burning his chest. As he uncovers the sunwield’s power, new choices lead him on an epic adventure through war, death, friendship, life, and love.

Available on Amazon