New Summoner Cover!

The internet is a really cool way to connect people across the globe. Yet, for all its awesomeness, these connections can be too easily severed when someone goes offline for whatever reason and you never hear from them again. I’ve had this happen several times over the years I’ve been online gaming, and once again it struck when The Summoner’s cover designer’s web site shut down with no idea of what happened and no way of finding out. I hope he’s OK because he did a really great job of Frankensteining at least six separate stock photos to create the original cover that still graces the paperback version.

While it’s a great cover, it doesn’t really strongly brand the series — something I decided I wanted when I put book 2 out. So I asked a new designer to touch up the cover and do some magic with the branding. See the result for yourself:

Click to buy on Amazon

Looks pretty cool, huh? 🙂 And there’s no doubt this is book 1 in a series. I’m really pleased with the look and plan to use this designer going forward — he makes such epic fantasy illustrations, that I want to hang them as posters on my wall! Now I just need to finish book 2.

And on that note…

I took a small break from writing this past month, which is ultimately a good thing. See, I’m not one of those plot everything ahead of time writers. I explore the story and get to know my characters as they react to situations and sometimes surprise me. While I know the main characters pretty well, I have several new characters and more fleshed out side characters that needed some loving. So, while it means no book out for summer which is a bummer, it does mean that when it does come out, it will hopefully be well worth the wait.

May the rest of the summer be free of Mother Nature’s wrath and may yours be enjoyable! I need to get back to writing… so blog you again next month! 🙂

The Hugo Wrap Up

I didn’t get as much writing done as I wanted to this month. Part of that was the summer warmth that arrived which makes it hard to do anything but enjoy the short Pacific NW summer while it lasts. I’m an oddball and love hot as long as it doesn’t come with humidity, which is pretty much the norm out here. Funny story – we are in a drought. Yup, this here rainforest-y area which gets regular rainfall most of the year is experiencing a drought. But this always happens in the summer. It’s like nature flips a switch from cool and rainy to warm, sunny, and very dry. I’ve had to water my plants so they don’t shrivel into brown nubs. However, this year, the July drought time has been exceptionally dry. The only precipitation we had this month was on the first when we got 0.05″.  I think I could spit and produce that much moisture! Check it out: Rainfall in Seattle 2018. Don’t say we are always rainy because July and August will shoot that theory down.

The other reason for a slowdown in writing was for a fun cause: I was busy reading through the Hugo nominations. This entire process begins around December when I freak out and remember I want to do the Hugo thing. I frantically worry about the deadline to apply to the Worldcon in time to do the nominations. So far, I’ve managed to make it under the deadline, whew, then I have to compile a list of all the books I’ve read the past year so I can submit up to six per category. No problem! Um. Well. Maybe. I read A LOT. Even after becoming an author, I still manage to read A LOT, just not as much as before. So from Feb to March, I scramble to submit a list of books, movies, and TV shows I think represent the best of science fiction and fantasy. No pressure!

I tend to read a lot of indie books these days in a feeble attempt to reduce my book spending. As a reading addict, I have to draw the line somewhere! That means many of my nominations are for indie authors who really don’t have much of a shot at winning a nomination spot since the people who sign up to vote are usually into shorts published in magazines and trad pubbed books. Stinks for me if I ever wanted to try for a Hugo (hey, one day it could happen!) or see my favorite indie authors win, but great for my reader self since I don’t get a chance to read a lot of trad pubs these days.

So sometime in March, we submit our nominations and then they come back to us in May with the top six in each category that we have to do a final rank vote on by the end of July. Best part about signing up to do all this: you get a packet with most of the books that made the final round! Cost: $50. Value: way more than that. Then I have to squeeze time in to read all that which meant July became pretty hectic.

In the past few years the nominations were tainted by drama. Fortunately, this year the choices were all very good. Of course, that made it difficult to choose who got that top slot. But that’s a problem I’m happy to have!

If you want my run down of the nominees and my initial thoughts, go here: http://www.thegoldenelm.org/hugo-nominations-2017/

If you want to find out more about the Hugo nominations, go here:
http://www.thehugoawards.org/

Chameleon is out!

Back in April, I wrote a science fiction short story introducing another member of my ragtag team of techno rebels that will star in a series I have yet to write (cross your fingers for 2019). This protagonist’s name is Chameleon, Chamo for short, and she’s a genius computer hacker with an addiction to the difficult and impossible. The story starts off with her in the middle of a data heist when she gets wind of the ultimate challenge. She’s definitely going to be the trouble maker of the team.

Like Biting Shadow, this story is in another anthology called The Renegade which just came out. So yay! You can check it out here.

It’s fun to take small detours like this where I can get a tiny bit of world building done while still working on my fantasy series. Eventually, I’ll have the entire team assembled. 🙂

I’ve also been reading/watching this year’s Hugo nominations. I love doing this because it exposes me to movies, shows, and books that I might have missed.

One surprise I’d like to call out is Season 4, Episode 1 of Black Mirror called USS Callister. You can find it on Netflix and just wow. If Star Trek: Original mated with Twilight Zone and had a baby, this would be its name. I had heard about this series but never watched any of the episodes until this week. If you really enjoy creepy horror involving future technology that’s far beyond our reach, then this show is for you.

You can check out all the nominations and my reviews as I finish them here.

That’s all for now. Enjoy the 4th if you are in the US, summer if you are on the topside of the planet, and winter if you are down below! 🙂

The Fierce Beauty of Pele’s Wrath

As I thought about what to write in the blog this month, my mind kept wandering back to the images of Kilauea that have been in the news lately. I have a friend who lives on one of the smaller islands, so my interest in Hawaii comes naturally.

Actually, it started sooner than that. I read a children’s book a long (long, long!) time ago about Pele, the goddess responsible for volcanic activity according to the local lore. I wish I remembered the name of that book, but it had lava flowing towards a girl’s house but it stopped in time.

Pele was kinder in the book than she is right now for many people living on the Big Island who have already lost their homes. Although, she is kind in that nobody has died. Unlike in movies, this volcano’s lava is slow enough that people can escape it.

As a writer, I’m fascinated by the way the lava hardens at the surface but still slowly oozes forward to form folded layers. Nature’s sculptures I call them. Truly beautiful and like nothing I’ve seen before.

The other thing I learned about volcanoes is they don’t always explode from a single cone at the top and spew lava down the sides. This one has twenty plus fissures all spewing lava that’s reshaping the landscape. It’s striking how deep the lava is when you see the images of it on the road.

Volcanoes are beautiful to look at from afar, but they pollute the air with ash and deadly gasses. You get volcanic fog (vog) from the fissures and lava haze (laze) when lava hits the ocean and creates steam filled with sulfuric acid and tiny glass crystals.

There’s definitely a lot of good research material here for whenever I need a volcano in a story. The pictures here are indeed worth a thousand words and I’m grateful for the technology that can capture these images without risk to people.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all who are affected by this. I hope everyone stays safe and is able to find new housing if they’ve lost theirs.

Mahalo.

These images are copied from the online news articles that appear on MSN.

I have a video on YouTube!

I never thought in a million years I’d post a video on YouTube. Nor did I ever consider making book trailers. Then I saw a forum post about a year’s worth of free Lumen5 Pro with no strings attached and said, sure why not.

I love trying out new software and Lumen5 was surprisingly easy to use. It’s a web based application that has a large collection of photos, videos, and music soundtracks that you can choose from. You can point it to a web page and let it import the text for you to click and add to your video, or you can manually type everything in.

I tested it out with the Summoner book page on this website and clicked away on the text it imported, kind of willy nilly that first time just to see what would happen. Lumen5 used keywords from each sentence to pull up images or videos from its collection that was surprisingly appropriate at times.

I selected an epic sounding piece of music and walah! I had a video that looked fairly professional. After the initial high, I trimmed the wording down and used some of my own Dreamstime images to get a true fantasy vibe. But best of all, because I wanted to add it to Goodreads, I had to upload it to YouTube! Me. Adding a video. To YouTube! Unbelievable. That was actually ridiculously easy since I already had a YouTube + gmail account.

I’ve posted it just about anywhere I can because it’s that awesome, including in the Fun Vids section on this website. Check it out yourself:

Summoner Video on YouTube

In other news, I’ve submitted a newly finished science fiction short story titled ‘Chamo’ to an anthology. Like Biting Shadow, this is another character introduction to the group of defenders that will have to find a way to defeat the emperor and restore freedom to the empire. These shorts are good for me to do because I spend a little time fleshing out the series concept while coming up with some fun characters to write about. Plus, they don’t take too much time away from writing Summoner book 2.

Speaking of book 2, I just finished up a nice battle in chapter 9 and am almost done with chapter 10. This puts the story at around the one-third finished point. With no further distractions in the near future, I should make solid headway. My goal is to get this book published in June.

And that is how this author had fun this month! I hope your April went as well for you. 🙂

My Science Fiction Influencers

Last month I talked about my fantasy influencers. I’ll always enjoy reading fantasy because it’s about things we don’t have like magic or fantastic creatures. But speculating on what our society will be like in the future is also great fun. So this month, I’d like to talk about the science fiction authors who inspired me.

Isaac Asimov

Isaac Asimov was the master of both short and long fiction, and was probably the most prolific author of all time (all but one Dewey Decimal category covered!). He also had some insightful ideas of not only future technology but about the way society might evolve and change.

Most of his stories were written in our universe and spanned thousands of years. My idea for the Darklight Universe comes from this concept. With millions of stars and planets, they can easily share the same universe. Sharing like this can lead to cool intersections.

The Caves of Steel begins the whole I, Robot related series of books involving a human police detective who hates robots and is naturally partnered with a humanoid looking robot. You may have seen the movie, but there are several books involving this duo as they solve crimes involving the three laws of robotics. Not only are the logic puzzles they solve interesting, the backdrop of futuristic societies on Earth and other planets is a fascinating addition.

The human detective eventually passes away and R. Daneel Olivaw has to face his ‘feelings’ about his friend dying. Civilization continues, and a man called Hari Seldon develops psychohistory–a means of studying human behavior as a whole and using that to predict the future. That whole Facebook – Cambridge Analytica fiasco reminded me of a precursor to psychohistory. (Ok, maybe a real embryonic form of it). Hari has his own drama in trying to keep his invention from nefarious groups who would abuse it. And guess what–R. Daneel Olivaw appears again to encourage Hari to develop his science so humanity can prosper. He winds up having the most important role. Who would have thought it in those robot detective stories?

I loved how both robots and humanity evolved over the centuries. But Asimov didn’t only write about our civilization. Probably one of the most poignant stories about humanity’s behavior came from a group of people living on a planet with six suns. They never saw nighttime except once every 2000 years. Imagine the chaos! Or simply read Nightfall!

The other thing I took away from reading Asimov was the philosophy of writing short stories that had a strong punch to them at the end. I am still awed by how much feeling I had when reading Eyes Do More Than See. That story is only around 930 words, yet it is complete and satisfying.

Arthur C. Clarke

Another major influence on me was Arthur C. Clarke, mainly for his scientific ideas that seemed achievable. In fact, while Yuri Artsutinov was the inventor of the space tether, it was Clarke who popularized the idea when he published The Fountains of Paradise. And now this is an actual thing we could do. Same with modern satellites and internet.

He was also a master of telling stories. I think everyone has heard of 2001: A Space Odyssey, or at least the Stanley Kubrick movie where HAL says in a calm voice. “What are you doing Dave?” The movie, at the beginning, was very confusing if you didn’t read the book, but it’s an interesting look into aliens perhaps influencing our evolution. And just when you think it’s all about figuring out a homicidal computer… the aliens become a thing again!

I liked how Clarke presented a more positive view of aliens than other books at the time, or even today. Rendezvous With Rama was a nice change of pace where scientists worked together to explore an alien unknown. No murderous intent, just that feeling of wonder and uncertainty.

Childhood’s End is another story that presents aliens in a non-threatening light. What I enjoyed most is that the story doesn’t go like you think it will. I like taking tropes and turning them sideways or upside down.

 

Clarke also wrote several short stories. I enjoyed these because he always had a good eye to what science might be able to do and incorporated that.

 

C. J. Cherryh

I learned a lot about writing alien cultures by reading books by C. J. Cherryh. Her cat people (hani) have a comprehensive culture that feels very realistic. Same with the atevi in Foreigner.  She’s usually got a human in with the aliens to connect with readers, but I think her depiction of alien societies is so well done she didn’t need the humans.

I loved her work so much that I scrounged used book stores to get many of her titles. At least it looks like all her stuff is available on Kindle now, including the The Complete Morgain (Morgain Cycle), which is a combination of time travel and science fiction with a fantasy vibe.

Roger Zelazny

Speaking of mixing science fiction with fantasy, I have to mention Roger Zelazny. Unfortunately, a lot of his work is paperback only, like Lord of the Light. A group of colonists use technology and Hindu religion to become the gods their ancestors worshiped. One person stands against them and their oppression of the colonists.

Then, there’s the Amber series. The main character, Corwin, has no memory of who he is and is living on Earth until an assassination attempt spurs him to discover who he is and what strange powers he has. Amber is the original world through which all others are mere shadows, including Earth. Corwin and his people can use Tarot cards to talk to one another and journey through the card. They can also use their mental powers to carve a path through the various worlds by making slight modifications as they walk until the scenery matches their destination.

Yes, it’s fantasy with some modern technology thrown in. However, many of his stories, long and short, contain a blend of science fiction and fantasy which I found pretty fun to read. Also, his stuff is imaginative and the descriptions are really vivid.

There are many other great science fiction writers like James P. Hogan, Anne McCaffrey (Ship Who Sang series), Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, Neal Stephenson, and Ann Leckie (my current favorite). I encourage you to check them out!

My Fantasy Story Influencers

This month, I thought I would talk about authors who have influenced my writing. Although there are numerous authors that have shaped my ideas about fantasy, four come to mind as ones I most want to imitate.

Barbara Hambly


GIL KNEW THAT IT was only a dream. There was no reason for her to feel fear—she knew that the danger, the chaos, the blind, sickening nightmare terror that filled the screaming night were not real; this city with its dark, unfamiliar architecture, these fleeing crowds of panic-stricken men and women who shoved her aside, unseeing, were only the vivid dregs of an overloaded subconscious, wraiths that would melt with daylight. She knew all this; nevertheless, she was afraid.

If that first paragraph doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will. Barbara Hambly has such vivid descriptions that make scenes come to life. I was there with Gil as she stood amongst strangers fleeing from some unknown, but well felt horror.


She wrote another series that’s fairly similar, called the Windrose Chronicles. There she throws a modern day computer programmer into a fantasy world via a kidnapping. I read this series and the Darwath series until my paperbacks turned crinkly.


Finally, she has a vampire based urban fantasy, The James Asher Novels for all the UF fans out there.
I knew if I ever wrote stories, I’d wanted my description to be like hers–filled with emotion the reader can almost physically experience. I also love the idea of crossing sci fi with magic and writing in multiple genres.

Janny Wurts

The longboat cleaved waters stained blood-red by sunset, far beyond sight of any shore. A league distant from her parent ship, at the limit of her designated patrol, she rose on the crest of a swell. The bosun in command shouted hoarsely from the stern. ‘Hold stroke!’

Beaten with exhaustion and the aftermath of battle, his crewmen responded. Four sets of oars lifted, dripping above waters fouled by oil and the steaming timbers of burned warships.

‘Survivors to starboard.’ The bosun pointed toward two figures who clung to a snarl of drifting spars. ‘Quick, take a bearing.’

That passage is from the eleven book Wars of Light and Shadow epic fantasy saga. Book 10 was just released and the audio can be preordered (yay!).

Janny Wurts is another author who has vivid imagery. I first read Janny Wurts as part of a collaboration with Raymond Feist in Daughter of the Empire.
She’s gone on to write several standalones in addition to her WoLaS series.

The special thing about Janny’s writing is the way she uses few words to paint a detailed image. She also has the ability to use as few as two words to convey an assault on the senses. ‘Dropped meat’ comes to mind: how the meat would land on the floor, squish, and spurt. Maybe even give the reader a sense of smell. She sprinkles these in her writing like rich spices in a savory stew. I enjoy them so much I try to add my own here and there. But, she’s definitely the master at it!

It’s truly amazing the power she wields with so few words. Also, this series is the only one I’ve ever reread after each new book and discovered more that was hinted at or even explicitly stated but missed the first time around. I can’t imagine how much time she spends weaving such intricate threads in this complex series.

If you aren’t quite up for a super epic fantasy series, her standalones like To Ride Hell’s Chasm and Sorcerer’s Legacy have her same sense of vivid imagery without the complexity of a large series.


Grace Draven

“Yield to me, Master of Crows, and I will make you ruler of kingdoms.”

Silhara of Neith groaned and doubled over, clutching his midriff. Blood streamed from his nose and dripped on the balcony’s worn stones. The god’s voice, familiar and insidious, wrapped around his mind. Transfixed beneath the rays of a jaundiced star, he huddled against the crumbling parapet, fighting an evil the priests assumed long vanquished.

Grace Draven combines poetic imagery with steamy romance in her fantasy romance books. What I love about her stories, is her dedication to writing a serious fantasy tale even as she twines a rather deep romance story in with it.

She has a Beauty and the Beast influenced story called Entreat Me that’s probably the most unique of the ones I’ve read set in a fantasy world.

If you want more of a standard fantasy series, she’s also currently writing the Wraith Kings series.

Finally, if you enjoy ‘gaslamp fantasy romance with a sprinkling of airships, monsters and ghosts’, check out Gaslight Hades, part of The Bonekeeper Chronicles.

My stories aren’t quite as steamy or romance focused as hers, but I strive for the poetic and sensual aspects of her writing.

Brandon Sanderson

Kalak rounded a rocky stone ridge and stumbled to a stop before the body of a dying thunderclast. The enormous stone beast lay on its side, riblike protrusions from its chest broken and cracked. The monstrosity was vaguely skeletal in shape, with unnaturally long limbs that sprouted from granite shoulders. The eyes were deep red spots on the arrowhead face, as if created by a fire burning deep within the stone. They faded.

Even after all these centuries, seeing a thunderclast up close made Kalak shiver. The beast’s hand was as long as a man was tall. He’d been killed by hands like those before, and it hadn’t been pleasant.

Of course, dying rarely was.

I first discovered Brandon Sanderson when I heard that some nutjob was daring to finish Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. I mean, who could possibly want to do that or was capable of doing it? Once I read one of his stories though, I was a rabid fan!

What I love about Brandon’s stories is his detailed world building. In all of his stories, he has a complete environment built up with alien creatures, plants, and civilizations that feel like they belong and have been entrenched in that world for eons. Nothing seems out of place.

The other remarkable aspect of Brandon’s stories is his detailed magic systems. Every world he comes up with has an intricate and unique way of doing magic, from imbibing metals in The Mistborn Trilogy to stealing breaths in Warbreaker to stamping things in The Emperor’s Soul to alter their appearance. Each of his systems has rules and limitations and he sticks to those.As a lover of physics and science, I like the idea of rules for magic and incorporate those in my own designs. I also like building worlds that make sense.

 

Each of these authors is on my ‘buy everything from’ list and I encourage you to check them out.

So… Bomb Cyclones? Really?

Happy post-New Year’s!

I hope your holidays were enjoyable. I watched the New Year’s fireworks at the Space Needle from the comfort of my nice warm home! I love internet streaming!

I must say though, it’s certainly warmer here than the East Coast when they got hit with a bomb cyclone. Apparently these happen when the barometric pressure drops at least 24 mbar in 24 hours. The more air that’s sucked into the vortex, the lower the pressure and the bigger the storm.

Queue up vivid memories of The Day After Tomorrow which gave some science-y sounding explanation about super storms sucking down super cold air too fast for it to heat up which basically meant the cyclone was freezing you into a solid fleshsickle.

I read another article that said these are also called winter hurricanes which again conjured up images of The Day After Tomorrow. I think I’m going to have to watch it again soon. Save as many as you can! All I can say is stay safe East Coast! (I’ve included the link to the Amazon DVD in case you haven’t seen it yet, plus it’s a convenient way to post the picture.)

In other news:

I’m making slow but steady progress on Book 2 in the Darklight Universe series. I also stole time away from writing to plot out the ideas for the next three books plus their tentative titles. Now I just have to get all those words written down! Here’s a tease of chapter 4:

The bickering nobles sounded like a pack of dire cats fighting over a kill.

As you might guess, things aren’t going as planned, though when do they ever? It would make for a boring book if they all lived happily ever after with no scuffles!

That’s all I have for now. So stay safe, warm, and don’t drive in the frozen rain! You know the storms are bad when the weather people are naming them!

Happy Holidays and Cookie Baking!

Happy SOLSTICE!! Yay! I love Pacific NW summers but the winters are DARK. Even though I’m not a Wiccan, I love, love, love the winter solstice because it means we’ll get our daylight back. (Rather quickly here, too.)

Happy Hanukkah too for those who celebrated it. I believe that’s over now, but hope yours was a good one. There are like a hundred different celebrations for winter. Probably an attempt to cheer people up in the cold and dark. (Well, at least on the top half of the world!)

My hubby asked for snickerdoodle cookies since I was planning to make chocolate chip cookies for Christmas and he can’t eat chocolate (poor thing). I thought, sure, let me look up the recipe. The list was the usual, flour, sugar, actually lots of sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Then I paused and wrote back to him (chatting over Battle net) ‘What the heck is cream of tartar?’

Those of you who are cooks are probably laughing about now. But I truly thought cream of tartar was some French cream based sauce thing. So when I saw that was an ingredient for, essentially, sugar cookies, I was confused.

Now, I’m no young spring chicken. I’ve seen over fifty winter solstices. I’ve helped my mom bake stuff (ok, I was strong armed into helping and still have an aversion to stirring candy to the whatever crack stage it required.) And I’ve never once had to add cream of tartar to a recipe. Until now.

So, super confused, I Googled it (Oops, sorry trademark violation. I meant I searched using Google). Here’s the long explanation: What is cream of tartar? Basically, it makes egg whites stand up when making meringue, makes angel food cake whiter, can help veggies retain their natural color when cooking, and makes a snickerdoodle more chewy. It’s also a white powder that looks like baking soda but isn’t.

So I feel a bit stupid as well as educated. Go figure!

Other fun bits for the holiday. I put up the mini tree and bought a few new ornaments for it –

A Ripley Work Loader Aliens ornament which sits at the base of the mini tree since it’s a bit too large to hang. (Yep, that’s an Amazon link showing the pretty picture. You can click on it if you really want to buy it. Ripley is awesome!)

 

And a U.S.S. Franklin ornament with lights. I didn’t plug in the batteries but I bet it looks sweet. This one is small enough to hang on my not quite two foot tree, but it didn’t come with a loop of cord and I was too lazy to find something I could use for that. Oh well, it sits at the base and looks good!

I still have plenty of Star Wars ornaments from last year in case anyone was looking at my blog funny for missing a very obvious component given the movie that just came out. I plan to watch it after New Years. So yes, I still have Star Wars cred!

I have one measly package to wrap because my other surprise is off in la la land. Sorry hubby! I’ll get to that sometime before Christmas. Yep, the procrastinating is strong with this one!

And, that’s all the prep work I’ve got planned for the holidays. Well, aside from cookie baking and fixing food to eat.

If you have any fun stories, feel free to share!

Writing Research

Writing is fun, but it can involve some interesting research. This week’s topics delved into evolution of the first plants and insects and a closer look at trees.

Interesting tidbits from the Wiki: (Ma = million years ago)

530 Ma – The first known 🦂footprints🦂 on land date to 530 Ma, indicating that early animal explorations may have predated the development of terrestrial plants.

430 Ma – The first 🌱plants🌵 came on land, 🌳forests🌴began flourishing in 363 Ma, yet 🌾grasses🌾 didn’t develop until 70 Ma.

407 – 396 Ma – 🐜Insects🦗 came fairly early on in the evolutionary timeline, including 🐝flying insects🐝 (or at least the beginnings of them).

66 Ma – 🦖Dinosaurs🦖 go 💣💥boom🔥!

60 – 55 Ma -🌾Grasses🌾 have a distinct pollen that is easily identified in the fossil record. From that, scientists know that they had a very late start compared to other plant types. In fact, grasses came after the dinosaurs went extinct.

Finally, 🌲pine trees🌲 have male and female pine cones. Some of you might know this already and I am pretty sure I knew at one time, but simply forgot. The males are those skinny little runts at the end of branches that appear lower down. The wind then lifts up their ‘stuff’ to hit the larger female pine cones when they open up. Of course, some pine cones require forest fires to propagate.

So ends the history lesson. Hope you enjoyed it (or at least enjoyed all the emoticons I found to match the topics!)