Atlantis: TVC Winter Wonderland Sale!

| Volume 1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00V0A3N44 | Volume 2: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01835JT32 | Volume 3: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B077TSBBYL |

This sale runs all through the weekend of 12/15/2017. Remember, it’s the holidays and books make great gifts!

[Even if they’re not my books. Spread the book love! ]

Atlantis: TVC Volume 3: Complete!

Finally, I’ve completed volume 3!

I know it took longer than expected due to health issues and my surprise baby, but man does it feel good to finally have it done! As of the first draft it has twenty-six chapters, and is roughly one-hundred and four-thousand words long. This will change as editing starts and beta feedback is received, but so far that makes it almost twenty-thousand words longer than volume 1–and I actually ended it early. That’s right, in the timeline it was slated to go on for at least five more chapters but the thing was getting massive. I scaled back, folded the remaining events into volume 4 [Yes, there is a volume 4 planned!] and ended it in what I felt was a good spot.

In the beginning there wasn’t really a plan for a number of volumes. I completely “pantsed” my first book, [This is a valid writing term, I swear.] deciding to just write and see where it went. I thought maybe it would be a standalone, but by the time I reached the end of volume 1 I realized there was a lot more story left and drew up a more concrete timeline of events. Together, the first three books deal with Achine’s rise to the throne and make a decent trilogy. I didn’t plan it that way, it was just a happy accident.

We are going to be moving soon, so this couldn’t have come at a better time. I have hopes that this year I might be able to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time ever because I have plans for a new series–one radically different from the fantasy feel of the Atlantis books–and I’m hoping to put out volume 1 of it as a NaNo effort. From there I am hoping to alternate between the two series, possibly working on them in tandem at some points. Until then I am going to take a break from writing [except for edits] because there are plans to release physical versions of the first three Atlantis books, which I am really excited about! But it is going to take some time and work to get them revised and properly formatted for print.

As of this posting the digital version of Atlantis: TVC volume 3 should be released this Winter, while the print editions for all three books will be available closer to Spring 2018. [This is subject to change without notice.]

In Defense of the Original English-Language Light Novel

As a writer of light novels I not only read them, but I also lurk around on forums dedicated to discussing them. Inevitably, some unassuming, aspiring writer wanders in wanting to either learn how to write an English-language light novel, or for someone to read what they’ve already written and tell them if they are on the right track. That’s when a specific type of light novel aficionado swoops in: “You can’t write a light novel,” they cry. “You’re not Japanese!” Sometimes others will come to encourage them, but usually once one of the naysayers has posted the others flock like vultures to repeat the message of: “You can’t do that; how dare you!”

If you’ve ever been run off a forum in that manner, then received a private message directing you to resources and offering encouragement, then it was most likely from me. Hello!

I see it quite often. I’ve been seeing it since anime and manga started getting popular in the USA, way back when I was in junior high school twenty years ago drawing in what my peers back then called “Japanimation Style”. [Note: Yes, I’m old. Also, the term Japanimation is like nails on a chalkboard to me and it kills me to even write it. I am extremely glad it never caught on.] It irked me then and it irks me now, because it’s such a haughty, purist statement. By that reasoning you can’t write a fairy tale if you’re not European, and don’t you dare put pen to paper on that country song if you’re not from the Midwestern United States! If you press them for a legitimate reason, the only argument they have is, “You’re not Japanese, and if it isn’t in Japanese then it’s not a light novel!”

All translated light novels suddenly cease to be light novels by that logic. So what if you’re not Japanese? So what if you don’t live in Japan? The author of the popular light novel “No Game No Life” was born in Brazil. Despite that he’s published in Japan under the pseudonym Yuu Kamiya. Of course, he’s a rare exception in the Japanese publishing industry–but it proves a point. You don’t have to be Japanese, live in Japan, or write in Japanese to create a light novel.

The base of the matter is this–the light novel is a format. It runs from novella word count range to full novel length. [Averaging roughly 50,000 words] It has a manga-style cover and monochrome illustrations at key points throughout. They are usually long, expansive series with multiple volumes–though one-shots are not unheard of. The target audience is late middle-school to early adulthood. The best equivalent we have for tone and length in the USA are the “Young Adult” or the “New Adult” categories. [The latter being a bridge between Young Adult and Adult literature.] But that doesn’t mean they’re childish–not by a long shot. They can be just as gory, profound, or racy as any other work of fiction!

“Slayers” was one of the first light novel series I had ever heard of. [And Naga is the best!]

I was around for the rise of anime into mainstream culture in the USA. I remember questionable-quality VHS fansubs that you ordered from some Geocities or Angelfire webpage–and if you were fortunate enough to have had a group of friends invested in the same series, you pooled your money to buy multiple tapes, and made everyone copies of them.

If you were lucky, you sent a check and got tapes back. Sometimes you sent a check and someone ran off with your money. It was a crap-shoot.

I remember buying manga in Japanese, then reading a [poorly] translated English script of it side-by-side that I printed out from the internet. I remember when Dark Horse and Mixx [Later re-branded as TokyoPop.] were the only legitimate publishers translating manga into English and bringing it over, even though they took liberties with the dialogue and flipped it to read left-to-right which made the art look weird. Now there are streaming services dedicated to anime, and manga magazines like Shonen Jump have been brought over. Right now light novels are on the cusp of pop culture awareness in the USA, and they are going to explode in popularity soon if history repeats itself. There are two publishers that I know of bringing them over currently, Seven Seas Entertainment and Yen Press. [Viz might be a third, but I can’t find evidence that they have started yet.] Neither of them are accepting manuscripts for English-language light novels.

Yet.

And I say that having seen western animation houses successfully pull off domestic anime [Avatar: The Last Airbender, or RWBY, anyone?] and more and more artists producing popular graphic novels and webcomics in a manga style. Light novels are next, and there are already English-language authors waiting in the wings, slowly building their audiences through web serials and self-publishing.

Write ALL the things!

So, if you’re starting out on your light novel writing journey and have run into one of these people, take heart. If you’re a light novel reader that has run out of things to read, then take a look at the self-publishing sector–there is quite a bit of talent out there if you know where to find it! [Plus, more often than not they participate in Kindle Unlimited, making them free to read if you are a subscriber.]

Those purists are going to get quite a surprise when one day they look at who wrote the light novel they just enjoyed, and find a non-Japanese name on the cover! But until then, all you aspiring authors can do is just keep on keeping on. Keep writing, keep creating–don’t let anyone tell you to do otherwise!

Life, the Universe, and Babies

Oh man, so much has happened since I last posted! I’m not even sure where to begin. As I’m sure you’ve all probably figured out, I had my baby at the end of April. It was a boy! 7 pounds, 8 ounces of squishy baby goodness.

He’s seven weeks old now and starting to come out of his “potato” phase. But up until this point we were on a steep learning curve because it turns out the little guy is allergic to a protein in milk. So this means he was rashy, itchy, colicky, and due to all that didn’t sleep well. Of course, that meant we didn’t either. His first week or so of life he was a fairly content, easy baby. [I seem to have a trend of getting good sleepers that sleep six hours at a stretch right off the bat.] But soon he became this inconsolable mess that barely slept. Once we figured things out and got him on the right formula [Read: the most expensive one on the market!] he’s been a different baby. He sleeps through the night again! He is happy and content! He doesn’t scream like his existence is torture! The downside is that it took five weeks to diagnose and I was so sleep deprived that my body now thinks two hours is a fantastic amount of sleep to be getting. I need to retrain it to not think that because despite what it thinks, two hours is not nearly enough sleep to make rational decisions or be creative on.

As for me, the end of my pregnancy was miserable, but his birth was uneventful–quick, even! However, I ended up back in the hospital for three days–I got postpartum pre-eclampsia again. So this means we are done having babies because almost dying a second time was really not on my list of things to do. Ugh. Then within my first week of being discharged we all got sick.  I ended up with the flu [despite getting a flu shot!] and pneumonia. Somehow I was able to keep from passing it to the baby, who just had a cold. If you’ve never dealt with a sick newborn, count your blessings. It’s miserable.

Now that my health and the baby’s well-being have been sorted out I’m able to finally get back to working on volume 3 of Atlantis: TVC. [Which I stupidly thought I would have done before I delivered. Very naive of me…] My issue with not getting it done is that so much more is going on than I had originally thought: scenes that I thought would be a few pages at most are ending up being entire chapters; scenes that I was excited for and looking forward to writing turned into plotting nightmares… so the word count is going much higher than I had initially planned. In fact, I’ve had to restructure the original end of the book [by moving some scenes and plot elements to volume 4] to help control the length. I’m already over my 55,000 word minimum and I’m only two-thirds of the way done! Since returning to writing, I’ve completed two chapters. It may not seem like much, but you have no idea how stuck I was on a certain scene. A critical exchange needed to happen between two characters and I didn’t want to screw it up. I like it the way it is now, but that’s not to say it won’t change during edits. [So much stuff changes during edits…]

On a final note, if you follow me on social media, then you already know that while I was on hiatus someone did a video review of volume 1! I always get nervous when there is a review done of my work; however she had nothing but good things to say–so that was a relief! Writing is such a personal thing, and despite the fact that when people review your work they’re reviewing your work and not you as a person, you still feel like you’ve failed somewhere when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done.

I’m gonna pull a Hermione here though and state for the record that it’s pronounced “Ah-chi-nay”. But the reviewer had a wonderful accent, so all is forgiven. :p

P.S: I love hearing from readers! If you’ve done a review of one my books, or have made a piece of fanart or anything like that, please drop me a line and I will check it out. [I might even showcase it on this blog!]

 

 

Real Life: Stranger Than Fiction

I got “House“-ed. Completely, utterly… and I didn’t realize it had happened until my husband said it while driving me home from the hospital yesterday.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned my ongoing struggle with my health. In this one, I even specifically call out the show House, M.D. for being unrealistic. [The TV show is unrealistic? My god someone alert the media, right?] The basic formula is that someone shows up in the ER at death’s door, the team of doctor characters take cracks at what it is, then House swoops in and figures it out in the last ten minutes or so. Pretty basic, but it makes the titular character look like a effortless genius that can diagnose people with a simple exam.

So, as you all know I am going to be having a baby soon, [and if you didn’t, then surprise!] and that it hasn’t been the easiest pregnancy. You also know through this post that I have an autoimmune disease called HS.

These things are all relevant–I promise.

This is fairly non-sequitur though.

This however,  is clearly non-sequitur.

After I had my daughter four years ago, I developed what is known as “postpartum pre-eclampsia”. I had all the symptoms of pre-e before giving birth except for one. And without that one symptom [protein in urine] my OB wouldn’t hand down an official diagnosis. After I had my lovely little daughter, my body went nuts and I almost died. Very literally. If I hadn’t dragged my butt back to the ER three days after being discharged, I would have had a stroke and died that night.

In the years following that incident, I had problems with migraines, my overall health, and I was finally diagnosed with HS. I went on medicine to help with the HS and ended up accidentally pregnant. [And by accidentally I mean that I was diagnosed with infertility and after we tried to have a second kid for three years, thought my daughter would be the only one we’d ever have; despite me wanting at least one more. Until you inadvertently fix it, infertility is pretty amazing birth control.]

Since I had the history of pre-e, and I had recently developed a spike in blood pressure along with headaches, spots in my vision, and trouble breathing, my new OB decided to send me over to labor and delivery for observation. We headed over, thinking it would be a short trip; everything would get dismissed as being fine, then we’d go shopping like we had planned.

I ended up admitted, then rapidly transferred to a hospital with a level III NICU. My blood pressure was so high, they thought they might have to get the baby out of me that night. I’m twenty-four weeks… barely viable. I freaked out. My husband freaked out. My family freaked out. Contingency plans were rapidly made, all to adjust to possibly spending four months with a preemie in intensive care. The next twenty-four hours were filled with panic.

The baby looked great and was doing well despite me feeling like garbage, but something weird happened the next evening. They discovered that my blood pressure dropped a bit if I stayed on my left side all day long. If it was true pre-e, that wouldn’t have any effect. Later that night my high-risk OB decided to call in a [to me] strangely familiar-looking neurologist. Apparently there was a new theory–that I had some kind of pregnancy hormone-fueled tumor that might be causing symptoms that mimicked pre-e.

Cue more panic.

A brief scan put that theory to rest, but he decided to examine me further. He put his hands on a spot on my neck and I nearly flew up out of the bed from the pain. He told me my optic nerves were extremely swollen and that would cause the headache and spots. Then he sat down and asked me a bunch of questions about my medical history. I almost left out the HS because he would have been the fourth person I had to explain it to that day, but decided to go ahead anyway since it is a major, ongoing health issue for me. I needn’t have worried though–he knew what HS was already! I was shocked.

He had the nurse take a few vials of my blood, bring me ice packs, and give me a combination of meds to help bring the swelling down in my optic nerves. The medicine they gave me did help enough that I could finally get some sleep, but oh man the side effects were horrible. I started sweating profusely, the room became unbearably hot, I was jittery, and I felt like I was going to throw up. I fell into a fitful, drugged slumber sometime around one or two in the morning.

Shortly after five AM the neurologist came back, and in my half-asleep haze I realized why he seemed so familiar. He looked and sounded like Dr. Spaceman from 30Rock, just with fifteen years added! If I had been in any kind of frame of mind for joking, I might have told him as much, but I left it alone since he looked so serious. He started by telling me very specific things about my health that I hadn’t told him about: high anxiety that gets worse every year, the weird feeling in my tongue, being tired even after getting lots of sleep. Brain fog, my hair loss, digestive issues–he even knew about the muscle weakness I’ve been experiencing since I left my teens.

I’ve said before that autoimmune diseases often travel in groups, and I’ve always suspected that I would end up with another one sometime down the line. [I always figured it would be Lupus, for some reason. A lot of my symptoms fit.] But I wasn’t prepared for what the neurologist told me.

Pernicious Anemia.

Due to my jerk-ass, overactive immune system destroying a vital protein made by my gut, I cannot absorb vitamin B12 from food, or even from most vitamin supplements. I’ll never be able to. He said my levels of B12 were so critically low that he was both A.) shocked that I was pregnant at all; and B.) surprised I was lucid. Apparently when B12 levels get as low as mine, you get dementia and it is often mistaken for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. He then proceeded to tell me that to have levels this low at my age, I have probably been affected by it since early childhood and that made it an autoimmune condition, in my case.

I was floored. So many of my health problems that couldn’t be linked to HS suddenly made sense the more we talked–my dark circles; thin, brittle hair and nails. The random muscle aches and numbness. Never feeling refreshed after sleep. Hurting myself in PE all the time. My clumsiness. Why my vision was fine until I turned thirty, then suddenly one day I couldn’t read words at a distance. How difficult it was to put my thoughts into words–it was all due to this. He then told me that since you can’t function without B12, if they hadn’t caught it now the pain would increase, I would have lost my mind over the next ten years, and died in my mid-forties.

I’ve had so many blood draws done over the years–even as a child. How was something so critical missed?! I asked, and it turns out that testing for B12 is something that has to be specifically requested, and my symptoms along with an already diagnosed autoimmune disease prompted him to test for it.

I had my first shot of artificial B12 a few hours after that. By that evening my blood pressure had dropped to normal levels, the spots in my vision had decreased, and I felt amazing–like I could bounce off the walls! My optic nerves are still swollen, but the neurologist said that he suspects they are damaged from a lifetime of insufficient B12. We won’t know the extent of the damage until my levels have been up for a while, and my body has a chance to repair what it can. I’ll need to have several shots at first to start healing, then I can start doing them every few weeks before trying an oral version made to be absorbed by people with this condition.

I’ll be on this treatment for the rest of my life, and it can still cause issues down the road if I don’t get my levels checked regularly. It’s hereditary, so now I need to have my own children tested; but on the bright side my oldest is only four so early intervention will save them from experiencing the issues I’ve faced, thankfully. In fact, my mother and brother are also getting tested because they share a lot of the same symptoms that I’ve had. My brother goes through several boxes of energy drinks a week–ones that specifically advertise having B12 in them. I was almost addicted to the same drink at one point; I felt noticeably better after drinking it, and not because of the caffeine. I would have one a day, and I only stopped drinking it when I was pregnant. I had been self-medicating, and he might be too.

So for the time being, I am still pregnant. Thankfully baby can stay in until he’s nice and ready to come out on his own because I am now getting the treatment that I have desperately needed my whole life. It’s insane to think that if not for this one incident–and one perceptive doctor–my future could have been very different. The whole situation feels like a cheap twist in a slice-of-life tale; forced, eleventh-hour tension added to an already over-dramatic arc.

…stranger than fiction, indeed.

Review of Atlantis: TVC — Volume 1

Something unexpected has happened!

If you’ve been on the fence about picking up Volume 1 of my light novel series, Atlantis: The Visionary Continent, then maybe the review J.K. Penn wrote will be the push you need to grab a copy! Check out his write-up here.

He also reviews a few other light novels [Both traditionally and self-published] on his blog, and even has a light novel of his own. [Which you should check out as well!]

What a pleasant early Christmas present! rainbow

The Heart of Your Story

When I was in high school, I took a semester of Theater as an elective. I forget why I did it originally–I suspect I may have been strong-armed into it by an acquaintance–but I’ve never regretted it.

To my surprise, I did well enough that I ended up in two plays. I still have no idea how that happened.

All my English classes taught the bare minimum: spelling, basic mechanics, and the rules of the language. Only one teacher ever went into anything beyond that, and they went the way of personal interpretation. All of them ignored structure–which would have been helpful, since I remember more than a handful of occasions where we were required to write an original short story as an assignment. Instead, I learned about it in Theater, of all places.

We learned the Three-Act Structure, which consists of the following set up:

Act I

  • Introduction — The Main Character is introduced to the audience.
  • Exposition — We learn more about the MC and their relationships.
  • Catalyst — This is the event that motivates the MC and moves the story forward. The resolution of this event becomes the Goal.

Act II

  • Rising Action — The MC is taking actions that intend to move him/her closer to the Goal.
  • Turning Point — The MC finds a way to reach the Goal. This may be preceded by a backslide.

Act III

  • Climax — The outcome of this event determines if the MC reaches their Goal.
  • Falling Action — The Goal has [or has not] been met, and the MC is dealing with the aftermath.
  • Close — A last look at the MC and how the events of the story affected and/or changed them.

This is the classic structure of storytelling, and is the backbone of many tales. This was later replaced by the Five-Act Structure, which is illustrated here as Freytag’s Pyramid:

Though I didn't know it was called that until a few years ago.

Though I didn’t know it had a name until a few years ago. [Source: Wikimedia Commons]

It’s much easier to understand when it is shown to you like this.

  • Exposition — Introduction to Main Character, setting, and backstory.
  • Rising Action — Events that propel the MC toward the climax.
  • Climax — The major event of the story that reverses the MC’s fortune. [Bad -> Good or Good -> Bad]
  • Falling Action — The conflict arising from the events of the climax is confronted and dealt with.
  • Denouement — The end. All previous conflicts have been resolved, and the MC has undergone a metamorphosis.

The elements of those five parts will also have their own shape. They will vary from writer to writer, but there are common ones that tend to crop up. Let’s go over a few of them!

Flat

For the most part, you don’t want this. They are boring, tedious areas where nothing happens to develop characters or advance the plot. Think about a book you’ve read where you find yourself skimming the page, hoping to get to the next scene break. That’s Flat. New writers tend to go flat in the beginning of the story, thinking they have to detail everything about the setting and main character all at once, which overwhelms the reader. If a story is flat for too long, readers will give up on it before you have a chance to get to the plot.

But… Flat doesn’t have to be negative. You can use it to your advantage–especially to heighten suspense, or the impact of an unexpected turn in the story. The key is to keep it brief, but just long enough to make the reader start to wonder where you are going. That’s when you can lead into a Sudden Spike, and turn tedium into a form of tension.

Sudden Spike

When you have tension followed by a major event, followed by downtime, that is the Sudden Spike. Think of a scene where two people who clearly don’t like each other are exchanging dialog. This is the build up of tension. One character will say the wrong [or right] thing, and a fight erupts! This is the spike. After the encounter is over, there is a period of downtime which can be anything from one character having been thoroughly defeated and fleeing the situation, to the two characters realizing that fighting is pointless and deciding to resolve their differences in another way. The event doesn’t have to be physical; it can be anything that causes stress to the Main Character.

Mesa

These occur where the story takes a turn for the worse for the Main Character. You have a rise where things seem to be going well, or maybe the scene begins on a high note. This becomes something the reader expects to continue, which is the flat part at the top of the rise. Then suddenly, something catastrophic happens and the MC plummets from where they had been–losing a dream job, failing to prevent something precious from being taken from them, or being defeated by the villain–all events that become the straight drop of the mesa. At the bottom, you have a flat part where the MC has to come to terms with what has happened before they move forward.

Rise-Fall-Rise

This is one of my personal favorites, because when it is done right it packs a hefty emotional punch. It could also be called “Exchange” because during these one thing is lost in order to gain another. You start during an action scene, and as it comes to its climax the bottom drops out and something bad happens. In order to qualify as a true Rise-Fall-Rise, something good has to come from the bad thing. This could be anything from a precious memento being destroyed in order to save the world, to defeating the villain but having a character die in the process. These moments typically occur at the peak of rising action, or at the end of the climax. It does not count if the reader only thinks the Main Character will lose something, but in the end they don’t lose anything and still gain the benefit. That is a Threatened Rise-Fall-Rise, and while some writers feel it is easier on the reader it comes off as cheap–unless written extremely well.

A great example of a well-executed Threatened Rise-Fall-Rise is the “I Open at the Close” scene in the Harry Potter books; while a classic example of a true Rise-Fall-Rise is during the climax of the first season of the TV series Stranger Things, in the scene with Eleven and the Demogorgon.

Decline

While you traditionally see this during denouement–with the Main Character resolving conflict and tying up loose ends–it can also turn up during Rising Action. This may seem counter-intuitive, but there are stories where this is necessary. If you have a tale of redemption, you need a decline of events to show the Main Character hitting their low point before the catalyst makes them change their ways. If a character needs to lose everything before they heed the call-to-action–then you use a Decline–chaining bad events together until the character has nowhere to go but up.

Keep in mind that

Keep in mind that “low point” is entirely relative to the character themselves…

A good way to see how your story moves is to map out the flow of each scene, then string them together to see the pulse of your story. Overall, you should see something similar to the Five-Act Structure, but you will also see all the little things in between. If your story has multiple storylines running at once, then map out each one individually. You will gain fascinating insights, such as discovering that even if two characters share a scene it may be charted differently between them. [Which you will see below.]

I refer to it as a pulse because it should look like the readout on an EKG–with peaks and valleys–proof that your story is alive. As an example, I mapped out two intersecting story pulses from volume #2 of my Atlantis: TVC series:

The whole book takes place over the span of a day, so the peaks and valleys are more exaggerated than what you’ll see in a story that plays out over a longer period of time. The two characters shown here–Achine [Main Character] and Gialasa–are together for the entire book, except when they are separated at the end. As you can see, each girl’s arc is different, despite them going through the same events at the same time.

Achine’s pulse has several Mesas, and the one right at the climax also doubles as a Rise-Fall-Rise. In sharp contrast, Gialasa’s begins from a higher point [part of carry over from volume #1] and continues as a Decline, marked by two small Sudden Spikes that only continue the downward trend. As you can see, this character is having a difficult time. The bottom of Achine’s Rise-Fall-Rise is Gia’s lowest point, and the two arcs begin to rise together just after the climax. During denouement, she ends up in a better position than Achine, and it shows in the ending height of their respective pulses.

What’s interesting to note is that as I stated earlier, the girls are both in the same bad situation throughout the book, but their pulses are vastly different. Achine’s determined personality makes her proactive, which creates sharper rises and steeper falls in her pulse as she tries to improve their situation. Gialasa has a anxious, meek nature, and this causes the steady decline of her arc’s pulse as fear renders her unable to function for the majority of the story. It only rises towards the end, when she is finally forced to act.

If you find your story is receiving negative feedback about pacing, or if you feel it is missing something that you can’t put your finger on, try taking its pulse. Seeing your story in a different way may highlight parts where you can improve.

For me, seeing my own characters’ pulses side-by-side shows the difference an active character and a passive character can have on the same story. If Gia were the main character she wouldn’t be able to advance the narrative in a meaningful way on her own, and it would make for a frustrating read! But because she is a supporting character–and she has precedence for behaving the way she does–she becomes an important foil for Achine during the course of the story. Gialasa’s weakness is part of what motivates her to act.

However, you can’t tell subtle things like that from pulse comparisons. So while they are great for seeing the rhythm of a story or arc, you can’t gauge whether it is good based on its pulse alone. But when used together with feedback from a trusted source [editors, beta readers, etc.], it becomes a valuable tool for fine-tuning your story.

Thanks-Give-Away Promotion

To say thank you to my readers, all my available works are free over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s right–free! If you’ve been waiting to pick up volume #2 of the Atlantis: TVC series, or to try one of my other stories, now is the time! Want something to curl up with while you snack on leftovers? This deal is for you!

Thanks-give-away

Have a friend you think may be interested in one of the stories listed above? Feel free to share this promotion! It’s for ALL my readers–current and future.

Thank you all for your support. I am truly thankful for each and every one of you. heart

[Links to the listed e-books can be found on the Shop page in the header, or by clicking on the image above.]

Kill Your Darlings

Nope. I’m not going to trot out the same tired advice to trim word count by slashing plot and/or removing characters. I’m going to talk about literarily killing your characters. [Ha! Puns.]

Since my long-running series is fantasy-based, this will all be from the perspective of a fantasy setting. However, that shouldn’t stop you from applying what you learn here to a realistic world. [Provided it’s not a simple case of the magic-user used magic and the victim totally died, because that’s difficult to pull off when magic doesn’t exist in your world. You’re smart–you’ll know how to glean what you need from this.]

We could go on for hours about swords, instant-death spells, and arson; but those are pretty straightforward ways to kill or incapacitate someone. We’re going to go into the realm of cloak, dagger, and intrigue. That’s right–poison.

Poison is the perfect medium! Need a long, drawn out death? Poison. Need something that kills near-instantly? Also poison. Need something difficult to detect, or that mimics natural causes? Poison can do that. Need a reason to send your characters on a quest where they set aside their differences and come together in order to find an antidote? Poison’s got your number.

And as an added bonus, not only can it do all those things, but it’s discreetly administered. Aside from becoming liquid insurance for an assassin’s blade, it can take the form of an ingredient in a sumptuous meal or delicious tea. It could even be released into the air via deadly but wonderfully-perfumed incense. Poison can be everywhere. Not only that, but most poison is derived from natural sources.

That’s right! There is so much out there that can kill someone without you needing to make anything up. If you want to lean hard into the fantasy setting, you could devise any number of fantastic plants or venom that could be made into a plot point. But if you’re like me and want a touch of realism in your stories, you just need to look at things that are common in our world.

My favorite example is rhododendron ponticum. It’s a beautiful, ornamental shrub common to many parts of the globe. In fact, it’s called Common Rhododendron. Look at this thing. So innocuous.

It’s beautiful for something that will cause nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, and heart failure if you consume any part of it. But the best thing about it is that honey made from its pollen is so toxic, even the bees that make and consume it are poisoned. In fact, jars of this honey strategically placed in a village took down almost an entire army of Roman soldiers in 401 BC. Though, to be fair, they were left in 67 BC to take down a different invading army. As a plot device, readers and writers alike would call that deus ex machina BS. [But it’s history!]

The lovely thing is that honey is so innocent. In fantasy it’s often used as a sweetener in place of sugar, and even in our world it is common to drizzle it on pancakes, over oatmeal, in yogurt, or spread it on toast. No one would suspect a thing.

Delicious agony…

And that’s only one of the things that you can use. There are agents out there that come straight from the ground itself that can kill. Want to venture into the land of slightly-absurd-but-still effective poisons? Look no further than diamond dust.

Luxurious agony!

Yes, seriously. Though it’s not a poison on its own, when ingested the shards will embed themselves in the organs of the victim, causing infection–which leads to sepsis–and death. It’s a slow process, taking several months to work. It is an older method of assassination used most frequently during the Renaissance. It wouldn’t work in a modern setting due to the advanced medical technology we have nowadays.

The poison a character chooses can say a lot about them. What is more fantastic and decadent than a monarch using diamonds to take out the ruler of a kingdom they are at war with?

Another benefit of poisons: they don’t have to kill. In fact, sometimes there is more to be gained in incapacitating someone. Have a scheming advisor that wants power? Killing the king would make the throne go to the next in line. But what if the king becomes too ill to rule? The advisor might become regent until the king recovers… [Spoiler alert: Unless a protagonist steps in, the king will remain “ill” indefinitely.]

You can use poison to enhance tension as well. Finding an antidote can take time your heroes don’t have, and making or procuring it can be difficult on top of that. This is a good way to divide a large group, bring characters together, or send them off to another part of your world. Want a cure to be even harder to obtain? Combine your poisons. Not good enough? Mix real world toxins with ones you invent. The only limit is your imagination and how dead or incapacitated you want your characters to be.

Armed with this knowledge you can now go out there and not just poison your darlings, but do it catastrophically!

P.S: Here is a handy list of poisonous plants to get you started. Have fun!

 

 

Insert Witty Joke About Writers and Alcohol Here

Sometimes my writing brings me to strange places. This time it has lead to me making my own liqueur.

Sweet Summer Ingredients

When life hands you lemons…

If you’ve read volume 2, then you remember a scene with someone sipping Sweet Summer out of a glass on a balcony while attempting to wax nostalgic as they drank. The Tirtessian alcohol makes a few appearances in the first half of volume 3 as well, and I got to thinking… would it be possible to actually make this?

With that thought fresh in my mind, I purchased ingredients and began to experiment. I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but I will say that trying to construct a foolproof recipe has been a test of my patience. I read up on how to make liqueur, made tweaks based off recipes similar to what I was looking for, and waited. The minimum waiting period of each batch is two weeks, and the first one failed spectacularly. I mean it was completely, utterly undrinkable–like turpentine and furniture polish had a nasty baby in my cupboard.

I started on a second batch and made some adjustments after more research. The results were much better than the first go, but it was watery somehow, and not what I wanted. I ended up trying to boil it to get it to condense, and I think that messed it up. That one was discarded as well.

So I started the third batch and held my breath, going for broke. After the two week wait I was apprehensive, and spent a long time carefully straining the cloudy, pale yellow liquid. At this stage it did not look appetizing in the least! It began to take on a brighter hue and cleaner appearance as I removed the byproducts, and my hopes began to rise.

Finally, I had strained it as far as I could and it had magically turned into something close to the bright, yellow liqueur I wrote about. Success!

Well, visual success, anyway. I mean, it looked and smelt like what I wanted, but how did it taste?

I drank a sip of it hesitantly from a small glass. It. Was. Amazing.

The final recipe feels so wasteful because after all is said and done you discard about one-half to two-thirds of the batch in order to clarify it–but what is left is a brilliant, semi-opaque, syrup-like liqueur that coats your mouth in the most wonderful way. I made it in a mason jar, and when you pop the lid off the smell of citrus perfumes the air around you. It’s not sour, like I expected. In fact it’s incredibly sweet, and that makes it feel like you aren’t drinking alcohol at all. My only regret is that I could not strain it well enough, so it’s a bit cloudier than I feel it should be. I may try to pick up a paper filter and see if that helps. [Multiple runs through a fine mesh sieve and a tea sock is how I got the result I have, so we’ll see if I waste money on that or not.]

The final result!

It’s a surreal kind of indulgence to drink an alcohol that I made up, while writing the story I concocted it for–in some parts, as my characters are drinking it.

To keep it accessible to everyone, I still need to develop a non-alcoholic version. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to manage that, as the alcohol is a key component that drives the chemical change; but I have a feeling that despite my misgivings the non-alcoholic version will be the easiest to make. There will be little to no wait period–failure can happen faster than ever!


The recipe will be released close to the publication date of volume 3. It will be included in the bonus content of the book itself, and here on my blog.

Note: I wrote this over the summer, as I write some posts months in advance but don’t publish them until later. I’m clarifying since it follows my last post. The only thing I am drinking right now that would raise eyebrows is iced coffee, ha ha. [Though according to ACOG, you can drink up to 200 mg of caffeine safely. Let’s put that old wives’ tale to bed for good!]

Though… this would be a great time to work on my non-alcoholic version of Sweet Summer.