Revenants Abroad pre-orders open!

Revenants Abroad - Final for Web Display 501x800

I have done it, I have loosed my vampires upon the world! This is both terrifying and exciting. There was a lot of time I thought about just tossing it in a drawer (electronically) and forgetting about it. But then I thought, what the hey, eh? Why not just run it up the proverbial flag pole and see who salutes? Maybe we should meet the team:

Revenants Abroadfinal Andrej

Andrej Vojacek

Anne-Marie Van Vooren

Anne-Marie Van Vooren

Neko Melonakos

Neko Melonakos

This is the core group: just a couple of fun-loving, bourbon-swilling, chain-smoking, blood-drinking vampires and one human woman who have become a de facto family. It’s a little dysfunctional but what family isn’t? Somehow they’re still falling in with the wrong crowd.

The book releases on October 31 (I just had to have that day!), but you can pre-order now on Smashwords in a variety of formats and it should be up soon if not already at B&N, Kobo, Scribd, Oyster, FlipKart, Overdrive…  You can also download 10% of it to take it for a test drive, see if you’d like to read more. Also, the first chapter is up on Wattpad .

I’m working on getting it up at Amazon, but until then you can get the MOBI version from Smashwords.

If you don’t like pre-orders the book is available in just a couple days. I did a short pre-order period, mostly due to the timing of being able to get it through Smashwords vetting system and into their Premium Catalog, which took far less time than anticipated.

So, on to NaNoWriMo on Saturday, and start of the sequel to RA, working title “The Age of Revenants”.

Moving Forward

 

So it looks like it’s really going to happen, I’m really going to unleash Andrej, Neko, and Anne-Marie on the world, probably late this summer. This is, quite frankly, terrifying. Honest to dog, I don’t know how I’m going to make myself do all the obligatory marketing and selling. I don’t want to become “that author” who endlessly tweets nothing but ‘buy my book!’ tweets.

But first, I have to get something, some kind of descriptors or keywords to my cover artist so he can get started on the painting (yes, not CGI. I’ve seen some really dreadful covers done in CGI). :::chews nails::: This is much harder than I thought it would be. There are the obvious things: vampires, Prague, the three main characters. I really have no clear vision of what I want on the cover so I’ll wait and see what he comes up with. I’m still not entirely sure what all he’s going to do as far as creating the digital version of the painting. So many details still to work out. I hope to have a contract in the next day or two.

I’m rethinking how/where I’m going to release the book. I had initially figured I’d go KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) but now I’m thinking Smashwords who can distribute to iTunes and loads of others, including Kobo (since that’s the kind of ereader I have).

Oh god I feel like Kermit.

Current Inspiration

This piece gives me chills. I just wish it was longer and didn’t end so abruptly. I give you: Two Steps From Hell, “Protectors of the Earth” from their album, “Invincible.”

 

 

I downloaded the MP3 version from Amazon, in case anyone’s wondering.

I still don’t know if this current WIP is going to be a short story, or if I want to take it to full length novel. It’s funny how  I have real life models for some of the characters, but  not the main character, my protagonist. Sigh. Back to it.

I wonder if the CD cover is available as a poster…

Invincible CD Cover

Snippets

Having no other content to put up here lately, I thought I’d post a snippet of a story I’m working on and see what you 3 think of it. This is actually quite terrifying, putting it out there like this. I don’t even have a title for it yet. Oh what the hell, here it is.

******

“Not many women choose this life,” he said, watching her clean the blade of her sword. The steel was smooth as glass, not a ripple in the metal. He’d never seen such a beautifully crafted blade.

She knelt on one knee in the mud by the body of the man she had just cut down in battle. “I’d hardly call it a choice.”

He dismounted from the enormous black horse. “Ah. Like so many of us. Sometimes the gods choose for us.”

“The gods and a bastard of a father who beat his children. He was my first kill.” She stood up, taller than he’d expected, broad-shouldered for a woman.

His mouth curved up on one side in a sardonic smile. “Self-defense is a basic skill for a warrior. The gods started training you early.”

“What is it with you and the gods, old man?”

“They’ve brought me victorious through many a battle.”

“And you don’t think that was any credit to your own skill?”

“Oh assuredly. But they set me on the path to learn what I’d need.”

She snorted. “All right, old man, if it gives you comfort at night.”

It was his turn to smile. “Old man? My hair may show many winters, but my arm will match yours in battle yet.”

She looked him up and down. His arms were as thick as oak branches, taut and strong, hardly flagging into old age. And then she saw the rank insignia riveted to his armor. He was the highest ranking general she’d come across since the war began. “No disrespect intended, General…?”

“Vercingetor.”

Her smile faded. He was more than a general, Vercingetor was the legendary commander of all the armies. And here she was sassing him. She laughed self-consciously. How could she not have recognized him? One didn’t expect to see the prime commander wandering around a battlefield unescorted. She saluted, wondering if it was already too late to salvage her career in the army. “My deepest apologies, General. Your presence here is a surprise. How may I serve you?”

“Apology accepted, Captain Lassuni. Since our work here is done,” he said, sweeping his glance over the battlefield where the crows were already arriving to scavenge the dead, “join me for some food, and we can talk.”

“Sir, I need to check on my troops.” Gainsaying the top Commander was probably error number two that day, but her duty to her own troops weighed on her. She couldn’t just go off for food and wine and leave them.

“Of course. I’ll join you,” he said, and mounted his horse once again. He sat and waited for her to retrieve her own mount that had wandered off during the battle. Once in the saddle she kicked the horse’s flanks, urging the animal to a canter.

“This way, General,” she said, and rode up the hill that hid their encampment.

They reached the top side by side, and reined their horses to a stop. Smoke from cooking fires and the smell of blood of the wounded scorched their nostrils. The wind was picking up as dark clouds moved in from the north. Just what they needed, Lassuni thought darkly. The wounded were suffering enough without cold rain and snow coming down on them. She urged her horse down the hill, nearly forgetting the presence of the army chief. She wasn’t too worried about him, though. He could figure out on his own what to do. All she could do now was her duty to her troops.

They rode down the line of tents, many of which had become camp hospitals, stopping now and then to have a word with some of the field doctors. None of the soldiers in the camp seemed to notice Vercingetor any more than she had, which made her smile inwardly. She didn’t know why this pleased her so much, only that it did. She suspected he was as arrogant and full of himself as most high-ranking officers were, probably moreso. Not that he hadn’t earned his fame the hard way, but most of them forgot the hardships suffered by the field troops once they got so high and mighty. And she hated them for it. She watched him out of the corner of her eye to see how he reacted to his anonymity. Annoyingly, he seemed to take no notice and said nothing as she spoke with some of the soldiers, simply observing from his saddle, not even offering an opinion. Finally she gave up worrying about him. Dismounting, she handed her horse off to her aide. She ran a hand absently through her chin-length, rough cut hair. She entered her tent where fatigue stole up and embraced her, and for the first time she felt the strain of the last few weeks. Forgetting the presence of the Supreme Commander, she lowered herself into her chair and called for wine, and two cups.

“My compliments, Captain. You have an excellent unit,” Vercingetor said. He had followed her in, but remained standing as if waiting for an invitation to sit.

Lassuni grinned, just a little, then started to stand again. “Forgive me, General…”

He waved his hand at her. “You’ve earned that seat, Captain,” he said. He turned and looked around the tent, then pulled up a second chair to sit near her. Lassuni shifted ever so slightly.

“Forgive me, General. I’m not accustomed to superior officers doing for themselves,” she said. But even that was half bait to see how he’d take it. What was it about this man that brought out this childish desire to provoke?

Vercingetor gave no indication that he felt in any way slighted or that she was being insubordinate. Peculiar. By now her aides were entering bearing plates of food and flagons of wine. As they refreshed the fire she began to thaw a little from the numbing cold of the gathering night, and started removing her armor. Vercingetor took a mouthful of the roasted meat and a swallow of wine, paying no heed to her. She shrugged and allowed her aide to finish taking the armor off.

“Tomorrow,” Vercingetor started, “we’ll cross the Ringossa Valley, and advance into Segora Province. Your troops will need to rest some before we can finish the push into the capital city.”

“We’ll need reinforcements before we can engage the rebels there. We suffered too many casualties today. I can’t move my forces for at least a week.”

“Precisely. You’ll leave your squadrons here, and take command of the Ninth Division. They’re stationed just beyond that ridge to the north.”

“Sir?” She finished swallowing a mouthful of food. “You want me to lead the Ninth?”

Now Vercingetor smiled. “Did you think I just stumbled on you by accident today, Captain?”

“Surely there are other officers more qualified to command the ninth.”

“More senior, certainly; more qualified – not that I’ve seen.”

For a moment she could hardly speak. The Ninth was a legendary elite unit, undefeated on the battlefield. To be handed command of such a unit was unheard of. Only the most skilled warriors were assigned to serve directly under the military’s highest commander.

“But sir, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to promote one of their own to command?”

He swirled his wine while watching her. “Perhaps. Under normal circumstances. At the moment I need some of them elsewhere, and after what I witnessed on the battlefield today, I believe I can trust you to carry this burden. Your regiment scored a decisive victory, your troops fight fiercely for you. I need officers who can inspire their troops like that.”

“But who will take over my regiment?”

“Captain, are you trying to tell me you’re refusing this promotion?”

She swallowed hard. “No General, not at all.”

He was handing her a position beyond anything she’d hoped for and she was acting like a mother hen. True, she had brought these troops up from nothing, turning them into one of the most feared and best trained units in the empire, but fate it seemed had decided it was time to move on.

“Your devotion to your troops is commendable, Captain, but I need you elsewhere right now. Be ready to leave in the morning, if you please.”

“Yes sir.”

“Now, if you’ll direct me to a tent I can use tonight, I’d be most grateful.”

Once Vercingetor was settled, Adovana Lassuni assembled her officers in a hasty council to pass on the news. Her top lieutenant openly blanched at the news, until she informed him he was receiving a field promotion to captain.

“You’ll assume command immediately,” she told him. “I ride out in the morning with the supreme commander. There’s no time for a formal change of command.”

“It’s been an honor to serve with you, Captain.” Lieutenant Satonos stood at attention as he spoke.

Lassuni nodded. “Thank you. And may I be the first to congratulate you on your promotion, Captain Satonos.” Each placed their left hand on the other’s right shoulder in salute.

*****

More to come…

 

Cover Me

475px-the_scream1

 

My time lately has been concentrated on researching book covers: designs, designers, how-to, software, stock photos, pre-made vs. commissioned. What I’ve decided is since I want to give the book its best chance possible I am going to commission cover art. My reasons are thus:

1. I want good art that will stand out, and won’t make me feel embarrassed to show someone, like these would. (Fair warning: you may need trauma counseling after viewing that site.)

2. The book is the first of what I hope will be a trilogy.  I want a cohesive look, rather than a mish-mash of different styles so I’m hoping to be able to have the same artist do the covers of the next books as well.

3. Design programs like PhotoShop or GIMP have a steep learning curve. If you don’t already know how to use them, it’s not likely to be something you can learn to do well in a weekend (unless you’re a whole lot smarter than I am). I suspect it would take years to achieve the level of mastery I’m after.  I got as far as downloading GIMP and was flummoxed. As much as I love playing around with it, I have no idea what I’m doing and the effort would be amateurish at best.  Again, the embarrassment factor.

4. I love really good cover art. Most of the pre-made covers are formulaic, or just not quite right and make me want to tweak the design this way or that, even if the art isn’t bad. I don’t want to settle for something that’s almost there.

5. I’m not an artist and know only the merest basics of design principles.

What can I say? Champagne taste on a beer budget.

It will cost more money, but people do judge books by their covers (I know I do) and those cheesey, bad CGI covers with ugly fonts are a turn-off to me, so probably are to most other people as well.  I’ve solicited information from three or four artists online (and dismissed others out of hand due to their prices) and am pretty well focused on one. It’s not that I begrudge these people their rates, god knows a real artist with real talent deserves to be compensated for their work. I simply can’t come up with that much money right now. And high prices are also no guarantee of talent, as you can quickly discover. I trolled the internet for a couple of weeks, looking up all kinds of artists, checking out the DIY options, pre-made offerings. This, I believe, is the best course.

The whole process is kind of taking my breath away, and my heart beat faster. This is really happening. Unless I chicken out and decide not to do it. I’ll probably just quietly put the book up on Amazon and hope no one notices…

Say When

water overflowing

So, I quietly did Camp NaNoWriMo in April. I thought maybe without the fanfare of announcing I was doing it and worrying about write-ins and taking part in the community (although all those things are great, and a wonderful part of the experience of NaNoWriMo) I would be more focused on the writing and less on talking about it. It seems to a have worked.

What did I work on? The sequel to Revenants Abroad, tentatively titled The Age of Revenants. Is it finished? Hardly. Let’s call it a good start. It’s about as rough as you’d expect 50,000 words cranked out in haste over 30 days to be. But that’s all right, I needed to get some ideas down, and why not put them towards the goal? A couple of things are kind of going off on tangents so may get revised out later, or possibly saved for something else. But I’m pleased that I was able to get this much done. And let me tell you, it was not easy. It’s one reason I’ve been very quiet on Twitter over the last month. And I really had to make a push during the last weekend. So apologies for any crankiness. It’s an insane way to get some writing done, but I feel like I have no choice these days. Would that I could quit the dayjob and just write. I’m so close to handing in my notice I can’t even tell you.

It felt good to get some of this stuff down, but it seems like the more I write, the more ideas I get. I’ve become better about grabbing a pen and paper when I get those lines just as I’m drifting off to sleep, which seems to happen more and more. I suspect I’m not unique in this.

Now to finish RA, get a cover, and get it up at Amazon. I’ve decided to self-pub via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) as agents seem unanimous in their distaste for vampire stories these days. I think there’s still a market, so am taking it upon myself to publish it and see what happens. As I told my dear friend Bunny this morning, I’m taking steel wool to the last few pages, finishing up edits (caught a couple of doozy typos), then I’ll need to get a cover created, and maybe a couple more beta readers, and hopefully have it up for sale before the end of the summer. I have to be done with this so I can move on to the next one. I just haven’t figured out when to say “when.”

Snow Day!

Portland is having a rare late season snowstorm, which began yesterday. My office manager gave me a lift to the park-n-ride where I leave my car during the day since the buses were running so slowly and conditions were rapidly deteriorating. The wind and blowing snow were rocking my managers SUV. She commented at one point that there didn’t seem to BE any buses. We didn’t see any in the six miles from the office to my car.

The snow was building up rapidly and only in a few spots was the pavement visible. It was pretty amazing for this area that is normally far more temperate and is one of the things the inhabitants love about it. My 12-mile drive from the park-n-ride lot took well over an hour at an average speed of 20mph. Not a snow plow to be seen, I don’t think any of the towns I pass through have any. I know, boohoo. My new-old car did splendidly though, no sliding or spinning tires. The old Mercedes I had was a death trap in snow, which I never understood. You’d think the Germans would have a handle on engineering cars that could handle snow.

I was one of the lucky ones, making it home in roughly an hour and a half from the time I left the office. Many motorists were stuck in gridlock for hours due to accidents, bad road conditions, abandoned cars.

Back at the ranch, we found this on the car:

Angel wing icicle

Well.

Just a couple more shots of the snow, and then I’m off to write. I have a new idea that’s barely forming for a fantasy story and I want to work it up.

February 6 2014 snow

February 6 snowstorm

Feb 6 2014 front & street

Ok, away I fly to take advantage of the unexpected free time and create worlds of chaos. Metaphors be with you, and all that.

Weekly Card – King of Cups

Art Nouveau King of CupsThis is the second time in as many days this guy has shown up. Yesterday he showed up in a 3-card spread I did for myself with the Wild Unknown deck.

All the kings are associated with fire, the cups are associated with water. So here we have fire of water. He’s a man of deep feelings, passionate emotions. I suddenly feel like I’ve encountered him. Maybe in a dream recently. I’ve had so many wildly vivid dreams recently. If only I could remember. Kings aren’t normally seen as bearers of messages, that’s usually the pages’ job. Still, there’s something nagging. It’s like I can almost hear his voice. Whatwhatwhat? Help. Protection. Clearly I’m not getting the message. Again. I expect more odd dreams now. Perhaps my Him. Perhaps my muse urging me on.

Well, I’ll puzzle out my own situation. Hopefully the King’s qualities of compassion and solicitousness, tender feelings and love of the arts, poetry, and love itself will manifest for you this week. A little nurturing of the soul is always welcome.

 

The Casual Time Traveler

Time travel.

Who hasn’t thought about what they’d do if they had the chance to go back in time and change something? Maybe you’d find a way to prevent an evil dictator from being born (Hitler, Castro, Pol Pot), stop John Wilkes Booth from assassinating Lincoln, save the Romanovs from being murdered.

The problem is you could never understand the full implications of what such a move would be. How would it affect your own family if world events had worked out differently? Maybe your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t have married the man she did, if your would-be great-great-grandfather hadn’t died in a war.

Say that in going back in time and meddling with things, your beloved’s great-great-grandmother’s village was invaded by the armies of Arachnovakia, and your beloved somehow ends up being born to an Arachnovakian couple. Arachnovakia worships spiders, and you hate spiders. Rumor has it they were themselves descended from spiders. Word on the street is they have spiders nesting in their hair. Heck, their hair is made of spider webs. Maybe wheels are considered evil in Arachnovakia just to top it all off (’cause they roll over and crush spiders). Consequently this person never even learned to ride a bike. They don’t have cars or even horse drawn wagons in Arachnovakia. He or she would have had a vastly different experience growing up, and would not be the person you knew. (I really think I’m going to have to write more about Arachnovakia. Why do I keep hearing Groucho Marx in my head?)

It’s that mystical convergence of energy at the right time, the right place, with the right lighting, or topic of conversation. If it’s someone you’ve known for awhile, you may suddenly ‘see them in a new light.’ It also depends on the state of mind of the persons involved at the crucial moment. If your significant other had been blond, or a foot taller or shorter, how might that have affected your perception of him/her? Would you have even approached them for a date, much less married that person? Who we are is a delicate balance of our inner nature and the environment that produced us.

There was an episode of Voyager where an alien race was instantly forgotten after they left the presence of any other (they gave off some sort of pheromone or something that prevented the brains of other species from retaining the memory of them). Chakotay (Robert Beltran) had fallen in love with a woman (played by Virginia Madsen) from this race, but when she was forced to return to her planet he instantly forgot her. When they ‘met’ a second time  as she tried to get Voyager to take her with them,  the sparks didn’t fly for him. She was still in love with him, but that magical moment didn’t come again for Chakotay. Who we’re attracted to has a lot to do with our own mental state when we meet that person. Maybe she caught him on a bad day when he was missing his Maquis buddies. It’s possible that had she been allowed to stay on the ship Chakotay’s feelings towards her would have sparked again in time. This is why fix-ups and blind dates rarely succeed. You can’t engineer this many variables to coincide favorably for two parties at the same time. Either it will work or it won’t, and there really is no way to know.

So back to our time travel and unintended consequences. Your Arachnovakian sweetie is still a lovely person, except they’re also a different sex this time. Whichever gender you identify with and are attracted to, if your love was the wrong sex for you to be attracted to, it would not be the same. Most people are not bisexual. If you are, well, lucky you. This might not be a problem for you. But the essence of the person you love would have been irrevocably altered. And that could be a problem for anyone.

Anyway, the point I am trying very inarticulately to make is that human attraction is a mysterious, unpredictable phenomenon.

Best to stay home, and leave the time travel to the professionals.

faqtimetravel

Ok, maybe not those guys.

Weekly Card – Eight of Engines

I recently got the Steampunk Tarot by John & Caitlin Matthews so naturally had to use it for this week’s card. If you’re not familiar with what steampunk is, in a nutshell it’s a subgenre of sci-fi/fantasy, typically set in the Victorian era, although not necessarily in England (Cherie M. Priest’s “Clockwork Century” series I believe are all set in the U.S., typically the West. I could be wrong, I haven’t read them). It’s essentially alternate history, where things are steam-powered, and clocks and gears are prominent accoutrements. Kyle-cassidy-steampunk

Think dirigible airships and aviator goggles. (photo at right courtesy of Wikipedia) It’s popular cosplay and there’s even an annual convention here in Portland, PDX GEAR Con, which was held this weekend, although I did not attend.  The whole thing has blossomed into a movement and style, much like the Goth aesthetic. The old joke is, “Steampunk is what happens when Goths discover brown.” No doubt the prevalence of brown owes it’s popularity to old photographs, which are famous for the sepia tone. People have decorated their houses in this style (which is not authentic to the era, but makes for some dramatic looks. Lots of brass). It also owes a huge debt to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells who essentially invented it, even if it wasn’t called that back then.

So I pulled a card, then decided I wanted a more dramatic one to showcase the deck a little better. I shuffled, cut to the left 3 times again. :::insert frown::: The first card I pulled was the Nine of Engines (Wands). The second card I pulled was the Eight of Engines. I should mention that the cards were in no discernible order when they arrived in the box, most mixed up deck I’ve seen on receipt. I really should quit fighting it when the deck wants to tell me something, don’t you think?

Eight of EnginesThe Eight of Engines shows a plane being hastily loaded with supplies. The situation has developed into something that’s happening very quickly, almost more quickly than you can keep up with. If an opportunity shows up, move on it. You may not have time to spend days pondering your next move.

The Nine of Engines I’m putting up as well, since it came up first. Nine of EnginesEngines are Wands, and as I’ve probably mentioned Wands are associated with Fire. Lots of creative energy this week. The Nine has us in a somewhat tenuous situation, things are uncertain, and we need to call on all our strength and resources to get through. Like the troops landing in the card, it’s hard to say what’s going to happen so be prepared.

I’d say get plenty of rest tonight because it looks like this week could be a butt-kicker.

If you’d like to see my review of the deck, it’s over on my other blog, Dangling Pentacles Tarot. Click here.

Have a good week, and eat your Wheaties!