Looking Behind and Looking Ahead

megrad2

Graduation from SPC on May 4, 2013

I have not made a post in quite some time. I apologize. When you’re a college student/author/publisher/editor/part-time employee it’s hard to find time to blog.  I am enjoying a nice summer break, though, so I hope to be able to catch up on my posts.

First, let me catch you up on the recent past. After a grueling spring term, I graduated from St. Petersburg College with my Associates of Arts degree on May 4th. It may not seem like a very significant accomplishment to some folks, but it means the world to me. I am an older student (47…not afraid to say it) who was told in high school by a guidance counselor not to waste my time with college. I wish he could have been there as I not only proved that it wasn’t a waste, I did so by graduating summa cum laude with a 3.95 G.P.A. and by being a finalist for one of SPC’s most prestigious academic honors, the Apollo Award. I didn’t win, and that doesn’t matter. Just to be considered for it is a huge accomplishment that will no doubt have a lasting effect on my life.

Ahead lies my goal for a BA in English Literature. I’ve chosen to remain in this area and transfer to the University of South Florida—St. Petersburg campus. I’m not quite ready to move out of Tampa Bay or Florida yet. The St. Pete campus of USF is gorgeous. It sits right on Tampa Bay with lovely water views from nearly every building. I’m looking forward to starting my classes in the fall…one of which includes a literature class on the occult. Hell yes!

Now for the present and future of other aspects of my life.

This summer while I am off I have many goals. Here are a few.

  • Employment. I lost my student job at SPC, so I’ve been working on updating the resume and creating a portfolio. I hope to use it to land my next job.
  • Writing. I have lots of writing goals for this summer.
    • More Blog Posts. That’s a priority. Need to get back into writing more frequent updates and doing the writing prompts again.
    • Parker’s Pygmalion. I’ve decided to upload my Phi Theta Kappa award-winning short story to Smashwords as a free e-book. I have to start doing this indie thing soon anyway, and this is a good story to start with. If it works out, I will likely add it to Kindle on Amazon as well.
    • Kill the Crow. I’ve begun putting the stories into one document. I still need to finish writing and editing a few of the tales for the book, and get it formatted for publishing. Once  that’s done, I will upload it to Amazon…maybe Smashwords again, too.
    • Quellseek: Army of Empaths. I have people who will murder me if I don’t finish this novel,  so I’m working on it. The biggest problem I’m encountering is that the plot bunnies have tortured me with another great idea, one which I’ve started the research on already.
    • The Dragon Siblings. See above. I’ve got Phandara and T’kanyae (a.k.a. Kane Anthony) Morphyrades story starting in my head and I’ve begun a research project on it involving (fictional and real) sorcery and alchemy.  I don’t even have a title for this yet and have no clue about the scope of it, because Quellseek and that series MUST come first. The tale of Rafael Errick, Emory Atarem, Marta Sanis, Alverin Ness, and Wellynd Niles/Well-and-Truly must be brought to a close and that could take 2-3 years to tell it all. The Dragons will happen at some point, though. They’ve sort of already happened in some pre-cursor/same multiverse short stories.
  • Publishing and Editing. 
    • The Were-Traveler. Yes, I also edit and publish a speculative fiction magazine. It’s a rewarding venture I dove into like a madwoman and for the moment I’m enjoying it. Not quite ready to give it up yet. I recently posted the descriptions for up-and-coming issue themes. I’m looking forward to some of the upcoming themes. I may have to pen something myself for the Lovecraft/Poe issue. So tempting.

Life is going to be a challenge for me once school starts again in August. I have decided to attend USF full-time, which means I will have even less time for the other parts of my life than I do now.

Going to do as much this summer as possible…got to get it while the gettin’s good.

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Quellseek Excerpt: from ‘A Visitor in the Night’

Excerpt from Quellseek: Army of Empaths. From the end of Chapter 9, A Visitor in the Night (Wellynd Niles, POV). Wellynd wraps up his visit to Bon Pelees Atarem, a strange stopover even for a spy. He received a visitor to his room which left him disturbed (and not a little frustrated!) and saw a curious sight in the early dawn, a person sneaking out of the keep instead of into it! In this excerpt, Wellynd ends his visit by giving Pelees a revelation. 

“Thank you for delivering your message and may all the Unnamed see you home in safety. Doralinda made you up this bundle of food for your journey.” Pelees handed him a packet wrapped in linen.

“Thank you, my lord. A fine woman, your serving lady.”

Pelees looked surprised. “You were speaking with her yesterday.”

“Yes. I was getting a bottle of ghurzin from your storehouse. She is very concerned for you, my bon. As are we all.”

Pelees looked angry. “She spoke out of turn, I fear. I shall have to chastise her.”

“Don’t. Please, my lord. She spoke only out of her worry. She suffers greatly.”

“I know,” Pelees nodded. “She was very attached to Nissen. It hurt her when he quelled my poisoning.”

Now here’s a chance for me to do some good on this visit, at last,’ Wellynd thought.

“Is that what you think, my lord? That she loved your Quell?”

Pelees screwed up his eyes, not comprehending his guest’s meaning. “She must have…the way she cried when he died.”

Wellynd Niles put his heel to his horse and started to trot away, following his other guards and Wallis who were already leaving the stable. Then he stopped and turned to regard Bon Pelees Atarem thoughtfully.

“Hmm…yet her meander was the first one to leave Blackened Falls when you were poisoned, before your Quell was even feeling the full effect of it.” He grinned. “Well…I’ve heard it said love is blind. It must be stupid as well. Beg pardon, my lord. Thank you for your hospitality. Until we meet again.”

Then Wellynd Niles spun his horse around and headed out of the stable, leaving the Bon gaping after him in confusion, before Pelees could feel the full measure of the insult and call him back to have him flogged.

© Astrid Gast - Fotolia

© Astrid Gast – Fotolia

Quellseek Excerpt: Natural Son

One handsome masculine male with nice eyes

Image courtesy of dundanim.

Excerpt from my work in progress novel, “Quellseek: Army of Empaths, Chapter 12: Natural Son:

You are lucky,” Pelees began. “You’ve not had any part in the troubles. You’ve had no Sanis or one of their knights popping out of the bushes to put a blade to your throat. You haven’t had to marry one of them to try and forge a truce.”

“Thank the Thousand! I don’t want a Quell wiping my ass,” joked Alverin. “And the truce is a gods-damned farce. You know that, right?”

“Nobody knows it more than me, brother. I wish I’d been born the bastard.”

Alverin’s smile slid into a bitter, sour frown and his eyes grew dark. “Don’t wish for such a thing. I would not wish it on my greatest foe.”

“I can think of a few foes I’d wish it on. Father should ask the king to give you his name…that’s been done before. With some of Rauling’s whelps.”

Alverin laughed. He knew Pelees was serious, but he could not stay so depressed in his brother’s company. “You love me not, brother. All I want is a quiet, simple life. I have no ambition. As a bastard, I don’t expect to be a great force in the world. I leave that to you, my Bon brother.”

Quellseek Excerpt: Quellseek Comes to Endicott

The character Rafael on the cover of “Quellseek: Army of Empaths.”

The following is an excerpt from “Quellseek: Army of Empaths,” the novel I’m in the process of writing. The excerpt is taken from the opening of the fourteenth chapter: “Quellseek Comes to Endicott” and the POV character is Toleus, the brutal Quell from the Fortress at Haverton. In this chapter, Toleus and the Seekers have arrived on Quellseek to the little village of Endicott in the Hungry Hills. The brutal practice of outing the Quell members of the village begins:

Fire was roaring on a makeshift Plentim bier, armed men were placing pokers into its hot, raging maw. People were running in all directions, screaming; men pulling their wives along by their arms, and mothers in their turn, pulling younger children or cradling infants and toddlers protectively against their breasts. Panic was slowly turning to order, though, as the villagers soon realized the entrances and exits of the town were effectively blocked, guarded by solemn men clad either in all-gray or all-black. Men with drawn swords and angry eyes.

Toleus stepped out of the chaos and shouted an order.

“Everyone under the age twenty-two stand off to one side! Do it! Now!”

It took several minutes for his order to be completely carried out. Some parents were reluctant to part with their children; or in the case of young couples, who clung to one another while being prodded with the ends of swords into the Test group, refusing to let go of each other… which was fine with Toleus…the Seekers would know that either could be tried for the others Testing.

Last into the fray of onlookers were a father, mother, and their teenage son, herded by four Seekers from the direction where the less-populated area of the village lay.

“Merchant. Had to beat down his door,” called one of the Seekers to Toleus. One of the other Seekers grabbed the boy by the scruff of his tunic and hauled him into the group of those who had not been born during the time of the last Quellseek.

“Rafael!” the woman cried.

‘Mother. Good,’ thought Toleus. ‘We’ll work on her first, when comes his Testing.’

When they were all sorted, Toleus stepped up to the fire and removed a poker from the flames, its tip glowing yellow-red and hot.

“All right, now.” Toleus said, with a menacing grin. “Who’s first?”

Quellseek Songs: Emery, Pt. 2 (Lovers In A Dangerous Time)

Bona Emery Atarem – Image by Dmitriy Kapitonenko

I’m getting ready to write Bona Emery’s second POV chapter, tentatively titled “Desean.”

She’s made the journey in safety to her brother’s keep at Blackened Falls, and is greeted by him in his study. Bon Pelees has a new Quell with him, a man called Aleros. Aleros was sent to replace Nissen, who recently died for Pelees, but Aleros has his face hidden behind a hood. Remembering her own ordeal with hooded knights, Emery becomes suspicious. Bon Pelees tries his best to ease his sister into what will surely be a shock for her: Desean never confided in her his true nature—the fact that he was Quellmade—a clone produced by the Quell Order.

Once more, Emery is forced to relive the nightmare of her captivity and Desean’s death at the hands of the five hooded and unidentified knights.  And once more, she refuses to answer the question, even when her brother asks her: “How did you manage to escape?

But that’s a question to be answered inside the pages of Quellseek, my friends.

As Emery continues to brood over Desean’s death, this song comes to my mind. It’s a song for star-crossed lovers like Emery and Desean.

The Death of the Servant Nissen: Excerpt from Quellseek

@Dundanim - Fotolia

@Dundanim – Fotolia

Quellseek is the novel I’m working on for NaNoWriMo. The following is from the opening of the novel.

For three horrible days and nights, they watched as Nissen died, lingering in agony and screaming for all the gods and devils that ever were to end his torture, despite the extremely high dosages of opiate he was given…every hour it seemed…until exhaustion from the screaming and straining against the straps which held him down gave way to uneasy and fidgety slumber.

For three horrible days and nights during his un-peaceful bouts of sleep, everyone in the keep prayed to all those unmerciful gods and devils to hear him and grant him a reprieve from this world, which was too much a burden, on him and everyone…selfish as that may sound; it is no easy thing to listen to the torments of a man in the throes of a death such as his.

And through it all, yes, through the most wrenching screams that set ones teeth on edge, though the episodes of blood and bits of internal flesh spewing through his mouth and nose, growing so frequent now that one had to wonder how there was anything left inside him, let alone how he was able to continue to draw breath; through it all, it was Bona Marta who remained at his side.

Nissen was a stubborn man, though, and he continued to cling to life by the tips of his fingernails, which had all turned a blue-black shade, no doubt due to the pseudo-toxins which continued their slow course through his pain-wracked body.

Finally, on the dawn of the fourth day, Bon Pelees paid a visit, and everyone knew then that Nissen was dead. Bona Marta pulled the sweat-soaked sheet over his stilled face, which had purpled almost as much his fingertips in the last hour of his torment.

Bon Pelees sat bowed and huddled, shivering at the side of the deathbed, while Marta hurried to get the servants to wash and prepare the body before disintegration set in.

Pelees opened his weary eyes. His face was gray and taut; he’d fought his own struggles, and they’d left him wearied and palsied.

“He shall have to be on the bier tonight,” Corman spoke from his seat far in the corner by the fire. He’d arrived with the Bon, having stayed by his master’s side during the poisoned illness. “No part of him can be left for the spies of Brax to find.”

Pelees nodded, slowly. “He was a brave man. But then again they all are. Where will I find another like him?”

Corman snorted. “Haverton, of course, unless the Order refuses you. And who could blame them? The Good Seekers go through priests and priestesses at a fearsome rate.”

Pelees lifted his head and favored Corman with a angry look. “I did not mean that. He will be replaced. And it has been a year, Corman. A whole year. Since the last.”

“True enough. Either your enemies love you better than they do your father and mother, or they find it more difficult to try and kill you…or…” Corman cut himself off suddenly, and blushed, as if he’d said too much…

from “The Death of the Servant Nissen,” Chapter 1 of “Quellseek: Army of Empaths”

Cover of “Quellseek: Army of Empaths.”

NaNo 2012: Six Degrees of Preparation

November is National Novel Writing Month!

When I did NaNoWriMo back in 2010, I was happy to get through it and win it without losing too much of my sanity. I have so little left to lose. 😛

Writing 50,000 words in just a month’s time can be a daunting task and can put a severe strain on the other areas of your life. I have a lot of stuff on my plate: work, college classes, and other obligations that also need to be considered and can not just be shunted aside for the sake of a making a daily word count.

So why did I decide to to it this year and how will I manage it? These are the questions I’m going to attempt to answer in this post.

I’m doing NaNo this year for two reasons. One (and perhaps the most important): I have a story I’m dying to tell and I’m totally in love with it. I don’t know if anyone else will ever love this book as much as I already do, and right now, I don’t really care. Sorry if that sounds selfish, but I’m writing this book because I want to. I don’t know if there will be a market for it. Don’t care. Two: I’ve been in a slump lately with my fiction writing and I need to break out of it. I have a couple short story projects with upcoming deadlines. I’m hoping that by getting into a groove with my novel, I will feel inspired to begin these other projects.

How am I going to do it? I’ve been planning this novel for a little while now…long before I began entertaining any thoughts about trying to write it in November. Here’s some of the ways I’ve been preparing to write my November novel, Quellseek: Army of Empaths:

  1.  Preliminary NotesWhen I first got the idea for this story, I started taking notes on things that would come to me about it. I make sure I have small notebooks in my purse now to scribble things on. I also use Notes or Evernote on my iPhone to keep track of little things that come to me.
  2. A.B.T. & D.S.E.: Always. Be. Thinking. This leads to more of Number 1. It’s good to think. I couple this with…Dropping Some Eaves: I listen to the conversations happening around me. You never know when a great literary nugget will come from a complete stranger, or a good line of conversation. Thinking and Eavesdropping can be turned into some great plot twists or dialogue in your book, and when you’re writing a novel, every little bit helps. Once you learn to fine-tune  your senses, you’ll discover tidbits all around you!
  3.  Outline: I’ve got an outline I’ve been working on in Evernote.

    Click for larger.

    Evernote is a great tool for simple outlines. I love the hell out of Evernote. It’s available as a phone app, too, so I can work on stuff when I don’t have access to a computer. I also use Evernote to record revelations I have concerning characters, plot, settings and to collect research. Seriously, Evernote is one of the coolest organization tools out there. And the basic package (which does everything I need it to do) is free!

  4. Story bible for serious notes (WIKA): I always buy and use story bibles, just plain Mead notebooks (with pocket folders inside) that I can carry around with me to jot stuff down in while I’m having lunch or riding on the bus. When I’m working on a story, I suffer anxiety if I don’t have my story bible with me. I only use them for longer stories, and novels, of course. One type of notes I’m taking for this one involve the POV characters. I’ve never written a novel where the POV will switch back-and-forth, so I’m writing a page or two of a chapter synopsis about what happens to the POV character in each chapter. I call these “What I Know About,” or WIKA for short. I’ll do the first one as a character sketch, then just write chapter details in subsequent ones. I also have a copy of my tentative chapter list in my story bible. I write the titles of the chapters followed by one or two empty lines…to add any chapters I may have to insert along the way. You never know.
  5. Character Set-up (StoryMill): I use the writing software StoryMill. I know a lot of people use Scrivener and swear by it, and to each their own. StoryMill works for me. It is set up a lot

    Click for Larger.

    like Evernote. There’s places for notes and research. But what  I dig most about StoryMill is the mini-character database within it. I can create and keep track of all my characters. I can use tags to identify which characters are dead. I can then run a SmartView later to show me all the dead characters. It’s just a wonderfully helpful piece of software that works for the way I write. It also has a Timeline feature, but I haven’t figured out how to use it yet. I may need to play with it when I start getting deep into the plot of this story. It also has a section for scenes.

  6. Time Management and Expectations: I confess: I do not have great time management skills. I’ve been trying to get better at it by making myself to-do lists and such. As far as my novel goes, I’m hoping that what I have managed to do with my story bible, and setting things up in Evernote and StoryMill will help me to at least keep things straight in my head and will save me some time. Another important aspect involves my own personal expections for NaNo 2012. I’m not as concerned this year with finishing up November 30th with 50,000 words. If I don’t finish, it’s okay. I want to get a good grounded start on this novel. That’s what my goal is. Any word count I finish with will be okay as long as I can keep going and advance the plot when November is over. I’m not setting a high bar that I’ll likely be unable to cross. My goal is to start telling the story of the people on this world, and tell it to the best of my ability…and still want to tell more when I’m done. I have high hopes for this novel. But I’m smart enough to have learned from my NaNo of 201o. My high hopes may not be answered at the end of NaNo…but I can, and will, keep writing this book.

Happy (NaNoWriMo) writing!