Syncope

1024px-pietro_longhi_027

For those keeping score, I can now add fainting to the list of health bullshit piling up around here as I adjust to life without a thyroid.

I actually have a lifelong history of fainting from some undetermined underlying cause, and then being fine afterward, but it’s been a while and this time my husband says I was turning blue. So that seems bad. And I can almost always track what (admittedly nonsensical) factor led to the fainting, but this time it happened after nearly no provocation.

Ten minutes, tops, kneeling down to pull some weeds. Felt weird, so I stopped. (I honestly am making a very real effort not to push myself and to be mindful of my current limits.) Went up to the porch to sit down. Next thing I know, my husband is in my face urgently instructing me to breathe and I guess it’s been about five minutes. He’d called an ambulance.

The rest of my Saturday sucked.

greetings from the eye of the storm

For those of you who’ve been wondering if I’m doing all right, following my full thyroidectomy and surprise cancer in April, I’m afraid the answer is no, I’m really not.

It’s funny. You expect these things to be so much more linear than they end up being. Have problem, identify problem, fix problem, problem all better. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaah no.

There is this very nebulous post-surgical phase that I glossed over in one of my previous posts that can easily be summed up with the innocuous words “once we get my med dosages under control.” The ease of naming this phase is in directly inverse proportion to the difficulty of actually getting my med dosages under control. More euphemistically and also more accurately, I’m currently trapped in post-op Hell.

There was an earlier, more blissfully ignorant time in my life – about three months ago – when I imagined that adjusting to having no thyroid gland and relying on a carefully-prescribed dose of ingested thyroid hormone wouldn’t be all that dissimilar to living with an under-performing thyroid that had been slowly trying to kill me for at least twenty-three years.

I was so, so wrong.

For the first, I don’t know, three weeks after the total thyroidectomy, I felt like I was making slow but steady progress toward a new kind of normal that wasn’t all that different from my previous normal (which was nice but also sort of disappointing – I want to feel better now that I’ve addressed a persistent health issue, not the same!) But then, oof, things started getting weird. New symptoms showing up every week, a regular freakshow of bodily dysfunction.

Hair brittle and falling out. Eyebrow dandruff? Can’t touch hot things. Can’t touch cold things. Jitters. Freezing all the time, except at night when I’m drenched in sweat no matter how high we crank the a/c. Nausea. Weird new plant allergies. Intense hunger pain. (To clarify, I had not experienced the sensation of physical hunger since summer 1996. Lost it during the first trimester of pregnancy and never regained it until now — really suddenly and grippingly.) Vertigo. Blurry vision. Trouble focusing my eyes on a single object. Vocal weakness. Mood swings. Shoulder blade pain and crackling. Breathlessness. Weird leg pains. Hand tremors, body jerks, and lack of fine motor control. Brain fog. Tiredness. Tiredness. Tiredness.

Oh and by the way, the scar really itches.

neck scar 3 months

It’s looking pretty good, though.

Probably the worst thing I’ve been dealing with has been the brain fog. There are days when I feel like I’ve never woken up. Days when opening my eyes takes more energy than I can summon. Days I can’t remember because I was so unfocused through the whole thing. I often struggle to read anything longer than a single sentence, because my brain can’t connect two thoughts to each other. When I try to read a paragraph, my eyes wander to another spot on the page. I feel like I can’t generate original thoughts or synthesize information. I’ve had to all but give up on the notion of making any kind of plans. I have no way of predicting when I’ll be functional and when I’ll be only semi-conscious.

Sometimes it’s worse because it’s been more than three hours since I last ate; sometimes it’s worse because I just ate something that I apparently can’t metabolize now. I’m having severe reactive hypoglycemia crashes that render the entire day useless. I was not hypoglycemic before. I have been on a gluten-free/dairy-free diet since 2004; the list of foods that I can’t tolerate anymore is growing at a cancerous rate by the day.

Right now, as I type this, it is the end of a brutal week in which I’ve fought tooth and nail to try to get to the bottom of just what foods are knocking me flat and what I can eat now for the energy I need in order to think straight and not get the shakes. I crashed yesterday but not today. Thursday but not Friday. It’s always a step forward, then another step back. My husband has been the real hero of this story, ever ready to leap into action when he can see my blood sugar taking a sudden massive nosedive.

For the moment, my mind is as clear as it ever gets these days, so I’m taking advantage of the pseudo-clarity to get some thoughts down. Most of the time now, I feel like I’m disappearing.

Apparently white rice in all its forms is now The Devil, which comes as a real blow and a major challenge to a gluten-free lifestyle. Also, apparently, oatmeal and a banana is okay for breakfast, except when it’s not, and a small glass of orange juice is Right Out – except as a pick-me-up when I’m having a major crash. Potatoes seem to be safe for now, but onions live on the edge of Dangerville, and shrimp are okay when I cook them this way but not that way. Fruit smoothies are good, but not for breakfast. Eggs are safe. Sugar is not. Honey is eeeeeeeeeeeh. Green leafy vegetables, walnuts, and grapefruit mess with my meds. It’s a frigging minefield.

And now I’m all bogged down in food talk, but that’s not the point. The point is that my own body is now an uncharted land that I have no idea how to navigate, and hooboy is the terrain inhospitable. My last visit to the doctor was in early May, and my next one won’t be until the end of this month. That’s a great big wasteland of what the hell is going on and what am I doing. I’ve had two med adjustments and one liver ultrasound in the interim. After looking at my latest bloodwork, the doctor called to ask if I was even taking one of the meds prescribed, because I guess my levels were shockingly low. The current state of my health is, in sum, a total shitshow.

So, ha, this notion I was sold that I’d have my thyroid removed, be down for “a couple of weeks,” and then be able to “resume normal activity” was a gigantic fat lie of mythic proportions. I needed to have it done, but some realism from the professionals on this subject would have been nice. When will I actually be able to enjoy something like normal health again?

* huge shrug *

Naturally, this has all really sucked right in the middle of the time I was supposed to be using to craft and implement my marketing strategy for the BOOK you might remember I have coming out later this year. It is, for the record, intensely difficult to perform businessy functions when you’re barely literate from brain fog and can’t process the information you do somehow manage to read. Marketing plan? I barely even know what those words mean right now. A friend of mine very helpfully threw together a pre-launch timeline for me and it looks like they wrote it in a foreign language.

I’m actually, no lie, amazed that I’ve been able to type all of this out. This is the most I’ve been able to process words in months. I fully expect to be back to near-delirium tomorrow.

So for now, here’s me waving to you from the eye of the storm. Here’s hoping I wind up being Dorothy in the end and not the witch smashed flat under a crashed house.

When I have my words again for another brief spell, I want to tell you the story of how my dog saved my life.

Things are moving along

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2Thursday, June 4th, 2020:

Hi guys. Quick update today.

The third proof of Trajelon finally arrived, and we have a winner! I’ve approved the files with the printer for distribution, and you can see that the book is now listed for pre-order on Amazon! I’ll be placing the order with IngramSpark for your copies here in a minute.

The first of two Q&As is scheduled for Saturday, June 13th at 1:00 p.m. EDT. I’ve emailed everyone from the Elf Friend tier upward with the link, so if you were expecting the email and you haven’t seen it yet, maybe take a look in your spam folder. Any questions that you’d like to see me answer should be emailed to me by Monday night (the 8th), so get questioning!

As a final note, it would appear that everyone has received their custom elf jewelry or stationery box. I’m very pleased with these creations and I hope you are too! Having to shop for crafting supplies online was weirdly stressful and a lot harder than I expected it to be — how can you know you want to work with something unless you can hold it in your hands, see it in the light from all angles, feel its weight and texture? So in the course of browsing craft supplies in a sort of daze, I stumbled upon the world of resin casting and I was immediately obsessed with the idea that I had to use it on at least ONE reward. To leave you with the image of something pretty, here is the result of that obsession.

Ron's box 2 sm

Shiny.

More Rewards Shipped and a Hint of Q&A

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Thursday, May 21st, 2020:

After another, smaller Post Office run today, the rest of the Ítaja-level rewards are in the mail — three more pieces of jewelry and two stationery boxes. Their intended recipients have been messaged with the tracking numbers.

I… had no idea what I was getting myself into with those boxes. They were way more labor-intensive than I expected. Oof.

So now in terms of rewards yet to be delivered we’re down to those two fancy maps, which I am going to begin designing this weekend; a live Q&A session; the bookmarks, which will go out with Trajelon; and the actual copies of Trajelon, out 11/24/20. We’re getting there!

As far as the Q&A goes, I talked before about the possibility of doing two instead of just one after the book release, because screw it I make the rules and I like you people. Now that everyone has had (or will soon have) access to their own copy of Mornnovin, and many of you have read the short stories, that will give us plenty to talk about if we were to do a Q&A, say, next month. General writing questions are also welcome, of course, although my answer to those is likely to be something along the lines of “lol I don’t know how to write are you kidding?”

So here’s what we’ll do. I’ll look at the calendar and figure out the best time to take a couple hours of an afternoon to talk to all of you about the world of Asrellion and stuff. Then I will email all of you who backed at the Elf Friend level and above with more information about the when and where, and an invitation to send me your questions in advance. So start thinking! Cool? Cool.

And because I know this reward has already reached its destination and been ogled by its recipient, let me leave you with this last glimpse of something elfy and pretty that I made.

Danika's necklace sm

 

Shipping Has Begun

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Tuesday, May 12th, 2020:

the first transport is away

Yay!

Just a quick update today: I wanted to let you know that I’ve gotten a huge first round of physical rewards into the post. That’s all of the signed paperback copies of Mornnovin for everyone who is due one, and six out of the eleven Ítaja/Galvaí jewelry or stationery box rewards. I’ll be private messaging everyone involved in this shipping round shortly with your tracking numbers. (It’s a reeeeeeeeeeally long receipt.)

I’m pretty pleased with the pieces of elfy jewelry I’ve produced so far and I can’t wait to hear what you think of them! And happy reading to anyone who is about to sink their teeth into Mornnovin for the first time.

This is an important post with a surprise inside!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday, May 8th, 2020:

Holy moly, we’re already a week into May!

As I’m sure you’ve all observed, time has been doing some awfully weird things lately. According to this nifty countdown timer I made last night, it looks like we’re 28 weeks and 3 days out from the release date of Trajelon. That feels like both forever and not long enough, as there’s still so much to do!

Among other things, I’ve been made aware that in my pre-surgery haste, I forgot to send out the Mornnovin eBook download codes to the entire Fantasy Fan reward tier. I’ll get on that immediately, so if you backed at that level, expect an email from me shortly with a digital code for an eBook download. Many people who already own a digital copy of Mornnovin have been gifting this download to friends and family, trying to hook more people in, and I think that’s fantastic. Gift away and spread the fantasy love!

Now as we enter the doldrums of the pre-launch period (still slowly doing the work and waiting on so many things,) I want to give you something nice. This is probably a little premature, as we’re still just a hair over six months out from the launch date, but would you like to see our wonderful cover? I’ve been dying to show it to you all this time and I feel like we could all use some beauty in our day.

I present to you – behind a cut for added drama – the absolutely gorgeous cover of Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, art by Scott Baucan.

Click here to see loveliness.

Take a moment to gasp, because I know I did the first time I saw it.

This is the art that will be featured on the bookmarks. I’ve had one of them sitting on my desk next to my computer for several weeks now, and I have to say it really pretties up the terrain.

So there we are. Enjoy looking at that stunning cover and have a happy Friday! I’ll talk to you again soon.

Back in the Saddle Again

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Saturday, May 2nd, 2020:

Hey, friends. How are you doing? Crazy, stressful times, but I hope you’re finding ways to cope.

It’s been completely mad over here, too. After several months of buildup, my medical situation finally exploded into an emergency early in April and now the dust is settling. Not to get too much into it, but I’ve had a full thyroid removal in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, because it was slowly choking me to death, and it turned out after the fact to have been cancer.

Drama!

Also apparently I had (Have? Had? Is it the kind of thing you can ever be rid of, even if you no longer have a thyroid? I’ll have to find out.) Hashimoto’s disease. So, whew! Glad that thing’s out of there.

To head off any concern, that’s that. No further worries or ongoing cancer treatments. For all intents and purposes, as much as anyone can ever say this about any cancer, I’m “cured.” Now it’s just about the recovery and settling into the right dose of the meds I’m going to have to be on in perpetuity, going forward.

While this whole episode obviously sidelined me temporarily, a few things have still been happening on the book and I’m slowly starting to get back to work.

I did manage to get the emails sent out with the short story and Mornnovin eBook download links before I went in for surgery, so if you didn’t already get yours, let me know.

I also spent the last hours of my pre-op time working on a new page at my blog where all of the Asrellion short stories will live permanently behind a give-what-you-think-is-fair paywall. You can find that here. It will continue to be updated as time goes on and more stories are written/added, so consider that a living page and check back often. For the time being, the reward short stories for this fundraiser (“Witness” and “Black Books”) will remain available only to those who backed this project at the relevant reward tiers. Probably until after the book release.

Also – and this was a lovely get-well-present – the first proof copy of Trajelon arrived the day I came home from the hospital. It looks amazing, inside and out. I did submit an updated cover file because the alignment of the spine was a bit off, but other than that it’s perfect. The second proof is in printing as I write this.

Given the current pandemic situation, Kirkus has shifted to a digital-only review model until further notice. Meaning, they’re not accepting physical book submissions at this time. That being the case, there was no reason for me to keep waiting on a perfect proof copy and I went ahead and submitted Trajelon for review. That was incredibly scary to do and felt super legit. There’s obviously no predicting how that will turn out, but a good review from Kirkus would be a big deal for an indie publication. Fingers crossed!

And because I’ve already got the book in to Kirkus and have my estimated review due date in hand, that means I am now in a position to announce a solid release date for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2. This bad boy will hit the market on Tuesday, November 24th, 2020. Backers can expect to receive their copies at least on November 17th if not earlier, mail systems willing.

Luckily, I’ve got some time to work on the other backer rewards. While I am beginning to feel more myself, I discovered this week when I tried to begin work on some of the jewelry that my hands and focus are still a bit shaky. That’s getting better all the time, but it was a reminder that I need to allow myself to keep a reasonable schedule on all of this and not push. I definitely don’t want to put a pen to that lovely parchment I ordered for the maps while I still have shaky hands!

So that’s where we’re at on this first weekend of May. Waiting on the second proof, waiting on Kirkus, waiting on my body to heal. Waiting, waiting, waiting. This is probably a good time to look into other review and publicity options, while I’m not quite ready to do much else and it’s still too early to know whether or not I’ll be able to make launch party plans.

I will also, as my feeble meatsuit allows, begin in the coming days to package up and send off the paperback copies of Mornnovin that are due to backers. Do feel free to message me with any questions about the project or the world of Asrellion in general and avail yourselves of the lovely FAQ. We’re going to get this thing done.

I’ll talk to you all again soon, and please, please: take care of yourselves and stay safe.

presents for all

Tolkien’s hobbits have a delightful tradition that I’ve always admired: they celebrate their birthdays by giving gifts to others. I love giving gifts, which is at least half of why Christmas is my favorite holiday.  Of course, I also love receiving gifts. So this year for my birthday, I’m giving all of us something lovely that I’ve been meaning to for a while now.

Anyone who happened by my blog yesterday may have noticed a new page under construction up on the menu bar:

new page

That’s right! After talking about it forever, I’ve brought the first wave of Asrellion short stories to the web for your reading pleasure. Because I am a starving artist, they are of course behind a paywall easily unlocked by a couple bucks on PayPal.

At this time, there are three stories loaded up and available to all, with more to come as the published canon catches up/ I decide to release some hostages. (The fourth and fifth titles listed on the page, “Black Books” and “Witness,” are currently available only to backers of the Trajelon Kickstarter project, probably until after the book’s November release.)

As of now, I’ve written eleven (eh… ten and a quarter) of these suckers and am always open to new prompts — and I still owe two unclaimed tailored pieces to backers of the last project! Frankly, I love filling in the little bits of the lore of Asrellion, and these shorter pieces have been a nice way of going about that. I might also, possibly, be willing to make the working Elven dictionary-in-progress viewable this way.

So consider this post the Open For Business sign of the Short Stories page. I’m absolutely delighted to be sharing these with you, and hope you enjoy peering deeper into the world of Asrellion with me.

TftW cover

Project Week One

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Sunday, April 12th 2020:

It’s been a hell of a week.

The Kickstarter funds did come through finally! Yay! I immediately placed an order for the first of the supplies I need to begin making backer rewards. (The vellum for the maps has already come in and it’s glorious.) And by Wednesday, I had submitted my files to the printer, which were approved on Thursday, at which time I placed an order for a proof copy of Trajelon.

Why did it take me until Wednesday to get the files in? There may have been a tiny, terrifyingly dystopian trip to the ER in the first half of the week there. And I maaaaaaaaay be scheduled now for an urgent surgery this coming Thursday as a result. (Yes, in the middle of a pandemic. Yes, that’s as awful as you imagine it might be.) The second half of my week has been consumed by surgical prep and the attempt to have a little fun in the midst of all this because it is my birthday on Monday.

I’m going to be okay, and the book is still going to come out as planned in November or December. Just. Please bear with me over the next few weeks about the other backer rewards.

It had been my intention to get the short stories out this past week, which obviously has not happened. The longer of the two stories, “Black Books,” is ready to go, but the shorter piece, “Witness,” is undergoing one final beta read before I upload the file for you. The promo code for the free digital copies of Mornnovin is all set up – it’s just the email blast I still have to create. I’m going to try my damnedest to get this phase of rewards out and away before I go under the knife on Thursday, if for no other reason than because I’ll be able to rest better with it done.

Tl;dr: don’t be alarmed. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that everything is under control, but everything is being managed. Expect an email from me in the immediate future with your digital content.

And to those who celebrate it, Happy Easter.

fuzzy Dogwood face

March was, truly, The Longest Month.

At the beginning of it, I was halfway through my fundraiser, just focused on raising the money to do my art. Working with my cover artist. Starting to make publishing plans. Feverishly writing project updates to keep up the momentum.

By the middle, I’d secured my funding but was in limbo waiting to receive it, while having to shift my focus to changing how we go about our daily lives in the midst of a growing pandemic. I threw myself into formatting the novel for printing, researching art supplies for backer rewards, and of course following the news as it changed by the hour.

By the end, we were fighting to figure out how to protect my husband at work, because he doesn’t get to stop going just because there’s a deadly disease tearing through the world community. Still waiting for my funding after what felt like an eternity of processing time. Wondering how we’ll manage without my income for the foreseeable future, because no one needs a dog walker when they’re stuck at home. Like everyone, struggling to obtain necessary supplies in the post-apocalyptic landscape that our grocery stores have now become. Trying to help my husband figure out how or if he’s going to be able to make the movie he was supposed to start filming this summer. Square into survival mode.

All the while, the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head in the form of a non-COVID-19 health issue that I’m not able to get treated for right now because local health services are closed to everything but emergencies. When will my thing become one? Big shrug. Who knows. The minutes tick on.

And now that we’re four days into another month (my birthday month, incidentally,) it already feels like March was a lifetime ago. An eternity of waiting, of wondering, of holding patterns and hope and disappointment and sudden loss that we’re all experiencing together, in our own ways. Planning is one thing that’s especially painful for an autistic person to have to give up on. Indefinite uncertainty is not something I do well. All we get to do right now is react and that’s… exhausting.

That’s why we’re all so tired.

Already I can’t remember what my larger point was going to be when I decided to write this post. I had one. But that was half an hour ago, and in April 2020 time, that’s like at least a week. All I can remember is that I wanted to share something good with you in the midst of all of… this.

I wanted to show you this lovely thing that was made for me by my wonderful artist daughter-in-law, Katelynn Cuciak.

Last year (by which I mean 2019, not March,) when I was getting ready to publish Mornnovin, it was my intention to secure a logo for my publishing imprint before the book went to press. That didn’t end up happening in time, but now it is my absolute delight to present to you the logo of Dogwood House LLC, the publishing house of The Way of the Falling Star:

Dogwood House logo badge border

You may recognize the handsome model.

model

Hento basking in the sunlight under his favorite window.

I think she did an absolutely stellar job of turning my beautiful buddy into a lasting icon. From now on, this excellent face will be appearing on all of my books.

And that’s what I wanted to leave you with on this the nine hundredth day of the year C-19. Stuff is scary right now, and weird, and there’s so much to worry about — and I still, still don’t have my funding (although I tentatively expect to see it hit my account on Monday.) I’m off to go sew some homemade face masks because that’s apparently what we’re doing now in this dystopian timeline, but first I wanted to give you something nice: the fuzzy face of Dogwood House.

Stay safe, stay healthy. Stay home.

WE DID IT!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Wednesday, March 11th, 2020:

Fireworks of various colors bursting against a black background

Wow, so obviously yesterday was a big day. Here I was, watching the numbers, hoping we would hit that $3200 mark so I could do an update about the Autumn Festival masks like I promised. Instead, thanks to four incredibly lovely people, we just sailed right tf to the total goal and now we’re fully funded.

We’re going to publish a book, you guys!

The campaign ends next Wednesday morning (3/18) at 10 a.m. Eastern DST, so if you wanted to essentially preorder your copy of Trajelon and secure that backer credit on the special thanks page, you still have some time to sneak in a little pledge.

Thank you so much to everyone who got the fundraiser to this point. Your belief in me, in supporting indie artists, in getting diverse fantasy into the market, or simply in hot elf action is inspirational and I love you all. Thank you. Thank you.

And now, because we’ve earned it, let’s look at some pretty masks!

As the leaves turn in Evlédíen and the fall harvest comes in, as the air crispens and the days lengthen, the capital city dons its annual red and gold adornments and the elves of the Valley put on fantastical disguises. Beginning at dusk of a night in mid-Autumn, the entire city of Efrondel becomes one massive party until the dawn three nights later.

Last year, I rewarded my two $500-tier backers by crafting them a custom Autumn Festival mask of the sort that would be worn by the elves of Evlédíen in their revels.

One backer requested a peacock, which absolutely delighted me. It was the very best sort of challenge and I had so much fun bringing this lovely creature into existence.

I spent some time at the start of the project hemming and hawing over whether to work from a mask blank or whether to create one myself from a plaster cast (a skill that, weirdly, I have been carrying around without practical application since elementary school art class.) At the craft supply store, I stumbled on this birdish blank and felt that I could do something with it, so I snapped it up.

zero 1.sm

Obviously, it needed a LOT of work. More beak, at the very least. And the paper was a nice heavy weight, but I wanted the finished product to be a lot more durable. I built a beak and some brow contour out of papier mâché, gave it a good sanding, smoothed it over with an application of acrylic texture medium, sanded that, and gave the whole thing a seal coat.

Ready to prettify.

mache sanded 6.sm

Pleased with the final beak.

This is where it got really fun.

One of the most delightful things about peacocks is of course the almost holographic quality of their feathers. The complexity of the colors. (This is also, unfortunately, something that makes this mask a bit difficult to accurately capture on camera.) No simple flat application of a single color would do for this fellow; I gave it several layers of several colors, ending up with this.

painted 3.sm

Really hard to capture an accurate impression of the paint effect in a static image. I tried to give it real depth and complexity.

And because there was no way I was going to escape this project without gold-leafing something (I really love gold-leafing things), this also happened before I headed into the final embellishment phase.

leafed 1.sm

Then it was just a matter of asking the question, “How much stuff can I get on this mask before it collapses under the weight of its own opulence?” The answer was probably a bit more than what I gave it, but I didn’t want to kill it after all.

mosaic

I hand-strung those beads myself.

IMG_20190310_000647.sm

I was so in love with this mask that I held onto it for several weeks with the permission of its recipient in the hope that I’d be able to deliver it in person, fearful of the damage it might suffer in transit. Sadly, that never happened, and eventually I had to very carefully load this pretty bird into the post. Fortunately, it arrived unscathed and its wearer was able to be a gorgeous peacock for Halloween.

The second mask was a bit more of a challenge, and I spent some time thinking about it before even beginning to work on it. That’s because its recipient simply gave me the guideline of “Red. Just… make it red.”

Well that could mean a lot of things.

What finally got me out of the indecisive conceptual phase was coming across this flamey mask blank.

blank mask

Suddenly, a firebirdy sort of concept came to me. But because the idea was so simple, I wanted to focus on doing something really interesting, really flamey, with the texture.

This mask, from the beginning, wanted to be difficult. Difficult to plan, difficult to fabricate, difficult to bend to my will. The papier mâché absolutely refused, across several attempts, to play nicely with the material of the mask blank. The acrylic texture medium refused to come to a uniform texture. The paint refused to blend in the precise proportions that I wanted it to. The gold leaf refused to stay where I told it to. There were no red feathers to be found in any local craft store anywhere. Even the tube of glue I bought for the red gems was a dud. Oh, the whole thing was a disaster.

And yet somehow, in the end, it was also a thing of sublime beauty.

IMG_20190430_201133.sm

Post-paint, pre-feather.

finished mask collage

I ended up painting those feathers myself.

Fitting that the phoenix mask had to be born of such struggle. Could it really have been any other way?

And so, my friends, I leave you this evening with these gorgeous photos and my thanks for your support. When the campaign ends next Wednesday, it will go into a processing phase before Kickstarter releases the funds to me. This can take up to two weeks. During the wait, and now that I no longer have to be focused on fundraising, I’ll be working on formatting the text file of the novel to send to the printer. We already have a lovely piece of art from Scott Baucan all ready to be turned into a cover and the Trajelon bookmarks are in the works.

In other words, I’m ready to hit the ground running. Thanks to you.

 

 

We’re about to hit $3000 and that calls for a Festival

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2: Monday, March 9th 2020:

You know what? We’re closing in on $3000, which is incredibly exciting. Just $724 left to go, total! And with just over a week left in this campaign, we’re running out of time for me to spoil you with worldbuilding tidbits.

When I was fundraising for Mornnovin, I shared a quick primer of the history of Asrellion. (Parts One and Two.)

I unveiled the fancy new world map.

I gave a teaser of the sort of jewelry I’d be making for backers (which I’ve since shown you here,) giving you a sense of the elven aesthetic.

I introduced our cast of heroes one by one (or sometimes two by two): SovoqatsuVíelleSefaroBryant and LynAlyra and her brother DairinnColeNaoise, and Loralíenasa.

I even talked a bit about conlangs and gave a brief history of the construction of the Elven language I’ve created for the elves of Asrellion.

And then of course I shared an entire massive book with you (and some of you even got your hands on an additional short story, which is still available to anyone who can message me to show that they’ve shared this campaign to at least two social media platforms.)

I feel like you’re starting to get to know me and the world of Asrellion pretty well by now.

Now you’re getting a sneak peak at some new faces – although there are still more which must of necessity remain a secret until they appear in Trajelon. You’ll see why when you get there. But something else you might like to hear more about – that has maybe been shrouded in some degree of mystery until now – is this Autumn Festival thing I keep mentioning.

Festival makes a brief but useful appearance in Mornnovin. Loríen and a group of concerned elves use the cover provided by the occasion to hold a secret, subversive meeting. But what is Festival?

From Mornnovin, Chapter Eleven:

———————–

Long ago, in the early days of the Homeland, Festival had been an event that came only once every six years – a special, rare occasion when elves gathered together to celebrate Vaian’s Creation. After the War of Exile and the many years of suffering that followed, it had been Loralíenasa’s father, King Andras, who decreed that Festival would become an annual affair. Their people sorely needed the diversion from their sorrow.

And because they needed it, because the rest of the year was devoted to mourning what had been lost, the elves took Festival and its rules seriously. People would do things on these three nights and the two days between them that would fly in the face of who they were. For some it would mean standing before a crowd at a tea or khala house and reciting poetry. For others it would mean entertainment of an altogether darker and more carnal character. What happened behind Festival masks was never spoken of again.

———————–

So, yeah. The short version is that elves are incredibly uptight and Festival is the only time they let themselves have fun. And they take their fun very, very seriously.

Because they’re so serious about Festival not just for its entertainment value but for its – for lack of a better term – religious significance, they’ve gone out of their way to ensure that Festival is accessible to all elves. Through a lottery system, everyone has to take turns running the necessary services over the course of those three nights and the two days between them. No one is exempt. Instead of currency, everyone is given a stipend of Festival credits to spend, which is also good throughout the year for artisans who specialize in Festival costumery. (Hoarding costumes after the event is discouraged but not outlawed – it’s considered polite to return an especially gorgeous work of costume art back into circulation for others to use next year.)

All in all, for a holiday that seems so free-wheeling when it’s in motion, Festival is highly ritualized. But really, the most important rules are these:

  1. Do not ask names.
  2. Do not give names.
  3. What happens at Festival stays at Festival.

And so a particular sort of holiday has come to be. I mean, just try to imagine if Vulcans were allowed to cut loose and do whatever they want for two days and three nights, no judgment, no repercussions, none of the usual rules about controlling their emotions.

spock

Now that’s a party.

75%: Let’s meet Lanas

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Saturday March 7th 2020:

Are you excited? I’m excited. Because we’ve got over a week left and only $904 still to raise now. We’re at 75% funded right this minute. The end is in sight!

When we cross the $3200 mark and have only $500 left to go, I will show you the absolutely stunningly gorgeous Autumn Festival masks that it was my joy to make for my two big backers of Mornnovin. And to be honest I almost can’t wait to show you, because they might just be the most beautiful things I’ve ever made.

Today I’m going to present another character we met in Mornnovin who didn’t get his own introduction during the last fundraiser, but who is very important to our heroine.

Friends, meet Lanoralas Galvan (Lah-NOR-ah-lahs GAHL-vahn.)

Lanoralas

I don’t know who this is. Hair model? Couldn’t find a name. But that sure is some hair.

A few days ago, we met the vivacious Víara Galvan; Lanoralas is her uncle, but he’s actually not all that much older than her.

From a young age, Lanas has been a prodigy with a blade. He studied at the prestigious Voromé School of Combat, following the time-honored curriculum established by its illustrious founder, but honestly he was teaching his teachers from pretty early on. It has always been like the sword is a living extension of his own flesh.

Far from being haughty about this, or seeking to use his prowess to bully or gain power, Lanas has always been a calm, quiet, steadying influence on everyone around him. He knows who he is and what he wants out of life (which is honestly just to hone the skill of his body and the discipline of his mind) and has no need to prove anything to anyone.

Because of that – and because of the loyalty he showed during a crucial time in young Tomanasíl Maiantar’s regency – he was the obvious choice to fill the vacant position when the old Captain of the Guard retired. Despite his youth at the time of the appointment, he has been nothing but a responsible professional from his first day in the post.

Except, arguably, after Loralíenasa Raia showed up in his life.

When the young princess wished to learn swordfighting, Lanas was again the obvious choice to be her teacher both for his excellence, and for his good humor and unruffled demeanor. Her guardian felt that Lanas would be a good influence on her. It… seems to have gone in the other direction. Lanas somehow finds himself having to do the occasional foolish thing under her headstrong influence. And even though he has to put up a show of being the face of law and order, he doesn’t actually mind all that much. Having an excuse to enact a tiny rebellion now and then is good for the soul. Besides, sometimes the rules are wrong.

Loralíenasa and Lanoralas have never had anything but tremendous fondness – even love – for one another. (He was briefly her first romantic fling before they mutually agreed they didn’t have that sort of relationship.) There’s really no one she trusts more, except perhaps Naoise Raynesley.

Lanas is into swordfighting (obviously), proper sword care, physical training, military history, the elven strategy board game sují, and attending the occasional horse race. He values loyalty, friendship, courage, competence, and a healthy sense of humor, and strives to live these qualities himself.