A big windfall, and illumination!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday February 28th 2020:

Wow, Day 12 brings the very welcome surprise of a lovely giant pledge from a very special person, bumping us all the way up to 46%. The halfway point is within shouting distance now! In fact, with 50% only $119 away, there’s no real reason why we couldn’t just hit that today!

In honor of the first big backer, I think this is the perfect day to talk about the special reward for top-tier supporters. Last time, it was my joy to create two unique Autumn Festival masks, which I will share with you on another day. For this project, I wanted to offer something different.

Bilbo Baggins loves maps and so do I, as it happens. In fact, one of the very first things I did when I started creating these stories back in 5th Grade was to draw a map. I mean, you can’t have adventures in a fantasy world until there’s a map of it, right?

The world has evolved a great deal since then (even going through a name change or two), and I’ve had to redraw the map a few times just as a matter of necessity – the darn things keep wearing out and becoming unreadable or even falling apart on me! I did eventually scan one into the computer at some point, and that’s the one I’d been referencing as I wrote Mornnovin and then Trajelon. I even printed out and aged a version of this scanned-in old map for the project header on the Mornnovin fundraiser and staged a mini art-shoot with it.

But when it came time to finally print the gorgeous physical copy of my debut novel, it was time for an equally gorgeous new map to go with it. Painstakingly, I sat down and sketched and then inked this bad boy on something that wasn’t lined notebook paper for a change.

I have to say, I think it came out well, and it looks great inside the book. But you know what? I can absolutely go even fancier.

In the early two thousands, I took up kind of an odd hobby. (Odd hobbies, of course, being my favorite kind.) I decided to learn the art of reproduction Medieval illumination. You know all those old books with fancy swirly art in the margins, and big capital calligraphy letters, and really unnecessary gold leaf all over the place? Like this?

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Opening from the Hours of Catherine of Cleves, 1440. The Morgan Library & Museum.

Yeah, that.

I learned how to do it because I wanted to be able to enter a particular competition and I needed to provide entries for something like five categories in order to win. (This is also the story of why and how I learned to do calligraphy.) I’m not much of a life drawer, but I absolutely can reproduce certain types of drawings if they’re right in front of me. For the competition, I chose to reproduce the border of this:

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The Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry: St Paul the Hermit 1410-16 Tempera and gold leaf on parchment, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. This is a really bad and flat scan. Picture it brighter and golder.

After many, many, many, many hours, this is what I ended up with:

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As soon as I showed this to people, I had a request to do another one with one of Tolkien’s poems inside.

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It soon became a thing I sometimes do, especially as a gift, though not so often of late.

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Quote from LORD OF LIGHT by Roger Zelazny.

So when I was racking my brain for potential goodies to make for my big-ticket backers this time around, I hit on the idea of doing up a very fancy framed map of Asrellion, on proper parchment, with gold and calligraphy and all the classic trappings of a real Old Map. I was really hoping someone would donate at $500 so I would have an excuse to do at least one. Now my wish has come true!

I want to thank all of you who have gotten us to this point. As we approach the second half of the fundraiser, it will be even more important to find new ways to get this project in front of new people if we’re going to hit the goal.

Talk about the series to your coworkers, your family, your friends. If there’s anyone in your life who is into fantasy or just the idea of helping small indie artists get their work out into the world, tell them about this book. I know we can do it, but we can’t afford to coast. The only way this works is as a team effort.

So let’s get out there, team, and talk about elves!

One Third Funded Calls for Jewels!

From the Kickstarter fundraising camapaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Wednesday February 26th 2020:

Well, friendos, here we are at Day 10 – one third of the way through this fundraiser. This is the day we really need to sail past that sweet 33% mark ($1221) and we’re so very close already at 32%. How about I entice you with more shiny things?

Making the custom elfy jewelry for backers of the last fundraiser was one of my absolute favorite parts of the whole project. Obviously, getting the proof copy of my book in the mail and finally, after thirty years of writing and dreaming, holding a physical copy of MY OWN BOOK, FOR REAL! with MY NAME ON IT! was the actual best part.

But jewelry-making is something I love to do and so rarely have an excuse to. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to offer the same reward this time around. Another reason is that the backers who received these custom pieces all seemed pretty dang pleased about them.

I had ten backers at the $100 level on Mornnovin and two amazing $500 backers, which meant I had the delightful task of crafting twelve elf-inspired pieces of jewelry. Each recipient had their choice of a necklace, bracelet, or pair of earrings. I also invited them to talk about their metal, color and/or theme preferences, and general jewelry tastes. I enjoyed trying to meet all of their specifications in order to give everyone something beautifully elfy and uniquely suited to them.

This is what resulted.

1. “I prefer a necklace, and I like all kind of rocks and stones!”

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2. “Silver bracelet blue stone.”

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3. “Silver is preferred. As far as color, she likes green black and silver. I don’t know what type of jewelry. She doesn’t really wear bracelets though.”

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4. “silver bracelet, opal birth stone”

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This one actually gave me some trouble in the materials department. Apparently opals, even small ones, even good fakes, are incredibly expensive. I improvised.

5. “earrings! I am finding myself into gold or silver and i really like more simplistic items overall. 🙂 i like jeweltones too.”

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6. “I wear bracelets made of stone beads or leather or whatever. My wrist is 8” – anything is fine, though.”

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7. “let’s go silver necklace, random/ no stone, but crucially, make sure it’s capable of trapping the soul of a sworn enemy by performing a profane ritual, for reasons.”

Side note: Obviously, this one was hilarious to me for reasons that should be clear to anyone who has read Mornnovin, which this person had not yet when making this request.

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In searching for a stone capable of performing the requested soul-capturing function, I selected this stone that I took out of Lake Tahoe myself when I passed through there on my quest to escape Arizona in 2015.

8. “I prefer necklace or bracelet, silver tones. Green stones. I love bees, badgers, and beavers.”

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9. “Earrings… silver.”

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10. “I don’t wear jewelry myself, but J____ loves earrings. She usually avoids stones, and seems to like interesting shapes/ symbols.”

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11. “Tiny leaf/ green/ coppery earrings would be perfect. N______ will primarily wear them, and she’s 8.”

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12. “Surprise me, darling.”

Hooboy, the free rein. I have to take a minute to introduce this one before sharing the photo.

So this person happens to be a dear friend of mine, and for backstory reasons that would take too long to explain, the acorn is a symbol of special significance to them. That’s why, when I was walking in the park during my very first autumn in Pennsylvania in 2015, I stopped to pick up and hold onto a particularly beautiful acorn. It had made me think of this friend, and of friendship in general, which was a topic that was very much central in my thoughts at that time.

I had always meant to preserve that acorn in some fashion and send it to my friend, but for various whirlwindy reasons I never got around to it. And so, when they answered their survey in this way, I knew what I had to do.

Behold, the acorn I picked up in the woods during my first autumn while thinking of this very friend:

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I really, really enjoy golf-leafing things.

Oh man, I loved making every single one of these and looking at the photos is getting me all hyped to do it again. So far there have been four $100+ donors and I’m hoping for more because I really, really want the excuse to make beautiful elfy jewelry for more people! (Although do keep in mind there’s also the non-jewelry option of the decorative stationary box with fancy paper and calligraphy pen if that’s more your thing.)

So just as a final reminder on this one-third-waypoint day, the offer of a free short story if you can show me that you’ve shared this fundraiser to two social media platforms is still in effect. Also, I have decided to extend the sale of the Mornnovin eBook for another week! It will remain at 99¢ until March 5th.

Go forth and spread the good word!

Stories! Stories! Stories!

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Sunday February 23rd 2020:

Sunday afternoon. We’re still eyeing that 33% funded goal. The Mornnovin eBook is still on sale for 99¢ until the 26th. Time to think about new ways of sharing this project with new people.

Yesterday, I showed off some of the snazzy rewards from the last fundraiser: the calligraphy bookmarks and the rovanan’í (which I may or may not informally refer to as “elf cell phones.”) This time around, I’m still offering bookmarks at the $20 backer level, but these will be professionally printed with the beautiful cover art of Scott Baucan.

In addition to a replica rovanan, $50+ backers last time also had access to a special short story not previously seen by human eyes (outside of my writers’ group.) In 2015, for NaNoWriMo, I wrote a whole collection of short stories set in Asrellion – and crushed my 50k word count, by the way.

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My intention, when I wrote them, was to either publish them as an anthology one day, or possibly to offer them as rewards during any fundraising campaigns I might end up running. So, good on past me for doing future me a solid.

The story I shared with backers of Mornnovin, “Family Holiday,” is about Dairinn and Naoise Raynesley when they were young, getting into just the sort of trouble you would expect the two of them to get into as youngsters. I actually really love the story and have been a little bummed that so few people have seen it. That is why I’m delighted to offer you this sweet little deal:

If you can send me a DM showing via screencap that you have shared this fundraiser page to at least two social media platforms, I will send you the link to a free download of “Family Holiday.” This is a right-now deal, too – no having to wait until the end of the fundraiser to enjoy your spoils. You will have access to a cute little piece of Asrellion canon that so far has only been known to a privileged few!

And yes, my anecdote above does in fact mean that there are more Asrellion short stories lurking in the wings. By backing this fundraising campaign, you have the opportunity to get your hands on not just one but TWO of these little gems.

The first, “Witness,” is available to $50+ backers, and gives you a special peek at the wedding of – oops, I was about to be spoilery! Two people who get married after the events of Mornnovin. *wink, wink*

An additional story, “Black Books” is ready and waiting for those who fund at $100+. This one is about Alyra Raynesley and her subversive activities as a young princess in Grenlec; more fun than I can summarize in a log line.

So that’s where we’re at today. There’s so much more Asrellion I want to share with you. Please help make it possible!

Shiny

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Saturday February 22, 2020:

First of all, I’d like to thank that big $200 donor who swept in this morning to bump the tally clear past 25% all the way to 27%. You’re fantastic. ❤

Second, let’s lighten things up for our Saturday afternoon after that heavy Friday update. I made a lot of really cool things for my backers on Book 1 and I didn’t really get to show them off because I didn’t want to spoil the surprise before they reached their destinations.

So now, as we eye our next milestone (how about we shoot for a comfy 33% of the way home – $1221), let’s look at some of the pretties that came out of the Mornnovin fundraiser?

Everyone who backed at $20 or more received a bookmark penned by my very own cramping hand. (Nearly 100 of them! Front and back! Plus goof-up discards! Yeowch.) On the front, their name in fancy calligraphy. On the back, their name in Elven letters. When I first sat down with all of my calligraphy supplies and the bookmark blanks, I thought to myself that this would be a quick and easy reward to knock out.
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Guys, I messed up so many times. So many times. It was a whole saga. But in the end, I had this nice fat stack of custom-calligraphed bookmarks and I think they were pretty snazzy. I know seeing my name in elf letters is exactly the sort of geeky thing that would tickle me, as a fan.

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I do actually love doing calligraphy. Don’t let my bellyaching about hand cramps fool you. I mean look how cool.

Mission accomplished. That’s a lot of bookmarks.

The next tier donors, $50, were all due their own rovanan.

What is a rovanan, you ask?

In Asrellion, magic and technology are understood by elves to be the same thing. That is to say, magic operates on the fundamental laws of the universe, and technology is built off of those same laws. This is called The Art. Everyday elven life incorporates the use of many technological/magical devices by all members of society, magic-user or not. One of the more common devices in popular use is the rovanan, or “talking glass.”

Elves use these “talking glasses” to communicate with one another across great distances. I made 22 of them for my backers (and one for myself because I liked them so much.)

Not cookies. Not for eating.

Every design unique, but all bearing the necessary rune.

The face side of a rovanan, where you would see the person you’re communicating with.

This is the one I made for myself, but don’t try to call me on it. I don’t accept unknown callers.

A real rovanan, of course, would be constructed of gold or silver, or highly-polished wood like maple or birch, and the rune would be activated by words of power spoken by a Master of the Art. Some materials are better than others for conducting magic (silver is best for long-distance scrying). My replicas are only polymer clay covered in silver leaf paint, each one unique, but I think they make a nice little souvenir trinket. An elf is never without their rovanan.

Inching up in the backer pool, the next tier each received their own piece of custom elfy jewelry. But those were each so fun to make that I think they deserve their own post. So I leave you with the pre-creation loot pile teaser until next time.

Actually just the tip of the iceberg. I took this photo before I started but acquired more as the project was underway.

Thank you, friends! Don’t forget to share this project with other fantasy fans so we can get this novel funded!

First Friday Update, and it’s a Long One

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2 on Kickstarter, Friday February 21st 2020:

It took most of the day to kick in, for some reason, but the price of the Mornnovin eBook on Amazon has finally adjusted to 99¢. It will remain at that deeply discounted price at least until February 26th. I may or may not be persuadable on the subject of extending the sale for an additional week.

So now that the stress of that unexpected snafu has lifted, I can do a proper update.

It’s Friday, five days in, and as of posting this the fundraiser is sitting pretty at $821 or 22% funded. We’re nicely on track. The next big goal, obviously, is getting to 25% ($925) and I’m confident we can hit that mark easy-peasy before the end of the weekend. Please, keep talking up this series and sharing the link with your friends, family, and followers.

Trajelon is a special book not just because it’s mine and I have to say that, but because it explores issues and themes that I don’t think we see often enough in fiction – especially not in the sparkly elf magic genre.

I’m going to get real with you for a minute.

I’ve talked before about how the version of Mornnovin that is now published is the culmination of thirty years and four versions of telling that particular story. What people may not know is that I’d also written Trajelon once before.

In late 1997, I was 18 years old and I’d made some terrible decisions that I was locked into living with for the foreseeable future, both because of the nature of responsibility but also because of pride. People had tried to warn me, and of course being the age I was, I knew everything. I’d been downright insolent about my conviction that I knew what I was doing.

So there I was, miserable, bridges burned, everything to prove, struggling under the load of several massive responsibilities all taken on at once, knowing that I’d made the bed I now had to lie in. I was also trying to pass my first semester of college as an English major. I can’t remember now precisely which combination of events led me to come to this conclusion, but I started to feel that although I was reasonably good at academic writing, my creative writing was a clear waste of my time. I actually went as far as deciding to give it up.

I think, now, that I might have been trying to punish myself.

That take makes sense in hindsight because as soon as I’d grounded myself from the sort of writing I actually enjoy doing, two things happened.

One, at odd moments I started doodling scenes that weren’t supposed to be part of anything, so I was free from the feeling that they had to be any good or make any kind of sense or fit within a larger narrative. This would come to be important later.

And two, the scenes I was scribbling down without any commitment to story or quality were all about bad things happening to Loríen.

Because writers have to write, even if they’ve made bullshit nonsense declarations about how they’ve given it up, a story idea did eventually coalesce out of all of these snippets. And because of where I was, the story was dark. The finished product was horrible, but it was genuine – a savage cry of pain from someone who believed she had no right to it.

Fast forward ten years. Now it’s 2007. I’m still living in that hell of my own making, but it’s different because I’m ten years older and time does change things, for better or worse. Now I’m working a crappy retail job and it’s killing me. To save my sanity, one day, I pull some blank receipt paper out of the cash register and in tiny, cramped letters I start scribbling some scenes that aren’t supposed to be part of anything. They’re just junk for my brain, something to keep me alive. Because they’re not for anything real, I don’t worry about them being any good or fitting within whatever other arbitrary writing rules I have for myself. At night, while the household is asleep, I transfer the cramped letters from cash register paper to computer file.

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One of the receipt paper scraps miraculously survived to be found during a deep clean of my writing space in 2013.

After a while, I realize they are actually starting to make a coherent story, but it’s not canon, I tell myself. It’s just some cracky Asrellion fanfiction. Just some mindless entertainment. I keep giving myself permission to tell a different kind of story from whatever I imagine canon to be.

By the time I leave that crappy retail job, I find that in my time there I’ve managed to scribble onto bits and pieces of receipt paper what amounts to roughly twenty typed pages of… something.

Then I realize that what I have on my hands isn’t just something, it’s the seed of a new version of Book 2. One that actually has something to say besides screaming in wordless agony. The only problem is, this new book that I can see laid out before me is far too good for the terrible most-recent draft of Book 1 that would precede it.

Then I realize that I’m going to have to write this book, which means that I’m also going to have to rewrite the first book in the series in order to lay the necessary groundwork.

That’s the story of how I came to begin my ground-up re-imagining of Mornnovin in 2008.

It turns out to be a good thing that I took the time to do that first, because I wouldn’t have been ready then to tell the story that I ultimately had in me in 2016 when I wrote Trajelon over the course of six intense months. By then, I had escaped Hell. By then, I was safe. By then, I had some perspective on what it is not just to live through but to survive trauma and depression.

The first incarnation of Trajelon was what I needed it to be when I screamed it up, all those years ago. It was catharsis. I don’t blame it for its darkness or its ugliness any more than you would blame a post-surgical scar for its raw appearance. This iteration of Trajelon is what it needed to be. Almost Athena-like, it sprang fully-formed from the brain of its creator. And it’s no longer a cry of suffering. It’s… a meditation on living with the suffering that inevitably comes along with the triumphs we experience in life. Living with, enduring, growing from. Learning to discard where possible. Drawing into our identity and building off of where necessary.

No doubt this is scary territory for some readers, but that’s exactly why I think it’s so important to tell these stories. They can’t all be about glorious victories on the field of battle. There are more shades to the spectrum of the human (elven?) experience. I so wish this book had existed at a time when I could have drawn strength from it. Now I no longer need to draw on that kind of strength, but others do. I know they do.

So maybe this was a big old heavy update for a Friday evening, but I hope you don’t mind the candor. This book is very personal for me, as you now understand, and that would have become clear anyway as soon as you read it. Because I think that’s actually its truest and purest strength, I wanted to be up front about it in this fundraiser. I am pitching to you a fantasy novel written by a survivor of abuse, trauma, and depression written for survivors of abuse, trauma, and depression.

If you, like I do, think that’s an important thing to have exist in the world, please help me get the word out and bring it into reality.

And thank you for letting me get real.

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The last time I ran a fundraising campaign, I kept up a feverish update pace on the project page. I was talking about the world I’ve built for my novels, the starring characters, my crafting skills (in the context of backer rewards,) etc.

At the time, I thought about simultaneously posting those updates here to the blog but I ended up deciding to only post them on Kickstarter because I had some squirmy feeling that I didn’t want to deluge people with too many notifications. Meanwhile, the blog remained… pretty dead.

But now, I look back and I think, hey, I shared a lot of interesting information about my world that is now more or less buried in the archives of Kickstarter. You can still find the project and those updates if you search, but it’s not exactly the first place a reader of my books would look for more material about Asrellion.

All of this is to say that we’re going to do things a little differently this time, and I hope you’ll bear with me as I figure it out.

Some of the updates last time were entirely fundraiser-specific, and I’ll probably still leave those over on the page that’s for that, but I think going forward that as I make meatier posts on the Trajelon campaign, I’m going to simulpost them here for safekeeping. There might be some language awkwardness, as they are composed with an audience of donors involved, so I’ll do something to indicate the Kickstarter origin on each of these posts.

But yeah. Watch this space, because I’ve already got some stuff to port over here in the next little while.