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.

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.

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?

Hours-of-Catherine-of-Cleves

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:

423px-Limbourg_brothers_-_The_Belles_Heures_of_Jean,_Duke_of_Berry_-_WGA13034

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:

dragon scroll final3.sm

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

poem scroll color.sm

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

Zelazny all.sm

Zelazny 09 -- framed.sm

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!

Meet the Cover Artist

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Tuesday February 18th 2020:

As we get into this campaign, I want to be sure to talk about my cover artist, because he has given us some truly gorgeous covers. (Yes, that is a hint that I’ve already seen what he’s working on for Trajelon. I hope you’ll love it because I know I do.)

I first met Scott Baucan while kayaking with some friends at Cheat Lake in West Virginia. (I’m sorry we laughed at you when your boat capsized, Scott. If it’s any consolation to you, I practically broke my tailbone about fifteen minutes later, climbing down the slick rocks of that waterfall.) My husband had met him a while back in the Pittsburgh indie film scene and they moved in the same group of filmmaker and indie creator friends.

Scott and I eventually “friended” each other on social media, as one does, and I had my first glimpse of his very cool art style. Browsing through the work he’d shared online, I was blown away by his talent and eye.

Artist Scott Baucan with a truly impressive stockpile of his art, preparing for a show in 2015.

I came to feel strongly that he would bring something strange and beautiful and dark and fantastical to the cover scene I’d already visualized for Book 1. And I was right.

It’s just perfect.

Scott, of course, has more going on than just my stuff. There is the delightful Ghoulie: a Zombie Fairy Tale, for one. In December 2019, he published a hauntingly lovely graphic novel called Fragile.

Two of Scott Baucan’s creepy creations.

Most recently, he has been working on animation and it has been a delight to follow his progress. He is also very active at local cons, selling his graphic novels and a series of fun macabre music boxes that he makes himself.

I’ll take like ten of these, tbh.

At this point, the look of my series is inextricably tied to Scott’s weird and wonderful style and I couldn’t be happier about that.

So I’m glad I got to tell you a little bit about this great artist and I hope you’ll give his stuff a look. We’ve had a fairly productive first couple of days here on the fundraiser — as of this post, we’re at $445. I was hoping to hit $500 before the end of the day and I think we can still do it. Please share this campaign with anyone and everyone who might be interested in helping to support an indie fantasy series that’s ready to take its next big step!

Process Shmocess, or How I Art Like a Lunatic

I’ve been asked more than once to talk about my creative process as a writer, most recently over at me + richard armitage as part of an ongoing discussion on the subject.  My response has always been to recoil from the question because I’ve never really felt I have a process.  I do have a probably unhealthy fear of being a phony, which I would obviously be if I didn’t have a process.

But I mean, that’s ridiculous, right?  Obviously I’m a writer; here I am, right now, writing a thing.  So just as obviously, there must also be some kind of process to what’s happening right this minute. Continue reading

2015

I always feel like such a mercenary when it comes to be the time of year when I have to do this — promote my own wares. I’m very Not Good at it. But that’s where we are.

It’s Calendar 2015 time, and I’m quite proud of this year’s offering.

Nature’s Palette: photography from the Pacific Northwest.

2015 calendar sample

 

I don’t get a huge percentage of the proceeds, but it’s something, if you feel like helping out a starving artist in exchange for (what I daresay is) some stunning photography.

Help me, internet. You’re my only hope.

There is a question I’ve been unable to determine the answer to for three months now. I was given this absolutely gorgeous picture frame that I love, but I have no idea what the Tengwar symbols say.  I may be a Tolkien geek, but I never got around to learning my elvish languages.  The shame. I know only enough to know it’s not a simple matter of converting the symbols to English alphabet equivalents because they represent sounds rather than letters, and the position they have in relation to each other can change the inferred sound.

Can anyone read this?  It’s just that knowing the humor of the particular friend who gave it to me, it might well say something like “bitch” and she might be having me on when she says she doesn’t know what it means, and I probably ought to know before displaying it on my wall. 😉

elvish