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

 

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.

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.

Look what we can do

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Friday March 6th 2020:

Something has occurred to me. Probably belatedly. For all this time that I’ve been asking you to help me publish Trajelon, I’ve been talking about the content, which is all well and good and I’m certainly proud of it, but that part is done already. What we’re trying to do here together – the reason we need to raise capital – is to put out a physical copy of the novel, and maybe you’d like to see what that would look like.

And because we’ve already done this once before, with Book 1, I can show you!

I have to tell you that, as an author, there’s nothing in the world like actually holding a print copy of a story you’ve written. A real, live, solid, honest-to-goodness book, with my name on it and everything. When my first proof of Mornnovin arrived, and I saw that book-shaped package sitting on my doorstep, I let out a genuine squeak. It was very undignified. Luckily, no one was there to witness it but my dog, and Hento doesn’t judge. There may also have been some slight hyperventilation when I opened the package and saw the spine of the book with my name right there in fancy print.

From there it just got more surreal. My cover. My map. My story. My Elven glossary. THAT’S ME ON THE “ABOUT THE AUTHOR” PAGE! There it all was, just like I’d sent it to the printer. It would turn out, of course, that there were some things to tweak and fix about that first proof so it wasn’t a perfect specimen or anything, but having it in my hands was… an experience.

It took a couple tries to get it right. I was brand-spanking-new to publishing, and with IngramSpark I am my own layout designer, cover designer, editor, typesetter – the whole enchilada. All they do is print exactly what I send them, exactly how I send it. The learning curve was steep. I’m happy to report, though, that I did learn.

And this is what I’m capable of giving you.

Mornnovin is a 6 x 9 trade paperback with matte laminate cover and cream interior, 496 pages in total. It weighs, if you’re curious, approximately 1.6 lbs, and is just over 1 inch thick in the spine.

Let’s all take another minute to appreciate Scott Baucan’s beautiful cover art.

Have you ever tried to write a back cover blurb? Ugh.

I can’t even tell you how many hours I spent looking at fonts online, hunting down the perfect specimen.

We have a map!

It’s a book! For real!

Spoilers.

Yep — this is a conlang glossary sort of book!

I felt strongly enough about the overall quality of Mornnovin that I entered it into the 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. It scored a perfect 5/5 on Production Quality and Cover Design.

As proud as I am of the trade paperback, though, I want to show you something even prettier.

Exactly three hardcover copies of Mornnovin exist in all the world: two for my wonderful $500-backers, and one for my amazing husband who happens to be my biggest fan and supporter. I threw this reward in almost as an afterthought last time, (and went through some unexpected headaches getting it made,) and then ended up being completely blindsided by just how much I loved the finished product.

I mean. It’s just gorgeous.

Look at that gloss. That shine. The solidity of it.

Shiny.

Hento insisted that I include this photo.

Currently, I have exactly one pledge for Trajelon at the $500-level, which means that as things stand I will be printing just two hardcover copies of this book, ever, when the fundraiser ends. TWO! That seems like a shame, wouldn’t you say?

At any rate, I hope you agree that the product is gorgeous and well worth what we’re doing here with this campaign. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to hold Trajelon and see it sitting next to Mornnovin on my bookshelf!

Wake up call with another introduction

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Thursday March 5th 2020:

Here we are. The doldrums. The Ides of the Fundraiser. 18 days in with 12 days to go. Head down, hands on knees, catching our breath because we know we still need to rally for the fourth quarter. We’ve come a long way, and the finish line is still far enough out to look daunting.

This seems like a good day to introduce you to someone with a little verve.

Meet Víara Galvan.

Brandi Rhodes

Brandi Rhodes as Víara Galvan. It’s those eyes.

For a confluence of reasons, Loralíenasa Raia had a fairly isolated childhood. One problem? An unlucky shortage of children who happened to be close to her age. Víara Galvan was the one exception. Once the two discovered each other, they proceeded to get into all sorts of trouble together. Their friendship was an ongoing headache for Loríen’s guardian Tomanasíl, but he couldn’t exactly forbid her from spending time with the one child in her age group from all of the Eleven Noble Houses.

At the beginning of Mornnovin, Víara and Loríen are in the middle of an irresponsible scheme that almost ends terribly for Loríen. When Tomanasíl finds out, there is hell to pay for both of them for a long time but it doesn’t dampen their friendship (or inclination toward mischief when put together.)

Víara has a larger-than-life personality and almost mythic levels of confidence, and likes to be the center of attention whenever possible. She’s a performer of many stripes – singer, dancer, occasional actor when the role is interesting enough – as dashing and philandering as Neldorí Chalaqar and then some. It would probably be scandalous except that she has a way of carrying herself with a sort of unfussy dignity that implies things become correct when she does them.

She’s into the arts, snarkiness, being flashy, and romantic exploits of every imaginable kind with every imaginable partner.

I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting Víara because so have I. If you want to see more of her, we’re going to have to get this campaign funded! Kickstarter tells me that the success rate jumps exponentially for fundraisers that manage to cross the 66% threshold, which is why I’d really love it (and would sleep better tonight) if we could shoot past that. We only need $143 to get there, so I know we can do it.

Stick with me! We’re going to bust out of the middle of this thing for a strong finish! And the next time I update, I’ll show you what we can all have when we do.

Click here to see my puppy

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2Tuesday March 3rd 2020:

First things first: I think we all deserve this photo of my dog Hento, who is adorable and believes in us:

Hento face

Hento loves you. ❤

Second, things are getting serious now. We’re down to our last two weeks. As I write this update, we’re sitting at 62% with $1379 still to go. It would take just $143 to bump us up to a nice 2/3 of the way to our goal. Keep talking up this series to the readers and indie art patrons in your lives!

As a reminder, the free short story “Family Holiday” is still on offer if you can show me via DM that you’ve shared this campaign to two social media platforms, AND the eBook of Mornnovin is still available for just 99¢ through March 5th. That’s Thursday! If you’ve been thinking about snagging it, don’t wait!

While you’re here, how about I introduce you to another new face?

jrm as Neldori

Jonathan Rhys Meyers doing a decent Neldorí Chalaqar impression.

Neldorí Chalaqar (Nel-DOR-ee SHAH-la-kar) isn’t exactly new to the social scene in Efrondel, but the Crown Princess has managed to escape his attentions until now because she has been too young and yes, he’s that sort of creeper. Too handsome, too charming, too witty, too wealthy, too perceptive, too pampered – everything has been easy for him his entire life and there’s nothing he can’t have if he decides he wants it. This has made him indolent. Bored, cynical, searching for amusements in socially unacceptable ways. The hypocrisy of polite elven society both entertains and disgusts him and he delights in operating outside the bounds of decency.

Some people think he’s dangerous. Some think he’s a mostly harmless knave. More ultra-proper elf women have made his intimate acquaintance than would ever admit to it. What Loralíenasa can be sure of is that, above all else, everything he does is in service of his own ends. Trust him? Better not. Be distracted by him as she tries to get on with the business of assuming the throne and getting on with her reign? She might not have any say about that.

 

Milestones galore, and an overdue introduction

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: the Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Sunday March 1st 2020:

Well, now. Sunday evening. First day of March. Sunny skies all day. Spring on the horizon. Two very exciting thresholds crossed on this fundraiser literally overnight.

We have now, in one fell swoop, passed both the 50% mark AND the oh-so-satisfying $2000 line. Now, when I check the stats page, it looks like this:

For those who feel better when they see the math, 3700 – 2021 = 1679 with 15 days still left to go. We can so do that! Suddenly this goal feels incredibly reachable.

One thing that I think has been successful in enticing new backers has been when people sharing the campaign talk a little bit about the book – either this one or Mornnovin– and what it is that draws them to this series. A simple share of the link leaves people wondering, “Okay, a fundraiser – so what?” But if you can personalize the message it has more impact.

Are you super into elves? Seeing autism represented in the fantasy genre? Complex female protagonists? Do you love these characters and need to see what happens to them next? Are you intrigued by the notion of genre fiction about the themes of trauma and depression? Do you feel strongly about supporting independent artists? Have you known me since elementary school, and you remember fondly the stories I used to write back then and how much I dreamed of being a published author one day? Have you thought of someone in your life who you KNOW would love this series and you just need them to see it? Let people know why you’re invested!

For me, these stories have always been about the characters. It never stops being a delight as a writer when a new face turns up on the mental scene and I find myself getting to know the ins and outs of another cast member. Trajelon sees the arrival of several new characters, as well as more time with old ones whose acquaintance we only just made in passing in Mornnovin.

Someone we didn’t get to see much of last time around who has more to do in Trajelon is the buttoned-up authority figure in charge of the elven kingdom of Evlédíen, Tomanasíl Maiantar.

Michael Ealy as Tomanasil

Michael Ealy doing a Tomanasíl Maiantar face. Imagine, if you can, clean-shaven with elf-long hair.

You wouldn’t necessarily know it, because he doesn’t talk about himself much, but Tomanasíl has had sort of a rough deal. A quiet man, a thinker, a steward of rules and tradition and order – all he wanted, really, was a life of anonymity and quiet contemplation. All of that went out the window when he fell in love with the vivacious and chaotic crown prince, Gallanas Raia. And then his life changed again, in a dramatic and unpleasant way, when the prince up and disappeared on him after the king and queen’s deaths, leaving him in deep way over his head as Lord Regent of an entire kingdom and guardian to the only surviving heir to the throne.

He didn’t have any idea what he was doing as Regent or as the sole caretaker of a stubborn and willful elf princess who would be expected to grow up to carry on the legacy of her entire ancient family, but Gallanas had made him promise to take care of his sister and Tomanasíl was not about to let him down.

Now Loralíenasa is grown and ready to assume the throne that Tomanasíl has safeguarded for her all these years, and there’s an understandable tension between the young queen and the Regent who raised her.

Isn’t it always true that no one can drive you quite as crazy as your own family?

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:

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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.