WE DID IT!

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

Fireworks of various colors bursting against a black background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

zero 1.sm

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

Ready to prettify.

mache sanded 6.sm

Pleased with the final beak.

This is where it got really fun.

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

painted 3.sm

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

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

leafed 1.sm

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

mosaic

I hand-strung those beads myself.

IMG_20190310_000647.sm

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

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

Well that could mean a lot of things.

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

blank mask

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

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

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

IMG_20190430_201133.sm

Post-paint, pre-feather.

finished mask collage

I ended up painting those feathers myself.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

I unveiled the fancy new world map.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Mornnovin, Chapter Eleven:

———————–

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

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

———————–

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

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

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

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

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

spock

Now that’s a party.

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:

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!

heads-up, change-up

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.

A check-in, with some more neat links

From the Kickstarter fundraising campaign for Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2, Thursday February 20th 2020:

We’re tooling along at a nice clip – $680 at this writing, which is 18% – and I hope you’ve taken a moment to check out some of the links I shared on Tuesday about our cover artist, Scott Baucan. And as long as we’re sharing the love, this seems like a good time to talk about another friend of mine.

Lo Potter is one of the most authentically, gracefully unique humans I have ever met. Recently, they’ve been reading independently published novels, live-tweeting the experience, then posting a long review and author interview on their blog. Which I think is just absolutely fantastic.

Because I follow Lo on Twitter, I saw one of their calls for new or indie authors with books available for sale and I said, “Oh! Me! I have one!” at just the right time to sneak into the queue.

They did the live-tweet reading of Mornnovin last month and it was so much fun to follow along until they had to cut it short to avoid the Big Spoilers. I know what I think the book means and what it’s saying, because I wrote it. Watching someone else react, seeing which things stand out to them along the way? Delightful.

My author interview went up last week, which was a different sort of fun, (mainly being able to point to it as though I’m a for-real author, imagine!) and now! Late last night! The big reveal of Lo’s long form review of Mornnovin: The Way of the Falling Star Book 1. As I’m posting this update, I haven’t even had the chance to read it yet, so you and I will be discovering its contents at the same time. I’m just excited any time anyone wants to talk about my work!

So yeah, okay, this is about Lo but it’s also about me (hey what do you want, this is my fundraiser) but also I just think it’s so cool that Lo has chosen to engage with the indie writing community in this really neat and special way.

The live-tweet reading of Mornnovin on Twitter.

Author interview of Alyssa Marie Bethancourt.

Long form review of Mornnovin.

Check them out! And as always, please spread and share this campaign. Wouldn’t it be great if we could get to 20% (that would be $740 – very reachable) before the end of the day?


*Note: as of 9:30 p.m., the 20% goal has been reached. Thank you, everyone!

Book 2, Baby!

And just like that, the fundraiser is live! 30 days to raise the funds to publish my sequel.

As much as publishing Mornnovin was the culmination of a lifelong dream, I’m even more excited to bring Trajelon out into the world. This book is… very personal to me, and I feel like it genuinely adds something to the literary conversation. I just…

Yeah, okay, I’m in danger of waxing rhapsodic about my own damn book. But I mean. I wrote this thing and I’m intensely proud of it and now it’s time for me to give it to you.

So can you help me out with that?

Trajelon: The Way of the Falling Star Book 2 on Kickstarter