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.

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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:

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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?

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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!