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Spring 2021 goal review

Clyde happens

Clyde from Heartsbane still does not care about my goals.

Once again, it’s time for my quarterly check-in to see how I’m doing with the goals I set for myself in January.

I started a new job in January, doing intake assessments at the psychiatric hospital that recently opened in town. I’m enjoying it pretty well, although the schedule of three consecutive days of 12-hour shifts looks a lot nicer on paper than it does actually working it – especially when that third day rolls around and my brain is numb. And especially especially when I pick up an extra shift. My bank account is loving it, but my writing goals not so much.

Anyways.

  1. Continue to publish and promote my Heartsbane Saga series. Books .5, 1, and 2 are all out. Books 1.5, 2.5, and 3 are ready to go as soon as I’m done with edits. Soon, I hope.
  2. Publish something at least twice a week. I just checked and I’ve published 15 stories on Medium this year, which averages out to about one a week. Not twice a week, as per my goal, but still pretty good. Most of it is microfiction, but that’s okay. It’s something.
  3. Marketing. Brian Cohen just started another Amazon ads mini course this week, and I’m hoping to follow along. My Amazon ads have been doing decent for sales, and I want to kick them up a bit. I’ve also started participating in the Weekend Writing Warrior blog hop again after a long absence, which is helping with marketing a bit too, I think.
  4. Travel travel travel. I made it to Dodge City, KS, in February. The museum was a bit of a whitewashed disappointment, but I still enjoyed getting out on the Plains. On that trip I also ate at a delicious German restaurant in Wichita, explored Truckhenge in Topeka (not as good as Carhenge or even Cadillac Ranch, but A for effort), and managed to sweet talk my way into a private self-guided tour through a closed-for-renovations psychiatric museum in St. Joseph, MO. A couple weeks ago my kid and I went to Chicago for his belated birthday trip and found some awesome arepas, which is his thing right now. This weekend I hope to go to Detroit and eat pasties from the Eastern Market, Middle Eastern from my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in Dearborn, Belgian from this little restaurant with awesome beer, and maybe even some Aramaic from this Chaldean restaurant. Yes, I am all about food when I travel. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m hoping to use my 3-4 day weekends for some solo vanlife hiking trips pretty regularly.
  5. Continue to Marie Kondo the shit outta my life. I Marie Kondo’d my living room last year and it’s still pretty good. Now I’m nearly done with my dining room; my dad is building me a big floor-to-ceiling cabinet so I can organize all my kitchen gadgets and pantry stuff. Next it’ll be on to my office, which is a godawful mess.
  6. Read 100 books. My usual goal. I’m currently at about 16/30 books, but I’ve been able to read a bit recently at work to catch up (another nice perk of the job; when we’re full or on hold for admissions at night, my supervisor doesn’t mind if we read or whatever as long as we’re caught up with everything else). I’ve also started going to the gym 2-3 times a week, and I read for about 20 minutes while walking on the treadmill. Two birds with one stone and all that.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How are you doing with them?

Media Monday: More famous than Edgar Allen Poe?

Media MondayThe book: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Rampo

The music: Anything by Ningen Isu

YouTube’s algorithms know my tastes pretty well by now, so when a new band is recommended, I watch the video. I think I was watching something by Babymetal and YouTube was like, “Hey, J metal [Japanese metal] is cool, but you’re not a kawaii metal [Japanese metal + Jpop [Japanese pop]] person. Check out these guys instead.” So I did.

Ningen Isu’s music is pretty standard metal. Wikipedia tells me they’re influenced by Black Sabbath and Kiss, which comes across – nothing groundbreaking, but still good to listen to in the background. They’re also fun to watch: the singer/guitarist looks like he should be yelling at you to get off his lawn, the bassist has this ghost-monk look going on, and their current drummer appears happily stuck about 30 years in the past.

Where they do distinguish themselves, however, is with their lyrics, with references to H.P. Lovecraft, Buddhism, and classic Japanese literature. Their name, for example, which means “Human Chair,” comes from a story by Japanese mystery/horror writer Edogawa Rampo. So, I decided to read a book of his short stories.

First, some notes about the author. His pen name is the Japanese pronunciation of his favorite mystery writer (say his name aloud if you can’t figure it out). His stories are “Ero guro nansensu,” which comes from the English words “erotic, grotesque, nonsense.” And that really captures his stories that I read, which gives them a creepy vibe that you don’t find very often in straight-up mystery or horror.

Of the stories in this particular book, they seemed to fall into two categories: creepy body horror, and the psychology of murder. There’s nothing supernatural in these stories (with maybe the exception of “The Traveler with the Pasted Rag Picture”), which only adds to the horror, because any of these stories could actually be real, taking place right now. He also has some pretty ingenious murder methods, in case you’re looking for inspiration for your own murder story that you’re definitely just writing and not actually acting out.

I don’t have much familiarity with Japanese literature (or much Asian literature overall, unfortunately), so I was glad to find this book. I’ll definitely be reading more of his works and those of similar authors.

If you’re familiar with Japanese literature, what other authors would you recommend?

Weekend Writing Warrior 4/4/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverHappy Easter, Weekend Writing Warriors blog hoppers! I’m not religious, but I do like the Easter season because it has the best candy. I’m partial to Reese’s peanut butter cups – the mini ones, not the eggs which don’t get the chocolate:peanut butter ratio right.

This week’s excerpt is from the newest book in my Heartsbane Saga of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. Book 3: Little Amethyst Abaya is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and I should probably just shut up about when it’ll be out because, although I have the best of intentions, my work schedule seems to be kicking my butt and leaving me very little time for writing and editing.

This snippet is from the opening prologue. Mihrimah is the daughter of the general in charge of a remote citadel. Her father and all the men garrisoned at the citadel were called back to the capital. She was supposed to stay put but snuck out to say goodbye to her beloved. Last week ended with her throwing a rock at Tefvik to get his attention.

* * * * * * *

Tefvik’s head jerked up and he looked around wildly before spotting her. He dropped down on one knee as if adjusting his boot lacings. No one around him seemed to notice. Once the men rounded a bend, Mihrimah ran up to him. He swung her into a hug as their lips met.

Too soon, he pulled away. “What are you doing here?” he hissed in a low whisper.

“I couldn’t let you leave without saying goodbye.”

“It’s not safe for you out here, all alone!”

“You know I’m a better fighter than half these men.”

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

Tevfik’s brow furrowed. “But even you can’t take on these wolfmen.”

“It’s just the caliph politicking again, and dragging us into it this time.”

“No, it’s more than that. It seems there’s some actual truth to these tales.” He shook his head. “You need to return to the citadel as quickly as you can. And I need to rejoin the column before your father—”

“What in the name of the Messenger are you doing?” Mihrimah’s father bellowed as he came towards them.

She stared at him calmly, as if finding his daughter with one of his soldiers was of no need for concern. “I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.”

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Abaya:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Other books in the Heartsbane Saga:

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to experience them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Book 2.5: “Ezichi the Beautiful” – Only Banu Sasan, the fabled witch of the desert, can help a young bride complete a task. But what will she require from Ezichi in return?

Weekend Writing Warrior 3/28/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane book 3 coverWow, it’s been a while since I’ve participated in the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where each week contributing writers share 8-10+ sentences from their latest projects. I got a new job, and while a schedule of 3 consecutive 12-hour shifts each week seems like it would give me more free time, that doesn’t seem to be the case as of yet.

Anyways, this week’s excerpt is from the newest book in my Heartsbane Saga of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. Book 3: Little Amethyst Abaya is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, and it should be out later this week (my work schedule willing, of course!)

This snippet is from the opening prologue. Mihrimah is the daughter of the general in charge of a remote citadel.

* * * * * * *

Mihrimah half slid, half climbed down the rocky embankment surrounding the squat citadel of Yumurta. She’d traded in her characteristic purple abaya and matching headscarf for a khaki one, so that her clothing blended into the dry rocks and shrub around her; Babaanne had been quite adamant that she wasn’t to leave the citadel until her father returned.

Mihrimah had mentally rolled her eyes then and physically rolled them thinking about it now. It was bad enough that most of the men stationed at the citadel had been called to fight the wolfmen, as they called the bandits currently terrorizing the countryside, and that she was forced to stay behind. But to expect her to stay inside while her beloved Tevfik was leaving too? To not even allow her to say goodbye to him? No, she wouldn’t accept that.

Once she was down to the main road that led to the capital city of Haksuk—although road was too generous for what was barely more than a footpath—Mihrimah paused. She doubted anyone would notice her as she walked along, if any of the few women left behind were even to look out one of the citadel’s narrow arrow slits that barely passed as windows, but she didn’t want to take any chances. As soon as she was spotted someone would be sent to fetch her back, and she had to at least say goodbye to Tevfik.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

She didn’t trust the tales of the wolfmen either. She didn’t doubt that bandits roamed the countryside but she did doubt they were as fearsome as the stories made them out to be. Men in wolfskins that cannibalized their victims? Surely it was an exaggeration to advance whatever the caliph’s agenda was. Nonetheless, she didn’t want to run across them.

Sticking to the trees and rocks alongside the road, she made good enough progress that she came across the soldiers from the citadel by late afternoon. Three dozen or so men walked in pairs or small groups, chatting and laughing. None seemed to be taking the emissary’s warning seriously, and none seemed to be concerned about leaving the passage undefended. Most likely her father hadn’t shared his concerns with the men, predominately young soldiers from small villages all over the Caliphate of Tema who were unfamiliar with the caliph’s constant scheming.

One man, however, walked alone at the rear of the column. Tevfik’s head was down as if studying his feet, but Mihrimah knew he wasn’t paying any attention to the dirt he walked on. She grinned as she picked up a small rock and pelted him neatly between his shoulder blades.

* * * * * * *

About Little Amethyst Ababa:

Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

With Heartsbane nearly decoded, Nyah finally knows the curse Prince Brandulfur suffers from and how to cure it. But when she and her friends travel to get the needed serum, a powerful caliph takes them prisoner and offers an ultimatum: a suicide mission to rescue a general’s daughter and enough serum to cure Brand’s whole court, or indefinite imprisonment in his castle.

To add to the peril, she soon uncovers a plot by Brand’s archenemy that will pull the known world into a battle between religions and cultures, with Brand at the heart of it. It seems so fantastical, no one will believe her.

But that’s never stopped Nyah before. With no one to trust, she’ll have to cast her lot in with the worst of the worst, and maybe, just maybe, at least some of her friends will make it out alive.

Little Amethyst Abaya is the third book in a series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings.

Weekend Writing Warrior 1/31/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane logoWelcome to the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where each week contributing writers share 8-10+ sentences from their latest projects.

I’m currently sharing from the next standalone short story in my Heartsbane Saga series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. “Ezichi the Beautiful” is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, about a girl who gets help from the witch Baba Yaga to complete tasks set by her evil stepmother.

I’m skipping ahead again this week. Ezichi’s cowife sabotaged their water supply and sent Ezichi to ask an old desert witch for help fixing it. Ezichi had befriended a bunch of street children, who accompanied her on her journey. We pick up with them reaching the witch’s house.

* * * * * * *

Ezichi cautiously approached the witch’s house. She turned to check on the street children who had accompanied her, but they had disappeared into the rocky desert scrub. She didn’t blame them; if her mission hadn’t been so dire, she would’ve joined them.

A fence made of bones marked off a small dirt yard, with human and animal skulls mounted atop it like sentries. Heart pounding, she pushed open the bone gate and stepped into the yard. The dwelling itself was a macabre curiosity as well, unlike any she had ever seen in Aghlabid. The small shack was supported by thin pillars that raised it so far off the ground that she wasn’t sure how anyone could even get aside, especially an old woman. The dwelling seemed to twist and spin in the strong desert winds, adding an additional layer of eeriness.

Ezichi took a deep breath. Witches didn’t exist, she reminded herself; this was just an odd, malicious old woman who sometimes helped people with their problems.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

Even though she didn’t quite believe herself, she walked up to the house. “Hello?” she called out.

The door flew open, although Ezichi couldn’t see anyone inside. “Come in, my child,” a voice croaked. “I’ve been expecting you.”

* * * * * * *

Heartsbane Saga – fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings!

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to visit them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out

Weekend Writing Warrior 1/24/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane logoWelcome to the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop, where each week contributing writers share 8-10+ sentences from their latest projects.

I’m currently sharing from the next standalone short story in my Heartsbane Saga series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. “Ezichi the Beautiful” is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, about a girl who gets help from the witch Baba Yaga to complete tasks set by her evil stepmother.

I’m skipping ahead just a little bit this weekend. Since last week, Ezichi has befriended the local street children, who help her with the never-ending chores the first wife, Yaba, has for her.

* * * * * * *

When Ezichi, or rather the street children, had finished the list of chores that Yaba had given her, she went into the kitchen to get a drink of water for her parched throat, but the water skin that normally hung on the wall was empty. She went into the courtyard, but the fountain that she often scooped water from was dry. Ezichi frowned; usually it burbled day and night, which meant the mechanism that fed it had broken at some point. She traced the path of the pipe from the fountain to the cistern at the edge of the house, but fortunately saw no sign of leaks. Fortunately, too, water glistened at the bottom of the cistern, although it was too far down for her to reach; unfortunately, the knob that controlled the flow of the water appeared to be missing.

She was muddling over how to fix this when Yaba’s shrill voice rang out from the house.

“Ezichi, get me a drink of water!”

Ezichi scowled. Somehow, she knew Yaba was behind this, but how stupid could the first wife be to cut off their water supply? How could the household survive under the hot desert sun without any water?

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

She stomped through the courtyard and back into the house, where Yaba and the other two wives were lounging in the women’s salon.

“What did you do to the fountain?” Ezichi demanded.

The second and third wives exchanged a look, and the third wife giggled.

Yaba simply raised an eyebrow. “There’s something wrong with the fountain?” she asked innocently.

“You damn well know there is.”

* * * * * * *

Post a link to your eight-ten sentence blog entry or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

* * * * * * *

Heartsbane Saga – fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings!

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to visit them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out

Weekend Writing Warrior 1/17/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane logoIt’s been quite a busy week. I start a new job tomorrow, and I’ve been rushing around trying to wrap up those million little tasks that I put off until I ran out of time to wrap them up. That didn’t leave me much time to write this week, but my new job will be 3 12-hour shifts each week so hopefully I’ll be able to get back on track. Haha, who am I kidding – something else will come back.

Anyways.

For the next month or two, I’m moving on to the next standalone short story in my Heartsbane Saga series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. “Ezichi the Beautiful” is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, about a girl who gets help from the witch Baba Yaga to complete tasks set by her evil stepmother. It’ll be out in the next week or two.

This week’s snippet is from the beginning of the story. Ezichi’s husband is out of town, and the first wife, Yaba, isn’t too fond of her. Last week Ezichi snuck off and was deep in thought when someone interrupted her. We pick up right after that.

* * * * * * *

Ezichi nearly fell off the bench she was sitting on. A little girl, no older than seven or eight and dressed in a dirty, tattered tunic, perched beside her.

The girl giggled at Ezichi’s response, a sound that echoed around the empty courtyard.

“Why don’t I what?” Ezichi asked as she regained her composure.

“Whatever it was you were talking about.” The girl giggled again. “You talk to yourself an awful lot, lalla.”

“Do I?” Ezichi tried to remember if this was something she’d always done, or if it was something that had developed since she’d married Kwaku. Growing up, she and her brother had had their own secret language, but here, however, she had no one to share anything with.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of that scene:

As if Yaba could read her mind too, the first wife’s shrill voice rang out. “Ezichi, you worthless girl, where are you hiding? Supper won’t cook itself!”

Ezichi sighed and went to do as Yaba requested.

The next day, she again stole away to the back courtyard when Yaba wasn’t looking. The first wife had kept her busy all day, this time scrubbing the mosaic floors throughout their house, and it seemed like no matter how hard Ezichi tried, she couldn’t get the grout clean enough for Yaba’s satisfaction.

Ezichi sat on the bench again, shaded by a large tree that hung over the compound wall into the alley on the other side. Or what she assumed was an alley; she hadn’t left the compound since she’d married, six months ago. She had just started eating a snack of dried dates she’d snuck from the kitchen when the tree branches rustled and the little girl dropped down beside her. That at least solved one mystery.

She was even grubbier than the day before, if that was possible. Ezichi didn’t know anything of her life, but her heart went out to her nonetheless. “Would you like some dates?” she asked.

The girl snatched them out of her hand and shoved them all into her mouth before Ezichi could even finish speaking, then wordlessly scampered up the tree, over the wall, and out of sight.

* * * * * * *

Post a link to your eight-ten sentence blog entry or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

* * * * * * *

Heartsbane Saga – fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings!

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to visit them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out

Weekend Writing Warrior 1/10/21 #8Sunday

Heartsbane logoFor the next month or two, I’m moving on to the next standalone short story in my Heartsbane Saga series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. “Ezichi the Beautiful” is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, about a girl who gets help from the witch Baba Yaga to complete tasks set by her evil stepmother. It’ll be out in the next week or two.

This week’s snippet is from the beginning of the story. Ezichi is the sister of one of the main characters, and she was supposed to be killed off but my beta readers liked her too much so I’m sticking her in this side story. This part continues from last week.

* * * * * * *

Within a week, Kwaku had left his household for the distant city of Duguba. Ezichi was on her best behavior when it came to interacting with his other wives: doing all the chores Yaba assigned to her—which in her opinion seemed to be most of them, biting her tongue from saying what she really thought of them, and finally just avoiding them when she could. This last part proved difficult, however, as Kwaku, like most Aghlabidi men, encouraged his wives to stay confined to the home, and while the women’s quarters were big, they weren’t big enough for two large personalities like Ezichi and Yaba.

One particular afternoon, when she was trying to hide from Yaba’s shrill demands, Ezichi found herself thinking about her life before marrying Kwaku. She tried not to let herself do this too often; she wasn’t the type of person to wallow in self-pity. But she missed that life. Her father had given her the freedom to do whatever she wanted: visit the university libraries and the markets, choose and reject her own suitors, nearly everything her twin brother had been able to do. But by a twist of events she still didn’t fully understand, she’d woken one day to find herself hundreds or maybe thousands of leagues from home, with no way back. So when the marriage offer had come from Kwaku, she’d accepted it and resigned herself to make the best of her situation. But that didn’t mean she didn’t want to go home.

“So why don’t you?” asked a little voice beside her.

* * * * * * *

Post a link to your eight-ten sentence blog entry or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

* * * * * * *

Heartsbane Saga – fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings!

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to visit them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

Resolutions: 2020 review and 2021 goals

Clyde happens

Clyde from Heartsbane still does not care about my goals.

It’s that time of year: looking back on my goals for the previous year and then setting goals for the new year.

2020 goals

First off, I’m gonna preface this by pointing out that 2020 was just a weird year that sucked for everyone. That said, here’s how I did this year.

  1. Finish and submit/publish my Heartsbane series and 7+ related short stories. Books 1 and 2 are OUT!!! Short story .5 has also been released, and 1.5 and 2.5 are coming very soon. I had to push the preorders back a little bit (and 1.5 is almost 3 months overdue at this point), but at least I got them out! And I have a schedule set for the rest of the series too.
  2. Publish to Medium at least twice a month. I was doing well with this, and then the publication I’d been submitting to stopped publishing. And then Medium changed its layouts and a lot of fiction writers abandoned the platform due to a 90% drop in income. This year I published 28 stories to Medium – which means I hit this goal!! 2/2 so far!
  3. Continue to increase my networking. This was hit-or-miss in terms of reading and sharing other writers’ stuff. BUT I did rejoin the Weekend Writing Warriors blog hop and I comment on every single other post each week. And believe it or not, but I actually see an increase in my own reads on Medium when I’m actively engaged on clapping for others’ stuff. Who knew?
  4. Buy a cabin on Lake Superior. This didn’t happen this year. I knew it wouldn’t happen this year. BUT I am starting a new job in a couple weeks. It’s a very significant pay increase so this could actually be an attainable goal in the next year or so.
  5. Marie Kondo the shit outta my life. I was about halfway there. I repainted and organized my living room, dining room, and front entryway. I’ve also gotten rid of a ton of stuff I don’t need/use. I just moved back into my office a couple weeks ago and now I’m slowly going through all the crap I have stashed in there (mostly yarn). More importantly, I’ve been able to KEEP my downstairs from re-cluttering.
  6. Read 100 books. Man I sucked so bad at this. While I had more time to read this year due to working from home, I had a really hard time finding anything that kept my interest. I finished 37 books last year. (If you add in all the books I started but didn’t read more than a chapter or so, I probably hit my goal – but I only count those I finish). My annual breakdown of what I read will be along shortly.

Overall in 2020

I hit my main goal, which was to publish my Heartsbane Saga series. Considering I’ve been trying to do that for years, I think 2020 counts as a success.

2021 goals

  1. Continue to publish and promote my Heartsbane Saga series. As I said above, I have a set publication schedule for the rest of them. Sometimes I might have to adjust it a bit, but having that schedule – and announcing it to the world – has helped with accountability. So has setting preorders for the main books; Amazon only lets you change it once, and then you lose preorder privileges for a year. That’s been a HUGE motivator for me, especially seeing as how people are preordering!
  2. Publish something at least twice a week. I’ve found several Medium microfiction publications with weekly prompts, and there’s really no excuse for not being able to write 50 or 100 words for these. Plus I just joined Microfiction for Lunch as a contributor, and that requires something weekly. They take older stuff, but I’m trying to write new stuff. I’d also like to get back to writing longer stories.
  3. Marketing. I did Brian Cohen’s Amazon ads course a couple times in 2020 and it resulted in more sales from September-December than I’d had in the past three years COMBINED (part of that was due to releasing 3 new books, but I also saw a lot of movement on my backlist stuff). This year I want to really ramp up my advertising and marketing, not only with Amazon ads but Facebook ads and maybe blog tours too.
  4. Travel travel travel. My kid reminded me that I owe him several trips due to COVID. We tried to go to NYC over spring break last year, but only made it as far as Boston before everything shut down, so we need to head back there (which is okay, because we had tickets to STOMP and Phantom of the Opera which I was super excited about). I take him on a trip for his birthday every year, but everything was re-shut down so I owe him a trip to Chicago. We wanted to do a long weekend on a beach but with the COVID surge we held off, so I owe him a trip to Pensacola (the closest beach to us). And several years ago I promised to take him backpacking around Europe over the summer before he went into high school, which is this summer (gods I feel old). In addition to that, I bought a minivan last year and made an effort to knock places off my bucket list, which is easy to do when you’re living out of your van. I hit Carhenge, and Zzyzx Rd in California, and Rte 6 east so that I’ve now driven its entire length in the US. Top of my list this year is Dodge City, KS, because Gunsmoke, as well as the Florida Keys if the Bahamas open back up. And Canada. I haven’t been there for a while either. So many trips!!
  5. Continue to Marie Kondo the shit outta my life. My downstairs is looking good, but the upstairs is still a mess. And the basement. Dear gods how have I accumulated so much stuff?? I’ve realized my house, as much as I love it, is too big (yeah, I know, first world problem). I’d love to be able to downsize to maybe a 1-bedroom place when my kid graduates in a few years (or that cabin in MI), and there’s no way I can do that with all my stuff.
  6. Read 100 books. My usual goal. I want to continue my around-the-world challenge and knock out at least 1/3 of this goal with those books.

The good news is, I’m starting a new job in a couple weeks that consists of 3 12-hour shifts a week, rather than 5 8-hour ones, and I’m hoping that’ll give me more time to write and read and travel and do stuff I need to do. Or, more realistically, more time to waste on procrastinating but still more time to do stuff. On the other hand, I tend to work more efficiently when I have less free time, so we’ll see how it goes.

If you’ve set goals for yourself, what are they? How do you plan to accomplish them?

Weekend Writing Warrior 1/3/21 #8Sunday

For the next month or two, I’m moving on to the next standalone short story in my Heartsbane Saga series of fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings. “Ezichi the Beautiful” is a retelling of the Russian fairy tale Vasilisa the Beautiful, about a girl who gets help from the witch Baba Yaga to complete tasks set by her evil stepmother.

This week’s snippet is from the beginning of the story. Ezichi is the sister of one of the main characters, and she was supposed to be killed off but my beta readers liked her too much so I’m sticking her in this side story.

* * * * * * *

“I will miss you, o jewel of my heart,” Kwaku said to his wife, Ezichi, as they lay in bed next to each other.

Ezichi was glad for the bedchamber’s darkness as she rolled her eyes. As far as husbands went, Kwaku wasn’t a bad man. He was always polite to her, never laid a hand on anyone in his house, and, more importantly, he’d taken her as a wife and not a concubine. But he was also dull, while prone to dramatic language, and he had a short attention span. Ezichi was sure she was his current favorite wife only because she was his newest, and she had no doubts that she would be set aside whenever he could afford the next one.

“Don’t you want to know why I will miss you?” Kwaku asked with a tinge of petulance in his voice.

“Are you going on a trip?” she asked him, knowing full well this was the case.

* * * * * * *

And the rest of this scene:

He traveled frequently, arranging trade deals to buy and sell gold and salt among the southern tribes, And she’d heard his first wife, Yaba, talking about it earlier today.

“As much as it pains me to leave your side, I must travel to Duguba. The monsoons will come while I’m gone, so it will be many moons before I return.”

“I will miss you too, pride of my soul.” She barely managed to keep a straight face at that endearment, but Kwaku didn’t seem to notice.

“I know that you are still adapting to my household.” He stroked her arm. If he noticed that she tensed at this reminder of her loss of freedom, he didn’t say anything. “Yaba will teach you everything you need to know. She’s a good woman. You would do well to learn from her.”

Not for the first time, and probably not for the last either, Ezichi wondered how a man as successful as Kwaku could be so blind as to what went on in his own home, and as to the true nature of his own wives.

* * * * * * *

Post a link to your eight-ten sentence blog entry or join the fun at the Weekend Writing Warriors website.

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Heartsbane Saga – fairy tales retold in a world of Vikings!

Book .5: “The Maiden in the Tower” – Carys has resigned herself to a life of servitude, locked away in a tower, until a chance encounter with a stranger leaves her daring to hope for more.

Book 1: Captive and the Cursed – When Nyah’s sister is kidnapped by barbarians, Nyah offers herself in her place. But she soon learns the barbarians aren’t what she expected, especially their cursed leader.

Book 1.5: “The Brave Little Thrall” – Fahim Al Rasheed has spent his life studying foreign cultures, but he never thought he’d actually have the chance to visit them. When his journey of a lifetime leaves him and a young barbarian king marooned in a hostile country, he’ll have to rely on more than book learning to make it back home alive.

Book 2: Sleeping Shaman – Nyah and her friends travel halfway across the world seeking a cure for a barbarian curse, only to discover that the man they’re seeking has gone missing. Nyah must navigate dangerous rivalries and conflicting cultures before time runs out.

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