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Tag: Heartsbane

An unscientific poll about romance

My writers’ group had a conversation recently about what kind of romance we like to read, sparked by a local author whose books are in the “clean and wholesome romance” section on Amazon. We discussed what that might entail, and decided it was the opposite of “dirty liberal atheist” romance.

Then, out of curiosity, I did a poll on Twitter and Facebook.

RomancePollTwitter RomancePollFB

My sample size was small (9 and 7, respectively), and there’s a good chance some of the same people voted on both of them. But still, 4 people (25%) prefer clean and wholesome and 12 (75%) prefer dirty liberal atheist, which is a thing I just made up. A couple people commented that they don’t specifically read romance but enjoy romantic subplots.

This is kinda pertinent for me because I’m not a big romance person either. The series I’m working on has maybe more romance in it than I prefer, but it has lots of different types of relationships and all are part of character development. The relationships are constantly shifting as the characters grow (or regress, in some cases). Based on my polls, it seems like my readers will be okay with this.

Are you a romance reader? What kind of love/relationships/courtship do you prefer: clean and wholesome, dirty liberal atheist, or somewhere in the middle? Let me know in the comments!

Thursday Things: Smallpox, Vikings, and the medieval Arab world #ArabHeritageMonth

thursday thingsI’m currently working on a series (almost done with book 2! Yay!) that’s basically fairy tales with Vikings. While it’s a historical fantasy, I’m doing my best to make everything plausible based on historical context.

The first book, Captive and the Cursed, is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But because I’m trying to make these stories realistic, the beast’s curse is basically a noncontagious form of smallpox rather than something magical.

In the second book, Sleeping Shaman, the main characters travel to the country of Aghlabid (modern-day Tunisia) because the dad of one of the guys is a scholar at the university there and they hope he can help with the cure. The dad knew the Viking king and owes him a favor.

I initially made this all up, but as I researched, I found out some pretty cool things.

First, there really was an Arabic scholar who traveled up to see the Vikings. In 921, Ahmad ibn Fadlan traveled from Baghdad to Bulgaria, and he documented everything he observed. My guy would’ve traveled to Britain in about 900. Not exactly the same thing, but it’s still pretty damn close and fits with my story.

Second, the Arabic empire was renowned for its scholars, who excelled in medicine, among other things. The first person to really study smallpox and write a medical book about it was Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi, who lived in Persia in 854-932. So, it’s very plausible that the Tunisian university library could have a copy of this guy’s book for my characters to find (I know that Iran isn’t an Arabic country, but this guy also did a lot in Baghdad so I’m including him).

Finally, the Vikings raided along Spain, past Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean, possibly even to Italy, in 860. I write about this expedition in a prequel short story, “The Brave Little Thrall.”

Here’s a song about that raid, and about Vikings in general.

I love historical fiction, especially when it’s about periods I know very little about (Morgan Llewellyn is awesome for this), so I’m really excited to be bringing actual historical events, people, and locations into these books, even if I do fictionalize everything. And it’s been really fun researching the medieval Arab world, because they were out kicking ass with science and literature and culture while Europe was not.

Also, last month I was in Detroit and went to the Arab American National Museum. It was very informative, and I’ve definitely incorporated a lot of what I learned there into these books. If you’re ever in Detroit, make sure you stop by.

If you read or write historical fiction, what’s your favorite period? Do you like when authors put in lots of details like this, or do you prefer a more generically-set story?

Spring 2019 goal review

Going In Circles EbookHow is it April already??

Every 3 months, I review my annual goals. Here’s my progress so far this year.

  1. Publish to Medium at least weekly and Patreon monthly.
    So far I should be at 13 or Medium stories, and 4 Patreon stories. I’m at 5 Medium stories and 0 Patreon stories. Although to be fair, I currently have 0 patrons, so I’m not really that motivated to post any stories there. No excuse though for Medium.
  2. Finish my novella series.
    I’m in the final revision stages of book 1, Captive and the Cursed, and have book 2, Sleeping Shamans, about half written. If I can keep up the pace of writing a book every couple months, I’ll be on track to have this done in a year or so. We know I won’t stay on track, but it’s nice to currently be on schedule.
  3. Increase my networking.
    I’ve been reading and clapping for about 20-30 Medium stories a week and commenting on quite a few of the blogs I follow as they write new posts. Most of my comments have been on fellow writers’ blogs, so I need to expand to industry people too.
  4. Read 100 books.
    I’m at 27 right now, which is 2 ahead of schedule. I haven’t read much nonfiction yet, but I have been trying to read more than just US/Western authors.
  5. Keep going with my trauma-informed care/school social work writing.
    This has not happened. At all.
  6. Have more adventures.
    This has also not really happened, sadly. My son and I went to Detroit for a few days, but I wouldn’t really call that an adventure, even though I could probably spin it that way if I mention, completely without context, that he held a human brain and we dug around in a cemetery. I’d planned to go to Florida or Carhenge over spring break but my car needs a new radiator and I decided to be responsible and fix it rather than go on a trip. I probably won’t have time for an adventure until this summer, when hopefully I’ll have an epic one.

Mostly I’m not meeting my goals right now because I have too much free time, and I tend to waste it on YouTube videos or just not being productive since I think I have all the time in the world. Fortunately my writing group is keeping me focused and accountable, at least for my series!

Not on my goals this year but something I DID accomplish – a new short story collection! Going in Circles: Vol 1 contains 10 connected very short stories that were originally published on Medium. If you’re not a member of that site, you can pick up a copy of the collection at Amazon.

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

10 resources for building a medieval fantasy world

The series I’m currently working on – fairy tales with Vikings! – is best described as historical fantasy. It’s set in a version of medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, although I don’t call the places by their current names. I want the stories to seem accurate for the time period, but I also don’t want to be constricted by actual historical events.

Fortunately, there are a ton of great resources for building an authentic medieval world. Here are some of my favorites.

Historical figures and campaigns

  • History Time: Really detailed videos on Viking exploration and military campaigns of the Middle Ages, focusing on Britain, Viking kings, and the Mediterranean, as well as ancient Rome and Greece.
  • History With Hilbert: Short-ish, in-depth videos on specific northern Europe historical figures, wars, languages, and general Viking and British stuff.
  • VC3 Productions: Overviews of the history of European countries and historical figures and events.

Daily life

  • Modern History TV: The best channel on YouTube for all aspects of daily life of knights in medieval Britain, from horse care to meals to weaponry.

Random details

  • Invicta: Details on military life and logistics in the Middle Ages and ancient Rome.
  • Metatron: All things military in medieval Europe, from weapons to fighting techniques to battle offense and defense, as well as videos about daily Medieval life.
  • Scholagladiatoria: Another channel on medieval warfare, focusing on weapons, armor, and fighting techniques.
  • Shadiversity: The go-to source for information on all aspects of medieval castles, including how and why they were built.

General fantasy worldbuilding

  • James Tullos: Reviews of fictional worlds in books and movies, as well as discussions on how to build fantasy worlds.
  • Stoneworks World Building: In-depth discussions on accurately naming your worlds and characters and adapting real-world settings and scenarios to your fantasy world.

If you’re creating or have created a fantasy world, what resources did you use? Please share in the comments!

Resolutions: 2018 review and 2019 goals

cat

Random cat having an adventure in Kuala Lumpur’s train station.

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

2018 goals

First, let me preface this by saying that 2018 was mostly a good year. I went to India in January, Iceland in March, and Thailand and southeast Asia in June. I started a job that I love, with coworkers that I’ve really connected with because they have the same passion for the job that I do.

But then, starting in about August, some sucky stuff happened. Other people’s personal problems because my personal problems, causing me to have to take a pause to rethink my life plans. I’m still rethinking them, three months later.

Here’s how all that came together with my 2018 goals.

1. Better time management.

For the whole year, I’ve tracked my daily activities. Not as detailed as Vikings QB Kirk Cousins who apparently uses spreadsheets to track his day in 10 minute increments (which I totally understand; I think in spreadsheets), but enough to know what I spend my time on and what I need to work harder on for next year.

2. Publish to Medium at least weekly.

I published 27 stories on Medium in 2018, plus two lists of related stories. Of those, I think only three had previously appeared elsewhere. A lot of the stories I posted were microfiction (less than 350 words), but still, I’m proud of myself for getting so much out there – even if I haven’t posted anything new since September.

3. Publish a stand-alone novella or short story collection quarterly.

I did not do this. However, I did finish a novella! I’m currently editing it and hope to get it off to my publisher in the next month or so. I’ve already started on the second in this series, and with the push I’m getting from my writing group to finish these, I hope to crank several more out soon.

4. Grow my reader base by at least double.

Facebook goal: 600. Actual: 309.
Twitter goal: 1500. Actual: 860.
Medium goal: 200. Actual: 302!
Mailing list goal: 3000. Actual: 1760.

Maybe if I actually posted more to social media, or came out with more books, or sent out my mailing list more than every couple years, I’d get more followers?

5. Post to my blog at least twice a week, and promote those posts to get more traffic here.

I was doing well with this until I wasn’t.

6. Read 100 books.

I ended the year with 81 read. I didn’t really have time to read at all during the past couple months, due to being swamped with Etsy orders. But 81 is still pretty damn good.

Overall in 2018

Nothing much to say. Just like every year, I set my goals too high. But whatever. I was still pretty productive.

2019 goals

  1. Publish to Medium at least weekly and Patreon monthly. There’s really no excuse for not writing at least one 300-word microfiction short every week. Plus one of my Patreon rewards is a new short story each month, which I can then publish to Medium the following month. Assuming I ever get any patrons, I need to be able to meet this reward.
  2. Finish my novella series. As I mentioned above, I’ve been working on this over the past few months and getting feedback from my writing group, who love the characters and plot. I love the story too, which helps motivate me to write it (as well as the urging of my group). I plan on having 7 books total, which is doable if I make myself hit a word count every day or week.
  3. Increase my networking. Whether by commenting on more people’s blogs, interacting more on social media, or whatever. Maybe if I’m more visible or supportive, I’ll get more followers of my own.
  4. Read 100 books. And of those 100, I want a sizeable percentage to be nonfiction.
  5. Keep going with my trauma-informed care/school social work writing. People in education are really receptive to this concept, and I have a lot of information to share in a way that non-academic people appreciate.
  6. Have more adventures. They’ll probably happen through travel (most of mine do, like that time I was detained by Canadian immigration, or last summer when Visa froze my debit card and I had to ask a random German family on the Thai/Malay border for money to get to Kuala Lumpur), but they definitely won’t happen if I don’t give them the opportunity.

Like most years, I probably won’t meet most of this goals, but I definitely won’t meet them if I don’t try.

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

#NaNoWriMo 2018

crocheted dinosaursJust like every year, I started out the month of November with the best of intentions. For the first time since 2012, I’m not in grad school so I’d have plenty of time to write this year! I work full time but don’t generally bring stuff home with me, which would leave me 7-8 hours to write every night. I only needed 1666 words per day, which would be simple to write in just a few hours. How could I lose?

Well, it seems I could lose the same way I lose every year – life got in the way. I only managed about 10,000 words.

This year, however, it wasn’t homework or work or just pure procrastination. No, this year Etsy was my downfall.

I have a lot of interests, and one of them is crochet. I like to make my own unique creations as a way to relieve stress, and since I don’t really need a dozen octupi or aye-ayes or whatever else I’ve just made, I sell it all on Etsy. Based on past years’ experience, I know that November/December is when I’ll see most of my annual sales. I had planned to make lots of stuff year-round so I wouldn’t get swamped at the holidays, but just like with writing, life got in the way.

And whoa boy, did I get swamped this year. I have a new item, baby dinos in eggs, and they’re pretty popular. Which means all my time is going towards making them, rather than writing, because I’m kinda broke and need the immediate money from Etsy rather than the not-so-immediate money I get from writing.

The good news is, everything should calm down in a couple more weeks, and then I can get back to writing. I’ve just finished the first draft of Captive and the Cursed, Book 1 of a new series of retold fairy tales-sans magic-avec Vikings that my writing group loves, and I’m super excited to get it edited and off to my publisher, hopefully to be released this spring. I’m also super excited to get started on Sleeping Shaman, book 2, as soon as edits are done on book 1. I have two whole weeks off for Christmas break and zero plans, so maybe I’ll be able to get some writing done. Even when life gets in the way.

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