Page the Second

Deus volt; Deus mittit me.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I'm featuring the book Courting the Countess on my blog today. Frankly I can't wait to read it. I've read several other books of Donna's and found them to be a wonderful ride. Donna's research is exhaustive and spot on. You won't find her heroines sporting their knickers, or eating hamburgers. Here's an excerpt of COURTING THE COUNTESS:

Richard approached Lady Elizabeth. Though the settee had room for two, Richard went down on his knees in front of her and placed a hand on either side of her legs, leaning on the edge of the cushion. She tensed.
Lady Elizabeth’s thick hair had been pulled back into a loose knot at the crown of her head, with a few wayward tendrils escaping to frame her face. Her lowered eyes were thickly lashed, fringed by a pair of high, arched brows. Her fair, unblemished skin bore no hint of a freckle. Her lips, though thinner than he would have liked, still had a pleasing shape. Her slightly pointed chin exactly like her father’s led the eye down to a slender, graceful neck.
Perhaps he’d been so focused on Leticia that he’d simply not taken the time to really look at Lady Elizabeth. Furthermore, her younger sister, Lady Joanna, a beauty of stunning proportions, outshone everyone within miles. But now that he gave Lady Elizabeth his full attention, he discovered her own quiet beauty.
At his silence, she glanced at him before her eyes darted away. Then, perhaps because she’d seen something reassuring, or unexpected, she met his gaze. Her clear, gray-green eyes danced back and forth between his as if to divine his thoughts.
The seductress of last night had vanished, and in her place sat a young, innocent, vulnerable girl. His future wife. He’d best begin things well.
Lady Elizabeth,” he said. “I know the circumstances of our betrothal are somewhat unique, but I feel it necessary to ask you; do you agree to marry me?”
Her eyes opened wide and her mouth parted. He realized she’d been pressing her lips together in a tight line. Now that they had relaxed, they were much more shapely. Lovely. Kissable. No wonder Tristan had been tempted. Any man would.
She seemed to take a thorough measure of him, her eyes continuing to dart between his. He waited for her reply. Her vulnerability evoked a protective instinct inside Richard. Her fragrance, a blend of roses and violets and some other fragrance he could not identify curled around his senses in an intoxicating blend of innocence and sensuality.
The thought took him aback. He shouldn’t be looking at another woman thusly, even a woman he must marry. Surely his heart could not be so inconstant as to forget Leticia so soon.
She moistened her lips, making them even more tempting, and shot a glance at the duke and duchess. “Yes, my lord. I agree to marry you.” The soft tones were flat, unemotional.
Willingly?” he pressed.
She blinked and appeared to choose her words with care. In that moment, his estimation of her rose. Perhaps she would not always be rash. Faint hope glimmered that she’d prove faithful.
She lowered her eyes. “I will not have Martindale’s blood on my hands. Or Tristan’s. I must marry you.”
Stung, he drew back. “Of course.”
He didn’t know what he’d hoped she would say. If she’d gushed about all his fine qualities, he might have suspected her of spinning a tale. But hearing her blatant declaration that she’d only marry him to prevent bloodshed smote his pride.
So be it. Neither of them wanted this marriage, but he would do anything to protect his brother and his family honor. He and his father had worked too hard to repair the scandal to the Barrett name and the Averston title caused by his disloyal mother.

A few questions for our authoress: 

Any advice you'd like to share about writing?
Be humble and teachable. Too many new authors have kind of a chip on their shoulder and are totally closed to constructive criticism. If someone tells you there is an aspect of your story that needs more work, take them at face value; they are almost always right. If they tell you what you should do to fix it, take that with a grain of salt because they are often wrong.

If you could travel to any time in history, when would you visit?
That’s easy. I’d want to go to Regency England to do my research first hand.

What color would you wear if you had only one choice?
Blue. Every color of blue is beautiful and there are so many shades that I’d never get bored.

I'm going to pick up this book as soon as I am able at any of these places. I hope you will too:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A Smackeral of EVERLOST

Just a smackeral of EVERLOST to curl up with on this misty moisty afternoon:

Issana Windwalker died for the ninth time at the hands of an ogre named Chubb.
Bits of her spattered the trees and rocks in a tacky, wide swathe.
Her death cry tore from her, sounding much more like frustration than demise. At least to her own, make that Senara's ears.
It really ticked her off that she spawned into the forest and Chubb always seemed to be camping on the exact spot, waiting for her, every time. Fat tub of smelly lard. “Go find someone else to PK, you son of a fatherless goat,” she yelled, banging the keyboard with her fist. Then she hit the talk button and yelled it again so Chubb could actually hear it while he scampered around picking up the magical items she'd dropped.
“It's what you get when you sign up to be Guardian of Kofur, Issy Baby. If you wanna dump the Seal of Kofur and do something less violent, it can be arranged. Then we can hang out and make cute little half ogre babies,” said the piece of yak stool who'd targeted her.
Lard Butt can actually talk,” muttered Senara. She pressed talk. “Oh please. The stench of your unwashed body would kill me for reals. I'd no sooner hang with you than eat my own foot, let alone bear you babies. I'm going to end you, you bucket of—“ she eased off the talk button to continue the rant in private since her thirty seconds of grace period was almost up. And since her southern mother would pop a vein if she heard such trash going out over the airwaves. Not that she would, since Mom was thousands of miles away, now.
Senara took a few sanity moments to break away from the game and fetch a can of soda from the fridge. The sound of the lid popping broke the silence left by the ending of her Celtic podcast music. She dragged the frosty can across her cheeks and forehead and plunked herself back in her desk chair.
She had a whole lot of other things she wanted to say to Chubb the Grub but couldn't while she was a ghost. She would have to re-spawn and, armor-less, kick Chubb clear to Offenheim if she was ever going to get any of her stuff back. She jammed her thumb on the talk button. “With pleasure, you boot-licking toadstool,” she ground out. “Let the bloodbath begin.” She wiped her hands against her My Little Ponies pajama pants, cracked her knuckles, and hit the button that would start the carnage.
Issana Windwalker was normally a vision to behold. Massive power packed into a well-muscled, very buxom, gorgeous blond elf, wearing silver armor etched with Celtic knot work, a silver, egret-plumed helm, and tall, silver-embossed boots. For “at home,” she wore flowing blue, purple and indigo harem pants, an indigo top, and no shoes. She could still trash people and take names if she was attacked in her woodland fastness. It happened.
Senara took great pains to make sure Issana's description and that of her hold, Cloudcroft, was something visually stunning and commanding respect. Dudes took a girl seriously if she looked the part and could show some imagination. At least that's what she always told herself.
Gamer eejits were clueless about two things: One, Issana Windwalker might look like a harem girl but she was actually a 102nd -level elf paladin mage who could kick a demi-god's butt with one foot nailed to the floor and no healing potions. And two, she was, in real life, a twenty-one year old brown-haired bookstore clerk named Senara O'Brian, who had trouble killing ants. That last fact she told no one on the game. Who knows, anyway? Maybe half of those buff knights were actually pencil-thin, all-elbows cross dressers or sitting in prison for peeping, she thought as she ran through the Everlost landscape.
Now, after spawning, and dressed only in a light shift, she avoided traps and bad situations like a pro. She had a date with a certain shopkeeper to get the prized Player Killer sword of in-cluing better known as PK Swansong. There wouldn't be time to run to the Morningstar Mountains to fight for her normal enchanted armor.
She passed two hills, a large lake, a couple of villages and a small castle before she got to Berkilflot, the village where Fomor Bob had his store. She had a great rapport with Bob old boy. He saved all his good stuff for her in return for taking out the trash. It made her chuckle every time she took out a noob who was making himself a nuisance. She'd walk in just like an NPC or non-player character and do “boot-to-the-butt” and the kid would find himself sprawling on the ground outside the store. She'd laugh insanely when he ID'd her and found out what level she was.
“What can I get you?” the good Bob asked.
Issana batted her eyelashes and asked for Swansong. “Got some Chubb clubbing to do.”
Bob grinned. “That dude's got it coming. I'm guessing you want a health potion or two.”
Issana glowered at him. “Um, no. Don't need it. But I do need to know if Chubb's got some kind of a donation buff that lets him kill far above his level.”
“I'll look.” Bob disappeared into the “back” while Issana cooled her heals checking out the merchandise. She had just enough money to buy back the Crystal Gauntlets and pay for Amalice the Seamstress to imbue them with special pounding powers.
Bob brought out the sword and tested the edge with a grin. “Swansong with a special edge. I think you'll like her. And Chubb does have a donation item. He payed twenty five Euros for an amulet of PK-ing. He wears it on his breech clout.”
“Real money? Brother. The little weasel! I knew he had something good. It's how he killed me nine times in a row. He must be selling my armor at the Ba'along Bazaar. Those losers will take anything, lost, stolen, or hocked.” She examined the sword and deemed it sweet. “Thanks Bob.” She tossed him a bag of coins and ran off to the Seamstress' shop. Hopefully it would take Chubb enough time to sell her stuff, that she'd get where she needed to be and fully prepared.
Just as the Seamstress had finished with the Imbuing and Issana was paying for her services, the Seal called her back. Chubb, of course. She was already under attack when she wielded the Crystal Gauntlets. Her health had dropped to next to nothing as the pounding began.
“What the—?” Chubb yelled as she smashed him a couple of inches into the solid rock.
Issana grinned. “Taste the rainbow.” Bam! Bam! Crash!
He tried to hit her again and missed, due to losing several centimeters of aching height. An arm went flying across the meadow and it wasn't hers.
Issana said, “Run away if you want to live.” It would be her only suggestion. Most guys wouldn't bolt, and found themselves flitting back to their spawn point as wispy ghosts. Chubb was no different. He dropped a smelly breech clout, a large club and three copper coins, and fluttered away, yelling about cheaters.
Gross, Senara thought as she fingered the buttons to dispose of the breech clout so Chubb couldn't immediately come back and arm himself in it. The fly-ridden thing probably had magical powers since he wore nothing else but that freaking amulet. Just the thought of that nasty ogre running around naked makes me want to hurl.
Issana pocketed the coppers, tossed the club into a nearby pond, and went to meditate for a couple of minutes in her Cloudcroft hideout. That was the only thing she'd forked over real money for. It really paid off to have somewhere to relax in and store her plunder. Too bad she didn't have closets full of the Silver-chased Armor suits, like Batman and his uniforms. Those she had to win in battle.
She was just about to the middle of her meditation, and thus half healthy, when the Seal pulled her back. “Unbelievable!” Senara screamed, pounding the keyboard. Crumbs bounded up and resettled in the cracks between the keys. One of them must have lodged beneath the “hit” button she'd macro'ed, because she pressed and pressed and couldn't engage.
Just as her health neared red-line and she was going to actually wield her fancy sword, something big plowed into the hapless ogre. Almost instantly Chubb found himself with no remaining limbs of any sort. “Why for you kill Chubb?” he whined at the massive, shining knight standing over him.
Muscle Man ignored him, favoring Issana with a grin after taking off his helm. The guy was mountain-sized and his helmet hadn't even mussed up his glorious golden hair. You could probably see the gleam of his flashing white teeth in the depths of the Gorfingel Gold Mines. He swept into a deep bow. “Are you well, my lady?”
“Um...quite.” Issana polished the blood off her gauntlets as the last of Chubb's health fled, leaving him a wraith. “Chubb was just dying.”
The knight shook out his golden hair. “Sir Reginald of the White Oaks at your service, my lady.”
Senara grinned. Never seen this guy on the game. He apparently plays at a different time, since he's buff enough to have made knight. Ah. Level sixteen. Not bad. Maybe he's someone's secondary character—someone who already knows about all the quests and helpful hints. It might be fun to be friends with an admin or something. “Issana Windwalker.” She batted her eyelashes at him. The “flirt” macro had been fun to put together. It often got her fun fight companions and discounts at stores.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Back from ANWACon16

Welp. I'm back from ANWA conference. It was a blast seeing my friends again and meeting new ones. And my costume was sort of sensational to most but the camera person, apparently. I went as Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. I had a really sweet roommate in Didi Lawson and lovely dinners with several wonderful friends. I had a lovely time and learned many great things, including mistakes I've made in my books and in the marketing thereof.

I had some great classes on dialogue, marketing, pacing, editing and revision, deep POV and narrative voice, storytelling through action instead of exposition, and read-on prompts.

I was hopeful that my book SLIPSTREAM would win something in the B.O.B. Contest (beginning of book), but it didn't. I'm going to have to rip through it and make a more likable MC, apparently. Among other things.

However, I took EVERLOST to the writing workshop and it was quite well received--enough so that one of the other authors wanted her pages to read later.

Also I pitched MUDLARKS to Kathryn Gordon of Covenant, who asked for the full manuscript after I tweaked it. She was really excited about it. So I'll go through it a few more times and put it out to Betas and send it off. I'm not sure that's the book for them, though. I'm thinking MARIN AT THE WELL is the one I should have pitched to her.

Unfortunately she didn't want to look at JOHNNY'S RUTABAGA, my children's book, at all. I'm thinking I'm going to have to self publish it because hardly any companies are doing picture books anymore because they are so costly to put out. They wouldn't have to pay an illustrator, though, since I've already done all the work.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Convos With my Ten-year-old Self--Dating and Men

I'm going to continue with a new thing I'm doing. Namely, conversations with my ten-year-old self. If I had a time machine, I'd go back and tell myself a few gems of wisdom. Today I'm talking about husbands/men/dates:

1. You need to learn to be your own knight in shining armor. You aren't necessarily going to marry someone who wants to take on that duty. Sad but true. He may have other dragons to slay at any given time that you're facing one. And who knows, he might be breeding baby dragons at work or under the bed somewhere.

2. Learn how to talk so that he'll talk too. It gets old having to provide both parts of the conversation sometimes, and there are wooden dummies for that. The thing is, you need to have a voice too. Don't let a charge of "nagging" ever stick. That's a cop-out and a way to silence you. Stand up for your own voice right from the start.

3. You aren't going to live happily ever after like a fairytale. It's going to be lots of hard work and sometimes you're going to want to whack him with a shovel. Or a skillet. In his sleep. But of course you won't, because it's frowned upon. And dents your skillet.

4. You can't expect to marry the perfect person. He's already taken. And if you somehow found someone almost perfect, he wouldn't be interested in your flawed carcass. Date the guy whose flaws aren't deal-breakers. Don't let hormones decide your future. Too much.

5. Work on your own flaws first. Figure out your triggers and shoot them down. Fix things with your father so you don't take those suitcases into your future. They're really heavy. Understand that you're going to marry someone a whole lot like him, so you need the practice.

6. Learn how to do difficult, unpleasant, and repetitive things for the joy of serving your family. He'll have to go to work every day and you're going to feel mighty guilty if you spend your days sitting around watching TV and eating bon bons (I don't think I've ever had one of those). And he'll resent you for it and it'll breed dragons. Or contention.

7. Develop a habit of counting the good things about a person, not just their faults and the things about them that drive you insane. Otherwise you'll spend much of your time being annoyed and insane.

8. Lay it all out there from the beginning how you mean to proceed. You're going to want to talk, and to develop a way of doing cleaning chores and a few hundred other things that need to get done.  If you start out being okay with inch thick layers of dust on his things in your bedroom, you'll NEVER get him to change that. In fact, some of those dust bunnies have great great great great grandbunnies.

9. Never, never forget how wonderful and giddy it felt to be in that first blush of love. You're going to need that feeling when you're having an altercation or up at three am pumping breast milk for a baby who won't suck.

10. Learn to like to cook well and to develop menus for the month. You always have to eat. You might as well eat well and save yourself the daily dilemma of what to feed your family.

11. Get organized. It saves so much time that you could be otherwise spending doing real, fun stuff. Disorganization means you have to spend valuable reading time finding, caring for, preparing extra for, and dispensing with, messes.

12. Do bucket list things early instead of being so worried about finding a guy during college. Go back to Europe. Take those movies of folk dancers and singers. Write everything down. Experience it all while your knees still work. Dance hard. Ride hard. Play with swords more. Go on a mission. Go places un-looked-for and virgin. Breathe in beauty. Breathe.

12. Be intrepid. Do more things that scare you and take your breath away. You'll need the stories for later, and of course they'll all need to be true. You do some things and have great experiences. Do more.

13. Remember to enjoy life the age you are right now. And every age. Later might sound all rosy, but its got its poisonous slugs and poo piles.

14. You should know that some day you'll actually have your own dog, write lots of books, have six kids, win 3rd place in a nation-wide sword-fighting tournament, swim with sharks, watch eagles up close, sing in Carlsbad Caverns, go caving, go to Ireland and back to Europe and Alaska and several other places. You'll love and laugh and anguish and plan and worry and live.

15. Try to develop more common ground than just sword-fighting. He'll move on to computer games from there rather quickly, and those are hard to play with him.

16. Support him even when he fails to support you. Maybe it'll rub off.

17. Don't ever complain if he complements you. Just tell him thank you and revel in it. And keep every single thing he ever writes to you.

18. Be excellent.

19. Just love him. He isn't recycle-able and thus toss-able. When you make that final decision to say I do, you have to know what all comes with that so that later you don't say, "I don't," or "I wish I hadn't." This is for all the marbles, Baby. Make sure he knows that too.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

You Throw Like a Girl Too

As I was tossing the well-chewed hunk of rubber ball around for the dog this morning, I rang up a list in my head of things I would tell my ten-year-old self about throwing a softball (mainly because it was about that time that I gave up trying to play ball sports because I rotted at them and hated the negativity surrounding the practice):

1. He yells at you because he doesn't understand the first thing about throwing mechanics and how males are different than females in the way they retain the training they get (a fact that can be compensated for with lots of hard work). He goes off of instinct, not realizing that his natural muscle memory outstrips yours by virtue of being a man. He's not really mad at you. He's frustrated with his own inability to get his information across.

2. You need strength training to train the muscles you need not only to throw the ball far and accurately, but also to avoid injury. First you need to find out what that training involves and how to do it. Injury avoidance is half the process.

3. If you really care about throwing well (which I didn't back then because of all the yelling and taunting) be patient and train your body, not just your arm. It's not all in the wrist like you heard before.

4. It's a cascade of intricate movements that all work together to slingshot the ball forward and recover from the pitch--like a dance. There are several details to remember and train into muscle memory, not just the dense simplification that you shouldn't throw like a girl. 

5. It's mostly in your head until muscle memory takes over. Give yourself a chance to learn the process. It's not always going to involve remembering a gazillion facts and figures. Eventually your body just knows it, like how to drive like a sentient being or how to do butterflies in the pool. (I'm not going to drag out the tired riding a bike thing. Okay I did, but I'm not elaborating on it.)

6. "Lift thine eyes unto the hills." You're going to throw where you're looking. And if you look down, that's where the ball's going. I know because I keep doing it wrong still. But I'm working on it.

7. When you grow up, whatever you're teaching, learn the process and the mechanics of that process so you know enough not to just yell at them for doing what comes naturally to them but is incorrectly or inadequately taught by you. It'll save lots of tears and make you look fabulous instead of lame. (And yes, my ten-year-old self would know these big words because I actually sat on the bus and read the dictionary for fun. It's why I'm such a geek today.)

8. Stick with it. The perks of learning this particular thing are kind of like doing math. The possibilities might not present themselves immediately at your age, but the part where you train your brain to do something difficult and with so many variables is going to help build cognitive bridges that will serve you well in your life.

9. Get someone to watch and coach you who knows all of these things. They can help you connect all the dots and turn you into a well-oiled throwing machine. They can get your hips aligned, make sure you step with the correct foot, drum out of you the instinct to push the ball instead of slinging it, and make sure you follow through in the right way.

10. Don't sweat the stupid stuff. Names stick with you until you kick them in the teeth and tell them to shut up. Either let them slide off you like oil and water, or use them to rocket you forward. (And if you remind me that I just mixed up a bunch of different images, I'm going to aim for your face. Eventually something will land.)

11. You can always read on the car ride home.

12. This is fun.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Throwing Physiology for Geeks

Finding a picture of a girl actually pitching was extremely difficult.

"You throw like a girl."
Which girl has never heard that statement? I've been throwing lots of balls for the dog to chase and have had ample time to wonder about what it means to throw like a girl or a guy.

Probably the rest of you already know all of this having been in baseball or softball or shot put or javelin or any other throwing sport and you're going to laugh your heads off at me. I, however, have spent my life with my nose firmly planted in a book, so I expect the jeering. Bring it on.

But now that I'm working on throwing better (with both arms I might add), I'm wondering: What makes a good throw? Are there fabulous throws that go for both sexes? I assume not, or we'd have more coed baseball teams. I think there are great pitchers in both sexes but not the same way.

This is why I think this: I spent my summers beneath the bleachers reading books while my parents played softball. Occasionally I'd look up and watch them. When I watch girls pitch softball, they do a windup and pitch underhanded like a backwards trebuchet. Guys cock their leg up and hurl the thing using lots of wrist action and their whole body as a slingshot. I really couldn't think of why they'd do it those ways unless it's body mechanics.

So I went to the 'net to read up on it ('cause that's what I do). This is what I got:

"The gap between the sexes is never so wide as in throwing." But one site says it's because of training, not physiology.
"Ineptness is the normal outcome of not allocating neural resources to a task."
And, "...male-female differences in performance on motor tasks may arise, not from innate ability, but from a more efficient learning process in men after puberty."
"Moreover, males from all three age-groups were found to evolve significantly larger delayed (consolidation phase/between session) gains, and these were well retained for 6 weeks. Thus, the male advantage was most significant in the post-training motor consolidation and retention phase; the current results suggest therefore that males, especially after adolescence, may have an advantage, over females, in procedural memory consolidation."

So this means it could be more of a brain physiology thing than I thought, although there are elements of different training (or lack thereof) and other things effecting the process as well (self-consciousness, preference, lack of practice, age, old injuries). You also have to take into consideration limb length and muscle mass.

But, if I had enough training to controvert the distance between male retention and female retention (and if I weren't advancing in years beyond that of a great thrower) I could gain the skills to master the intricate cascade chain of events that is a successful pitch.

Basically, there are differences and similarities in both males and females. Throwing just happens to be one of those areas where we have the most differences. I think sometimes we don't ask enough (or the right) questions about both eventualities. If we're alike or different in something, why and how? What's the process? How is it effected by environment, training, and any number of other stimuli? Can we re-train to negate some of these roadblocks? Is it a good idea? (Try not to gloss over the answers to support a political agenda.)

I personally feel like training my brain to do all sorts of new things just for the heck of it. But I also need to remember that about half of learning to throw better is strength training so I don't injure myself. I should have myself slinging balls right through the chain link fence in no time.


--95 miles per hour: Physiology of Pitching (Technical) http://sportsnscience.utah.edu/2012/08/20/pitching-physiology-technical/

--FYI: Why Do Girls Throw Like A Girl? The genders are more alike than they are different, with one notable exception. By Colin Lecher http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2012-09/fyi-do-men-and-women-throw-ball-differently 

--Throwing like a girl(‘s brain)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Time Questions

Summer is gone, taking with it the minions and their lovely parents. Other people's children head off to school looking scrubbed and spit-shined in their new finery. Mine hang about waiting for employment apples to fall into their laps while they sample what the Internet has to offer in the way of never-ending magic windows.

The Olympics are over with their fanfare and drama, leaving only endless piles of weeds and the slightest lessening of temperature in the air.

The years slip by on greased skids, now, catching only on small moments in holidays and illnesses and trips to see family. Children sprout up into weeds or flowers, depending on with what they were watered and whether they had enough light.

It seems so somnolent until one thinks about the very near future--which looks ever bleaker. History tells us change of an alarming sort is just in the offing. Like the actors in a horror movie, we yell, "LOOK UP!" But they, and we, seldom do.

I wonder if my grandchildren will send their children off to school looking scrubbed in their new clothes, bright smiles on their little faces. Will there still be Olympics? Will there be journeys to other parts of the world to sample and immerse one's self in other lives? I'm certain there will still be weeds. But will they be our weeds? Or everybody's? Will we still have beloved pets and cranky cars and mortgages?

I know that there is at least one Person who cares about what we feel and do and know. He'll be there long after The End of Everything. He'll be waiting with open arms and a heart full of love. That's a comforting thought.