Update!

Okay, so I’ve said several times that I’m going to start blogging regularly again. But I’ve fallen off that wagon faster than I’ve fallen off diets. But things are sort of starting to calm down in my life, meaning I ought to be able to give up a lunch hour or two every week to make a blog post.

So, where am I and what have I been up to?

Firstly, my husband and I bought a house in January and moved to beautiful Polk County, TN, within sight of the Cherokee National Forest and the Appalachian Mountains, and 15 minutes’ drive from the Ocoee River, site of the 1996 Olympic whitewater kayaking course.

559-white-rd-se-oldfort-tn-37362-1

Not the actual view from our house, but just down the road from our place. We’re actually so surrounded by trees, you can just barely see a little mountain peak from our front porch.

It’s everything we’ve wanted in a house: no visible neighbors, a creek, plenty of woods, and more. It even has a shed on the back of the garage that’s just what my husband has always wanted for a blacksmith’s shop.

Unfortunately, it has no internet. But, unlike many of our unfortunate neighbors in the area, we actually have the ability to get cable internet–if we only pay to have it run to the house. We’re over 900 feet from the road, so that’s no small expense, but we’re hoping to have it done in the next month or two.

And, of course, there are a lot of other projects and improvements to do around the house. We’re actually still trying to get unpacked and figure out where everything goes. (Although I did make good progress on my craft room recently; it will be ready to use soon.)

Secondly, I’ve finished the proofreading of The Flames of Prague. I just need to order a proof copy, check the new cover and the formatting, and format the print book for ebook. We’re going to a big event in a couple of weeks, but after that, I should be able to get the final formatting done. So the publishing date for Flames is no later than July 31st!

Thirdly, I’ve been hard at work on medieval stuff, including finishing my illustrated medieval history! So look for me to start posting those again. I’m also going to start blogging more about my medieval projects because I want to showcase what I’m working on. And I’ve about been talked into doing some YouTube videos of 14th century hairstyles. (I just started teaching them as a class at our SCA events.) IMG_20160321_143701_889

Fourthly, we have a dog now. We were planning on getting one once we got fully settled at our new place, but she found us first. (Someone apparently dumped her out at the storage place on a night that was too cold for a short-haired pup and far too close to the highway. She now has our sunroom as her very own room and a 5 acre yard to play in.) Based on her coloration, confirmation, and temperament, we believe Zorra to be a black lab/smooth fox terrier mix. Her hobbies include finding trash we didn’t even know we had in the yard and bringing it up to the house, chasing cats, and barking at the cows, horses, and donkeys in the field next door. She loves fetching a ball more than anything. She’s about 6 months old.

Fifthly, I finally started that garden that I wanted to do X number of years ago (and had given up as a pipe dream). All of our stuff is looking good and we’re just waiting for our first tomato to ripen. Biting the bullet and actually doing the work necessary to have even a small garden was hard, but now that we’re over that hump, I don’t think it will be so hard to get started in future years. Even though we haven’t harvested anything yet, we’re really into watching our herbs and plants grow. I mean, I’m counting blooms daily just to see where we stand. I think once we start eating what we’ve grown, we’ll be well and truly hooked. I already have plans for expansion next year! (Not to mention we want to start planting fruit and nut trees this fall.) Up next: chickens!

So, now that we have our own place, we can settle down and start working on long-term and outdoor projects. It’s a lot going on, but it’s a lot to share, too.

New Flames Proof is Here!

I just got the proof copy of my book in the mail! (Ordered it on July 26, so 9 days to print and deliver.)

Initial impressions: CreateSpace warned me that part of my cover picture was less than 200 DPI and that can cause it to be a little blurry. I think it’s the painting part (the two figures). Not sure if it bothers me enough, though, to try and find a higher resolution image (if one even exists) and go through the background erasing part again.
Cover (New)
Secondly, I think I need a little more blank space around the edges of the back cover. (It looks like plenty in this image, but this image contains bleed. The cutting lines actually trim off about half the blank space around the back edges.)

Thirdly, I opted for cream-colored pages this time and I already like them much better! White is very stark–almost glaring. If you look at the vast majority of novels (and most other non-picture books), the pages are cream, not white. It’s definitely easier on the eyes and I recommend it.

One major problem I have right now is that I can’t get in contact with the guy who owns the rights to the pseudo-Hebrew script that I use on the cover and inside the book. I’ve contacted him via email twice and using a form on his website, but have gotten no response. I noticed that he hasn’t updated his website in a few years, so it’s likely that he’s given up his hobby making scripts. But I was still hoping I could buy a license from him for this one. If I don’t hear from him soon, I’ll have to switch to a different font. I’ve found a few options (although I don’t like any of them quite as well as I like the Sefer AH).

Jerusalem

 

This Jerusalem font and is probably the closest thing to the one I have. The drawback is that it’s only free for personal use, so I could run into the same problem of I can’t get in contact with the owner to buy a license.

sholom.regular

This is the next closest font. It’s blockier, though, and I think it looks more like a fun-novelty font. And this is a romance book where lots of people die in horrible ways. (What, you expected me to not kill off a bunch of people in one of my books?) I just fear this is a little too cutesy for the subject matter. But, on the plus side, it’s free for commercial use, so I don’t have to buy a license at all.

MyFonts Option

 

Then we have this one, Faux Hebrew. I think I like it better than the previous one. It’s $24.00 for a license, which makes it twice as expensive as the one I’ve been trying to buy.

kohelet.regular

 

 

Then there’s this one. It’s the least Hebrew-like font, but it has a certain flame-ness to it. It is also free for commercial use.

How Does This Thing Work? Do I Remember?

chattanooga

Chattanooga: The Scenic City

Hey, look, it’s a blog! Someone just left it sitting here idle….

So, finally, some good news on the personal front. For those of you who don’t remember what happened nine months ago, when the radio went silent here on… whatever I call this blog… Kinky Vampires Sniffing Potpourri, or something like that–I got a new job at my old company, which entailed a move to Chattanooga. Except that we had a house 140 miles away that we needed to get rid of, and the only way we could afford rent in one town and pay a mortgage in the other was if I had a small studio apartment that wasn’t big enough for two people. So my husband stayed at home and worked on packing, cleaning up, and making repairs, and I had the fun task of working all week, then driving the 140 miles home on the weekend to pack, clean, and make repairs. Every weekend. For nine months.

Except, partway through, I: 1) got a small promotion and my own office (yessss!); 2) the husband got a temp job in Chattanooga (that we’re hoping will become permanent); 3) since we couldn’t both fit into my studio, we got a nice house (we moved upstairs from the basement where I was living, actually; it worked out great); and 4) we SOLD THE HOUSE THIS WEEKEND!

So, hopefully, the closing will go through in 30-45 days, we will make one more run to Eagleville to empty our barn-garage, and then we’ll have our weekends back! (And, if we ever finish unpacking, we’ll have our evenings back, too!)

Okay, so now it’s confession time. You may think that with all this packing and commuting and general crazy-don’t-have-a-life situation that I haven’t had time to write. Well, I have been writing… fan fiction, of all things.

Oh, it started innocently enough. I was vegging out, playing some Legend of Zelda, when I thought to myself, this game is telling a story. And, frankly, it could be better; they’re a bit hazy on the back story–to the point that parts don’t quite make sense… like you’re missing a bit of information.

And I thought to myself, “Pfft, I could write a story for a game.” So, that’s what I set out to do.

I must admit, the project has gotten a lot bigger than I originally intended (isn’t that always the case?), but it does have an end, and I’ll eventually reach it. LOZ_CircleofDestiny2.jpg

I’ve learned some things along the way that have made the effort worthwhile. One, I had to plot the story in advance. For a story like this (any quest-type story, actually), you have to know where you’re going in advance so that you can put the people/weapons/magic thingamabobs in place before your character(s) need them. As you may remember from earlier confessions, I’m a pantser; I rarely have anything more than a vague idea for a plot in my head when I begin to write; I make it up as I go. So plotting each. and. every. chapter. in. advance. was a unique experience for me. At first, I didn’t like it, because I felt like it was stifling my creativity; I didn’t like having to stick to a script. But, eventually, I figured out that, while I really can’t take away chapters, I can add them. So, if I want to get off on a tangent, I can, so long as it fits between the chapters I’ve already written and the ones that I must write. (This is why it’s gotten a bit long; I got a little crazy with going off script.)

I think I’m going to apply this new-found knowledge of pre-plotting to The Bloodsuckers, since pantsing a serial novel is pretty damn hard. I think it would be easier on me to meet regular publishing deadlines if I took the time to sit down and plot my chapters in advance, and then write them. If I get a brilliant idea along the way, then I can just insert an extra chapter.

The other thing I learned is that I write relationships. Whatever the action or mystery, at the heart of any story I write, there must be people having at least some sort of relationship. I think this is why my idea for a dystopian novel has floundered. I think it’s a good idea, but it just doesn’t want to write. And I think that’s because the main character is alone and he stays alone (aside from a brief relationship). Dialogue has always been my strong suit and I just can’t do dialogue with only one person (or with people who don’t readily communicate with one another.)

I think the other thing I’ve learned is that you can really get your ego stoked publishing fan fiction. I’ve only had one bad review out of 229 (and that was someone who was complaining that Link was too much of a goody two-shoes. I can’t help that; I didn’t invent him; he’s always noble and self-sacrificing in the games) and I’ve had over 53,000 reads, which is a median count of about 500 reads per chapter. That’ll make any author feel better about themselves. (Which is good, because I’m not exactly racking up huge sales figures for my published stuff.)

Speaking of published stuff…. Now that I’m soon to have time again, I’m going to try to salvage my publishing schedule for The Flames of Prague and, hopefully, get it published by the end of this year. I’ve read through it and have marked up the printed copy with my first round of grammatical edits (it’s already had a major structural edit). I just need to make those changes to the electronic file, then print another copy and do another grammatical edit (or three).

I read somewhere that if you have to proofread your own stuff (which, of course, is never a good idea, but when I looked at the price of professional proofreaders, it was going to be $1,000+ for Acceptance; I’m a long way away from affording that), you should start at the back of the book and read forward. If you read from front to back, you get caught up in the story and your eyes read faster and skip more; they will naturally fill in what’s missing. But, if you read from back to front, that doesn’t happen nearly so much and you can take it one sentence at a time.

But, let’s not talk about proofing, because that’s boring and everyone hates to do it. Let’s talk book covers. Yes, you know I’m a Photoshop junkie who can’t leave well enough alone. This weekend, I got a wild hair and started to play around with Photoshop (it had been so long since I used it, too, I had almost forgotten how).

This is my original idea for Flames, which I was never quite happy with:

Final-Cover-for-WebI mean, I liked the back and the layout, but I just wasn’t digging the front cover. It looked a little too ‘shopped. And, despite the fact that it’s a legitimate, Pre-Raphaelite piece of art, I thought that the naked woman was a little risque. Yes, it’s a romance novel, but it’s not erotica, for God’s sake.

So, here’s the alternative that I came up with, which I already like much better:

Cover-(Alternate)You can see that I left the formatting pretty much the same, but I went with a different type of flame and a very different picture (although still a Pre-Raphaelite piece; I can’t help it; they did a lot of romantic medieval pieces).

What do you think? Better than the first one? And yes, it’s supposed to look like they’re being burned at the stake. That’s in keeping with the threat they’re facing.

The only thing it doesn’t have going for it is any hint of a city, but, actually, Jakub and Alzbeta not only meet in the woods, but they flee to them, too, while the city is on fire.

14th Century Transitional Cardboard Plate Armor

So, we’re still working on moving. My free time to write pretty much consists of my lunch break at work. I never knew how long it took me to write something–even when I’m writing at a good, continuous pace. An hour flies by (why doesn’t it fly that fast when I’m doing work for other people?) and I end up only having a page or two done and three million things I still want to write.

I’ve finished editing The Flames of Prague a second time, but all of my notes are written in my proof copy; I still have to actually go through the Word doc and make the edits. That’s a total pain. I don’t anticipate even starting that until we have finished our move, which is probably not going to be until sometime in March.

I’m also working on a contemporary romance novella that’s going very well. In fact, it’s starting to get rather long. It may turn into a short romance novel (those thin Harlequins that come out at a rate of like 5 per month are only about 55,000 words). If I could sum it up in a sentence it would be: short, nerdy guy gets out of the friendzone with hot former Miss South Carolina. Yeah… that about sums it up.

But even though I haven’t been getting much writing done lately, I have been getting active in my local SCA group (I joined this same group nearly 11 years ago when I first got in the SCA, so it’s a homecoming for me.) I am now our shire’s chronicler and producer extraordinaire of our newsletter. (Of course it’s fabulous.)

A few meetings ago, someone mentioned that when she was growing up, her father was in the military and they moved about every 2 years. They never had much money or a lot of stuff (who would want to move it???), but they did have lots of boxes and packing supplies. So she and her siblings made cardboard armor and built castles from boxes.

My armor is going to be way better than this.

My armor is going to be way better than this. Also, I’m not a virgin. That may have some bearing on my armor quality–I don’t know.

And, as these things happen, someone came up with the wild idea that we, too, should make cardboard armor and have a fight at our shire’s Twelfth Night Christmas Party. Just for shits and giggles. The rules for the armor are simple: it has to be made out of packing supplies and/or children’s craft items. (We’re still working on the rules of combat. I’m thinking we need a pas d’arms, which is counted blows.)

Having a sense of humor (because my dad’s a professional comedian), and being an apprentice (which means I must compulsively make things), I got down with that idea. Thus, the great cardboard armor project has begun!

I don’t currently have a camera, but pictures will definitely be forthcoming, rest assured.

As I mentioned, I am an apprentice. And not just any apprentice. I belong to Mistress Ashley of House Ashley. And that means quality. I would lose my apprentice’s belt if I didn’t make my cardboard armor way, way over the top. Not only that, but my husband is a knight, so I also belong to his household, and our motto is (unofficially): the fourteenth century is the one true century. (The official motto is: sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc.)

What this translates into is a harness of 14th century transitional plate armor made as accurately as possible from cardboard, duct tape, twine, wrapping paper, and bubble wrap.

combat-bascinet-with-side-pivots

More or less the helmet I made… if you made this helmet from a box.

I just finished my bascinet tonight. Do you know how hard it is to get a box to bend into a sugarloaf shape? While my helmet does still have the occasional angle when it should have a curved surface, it does have a functional flat-faced klappvisor and a bubblewrap aventail, so that totally makes up for it. (It is also padded with bubblewrap. Safety first, kiddies!)

I also made myself a maile shirt from bubblewrap. Next up: a Wisby Type 1 coat of plates. I will be introducing a new element into my repertoire: brown craft paper.

 

Fireworks and “Flames of Prague”

Argh. The last several days have been very frustrating.

Kimball

Ah, the old Tennessee Alabama fireworks stand in my hometown, Kimball. It’s still there, but they got cheap and redid their sign sans neon. It’s just not the same.

I did have a pretty decent Fourth of July weekend, although it rained the entire time. We had to miss out on a cookout with friends and the fabled fireworks displays in Marion County, the fireworks capital of the United States. (No, seriously. There are no less than 6 permanent, year-round fireworks stores in the county. I went to elementary school next to a fireworks manufacturing facility. When we were safely ensconced inside the building, they closed off the street with gates and shot off experimental pieces in the road.)*

What has me really frustrated (and silent on my blog for the past week) is the proof copy of The Flames of Prague.

I uploaded my file and cover, but the file was rejected for having too many consecutive blank pages in it.

I thought that was bizarre, considering I didn’t put more than one blank page between sections. But, after dredging up year-old memories about this process, and looking at the actual .pdf file (as opposed to the Word file), I remembered that, for some bizarre reason, extra blank pages get inserted into the .pdf file when it gets converted from Word. I have yet to figure out why this happens—although I spent the better part of a day trying to figure it out last year. The easiest, fastest thing to do is to convert the file, open up the .pdf, and then manually delete the extra pages. It’s still a pain in the ass—because you have to do it every time you make a change to the text—but it works.

The only problem is that I no longer have access to a full version of Adobe. Where I used to work had a copy, so it was no trick to just delete the pages. But Adobe Reader and Foxit Reader neither one let you delete pages. A full version of Adobe Acrobat is $140; Foxit is $90. I hate to pay that for a program I need to use three or four times a year to do this one thing.

I downloaded a free trial 30-day version of Foxit yesterday, installed it, and fixed my file problem. Now I’m ready to try uploading my book again. (All this work and it’s just the proof copy. I still have to let my beta readers read it and do all my proofing.)

I did hit on a good idea yesterday, though. My former boss is trying to close up her law practice. I’m going to go work for her Sunday, and I’m going to ask her if I can buy her copy of Adobe Acrobat, since she doesn’t have a need for it anymore. (In fact, I’m going to make an offer on the office computer, since I know it’s newer than mine. Mine belonged to my husband before it was mine, and he bought his new computer back when times were still good—no less than 5 years ago. So my current computer is probably 7-9 years old.)

So, note to people who want to publish their books on CreateSpace: you need to get a full copy of either Adobe or Foxit Reader because you’re going to need the ability to edit a .pdf file. Start looking for an older, used copy now, before you actually need it. (Having to hunt for one has put me a week behind.)

The other thing I learned from this experience: make a CreateSpace to-do list (I wisely made one for Smashwords/Kindle, but not for the print portion of this enterprise). A lot of the problems I had with formatting and uploading both the text and the cover were problems I had last year when I did the same thing. In other words, I had to reinvent the wheel. You can be sure, though, that I wrote a checklist this time.

Non-Sequiter

An updated Gadsden flag for our times.

944181_550595001665505_651250922_n

I think “they” know I’m trying to post this picture. Suddenly I can’t connect to Google anymore. I had to use Bing. And we all know that’s the first step towards a Communist takeover.

*You may ask yourself: what happens if a fireworks store catches fire? Well, it gives the volunteer firefighters all the way into Alabama something to do, I can tell you that.

Someone drove through the front of one fireworks store in Jasper and caught it on fire. But, other than melting the siding and roof off one end of the Western Sizzlin’ next door, it didn’t do any serious damage to anything but itself; it was eventually rebuilt. One building of the fireworks factory blew up one night, but it didn’t do any major damage to any of the other buildings or the surrounding homes or school (it may have blown out some windows, but that was it). It, too, was eventually rebuilt. And I seem to recall that the Stateline fireworks store burned down when I was very little. I think it rocked the neighborhood, but nothing more.

All in all, it’s better to live near a fireworks store than a fertilizer plant.

Front-Cover-v3-For-WebI suppose you should take it as a good sign when I fall silent for a week. I’ve been getting some good edits done on Flames of Prague. In fact, I only have four more chapters to edit (and I think I’m going to add one more; it moves a little too fast at the end), plus update my notes/bibliography. (I’m determined to have the most extensive notes section ever found in a historic fiction novel.)

My goal is to finish my edits and format the entire thing for print by the end of June. Then I can have a proof copy printed and get it to my beta readers (i.e. my husband and my friend, Carla). While they’re reading it, I’m going to proofread Acceptance yet again. (I think this will make my eleventh… or maybe it’s thirteenth… time reading it front-to-back for the purposes of editing.) I want to put out a revised edition of it sometime this year, complete with the new cover.

Acceptance Cover (Front only)I’m hoping to have comments back from my beta readers no later than the end of July, giving me August to make adjustments based on comments and September to proofread. October should be for formatting, leaving me publishing it in November, as originally planned. And, if I hadn’t finished it already, I can do the last proof of Acceptance in December and re-release it.

I have a plan!

In the meantime, if you’re still struggling with completing your novel (trust me, it gets easier the more you do it!), have a look at Tear Down the Wall: 6 Tips to Help You Finish Your Novel.