25 July 2014

Win a Copy of Scrivener

Here's a deal I had to share with all the writers reading my blog...

Out:Think Group is giving away a copy of Scrivener to five lucky winners. Scrivener, in case you haven't heard of it, is the bomb-dot-com when it comes to writing. Novels, technical works, short stories, memoirs, blogging—you name it, Scrivener can handle it. Beautifully.

Written by writers for writers, available for Mac, Windows, and Linux, I've waxed poetic about it before here, and a little bit (down toward the bottom of the post) here. The more I use Scrivener, the more I like love it. It organizes, helps outlining and/or storyboarding (or not!), formats manuscripts for things like e-book publishing or print books, helps you keep track of things with labels and tags, has a search feature too fantastic for one sentence, and cartwheel-inducing revision abilities. It slices! it dices!

Okay, not really, but it certainly makes slicing and dicing—er, editing—easier. I mean, how brilliant is dragging-and-dropping entire scenes? Can your fancy-schmancy text editor do that? And can it keep copies of web pages for research? Pictures? Video?

Yeah, baby, that's what I'm talkin' about.

Don't believe me? Check it out right here: Scrivener at Literature and Latte.

And then dash over to Out:Think to jump in on the Scrivener Giveaway. The contest ends July 30, 07:00PM AMT, and prizes will be awarded August 04, 07:00PM AMT.

Literature and Latte also have an excellent collection of video tutorials in addition to a walk-through included with the application and an extensive forum that includes help for Scrivener and other Lit-and-Lat applications.

If that's not enough for you, please be sure to visit these websites:

And don't forget to check out Tim Grahl's marvelous Out:Think website too! Tim Grahl has helped thousands of writers build a successful writing career. "Are you ready to thrive as an author?"

18 July 2014

Follow Me to AR Silverberry's Digs!

Author AR Silverberry is interviewing me over on his blog as part of a series to introduce the authors of the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. Here’s an excerpt:

How do you approach crafting a novel? 
I sneak up on it and tackle it when it’s not looking! 
Actually, each of my novels has started with an idea—a scene, a character, a “what if.” I jot it down, let it burble around in the caverns of my imagination for a while, then add a little more. I tend to gravitate toward characters more than anything as a starting point, and fleshing them out is a great way for me to develop the setting and the plot.
Keep reading! 

04 July 2014

The Freedom Conundrum

"The Freedom Conundrum..." Sounds like it could be the title of an exciting thriller, doesn't it? (Must add it to my list of ideas!) It's the first Friday of the month—and Independence Day, to boot! What better day for A Drift of Quills to talk about what freedom means to us individually and how the topic figures (or not!) in our novels? It's not all about baseball and apple pie, though. Joining us today is guest poster, author Raymond Bolton. Please give him a warm welcome!

Author of Awakening: The Ydron Saga Vol. 1
Raymond's Website

Freedom is a difficult concept to wrap one's mind around. It doesn't refer to things one is permitted to do. The possibility that permission can be revoked implies constraint, and constraint implies license. One who is licensed is on a tether and tethers can be yanked, or tied to something. On the other hand, lack of all constraints whatsoever leaves open the possibility of trampling on the rights or freedom of others, and such acts lead to consequences. Consequences, of course, are tethers. So are laws. And since we live within a society, and society is governed by laws, it begs the question how can anyone be truly free?

I think Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn began to approach the essence of it when he stated, "Someone that you have deprived of everything is no longer in your power. He is once again entirely free." True freedom, then, is somehow tied to desire or ambition, because ambitions and desires are also constraints. In fact, all of the major philosophies and religions teach us to shun all things worldly, for isn't the attainment of paradise—however you perceive it—the ability to walk forward into the world without constraint and without fear? In fact, fear is the ultimate constraint. It is that which prevents us from acting. It stems from desires and is that which binds us most.

In my debut novel, Awakening, Prince Regilius awakens to a nightmare. His head is filled with visions of murder and carnage and attempts are made upon his life. As the world he thought he knew unravels before his eyes, he learns what is happening is not accidental. These visions are the result of blossoming talents. He has been engineered by an alien race to combat the Dalthin, a predatory alien species that enslaves worlds telepathically, and as his mind begins to open, he finds himself exposed to the predators.

Furthermore, by himself he is powerless to avert the impending holocaust. He has only been designed to perceive the Dalthins' presence, not engage them. In order to avert the threat, he must unite his people. It is then, when his mother murders his father, that the land descends into chaos and his task may prove impossible. Faced with slaying the one who gave him life in order to protect his world, Regilius seeks a better way. Eventually, it is only by freeing himself of both his fears and his ambitions, that he will stand any chance at all of succeeding.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Author of As the Crow Flies and two short stories
My website (You can use this link or the menu at the top—whatever sizzles your steak!)

Freedom...  As tough to grab onto as a cloud, but weighty as the earth itself. As Raymond pointed out, it's a difficult concept to pin down.

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." (Nelson Mandela)

Right away we see that freedom does not, cannot, exist by itself. With it comes responsibility. While an individual is free to make his or her own choices—that freedom is ours inherently—those choices birth results. Consequences. Amazingly, we have the freedom of reaction, no matter what the situation.

“Freedom is what we do with what is done to us.” (Jean-Paul Sartre)

In my book, As the Crow Flies, the fiercely independent Crow has his physical freedom taken away, and when it is restored, it is conditional. His world, as he sees it, is set off its course. He is determined to right it. He wants to fly again, unfettered, unrestrained.

However, the task is not something he can do on his own, (much to his dismay). Those who accompany Crow on his journey suffer their own lack of liberty in one form or another—the consequences of choices made by others. In seeking his freedom, Crow learns that the path is not linear. The precious freedom he treasures is far less tangible than he imagined, and costs in ways he never expected—ways that few of us take the time to consider and appreciate.

I am grateful for this time I have to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made on my account, whether by statesmen and soldiers, my parents, or my friends. Grateful, too, for the reminder to take stock of the ways in which I preserve the freedoms I've been given and respect those of other people. 

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Author of the short story, Sanguis Dei and a poetry collection, Light and Dark
Kristie's Blog 

I love the 4th of July. Not just because of the BBQs or the fireworks. In fact, my dog hates the fireworks, and runs to me for comfort. Her fear is a reasonable thing and though she doesn't understand, she points to one of the reasons we send those rockets skyward. The colorful explosions inspire us and are a visceral reminder of the noise and smoke of battle. We oooh and ahhh, but the cannon-loud "duds" that made me cover my ears as a child, while designed to be beautiful, also make me soberly recall those who have gone before.

Thankfully, because of men like my father and uncles and my oldest brother (and probably yours, too) most of us will never know these fears up close. The honorable men who journey to foreign soil to hold tyranny at bay go to protect their families and their homes and something we can't see or touch. I don't know what it was like for them to be under the guns, on the shores, in the trenches though I have heard tales both frightening and humorous. My keenest imaginings are merely a shadow of what occurred there. How then can I be so touched, so moved by celebrations across the nation? The practical application of the sacrifice of these good men is that I am free. Free to write, to speak and to dream up whatever mayhem I can conjure. What they put on the line for freedom, their very lives, I see as the ultimate expression of love.

"No greater love has any man than this--that he will lay down his life for his friends." Sounds like sacrifice, but that is precisely the point. It is the deepest sort of freedom to let go of fear and do what is right because it is right. This truth shapes my life. It intricately shapes the characters I create. My heroes fight to preserve freedom and they struggle against oppression. They do it because I have seen it in action. We are in this world together and we must stand up for those that are not strong enough to do so for themselves. That is the hero's call. 

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Author of Oathtaker

Patricia's website

As today is July 4, it is appropriate to give thought to the concept of freedom. What is it? What does it mean to me? How does it play into my fantasy novel, Oathtaker?

Dictionary.com defines freedom in several ways including “exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc.” and “the power to determine action without restraint.”  

Often you will hear children say that they want to be grown-up so that they may do as they please. It seems a common misnomer—that adults get to do what they want. The truth, I think, is that parents restrain their children so that their children will learn what it is like to live within certain restraints when they are adults. We all are subject to external controls—on a constant basis, from the speed at which we may drive, to—well, you get the picture. But outside of those restraints, which we as a society have determined are appropriate through those who govern us (whether or not we like who won the vote), we do have the power to determine our actions. What we all too often forget is that on the other side of our freedom is our responsibility not to impinge upon the freedom of others. 

The history of the world is a story of people seeking to be, fighting to be, free. Each person, every age of a nation or people, plays the battle out anew on the world’s stage. Oddly enough, however, even as we try to live free of the restraints of others, we all too often try to restrain others. We do not want our parents to tell us what to do, but we might well like to steer our parents toward doing what we would like for them to do. Replace the word “parents” there with spouse, children, friends, employer, neighbors, government, and you will see what I mean. Now consider what is the cost of your freedom on others. In short, if you act in a manner that causes an expense to another (over which they have no control), then you are infringing upon their freedom.

The idea of “freedom” and the struggle to attain it is a key theme in Oathtaker. The story tells of a special sect of people, the Select, who have carried the words and ways regarding the value of life and freedom down through the ages and to all corners of the earth. The Oathtakers help to protect the Select because, as you might expect, there are those who seek to destroy them. As in real life, those who seek to destroy the Select do not do so because they want freedom for themselves. Rather, they act against the Select because they want to be in control—they do not want freedom for others

So, on this July 4, as I think on my gratitude for those who fought for the freedom of this nation and her people (my father, my son, and so many others), I will ponder on what freedom is and means to me. I will be introspective. I will ask myself what, if anything, I do that results in a cost to others over which they have no control. Just as I should be free, so too should my family members, friends, neighbors, and so on. Indeed, if we all gave a little more thought to the cost others pay for us, I daresay we would all be freer.
~   ~   ~   ~   ~

What does freedom mean to you?

What is your most important freedom?

Within the fantasy genre, what book and character(s) first comes to mind when you think of "freedom"?

02 July 2014

I'm a Semi-Finalist!

As the Crow Flies is a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review’s 2014 Kindle Book Awards,  Sci-Fi / Fantasy category!

How exciting! The Top-5 Finalists in each category will be announced in September 2014. Good thing I'm not in the habit of chewing my nails...

If you haven't got one yet, be sure to pick up a copy of As the Crow Flies at any of these retailers:  Amazon, SmashwordsBarnes & NobleKobo or iTunes

27 June 2014

Good, Clean Reading

This might come as a shock to you, but I love fantasy books (and movies!).

There was a time when I could pick any fantasy book off the shelf and not have to worry about over-the-top violence and gore, sex, and foul language. I miss those days...

All is not lost, though!
The Fantasy & Science-Fiction Network  (FSF Net) is dedicated to helping fans find the very best fantasy & sci-fi books for children and adults (both young and old) which do not exceed a PG-13 rating.
On the website you will find author profiles, reviews, interviews, and various articles of interest to the fantasy or science-fiction connoisseur. The group also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and (new!) Goodreads.

Be sure to go visit, like, follow, share, and participate!

I will be sharing more groups and sites like this in the future—stay tuned!

You can also pay a visit to my own list of Flinch-Free reading recommendations: Read these!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~
Have you got a go-to site for finding clean fantasy and sci-fi reads?

What are some of your favorite (clean) fantasy and sic-fi books?

24 June 2014

The Series That Snuck Up On Me, Guest Post by William Hahn

Ladies and Jellybeans, Wonderful Readers, much to my delight we have author William Hahn joining us to talk about how he tackles (tackled?) writing a series. William taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, which wonderfully supports his journey into the realm of fantasy. He has written, in fact, an entire compendium about the lands in his novels—which is amazing bonus material for his readers and inspirational for those of us who write. Be sure you read through to the end of the post for a chance to enter a giveaway!

Take it away, Will!

I’m very pleased to be invited to address Robin’s readers, and the topic could not be hotter. On the one hand, I’m a huge proponent of working tales into series for several reasons:

First and foremost, because—as indie authors and particularly using e-pub—we can shake off the chains of artificial constraints on length and form, which are often just echoes of the paper-pub model that does not serve us.
Also there seems no question that today’s mobile and tech-savvy readers like shorter forms. It’s not that their appetite for reading overall has gone down. But “bite-sized” reading is more enjoyable for them because reading time has also been chopped up. It’s more often the twenty minutes’ commute to work, and rarely two hours curled up by the fire with cocoa anymore. And a short e-book is all set to become a right-sized audiobook!
Shorter formats turn pricing pressure on e-books into an advantage. You can justify a lower price for your work, and the reader doesn’t need to risk as much to take a flier on you, especially at first. Win-win.

Having said all that… I’m probably the worst example of a series writer you’ll ever meet!

Part One: The Accidental Series
I write epic fantasy tales; guys like me look at a 40,000 word novella and say “nice first chapter; where’s the rest?” Once I decided to put my hand to describing The Lands of Hope, I cranked out an 85,000 word… thing, that I immediately recognized was not a full story. Not even one! It was instead the latter two-thirds of a full length novel, of which I had not envisioned the right starting place. Later on, I would finally locate that spot, and now The Plane of Dreams is a proper novel, tending towards long by other genre standards, but nothing special within epic fantasy at 114,000 words. In the process I realized it is in fact the middle book of a series; there’s a full-length novel behind it (name TBD) and another coming after it (entitled “The Test of Fire”). But that’s old school, LoTR thinking about a classic paperback trilogy—today, series are supposed to be SHORT! Patience.

Meantime, I had turned to another subject and out sprang Judgement’s Tale, my upcoming release. I wrote and polished it for about a year, and wound up with a 200,000 word “monsterpiece.” I know, “get to the series already.” Well, this is it! I polished and re-read the work, and wondered what to do with it. First I ran it out there on query to twoscore agents—gee, unknown author in the ice-cold epic fantasy genre with a bulging first manuscript, I still can’t understand why they passed. But I was still thinking “paper” and “representation” and “advance” and all kinds of other things I should have known from the start were the REAL fantasy! My mind moves slowly.

Part Two: A Series on Purpose
After a month of drowning my sorrows (which turns out is incredibly hard to do when you don’t drink alcohol), I discovered the indie/e-pub path and have been very happy since. But I knew the long form wasn’t going to fly well there either: something in me said to hold back. I turned to an idea I had for shorter tales, novellas in a real no-kidding series. The Ring and the Flag and Fencing Reputation, first two of four tales in the series Shards of Light, are on the web now. Each focuses on a different hero in the set of three who are at the center of the plot; I designed the first two tales so you can start with either one, they stand alone and come in at nice novella length (33 and 45 thousand words). The third tale, Perilous Embraces, is half-done at 35 thousand words and unquestionably the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to write. I want to keep momentum, try to build that slow burn as so many bloggers advise. Shards of Light is going to be a terrific tale but this third installment (well, honestly the heroine) is giving me a tough time right now. So, what to do…

Part Three: When I Wasn’t Looking
That’s when it hit me. Well actually, that’s when a good friend hit me, right on the forehead like those V-8 commercials. And virtually, with a pleasant email invitation but still—pow! Take Judgement’s Tale, the epic monsterpiece that no agent or publisher in their right mind—barring one—would touch, and break it up into a series! Oh sure, you guessed it all along, right. I was skeptical but intrigued, and looked over my manuscript. And sure enough, the chapter breaks I already had in the tale worked out really well—first installment a little shorter as you would want, the others getting a bit longer as the tale develops.

I worked out a release schedule with my publisher—oh hold on, tiny detail—
I signed a contract and everything. Two or three times a week I take it out, read it, see my signature at the bottom and just giggle like a schoolgirl.

So—contract terms, release schedule, cover art, editing service, and right now this very blog tour you’re reading. All part of the plan, thanks to the flexibility brought about by e-books, self-publishing and a jot of ingenuity. Truly, it is a marvelous time to be an author. The freedom to publish when I choose, in the length and form I want, has been more joy to me than I can describe. My most ambitious work is coming to the world starting July 4th, and by creating a series I make it hopefully easier for readers to take in, and gain a little time to continue working on my other material knowing my “slow burn” is set for the future.

Think seriously about series! The advantages of publishing your work in installments go far beyond the list I started out with. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, thumbs-up or down, when it works or not. I hope you will look into my upcoming series, beginning with Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance. Who knows, it could be the start of something for both of us.

Games of Chance

For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.

In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale.

Author William L. Hahn

Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will didn't always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judgement’s Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land’s most unique hero, The Man in Grey.

Rafflecopter of the Lands Contest

Enter to win free Tales of Hope here!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

13 June 2014

Charles David Carpenter & D.W. Jones New Release!

Somehow Posting Day has snuck up on me. I'm not sure where the rest of the week went, though I do recall slaaaaaving away (Just kidding, L.A.) to update the author index and profiles over at the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network, to which I belong. Actually, it was fun reading about the other members of the group and adding their books to my collection the list. The group is growing fast, and I get to work with some fantastic folks. Be sure to check them out!

And speaking of collecting more books to read, you might recall that I interviewed Charles David Carpenter and D.W. Jones back in February. Great guys. No, really.

And guess what? They've just released their second book in the Necromancers’ Pride series, entitled Tides of War!! Aaaaawsome!
Can Corwyn and Velladriana complete their quest? Will Crispin and Dolthaia escape the dangerous followers of Maars the Lector? What drove the Viper’s Legionnaire Reese to lands so far from his home? What schemes are the Weavers concocting? What darkness will the Necromancers unleash? What are the true extents of the Pride’s powers? 
You'll have to get a copy and find out!
Have you read any (other) good fantasy books lately? Share in the comments!