Battle…not so much

Weeeeelll, we lost. Rather pathetically, I might say, and I do, because I write too many prince characters and then I drop things like “rather pathetically” into everyday conversation.

Anyway.

The upside to losing is that you get to see an excerpt from Lightless! Head on over to Rhonda’s blog… or just keep reading.

Already Fulsa was halfway across the room, nerves coursing around his stomach while he unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it on a nearby chair. Immediately the room grew lighter, and desperate hope fired in his heart. Perhaps he was brightening after all. Perhaps his nightmare was finally over.

He slid a sheer coat across his shoulders and then studied his hands, but could discern no difference in their glow. Here in this secluded tower with only Phaios for company, he had no way to determine whether there had been any further dimming. Beside the lightless slave he always looked radiant, so bright he could almost forget what was happening, and then the empress would visit and he’d see just how quickly his dignity and worth were seeping out of his skin.

A last glance out the window while he clenched his fists and tried to calm his heartbeat. Another last glance toward Phaios, whose silent nod spoke more clearly than any words.

Then he knelt before the door and waited.

Aithra’s footsteps were mere tps on the polished stone, her presence announced instead by the brilliance which preceded her up the staircase, pressing away the shadows with proud disdain and careless ease.

“Your Majesty.”

Her gossamer coat rustled softly, scattering specks of light like jewels for the less fortunate. Even knowing how much of it was unnatural, he envied her splendor. To have so much to shed…

PS. I swear there are horses in this story. Here’s a close-up of Sona to tide you over:

sona

Battle… START!

It’s here! Sona from my story Lightless is facing Pat Flewwelling’s kelpie from The Boys from Witless Bay over on Rhonda Parrish’s blog!

battle

Want to read the opening paragraph of Lightless before the story’s released? Vote for Sona and if she wins this round, I’ll share it on the blog!

Meanwhile, stop by tomorrow, Thursday, and Friday for updates to this post as I roll a d20 each day to try and steal votes from Pat. Guess I should go open that box of dice and warm them up a bit. Or shall I wait and do my first-ever roll tomorrow?

Hmmm….

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Onward!

_________________

And now, we roll!

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Wore my lucky horse bracelet! It’s gotten me through everything from high school exams to my dissertation defense.

Drumroll, please….

Brrrrrrrrrrrr….. (it’s a drumroll, I swear):

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Not bad for its first-ever roll!

Day Two!

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Hm. Well that sucks.

Day Three!

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…which wouldn’t be bad at all if Pat hadn’t rolled a 16.

Battle Mode!

The Equus anthology launches in July, and you know what that means? Two and a half(ish) months of waiting for 19 awesomely horsey stories. And you know what that means? Well, obviously it means that in the meantime, we’re going to have a BATTLE ROYALE!

Beginning next week on May 2nd, horses from various stories in the anthology will be going up against each other in dramatic, action-packed, all-in-your-mind-because-we-don’t-have-an-animation-team showdowns. Each author has written a D&D-style stats sheet for his/her equine; editor Rhonda Parrish will post the stats on her blog, and YOU, the readers, get to vote on the winner!

To make things extra fun, each author will be rolling three d20s (one each on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) in order to steal votes from their opponent. Here are my brand new dice, purchased last year at GenCon and thus far untested in battle:

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How will they fare? You’ll have to stop by the blog to find out. *dramatic music*

My first battle is on May 9th, when a mare from my story “Lightless” will be going up against Pat Flewwelling’s horses (kelpies? pegasi? centaurs? who knows!) from “The Boys from Witless Bay.”

I can only hope the equines are as witless as the bay!

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Image via Pixabay

Stampede!

Hello, readers! I’m not sure there’s anyone here who doesn’t follow me on Twitter and hasn’t seen this news already, but just in case, I’m super excited to announce that my short story, Lightless, will appear this July in EQUUS, the next (and final) installment of Rhonda Parrish’s Magical Menageries anthology series.

equus

The anthology contains 19 horse-themed stories–what more could you want?

Okay, yes, 20 horse-themed stories would have been better, but they can only fit so many pages in the book.

From World Weaver Press’ TOC reveal:

“There’s always something magical about horses, isn’t there? Whether winged or at home in the water, mechanical or mythological, the equines that gallop through these pages span the fantasy spectrum. In one story a woman knits her way up to the stars and in another Loki’s descendant grapples with bizarre transformations while fighting for their life. A woman races on a unique horse to save herself from servitude, while a man rides a chariot through the stars to reclaim his self-worth. From steampunk-inspired stories and tales that brush up against horror to straight-up fantasy, one theme connects them all: freedom.”

Who wants to date a different character?

And we’re back! (What, no I’m not avoiding writing my novels! Why would you even suggest that?)

Anyway, after Alahir was featured, Navarion got jealous and–

Nav: I don’t recall claiming to be jea–

Hush.

date

Today’s Perfect Date is Crown Prince Navarion, also from Daystar. Say hello, Nav!

Nav: Hello! Very pleased to meet you.

(Alahir, are you taking notes?)

nav

1. What’s he look like? Eyes, hair, any tattoos or scars? What’s his style?

^ Like that. Nav’s known for his green eyes and beautiful smile, which he shares with pretty much everyone. As a prince, he’s very conscious of his appearance and presentation, and is likely to over-dress for your date. (But don’t worry–he won’t be bothered if you don’t do the same.)

2. What kind of music does he like? Food?

Navarion loves the esova, a shamisen-like instrument, though he doesn’t play it himself. (You’re probably better off not asking his 16-year-old brother Anorith to play for you unless you want surly teenage commentary on your date.)

Like Alahir, he loves spicy food, but anything’s good as long as it’s well made. Unlike Alahir, Nav LOVES coffee. If he could subsist on coffee, he would, so be advised: bringing him coffee beans might be the equivalent of a marriage proposal.

Nav: Phah, that’s ridiculous. Books are a marriage proposal, coffee beans are a dowry.

3. What’s his family like?

Navarion has a large family, which is unusual in his world. He has four younger siblings–twin sisters (21) and two brothers (16 and 10); one of his sisters is married and 4 months pregnant.

If you ever have dinner with them, his mother might throw food at you (it’s a sign she loves you) and his father might ignore you (it’s a sign you’re not a noble and therefore not worthy). He gets along with most of them very well, but maybe avoid asking about his father on your date? Unless you like rants.

Nav: I do not rant! *pause* …to anyone but Alahir.

4. Why would he be a great date?

He’s a prince. And the future emperor.

Nav: I like to think I have rather more to offer than simply my status and a role I’ve not yet attained.

He uses lots of adverbs and way more words than are necessary.

Nav: Why do I get the impression Alahir is writing this post?

All right, fine. He’s remarkably kind and sensitive, and has a strong sense of wonder–anything you have to say will be interesting to him, but if you’d rather just listen, he loves to talk and is a great storyteller. He’s also so well read that he can have an intelligent conversation on just about any topic.

(And he’s a prince, so he’ll pay for everything.)

5. Things he values.

Despite having everything handed to him, Navarion values hard work–he spent a lot of his childhood and teen years struggling academically, and appreciates the effort it takes to achieve something that doesn’t come easily. He also values fair play–everything from just laws administered properly to friends not putting you in a choke-hold when you least expect it.

Nav: Was that last part necessary?

6. What would he do for a first date?

If you like coffee, say so, and he’ll take you on a thorough tour of all the best coffee shops in Shovin, followed by a stop at a few confectioneries or bakeries to soak up all the caffeine. If you like books, he has a similar tour of every bookstore in the city ready to go–expect your date to last at least 3 days.

For a fancier and less public date, how about a gourmet dinner in the palace gardens beside the pond?

(Please note that dates with Navarion come with Scion supervision. The matchmaker will ensure that Alahir is not the assigned Scion so that your date is not full of heckling and snarky commentary.)

7. Looking for long-term relationship or just a quick date?

He’s looking for an empress, but don’t worry–it’s a fantasy novel. Commoners marry nobles all the time!

8. We’ve had our pros, what are the cons?

Navarion’s sensitivity means that he’s prone to bouts of self-doubt, and he may rely on you for emotional support fairly often. He’s easily frustrated by failure and loves praise and affirmation, but may disregard your praise if he’s too focused on his problems. Though very generous, he forgets that too much generosity may make others uncomfortable if they’re unable to reciprocate.

Also, he actually likes philosophy.

Nav: How is that a fault?

9. Flowers , chocolate, or promises he doesn’t intend to keep?

Chocolate and books, and maybe cuddles while you read the book together.

~

Want more date options? Check out Wendy, Katie, Olivia, and Jameson’s posts!

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Who wants to date a character?

Two posts in a week! I know, I’m setting really high standards for myself, but hey, speaking of high standards! My Twitter writing group is hosting a series of Valentine’s Day blog events, including the famous Date Auction. Because what good is writing male characters if we cannot swoon over them and invite you to do the same?

date

Today’s Perfect Date is Alahir Khiyamat, from my fantasy maybe-a-trilogy-who-knows Daystar. Say hi, Alahir!

Al: She bribed me with tea, that’s the only reason I’m here.

…..um, right.

al

Featuring Keith Longhorn as Alahir

1. What’s he look like? Eyes, hair, any tattoos or scars? What’s his style?

^ He looks mostly like that, but skinnier and with somewhat darker skin, and the yellowish eyes common to his people. Those into tattoos are in the right place! Alahir has an intricate black tattoo running up his left arm, a mark of his position as a Scion swordsman. Warning: don’t ask him about it unless you want to spend the entire date hunting for secret messages in the designs.

Al: They’re totally there!

Right.

As for style? Well, let’s just say that whatever you wear will be fine, because he won’t know the difference! (If you do want fashion advice, though, I refer you to Alahir’s best friend, Prince Navarion, who’s up for date auction here.)

2. What kind of music does he like? Food?

We’re going to skip the music half of this question and add it to the “worldbuilding aspects Kate hasn’t yet considered” Scrivener tab.

As for food, he’ll try anything once, and the spicier the better! Coffee shops are a no, though, unless they also sell tea–Alahir hates coffee with a passion.

3. What’s his family like?

Do you like Palasari politics? Debate? Look no further! Alahir’s parents are a walking opinionated Twitter feed. They’re also both academics, and while his father’s cheerful and open, his mother’s a bit uptight. Overall, not a great first date topic, though when he gets to know you better, he’ll probably share stories about his and his (now-deceased) twin sister’s antics growing up.

4. Why would he be a great date?

Alahir’s a spectacular listener and will be more than happy to let you do all the talking, but if you want his opinion, he’ll give it honestly, and probably lots of snarky commentary as well. He’s a highly trained swordsman and martial artist, so no need to fear creeps, thieves, or those rogue magic-users running around the city lately.

And, I mean, look at his hair. Who wouldn’t want to play with it??

5. Things he values.

Above all, Alahir values sincerity. He spends a lot of time guarding nobles and finds their posturing hilarious, so be yourself and he’ll appreciate it. He also values family and friendship highly, and forms close bonds with great care.

6. What would he do for a first date?

He might take you to the Rising festival, but overall he prefers quieter venues–a walk along the river or through the royal gardens (being the prince’s best friend comes with many perks). His preferred spot, though, would probably be the Golden Sun tea shop. Another warning: as with his tattoo, Alahir can talk about tea for hours.

Or are you a martial artist or swordfighter yourself? Because he’d love to show you the Harbor and compare notes over fighting styles.

Al: Best way to get to know someone is to spar with them!

*grin*

Al: ….not like that!

7. Looking for long-term relationship or just a quick date?

Just a quick date so he can get back to protecting (read: hanging out with) Navarion. But don’t let that dissuade you–the last time Alahir insisted he had no interest in someone, that someone became his best friend.

8. We’ve had our pros, what are the cons?

Like his parents, Alahir’s rather opinionated, and his honesty sometimes extends a bit too far. While friendly, he’s not forthcoming–he’ll answer your questions, but you probably won’t get a lot of additional details in the process. Keep trying–he can be very enthusiastic, you just have to find the right topics and go from there.

And he hates coffee.

Al: That’s a sign of my good judgment!

9. Flowers , chocolate, or promises he doesn’t intend to keep?

Al: Tea! Nothing says love like tea.

But I thought you weren’t looking for love.

Al: Coffee, then?

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Training Cats for Fun and Profit

Note: this story was originally submitted to Chicken Soup for the Soul. Given that it’s been two years since then and I’ve not heard back, I assume they don’t want it, so here’s a silly story for your rainy Tuesday!

cats

Or “I was eleven, please don’t call PETA on me”

You have to understand, I was about eleven years old at the time, and right then teaching my cat to do tricks seemed like the best idea ever.

Most people associate SeaWorld with marine life, but when my family visited, we also saw a show full of cats and dogs trained to weave their way through obstacle courses. Not only was it inspiring because all the animals had been rescued from shelters, it was just plain awesome, and hey, if they could do it at SeaWorld, surely I could do it, too, right? I had qualifications, after all, like being a cat owner, and dumb enough to try.

That was how poor Taffy found himself trapped in my parents’ bedroom, perched on their dresser while I tried to coax him into jumping from the dresser to the bed through a hoop. Why I chose that particular feat, I have no idea—perhaps there was a hula hoop handy in the garage. Certainly we were lacking in spare tires, evenly spaced rows of wooden posts, and all the other cool things they had at SeaWorld. Then again, if my first try was successful, I could always move on to bigger and more complex tricks in the future. Acquire some tires, build an obstacle course. The possibilities were endless.

It will surprise no one that Taffy wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about the whole thing. Sure, he’d jump from the dresser to the bed because that was the most direct route to freedom, but he wouldn’t go near the hoop. Nor would he jump on cue, probably because “cue” was this obnoxious hissing noise I kept making in order to encourage (let’s face it, frighten) him off the dresser. I would place him on top of it, gently tap his back legs, hiss at him—and eventually he would jump, sometimes to the bed, sometimes down to the floor. At that point he’d run straight for the door—which I’d closed in advance, of course. As every good cat trainer knows, it’s imperative to preemptively cut off all escape routes or risk a very short training session.

Pick up cat. Place on dresser. Hiss. Repeat. Really, it’s amazing all the hissing was coming from me.

My initial attempts producing somewhat less than satisfactory results, I moved to Plan B, a complex and highly sophisticated system consisting of two parts:

Part 1: Behavioral scientists and animal trainers call it positive reinforcement, but in my mind it was pretty much a cat-treat-shaped bribe. To my delight, I discovered that if I placed a treat on the bed, Taffy was much happier to jump—and then stay on the bed long enough for me to grab him before he ran for the door. Increased number of jumps + less reset time? Genius, thy name is eleven-year-old Kate.

Part 2: Hoop manipulation. Since Taffy remained reluctant to leap through that round thing I kept waving in his face, I started moving it as he jumped so that he had no choice but to go through it—except on those occasions when my split-second hoop-cat alignment was less than precise. (Sorry, Taffy.) Apparently I had depth perception problems in addition to high levels of stupidity and optimism.

Plan, check. Forward-through-the-hoop unto the breach!

Pick up cat. Place on dresser. Set treat on bed. Hiss. Frantically move hoop into position. Repeat.

Whether any actual training went on, I can’t say, but somehow I doubt it. My eleven-year-old self didn’t know that, though. By the end of what was at least half an hour and probably more, Taffy was regularly jumping from dresser to bed through the hoop, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Sure, he hadn’t quite got the hang of it yet, but it was a promising start, and I couldn’t wait to tell my parents that I’d started training Taffy to do tricks. Obstacle course, here we come!

And then a whole bag of cat treats hit Taffy’s stirred-up stomach all at once, and, well….

Perhaps it was time to train my little sisters to clean up cat barf instead.

~

taffy

Snippet Saturday — Threshold

Happy Saturday, everyone! We are celebrating the awesome fall weather by making seasoned-salted pumpkin seeds and pecan pumpkin cake, and drinking pumpkin spice lattes (well, my sister is — I’m a salted caramel mocha person). In case you need something to read while you sip your own PSL (or SCM, or CM, or YMCA…) have a snippet from my Sirens story, Threshold, where Navrin’s coming-of-age ceremony is about to go badly awry. (Heh heh heh. Er, that is, poor guy.)

(Apologies for the block-quote font — all those periods in the middle of sentences are actually commas.)

snipsat

Inata darted to join the group, nervous energy in every motion she made and five small cream-colored balls on her open palm. They each grabbed one, even Eisa, and began rolling them between their hands. It was their surest protection against the Between’s most sinister weapon. Against teeth and claws and venom they had armor and weapons and traps, but against the song, only wax.

When the substance was warm Navrin broke it in half and stuffed a piece inside each ear while fear and elation waged their usual war inside him. It was coming, the song, the song and the Between, and then his kill, his chance.

…….

In the muffled silence created by the wax he watched his father grab two enchanted swords–illegal, just like everything else they were doing this evening–and lead Eisa to a tall, ruined tower at the edge of their line of traps, the remains of an outpost long since abandoned. At its base he planted the weapons some ten feet apart, Eisa at their center, and a miniature shield sprang into place around her. She waved from within the silver dome and Navrin returned the gesture only to realize she was waving at Rokat.

Anger, jealousy, disappointment–

And then there was a crack like glass shattering against stone, so loud he could hear it through the wax, and a shadow beyond the sphere, massive and black.

His heart leapt and he brushed his hands against his knives again before reaching up and pretending to press the wax further into his ears. Instead he dislodged it just enough that he would be able to hear it when it happened….

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1K for 1K

Confession time! I don’t know how you writers do those 10K1Day things.

The most I’ve ever written in a day was about 5.5K, and that was during NaNo on Mid-Month Write-A-Thon Day. It felt GREAT, but I can’t imagine cranking out twice that many words in a day and preserving (what little remains of) my sanity.

Second confession time! I’m lazy.

I used to be better about working out, especially when I lived alone and there was no one around to hear my workout playlist (Kpop, basically. WOW, FANTASTIC BABY!). But lately, I’ve been doing a terrible job staying in shape.

Whew! *Wipes forehead* Feels good to get that off my chest.

 

Anyway. I saw a writer Tweeting about her 10K day recently and the thought occurred… why not try something that encourages both writing and activity? Instead of gluing myself to the couch for an entire Saturday and praying to the patron saint of prolific writing (Thomas Aquinas? Cicero?), why not put the marathon back in “writing marathon”?

And so, without further ado, I invite you all to the first ever

1kday

 

The idea is simple: an all-day writing marathon, but for every 1K you write, you walk or run (or skip or hop) 1K.*

That’s it!  The words get written, but your butt doesn’t go numb in the process, your waistline doesn’t expand from all those writing snacks you’re eating, and while you’re out walking, the ideas are flowing and the plot problems are solving themselves (or, you know, compounding…).

Sound interesting? Then please join me!

1K for 1K Day will take place Saturday, September 24th.

The Rules:

  • There’s no word goal, though you’re welcome to set yourself one. The idea is not so much to crank out as many words as possible, as to create a balance between writing and activity.
  • Write as much or as little as you like. Only have a few hours that day? That’s totally fine! Want to go from dawn till dusk? Also fine!
  • Take breaks whenever you want. Maybe you’re in the groove and you get all the way to 2K before you hit a breaking point–that’s okay, just walk 2k!
  • Check in! I’ll be tweeting using the #1Kfor1K hashtag and would love to see others there as well.
  • Check in again! Visit the 1K for 1K Google spreadsheet and grab a row! After all, we’re writers–we’re not happy unless we’re comparing ourselves to other writers, right?

 

9e2cv5z

 

And there you go! If you’re free that day and in need of some writing+exercise, please stop by!

 

*That’s .62 miles, but 1K for .62M Day didn’t have the same ring to it.

 

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A Quick and Dirty Guide to Writing Epic Secret Agent Characters

Does this sound familiar? The new Jason Bourne movie just came out. Some TV channel I don’t get because we only get 10 channels is playing all of the other Bourne movies to get you in the mood. You’re sitting on the couch with your  laptop in your lap (because you can totally write your novel and watch a movie at the same time) and the thought strikes: I want to write a secret agent novel! I want to be the next Richard Castle!

castle

…you’re right, he’s fictional. Okay, I want to be the next James Patterson!

So you close that file you’re working on and start a Brand New Scrivener Project (pause to take in that New Project scent–it’s your hard drive melting, by the way) and start thinking about your Hero. The guy or girl who’s gonna get all the cool gadgets, and drive the awesome Ducati, and shoot stuff with that gun he just pulled from, wait, where?

And then you realize you have no idea how to write a crime novel and know next to nothing about secret agents.

Now, you could do some research, but that takes time and effort when you could be deciding where and what your Hero’s tattoo is, and whether a Ducati’s too impractical when he probably needs a Porsche or maybe the new Ford GT.

AUGH IT’S SO AWESOME, I WAN–

…sorry, where were we? Oh yes!

The Quick and Dirty Guide to Creating Epic Secret Agent Characters

Ready? Grab your pens-that-are-actually-cool-gadgets-but-they-still-write and here we go!

  1. Is your hero’s first name either 1 or 2 syllables?
  2. Is his surname either 1 or 2 syllables?
  3. Does the total number of syllables equal 3?

If you answered yes to these questions, plan no further! You already have the perfect secret agent! Don’t believe me?

  • Ethan Hunt
  • Aaron Cross
  • Jason Bourne
  • Nick Fury
  • Jack Bauer
  • Jack Ryan
  • Jack Reacher (note to self: consider adding “Just name him Jack” as item 4)
  • Alex Cross
  • Maxwell Smart
  • George Smiley
  • Cody Banks
  • Cathy Gale
  • Emma Peel
  • Tara King
  • Penelope St. John-Orsini

…er, scratch that last one.

You’ll note that James Bond, perhaps the most famous secret agent of all, is not on this list. This is because Mr. Bond, being, as just mentioned, the most famous secret agent of all, does not have to conform to the rules set for mere mortals. Or maybe it’s because he drives an Aston Martin.

via astonmartin.com

This post may have just been an excuse to look at cars (via astonmartin.com)

And there you have it! Simply give your character a short, punchy name that’s easy to shout during fight scenes but also sounds good when his handler snaps at him in frustration, and you’re set!

So tell me–what are you going to name your secret agent?

 

This Quick and Dirty Guide brought to you by too much caffeine and cherry-picking the evidence to suit the needs of this very silly post. Carry on!

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