Archive for August, 2019


Guest Post : L. A. MacFadden

As promised, if a little late, here’s the guest post I mentioned back on Tuesday! Here’s L. A. MacFadden talking a little about what gets her interested in writing stories. Enjoy!

Myth Agent cover

Way back in the 1970’s I read Time and Again, by Jack Finney. I have a copy of it, but I haven’t ever read it again—it has stayed with me since that first time—as have a few other great books, such as  John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath—which changed the way I looked at the world when I read it in eighth grade. When I set out to write Myth Agent, I didn’t want to replicate any part of someone else’s book, but I did want to write something that would stay with some readers, like those books have with me.

I love to read old newspapers. The news stories of days gone by add to the history I have tucked away in my mind, but the advertisements in old papers from, say, 1850, always fire me up. Some flesh and blood person so long ago actually dipped their quill pen in an inkwell and wrote an ad for, let’s say, a room for rent. Then someone carried the advertisement to the newspaper office on foot, on horseback or some horse-drawn conveyance. And when the paper was printed and distributed, someone read it and made their way to the address in question to inquire about the room. Who was the person who wrote the ad? Why did they suddenly have a room to let? And who was the person answering the ad? What were their stories? It doesn’t take a lot to get my imagination working overtime.

I’ve spent plenty of time in antique shops and have hauled plenty of old merchandise home with me. I suppose it stands to reason, then, that part of Myth Agent is set in an antique shop owned by a woman named Odessa—the shop is called Odessa’s Quest. When I needed certain antiques in a few passages in the book I was able to refer to some of my own collection for details. It can’t get much handier than that! Another part of the book focuses on dreams; maybe because sometimes I wake up from sound sleep remembering very vivid story dreams. I guess Myth Agent combines two ideas—the writing advice I’ve read and been told so many times to ‘write what you know’—with my own advice to myself—’write what you don’t know but your brain just conjures up!’

People close to me are used to having me write things like the happy short stories I wrote for my children when they were young, or light-hearted romances ending in happily ever after. But the real reason I started writing the soft science fiction Myth Agent, is that I just wanted to shake things up! Now I’m working on the next book in the series, because I have to find out what happens next!

LA MacFadden author pic

About L.A. MacFadden

I was raised in small towns in Oregon, Washington, and Montana, and I am still a small town person at heart. I married my high school sweetheart in 1975, and after he got out of the Marines, we settled in western Oregon. We have two grown children, and two wonderful granddaughters. Being part of this family is very important to us.

Our home is out in the country, near the Columbia River Gorge. The wind here is frightful in the winters—sometimes it roars at eighty-plus mph for days. The fury of the wind causes boughs to grow only on one side of the evergreens! But the calm days here in this beautiful area make up for it. We live in a small house situated between forest and pasture, with a lovely view of Mt. Hood in the distance. When it’s quiet—no high winds—I’m in the perfect writing place. I’m not one of those people who can write in a crowded coffee shop—although I do frequent coffee house drive-throughs!

Myth Agent on Amazon and Goodreads!

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House Keeping 8/27/19

Still busy with classes and work, things haven’t quite evened out yet. But I think I’m going to do alright. Gotta practice a speech for class later this week, which is a bit nerve wracking, but doable.

There should definitely be a “Sunshine’s Journals” post on Thursday.

I’m working on a book review, but don’t know if I’ll be able to finish it for tomorrow. It’s an interesting book, well written and plotted. There’s just enough going on in it that it’s difficult to talk about without spoiling anything.

Friday’s going to be fun though. I’ve got a guest post for you all.

That’s about it for this one.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I feed on positive attention. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Either way, have a great rest of the week!

I’m more than a bit late on this one. I’ve been excited to talk about these though, they’re from a company that I had seen a few times on Kickstarter but never had the chance to back until this set. Little Dragon Corp is actually running another Kickstarter now, if you want to check it out. In any case, enjoy!

Bloodstone 3

This is a set of dice I was excited to back. Little Dragon Corp has run a number of Kickstarters in the past and the dice always look nice. The colors are always good. I just haven’t had the opportunity until the Hidden Gem Dice.

The color here is interesting. The set is meant to resemble bloodstone, which is dark green with flecks of red in it. The green is really pale, presumably to keep the dice transparent and let the red swirls show through. Which means that the red doesn’t stand out as much as it could, but it is still a really nice shade and it does still complement the red. The inking is well done, clear and clean and easy to read.

Bloodstone 2

As is pretty standard for acrylic dice, the Hidden Gem Dice feel nice in hand and roll well. There aren’t any bubbles in my set. I admit, I spent a while just spinning them around to look at them from different angles and play with them.

Bloodstone 1

My excitement for this set skews the score up somewhat. I really like this set and the overall theming for the rest of the Hidden Gem line. The dice feel nice. They look nice. And I find myself really wanting to roll up a dwarven character to play with them. So the Hidden Gem Bloodstone dice get a five out of five from me.

Guest Post Grant Price

Hi all, this is the first post in a while I’ve gotten to host that focuses in on the getting published side of things. I found it interesting and hope you all do too. Enjoy!

The new end is the new beginning

“Too bleak. Pass.” When I started querying agents for By the Feet of Men, my dystopian cli-fi novel, this was the response I received from three different people within the first week. Okay, I thought, it just wasn’t for them. No need to worry. But it wasn’t until the fourth agent emailed me with feedback after requesting the full manuscript that I realised: I was going to have to rewrite the ending. Because it was indeed too bleak. As the agent said, it gave the reader nothing to cling on to, offered them little reward after spending 300+ pages with the characters they had become invested in, and effectively stated that the world I’d created was entirely devoid of hope. I perhaps should have realised that this is not the kind of message—especially in this day and age—anybody wants to walk away with.

The problem was that I was done with the dystopian world I’d created. I was exhausted after having spent two years sketching and erasing and colouring and shading. I didn’t want to go back in there, especially after my definitive (and naïve) gesture of christening the file “Draft 6_final”. Yes, I could have ignored the advice and continued to query. I could’ve taken heart from the stories of writers like Heller, Plath or Vonnegut who ploughed on in the face of rejection and refused to bow to the pressure of rewrites. But once a professional who looks at hundreds of manuscripts a month has taken the time to point out exactly where the flaws are in your story, you’d have to be pretty confident or (more likely) foolish to keep going down that same road. Artistic vision is great and all, but it’s better when other people get to experience your vision, too.

In the end, I thanked the agent, hid myself away and, even though I never wanted to look at it again, reopened the manuscript. Perhaps most surprisingly for me, it didn’t actually take long for a natural conclusion to appear. By the time I was finished, I had ended up adding three new chapters. They were good. They worked. They held up under the weight of the rest of the novel. The next time I submitted it, I received the following feedback: “strong ending with potential for a sequel”. That feedback happened to come from my future publisher. I signed the contract a week later. My new ending signalled the beginning of my career as an actual novelist.

With this in mind, here are my four tips for rewriting the ending of your work-in-progress even though you’ve sworn you’re absolutely, positively done.

 

  1. Listen to the advice you were given.

I touched on this above already, but it bears repeating: never be so unrelenting in your quest for artistic purity that you don’t listen to the advice of those around you. There is a difference between believing in a message that you absolutely want to tell the world and a story with a flabby midsection that requires a nip and tuck. Try not to take it personally, either. If somebody has made the effort to give you feedback, they probably did it because they found something in there that they believe is worth salvaging. Save your indignance for when you sell the thing and then start getting advance reviews from people who take just one sentence to trash your novel. And your dreams. And your belief in the goodness of humanity.

 

  1. Find enough enthusiasm to get it done.

Yep, this one is easier said than done. Enthusiasm doesn’t come in a can (unlike energy, which does). If you’re looking at that icon on your desktop and dreading clicking on it, it’s worth taking the time to think about why you wanted to write the thing in the first place. What compelled you to spend months hammering at your keyboard? What was it that got you believing that it was a story people should read? Writing a novel is like any long-term relationship: sometimes you have to remember how things were at the start to fall in love with the object of your affection all over again. You’ll then be able to see how far you’ve come – and to understand that it would be a damn shame if you threw it all away now.

 

  1. Go somewhere completely different to write it.

This is linked to point number two in that if you need to kickstart the engine that gets your fingers dancing over the keyboard once more, a good idea is to leave your usual haunt and try tackling that rewrite somewhere entirely different. For me, it just so happened that I went to Thailand a week after I received the feedback from the agent. I ended up sitting in a glass studio in the middle of nowhere with no Internet and no distractions, and wrote those three new chapters in just over a week. All inertia was banished thanks to a simple change of scenery. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a different country altogether; it could just be a park or a coffee shop where the barista tells you to wait a few minutes before drinking your beverage so you can “really taste it”.

 

  1. Compromise, but not too much.

The last item on the list may be the most important. Yes, you should accept and listen to feedback, but ultimately your book is your baby and you (hopefully) know what’s best for it. In other words, these rewrites become a balancing act. On the one hand, you may have to compromise on your artistic vision a little bit; after all, there’s a reason your novel hasn’t been picked up yet, and a fresh pair of eyes is much more likely to spot a thread in the tapestry that’s the wrong shade of blue than you are using your colour-blind tunnel vision. On the other hand, not all feedback is equally valuable, and if the response calls for you to rip up half of your manuscript and forget the reason you were writing it in the first place, then it may be worth taking a step back and looking at what you can change for the better while retaining the soul of the piece. If, for example, somebody doesn’t think a character works and they outline exactly why they believe this and their reasoning rings true, then this is a good basis for a rewrite. If, on the other hand, somebody simply doesn’t like a character because of the way they speak or act, this isn’t necessarily an invitation for you to lobotomise that character or do away with them entirely. Ultimately, you’re the boss.

By the Feet of Men cover

Amazon Link

House Keeping 8/20/19

Classes started this past Friday. Still excited. Still terrified. But I’m on top of things now, so it’s just a matter of staying there.

Work is going pretty good too.

I’m at a good place for everything except getting things done here. And I’m working on that.

Speaking of, I’ve got a guest post coming up for you all tomorrow. It’s a good one, so I hope you all will enjoy it.

“Sunshine’s Journal” post should be up as usual. And I’m hoping I’ll have a book review done for next week. Same for dice reviews, I just didn’t get the one for yesterday finished in time.

That’s about it for this one. I’ve got a lot going on, but not a lot to talk about.

Standard stuff then. If you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Feedback is always good. If you really like what I’m doing, you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. If you don’t want to do that but are about dice, I’ve also got a Dice Envy referral link you can use. In any case have a great rest of the week!

38th of Spring, Year 256

It has been a most strange few days.

Chonck has remained upset about the name situation and continued to insist that he would slay the Eater of the Dead himself and claim his name. He kept circling back to Eater of the Eater.

I feel like that has likely changed.

The door to the Eater of the Dead’s lair felt like it was miles away from the rest of the Eebakuzi Goblin pit, behind a set of distinctly not Goblin made doors. Huge doors with Goblin skeletons piled up around the sides of it.

Chonck raged as soon as we got to them and slammed belly first into the room beyond.

The Eater of the Dead was an enormous spider, intelligent enough to communicate and big enough to make Chonck look small. The room was lit by strange blue lights that, as soon as Chonck hit the Eater of the Dead, rushed in to surround it. Like a protective spell of some sort. Azurei and Eclair’s spells seemed to have no effect until they began to use more advanced magics. Even with the elf having cast a spell to enhance everyone’s weapons, it seemed like physical attacks did little to it either.

But we beat it, some how, we beat it without losing anyone.

I am worried about what happened after though.

Chonck made good on his threat to make his name by eating the Eater of the Dead. As soon as it was dead, he ripped off one of its legs and tore into it. Then the lights that had surrounded it for the entire battle surrounded and flowed into him. The lights were spirits, the spirits of every being that the Eater of the Dead had consumed. It granted him what seems to be the knowledge of all those spirits and the Eater of the Dead itself.

He can count much better now and read and put ideas together better. He has an idea of what makes something contextually appropriate. But it left him badly shaken, sitting in a corner trying to process what was happening to him. I don’t know how this will effect him or how he interacts with the party going forward. It seems like the kind of thing that could break some one quite easily. Here’s hoping he comes out of it well.

The good news in all of this, we did find what I think was the weapon the Obcobra was talking about. When the spirits attached themselves to Chonck, the only thing left glowing was the Eater of the Dead’s fangs, which suggests they hold some power. We harvested those and its venom sacs. Once we get back to Caskfire I want to have one of the craftsdwarves put hilts on them. They should make fine daggers.

 

39th of Spring, Year 256

Even with Chonck in a bad way, we are making good time back to Caskfire.

I find myself thinking more and more about what the skeletons outside of the Eater of the Dead’s lair meant. They were worryingly clean, like something meant for display. While the Goblin corpses within its lair were still covered with bits of meat or even hair and armor in some cases.

It seems possible that this is where our friends in White Hall were getting the Goblin corpses they were sending after Rikke’s bandits. I don’t want to borrow trouble, certainly. But if we have cut their access to bodies it could result in any number of reactions. It might be worth keeping an eye on them for the next while.

House Keeping 8/13/19

So it turns out that starting a new job is not conducive to reading.

Who’d have thought?

No book review this week. I should still be fine for the “Sunshine’s Journal” post, it’s mostly written already, I’d just have to type it in here and get it ready to go live. Similar deal for next Monday’s dice review, I’ve got the dice I’m going to use for it and I’ve played with them a little. It’s just a matter of writing the review and gathering my resources for links and whatnot.

Speaking of dice, Dice Envy has a sale going at the moment. Just use the coupon code CRITHIT at checkout and it’ll get you 15% off your purchase. Makes for a great chance to pick up a set you’ve been looking at.

Beyond that, I’ve got classes starting Friday. Exciting and terrifying that. Just have to keep my grades up until end of term and I’ll have my associates degree. But also, I’m jumping back into work and classes and that frightens me more than a bit.

Nothing I can’t handle, I’m sure. I just have to keep reminding myself of that for awhile.

And that’s about it.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I feed on positive feedback. And of course if you really like what I’m doing here, or just empathize with the horrors of buying text books, you can also feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Either way, have a great rest of the week!

Right, so this is a set that I’ve been looking for for months. It’s one of the newer Chessex sets, readily available at your local game shop, I just didn’t have the luck of finding a set until a couple of weeks ago. So, really excited for this.

Borealis Maple Green Yellow 1

The big thing that had me interested in the Borealis Maple Green/Yellow was, of course, the combination of that bright warm green and the almost holographic sparkles that shade whole sides of the dice a sort of red gold. It’s just really pretty and it photographs well and I already sort of default to green or blue for dice colors when left to my own devices. Those are the eternal favorite colors.

Ninety percent of my thought process dealt with for this one, these are pretty standard Chessex dice. They feel nice in hand. The inking is evenly done, and the yellow contrasts enough with both the green and the sparkles to be easily read. They roll reliably randomly. And this set is clear, so you can see if there are bubbles that might throw off the rolls.

Borealis Maple Green Yellow 2

My d20 for this set actually has a bubble, which worried me a little but it seems to roll fine all the same. I’ll test it more later, but the bubble seems close enough to the middle of the dice for it to sill be randomized.

Honestly, if it weren’t for the bubble this set would be a five out of five just for how excited I was to find them. Also, again, how nice they look. Unfortunately, they did have that bubble, so they get a four out of five instead.

33rd of Spring, Year 256

I come down with a little case of being poisoned and variably conscious and as soon as we get back to Caskfire I’m ordered to rest until I can walk to the Inn and back without falling over. Not as if I needed it. Worked through worse more than once. More than twice even.

Not like making notes for an improved map, or even improving an existing map, would tire me out so badly the poison would take me and I would waste away.

But the elf made herself useful and figured out what the poison was. Some root the Goblins grind up.A paralytic of some sort, apparently. The elf also kept saying something about it being fun if it can be diluted enough. I question that, but between her and Eclair it seems likely to turn up again sooner than later.

Hopefully not in my morning beer.

Couple of issues with Conck since we got back. He has been determined as of late to grant himself an orcish last name. Neverminding that those are earned rather than given, the issue is that he wants to name himself after his favorite word and an orcish folk hero. He has dug his heels in on this one, is not willing to listen to the other party members when they say that his using profanity like that makes them uncomfortable.

Makes no sense to me why he would want to change from being a Stonecask, his mother raised him as one. Best I know the only other half orc he ever met was his brother.

At least for the moment we have him convinced not to use his favorite word again until he has earned his name. Which has him swearing to eat the Eater of the Dead. Or to fight it all on his own. I would be tempted to let him if there was not the worry of it killing him. Given that he has decided that I hate orcs, and that the elf is supporting him in his quest for his chosen last name, it seems like a good idea to keep an eye on Chonck.

Which leads to the Goblin Chonck claimed back at Yoyabo. It would seem that Leaky escaped sometime while I was recovering. Made it all the way from the Library to the forests without being noticed, despite leaving a trail the whole way. It could just be that Leaky paid good attention to what was going on when he was brought in, but it seems more likely that he had help. When given the chance, I want to ask Tusk about it. It seems like she should know something one way or the other.

No time to take care of that now though. Tomorrow we head out to the Goblin pit of Eebakuzi and the Eater of the Dead. I need to pack what I can and finish restocking before the morning.

House Keeping 8/6/19

So, there’s going to be more scheduling slips than usual in the coming weeks. Bad news for the blog, but good news for the me. I have a job again. And, better still, within the next couple of weeks I’ll be back in classes and on my way to finishing my Associates.

I am quietly and tremendously panicking about both of those things.

But my job is willing to work with my class schedule, so that’s one worry off my mind.

In light of that though, I’m going to try to keep up with things as they have been. The stress of getting all this set up has already resulted in a few slips, but they should be manageable. Planning on trying to get things scheduled for posting early in the day instead of writing them late at night. That just kind of seems like a good plan any way.

But, yeah, dice and book reviews are going to continue as they have been. The “Sunshine’s Journals” posts are kind of tied to when my game group meets, so those are always going to have the possibility of not happening. I will have one for this week and, depending on how I stretch it, one for next week. That’s all depending on how I write a minor time skip.

The book review for this week is likely to be late. Reading is one of the things that just sort of didn’t happen while I was worrying over suddenly having employment again and what all I would need to do to get into classes. So I’m about a third of the way through the book I was planning to review this week. Going to work on reading more of it tonight and tomorrow, but my best guess on when the review will land is going to be Friday or Saturday.

And that’s about it for this one.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. I feed on positive attention. And, of course, if you really like what I’m doing here you can feed my caffeine addiction and buy me a ko-fi. Depending on my work schedule that’s going to be going to literal coffee in the coming weeks. In either case, have a great rest of the week!