Battarack Keep.

It’s always amazing when I come across an image that makes me realize that some of the places in my head are actual places in the world. While browsing /r/castles, I discovered the wonder that is Lichtenstein Castle in Germany:

Not only is this a marvelous piece of architecture and scenery, but this is almost exactly what I had in mind for Battarack Keep, an iconic location to come into play in the fourth book of the main Aryneth series. Check out this link for some more amazing photographs one redditor took from an aerial perspective.

The following description contains SPOILERS for the Aryneth series, the first book of which is probably four years away from publication, so proceed only if you don’t mind being spoiled for a book you might be reading in about a decade from now, lol.

Battarack Keep was built on the edge of a cliff, looming over the mighty river that splits the land of Kyano into two parts, from which the elaborate system of rivers branches off to snake its way through the continent. The castle grounds slope into a private garden system, while the village is settled down below. The ancestral home of the Battarack family, it was overtaken by the Han family after the gods were seals from the world and the dynasties of the Second Asyentai had fallen. As per the prophecies, the Battaracks returned to the kingdom, pulling the Valley of the Swallow back into a time of prosperity under Locke Mandrake Battarack, and stayed in tact as a leading faction in the world well into the Age of Apocalypse. The height of the castle made it nearly impossible to overtake, a valuable asset in the war-torn Kyano.

I’ve had so many vivid thoughts of the Battarack children playing in the castle and on the sloping grounds of the mountaintop, of Locke peering out over the edge of the cliff in contemplation as he struggled with his quick rise from poverty to power, of Launce Battarack sneaking out from his high-towered prison to lead a revolution against the supposed tyranny of his father, so it’s incredibly awesome to have a visual reference for it, too. Lichtenstein Castle is the perfect Battarack Keep, and I just wanted to take a moment to share that with you all.

RoW80 Check-In: Insert Clever Title Here.

While things are a little more steady for me now, my life is still a little topsy-turvy. Herein lies the problem with living with three other people, all of us with very different lives. I can go four straight days without seeing the other two roommates…of course, those are the days I’m working long shifts. Then, I snag myself a weekend off, and it’s suddenly a full-house in the apartment, including the roommate we haven’t heard anything from in nearly a week and the other, s roommate’s girlfriend. ARRRGGHH. I thought of escaping to a coffee shop or something, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to focus. I just want to sit curled up in my usual spot in the living room and type away in peace and quiet, but, alas. It was not to be this week, as it wasn’t the week before that. But, as I realized, even when I feel like I haven’t been productive, I still somehow manage to get shit done and eke out some of my RoW80 goals.

Let’s have a look:

Goal One: Finish Madeline. Pfffttthhh. I think it’s the fact that I haven’t been able to keep up with my six-pages-a-day goal on this one that has me feeling like I’m in a funk. It may be a lofty goal, but it’s an important one. Six pages is what I need to do for NaNoWriMo, so I need to build my stamina. However, I’m not failing entirely. I’ve been getting through at least a page a day, but I’m way behind if I want to finish it by October 31st.

Goal Two: Short Stories. Here is where I’ve been doing much better. Granted, I’ve had three stories return with rejections, so all I had to do was edit them up and find somewhere new to send them, so this week alone, I’ve sent out three different stories to three different places. Now I don’t have a story to send out this week, which is okay by me. I’m working on finishing my gravedigger story soon to send that one out.

Goal Three: Reading. Nearly finished with Mommy, May I?. The end of Seeds of Time is dragging a little, but that should get there soon. The Alchemist’s Daughter has been getting most of my time. I’m really finding it just fascinating and I’m intrigued to see where McMahon is going with this one.

That’s pretty much it. I need to kick Madeline into gear a little bit more, but everything’s chugging along nicely. I mostly just wish that I could get to November already. I’m getting stoked to start Heartless. It’ll be a crazy ride.

How’s everyone else doing so far? I haven’t had a chance to check-in with my fellow RoWers lately, but I’m hoping to get that changed here soon, too.

Happy writing!

Islands in the Sky.

I know I just did an inspiration post not long ago, but I came across this image (on reddit, of course) and simply had to post it. It’s breathtaking. Taken by Shane Kalyn, it’s a stunning image of an island that appears to be floating in Tumuch Lake in northern British Columbia. When I look at it, my mind positively reels. What sort of place might this be? What sort of stories culd be woven from the idea of this lush but small floating island? Tales of the Castle in the Sky comes to mind, a place overgrown with nature and mystery and secrets.

The most wonderful thing about this photograph, besides the incredible potential inspiration, is the fact that this is an actual place on the actual Earth below our feet. It’s incredible how many truly beautiful things, things we think usually only fills fantasy worlds and epic movies, are actually all around us. Granted, this shot is the work of a good angle, the right lighting, and the perfect height, so it wouldn’t be the same unless you were in the same position, but it’s a moment of capturing a place just so, and it would surely hold a different kind of beauty were you to visit this island and enjoy the trees and the lake from a more personal, up-close perspective.

It’s such a beautiful image, I just had to share it, and brainstorm a little on what might be on this mysterious floating island. Is it a prison for some princess who has been wrong or upset the wrong person at the wrong time? Is it home to a powerful sorceress or a giant in the clouds like in “Jack and the Beanstalk?” Is it a palace for the gods, or a haven for the lucky? It sends my mind spinning, and I love the possibilities. What about you?

Weather the weather, whether or not.

Sun, sun! My kingdom for some sun!

It’s been a strange week for me so far, one I’m not entirely pleased with, but there’s little I can do about that. I’m not sure whether I can blame it on outside forces or if it’s a hiccup in my own drive and motivation, but I want to lean more towards the former. This entire week has been dull and rainy and overcast in Chicagoland, which is nice for a day or two since I love that kind of wet autumn weather, especially as the leaves are changing and falling and clinging to everything from sidewalks to cars, but I’m starting to crave a little bit of sunlight. Weather can influence our moods, and, for me, too much of this has stolen away the creativity I felt at the beginning of this gloomy spell and replaced it with lethargy and laziness. It hasn’t been helped by a really whacked-out work schedule, either. I have the entire weekend off starting today, which will be nice, but I can’t count on it to get me focused again, because it’s the weekend of my boyfriend’s birthday, so it will be filled with festivities. Then off to another week that reminds me of all the things I quit my last job over and wondering if it’s all just a vicious cycle.

Today probably won’t bring a lot of ability to catch-up, though I am getting a post out after a long dry spell, so there’s definitely a start. “Couples Therapy” came back with a rejection, so I’m brushing up that to send somewhere else and hoping to make some headyway on finishing my beta-read for Fallon Brown tonight because I’m almost finished and Ken will be out playing Magic: the Gathering with friends. Before that, though, I have to get to the laundromat and then run some errands (dropping off books at HalfPrice Books, Target because I ran out of soap and they’re the only convenient place that sells Dr. Bronner’s, then a date at Noodles & Co. and shopping at Trader Joe’s. A busy day, but I know I can get a few more things into place again.

Saturday will be more successful. There will be a visit to our favorite Brookfield bar, Brixie’s, but that’s not until evening, and Ken works, so hopefully I can bust out some stuff and get back on track. Sunday’s going to be pretty up in the air. His two favorite teams play each other, the Dolphins vs. the Bears, so it’s a stay-in, pizza-and-game-day. Maybe I can managed to catch up on emails.

I’m just glad to have some time to reconnect with my writing again, since it’s getting a little harder to do that lately. The weather hasn’t been helping. Do you feel that too much gloomy weather kills your mood? We’re getting some sun already today, so I’m taking it as a good sign.

Happy writing!

More Heartless Inspiration.

Reddit is a complete mecca of all things Intrawebz, and I’ve found it to be an absolute treasure trove for inspiring photographs and images, especially in subreddits like Abandoned Porn (which is NOT what it sounds like to the unknowning, I promise…it’s like food porn, but with old, abandoned buildings), Earth Porn (same thing, but with landscapes), and, my personal favorites Colorized History (which takes old photographs and colors them realistically) and Old School Cool (I like old photos). If you’re already on reddit and not subscribed to these, um, why not? And if you’re not on reddit yet, enter with caution. For every bit of inspiration on there, there’s about five times as much distraction! Still, I love it, and here’s another awesome collection of images I’ve found to help me set the scene for hitting Heartless good and hard when November rolls around. Maybe they’ll inspire your own tale, too! Enjoy!

It probably won’t happen until the end of Heartless, but, eventually, the gang in The Slayer Saga will be contemplating crossing the Great Wide Sea, a task that has so far eluded most people with the world’s limited technology and resources. The coast, though, is littered with things like this fantastic submerged building. Are they a relic of the far distant past? Or something newer, an attempt to escape the Soulless? Did it fail, or are they cloistered within, a small hide-out protected by the water that used to hold the monsters back. Yes. Used to. *cough*

Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge GA. Tell me you don’t already see the Soulless coming out from behind those trees! There’s a very good reason The Walking Dead is filmed in Atlanta. Gorgeous…and potentially shit-your-pants frightening, too!

Hot damn, I love this image of an abandoned cottage deep in the woods of Denmark. I don’t know what it will be, but you know I’m going to try my damnest to write this location into a scene.

Someone will have this pocketwatch. I don’t know who yet, but someone will have it. (Actually, I do have an idea, and the more I think about it, the more I love it, and it’s going to help make a character I thought would be pretty awesome even more so, so…yay)

The steps from a house that burned down in the 1920s. Would this not be the perfect setting for the party to stop and take a rest? It actually reminds me a lot of the ruins scattered around the grounds at the old Grand Traverse State Hospital by where I used to live, which inspired my short story “Spring Thaw” from Bowlful of Bunnies, as well as an Alice in Wonderland-style zombie tale I should revisit sometime again. Until then, there’s always Heartless!

That’s all for this post today. With all these amazing abandoned vistas and The Walking Dead having just started up, I am so ready to get Heartless written! I only have seven more chapters to outline, and it’s going to be awesome.

What’s been inspiring you, lately?

RoW80 Check-In: Oh, hay, Sunday, when’d you get here?

Man, this week has kind of been a mess for me. I’ve been all over the place, staying up way too late, sleeping in too late, too, and doing a really poor job of keeping all my goals in check and my work finished. It happens. I was having a pretty awesome streak for a while, so that eventual bad week is pretty much inevitable. Tomorrow, though, I’m planning on taking some steps to move forward on something I’ve needed to do for a while (new glasses and contact lenses!), so here’s to hoping it will kick me back into the productive mode once more. I’m thinking having the entire next weekend off is going to help, too, especially with celebrating the boyfriend’s birthday on the 19th, with a Game Day, since his two favorite teams (the Bears and the Dolphins) are battling it out that Sunday.

Anyway, we’re not here to listen to me whine about my not-so-great weekend. We’re here to check-in for RoW80, even if my first check-in for this round is not exactly stellar. I didn’t so much start hitting the ground running, rather hitting the ground and crashing and burning. There’s plenty of Round still left to force things back into shape. Let’s have a looksie:

Goal One: Finish Madeline. In able to “make” my usual length by the end of the month, I figured I should have to write at least six pages a day from the beginning of the round until October 31st, but I’ve been having difficulty getting those six pages. I’ve still been making progress, at least a page a day, sometimes two, but I’m struggling to meet that six page mark. I’m still going to strive to do it, though, because, guess what? Six pages a day is what I need to get NaNo done in time, so I’ve got to get my endurance up.

Goal Two: Short Stories. Last week, I submitted “Lady of the Masks” (which has the quickest turn-over rate of any of my stories thus far, gaining two rejections in about seven days, lol) to Black Treacle, and this week, I’ll be finishing another edit on “A Song for the Underworld” before finding somewhere else to send that one. I’ve also been working on a story about a gravedigger that I rather like, making all my stories slightly spooky and morbid to match the month.

Goal Three: Reading. Seeds of Time by Kay Kenyon has hit that spot where the end is really, really close but it seems you can never get there, and I’ve been blasting through The Alchemist’s Daughter by Katharine McMahon pretty consistently. I’m almost finished with Mommy, May I? by A.K. Alexander, and should finish that by the end of the week, for sure. I’m also pretty close to the end of Angela Misri’s Jewel of the Thames, so maybe I’ll even get that one finished up this week, too.

Okay, so, maybe once broken down, the goals haven’t been so bad. It’s mostly just been that first goal that’s been giving me trouble, and, despite not hitting the initial mark, I’m still making progress. I think that’s why these check-ins are so great. It helps us to look at what we’ve done and give it some perspective during times when we’re so scattered, we can’t see the bigger picture.

How’s everyone else doing? Did your Round 4 start with a bang or more of a stutter? Have you checked out everyone else here yet?

Happy writing!

Limited time “Soulless” Sale!

Psst. Guess what? I’m holding my very first ebook sale! The Slayer Saga: Soulless is currently on sale for only $0.99. That’s right. About the same as a can of beans, and far more enjoyable, too.

I’m not exactly sure how long I’m going to run this promotion, so snag it up while you can, if you haven’t already! And share the sale with your friends so they can get a great new book at a good low price.

Bowlful of Bunnies has always been dirt-cheap, so no sale there, since I haven’t quite figured out how to do the whole free promotion thing yet. Still, it’s a pretty good price if you haven’t it up yet, or might want to share it with your friends.

Now that I have two books, I want to play around more with the idea of sales, which I hear become more effective when you have more books, so I really can’t wait until I have the entire Slayer Saga finished. What have you found to be your most effective sales tactics? Do you feel they help slumping sales, or do you focus your energies on something else instead? I’ve never been very effective at the whole promotion part of this business, and I’m okay with that, but I know that I need to step it up a little if this is going to become a career thing. Mostly, though, I’m just happy knowing at least a few people have read my book. Let’s try to make it a few people more, though.

Also, the deadline for World Unknown Review submissions is coming up pretty quickly! Spread the word and get your stories in for your chance to be a part of a great new anthology journal, and maybe even get a few bucks in the process.

Happy writing!

Wednesday Date Day and a WIPpet.

Wednesday is usually reserved for RoW80 check-ins, but, since the round just started on Monday, I feel there really isn’t much to update on. I’m still settling into my goals, working on sending out either “Lady of the Masks” or “A Song for the Underworld” somewhere (they both came back with big fat rejections this last week), as well as chugging toward getting this Madeline rough draft finished before November. Not exactly exciting, so I’ll instead squeal about Wednesday Date Day.

It’s a pretty simple thing, but sometimes it’s the simple things that we don’t appreciate as much as we should. Now that I’m mentioning it, they’ll probably start scheduling me on Wednesdays, but, these past few weeks, the stars have been aligned and my boyfriend and I have been getting that day off together. Not wanting to waste an opportunity when it presents itself, we’ve morphed it into a little bit of a date day, where we’ll go out and do something together, cue the chorus of awwws. It started when we were both able to spend some time over at Proska Park and the Berwyn Public Library, while last week, we ventured into Wicker Park for some delicious Native Foods (my wallet is going to be in trouble if the rumors of one coming to Oak Park are true!). Today, the foray is going to take us to Halloween stores as we try to figure out what our costumes will be this year. We were thinking of being Mac and Sweet Dee from Charlie’s The Nightman Cometh musical from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (link comes with a fair WTF warning), but we decided that we didn’t quite have the resources. That Aurora princess dress is surprisingly pricey, and I want to be accurate and get the same one, lol. So, off to new ideas! There will be some Chipotle involved, too.

Mmmm. Chipotle. So, yes, yay for Wednesday Date Day. And I’m open for suggestions for good couple costumes….Cheap couples costumes. Ahem.

Anyway, enough of that! This is a writing blog, so let’s get to the writing already! I’ve been dropping paragraphs of my current WIP, Madeline, and this one from page six is more of Roderick being a creep and developing on Madeline’s pure embodiment of Poe’s Imp of the Perverse, as well as building the House of Usher into the intimidating creature that it is:

      Roderick’s warnings held me in check for a short while. He could paint such vivid images of my tragic, untimely death at the whims of the old house. Sometimes, there was a dark beauty to his visions that nearly made me want to climb up to the rafters and throw myself from them, plummeting down to the stone floors of the atrium just to have such an incredible death attached to my legacy. Then the tale of my untimely demise would be whispered in the quiet halls, on the lips of curious visitors, who trembled with the faint hope to see my restless specter on dark and stormy nights. Luckily for my mortality, I was quite afraid of heights and the pain of life became pain enough once my illness developed. I couldn’t bear to think of how much worse the pain of death might be if life was this horrible already.

That’s all for today, folks! Happy writing!

Do You Like Scary Movies?

I know I do. October and the colder, stormier weather always puts me in a fright fest sort of mood, which makes it great that American Horror Story and The Walking Dead are about to return to television. Last night, I had the apartment mostly to myself and decided to do a small marathon with A Nightmare on Elm Street, Pet Sematary, and Poltergeist to hold me over until my boyfriend and I get to delve into the 50 Horror Classics mega-pack he picked up at Walmart the other day. In addition to these classic gems (none of them after 1965, I think), we’ve got a boatload of really, really crappy free horror movies downloaded onto his X-Box, so we’re pretty much set until well after Halloween.

But it did get me wondering: what are your favorite horror movies, and why? I was discussing them with a coworker lately; he likes the slasher films and says he just can’t handle the supernatural, demony, ghosty ones that I love so much (though we both agreed that A Nightmare on Elm Street is pretty much one of the best ones). The Exorcist is one of the first ones that I remember really, really terrified me, and I think Session 9 is easily one of the best psychological horrors I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.

Books are fair game, too. I’v got a million books I’m reading, but what are some of your favorite scary books? House of Leaves is required to be mentioned, of course; that had some pretty decent heebie-jeebie moments in it, but, really, I can’t say books manage to freak me out as much as movies do. Perhaps it’s the visual aspect for me? Maybe my brain is too much of a literary critic to effectively feel scared, though I do love a good story with some frightening bits in it. And maybe that’s why I love Stephen King movies, but not Stephen King books. Of course, I did recently pick up the Fear Street Saga books from HalfPric Books, recently…Goosebumps and Fear Street, especially the Saga were just the creepiest when I was growing up (though not nearly as creepy as Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark! The illustrations in there still give me shivers!)

I feel I also should mention scary video games, too, because those, more than anything, have had a strong influence on my horror writing. I remember playing Roberta Williams’ Phantasmagoria back when I was way, way, way too young to be playing that shit. The boyfriend recently played the latest Silent Hill demo (oh, hey, Norman Reedus, how you doin’?), and it brought up all sorts of fond memories of being too creeped out to sleep after that game.

So, let m have it. What are some of your favorite scary things?

New RoW80 Goals!

Today begins a new Round of Words in 80 Days, which means a new set of goals to carry me through to the end of the year. This last round is always a little awkwardly placed for me, because NaNoWriMo tends to fall smack dab in the middle of it. With that taken into consideration, I have two types of goals this round: Monthly (October, November, December, respectively) and then Roundly (other goals that don’t end with the months and stretch the full 80 days). Here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish:

Monthly Goals:
October: Finish Madeline rough draft. Following my usual model of about 200 pages to a book, I should have the draft of Madeline finished if I can do six pages a day. This is actually good prep for November, since six pages a day is what I’ll have to do for my NaNo project. It’s not imperative that I finish it in October, but it would be pretty sweet having another manuscript down. So six pages a day until November.

November: Finish Heartless. November is National Novel Writing Month, and, this year, I’ll be using it to churn out the next book in The Slayer Saga, Heartless. I’m finishing up the outline, and I can’t wait for November to start so I can get it going. It’s going to be a wild ride and I’m sure fans of Soulless (all four of you!) will really love…and be utterly shocked by. Six pages a day should get me to the NaNo goal of 50,000 words.

December: Finish World Unknown Review. By now, I should have had enough time to comb through the submissions for World Unknown Review (have you sent yours yet??) and get them all together and ready for publication on December 31st. Madeline and Heartless will be tucked away until after the new year, unless the formatting doesn’t take me too long. If I can get an earlier deadline (December 15th, perhaps, in time for the holidays!), that would be awesome. And then I’ll use the rest of December to transcribe one of the two novels.

Full-Round Goals:
Short Stories: I want to keep going on the short stories thing, especially since I’ve gotten some really good ones started in the downtime at work. Since I’m doing heavy scribbling on big novel projects, I’m taking this one back to submitting a story per week, though I’d love to be able to do a little more than that.

Reading: My reading has been neglected lately, but now that I’m settled in the new apartment, there’s no excuse. So I’ve resolving to read at least a chapter a day. Pretty do-able. Hopefully, it’ll help me burn through some books by the end of the year.

Have you set your goals for this round yet? What are you most excited to work on?

Happy Round 4, everyone!


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