Brain Sprain!

So I have been stuck on something for moving Book 2 forward, so instead I focused on getting the “easy” cover done for the Ebook Volumes.

Yeah… well I don’t do those things half way.  It’s my graphic designer past I guess.  I recognize I have some talent, but not enough speed.  But this is something I wanted to do.  Unfortunately, I could not just throw crap on the screen and call it good.

But they’re coming and possibly far better than I thought.  I guess it’s good to be satisfied with happy accidents than anything else.

 

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Following the Plan-ts

Writing is sometimes a breeze and others a struggle.  You authors in the crowd get what I mean.  What’s horrifying is when the story wants to flow, but the actual work is hard.  Five chapters into my Middle Build, I’m feeling just that.  The big storyline is now shaped up, the antagonists are well defined, they know their Macguffins, the twists are pre-planned, the betrayals ready to go, the thrills and spills all lined up for their qualifying heats.  I mean it’s just mmm-mmm-tasty!

But the work to lay it out?  Oh man… just shoot me.  I’m still trying to figure out my real methodology, but I’m coming closer to understanding it.  I write much like how I used to run RPGs.  Some light planning up front, decide what events were going to happen whether the PCs had a say in it or not, and then figuratively kick the anthill and see what scurries out.

I’ve kicked the anthill and fireants have come scurrying out making me question my life choices at times.

So I’m basically a “Plantser”  I plan some, start the ball rolling then react, react, react to what the characters tell me they’d do.  Several times, I’ve discovered the characters take an action I never expected, but yet there it is.  I can’t ignore it, because the character WOULD do that.  This now alters the plan somewhat, but the same events are still going to be on course.  For the most part.

I’ve been really stretching myself with seven way conversations.  I mean, how do you write a meeting of many people?  All of whom have something to say because although they are minor players, they need to be there to flesh out the event.  Ensemble writing is tough!  At least in one case, I was able to strip out characters and decide on the four I wanted involved, laid out their positions on the subject and went from there.  The other… Ummm… errr…. Not so much yet.  And they all share the same title, because they’re peers of the Hird.  So the honorifics get them ‘echoes’ started pretty bad.  Hopefully, it will not turn people off too badly, but I got to feeling a lot like this:

But, as slow as it has been going, I’m really happy with the story so far.  My small team of alpha readers has been keeping me on course and the immediate rewrites (yes I’ve had to redo chapters and parts of scenes a few times before moving forward) have been enthusiastic and constantly wanting the next chapter ASAP.  A good sign I’d hope.  May this transfer well to the rest of my readers when it hits the websites.

Not sure when its going to get done yet.  This is a far bigger book than anticipated with the multiple storylines now converging and the final chapters yet to plan out in more detail  (Something that always gets clearer the closer I get to putting fingers to keyboard.), but I’m very optimistic.  Ultimately this will make book 3 in line for a bigger rewrite than I thought.  I wish I could focus more on writing, but lots of distractions going on (mainly job related).  Hopefully I can get some of that to change for the better and clear my mind up from all that stress.  I know I know some people do far faster projects with ten times the distractions, but that’s them and this is me.  We’ll make it work.

That then begs another question.  Should I break up the release into three sections?  I easily could do 3 novellas, then release the novel in hardcover/paperback.  I dunno.  I wanted to do that with book 1 for the ebook too.  Say make it 99 cents for each part (with the first one for free).  How does that grab you all?

So I shall leave you with a little surprise.  Here is an excerpt from the first draft of one of the chapters titled “Bedtime Stories”, so mind the dust and splinters.  It is just the first draft.

Enjoy!

Bedtime Stories

 

“…and without another word, Saint Ragnar slew the evil Draugr, sending the manitou to hell, and saving the village from its evil, forever.  The end.” the Visekonge said, finishing up his son’s bedtime story.  

Compared to the problems of the crown, the nightly ritual for his son was one of his daily joys.  His simple son looked up at him with his bright slanted eyes, his broad moon face glowing and clapped with the end of the triumphant saga.  He always enjoyed the sagas of Saint Ragnar and his fight against the Skaerslinger and the Draugr, and knew when even a single detail had been changed and always reminded his father.

“Pader?  May I have another story?”

“No my son.  No.  It is time for bed, and I must also go.  My crown is busy tonight.”

“Awww,” Olivr whined.

The Visekonge suffered his son’s disapproval in silence with a smile.  The time he spent sitting on the edge of his young son’s bed was one of the few places where he found solace from his troubled kingdom.  Where he could talk about great men who had already solved greater problems than the ones he faced.  The ritual helped center him again and reminded him what it was he loved most.  The petty infighting of the Statsraad was such a terrible drain at times.

“Will you say prayers with me, Pader?”  Olivr asked again.

“Of course,” The Visekonge said, and then began for his son, “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust…”  

Olivr picked up where he trailed off.

“Let me never be ashamed and deliver me in thy righteousness,” The boy continued.  His father raised his eyebrows and mouthed along with him.

“Bow down thine ear to me.  Deliver me speedily and be thou my strong rock, and castle to save me.”  Olivr said smiling at his father’s mock serious faces.

“For thou art my rock and my fortress, therefore for thy namesake, lead me and guide me.  Pull me out of the net that they have laid privily for me, for Thou art my strength.”  He giggled a moment, before his father’s face got serious again and encouraged.  

“Into thine hands…?”

“Into thine hands, I commit my spirit.  Thou hast redeemed me, Oh Lord, God of Truth,” Olivr continued, refocused on the words.

“Amen,” Gregor whispered.

“Amen,” Olivr agreed.

The Visekonge leaned over and kissed his golden haired boy on the cheek.

“I love you, my son.”

“Love you too, Pader.”  The boy rose up a little to rub his nose against his father’s in a side to side motion.

Pages 197
Words 59188

Walk n’ Talk

Tonight was a stellar night for me and Akiniwazi.  Both creatively and healthwise.

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As most will know, I am not in the greatest of health, due to a shattered elbow and long term weight problems.  It had left me very sedentary, for too long, and I’m now trying to reverse that trend.  The problem is that I never could seem to get my butt out the door.  Nothing motivated me enough.  Well, tonight, that changed.

For most of my youth, I used to walk a lot.  Miles and miles.  A mile walk or bikeride to school.  Plus, I was a paperboy and had to walk my route.  I did not have many friends, so I entertained myself by telling myself stories and working on RPGs I was playing or running.  But occasionally, a friend would accompany me and we’d talk for hours while we walked.  I miss it and it’s a habit I sorely miss today.

Combine this with me struggling with a touch of agoraphobia and hating to be out in public for various reasons, and my physical issues, my situation got worse and worse.

So what changed?

Tonight I got someone to talk to, and was able to unburden myself with all the book secrets and long term plotline of Akiniwazi.  I mean they got EVERYTHING.  “Inside Baseball” level of info dumpage.  But I noticed as I talked, I was pacing in my apartment constantly, so I said:

“Self, Get your pants and shoes on and start walking and see what happens.”  So out the door I went and started walking around my complex.  At least it was evening so it’s not like I burst into flame from the sun.  Ick, sun.

The reason I needed to talk like this is I have been struggling with how to finish the beginning hook.  I had the pieces sitting there in front of me, mocking me because I didn’t know how to put them together.  I did not want to mirror what happened in the previous book, and I sure wanted it to be exciting.  So, after all the big plot expose was done, and I left my collaborator in shock, I broke it back down to this one little piece of the picture and started trying to talk it out, because that’s how my creative process works best.  It was like putting a can of “Sea Foam” engine cleaner into a 40 year old engine!  It blew out so much black smoke and noise but in a few minutes of running it, the storyline became clear again!

And boy did it have a few logical twists I never expected too!  What really made me the most happy is that I was walking and never noticed my back.  See, sitting for work so much as both a commercial driver and now a desk jockey, my back, butt and thigh muscles have atrophied a lot, and walking hurts.  I had to stop every once in a while, but long story short, I’m fairly certain I walked about 2 miles tonight for the first time in about a decade!  That unto itself is cause for celebration for me.

Plus I cleared out a huge narrative problem that will leave the beginning hook’s resolution a lot cleaner, logical and tragic all in one swell foop!  I still don’t know what I’m going to do to top it for the climax… well not true, but I don’t quite know in what form that climax is going to take.  Once again, the middle build conclusion might be more dramatic as it currently stands.  I dunno.  See, this is the problem with the complexity of this book and what it will launch coming up.  Book 3 is going to have to get fatter still… and I love it.

Anyhoo…

2 miles of walking.

Major plot point fixed.

Enthusiasm pressure restored.

Time to release the brakes and start rolling forward.

Thank you all for coming on this ride with me.

 

Laundry Money

That is my sales goal for now.

To make laundry money every month with my book sales.

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I have meltdowns when thinking about book marketing/advertising and everything else about promotion.  Seriously.  I freak out.  I’ve bought a few books, I’ve taken a few seminars, I’ve discovered I get very angry about then being sold to by email lists I thought were not supposed to treat me like a hick on a used car lot.  It’s really left me flustered.  Flustered?  No… not strong enough.  Discombobulated?  Sure that’s decent.  And angry, because I don’t like being discombobulated nor flummoxed or flustered.

The reason?

I’m not good at it, and if I had enjoyed it, I’d be doing it for a living elsewhere.  I hate sales.  Seriously.  It is anathema to me.  I just want to focus on putting out a good book, and let the chips fall where they may.  I’ll be honest, I have a big ole psychological block about the subject that leaves me contemptuous of the field, and jealous at those who can do it because I wish I could.

I’m a complex little pirate, ain’t I?

Anyway, In my few furative attempts at advertising and promotion, I’ve come to realize that most if not all big hits is completely out of the control of the author or publisher.  That said, I do believe that promotion is in their control, but not something I’m good at either.  The worst part is that it’s a Catch 22 in the end.  You have to promote to earn money, but if you don’t earn money you have to have money first, and if you don’t have that… ummm kinda stuck.  See, I’d rather hire someone to do this for me because of how angry/stressed/discombobulated I get.  But, that costs money on a budget I don’t have because right now… I’m covering laundry money.  That’s it for now.

I do expect in the future this to change though.  When book 2 comes out, I hope to be making GAS money every month from both books.  And then when the 3rd one comes out, I hope it’s going to cover my utilities too.  By the time the 5th book comes out, I better be making rent or I’m going to wonder what the heck is wrong with me.

Ultimately, what I realized is that this all takes time.  The get rich systems/plans is just Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir sold by street-corner mountebanks designed to separate me from my hard earned money, not help me.  I don’t think all books or seminars out there are that way, but ohhhhh 85% possibly are.  Of course, I’m biased and cranky about it, so YMMV.

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But I really would love to hire someone who both loves and is skilled at marketing/promotion.  Farm out what I suck at to someone who’s good at it.  I did it with my cover.  I don’t care what people say about doing it myself.  I cannot do it as good or as fast as a real pro, and I think it shows with my cover.  Why not do the same for marketing/promotion?  Sure, it saves me money, but… is not my time better spent doing the one thing nobody else can do, which is write my books?

Tada!

But… someday… when I make more than just laundry money.

Stupid Catch 22s.

What Not To Expect

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I have hit my third big landmark as an author: The first bad review.

It was 2 stars and it left me wondering why?  Sure this is only the third review I got from someone who knew nothing about me beforehand and had no bias one way or another. So I wanted to understand what the person meant and I analyzed it and talked about it with a close friend and I got a better understanding of what I’ve done as a writer.  It wasn’t a bad review, but it wasn’t a good review and from it, I learned something about my readers and possibly what to expect in the future from my work of art.

One.

The criticism that it was unnecessarily wordy and complicated.  Definitely a taste criticism, and valid.  Some people love the complexity.  I’ve had one beta reader who wanted it even more ‘crunchy’.  It definitely goes to show this is not a book for a person who does not like complexity and deal with a new lexicon.  Totally understand that.  I wondered too if I was going overboard at times, and worked to find a balance where the language and names struck a good balance.

In fact, the whole reason created the glossary and didn’t dumb down the names to English surrogates was to follow a style idea I first experienced with Richard Adams and his classic book “Watership Down”.  Now, I’m not sure how complex that story really is to some readers, but I definitely thought it.  I could have done a footnote method, but it never felt good for the whole flow of the story.  Also, I have had a reviewer state that they preferred the complexity and worldbuilding I put into the Glossary into the text itself despite it slowing the pace of the story.  Again, it was a compromise that has had some who love it and others not so much.

Two.

The book was not whimsical or magical like Narnia, Middle Earth or Hogwarts.

Completely fair on many fronts as we all compare works against the best.  This is also an accurate assessment.  I never intended it to be like any of those books.  Narnia is an allegory which they never really delve into the miraculous magical things that happen. It is just accepted that Santa Claus can show up and that the magical beings that exist are generally happy fairy tale style creatures for the most part.  Sure, you get much scarier things in Middle Earth, and its a grittier setting, but that is offset by the Hobbits and Shire.  There is a certain level of whimsy to it, and because of those two series, I suspect people who see “Christian Fantasy” expect more the high fantasy, light-hearted adventure or fairy tale inspired adventures.

In response to this, I’d have to say I never tried to show my book as one of those outside of it being an adventure epic.  In fact, I go so far as to portray this series as low fantasy where it is based more on real world spiritual warfare/exorcism, medieval church politics, and what it means to be caught in a world where devils and angels actually manifest and go to war around you.  It is not meant to be whimsical for it was never written for children.  It was written, believe it or not for nerds and fantasy geeks who liked grittier fantasy novels, the same way some people love cyberpunk, and hard science fiction.  Although children as young as 11 and adults who are into fine literature have read this book and loved it, they were not the target audience but aspects of it spoke to them.  So yes, It is not a whimsical book, though it will have whimsical moments.  This is more Jack London’s “Sea Wolf” than the Don Bluth Studio’s version of “Balto”.

Three

This is the criticism that I think was the most revelatory, and I thank the reviewer for giving me the opportunity to address it.  The statement is made that he is a Christian that believes in spiritual things.  Good…  Seriously.  I am as well and this is a basis for part of why I even tried to write fantasy like this in the first place.  It is further said that this comes too close to the line.  Now I’m not sure what line this is, but if it is the line between reality and make-believe, then this is right on the nose.  It is supposed to mirror the Christian spiritual paradigm.

The magic and miraculous in Akiniwazi is based on the teachings of deliverance ministries, exorcism, eye witness accounts and scripture as best as I could.  The only thing I tried to do was crank the special effects to 11 to enter into the realm of the fantastic.  That means those who can do the miraculous are in direct contact with divine beings, be they Angels and the Holy Spirit or demonic forces.  There is no ‘neutral’ form of magic in the book.  If a ‘spell’ is cast, there is an angel or demon behind it in some form or another. It isn’t the individual’s personal will or power or gift.  Just like Samson’s strength, it came from God.  Just like the prophetic slave girl Paul drove the demons out of, that power came from satan.  Magic is not something that is dug out of the ground like coal, or manufactured like a microchip and is spiritually neutral.  This is a staple trope of fantasy, but one I chose to throw out at high velocity.

There are going to be many people, particularly Christians who will find this extremely uncomfortable because it will hit close to home.  The book will touch on how demons can infiltrate people’s minds, and the whole idea of legal spiritual rights.  It is intended to be conversation starters and fodder for people to question the spiritual war that I believe is going on around us right now.  Again, not something some Christians will agree with or enjoy but others will.

Anyway.  This is also not a book about having a strong or perfect faith.  In fact, most of the characters are strongly flawed failed people that do not have instagram perfect lives, and God still uses them.  It deals a lot with failing and picking yourself back up again.  How rejection by others does not equal rejection from God, and the difference between religion and faith is no respecter of person, privilege or group identification.  It’s you and God together in the end and how you walk with Him.

Now, hopefully I wrote the book well enough that if you’re not into that kind of stuff, you can just ignore all that as window dressing the same way people do with Narnia and it’s blatant Christian allegories, or say Umberto Eco’s “Name of the Rose” does not preach religion at his audience, but it is everywhere in the book.

As for the last point of being poorly executed… ::: shrug ::: not sure how to help there.  🙂 Matter of taste I guess and that’s fine.  I did the best I could, and learned a lot.  I still see stuff I wish I would have worded better, but it’s out there now because I’m not going to spend 4 years editing it.  I’d say give book 2 a try when it comes out.  I know, like most book series, only improve over time.

Thank you for reading the book and leaving a review.  It helped me consider my work better, and keep some thoughts in mind moving forward.

If anyone would like to discuss the book or anything about it, please, send me an email, or post a question/opinion here.  I’ll be glad to discuss my work, particularly if you are confused about anything.

 

Rolling Forward

Just a quick update on Book 2.  We’re still not entertaining titles yet, so Book 2 it is.

The process of writing the first draft is often filled with lots of fun revelations as well as wandering down blind paths.  I had been caught in one for a week or two now, but have worked it out, cut out a minor character, and things started moving again.  Two more chapters have been added to the Beginning Hook, and I am almost to the climax of the beginning hook.  I can’t wait!

See, although I have an idea of where I’m going, I never see it till I get there.  That’s what makes it both fun and frustrating.  Sometimes you think you’re going in one direction, but when you sit down to write it, the characters or circumstances tell a different story and you are stuck being along for the ride.  On a positive note, the villains are all shaping up nicely.  The secondary characters are well established as well as the main characters.  Such fun.

I’ve made one of my alpha readers very happy with one chapter so, I hope it translates well to the rest of you all when the book comes out.

That said, I figure 3 maybe 4 scenes left before I pull the trigger on the Beginning Hook’s climax which I know how it must end up, but I still can’t see clearly how it will come about.

Hopefully I will have this built strong enough that the roller-coaster effect will kick in once the few following scenes are complete and I start melding all the subplots together.

But that’s all for now.

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Akiniwazi Encyclopedia

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Now that things are moving forward, some housekeeping had to be done.  I realized very quickly I had my database of all my glossary, places, and more are scattered about in too many files and need to be consolidated.  So last night I spent a lot of time putting together all the definitions, locations and names I could find for part one of my Encyclopedia.  There are two more parts to this, as well refining the main atlas. In the future, if I see interest, I may release this as a freebie for everyone who signs up for a mailing list or maybe just joins this website.  I dunno.  I haven’t thought about a platform yet because the idea of marketing and even more social media just rubs me raw.  I’m quite a private person, and social media distracts me too easily.  I have to be very careful about that stuff.  How the encyclopedia is breaking down is so:

Part 1: The Encyclopedia Proper

The glossary or the definitions or explanations of everything in Akiniwazi with a proper noun attached to it so far.  Therefore, it is going to constantly grow over the progression of the series.

Part 2: The Timeline

The history of Akiniwazi is the most finite thing so far, but I’m not finished compiling it right now.  I’ve been too distracted with other stuff, plus moving the story forward in Book 2.  Currently, it is laid out from the year 800 AD to about 1350ish AD?  Somewhere in that range.  About 175 years before the time of the story.  There are some significant events that happen in that time and shape things.

Part 3: The Atlas

Yes, there will be maps coming.  Not only is there the main geographical map as included in the first book, I plan to add other maps to the collection like political maps, possibly zooming in on individual lakes once I have more places named.  And of course, maps for each novel as appropriate.  Of course, if I can get legal clearance to release the novella (Currently titled “The Price of Mendacity”) I will not need a map for that.  Other ideas for maps include Timeline maps tying part 2 into the Atlas.

My last part which may be more important than I want to admit is going to be a cast list, so I can keep track of all my characters out there.  I tell you, I have 3 books worth of characters (yes, remember book 3 has its first draft done, but needs heavy HEAVY editing).  And I’m starting to introduce some of the characters into book 2 as I write.  What can I say?  I like some of these people and feel they deserve a little cameo up front or set them up better for book 3.  I’m chaotic, go fig.  It is also the part I probably will not release to the public for too many of them will be riddled with spoilers.  Maybe I’ll do character bios someday.  Call it a to-do list or something for Patreon if I start doing that.  I dunno.

Anyway, that’s the stuff that’s going on right now.  I’m happy to be doing it, but so frustrated that my inner Veruca Salt is back out running amok screaming “make time go faster!”  (of course as long as someone else can do it.  BOY work and focus suck.)

 

…And They’re Off!

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It’s official… “A Light Rises in a Dark World: Book One of the Akiniwazi Saga” is now in paperback on Amazon.

The book should be available for purchase in the next 12 hours, but I was so excited (see attached pick for how I feel) I couldn’t help but let you all know right away.

The goal is still to release the hardcover on Kobo (and possibly Smashwords, and by extension Barnes & Noble among many other places) by the end of the week.  I hope it won’t be quite as hard to set up THAT final formatting too.

Oh!  And as a final bonus, you are getting an extra map of the land in the Paperback.

Just a little sumpthin’ sumpthin’ for all those that buy the physical copy.  😉

Thank you all for your support!

Experiencing My Work Anew

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Over the last month or so, I’ve been doing a final polish of my book before I put it out to print.  I was sad to find so many errors in it that I missed on the previous 7 edits, but I blame myself for I did not do the one thing I should have: Read the book out loud to myself.

Well, now that I have, it has been a very different experience for me.  I was given a chance to experience the work from a more detached eye, and see some things that I was unable to before.  It’s been a very nice blessing.

That said, I am happy the job is done, and if all goes according to plan, the Trade paperback will be available on Amazon in a week or so.

Before it goes out, though, the changes will be uploaded to Amazon, and according to their technical notes, you should all be getting update notifications.  Please take the time to upload them.  They’re supposed to be free, so you have nothing to lose there.

What I found interesting as I edited that I was able to experience the characters more honestly I think.  I didn’t have all the internal chatter in my head, and I could see more clearly ways to restate scenes that might have been clunky before.  The content has not changed, but the delivery is far better… except for one scene.

Yes, one scene was decidedly lacking oomph.  It had been weak from the start, and I didn’t know how to deal with it, till a suggestion was given, and I started rearranging sentences to try and get my meaning across clearer.  Then one paragraph became two, then three… and a whole new level of hard fought meaning revealed itself.  I went back over it, and made sure it made sense and held up… and got excited.  I realized that this scene now set the stage better of what was to follow, and made a much deeper impact.

I cannot wait to share these changes with you, and get the book in print.

But, not to fear, Book 2 will now start moving forward again, after I reconnect with it more.  I will be doing a partial edit to reconnect with the characters and then hope to get much of this done.  I’m setting a personal goal for Memorial Day Weekend, just like ALRDW and the first draft of Book 3.  You did remember, Book 3 was already written?  Well the first draft is, and it will be heavily edited, but, won’t be as hard as Book 1.  I’ve learned some tricks and lessons.

Now I can play Guild Wars 2 with less guilt.

In the Mire

I’ve been struggling mightily to write lately.

Not because I couldn’t make the time due to work or life, but because mentally I was not there.  The story was not jelling.  Pieces were missing that were critical to make things go together.  For me, plausibility and motivation are big.  If they do not work in my head, I know they won’t work for the reader.

So I’ve been thrashing about.

Not to mention I’m still stressing about book sales and getting ready for the print release of book one (Yes that’s still happening soon) and just all the other stuff in life.  It’s been overwhelming to my brainal like substances.

With that being said, last week has been quietly good.  I’ve done a lot of research on medieval life and culture.  It has had lots of points that are transferable to my setting.  I have also gotten some good feedback from a reader or two, so that’s a plus out there too.  My head likes maps and seeing the location of things as well as understanding some of the subtleties of a culture.  A single piece of information that came was just sort of a toss off on one bit of research became critical for me.  That piece of information?  In the middle ages, people believed insanity was contagious!

Ta Da!  Tons of problems solved.  Don’t get me started about balancing the humors.  I still don’t quite get that and am grateful for divine healing in the setting.  Just ick.  Even the word “Black Bile” does me no favors.

So now, I’m on the verge of the surge in writing.  I just have to clear my space of distractions… (see you later Guild Wars 2)… and focus on putting out more content.  It has been helpful to talk things out with a few people too.  Simple things even like tonight.  I mentioned my struggle about the setting of the village of Kynligrspiejl and one word helped push me past it all, and that word was ‘artisan’.  And that was the term that helped me bootstrap into what I need to fix so I can start another plot line that is required to weave into this tapestry I’m making.  Where ALRDW was more of a thin braid, this is a tapestry.  Very big and audacious.  Many themes that will set up the rest of the books will be started and enriched.

I’m looking forward to that, but it’s making my life a bit crazy because it’s been like dragging a boulder behind me.   I wonder if I’ll have to do a fast again?

ANYWAY!… move we shall.

Hopefully more reviews come up soon.  I like hearing what you have to say.

So time for sleep, then awake, get the chores out of the way so I can sit down and write again with a clear mind.

Therefore, toodle and oo!

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Moving blindly out.