There and Back Again: A Realm Makers 2021 Story

I’m back safe and/or sound, though the rumors of my soundness seem to be greatly exaggerated. I know several of you are wondering why I don’t post stuff before or during RM when I go, but that’s purely for safety reasons. So I save it all for now.

The Gateway Arch… and a train. I like trains.

I am so absolutely positively grateful to have been among my fellow Realmies again. I MISSED YOU GUYS SO MUCH! Awkward hugs and high fives all around.

Last day out the door with my darling bride.

The highlight in many ways was getting a chance to talk more than a couple times with Frank Piretti. I mean come on. As his keynote mentioned he felt like (and we all concurred) he is a professor emeritus of so many of us Christian authors out there. Particularly spec fic. I just wish I’d have gotten a picture with him, and not just with him talking to my wife at breakfast. (sorry, not sharing. too personal and private. Plus it’s a bad angle, for both.) So here’s a different candid shot. See if you can guess the author by their hands. LOL.. just kidding.

Playing Guillotine with Rob Story, Kat Vinson, Emily Haese (spelling?), Elizabeth Liberty Lewis, Kate Prater & and a quick round fill in by Megan Ward (I believe that was her last name).

The best moments from cons like this are often the candid ones not in classes and just by happenstance. You also never know who you’re going to touch and who will touch you back. The Clevandence sisters (apologies if misspelled) made my night at the book fair when I asked her what her favorite scene was in my first book, and I loved the writing of that same (grisly) scene too. It was a real highlight for me to talk like that.

For those who don’t know or realize, authors often love hearing back from their readers personally. Especially for us small indie authors. Too often we publish into the void, like every author and never know if we touched your lives. To hear when we do brings us all a spark of joy. Of course if we ticked you off, sigh, please extend us grace. We’re sensitive souls and may know the thing that ticked you off wasn’t our best efforts to. Kinda like a sports star who has a famous bad play regrets their mistake too. But still, it reminds us we’re not alone. We are touching others out there. So never be shy with your (positive) feedback, and be gentle (but honest) with us when we goof.

This year, my darling bride got me to cosplay for the awards banquet. It was a spectacular time. She had a whole backstory about the 1950’s librarian who’s favorite hero came to life for her. The story evolved through the night and was quite quite cute. But I have several pictures I got with people I have a real soft spot for in my writing career. Some I can share.

I was very happy to be friends with two winners of the Realm Awards. Very proud of their achievements that night and had some great conversations with so many people.

All in all, going to Realm Makers was a wonderful reminder of the good things in life. This last 24 months since I was at RM in the flesh has been a rollercoaster. In many ways I’ve ended up in a far better place, but at times… just I’m reminded to be grateful for what I have.

Oh, and I have leftover paperbacks and a few hardcovers from the consignment store. I’m toying with doing something special with at least one set of the books, but am also considering selling a couple sets of autographed copies. What do y’all think about that? Of course, I’d have to figure out how to set up a store, paypal and all that. I dunno what options are available. We’ll see though. Of course, if you want to encourage me, let your thoughts be known in the poll below.

Okay, more soon when there’s stuff to say!

Road Trip! (& a Life Update)

I wasn’t sure this was going to happen. Really really wasn’t, but I put it on the altar for the Lord to make the decision.

This last week I got my answer. The City and County of St. Louis dropped their masking mandates and the hotel is being all mealy mouthed on following local ordinances. So I’m going back to Realm Makers! (Those of you on my Discord channel learned about this last week of course.)

So cue up the house sitter so the cats don’t get lonely-

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Bwing us tweats, hooman.

-aaaaaaaaand it’s time to go hang out with my fellow Realmies in the flesh again! I’m so glad it’s back in St. Louis, even if it’s now an extra 3 hours of drive time for me. At least the first half of it is going to be very pretty coming out of the mountains.

I’m not sure if I’m going to do the consignment store this year. I could, and I have something I can get for the gift bag if I can find a printer in time. I really didn’t prepare because I didn’t expect to go. Oh well, even if I don’t bring anything since finances will be tighter this year, it is still going to be very much worth my while.

I guess what made me the most enthused about this year is that the guest of honor is Frank Piretti. His “This Present Darkness” was the book that made me realize that you could write about the spiritual warfare side of Christianity in a refreshing and interesting way that was an evolution of a pair of my all time favorite Christian books, “The Screwtape Letters” and “The Great Divorce” by C. S. Lewis. Seriously, if you’ve not read those two, check them out. Amazing stuff. Piretti took the concept and ran. If things are going berserk in your life and you have no idea why, I highly encourage you to read “This Present Darkness” too. It may make some personal sense to you.

As for my writing, I’ve been getting scolded for leaving Akiniwazisaga on the back burner too long in my alpha reader’s eyes, and I have another fan who’s been telling me to hurry up so she doesn’t run out of series to read. She doesn’t want to wait for the conclusion of the story. Thanks guys.

Lately the writing focus has continued on the third novella in the Tales From the Dream Nebula series. Making sure you all get your money’s worth out of it before I let it out the gate. The first two novellas have hit the editing stage, and once that’s complete, we look at doing the script for the graphic novels.

One big discussion that’s started up though has been merchandise. I’m curious to hear what others would love to see as merchandise to buy from Akiniwazisaga. Apparel is coming (yes I know I’ve said that for a while, but we’re finally getting ready to move on some of this. The easy answers are of course typical book merch like coffee mugs, posters and bookmarks. There’s been some talk of different things too (I personally want a life sized plush version of Bergamot, but oof, the cost of making custom toys. I don’t even want to think what it would take to make Popvinyl toys even. A much bigger fan base to be certain)

Anyway, I’d love to hear people’s thoughts on merch ideas they’d love to see associated with Akiniwazisaga or the characters.

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Out the Other Side & Much More

Last week I kinda got some crummy news but it was wrapped with lots of silver linings. Lots.

But first…

I’ve survived the plague, and the lockdown, and have managed to crack out 20 chapters on Book 4 of Akiniwazisaga.  The sad part? This may only be 20% of the entire book length.  I’m not sure, but this bad boy’s going to be a whopper.  If you want to keep up with the latest details on what’s going on in writing and life in general, you can check it out on my Discord Channel.  Link above. It’s worth it.

it even gave me a chance to read some Realmie books I purchased last conference.  Here’s some of them I bought:

 

 

Speaking of Discord…

The news finally broke this year that Realm Makers 2020 conference has gone virtual, thanks mostly to the State of New Jersey unable to unclench long enough to pull their head’s out and take a breath.  That means RM2020 is now a virtual conference, like all the other conventions and conferences all over the US stretching into next year.  I just… I… Come ON people, you don’t quarantine healthy individuals!  So here’s where the silver linings begin.

In the process of setting up for the virtual RM2020, we were told that it will be using Discord as a big part of it’s operation.  I happened to be right place/right time cheerleading and helping out on a different RM related Discord forum and got the powers that be to understand what was happening and how the system works. Thanks to those fortuitous (yeah, I see God’s hand all over it) I became a moderator to help out with handling the training of a lot of conference goers and then assisting as a mod for the con!  Woot! So that’s kinda fun to be on the inside of that one. A lot of energy has been spent on this setup and onboarding of writers from all over the world, it’s almost been a full time job.

Which leads me to the blessing in disguise of being laid off just as COVID19 shut everything down. So we’ll see how long it takes either to get a call back (ain’t holding my breath) or a new position.  Till then, writing, RM modding and creative endeavors will fill my days, mortared together with job hunting.

What about those other creative endeavors?  Music!  I’ve mentioned for a while I’m doing music, well now I’m posting some stuff on my youtube channel, with more to come as I feel appropriate and have the time.  Unfortunately the last song was too long, so Youtube rejected it.  Will have to try with some others. Here’s one example.

I’m an enthusiastic amature, so take that into account.

 

And as sort of a bittersweet farewell to the idea of going to Atlantic City this year, here are pictures from last year’s RM to cheer me up, and for you to enjoy too.

Book 3 is Approaching so Fast!

Just a quick note on the state of Book Three of the Akiniwazisaga.

“Into The High Places” is in the final stages of editing and formatting.  Barring any interference, the desire is to release by Labor Day.

As a little thank you for your patience from not getting it out in July, here’s an excerpt from what’s to come:

AKINIWAZISAGA - BOOK 3 - E-BOOK - FINAL

1. Beyond the Bounds of Law

 

Brother Finn looked back through the branches of the forest and down the path they had climbed to leave the Eitrfjord. Far in the distance, the last sliver of Lake Wanashiabinoogi shimmered, begging him to turn back. Finn stared at the bright flickers on the deep blue of water, palms sweating and his heart began to pound for a brand new reason.

“Just one more step, Bergie,” Finn muttered.

“All it would take is one more step, the lake would disappear from sight and my skoggang breaks,” he said to his ever faithful companion who only panted in reply. “I would become fredlause, you know? Unprotected by the law, any man who desired to take my life could do so without fear. Just like a wild animal… no reprisals… no feud… no trial. Only justice served.”

Glancing further down the trail at the small ad hoc company with whom he had thrown in his lot, Finn was still astonished with his reasoning. He gave Bergamot, his mastiff , a bittersweet smile. She waited patiently under her heavy packs.

“Such is my life,” Brother Finn said with a small snort. “Why should I even care about breaking my obedience to the Kyrkja so much? They were the unjust ones, but yet I remain chained to their ideas and authority regardless of its perversion,” he complained to her.

Misty sunlight sliced up the shade of the thick forest into glittering magical shafts. A still voice whispered in his mind, “The needs of the Forsamling are far greater than claims of the Orthodoxy. The purposes of God are grander than the vision of a few petty men in comfortable palaces.”

Brother Finn nodded a few times with the wise words that came from somewhere deep within, drew a cleansing breath through his nose and resolved to serve both his Lord and his Tign. Turning his back to the lake, Finn began descending the deer trail. The act completed his disobedience to the laws of man. His fate rested in the hands of God and Visekonge.

Far down the slope the group headed toward the sound of a babbling brook. No one had noticed Finn’s personal struggle or failure to keep up. Their long climb out of the Eitrfjord made them grateful to have a downward slope that quickened their steps. Finn could no longer see the rest of the party through the foliage but heard their voices echoing through the trees. They were much too loud for Finn’s comfort. Who knew what else could be listening among the curtains of green? He and Bergamot rushed to catch up. As the slope grew steeper, gaps in the canopy showed they were rapidly descending into a series of interconnected valleys. The white and gray peaks and palisades of the Ondeandkorgfjell fanned out before them, ominous and beautiful.

A branch cracked above and to his left. Finn had just enough time to see Friar Amr flying at him from out of a dense cluster of spruce with a bloodcurdling grin on his face. Brother Finn could not bring his harpoon to bear on Amr’s attack in time and was bowled over with a loud whoof.

Thyrnir charged out of some dense brush, barrelling down the grade. Bergamot wheeled on Thyrnir and growled, intercepting the other dog’s attack, knocking him down with her superior size, using her packs like armor. The two dogs tore at each other in a frenzy, while both their masters slashed and blocked each other in a blind tangle. Friar Amr’s strikes missed by a hair’s breadth with the barb of his harpoon but struck soundly with the blunt end. Brother Finn fought to gain distance from this savage attack.

Then just as quickly as it began, Friar Amr and Thyrnir vanished!

green trees with fog

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Cross Post from Realm Makers Group

restaurant party architecture windows

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Cross posting for those Christian Speculative Fiction writers thinking about attending Realm Makers Consortium next year, but are feeling too insecure to do so:

~~~~~

Okay, I will admit here, I was in the same spot when they announced for this year’s conference. This was my first writers conference of any kind and a lot rode on whether or not this went well. I hemmed and hawed the first time I looked over the itinerary. I didn’t know why I should bother.

I’m a stone introvert after all, hate crowds and generally have a low tolerance for several things in life. I have many coping mechanisms, but they all lead me drained and wanting to hide under the bed with dust bunnies to comfort me. (That’s why you never saw me at the after party kinda stuff. I was face down and foaming in my bed lest I was something other than my coping sunny faced insanity)

But… I had a very caring editor yell… literally yell at me and say go. So I signed up. No clue what to do, I just closed my eyes and said okay. I do not for one second regret it. I decided that I’m going to leave all my anxieties at home, force myself to drive 8 hours… through Illinois… and meet people and maybe possibly learn something that might help me grow.

I also made a conscious, terrifying decision that I was going to talk to people I normally would never dream of doing so. If someone looked scared like I felt, I’d reassure them. If someone talked to me, I’d screw on a smile and put myself out there to be embarrassed and maybe rejected because I had NOTHING to lose. If it all failed… pffft. I go back and hide in my cocoon and have learned a valuable lesson. I had to believe or at least pretend to believe that just about every person new there felt the same way.

Even as the ‘point of no return’ for registration and backing out of the hotel came up I still almost cancelled. But I didn’t. You will not regret it. One of the editors on the opening night panel (I think it was Steve Laube actually… the Dream Crusher for those of you who were there) said that Realmmakers is a “safe place to fail”. It is. It is the most welcoming place I have had to fail at. To have people you never expected to like your cockamamie idea to squeal with joy and shout “COOL!”

There is little more gratifying and soul soothing than that. Even if you haven’t published, but are trying to get published…. you have no excuse. There is a significant and loving portion of Realmies that are in the same boat as you! Team up! Encourage each other! You never know when your story may be what is needed to push another out of the valley of their own self doubt and despair and God has said “I am delegating this task to you. You are the only one who I can trust do this right. No pressure. You got this.”

So… next year… if you have the cash to do it, can manage a way to clear life out of the way… GET HERE! If for nothing else, you learn you are not alone. This FB group pales in comparison to the intensive therapy you get when meeting these people in person. (no offense guys, but you’re better in person)

There is nothing more valuable to lose than what you gain by showing up, sticking out your hand and saying “hello”. Sit at a table at breakfast and ask someone you never met before to sit down and break bread (or eggs and bacon. Lots of bacon) with you.

There. All excuses erased.

See you there next year.

 

adult agreement beard beverage

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Chaos… At Home & Abroad

With all the news going on in the world, it’s been very hard to focus on my writing.  Then again, realizing how big this grew, I’ve been struggling with the scope.  But here are some of the developments going on.

First off, I am going to be attending the Realm Makers Conference in St. Louis this year.  Hopefully I will finish my first draft by then, but we’ll see, right?

Second off, with all the craziness and… shall we call it evil behavior of the information mega corporations, I’m looking for new places to store data and conduct things with social media as I look to divest myself of Facebook, Google and Yahoo.  I am tired of being treated like a cheap commodity and with as much respect.  When this change-over happens, I don’t know.  Thankfully WordPress is owned by Automattic, and therefore I don’t think I will have to look for a blog alternative.  I’m also considering a Discord channel.

Third off, I’m really happy with the growth of book 2.  I recently did a lot of work clarifying the timetable of the chapters, which involved several shifts, and working to make sure characters had time to get from point A to point B and that communication also followed the same rules of physical space.  That’s turned out to be harder than you think.

And lastly, I found someplace that may be a good home for the Encyclopedia Akiniwazi, for free.  I’m still working on it so it’s not ready for release.  It will include the timeline and the atlas, so I hope that there will be a big reveal on that sometime in the near future.

On a plus side, I’ve got “Volume 4 : The Grand Scheme”… That’s the working title… completed in Book 2.  It’s 40 chapters, 223 pages and 81,000 words.  So yep.  A short novel unto itself.

Currently  “Volume 5 : Into The High Places” (again working title) is sitting at 46 chapters but 10 of them have not been written yet so I’m guessing it should end up around 260-270 pages if my average chapter length is in the ballpark, It means this volume might come close to 100k words too.  Uh huh… I know what you’re thinking.  Me too.

As for Volume 6… crap I have no idea.  It’s like I dumped out a 10,000 piece puzzle and the picture on the cover only shows part of the full thing, and none of it edge pieces.  But the scenes I have that will culminate into this whole story… Which BTW was supposed to be a single novel, not it’s own trilogy… Just… I can’t even….

But I’ve also got some new chapters written, so that’s a good sign… they’re just not in any order you’d recognize because I’m having to go back and insert them.  That’s hard to do.  Don’t care what anyone says.  I prefer to write chronologically in the order I expect the chapters to appear.  Helps me from getting confused.

Current Page & Word count

Pages 435
Words 156157

Don’t forget about what I said about 10 more chapters to write on Vol 4 & 5 too for what looks like another 44 pages and 25-30k words.  Book 2 is going to be massive!  Reimar… you caused me such trouble!  Geez!

So some of the new chapter titles are as follows:

A Much Needed Consultation

The Distance of Family, The Intimacy of Enemies

Hooves & Claws & Antlers & Fangs

So as you can see, new chapters are fighting hard.  Several are started but not finished too.  Again, hate writing out of sequence.

And now for another look into the first draft of Book 2.  You’ve been very patient.  As always, mind the loose boards and nails.  Things may change some from the finished product, boilerplate and fine-print insert here.  thppt.  Enjoy!

An Interrupted Meal

The Tavern Off the Pier was a ramshackle place near the town beach. Its main room was dark and smoky with the pipes of the patrons and generous hearth. The dingy gray-brown wood of the posts and rafters made the excellent food hard to believe. Forhors, now Brother Urban sat on a shaky stool at one of the several small round tables alone and finished giving thanks for his food. He then began tearing apart the “Bottle and a Bird” that had just been brought by the serving wench who also looked as run down as the building. The cider was sharp and refreshing, while the chicken was crispy, and dripping with salty fat. Although the day outside was bright and sunny, the wind was still too cold and made eating out of doors uncomfortable. Urban was most thankful for the warm fire that crackled merrily in the large hearth in the middle of the room, attended by the cook who roasted two dozen foul and several cuts of boar and venison on spits.

Licking off his fingers he relished the spicy meat. He did not know how they made it, but after one bite of the crunchy skin, he knew why this unassuming place was so busy. Urban sighed in satisfaction as he kept his own company. The first leg of his trip from Athrvorthfesting had been pleasant, if not a little exciting with the strong winds the knarr had to buck against. It felt good to be on the waves again, but there was so much farther to go, he was right to assume that he would be sick of sailing by the time he reached home. No good would come of to sending a letter ahead. He would reach home at the same time. None the less, he was certain they would be happy with the surprise.

Out through the rippled glass of the diamond paned window several ships jostled for position on the pier, or if they could, they nosed right into the soft beach and lowered the gangplanks to conduct their business. Brother Urban scratched at his new tunic where a seam on the shoulder was not comfortable. It would not do for him to be about in his Forhors robes, and decided to avail himself of the skill of his host’s mother, a talented seamstress, and have new clothes made. It had been so long since he had been out of his office’s vestments, they felt odd to his skin. Even still, he kept some remnants of his office that had been set aside in keeping with the colors of his sect, as to identify himself as a man of God, but not so much as to intimidate the common Forsamling. Ragnarites may be common on the edge of the wilds or large cities, but this was neither. Combine to this the missing weight of his sword on his hip, Brother Urban felt very much out of place.

A crowd of men came in as he enjoyed his meal, raising the pleasant mumble of the tavern to a riotous level. A ship must have just concluded business, and the men set loose to enjoy their wages for a night or two, and sjomenn took up the rest of the tables. Their soot covered faces and arms with freshly washed hands gave their jobs away as plain as could be expected. An off watch boiler crew from one of the steamknarrs at the pier. Brother Urban smiled in return when acknowledged by the passing throng and continued to eat. His trip’s next leg was beginning in a few hours, so he was in no rush.
Then someone outside caught his eye.

Through the same window, a couple stopped. A thin dignified woman, pipe in mouth with a large Skaerslinger man with her. Urban stopped chewing at the sight of the two talking before the Tavern off the Pier. They chatted for a moment, the man nodded, gave her a smile that men reserve only for their loves, and then he walked inside while she hurried off with a ledger under her arm to someplace else.
The Skaerslinger surveyed the room and saw a combination of angry glances towards him which he was immune to, but no places to sit. The big man walked over to the cook working the spits at the hearth.

“How much for a chicken and some roast boar?” He asked, his tone polite.
The cook was intimidated and took a surprised step back as silence now claimed the room.

“These are not for you, savage,” one of the sjomenn said from somewhere in the crowd. Brave enough to give voice to his distaste, but not brave enough to show himself. The Skaerslinger ignored the voice.

“How much for a chicken and some roast boar?” he repeated in the same manner.

“I…” The cook started to say, cleared his throat and tried again with a tone reinforced by murmuring from other sjomenn who had taken interest in what was happening. “They are all sold to those men.” The cook lied as he pointed in the direction of the hostile voices. The blackened boiler crew grumbled but backed up the lie since it meant keeping food from a Skaerslinger’s mouth.

The big man pursed his lips in mild irritation. It was plain that this sort of issue had happened several times before to him.

“Are you sure this is your answer?” there was no threat to the tone, but it was of such a serious nature, the cook looked ready to break even with the crowd behind him. The steamwright came forward and put down a single gold Penning on the thick stone of the raised hearth next to the cook. A half week’s wages for him.

“That should cover our meals and drinks.” His eyes locked onto the Skaerslinger’s who returned the gaze without malice nor fear.

“As you can see, Herr, these are all paid for.”

With a slow nod of acceptance, the Skaerslinger took two steps back and then turned to walk out, head turned ever so slightly as to keep the group of men in his sight just in case they considered violence wise. The door closed behind him and a discourteous murmur replaced the raucous conversation that had existed before.

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