Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 1

   I've been more active on Instagram these past few months, and I've been focusing it on my writing, sharing character and world building information, resources, cover reveals and illustrations and anything else that fantasy book lovers might enjoy.
   Last month, the Great Western Woods podcast duo started a daily prompt list to help with world building. I wanted to get on board, and decided to share more in-depth details about the world of The Devoted trilogy rather than build something new, since I'm still working very much within this world (work has begun on the third and final book, and the second will be out on August 1st!)

   I'm going to gather up all the prompts and responses from this World Building Quest and share them all with you here over 5 posts. I'm also including some of my #FantasyWIPJune posts that I posted at the same time, if they're relevant. They were, otherwise, all posted in a thread on twitter ^^

   You can read chapters 1-5 of book one, The Zi'veyn, for free on Kindle, Kindle app or in your browser right here!
   It's also available on all Kindle stores, and from select Amazon stores in paperback (UK & DE Amazon ship across Europe). Book two, The Sah'niir, is available for Kindle pre-order and will be available for download on August 1st, when paperback is also released.

Day 1: Genre & Setting
   The Devoted is set in a fantasy, pre-technology world. I prefer pre-tech because it makes greed less tangible and more akin to obsessive survival. It's set within the borders of Turunda, the southern tip of the continent of Arasiin, and under the reign of King Thunan, 700 years after the extinction of the elves.

Bonus: Day 1 of FantasyWIPJune: Does your WIP have a Creation myth?
Vastal and Zikhon were the sole gods. Vastal created elves and humans for extra company, but Zikhon grew jealous and sought to destroy them. Vastal fought him off for centuries, but when the faith of the dominant elves dwindled, Vastal weakened. Zikhon slipped through her defence and destroyed them all. Only the humans' love for her gave her strength enough to protect them. And so only the reverent humans remain.
According, at least, to Craitic belief.

Day 2. Draw Your Borders
   Sea and mountains define a good deal of Turunda's land. The mountains are vast - the Pavise range in the west belong largely to Skilan, while the eastern Olusan belong to Ivaea who neighbour along the northern border. Doana lies to the east, and Kalokh to the north-west, above Skilan.

Day 3. Find Your Water Source
   Turunda's water sources largely consist of the Emerald River, which stretches across a good deal of the south east from its source in the Wildlands, while the Northrage in the north and the White River in the west supply the rest.

Bonus: Day 3 of FantasyWIPJune: Hierarchy. Who's in charge?
The Crown - the king and his council, who then control the 4 authorities: the Arana, the Order, the Hall of the White Hammer, & the military.
But, being banished and all, Rathen doesn't really recognise their authority anymore...

Day 4. Establish Your Capital
   Kulokhar, its namesake from the three elven spiral towers, which translates into 'Ebon Star Rise'. This is where the king's palace is located, as well as the mages' Order, the White Hammer's headquarters, as well as the Arana. It lies close to the Emerald River.

Bonus: Day 4 of FantasyWIPJune: Culture(s)
Turunda is a loose mix of English and Scandinavian culture, but the wind tribes are my favourite - they're not material people and get by on what they need, either trading for or making it. They're inspired loosely by Tibetan Buddhism.

Day 5: Survey Your Landscape
   It's low-lying and largely forested, with three major rivers carving through to distribute fair water to support the forests. Mountains to the east and west capture much of the rain, keeping the country verdant. There are also a few dales, meadows and fells, with limestone scowles to the south.

Bonus: Day 5 of FantasyWIPJune: Describe Any Location
The Wildlands - dense, overgrown, truly wild forest of eastern Turunda. Thick with creatures of legend - näcken, askafroa, kvistdjur & many more. Hlífrún's throne. It's a dangerous place to venture. Even more so if you catch the huldra's eye.

Day 6: Natural Resources
   Wood is Turunda's largest resource, along with clay, while stone is sourced from Kalokh and Ivaea where necessary.

Bonus: Day 6 of FantasyWIPJune: Religious Beliefs
The most wide-spread is the praise of Vastal, though the distinction between her Faces is neglected, and the caution of Zikhon (see Day 1). Elemental tribes worship elemental deities, and those with their god's favour can mimic their powers.

Day 7: Sapient Species
   With elves extinct, humans are the dominant species, while the forests are also riddled with wild, sentient creatures. The most commonly spotted are the ditchlings, who go so far as to venture into towns and villages and steal from washing lines and kitchen windowsills. There are also näcken, kvistdjur, vittra, etc ❤ There is only one huldra per continent, and she rules over the forests and its creatures.

Monday, 1 July 2019

The Sah'niir, Book Cover Reveal

I mentioned in my earlier post that today was the day for my book cover reveal, and I wasn't lying.
After a few weeks of work, straining my eyes and becoming really quite sick of drawing, I've finished!!

   It's not the greatest cover in the world, and I still think that The Zi'veyn's is better, but they will both do. It's immensely satisfying to be able to say that I made the book and the cover. But there is a reason that professionals are hired, and I would never turn my nose up at them. But while my budget consists of biscuits and pocket lint, there's not much I can do but practise and hope that my own efforts will do for the time being.
   Tools: Wacom Intuos art, Paint Tool SAI, photo reference (of my husband again :B) and much trial and error.

   But, ultimately, I am very proud of it, and it had a better first attempt than The Zi'veyn's originally did.

   The book itself will be released on Kindle & paperback one month from today, on August 1st, and pre-order links will be available very soon!

Lately, and Getting Back to Routine

   After six months of constant and changing work, my massive to-do list has finally come to an end, and on Thursday last week, I finally made a start writing book three of The Devoted trilogy! The cover for The Sah'niir is finished, proof covers have arrived, and I'm in a position, at last, to make its reveal later today. I've also sent out six copies of my Camp NaNo project, Hlífrún, out to beta-readers to find out once and for all if the book makes any sense on its own, or if readers will be in the dark unless they've read The Zi'veyn, and I've also made revisions to the beginning of that very book to try to improve the opening and grasp more attention. Which I then sent out to 14 literary agents. If I never mention it again, it's because it was a miserable failure.

   This is the first time I've had a regular writing/daily routine since October. Back then, I put the almost-finished Sah'niir to one side in order to keep ahead of Christmas Etsy orders. Then, when I got back to it after Christmas, it only took me two weeks to get it finished before 6 weeks of proofing and editing began, then I got to work planning out the third book. Between that, I worked on a couple of short stories for Frenone's tarot book project before making the spontaneous decision to write Hlífrún, which I did in 3.5 weeks, flat-out. That was then edited and proofed, and then I returned to planning the third book, alongside working on the cover for the second, updating The Zi'veyn, its cover and its maps, preparing new agent submissions with a fresh and far more accurate synopsis of the entire trilogy, a much improved cover letter, and gathering every detail each individual wanted. So it has been a very busy six months, indeed.
   Now, however, it's all smooth-sailing. I have no other side projects left. It's just my book, and my shop. I hadn't been stressed out by any of it because the deadlines were either months away (and still are, though I've long since completed my part), or self-imposed without repercussions, but suddenly it feels like I can breathe more easily.

I'm so proud of my digital art growth:

   I'm hoping to blog more often now that I have more manageable time, too. I've been pretty active on Instagram, but I'm certain I can bring a lot of that over here, too, and while my fitness has been pretty steady, the fact that I no longer change it up every month leaves less to talk about. But I'm still going at it with 3 months of resistance training, using the same programs as I outlined last year (v1, v2 & v3) and I've improved drastically. Case in point: when I first started in March last year, I was deadlifting 3x 10 12.5kg. A year on, I was deadlifting 3x 12 25kg. And just 3 months after that, I'm now lifting 35kg. It's one of the things I love about resistance and strength training (aside from the fact that your heart stays in your chest, not your throat, and that it's a much more manageable workout in a heatwave) - tracking your progress is so very much easier. Physical change aside, I can see myself getting stronger faster than anything else, and that is incredibly empowering.
   That said, today I'm starting Core de Force again for a month. My focus in training months is muscle gain. My focus this month is fat loss. Which means it's going to suck because I have to keep a closer eye on what I eat and eat less (muscle gain requires a calorie surplus, fat loss requires a deficit).
   Still, it's only 5 weeks, and the last time I did this I actually went for 9 weeks and stopped seeing any fat loss after 5.5, so I know that I'm running it for the optimal amount of time, then I can run back to my weights. Also, in my increasing strength *flexes casually* I finally bought a new barbell. My beginner's one, a £35 20kg Women's Health barbell, was absolutely great to start with - padded and straight-forward - but the bar itself is in three pieces and screws together, and while that's fine for the weights that come with it, I started to worry when I bought a bigger plate. I wasn't really comfortable chest pressing 25kg, knowing that the bar could break and fall on my head. So I bought a big York one, along with another 10kg plate. Which frees up my old bar for lighter weights and standing upper body moves, while opening up the possibility now to lift up to 45kg. And with a far more reliable bar, I'm much happier buying even more plates in the future.

   Hopefully I'll be back with regular posting soon. Otherwise, I'm still very much alive on twitter, and my Instagram page is full of book info! Creative info, not technical updates.

Friday, 28 June 2019

7 Ways To Monitor Your Health

   It's remarkable, really, that it's only in today's age that people are really starting to pay attention to their health. I don't just mean eating right and exercising (nor am I talking about herbal remedies, spiritual cleansing or other unproven and baseless 'cures'). I mean prevention and awareness, in ourselves and others.
   Those of you who have been here for a while know that my mother suffers from secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. It's true that there are diseases out there that no amount of preventative measures can ward off, it's the way of the world and we just have to try to get by. But there are a great many things that can be staved off simply by taking care of yourself. There's a lot of hype at the moment about 'self-care', but a shocking number of people use 'self-care' as an excuse to binge-eat, get lazy and generally do themselves more damage. For a fit and healthy individual, starting the day with a doughnut and milkshake just once a week isn't going to do anything terrible for you. That's what self-care is about. But for people who are already lazy, sedentary, and have a poor diet, that's just piling it on. In their case, 'self-care' would be better equated to a walk outside on a lovely day (or perhaps in the rain - don't knock it until you've tried it. As Billy Connolly said: there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes).
   But we're not talking about that kind of self-care when it comes to physical health, longevity and quality of life. We're talking about keeping an eye on the things that matter. "They seem like such a faff" - if you shrug them off with an excuse like that, your health can't be very important to you. Once it becomes standard practice, a regular part of your weekly or daily routine, you won't even notice the few minutes it takes to get it done.

    When it comes to health, prevention and early detection now enjoy almost the same prominence as actual cures. This, of course, makes sense - if you can stop a condition or illness from developing, or identify it early enough to intervene before it becomes severe, quality of life can be preserved and outcomes are improved. While seeking cures for conditions will always be important, prevention and early detection are now considered to be of paramount importance.
   For most people, achieving the goal of “prevention” is rather straightforward. Most of us know the basics of maintaining good health: eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing weight, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and ensuring we are mentally active. However, early detection is a little more difficult - especially as many health conditions can remain asymptomatic for years or even decades.
   Thankfully, modern medical knowledge has provided an answer in the form of comprehensive health monitoring options. While these monitoring options should never be a replacement from seeking advice or treatment from your doctor, they can provide a helpful insight that allows you to keep tabs on your health and identify any possible issues as soon as possible. Below, we have detailed seven different ways that you can monitor various aspects of your health that you may want to try, starting with…

Heart Rate Recovery After Exercise

   Your “heart rate recovery” (HRR) is a measurement that reflects how quickly your heart rate returns to normal following exercise - ideally, your heart rate should increase when you are working out, and then begin to decrease as soon as you are at rest. Studies have shown that a poor HRR can actually be an indicator of heart attack risk, so if you exercise regularly, checking your HRR is always worth doing. Here’s what you need to do:
  • When you have finished exercising, you’ll need to check your heart rate. You can do this with heart rate monitoring devices, by consulting a fitness tracker if you use one, or just by counting each beat for one minute (or for 30 seconds and then multiplying the number by two).
  •  Note down your first reading, and then wait for two minutes before taking your heart for a second time.
  • To establish your HRR, you need to subtract the second number from the first. For example, if the reading that you took immediately after finishing exercise was 130, and your second reading two minutes later was 65, then your HRR would be 65 (130 - 65 = 65).
  • If your HRR is below 55, then discuss this with your doctor.

“Finger Prick” Blood Screening

   “Finger prick” blood screenings are exactly what you would expect: blood screenings that can be conducted using a very small amount of blood. This means that there is no need to visit a medical professional for a blood draw; the tests can be purchased online and then completed at home, with samples then returned by post and results following a few days later.
   However, it is important to note that finger prick blood screenings should only be used for monitoring purposes - to keep an eye on health indicators such as cholesterol or to check vitamin absorption, for example. If you feel unwell or suspect you may be experiencing a health condition, then always discuss this with your doctor; and if you do opt to undergo a blood screening, always discuss the results with your GP.

Sexual Health Check-Ups

   When it comes to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, it’s always helpful to ensure you and your partner are aware of the potential signs of infection, especially as the symptoms for men and women tend to differ - and some people experience no symptoms at all.
   How often you should undergo an STI depends on your circumstances. If you are not sure how often you need to be tested, your doctor will be able to provide a recommendation for frequency that is suitable for you.

Blood Pressure Monitoring

   As a condition, hypertension (or “high blood pressure” as it is better known) is, for most people, relatively straightforward to manage. However, hypertension significantly increases the risk of other, more concerning health issues, including a higher risk of blood clots and heart disease. Symptoms of hypertension include headaches, fatigue, a fast heart rate, chest pain, or a “pounding” feeling in the chest neck or ears - but for many people, the condition is entirely asymptomatic, so much so that hypertension is often referred to as a “silent killer”.
   As hypertension can be so difficult to identify, regularly monitoring your blood pressure can be very helpful. There are two different ways to do this, the first of which is to buy an at-home monitor. If you do choose this option, always look for a monitor that is approved by the British and Irish Hypertension Society to ensure accurate readings. However, if you’d prefer not to buy your own monitor, then check local chemists, gyms, or even your GP surgery to see if they provide access to a monitoring machine without an appointment.

Smear Tests

   Smear tests are designed to help prevent cancer from developing in the future by monitoring for changes in the cervix. Women in the UK are advised to attend regular smear tests every three years (or every five years if between the ages of 59 and 64); however, research has indicated that one in four women do not attend.
   If you want to monitor your health as well as possible, then attending a smear test when recommended will always be the right choice. If you have any concerns about the test, then speak to your doctor for reassurance, or browse through the #SmearForSmear hashtag on various social media platforms to read smear test stories that can help ease your mind. It is not as awful an experience as popular media would have you believe.

Self Examination

   Sometimes, the best thing that you can do to monitor your health is simply to conduct regular checks on certain areas of your body and to look out for any potential changes. For women, monthly breast checks are very beneficial and can help to identify early signs of breast cancer; for men, regular testicle checks for any signs of lumps is important when seeking to identify testicular cancer.
   In addition to the above, regularly checking your skin - and, in particular, checking any moles have not changed - is recommended. You can also check your fingernails for any dark spots, particularly if the spot appears to originate at the cuticle.
   If, when checking any of the above, you notice any changes or symptoms that are a cause for concern, then speak to your doctor as soon as possible. There can be benign reasons that are responsible for most changes, but it is nevertheless important to seek your doctor’s assistance.

Eye Tests

   As one would expect, eye tests are incredibly useful for checking the health of your eyes and your vision - and should always be attended for these reasons alone. However, a visit to an optician is actually an opportunity to check far more than just your eyes. For example, opticians can identify signs of a range of health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, and even arthritis; so an eye exam should be considered health-beneficial on multiple levels. For most people, eye tests are recommended every two years, though you can arrange an appointment if you feel that your vision has changed in the intervening period.

Monday, 24 June 2019

The Zi'veyn For Free (and book two imcoming!)

   YES, The Zi'veyn is available for free download across all Kindle stores once again, readable on all Kindle devices, or on the free Kindle Reading app on all tablets, smart phones, laptops, PCs and Macs! And this is a big one, because the first few chapters have been revised based on feedback, and the maps have also been improved drastically! And, in five and a half weeks, the second book of the trilogy, The Sah'niir, will be released!

   I've prepped the files for The Sah'niir, everything has been proofed, edited and prepared, and I finished work on the book cover. It went much smoother this time around. I've just ordered proof copies of the cover itself, and then I'll put together a proof copy of the book. Assuming all goes well, it will be fit for release on August 1st, one year after the release of The Zi'veyn.
   To download your copy of The Zi'veyn, either visit your regional amazon or Kindle store and search 'The Zi'veyn', or click one of the links below for the most often visited stores:

UK   •   The Netherlands   •   US   •   Canada   •   Australia

   And, if you're not sure, you can read the improved first five chapters for free right here! These chapters will always be available for preview on your device, or can be downloaded as a free Kindle sample to your ereader or app for easy reading on the go. As for the free book, The Zi'veyn will be free on Kindle from Monday 24th to Friday 28th of June.