Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Book Release Tomorrow!

   Ohhh my goodness. The Sah'niir comes out tomorrow.
   I confess, I'm not actually quite as excited as I was when I released The Zi'veyn a year ago because The Sah'niir is the second in the trilogy, which means marketing isn't as straight forward - but I am excited. It's another book under my belt, after all, and I'm releasing The Sah'niir on The Zi'veyn's first birthday! I'm hoping to get the third and final book ready for August 1st 2020, but I don't honestly know how practical a plan that is. I'll try, though, but I'm not rushing anything. It should be out by winter 2020, though, and I'm working on getting Hlífrún (which falls between The Sah'niir and book three, as a stand-alone) out for summer 2020, if all goes well.

For now, though, The Sah'niir.
Kindle pre-order (£2.49)
(or search 'The Sah'niir' on your preferred Amazon/Kindle store)
Paperback will be available to purchase once live.

   Those who have read The Zi'veyn are aware of the sheer-faced cliff the story was left hanging from. The Sah'niir picks up a few weeks later, with the exception of the prologue. I've heard it said that if anything in the prologue or the epilogue was important, it would be in the chapters themselves, not added on 'as an after-thought'. I agree in many cases, and even my own prologues and epilogues move like that. I use them more like a passing glance through a window. Some people walk past a house and habitually peer in, just like some people read prologues and epilogues. Others continue on their way, satisfied with the world as it is, just like some people don't read prologues or epilogues. And that's just fine. I think you're missing out if you don't, but it's preference and I do follow the above idea: if it's important, it'll be in the book itself. Though they're never details that are 'added on as an after-thought'.
   I will also say, though, that I really, really enjoyed writing The Sah'niir's prologue.

   If you're one of those weird people that like to read part of the second book before reading the first, just to test the waters, there will be a free preview of the first 5 chapters of The Sah'niir (including the prologue) available to read as a Kindle sample or browser window once the book has been released. You weirdos. 

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 3

Continuing my compilation of Great Western Woods' #WorldBuildingQuest, on world of The Devoted trilogy.

Speaking of which, erm, the second book, The Sah'niir, well... 
it's out tomorrow!!!

Paperbacks will be up in a day or two, otherwise you can pre-order it on Kindle right now to download on release!
And get the first of the trilogy, The Zi'veyn, for £2.49 on Kindle!
Or read the first five pages of The Zi'veyn for free on Kindle, Kindle App or your browser right here!

#WorldBuildingQuest Week 3:

Day 15: Law & Order
   Bailiffs deal with their own bailiwicks, according to royal law. On the larger scale, the guards handle the day-to-day - catching and deterring thieves, watching for anything untoward, and doing general guardy-stuff. Not all of them are above being paid off, which happens most frequently in Carenna. The inquisitors of the White Hammer deal with higher crimes that require investigation and carry a higher threat - organised crime, lynching, rebellion, trafficking, etc. The Arana deal with covert issues.

Day 16: Government Structure
   The Crown, led by the king, consists of a number of advisors, and each significant branch of authority (White Hammer, Arana, Order) have their own liaisons to the Crown, who are responsible for ferrying back and forth the Crown's commands and the authorities' reports. It's not a perfect system.

Day 17: Family Groups
   As standard. Elderly often live with their children and grandchildren, especially in the smaller villages where housing and work is sparse. There is always a man of the house, and in the event of a husband's death, the woman is expected to remarry to support her family.

Day 18: Gender Roles
   Women are expected to clean, sew, look after children, but despite the need for a man of the house, they are able to work, and in some cases even join the army, as long as their skill is evident. They will never progress high in the ranks, however. Women are seen as inferior, which leaves a lot of room for a woman to take advantage of being underestimated. This means that women are ideal for the Arana, because they can easily uncover secrets. They're also good for lower ranks in the White Hammer so that they can infiltrate, much like among the Arana, without being suspected. In the Order, however, woman are as equal as men in the ranks, as magic doesn't stem from physical strength. They can be soldiers in the military wing, they can be preservers in the preservation wing, and they can be scholars. A good deal of women choose to pursue a career as a preserver, which is more impressive than a scholar but not as demanding as a soldier, and puts them out into the world where they can walk tall and publicly defy general ideas of women walking with their heads bowed.

Day 19: World of Work
   Apprenticeships are given out at young ages. Children often follow in their parents' footsteps because it's easy, it's at home, and they've already been exposed to the trade. However, many will still go out looking for something else so they might earn themselves a better life for themselves, or for their own family.

Day 20: Class Divides/Social Mobility
   Rich & poor steer clear of one another, and towns and cities are segregated. But the poor are not restricted on where they can go, with the exception of the richest districts and the royal grounds. In theory, both the rich and the poor could visit the same tavern. It's taste and price that keeps them from doing so. While it will be difficult, there's nothing stopping a poor person with skill in a trade from elevating. However, it's unlikely that someone of low birth would ever be hired in the palace as even the lowliest servant, nor as a noble's stablehand. But, if they worked hard enough, and their son followed in their footsteps, the son may well have even better prospects.

Day 21: Religion/Belief Structure:
   The Temple teaches Craitic belief, and praise towards the goddess, Vastal. While it teaches goodness and light, for some, it's nothing more than a means of securing a kinder road in the afterlife.
Then there's the Sulyax Dizan, translated from elven into 'Guards of the Apocalypse', who act upon a prophecy from Craitic belief dictating that the elves were destroyed by the God of Death, Zikhon, when their belief in Vastal waned so much that she weakened and was unable to hold him back from her children. The Sulyaxists believe that a lesser god, Vokaad, will be able to find a way to shield the world from Zikhon's rage should belief in Vastal inevitably wane among humans in time, but to do so, he needs souls of various value. Sulyaxists kill ritualistically and are gifted with a rudimentary form of magic, but it fades and results in increasing withdrawal symptoms, provoking them to kill again. A ceremonial dagger is used in each killing, along with a ritualistic phrase. Without both of these, a soul will not go to Vokaad.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Turunda & The Devoted Trilogy - World Building Prompts, Part 2

Last week I started compiling all of my prompt posts from Great Western Woods' #WorldBuildingQuest, focusing on the world of The Devoted trilogy (work on book three is underway, and book two, The Sah'niir, will be out in one week!)

#WorldBuildingQuest Week 2:

Day 8. Food
   A good, healthy diet of grains, meats and vegetables. Meat is not exclusive to the wealthy, though the variety available is more restricted. Game is common, however, as the forests and valleys are thick with deer, boar and jackalopes, if one is prepared to hunt on free land. Cider is easy to make, ale less so, but they're all widely available, while wines are slowly becoming available to a wider market rather than their previous restriction to those of higher status.

Day 9. Farmed Animals
   Cows and sheep; the typical animals. But it isn't too wide-spread, as game is so abundant. Poaching is a problem and it's handled harshly, but hunting remains the dominant source of meat, especially for the poor. The risks are worth it.

Day 10. Natural Predators
   If you wander into the wilds of Turunda, many of the creatures hiding in, behind or beneath the trees are a danger of one kind or another, but the most likely to cause harm is the raghorn - half deer, half wild cat. It's aggressive and considered a fine trophy for hunters. There is an annual raghorn hunt which will frequently result in injury, if not death - which is all part of the thrill, of course.

Day 11. Climate & Seasons
   Turunda carries a mild climate, mid-way between the equator and the poles. There is sufficient rain, being so close to the sea, and the surrounding mountains cast a rain shadow which additionally waters the soils. Neighbouring countries are largely the same, with the exception of Ivaea to the north which, due to that very rain shadow, is one third desert despite being only a little closer to the equator.

Day 12: Trade Routes & Travel
   There are plenty of roads connecting the capital to the towns and cities, whereas most villages are often a backroad away, but with game hunting being the primary source of meat, the mild climate making farming vegetables easy, and the abundance of water, people living in villages generally get by without the need to visit large markets as often. The markets feature more game and crops, but also spices brought down from the north, tribal curiosities (despite the fear and distaste for the tribespeople themselves) and finery that the poor can get by without. Travel is mostly by foot, then by horse, then cart or carriage depending on wealth and importance (and pomposity).

Day 13: Important Trade Towns
   Roeden and Whitemouth are important sea ports and deal with the trade from the smaller southern islands, while Emberton is crucial to the steel trade. Carenna, far to the north, though an unsavoury sort of place, is where the spices and tribal goods are first dealt with, as well as bleeding opiac and liquors into the broader market.

Day 14: Education
   It's not wide-spread and limited to the rich. Ordinary people have the option to either join the Temple and learn from the priests, or choose a trade and learn via apprenticeships. Life lessons are taught by parents or learned the hard way. Those who enter into the Hall of the White Hammer are given additional education, but they usually require a tactical mind to begin with, and those who enter the Arana must be quick-witted with a natural intelligence, and the ability to obey commands unerringly. Military requires less education. Mages who enter into the Order are given a broader education, regardless of background.

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.