Oathbreaker Now Available!

Oathbreaker, the newest novel in my Dreaming Death world, is now available as an ebook in all formats.

THE HORN: OATHBREAKER (BOOK 1)

Read the First Chapter here!

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Available at: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Apple /

 

From the world of Dreaming Death, we follow Amal, Lady Horn as she and her guards try to preserve one of the great secrets of Larossa: an abandoned Fortress. The Cince Empire want its secrets, and will do anything to get someone inside. The Oathbreakers–those members of each of the Six Families who speak to their Fortresses–all suspect that the Fortress is still alive.

Amal, the chief of the Oathbreakers, is one of only a handful of people aware of the true dangers the abandoned Fortress of Salonen presents. Now they must decide whether to wake the sleeping Fortress so it can defend itself against the Cince…or kill it forever.

Dalyan doesn’t know why he was sent to find the abandoned Fortress, what makes it worth the time his masters invested in training him. When the Horn arrest him for trespassing on the glacier beneath it, he goes with them willingly enough. After all, he didn’t return to his masters on schedule, and now they’re trying to kill him.

But more than that, he feels drawn to the abandoned Fortress, as if he belongs there…

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How (Not) to Talk to a Writer # 12 (Memory)

When you approach your favorite writer, if you ask them, “Hey, in that book you wrote twelve years ago, on page 37, why did ____________________?”

They may not have an answer for you.

They’re not being coy.

They’re not being evasive.

They may not remember.

If you look at the publication date of their book and then shift back a couple of years, that’s probably when they wrote it. Maybe even before that.

Since that time, they’ve written a million other words, some good, some bad. Some are more beloved than others. Some get edited once, and thus have appeared fewer times before the writer’s eyes.

It’s interesting to me to go back and visit the world of The King’s Daughter and The White Queen (the two old novels I’m reading through and serializing on my old website.) I have written other things in this ‘world’ since then, an entire novel set 50 years later, and I’ve outlined several others.  This ‘world’ is my writing passion.  I love these people with a white hot fire.

Going back, it was interesting to consider what I would actually change to make these two novels fit better with what I’m currently looking at.  I was surprised how little would change.  No, I wouldn’t be willing to publish these two as is–I need to rework some things.  TWQ is actually a first draft, the ending left off. (I’m -sure- I wrote it, but it didn’t make it into this file. I just have to find it.)

But it’s reassuring that my writing wasn’t too bad a decade ago.

And even so, it’s amazing to me how much I’ve forgotten….

 

RESEARCH FOR WRITERS OF HISTORICAL FICTION #10

We’re entering the home stretch of this presentation, and today we’re going to cover an important point:

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The video pictured above provoked one of my worst rabbit hole incidents of all–the Affair of the Sidewalks.

Right before I was supposed to turn in my second novel to my editor, I happened across this video. It’s notable in that it was filmed in 1896–possibly the first Portuguese film ever–and shows women coming out of a factory on St. Catarina Street in Porto after their shift.  It’s only a minute or so long, and has little merit other than it’s ‘first’ status.

However, when I watched it, I saw ONE THING…the women were coming out of the factory onto a SIDEWALK.

I immediately began to wonder how many streets in Porto had sidewalks at the time of my novels…how many of those streets had I mentioned and NOT given them a sidewalk????

I began desperately poring through pictures on the internet and making lists of which ones had sidewalks and which ones didn’t. I did this for a couple of hours before I came to the realization that NO ONE WOULD CARE.

It wasn’t important. It didn’t touch on the plot of my story. I could simply avoid mentioning sidewalks altogether. Because as hard as it was for me to find that information, who else would know?  Seriously? Is there a sidewalk historian who’s going to read my book? That’s about the only person who would even care…

And that illustrates my point. That’s two hours of my life during which I should have been writing, not researching something silly like that.

So…I came up with a rule:

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Yep, if it’s obscure enough that I can’t fine it, then there’s not much chance that any of my readers will know the difference if I get it wrong.  I have to make the call and move on to things that are more important.

It’s harder to do than say. Rabbit Holes abound everywhere, and researching them is, quite honestly, fun. We wouldn’t tackle historical if we didn’t love that.

But we do have to learn to draw the line somewhere. It may not be an hour for you. It might be one day. Or one week. Whatever you’re comfortable with.  But whenever you do find yourself falling down a rabbit hole, try to have a safety line to pull yourself back to reason.  1 hour for me.

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Next Week: What to do When You Make a Mistake

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RRH Confession #11

I ignore the above rule far too often.

 

 

 

How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #11

Write what you know….

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You teach Calculus? Then you should write Hard SF.

I’ve seriously been told this. By a major book company editor.

The truth is, I have no interest in writing an SF novel about Calculus. Nor do I think I would read one. And honestly, if we all wrote what we knew, we would only be writing diaries and journals. All fiction is just that….fiction.

Am I saying we don’t need to know anything before we write? Not at all. We need to put thought into our work. And yes, it truly helps if we learn to do things first hand. (Otherwise all my time learning fencing, horsemanship, shooting, rapelling, sailing, camels, languages, etc…was all wasted.)

But I write about sereia and selkies and seers. Do I know any of these personally? Have I interviewed any of them prior to writing? I’m afraid not.

And that’s a part of what makes writing (and reading, I hope) fun.

So if you want to write about submarines or dirigibles, you don’t have to build one first. Do your research, but don’t let the fact that you’ve never captained a dirigible stop you from writing that…

Research for Writing YA and Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy

This the ninth in a series of guest posts by authors who, like me, have found themselves falling down into a Research Rabbit Hole, often with hilarious results. Because this is the true danger of research…it sucks you in!

GUEST AUTHOR: KATHRYN SULLIVAN

My day job was university librarian so whenever I needed to research a topic, I always *really research* a topic. I might start out with Google or Wikipedia to find some useful terms, but if something exists in this world, I want to know as much as I can about it before I start modifying it for a science fiction or a fantasy story. So that means books, journals and newspapers as well as websites, forums and blogs.

For my last book, Talking to Trees, a YA Fantasy, I wanted to briefly mention some tree diseases. I started with Dutch Elm disease, because there were photographs in historic newspapers of my current town of the main street lined by huge elms that are there no longer. The blight that killed off most of the chestnut trees in North America (four billion) was next, followed by diseases affecting oak trees. I used to be Periodicals Librarian at my university, so I know how to search the academic databases and the paper indexes for the older journals.  I had scientific articles filling my research folder as well as pages of newspaper articles. The ‘brief mention’ ended up being an important plot point, but very little of the pages of research made it into the book.  It didn’t have to.

For my current work in progress I needed information on comets and meteors. The main character may be 10 years old, but she’s more focused on astronomy than I was at her age (she has a telescope and a backyard in which to use it). Plus there has been more discoveries since I was ten. I already get The Planetary Report, and the university library had paper and online subscriptions to Science and other journals. The curriculum collection had science textbooks for the elementary and high school grades, so I could check what information was currently taught in schools.  Though since the story is set in the far future, there will be changes.

Research was the perfect excuse to watch the show Meteorite Men (2009-2012) (yes, the work in progress has been in progress for a while).

The university offered an astronomy class for retirees, and the instructor was a geologist who specialized in impact craters. I quickly signed up, and enjoyed myself. She had meteorites that we could handle, and examples of “meteor wrongs”.

A side rabbit hole I fell into was checking newspaper articles on science fair projects and robotics competitions. My justification was to confirm that ten-year-olds are indeed working on advanced science projects. And they are.

All the research I’ve done for this project is quite a contrast to an short story that I wrote while baby sitting at age 16, which was inspired by a newspaper article about predicted meteor showers that month.

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kathysullivan1-06Kathryn Sullivan has been writing science fiction and fantasy since she was 14 years old. Having read her father’s collection of sf and fantasy, she started writing her own. The world set up in The Crystal Throne has been developing since then. Some of the short stories escaped into fan zines, print zines and ezines, but those were collected into Agents & Adepts.

Follow her: Website / Facebook 

RESEARCH FOR WRITERS OF HISTORICAL FICTION #9

This turns out to be a very basic section of my presentation. You know what sort of resources you need to pay for. The thing to remember here is that you should spend your money wisely.  So I’ll start off with a couple of suggestions:

  1. If you’re looking at a resource to purchase, check it out first on-line. Read the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon to learn whether other readers felt the book delivered. If you’re on Amazon, try the “Look Inside” function and check out the Index if there’s one there. You could also try getting it through your library first, just to see whether it’s useful. Due your due diligence before you lay out funds….if you waste money on a bad book, that may prevent you from buying the good book.
  2. If the book is from 1923 or prior, consider reading it on-line first. Since it’s out of copyright in the US, there are a lot of places where you can skim through that book (GoogleBooks is a good place to start) and determine whether it’s worth spending your money on. This can save you lots of money and time. (And you may decide just to keep using the online version instead of buying.)

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If you’re looking for some basic resources, most people will start with Histories and Biographies, but let me also suggest the alternatives of Journals (or Diaries) and Novels that come from that time period. While I did read histories, I actually find that Journals and Novels give me a lot more atmosphere. They tell me what people were eating, what street scenes were like, how people felt about this law or that.

I read several novels by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, which gave me a great feel for the daily life of a young gentleman of Lisbon (including the fact that everyone smoked!), and how the houses would be decorated (the living room in the Pereira de Santos home looks a great deal like Eduardo’s office in Os Maias). I read the journals of a wealthy Russian serf and learned that he regularly ate pirogis for lunch.  Those are the sort of details that a history won’t give you.

In addition, I have purchased several travel guides. My favorite is the Baedeker I purchased for $50 (it was worth EVERY penny), and I talk a lot about using it here. Not only did that book tell me the price of cabs in 1901 Barcelona, the train schedules for crossing Spain, the presence of a hotel omnibus, where the embassies, post offices, and telegraphs offices were, they also told me what a visitor would visit…or NOT visit. (The Sagrada Familia didn’t even make the book in 1901.) I also found, in one of my travel guides for Saratoga Springs, the dinner menu for the hotel in which my character is staying (and thus I made her sit through all the courses with an overbearing man!) It was great!

And MAPS. I love maps. You can, quite frankly, simply download a lot of them online, but if you’re like me and prefer to see the period maps, you purchase them. Where do I purchase my maps? Surprisingly enough, I got most from ETSY. Yes, the vintage sale site also has a ton of period maps, most torn out of altases or guide books like the Baedeker mentioned above. It was a surprise to me to find them there.

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Finally, you can take courses. The RWA in particular is good about offering online courses to its members on a myriad of historical topics. Some are available to non-members as well.  Community colleges often had history classes on various topics, and your research librarian friend might be able to hook you up with different classes of other sorts (like the once-weekly Farsi class they have in Edmond or the Fencing Class down in Oklahoma City). And an organization like the YMCA often offers unusual classes as well (I learned to sail via the YMCA).

So if you’re going to pay for a resource, do your homework before hand. It’s never fun to get a book in the mail only to discover that it doesn’t have what you want at all!

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Next Week: When to Stop Researching and Fudge Your Answer

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RRH Confession #10

I purchased and watched (several times) the movie Saratoga Trunk. It’s not a particularly good movie, despite having Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, but it was filmed in the hotel that I mentioned above…only a few years before the hotel burned to the ground. You can catch a few glimpses of the United States Hotel in this trailer.

How much it actually showed up in Snowfall is another matter…but I researched the snot out of that hotel!

 

How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #10

I’ve been reposting items from my old-webpage, and this is one that was originally posted 11/16/13–a few months before the publication of my first novel. It’s rather sadly prophetic, because I, too, ended up in this boat when my publisher decided not to continue a series (more on that at the bottom)

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(Here’s the original post.)

Why haven’t you written _________________ yet?

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Now, I understand this urge, but it would be better to say something like I really loved __________. I would love to read a sequel to it. That first way of asking it makes it seem like the author answers to you….which is not how the world runs.

First of all, authors are generally writing as fast as they can. Some of us are fast, some are slow.

And sometimes we just don’t get to write that sequel at all. Authors often have little control over what’s published (unless they’re self-publishing). An author’s contract is never written as ‘just write whatever book you want.’ (OK, Steven King probably gets this contract, but the vast majority of writers don’t.)

Most authors who are in a contract situation write what the publisher says they’ll buy. (Or what they hope the publisher will buy, which is where I am.) If the publisher tells me “We’ve decided not to buy Book 3”, then I’ll immediately stop working on it and move to something I CAN sell.

Because sometimes publishers give up on series before an author is done.

I know a lot of authors to whom this has happened. I’ve been the reader on the other end of that equation, too. Would I have liked to see Ansen Dibell’s fouth and fifth books of the Kantmorie saga*? Another book in Martha Well’s Ile-Rien? The fifth Bracebridge Mystery from Margaret Miles?

Yes, I want all those books.

But for one reason or another, someone higher up in the food chain made the decision that those books wouldn’t sell well enough, and thus they aren’t out there.

It usually isn’t the author’s choice.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes the author is just done with that setting or group of characters. Sometimes we think we’ve explored all we can there. That happens, too.

But the decision about what to write next is always complicated. We simply can’t write everything….we’re only human.

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*Books 4 and 5 exist only in French and Dutch, since her US publisher dropped them.

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(As a final note, if you want to know why I haven’t written the sequel to Dreaming Death yet, it’s because of the above reason…the publisher decided not to carry forward.  I will be publishing it myself next year, though….if I can afford to do so. So far, self-publishing has not been profitable, but I’m hoping to turn that around!)

How (Not) to Talk to a Writer #9

What do you do when you get writer’s block?
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This is a difficult question to answer. I’m not sure what ‘Writer’s Block” truly is. If you ask a dozen different writers about this, I suspect you’ll get a dozen different answers. But there are likely times when we all have a lack of motivation.

But I have a contract. I have to produce…on a deadline.

So what do I do when the inspiration is thin?

Usually I do something else. I don’t build sandcastles, but I’ll garden. I’ll clean house. Often I’ll work on some other writing project. But I’ll do something that will let my problem story ‘rest’. And usually that will shake free whatever I need.

That doesn’t always work. I have discovered that a deadline works wonders. In a workshop I was challenged to write a story in 24 hours given a prompt and some research time. I ended up writing “Fleurs du Mal” that way. Now I don’t set myself 24 hour deadlines, but I’m pretty good about meeting larger deadlines that I set for myself.

I suspect that’s one of the things that sets the ‘writers’ apart from ‘people with good ideas’. We’re practiced at forcing ourselves to sit down and pound out the words.

Even if they’re not always inspired.

Once they’re there on the page, it’s much easier for me to fix them.

That won’t hold true for every writer, but it’s what works for me.

What works for you?

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(Next week is a holiday week, so no regular posts….sorry!)

It’s All Relative

This the eighth in a series of guest posts by authors who, like me, have found themselves falling down into a Research Rabbit Hole, often with hilarious results. Because this is the true danger of research…it sucks you in!

 

GUEST AUTHOR: RHONDA EUDALY

Way back before I really started making my mark on the prose writing world, I had a brief adventure working with an actor on the convention circuit. I learned a lot about how to be a good guest/professional at a convention, but I also learned a whole lot about collaborations, writing, and falling down research rabbit holes.

Part of this working relationship was developing a Pilot script for a television show we developed that has never seen the light of day. It’s still on a hard drive somewhere, maybe? We discussed what the project was, where it was supposed to go, and what we needed overall. I got to work on this pretty straight forward science fiction premise. Halfway through the first draft the actor says, “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if there was a TIME TRAVEL ELEMENT!”

Um…

My stipulation to this brilliant idea was to say that our gimmick couldn’t be lame. This was not long enough after Star Trek: First Contact that all my tech/science friends were still bleeting, “What do you mean they just followed the Borg back?!?!?!” Actor’s response, “Okay, make it work.”

Um…

I was a Radio/TV/Film major and an English minor? I took high school biology, would’ve failed college Freshman Chemistry if it weren’t for the statistical curve, and had some hours in Geology (too many hours in Geology). What I DON’T have is a Physics background. Or a math background. Because, let’s face it, Physics is just Fancy Math. What’s a writer to do?

I approached my engineer/science friends who worked at Lockheed and said, “Hey, you hated the Borg thing, give me something you DON’T think is lame.” One group spent lunch hours trying to build me a time machine. Sadly… I had to turn to books.

Thank goodness for used bookstores.  I bought a bunch of books on Einstein and Relativity. Discovered I really like Brian Green (despite Sheldon Cooper’s opinion) and Kip Thorne because they put a lot of their fancy math in the BACK of the books.  I read theories of relativity FOR THREE MONTHS, until Kip Thorne saved my life. His was the last book I read.

His Black Holes and Time Warps confirmed the direction I needed to go. His personal theory confirmed it. It’s all about the Worm Holes, baby. His ideas gave me the idea to link time travel to a hypothetical Faster Than Light drive that harnessed Worm Holes. Yay, Worm Holes!!!! So useful, so versatile, so never been disproven! I may have even emailed Dr. Thorne weeping for joy.

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(Photo via Pixabay)

To this day, I have a slight twitch when anyone starts talking Relativity. But, hey, I’m not completely lost during Big Bang Theory. The actor and the project are still out there somewhere – maybe on the event horizon of a black hole. Every so often there’s a mention of it or him, but nothing major. I appreciated the exercise at the time, but man, thank goodness for Google and Wikipedia now!

 

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qscn2ozi_400x400Rhonda Eudaly lives in Arlington, Texas where she’s ventured into several industries and occupations for a wide variety of experience. She’s married with dogs and a rapidly growing Minion© army. Her two passions are writing and music, which is evident in her increasing horde of writing instruments.

Rhonda has a well-rounded publication history in fiction, non-fiction and script writing. Her first novel, Tarbox Station, is now available through booksellers everywhere.

Follow Her: Webpage / Facebook / Twitter

Research for Writers of Historical Fiction #8

One of the things that I like to talk about whenever I’m suggesting places to look for research sources is….ta-da! Social Media.

To be clear. NOT ALL SOCIAL MEDIA. There are, however, a couple of things I’ve found surprisingly useful. So to begin…

Remember that you can use your social media platform to ask for your friends’ and readers’ suggestions.

I did this when stuck on a research problem for Book 3 (The Shores of Spain). I needed to have a book that a young Portuguese-speaking boy might read in 1900.  Unfortunately, I was rather stumped as to writers of action/adventure stories for that time period in Portugal.  So I threw the question out on my Facebook.

I was quite surprised by the number of people who had opinions and suggestions. As it turned out, one of my friends suggested King Solomon’s Mines. I didn’t know if that was available in Portuguese, though. Another friend sent me the link to the Portuguese National Library and when I went there, I discovered that the book was translated into Portuguese (and serialized) around 1890. So for my 1903 setting? Totally acceptable for that to be the book…and thus my social media buddies saved my bacon.

(It actually turned out to be an AMAZING CHOICE, by the way, because it was a truly loaded issue between the Portuguese  and English at the time, so the book was widely read in Portugal despite the author being English.)

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But social media can also be searched, and that can turn up all sorts of helpful stuff.*

*Caveat: Search functions are iffy. For example, Facebook has a surprisingly good search function, whereas Tumblr???  NEVER SEARCH TUMBLR, or if you do, have bleach nearby to clean your soul afterwards.

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So…my story links back to that desperate search for a department store in Porto in 1902. I knew there had to be one, but I hadn’t been searching under the correct words. This is how I discovered that.  I searched Facebook for Porto 1900.

I was surprised to find that there were Pages dedicated to the history of Porto, including the wonderful Porto Desaparecido (Vanishing Porto).  That Page collects vintage photographs, drawings, and paintings of Porto and has them carefully sorted into albums, most pictures having notations as well. It’s a group labor of love that included this picture below:

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Yes, there it is, an advertisement from Herminios Department Store, or Grandes Armazèns Hermnios. I checked, and that store did predate my novel setting. I had finally found the name of the department store…the day after I turned in the manuscript!

(If you notice the address line of the browser, the option to translate the page is there in the right corner, although it won’t translate the words on the photograph.)

But that success led me to check into some of my other settings. Below you see Facebook Pages for Porto Desaparecido, Barcelona Desapareguda, Lisboa Desaparecida, and even a Page for Saratoga Springs, NY.  While the mileage varies on these, they can be helpful.

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In addition, I used several other Porto-related pages found by searching Facebook, so I recommend giving that a try. If you’re interested in a setting, the chances are good that someone else is, and has a Facebook Page set up for it.

I would also suggest trying out Pinterest. Now, Pinterest is, for most people, a place for storing pretty pictures, but authors are using it more and more to store their links to various pages, almost like a Browser Bookmark but with pictures. That makes it somewhat easier to search through at times. If I put in “1900 Porto Portugal”, I see photos, some of which might lead me to useful articles.

And while we’re online: a strange place to look that isn’t quite social media? Stock Photo and Video collections can offer you glimpses into your setting.

Flikr and Getty Images will likely have old pictures (and new) of a setting, as well as Old-Picture.com (and other old picture sites.)

For short videos of a place? Try Pond5 or Shutterstock.

And YouTube has a persnickety search function that will sometimes turn up gems. The best part about this is that a LOT of old film has been put up on YouTube. I’ve found footage c. 1902 for Porto, New York, Barcelona…

So when you’re online researching, look in the usual places…but also keep your eyes open for others.

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Next Post (11/29): Let’s Start Buying Stuff!

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RRH Confession #9

I actually read King Solomon’s Mines in both English and Portuguese. That turned out to be a bit of a rabbit hole as I discovered discrepancies between the English original and the Portuguese translation. They were small differences, a sentence added here or there, or a couple of details thrown in that didn’t appear in the original…

As it turns out, the colonization of Africa was a hugely political issue in Europe at the time, so the author who did the translation actually did an ‘adaptation’, wherein he stretched the original novel just a little bit. (A lot of historical quibbling over this one.)