Monday, April 29, 2013

Camp NaNo Report Day 29, and I'm Being Featured!

Had a strong finish for Camp NaNo:

4/27 1013 words
4/29 3615 words
Total: 34,412/30,000

I passed my word count goal, and finished the draft of Book 3 of Daughter of the Wildings! There were some very interesting developments in this book, lots to play off of for Book 4. Not sure when I'll start writing that one; I may wait for Camp NaNo in July, so I can spend May and June concentrating on getting Chosen of Azara out and doing the next round of work on The Lost Book of Anggird.

In other news, I'm very excited to have been chosen as this week's Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers group featured author! I'll have the opportunity to get some more reviews for Urdaisunia, and to be featured on other authors' blogs as well as being mentioned on Facebook pages and Twitters. Every week, those who help out the week's featured author are placed into a drawing, and the next week's featured author is chosen. It's been fun getting to know and help out some fellow independent authors, and I'm so excited to be getting a turn. Watch my blog and the front page of my site for news about where I'm being featured! For starters, W.H. Cann has been kind enough to feature my book and bio on his blog. Go check it out, and while you're at it, take a look at his "Guardians" series.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Camp NaNo Report Day 26, and Book Progress News

Good writing days yesterday and today. Here's the numbers:

4/25 1568 words
4/26 2010 words
Total: 29,423/30,000

So close! Will meet my word count goal tomorrow; may or may not finish the story. I thought It was finished a couple thousand words ago and I was just winding down (with three thousand words still to go! yikes!) but so far I've added two serious life complications for Silas and Lainie and a Wait, what? Keeping things interesting!

The revision of Chosen of Azara continues, with major surgery to give one of the primary supporting characters a personality transplant. Probably looking at a June release for that one. The next stage of revision of The Lost Book of Anggird will begin as soon as I'm done writing my Camp NaNo novel. Projected release date for that is probably Octoberish. And Sarya and Adan from Sarya's Song (seriously need to think of a better title for that) have started knocking on my brain, asking if it's their turn yet. As soon as Chosen of Azara is out, major revision on the (very rough) first draft of Sarya's Song will begin. I'd love a 2013 release for that one, but it might not happen until early 2014.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

New Short Story Posted, and Camp NaNo Report: Day 24

One of the short-short stories I wrote in March is now edited and posted. Paint It Black is about an artist who is paralyzed by her fear of the dark. It's maybe a little strange. And yes, I know that's the title of a Rolling Stones song. You can't copyright titles, and it's also the name of a band and a novel. This story originally had a different title that came from the prompt I used to write it, but as I wrote and edited, I kept thinking that Paint It Black would be the perfect title. So I changed it. Also, that song would make great background music while you read the story. It's free to read on the site until I have enough other stories for another collection (with these short-shorts, I'll probably put five in a collection), at which time it'll come down and go up for sale on Amazon in the KDP Select program.

Today my Camp NaNo Cabin held a word war, so I did extra writing, 2,532 words, to bring my total to 25,879/30,000. Poor Silas is having a very very bad day, but it might start to get better soon.

Book Review: The Healing Heart, by Jennifer Howard

(Once again, not a book review blog, I only review books for my GoodReads group and other books I happen to feel like reviewing.)

The Healing Heart, by Jennifer Howard

**** (4 stars)

"The Healing Heart" is a sweet, cheerful (almost too cheerful for me, angst-and-gloom-loving curmudgeon that I am, but hey, sometimes you've got to lighten up a little) contemporary romance that follows the story of Jamie Hansen, a widow with a teenage daughter, who after losing the love of her life is afraid to let herself love again, and Conley Michaels, the man who finally convinces her to. It's escapist and fun, the main conflict coming from Jamie learning to let go of her fears and insecurities and accept that life has offered up something wonderful for her again.

The book is fast-moving, written in a breezy, casual style that takes you right inside Jamie's head. The style is clear and enjoyable and paints a vivid picture of Jamie, her teenage daughter Gretchen, and their world. I also enjoyed reading about Jamie's close relationship with her daughter. Sometimes I felt that the story barely touched on the surface of Jamie's emotions, especially the more difficult ones, and would have liked to dig in a little deeper (but again, that might just be Angsty Me speaking).

There are some fun extras at the end of the book: an extensive playlist, a list of music, movies, and TV shows referred to, and Jamie and Conley's meeting from Conley's point of view. This delightful novel is Ms. Howard's debut, and I look forward to seeing more from her.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Cool Milestone, and Camp NaNo Report: Day 23

According to my online banking stuff, my first payout from Amazon, for February sales, is pending. It isn't a lot - we're talking a large (not extra-large) pizza with pepperoni, green peppers, and extra cheese. Maybe black olives. (Although everything I make for the time being is going straight into the cover art fund for the Daughter of the Wildings series, not for pizza.) But it's money that I earned with my writing! Which is seriously cool. It's something that for a long time I thought would never happen. I knew that conventional publishing just wasn't something I wanted to deal with, so I figured I would just never be a professional writer. But now, thanks to Amazon and Kindle and ebooks and print-on-demand and serious (not vanity) self-publishing, I am a pro :-D

I won't be getting another payout for a few months, at least - you have to accumulate a minimum amount in your account both at Amazon and at Smashwords. But that's ok. I know I'm just a little baby self-pubbing author just starting out, and I'm in it for the long term, with a two-year starter plan.

But I'm still getting a real kick out of this first payday :-D

Camp NaNo report, Day 23:
My word counter was being wonky, and I'm taking my total from the Camp NaNo Official Word Counter today, so I'm not sure exactly how many words I wrote yesterday and today. But right now I'm at 23,347/30,000 words.

Finally, here's a shoutout to this week's featured author at the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers group, Jennifer Howard!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Book Review: Blood Bound (Gallows, #1), by Sharon Stevenson

Blood Bound (Gallows, #1), by Sharon Stevenson

**** (4 stars)

Fast-paced urban fantasy with twin demon-hunters Sarah and Shaun Gallows. I enjoyed the characters, especially the squeamish-yet-curmudgeonly Shaun. For me, this is a winning combination in male main characters, and Shaun alone made the book for me. The other characters are also well-drawn and engaging. The book is set in an alternate-universe Scotland, and I enjoyed the Scottish slang used throughout. This isn't just a generic could-be-anywhere story.

The story involves Sarah and Shaun's attempts to figure out what the vicious Melissa is up to, whether she needs to be stopped, and how to stop her. There are also subplots involving Sarah and Shaun's complicated love lives (Shaun appears to be soul-mated to Melissa, and Sarah has two guys who are best buddies both wanting her, and an eye for a much younger guy as well). Also vampires. Lots of vampires. (Reason #573 why you might want to have a locked cage in your basement: to keep the vampire in.) I did feel like the story could have used more of a sense of urgency or rising stakes (no pun intended; if you've read it, you know what I mean!) as it progressed to the end; the problem to be solved was the same as it had been since about the middle of the book, with no greater or rising threats to the main characters as the end drew closer, until the very very end. There were also times when the action seemed to skip ahead or to a different setting without transition, and I couldn't quite figure out what was going on.

One other thing, the protagonists are 19 years old, but this is definitely not a YA book. The protagonists act as adults in their world, have adult lives and adult interests and concerns, and the book deals with adult themes in an adult manner. Which for me is a plus, but someone looking for a less-intense YA read might get more than they bargained for here.

A fun read, and I'm looking forward to more adventures with Shaun and Sarah.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Book Review: Gemini of Emreiana, by Kristen DaRay

Gemini of Emreiana, by Kristen DaRay

**** (4 stars)

(For starters, I have to say that I'm not the target audience for this novel. I prefer novels written for adults, with adult characters in an adult voice, and Gemini of Emreiana is definitely a Young Adult novel, aimed at teens and at fans of that voice and style. So I've tried to adjust my reactions and opinions in this review to account for this.)

Gemini of Emreiana is a sweet, engaging novel that grows more powerful towards the end. Carson has always thought she was a normal girl, and has the normal teenage concerns about friends, romance, and what life will hold after high school. Then she learns that nothing about herself or her life is what she thought it was, and finally is forced to make some difficult, heartbreaking decisions to protect the people she loves and the planet she has always called home.

I found the characters engaging, and the romance between Carson and her childhood sweetheart Kyle was sweet. I also found the growing tension between Carson's love for Kyle and her mixed and confusing feelings for Aaronmon, her Emreianan guardian, intriguing. And, not to give away any spoilers, but more than one thing at the end nearly moved me to tears.

There are a couple of issues that, I feel, hold Gemini of Emreiana back from being the book it could be. The first is that while the writing style is clear and pleasant, there are places where I felt the story would have benefitted from a more in-depth, sophisticated treatment of emotions, backstory, and other issues. (I'll admit that this impression might be because I'm more used to novels written in an adult voice, while this lighter, "younger" voice may be more typical for YA writing, especially considering that the story is told in first person from Carson's point of view.)

The other thing is that the mechanics of the writing are not quite up to a professional standard. There are numerous problems with grammar, punctuation, misused words, and other similar issues. As an independent author, even if an editor is used, the author is ultimately responsible for the quality of the book and therefore needs to do whatever is necessary to make sure the book is as mistake-free as possible.

Overall, Gemini of Emreiana is an enjoyable book. Ms. DaRay has great potential as an author, and I look foward to watching her continued development.

Rating note: a solid 3 stars for "I liked it."

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Camp NaNo Report: Day 20, and Chosen of Azara Revision Progress

The CFS (another post for another time) has really been dragging me down the last few days, so it's been slow and painful. But progress is still happening.

4/17 1016 words
4/18 tough day, lost cause
4/19 1533 words
4/20 1411 words

total: 20,789/30,000 words

The revision of Chosen of Azara is coming right along too. It's been tough this week, then I finally realized what was messing everything up: the main secondary character in the Lucie story arc needs a complete personality transplant. The tense relationships between this character and the two main characters is one of the primary conflicts in that section of the book, and it just wasn't happening. I've had a hard time pinning down this character, but I think I've finally got it figured out. I'm also rearranging some of the major scenes at the very end of the book, so once that's done I'll print out the Lucie section and go to work on fixing up that character. I don't want to rush things; I want to get it right, so this most likely isn't going to be a May release; I'm hoping for June, if all goes well once this major surgery is done.

Finally, I want to announce that a friend of mine who's a very talented artist has opened an etsy shop: Motley Apricot Paintworks. Check it out for fabulous artwork, home decor, hand-painted wooden jewelry, and other wonderfully decorative and useful items.

Book Review: Dream Student, by J.J. DiBenedetto

(Note: Once again, this isn't a book review blog. Please don't send me requests to review your book. I review books on my own whim and discretion, mostly for my Goodreads group but also other books that happen to catch my interest.)

Dream Student, by J.J. DiBenedetto

(I was provided with a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

Dream Student is the story of a pre-med student who is an unwilling witness to other people's dreams. The novel is balanced between Sara's progess through her junior year of college as a pre-med student, a romance that is literally a dream come true, and a paranormal suspense novel where Sara finds herself inside a serial killer's dreams. The novel pulled me in from the beginning with the first few dream sequences. The prose is smooth and well-crafted with a sly sense of humor, and the author, a man, does an excellent job of getting inside the head of a female college student and telling her story in first-person voice. The dreams are written in third-person, an effective way to convey the kind of creepy, out-of-body experience that this feels like to Sara.

For my own preference, I would have liked it if the three plotlines were more focused so that the serial-killer plotline was the main plot, with the romance as a major subplot and the college-life parts as background or a supplementary subplot, in order to maintain the momentum and suspense. But Sara, her boyfriend Brian, and her best friend Beth are engaging enough characters that I still enjoyed reading about their romantic and academic escapades. And the ending, where Sara, Brian, and Beth race to stop the killer before he strikes again, kept me reading non-stop.

Dream Student is a well-written, engaging book, and I look forward to reading the rest of the books in the series, to find out what lies ahead for Sara, Brian - and her ability to see other people's dreams.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kyra's Self-Publishing How-To

Yesterday at The Passive Voice blog, Passive Guy posted a question from a reader who wants to start writing and self-publishing but is overwhelmed by all the information and has no idea where to start or how to go about this. Passive Guy invited commenters to leave their own tips and advice, and here's what I posted. Since I've toyed with the idea of doing a post on the very same subject, I decided to recycle this very fine (if I do say so myself :D) run-down on how to go about becoming an independent author.

* * *
I just took the leap in February, and even though I’m still just a little baby self-publisher, I love it and feel confident that this is something that will give me a lot of satisfaction in life.

Here’s my list:

1. Write a book. Write what you love, what makes you happy, what you feel driven to write. Don’t worry about writing what will sell, because no one knows that. Also, if you want to make a career of this, you can’t do it with just one book, so be working on ideas for more books.

2. Make the book as good as you can get it. Work on your own revising/editing skills. (Many resources online.) Have some acquaintances who are avid readers read it, or join a critique group (can also be found online). If you have the money, or can arrange a barter or something, find a *good* professional editor. Do what you have to do to make the book as error-free as possible.

3. If you’re broke, have some html know-how or don’t mind learning, and don’t mind doing things yourself, get a guide on how to do the ebook formatting yourself. You can find suggestions on Lindsay Buroker’s and David Gaughran’s blogs. [Specifically, The eBook Design and Development Guide by Paul Salvette and Guido Henckel's blog post series Take Pride In Your eBook Formatting] If you aren’t quite so broke, or don’t want to do it yourself, research ebook formatters. There are a number of them, many with reasonable rates. You can find links on the Kindle boards.

4. For a low-cost cover, license some stock art from a site like Dreamstime, and learn how to do the lettering in an image-editing program. See The Book Designer for good and less-good examples. If you can spend a little more, use a cover designer. You can also find links to this on the Kindle boards.

5. Set up your accounts at the different outlets – Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo are the big ones (Apple too, but you have to have a Mac computer to go to them directly). Check out their individual submission/upload requirements, and follow these carefully. I go direct through Amazon, and use Smashwords for all the others, just to keep it simple.

6. Be VERY VERY CAREFUL ***NOT*** to pay for expensive packages containing services you don’t need or could do yourself. You should be able to pick and choose what services you want/need on an individual basis without getting locked in to a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Also be careful if any service you want to use asks you to sign agreements involving percentages or copyright or exclusivity (KDP Select asks you to make books you enroll in that program exclusive for 90 days, which is as far as any author should be willing to go exclusive, and not everyone even feels comfortable with that). In short, be careful not to get ripped off or trapped in a bad deal.

*I did the complete do-it-yourself route, and published my first book for under $100, including $35 to register the copyright in the U.S., expanded distribution fee and proof copy from CreateSpace, licensed stock art, and small gifts for my test readers.

7. Once your book is up for sale, be patient – it will not take off overnight, or even over a few months – and get going on the next book.

Might not work for everyone, but that’s how I’m doing it.

* * *

There's lots of other good advice in the post at The Passive Voice, so go check it out if publishing your writing is something you're thinking of doing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: Storm Dancer, by Rayne Hall

Storm Dancer, by Rayne Hall

**** (4 stars)

(I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

Storm Dancer is a big, sweeping, epic fantasy set in an exotic desert land, with colorful and compelling characters. Dahoud, possessed by a djinn who urges him to horrifying acts of rape and other atrocities, is fighting to control the djinn and make amends for the terrible things he's done. Merida, a magician and loyal citizen of the extremely ordered and rigid Virtuous Republic of Riverland, has been sent to the desert countries on a mission to bring rain and enlightenment. Their paths cross as both of them face setbacks and challenges on their respective quests, then finally join together when they unexpectedly find a common cause to fight for.

The writing is clear and colorful, painting a portrait of harsh, exotic lands. I have a soft spot for fantasy that takes place in desert settings, so I really enjoyed the setting of this book. I also sympathized with the characters as they struggled to make their way through this harsh world against the thoroughly nasty plotting of the main villain, Kirral. There were a few times when I wanted to give Merida a good shaking for her obtuseness and refusal to adapt to her new situation. Frustration with characters is a big reason why I don't finish books. But in this case, it seemed clear that Merida was being set up like this on purpose so that the readers could follow her through her process of growth and learning. She did learn and grow, and I took more than a little satisfaction in seeing her cut down to size and then becoming a much stronger and wiser woman. I also enjoyed watching Dahoud's progess as he came to understand the true nature of the darkness within him.

It's a long book, which I'm not complaining about because I do love me a good doorstopper. The plot did seem to lose momentum and focus a few times, particularly in the end of the first half or about in the middle third. The structure of the book could maybe use a little tightening up to stay more focused on Dahoud and Merida and their problems and what they're trying to do. But during these slower spots, I was interested enough in what was going to happen to the characters to keep reading. I also felt that there were places where the author backed off from really diving into the full emotions and experiences of the characters, just touching the surface instead of giving the full depths.

The end was satisfying, and I would enjoy reading the further adventures of Dahoud and Merida. On the whole, Storm Dancer is a rich, colorful, exciting, and rewarding read, and I enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Breakfast Challenge: Urdaisunia, and Camp NaNo Report: Day 16

Last time on the Breakfast Challenge, we looked at Professor Roric Rossony from The Lost Book of Anggird. Today we'll see what breakfast is like for the characters in Urdaisunia.

In short, not nearly as luxurious. At one time, the land of Urdaisunia was an agricultural oasis, the Urdaisunians having developed various advanced agricultural techniques including an extensive irrigation system. But now drought and war have put an end to that, and food is in perilously short supply.

The staple foods in the villages along the riverbanks, including Rashali's home village Moon Bend, are lentils and  barley (mostly from stores from previous years' crops, since the harvests have been getting worse every year), root vegetables and greens that are native to the desert (because of the water shortage, vegetable gardens can no longer be grown), goat's milk, and chicken eggs. The river villagers' main source of animal protein was always fish, but with the drying up of the rivers, that major component of their diet has disappeared. Every once in a while, the village will butcher a spare goat and eat a small portion of the meat spit-roasted or stewed, but most of it is cured and dried. Goat jerky, basically. The same with chickens: they're more valuable for their eggs than for their meat, but every once in a while a hen too old to lay or a spare rooster will be killed and eaten.

With food in such short supply, the river villagers generally only eat one meal a day. They postpone that one meal as late in the day as they can, so they won't be too hungry to sleep at bedtime. Food supplies are commonly-shared, so food preparation and eating are generally communal activities. In spite of the shortages, the villagers are generous with those who have even less, such as travelers who have eaten their own provisions. They believe it's an offense to the gods to withold even what little they have been given by the favor of the gods.

When Rashali finds herself in unexpectedly comfortable circumstances in the capital city Zir, she is served a meal consisting of grilled fish (the two rivers have been dammed up at Zir, so fish is still available), soft cheese, cold cooked barley dressed with olive oil and herbs, fresh greens, figs, and almond cakes. This is more food than she sees in a week, and she feels guilty at the abundance, thinking of how hungry the people back home in Moon Bend are, but she eats as much of it as she can so as not to offend the gods and the person who provided the meal by wasting it. This is a supper; a breakfast in this situation would consist of cooked barley and/or lentils topped with goat-milk yogurt, barley bread, soft cheese, and figs or grapes. Two large meals a day are served here, one in late morning and the other late in the afternoon. Meals are eaten privately or in a formal family setting.

In another part of the book, Rashali is in an exceptionally well-run rebel camp with good supply lines, including water supplies. Three meals a day are served here, because the days start early and end late and include a lot of military training and other hard work. A typical meal is lentil stew topped with goat-milk yogurt, and the camp also stores hard-baked cakes of barley and lentils.

In Kubiz, the great harbor city, fish is a lot more abundant, of course. Fish stew or grilled fish are eaten at nearly every meal, and Kubiz still has enough food supplies that anyone who can afford it can eat three meals a day. Kubiz is also a very cosmopolitan city, so the food has a lot of international influences, including stir-fry and kebabs. Candy is popular, with makers of almond-paste and honey sweets being common.

I used food in Urdaisunia as a close reflection of the different circumstances and settings the characters find themselves in. In some ways, Urdaisunia is a story of survival, both of individuals and of nations, and food is essential to survival. It was also interesting to do some research into what kinds of food would have been available to the ancient Sumerians. In an earlier version of the book I had the Urdaisunians eating lots of rice, until it occurred to me (duh) that rice cultivation takes a lot of water. Way more water than was ever available. So, goodbye rice, hello barley. I like barley, as it happens, and I also like lentils. I don't think I'd like them as much if that was most of what I had to eat, though.

Camp NaNo report:

4/15 1801 words
4/16 1680 words
Total: 16,829/30,000

Finally, here's a shout-out to Sharon Stevenson, this week's featured writer at the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia and Romance Writers and Reviewers group on Goodreads!

Book Review: The Great Succession Crisis, by Laurel A. Rockefeller

I've been doing some book reviews lately, mainly for the Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers group on Goodreads, and decided to start posting them here too, to spread the word about some interesting new authors I'm finding.

**Please note, this is NOT a book review blog! Don't start sending me messages asking me to review books. I review books strictly on my own whim and discretion, mainly for my Goodreads group but also of other books that catch my fancy. Once I get caught up with my backlog of reviews, they'll only appear once or maybe twice a week.

So, here's my review of The Great Succession Crisis, by Laurel A. Rockefeller.

*** (3 stars)

(I received a free copy of this book for the purpose of giving an honest review.)

The Great Succession Crisis is a science fiction/science fantasy dealing with the question of female inheritance of the throne on the planet Beinan. The most notable thing about the novel is the extensive, deeply-layered, detailed worldbuilding. The author has put a great amount of thought and work into developing Beinan: physics, history, politics, social mores, technology, food, religion, weaponry, fashion, down to measurements of time and distance.

For my own personal preferences, I would have liked to get to know the characters on a more personal level before diving into the history and politics. But once the basic situation was set up (the daughter of a female ruler cannot inherit, and Queen Isabelle's only son is unwilling to take the throne, leaving Princess Anlei the only - illegal - heir) and the story-telling turned to the characters, I found myself engaged by the romance between Caronn and Anlei and the threats to their happiness and their world's well-being.

Some stylistic quirks in the writing kept me from being able to fully immerse myself in the story. The author uses a lot of different words in place of "said" in dialogue attribution. I found this distracting, especially when the word being used is not a functional synonym for "said." The novel is also dialogue-heavy, and both dialogue and narrative contained more detail than I was able to absorb.

There's an interesting framing device, setting the story as "data transmission files" sent by someone from Beinan who crash-landed on a planet referred to as D425E25 Tertius. I'm curious to know more about this storyline.

The author classifies The Great Succession Crisis as science fiction, but me being a fantasy nut, I consider it science fantasy because of some quasi-magical foretelling and empathic abilities that some of the characters display.

The extended edition comes with numerous appendices laying out Ms. Rockefeller's truly breathtaking worldbuilding, along with a couple of related short stories, some of her non-fiction essays, and a recipe for Beinan-style fruit pastries.

Overall, The Great Succession Crisis is an interesting story with characters I came to care about in a richy-developed world. Rated a solid 3 stars, meaning I liked it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Breakfast Challenge, and Camp NaNo Report

So, here's a fun thing. Camille LaGuire issued a challenge on her blog: write about your characters at breakfast. (Or, for readers, your favorite characters at breakfast.) She starts off with a post about her young gunslinger couple, Mick and Casey, and what breakfast is like for them. I imagine that breakfast for Silas and Lainie, from Daughter of the Wildings, is probably pretty much the same.

The main character that came to my mind when I read this challenge is Professor Roric Rossony from The Lost Book of Anggird. The Professor has some interesting eating habits, and breakfast plays an important part in the first section of the book. Here's one of my favorite scenes (please remember that this is not the final version; all mistakes and bad writing will be corrected by the time this is ready for release):

(The setup: Professor Rossony and his newly-hired assistant, Perarre, have been at Morning Lecture, a quasi-worship service, and have just arrived at his office/apartment to begin the day's work.)

 When they reached the Professor’s third-floor apartment, the Professor asked, “Will you join me for breakfast, Miss Tabrano?”

She joined him at the dining table, which was set for one and laid with tea, plates of golden pastries, and fresh fruit. All she had had to eat earlier was some burnt toast and undercooked bacon, typical fare for the Assistants’ residence hall.

The Professor took a second place setting from the cabinet over the sideboard and brought a second chair over to the table for himself, then poured hot tea from the white porcelain teapot for her and then for himself. The housekeeper must have been there just moments earlier for the tea to still be so hot. Perarre took a warm, sticky fruit pastry, and broke off a piece and popped it into her mouth.

“Now, Miss Tabrano,” the Professor said, “can you tell me Aeldric’s five aspects of Balancing with gratitude?”

Perarre stopped in mid-chew. The Professor, she noted, was eating his pastry with his knife and fork, not his fingers. Self-consciously, she wiped her fingers on her white linen napkin and swallowed her bite of pastry while she tried to think. She seemed to recall Aeldric’s name being mentioned during the lecture, but she hadn’t been paying enough attention to remember what else had been said. Still, this was basic; every student in the College of Magecraft learned about Aeldric’s Five Aspects their first term. “Um…”

“Come now, Miss Tabrano. You should know this, and if you have forgotten, you need to refresh your memory.” He recited the five aspects to her, seemingly without even thinking about them, as he cut an apple into thin slices and wiped his fingers on his own napkin, which appeared as immaculate after he used it as it had before. “what did the Lector say about these five aspects today?” he asked.

It was no use. “I’m afraid I don’t know, sir. I was thinking about a letter I’m planning to write to my sister.”

The Professor ate an apple slice with his knife and fork.  “I know you are not trained as a Balance theorist, Miss Tabrano, but if you are to be able to assist me in the research I will be undertaking, you will need to have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the essentials of Balance theory. I can teach you the things you will need to know, if you will attend the daily Lecture and be prepared to discuss it afterwards. Otherwise, your admittedly admirable skills as a translator and Reader will be of limited use to me. Do I make myself clear?”

Perarre silently reminded herself of adventures in foreign lands and exceptional Jadean lovers. “Yes, sir.”

“Very good. Allow me, then, to tell you what was said this morning.” The Professor related what the Lector had said about Balancing with gratitude, explaining why he agreed or disagreed with the Lector’s points. Was this what he did during Lecture, Perarre wondered, critique the teaching? And what was that accent he had? It bothered her that she still hadn’t been able to identify it.

“And what is your conclusion, Miss Tabrano?”

“Um. I think…” What did she think? At some point, she had lost the thread of what he was saying. “I think that what you say makes more sense. Feeling sufficiently grateful for the Benefactor’s gift can’t make up for an incorrect Balancing spell.”

He gave her a piercing look over the rim of his teacup, then set the cup down. “You don’t have to agree with me merely because I’m your employer, Miss Tabrano.”

“I’m not, really,” she said quickly. “I think you’re right. If the magica is a physical phenomenon that has its own natural laws, your feelings about it don’t matter if you break those laws.”

He gave her an approving look. “Very good. I think that if you will pay attention during Lecture every day, you will benefit greatly from our discussions and gain the expertise I will require of you.” He fastidiously dabbed at his mouth one more time with his napkin, then rose from his chair.

Professors in this land (the Vorunne Dominion) are a privileged class, and Professor Rossony is one of the elite of the elite. As part of his compensation for his work, he is provided with the best of everything in living quarters and food. This is entirely different from what Perarre is used to, as an Assistant at the University. Her position is roughly equivalent to a post-grad assistantship or research position, which doesn't quite come with the same status and compensation as that of a full and widely-renowned professor. So she's glad to join him for breakfast even if it does mean getting grilled at the same time over what was said during Lecture!

Tea, pastries, and fruit appear in this meal; later on, when Perarre has been consistently in the habit of eating breakfast with the Professor for some time, the meal expands to include bacon and eggs, bread rolls, and even oranges. The Vorunne Dominion includes areas that have the right climate for growing citrus, but because of the limited growing season and the costs in shipping them, oranges are still something of a luxury item. However, nothing is too good or too expensive for one of the Dominion's most renowed Professors.

Professor Rossony is also notable for his extremely fastidious habits (notice the eating the apple with a knife and fork; he eats bacon the same way, too). He has good reasons for having such habits; they're his way of coping with what is later revealed to be a difficult and chaotic childhood and adolescence along with other challenges that he faces. He seeks to maintain absolute control in whatever areas of his life he can to compensate for devastating things that were/are out of his control.

I like the opportunities this scene provided for some interplay between the Professor and Perarre as they get to know each other a little better, how she's chagrined to notice the difference between his fastidious manners and her own more careless style of eating (this contrast carries over to many other areas besides eating), and the fact that the Professor feels no hesitancy to push her, a female, to stretch herself intellectually, and that he offers her the respect of telling her she doesn't have to agree with him. Later on, breakfast becomes an opportunity for Perarre to show her displeasure with some of the Professor's behavior, by declining to join him at the table, and for him to offer an apology (buttering a hard roll for another person can be an act of contrition).

This is just in the first part of the book. Then the Professor delves too deeply into things he shouldn't, and everything goes kablooey (literally?), and then breakfast becomes an entirely different matter, when you're on the run for your life. But it was fun to use the morning meals in the first part of the book as a chance to develop the characters, show what their lives are like at the University, and start to develop their relationship. Maybe it's just me, but I can see just a little bit of the chemistry between Perarre and the Professor starting to bubble up in the scene I quoted here.

Camp NaNo update:

On Friday and Saturday, various issues, including trying to fix a broken printer, dealing with wonky writing software, and the need to do a massive grocery shopping trip, kept my numbers down. Here's the report for the last few days:

4/11 - 1518 words
4/12 - 343 words
4/13 - 753 words

Total word count so far: 13,348/30,000

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Camp NaNo Day 10, and the Reason for This Blog

Welcome to my Blogspot mirror blog. Here, if you are on Blogger and prefer to follow Blogger blogs, you can follow my blog! Posts here are reposted (hopefully right away, but possibly within a day) from my main blog, Welcome To My Worlds.

Day 10, plugging right along. Here's the numbers for the last few days:

Day 6: 1125 words; 6359/30,000
Day 8: 1030 words; 7389/30,000
Day 9: 1958 words; 9347/30,000
Day 10: 1387 words; 10734/30,000

Felt good to cross that 10K mark! So far, in this mostly-unplanned writing, I've discovered a nasty curse, some interesting reasons for technology to be banned by wizards, and a very cleverly disguised villain.

Just a couple items of news: I've been interviewed by a Camp NaNo acquaintance, Chris K, on his blog for his A-Z Camp NaNo Spotlight challenge! Go check it out, and meet some other Camp NaNo-ers too.

Also, congratulations to this week's Paranormal, Fantasy, Dystopia, and Romance Writers and Reviewers featured author, J.J. DiBenedetto!