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NaNoWriMo Update: Arekan’s War & Pizza Cake

NaNoWriMo Update: Arekan’s War & Pizza Cake published on No Comments on NaNoWriMo Update: Arekan’s War & Pizza Cake

Arekan's War Final med Day 11 into NaNoWriMo at 9,500 words in I am seriously behind. Life happens. Kids have birthdays and there is pizza cake to make.

Why pizza cake? It is a new thing. Some restaurant chain in Canada came up with the idea, and it spread into the U. S. I’m not sure where in the U.S. but my son posted it on his FB page, and I thought I’d give it a try.

There were…uh, challenges to making the pizza cake. First I had to find a high round pan that would handle the beast. Turns out my cheesecake pan is missing, as well as my 8 inch round and 9 inch round cake pans. It is theft, plain and simple, but getting which adult child admit her or she “borrowed” them is nearly useless. I settled on my 8 inch dutch oven. Fortunately, it did the trick.

The recipe called for parchment paper. I thought I had parchment paper, but I was wrong. So, a trip to the grocery store was necessary.

The internet instructions were incomplete. I couldn’t find what temperature set the oven on in the 10 pages of instructions, with pictures, that I printed off. So I winged it and the top got a little brown. Okay, more than a little brown.

Pizza Cake
Pizza cake

Here is the pizza cake and below that the progress of Arekan’s War.

Arekan’s War

When Arekan Mor’a’stan is annoyed, he is likely to do outrageous things, like try to retake the ancient throne lost by his ancestors three hundred years before.

Starting Word Count

Current Word Count


NaNoWriMo Word Count

The Craft of Writing: NaNo In The Morning & Cover Art

The Craft of Writing: NaNo In The Morning & Cover Art published on No Comments on The Craft of Writing: NaNo In The Morning & Cover Art

Arekan's War Art Red smNot being a young person, I wake early, anywhere from 2:00 A.M. to 5:00 A.M. I get much of much of my writing done before the sun shows its perkily cheery face in the morning. I don’t drink coffee for health reasons, so all of this is powered my crazy and insatiable need to write. It’s a good way to start the day, especially after I get a 1,000 words in the old Scrivener file before I head off to the gym, (for health reasons. Lord only knows I don’t enjoy exercise.)

With NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)looming I needed decide on a project. Because I have so many projects going, I have not worked substantially on any Mor’a’stani stories, except to write a short about Arekan (The Rescue of Salyma) which is posted on FWO. The one Mor’a’stani book that was not developed enough to accomodate 50,000 words was Arekan’s War. So Arekan’s trials are my morning diet for the month of November, and I’m quite happy about it.

Arekan Photo RedSo I put up my NaNo page, and even put together some cover art to put up on it. The cover art was thoroughly critiqued by my friends at FWO. Let’s just say I got a real education on peoples preferences in cover art. It also affirmed my 1970’s decision to abandon art school, but that’s another story. I’m surprised any book sells at all considered all the likes and dislikes people have about the images on a cover. A couple people don’t like faces in their cover art, another decried the use of photographs at all, one person said it didn’t say ‘fantasy’ enough. Another remarked the original image (not shown) wasn’t dark or brooding enough. Yet another person said the font I chose looked was too cheery and looked like it belonged on a cereal box. It was all useful information and probably reveals why there is a trend in cover art to abandon these kinds of images all together. Think “Game of Thrones” here and you get the idea.

I spent the first day of NaNo fiddling with the cover, so didn’t get the first 1700 words done until Sunday. So above are a couple versions of my idea for the cover, though I doubt that whether the book is published one way or another the art itself will make it. But heck, I have a cover. Do you?

Cool stuff:

Kevin Hearne, author of the Iron Druid series is updating his own NaNo progress on his Facebook book page. A very genuine man, Kevin pulls no punches on his trials, even though he is well published author.

Chuck Wendig, author of too much stuff to mention, published his NaNo pep talk on his blog Terrible Minds. Looks like he’s going to keep a running conversation on NaNo and writing in general.

Three Creative Commons Photos were used to create this cover:

Mountain by Flickr user ThatswhatIam

Briefly Illuminate Landscape by Mike Lewinski

Hattori Hanzo by Flickr use Stefan Ledwin

All of which were heavily modified as allowed by the Creative Commons Licenses granted as of November 1. 2014.

Book Review: Angeli, The Pirate, The Angel and the Irishman

Book Review: Angeli, The Pirate, The Angel and the Irishman published on No Comments on Book Review: Angeli, The Pirate, The Angel and the Irishman

I was given a book to review, so here goes:

Angeli - The Pirate, the Angel & the IrishmanAngeli – The Pirate, the Angel & the Irishman by Amy Vansant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was given a free copy by the author in exchange for an honest review.

If it were possible I would give this story three and a half stars.

There are many creative notions in this book. The idea of angels trying to redeem their own kind that had fallen and falling far short of their goal was interesting. I liked the idea of a strong female protagonist. The idea that angels worked their chosen servants without being totally up front with them tracked well. Even though Miss Vansant had many story elements, perhaps too many, she tied them all nicely together by the end.

Brief (and totally unrevealing) synopsis: Anne Bonny had a very brief career as a pirate in the 1700’s and was tapped by the mysterious Angeli, angels to us mortal folk, to work with them to help “reap” angels corrupted by a mysterious disease that turned them evil. But all does not go according to plan, and by the end of the book we find out that something else entirely is going on with the corruption of the angels.

To facilitate her duties, Anne, along with her fellow Sentinels, is given a 1,000 year life span, so by the time her story catches up with present day, she’s only one third into that. But, she might not make it to her thousand years as she seems to be targeted by one of the Perfidia, which is highly unusual for the corrupted beings.

Add to this, not one by two complicated romances and Anne has more than her hands full. One romance is with her Angeli handler, Michael, a very self-assured and even arrogant archangel who is drawn to Anne. Their attraction is complicated by (implied) forbidden nature of their relationship and the fact that Sentinel powers include the ability to drain the life force of angels. Angels can do the same thing to humans, so you can imagine that when these two get up front and personal, real jeopardy is attached. The second relationship is with her fellow Sentinel, Con Carey, a brash Irish lad who was once Anne’s Sentinel trainee. Their relationship is complicated by Con’s unfortunate loss of his body during a particularly troublesome Perfidia reaping. However, instead of going to the great beyond, Con hangs around Anne discorporeally, occasionally hi-jacking an unsuspecting human’s body so he could speak with her. And drink, because, um, Irishmen drink. Con, as you can imagine, is not happy with the present state of affairs, especially with Anne’s on again, off again affair with Michael. Yeah, there is a little tension in the room when Michael and Con are both there.

With all this wonderful stuff, you wonder how things can go wrong in telling this story.

We start this story with Anne’s present day life, then we zip back to her early history, then are fast forwarded 100 years to tell of the aforementioned troublesome reaping, and then fast forwarded to present day. All this time travel gave me a headache, (and pulled me out of the story.) IMO inclusion of key elements to the story could be handled in a less jarring way such as discussion about the events, or even Anne having a traumatic recurring dream about some of the events.

Additionally, there is some overwriting of the prose. Consider this passage:

Anne’s new table guest sat grinning, thin and pale as an untoasted wafer, but with the fiery eyes of a rebellious imp eager to be unleashed. She’d known the minute she heard the accent that the boy’s body had been appropriated by a friend of hers, Con Carey, who had lost his own corporeal body some years ago .

IMO, thin and pale is sufficient, “as an untoasted wafer” is going over the top. The revelation of Con discomporeal nature was handled offhandedly even though he is an important character in the book. And the second sentence is just too long. And it goes on like this through out the book.

Second, I had a difficult time relating to some of the characters, Michael in particular. I couldn’t for the life of me see why Anne would be so hot for him. He seemed too aloof, too arrogant for me to warm to. Con was interesting and he provided some comic relief. One of the most interesting characters was the bad guy, who seem more developed than Anne, Con or Michael. Ironically, he seemed to understand more about the nature of the Universe than the other supposedly more enlightened beings. Sadly, I found the character of Anne just a caricature of the “bad-ass woman” who despite her superpowers had few real insights on her own situation. She was reactive, rather than proactive, acting as a tool for the male characters surrounding her.

Lastly, despite having 32 chapters in the book, the thing just ends without a real resolution. I suppose this is meant as a cliffhanger. But a real cliffhanger has you asking, “but what happens next.” This ending didn’t do that for me.

A great book has me reading beginning to end non-stop. I was able to put this down without problems. Not that it didn’t have fun elements, it did, and it was entertaining. It’s just that it could be better.

View all my reviews

Blogging for Writers: 5 (Sneaky) Places to Get Traffic for Your Blog

Blogging for Writers: 5 (Sneaky) Places to Get Traffic for Your Blog published on 6 Comments on Blogging for Writers: 5 (Sneaky) Places to Get Traffic for Your Blog

Blog! OMG!You’ve got a problem. Oh, you’ve ignored the problem. You tried to tell yourself the problem isn’t such a big deal. You’ve buried yourself in your Facebook page because at least you have friends there.But the problem remains. You have little traffic on your writer’s blog.

Welcome to the internet my friend. You’ve found out the hard way that just having a web page doesn’t lead the reader to drink from the font of your wordsmithery awesomeness. And it hurts even if you don’t admit it. People aren’t reading your posts? Cry you a river. Now do something about it.

What should you do?Continue reading Blogging for Writers: 5 (Sneaky) Places to Get Traffic for Your Blog

The Writer’s Life: Depression and Creative People

The Writer’s Life: Depression and Creative People published on No Comments on The Writer’s Life: Depression and Creative People

Depression & Creative People It’s scary isn’t it? A famous creative person faces that dark part of him or her self and loses the battle. And the media in its collective hive mind wisdom trots out this line: Celebrity Loses Battle With Depression. It’s such a common media trope it’s just expected we’ll see it. Ugh.

There could be lots of swearing on my part here, but this is supposed to be a g-rated blog. It just makes me angry to see such a glib answer spread across electronic and print news.

Still the question begs to be answered. Are creative people more likely to be depressed than other people?

One Swedish study involving one million people found that as a group, those in the creative professions were no more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders than other people. But there is a big “however” here. Writers, it seems, are at a higher risk of mood disorders, schizophrenia and other forms of psychiatric illness. And this may be due to how creative people process information.Continue reading The Writer’s Life: Depression and Creative People

The Writer’s Craft: Do You Need A Blog?

The Writer’s Craft: Do You Need A Blog? published on 2 Comments on The Writer’s Craft: Do You Need A Blog?

To blog or not to blog I recently read a blog post by an editor and writer who said that writers don’t need a blog. She advised that the time spent on blogging could be best spent writing. Yes, I said that correctly. I read this on her blog.

Her previous entry was about building an online presence.

Okay, who’s zooming who?

Do you absolutely need a blog?


If you are a fantastic undiscovered literary genius who is only waiting on the publishing world to wake up to your fabulousness, much like J.K. Rowling with her twenty-one rejections of the first Harry Potter book, you don’t need a blog. Are you that writer? Good. You probably should have a blog to share your genius, but you don’t need one.

Should you have a blog?Continue reading The Writer’s Craft: Do You Need A Blog?

Flash Fiction Challenge: A Creepy Picture

Flash Fiction Challenge: A Creepy Picture published on No Comments on Flash Fiction Challenge: A Creepy Picture
Creepy picture for Wendig's lastest challenge
Creepy picture for Wendig’s lastest challenge

The diabolical Chuck Wendig chose the picture for the newest cover of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as the inspiration for his latest flash fiction challenge. Yes, I agree it is creepy, worthy of inspiration. The challenge: one thousand word based on the picture. I’m not quite the horror type, but I gave it a shot anyway.

The Good Girl

Eight-year old Merry knitted her little fingers together, her arms twisted to her back while she surveyed the scene. Her mother’s tea set sprawled over the length of the living room, some of the pieces inexorably shattered, lost beyond repair. Her upper teeth pushed into her pink bottom lip, the barest quivering of tears wetting her eyelashes. It was revenge, and she knew it.

“I didn’t do it, mommy,” she said. Her voice was plaintive, but she knew what was coming.

“You never do it,” said her mother with disapproval. “Just like the Christmas ornaments you smashed. Go to your room, and stay there.”

She went to her room, but only for a little while. Merry was told enough times by both parents that she was a bad girl. She was supposed to be perfect. At times she was. Merry never fussed while mother made up her hair just so before she went to school, and she took care to keep her clothes clean when she was out in public. Even her teachers told her parents how good she was at school.

But when she was at home, things took a different turn. And it wasn’t her fault.Continue reading Flash Fiction Challenge: A Creepy Picture

The Comeback of Serial Fiction

The Comeback of Serial Fiction published on No Comments on The Comeback of Serial Fiction

Buck Rogers Serial Poster The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Do you remember Buck Rogers? Not the campy television show, but the shorts that used to come on in the movies before the main show? Okay, I’m dating myself here, even thought by the time I got to see them they were filling a hole in the Saturday morning cartoon slots.

During the first part of the twentieth century serialization of stories was the norm. Pulp SF magazines serialized novels, radio shows serialized all sorts of stories (Who knows? The Shadow knows. Mmmaawwhha.) Eventually television came along, and television series arose, building on the dying bones of the radio series.

But somewhere between the late twentieth century the culture changed. It was a slow implosion that shifted readership of many different forms of print. The people who best documented this was the newspaper industry. Up to the 1990’s daily circulation rose and then held firm at a little over 60,000,000 households. Then, despite the growing population, circulation numbers started to fall, like a rock. And curiously, though, during the years of 70’s all to the current year the number of households grew. And another trend emerged. During the 1970’s nearly every household in the United States took at least the daily newspaper. By the nineties this was no longer true. Despite a rapidly growing population, people read the paper less.Continue reading The Comeback of Serial Fiction

5 Things to Do To Improve Your SEO and Site Traffic

5 Things to Do To Improve Your SEO and Site Traffic published on No Comments on 5 Things to Do To Improve Your SEO and Site Traffic



Recently, at their request, I analyzed the SEO of a non-profit’s website. Looking at what people did wrong reminded me of the things we need to do right to promote our blogs.

I considered writing “Ten Things to Do to Improve Your Blog Traffic,” but I’ve noticed some writers are just plain whiny about SEO. It’s time consuming. No one reads my blog anyway. Who cares? Much of this just comes down to not knowing what to do. Let me streamline the process by providing a few suggestions. Do these things and you should see a rise in your traffic.Continue reading 5 Things to Do To Improve Your SEO and Site Traffic

Chuck Wendig’s Latest Flash Fiction Challenge

Chuck Wendig’s Latest Flash Fiction Challenge published on No Comments on Chuck Wendig’s Latest Flash Fiction Challenge

Alice in Wonderland CupcakesWhen Chuck Wendig put up his latest flash fiction challenge I couldn’t resist. But, here, I’ll let me explain it in his own words:

This week, a bit of a quirky one.
You ever play those old-school Infocomm text adventures?

(Zork: “You are eaten by a grue.”)

I was a huge fan.

Now, there’s a Twitter account / bot that, if you tweet the word “inventory” to this particular Twitter bot — @YouAreCarrying — it will tweet back at you a randomized list of inventory items, taken, I believe, from old Infocomm games.
Take all the items listed in the response tweet (your “inventory”) and use them all — in some way, oblique, abstract or overt — in a flash fiction. We’ll up the word count to 2000 words for this one. Due by next Friday (7/18), noon EST. Post at your online space; drop a link below so folks can follow it back. And that’s it. Go forth. Get your inventory. Write a story.

And the bot came back with this for me:

‪@starrynightastr a two liter bottle of Classic Coke, a trash basket, a cake, a glass analysis, a pound note, a leaflet, a granola cluster.

I’m not going to sit there groaning about the twisted angst it took for me to come up with a story, because when I read these things there was only one place I could take them. To Alice, my Out of Wonderland character from my previous story “The White Rabbit.”

And here’s the story:

Cake: The Continuing Adventures of Alice Out of Wonderland

“We shouldn’t be meeting like this, Alice,” said the white rabbit sitting at the bar. I slid onto the stool next to him. “The Queen will have my job.”Continue reading Chuck Wendig’s Latest Flash Fiction Challenge

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