Category Archives: writing

Collision, Concussion, Consequence

carcrash3.1If you follow me on different platforms–okay, primarily Twitter, truth told–you’ll know I was in a car accident about a week ago.  At first, I considered myself unhurt, applying the rather incomplete and stupid standard of, “No bleeding, no broken bones, able to walk–I’m good.”  Then I spent the night with an increasing painful headache, dropping off to sleep whether I wanted to or not, and awakening over and over with room-spinning nausea.  Word mix-ups, wonky scent and taste perception, and time distortions came next.

Yep.  Concussion.

So I’ve been under all sorts of restrictions, including time spent on any sort of screen.  Much more than thirty minutes in, and I have to quit for at least a couple of hours because the headache and blurry vision start closing in.

Writing by hand is a tad easier, simply because–unlike computer work–the vision starts to blur before the headache comes along.  Believe me, as much as I’d rather speed along on the computer, I’ll take the blurry-vision warning over the headache any day.  But it does mean I pretty much can’t work right now.

Putting together a blog post over the course of two days is one thing, but copyediting ad and marketing copy is quite another.  And keeping the plot straight while revising a multi-POV novel.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

So while I’m waiting for my smooshed brain to recover, I’ll just remind y’all my Patreon is still plugging along with original articles on self-defense, fight scenes, whiskey, and puppers.  A dollar a month gets you first-eyes access.  In the next four weeks, there will be a new fight scene analysis, too, so it’s a good time to jump in if you haven’t already!

And I’m having a Post-Collision Concussion Sale on all the novels!  Sand of Bone, Breath of Stone, and the stand-alone Sword and Chant are all only $2.99 until the doctors clear me to resume working.  If you’ve been waiting for the price-drop, this is your chance!  If you liked any of them, please pass along the links!  If you didn’t like them at all… well, thank you for sticking with me anyway!  🙂

Next week, brain willing, I’ll also be talking about the upcoming Sirens Conference, timing for new releases, and the cookbook that I swear I haven’t forgotten.

So in the meantime… Stay safe, my Darlings, and enjoy this season of transition.

#SFWApro

 

The Novel Marches On

I know I’ve been rather blog-quiet lately.  There are two reasons for that.

First, y’all know I love my job giving whiskey tours.  And I’m not working that many hours, all told.  But making the transition has been a bit rocky in terms of time management.  Some things had to give, and longer online pieces were the pieces that fell to the wayside for awhile.

Second, I’ve been struggling a little with my “online presence.”  Frankly, I don’t even like to couch it in that term, but I haven’t another that’s any better.  Weighing where I speak about what, and in what terms, and how often or seldom…ClearCamaraFeb2013 112

Y’see, my online presence has always been just… me.  Not Me Writer or Me Not-Writer.  Just me.  At the same time, Online Me has almost always been separate from Real Life Me, mostly because the majority of people I interacted with in daily life had little if any interest in Online Me and related pursuits.  And Online Me always felt free to be me, but now that people I know in real life are hooking into Online Me, I feel all weird and exposed.

It’s all mixed up and jumbled and judged, and all the boundaries are smudged, and I’m second-guessing every time I consider posting here (and LiveJournal) because I’m certain you’re not interested in that, and my goodness this used to be so natural and easy, and maybe I’m posting on the wrong day for people to actually have time to read it, and am I really going to use that photo again, and I think I’d be infinitely happier if Facebook went away forever.

*insert flailing arms*

I’m figuring it out, slowly but surely.  The closer I get to feeling certain, the more I realize what I’ve posted in the past is exactly what I want to keep posting going forward.  It’s my attitude, not my content, that needs to settle down and move forward.

So you can look forward to more writing posts, more fighting posts, more disconnected musings on grief and puppers and wellness and whatever, and when the weather shifts, there will be the return of posts about camping and gardening.  (Yes, gardening. My current yard is a sliver given mostly to puppers, so we’ll be experimenting with hay bales and the like.)

In the meantime!

Flesh of Strife has been steadily growing, and as it grows, the plot for the last novel in the series, Ash of Life, becomes clearer.  There is fun stuff in there, and hard stuff, and true stuff, and kind stuff, and hopeful stuff.

Another novel, completely unrelated to the Desert Rising series, has taken form.  I have been ruthless against its demand to be written right now, though.  Flesh and Ash must come first, because that’s what my darlings are reading.

And the cookbook!  We’re almost there!  Right after Superstars next week, I’ll be sending out a final round of recipes for testing.  Other recipes have been adjusted according to the fabulous feedback people so graciously offered.  Some of those adjustments were in ingredients, but most were in the instructions, and I’m so grateful folks put a meal on the line to discover my errors.

The Patreon novella is still moving forward, and is in desperate need of a new section or two in February.

And my Patreon is still there, and I am amazed and grateful every month for y’all’s support there.  It keeps me going, truly.

So…  Here we are.  A confession, a meandering, and an update all in one.

And if there’s anything else you want to know about, please tell me because I’m obviously having a hard time figuring things out in isolation these days.

#SFWApro

 

 

 

Merry Camping Ahead…

powerSee that beautiful thing? It’s my Christmas joy, given by my brother-in-law as part of our family Secret Santa exchange.* He joked that he bought me one so I’d stop borrowing his. I told him it was his own fault for suggesting it would be a great camping accessory. 🙂

Yes, it’s great for emergencies–it’ll jumpstart a car, forex–but it’s the camping applications that make me love it so.

The last time I took my BIL’s charger along, I tested how much battery power it took to keep my Kindle and phone fully charged over three days.  By the end of the experiment, I’d recharged my used-until-dead Kindle three times, and my used-not-as-much phone twice.  The charging unit’s battery level had merely nudged down to around 97%.

Coming experiments will include discovering how long it’ll run my laptop, and what affects the power drain.  The first attempt got around six hours of active laptop and wireless use (in addition to the two-ish hours I get from the laptop battery).

My writerly camping trips are about to get WAY more productive.  Or at least differently productive.

Y’see, the usual writerly camping trip tends to revolve around plotting and editing, with some handwritten first drafting.  Truly, I love writing by hand, and part of me misses the days when I wrote first and second drafts with black extra-fine Uniball pens on college-ruled notebook paper in a three-ring binder.  But… I’ve also grown accustomed to the greater speed a keyboard allows me when my thoughts start running ahead of my cursive.

This lovely unit will permit me to flip open the laptop at those moments without fear I’ll suddenly run out of power before finishing.

Of course, now I desperately want to hide in a wooded campground for three days.

Alas, January!

On the other hand… March isn’t that far away…

 

*Our family shifted from the gifts-for-everyone model to Secret Santa many years ago, and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is move into the holidays without massive financial and shopping stress. We draw names at the end of Thanksgiving dinner, keep our draw secret, then exchange the gifts on Christmas Eve. Yes, the kids still get Santa presents, and special presents from parents.

#SFWApro

My Dearest, Darling Patrons

Most of you have stuck with me for an entire year now, and I can’t tell you how much your support and faith means to me.

I’m enough of an introvert that I don’t experience writing and creating as particularly lonely endeavors, but they can certainly be fertile ground for bouts of doubt and anxiety.

Seeing your support, month after month, turns doubt into confidence and anxiety into determination.

We’ll still get an Article of Violence this month, but I also wanted to do something extra for you.

Thus you have a story–not a holiday story, precisely, but one of and for the heart.

May your holidays be wonderful, and the coming year filled with hope.

Love,
Blair
 

About My Girl


 

#SFWApro

Violence and Viewpoint

In self-defense, hesitation can kill.  We’ve talked about that One-Mississippi before, yes?  Waiting to act—even when that wait is a natural “Is this really happening?” moment—can mean the difference between striking before the attacker grabs, or having to fight with a bleeding head injury.  It can mean the difference between an escape made on your feet or fighting a losing battle the ground.

That push against hesitation must be balanced against circumstances, though.  If a drunk gets handsy with me in the pub, I shouldn’t hesitate to stop him… but I should not slam the ridge of my hand against his throat, gouge out an eyeball, and stomp his ribcage until I puncture a lung. 100_2182

Hesitation can kill a story, too, especially when it comes to emotional impact.  We writers shouldn’t shy from realistically portraying the cost of making choices or exploring the consequences of action and inaction. But writers must, too, find a balance—especially when depicting violence in accordance with genre expectations.  Continue reading Violence and Viewpoint

Grounding In Real Life

This article originally appeared for patrons only at Patreon.

Grounding and energy generation—the basis of so many combat and meditative arts in real life, and referred to directly or indirectly in a multitude of fictional magic and fighting systems. In the latter, it’s often described as rooting, or as drawing from the earth, or in other non-specific and spiritual-sounding ways. Gripping the earth with our feet, sinking or connecting, and other aspects of energy use.

I’ve also seen some rather ridiculous demonstrations that can best be deemed Karate Magic or Sensei-Fu—the great and powerful master who uses a pinky finger and hand-wave-um to send faithful students tumbling and sprawling as a demonstration of great power drawn from the earth and channeled into superhuman chi. Here’s an example of what happens when self-delusion walks into reality.

Ahem.100_2182

I’m more of a practical gal, I suppose.

Yes, I could say grounding gives you a connection to the earth beneath your feet—and indeed modern research demonstrates an incredible energy exchange when one walks barefoot on soil—but that isn’t extensively useful in a sudden and unexpected fight.

Think about it: the notion of “grounding” as tapping into the earth’s energy means you cannot expect your powerful techniques to work if you’re on a boat, on a plane, in a high-rise, or having to defend yourself within the confines of a spaceship. Or, for that matter, on a yoga mat on the gym’s second floor. Grounding might make one feel connected with the earth or with the universe, but that’s the result of the act rather than the act itself. It’s a metaphor that has, by some instructors and fiction writers, been taken way too far.

Grounding is not a spiritual act dependent upon the Think Method.

Continue reading Grounding In Real Life

New Connections and the NaNo Thing

was not as enthusiastic about MileHiCon this year for a couple admittedly ego-centric reasons, and because I was tired and had had such a wonderful and unique Sirens experience. But I’d made commitments, and so I went.

Thank. Goodness.

At the SFWA meeting, I in-person connected with Nathan Lowell–a wonderful indie writer I’d communicated with online, and waved to once at another local con. We chatted until needing to run off to respective panels, then met up again for whiskey in the afternoon. Eventually we were joined by three other writers–indie writers!–from Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and I much enjoyed the three-ish hours we all spent together sharing experiences and encouraging more connections. There were dog stories, too, which makes everything more wonderful.

So now I’m looking at connecting with Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, joining their indie publishing group, and picking brains about audio books and the like. And I’m looking at enjoying it.

(That last bit is important, you see, because I’ve determined life is too short to deal much and long with assholes. Yes, this limits my opportunities. Yes, I’m fine with that.)

Next year, I won’t be at MileHiCon, though. It’s the same weekend as Sirens. So I did spend some time convincing the folks I met they’d like to check out Sirens. 🙂

As for NaNo… I’ve mentioned elsewhere I’m not doing the “real” NaNoWriMo. Truly, signing up on yet another website, proving my wordcount, and so on does not appeal to me. Besides, I’m starting with a pile of already-written material that will be shuffled in with newly written material, and methinks that’s not in the NaNo rules. But for the first time ever, the month of November is one during which I can give writing more time and focus because I do not have children at home, holidays with family do not require extensive travel, and my son’s early December birthday doesn’t require much planning. Thus I’m doing the nose-grindstone thing for thirty days.

So this is what the next Desert Rising book looks like this morning:

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Most of that will end up trashed or set aside for another novel, since it was first written years ago. Today’s task is to shuffle through those piles and pull out all the pieces I might want to use going forward, to integrate those pieces with the existing multiple-viewpoint outline, and translate those pieces onto the Magic Index Cards that will permit me to write the novel.

In other news, I’ll be making three frittatas and homemade caramel for apple-dipping so we can have a Halloween family dinner + trick-or-treat this evening.

#SFWApro

Sirens Is Now My Home

If you’ve read most any other person’s experience attending Sirens, you’ve an inkling of what I’m going to say.

Yes, it is an amazing few days—surrounded by women and men (why, YES, men do attend Sirens, and enjoy it immensely) who celebrate who they are, and what and who they love. The conversations are far-ranging and tightly-focused, curious and passionate, overlapping and attentive. The interactions are both open and intimate. There is space and there is affection. Questions and affirmations. Challenges and comforts. Embracing old friends and picking up where we left off last year, and embracing new friends with the anticipation of connections yet to be formed.

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Three cool things in particular, but in no particular order:

First: Conversations about grief and grieving. Not many opportunities come about in daily life for those. People close to me are much more interested in making sure I’m “all right,” which to them means I’m not expressing loss and longing. That makes it easier for me to talk about grief with people I don’t see all the time; they tend to be more curious than concerned, and curiosity is what opens doors in search of answers. Those chats are emotional gold for me—the chance to share in the hope it’ll help someone else, yes, but also the opportunity to better understand myself and the process.

Second: The Sirens Fight Club. Hooking up with women who understand the subtle and overt challenges of choosing to train—to openly enjoy—combat arts is exhilarating. Truly, I wanted another entire weekend to spend with these women, and I knew so within the first few minutes of our meeting. We’re going to plot out a proposal or two for next year. Truly, between us, we could offer a multi-day workshop!

Hmm…

Third: Laurie Marks. I’ve said before I am grateful for, and humbled by, the female fantasy writers who “raised” me in this crazy world of storytelling. Laurie was the first published writer I’d ever met, the first to teach me about critique groups, the first to give me feedback on my very first attempted novel. I was nineteen and stupid and arrogant and ambitious, and when she told me I used too many gerunds, I had to go home and look up the word (in an actual printed dictionary, no less!) because I hadn’t a clue. We lost touch a few years later, and the more years that passed, the more awkward it felt to pop back into her life with a “Hey, remember me?”

Twenty-five years passed that way.

Nervousness remained as Sirens came closer, until I passed Laurie in the hall on the second day and re-introduced myself.

And was given a full smile and a tight hug and an invitation to lunch with her and Deb. Catching up was wonderful and too brief, but there isn’t a shred of awkwardness or nervousness on my part remaining. There will not be a horrible time-gap again!

All of that was Sirens for me.

The conference will be in Colorado again next year, but this time up in Vail at a marvelous luxury resort that—and this is the incredible part—will cost little more than the rooms down in Denver.

You want to do this, my darlings. You want to do this so, so badly.

You want to come to Vail in October, when it might be clear and merely crisp at sundown only to give way to snow-covered mountainsides by sunrise. When we will celebrate the women of fantasy who not only hold power in their own right, but wield it as well. Women of strength. Women of magic.

Women we all know.

Women like you.

#SFWApro

The Incredible Judith Tarr

It is my honor—and I mean that truly—to host author Judith Tarr today.

I first read Tarr’s work in the 1990’s, and continue to be swept up in her stories the moment I read the first page. Her novels encompass the fantastical and historical traditions fantasy readers yearn for, and entwines them with characters who are vibrant, real, flawed, and ever striving. Among my favorites of her works are the White Mare’s Daughter and Arrows of the Sun. Both open trilogies filled with marvelous things. The Washington Post said of her work, “Judith Tarr is as confident in describing the battlefields of war as she is in exploring the conflicts of love,” and I must say I agree completely!

So when it looked possible to include Tarr’s newest novel in the Weird Western bundle—and as a debut!—I was biting my fingernails until she said yes. This woman of sharp observation, honed craft, and polished wit tempered with wide life experience has offered you, my darlings, an opportunity to read Dragons in the Earth through StoryBundle before it’s available to anyone else.

And on top of all that, she agreed to answer a few questions for me!

Dragons in the Earth takes place in Tucson and surrounding areas. I’ve a love for the desert myself, and your respect for the land of your adopted home comes through in your work so strongly. You mentioned elsewhere your reasons for settling in the desert. What has surprised you about desert living? Is that a warning or an enticement?

As I’ve said elsewhere, I moved here for my health. What I didn’t expect was for it to be as livable as it is. “It’s a Dry Heat” is true. I can’t handle humid heat at all, but here, while it’s challenging (and I have to be out in a lot, with the horses), it’s amazingly tolerable. It does not hurt, either, that we build for it, design for it, and plan for it. We make the most of what cool we can find or manufacture.

The other surprising thing, from the being outside all the time standpoint, is that while the desert is notoriously full of snakes, scorpions, and attack cacti, swarms of biting insects are remarkably rare. I can be outside at night without getting eaten alive, and horseback riding in warm weather doesn’t require six layers of Kevlar and a quart of fly spray per horse. We do get barn flies around the summer rains, and mosquitoes if there’s standing water, but it’s nothing like what I dealt with every spring and summer in New England.

 I moved from Indiana to the foothills of eastern Colorado, so I completely understand the joy of (mostly) insect-free outdoor enjoyment!

Now, I’m a dog person. A dog person who adopts rescue pups and helps others understand their adopted dogs who have “a past.” What I’ve loved about reading your accounts of working with horses, on your blog and through Patreon, is comparing your explanations of equine communication to canine communication. Can you share a little bit about communicating with horses—the nonverbal exchanges, the predator-prey alignments, the differences between mares and stallions—and the depth you chose to include in your novel.

Now this could be a book.

And it is! Right here, folks can find Writing Horses—your fantastic guide to including horses in a novel without triggering horse-knowledgeable folks to throw said novel against the wall. Or across the stall.

Or a library!

As briefly as I can put it, horses communicate through movement, through body language and through what can be best be described as manipulating energy. They’re extremely subtle, and extremely complex in their interactions. Humans are at a severe disadvantage here; we’re focused in our heads, we’re loud, we’re clumsy, we lack nuance. Horses are extremely patient with us, but it’s a rare horse who doesn’t eventually just give up and stop trying if it’s constantly exposed to oblivious human body-screamers. That’s the checked-out barn potato but also the crazy spookmonster who freaks out about everything.

If a human tries to communicate with a horse on the horse’s own level, even if the effort is at best a clumsy approximation of what a horse would do, the horse tries very very hard to accommodate. That’s especially true of sensitive horses, and horses raised with the expectation that the humans will try to pay attention.

Then things happen. Like you’re longeing your horse on a 20-foot line, and not saying a word. “Riding” him from that far away. Moving him, changing his gaits, with tiny shifts of your own weight and attitude. Or you’re standing with your horse and you’re breathing with her and she started off anxious about something outside, but now she’s breathing slow and deep along with you, and the anxiety is gone. And stays gone as long as you keep that focus.

Magic.

Mares and stallions? Ah, the myths. Most basically, stallions aren’t the wild hormonal maniacs they’re made out to be. They’re strongly controlled by their instincts, yes, but it’s the mares who control them. Which means human women get along great with stallions. Better than men. A man can be a rival, but a woman is the alpha mare, and he’s wired to defer to her.

Just recently I was going to ride my stallion, but one of my mares wanted the session. As I led him past her, he went nutty. She was driving him off his tiny head with her targeted mareness. I seriously could not get him to focus–and he’s well trained, very smart and wise, and bonded to me. She manipulated him right out of the session. So she got the ride, and he calmed down the minute he was back in his stall with his pile of hay.

And these aren’t even ancient Powers hiding on a ranch outside of Tucson.

Well. Maybe that’s not actually true.

Dragons in the Earth puts together a bunch of elements we often associate with isolation and solitude—a desert setting, caretaking, spiritual and magical undercurrents. What choices and opportunities do you find this provides your characters and their developments?

It lets the characters be very much a part of the landscape and the climate and the overall spirit of the place. At the same time, since that isolation happens just a few miles outside of a city of half a million humans, on land that’s been occupied continually for millennia, there’s the option of entering the urban energy sink and using that to power certain aspects of the magic. Which I will be contemplating for the sequels, because Tucson Magic is a real thing, and it’s urban as well as desert and wilderness.

That’s the thing about the city, in fact. Twenty minutes outside of a heavily populated area is desert or mountain or forest. There’s real wilderness out there. Mountain lions and bears. Bighorn sheep. Saguaro forests. Then you turn around and drive down and you’re in the mall or the University or the barrio.

And even there, you’ll find tiny enclaves: houses with a pipe pen and a couple of horses in back, a garden that’s been there since the Spanish Colonial days, an old sacred hill that looks down on the inner city. There are thousand-year-old pit houses in the middle of the city, or at highway interchanges. And cutting-edge aerospace and biotech, and the airplane graveyard out by the air base.

The stories write themselves.

Would you share your most memorable desert experience?  Your most memorable equine connection?  Either or both?

Oh gosh. There are so many. The mare manipulating the stallion with her hormones–that was a couple of weeks ago. She does things like that all the time. So do the rest of the horses.

For pure desert experience, one of my favorites was a couple of years ago. A writer friend was in town researching a book, and we went down to the Presidio and poked around the remnants of colonial Tucson. From there we headed to Saguaro National Park West, and back in time: we climbed Signal Hill to see the petroglyphs. It was the summer Solstice, 109 degrees F, and we were up on the edge of the sky, where the old ones left messages for the gods and each other. That was a very Tucson day.

What’s coming up next for you, and how can folks who love Dragons in the Earth be informed?

I’m working on a sequel to my space opera, Forgotten Suns, and also on the next Tucson Magic/Horses of the Moon story. I talk about these things intermittently on facebook (with much horse and farm detail), and more often on twitter, where I’m @dancinghorse. Twitter is a good place to find me.

I also have a Patreon, where I post bits of horse and farm news and snippets of fiction. That’s here: https://www.patreon.com/dancinghorse

As a Patreon supporter myself, I can highly recommend it!

Thank you so very much for your time, Judy!

Judith Tarr’s current new release, Dragons in the Earth, is available exclusively through  StoryBundle until September 8!

If you’re ready for more, check out Dancing Horse Farms for information on Tarr’s writer mentoring, and her Horse Camp for Writers.

#SFWApro

 

 

“The Drunkard” Begins at Patreon!

For years, the Oster merchant Neb has been nagging at me to finish his story. For years, I’ve been trying to do so. But now–thanks to the whisper of another character who said simply, “It’s me, ma’am. Don’t worry about them.”–the story is rumbling along apace. And truly, not a moment too soon. I needed a break from the heaviness that can be SheyKhala.

The Drunkard is set in the same lands as my novels, and readers will recognize reference to the land of Osterloh as the enemy not yet fully seen in the current storylines. We have threats and fights and battles and blood-hungry beings… but your narrator Neb is a sharp-tongued man with a knack for odd phrasings and secrets that are both softer and harder then he’s really comfortable talking about. And no matter what you might hear, he’ll have you know he is held in the highest esteem by those merchants who share his penchant for almost-licit dealings, and can count on any of them to nudge the border guards at the proper moment and with the appropriate coin (supplied, of course, by Neb himself).

The dear folks currently supporting me on Patreon will have exclusive, patron-only access to the novella as it unfolds. The first part is up at Patreon now. For a dollar a month, you can join up! I’ll also be revamping my Patreon page and offerings in the coming month, so if you’ve some patron-input you’d like to share, please do!

So here’s a taste of The Drunkard.

Um… wait, I didn’t mean it quite that way…

Ahem.

The Drunkard

Here’s how those storytelling dimwits begin the tale:

He rode into town at sunset, just as prophecy had foretold. The folk feared to meet his cold stare as he reckoned the worth of their lives against the risking of his own, for he alone could deliver them from the ancient evil that had descended upon Entibar.

Pah.

Blah, blah, PAH.

First of all, there was no prophecy. Just some babble from old Plegar, who forgot more often than not to pull up his trousers before tottering into the hostel for breakfast. There was no impressive arrival, either. Near as I could figure, the drunkard staggered out of some tavern in Jendayi, passed out amongst sacks of goatswool in the back of my wagon, went overlooked at the border crossing from Calligar to Osterloh, and slept all the way to Entibar. That’s where I found him—just as I’d pulled the wagon alongside my humble mudbrick home—when I tossed a half-empty jug of cheap Calligari wine over the back of the wagon bench.

Continue reading “The Drunkard” Begins at Patreon!