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Samhain-kitty Here (again)

So, the writer-person has been talking incessantly about a launch date.  I’m worried that she has developed delusions of being an astronaut.

So while she’s out at some pub listening to live Irish music (she says she works on her writing while she’s there–likely story) I’m sneaking on to share her shameful secret  While she claims to be too busy to update her blog, dear readers, she has been cheating on you with other blogs.

Yes, I know how it feels.  I feel the same way she goes away for hours, sometimes days, and comes back smelling of other animals.

You don’t want to believe, I know.  But here’s proof:

The Sacred Marriage in Fantasy

Urban Fantasy: Fairytales for Today

Declaration of Indie-pendence

And a podcast, too!

Samhain-kitty Checking In

OK, the writer-person actually has somewhat of an excuse this time for ignoring the blog.  After much stressful back-and-forth, she and The Wild Rose Press have parted ways due to irreconcilable editorial differences.  I, for one, applaud her cat-like pride and independence.

Still, that means she is now scrambling with the business of getting Where Light Meets Shadow out as an indie release, leaving her precious little time for other important things, like her cat and her blog.

So I’m stepping in on her old back-up laptop to tell you some of the things she has in store for you.

There will be, someday soonish, a post on the holidays of the Ravensblood universe and another post or two about real-world locations that match up with locations in that series.

The Astoria segment of the Cool Stuff blog series has not been forgotten. . .at least, it better not have been, as she abandoned her cat for three whole days to hang with friends and get the material for that particular blog.

Also, there will be a Special Guest Cool Stuff blog around Memorial Day.  Local web -content writer and photographer Jocelyn S. Mackie will be sharing what she knows about cool old cemeteries in the area.  (I like Jocelyn, even if she does kidnap my writer-person for occasional expeditions.  She is, after all, a cat person, and that makes up for a lot.)

Also, look for more info on Where Light Meets Shadow in social media and on the website soon.  Release date is August 8th, and yes, there will be a party.  With music.  To which her long-suffering cat will not be invited.

 

 

Mysterious Business

Read my new post on the elements of mystery fiction in the speculative genres on the group blog Here Be Magic.

My own Adventure in Time and Space

I started out with the Whovian fandom young, at about age nine or so, and like many Whovians, I dreamed of someday writing for or playing a part in the show. Well, that first, best dream of writing for the show is still out of reach (if any of you have contacts in the BBC, put a word in for me, will you?). But recently, the dream of acting in Doctor Who came true—sort of.
I dropped into the Facebook group PDX Whovians, as I do every couple of days, to see if there is anything of interest going on in the local fandom. There I saw a casting call for a Doctor Who Audio Drama. Now, this is not a BBC or even a Big Finish production, but a not-for-profit group made up of professionals, semi-professionals, and serious amateurs that have been doing Doctor Who audio dramas since 1982.
I decided to try out as a lark. Other than a semester-long class in oral interpretation in high school, I have no formal training in acting. My only experience in theater was few months’ stint as a props master and publicity assistant my freshman year in college. Other than giving readings of my work, I have no experience in acting. The casting call specified preference given to British accents, which I do not have and cannot fake, so I wasn’t holding out a lot of hope. Still, I thought it would be fun to try.
I have some friends with recording equipment and experience, and so I messaged Mike Zamudio of Otter Crossing and Rose in the Heather. (Local readers will recognize Otter Crossing as the Irish trad/classical fusion band that plays my book launches). Due to some crossing of messages and texts, I wasn’t even sure we were going to get the audition recorded in time until the evening we had to do it, and so I hadn’t put much into preparing my lines.
I dropped in at Casa Zamudio after my day job. We had a leisurely dinner, and put some time into photography for the cover for an upcoming short story release. Then we warned the children Zamudio to be quiet, removed the jangling collar from Pepper-the-pit-bull, and settled into the music room to record. I decided to try out for two roles, one with seventeen lines (I’d mentally dubbed her the Bitch) and one with one hundred forty-some (the Flirt.) Julie helped by reading the lines of the other actors, and despite my lack of preparation we recorded the auditions for both characters in one go.
I liked the character of the Flirt better, but I was afraid my voice was better suited for the Bitch (those of you who know me can just hush). I thought I’d be offered the smaller role, if I got any role at all. Much to my surprise, not only was I offered a part, I was offered the part of Lucinda, the flirt!
Needless to say, I was excited. And nervous. And more nervous still, when I had the chance to read the full script and realized I had to sob and scream on cue. To add to the stress, my publisher for Where Light Meets Shadow (my upcoming stand-alone fantasy novel) presented me with a round of edits to be gone through the very same week I would be prepping my lines. (Did I mention I have a day job? And a horse that requires attention?)
How DWAD works is that the actors record their individual lines and then email them to the folks who put it all together. (I don’t envy the person in charge of mixing his/her job!) So, with another flurry of emails between myself and Clan Zamudio, I set a time to go back in for recording. After another leisurely dinner (are you seeing a pattern?) we took the collar off the pittie, told the kids to go be quiet somewhere, and started the recording process.
I’d like to say it went effortlessly. But I try not to lie. I remember seeing blooper reels of the fifth Doctor flubbing a line and using language I’d never have suspected either the Doctor or Peter Davison of knowing. I now knew exactly how he felt. I stumbled over dialogue. I breathed too loud. The hour grew late, I grew tired. Worse, I couldn’t have any whiskey until we finished for fear of slurring my lines. Mike and Julie, showing a capacity for cruelty I wouldn’t have suspected, were drinking in front of me.
Finally, at a quarter past one in the morning, we had only one scene left. We decided to save that for the morning out of consideration for the neighbors, since it featured a bit of screaming. So I had a shot of Kilbeggan’s (at last), and crawled off to the crash space.
The next morning, we fortified ourselves with doughnuts and bacon, told the long-suffering boys to quiet themselves, and headed back to the music room with the resolution of soldiers returning to the front. And realized we had a problem we had forgotten about.
Pepper-the-pittie is a sensitive soul. She wasn’t going to be happy about one of her people-friends making sounds of apparent distress. And with her keen hearing, merely locking her in another room wouldn’t help. So first we had to desensitize the dog to screams. Julie gave a little scream, and immediately fed Pepper a small treat, and then repeated the process, until we worked up to me screaming, and then me screaming loudly.
Finally we were ready to record the scene. The dialogue part went fairly smoothly. Then we came to the scream at the end.
Mike is experienced with recording singers and instrumentals. Screams are another thing entirely. We tried pushing the mike back on its boom, but the sound levels were off the chart. We tried having Julie hold the mike on the far side of the room. We tried adjusting the sound levels electronically. I started to grow hoarse. We tried having Julie hold the mike outside the room. We tried again to adjust the sound levels manually.
Finally, just as my voice was about to give out entirely, we got it.
I have always respected actors, but my respect has now broadened and deepened.
And if I ever talk about trying out for live theater, please shoot me before the auditions.

(Doctor Who: The Dying of the Light will eventually be available online for free download. I’ll let you know here and on Facebook and Twitter when that happens).

Interview with Author R. L. King

Q. Thanks for stopping by! Tell us a bit about your novel.
A. It’s called Stone and a Hard Place, and it’s the first book in my urban fantasy series, The Alastair Stone Chronicles. Stone is a thirty-one-year-old professor of Occult Studies who’s recently arrived in the United States from his native Britain. He’s smart, snarky and, unknown to almost everyone, a powerful magical practitioner.
The story takes place a little earlier in Stone’s history, about four years before the next book in the series, and serves as an introduction to the character and his world. He has just taken on a new and unexpected apprentice, and shortly afterward agrees to help out a fellow professor who has an elderly, wealthy relative who thinks her big old house is haunted. The plan is to just go there and tell her, counting on his authority as a professor to make him believable, that everything is fine—but since Stone is a real mage, he quickly sees that not only is there really something there, but it’s potentially quite dangerous. So he has to deal with it while keeping secret the fact that he truly does have magical powers, and fighting off the group of black-magic practitioners who have less-than-wholesome plans for the house’s entity (and for Stone’s apprentice).

 

 

Q. That sounds fascinating. I just read the beginning, and you have me hooked. Can’t wait ‘till I can clear my schedule to finish it. You have quite the compelling protagonist. How did the idea of him develop?

A. Stone has been around in one form or another since the early ‘90s. The basic template of his personality started out with a Shadowrun character of mine named Winterhawk, but I eventually decided I wanted to do a series in an original setting, so I just transplanted him from the 2060s into (mostly) modern time and filed all the Shadowrun serial numbers off. The only things that remained from that character were the personality, the magic, and his status as an academic.
Aside from that, I have a thing for smart, sarcastic, cynical Brits (or people who really should be Brits  ) I can trace bits of Stone’s personality to characters ranging from Willy Wonka to the Tenth Doctor.

 

Q. What drew you to urban fantasy as a genre?

A. Mostly the fact that I like books set in the “real” world, but I also like magic and some of the other aspects of more traditional fantasy. I think I can blame Shadowrun for this again, since they were one of the first (certainly the first I encountered, back in 1989) that combined fantasy tropes with a modern-day setting. I’m not really that big a fan of classic medieval fantasy, to be honest, unless it’s got something really different to recommend it. Also, when I was growing up my mom was fascinated by anything “witchy” and paranormal, and she was a psychic (I’m a huge skeptic about that sort of thing, but I saw enough of her in action to believe that it can exist). Her love of things that go bump in the night rubbed off on me in a big way.
It’s funny, but when I started writing my series, I’d never read any of the Dresden Files books. My beta reader asked me if I had, and when I said no, he told me I had to read them and assured me that, given what I was writing, I’d love them. He was right!

 

Q. What prompted your decision to go indie?
A. Impatience, mostly, and a control-freak streak a mile wide. I write because I love to write, and because I have characters who want their stories told and won’t shut up until I indulge them. I’m not in it for the money (though of course it would be nice to at least make enough to pay my editor and art bills!) and I’m getting to the age where I’m not willing to wait for many months or years to see my work available—and that assumes a publisher would want to buy it in the first place, which is a big assumption. I like to have control over things like my cover and the design of my book, which you lose in most cases when you go with a trade publisher.
Now, that’s not to say that if some publisher noticed me and wanted to publish my books (yes, I know, stop laughing!) I would turn them down. But primarily I just want to get my stories out there in front of readers who I hope will enjoy them, in a reasonable timeframe.

 

 

Q. You don’t hear me laughing. From what I’ve read so far, you are quite publishable. I know what you mean about the control freak thing, though. I do both indie and legacy myself, and it’s. . .interesting going back and forth.
Now, I notice you also have a Shadowrun novel coming out. Would you like to talk a bit about what it’s like to write in a pre-set universe?
A. It’s a lot of fun when you love the universe you’re writing in. As I mentioned, I’ve been involved with Shadowrun as a fan since the game’s start in 1989, and also as a freelancer since 2001 (including a brief stint as assistant line developer). This game world is pretty much in my DNA at this point, so writing in the universe is easy for me. The only hard part is that Shadowrun is a very gear-intensive game, and it has a lot of fans who really love it for that. They love to argue over which gun is right for which application, or how the specific rules would go for a decking job or a running firefight. I’m much more cinematic—I just want the story to be good and fun and fast-paced, and essentially character based. So the “gun fu” part of the whole thing was hard for me.
I’m not sure I’d want to write in a universe I was less familiar with, because I’d be terrified of getting it wrong and disappointing the fans.

 

 

Q. What is one assumption people make about you that is wrong?
A.  A lot of people who are only familiar with my online presence think I’m male. I’ve been a tomboy all my life, and apparently my writing style (both in stories and in online communication) comes across as at least somewhat masculine. I don’t make a secret of my gender to people who know me, but as an online presence I can honestly say that I have never experienced any of the sexist/misogynist garbage that many women online unfortunately have had to deal with, and I suspect that’s part of the reason for it.

 
Q. I have been fortunate in not having been exposed to anything like that in the geek world, too. (The ‘real’ world is another story.) And to my knowledge no one has mistaken me as a man. I think in general there is more good than bad in geekdom. It’s just that the jerks are louder.
So now for a fun question: Choose one form of transport, real or fictional (steam train, horseback, sternwheeler, spaceship, pirate ship, TARDIS, anything you can think of). Choose twelve companions, alive or dead, real or fictional. (We will assume your transport also has a full complement of whatever crew it needs to make it viable.) Choose one destination. Where are you going, with whom and why?
A. Well, okay, of course I’m going to pick the TARDIS. As a Whovian, I’d be silly not to! For companions…I’m not big on historical figures, so most of them will be fictional. Off the top of my head:
1. The Tenth Doctor
2. The Twelfth Doctor
3. My own protagonist, Dr. Alastair Stone
4. Sherlock Holmes (the Robert Downey Jr. version)
5. Dr. Stephen Strange
6. Steve Jobs
7. Alice Cooper
8. Dr. Gregory House
9. Willy Wonka (the Gene Wilder version)
10. Harry Dresden
11. Dunkelzahn the dragon from Shadowrun
12. J.K. Rowling
Honorable Mentions: Dr. Hannibal Lecter, Dr. Ian Malcolm from the film Jurassic Park
Wow, that’s kind of a sausage fest, isn’t it? But I think that group would certainly make for some interesting conversation, don’t you? Either that or their egos would combine together, gain independent sentience, and take over the universe…
As for where we’d go, how about Milliway’s, the Restaurant at the End of the Universe?

 

Q. Some interesting choices. I’d be afraid Hannibal Lector would eat everyone else. I prefer the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka, too, but I would have gone with the Jeremy Brett version of Holmes.
Now this is from Samhain-kitty: Your bio says you have a small herd of cats. Obviously you are a person of fine taste and sterling character. How did you come to be jointly owned by so many cats, and what are you doing to repay them for the great privilege?
A. I’ve loved cats since I was a tiny kid, and always had them growing up. Then I went off to college and lived in a succession of apartments that didn’t allow pets. I vowed that when I had my own house, I would have cats. There was the slight hurdle of the spouse being allergic, but he wanted cats too so he agreed to get the shots (this was a huge sacrifice for him since he hates needles, and I definitely appreciate it).
We started out with one, and unfortunately he didn’t work out (we weren’t ready and he was too young—we found him another home and he thrived with his new owner; also, the shots hadn’t worked right yet and the spouse ended up in the emergency room). After that we waited a few years until we had a house (and more shots) and got a pair of kittens: a Singapura named Tenshi and a Russian Blue named Meep. Then we got another Singapura kitten named Ozzy a couple of years later. Sadly, Meep succumbed to lymphoma at only five (I still miss her terribly). We got a couple of Russian Blue kittens (Grace and Sonata, aka Boo and Fred), and our vet had some rescue kittens who were looking for homes, so we took Clarice, a lovely tabby girl. Then, a few years after that, we took Ozzy to the vet and I fell in love with another rescue tabby boy (Nabbytabby, named after Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov) when I picked him up and he stuck his tongue up my nose. I called the spouse and told him we were taking this kitten home, expecting him to object. He came down to meet the kitten—and promptly fell in love with his sister, an adorable tabby girl (Tessa, aka Bug). So of course they both had to come home with us (by this point the vet doesn’t even charge us the adoption fee—they basically assume any kitten adopted by us has hit the lottery). So now we live with our four “purebloods” and our three “Muggle-borns” and we’re all very happy together. But definitely no more additions to the herd!

 

You know you just jinxed yourself by saying ‘no more additions’! Seriously, that’s quite a lot of cats. And kudos to your husband. I’m not sure I would have been up for another round after a trip to the emergency room!
Thanks for stopping by, and best of luck with your new novel!

Readers: Ms. King’s novel can be found on Amazon.

Cool Stuff Series: English Country Dance

For those of you who loved the ball scenes in Pride and Prejudice and long for a way to join that world, you can (sort of).  On one hand, there is less in the way of fancy dresses and elegant men in period costume.  On the other hand, you don’t have to have expensive clothes and be landed gentry to join in the fun.

On (almost) every Friday night, there is an English country dance at the Burlingame Water Tower Dance Hall (8936 SW 17th, Portland).  The music is live and appropriate to period.  Dress is pretty much whatever you are comfortable with. . .you will see everything from dressy-dresses to tie-dye T-shirts and jeans.  (On the occasions that I went, I usually wore skirts because I like the way they twirl when I turn).  The only real requirement is inside dance shoes.  (Which can be any comfortable shoe that has never been worn outside.  I wear the same Capezio dance sneakers that I bought for Irish ceili dancing, but a friend just bought a cheap pair of China flats.)

Beginners are welcome, no partner is needed.  Each dance starts with the caller walking the dancers through it and explaining the dance.  I found that my background in Irish ceili dancing helped me get quickly up to speed, although I had to forget everything I ever knew about expecting symmetry in dance and sometimes had to mentally ‘translate’.  (Because a back-to-back in ECD is very much *not* the same figure as a ceili back-to-back).

If you’ve never done any similar style of social dance (or even if you have), it might me a good idea to familiarize yourself with the terms before you go.

If you write in the regency period, or if you are simply a history geek like me, this is a great experience.  Not only do you see and learn the dances, but you start to get the idea of how personalities come out in individual dance styles withing a highly structured dance, and how much flirtation can be carried in simple eye contact within the decorous bounds of the dance floor.

Also please note that this coming Friday (3/6) is a special fancy-dress ceili, with dancers asked to come in their favorite period Western costumes (You can be a sheriff,  a dance-hall girl, a school marm, or ???  Steampunk friends, this is your dance!)

Official link with details, contact info here.

Between publishing commitments and a knee injury, I’ve been absent lately, but I hope to start up again soon.  Maybe someday I’ll see you there!

 

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret of the Heart-Shaped Box

Author’s Note: This short story first appeared on the Here Be Magic Blog on Valentine’s Day, 2014.  The authors belonging to that group blog challenged each other to write a flash fiction piece featuring a heart-shaped box.  The pastiche below was my own contribution.

 

Sherlock Holmes’s top desk drawer held trophies of his many successes, plus a simple, wooden, heart-shaped box. One with Holmes’s skill in observation might note that the box was the sort of cheap trinket that a young person might buy with an allowance, painted after purchase with a tutored but inexpert hand.

I first encountered the box when he sent me looking for a tin of poisonous seeds that he thought might shed some light on a current case. I pulled out the thing with a laugh, for it seemed so unlike my friend’s tastes, and made some sort of jovial allusion to the tales of the monster who cannot be killed because he keeps his heart in a box, only this box was empty.

Holmes uncurled like a viper from his previous indolent pose and snatched the box from my hand.

Thinking I had offended him with my joke about heartlessness, I stammered out an apology— though he had said as much and more about himself on occasion.

Holmes waved off my contrition. “It is I who should apologize, my dear Watson. It is only that the box is a reminder of a matter most sensitive to me. While everything else you see in that drawer is a memento of my success, that box is a reminder of my failure. My very first mystery, which remains unsolved.”

Something in his face discouraged further questions, and suggested to me that personal sorrow, not professional frustration, drove his somber mood. Though Holmes lived and breathed rationality, I have often suspected his cold logic to be a defense. One need only hear him play his Stradivarius to realize that he was a man of deep passions. Perhaps he kept tight rein on his emotions out of fear that they would otherwise run away with him.

Something ran away with Holmes that dreary winter. He was out all hours, sometimes not coming home for days, often returning very much the worse for wear. When I asked him about the client, he would only say that there was none.

My friend sometimes undertook odd exercises to keep his skills sharp and, I suspected, to alleviate boredom. Since this was less unhealthy than some of his other methods of combating ennui, I held my tongue until the night he came back with a bullet wound for me to dress.

“Damn it, Holmes, life isn’t something to be held lightly.”

He tilted his head back to look at me upside-down. “You are right, my dear friend. It is not.”

Holmes slept for a day and a half, rose in a better mood and ate breakfast with an unusual appetite. I tried to engage him in conversation on the previous day’s headlines. The Yard had solved a serious of murders of young women, some going back almost two decades, previously thought to be unrelated. Such a subject would usually interest him, but he only said ‘indeed’ and proceeded to fill his pipe from the store he kept in the Persian slipper on the mantle. Our rooms filled with the strong, harsh scent of shag tobacco, and all was right with the world.

I was called out to an emergency in the evening and did not return until the sky started to lighten, so I might be forgiven for being still abed when Holmes received his caller, a somewhat older woman by her voice, in our shared sitting room. Eavesdropping was unpardonable, but I had caught the vice of curiosity from Holmes.

The woman thanked him, over and over again, for some service he had rendered.

Holmes’s voice was gentle, almost fond, as he quieted her. “I fear, madam, that my services were too little, too late.”

“But at least now we know what happened to her. A bit of peace, after all these years. And you were practically a boy yourself, without resources or training, when Patricia disappeared. You never did say how you discovered her killer, after all these years”

“Detective Inspector Lestrade was going on in his customary monotonous way about his early years on the force. Usually I ignore such prattle, but he mentioned two unsolved disappearances from his early years. I saw the similarities he had missed between those two cases. Similarities Patricia’s disappearance also had in common. Those peculiarities helped me build a description in my head of the killer as sure as if he had provided me with a photograph and a personal biography.”

“So you hadn’t the information you needed all those years ago to find out what had happened to our poor Patricia,” the woman said. “There was nothing you could have done earlier.”

“Yet it was my fault to begin with that she was lost.”

“No, Mr. Holmes— Sherlock. We have never held you responsible.”

“If I had escorted her to that dance as she requested, the blackguard would not have had his opportunity.”

“She knew such things were not to your taste. She could have stayed home, or accepted one of a half-dozen young men who would have been happy to escort her. She was just being our Patricia— outrageous, irrepressible, and even more stubborn than you.”

I heard Holmes open a desk drawer, sort through the objects, close it again. “I still have this, you know. The box she gave me. She said I should take it so I had at least one heart, as it was clear that I wasn’t born with one.”

I winced for my friend.

“You know she only meant it as a jest. She admired you greatly.”

“And I her.”

“Did you sometimes wonder, if she had not been taken. . .”

I held my breath, expecting my friend to scoff at the idea that he might ever have married, but Holmes will never cease to astonish me.

“Here, I’ve brought you something. It was among her things, I’ve kept it all these years, but I think you should have it.”

I blush to confess that by this point I had cracked the door to the sitting room open that I might watch. The woman opened her reticule and handed to Holmes a small locket, tarnished with age.

Holmes opened the locket, gave a wistful, sad smile. “Thank you.” He opened the heart-shaped box, put the locket inside, and closed the lid.

I will never again say that Holmes has no heart, nor agree with anyone who says that heart is empty.

 

Another note:   This year’s blog challenge was love letters.  Hop over to Here Be Magic on Valentine’s Day to see A Letter Raven Never Sent From Australia

Review: Faerie Blood by Angela Korra’ti

This urban fantasy set in Seattle was, above all, fun! Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Charles de Lint’s Newford tales.

Voice is important in any novel, but it makes or breaks a novel written in the first person. Kendis, the protagonist, starts out in the very first page with a sharp-tongued, witty interior dialogue that makes you want to settle in and spend some time with her, and maintains the voice throughout.

The author clearly knows and loves both Seattle and trad music, and fans of either will appreciate her attention to detail.

The set-up is familiar– a presumed mortal young woman discovers that she has fairy blood–but it is handled with an originality that keeps it from feeling trite. How can you not love a book with an elvish Elvis impersonator?

And in a world where fantasy is too often lacking in diversity, I was happy to find a protagonist who is mixed-race in more ways than one. She rooms with a gay couple, and their orientation is never made an issue of one way or the other. There is even diversity of paranormals–a kitsune (a Japanese fox shape-shifter) makes a (far too brief, in my opinion) appearance.

No book is completely without flaws.  If I had to pick a nit, it would be that the interior dialogue is a bit too clever.  Sometimes the humor detracts from the tension in what would otherwise be a riveting scene.  (Believe me, I know how hard those lines are to cut.  I’m still mourning some of the cuts I had to make to Raven’s Wing where my editor pointed out that a great line in the wrong place is not a great line.)

Also, and this is a matter of personal taste, there was a point at which the heroes had the chance to show grace and mercy to a fallen enemy, one who had aided them in the end, and decided that, nope, it wasn’t worth the potential trouble.  (Forgive the vague-blogging, I’m trying not to be spoilery.) Maybe the decision was one rational for ordinary folk, but I expect more from my heroes.

(Of course, I’ve been for years rooting for the Doctor and the Master to settle their differences, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get that anytime soon, either.)

Overall, a very enjoyable book.

Faerie Blood is available in Kindle at a sale price of .99 through the end of this month here.

The sequel, Bone Walker, has just been released for Kindle.  Order it here.

You can also buy them in print from the author here.  (Website is under the author’s other pen name.)

 

Samhain-kitty here.  Writer-person has left to make tea, so I thought I’d put in my two-cents’ worth.  I must applaud the writer for having a feline-American prominently mentioned (something my writer-person often fails at, although I understand she is correcting this flaw in the forthcoming Raven’s Heart.) However, the novel would be improved if the cat had even more ‘screen time’, so to speak.

Also, the love interest fails to ask the cat’s approval before courting his human, a severe breach of etiquette that no one seems to address in the book.

Furthermore, what’s this about the cat freaking out when the house is attacked by a tree?  The author should be more careful about playing into the ‘scaredy-cat’ stereotype.  I suggest a scene where the cat heroically and single-handedly takes on the Unseelie Court and. . .

Samhain, get off my computer!

Oops, gotta go.

 

 

 

A Cover Story: Insights of the Illustrator’s Process

Today’s guest blog post is by Laura Young, the illustrator of the Raven’s Wing book cover. Continue reading to learn more about the process of developing a cover and the collaboration between author and artist.

_________________

The old saying goes, “Never judge a book by its cover” and yet, we tend to do just that. First impressions count, and a cover tries to convey, in the space of under a second, what sort of experience the book aspires to provide. Is it adventurous? Humorous? Intellectual?

As an illustrator, it’s my job to make an image that not only draws in the potential reader’s eye, but serves as a sort of visual shorthand; a singular hieroglyph that represents the story as a whole.

When Shawna approached me via email, she had a fairly good idea of what she wanted in a cover. She needed it to match the tone of the previous book in the series she was working on, and provided a brief description of how she envisioned it: “A wing sweeping down, with a vague silhouette of the Portland skyline below.”

We wrote back and forth a few times, and then I sent over a page of small “thumbnails” or initial sketches. This is the first stage of the process, when I’m just trying to get a feel for what she wanted using a wide variety of ideas within the stated perimeters.

initial_thmbs

Even though it was a bit different from her initial idea, once she saw it laid out visually Shawna decided to go with the last image that I’d drawn, stating that she’d perhaps like the raven to be even more prominent. Now having a more concrete theme to go on, I began creating variations of it:

refined_thmbs

After seeing these, Shawna noted she wanted a little more of Portland, and have a descending, rather than ascending, raven. She explained that things were not very hopeful for her protagonist, and the ascending motif looked, “just a little too hopeful.” She also mentioned that while she preferred a dramatic, dark tone, she didn’t want it to look like a horror cover, either.

In the next round, I worked to address some questions about the raven’s anatomy. It’s sometimes difficult to do this with simple sketches that are only an inch wide, so I “zoomed in” on an area that we were discussing for clarification.

authors_choice

Shawna narrowed down her final choice and gave me the official go-ahead. I began to work on penciling the overall design. Because the pencil drawing was rather light, I darkened the digital scan considerably before sending it over.

final_sketch

Once we ironed out a couple of minor revisions to the drawing, I got out the India ink and (rather appropriately) a crow quill nib for the dip pen. No turning back now!

final_ink

After inking for a couple of days, I spent several hours adding atmosphere to the background digitally on my MacBook using various layered textures and brushes, using the latest edition of GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). After some searching, I found the exact font from her previous cover, downloaded it, and tried to match it as closely as possible in size and color.

A few more tweaks, a few more emails, and we finally had a cover that pleased us both. Hopefully, it will serve as an appropriate passageway into Shawna’s finely-crafted world.

_________________

Laura is available for commissions. Check out her work or contact her at her website, Laura G. Young.

cover

A Photo Tour of Portland and the Ravensblood Haunts

(Photos and text by Jocelyn S Mackie, who is helping me out today since I’m dealing with book launch madness.  If you like her work, check out her website.)

As launch day for Raven’s Wing approaches, it is only appropriate to make the scenery come to life for the Ravensblood readers. Each of these establishments makes an appearance in the series, or at least inspires an imaginary venue.

Portland, Oregon was incorporated in 1851. While it went through many development phases that nearly destroyed its original architecture, it maintains much of its history while creating a colorful present day image. This made Portland almost a perfect back-drop for a society where magic and mundane lived among one another. Many of its unique elements provided inspiration as the journey of Cass, Zack, and even Raven arose into these novels. Portland may not just be scenery—it can be a character on its own!

With that, time to begin with a spread of the Hawthorne District, where Ana lives and Cass maintains her flat in the first book.

Hawthorne District

 

Portland's Magic: Flowers bloom in December.

Portland’s Magic: Flowers bloom in December.

 

The Hawthorne District is known for being eclectic and walker-friendly. Just park your car as soon as you are able—you won’t need it here.

Just Another Day on Hawthorne

Hawthorne District Street View

 

Anticipation

Every walk presents good details.

 

If you are looking for a shop, restaurant, pub, or move theatre that is better than ordinary, this is the area in Portland you must visit. It shows its character in many ways, as seen by this photo spread.

 Easter Egg House

2 Dusky Victorian

 

Devil in the Details

 

4 Beauty Aging

 

 

Just Another Modest Abode

A simple modern residence for an extraordinary mage and healer: Likely candidate for Ana’s home.

Two specific places figure prominently. The Oasis Café serves great pizza and really exists. You may remember it as the restaurant Chuckie and Cass pick up take-out in Raven’s Wing.

Oasis Ambience

 

The Barley Mill Pub is also located in the Hawthorne District and a colorful meeting place for Cass, Chuckie, and Johnny. Jerry Garcia aficionados will appreciate its tributes.

It really does contain a barley mill.

 

14 Acceptable Barley Mill Photo

The Barley Mill

Barley Mill Sign small

The Sign

 

While you drink, Jerry will smile down at you. Who knows if he misses his own good times from his time on Earth.

 

10 Jerry Smiles Down At You

 

 

 

The Drinking Dead

 

13 Wall of Jerry

 

There is a little something for everyone in the Barley Mill’s unique decor–just in case you are not that into Jerry Garcia.

Just the Statue Mate

Don't Break the Stained Glass

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hawthorne District is also home to the oldest planned development in the west, Ladd’s Addition. This home in Ladd’s Addition resembles the Ravenscroft Manor, which is actually located in Nob Hill. However, the Ravenscroft Manor has half again the footprint of this house and features slightly larger grounds.

The Regal One

 

Nob Hill Neighborhood

Green Man

 

Nob Hill is the polished upscale twin to the Hawthorne District. Also pedestrian-centered, it features top-of-the line shops and caters to the normally high-income Pearl District clientele. We start with this spread of photos featuring the buildings and homes within walking distance of Ravenscroft Manor.

Dusk proves to be the perfect accessory for these modern castles.
Modern Castle

Clothed in Dusk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But in the daylight, you can enjoy the details.

william temple house

 

Nob Hill can be a colorful place. This is the wall of the ladies’ room of the Blue Moon Pub, near the fictional Josiah’s Books, briefly mentioned in Raven’s Wing. Blue Moon has not made an appearance yet but it may receive its spotlight in the third book.

Fancy Wall

 

Finally, no photo tour of Portland would be complete without Powell’s Books, a giant bookstore on Burnside. While not located in Nob Hill, it is an easy trolley ride from that neighborhood. Cass and Raven consider it the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World.

22 Powells Sign

 

24 Pondering Powells

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

23 Powells Cashier Wall

 

Raven’s Wing To Take Flight Soon!

The Raven’s Wing book launch is planned in Portland on January 24, 2015 at Max’s Fanno Creek Brew Pub in Tigard, Oregon. Check out the event page for details. Hope to see you there!