Thursday, April 27, 2017

So I have a brain tumor....

My Tumor















This is a very odd post that I never thought I'd write.  I have a tumor growing out of my 8th cranial nerve, pressing on my brainstem,   Also, because that isn't exciting enough, I'm pregnant with my second child.  Fact is often more ridiculous than fiction.

The Path to Diagnosis

I think it's important to share this story, in case other people develop similar symptoms and have doctors who also don't take them seriously.

My first clue something was amiss was in July of 2016.  The right corner of my mouth felt wet and cold, even though it wasn't.  The odd wet feeling came and went over the course of a week, then vanished.  I didn't see a doctor since it went away on its own.

A month later, I was vacationing and enjoying some amazing coastal shellfish.  The right side of my tongue started going numb and I feared I developed a shellfish allergy.  For the next several months I avoided tasty, tasty shellfish.

In January, I found out I was pregnant with my second child.  I was very happy, until the weird mouth feeling came back accompanied by cold sensations on the right side of my face.  I saw my GP, who basically said, 'I don't have any idea what's wrong with you, but I'll give you a referral to a neurologist'.  While waiting for the neurology appointment, I developed subtle tinnitus in my right ear.

The initial neurologist I saw was terrible, and if you're Rochester, NY looking for a neurologist to avoid, I will happily give you his name.  He insisted I didn't have MS repeatedly, even though I never asked about MS.   He said I couldn't have a tumor because the symptoms wouldn't have faded.  He said if I wasn't pregnant, I could have an MRI immediately, but since I was, I had to wait until after I delivered in September, (this was January).  He proceeded to rattle of a long list of causes ranging from vitamin D deficiency, hormones or a dental issue.  The he stated nothing was really wrong with me because I only had one symptom.  My MRI was scheduled for October and I was sent on my way.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm very stubborn. Not happy with this lack of diagnosis, I explained my concerns to my midwife at my next obstetrician appointment a few weeks later.  I was told I could absolutely have an MRI, and it was one of the safest scans you could do during pregnancy, (without contrast of course).  She referred me to a perinatal specialist and also cleared me for a dental xray.  I had my dental xray, which showed nothing wrong.  I met with the perinatal specialist who referred me to a neurologist.  I waited another week and a half.

The second neurologist thought my symptoms warranted investigation and scheduled me for an MRI. Two weeks later, it was revealed I had an acoustic neuroma/vestibular shwannoma.  Growing out of my acoustic nerve, it's about the dimensions of a large grape.  Though the tumor itself is usually benign, the location is very nasty, placing it alongside of the vestibular nerve, the trigeminal nerve, and next to the brain.  As you can see from the MRI, mine is pressing on my brainstem, which is the source of my symptoms.  Being pregnant, my treatment is delayed, though I'm under close monitoring.


What can fans do to help?

I don't need any sort of fundraiser to pay for treatment.  What I really need is patience from fans.  I know it's not atypical to wait two years for a sequel, but it's been hard on me because I really want to tell you the rest of the story.

I have already received kind messages about Centernia. I appreciate the emails, comments, and fan art.  It means a lot to me!  If you would like to do something more active to help, take the time to write a review on Goodreads, Amazon or any other outlet that reviews books.  These reviews help Centernia grow!!!

If you happen to be a convention dealer or artist and would like to help sell Centernia, please contact me.  I won't be able to do as many shows in the next year.


The State of the Sequel

I'm editing every day.  At the moment, I'm grateful that my symptoms are very mild.  I'm much more fearful of my treatment, which can cause migraines, headaches, deafness, facial paralysis, vertigo and balance issues.  I'm really, really, trying to finish this book before I get to that.  I also could be lucky and have minimal side effects.  We don't know if the tumor will grow in the next several months and how difficult it may be to treat.    I'm going to remain optimistic, simply because being miserable really won't help anyone.  I appreciate the everyone's concern and understanding. :-)














Sunday, April 23, 2017

Tora Con Panel: World Building




This weekend I had the honor of delivering a panel at Tora Con on World Building and Indie Publication.

During the lecture, I spoke on the process I use to create a world.  As promised, here is the checklist of elements a creator needs to be aware of when building a believable fantasy universe.  By establishing and understanding these components, you'll ensure that your reader is immersed.


Social World


  • Economy & Trade
  • Tradition and Superstition
  • Religion
  • Politics
  • History
  • Prejudice
  • Distribution of Wealth


Physical World


  • Technology
  • Housing
  • Environment
  • Creatures
  • Everyday Annoyances
  • Hazards

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Centernia Q & A: Characters and Editors

Teren and Savina, forever apart but always together


Q and A: Questions from email and conventions

1. Who are your favorite characters?

I love all of my dysfunctional children, making it difficult to select a single favorite. Each character has evolved over the years, revealing their flaws and hidden strengths.  If really pressed, I would select the two characters who have never changed, Teren and Savina.

Savina has always been an arrogant antagonist, loyal to Aurumice, a pain in Jessi's side, and forever in love with Teren.  An outsider to the castle, she was brought to the castle under what was supposed to be a temporary arrangement. She has a rich Galbrian accent and constantly reminiscences of her childhood on the sea.

Teren has remained the cold and distant gentleman.  He is happy to share a bed with Savina, but never believes that she truly loves him.   In earlier drafts of Centernia, his mage strength was tied to his skills with a violin.  He could entrance a crowd by playing an aria. In later drafts, his emphatic abilities emerged.  With empathy and the ability to change a person's emotions, a greater loneliness emerged in Teren. He could see and feel love all around him, but questioned the sincerity of emotions anyone projected towards him.


2. How did you find an editor?

Centernia was to many different publishers in its inception in the late 90s.  Not surprisingly, it was rejected. In retrospect, it was a well-deserved rejection because the story was shallow, barely better than a cheap Disney knock-off.  There was no grit, no darkness and depth. The government of Trabalis was lovely.  The paradoxical Holy Circus did not exist.  Jessica lived a middle-class lifestyle with happily married parents. The castle was beautiful and pristine.  Nico was boring. It was just garbage. Ugh.  As I grew older, the story became darker and more unique.

I started doing conventions in 2013, only selling artwork. When I was approached about a table at NYCC for October 2014, I was psyched. I wanted to sell more than fan art.  I hired two editors, one prior to NYCC and one after, (more about those editions here).  I paid for the editors with all of my profits from selling art the previous year.

Years ago, I would have been uncomfortable with the idea of hiring someone to proofread my work (even though I knew it needed it), but I had impostor-syndrome.  'I'm not a real writer, I'm crazy to spend money on a real editor'.  I'm grateful that in my work as a graphic designer, I had already been hiring copy editors for client projects.  Editors were worth every penny.

I had checklists and spreadsheets on Return to the Castle, but the sequel has a more robust checklist. My two biggest sins the last time around were commas and word repetition, failures I'm not too eager to repeat.

I'm reviewing every single chapter and passing through each category separately for a total of 23 readings of teach chapter.  For those of you interested in editing your own works, here is the first column of the editing spreadsheet. :-)

Technical
Spell Check
1st editing
Pronoun reduction
Fragments
Sprawl
'The' check (reducing the word the)
First word check (adding variation)
First word paragraph check (adding variation)
Repetition check
Comma usage check
Second Spell Check
Read Aloud
Flow
Emotion
Character Voices
Day Time
New character intro description
Character twitches
Definition of unusual terms
Telling vs showing check
Sight
Sound
Feeling
Taste
Mapping
Conflict level
Action or Passive?
Reveal intensity
Viewpoint character?
Characters present
Time since previous chapter
Length








Saturday, October 15, 2016

GIANT THANK YOU and SEQUEL STATUS UPDATE


I'm spending the weekend out at Another Anime Con in Manchester, New Hampshire.  I've met some really nice people and sold half a case of Centernia  (with still one more day of con to go!). I also just read another very kind Amazon review from an anonymous reader who purchased a copy in Fan World Niagara. That review made me really, really, really happy and I'm reminded of how far we've come.

Centernia went on sale October two years ago.  I appreciate every single reader in a way I can barely communicate. To put this in perspective.... I have spent over half my life with Nico, Jessica, Teren and the rest of the castlefolk arguing in my brain.  When you, the reader, chose to spend hours invested inside the pages of the book, you see, hear, and feel everything I do.  I don't take this shared experience for granted.  It is true magic that ink on a piece of paper can bring you into the abandoned halls of Castle Aurumice.

I can't believe this journey has been two years in the making. Thank you to JACKIE NEE for being my traveling companion as we trek across the north eastern United States. I couldn't have done this without you.  I also NEED to THANK everyone who purchased at the following cons:

Roc Con 2014
New York Comic Con 2014
Youmacon 2014
Tora Con 2015
Anime Boston 2015
Genericon 2015
Sci Fi Valley Con 2015
UB Mini Con 2015
Cosplay Snowfest 2015
Another Anime Con 2016

Out in Texas, thanks to MIRANDA BLAKELY for sharing Centernia to new fans at:
Comicpalooza 2015
Dallas FanExpo 2015
Sci-Fi Fest San Antonio 2015
San Antonio Indie Book Fest 2015

In downstate NY, thanks to CATHY RAZIM and her husband JOE PIETRUCH for being ultimate
Centernia evangelists at:
Eternal Con 2015
WinterCon 2016
First Con-tact 2016 
Flower City Comic Con 2016
Sci Fi Valley Con 2016 
East Meadow Comic Con 2016
EveryCon 2016
East Hampton Pop Expo 2016
Fan World 2016
Fandemicon 2016
Immortal Con 2016
Syracuse Hot Summer Expo 2016

We know there are fans in the following states.  If your state isn't highlighted, reply to this post or email Centernia@gmail.com and I will add you!

The Sequel UPDATE

When I brought Centernia to NYCC in 2014, I told fans the sequel would be complete by year end 2015.  I made this estimate based on the fact that I had a solid outline and knew how long Return to the Castle had taken me.  Life decided to kick my ass, but I never stopped writing.  I'm really happy to announce that this week I finished the sequel. Nico is no longer trapped in synapses of my brain...he's trapped in the Mines of Briken, and you're so much closer to finding out how he escapes the oppressive darkness.

The crucible of editing is happening right now.  This is another lengthy process, but the nice thing about editing is I can bring other people on to help.  :-)

Thank you so much for your patience.  I promise there will be more novels, more short stories, an artbook, fun merchandise and a lot more world to explore.  They may not come next year, or the year after that, but if you check up on Centernia every once in a while, you won't be disappointed.



Thursday, October 6, 2016

Oh Misa....ever plotting, ever planning, never running out of dreams....


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mage Types

Kaity Cosette by Cathy Razim,  www.RazCat.com
“There are three categories of mage…the psychic, the kinetic, and the ethereal. I am psychic, I can touch the mind. Your mother, Kaity and Nico are of the kinetic, they touch the world.  Misa was of the ethereal.  She could touch what exists in between.”
- Teren, Return to the Castle

There are thousands of variations of mage, but a few types seem to pop up more than others. Polaris Academy officially recognizes three types of mage, Kinetic, Psychic and Ethereal. Many mages also argue there exists two other types, the Cross Mages and the Forbidden.



Kinetic


Kinetic mages are the most common of all mages.  They can manipulate the world that surrounds them. Some mages have generic skills, others seem to be able to touch only certain particles.  Kinetic mages often need to make a physical gesture to activate their abilities, such as a sweeping hand motion.  With time, they learn greater control and can use their powers with barely a twitch of the eye.



Terra Mage
(Rock Shapers, Mud Movers, Sand Witch)
Occurrence: Common

These mages are often revered as fine sculptors.  A terra mage formed Castle Aurumice in Trabalis as well as Castle Nova in the Katanzaro province.  They are excellent at discerning base materials such as metals.

Water Mage/Air Mage
(Weather Witch, Gada-wry)
Occurrence: Common
These mages are known for abilities to influence the water molecules in the air, granting them the ability to freeze objects. Some have additional abilities, allowing them to generate lightning, various gasses, fog and clouds.  Though we often think of Water and Air as separate elements, but as mage strengths they tend to manifest together.
Examples: Lily Vance

Fire Mage
(Fewaygo)
Occurence: Common
These mages have the ability to generate sparks and control fire.  The degree of control varies, but some fire mages can create snakes, walls or nets of fire.  Fire mages need something to ignite in order to generate fire.  They often carry flammable materials such as oils and powders for just that purpose.

Light Mage

(Glowbug)
Occurrence: Common
The butt of all mage jokes, the glowbug is regarded as the least powerful of all mage types. Glowbugs are regarded as a subset of fire mages, though many fire mages disregard glowbugs as having any association.  Light mages can cause a material to glow, emitting light, but little else.  Occasionally glowbug mages gain acclaim when they pair their abilities as bards or story tellers.  They create interesting camp-fire tales, spinning beautiful art in light.

Shadow Mages

(Dark Cloaks, Cloakies, Corner Crawlers, Society of Sombra)
Occurrence: Common
As the name implies, these mages have an uncanny ability to move shadows and darkness.  In reality, they move photons of light, but their abilities give them a strength towards pushing them away, generating darkness.  Though Shadow Mages are really a variation of Glow Bugs, they have branded themselves as a distinct sect and train heavily in evading detection.  Young Shadow Mages are recruited by Castle Nova separately from Polaris Academy and become part of an organization known as the Shadow Runners.  They are a fiercely loyal group and enjoy privilege for their service.
Examples: Saurin Bane


True Warriors

Occurrence: Common
True Warriors have an uncanny command of the body.  They are incredibly strong and swift.  Their senses are well-attuned.

Illusionists
Occurrence: Uncommon
These mages manipulate particles in the air to generate an illusion.  Unlike light mages, illusionist mages possess greater control.  Light mages can only create images that glow, illusionists can create realistic visuals.  


Transmutation

(Alchemists)
Occurrence: Rare

These mages can alter the very building blocks of a substance at an atomic level.  For example, they can take water, separate it into hydrogen gas and oxygen.  Transmutation usually occurs at a small level, changing only a small amount of a material.  Transmutation mages were once banned, now they are heavily regulated by Polaris Academy.  They serve Castle Nova exclusively and rarely travel.  No doubt the coffers of Castle Nova are kept well stocked by the rare abilities of transmutation mages.

Echo Mages

(Bats, Shakers)
Occurence: Common

The abilities of an echo mage operates the same way dolphins and bats use echolocation.  This mage type can send on an energy pulse and detect its returning resonance.   They detect the pulse The strongest echo mages can unleash an energy pulse powerful enough to create earthquake-like effects.

Standard Kinetic

Occurrence: Uncommon
Standard Kinetic is a misnomer, as a standard kinetic mage is anything but the standard.  It is rare for mages to have the ability to move any object or substance with their mind

Examples: Kaity Cosette (Kaity has a slightly stronger control over liquids than other materials)


Psychic

These mages control the mind, able to manipulate people's perception of the world.
Farsense 
(Orrayion, Far-seers, Far-listeners)
Occurence: Common
This type of mage can utilize a person's eyes or ears without their knowledge.  Some can see far, some can hear, a few can taste, smell or even touch through the senses of others.  Of this type, far-listeners are the most common manifestation.

Examples: Jared Evansi (far-seer)


Beastspeakers 

(Animarriea, Chitter Mages, Gryphon Talkers, Dragon Speakers, Pig Listeners, etc...)
Occurence: Common
Beastspeaking is a very common form of psychic mage.  Some can understand creatures, while others can understand and make themselves understood.  Many beast speakers specialize in communication with one species or subset of animals (rodents, insects, fish, etc...).  "Chitter" mage is a term used in jest, implying that mages only talk to rodents.  Beast speakers are often titled by the animal which they specialize in communicating with, (bicorn speakers, gryphon talkers, etc....)

Examples: Beatrix  Allen (specialized in canine speak)



Psionics

(Dalalune, Mind Readers, Mindspeakers, Mindlisteners)
Occurrence: Uncommon
These individuals can communicate psychically with other people.  Many can read surface thoughts, others can "mindspeak" allowing for telepathic broadcast.  Strength of this gift varies greatly but often requires physical contact to allow the transfer of thoughts. In some cases, True Psionics can only communicate with family members or other psychic mages. It takes many years of practice to mindspeak across a room.  Very few can mindspeak across a village or town.  

Examples:  Elina Verdian


Ethereal

There are many ways ethereal mages mirror psychic and kinetic mages, however, there are two major differences between ethereals and the other two branches of mages.  One, they are generally regarded as more mystical, able to manipulate "what exists between" the kinetic and psychic, or a more advanced level of psychic ability branching on mystical. Two, the effects of the ethereal have a lasting impact on the world.  For example, a kinetic weather witch with the correct skill set could create a wall of electrical energy, but it would only exist as long as that kinetic mage powers it.  An ethereal barrier mage can tap into ethereal energy and create a wall that exists long after they have gone.

Dreamspinners

(Sleepwalkers. Fairies)
Occurrence: Rare

Polaris Academy is in great debate if dreamspinners are ethereal or simply a special type of psychic mage.  Dreamspinners posses the ability to influence the dreams of others.  They can lull someone into a sleep and generate an artificial dream world.  Some dreamspinners have been able to connect the dreams of others, or trap people in an eternal sleep.  
Examples: Misa


Gate Mages

Occurrence: Rare
These mages can manipulate the energy of the trans dimensional portals that connect Centernia to other realms.  They can create gates and destroy them at will. Gates can be altered by a collection of mages, but more often than not you need the energy of a Gate Mage in the mix to be most effective.   


Barrier/Forcefield Mages

Occurence: Uncommon
Sometimes mistaken for having telekinetic mages, these magic-users use ethereal magic to generate invisible walls.  A Barrier mage is different from a kinetic mage in that the fields they make can be permanent/semi permanent and have different effects.  For example, the field created by Justen Wynter only permitted certain people to cross the forcefield.  Barrier mages strive to work well with other mages.  For example, a barrier mage may work with a weather witch to create an invisible canopy to permanently repel the rain, (as is found in areas of Castle Nova)
Known Barrier Mages:  Justen Wynter

Psychometric

(Past Reader, Bookies)
Occurrence: Uncommon

A unique and unusual mage type, these individuals can 'read' the past history of an object.  The sensation is described as seeing back in time, they can sense events and pyschic fragments of people who had physical contact with an object.  Jewelry is a particular favorite of past readers as they are rich in essence of past wearers and often stand the test of time.
Known Psychometric: Corwin Evansi

Binders

Occurrence: Rare
These mages create mage markers, objects that possesses the ability to connect people.  A binding mage was  responsible for creating the marker of Aurumice.  The most skilled Binding mages when working with Psychic mages can create the Mark of Corvallian, a tattoo which renders the bearer invisible to psychic mages.

Finders 

Occurrence: Rare
(Animati)
Much like an echo mage, these mages can send out energy and detect if a mage is nearby.    Finders and Binders will have been called into service by Polaris to permanently mark criminals, allowing mages to always be aware of their presence.

Transformation Mage

(Majikey, Spark Prism, Metanoia, Conversion Mages)
These mages are often confused for other types, including Fire and Gate mages.  They have the ability to manipulate Gate energy, harnessing it into other forms.  Once it has taken another form, they may find it difficult to control.  Conversion Mages enjoy shifting raw ethereal power into electricity, so it is likely to assume that it was a conversion mage was responsible for harnessing the node of power beneath Aurumice and transforming it into a seemingly endless supply of electrical energy. Conversion Mages when working with barrier mages are also responsible for the creation of shadow spheres and other magical objects.

Cross mages

Polaris Academy does not acknowledge the concept of a 'cross mage' in their three categories of mages.  Its widely accepted that cross mages exist.  The following mages have been considered ethereal mages by Polaris Academy.

Blood Mages/Healers

Occurrence: Uncommon
Categorized as kinetic mages, these individuals can manipulate blood cells.  The question comes in to play as blood tends to be 'lifestuff', as bloodmages may be deemed ethereal depending on where their talents lie.  Most are skilled at healing skin while others heal bone. Some refer to bloodmages as Healers, but they can often harm as easily as they can hurt.

Plant Weavers

Occurrence: Common
Much like a blood mage, but can manipulate plants in the same manner.  They can encourage rapid growth or crossbreed plants with rapid success.

Forbidden Mages

Castle Nova and Polaris Academy have deemed the following mage types too dangerous to be allowed to live.  Any individual found to have these powers are immediately executed, regardless of age or affiliation.

Empathy Mages

(Sinari)
This mage is very similiar to a psychic mage, and in olden times had been considered with the same reverence.  Sinari cannot read thoughts, but they can read emotions.  More importantly, they can force a person's emotions to change without their knowledge, making them skilled negotiators, but also dangerous warlords.
Examples: Teren

Necromancers

A cruel variation upon a blood mage, these mages can cause blood to anti-coagulate and continue to flow through a body.  The person or creature is barely alive, and very zombie-like.

Oracles/Seers

Clarivoyant mages able to read the future.  Some claim they do not exist, others claim they do but Polaris Academy has stamped them out of existence.

Dissolvia

This variation of a kinetic mage is skilled at breaking down the world at a molecular level.  They can destroy a person or object with catastrophic results.  Once the dissolvia breaks down an object, they can very rarely put it make together.  Dissolvia are sometimes regarded as transmutation mages who never gained the ability to reassemble what they have destroyed.

Monday, June 20, 2016

One Year of The Crimson Mage

The current file for The Crimson Mage is labelled "Crimson Mage June 2015." Yes, I've been working on this current draft for a year.  Actually, it's been one year and six months.  I had naively assumed that it would only take me ten months to write the sequel, just as I wrote Return to the Castle.  A wrench was thrown into my plans.  It wasn't a single wrench, but more akin an earthquake in Home Depot.

On December 7th I wrote about how I was recovering from post-partum depression, totally back on track with The Crimson Mage.  I was so happy and energetic. A few days after that post my grandfather had a stroke, because the universe has a crappy sense of irony.  The following month was miserable. My daughter's first Christmas was the worst Christmas of my life, only to contend with Christmas 1994 when my mother couldn't walk after a car accident and I figured out Santa Claus was a lie because all of our presents were given to us in stapled grocery store bags.

My grandfather passed away in late January.

Writing takes your soul and your time to a solitary place.  In the beginning of this year, any spare moments that I could have spent on Centernia, I spent with my family, because that's where I needed to be.  I shared this on my personal Facebook page, but I didn't blast it across any of my public pages or sites.  I'm a very energetic loud person, but when it comes to true emotional pain, I'm pretty silent. Death is awkward.  It is the worst thing on earth and nobody knows what to say. Words are magical, but there is an emotional chasm they cannot cross when the shadow of death has past by.

I'm making this public now because I wanted readers to know what was going on in my life. I'm that still here, and I am still editing through the mire.

My artist friend Cathy Razim has been the Centernia evangelist in my absence from conventions. Some of you have met her and I am so grateful to her and her husband Joe for sharing my novel throughout the east coast.

This past weekend was my sister's wedding, which in itself was a lot of work and attention. Weddings after funerals are like emotional napalm.

I've been increasing the blog posts again, writing more, getting my groove.  I'm not going to dare to say I'm back on track for fear something else will try to get in my way. Thanks for your patience.

My little princess was a pint-sized flower girl




Questions and Answers: Editing



How old were you when you started writing?

When I was in second grade, I wrote and illustrated a story called "Marvin the Marry Mouse".  It was a Christmas tale about a mouse whose older sister told him there was no Santa.  He wrote a letter to Santa and then received bunch of presents.   Character, conflict, resolution. It was drawn on tracing paper in blue pen while I was playing in the back patio of my grandparents' house.  I continued to write from that point forward.  Many of my stories featured cats, horses, and whatever I was obsessed with at the time (stickers, XMen, Littlest Pet Shop, Sailor Moon, Star Wars, etc...).  When I was twelve I began writing original work.

 


Do you edit as you write?  When I write I start with an idea, but get stuck looking for the correct words.

No, I do not try to edit on the first draft. For me, writing is this mad dash to grab everything that is falling out of my brain.  I focus on the dialog and conflict first.  Without conflict, there is no story.  In the first run  there is usually some bits of setting, but the character interaction is paramount. On the second run through I begin to fill out setting and fix spelling and grammar.  I lose track of the amount of times I edit as I'm ironing story.


Do you use any special software as you write?

I keep track of the story with Excel spreadsheets.  I have editing checklists to help me look out for problems like overuse of pronouns, forgetting to describe setting, and comma splices (I swear I'm mending my ways!).  I like to print out my spreadsheets and check-off sections as I move along.  As far as writing goes I use plain old MS Word.  Sometimes I will capture chapters in Google Docs if I don't have my writing laptop with me.


Do you have any trouble deleting chapters that just don't fit?

I don't get overly attached to chapters because I don't permanently delete anything.  I have documents of story scraps. I haven't thrown out a single bit of Centernia since 1997.  Story that's meant to be a part of the story has a tendency to bubble back up.  I may delete something, but then that bit of dialog reappears months later in a different chapter.  Some days it seems as if the story writes itself and my job is simply to record it. :-)


No question too oddball!  Email us to have your questions answered in the next Centernia Q & A. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Music Feature: Heart

Music Feature

I write Centernia to an incredibly eclectic mix of music.  Sometimes it's the melody that gets me, the lyrics of the song, or simply the voice of the singer. Today's feature from my playlist:

Heart: Alone
Album: Bad Animals
1987




I think I prefer the Kim Sozzi candlelight version, but it's not presently available on YouTube. However, this video features Heart in is 80s hair-band glory.  The video is great, the costuming, the mysterious setting, and the fact they throw a white horse in there for fun.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Two Steps Back and One Baby Step Forward

Saving old drafts is an important part of the writing process, as is accepting the fact that sometimes life can take you down the wrong editing path.  I had to learn this hard lesson in the past few months when I hit a few unexpected challenges.

My daughter was born in September.  The Centernia sequel, The Crimson Mage was completed in the weeks prior to her arrival.  I was pleased that I was on track to release the book by the end of the year.  I figured I had plenty of time finish editing it, run it by my trusted circle of proofreaders, and then send it to the copyeditor.  It seemed that the book would be out by December.

People had cautioned that the baby would send a wrench into my plans, but I generally try to ignore naysayers and steam (or stumble) through life.  In my mind I had a perfect plan to keep working once my girl arrived:  While she napped, I would edit and write.  If sleep deprivation became awful, I would switch to formula and shift half the overnight feeds to my husband.  Laundry? Disposable diapers!  Food? Wegmans pre-made meals and paper plates. All problems solved.

I was so ready to own this baby thing.

And then my daughter was born.  She was perfectly healthy, kicking and crying.

Somewhere between the hospital and home, I discovered there's a part of the postpartum recovery process that's glossed over.  It was a situation I hadn't planned for, and something that couldn't be thwarted by throwing money at it.

I had known that some mothers suffer from postpartum depression, but no one really mentioned that it could happen to me.  Neither did anyone tell me that it comes packaged under two names. First, there are the 'baby blues', the sadness that happens to seventy-five percent of new moms. If the baby blues don't go away after a few weeks, you're given a 10 question written quiz, (Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale). Failing the quiz means you're labeled with postpartum depression and offered pills.

In the days following my daughter's arrival, nothing seemed right. I was particularly hit by anything that seemed to signify the passage of time.  The baby meant that I was a parent, which turned my parents into grandparents, which meant EVERYONE IS OLD. I was convinced this cute tiny creature would just turn into a teenager and leave me, I would be sad and miserable and lonely for the rest of my life, I was going to die ANY MOMENT, and all life is tragedy.

None of this is rational, but it's how I felt.

I tried to sing lullabies to my baby, the ones I had known as a kid.  Five words in and tears streamed down my face.

I saw a Jeep Liberty in a parking lot that looked like my first car. I cried the entire drive home.

The most pathetic moment was when my husband pointed out that the tree in our front yard was changing to a pretty color.  I was instantly a blubbering, sobbing mess.

What do my baby woes have to do with Centernia?  In a post-natal frenzy while crying over autumn leaves, I ripped apart The Crimson Mage.   I took out chapters, tried to restructure the plot and change the character focus.  I started hating Jessica, jealous of her teenage freedom.  I wanted to snuff out Nico with the end of a pencil and save her from any possible marriage and babies and miserable loneliness.  Jessica should stay home and be in high school forever because that's where I wanted to be.

The novel became barely recognizable and I was convinced I was a failure at everything, including my career, my friends, my marriage and my family.  Life was pointless and terrifying.  I would crawl under a blanket and lament every life choice from living in Rochester, (which I had been happily doing for twelve years), to adopting my fluffy black cat (because she was going to get sick and die ANY MOMENT).

After a while, the haze started to lift just a tiny bit.  It wasn't a single moment, but a gradual transition.  My baby started smiling more, I went horseback riding and doing conventions again. Work found me and I began to find my groove.

What happened to Centernia? Accidentally opening an old file for The Crimson Mage, I realized that I liked my old draft better, and was very grateful I made it a strict habit to save multiple versions of every work.  At the same time, it was disappointing to recognize that two months of editing was completely worthless.

I have accepted that time was lost, and I've also accepted the fact that I am still not quite my normal self.  As I fight to figure out my new normal, I try to take writing time each day after my daughter falls asleep.  In the quiet stillness, I revisit my old friends, anger against Jessica and Nico blown far away with the autumn leaves.   Life is moving forward again and I hope to reward the patience of everyone who has been waiting for the sequel.



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Centernia: A One Year Retrospective

September 2nd holds significance to Centernia as it's the day Muse died and the same day first printed proof arrived in the mail.  It truly marks the beginning of Return to the Castle.

This has been a whirlwind, and I have learned so much and am so grateful.  We did a pre-order at RocCon in Rochester, NY in mid-September, and followed it with a full launch at New York Comic Con in October.  After which, the book was whisked to Detroit for Youmacon, Genericon in Troy, Anime Boston, Tora Con, Sci-Fi Valley Con.

I learned some rough lessons too.  The first edition was edited, but errors still snuck through and I put out an updated edition in February.

The hardest lesson I've learned is that writing a sequel is not as easy as I had anticipated.  My husband chides me, reminding me that the core story of Return to the Castle was the story I had written and re-written over a half dozen times before I froze it into its final printed form.  It's natural that this story will be harder to lock down.  My friend Jackie reminds me that readers who are already invested in the world will love it regardless, and hang on for subsequent books.  Everyone has a certain favorite book in a series, it may not be the first, second or even third.

Hooman, I has your notes and pen. You fail.
The sequel, the Crimson Mage, is written.  It's currently being edited, but this editing process is so much deeper.   First of all, the story has to flow from the first and be a bridge to the third.  It needs give new readers a proper introduction to the world in case they skip the first book.  It needs to be as compelling and interesting as Return to the Castle, but different.

As I'm caught in the mire of editing, I feel an enormous pressure.  Simply put, I want this story to not suck, and I appreciate the fans who kindly wait with words of encouragement.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Q and A: Cursing

Where does the curse blood'ura come from?


Writing the curses of Centernia was as enjoyable as creating the creatures and places.

Blood'ura is an abbreviation for Blood of Aurora, very similar insult to the Shakespearian zounds, meaning Christ's Wounds.

There is a joy in creating insults that are really close to the english in cadence and consonant sounds. I have growing library file where I collect these bad-sounding yet technically completely innocuous words. My favorites? Maggot suckin', bloody shunt, rock sucker, goat screw, tick and jackhole.


In the next book, will we learn more about the fallout between Jessica's parents?
Yes. There is definitely a lot more story to unearth from the past. The scars run deep.


Why did you decide to write Return to the Castle? Where do you get your ideas?

I get asked this question a lot. I wrote Return to the Castle because I had to. The characters have a comfortable residence in my mind, and they tell me their stories, and it seems wasteful not to write it all down.

Ideas flow freely, but good ideas need to be cultivated. Sometimes I look at Centernia like an overgrown lush garden. Some ideas are beautiful, and need to be given space to grow, perhaps a trellis to climb upon. Some ideas are interesting, just placed in the wrong spot, overshadowing other more delicate ideas. Some concepts are just terrible, and it's difficult to find the strength to uproot them and cast them aside.

As far as where specific ideas come from, it's all the real world re-written, re-invented, mashed together. My mind constantly files away concepts to be used in Centernia. For example, the castlefolk are heavily influenced by the values of my Italian immigrant heritage. The castlefolk are a culture within a culture, governed by their own traditions. They have a great deal of pride in who they are, fight amongst themselves, but will band together against adversity.



Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Q & A: How do you pronounce.....?

How do you pronounce the names and places of Centernia?  Here is a very straightforward guide to all names and places unusual!

Castlefolk
Nicoveren Aristo Verdian: "Neek-o-varen Ah-risto Vare-de-an"
Teren Wynter:   "Tare-en Winter"
Artemisa Wynter: "Art-a-mee-sa Winter"
Kaity Cosette: "Kate-e Co-zette"
Corwin Evansi: "Core-win Ev-an-see"
Jared Evansi: "Ja-red Ev-an-see"
Alba: "All-ba"
Savina: "Sah-vee-nah"
Wadjette:  "Wa-jet"
Jiberty: "Jib-er-ty"
Abrianna: "Ah-bree-ana"

Aden: "Aye-den"
Otto Onyxgrove: "Ot-oh On-ex-grove"
Elina: "Ell-eena"

Circusfolk
Amberynn:  "Amber-rin"
Malachi: "Male-uhk-eye"
Cobalt: "Co-ballt"

Places
Centernia:  "Sent-urn-e-uh"
Aurumice:  "Or-uh-mice" or "Aura-mice"
Trabalis: "Trah-ball-is"
Briken: "Bry-ken"



Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back in the Saddle

I generally don't share personal issues with readers, but my online hiatus has been so long it's been noticeable.  The good news is, as of this posting, I am back to my usual online schedule of one blog post a week, and more Centernia art.

Work in Progress- Gianna Casimirio- one of the new
characters to be featured in Centernia: The Crimson Mage
As some of you know from meeting me at conventions, I'm expecting a baby in September.
:-)  In order to avoid a studio/nursery combo room, we bought a house.  We packed and moved in late June.

The month of July, I direct Kids on Campus, the largest and oldest art tech summer camp program hosted at RIT.  This is a hugely time intensive camp that took almost all of my energy. Normally, I de-stress by writing and drawing, but the universe has a terrible sense of humor.  Since April I've been plagued by an unusual pregnancy symptom.  The nerves in my spine were compressed and gave me crippling pain when sitting.  Yes, sitting.  I could lie down, walk a mile, pull weeds on my hands and knees.....but I couldn't sit at a computer for more than fifteen minutes. Standing also was quickly tiresome.  It was a frustrating situation to say the least.  I've never been in a situation where writing and drawing were painful for months.

Fastforward, it's now August.  Camp has ended for another year and prep work for 2016 won't really start up for a few months.  My baby has shifted position and is no longer hanging out on my spine. We've moved, most of our boxes are unpacked, and I have a nice studio setup.

In the past two months, I started four pieces and did not have the ability to finish any of them, Two Centernia character portraits, one fantasy piece and a pile of kittens. Today I've begun work again on the emerald time dragon and by the end of the week I hope to have finished the portrait of the mysterious Gianna Casimirio. Thank you for your patience, it's been an interesting year to say the least.

WIP- Jessica

WIP- The Emerald Time Dragon
WIP- Kitten Pile



Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reader Q & A: I bought Return to the Castle, but the book for sale now looks different than my copy, why?

A revised edition of Return to the Castle was released in February 2015. This edition catches many of the editing errors that snuck through in the first release.

 

The most notable difference is the chapter numbers. Though the books have the same content and the same scenes, they were split differently so that the new edition has one less chapter.



You can figure out which version of the book you have by looking at the back cover. A little bird has been added on the newer edition for easy identification. :-)