Monday, July 24, 2017

Don't Fret


Yes, I skipped several weeks of blog posts.  I've been caught up in so much going on around me that I couldn't find time to do some of the auxiliary things like this blog. Besides, most of what I was doing was pretty boring.

Let's start with the one thing that was not boring, though!  I went to the mountains last weekend!  We made a wild, mad-dash of a trip in 44 hours from the far northeast edge of Nebraska to Rocky Mountain National Park and back again.  I took some lovely pictures and had a great time.

https://flic.kr/s/aHsm57Kr9Z

The wolf at sunset -- wow.  That was a once in a lifetime event.

Before and after the trip I was caught up in two main projects.  The writing one is to get Tales from Grey Station 9 completed, and it is very close now.  I really love this story.  The characters are all kinds of fun.  I am almost through with Part 9.  Only one more section to go.  I told my husband that I was going to regret being done with this one, and he reminded me that I said the same thing when I finished the first draft of the story.

The other massive project is the reworking of my ezine, Vision: A Resource for Writers.  I stopped publishing a couple years ago, but I still have over a thousand articles scattered about as archive material.  The last twenty or so issues had been published using a Joomla! base and I had started putting the back issues in as well.  However, Joomla! wanted me to do a major update right after I stopped publishing.  If the ezine were still in publication, it would have made sense -- but Vision is now static with no new additions.  I just kept ignoring it, but the version I am using is developing problems, so I have to do something.

I decided to take the entire collection back to a basic HTML site. That meant pulling 668 articles out of the Joomla! site plus gathering four to five hundred more from the original HTML site.  I've got the 668 copied out, and I've just started the other collection.  Once I get everything copied, I'll create a basic template and start setting everything up again.  Once I'm done, that will be it.  With no new articles, there will be no reason to update again.

This is a long process, though.  I'm about a quarter of the way through everything that needs to be done.  I hope to have it all finished by the end of the year.

Doing this work made me think about all the time and energy I've invested in helping other writers.  I took over Forward Motion for Writers so Holly wouldn't close it down in 2003.  The site is quiet now -- so many people find what they want on places like FB that it's difficult to get many things going there, though there is a very active goals section!  I'd been working with Holly Lisle at the site since 1998 -- so that's very close to 20 years dedicated to that site. 

I published Vision for about fourteen years.  That meant paying for the articles myself (though the early articles were all donated by many wonderful writers), plus doing the formatting and publishing.    Except for occasional donations, I've paid for the websites for both FM and Vision and have done a lot of the work, though I've had some help along the way and really appreciated it.

Then there is the Two Year Novel (2YN) Class which I've offered for free several times (this year it is on my FB author page). I sell the 8 2YN course books for $0.99 each, and they're pretty much available everywhere.  The NaNo for the New and the Insane is a free book on Smashwords and is still popular. 

I've had some wonderful thank you notes from people down through the years and even a couple book dedications. 

I have cut back on all the stuff I used to do.  I don't fret over FM and the lack of posts.  If people want to start writing-related conversations there, then they should leap in and have a good time.  I can't make people want to post, and for a few years that made me fret and worry and try to start things....

What changed?

The heart attack, I suspect, made me start thinking that I wanted to do things differently.  Even so, it's taken me a few years to back off from 'other' stuff and focus more on my writing again.  Oh, I didn't do badly before, but my focus wasn't always where it should be.  Now I have writing and photography with a bit of digital art thrown in.

And if I could just figure out how to sell more books, I'd be really happy.

But I won't fret about it!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Flash Friday # 260 -- Dusty & Friends/5


The orc hadn't made tied down the covering very well, and they had a little more light.  Dusty crawled out from under the cloth, which turned out to be rags and discarded clothing. 

"Oh, these will help!" She started pulling out the darkest pieces she could find.  "My dress is too bright.  I need something less noticeable."

The orcs began a new chant, and the cart moved faster, each pounding step taking them further from home.  Dusty almost gave a cry of despair, but she didn't want to worry the poor baby dragon.  She watched him pick at pieces of fruit that had stuck to the cage's wires. She went and helped him, and when he was done, she ate a few pieces herself, but she was careful to leave some on the floor.

"You're smart," Blue said with a nod of appreciation.  "You know about clothes and how to fool the orcs about the food and everything.  We'll get away with your help.  Even if I could open the cage, I wouldn't know what to do."

"You've done very well, and it was smart not to try to escape.  I don't know how we're going to get away, Blue." She caught at the wall as they hit a bad bump and she almost fell again.  "Oh, I do wish they'd slow down or stop."

"They sometimes go like this for days," Blue warned.  "Orcs don't tire very fast."

Dusty fought back a surge of fear at those words. If they went for days heading southward they might leave the lands her grandmother ruled behind.  Even if they were still within the lands of Oserior, they would still be in a place she had never traveled and didn't know.

"How did the orcs take you?" she asked, hoping for some sort of answer that would help.

"Mama and I live in a high cave," he said.  "We'd been there most of the summer, and I liked to go out and wander around.  Never too far.  The orcs pretended to be big rocks.  One caught me, trapped me in a box, and then rolled down the hillside.  It was awful."

"That sounds terrible!" Dusty replied.

"I was too far from the cave.  Mama wouldn't hear me or the rocks," he said and sniffed.

"We're going to get you back home," Dusty promised. 

She began sorting through the cloth again, hoping that the orcs wouldn't notice that the piles had changed somewhat.  Orcs gathered cloth -- mostly rags -- in the north to trade with the tribes in the far southern desert where they had few resources and not even a good oasis.  If they went that far, Dusty didn't think she and Blue could make it back to territory she knew if they had to travel across the open desert.

So she began looking for a chance to escape far sooner.  Orcs, unfortunately, stood at all sides of the cart as they moved along the path.    She happened to see them go on past the bridge where the Miru River curved toward them.  A village stood the other side, but they didn't turn that way or break their pattern, so she sighed and hoped another chance came along soon.

The orcs did go on through the night, but they'd slowed.  At dawn an orc threw another piece of fruit at Blue and Dusty ate a little of it as well. She'd changed from her lovely green dress, which she shoved into the pile of cloth so it wouldn't stand out, being so much better than the rest.  Now she wore a dark brown dress with no frills, tied at her waist with a bit of blue cloth.  She made a scarf to go over her hair, too.  Then she knotted another cloth into a bag and put some of the softer material she had found in the bottom so that Blue could nestle in there.

They had to escape today.  They dared not go any farther away from Dusty's home.  For the first time, Dusty thought about how the others might have reacted to her own disappearance. She didn't want grandmother to worry!  Oh, and they would write to her parents!

They needed to get away soon!

In mid-morning, the orcs reached a village.  Dusty had expected them to rush through, but instead, the cart slowed to a stop and the orcs stopped chanting. Blue, who had been asleep, sat up quickly and looked around.

Outside the orcs were starting to shout and Dusty had a moment when she thought they might be saved, but after a bit, she made out what they were saying.

"Coins for cloth!"  The ground shook as the orcs shouted.

Dusty pulled some of the cloth over her so she could drop flat if any of the orcs looked in, but she also inched closer to Blue.

"Do they bring the cloth in or toss it in?" she whispered.

"Toss," he said as softly.  "They almost broke the cart putting me in here."

"Good.  We have to hope for a chance after they throw the rags and before they leave," she said.  "We don't dare take you out before then, or they would notice when they toss the cloth.  But if they are not climbing in, then I can untie the knot for us and even get the cage unlocked if you can hold the door closed."

"I can," he said with a bob of his head.

This would be their only chance.  If they were caught, she would scream for help and the local guards, who were likely not far away, would come to her aid.  She'd also tell Blue to run away and hope he found help.

Better, though, if they got away quietly.  The orcs wouldn't look again until they threw some fruit to the poor baby dragon, which she hoped would be a long ways from the village.

She unlocked the cage, and half untied a knot nearby.  This was their best chance.


1000 Words

Friday, July 14, 2017

Flash Friday # 259 -- Dusty & Friends/4



Before Dusty could get her wits about her, the cart began to move at a steady roll, though it hit every bump and hole along the first few yards.  Dusty couldn't get back to her feet, and panic almost made her cry out.  She did not want to go with the orcs and with ... whatever they had here in the cart.

"Are you alright?" the little voice whispered.

Not quite human, she had realized.  More sibilant and she thought of many dangerous creatures that could lure a person to their death.  She tried to back away but her feet tangled in a pile of cloth and she went down again, though at least she landed on something soft.

"I'm -- I'm alright," she said and tried to get better control of her emotions. She spoke softly because she could hear orcs chanting on both sides of the cart. They were loud enough, though, that she thought even if she shouted no one would hear her above their sounds.  Did they do that on purpose?

The sound she had first heard had sounded so pitiful that she didn't think the cry had been faked.

"My name is Dusty," she said and tried to get a touch of normality to the situation.

"I don't have a name yet.  My mama calls me My Boy."

"Oh, I don't think that will do," Dusty replied. That won a little giggle from the child.  What species didn't name their children right away?  She couldn't think of any.  "I'm afraid I can't see you in this darkness, little friend."

"Here I am."

A soft blue glow came from the left corner of the cart, illuminating the bars of a small cage. Dusty blinked and focused --

And all hope of normality disappeared.

"Dr-dragon," she said in a soft whisper.  "Baby dragon."

The light flickered out, and she heard a soft sniff.  "I'm sorry.  I'm too little to hold the light for long."

"You did wonderfully," she praised, just like she would have her younger cousins.  "You gave me exactly what I needed -- the chance to see where you are so I can help get you free."

"You'll help me?" he said softly.  "Truly?"

"Truly."  She had a duty to get the little guy free before his mother came looking for him and destroyed everything in sight trying to find her baby.  Though, in truth, she would have tried to get him free anyway. The orcs had no right to hold any child, no matter what the species.

The orcs had begun moving quickly now and on what she thought must be the road heading west out of the oasis.  She could see little spots of light coming through the stitched edges of the coverings, and her eyes had started to adjust.  Good.  She wanted out of here quickly --

Oh, but then what?

Dusty had crawled to the cage.  She could barely see the door and lock which did not look difficult to manipulate.  Orcs had large hands, after all. They didn't do delicate work.  She could probably get it open -- but then what?  They couldn't just leap out of the cart and run. The orcs would catch them before they could get more than a few yards.

"We'll have to wait until night," she said very softly.  "Otherwise we'll be spotted right away."

"Oh," he said and tried not to sound too disappointed.  "But you will stay and help me?"

"Yes.  I promise.  And I will call you Blue.  Is that all right?"

"Oh yes.  I like that name!"

Dusty would help him.  She would have tried to help any little creature, human or otherwise, captured by orcs.  However, finding a baby dragon was a real problem, though.  She would need to get him back to the palace and find a way to get him to his mother before the dragons came in force hunting him.  She'd heard about dragon raids, though there had not been one for more than a century.  Only fools took anything from them, let alone one of their rare young.

Fools and orcs.

"I'll see if I can get the lock open now while we have a little light," she said and bent close to the bars.  "It doesn't look difficult --"

Just then the orcs stopped chanting, and she heard a few shouts.  The cart started to roll to a stop, but before it had come to a rest, an orc had torn open the back left corner of the covering.  Dusty managed not to yelp as she dived for the only cover she could find, a huge pile of cloth beside the cage.  Some of it tumbled away as she slipped under it, and she hoped the orcs thought that only a reaction to the cart suddenly stopping.

"Food," the orc bellowed.  It tossed something that splattered against the cage and then made an odd grating sound.

Laughter, Dusty thought.  She stayed very still with only a slight peak out of the cloth that covered her.  The orc had turned to talk to another, the rumble of their words shaking the cart.  Watching them, she was convinced they didn't know she was there.

Dusty hardly dared to breathe for fear that the creatures would find her.  They were in no hurry move on, either.  Dusty wished she understood orc and knew what they were talking about.  They did a lot of gesturing with stubby fingers pointing back the way they'd come.

Maybe they'd head back to the city.  Oh, that would be so nice.  She'd get Blue free, leap out and run to the guards, and they'd get her back to the castle.  Grandmother would know just what to do.

The orc grabbed the covering and tied it back down.  In a moment the orcs started another chant, and the cart began to move again.  Dusty pushed away some of the cloth and waited, hoping....

They kept going straight.  Dusty tried not to sigh with disappointment.

995 Words

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Flash Friday #258 -- Dusty & Friends/3



Dusty felt better as she stepped past the castle gate.  The castle sometimes seemed stifling, filled with so many people and all their rules.  As a princess, Dusty had to know the correct way to treat anyone she came into contact with, but out here people saw her tanned skin and wild hair, and never realized her rank.

The Queen had a plethora of grandchildren, and as when they turned ten they came from their parent's keeps to spend the spring and summer at court.  The boys complained because they had to give up riding and hunting, but the girls loved to dress up and go to the fancy balls.

Dusty had never been one of those types of girls.

The breeze blew upward from the palm-covered oasis to the top of the escarpment where the castle sat.  Dusty couldn't imagine a prettier place, though she thought the smaller homes cascading downward to the lower hillside had a charm of their own.  When she reached the first town fountain and the square around it, she looked back to see the castle glittering like gold in the morning sun.

With Master Stuart's help she would find some position that worked for her, and in a couple of days, all this awful pressure would pass.

A few little birds played in the water beside her, but they flew off when some of the local women came to take water back to their homes.  Dusty didn't recognize any of them, so after polite greetings, she went on her way again.

Despite all her attempts to consider something serious for her future, Dusty still found herself drawn down to the area where the caravans gathered before they headed out across the desert or took the canal that linked to the Miru River.  Some were getting a late start since most left at dawn.  These were the people who had adventures.

Dusty looked around at camels, sheep, and crates loading onto barges to head to the river.  Last summer the Queen had arranged for all her grandchildren to take a barge to the Miru and down to the oldest temple in the land.  That had been as close to an adventure as Dusty had ever experienced.

"Stop thinking such things," she muttered to herself.  "Think about practical stuff.  I need to --"

Whatever she'd meant to say died in her throat. 

Orcs!

No one had mentioned that one of the rare caravans of orcs had arrived in town.  Dusty openly stared at the group of twenty or so creatures who stood around guarding their massive carts.  She wasn't the only one who watched, so she didn't feel terribly rude.  Orcs had to be used to seeing humans stare at them.

Dusty had never seen one in real life, and the drawings in books didn't do them justice.  They looked like various huge boulders had suddenly decided to get together and become animate.  The bodies had unlikely bulges everywhere beneath their speckled gray and white skin.  They wore no clothing, but then you wouldn't expect to see a rock in court attire, so it didn't bother Dusty.  Their dirt brown eyes were small and deeply recessed between rows of more rock-skin.

All of them held massive wooden clubs with metal spikes embedded in the upper half. They swung those menacingly, but they didn't seem very interested in the humans.

The orcs didn't stand very tall, but they were massive, both wide and deep.  When they spoke, the air seemed to tremble, and when one shouted, the ground and the nearby buildings shook.  Other people backed away in haste, but Dusty moved a little to the side and took over at the corner of one of the human trader's tents where she could still watch.  She could see they prepared to leave.

Orcs didn't use beasts of burden, not even to pull the carts.  Most pulled up packs that rested on their backs, but teams of four moved to pick up the harnesses to the wagons, and they all prepared to leave.

"Mama, mama -- I want to go home!"

The cry had been faint and pitiful.  Dusty looked around with a start, expecting to see a young child in his mother's arms, but she found no one close enough that she could have heard.  How odd --

And then she heard the child crying, the most heartbreaking sound she'd ever heard.  The yells and grunts of the orcs nearly buried the sobs, but she could hear --

The sounds came from the orc camp.  In fact, she feared it came from the smallest of the orc carts.  Dusty looked frantically around for a guard, but none were in sight.  Should she run to find one?  What if she was wrong?  Better to check before they left, right?

Oh, part of her knew she was foolish, but the crying child moved her beyond reason.  Strange -- the area had suddenly filled with birds who swept around in a frantic display as though the crying bothered them as well.  They distracted the orcs, and that helped her.  Dusty slid along the side of the tent, away from where anyone would see her, and then darted forward to the cart. The orcs had just started pulling up the harness for that one.  She didn't have much time.

The hide covering the cart had been tied down with huge ropes and knots, but the spaces between those knots were wide enough for a young human girl to squeeze through. The cart wasn't very high, either, since the orcs were short.  She had no trouble getting inside -- though she tumbled over a couple of boxes as the orcs began a monotonous chant and the cart started to move.

No time to do anything more than look and get out!

"Are you here to help me?  Did mama send you?" a small voice whispered.

And Dusty realized this was not a human voice after all.

To Be Continued....
993 Words

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Missed a week!



I have been both busy and not feeling well.  I'm trying to get back into doing all these little things like the weekly blog post, but it keeps getting lost in the piles of other things.

Though writing wise, still doing okay.  On Sunday I crossed the 500,000 word mark for the year.  My major project is still Tales of Grey Station 9 and I'm a bit over half way on it.  The final version is going to end up close to or over 200,000 words.

Dusty & Friends is up to the third 1k entry.  Writing those little pieces takes an entirely different approach from a sprawling novel.  That reminds me of something one person once said (and she claimed to be an expert):  Writing novels is easier than writing short stories because you can make mistakes and it doesn't matter.

I remember reading that line several times and shaking my head.  Make mistakes -- and just leave them.  Don't worry.  The story is so long that no one will notice, unlike with her short stories which had to be perfect.

I am amazed, sometimes, at the things people say about writing.

I have one huge non-writing project right now.  The ezine I published for 15 years stopped publication two years ago.  (Honestly, it seems a lot longer.)  A good part of it has been sitting on an out of date Joomla! site.  Since there will no longer be any updates, I don't need anything that fancy and I really don't want to have to keep updating it, so I am copying off articles and preparing for a simple html site.  Nothing fancy at all, but with easy links to the categories and such.

Shouldn't be hard, right?

660 articles on the Joomla! site.  At least that many, and maybe more, that have to be moved from an even older site and added in to the newer articles. 

I've copied over 200 articles so far.  And this is where I sing the praises of Scrivener.  I have copied files over (both html and text, depending on the article -- but I'll probably stick with text after this) and used the little synopsis card on the right to list the title, category, author, and Vision Issue.  This will make it very easy to sort everything out into whatever group I want later.

But yeah, it is a lot of work.  Non-writing work, which is hard for me.  I do some of it, take a break to write, and then do more.

Over the next two weeks I hope to get most of the Joomla! material copied. Then I'll copy all the others into Scrivener as well -- though I wonder if it has a limit on word count/file size/whatever?  I'll have to watch that and divide it into more than one set if that happens.

This isn't what I had been planning to do.  I think fondly of the outlines I should be writing -- but the site had developed some problems and my provider would like some changes.  I'm doing the change that should mean I won't have to do it again.

Sometimes you just can't write.  Real life (or something like it for me) steps in and other stuff has to be done. 

But still -- half a million words so far this year.  I can't complain!