Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Spectra World master maps!


Summer is here! It's the perfect time to explore somewhere new! Sure, that might include a physical location, but I for one hope to explore a new fictional world as well.

When I first designed a map for the Spectra world, I drew it on paper and then scanned it on the computer. That became my master map. Whenever an individual book calls for a map, I'll take a section of the master map and adapt it. Maybe I'll crop it to the relevant section, or take out some labels that aren't important to the specific story in question. I'll definitely dress it up a bit, and probably simplify the colors to remove some of the biomes.

But, for you today, in all its rough glory, here is the Spectra Lands Master map!
Until recently, every book I've written has taken place on a piece of this map.

However, my kindle vella story, The Centaur Chase, expands into the wider world besides this one continent. The Spectra Lands are inhabited mostly by the Spectra, elemental magic users, except for one corner inhabited by griffins. Each of the other continents in this world has its own magical species, whether human-ish like the wayfinders, animal-ish like the dragons, or a mix of the two like centaurs. I'm not sure when I'll expand into those continents, but I have a lot of room to play with! 

Here's an even rougher map of where the different continents are. Note that this is just the western hemisphere. I imagine the eastern hemisphere to be more settled by humans, and there are plenty of books already that take place in that kind of world.
I hope you enjoy your adventures this summer, physical and fictional and everywhere in between! 

Monday, May 13, 2024

On being quiet, social filters, and the enneagram

 At an activity a few weeks ago, I got up to speak and mentioned that I have a much easier time with public speaking (or writing) than with conversing. Part of that is because with public speaking, you usually don't have to interrupt anyone or impose yourself into another conversation. I've gotten to the point where I can answer questions pretty easily, but I still struggle to take the initiative-- when starting the conversation in the first place, bringing up a new topic, or remembering to ask questions back about the other person. Writing is especially nice because you can think about and edit your words before anyone sees them. 

At the activity, I also mentioned my social filters.

You know how some people say they have no filter when speaking? I have the opposite problem. If the thing I'd planned to say gets trapped in my filters, then I will stand there like a fish with a flapping mouth. For example, as a teen, I tried to tell my crush about a phrase that includes being naked. I literally could not speak. More recently, my aunt posed a critical question about my religion. My mind went completely blank-- I knew that I had explanations, but I could not think of them, much less share. Sometimes I can power through, but it takes a lot of effort. Worst is if I'm trying to show off while singing. The note will get stuck in filters and I will croak like a frog. I can sing in front of people usually, but if I'm specifically trying to show off, everything will crash. 

At this activity, one of my friends asked about my specific filters. I had to sit down to think about it. As I started to list potential filters, I noticed that my filters lined up with some of the enneagram types. So, naturally, I filled in the rest as well. These questions are subconscious. I'm not asking myself all of these questions as I speak, but the more these filters are triggered, the less I am able to respond. As mentioned, I can consciously power through only with a lot of effort.

So here are the nine filters, based off of the enneagram, a personality system that categorizes people into nine basic personality categories. I suspect that someone who identifies with a particular type will have an especially strong filter in that category, but people can have more than one. I'm a type 9 (though I also resonate with type 4), and I use every single one of these filters. I'd say that filter 9 is probably the one I use most often, followed by 2. 

1: Is the thing I want to say good/moral/correct? 

2: Could this hurt, offend, or even bore someone?

Note: Sometimes being quiet can be seen as selfish or not caring about what other people think. If the type 2 filter is in play, being quiet is exactly the opposite.

3. Is this socially acceptable? Could this limit my chances for success? 

4. Does this represent me as an individual?

5. Is this something that I know about and could speak more about if asked?

6. Would my authority figures (family, heroes, political or religious leaders) approve of this?

7. Could this limit future opportunities? 

Note: Thinking of a filter for type 7 was difficult. They're less likely to have social filters.

8. Could people take this as an invitation to intervene in my life?

9. Could this cause conflict? Could it invite aggression or ridicule?

So, there you have it. Next time you're talking with someone who suddenly goes quiet, they might have been stopped by a filter--or nine. If you're someone who lacks filters, maybe thinking about these questions before speaking might help you. Or not, who knows? 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

April Fools?


I woke up at about 6 am this morning because my kids wanted to celebrate April Fool's Day, starting with setting off alarms on all of the phones/alarm clocks they could find. I dismantled a tripwire on the way to the bathroom and stepped over a Lego minefield.

Then I told them a story I've heard at church about two boys who found shoes in a field. One wanted to pull a prank and hide the shoes, but the other instead hid some money in each shoe. Then they hid and watched. Their would-be victim was just as shocked. He looked all around but missed the two boys. Then he dropped to his knees and said a prayer of gratitude for money that his family badly needed, and the boys left feeling better about themselves.

You know what would be even more shocking than being sprayed by the sink sprayer? Finding all of the dishes done.

So, this is a challenge to find a "positive prank" to pull on someone today. 

I suppose I should make this relevant to books, since that's what you've signed up for with this newsletter. In both stories I'm writing right now, I've enjoyed making the children age-appropriate. In The Centaur Chase on kindle vella, a centaur foal (2 and a half in human years), plays clapping games and accidentally knocks people over. In the next Spectra Crowns Tale (on vella and amazon), the 10 and 11-year-old boys are very closely based on my boys. I'll include a sneak peek of those shenanigans below.


A large brown shape hurtled through the air toward them. Simon leapt back. The shape landed in the pond in an explosion of water. Simon yelped as the cold shot through him. He wiped pond water from his eyes and tried to figure out what had just happened. 

An enormous, full grown bosent sat in the middle of the pond, cow-like, but bigger and shaggier. 

A pair of dark-haired boys, perhaps ten years old, pushed through the brush. Their gleaming white grins stood out on their tanned faces. “I had everything under control,” the taller one said.  

“Bosent launcher, success!” the smaller cheered. 

“A bosent launcher?” Simon repeated faintly. 

A third child came out of the woods. She was older than the other two, perhaps fourteen, with long glossy black hair. “Did we make it? I thought my aim was a little...” She caught sight of Simon, squeaked, and ducked behind the nearest tree. 

“You always make it!” one of the boys answered, as though she hadn’t just hidden. “Good shot, Larina!” 

Robin, Simon's escort, grinned. “Meet my siblings, the youngest three Sages. Larina has perfect aim, Bracken fashions things from wood—like bosent launchers, apparently—and Finn controls water.” 

“We’re not twins,” Finn said. Though he stood knee-deep in the pond, his cotton clothing was completely dry. “Everyone thinks we’re twins, but I’m seven seasons older.” 

“Are they always this...” Simon gestured. 

Robin nodded “They are always this.”  

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Kindle vella: What is it and why should I try it out?

News is slowly getting out. A lot of people have heard the name "kindle vella", but not everyone knows what it is or why they should give it a try.

I enjoy kindle vella, amazon's serial reading platform, because I don't always have the time or focus to sit down and read a whole novel, but I do have snatches of time where I can easily squeeze in an episode. If books were like movies, then kindle vella would be like a tv show. Each episode contains a section of the story, similar to a book chapter. Stories are often much longer than a novel and might continue through several seasons. My favorite kindle vella story (The Queen Trials by Penelope Wright) updates every single day, so whenever my day starts to drag, I can check for my daily update and continue the story just a little more. I also love to sample a story, or even an entire genre, to see if it's something that I will enjoy before I invest my time and money into it.

To read on kindle vella, you only need your amazon account. The first ten episodes are free, and trust me, you can get into a lot of story in ten episodes! In my most popular story, The Captain's Dowry, the main character changes from a proper lady to a cabin boy, escapes a debtor, and marries a stranger. After you've read ten episodes, you can buy tokens to unlock more. Currently, each episode costs ten tokens, which are about ten cents each (check those numbers for updates though). You can read directly from the kindle vella website, or check stories on the kindle app. For the moment, kindle vella is only available for the United States, but it's a new program and often changes.  

Another huge advantage to kindle vella is that it allows you to interact with the story and its author in ways that are not possible in a full book. While you can review a story like you would a full book, vella has many other options. After each episode, you can choose to hit the thumbs up button, or leave a comment. Some even have polls where you can vote for answers to story-related questions. And each week, you can pick your favorite story. The top 250 favorite stories get a coveted crown (and bonus money), so let your favorite authors know how much you enjoy their work!

I've seen a lot of different genres on kindle vella. As always, romance is queen, and spice sells. Not all stories are steamy romance, though. I write fantasy with sweet (not spicy) romance subplots. My kids screen each episode for me, so I need to make sure they're interesting as well as clean. I've enjoyed nonfiction, such as Life Lessons from Flipping HousesRosanne E Lortz writes some amazing Regency Romance stories. As mentioned, I've been reading The Queen Trials, a dystopia with a hint of fantasy, every day for years. I've even found stories that I've loved on kindle vella and later purchased as a full book on amazon, such as the middle grade adventure, The Golden Scarab of Balihar. These are the stories that interest me, but you can find stories of all kinds on kindle vella. 

I highly recommend giving it a try!

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Introduction to The Sunken Oath

 You might remember that I'm working on a sprawling series of fairytale retellings. Each follows a different royal in their own story. Well, the fourth tale, The Sunken Oath, is now on preorder, with a release date of March 1st!

I'm excited to introduce you to Dylan, the prince of Merlandia. He has no tail and he's not a maid, but he's representing The Little Mermaid in this collection. He's fun and improper, ready to experience the world.

Here's the official blurb:
Dylan never wanted to be king, but he’ll have to accept his title to get his voice back. The rest of the royal family hate humans, who don’t have water abilities like the Mer, but he’s fascinated, especially by an ocean-eyed pirate girl. The rift between humans and Mers grows almost as fast as the one between Dylan and his mother, the ruling queen. How much would he sacrifice to control his own voice?

I had a lot of fun writing Bianca, the pirate girl, who is sweet and quiet in temperament, yet can endure anything without batting an eye and has no qualms about using a pistol. 

Old readers will enjoy the return of Innis and Alvis from the previous book, The Cousin Pact. If you haven't read that one, you might want to finish it before starting The Sunken Oath, since Cousin Pact's mystery will be spoiled in this book.

Try out a sneak peek here.

Sneak peek: The Sunken Oath

Enjoy this sneak peek from The Sunken Oath, book 4 in the Spectra Crown Tales. This series is interconnected but not interdependent, so you can pick up the story in whichever fairytale retelling strikes your fancy. 

SMOKE ROSE IN A BLACK PILLAR, far out to sea. “I’ll check it out," Dylan said. "Any of you want me to send you back to shore first?” He studied the passengers in his canoe.

“That could be our ship,” one of the humans said. “We’ve got to help if we can.” 

Dylan aimed toward the smoke. The smell hit him first, sulfur and burning wood. The air grew hazy. Then a black blur appeared at the base of the smoke. Jagged pieces of wood, blackened and charred, escaped to stab at the smoke. 

A feeble voice called for help. Dylan leapt out of the canoe and shot off toward it. He angled his body into a straight line, not bothering to swim. His magic control of the current did all propelling for him. Bubbles dashed around his nose, bringing air so that he had no need to surface. 

Dylan popped above the water. The waves bobbed him up and down, along with a layer of black ash. He didn’t hear the voice anymore. He didn’t like to think of anyone drowning, but it happened sometimes.  

A huge mass bore down on him. Dylan ducked out of the way. A large chunk of boards, once a deck, floated past. Blackened in places, splintering apart, it was on its way down. Dylan resurfaced and looked around one last time.  


He almost missed the cry, barely more than a whisper.  

“Where are you?” he called. 

No answer. Dylan surged back toward the ship fragment. He summoned the currents to hold the whole thing up. Instantly, fatigue spread through his body. He was approaching his limits. 

There! A small figure clung to one side. Masses of dark hair hid her face from view. Dylan rushed over. Her tiny, pale hands clung to the wood. 

“Let go,” Dylan said. 

She shook her head. Her face appeared, and Dylan gasped. The ocean-eyed girl he'd danced with last night. Her eyes were open but vague, her whole body shivering. He wrapped one arm around her waist. The wood creaked, threatening to break apart.  

Carefully, Dylan reached for her hands and peeled them from the wood. They fastened on his arm instead. He brought her close against him and shot away from the wreckage. He let go of the currents holding up the fragment, and instantly it dropped. Within a minute, it was gone, leaving an unbroken surface. 

The girl still clung to his arm. He couldn’t see her face but felt her breathing. He couldn’t name the emotions rolling through him, holding her so much closer than at the dance, except that he knew he had to keep her safe.

Preorder on amazon for a release March 1st, 2024!

Friday, January 12, 2024

Poem: Selfish?

 "I should be more unselfish, like Grandma,"

I say as I trudge into the snowy night.

"I think about myself far too often,"

I say as I retrieve the baby's snacks from the car.

"I need to do better,"

I say as I return to the house

and the people still warm in their beds

and the baby wailing for a snack.

In the morning, I realize,

I might be a little like Grandma,

after all.

The Spectra World master maps!

  Summer is here! It's the perfect time to explore somewhere new! Sure, that might include a physical location, but I for one hope to ex...