Tag Archives: creative writing

Keep On Swimming

Hello that one person who remembered to check my blog! It’s good to see you! What have I been doing since my last post from ages ago? Well, I’ve been following Dory’s advice. I’ve just kept swimming. (I have this sinking feeling I’ve used this reference on this blog before…)

To be more clear, I’ve been doing a lot of things. Chief among them is the more mundane stuff that would be too boring to go into detail. You know. That whole “stay at home mom” thing. Then, more interestingly, I’ve been doing a lot of work for this gaming news site called Cliqist. I’ve mentioned them before, and while I know I linked some articles I did for them on this blog, I don’t think I ever really talked about that in detail. And yes, that is my real name. Anyone who bought the Tributaries e-book would have learned it too, since I had to put my name for the copyright. Surprise! Or is it? I’ve had this blog so long, I forget what I’ve already covered, ha!

Anyway… Basically, I’m trying my hand at game journalism. I know, it seems odd after that whole Gamer Gate mess, but I sort of fell into it considering my interest in actually writing games. Currently I don’t get paid much at all, but I do get paid (small comfort), and I’m starting to generate some contacts in the indie game world, so that’s really cool! At first, working for Cliqist was very much a side thing, but I’ve been taking it more seriously the last few months. Right now there’s two kinds of writers for Cliqist: Contributors and Staff Writers. I signed up to be a Staff Writer, and let me tell you, the level of work between the two classifications is fairly significant. At least, significant enough for me that editing Eikasia’s second book has been much tougher…

But I just want to say that I HAVE been managing it! S’cuse me while I pat myself on the back.

I think the only real bad news is that I don’t see the book getting done in time for Christmas. I mean, it could happen, but I think I’d have to scale back the Cliqist work, and right now I’m unwilling to do that. Maybe in a month or so, I’ll make an editing push and ease up on Cliqist. Still iffy on that one.

Still though, I’ve been making some pretty important headway into editing my next book. I mentioned on Twitter how Eikasia Book 2 had once been edited to second draft, but all that work was lost when the site that was hosting it closed down without warning. That put me right back to square one–working with a scary rough draft. Yikes! But after publishing the newly edited first novel, Tributaries, I realized that I was going to have to radically change the sequel to maintain continuity. Basically, everything on the Eikasia site from Chapter 2 of Book 2 will be completely different. It’s going to be a complete overhaul of the plot and events, with some new characters that weren’t there before. I’m even considering changing the original title, “In Sight, In Mind” to something else (which is why I keep saying “Book 2” all the time!)

At the moment I’m writing completely new material, so the editing process has slowed down as I switch gears to reinvent a pivotal scene from the original draft. It’s scary, but kind of exciting at the same time! I might share something of the new stuff in the near future, so I hope you guys enjoy it. Meanwhile, I think I’d like to resume my book review series this week. I have two finished books that I need to do reviews for, plus one I’m nearly done with, so keep a lookout!

And that’s all I have really. I was thinking of sharing a flow chart I made for Book 2, but I’d have to redact some things to keep some surprises under wraps. Am I a tease? Maybe.

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For a Better Future

So I’m sure some of you noticed that there was no update for Eikasia again this past Sunday. That makes two weeks in a row. I remember when I posted on January 11th how excited I was. I thought, Finally! After a year of waiting, I can get back to it! But life! Ah, life. How it loves to crush my delusions.

Now before you all start getting alarmed (and you really shouldn’t be) this isn’t some dreary announcement that Eikasia is “ending” or something. Of course not! I’m not even shutting the site down. But I can’t lie that some of you will be disappointed. Thankfully, that’s not too many of you, but still.

Eikasia’s going back to irregular updates again so that I can focus on publishing the books. And this time, I just want to warn everybody that this doesn’t mean updates every other week, or even once a month. I mean there really could be long stretches between one update to the next–months we’re talking here.

Why? Why did this happen again? She had the baby didn’t she? She graduated from college, didn’t she!? Well yes, imaginary reader. Yes, I did all of those things.

But little did I know, that just because school is done and the baby is born, that doesn’t mean things get “easier.” Oh no! Far from that. The family problems still persist, and there’s still that nagging little problem of trying to get enough work experience to really start my career going that’s keeping me from smooth sailing. I’ve started a paid internship that pays little, but is much needed for my resume. It takes a lot of work, though. Almost like a part time job. So apart from playing housewife and taking care of my baby son 24/7, a lot of my energy goes towards that.

So there’s the time aspect. Now about the money: I don’t get many donations at all from the site. I’m lucky if I get five bucks from someone in a year. The ads? Because I’m having trouble keeping a steady schedule up, I can’t improve my SEO to get more visitors to the site, so ad sales aren’t much. The addition of a child in my life, plus a dramatic cut back in income in the last year, plus the new cost of student loan bills, makes money more imperative for me. To be honest, Eikasia’s web site is a money drain. So how do I justify keeping it still active? (And I swear I will!) It got to a point where I thought, Why am I killing myself, trying to write new material for Eikasia, when I already have at least 3-4 finished manuscripts that I just need to edit and publish? My original plan had been to have Book 2 of Eikasia out by the end of the year, but this feels unlikely. The first book was supposed to release a lot sooner than it did, but there were set backs that resulted in that not happening. What could happen this time around with Book 2? And the cost for editing will be much more, but my family has promised to help, and I’m trying to save what I can from sales for Book 1 (but hey I have to deal with my family’s needs right now sometimes.)

So I hope you guys understand. Just because updates aren’t going to be steady anymore doesn’t mean Eikasia is dead. If anything, I’m trying to insure its future! If you want to know when the site actually updates, just join the new mailing list by clicking here.

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Eikasia: A Day in the Life – That Time of the Month

So to celebrate Spirit Day 2014, I wanted to share this short Eikasia piece with you all. It’s just an amusing bit that I may or may not use in the upcoming e-book, In Sight, In Mind. If you aren’t familiar with my lesbian fantasy romance series, you can purchase the first book, Tributaries, on Smashwords at a discounted price, along with its prequels: a low-cost novella and two free short stories here: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/cajeck

I want to do more shorts like these in the future for Eikasia. A sort of “A Day in the Life” series featuring some of the unique challenges Nyx and Elmiryn have to face day-to-day. It’s inspired by the Xena Warrior Princess episode of the same name.

Anyway, without further ado…


 

There were a number of challenges to traveling with Elmiryn, many of which I came to expect the longer I stayed with her, and yet somehow there was one unique issue that I had managed to forget about. That special burden suffered only by the fairer sex.

Yes…that.

It might sound odd that I would forget such a defining trait among women of any species, but you must understand, Ailuran women have long cycles in comparison to humans. Like many shapeshifter races, my feline folk are fertile but once a year. Twice if we are lucky. It’s part of the reason our population is so few in the world. All that said, I never had to suffer the moodiness brought on by such a condition all that much. I myself have only bled maybe nine times in my life. I even skipped a year, after the death of my family, due to severe stress and malnutrition.

So when my sensitive therian nose detected that subtle but telling scent from Elmiryn, I braced myself. Was she especially moody during these periods? I’d seen the redhead irritable before, and I wasn’t eager to see it again. Who would be? It was doubly awkward as she was my only company out on the trail.

But in typical fashion, Elmiryn surprised me. She wasn’t grumpy. She wasn’t depressed. She wasn’t even tired.

No. She was just more…Elmiryn.

“Elmiryn give it back!” I protested as my companion snatched Tobias’s book from near my bedroll.

She flipped through the pages, holding the book aloft as I tried, ineffectively, to snatch it back. “How can you read this?” She giggled. “This Tobias has the shittiest writing I’ve ever seen! My instructors would have been appalled!”

“Not all of us has had the benefit of being noble-born, Elmiryn! Now please, return my book!”

She glanced at me, unconcerned as she held it over my head. “Nyx, this will rot your brain. If you’re not careful, you’ll be speaking in the old tongue!”

I stomped my foot. “Elle, enough! I don’t find this funny! You promised you wouldn’t touch my things!”

“Faireth Nyx! Thou art turningeth the fairest shadeth of pinketh!”

“That isn’t even how they talked! You’re behaving like an asshat.”

Elmiryn pouted and finally tossed me my book. “Me thinketh Nyx doth not knoweth how to taketh a joketh,” she mumbled.

I glowered at her as I returned the book to my other belongings. “It isn’t my fault you humans bleed once a month! Must I suffer alongside you?”

The redhead quirked an eyebrow at me. “Well now! I don’t remember mentioning my personal business to you!”

I flushed and busied myself with gathering my things. “I can’t help it. My nose is sensitive. It is by no means a reflection on you.”

“Oh I suppose that’s good. For a moment I thought I was attracting the wildlife.”

I frowned at her. “Why do you sound disappointed?”

“Well you see, I had this dream wherein a squirrel went down my pants and–”

Stop. I changed my mind, I don’t want to know!”

 

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Let’s Get Together! – The Unfortunate Disconnection in the LGBT Fiction World

Since opening up my fantasy novel, Tributaries, to pre-orders, I’ve noticed something that both surprises me and disheartens me at the same time. When I made the decision to write for the LGBT community and its allies, I realized that I would have to face the challenge of connecting with a very niche and (at times) remote audience. In the super-abundant world we live in now, where getting your voice heard is hard enough in a cishet market, I’ve learned that LGBT fiction just plain has it rough. Marketers still have no idea what to do with these kinds of stories. Do you lump them all together under romance? But then what about those stories that are more fantasy/adventure/thriller/sci-fi/etc? Do you list those under the specific genres without mentioning the LGBT aspects? Ah, but the reviewers! What if they complain on their blogs and customer reviews that they felt tricked when the protagonist fell in love with someone of the same sex? Well what about just attaching ‘romance’ to the primary genre, and hoping for the best?

It’s all just one hot mess.

It isn’t unusual for brick-and-mortar stores to lack any self-identifying LGBT work, either. A sad fact, as I’ve read a number of LGBT books that are every bit as good as some of the nonsense that gets on the best seller lists.

But this isn’t the disheartening surprise I alluded to earlier. I’ve known the reality of scarce LGBT outlets for years. No, what surprised me was specifically the lack of support and structure for lesbian fiction. Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried hunting down LGBT blogs who I hope could connect me with my target audience, only to find myself disappointed when the site clarifies that they are actually only interested in m/m fiction. Uh, say what? Why the heck would you use the full acronym if you’re only interested in a single aspect of it?? You see, the fact is that m/m fiction has a much bigger community of support than f/f. (Don’t even get me started on bi and trans…)

It’s not that I haven’t found lesbian sites dedicated to writing or reviewing lesbian fiction. I have. But half of the sites I found were defunct. Then the remaining active sites were sadly narrow in scope (i.e. erotica only, print books only, fan fiction only, paranormal romance only, books with positive reviews of 2 or more only, etc…) And on social networks? I primarily use Twitter for my social marketing (it’s about all I have energy for–though I dabble in Tumblr) and I can’t seem to find any of the les fic authors anywhere. A quick google search also proved that there doesn’t seem to be an LGBT group of writers out there interested in supporting and signal boosting each other. You’d think the LGBT community of readers would have come up with a hashtag or a retweet group to help promote what is already a neglected corner of the market. Something like #LGBTrds or #LGBTbks. Something! Anything! Erotica, paranormal romance, dark fantasy, and horror fiction are doing it, why the hell can’t we? I even tried searching blog hops (which are basically author events on blogs featuring interviews, free books, cover reveals, etc.) and the last LGBT blog hops were last summer! That was over a year ago now! The one LGBT fiction blog hop that I could find that was held this year was actually ended prematurely and shut down for good. Yeah. It apparently went down for lack of participation. Not encouraging.

Now I know what you might be thinking: But Illise, if you hate it so much, why don’t you do something to change it? MarkTheShaw did it with #IndieBooksBeSeen on Twitter and Tumblr, didn’t he?

Simply put, no one gives a fuck about me. I don’t have the status or the connections to set something like this in motion. I suppose I could try to contact someone who DOES have these things to help me, but let’s just all refer back to my first point regarding the lack of fucks people give me, then infer what the result would be.

Okay. I had my little tantrum. I can’t have been the first LGBT writer to have thought along these lines, and I bet those who came before just learned to deal with it. You find a way to make it work, or you don’t. I’ve been promoting my work on a number of Indie Author hashtag communities, and it’s not like I’m not getting some help. The people on #IAN1, #IARTG, #IndieBooksBeSeen, #IndieAuthor, and #ASMSG are wonderful folks! But the point isn’t just to blast your work out to a random audience. It’s to target your efforts so that the people most likely to want to read your work hear about it at all. That’s really the major issue. LGBT fiction feels like a grain of sand lost in an indifferent ocean when marketing to a general audience. You can’t use #LGBT on Twitter either, because dear god, that stream moves waaaay too fast and is inundated with LGBT political and entertainment news.

As LGBT authors, our little slice of the literary world is tough and challenging in a market that already has plenty of obstacles to overcome. But it could be so much better if we could pool our readers together and support one another, especially since most LGBT authors are signed with small press or are self-publishers. It isn’t as if anyone is looking out for us little guys.

If, after reading this post, you feel that I am in error, then please enlighten me! I want to be proven wrong, even a tiny bit. But if you’re in agreement, why not share your thoughts on why the LGBT author community is so disconnected. Do you agree that lesbian fiction is not as well off as gay fiction? Just to be clear, a lack of readers is not the issue. That’s more a marketing challenge, anyway. But why do LGBT authors seem so disinterested in connecting with each other?

Oh, and if you ARE a LGBT author, please please please connect with me. I love RTing LGBT fiction on Twitter! I’m @cajeck. Send me a DM and I’ll add you to the LGBT author list I’m trying to form. 🙂

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Writers and the Long Tail: Hope for the little guy

The following was written in 2013 and was an examination of the book, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson, for my Creative Writing degree program at Full Sail University. It explores ways of reaching niche audiences and the benefits of reputation economy. If you don’t know what “the long tail” is, click here to see my Youtube post for an explanation! The questions in bold were questions provided by my instructor at the time. The assignment was to provide answers from the book and industry examples supporting the excerpts I chose. I’m posting this here now, hoping that my work might help others. Chris Anderson’s book really changed the way I look at my own work and the industry and I think everyone should read his work!

If you like this essay, please consider checking out my e-book, Tributaries, and help me realize my dream!


  1. The Internet and digital storage has created a nearly infinite shelf space for all media types, but it has also given the tools of production to anyone with a laptop computer. In this new world of super-abundance how will writers distinguish themselves and their work?

Writers can distinguish themselves by targeting their writing, publishing, and distribution efforts to niche audiences. Understanding how to effectively sell and/or advertise one’s work is understanding the vast diversity that is the Internet. Many people surf the Internet, but not everyone goes to the same places online. Those primarily interested in science and history for instance, are very likely to frequent accurate scientific and historical wikis, forums, and blogs. Conversely, they are less likely to visit sites about video games, childcare, or car customization. That isn’t to say that these Internet users won’t web surf based on their other interests, but the point is to target your audience, and if you were writing a science or historical based work, you would seek to distribute and promote your writing at the places these Internet users frequent for such things.

The pitfall of many writers is failing to capitalize on new and effective Internet tools to distinguish themselves. It is true that there are many easy methods to publish and distribute, but there are other frontiers that can help increase your visibility with potential readers. Video can be a quick and dirty way to get readers to visualize the basic premise, setting, and genre of your story. Music is prolific on the internet, and offering a free download of a song you commissioned from a musician with information about your book or author website can spread very quickly. Social networks have also provided a way to connect with people outside of your personal circle with the use of hash tags, categories, and other special filters. Writers need never restrict themselves in how they wish to promote and distribute their work. For new authors especially, Chris Anderson (2008) writes:

From filmmakers to bloggers, producers of all sorts that start in the Tail with few expectations of commercial success can afford to take chances. They’re willing to take more risks, because they have less to lose. There’s no need for permission, a business plan, or even capital. The tools of creativity are now cheap, and talent is more widely distributed than we know. Seen this way, the Long Tail promises to become the crucible of creativity, a place where ideas form and grow before evolving into commercial form. (p. 78)

Given this awareness, writers looking to be seen and heard in the super-abundance should not be afraid to try out new and experimental methods.

  1. Discuss the importance of Exposure Culture, the Wisdom of Crowds and how they relate to the use Filters in creating successful media ventures.

The Wisdom of Crowds was actually a book written some two hundred years ago by James Surowiecki about how the many can be smarter than the few. Anderson discusses this idea, using examples such as Wikipedia, and how the online encyclopedia’s constant growth and adaptation has both its upside—and its downside. On the macroscale, the results of instant updates to a staggering number of articles in real time shows how Wikipedia leaves such works as the Encyclopedia Britannica in the dust. But on the microscale, the accuracy of such articles and the risk of vandalism is the tradeoff for such emergent information.

The wisdom of crowds thrives on probabilistic systems as they “can scale nicely both in breadth and depth.” (Anderson, 2008, p. 69) The important thing to remember is that anything taken from these systems (be this a Google search or a book review) should be taken with a grain of salt. Such results, like Wikipedia, should be the first source of information, not the last. But there is a need for such trailheads in the infinite shelf abundance of the Internet, and this is why filters use such emergent information to help guide users and/or customers to products further down the tail.

Here is where exposure culture relates to the wisdom of crowds and search filters. Tim Wu of Columbia University is quoted by Anderson (2008) in The Longer Long Tail:

The exposure culture reflects a philosophy on the web, in which getting noticed is everything […] and at the center of this exposure culture is the almighty search engine. If your site is easy to find on Google, you don’t sue—you celebrate. (p. 74)

Exposure culture relies on the wisdom of crowds to influence the emergent information used by filters to get noticed. Without the wisdom of crowds, filters would be consulting old data and attempting to apply it to an unreceptive audience. Search engines, recommendation systems, and customer data must have constant feedback on Internet trends in order to best serve their users.

With proper attention and research, a person can observe these trends and take advantage of them to better promote their work, therefor ensuring that they take a more active role in exposure culture rather than a reactive role. A person can achieve maximum effectiveness for their media venture if they research top searches, hash tags, categories, and popular purchases within a certain frame of time. Sometimes, capitalizing on such information must be done within a certain period, especially for volatile trends, lest the window of opportunity closes.

  1. Cite an example from the text or other reading that exemplifies what you feel is the most important trend identified or illuminated in The Longer Long Tail.

In The Longer Long Tail Chris Anderson (2008) writes:

Why do they do it? Why does anyone create something of value (from an encyclopedia entry to an astronomical observation) without a business plan or even the prospect of a paycheck? The question is a key one to understanding the Long Tail, partly because so much of what populates the curve does not start with commercial aim […] One economic model doesn’t fit all. You can think of the Long Tail starting as a traditional monetary economy at the head and ending in a non-monetary economy in the tail. In between the two, it’s a mixture of both. (p. 73)

Anderson (2008) also writes:

[…] there is a coin of the realm that can be every bit as motivating as money: reputation. Measured by the amount of attention a product attracts, reputation can be converted into other things of value: jobs, tenure, audiences, and lucrative efforts of all sorts. (p. 74)

Given my personal experiences, these passages highlight the most important trends illuminated in The Longer Long Tail for me. Before joining Full Sail University, I had already begun my own journey as an amateur author publishing my original work for free online. I was attempting to build a reputation for myself, to gain recognition among the audiences I was targeting, because I knew there were others like me who wanted the sort of stories I wrote. When I explained to family, friends, or fellow writers what it was I was doing, the question always came—“Why are you giving your work away for free? Why are you throwing out all that hard work?” To them, my efforts seemed wasteful and shortsighted. Since I wasn’t making any money off of it, I had to struggle for a long time to convince those close to me that what I was doing was worthwhile.

Reading those words from Chris Anderson felt like having everything I worked for validated by someone who knew about economics, and not just knew it about it, but made it their life. I’d never been able to put in a satisfactory way why it was I was doing free online writing, because every explanation I tried seemed to make others doubtful or uncertain as to what it really meant. Anderson sums it up very nicely, and even comes up with a phrase to adequately describe the trend: reputation economy. The idea that a person could build their reputation to the point that it creates opportunities was something I’d always hoped for. Now I don’t hope for it, I work toward it.

But Anderson acknowledges that this isn’t a perfect fit for every product, a fact I agree with wholeheartedly. Not all of my works are a good fit for free publication and distribution, and I mean to submit these stories through more conventional channels. Yet I have no regrets for the decisions I have made regarding my writing so far. I now have an established audience and I have fellow writers that I have networked with. I have learned many of the tools and methods necessary to build a proper Internet presence given the paths I have taken. Many writers lack these skills, and I have the reputation economy to thank for teaching them to me. Now if anyone asks, I can tell them so, in no uncertain terms!

  1. How do you see immersion and interactivity changing the role of writers in the entertainment marketplace and how will you adapt to this phenomenon?

In the past, a writer’s work was very much like a brick-and-mortar store. The product, in this case the writing, was put out to market. Customers, in this case the readers, would acquire the work and read it. After reading it, their opinions were published in newspapers, and in the early days of the Internet, personal websites like Geocites (before the arrival of blogs). Any feedback a writer would get about a work would be after the act of publishing it. Even if new editions were released, the work largely remained the same—meaning major plot points and characters did not deviate too far from the original publication. Writers also chose their writing projects alone, based on their observations of the market (which before Web 2.0 was slow to adapt to immediate reader demand.)

However with the Internet now allowing for individuals to not just passively consume content, but instantly interact with it, this is no longer the case. Even reader reviews are subject to feedback. Blogs allow for readers to directly comment on content and have others view their comments and respond to those. Google Drive has the capability of allowing anyone with access to view a document being typed live, comment on it, highlight passages, and in some cases (if authorized) to edit the document directly. Silvia Hartmann wrote the first complete draft of her novel, The Dragon Lords, live on Google Drive. (“Author Writes A,” 2012) The manuscript is no longer available, but for a limited time, Hartmann’s fans could watch the story unfold live before them, and interact directly with the author as she worked. (Hartmann, 2012)

Another example of interactivity and immersion comes from an indie author and television writer, known online as MCM, who in 2009 wrote a novel in three days with a document fans could see updated live. (MCM, 2009) He barely slept, and even made it a highlight of his event to take pictures of himself at regular intervals to show how he was being physically affected. There was an ongoing chat as well as polls where people could participate in such things as choosing character names. 2009 was the first year I joined the weblit community, and so I was able to witness this event happen live. MCM described this form of writing as a sort of “performance writing” and given what I saw, I agree with him. (MCM, “3D1D Wrap” 2009) The focus of the project was still the writing, but MCM found a way to layer a new form of entertainment over it that got audiences involved. His novel, Typhoon, was completed, and is now edited and available on the market. Since I’ve seen this done, I’ve always wanted to try it myself.

Another author, known as T Campbell online, has worked on at least twelve web comics in his career as a comic writer. Penny & Aggie, a high school epic that spanned seven years until its completion in August 2011 (Campbell), was very popular with web comic fans. Campbell, who had dabbled in writing prose shorts featuring the comic’s characters, decided to explore storytelling on Twitter using one of the comic’s more popular characters, Sara. To do this, Campbell created a dummy account where he tweeted as Sara, creating a first person short story. Other characters, whom he also made Twitter accounts for, responded to these tweets, and readers could view the story unfold in real time and respond. The original tweets have been lost as the accounts Campbell created for the purpose of the story were deleted, but other writers, like those for the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, have also used the power of social media in this way for storytelling. (“The Lizzie Bennet Character”; Green & Su, 2012) This method is usually in combination with other media and websites, such as YouTube or Pinterest, and has come to be known as transmedia.

Silvia Hartmann, MCM, T Campbell, Hank Green, and Bernie Su (the latter two being the creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) provide great examples of how creators can use different tools on the Internet to create, publish, and distribute their work. I’ve long since wished to launch an interactive project in which readers could directly engage with me and the story. I may do a live writing event, such as MCM, or perhaps a transmedia project, like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, or perhaps a new tool will be made available and allow me to do something completely new. Until then, I like writing and sharing my work online. I even make my incomplete drafts available for viewing and feedback on Google Drive. I believe I will have the time for something larger and more intensive after I graduate from Full Sail University, and I look forward to the experience.

Citations

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Tributaries – Fantasy E-Book Trailer

 

Purchase the book now at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/479795

Full Synopsis: Nyx is a feline shape shifter, lost and alone, host to a fierce and ferocious being that lies deep inside her. She harbors a deadly secret and is running for her life when she is saved by Elmiryn, a cursed warrior on a quest for revenge. The pair quickly become unlikely allies and embark upon a perilous physical and mental journey that will put both their skills and sanity to the test. Ultimately, they form a unique and powerful bond through their shared trials and tribulations. Together they continue onward and follow a path that leads to new and remarkable discoveries of both the worlds around, and within them.

Connect with Illise:
Twitter: @cajeck
Tumblr: http://www.illisemontoya.tumblr.com
Blog: http://www.illisemontoya.wordpress.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/montoya

All music and images used under various Creative Commons licenses.

Music: “She Moved Through the Fair” by Sláinte – http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Slinte/

Images:

“Enchantment” by Marina del Castell – https://www.flickr.com/photos/95011179@N08/14032345481/
“Lungerersee in Alps” by Artur Staszewski – https://www.flickr.com/photos/34920308@N07/8442008652/
“SummerHalloween Self-portrait” by Dr.Cialtron – https://www.flickr.com/photos/50850668@N04/9321302286/
“Glory” by Snake3yes – https://www.flickr.com/photos/15509125@N00/200624031/
“Beautiful Natural Scenery” by Kashmir Pictures – https://www.flickr.com/photos/95491601@N04/8717824074/
“Flaming Torches” by Dan Taylor – https://www.flickr.com/photos/56783767@N00/60363010/
“Xcaret Panther” by Robert McGoldrick – https://www.flickr.com/photos/40045573@N03/10074571886/

“Tributaries” Cover Art by Kayla Mayer – http://krmayerillustration.tumblr.com/

Video created by Illise Montoya.

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Tributaries Available for Pre-Orders!

Eikasia "Tributaries" Cover

It’s here! Well…almost. After 6 YEARS of writing, editing, and even monetary investment, Eikasia’s first installment, Tributaries, is available for pre-order at its special limited time price of 2.99!

Want to pre-order? Click here!

This has been one long, crazy road. Since starting Eikasia, I have gotten married, gone through three different jobs, moved across the country and back, graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and had a baby. In that time I learned so much in terms of different writing techniques, publishing tactics, about author rights, and the power of art for art’s sake. The self-publishing experience has been no less educational for me. For instance, I re-discovered the importance of meta-data, realized how weird ISBNs are, and learned how surprisingly straightforward the copyright process can be. I also had a hiccup with the cover art, of all things. A simple misunderstanding, but one of unfortunate timing. Still, I rolled with it thanks to the help and support of my editor/consultant/ebook designer Vicky, and the suffering patience of my husband.

All of that is behind me now. Tributaries is scheduled for release November 1st. My work is not done, however. Because of the exceptionally close release date, I have to get on top of trying to generate buzz for the story. That essentially means sending out copies to bloggers and review sites. The unfortunate bit is that these people tend to be inundated with these sorts of requests, so while my plan had been to release Tributaries well before Thanksgiving, I can only hope that some kind soul reads my work and drops a review on Goodreads or LibraryThing in time before the frenzy of holiday shopping.

I don’t think that I’m rushing my work out, however. You see, the thing is about being an underground author is that I don’t have the sort of clout or fame as say, Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. There is no frenzy for my books. So why would I delay a chance for people to purchase the work? The coming weeks will be me enacting my simple one-man ad campaign for my story, all the while experimenting with whatever techniques I can employ until then. That is the only reason for the pre-order. So that I can get my bearings, hype the book, and start with my best foot forward. This isn’t something I can afford to drag out or wait on. My reason for waiting is more precaution than necessity.

In truth, I seriously doubt I’ll ever make back even a fraction of what I’ve invested in Eikasia. I have spent so much money in artwork, site hosting, advertising, and editing. If I got a bit of that money back, that’d be great, but that wasn’t the point of this whole thing. I was doing this for reputation economy. (which I talked about last year on this blog)

…Honestly, it’s hard gathering my thoughts together. I’m so excited and my book isn’t even out yet. I’m aware of how silly that sounds, but I can’t stress enough how much I’ve put into writing Eikasia. It means everything to me. If I were to die tomorrow, it would be my second greatest achievement after the birth of my son.

And I’m not done with it! I know some of you reading this are still waiting for me to continue the free serial. You might even wonder if the release of this ebook means the death of the free site. No. That isn’t what it means at all. Don’t you see? You guys are the ones who made this happen! I wouldn’t even be doing this if it weren’t for you all! THANK YOU. Give yourselves a hug on me. If I could meet you in person, I’d hug you and squeeze.

Since I became a mother late February of this year, then graduated a short week later from university, I have found myself unable to continue my serials as I once did. If we’re all honest, the preceding three years had definitely seen a hit in terms of frequency. What I hope the release of this ebook shows is that you guys can have faith in me to keep bringing you great story content to enjoy. Seriously, this ebook is NEW. If you read Tributaries on the website, you owe it to yourself to read the new version. It really is different in many important and noticeable ways.

And I intend to do the same with In Sight, In Mind. With any luck, by the end of 2015! But I can’t do it unless you guys support THIS ebook! All proceeds will go towards editing and design costs for book two. Like the first book, it will feature new scenes, new dialogue, and a much smoother reading experience. I was even considering a more dramatic overhaul to its overall plot (because, let’s face it, book two ain’t perfect.) If you’re still wishing I could continue my serials like before, don’t worry. Soon my life as a full-time mother will be more accommodating to more involved writing projects. For now, editing is about all that I can handle. It’s easy to pick up, easy to put down, and much easier for me to wrap my sleep-deprived-mommy-mind around.

For a limited time until the end of October, Tributaries will be on sale at a special discounted price of $2.99. After that, it goes up to $3.99. If you’re a frugal person, now is the time to purchase the new ebook!

I still can’t believe I made it this far. Thanks again to all you readers, and let’s keep the adventure going!

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The Beautiful Perseverance

(My 200th post!)

Today I posted the latest update for Eikasia (Chapter 41.3) and it made me think of something.

The beauty of perseverance.

I was down almost a thousand words until meeting my word count goal and I was in a funky mood this morning. I considered saying, “No, I won’t write today. I’ll do it some other day.” The lethargy pressed down on me hard, to the point that even sitting up and looking at my computer screen seemed to take great effort. Negative thoughts ran rampant through my head. “You can’t do this. Your story’s quality is declining–not that it was that high to begin with. This update is boring.” What loomed over me was a big thick wall, and spray painted across it was the phrase: YOU CAN’T DO IT.

Then I just started typing. I ignored it all as best I could and just started typing. Did the feelings go away? No, actually. I felt like crap the entire time I typed. Almost unto the point of tears, even. But the point is, I got it done. After I read it to my husband and heard his input, I realized afterwards that this really WAS all just in my head, and there was nothing wrong with my update as a whole.

I’ve been very open on this blog about my struggles with depression-anxiety, and I’m proud to say that I’ve handled my pregnancy just fine, and haven’t had the need to resort to medications again since I kicked them to the curb October 2012. The thing is, while perhaps the degree of my sudden funk is not what most experience, to have a funk AT ALL is something I think everyone can relate to, especially with writing. I guess the point of this little post was to just say…if I can do it, so can you. Sometimes you just have to chew through it. Yes, even when it is really bad. What perpetuates depression is not depression, it’s our willingness to allow for it.

My husband’s been watching The Ultimate Fighter on DVD, and while I recognize that many of you aren’t into MMA fighting (or even despise it) I wanted to share this insightful bit of advice from fighter, Chael Sonnen. I think it can be applied in any person’s career, hobby, or lifestyle, including writing.

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Thoughts on Akumu Love Panic Ch. 13.4 (and the story in general)

Exported from Twitter by Storify.com:
  1. In the new #AkumuLovePanic update (which is finished at 2k words) we finally learn about Carlin’s past.
  2. The attention Carlin has received in this 2nd story arc doesn’t surprise me so much, as it just leaves me humbled #akumulovepanic
  3. I talk about this later, but what I mean is: Carlin’s backstory dominated this update, and I was embarrassed I hadn’t factored that into my outline. Chapter 13 was supposed to be done in 3-4 updates. Now it’s looking to be done in 4-6!
  4. In the 1st story arc for #AkumuLovePanic the story focused mostly on the plot, so the pacing was quicker. This was good and bad.
  5. Good in that the story was very focused and event-driven. Bad in that characters like Carlin are largely left unexplained. #akumulovepanic
  6. And Carlin was such a bewildering character too! I tried to keep her from getting too frustrating in my first round of edits #akumulovepanic
  1. If you thought Carlin was abrasive and confusing in the first story arc, you should’ve seen the rough drafts. In those, less about her was explained, and her actions really came across as someone who was crazy for the sake of being crazy. It’s maybe for this reason that I arranged for Amaya and Carlin to be stuck together in close quarters for an undetermined amount of time.
  2. But I think in my next edits, I’ll have to tone her down even more. Kiyomi and Usagi hardly get much attention too. #AkumuLovePanic
  1. That’s one of my lasting regrets from the first ALP story arc. While we at least get SOME details about Carlin and Haruko, we get virtually nothing about Kiyomi and Usagi. I’d originally intended for Usagi to be a much more prominent character, by way of her being with Amaya all the time for Equestrian Club. Her presence was supposed to be a gateway for Kiyomi, but the story ended up going a different way, resulting in neither of them having much explained in terms of who they really were or where they came from beyond surface details.
  2. Hindsight is 20/20. I would like the 1st arc to find that good balance for character and plot. #AkumuLovePanic
  3. Honestly, I prefer character-driven stories, and so maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the 2nd arc more. #akumulovepanic
  4. I really think the 2nd arc is much more character-driven. It’s true this may feel uneven or even at the expense of plot, but I feel less anxious about this somehow. Everyone is getting more attention: We finally get to see more of who Haruko is and where she lives, we see more of the awkward relationship between Amaya and her father, just recently we’re starting to get more details about Kento, for the first time we had a glimpse as to what Amaya’s mother is like, and of course we’re getting more about Amaya’s past. The only ones who haven’t been benefiting from this as much are Kiyomi, Usagi, and Oyama. We’re even going to be learning more about Hideaki and his mother Kishi in a few updates.
  5. I know the attention has mostly been on Carlin, and when I edit the story, maybe I’ll find a way to spread that out a bit #akumulovepanic
  6. In the next few updates I was actually hoping to shift some focus onto Kiyomi and Usagi (finally), and of course, Haruko #AkumuLovePanic
  7. Carlin’s attention has mostly been a situational accident (her hiding in Amaya’s room) #akumulovepanic
  8. This is what I mentioned earlier–arranging for Amaya and Carlin to be forced to deal with one another on a more intimate level.  I wanted the readers to understand Carlin, and recognize that Amaya’s view of her was skewed and lacking in information. Amaya isn’t a reliable narrator, and she even acknowledges this fact in-story. However, in order for the story’s perception of Carlin to change, I had to change Amaya’s view of her–thus the extreme situation.
  9. Some of you may have noticed her dialect has “lightened up.” This was purposeful. #AkumuLovePanic
  10. I’m talking about Carlin here.
  11. I was reading some older chapters and decided I HATED how her dialogue read. #AkumuLovePanic
  12. It sounded cartoony to me. Then I remembered some advice a teacher gave me a while ago #akumulovepanic
  13. “When giving a character a dialect, you need only suggest its existence for the reader–” #AkumuLovePanic
  14. “Once a form of speech has been established, the reader will recreate it in their head without need for constant prompting” #AkumuLovePanic
  15. One of the best advice I’ve ever received for my writing. I only wish I’d received it before starting to write ALP!
  16. So I started dialing back the contractions and instead focused on using the occasional slang and cadence of an Irishman #AkumuLovePanic
  17. I think it reads better. But this won’t be put in retroactively for a while now. I have other things that take precedent #AkumuLovePanic
  18. Senior year of college, editing Eikasia’s first market e-book, etc…
  19. Yeaaah…this new update took me by surprise. As I said, Carlin’s back story has humbled me. #AkumuLovePanic
  20. I didn’t realize how much attention it really deserved until I started typing it #AkumuLovePanic
  21. It was a nice reminder to respect my characters’ stories, a courtesy I’m eager to extend to Kiyomi and Usagi now! #akumulovepanic
  22. I realize that not all prominent characters need to have a complicated back story detailed to the reader to feel fully rounded. But like Eikasia, Akumu Love Panic has established a theme that time has a rippling effect, and the acts of yesterday affect the realities of today. In ALP this is especially true for Amaya, who struggles with her past of sexual abuse and the subsequent assault it ended in. It has shaped her greatly, and her past experiences are factored into many of her major decisions. With Carlin and Haruko, it is strongly suggested that their pasts have also greatly influenced who they are today. All that said, I feel it would be unfair to my characters to be blithe about their back story.
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Trigger Warnings for Writing

I’m not sure how I got onto this topic today. I was literally supposed to just sit down and read my assigned pages for class this week, when some link or tweet or whatever caught my eye, and it got me thinking on trigger warnings for books. Namely that I don’t see them! Now while I am not a victim of abuse or trauma, I can say without a doubt that I truly appreciate content warnings from films and shows. If they say: “This presentation contains graphic sexual abuse and violence. Viewer discretion is advised.” I will listen! I don’t like getting blindsided with the sight of a man or woman getting raped, abused, or tortured. I like knowing when these things may happen so that I can decide for myself if I can stand watching them. But the courtesy of trigger warnings is less important for me, and more important for those who have actually suffered such experiences, or perhaps knows someone who has.

Even subtle warnings seem to be absent in most books. For instance, my copy of The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett fails to mention that one main character gets raped, and another is forced to watch–not to mention all the incest. Was Mr. Brett expecting his readers to just take for granted that a dark fantasy book would feature such things? And there are plenty of books on the market these days that pull the same thing. What gets me is that movies and television shows are expected to warn viewers beforehand due to censorship ratings, but because books aren’t held to that standard they just don’t do it. I’m not saying books should be rated, but I find it a little disappointing that so many fail to think of those readers who re-experience their traumas again because of someone’s writing.

Of course, there are arguments for and against trigger warnings. I really liked the write up by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, who provides a reasonable argument as to why she–a PTSD sufferer–disagreed with trigger warnings. It was a dilemma I found myself facing when putting trigger warnings on Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic. What “triggers” should I even mention? Was I going to have to put a trigger tag on every post containing a potential scene, sentence, or phrase that could set someone off? And we’re talking about years worth of writing here, so the task felt overwhelming… But as Coslett states, triggers are everywhere and can come from the least expected things. I realize that not everyone who has suffered a particular trauma or negative experience may be triggered in the obvious ways. For all I know, one of my in-story jokes could set someone off. Another write-up by Ann O’Malley argues that people should at least have the choice to deal with such things, because the old phrase “don’t like it, don’t read it” doesn’t work if someone isn’t aware it’s even there. Cosslett touches on this a little bit too.

So here’s what I decided to do: for Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, I will not be tagging potential triggers in posts or hiding them in spoiler links.* On the front page (aka the “New Readers” page) for both sites, the header for trigger warnings will be highlighted in red (with a red instruction under “ratings” to scroll down to see it) and in that list will be a general breakdown of potential trigger warnings for each story arc for both series. In these lists, I try to cover some of the more common triggers, including one or two less common ones that I think are worth noting (like child death). Given the size of both Eikasia and Akumu Love Panic, combing the stories for triggers would be unfeasible. The best I can do is highlight those that are most likely to trigger someone, and let the stories run their natural course.

The point here isn’t to coddle people or to shove an agenda into people’s faces. I agree with Cosslett that the tendency to tag everything (from blog articles to tweets) with potential trigger warnings is a bit much. But everyone deals with trauma differently, and for those who seek solace in stories like mine, I think it is important to at least give the person a heads up about what they may encounter. People immerse themselves into stories, and sometimes that level of empathy can really impact a person strongly. I’d hate to send someone over the edge just because I failed to take the short time to offer a warning!

*For those Eikasia readers wondering why I’m not putting spoiler links on posts with possible triggers when I do that for graphic sex scenes, here’s why: Eikasia began as a story that didn’t feature graphic sex. I had asserted in the past that I wasn’t interested in writing sex scenes, but this later changed. In order to keep from alienating those readers who did not want to read sex scenes and came to expect their exclusion from the series, I put spoiler links. So the difference with trigger warnings and sex scenes is that I had always intended to write about certain controversial issues in Eikasia, whereas I hadn’t with sex scenes. I hinted at things like self-harm, rape, and torture early on, setting them up as a constant in the setting, and therefore something to be encountered at one point or another. Conversely, Akumu Love Panic does not have spoiler links for its sex scenes because it was established that the story would be featuring such things from the get go. I hope that is clear.

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