New Blog

Due to errors whenever this WordPress blog updates, I am moving my blog to a new service. For the second time since maintaining a blog, I’ve had updates mess up comments. Once was bad enough, but to have it happen a second time is too much. I will no longer be updating on this blog. Please refer to my new blog at manilles.blogspot.com.

Thank you for sticking with me through this.

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The teacher

There’s a saying I want to quote that I’ve seen on images that I want to share here: “The teacher is always silent during the test.” I don’t know the credit, but it is a very applicable statement when life hands us difficulties. As a Christian, I believe that the teacher is God and that he does test us for various reasons but ultimately to challenge us to be better people while keeping him in our lives.

A lot of my stories ultimately center around my personal beliefs about life, the universe, and everything. I’m not talking about the number 42. I mean my personal philosophies about living well, having faith (for me, that’s in God’s plan), and what it takes to overcome the challenges we face in life.

I’ve had some difficulties lately that have caused me many sleepless nights and some tough decisions, and I’ve probably driven people crazy with my concerns, theories, and attempts to find ways to fix things. I’ve prayed a lot, especially in the last week, but nothing like this morning when I realized that I was getting what I needed. Unfortunately, that’s not usually what I want, but I won’t get the answers until the test is over. When that happens is anyone’s guess. For now, I have found peace in accepting what may come until the next test.

That’s all I can say on these personal matters. We all go through difficulties. How we handle them determines who we become. I try to live by having faith that the creator of all life has a plan for me that’s better than what I can see. I just need to look for the path He’s trying to show me.

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A sense of accomplishment

It’s been a long road, but now that I’m back in the game, I feel very good about the writing. After all the editing I did last fall on four different stories over several months, it was HARD to get back into writing. I wrestled my internal editor into a chair, tied her up, and tried to stuff her mouth with cotton to keep her from interrupting the muse, which was very weak at that point. I wasn’t sure where to start but knew I needed to get something going. My muse pointed a weak, trembling finger at an idea that had been lurking in the shadows and I pulled it into the light.

After writing Tiger Born, I knew I wanted to write more in the world I had set up and had a fair idea of how I wanted to follow that up. I had even started a sequel with Nadia with what is hinted at the end of TB, but at around 33,000 words, it stalled out, too weak and unfocused to work. That was two years ago and the project my muse pointed me towards five months ago. So, while I was worrying about my horse’s soundness and health, I dusted off the story and started over.

What transpired over the last five months has been agony and struggle and eventually a clarity that I haven’t had in a long while. I didn’t know what the story wanted to be but let it happen along the way. There have been edits to make changes as I saw new paths, but I eventually decided on the right path as the themes shone through the fog and the characters revealed their secrets. The history of this world also opened up to me in new ways.

This morning, with little left to finalize, the last words came, wrapping up a story of love and hate, jealousy, ancient secrets, personal discoveries, political intrigues, and transformations.

It’s not as dark as Tiger Born, but Spirit Blade is far more involved, with character fates intertwined more delicately. And, I’m especially happy that it gives me ideas for further books in the same series. I’m just not sure which of the new characters I want to follow first, although I am leaning towards one in particular.

Over the next two to three weeks, I plan to add scenes and details and close any major plot holes, smoothing over the story from beginning to end. As often occurs in writing, a story can start out as one thing and end as another. Although I edited along the way to accommodate changes, there will still be some lingering like natters in the dark ready to strike (reference to this world). I’ve made notes to keep me on track for some of them, but it will require a couple of read-throughs to fully integrate.

Look for the first part to release in about two months with the next three parts every two weeks after that and the complete novel available in September.

Artwork by the talented Paul Davies will be coming this summer shortly before the release of the first part.

If you enjoy otherworld fantasy that is NOT based on medieval European settings, then you might enjoy this series.

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Weird but cool

I sold my old saddle–nothing strange about that. But in the arrangements, I had to go to Lowe’s for a box to ship it. That meant going across town, and Lowe’s is near the strip mall where Old Navy is located. I had to return something there anyway, so it was a good time to get it done.

Anyway, after stopping at Lowe’s I continued to Old Navy, where I encountered this:

0521141954They had already crossed a large parking lot with the help of an off-duty UPS driver (still in uniform but later drove away in a regular minivan) and his little girl. I guess the ducks were tired, because this is what I found when I came out and he couldn’t get them going any further:

0521141958~20521141959~3I think she had about 9-10 ducklings, all fuzzy and adorable! The mother was panting, so I can only guess they were resting. I hope they made it to the grass about sixty feet away. (I didn’t stick around.)

And as I got into my truck and was pulling out, I saw a license plate that floored me. It had to be a last name, purely coincidental:

ELIS

Starfire Angels fans, yes, there is a plate in my state taken with that!

What a crazy night!

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Summer’s coming

1. I think I found the little miracle I needed the other day. Horses aren’t all that different from people in some ways. Like people, give them enough respiratory allergy suffering and they can get the equivalent of a sinus infection. It’s a relief that Beau was already much improved in less than twenty-four hours after his first dose of Uniprim. I am counting my blessings…always. I guess I’m meant to stay in debt but happy a while longer :)

2. I had a saddle fitting today. Actually, it was a saddle trial. My old saddle is just not working for my horse anymore. It wants to slide up over his shoulders, and then I end up not sitting right and riding correctly is more effort than its worth. Plus with his asymmetries, my old saddle is always twisting sideways. Luckily, the saddle fitter had a large variety of brands and styles of dressage saddles. I sat in everything from too far back to too deep to too high in the pommel. It was amazing to feel the differences. But midway through probably 8-10 saddles, I sat in one I really liked and was shocked that little me felt so comfortable in a 17.5 inch seat. The best part was that it also seemed to fit my horse. It stayed in position through a couple of rides and I had to actually tell myself NOT to slide my legs back. That told me it was right for us. We’re giving it a test run over the next couple of weeks but I really expect we’ll be keeping it.

3. In other news, Spirit Blade has passed the 100,000 word mark and I hope to finish the first draft within another ten thousand words. Then it’s on to writing in extra scenes that I’ve been considering and on to something else.

4. By fall, I’m hoping to get back to writing in the Starfire Angels series again. I’m hoping to release Nemesis next spring by this time, so another year on that series.

5. I’m not posting as much lately online, but since stepping out of the Facebook personal profile, I’ve rediscovered some essence of peace. It’s taken me out of the habit of sharing everything. Plus, for the last few months, I’ve just been too engrossed in writing this fantasy novel to get out of my little corner of the internet much. But watch out come late July; I’ll be out promoting the serialization of Spirit Blade then. And hopefully I’ll have something substantial from the Starfire Angels series to present.

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Spirit Blade news

The second Demon Age novel is coming along well. If you haven’t seen my Twitter feed or Facebook page already, this will be an update to you. It currently stands at 92,000 words and I’m still going but getting near the end. I’m not yet to the big climax of the story but I will get there in a few chapters. I’m estimating the final word count to be around 110,000, but that’s only the first draft. I’d like to go back and add some details and maybe whole scenes before I set it aside.

The first novel, Tiger Born, is available for only $4.99 as an ebook but you can spend a little more and buy a paperback version if you prefer paper. At the end of that one, you were led to see that Nadia had a mission to finish with the dagger but you also saw a special connection between her an another man. Those are your only hints right now of what’s to come, although the title of this coming book, Spirit Blade, should give you a hint.

I’ll have more in a couple of months, before releasing the first part of this novel. And you’ll have the pleasure of seeing Paul Davies’s artwork once more. He’s worked on the five main books of the Legend of the White Dragon series and the current cover of Tiger Born. I’ve already provided him the information he needs to get started on Spirit Blade and can’t wait to see what ideas he conceives.

As I mentioned previously, this novel will be released as a serial in four parts, beginning the end of summer (hopefully around late July, give or take a couple weeks) and finishing in September with the complete novel soon after. All will use the same cover art, but descriptions and words on the cover will indicate parts or complete novel.

In nearly unrelated news, I have decided to stick around my Facebook author page a while longer. It would seem that something changed for the better there so I feel a little better about lingering on the site. I previously said I would be shutting it down this summer, but if Facebook continues to improve in the reach of posts rather than degenerating in scope, It’s worthwhile staying. The whole reason for being there was to connect with readers. It was declining, however, which frustrated me to no end. Now, it seems that’s improving. Yay! Just to be on the safe side, I hope readers will follow me on Twitter also; I don’t usually crossover posts between the two.

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Choice made

I’m not sure if I’ll get to any cons this year. Fargo CoreCon pushed back and extended their length into mid-June. I had fun last year, mostly in harassing the guys with their booth next to me in the vendor room ;) I learned how to take s**t and dish it out thanks to my awesome stepdad. By the time they said I had a vendor table for this year, I had already made other commitments. Nothing like being notified only two months before. :-/

This year, I was asked to judge the dressage classes at the spring show for where I board my horse. Scary! I’ve judged 4-H horse shows over the years, but dressage is far more complicated and precise. Luckily, my instructor went through the “L” program and lent me her (thick!) binder to review. I have other reading I also want to do for a better understanding of what I already know and don’t know that I don’t know, and only six weeks to prepare. *gulp!* I might have to judge my own instructor–see why this is scary?

I won’t be showing this year but I will be learning a lot. Judging is a great opportunity to learn from the other side of the fence. Maybe next year I can show my boy (assuming no more injuries or illnesses and the money available for showing expenses); and as long as I don’t take any compensation for this, I’ll qualify to regain amateur status. So, there’s one positive about not having the money to show or a horse that I feel is ready this year, besides that I’m still learning SO much. If I have the money next summer, I’d like to start showing in USDF shows. I made my mistakes at the schooling shows two years ago, some embarrassing since I didn’t understand everything, but that’s what schooling shows are for–figuring things out.

And that’s why I look at this judging as a great opportunity. I initially turned it down, but the alternative that the barn owner asked couldn’t fully commit and then CoreCon delayed getting back to me. Besides, we wouldn’t have anyone to watch the kids for the four days of CoreCon. As it is, I’ll have to find a temporary sitter while I’m judging…like grandma. And that will only be a few hours. It’s a small show, but riders do come from across the state sometimes for the chance at a schooling show and the fun events. Given the circumstances leading to this, I guess I was meant to do this.

Judging always scares me, because judges are not infallible. I never feel like I’m completely right but I’ve always tried to be fair, and I learned in my 4-H showing days that judges who could provide reasons and advice were always far more valuable, so I learned to do that myself. Judging is a lot like critiquing writing–you see your errors more when you find someone else’s, and the more experience you gain in the field of endeavor, the more you see your own faults and improve.

So, besides the writing I hope to achieve, I will also be studying intensely, at least through mid-June. After that, maybe I can relax…a little…at least until I have books to release for you to judge. Hopefully next year, the two events–CoreCon and dressage shows–won’t fall on the same weekend. I would like to do both.

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On Top of the World

This is my theme song. It keeps me going in my small victories since I first heard it.

By now, those who have read my blog have come to realize that life isn’t easy for my horse. His ulcers, chiropractic, and hoof problems have plagued him for nearly two years. Before that, it was strangles, then suspensory desmitis, from which he recovered very well. Before all that, when he was four, he was moving so well that my instructor thought we might be ready to play with piaffe within a year from that…before s**t happened.

So, we’ve had 3.5 years of crap with some ups but more downs. “It’s a long way up when you hit the ground.”

“I could of gave up then but

Then again I couldn’t have ’cause

I’ve traveled all this way for something.”

Nevertheless, I’ve persisted, because I had a dream and I keep believing in it. I’ve put lots of $$$ into getting to the root of Beau’s problems because he’s supposed to be my dream horse that I wanted for over twenty years. You can’t get anywhere in life without hard work.

“I’ve tried to cut these corners.

Tried to take the easy way out.

I kept on falling short of something.”

Taking the easy way out only makes things worse, especially in horse training and in healing. You have to develop patience in any dream, along with persistence and faith. Without faith that things can get better from your efforts, you would just give up. The only way to guarantee failure is to fail to try. Anything worth having is worth working hard to gain/achieve. In this case, it’s my dream of riding my own grand prix level dressage horse. Beau has the talent–accidental canter pirouettes, passaging on the lungeline, flying lead changes free lungeing…it’s all there. I saw something special in his yearling sales video and knew that with the good instructors I have, I could get there some day.

I’ve been playing this song in my head with every small success I’ve seen in our progress over the last year. We’ve had as many setbacks, but his body and feet needed time to heal and daily attention to them to keep them healthy. It’s been no small effort, but it is paying off. Last week, he was passaging on the lungeline after spooking at something outside–around and around a few times!–and tonight, he was nearly passaging under saddle after giving me suspension in his trot that I haven’t ridden in over 3.5 years. Three and a half years of problems!

And this is why I fight so hard for my horse’s health; he is a blessing to ride. It takes my breath away to feel like he has springs on his feet, feet that have finally begun to heal from no less than 110% effort on my part–cleaning his paddock every day so s**t doesn’t get packed in and feed thrush, supplements to boost his immune system and help hoof growth, every day detailed picking of his hooves and treatment for thrush, and now barefoot trimming myself. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are invaluable.

I’m not on top of the world yet, but I’m climbing, one step at a time! It’s still a long ways up, but I can at least see the sky now.

 

Something happened with the latest WordPress update that it erased all comments and won’t let you post comments. I apologize for this, but I don’t know how to fix it.

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television reviews

First of all, Happy Easter to all fellow Christians!

Now, on to the stuff in my head…

Arrow:

Hubby and I have been watching this over the winter. We watched the first season on Netflix in short time and loved it. This last year, we’ve been watching via Amazon Prime’s tv pass. I know we could watch for free on the CW website, but it’s easier to watch through our Roku box with AP.

Anyway, I’ve had some thoughts on it that hubby has echoed–this second season is thin on story and feels stretched. It also has gained plot holes that an asteroid could fly through. I won’t go into details and spoil it for anyone, but these holes are becoming annoying. I can forgive one or two things if the story is generally good, but the writers are taking away everything that made the first season good. It’s not building tension, it’s making the story hopeless. I can’t forgive that. So, the plot holes become more numerous to make things work but it doesn’t. I’m ready to give up on it, because it seems like the show has given up on itself.

This is never the way to write a series.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.:

It ties into the Marvel movies, and I loved Agent Coulson. (Um…inspired a character in a my Starfire Angels stories.) I’m glad they brought him back, but part of me also wishes they had kept his part small but important as it was in the movies. Sometimes it’s better not to see too much of a character and have what we love about them changed by seeing too much.

However, where this series started slow, it is building to something. I don’t know what, but I’m going to trust it will be worth continued watching. The plotline of the clairvoyant was tied into Captain America: Winter Soldier, which is why things were dragged out a bit. Now, I’m interested to see how they resolve things.

However, the threat here is, again, the problem of hopelessness. The writers walk a very thin line to create a viable threat to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s existence without taking away what is interesting about it. I’m going to trust that Joss Whedon can dance across that tightrope, because I love the Marvel movies and how this series has so far tied them in, starting after Marvel’s Avengers and tying into Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Other opinions:

Television series aren’t fun as they used to be even ten years ago. They aren’t as episodic as they once were but seem to have fallen into this dull zone of one long, continuous, stretched-thin story arc. I like condensed, clear, neatly-wrapped episodic stories with a hint of over-arching progress. I miss the days of Stargate SG-1, Farscape, and Babylon 5, which is why I keep going back and rewatching DVDs to get the satisfaction that current programs are largely missing. Maybe that’s why I’ve started watching Castle. If any TV execs are listening, can we please do away with the 22-24 segments of one long, strung-out story and make it 22-24 individual stories again?

Thank you. I just had to get that off my mind.

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Demon Age 2 news

I’ve made some decisions on this one.

1. The title is likely to be what I had in mind a few years ago. Since the end of Tiger Born leads into a focus on the dagger Nadia carries, the dagger used to take the spirits of many half-bloods, I’ve made that the starting and ending points for the story. Because the spell Nadia used was designed to pull the spirits of the person whose blood it drew, it is known as a spirit blade. From what I’ve written (around 3/4 done with the first draft), I am leaning towards titling this second book Spirit Blade.

2. The second news I have is a release date, or at least an approximate time–September 2014.

3. Last of I’m going to try something different–serialization. I hope to begin work with the artist in a few weeks for the cover. With luck, he’ll be done by July, depending on his schedule. At that time, I’d like to try something different with this. I sort of did it with Phantoms but that one easily wrote itself into two distinct novels. This one, however, doesn’t, but I can still make that work.

Here’s what I plan to do…The full version will be available as stated above, but leading up to that, I’d like to start releasing the novel in four parts starting in mid-late July and every other week, which would take to early September. They would all use the same cover with the additional note on them of “Part 1″, “Part 2″, etc. The full novel wouldn’t have any of that. In the description it will say “Part x of 4″ and at the end, I will provide an availability date of the next part and of the full version, so readers can stop at any time and wait until the full version if they prefer.

As for prices, here’s what I expect to do… Part 1 FREE ($0.99 until price-matched at Amazon). Part 2 $0.99. Parts 3 & 4 $2.99 each. The first part will be a lengthy free sample and the full ebook will be a little cheaper than paying for each part individually, but readers can sample up to half the book early for only $0.99 that way. I will do what I can to set up pre-order availability for the full novel.

The only way this will change is if the story ends up longer than I’m  currently planning, but for now this is looking like it will follow these plans.

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