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writing

Back on Smashwords (kind of); Summer/Winter Promotion; Diving Deep Into Writing

This is a very, very brief note to say a handful of things.

  1. I am (for now) back on Smashwords. Kind of. They’ve made a number of changes to their site, including regarding how they approach content, and so I’m making a few of my titles available again.
  2. I’m participating in their Summer/Winter promotion. The Baker’s Wife; Shining Armor; and Loki, Son of Laufey are all FREE from July 1-July 31. Lady Fair and The Lord’s Tale (part one) are 50% off. So, if you haven’t gotten one of those books yet, visit in July and see what strikes your fancy.
  3. There will be no further posts (far as I can see) in July. I will be devoting all the time I can spare to writing and editing for the next few months.

Have a great summer everyone!

writing

Curious Minds by Janet Evonovich and Phoef Sutton: some thoughts at the midpoint

Okay, so I don’t have a blog topic this week. Life has been crazy, and this post is more of a placeholder than anything else so that I don’t fall out of this new habit I’m developing.

Not to mention I’m crazy-deep in The Curator’s Song right now and things are really singing within the story. Very excited to finish this next installment in The Corellion Legacy.

And even more excited about the next project after that: The Lord’s Tale, part three.

Yes, folks, I will be writing the last part of that book after I finish The Curator’s Song. And boy am I ready to get back to it. I really miss that world! (Not to mention I kind of left it on a cliffhanger in part two, so…yeah. Definitely need to get back to that world.)

Anyway, during times when I can’t write but I can read, I’ve been reading Curious Minds, a mystery by Janet Evanovich and Phoef Sutton. I haven’t finished it yet. However, I would like to point out, here at the midpoint, that I think it’s a pretty good book so far. Riley Moon is a typical middle-class girl aspiring for more, and it doesn’t hurt that she’s got down-home roots. Emerson Knight is quirky. And smart. And very strange. The story itself, especially the romantic subplot, is fun. Just enough humor to keep things from getting too heavy, but there’s some great moments in there where I was very impressed by what had been said. I’m hoping the romance gets a little more…romantic, but it’s primarily a mystery, so my expectations are low.

This is the first Janet Evanovich book I’ve read, co-written or not. So far, I like it. I hope to finish it and read Dangerous Minds at some…future…point. If I have the time.

Back to writing.

How about you? What have you been reading lately?

the how of writing · writing

Thoughts on Writing Non-verbal Communication

I’m pretty busy this week, but I came across this excellent article on Writer Unboxed and thought I’d mention it, along with the importance of it. It was a difficult thing to learn, but vital to my writing: emotions show up in all sorts of ways in your characters.

When Zhiv (Trial of the Ornic) is thinking, he taps his thigh.

When Nicholas (The Will of the Unknown) is hiding the truth from Annie, he becomes very interested in some of the things around his cave.

I’m not perfect at this. It’s sometimes difficult for me to figure out how a normal person would react in a situation, let alone my own character. That’s part of why I bought The Emotion Thesaurus. I’m not a slave to the choices they make, but the lists within it get me thinking about how my own character might show the emotion they’re feeling.

Now, I have the Writer Unboxed article as well.

How about you? Do you like it when a writer does this? As a reader, do you have any favorite books that use these techniques? Or do you feel this technique doesn’t matter? Let me know!

my stories · writing

The Curator’s Song: Update and a Brief Snippet

This post is more of a placeholder than a real post. But, to make it worth your while…

The Curator’s Song, the sequel to The Lost Princess, is coming along very nicely. After throwing everything out and starting from scratch, I have a story that I’m really enjoying writing. Things are coming out about these two main characters, Rathe and Lily, that are making me very excited to see the moment they meet up with Doriel and Maple. In fact, writing this sequel is part of the reason I haven’t posted recently.

Given that writing a blog post takes up what little writing time I have, this may be the last post for a while.

So, to make up for that, I thought I’d put in a small snippet from the rough draft of The Curator’s Song. It’s small, but I like it and thought it might be nice to share, even if it’s raw draft.

The usual disclaimer applies, of course. This is raw draft. It is not edited. It also may not survive the editing/publishing process. Even though this is part of a raw draft, all rights are reserved.

Brief Background: Lily’s life is in danger and Rathe, a.k.a. The Blademaster, has decided to protect her and her sister temporarily. It’s become clear Lily needs to leave the city she grew up in, but she refuses to do so, even after a blatant attempt on her life, because Knocksure’s Hope is the only city she’s ever known. And Rathe isn’t happy with her refusal.

###

She had never seen an elf irritated before. His frown was a slight downturn of the corners of his mouth, a small crease between his brows. And yet she felt the force of it as surely as if her father had started waving his arms and speaking in a somewhat raised voice. “There was a man on the corner after I first spoke with your father about the hurt book.”

Lily felt her skin go cold once more. “And now he’s in prison.”

“The one that killed your father is dead. He was killed in trying to kill you. The man on the corner was a different one.”

She stared at him. “Why have you not mentioned this before?”

“Because I was not certain your family was the target. And because your father was still alive when it happened.”

“And after?”

“There have been many things to think about. After.” An earnestness came into his face, relaxing the crease and lifting the corners back to their neutral position. “You need to leave. Let the human leaders decide who is and is not a threat. And if it is one of them, then it is very good for you to leave and soon. The man who calls himself your almost-Uncle?”

“Sir Claudio.” She could feel a headache starting and rubbed her forehead again.

“He is here. He stays downstairs because he says he is too loud and…I do not know the word, but he thinks he would be too much for your healing.”

“He’d be right,” she muttered.

And to her great surprise, the Blademaster smiled. “He is a very…big man.”

And now she laughed. “He is.”

“But he seems to have a good heart. He has discussed your leaving with Mrs. Apitalia. She will give you dresses and other things to help you on your journey.”

“It does no good to run if you don’t know who you’re running from.”

He leaned forward, close enough she could clearly see a sea of men armed with swords in his eyes. “It does no good to die in order to find that out. I could fight them. One by one, or more than that if you ask it of me. But I was asked to protect both of you. How easy it would be to split up,” and she could see that vast sea dividing, “and focus. One group on one of you, and the other on the other. I am only one. I cannot be divided.”

Copyright Ⓒ Amy Keeley, 2018

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Like what you see so far? Comment, and I may share more snippets as I write.

Either way, thanks for reading!

writing

The Weak Become Strong: A Fantasy Collection, On Sale for $0.99 USD

I’ve combined The Baker’s Wife, Shining Armor, Loki, Son of Laufey, and the short story, “Master of Roads” into a box set, which should now be available at all major ebook retailers.

Also, I’m putting it out there at the introductory price of $0.99 as a way of celebrating the start of summer.

So, if you like fantasy with tricksters, with women who aren’t sure of themselves but grow stronger and more confident over time, if you like fantasy with a pretty strong romance within it, I think you may like the collection I’m offering.

Just so you know, the introductory price will go up to the regular price of $2.99 by noon (CT) on Friday, June 2, 2018.

Here’s a couple of links you might find handy if you want to buy it.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DDDGJBQ/

Universal Book Link: https://www.books2read.com/u/3J8JjK

Uncategorized

I Am Dragon: a Russian Fantasy Romance

I don’t usually like to do much for Mother’s Day. My kids like to do stuff for me on that day. I don’t. There’s no Kids’ Day, so why should there be a Mother’s Day? Yes, I’m weird. Still, it’s a nudge for me to take better care of myself and focus on who I want to be as a mother. And it’s nice to know that I might be doing better than I think I am at this mothering gig. Or, at least, that’s what my kids tell me.

Anyway, last night, as part of that taking-better-care-of-myself nudge, I decided to watch a movie that had been mentioned on The Silver Petticoat Review, a sweet fantasy romance set in a medievalish Russia called I Am Dragon. (And, btw, if you like sweet romance, especially the old-fashioned kind, that site is a goldmine. Worth every moment, I swear.) I heard it had a good heroine, a good plot, and, best of all, DRAGONS!

Seriously, did you see the cover of this film! If not, click on the link because, dang!

Just a minute. I need a moment to cool down. Because. You know. DRAGONS.

Okay, I’m good. Back to reviewing.

I watched the movie. And, oh, my, I remembered why I started writing when I was younger. I remembered what I loved. So much of what I’ve been doing now has to do with analyzing market trends and figuring out what does and doesn’t sell, how to package it and market it and so on and so forth and it gets…old. Very old.

I love to write. And I love to write fantasy romance with longing, with passion, and with—sometimes in a metaphorical sense, sometimes a literal sense—dragons.

I’m getting sidetracked, though. Let me explain why I think you, dear reader, should watch this film.

First off, I have to point out that I watched it in the original language (Russian) with English subtitles. All my points are based on that understanding.

Next, the story.

The opening sequence sums up (almost) the whole backstory. Girls were taken to a particular spot where an ancient song was sung and a dragon appears and takes the young women. It’s an amazing piece of filmwork, told with both a particular kind of two-dimensional puppetry interspersed wtih live-action sequences. It’s a horrifying sequence for several reasons, and we also see the importance love plays in this story, right from the beginning. Because it’s for the sake of love that the dragon is killed in the first place by a grief-stricken knight.

Time passes and we see the heroine of the move, Mira, getting ready for her wedding to a knight whose name I’ve already forgotten. Let’s call him Blondie.

Blondie is the grandson of the aforementioned dragon-slaying knight and he’s proud of it. So proud, in fact, that after a very long time of not singing that particular aforementioned ancient song, he decides it would be fitting if it’s sung as a part of him greeting his bride.

Which puts him, interestingly enough, in the role of the dragon. But I digress.

As Mira is pulled toward her destiny, the weather changes. The song still has power and the dragon isn’t as dead as everyone thinks. In a confusing, but beautiful and frightening sequence of scenes, we see Mira captured by the dragon and taken to a lonely island. Her only comfort comes from a mysterious young man named Arman, who, it becomes clear very early on, is actually the dragon in human form.

Because the point is not to figure out who this young man is. The point is to figure out what the dragon wants, and has been wanting, all this time.

And in the meantime, Blondie is searching for Mira. Will he find her? Will true love prevail? Or will Mira be consumed by the fire of the monster who holds her captive?

Now, my thoughts.

I love this movie so much. It has its flaws, but there’s so much that’s good in it, and so much that touches on the symbolic, that I forgive it gladly.

Mira starts off as a bit childish and spoiled, but she loves her father and trusts him when he tells her that she will learn to love the man she’s marrying. Her capture is terrifying in its reality of what being captured by a dragon might actually feel like. And yet she doesn’t cower or wait to be rescued. She fights. Every step of the way, in her own way, she fights. And never, at any point after her capture, is she annoying or stupid.

Arman is wonderfully written. Terrified of the dragon himself, his interactions with Mira and the hope that grows within him as he gets closer to her just made me melt. There are so many scenes with him I just want to blast my face off about, but I can’t. Because ninety percent of the joy in this movie is watching the growing affection and longing between Mira and Arman.

Ah, but how does he defeat the dragon? Who kills the beast?

It’s a great dilemma, and if you love Beauty and the Beast I’m pretty sure you’ll adore the same themes explored here. In some ways, I think it’s even better. And not just because of the dragons. There’s some great twists, beautiful scenery and images, the characters are smart, and the romance is everything I love in a sweet romance.

Ordinarily, I’d write down a prompt for questions at this point, but I’m so full of thoughts and images from the movie, I can’t seem to form one.

So, yeah. I Am Dragon. Highly Recommended.

cooking · frugality

Five Cookbooks for Frugal Cooks

Food is everything when money is tight. This has been my experience, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Food is what sustains, comforts, and gives a sense of stability and rhythm in the middle of chaos. Without it? Hope begins to disappear.

My experience has also been that good food at a good price means you must cook at home. Frequently. In fact, if you’re really strapped for cash every meal will need to be made at home, barring any outside-the-house freebies (like school lunches).

With that in mind, here are my top five recommendations of cookbooks for frugal cooks, based on the need to cook good cheap food. (Amazon links are not affiliate links. I am no longer part of that program.)

1. Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

Written specifically to help those who are on America’s Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (once upon a time known as Food Stamps), especially those who have that as their only source of food, Good and Cheap starts off with principles to help you stay within the narrow allotment that program provides. Some of the tips include:

  • No juice (use agua fresca instead…the recipe is included)
  • Reduce meat.
  • Use fruits and vegetables that are on sale, and make that your focus.
  • Make as much as you can from scratch (not as hard as it sounds).

I wish there had been more about menu planning, but that’s a small quibble. The book is very useful and the recipes are surprisingly delicious. Highly recommended for those on an extremely tight budget.

2. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

This is a monster of a book, but it’s also the one that does the best job of not only providing vegetarian recipes, but explaining how to modify, substitute, and properly make all sorts of basic vegetarian dishes. It also has the best egg noodle recipe I’ve ever made.

3. Dining on a Dime by Tawra Kellam and Jill Cooper

More than a cookbook, this is the book that helped me find every cheap, tightwad recipe I’d ever heard of in my life. Its main focus is to save you money without necessarily giving up meat or rich foods. (Though that’s a lot trickier than it first appears.)

Also, it includes cleaning recipes and beauty recipes, as well as some ideas for homemade gifts, among other things. Lots of frugal stuff in this book.

4. The Healthy College Cookbook by Alexandra Nimitz, Jason Stanley, Emeline Starr, and Rachel Holcomb

If you’ve never really cooked before and have no idea how to work your way around a kitchen, this might be the book for you. Meant for young adults who have just left home and have no idea how to cook for themselves, it does an extra bit of handholding, while pointing out ways to eat cheap without resorting to Ramen noodles.

5. Betty Crocker Money-Saving Meals by…um, Betty Crocker

This one uses a bit more in the way of processed foods than someone focused on health might want to use, but if you’re in a hurry and have no energy, it’s better to have recipes like these and the ingredients to go with it than to pick up the phone and order a pizza.

Seriously, that’s the last bit of advice I’d like to give here. Know your energy. Work with it. And be mindful of everything you make, everything you eat, and everything you spend on what you make and eat. A tall order, but worth the effort, even if you fall short.

What about you? How did you save money on food during hard times?

cooking · diy · miscellaneous

In which I make an herbal vinegar

I’ve been interested in herbal medicines for some time now, especially when it comes to medicine as it was given historically. One of those ways was herbal vinegars, which could be used for both medicine and flavoring food.

So, in the interest of spreading the knowledge, I’m sharing this link to Mountain Rose Herb’s instructions on how to make an herbal vinegar and also sharing, very briefly, my own experience in starting my own herbal vinegar.

I tried this because I had success recently with making my own infused oil using olive oil and some Complete Tissue and Bone (Dr. Christopher’s) herbal mix we had left from a few years ago. It made a small amount but was totally worth it.

So, I tried making an herbal vinegar using the instructions linked above and some herbs we bought around the same time as the Complete Tissue mix. Now, I’m only a few days in, so I can’t post pictures of the finished project yet, but here’s an image of the jar after adding the vinegar and screwing on the lid.

Points Pertaining to My Individual Creation:

  • I used a cleaned out and sterilized peanut butter jar with plastic wrap between the lid and the jar itself. Metal lids have a tendency to rust when it comes to vinegar, and this is the solution I chose to fix that problem. I store it in a paper bag on a shelf that isn’t anywhere near sunlight.
  • I had cut herbs and no coffee grinder so I used the blender to grind the herbs down. It took a couple of minutes and didn’t ever get to a truly fine texture, but it came very close. Close enough to use, in my opinion.
  • I did make one actual change to the recipe: I filled the jar two-fifths of the way with herbs instead of just one-fifth. There was no reason beyond preference for this change, and the fact that the herbs, though still good, are older than I would like. I can always dilute it, if need be.

So there you have it. Sound interesting? Anyone else out there try something like this? Feel free to share in the comments below!

my stories · writing

Soda Pop Dragon Charm Rewrite

So, I’m changing my approach to writing. It starts with a rewrite of my short story Soda Pop Dragon Charm, a chick lit fantasy I wrote some time ago. I recently decided to take a second look at it and compare it to the things I’ve since learned and, wow, I had no idea I’d written such a terrible main character. Very annoying. I kind of wrote her that way on purpose but didn’t expect her to be that boring to read.

I also took out a bunch of stuff that I thought was funny but that strikes me as offensive now.

So, I rewrote it a bit and tried to add in things I’d learned. I hope it’s improved somewhat. Any and all (non-spam) comments are welcome at this point. Thank you for reading.

(All rights reserved. And there may be further changes. Just so you know.)

Cover for Soda Pop Dragon Charm

Soda Pop Dragon Charm

by Amy Keeley

CHINESE ZODIAC PETS ON SALE! Friendly red letters on a yellow background with anime versions of the popular magical items smiled brightly down on Pax Caron, who stared at it from the sidewalk below. She felt like an idiot.

Go there, her mother had said, mala beads around her neck hitting the table as she leaned forward. That’s where I found my monkey charm.

And because the monkey had looked cute, like a little stuffed animal come to life, and Pax had been passed over for a promotion more often than she could count, and this job was all she had left, she agreed. Now, though, standing under the sign, she’d begun to have some misgivings. Continue reading “Soda Pop Dragon Charm Rewrite”

art · diy

In which I make an origami bookmark corner (or two or three or…)

I have a difficult relationship with crafting. Not because I don’t like it. I like it quite a bit, actually. Especially anything to do with paper. Paper crafts have, on occasion, made me giddy. I used to make some very pretty things out of paper.

No, I have a difficult relationship with crafting for reasons I can’t even define.

Maybe it’s a right-brain-shift kind of thing. Maybe I’m so used to being in my head, trying to piece together stories, that my hands are beginning to forget how much fun it is to make things. Or maybe, being a mom of eight, I’ve made too many things—simple, kid-type things—and I don’t know how to apply crafting to being a grown-up, even though my kids have figured it out and make some very beautiful things themselves.

So, as an experiment on my own psyche, I’ve decided to, on occasion, try out a small craft and post some pictures of it here.

Today’s craft is:

Origami Bookmark Corners!

It took a little bit to see where the instructions were going, but once I got my first one made, the others came together as if I’d always been folding them.

Decorating them, though…well, that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. But there’s more to come, so I’m sure I’ll have plenty of practice.

Here’s the instructions I used: How to Make an Origami Bookmark Corner. And here are some pics of what I made using leftover paper from another project. (I couldn’t help myself. I dressed them up with some marker doodling. I swear, the next ones I make will look more grown-up and stylish.)

20180408_14121120180408_14141220180408_142048

 

This is possibly the easiest craft I’ve ever done. If you’ve never tried origami before, I highly recommend starting with this.

What about you? What kind of crafts do you enjoy? Please let me know in the comments!