What I’m Currently Working On: Final Installment of Mythical Menagerie Series 1

Like the eternal optimist that I am, I signed up for NaNoWriMo again this month. We’re now pretty much halfway through November, which means I should be somewhere along the 25k word mark. I’m nowhere close to it, lagging behind at around 10k instead.

And I’m okay with that.

I’ve come to the realization that I really do enjoy not being pressured into writing every day, but even less so to be forced to adhere to a certain number of words. I know, I know, those are the hallmarks of a professional writer, but we can all agree that I’m not a professional writer. Writing a first draft is agony for me and I’d much rather do it at my own pace.

Now, if we were talking about National Novel Editing Month, then I probably wouldn’t have any issues keeping up or exceeding the required word amount, but alas.

(And yes, I’m a NaNo rebel, so this blog post is totally counting towards my word count!)

In any event, I am moving through writing the final installment of the Mythical Menageries Series 1 at a much quicker pace than I normally would have, so I’m quite content with that. The first draft will definitely be finished before the end of November. I plan to start the editing process (which I much prefer!) in December, have it ready for betas in January (because let’s face it, no one is going to beta read while on Christmas holiday) and then have the final draft of this installment done by middle February, if all goes well.

And then, dear readers, the novel will FINALLY be finished.

I’ll have to read through all the installments and make sure everything makes sense and that I haven’t accidentally renamed characters or forgotten key moments or left unresolved storylines (apart from those purposely left open for Series 2). I might try to enhance some descriptions, because I tend to underwrite (hence writing novelettes instead of novels). When that’s all done, the novel should be ready for release early 2019!

Other than that, I have a few bits and bobs that I’m busy with:

  • I still have to write this month’s flash fiction for my subscribers
  • I need to make some promotional images for Instagram
  • I want to do a series of short promo videos about mythological creatures
  • I want to do short AMA videos to post on Facebook, so if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below
  • I want to finish my Neil Gaiman storytelling Master Class
  • I’m working through a Udemy course on social media marketing – so interesting
  • I need to write a blurb for the novel

On a more personal front, I’ve recently started on a new health regime and have joined the gym again as part of that. I’m not into weight training and mostly go for cardio or yoga. I really enjoy yoga and have made it my personal mission to get much better at it. I want to be able to do a handstand again!

I also realized that the year is nearly over and I haven’t even written anything interesting about our June trip to Slovenia and Croatia on my travel blog yet. This will need to be rectified, before those memories fade too much.

If you’re a rugby supporter, you’ll know that the Springboks won the World Cup this month. The hubby and I were a little at odds at first, but he came around in the end, hehe.

The whole country has been celebrating ever since and it’s been wonderful to see all of South Africa’s disparate cultures come together as a nation again, something we’ve sorely needed lately.

Can you believe 2019 is almost over?! I swear the years go faster the older I get. So many things still to do on my checklist! Better get cracking…

Is there anything you want to ask me that I can answer in video format? How are your goals for 2019 coming along?

NaNoWriMo 2019: Yes, I Know, I’m Crazy

The last time I attempted NaNoWriMo, I failed miserably. I managed to reach the grand total of 4862 words, which I think we’ll all agree is a far cry from the required 50k.

And yet, this year, against my better judgement, I’m going to try again.

I’m in a much better place this year than I was the last time. My little one no longer wakes me up in the middle of the night, so I’m (mostly) getting my sleep in. I’m following a healthy diet and have gone back to the gym again, so my body is slowly starting to feel better. I’ve got a new job that makes me happy. And most importantly, I write regularly – not daily, but often enough that my writing muscles are much stronger than my actual physical muscles.

This year, I can do this.

Like the NaNo rebel that I am, I also won’t be working on a novel. Instead, I’ll be writing the last installment of the Mythical Menagerie Series 1, which should get me up to 20k words, followed by the first installment of Series 2, which should bring the total to 40k words, and then I have a short story planned for the final stretch that should get me to 50k. In theory, at least. I’ve also made peace with the fact that 50k is an arbitrary number – if I can get more writing done than usual, I’ll be happy, even if I don’t reach that specific goal.

I’m planning on getting up at 4:50 every morning and writing until 6:00, because my brain is at its best early in the morning, even though the rest of me isn’t. Failing that, the university for which I e-tutor in the evenings is finishing up its semester end of October, so I will have the hours that I spend at night on that free for writing. If all else fails, I’ll try to squeeze in some writing time during lunch (or on the job, but don’t tell anyone I said that!).

In terms of preparation, I already have plots for the first two stories and a vague idea for the short story (which I’ll need to finalise ASAP in this last week before November). I also still need to print out my inspiration boards, because they’re invaluable in helping me visualise the story in my mind and on the page. I have a Scrivener project prepped and ready to start counting the words.

So yes, this year I can do this.

Wish me luck!

Research Discovery: Common Misconceptions about Werewolves

Yes, I know I said I’d never write about alpha males, but as it turns out, there happens to be a werewolf in the Mythical Menagerie series. Rest assured, it’s not the alpha male we’ve all been subjected to by your typical urban fantasy – you know the kind, the brooding misunderstood loner who’s really softhearted, but don’t mess with his girl or the inner beast will come out. Nope, my werewolf is going to break the mould somewhat.

Hairy beast | © Leo Karstens, Pixabay

While I was doing some research about werewolves, I came across a few interesting facts that I hadn’t know before and that I thought was interesting enough to share here.

We all know that a werewolf is created when a human is bitten by someone who is already a werewolf, right? But where did the first werewolf come from? Well, most old stories talk about Lycaon, king of Arcadia, who served the flesh of his own son to Zeus to test if the god was indeed all-knowing. As it turns out, Zeus did not take kindly to being tested, especially in such a gruesome manner, so he cursed Lycaon and turned him into a wolf (and also restored the dead son back to life). There are also some myths that tell about saints who could curse people by transforming them into wolves. So being turned into a werewolf is a divine punishment, and not the result of being bitten, although there are stories in which people transform willingly with the help of various magical items.

While the old myths clearly state that werewolves are humans who have been turned into wolves (the animal kind), my perception of the creatures have been influenced by bad horror movies into picturing a werewolf as some sort of hairy human-wolf hybrid creature, which isn’t historically accurate.

Werewolves form part of a class of creatures called therianthropes, a term that refers to any human that can shapeshift into another species. Lycanthropy (from Lycaon) is what we call the ability to shift into wolf form.

Surprisingly, silver bullets do not, in fact, kill werewolves, according to ancient legends (which makes sense, if you think about it, since people didn’t have bullets in Lycaon’s time, did they?). This belief is relatively new and has its origins in 19th century German folklore, and has since been exploited by novelists and Hollywood as a convenient weakness for an almost indestructible creature. Although all therianthropes are vulnerable to silver, the old stories tell us that the only way to cure a werewolf is by ingesting wolf’s bane or by exorcism. I imagine a good old beheading would also do the trick, if you were thinking of killing rather than curing.

Another belief is that a werewolf can only transform during the full moon. This one at least, seems to be mostly accurate, since the ancients believed that the waxing and waning of the moon could initiate the change. Modern science has also shown that some people do actually become more violent when the moon is full.

When I’m writing my werewolf, I’ll be keeping the old legends as well as the modern myths in mind. He’ll be a combination of both and something unique to Ambrose’s world and my Mythical Menagerie series.

Do you have any interesting werewolf myths and legends to add to this post? How do you feel about werewolves in novels and in movies – love them or hate them? And why?

What I’m Currently Working On: MM Series 1 Final Installment

I won’t lie, I’m feeling a little dejected.

I spent the better half of the last month plotting and planning the final installment of my Mythical Menagerie Series 1. I have about 20k words to write and then I’ll have reached my desired word count and the entire novel will be finished. Long hours were spent at my favourite coffee shop, sipping on a chocolate freezo and filling my notebook with pages and pages of red scribbles.

My favourite writing spot.

I had a plot! It was exciting! It opened up lots of new possibilities for Series 2! There was even going to be a werewolf (although I vowed you’d never find me writing about testosterone-driven alpha males).

But what it didn’t do was resolve the one outstanding plot hole that needed to be addressed to bring closure to the story arc.

So, much to my distress, I decided to push this story out to Series 2. The final installment needs to be a denouement rather than more rising action. It needs to slow down after the climax of the previous installment and it needs to feel like a satisfying ending.

So I’m back to square one. I know what I need to write about, but the details are still eluding me, and how I’m going to turn this into something that’s both entertaining and a slow-down of the action, yet exciting enough to hook readers into Series 2, is beyond me right now.

Which also means, of course, that my self-imposed deadline to have the entire novel published before the end of the year is most likely not going to happen. It might – if I can come up with a good enough idea, I’m very willing to do the early morning writing thing along with the crazies attempting NaNoWriMo this year.

It just remains to be seen if I can wrap my head around a new plot in time.

How are you doing with the goals you’ve set for yourself this year? Are you on target or are you also scrambling against the clock to try and make them happen on time?

Survey Results: Your Preferred Retailer Platform

In last month’s newsletter I asked my subscribers to vote on their preferred retailer platform. I’ve not had a very good response – only 89 people completed the survey, but at least the results have given me some idea of where my readers buy their e-books.

Since the Mythical Menagerie series 1 is almost complete, my main concern (apart from actually finishing the book!) is to try to determine where to make it available. I asked my newsletter subscribers to vote between Kindle Unlimited and other large retailers, with the option to select “Other” and let me know which retailer I’m neglecting. The main feedback for this category was Google Play – huge oversight! I use Draft 2 Digital as my distributor, and unfortunately Google Play is still only in beta with them. Hopefully by the time the novel is ready for release, this will have been rectified. There is always the option to go direct – but life’s too short and I’d rather do other things (such as writing!) than log into every retailer manually whenever I need to update something.

So here are the results of the survey:

As you can see, 15% voted Kindle Unlimited, 54% prefer Amazon but are not in KU, and 31% in total make use of other retailers. So clearly, Amazon is the way to go.

However, I subscribe to the motto of not having all your eggs in one basket, and I definitely don’t want to disappoint any subscribers on my list who have been waiting patiently for years (!) for this novel to be released. I’d like to go wide with it.

So here is my plan to have the best of both: when the novel releases I will enroll it in KU for the required minimum period of 3 months. This will allow the first batch of readers to get their hands on it. When that time is up, I’ll take it out of KU and release it wide across all of the retailers available via Draft 2 Digital. That should give everyone a chance to read it and maximise my distribution potential.

I’ve worked really hard on this novel and I can’t wait to share the finished product with the world. Hopefully this tactic should satisfy everyone.

What is your preferred online retailer? Do you think my distribution plan will keep long-time subscribers happy and would you be willing to wait for the 3 months exclusivity period if you don’t use Kindle Unlimited?

Announcement: Strawberry Moon Press

I consider myself to be an independent author, which means not only am I responsible for writing the books, I also need to ensure their quality in terms of editing, cover design and layout, as well as marketing them to the right readers who would enjoy my stories. In other words, pretty much everything that a traditional publisher would have done for me (and then some) had I decided to try that route.

Therefor, it’s only fair that I make all my hard work official and set myself up as a publishing imprint.

So, with lots of fanfare, drum rolls and flag waving, I’d like to officially announce the name of my publishing imprint: Strawberry Moon Press.

Those of you who read last week’s post about full moon names will know where the inspiration for this name came from. The logo design was done by the incredibly talented Tallulah from Covers by Tallulah, and I just love it. I’m still deciding whether or not I want to create a web presence for the imprint – I might get round to a Facebook page at some point, but it’s not high on my list of priorities right now (finishing the book is!).

What does that mean for you as the reader? Just that you’ll see all my stories published from now on under one publisher’s name, rather than whichever distributor I’m using to push them to all the online e-book stores. Does it affect you? Nope! But I hope it will contribute to the professional image I’m trying to convey and stress how important I take the quality of my work.

Do you agree that a publishing imprint looks more professional for independently published books? Do you take notice of indie book publishers? What do you think of my chosen name and the logo?

Research Discovery: Full Moon Names

In Part 4 of the Mythical Menagerie series, Ambrose is up against the clock as he races to stop something bad from happening on the next Blood Moon. Now, I picked a blood moon because it’s a memorable event – it’s not every day that you see a red moon hanging in the sky – and because it happens fairly infrequently, and yet frequently enough that people should know what a blood moon is.

Blood moon – ominous or just dust particles? | Pixabay

It occurred to me that there might be some mythological background or legends concerning a blood moon, so I delved a little deeper to find out more. As it turns out, blood moons are not that frequent at all (the previous one was in 2015 and the next one will only be in 2032) and they’re most frequently associated with the Hunter’s Moon that takes place in October.

So I thought, great, this moon might be linked to Artemis the Huntress or something similar, but as it turns out, it has a much more practical history. Apparently, ancient cultures gave their full moons (i.e. every month) a specific name to indicate what time of the year it is. The Hunter’s Moon is so called because October is the month in which Northern Hemisphere people used to hunt, collect and preserve meat for the coming winter. I was born in June, the Strawberry Moon, named after those yummy berries ripening at this time of year. You can read more about full moon names here.

For the purposes of my story, the Hunter’s Moon won’t work, because it is set in March, known as the Worm Moon (or as I prefer, the Crow Moon). The Blood Moon also needs to be a more frequent occurrence, maybe every six months or so. And it has to be a little more ominous than stretched out light waves or dust particles in the air.

I guess this is where poetic license comes in.

And just how much fun is it to invent my own lore around a Blood Moon? A whole helluva lot, I can tell you. If you see me staring off into the distance, you’ll know I’m dreaming up my own myths and legends that might just become as mainstream as sparkling vampires one day…

Do you know of any cool myths and legends surrounding blood moons? What is your full moon called?

What Happened to Naia?

Last week I sent out my regular flash fiction story to newsletter subscribers and, as always happens, people responded with: What happens next? Give us some closure. You’re killing me!

So this story has been on my mind since then. The elevator pitch: Naia, priestess of Poseidon, prophesies the fall of Atlantis and then sees an enormous wave rolling in towards the doomed island.

Atlantis | Pixabay

Sunday afternoon I found myself with some rare free time: the little one was visiting his grandfather, the husband was in his workshop. I wanted to continue with my WIP edits, but it was cold and the duvet and the couch called me. So instead, in the name of research, I binge watched a series I had recorded on the PVR months ago called “Legends of the Lost” presented by Megan Fox.

Okay, we won’t go into her presentation skills, scientific method or the validity of her conclusions, but I found the series entertaining nonetheless, and offering some interesting ideas. However, when I got to the episode entitled “America’s Lost Civilization”, I had to sit up and take notice.

My arms were covered with goose bumps when the scientist told the story of a girl they had found drowned deep at the bottom of the Yucatan peninsula. Her remains suggested that she was over 12 000 years old, and that she stems from humans that are genetically distinct but share some commonalities with the most ancient civilizations of our modern world, such as Native Americans, early Central Asians and the indigenous people of South America.

They named her Naia.

And I couldn’t help but wonder at the coincidence of a girl named Naia who stemmed from an ancient culture that genetically links First Nation peoples throughout the world, who had died in Mexican waters just off the Atlantic.

If you know anything about the stories surrounding legendary Atlantis, and about how survivors were dispersed all across the world, and you think about the twist of fate that made me choose that specific name for my character – then your mind should be blown right now too.

Do you believe the legends of Atlantis? What are some of your favourite myths and legends of lost civilizations?

Research Discovery: Scorpion Bombs

While editing Part 4 of the Mythical Menagerie series, I found myself googling for “Roman era projectile missile gas bombs”. Okay wait, I may just have every country scouring the Internet for keywords hot on my tail right now, but bear with me.

There’s a scene where Ambrose is attacked with a hand grenade-like bomb that spews out some kind of sleeping gas. Aren’t first drafts fun? Anyway. So I thought it might be more interesting if the bomb tossed at him actually stemmed from ancient times – hence the dodgy search string.

Did you know that the Romans and Persians were already engaging in chemical warfare way back in the early ADs? Neither did I, and it fits in nicely with my plans for that scene. But, what really caught my interest was mention of a thing called “scorpion bombs”.

Picture this: clay pots raining down from the sky, and when they break open, a bunch of deadly scorpions are deposited all over you, stinging and pinching and generally causing havoc. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s the stuff of nightmares. If you’re so inclined, you can read more here.

Scorpion – not to be lobbed at people’s heads, thank you very much | Pixabay

Ambrose (probably) won’t have creepy crawlies lobbed at him, but life’s definitely going to get a little harder for him after this particular discovery.

Mwuhahahaha.

Back From the Balkans

It’s been just over a week since we’ve returned from our three-week campervanning trip through the Balkans. Technically I shouldn’t be calling it a Balkans trips anymore, since we only travelled through two of the four countries we planned to visit – Slovenia and Croatia. But wow, did those two deliver!

I am in love with Slovenia.

This unassuming little country checks all three of my happiness must-haves (mountains, forests and lakes) and even added a fourth one to the mix (church bells). The mountains are tall and snow-capped, the forests are dense green swathes that cover most of the country and the lakes really are that unbelievable shade of turquoise you see on Pinterest. Picture in your mind’s eye the forest in which Hansel and Gretel got lost – I’ll bet you just imagined Slovenia.

Croatia was almost as amazing.

To be honest, I think our enchantment with Slovenia doesn’t do Croatia any favours. Had we visited Croatia first, we might have liked it a little more, but now it almost feels like Slovenia’s ugly red-headed stepsister (sorry red-heads, it’s just an expression!). Croatia is anything but ugly. Think red-tiled roofs, fortress cities the colour of dark sandstone, and an ocean so deep blue your heart aches for it. I can understand why Dubrovnik captured the imagination of the location scout who picked it to be King’s Landing.

Did this trip fill the creative well? Indeed! I have at least three new story ideas and a wealth of beautiful settings for them to take place in. I am always inspired by travel, and while I don’t write any words while I’m on the road, my imagination is sparked by the places I visit.

So now we’re back home and everything is that dull shade of grey that overlays a mundane life. Sure, I’m happy to sleep in my own bed again, and not to have to share my bathroom with twenty-odd strangers anymore, but I’d rather be exploring a winding mountain road, or letting my imagination wander through the twists and turns of a medieval castle, or eat cream cake for breakfast (seriously people, why is this not a staple food?).

Slovenian cream cake – yum!

To combat this dour state of mind, I’ll be diving straight back into Ambrose’s adventures at every possible opportunity I get. My life may not be as exciting as his is, but at least I get to live vicariously through him. I hope you’ll join me on one of his adventures very soon.

Have you been to Slovenia or Croatia? Did you love it? Do you get post-holiday blues too? Where is your favourite fictional setting in real life?