Book Cover…Grrrrr.

K'duktil and Cavern CoverOne of the things I like best about self-publishing is being able to take control of the process myself. For me, it’s fun to play around with new ideas and try to learn new skills. The operative word here is ‘try’. Damn me for wanting to learn stuff.

While the other covers took me some time and effort to work out, I’ve had a difficult time getting a cover made for Jerrung and the Kwaad Cavern, a children’s book that will be out when I can figure out its wrapping. Nothing I do seems to work and capture the story, and I think I’ve made thirty or forty of them.

That being the case, I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities, the best I can come up with for this particular story. I’ve added the two possibilities and the blurb. I’d appreciate any thoughts on the matter, positive or negative.

Yellow Ogre.jpgAs always, best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://lissadobbs.com

Blurb:

At almost eight years old, Jerrung is sure he’s old enough to be a warrior, to have a real sword. His parents disagree. They think he’s just a child.

But when Jerrung’s sister is kidnapped by the Kwaad, Jerrung knows his time has come. Jerrung isn’t going to wait for the rest of the village to make their plans. He and his friends head into the mountains to rescue the prisoners.

Can the dwarves find their way through the tunnels and back out before the Kwaad find them?

 

Writing Update

IMG_20160428_203226Things have been a little hectic lately. I started a new job with a weird schedule, so I haven’t kept up with things the way I should. I have been writing some, though, both stories in Grevared and some horror stuff.

I have two short stories completed and am doing revisions. One is the Muhulda Urswyk story that posts here every Wednesday, and the other is a horror tale.

I’ve been making progress on both the YA WIP and on ‘the story that never ends’. I finally like where the trilogy is going. I just hope I can keep it going in this direction. I’ll tell you, these guys LOVE to take off on their own.

I have a children’s story that’s in its editing phase. I’m almost through with what I hope will be the last of the edits. Now, I just have to decide on a cover for it. This story takes place in the Kingdom of Emerell, just to the west of Moirena. The village of Everstone is attacked by the Kwaad, and Jerrung’s sister is taken. Not willing to wait for the adults to go after them, Jerrung and his friends set off under the mountain. Finally, he gets to have a real adventure.

I’m hoping that I’ll settle into my new schedule and get back to being productive.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

I turned and made my way back down the alley and onto the next street. I hadn’t realized just how tense I had been until I felt my shoulders relax in the warm glow of the gas lamps. I was only a few blocks from home, and the proximity gave me a sense of safety, real or not.

I was just turning my key in the lock of my flat when I heard boots thudding on the cobbles. I turned, ready to attack if need be, then sighed when I realized it was the Shadow Walker. “Look,” I said when he got close enough to hear me. “I’m tired, and I’m cold, and it’s been one bitch of an evening. Can whatever you have to say wait until the light shines?”

He nodded and gave me a small smile. “Yeah, but I need to know where to find you. There’s something not right about those guys, and I need to figure out what it is.”

“You mean, besides tentacles shooting from their mouths?” I sighed again and nodded. “Fine. Where will you be mid-morning? I’ll come to you.”

“I’ll be at the Shadow Walker guild hall,” he replied. “My name’s Elbert. Elbert Simmons.”

“All right, Elbert Simmons. I’ll come in the morning. Now, good night.” And, with that, I left him standing on the doorstep as the snow began to fall in earnest.

 

*****

 

I awoke the next morning to a light covering of snow over the city. I had to admit that Sangeron covered in snow was a beautiful sight, even this part of town, which wasn’t the poshest. Still, though, it was enough to make me regret telling Elbert Simmons that I would meet with him, so I decided that whatever it was he wanted could wait and curled up with a parchment pad and a cup of hot cocoa instead.

I was halfway through writing an article I wanted to submit to the city’s paper when a knock at my door interrupted my thoughts.

“Dammit.”

I placed the pad on the small table beside my chair and shuffled to the door. Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about the intrusion and had a good feeling I knew who was going to be standing on the other side of the door. I had no desire to see the Shadow Walker, no desire to get involved in whatever it was that was going on.

I opened the door and cursed again. I was wrong. It wasn’t Elbert standing on my doorstep. It was worse. Far worse.

“It’s freezing out here. Let me in.”

I sighed and stepped back from the door. The woman brushed by me without so much as a glance, her fur scarf slapping me in the face as she passed.

“Shut the door. I don’t want anyone to see me here.”

I sighed again and closed the door. By this time the woman was in my parlor in my chair and reading the article I’d been working on. I marveled at how quickly she could intrude.

“Are you seriously still working on this drivel? Come on, Mully, you’re never going to make is as a writer. Just come work with me and Rupert and do something more appropriate for our station.” She looked around the room at the worn furniture and the faded wallpaper. “I mean, really…” She waved her hand at the parlor. “This is so beneath you.”

I reached around her and grabbed my cup, one of the few delicate pieces I owned. “I know, Matilda. You tell me this at least once a week.”

My sister, twin, to make things even worse, rolled her eyes at me and plopped herself into my favorite chair. She slung her scarf over her shoulder in that annoyingly pompous way she had and crossed her legs. She dangled a delicate heel and examined long, polished fingernails. I glanced at my own gnawed ones for a moment, then crossed my arms and stood tapping my foot.

“What do you want, Matilda? Why are you here?”

Matilda looked up at me with the same magenta eyes I saw in the mirror every morning. “All right. Look. Rupert has an opening for a secretary. It’s not a glamourous job, but it’s better than the one you’re working now. I mean, come on, having my twin sister work at the Steam Whisper is embarrassing.” She sniffed and patted her hair. “The job won’t be hard. All you’ll do is check in the patients and take their money. Rupert and I take care of the biotics.”

Anger seethed in my gut, and I nearly choked myself trying to swallow it. Why in the hell Matilda had followed me all the way to Sangeron, I’d never know. All I’d wanted was a little peace from the expectations of my hoity-toity family and a chance to pursue my own dreams.
“What’s it to you?”

Matilda rose, every movement designed to keep my attention on her. “It’s simple. We look alike.” She took a step toward me, and it was all I could do not to punch her in the face. “Same hair, same eyes. I get tired of being mistaken for a serving wench in a tavern.”

I took a step back and clenched my fists. “Then dye your hair or something.”

Matilda laughed, a sound that had never failed to get on my nerves. “Why don’t you dye yours?”

“Because I’m not the one with the issue. You are.” I stomped toward the front door without looking to see if Matilda followed me. “Now, I’ve got things to do. You and Rupert can live your own lives and leave me alone to do the same.” I opened the door and shivered in a blast of cold air. “Go.”

Matilda rolled her eyes again and looked at me like I was a ghighet in her trash, then she sauntered out into the snow without looking back. I slammed the door behind her and let off a string of curses that I was sure left a visible cloud in my flat, then I returned to my parlor and tried to get back to my article.

No luck. A low boil of anger and hatred burned within me. My sister had been the bain of my existence since the day we were born. Always wanting to please, always wanting to raise her station, she’d pushed and prodded me to the point that my job at the Steam Whisper was far preferable to anything Matilda had to offer.

 

Research Willies

library-419254_1920I have a fascination with Victorian England, I’ll admit. I suppose it comes from Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol being one of my favorite books and movies, and I use some of that ambiance in my writing; it’s an essential part of the world, though it isn’t true to history. Since the world itself is a hodge-podge that exists after the rest of creation is destroyed, I take a good bit of liberty with my clothing, setting, magic, and technology. That being said, I still research to get ideas.

My most recent research acquisition is The Invention of Murder by Judith Flanders. I have to say that it’s a fascinating read. It examines the Victorian and pre-Victorian attitude toward murder and the value of these crimes as entertainment. Even among the wealthy, taking a tour of murder scenes was an acceptable pastime. She talks about the penny bloods/penny dreadfuls and the creation of the broadsides as well as giving information on the murders themselves. I’ve gotten a lot of good information from this work, and I’m only about halfway through it. In fact, I’m actually writing fewer hours a day to allow more time to read it.

I know in some of the online writers’ groups we often comment on what would happen if our browser history was targeted by the government. I’ve often wondered the same thing when it comes to my bookshelf. Reading and researching murder doesn’t bother me, but there are some of my characters with attributes and interests that require delving into subjects I have no interest in and that make me want to take a shower once I have the information. If only brain bleach was something you could buy at the store…

Anyone else ever have that issue? Are there things you have to research that make you wonder about yourself and your characters?

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk Vintage

Once outside, I pulled my cloak around me and huddled against the breeze. It was quieter than inside, but not by much. Sangeron had always been a town that didn’t sleep, and, in this neighborhood, calls from the ladies of the evening went on until the light shone. Then there was the music coming from the burlesque houses, where shows ran until four hours after midnight, and the drunken tavern goers who always seemed to have a song to sing on their walk home.

I sped my steps as icy wind funneled through the narrow street. Its needles pierced my cloak, and I cursed Bramwell for his insistence on the burlesque-style uniform he insisted we girls wear. Oh, it was mostly respectable—the operative word being ‘mostly’—but in the middle of the cold months the thigh high boots were the only part of the outfit that offered any warmth.

I turned down an alley and took a deep breath. The buildings hunched over me like toads squatting in a squalid pond, and I shuddered at their weathered boards and rusting metal. This was nothing like the small cottages I’d known in my youth in Waterford Down, and part of me wanted to say to hell with it and head back there. At least there, I would be warm and could find what my mother would call a ‘respectable’ occupation. Yeah. Right. In her mind that meant a husband and a gazillion brats constantly under foot. No thank you. Still, the thought of comfort was a strong draw, and I often had to remind myself that I’d left so I could be my own person.

I was nearing the end of the alley when the sound of boots on cobbles caught my attention. I cursed myself for letting my mind wander and hurried to the next street. Even the watery light from the gas lamps was better than the gloom of the alley. At least in the street, I had a chance of fighting back.

“You done with that generator yet?”

I sighed and pretended like I didn’t hear. I recognized the voice as the biotic in the tavern, and I still wanted nothing to do with him.

“Hey, bitch.”

Now, his words were clear. The Bleeding Grim must’ve worn off. I hesitated, trying to decide if I wanted the hassle of dealing with him, for I was close to home, such as it was.

“I’m talking to you.”

His voice echoed in the closed space, and I could hear other booted feet join him. Three against one wasn’t good odds, and the gods knew I had little chance of getting away from them. Still, though, better to face them on my terms than on theirs.

“I heard you the first time,” I replied. “And, no, I’m not through with the generator. It’ll take some time, just like always.”

He closed the distance between us quickly, his long legs taking one step to every two of mine, and grabbed my arm. He leaned in close. The sickly-sweet smell of the Melon Peckers gagged me, but I swallowed hard and kept from vomiting. Let him think it was fear I swallowed against.

“What is it with you bitches that you think you’re too good for the likes of us? What’ve we ever done to you?” he snarled. His teeth were yellowed and decaying, and I idly wondered why. I mean, if he could replace half his body with biotics, why couldn’t he do something as simple as see a mouth physician and have his teeth fixed?

I snatched my arm out of his grasp and pulled my cloak more tightly around myself. I used the movement to pull the dagger from an inside pocket and held it ready. “I don’t think I’m too good for you. I think I’ve got better things to do. Sweet cheeks, you could be the prince of E’ma Thalas, and I still wouldn’t want to see the town with you. Got me?”

He looked confused for a moment, like he was trying to work out what I’d said, then he snarled again and reached for my arm. This time I was ready, and I slashed at him, not enough to do any real damage, but enough to let him know I wasn’t playing around. The blade grazed the skin of his good arm, and he howled like a toddler wanting sweets. He backed away with anger flaring in eyes a bit too green, and I let my own rage show.

I could feel my blood racing through my body, and my vision took on the reddish tinge it always had when I was angry. If the bastard didn’t back off soon, he was going to have a worse night than he was already having.

“Hey, Ruger.”

The man with the piercing had come into the alley and now stood with his arms crossed on his chest. The other friend, the one with the head plate, stood beside him with a matching snarl and flexed his muscles. I shook my head and sighed. Men.

Ruger snarled and whirled, and tentacles shot forth from his mouth. I gasped, nearly screamed, and almost tripped over some rotting vegetables as I tried to back away. Now, my thundering heart was from fear, and that was one thing I couldn’t tolerate.

The pierced guy grabbed one of the tentacles and yanked, and Ruger stumbled forward onto his knees. The other guy turned and shot tentacles from his mouth as well, but the pierced guy just slapped them away. He seemed resigned to the way this was going to play out, and I could’ve sworn I heard him sigh.

A golden glow surrounded him, and for a moment I could see all of the alley, all of the garbage piled around the bin, and it seemed to make the stench that much stronger. I coughed and held my nose, then the odor faded from my mind as a glowing sword appeared in his hands. My mouth dropped open, and I stared for a moment. “Shadow Walker.” Then he began to move, and I was lost.

His body was pure grace and fluidity. I could barely keep track of the individual motions, so smoothly did they flow together. Ruger shot forth more tentacles, and the pierced guy slashed them in one motion that began in his shoulder and flowed down his arm. Ruger screamed, a strangled sound like someone sinking beneath the rapids of the Crystalhand River, but the Shadow Walker simply continued his movement and slit his throat. Black ichor fountained from the wound, and the other creature howled as if it had been him who was wounded. But the Shadow Walker didn’t leave him out. He, too, lost his tentacles and his life, and the alley was soon filled with the stench of demon death.

Another glow surrounded the Shadow Walker, this one much dimmer than the first, and the sword was gone. The Shadow Walker seemed to disappear for a moment, and I stared into the darkness, now much deeper because of the light, but I couldn’t see any sign of him. A moment later, he appeared before me, and I jumped back, my own weapon raised.

“It’s all right,” he said. He gave me an appraising look that made my cheeks burn then looked back up at me. “Are you all right? Did they hurt you?”

I shook my head and tried to untangle a tongue that suddenly seemed to big for my mouth. “I’m fine. Thank you.” I looked at the bodies on the ground. “What were they?”

The Shadow Walker sighed. “Demons,” he replied. “Though why they’re here, I don’t know.”

“I figured they were demons,” I replied. “I meant which kind? We don’t get too many of the non-humans in the Xaggarene Empire.” I shrugged. “Not out in public anyway.”

“I know. That’s what makes their presence here so disturbing.” He ran his hand through hair the color of autumn wheat. “It’s not like there are never non-humans here, but demons are a little less tolerated than everyone else. Most of them steer clear, especially of Sangeron.” He paused for a moment. “Or they stay in the sewers out of sight.” The Shadow Walker waved toward the north of town where the emperor’s palace sat on a slight hill. “With His Worship so near, it just isn’t safe for them.”

The temperature was dropping, and I felt the first snowflake fall onto my face. I was freezing in the short skirt I was forced to wear for work and wanted to get home and put on warmer clothing.

“Well, thanks for the rescue,” I said. “I really need to be going.”

He nodded then gave me a quizzical look. “They seemed particularly interested in you. Why?”

I shrugged and gave him a humorless grin. “Couldn’t tell you. Maybe because I’m young and nubile? Who knows?”

He nodded, but the look of consternation didn’t leave his face.

“Well, good night.”

 

Book Versus Movie-Coraline

Book vs MovieI’ve been a fan of the movie Coraline for years, but it was only recently that I came across the book, the glory of now living in a town with a bookstore. I have to say that I loved the book as much as the movie, though there are differences between the two.

In the movie, Coraline moves into an old house that has been divided into apartments. This is the same in the book. However, in the movie the house is owned by the grandmother of one Wybie, a strange little boy who gives Coraline a doll that looks just like her. In the book, Wybie and the doll don’t exist.

In both the book and the movie, Coraline’s parents are too busy to entertain her, so she’s forced to take care of herself. This leads to finding a small door with a brick wall behind it. Coraline’s mother tells her it’s there because the house was made into apartments.

In the book, the drawing room is described as a nice room where no one can sit on the furniture. In the movie, however, there’s little in there, and the room is depressing.

In the book, Coraline goes through the door and down a tunnel while her mother is at the store getting groceries. This isn’t the case in the movie. In the movie, Coraline first goes down the tunnel in a dream. Here she meets her ‘other mother’ and has a wonderful meal which seriously outshines her father’s cooking. In the book, she looks around the ‘other’ world and decides it’s too weird. After a brief first visit, she goes home. It is only when she gets bored waiting for her mother that she returns for the meal.

The interactions with the neighbors seem to follow pretty closely together for the book and movie. There are some minor detail differences but not many. It is only when Coraline returns to her world and discovers her parents aren’t home that the differences begin again.

In the book, Coraline does things like eat frozen pizza for dinner, watch TV, and take a bubble bath. When she wakes up in the middle of the night and sees the cat, she asks if it knows where her parents are. The cats only leads her to the hall mirror where her parents write ‘help us’ on the other side. They’re trapped in it. In the movie, there’s no sign of a TV, and there’s no food in the house. Coraline knows immediately that her parents have been taken, and she doesn’t call the police. Instead, she returns to the ‘other’ world.

There’s a good bit of similarity between the book and the movie during Coraline’s competition with the Beldam. In both, she spends time with the ‘other’ neighbors and seeks the souls of the trapped ghosts. The biggest difference here is that the souls are referred to as ‘eyes’ in the movie and ‘souls’ in the book.

Once Coraline has defeated the Beldam and rescued her parents, she must get rid of the Beldam’s hand, which follows her back to the real world. In the book, she has a tea party with her dolls, and the hand falls into the well. In the movie, Wybie helps her throw the hand down the well.

All in all, both the book and the movie are well done, and both are worth the experience.
 

Muhulda Urswyk – The Truth Behind the Bile

Muhulda Urswyk VintageMuhulda Urswyk is a reporter in the Xaggarene Empire, usually from Sangeron. She claims to have an inside path to the emperor and has a hatred for the Shadow Walkers. She owns and runs The Lock and Key, a publication that spews her particular form of bile (though I haven’t put one out in a while).

I’d meant for Muhulda to put out an edition every month, but time has gotten away from me, and, for some reason, my ability to organize my time has gone the way of the dodo.

I was in the process of creating another edition of The Lock and Key when it dawned on me that I had no idea why Muhulda hated the Shadow Walkers so much. Sure, there are plenty of people in the Xaggarene Empire with prejudice against those of magical blood, but that, alone, didn’t explain it. Not to the extent that she hates this group.

The solution?

Write a story about why Muhulda hates Shadow Walkers.

Below is a snippet from the story. Feel free to comment and make suggestions.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

 

 

The tavern was loud, as usual. I carried yet another tray of Melon Peckers to yet another group of reprobates who had nothing better to do than drink and smoke and pump Bleeding Grim into their brains. If they had brains, that is. I wasn’t sure. They surely didn’t act like it.

“Hey, beautiful, wanna let me show you the town?” His words tangled in his mouth and came out in a mush that I only understood because I’d heard it so often.

“Not tonight, darling. I’ve got to fill the generator.” A classic, cliched line, I knew, but, hell, even if he wasn’t scruffy, half biotic, and drunk off his ass, I still wouldn’t want to let him touch me.

“Aw, come now. Give my buddy a break. He’s done had his heart broke.” This one wasn’t any better. A metal plate covered one side of his head, and a lens had replaced his left eye. I could see wires running from the back of his head down into his shirt, and I wondered what other parts he’d had replaced with metal. He was more human than his friend—whose entire right side appeared to be mechanical—but I’d already brought him three hits of Bleeding Grim, and that was since middle night.

“I wish I could, but the mister’s waiting at home, and he wouldn’t take too kindly to it.” This was a lie, of course. There was no mister, and there wasn’t likely to be one, but I couldn’t let him know that.

“Leave her alone, guys.” This was the third one of the bunch. He’d consumed far less than his buddies, and his only alteration was a ring in his nose that connected by chain to a stud in his ear. He had a tattoo on his cheek of some kind of symbol, I wasn’t sure what, but, otherwise, he looked nearly respectable.

I mouthed a thank you and high-tailed myself back to the bar. It was almost quitting time, and I was ready to leave. Heck, I was always ready to get out of the place, and I hated myself for having to be there to start with. It wasn’t what I’d wanted to do, and it sure as hell wasn’t what I had spent four years in University for.

I set my tray on the bar and gave the place a look. The brazier still glowed a healthy orange, so I knew it had plenty of coal. The floors were mostly clean, and the oil lamps on the tables still flickered. Fans twirled lazily overhead, more to dissipate the smoke from smoke sticks than to cool, and no one had knocked the armor off the wall tonight. Even the sword, supposedly dating back to the days of the first emperor, Arronax Billinghurst, had been left alone. A good night in the eyes of the Steam Whisper.

“Muhulda, you stayin’ or goin’?” asked the barkeep, who also happened to be the owner. He was an ass most of the time, but, every once in a while, some vestige of a decent person shone through.

“I’m going,” I replied. I glanced back at the table I had just served. “I’ve had enough for one night.”

Bramwell nodded once and didn’t say more, and I took my chance and skedaddled before he had a chance to change his mind.

 

Dealing with Stories You Hate

landing-page-websiteThose who’ve followed along know that I’ve been posting a “The Little Mermaid” like tale for the past few Sundays. Obviously, I’ve pulled that tale, but there’s a reason for it.

I hate it. I mean I really, really hate the story. I don’t like the girl trying to change herself to get the guy, even though, let’s face it, most of us have done it at one time or another, especially when we were young. I hate the attitude of the dwarves, self-righteous little pricks that they are. I hate the fact that I have no idea where it’s going, and I hate the writing. I hate every single thing about the story.

As an author, sometimes we have to kill our babies, whether we want to or not. It can be painful sometimes, but, other times, it’s a justifiable homicide. That’s what it was with the tale that I pulled. Completely justifiable.

Does that mean I won’t revisit the story at some later date and see if it’s salvageable. Well…actually…I probably won’t. I have so many ideas going and so many projects in the works, that the likelihood of ever having time to go back and look at it is small. But I don’t mourn it. I don’t mourn letting the tale go.

Are there any of your stories that you decided just weren’t worth the time needed to turn them into something readable? Did you feel like you were letting yourself down when you let them go? Leave an answer in the comments.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com

Lethatu…Oops.

Ravyn's LetterI’m one of those people who loves to create worlds, and when I create a world, I want to create all of it. I want maps of everything, cultures to inhabit it, stories, history, religion, magic, and language. And I was well on my way to having all of that.

Then I moved.

Somehow, in the process of moving, the notebook I had written the grammar rules and such in disappeared. It’s a loss, I’ll agree, but it also gives me the opportunity to make some changes to the language and make it more in line with what I want it to be. To that effect, I’m not mourning the loss of the notebook. Instead, I’m going to begin at the beginning and make something that was better than the original. The only down side I can see is that the letter Ravyn Grimsbane left to her daughter Gwennyth will have to be a dialect not spoken anywhere else. But that’s okay, too.

What aspects of world-building are your favorite? Do you relish the opportunity to make changes? Feel free to comment.

Best wishes!

Lissa Dobbs

http://www.lissadobbs.com