George Floyd: Murdered in Minneapolis

His name was George Floyd.

He had a daughter, age six.

He came to Minnesota for work from Houston, TX and had an attitude of forward momentum in improving his life. Floyd had a troubled past, but when he paid his debt to society after committing a robbery in Texas back in 2007, he made it his mission to start fresh. By all accounts, Big Floyd, as he was known by many people where he served as a security guard at the Congo Latin Bistro, was doing just that when COVID-19 hit and Governor Walz closed down businesses across the state.

Just two days ago, Floyd walked into a store and tried to pay for goods with an alleged “counterfeit $20”. The clerk called the Minneapolis Police Department, for a possible forgery. Even so, Floyd cooperated with police as they removed him from his car, handcuffed him, led him to the side of a building and had him sit down. His hands were bound and behind his back. He was not yelling, shoving or stumbling. Surveillance video clearly shows his passengers cooperated with the police in stepping back from the scene. Surveillance video shows Floyd cooperating as police led him to the squad car. How he fell to the ground or was pushed to the ground wasn’t entirely clear. We do know how it began and how it ended.

People have made claims that cooperating with the police saves lives and the justice system will provide due process. In this case, cooperation failed. Due process failed. The entire government system, politicians, officials, lawmakers, citizens who tolerate them, and the police failed.

The police played judge, jury and executioner on the street before Floyd had a chance to defend himself in a court of law. A man lost his life without any defense on the streets of Minneapolis from the people charged to serve and protect. A man expired under the knee of a cop and no one was able to challenge it safely. A father died, calling for his own mother, “I can’t breathe,” on his lips. When do we get to ask, don’t these officers deserve the same? No due process, no judge, no jury, just executioners.

When is it time for citizens to have a right to defend themselves against violent government officials and against violent law enforcement. When is it okay to physically challenge abuse and murder without the fear of death or prison when it’s committed by lawmakers who are equally complicit in the funding, training, and hiring of police officers, in passing the many laws that local police are unable to effectively enforce? When is it okay to beat or shoot a cop in self defense?

When is it okay to challenge the public, the government, and the police who continually fail to show good judgment and restraint in how POC citizens are treated day to day in Minnesota? Citizens yell, “It’s all white supremacists, it’s all Donald Trump.” Well, as a lifelong brown woman living in Minneapolis, MN, I know racism and violence has existed here for POCs every day, all day, of our lives. The possibility of violence and death lingers as thick as August humidity no matter who holds the White House.

When is it okay to fight back?

His name was George Floyd. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t obtain his day in court. What cop deserves the same courtesy, what politician? A change is most definitely required and only the demands of the people will achieve it.

“No justice, no peace, prosecute the police.”

“Hands up, don’t shoot.”

“I can’t breathe.”

Video from C’Monie Scott reporting live from the George Floyd Protests

A Winter Storm by Heather A Busse

All Rights Reserved

Dancers from Pixabay used under the sites “free for commercial use” pexels-2286921

Chapter 3
A Winter Storm

To a song there are short notes and rests just as there are shorter lives and deaths. For Berehan the mortal realms have a place and purpose, the short and powerful, fast and free, living and dying quickly.

Memoir of Dame Vida the Blessed; Defender of the Song
Library for the Cosmic and Divine Order of the Lion’s Roar

Earth, 2007 AY

Winter winds stole the breath from Anna Henly as she perched in the bough of the oak tree outside her bedroom window. Through gritted teeth she sucked frozen air and fought to keep from chattering. Her muscles shivered for warmth. Huddled deep inside a fuzzy pink robe and kitty slippers, she watched three shadowed figures march across the back lawn of her family’s house. Leafless branches clouded her view of them, but she noticed each had on thick winter coats, the hoods pulled up over hats to keep their ears warm. Each had mittens.

Three pairs of winter boots crunched the frozen snow. The leader swept the yard with a flashlight, seeking observers, failing to check the tree and bushes. The second person held a rectangle in their hands and the third carried a long object, a sword. Anna started at the sight of the weapon, clung to the branch for balance and heaved a sigh of relief when she didn’t fall. Snow fell free from the oak and Anna froze, flat against the tree’s trunk. The leader turned, flashed their light in the tree’s direction. She pressed tighter and held her breath. On the third floor of Henly House, the drop was far.

Heartbeats passed and the interlopers continued their trek to a giant fountain built against a row of barren lilac bushes. The base acted as a reservoir in the summer for water, which flowed from a mallet held in the hand of a beast with black leathery wings and fangs. King Nysrog the Just stood sentry, his other hand raised. Claws sharp and ready to strike. With a wide stance, talons on his feet and spread wings kept the muscular fright balanced. Ferocity stared down the uninvited visitors. An artist named Yew Arro had sculpted the demon king.

They ringed the fountain. The sword bearer tapped the mallet and a peal rang through the stormy air. Wind picked up shaking the branches, knocking icicles from the house. Vines slammed into the side of Mom’s walled garden to the left of the intruders. Rose bushes thrashed in time to the storm’s swells. The tolling of a gong beat softly and then clanged. The clamor came to a crescendo and stopped. Lightning flashed from the statue and Anna stifled a scream.

The light struck the visitors, their heads fell back, arms wide, and the leader dropped the flashlight and plunged the yard into darkness. The one with the rectangle regained their composure and opened the object. A book. Another flash of light threw sparks upward like a firecracker exploding and a woman screamed. Flora! The Henlys’ elder cook and housekeeper was terrified of thunderstorms.

Night enhanced the cold. The temperature dipped lower. Anna trembled.

The wind stung and burned. The branch swayed and shivers ran down Anna’s spine. Tears filled her eyes. Fingers and hands grew painfully cold. Frost bite was setting in and Anna had known better, but when the sounds outside woke her in the middle of the night, some kind of death wish drew her outside without thought. She had the intelligence of a gnat, worse than a gnat and still she watched.

Voices joined the snowstorm. Thunder roared overhead and flashes from the clouds entered the fray. “Iþ damaþ heivur Glotid eil. Iþ hvlig muln Falga.” The three chanted in a foreign tongue. Anna strained to understand. The words seemed familiar.

A moment passed and then the wind picked up, howling, a wraith’s lament. Lightning from the statue split the darkness once more and the three chanted thrice more. Flora shrieked again.  The intruders scattered, their prints darted in three different directions.

Another person, Roger in his long coat chased after them, sharpened stave in hand. When had he sneaked outside? The Henlys’ driver and butler chose a target and took off, his boots crunching ice. The Irish man lumbered inches taller than the trespassers. His usual calm was gone. Roger dashed like a wolf in the wild after its prey.

Anna scrabbled off the tree, almost slipped on ice and clung to her window sill. She hefted herself inside, over the desk knocking snow onto papers, pens and the floor. Moisture soaked into the carpet. Her bedroom door crashed open and her siblings piled inside.

Caitlyn strolled into the room, the flaps of her robe flared like a thick cloak over flannel pajamas. She slung an arm around their younger brother Mark. Caitlyn was the oldest Henly child, taller than Anna, smarter, prettier. She took after their mother, the combination of Welsh, Argentinian and Sardinian heritage shined in Caitlyn.

A twinge of jealousy flared in Anna before she squashed it. Anna was shorter, a bit stockier, not a tremendous beauty despite her odd lilac birthmarks that snaked over her limbs and body. She had silver and orchid colored hair that grew wild in every direction with curls tighter than Flora’s nerves in a thunderstorm.

 “There are men trying to break into the house.”

“Flora’s calling the police!” Their brother Mark chimed in. “Roger’s chasing them down with his stave. Can you believe it? Like a real knight!” he slashed the air with a wooden practice sword. Mark was seven going on knighthood. He still believed such orders existed to protect the world. None of the Henlys had the heart to set him straight. Knightly organizations had died out hundreds of years ago, as far as Anna knew. History was not her subject.

“What are you doing?” Caitlyn examined the window, her black eyes tracked the snow across Anna’s desk and the wet spot on the floor. “You were outside, in this weather.”

“Well, I heard them and went to investigate.”

Caitlyn crossed her arms. “You could have been seen or froze to death. It’s February in Minnesota!” Worry creased Caitlyn’s forehead. The wind whistled as if to taunt Anna. Negative temperatures had a nasty bite.

Anna shrugged. Her sister had an over protective streak, not like their parents who never let her leave the house, not even to attend school. She just always looked out for Anna and she appreciated it most of the time.  There was no reason to argue. “You’re right.” Her sister opened her mouth, but Anna kept speaking. “I might have been seen. I might have been killed.” She rubbed her hands together and blew on them. Anna winced as warmth returned and fiery needles plunged the depths of her flesh. Frostbite. Winter in Minnesota. “I saw what they were doing and it wasn’t breaking into the house.”

“What?” Mark slashed at Anna’s bedpost leaving a mark in the wood. She grabbed the sword from him. The house was full of dents, the walls, ancient furniture, statues the whole place had dings from that weapon. Everything except the paintings and Flora’s pots and pans in the kitchen. Mark didn’t dare touch those.

“They were standing around that statue in the backyard, the one by Mom’s walled garden and chanting something. One had a sword, the leader carried a flashlight and another one had a book. They chanted in another language. Lightning flashed from the fountain! That’s when Flora screamed.” Anna crossed her arms to keep warm. The disjointed account didn’t make sense to her own ears and confusion showed clear on both her siblings’ faces. She sighed. “It looked as if they were performing some kind of ritual in a foreign language or perhaps the wind cut off their words.”

“Still, they might have hurt you. What if you fell from that tree? What if they had a gun?” Caitlyn’s voice took on a lecturing tone. The academic loved school, wanted to become a neurosurgeon or study diseases of the brain. Caitlyn was 17 going on 50. “What will Mom and Dad say when they find out?”

Anna let her sister’s words wash over her for a moment. Mark stared at the two of them, shook his head and shouted. “I’m going to see if the police have come.” He dashed out of the room, waving his sword. His blond hair bounced with each step. It was much too late for that kind of energy.

The clock concurred. It was later than one in the morning. Touching Caitlyn’s shoulder, Anna peered into her sister’s black eyes. They glistened with light. “While I am sure you’ll captivate a whole university class one day, I never signed up for this lecture.” She smiled and darted out of the room. Caitlyn snarled, still chiding.

“You know I’m right.”

“Yes, I do. I was so stupid.”

“You’re not stupid.”

Anna stumbled at Caitlyn’s hip nudge and then turned arabesque. Anna wasn’t as smart as her sister, but she had talent of a sort for ballet. She mock plied. “Okay, I’m not. Let’s see what’s going on. Maybe Roger’s back.

The two sisters bounded down the back stairs from the third floor to the first. They passed four figurines on the wall, music box statues. Anna pranced by them, let her fingers brush against a winged male with summer in his eyes and a crown of stars. Music thrummed from the box, though she hadn’t wound the device in a long time. Anna walked on her toes flowing in ballet forms. It helped to warm her limbs. They passed the parlor and dining room, the hall leading to the front foyer.

They ignored the large sunroom and great room occupying the old Victorian mansion’s space on the right. To the left down the hall sat the kitchen, the garage, and Flora and Roger’s personal rooms. Straight ahead, the girls heard raised voices spilling from the music room. The dilapidated house badly needed restoration.  

Sconces on the wall provided light. Dust lay thick in this part of the house. Neglected by time and Flora’s deft hand. According to Flora, she had once kept the place immaculate, effortlessly for the many parties their grandparents used to host. The Henlys had wealth back then and some fame, as much as anyone in Saint Paul could expect. Not that Anna knew much about it. 1960 was ancient history.

Now cracks dominated the walls, chipped paint, and ripped wallpaper. Heavy, antique furniture needed fresh stain. Only the paintings and few sculptures here remained pristine, even if they clashed with the wreckage.

One painting showed demonic creatures, including King Nysrog, the same figure in the backyard. They linked arms with angels and fairies, dragons and scaled birds, feathered humanoids, and vaporous shapeshifters. Twin women dressed in green flowers danced around a rowan tree, their lips played carved flutes while a horned god beat a rhythm on a drum. Anna walked on her tiptoes and glided into a grand battement. She stepped into a développé and then her sister stilled her with the touch of a hand on her shoulder outside the music room.

“Listen,” she hissed.

Both girls stood out of sight from the partially open doors to the room, plaster molds of musical instruments lined the doors, trimmed in gold. Anna leaned against one.

Ellen and Charles Henly, their parents stood inside with Roger and Flora. Roger held his stave, the weapon had a ferrule and blade on the end. It was about as tall as the ruddy butler and driver. He huffed, his face flushed. “I’m not 20 anymore, no sir.” He leaned on the stave. “They lost me down by the river. I slid on the ice.” Indeed, Roger’s pajamas, Anna couldn’t remember ever seeing him in anything but a suit, were crusted in ice and melted snow. A puddle gathered around the man’s boots. His Irish lilt cracked as he spoke.

Flora held her hands to her face. The Welsh woman had her hair bound in curls, wore a long, thick nightgown. Her plump figure shivered, fear in her eyes kept her paralyzed, unspeaking. Shock filled Anna. Flora was about 70 years old and had always feared storms at least for as long as Anna remembered. Yet, terror crossed the woman’s features, more than fear resided behind those grey eyes.

Mom put an arm around the woman. “Now dear, I am sure it was nothing. Perhaps they thought to steal the fountain. Vandals sometimes do that.”

“In this weather? The entire Welsh National Football team couldn’t budge that thing an inch. No, mark me they’re intent on breaking into the house. It’s high time we call the police and report them.” Her Welsh accent thickened. It took a musical tone. “Honestly, every last Dragon couldn’t move it.” She shook her head, a sob escaped her as the wind gusted outside the music room’s double filigree door for the veranda. Snow piled against the pane. Flora flinched, eyes wild and darting.

“Let’s go make some tea. It will calm you. I’ll see you back to bed and Roger will still be nearby.”

“I shall not sleep.” Flora followed Mom out of the room. The two chatted on their way down to the kitchen. “I fear I am much too old, my nerves too frail for this excitement.”

Anna and Caitlyn stepped behind a large buffet and crouched down until Mom and Flora walked out of sight before returning to the music room’s door. The rosewood stage in the middle of the room caught her attention. The carved figures in the circular stage’s pillars. Oh how she enjoyed practice on that platform. The ceiling mesmerized. A celestial chorus sang in a circle centered above the stage. Why hadn’t the police come? She voiced the thought. “I don’t think the police are coming.”

Caitlyn shushed her.

Mark crept from a spot by the room’s ample fireplace. “I will help keep the watch.” He stabbed the air with his sword. “I am ready to swear the oaths.”

Dad groaned. Their father, a bear of a man with dark blond hair, had a jovial nature despite rough hands from years of working construction. Now, he looked spooked though hid it well. “Mark, it’s brave of you, but all young knights must get their rest. Off to bed now. Roger and I shall handle this.”

“I’m ready. Ephraim and I have trained for years.” His best friend Ephraim Bryce attended Winding Heights Academy of Art and Science with Mark, Caitlyn and his older brother Trenton. The Bryces were their only neighbors. The trespassers had come to a nearly vacant street off a mostly private road that serviced the two families and a medical device factory about a mile up. Those men hadn’t stumbled upon Henly House by chance. Anna knew it and somehow her little brother understood that. He set his jaw, determination in his brown eyes. “I keep the oaths.”

He held his hand over his heart. “I am a defender, a tone in the Song. My spirit sings upon the first measure. And I stand on the last. Tone to tone and note for note I and my brothers and sisters in the Song keep the watch. I watch the ways between the worlds. I defend the guardian, keeper of the key. I am a knight of Aulei.” His eyes gleamed in the murky light.

“Mark, it’s time for bed.” Dad took him by the hand and turned to see Roger mouthing the same words, hand across his own chest give a quick nod to the boy and then he nodded to their dad before striding for the exit. Caitlyn and Anna hurried away. Anna slowed her breathing as she climbed into bed. She pulled the covers up under her chin. The room grew dark as she reached over and switched off the lamp on the nightstand. Caitlyn was gone to her room.

Footsteps padded down the hall, Dad was whispering to Mark, his voice grumbling and low. She didn’t understand his words, but she understood her brother. “Ephraim says it’s all real and you’re a liar.” Her brother was crying, Dad tried to sooth him and then their voices and footsteps faded away. Sleep was a long time in coming. Cold seeped into her bones and fear. Fear spread to her mind and heart, confusion reigned. She didn’t understand Dad’s behavior or Mark’s. Caitlyn’s warning what if they had seen her, struck the girl in a peculiar way. She had never worried for her own safety before, not even with the shine.

As if to mock, the lines of her birthmark glowed in the late night. The storm raged fiercer than a gale outside. Anna found sleep elusive. Sunrays invaded through the window by the time her eyelids closed and her breath steadied.

World Building in Fantasy

There are many beginning writers who delve into the realm of fantasy and then have to think about the facets of building a fantasy world. What does into it and why? Some authors become quite detailed in scope and breadth using all elements to create a detailed world that adds to the plot and character development. Some writers use fewer details and rely more on reader imagination.

Imagination goes only so far on a fantastical world. This list will help writers consider the types of things to develop for their stories and worlds. I am not claiming this is a complete list, but definitely a good start, it’s something I learned from author Emma Bull in a fantasy writing class I took.

Sentient Races – How many sentient races does the world support? What do they look like? What sort of physical attributes and abilities do they have?

Nations – Are there countries and nations?

Political Systems – Consider the system they live in and does this system change from different nations?

Cultures – Not everyone is alike. Distance, features, resources, beliefs, systems all add to cultural development along with many more things. What are the cultures like?

Traditions – Traditions take on many shapes and forms and come from a variety of places, family, religion, cultural and so on.

Religions – Religions have “rules” and “traditions”. For believability, create limitations and guides for your constructs.

Holidays – These may be religious, or national, or cultural. What holidays if any does the world have?

Time – How does your world track time and it’s movement? How does time pass? Is it the same as Earth or different?

Calendars – Does the world have a calendar? If so, what?

Languages – In fantasy, languages create a level of realism to the world. However, if you’re not an accomplished conlanger or linguist, this can be a struggle for writers. Perhaps consider key phrases or words to lend authenticity without having to create a full language for each race, culture, or nation. It’s helpful to base the languages on real ones.

Commerce and Trade – How does trade work? What sort of economic system is in place?

Currency – What are the currencies of the world if any?

Education – What education systems are in place? How do they work?

Skills/Jobs – There are a number of established skills and jobs in any story, what are they in your world?

Science/Physics – Many fictional worlds have fictional sciences and physics in particular that defy the natural law we know and understand. To create fake science, it should have limitations and rules. Real science does. There are methods and practices for discovery and exploration. Real scientists have methods of testing and reasoning. Employ rules and limitations and it will become believable to the reader. It will make sense. If anything goes, there is nothing to worry about and nothing to get the reader invested in the characters.

History – Every place has history and what people know about it varies from place to place. A fantasy world should have history and lore, myths passed down, but these should be limited in scope and possibly even wrong sometimes. This may serve the story if a character must learn something from the past, but doesn’t figure it out or at least not right away.

Agriculture – How is food cultivated and distributed? Are there farms, technology to generate sustenance?

Magic – Fantasy and sci-fi do not require magic, but when it’s utilized in a story there should be limitations and rules. If anything goes, the reader has no reason to worry or become invested in the character arcs the writer presents. Create limitations and rules. Construct how the magic works.

Geography and Topography – What does the world look like? Where is everything? What sort of resources, animals and plants exist?

Technology – Does the world have technology and if so what?

I don’t consider this list a complete list on world building, but it may provide a starting point and generate questions for the writer to answer as they build their worlds.

Chapter 1 The Fallen Heather A Busse

Hark the tones wail from the twisted forms of the fallen. Have mercy Singer of All, have mercy Berehan the horned God.

“Lament for the Damned”
Chief Librarian, Rariny

Rariny, 5690 AY

Bones rained from the sky. Skeletal remains stormed across the land and piled in marrow puddles. Blood clouds gathered above an obsidian mountain range off the Strait of Famoniena. Lightning crackled fissures into the firmament and wind blew through the porous stone of Verdugo Palace. Night darkened towers stood sentry against the bleak landscape. Fires raged in the distance.

Talons clicked against the arm of the Rarin Throne watching Punishers line the great hall as they filed in from two massive doors. Filigree shapes depicted Berehan with a musical score in hand. From the far side of the room, King Nysrog could see music scales notated in the wood. Queen Mestamina advanced upon the throne reserved for her next to him. The assembly preened their leathery wings and sharpened claws against jagged teeth. A nervous energy passed through them. He understood, no Punisher enjoyed the job though with Mestamina Nysrog had found solace.

A flutter in the king’s heart brought joy to his tone, the same as the day he first met Mestamina all those millennia ago. Thorns crowned her purple hair, love swam in the depths of her silky black eyes. Delicate horns poked between the crown’s sides. Silvery and shining, reflecting the flames burning in giant cisterns about the room. A silver scale gown covered her alabaster figure with a slit in the back large enough to let her tail and wings through, modest enough the courtiers’ gazes didn’t linger overly long. She was the dawn to his dusk. The light to his dark. Their eyes locked and across the Song their tones thrummed in time as one.

Mestamina carried a mallet in her talons. The instrument Nysrog used to judge the condemned and mete out sentence. The assembled daemons shuffled, forked tongues flicked the air, nostrils sniffed. Talons scratched horns. Wings bristled. Through the windows of The Otla, Nysrog’s Castle, wind blew acrid air, sulfurous and torrid. Fires raged in the Boiling Bog to the south. The wind had carried the scent of flesh to the king.

“My King, I have brought the weight.” Mestamina approached the throne, regal and tall, more slender than most punishers on Rariny. She handed him the mallet and their eyes locked, fingers brushed and claws entwined.

Nysrog noted her desire. The black flames of her eyes flared, an inferno smoldered within. His tone stirred in response. “You have my eternal thanks.” He grasped the weight. It seemed a singularity resided in the small tool, a mass unparalleled in Aulei. Barely wider than his hand. Nysrog cracked his neck and rolled his shoulders. The device had grown heavier over the years. He wished to drop it into the deepest abyss and dared not. “Let judgment begin.” He leaned to the side of his throne and struck a rounded disc. It knelled and the crowd went silent.

Two hulking daemons dragged the recent fallen in through the black doors of the throne room. Prince Ayperas dragged the slack body of a Dai Ithran wizard in his arms, dragged instead of carried. The daemon refused to touch more than he had to when retrieving them from the Fallen Shores. The filth, the smell. Their sins rankled. A foul scent to eviscerate the spirit, worse than rotten carrion.

Nysrog remembered the days he had served on the front lines, under his father’s rule. Here, green Ayperas, armored in plates of rarinus toiled, dragging the guilty in one hand and holding a face guard with the other. The black metal breathed for each daemon as protection against the onslaught of putrid decay each sinner brought in them. Their tones contaminated and poisoned. The daemons only smelled fields of flowers on sunny days through the shields. Thank Berehan. Their captives saw and smelled horror, tasted the filth of their horrid deeds on their tongues. As was proper.

Prince Ayperas dropped his charge before the throne. The wizard howled. An inky mass dripped from his eyes and seeped from his bald head. His spindly fingers clicked against the stone floor, eyes wild, seeking refuge. Daemons formed a ring, not that they had to block the man’s path. The fallen had no ability to escape or move even an inch further than Nysrog cared to allow. They showed him solidarity and for that he keened gratitude to them in the Song, his tone flourished thanks.

Grand Duke Ventir with his razor sharp fangs and dark gleaming eyes followed after the prince, dragging a woman by her hand across the floor. She kicked and screamed. Her plump hands grabbed at the floor and tried to stand. The Grand Duke ignored her. “I don’t belong here. There’s a mistake.” She wailed and thrashed all the way to the throne. Curled auburn hair plastered against her face dripped sweat. “I’m an Althean! I dance in the Song. I praise the gods.” She trembled staring wide eyed at the assembled host.

Nysrog put a hand on Mestamina. The lies. The lies cut deep. He swayed, vision blurring. She squeezed his hand and held it, tracing his tough skin. She knew how it hurt to carry this duty for the gods. Her fierce affection acted as a balm for Nysrog. “The Seers never lie. Put her in the pile over there.” A mass of offenders writhed in a circle on the floor near the windows. None of them had the power to move further than a few feet from where they cowered and whimpered. Nysrog stamped his foot and their cries became nothing more than a muffled buzz.

“Bring forth the fallen tones.” Nysrog struck the disc and the instrument knelled.

The Dai Ithran shrieked the moment Prince Ayperas hooked a claw into the wizard’s robe and dragged him closer to the base of the throne. Cloth tangled the scrawny Dai Ithran’s limbs as he struggled to break free. His head and hooked nose bounced off the rarin floor. The bony man wailed when Ayperas let go. “Your majesty, Barucho Rolavarre of Dai Ithra, stealer of tones has fallen from Berehan’s Grace.”

“No, wait! I can help stop the triune assault!” The Althean groaned the moment Barucho spoke. Nysrog examined the creature of light and saw recognition in her eyes. She knew this wizard and the triune he spoke of. “Please hear me!”

Barucho’s words cut off as soon as the weight struck the metal disc. The gong ripped sound from the fallen’s throat. The wizard’s skin dried and paled, more translucent than vellum paper. Wraith-like he scrabbled across the obsidian floor towards the pile of fallen. Barucho’s robes turned to ash, slaking away to expose the darkness inside him. A gaping void twisted in the fallen. The group cried and begged for mercy, shrinking away from Barucho. Ayperas’ booted foot halted the wizard who wriggled under the weight. Nysrog clicked his forked tongue and scratched behind his large horns. “There is nowhere to run or hide on Rariny little Barucho. The River Crucify I think.” Nysrog flicked his claws and the prince of Rariny hauled the wraith out of the throne room.

“Mestamina, my love.” She turned to him, an angel in demonic flesh. “Take the Althean to the questioner.” His queen gave a short nod and soon had the sobbing woman out of the king’s sight. Nysrog was no fool. Barucho had information and so did the Althean. And then like all the fallen, the two had a debt to pay to Aulei for their crimes. Nysrog was nothing if not thorough in weighing out justice. He tapped the mallet against his knee and motioned for the next fallen tone. He’d suss out the details for this triune.

Disclaimer – all images on this blog were found on Pixabay.com under the Creative Commons. Any copyright violation is completely unintentional, pulled from Pixabay and for many images, I contributed money to the posting artist.

Publishing: A Beginner’s Guide by Heather A Busse

Like many writers, I am a member of several online writing groups and before I went back to school, before I ever had anything published, and before I began earning my whole income from writing and editing I too had no clue about what it takes to “make it”.

Yep, long sentence ^ and that is a darling I might one day kill. But that isn’t the point of this post. No this post is about navigating the shit that is professional writing, editing, and publishing. You see, the rules change. It depends. Grab a pen and paper, or just bookmark this information, or ignore it. It’s your choice.

If you write fiction and want to get your work out there for readers to consume, you’ve probably asked about getting published. There are options and with each option a set of criteria or guidelines to know before you spend any money or sign any documents.

Traditional Publishing

With established traditional publishers, particularly the large publishing houses, writers must query through an agent. An agent will represent your work to the publishers they think will most likely want to purchase your book. This means gaining the attention of a professional agent.

Agents and publishers have criteria for what they’re looking for in a book. Some only handle romance. Some handle children’s books. Some handle a variety. It depends on the agent and the publisher. Consider the best fit for your book. Who is representing books like yours, who is publishing books like yours? Those are the agents you’ll want to query when your manuscript is completed.

Say you get an offer? You’ve created a story from stone, written the manuscript. You had writers and readers workshop it for you and provide feedback. You revised it and hired an editor. The editor polished the stone into a gleaming diamond. You queried agents and received rejections. You revised a bit more. Finally, an agent accepts your book and starts approaching publishers. One of them has an offer.

A traditional publisher will often have a contract where they buy the rights to your work, they receive the lion’s share of the sales, they have editors, artists, designers, and will work with a printer to produce your book. They may even have some marketing prepared. *Though a writer will have to help in that too. Some publishers provide an advance against the sales. This is money that they pay the author before the book sells. The amount varies from very little, none, or quite a lot. It depends on the projected success of your book. This advance goes back to the publisher once your book starts selling. If it doesn’t sell, the publisher is most often out the money. If it sells and sells well, the publisher gets the advance back and you get royalties. Your agent gets a percentage of those royalties. Payday for everyone!

That’s the basics for traditional publishing.

A few things of note. NEVER give a publisher money up front. That’s a vanity press. They’re not earning money from selling your book, but from you paying them. Same for agents. If they don’t successfully sell the book, they don’t make the money. This is subsequently why agents and publishers are so persnickety. They often go with what sells for their specific business focus.

Self Publication

With this method of publication, it’s easy for writers to take shortcuts and produce some of the worst writing readers have ever seen in print and on eBooks. I don’t recommend it. As a writer, you’re building a brand and reputation. Eventually, you may gain enough notice that famous publishers and writers see your work. If that happens and your catalog of titles was never revised or edited, they might not work with you. At the very least, they will poke some fun. Your work may become the talk of literary critiques in print and in the media. It may sweep all of the social media readers’ groups and wow have I seen readers and writers slam poorly written and edited books.

Write your manuscript. Have readers and writers provide feedback (for free), revise it, get an editor and pay them. You’ll thank yourself later. Make payment arrangements with editors who are willing to work with you. Some few are willing, but many are not as they’ve been shorted in the past. If you find a professional willing to help, create an arrangement and pay on time.

Hire an artist for the cover and someone who can format your book. You’ll want your book formatted for print and eBook. Many platforms like Ingram Spark and Amazon have eBook and print on demand options. You’ll want a full wrap cover for print. Hire an artist. It’s worth it. You will have art especially for your book, instead of obviously slapped together cut and paste public domain stock photos. Professionals have original art. Be a professional.

Market your book. Start talking with readers and writers about it. DON’T spam it. Network! Get your name out there on social media, do readings, join groups, create a blog. Talk with others, so people will know about your book. If you can afford it, definitely do some paid advertisement, but self promotion can help. Many writers attend conventions and sell books that way too.

The big thing about self publishing is owning your rights fully and also being fully responsible for all aspects. You’re mostly in control of schedules and production. I say mostly, because artists, editors and other people you may work with along the way have their own lives and schedules too.

At any rate, I hope this helps and best of luck!

Prelude – “The Oath Breaker” by Heather A Busse

In the beginning, Berehan birthed the universe Aulei in Song. And like most newly created things, the creation grew and expanded of its own free will. Aulei turned through the seasons and in each turn The Song changed for no two seasons existed exactly alike.

“The First Law of Sidras” The Night Palace Repository

Aulei: Year 5480

Cycle: An Lyr Min

An inky mass approached the outer edges of Aulei. It had long forgotten its own name and image, but understood it had a duty. Deep inside the oily substance, a light flickered. Dark filaments sniffed out a rent in another creation known as Aulei. It flowed into it as long snakes through grass, a vaporous slither. A cosmic melody struck the visitor upon entering the new plenum. Tendrils flowed and danced from star to world to the deep black of space.

Where the inky thing lacked light and life, it drew nearer the nebulas of creation and feasted for it had purpose and reason. Hope coursed through the entity as it split into countless pieces and spread through the closest regions of Aulei.

The Song of Aulei, registered the newcomer as an interruption to the individual tones in The Song. Whole notes went silent for a time and then the cosmic symphony sprang back, its beats just as strong as before. Its harmonies struck the visitor as distant stars and planets danced their rotations. Pangs of hunger erupted within the entity. It thirsted more desperately than the most desolate wasteland. Looking internally, a swirl of light flickered, the thing worried for the living, the part it had protected for so long. Deep need and an ache spurred its movement ever faster across the vacuum of Aulei’s space and time. Playing counter to the frenzied beats of starvation, Aulei registered the visitor’s intent and named it Sýking.

Pixabay Image Disclaimer

All images on this blog were posted under the Pixabay License “Free for commercial
use, No attribution required”. Any misuse of images is strictly unintentional and in many cases, I have personally paid money to the Pixabay image poster for their contributions through the Pixabay “coffee” payment model with the intention of supporting the artist and with the belief the artwork was legally theirs to share.

Infernua Izar by Heather A Busse

On the Day of Sin, seven rode out from Feloria. Seven blades unsheathed, seven voices raised to draw and bind the first slave. Darkness fell upon the land, concealing Infernua Izar. Incubo del Peccatore. Berehan Sang punishment. For long life and magic, the seven considered the cost a fair trade. 

“After the Fall” by Brigida Murienez, Clan Historian

Dai Ithra, 5691 AY

Snow fell and the Hunter’s Moon brightened the streets of Feloria on the planet Dai Ithra. Hover globes chased the shadows away with their magic wrought glow. Citizens hustled from shop to shop, parcel laden arms jostling the throng. Wizards streamed among them, towards the Wizard’s Tower to the northern point of the island where they studied the arcane arts. Their velvet cloaks flapped in the chill breeze and exposed layered robes, sewn with down for added warmth.

A figure slunk through the crowd, Clarita Murienez, face hidden by a wide velvet hood. She pushed away from the city center, towards a rocky outcrop next to the Dia Vithra River. Ice slid under foot, each step a fight to stay upright. The tread of her boot caught a rock, anchored her in snow and helped her scramble up the slope to Lyrenthia House. The seat of power for clan Murienez in Feloria.

Her boots sloshed through the icy water of the Dia Vithra River. Its path cut from the north down to the southern marshland. In the east, the Vicero Mountains lined the river and on the western bank, the flat plains of Vion El. Its course split around Feloria, serving as a natural defense and trade route for the various clans populating the planet.

The woman patted the interior pocket of her jacket with a gloved hand. She had a musical score hidden inside, folded against two vials of protection, potions crafted for a quick escape. A black leather whip with nine barbed tails struck the side of her leg as it bounced from the belt she wore.   

Wind gusted the edges of her cape apart, exposing a black down suit embroidered with Infernua. The planet’s daystar, Infernua Izar served as her personal sigil. She gazed at the moon, smiled at the glow, proof the daystar still radiated light.

Holding her cape closed, she struggled up the last incline and cursed. The clothing did nothing to abate the cold. Her breath curled in the air, a white misty vapor, only slightly paler than her own skin. She floated like a haunt among the rocks up to a path lit by globes. Guards clad in brown leather with coiled whips secured at their waists patrolled a massive estate. Her clan’s seat of power in Feloria.

At the door, two men stood sentry, their coats thicker and embroidered with golden whips on their shoulders. Clarita recognized both of them, they were brothers serving as clan lieutenants in the guard, Isirio and Basillo. The two had almost identical features, tree like height, blond hair, brown eyes, and copper skin. She didn’t know their family name, but the two had served for at least 100 years in hopes of elevation. They had time to earn a higher rank. 100 years was not much to a Dai Ithran.

“A blessed true-night to you Isirio, Basillo.” Clarita nodded to the hulking trees as she passed by them and entered Lyrenthia House. She heard them return the greeting as the doors closed behind her.

Large, chandeliers warmed the foyer and illuminated life-sized statues of ancient Murienez clan members. Families who had brought fortune and fame to their members. To the left, the clan’s most famous philosopher and scientist Diandio Murienez watched an experiment in an unseen lab, he held a clipboard in his bronzed hands.

To the right, the clan’s founder Zanarti Murienez loomed like a hawk, a whip in hand poised to strike. She supposed this was the artist’s vision of what it was like for the founder to harvest that first tone, way back on the Day of Sin.

Shivers ran down Clarita’s spine. The Day of Sin. What a stupid holiday. The clan, the whole world celebrated the day Berehan, Creator of All had cursed their light forsaken planet to eternal darkness each day. Their daystar, Infernua Izar, never felt particularly warm to the Dai Ithran people, it never showed its light though the animals and plants proved the star still existed. The moon’s glow still reflected its light each true-night.

Clarita glared at the statue of Zanarti. Selfish, destructive. The man didn’t deserve celebration. Not that her peers agreed with her. They adored the magic and long lives his sin had granted them. Generations of Dai Ithrans lived for hundreds of years instead of 70 or so at most. They had magic like Altheans and Ishanians. Other planets had long life, magic, advanced technology. Why not Dai Ithrans? Zanarti had led the charge when the original seven clans struck down that first tone. Damning the Dai Ithran people in Berehan’s Song, striking their tones from the celestial score. Cold, pain, darkness. As if that price was worth more years and physical enhancements in life.

Rage flared within. A tempest struck the shores of her tone. Clarita shuddered, skipping up the stairs through Lyrenthia House. She passed the music room, heard someone instructing Murienez children on how to play the flute. More rooms served for clan meetings. She saw the silvery skin of her mother through a sitting room door, her glossy red hair, so odd for a Murienez, framed her face in long waves. She tapped a screen on the wall and an image of a distant city appeared. “With this glider model, we can have newly harvested tones delivered anywhere in a matter of hours. Imagine, ordering a tone on your shellophon one morning and receiving it that same day. Our gliders will reach Sarnth, Alcmene and Hypan in a matter of hours.” She tapped the screen, saw Clarita and smiled briefly before she turned back to her guests, visiting wizards from clans Cirovarre, Huntorevarre and Rolavarre.

Three of the great clans had come, her mother must have felt disappointed. Not a single Bonavirez was in attendance. No Pelinvarre, Quiorra, or Dominico. Clan Anirienz with their long military tradition hadn’t come and neither had the shipwrights, the Alessios.  One day they’d come, when they saw her mother’s invention. Gliders! Machines to fly people and goods all over the world in hours. As if an Alessios starship had that same capacity, not when they were rendered immobile by Berehan, banned from interstellar travel. Clarita moved on, smiling with pride.

The grand hall sat to the right on the first floor, a lavish room with marble and starion encrusted balconies, a large stage for musicians and entertainers. The next two floors housed lesser Murienez’ who hadn’t earned elevation. The next three floors served established families within the clan who worked in Feloria running businesses, serving as clan guards or as animavillam, the tone harvesters. The upper floors where Clarita jogged up flight after flight of stairs, housed the elevated. Elevated wizards, the High Seat Adulfo, his faction of palm lickers and sycophants.

Clarita reached the top floor. She had a private suite, three rooms for her own use, which she had earned the day she graduated the Wizard’s Tower as a 28th degree magus. None of that mattered now. She had other plans, seeds planted years ago in hopes of returning the light of Infernua Izar to the people. Clarita touched the pocket of her jacket, felt the crinkle of paper and smiled. Yes, the plan had taken root and soon she hoped to hear of ripened fruit for the plucking.

Inside her suite, she crossed to a cabinet, retrieved a bottle of Cirovarran Plum and poured a glass. A 5429 vintage, vinted in the Huntorevarre winery. She sniffed the vintage and her muscles relaxed. With the wave of her hand, the door to her suite closed and locked. A waste of tonal energy, yet the success tonight warranted a little indulgence. She sipped the wine. The sweet, crisp flavor soothed her nerves and warmed her tone. The tempest battering her soul, the tonal note given to her in the Song, receded. Clarita sighed.

Clan Cirovarre knew what they were doing. Their orchards yielded the best and most lush apples, plums and pears. Thorny stardrops and grapes grew in abundance there. Even though the daystar didn’t shine for the people, Cirovarre understood the changing of the seasons, the movements of animals and the best time to grow. Their trees bore the best fruit. Praying, Clarita hoped her own seeds proved just as lucrative. Just as clan Cirovarre worked with clan Huntorevarre to create the best wines, Clarita had gathered her own recruits for the coming harvest. She swirled the wine and sipped, took out the paper delivered to her in the business sector and started to smooth it out on the table. Musical notation filled the page.

Noise outside her room introduced a visitor before the knock came. A sharp rap sounded on the wood and Clarita lifted her fingers. Green energy flashed around the door and then it unlatched, swinging open.

 The door framed Silerta Murienez, captain of the guard for Lyrenthia House. She strolled in, glanced about the room, starlight shining on her copper skin. She flipped her plaited blonde hair behind her shoulders and took a seat at the thornwood table in the center of the room and slammed a small vial down on the table. She propped up her feet and leaned back.  “Essence of Althean, just as you’ve requested.”

With a snap of her fingers, Clarita closed the door. “Did anyone else order a flagon?” She hoped to learn who else on Dai Ithra had increased their tonal stores, someone was collecting and Clarita wanted to know who and why. It wasn’t another Murienez.

A smile quirked across Silerta’s face. Her big amber eyes lighting up. “Now, now High One, the activities of other wizards, even our clan’s wizards are confidential.” She put her feet back down on the floor. “It’s how the whole thing works. The animavillam capture the tones, we harvest them down in the cells, and we deliver each request personally. I can’t go divulging our clientele, not even for you.”

 Snatching the vial, Clarita studied it, frowning. A pearly substance swirled inside. Tonal energy came out in different colors, it had a physical quality, not quite watery, not quite oily, or silky, or thick, or runny. It was hard to describe. The hover globes and moonlight amplified the color in the vial so that it had an opalescent sheen. This tone had power, great power. “This isn’t Althean Healer.” She wanted a healer’s tone. They had a particular regenerative quality to them unlike any other soul in Aulei.

The whole universe hadn’t produced another tone like an Althean Healer. She needed to test that tone. So far, the experiments to support the seeds she’d planted, to find the best worlds to harvest, had failed. 30 years of failure smarted. Clarita kept her features smooth, refusing to show disappointment.

 Silerta pursed her lips. “No it isn’t. Althean Healers are not exactly falling from the sky. We took a merchant ship on their way to Ertlos 9, breaking Berehan’s will.” She arched her brows, driving home the point. The gestures said, the animavillam and harvesters worked hardest. “Captured a boy from the vessel. He’s down in the cells if you want to take a peek.” She pointed her elbow at the door, brushing the tone extractor at her hip, a coiled whip, the primary tool of the Murienez. “I’ll take payment now.” Silerta tapped the table.

 A boy. Not an adult.

Pain flooded Clarita. She doubled over, soul twisted and joints pinched in agony. The pain was part of the punishment. All Dai Ithrans endured just like their inability to see the daystar and the muted level of warmth they experienced. She straightened. Her plans had to succeed. Hundreds of years of agony. What insanity had infected Zanarti to trade peace and comfort for longevity and magic? Clarita would pay the price for the stolen tones, return the light of the star. No more pain, no more poisonous spores to kill the people because they could never see well enough where they stepped, and no more damnation. Berehan had to forgive if she righted their wrongs.

“Very well.” The captain deserved her thanks. Capturing any Althean was nigh impossible. The guard deserved commendation for their work. The animavillam they employed in particular deserved a boon. Clarita made a mental note to send one as she took the vial marked ‘Essence of Althean’ to her personal storage cabinet.

The cabinet with Clarita’s collection of tones, hundreds of them in small flagons, stored in an intricate leaf and vine glass case, decorated with copper filigree and secured with a Portal Guardian L-IV tone.

Clarita pinched two petals on a small glass rose set at the front of the case and a tiny door opened to reveal the inky rainbow called Portal Guardian L-IV tone. She set down the Essence of Althean next to the rose for a moment. Taking the Portal Guardian, she twisted off the top, dabbed a tiny drop of the tonal substance on her tongue and lifted her hand up to the cabinet.

“Lanzamiento del portale guardián,” she whispered. Clarita invoked the tempest within. No, she didn’t have a dynamic and orotund voice, she had the whisper of a storm at sea, a raging thunder and lightning. Not the best for controlling spell work, but powerful when it worked. Her own tone reached out, mingled with the Portal Guardian L-IV. A flash of green ringed the case and dissipated, two doors opened as if on invisible strings. She placed the Essence of Althean between an Ishanian High Note and an Earthling Low Pitch. Chills ran down her spine.

Music wafted from the vials in the case. Tones harmonizing in time with the Song. Berehan’s creation imbued in every single lifeform in the universe as a tone in His grand score. Closing the case, she murmured, “portale guardián cerce.” The petal handles twisted, the doors closed and locked into place with a flash of energy. The tempest within raged green and seared Clarita to the bone.

The musical notation found its way into Silerta’s hands as Clarita rummaged through her desk for enough coin to pay the woman. Her hand swam the depths of loose gold coins, silver, rarin stones, Zarthonian crystals called zargots, her fingers closed on a starion diamond and released it. An Althean healer was worth a starion or several, not a merchant’s son, no matter how much her tone ached for the boy’s fate. “I hadn’t marked you as a connoisseur of music Clarita. Do you play?”

Clarita grabbed three zargots and slammed them on the table in front of Silerta. “Payment” She snatched the score from the guard’s hands. “I don’t play, but I had thought to surprise my mother with a private concert if the clans invest in her gliders.”

Silerta swiped the crystals and pocketed them, rising to her feet she crossed to the door. “I won’t ruin the surprise, but you might consider some leisure activities, something carnal.” The woman ran her fingers along her thigh. “You’re a bit tightly wound Clarita.” She saluted and stalked off, a smirk on her face.

Exhaling, Clarita rushed to lock the door only to find another visitor. Maricosa Murienez, a child of 30 years. The girl wasn’t much older than she was when her father died.

“A blessed night to you High One.” Maricosa carried a tray, an envelope with Clarita’s name written the outside and sealed with Adulfo’s mark caused a flutter of alarm in her chest, though she concealed it.

Envy flashed in Clarita. How she longed for a harmonious tone. The tempest clanged and struck chords counter to the Song’s melodies. Globe light illumined the girl’s lace dress and honey hair. She had eyes of amber and bronze skin. A slender beauty to rival the murals of Placina Murienez. The famed painter might have praised Berehan Himself for such a muse as Maricosa.

“To you and yours Maricosa. Do come in.” She ushered the girl into the room and directed her to the thornwood table. This time Clarita left the door open, she didn’t have enough tonal energy left for waste and she didn’t want the girl to get comfortable. Clarita had work to do. Sometimes she wondered about accepting Maricosa’s request. The girl’s family had petitioned Clarita for sponsorship. Every Dai Ithran who trained in the Wizard’s Tower had to earn the recommendation of a previous graduate. As a 28th degree magus, Clarita was one of the most powerful Murienez’ wizards. Sponsorship would gain Maricosa great opportunity and for Clarita, she’d have the girl’s service for the next five years. Dare she trust this one?

Maricosa set the tray down and glanced around, her amber eyes wide in amazement. Ambition struck chords in her soul.

The girl strolled through the room, eyes locked on the line of floral etched windows, the thornwood desk, chairs and table. One cabinet stored wine, the other Clarita’s private collection of tones. Some of the best harvested by the animavillam. Fire danced in the hearth at the end of the room, a sculpted mantel framed the fireplace with the figure of the room’s former occupant, Brigida Murienez. The woman had served as a clan historian and was much admired by Clarita’s mother, Eliosa. Ancestor worship the people who had come before them meant more than the creation of Berehan to the families that made up her clan. Maricosa touched the statue. “Your mother is Eliosa.”

Nonchalant, casual probing. Interesting, the girl had an angle here, likely coached by her parents. Their family might need elevation. Clarita made a note to investigate the child’s background. “She is.”

“She’s a famous inventor and stands third in line to Adulfo, the High Seat.” Now the girl was reciting her lessons. Tedious.

Clarita sipped her wine. “She is and does serve as third. What’s your game here Maricosa? I appreciate you bringing the letter. I am not ungrateful.”

Tugging on her lace dress, Maricosa cast her gaze about the room. “We had hoped to hear if you had received my, my family’s petition. Did you have time to read it?”

“I was in city center on business. I shall peruse your missive and provide a response after I’ve fully investigated your background.” She might as well state exactly her expectations now. Should she take responsibility for the girl’s education, Clarita needed to know everything about them. Did they pose a threat to her, her mother Eliosa? Were their ambitions aligned to hers or against? She had so much to learn. “You’ll have to wait until I am ready to make a decision. Understood?” Yes, the girl had to see who was in charge. The questions were pushy, a bit desperate actually. That didn’t bode well.

“Yes, High One.” The girl bobbed a curtsey and fled the room, slamming the door behind her.

The envelope beckoned. Clarita slit the edge and took out the contents, reading. Adulfo was calling for a conclave. A full clan meeting for tomorrow night. Clarita’s blood froze, her breath caught. Had he discovered her secret? She took the musical score and Adulfo’s summons in hand. The notes marked out parts for stringed instruments, horns, percussion and one sportolanq, a three pronged instrument that circled the player, tweeting a perfect imitation of a great-winged grawl. The green feathered birds had a wingspan wider than Clarita’s outstretched arms and were known for their heavenly songs, as if they had hatched on Yushrah before descending to the night planet.

None of the assignments mattered. The instruments represented a key and the notes corresponded to letters within each key. The whole document was a code from the Triune Alliance, a letter she had to cipher out. Trembling, Clarita went to her desk, tucked the summons in the top drawer and leaned down, her fingers felt underneath the desk for an indent in the shape of a leaf. She found it and pressed. A click and a pop revealed a tiny drawer. Inside, she had stowed four small books bound in leather. The first she removed, a blue one representing the stringed instruments. Clarita had to know. Did Adulfo know of her plans? She hadn’t told him, never received the High Seats permission to form the triune and seek the return of the star’s light.

Better to seek forgiveness after she succeeded and if she failed, better no one knew that she had tried. The whole plan was an oath between her and her father, the day he died. His life’s work had been a secret between them and in his death had become her mission. Clarita hadn’t thought to get an authorization initially and then it seemed too late. She’d gone too far, the seeds were planted.

Under the warm glow of a hover globe, she worked to reveal the cipher. One book after the other, she notated what the sharps represented, the half notes, the whole, a high C, D diminished triad. Soon the letters took shape in ancient Dai Ithran. Few spoke it anymore, even among the wizards, morirono settanta rose. Trenta sopravvissuti. Preparati per il raccolto.”

Tremors shook Clarita, ice cold infused her veins. Teeth chattering she locked the keys away, the musical score she burned. 70 percent dead and gone. She shivered. Tears trickled down the sides of her face, she didn’t notice. Wind buffeted her internal landscape, the place within her soul, the sound of her creation. It struck as lightning, Clarita slumped to the floor, 70 percent. She touched the smooth surface of the thornwood and pulled herself standing. So many dead, oh sweet Song. Father save us all. The chances of Adulfo discovering her failures had just increased dramatically. She clutched the desk, breathing and then the door to her room opened once more.

Her mother strode in followed by a tall figure cloaked head to toe in black velvet. The door closed. “Clarita, sit down. You have much to explain.” She pulled back the hood exposing Rofallo Huntorevarre, Clarita’s partner in the Triune Alliance. Oh blessed night, they were found out. In her mind she plotted a pathway for escape as she sat down across the table from her mother, joined by Rofallo.

Pixabay Image Disclaimer

All images on this blog were posted under the Pixabay License “Free for commercial
use, No attribution required”. Any misuse of images is strictly unintentional and in many cases, I have personally paid money to the Pixabay image poster for their contributions through the Pixabay “coffee” payment model with the intention of supporting the artist and with the belief the artwork was legally theirs to share.

Poetry Inspired by Lost Words

A Scavenger Hunt for Memory by Heather A Busse

Twisted lanes of life covered in footprints and tire treads,                          Dust covered highways, barren except for a single tumble weed,              Drifting in the wind.

There on rocky heights, hands find a purchase and foothold,                     Slip and skid halfway down to cling dinged and banged,                            Worn in tattered skin.

Underneath a jagged rock lives Memory, when I was,                                   Five years old my kitten Tiffany plays in sunlight on the stair,                  Scratches on my hand.

In the stars there is the winter of my youth,                                                    And we are moving in the middle of the night no rent, no place,               One car and boxes.

Writing a Villain

If you’ve been on Quora, you know that the site has people who ask questions and communities with experience who answer them. It’s supposed to come off as subject matter experts giving in depth answers to the many questions people ask. I’ve taken to answering some questions on Quora and have certainly asked a few in my time.

Since starting the Starweather Press, LLC YouTube to discuss writing, I’ve posted some questions in video form on the channel. One question, posted here – https://www.quora.com/What-sort-of-villain-or-conflict-could-I-use-for-my-fantasy-novel-I-don-t-want-a-Lord-of-The-Rings-type-villain asks writers to provide their knowledge on writing a villain that isn’t a Lord-of-the-Rings-type.

In a world of fantasy, who can blame the querier?

My answer considers creating a round character. Someone with actual goals and motivations that are clear. Someone or something that has flaws and qualities, knowledge and things to learn. Sometimes a villain is simply an antagonist who doesn’t learn the lessons and grow as a character in contrast to an MC or protagonist. This can make a villain empathetic, similar to Regina in Once Upon a Time. This can show just how hard it is to change in comparison to the protagonist who does make a change and learn the lesson.

Let me know how you write a villain. Do these tips help? Thank you for reading.

Heather A Busse

The Color Revision and Editing Method

Color Editing Method

When writing it’s important to revise and to edit the document. This is one way to approach editing. It isn’t the only way. It’s just a way that has worked for me.

Note: This is a personal writer edit. This does NOT replace getting a writing critique or hiring an editor.

In fact, I recommend this process order for edits:

  1. Write the first draft.
  2. Do a personal edit. Use an editing method. I use a color method. *I share this later on in this document.
  3. Revise the draft based on the personal edit.
  4. Get a writer critique performed on the piece of writing. A writing critique will be a small group of writers that give in depth feedback on the craft elements of writing for each other. It may include grammar, punctuation and spelling, but should focus heavily on craft. Craft includes voice, POV, character development, plot, world-building, themes, dialogue, literary devices and scene/exposition. They will provide feedback on what is working well and why. They will give feedback on what isn’t working well and why. If this doesn’t happen, form a different group for critique.

Note – you should not be paying for this. This should be a group of writers about the same level of experience and talent that work together to improve the quality of writing within each other’s work. It’s supportive, but honest. The focus should be on the writing, not the writer or trying to write the story for the writer. Create a group of up to about five writers.

  • Based on the writing critique, do another revision.
  • Get beta readers. Have them read the story from a reader’s perspective. Is it readable and interesting? This shouldn’t be super in depth. You might get simply what works and what doesn’t on a basic level from a reader’s point of view. This is NOT the same as writing critique. It’s what a reader might like the most in a story or why they wouldn’t read a story.

Note – I don’t recommend paying for this either.

  • Do a revision based on the beta reader’s feedback.

Note – At this point the piece of writing has gone through a personal edit/revision, a writer critique based edit/revision and a beta reader edit/revision.

  • The last step is HIRING a professional editor. YES you do need to do this for a professional level edit. Do this before submitting to a publisher or self-publishing. It’s important. It separates well-written works from sloppy writing. It shows professionalism. Have respect for the reader and be a professional. A professional editor may only be someone who edits based on grammar, spelling and punctuation or they may also provide content edits. It’s up to you the type of editor you hire. You may want to hire someone that does both.

Finally, you are ready to self-publish or submit to a traditional publication. Good luck.

Select a color for each editing category. I use these colors for each category, but you can assign whatever color you want.

The categories:

  1. Proofreading:

In YELLOW, highlight any areas of the Work in Progress (WIP) that requires a revision of grammatical, vocabulary, spelling or punctuation errors. Make the edits in track changes maybe or another editing software.

Some of the things to look for:

  • Verb/subject agreement
  • Verb tenses consistent
  • Consistent style rules; AP, Chicago, your own etc.
  • Spelling – American English, British English, another language. Is the spelling correct?
  • Are there too many adverbs?
  • Too many repeated words?
  • Are there too many gerunds?
  • Prepositions
  • Plurals
  • Articles
  • Pronouns
  • Empty sentences or vague words that do not supply concrete detail, plot, world or character revelations
  • Empty modifiers (huge, very, really)
  • Correct word used (may be spelled right, but is it used correctly)
  • Do sentence styles vary? Do sentences serve the story? Meaning, do they show character, plot, and/or world-building?
  • Have you taken advantage of nouns and verbs?
  • Check that punctuation is correct for whatever style you’re using.
  • Are sentences active, passive? Passive clues (to be verbs and sentences that do not begin with the subject)
  • Clauses correctly formed
  • Fragmented sentences
  • What is the readability score? Have you checked throughout the piece?
  • Character

In ORANGE, highlight any areas of the WIP that requires an edit for character issues. Take notes. Some of the things to look for:

  • Are the characters well-developed?
  • Are they flat? If so, how will you make them round?
  • Are their behaviors and motives consistent to who they are?
  • Are they believable?
  • Do they exhibit flaws?
  • Do they have preferences?
  • Check their actions and choices. Do they make sense?
  • Check their emotional responses. Are they believable to who they are or who they are becoming?
  • Do they have histories? (Even if you don’t share all of it)
  • Do your characters have “enemies” or people who dislike them? Do they have people they dislike?
  • Do they grow, change, learn a lesson, fail?
  • Are they surprising?
  • Are the characters’ voices distinct from one another and consistent throughout?
  • What are the character interactions and relationships like? Are they well-developed and believable?
  • Are their reactions to events in the novel realistic?
  • Do physical descriptions remain consistent?
  • Are character names consistent?
  • Plot

I use PINK to highlight areas of the WIP that require an edit for plot issues. I may also make notes for each issue to fix.

  • Are the stakes high enough? Believable?
  • Is there tension throughout?
  • Are plot twists believable? Do they surprise?
  • Do the events unfold naturally, or thrown in without context or jarring to the reader that confuses rather than surprises?
  • Do the scenes drive the story forward?
  • Are there hooks at the start and end to each chapter?
  • Are the “promises” made at the beginning of the novel fulfilled by the end? Or in a tragedy, is it clear why the protagonist failed?
  • Dialogue

In BLUE, highlight issues with dialogue. Make notes on what to fix and how.

  • When the characters speak through dialogue, are they moving the plot forward?
  • Are their words providing character and scene?
  • Are their interactions believable?
  • Are their word choices true to who they are?
  • Do they speak like real people within the context of the world? Example – If the character is from Manchester, do they have a feel in the dialogue of being from Manchester?
  • Did you describe how the character sounds, their accents and slang consistently throughout the story?
  • Are the speakers distinct from one another?
  • Would it be confusing to the reader to understand who is speaking?
  • Literary Devices – A NEON GREEN

I use a neon green or light blue for this. Here is a great resource that defines the types of literary devices – https://literarydevices.net/. This is more of a strong recommendation to use literary devices to create dynamic, interesting ways to present sentences and story structure. There are so many types to use that having a checklist would be difficult. Perhaps take note of ones that you intentionally used or find out that you used and check to see if they work with the tone and voice of the story. Add them if they work for the story.

Here is a list of some common devices:

  • Anaphora
  • Epistrophe, Epizeuxis, Antanaclasis
  • Chiasmus
  • Foil
  • Hamartia
  • Hyperbole
  • World-Building/Setting

I use PURPLE for setting. Take note of any issues with setting, world-building, time/place.

  • Are the place names, locations shown to the reader?
  • Is the time shown to the reader?
  • Is there enough detail about the world to immerse the reader?
  • Do the details about the world make sense?
  • Are the details consistent throughout the story?
  • Are physical items consistent from one scene to the next? Such as if the character took off the coat in the chapter opener, they shouldn’t be wearing it at the end unless that is also shown.
  • World-building may include:

When applicable, are each of these things consistent and believable?

  1. Politics
  2. Currency
  3. History
  4. Religion
  5. Magic
  6. Physics
  7. Medicine
  8. Agriculture
  9. Education
  10. Trade
  11. Economies
  12. Entertainment
  13. Art
  14. Geography
  15. Technology
  • Scene

I use GREEN to mark necessary edits within a scene. Scene is also called “showing”. Good stories either weave exposition and scene together or balance exposition with scene. Important plot and character development should be shown in scene. The story events that move the reader through the beginning to the end should have scene. Check:

  • Are the right events shown?
  • Do scenes work to move the story forward, show character growth or interesting surprises/reveals?
  • Does the scene keep the reader interested?
  • Is the scene important information better given through quick exposition?
  • Break down the scene into acts; do the characters react and behave how they should? Is the action moving or dragging?
  • Is it too fast? Is it too slow?
  • Does the diction work for moving the story and creating tension?
  • Does the scene leave the reader wanting more, feeling something, connecting to the story and/or character?
  • Exposition

Use RED for exposition. There is a use for exposition. Important information the reader needs, but would drag the story down (scene is a slower pace) should be written in exposition. Tip – weave exposition at the right time during scenes and it doesn’t feel so expository, but definitely use it when you need to get information out fast, but wouldn’t work well in scene.

  • Is the exposition important for the reader to know?
  • Would it be better in scene?
  • Does the exposition come at the right time during the story?
  • Does it balance with scene, so that it doesn’t come as a massive information dump?
  • Voice

I use a GRAY or light blue pen or marker for this. Voice is the form or format used by the story’s narrator. Yes, there is a narrator to a story, usually a character either known or unknown to the reader that the “author” uses to tell the story. This is also sometimes known as the author’s voice or style. Voice is the personality of a story.

  • Double check that the character/narrator’s voice is coming through each scene. Is there too much of an author presence dominating the character’s voice?
  • Is there a personality to the narrator? Does it work well?
  • Is the narrator’s voice consistent? Do they have a distinct personality?
  • Do the words fit the character’s personality, knowledge and experience?
  • Do their mannerisms fit their location in time and place?
  • Does the narrator behave according to their identity markers? Occupation, sex, sexual orientation, religion, class, creed etc.
  • Do the characters in the story behave according to their identity markers?
  1. Tone  

I have some metallic markers that I use, so for this I pick SILVER. Tone is known as the mood of a story. Tone, much like voice is shown with diction, syntax and literary devices and structure. It can be confused with voice and structure, but each term has a different definition based on the effect created by the tools used.

  • Is there a mood to each scene or even piece of exposition?
  • Considering each scene or point of exposition, does the mood created fit?
  1. Theme

For theme I use GOLD, but be careful of trying to manipulate the reader into learning a theme or lesson. Let it come naturally throughout the story. Themes are pondering those questions of life such as; coming of age, good vs. evil, survival, heroism, prejudice, class, gender, courage, love, friendship, the underdog etc.

  • I think for a writer, it’s important to see what themes arise in the writing.
  • Does the story serve the theme or themes?
  1. Point of View

Underline point of view issues in black or mark them in black. Point of view is 1st, 2nd and 3rd person. It is how the narrator is presented in the story.

1st person may be considered an unreliable narrator, because the story is usually about them and each person will have the bias of only their view. They may have biases about themselves and how others see them. They may have biases about themes in the story and may seem like they are telling the reader what to think.

2nd person is “you”. The narrator is telling a story about “you”.

3rd person can be a close and immediate read, it can be omniscient, it can be limited and it can be a distant read. It can have many 3rd person POVs. It’s also considered to be a reliable narrator, having little to no bias, because the story is not about them it’s about something they’ve seen or at least took part in, but maybe was not the main character. Example – King Arthur stories are frequently told about him by other characters in the story, even though he is the feature. It’s that eyewitness that saw something recounting what they saw to the best of their ability (in limited 3rd).

  • Determine what the POV is and check that it is consistent throughout
  • If you mean to have POV shifts, check that it happens in the right spot and that it is clear to the reader.
  • Does the POV work for the story? If you wrote it in 1st, would 3rd be better? If you wrote it in 3rd, would 1st be best?
  • Are multiple POVs necessary? If so, when is the best point to change? Many authors choose to change by chapter rather than within a chapter or paragraph, but this also happens too. Does it work? Is it confusing?
  1. Structure and Formatting the Manuscript

I use brown to note structural issues. Structure is the format and sequence of events in a story. There are different types of structures including the 3 part and the 5 part. The 5 part includes; introduction, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Check the structure of your story.

Formatting resources – https://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/what-are-the-guidelines-for-formating-a-manuscript

  • Is the structure interesting?
  • Does it make sense?
  • Is it believable?
  • Is it too cliché?
  • Is the format of the manuscript consistent throughout?
  • Are sentences single-spaced? Are rows double-spaced?
  • Are there 1 inch margins or whatever is required for publication?
  • Is the cover page formatted according to submission guides?
  • Are there page numbers? Where?
  • Is your contact information present?
  • Are indents formatted the same from beginning to end?
  • Did you select a readable font? A serif font is often preferred for the clear difference with the letters and number liLt1IT. Sans serif can be difficult for numerous people to differentiate those letters and the number 1 for how similar they are, which does slow down the reading and take the reader out of the story. This also can happen with serif fonts for some people, so consider your audience.