Belzetarn’s Smithies and Cellars

When I made the (vague) plan to share my floor plans for Belzetarn’s tower on my blog, I envisioned a vast spill of drawings showing all of the main levels. But when I opened my computer to write the post, I realized that just as the proverbial “wall of text” is unappealing, so is the “wall of floor plans” a bad idea.

I almost scrapped the whole thing.

But… but… but! Floor plans are cool! I bet some of my blog readers would like to see them!

So, instead of reserving the floor plans for the appendices of The Tally Master only, I put my thinking cap on. How can I present the floor plans in an approachable way? Thinking… thinking… thinking…

Ah, ha!

How do you spread the waist-high pile of mulch? One shovelful at a time. How do you make the long journey? One step at a time. I would not try to show the whole tower in one go.

Plus, I could then talk about what’s on each level, which would be fun.

So, here are the lowest levels of the tower and the kitchen annex.

The cellars under the kitchens are a little lower than the smithies inhabiting the roots of the tower proper. Two separate stairs give access to the root cellars, but the mead cellar deliberately has only one locked entrance. No illicit tapping of the mead barrels allowed!

Many of the drinking vessels used at table are made of horn (much more delicate than the pottery bowls and copper cooking pots) and possesses special cleaning requirements. Thus there is a horn scullery devoted to washing drinking horns! The leather bottiles in which mead is carried to the great hall, where it is served, also posses their own scullery.

The Castellanum’s kitchens, right above the cellars, prepare food for the bulk of the denizens in Belzetarn. The Regenen’s kitchens (one more level up and not on this floor plan) handle the fancy dishes reserved for the high table where the warlord and his elite officers dine.

The smithies occupy the great stone vaults at the foundations of the tower. They are shadowy spaces, lit by the fires in the forges and echoing with the shouts of the smiths and the ringing of hammers on metal. The color of heated bronze – or copper or tin – indicates its temperature and when it is hot enough to be worked, so strong sunlight would be a hindrance.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
The Dark Tower
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber



Released! The Tally Master

The Tally Master is now available for purchase as an ebook on Amazon. I’m excited that all of you finally get to read it!

Seven years ago, reeling from a curse in the wake of battle, Gael sought sanctuary and found it in a most perilous place.

The citadel of a troll warlord—haunt of the desperate and violent—proves a harsh refuge for a civilized mage. But Gael wields power enough to create an oasis of order amidst the chaos.

Now master of the metals that flow to the citadel’s weapon forges, Gael rules his tally room unchallenged, until he discovers a theft within its vaults.

Gael loves the quiet certainty of black ink tally marks on smooth parchment, but his search for the thief leads to a maze of unexpected answers, putting his hard-won sanctuary—and his life—at risk.

Set in the Bronze Age of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s North-lands, The Tally Master brings mystery and secrets to epic fantasy in a suspenseful tale of betrayal and redemption.

The Tally Master is available as an ebook. Amazon

The paperback edition is coming soon! 😀



The Dark Tower

My inspiration for The Tally Master came as a sort of vision, although “vision” is a misnomer, given that the sense of sight had little to do with it.

I felt as though I were Gael as he sat in a small and gloomy chamber hollowed from the thick stone wall of a dark lord’s dark tower, hunched over a parchment, quill scratching tally mark after tally mark.

There wasn’t much light, just flickers of firelight and shadows and the sensation of great weight pressing my shoulders down and my spine into an uncomfortable curve, while sound filled the air around me.

The roaring of great forges deafened me. The clanging of smiths’ hammers on beaten bronze clamored. Sudden shouts made my heart contract in alarm. Spurts of running footsteps pounded in a nearby stairwell.

Gael and the sounds of his setting seemed very real, and I wanted to tell his story. I knew that he was a troll and that he managed the wealth – the metals – for his dark lord, but I didn’t know much else.

So I engaged in the process that has become so familiar and effective for me over my years of telling stories. I asked myself question after question, made extensive notes of my answers, and drew bunches of maps and floor plans. Over several months, I came to know a lot about Gael, about his overlord (not quite the typical “dark lord” at all), and about Belzetarn, the citadel that was their home.

In my initial stabs to make Belzetarn match the feeling I had for it, I placed the kitchens in the tower proper, which was utterly wrong. I was so relieved when I realized that they were located within a sort of annex slabbed onto the lower southeastern side of the tower. Once I got that piece, the rest of the fortress almost fell into place by itself, although it took me a while to draw it all.

My goal was always to sculpt the physical form of Belzetarn to express the mood and the ambience of my initial inspiration.

The style of this drawing doesn’t truly hit the mark. The photo at the beginning of this post does that better. But the design of the tower itself is close to right. It’s tall – very tall – it’s dark, it possesses clawed protrusions at the top and a lumpy, spiky annex on one side. Plus, all the chambers and offices are in the right place, as you can see when you slice the tower in half.

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
The Fortress of Belzetarn
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber



The Fortress of Belzetarn

Belzetarn – the fortress in which The Tally Master takes place – occupies the top of a bluff above a lake in the Hamish wilds.

Summer Landscape Telemark

I envision the landscape as looking a lot like that of Telemark, Norway, although Belzetarn would be much closer to the lake than the vantage point in this photo.

Belzetarn’s outer bailey possesses room enough to permit an entire cohort (600 warriors) to practice drills. Stables, kennels, the hunters’ lodge, the gluemaker, and many other offices line its curtain walls.

The artisans’ yard, located along the cliff edge, is smaller, but encompasses the hospital, the felterers, the harnessmakers, the woodcarvers, and so on.

Belzetarn’s tower, erected by potent troll-magery long before Carbraes came to rule it, dwarfs both yard and bailey because of its extreme height, more than 300 feet (~90 meters) from the foundations to the battlements.

Belzetarn is big!

The Tally Master is so close to its release that I can almost taste it! I’d hoped to click the publish button this week, but…no. Next week is looking good though. 😀

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber



Cover Reveal: The Tally Master

The Tally Master is very, very close to being ready for its release. I’m excited about it!

The manuscript is fully proofread and formatted. I have roughly a dozen more line edits to make. And then I’ll need to get those edits proofed.

Next the file must go through Jutoh. I’m guessing that will take about three days, mainly because this book possesses a number of graphic images that I want to include, and I am not yet thoroughly familiar with handling images in ebook files.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to release the book sometime next week!

Which means that it is time to show you the cover, created by Milo at Deranged Doctor Design. 😀

Coming soon!

For some fun tidbits about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber



Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age

I created the first map for my North-lands right after I wrote Troll-magic. I remember immersing myself in the feeling I had for the world, and the different moods and geographies that seemed in my mind to go with each culture, and then attempting draw coastlines and rivers and mountains that matched my very subjective experience of the place.

It wasn’t easy at all, but it felt right. And I did manage to achieve a result close to what I wanted.

The Tally Master is set roughly 2,000 years before Troll-magic. While a few rivers have changed their courses, the basic topography of the landmass remains the same. Human elements, such as nations, fortresses, and cities – and, especially, the names for the various regions – are markedly different, of course.

I knew I wanted to include a map in The Tally Master and that I could not use the one from Troll-magic. I would need a new one!

But I like maps and drawing maps, so creating the new one was a pleasure and a treat.

If you wish to compare the North-lands of the Bronze Age (the time of Tally Master) with that of the Steam Age (the time of Troll-magic), you can see maps of the latter here.



Broad Distribution: Assessing 2016

The e-book editions of Hunting Wild and Serpent’s Foe are now both available for purchase at Apple and B&N, as well as several other e-tailers. Check them out!

Hunting Wild cover image, 150 pxHunting Wild

Young Remeya worships the forbidden horned god. A worship made taboo half a millennium ago. Performed still in secret by a few. Quietly tolerated by the king. Epic fantasy in which old beliefs and old loyalties clash with hidden magic in the Middle Ages of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s god-touched North-lands.

Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive
Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols


Serpent’s Foe

Once she stalked the duat by Ra’s side, carrying his light in her eyes and battling the monsters that assailed them. Now, tormented by confusion and her own fury, she longs to regain the unique powers which – inexplicably – elude her in captivity. In this mythic tale of pride and revelation, a fight beyond death delivers one last chance at redemption.

Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive
Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols


I’m excited that these stories are now more widely distributed. I’d meant to make them so much sooner. I had the end of January 2016 in mind! There’s a tale behind why I didn’t come close to that date. Naturally…I’m going to share it with you. 😀

Going back to the beginning…

In November 2015, I released 5 titles all on the same day: Hunting Wild, Serpent’s Foe, Winter Glory, Fate’s Door, and Caught in Amber. I’d decided to try several marketing strategies, all at once.

The Liliana Nirvana Technique: releasing 5 titles within a very short span of time
Promotional Release Price: 99 cents per title
Promotional Advertising: multiple ads – with eBookSoda, BKnights, and GenrePulse – capped off by a run of Amazon free days
Amazon Select: releasing the titles into the Select program, so as to make them available for Amazon’s subscription program, Kindle Unlimited

The Results

In the sort term, looked at within narrow parameters, these strategies worked well. I sold nearly five times as many books in the last two months of 2015 as I normally would have.

In the long term, from a business person’s point of view, the strategies were a failure.

Sure, I sold more books, but because they were priced at 99 cents, the advertising cost more than the money brought in by the sales. I lost money.

Even worse, once the advertising blitz was over and the prices returned to normal, there was no significant change in the rate at which I sold books.

For most of 2015, up through October, I’d sold roughly 15 books per month. By April 2016, I was selling 18 books per month, and I knew where the extra sales were coming from: not my big promotional push.

Losing money in the short term in order to have more readers discover my work over the next year might have been a good move. But losing money to maintain the the same rate of sales? Not so much.

Every Reader Counts

Now, I continue to be delighted with the fact that new-to-me readers continue to discover my books. Marie Force recently wrote about the importance of one’s readers, as did Kris Rusch. Dean Wesley Smith has always said: (paraphrased) remember that there’s a real person behind every sale, a reader who has decided to spend several hours enjoying your story. That means something. That’s real.

I do remember that, every single time someone buys a book of mine, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

However, I won’t be releasing five books all at once again. I won’t be releasing books priced at 99 cents again. I won’t be purchasing ads that lose me money again. And I’ve been slowly pulling those 2015 titles out of Amazon Select.

The Best Laid Plans

I’d intended to keep the stories in Select for only 90 days, or 6 months at most, but two things derailed my plans.

The first was the rip in my left retina that occurred in January 2016. The cryopexy repair was incredibly painful, as was its immediate aftermath. I was barely capable of anything. I couldn’t even sleep much. I certainly couldn’t tackle publishing tasks.

Once the pain subsided, I had to hold my head at an awkward angle, 24/7, for months. I still wasn’t doing much!

When the ordeal was over, I dove into writing. It had been a long time since I’d written fiction, and I was missing it dreadfully.

I also pulled Serpent’s Foe out of Amazon Select, making it available on Kobo and Smashwords. I set up an account with Draft2Digital, another distributor like Smashwords that could reach two new e-tailers that I’d heard good things about: 24Symbols and Tolino.

The Second Hitch

Draft2Digital proved to be my second sticking point.

Many indies speak positively about Draft2Digital. Indeed, I hope to join their number. They like the customer service. They like the modern and up-to-date website and author dashboard. They like the monthly payment schedule. They like the ease with which one can upload files. A few even speak of an increase in sales that occurred when they started using D2D.

I’d wanted to try D2D myself for nearly a year. I figured it would be good to “test the tires” with a short story, and uploaded Serpent’s Foe, planning to distribute the story to Apple and B&N through D2D.

The hitch I encountered was how D2D creates e-book files from uploaded Word files. They want each book uploaded as three separate files: front matter, the story, and back matter. When I uploaded all three of those parts as one file, the resulting e-book was not structured and formatted properly.

Furthermore, the table of contents had the quirk that I, as a reader, hate: no vertical space between the chapters, so that I’m always tapping the chapter just before the one I want or else the chapter just after the one I want.

I realized, of course, that dividing Serpent’s Foe into three files would be a relatively simple matter. That would have solved the structural problems with the e-book. But the only way to solve the TOC problem would be to build the e-book file myself, using one of the software programs designed for that: Scrivener, Vellum, or Jutoh.

Pursuing Jutoh

I had already looked into all three of these programs, and I knew I wanted to learn how to use Jutoh. But I also knew that if I were to purchase Jutoh on the spot and dive into learning how to use it, my writing on The Tally Master would come to a complete halt.

I’d already spent many months not writing, first due to all the publishing tasks required to release 5 titles simultaneously, and then because of my torn retina. It would have broken my heart to stop again. Plus, without the writing, I have nothing to publish. My writing has to come first.

So I wrote, loving my characters, loving my story, and loving being immersed in the creative process again at long last.

Learning Jutoh would keep. So would distributing my books through Draft2Digital. And, since I intended to distribute to Apple and B&N through Draft2Digital, broader distribution of my most recent five titles would also have to keep. I didn’t want to distribute them through Smashwords only to pull them down a few months later in order to go through Draft2Digital.

That was then, June 2016.

But now – now! – I’ve seized my moment.

Pursuing Broad Distribution

Just last week I’d finished all my work on the appendices for The Tally Master, but my second reader was not yet ready with her detailed story feedback. I cannot do my final round of revisions until I hear from her. I had a gap in my workflow!

I filled that gap with learning Jutoh.

I must say that I’m delighted with the program. It took me a full day to really understand all the controls and how to use them; another full day to create the e-book files for Serpent’s Foe (mobi for Amazon and ePub for everyone else).

Now Serpent’s Foe is structured exactly as I want it to be, including the table of contents. It uploaded smoothly to Draft2Digital and maintained its formatting. It’s available at 5 of the 6 e-tailers to which I have D2D distributing. I’m sure it will soon go live at the sixth, 24Symbols. (ETA: It’s live now.)

Since my second reader was still reading and making notes, I dove into putting Hunting Wild through Jutoh. I wanted to cement my mastery. Hunting Wild is longer than Serpent’s Foe, and thus took longer to format, but it too came out beautifully. And it too is now available at 5 of the 6 D2D e-tailers.

I’m on my way to broader distribution with all of my books! I like it!

Take a moment and consider the horrible possibility that a Nook devotée couldn’t get Hunting Wild at B&N, or an iPad aficionado couldn’t get Serpent’s Foe from iTunes. Now they can! And soon Winter Glory, Fate’s Door, and Caught in Amber will be available there as well.

Limiting Participation in Amazon Select

I’ve never liked the idea of being entirely dependent on one e-tailer, but that is exactly what Amazon’s Select program requires: any book available on Kindle Unlimited cannot be offered by any e-tailer save Amazon. For that reason, I’ve only dabbled in Select in the past, trying it for 90 days to see if it might boost my discoverability. When no such boost arrived, I pulled the book with which I was testing the waters.

One might argue that only a longer trial would open Select’s benefits. Well, now I’ve made that trial, and it doesn’t. Not for me, at least.

In the future, I plan to use Select for short intervals – just 90 days – because I have some readers with very tight book budgets, who won’t be able to read my books unless they appear at least once in Kindle Unlimited. But after a new release spends its brief time in Select, I’ll send it wide, so that my readers who patronize Apple, B&N, Kobo, and other stores can snag their copy.

Hunting Wild cover image, 150 px

Hunting Wild Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols

Serpent’s Foe Amazon I B&N I Inktera I iTunes I Kobo I OverDrive I Scribd I Smashwords I 24Symbols



What Does the Tally Master Tally?

The wealth of Belzetarn is measured in its metals.

How many ingots of bronze, copper, and tin – tin, so rare – lie in its vaults? How many bronze swords? How many shirts of bronze scale?

The technologies required to make superior weapons and tools of iron don’t exist yet, but those for the working of bronze are well developed, and the bronze implements of Belzetarn rarely fail. Were it not for the scarcity of tin, the denizens of the citadel would be well equipped. But tin is incredibly rare, and every grain of it must be well guarded.

Gael, the tally master of Belzetarn, is the one who ensures that none of the tin – or any of the metals – is lost or stolen. The day he discovers that his vaults are one ingot short is grievous!

* * *

In order to write The Tally Master, I needed to know a fair bit about metallurgy, about mining, about smithing, and about the shape and size of ingots through history. I researched all of these elements, and some pertinent bits have made their way into the book’s appendices. Here is a sneak preview of the appendix on ingots.

About Tin, Copper, and Bronze Ingots

The ingots issuing from Belzetarn’s copper mines are massive ’oxhides’ shaped like an animal hide with four ’legs’ that make it possible to carry them. They weigh 80 pounds and measure roughly 70 centimeters (~28 inches) long by 40 centimeters (16 inches) wide by 5 centimeters (~2 inches) thick.

Belzetarn’s tinworks yield ‘pebbles’ created in a rough smelting on site. These pebbles are transported to the citadel’s forges in sacks loaded onto a mule.

Neither the copper oxhides nor the tin pebbles are pure enough for immediate use. Both must be smelted again to remove impurities, and the resulting high-quality metal is poured into molds which create small ingots shaped vaguely like hats.

These ‘hat’ ingots each weigh one pound and measure roughly 9 centimeters (~3.5 inches) per side of the ’hat brim’ – the widest part. The ’crown’ rises 4.2 centimeters (~2 inches) high.

Tin is the least dense of the three relevant metals – tin, bronze, and copper – and the tin hat ingots have a thickness of 2.421 millimeters. Bronze, with more density, yields ingots 2 millimeters thick. And copper, the most dense, possesses ingots of 1.995 millimeters thickness.

The hat ingots are shaped to nest in neat stacks. But because of their different thicknesses, stacks composed of the different metals would wobble a bit, while stacks of all tin, all copper, or all bronze are very stable.

The smiths of the individual forges – sword, armor, and privy – each create their own bronze from the tin and copper hat ingots, because each requires a slightly different ratio of tin to copper. Any leftover bronze is poured into its own hat ingots. The blade smith regularly produces one bronze ingot every day, so precise and standardized are his processes.

The privy smith, who makes tools and household implements for the citadel, is experimenting wildly with different metal mixtures. He rarely has enough leftover bronze to pour an entire ingot, so his leftovers return to storage at the end of the day as a lump which is weighed.

The armor smithy always needs wire (to ‘sew’ the many small platelets of bronze into mail shirts), so any excess bronze is poured into long narrow molds, yielding metal that can be readily hammered into wire.


Seven years ago, reeling from a curse in the wake of battle, Gael sought sanctuary and found it in a most perilous place. But the citadel of a troll warlord—haunt of the desperate and violent—proves a harsh refuge for a civilized mage.

Set in the Bronze Age of J.M. Ney-Grimm’s North-lands, The Tally Master brings mystery and secrets to epic fantasy in a suspenseful tale of betrayal and redemption.

Coming soon!

For more about the world of The Tally Master, see:
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
Gael’s Tally Chamber

For more about ingots of the ancient world, see:
Photo of an Ingot of Cyprus, British Museum
About Oxhide Ingots, Wikipedia
About Tin “Hat” Ingots, Wikipedia
About Tin “Hat” Money, Time Capsule Money Museum
About “Bun” Ingots, Parys Copper Mines



Milk Is Highly Insulinogenic

When I first encountered that word, insulinogenic, I completely garbled its pronunciation. In-su-lino-whadya-hooya? What the Hades?

In-su-lino-gen-ic. Right.

So what does it mean? It means something that stimulates the production of insulin. In the context of milk, it means that milk produces a much bigger insulin response in the human body than it has any right to, given the amount of carbohydrates present in milk, mostly in the form of the milk sugar lactose. Milk punches so high above its carb content that it produces an insulin response like that of white bread!

Why is this of concern to me?

Well…when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, I really stepped up my milk intake. I didn’t know that milk was insulinogenic, and I did know that my bones could use all the help they could get.

I found it difficult to drink 4 cups a day, so I began adding a pinch of stevia along with cocoa powder to my evening milk. Yum! It tasted like dessert!

Meanwhile, my weight had been creeping up. There seemed to be several obvious reasons for that. I had two health problems in sequence that kept me away from the gym for nearly 2 years. I’d allowed pasta back into my menu, perhaps once every 10 days. And I was getting into my middle fifties. I didn’t like the upward creep, naturally.

I was relieved when I resolved my health problems enough to return to the gym in May 2016. And I rededicated myself to kicking the pasta back out of my menu. Remembering when I tried Phil Maffetone’s 2-week test with such stellar results, I expected to see the start of a drop in weight. Imagine my surprise when I continued to gain!

“How can this be?” I asked myself. “I’m swimming three times a week. Lifting weights two or three times a week. I’m eating fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. My calorie intake is modest; I’ve never been a big overeater. What the Hades gives?”

This unfortunate upward trend continued. “I wonder if it is the milk?” I asked myself.

You would think I might have done some more reading about milk, but I didn’t. I was attached to my milk. Besides, it was healthy milk from grass-fed cows lovingly tended by my local farmer, who had managed the apprentices at the famous Polyface Farm. It couldn’t be the milk!

But I suspected it was.

I tried to cut down and found that I couldn’t. Oh, oh! Was I addicted to milk?

Finally, in November 2016, after months of “quitting milk” and then “I’ll just have one last big glass tonight,” I decided I needed support. I’d visited a website devoted to the Whole30 way of eating some while back and noted that the Whole30 was the way I wanted to eat and that the site had forums. A forum sounded like exactly what I needed.

And it was!

Hanging out with a bunch of others who were eating the same way I wanted to eat – and posting on my progress – enabled me to give up the milk and ditch the last remnants of pasta. I saw almost immediate results. I had an annual exam scheduled with my doctor 3 weeks after I started my Whole30, and I found I’d lost 7 pounds. Without counting calories. Just by waving goodbye to milk. (Since I doubt my previous once or twice a month indulgence in pasta was the key to my previous weight gain.)

I also found my energy levels increasing and my mood improving. I felt good!

After 30 days of no milk (and no grains, no legumes, and no sugar – none), I’d lost 9 pounds. I decided to carry on as I was. I liked how I felt, I liked all the new meals I’d learned how to cook, I liked everything about my new routine. So far, I’m still losing weight, 20 pounds and counting at about one-and-a-half pounds per week. My yoga pants are beginning to get too loose!

It was only after these stellar results that I did a little researching on milk and learned that it is highly insulinogenic. Even my healthy milk from a local dairy farm run by a super careful and informed grass farmer.

When I was younger, I could get away with eating insulinogenic foods. At least, they didn’t pack the pounds on me, although – looking back – they did have other more subtle negative effects. But as I’ve gotten older, insulin in my bloodstream started to have the effect that it does in many, acting as a one-way gatekeeper that packs fat into the fat cells and doesn’t allow any withdrawals of that fat for energy. No more milk for this lady!

But what will I do for my osteoporosis?

That’s another blog post. Which I will write. I also plan to share more about my adventures with the Whole30 in future posts. But this is enough for now. 😀

For more about the effects of insulin, see:
Test first, then conclude!

For more on nutrition, see:
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous
Thinner and Healthier
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

Can’t wait for my future posts to learn more about the Whole30? See:



Why the Long Hiatus in Blog Posts?

My plan, as of November 2016, was to focus on the revisions needed for The Tally Master and the work needed for the holidays. Blogging could wait until the beginning of January.

Part of that plan went forward just fine. I think my kids had fun, I loved the time with my parents, and everyone seemed to enjoy bonding during the last weeks of December. Additionally, I made steady progress on my revisions and turned The Tally Master over to my second reader on January 7.

So far, so good.

The very next day I received the phone call that let me know my mother was dangerously ill in the hospital. I dropped everything and went up for a week to support her and my father. She got better! Was able to go home. I went home, too, arriving just in time to handle a crisis involving one child and school. That took some sorting out, but I did sort it out, and had almost finished with it when I received a phone call that my mother had been admitted to the hospital again, even more seriously ill this time.

I couldn’t drop the crisis at home – my child needed me – but the instant I got it resolved, I dashed up to Maryland again and stayed for another week. And my mother got better! It seemed almost miraculous, and I was so grateful. She was admitted to a rehab this time, and I returned home myself. To discover that my left retina had torn!


You may recall that my left retina tore last year in January. The recovery from the earlier repair procedure had been grueling. This time I was lucky. The tear was much smaller and more contained. The ophthalmologist was able to repair it very quickly with just laser, and the aftermath did not require holding my head at a specific angle 24/7 for months.

But I must admit that all of the above really took it out of me!

I haven’t been entirely preoccupied with personal emergencies, however. Many weeks I was. But I’ve also been working hard on the appendices for The Tally Master, as well as communicating with the designer I hired to create the cover.

Yes, I actually hired a cover designer instead of doing the cover design myself! And I’ve learned something.

I’m skilled at using Photoshop. I’m talented at graphic design. The covers I create are attractive and professionally done. But my covers are not adequately conveying the mood and feeling of my stories to many of my potential readers.

How do I know this?

The instant I saw the rough draft for the cover of The Tally Master it fairly leapt to my eye, because this cover did convey the mood and the feeling, and the contrast with – say, Fate’s Door – was dramatic.

I’m still thinking about what I’ll do about covers going forward. I want to see how the commissioned cover affects my sales before I make any firm decisions. But I am leaning toward hiring out cover design for my novels, at least, although I may continue to create the covers for my shorter works myself.

So… while I await feedback from my second reader, I have lots of things to share with you here: cool stuff about the setting of The Tally Master, the new cover, and some new things I’ve been doing on the cooking and nutrition front. I can’t wait! 😀