The Tally Master’s Missing Scene

Uh, oh. I made a mistake.

I’ve been sharing my novel The Tally Master as a serial here on my blog, and…I left out a scene! Yikes! How did that happen?

Well, I know how it happened.

Most of the story is told in chapters composed of three or four scenes each. But there are two special scenes that form their own chapters and that have titles instead of “Chapter 1” or “Chapter 2” and so on.

The first of these special scenes occurs between chapters 8 and 9. It tells a North-lands fairy tale that shows the significance of Gael’s name.

So you could read straight from chapter 8 through chapter 9, skipping this fairy tale interlude, and never know that you’d missed anything. That’s just what my serial readers have done! I apologize, guys! I’ve fixed my mistake. The Legend of the Mark of Gaelan is now present in the sequence. New serial readers will encounter it in the proper place.

I’ll share it below in this post as well, so everyone who missed can catch it now. But, gosh, I’m sorry! Forgive me?

What happened is that I put the story up on my blog a chapter at a time. So when it was time to put the next chapter up, I looked to see which one I’d done last. Chapter 8. Okay, 9 comes after 8. So, Chapter 9.


I should have looked at the Table of Contents. That would have shown me that one of the special scenes came next. Lesson learned. Once I get Chapter 19 posted, I will not then post Chapter 20. I’ll post the next special scene!

So why is the significance of Gael’s name important? Because he’s named after a legendary hero who most people in my North-lands revile. Gaelan was the North-lands equivalent of our Earth’s Cain. To learn why, read on… 😀

Legend of the Mark of Gaelan

Long ago, in the dawn of time, there lived two brothers in the land of Erynis. They studied magery, and each vied with the other to be the most skillful, the most powerful, and the most creative magus in the north. Despite their rivalry, they loved one another as brothers do: strong affection mingled with equally strong jealousy.

Each boasted that his magery was better. And each laughed, because who was to judge between them?

The friends of Cayim, the elder brother, would surely say he excelled every other magus in the land, while the students taught by Gaelan, the younger brother, would choose their teacher as the best. And all the people of Erynis were either friends of Cayim or students of Gaelan.

Now it chanced that the twin gods of Erynis heard the boasts of the two brothers. Thelor, the god of cleverness and intellect, felt sure that his powers of reason could discern which brother was the more masterful magus. And Elunig, the goddess of wisdom, loved her twin and wished him to experience the enjoyment that exercising discernment would give him.

So, when next the holy hermit of Erynis sat in meditation, Elunig granted him a vision. In his vision, Gaelan and Cayim traveled to the hermit’s shrine and from there were transported to the heavenly home of the twin gods, where they would be judged. The superior brother would be offered the choice between two wondrous gifts.

When Cayim heard of the hermit’s vision, he longed for Thelor’s gift: the enchanting of a well such that the one who drank of its waters would always know whether a given fact be false or true.

And when Gaelan learned of the hermit’s vision, he yearned for Elunig’s gift: the enchanting of a spring such that the one who drank from it would always know whether a proposed action was wise or foolish.

On the eve of midsummer, the two brothers met and agreed to the trial of mastery. They journeyed to the hermit’s shrine and were brought to the twin gods’ home as the hermit’s vision had promised.

They received their welcome in a garden of surpassing beauty. Red poppies crowded the borders. White roses, heavy with scent, climbed the trellises. And a fountain splashed.

Elunig spoke the first words, her voice gentle. “You are safe here, but do not stray into the wilderness beyond the hedge, for it is perilous there.”

Thelor spoke next, his tone stern. “Nor should you leave the chambers to which we bid you in our house, for dangers lurk in unexpected corners.”

Gaelan, overwhelmed by the majesty of the twin gods, bowed reverentially. But Cayim delayed, curious to discover if he could understand more of the divine by scrutinizing these magnificent examples of it. While he stared, and while Elunig gazed affectionately upon Gaelan, Thelor laid a finger aside his nose and winked.

Then a servant brought them goblets of fruit nectar to quaff, and when they had quenched their thirst, led them indoors.

Gaelan bathed his face and hands in the basin provided and lay down upon the silken couch to sleep. But Cayim waited until his brother’s eyes closed and retraced his steps to the garden. There he found Thelor, seated on the steps below the fountain.

“Why did you wink?” Cayim asked.

“I wished to tell you that my sister longs for a babe, despite our great mother declaring that enough divine children have entered the world.”

“Why did you wish to tell me this?” asked Cayim.

“That I shall not tell you,” answered Thelor. And he dismissed the curious brother.

The next day, after they had broken their fast on cream and honey and peaches, the brothers were ushered into a great hall with white marble floors and pillars.

Gaelan performed his magery first. He summoned flame, which transformed to sunlight and then into ice. He built a palace of the ice, which melted to become a mountain lake in which brilliant fishes swam. One fish grew into a dragon, bursting from the surface of the water and soaring to the clouds. The dragon’s scales became rose petals, and the beast came apart in a shower of blossoms, falling through a rainbow.

Elunig clapped in delight when Gaelan finished.

“Beautiful! Beautiful!” she exclaimed.

Cayim’s performance was less elaborate, by far.

He spread a magical carpet of rich blue and green threads on the marble floor. He summoned a rush basket, intricately plaited, to rest upon the carpet. He caused the soft trills of a flute to sound. And then he laid an infant to rest within his nest.

Elunig rushed forward, catching the child in her arms and pressing it to her breast. “Oh!” she cried.

“She is a human child, not a divine one,” said Cayim, “and so I judge that the great mother cannot object. Neither can any human mother, for this child has neither mother nor father nor any kin to care for her. She is yours, if you will have her.”

“Oh!” cried Elunig again.

Thelor smiled. “You envisioned this trial of skill as a gift to me, sister. But now I make it over to you.”

Elunig kissed the babe’s downy head. “Cayim has won my heart, if he has not won your reason, my twin,” she said.

“Then Cayim shall be the master magus,” declared Thelor. And then, forgetting discretion, he winked in full view of both brothers.

Upon seeing Thelor’s wink, Gaelan guessed all that had hitherto been hidden to him. Jealous rage flooded through him, and he lashed out. Had he been arguing with his brother, he might have lashed out with words. Had he been wrestling with Cayim, he would surely have struck with his fists. But because he’d been performing magery, he assailed his brother with the energea of his magery. And because he was full of wrath, his magery lacked his usual control.

His energea cracked out as black lines of force limned with gold. Not blue or silver or green, all safe. But most perilous black and gold.

Cayim fell to the floor, dead.

Within Gaelan, his heart broke—for he loved his brother yet—and his nodes—the source of his energea—tore. So strong was the disruption that Gaelan’s inner damage manifested immediately in his outer form. His ears grew enlarged and cupped. His nose lengthened, curving up. His skin sagged, and his back hunched. His thumbs became crooked and long. The truldemagar claimed him violently.

The twin gods returned Gaelan to Erynis and then did penance for centuries. They had destroyed two worthy men.

Ever after, all who dwelt within Erynis called the truldemagar the mark of Gaelan. In other lands, some who heard the legend of Gaelan adopted that name as well.

And though the righteous hate Gaelan for his fratricide, the merciful grieve for Gaelan’s loss and revile Cayim for his trickery.

*     *     *

Want to read the serial? See:
The Tally Master, Chapter 1 (scene 1)

Want to know more about Gael’s world? See:
The Dark Tower
Mapping Ancient Rome onto Belzetarn
What Does the Tally Master Tally?
Map of the North-lands in the Bronze Age
Bronze Age Swords
Brother Kings



New Blurb for Sovereign Night

I’ve never been quite satisfied with the copy that appears on the back cover of the paperback of Sovereign Night and on the webpages at various e-tailers.

I went so far as to obtain an analysis of what I had from an expert in marketing copy from Hidden Gems.

Wow! She delivered. In spades.

It was overwhelming, so overwhelming that I wasn’t sure where to start. I could see what my analyzer was driving at, but I couldn’t see how to arrive there by myself. I almost wished that I’d purchased the blurb-writing service rather than the blurb analysis. But I’d wanted to learn—teach me to fish, rather than simply giving me a fish.

Now I’m glad I didn’t just get the blurb-writing service, because I’ve got a glimmer of how to twist my mind when writing sales copy. That twist seems to be alien to my natural way of being in the world, but the glimmer gives me hope that I can learn it. It’s going to be a steep climb. The fact that I can’t really put words to what I’m perceiving tells me that. If I understood it fully, I’d be able to explain it—and I can’t.

In the meantime, here’s my newest version of copy for Sovereign Night. I’m still wrestling with it. It may change again. But I think this version is better than the one I’ve been using.

Note: I did make a few more tweaks. You can see the adjusted version here.

*     *     *

Something is very wrong in the river city of Hantida—a vile knot of villainy that poses special risks to Gael and Keir.

Gael, a defrocked mage, travels with his friend Keir, a gifted healer with a penchant for helping anyone sick or injured who crosses her path. Gael loves her loyalty to her calling—and to him—but fears she will never be more than a friend.

Together they seek a cure for an accursed affliction that not only erodes their bodies and minds, but keeps them apart. The rare magical artifact that holds their salvation lies hidden in riverine Hantida.

But when they enter its gates, the dark mystery lairing there catches them in its claws.

Reavers comb the city’s streets and squares by night, crashing their gauntleted fists on a residence gate or a workshop door, and taking a child, a grandmother, or some sleeping fool who thought himself safe.

Always the reavers emerge from the imperial citadel at the city’s heart and return to it before daybreak with their victim—just one—who is never seen again.

When the bronze-mailed warriors set their sights on a little girl with serious burns, Gael and Keir come face to face with the threat.

But more than mere violence lurks behind the abductions—a rotten core of secrets, intrigue, and conspiracy that Gael and Keir must penetrate while hanging on to their lives and holding true to their quest.

A tale of adventure in a vivid world of magic, shadows, and exotic peril.

*     *     *

For more about Sovereign Night, see:
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida
Hantidan Garb
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
Dragon-gods of Hantida
Following Gael & Keir: a Photo Tour

For more about sales copy, see:
Eyes Glaze Over? Never!
Cover Copy Primer
How I Wrote and RE-WROTE Cover Copy for My Novel
Cover Copy for Troll-magic…One. More. Time!
Revising Light’s Blurb



Artemis Avenger

I’m in the midst of writing a short story about the vengeance Artemis is determined to pursue for the deaths of four nymphs at Hades’ hands.

Gotta say…she’s really furious. How dare the lord of the underworld harm her handmaidens and companions of the hunt!

I’m so involved with the story that I’ve not written the blog post I intended for today. But I’m hoping you’ll enjoy these paintings from the past of the classical goddess of the hunt.

“Artemis” by Arthur Bowen Davies (above) depicts her in her guise as a lover of nature and the wild creatures inhabiting the fields and forests.

“The Nymph Arethusa” by Charles Alexandre Crauk (below) shows Artemis in her role as protector of maidens. The river god Alpheus pursues the nymph Arethusa after she bathes unknowingly in his waters. His lustful attentions are unwelcome to her, and she begs Artemis’ help and protection.



Lawrence Block and Unforgettable Characters—Take 2

Whew! I seem to have created a really mean character. I didn’t realize just how mean she was until I typed the longhand draft into a computer file. When I finished, I wondered if I should maybe keep this lady under wraps!

I will tell you that I cheated while writing her scene.

Instead of putting myself in Zelle’s shoes, I put myself in the place of her victims and then had Zelle say things that would hurt me most.

Guess it worked! Because I cringed while typing.

So what have I been up to? Why the nasty character? What’s going on?

For those of you who missed last week’s post: I’ve been working my way through Lawrence Block’s awesome “seminar in a book,” Write for Your Life.

In the chapter “Your Most Unforgettable Characters,” Block assigns two writing exercises. The first, in which one creates a character, I shared last week. Check it out here, if you wish.

The second exercise goes as follows:

• Take a walk or do something similar that refreshes you and clears your mind.

• Then come home and sit as though you were going to meditate—comfortably. (I think comfortably is the key here.)

• For 10 or 15 minutes, envision your character going through an ordinary day. What do they eat, wear, do?

• Then grab pen and paper (or your computer keyboard) and write about the character for 15 minutes.

This writing can take any form that appeals to you. It might be a story, a letter from the character, a letter to the character, a poem, a scene fragment, whatever.

Don’t worry about style. Turn off the critical voice who likes to squelch you when you’re writing.

I felt drawn to writing a scene. I considered writing the arrival of the foreign caravan, but didn’t quite feel the pull.

I contemplated writing of an interaction between Zelle and the crone mage, in which Zelle was being her covertly annoying self and also struggling against her growing affection for the old woman.

That possibility did draw me. It still does, actually. But it felt more demanding than I was ready for. If I were to write the novel in which Zelle would appear, then I’d write this scene. For a writing exercise, I wanted something more straight forward.

I decided to write a scene in which Zelle ensures that someone is annoyed and discommoded.

To prepare, I made a list of things that I would find annoying. Here it is:

    item lost
    item misplaced
    item damaged
    reporting someone’s gossip to another
    food mis-flavored
    tripping hazard
    bed short sheeted
    locked out
    sent on false errand or to carry a false message
    instructions wrong
    supplies low or gone
    sink dirty
    dishes dirty
    picture crooked
    sandal strap broken
    talking behind someone’s back

The list inspired me, and I said to myself: “I think I will show her dirtying the washbasin of the crone mage, and then steering a novice to where she’ll overhear people discussing her unfavorably.”

Once I started writing, it got darker than that. Zelle is mean! Take a look at the scene as it evolved.

To Bruise the Soul

Zelle untwisted a kink in the topmost of the gold chains holding her vest closed and shook the cuffs of her bloused pants to a more graceful position on her ankles. She checked that her tail of red hair, falling from her crown to drift forward of her left shoulder, lay untangled.

Then, tray in hand, she breezed into the sleeping chamber allotted to the two junior-most of the crone mage’s handmaidens.

The youngest of the pair, Gasha, just fifteen, sprawled on the salt-silk banquette where she took her rest. Her vest and pants were rumpled. She lay scowling down at her toes.

“You’d think the crone mage might let me at least apply some healing salts to my own face. It’s not fair that any girl in the community, if her mother be provident, can have clear skin. While I go around with a face like a pox victim.”

Gasha was indeed much troubled with adolescent acne. Which would serve Zelle’s current purpose well. Adolescent vanity was exactly what she intended to trigger.

The dark-haired girl to whom Gasha spoke turned away from the chest into which she’d been stowing folded shifts of bright pattern. “You know you aren’t skilled enough yet to practice healing magery on anyone, let alone on yourself, which is far more demanding than casting on someone else.”

Miyla was two years older than Gasha and known for her serene demeanor. Zelle doubted the girl was so serene beneath that surface appearance however.

Gasha rolled onto her side to meet Miyla’s gaze, her jaw abruptly pugnacious. “Don’t you wish you could use magery on yourself?” Gasha demanded. “If your cheekbones were higher and your chin squarer, you could be the most beautiful girl in the domicile! In the community!”

This was true. Miyla’s eyes were an amazing ice-blue with a surprising intensity beneath dramatic brows like dashes of ink. Her nose was short and straight, her lips beautifully formed. But the excessive flatness of her cheeks and her receding chin removed all possibility of loveliness. Zelle suspected Miyla would have handled ordinary plainness much better than the potential for extraordinary beauty scuttled by a few problematic features.

Miyla’s mouth thinned. “Shut up!” she snapped.

Her lips parted to recriminate further, but then she noticed Zelle’s arrival, and her angry eyes went flat. She curtsied, murmuring, “Salt mother.”

Gasha’s sulks disappeared, too, and she lurched off the banquette to her feet to echo Miyla’s knee dip. “Salt mother!” she gasped.

Zelle ignored the girls’ discomfiture, handing a crystal vial from her tray to Gasha. “Here you go. The crone mage has approved your request.”

The vial contained the very mage-infused salts the girl had been complaining of. Her request had been approved with no resistance once Zelle conveyed it. But Zelle had delayed such conveyance for six moons. She’d needed Gasha feeling discontented and rebellious.

“Oh!” exclaimed Gasha. “Thank you! I thought—I thought—”

Zelle smiled. “You thought the crone mage desired your humiliation.”

“Oh, no!” protested Gasha. “I was humiliated. I am humiliated—”

“Don’t be,” said Zelle, and then added, her tone light, “Such a shame that your skin is not clear like Seliya’s. But no matter. These salts will take care of it, and when they are gone, you shall have more.”

Gasha’s delight fell from her expression. She looked confused, trying to reconcile her pleasure in receiving her desire with the pain of the gratuitous reminder that her acne was severe, while the newest of the crone mage’s handmaidens—Seliya—possessed naturally flawless skin.

Zelle concealed her inner amusement and turned away from Gasha, focusing instead on Miyla, who stood nervously twisting her fingers together.

“I accidentally overheard you talking with the herbalist yesterday, and I think the wish you expressed to her is reasonable.” It hadn’t been a wish. Zelle was well aware it had been an expression of frustration.

But hearing the girl’s frustration had inspired this entire scheme in Zelle’s imagination. Now that she was putting her plans in play, it was working beautifully, judging by the tension in the room.

She took up the stack of face veils from her tray, handing them to Miyla. “I think that you are quite right that if you assume the zavoj of an ascetic, you’ll gain a more favorable response from the people around you. If all they can see are your eyes . . .” Zelle trailed off, smiling kindly.

Miyla’s expression congealed. She looked a though she’d been punched in the stomach, but she accepted the face veils.

“I shouldn’t be surprised if strangers imagined you to be as beautiful as Seliya, and even your friends will forget in time that you aren’t.”

Miyla curtsied. “Salt mother,” she whispered, not meaning the respect the courtesy conveyed, but not withholding it either.

“Salt mother,” echoed Gasha.

Zelle breezed out as she had breezed in.

The next step was to fetch Seliya. She’d have the girl wait in the corridor outside Gasha’s and Miyla’s chamber, ready to accompany Zelle on an errand to a ague-stricken household on the edge of the community.

Seliya was wonderfully uncertain of herself, trying to fit in, trying to make friends. She should get an earful, listening to Gasha’s and Miyla’s verbal storms in the aftermath of Zelle’s provocation.

Zelle nodded.

While Seliya listened and grew even more lonely and unhappy, Zelle would have just enough time to weaken the buckle strap on the crone mother’s favorite sandals—it would break on her next sojourn outside the domicile. She could also pour dirtied water into the crone’s washbasin. The chamber maid should have just finished cleaning the crone’s water closet.

Zelle repressed a sigh of satisfaction. People were so simple-minded. They always assumed others meant well. Zelle never did. It was delicious.

*     *     *

For the first character assignment (that produced Zelle), see:
Lawrence Block and Unforgettable Characters—Take 1

For more flash fiction, see:
Ribbon of Earth’s Tears
Mother’s Gift



Lawrence Block and Unforgettable Characters

I’ve been working my way through Lawrence Block’s book Write for Your Life, doing the assignments contained therein.


Well, first of all, Block has written over 100 novels and over 100 short stories. His career started in the 1950s, and he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America in 1994. His accomplishments in the writing life command my admiration and respect. He’s someone I’m honored to learn from.

Secondly, I’ve read each of the four writer’s guides penned by Block, and I like the man’s approach to living as it comes through in his writerly advice. He’s down-to-earth, he’s real, and he has a lot of insight into being human.

And, thirdly, when I first read Write for Your Life (without doing the assignments), there was one passage which really caught my attention and made me vow to return, pen in hand and paper before me. The gist of it:

Do the writers who work the hardest achieve greater success? Not from what Block has observed. A certain threshold of work is necessary, but beyond that he has not seen correlation between effort expended and success achieved.

The biggest factors in success are the beliefs you hold about yourself, your writing, and the world. What you think is what you get. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Therefore, you must learn what beliefs hold you back and confront them, so as to change them.

I am very interested in removing any internal blocks that stand in the way of my success.

Most of the assignments detailed in Write for Your Life are too personal to share in a blog. But the chapter titled “Your Most Unforgettable Characters” includes two assignments that are not personal at all. In fact, they are rather fun, so I thought I’d share the first of them right here and right now.

These were Block’s instructions:

• Seek out a public space.

• Take note of a stranger there, someone of whom you know nothing beyond what you can observe.

• Spend some time unobtrusively observing that person. How do they move, how do they talk, what do they wear? Don’t take notes; just get a good sense of them.

• Then go home, thinking about the stranger as you go. How might they react to events? What might they feel? Think?

ª Once home, get out pen and paper, give the person a name, and make a list of the person’s characteristics. Some items will be things you observed, some inventions, some a mix.

*     *     *

Since it was 9 pm as I was reading these instructions, and as I was already in my pajamas, I decided to make an adjustment to the assignment. I neither wanted to get dressed again and go out somewhere nor to wait until the morrow to do so.

Instead, I meditated upon my memory of a photograph I clipped from a magazine 30 years ago (now lost), because I found the image so arresting that I imagined myself (even then) writing a story about the woman depicted.

Rather than describing the photograph for you, I’m going to transcribe what I wrote for the assignment.

Note: My adaptation is an excellent option as we all shelter in place during COVID-19. You wouldn’t want to be hanging out in a crowd right now!


She has copper-red hair, long and very straight. She wears it in a horse-tail at the crown of her head. Her skin is very pale, but it neither burns nor tans, no matter how much sun she gets.

She wears tangerine-colored harem pants and sandals with many straps, like the footgear of the ancient Roman soldiers.

She wears a peach-colored vest secured in front by chains of gold. The vest is short, so her midriff is exposed, just a few inches. The front edges of the vest do not quite meet, so her cleavage is visible, also her navel.

She lives in a salt desert in a residence built of salt bricks.

Her people “mine” the salt and sell it afar via caravan.

They possess something called “salt magic” which involves colored salts and can be used to repair both inert things and living beings.

Zelle holds a position of authority, but not the ultimate authority. I think she is the assistant to one of the crone mages.

She feels a sense of personal power when she argues with people or causes them to feel annoyance.

Her magical abilities were discovered when she was 5 years old, and she was taken away from her family to learn control of her gift in the palace from which the crone queen rules. Zelle felt very small, lonely, vulnerable, and lost at first.

She proved very talented, so she leaned into her magic as a way to feel secure.

She didn’t boast to her peers, because she somehow felt it would be undignified. Instead she learned to find small and unobtrusive ways to cause trouble for her cohorts, which made her feel strong.

She never helped her classmates, because being better at classwork made her feel good. But not boasting meant they did not realize just how good she was and thus did not marshall their resources to catch up. She studied all the time, except when she worked to create subtle pain and annoyance for others. Her teachers did recognize her excellence.

What does Zelle want?

I think she wants exactly what she has: enough authority, but less visibility. Ah! But she is beginning to feel affection for the crone mage she serves. She is unhappy about this, because she feels more comfortable with aggression and hostility.

There could be a story here.

What if a caravan of foreigners entered the salt lands instead of waiting on the caravans the salt landers send out?

The salt landers hate this invasion, Zelle included. But the assistant to the caravan master attracts her. And he seems more conscious of her than he should be.

But what if there is another element to events than this? There is water en route. Not overland, but as a storm approaching. The salt landers can see clouds building and building. When the deluge arrives, the flood will inundate the salt plan and dissolve the salt.

How do the salt landers manage in their salt desert? They use their magic to make glass utensils, pipes, basins, and even furniture.

Why is someone aiming a rainstorm at them?

*     *     *

Block speaks of this exercise not as the route by which to create characters in one’s stories, but as a way to gain access to areas of one’s own personality that might otherwise remain buried.

The next exercise in the chapter builds on this one. I’ll tell you about it next week! 😀
Lawrence Block and Unforgettable Characters—Take 2



Dragon-gods of Hantida

Last week, I emailed my newsletter subscribers a note about the Hantidan dragon-gods. Since I was about to announce the release of Sovereign Night, I thought a bit of intriguing trivia might be something fun for my subscribers’ in-boxes.

The thing is…you, my blog readers, might enjoy it also. So here it is for your perusal.

(To those of you who are both blog readers and newsletter subscribers, my apologies for the duplication.) 😉

The Hantidan gods are more truly shapeshifters than dragons. They can take any living shape—man, woman, child, or beast. But in Hantidan belief, the native essence of dragon is shapeshifter. Hantidans describe the dragon form as one in which the god assumes the physical nature of nine beasts all at once.

The dragon’s head resembles that of a stallion, the eyes those of a hawk, the ears a cow’s, the antlers a stag’s, the neck a snake’s, the belly that of a tortoise, the scales those of a carp, the claws an eagle’s, and the soles those of a tiger.

The Hantidan pantheon consists of nineteen dragon-gods, seven of them “greater” and twelve of them “subtle.” Each one possesses a characteristic color when in dragon form, and preferred forms when walking as a human or prowling as a beast.

For example, Enyakatho—the god of intelligence and the spirit of inquiry—bears green scales in dragon form, but might stalk the jungle as a lynx or visit an outlying village as a skinny and wizened old man.

Gael and Keir first attempt to scope out the Glorious Citadel by attending an offering ceremony held for Enyakatho in the public Court of Earthly Order.

Enyakatho is considered the patron god of Hantida’s royal family, as well as of scribes, poets, and philosophers.

Here’s a list of the “greater” dragons and their attributes:

Name—Attribute—Symbolic Hue—Preferred Beast—Human Appearance
Orunal—will and power—gold—lion—queenly old woman
Enyakatho—intelligence and inquiry—green—lynx—wizened old man
Okegiga—commitment—red—dog—young man
Eningizimu—inspiration—blue—eagle—woman of middle years
Imfanelo—life or vitality—bronze—bull—18-year-old youth
Bochabela—luck—silver—cat—5-year-old girl
Bophirimela—beauty—white—horse—2-year-old child

The Hantidan dragon-gods play no active role in Sovereign Night, but rather form a pervasive part of the physical and cultural landscape.

The ruler of the city is called the “Dragon Blessed.” And much of the art—paintings, sculptures, vases, scrolls, and architectural ornament—depicts dragons.

When one such artwork is damaged during events in Sovereign Night, the nobles of the royal court speculate that whoever did the deed should have targeted the bronze Imfanelo—patron of peasants—rather than the gold Orunal—patron of the Dragon Blessed himself.

For more about Sovereign Night, see:
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida
Hantidan Garb
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
Following Gael & Keir: a Photo Tour



Following Gael & Keir

I’ll be announcing the release of Sovereign Night very soon.

While we wait…I thought it might be fun to take a photo tour, following in Gael’s and Keir’s footsteps as the first few chapters of the story unfold.

*     *     *

Sovereign Night starts in the city streets of Hantida. They’re narrow, with a lot of foot traffic, some rickshaws and palanquins.

But soon enough Gael and Keir enter the formal northern court of the Glorious Citadel. Tourists are welcome there, as well as pilgrims to the temples located within its vast sweep of stone.

A ceremony sponsored by the priests of the green dragon-god—Enyakatho, patron of scribes, scholars, and the royal family—provides Gael and Keir their ostensible destination, but an accident intervenes before they can observe it.

The residential southern court of the Glorious Citadel is more intimate and welcoming in style. It features numerous courtyards and gardens.

Walkways rim the gardens, giving access to suites of rooms occupied by palace functionaries and pavilions inhabited by favored nobles.

Gael and Keir meet someone very important to their quest in a wilderness garden featuring a waterfall.

Following this fateful meeting, they are escorted to the guest quarters reserved for them.

I hope that whets your appetite for the novel! 😀

*     *     *

For more about Sovereign Night, see:
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida
Hantidan Garb
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
Dragon-gods of Hantida



Cover Reveal: Sovereign Night

In just a few weeks, you’ll be able to snap up your copy of the sequel to The Tally Master. Look for Sovereign Night at the end of January!

On the hunt for a magical lodestone to empower Keir’s gift for healing, Gael and Keir must tackle and solve the dangerous mystery plaguing the river city of Hantida.

For some fun trivia from the setting of Sovereign Night, see:
Hantidan Garb
Quarters in the Glorious Citadel
Timekeeping in Hantida
The Baths of the Glorious Citadel
A Library in the Glorious Citadel
A Townhouse in Hantida



Covers from the Ney-Grimm Catalog

Some days after I gathered bundle covers for review en masse, it occurred to me that I’d ignored an entire category of recent work: the covers for my own books!

In 2017, I gave new covers to nine of my backlist. I released Blood Silver in 2018, and Journey into Grief this summer—for both of which I designed covers. And now, as I prepare to release my first boxed set, I have another freshly created cover.

If we want to be complete regarding cover creation, there’s another bulletin board’s worth. 😀

Blood Silver I Journey into Grief I Livli’s Gift
Sarvet & Livli I Skies of Navarys I The Troll’s Belt
Kaunis Clan Saga I Troll-magic I Winter Glory
Fate’s Door I Devouring Light I Sarvet’s Wanderyar

Clearly I’ve been having too much fun with Photoshop!

For the other two bulletin boards of covers, see:
Covers, and More Covers
A Boatload of Covers



Wishing for a Boxed Set

For nearly a year, I’ve been longing to create boxed sets of my books.

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a Lodestone Tales set or a Kaunis Clan set? Really I’ve been envisioning variations in my mind’s eye ever since I saw the cool 3D images created for bundles by Chuck Heintzelman at BundleRabbit.

Adding fuel to the inspirational fire has been the urging from Kobo, both in their newsletter for indies and in their promotional opportunities. There have been special promos for boxed sets at least three times this year, and, oh, but I wished each time that I had something to offer.

I didn’t. But I put “create boxed set” on my to-do list.

Between surgery, complications from surgery, and twins applying to colleges, I fell very far behind in doing all those items on my to-do list. For a long time I kept adding more items without crossing any off! Yikes!

But in October I began to make progress, and while I’m not yet caught up, I’m getting there.

So I tackled making a boxed set of the Kaunis Clan Saga.

Creating the interior was routine. I’ve grown very experienced with the program I use to produce ebooks. (Jutoh.) Creating the cover was fun.

Creating the 3D image of the boxed set? Well…that’s complicated.

First of all, several of the e-tailer sites strongly discourage 3D images. Kobo claims that the flat 2D covers sell many more copies than do the 3D ones. Since I want to sell some copies on Kobo, and since I hope to be selected for promos on Kobo (the promo slots are curated), I figure I’d better follow their guidelines.

I could get by without any 3D image, but I’d like to have one for Amazon. And I thought I’d found the perfect resource for easily creating one.

Mark of sells an awesome template for boxed sets of any size up to 25 books. You just drop your box cover and book spine images into the template, and out spits your perfectly rendered 3D image.

I headed over to CoverVault, all prepared to snag the goods, and—

—hit a different kind of snag.

You must have Creative Suite 4 or better. I have CS2. So I set out to build my 3D image from scratch.

I was surprised that I managed as well as I did, because I’m not experienced at creating 3D images. Cover design as practiced by me is a very 2D endeavor.

But I’m not satisfied enough with the result to publish the boxed set on Amazon.

At first I thought that lack of precision was my problem. If you zoom in very close, some of the details do look clumsy. But zoomed out to thumbnail size, any lack of precision is pretty well camouflaged.

So why wasn’t I satisfied?

I browsed through the boxed sets offered by other indies, and found my answer.

Bundles have a rainbow of book spines showing, and it works—probably because it visually illustrates the multitude of authors contributing stories to the bundle.

But boxed sets of books by one author have book spines designed especially for the set that harmonize with each other and the box cover.

So the next item on my to-do list? Create book spines that possess the same visual theme exhibited by my boxed set’s cover.

I’m crossing my fingers that I’ve identified the problem and its solution correctly! If my 3D image still doesn’t look right…I’ll have to come up with a plan B. Either way, I’ll let you know how it goes. 😀