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What is Needed Pt. 3

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Author’s Note: This is the conclusion of Part 2 of the prequel blog serial entitled “What is Needed”. Click on these links to read Part 1, Part 2 (first section) and Part 2 (Conclusion). This series is a companion to The Bow of Destiny (Part 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga) as expanded writing samples originally published for the closed Indiegogo campaign for the novel. The events of the blog series pre-date those of The Bow of Destiny by several hundred years but include several long-lived characters who appear in the forthcoming novel. Please read this post and consider supporting the fundraiser. This material is copyrighted and not intended for reproduction except at the author’s consent.

 

What is Needed (Part 3)

by P. H. Solomon

The bell clanged and jolted Hastra from sleep. Screams, shouts and snarls echoed from the lower levels. It’s a dream like the others. She clutched her blanket at her chin and waited.

Zelma lit a candle. Light flared and illuminated her wide-eyed face and disheveled shocks of flame-red hair. “Is that what you heard in the first vision?”

Hastra groaned. It had come. No, it had been here all along. She swung her bare feet onto the frigid floor. “Get dressed in something warm. The snow’s melted but nights are still cold.”

Zelma’s mouth remained open as she twisted in her bed with a nod.

Hastra swirled into a dress and sat on her bed while she tugged wool stockings on her feet. “Shh.” She waved a hand and they sat silent. Ominous sounds rose and fell beyond their door. “Put that candle out, someone’s coming.” She snatched her walking stick, hoisted it at her shoulder and stood by the door.

Quick footsteps stopped at their door. It creaked opened. Lamp-light bloomed. Hastra withheld her swing at the sight of Howart’s gaunt face. His eyes blinked in the shadow of their deep hollows.

The tall Withling swung the lamp in the room. “Come with me. I’ve expected this and made preparations in the cellars if we can get there. I’ll get anyone else nearby while you finish here but hurry. No shoes from here, they echo.” Howart paused for spare moments, pulled shoes off his feet and then went tapping on nearby doors.

Zelma lit the candle again.

“Don’t bother with that, sister, we can see enough to gather what we need.”

“I’ll leave it lit when we leave so they’ll have to search the rooms.”

Hastra nodded and grabbed their winter cloaks as Zelma finished with her stockings. They left with their shoes in hand and found wide eyed, trembling Withlings gathered with Howart in the passage. Just ten of us? So few. Hastra pushed hair out of her face. Better than none.

Light flickered in the near stairwell.

Howart shuttered his lamp and lowered his voice. “This way to the cellars. Run!”

The knot of Withlings scurried along the hall. Their legs pumped as they navigated the far stairwell in near darkness. They reached a landing and crowded out of sight. Pig-faced bugbears smashed through barred doors at the far length of the lowest apartment level. Crashes and growls sounded from the level above them.

Howart pulled his hood onto his head and he murmured into their knot. “Follow me. Stay in the shadows. We can’t wait or they will catch us here.” He held the shuttered lamp away from the wall. The skinny Withling pressed against the stone wall and slipped into the deeper darkness gathered below them .

The others took their turns as the trolls ravaged rooms and drug out other screaming Withlings.

Hastra pulled on her hood. She slunk after Howart and schooled her attention away from the trolls. She held her breath and crossed in the shadows. She ignored the screams. But her eyes flicked toward the movement. A bugbear stabbed feeble Durna. Tears pooled in her eyes at the sight of blood. She was so kind and now gone. Hastra rubbed her damp cheeks and faded into darkness.

They plunged into the upper cellars.

Hastra inhaled the mustiness as they descended. She winced at the destructive clamor and she blinked back tears for lost friends. Why couldn’t she find their betrayers sooner. She bumped into someone with a grunt as they halted in the cellar passage. “Sorry.”

Dim light glowed on Howart’s face and everyone crowded close at his whispers. “I’ll chance a little light here. I’m not as familiar with this area. We need to go to into the lower cellars. Put on your shoes.”

Hastra slipped on her shoes and pushed closer to the skeletal Withling. “Those cellars aren’t used anymore. It’s dangerous with rats and decay.”

“I’ve been preparing for this. I’ve mapped a way out from there.”

Tenelle, the pudgy Shildran woman from the end of Hastra’s hall frowned. “Preparing? You’ve known about this and told no one?”

“We’ve only suspected based on visions Hastra had all winter without instructions from Eloch.”

Faces turned to Hastra. They were confused and angry with her. Torchlight flickered above and the sound of chaos rose.

“We’ve no time to discuss this. Follow me or perish.” Howart trotted away and passed closed doors to storage rooms.

Hastra hurried after Howart with the others but endured uncertain murmurs until Howart shushed them. They thought her to blame. Maybe she should have spoken out. Crashes echoed from the dark passage behind her. It wouldn’t have made a difference.

Howart led them through several turns until they reached a stairwell to the lower cellars. Their leader huffed with sweat beaded on his brow. “I’ve hidden a few supplies below that may help us. This is a maze and I don’t know my way well at all.”

Water dripped in places and the slick stair slowed them. Hastra held her skirt high and felt for each step with her foot. Dust tickled her nose. She covered her lower face with her sleeved arm and stifled a sneeze. If the trolls didn’t get them the foul air would. She exhaled, gasped for air and held it. What’s rotted down here?

They gained the lower cellar level and kicked up more dust. Howart risked more light.

Grit on the stone floor scraped under their feet. There’s Howart’s footprints from his earlier forays. Where’s he leading us? Their guide turned several times and Hastra lost her sense of direction. She pulled her skirt higher as she traipsed through a shallow pool of discolored water.

Howart opened a door and stepped into a room. Instead of darkness they met light as their knot of Withlings pushed into the room.

Kregen wheeled from shelves packed with supplies. The position of the Rokan’s light cast an shadow across half his face. “So you’re the one who left all this here.”

Howart’s voice rose in spite of the danger. “What are you doing here? Weren’t you at the gate? Didn’t you ring the bell? How did you escape the trolls?”

“Zeld had the gate tonight.” Kregen’s thin lips spread into a smile beneath his hooked nose though no friendliness rose in his eyes. “And I didn’t escape the trolls.” He snapped his fingers. Snake-faced hobgoblins and tusked bugbears stepped from behind old crates. Curved blades whispered from sheathes as the trolls drew their weapons.

Hastra wheeled toward the door. A sword-point rose to her throat. The mirthless grin of a hobgoblin revealed yellowed, broken teeth. They were trapped! She held her breath.

“You see, Withling’s Watch is mine in the name of Magdronu.”

Hastra gasped. The Hidden Dragon has destroyed us. The fetid stench no longer bothered Hastra as their captors snorted and snarled laughter.

End of Part 3 (Part 4 will be re-posted on 12/6)

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

Thanks for reading!

PHS

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Artwork licensed from iStockPhoto.com

A New Author’s Year in Review Pt. 1

CalendarThis is a continuation from Monday’s blog, The Serendipity of Christmas Generosity. It took time to get to the place where I was ready to commit to writing after the events described in my previous post. But that bit of serendipity certainly affected what I’ve done this past year as well as where I’m going next year. With this series I’ll reveal how I’ve progressed this year in several ways before discussing those areas in detail in later posts.

When the year started, I was trying to push along with writing short stories and revising my book. But I had been considering putting some money into building an author platform with a website and other necessities. I hesitated investing the money because it meant committing to the publication of the book but also financial sacrifice for several years on a hosting contract. I didn’t want to invest the money without having something on which to base this decision.

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

Here’s where I made my first mistake regarding an author platform. I assumed that I needed to invest hundreds of dollars on a domain, website, design, etc. This mistake kept me in a holding pattern for far longer than I needed to be because of my hesitations.

But I knew I needed to take the next steps forward as an author in the digital age. I needed the web presence, email account, domain, and various social media accounts. In effect, I was blocked by the assumption and consequent hesitation to invest money while I wanted to invest myself more heavily in the endeavor.

In the end my hesitation was accurate and my assumption flat wrong. My wife later lost her job so the reluctance to spend hundreds of dollars was spot-on. Why invest money I don’t have for something that may not work in the end? However, after months of kicking the idea around I re-examined my assumption last April.

With some research, I found that I could host my email for little cost. This was a big deal because it is the foundation of all my plans to build a web presence as an author. I knew that I could obtain a domain for a small investment and website/blog hosting for free. Free hosting wasn’t exactly what I wanted since I felt I needed greater control for branding than free hosting would allow. But in the end, I decided that a small outlay gave me a reasonable way to launch and build as well as pull back if things didn’t work the way I wanted.

By mid-May I had launched my author platform online. I obtained my domain and the hosting. Then I got my email hosted for a small cost. After that, I was able to begin adding social media accounts using my domain-branded email account.

After all this it was a matter of growing my web presence. Easy to say and hard to do. I really didn’t understand how to blog nor the importance of various social media formats. But I launched as much as I could and started learning.

Here’s where I made my second mistake. I was in a hurry to publish the book, mainly because I had hesitated so many months on the platform. I needed money for the book – professional editing, cover art, formatting and upgrades to my website with hosting and custom themes. So I had begun considering the use of crowd-funding. Now, I’m not saying the idea is without merit or that I didn’t get anything from the effort but I should have waited and patiently built the platform. In the end, I did raise some money – enough to commission some cover art – but the time I wasted on the campaign should have been spent on blogging and social media.

So that’s how I started the year – with nothing for an author presence. With a lot of hard work I have email, a website and several growing social media accounts. Along the way, I made two blunders that set me back. So here’s a few tips I’ve learned as a result.

Under Construction1. Don’t hesitate to start you author platform. I’ll discuss more details over the rest of the month but with some research you can launch your web presence for little cost and grow it from there. Mine is not where I want it yet but it is getting there with constant effort.

2. Many people have advised new authors to focus their attention on their web presence in advance of publication. I agree. I waited too long based on what I thought I needed rather than just starting inexpensively and growing. I wasted months and could have been much further along.

3. Don’t be distracted by things like crowd-funding too soon. I was and wasted several months of my time grousing about what wasn’t happening. Instead I should have…

4. Focused on my web presence. I should have upped my game with blogging by learning how to do it and developing my ability to generate content. Once I did, I started improving on creative flow in general. Likewise, focus on social media growth because you’ll need it later to funnel potential readers to your writing. My presence was not large enough to garner much attention with crowd-funding and probably still isn’t.

5 Also focus on producing your primary content. I needed to complete a book revision and write short stories. I wasted time not being committed and then being distracted by a fund-raising campaign that wasn’t necessary. I did do some of the work and even self-published a short story as an ebook along with developing some related content for my book entitled, What is Needed. But if I had committed months earlier and not allowed the distraction I would have completed more writing projects and possibly made money from the short fiction to support my book development.

As I noted above, I plan to share more about the details of how I started, what I used and the reasons for my decisions – good and bad – in the coming weeks. I’ll also use another series to discuss my plans for the upcoming years and why I’m setting such goals. Along the way, I’m also planning to reveal what I hope will be a helpful Scrivener template related to all these issues and how I plan to move forward. Again, I’m sharing this for other new or floundering would-be authors so if you know someone giving a it a go as a writer please share my posts with them.

The Bow of DestinyWhat obstacles do you have as an author? How have you gotten around these obstacles? Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments section. I’d also love to connect with you over social media so check my contact page for that information. See the News page for announcements and remember to sign-up to receive news and posts by email. I’ve added a new sign-up tab on my FaceBook page to simplify the process. New followers can download The Black Bag via free coupon today! Also, the cover of my book, The Bow of Destiny, was revealed recently so take a look.

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Clip art licensed from Microsoft Office.

5 “Be’s” for Twitter

Just a quick post this afternoon.

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

Clip Art Image Copyright by Microsoft. Clip Art Used by Permission of Microsoft

I’m sure these have been written about on someone else’s blog but these are just a few of my thoughts regarding interaction on Twitter.

  1. Be polite – thank people for following and for retweets that affect your product.
  2. Be helpful – seek out ways to help others, the easiest being retweeting.
  3. Be accessible – getting DM spammed? Just block them or unfollow and be open to legitimate messages from others.
  4. Be cordial – follow someone back and answer their DM as best you can (remember, if you don’t follow back but send a DM to a new follower the other person cannot reply).
  5. Be outgoing – Twitter is a very friendly place where even introverts can network or make new friends easily so stop standing on the sidelines waiting to be followed. Go follow someone who clicked Favorite or Retweet on your post or a post you found interesting.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading! Please leave comments below and view my News and Contacts pages. I’m also in the middle of a Indiegogo campaign so please check that out and consider supporting publication of The Bow of Destiny. I’m working on the next episode of the The Bow of Destiny prequel blog serial, What is Needed, so check out that post from Monday too.

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