ANNOUNCING: The Dying of the Light

PEOPLE!

IT’S ALLLLLLIIIIIIIIIVVVVVE!

And that’s no accidental Frankenstein reference, either.

DyingOfLight_CVR_SML

The Dying of the Light (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #3) is a monster of a book in more ways than one. It clocks in at 156k words of story and about 550 pages, give or take a “loc” on Kindle. The book has been in the making for over 20 years; it sat untouched in a box for 15 years; it required one complete rewrite from scratch and several partial rewrites; my getting started on it took a stern talking-to from none other than Bernard Schaffer (more on *that* another time); and from first rewrite to PUBLISH took 16 months.

This book ate my lunch and my brain. It is the most challenging and cantankerous novel I have ever written.

It was all worth it.

Special thanks go to Bernard for the butt-kicking; Josh Unruh, Becca Campbell, and my mom for the beta-reading; and Jessie Sanders, my editor (hire her!). Without them, this book wouldn’t have happened.
: )

But enough about the pre-pub stuff! You see the lovely cover art up there, by the longsuffering and brilliantly talented Steven Novak (hire him!). Here is the story:

Rafe Skelleran is losing his mind. Weird nightmares ruin his sleep and dog his waking hours. Even the booze doesn’t help anymore. And the worst part of going crazy is he doesn’t even know why it’s happening.

In the midst of his descent into madness, a woman shows up on his doorstep, all curves and feisty foreign accent. This dream girl is real enough, but her babble about ancient wars and lurking enemies is the stuff of fantasies. Her rantings gain the weight of reality when an enemy arrives with an arsenal of otherworldly powers and tries to murder Rafe. Fleeing the destruction of his home, blood on his hands, Rafe realizes that if he wants to get out of this alive, he’s going to have to stick with a woman who’s possibly crazier than he is.

Besides, she knows about his dreams. She knows the green-eyed crone whose nightly pleas are driving Rafe insane. She says the old woman is real and that she can take Rafe to her. And Rafe can’t pass up the chance to find out the truth.

Hijacked to a strange world where he is surrounded by powerful, dangerous allies, Rafe soon realizes he’s no safer with these people than he was on his own. Every time he turns around, someone insists he’s not who he thinks he is. Every time he turns around, someone wants him dead. On the run with what seems the least of many evils, Rafe doesn’t have a single person in this strange land he can trust.

Even worse, he feels a dormant, volatile power knocking from within, urging him to let his magic loose. He must unlock it before facing his darkest enemy, for without it he can’t possibly survive. It’s that or accept an allegiance that will give him the worlds…if he’s willing to sell the last little bit of himself he has left.

So there you have it, my lovelies! The Dying of the Light, ready and waiting for your reading and reviewing! Click, buy, and enjoy!

The Dying of the Light is available at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), iTunes, Scribd, Kobo, Inktera, Tolino, and Oyster.
(If you don’t see links or can’t find the book through a search at those vendors, check back with the vendors soon. The book will show up there in the next few days.)

ANNOUNCING: DRUGS. And fantasy short story “Rethana’s Tower” COVER ART!!!

Hello and Drugs

Hidey ho, neighborinos!

I am currently in the throes of severe lower back spasms resulting from trying to load my 30-lbs. toddler into her car seat last week. This is not an unusual attempt; generally, I’m used to doing it multiple every day. However, it seems that this one time I was not careful enough. Therefore, I am now under the influence of multiple prescription drugs and waiting for my doctor to call and tell me what she sees on my X-rays. BOOM.

So. Remember the drugs I mentioned? Yeah, I’m taking no responsibility for the content of this post. If you get attacked by invisible zombie spiders and killer watermelon clowns, it’s not my fault.

Umm…why am I here?

Oh yeah. Writing. Publishing. READ MY WORK AND TREMBLE O MORTAL. Also, give me your money.

Cover & Copy, Not To Be Confused with Duck & Cover (*quack*)

But you don’t have to shell out quite yet! First, take a gander at this cramazingness:

RethansTower_CVR_SML

Ha, ha, I said “gander.” *snort*

*ahem* That up there, my friends, is the cover art for my fantasy short story “Rethana’s Tower.” The art and design are by the wonderfully talented and wonderful-to-work-with Steven Novak. I couldn’t be more pleased. And, thanks to my friend Josh Unruh, I’ve got some spiffy copy to go with it:

Before the rumors of war and conscription by vengeful clerics destroyed her idyllic life in Rethana’s Surrender, Rethana Chosardal lived comfortably as a bellringer’s daughter. With dark times far behind her family and the darker times of future unknown to her, Rethana plays with the magical powers that are her birthright.

And like any willful girl with more power than sense, she gets up to mischief.

A nighttime intruder to her bell tower, intent on mischief of his own, has Rethana more than confident she can stop him. Not just stop him, but humiliate him. Like any proper mischief, though, it won’t be easy. After all, dodging her crotchety great-grandmother and nearly falling to her death aren’t exactly her idea of fun.

But without this one night of magical pranks, the events of Rethana’s Surrender and Rethana’s Trial might never have happened. Read the light-hearted tale that started it all during one moonlit, roguish climb up “Rethana’s Tower.”

My target date for publishing this baby is June 30th. I’ve never had to set myself my own publishing date before (remember that the last time I did this, I was still working with an indie publishing company), so I’m a wee bit skittish about this. But also excited! And bounce-off-the-walls-y! And high on meds! WHEEEEEEEE!

Climbing Rethana’s Tower

Erm…so, about this short story. If you go here, you’ll find out all about how Rethana’s universe (aka Legends of the Light-Walkers) came into existence. And if you visit that page and scroll down to “And What’s the Big Idea?” (I wanted to make that a page jump, but I’m too drugged-up to figure out how), you’ll find out how my short story “Rethana’s Tower” got its start.

So click the link and go read about that. Go on. I’ll wait. But you have to promise to come back.

There. Are you back?

Good.

Okay, so, in case you didn’t go read, here’s the short version: Rethana’s story started when I visited St. Annenkirche, a Lutheran church building in Annaberg-Buchholz, Germany. I climbed the belltower, heard the ginormous bell Anna, saw visions, and decided to write a novel (which later became Rethana’s Trial and Rethana’s Surrender).

“Rethana’s Tower” used to be the prologue to that novel. Then, I entered the fabulous, no-holds-barred School of Cutting the Prologue. I cheated and made it Chapter 1. Then, my trusty beta readers told me that it didn’t really fit with the rest of the story, and Chapter 2 would actually make a better Chapter 1.

“Are you hip to the jive? Can you dig what I’m layin’ down? I knew that you could. Slide me some skin, soul brother!”

Points to you if that made sense.

Thus, through many tears, I sliced off the original beginning of Rethana’s story and tucked it away for a better, brighter day.

Folks, that better, brighter day is almost HERE.

Former prologue, former Chapter 1, now full-fledged short story in its own right, “Rethana’s Tower” shall soon be available for your reading pleasure. I’ll let you know the moment you can get your grubby, ink-stained reader-paws on it.

In the meantime, do watch out for the watermelon clowns. They’re tricksy, and they don’t brush their teeth.

It’s not my fault, it’s just how my neurons are.

Excerpt from today’s chat with Josh:

me: Hey. We can dance if we want to.

Josh: And now I’m watching Scrubs in my head.

me: Okay, this is gonna drive me nuts. Who sings that song? Men At Work or Men Without Hats?

Josh: Hats.
But I had to look.
Because WHO CARES COURTNEY?!
😉

me: MY BRAIN DOES OKAY?!?
It’s not my fault. It’s my neurons.

me: Are olives a fruit?

My latest Works-in-Progress Update (Sci-fi stuff!)

Hile, my lovelies!

It’s been a while, I think, since I’ve regaled you with anything seriously writing-related. At least, I think it’s been a while — and since I can’t remember for sure, that tells me I’m right. This might be circular logic, but I’m not sure about that either, so let’s just move on.

Here’s an update on my three latest/current writing projects:

1. I am still plugging away at my soft sci-fi novel Elevator People (working title). I am approaching what should be the final chapter BANGERANG ZOUNDS CAN I GET A HALLELUJAH?!? I love this story, I love the characters, I love it all, but I will be SO everlastingly glad to be done with this first draft. BRING ON THE EDITING, says I! But no, first they have to climb a staircase, then they have to cross into the Prime Dimension or whatever, then they have to talk to The DUDE Dude, and then they have to decide if their story ends here or not. All of that should take fewer than 10,000 more words. I’m excited.

2. Work continues on the Grace & Jack sci-fi short story for Tony Healey’s charity anthology. It’s surreal and poetic and I’m enjoying immensely. Getting into Grace’s head is always a weird experience, and I kinda like those. So.

3. In the space of a few days, I wrote another Grace & Jack story entitled “At the Funeral of a Marriage”. Josh read it and said those two confuse the heck out of him, which means I did my job. ; )

All of this proves that the BLURGLEMAMJUFLOOBELSCHNITZEN is receding, which pleases me no end and affords me copious peace of mind. So yay.

danceswithtesticles

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve also put together a post full of fantasy/sci-fi inspirations, including ent larva, elves made of ice, and something I shall now call Dances With Testicles.

These come to you directly via the weirdness that is my brain. Click through if you dare. ; )

Witch Doctors, Jesus Christ, and the Harlem Globetrotters

Hile, you lovely people! With no more preamble than what you’re reading RIGHT THIS INSTANT, here’s a quick run-down of Courtney’s Recent Life:

  • Writing advice site UnstressedSyllables.com published my recent article on how to choose a target audience for your novel. Click that link to read and go ooh-ahh.
  • Speaking of ooh-aahs, I’ve been singing a lot of “Witch Doctor” to the baby. She finds it entertaining.
  • I’VE BEEN PAINTING. I know. I KNOW. That’s a pretty big one. I hope none of you fainted. If you did, and if you’ve since revived to read the rest of this bullet point, I’ll tell you that I’ve actually got TWO paintings in the works:
    1. an illustration of Revelation: a post-Second-Coming Christ, the church in the form of a house, and a New Jerusalem coming down out of the heavens — you know, iconic epic-type stuff
    2. an image that’s been knocking around in my head for almost two years: landscape with crimson sky and purple hills in the background, and a mysterious dark Something in the foreground. The Something might be a structure. Or it might be a person (possibly a female version of this). I’m not sure yet. But it will be black.
  • I’ve been editing Josh‘s latest: Hell-Bent for Leather, a Weird Western in which supernaturally gifted Chet Leather must rescue the soul of his friend, Dan, from the clutches of a Duke of Hell. It’s an incredibly entertaining romp with plenty of action, deviltry, tongue-in-cheekiness, and heart. Though I’m slow due to time constraints, I’m enjoying it immensely. In other news, Josh has been very patient with me.
  • In further news, Elevator People progresses apace. Our Hero is about five paragraphs and a few lines of dialogue away from his final encounter with The Villain, Carrigan Bell. I’m glad of it, because I’m ready for this story to be in editing and pre-publishing stage, and I also want Carrigan Bell over and done with. He’s a particularly nasty sort, and I always feel like I need a shower after I’ve been in his head for a while.
  • This isn’t part of Recent Life, but it’s a Recent Development pertaining to Life, so I’ll share it: I get to see the Harlem Globetrotters in April, and my brother-in-law will be on the opposing team. BAM.

For now, that is all. I’m going to bed. See ya later, dahlings! Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

But if you do, take pictures.* ; )

*I picked that one up from my Grandpa. WHAT.

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

Greetings, my beloved inklings!

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me here. I mean, yeah, I’ve been posting something every week or so, but those recent posts haven’t had a lot of meat to them. I know. What can I say? The reason for my silence is also the originator of this post’s subject matter. Here’s your bonus round before I even get to my five points:

Babies require many, many items.

Babies require much, much time.

So there ya have it.

Plus, I’ve been working on posts for writing advice site Unstressed Syllables, as well as mentoring Josh through his latest novel. (It’s a Weird Western: cowboys, Pinkertons, vengeful ghosts, and demons.) These are excellent endeavors for me to be involved in, but they have caused my own writing to suffer from neglect.

Balance: It’s difficult to achieve when you’re a new momma. And there’s another bonus point for you.

So! On to the “5 Things” I originally sat down to tell you about today. ; )

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Being a New Momma

1.  It can really, really hurt.

Once upon a time when I was 8 or 9 years old, it was summertime and my parents and I were at the grandparents’ house for our annual visit. My cousins, Amanda and Jonathan, and I were jumping on Grandma’s unfolded sofa-bed, launching ourselves up and dropping down on our butts.

As it turns out, this was quite the poor choice on my part. I jumped up, dropped down, and landed tailbone first on the metal rod running beneath the mattress. Said mattress did not provide an adequate cushion for my posterior. All I remember after that is running through the house, screaming for my mother.

Three weeks after that, while visiting the other set of grandparents, I re-injured the aforementioned tailbone by falling off a horse.

Fast-forward 26 or 27 years, and I’m in the hospital, about to push something the size of a small watermelon out of something the diameter of a shooter marble. When my doctor tells me to, I give my first big push. And from somewhere in my nether regions, there comes a loud pop!

“Well,” says I, “that was fun.”

My doctor gives me a look, and I can see her thinking, You have no idea what just happened.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

How babies are born. At least according to our childbirth class.

She was right. I had no idea. I thought that pop was simply the sound of my back popping, which is something it does from time to time.

But no. That pop was the sound of my tailbone fracturing.

I am thankful beyond words that I’d asked for that epidural not quite three hours before.

Nobody told me this could happen.

Apparently, fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth is not terribly uncommon. It can happen if the baby is unusually big. At 6 lbs 12 oz, my baby was not unusually big.

Fracturing one’s tailbone during childbirth can also happen if there has been a prior injury to the tailbone. Sometimes, one has quite a bit of cause for regretting the foolishness of one’s youth.

I spent the first two months of my daughter’s life sitting on a Boppy and taking 600mg of ibuprofen every six hours. For the first month, someone had to be with me constantly, because I couldn’t sit down or stand up without using both hands to lower or raise myself. Someone else had to hold the baby while I maneuvered.

Also — and here’s some TMI for you, so read this part at your own risk — I was on Percocet for four days after delivery. Nobody told me that Percocet can cause severe constipation.

Percocet + (fractured tailbone) = bad

Really, really bad.

When my baby was four days old, I spent 4 hours at the emergency room getting an enema. Lemme tell ya, folks, you haven’t lived until you’ve had an attractive young nurse pump a tubeful of soapsuds up your rear.

Side note: This took place a day after my first postpartum ER visit. That one was for unusually severe swelling in my feet and legs. They did ultrasounds on my legs. Fortunately, I didn’t have bloodclots. I just couldn’t elevate my feet properly because of the tailbone pain*.

Nobody told me that could happen, either.

2. You have never known this level of tired. Not even in college.

I’m a lifelong nightowl. I knew that caring for a newborn would involve sleep deprivation. But I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters; I thought I could handle it.

Nuh-uh. Y’all, there is no handling this. United States Government, please don’t ever trust me with state secrets. ‘Cause if the terrorists get hold of me, all they’ll have to do is deprive me of sleep for a few days, and I’ll be singin’ like a drunk canary in a honky-tonk.

Seriously. The first three months, the longest I ever slept in one stretch was 4.5 hours. Most of the time, I averaged 2.5 hours between feedings. Itty Bitty is now 4 months 3 weeks old, and since she was born, I have gotten 8 hours of sleep exactly once. There have been times that I was so tired, I just sat loose-limbed in a chair and sobbed.

During her first month, I had hallucinations. Hallucinations, people.

Nobody told me that could happen.

3. Projectile poop is the new black. (Everybody’s wearing it.)

I read about projectile vomiting. I read about poopy diaper explosions. I read about getting peed on while changing a diaper. (Yes, even little girls can sometimes produce a “fountain.”)

But nobody told me that when you lift up the baby’s legs to wipe her and she turns red in the face and pushes, green liquid can squirt out her butt and up over your shoulder and land on the white carpet three feet behind you. And, if you don’t learn your lesson, she’ll do it again several days later. But this time, it will splatter you from chin to knees.

wubbanubduck

4. Your baby might not, in fact, take a pacifier.

Our Itty Bitty will take a pacifier. In fact, as far as she’s concerned, the pacifier is one of her best friends. The problem is that most of the time, she can’t hold it in her mouth by herself.

I don’t know why this is. Something about developmental stage or sucking method or the alignment of the planets. Whatever it is, most of the time she ain’t got it. And if we want her to stay asleep after we’ve put her to bed, one of us usually has to hang out with her for about half an hour, holding the pacifier in her mouth until she falls deeply enough asleep not to notice when it plops out of her mouth.

“One does not simply hold the pacifier.”

— the Baby

We’ve even tried this cute thing called a “Wubbanub”: a little stuffed toy that is supposed to help baby grasp a pacifier and keep it in her mouth. It’s a great idea and looks really cute and doesn’t work with our baby at all. She just uses the ducky to pull the pacifier out of her mouth again. So we play the now-infamous Pacifier Game with her and hope that Mars, Jupiter, and Uranus line up properly so that we’re not still doing this when she’s 18.

Nobody told me this could happen.

5. The first three months are really, really hard.

Nobody told me this.

And if they had, I probably wouldn’t have listened.

But I still wish they had.

Instead, all I heard was how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is and how cute and cuddly the babies are.

Well, I’m gonna tell it to you straight. Yes, motherhood is wonderful and rewarding. Yes, the baby is cuddly and cute. In fact o’bidness, as Grandpa would say, I think she’s pretty much the most beautiful person on the face of this planet. I wouldn’t trade being her mother for anything.

But.

And please forgive my language, but this is how strong this truth is.

Motherhood during the first 3-4 months is damn hard.

All of those women who portray it as rainbows-glitter-sunshine-unicorns-blue-skies? I’m not saying they’re lying. I’m not even saying they’re misremembering.

But I am suspicious.

This is hard, y’all. And I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t. I still sometimes sob because I’m so desperate for sleep. Especially during the past week, when my baby has had her second ear infection and needed my constant attention, I’ve longed to fast-forward to when she can talk and tell me where it hurts, never mind that I’d be missing all the supermurgitroid developments in between. The husband and I are still trying to figure out how to be parents and how to be a married couple at the same time. I used to have a relatively organized house, but now it looks like I’m running a daycare that has never once seen a vacuum or the folding of laundry. I still can’t shower regularly. “Alone time” happens only if I give up sleep to get it. (I’m doing this right now.)

I haven’t even talked about the feeling of inadequacy. My daughter deserves a rested, put-together, patient, on-top-of-things, well-relating mother. I’m not so unrealistic as to feel guilty that I’m not Supermom. But feeling inadequate definitely happens a lot.

Month 4 is definitely easier than Months 1-3. But rough patches still happen. And though I know life will continue to get more manageable, if not easier, I also know that rough patches will continue to happen.

________________

If I were a Pez dispenser and you were a momma-to-be or wanting to be a momma-to-be, I’d give you some advice. But I’m not a dispenser. All I have to offer are these truths that nobody told me. They are my truths. Whether or not they apply to you, I don’t know. But there they are for you to do with what you will.

In the meantime, pray for my sanity. ; )

This. : ) (2 weeks old)

She is cramazing. : ) (2 weeks old)

*By the way, I’ve been in physical therapy for the fractured tailbone for two months. My recovery is progressing nicely. The pain level has dropped from 8-10 to a comfortable 0-2 range. The therapy itself is called “osteopathic therapy,” and as far as I’m concerned, it’s brilliant.

The Next Big Thing (and New Novel Excerpt!)

Two of my fellow writers, Josh and Laurie, did this chain blogging thing a few weeks back. It’s called “The Next Big Thing,” and it’s an interview on upcoming writing projects. Josh tagged me to do it, so here I am, doing it. Josh’s own post is here, and you can find Laurie’s post here. Go read, it’s fun stuff. : )

elevator--vertical

The Next Big Thing

Okay, now that you’re caught up and have returned, please to enjoy my contribution to the blogging chain:

What is the title of your next book?

The working title of my next book is Elevator People. (A few months ago, I challenged readers to come up with a better title. The jury’s still out on who won, by the way. I’ll work it out soon though. Promise.)

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for Elevator People originated where most of my story ideas originate: my dreams. In the dream, I saw a young man in a steampunk-style elevator that could move up, down, sideways, forward, backward, and diagonally. I knew the man was traveling in the elevator from one planet to another, and he was going to be set upon by thieves at his next stop. This turned into the opening scene of the novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Is “low sci-fi” a genre? It’s definitely sci-fi, what with the interplanetary and possibly transdimensional traveling via mechanical conveyance. (There is, however, no time-traveling.) And there are laser rifles at some point. Also space shuttles and nanotechnology. But I don’t delve into the science of how it all works, so readers shouldn’t expect the intricacies of Asimov or Heinlein. Hence the “low” sci-fi.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Uffda, that’s a hard one. I rarely cast real people in the roles of my characters, although I know many writers use that as a visualization technique. That’s never been my habit, so Ima have to give this some extra thought.

Okay. Wentworth Miller (of Prison Break fame) for my main character, Went Banning — and not just because Miller is my Went’s namesake. He’s got the acting chops for a quiet, reserved, yet passionate and determined adventurer. I can easily see him stepping out of the elevator and, five minutes later, needing rescuing by two adorable urchins. ; )

As for the urchins…once upon a time, I would’ve wanted Dakota Fanning for Jop, but she’s too old now. The same probably holds true for Chloë Grace Moretz, but she would also be a top choice. I can’t think of anyone else right now.

Ooh! Abigail Breslin. I bet she’s the one.

For my second urchin, I am thoroughly impressed with Pierce Gagnon, who plays little Cid in Looper. The kid’s scary good. He might be a little young to play Skee, but a couple more years and I think he’d be perfect.

With apologies to Jason Isaacs, he would make an excellent villain in Carrigan Bell. *shudder*

As for Risk, Went’s female co-star…another toughie. Emma Stone? Deborah Ann Woll? Anna Popplewell would probably be too young. I dunno. Like I said, I’m not great at this casting thing!

(As an aside, I talk a little more about the characters here.)

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Ugh. I’m not good at these either. Even though they’re supposed to be a big part of my job. *sigh* Okay, here goes….

When loner Went Banning loses the codes that operate his “magical” elevator, he realizes he must rely on two street urchins and a damaged former slavegirl to help him find the mythical Mr. Banjoman…who might just be Went’s father.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Um, yes. ; ) You can expect the book sometime in 2013 from indie publisher Consortium Books.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It’s not done yet.

I started it in November 2011.

*sigh*

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I never like this question. To compare my story to other books feels like I’m expecting everyone to agree with me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the writing business, it’s that no two people view the same story the same way. I honestly can’t think of a novel I’d feel comfortable naming here.

But if you like character-driven sci-fi with interplanetary travel and hints of the transdimensional, I think you’ll like Elevator People.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration came from my dream, as I mentioned above. I tend to have “story-seed dreams” right when I’m wrapping up a project and am mentally ready to move on to the next one. Call it synchronicity, divine providence, spooky coincidence, whatever. I’ve learned not to question it. It’s there when I need it, so I go with it.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Went is a man of deep, inspiring conviction, and he’s just despairing enough to win and break your heart; Jop and Skee, the urchins, are clever and adorable; female co-star Risk is smart, strong, and sexy; and their collective enemy, Carrigan Bell, is terrifying and utterly despicable. (Oh, and wait’ll you meet the vampire who’s after the lot of them….)

Together, they’ll take you on a great ride.

In closing, I hereby tag my fellow writers Aaron Pogue, Jessie Sanders, Becca Campbell, and Pam Davis to post their own “The Next Big Thing.” (And don’t y’all forget to send me your links!)

Bonus Round

This isn’t part of the interview, but I figure a New Year’s treat is in order. Here’s an excerpt from Draft 1 of Elevator People. Enjoy. : )

From Chapter One of Elevator People by Courtney Cantrell

…They hit him again. Went’s arms felt limp. He coughed, choking on blood. They kicked him again and growled words he couldn’t understand. Metallic heels rang harshly against the pavement, receding.

When the echoes had died, Went finally moved again. With greatest care, he slid his knees up toward his chest and tried to roll to his hands and knees. His ribs screamed, and a small noise escaped his lips. The list. What of the list?

He forced his knees to cooperate and pushed himself up on his elbows. Leaning on his left arm, he clutched at his waistcoat. The waiscoat didn’t feel bulky enough. Another groan escaped him. It sounded like a whimper.

Damn.

He had to get back in the elevator. Even without the list, the elevator was his only hope for…for….

A hoarse, bitter sound escaped him. Hope for what? It was over. Was there any way he could go on without the codes list?

No.

Wait. The elevator hadn’t yet yielded all of its secrets. There was hope. Perhaps there was hope. He only had to get back inside first. Went spat blood, then clenched his teeth against the pain as he planted one foot and pushed up. His world spun, a black and gray blur of rectangular pillars and twisted metal. He thrust out a hand and groped for the wall. His fingers met flesh.

He jerked his hand back, and the momentum sent him tumbling farther away from the elevator. He slammed into one of the pillars. Rough, hard material slashed his palms as he rebounded. He dropped to the floor again and curled into a ball as the impact shot pain through his ribcage.

“Cose!” said a small, high voice. “We’ll a-help! Can you walk?”

Went felt hands on his arms again. But these hands were smaller than his attackers’. Their touch was soft, hesitant. He blinked up at the gloomy ceiling high above. The face of a young girl wavered into view.

Below dark, worried eyebrows, her darker eyes were enormous in her thin face. Her hair was long and stringy. He glimpsed a ragged, grayish brown tunic. She bit her bottom lip and shook his shoulder. “We’ll a-help,” she said again. “You’na get back in the cagey, yeah?”

“What?” Went coughed, then spat blood again. His jaw hurt.

“The cagey!” The urchin threw a glance over her shoulder. “Skee! Come ya over. Candles ain’t skeerin’ back here awhile.”

The girl turned back to Went and shook him again. A small shadow bobbed up next to her, and another pair of small hands tugged at Went’s white cotton work shirt. The newcomer was a boy even thinner, dirtier, and larger-eyed than the girl. Both children were pulling him toward the still open elevator doors.

Went rubbed at his jaw and winced. “I don’t understand most of what you’re saying,” he managed. “But it were well I got back in there.” He nodded toward the elevator.

The girl gave a few quick, vigorous nods. “The cagey, yeah. Come on, Skee. We’re a-help.”

As Went grabbed the pillar and pulled himself upright again, he heard the boy’s tiny whisper. “We’re a-go?”

“Hush-a, Skee. Maybe.” The girl pulled at Went’s sleeve. “Can you walk?”

Went nodded. “I think so. I’m–” He took a step and sucked in breath through clenched teeth. “I’m not as damaged as I look.” Still, he was grateful as she pulled his hand toward her shoulder and held it there a moment. He hoped his last statement wasn’t a lie.

He didn’t lean on the girl; her small frame wouldn’t have borne his weight. But the feel of her bony shoulder beneath the thin tunic did steady him a little. He tottered forward while she shuffled along at his side. Darting ahead, the little boy peered into the open elevator, then looked back at Went and the girl and grinned. His upper front teeth were missing.

They reached the wall, and Went put out a hand. “A moment, please.” They were only a few feet from the elevator doors, but just the seven or eight steps from pillar to wall had brought another wave of dizziness. He put both palms flat against the cold, jagged stone, ignoring the sting of cuts in his skin. If anything, the sharp pain restored a little clarity. The world stopped spinning and instead only rocked slightly, as though he were standing on the deck of one of his father’s clippers.

The thought of Father was enough to send nausea washing through his gut. He sagged against the wall, groaning.

“They’s all meanie-like, them Candles,” said the girl. “Skee and me, we a-stay clear of ’em. They’s the new dogs, and big ones. Rough-like, cose?”

Went turned his head left, then right. It was as much of a shake as he could manage. “Candles?”

“New dogs,” said the little boy from next to the open elevator. “Bite.”

“Candles and Haggs,” the girl said. “All new since B-line fell in. All new and a-fight over the U. They’s a-wantin’ new digs, pall it? So Skee and me and the other yoolers, we all in the way.”

“Haggs’ is bad.” The little boy frowned. “Candles…badder.”

Went’s beaten body wouldn’t let him think clearly, but he made a small connection in what the children were saying. “Then, these Candles are the ones who’ve robbed me?”

The girl raised one skeptical eyebrow and looked him up and down. “Well-a yeah. Candles pat anybody gets in their digs.” Her expression hardened. “Our digs. Was, anyway. Now, we’re a-look for–”

“Jop,” said the little boy in a pleading, warning tone.

The girl shook her head. “Well-a right, Skee! I’m a-not say, I’m a-not.” She looked up at Went. “Ready, cose?”

He took as deep a breath as he could without offending his ribs. “Ready enough, I suppose.” At least the dizziness had abated a bit. The girl took slow, careful steps toward the elevator, her gentle tugs on his arm urging him on. He used the wall as support. The fabric of his shirt caught on tiny, rough protrusions as he staggered along. He thought of how the Spillaines would rail at him for his torn clothing, and burst of energy shot through him.

It lasted until he reached the elevator doors. As he rounded the corner and into the cabin, his legs gave out, and he slid to the floor. At the same time, there came an angry shout from behind him. Above him, the girl’s huge eyes widened, and her mouth opened in a round “O” of horror. His ribs shrieked at him, but Went turned.

A man was rushing toward them from the darkness. He was yelling words Went couldn’t understand, his eyes trained on the spot where Went’s left hand gripped the corner of the rough wall. Went’s golden ring flashed in the light spilling from the elevator.

The ring. They missed it the first time. Came back for it

“Rotten blagger’s back!” The little girl rounded on Went. “The cagey’s it, cose, ’less you’re a-want us all to get the scroby. Come on!”

Went hardly understood a word but thought he couldn’t agree more. He tried to get his feet under him, but his body wouldn’t cooperate. On his knees, he slumped. He couldn’t even pitch himself forward to fall headlong to the elevator floor. A banker’s son’s not meant for street brawls. He laughed.

With the onrushing “blagger” not twenty feet away, the little girl stepped behind Went and gave him a solid push. Now, he did fall headlong, scraping his left hand on the edge of the door as he fell. His ring gave off a clear, bright tone as it hit.

“The doors, Skee!” the girl yelled. She grabbed Went’s feet and pushed and pulled them into the elevator cab. “Close ’em, or we’re a-get the scroby for sure!”

“How, Jop?” came the boy’s small voice.

She fought with Went’s feet. “The buttons!”

Went raised his head. Eyes wide and lips askew in confusion, the little boy stood beneath the elevator’s control panel. The panel’s brass buttons gleamed.

“Push ’em, Skee!”

Went reached out toward the boy. “No, wait!”

The onrushing Candle had almost reached the elevator. Little Skee turned, saw the “blagger,” and froze. Only his arm kept moving. His palm slapped the control panel, hitting several buttons at once.

Went’s panicked mind could barely keep up with what was happening. Still, one clear thought remained. The list! The boy’s hand came down on the buttons again. Wait! I have to get the list!

The girl gave Went’s legs one final heave, pulling them over the elevator’s threshold. The doors moved. The attacking Candle stretched out his arm in a desperate reach. Went caught a final glimpse of a snarling, mad-eyed, filth-caked face. The doors snicked shut.

Then the elevator was moving, and Went had no idea where they were going.

I blogged every day this month. Let me show you it.

Hidey-ho, precious inklings!

Today marks the final day of Blog-Every-Day August (BEDAug), my grand experiment to see what would happen if I blogged every day for a month. That month has now passed, and I am pleased to report two favorable results for which I’d hoped:

1. I am, in fact, capable of blogging every day for a month.

2. Blog traffic did, indeed, increase.

Because I enjoy doing things backward, I’ll address the traffic increase first (delving into which posts seem particularly related to the increase, as well as general topics for the past month) and the discovery about my blogging habits last.

Here we go.

Blogging Every Day: Increase in Blog Traffic

I. Traffic Spikes

On one hand, compared to tons of bajillions of blogs out there, my blog doesn’t get a whole lotta traffic.

On the other hand, compared to tons of bajillions of blogs out there, my blog gets oodles of traffic.

The gripping hand (and my hat’s off to you if you get the reference) is that comparing my blog to other blogs is silly. Comparing your blog to other blogs is silly. Comparing ourselves to others is silly. But that’s another story and shall be told another time.

After 1 year and 8 months of this blog and attendant Google Analytics obsessing checking, you’d think I’d be a GA expert by now. I’m not. Stats interest me up to a point (see Keyword Searches, below, which keep me entertained), but beyond that point, I don’t care to delve into all the numbers and percentages and blah de blah. A lack of interest in stats is actually what kept me from pursuing a major in Psychology instead of a minor. That, and the fact that going to grad school didn’t exactly swing my verge.

But I digress. As one does.

So. I don’t understand all the ins and outs of GA. But what I do understand is this: Several times during August, Court Can Write saw happy spikes of visitors. Because I lack GA-expertise, I can’t tell if each spike is related to what I posted on that particular day, or if it’s related to the post on the day before. For the sake of nothing in particular, I’m going to assume the former.

With that in mind, here are the spikes and what I think are their related posts:

Date: August 3rd

Number of visitors: 34

Post: “Glances That Fall Like Sunshine”

Topic: discovering Truth via poetry and changing the world in a good way by focusing on your personal circle of influence

Number of visitor comments: 0

Date: August 9th

Number of visitors: 32

Post: “We Must Disenthrall Ourselves”

Topic: patriotism and the drivel of both Democrats and Republicans

Number of visitor comments: 2

Date: August 17th

Number of visitors: 31

Post: “I Was a Weird Kid and Here’s Proof”

Topic: how my parents bribed my 8- or 9-year-old self into going on a week-long class field trip by promising me that we would go snail hunting when I got home, because I was into that

Number of visitor comments: 0

Date: August 29th

Number of visitors: 61

Post: “In Which Pregnancy and Car Wrecks Don’t Mix”

Topic: how I was in a car accident at 36 weeks pregnant

Number of visitor comments: 6

I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from these numbers. What interests me is that the spiked posts all relate to my personal philosophies or my personal history; none of my posts on the Writing Life sparked as much traffic. This makes me think that most of my visitors would rather read about me than read about writing.

While that’s a ridiculously effective ego boost ; ) I’m not sure what to do with it. Blog less about writing? Blog more about writing? Keep doing what I’ve been doing? Questions…questions that need answers, but I don’t think anyone can provide them for me. I certainly can’t provide them for myself.

Experiments with partially inconclusive results are fascinating but somewhat frustrating. ; )

Ah well. Onward!

II. Google Keyword Searches

Sadly, the keyword searches haven’t been terribly interesting this past month. From what I can tell, the only search strings possibly related to posts for this month were:

º “courtney cantrell” (obvious).
and
º “36 weeks pregnant” — which would bring readers to “Pregnancy Still Isn’t for Sissies” and “In Which Pregnancy and Car Wrecks Don’t Mix”.

Again, it would seem that what leads most people to my blog is stuff I write about me, not stuff I write about writing. Perhaps “Court Can Write” is a misnomer. Perhaps I should consider re-naming the blog “Court Can Live” or “Court Can Philosophize.”

Hmm.

(If you’re curious, other top keyword searches and their possibly related posts were:

º “bachelor in writing”.
º “light bulb metaphor”.
º “alexander and the terrible horrible no good very bad day moral”.

But none of these three were BEDAug posts.)

III. Other BEDAug Blogging Topics

During August, in addition to posts and topics I’ve already mentioned, I also blogged about the following:

º editing
º my short stories
º being created to create
º the nature of sarcasm
º boundaries
º marriage
º zombies
º TEDTalks
º the power of doodling
º vorpal unicorn morphing powers
º my novels
º how to murder a character in a novel
º the Olympics
º famous people
º art
º parodies
º failure
º my Most Official Rules for Living
º relationships
º cats
º book reviews
º other people’s books
º my To-Read List
º reality

Just as a reminder, you can find all of the Blog-Every-Day August posts by clicking the tag “BEDAug” at the bottom of this one or by clicking “August 2012” in the sidebar on the left side of your screen.

Blogging Every Day: My Habits

Once upon a time, back in the dark ages of 2011, I resolved to blog twice per week and keep a cushion of blog posts. I started doing both of these things. I kept them up for a while. I’m not sure at what point these habits ceased, but cease they did.

If I rememory me correctly, blog traffic decreased incrimentally as a result.

As we’ve established here today, traffic has increased as a result of my blogging daily.

Increase in blog traffic is good. Increase in blog traffic means (hopefully) more connection with the readers of my novels and an increase in reader awareness of my novels. Both more connectivity and increased reader awareness are two of the main points of this blog’s existence.

Thus, it would behoove me to continue doing things that help meet these goals.

Thus, it would likely behoove me to continue blogging every day (and to work on my non-existent blog cushion).

Considering that I am about to become the main caregiver to a tiny, helpless human, it is not realistic to think I can keep up this daily blogging thing.

But.

At least until I see myself approaching the point of tearing out my hair, I intend to try. Keeping up this daily blogging thing, that is.

You heard it here first, folks.

Owing Copious Thanks

For my success in this month-long blogging adventure, I owe thanks to the following people:

Judy Lee Dunn, with whom I first started pondering the blog-as-lab concept and who spurred me on in this adventure by quoting Yoda and telling me not to try it but to do it;

Astrid Bryce, who saw my Blog-Every-Day August announcement on Twitter and promised me cookies if I made good on my intentions (Astrid, I’ll be in touch!);

and Joshua Unruh, who joined me in this scheme after I promised to give the month-long blogging challenge some “structure” (whatever that means), as well as deliver him cookies for his successful completion of said challenge. As of this posting, he has yet to finish up Blog-Every-Day August by tendering his August 31st offering, but I have no doubt that he shall do so by the end of the day.

Judy, Astrid, and Josh, I couldn’t have done this without you. Thanks for a great Blog-Every-Day August!

Advance Reading Copies of Noir Viking Fantasy!

Click to embiggen noir Viking coolness

Ooooh, I am particularly pleased to announce this one!

My friend and fellow Consortium Books author Joshua Unruh is getting ready to release his second novel: Saga of the Myth Reaver: Downfall.

And you, my dearest inklings, get a chance to read it before it’s published. That’s right, we’re talking Advance Reading Copies here!

I am particularly pleased to announce this because of reasons. Here are several of them:

1. I’ve read Viking fantasy before and did not enjoy it.

2. I read Josh’s Viking fantasy, and I loved it.

3. Josh’s novel isn’t just Viking fantasy, it’s dark (read: NOIR) Viking fantasy, and Josh does dark so very, very well.

4. As part of my gainful employment at Consortium Books, I had the privilege of being Josh’s writing coach on this novel. We had a blast.

Get Your ARC!

You’ll probably want to know what you’re getting yourself into, so here’s what that is:

Noir: Everyday men and women drowning in the murky, corrupt waters of their own flaws.

Saga: Peerless heroes fighting epic battles yet ultimately doomed to fail.

At the crossroads of these two literary traditions stands the Saga of the Myth Reaver.

The Nine Worlds have never seen a hero like Finn Styrrsson. Blessed with an unmatched thirst for victory and the supernatural strength and vigor to slake it, Finn might have been the greatest warrior-king his people had ever known. But he was born the youngest of eight princes with a conniving eldest brother who won’t abide the threat Finn poses to his rule. Despite Finn’s unfailing loyalty, he is forced from his home to forge a new destiny.

Already a powerful warrior and deadly reaver, Finn discovers that he above all others is equipped to kill the monsters, the giants, the myths that besiege Midgard. He becomes the Myth Reaver and a living legend.

Yet despite his prowess and fame — indeed because of them — Finn never wins that which he most desires. He never finds a home. After a lifetime spent battling dread monsters and shining demigods, Finn realizes that in all the Nine Worlds, there is only one enemy whose defeat can give him the renown he so richly deserves.

Whether it’s in search of glory or a glorious death, Finn always overlooks his true enemy. That mistake will be his downfall.

If you think this sounds just fabulous, and if you’re willing to write a review of the novel after you’ve read it, you’ll need to go to publisher Aaron’s blog and leave a comment with a valid email address (which will not be used for any purpose beside this ARC). Consortium Books will send an ARC to the first 100 readers who ask.

ARCs of Viking fantasy Saga of the Myth Reaver: Downfall — get ’em while they’re hot noir!

Glances That Fall Like Sunshine

Considering that thing I posted yesterday about sarcasm and its morbid relationship to the gouging, ripping, and consuming of flesh, I thought it well that I continue my thoughts in a more uplifting manner today.

NOTE: In comments on yesterday’s post, I assured Josh that not every one of my Blog-Every-Day August posts will be of such a weighty nature. I do intend to indulge in my regular fluff and silliness; it’s just that these weightier things are on my mind right now. Welcome to my thoughts. ; )

But I, yet again, digress.

Delve Greedily and Deep

A few days ago, I came across the following poem excerpt, and it stuck with me:

It is difficult
to get the news
from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

~William Carlos Williams
in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”
1955

Mayhap in the future, I’ll write a whole post about the value of reading poetry, the purpose of poetry, the craft of poetry, and cetera. Believe me, there’s an entire book, nay, an encyclopedia of blogposts one could write on the subject. (Don’t worry, I won’t subject you to that much nerdery. [Or will I? {The plot sickens.}]) But for now, I’ll simply say this:

When a poet utilizes her artistry — when he intentionally and intensively creates a work of beauty and craftsmanship — the resulting work will contain a deep meaning beyond most things that most of us encounter in daily life. These are not soundbytes, flippant remarks, or 140-character snippets. These are words, phrases, and images that must be probed and pondered before their true meaning comes to light.

Williams wrote these words between 1952 and 1955. I’m sure they were accurate then; they’re certainly accurate now. In a world where “the news” is equal to whatever spin a particular media wants us to believe, finding The Truth is next to impossible. And every day, we collectively die a little more on the inside because we can’t (READ: won’t) take the time to set the misery aside, breathe, and delve more deeply to find the true essence of our own reality.

Brighten the Corner Where You Are

As I think of seeking out and discovering The Truth via poetry, I think of two poems in particular. This first one is new to me. Its first stanza makes my heart soar and my spirit rejoice, because there’s so much hope and vibrance in it. The second stanza sobers me, because it’s a reminder of what I wrote yesterday: that I have a responsibility for the words I say.

We are all connected; I believe this without doubt; and since I believe it, I have a responsibility to act on it. One of the ways I must act on it is by “bringing the sunshine.”

But here, I’ll let George Eliot say it better than I can:

 

 

Count That Day Lost

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went —
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay —
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face —
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost —
Then count that day as worse than lost.

~ George Eliot

The second poem I’ve thought of is one of my ever-favorites:

What Is Success?

What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

All of which I relate back to this:

“Brighten the corner where you are, and you will light the world.”
~ Dean Koontz

“You should be a light for other people. …Do to others what you would want them to do to you.”
~ Jesus of Nazareth