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She was innocently beautiful. Her hair was a golden waterfall cascading over her slender shoulders and falling to her waist. Long lashes framed sapphire eyes and her lips were like a soft pink petal. She had a quiet, smooth way of moving that should have made her invisible, but instead brought every eye to her. Daron wondered if she was quiet because she was too modest to want attention or because she thought herself so above everyone that she didn’t care if she was noticed by them of not. Her face held no trace of scorn, but neither signs of bashfulness. She was as impassive as a marble statue as her willowy form walked through the city at his side. Perhaps that was what drew the stares—the mystery that lingered beneath her serene gaze.
Daron knew her secret. She looked years younger than him, fifteen or sixteen at the most, but she had lived thousands of years. She was one of the Old Ones. The ones who lived since the beginning of the world and were gifted with ancient wisdom that humans did not have.
The Old Ones once lived among them and shared their wisdom, and the land was prosperous under their watch. But that time passed long ago. The Old Ones journeyed across the sea to a land they could make their own after mankind refused to practice their ways and heed their guidance. Mankind declared they didn’t need the Old Ones.
Only they did. Thousands of years after the departure of the Old Ones, drought and famine plagued the land. It was why Daron left on an impossible mission to cross the sea and find an Old One who was willing to come back with him and help their dying land—to sing the ancient songs that would call down rain for their withered crops.
Daron looked at the Old One beside him and thought how lucky he was to find her. He was warned that not all the Old Ones would be helpful. There were some who resented humans for their arrogant ways. Their disdain for humans festered inside of them and blossomed into a hate so strong it changed them. These Old Ones grew cruel and vain. They were so intoxicated with their power and eaten with thoughts of revenge that they were sent away from their own kind. If Daron had stumbled on one of them, it would have meant death.
But the danger and uncertainty of that journey had passed. Daron would soon present the Old One to the King as proof he had succeeded in his mission.
They stood on the steps of the front of the castle, looking into the courtyard filled with hopeful faces. The bright-haired girl stood in the center with the king standing to the right and Daron to her left. She didn’t address the crowd but closed her eyes and hummed. It was so low that Daron could scarcely hear it even at only a few feet away. It didn’t change in pitch but grew in volume. Then her soft, girlish lips opened and a melody of words drifted past them and filled the courtyard. Daron didn’t understand the words. She sang in an ancient language that the Old Ones alone had mastered. Even without the knowledge of the meaning of the song it was entrancing. The song rose and fell in somber minor notes. Her voice softening, then swelling to portray first sorrow, then urgency.
Daron thought that he would be watching the sky during the Old One’s summons for rain, but he couldn’t look away from the girl. From his peripheral vision, he saw that the others were equally entranced with the golden-haired singer. Her eyes remained closed and her face focused as her silky voice bounced off the courtyard walls. Small pricks ran up Daron’s arms. As the song went on, he almost forgot why they were gathered or the reason for the song. There was nothing in Daron’s mind but the captivating melody spinning sorrow and hope. He shook himself when a shadow passed over him. Rain! Rain clouds were forming and blocking the sun.
He looked up and was confused. Something was blocking the sun, but it wasn’t rain clouds—not unless rainclouds were ebony black and moved as one shimmering mass. Wait. That wasn’t shimmering. It was flapping. Thousands of crows filled the sky. Gasps and whispers filled the courtyard.
“What’s going on?” demanded the King, but the girl continued singing.
Daron tried to get her attention. “Old One, the skies are filled with crows.”
She didn’t acknowledge him.
“Thousands of them,” he continued. “They’re coming at us. Take them away!”
Her chilling song mingled with the people’s confused cries.
“Is this some trick?” The King asked, red faced. Daron was sure it wasn’t a trick, but a mistake. Maybe the Old Ones forgot how to call down rain. Maybe in all their years of isolation, they lost their skill. Or maybe this particular Old One didn’t know how to call rain.
The sky was getting darker. The birds would land soon and what little crops they had left would be destroyed.
Daron strode forward to shake the girl out of her trance.
As his fingertips touched her shoulders, a shock went through his bones and he staggered back. The girl’s blue eyes opened.
“Don’t touch me human snake!” It was her voice, but it didn’t come from her lips which were still forming the words to the ominous song filling the air.
Confused, Daron tried to form words. “The crows will eat our crops.”
Her laugh filled his head. The harsh sound didn’t match the softness of the girl before him.
“The crows aren’t going to eat your crops. They are going to eat you.”
He must have heard her wrong. An Old One wouldn’t speak such words.
“You, the humans who destroyed the land and drove the Old Ones out with your erroneous ways.
In an instant, Daron understood who the girl was. Not an Old One, understanding and willing to help mankind like the Old Ones thousands of years ago, but one of the wayward Old Ones he was warned about. She pretended to help them so she could destroy them.
Before he could call out a warning to the others, the crows fell on them. Shrieks mingled with the incessant cries of thousands of crows. People ran or fell to the ground and covered their face as the winged terrors swarmed them.
Daron ran, but there was nowhere to go that wasn’t already filled with crows. Sharp beaks picked at his arm and shoulders. They pulled his hair and bit the tender skin on his neck. He kept his arms in front of his face but their sharp beaks jabbed at his chin and cheeks. He wanted to cry out, but was afraid they would poke their nasty little beaks into his mouth and rip his tongue to shreds too.
He tried to keep moving, hoping he could find a door that would bring him into the safety of the castle, but the crows were so thick and so many wild thrashing bodies kept jostling him that he didn’t know if he were moving at all.
He fell. He didn’t know if he tripped from the crows gathered around his feet or if his legs gave out from the panic that snared him.
He laid in a huddle, feeling wet, sticky blood run down his back and arms. He was screaming now. His mouth pressed to the ground and his tongue tasted dirt.
He was ready for death. Anything to stop feeling hundreds of holes being dug into his body.
Everything began to fade, until one last sound remained. A haunting melody sung by a sweet, smooth voice.
I hope you enjoyed my spooky story! If you want to go on a dark adventure–keeping with the Halloween mood– check out Zorok, the story of a murderous pirate who may not be as invincible as he thinks.
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Hey Epic Dreamers! I thought I’d let you know that I am still alive. NaNoWriMo didn’t kill me and I don’t hate words and never want to write again after the experience. 😛
After finishing five (Or is it 6 now? I’ve lost count.) NaNoWriMos, I do find that it is easier and not as overwhelming as it used to be, but at the same time it still requires dedication, patience and a laser-like focus on writing.
I tend to write sporadically with some days only reaching a little over 400 words and other days writing 4,000. Instead of beating myself up for this yo-yo writing style, I’ve learned to embrace it. Some days I have more time than others and some days I have to spend an hour or two world building or researching or simply trying to figure out what comes next (because I completely pantsed this novel).
I learned not to sweat the days I didn’t write much because I knew there would be other days where I would write for hours in a wonderful writer’s bliss and make up for it.
I had about 4,000 words left to write on November 30th, but I drank some coffee and didn’t do ANYTHING else but write until those words were down and I’d officially won.
I actually enjoy the longer writing sessions. It really allows me to get into the world and get my head in the character’s mind and that’s when writing stops feeling like work and becomes magic.
So, that is my advice for anyone writing: write until it feels like magic.
But, just because I finished NaNo doesn’t mean the work–ur uh magic–is finished.
I’m currently at 100,000 words for this project and I’m barely halfway finished, so I’ll be keeping this post short so I can get back to writing.
Before I go though, I do want to share some news I think you will all like. The project I’m working on right now will definitely be something that I keep working on until it is published (yay!). So you can be expecting more books from me.
I am absolutely in LOVE with this character and her story! I’m having so much fun discovering the story and getting to know the characters, and I can’t wait to share it with you!
It’s not time to reveal anything yet, but I will be letting you all get a gimps of my new project as soon as I’m finished with the first draft. For now I’ll just say that the world is loosely based on Norse/Viking society and it is about the daughter of a war lord who…
Okay, I’m zipping my mouth closed. No more secrets! You’ll have to wait until I’m finished with the draft. 😉
Meanwhile, follow me on Instagram because I do occasionally let a few secrets out over there…especially pictures where some of the words to my WIP are visible and snippets of what I just wrote on my stories. It’s all great fun! 🙂
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If you aren’t familiar with NaNoWriMo and you are an aspiring writer, you should go to their site and sign up right now.
Seriously, what are you waiting for?
Okay, really though, NaNo played a huge part in getting me to take my writing seriously and in motivated me to take my writing to new levels.
If you’ve somehow never come across this magical place and time for writers, I’ll explain what and how NaNo works.
Let’s start for what this strange group of letters means: National Novel Writing Month.
It’s exactly what it sounds like; Writers from across the country band together to do the unthinkable and write an entire novel (50,000 to be more accurate) in a month.
It all takes place online, so no need to travel to another state of pay for a conference. 🙂
When does this mad rush begin? November! So for those of you who haven’t heard of it and want to try it, this is perfect timing. You can still do some last-minute planning before November and NaNo begins.
If you aren’t sure if you want to participate, well, I’m about to make you want to. 😉
Gives you a support group
Writing a novel can be a lonely process. Even if you aren’t writing a novel and write short stories or flash fiction for your blog, it can be difficult to find others who enjoy writing fiction like you do.
NaNo gives you a way to meet other writers so you aren’t so alone in this this solitary art.
Pushes you to your edge
When I participated in my first NaNo, I’d never wrote 50,000 words in one project before. My largest story at the time was about 12,000 words. So yeah, taking on NaNo was a leap for me, but it pushed me to write more than I thought I could and taught me that I had more in me than what I was using.
Sure that first NaNo project was a mess that I would never show anyone (I should probably go back and read it so I can get a good laugh), but with every year that I participated, my writing and word count per writing session improved.
I began to create plots easier, get to the essence of a character faster, and writing scenes came more naturally.
I even wrote the first draft of my book, The Hashna Stone, during NaNo. 🙂
Gives you a rush of accomplishment
If you feel stuck in your writing, want to challenge yourself, or just want to explore working on a bigger project, NaNo is perfect for that.
I knew what I wrote for that first NaNo project would never be used for a published book (or even shown to a single person) but I’d never felt more proud then when I verified my word count and officially wrote my first 50,000-word novel (which is actually a really small novel, but it was a lot of words for a single story than I’d ever done before 😛 ).
If you don’t do it for another reason, do it to prove to yourself that you are a writer. Sometimes you need to prove to yourself that you can do it…that you take writing seriously enough to make it a priority.
Completing NaNo gives you a different mindset. “Oh I’m just playing around with this writing thing,” becomes “I am a writer. There’s no reason I can’t write a book just like all the authors I look up to.”
Once you do that, writing a 140,000-word novel seems more possible (looking at you Hashna Stone 😛 ) and you go from aspiring writer to writer.
All that said, you better join NaNo this November. *wink*
If you want to do NaNo together, look me up. I’ll be happy to be your NaNo buddy! My user name is AnnaFoxwrites. Or just click here…
Oh, and since I’ll be busy novel writing, I won’t be posting for the month of November…as is my custom. 😉
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I can’t believe it! The little story I wrote for this blog three years ago has grown into a 400-page novel with a beautiful cover. I am beyond excited that it’s turned out so well and that I finally get to share it with the world.
Who knew that the choose-your-own-adventure story we played around with would plant the seeds for my debut novel? Looking back on those first few chapters I wrote, I would have never thought they’d turn into a book.
You see, the idea I had for The Hashna Stone wasn’t one of my “real” book ideas. I had quite a few ideas tucked away in my head or in some word documents on my laptop, and they were my real story ideas–the ones I would one day turn into those books I’d always dreamed of writing.
But The Hashna Stone? I was just playing around with it. I didn’t feel it was “good enough” to be a full-length novel, but it was the perfect little story to post on my blog. It was fun, but not complicated. The characters were engaging without being too complex.
But once I was finished posting those small chapters here on my blog, I realized there was more to the story than what I first thought. I realized that if I dug into the characters a little deeper, thickened the plot, and expanded the story, it would be what I thought all those other story ideas were: book worthy.
It still wasn’t going to be one of my “real” books though. It was just going to be a little something I wrote for the fans that played the choose-your-own-adventure on my blog. I wasn’t going to pay for editing, formatting, or a cover because it was just a fun little project that I had going. I looked at it as more of preparation for when I wrote my “real” book.
BUT…after working on it for about 6-8 months and realizing just how much there really was to the story, I didn’t want to put it out there without giving it a fair chance. To have any chance at success, my book would need an editor and professional cover at the very least. The problem was that these things can get extremely expensive. We’re talking $1,000-$3,000 for editing and $300-$500 for a cover.
And that was just the bare minimum. If I wanted it to look good on the inside, I would need to hire someone to format both the paperback version and the ebook. It was also highly recommended that a book goes through more than just an editor, so I would need to hire a proofreader as well (another $1,000 or so). And I didn’t even want to think about marketing. It would be a waste to spend so much on the book and not have anyone see it, but marketing costs would really put me way in over my head with expenses.
I had a problem.
I’d put way too much work into The Hashna Stone to make it a free eBook that I put out there with a cover I made myself and no one to check for errors but a few beta readers (which really isn’t even a beta reader’s job). But I couldn’t afford all the bells and whistle I needed to give my book the makeover it deserved.
With those facts in mind, there was only one way for me to do this: start querying agents.
If the self-publishing route was too experiencing, than I would have to throw my book on the all-too-slim mercy of agents and publishing houses.
I knew I’d chosen a tough path that not many authors have had success with, but it was better than letting my book languish away in a metaphorically dusty folder on my laptop.
Fast forward 30 queries later and I still didn’t have an agent.
My lack of an agent didn’t make me doubt the quality of the book. I’d read plenty of authors’ stories and knew that even good books take time to get an agent and it could take me sixty queries to get an agent.
But I wondered if my lack of success was because I was going in the wrong direction. Maybe The Hashna Stone wasn’t meant to have a publishing house dictate its final outcome.
I decided to go back to my original plan to self publish. By this time, a year had passed (full of a lot of events that were unrelated to the book but that forced me to have to put it on hold) and I found myself in the perfect spot for self publishing. I had some extra time on my hands as well as some unexpected funds that would just be enough to pay for an editor, proofreader, cover artist, and some one to format the book.
I have never felt more alive in my life than in those early months after I decided to join the ranks of indie authors. It was a whirlwind of searching for the right people, hours and hours of editing, tons of internet research on self publishing and (surprisingly) having a blast at marketing.
There were a few setbacks along the way but (you know about the cover trouble), for the most part, the self-publishing journey has been smooth–a fact for which I am so thankful. This being my debut novel, there are a ton of things that could have gone wrong.
But The Hashna Stone is a stubborn little thing that wouldn’t let anything get in its way. Not being categorized as a “little story for my blog” by me. Not agent rejections. Not being sat aside and neglected for months because other things in life needed attention.
It knew what it was and wouldn’t let anyone or any circumstance tell it any differently. It knew it was just as great as any of the other story ideas floating in my head, and it wasn’t going to let me rest until it proved that it was a real story.
The Hashna Stone taught me a valuable lesson: just because others can’t see who you are, doesn’t mean you aren’t that person.
For so long, I couldn’t see the true value in the story, and it wasn’t until two years later, after a lot of hard work and learning, that I’ve sifted though the dirt and found the “gold.”
Which is another valuable lesson The Hashna Stone taught me. Some things take time to mature to the level of excellence that they were meant to be and as much as you may be tempted to rush the process (publishing it myself without the prep work) or to throw it away and start on something else more “worthy” of you time, you’ll never see the true value of that thing if you don’t stick with it until its process is finished.
If you find yourself in a place where you don’t feel valued, don’t feel talented, don’t think that your goals and dreams could ever be achieved, remember The Hashna Stone and how, even when its own author didn’t see its true value, it refused to give up.
Just because things aren’t working out now, doesn’t mean that you should give up, and just because people can’t see your real value doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable.
The Hashna Stone’s own author didn’t think it was a “real” story, but its joined the ranks of millions of published books out there and proving to me and everyone who didn’t believe in it that it is indeed a real story.
*For those of you who have read about the cover trouble I’d been having with the paperback…Yes, this post means it’s over! I’m so pleased to announce that The Hashna Stone is available as a paperback as well as an e-book.
Want to stay in the loop with real-time updates? Follow me on Instagram! That’s where I did the cover reveal for my book. I share my progress on whatever I’m working on at the time, and Instagram followers will be the first to know about my new book projects. 😉
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If you are wondering why The Hahsna Stone is available as an Ebook, but not a paperback, wonder no more. I am about to reveal to you the many, many trials that my book’s cover has had to endure. This string of evens could be its own book…an epic even.
So without further ado, I present to you….
The Cover Epic
The first attempt at a cover was from someone on fiver.com, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the way it turned out. It is a very inexpensive place to get a cover for your book, but it shows in the quality.
After several revisions to the image, I finally bought my own image of a gemstone from IStock. It looked better with my image on the front, but it still had a less-than-stellar look to it.
I thought I would be stuck with it because any other cover design service was way out of my budget, but then I came across someone who designed beautiful covers for a price I can afford on Instagram.
I thought I was finished with the cover difficulty, but it turned out it was just beginning.
The girl I got to design the cover did a stellar job. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the way it turned out. She did the whole thing within four days, which I was thrilled with because it put me about two months ahead of schedule. And even better…there was only one change that needed to be made with her original design. I’ve heard of authors going back and forth for months with their cover designer, so it was a relief that I wouldn’t have to do any of that.
It was a minor change about the way the claws looked–which I had anticipated might be hard to pin down immediately since they were attached to an animal that was a figment of my imagination–and she said she’d get on it right away.
Then two weeks went by with no word at all. Not even a “Hey I’ve been busy, but I will get to your cover soon,” type of thing. It seemed strange that this one small change was taking her so long when the entire cover only took four days. So I decided to email her to see if it was giving her trouble.
No response. I even messaged her on Instagram, but days went by without a single thing. It was fine if she hadn’t completed the changes yet, I just wanted to know what was going on. I hadn’t paid for the service yet, so if it didn’t work out, I could just find someone else to do the cover, but I wanted to know if I should wait for her to complete it or look for someone else.
A MONTH went by without a single word from her.
I’d placed my order for the cover on June 7th, received the first version on June 11th, and on June 12 she emailed to say she was going to make the change.
Here it was, July 2nd and with my two emails and three Instagram messages ignored, I was about to panic. The messages on Instagram hadn’t even been marked as “seen” so I was a little worried about her. She seemed to have disappeared into thin air. There weren’t any new post on her Instagram account or anything.
I was worried for my book as well. The days until The Hashna Stone‘s release were counting down and I now had just a little over a month to find someone who could create a good-quality cover within my budget, and do it in such short notice. I knew it would be difficult to find someone who could commit to finishing the cover in a month because they have other clients and may not be able to even start on my cover for a month.
Ideally, the cover should have already been finished by now so I could do a cover reveal and market it a bit before it launches.
I went to sleep that night of the 2nd, with all these thoughts running through my head, and decided that I’d waited on the girl long enough and I just needed to find another cover artist before it was too late.
I wake up to find her email in my inbox. No joke, she FINALLY emailed me, and even had the cover finished.
I was thrilled to finally have things moving again! I paid for the cover (eBook version and paperback) and was sent…ONLY the eBook cover.
I had to email her back that I hadn’t received the paperback version and had to wait another two weeks to hear from her again. She apologized and said she thought she did send the paperback cover, but it turned out she forgot to hit “send.”
I was just happy that I finally had both covers and…wait…is that a JPG?
She’d sent me a JPG when Amazon required that you use a PDF for the paperback cover.
By now I was dreading emailing her because her response time was so slow. By now it was July 22nd, exactly three days less than a month before my publication date. At this rate, she wouldn’t even respond until two weeks before I released the book, which would give me very little time to do a cover reveal, market, and send a proof copy to myself to look over one more time for any mistakes.
By some miracle, she emailed me the next day with the correct version of the cover.
Well, at first glance I thought it was the correct version, but it turned out what she sent was a PSD (I’ve never even heard of that one).
At this point, I was internally kicking myself for not just spending the extra $300 for a professional to create the cover. It would be worth it to avoid all this hassle. I’d be willing to sacrifice the discount to have peace of mind that my cover would get to me on time and that I would be able to upload it to Amazon without any problems.
By yet another miracle, she emails me the next day and this time it is a PDF.
I am about to throw a party! I was so relieved to finally be done with the dang cover.
Things hadn’t gone so smoothly, but that was all in the past and I could upload them to Amazon and then I could get to the fun stuff and do a cover reveal.
But the cover drama wasn’t over. This is the lovely sight that I was greeted with when I uploaded it to Amazon.
Kicking myself yet again for going for not just spending the $300, I emailed her about the trouble I was having and had to wait a little over a week for a response.
It was now the very month of my book’s publication and I had 18 days left to do all the aforementioned things that are supposed to be done before a book launches.
I won’t bore you with the string of emails that followed in the next two weeks (thankfully her response time got a little better), but none of the covers she sent were sized right.
She finally sent me one that looked correct when uploaded to Amazon, but when I went to approve it (Amazon requires that you launch a previewer and look over it and hit an “approve” button before going any farther in the publishing process) I wasn’t allowed to because Amazon caught an error in the sizing.
I ended up having my brother look at it. He isn’t a cover designer, but an engineer, so he’s really smart and knew how to resize it using some other program that wasn’t Adobe (I didn’t have Adobe, so I couldn’t even attempt to resize the cover myself).
After playing around with it all night, he got one to work, and I could hit the magic “approve” button.
Of course, I was wary after all I’d been through with this cover, but I was hopeful that this time it would work.
I sent for a proof copy and in a few days got one, but it turned out that the sizing was still wrong because there was a thin white line at the bottom where the cover didn’t quite reach.
My brother resized it again and I ordered another proof.
And never got it…
Today is three days after my publication day, and I still don’t have it. All I got was an email from Amazon saying that the package was delayed.
I went ahead and hit the publish button Sunday, so it would be ready by Monday, the 19th. All I could do was hope that the cover was the way it looked on the online previewer.
Amazon doesn’t let you publish your paperback immediately like it does an eBook, so it was in “review” for about 18 hours or so.
Since I never got to look over a physical copy of the book, I wasn’t really surprised when I got an email from Amazon saying that there was a problem with the way the cover was sized and that it needed to be changed in order for me to publish it.
That left me no choice but to contact the cover artist, yet again, and see if she can get the cover she made to meet Amazon’s requirements.
And this is where the story ends. The Hashna Stone is in “review” again with the latest resize of the cover, and I’m waiting to see if this cover drama is finally over.
I don’t mean to make it sound like I’m complaining about the girl who made the cover. She’s very sweet and she did an excellent job with the cover art. It’s just disappointing to not be able to use something you paid for…especially when I asked if she could do book covers for Amazon specifically and was told, “yes.”
Needless to say, I’ll be forking over the standard price of a book cover next time publish a book. 🙂
***If you do what to read The Hashna Stone, and don’t want to wait for the cover drama to resolve itself, you can get the Ebook!
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