Archive for the ‘#iamwriting’ Tag

Sparkly Objects All Around   14 comments

January 20, 2020

What are your top three distractions and how do you deal with them?

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Life is Distracting

Life is incredibly distracting. There’s the kids, the spouse, the house, the pets, the Internet, the phone, Netflix, Hulu, my friends, my siblings, books, church, the gym, summer, the furnace, making dinner, my friends at Bible study, the woodstove, the houseplants, my coworkers, the news, the Democratic debates, Trump’s antics, the hysteria of both Democrats and Trump supporters, Facebook, Twitter, Austrian economics, Medium, You-Tube, Word Press, my husband’s company, my father-in-law, my-mother-in-law, (occasionally) my brother and my recently-discovered sister, Ancestry.com, the neighbors … yeah, I could go on and on.

Yup, it might be easier to say what isn’t a distraction these days. We live in the Age of Distraction. We’re constantly trying to amuse ourselves. Amuse – a (meaning “none) + muse (meaning “thinking”) = no thinking. We are surrounded by things of less-value that constantly try to distract us from things of greater value.

And I’m trying to publish two novels this year. Yeah, I don’t need distractions in 2020 and I definitely can’t be a-musing. Writers need to think. I need to think. I need to get into the head of my characters and bring forth their stories.

My Big Three

The OP asks for three top distractions. Selecting from hundreds wasn’t easy, but here we go.

  • My husband
  • The news
  • Social media

Husbands – Am I Interrupting You?

I used to be able to say kids, but our 27-year-old daughter is a gypsy musician traveling the Lower 48 and our 21-year-old son, while he lives at home, is a quiet person whose most distracting behavior is playing guitar in his room (he’s actually getting quite good).

I love my husband Brad and he is very supportive of my writing, but sometimes he can’t seem to understand that there are times when, in order for me to get an idea from my brain through my fingers to the electronic page, I need him to SHUT THE HECK UP.

I’m really good with distraction. I grew up in small Alaska houses where everybody lived in one room, television blaring, conversations swirling, and you retreated to your bedroom only for bed (or algebra. I never could do algebra, carry on a conversation, and watch television all at the same time). I’m really good at screening out distractions. I can write while watching television, while the neighbor is mowing his lawn, while the kids were jumping around in the living room or while the dog chased her stuffed animal across the carpet. I really am good with distractions.

Except when I’m not. Sometimes, there’s just thoughts, turns of phrases or descriptions that I really need to concentrate on to write it the way I want. And Brad is really, really, REALLY good at interrupting my thought-flow right when I don’t need him to.

He means well. Last night it was a simply question –

  • Brad – “Do you want tea?”
  • Me – “Yes.”
  • Brad – “What kind of tea?”
  • Me – “Doesn’t matter.”
  • Brad – “But there’s four different kinds here. Do you want the Bengal Spice, the Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland, the Orange Spice, or the Apple Cinnamon?”
  • Me – “You’re interrupting my thoughts.”
  • Brad – “It’ll just take a moment.”
  • Me – (The image is fading. No, come back.) “How about you make the decision and let me think?
  • Brad – “So you don’t want tea?”
  • Me – (Urrggghhhh!) “No, never mind. Let’s now have a conversation since the thought I was trying to capture just ran off to the Delta Glacier, never to be seen again. Yes, make me tea, I want the Bengal Spice, and let me close my laptop since I’m going to get nothing else of worth accomplished tonight.”

Brad and I just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary. We’ve been making tea for each other for 35 years. He KNOWS what tea I like and that I stop drinking caffeine after 7 pm. He also knows that he could give me any of those four flavors and I’d be good with his choice. Heck, he’s given me just hot water before and I didn’t complain – scarcely noticed if I was chasing a powerful image out of my mind onto the page. But, yeah, at least once a week, he is a major distraction.

News

Say what you will about the times we live in – the news is hyperbolic. It’s been going on for a while now. Clinton (Bill, with Hillary as the wind beneath his wings) was going to destroy America. Bush 2 was going to destroy the world. Obama was destroying the middle class. Trump is going to implode the galaxy.

I studied to be a journalist and worked for a couple of years at our hometown newspaper, so I have an interest in the news. When we had cable television, the news was on a lot. Then we cut the cord and now the news is only on if we go looking for it on You-Tube. But my god, you could get so caught up in it all — watching Nancy Pelosi try to stage a coup and Trump try to avoid the knife and the 357 Democratic candidates try to throw each under the bus, while the CNN anchors turn blue waiting for World War 3 to break out while freaking out over Trump’s latest twitter storm and whether Bernie is a sexist or if the statements his Iowa field supervisor made on tape are a sign that at least some in his organization want a Marxist regime. Thank God we only have You-Tube and not CNN, Fox, MSNBC, PBS, and BBC.

I don’t watch the news all that often anymore. I do scan Reuters and our local newspaper daily and there are a few libertarian analysis sites I go to more than once a week, but for the most part, I don’t hang on every moment of the news because — DISTRACTING.

But Brad does like to catch some news programs on You-Tube. Remember what I said about being really good with distraction. That doesn’t bother me. I can watch a news program while writing a book – usually. Except he sometimes wants to talk about it and he figures his wife — former journalist with a political science minor — probably would like to weigh in. After all, I do know something about the topic — more than the average viewer. I show that when I write Transformation Project. So why don’t I watch the program?

Well, sometimes I am writing a story that has nothing to do with political science. The YA I’m writing currently has a main character who knows nothing about politics and doesn’t want to. That is so appropriate for a 17-year-old!

I began publishing Transformation Project before Donald Trump became president. I never really saw that coming, so I have to constantly remind myself that he’s not part of the mythology. The deceased President Dotson is based on a Michael Bloomberg-like character with a dash of Richard Nixon thrown in. It’s hard to keep Trump out of Transformation Project when Brad is watching the Milwaukee Keep America Great Rally on You-Tube. Then he cuts to the protesters and counter-protesters outside and pretty soon, I’m not writing, I’m watching and so long as I leave Trump out of it, I can get some great ideas about how people act stupidly when they come to believe the pageantry of the elected nobility matters in real life, but ultimately, I am distracted from writing.

It’s a Village at Your Fingertips

Social media is a great societal good and an immense societal disaster. It’s insta-community and I have over 800 followers. At least 50 of them weigh in regularly to my discussion openers on Facebook. I enjoy doing them and I often get attitudes that are reflected by characters within Transformation Project. Sometimes phrases even work their way in. It’s a great source for inspiration.

And a massive time-suck.

If I let it be. I have easily wasted weekend afternoons that were prime writing time discussing topics that I already have plenty of source material for. People ask you questions, they wish you happy birthday, they post their own stuff and I want to respond … Distracting!

How Do I Deal With It?

Life is about accommodations. If you’ve got a family, you’re blessed. You can’t just leave them to go live on a mountaintop where you can write without interruptions. You shouldn’t desire to do so. Brad interrupts me and sometimes I’m frustrated by that. I remind myself that he can’t read my mind and sometimes his distracting behaviors are because he’s lonely. That will happen to author widowers. I sometimes need to set aside a project for an evening so we can spend time together. I also try to encourage him to pursue his own hobbies when my muse is throwing fast balls and most of the time that works.

Shutting out the world is impossible and probably not helpful in the long run. Brad has a shtick about someone we know who never pays attention to the news emerging from his cave to discover the zombie apocalypse has occurred and he was utterly unaware of it and completely unprepared. Paying at least some attention to the world outside of my writing is a good thing and it makes my coworkers less nervous that I might walk in front of cars while I daydream. But really, unplugging is not a bad thing either. Most people today are WAY too attached to the whole Trump-is-going-to-implode-the-galaxy back-and-forth hysteria. Go do something else and stop freaking out. It’ll resolve itself — and, hint, neither side is particularly right at the moment and perhaps we ought to be more concerned about what they’re trying to distract us from.

Social media – yeah, where the freak-out is really occurring. Yes, I use it for research. Am I on it too much? Probably. Can I let it go? Not entirely. But I also don’t take it as seriously as some of my commenters tend to take it. I also don’t need to “win” the debate. I will keep dealing in principles and making points and letting people be wrong if they want to be wrong. And, even people who I mostly agree with are sometimes wrong. I’m sure they know that experience too.

I relax my grip and don’t sweat stuff I don’t control. And, that’s how I deal with it.

Posted January 20, 2020 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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Announcing “Day’s End”   Leave a comment

Cover Reveal Brown Wrapper for ThanatosisAlthough I already announced this on Facebook, it seems I didn’t post it here.

Book 4 of Transformation Project has had the working title of “Thanatosis”, but when it came down to doing the cover, I decided to change the name to “Day’s End”.

The big cover reveal is Sunday.

Looking to the Future   3 comments

January 1, 2018 – What are you most looking forward to this coming year?


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I don’t do New Year’s resolutions mainly because I try to avoid lying to myself, so I’m glad to see this different twist on a New Year’s Day blog hop.

Image result for image of new years planningWhat do I look forward to in 2018?

Our daughter claims she is coming to Alaska in her own car with her dog. She’s a bit of a rolling stone – not the dog, our daughter. A gypsy musician who works to support herself in her travels. We miss her A LOT. She’s the sort of person who fills up a house with her personality. She’s been home for visits, but I’m hoping she’ll spend some time on this visit, which won’t be until summer. I’m hoping she’ll decide she’s ready to settle down once she gets here. Time will tell.

Don’t get me wrong. I support her in her endeavors, but I miss her and wish she was within driving distance for a visit.

Beyond that, we’re supposedly FINALLY installing the finished floors in our living room and maybe in the kitchen this year and Brad has agreed to record one of my books for Audacity. Of course, I’ve got several writing projects calling my name and I will have to decide soon whether to return to the fourth book of Transformation Project or stick with the slow going to Fount of Wraiths. Good fantasy takes time and it is going well, but it is not as fast as a Transformation Project book to write. I also have a literary fiction and an alternative history that are both works in progress that I dabble with when I have time. Neither will likely be pushing in 2018, but you never know.

I think those of the top things I’m looking forward to, although I also think tax reform adding a couple of thousand dollars to my family revenue stream this year will allow us to make plans that aren’t even on our radar right now.

But life, as we should all know, is what happens while we’re making other plans, so I won’t get too wedded to these plans because things happen and plans change and that’s part of the adventure of life.

Posted January 1, 2018 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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Found in the Stacks   Leave a comment

December 18, 2017 – Research. Post an interesting fact or facts you’ve come across researching a book.

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One of the things I like best about being a writer is researching interesting topics that I wouldn’t ordinarily find the time to research.

Image result for image of libraryMy mother was a farm girl, but except for being forced to weed her garden when I was a kid, I didn’t know much about farming until I started writing books that involved farmers. Most of the population of Celdrya are farmers eking out a living with crude plows drawn by oxen. The town of Emmaus is surrounded by corn fields. I knew nothing about Medieval farming when I started Daermad Cycle and I knew nothing about corn farming when started Transformation Project. Now I know arcane knowledge like farmers try to save money by allowing corn to dry on the cob before harvesting. This will save some lives in the series.

In researching how the town would survive the apocalypse, I learned about silos and why so many of them are being converted to other uses today – my son tells me of an awesome bouldering club in a grain silo. I worked that into the story – what do you do with all that corn you’ve been sending to the mega silos for the last 30 years now that it is in your best interest to keep it local? You can’t just dig a hole in the ground and bury it because the damp of the ground will turn the corn into hominy. But there are silos that are built into the ground – they’re called bunker silos. You see a couple in the hillside during the opening scene of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. So there is a way to do it right.

In Daermad Cycle, a king is poisoned and dies. I spent a fair amount of time studying up on poisons. Padraig, the central figure in an ensemble cast, is an herbman so I had to learn about herbal treatments. My main race are the descendants of Celts who stumbled into an alternative universe a thousand years ago (in their time line). They call things by familiar names, but these items are not necessarily exactly what exists in our world. The Kin are indigenous to the world of Daermad and they have some very different items because they have never lived in the world we know. I’ve spent a lot of time researching swords, knives, Medieval clothing and horses for Daermad Cycle.

In Transformation Project both my main character, Shane, and his grandfather Jacob are pilots. I grew up on the edge of the flying community – 80% of Alaskan communities cannot be reached by roads, so we fly a lot. I have even taken flight training. I could keep a single-engine plane in the air and theoretically know how to land one, though I have never gotten to practice that part. I thoroughly enjoyed studying about the planes that work their way into the story.

There are so many different things to learn, but I thought I’d go into detail on just one. Martial law plays a big part in Transformation Project. I wanted to have my facts straight before I played with them so I googled “martial law in the United States.” and learned about President Obama signing Executive Order 13603, titled “National Defense Resources Preparedness.” To be totally fair, President Obama was merely tweaking an existing Executive Order that goes back all the way to the Truman administration. So, it’s been about 60 years since the government gave itself the authority to seize all US resources and persons, including during peacetime, for self-declared “national defense”. The president is authorized to delegate authority to various federal departments and agencies identify, confiscate and reallocate food, gasoline, machinery, medicine, water, and even people.

A Threatening Fragility Front CoverOf course, no US president has actually done this, though it ought to make us nervous that they think they have such authority. Let’s hope it never comes to that. In Transformation Project, it’s a key big bad, because the people in charge weren’t elected by anyone and yet they feel they have the authority to take food, medicine, and crops and conscript people into a workforce to make this happen.

What do you do when what you need to survive conflicts with official policy?

The people of Emmaus think they know the answer, but are they willing to pay the price?

Are actual Americans willing to put themselves in that position? No, it can’t happen here … until maybe it does and then maybe it’s too late. Since I’m planning more books in the series, you can surmise that at least some of the people in Emmaus survive … but how well they survive depends on how much of their resources they were able to hang onto.

Amazon

#Reviewers Wanted   1 comment

Image result for image of a threatening fragility markhamA Threatening Fragility publishes November 7, 2017, and I’m looking for reviewers … for the entire series.

I’m willing to give FREE ebooks for an honest review.

This is the third book for a libertarian-influenced apocalyptic series that asks “How would the people of a small Midwestern town survive if brought to a breaking point?”

If you’re interested, email me at lelamarkham@gmail.com with “Review Offer” in the subject line.

Posted November 6, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in books, Uncategorized

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Writer’s Prep   4 comments

Do you ever read a book and ask yourself “How did the author come up with this?” I do and so do some of my fellow authors, so come join us as we answer our readers’ curiosity.
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I could choose either of my two series to discuss, but I chose Transportation Project because of an Amazon review.

I started writing Life As We Knew It as a “relief” story while I was editing The Willow Branch. I always have at least one “relief” project in the wings behind my main project because it prevents writer’s block, but LAWKI had a life before it had that name or even the plot it ended up with.

 

Front Cover LAWKI no windowTransformation Project (and Life As We Knew It, Book 1) is a compilation of several stories that had been kicking around on my hard drive or in my psyche for many years.

I had long wanted to do a story centered around my Mom’s hometown in North Dakota and some of the people I know there, particularly an arm of the family who are deaf, thus Poppy Lufgren, who was originally a male, and Alex, the hearing brother who raised her. I had a half-dozen false starts with a story focused on them. Maybe a small town in North Dakota just didn’t hold my attention or I couldn’t quite capture the essence of Deaf culture.

I strongly believe that the United States would act badly and disastrously if hit by a widespread act of terrorism. I see what our government has done so far (driving people out of their homes with their hands up while looking for the Boston bombers, for example) and I am pessimistic about the future. I see the huge national debt as very dangerous. I also see the reliance Americans have on technology as problematic. I don’t know how to say that in a normal life scenario without sounding like I’m preaching, but in an apocalyptic, I can show those beliefs in action and hopefully make them entertaining.

During the run-up to the 2008 Presidential elections, we were Sarah Palin fans. She was very popular in Alaska and nobody can argue with her record here, despite the questionable behavior afterward. Alaska’s government is currently being funded by the non-Permanent Fund savings she put aside during her brief tenure as governor. Thank you, Sarah, for looking ahead to $36 a barrel oil when it was at $98 a barrel. Not many Alaskans foresaw that inevitability.

On a 10-hour no-radio road trip, my then-teenage daughter and I collaborated on a verbal story that featured a Palin-esque politician trying to get away from an assassination attempt with the help of a mercenary — Shane Delaney — who was based on some 20-something action actor my daughter found attractive. It was a thought-experiment on “what would it actually take to fundamentally change the United States of America?” We chose my mom’s North Dakota hometown as our destination because it’s sort of near Chicago where the story began. By Alaskan-standards Los Angeles is also near Chicago. When we got Shane and the politician to Nowhere, North Dakota, they were helped by Alex — who is based upon a cousin of ours — the only hearing man in a deaf family (on the side that isn’t related to us) who raised his little sister after his parents died. In our cobbled-together story, Alex, Poppy and Shane were siblings and Alex was a bit peeved to have been left with the responsibility of raising a little sister while Shane just sent home money — that was Brad’s contribution.

The election ended and so did the story, except that I really liked some of the characters and the basic idea and I wasn’t really ready to let go of that question of “What would it take to transform the culture of the United States?” I tried drafting it and it didn’t take long to realize that we had “written” ourselves into a corner. Nowhere, North Dakota is nowhere near anything else. There are no big cities near it by Lower 48 standards. There’s no interstate. There’s just a lot of really flat country, barns and sunflower fields. The Palin-esque character had been my daughter’s creation and she didn’t really talk to me, so I had no source of tension for the story.

It hung out on my hard drive until I read William Forstchen’s One Second After and I knew I wanted to use terrorism and its affects on a small town in a book. Originally I used EMP and much of the rough draft was written under that premise. The town moved south into Kansas because Forstchen suggested that would be the hardest hit place and Kansas really is a crossroads of sorts with I70 and having been the navel of the aviation world. When a friend gifted me with American Hiroshima by Hugh Cort, I decided to make a change to a nuclear scenario because I really wanted to explore black flag ideas and I felt my book might be too evocative of Forstchen’s book.

I tried all sorts of different ways to get Shane, who started out as a mercenary, to have some connection to the attacks, but the character wouldn’t allow it. When I wrote the Rigby storyline, it seemed ridiculous that he would ever show up in Emmaus, Kansas, if he didn’t know anyone there. And, then my pastor’s son was arrested, tried and convicted of plotting acts of terrorism (yes, really! Google Francis Schaeffer Cox) and the back story of Shane grew from that. It gave me a reason to connect Rigby to the town and to Shane, but it also provides the source material for future storylines in the series because Anders McAuliff is brother to the imprisoned militia leader.

What sort of research do you need to write a book like Life As We Knew It? Apparently my life brings accidental research opportunities to me. I’m the only writer I know who is friends with the wife and parents of a convicted terrorist. I knew almost nothing about suitcase nukes when I started. My concept of nuclear attack survivability was a mixture of ideas from The Day After, War Day and a 24 scenario. The book shows my evolved understanding of how suitcase nukes differ from ICBMs. I didn’t know a lot about Midwestern farming. My mom left North Dakota in 1942 and the closest thing to farming I’d ever done on visits was milking a goat (which I learned in Alaska) and pitching hay (which I think was more entertaining for my cousins than helpful). I spent a weekend at a friend’s farm in Alaska and watched a lot of utube videos. I didn’t know much about the interstate system (grew up in Alaska, yo?).  I’ve now spent a lot of time on Google Street View. One course of research led to other courses of research. I knew a fair amount about guns, having grown up in the gun-culture of Alaska, but I’d never been a semi-auto girl until I started researching what sort of gun Shane would carry. Kansas being the navel of the old airplane world was an opportunity I (being from another big airplane state) couldn’t let go that will have huge impacts later in the series. Again, I grew up in a flying state, but I had to research GA airplanes. PTSD, which Shane suffers from, found its way into the story because of a disturbing story a friend told me about how Vietnam still haunts him. Although I worked in a social service agency for 15 years, I still needed to do some research on PTSD — its causes, its symptoms and its treatments. Creating a Middle Eastern country allowed me to not be tied to a real world timeline and required that I research countries in that area to provide myself with a back story that I may never share with readers. Yes, writers — good writers — do that all the time. Carl the schizophrenic is a compilation of several clients I knew in my 15 years of employment at a mental health agency, but I did some research in addition because I am not a professional social worker (I worked in administration). Jacob is based on a couple of older gentlemen I know from Fairbanks and his personality and life philosophy comes from the radio show Patriot’s Lament, but I also had to research what anacho-capitalists believe to give him some depth.

I rarely develop characters. They present themselves to me to tell me their story and I write it down. Sometimes I can guide the plot and the characters will cooperate, but most of my characters will not do things that are out-of-character, no matter how much I want them to. I loved the Delaney family from the original story, but Alex wouldn’t insinuate himself into the town’s business and I couldn’t get any of his relatives to become hearing so that Shane would have an excuse to be involved in town decisions. This is where Sarah Palin re-entered the story. She was mayor of Wasilla before she was governor of Alaska and whenever I played with her part of the story, when I wanted to still keep her doppleganger in it, I kept coming back to that leadership role. Nobody is more involved in town decisions than the mayor. Rob is a compilation of higher-level managers at work and a friend who owns a feed store in Alaska. He’s smart, he’s been a good manager of his town — and what I’m going to do with his character is going to surprise people.

Remember, it’s called Transformation Project. I’m not just dropping bombs and saying the world will struggle to return to normal and then it does. That story’s been done and I want to do something different. I’m fundamentally transforming the United States as we know it … eventually, over several books.

Kelly Williams is discussing this topic over on her Blue Honor blog. While you’re checking out what she has to say, check out her books. Isn’t that a gorgeous cover above?

A Taste of Mirklin Wood #2   11 comments

HiFront Cover Reds heart hammered and his breath grew short. His head felt light and empty, as if he were climbing the mountains once more rather than hanging from the talons of a great wyrm.

Nay, not possible! It did remind him somewhat of the statues he’d seen of dragons, but that was a bard’s fancy and those did not fly to your rescue that often. Or did they? In some of the stories …. Stories! He was not being rescued. He was likely about to be eaten. Mayhap he could avoid that, if he was clever. He craned his neck to look above him. The beast’s sinuous neck undulated some distance above his head. Iridescent green and black scales caught the moonlight in shimmering waves. The wings hardly beat now. The beast must have set its course and found its altitude. Donyl’s lungs fought for icy cold air. His eyes had mostly adjusted to the chill and now he saw the world round him. The moonlight was inexplicably fading, but the snow-capped mountain peaks shone with a white light of their own. Tier upon tier of mountains stretched before them. The Roof of the World?

Mirklin Wood on Facebook   Leave a comment

Front Cover RedMirklin Wood has its own Facebook page, for those who would like to support it.

https://www.facebook.com/MirklinWood1/

A Taste of Mirklin Wood #1   1 comment

Front Cover RedThe paths were filled with daemons of all sizes and shapes, terrible faces contorted in rage
as one after the other they pressed toward Donyl and Pedyr, swinging their bronze weapons to meet their iron. Calm and rational in this irrational situation, Donyl dealt death as no novice at arms had a right, slicing and parrying, arms burning with fatigue. He understood that they were going to die – that had been a given when they saw the hordes upon the paths — but the man at his back deserved better. Here was a Believer, a follower of the One, who trusted his god to save his soul, but did not expect him to save his life. Oath-sworn to see Donyl to his destination or die in the attempt, Pedyr fought a last futile battle for naught but honor. The citadel is within sight! Could not the Denygal god find it to save this most deserving man? Donyl’s rational mind thought this as his exhausted arms continued swinging his sword upon daemon after daemon, with no stop in sight. God I do not know, please save Pedyr.

An air-rending roar filled the gorge and the daemon host ducked as if expecting attack from on high. A terrified keening rolled along the paths, echoing off the cliffs, as a dark winged shape glided out of the moon light and swept low. Donyl screamed as the enormous claws reached down and plucked him free of the ledge.

And … It Starts   Leave a comment

Front Cover RedI’ve been working away at Mirklin Wood, Book 2 of Daermad Cycle, and it is almost ready for launch. Which means … it’s time for you the reader to get a few tastes of what I’ve been cooking up.

Some of your favorite characters are back. You may find out how I resolved a few of those cliff-hangers. I’m introducing a few new characters. And … well, you’ll have to tune in to find out.

The loose publication date for Mirklin Wood is March 15 … give or take a panic attack or three.

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