Monday, June 29, 2015

Guest Post: The Making of Eerl by Raven Oak

Today I am very happy to present a GUEST POST!!! That's right, someone else came on and is saying smart things about their books. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Raven Oak, author of the bestselling fantasy novel Amaskan’s Blood, the science fiction novella Class-M Exile, and the upcoming space opera The Eldest Silence.

Raven Oak is here to tell us about how Earl, the lead character in "Class-M Exile" came to be...

The Making of Eerl

One morning, the birds were singing and the cats were complaining about their required food intake and the Seattle sun beamed directly into my eyes with fiery contempt for my sleep schedule. I sat up straight in bed and this book idea fell into my lap…

Actually, no.

That’s not it, though it sounds entertaining enough I suppose. Much more so than how Class-M Exile actually came to be.

The life of a writer is full of long hours that stretch into years, saint-like patience, thick-layered skin, and a certain need to finish the sentence. I was awaiting the line edits on book one of my epic fantasy, Amaskan’s Blood, and at the urging of a few writing buddies, decided to attend the Locus Writers’ Workshop.

Christopher Barzak and Connie Willis were the teachers that year, and in the workshop, we were asked to think of an event that impacted us emotionally when we were younger. We were given fifteen minutes to write it as an opening scene. The event, which I wrote about in an article called Dreaded Differences, dealt with a small town’s reaction to someone different. It dealt with prejudice and bullying and all the things a child shouldn’t have to swallow so early in life. Even twenty-five years later, I remember the incident as vividly as the sweaty black leather interior of my first car during a Texas scorcher.

We were asked to rewrite the same scene with a science fiction or fantasy twist. For me, I chose to rewrite my friend’s first day at school, but rather than a human somewhere as mundane as a Earth, she became a rare human—alone in the world and seeking answers to her past. The main character, Eerl, was a professor with an unhealthy fascination for almost-extinct humans. Eerl was also an alien (as were all the other characters in the book) with a deep Texas drawl because that’s what he thought all hu-man’s must sound like.

The opening carried the slapstick of Robert Aspirin and mixed it with my sarcasm as I wrote the intro scene. The novella became a social commentary on how prejudice dwells within each of us, no matter what our race, nationality, creed, gender, or religion. The response that opening scene drew encouraged me to finish the story, though doing so was akin to a root canal.

I didn’t have time for a full-length novel (after all, I had a sequel or three to write for Amaskan’s Blood), nor did I feel the story arc was long enough for one. And honestly, after such a reaction at Locus, could I continue to carry that level of writing? Could I finish it with the bang the story needed?

I pushed through until I finished the damn story, but it took longer to write than most novels. Then I revised it. And I revised it again. I walked through the process as normal.

Only this novella wasn’t normal. Something about this story sang inside me. I’d dived into a character’s head in a way I hadn’t before. Don’t get me wrong—folks love the strength and the voices of my characters in Amaskan’s Blood. Characters, along with world-building, are what I do best—but Eerl was special. He was bold.

He was different.

In every way that my friend was the antithesis of Texas, Eerl was this odd juxtaposition of alien and ‘down home’. Writing this novella was unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It was a glorious experiment and often while editing, I wondered if I’d gone quite mad in my creation.

Despite having lived in Texas for 22 years, I did not pick up or adopt the southern slang. No blessing your hearts or talkin’ to ya’ll like the letter ‘g’ weren’t no thang. My husband could always tell when I was editing because he’d call and reach Eerl—or at least the voice of Eerl. The thick Texas drawl would creep through the conversation like honeysuckles through plywood.

Eerl could say what I couldn’t. He gave voice to my doubts about the sanity of folks living in the south—folks who believed that if you weren’t a gun-totting, church-going, straight, white Republican, you were in the wrong state. Heck, you were in the wrong country.

Weirdos and hippies need not apply.

For all that heart blessing, I never felt comfortable speaking my mind much as a child in Texas. Some folks argue that as an author, I should bite my tongue and remain impartial to the injustices of the world, but I say they’re wrong. Science fiction has always held with the practice of asking difficult questions and pushing the boundaries. Just like Eerl—my mad experiment.

As a child, I was often too polite and afraid to stand up against prejudice, but as an author, doing so comes with the job description—even one written in a Texas drawl.

Raven Oak She spent most of her K-12 education doodling stories and 500 page monstrosities that are forever locked away in a filing cabinet. 

When she’s not writing,  she’s getting her game on with tabletop games, indulging in cartography, or staring at the ocean. She lives in Seattle, WA with her husband, and their three  kitties who enjoy lounging across the keyboard when writing deadlines approach.  

Raven is currently at work on Amaskan’s War and The Eldest Traitor.

Her works are available in paperback and eBook formats at booksellers worldwide. You can find Raven Oak on:


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Work Life Balance and How to Get Some…

Work life balance?


Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….

Hee hee hee


My Schedule, Simplified:

 (I say simplified because of course my child's activities are at different times on different days, but this gets you the idea):

6 a.m. – Get up
6:15 a.m. – Work out
7 a.m. - Get child out of bed, make breakfasts, make lunches, clean kitchen
7:45 – eat breakfast
8:00 – Martial arts with child
8:30 – Get breakfast
8:45 – Child goes to school, shave, shower
9:00 – Ghostwriting
1:00 – Lunch
1:30 – Writing
3:30 – Child comes home, snack, review schoolwork, piano practice, homework
4:30 - Make dinner
5:00 - Eat dinner
5:30 – Take child to activities
6:00 – Write while child does activities
8:00 – Go home, spend time with significant other
9:00 – Child goes to bed
10:00 – Brush teeth, stretching, meditation
11:00 – Lights out

My Reality

No plan ever survives contact with reality. See the schedule above?  Most days, if two thirds of it goes right, I’m a happy bunny.

Today, I could barely drag myself out of bed by 7:00, probably because last night I was doing a class at Rapier Wit and then we went out for milkshakes (because we are that cool). That meant I didn’t get to work out and won’t unless I decide to do it this evening, in which case I can either drop some writing time or some sleep. Neither is particularly appealing.

And if it’s a dark day (when my depression flares up) that two-thirds drops to one-third and if I’m lucky it’s the one third that pays my bills.

What’s My Point?

I don’t have one, I just wanted to whine.


OK, maybe partially serious, but still…

Work Life Balance is What You Make It

I have a very full, very hectic schedule, and I know I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t have a commute. I make a pretty good living doing what I love. I have a wonderful, lively, strong kid who has a lot of interests. I have a great relationship, and opportunities that others don’t have.

And sometimes I still feel out of whack. Like life is passing me by. Like I don’t ever, ever, EVER get to have fun.

And that’s when I realize I forgot to do some things, which I highly recommend to anyone who feels the same.

1. Plan Your Fun

Being spontaneous is great. But most times, if you’re an adult with kid(s) and a busy schedule, not planning your fun means you don’t have any. You glue yourself to the TV or the Internet and before you know it, the weekend is done and you did nothing.

Take some time each week to plan out your days off. Do it over dinner, if you can. It’s much better than spending the meal bitching about your day.

If you plan it, you are more likely to do it, which means you’ll be more likely to enjoy yourself on your time off.

2. Get more sleep

I try to sleep 7 hours a night (on the weekends, if I go to bed on time, I can get 8!).  Most times I sleep less sleep less.  That is bad.

When the schedule gets hectic, getting enough sleep is paramount because that’s what gives you the strength to go on, and gets you the energy you need so you can to the fun things you planned.

3. Accept that some time you just can’t…

Yep. Sometimes, things are not going to work out. Some days, everything goes wrong and all you can do is pull out your emergency straw and suck it up until the day is done.

The key thing with days like these is to reset at the end of them. Start tomorrow fresh (easier said than done, I know) and look at how you can plan the next day so it doesn’t get quite so bad.

Next Time: Keeping a clean house, writer style…

Monday, May 11, 2015

Black Dogs, Carbs and Deadlines – A Post on Depression

It took me three months to write this post. Part of it was a lack of courage, part of it was...

Well, read it and you'll figure it out.

Ever had one of those days where you can’t get off the couch? Ever had a week of them?  How about a month?  How about on and off for most of a year?

Yeah, that was my last year, maybe my last two. I’m not sure.

Falling into the Pit

This January I was doing a lot of lying on the couch. I as behind on my book, I was behind on my marketing plan, I’d stopped blogging (in case you hadn’t noticed) and I was only barely functioning in other parts of my life.  I spent far too much time web-surfing and far too little functioning, and everything I loved wasn’t making me happy anymore.

I think it was that last that caught my attention. I LOVE writing. I LOVE martial arts. I LOVE my kid, my girlfriend, and my life, generally. But I didn’t love any of it anymore.

I began web-surfing again, only this time it was actually research. It didn’t take long.

Then I called my doctor, took some tests and got the diagnosis:


Not “I’m sad” depression but full-out clinical depression. On the scale they use, I’m “moderate to severe.” Which means that I have a chance of dealing with it without meds. Could be worse. Could be better.

Winston Churchill used to call depression “the black dog,” which seems unfair to dogs, but we all need our metaphors (and for a series of good articles on male depression, check out The Art of Manliness series “Leashing the Black Dog.”).

For me, it’s more like a loa riding me. This loa hates sunlight and life and activity. It hates everything I love and when it rides me, I can’t be bothered to do the things I care about. And there is no way to appease this loa; no Houngan to help make it leave. The only way to get rid of it is to lie curled up on the couch, mindlessly numbing my brain with TV or internet until it gets bored and goes away for a while.

Annoying doesn’t begin to cover it.


So what to do about it?  First step was seeing a doctor. He said that the level of depression I was at was possible to treat without medication. The treatment itself is easy enough:

  • Get exercise
  • Eat healthy
  • Get enough sleep
  • Reduce your stressors
Also, having goals to work towards help keeps your brain focused, and taking on responsibilities keeps you thinking forward instead of giving up. In my case, writing to deadline covers both those and is a great motivator.

The problem is, treating the depression like this is tricky. One misstep; one missed workout or deadline or night without enough sleep, and the loa jumps on again and tries to pull everything else off track as well.

This last couple of months have seen a lot of missteps.

Side note: Do you know why people who are depressed binge on carbs? Self-medication. Eating carbs releases serotonin, which makes you feel happier. I ate a lot of carbs over the past winter.

My other option is anti-depressants. They do work for many, many people, some of whom I know. But I’m leery of them. Their side effects can be as bad as the depression itself, sometimes worse.

Or maybe I just don’t want to admit I have that little control over what’s going on in my head.

So that’s what’s been going on with me, why things have been quiet, and what I’m up to.  I’m not sure if this was a wise post to write, but I needed to write it. Now, back to work. I have a book to write.

Actually, I have about ten, but one thing at a time…

Next Week: Work-life what?

Friday, April 03, 2015

Look! It's my Ad Astra Schedule!

Yes, I finally got around to posting this. And despite my lateness, I am actually pretty stoked.

Ad Astra is my favourite convention, and if you haven't gone I highly recommend you should. Good people, good times, and a focus on authors and other creative professionals.  This isn't the place to go to see famous actors and movie stars, but it is the best place to go to hang out with some great names in Canadian Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror literature.

In fact, I recommend you come on the Friday night and start off the convention with a book launch. You know, my book launch.

So here's what I'm doing, and if you're coming, come see me!


Book Launch: Dragon Moon Press presents True Magics by Erik Buchanan

Time: 8:00 PM - Until they kick us out!
Room: Event Suite

Join Dragon Moon Press for the launch of the third book in Erik Buchanan's Thomas Flarety stories. True Magics brings our hero right into the middle of a conflict between church and state for control of magic, and Thomas's actions may decide not only his fate, but the fate of the kingdom.

Readings, chocolate, prizes, chocolate, refreshments, chocolate, and, of course, lots of good books for sale! If you go to only one book launch Friday night, make it this one!


Melee Combat: Separating Fact From Fiction

Time: 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM
Room: Oakridge
Panellists: Chris A. Jackson, KW Ramsey, Russ Howe
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions when it comes to fighting with swords and other melee weapons. This panel will bring them to light and discuss how to write great combat scenes while still getting it right.

Late Night Bad Fiction Reading

Time: 11:00 PM - 2:00 AM
Room: Newmarket
Panellists: Angela Keeley, Matt Moore, Michael Matheson, Simon McNeil

An 18+ late evening event that lasts until everyone's ears are bleeding or the readers simply can't go on.


Ghosts in Popular Culture: From Caspar to Ghost Whisperer

Time: 10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Room: Oakridge
Panellists: Derek Newman-Stille, Douglas Cockell, Gail Z. Martin

Is one of the classic horror set pieces being relegated to jump scares and reality TV camera tricks? What made ghosts of past stories interesting and what would bring this genre staple back out of the shadows?

History of Monsters: Things that go Bump in the Night

Time: 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Room: Aurora
Panellists: Denis McGrath, Kari Maaren, Matt Moore

We love imagining the monster in the dark...Around the corner. Under our bed. Why? Where does our fascination begin? Is it from some primal fear left from our earliest ancestors or have we been inventing our monsters simply because we want there to be something out there?

Readings: Erik Buchanan & Chris A. Jackson

Time: 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Room: Buttonville
Panellist: Chris A. Jackson

I'll be reading from True Magics, for those who missed the party , and maybe even my entry into the Chizine Bad Poetry contest (and believe me, it is bad, bad poetry). Chris Jackson writes Pirate fiction and is amazing at it.

Friday, March 27, 2015


Rumours of Magic and War...

 Thomas Flarety, Captain of the Student Expeditionary Company and hero of the battle for Frostmire, thought that convincing the Academy to take Eileen as their first female student in more than 200 years would bring him trouble enough.

Then stories of Thomas’s magic reached Hawksmouth.

Now, Thomas’s friends have started disappearing. The king has ordered Thomas to keep his magic hidden and to find the other magicians in the city. The Cult of the Daughter wants Thomas for one of their own. The Archbishop wants Thomas to surrender to the Inquisitors and redeem his soul, and preachers are raging in the streets against witchcraft, the Academy and the king.

With Hawksmouth falling into chaos and the Academy divided against itself, Thomas must save his friends, find the other magicians, and decide what to do with his magic before the struggle between the king and the archbishop turns into an all-out war that will destroy everyone and everything he loves.

Buy your copy on Amazon here!

Haven't read any of my books yet?

Thanks to my publisher, Dragon Moon Press, you can get a great deal: All three of my Thomas Flarety Stories in ebook for only $9.98.

Click here to get get the books, and use coupon code TRU3-1 at the checkout!
Thanks to Dragon Moon Press for waiting on this one, and everyone who supports my writing.

Next Post: Ad Astra Book Launch and Schedule!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Marketing True Magics 16 – What do You Mean, Start Over?

As much as I’d love to say, “New Year, New Ideas!” that is not the case here.  The reality of the part-time marketer is that the best-laid plans go awry.

Three things led my marketing plan astray:

1. Took longer than I expected to finish the last edit of the book, which meant time way from marketing (We’re still good for our April launch though!).

2. Facebook changed its algorithm again, which means I have to rethink (read: ditch and do something different) all the Facebook stuff I was planning.

3. And then I got sick.  Dammit.

But on the bright side, this mean you all get to follow me on a desperate journey to figure out how to market the book without much time! How exciting is that? I’m thrilled to go on this adventure! Thrilled!  Like Bilbo Baggins with a dining room full of dwarves! Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole!  Like Sir Gawain awaiting the strike from the Green Knight’s axe!

All right, maybe “thrilled” is not the word I’m looking for….

But stay tuned!  In two weeks I’ll be putting up my first new marketing post of the year: Cutting to the Chase or Biggest Bang for the Buck!

Meanwhile, buy Small Magics and Cold Magics, because you want to know what all the fuss is about, don’t you?

Next Week: This Writing Life 20: My Many Methods of Outlining

Thursday, January 22, 2015

This Writing Life 19: Fear

First off, Happy New Year, 22 days late!

I suffer from migraines, which are a massive pain (HA!).  This week I had one that started as an attack of blind panic.  Complete mental immobilization. Scared of everything. I couldn’t think, couldn’t work, couldn’t focus my brain.  It wasn’t until my head started hurting that I figured out what was going on, took some drugs and was finally able to focus again. By the time I did, I’d lost a day.

I hate it when that happens.

And much as I’d like to say that was the inspiration for this blog post, it wasn’t.  But it did act as a catalyst to finally write what’s been kicking around in my head for about three months. Because there’s stuff I’m afraid of, and it affects my work.

What If…

 “What if” is one of my favourite questions. It’s the beginning of all fiction. Without “What if” there would be no stories.

Unfortunately, it’s also the beginning of all the fears:

What if I can’t finish the story? What if it won’t sell? What if I’m wasting my time?  What if it’s no good? What if everything I write is actually garbage? What if everyone decides I’m a fraud? What if I never sell anything ever again? What if the people reading this don’t immediately go out and buy Small Magics and Cold Magics?  (hint, hint) What if no one buys True Magics (coming in April) and my social media campaign fails and I have to go back to working in offices? What if, what if, what if…

Too many of the bad “What if” questions and suddenly you’re suffering from…

Fear Paralysis

The amygdala (fun word to say out loud. Amygdala. Amygdala… but I digress) is the part of the brain that, among other things, controls our basic emotional responses. Originally, there were believed to be only two responses: fight or flight.  New research into the amygdala indicates there is at least one more: freeze.  Makes perfect sense really. “There is a giant sabretooth tiger out there trying to kill me. If I hold perfectly still, nothing bad will happen.”

Unfortunately, the freeze reaction that can keep us alive against sabretooths (sabreteeth?) can also overwhelm us when we’re engaged in high-stress situations, like trying to make a living as a writer and all the nasty, self-exposing tasks that are involved in this line of work.

It’s gets so tempting to give into the freezing.

“If I don’t do anything, then nothing bad will happen,” is a wonderfully comforting idea. No risk, no danger, no nothing. Just hiding comfortably under the covers, with occasional ventures out for the bathroom and food.

The problem is, it’s a false idea. The truth is “If I don’t do anything, then nothing will happen. Ever.” No success, no new stories, no chance of ever being something more than an office drone.

But it is so tempting, some days…

Breaking the Paralysis

So what can we do to stop he paralysis that keeps us from getting things done? Three ideas:

1. Do Something Scarier. In my time I’ve scrambled up mountains, earned two black belts, and stood in the delivery room waiting for my daughter to take her first breath long after she should have (she did, eventually, which proves that stubbornness runs in the family).  And when you have scary things like that under your belt, you can use them to counter the other fears. Sure, a marketing plan is hard. So is writing a book or sending it to an agent for the first time. But if you can say to yourself “I did this scary thing, so how hard can that be?” it can help you break the paralysis.

2. Use Logic. Much of our paralysis comes from ongoing negative self-talk (to fall into psychology-speak for a moment). We think bad things about ourselves and keep repeating them until we start to believe them. The talk makes the problems bigger and bigger until they seem insurmountable. When we start thinking logically about the problem and questioning that self-talk, we can take control of the fear and that can help us break the paralysis.

3. Count to Three and Jump (and have someone help you). I am afraid of heights. All right, terrified. And when I ran the Tough Mudder (which is not on my list of hard things because really, not that tough) there was an obstacle that was a 15-foot jump into water. So I worked out a plan with my partner. We would stand at the top, count to three, and on three we would jump. We did, I did, and it worked fine (I don’t recall if I screamed all the way down or not, but 15 feet is a relatively short fall).  And sometimes, that’s the only way to beat the fear paralysis. Count down and jump.

But have someone counting with you, because scary things are a lot easier to do when you have someone counting with you.

Next week: Back to to marketing with, "What do you mean, start over?"

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