Book Launch: Sword of the Alliance (Alysha Forrest 3)

War is a serious violation of the Alliance’s colony charters, so when the Stardancer is sent to investigate rumors of a conflict on the distant colony of Gledig, they’re not expecting to be mired in a web of deceit, treachery, and tragedy… one involving not just the colony, but pirates and a missing Fleet officer. Even worse, the evidence suggests Fleet itself might have had a hand in creating the situation about to erupt on the ground.

But while the conflict might have been decades in the making, time is running out for Gledig, and only Fleet can save the colony from the culmination of the forces working against it now.

The fate of thousands hangs in the balance. Can the crew of the Stardancer redeem the honor of the Fleet… before it’s too late?

Click here to buy at your favorite retailer! books2read.com/swordofthealliance

***

Sword of the Alliance is the newest full-length novel set in the Peltedverse, and the first full-length novel in the Alysha Forrest series. Like the others in the series, it stands alone–in fact, I intended people to read this one first when I first wrote it! This is an action/adventure milsf book, fast-paced but with my trademark interest in relationships. I think it’s a great introduction to the series… and it’s out right now!

Sword’s release also launches my rebranding of the Alysha Forrest series! Previously, the Stardancer books suffered from confusing ordering/meta-data, lackluster or inconsistent covers, and a fatal disconnect between prequel and the subsequent books. All this has been fixed!

Look how harmonious they are together now! But I’m sure you have questions, so here are answers:

This series is in the Peltedverse, isn’t it? Absolutely. Not only that, but Alysha is my oldest character in the setting. I conceived her almost 25 years ago! These books  are more or less contemporary with the early Dreamhealers books, and happen before Her Instruments and Princes’ Game. In fact, readers of the Princes’ Game series are going to see a very interesting origin story for one of the characters in that series in Sword of the Alliance….

You look like you’re bursting to add something else, here. You’re absolutely right! I love Jahir and Vasiht’h, and of course Princes’ Game is full of exciting characters, but also headlined by a guy (*waves to Lisinthir*). And while Her Instruments has Reese, she shares screen time equally with Hirianthial. The Alysha books are where I get to spend lots of time with female characters; the entire crew of the Stardancer is female! Y’all, it’s fun. I know it’s milsf, but sometimes I feel like I’m writing a slumber party, given the banter.

What order should I be reading them in? The correct reading order for the series is 1. Second, 2. Who is Willing, 3. Sword of the Alliance, and 4. Either Side of the Strand. They were incorrectly ordered because I published Book 3 (Sword) after Book 4 (Strand)! In fact, they’re still not right on Audible because I can’t fix them until I show up with the audiobook edition of Sword. (Audio readers, expect that in September!)

What happened to Alysha’s Fall? Alysha’s Fall is still available for sale! But it’s so different in tone that I ‘unhooked’ it from the series on retailers (it is now considered ‘Book 0’). The Stardancer books are supposed to feel like a cross between a Peltedverse book and Star Trek: the Original Series: PG-rated adventure romps with a milSF flavor and a focus on relationships. Alysha’s Fall, as those of you who’ve read it will attest, is an R-rated ‘dark night of the soul’ story, and most people say it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever written. Since you don’t need to read it in order to understand the rest of the series–it’s basically Alysha’s origin story–I don’t want people trying to come into the series through it. People who feel up to dark, difficult stories can find it; people who prefer Saturday afternoon popcorn reading can stick with the official line-up.

What about all the short stories that were floating around for a while? I hate selling a la carte short stories… it feels like a cheat for both reader and author. So I’ve taken down all the short fiction, and will collect it at a later date into a ‘companion volume’ for the official series. In the meantime, my Patreon patrons can still download the separate shorts, and new Alysha shorts, when I write them, will go up there until I have enough to release the collection. That should keep the cost down for you all, and dispel confusion. (Audio listeners, I can’t take down the audio shorts yet, but I will when the contract allows! If you want them, get them while you can!)

So that’s the story on the Alysha series! I hope you’ll give it a try. I’d love to continue writing Stardancer books, but all that will depend on whether the rebranding props their sales up. I have faith, though. These are classic Pelted books with all the themes I’ve become known for. They were just waiting for me to give them a good sprucing up so they could find their readers.

Serial, Kherishdar’s Exception, Episode 4: Outrageous

     Slipping out of Qevellen was easy for many reasons. The foremost was that it’s not yet full of children, so no one’s employing any of the ways adults contrive to keep them corralled. That would change, given Farren’s determination: bells on the doors, little half-height gates, chiming curtains. But it’s also easy because it’s such an open house. Kor mentioned it was constructed for the First Servant of Shame, presumably to his specifications, so that might account for its eccentricities… except that given the kind of personality attracted to Shame’s priesthood I would have expected the First Servant to have wanted a cave, not this temple to open spaces and garden views.
      That’s how I escaped: by taking one of the ubiquitous garden paths entirely around the building and to the gate. I had never seen a house this size on such an enormous plot… only in the Temple District would it have been possible, and only in an old house, built when mores were different. Gardens are supposed to be public amenities. I can’t remember the last time I saw a large one that was also gated.
      We were an odd house, and an odd House. Farren has told you those are separate words? Gadare is the building. Eqet is the group of family members. It’s important that you think a little like us, aunera, if you’re to find this story bearable—or even explicable. So remember this, the whimsicality of Qevellen. A House with eight males and one female. What was Thirukedi thinking?
      Maybe I would ask Him.
      I was going there now—to see Him. Walking to center. We say vaesha. To move toward Him, or more abstractly toward civility, or peace, or harmony with others. He had made me osulkedi, and that made Him my lord. Strange thought. Perilous one, after how I’d fallen out with my last lord. At least, I thought, I would not be likely to fall torridly in love with Thirukedi. A woman might like her lovers older than her, but there are limits.
      Surely Qenain had broken me, to have left me with such ideas.
      There are fathriked who find the outdoors distressing. I was never one of them. The spring sunlight on my head, warming the curls that brushed alongside my neck and cheeks… that felt good. The piquancy of late spring flowers gave the air some needed spice, particularly in the Temple district where the breezes carried the powdery, sweet smell of incense. The busyness of it, even here, where there were fewer residences: I loved it. Kherishdar has a rhythm, and I now played a different part of the pattern. I found it invigorating, experiencing those differences. To have been rakadhas, thrust from the caste that had defined me almost all my life, had been painful. But now that I’d been ejected from the process of re-evaluation, I found acclimating to my new state stimulating.
      I digress. You would too, walking through the graciousness of late spring, in the blossom-strewn byways of Kherishdar.
      Farren told you perhaps that the city is separated into wedges—the atan—and that’s true. That’s how we know which Regal Household is responsible for which segment of the city. But the city itself is built in rings, and to walk toward center from the Temple District, one goes through the public parks and plazas devoted to the Trysts, and afterwards into the administrative ring with the great Regal Households, and finally, the point at the center, where Thirukedi dwells. But the parks were an unsettling reminder of the forthcoming Summer Tryst, so I might perhaps be forgiven for being preoccupied when I ascended the steps to Thirukedi’s residence, and there nearly collided with another woman. She was gray-pelted, like me, but a watery color, one that darkened toward the tips of her hair and her ears, like she’d been left in the rain. Even her eyes were a wan yellow, like a piece of amber that had clouded over. I would have found her insipid except she met my gaze with a shocking directness and laughed at the sight of me, and I knew then who she was. Who she could only be.
      “Oh! The Emperor’s newest osulkedi. What a pretty girl you are!” Had I thought her eyes mild? When she leaned toward me I found them bright enough. Sultry, even. I was so busy with them I didn’t see the tap under my chin coming. “How do you like it so far? Or should you have stayed in your first caste, Decoration? You’re certainly decorative enough.”
      I jerked away, offended.
      “Oh, she has opinions, at least!” The woman chuckled. “Good for you, pretty girl.”
      “My name,” I said from between bared teeth, “is Haraa nai’Qevellen-osulkedi, and I don’t care if you’re the Exception. Don’t call me ‘pretty girl.’”
      “Oooh, she figured me out.” A sly grin, as if we were sharing a secret. “Very good! You’re as smart as you look. People rarely are. It’s very disappointing.”
      The nakked at the door weren’t staring at her. I don’t know how. I would have to ask Ajan or Vekken how that worked. How you trained a Guardian not to be outraged by the one Ai-Naidari in all the empire who was allowed to be this offensive.
      “Anyway,” she said. “I’m on my way. Have fun with your master, pretty girl.”
      “He’s your master too,” I growled. “And my name—”
      “—is Haraa, I know, you’ve told me,” she said dismissively. “But I don’t have to call you that. And honestly, you haven’t earned it from me.” More serious, her eyes abruptly grave, almost angry. “Everyone has to earn everything from me, little osulkedi.” Traipsing down the steps now, as lightly as a maiden. “And no man is my master, nor woman either! How lucky I am, am I not, to be so free? I bet you envy me.”
      Shocked, I exclaimed, “I do not!”
      She flung a grin over her shoulder at me. “Why the boots, then, pretty girl? Where do you wish you were going? Far, far away…” She laughed. “Good luck with that. You live here, and trapped, and always will.” And then she passed down the path, back toward the gates.
      Have you ever been angry enough to want to kick something? Goddess, aunera. How she infuriated me! And it was in this mood that I passed into the halls of Thirukedi’s personal temple, trailing my own incense of pique and offense. I wasn’t proud of it, but I had never met the Exception. I’d somehow thought of her as a sad and distant figure, not someone who could flirt at me with her eyes while mocking me with her words.
      It was petty of me, but I thought, as a Servant led me to Him, that at least my pelt and eyes didn’t look like someone had diluted them with too much water.

***

I wonder… do humans have a concept of walking-to-center? The Ai-Naidar want to know.

 




 

Serial, Kherishdar’s Exception, Episode 3: Pride

Part 1: LEJZA (The Trysts)
Chapter 1
Episode 3: Pride

      We were not two months into Qevellen’s creation when Kor found me and said, “If you would not have yourself married, Haraa, I suggest you find some significant pastime outside this House and away from Farren’s sight.”
      It was late spring, and the garden in our new house was in full flower. In the years to come, it would be manicured and tamed… but no one had had time to devote to it yet, and I loved its wildness. The bench I’d chosen was shrouded in the fern-like sprays of cloudsbreath and encircled on one side in brightsheaves, the lilies that the first head of Qenain had brought to the Emperor so long ago. My mind was on her, and Qenain’s former lord… inevitably, given how little time had gone past since he’d been my life. But Kor could not have chosen a better way to shatter my reverie. “Excuse me?”
      “Our head of household,” Kor said, sitting on the bench facing mine across the path, “is very enthusiastic about fulfilling his responsibilities… and the Summer Tryst is approaching. Right now he is very involved with my former Guardians, but now that the matchmaking fever is on him I doubt you will be exempt from his efforts.”
      Yes, there’s a word for that. Emma tells me that I shouldn’t stint on teaching them, and this one might interest, so here it is: theqilare. Not ‘match-make,’ but ‘grasp the pattern of generations.’ We feel very strongly about the importance of theqilare, which is why it would be pointless to try to discourage Farren from his efforts. Besides, I knew a little of him by then, enough to have seen that he was far, far more stubborn than his azjelin. One wouldn’t think it, to contrast Kor’s stern demeanor with Farren’s gentleness. But Farren clung far harder to decisions and ideas, and goddess help anyone who tried to pry his fingers loose.
      “Unless, of course, you are busy,” Kor said mildly when I didn’t answer.
      I raised my eyes to regard him, and this he allowed, as he always did, with supreme self-assurance: Kherishdar’s only priest of Shame, for even among us there are singular powers and he was heir to one of those few mantles. He had always worn his power easily, but having found both ajzelin and lover, he had grown into something somehow harder to live with—and easier. He had been terrifying for his clarity of thought and uncanny insight into the Ai-Naidari heart, and for the fact that you knew, just looking at him, that there was no impediment between the exercise of that talent and your own soul. Now that he was happy and that happiness distracted you from who he was, you sometimes forgot he was also Shame, until he surprised you with some painfully astute observation… like he was now about my idleness, and its probable cause.
      “I suppose it would be useless to deny that I don’t want a husband right now,” I said. “So I won’t. And I’m guessing I am not showing some secret sign of an error that could be Corrected by the application of a spouse, or you wouldn’t be warning me. Yes?”
      His mouth twitched. “It is a great pleasure to be known so well, qirini.”
      ‘Sister,’ that means. I hadn’t heard it from him before and was surprised to find it flattering. “I thank you for telling me, then. Are you heeding your own warning yourself?”
      He chuckled. “Shame is always busy.”
      “Not too busy for a spouse,” I pointed out. “After all, Shame now has time for a lover and an ajzelin.”
      “A lover and an ajzelin are more than enough,” Shame said, and it was Shame speaking now… something about the way his words felt like statements of fact, rather than opinions. An implacability. And, as always, I couldn’t hear it without trying to needle him.
      “And your duty to the generations?”
      “Fulfilled, I hope, by the Winter Tryst,” he said. “Which I have attended since I have been of age.” He lifted a brow. “And you have not. Does it concern you?”
      “The prospect of it?” I shook my head. “I’ve certainly had more lovers than you. A few more, anonymous or not, won’t trouble me.”
      “I didn’t imagine it would,” he said. “But the Tryst is not about taking a lover.”
      I eyed him and folded my arms, the silk of my sleeves hissing over my lap. “Don’t you start, osulkedi.”
      He laughed then, rising. He had a good laugh. It made him more approachable. “Ah, Haraa. How can I, when I have never stopped?” Canting his head, he finished, “Your ishas, no less than mine, can and perhaps should be executed elsewhere.”
      I thought of the Gate-town. “I know.”
      “Will you require escort? Ajan, or one of the others.”
      I smiled at that. “You’d spare me Ajan?”
      “Of course.”
      But something in his eyes, which were too amused: “Because you know I won’t take him.”
      He chuckled softly. “I offered because if you had wanted him, you would have needed him, and I would have given him to you gladly.”
      “But you did know I wouldn’t,” I pressed.
      He smiled at that. “Say rather that I suspected.” At my skeptical look he laughed again. “You are not always easy to predict, Haraa. It’s… refreshing.”
      “For Shame, who knows all,” I said boldly. Because if he had called me sister, I could tease him. “I would have thought it would irritate you.”
      “If it does, I’ll let you know.”
      “Qirini,” I said, tasting the sobriquet.
      “Yes.”
      It was still flattering on consideration. I flicked my ears back casually to hide their tint. “I’ll give your warning all due consideration.” And, smiling too, “If I can do my part to protect you from Farren’s fervor, I will. Because, apparently, an ajzelin and a lover is more than enough work without adding a wife to the mix, for Kherishdar’s sole Shame.”
      He snorted. “Enjoy the day, Haraa.”
      The garden was still beautiful after he left. Maybe more so, for having had him in it to stress the contrasts. He was dark and austere and had an abruptness to his motions that would have given my deportment teachers attacks. Not because he was without grace, but because he managed to have it without the stately finish they taught all fathriked. The memory of it made the sway of the brightsheaves look more genteel, and the garden patches looked wilder for their lack of constraint. Farren might have found the juxtaposition arresting. I found it funny. I was, in fact, smiling.
      Well, that, and twitching, fingers grasping the edge of the bench. The last thing I wanted was a husband. Shemena forfend.
      I rose from the bench, feeling that I had lingered too long in my idleness. Thirukedi had elevated me and given me a task, and in His kindness allowed me time to linger over the absolute disaster that had been my relationship with Jaran, the lord of Qenain now exiled. I still hurt, but I had been studiously ignoring the fact that I would never stop hurting unless I gave myself something to do that didn’t involve the endless examination of those last weeks and what I might have done to change things.
      That I’d been avoiding my duty because doing it would remind me of him… well. I was done with letting ij Qenain have power over me. He had chosen the aunera over me. Over all of Kherishdar. I was proud enough to find that mortifying, and pride can galvanize you into motion and keep you there, when you might otherwise find yourself faltering.

***

Into the story, directly.

 




 

Mission: Discontinued Paper, Divine

My very favoritest paper to work on is Fabriano’s Artistico, a paper from a company so old that Michelangelo bought from them. I cannot describe how lovely this paper is. It is not the perfect paper for every artist, but it is the perfect paper for me, and I have been using it exclusively since I discovered it.

And then Fabriano decided to “improve” it. And the reformulation is awful.

This paper was so much a part of my joy in painting that for several years I simply quit. I dabbled in acrylics and oils in an attempt to find some new way of working, but none of those attempts clicked. And I didn’t think about it again… until I found my paper in the discontinued rack of a local art store.

…since then, I’ve checked the discontinued paper section of every art store I’ve visited, and I’ve scored several more finds. There have been days I’ve left with $300 worth of paper and no regrets! But I’ve run out of places within my reach, which means it’s time to put out an offer to the world at large.

If you find this particular paper while you’re browsing and are willing to buy it for me, I will pay for it and shipping and bribe you in some other way. Food, books, art, money… tell me your price! But it’s got to be the right paper. Which means you won’t find it in the regular aisle. Fabriano still sells Artistico, remember, but they’ve changed it. The stuff you want is sold by the sheet (see below), not in a block, and it’s discontinued. It should have a watermark (see top photo). It comes in both 300 lb and 140 lb and I’ll take either. (I’ve photographed the 300 lb below so you can see how thick it is).

I only want hot press. The surface should be smooth as a plate!

If you happen to run into this stuff and are leery of shipping it, I don’t mind you having the art store cut it in half, which should make it a manageable size to mail. And yes, if you are international, I’m still interested… but you will have to cut it down, because oversize packages from overseas are gut-wound-expensive. But I will happily take a bunch of smaller sheets of this stuff if it means I can have it!

If you do run into the stuff, email/tweet/DM me before you buy it, just so I can make sure I’ve got the budget. (And if I don’t get back to you, then it wasn’t meant to be!)

Thank you, Jaguar Agents. I appreciate your help. <3

Serial, Kherishdar’s Exception, Episode 2: And You Knew

The first time
I looked into your eyes
I saw the fullness of my life
beginning to end
and every love I ever loved
or would
was a single word
set down in a poem
I would write to illuminate my devotion

I have loved you forever
and you knew.

Theme Poem #1*
—Ereseya, The Hagiography

*A theme poem is written on top of a painted or sketched word that encapsulates the poem’s theme. This poetic style has been used for thousands of years in Kherishdar.

qor [ kohr ], (noun) – breath, “life’s breath”

***

We resume. With poetry. What else?

 




 

Serial, Episode 1: Kherishdar’s Exception, Introduction


Episode 1: Introduction
     Emma would have me tell you that this is my story. That, in fact, I should make it my story, and more about me than it is about anyone else. She would say, ‘Hasn’t everyone heard enough from the men of Kherishdar? What about the women? You deserve a voice!’ And ‘Why do you have to share the spotlight’—she had to explain that concept to me, aunera, ‘—with anyone else? You are important, too!’
Laurence would sneer at her and say that of course this story is all about me, and call it proof of our hypocrisy. And then they would argue and leave me to listen and sift the truth from the space between their barbs.
They are both right. They’re both wrong. I know my own importance, and my own insignificance, and those things can live together without contradiction.
I like my aunera. Emma, Laurence, the others. I imagine you will too, even seen through the lens of an Ai-Naidari eye. But they are what they are, and they are you: alien. Even after knowing me so long, they still don’t understand here, in the heart, what it is to be Ai-Naidari. They understand in their heads, you perceive, but the in the place where poetry is grasped, in the space between heart-beats, that makes sense of a heart-beat, they still don’t know, and never will. We are too different, you and I, aunera.
And I am all right with that. Perhaps you know enough of Ai-Naidar to know what an extraordinary statement that is, and yet I make it.

This, then, is not my story, any more than any story about an Ai-Naidari is about that Ai-Naidari. It is particularly not my story because it’s also Farren’s, and Kor’s, and Ajan’s, and Qevellen’s. It’s about Thirukedi and the Exception and all the Shames and Exceptions that have been. It is about Kherishdar, because there is no such thing as an Ai-Naidari outside the context of her society.
And it is also, a little, about me, and the choice I made. But I am not aunerai, and I know that my choice was as much a result of other people’s as it was of mine. There is no ‘I’ without ‘we.’
I think that may be what this story is about… to you. It is hard for me to know your minds, aunera, any more than you seem to be able to understand ours.

So then. Here is our story.
Emma thinks it’s about me. Laurence is sure it is.
We’ll see what you think, when it’s done.

—Haraa Nai’Qevellen-osulkedi

***
It is time to resume this work… and I am glad to have you all with me for the ride. *bows* As usual, the serial is brought to us by devoted patrons! Ad hoc donations also gladly accepted. For a bit, we’ll be repeating material you’ve seen (but that is no longer available because my livejournal is down)… but all that was posted two years ago, so it’s unlikely that most of you will remember it well. Starting from the beginning seemed a good idea.

I’ll be posting every Wednesday. Comments are open to everyone! And Wednesday there’ll also be a ‘let’s discuss the serial’ day on my Patreon Discord server.

Welcome to Kherishdar 4!

 




 

Book Launch: Dreamstorm (Dreamhealers 4)

Our final return to Jahir and Vasiht’h’s early life debuts today, with the final book in the Dreamhealers saga: Dreamstorm!

Jahir and Vasiht’h have spent five years together in practice on Starbase Veta, and their life is everything they’d hoped: their practice is fantastic, their social standing great, and their domestic life a blissful routine. So when Vasiht’h discovers his partner has “accidentally” accrued enough continuing education credits to become a licensed healer-assist after deciding against that path in college, he can’t help but wonder… are they on the wrong path?

Since Jahir himself isn’t talking, Vasiht’h decides someone needs to make some decisions. If those decisions lead them to the Alliance’s foremost resort planet, where the licensing exams are being held, well… surely they could use a beach vacation. Jahir sits his test, Vasiht’h has some purple drinks with umbrellas on the beach, and they both go home with a renewed sense of purpose.

What could possibly go wrong?

Click here to buy at your favorite retailer! books2read.com/dreamstorm

***

And as they say… that’s a wrap! With the publication of Dreamstorm, this series is now complete. Proper reading order is: Mindtouch, Mindline, Dreamhearth, Dreamstorm, and then Family.

After that, Jahir and Vasiht’h return in Some Things Transcend, Book 2 of the tense multi-novel epic war saga, the Princes’ Game. That series gets intense, so be forewarned! But I’m told–and I’m glad–that the payoff is totally worth it.

If you’re not up for the Chatcaavan war, your next chance to see the dreamhealers comes early next year, when I resume the post-war timeline with the story of Sediryl’s investiture and wedding.

But until then… enjoy this cozy pastoral! <3

Conlang Book List

A handful of you asked after my books on constructing artificial languages, little realizing what monster you would release by asking! This is my excited face. 😬I used to get all these books as paper references; recently I’ve moved to e-book, which makes photographing the full stack hard. Here’s a list, then!
Language Overviews
These have been useful because they give you a sense of how other languages do things, and they teach you useful things about what languages need to work. Also note: I find it useful to have access to a basic textbook on linguistics. Mine is a relic from my college days, which isn’t sold anymore. There are probably better ones out there; pick one up!
  • The Atlas of Languages. A great overview that highlights interesting features of various languages while discussing basic linguistic concepts.
  • The Languages of the World. A page by page, language by language, catalog, with a sample bit of text translated. Great way to look at lots and lots of different orthographies (alphabet systems).
  • The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language. Mind-blowing theory book about how language features develop and how cultures define them. *hugs this book a lot*
  • How We Talk: The Inner Workings of Conversation, by N. J. Enfield. Also mind-blowing book about how language handles conversation. Especially important because a lot of people create languages… on paper, by writing them down. Spoken language comes first, and has a lot of different priorities. *also hugs this book a lot*
  • The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker. It’s hard not to read some of the big name theorists in the field. The Language Instinct was an important book, and while it’s not a proven theory it’s still a great look at the link between neurology and language.
  • The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming. This is a textbook, and so far the only extensive resource I’ve found about names. I tend to take it a chapter at a time… it’s dense.
Useful Books About Real Languages
Any book that makes you think about how languages develop is helpful. In addition to meta-analysis of languages, like the ones I’ve mentioned here, I also collect “Learn to Speak X” books whenever I can…. I have eleven or twelve of those? Cherokee, Hebrew, Thai, Irish, a book on Inuit naming customs, my Latin and Spanish textbooks from school, Mandarin, several on Japanese (one specifically on writing systems), one on Egyptian hieroglyphics, etc. And I want more. >.> Here are some more overview-like texts:
Conlang Books
These are either specifically about how to make languages, or about other invented languages.
  • The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words Behind World-Building, by David J. Peterson. This is the guy who did the conlang for the Game of Thrones TV show.  Of the books about constructed languages, this is the one I’d hand to someone who knew nothing about making them and wanted to: it’s a charming overview, very readable.
  • The Language Construction Kit, by Mark Rosenfelder.  This one, though, is far crunchier, by one of the internet godfathers of conlanging…
  • Advanced Language Construction, by Mark Rosenfelder. …and this is the crunchiest of them all, because he goes into topics in this one he didn’t bother to in the first. You’ll be completely lost if you don’t have a good grounding in linguistics. But if you do, it’s great!
  • The Conlanger’s Lexipedia, by Mark Rosenfelder. A handy introduction to semantic categorization. If you want to make up words, this book will give you a sense for how people group them.
  • In the Land of Invented Languages, by Arika Okrent. This is less about how to make languages and more about the history of people making languages for various purposes. (Apparently we’ve been doing it for a long time.) 
  • Create a Language Clinic, by Holly Lisle. For people who want to make languages specifically to use them for worldbuilding as part of a story, this is the book you want: the priorities of someone making a language to speak it with friends (or in movies) are not the priorities of someone writing a novel with it.
  • The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  There’s no getting away from studying Tolkien’s languages if you’re a worldbuilding fantasy writer who wants to include a constructed language in your work. Or well, I guess you could get away from it, but you shouldn’t, because he did the most amazing job with it and if you follow his footsteps you’ll avoid the ‘that author just threw some words that sound sort of alike together and none of it makes sense’ phenomenon.
Misc Resources
  • Vulgarlang: This website will try to generate a conlang for you! I haven’t played much with it, but you might lose some productive hours doing so. *grin*
  • Lexique Pro: At some point, you will have enough vocabulary that tracking it will be an issue. Lexique Pro is a lexicon-organizing language intended for natural languages so native speakers of more obscure languages can share their vocabulary with other people. It works for conlangs too, thus.
  • Polyglot Language Construction Kit.  However, if you want an “intended for conlangs specifically” lexicon program, this one is it. It’ll even generate new vocabulary for you based on morphological rules. Which you have to define. So you can see the level of understanding you should have before you dive into it. >.>  Also allows you to put in your conlang’s orthography, though, which is keen. I got both these links from R. Coots–thank you, R!
Note that I use neither of those programs for my lexicon. I’m using a spreadsheet.
That’s all I can think of for now! If I remember anything I’ve forgotten, I’ll add it. Feel free to make suggestions, too! I’m always hunting for new resources!💖

Book Launch: Business for the Right Brained

 

That’s right… I finally compiled all the columns into an e-book for chapters upon chapters of useful business advice illustrated by cartoon jaguars! This book includes all the original Three Jaguars columns, plus an introduction and an extra chapter written just for this book. I also did extra art for it, and added checklists!

So what can you expect inside? Useful information for artists and crafts of any kind on how to productize your art, deciding on your best business strategy, wrangling the day job, tracking important statistics and spotting trends based on them, how to communicate as a professional, figuring out why your time management tactics keep failing… on top of several chapters on how to market yourself without feeling gross, how to price things, what’s that branding stuff, and dealing with change!

Y’all, this is a ton of information. It’s like a brain-dump of all the business advice I give in a single place. And it’s full of bouncy jaguar art. And as if that’s not ENOUGH, there’s a foreword by Kyell Gold, who is an award-winning author and wears a hat. No, seriously, he’s an amazing guy and I am a-squee that he did the foreword.

What are you waiting for? Go forth and enjoy! Click to grab!

 books2read.com/threejaguarsbook

The Jaguar on “How to Review Stuff”

I often hear people say they feel weird about reviewing things they like because they don’t know what to say. This came up in the Discord chat the other day, and after our discussion someone said, “Hey, you should write this up because it is helpful!” So here’s a brief run-down on how I review things (with examples!). You might choose to review differently…! This is just my methodology

Decide Why You’re Reviewing

This is the number one thing you have to figure out before reviewing anything: why are you doing this? Some folks review in order to put things in a cultural or historical context (think of Roger Ebert’s movie reviews, and how he used them to educate people on the lineage of film tropes and narrative/directorial techniques). Some folks review to warn people off of things.

My time is limited, so I choose to review only to tell people about awesome stuff I want to share. I’d rather not waste my time thinking about things that didn’t work for me or that I don’t want to have more publicity. So my goal, when I review, is matching a particular thing up with the people who will enjoy it most.

How do I do this? I imagine myself responding to friends who’ve said things like, “I wish more stories had good sibling relationships in them, as well as romantic ones.” Or “I’m so tired of billionaire romances that ignore class issues.” Or “I love “found family” stories!” That leads me to step 2:

Figure Out What’s Cool or Unusual About What You’re Reviewing

I tend to make a list of all the things about what I’m reviewing that strike me as really neat or worth commentary.

  • “This story’s theme was ‘kindness is rewarded.’ You don’t see that much anymore.”
  • “This story has giant cats in it. Win.”
  • “This story has interesting portrayals of particular subcultures in it.”
  • “Hey, they go into detail on how to sail ships of the line! That’s neat!”
  • “I feel like they really did their research on this one. It feels authentic.”
  • “I liked the tone of this story. It was upbeat without feeling naive.”
  • “The writing on this one was really tight. I never felt like the author wandered into corners and got lost.”
  • “So many descriptions of delicious food in this story. NOM.”

So, for instance, if I was recommending the original Star Trek to someone, I’d go with: ‘it’s multicultural (and multi-species! It’s got aliens!); it’s optimistic, and assumes that humanity is going to survive to spread out into space and make friends everywhere; and the Kirk/Spock/McCoy bromance triad is really neat… it’s nice to see that dynamic.’

Add Warnings, if Applicable

As with my own fiction, I don’t want to attract people to something I think is cool who will have trouble with it. So if a story is difficult, I always warn people. “This TV series is brutal because…” “This movie has these triggers, but I think it’s worth watching anyway because it’s not gratuitous/deals with the issues well…” “This author likes to kill characters you like, so be prepared…”

You want to make sure people know what they’re getting into, because few people like unpleasant surprises and (as I said for myself), my goal is to connect cool stuff with people who’ll like it. Not to rec stuff to people who will get angry at it/feel betrayed/be traumatized by it!

Finally, Give a Sense of What Kind of Experience It Is

Is it a Saturday afternoon popcorn read? Something relaxing and fun and fluffy? Is it epic, intense, and liable to keep you up until 3 AM biting your nails? Is it deep and thoughtful and poignant, inspiring important questions? Is it gentle and affirming? The goal of this part of the review is to give people the chance to decide where they’ll fit it into their schedules. If someone isn’t really big into nailbiting epics, or if they don’t have time for them, they should know that first. But if someone’s looking for that, well… then they’ll know this is it!

This is also a good time to mention how long the thing is, how much time/brainpower it uses up to experience it, and whether you’re going to need time to get over a story hangover afterwards.

Reviews Don’t Have to Be Long to Be Useful

If you follow the steps above, you might end up with a review of several paragraphs (like the one I did for Rowyn’s A Rational Arrangement: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3KUO1ESQFYAQL/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B0109K63A6). Or it might be really short, like the one I did for Blair McGregor’s Sand of Bone: https://www.amazon.com/gp/review/R1IGI1RW1RJ0UE?ref_=glimp_1rv_cl

Length is not the best metric for measuring the usefulness of a review, so don’t feel like you need to pad a review to make it count. Consider my “review” of the original Star Trek. Here’s how it would play if I finished it up: “I love this TV series because it is fun, and portrays an optimistic future for humanity, one that’s multicultural both in its human characters and aliens. The three central characters have an awesome bromance thing going on. The series sometimes tackles difficult topics, but always with an inspiring message that humanity can overcome its obstacles…. Nevertheless, it never takes itself too seriously. The episodes don’t have to be watched in any particular order, because they each stand alone. You will feel excited about the future after watching these shows. Also, you will end up on Team Kirk, Spock, or McCoy, and that will give you something to debate with your friends.”

One paragraph. You could probably fit a review into a sentence or two if you wanted: “I like Star Trek because it’s optimistic science fiction that’s also multicultural, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Plus, Vulcans.”

But Does This Work For Things Besides Stories??

“I love maple water because it’s got the mouthfeel of water but with a hint of complex sweetness, like a memory of maple syrup. It’s got a ton of manganese in it, though, so you don’t want to OD on it because you’ll hit your RDA really, really fast. But it’s great if you want a drink with just a touch of flavor, but not too many calories: think ‘light and refreshing and good for cooling off in the sun’ (like coconut water) and not ‘warm and heavy and comforting’ (like hot chocolate).

Also, it’s literally tree sap. How cool is that??”

***

Anyway. That’s how the jaguar reviews things. Maybe it’ll help you figure out how you want to review things, so you can connect the stuff you really like with other people who might want to discuss it with you endlessly and happily because they thought it was awesome too. <3