She Who Comes Forth

Cat eyes in the dark

Seeing in the Dark

The characters in my novels and stories frequently roam around in the dark, often on some sort of nefarious business. Writing those scenes can be tough. If I want a character to see something important, I have to furnish a plausible light source. In fiction set in the present day, there are reliable flashlights and the mobile phone’s flashlight feature. Imminent battery death can supply a bit of tension to the scene.

But what about earlier eras? Much of my writing is set in the past, specifically the early to mid 20th century. I’ve spent a good deal of time checking whether a specific light source existed at a particular time. When did electric torches (otherwise known as flashlights) come into common use? Eighteen ninety-six. What about car headlights? The earliest ones were carbide lamps. Integrated all-electric lights weren’t common until the 1920s.

Sources of Light

Other light sources include torches (the kind with actual flames), camp fires, glowing lava, candles, oil lamps, gaslights, street lights, moonlight, starlight, lightning flashes, and the ability to see in the dark. (The last is not to be bestowed on a character unless they’re really special, because for humans, it’s a superpower.) Whichever mode of illumination I select, it has to fit the situation. No flashlights (or electric torches) before the late 19th century. Lightning bolts aren’t predictable and usually involve other phenomena as well. If someone is close enough to molten lava for it to show details, they may be dead. Moonlight doesn’t show colours or details all that well, so forget about characters seeing eye colours or reading maps by moonlight. Starlight sounds magical, but is even dimmer.

Matches as we know them didn’t exist until the 19th century and personal cigarette lighters until the 1930s. (The match has an exceedingly interesting history, complete with bad smells, explosions, and phosphorus poisoning, both accidental and intentional.) For even earlier settings, it would be advisable to learn about fire starting methods such as flint and steel, and containers such as fire pots for maintaining and transporting the precious results.

Other Considerations and the “Ambient Glow”

Candles and torches (the flaming kind) are fire hazards, a fact that can be useful or annoying, depending on your plot. Light can reveal one’s presence as well as help one see. It can conceal as well as reveal if it’s bright enough to blind. The writer must exercise as much caution with light in the darkness as his or her characters. Unless, of course, the action involves the supernatural. In paranormal situations, the ever-popular ambient glow (sourceless, magical light) may be invoked judiciously, as I did in key scenes of my novel She Who Comes Forth.

Utter Darkness

In other scenes, the main character of that novel must endure absolute darkness — the kind where you can’t see anything, even your own hand in front of your face. That degree of darkness is hard to come by, but it’s worth experiencing if you’re planning to write about it. In fact, before writing a scene that takes place in any kind of darkness, the best research might be to replicate the conditions and literally see what you can see (or not).

Image by Михаил Прокопенко from Pixabay

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She Who Comes Forth free on Smashwords for 24 hours

Your TBR pile isn’t complete without this “paranormal page-turner” set in Luxor, Egypt. And the ebook is free, at the Smashwords store only, for the next 24 hours only, as the Smashwords End of Year Sale winds up.

Follow this link to get the book for free. The opportunity is yours until midnight Pacific Standard Time on January 1st, 2019.

Osiris image from replica of Sennedjem tomb RBCM Egypt exhibit 2018

A Quick Visit to Ancient Egypt

On Saturday, November 24th, I spent a few hours surrounded by objects from ancient Egypt. After a couple of years immersed in researching and writing a novel featuring such items, I was delighted when the Royal BC Museum hosted a travelling exhibit called Egypt: The Time of Pharaohs. (It continues until December 31st, for anyone who might be in or near Victoria, B.C.)

And I was intrigued to hear that on this particular day, an anthropology class at a local college was to stage a mock ancient Egyptian funeral right in the exhibit space. The project was part of a course called Anthropology of Death. The students did a lot of work to create the atmosphere and physical objects. They had even mummified a chicken, which was on display just outside the exhibit space.

A human dummy mummy (not a real one!) was carried along the twisting path through the various dimly-lit rooms, into a life-size replica of the tomb of Sennedjem, an artisan of Thebes. It was placed into a coffin (a borrowed theatrical prop), and the correct ceremonies were performed, including the all-important “Opening of the Mouth.”

Mock ancient Egyptian funeral in the RBCM Egypt exhibit
You can just see the “mummy” in the bottom of the coffin. Offerings have been placed at the left end and the participants are holding scrolls with the ceremonial words.

Photos taken with a phone in dim spaces with lots of reflecting glass (exhibit cases) and small spot lights, among crowds of people jostling around, aren’t the best. (That’s my excuse, anyway.) I focussed (yes, indeed!) on items of special interest to me, either because they appear in my recently published book, or, in the case of the cat statue and mummy, just because.

This photo of the Bennu Bird was one of the best, along with the one of the Osiris image at the top of the post.

The Bennu Bird, from the replica of the tomb of Sennedjem.
Bennu Bird in the replica tomb

This stone sculpture of the head of an unknown queen was in a dark corner, and my photo (somewhat enhanced) makes her look quite creepy.

Stone sculpture of head of unknown queen from RBCM Egypt exhibit.
Sculpture of unknown queen.

False doors (or “spirit doors”) appear in my novel, so of course I took a photo of this one. It dates back to the Old Kingdom, which makes it about five thousand years old.

Old Kingdom false door, made of limestone with hieroglyph inscriptions, from RBCM Egypt exhibit.

Shabtis (or ushabtis, or shawabtis) are small human figure sculptures that were placed in tombs so they could work for the deceased person in the afterlife. They were pretty much mass-produced, but sizes and materials varied somewhat. This one struck me as looking quite sinister, so I touched up the image to emphasize that.

Shabti from RBCM Egypt exhibit 2018
You wouldn’t want to meet this guy in a dark alley.

Most people know the Egyptians had a reverence for cats. At least I think it was reverence, since there was a cat goddess, Bastet. Many cat mummies have been found, and this exhibit included one. My photo makes it even weirder than it looked in real life reality. The covering is quite intricately patterned, and the fake eyes and ears are touching.

Cat mummy from RBCM Egypt exhibit.
Sad kitty…
Bronze cat statue from RBCM Egypt exhibit.
Detail of bronze cat statue. Really, it’s an elegant piece, but this picture makes it look more like the cat mummy above.

As always, one exits through the gift shop. I couldn’t resist buying a pair of fake shabtis. (You have to read my book to find out why.)

Reproduction shabti figurines from RBCM Egypt exhibit shop
They look a bit apprehensive, don’t they? Right now they’re standing near my computer, wondering what jobs I’m going to make them do.

I’ve always been a sucker for blue glass, so this little jug was an obvious choice. I like that it was made in Egypt (as were the shabtis) from recycled glass.

Cobalt glass pot with small handles, Baladi glass from RBCM Egypt exhibit shop
“Baladi” (which means “local”) glass

Chances and Changes

Now that She Who Comes Forth is fully launched, it’s your last chance to buy the ebook at the special pre-launch price. By next week, you’ll have to part with another dollar or so.

I’m also making price changes to two of the books in the Herbert West Series. So if you’ve been meaning to acquire The Friendship of Mortals, make haste.

On the other hand, if you’re curious about its sequel, Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey, make a note to check it out next week.

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AudreyD The Herbert West Series

hot air balloon on ground rainbow colours

Her Day Approaches!

I’m inflating that balloon again! The ebook version of She Who Comes Forth launches on Wednesday, November 7th. That means there are only three more days to pre-order at the special price of $2.99.

Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes she and her gifts may imperil the world—or save it.

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SMASHWORDS

Here is a tiny taste…

1

The Chapter of Experiencing Departure and Disappointment

 

Luxor, Egypt, September 27th, 1962

My hair flopped into my eyes—again. I tried to blow it out of the way, but that never works. I pushed it behind my ear for the hundredth time that day, my dirty hand adding to the accumulated grime on my face. Sighing, I turned back to the pile of rocks in front of me. Check for inscriptions. Check for chisel marks. Attempt to discern shape. Sort and classify.

The clink of tools on stone and the murmur of voices blurred into a distant hum, joined by the drowsy buzz of flies. Even in the shade of the tarp stretched over the sorting area, it was hot and getting hotter.

“Hello, Miss America!” The Grinner arrived with another basket of rocks. His thin body jiggled under his grey galabeya and his eyes squinted under his faded blue turban. “It is beautiful day! Very happy to see you!” He was smiling so hard I thought his face would split and the top of his head would fall off, turban and all.

“Hello,” I said. I couldn’t remember his name. Ali? Omar? I couldn’t keep them straight. To me, this one was “the Grinner,” and I couldn’t call him that to his face.

“Please put that here.” I pointed to a spot next to the basket I was working on. “Thank you. Very much.” I turned back to my current rock, hoping he would take the hint and leave.

“His name’s Mustafa,” Hank said from behind me. “It’s no hardship to remember the workers’ names, France. Just like I remember yours. They appreciate it.”

Great. Another mini-lecture from Hashish Hank. I squinted up at him, brushing the hair out of my eyes yet again. “But my name isn’t ‘Miss America.'”

Hank grinned. “That means he thinks you’re pretty.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Even my sarcasm-producer was weary.

“And you’d better step it up.” He gestured toward the new basket of stone fragments that had joined my half-full one. “The Boss wants us to get this section done today, so there’s lots more to come.”

“All right.” I blew a raspberry at his departing back and picked up a rock. Check for inscriptions. Check for chisel marks. Try to discern shape. Sort. Classify. Wipe sweat, push hair behind ear.

Shit, it’s hot!

Archaeology, Egyptian style.

If only I’d known.

 

Balloon image from Pixabay

A paranormal Egyptian page-turner, new from Audrey Driscoll

WHAT THE HELL

One of the advantages of being an editor is that I get to read terrific books before they’re published. Then they come out and I’m thrilled, not only that they’ve come to fruition but also that I’ve already sipped from the well. It’s a blast.

Over the summer I had the chance to beta read Audrey Driscoll’s new novel, She Who Comes Forth. It’s a rousing paranormal adventure story set in Egypt, with the Cuban missile crisis in the background and all kinds of mysterious intrigue in the foreground. I’ll let the blurb speak for itself:

Recently turned 21, France Leighton travels to Luxor, Egypt, taking with her two legacies—an antique cello and an emerald ring. Instead of the archaeological adventure she expects, she gets a lecherous dig director, hidden agendas, a risky balloon ride, and an enigmatic nuclear physicist. In the mysteries of the ancient tombs, France realizes…

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She Who Comes Forth book spine

Printed Book DIY

Okay, authors are advised not to do this — design your own cover images, especially for the printed versions of your books. But I did it. Maybe it was the allure of the forbidden. Or maybe it was inevitable, because this whole writing and publishing adventure started with me telling myself, “Think of it as an exercise, not a commitment. Try it and see what happens.”

When I published my first ebooks, almost a decade ago, my home made cover images were indeed lame. After a couple of years I commissioned excellent professionally designed images, which still grace the four books of my Herbert West Series. They were not inexpensive. (“Good, fast, cheap — pick two!”)

A couple of years ago, I started using Canva, just to see whether it was as easy as some said. After some experimentation, I designed cover images for the four short spinoff stories from my main series, published in 2016. Since I intended to make them perma-free, it didn’t make any sense to pay for cover images, and I was happy with the results, although compared to the professional designs, their amateur origin is evident.

She Who Comes Forth print book front coverBy the time my latest novel, She Who Comes Forth, was ready to come forth, I had designed more than half a dozen images for it. Fooling around with Canva is fun, and was a great way to do something related to my (then) work in progress when I didn’t feel like actually writing. After I finalized my final design, part of me could hardly wait to start on the challenge of incorporating it into a cover for the print version of the novel. This was while I was still waffling about publishing in print at all, and a bit apprehensive at the prospect of formatting the Word doc for POD.

So here we are, a couple of months later, and the print version of SWCF exists. I have ten copies right here, nine of which are still in the box with the Amazon smile. And all in all, I’m pleased with it. (I still have all my hair, too.)

The print book may be purchased at your preferred Amazon outlet. This one, for example. The ebook version of She Who Comes Forth will be available on November 7th, and may be pre-ordered now at a special price.

For those who might be foolhardy bold enough to attempt a similar project, here are a few things I learned that others may find helpful. One thing I’ve noticed about documentation, instructions and “help” pages — sometimes they omit tiny but crucial details. I don’t pretend to be an expert, and many of you may know all that stuff already, or have no desire to get into this type of project, so this is for the rest of you. FYI on DYI.

Word Document Formatting:

Amazon KDP provides a pretty good basic formatting guide. And you can usually find good help pages on the internet for most Word issues. This one, for example, tells you how to set up different headers and footers on odd and even pages.

Here are a few of my own personal tips:

First, find a trad-pubbed (or for that matter, indie-pubbed) book you like the looks of and use it as a model for interior design, preliminary pages, presence/absence of headers and page numbers,  etc. Then all you have to do is figure out how to get those effects in your Word document.

Second, make sure your text is perfect (or as close as you can get) before you start formatting. Adding or deleting more than a character or two can mess things up once you’ve inserted Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers.

She Who Comes Forth book chapter heading with moon glyphThird, add your preliminary pages (half-title, title page, epigraph and or dedication pages) and any “extras,” such as the moon glyphs I added to every one of the chapter titles. (They actually represent the moon phases in Luxor, Egypt in 1962 as the story progresses.) Decide on the trim size for your book (6×9 inches, for example), specify the paper size and set the margins. KDP’s “Build Your Book” guide has instructions for these steps, and even little videos you can view as many times as you need to.

Now for the ultimate challenge — Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers. Use the magic of “Save As” before you start, so you have a pristine copy of your document up to that point. If things go wrong, you can scrap the mess and start again without having to go through the process of adding the preliminary pages, setting margins, etc.

Really, once you’ve set up the headers and footers for Chapter 1 (or Prologue, if you have one), it’s a matter of selecting the right type of Section Break between chapters and breaking the link with the Header in the previous section when you want to do something different, like omitting the odd page header from the first page of the new chapter. (See why this can involve hair-tearing and profuse cursing?)

Actually, it seemed to me that the latest version of Word makes the process easier than previous versions. Or maybe it was just because I’d struggled through all this stuff before. Whatever the reason, I found I could rely on a specific sequence of checks and choices as I paged through the document, like a little mental flow chart. It was encouraging to be able to reproduce the desired pattern reliably as I went along.

She Who Comes Forth book title page

The title page. I used Canva to create the picture in the middle (a separate little project). Then I inserted it into my Word doc.

Again, do NOT fiddle with anything that affects the space taken up by your text after you insert your Section Breaks, Headers, and Footers. That would be trim size, margins, font size, line spacing, adding or deleting more than a tiny amount of text. Get all that stuff finalized before you start on Section Breaks. If you really need to make any of those changes, return to your “before Section Breaks” document and make the changes there. Once you’re done, Save As, and start over. (Trust me, “Save As” is your friend.)

 

Finally, before you upload your document to KDP, save a copy in PDF form. That will show you exactly what your printed pages will look like. If there are problems (usually with headers and/or footers), you’ll spot them immediately and can return to your Word doc to fix them. Once everything looks good, you can actually upload your final, perfect PDF to KDP.

For a really thorough how-to guide on the entire print publishing process, I recommend How to Print Your Novel with Kindle Direct Publishing: a step-by-step guide for absolute beginners, by ACFlory. It takes you through the formatting process in detail, with screenshots. This ebook is available on Amazon.

Cover Design:

Anyone who’s comfortable with Canva (and designing images) can create a credible print book cover. You probably wouldn’t want to make this your first experience of Canva (unless you’re a really quick study). Experiment first, getting used to layering images, using transparency, adding text, and moving stuff around. Create some ebook cover images. If you don’t actually have an ebook that needs a cover image, make some for books you mean to write. (The exercise might inspire you.) Once you know you can construct attractive images with the degree of complexity you need, you’re ready to tackle a print book cover.

Before starting, you need an interior book file that’s complete, perfectly formatted, and ready to upload, so you know how many pages your book will have. That determines the width of the spine. Once you know that and have selected a trim size, download a print cover template from Amazon KDP. Go to Canva and start a new project, with customized dimensions exactly right for your cover.  I found these instructions by Katherine Roberts very helpful, especially the calculations to set the custom size for your Canva project.

One of the cool things about Canva is that you can upload your own images to use in your designs. This is also where you upload your print cover template from KDP. By incorporating it into your design (temporarily), you can make sure to adhere to KDP’s specs for bleed and barcode placement.

If you use free images from a site like Pixabay for your cover design, remember to download the highest resolution versions. Images that don’t meet Amazon KDP’s fabled 300 dpi standard may cause your cover to be rejected. (This didn’t happen to me, I’m happy to say).

Select a background, and then layer the cover template over it.  (My background is that textured ochre colour on the spine.) Then proceed as usual, adding whatever elements you need for your front and back covers. Set the transparency so you can see the cover template and its all-important red border lines. For my cover, the spine was the only place where the cover template was the topmost layer (well, just below the spine text). This was important, because after I was finished adding all the elements, including text, and was certain nothing important was on or outside the red lines, I easily deleted the template. Don’t forget to do that, and do NOT move any text or important image elements once the template is gone. You can change filters, transparency, or colours, but don’t change fonts at this point, because that might change the size of text areas. When you’re done, download the image as a printable PDF, and upload both it and your text PDF to Amazon KDP. And rejoice.

 

 

hot air balloons over Luxor Egypt

She Comes Forth!

Cover image for She Who Comes Forth created with Canva

The ebook version of my soon-to-be released novel She Who Comes Forth, is available at a special pre-order price of $2.99 from now until the release date, November 7th, 2018.

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SMASHWORDS

This is the work in progress I’ve been blogging about for the past year or two. Finally, it exists as something more than a pile of paper and a bunch of Word docs.

The novel is a standalone sequel to the Herbert West Series. Readers who enjoy a combination of realistic adventure and supernatural elements in an exotic setting — Luxor, Egypt and the Theban Necropolis — may wish to have a look.

October 1962. The developing nuclear missile crisis in Cuba is of no concern to Francesca “France” Leighton. Recently turned 21, France travels from her home in Providence to a job at an archaeological dig in Luxor, Egypt. She takes with her two legacies—an emerald ring from the grandfather she never knew, and an antique cello from his friend, a man she loved like a grandfather.

The dig disappoints. France is relegated to sorting chunks of stone, the dig’s director makes unwanted advances; rivalries and mistrust are everywhere. And it’s too darn hot! Tasked with playing her cello at a gathering of archaeologists, France meets the enigmatic and fascinating nuclear physicist Adam Dexter. She’s smitten, especially when he promises to show her the secrets of Egypt, including a hitherto undiscovered tomb.

After a risky balloon cruise ends in a crash landing, France is forced to leave the dig. Despite warnings against solo explorations on the west bank, she finds herself with Adam Dexter in an eerie house near the Theban Necropolis. Adam’s promises are alluring, but he is both more and less than he seems and his motivations are disturbing. Fleeing his house, France makes a horrifying discovery.

Through an image of Osiris, France discovers the true reason for her presence in the Theban Necropolis. As the world teeters on the brink of nuclear war, she must call upon resources both within and beyond herself to meet the perils that await her in the world of the dead beneath the Western Peak.

 

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.

hot air balloon on ground rainbow colours

Preparing to Launch

I will publish the ebook version of my next novel, until now referred to as “the work in progress,” in November. I’m not sure when in November, but definitely in that month.

The book, now titled She Who Comes Forth, will be available for pre-order early in October.

September and October will be busy months for me, but right now, while the garden bakes in midsummer heat, I’m doing the following:

  • Finalizing the cover image. I’ve narrowed it down to seven possibilities. Yes, that’s not very narrow, but I have a couple more months to brood over them.
  • Finalizing the book description (called by some a “blurb,” but I think that word sounds dumb; and besides, it actually refers to a brief endorsement of a book by someone noteworthy. You see blurbs on those annoying pages that precede the title page in mass-market paperbacks). I have both a short description (really short, i.e. 60 words) and a longer one (350 words). I’ll be adding one or the other to the back matter of my existing ebooks.
  • Reading all the “how to launch your book” blog posts I’ve bookmarked.
  • Listening to Mark Coker’s Smart Author podcasts. Even though I’ve published several books, I’m sure I can learn something valuable from these programs. There are 16 episodes, all available at Smashwords and at a multitude of podcast sites. You can find them here.
  • Writing something new. Yes! A couple of years ago I published four short supplements to the Herbert West Series. I’ve decided to write three more and make all seven available as a collection, replacing the four separate stories.
  • Trying to figure out how to summon some rain to this parched part of the world.

 

 

 

 

Hot air balloon image courtesy of Pixabay