An Overabundance of Photos

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So I take a lot of pictures with my phone.  Before that, I took a lot of pictures with my digital camera.  And before that, I still took way too many pictures with actual film.  That’s actually part of the reason behind my image prompts.  I have all these photos that I’m not doing anything else with, so I share them with the internet in the hopes someone will find them inspiring besides me.

It’s been a crazy week at work and life is busy this summer, so you might see a few posts like this that are relatively short on words, but long on pictures.  I hope you enjoy a selection of my recent captures.

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Image Prompt 040 Response – Celestial Academy

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I selected the image from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland for my image prompt this week.  A twenty-minute sprint and a quick copy edit produced the below.  I hope you enjoy it.

Celestial Academy:

Ryan walked slowly up the steep grassy hill.  When he’d agreed to meet Xander at his school, he’d expected a university or a secondary school.  The address he’d found for Celestial Academy in Edinburgh had been at the top of the hill at one end of the city.  According to the website, the place had been some kind of memorial back in the twentieth century, but had since been repurposed for private use.  The web didn’t say what the school taught or how old the students were, just that it was highly selective and students were invited to apply.

The building was made of large gray blocks of stone, as was the wall and solid gated entrance.  Ryan could see the columns, classical pediment, and rotunda in the dim evening light.  The place was built to look like some kind of ancient Greek or Roman temple.

Ryan stopped at the gate, looking for a call box or any way to signal the inhabitants inside.  He didn’t even see any evidence of a camera or security system.  He tried pushing the door open, and found it unlocked.  It took a bit of effort to push the heavy stone door all the way open, but he managed it, and stepped through into the courtyard beyond.  There were paths paved with smooth tan rocks worn smooth with use.  The Celestial Academy was founded in 2110, over a century ago, so there’d been plenty of time for foot traffic.

As soon as Ryan let go of the door, it swung shut again with a dull thump.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet here,” Xander said from the path to the right.

Ryan hadn’t seen or heard him approach.  Xander was wearing dark blue skinny jeans and an oversized black hoodie.  Ryan felt overdressed in the gray slacks and white button down he’d worn to work that morning.

“It would only have been an issue if I needed to park a car somewhere,” Ryan replied.  He didn’t drive and Edinburgh had a great trnsit system.

“Still, I made you come all the way here,” Xander said.  “Why don’t you come inside, and I can find us a drink and a snack.”

“A drink would be nice,” Ryan replied with a smile.  “I at dinner before I came since I wasn’t sure what options there would be.”

“I didn’t even think about the timing being a problem for meals,” Xander said, turning half way to indicate they would be going back the way he came.

“If it had been a problem I wouldn’t have agreed to meet at six,” Ryan said, moving to join Xander.  “My meal schedules tend to be a bit off kilter anyway.”  His work hours were all over the place, which meant his meal breaks were too.

Xander smiled.  It lit up his whole face and made his light gray eyes sparkle.  And that was why Ryan was here.  He just couldn’t say no to a smile like that.

“Did you bring it?” Xander asked as they walked past the imposing columned porch toward the side of the building.

“Of course I did,” Ryan said, pulling his messenger bag around so he could get into the side pocket.  He pulled out the metal flask he’d filled with water from a spring near his house outside town.  Xander had been fascinated by his stories about the spring and all the legends that surrounded it.

Xander took the flask gently, his face reverent.

“I still don’t understand why it’s so important you have water from it gathered at dawn,” Ryan added.  It was the dawn part that was so baffling.  Fresh spring water was a rare commodity and Ryan knew he was lucky to live in a neighborhood that has access to one.

“I’ll show you,” Xander said, catching Ryan’s hand and pulling as he hurried around the side of the building.

Ryan’s skin tingled where Xander was touching him, and the hairs on his arms stood up as goosebumps rose along his arm.  The shiver ran all the way across his shoulders.  It was distracting enough that Ryan almost didn’t notice the weirdness as they turned the corner around the building.

Almost.

Ryan stopped, his outstretched arm pulling Xander to a halt as well.

The building was still the same, pale tan in the fading sunlight.  But everything else had changed.  There should have been more hill and grass and the rolling hills beyond.  All Ryan could see was a dazzling field of stars laid out before him like a thousand flickering candles in the dark.

Image Prompt 040 – Maggie Valley & Calton Hill

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 040-001 2018-05-11 Maggie Valley 2013-08-02 (26)

Image Prompt 040-002 2018-05-11 Calton Hill 006

Swords and Shields Book 2: Take 3

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So I’ve been working on the second book in the Swords and Shields series for a while now.  Most recently, I’m been doing a major rewrite (literally in most cases) of the entire book to tighten up the cast and plot.  I’m about two-thirds of the way through, and I’m much happier with the draft so far.  The last third is both the most exciting and the most work.  I’ve completely removed three characters from the book, and they played prominent roles in the last third, so I need to adjust a lot of scenes to work just as well, hopefully better, than the original versions.

This is easier to do when characters haven’t been introduced yet.  I can swap in someone else because none of my readers know what’s missing or changing.  The problem is just in my own head.  I have to forget about what it was and think only of what it can be.

That can be incredibly hard.  The same way proof-reading my own work is hard because I know what it’s supposed to say.  I have to let that go.  It’s not supposed to be anything until I’m done.  Then it can be something.

I’m still excited about the new draft.  I think it’s solved a couple issues with the last draft, and I finally fixed the thing that most frustrated my first round of beta readers (it’s only two drafts late…).  The project is actually going amazingly well all told.

I wrote my 100 pages for the April Camp NaNoWriMo session.  Which ended up being a lot of words.  46,453 to be exact.  That’s an average of 464 words per page.  Definitely higher than the 250 per page I was using to estimate.  This was supposed to be about 25k worth of words, not nearly 50k.  But I also spent a lot more time with my husband and doing other not writing and not work things than I usually do in April, so it was a really productive month.

I’m hoping to ride that wave of productivity into May and through the end of my draft.  If I’m estimating right and it needs another fifty pages, that should easily be done in a month.  Then I can spend June fixing it up for beta readers.  I even have one lined up for July already and another who can probably get to it August (after July Camp NaNoWriMo).  Even if I’m underestimating and it needs another 100 pages, I should be set to go by July.  Then I can play with something more fun for the July session of Camp NaNoWriMo.

I’ll try to keep the updates coming on book two as I move closer to a final draft.  It will feel like a huge accomplishment to finally have the second book out.  Maybe I can aim for a Halloween release if I get good feedback in July and August.

Wish me luck!

April Camp NaNoWriMo Check-In

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April is a Camp NaNoWriMo month, so I’ve been working on the revisions for Swords & Shields book two.  My goal was to rewrite the first 100 pages.  I picked this number using the 250 words = 1 page formula.  I neglected to actually check how many words per page my current formatting produces.  It’s a little closer to 450 words per page, so I was being more ambitious than I originally thought.

Despite that, I’ve been doing very well this month.  I’ve been hovering near par for the day (and even fell behind that a couple times) but going into day 26 I was one page above par at 87 pages completed.  I’m confident that I’ll reach my goal this weekend and be in a good place to keep the momentum going into May and June so that I can have a completed draft before July’s Camp NaNoWriMo session.

The story has undergone a lot of changes since the last draft.  I cut out the first third of the book, which was slow and wasn’t really accomplishing what I’d intended.  I’m reworking the story to remove two characters completely, and reshuffle a few others to better balance my cast.  I’m also ending the book several chapters earlier than the last version.  Those chapters will make a much better beginning to book three than they make an ending for book two.

None of these revisions would be possible without the honest feedback I receive from my last set of Beta readers.  Paige and Liz were very honest with me and weren’t afraid to tell me that scenes or chapters were slow and boring and could be cut, or remind me that I needed to thin the cast of major characters so readers could better focus on and get to know the ones that were actually important to this story.

Overall, it’s been a great April of writing for me personally.  It’s also been a pretty good month for write-ins in our region.  There was the fiasco of musical bingo at our usual Tuesday night location, but they seem to be happier in the locations they’ve tried since then and will hopefully find a new home soon.  We also found a great community partner who has space they’re willing to allow us to use for free and we had our first event there this past Saturday.  It was a really great space and the staff were amazing, friendly, and helpful.  We’re looking forward to doing other events there in the future.

It’s been a great April for me.  How about you?  What’s gone right this month?

Image Prompt 039 Response – Need of You

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I selected the image of the south wall of David’s Tower for my prompt today.  I’m also playing with characters from some previous posts.  You first saw them in my 2017 A to Z challenge story (story starts here), and they appeared again in my response to Image Prompt 028.  I hope you enjoy.

Need of You:

Uriel materialized in the world inside a castle.  It was cool, but far better lit than any castle he’d been in when they were common place.  Michael had told him that it was only a few months since he was last sent into the world.  Avery had need of him again.

There were voices further down the corridor, so Uriel took a moment to observe himself and his surroundings.  He could feel that he looked the same as he had in his two previous encounters with Avery.  He was wearing black pants and a simple dark green shirt.  There were sturdy boots on his feet and a dark jacket folded over his arm. Continue reading

Image Prompt 039 – Cats & Dogs & Towers

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It’s the Second Friday of the Month, so today is an Image Prompt day.

I’ve included two images to work from.  Pick one (or both if you’re feeling ambitious) and write something inspired by the image.  You can use something in the image, the feeling it invokes, or whatever the image makes you think of.

If you write a piece and end up posting it somewhere online, please link back to it here on a comment so we can all enjoy it too.

I’ll be posting my own piece next week.

Image Prompt 039-002 2018-04-13 King David's Tower 009

Image Prompt 039-001 2018-04-13 Locke 09-12 005