A Lunatic Post

A Lunatic Post

So, last week’s post didn’t seem to go over well. I’m disappointed but not surprised. I had trouble writing it, and it didn’t seem to go where I wanted it to. Hopefully this one will be better. I’m afraid it is a little ramble-ly, though. This post also contains minor spoilers for Secrets of the Moon Fox (Available on Amazon), and small plot hints for The Pawn’s Play (Available in November). Nothing that should spoil your enjoyment.

I read a fascinating article last week. This month, in the Western Hemisphere, there will be two new moons in the month of September. September 30th will be the second new moon. In the Eastern Hemisphere, October will have two new moons. The article proposes calling the second new moon be called a ‘black moon’ to go along with the second full moon as a ‘blue moon’. Personally I loved the idea.

I also found it ironic because in The Pawn’s Play, set in an unspecified year, I put a blue moon at the end of September. Actually, I probably cheated a little, as I don’t think you can have a blue moon on the 28th of a month. Not with a moon cycle of 29 days, but I thought it was 28 days at the time, and I’m leaving it for plot reasons. Then again, as strange as that school is, a slightly different lunar cycle would be the least of differences.

Secrets of the Moon Fox has a Werefox as a protagonist. But, as she eventually explains, being a Werefox is not anything like the stereotypical Werewolf movies. It is a purely genetic condition. One is born a Were, or one is not. Also, they have discovered in the past hundred or so years that it actually has nothing to do with the moon, but rather with two chemicals that are found in Weres but nowhere else in nature, and peak in a 28-29 day cycle. Yes, this is my own invention, but there are explanations in the book. Because of this, Weres do not always change on full moon, but each has their own cycle. Many believe there is some type of magic involved, because despite the fact that a Were’s first change isn’t until they are five years old, they almost always (95-99% chance) change on the lunar phase when they were born.

But as I was considering this yesterday, I realized that there would have been centuries where they did believe it was affected by the moon. So it only makes sense that there are a host of beliefs and superstitions about the moon and the changes involved. I’m having fun developing that.

According to the Kikisutai Clan, it is unlucky for twins not to share a lunar cycle. It is unlucky for a husband and wife to share a lunar cycle. That one is based of practicality. If they are both running around as foxes, who’s watching the children, etc. And, there is a personality theory based on lunar cycles.

Those who change on full moon are the performers, the show-offs. They thrive on having every eye on them, and they know how to keep those eyes there. Last quarter changers are the questioners, the philosophers. They ask the questions about life, and are always searching for knowledge. New moon Weres are the behind the scenes people. They see what needs to be done, and they do it, without seeking the public eye. First quarter people are the ones who are always striving for a challenge, always trying to do more.

Those who change between the four phase days are a combination of the two phases they are between. It is considered lucky to change on one of the four phase days. Naturally, like all attempts to diagnose someone’s personality through external forces, it is only so accurate.

After coming up with this theory, I went and looked up what the lunar phase for the day of my birth. I am almost exactly between last quarter and new moon. That… is actually semi accurate. You can find out the lunar phase for your birth by doing a google search for ‘Lunar phases’ and your birth year. What are you?

Contest is still open. You can win a free personalized autographed copy of Secrets of the Moon Fox, if you can tell me what the original planned release date (July 12), the actual release date (September 9) and the sequel planned release date (January 5) have in common. You can win a personalized autographed copy of either Secrets of the Moon Fox or The Pawn’s Play, if you tell me the easter egg based around the release date in the book. Because it is currently Kindle exclusive for ebooks, Secrets of the Moon Fox is available to be read for free in the Kindle lending library. I only ask that if you like the story, please leave a review.

P.S. Please tell me you understand the pun in the title.

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Worldbuilding 101: Governments

Worldbuilding 101: Governments

Okay, every society, large or small, has some form of hierarchy. Even animals who live in groups tend to have an Alpha. Human governments come in four basic flavors with almost infinite variations. Basic divisions are: Rule by the many (or all), Rule by the few, Rule by the one, and Rule by none. In human societies, neither the first or last work well long term on a large scale. There are a couple cities that still practice direct democracy, where every citizen votes on every issue. I imagine they are very small cities. Rule by none, also known as anarchy, is basically chaos, and frankly, a frightening concept. Someone has to provide the framework. You may have some groups, say a group of friends who hang out, where no one is ‘in charge’ but even then, there is some form of leadership. Perhaps a temporary leadership that trades out, but leadership none the less. Someone makes a suggestion, others agree, and it happens. I imagine that in most groups, a leader forms anyway. “Let’s ask __, he/she will know what to do.”

A quote I read once that has always stuck with me, even if I don’t remember the source goes something like this, “When two people ride a horse, someone has to sit in front.” Someone will take charge in every situation. Not always the same person, but without someone making a decision, nothing gets done.

Now what’s really interesting is the way that Rule of the few and Rule of the one seem to intertwine. In every committee, every congress, every council; there is one person who is above the rest, making sure everyone follows the rules, choosing who speaks, and just generally trying to form order out of chaos. And when you have one person in charge, usually there is a small group of people who put him there. So really, who does have the power?

Leaving philosophy aside for a while, let’s talk variations. Is the Law, whatever that Law may be, sacrosanct or can whoever is in charge adapt it? That is a vital question, the difference between an absolute king and a constitutional monarch. Interestingly enough, the idea of even the leader(s) being under the law is not a new concept. You may have heard of the law of the Medes and the Persians. Once the law was in place, even the King himself could not repeal it. Remember Daniel and the lions’ den? Even if you doubt that story actually happened, it is an account from an ancient source of a ruler who was actually bound by law.

How did the leader or leaders end up in charge? Is this a hereditary position? Were they elected by the people, or chosen by a small group? Were they chosen by a magic artefact, ala the sword in the stone? Was it a computer algorithm chose them? Chosen by lot? Does gender matter? Is your society patriarchal, matriarchical, or egalitarian? Are they chosen, supposedly or actually, by the gods? Did they win the position because no one dared challenge them, or they won the challenge against the previous leader?

It is also worth remembering that every human has an agenda. No, agendas are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but it does affect the way people see the world and the priorities they have. If some stranger popped up and gave you a five dollar bill to give to your favorite charity, where would you give it? Assuming you are honest and do indeed give the money to charity, there are almost endless possibilities. Health groups, religious groups, educational groups, sports groups, rehabilitation groups, ecological groups, etc. Where I would chose to give the money may not be where you would chose, but that doesn’t mean either of us are wrong. It simply means we have different hot buttons.

Let’s pretend for a moment that we have a list of five organizations. One is a children’s hospital, one is an animal sanctuary, one helps veterans, one is a literacy group, and the last provides clean water in third world countries. I think I can say without controversy that those are all good causes. Now, let’s pretend we are on a committee to determine funding for those organizations, and we only room on the budget for three. Which two get cut? That would get controversial very quickly, because we all have different agendas, different worldviews, and different priorities. Honestly, I am very glad I am not having to make a decision like that.

Another thing to remember with humans is that Lord Acton’s Dictum is a little too close to the truth. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Everyone has seen it happen. People who let a taste of power go to their head. Yes, there are people who manage to resist. I applaud them. And maybe you don’t have humans at all, but some other race that is totally immune to the temptation of power. Have fun.

Government is not always on the large scale. Sure every country has a leader of some sort, but so does every city, town, moon base, etc. Often there is an official leader. A mayor, governor, foreman, elder, etc. Sometimes there is an unofficial leader. A priest, a soothsayer, a wisewoman, the villager that’s lived forever and knows everything. Sometimes there’s both and they aren’t the same person. Isn’t that fun?

So, how do you develop a government? Research! And research some more. The place and role of government in various civilizations is fascinating. Rome went through several forms of government in a few short centuries. The ‘Time of Troubles’ in Russia, the period between the death of Ivan the Terrible and the start of the Romanov dynasty could be a novel in its’ own right, having imposters, a tsar elected by the nobles, and people claiming to come back from the dead. Recognize that it essentially has all been done before and there is only so far you can go to make it original. But since we are writing speculative fiction, there are ways to add flavor that aren’t available in a more ‘realistic’ book. I’ve mentioned a few possibilities and would love to hear your ideas.

My contest, mentioned in my last blog post, is still open, and will remain open until someone wins.  As previously mentioned, Secrets of the Moon Fox is available both in print and kindle format. If you want to help, but can’t afford to buy the book, than please help spread the word.

 

Why I chose to Self Publish

Secrets of the Moon Fox is a self published book. I don’t think I’ll surprise anyone by saying that. So, why did I self publish instead of publishing through a publisher? Is the story worth less because of that? What are the advantages of each?

Let’s start with the worth. There is still a bit of a stigma for self publishing, that only those that can’t be published traditionally do such a thing. And places that do that are frequently called ‘vanity presses’. That stigma is shrinking as more and more excellent books, fully the equal of traditionally published books are self published.

A good story is a good story regardless of who puts it out. I have read fanfiction that was better than the story it was based on. But, like fanfiction, self publishing is so easy to do that anyone can put out something, regardless of skill, ability, or quality. Presumably traditional publishing has had at least an editor go through it and correct spelling and grammatical errors. I experimented with self publishing some years ago and released a book before it was ready, and it shows. No, I won’t tell you what it is, but it is still available. I haven’t gotten around to taking it down. This time I made certain to hire an editor, something that is highly recommended for any professional who chooses to self publish.

A commercial publishing company is concerned with being able to make a profit. They don’t like to take chances on unknowns. Be that a story that doesn’t quite fit their divisions, a subject that might be a little too controversial or an author they have never heard of. They are however particularly interested in self published books that develop large audiences. For example, Eragon, or The Martian. Both were self published books first. Though it is worth noting that those stories are known so well because they are exceptions to the rule.

What are the advantages to traditional publishing? Well, your book is more accessible. Secrets of the Moon Fox will not be available in your local bookstore or library anytime soon. CreateSpace is a print on demand company. They only print a book when someone orders it. They don’t supply to bookstores, because bookstores don’t want to buy them because they can’t give them back if they don’t sell.  It’s a process called remaindering. No one denies that a book published through a traditional press is truly published, so there isn’t any of the possible stigma. The larger presses offer an advance on royalties that the writer gets immediately (though if a book doesn’t out-earn its’ advance, the publisher will be much less likely to sign on a second). They will send out copies for review and do a little advertising for you as they certainly want you to succeed.

What are the disadvantages? Time. If Secrets of the Moon Fox were accepted by a traditional publisher tomorrow, it could be somewhere between a year and a half and three years to end up on book shelves. Minimum would be eight months to a year if they had incentive to hurry, like believing the book topical. Control. As an unknown writer, I have very little leverage to negotiate with, meaning the publishing house could want to make changes in the story, and has final say on the title and the cover art. If I had a good agent, I might get a say, but the publisher generally has control. Speaking of an agent, most of the larger publishing houses won’t even look at your manuscript without an agent. I am not denigrating the role of agents, they are very important. One writer at Marscon put it this way. “The right agent is worth their weight in gold. The wrong agent is their weight in gold around your neck while in the ocean.” An agent also has to be paid. Ten to fifteen percent is current standard. So ten to fifteen percent of what you make would go to your agent. And what you make is a much smaller percentage per book sold than you can make through self publishing.

So, with self publishing you mostly flip those. You are on your own. If you want something done, you either do it yourself or you hire someone to do it for you. I hired an editor and probably should have hired a cover designer. When I had time to do so, I didn’t have money and when I had money, I didn’t have time. So I actually used a photograph I had taken. I am on my own to promote this book (which actually isn’t much different than if it was traditionally published). I did have to put out money to do this, as opposed to traditional publishing. Not to CreateSpace, but to buy ISBNs, to hire a proofreader, etc. But I didn’t have to wait years, and considering I started this story over ten years ago, I think it has waited long enough. I was able to pick the exact date I wanted the story to come out. I picked September 9th for a reason. Actually, my original plan was for July 12th, but life was far to chaotic at the time. My next book is due to come out November 1st because the sequel states that the school the series is about was founded then. Which is itself an Easter egg, because November 1st is my birthday.

Fun Contest: July 12, September 9, and the date the sequel is currently planned, January 5, all have something in common. I will send a free personalized autographed copy of Secrets of the Moon Fox to the first person who can tell me what that is. It is plot relevant but you don’t have to have read the book to figure it out. I also planted an Easter egg in the book about that date. I will send a free personalized autographed copy of either this or my next book to the first person who tell me that one. Winner’s choice. Yes, that one you do have to read the book for.

This is getting really long, so I think I’ll end this post here. Please remember to check out my website here. Secrets of the Moon Fox can be purchased here or in print or kindle on Amazon here.

 

 

Secrets of the Moon Fox Now Available

So, my story is up, and ready to be purchased. Sort of. Apparently it takes more time than anticipated for it to be available in all channels. It can be purchased here right now, and should be available on Amazon in a few days. For ebook readers, it will be available on Kindle within the next twenty-four to seventy-two hours. I’ll post a link. It is currently exclusive to kindle as far as ebooks go, but that will change eventually. More updates and links as available, there should be a normal blog post Monday.

I’m Back!

Back from camping. We didn’t get eaten by bears! Yay! We didn’t even see any bears. Or much of anything else. Very little wildlife, and even fewer people. The entire time we were there, I didn’t talk to anyone but my sister. Still, we had fun.

Website is up, but still a work in progress. For some reason, it looks completely different on my computer than on my Mom’s tablet. If you have any viewing difficulties, please, please, please tell me. I’m still learning. I am at hjharding.com

Thank you!

Update

So, I wrote a post in the middle or end of June. Not one I was particularly proud of, but a post. But due to getting locked out of my account and life getting extremely busy. I never posted it. Sorry about that.

Here’s what I’ve done in the past two months. Moved into our new house; painted my bedroom and helped paint several other rooms; tried and failed to find places for all my books (who needs a bed anyway); tried and succeeded to be accepted as a guest at next year’s Marscon (YAY!); had extremely bad luck with cars (hit/ran into a car while walking, minor injuries; accidentally rear-ended a car, no injuries, no damage to their car, significant damage to mine; been rear-ended myself, no injuries, negligible damage to my car, no idea about theirs; and blown out a tire, now replaced); planned a camping trip (leave today); started to build a website (still in progress); and arranged to publish my novel, Secrets of the Moon Fox.

Yes, Secrets of the Moon Fox comes out this Friday in print and ebook. Audiobook format should be available soon. I am extremely excited. First chapter can be read here. No, this blog will not become a ‘buy my book’ advertisement center. I do hope though that you will pardon me some excitement.

This is the post that I originally wrote back at the end of June. It does contain description of mildly violent and traumatic events. Hopefully not to the point that it will trigger anyone but I felt the warning should be given. I have not edited it to change the reflection of time so the Tuesday referred to was in June, and this post was written about a day or two after the death of Anton Yelchin. Haven’t done the interview yet either, so you can still send questions. Provided nothing goes tragically wrong during the camping trip, I will post again Wednesday or Thursday with a link to my new website and more information about my novel.

Turning your experiences into Writing gold.

I ran into a car last Tuesday. Literally. I was crossing the street, not at the crosswalk because the sidewalk was under construction. I passed a truck that was stopped at a stoplight, but the truck coming the other way and I didn’t see each other in time. I remember trying to stop, even putting my arms out to stop myself. That was probably a mistake, because my arms landed on the car that was still going faster than I was and in a different direction. I careened into the side, hit the street and rolled. Through it all, I can still remember my incredulous thought of ‘I actually got hit with a car!’ as if these things just didn’t happen.

I was fine. Got up right away and started looking for my shoes, both of which had been knocked off. One was at my foot, while the other was a couple feet away. A couple scrapes, some bruises. I’m sore, but I’ll heal.

I’m not telling this story for sympathy, or in some misguided attempt to compare or compete with the recent tragedy of Anton Yelchin (RIP). I’m fine and the accident was probably mostly my fault. I’m telling this story because it is a recent experience that can and likely will shape me as a writer. Being mugged at gunpoint a few years ago did. So did the forty-two hour train ride that I took when I was ten. Not to mention the years of living in Russia.

My experiences both are and are not unique. Many other people have been through one or more of the experiences I have. Maybe there are a rare few that have been through all of those. You have my sympathies. But even still, it won’t be the same. My sister took the same train ride I did, and was in Russia when I was, and even longer. She’s even had her own experiences of being hit by a car (no injuries) and being held up her first night at work (she thought it was a drill). But what we went through and what we remember are different because we are different. Because of our temperaments, ages, and other experiences, what we went through was unique to us.

They can also aid in writing. What I have been through, what I remember, allows me to portray certain things in a way that feels authentic, because I remember what I felt and thought when something happened to me. When I was mugged, I found myself unable to look away from the gun. So on at least two occasions when I was writing about a character who was untrained in fighting being threatened with a weapon, they couldn’t look away either. I’ve had characters take trains in Europe that are nigh on identical to the ones I rode in.

Oh, you don’t have any exciting experiences to recount? I’ll bet you do. Maybe something you don’t even realize is unusual to someone else because it’s common for you. Or maybe you should consider your less exciting memories. When I was about nine, Mom set up this little play tent in the back yard of our house in Philly and let my sister and I camp out there. I remember waking up in the early morning and finding slugs had crawled on the mesh door. Not an important memory. Doubtful it’s one that has had any major impact on my life, but it is a memory. It wouldn’t make a plot, but if I ever do a story about people camping, I can throw in something similar for color. Or mention just how loud leaf bugs are when they hit a tent. (Different camping trip).

To make the best use of your memories, exciting and small, I would recommend journaling. It’s amazing what you forget that you are sure is indelibly etched in your brain. I have found notes of stories that I have forgotten writing, and been surprised about how different the story has become. I’ve read old journal entries and been surprised that I had forgotten things that seemed so important at the time. Write it down, tell someone, do what it takes to remember the little details because those details will be what adds wealth and depth to your stories.

Share a memory? Large or small, the choice is yours.

Note: I have an agreement for the interview mentioned in the last blog post, but it has not yet taken place. So you still have a chance to ask a question. Either here or email me at hjhardingbooks@gmail.com.