Release: Falling Into Place (Return to the Otherworld 5)

Now it’s time for the fallout. Here begins the second half of Return to the Otherworld, and we start with Part 5, Falling Into Place.

Disaster averted.

The other world, or this part of it, has seen much better days, but all agree that the worst has passed. Now, the members of the second expedition, along with those who have made their homes here, can return to the bigger business of science, learning, exploring.

But all is not well. The stress of the past weeks has taken its toll. The uncertainty of the future leaves some shaken. And further danger lurks beyond the borders of this fair land. As time runs out on their stay, the students, the teacher, and all those closest to them search for the perfect ending to the tale of spring.

Just because the flood’s over, that doesn’t mean our team is out of the woods. Oh, no. That would be too easy. Now, the scope of their effects on the Otherworld are growing. People are noticing. And decisions must soon be made.

You can get Falling Into Place, along with all my other Otherworld works (now that’s a tongue-twister!) over at my Patreon. It only costs $3/month, and there’s so much more left in store. Like Whence We Came, which is only six weeks away. I’ll see you then.

Release: Whence We Came (Return to the Otherworld 4)

Already halfway done. It feels like time’s just flying by, even in the Otherworld.

In the face of a greater danger, lesser arguments are left behind. When disaster strikes, old enmity is forgotten. Nowhere is that more true than in the other world.

The flood continues, submerging the lands of what some may have believed to be their corner of paradise. The secrets of the distant past remain buried, but they are slowly coming to light. And one member of the second expedition chooses a different path, a path that will test her faith in not only the divine, but also herself.

This one’s pretty much a direct continuation of Waters Rising, which shouldn’t be too out of the blue. It’s a nice little arc, mostly self-contained, but I threw in the added wrinkle of a “guest” chapter on Earth. Because our team has been gone a few weeks now, and they left behind some unfinished business.

Otherworld stories, remember, are available exclusively on my Patreon, so head on over that way to pick this one up. While you’re there, make sure to check out all the other great works you can get for the miniscule pledge of only $3/month. And get ready for Falling Into Place, which is only six weeks away. It’s a perfect choice for your Summer Reading List challenge.

Keep reading!

Release: Waters Rising (Return to the Otherworld 3)

Here we go with another Otherworld story, Waters Rising:

In either world, the forces of nature are far beyond the power of a single person to deflect. Here in the other world, where life is already fragile beyond any experience of the second expedition, danger comes even from the skies above.

While some choose to delve into the ruins surrounding their point of arrival, others must fight a true disaster, a flood that threatens not only the scientific endeavors they seek here, but also the homes, the health, the lives of those they have come to love. Unlikely heroes will rise, unexpected aid will arrive, yet all eyes turn to the river, to the rising waters that form their shared foe.

It’s about a flood, obviously. A flood that takes place in a land without modern conveniences like trucks full of sandbags, but that’s what makes it fun!

As always, you can pick up all my Otherworld stories on my Patreon for the low, low price of $3/month. Keep watching for Part 4, What We Leave Behind, coming in June. Until then, keep reading!

Release: Alignment Adjustment (Return to the Otherworld 2)

And here we go again. Return to the Otherworld continues with its second installment, Alignment Adjustment.

Things have changed.

The other world isn’t the same, nor are those whose lives have been touched by it. To truly understand how best to live in this new land, those who came from another must accept that first impressions are not everything. Only by recognizing their mistakes will they have the chance to avoid them in the future.

For the second expedition, readjustment is a necessity. Now that they have begun to dive deeper into the cultural waters of this world, they can no longer deny their place in it. Some may not like that place. Some may struggle with the preconceived notions of their new neighbors, their friends and lovers. But even that forces them into the mold they so desperately wish to escape.

Not a lot happens in this one, I’ll admit. It’s more getting things set up, moving people around, and a lot of character interaction. The expedition was gone for nearly a year, after all. It’ll take time to get back in the saddle.

As ever, Otherworld stories are Patreon exclusives for the time being. That means you can head on over to my Patreon and pick up Alignment Adjustment for a pledge of $3/month. And the list of things you can get for that low price keeps on growing.

Coming up next is Part 3 of the series, Waters Rising. Look for it soon, and remember to keep reading!

Release: The Second Crossing (Return to the Otherworld 1)

It’s a new year, and that means it’s time for a new season in the Otherworld. 2019 brings Return to the Otherworld, a new eight-part series following the further adventures of those who have visited this strange land, those who stayed behind a year ago, and the new faces seeking their first opportunity to glimpse the alien world for themselves.

Opening up this time is The Second Crossing:

A year ago, eleven college students stumbled into another world by virtue of an accident. An unforeseen, yet ultimately beneficial, accident. Now, they plan to return, this time with purpose.

New faces will join them. Old friends will welcome them. Enemies will show themselves. And the second crossing will test this expedition in ways they never anticipated. What new discoveries await? What new dangers lurk on the other side of the strange, inexplicable portal between worlds?

None can say, but the students and their companions know one thing for sure: they must return to the other world.

It’s going to be a fun ride, and you can see it all through the year over at my Patreon. All I ask is a simple pledge of $3/month, which gets you access to Return to the Otherworld and the previous series, as well as much more. How can you go wrong?

Look for Alignment Adjustment in six weeks. Until then, have fun and keep reading!

Release: Beyond the Horizon (Orphans of the Stars 2)

Let’s get back to space. Back to the future, even.

They were lost, but they found themselves. Now, they will find a piece of their past that brings about a new chapter in humanity’s future.

Seventeen children inherited a ship, a mission, a legacy. Few among them truly understand what it means to be an officer, an engineer, or a medic. Youth is bold, however, bold and adventurous. Thus, the immature crew of the Innocence yet believe they know what they are doing. They believe they can navigate not only the endless void of space, but also the turbulent waters of life, a life marked by their shared history.

Something lurks out among the stars. Something turned these young people into orphans, into the last survivors of Marshall Colony. Only they have seen the truth and lived to speak of it. Only they are prepared to find what lies beyond the horizon.

I was really excited when I released Innocence Reborn last year. Rarely have I ever felt so good about a book, like it had so much promise. Maybe I consider Nocturne my best work, but Innocence Reborn was by far the most fun.

That’s all I ask from the Orphans of the Stars series. It’s my chance to have fun, to show that space opera and science fiction can still be fun. Whatever you think about our future, the one I’ve created in these books is bright. In my darker times, it’s one of the few lights that shines through. In better days, it outshines the sun.

You can head on over to my Patreon if you want to check this one out. It’s currently in the Serious Reader tier, which requires only a monthly pledge of $3. A cup of coffee, a small meal, or the future. It’s your choice.

And, in case you’re wondering, I’m already planning out Part 3 of Orphans of the Stars, tentatively titled Time in the Sun. Keep watching this space for more info on that.

Nocturne on Patreon

Today, April 21, 2017, marks the release of my latest novel, Nocturne, to supporters of my Patreon. For a pledge of only $3/month, you can download a copy in EPUB or MOBI formats, readable on your desktop, mobile device, or e-reader. (You can cancel the backing at any time, of course, but I’d prefer that you didn’t.)

What is Nocturne, you may ask? Here’s the blurb I wrote for it:

He is the Nocturne, and this is his story.

In a world where children are marked for life by the hour of their birth, one man breaks the rules. In Velin, those born in the dark, moonless night are perceived as treacherous thieves, while their brethren of the day are lifted up, glorified. But Shade entered the world in a brief window of darkness within the day, a phenomenon seen once a generation.

He is neither, yet he is both. Now, he must use the combination of day and night to solve the riddle of his past, but also to save the future of a people. Hunted by church and crown alike, the road he walks is long and lonely, yet he knows there is no one else. Only Shade. Only the Nocturne.

One of those searching for him is Kellis Matene, an inspector in training. Her superiors gave her the case of a man born in the night, calling on his fellows, urging action. A rebel, a traitor. As a king dies, a pretender emerges, and Kellis must solve a mystery. All she has to go on is a single name: the Nocturne.

It’s a fantasy novel set in a world of racial tensions, magic, and religion. At the intersection stands the Nocturne, an outcast who wields a power beyond any other man. I’ll be talking a lot more about the book in the coming weeks, because it’s definitely something I’m proud of. And I do plan on releasing it onto the Kindle Store in July, but we’ll see how that pans out.

Virisai pronunciation guide

On my Patreon page, I’ve been posting drafts of a series of long novellas (or short novels, whichever you prefer) called Chronicles of the Otherworld. I won’t reiterate the entire plot of the story here, as that’s what the Patreon is for. Suffice to say, it’s a kind of alternate-universe thing, except without the alternate universes.

On the “otherworld” are a number of invented cultures loosely based on the indigenous peoples of the Americas, but with about 10,000 years of parallel development—including 500 years free from European colonization—and some genetic engineering by a mysterious precursor race. All this has caused their languages to be different from any on Earth. In other words, I built a story around a conlang. It’s okay; Tolkien did pretty much the same thing.

This post describes the pronunciation and orthography of the main conlang of the Chronicles of the Otherworld series, called Virisai. Story-internally, it is spoken by approximately one million people in and around the pre-industrial nation of Vistaan, where most of the Otherworld series takes place. Externally, I started making it in 2013, which doesn’t really feel like four years ago. My goal with Virisai was to make a natural-looking language that wasn’t too hard to grasp (the protagonists only have about two and a half months) while having no real connection to Earthly tongues. Ten thousand years, after all, is enough to give us the linguistic variety of Europe, the Middle East, and most of India…or of the indigenous languages of the Americas. In future posts, if there is interest, I’ll delve more deeply into the language. It’s one of my most developed conlangs, second only to Suvile, which I worked on from 2003–2010, and it remains in development, as I’m currently working on future entries in the series.

Finally, a word before we begin: the meat of this post is written from the point of view of someone treating Virisai as an actual language. If you prefer to think of it as the writing of a character in the story, that’s fine. From this point forward, though, I won’t be referring to any “external” qualities of the language, only what a speaker would understand.

The sounds of the language

Virisai has a fairly simple phonology. In total, there are 31 sounds: 21 distinct consonants, 5 vowels that show distinction between short and long. All of these sounds are simple, in that there are no phonemic distinctions of consonant length, palatalization, tone, or other complex phonetic properties. Speaking Virisai is not difficult for most people, unlike some of its neighboring tongues. The orthography, however, can be a bit difficult to understand.

While there are some dialectal differences, mostly between east and west, these do not rise to the level of unintelligibility. For the most part, this guide will describe the “standard” dialect of the east, with western differences noted as they arise.

Vowels

As there are fewer vowels, it seems prudent to begin with them. As stated above, Virisai has five main vowels, with each coming in a short and long variety. Long vowels sound approximately like double-length versions of their short counterparts, but many also give the short vowels a more lax pronunciation.

  • A: The vowel a (as in aloc “mill”) is most often pronounced like the Spanish or Italian a. At the end of a word, it may instead sound like German er as in oder. Western dialects use a pronunciation like a in English cat at the beginning of a word.

  • E: The vowel e (as in esau “lake”) is commonly pronounced like the e in English bet. In stressed positions, it can also sound like the more tense French é of été. Colloquially, an unstressed e can also be pronounced as a schwa, as in English taken.

  • I: The short vowel i (as in imec “gift”) should be pronounced as in Spanish, but it very often becomes lax, as in English bit. This relaxation is common among lower-class Virisai speakers in the west.

  • O: Short o (as in oca “but”) usually sounds like the o in French sot, but that of English not is sometimes heard instead, especially in unstressed syllables.

  • U: The short u (as in uro “round”) is pronounced as in Spanish, but the oo sound of English foot is also acceptable.

  • AA: The long vowel aa (as in baad “dog”) is a longer version of a. It can be approximated by the British English pronunciation of bath, or simply by stretching out the pronunciation of a.

  • EI: The vowel ei (as in eib “fish”) sounds like a longer variant of stressed e. The English diphthong ay of say is a close, if strictly incorrect, approximation.

  • IE: Long ie (as in mies “top”) sounds like English ee as in feet.

  • OO: Long oo (as in sool “glass”) is pronounced like a longer o. As with ei above, the English diphthong ow of glow is close, although not exactly the same.

  • OU: The vowel ou (as in crous “to write”) sounds like English oo in boot.

  • AI or AY: Both of these two spellings (ai as in ain “corn”; ay as in ayc “duck”) represent the sound of i in English like.

  • OI or OY: These two spellings (oi as in boi “nut”; oy as in proy “mad”) are pronounced as in English boy.

  • AU: The diphthong au (as in aus “cat”) sounds like ou in English out or au in English caught. The two sounds are in free variation; the preference is largely personal. The sound can also be spelled aw, if needed to prevent ambiguity.

  • EU: The diphthong eu (as in keud “deer”) has no exact English equivalent, but it can be approximated by the sound of you. When detailing western Virisai, this sound is often spelled ew.

In addition, some western dialects have a set of four front rounded vowels, two long and two short. These arise regularly from combinations of the consonant y (see below) and the vowels u, ou, o, and oo. They are presented here for completeness.

  • Y: This sound (as in lys “flower”) is a short vowel pronounced like French u or German ü.

  • UE: The vowel ue (as in bueder, a type of grain) is the long form of y, pronounced like German ü.

  • OE: The short vowel oe (as in goer “now”) is pronounced like French eu in peu.

  • EU: The long vowel eu (as in Beus, a month name) is pronounced like German ö, a longer form of oe above.

Consonants

Despite there being more of them, the consonants are much more regular in the correspondence between their written and spoken forms. Only in a few instances are there great differences. Here, we will leave those for last.

First, these are the Virisai consonants most similar to their English equivalents:

  • B: The sound b (as in boun “big”) is pronounced as in English bee.

  • D: The consonant d (as in den “from”) is pronounced the same as in English dog.

  • G: The consonant g (as in gos “cold”) has the same pronunciation as in English good.

  • H: The letter h (as in heid “this”) has the same pronunciation as in English hat under most circumstances. When followed by b, d, or g, however, it instead has no sound, and causes the following consonant to be pronounced as p, t, or k, respectively.

  • J: The letter j (as in jon “give”) sounds like that of English jest.

  • K: The letter k (as in kit “dice”) has the same sound as in English sky. There should be no puff of air following it, unlike in English key. This letter is only used before e, i, ei, and ie.

  • L: The consonant l (as in los “last”) sounds like the “clear” l of English let. It doesn’t normally have the “dark” sound of American English feel, though few native speakers can tell the difference.

  • M: The sound m (as in maame “mother”) sounds the same as in English mom.

  • N: The sound n (as in nin “sky”) has the same sound as English night.

  • NY: The sound written ny (as in nyaal “south”) is pronounced as the ni in English onion, or like the Spanish ñ.

  • P: The consonant p (as in pic “horn”) has the same pronunciation as in English spit. Unlike in English, there should be no audible “puff” after the sound. (In technical terms, it is unaspirated.)

  • R: The letter written r (as in rad “say”) has a pronunciation similar to English r in red, not that of the Spanish, French, or German r.

  • T: The consonant t (as in tec “temple”) sounds like that of English stay. Like Virisai p, it is also unaspirated.

  • V: The letter v (as in veis “go”) has a sound like that of Spanish b or v, not the English v. It can be approximated by pronouncing English v without the teeth.

  • W: The letter w (as in wan “river”) sounds like English w. It is distinct from v, but the difference can be hard for some to hear. V, however, is more forceful.

  • Y: The consonant y (as in yet “do”; not the same as the dialectal vowel sound y above) sounds exactly like English y in yet.

The rest of the consonant sounds are written in ways that may change depending on the position of the word, the following sounds, or other factors.

  • C: The letter c can represent a hard k (as in caar “name”) when written before anything other than e, i, ie, or ei. Before those letters (as in cil “small”), it is instead pronounced like the ch in English chat.

  • CI: The digraph ci (as in ciar “bottom”) is the standard writing for the ch sound of English char, used whenever a plain c would be pronounced as k.

  • F: The letter f (as in faus “rain”) has the same pronunciation as v above. It is written with a different letter in Virisai, reflecting a distinction of sound that is now lost.

  • NN: A doubled nn is not actually used in Virisai, but the author has used it to transcribe the word Ninne (feminine form of Nina, a racial term) so as to avoid confusion with the English word nine.

  • S: The letter s changes its pronunciation depending on its environment. At the start of a word (as in si “day”), it is pronounced like the s in English see. The same is true at the end of a word (as in pries “only”), when followed by a vowel other than i, e, ie, or ei (as in masa “yes”), or followed by a consonant (as in ostir “shoulder”). When preceding one of the four vowels mentioned (as in tiesie “short”), it is instead pronounced like the sh in English show.

  • SH: At the beginning of a word, or when preceding a consonant, the digraph sh (as in shei “daytime”) is pronounced as in English show.

  • SI: The digraph si (as in sias “blue”) is an alternate spelling of sh, used much more commonly when ambiguity would not arise.

  • SS: The doubled ss (as in susse “smooth”) is pronounced like the s in English set. It is used before e, i, ie, and ei, except at the beginning of a word.

  • Z: Like s above, the letter z changes pronunciation depending on where it occurs. Except directly before one of the four front vowels above (as in zaad “west”), it is pronounced like English z in zoo. Before front vowels (as in feizen “trade”), it sounds like the z in English azure.

  • ZH: As with sh, the digraph zh (as in zhaan “safe”) is written at the beginning of a word to indicate the z sound of English azure.

  • ZI: As with si, the digraph zi (as in ziule “fort”) is an alternate spelling of zh.

  • ZZ: Like ss, the doubled zz (as in dezzic “late”) is only used before front vowels. It is pronounced like the z in English zoo.

Consonant sequences

The grammar of Virisai causes a few cases where consonants can form sequences that look like clusters, but are pronounced as if single consonants. In each of the following, the first member of the sequence is actually silent: dt, bp, gc, zs, td, pb, cg, sz, szi, zsi, dci, tj.

Stress

Under normal circumstances, Virisai stresses the syllable before the last—the penultimate. However, a long vowel or a diphthong in the final syllable will receive stress instead. Inflection affixes are almost never stressed, but they can cause a stress shift in a word’s stem: singular soulos (stress on the first syllable), plural soulossin (stress on the second).

Closing words

The preceding should be enough to pronounce any of the utterances encountered in Chronicles of the Otherworld. Understanding them, of course, is a matter for future posts. As the series progresses, I’ll write further entries describing the Virisai language, so those willing to learn can follow the story at a deeper level.

Happy birthday to me

You may have noticed there’s something new over there on the sidebar: a link to Patreon. Yep, I finally did it. Now, if you want, you can support my writing on a monthly basis, instead of the “whenever I put something out for sale” schedule I’ve been doing. And I hope you will.

I’m still working out the kinks, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

  • $1/month: This gets you basically anything I’ve put up for sale, like Before I Wake or any future novels. On top of that, I’ll throw in the occasional short story. Oh, and everything will always be DRM-free, so you don’t have to worry about that.

  • $3/month: Here’s where the real fun starts. For this much, you get not only my novel-length works, but also the short stories and novellas I’m not quite ready to put on, say, Kindle Direct. Even with those that I do end up selling, you’ll get them much earlier.

  • $10/month: This is quite a bit of money, and I doubt I’m as valuable as, for example, your Netflix subscription. But if you’re willing, I’ll definitely count you as one of my supporters. Literally. I’ll put you in the credits. And if that’s not enough, I plan on doing stories chosen by you. Starting at this level, you’ll get a full vote on those.

  • $30/month: The big one. While I could certainly add tiers higher than this, this is the limit both of what I feel comfortable asking (actually, that’s closer to $3 than $30) and of what I can legitimately do. If you’re giving me this much money, then you deserve a special reward. Therefore, anybody who contributes at this highest level will get 3 votes on my “supporter” stories. And they’ll get to appear in one of my stories. You know, a cameo. (If I’m feeling particularly generous, I’ll write some gruesome way for you to die or something. I don’t know.)

Now, you can absolutely put up more than $30 a month, but you don’t get any extra bonuses besides that warm, fuzzy feeling of helping somebody out. But even if you can’t quite afford that, every little bit helps. Every dollar you pledge is one that I didn’t have before. And I have to thank you for that.

(Note: Last year, I think I posted at 5:38 PM. If so, then I screwed up. I was actually born at 5:48, which unfortunately doesn’t have the same electoral significance. Oh, well.)

Free short story: “Miracles”

I’ve told a lot about the writing I do. Now it’s time to show it. “Miracles” is a little story I wrote in March 2015, and I’m posting it here as a free example of my work. Although it’s a little over 11,000 words long, I still consider it a short story.

Set in the 1730s, it’s a brief tale of a young brother and sister, Thomas and Mira, and their flight from England to the American Colonies. Crossing the Atlantic is treacherous, especially for a pair of twelve-year-old orphans, but they have to go. They can’t stay home, but can they outrun the dark secret they share?

Read it now

Continue reading Free short story: “Miracles”