Blooded – Episode One: Leap of Faith

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Welcome to my Writing in Real Time serial novel experiment – this first story in the Realm Wraith Trilogy will unfold here on my blog in weekly episodes, and is yours to enjoy. Friendly discussion and thoughtful comments are welcome. Who knows – your ideas might just help shape the story as I write!

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Warrior Elf Blooded

There’s a thin line between love and hate, and an even thinner veil between this realm and the next. Both are about to be blown to oblivion…

The Empyrean Defense is the faerie realm’s best defense against the human race and its self-propelled trajectory toward annihilation. If humans ever succeed in destroying their own dominion, they’ll take the faerie world out along with it. But the EDL is not about to let that happen.

Cadet Bliss Hoarfrost is an over-achiever with daddy issues and a chip on her shoulder, but she’s also the best agent for the job. Any job. Just one mission away from a coveted commission in the EDL’s uber-elite Realm Wraith Squadron, Bliss will stop at nothing to get the gig. But when she’s given the assignment that will make or break her career, she discovers the price of success just might be her soul.

Assigned to track down a once trusted EDL operative turned eco-terrorist, Bliss is ordered to infiltrate the human realm and hunt down the rogue before she unleashes a weapon that could unmake both worlds. It’s a do-or-die mission and Bliss is more than up to the challenge. There’s just one minor hitch – the rogue Bliss is after is also her sister.

With only 48 hours to complete the mission and earn her commission, Bliss soon discovers she isn’t the only hunter on the trail. The truth behind her sister’s defection is far more complicated than she has been led to believe and Bliss finds herself stranded and almost out of options. Reinforcements are on the way, but it could already be too late. An eons-old blind seer and a hot-but-morally-conflicted half human double agent are all she’s got until real help arrives, but the conspiracy Bliss has uncovered might be more than even the Realm Wraiths can handle.

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What an Old White Man Taught Me About Racism

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I was born in the midst of the civil unrest of the 60s – just months before the assassination of JFK. I was also born white, to an educated middle class family, in the socially progressive bubble of the Pacific Northwest. My father was nearly 50 when I was born, and he struggled with the challenges of parenting on a lot of levels. But wherever else he may have failed, he got the most important things right.

When I was in the seventh grade and Portland Public Schools began desegregation, my father made a radical suggestion. I had been lamenting how unfair it was that my new friend, an African American girl who was bussed from her familiar surroundings every day to an all white neighborhood far from her home, never got to spend any time with schoolmates outside of class or recess. Invite her to come home with you after school one day this week, my dad says. He even offered to drive her back to her house after he finished work.

Just the idea, at which I was simultaneously awed and terrified, was shocking. Even at 12 years old, I understood that what my father was advocating was more than a little risky. It was provocative, if not dangerous, bringing a person of color into our neighborhood. And equally provocative, if not dangerous, for my father to drive her home – a white man with a black child (especially a girl) in an all black neighborhood. But my father made the offer and encouraged me to act on it without addressing any of this. It was an ordinary, everyday extension of hospitality.  He was teaching me not to treat others differently just because they looked differently, no matter what others might think or say or do, without ever saying the words. Because he knew that the words could never ever be as powerful as his behavior.

I remember how hesitant my friend was to even entertain that invitation, and we both were pretty sure her mother would never allow it. But, she did. And that’s how Jackie came over to my house after school one day. It was fun. But it wasn’t lost on either of us how nervous my mother was when it was time for dad to drive Jackie home, especially when he allowed me to come along for the ride. We all knew what was at stake, and we did it anyway.

A couple of months later, I took a punch defending a friend from a schoolyard bully. Two years later, with my father’s guidance, I reported a city bus driver for forcing a black child off the bus claiming she hadn’t paid her fare. She had, and everyone on the bus knew it. And that was just the beginning.

In the decades since, I have never once questioned who I am or what I stand for or what to do about it. I have always known to the core of my being where my line is drawn and to what lengths I will go to hold it. In case you’re still wondering, THAT is what it looks like to stand up for what is right in this world. DO right, even if it means you might be putting yourself in harm’s way. Because, though you might not realize it, you already ARE in harm’s way.

I’ve seen a lot of folks struggling to find a way to respond to recent events, and a lot of social media peeps advocating for donations to various civil rights organizations and social justice activism groups – which is awesome. By all means, throw your support behind the folks already fighting on the front lines. However, if that’s ALL you do, if you’re not actively pushing back against injustice when you see it happening in your daily lives, I’m sorry, but you are part of the problem. You are, and you need to own that.

But if you ARE pushing back, if you are calling out bad behavior and shouting down hate when you’re faced with it, then for goodness sake, ease up on yourself a little. You’ve already got this. And I should know, because an old white man taught me so.

 

Blooded – Episode Three: Deadfall

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Welcome to my Writing in Real Time serial novel experiment – this first story in the Realm Wraith Trilogy will unfold here on my blog in weekly episodes, and is yours to enjoy. Friendly discussion and thoughtful comments are welcome. Who knows – your ideas might just help shape the story as I write! If you’re joining us in progress, start with Episode One: Leap of Faith 

Warrior Elf Blooded

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The last ferry from Bainbridge Island to downtown Seattle is already boarding.

I hand a twenty to the glass-eyed attendant, a middle-aged woman whose dragged-down looks suggest decades of self-abuse, and wait for the change. Money perplexes me. Not the money itself so much, though it is weird. What doesn’t track for me is the concept of trading effort for colorful paper and coined metal that represents value, but has no particular inherent value itself. Little in this realm can be accomplished without it, either as motivation or as purchase. Once people start chasing after shiny objects instead of looking for ways to make a real contribution in their world, it’s a downhill slide into oblivion.

The attendant forces a smile over gritted teeth as she hands back the leftovers and waves me ahead. I thread the jeep through a maze of orange traffic cones and multi-purpose lanes, and line up on the boat deck. Not as many travelers as one might expect on a clear spring night, but enough that I’d rather ride the trip out in the jeep. The late night crowd is an oddball mix, but not so odd that I wouldn’t stand out.

This crossing is almost as brutal as the one that brought me to this realm. Before the boat chugs halfway to the Seattle dock, I can sense the elemental harmonics pitching toward a screech. Not that anyone of this world would notice, but the closer the ferry carries me to the city, the more distorted the spectral fields become. It’s a skewed view, like a reflection in cracked glass. The Seattle skyline is less a majestic backlit silhouette, and more a glaring clash of shifting angles and arcing pulses. It never ceases to astonish me that humans can’t see how broken it all is.

They live blissfully unaware of their surroundings, which is really just a poetic way of saying mankind is totally oblivious to its own impending doom. How the entire race came to be in such a predicament is a hotly debated topic among the leaders of the preternatural races – are the humans ignorant or apathetic, are they victims of an innate drive toward self-destruction and thereby unable to escape the consequences of their actions, or are they simply so arrogant they have convinced themselves there are no consequences to escape?

I guess it’s like the Caretaker says. They’ve adapted. Maybe Melody adapted too. She would have had to, in order to survive so long in this place. At some point, she must have made that choice, and that is the thing I just can’t get past. My sister decided to stay, decided to acclimate. Melody abandoned who she was.

I never could. I never would.

The low, steady grumble of the engine chucks into a whiny grind as the ferry gears up to dock, kicking me back into gear too. Much as I loathe the city, this is where I need to be. The perfect place for otherworldly creatures to hide in plain sight, especially in the dark. The freaks really do come out at night. Continue reading

Reader Comfort Kit Giveaway!

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Because I think we all need a little more whimsy in our lives, I’m giving away some goodies over on my Facebook Author Page. Click here to enter: Comfort Kit Giveaway

*Giveaway open to residents of USA/UK/Canada/Australia only 

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The Week in Review

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It’s FriYay, everyone! Is it wine o’clock yet? I’m ready to get my happy hour on, so let’s get this week’s wrap up in the books. ICYMI:

*The second installment of my serial novel is now live. My Writing in Real Time experiment is really helping to keep me focused and committed to the work. To read along, click here to start: Blooded: Episode One – Leap of Faith

*I’ve also posted the episodes on #Wattpad, so if you hang out over there and would like to add the book to your reading list, here’s the link to the story and my profile: BLOODED by Roberta Trahan

*Last week on Marketing Monday, I talked about tapping into the collective consciousness and Accidental Advertising – some helpful insights, I hope.

*Looking ahead – on Monday of next week I’ll be posting entry details for an upcoming giveaway on my FB author page. Be sure to like my page to get the latest news and updates on fun stuff.

*Episode Three of my serial novel will go live on Tuesday, so stay tuned!

*And, if you haven’t already signed up for my monthly newsletter, you can do that here!

So that’s it! Questions? Comments? Let me know below, or hit me up on social media (handles in the sidebar). See you on Marketing Monday!

Marketing Monday: Accidental Advertising

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Authors, like every other person or company plugging their products, are constantly refining their marketing message and dry-running new social media strategies, trying to figure out how to engage our potential readers – whoever they are. It’s all a very frustrating exercise in futility, most of the time, because who knows? No one, really.

There are paid services and books and blogs with tips-o-plenty, but the truth is no one knows what makes a video or photo or post or tweet go viral, just like no one knows which books will hit the best-seller lists or get made into blockbuster films. The only thing we know for sure is that there IS a cultural stream of consciousness out there that everyone is tuned into on some level, and if you’re lucky enough to accidentally tap that vein, anything is possible.

Accidental advertising is just what the term implies – unintentional. You can’t plan for it or pay for it or pick the place or time to show up. It happens organically, but oddly enough, not necessarily randomly.

One of the universal truths in marketing is that people respond to messaging with their emotional right brains more than their practical left brains – even when making a perfunctory purchase. They respond to things based on how those things make them feel more than anything.

Take as study the most amazing example of accidental marketing I’ve seen in years – the case of Dillon Josephsen, who inadvertently blew up the internet last week by tweeting something kinda silly-sweet he noticed about his dad’s business Facebook page. Dillon discovered that his dad, a flooring guy in New Jersey, had been taking pics of dogs he met on the job (in his clients’ homes) and posting them on the page as his “employee of the week”. Super cute, right? Dillon innocently tweeted a collage of the photos to his friends, and inadvertently staged a mega marketing coup.

EVERYONE LOVES DOGS! Who knew right? I know *I* do. When I saw that tweet retweeted in my feed by someone I follow, I clicked on it SO FAST. And then I clicked through to Dillon’s dad’s Facebook page because I just had to see it for myself.

And now, like over 14,000 (!) other people across the globe, I am a fan of Stairfaces & Josephsen Hardwood Floors for no good reason, except DOGS, and of course one day I might move to New Jersey and need some reclaimed barn door planks refinished and installed as flooring in my home office. It could happen, right?

But, even if it doesn’t, my heart has been warmed by some guy I’ll never meet and the pets he posts on his business page. I’m ALSO now following his college-age son on Twitter, because this kid? He’s trying to make something of himself, maybe in the media/entertainment industry, and I’ve got a daughter his age who is trying to make her mark as a vocalist. ABN (always be networking), people!

See how this works? Sometimes it’s just about being yourself and sharing information that matters or moves YOU. If it makes YOU happy or sad or mad, odds are pretty good it will affect others the same way. Being a member of the audience you are trying to reach and engaging in honest dialogue without contrivance or artifice or hidden agenda is the easiest form of social media marketing and networking there is. And it works surprisingly well!

To learn more about Dillon and his dad, here’s a great article (one of many) that popped up after that tweet went viral:

Fox 5 Employee of the Week

 

The Week in Review

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This week was exhilarating, and exhausting. BUT, I accomplished all of the goals I set for myself, AND was able to track some measurable results from my efforts. Here’s a brief recap:

  • Got this week’s Marketing Monday post up – late, but better than never. Next week’s is already in the can and will be uploaded early!
  • Consulted with a very successful author friend who gave me some solid, specific suggestions on my new project. This was hard, because it’s always hard to ask others for help, but she was very gracious and her guidance has already paid off!
  • Asked three other successful author friends to help me with some promotion. I felt I could do this because a) I’ve been supportive of their careers and b) we’ve traded these kinds of favors in the past. A trusted writing community is essential, so if you don’t have one yet, start building.
  • Launched a new project – my Writing in Real Time endeavor, a serial novel released in episodes, for free on my blog. This is a controversial thing to do, but my number one goal right now is to build an audience for my work. It’s been five years since my first book was published, and more than two years since the sequel. Since then, my career has stalled. I need to feel inspired again, and interacting with readers can do that for an author. But first, I need readers! Here’s the link to the first episode (read and share!): Blooded – Episode One: Leap of Faith
  • In support of the serial novel project, I made a directed effort to raise my public profile – I spent some $ on boosting likes on my FB page, and invested a big chunk of time in social media. This is where I’m seeing those measurable results I mentioned. I’ll be talking about this in more depth on an upcoming Marketing Monday.
  • Got some writing done, too!

Whew, right?!! I don’t know if I can keep up this kind of pace every week, but I’m going to try. For now, it’s wine o’clock somewhere…

See you on Marketing Monday!

Blooded – Episode Two: What Evil Lurks

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Welcome to my Writing in Real Time serial novel experiment – this first story in the Realm Wraith Trilogy will unfold here on my blog in weekly episodes, and is yours to enjoy. Friendly discussion and thoughtful comments are welcome. Who knows – your ideas might just help shape the story as I write! If you’re joining us in progress, start with Episode One: Leap of Faith 

Warrior Elf Blooded

*

The crossing is quick, but excruciating.

The portal transports matter across the dimensional planes by compressing its mass into an energy stream. It’s a lot like shoving a spike through a pinhole. The cellular distortion is brutal. It would also be fatal, without the gossamer.

This second skin is better than magic. Besides making me mutable, the sheathing enables my body to morph in response to a whole host of external forces. It also gives my regenerative abilities a hypernatural boost, which can come in handy when one is out of her realm and all on her own. Most importantly, it has chameleon qualities which allow me to adapt to any alien environment. In the mortal realm I will appear to the most scrutinizing observer to be as human as any other inhabitant of this world, even though I am not human at all.

I land hard, coiled in a sprinter’s crouch beside the same kedge stone, but in an entirely distinct and separate reality. The same and yet totally different – just one of many paradoxes that transect the realms.

A sudden gut-wrenching convulsion throws me forward onto my hands and knees, and I hurl all over the pine needles and leafy dust that litters the forest floor. Nausea is a normal aftereffect of the crossing, but I am still mortified. Over two dozen training excursions and three covert ops missions in the human realm, and every time it’s the same. I should be able to hold it together better by now. I’ve never seen Violet puke.

I want to rinse the bad taste from my mouth. I need water. But first, I need to get my bearings. It takes a few deep breaths before I can force myself back on my haunches and get a look at my surroundings. The crossing key is still curled in my clutch, and I am quick to loop the lanyard back around my neck. This key is my lifeline, the only connection I have to my home realm. If it were lost, I could be stranded here and next to failing this mission, I have no greater fear. I will never let this key out of my reach.

The moon is high and gleaming bright white through the dense evergreen canopy of the Olympic National Forest. This time of year, the climate in the Pacific Northwest is ever changing – cloud covered and rain soaked one minute, crisp air and clear skies the next. The weather is working with me tonight.

We fae are not nocturnal beings by nature, not in our home realm, but it is easier to operate at night in the human dimension. Less chance of being detected, of course, but it is also easier to function when there is less noise – the static interference created by the frenetic energy discharges of daily mortal life. Preternatural beings are super sensitive to it.

While the moon and the stars make it easier to set a course, I don’t need them to navigate. Like all sylph, I have a hyper-developed sense of smell. EDL reconnaissance and recovery expeditions usually deploy an advance scout team, often a cross gender pair. A sylph’s olfactory abilities partnered with a satyr’s superior nocturnal vision make for highly accurate covert tracking. A kind of sensory GPS, I guess. But I have only myself to rely on this time.

Nose to the sky, I snuffle the scents on the damp night air. The salty smells of sand and sea creatures are mingled with the piney perfume of the evergreens. Beneath these pungent aromas, I catch the faint, distant tinge of satyr sign. It is unmistakably Auger’s. The scent is stale; days, maybe even weeks old, the lingering trail left by his last trip to this realm. Squad members are each assigned a monthly sector tour as a part of our regular duties, for reconnaissance mostly, but also to resupply the forward operations bevies. Sector Five is on Auger’s watch, and one of our support stations is nearby. This is my first checkpoint.

A warbling caw in the boughs overhead jump-starts my heart and sets my teeth on edge. I’m being watched. It was only a matter of time until my presence was detected, but I am surprised the sentinels have spotted me so soon.

They are everywhere here. Preternatural souls trapped in the form of a crow, banished from the Empyrean realm and condemned to eternal internment in the human world. The can only be released from this purgatory by the Empyrean being that cursed them, and if it should happen that a sentinel outlives their jailor, they are essentially damned for all eternity.

Some of the sentinels are ancient. By human measure, the preternatura appear immortal, though we can and do die. We have our vulnerabilities, but we are less susceptible to injury and illness, and our post-adolescent cellular degeneration progresses much more slowly than that of humans. Given the right circumstances, magical beings can live a long, long time – eons even. So when I say these earthbound souls are ancient, I’m talking centuries old, maybe even millennia.

It isn’t all bad; sentinels do have the freedom of flight. But they can never return to our dominion, and this is the cruelest of all fates. I truly cannot imagine anything worse than never being allowed to go home.

These disenfranchised spirits could be useful too, though not completely trusted. Beings without belonging lack the loyalty that naturally comes from a sense of solidarity with your own kind. This makes them mercenary, and prone to make alliances that serve their need to have purpose. They are not alone in this realm. Others among the preternatural races have been banished here, for crimes against the home realm. Still others have escaped here, looking to infiltrate human economic and political systems and manipulate them in order to create their own power bases.

Some of the more nefarious deserters are actually on the EDL’s most-wanted list and known known to use the sentinels as lookouts. The last thing I need is an off-mission confrontation with a fae fugitive who thinks I’m here to drag them back. I didn’t have the time. There is no way to know whether this fowl is friend or foe without getting up close and personal, so I decide to play it safe.

I burst out of my crouch, sprinting full-force for the heart of the nearest stand of trees. The sentinel has the advantage of moonlight and a birds-eye view but I have stealth on my side, and the camouflaging the gossamer sheath provides. I run low, slinking deeper into the forest undergrowth until I am fairly certain the sentinel has lost sight of me, and then cut a zigzag path all the way to the tree line on the other side of the forest.

By the time I reach the tree line, I am remembering standard infiltration procedure. Before entering the open, I throw a scatter charge to disguise any residual energy signature I might be sloughing. The charge is effective for a radial mile or more, enough to ensure I won’t be followed.

From the forest, I walk along an abandoned access road toward the checkpoint. My first objective is to collect some solid intel, but for that I need transportation. I also need some real protection from the elements. Gossamer is waterproof, but it isn’t much good in chilly weather. It isn’t exactly fashionable either, and I need to blend in with the mortals in their communities.

Auger’s scent leads me two miles west, to the tiny tourist town of Port Angeles and the lonely parking lot at the ferry dock. The town is tourist driven, nearly derelict in the off-season, and all but abandoned at night. The perfect staging area – within easy reach of the kedge stone, and populated enough to provide cover and the means to secure any basic supplies the team might need.

The ferry-runs to and from Victoria are suspended until later in the spring. I won’t have to worry much about avoiding chance encounters. Then again, if I wander around in the open too long I risk drawing the suspicion of local law enforcement. I need wheels to get myself inland. There’s a lot of ground to cover between Port Angeles and the Emerald City, and not a lot of time.

Three vehicles are parked in the lot – a road-weary jeep, a tricked-out newer model crew cab pickup, and a powder-blue vintage replica roadster convertible. The truck and convertible likely belonged to locals or tourists, but the jeep is an EDL stash vehicle.

Stowed in the rear compartment of the jeep is a small supply of bottled water and a duffle stuffed with a selection of coverings and foot gear to suit the varying seasonal climates of this realm. Underneath the compartment decking is an emergency munitions cache, in case any of us run into serious trouble. But for now, all I need is the water, and a little extra protection from the elements.

An unlined black canvas trench coat and black jump boots appeal to me, partially for the added layers but also because they give off a particular vibe. I like black. The gossamer bodysuit and tactical vest are organically mimetic and automatically adapt to match the coat. The total look is a bit too dark and edgy out here in the sticks, but once I get to the city no one will even look twice. But before I drive all the way to Seattle, I have a stop to make.

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Marketing Monday: Measurable Results

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A measurable result is one of the touchstones of any successful marketing campaign. But how do you define it? Most folks look at number trends before, during and after a promotion and look for an uptick in sales. Metrics are an obvious measurement of whether or not our marketing efforts (and investment) have paid off. But, they are not the only yardstick of success.

Increasing your sales, and ultimately your bottom line, is the prime objective. However, specific marketing efforts rarely correspond directly to an increase in units sold. A lack of a sales spike, however, does not necessarily mean your ad plan has failed. There is more than one way to measure success. For example:

Increased Visibility in the marketplace – every campaign or promo you run will at the very least garner you attention. Most of the people who see a sponsored post, tweet or Instagram ad respond impulsively to the concept if it interests or appeals to them. They will “like” your promo, but don’t click through to purchase. They aren’t actually shopping. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t make an impact. The hope here is that when they are looking to buy, they’ll remember you. There are sales conversion formulas that calculate how many impressions (number of times someone sees your ad) it takes to convert a sale. It varies, but every person who notices you gets you one click closer to that purchase. In  the long run, how many “likes” you get matters.

Audience Capture is just a sexy term for saying followers or fans, and is another important measurable result. These are folks who aren’t yet ready to buy, but have more than just a passing interest in what you have to offer. They take the extra step of connecting with you – becoming a fan of your FB page, following your blog or Twitter or Instagram account – in order to keep you and your offerings in their que for later reference.

Referrals (or “shares”) are also a powerful measure of a successful ad or promotion. It’s harder to track these results directly because there’s no way to follow the sale back to the source, but every time someone retweets your Tweet or shares you FB ad or blog post, you are reaching a new potential market you had no way of reaching otherwise. It’s essentially free advertising, and should be counted as a win.

The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to evaluating your marketing plan is to expect a dollar for dollar return on your investment. Factor the long term payoffs from increased visibility, audience capture, and referrals into the equation. In other words, don’t sell yourself short. Building a customer base or audience takes consistent effort over time. And remember, sales metrics are not the only measurable result that matters.

 

The Week in Review

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A return to some forgotten routines this week, including everyday writing. I might not have managed much in the way of word count, but I kept my pledge to myself and spent time with my work in progress each day. It was good to get reacquainted with the story and I even found some new inspiration.

I also completed my Marketing Monday task list, and put the finishing touches on an exciting new blog feature for readers that will launch next week.

You writers out there should also check out the FB page for my sister project, Lit Chicks Editorial. for resources, contest announcements, and calls for submissions. We also offer editorial services for fiction writers working toward publication.

That’s this week in review. See you all next week on Marketing Monday!