Book MU Blog


Hey, folks! I’d hoped to close out the month of April with another week of three updates, but circumstances have arisen that are preventing that. If I’d started the week with the kind of “cushion” I’ve had in a few of the past weeks, it wouldn’t have been a problem, but such is not the case.

This brings me to May. For the month of May, I’m going back to Monday/Friday updates for the whole month. If I’d done that this month, I’d be a few weeks ahead of where I need to be… and I like that idea, having a few weeks’ padding. Monday/Friday is going to be the “regular” schedule from here on out. Monday and Friday will be the days you know you can show up here and see at least one new chapter.

But Wednesday updates aren’t going to be gone for good. See, if I only ever post chapters on Monday and Friday, then I’ll end up getting months ahead at the pace I’ve been going and that’s not good, either. So I’ll post three chapters a week as often as I can without eroding the comfortable cushion.

So, anyway… this is all to say that Chapter 10 will be coming up on Friday, and I’ll see you Mondays and Fridays through the month of May. I hope you’ve been enjoying the first day of classes of Mackenzie’s sophomore year. As far as I’m concerned, volume 2 has been a great success in every measurable way… your responses, my experience writing it, everything. And as my work practices and my writing continues to evolve, it’s only going to get better from here.

And A Reminder:

The Spring Fling Thing ends at the end of the month. Saturday is the last day to vote. Friday (that is, today!) is a double donation Fundraising Friday, so your contribution counts double if you make it before midnight Pacific Time, Saturday morning. Also, if you’re a monthly sponsor you can email me to have your subscription counted as a vote! (Sorry, those don’t count double.)

Okay, so the purpose of this post has evolved to the point where a lot of the information it contained has been rendered superfluous. As you can tell, I have used some magical internet… stuff… to redesign the page a bit. The main sidebar is on the left (a more prominent placement) if you’re reading this on the site’s main feed, i.e. you’re at http://www.talesofmu.com/story. It’s on the right (less prominently placed) if you’re on an individual story. Right now I’m abusing HTML tables to achieve this effect on the main page due to some glitchiness that wasn’t present when I tested the concept on Fantasy In Miniature, so you may intermittently encounter a situation where the page is basically blank below the header until everything has finished loading, but that’s a minor and occasional glitch and it goes away after a second.

The Twitter badge has been expanded to a proper feed, to the right of the main page. It’s not currently visible in any form when you’re reading an entry. I don’t see that as a downside, necessarily… I could stick the old Twitter badge in the sidebar or something but it doesn’t really seem necessary.

In the meantime, please let me know if the new layout causes any problems for you or if anything looks weird/wrong. Please tell me your resolution and browser (i.e., Firefox, Chrome, or, in fact, “i.e.”.) if you’re reporting a problem.

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Okay, so… first thing is that I have made some fairly small but I feel noticeable changes to the main page feed today (the thing you see if you click on the title at the very top of the page and go back to the “front”). One of the things that I did are to change the generic WordPress loop code to mesh better with how I use it… so now instead of getting the subtitle of the story and then a “Read On” link, the subtitle is the link. It’s a little cleaner looking, in my opinion.

It does cause some weirdness on older posts where I put some info above the “Read On” link, because WordPress is going to try to render that as a subtitle now. I’ll be fixing those in old posts bit by bit and not doing it any more in new posts. The only thing that will be posted above the “jump” from here on out is the subtitle or a similar short blurb for Other Tales.

Why in the past have I sometimes put notes or information up there? To try to get it noticed. See, I have a dickens of a time conveying a message to the readers outside the story. I can put it in the sidebar, on my Twitter, above the jump, at the end of the story… but a lot of people will just miss it completely. I don’t blame anyone. You come here for the story, after all. But sometimes I have information that I think will be interesting to people who like my stories, or sometimes I have information that’s important if I want to keep enjoying writing for you and you want to keep reading. And the bottom line is that there’s no magic place I can put it and no magic way I can make it stand out. Even if I made it in big text in the middle of the story… well, the average modern internet user ignores that kind of thing many times per day.

All in all, I’ve found the best way to convey something to people is to make its own separate post. But I don’t like doing that. I feel it interrupts the flow of the story. So I’ve been researching WordPress to try to figure out how, in the back end, to make this into a sort of bifurcated blog… so I can make a post like this one that shows up in the feed but is still separate somehow from the other ones. You can see the beginning of that on the main story page… the things labeled blog post have a big prominent “BLOG POST” in front of them so you can’t miss them, but they take up less space and are distinct from the story entries. I’ll be using these to keep you better apprised of what I’m doing.

(Question for RSS-feed users – would you rather have these blogs show up in the RSS feed or not? Should I consider setting up a story-only feed? I feel like in particular the people who are getting this through Amazon Kindle-for-blogs might benefit from only having the actual story, but on the other hand, maybe you’d feel like you’re being deprived of crucial information that website-based-readers are getting? Please let me know.)

On the subject of letting you know what’s going on… I’ve again started the week with no backlog and again not managed to swing a writing day on Monday, so again we’re looking at Tuesday for the first update of the week. Last week it was due to heat exhaustion. This week? Nothing more than me being hot under the collar. On my personal blog, which is still the go-to place if you want to know what’s going on with me in general rather than MU in particular, I made a post about what’s going on internally, because I am not actually a fan of getting spitting mad when I have 100+ positive comments and a few negative ones. Since I’m not physically impaired this week I should be able to bounce back and finish the week ahead, and then stay ahead, but today it was more productive for me to work on the site tweaks than to try to make the words flow.

Without a backlog, Monday’s the weak spot in my schedule. There are five days during the week that I could write a chapter to go up on Friday. Monday? I’ve got to write it Monday. In retrospect, that was probably kind of a mistake. Tuesday and Friday makes more sense as a schedule, given that I don’t write on weekends. I’ll switch it back to Monday and Friday when I have my backlog built up… until then, every Monday I “miss” is just going to make me feel worse, which will make it harder to get back to where I’m ahead of the game.

So, to make a long story short, this chapter will be up Tuesday. The first chapter of next week will also be up Tuesday. In the meantime, look for more little site improvements.

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(Crossposted from my personal blog.)

So, I tweeted a couple of times about being sick… I have what I really hope is a 24 hour stomach bug or something similar. It hit me last night while I was out and about, kept me up most of the night, and has kept me close to a bathroom for most of the day. What I’m simply going to call the worst symptom thereof seems to have abated, though I’m trying to keep my fate-temptation to a moderate level there. I still feel shaky, which can probably be put down to lack of sleep plus mild dehydration.

Tomorrow I’m supposed to be getting on a plane for WisCon. My prediction based on how things are going today is that I will better and fit to travel. The alternate prognosis, of course, is that I will be worse and not fit for traveling, which would really really suck for multiple reasons, not the least of which is that I’m supposed to be that I would be leaving the rest of my party hanging in more ways than one. So any good thoughts and well-wishes are appreciated.

In either case, the next two days aren’t going to be work days. I had what I thought to be a moderately ambitious workload planned for this week, but because I approached it piecemeal I have a lot of stuff that’s begun but nothing that’s done, and I need to get my packing and con prep done tonight in a way that I’m not going to strain/exhaust myself.

I’m tempted to try to salvage a finished chapter out of the 2,000 words I have written, but the results would be so much less… I have plans to rewrite the 1,000 word infodump about television into a conversation that is also going to be potentially revelatory about other topics and I’d rather do that than post it in infodump form. Note: I’m not talking about getting rid of the information… it’s not “plot relevant” but it’s the sort of thing that people tell me repeatedly that they want to know more about. Just less dumping and more weaving. This chapter is an important one, as it’s a big part of what I feel Twyla’s fans are owed… I’m referring here both to the fundraiser “answer incentives” and to the support she received when the question was raised of who readers wanted to see more of/learn more about in the second volume.

So, anyway… as I said on Twitter, I’m sort of canceling this week. May’s newsletter will go out sometime next week. The first installment of Kin & Distant Relations will come out at the start of June. You’ll still get the 13 episodes that were promised when it won the fundraiser, but like the Twyla chapter I want to make sure it’s as good as it ought to be instead of something I banged out.

If you’re going to be at WisCon, I really, really hope I see you in a day or so. If not, I hope you have a fantastic Memorial Day/early summerish weekend. Either way I’ll see you back next Wednesday.

P.S.: You all bought 30 copies of the The Gift of the Bad Guy Kindle edition. That means I’ll be enlarging the whiteboard map to 4 times its current area, and for those who missed my addition to the initial post on that subject I do have an artist on board for making a nicer version when that’s done.

(As a sidenote, I really need to get a tattoo on the inside of my eyelids that says “One thing at a time.” The best laid plans o’ mice and men are spoiled by the other best-laid plans of those same mice and men.)

Hey, folks! As those who read the blog posts already know, life has turned a little upside-down for me lately but it’s time to get things back on track. One of the things that fell by the wayside in the past months was my third quarter fundraiser, originally planned for July. I’m aware of the backlog of incentives from Fundraisers Past that I need to finish, but I really can’t afford to put off fundraising any longer and I’ve come up with something I can offer at the same time as I work on those.

Here it is:

Transcript:

Hello, this is Alexandra Erin author of the award-winning web serial Tales of MU. I’m pleased to announce the beginning of my third-quarter fundraiser. Why am I doing it with an audio track? Because that’s the theme this time around.

I already have a backlog of stories that need writing, so for every $250 of donations or new subscriptions I take in during the remainder of August, I will post one recording of myself performing a story aloud. These tracks will not be professional studio-quality recordings, because I lack a professional studio-quality studio. Moreover, I lack practice reading aloud and speaking in public, so you can think of this as a glimpse into what would ordinarily be a very raw process of training in that area. The resulting tracks will be free to listen to and disseminate and will be recorded at a rate of one a week.

I’ll be doing my absolute level best each week to perform at my absolute best level, but I’ll be uploading the results for you to enjoy whether they’re good, bad, or ugly. Hopefully we’ll be able to look back at the end and see how far I’ve come. In any case, I’ll be recording and posting the first selection this coming week because a few generous souls have already donated a total of $295 this month.

For more details, please see the blog post entitled “August Fundraiser” on www.talesofmu.com.

Thank you!

And here are the details:

I’ll be selecting stories mainly by virtue of their suitability for recording, which means doing short and simple ones at the start and moving on to more ambitious pieces as my skill and confidence grows. Most of the recordings I make will be free. For every $1,000 raised, I will record a longer piece with better attention to quality (within my technical limitations… this money represents my living and travel expenses for the next several months, not studio time) that will be sent to everyone who contributed at least one dollar. That’s in addition to the free one… so if this fundraiser reaches $1,000 exactly, there will be four free-to-everyone recordings and one bonus one for participants.

Whether there’s one bonus track, or two, or more, a single contribution will qualify you for all of them. I will also include a link to download the bonus tracks in the next newsletter to go out after they’re finished… so if you already subscribe and have no money to kick in this month, you’ll still hear everything.

The “bonus tracks” will be sent to the address you use for PayPal; to request a different one, send an email to contactme -at- alexandraerin -dot- com. Make sure you tell me what address your PayPal payment was sent from and what address the track(s) should be sent to.

As always, participation in the fundraiser is purely voluntary. I’m aware my mind has not been with my work lately and as always it’s entirely up to you as individual readers whether to fund my continued writing at this time or not. You have always had the option of reading for free and that option remains.

If you choose to exercise that option, please show your gratitude for the free entertainment by not castigating the people who choose to fund it or casting aspersions on the person who provides it.

Regardless, I would like to thank everyone who showed patience or offered words of support in what has been a difficult time.






Current Total: $934.75
Tracks Earned: 3 Tracks Recorded: 1

(You can find all tracks here.)

(To set up a sponsorship/buy an annual newsletter subscription, click here. Newly created sponsorships/subscriptions will count towards the total.)

Hey, folks! We’re coming up on the next visit to Fenwick Hall and Aaron Hart’s team-taught discussion class, where the subject will be the Thyleans. As before, you have a chance to influence the discussion by throwing your questions out there as comments on this post.

Now, unlike some topics, the Thyleans have only really been mentioned in passing so you might feel like you don’t even know what there is to ask about them and that’s fine… I have enough background on them that if there aren’t a lot of questions I won’t be stuck writing an hour and a half of awkward silence. To give you a little background: Thyleans are basically a mix of real-world Scandinavians, the Germanic tribes who pestered the Celts and the Romans, and the fantasy “barbarian” archetype. They are “the men of the north”… or “northpersons”, as one of Mackenzie’s textbooks put it. Think Beowulf, Alaric, Hamlet, Siegfried, and Thor.

In addition to questions about Thyleans, this post is also where you can nominate topics for the next history/lore bull session.

As a final note, I’ve put up an expanded version of Hart’s dry erase board map from last class, along with some notes on the geopolitical entities depicted… though the notes skew more towards the current than the class discussion would.

Hello! As you should all be aware, I’m recording audio tracks of my stories to show appreciation for your contributions during the current fundraiser. Because I’m learning as I’m going I wanted to start with something shorter, but it’s hard to strike a balance between “couple of minutes” and “considerably longer”… so I decided to start with something that’s broken up to pieces anyway. This week’s selection is the creation tale sampler “In The Beginning”, which I’m going to be recording and posting one segment at a time. It doesn’t take long to record one, even if it takes me a couple of tries to get through it, but my voice is a rather untrained instrument… honestly, I don’t even spend that much time talking out loud in a given day… so shorter sprints are probably better to start with.

Anyway, here’s segment #1, “Then Came Men”:


And, as an added bonus, I recorded a little aside on pronunciation:

As I type this (8:00 PM on Monday, August 15th) the total is at $428… full fundraiser details are here, but just to remind everyone of the basic deal, I’ll record one story for every $250 this fundraiser brings in, and everyone who contributes any amount is eligible for bonus tracks.

Thank you!





…to say thank you for your patience and support over what was a long and trying summer. Last spring, I felt like I was on top of the world. I had launched a new book and a new marketing concept, I was hitting my goals on Tales of MU, I felt like I’d found all the pieces to make my life work.

Then it all came crashing down, and it’s taken me a while to build things back up… to build myself back up. Those of you who read my personal blog have been able to follow the process, which only really started to come together this month. I feel like I hit a stride in this past week, which is particularly exciting since it happened in the midst of an insomnia spell and the sort of random physical debilitation that my body is prone to, the very same things that have thrown me off in the past.

In other words, I had a great writing week in the middle of a bad personal week, and that’s pretty awesome because writing just makes my life better… figuring out how to keep doing it when things are bad means things will never be *quite* as bad as they would be. The fact that you all stayed by me… even those of you who understandably grumbled were still grumbling here… coupled with the overwhelming outpouring of emotional support back in July helped quite a bit. It really means a lot.

So, again, this is just to say thank you and that your patience is not in vain. Now that I have the main Tales of MU story back on track, you will start seeing more of the other things you’ve been waiting for, starting with a new Other Tales next weekend and culminating with the long-delayed debut of Kin & Distant Relations before the end of the month.

(Also, next MU chapter will be up on Tuesday. This is subject to change as I figure out the best rhythm, but count on Tuesday and Friday as the regular update days.)

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