Book Cover Reveal

As Shadows Gather cover reveal

Cover image of As Shadows Gather, book 2 of the Worldwalker series. A brown-haired young woman who is glancing back over her shoulder walks between a split background of a tropical city and a brewing storm.
Cover image: As Shadows Gather, Worldwalkers Book 2 by Dana Ardis

Book 2 of my series officially has a cover! Here’s the ebook cover of As Shadows Gather, book 2 of my Worldwalker series. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the same artist who did the cover for In Daylight and Darkness, so I have a redesign of that cover as well, so that all the covers can be done by the same artist with a matching “look.”

I hope to have the pre-release up on Amazon soon, but in the meantime, here is the back-of-the-book summary for book two:

Kate and Cor defeated the Hunters who pursued them, but their true enemy remains out of reach and just as dangerous.

Kate has accepted her unusual gift: she’s one of the rare humans who can travel between Earth and other worlds, a fact she embraces even if her friends and family on Earth will never believe her. Expelled from his House, Cor must earn a place for himself in a new city with few resources and fewer allies, but Kate has welcomed him back into her life—and perhaps her heart.

Together, they’ve discovered that the Hunters on their trail were sent by the Scholars, some of the most influential and respected leaders on Kuyen. The Scholars fear Kate’s destructive power and will stop at nothing to see her removed from their world. Without the support of Cor’s former House, stopping them seems impossible.

When Cor is kidnapped, Kate races to find him in a world where she doesn’t know all the rules and isn’t sure who she can trust. But the stakes are clear: Hunters don’t take prisoners. If Cor is in their hands, he’s running out of time.

Book Review: How God Works: the science behind the benefits of religion

Book Review: How God Works: the science behind the benefits of religion

Cover image of How God Works by David DeSteno

Several of my favorite fantasy and science fiction authors have opted not to include religions in the world building for their stories. While I spent time crafting everything from distinct social structures to gestures—not to mention a system of skills and powers—for Cor’s world of Kuyen, it has no gods or religions.

I still found How God Works to be an interesting read on its own terms as well as fascinating for world building.

DeSteno approaches the topic of religion from the standpoint of a research psychologist, focusing on the ways that religious practices and rituals have developed to meet the needs of their followers. While scientific studies have revealed ways in which meditation reduces stress or cradling your newborn in your arms increases the bonding hormone oxytocin, religion has been finding ways to unlock such benefits for thousands of years.

DeSteno focuses especially on rituals surrounding transitions of life, such as welcoming a new baby or the changes in focus that accompany midlife milestones. Though he pulls examples from religions around the world, he makes it clear that nonbelievers can reap similar benefits outside of any religious practice. From a world building standpoint, I found it useful to consider how people in my invented cultures might mark the transition points in their lives, what secular or cultural rituals they might have developed to direct and support community members through common life events. I took away a few interesting details that will hopefully make it into future worlds I write.

Book Review: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Cover image Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

My rating: 5/5 stars

Loosely based on the tale of Rumpelstiltskin, this is a complex and epic novel. The story begins with Miryem Mandelstam, the daughter of a Jewish moneylender who is terrible at collecting his debts. Embittered by her family living in poverty while the rest of the townsfolk who used their loans to benefit themselves while they look down on the Mandelstams with derision, Miryem takes it upon herself to collect what’s owed. And she’s good at it. Her quest to lift her family’s fortunes fair and square brings together many lives, from a mistreated peasant girl to the duke’s daughter, all the way up to the tsar and the king of the Staryk (think honor-bound winter elves). The plot is complex enough that it’s not easy to summarize.

It’s a story of debt and obligation, generosity and keeping one’s word. The writing is beautiful and vivid and Novik does an excellent job in keeping multiple first person narrators feeling fairly distinct. This is a book I would recommend to other writers as an example of how a character’s personality and background affect their POV. It also has many of my favorite elements of fairy tales: a normal humans who find themselves surrounded by creatures and magics much stronger than themselves who can only be bested by cleverness; the need to watch one’s word and find ways to fulfill promises even when things seem impossible; the importance of kindness, friendship, the bonds of family, and an open heart in the struggle to win free of evil.

I read a copy at the library and when I finished it, I bought a copy to keep for myself. This is one I will definitely reread and recommend.

NaNoWriMo 2021

NaNoWriMo 2021 complete!

Another National Novel Writing Month is in the books, so to speak. This year, I did things a little bit differently, since I was in the last third or so of As Shadows Gather, Worldwalkers book 2. I used my 50,000 words in November to finish up book 2, start book 3, and work on a side project that I’m hoping will help me develop some of my writerly skills and, quite frankly, is just a lot of fun.

Now all I need to do is finish up some revision on As Shadows Gather, then it’s just a matter of the editing cycle, formatting, and a cover! I can’t wait to show it off as soon as I get it.

Take care and enjoy your reading/writing!

It’s NaNoWriMo!

It’s my favorite month: NaNoWriMo!

November is National Novel Writing Month, when writers challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word story, start to finish, in the 30 days of November. While it’s a personal challenge, it’s pretty famous and there’s a nonprofit organization at https://nanowrimo.org/ that can help you track your progress and link you up with your writing buddies.

(If you’re participating in NaNo this year, you can find me under “Danaluki” if you’d like another writing buddy.)

I first participated in NaNoWriMo almost a decade ago, back when I considered myself primarily an artist. The challenge pushed me to complete a longform fiction project for the first time. While I’m trying to get better at creating detailed outlines, I’m still a discovery writer (aka pantser) to a degree. I enjoy the process of fast-drafting a story, letting it be messy, and simply fixing what needs to be fixed afterward. It’s incredibly satisfying to go from “Once upon a time” all the way to “The end” in a single month.

That being said, this November finds me about 70k into book two of the Worldwalker series, and I don’t want to put the draft aside to start a fresh story for NaNoWriMo. For the first time, I’ll try to hit my 1667 word goal while finishing up this book and then start book three once I’m done.

I’m looking forward to completing the arc of Kate and Cor’s adventures as well as hitting my annual 50k. Best wishes to any of you out there participating!

Indy B.R.A.G. Book Award

In Daylight and Darkness wins an Indy B.R.A.G. book award

“I love everything about this book.”

B.R.A.G. reviewer

“For lovers of fantasy this is a must read.”

B.R.A.G. reviewer

The Book Readers Appreciation Group for self-published books (otherwise known as Indy B.R.A.G.) highlights excellence in self-published books with their medallion award. The book is read by a judging panel who then rate it on a variety of criteria (characters, dialog, overall plot structure, etc.).

In Daylight and Darkness, book one of my Worldwalkers series, won the award for self-published Fantasy! Not only was it recommended for the medallion, but it garnered five stars in every category on the rubric. I’m pretty pleased. If you love fantasy, I hear you should read it.

Worldbuilding: how to write a fantasy language without writing a fantasy language

Worldbuilding: how to write a fantasy language without writing a fantasy language

New worlds and new cultures are my favorite parts of science fiction and fantasy. Language is a great way to add novelty and realism to your setting. If your character comes from another planet, is part of an insular group of people who have been in hiding from the rest of the general public, or lives on a colony ship thousands of years in the future… They won’t be speaking English or any other modern language, right? Shouldn’t you make your own language?

Spoiler alert: I wouldn’t recommend it. I started creating my own languages (conlangs) when I was in middle school and I continue to find languages fascinating. As an author, however, I wouldn’t recommend creating one or more entire languages for your book.

First, if you’re an author, your time is best spent writing. Creating a language takes a lot of time and postpones the work of putting more words into your manuscript.

Large blocks of invented-language text and long lists of vocabulary typically don’t work well in a novel. Even for language-loving readers like me. (Mythcreants has some good quick-and-dirty guides for this.)

But what if you don’t want to do any language invention at all? There are still ways to make your fictional culture’s language feel unique.

Describe the writing

How is your language written down and what does it look like? Does it use an alphabet? How about an abjad (consonants only), like Arabic, or logograms like Chinese? You can hint at this  by describing how it looks written down

Omniglot is a great place to look at a wide variety of written scripts from both natural languages and invented scripts.

Here are some ways other authors have handled it:

It was inscribed with some squirmy letters like a child’s scribble. They did not have the straight edges or corners of our characters. – The Moon in the Palace, Weina Dai Randel.

…her signature in the curving Therin script that had become something of a fad among literate nobles in the past few years. – The Lies of Locke Lamorra, Scott Lynch.

I looked at the colorful, angular Kuyene script stamped on the
cover. “I can’t read this.” –  In Daylight and Darkness (this one’s me).

Describe how it sounds

Mention the way the spoken language or individual words sound. If your language is spoken by a large population or you’re dealing with characters speaking it as a second language, you can mention or describe accents as well.

[The] rumbling tones of regul language that neither humans nor probably even mri had ever pronounced as regul might. – The Faded Sun Trilogy, C. J. Cherryh.

He spoke…very precisely, so the accent of Solcintra rang sharp against her ear. Scout’s Progress, Sharon Lee and Steve Miller. (This series has my favorite treatment of fictional languages of all time.)

Terms of address

It’s common to convey respect and relative social position using different terms of address. Even in a relatively relaxed culture like the United States, Mister, Missus, and Doctor still get used, especially in professional settings. The English language has a wealth of formal terms to draw on, but if your language and culture doesn’t have a similar heritage, it can distract from your worldbuilding.

You can invent your own set of honorifics by either repurposing English terms in new ways or inventing your own terms whole cloth.

They can be straightforward, as in this matriarchal elf society:

Matriarch Seveliana Bluewater, known as The Wasp Mistress, stood with her two daughters in front of her. – The Corrupted Core, John Stovall.

Or tweak common English terms for something new, as with this extrapolation of “arcane”:

Our island’s founder was none other than Master Arcanist Gregory Ruma. – Knightmare Arcanist, Shami Stovall.

In The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison takes a mixed approach. The elven emperor is referred to as “your imperial serenity” for a subtle commentary on elf culture, while common address terms are invented, like mer, merrem, and min for men, married women, and unmarried women respectively.

Indulge your creativity

If you’re not trying to make a usable conlang, you can describe your language doing things that might be impossible.

In Hart’s Hope, Orson Scott Card created a language that uses the same symbols for letters and numbers. Words and phrases can be added up or down to create numbers that convert back into new words.

[The] cleverest scribes order their numbers to make words and their words to make numbers, too, so that in this book the whole astronomy of the universe is mathematically portrayed in the story of Azasa and the absigent… – Hart’s Hope, Orson Scott Card.


Any of these options will take some thought and awareness as you write, but they only take a fraction of the time of creating a full conlang. However, they still pay off by making your world seem deeper and more real.

In Daylight and Darkness is on tour!

My book is on blog tour this month! I’ll be having socially-distanced stops at six book review blogs and there’s an associated giveaway.

Go check them out and see what other great books they can recommend to you.