Free Book Today – Baking With Swords

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The short story collection I published a few months ago with my brother Paul and my sister Betsy is now available for free for a very limited time (just one more day!).
You can pick it up at no cost and enjoy three separate and different short stories. Paul’s story, The Price of Greatness, is about man’s eternal search rivaling the ordinary of daily life. Betsy’s tale, Flutter, tells about a mother and her daughter, who is undergoing inexplicable changes. My story, A Whimper, is an end-of-the world tale through the lens of one person and society’s dependence on technology.
To get it, just click on the large cover image above!

Baking With Swords: My Take

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Concept 3With all the blog posts I’ve shared lately, I haven’t offered my own take on Baking With Swords — why I decided to collaborate with my brother and sister, and what prompted me to write the story I included.

While I was whittling down the days until I was finished writing and editing Dead Sight, back in February and March, I started writing a short story. I never had any ambition beyond it being a short story that I would just release as a stand-alone tale, similar to the first story I’d ever written and published, Perfect Game.

I happened to say something on Facebook about it, and my brother, Paul, asked if I could wait to publish it until he was done writing a story. (Here is his story on how he started writing.) It was a strange request, so I waited a little bit. After some more inquiry, I found out he wanted to just throw it in at the end of my story as a “bonus” of a sort to any potential readers.

I read his story — or at least, what it was at that time. It was good. There was some great ideas in it and it just needed some polishing. It was better than just an unmentioned add-on to a little short story I was writing. I also knew my word count on A Whimper wasn’t going to be much — probably 6-8,000 words — and his was going to be about the same.

So, I proposed the idea of splitting the book title, or even inviting our sister, Betsy, along for the ride. I knew she had been dabbling with writing fiction since I started my publishing journey and figured maybe she had something she could work up fairly quickly. (Read more about her road to her inclusion here.)

Betsy was game, so I put my story on the backburner for a little while. School took over and I let the two of them tinker and finish their stories. In the end, each of our stories clocked in at roughly the same length — about 7,000 words a piece.

I love Paul’s story because it really is heartfelt. There is a lot of emotion from his main character, Max, and the choices he has made in his life. Obviously Paul isn’t Max, but you can see the questions he has asked are questions Max faces as well.

Betsy’s story fits her, as well. She is a mother to two little boys, both under the age of four. There are so many fears and insecurities that accompany being a parent to a toddler and an infant and she confronts them head-on in this tale. Paul and I really challenged her in the editing process and I think she came out of it with a great story that will connect with a lot of readers.

As for my story? Well, I shared a bit of it with you a few months ago. (Here’s that link.) I must’ve read some technology story, or even Michael Bunker’s Pennsylvania, and thought of the ramifications should we ever have chips in our heads (PIPs as I call them in A Whimper). What would the effects be? I think there are so many effects worldwide that I really could have written a full-length novel, but I chose personal ones to the main character. It is told first person and my brother said the tone reminded him of Ready, Player One, which is a huge compliment and may be true since I had just re-read it prior to starting the work on it.

How will the end come for humanity? Will it go out in a blaze of glory, or will it go in a whimper? Most books and stories choose the former, but I wanted a look at the latter.

I’ll confess I’m not the closest person to his family. I don’t talk to them much. I last talked on the phone to my mother probably two weeks ago (Reminder to myself to get on that), and Facebook and text messaging is the best way to get a hold of my brothers and sister. I live in Southern Illinois, one brother lives in northern Illinois, my sister in Michigan, and my older brother in Oregon. We are spread out, but when it counts, we are there for one another.

I don’t know if Paul and Betsy will continue to write and publish, but with my limited expertise, I wanted to be able to help them on their first trip into self-publishing.

As of this writing, the collaboration has received five reviews, four of which are five-star and the other is four-star. I would love to hear back from anyone else who has read it. Really, you should buy the book for my brother and sister and hopefully my story in this book is the bonus, not their’s.


Oh…don’t forget about the BWS Launch Party Monday on Facebook. <– Click there to join.

Find the link and the massive amount of giveaways I’ve got scheduled right here —> LOOK AT ALL THESE GIVEAWAYS!

 

Baking With Swords: The Agonizing (and Maddening) Search for a Title

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Alright, so if you haven’t been paying attention, my family collaboration Baking With Swords releases soon and the question at the tip of your brain is probably, “How much bacon is too much bacon?”

Concept 3Then, after you realize you can never have too much bacon, you ask, “Where and how did they come up with a goofy title like Baking With Swords? Well, contrary to my father’s short tale about warriors returning from battle, there is a story to the process. It may not be exciting, but at times it is fascinating and maybe even a little humorous. 

Since my brother, my sister, and I all contributed stories to this collection, I thought it only fair that we came up with a name together. So, the following is most of a Facebook private conversation between the three of us over a week’s time when we each tossed names out there. To be honest, these are probably only half the names we considered as I believe I had separate conversations with Paul and Betsy where I had a couple of other names tossed in as well as a public poll on potential titles. All in all, there was a moment I was about to bash my head into a wall. 

In the end, I think Baking With Swords has an even more special meaning since we have a half-baked title and we each can have sharp personalities with each other as siblings. So without any further delay, here is that conversation (please note we didn’t care about grammar or punctuation in our Facebook chat):


Paul: Thinking title ideas . How about From Shadows Revealed ?

Paul: Or, Finalities

Will: I like second better. Or we could go off our relationship and call it “Sibling Rivalry”

Paul: Familial Finalities?

Will: hmmm…

Will: I would go with Finalities over that.

Betsy: Finalities? Is that because everything we’ve written ends badly? Wow we’re a morbid bunch.

Paul: That’s my thought.

Will: Not necessarily badly…but just final.

Betsy: well…it’s not exactly a good ending for my main character…Ms. Adams…

Paul: Ok. Seems obvious that title still needs some thought. If we want to consider the sibling theme here’s two: Sib Tales or Sibblettes.

Will: Family Ties?

Paul: Makes me think of Tootie and Mrs Garrett

Will: Thats the Facts of Life

Paul: Oops, sorry Alex!

Will: Family Tithe?

Paul: Tales from the Stream?

Will: Bards, fairies, and the end of everything

Paul: Hmmm

Will: You like it, dont you?

Paul: Is that too revealing for 2 of you?

Will: May want to tweak it. Not sure we want to give all that away about betsy’s. Mine would be fine. Wings?

Paul: Idk

Will: A Bard, a Pair of Wings, and Your Internet Connection. Lol

Paul: Why not just call the whole thing Instability?

Will: I like it. Lets wait for betsy to chime in.

Betsy: It’s not awesome, but I’m ok with it.

Will: Well smarty pants…come up with something better to tie together our totally unrelated stories.

Betsy: Transience. And yes, I looked up Instability in the thesaurus….

Will: Fine with me too. Or we could just go with “We Have No Idea What To Call This Book”

Betsy: That could work… We can’t call it “The Search For Spock” can we? No…probably not.

Will: “The Search for a Decent Title”…  Skinny Genes… Acid-washed Genes… Sarah said she liked the title “Nerd Alert”

Betsy: “The Quest for Closure”… Bad Endings

Will: Morphin’ Time!

Betsy: YES! no. The Shaky Life of Fictional People

Betsy: I bet there are people out there whose sole job is to title books.

Will: A Requiem, A Metamorphosis, and a Coda… Insert title here…

Betsy: Isolation

Will: Ok….bringing it all back to this: how about Sibling Rivalry?

Paul: Hi. Wow. How about Three Nuts in a Jar ?

Betsy: That was your working title…I suggested it when I didn’t know it was your working title…

Will: Why dont you guys keep plugging away at your stories and keep the title in the back of your mind. I put my cover guy to work with a couple working titles and we’ll see how the mock-ups look in a few days.

Betsy: works for me.

Paul: Hey! I like 3 Nuts in a Jar!

Will: K. Thanks guys. I think this will be pretty cool. Collaborating on collections are sometimes tricky so thanks for being flexible.

Paul: How about we define our personal feelings about what goes into a title. Perhaps we find a commonality somewhere. For me, I like to find some common thread in all three stories, but I don’t care nearly so much about having a clever family reference in the title.

Will: That would be fine with me as well if there are any commonalities we can draw from. I’m ok with whatever.

Paul: However, the thought has also occurred to me that if we did find a good family-related name that it could be a name we come back to if this kind of thing turned into a series – (no promises.)

Will: Sibling Rivalry 3: Revenge of the Sis

Will: Wait for it…. Baking with Swords

Paul: Makes a good cover picture

Will: It could at that

 

Baking With Swords: My Dad’s Take

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As we finish putting the final touches on my family collaborative short story collection Baking With Swords, my father, Paul D. Swardstrom, finally read the stories involved. Afterwards, he took to writing up his own rationale for the title (which has nothing to do with baking or swords – honest!). Following is his own very short story that explains the title with veiled references to me and my three siblings. My other brother, Matthew, is referenced, but isn’t included in this collection. Perhaps we can con him into a future sequel (Baking With More Swords?), but either way, you may see a guest blog post from him in the future since I lent this space to Paul and Betsy recently. 

My writing does have a lot to do with my family as my parents both got me interested in reading and my father’s taste in books certainly rubbed off on me. My mom (Eileene) has helped proof and edit some of my books and is a huge inspiration. This little collection really means a lot to me — the words of the stories are just a small part of that to me.

Without further ado…Baking With Swords by Paul D. Swardsrom


 

Concept 3Forward: As my children would tell you, I love making puns and generating short backgrounds for a pun. When I read the preface to Baking with Swords I could not help but think up a reason why one would bake something with swords. Thus this story. The names used in this story are “changed to protect me from my wife” (just joking??). Of course they are somewhat based on people related to me.

The battle is won and the war is over. Prince Pedeus has met the evil Warlord/King of the invading army during the battle and killed him. With the death of the Warlord, the invading army disintegrated, and many of them were killed as they attempted to flee. Prince Pedeus and most of his staff, support, and protection left with him soon after the battle for the capital. He left his trusted tactical advisor Wilhelm in charge of the rest of the army to clean up the battle area and release the army.

Several days were spent burning the bodies of the dead enemy soldiers, burying the dead not being returned to their home for burial, and cleaning up the battle site. This has been completed; wagons that had brought food and other supplies to the battle are returning home carrying bodies and/or weapons and other useful equipment and materials from the battle site. It is finally complete and Wilhelm meets with his three cousins so that they may begin their journey back to the capital city.

Wilhelm is a tactical genius partially because he teaches general history and tactical history at the collage in the capital city.

Pawel is a master with stringed devices, both archery and musical instruments. He teaches archery because his country needs good bowmen, but his passion is as a minstrel. He was attached to the prince’s entourage as part of Wilhelm’s protection detail, but also as a minstrel for the prince.

Lizzy is an herbiest knowing herbs for healing as well as for cooking. She is very serious about helping the wounded, but her passion is cooking.

Hew sometimes thinks his name is a pun because he often hews wood, metal, and, when necessary, hews people. His favorite weapon is a large axe, but he is also very proficient with a hammer. He is a Master Carpenter and does some blacksmithing on the side. He is normally assigned to the large weapons group as an engineer/technician to support the catapults, ballistas, and other siege weapons.

The four cousins make one last pass over the battlefield finding a few broken swords and other metal that had not been picked up previously. They had two wagons: Lizzy’s herb wagon which had additional supplies for the trip, and Hew’s equipment wagon which now included several broken swords and other discarded equipment.

They traveled some distance and when it was getting late they arrived at a village that had been deserted as the enemy army approached. They did some scrounging and found only a couple of eggs and a vegetable garden. Lizzy was about to prepare a meal when she discovered that in the rush to pack everything up, she only had a small pot that she used to heat water to make tea. The men looked again and did not find anything else to cook with.

Then Hew got a bright idea when he was looking in the blacksmith shop. He asked Pawel and Wilhem to help him and then got the fire started and the forge hot. He then took some of the metal that they had scrounged from the battlefield and made some cooking utensils. He used a couple of plain hilts as handles on a couple of the larger items.

Lizzy was quite happy to see them and cooked a good meal. At the end she brought out a chocolate zucchini cake that she had made in of the larger utensils which included a hilt from a sword and whose base could plainly see was formally several pieces from swords.

And that is where the term “Baking with Swords” comes from.

Afterwards: Eileene and I are proud of my four children and their accomplishments. I also need to acknowledge some other authors for some of the ideas in this short story. Mercedes Lackey in Exile’s Honor provided this inspiration to require the army to clean up the battlefield. Most of the “battle” related stories seem to just leave everything there, in fact Lord of the Rings has a least one section where fields of bones is discussed. Patricia C. Wrede wrote a short story about a skillet as a magic weapon. The main characters in this short story are the main characters from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The chocolate zucchini cake that was mentioned is one of our family’s favorite recipes and I plan to provide two recipes for this cake. One of them is a barbarian shield version and the other one being a normal recipe that you would see in a cook boot.

Guest blogger: Betsy Baker

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One thing I’ve really found over the past year as an independent author is the cooperative and collaborative nature of many writers. I guess I always imagined that most writers sequestered themselves in a dark attic and pounded away on a typewriter until they emerged with Catcher in the Rye or went crazy. (Or both!) 

I am a part of two amazing groups that encourage and push me as a writer and feel I can call a number of other indie writers friends. I can show my work to them and get feedback, positive or negative. Many of them have read at least some of my books and will promote them to other readers when the opportunity presents itself. Writers don’t live in bubbles, as much as it feels like we do at times. 

That’s what I wanted t do when I first decided to do Baking With Swords with my brother and sister. I wanted them to know the writer’s life does not have to be a lonely one. You’ve already read Paul’s guest blog (here) and today you can read Betsy’s road to writing her story Flutter. 

Baking With Swords will be available in print and on Kindle in the next couple weeks. 

(By the way, she refers to me as William, which I allow her and my parents to do. It would seem weird for her to go with Will, so I’ll allow it here. Once.)


 

I’ve started so many stories and books over the years, it shocked me when William managed to finish one first. But then again, William and I have been in competition to be first for most of our lives. I went to college first, but he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do in life before I did. He was engaged first, even though I’d been dating my prospective husband for years before he’d even met Sarah. I managed to get married before him, by one week.

 

Betsy sent me a picture to use, but due to unforseen technology issues, I had to nab a picture off Facebook, just like I did for my brother. (Fair's fair -- and there are no birds in your picture, Betsy!)

Betsy sent me a picture to use, but due to unforeseen technology issues, I had to nab a picture off Facebook, just like I did for my brother. (Fair’s fair — and there are no birds in your picture, Betsy!)

I know what you’re thinking, I got married the week before him just to be first. Well, no. Not really. That date was special to David & me and that’s why we wanted to get married on that date. Getting married first was just a very, very small sibling rivalry perk. (By the way, Sarah, sorry if that really messed you up!)

William & Sarah got pregnant first. That hurt because we then tried for another five plus years before we got pregnant. The hurt and pang from our infertility and loss of a baby is some of what inspired Flutter. You can read more of that story here, if you would like. William tells me that my story also inspired a character for one of his first Wool World stories (The Veil, found here).

William got his Master’s first. Though, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever pursue that. I wanted to at one point, but now I have other priorities.

So, we’ve been competing for our whole lives. But after having my second child I was finally able to set that rivalry aside. When William announced that he had written a short story available for sale on Amazon, and was at work on a novel, I honestly wasn’t jealous. Well, not for longer than sixty seconds, anyway. I was more annoyed at myself. Why had I not done this? I actually, at the time, had two books in the works; a cookbook and a coursebook. I have yet to finish either of these. I’ve been in the editing process for my coursebook for a year and a half now. I’ll get it done, but it’s more tedious than picking small stones out of a cubic foot of sand.

William asked if I’d like to contribute to a sibling compilation book and at first I didn’t know what to say. Really? Wow. Uh…yes…but…what about? And…when will I find time? And….What I’ve learned in my life is that if you really want to do it you just say ‘yes’ and then you get to work. If all you can type is ‘duh, duh, duh’ over and over again, then do it. Eventually you’ll type a different word. And then you’ll type a sentence. And then you’ll type a paragraph.

So I sat down and fairly quickly knocked out the first segment of Flutter, which could stand on it’s own as a very short story. I then realized I could easily write a second segment, which could also stand on it’s own as a very short story. There came a point when I knew where the story was going and how it would end. You know what’s tough? Filling in the middle bits and flushing out the details. And even harder than that is the editing.

Concept 3I’m not good at rejecting what I’ve written. I get protective of my works. Like a mother bird over her little chicks. Really, though, I need to remember that when it’s gotten to the editing phase it’s time to let the little chick fly. I need to let go and let it grow up. William was very gracious during the editing process of Flutter and very much walked me through it.

Like I said, Flutter was inspired a bit from my own life, in a way. And I found myself very emotional during the process. I hope it comes through; how much of myself is in this story. But I hope you don’t get bogged down in it, either.

Rivalry isn’t always a bad thing. When William went first in getting published it showed me I can do it, too, and prompted me to get on with it already. I’m glad I’ve had William to compete with. Though now I’m even more glad to have him to work with. Thanks, Mom, for giving me these brothers of mine!

Oh, and yes, this Baker does know how to cook…here’s a great slow-cooker rib recipe:  http://grkids.com/recipe-and-store-sales-matchup-may-20-to-may-26-2012/ (ignore the sales talk, that post is from two years ago).