As we look ahead to have some days off together for the holidays, we reflect on all we are thankful for across these past 12 months. It’s been a huge time of change for us. We moved twice, were unemployed, started new jobs, began a business, explored, and took on new adventures! It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the difficulties in life, especially when you have CPTSD as I do, but it’s important to also take time to be thankful for things.
Family & Friends
One highlight from the last years was meeting my biological family. This included my grandfather, Lonnie. Just after I met him he was diagnosed with ALS, a terminal illness. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend with him. We lost him last year just before Christmas.
We are thankful for our two kitties, Danaerys and Gamora. Dany’s super relaxed attitude, friendliness when you’re laying down, and clumsiness when she climbs is always endearing. Gamora’s high energy, outspokenness, and constant desire to be held always brings a smile to our face, even when she trips us during zoomies.
Our New Home
We are thankful for our new home and all the adventures it has provided. We’ve never lived in this region of the country before, and we’ll have plenty to explore for years to come! I also love being less than 30 minutes from the beach and right next to Chicago. It’s given us so much to see and to do, our wanderlust is very satisfied right now.
You never know how thankful you are to have a job until you don’t have one. We made it through the ups and downs of finding a new job together, and are very thankful to have steady income once again. Our jobs have also given us great opportunities! Dorian got to interview WWE superstar Zoey Stark this week, which was such an exciting opportunity.
We love each other more every year, and have gotten through every challenge hand-in-hand. This past year has presented unique challenges, but we’re both glad to have had on another’s backs. And most importantly, been there to hold one another when we felt weak. We are so excited for what is to come.
Excerpt of the upcoming fifth book of the Thread of Souls series!
We’ve been working on the fifth book in our Thread of Souls fantasy series since early this year. We expect it to be released in spring of 2024. As we draw ever-closer to its publication, we want to give you an excerpt from an early chapter as a preview! While this has been edited, it is still not in its final form and may be edited more.
Ruuda kept her head down and hood up as she trudged through the rainy Eleste’si streets. Flanked by Jasita, Wash, and Unolé with Teshuva, the group tried to move as quickly as possible without drawing the attention of the Thornguard.
Something else has drawn their attention, anyway, she thought sourly.
Even in the dark of the night, a glow lingered in the direction of the docks, framing the graceful silhouettes of buildings. And from it, a thick cloud of smoke. Ruuda knew what it was. The remains of the ship that was set ablaze. The trap sprung to catch Taliesin, and kill her.
But she was still alive. She had Jasita to thank for that. The healing elixir the crystalmancer had brought along saved her life.
“Where are we going?” Unolé asked. The tips of her horns, adorned with gold, stuck out from her hood.
“To talk to a smuggler,” Ruuda replied. “It’s the same woman that got Taliesin and I out of the city when we first left the Deep Hollows. She’s near the southern border wall. Her name is Zayra, and she’s not friendly.”
“We don’t need her to be friendly,” Wash said, “we just need her to get us underground.”
Wash had been all-business since the attack had happened, his usual dry humor and teasing gone. While Ruuda and Taliesin had been away at the docks, the rest of the group had been attacked by assassins of the cult of Aranese. They’d survived, though Unolé had been badly injured. With Taliesin gone, Ruuda knew the burden fell on her to guide the others. They’d never been to the Deep Hollows before, they’d need her knowledge and skills to survive and find their friend.
I’d be faster on my own, Ruuda reasoned. But she knew she couldn’t leave them behind. Taliesin had asked her not to.
Once they had recovered enough from their wounds, the group had packed as lightly as possible and left the Sanguine Vestibule. Ruuda had left her barrel behind. It would only slow her down. They had quickly spoken to Hwalla privately, away from his children, explaining that Taliesin had been kidnapped and they were going to rescue him. The dark gnome had been deeply worried, and wished them all the best. Ruuda felt sorry for Hwalla. His entire life had been uprooted because of Aranese’s influence.
Damn that goddess. I hate her.
As they hurried through an open town square, they passed a large and ornate stone fountain. Built atop it was a statue of a high elf with her hand on a mirror wreathed in ivy and leaves. There was something about it that made Ruuda sad.
“What does it mean?” Unolé asked Jasita, gesturing to the statue.
Jasita’s fair, angular face peered up against the rain to take in the fountain. “It is a symbol for passage into the Wilds. It’s in mourning of what was lost when the high elves were cut off from that plane of existence.”
Unolé paused for a moment, then said, “You work for the people who did this, but you’re a high elf.”
“The people who did this are long dead.”
They continued swiftly and silently through the streets until Ruuda recognized the area where she’d first met Zayra. Tall stone walls bordered them, and the alleys ran narrow and dark. The usual design of the city, all cherry blossoms and pinks and blues, was less present here.
Ruuda turned to her companions. “Stay in this alley. I’ll go forward and talk to her privately.”
“I can help if you need me to,” Jasita offered, fingering the moonstone ring along her finger.
“I know. But I’ve got this.”
Ruuda stepped out alone and pulled back her hood. Her wild hair, dyed all the colors of fire, hung drenched past her shoulders. She knew the roots were coming in white now. It had been a very long time since she’d dyed her hair with the enchanted dyes of her people.
White just like Taliesin’s hair.
Ruuda glanced around, steeled herself, and said aloud, “Zayra! I’ve come with a job.”
A long moment passed, and then a dagger flashed through the air. It sped by Ruuda and embedded itself in the wall near Wash’s head. The soldier flinched, and Jasita squealed in surprise.
A dark shadow dropped from a rooftop before Ruuda. A lithe woman in a dark cloak. Pulling back the cloak revealed the dark elf smuggler, Zayra. She looked just as Ruuda remembered, though it had been nearly two years. She was almost six feet tall, with her white hair tied back into a bun and scars marking her gray skin.
“I count four of you,” Zayra spat with her arms crossed. “Are there any more hiding?”
Ruuda sighed in exasperation and motioned for her companions to join her. “Just the four of us.”
Wash and Unolé strode boldly out and Jasita shuffled less confidently after them. Zayra’s red eyes took them all in. Ruuda noticed a barely perceptible frown pass Zayra’s face as she noticed the stained blood on their clothes and patched-up injuries.
“What services do you need from me?” the smuggler demanded.
“We need to be taken to the Deep Hollows. Unnoticed,” Ruuda answered.
Zayra tilted her head to one side. “I understand you going back home, little dark dwarf, but why would these Surface-dwellers wish to go underground?”
Wash was quick to answer. “We’re all adventurers seeking to hunt monsters and earn some gold.”
A scoff escaped Zayra. “The Deep Hollows is a dangerous place. You won’t return alive. Especially someone as petite as you, half-fiend.”
Unolé’s purple eyes narrowed. “I’ve fought plenty of monsters in the last year. I am not afraid.”
“You should be. I’m not keen to smuggle idiots, much less Surface-dwellers, down into my home.”
Ruuda felt hot, angry tears bite at her eyes. Taliesin could be suffering at his moment, and she was here wasting her time in negotiations. But before a furious retort could fly off her tongue, Unolé stepped forward and held up a pack that jingled with gold coins.
“How does one thousand gold per person sound to you?” Unolé asked in a tone that implied she already knew the answer.
Everyone looked to Unolé in surprise.
Zayra fumbled with her words a moment before asking, “Is that your money, or did you steal it?”
“Why would it matter to you?”
“I don’t want trouble coming my way.”
Unolé’s eyes narrowed further. “And we don’t want you to bring us into any trouble. We want to get safely and quietly down to the Deep Hollows.”
Wash spoke up, his arms crossed over his chest. “Why are you arguing with us about this? Isn’t your whole job smuggling?”
“I don’t like speaking to a man,” Zayra sneered.
“Enough!” Ruuda stepped forward, holding her hands out. She turned a fiery glare to Zayra. “A dark elf male was taken by another dark elf tonight at the docks. Do you have any information about this?”
For the first time a smile crossed Zayra’s face. “I might. If you up the price to five thousand gold, I’ll tell you what I saw.”
Ruuda leaned in toward the other woman. Despite the substantial height difference, Ruuda’s strong build was imposing and her expression like a roaring wild fire. Zayra leaned slightly back, hand hovering by the dagger at her hip.
Ruuda growled, “For five thousand you tell us what you know, and you get us to the Deep Hollows without trouble. Understood?”
Zayra’s tone had lost much of its bravado as she replied. “Agreed.”
Notice: all content is protected and copyrighted under Tal & Ru Travels LLC.
Happy Halloween and bestest Samhain! We’ve enjoyed an October full of fun activities and celebrations. While we are not into deep horror that is rampant this time of year, we do enjoy some mild spooks, fun decorations, and of course dressing up!
This year our costumes were Rhea Ripley and Dominic Mysterio from WWE. When we went to a Halloween party at a local events facility it was great to be recognized. Our favorite moment was a slightly inebriated man walking past and saying, “It’s Dirty Dom and Mami!”
We enjoyed events around the city, including a hay ride during a fall festival. There was plenty to celebrate at home, as well. We played spooky video games including Resident Evil Villageand the Neverwinter trickster festival. We carved pumpkins, had a horror-themed Magic the Gathering battle, and played the Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate board game.
Every Friday night we had a movie night! This year’s round-up was A Haunting in Venice, Coraline, The Addams Family Values, The Owl House season 3, and Hocus Pocus 2.
Our biggest celebration, of course, was Dorian’s birthday! Sadly he had a sprained ankle across his three-day weekend, but we still managed to see Josh Gates Live which was so much fun.
Celebrating my Celtic heritage we have had a good time with Samhain activities. We walked through a cemetery, and the oldest grave was came across was 1796. We also saw an old mausoleum that hadn’t been touched in years nestled halfway into a forest.
Tonight we’ll be celebrating at home with dancing, costumes, tarot and rune readings, and mummy bowling! Wishing you the happiest celebration! Let us know in the comments what your costume is this year!
It’s been a busy month! We’ve been out enjoying the activities and events that are spooky season related, as well as doing activities at home. We’ve been hard at work for Thread of Souls and other projects. We actually took over 100 photos this month alone, so it’s been easy to tell we’ve had a good time!
Thread of Souls Books
We are currently working on Book V of Thread of Souls. Part II is completed and I have done a round of edits. This week I’m passing that section of the book over to Dorian for his round of edits. Then, I’m going to take another look at Part 1 for even more edits! And finally, at the start of November I can begin writing Part 3. Editing can be tedious, but it is a necessary process.
The audiobook for Phantom Five is in the process of being edited.
We’ve updated the Welcome page and Blog pages of the website, check them out!
I’ve been lending my hand at Game Sandwich (a website co-founded by Dorian) doing social media marketing and editing. It’s been a good time!
Been on the lookout for some new merch on our shop in time for the holidays!
Dorian sprained his ankle and foot, which has made us go to the doctor’s office every Friday for the last three weeks for check-ups. He did it at work on the TV show set, so we assume it’s part of the process for worker’s comp to continually go in for follow-up visits.
We got to see Josh Gates Live which was an amazing event! We love Josh Gates and have been watching his shows for nearly a decade now. It was a cold and rainy night, but the theater was beautiful!
Otherwise, we’ve been celebrating spooky season all month long. Pumpkin carving, going to a fall festival, playing themed board games, visiting a cemetery, and more. One of our highlights was going to our first-ever adult Halloween-themed party hosted by an event center. We had such a blast!
Don’t be an NPC, aka, be the main character of your life.
We’re always amused when we see memes online about finding out you’re an “NPC” in life. One joked that a man realized he takes the same route every day, he has the same schedule each week, and he talks to the same people, which makes him an NPC. Anyone in the gaming community is familiar with the term NPC, or non-playable character. It is a character that does not have the same adventures as the characters you play. They are usually found in the same place, providing the same services, with similar dialogue. No one wants to be the NPC. Everyone wants to be the main character. That’s why we play their stories.
In life, though, it’s easy to get caught up in routine and expectations. You stop dreaming of great adventures and instead make do with the mundane. But can’t life be more? That isn’t to say that having a steady job, paying bills, and doing chores aren’t important in life. Through those, we can set ourselves up to be the “main character”. A person with a life worth talking about. As two people who were inspired by stories and sought to move beyond an NPC life, here are our tips.
You never seen an NPC taking chances. Their function is to support others that take chances. This doesn’t mean invest all of your money into a stock and hope it makes you rich because you “took a chance”. It’s deeper than that.
Taking a chance can mean starting a side hustle with something your passionate about. It means independently publishing a book about a story dear to you. It means learning a new language, moving somewhere you’ve never been, or trying something that is usually frightening to you.
By taking chances, we open our lives up to new experiences.
Seek New Experiences
I read a quote once that said something along the lines of “sometimes one day in a new place gives you more life than 10 years at home“. That always stuck with me. Our lives are enriched when we doing something new. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Just this week we went to a fall festival that we’d never been to, to this massive farm/campground we’ve never been to, and took a hayride tour through beautiful nature trails. It was our favorite part of the whole day, because it was a brand new experience.
An NPC is predictable because they don’t try new things. But a main character is worth playing because they do try new things. Go somewhere you’ve never been before, even if it’s in your own town. Try something you’ve never tried before, like camping in a tent, going to a painting class, or taking a road trip.
Last month we took a road trip up to Wisconsin. We had a great time because we’ve never been to Wisconsin. We loved looking at the sights, even if we were just passing through a small town or seeing a major company’s headquarters. Our lives were broadened by this new experience.
And sometimes, the way to have the most new experiences, is to leave home.
You are likely to always find an NPC in the same place. They don’t leave home. The reason you follow the main character is because they do leave home. And this starts their adventure. I read a quote once that said “all adventures start by running away from home“. Until the day I die I will be an advocate for everyone leaving their hometown at some point in their lives.
We’ve lived in three states and eight cities. From the beaches to the mountains to the plains. Rural communities, active suburbs, and major metropolitan areas. Houses, apartments, townhomes, and even a campervan. The best part of our lives started when we decided to leave home.
Your world view is so limited by only staying in the same area your whole life. You never really shake free from the mindset of when you were in high school. You don’t see new cultures, new ways of life, and new landscapes. It’s more than just being a tourist for a week. It’s integrating your everyday life in a brand-new place. And through that, you have access to so many new experiences, and you take so many new chances. I would call it one of the most rewarding experiences of your entire life.
We give the promised six-month update on how it’s been after leaving social media.
In April we decided to leave social media. Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Discord, Facebook . . . probably more. It’s hard to remember now! We not only had it for personal use for a number of years, but we primarily used it for our book series and to connect with others in the writing, fantasy, and TTRPG community. But after much conversation we decided to close out all our accounts. The reason was simply the focus on negativity, drama, and arguing that was prevalent. Though we were very rarely the target of any of this, it was exhausting do a daily check-in on social media hoping for great content and instead seeing the latest drama.
When we made the announcement on our website, we said we’d check back in to let you know how things have been. There is one word I’d use to describe it. Fantastic.
We thought we might miss it, but we don’t. Our time has been freed up. We no longer spend time posting, reading, planning content, and networking. Instead of mindlessly scrolling, we spend our extra time together playing games and doing activities in the city. It is also a mental relief of being freed from the constant feed of negativity.
Without getting into the details of any issue here, the last few months we were on social media were riddled with drama that we tried our best to avoid. The Hogwarts Legacy game was released and we witnessed all sides of the debate fighting each other, bullying each other, and blocking each other. Tweets like these were a daily occurrence:
“This game reviewer is playing Hogwarts in an hour. Let’s go raid her comments and force her to stop playing!”
“I feel like this Hogwarts issue has brought out the worst in me. But I don’t know how to quit. I just get so upset every day. People can block me if they want. I don’t care.”
There was also a lot of drama about Wizards of the Coast and their OGL 1.1. The main issue there was the spreading of false information. People would make up announcements to post just to get a big reaction for 24 hours before it would be revealed it was fake.
Who would miss that?
When stepping outside of the world of social media, priorities get readjusted. You realize how little all of that mattered. How so many people were just hopping on the platform to argue with strangers for no reason at all. It’s like graduating high school. Suddenly, there is a realization of how silly it all was.
In these six months since leaving social media, our happiness as increased, our peace as increased, and our time has increased. There are no regrets.
We’ll check in again at a year and let you know how things have been!
Question: What is your relationship with social media, and do you think it can be improved?
We haven’t done a Spool of Souls in forever! It’s time to give all of you an update on Thread of Souls and our current projects.
Writing Book V
Book V in our Thread of Souls series is in the process of being written, with an anticipation of publication in Spring of 2024. As the books get more involved and the series plot thickens, more time is needed for each book. So 12-month releases are unlikely haha. Part 1 has been completed and gone through its first two rounds of edits. We are currently in the middle of Part 2.
We only have one chapter left to record for the first audiobook of Phantom Five. After that, we’ll go through the editing process and then release it! We are only a team of two, and we do work full time on top of running Thread of Souls and Game Sandwich. We are excited to soon be getting the first of many audiobooks released!
We have a launched a handful of new merchandise in our Redbubble shop! These include a Jade typography shirt and sticker, a Drybarrel Ale shirt, a Phantom Five phone cover, an Ash & Thunder journal, a Path of the Spiders bag, and an Asunder scarf!
This year has been a busy time of transition. We’re coming off both being laid off from our FT salaried jobs, a period of unemployment, and getting back to work in July after moving to a new state. We’re finally settling back into a routine and returning to our Thread of Souls projects. We also sold our car and bought a new one, a sexy yellow hatchback! All in all, it’s been crazy busy and we’re ready for things to slow down haha.
Earlier this year Dorian co-founded a website called Game Sandwich. With how busy we’ve been we’ve neglected to talk about it! Though it’s only been around six months, it’s already seeing tremendous growth and success. We would be remiss not to let you know about this exciting venture and its backstory.
In the spring of this year, Dorian was one of a large number of freelancers all suddenly let go from a gaming website. Everyone was devastated. Freelancing is difficult enough as it is, with very little pay, sudden cuts in hours, and limited work availability. Many of the people let go relied on that job to afford groceries.
“I’ve had nothing to eat but chips and pop-tarts all week,” one of these people told Dorian. “I can’t afford anything else. I don’t know what to do.”
This got Dorian thinking. While he couldn’t do anything about the money, perhaps he could do something to lift everyone’s spirits, and give them a new purpose. He suggested the idea of bringing together everyone that was laid off to create their own gaming website. One where they could create quality content based on their expertise and experience, and not what an executive who had never picked up a controller deemed to be acceptable.
The response was immediate. For days Dorian was bombarded with messages of everyone interested. Writers, editors, SEO specialists, website creators, and more. After a few meetings, talking with a small business specialist, and submitting for an LLC, Game Sandwich was up and running!
The passion each of these creators has drives the website. All of them do this for the love of it, and that love is paying off. Game Sandwich continues to grow, giving these once voiceless creators and platform and a purpose.
We don’t typically do news-based posts, but with the sudden passing of Bray Wyatt, we felt some thoughts were appropriate. Windham Rotunda wrestled with the WWE as the character Bray Wyatt, and he tragically passed on Thursday.
I had watched WWE on and off in my adolescence. One of the early dates I took Dorian on was seeing WWE when they came to our home city. Neither of us really followed it, but we had a good time haha.
In 2018, we began watching in earnest. And that was because, one night when we randomly turned on the tv, Bray Wyatt was fighting Seth Rollins. Bray was doing his Fiend character, and we were mesmerized. We were taken in by his performance, by the spectacle, and by this darker storyline.
We watched WWE regularly for Bray, and we were beyond excited when he returned in fantastic fashion in 2022. The character not only of the Fiend, but of Bray Wyatt himself inspired us as creators. His was the first merchandise we ever bought from WWE. Last Christmas I bought Dorian a death moth necklace from Etsy inspired by Bray’s 2022 return.
Thursday night we were sitting together, playing Baldur’s Gate 3, when we saw the news. It is shattering, and we are both heartbroken.
Every time we sit down to watch WWE, we will remember that is because of Windham Rotunda.
Hello all! We can’t believe how long it’s been since we last posted. There’s been so many changes in our lives the last handful of months that we’ve neglected the website. We’ve had changes in location, new career opportunities, and even a return to graduate school. It’s been busy! But the books and associated projects are still carrying on. Since we haven’t gotten to update you in a while about what is in-progress, here is an overview of what we’ve been working on the last few months!
Thread of Souls Updates
We’ve been doing minor updates to the interior and exterior of the books. We’ve given our author names an updated look and removed some non-essential info from the interior About the Authors page, such as social media links.
Book V is progressing well! Part 1 is finished, and we are moving on to Part 2. We still anticipate a release date in early 2024, but of course our focus is on telling the best story possible. Keep on the lookout for excerpts and other announcements as they are released!
Finally, finally audiobooks are in-progress! They are being voiced by our very own Dorian, who has professional instruction and experience in voice acting. We communicated with a handful of other voice actors, but in the end no one knew the world and the characters better than Dorian. It was just a matter of finding the time haha. Expect Phantom Five very, very soon with the others to follow across the rest of this year.
As we revamp and re-evaluate our online presence, expect some changes to the website. The two biggest ones we’re most excited about is adding a Characters page and a World page. This will give some fun insight into Corventos and the characters you follow.
Be on the look out for more regular posts from now on, and thank you for your support!