Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Letters to Psyche Now Available for Kindle!

Cupid and Psyche and Romeo and Juliet. Sounds like quite a complicated love story, doesn't it? I don't remember what first inspired me to weave Cupid into the Montagues' and Capulets' family histories, since I wrote the first draft of this story about a decade ago. I submitted the story, then called "Antidote for a Family Feud," to a couple of publications. While I got some praise from the editors, they ultimately rejected it, and I set it aside and worked on other projects. Finally, last year, I figured out a fresh approach to the story: Cupid writing letters to his wife while he stays on Earth. Why doesn't he return home? Well, here's the blurb:


When the Greek god Cupid visits Verona, he foresees no problems uniting the Montague and Capulet families. But when Elisabeth Capulet and Giovanni Montague's love ends in tragedy, Elisabeth places a powerful curse not on just the families, but Cupid himself. Unable to visit his wife Psyche, he sends her letters detailing his efforts to undo the curse. Can the two of them save another generation of lovers, or will Cupid and Psyche be forever parted?

Currently "Letters to Psyche" is only available on Amazon, though I do plan to remove it from the Select program after three months. In the meantime, hmmm, isn't there a love-themed holiday coming up in the near future?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Blog Ring of Power--Gail Z. Martin

Two weeks ago, Gail Z. Martin wrote a special guest post for my blog. She's back today to tell us about her current work, Ice Forged, for a Blog Ring of Power interview. You can find the first three parts of the interview here:

Terri--About You
Theresa--The Writing Life
Emily--The Creative Process

Dean will conclude the interview tomorrow with Gail's Words of Wisdom.



Tell us about your new book—what is it about—and when it is out? Where can people purchase it?

Ice Forged comes out from Orbit Books on January 8.  It will be available in stores and online booksellers worldwide and also on Kindle, Kobo and Nook.

Here’s the story: Condemned as a murderer for killing the man who dishonored his sister, Blaine “Mick” McFadden has spent the last six years in Velant, a penal colony in the frigid northern wastelands of Edgeland. Harsh military discipline and the oppressive magic of the governor’s mages keep a fragile peace as colonists struggle against a hostile environment. But the supply ships from Dondareth have stopped coming, boding ill for the kingdom that banished the colonists.

Now, McFadden and the people of Velant decide their fate. They can remain in their icy prison, removed from the devastation of the outside world, but facing a subsistence-level existence, or they can return to the ruins of the kingdom that they once called home. Either way, destruction lies ahead…

Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject?

There are a lot of post-apocalyptic books based in modern or post-modern times, but not a lot in a medieval setting, which was something that intrigued me.  I also wanted to play with the idea of a society that depended on magic the way we depend on the power grid, and then take that magic away as part of a devastating war.  Then I asked, “What if the only person who might be able to restore the magic was a convict who had been exiled to the end of the world?”

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

I think the hardest part of any book is the first chapter.  Once you get going, I find that the book becomes easier, but getting past those first blank screens is the tough spot!

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

As difficult as the beginning of a new book is, I think that with Ice Forged I particularly like the first couple of chapters, since I’m pleased with the way it introduces readers to the characters and the situation.

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like?

When you work with a big publisher, you have very little input on the cover, so you cross your fingers and pray.  I had a chance to see the cover once the art was drafted, but at that point, there really wasn’t anything that could have been changed.  Fortunately, I liked the cover art, which has been the case for all of my books.  I’ve been very lucky to have some amazing cover artists.  I do get a little more input on the back blurb and tag line, but again, I’m lucky to have a team of talented people at Orbit working on that so I can focus on writing.








Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com. Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.
Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:

Blog:
Amazon:
Other: Podcast


Friday, January 25, 2013

Science of the Week, 1/25/13

Here we are at the end of January already. When you're busy, time flies quickly.

Here are some of the most interesting articles from Science Blog this week:

Immune cells engineered in lab to resist HIV infection

"Quadruple helix" DNA found in human cells

Martian underground could contain clues to life's origins

Dung beetles use stars for orientation

Orangutans go ape for apps

DNA isn't just for proteins anymore; scientists are now able to encode Shakespeare's sonnets, audio, and scientific papers into the molecule. DNA is ideal for compact, long-lasting storage. You can find out more in this article.

I finished reading the February 2013 issue of Scientific American this week. Some of the most interesting articles are about high-speed battery-operated cars, concept brain cells, and anti-oxidants.

Finally, on a personal note, I took my son to a cryogenics demonstration at our library last night. I wasn't able to get pictures, but we watched a scientist from Fermilab dip things into liquid nitrogen. He shrank balloons, used a banana hammer and a rubber nail, and blew up a cardboard box. It's been cold this week, but fortunately not liquid-nitrogen cold.

Did your science teacher ever freeze things? If not, did you ever see a science demonstration?












Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain--Writing Ch-Ch-Changes

This round, Amparo wants us to be like David Bowie: turn and face the strain--I mean, changes:

It's a new year, and some writers have taken it upon themselves to switch things up. *points at self* It might be the genres you write in or your revision process. It might be your main character's voice. What's one thing you've chosen to change in your writing this new year? Why do you wish to change it? If there's nothing you're going to change, why do you think it should remain as is?



As always, I post between Kate and Christine.

I've already discussed my writing goals for this year in a previous post, but I'll summarize them here: I have six projects that I want to publish in 2013. One is already out, two are close to ready, and three still have to be finished and revised. So my goals are results-oriented, not process-oriented like Amparo's. I don't deliberately set out to change my writing techniques, but I find that working on a variety of projects accomplishes it anyway. For example, some of my stories are short, while others are full-length novels. Some stories are in first-person, others in third. The settings range from medieval Verona to our future Earth and an alternative Earth. Every story presents a different challenge, so my writing has to change in response to that.

One thing I probably should change about my writing is using fewer semicolons. That's something my editor mentioned in the line edits for Twinned Universes. Shorter sentences do speed up the pace of fiction; however, there are still times when a leisurely pace is desired or when it's necessary to join two related thoughts. I have no plans to remove any semicolons from my blogging, not just because they're part of my personal style, but because they may also be good for you. According to this study, grammar complexity is linked with reduced risk of Alzheimer's. Unfortunately, that still doesn't motivate me to read Proust, Joyce, or Faulkner, even though the mental workout would be good for my brain.

There is one change that I discussed in my previous blog chain post: doing more outlining and world-building in advance instead of pantsing all the time. When you're writing a series, especially a science-fiction one with a new world, it's vital to be able to track what your world is like. I have to admit that lately I've been writing words in my story, not in my story bible, but that's supposed to be a good thing. Sometimes it's hard to find the balance between writing and accomplishing everything else that supports the writing.

One thing that supports writing is marketing, and I do plan to change my approach this year. As I've mentioned in previous post, I'm experimenting with loss leaders. I also plan to schedule a blog tour for Twinned Universes, even if that delays publication of the book a couple of weeks.

How about you? Are you trying something different with your writing? If so, what is it?



Monday, January 21, 2013

Blog Ring of Power Interview--Lori Sjoberg--and a Giveaway!

We're in the middle of a Blog Ring of Power interview with Lori Sjoberg. You can find the other parts of the interview here:

Part One--Terri--About You
Part Two--Theresa--The Writing Life
Part Three--Emily--The Creative Process
Part Five--Dean--Words of Wisdom

Please check out Terri's post for details on how to win a copy of Lori's latest book, Grave Intentions. The giveaway runs through this Wednesday. If you'd like to learn more about her book first, keep reading.

Tell us about your new book—what is it about—and when it is out? Where can people purchase it?  GRAVE INTENTIONS is the story of David Anderson, a damned soul given one final chance to earn his salvation by reaping the souls of the recently departed.  Sixty years on the job have left him burned out and emotionally dead.  But then he meets Sarah Griffith, a scientist and lifelong skeptic who doesn’t believe in anything paranormal, and things become…complicated.  It’s scheduled for release on January 3, 2013, and is available at most online retailers (amazon, B&N, etc.)

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 
My publisher asked me to rewrite one scene, a scene that I truly loved.  You have no idea how hard it was to cut that scene and replace it with another, but thankfully it all worked out in the end.  Sometimes, you really do have to kill your darlings.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
Isn’t that kind of like asking a mother which of her children is her favorite?  LOL.  I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I do love the chapter where everything Sarah thinks she knows gets turned on its head.  It was fun to explore her reaction to such a drastic change in the landscape of her reality. (I’m trying really hard not to spoil anything.)

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?  
In the grand scheme of things, no.  I love the story the way it is. 

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like? 
All credit (or blame if you don’t like it!) for my cover goes to my publisher’s art department.  My editor gave them some ideas as to what elements he wanted the cover to include, and they did the rest of the work.





Growing up the youngest of three girls, Lori never had control of the remote. (Not that she’s bitter about that. Really. Okay, maybe a little, but it’s not like she’s scarred for life or anything.) That meant a steady diet of science fiction and fantasy. Star Trek, Star Wars, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits – you name it, she watched it. It fed her imagination, and that came in handy when the hormones kicked in and she needed a creative excuse for being out past curfew.
After graduating from the University of Central Florida, Lori spent over a decade working in the fun-filled worlds of retail management, financial planning, and insurance. The writing bug bit a few years later. After completing her first manuscript, she joined the Romance Writers of America and Central Florida Romance Writers. Now she exercises the analytical half of her brain at work, and the creative half writing paranormal romance. When she’s not doing either one of those, she’s usually spending time with her husband and children of the four-legged variety.


He’s handsome, reliable, and punctual—the perfect gentleman when you want him to be. But this dream man is Death’s best agent—and now he’s got more than his soul to lose…

 One act of mercy before dying was all it took to turn soldier David Anderson into a reaper—an immortal who guides souls-of-untimely-death into the afterlife. But the closer he gets to atoning for his mortal sin and finally escaping merciless Fate, the more he feels his own humanity slipping away for good. Until he encounters Sarah Griffith. This skeptical scientist can’t be influenced by his powers—even though she has an unsuspected talent for sensing the dead. And her honesty and irreverent sense of humor reignite his reason for living—and a passion he can’t afford to feel. Now Fate has summoned David to make a devastating last harvest. And he’ll break every hellishly-strict netherworld rule to save Sarah…and gamble on a choice even an immortal can’t win.


Website
Blog 
Facebook page
Goodreads author page
Amazon
Other

What format is your book(s) available in (print, e-book, audio book, etc.)?  e-book


Friday, January 18, 2013

Science of the Week, 1/18/12

It's been a busy week for me. I just got back tonight from a business trip, and I'm also reviewing the line edits for Twinned Universes. I started while I was on my trip, but unfortunately I didn't save my changes to a new file and wound up losing them. Now I have to start over. Consequently, I'm going to cut down on the science links tonight:

Do we really need deodorant?

Robofish Grace glides with the greatest of ease

NASA Beams Mona Lisa to Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the Moon


Can docs, prevent, reverse disabilities in children born prematurely?

Mathematical breakthrough sets out rules for more effective teleportation

Major step toward an Alzheimer's vaccine

 That's it for now. Have a good weekend, and see you on Monday!






Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Paul Harrison's "Resolutions"--and a Giveaway

This month at Scene 13, our characters are sharing their New Year's resolutions, and today it's the turn of Paul Harrison, the star of Twinned Universes. However, he insisted to me that it isn't January in his universe, but late spring, so he called them "anti-resolutions." Whatever you want to call them, you can find them here. I'm also giving away an ebook of Lyon's Legacy, so be quick to check out the post! I may not be so quick at commenting today, since I'm going on a business trip, but I'll check in when I can.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Guest Post:Facebook Fandom: Social Media, Authors and Readers By Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin will be returning to this blog in two weeks for a Blog Ring of Power interview. Today, please enjoy this special guest post from her on social media, authors, and readers.

Not so very long ago, if you wanted to let an author know how much you enjoyed his/her book, you had to write a letter and mail it to the author in care of his/her publisher, hoping that the author would eventually receive it.  You didn’t really expect to hear back, but if a postcard with a few scribbled lines did come your way, it was a rare treasure worthy of framing.

Back in the day, if you were lucky enough to live near a big city, authors might come to a book signing at a local store.  You’d only know about the signing if you read about it in the newspaper, saw a sign in the store window or happened to be on the store’s mailing list, but if you did find out in time, you might have a few seconds to talk to the author while he/she signed your book.  No one expected more, unless you were a regular at genre conventions, a pastime limited to a very small sub-set of die-hard fans in major cities.

How times have changed!  Today, every author who is at all serious about the craft has a web site, a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, an Amazon author page, a blog, often a podcast, and a presence on sites like Shelfari and Goodreads.  Authors also have email newsletters, video trailers on YouTube, downloadable excerpts and bonus material, even avatars in Second Life that hold virtual readings for an audience of virtual people.

As I’ve gotten ready for the launch of my new book, Ice Forged, I’ve taken nearly all of those components into consideration, making sure that I’m accessible to readers through a variety of channels, and assuring that readers can sample the book in as many places as possible.

What changed, besides technology?  The short answer is: everything. 

Digital publishing, print-on-demand and ebooks made it possible the democratization of publishing.  Social media meant that anyone with a computer and an Internet connection could have a global reach greater than many cable TV networks.  Amazon and other online booksellers made books available to a world-wide audience, and ebooks eliminated the costly issues of advance printings, warehousing and distribution.
The number of new books climbed to approximately one million (counting all forms of publishing) in 2010 by one estimate.  How do readers find the next book to read amid all the titles competing for their attention?

Relationships. 

Social media enables authors to create relationships with readers that last beyond a casual comment at a signing or a fan letter.  Watch a video, and you have an idea of the book that goes beyond the blurb on the back cover.  Read the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, and you can get a sense for what a cross-section of readers think.  Participate in the forums and community of sites like Goodreads, and you build relationships with other readers while also getting to have a real, ongoing conversation with the authors who are active on those sites.  Read an author’s blog, and not only do you have continuity between book releases, but you also get some insight into the person who creates the works you enjoy, along with the way to comment.  Stay tuned to the author’s Facebook page, Twitter feed and web site, and you no longer have to depend on the book store or news media to keep you informed about new books and appearances.
Social media has transformed what were once two solitary and disconnected activities: writing and reading.  Sure, you could discuss books with your friends, or with a book club, but even the old-fashioned online bulletin boards don’t compare with the quantity of discussion opportunities available through communities like Goodreads, LibraryThing and ReddIt.  Authors who couldn’t afford to do a national tour once had few options for engaging with readers outside of their local area.  Now, authors Skype into book club meetings on the other side of the world to make a personal appearance, upload readings to iTunes and add video greetings to their web sites.

All this technology has also opened up new opportunities for writer and readers.  Some authors have experimented with crowd-sourcing books, where creative collaboration is part of the fun.  Other authors “test drive” ideas and scenes with their Facebook followers.  Certainly it’s become not only possible, but desirable for authors to post short stories, deleted scenes, bonus material and out-of-print books, as well as new books on a schedule that fits the needs of the author/reader, outside of the timetable of publishers.
Comments and forum boards mean that readers can get beyond the opinions of professional reviewers and see what other readers think, add their two-cents, and commune with like-minded others.  Authors can encourage each other, support each other’s launches, share resources, and collaborate, or just stay in touch between conventions.

Personally, I think it’s great—and I hope that you’ll find me and friend me so that we can begin a conversation that becomes a relationship!

Gail Z. Martin’s newest book, Ice Forged: Book One in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga (Orbit Books), launched in January 2013.  Gail is also the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series (Solaris Books) and The Fallen Kings Cycle (Orbit Books).  For more about Gail’s books and short stories, visit www.AscendantKingdoms.com. Be sure to “like” Gail’s Winter Kingdoms Facebook page, follow her on Twitter @GailZMartin, and join her for frequent discussions on Goodreads.


Read an excerpt from Ice Forged here:

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

"The Mommy Clone," A Catalyst Chronicles Short Story, Now Available

Actually, I published this story Sunday evening, but since I already had pre-scheduled posts for the last couple of days (and I needed to tweak something), I'm making the official announcement today.

For some time, I've wanted to write something in my Catalyst Chronicles universe set between Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes. I finally got an idea and a setting for a story late last year. Since I was sick and in bed Sunday, I had enough time to revise and format the story. Anyway, here's the cover and the blurb:

All Joanna wants to do is entertain her children for a couple of hours while her husband is busy. The multi-story bouncy house promises to be fun, but someone else stalks them, someone wearing Joanna's face. Will Joanna escape with both children, or will her son fall prey to the Mommy Clone?

(The cover was done by Meghan Derico of Derico Photography. She also designed the covers for Lyon's Legacy and "The Book of Beasts.") 

The story is currently free on Smashwords and $0.99 at Amazon and B&N. Please report the lower price to Amazon so they price-match. I want to use this story as a loss leader (at least for now) to encourage readers to try my other books. I'm also going to run an experiment with this short story and the next one I publish (which will initially be in the Kindle Select program for three months): is it better to use Select or price-matching for promotion? I'll report results when I have them. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the story!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Back on the Blog Chain: My Next Writing Project

Welcome to the first blog chain of the year! For this round, Katrina wants to learn about our writing projects:

Write about your next writing project. What is the genre? Is is one you've written before or is it a new venture? Do you have it all figured out or is it just a germ of an idea? What did you learn from your latest writing project that will make this one even better?

I currently have a novel and a short story in varying stages of editing/cover design. However, since I already discussed my novel, Twinned Universes, as part of The Next Big Thing meme, I'd like to talk about the next book in the Catalyst Chronicles series, Catalyst in the Crucible. The Catalyst Chronicles series comprises the stories listed below, in chronological order:

Lyon's Legacy (novella, published)
"The Mommy Clone" (short story, just came out on Sunday, more details tomorrow)
Twinned Universes (novel, in line editing/cover design)
Brave New Girl (short novella, partial draft)
Catalyst in the Crucible (novel, partial draft)
A Challenge of Catalysts (A few ideas but not started yet. This story will follow directly from Catalyst in the Crucible)

I consider "The Mommy Clone" and Brave New Girl bonus stories that aren't part of the main plot line but help to develop the characters.

Going back to Katrina's questions, Catalyst in the Crucible is science fiction. It's set several years after Twinned Universes and features some of the same characters. However, they're moving to different settings and interacting with new characters; both the settings and new characters require development. Part of what makes this story so difficult to write is what happens to the main character at the beginning of the story--and I can't say more without giving away spoilers.

I've been working on CitC for a couple of years; in fact, it was my most recent NaNoWriMo project. Although I made it past the 50K mark, I had trouble advancing in the story after that. I have most of the story figured out except for the climax. I also know the overall climax for the series, but I don't know yet how to get there from the end of CitC. I do have some ideas, however.

One thing I am doing differently on this project is writing out world-building ideas, preparing character worksheets, and trying to outline more. I'm normally a pantser, but the world is growing and becoming complicated to the point where I need to put it out on paper. I'm also hoping outlining will help me reduce the number of drafts required to get this story ready for the world.

Anyway, I'm blogging to avoid writing, so I'd better return to Catalyst in the Crucible.

Kate was the first to discuss this topic, and Christine will cover it tomorrow, so be sure to check out their blogs.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Blog Ring of Power--Susan Curnow

Welcome to the first BRoP interview of 2013! It's especially exciting for me since we're featuring one of my long-time crit partners from the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror (better known as OWW), Susan Curnow. Her book Games of Adversaries was published late last year. Let's get to know her a little better.

How long have you been writing?
Since I was a wee thing.

When and why did you begin writing?
I guess I just had to. Not a conscious decision at the time—I just did.

Tell us about your early works—what was the first thing you ever wrote?
A story, which won an award at school about how we picked up our Labrador pup from a dogs home. After that it was torrid romances which were always set around animals.

When did you first consider yourself a professional writer? 
I guess when my first shorty story was published but truly the day my novel came out with Artema Press.

What books have most influenced your life? 

Early on it was Enid Blyton, who I devoured as a child, then the Silver brumby stories by Elyne Mitchell. I then progressed to Michael Moorcock whose Elric of Melnibone had a huge impact. One of my biggest influences was CJ Cherryh’s Cyteen, because she made me hate a character in the novel so vividly that I thought, I want to write like that. Following that were lovely lyrical writers like Janny Wurts and then Kate Elliott and C.S Friedman.

What genre do you write?
 (Soft) Science Fiction and Fantasy.

What is your favorite theme/genre to write about? 
Just, to take a what-if and expand upon it. Theme-wise, very often, the arrogance of humanity.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?  
The rehabilitation of horses after other people have ruined them.

Games of Adversaries

Yiahan rial Krais dances for his god, while in another time and another world, Commander Marcus Oregada strives to save his folk.

Bereft of families, wives and children, no loved ones live to warn them: Beware the door slammed shut to escape inhuman violence, where memories amass like cobwebs, spun by he who spilled your blood.

For there will be a day of reckoning to sweep away reason and sanity.

To break you and divide you, never knowing it will bind you, as it twists and rends your lives to face the destroyer of souls.

Susan's Social Networks:
Blog:
Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:
Amazon:
Other:

Is your book in print, ebook or both? Both


Susan's interview continues this week at these sites:

Tuesday--The Writing Life--Dean
Wednesday--The Creative Process--Terri
Thursday--About Your Current Work--Theresa
Friday--Words of Wisdom--Emily









Friday, January 04, 2013

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Making the Scene in 2013

I'm posting much more than I usually do this week, but that's because I have a lot to blog about. One of the most exciting topics is this: I've been invited to join a group blog called Scene 13. We're a group of about 25 authors with books coming out this year. Here's the list:

Michelle McLean
Lisa Amowitz
Ellen Booraem
 Lindsay Eland
Toni Kerr
 Kristal Shaff
Jeannie Ruesch
 Kelly Hashway
Jennifer Allis Provost
Kimberly Ann Miller
Lisa Gail Green
PJ Hoover
Rhys A. Jones
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
Christine Johnson
Rachel Harris
Christine Fonseca
Sherry Ficklin
 Hilari Bell
Ednah Walters
Ali Cross
 Tyler Jolley
Heidi Ayarbe
Lena Goldfinch
Cole Gibsen
Leigh Hershkovich


I'll be posting there once a month, on the 15th. For this month's topic, you'll get to read about characters' New Year's resolutions, including Paul Harrison, the protagonist of Twinned Universes.

In addition to following the group blog, you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter. Please check us out and meet some other great authors!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Guest Post--My Take on Magic Systens, by Melissa McPhail

Please enjoy this guest post by Melissa McPhail, author of the spellbinding epic fantasy, Cephrael's Hand. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including a Kindle Fire, $450 in Amazon gift cards, and 5 autographed copies of the book.  

My Take on Magic Systems

A guest post by Melissa McPhail

  One of the most enticing aspects of writing fantasy is developing a magic system. The author’s magic system is inextricably woven into their world and contributes greatly to the reader’s vision of the world overall. The way a system is created either makes the world seem real or unreal, depending on how well the author has grounded the system with laws and limitations. For example, scientists in our own world have defined laws—inertia, gravity, the periodic table—that describe the physical limitations and properties of energy. We don’t expect a stone to rise upwards when we throw it, but we might believe it could float if it were somehow made of helium. Likewise in a fantasy world, it’s important to codify the system with laws and rules (and to stick to those rules once established), to set boundaries for what the magician can and cannot do with magic, and to establish consequences for and ramifications of magical misuse.

This all shows that magic systems require significant thought and research on the author’s part to develop realistically. Yet for all of this, the manner in which one might design and describe the magical process is potentially limitless—there are as many magical systems as there are fantasy novels, and equally as many readers eager to pontificate on their pros and cons and/or to organize the systems into categories and types. The one thing most magic systems have in common, however, is that they all handle energy. Whether that energy is spiritual, omnipotent, corporeal, or derives from physical objects or living things, the working of arcane arts surrounds the manipulation of energy.

I designed the magic in Cephrael’s Hand based on scientists’ existing understanding of electrical fields. The process of thought has been scientifically proven to produce energy, and human bodies are known to generate electrical fields. For the magic in Alorin, I proposed that all living things produce a metaphysical energy which is formless but which flows across the world in natural currents. This energy is called elae. This is the energy a magician of Alorin uses to produce arcane workings. How he does this is the creative part.

In Cephrael’s Hand, all things are formed of patterns. A single leaf derives its pattern from the larger pattern of its motherly oak. The snowflake harbors the pattern of a storm. Rivers form patterns that mimic the pattern of the world, and a living man harbors within him the pattern of his immortality. These inherent patterns collect and compel energy (elae) toward a certain purpose—growth, action, states of change. To compel energy, a magician of Alorin (called a wielder) must learn to first identify and then usurp control over the pattern of a thing in order to command it. This is a laborious process requiring a lifetime of study.

Unlike wielders, the Adepts in Cephrael’s Hand are born with the ability to manipulate certain patterns. Adept Healers can see creation patterns (life patterns) and mend them where they’ve become frayed. Truthreaders can hear certain thoughts and read minds to see what a man saw versus what he says he saw. Nodefinders have the ability to move long distances with a single step by traveling on the pattern of the world. And Wildlings tap into a variant aspect of the lifeforce called elae to shapeshift or even skip through time, among other intriguing talents. The last type of Adept can sense the patterns of nonliving things—stone, air, water, fire, etc.—and use those patterns to compel the elements themselves.

Adepts are limited by nature of their birth—they can only inherently work one category of patterns. They are limited by their training, their inherent intelligence, talent and ability. And of course, like us in real life, they are limited by their own vision of their capabilities. Above all of these limitations, we find Adepts limited by “Balance.” The concept of Balance draws from my studies of Eastern philosophies. It is the high governing force, the yen and yang, karma, cause and effect, fate. It’s as esoteric and arcane as these concepts imply. How far can the Balance be pushed in one direction without lashing back at the wielder? Which actions stretch it and which ones defy it? Balance is a complex and complicated subject—as difficult to define as our own world’s myriad competing religions. The only real agreement on the subject of Balance is that all magical workings stretch the Balance to some degree.

Understanding how far they can be stretched without snapping is central to survival in the arcane arts. The concept of Balance provides, well, the “balancing” force to all magical workings in Cephrael’s Hand and is central to its plot. You see, the entire realm of Alorin is out of Balance and magic is dying—and the Adept race dies along with it.  

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About Cephrael's Hand: Two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of a great battle, neither knowing the other is alive... A traitor works in exile while preparing for the disaster only he knows is coming... A race of beings from beyond the fringe of the universe begin unmaking the world from within... And all across the land, magic is dying. Cephrael's Hand is the first novel in the award-winning series A Pattern of Shadow and Light. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. About the author: Melissa McPhail is a classically trained pianist, violinist and composer, a Vinyasa yoga instructor, and an avid Fantasy reader. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, their twin daughters and two very large cats. Visit Melissa on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Reading Report for 2012 and Goals for 2013

First of all, Happy New Year to everyone! May 2013 be a lucky year for you.

In 2012, I tracked my reading through Goodreads instead of on this blog. I set a goal of 150 books read (increased from 120); I ended up with 174. That's nearly 44,000 pages. If you really want to know what I read, you can see the nine-page list here. Here's the breakdown by genre:

Fantasy--75 (up from 2011)
Science Fiction--35 (up from 2011)
Mystery--11 (down from 2011)
Classics--7 (not tracked in 2011)
Other Fiction--12 (up from 2011)
General Non-Fiction--20 (non-fiction was all grouped together in 2011)
Non-Fiction--Writing--10
Non-Fiction--Science--4

In 2011, I included magazines as well as books, but I didn't do that this year. This list only includes items found on Goodreads; however, that does include individual short stories. I found four short stories on my list, but I may have overlooked a couple of novellas.

Most of my reading was done on the Kindle; only fourteen books were in paper format. Some of those were older library books, and several of them were for story research.

Here are a few of my favorite reads this year:

Science Fiction--Wool Omnibus, Black Blossom
Fantasy--The Emperor's Edge series
Best Writing Book--The Plot Whisperer, The Emotion Thesaurus

I'm currently reading one e-book and one paper book. Including those in the total, I have 403 items in my "To Read" Collection on my Kindle and 43 paper books in my unread stack. Think I'll have made any progress in trimming those piles by the end of the year, or will I accumulate books faster than even I can read them?

As for my goals for next year, they include reading 175 books (if I read any more, my family will feel neglected) and self-publishing the following works:

"The Mommy Clone" (a short story in the Catalyst Chronicles series, currently with beta readers)
"Letters to Psyche" (standalone fantasy short story, with beta readers)
Twinned Universes (Catalyst Chronicles, Book Two, in line and copy edit plus cover design)
"Brave New Girl" (a short work in the Catalyst Chronicles series, partial rough draft)
"The Fighting Roses of Sharon" (standalone fantasy short story, complete draft, needs revision)
possibly two short story prequels to my fantasy Season Lords series; one's written and needs revision; the other has to be written

I also want to finish the first draft of Catalyst in the Crucible, Catalyst Chronicles, Book Three, and start revising Scattered Seasons, the first book in the Season Lords series. Oh, and I want to try fifty new recipes next year. Other than that, I have nothing to do.

Do you set goals for yourself at the start of every year? If so, do you go back and check how successful you were at accomplishing them?

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