Sunday, April 30, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Zoology

Fall Avatars aren't the only ones who are interested in animals. The University in Wistica has its own Zoology Department. Students can not only study the collection of modern preserved animals but also study fossils of ancient animals. If you happen to be the owner of the land where a fossil was found, you can come present your own lecture speculating what kind of creature possessed such strange bones. Just don't be surprised if the Fall Avatar in attendance corrects you. Zoology plays a role in Fifth Season,which is told by the Fall Avatar in charge of animals.

This concludes my Season Avatars A-Z Blogging Challen. I hope you enjoyed it! If you'd like to explore the world further, the prequel Seasons' Beginnings is permafree.

Congrats to Karen O'Connor for winning the series giveaway! Please let me know what format you'd like for your eBooks.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Ysabel

Ysabel s'Ivena Lathatilltin is one of the Fall Avatars and the first Season Avatar to be half Selathen. Her mother is a noted pianist, and she has several younger brothers and sisters. She's a Fall Avatar who's very warm-hearted and eager to see Gwen and Jenna get along. Sometimes Ysabel takes her kindness and unwillingness to hurt others to extremes. That's difficult enough when she has to balance the needs of predators versus prey, but when strange animals invade Challen, she doesn't know how to handle them. As the reincarnation of Kron's wife Bella, Ysabel also has to decide if she still loves him despite not remembering their life together. She tells her story in Fifth Season.

Even though tomorrow's Sunday, it's also the last day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. Be sure to stop by!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: X for Unknowns and a Series Giveaway!

I'm slightly biased toward April 28, since it's my birthday. However, April 28 is also the day assigned to the letter X, one of the hardest letters to blog about during the A-Z Blogging Challenge. I don't have an X associated with the Season Avatars series, so I will invoke birthday privilege and use the algebraic X to stand for the unknowns in the story.

The biggest unknown at this point is how--or if--the Season Avatars will be able to end Chaos Season, particularly after the events of Fifth Season. If they are able to pull off this momentous feat, what will it mean for Challen? And how did Challen wind up with Four Gods and Goddesses anyway?

The good news is that these questions will be answered in the final book of the series, Summon the Seasons. The bad news is that although the rough draft is complete, I don't have a publication date set yet, and I haven't discussed the cover with Maria. I'm currently editing this book and plan to publish it later this year. The section I'm on has been a slog to revise, but it's almost at the end of the book, and the climax doesn't require as much extensive editing. Further updates will be posted on this blog as soon as they're available.

Since it's my birthday, I want to give away some presents. So, I'll give all five eBooks in this series (Seasons' Beginnings, Scattered Seasons, Chaos Season, Fifth Season, and Summon the Seasons when available) to one lucky random commenter on this post! Winner will be announced in Sunday's post.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Winter and Wistica

The God of Winter is perhaps the most frightening of the Four Gods and Goddesses. He controls not only the weather, but also the land of the dead. People who have committed great crimes are punished by having their souls frozen so they can't reincarnate. This is why Challens swear by saying "Freeze it!" or "That frozen such-and-such!" The God of Winter has two colors associated with Him: blue (for weather) and white (for death). The rest of the Four only have one color each. 

Wistica is the capital of modern Challen. It's located in the southeast section of Challen, where the Chikasi River meets the Salt Waters. The Season Avatars maintain a second home in Wistica, since they come to the city at the start of every season to perform a soltrans ceremony at the Temple. Other key locations in Wistica are the kings' palace and the university. Wistica is semi-officially divided into quarters named after each of the seasons. (There's no wall or structures marking the borders between quarters.) Challens address letters in a way that we would consider upside-down. If you were to invite Gwen and the rest of the Season Avatars to take chocolate with you, you would write the following lines on the envelope:

Spring Quarter
4 Seasons Street
Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil, Ava Spring

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Vistichia

Vistichia is the original name for Challen's capital. Back in Seasons' Beginnings, Vistichia was more of a city-state than the capital of a much larger country. I actually modeled Vistichia on ancient city-states. The homes in Vistichia were built of mud-brick; few, if any, traces of them remain eight hundred years later. The only building from that era still mostly intact is the Temple for the Four Gods and Goddesses (They claimed an existing building instead of ordering a new one to be built.) The Seasons Avatars' house in Wistica is built on the site of their home in Vistichia. (The original home was severely damaged during the Fip Annexation.) Seasons' Beginnings is the only book where Vistichia appears. By Scattered Seasons, language changes and a tendency to shorten words changed the city name to Wistica. We'll take a look at the modern city tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: University

Challen has a single university in Wistica, open to men and women from all walks of life. Although the Season Avatars don't attend, the university is the setting for a couple of scenes in different books. In Scattered Seasons, Gwen and Jenna first meet Kron at a lecture he presents on ancient civilizations. Ysabel, Kron, and Jenna attend a different public lecture during the opening of Fifth Season. Later in the same book, Ysabel has a key insight while touring the university's zoological collection.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Time and Tradetown

This is the last full week of the 2017 A-Z Blogging Challenge. To celebrate, I'm putting Fifth Season on sale this week for $0.99.

As I've mentioned in earlier blog posts, Salth is obsessed with time and gains additional time-related magic in Seasons' Beginnings. This magic allows her to create the Chaos Season storms she sends against Challen. She can slow down time, speed it up to age someone to death, and summon things from the deep past. Her main weakness is that she focuses on the past, not the future.

 Tradetown is a town near the border of Challen and the Dead Land, or Selath. It gained its name long ago when Challens and Selathens met there to trade. Today, Tradetown still is home to many Selathens, including Ysabel's family. We see Tradetown first in Scattered Seasons and also in Chaos Season.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: A Slew of S's

There as so many "S" characters in the Season Avatars series that I can't do full descriptions for them. Here's a quick rundown of what makes the letter "S" so special:

Goddess of Spring: The Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen have no names other than the season They're associated with. Spring is normally pictured as a matronly woman with long blonde hair, and She looks after the people of Challen. Although She's considered "married" to Winter, Summer and Fall aren't Their children.

God of Summer: Little is known about this quiet God, pictured as a green-skinned youth thin enough to disappear into a tree. He controls all the plants in Challen through His Avatars. Homosexual, bisexual, or transgender men, as well as men who wish to remain single for other reasons, might declare themselves Summersmen.

Salth: A magician from Kron's original time. Rumor has it she was born in a king's harem and escaped it thanks to her gifts. Obsessed with magic and time, she is both neglectful of her son Sal-thaath yet his fierce protector if he's threatened.

Sal-thaath: Salth's son, created through magic and skilled in magic himself. He seeks Kron out for company in Seasons' Beginnings.

Selathens: Descendants of people who fled the Dead Land when Salth's power increased. Most of them have settled near the border, but some moved inland and assimilated into the general population of Challen. Those who remain separate have split into two groups: those who want little to do with magic and those who worship Salth. Ysabel's father belongs to the latter group. Perhaps due to lingering resentment toward Salth, Selathens generally hold women in lower esteem than men.

Sophia: The Fall Avatar from Margaret's quartet. When Margaret dies suddenly, the other two members of the quartet have no interest in holding the group together, leaving the inexperienced Sophia to pick up the leadership.

I'll be participating in the March for Science in Chicago this morning and attending C2E2 the rest of the weekend, so I won't have much time to visit other blogs until Monday. My report on C2E2 will be delayed until May as well.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Season Avatars #A-ZChallenge: Reincarnation

Everyone reincarnates in Challen, but only the Season Avatars remember anything from their past lives.

Challens view the dead as resting in the God of Winter's domain until they're ready to be reborn. They refer to the dead as "absent" and believe that they will be reunited with their loved ones in a different life, though their relationships may change. For example, a parent and a child may switch roles in their next life.

For Season Avatars, reincarnation is different. They're reborn in different parts of Challen and different classes so they know the needs of the entire country. They need to know as much as possible about what their magic affects, such as the human body, plants, animals, or the weather. Therefore, they remember what they learned in their previous lives. It doesn't all come back to them at once, but gradually, when they need it. (They always know they're meant to be Season Avatars, as if their birthdays and auras didn't give it away.) They may remember some personal details from previous lives, but not all of them. (This affects the story in Chaos Season.) It's also easier for them to remember recent lives instead of earlier ones. This is why they don't remember the Four as clearly as Kron does.

Here's the full list of Season Avatars, with their names in Season's Beginnings (their first life as Avatars) in parentheses next to the names they have in the rest of the series:

Group 1  (Future Avatars--They become official mid-series)
Gwendolyn lo Havil (Galia)—Spring
Jenna Dorshay t’Reve (Janno)—Summer
Ysabel s’Ivena Lathatilltin (Bella)—Fall
Kay Seltich (Caye)—Winter

Group 2 (Current Avatars in Scattered Seasons and Chaos Season)
Margaret gran Garnell (Magstrom)—Spring (deceased)
Charles vin Estcher (Carver)—Summer
Sophia vin Estcher  (Sylva)—Fall
Dorian gran Garnell (Domina)—Winter
Group 3 (Past Avatarsall deceased)
Tylon fi Vort (Tylan)—Spring
Frederick min Jole (Flilya)—Summer
Helene ava Hartfut (Hala)—Fall
Olivia ava Kalt (Ocul)—Winter

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Quartets

Season Avatars, like the Four Gods and Goddesses, work in groups of four. Each group consists of one Spring Avatar, a Summer Avatar, a Fall Avatar (who's always female--the other three Avatars can be either gender), and a Winter Avatar. Each quartet of Avatars who belong together are always born in the same year. In Challen, the year starts on the spring solstice, so the Spring Avatar is the oldest (and by default, the leader, especially since the Spring Avatar can magically link the rest of the quartet), and the Winter Avatar the youngest. There are three quartets of Season Avatars, each in a different generation. One quartet will be born, grow up, and come together at the One Oak. Once they've proved themselves to the older generation of Season Avatars, the older quartet retires, and the new group serves for about thirty to forty years until the third quartet is born and comes of age. In theory, the transition between groups happens without fuss, but in practice, Season Avatars aren't always ready to step down. This theme occurs throughout the second, third, and fourth books in the series (the first book occurs before this system is established.) How do we know there are only three sets of Season Avatars? Because they reincarnate, which I'll discuss tomorrow for the letter R.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Pouncer

I mentioned anilinks in my first Season Avatars A-Z post. Pouncer, a black-and-white cat about a year old, is Ysabel's anilink. Anilinks have the ability to sense when Chaos Season occurs anywhere in Challen. They have a telepathic link to their Fall Avatar, so she always knows when her anilink senses Chaos Season. Anilinks may also run errands for their Avatar. Pouncer does all of this and more. He understands human language very well for an animal. He's a cheerful, friendly cat, but he's very defensive of his Avatar. Although Ysabel is his primary human, Pouncer also forms a surprising bond with Gwen. Learn more about Pouncer's secret in Fifth Season. (Yes, that's him on the cover in Ysabel's arms.) The story of how Ysabel and Pouncer meet and how he earns his name will be part of a future short story collection called Young Seasons. (The stories are all drafted, but I have to finish editing them. It should be out by the end of the year.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: One Oak

The One Oak is the Season Avatars' estate near the middle of Challen, on the bank of the Chikasi River. The house is over three hundred years old, as it was built soon after the Fip Annexation of Challen. The house and property are held in trust for each new generation of Season Avatars.

The house is built around a central atrium where the Summer Avatar grows plants. (There's also a greenhouse elsewhere on the estate for plants that require more sunlight and warmth.) Each side of the house is a wing named after one of the seasons. There are public rooms such as parlors, studies, and a portrait gallery on the first floor, bedrooms for the Avatars and their families on the second, and servants' quarters and an attic on the third. Gardens and a small oak forest surround the house.

If the One Oak is in the middle of an oak forest, why is the house referred to as the One Oak? Just as the Fall Avatar bonds with a special animal to enhance her magic, each Summer Avatar grows a tree from an acorn and bonds with it. The tree helps extend the range in which the Summer Avatar can use his or her magic. When Chaos Season occurs, the Season Avatars rush out to the Summer Avatar's tree to use its magic. (Season Avatars tend to spend most of their time on the estate to remain close to the Summer Avatar's tree. Sometimes when they do have to travel, the Summer Avatar will bring a sapling along to help him/her tame Chaos Season.) Each tree is in use for only a few decades, but they continue to thrive long after their Summer Avatars die and are reincarnated.

Because the One Oak is the Season Avatars' primary residence, it appears in Scattered Seasons, Chaos Season, and Fifth Season. To learn more about the link between Summer Avatars and their trees, read Chaos Season.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Nils

It's hard to believe this is the third full week of the A-Z Blogging Challenge. To celebrate, Chaos Season is on sale this week for $0.99.

"Nils" is an insult Salth and her son Sal-thaath call people who can't use magic. Although ordinary people can't use magic, they do have some magic associated with their souls. (This is what allows Gwen to see people's auras and tell what their birth seasons are.) Salth realizes that since there are so many more Nils than magic-users, she could gain a fair amount of magical power if she could harvest the small amount of magic each of them has.

This term only crops up in Seasons' Beginnings.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Midpoint and Margaret

We're halfway through the A-Z Blogging Challenge, so it's appropriate that today's post features the town of Midpoint. Midpoint is close to the center of Challen, and it's also close to the One Oak, where the Season Avatars spend most of their time. Midpoint is on the Chikasi River, but it's also serviced by railroads. Gwen stops in Midpoint on the way to the One Oak in Scattered Seasons.

 Margaret is a Spring Avatar, from the generation immediately preceding Gwen's. She dies just before the start of Scattered Seasons, and her death paves the way for Gwen's quartet to take over. Margaret was also married to Dorian, and her death plunges him into grief that drives much of his further actions later in the series.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Lex

Lex ro Fip-Challen is the brother to Challen's king, but he's not eligible for the throne himself. Lex is the God of War's Avatar. He bears the Allweapon, which can change into whatever type of weapon he needs. He's also skilled in strategy. The drawback to being the War Avatar is that the God will occasionally take possession of Lex. Although Lex thinks Gwen is a suitable candidate for a wife, he has a previous relationship with Jenna. Find out who he ends up with in Chaos Season.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Kay and Kron

Kay ava Seltich is the shortest, youngest, and least confident of the Season Avatars. However, as the Winter Avatar, she has the most powerful magic--that of weather. She can create lightning balls, summon rain and hail, or make them disappear. As a Winter Avatar, she can tap into the magic of Chaos Season, drain it, and share it with her sister Avatars so they can heal the damage left behind by the storm. Kay was born to a working-class family in Wistica and worked as a seamstress before the rest of her quartet found her. She is harassed by both Dorian and Salth, but she'll get to tell her story in Summon the Seasons once I finish the revisions.

Kron Evenhanded earned his surname by being both ambidextrous and fair-minded. He was born with a knack for making magical artifacts. In particular, he's known for making magical finders and creating portals to other locations. He takes a "pantser" approach to creating artifacts, putting random things together until they feel right to him. After attending the ancient Magic Institute, Kron drifted around until he arrived in Vistichia, where he met both the beautiful, kind Bella--and Sal-thaath, Salth's magically created son. His relationships with both of them play a crucial role in the beginnings of the Season Avatars and Chaos Season. Read more about him in the permafree prequel Seasons' Beginnings.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Jenna and Jon

Jenna Dorshay t'Reve is the Summer Avatar, with the gift of plant magic. It's not surprising that she's a farmer's daughter (what better way to practice growing plants), or perhaps that she's red-haired, passionate, and has a bit of a temper. What might be surprising is how protective she can be with Gwen or how she struggles to balance the needs of her baby with the demands of being a Season Avatar. Add to that her relationship with her child's father, the need to hide a shameful secret from Gwen, and an invasion of plants tied to Chaos Season, and Jenna's first summer at the One Oak proves to be anything but relaxing. Read her story in Chaos Season.

Jon, a locomotive crewman, met Kay when she was hitching a ride on a train. He gradually fell in love with her, but he didn't learn until much later that she's the Winter Avatar. Feeling unworthy of her, he distances himself from her while at the same time trying to better himself. Although Jon appears briefly in Scattered Seasons and Chaos Season, he'll get a larger role in Summon the Seasons.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Ivena

Technically, Ysabel's mother's maiden name isn't Ivena; it's s'Ivena. However, this name is the only important "I" word I can think of for the Season Avatar series. This name also allows me to talk about how Challen surnames indicate family status:

Farmers and laborers have plain surnames of a single word, such as Jenna Dorshay and Kay Seltich.
Middle/upper middle class people have a prefix (a single letter separated from the rest of the name by an apostrophe and pronounced separately) in front of their name, such as Mattie s'Ivena.
Nobles have a short word in front of their surnames, such as Gwendolyn lo Havil.
Finally, royalty from the Fip Dynasty combine the surname of Fip with the country where they reside, such as Challen. To indicate they're royalty, they use "ro" as an abbreviation. Therefore, the king's brother is Lex ro Fip-Challen.

Avatars are born into all classes of society, but they're ennobled when they're officially recognized as Avatars. Jenna, Ysabel, and Kay change their names in different ways. Jenna was briefly married, so she combines "dor" from her maiden name of Dorshay with her married name, "t'Reve," to become Jenna dor Treve. Ysabel has a Challen mother and Selathen father. In marriages to non-Challens, the Challen surname is passed down as a middle name, so Ysabel's full original name is Ysabel s'Ivena Lathatilltin. She drops her father's surname (they don't get along very well) and uses "Ava" in front of her mother's name, becoming Ysabel ava Sivena. Kay also adds "Ava" to indicate her status as Kay ava Seltich.

Hopefully this naming system isn't too confusing. At least I won't give you a quiz at the end of the month.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Hall of Records

The Hall of Records is one of the government buildings in the capital city of Wistica.It holds birth, death, marriage, and property records going back hundreds of years. If you know Season Avatars are the only people in Challen to be born on the first day of a season, then you can learn their names and addresses by searching the birth records. At least, that's what Gwen thinks when she visits the Hall of Records in Scattered Seasons. Unfortunately for her, it's not that simple....

P.S. Scattered Seasons is on sale for $0.99 through this Friday, 4/14.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallengeA-Z: Gwen

Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil, or Gwen, is the oldest Avatar of her quartet. She's a Spring Avatar, which means she's gifted with healing magic and can establish a link with other Avatars by touching their skin. Not only can they share thoughts, but they can also share magic through this link. This link is vital for taming Chaos Season, since it allows each Season Avatar to obtain enough magic to restore the proper season.

Gwen's mother died in childbirth, so Gwen grew up an only child of a nobleman. She's well educated, a natural leader, and an artist. However, her self-confidence can shade into arrogance (which she uses against those who disagree with her). She's also a perfectionist, driven by duty, and deep down, reluctant to marry and have children to ensure the succession of her family's estate. As if that wasn't enough, she has a love-hate relationship with Jenna, the Summer Avatar in her quartet. When they get mad at each other, it throws the entire quartet out of balance.

Gwen is the heroine of Scattered Seasons, the story of how she and the other members of her quartet find each other, and an important secondary character in Chaos Season and Fifth Season. Scattered Seasons is on sale through next Friday for $0.99.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Season Avatars #AtoZChallenge: Fall, Fip, and Fifth Season

The Goddess of Fall is portrayed as a girl of about twelve or thirteen. She looks after all the animals of Challen. She hates men so much Her Avatars are always women. If a man were to threaten a woman of Challen, the woman could call upon Fall to protect her by sending animals after the man. It's not documented when that last happened, however. Women who choose not to marry for whatever reason can pledge themselves to Fall, just as men can pledge themselves to the God of Summer.

The Fip people worship the God of War. In return, He has allowed them to conquer not just their continent, but Challen and other parts of the world as well. The Fip Dynasty generally allows the conquered countries to continue following their customs and worshiping their local gods in exchange for tribute. However, a member of the Fip family serves as a monarch for each country, and they're all subordinate to the emperor in Fip itself.

Fifth Season is the title of Book Four in the series. (I chose that title long before N.K Jemsin's The Fifth Season came out, and since titles can't be copyrighted, I decided to keep it.) It's told through the point of view of Ysabel, the Fall Avatar. "Fifth Season" refers to the way Kron becomes involved with the Season Avatars, even though he's not one of them and has a different type of magic. While Ysabel's quartet appreciates his help, the older quartet doesn't. One of them tells Ysabel, "Challen doesn't need a fifth season." Here's the blurb:

Ysabel became the Goddess of Fall’s Avatar to care for animals, but her kind heart may prove fatal to her loved ones.

When a pair of strange animals, part bird and part lizard, invade the country of Challen during a magical weather storm, Ysabel must learn if they’re ordinary creatures or if they’re connected to Salth, the Season Avatars’ sworn enemy. However, the clawfeet are resistant to her magic.

After tragedy strikes the Avatars, Ysabel comes up with a desperate plan to allow all twelve of them to face Salth together as required by the Four Gods and Goddesses of Challen. Jealousy, however, tears an ally from the Avatars during their most vulnerable time as even more beasts rise against them. If Ysabel cannot control the strange animals and use justice as well as mercy, she will not only lose her position as Avatar but the people she loves.

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