Category Archives: magic

Urban Fantasy in London

“Summertime and the livin’ is easy…”

Well, not if you’re scribbling away, or worse, staring over the deck while wracking your brain as to what you should write next.

I’ve been both places.

In the last hour.

So I’m going to use this blog to tidy up some odds and ends. While I was writing A World Too Far, I needed some insight into what futuristic weapons could look like. After all, Carter Wright had to come up with a defense system for the ship, and a robotic swarm seemed a natural for his talents. I found this website on futuristic weapons, some are leading edge weapons already on the battlefield, and I wanted to pass it on to my science geeks. (Overlook the ad and any click bait, because the content is interesting.)

Here’s the link : http://www.prophecynewswatch.com/article.cfm?recent_news_id=843

I used the rail gun because it doesn’t use explosives (no air in space), and the armed robot swarm. Lasers seemed like a cool futuristic weapon too.

Science fiction is just that…fiction. But it becomes much more powerful if grounded in some fact. How precise the accuracy should be, and how detailed, varies from reader to reader. I research a lot, but then when you’re skimming a black hole for the impact of the story, I sometimes make a leap of imagination. A big leap.

Never having the real experience recorded by anyone to compare notes with.

When I think of the astronomy I learned in school and what they have discovered since, I am astounded. Nothing can be ruled out as to what future discoveries might reveal.

Er, that dates me a bit.

On an entirely different subject, but another odds and ends note, I came across this article on page count. With the advent of the ebook, page count becomes not as important. No bookstore dictates shelf space and formatting is more flexible. So how has this changed page count?

The Book Designer by Joel Friedlander is a favorite website. They have an occasional blog that says, “Do This: Not That.” In June, Amy Collins did an interesting guest blog on page count.

-Here’s the link:  https:thebookdesigner.com/2017/06/book-promotion-do-this-not-that-june-2017/.

Zack Obront from Book in A Box analyzed 272 books that sat at the #1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List over the past seven years. In 2011, the average nonfiction #1 NYT Bestseller was 467 pages long. Now it’s 273. Almost half.

For fiction, in 2011, the average Bestseller List page count was 502. This week (June 21, 2017) the average Best Seller List page count was 398. Quite a difference.

This surprised me as I thought page count would go up due to not having the shelf space worry.

But…

If you are going to offer a POD paperback, new authors are finding the cost of production eats deeply into any royalties for a long book and drives the price too high for the average reader’s pocketbook. Less buyers.

If you are beginning a book, it is good to set a goal for how long the book should be. I often use Larry Brook’s outline for pacing purposes, and it is helpful to know around what page your plot points should drop.

Amy goes on to offer suggestions on how to remedy the problem of the too long and the too short book from splitting it up, tighter editing, to places that take lesser page count material such as magazines or leaflets.

Odds and Ends, dusted and done.

This week I’m highlighting an urban fantasy. If you’re a fan of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden Series, you’ll like Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch. It can also be found in the United Kingdom under the title of the Rivers of London.

The story: Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Unfortunately, his superior plans to stick him in a desk job as a clerk.

However, on duty at a particularly puzzling murder, one of the eye witnesses that speaks to him turns out to be a ghost. This odd occurrence comes to the attention of Inspector Thomas Nightingale, Special Division of the Uncanny. Nightingale investigates crimes involving magic and the supernatural…on the down low. Due to Peter’s unique ability to sense the supernatural, Thomas takes him on as his assistant. As they investigate the murder, they wade deeper and deeper into a series of bizarre crimes that soon involve gods and goddesses fighting over river territories. A long dead evil begins to emerge in a rising tide of magic and mayhem, and it is up to Nightingale and his new partner to stop it.

I enjoyed the story, full of twists and turns. Peter stumbles into a whole nether world unknown to most Londone

rs who become victims of a malevolent being. Fun dialog, interesting characters, and magic. What more could you want?

 

It’s hot. I’m going to find some mint from my back deck for my iced tea and another good book to read in the shade.

Shine on.

 

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Filed under Cutting Edge Science ideas, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, hard science, magic, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic, Writing Tips and Lectures

Furious Series in Fantasy

Image 1If a reader likes one book in an author’s series, chances are that he will like another. Or if he likes one series from a given author, then chances are he’ll like a second series by the same author.

This was actually my reasoning to offer Past the Event Horizon free on Kindle Select for the first time ever, and put an ad on Freebooksy. Today it is listed in Freebooksy, but it will be free for a few more days through Amazon. Hint. hint.

So, with this cunning insight, why did it take so long for me to read Jim Butcher’s stepchild series, The Codex Alera? This series has lived in the shadow of the hugely popular Dresden Series. This was supposed to be Butcher’s main series, but Harry Dresden took off with the popularity of Urban Fantasy, and the rest is history.

I’ve read every single one in the Dresden Series in spite of being a sci-fi reader. There are times that I slip up and slide into fantasy.

Okay, I’ll admit it. Mea Culpa.

Furies of CalderonSo with the enthusiastic endorsement of a Powell’s bookstore cashier, I bought and read Furies of Calderón by Jim Butcher.

While I like new and fresh, I still take comfort in old tropes. The orphan boy, the cunning aging king, twists and plot turns, loyal sidekicks, budding romance– all these are favorite story elements for me.

I’m not into zombies or werewolves. So, fair warning.

I was surprised to find the book was written on a dare. If you are expecting Harry Dresden, he isn’t here. However, like the Dresden Files, once you get past the setup, it ‘s page turning action. So, wear a seatbelt or tie yourself down.

Tavi is a shepherd boy living in the sleepy Calderón Valley of Alera. In this world, children bond with elementals of air, water, fire, metal or earth. But Tavi ‘s parents are dead, and he lives with his stalwart uncle who runs the homestead and amazing spinster aunt. They both wield strong magic. Tavi, however, is the only one in the whole homestead who has no elements to do his bidding. He herds the sheep. But don’t count him out.

Far away at the palace, an heirless king faces plots to dethrone him and sends a newly graduated young female spy to the Calderon valley where he suspects treachery is afoot. There is a strong flavor of Rome in the story starting with the king’s name of Gaius Sextus. Other Roman elements also appear throughout the story.Princep's Fury

It was part of the dare.

The king is right to suspect wrongdoing, as his longterm trusted advisor has thrown in with a powerful Lord to depose him through collaboration with a barbarian horde–the Marat. They plan to invade the valley and take over the kingdom.

Amara, the royal spy, gets caught in a storm brought on by Furies while traveling to the valley. Tavi saves her life, thinking that she is a mere slave because she has disguised herself by wearing a slave collar and tatty clothes. Sometimes men don’t look past surface appearances.

Soon Amara uncovers the plot and is dismayed to find her old mentor, Fidelias, is a major player in treason against her king. Butcher portrays him as a vicious villain. Grab a tomato.

But no one has accounted for the brave shepherd boy who controls no furies, yet proves that courage and right action contain the strongest of all magics.Academ Fury

Cursor's furyThe first few pages introduce the characters, and then the action plunges forward and doesn’t stop until the end.

For writing a book from a dare, then turning it into a series, Jim Butcher did very well, and I recommend this to start.

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Filed under Best selling author, ebook marketing, fantasy series, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic

Do You have a Yen for Some Hard Science Fiction?

Image 1Hard science fiction…so hard that it’s like knocking your head against granite. L. E. Modesitt, Jr. in his latest novel, Solar Express presents a compelling plot against the background of a developing war among the Sinese Federation, Noram (U.S. Military), and India. Much like the fear that drove the development of the atom bomb, fear of another country getting control through space drives these three power superpowers to secretly start weaponizing space.

And then an alien object is sighted headed in system towards our sun.

The problem becomes that Modesitt wants to get each detail completely accurate and properly measured. The main character, Chris Tavoian, low orbit shuttle pilot, is promoted to major and sent out on a covert mission to investigate the alien artifact, conveniently categorized as an asteroid to keep secret it’s alien nature. Each minute is painstakingly recorded, each angle of the artifact explored while under the time pressure of an approaching Sinese spaceship.Solar Express

Meanwhile, back on the moon, his love interest, Alayna Wong-Grant who discovered the alien object, and doesn’t understand why no one has mentioned it in the media, is investigating the mechanism of multi-fractal mini-granulations found in the sun.

See what I mean? More science with big words.

A thrilling plot, rife with politics, told through memos and emails between moon-bound Alayna and alien-probing Chris. Theirs is a relationship developed through correspondence, much like our online dating and email nowadays.

I wanted to really like this, especially since Modesitte is a favorite author, but I struggled through it. However, if you have been yearning for hard science among the slim pickings of good science fiction offerings of late, and an interesting plot, this may be a good read for you. Modesitt explains the rational for his novel.  http://www.lemodesittjr.com/2015/11/17/another-reason-for-pseudonyms/

My marketing has slowed because I have been catching up on my writing. My life as an author is like being on a seesaw. Personal life, writing or marketing? It’s hard to balance all three. I needed more time for writing, but needed to put a plan in place for marketing, at least for this month. Sales declined while my attention was on the wedding.

Caught in Time, my first in a series, will again be available for free Thursday, March 11 through Sunday March 13 through the KDP Select program. I decided to shortened the time to only three days to leave room for another campaign later. If I don’t promote, sales tail off.

I chose Free Kindle Books and Tips because I have not used them before as an ad venue, and also Choosy Bookworm. These are two new sites that I’m trying out, and I’ll let you know if they’re productive. I have to also balance the cost of promotion against possible sales.

I love writing this blog, but Facebook and Twitter are not my thing. My life is quiet because I like it that way. I get my excitement in my stories. Never mind SnapChat, and that other thing. I am verbal, but not able to think up witty things on social media.

Sharing results is helpful, so I’m offering a link to an interesting article on what makes people buy self-published books. Lots of pretty graphs and hard data by a favorite blogger of mine from the Emerald Isle.

http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2014/07/31/what-makes-people-buy-self-published-books/

For you fantasy fans, I must say that I’m enjoying the Magicians series on the SyFy channel even more than the books.

Isn’t that a switch? Check it out and my review blog on the book.

My Powell’s book group meets tonight and we’re discussing John Scalzi’s Redshirts. I’m ranting and raving about the editing. TOR is his publisher and promotes him extensively, so you’d think it would be better edited. I tried to find a science fiction ebook from a promotion, but the one I read was so poorly edited, I stopped completely and would not recommend it; the other was forty pages long and not worth recommending either at that length.

More on this in my next blog as I’m trying to finish Redshirts. Add finishing reading my books for my review blog to that wobbly seesaw.

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Filed under aliens, Aliens in Science Fiction, Best selling science fiction, ebook marketing, first contact, Hard science fiction, Hugo winners, magic, Marketing and selling novels, Political Science Fiction, science fiction, Science fiction thriller

Call for Beta Readers

IMG_9518I spoke too soon.

What a surprise you say.

The usual pleasant summer found in the Northwest has beamed down hot flames from the sun all week, making the temperature soar to 103 degrees Saturday. At least the nights cool down. Any reading is being done inside. Writing too. In air conditioning. It’s temporary.

I submitted my last chapter of book 8 to my writing group. Now I want to gather a few more Beta readers. These are readers who take a manuscript and read through it checking for continuity and general sense of character behavior and plot action. If they find misspelled words, I hope they mention it. Beta readers are special and often get a mention in the Acknowledgment and a signed final copy. They are people I trust with my special creation. They are the final polish.

So if you’d like to be a Beta reader for my next book, Time’s Equation, I need just a few more. Email me at: shmccartha@gmail.com.

Kepler 452bIn the science news: Many of you are already aware that the Kepler Project is discovering quite a few other planets out there in the universe. Recently, the most Earthlike planet has been discovered. Link:  https://www.nasa.gov/keplerbriefing0723  

The newly discovered Kepler-452b, located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet — of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030. Finding a possibly compatible planet in which we could live is exciting stuff to an author writing about an Earth type planet such as Alysia. Science fiction becomes reality. Half a King

This week I read Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King and Half a World.

Being royalty isn’t easy when you have a hard cold father, a maimed hand, and dislike violence. Prince Yarvi, the younger prince, was happy to leave court to study for the ministry, the office that advises the king, rather than fight wars. Handling a sword proved awkward with his half a hand. But then his father and older brother are killed, and he is called back to court as the new King of Gettland.

His mother, known as the golden queen, has firm ideas on what to do. Attack their enemies no matter the wishes of the High King who demands peace. When asked how his father and brother died, Yarvi is told that his father went to speak peace with the bordering king Grom-Gil-Gorm and was attacked and killed through treachery. At his father’s funeral Yarvi swears vengeance on his family’s killer. His uncle Odem and his mother encourage him to command an army to attack his enemies. Of course, he must lead them there. Sword raised high. Gulp.

Yarvi sails to Vansterland with his uncle Odem where he finds unexpected treachery from his once supportive uncle. His loyal guard reveals his true colors and, on Odem’s orders, throws Yarvi from a high parapet into the sea to drown. But he survives. Washed up on shore, he is brought before Grom-Gil-Gorm where he claims to be a cook’s boy to hide his true identity from his sworn enemy. From there, he is chained and delivered to a slaver who sells him to row on the downtrodden merchant ship, the Southwind.

Yarvi’s grueling life at the oar and the friendships he makes as he uses his wits to figure an escape teaches him to be a man. But even freedom isn’t pleasant, as he and a few from the ship are hunted by their sadistic captain while he tries to unravel the plots of those who want him dead.

This is an adventure story of royalty sold into slavery and overcoming adversity. A young prince who tries to reclaim his birthright and become a man. A few interesting twists and turns keep it fresh. Abercrombie builds an believable world that offers solid action.Half a World

The sequel, Half a World, follows the story of young girl who calls herself Thorn and aspires to be a king’s warrior in a society where women are supposed to cook, sew and clean house. It follows her struggle to prove herself, but when the sword master makes her fight three opponents at once, she accidentally kills one of her attackers after her practice sword splinters. The sword master claims murder, and she is clapped in jail. When Thorn faces a possible verdict of death by stoning, a fellow trainee, Brand, discloses the real story to now Minister Yarvi who saves her by bundling her onto his departing ship, the Southwind.

Once again several characters from the first book join an older and more mature Yarvi as they sail half a world away in search of allies for an upcoming war. The High King plots to take over the world and his cunning Minister, Mother Wexen, has her own plans within those plots. Minister Yarvi must untangle the politics and uncover the truth as he ventures from land to land with his rough crew, searching for allies.

As they sail, Yarvi has Thorn trained to become a killing machine and his secret weapon. There is also a nice, but rocky, romance between Brand and Thorn.

Both books are worth reading and offer old fashioned adventure with clever Yarvi and the rough but likable crew of the Southwind as they sail into exotic ports and discover surprising allies.

Recently Joe Abercrombie has come out with the next adventure called Half a War.

Enjoy your read now that the weather is cooling off.

Aaaahhh.

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Filed under artificial intelligence, Best selling science fiction, Beta Readers, Cutting Edge Science ideas, Dystopia Earth, ebook science fiction, fantasy series, magic, Post Apocalyptic, science fiction, Science Fiction book review, Science fiction world building, supernatural, Wizards and magic

Magic and Spaceships

photo

Hugh Howey started it, and now others are using the technique. Write a short novella, give it away and sell the next three or four episodes at cheap prices. Get a fan following and bundle. Not because it’s cold, but to collect the first five books together and sell at a reasonable price.

It’s like a teaser or lost leader at the retail store, and it works because a lot of readers like a free taste before they gulp the whole meal.

Which reminds me to tell you that Caught in Time, the first of my series, is being offered for .99 through June 20. If you haven’t clicked the button yet, now is the time to get a deal before it goes back to the regular price. And if you’ve already read it and like it, please leave a review as I’m short on those. Thanks. Thanks. Thanks.

On to this week’s science fiction suggestion.

Starship Mage, book 1 is a novella of only 63 pages, that begins a series of short books, which Glynn Stewart bundles into an omnibus of 299 pages. I didn’t realize it at the time I chose it and put it on my book list last January. I was attracted to the cover and the title, and didn’t read the fine print that noted page length. As readers, we need to start doing this in this age of the ebook. The idea of mixing magic and spaceships just intrigued me.

Besides, the first episode was free. (By now you know that I like a deal)

Starship MageStarship Mage, book 1 is about a newly graduated Jump Mage, Damien Montgomery, who needs a job, but doesn’t have the normal family connections to get him a berth on a starship. Jump Magi are an elite circle of people whose magical talents are trained to power starships for faster than light speeds. They have the ability to “jump” ships over huge distances but at a price.

After an attack by pirates, the damaged starship Blue Jay is towed to port to the planet of Sherwood. The crew has survived solely due to a brave magi who jumped too much and too soon in order to save the ship and died in the attempt.

Unfortunately, the planetary Governor of Sherwood is the now dead mage’s father and blacklists Captain David Rice of the Blue Jay in a moment of anger and grief.

Desperate Captain David Rice connects to desperate Mage Damien Montgomery and the Blue Jay acquires a new jump mage, finishes repairs, and heads out. But the ship is a marked vessel, and young Damien Montgomery doesn’t realize that his life is going to get a lot more complicated and dangerous. He will have to think outside the box to save his crew as both pirates and the law pursue the soon-to-be embattled spaceship.Starship Mage2

Starship Mage omnibusI found the first story a fun blend of magic and space adventure and plan to continue the series. Think of the Firefly series with magic sprinkled throughout. Not deep and stirring, but an enjoyable space adventure that I recommend.

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Filed under ebook marketing, ebook science fiction, Hugh Howey, Indie authors, Indie Publishing, magic, Marketing and selling novels, science fiction, Science Fiction Novelettes, science fiction series, Self-publishing, Space opera, space ship, space travel

Fantasy vs. Science fiction

photoMy writing group has a mix of both science fiction and fantasy writers, and I’m coming to some conclusions on how these two genres differ in regards to writing styles.

One differences is the extent of world building. Sure I put a map in my second book, but I just finished Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance tome, and he has not only an extensive map but extensive illustrations of the flora and fauna in his world, the fashion of his world, and the social hierarchy. Science fiction writers paint a world and then get on with the action; fantasy writers dally in the landscape and admire the scenery more.

Fantasy seems to be more character driven while science fiction is more plot driven. The reader doesn’t get too deep into the complex psychology of the Splinkx, whereas in Fool’s Assassin, the complex emotions of FitzWilliam is a focus for the story and provides the impact at the end.

And the science fiction writers like their high tech gadgets and cutting edge science almost as much as fantasy writers like their magic. Sometimes the two are very similar. (see sidebar quote)

In my series, there is time travel. Poof you’re here; poof, you’re there. Sorta magical.

Both may involve large battles. However, in Lord of the Rings, the battle is mostly on the ground while in in Star Wars or Star Trek, the battles are usually out in space with lots of lasers and gunships.

The enemy tends to be ugly in both genres. Whether it’s Klingons or Orcs, it’s not a pretty face. Our allies, however, are attractive. Legolas and Aragon make me drool, although we should skip the characters of George R. R. Martin as he is changing this trope a bit . Princess Leia and Hans Solo are also easy on the eyes…but the occasional hairy Wooki does pop up. And some of our friendlier aliens often exhibit odd behaviors.

In writing group, the fantasy people are always telling me to put more description in my story while I’m always asking them to stop admiring the scenery, the dress, character behavior and get on with the action and storyline.

This interplay makes for better writing on both sides of the aisle. Still, as a writer, you must recognize your genre and the style that your reader expects, and accommodate that expectation to a certain extent.

I recently read a blog by Tara Sparling and even though it is dated, the numbers are interesting. It’s data on the best selling books of 2012 with charts and graphs. Check it out here: http://tarasparlingwrites.com/2013/08/21/2012-bestselling-book-data-visualised/ 

Words of RadianceThis week I finished Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. (Huff. Huff) The over one thousand pages looked overwhelming, but they were actually easier to do than I expected– although it entailed a few really late nights. Way of Kings is the first in this series and I reviewed that last year and really liked it. Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine.

If you like chunky epics with detailed world building, you will love this one. The characters are compelling and the magic, as ever with Sanderson, is interesting. There are three major point of view characters: the doctor’s son betrayed into slavery and clawing his way back, the king’s uncle and stalwart hero who battles both in the trenches and in the  evil court, and the abused beautiful young girl who searches for the strength to become a powerful woman. Each has a story and each interact with the others. The stories start slow, but build beautifully.Way of Kings

Sanderson writes with passion and a good storyline. That combination always makes an excellent read and is worth being a little sleep deprived at times.

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Romance in Science Fiction for Valentine’s Day

photoLove is in the air. Valentine’s Day is here. Today is dedicated to recognizing the special people in our life and telling them that we love and appreciate them.

Too often we’re too busy to mention how important they are to us.

So take some time today and let them know.

You probably have it already on your agenda.

You know I’m working on marketing, so I want to make sure that you’re aware that my time travel romance, Caught in Time, will be offered free on Amazon today February 14th through the 18th.

Caught in Time Cover1.1 2Travel back in time to a medieval period…on an alien planet. Rowyna Grae is a regendered clone from the last dying time traveler and is sent into the past to kill a king who is considered the origin of those with special abilities called, Talents.

However, instead, she falls in love with him while dealing with no running water, lack of heat, a barbaric people, betrayal at the royal court, and a looming war.

Think Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court…only Rowyna Grae is no simple Connecticut Yankee and King Telluria’s court can get complicated to a young woman from the future.

Enjoy yourself. It’s FREE for a limited time only.

Currently, I am watching the Brigham Young University series by Brandon Sanderson and really am enjoying his lectures. I gave a link on a former blog. I am thinking of reading Words of Radiance since I have read and reviewed the first book of this epic fantasy, Way of Kings, already and liked it. Unfortunately, it’s over a thousand pages long. I can’t do that in a week. But I’ll probably try.Way of Kings

MistbornWord is that sequels to his Alloy of Law series will also be out later this year. So heads up there. The earlier Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson is a favorite of mine and many other fantasy readers. If you haven’t read it, you might give it a glance.

Since I’m constantly in edit mode nowadays, I bought Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Brown. I usually use an editor, but it helps to edit myself first before I hand it off. One of my favorite bloggers just came out with a long list of books to help the struggling writer of today and that is where I discovered this title. Check out http://www.veronicasicoe.com/blog/2015/02/writing-advice-books-list/ and her latest blog for ideas and comments.

Then, don’t forget to hug someone significant and tell them that you love them.

XXXXX

 

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