Tag Archives: ghost 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

Costume Ideas from Science Fiction

 

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Halloween is coming, so get ready! Do you have your costume yet?

What Urban Fantasy book could you enjoy and get lots of ideas?

Why, that would be Skin Game by Jim Butcher, the latest in his Harry Dresden Series.

Jim Butcher writes Urban Fantasy, and although I’m not usually a reader of the genre, I am a fan of this series.Skin Game

Throughout the first several books, Harry has dealt with Vampires, Werewolves, the Fae, Chicago gangsters and every fantasy creature imaginable, including his faithful Foo dog and Bob, a genius spirit that resides on a shelf in a skull.

We have watched Harry develop from a sketchy, part-time detective, cooking up amateur potions in his underground basement, to becoming a full fledged wizard that gets killed and returns from the dead. He is now a warden of the White Council while serving as Maab’s Winter Knight…

A juggling act if ever there was one.

And when he yells, Forzare, Disperdorius, Lumios, or Artispinae, step back because powerful magic is about to happen.

Now in Skin Game, Maab, Queen of the Fae, lends him as her Winter Knight to assist Nicodemus Archleone of the Blackened Denarius as payback for a favor. Nicodemus pulls together a team that he plans to take into The Underworld in order to steal the Holy Grail. They have to blow up a Chicago mobster’s vault and pass through the three gates of Hades: the Gate of Fire, The Gate of Ice and the Gate of Blood.

Ghost StoryThe team consists of: Hannah Asher, expert of fire, Anna Valmount, safecracker extraordinaire, Goodman Grey, fantastical shapeshifter, Genoskwa, Bigfoot style monster who can go invisible, Binder who controls an army of men that leap from the ground and dissolve back into dirt, Deirdre’s, Nicodemus’s demonform daughter, Karrin Murphy, ex-cop and weapon obsessed sidekick to Harry, and Harry Dresden, wizard. Harry is traveling in dangerous company, most wanting to eliminate him from this world all over again, so he has to watch his back at all times.

However, Knight of the Cross, now retired, Michael Carpenter, takes up his sword again for Harry’s sake, and the Archangel Uriel makes an appearance, along with several other familiar Dresden characters, including Kris Kringle also known as Santa Clause and Hades, Greek god of the Underworld.

Plus, Waldo Butters…who?…well…you’ll just have to read the story.Summer Knight

In spite of the fantastical creatures that populate Dresden’s world, the story contains real human emotion as Harry and Michael struggle to protect their family and the world against evil.

Storm FrontIt also provides an array of imaginative creatures, any one of which would make a great Halloween costume.

So now, you have some ideas.

I have seen the power of offering free books. I’ve read where many believe that free or discounted books, once downloaded, sit somewhere on readers digital bookshelves, collecting digital dust where they never get read. So it was interesting to see the blog: Eleven Things You Don’t know About Bargain Ebook Buyers from Bookbub that indicates otherwise. Keeping in mind that Bookbub provides discounted and free books, I still found the information worth mentioning. Follow this link: http://unbound.bookbub.com/post/87615381745/11-things-you-dont-know-about-bargain-ebook-buyers for more specific data and information, but here’s the top eleven conclusions concerning Bargain Ebook Buyers.

  1. They are Power Readers
  2. They read everywhere: at home, while traveling, in bed, at work,
  3. They read primarily on Tablets
  4. They don’t just read e-books but read paperbacks and hardbacks also
  5. They have higher than average income
  6. They are genre readers: mysteries, thrillers, romance
  7. They buy full priced e-books
  8. They read the books they download
  9. They try new authors
  10. They become loyal fans
  11. They recommend the books they like.

As an ebook author, it’s food for thought I wanted to share.

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Noir Fantasy with a Cutting Edge

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Is it just me or are fantasy novels getting grittier? Looking over several lists, I notice that fantasy dominates popular reading and selections for 2013, but ever since Game of Thrones, the stories I’m reading seem harsher, gorier, gritty. Does this reflect our society? And in what way? Are current writers being influenced to write coarser protagonist with more violent plot lines?51LqynbphlL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

In George R.R. Martin’s last book, Dance with Dragons, the hero still standing  was a one-eyed dwarf with a torn off half face who suffers from dysentery. You end up with him at the close of the story on a gory battlefield knee deep in mud.

No swashbuckling hero him.

Skin GameAnother current favorite is the urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden fights to protect the city of Chicago against vampires, goblins and evil enemies, but he is usually tattered, aching, bruised  and needs a bath when dealing with “the dark side.” It is only after he dies and becomes a ghost that all the aches and pains go away. Yet his frustrations continue with the limitations imposed on his ghostly self. Can’t even twist a doorknob open.

Now, the next book coming out in May is titled Skin Game…and dare we hope he returns to his battered human self? And what mayhem and grotesque ghouls and evil doers will he confront to cause this transformation?

What sparked this introspection is that I’m currently reading Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself and while the writing is vivid, every character seems damaged in some way. One of the main characters is Glokta, an Inquisitor, who performs particularly violent procedures to wring confessions out of his victims.

I couldn’t get to sleep last night for images of fingertips flying through the air as he hacks a confession from a prisoner, or teeth breaking under pliers as he wrenches information out for his master all the while groaning in his own pain and agony. Even the king is a fat gross fool who is manipulated by greedy and power hungry ministers. The supposed brave knight/soldier is such a self centered fool that you want to strangle him yourself the moment you meet him. Still, the story is engrossing and I do keep going back for more. This seems to be the popular offering nowadays.The Blade Itself2

Whatever happened to unicorns and strong jawed heroes that save fair damsel?

Fantasy is not reality…it’s fantasy.

Reality is for tv shows.

Interesting that two of the Oscar nominations were in the science fiction genre. “Gravity” dealt with outer space and “Her” with a man following in love with a computer.

No wonder I want to jump back into the science fiction genre where I only have to deal with space battles and the occasional deadly aliens.

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Filed under dragons, fantasy, fantasy series, Noir Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Wizards and magic

Complicated Magic

Hocus Pocus…Abracadabra…Open Sesame. It used to be easy. Discover a  word of power, hold a wand and be a wizard.

Shout the word and magic spews forth.

What happened to the good old days?

Not so easy in the now popular Urban Fantasy genre. Most modern day legerdemain requires a graduate degree in arcane arts.

Harry Potter, for example. A story where gifted students  study magic and learn all the rules, regulations, potions and spells in order to become proper wizards. And there are a multitude of rules, regulations and spells to learn at Hogwarts.

One of my favorite books is Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (see earlier blog) The main character, Kvothe,  struggles with poverty and sacrifices everything he has, so he can attend a college of magic where different types of incantations and spells are taught. There, the strongest magic is naming magic, particularly calling up the name of the wind. At the University, various talented students pay to study in order to find the magic they are best suited for.

Another of my favorites is the Mistborn series  by Brandon Sanderson. It employs a highly complicated system of alloy conjuring. Silver, gold, lead, etc.,  each one is taken into the body in pellet form and “burned” to produce various supernatural abilities; such as flying through the air, stopping time, and becoming invisible. Different characters wield different metals and certain gifted people can combine more than one alloy to produce unique combinations of abilities.

You have to read the complicated chart at the back of the book to understand it properly.

Now, Devon Monk’s delightful book Magic to the Bone contains a highly developed conjuring system where the use of magic results in painful side effects. As she writes, “Every act has a cost. And every act of magic exacts a price from its user.” Her main character, Allie, also attended a  university of magic in her past with courses on Grounding, Siphoning, Dispersement and various other spells before she becomes a Hound, who scrounges a living, providing black market revenge spells and taking on various odd jobs of enchantment around town. Within the first few pages, she becomes desperately ill because she forgot to set a Disbursement spell when handling a young boy dying from an incantation’s Offload. You learn that she has gaps in her memory from previous magical dabblings. 

Instead of being painful, I wonder why doesn’t magic doesn’t make the user richer and happier? You would think having supernatural abilities would give the local sorceress or wizard an edge, especially in a big city. And that would have good results. Alas for poor Allie, it brings pain and problems and memory gaps. Now, I’m thinking that might not be too bad, depending on the memory that is gapping. I, myself,  have a few memories from my teenage years that…but I digress.

Along similar lines, Jim Butcher’s well known urban fantasy, the Dresden series, also portrays a down-on-his-luck mage who takes on odd jobs involving wizardry along with his detecting. He’s a wizard for hire in big city Chicago. In his case, the magic also manifests through a wide variety of exotic creatures that he confronts. Fighting vampires, werewolves, the Fey, wizards, trolls, and others, often entails vicious battle scars and Harry Dresden carries many. His magic also exhausts him, but as in many cases dealing with the occult, he grows stronger as he gathers more powerful magic to himself and learns how to use it better. It’s called learning on the job. Of course, he takes on more and more difficult assignments and attracts more and more powerful enemies, so that he gets into some serious situations and eventually gets killed. Still, that doesn’t stop Harry and the latest novel, Ghost Story, is about how he goes about solving his own murder while a ghost.

Intriguing.

In every story, however, if you are going to do magic, you have to be born with a specific set of genes. You have to be born with wizard or sorceress potential. The common man can go to Kvothe’s college, or Hogwarts all he wants and all he’ll get is understanding, not ability. But, in most cases, as the protagonist uses his magic, he gets stronger and more powerful. Many times this results in deadlier enemies on his doorstep. The deeper the main character wades into solving the mystery, the blacker the magic he must overcome.

And, in the case of Urban Fantasy, it offers the magic wielder the opportunity to stalk down dark, creepy, alleys and meet scary, handsome/beautiful, vampire type characters that want to drink his/her blood.

Makes me want to pawnshop my wand.

Whatever happened to Cinderella’s godmother who used point and click magic?  Bippity boppity boo. A pumpkin turns into a coach and you ride away.

We live in a “No pain, no gain” world nowadays. Give me the good old days…

Shazaam.

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Making a List for 2012

A new year (sound of hands rubbing together) Time to make a list for 2012. (eager anticipation)

I would like to think that I am adventurous, knowledgeable reader, one who pushes the boundaries and tries new things. Alas…it’s not true. I find that when I’m looking for a new book to read, I run and huddle next to a favorite author, unless the cover is awesome and the subject matter intriguing. Even then, it’s a chancy thing.

Makes it hard for us new authors.

So, when I looked at what I wanted to read for this new year, the shock was that it was books from authors that I knew and loved. Many of them wrote a series…some have written several series. And that is my goal at the moment. To write a compelling series. I call it the Alysian Universe and it follows a timeline of events. Check them out.

But I digress…

First on the list for 2012 (fanfare) is Ashes of Candesce by  Karl Schroeder. Okaaay. This is a fairly new author that I have recently discovered and the story is unique. This book is five in the series: Sun of Suns, Pirate Sun, Queen of Cadesce, the Sunless Countries and now Ashes of Candesce. This universe exists inside a giant weightless bubble. The cities float and all is in darkness unless a sun is lit, which makes a huge difference to the existing life. Several sun systems float about and a young boy’s parents have discovered the secret to creating a new sun. Politics and intrigue ensue. This is innovative world building at its best that uses interesting science while maintaining the fun of space pirates, treasure hunts and an unusual love story. I enjoyed how Karl dealt with weightlessness.

2. Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. The is the latest book in the Mistborn series, which has gotten a lot of positive feedback. The Alloy of Law, jumps a few generations, but takes place in the same world as Mistborn. Add in some steampunk, the laws using the various alloys, and an interesting adventure and I’m in. Been meaning to pick this one up for a while now.

3. Intruder #13 in the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh. Hey, it’s by Cherryh, local fellow author. Everything she writes, I love. I just finished Betrayer and enjoyed that, although it did feel a bit like the formula is starting to be repetitive. I am curious as to what happens next in this world.

4. Naamah’s Blessing by Jacqueline Carey. Carey’s series is more chick lit with a sharp edge. Still, I find myself caught up in the action, the characters and the blatant sex. Carey came on the writing scene with Kushiel’s Dart and that series. The main character was friend of the queen and a masochistic spy and savior. Some of the sex scenes got rough. I came back for more, however, and finished the series. Naamah is a god of love, and not as rough as the god Kushiel. There is still royal intrigue, great adventure and passionate characters. The summary looked intriguing.


5.Ghost Story by Jim Butcher. I included this, even though it isn’t science fiction because…well, they killed Dresden off in the last book and I thought that was that–end of series. Now, this title is about a ghost and I am intrigued at how Dresden is going to survive and work his magic.

That’s five that I have to start with. I will add five more next week. Let me know what you like. I am particularly looking for Indie books that are not an endorsement by the author, but by a reader that was pleasantly surprised by a good story and wants to mention it.

Keep those resolutions. January isn’t even over.

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