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Fiction Blog, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Geeky Things

Introducing Parallel Magic: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Show

If you read my January update or follow me on social media, you’ve probably caught the unofficial announcements… but now, I’m pleased to officially introduce Parallel Magic: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Show.

Parallel Magic PodcastIn this podcast, Jonas Lee (my friend and fellow author) and I discuss science fiction and fantasy novels over a drink. We started the show to create a virtual book club, where sci-fi/fantasy readers from around the world could chat about the books we love while enjoying the simple camaraderie of a drink (alcohol optional, of course!).

Thus far, we’ve aired two episodes. The first dives into Scythe by Neal Shusterman, along with all the existential crises a book about (im)mortality can bring. The second episode, which aired today, covers Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, as well as my first embarrassing Champagne pop, epic space battles, and the book’s brain-blowing (and not-so-brain-blowing twists).

Interested? Subscribe to Parallel Magic on iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite listening app.

You can also connect with Parallel Magic on our website and social media:

Website: https://parallelmagic.wordpress.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ParallelMagic
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Parallel_Magic_
Goodreads Group: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/385284-parallel-magic
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQqK_SKUR5rXk7HmHkra4yQ

Thanks for listening and joining in the fun!

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Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Monthly Update: January 2018

Whether I’m living in windy Kansas, snow-packed Connecticut, or sunny California, January always seems to be a strange month for me. While I’m filled with excitement and optimism for the year ahead, I also struggle with the mid-winter sluggishness that plagues so many of us. Yes, even in California’s freakishly warm weather, I can’t shake that winter feeling.

I think what made this January extra-strange is that it took so long for my routine to normalize. The month began in Kansas, as I wrapped up my holiday vacation and kicked the last of a very nasty cold. Back in California, I had a brief return to the house (filled with fence-painting and other fun chores), then jetted off for a few days at the office in Connecticut. Finally, during the fourth week of the month, I managed to stay put and ease back into my everyday routine.

Despite all the obligations and distractions, I’m pleased with what I accomplished in January. I’ve broken it down by category below, then I’ll share my top goals for February at the end.

Writing

Salem researchThe Kingdom’s Cogsmith (A Desertera Short Story) I’m happy to report that I finally finished the FREE Desertera short story for my Reader List subscribers. After all the support they’ve given me, I was thrilled to give something back to them.

Desertera #4 While I’m not as far into the fourth Desertera novel as I’d hoped to be, I have the entire book outlined and have begun drafting. Thanks to the help of a close writer friend, I figured out what was “wrong” with my initial outline, and I think the story will be much stronger now.

Salem Idea As I shared in my Ask Me Anything Video, I’m currently outlining my new series idea. I’m not sure what to call it yet — it straddles the line between dark fantasy, paranormal suspense, and supernatural thriller — but I’m loving the concept. It’s in the vein of Supernatural and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I’m stoked to dig into the world.

New Projects

Parallel Magic PodcastAsk Me Anything Videos This year, I’ll be recording a monthly Ask Me Anything video, where you can submit questions about the Desertera series, my other writing, or literally anything else you like. Watch the January AMA here, and start planning your February questions!

Parallel Magic Podcast You can read the official announcement in this post, but you’re hearing it here first. I’ve started a podcast with my friend Jonas Lee, where we discuss science fiction and fantasy novels over a drink. If you’re a sci-fi/fantasy fan, check us out on our website.

Reading

Scythe by Neal Shusterman 4Scythe/5 stars — Humans have conquered death, but an elite force of grim reapers still kill them. Great concept, but predictable plot and forced love story.

The Healthy Writer by Joanna Penn & Dr. Euan Lawson 5/5 stars — Practical and actionable tips on balancing writing with healthy lifestyle choices.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4.5/5 stars — Space battles, a potentially evil AI system, zombies, and a dash of romance, wrapped up in a brilliant dossier-style package.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris 4/5 stars — A thriller classic. Dr. Lecter steals the show, and I’m totally fine with that.

Personal Life

Physical health Other than the weeks I was sick, I managed to meet my daily step goal and fit in strength or cardio training too. I’m feeling great!

Mental health I’ve started doing freewriting as meditation, and it’s helped me sort through a few tough issues. I also implemented a monthly #treatyoself mandate.

Generosity Another goal is to be more generous with my thoughts and actions. In this effort, I’ve discovered a new rule worth sharing: “If it won’t matter in five years, don’t be mad about it for more than five minutes.” If nothing else, it’s helped my road rage!

Goal Tracking For my daily or almost-daily goals, I’ve created a new layout on my phone that creates a satsifying rainbow when I have a “perfect” day. For weekly, monthly, and one-time 2018 goals, I’ve started a new spreadsheet. Doing weekly check-ins keeps me accountable and focused on what matters most to me.

February Goals

Beyond my ongoing daily/weekly/monthly goals, here’s what I’m focusing on in February.

Primary Goal Finish outlining and start drafting the Salem novel.

Secondary Goal Continue writing Desertera #4.

Tertiary Goal Plan a fantastic Valentine’s Day for Daniel and me!


What did you accomplish in January? What are your February goals? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, The Desertera Series, Writing Updates

Ask Me Anything: January 2018

Welcome to my January 2018 Ask Me Anything video!

Earlier this month, I asked readers from my email list and Facebook page whether they had any questions about the Desertera series, my writing process, or anything else. As a reader, I love it when authors open up and share behind-the-scenes info, so I wanted to do the same for you!

You can watch the video right here. Or if you prefer to read my answers, I’ve summarized them below.

1. How did you come up with the idea for the Desertera series?

While I was working for the Baker University English Department as a student assistant, one of the professors had her class complete projects about One Thousand and One Nights (aka The Arabian Nights). The basic concept, as far as the student papers summarized, was that the king executed each new bride after their wedding night because he believed she would inevitably be unfaithful to him.

This got me thinking: why wouldn’t the king just make adultery illegal? Surely, that would deter many women from cheating, and he would appear fairer in doling out his executions. Thus, King Archon and Desertera’s horrible adultery law was born.

2. Did you come up with the beginning, middle, or end of Aya’s story first?

I had to think about this answer for a while because I honestly couldn’t remember! Aya’s story rose rather organically out of that initial adultery law concept, but I believe the beginning came first.

As I considered how one would overthrow this king, it occurred to me that a prostitute would be a smart choice to seduce the king. This gave me the idea of a nobleman approaching a prostitute in a brothel with his treasonous plans. As for Aya herself, I wanted the prostitute to be terrible at her job, so I kept asking myself questions about this woman and her life, and eventually, Aya’s backstory fleshed out.

3. If you could change anything about the Desertera series, would you? And what would you change?

In the video, I give two answers to this question. First, I’d either do a better job of concealing Willem’s identity in The Cogsmith’s Daughter, or I’d approach the love story from a different angle. I thought there were less obvious (and more interesting) twists, but readers really seem to focus on the Willem one. However, I do not plan to change the story, as it would take significant editing, and I’d rather focus on writing new books for you!

Second, I AM still considering taking out the love scene in The Cogsmith’s Daughter. While I believe the scene is important for Aya’s character growth (after all, she’d never known consensual physical intimacy before that moment), I know it isolates some readers and prevents younger people from reading my books. Plus, as I am considering pursuing audiobook creation, I know some readers won’t want that kind of scene in their ears! If you have an opinion, I’d love to hear it. 🙂

4. Who is your favorite Desertera character?

I’m cheating and giving two answers. Lord Varick is my favorite to write, due to his manipulative nature and clever dialog. I love that he’s always one step ahead of everyone else. However, Dellwyn Rutt is my favorite character as an individual. I admire her commitment to justice and how she’s unashamed of her sensuality, as well as her occasional vulnerability and her willingness to admit when she’s in over her head.

5. What is it like to start a new series?

Really damn difficult! Writing a new series means creating new characters, a new world, and an entire magic system. However, I’m loving the challenge and thrilled with my idea. Plus, I’m a bit insecure about writing something outside of Desertera and whether my readers will like it!

vvIn case you haven’t heard my rough concept yet: the atrocities committed during the Salem Witch Trials scarred the land with an evil energy… and now a real witch has decided to avenge the innocents killed. She’s out to destroy everyone profiting from Salem’s tourism industry, and my protagonist (a psychic shop owner) must discover that witches are real, find the evil witch, and stop her to save Salem.


That’s all for this video! Thanks to everyone who asked a question. I’ll be back in February with another round of Ask Me Anything, so feel free to submit your questions in the comments or through my contact page.

Fiction Blog, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Geeky Things

The Remnants of Magic in Our Modern World

While researching the Salem Witch Trials, early English folk magic, and modern psychic practices for my upcoming dark fantasy series, my world has become a lot more… magical. Despite my best efforts, I can’t bring myself to believe wholly in magic (though I envy those of you who can!), but I’ve started to notice how these practices I’m studying survive in our modern, logical, technology-centered world.

The average skeptic would probably define these “modern magic techniques” as superstitions, childhood silliness, or plain idiocy. For the most part, I agree. I’m not arguing that these practices work as the users intend. Rather, I’m sharing my personal connections between the traditional and the modern to show that, though humanity’s belief in magic has nearly evaporated, the shadows of magic (and perhaps even our deep-rooted desire for it to be true) remain.

Divining Love: Egg Whites to Daisies to MASH

divinationAccording to many secondary sources, such as Reverend John Hale’s A Modest Enquiry into the Nature of Witchcraft (1697), young girls from Salem experimented with fortune telling. Supposedly with the help of Tituba (Reverend Samuel Parris’ Native American slave and the first individual accused of witchcraft), the girls used egg whites and a mirror to create a “crystal ball.” The shapes formed would reveal the occupations of their future husbands.

However, when one of the girls saw a coffin, she got spooked. Some traditions hold that this scare caused the girls, specifically Betty Parris and Abigail Williams (Rev. Parris’s daughter and niece), to believe themselves (or to act) bewitched and start the witchcraft hysteria. Though the truth of this story remains unclear, the “white magic” described was practiced throughout colonial America and England during this time.

Young girls today still use playful means to divine information about their love lives. Plucking petals from a daisy, alternating between “He loves me” and “He loves me not,” allows the questioner to discover the “truth” about her crush’s feelings. Back in my day (the early 2000s), we used a pencil-and-paper game called MASH to determine our future husbands, occupations, houses, cars, number of children, and other topics of interest. (Learn how to play it here.) The divination methods may have changed, but the “magical” intent remains the same.

(What both of these practices say about heteronormativity and gender stereotypes is a topic for another day…)

Numerology: What’s Your Lucky Number?

numerologyIn the simplest terms, numerology is the belief that numbers have a divine or magical significance, and that they can reveal truths about the present or future. The most common numerology practice involves your Life Number. By adding the numbers in your birthdate and reducing them to a single digit, you can identify your Life Number. (Example: My birthday is March 11, 1992. So, my Life Number is calculated as 3+1+1+1+9+9+2 = 26 = 2+6 = 8) According to the meaning behind the number 8, my life path will revolve around ambition, goals, and material wealth. (Find your own Life Number here.)

Numerologists can do similar calculations with other dates or words (there are systems that assign numerical values to the letters) to divine the meaning behind them. For instance, if you’re looking for a good day to have a first date with someone, you should pick a date that reduces down to 2 (the number of cooperation, harmony, and love).

Where do we see numerology in everyday life? An obvious example is people who choose their own lottery numbers, based on the number’s significance to them. I’ve noticed a similar pattern on the daytime game show, Let’s Make a Deal. (Yes, I’m an 85-year-old woman in a 25-year-old’s body. Moving on.) At the end of each episode, the big winner is offered a chance to win the Big Deal of the Day by choosing a numbered curtain. Nearly every time, the contestant “justifies” their selection by giving the number meaning. “Curtain 3, because I have three kids.” “Curtain 1, because my birthday is August 1st.”

By assigning meaning to the numbers, and trusting that meaning to perform the magic of helping them win the Big Deal, the contestants participate in the basic tradition of numerology.

Do You Believe in Magic… or Its Remnants?

zodiacFrom magic/religion scholars to humble inquirers like myself, the line between magic and superstition remains blurred and often nonexistent. Though we might not believe in either, we keep both alive by checking our horoscopes (or tweeting about the travesty of Mercury being in retrograde), knocking on wood, playing with Ouija boards, folding “cootie catchers,” and so much more.

Discovering these magical remnants and recognizing them in my own life gives me a strange sense of comfort. The idea that humanity still clings to the hope that we can evoke positive change and control our futures (even if we’re doing it unknowingly) offers a uniquely beautiful form of optimism. And in today’s messed up world – you know what I’m talking about – I’ll take all the magic I can get.


Do you take part in any of these magical or superstitious practices? Do you truly (or want to) believe in magic? Where do you see magic or beauty in your life?

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

My 2018 Goals and Resolutions

Welcome, new readers! And welcome back, longtime readers! I hope you enjoyed your holidays and New Year festivities, and are ready to tackle 2018 with me.

Happy New Year

If you read the blog last year, you know that I’m a major goal junkie. Whether that’s New Year’s resolutions or just my daily to-do list, I’m always gunning to tick off those pesky must-do tasks and thinking forward to my larger goals. So, late December / early January is one of my favorite “seasons.” It’s a time to reflect on my accomplishments, consider where I want my writing and life in general to go, and plan out the next year.

Over the last few years, I’ve adopted my husband’s tradition of making one resolution per year of my age. That means I’m making 25 for 2018. (Before you comment about how you’re 48 and could never do this … the whole mentality is that you find more reasons to live and make the most of your time as you age … there’s no rule against making small, simple goals!).

As I sat down to write my New Year’s resolutions, I realized that most of them don’t have the typical “resolution” quality. Sure, some of them speak to personal habits or lifestyle improvements, but the majority are simply goals or tasks that I aim to accomplish. As usual, with 25 goals, I’m biting off more than I can chew.  In 2017, I “only” hit 17 of 24 goals … but if I hadn’t set so many objectives, I wouldn’t have done even that much.

I know I won’t accomplish every goal I set. But if I shoot for the moon, I can still hit several stars along the way.

Usually, I list out all my goals and resolutions to share with you. This year, I’m going to share a few of them, but mostly focus on the larger reasons and themes that connect my goals. (Some are rather personal in nature, and others details exciting projects I’m not yet at liberty to discuss!)

Writing Goals

createSame as last year, my primary writing goal is to create (either writing, editing, or outlining) at least five days per week. Like many writers, I still struggle with consistency. I’ll write a whole book in 90 days or less … then go for a month without putting a single word on the page. I know consistency is the key to a sustainable, long-term writing career (as well as my specific production goals), so it remains top of my list.

As for my specific production goals, I’d like to finish the Desertera series this year. This means writing and publishing the final two books in the series, and hopefully putting out a complete boxed set and starting audiobook versions. I’d also like to kick off my dark fantasy / paranormal thriller series … and I have a few other ideas in the works too.

Business Goals

Most of these are pretty boring for non-entrepreneurs (okay, even for some entrepreneurs too), so I won’t go into too much detail. Mainly, I want to refine my author brand. With three novels, a nonfiction series, and several other endeavors under my belt, I think I finally have a strong grasp on who I am as a writer and who my readers are. Everything I do with my business in 2018 will focus on creating value for my readers, sharing more of myself, and building assets/revenue so I can do even more in the future. So, yes. MY business is really all about YOU.

Personal Goals

Kate cookieIn the second half of 2017, I finally made exercise a regular part of my life. I also started meditating. These are habits on which I hope to expand in 2018. I’m lucky to be young and in good health … so I want to keep it that way as long as possible! (Though, I’ll still have the occasional cookie — especially if it’s that cute!)

Another major theme of my personal goals is being more present and intentional with my actions. Like many people, I feel the need to be superhuman and do ALL THE THINGS. This societal-/self-imposed pressure has led to stress and even migraines (which resurfaced with some negative events at the end of 2017). So, one of my big goals is to stop multi-tasking and focus on one task at a time. I’m hoping that this will reduce how often I feel “spread too thin,” as well as increase my efficiency and the quality of my work, whatever the task may be.

How I’m Tracking My Goals

For daily tasks that apply to my goals (such as meditating, exercising, writing, reading, etc.), I use a habit tracker on my phone. This allows me to check off each task as it is accomplished, as well as see my progress for the week, month, or year. Sometimes, I’m surprised by how much I completed … and other days, it’s the harsh wakeup call I need!

For weekly, monthly, and one-time 2018 goals, I’ve created my own tracker in Google Sheets. Each category of goals has its own sheet, and once a week, I will go into the spreadsheet and report my progress. Instead of simply checking off a goal or leaving it blank, I’m marking it off with a color (green for accomplished, red for failed, and yellow for partially accomplished) for an easy and immediate visual representation of my progress. At the end of 2018, I hope my spreadsheet will have lots of green!

Making Your Own Resolutions

targetIf you’re looking for advice on making your own resolutions or goals, I give my strategy in this post. (And Dr. Google has millions of tips too). In the end, what it comes down to is deciding what’s really important to you (not what you “should” do, but what you genuinely want to do), dreaming as big as you can, then working toward that dream with several small, specific, and realistic goals. It might take the whole year (or several years) to accomplish your dreams, but if you don’t start taking those steps, you’ll never make it.

And if you’re one of those New Year Scrooges who hates resolutions, that’s fine too.

As for me, I’ll keep shooting for that moon one goal at a time.

What are your goals and resolutions for 2018? Why did you choose these objectives? Share your dreams (and tips for reaching them!) in the comments.