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, 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, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, & Geeky Things

Why We Love Ghost Stories

Katherine crept down the basement stairs, cringing as each step sent a creak throughout the empty room below. While she was allowed to play in the basement, she didn’t want any of the adults to hear her go down there. She needed to escape the half-empty boxes, tearful conversations, and big decisions. Though no one had asked her to participate, she still felt compelled to solve the problems, ones she could only begin to understand.

haunted stairsAs Katherine reached the bottom of the stairs, her sneakers squished into the dingy brown carpet. Despite the warm, 1970s color palette and the bright light bulb hanging over the pool table, the room sent a shiver down her spine. Katherine had visited the house hundreds of times in her 12 years, but this was only her second visit since her great-grandmother had died.

The first had been on the night IT happened. Katherine and her parents had received the phone call during dinner, discarded their unfinished plates, and rushed into town. All the commotion had passed by the time they arrived. So, they stood around the edges of the living room with the rest of the family, each member careful not to disturb the towel in the center of the floor. Katherine almost wished they’d hadn’t covered up the blood. She worried her imagination was worse than the reality.

Alone in the basement, Katherine walked over to her great-grandmother’s pantry closet. Sliding back the door, she surveyed the shelves. They were stacked full with brownie mixes, canned vegetables, and more. Atop each container, her great-grandmother had written the expiration date in thick, black Sharpie. Katherine touched her fingertip to one of the dates, partly sad that her great-grandmother would never reach 11/05, partly comforted by her familiar scrawl.

As Katherine pulled back her hand, goosebumps rose across her arm, and she got the distinct feeling that someone was watching her. She turned around, expecting to see her mom or one of her aunts waiting on the stairs. No one was there.

Just as Katherine started to turn back around, the light bulb above the pool table flickered. Katherine froze and stared. The light bulb flickered again, and that time, the chain swung back and forth, clinking against the glass bulb.

Putting her hand over her mouth to avoid screaming, Katherine turned and bolted up the stairs. As she reached the top, she slammed the door shut and pressed her back against it. Her mom rushed in from the kitchen, her forehead wrinkled in concern. “Are you okay?”

“Mom, the basement is haunted!” Katherine gulped in a deep breath and pressed her hand to her chest, as if that would keep her heart inside her rib cage. “The light bulb over the pool table flickered. And the chain… it was moving like someone had pulled it.”

“Wow.” Mom rubbed her lips together, and her eyes narrowed in thought. After a moment, she gave a small smile. “I bet grandpa was just teasing you. I’m sure he’s happy now that grandma is with him again.”

Katherine wrinkled her nose. “You think?”

Mom nodded. “He was always a trickster. I’m sure he’s having a good laugh at your expense.” Mom’s face softened, and she rubbed Katherine’s shoulder. “But don’t worry. You know he would never hurt you.”

“Of course.” Katherine shifted from foot to foot. She knew her mom was right, but something about the house still felt wrong. Even if the ghost had just been her grandpa saying hi or playing a joke, she needed some fresh air. “I’m going to go outside and see what Daddy is doing.”

No ghosts, not even Grandpa, could bother her with Daddy there to protect her.


Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), that’s the only real-life ghost story I know. Oh, yes. I am not a Katherine. But that Katherine and her story represent me.

Despite my lifelong fascination with the paranormal and supernatural, I’ve never come closer to a ghost or monster. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve rationalized that moment from my childhood to normality (I haven’t asked my mom if she believes in what she said, but since she reads my blog, I bet she’ll tell me…). The light bulb was probably just close to burning out or a large appliance, like the furnace clicking on, caused it to blink. The jolt of electricity (or my wild imagination) could have caused the chain to move. I don’t know. I’m not an electrician. But ghosts can’t be real… right?

ghostEvery October, I remember my near-ghost experience as I bask in the glory of Halloween. This year, as I’ve suffered yet another family death, it got me thinking: why do we love ghost stories? And why, not-so-deep down, do I hope my great-grandpa really was teasing me that day?

On the surface, the answer seems obvious. If ghosts are real, then there’s something after we die. Whether its heaven or hell, purgatory or haunting our old house, we continue to exist. It’s a comforting thought — for our future and all the loved ones who have already passed away.

On the other hand, maybe ghost stories prepare us for the opposite. After all, who wants to turn into an evil specter and harm the living for eternity? Maybe nothing would be better than being a Grade A asshole until Sam and Dean come along and blow us away with rock salt.

And perhaps it’s even a little deeper than that. In a way, ghost stories allow us to “experience” death in the same way that romance stories allow us to “fall in love” through their characters. And by doing so, they also remind us to appreciate life.

We often see the tormented ghost berating the innocent protagonist, until it finally lets go of its lost life and finds peace. As we reject the ghost’s behavior, we commit ourselves to being a better dead person than it is. We will accept our fate with dignity, and as such, we will appreciate our life while we have it, “live life to the fullest,” etc. Thus by entertaining the ghost story, we end up feeling more alive.

Then again, maybe there’s nothing deep to it at all. Maybe some of you twisted souls just like to be scared.

I, for one, do not. So, Grandpa, if you’re still present in the ether and watching over me as I write this… please don’t mess with the lights. At least not until sunrise.


How do you feel about ghost stories? Have you have any encounters with the supernatural? Share your experiences in the comments!

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

The Power of Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman LogoAbout a month ago, Daniel (my husband) and I went to see the new Wonder Woman movie. No spoilers, I promise. Because Daniel’s a huge movie buff, I let him share his DC fanboy analysis first (basic message: “That’s the movie Man of Steel should have been — hopeful, optimistic, awe-inspiring, untouchable!”). As we pulled into the pet store parking lot (exciting errands for this married couple), Daniel asked for my thoughts.

And without warning, I burst into tears.

This is why I’ve waited so long to write this post. I’m embarrassed by my reaction, and I don’t even know if I can put words to how Wonder Woman made me feel. But Daniel insists that you (especially the women) will appreciate my thoughts and so here they are.

Wonder Woman
Photo credit

For whatever reason, at that exact moment in my life, Wonder Woman was the superhero movie I didn’t know I needed. In the most basic ways (sometimes subtle, sometimes not), Wonder Woman overcame and surpassed the negative stereotypes and tropes that often define female superheroes (and characters in general). At the same time, Wonder Woman embraced Diana Prince’s womanhood and sexuality — even made them an asset for our hero — while still portraying her male allies in a positive light. The movie made me proud to be a woman, and as I watched the scenes unfold, I couldn’t help but feel like some kind of invisible weight had lifted.

Writing this now, I’m starting to become insecure. I can already imagine the ways in which I might be ridiculed for my reaction:

“Crying proves that women are weak!”
“Please, honey. You’re still white, cisgender, straight, American, abled, etc.!”
“Um … there are plenty of other strong female characters out there!”

To the first, I shake my head and move on.

To the second, I say, “I know!” I’m lucky to have been born with certain privileges, and having this experience has given me a new empathy and respect for those who feel underrepresented or excluded from our entertainment culture.

To the last, I say again, “I know!” That’s one of the reason I’m so boggled by my reaction. I grew up watching Xena Warrior Princess, and I’m a proud (albeit recent) member of Buffy’s Scooby Gang. I’ve read myriad books and graphic novels with strong, leading women. So why now? Why did Wonder Woman mean so much to me?

Honestly, I’m still not certain. Maybe it’s because Diana represented my brand of Feminism (which sometimes feels like it’s giving way to more radical, arguably misandristic perspectives). Maybe it’s because I’m in the middle of a bunch of huge life changes and needed affirmation of my strength. Maybe it’s because the other recent DC movies have been underwhelming for me. And maybe, it was just a damn good movie that manipulated my emotions as the master marketing team intended.

Wonder Woman Sword
Photo credit

Whatever the reason, after a tearful episode in the pet store parking lot and a quick purchase of cat laxative (I shit you not — poor Thomas!), Daniel and I made an unplanned stop. We went to Target to find me a Wonder Woman shirt, because I wanted to emblazon her logo across my chest. If you knew my “thrifty” self, you’d know that a $20 impulse buy is a BIG financial upset in our household. We didn’t find one I liked. The search continues but the fact remains …

Wonder Woman blew away my expectations. As a movie, it was fast-paced, charming, funny, packed with intense action (that trench warfare scene!), and satisfying (except for, perhaps, the final battle … but I promised no spoilers). But more than that, it tapped into a subconscious need that I didn’t even know I held. While other strong women have held the stage and Hollywood still has a long way to go towards equality, Wonder Woman was a step in the right direction and meant so much to me. If I can write just one character or one book that gives someone a modicum of that joy and pride, then I will be thrilled with my author career.


How did you feel about the new Wonder Woman movie? What other movies or books have held special meaning for you? Know where I can find a bad ass Wonder Woman shirt (seriously!)? Share it all in the comments.

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

Join the 2017 Brain to Books Cyber Convention

Hi, everyone! I normally don’t post on Saturdays, but I wanted to share an awesome event that’s happening. This weekend is the 2017 Brain to Books Cyber Convention.

What is the B2BCyCon?

Straight from the horse’s mouth:

The Brain to Books Cyber Convention and Book Expo—or B2BCyCon for short—is an annual event hosted online by Brain to Books.

Every April, Brain to Books welcomes in the new season of book releases, blog tours, and rising authors in the largest Convention and Book Expo anywhere online. For three days, we shine the spotlight on the undiscovered author. Readers, book lovers, and authors are invited to celebrate these hidden talents with Brain to Books. We have games, prizes, awards, contests, book readings, discussions, giveaways, drawings, and raffles.

The Convention is a single three-day event stretched across the internet. We are on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and more than three dozen websites worldwide. We are on Goodreads, podcasts, the radio…We are in Greece, Japan, Australia, Bristol, New York, California, Alaska, Hawaii, South Africa, Jamaica, Israel, and India. For 72 non-stop hours, undiscovered authors—both indie and trad—can find the largest and fastest growing author support group available today. We are the event for readers. We are the event for undiscovered authors.

In other words, it’s a great chance to meet your new favorite author, join in fun bookwormy discussions and win loads of FREE books and swag.

See the complete list of events here.

If you’re a Science Fiction fan, be sure to stop by the SciFi Soirée on Facebook. You’ll learn about dozens of great authors and books and have the chance to win prizes. I’ll be hosting at 7 p.m. EST, so come over and say hi!

That’s all for now. Have a fantastic weekend at the Con, and I’ll see you back here on Monday for your regularly scheduled post.