Book review: Magia Rising

I picked up Magia Rising when Amazon had it for free. I only recently sat down to catch up on my reading. It’s YA urban fantasy. Here’s the official summary:

New Orleans is teeming with warring witch clans. Their world goes unnoticed by the people of the city,unseen by the masses. Nixon was one of those people, oblivious to the battles brewing around him. That is, until his eighteenth birthday.

Abandoned and on his own after the deaths of his parents…he’d grown used to being alone. Now he’s discovering strange powers, learning secrets about his ancestors, and falling for the wrong girl–or is she the right one? In this new world he can trust no one…even the dead tell lies. Friends are enemies, and enemies hide the truth. Who can he trust? What’s real and what’s illusion?

The book starts off all right. Nixon is hearing voices and it’s driving him crazy, and also he can put thoughts into peoples’ heads. His roommate is some guy he brainwashed into letting him live with him–or is his roommate doing it of his own accord? The story seemed to dither a lot.

The Nixon finds The Hawt Witch Chick who is evil–or is she good? And Nixon talks a lot to his dead great-great grandmother–but is she good or evil?

The stuff about the warring witch clans of New Orleans was interesting enough, as was he flavor of New Orleans itself. The setting lends itself to a good urban fantasy romp.

The novel isn’t nearly as steamy as the cover makes it out to be. Nixon and his girlfriend kiss a lot and almost go to bed at one point, but nothing happens.

The story tries to throw in lots of twists and turns, but they don’t work very well. It seems more like the author changed their mind a lot, rather than organic parts of the story. An ally turning traitor in the last third of the book smacked of a cheap reversal that had absolutely no foreshadowing, and in fact undermined the buildup through the first half of the book.

But the worst thing is the ending. Or the fact that there isn’t an ending. The story cuts off mid-climax, for some reason. Just as the final battle between the witch clans is getting interesting, the book ends. Did the villains win? Is there going to be a sequel? Either way, it made me mad.

So yeah, it’s a decent book. The writing is competent, but wouldn’t win any contests. Don’t read it until there’s a sequel.

Cool coat

That’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Coats are warm, not cool.

Anyway, somebody on Facebook was passing around this coat from this company, where if you Liked the picture and shared it on your wall, you’d be entered to win the coat. I also snagged the picture because I want to draw it.

I mean, isn’t that totally awesome? It’s like Lord of the Ringsish or something! All she needs is wings. Because I’m always sticking wings on things.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting if the coat was a different color.

Here’s royal blue:

And red, for good measure.

I’m not sure which I like better. Although the red could easily become a Christmasy picture. I want her wings to be kind of ethereal, too. I’m also leaning toward a Bev Dolittle effect and making them hidden pictures in the background.

You know Bev Doolittle. Her art looks like this.

And that’s a watercolor. It makes me weep salty tears.

So what do you think? Black? Blue? Or red and Christmasy?

Inspiration and XCOM

My husband got the game XCOM as an early Christmas present. He’s played it all Thanksgiving weekend. XCOM is one of those weird games that’s hard to define–it’s a turn-based squad tactics game with a backbone of base-building and research and development. The storyline is that you’re managing a group of soldiers during an alien invasion of Earth.

Imagine Final Fantasy Tactics meets Civilization meets Independence Day.

My husband, naturally, has been naming his soldiers after Spacetime characters, which is kind of sad when they get killed off. Right now Indal outranks Carda, which is pretty hilarious.

So we got to talking about what would happen if we did drop our Spacetime characters into an alien war kind of situation. We couldn’t fit it into series 1, of course, but there’s also series 2, after Inferna’s been beaten. At one point, Earth opens a tenuous trade agreement with Tyrona, the most bloodthirsty, war-torn world in the known multiverse. This could become the source of global conflict between two worlds really quickly.

Over dinner, we came up with two or three different plots–what would happen if Carda got drafted into the US military, thereby compromising his impartial status as the Strider of Chronos?

What if Aesti (the robot suit with a soul) picked up a character we haven’t brought into the series yet–a little girl with incredibly destructive powers–and wound up having to protect her?

People always ask writers where their ideas come from. Well, they don’t come from living in a vacuum, that’s for sure. In this case, it comes from admiring and enjoying good world building, and speculating how we could do something similar.

I’ve been plotting how I can cross over my zombies and unicorns story with Spacetime, seeing as it’s all set in the same universe. My hubby helped me come up with some fun new twists and powers, and now I’m itching to get back to it. Besides, the idea of a killer unicorn running around Phoenix, AZ is kind of entertaining.

Thanksgiving day in pictures

The singing, dancing fish is always a crowd pleaser.
In the background, my baby nephew is more interested in his own toys.
The cotton candy maker was a big hit. See the completed cotton candy balls on the far right?
Chatting with Grandma or Great-Grandma, depending on which generation you are.
Silly face while watching the potatoes!
About to carve the turkey! Tis smoked and blackened, but very delicious.
Outside, my brother’s guitar hypnotizes babies.
And all the munchkins eat their Thanksgiving dinner! I think we’re going to need a bigger table.
Buffet line for the adults!
Speeding baby in a walker with antlers!
Pie party on the stairs!

It was a very nice evening. 🙂

Characters in love

In one of my writing groups, someone posted the following question:

Hoping I can get some advice here.

I’m wondering if there are some hard and fast rules regarding young protagonists
fallings in love?

How does one show rather than tell?

Or is telling more appropriate?

I just did a workshop on SEX and YA.

Now I write sweet, so I thought this would be something I would never write
about, but the course did talk about kissing and apparently, I did all my
kissing scenes wrong.

Apparently, in YA when there’s a kiss involved you must never titillate the
readers as there might be 13 year old readers.

So I wondered, if I did this wrong, what else am I doing wrong.

This naturally spawned a very interesting discussion, because everybody has different opinions on romance and how to write it. Quite apart from the debate of “how much sexual involvement is too much”, it’s more a question of, “How do two people fall in love at all?”

I had a couple of stories where I wrestled with this problem. This is what I discovered:

Romance is just one more conflict.

Forget about “Writing romance” for a minute. Focus on your characters. What are their likes and dislikes? What makes them tick? What insurmountable problem are they facing in this story?

Next, think about the last time you had a crush, whether it was on someone in a movie or a real life person. There was something about them you found attractive, right? They were cute. They were funny. They were nice. Somehow they touched an emotional chord in you, and you connected with them.

But they may or may not have connected with you. BINGO! Conflict!

People usually fall in love with their polar opposite, too. Make sure your characters have opposing qualities. One is outgoing and the other is shy. One likes gangsta rap and the other prefers ’70s rock. One drives with both feet on the pedals and the other has never had a speeding ticket in their life. Opposites attract. And those qualities also cause conflict between them.

If you’re a new writer and haven’t tackled romance before, it seems pretty scary. I know I toyed with it a lot in fanfic before I got comfortable writing it. It’s really not that hard. He likes her, she likes him, she hides her feelings and so does he, even though he would really like their relationship to go somewhere.

Heck, in Silver Lining, I threw the kitchen sink at the romance plot: Zeff’s slowly dying of poisoning from being roboticized, Knux is trying to build a working deroboticizer. She keeps trying to break it off, even though she’s crazy about him, because she doesn’t foresee any kind of future for them, and he’s spending all his free time arguing with her.

Zephyer and Knuckles

In A Worgen Love Story, an arranged marriage has left Charlotte and Bernard with no mutual love or regard whatsoever. In fact, they don’t fall in love until after they’ve been bitten and are forced to rely on each other for survival, even as they seek a way to reverse the werewolf curse.

Lots of conflict. Half the conflict stems from the romance itself, and two people developing very strong feelings for each other, and being willing to sacrifice, and even die, for their love.

I think this is why I can’t really get in to young people, sixteen and under, having romantic relationships. Unless you can pledge your lifelong devotion and then stick it out, it’s not very romantic. Romantic is Amy and Rory in Doctor Who fighting through the hard parts and growing old together.

Meeting the Meenans!

Joe and Rachel swung by for lunch on their way home from a Night of Writing Dangerously (a NanoWriMo event). After some initial shyness (omg we only know these people through the internet), we hit it off great. Also pizza, because pizza makes everybody feel better.

I’ve met Joe before. He was in my radio dramas as the voice of Shadow/Mekion, but I’d never met Rachel. We’ve been critiquing each other’s writing, and aspiring to get our beloved series published someday. (We’ll someday both be moderately famous and cross-promote our work!)

“Shadow! I knew him well, NetRaptor!”

Anyway, we wound up making them late for a meeting with another friend because we were so busy talking and laughing. Two hours flew by awfully fast. C. went and got in Joe’s lap and made him read her Go, Dog, Go. It was so cute and I completely forgot to get a picture.

We definitely need to get together and hang out more often. Maybe we can move to Pasadena instead of Phoenix. 😀

Just talkin’

Well, my husband is home after a week out of state. It was a long, gloomy week. I feel like I turn into this gray shadow of myself without him around. The kids got mac and cheese and hotdogs for dinner. I ate stir fry every night (because nobody but me likes it and I was on a veggiefest).

I have got lots written on my Nano story. Or stories, because it’s become a collection of things I’m working on. To my Zombies and Unicorns story I’ve added a Sonic the Hedgehog/My Little Pony crossover. It’s kind of like my Sonic/Jazz Jackrabbit crossover–the story comes first and everything else is window dressing.

The Zombies and Unicorns story is delving into all kinds of background lore for Spacetime, especially the Angeli and how they operate. I know angels are really big right now (they’re getting to be like vampires were last year). And everybody has, like, the Devil May Cry sorts of angels–they’re fallen, or outcast, or half, and trying to get back in the good graces of somebody, be it mortal or divine family.

My angelus character was born to be a healer and protector and has no idea of his heritage, since both his parents got nommed by zombies (he thinks). So he’s just hanging out with a unicorn and a griffin, learning useful life skills like how to slay a necromancer. Except the unicorn is suspicious and keeps asking him disturbing questions. Magical creatures don’t get along well together.

Anyway, now that my husband is home, I feel alive again. Like I’m actually posting on the blog. That NEVER happens, right? 😀 I’m starting to dream up dinners again. I’m looking forward to holidays. Life is grand again.

Mermaids = vampires

Well, it’s starting to look like mermaids are the new vampires.

Even Stephanie Meyer is getting in on it, allegedly. (I’ll bet her writing has improved.) And really, when you think about it, mermaids and vampires are similar.

  • Dangerous beings of a different world with the capacity to care about their victims.
  • If you become one, you can join them in their world.
  • They tend to eat their victims in one way or another.
  • They have politics humans know nothing about.
  • Half the time there is sex.

Mermaids can go off on pollution and hating humanity for fouling up the oceans, though, which makes me leery of them. I hate environmental preaching because no solution is ever offered aside from “kill all humans”. Vampires at least want to keep us around as a food source. :-p

I have to admit to being curious. That one horrible mermaid book excepted, I haven’t actually read any books about mermaids. I don’t know how they’re being handled, but I’m willing to give it a shot and see if I like it. IO9 says that only girls are interested in mermaids because, let’s face it, The Little Mermaid wasn’t exactly guy-oriented.

The only way I can think of to make mermaids fun for guys is to make it like Jaws. Or more like the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean. (Note the sex corollary up there.)

So, what do you think? Are mermaids the new vampires?

Blow your head off – step by step

Wow, that’s a really gruesome title.

Anyway, here’s the step by step of how I did this pic.

First was the concept sketch.

Shadow: Give me one reason I shouldn’t blow your head off.
Sonic: Because Maria wouldn’t have wanted you to.

Complete with story.

Anyway, the concept was good, but the picture itself is kind of meh. So I rotated the camera.

Much more exciting!

Then I layered in some perspective lines to help with my (lousy) background:

I can draw buildings if I have reference. Unfortunately, here I didn’t use reference.

Then I inked Sonic and Shadow all nicely.

I even tried to use the thick-and-thin lines I used to love so much when I was inking by hand. Inking on a tablet just doesn’t feel the same. No friction between the paper and the pen nib.

Next some color on the background, so I’d know where the light sources were …

It wasn’t this blurry to start with, but I put some heavy camera-lens blurs on it to cover up some of my crappy contrast work. You can see it here, when I was midway through shading Sonic and Shads.

As you can see, there’s a lot of nothing on the right side of the picture that got cropped out.

See how shiny Sonic and Shadow get once their shadows and highlights are in place?

Then I smeared blue and purple airbrush all over everything to give it some atmosphere.

All done! I forgot how much I like working on pics that tell stories. I might do it more often. 🙂

Nanowrimo report

I swear, I’ve tried to update this blog every day. And every day I run out of words.

Anyway! I accepted the gauntlet for the National Novel Writer’s Month. I had so much fun in June and August, I’m back again for the marathon. The real Nano is really cool, with celebrity pep talks (well, celebrity if you read books), massive forums and lots of really cheerful people.

And so many great ideas! One lady talked about her story where people can store memories in jam. So there’s a huge demand for this jam.

Another girl was asking advice for how to make a steampunk version of Beauty and the Beast, where the whole castle was a clockwork construct.

Another person wanted ideas for why an alien race would suck all the life-force out of Earth.

Man, I get inspired just hanging around the forums.

Anyway, my zombie story is going smoothly, and I have another story waiting in the wings if I get stuck. Actually I need some crazy-bad stuff to happen to my heroes, so I need to brainstorm tonight.

Still using Pretentious Title’s technique for writing 10k words a day. I only have two hours in which to write, so I’m not writing 10k, obviously. But on a good night I can get 2k, and I do make my 1667 quota every night. (Well, almost every night.) Nano’s sure good for accountability. 🙂