Thursday, May 17, 2012

Getting a Kindle

I decided to finally buy a Kindle and decided on the Touch model. Why buy a Kindle when I already have a Nook Color (which I do love)? Several reasons actually.

1. I love gadgets and frankly was looking for an excuse to buy one. A Kindle Touch is a pretty inexpensive way to scratch that itch.

2. Camping season has started, and I've been wanting an eInk reader for both the battery life and the ability to read outside in direct sunlight.

3. As a marketing tool. This was the reason that finally convinced me to fork over the money. I've known for some time now that the Kindleboards were a great community to participate in. I've heard of plenty of authors whose only marketing is hanging out on the Kindleboards. I've been wanting to do it for some time now, but the informal price of admission is a Kindle. Like any good community, they want authors to be active participants who do more than market their services. Without an actual Kindle, that was going to be tough.

In my day job as a networking coach, I wouldn't hesitate to pay $100 a year to join a networking group. Buying a Kindle is like paying that, plus I get a cool gadget to play with. Made the decision easy.

Why not join the Nookboards since I already have a Nook? I tried that. The forum was pretty dead. Kindle is still the major ebook reader, and they have the most active communities. Go where the people are.

Are you thinking about digital publishing? Do you own a Kindle? If not, seriously consider purchasing one. It'll get you into the party too.

Look me up on the Kindleboards. I intend to be an active member of the community!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Writing Magic, Part Two

Last week I talked about what went into creating Dafydd's aura sight. I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. This week, I wanted to talk about ritual magic.

Dafydd's rituals follow a modified Wiccan formula. The modification is that he gets to skip most of the visualization steps. When he closes his circle, it magically happens. He doesn't need to visualize the magic first.

Using a Wiccan formula means I get to cheat and use various rituals I find in online Books of Shadow. Saves making it all up myself.

His rituals do use ingredients, and I need to research those. He buys his stuff in Chinatown, so sometimes he (and I) need to find substitutes, but that's part of the fun.

He also uses time of day to power his rituals. Sunrise and sunset are particularly powerful times, and I often time his rituals to happen then. Which means he always knows the exact time the sun rises and sets, which he notes is a cool party trick but makes sleeping in kind of tough. In later books, I plan to use solstices and equinoxes to power some seriously potent magic.

My beta readers told me the rituals read well and sound right, which is good. They are a serious pain to write. In fact, the first one I accidentally wrote completely on present tense, which I then had to rewrite. Not hard, but tedious.

Now I'm going to give you Dafydd's own words on rituals. Enjoy the excerpt and feel free to tell me what you think. I'm still editing, so changes are easy to make.


Rituals can be tricky things. You have to set everything up just right, use the correct ingredients and apply your will appropriately. It's not strictly necessary to have magical talent to perform a ritual, but if you don't have talent, you need to substitute something for the missing power. Certain times of day and days of the year have inherent power, and the non-talented can perform working rituals at those times. Why do you think Wiccans do their magical workings at Samhain or the solstices? There's power at the turning of the seasons.

There are other ways to create ritual power, but I don't recommend blood magic. Sure, it works, but blood magic is dangerous. Someone or something has to die to create enough power for big workings, and as a white warlock, I'm duty bound to hunt you down and bring you to justice. Besides, killing is just wrong.

If you're like me and have magical talent, you can perform rituals any time, and they will work, assuming you did everything right. But I can take advantage of powerful times too. The ritual will take less out of me and probably be even more effective. So there was every reason for me to take advantage of sunset.

Why are sunrise and sunset powerful times of day? They are times of change. During times of change, the barrier between our world and the world of spirit is weaker, allowing energy to seep through to our world. Ritual magic allows us to harness that power and direct it to do what we want.

Laura once asked a good question when I was telling her about rituals. "If rituals are just a way to direct power, and you've got power available, why do you need all the ingredients?"

It was a good question because it was one of the first ones I asked my dad when he started teaching me magic. Great minds think alike and all that.

My dad told me that technically, the ingredients aren't needed. If you have enough power, a strong will and complete focus on the outcome, you can do ritual magic without all the trappings.

Very few, maybe only a handful in history, have ever been strong enough and sufficiently focused to make that work.

For normal ritual casting, the ingredients have symbolic meaning. For example, I'd be using a magnet to symbolically link me to what's missing, St. John's Wort is a good herb for divination (in other words, it's good for helping to find stuff). Mugwort helps enhance magical power, and sandalwood chips are the best thing I know for granting wishes. It's not that any of the ingredients have power in and of themselves. It's their symbolic meaning that gives us the means to focus our will to make things happen.

I'm probably not explaining it well. Laura gave me some pretty odd looks when I tried to tell her about ritual magic. What can I say? Teaching isn't in my blood. It was one of dad's gifts that he didn't pass on to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Writing Magic

Writing magic is hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's even harder when you decide not to have your protagonist use flashy elemental magics. Nope, Dafydd never throws around fireballs or lighting bolts. I decided I wanted him to use more subtle magics. Paul handles most of the physical stuff.

Of course, as I discovered when I started writing the second book, that made it awkward to have Dafydd participate in fight scenes, but I think I've handled it well. And in book three, I'm going to pull out something really cool.

Anyway, Dafydd's magic basically falls into three areas:
1. Ritual magic, usually in the area of divination (finding stuff)
2. Potion brewing
3. Aura reading

So far the potion brewing has happened off-screen, though Dafydd and Paul quaff plenty of them, especially in fight scenes. I suppose I'll have to show a potion brewing scene sometime. but I want to save it for one that advances the plot.

Dafydd does a bit of aura reading in Haunted Vampire, and there's a much longer scene in Werewolf Puppy. He also explains how it works in that book, and it was a fun scene to research and write. I spent a lot of time looking up the meanings of various colors and figuring out what they mean in an aura. I tried to mix obvious stuff (black and red are vampire colors) and some less obvious color meanings. Here's an excerpt I particularly like as Dafydd explains aura colors to Paul.

Dafydd and Paul have just left Lounge 201, the vampire bar. Paul had asked him to read a particular vampire's aura.


I frowned, still not completely sure what I had seen. "Okay, mostly his aura was like the rest. Red and black. Some dark green."

"What's that mean?"

I smiled. "Jealousy. Almost everyone in that room had it to some degree or another."

He snorted. "Not a big shock. Jockeying for position and companionship are practically a way of life for my kind."

"But not you."

His eyes widened. "What do you mean by that?"

I shrugged. "Just what I said. There's hardly any of it in your aura."

I watched his face. Even in the deflected light of the passing streetlights, I could see his brow furrow. His fingers tapped the steering wheel. Finally, he said. "I left that behind a long time ago. But that's not all you saw."

"No." I hesitated. "He had some orange mixed in with everything else."

He nodded, as if he'd expected that. His shoulders slumped slightly, and I guessed he'd expected it but hoped he'd been wrong. "And that means?"

"That's hard to say. It's not something I've seen much." I struggled to put something that was pretty subjective into objective terms. "Yellow usually means a connection. If two people are dating, you'll see the yellow in their auras approach the same shade. The closer they are, the closer the colors. The darkness of the shade will tell you how solid the relationship. Darlene and Damien had a lot of dark yellow in theirs. And their shades were practically the same, so I knew they were together."

He nodded. "They've been an item for most of a century. So the other one's aura was yellow?" His voice sounded doubtful.

I shook my head. "No, not yellow. Orange. And I've not really seen that color before."

He frowned. "Orange? But wouldn't that just be yellow and red, like you just said."

"No. Aura colors don't behave like paint. Each color is separate. So red and yellow aura colors don't make orange. It's like green. Yellow is a connection color. Blue is a good color. It generally indicates positive emotions. If auras were like paints, yellow and blue wouldn't combine to make dark green, jealousy."

He nodded. "Okay, but it does make sense that green is a mixture of yellow. It's hard to be jealous if you don't have some connection to someone."

I paused, never having looked at it like that before. "I guess you're right. My aunt never mentioned that."


It took me a couple hours of research to pull together material for the colors in that scene, and the earlier scene in the bar.

By the way, that bit where Paul says that yellow and blue do make sense combined as jealousy? When I wrote Dafydd's line, I honestly hadn't gone there. But as soon as I started writing Paul, I made the connection. That's one of the coolest parts about writing fiction. You really do start seeing things like your characters. If one has a blind spot, you've got it too, until you switch roles.

Next week, I'll talk more about ritual magic and what goes into writing those scenes. And yep, I'll have another excerpt.