Friday, December 19, 2014

The Voice of Prophecy

 The Dual Magics series are exciting high fantasy books. I read The Voice of Prophecy years ago, and can't wait to see what has happened to it after all this time. If you haven't yet read anything from the Dual Magics series, I am excited to introduce you to it. Meredith Mansfield is a talented writer, (and an amazing beta reader). 

Two kinds of magic—each unknown to the users of the other—until they combine in one young man.

The Voice of Prophecy, the second book of the Dual Magics series, releases December 19th.
When the two kinds of magic combine in one person, unexpected things happen.
Sensing the presence of lions is one thing. Any member of the Lion Clan could do that. When Vatar sees the hunt through the eyes of one of the big cats—well, that’s something else altogether. And that’s only the beginning of the unusual manifestations of his magic.
When a mysterious voice only he can hear volunteers ancient wisdom, Vatar knows he’s in trouble. After enduring an Ordeal to prove he isn’t haunted by an Evil Spirit, Vatar thinks he may be possessed after all. Or losing his mind. Or cursed.
He must hide his Talent from his magic-fearing people or face consequences that don’t bear thinking about. But he has to control it in order to keep it secret. And now he’s not sure he can. It’s enough to make him want to give up on magic altogether.
But he’s going to need all his wits—and all the magic he can muster—to defeat those who want to use him and his unique abilities for their own ends.
The first book in the series, The Shaman’s Curse.

Vatar risked his life to try to save his friend--and failed. Now he has an implacable enemy in the vengeful shaman, who blames Vatar for the death of his only son. In his isolation, Vatar finds some comfort in daydreams. He knows the strange girl he sometimes imagines is just that--a dream. She’d better be.
Because, if she’s real things could get even worse for Vatar. The accepted magic of Vatar’s plains tribe wouldn’t enable him to see or communicate with a girl he doesn’t even know--or know where to find. That would be more like the magic passed down in certain, closely-guarded bloodlines among the ruling class of the coastal cities. And that’s bad. Very bad.
Unlike their own, Vatar’s people think the city magic is evil. If the shaman ever found out, it could be the weapon he needs to destroy Vatar. And yet, finding a way to accept the other side of his heritage may be the only way Vatar can ultimately defeat his enemy.

 The two kinds of magic have always been totally separate. Until now.
You can find The Shaman's Curse here, and The Voice of Prophecy here. She's also written a novella from the same series called Becoming Lioness, which is free here.
Good luck Meredith!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Helsinki in 2017

I'm a fairly new con goer. My first ever con of any sort was in 2012. That was Finland's biggest science fiction con or Finncon. The next year I, with two friends, gave a talk in Finncon 2013 and come November I went to World Fantasy for the first time. With that I somehow fell in with con organizers. I'm still not entirely certain how that happened. I'm not officially affiliated with any con but suddenly I have friends on pretty much most of the various con boards I know about. Most important of those being the bid to bring Worldcon to Helsinki.

The Worldcon location gets voted on two years before the actual con happens which means that the Helsinki bid gets voted on at next year's Worldcon in Spokane. And here are a few reasons why I think everyone should vote for Helsinki.

The organizers

Now I am not entirely objective about the bunch of people in charge of organizing this con and the bid associated with it since I consider many of them to be my friends. Having said that these are the people to make stuff happen. I'm fairly certain these people could put a colony on Mars within ten years if they had the budget and the inclination to put their minds to it. And most definitely they are the people to arrange an amazing convention. Pretty much everyone I've met who is officially affiliated with the bid has chaired several conventions and they are not the people for making the same mistake twice. They're well connected, persuasive and fantastic problem solvers. For the past few years they've been managing to get merchandise and Finnish traditional foods and drinks to cons all over the world. Anyone who has seen the overseas mailing fees should be impressed that they've done that and not gone bankrupt in the process. Heck, I know how they've done it and I'm impressed. The people doing the organizing are alone worth voting for the Helsinki in 2017 bid because anything they put their minds into is going to be a great time.

The audience

Last year at Loncon3 I met tons and tons of people for who it was their first Worldcon. The last time Worldcon made it into Europe was in 2005. Living as we do in a global economy any creator would do well to make sure their audience is as wide as possible. One great way to do that is to meet your potential readers face to face. And what better than to connect over your mutual love of all things science fictional/ fantastical? There are other people who would remind you that if Helsinki doesn't win Worldcon would stay in the US for seven out of eight years and while it's a good point, for me personally having a diverse audience is more important as a creator. And having diverse Worldcons is a good start for creators to make that happen.

The potential

Finland is big on the whole culture thing. If Helsinki gets the worldcon, there will be programming in multiple languages. Yes, pretty much everyone in Finland speaks at least a little English. Even both my grandmothers spoke English. They might not have had the vocabulary to have an extensive debate about philosophy but even they knew enough to give directions. There are all kinds of funds the con could get if there is programming in more than one language. And who doesn't want to hear Aliette de Bodard talk science fiction in French - whether they understand French or not.


The biggest reason I think Worldcon should come to Helsinki is Helsinki itself. My city is, in a word, amazing. Big enough to be exciting, small enough to not be unwieldy. Great transportation options and especially good for the Worldcon crowd because the city is offering everyone free public transportation for the duration. There's lots to see, including a historic fortress, a zoo with some unique species of animals, museums, art and culture galore, wonderful food and tasty water. Beyond the con itself, Helsinki is a great city. And worldcon would be a wonderful excuse to take some time to explore the wonderful place I call home.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holiday Book Recommendations

Looking for a book to pick up this holiday season? Shopping for a young adult/middle grade reader on your list? I've got some recommendations that are both on my to-read and have-read piles.

First, of course there's this great up and coming author of YA and MG Science Fiction that you should TOTALLY read. Her space-set book CONVERGENCE is really fascinating, a great read for kids (ages 10 and up or so.)
(buying link here - available in paperback and ebook. This is my SF novel, just in case you hadn't caught on yet.)

How about a little steampunk train fantasy which feels just a wee bit science fictiony? My kids and I really enjoyed The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson this spring, and it's worth a look for readers of all types.

How about military SF cyberpunky stuff for teen readers? Very appealing to boys? The series that starts with the book INSIGNIA, by SJ Kincaid, is excellent. Another bonus, the series is complete, which means you don't have the long wait for another book in the series. YES, I'm looking at you, STEELHEART! (Steelheart is a great book for teen readers featuring a future Chicago with superheroes, only the superheroes are the bad guys. Excellent story, but the second book is only JUST coming out in January. Firefight's publication date is listed as Jan 5. We've waited so long!)

What else is out there? In fantasy, we adore the Magic Thief series by Sarah Prineas, and this fall a fourth book in the series came out, called Magic Thief Home. This one is great for younger readers, too. My kids began reading this series around 2nd grade. There are a few dark bits but not too much, and the books tend to end on a hopeful or upbeat note.

In older kid fiction, I'm really enjoying Blue Lily, Lily Blue, which is the final book in the Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefvater. I recommend it to (older) teen readers and adult readers alike. It's a complex story of magic set in the modern day. I think what I like the most about this series is the complicated relationships the author sets up between the characters. Here in the third (last) book, I find myself just *understanding* the relationships between characters so deeply that their reactions to situations make sense even at the beginning of the book. I love an author who can characterize so deeply. There's also such a dreamy quality to the way the author describes the area, she clearly both knows and loves the environment she set this book in. Due to some strong themes of drug/alcohol use and abuse in the second book in particular, I don't recommend this younger than teenagers.

I'm just finished with a long bout of audiobook listening (a listening jag? Does that even work) of the Lois McMaster Bujold Vorkosigan series. It was an absolutely stunning ride, I'm still smiling. I love these books and as a friend suggested, I'm going to make my wishes known to my family that if ever I'm in a coma and they don't know if I'll recover, I want them to play these audiobooks in case I can hear. You, dear Prosers Readers, are responsible for reinforcing that wish if it ever comes up. I recommend starting with Shards of Honor. I really enjoyed this in audiobook, loved the narrator, but it would work in print as well. It's an older teen and up book, though, not for kids.

No matter what direction you read in this holiday season, I hope you read, read often, read lots, and share books with those you love. I've become "that crazy aunt who gifts books" and…I like it. (Gave my nephew a signed copy of The Mark of the Dragonfly, from above, for the holidays!) Enjoy!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Personality tests - redux

This post was originally supposed to go up on Thanksgiving; I scheduled it to auto-post before I went on vacation. Of course the internet was then like, ha ha, no auto-post for you! Trusting technology? You sucker!

So here it is now, because I'm frantically trying to finish up copyediting. Here's a lingering comic that made more sense in the context of the intro I wrote a few weeks back. But it's still funny.

(credit: xkcd)

Anyway, please enjoy this personality test post from April 2012. Many of you took the test then; here's a link for your results. If you don't want to test yourself, you can test your characters. Juliette is clearly an 8, for example.


I've always been something of a fan of quizzes and personality tests. When I step back and think about it, my fascination isn't entirely logical – I mean, I do spend more time in my own head than anyone else does.

But in any case, its fun to find patterns in my own thoughts that I might not have previously recognized. Of course, most quizzes are pretty silly – like What Color is Your Aura? Or Which Harry Potter Character Are You? (which is pointless, because the multiple choice answers are so obvious that it's not really hard to figure who you're going to get).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum of usefulness is something called the Enneagram. It's made up of nine main personality types, each of which has a wing, or subtype. It also describes how your personality can change if you're healthy or if you're troubled.

Look, here's a picture. The arrows show the directions of integration and disintegration.

It apparently has some sort of Greek or Babylonian origin, which I'm guessing means that, thousands of years ago, stone tablet quizzes were very popular, with subjects like "Which Greek Philosopher are You?" or "Which Invading Hoard Will Ransack Your Town This Year?"

Anyway, properly explaining the whole thing would take forever. There's also, for example, the triads: thinking, feeling and intuition. Here is the website if you want more detail.

Anyway… I'm kind of in love with the Enneagram. Because the description of my personality type is somewhat alarmingly accurate. I mean, when I first took the quiz, it was like the internet could read my mind.

Here are some descriptors of my personality type, from the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram (p. 179)
-I often feel alone and lonely, even when I'm around people I'm close to (check)
-I can forgive almost everything except bad taste (check - this one made me laugh, because it's silly of me, but so true!)
-I tend to brood over my negative feelings for a long time before getting free of them (check)
-I tend to spend quite a bit of time imagining scenes and conversations that haven't necessarily happened (CHECK CHECK CHECK)

But I didn't bring this up to talk about my own psyche. Another big part of the Enneagram that I like is its insights into other types of personalities. I see it as a tool to explore other ways of thinking and other approaches to the world - for that ever difficult character development.

For example, when I first come up with a character, and I've spent time developing their history and characteristics, I go look at the quiz on the Enneagram site. The quiz, which is used to determine personality type, presents a series of questions and asks you to chose which of two choices fits you best.

There are the obvious ones:

1. I have tended to
a. Take on confrontations
b. avoid confrontations

But then there are ones that are less intuitive:

2. When I have a new experience, I ask if it will be:
a. Useful to me
b. enjoyable

3. I have been more:
a. relationship oriented than goal oriented
b. goal oriented rather than relationship oriented.

4. I've typically been interested in
a. Asking the tough questions and maintaining my independence
b. Maintaining my stability and peace of mind

In relation to character development, my very favorite part about the Enneagram though is their list of basic fears and desires for each personality type. It wasn't something that I really thought about before, and yet these things are at the heart of everyone's personality. So now it's something I ask myself about my characters. What do they really want? What do they fear most in life?

Basic Fears (The Wisdom of the Enneagram , p. 32)
Type 1: fear of being bad, corrupt, evil or defective
Type 2: fear of being unworthy of being loved
Type 3: fear of being worthless or without inherent value
Type 4: fear of being without identity or personal significance
Type 5: fear of being useless, incapable or incompetent
Type 6: fear of being without support or guidance
Type 7: fear of being deprived or trapped in pain
Type 8: fear of being harmed or controlled by others
Type 9: fear of loss of connection, of fragmentation

Basic desires (and their distortions)  (The Wisdom of the Enneagram , p.33)
Type 1: the desire to have integrity (deteriorates into critical perfectionism)
Type 2: the desire to be loved (deteriorates into the need to be needed)
Type 3: the desire to be valuable (deteriorates into chasing after success)
Type 4: the desire to be oneself (deteriorates into self indulgence)
Type 5: the desire to be competent (deteriorates into useless specialization)
Type 6: the desire to be secure (deteriorates into an attachment to beliefs)
Type 7: the desire to be happy (deteriorates into frenetic escapism)
Type 8: the desire to protect oneself (deteriorates into constant fighting)
Type 9: the desire to be at peace (deteriorates into stubborn neglectfulness)

If you're interested in taking the quiz for you, or for your characters, copy and paste this link into your browser (it won't hotlink, not sure why): . If you take it for yourself, you'll know you answered the questions right if you come up with a description that is alarmingly accurate. J If not, try one of your secondary results.

Let me know what you get if you take the quiz, or if not, what basic fears/desires seem to most match you or your characters.

(And if anyone is wondering, I'm a Type Four with a Five wing).

Monday, December 8, 2014


I'm excited to host the Cover Reveal of Prophecy of the Six, Book Two of the Prophecy Breakers series by Sheena Boekweg, Melanie Crouse, and Sabrina West. The cover was designed by Darren Boekweg of Boekweg Books Publishing and Cover Design.

About Prophecy of the Six

We didn't know how much we had to gain by being infected with magic. We found a purpose, we found a destiny, and we found each other.

But California isn’t the new start we were promised. Dr. Child may be gone, but now we must face a military school, dangerous secrets, and a prophecy that has half the country wanting us dead. When the line between enemies and allies blurs, Sam, Juliette, Ana and I need to choose between love and sanity, between magic and survival.

Paradise has a cost. When the authorities are suddenly giving you whatever you want, they’re going to demand everything in return. And that’s a price not all of us are strong enough to pay.
Freedom feels like safety, but it’s not. There are no walls here. No place they won’t be coming for us.

No place we won’t destroy.

About Alchemy

Book 1 in the Prophecy Breakers series
We didn’t know how much we had to lose until we were infected with magic. Sam was in love, Juliette was the main caretaker for her siblings, and Ana and her dad planned the best parties in New York. But we lost it all when we were shipped to Chebeague, an exclusive school for newly infected mages.  
Everyone knows about the mages, those who survive the infection and end up with magical abilities. We’ve seen the power of magic, the high-paying jobs, and the world fame. But we never saw the cost. We didn’t know we’d be forced to give up everything: sanity, family, even the right to talk on the phone. 
We didn’t know mage was just another word for prisoner.

In 2014, Alchemy was named on of the top 50 self-published books worth reading. On December 8,9, and 10th you can buy it for free here. For a limited time, Funny Tragic, Crazy Magic and Hidden Magic are also available for free.

About the Authors

Sheena Boekweg, Melanie Crouse, and Sabrina West met online, (which isn't as weird as it used to be) and blog together at Their first collaborative project, Alchemy (Prophecy Breakers #1), was voted one of the top fifty self published novels worth reading by Indie Authorland.

Sheena Boekweg is the author of Funny Tragic Crazy Magic, and The Waxling (forthcoming). She is a mom of three from Utah and is prepared to survive a zombie apocalypse.

As a mom of four, Melanie Crouse thinks that parenthood is exactly like a zombie apocalypse. Melanie Crouse is the author of excuse notes, thank you cards, and the novel Hidden Magic.

Sabrina West is a writer and wildlife biologist living in San Diego, California. Her short fiction has appeared in markets such as Cover of Darkness; Strange, Weird and Wonderful Magazine; and Kayelle Press’s Night Terrors Anthology.

We love hearing from our readers, so drop us a line at, on facebook, twitter, or Internet stalking Benedict Cumberbatch.

Add it on Goodreads 

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Revision time!

So NaNoWriMo is now officially over! Hooray! Beers (or the beverage of your choice) on the house! Hail the conquering heroes! But wait! You're not actually done yet. Here are some tips for getting started on that bane of all writer's existence (well, mine at least) : revision!

Let it go!

The first thing you do after you type "The End" is of course do a little victory dance. Let it all out! You've done something amazing! You've written a novel, something so many dilettantes never manage to do. Maybe have a ginger beer or champagne or some chocolate or something to celebrate the occasion. Mark it down. Then let it be. Resist the urge to take a peek at the magnificence of your words. Hug your partner, walk the dog, talk to your kids, write something else. Whatever it takes, keep away from your manuscript for at least a month after you're done. Forget that it exists. For the purposes of your revision, it doesn't. Not for the next 4-6 weeks. Hands off!

Know what you've got

So you've waited a month. Good writer! Have a cookie! Now it's time for the most painful job in the entire process: reading the first draft. If it's any consolation this really is as bad as it gets - for me at least - and once you're through this particular hurdle, it all gets better in a hurry. While you're doing your first read through it's also a good idea to make copious notes. What I like to do is use different color highlighters to mark things I don't believe, things that bore me, things that confuse me and things that I think are awesome. Then I make notes on general things that I feel should be made a note of. For this I tend to follow Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Revisions for help and inspiration.

Outline that sucker!

Yes, yes, I know. Outlines are Evil! I don't care. Make one anyway. Even if you're an outliner by nature, you should make another one based on the novel you have right now, after your first draft. That way you can assess the structure of your story more easily than by reading through your story several more times. No cheating either. You're going to need it going forward.

Make an action plan!

So now you have an outline and some extensive notes regarding what you've written. It's time to decide what to do about it all. Maybe you've noticed that there's a character that shouldn't be there. Maybe, as happened to me during recent revisions, you've just realized that your ending is so contrived that you're going to have to kill it with fire. For me at least this has been the most exhausting part of the novel writing process. You know what's wrong, now you just have to fix it. It's a good idea to talk to writer friends while planning what to do going forward. You got yourself into this mess so getting a second opinion of how to get out of it would definitely not go amiss.

Take the plunge!

You're ready to jump in feet first! Hooray! Second draft here we go! Gird your loins and jump into the fray! Make it work!

And good luck!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why I Collaborate

I'm an independent person. I need to spend time alone every day. I like to do things my own way, and when it comes to my writing, my first drafts are stories I tell for me. Writing is an incredibly personal thing.

And yet, my favorite writing project to date, is this one of which I'm collaborating.

It's a hard project sometimes, especially when we're stressed, or when we're passionate about an idea that doesn't work for the other two, or when I'm passionate about an idea that doesn't work and then get frustrated because it doesn't work. Darn ideas. Or worse, when I change my mind about something that has major ripples across the course of several books, and Melanie and Sabrina had to adjust their plans, and then I switch my opinion again. It's the kind of thing in my own writing would be just a regular Thursday, but when you collaborate, it's a major catastrophe. I can't even imagine how difficult it must be for Melanie and Sabrina to work with me. 

I'm so grateful that they do though. I've learned so much from the way they work, and from having an audience as I do something as private as writing. And above the work, they have both been amazing friends to me. They've been there when my life went crazy. They've been there to talk with on days I can't get out of bed. They've been there to cheer with me on days I have something to celebrate. And together, we've created something that makes me want to yell from rooftops.

I guess the easiest way to explain why I collaborate is, "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." It's not a fast way to write, and it's not a slim book producing way to write. But I hope when you read it, (and I hope you do read it) that you see the love and the growth that we've had while working on these books. I hope the story breaks your heart, as it has broken mine. I hope that it makes you smile and laugh, and then close the book while wondering what happens next. That these characters of ours will keep living on in your imagination. I hope it haunts you, the way it has haunted us.

I do have more books on their way that I've written on my own. And I'm really thrilled to work on them again, to create worlds and stories completely of my own making, and share them with you.

But until then, I'm just grateful for the kismet that happened when we started this project. I'm grateful for my friend's patience and brilliance. I'm grateful for the nos. 

I hope it makes you fist bump the stars and say, "Yes!"