“The Magic System Mad Science Experiment” by Ryan Decaria


Magic and Science? It’s my dream come true! When it comes to magic there are two distinct teams. One team cheers for hard magic systems, such as what’s found in Brandon Sanderson’s books, where there are clear rules and limitations. The opposing team cheers for soft or undefined magic, such as what’s found in The Lord of the Rings, where there are no limitations and those who use it are shrouded in mystery. Which team will win? Easy – the team you like the best!

Today we welcome my favorite mad scientist author and board game enthusiast to the blog. Ryan Decaria is going to try to win points for Team Hard Magic in his article about magic systems and mad science. Cue the lightning! Muah ah ah!


Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

The Magic System Mad Science Experiment

by Ryan Decaria

My mantra when writing science fiction and fantasy worlds is to treat magic like a science and to treat science like magic.

I’m gonna let that sink in for a minute.

Magic comes in two varieties: magic systems with rules and undefined magic. Brandon Sanderson is famous for the former in his Cosmere novels. Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings is a great example of the later. Who knows what powerful spell he’s going to come up with next. Still, in either methodology, magic can be seen as a part of that world’s natural laws.

Like any other natural force, magic can be studied, classified, and theorized about. The scientific method can be applied, because the cause and effects can be scrutinized. I’m going to say it again. Treat magic in your story as a science field of that world.

Now, your characters will probably not be scientist studying that magic (cept how cool is that), so they won’t necessarily care to use science or science terminology when wielding magic. I don’t think about gravity or how my internal combustion engine gets me to work. I just drive.

I came up with a great litmus test for your fantasy’s magic system. Let’s call it the Mad Scientist Experiment. For your magic system, imagine a mad scientist character living in your world who is trying to use the magic in new way by combining aspects or segments of your magic in unnatural ways. This can be the Frankenstein scientist, driven by the desire to create, the Doc Brown scientist, eccentric but good-hearted, or the nefarious scientist like Doctor Poison from Wonder Woman.

Does your magic have enough meat for them to operate? Can they create life? Can they seek immortality? What are the costs? What are their methods.

If you can’t answer any of these questions, perhaps you haven’t given your magic system enough depth. Answering these questions, might give your magic system a needed boost.

Here are some examples of great mad scientists in epic fantasy with mild spoilers:

  1. Saruman from Lord of the Rings
    • Focused on industry at the expense of the natural world
    • Breed a new species of orc
    • Created great forges and explosives
    • Became obsessed with power
  2. Ex-maester Qyburn of A Song of Ice and Fire
    • Anatomical experimentation on still-living people.
    • Excellent surgeon or a Torture Technician
    • Created a Frankenstein-like creature
  3. The Lord Ruler in Mistborn (spoilers in this one get a little meatier)
    • Found a way to gain immortality
    • Created new races and the inquisitors
    • Changed the natural laws of the planet
    • Combined two kinds of magic to great effect

But what about science fiction?

There are two kinds of science fiction: One cares about how the science works and the other cares about how the science affects the world.

In the first, science knowledge is at a premium, and you better get it right. In the latter, the science just works and no one is questioning why. Take hyperspace in Star Wars or transporters in Star Trek. The more you dig into the science, the more preposterous they sound, so you don’t dig into the science. You avoid the science because it just works and your story is about what that technology does to society and to people.

You treat it like magic.

I love the term handwavium because it describes the science in terms of magic. Handwavium is what powers unrealistic or impossible technology, such as faster-than-light travel, teleportation, and artificial gravity.

In conclusion, to create a rich and deep magic system, imagine how a scientist would study the magic and how a mad scientist would exploit it. You might discover a few plot points and a couple of awesome characters along the way.

Remember my mantra:

When writing science fiction and fantasy worlds, treat magic like a science and science like magic.

My favorite mad scientist author, Ryan Decaria

About today’s guest:

Ryan Decaria was raised on science fiction and fantasy novels and 80’s adventure movies. On rainy days, he sulks on the window, sill waiting for a treasure map, an alien buddy, and his own luck dragon. Ryan is the author of Devil in the Microscope and its soon to be release sequel, We Shall Be Monsters. He is also the host of the Meeple Nation podcast where he discusses the board game world. You can find him at madsciencefiction.com musing about how mad science uses the best bits of science fiction and fantasy at the same time.

Connect with Ryan:

Ryan’s Book: Devil in the Microscope

Bonus points if you can spot the rat in the picture!

When “science-fair-geek” Anika goes to live with her scientist father in a town built around his mysterious genetics laboratory, she is determined to prove herself worthy of his legacy. But all preconceptions about her new life are thrown out the window when Anika discovers her father is a megalomaniac living in a town populated entirely by mad scientists. Now Anika will have to navigate her way through a high school filled with vindictive evil geniuses, deadly science projects, and unspeakable human experimentation. Relying on her wits, scientific know-how, and talented allies, Anika fights for her very life, and the lives of her new friends. Will Anika have to become like her mad scientist father in order to save the day?

***

Thanks for stopping by! If you’d like to be notified of future posts here at JodiLMilner.com, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

Toxic Fans and How Not to be One, with James Wymore

Every single one of us has that one friend who hates things with an unusual passion. You know the one – and if you don’t, it might be you. The conversation will start with a casual discussion about the most recent movies they’ve seen and the next thing you know, they are ranting about some aspect of the show that you frankly could care less about.

This is a toxic fan – and James Wymore isn’t one of them. Trust me. He’s got opinions a plenty about recent reincarnations of certain franchises, but he also has that wonderful thing called perspective. As an author who has
solved the puzzles and fought to find what makes his fans happy, he gets it.

James and I are friends and fellow authors at Immortal Works press.

Solo, the story of why Han has trust issues

Toxic Fans and How Not to be One

by James Wymore

I can’t count how many times over the years I’ve had somebody tell me how awful the Star Wars prequel trilogy is. At conferences, during convention panels, over pizza, at family gatherings, and so many times on social media. They are generally nice people, with notable exceptions. I just can’t figure out why they have taken it upon themselves to actively campaign against a nearly twenty-year old movie in a franchise they claim to love. What is it they hope to gain?

So I started engaging some of these folks in conversations, to find out what about those movies caused them so much irritation that they would publicly proselyte against them.

The responses varied, of course. Some became defensive, as if they couldn’t understand why anybody would have to justify such an obvious opinion. Others broke down into lists of reasons, some I suspect were regurgitated from online or other sources. The last group just increased their vitriol, adding emotional weight to their claims. The only common thread I could find was that each of them felt it should have been done differently.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but it takes a lot of self confidence to believe you could imagine or produce a better movie than the franchise’s original creator, writer, and director.

I wrote this off as people being people and didn’t let it upset my own enjoyment of those movies. However, over time, the anger and animosity toward Star Wars creators grew exponentially when Disney bought the franchise and began making new movies. Abrams managed to make most of the fans moderately happy with episode 7. Rogue One caused a new division. Then waves of social hate rose up to actively protest episode 8. And I can’t even explain why so much anger was aimed at Solo.

Disney responded by cancelling all the spin-offs. Then they changed their mind and cancelled everything after episode 9 (which had a year left before it even came out). Way to go, whiners, you got Star Wars put on permanent hiatus. You literally killed the thing you claimed to love. Even if it wasn’t what you wanted, did you have to ruin it for everybody else? If you couldn’t have the movies of your imagination, does that mean the rest of us shouldn’t have any either?

If you like something, great. If you don’t like it, that’s okay. But why the hate? Why the need to actively tear it down? Did it ever occur to you that you could just leave peacefully and let the rest of us enjoy it?

Fandom has grown toxic.

 We all need a little more zen in our media consumption. Rather than lashing out when you’re disappointed, maybe a better strategy would be to just watch what you like and don’t watch what you don’t. Are you getting paid to review movies? Have you been inducted into the posse to protect innocent citizens from bad media? Did the “fix the franchise” crusaders make you their missionary?

Trust the market. If people don’t like something, they won’t buy tickets and the company will lose money. That’s the only feedback they really listen to anyway. If you don’t like the new Ghostbusters, don’t watch it. But be cool. Don’t go after the company and start spreading negativity. Offer people the dignity of deciding what they want. And be secure enough to not like something without rage.

Creating a hostile environment just ruins it for everybody. In the end, isn’t it supposed to be about entertainment and fun? If not, maybe you should reevaluate why you are emotionally invested in it. If so, then making it toxic is counter-productive.

Peace.

The real James Wymore

About James Wymore

Growing up on a steady diet of Spider-man cartoons and television shows like Batman and Wonder Woman, James Wymore knew he would someday find his own super power and join the fight for justice. He did everything right, from experimenting with arson to jumping from great heights, but his ability to control fire or fly never kicked in.

As he went past the teenage years, he accepted that he probably didn’t have a hidden mutant power waiting to manifest. Neither would he uncover any unexplained alien origins, so he threw himself into searching for enhancements designed to bring his latent abilities to the surface. He travelled the world studying arcane magic. Throughout college, he experimented with volatile chemicals, extreme temperatures, lasers, and various forms of radiation.

Eventually, he discovered the power of hypnosis through fantastic stories. He plunged into writing, filling his work with the subtle triggers that would allow him to one day take control of all his readers’ minds and use them as an army to conquer the literary world. Until that day, he works tirelessly to create more and better books. Follow his progress at http://jameswymore.wordpress.com

Want to connect with James, here’s his links:

Book Soon to be Released

Thug #1

Superheroes and villains constantly battle for control of Denver, Colorado, so somebody has to do the heavy lifting. CJ Cruz found his niche working for whichever super-flavor-of-the-day happens to be running the show at the time. Since most of the self-labeled heroes claiming to be on the side of justice don’t hire henchmen, he usually winds up doing the street-level work for supers operating outside the law. His family and priest just think he’s a gangster, but CJ knows his motivation is pure. He keeps on the windy side of law enforcement by following a few simple rules, the first of which is keep your head down and never be the boss’s right-hand man. People tell him he should get a new job, but he likes working around supers. Besides, except for intimidation and roughing-people-up he doesn’t have any other skills necessary to make rent and pay child support.

“Thug #1 is a fast-paced, action-packed book written in comic book style. The artwork is amazing, too!”


Holli Anderson, author of Myrikal
Theocracide – newly released in audiobook!

Theocracide

In the future, everybody wears computer glasses that scan the world and project whatever you want to see right in front of it. Through perfected augmented reality, the buildings and people blend seamlessly into whatever movie or video game is running. We all see whatever we want, all the time. Nobody cares what clothes they wear, because the rest of the world sees them as pirates, robots, or anything that suits their current media. Even the cars are self-driving, because nobody wants to pause the streaming feed.

In other news, the world is under attack by aliens. Disease is decimating the human population. A man takes over America and declares himself to be a god.

Nobody cares, so long as they don’t turn off the wi-fi.

Jason Hunt has the perfect life. A scholarship university athlete with an amazing girlfriend, his future couldn’t be brighter. Then his father drops a few family secrets on him—

Secrets of treason and heresy, which put him in direct conflict with the reigning Theocrat.

“Wymore weaves a fantastic tale while taking a good hard look at religion, politics, immortality, entertainment, and technological advancement.  If you’re looking for a thrilling sci-fi adventure that beautifully mirrors current real-world issues and advancements then this is the book for you.”


Andrew Buckley (Author, Hair in All the Wrong Places)

***

Thanks for joining us today! If you’d like to be notified of future posts, be sure to ‘subscribe’ using the handy links.

You can also find updates and post notifications on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram – chose the one you like the most!

From Contract to Launch – The Journey to Here

I believe I’ve said it here before, but creating a book is a lot like having a baby, morning sickness and all.

Not mine, but super cute! (image attribution: Pixabay)

Over the past few weeks I’ve had several people want to hear about my journey of what it’s been like to publish a book. Last year, I wrote a post about my experience with querying and finding a publisher. Ironically, that post was immediately preceded by one talking about rejection and accepting yourself as you are, proving that this industry is indeed a roller-coaster ride of emotion.

What a year it’s been!

If my book “pregnancy” officially began the day I signed the contract, then the morning sickness set in when I started work with my editor. Women suffering from morning sickness will tell themselves it will all be worth it in the end as a way to cope with the misery. During the editing process, I kept telling myself that the nauseating discomfort of learning about all the weak parts of my book had to be a good thing as well. My editor at one point in the process may, or may not, have compared my main character to Bella Swan from Twilight. Ouch.

Editing is hard work. Each chapter, sometimes each page, takes long hours of intense focused thought to bring it to the next level. When I’ve done my own rounds of polishing and editing it’s taken months to work from cover to cover. Under contract, I’m given thirty days to complete an editing pass. Fun fact – if I spend one hour per page, editing the book would take over 300 hours. That’s THIRTY ten hour work days back-to-back with no breaks. Which is why it really wasn’t fair for my kids to be off-track during the first crucial editing pass as I transformed my main character Katira away from being a passive Bella and into a strong, capable protagonist.

Deadlines are aptly named. If you aren’t feeling half-dead with exhaustion as you slide your edited manuscript back, you probably have better time management practices in place than I do. In the first pass, we cut away almost 15,000 words of dead weight and replaced them with hundreds of small additions sprinkled through the book like salt. I learned quickly that one of my writing weaknesses (besides poor Bella) was not tagging dialogue in a way that added motion and life into a scene. After spending days of work inserting more action into my dialogue sequences, I think I’ve learned my lesson.

This process is repeated until both editor and author agree the book is as good as it can get, or can’t stand to look at it again. I’m still not sure which. Morning sickness fades into a period of waiting, preparation, and sheer terror contemplating the vastness of all that should be done. There’s waiting for the proofreader to finish, waiting for the cover artist, waiting for formatting, waiting for proofs, waiting for digital copies, waiting for early reviewers – so much waiting.

At this point self-publishing starts to look good. While I’ve loved having the support of a company to help me through this process, especially since it’s my first time, the waiting and not knowing what’s happening – or if anything is happening – can drive anyone a little nuts.

Just like a first-time mom, a first-time author (despite all their research, and best efforts, and fellow author friends who try to show them the way) experiences so much uncertainty with the whole process that the stress is unbelievable. Looking back, I could have done so much more with this waiting period to prepare for the books release, but I was naive. Now I’ve been through it I know what really needs to be done, and when I go through this again I’ll have a much better plan.

Launch day speaking to the crowd.

Launch day is literally a book’s birthday. It is pushed out into the world and is on display for all to see, warts and all. All the early teasers, quotes, articles, and efforts that happen before the launch are the same as showing people ultrasounds. As the author, I can see the cute little nose and the tiny precious fingers, and all that amazing potential inside because I’ve studied it – but to everyone else it’s just another static filled picture.

There’s no way to feel truly prepared for launch day. Some authors do hundreds of hours of prep and set up and marketing and a blog tour – the options are dizzying. Some moms fill their freezer with weeks’ worth of meals and create and fill a schedule for people to come help them.

Some don’t.

The results are the same. The book still comes, the baby is born. The family and friends that planned on supporting and helping the author still show up. Sometimes friends of friends are dragged in as well.

Unlike a baby who demands care, feeding, and endless love and attention, a book won’t demand anything and immediately starts fading into obscurity unless the author continues to push and work to keep it in the public eye.

This is where I am now. My book has entered its infancy where it still doesn’t know its place in the world. I’m working everyday, trying hard just to keep it alive until it can start building momentum on its own. Just like a real infant, the work keeps me awake at night and requires a steady stream of care and feeding for it to thrive.

It’s exhausting, but worth it.

Proud Momma and Book Baby

My family will tell you that this process has changed me. I believe it. I’m a stronger more confident person than I was before. I’ve learned how to squeeze the most out of short periods of time, and utilize every moment – especially when I’m under a deadline. These skills have transferred into home life as well. Putting off doing something I don’t like doing, like creating a meal plan, only serves to prolong stress. Get it over with. Having a messy house won’t kill me, but it doesn’t help me find peace either. It’s important to seek out ways to feel centered, even when lots of crazy is going on.

While I wrote the book because it was one of my life goals, it has helped my kids see that they can reach hard goals as well and that anything worth doing takes real work. I love hearing the pride in their voices as they tell their teachers and friends that their mom is an author.

Hopefully they don’t mind too much that this book baby might be expecting a little brother in 2020…!

***

Interested in checking out my book baby? It’s a great read for fans of Wheel of Time, appropriate for ages 12 and up (although my 11-year-old loved it too!) Here’s a handy link to Amazon to learn more.

Love staying in touch? So do I! Let’s connect. You can follow here on WordPress, or choose your favorite social media – I’m on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.

Healthy vs Unhealthy Relationships with Dacia M. Arnold


As the holidays are upon us, the stresses of meeting expectations and being around family are very real. I’ve asked friend and fellow writer Dacia M. Arnold to join us today and share an important message about healthy domestic relationships, a message that resounds in her newly released book, Apparent Power.

tour logoDacia’s Message:

Modeling healthy domestic relationships in my novel, Apparent Power, was extremely important to me. I lost my best friend to domestic violence when I was deployed to Iraq the second time. She was killed in her home at 4am on Christmas morning 2010. The phone call home that day is both vivid and a blur of emotions in my memory.

In Apparent Power, readers will recognize the very distinct difference between a healthy romantic relationship and an unhealthy relationship.

The main character, Valerie Russell, is hell bent on making sure her son is safe. Her next priority is to find her husband and, with his help, figure out the next steps. As a wife, I make no major decisions without my husband. Though he respects when I am extremely passionate about something like saving the world, my husband is my sounding board and voice a reason. There is no doubt he would fight with me to the ends of the earth, or run as far away as we could because the decision would be made together. This healthy relationship drives the train through the story. From page one yes, a mom is trying to save her son, but her teammate, partner, and best friend is her husband.

Later in the story, the reader encounters a narcissistic character who is in such a place of power, there seems to be nothing left for Valerie to do but concede to her situation for the sake of the lives around her. I even went so far as to have the main character recognize the abuse and narcissism but feel so inferior to do anything about it. Many people are in the cycle of abuse knowing it should not be that way but feel trapped by money or other circumstances. In the end Valerie finally reaches out a hand to find strength existing within her the whole time. I will leave the rest for the audience to find out.

Love should not hurt physically OR emotionally. Sometimes relationships are hard, but this should not be the majority of the time. There are resources to not only identify domestic abuse, but find resources in your area to remove yourself from the situation. Psychological abuse is just as damaging as being hit, pushed, or raped. Crisistextline.org is free. Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States. If your texting is monitored you can call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you are unsure if you are experiencing abuse you can CLICK THIS LINK to find out what domestic violence is.

5Dacia M Arnold is an award-winning American novelist, freelance writer, mother, medical professional and a ten-year Army Veteran. She is the author of Apparent Power, Reactance and Shifting Power, plus short fiction in the international anthology COLP: The Passage of Time. As a freelance writer, Dacia contributes monthly to the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s blog where she shares her relatively short experience in the literary world.

Dacia spent fifteen months working in Baghdad Emergency room with the 86th Combat Support Hospital. During her second deployment, then Sergeant Arnold managed the busiest outpatient clinic in southern Iraq.

Now, as a mother of two, Dacia incorporates her experiences in all aspects of her life into her writing.  

Apparent Power correctedJust in time for Christmas, the perfect gift for the book loving person in your life (maybe that’s yourself). Apparent Power has been critically linked to Hollywood blockbusters like Divergent and Annihilation by Kirkus Reviews and is available for sale December 11th through all major book retailers including Amazon. 

Connect with Dacia:

Apparent Power on sale December 11th through all major book retailers including Amazon, Tattered Cover, and Barnes & Noble

Positive Influences of Writing, with Rachel Huffmire

Having a creative outlet in today’s busy modern life is a wonderful way to relieve stress, find greater fulfillment, and meet new people. Today we are talking to author Rachel Huffmire about how writing has influenced her life for the better.

Rachel and I met because of our mutually shared passion for the written word. We both are Immortal Works authors and we both have books coming out soon. In addition, we both are moms who work hard to find an ideal balance between filling our creative wells and spending time with our families.

koushik-chowdavarapu-682187-unsplash

Photo by Koushik Chowdavarapu on Unsplash

My big question for Rachel is:

How has writing influenced you to be a better person?

Her response:

Learning to write is a great form of self-discovery! One of the first books I read about the craft was called “If you want to write” by Brenda Ueland. Ueland taught me I didn’t need to go to extraordinary lengths to be a good writer—I don’t have to spend a summer abroad, I don’t have to try Thai food (though that was a happy discovery)… I merely had to be honest about the way I saw my immediate world. So, I started to look deeper into the things I found commonplace. I realized how cool my life actually was! I grew up as a homeschooler in Utah, surrounded by wheat fields, raising a pet duck named Penelope… To me that was normal. To others, apparently, it was super interesting!

Writing also taught me to appreciate living in a whole new way. When you decide to become a creator of any kind, you absolutely must be deliberate about the way you observe, interact, and sense the world around you. In “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron, she talks about filling up a creative well to draw from by engaging your senses while seeking out a spectrum of emotions and details around you – not just the pleasant or comfortable ones. I learned to write three daily pages of subconscious jabber to get all the inhibitions, fears, and tasks out of my way so I can produce stories without being blocked by inner negativity. In an online interview, Liz Lemon Swindle recounted how her mentor told her she could become a professional artist in ten years. Liz said she would push herself and get there in a year, but her mentor replied with “It’s not a matter of time, it’s a matter of life.”  I’ve been writing consistently for seven years now, and am so grateful for the struggles, joys, and experiences that have stretched me over that time. All of it. The good, the bad, and the new.

Writing also teaches me to live life deliberately. I’m a homeschool mom to two little boys and I make sure that writing always comes second to them. If I want to be as prolific as I hope I can be, I have to be very careful not to spend too much time engaged in things that don’t matter. And finally, writing has led me to some wonderful friendships that have shaped and changed my life for the better. Writers are some of the most friendly and encouraging bunch of people you’ll ever meet. Basically, writing taught me to embrace the life around me and savor every little piece of it, then figure out how to write it down in a way that others can enjoy it too.

LTUE Headshots-6 1
Rachel Huffmire works as a novelist and acquisitions editor for Immortal Works Press. You can find her in Southern California where she enjoys sand at its finest: the beach and the desert. She homeschools her two little boys, writes science fiction and fantasy novels, and reads bedtime stories to her husband every night. Her first novel, Shattered Snow, will be released on January 8, 2019.

Connect with Rachel! 
Facebook: Rachel Huffmire, Author
Twitter: @RachelHuffmire
Instagram: rachelhuffmire

Cover Final

More about Rachel’s upcoming debut novel, Shattered Snow

The story

In 2069, time-travel is restricted to observation and research. But Keltson Grammar doesn’t mind breaking a few laws. Known only as “The Mirror”, Keltson runs an underground empire that rescues unfortunate souls throughout history. However, a single misstep could send an entire agency to reinstate his clients to their original dismal fates.

Lilia Vaschenko is a Russian mechanic surrounded by cinderblock towers, ladders she cannot climb, and a glass ceiling that holds her down like a casket. She’ll do anything to escape— even work for the world’s most wanted renegade.

Margaretha is a young countess, destined to be poisoned at twenty-one. But when she discovers a mysterious mirror in the woods that transforms the world into shadows and ice, her future shatters. Chased from her familiar home, will she ever find where she truly belongs?

Shattered Snow is a YA science-fiction retelling of Snow White. It is based on the real-life history of Margaretha von Waldeck, a sixteenth-century countess that may have inspired the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale.

Sounds awesome, right? You can preorder Shattered Snow on Amazon and other online book retailers.

***

Hi everyone! Jodi here.

Release Day for Stonebearer’s Betrayal is coming up next week! I can’t tell you how exciting it is for this day to finally come. For those of you (wonderful people!) who preordered, your copies will be shipped to you or delivered to your e-readers on Nov 13th.

Want your own copy? Head on over to Amazon or your favorite online book retailer today!

Want a signed copy? Head over to my online store!

Utah locals! Come celebrate with me at the Stonebearer’s Betrayal Launch Party next Friday, November 16th, from 7-9pm at The Printed Garden in Sandy (9445 S Union Sq, Ste A, Sandy, Utah 84070). There will be fun, food, and prizes!

Launch Party.png