Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Vacation

I will see you in August 

I leave you a bit of peace and relaxation while I'm away

Monday, July 15, 2013

Jonathan Cortez

Guest post by Jonathan Cortez

Converging Fates Ten Year Evolution

Converging Fates is the sum of my childhood imagination and being bored at a summer job. Like many children, I thought dinosaurs were the coolest thing since Jesus. My friend and I decided to create the fourth Jurassic Park movie, and we did legitimately believe it would be the fourth Jurassic Park movie.

Plot template: crazy scientist doing crazy things; marines search for him on islands and fight dinosaurs. So a sci-fi channel original. In high school, this became a semi-original novel that I worked on infrequently. At one point, I was about 75% done. I still have some of that manuscript, and the writing is horrible. I used so many big words, convoluted sentences, and unnecessary obfuscation. I think some English professors would love it.

After I graduated, I worked full-time in a battery-recycling plant for the summer. My ultra-engaging job was to sort alkaline and nickel-hydrate batteries from nickel-cadmium. To prevent myself from lapsing into a coma, I worked on story ideas. I liked the concept of making my own fantasy universe, and I had a premise.

The big epic fantasies, LOTR, Narnia, Game of Thrones are all medieval settings. More so, there seems to be no technological progress. The Silmarillion covers thousands of years with no mentioning of the elves or men inventing anything. Narnia covers the entire history of a world, with the same lack of progress. I love science-fiction, and I love fantasy, so I decided to put them together and place the classic fantasy races in a futuristic setting. However, I needed a plot and villain.

I had the idea of a teenager from earth getting swept to another reality and live with hyper-aggressive elves, but that was it. I needed a focal point, and the Jurassic Park story was perfect. There was a villain, a plot, and action. There were exciting characters and transferable characters. A stoic marine male colonel easily became Vanyae. Tyrannosaurus Rex became the hydra.

For some reason, I was oddly motivated to work on this story. I wrote almost every day after work, and once college started, my ability to do very little and get decent grades proved most useful. Positive feedback from my friend encouraged me that I had something good. I've read that it's bad to show stories to your friends, because they'll give bias feedback. Maybe for short stories, but I wouldn't read a full novel on Open Office if I didn't really like it, and I don't think any of my friends would either.

I finished the manuscript in about six months. I had done three rewrites, which I believed was enough. I would talk about my query rejection process, but since I never got an agent, I don't really know what I was doing wrong.

I went back to the manuscript several times over the next two years. A month before I signed a contract, I finished the biggest rewrite, reducing the story by almost 20,000 words while expanding on description.

In previous rewrites, I only made minimal alterations. I felt that my story was complete and thus, there should be no major changes. You can't really be right or wrong in writing, but I think that after two years, I had developed enough as a writer, and I had enough of rejection, to realize major changes were beneficial.

Some of the things I removed will be making appearances later on: some character flashbacks, some origin myths, and a completely deleted significant character. However, they unnecessarily complicated this story and unbalanced the pacing.

The lessons I take from this: childhood is really important, but for some reason, it's often ignored. Go to a famous person's Wikipedia page, their childhood section will be very small, but I had a wonderful imagination then, and I don't see any reason to waste those ideas. Next, don't convince yourself your manuscript doesn't need major changes just because you declared it finished. There's never really a time when it's actually done (as the notes in my copy of CF testify to), but don't let it be too easy for you to stop major revisions.

Converging Fates
Reagent Universe, Book 1
Jonathan Cortez​

Genre: Science-Fiction

Publisher: Fresh Publishing

Date of Publication: 03 June 2013

ISBN: 9780957606814
ASIN: 0957606818

Cover Artist: Jen Detchon


Book Description:

Deep in the remote Undervalley, a scientist is creating a portal that will link two universes. Never mind the damage his research does. A taskforce of elves and humans must hunt him down before he destroys their universe. The elves hold the key, Mahavir, a human abducted from the other universe. He is the link between universes, and his death may prevent a disaster. But Mahavir has no intention sacrificing himself for others.

About the Author:

Jonathan Cortez is a graduate of Penn State Behren, with an Associate of Arts degree.

He was an avid reader and writer from a young age, but even before that his story-telling and world-building skills blossomed while playing with Lego. He largely developed his writing craft on his own.

Jonathan is a big fan of science-fiction and fantasy, although he only started reading the genres during high school. When not reading or writing, he enjoys watching TV and listening to heavy metal.

He is currently still studying at Penn State. He is also working on the sequel to Converging Fates.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ruth A Casie

Guest Blog Post and Excerpt by Ruth A Casie


Spells and spellcasting. The very first spell I clearly remember is salagadoola mechicka boola bibbidi-bobbidi-boo. Put them together and what do you get? Cinderella! A magic coach, horses, a footman, glass slippers and a beautiful ball gown and let’s not forget the handsome prince.

What makes the fairy-godmother’s words a spell? A spell is much like a prayer said with a great deal of intent, focus, and will that gives words (or nonsense ones) new meanings. Deborah Blake, an authority on Wiccans, explains that taking a shower can be a magical event. Your intent or goal is to wash away the stress of the day. You focus on the water pouring down on you and visualize your stress being washed away. Your will is to apply energy to the task. Along with the words she uses to increase the impact of the magick “Water, water, wash away all the stress of the day,” your shower becomes magickal.

So, is Cinderella’s fairy-godmother invoking magick? Her fairy-godmother cast her spell speaking an incantation to create a specific outcome. She clearly imagined what she wanted. She intended the magic coach, horse, etc. to all appear. She was keening focused on the results. And through sheer will she used all the energy at her disposal to make it happen.

Are there any rules for using magick? Deborah Blake, in her book, The Goddess is in the Details by Llewellyn Publications, July 2009, lays out the seven beliefs at the heart of being a witch.

Harm none. The Wiccan Rede says, “An it harm none, do as ye will.” While this sounds simple, whatever you do make certain you harm no one. That includes yourself and anyone else. She pointed out quite clearly that downstream affects are really unknown. This rule is a guideline and a reminder that the intent should always be to do good.

Do not interfere with free will. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and should not interfere with the actions of others. Not every witch (other regular person for that matter) seems to believe in this.

What you put out (into the universe) is what you get back. The Law of Return. I believe very strongly in this rule and I’m not a witch. I call it paying it forward. I truly believe that if you give of yourself will come back to you threefold.

As above, so below: Words have power. Witches believe that words have power. It is the reason why spells are said out loud—to announce your intention to the universe. They also believe symbols can be used to heighten the effects of words and can stand for objects or ideas. Sometimes they use candles, stones, water, wine, or anything that will help connect them to the object or idea. As above, so below means they not only have the power to effect change through symbolism and their connection with the universe, but they must also be careful with their words and thoughts. Ms. Blake gave a great example. If words have power, and you get back what you put out, think what would happen when you say, “I hate you.”

Magick is real and witches can use it bring about positive change. With combination of their belief that they can bring about positive change and the power of words and symbols, they use intent and focus to alter their world.

We are part of nature. All Pagans have one thing in common—they respect nature and believe they are a part of it, not above it. While traditional religions view humans as superior, Pagans see themselves as guardians. Witches worship the mother earth, the nature goddess. They follow the cycle of the seasons and strive to connect to nature and stay close to their primordial gods.

The divine is in everything, including us. Pagans believe in the old gods and goddesses and that there is an element of the divine in everything. This is at the heart of what it means to be a witch. This connection to the universe and to the divine gives witches both power and responsibility. It connects them to every other living being.

I think you’ll agree, this is a common sense approach to living with the people around you.

So, let me leave you with this. Light a white candle, take a sip of red wine, hold the book your reading, and say:

The winds are still,

as the words unfold.

Strong is the will,

as the story is told.

Peace fills the room,

and carries you away.

Imagination in bloom,

the rest of the day.

Excerpt- Chapter One

Northumberland, England, 1290

“You won the wager with His Majesty,” said Lord Bryce Mitchell astride his Arabian. He cantered down the forest trail with Alex Stelton, the newly minted Lord of Glen Kirk Castle.

“The entire court placed odds on whether I would succeed.” The two men slowed their horses to a walk. Alex glanced at Bryce. “Did you lose much?” He refocused his attention on the trail ahead. “You should have put your coin on me. I only wager when I’m certain of the results.”

“After one year of holding the old stones against the Scots, he actually gifted the castle and his ward to you.” Bryce shook his head.

The ring of surprise in Bryce’s voice and evident disbelief on his face amused Alex. “His Majesty is a man of his word. Did you have any doubt?” asked Alex, his head cocked to the side with one eyebrow raised. His face split into a wide grin.

“About the king being a man of his word or of you holding off the Scots?” Bryce colored his smooth retort with a smirk.

The two friends looked at each other, exploded into laughter, and continued on until they reached the crossroads where they brought their horses to a halt. The tower of Glen Kirk Castle, bathed in the setting sun, peeked through the trees still some three miles to the north. Alex surveyed his new holding. His chest swelled with pride. Mine.

“Though Edward did make you pay.”

Alex was peeved by Bryce’s patronizing tone. He masked his emotions until they were as unreadable as stone.

“Yes, you could say that.” Alex tried his best dismissive tone. Best he forget the king’s retribution for now. There would be time enough to deal with it later.

“Could? Surely you knew if he lost the wager he would find some way to make you pay. He doesn’t lose gracefully at anything, but to actually marry you to his ward by proxy. I can still see the apoplectic look on your face.”

“Yes, Bryce— what about the look on my face?” demanded Alex. His voice sounded strident even to him.

Bryce turned all shades of purple trying to conceal his mirth but he said not one word more. Instead he diverted his attention and polished the gold clasp, embossed with the Mitchell coat of arms, on his cloak.

Alex bristled at being the center of anyone’s jest. He didn’t take it well from his brothers, although the six of them only teased to vex him. Even though he was the youngest, his brothers deferred to him. They knew his worth and, it appeared, so did the king.

His teeth clenched at the thought of his proxy wedding and his humiliation. He knew he had to take a wife. He had to make his own way in the world. The Stelton holdings were extensive but not enough to provide him with an income. He’d have done anything to prove himself worthy of a holding of his own. Maybe even marry. Perhaps even Lisbeth. He never thought he would marry on the whim of the king. He had tried to argue, but there was no arguing with Edward. Faith, the king all but patted him on his head and sent him off like a new page. A page. He raked his hand through his hair.

With a nod of his head, Bryce motioned toward Glen Kirk in the distance. “Marrying Lisbeth does secure your claim to Glen Kirk.”

Lisbeth. He had lived at Glen Kirk for a year and hardly saw her. The only way he knew she was near was the little charms she left or the serenity that surrounded them. She kept herself in the forsaken hunting lodge and managed to elude him at almost every turn.

On odd twinge of disappointment hung round him. She hadn’t been like that years ago when they encountered each other at court. She had laughed and didn’t have a care in the world. Four years later he wouldn’t have known it was her if she hadn’t presented herself at the castle. The impish girl had grown into a poised beauty. Dark hair fell in long waves down her back. Her slender body was punctuated with soft curves that couldn’t remain hidden by the black mourning gown. Large green eyes stared at him from under a fan of long dark lashes. Even with her dour expression her full lips tempted him. He moved uncomfortably in his saddle. How things change. How people change.

“You do know you’re the envy of everyone. Not because the king gave you Wesley’s treasured Glen Kirk or daughter.” Bryce turned serious. “You inherited Wesley’s brewer and ale recipe. That should give you some compensation. I understand it’s a long-held family secret. Wesley was all about family.”

Family. He let his mind wonder. It landed on memories of his early days at court with his parents and siblings. He enjoyed the candor and tumult around the table in their assigned apartment. How he would appreciate that safety and security today in the midst of a court filled with politics and intrigue.

“I intend to leverage our close friendship,” said Bryce, “I’ll sample each batch and make certain it retains its high standards.”

Alex grinned at his friend’s declaration. Lord Wesley and Lady Darla Reynolds had been close friends of his parents. They didn’t bring their daughters to court often but Richard, their son, was always with them and became close to the tight-knit band of Stelton boys. Richard’s death on the Welsh battlefields had been a shock to them all. He and Wesley had spent a good deal of time together consoling each other over a good many tankards of ale.

It was only a short time after Alex left for the Welsh Wars himself that he heard of Wesley and Darla’s fatal accident. He felt their loss deeply. Now in a twist of fate their beloved Glen Kirk and daughter were his.

“Have you sent word to her?” Bryce’s question hung heavy in the air.

Alex broke away from his musings. “No, I will tell her when the time comes.”

The Guardian’s Witch
Ruth A. Casie

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Publisher: Carina Press

ISBN: 978142689577
ASIN: B00CC68G88

Cover Artist: Angela Waters - Millennium Promotions, Inc

Amazon BN

Book Description:

England, 1290

Lord Alex Stelton can’t resist a challenge, especially one with a prize like this: protect a castle on the Scottish border for a year, and it’s his. Desperate for land of his own, he’ll do anything to win the estate—even enter a proxy marriage to Lady Lisbeth Reynolds, the rumored witch who lives there.

Feared and scorned for her second sight, Lisbeth swore she’d never marry, but she is drawn to the handsome, confident Alex. She sees great love with him but fears what he would think of her gift and her visions of a traitor in their midst.

Despite his own vow never to fall in love, Alex can’t get the alluring Lisbeth out of his mind and is driven to protect her when attacks begin on the border. But as her visions of danger intensify, Lisbeth knows it is she who must protect him. Realizing they’ll secure their future only by facing the threat together, she must choose between keeping her magic a secret and losing the man she loves.

About the Author: 

Ruth A. Casie is a seasoned professional with over twenty-five years of writing experience but not necessarily writing romances. No, she’s been writing communication and marketing documents for a large corporation. Over the past years, encouraged by her friends and family, she gave way to her inner muse, let her creative juices flow, and began writing a series of historical fantasies. She lives in Teaneck, New Jersey, with her husband. They have three grown children and two grand-children.

Discover strong men and empowered women as they face unexpected challenges. Watch their stories unfold as they encounter magic, danger, and passion. Join them as they race across the pages to places where love and time know no bounds. Ruth hopes they become your favorite adventures.


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