Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Magic Systems

What am I reading now?  Spellbinding (Maya Gold)

Annd . . . what do I think so far?  It wouldn’t be such a big deal to be descended from the witches killed in Salem, Mass in the 1600’s, unless you were also a witch and it could cost your life too. Well, some things never change.

Abby definitely thinks the upside of the witchy-thing is the ability to cast love spells—one in particular—to land the hottest date to Prom. (Admit it. You've wished you could do that.) Another downside—because Abby knows very little about witchcraft and the people who govern that world she could be at risk from the very people she needs to trust to teach her about it.

Enter gorgeous, green-eyed Rem. Not only does he know about magic, he knows Abby, at least she thinks he does. And he’s starred in her dreams more than once before she ever met him.

This book gets bonus points for being a clean read. Teachers can put this book in their classroom libraries without worrying. 
Magic Systems
Fiction is telling lies that you want to believe and sharing those lies with readers who go along with the fibs. Why? As the author, the reader's  contract is that they won't call you on the make-believe unless you break your own rules or you fail to make your rules believable. Here are a few questions I'm using to help me consider the magic system in one of my current stories:

1. Who can do the magic? Why? Who can't do the magic? Why not? What are their reactions to it?
2. What is the source of the magic?
3. How strong is it?
4. Is it always available and the same strength? If not, what makes it change?
5. Who knows about the magic?
6. What are the limitations?
7. What is the "cost" of using the magic?
8. Is it socially or morally acceptable? Why?
9. How does the magic work?
10. What is the history of the magic?
11. What at the uses and abuses? Can it be controlled? For good? For evil?
12. Are there artifacts or objects involved?
13. Is there another book that has used this type of magic recently in your genre? How is this different?
14. Who are the supporters? Who are the enemies of the magic system?
15. What is disruptive to the magic?
16. What strengthens the magic or magic system?
17. When and where is the magic wielded? How is it tied to that time and place?
18. How does the magic system create the plot, characters, and setting issues of conflict in the story?
19. What are the variations in its use among the characters who have magic?
20. Is it permanent or temporary? Why?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Best Sugar Cookies Ever!

What am I reading now?  Fangtabulous (Lucienne Diver)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far? Do you have some time to kill and want to have a fun read? This series might be worth a look. This the is 4th book in the Vamped series (maybe I should say 4th installment--since there is no end in sight.) Gina is the main character and although she is undead her fashion sense is still very much alive. There is a lot of action in Salem, MA when she and her group settle into the community. Also enter ghosts, witches, FBI agents, and TV celebrity Ghost (or paranormal) Hunters. She has to fly under their radar and solve a two-hundred year old mystery.

Don't these look yummy? 
I made these for Valentine's Day, but there's a secret in the recipe that makes them adapt to other special occasions too. I'll give that tip at the end of the recipe:

White Chocolate Sugar Cookies

2 cups softened butter
4 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 teaspoons white vanilla 

Mix together until smooth
Add 3 packages white chocolate pudding and mix again.

Stir together: 
10 cups flour (I know this is a large recipe--it makes 4 dozen large cookies)
2 teaspoons baking soda
Add to wet mixture alternately with 1 cup of sour cream

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (at least an hour) overnight.

Roll dough and cut. Cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes
Raspberry Marshmallow Frosting

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks or 1/2 pound), softened (but not melted!) Ideal texture should be like ice cream.
3-4 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar, SIFTED
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon vanilla (I used raspberry this time) extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk (I use heavy cream)
1 large jar marshmallow cream
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Mix together first 4 ingredients alternately with cream as needed to soften. When smooth add marshmallow cream and food coloring
TIPS:
•Change the flavor of the sugar cookie by changing the pudding mix you use. Want lemon? Easy! How about pistachio? Okay.
•If you half the recipe, use 2 boxes of pudding.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Feeding the Senses

What am I reading now?  The Scorpio Races (Maggie Stiefvater--pronounced Steve-Otter, in case you want to know)

Annnd . . . what do I think so far?  Okay, the opening image is a little ewww with the water horses eating the riders, but when you get past that it's an exciting book. I'm always a fan of Maggie's and this book is no exception.

Her stories are well written from the story line to the way she crafts scenes and even sentences! Beautiful.
Listen...
"Even under the brightest sun, the frigid autumn sea is all the colors of the night: dark blue and black and brown. I watch the ever-changing patterns in the sand as it's pummeled by countless hooves."

"The next morning finds the island ghostly quiet. Though the frenzy of last night seemed to suggest the training would begin in earnest today, the stables are still, the roads silent...I cast a glance toward the sky; a dimpled quilt of cloud hides the sun, and below it, smaller clouds race by, in a hurry to get on their way."

"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

"The breeze blows across my closed eyelids, scented with brine and rain and winter. I can hear the ocean rocking against the island, a constant lullaby."

This book started a little slowly for me (well after the first scene) but I was committed by then and found it picked up about a quarter of the way in. So don't give up--and the end bytheway is a thrill ride!

Feeding the Senses
Look back at the sentences I pulled from the book and read them over again, but this time look for and listen for how she engages the senses of the reader with her word choice.

Sight: bright sun, colors, ever-changing patterns, stables are still, clouds race by

Sound: ghostly quiet, roads are quiet, hear the ocean rocking against the island

Taste:

Touch: frigid autumn, breeze blows across my closed eyelids

Smell: scented with brine and rain and winter

Emotion: pummeled, someone will die

I want to be able to do that someday--purposefully engage the reader with sentences they want to read again, just to be filled.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

No Spoilers Here

What am I reading now?  Requiem (Lauren Oliver--Delirium Trilogy)

Annd . . . what do I think so far?  This is the final book for this series which asks the question: What if love were a disease which could be cured? In this society it must be cured! When a few choose not to, they are hunted. I don't think I can say a whole lot about the story...or the characters without spoiling the first two books if you haven't read them.
So I won't.
Just know that today is the release date for this book.
And I have it.
And I'm reading it RIGHT NOW.
So yeah, it's a good series.
Enough said.
Go buy it.