Cover proofs for the Universal Mirror

I realize that the book has been out in e-format for a couple of weeks now but there is something magical about seeing the cover for the actual print version.  I’m normally the first to jump on new technologies but nothing will ever replace the feel of a solid book in your hands or the sensation of rapidly turning one page to get to the next.

 

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Author Interview with Jeffrey Zweig II

Jeffrey Zweig II

Jeffrey Zweig II

My special guest to today’s blog is fantasy author Jeffrey Zweig II. Jeffrey is the author of the brand-new novel, The End Begins: The Nine, and also runs the blog “Stories of a Sleepless Mind” where he spotlights excerpts from his works-in-progress. The End Begins is a great story with such a dramatic twist that I’ll have to work hard to restrain myself from spoiling you!

And so with no further ado, I bring you an interview with Jeffrey Zweig II.

Gwen: Hi, Jeffrey, I’m excited to have you here. First, let’s start by having you tell the readers a little about your book.

Jeffrey: Thank you for taking the time to learn a little more about me and my work, Gwen.

The End Begins: The Nine is a science fiction, fantasy story about Cassarah Telmar, a sorceress who finds out the students of her Academy, The Nine, are being used in experiments to pilot a war for a group known as The Coalition. She escapes their program and sets off to bring them down. However, her actions could devastate the people she’s trying to save.

Gwen: One of the things that I found particularly interesting was how this novel mixes real-world events and history as part of a broader alternate universe beginning with World War II. How did you decide at what point to alter history, so to speak?

Jeffrey: One reason I think I chose World War II (WWII) is because people know about it. So many movies, video games, TV shows are based on it – it’s familiar, and since I had so many strange elements going, I wanted that familiar base to draw from. I did some research on “what if” scenarios during the war – as in what if a battle went this way or that, and in turn a much different outcome could have happened. So I toyed with who was involved, how long it went, and tried incorporating some relevant issues one could see today. WWII always has a lot of potential to work with, and making those changes opens up many more things I can work with to make it my own.

Gwen: During The End Begins: The Nine, the reader is taken on a journey that shifts focus to a number of different characters. Changing perspective from one character to the next really gives us, as the readers, a much broader sense of the world that you’ve created. Of your main characters, who was the most challenging for you to write and why? How did you get into their head?

Jeffrey: The hardest to write for was James. First, he’s like Cass where he’s foreign to the world he’s journeying through because he’s dealing with a form of amnesia. But at the same time, he’s coming from a world that is similar to our modern day. So I had to resist the urge to constantly compare one to the next as a running commentary.

Second, because he initially starts as a mini-macguffin and has so little to do with the start of the story, he was a risk to have. I had to make him relevant but not be obtrusive. That was also hard to do. Whereas most of the characters had a clear objective at the start of the novel, James did not. He was kind of a wild card, and that can be dangerous for an author if the reader doesn’t want to go along with it.

Gwen: I know that in my own writing, minor characters often end up being some of the characters that I like the best. Was there any character that you’d like to focus on more in future stories?

Jeffrey: Kevin Barone – the group’s mechanic, tech guy, and the outsider of the independent nation of Arcovia. I think because he is so rooted in the world being a kind of drifter, that through him I could explore the world in more detail. Having known people like that, I have fun writing someone who is a little more relaxed/reckless than Cass. But in my story he evolves from that drifter, to becoming heavily relevant to many people, and I would be interested to see how his actions affect those around him trying to keep that independence.

Gwen: Another big part of your story is culture. One of my favorite scenes was when Cass ended up going into the world and had to learn how to interact among people and ideas with which she wasn’t familiar. How do you prepare to write a scene like that?

Jeffrey: First I had to decide while building the world for my novel how different things were on that personable level. Once I had that, I had to think of Cass, more or less, as a foreigner as if she visited another country entirely (Which you could argue is the case here). How would I (or Cass) react when dealing with food, social norms, or science. I did my best to make things different, but not too different in that respect. I’m reminded of an exercise you would do in a creative writing course, if you were an alien exploring another world – that’s basically what I had to do.

Gwen: Tell us about something that you think makes the Nine particularly unique.

Jeffrey: This is a hard one, truth be told. Because I could say a lot of things that appear to make it unique, but you can insert that answer for many other books, games, movies, etc. which are great.

“Her actions could devastate the people she’s trying to save.”

So instead I’ll get down to the core of the human element for Cass, our main protagonist – it’s a story with a very straightforward question – what is your choice? Cass’s choice – to live a slave or die with freedom is a choice many people are faced with in one way or another. Maybe its being tied to a job, an abusive relationship, or maybe its on your death bed living on life support. Very different situations, but that choice is a choice people may live with every day. Some stories are caught up in the grand scheme of the major plot. Really, in the end, the book is about Cass’s choice in her own self worth when she learns everything she has too. That is one of the things I think make this book unique – the boldness of that one choice amidst a epic sci-fi plot.

Gwen: Where else do you see yourself going with future novels? Will you be continuing in this universe or do you have other stories ahead? Tell us a little bit about your future projects.

Jeffrey: I will be continuing this universe in a sequel but it will follow a different character this time around. I hope to have it ready by the end of the year, maybe 2013. Right now, it’s still in the outline, rough draft stages so I don’t want to get into that right now, other than its coming.

My future projects are two Novelettes called Lost in a Dream-scape (tentative title) which is a high epic fantasy about a man who discovers their dreams may not have been dreams at all. And I also have The Tales of Captain Force, which follows a journalist as he discovers the secret of the heroic urban legend of his city.

Other than that, working on short stories I hope to have done before the summer rolls around.

The End Begins: The Nine

The End Begins: The Nine

Gwen: Last but certainly not least, what’s the best way for readers to find out more about you and the book?

Jeffrey: My blog, Stories of the Sleepless Mind, is updated most frequently with information about what I have going on which has not only has bi-weekly updates with prototype material of new stuff I’m working on, but interviews and nuggets of advice to my readers. There’s a link to a Wiki I’ve established giving more in depth information about ongoing projects and stuff I’ve published in the past. You can also find me on facebook and twitter, which is the best way outside my own e-mail to chat me up. I’m always interested with connecting with authors and readers!


The End Begins: The Nine is currently available at Amazon.com in both Kindle and print editions.

Worldbuilding: Extinction Events

Blood: The Brotherhood Saga

I am pleased to introduce to you my first guest blogger, Kody Boye, author of Blood: The Brotherhood Saga. Kody and I first connected on Facebook where I discovered this novel and became rapidly engrossed by the work (expect a review forthcoming). It’s currently available at Amazon. If, like me, you enjoy epic fantasy, I recommend picking up a copy.

But for now, on to the post!

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Extinction Events
A guest post by Kody Boye.

It became prevalent early on within the writing of the Brotherhood saga that much of the world and the sentient creatures that populated it had already died off. Due to human encroachment, disease, mass extinction events or all-out genocide, several races that bore intelligent thought within the world of Minonivna perished or are in the process of dying off as the first book begins.

You might be wondering after reading the introductory paragraph: Why?

Why did entire species have to die off, you ask? Simple: they just did.

If we are to follow what the fossil record shows, there have been many a man (or things resembling men) that have fallen to the greater acts of nature. Who can forget the Neanderthals that roamed parts of Europe and Asia or, more recently, homo floresiensis (better known as the Hobbit) in Indonesia? These are only two of the many examples of sentient, human-like creatures that existed on planet Earth throughout its billions of years of existence, yet they died out. Nature is a cruel and savage beast, as she whittles out many a creature either through predation or natural disaster. Many a theory has been proposed about how the Neanderthals died out (climate change and lack of food, interbreeding with or being killed off by homo sapiens.) Even the Hobbit is believed to have been wiped out by a volcanic eruption that completely annihilated its species, so to think that such species-killing disasters are common are not entirely out of the question.

However, though history has shown that life on Earth has a tendency to die out, what does that mean for life in a fictional setting? Why kill of entire races of creatures when a world builder can avoid such atrocities?

There’s a few reasons.

Reason numero uno is simple—I wanted there to be depth and realism to the world. Earth’s history has shown that life, especially dominant or intelligent life, has a predisposition to death. I wanted to explore the concept of mortality within the world I call Minonivna, particularly because it’s interesting to see the demise of grand creatures, but also because it makes a more well-rounded world for there to be extinctions.

The second reason, and possibly the more complex of the two, is the idea that humanity may have played a role in killing off some of their fellow sentients. This theory has been proposed particularly for homo erectus (what we modern humans are.) We have, over the course of several millions of years, hunted dozens upon dozens of animals to extinction. Off the top of my head in but a moment alone, I can name: the Moa bird in New Zealand, who was killed by foreigners by stealing their eggs after settling on the island; the Thylacine, who was hunted to extinction in Australia; the Yangtze River Dolphin, who was killed for food and poisoned by garbage dumps in China; and the Passenger Pigeon, which was wiped out in a mass hunt in North America. These are only a few of the creatures who, though not sentient in any way, were wiped out by humanity. Since there are no modern examples of humanity wiping out something that is capable of thinking intelligently and with a conscience, I wanted to explore the idea of human cruelty or ignorance and how, through rash choices and decisions, our actions may have killed off creatures that may have compared to us emotionally.

What kind of creatures were or are in the process of being killed off within the Brotherhood universe, you ask?

Allow me to demonstrate.

The Centaurs were a race of humanoid equine creatures that existed within a part of the world southwest of the Northern Coastline called The Whooping Hills. With a human torso connected to an equine lower half, they lived in tribal structures and hunted local wildlife. Called ‘abominations’ by modern humanity due to the belief that they were ‘created by horse demons who slept with women,’ they were hunted to extinction.

Further southwest, beyond the Whooping Hills, exists a place known as the Abroen Forest—a vast, sprawling forest that is commonly known as the home of the Elves. Within the forest exists a multitude of intelligent or somewhat-sentient life. A race of rat creatures known as the Unclean were hunted to death in a mass genocide by the Elves. Known as the Great Hunt, the creatures were hunted to extinction because the Elves could not prevent the creatures from preying on and killing their children.

Beyond the coast of Minonivna, in an arctic wasteland known as Neline, a race of upright-walking bear creatures known as the Kerma are afflicted with a flesh disease that creates tumors along the body that rot through flesh, bone and, eventually, the matter of the inner body. Though not yet extinct within The Brotherhood Saga, the creatures’ numbers are rapidly declining. No source to the disease has been found, though it is believed by the Kerma people that human settlers brought the illness to the island that is ultimately decimating their numbers.

Within the world of The Brotherhood, I tried to create a realistic background in regards to not only humanity, but the creatures that coexist or have coexisted around them. It’s a harsh stretch to destroy entire creatures that could have added a positive dimension to the story, but as a writer, and as a world builder, I believe killing them creates a more well-rounded, three-dimensional world.


Kody Boye

Kody Boye was born and raised in Southeastern Idaho. Since his initial publication in the Yellow Mama Webzine in 2007, he has gone on to sell nearly three-dozen stories to various markets. He is the author of the short story collection Amorous Things, the novella The Diary of Dakota Hammell, the zombie novel Sunrise and the first book in The Brotherhood Saga, Blood. His fiction has been described as ‘Surreal, beautiful and harrowing’ (Fantastic Horror,) while he himself has been heralded as a writer beyond his years (Bitten by Books.) He currently lives and writes in the Austin, Texas area.

This blog protests SOPA

Since WordPress’ Protest SOPA settings don’t appear to be working, I give you this post instead:

Many websites are blacked out today to protest proposed U.S. legislation that threatens internet freedom: the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). From personal blogs to giants like WordPress and Wikipedia, sites all over the web — including this one — are asking you to help stop this dangerous legislation from being passed.

Tools for Authors: Kindlegraph

I’d planned to write a post about the difference between yWriter and Scrivener but because of a number of things (including the snopocalypse in western Washington), I haven’t put enough time into using Scrivener to feel that I’d do a fair job of it.  So instead, I’d like to spotlight a tool called Kindlegraph.

Kindlegraph is a tool that allows authors to autograph e-books, at least those formatted for Kindle.

How it works:

1) You sign up as an author, preferably using your Twitter account.

2) Upload your books.  The site will search the Amazon database for you so this part is fairly easy.

3) When you have an autograph request, it will pop up (within about a minute, in my experience) in your inbox.  Click on that and you will see the name of the person who requested your autograph.

4) Go to “sign” the book.  This screen will look like the one below: 

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Here are a couple of things to know about signing your book.  First, Kindlegraph will force you to put something in that top box.  If you want the entire inscription to show up in your handwriting, I’d recommend just putting a period there.  

Secondly, you’ll have to write everything in that second box using your mouse.  Unless you’re fantastic with a mouse or trackpad, my advice?  Try it with a tablet.  Or resign yourself to having the signature of a first-grader.

I initiated the process myself and discovered a couple other things from the fan perspective.  The kindlegraph can’t be edited or resent by the author once completed (if any of you find differently, please let me know).  

The other thing–and this isn’t obvious–is that Amazon may bounce the signature back if it thinks that it’s spam.  In that case, the reader may never get their signature from you.

To avoid that, I recommend you tell readers in advance to add the email signature “@kindlegraph.com” to their approved senders list for Kindle.  This can be found by using these settings: 

1. Visit Manage Your Kindle page.
2. Sign-in to Amazon account. 
3. Go to “Personal Document Settings” under “Your Kindle Account”.
4. Under “Approved Personal Document E-mail List” click “Add a new approved e-mail address”.
5. Enter the e-mail address to approve and select “Add Address.”
6. Instruct the sender to resend the document. 

Is Kindlegraph a good tool?  I think it will be.  I can’t count the number of people who have said they were waiting for print in order to get a signed copy.  Those publishing in e-only might like this tool for that reason.

But does it have far to go?  Yes, I think that having no ability to resend autographs is a major problem.  I’d like the ability to edit as well, should the signature somehow get written incorrectly (misspelled names, etc).  But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

Reading a Good Book…

I love this video because the imagery reminds me of what it’s like to read a good book. The story shown here is imaginative as well.

The song is “Lille” by Lisa Hannigan. Unfortunately, I don’t know who created this beautiful book.

E-release of the Universal Mirror – Get it Now!

The e-edition of my novel, The Universal Mirror, has just been released! Free to Amazon Prime members (though the lending library) and $2.99 for your very own e-copy.

About the book:

On the island of Cercia, the gods are dead, killed by their followers and replaced with the study of magic. Magicians are forbidden to leave their homeland. Laws bind these men that prevent them from casting spells on the living—whether to harm or to heal.

Quentin, a young nobleman, challenges these laws out of love for his wife. His best friend, Asahel, defies authority at his side, unaware that the search for this lost magic will bring them both to the edge of reason, threatening their very souls. The Universal Mirror shows how far two men are willing to go for the sake of knowledge and what they will destroy to obtain it.

If you enjoy fantasy stories with a focus on magic, head on over and check it out. Hey, it’s less than a cup of coffee. 🙂

(And please feel free to spread the word!)

http://www.amazon.com/The-Universal-Mirror-ebook/dp/B006VYHLNS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326328979&sr=1-1