2. Worldbuilding hIstorical notes nuts & bolts

Where do superpowers come from?

Power: personal, unique power. Power is the centerpiece of every Rough Passages Tale. Who has it, what happens when people gain it, how it can and can’t change their lives, how the uncertainties and adverse aspects of power rollovers  make that world different than ours…this can be deep story stuff.*

How do those powers work? The short answer is: no one knows. That’s one of many things that makes writing about it interesting.

Everyone with a rollover powers taps into some kind of energy, but that’s where certainty ends. Some poz can see this energy post-rollover, other feel it, all are affected by it and use it one way or another, but what that energy is, or how it works?

It’s still a mystery.

Why? For one thing, it’s impossible for nulls to detect, so disbelief hampers research funding. For another, the phenomenon is less than a hundred years old. The scientific community is still at the stage of documenting, describing, and postulating mechanisms based on existing established systems.  Think radiation in the early 1900’s, electricity in the 1800’s, or chemistry in the 1700’s.

All the uncertainty results in a constellation of valid ideas, wrongheaded hypotheses, and wild-ass speculation.  It also supplies thesis fodder for doctoral candidates and researchers in every field of study from physics to psychology. Ambitious scientists dream of being the next Curie, Faraday, or Mendeleev.  And lots of them already think they have uncovered Major Truths that are dead wrong but fit the facts.

Want an example? (You’re getting one.) Take an observable fact: T-series trolls can ramp up their own abilities and provoke each other into radical physical changes by tapping into their powers near each other. At its worst, the feedback loop will drive them into a collective, destructive frenzy. They train hard to control this effect, called rampage, because a mindless stampede of berserk armored giants is hard on real estate and anything else that can’t get out of their way.

Let’s look at the current scientific model. Explanations for T-series power use are based on studies of pheromone communication and hormone-driven metamorphosis in other species. The model fits the observed data and is an accurately predictive tool…in most cases. Most importantly it allows for engineering useful tools like rampage detectors and assorted training devices. So everyone accepts it as accurate.

But as the Watchmaker of the world, I’ll let you in on a secret. Rampage and powering up aren’t triggered physically.  The model has cause and effect flipped. It’s a pure energy phenomenon, a matter of resonance and exchange from more powerful individuals to less powerful ones, one that has the effect of triggering hormone releases.

Is any of that information useful to you, dear reader? Probably not. But speculation is fun, and so is trivia collection. So I thought I would share.

The takeaway for today? Power is tricky. People are fallible. And science is a process.

*Paranormal personal powers are not the only kind people deal with every day. Power can come from social status, political position, cultural acceptance, and economic prosperity too. Upending people’s lives after they’ve spent decades establishing their place in the socioeconomic power structure that is modern society? Well. That makes for super-duper drama. And drama makes good fiction.

Oh, and the BOOKS! Here are links to the buyable stories. Because they’re awesome.

Book reviews Media Consumption

The most recent ramblings of me

I’ve been busier creating more than consuming of late, and I’ve also taken some tedious life detours, but here’s the latest “what I’ve been enjoying” scoop.


1636 Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz: Kerryn Offord & Rick Boatright. Fun, lighthearted alternate history sf/fantasy.  It’s an installment in the Ring of Fire bookset. (21 novels, 7 anthologies and going strong.) That is both an asset and a drawback. Good: It’s a familiar world, yet it is so thoroughly filled with unique characters that nothing ever feels like a retread. Bad: There are so many intersecting plots that it’s easy to lose track of all the tangential characters who get mentioned. And it’s just…there.

Wild Harmonic: Beth Patterson.  Great setting, clever concept, urban fantasy that feels urban AND fantastic. Good, solid fun read.  Reminded me a little of War for the Oaks in that it’s all about musicians and hidden worlds, but it’s also nothing like WFtO, and I was immensely pleased that it captured the feel of New Orleans as I’ve experienced it instead of going all cliche smoky-sugary-angsty vampire-packed like certain other NOLA-based series do. I liked it so much that I barely minded it using present tense.  And I do not get along with present tense at all. Nope.

I’m including a purchase link with because it’s also a brand new book by an author I know, that isn’t available in most bookstores (REMEMBER TO ASK YOUR LIBRARY TO BUY IT) and well, you know how I am about pushing things I like. Here you go: BUY LINK.

Once Broken Faith (and more) Seanan McGuire. More urban fantasy. All fae, all the time.  I started this series with book 1 and I love the way it’s developed. This is the the latest, and I embarked upon a re-read. I think the plot doesn’t hit its stride until book 3 or 4, much like the Dresden novels, and like those, I enjoy a periodic visit down memory lane.  I’m into the third book again.

Viewings both TV and Movies

Supergirl continues. Season 2 moved to the CW, and I still like it.

Frequency. New series based on the same concept as the movie from 2000. (Cross-time ham radio communication between parent & child.) Was recommended to me by someone who knows my dislike for time travel, so I risked the pilot. Glad I did.  Four episodes in, it’s atmospheric, dramatic, polished and well-acted.

Designated Survivor got booted off the viewing list. They put in five good episodes before pulling out the flags, regressive ideas and dog whistles, but they did, and now I’m out.

Veronica Mars. The Movie. It did a good job of capturing the feel of the television series, the story was engaging, and I enjoyd it. There is something to be said for fan service, and this movie did it well.

Locke. I don’t remember why I ordered this movie from Netflix even after viewing it. Tom Hardy may have entered into the decision process.  It was an interesting exercise in storytelling through conversation, it was a phenomenal character piece…and it all takes place in a car, driving at night. Hrrrrrrm.

Silver Chalice. Paul Newman. This oldie was showing late-night on a commercial free channel. I hadn’t seen it in 40 years and decided what the hell. Good choice? I dunno. Perfect for the time, but I in pain on pain meds. It was as awful, stilted, and trippy this time around as when I was young and didn’t know how bad bad could get.  It’s like a sword & sandals New Testament epic interpreted by someone taking LSD.  So weird. SO BAD.

Big Screen:

Dr Strange. Cumberbatch + cape + special effects+ fabulous cast = excellence. Wong the librarian is glorious, and Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One…well. I can’t think of a movie she’s in where I haven’t adored her.  (Yes, even the awful Constantine movie. She was phenomenal in that, and she’s delightful in Dr. Strange.)  ANYway. It was good. I’ll see it again. I’ll own it. And when Thor 3 comes out, I might have slightly higher than bargain basement hopes for it, since it appears it will star, Thor, Loki AND Dr. Strange. (swoon)

That’s all in the “taking things in” category.

Kitchen magic:  Made apple crisp and applesauce and only burned some of it. Used up old frozen bananas and stale beer to make delicious banana beer bread, proving bad ingredients can make tasty results. Laid in the first of the frozen winter cookie doughs. PErfected my salsa/rice/chicken lazy bake. And last week all my food energies went into making puddings, jelloes and experimental mashed potato varieties, courtesy of oral surgery recovery.

For those keeping score, I like strawberry jello and red raspberry but not black raspberry–and never lime or orange–and the pudding has to be the kind that gets cooked in  pot and chilled. Vanilla is best. Seriously. Baked sweet potatoes mash super well in a bowl with butter, salt and onion powder, but mashed white potatoes are better if they’re boiled, drained and whipped together  with cheddar cheeses, milk  (and butter. Because butter is the secret of life.)

Dirt therapy: SPOUSEMAN AND I GOT OUR FALL BULBS PLANTED RIGHT! I wouldn’t be all shouty-caps excited except that last year I…didn’t. Spouseman buys some every year as a little treat to our spring selves, and we plant them together. Last autumn nothing was fun and life fell on our heads and I ended up shoving bulbs into the ground like a manic squirrel around Thanksgiving so I could stop feeling guilty about spending the money. It worked out, the bulbs all came up, but the experience was neither relaxing nor healthy.  This year, there was a day of sunshine and digging and much satisfied soreness the next day. Huzzah.

And that’s all the all there is right now.

Obligatory regular reminder: I write books that can be bought with money all over the interwebs. NOT ONLY ON AMAZON! Here is a handy link:

And I shouldn’t leave out Amazon because books are exclusively available there: even has audio editions of some books. You can buy them direct on Amazon or iBooks too.



Authoring excerpts Writing Life

Flash Fiction: “A Bloody Mess”

If anyone ever asks where my ideas come from, I’ll be able to say honestly, “Facebook posts plus illness-related sleep deprivation plus general depravity.” I’m blaming this one on a friend’s post about a dripping ceiling fan.  I have no idea if I’ll ever do more with it (or if it’s worth pursuing)  but I have the shape of the story jotted down, just in case.

Blood dripped from the bathroom ceiling, seeping through the edges of the light fixture to fall like dark tears onto a shiny tile floor.  Drop after drop plinked into a rippling puddle beside the clothes hamper, and the liquid pooling inside the lightshade  cast eerie crimson shadows over gore-splattered walls. The air reeked of iron and piss.

Before Joelle Petak entered the crime scene she applied a fresh layer of lip gloss and rolled it back and forth until the eucalyptus scent rose into her sinuses and dulled the stink.  The she lifted one sneaker-clad foot over the black, buzzing lump of flesh in the doorway and hopped a little to clear the obstacle. An irritable cloud of flies rose at her passing, then returned to their feasting. Joelle landed in the clear spot of floor beside the toilet and regarded the lump of meat in the bathtub. The second corpse was as much of a shredded, anonymous mass as the first.

A hot wash of fear and disgust caught at Joelle’s belly, loosened her insides until she had to clench every muscle to keep her bowels and bladder under control. This one was going to be bad. She had seen worse carnage than this only once, when a sorority pledge had been tasked to complete a Greater Demon summoning and actually cast it perfectly–on the open quad on a Saturday night during football season.

This case might be worse by the time all was said and done. This time, the monsters were still on the loose. She pushed aside those concerns and swung her big purse of holding around to the front. Good, bad, or ugly, her job didn’t change. She was here to make the past give up its secrets in the service of justice.

The snap closure on her purse popped open with a sharp noise, and Joelle froze as she caught a glimpse of motion in the hallway. Both patrol officers behind her had dropped their hands to their weapons belts. She slowly lifted her field recorder from the bag with two fingers. “Y’all aren’t gonna shoot me over a little razzle-dazzle, are you?”

“Sorry, ma’am,” the patrol officer on the right said. His dark face had a sickly grayish cast and gleamed with sweat. His female partner had her other hand over her mouth, and her fingers were trembling. She shrugged, and the dull pain in her eyes spoke volumes. She had lost someone to death here tonight. Joelle wondered how many first responders had gone down before the big guns were called in.

 She lifted her eyes to the ceiling and the blood now raining down from the dimmed fixture. “How many more, do you think?”

“We aren’t sure,” said the woman patrol officer. Her words had thick, rounded edges, as though she was forcing them out around some obstruction in her throat. “In some bedrooms there are piles—” a shallow breath, and another, and she finished, “There’s no way to tell.”

“I’d best get my mojo moving, then. There’ll be a lot of flashing light. Please don’t shoot me, ‘kay?” Joelle  raised the recorder and muttered the triggering spell.

 Glitter exploded from the device in her hands and spread in a rainbow sphere of sparkles that chimed bright melodies. The flecks of light clanged and rang in dissonant notes as they struck surfaces and reached the doorway.  The shimmering veil hung for a moment, then melted away, leaving behind pale residue on everything but Joelle herself. The buzz of the flies stopped. A pall of acrid smoke hung in the silence.

The recorder chirped its happy done-collecting-things tune, and Joelle brushed away an errant dead insect. “All righty, then. One room down. Twelve to go.”

Authoring Book reviews

Review: Revisionary by Jim C. Hines

Let’s start with the blurb again. (from Goodreads)
The fourth installment in the popular Magic Ex Libris series.When Isaac Vainio helped to reveal magic to the world, he dreamed of a new millennium of magical prosperity. One year later, things aren’t going quite as he’d hoped. A newly-formed magical organization wants open war with the mundane world. Isaac’s own government is incarcerating “potential supernatural enemies” in prisons and internment camps.

Surrounded by betrayal and political intrigue, Isaac and a ragtag group of allies must evade pursuit both magical and mundane, expose a conspiracy by some of the most powerful people in the world, and find a path to a better future. But the key to victory may lie with Isaac himself, as he struggles to incorporate everything he’s learned into a new, more powerful form of libriomancy.

It’s book four. I don’t recommend starting here unless you’re comfortable dropping into the deep waters of a richly imagined world. (I do it all the time, but I enjoy a lot of things I don’t recommend, necessarily.)  The series starts with with Libriomancer, so if you want to read everything else first, it won’t take you long to catch up.
Still here? Okay. The good: everything that makes a good magical book set in a contemporary setting good — action, snappy dialogue, interesting systems and descriptions thereof, entertaining people who are easy to picture and even easier to like.  (or hate. as applicable.) The bad? Errrm. All the usual suspects that can make an otherwise good magical book set in a contemporary setting a bit annoying. Mileage will vary with how long I’ve been viewing the same scenery. (And when I read this, I’d been on a contemporary fantasy binge, so I’ll take the hint  it’s time for me to move onward to some scifi or classic fantasy to clear my tolerance settings.)
What are the annoyances? The enemies, basically. Over-reaching government regulation and bureaucratic inefficiency create  individual obstacles. Power-hungry ambitious conspirators use law and prejudice to push their own agenda behind the scenes. And of course greedy, ambitious corporate managers who value profit over persons are involved.
It’s the of course that got me. A powerful minority being treated as a dire threat to be controlled/suppressed/segregated is realistic, yes. Chaos knows that’s the premise for my alternate reality world, but…BUT. Immediate, systemic paranoia and wholesale suppression and discrimination are not the ONLY way forward from that starting point. Big Fearful Majority constantly seeking to destroy what they do not understand isn’t the only way history plays out that scenario.
Yes, a set-up in which Big Everybody maneuvers people into oppressing the chosen minority , countered by heroic individualism, revolutionary passion, and the Power of Personal Relationships is a great way to explore important human themes, but it is far from the ONLY response societies make to new powerful developments.
Except in contemporary fantasy. There, that plot line is the inescapable winner. Le. Sigh.

Yes, I know, I write superpower world, but I include superpower stories in this fantasy category. It’s hand-wavy woo science. And look at all the stoylines that fit: X Men. Civil War. A bunch I can’t think of at the moment.
Book reviews

Review of Trailer Park Fae

3.5 of 5

First, the blurb:
Jeremy Gallow is just another construction worker, and that’s the way he likes it. He’s left his past behind, but some things cannot be erased. Like the tattoos on his arms that transform into a weapon, or that he was once closer to the Queen of Summer than any half-human should be. Now the half-sidhe all in Summer once feared is dragged back into the world of enchantment, danger, and fickle fae—by a woman who looks uncannily like his dead wife. Her name is Robin, and her secrets are more than enough to get them both killed. A plague has come, the fullborn-fae are dying, and the dark answer to Summer’s Court is breaking loose.

Be afraid, for Unwinter is riding… ”

Now, my words:
3.5 of 5 stars. This title is a poster child for how I pick books. Not by cover, not by blurb, not even by first chapter. (Although I do check all those, in that order to form a baseline opinion.) My decider: a random 5-10 page read from somewhere in the middle of the book.

Here’s how this acquisition occurred. Cover picture. grabbed me. (Yum.) Blurb put things back on the cusp of Nope. (It’s catchy,  but I’m getting picky in my old age about which fae adaptations I’ll bother spending time on.) The first chapter/random page check was a solid maybe. Oh, but that random read? Bliss. The dialogue and descriptions in the scene I read utterly drowned me in reader happies.

I loved the language. The story– if you want the plot, read the blurb, it’s all there–doesn’t break new ground in any way. But it does present all the British Isles faerie standards in a wonderfully skewed, carnival-mirror perspective. The way characters speak and thinks  gives the fae the truly creepy, alien unearthliness they very rarely get in contemporary fantasy.

And the plot is so well-crafted and slides from beginning to climactic end as smoothly as water poured from a glass. It’s quite satisfying, but that’s not where the  real strength of the book lies. It lies in the inhumanity of its inhuman characters.

I’ve long enjoyed this author’s blog, and I’d read a couple of her other urban fantsies, but her characters never caught me hard. Until this time. This series is on my do-not-miss list.

Bottom line:  I enjoyed it far more than I expected, and that takes a lot.