Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Reviews 43 - The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover

Reviews 43
The Late Great Wizard
Sara Hanover 

The Reviews have not been indexed yet.

The success of the Romance Genre in penetrating Science Fiction and Fantasy genres is beautiful to see.

The Soul Mate issue, and all the aspects of Relationship that are fueled by or form the foundation of Love (True Love), are working their way into plot, story, and world building.

In Reviews 41,

we discussed Empire of Silence by Christopher Ruocchio, and how the Galactic Civilization is depicted using a loose, sprawling style, making the book much thicker than it had to be.  It is a story about a guy, an aristocrat, who gets tossed into the lowest, grimiest level of his civilization, and climbs back up.  Along the way, he meets a girl he really loves - then she dies and he goes on.  But her memory is one of the driving forces that propels him to galactic significance again.

In Reviews 42,


we looked at the conclusion of Simon R. Green's two long, intertwined Paranormal Romance series, where the Romance spans the two separate series and unites them.  Night Fall is the title of the combining novel, and it is very strongly driven by the slowly developed Romance.

Now in Reviews 43, let's look at another Fantasy Genre (maybe Urban Fantasy) novel, this one a marvelously good read, a page turner with great promise for a new long-running and complicated Series, The Late Great Wizard by Sara Hanover.


The Amazon page indicates a second author, but the pre-publication cover and title page on my ARC copy does not, so I will reference Sara Hanover as the hand behind this (wonderful) book.

The Amazon page also indicates a sub-title, giving this a Series title, Wayward Mages.  The plural Mages, gives me vast hopes.

Hanover demonstrates a writing technique worthy of close study.  She takes a beaten-to-death, modern Urban Fantasy premise -- (among normal people such as you deal with every day, there exist some people who practice magic and other paranormal talents who do everything to keep you ignorant of their existence and affairs (and wars)).

Hanover then mixes in another beaten-to-death modern plot element, The Phoenix, being not a bird or god, but a person, a human, who dies in fire and must use a magical ritual to return fully to life and functioning.

She shakes the mixture and pours out something new.

And as you read, you learn once again the oldest, truest maxim of story craft: Setting, Time, Place, Plot, and Action Do Not Matter.

Reader enjoyment arises from the Characters and their Relationships.

It is the story that matters - and you can write and sell to any genre by telling your story in whatever Setting, Period, or World that genre needs.

Yes, we have discussed, at tedious length, how the World must be integrated with Plot, Story, and Characters.

Characters are shaped by their environment, and morph into hero or victim or bully according to the experiences their World throws at them.

In Romance, we prefer the Character who gets whacked by a Problem, and Rises To The Occasion.

In Science Fiction, likewise, we want a Character who starts off as the last one you'd expect to be able to do something -- then Rises to the Occasion and conquers.

Likewise, in Paranormal Urban Fantasy Romance, we want to see the Character rise to the occasion and do what would have been impossible without confrontation with a challenge.

The element that raises Sara Hanover's new Phoenix novel far above most of the others I've seen lately is that the female lead Character, First Person Narrator, Tessa, is surrounded by deeply knit family.  The Father is currently missing (they find out what's happened to him), but though there were issues with his pre-disappearance behavior, the love is staunch, unflinching amidst the apparent betrayal he perpetrated.

Tessa's goal is to get her college education completed and find her father.

Tessa and her mother are just scraping by in a college town which could be anywhere in the USA, but is near Washington DC, which they visit (a place famous among the esoteric community for its ley lines).

This location is interesting because the author seems to live in New Zealand.

To help out with expenses, Tessa accepts a job delivering (by bicycle) meals to the Elderly.  One of those Elders is "The Professor" -- who turns out to be a Phoenix, and a Wizard being targeted by a warring faction among the supernatural community.  He incinerates himself to avoid a worse development, but reincarnates as a younger man. He staggers into Tessa's presence as he comes to in his back yard, house in cinders, memory gone.  From what we know at that point, "wayward mage" sounds like a reasonable sobriquet.

He is a wizard, but barely knows he has such power. To restore his memory, he must perform a ritual -- the required components are scattered and hidden by his former elderly self.  So Tessa must help with the treasure hunt, hazy lack of memory, and assortment of friends, enemies, frenemies from his paranormal community.

This elderly wizard who was a warm friend is now of her age-group and very handsome.  He knows and admires her for herself, and that basis of relationship matters -- but now there's more.

At the end of this first novel in what I hope will be a long series, Tessa has a much more accurate idea of how her world works, and what's actually going on.  She has the full support of her mother, and a solid notion of what's going on with her father.  She has an Aunt with an odd talent for luck, which Tessa seems to have inherited.  And she's made her mark in the paranormal world.

Now she has to go back to Classes.  How will she concentrate, knowing what she knows?

The very best part of this novel is the Relationship between Tessa and the Wizard, and how plausibly it shifts.  The next shift will come when the Wizard has his full powers back.

Sara Hanover has made two old, out-worn, tired story ingredients into something new.  That in itself makes this book worth reading.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Trojan Horses For Kids, Rampant Scraping

Authors are warned not to "scrape" social media sites for the email addresses of potential readers. Since the GDPR, (Europe's General Data Protection Regulation) we are admonished to double-verify that a person affirmatively and enthusiastically wishes to receive an author's newsletter.

There are also strict rules about authors' contests.  All wise authors considering a promotion to build up a mailing list, or to attract social media approbation ("Likes"), should read this article.

In nutshell, it might be illegal in your State, province or neck of the woods to run a "contest" where there is
1) a prize,
2) an element of chance in selecting the recipient of the prize,
3) a requirement that all contestants provide something of value to the contest organizer as a condition of entry.

This author has never yet seen another author sued for running an illegal sweepstakes where the prize is a free copy of an e-book, no skill is required to enter, and a chance to win the e-book is entirely conditional upon joining a Facebook group (or the like).

As for those Trojan Horses filled with geek warriors aiming to get the goods on little kids, PJ Media columnist Phil Baker shares some shocking data about forced scraping, dossiers, and data-mining.


Allegedly, all too many schools force K-12 children to use certain products that are deliberately contaminated with the vendor/developer's spyware. The children and their parents have no choice, either they accept the devices and the risk to their children's privacy, or they have to home school.

Also allegedly, school employees in Pennsylvania have been given permission to remotely access school computers that have been provided to children... when those computers are being used in the students' homes, without the knowledge or consent of the children or their parents.

Maybe every parent should stick an address label over the camera hole in their offspring's school-issued

Scraping children is especially bad, because many of the credit monitoring products are not available for youngsters.

Targeting advertising at little children is also, in this author's opinion, immoral because children's brains and powers of critical reasoning are not fully developed, and won't be until the children are about 26 years old.

What about businesses scraping other businesses' data? Is that theft or fair game?  Without addressing the rights of a minor public figure who might wish to have a presence on book-lovers social media site X, but not on advertising-heavy social media site Y (and yet Site Y might create a presence for the public figure without permission), there have been legal skirmishes between businesses fighting over each other's inventory of members and their basic data.

Legal blogger Scott L. Satkin, writing for the law firm Newmeyer and Dillion LLP  discusses what, if anything, counts as "unauthorized access" to "publicly available" data.


It is interesting to consider what, if any, rights a person or business that has collected "data" on members (or subscribers or users) might have over that data if that data is visible on the internet

Scott L Satkin and the lawsuits he discusses are about social media businesses and their subscribers. Authors seeking to build up a following might join a more successful author's social media group, and scrape the contact info and demographics of reader-members.

Scraping is rampant. Is it expected?

The authors of  this blog do not (to the best of this author's knowledge) collect or save or otherwise exploit any information about any readers or visitors. From time to time, we do warn visitors that our host (Blogger) does place tracking cookies on visitors' devices.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Alternate Timelines

One of my favorite authors, S. M. Stirling, recently launched a new alternate-history series with BLACK CHAMBER, published in July of this year. His website has begun displaying sample chapters from the first sequel, due in spring of 2019. Reading them started me thinking about the effects small or large changes might have on the historical timeline. The POD (point of departure) for the Black Chamber universe—the moment when it diverges from our reality—occurs in 1912, when President Taft dies prematurely and Theodore Roosevelt returns to the White House (instead of Woodrow Wilson becoming President). With no constitutional term limits for the presidency at that time, Roosevelt has free rein to shape the nation according to his principles. Not only the circumstances of U.S. involvement in World War I but the direction of the entire twentieth century will change. The main story line of the novel begins in 1916.

If you could go back in time and alter the twentieth century for the better, what single action would you take? Killing Hitler before he can do any damage immediately springs to mind, of course. However, aside from the ethical problem of murdering a person who hasn't yet committed evil deeds, killing Hitler never works. TV Tropes even has a page on this topic, "Hitler's time-travel exemption." One example: In an episode of the later incarnation of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, a time traveler from the future installs herself as a servant in the household of Hitler's parents. She finally manages to kill baby Adolf along with herself. The nursery maid, however, is so terrified of Herr Hitler's probable reaction to the loss of his son that she substitutes a look-alike infant taken from a beggar woman. So history still plays out with an Adolf Hitler, just not the original one. Nonviolent ways of eliminating Hitler might work, such as preventing his parents from meeting, kidnapping the baby and having him adopted by a nice English couple, or giving young Adolf a scholarship to art school. Would forestalling his political career actually prevent the war, though? Some authors speculate that, given the conditions of post-World-War-I Europe, the Nazi Party would come to power anyway with a different, possibly worse tyrant in charge.

Arguably, the most productive single thing you could do to avert the catastrophic events of the twentieth century would be to go to Sarajevo in 1914 and arrange for Archduke Franz Ferdinand's car to be re-routed so the assassin would never have a chance to shoot him. But would the erasure of the assassination definitely prevent the Great War? The nations of Europe, with their weapons development and entangled alliances, had been building toward that conflict for decades. It's not unlikely that some other spark would have set off the conflagration anyway. Various speculative fiction authors disagree about the ease of altering the timeline. Do we embrace the "Great Man" theory, where the removal of one person makes all the difference? Or do we lean toward Heinlein's position that "when it's time for railroads, people will railroad"? In Stephen King's novel about a time traveler who tries to prevent the assassination of President Kennedy, saving Kennedy creates a major disruption in the flow of history, but not for the better.

Jo Walton's fascinating novel MY REAL CHILDREN takes a unique approach to the theme. The protagonist, as an old woman in a nursing home, remembers two different lives in two worlds (neither of them our own timeline). In one, the more prosperous and peaceful version of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, she suffers through an unhappy marriage. In the other timeline, which verges on dystopia, she has a generally happy life. If she has the power to make one of them definitively "real," which should she choose?

In most of Heinlein's time-travel fiction, he reveals that no change actually occurs, because the traveler's actions simply bring about what was destined to happen anyway. The past as we know it already includes whatever input we contribute—as in, for instance, THE DOOR INTO SUMMER. Some other writers postulate that history inevitably tries to repair itself when "damaged." Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series illustrates the elasticity of the timeline. Claire (a visitor to the eighteenth century from the twentieth) and her husband Jamie can make small changes, but all their attempts to prevent or mitigate Bonnie Prince Charlie's disastrous 1745 campaign fail. The ultimate example of this principle may be "The Men Who Murdered Mohammed," by Alfred Bester. The time traveler assassinates a series of successively more important personages without ever managing to make a permanent mark on the past.

The opposite approach postulates that the slightest change will have vast consequences—the "butterfly effect." Appropriately, Ray Bradbury provided the classic example of this theory in "A Sound of Thunder," when a member of a tourist group traveling to the age of the dinosaurs alters his own future by accidentally killing a butterfly. The trouble with this story, alas, is that if a small change that far back could shift the entire direction of history, by the traveler's present day the alterations would have snowballed to such an extent that his native time would become unrecognizable, not just subtly distorted toward a dystopian outcome. On the same principle, consider the many alternate-history stories whose authors introduce famous people from the past in different roles from their real-life ones. Actually, depending on how far back the POD occurs, random alterations in meetings, matings, and conceptions would ensure that most if not all of those people would never be born. But what fun for writers and readers would that be?

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Reviews 42 - Simon R. Green's Secret Histories and the Nightside Series Conclude

Reviews 42
Simon R. Green's Secret Histories
The Nightside Series 

The Reviews series have not yet been indexed.  These reviews often discuss topics we've explored in other sequences.

On many occasions, I've mentioned the well styled and absorbing Series by Simon R. Green.  They are Fantasy Action novels where enemy action is the driving force of the plot.


The Paranormal Romance at the core of the Secret Histories (and originating in the Nightside series) is between a Drood Family Field Agent and a Witch widely acknowledged as the most powerful Witch in existence.

This final novel bringing the two locations together shows how this Romance confronts its final test.  The previous Secret Histories novels show how the Relationship between Drood and Witch develops from "mortal enemies" to "lovers" to "partners" to "married."

The long, complex novels give the writer space to set the tempo of change in both Characters to something that seems realistic. Each of them must change, mature, grow, come to understand their world differently, then they must become a Couple.  All of this maturation and change is handled stepwise in a psychologically plausible way.

The action and fantasy writing, plus the deep and solid characterization are what have made these two series extremely popular, hitting The New York Times Bestselling status time and again.  They're well constructed, tightly woven, with elements of Mystery and Suspense that you get addicted.

When you spot the Simon R. Green byline, you look forward to a visit with an old friend, his allies and enemies, and his personal evolution as a person as well as a member of a difficult family (filled with difficult but lovable people).  And none of the books disappoint that expectation.

As I've long understood, both series as well as Green's ghost-hunter series, belong in the same "universe" -- a well crafted, complex, universe with magic and supernatural creatures as well as inter-dimensional intrusions into our world.  The "rules" Green teaches you persist with logical consequences you can anticipate (dread) and remember.

The imagery is vivid, the banter up to the style of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, and the Characters (even the bit players) memorable.

The tongue-in-cheek take-off on well known Series (like James Bond) is always good for a startled laugh, and provides a feeling of camaraderie with the Author who tossed in a bit from the reader's everyday life.

In this concluding novel, Green brings together the Characters and Locations of the two (otherwise separate) series, Secret Histories and Nightside.

The Nightside is a magically created segment of adjacent reality, nestled in and accessible via the city of London in England.

The Secret Histories begin in London, and are about a Family (the Droods) fighting to protect our world from anything that might threaten us.  The Droods wear "golden armor" provided from another dimension by a (presumably) friendly visitor befriending the Family.

The Nightside is the location of a "Free Port" such as Pirates might create, a place where "Law" is sparse and just barely enforced.  It has many Magic features and caters to every warped taste in entertainment.

Green finishes off both series by showing what happens when The Nightside boundaries expand (inexplicably) and the Droods invade to put things right (the Drop idea of right, you see).  The Nightside inhabitants object to being invaded, while the gods who inhabit a particularly famous tourist street, desert the Nightside (inexplicably), so much of the "power" has gone.

Read to find some of the answers and explanations.

There is an afterword that wraps up some of the loose ends -- there could have been more novels in the joined-universe, perhaps, but here is where the Romance becomes the "Happily Ever After" which makes Night Fall the correct place to end the Series.

Therefore, this is another long running, successful Paranormal Romance Series to study carefully. The "world" you build around the Characters is a big part of what makes a novel or series appeal to a broad readership.  Most people who buy books read more than one genre - at least over a lifetime of reading.  Often people read the same genre for years, even decades, before branching out.  Give your readers a reason to branch out, and they will memorize your byline.

Here are some previous posts on this blog exploring some techniques in how to create the sort of addictive reading experience Green has managed.





Jacqueline Lichtenberg

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Authors should be particularly vigilant in compartmentalizing their vital information. Apart from the usual dangers of crooks wanting a hook for spear phishing, or to hack into some source of funds, there are crooks who even try to steal unpublished manuscripts!

Heloise Wood and Natasha Onwuemezi wrote about it recently for The Bookseller.


If you are an author or a reader, perhaps you have attended a convention or event at a major hotel chain. It is likely that a lot of SFWA members, or Authors Guild members, or Romance Writers of America members, or Romantic Times convention-goers, or have been to a Marriott or Starwood Hotel or convention center in the last five years.

You surely will have heard of the latest data breach:

One surprising revelation is that some unfortunate, sociable people may have had their passport numbers, drivers license numbers, birth dates, credit card numbers and more exposed.

Do you have Malwarebytes? A professional genius suggested to me that Malwarebytes is a superior product to keep Apple products safe. No one has offered this author any incentive for saying this, but it does work well, it scans often, and unlike rival products that might or might not have the word "Trust" in their name, one can have Malwarebytes on and not be automatically blocked by banks and brokerage houses.

Malwarebytes gave subscribers an early heads-up on the Starwood breach. (RWA was next quickest to alert members.)


By email and by link, Malwarebytes offers great advice for anyone who might ever have had a Starwood hotels account. Their Data Breach Checklist is worth saving.


Of course, we all know that we ought to reset passwords.... and many of us procrastinate. In fact, before blogging today, this author logged in to her SPG account and discovered that her username had already been reset to a new one. The password could then be reset, but only by someone with access to the email account on file.

Credit accounts etc should be monitored. Anyone with a DISCOVER card can receive very good, free credit monitoring and an updated FICO score every month. Fifth Third Bank offers a credit monitoring service which costs approximately $7.00 a month. That's cheaper than Lifelock, which is about $12.00 a month. Those affected by the SPG breach are being offered Webwatcher for one year. Make a note of when your anniversary date with Webwatcher will be, or you may be surprised with an automatic renewal fee.

Credit freezing is now free, so is a good option if you aren't planning to sign up for a new credit or debit card or to take out a new mortgage.

No one wants to say it, but does one really need to share one's birth date with anyone who asks, including store clerks? I don't need a $10 Vera Bradley coupon mailed to me on my birthday. Every week through the snail mail, I receive coupons from all manner of vendors for all manner of apparel and accessories.

By the way, your doctor or dentist may ask for your social security number, but you do not have to give it to them. You don't have to give them access to your smart phone number, either.  Just because they ask you to write a review of their practice does not mean you should. Do you want Google and Facebook to know approximately when you visited a gynecologist, and which office it was?

Speaking of HIPPA, the law firm of Hall Render Killian Heath and Lyman PC penned an interesting article some weeks ago about hospitals being fined for allowing a film crews to film patients without the consent of the patients who were filmed.


And, totally off topic, but to do with privacy, did you hear about the female student whose landlord evicted her just before her final exams because her suite mates (apparently inspired by the student's choice in political millinery) conducted a search of that student's room and private possessions in her absence and without her permission, and discovered a legally owned and safely stored gun, and complained to said landlord?  This, in a State where gun ownership is lawful, and in a rental where the lease was silent about gun ownership.

All the best,
Rowena Cherry