While perusing the endless posts of writers seeking help and advice on social media, I’ve run across some who ask, “How can I make magic work in my story?”

Many established authors have broached the subject and invented unique methods, but new writers want to make something fresh.

Pimply Wizard
A young wizard

The real question is: What is a fantasy story without magic? Of the top of my head, I can’t think of any high fantasy stories that don’t include magic of some kind. J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan, and so many more authors have included magic in their stories.

Each of these authors approaches the use of magic in their own way, and applies their own limits to its use. For example, Harry Potter must have a wand and must know the correct incantation. Stupefy anyone lately?

These limitations, I feel, are very important for an author to include, and would perhaps be the first thing to consider when developing a magic system. Without them, a character runs the risk of becoming a superbeing without challenges, and challenges are what make a story good.

While you are developing your system, consider including a learning curve for beginners, and the opportunity for growth. Remember Willow’s first spell? He accidentally shot himself into a tree. Perhaps you can have a school for magic, or an apprentice system. Regardless of the method you choose, all of your characters should have a starting point, and a place to grow into.

Willow

These three things–limitations, learning, and growth–serve as a foundation to your character and their magical growth. Next, you can develop magical structure and techniques, but honestly, these are not important to flesh out unless you feel your reader needs them to understand the first three things.

In my current work-in-progress, for instance, a mage must draw upon their own inner reserve of power, which grows stronger as they practice the art. As the mage uses magic, it drains them, making them feel tired. If they push too hard, the mage will die from the exertion.

It’s a very simple explanation, and I like it that way. This allows me to focus on telling the story. Don’t let your lessons on how magic works interfere with the tale you’re weaving.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how magic works for you. Let me know in the comments below.

~Michael C. Sahd

If you are unaware of who Paul Burt is, you’re about to learn. How? Well, he narrates Assassin Marked. That’s how. Of course, you can also find out more about him at his website, or by clicking his name above or the image below.

Paul Burt
Paul Burt

If you’re wondering how I met Paul, it was on ACX, a website to help authors connect with voice actors. I auditioned a few voice actors, and I liked Paul’s reading the best out of the bunch. I feel he most accurately captured the noir style I was going for with Assassin Marked.

Those of you that have read Assassin Marked know that a good portion of the story is written from the point of view of the female protagonist, Victoria Maruska. I feel that, as a male, it is very difficult to portray a female’s voice when reading out loud. Many men give the female voice a high falsetto that is really awful to hear. Paul Burt managed to pull off Victoria without the falsetto, and it was pretty good. The only way it could be better would be if a woman had read it (but then Damian’s portion would have suffered, haha).

I’m really excited to see how well my readers like the audiobook. To get a copy of the audiobook, you can click here and sign up. Just think, now you can listen to Assassin Marked while driving or while waiting for an appointment! Even though it the audiobook was only released this afternoon, people have already ordered it. I can’t wait to hear their feedback!

Here is a sample of Paul Burt reading the book:

Assassin Marked Audio

I hope you’re as excited as I am. If you get it, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

That’s all for now.

~Michael C. Sahd

Valentine’s Day 2019 seemed to be like any other day. I got up in the morning, took the kids to school, and then went to work. Same type of day as any other.

At 5:00 PM, I went home, again just like any other work day. Upon arriving at the house, I found my wife in the bedroom talking on the phone. I didn’t want to disturb her so I went to the kitchen and heated up some leftover pozole that I had made a prior day (It was very good pozole, I might add).

Bowl of Posole.
Homemade Pozole (Yes, this is the exact bowl I’m referring to).

I had just finished heating up my bowl, when my wife walked into the kitchen. I was just chewing my first bite when I looked up to see the disappointment transforming her smile.

“What?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said dejectedly.

“Oh,” I said, “you had something planned.”

“Well, no,” she said, pouting. “It’s OK. Eat your pozole.”

“No,” I said, putting my bowl in the refrigerator. “I only had one bite. Let me get ready.” Already, she looked pleased.

After getting ready, we asked our oldest son to watch his younger siblings, and headed out to the car. “Let’s take my car,” I said, and we both hopped in.

As I was pulling out of the drive, she said, “This is going to be tricky trying to surprise you while you’re the one driving.”

Stepping on the brakes, I said, “You can drive.”

“Nah,” she replied, and I continued backing up.

“Well, I can put on a blindfold and you can guide me,” I said, to which I just received a fake chuckle. What can I say, dad jokes aren’t very good at the best of times.

We opted for her to just tell me where to go, and I would be surprised as we neared the establishment. I didn’t mention that I had already guessed where we were going.

The destination was Tokyo Japanese Steak House & Sushi Bar, despite the fact that my wife absolutely hates Japanese food (Oh, the sacrifices we make to please our significant others).

As we pulled up, we saw a family getting into their car, and two restaurant employees standing outside the entrance. Getting out of the car, we walked, arms linked, up to the doors. As we neared, one of the employees said, “I’m sorry, we’re closed,” in an accent that I’m certain wasn’t Japanese.

“Well, OK,” I said, a little disappointed, and we returned to the car. “OK, now what?” I asked, and she began leading me somewhere else.

The Turtle Restaurant in Brownwood TX.
Fancy McFancy Pants Restaurant

We went downtown, and her path eventually led us to The Turtle. I honestly don’t know much about this restaurant, except that it is fancy. Very fancy.

We entered and were greeted by a hostess. After returning the greeting, we requested a table for two.

“Do you have a reservation?” she asked.

“No ma’am, we don’t, but we can wait,” I told her.

She gave me one of those oh, you poor fool looks, and then said, “I can put you down, but it will be an hour and a half before we can seat you.”

Completely dejected, we retreated from the Fancy McFancy Pants restaurant, walked around the downtown sidewalks for a bit, and discussed our options. We would have waited, but it was a school night and we would need to help the kids with homework and get them ready for bed.

Eventually, we decided to go to Humphrey Pete’s, a local steakhouse. Nothing special for us; we’ve eaten there often enough. However, I did get a mahi mahi plate, a rare treat due to its expense.

What struck me most about this Valentine’s day though, was the wonderful bond I share with my wife. Even at our age and after all these years together, we still enjoy each other’s company, and there is nobody I would rather spend a blasé Valentine’s with.

That’s all I have for today. What did you guys think? How was your Valentine’s day? Tell me your story in the comments.

~Michael C. Sahd

New Year - Fresh Start

I can’t say that I have ever made a New Year resolution list. After seeing one of my fellow writers on Twitter make a post about it, I thought I would give it a shot. So here goes:

Write a little every day: I know I’ve said this many times, but I would like to keep it a goal that I write at least a little every day. I’ve read many books concerning getting published. Even my favorite book by Stephen King, called On Writing, insists that the only way to be a writer is to write more and read more, which brings me to my next resolution.

Read more: I actually do read every day. Every night before bed, I will read a chapter or two to my nine year old. Currently we are reading the Everworld series. I would, however, like to read for myself as well.

Enjoy work: I would like to find a way to enjoy my job, and somehow rid myself of the parts I don’t enjoy. I’ve already started taking measures toward this.

What about you guys, my faithful readers? What are your New Year’s resolutions?

Assassin Marked Book Cover
New Assassin Marked book cover

Happy holidays everyone! It’s time for another book promotion. Today, you have the rare opportunity to download Assassin Marked for free. Be sure to grab yourself a copy to read while you have a bit of time off work next week.

Speaking of time off (or the lack thereof), our house during the holidays has been a madhouse. Although many people make this claim about their households at this time of year, ours was especially hectic this year because we were unaware of our family’s main Christmas party until two days prior! To be frank, my wonderful wife was incredibly busy getting ready for it. She had planned to crochet bags to put presents in this year instead of wrapping them, so on top of cooking the cookies (and yes, the cookies were amazing), she  was also crocheting up a storm.

We ended up with many Christmas parties to attend during the weekend, which meant lots and lots of good food. I could have gorged myself, but I was good and didn’t. Ok, maybe a little.

I did, however, have the opportunity to show off my awesome homemade pepper sauce. This sauce was very simple: peppers, garlic salt, and vinegar. But oh my god, it was good, and, unfortunately for some, also stupid hot. Yes, I used Carolina reapers to make it. I eat hot peppers all the time, so this is not that big a deal for me. Why reapers? some may ask. Well, the flavor is amazing. The reaper has one of the best pepper flavors. It is so good that my wife puts at least one of these tasty peppers in the salsa she makes, despite the heat. If you can handle hot, I highly recommend this pepper.

How did your holidays go? Did you experience anything unexpected or unplanned while you were visiting family or opening gifts? Did you get (or give) anything awesome? If so, let me know in the comments below. That’s all for now.

~ Michael C. Sahd

Carolina Reapers
Carolina Reapers

NaNoWriMo website logo
NaNoWriMo

I’m a bit late for this, but my curiosity is piqued. What is this all about, you ask? Well, we’re going to find out together.

The Facebook group, Ninja Writers, is where I first heard tell of NaNoWriMo, as people have started calling it. In one post, a Ninja Writers’ member exclaimed that he was on his 100th page of his novel. That’s great! I thought. However, underneath that, he wrote, “NaNoWriMo is going well for me!” I thought to myself, What the hell is NaNoWriMo?

So I turned to my friend Google, and I said, “NaNoWriMo?” And Google, being the ultimate at knowing exactly what you want from single word questions, pointed me to https://nanowrimo.org, the National Novel Writing Month website.

I clicked around the site, and I determined a few things from what I read. First, I am very late. You’re allowed to sign up in September. Second, you start posting updates and all that from Nov 1st through the 30th. Third, the novel must have a minimum of fifty thousand words by the end of the month. Fourth, major authors give pep talks and support. Finally, it’s a community where writers meet.

Let’s get started:

After clicking “Get Started,” I am taken to a basic form: name, email, password, age verification, and reCAPTCHA; you know, the basics.

After making certain that I’m not a robot by clicking the checkbox, I hit sign up.

The next page says “Thank you!” and I must wait on an email to complete the sign-up process. Fortunately, the wait is only 0.5 seconds long. The email has a link that takes me to a sign in page.

My first pop-up from NaNoWriMo!

The first item on the agenda is selecting a region. Since my county is not on the list, I choose the next one over.

“Committed to writing 50,000 words in the 30 days of November?” NaNoWriMo asks.

“I’ll do my damndest,” I say.

“Follow these easy steps to get started,” it says:

  1. Fill out your profile. (Will do)
  2. Create your novel starting in September. (Oops)
  3. Select your region. (I did that on the last screen)
  4. Earn badges. (Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!)
  5. Get inspired. (Easier said than done. Am I WRITE? Ha, see what I did there?)
  6. Start Writing. (Erm, Somehow I think this is akin to step 2.)
  7. Claim your win. (Now we’re talking! What do we win?)

 

Ok, so step one: filling out the profile. At the very top of the page, it has a field for the name of your novel, and a spot for a picture. I also note that if you donate to the site, you can get a “halo.” In all, there are five tabs to fill out. I seem to be on the “Author Info” tab, as the fields below ask for the basic profile stuff, location, b-day, hobbies, fav music, website, sponsorship, occupation, fav books or authors, and a bio.

I accidentally add The Unfettered Child as this year’s November novel. I could delete it, but nah.

The other tabs are “Novels,” “Badges,” “Writing Buddies,” “Buddy Of,” “Goal Trackers,” and “Stats.” Over the next few days, I will play with these.

The closest group to me is in Stephenville, so I introduce myself on their forum. They apparently meet quite often at the local Starbucks to . . . write, I guess. Drink coffee and write. I love it.

Overall, the experience is good. How effective it is still depends heavily on how involved you are. Check back and I will write about the “Inspiration” section. From what I see, there are pep talks from successful authors.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

Thanksgiving Table

On this day of the year, we like to give thanks for things. I was thinking about it this morning while I slaved away in the kitchen, and I came up with a challenge.

Instead of naming off the many traditional things we’re thankful for (such as our family, our jobs, the roof over our heads, etc.), how about we think of something that we dislike and find things about it to be thankful for?

I’m going to start with Texas.

  • I personally am not a fan of the weather here, and a number of other things; however, I am very thankful for my Texas because it is the home of my family. They are a wonderful part of my life, and Texas is a part of that.
  • I am also thankful for okra! I did not know the wonders of this slimy vegetable until I moved to Texas, but it has become very important to me since then.
  • I am also thankful for rattlesnake eggs! I know most of you are thinking, “What? Rattlesnake eggs? What the hell is he talking about?” Well, let me tell you about these wonderful delicacies. First, you take jalapeños and you cut the stems off, then cut the pepper in half. Then you jam each side with cream cheese. Next, you put slices of bacon on top of that and bake the whole mess. Yum. Some folks like to wrap the whole thing in bacon, but that is too much bacon for me. After all, it’s the pepper that makes them so good.

I also really dislike onions. I don’t know if I can do this one. I am grateful for the neat shape of onions. I’m thankful for places that realize that they are not edible and therefore don’t cook with them. That’s about all of the things I’m thankful for about onions.

Aside from finding things I’m thankful for in things I dislike, I am incredibly thankful to the people who have supported and/or read my publication. To that end, in honor of Thanksgiving, I am running another Amazon promotion for a free download of Assassin Marked: https://www.amazon.com/Assassin-Marked-DuFonte-Chronicles-Book-ebook/dp/B07688D1T5

Assassin Marked Book Cover
Free today on Amazon!

An interplanetary crime syndicate.

A debt, long overdue.

An assassin gone rogue.

Love. Revenge. Betrayal.

Although he knows it will mean the end of his relationship with both the Crime Syndicate and his long-time lover, Captain Victoria Maruska, Damian can’t let sleeping dogs lie. After overcoming his captain’s well-intended efforts to hold him back, Damian sets off to exact his revenge on the man who had once left him to die on the barren wastelands of Earth. . . .

Victoria may not know where to look, but she knows she has to find him. Following Damian’s disappearance and the not-so-mysterious murder of one of his superiors, the Syndicate has called Captain Maruska’s loyalty into question. As a result, she has been assigned the unenviable job of leading a task force to hunt him down. . . .

On the outs with his lover and on the run from trained killers, Damian DuFonte is . . .

An Assassin Marked.

Have a good Thanksgiving everyone!

~ Michael C. Sahd

Lavender-colored rose against a technology background

Lavender Rose

“Daaammmmian,” a honeyed voice rang out from his apartment. “Please refrain from killing my men. I have no intentions of harming you.” The Syndicate obviously wanted him alive. Ignoring the voice, Damian used his free hand to quietly open the window at the end of the hall. “Really, Damian, I just have a job for you. There’s no need for this violence,” said the man.

Instead of entering through the open window, Damian moved to the closest apartment door. “I don’t work for the Syndicate anymore!” Damian shouted and shot down the hall, masking the sound of his boot kicking the door open. The door bounced, eliciting a scream from behind the door.

Slipping in quickly and quietly, gun first, Damian noted an obese naked and tattooed man stumbling back from the door swearing about a broken nose. The man’s belly bounced as he landed heavily on his rear. Damian pointed his gun at the man. “Shut up,” he said, his voice cold and deadly. He quickly shut the door behind him. The apartment’s layout looked like a mirror image of his own. The likeness ended there. This man’s slovenly messes littered every room. A terrible stench wafted out of the kitchen, and in the bedroom, a woman hid her nakedness behind some cheap blankets. Damian pointed the gun at the woman and repeated, “Shut up, now!”

The man nodded enthusiastically, encouraging her to capitulate. His eyes were wide with shock and fear, and blood stained his unruly beard. Damian returned his aim to the man.

After determining that the man and woman had acquiesced, Damian turned his body to the side, enabling him to peek out of the spy hole in the door while still keeping the pistol trained on the obedient man behind him. He heard the group out in the hall talking amongst themselves in Japanese. “He must have gone out of the window,” one said. Then the honeyed voice spoke again. “Follow him; don’t lose him.”

 

If you enjoyed this excerpt, stay tuned for more in Michael C. Sahd’s upcoming full-length novel, Lavender Rose (The DuFonte Chronicles, Book 2).

Lavender Rose
Lavender Rose Working Cover

The Unfettered Child Working Book Cover

The Unfettered Child

Meanwhile, here’s a sneak peek into Michael C. Sahd’s upcoming fantasy novel, The Unfettered Child:

“In all the countless moons of my life, I have never met an elf, Abizou.” The strong deep voice emanated from what appeared to be a human skeleton into a throne room which appeared richly decorated, but devoid of life. Even as it spoke, the skeleton sat motionless on its marble throne, its bones loosely wrapped in red and white silk robes embroidered with gold. Gold and marble made up the decor of the large room, with scatterings of white banners that each featured a red sun.

They are treacherous, Havelle. Almost as treacherous as you, said a woman’s voice, seemingly from nowhere.

The skeleton’s head turned slowly to gaze sightlessly upon a round blue-faceted gem resting on a velvet red pillow. Two red pinpoints of light glowed in the hollows of the skeleton’s eyes. “What do you suppose they want? I could not discern with my magic.”

Elves have powerful mages, who put shields in place to protect against any such divinations. Also, they are not known to parley with lesser beings, said the woman’s voice, apparently originating from the gem.

The skeleton’s gaze turned back to the large double doors at the entrance of the hall. Distant horns could be heard, marking the approach of the elves. The skeleton stood, pulling itself up with a copper and silver staff. No sooner did it take a step down the dais than a yellow halo enveloped it. Then, like a strange liquid, muscle, followed by flesh, flowed around the bones and filled out the draping robes.

Now, in front of the throne stood a strong and handsome olive-skinned man. He looked over at the blue stone sitting next to the throne and smiled. “I’m pleased you think so highly of me,” Havelle said.

If the stone could have scoffed, it would have. Instead, it said nothing.

Havelle stepped to the right of the throne. Flattening his robes with hands now covered in flesh, he said, “I think, perhaps, I sleep too much.”

Your lineage manages the empire just fine without you, said Abizou.

After hundreds of years, Havelle sighed for the first time. Enjoying the sensation, he sighed again.

Troubles? asked the gem.

“Troubles? No, I’m just enjoying the sensations of having a body.” He smiled wickedly at the gem.

The Unfettered Child book cover

 

The Unfettered Child
A new novel by Author Michael C. Sahd,
Coming this Autumn!

 

Assassin Marked: I’m very excited to report that Assassin Marked has been republished with a new cover. I created several designs of the new cover, but this is the one we decided to go with. I’d like to give credit to my nine-year-old son, Erebus, for providing tips on the colors of the lettering, specifically the red.

Assassin Marked Cover
Assassin Marked

We also improved the interior text formatting so that the words on the right page are not so close to the binding. In addition, we added a few more pages to the end of the book, giving you a very short sneak peak of Lavender Rose (the next book in the series), and my upcoming fantasy novel, The Unfettered Child (soon to be released).

In the short time that I have had Assassin Marked republished with the new cover, we have discovered a significantly more favorable response on Amazon giveaways for the book. It’s interesting how a cover can make such a difference. On some levels, it makes sense, since the cover is the first thing a potential buyer sees. If it isn’t interesting, then why should they purchase it? It doesn’t matter how good the inside content is if people aren’t attracted by the cover. I find this unfortunate, but that’s just the way it is.

Image result for First person
First person

I’ve learned something very important from publishing Assassin Marked. I really hate writing in first person. I dislike it so much that I’m not going to continue that theme with the next book in The DuFonte Chronicles. I particularly found switching between Damian and Victoria’s perspectives difficult, especially when trying to write as Victoria. I hope nobody finds this change disappointing. I did consider adding a short, first-person, dialogue with Damian at the beginning of each chapter. I may still. Please leave me a comment regarding your thoughts on this matter. 

Going back to the previews that I put into Assassin Marked, I plan on placing them here on the website, as well, so check back soon.

The Unfettered Child: Progress Report – Currently, the novel is sitting at 82,000 words, and 18 chapters. I estimate it to be about 82% completed. 

Lavender Rose: Progress Report – Currently, the novel sits at 13,270 words. About 13% completed.

As always, feel free to leave me a comment with any thoughts or questions.

~ Michael C. Sahd