Friday, January 31, 2014

Setting up custom page sizes for PDF from Word 2010

This Friday's a tip for other authors trying to put your book into PDF for CreateSpace formatting (or really anyone who's wrestled with Word 2010 custom page sizes!) Problem at top so you can see if it compares to yours; solution scroll down a little further.


The problem? When you're trying to print to PDF, the "custom page size" selected on the Word 2010 menu is entered correctly... but when you print the PDF, it has 8.5" x 11" standard margins anyway.

Highlighted: "Custom Page Size"
6" x 9" manually entered via page setup

Also manually entered custom paper size on print screen

Screen showed "Custom Page Size" selected
At this point I clicked print, printed the PDF... and got a PDF document with 8.5" x 11" page sizes, extra margin space filled in with white.


Select Printer Properties.

Under the Adobe PDF Settings, select "add" by Page Size.

In the pop-up window, give your custom page size a name and then enter the desired size. Click "Add."

After you click "OK" the custom page size will now show up in the list of "Select Paper Size" on Word's main print page. Scroll through and select this page size.

Your document will now print in the correct dimensions.

Ever had this problem? Did you find a different solution?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Into the Tides: Telekinesis Power

A 6th class telekinetic Power could
float one of these from a table
just out of reach to within
eating distance.
(Young telekinetic Powers may
get blamed for more missing
cookies than they are actually
responsible for.)

Today is a little book-bonus! In posts such as these, I'll give you extra information from my novel that you won't find in the book itself.

In Into the Tides, people who have magic are called "Powers." Each type of magic has a different set of capabilities, which is based on genetics. And for each Power type, there are 6 different levels of ability, called classes, with 6th class being the weakest and 1st class having the most magic. How a person's class is determined is based on what they can do.

I've been working on creating descriptions that explain what each Power type can do, by class. (Okay, yes, I've probably been having too much fun with this... ;) If you're reading the book and wondering what the characters are capable of, and what they would be capable of if they were higher in class, you can find out!

Here's more about telekinesis  Powers, who are only briefly mentioned in the book:

Magic Types

Telekinesis 6 Believed to be the 3rd oldest Power.
  • Passive: Aware of proximity obstructions within 2 feet: able to discern obstacles within 2 feet of any point of the body, without visual aid.
  • Active: Lift small object (under .25 lb) without touching it for distance of 2-3 feet, within 5 feet. Apply pressure (5-10 lb) to object to prevent it from moving.
  • Passive: Aware of proximity obstructions within 3 feet; aware of proximity features within 1 foot (discern features-shapes of items on a desk, such as 'vaguely paperclip shaped, etc).
  • Active: lift small object (under 1 lb) without touching it for a distance of 10 feet, within 10 feet. Apply pressure (10-15 lb within 20 feet) to 'pin' something.
  • Passive: Aware of proximity obstructions within 6 feet; aware of proximity features within 3 feet
  • Active: lift object under 5 lbs without touching it for a distance of 10 feet, within 10 feet; lift small object (under 1 lb) for up to 20 feet within 10 or up to 10 feet within 20. Lift (and gently set down if lifted within limits) small living creature (up to 1 lb) for 2-3 feet within 10 feet. Lift 2 small objects (under 1 lb) within 5 feet for 2-3 feet. Apply pressure (20lb within 40 feet) to 'pin' something living.
  • Passive: Aware of proximity obstructions within 10 feet; aware of proximity features within 6 feet
  • Active: lift object under 60 lbs without touching it for distance of 10 feet within 20; lift small object (under 1 lb) for up to 40 feet within 30 feet or up to 30 feet within 50. Lift small living creature (up to 5 lbs) for 6 feet within 15 feet. Lift 4 small objects (under 5 lbs each) within 10 feet for 5 feet each. Apply 50 lb of pressure to 'pin' something living within 50 feet.
  • Passive: Aware of proximity obstructions within 20 feet; aware of proximity features within 10.
  • Active: Lift features (up to 20 lbs) within 10 feet without being able to see them. Lift features up to 100 lbs within 10 feet for 10 feet. Lift living creature (up to 20 lbs) for 10 feet within 30 feet. Lift up to 10 small objects (under 5 lbs) or 5 medium objects (20 lbs) for 10 feet within 20. Create light wind gust by pushing air molecules (2 mi/hr, any direction; 5 feet wide and dissipates after about 30 feet). Push a small object (up to .1 lb, such as a bullet) within 5 feet with enough force to penetrate body (range 20 feet). Apply 100 lb of pressure to 'pin' something living within 80 feet.
  • Passive: Aware of proximity obstructions within 50 feet; are of proximity features within 25 feet.
  • Lift features up to 200 lbs within 20 feet. Lift living creature (up to 50 lbs) or 2 living creatures (up to 25 lbs) within 30 feet. Lift 40 small objects (under 1 lb); lift 20 small objects (under 5 lbs); lift 10 medium objects (under 20 lbs) within 20 feet. Create light wind gust by pushing air molecules (5 mi/hr, any direction, 5 feet wide and dissipates after about 30 feet). Push a small object (up to .1 lb, such as a bullet) within 5 feet with enough force to penetrate body (range 40 feet); break a bone within 2 feet. Apply 200lb pressure to 'pin' living thing within 100 ft.

A statistical look at classes:

 To be defined in a class, the magic user must be able to exhibit all the abilities listed. Statistical anomalies may have higher-level abilities while exhibiting lower than normal magic abilities for their class. For example, a person who can lift two small objects at a time, but can only float objects for 10 feet before dropping them, would be classified as fourth class.

Those who practice more may increase their abilities in ways such as range, duration, skill. Such practice will not raise their abilities to the level a new class, but regular training does positively affect capabilities.

At “6-” the listed abilities are the 3rd quartile of 6th class abilities.

From 5-2 class, the listed abilities are the median abilities for that category.

For 1st class, listed abilities are mean abilities, with the population of 1st class Powers showing a bell curve (3 standard deviations below the mean exhibits all abilities of 1st class with about median 3rd class levels of Power; 1 standard deviation below the mean exhibits all abilities of 1st class at 1.5x the median 2nd class Power).

For first class abilities, above 2 standard deviations from the mean exists a subclass called “Individuals with statistically exceptional abilities (ISEA),” “anomalous enhanced Powers,” or most commonly “sub-1.” People of this level often exhibit unique abilities and significantly higher than usual rates even for 1st class. The rarity of this subclass means it is often discussed in theoretical terms, their abilities exaggerated or twisted in rumors, and sometimes even the existence of people with these levels of magic has been doubted. Nonetheless, they are real, and today most modern advanced magic courses require at least an overview of what is known. Although some are currently alive and well throughout the world, they keep a low profile, and are often deeply involved in government work.

Monday, January 27, 2014

By now you probably know I'm a bit of a geek. So it may come as no surprise that I've been thinking about what roles the characters in my story would play in a RPG-style video game.

Let's go with your basic fantasy-style RPG. Lots of magic, with black (attack) magic and white (healing) magic, and attack characters. What sort of stats would each of the major characters in my story have?

Derik's obvious; he's your classic tank: High hit points, high damage, low defense. Not so big on the magic, although with his basic first aid he has a nice health patch he can slap for a quick HP boost when he starts getting low. Elizabeth's also a front-lines fighter type, with more standard-level damage but a higher defense and a nice set of fire magic spells. She may give slightly less damage (although she's still a hard-hitter), but she takes less, too, and has the hit points of any fighter character.

Kelly and Trax are the second-row fighters. Although Kelly is the leader of our adventuring party, she's not really a fighter-type. Instead she provides the magical support to random encounters. If the characters used a standard spell assortment, she'd have buff and debuff spells to enhance her own party's attacks and defenses, and lower the other party's. She's got healing spells to keep her party going, but her own low HP and low defense means she'll stay in the back lines as much as possible. If cornered she does halfway decent damage.

Trax would be more of a jack-of-all-trades character, with decent melee damage and decent spell damage, good defense but low HP. His highest stat would be maneuverability, meaning the monsters would miss him more frequently than the other characters. He also has a higher-than-normal chance of scoring a critical hit (doing a lot of damage at once), but on the whole he's not going to be the party's biggest damage dealer, and his low HP means he'll be doing most of his attacking from the back. Where he really shines is outside the battle when encountering NPCs: many of them will be star-struck and react favorably, dropping secrets and offering side quests in exchange for autographs, and getting the party better deals in inns and while shopping.

Valdez is your gun-wielder in the party, and like in most video games this means he hits less frequently, but can do a ton of damage when he does score a direct hit. He's also got a med-kit to toss healing potions at the other party members, and can summon a pair of low-HP fighters to aid the party. Like Derik he'll also take hits to meant for other party members, and his high defense means he takes less damage during each hit, despite low maneuverability. Because he's a ranged character he's usually in the back, where he is rarely targeted by encounters, so despite average HP he rarely gets close to dropping.

Sandra's a long-range specialty character. In an RPG her attack would be throwing pens or words at the enemy. While this wouldn't produce a lot of damage, there's a small chance of conferring confusion to the enemy, making them attack the wrong targets or behave erratically. She's got low damage and low HP, and does the least melee damage of the party. However, she's good at dodging and has some interesting summon spells, bringing in Editors and Deadlines to do high levels of magic damage.

If you were a character in a video game, what kind of party role would you fill? What would be your highest and lowest stats?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Publishing Industry News

This post covers from 1/10-1/25. Just a heads' up, but next news post will be a week late and will cover 3 weeks!

Publishing News

Do you write off your home office? There's new tax laws on it this year. Could be a benefit to you. Rachel Kent on Fine Print Literary explains.

Simon & Schuster launch a new imprint called Simon451 for science fiction. They also commit their entire e-book catalogue to the e-lending library Overdrive.

Overdrive also plans to start distributing DRM-free audiobooks.

Amazon Publishing is launching a new imprint for Christian books (fiction and nonfiction). Also, they're considering shipping packages before the items are bought, and trying to patent the process (because mind-reading is cool? No, we're looking at items that are ordered regularly and they anticipate your reorder, shipping items likely to be needed regionally to warehouses in the general area, that sort of thing. For the most part, anyway. Maybe there will be a few accidental well-we've-already-shipped-it-so-happy-birthday shipments. The Wall Street Journal has more, although check out the patent for actual details, which may not be as impressive as alluded to.)

Barnes and Noble gets hit with a class action lawsuit that claims they misled consumers by majorly downplaying their losses.

Good Books' parent company, Good Enterprises, has filed for bankruptcy. Good Enterprises' print stock is with Simon & Schuster, their distributor, after liquidation; Simon & Schuster now have official permission to continue selling them and advertising them, so long as they follow "standard terms." (Honestly I have no idea what the standard terms are, though.)

The 2014 Omnibus Appropriations Act has passed, meaning that all taxpayer-funded research must be made available to the public within 1 year of publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Apple requested a stay against the court-appointed monitor; Judge Cote denied it. She then told them to cooperate with the monitor. The DoJ claims Apple's waging a "character assassination" against the monitor. Apple makes an appeal, and the stay is granted after all by the appeals court.

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 1/17 and 1/24.

There's a really interesting self-publishing income survey out, comparing self-publishing income across genres, to how much the authors earned through traditional and self-publishing, pricing, and more. In contrast, Digital Book Week puts out a survey saying most authors, traditional or self-publishing, earn less than $1000 a year.

And BookBub talks about blurbs, and how they affected sales, and what works.

Interested in selling to foreign markets? Shareem Akbani Gangat explains the current foreign markets and what's selling, what challenges you'll face, and what you need to keep in mind.

There's a new app that Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware posted about, which (if developed) will allow readers to make and share edits to published work (but only with other purchasers of the book). Of particular interest is the controversy about whether or not it violates copyright infringement--there is much discussion and a few edits by Strauss discussing alternate viewpoints on the issue.

Also on Writer Beware, Agent Artery might sound like something writers might want if they're looking for an agent--but the company spams agents, and like most spam the agents delete it without thought.

And you may remember Writer Beware's post about Scribd, based on Scribd's early days with high amounts of pirated content. Scribd responds, pointing out their aggressive policy on pirating and how much they've been doing to remove illegal content.

Literary agent Janet Reid answers more questions: If a middle grade book starts feeling too mature, can you sell it as YA? (It's very tough. The target audience tends to prefer reading about kids their age or older, not younger kids.) Would most writers be able to score a print-only deal if they're not sure they can handle the selling solo? (No.) You sold your first book and your publisher has right of first refusal. Should you look for an agent for the second book? (No; agents won't be interested and it'll annoy your publisher.) Also, use your subject line when sending e-mails.

Are you worried about pirates? Rachelle Gardner explains why you shouldn't get your blood pressure up over the issue. And she reminds you that no matter how compelling social networking/building a platform/etc, your main focus should be on writing a great book.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch gives her opinion on pricing in a 2 part series: Part A and Part B.

Agent Nephele Tempest gives 3 short pieces of advice on writing queries.

Pew Research is the latest to agree that while eReading is Rising, it's not replacing traditional books.

Don't sign up for a copyright registration service. If you want to register your copyright, do so yourself at the US Copyright Office. It's easy, it's $35, it takes 10 minutes. If you pay $125 for "7 years," you've been ripped off.

Some editors talk about what they're looking for in 2014.

Indie bookstore Eagle Harbor Books creates an interesting customer-interaction feature that, much like Amazon's recommendation engines, recommends books for readers based on the readers' preferences--but this one is in a store, not online. (Cool. I'd like to see one of those in my local indie bookstore.)

A cool infographic by HipType on "The DNA of a successful book."

What do you think of an algorithm that will tell you which books will be successful and which weren't? They've come up with one. (Interestingly, reading the methodology, neither fantasy nor romance were included, although science fiction was and a category called "love stories" was--how that relates to romance I have no idea. I would be highly curious to see if romance followed the same algorithm.)

And here's 5 apps for copy editing.

In sci-fi news (not really book-related but interesting), a fan convention cancels with its hotel based off alleged disrespect from the hotel. But the details aren't clear and whether or not the supposed comments actually occurred is disputed. Jim Hines offers his perspective.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Er, late again...

This photographer can also make fires better than I can.
Whoops--check back tomorrow for publishing news!

Last night I decided to try to light a fire in the fireplace. Turns out I'm not very good at it.

I am, however, quite good at begging my roommate to do so when she gets home after (mumble-mumble units of time) of trying.

It was cold. It was winter. We have a fireplace. It had to happen.

(What do you mean, I've been voted least likely to survive the Hunger Games?)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Into the Tides: Regeneration Magic

Buy it at Smashwords,
Barnes & Noble,
or Kobo!
Today is a little book-bonus! In posts such as these, I'll give you extra information from my novel that you won't find in the book itself.

In Into the Tides, people who have magic are called "Powers." Each type of magic has a different set of capabilities, which is based on genetics. And for each Power type, there are 6 different levels of ability, called classes, with 6th class being the weakest and 1st class having the most magic. How a person's class is determined is based on what they can do.

I've been working on creating descriptions that explain what each Power type can do, by class. (Okay, yes, I've probably been having too much fun with this... ;) If you're reading the book and wondering what the characters are capable of, and what they would be capable of if they were higher in class, you can find out!

Here's more about regeneration Powers, who are only briefly mentioned in the book:

A non-exhaustive list of some

Magic Types




Regeneration 6- Although regeneration is listed as a single category, it's important to note that regenerative Powers are one of three types: skin, bone, OR vision. Healing terms apply to only one of these.
  • Passive: rapid healing (rate 1:1.5)
  • Active: can sense location of major damage (life-threatening injuries or broken bones) in another person within 5 feet without visual inspection
  •  Passive: rapid healing (rate 1:3)
  • Active: can sense location of moderate damage (serious cuts/cracked bones) in another person within 5 feet, or major damage within 10 feet
  • Passive: Rapid healing (rate 1:4)
  • Active: can sense location of moderate damage in another person within 10 feet, major within 20 feet. With physical contact (touching recipient; injury itself need not be touched) can cause faster rate of healing (1:2).
  •  Passive: Rapid healing (1:5)
  • Active: can sense location of minor damage (scratches, bruising) in another person at 5 feet; moderate within 20 feet; major within 50 feet. With physical contact can cause faster rate of healing (1:3). Without physical contact can cause faster rate of healing within 5 feet (1:1.5)
  • Passive: Rapid healing (1:6). Can sense major physical damage within 20 feet.
  • Active: Can sense abnormalities (cancer, infection) with physical contact. Can sense location of minor damage within another at 15 feet; moderate at 40 feet; major damage up to 100 feet (within 20 feet is a passive ability that does not require pulling magic, only focusing). With physical contact can cause faster rate of healing (1:3). Without physical contact can cause faster rate of healing within 10 feet (1:1.75)
  • Passive: Rapid healing (1:8). Can sense major physical damage within 40 feet, or moderate within 20 feet.
  • Active: Can sense abnormalities (cancer, infection) with physical contact. Can sense location of minor damage within another at 15 feet; moderate at 40 feet; major damage up to 200 feet (within 40 feet is a passive ability that does not require pulling magic, only focusing). With physical contact can cause faster rate of healing (up to 1:6--may heal faster than the body should, causing badly healed injuries or even causing harm by improper healing). Without physical contact can cause faster rate of healing within 20 feet (1:2).
While scientists believe more types of regeneration Powers may exist or be possible, only these three have been confirmed. Combinations of two types of regeneration Powers in one person are not generally believed to exist, although some religions, myths, and legends indicate figures with such abilities. There have been no verifiable documented cases, and such instances are considered superstition or exaggeration. "Skin" applies to epidermis and, to a limited extent, epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue is affected  in the same ways as skin but at approximately 1/5 effectiveness when magic is used outside the body, or 1/2 effectiveness in cases of invasive surgery that allows magic user direct access to organs. Thus, epithelial tissue is far harder to sense or heal than epidermis. This appears to be the second-oldest type of Power, an offshoot of strength Power, with roots obscured in prehistory. "Bone" applies to osseous tissue and the blood vessels linked to it; and 1/2 effectiveness to cartilage and bone marrow. Magic users have only slightly improved effectiveness with direct exposure (1.15x more effective with invasive surgery or other direct bone exposure), as this form of magic tends to be penetrative in function anyway. First documented in the first century BCE. "Vision" applies to all parts of the eyes. It is currently the rarest and least understood, and has only emerged (or been revealed) in the last 200 years, particular to one line of descent in and from China (several vision Powers now live in the western US, London, southern India, and Japan). The strongest Power thus found has been 3rd class.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Contemporary versus Urban Fantasy: A difference in storytelling

Contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, what's the difference? Both are set in the modern era and have elements of magic. Are they the same thing? Not exactly.

Today I've invited another contemporary fantasy author, Scott Eder, to share his take on the difference between the two, and how to tell them apart.

Picture this. It's New Year's Eve. 11:59PM. Ryan Seacrest is counting us down to midnight. The crystal ball is dropping… dropping… dropping… Four. Three. Two. As soon as the ball touches down, it bursts. Smoke billows from the ruined Waterford crystal, filling the TV shot. From out of the roiling gray crawls a black-scaled dragon, eyes glowing fiery orange. It screeches as it launches itself from the shards of the new year, and drops off the roof of One Times Square. Like a helicopter-sized hawk, it dives toward Ryan Seacrest, who, mouth agape, eyes wide and locked in terror, doesn't even raise his arms to ward off the mythical beast. It snaps him up and flies off to the accompaniment of terrified screams. Cut to commercial.

Poor Ryan. Not that I have anything against him, but I wanted a fresh, timely example with which to work. When a writer mixes our real world in with the elements we've come to expect from high fantasy like a magic system, mythical creatures, alternate races (elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs), we get a story classified as Contemporary Fantasy. At least, that's the way I define it. So, in Ryan's example, we see recognizable references to our modern world coupled with the emergence of a classic fantasy beast. From here, the story can go a million ways, depending on how the writer wants to attack the situation. Let's talk about two.

My debut novel, Knight of Flame, is a Contemporary Fantasy. I introduce knights with the ability to control the elements, evil sorcerers wielding Shadow-magic, dragon(s), and other fantasy creatures set in modern day Tampa, FL. The story is told from the point-of-view of four different characters, and focuses on saving humanity. Were I to continue Ryan's story along the same vein as the storytelling in Knight of Flame, I might introduce a team of heroes who track the dragon, chasing it across America. The story would be told in 3rd-person. Its tone is serious, but light, with the hope of finding Ryan alive at journey's end driving the heroes to fight harder and pull together, despite their differing backgrounds, against the challenges lying in wait. The trail leads to the dragon's roost atop Mt. Rainier, where the heroes defeat the dragon and rescue the damsel—er—Ryan.

Notice that I called out the tone of the story. It's one of the big differentiating factors in terms of fantasy sub-genre. Serious, but light. The voice, settings, characters, and overall treatment blend together to tell a story that, while possibly dealing with dire circumstances and world-saving implications, is still fueled by the theme of hope, of defeating a common enemy, of saving dying Ryan.

If I were to take the story a darker way, an Urban Fantasy way, poor Ryan wouldn't stand a chance. From the beginning, I'd have the dragon kill him, bite right through so that bits and pieces of our TV host litter the soundstage. A dark avenger, one who's been tracking the dragon through the underbelly of the city since it broke free of its magical prison, drops from nowhere and lands amid the Seacrest carnage. Driven by the need for vengeance, she picks through the parts with the tip of a barbed sword, looking for clues. Right from the start, the character has an attitude—intense, confident, indifferent to the cameras and millions of viewers tuning in, focused on the job at hand. The story unfolds through New York City, following seedy trails and back alleys, tracking the dragon's rampage. Along the way, harsh decisions are made, making the reader question which is worse—the dragon, or the avenger in pursuit. Finally, in the deepest recess of the labyrinthine sewers, we have the final confrontation. Told from a single point-of-view, that of the scowling, brash avenger, the story's pace is like lightning, and the tone is suspenseful, gritty. The overall settings and mood of the story are dark and brooding, circling around a theme of retribution.

Urban Fantasy is the noire of the Fantasy world. Detectives, bounty hunters, avenging angels, and those of their ilk chase after something, whether it be a criminal or monster, and drive the relentless pace. Typically told from a single-point of view, these stories often deal with themes of righteous vengeance, justice, or even protection.

In the examples, both stories are set in our modern world, and have classic fantasy elements, but the similarities end there. The tone and style in which they are told are so vastly different, almost opposite approaches from the same beginning, providing readers with a different experience.

And that different experience is the point, really. Contemporary Fantasy. Urban Fantasy. Historical Fantasy. Epic/High Fantasy. The list goes on. Thank goodness for all our Fantasy flavors.

While Into the Tides has a single first-person point of view, like Scott's novel Knight of Flame it doesn't have the noire tone of most urban fantasies, and isn't confined within a city.

About Scott:

Since he was a kid, Scott wanted to be an author. Through the years, fantastic tales of nobility and strife, honor and chaos dominated his thoughts. After twenty years mired in the corporate machine, he broke free to bring those stories to life.

Scott lives with his wife and two children on the west coast of Florida.

Check out his novel, Knight of Flame:

Tainted by the very element he's supposed to control, an elemental Knight must overcome a centuries-old tragedy and find the balance to his fire-stoked rage to prevent his clandestine Order's ancient enemy from destroying all life in modern-day Tampa.

Available at:
Barnes and Noble

An excerpt:

Chapter One

Knights don't dance. Develor Quinteele wrung the leather-wrapped steering wheel and swallowed hard. The muted roar of the rented Jag's high-performance engine and smooth-as-silk ride did nothing to dispel his apprehension. Wren could have picked anything, but she chose dancing. He jammed a finger under the rigid collar of his first modern suit and yanked it away from his skin.

Great. Just great. 

Dev stretched to adjust the rear-view mirror and ripped the seam of his jacket. Armani stretch wool, my ass. A growl rumbled in his chest and he glared at Wren, but she seemed oblivious to his distress.

"How much farther?" Wren's excitement tumbled out with each word. The sun's last rays reflected off the silver sequins of her micro-dress and sparkled across the car's dark chocolate interior. She shifted position, adjusted her dress, and crossed her legs. Despite her fidgeting, her head remained still, focused on the distant horizon, straining to get her first look at Club Mastodon.

Dev smiled through his growing unease. Though somewhere in her early twenties, Wren reminded him of a small child driving up to the gates of Disney World for the first time. Her usually tense and critical Japanese features were soft, eager and innocent. Seeing her excitement helped steady his nerves…a little.

"Just a few more minutes. You know I'm missing a Three Stooges marathon for this, don't you?"

"Whatevs." Wren brushed him off.

Dev checked his mirrors, vision in constant motion, and raked the hair out of his eyes. The thin, wavy strands felt foreign to his calloused fingers. He couldn't remember the last time he had more than a dark prickly shadow on top of his head, let alone mussed brown locks. 

With a careless wave of his hand, he grazed the new bruise over his left eye. Damn, forgot about that. He prodded the tender skin, trying to gauge the size of the purpling evidence. So far, he'd managed to keep his fights at work from Wren. If she found out, he'd never hear the end of it. The last time, she went on and on about him being reckless, and jeopardizing the mission. Thankfully, she hadn't reported the incident to Stillman, his commander. It had been close, though. Cost Dev a night on the town. But it wasn't that big of a sacrifice. He loved her like a little sister, and enjoyed seeing her smile.

Brushing his hair forward, Dev tried to cover the injured area, and hoped for the best.     

"This place won't be crowded, will it?" he asked. "You know crowds and I don't mix."  

"Mmhm." Wren's arm shot out, pointed ahead and to the right. "There it is." The rest of her words blurred together, "I can't believe you got us on the list. I mean, like, I've never been to a place like this." She turned her sparkling green eyes on Dev. "Do you think a lot of movie stars will be here?"

"Breathe, Wren." Dev took the exit off I-275 south, just in sight of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, and stopped at the traffic light across from the club. When Club Mastodon first opened he'd read about the local business leaders raising an uproar over how quickly the permits, zoning and associated building minutia were pushed through. But, when the club was bank-rolled by Alexander Gray, one of the head honchos at Daegon Gray, the normal red tape-covered bullshit disappeared.  

Dev tilted his head as he caught his first glimpse of their destination through a ring of palm trees lining the property.

"Really? That's it?"

Wren didn't respond. Instead, she leaned forward, hands pressed tight against the dash, mouth open wide. 

"It's just a big ass tent," Dev said. "I paid 10-K in advance to go to a circus?" His stomach rolled. "Wonderful."

The light changed and he pulled onto the gravel drive. Tires crunched on loose stones as they passed through the trees and drove the half-mile to the front of the club.

 "I hate clowns," he murmured, "And elephants. I hate when they make those big bastards do stupid tricks."

Dev queued for the valet behind a sleek Mercedes SLR and waited his turn. The wait gave him a chance to assess the place without being obvious.

People. Damn. So many people, so many potential ways to piss me off.

A large number of the area celebrities milled about in front of the club's huge entrance.  Beyond a set of giant wooden doors rose the three tall peaks of the monstrous Club Mastodon tent. Spotlights spaced evenly around the perimeter beamed on the white walls, causing them to glow. A smaller tent hung off the rear of the main, connected via covered walkway. 

He couldn't see any exits other than the big main door, not even a window. They really weren't kidding about the whole privacy thing. The club was touted as the place to relax, a soothing oasis where the local aristocracy and visiting celebs could let their guard down and be themselves. In essence, society's elite could make fools of themselves without it showing up on the internet the next day. Absolutely no cameras were allowed, not even cell phones.

"It's not too late." Dev shook his head. "We could always go somewhere else." Please…anywhere else.  

"Nope, we're good." Wren sounded distracted. Her gaze darted from one car window to the next. "Hey, isn't that Marcus Albright from the Bucs?"


"You know, the cornerback for the Buccaneers. Ooh, and that's the guy from that new show on AB—." 

"Dennis Carlisle." The name rolled off Dev's tongue before she finished the station's call letters.   

Wren oohed and ahed over a few other names he'd never heard of. Probably famous athletes or politicians or something, but he played along for her sake.

Movement. Out the window to his left. Dev tracked it out of the corner of his eye. A pair of security guards in black blazers and slacks marched down a row of exotic cars parked in tight lanes. Their heads swiveled every few feet so as not to miss anything.

More movement. Further out this time and a couple rows over. Another pair on patrol. Rent-a-cops didn't move like that. They had to be ex-military. 

I bet the bulges in their jackets are compact automatic weapons. 

"Geez, they take their security seriously around here." Dev spied more guards near the back tent. "Can you say overkill?"  

"What are you babbling about?" Wren asked, flipping him an annoyed glance.

"Nothing…nothing." Dev moved up in line. Rhythmic burps of deep bass rattled the windows and thrummed through the steering wheel. Within seconds, the vein at his temple throbbed in time.

A valet approached the driver's side while another opened the door for Wren. Dev got out and shrugged at the tear in his jacket then met her on the curb.

"I feel naked in this." He whispered, running his hand over his chest and the expensive suit. "Out of my element." 

"I feel like a princess." Wren, five-foot three, a smidgen under five-eight in her knee-high boots, twirled. Even with the added height, she only came up to Dev's chin. "Like the boots?" She modeled the right one—slick black leather that laced to the top—turning it enough to flash a red sole. "Louboutin. Got them yesterday."

Dev shrugged. "Nice, I guess. Not very practical."

She slapped his arm. "Dork. Not everything in this world is meant to be practical. I think they're gorgeous. Now, hold still." She straightened his tie and fussed with his hair, exposing his little secret.  

Her eyes narrowed. "You've been fighting again." She spun on her spiked-heels, her expression blocked by the swish of her shoulder-length, ebony bob, and wound her way through the throng of socialites and celebrities.

Dev tried to keep pace, but she melted through the crowd toward the entrance. Impressed, he admired her agile dips and whirls as she put years of his hard-core physical training to unconscious use.

On her trail, he moved left and jostled the guy on his right, "Sorry," then bumped the woman on his left. "Excuse me." Anger flared, but he forced a tight smile. The shoulder-to-shoulder press of humanity reminded him of the battlefield.  He slid between a pair of athletic-looking young men, but clipped one's shoulder. "Sorry, sorry."

High on alpha-male bravado, the kid tried to shove back, but Dev caught his hand before it made contact. With a deft twist, he bent the young man's wrist back and lifted him onto his toes. Dev leaned in close and bared his teeth. Anger boiled into rage, heating his body and fueling his need to fight. 

"I said, pardon me." He spoke so only the impromptu ballerina could hear. Muscles tense, he wanted to yank this punk's arm off and beat him and the rest of the crowd with it, lay waste to everything around him until nothing stood between him and the entrance except Wren.

He straightened, took a loud breath through his nose, and found her off to the side near the entrance. Safe. Arms crossed. Hip cocked. Frown in place.

Crap. He'd lost control in front of her again.

"Today's your lucky day, skippy." After a last, painful wrench on his captive's arm, Dev released him and slogged his way through the crowd to Wren's side. People reacted to his rough passage, cast annoyed glances at his broad back then quickly went back to their own lives.

Every nerve, cell and fiber of Dev's being surged inside him. It didn't take much to get him going anymore. And sitting idle in Tampa for the last two years, due to a nebulous prediction of the Gray Lord's return, was not how an elemental warrior should live.  

Daily skirmishes in the shipyard got him by, but he craved more. Primed for combat, he wanted a release. He wanted, no, needed, to fight. But this wasn't the time or the place. He needed to be strong, for Wren. This was her night.      

"You promised the fighting would stop." Wren said between clenched teeth. "You stationed yourself at the shipyard to watch for signs of the Gray Lord, not play around. You don't see me getting in fights at the airport, do you?"

"It was just a minor disagreement," he said. "There were eight of them, jumped me behind the scrap metal piles."


A nearby couple turned to stare at Wren. Dev took her arm and pulled her further away from the crowd. 

"Look, I screwed up. They usually attack in threes. I didn't see Little Mike hiding in the garbage can. He whacked me with a crowbar." Dev looked away from her accusing stare. "It's no big deal. Won't happen again." That you'll know of.
"But you —"

"Let it go. Please."

Wren opened her mouth as if to say more when her eyes opened wide. "You're hot," she whispered, "Smoking."

Dev wiggled his eyebrows. "Why, thank you, thank you very much. You're looking pretty good yourself." 

"That's not what I mean." 

Dev caught a whiff of burned hair. His hand shot to the top of his head and found it still covered. As his body cooled, he found the singed stalks of the little hairs on the back of his hands. The shirt cuffs were scorched as well. That was close.

"Maybe this was a mistake." Wren's tentative, quiet voice touched him. "We should go."

"No." Dev stared at his shoes. Black. Leather. Uncomfortable. "No. I'm okay. You deserve this."  

Wren's face scrunched as she assessed his attitude. She nodded. "Yeah, I do. Don't screw it up."

Dev blinked….

She laughed, wrapped her arm around his, "Come on, come on," and pulled him to the entrance.  

Up close, the imposing entry reminded Dev of a smaller version of the village gates on Skull Island built to keep out King Kong. A dense collection of palm fronds and exotic, big-leaf plants, surrounded a pair of giant double doors unevenly framed by thick, rough-hewn timbers. The presence of security cameras positioned within the plants did little to deter from the primordial setting.

Dev smiled and waved at the camera tracking his movements. 

Another pair of guards, much bigger than those patrolling the parking lot, flanked the entrance. Clad in nothing but loincloths, with long, black hair draped over heavily muscled shoulders and square pecks, they looked like stand-ins from Conan the Barbarian. Both stared straight ahead, boulder-crushing arms rigid at their sides. If it weren't for the slight motion of their immense chests, they could be statues. A low mist crawled around their feet and billowed in front of and under the big doors. Capping off the primitive atmosphere, flames swirled and popped above their heads in a long trench dug out of the lintel.

Blessed fire. Dev focused on the flames. He felt their lure, their potential, and the fire's raw power. A taste. That's all he needed. A quick fix to steady his nerves and help him through the night. With a thought he called to his element, drew it into him. His body tingled. Invisible tendrils of heat trickled into his chest and coalesced into a fireball behind his ribcage. It churned and roiled and intensified.

"Dev." Wren's harsh whisper seemed to come from far away.

That's nice. With another thought, he capped the flow and dispersed the warmth throughout his body. It calmed his spirit, dispelled his rage.     

"Dev." An elbow to the ribs punctuated her call.   

Awareness rushed in as his wind rushed out. Damn, that girl knows right where to hit a guy. He wheezed, tried to refill his lungs, and ignored the curious stares of the other patrons.


Alexander Gray stood in front of the floor-to-ceiling penthouse windows and scowled at the world far below. Streetlights bathed the Tampa Bay Times Forum and Channelside shops in a sickly yellow glow. People, ants from this height, scurried through the darkness from one light post to another while a few late drivers braved the downtown Tampa streets.

His dark power surged, burrowing beneath his skin like angry wasps. With a thought he could make the shadows rise up and lay waste to those insignificant specs of life beneath him, but he reluctantly held back.

Not yet.  

Out of the flat screen mounted in the corner, a local news anchor droned on about the rash of unexplained disappearances that baffled police.

Alexander smiled. 

A small brown bird thumped into the window and fell dazed to the ledge. Stupid birds. Alexander crouched and tapped on the window. He knew neither the sound nor the vibration would penetrate the hurricane-proof glass, but he did it anyway.

"Hey there," he cooed, "Are you okay, little one?"

The bird got to its feet, shook his feathery head and leaned against the glass out of the wind.

"I have something for you." Alexander pressed his index finger against the thick pane and exerted a sliver of his will. A dark ribbon of inky-black energy oozed through the window and wriggled on the outside.

Startled, the bird hopped down the ledge.

"Take it." Alexander's face twitched. "Take it."

It hopped closer, its curious little head bobbing from side to side. 

A little peck to taste the darkness.   

The bird struck, tore off a hunk of black flesh, and bounced backward.

Alexander stopped the flow, folded his hands between his knees and studied his prey. 

Its beak opened once, an unheard chirp of distress lost in the wind, and its chest expanded until hollow bone and skin could no longer contain the pressure. It exploded in a puff of gray-feathered clumps that floated away on the breeze.

Alexander stood, smoothing the imagined wrinkles from his pants, and stared at the human infestation below. If only the rest of you were so easy. A picture came to mind, one in which thousands of people writhed on the ground while their life force drained into the soil, and their skin turned the color of ash. A pleasant notion indeed. 

A lightly spoken, "Sir?" accompanied a soft knock at the door. Alexander Gray, Master of Shadow, son of the last Gray Lord Bestok Molan, transformed into Alexander Gray, Regional President of Daegon Gray, philanthropist. Tight features relaxed and he coerced a false smile from his lips.


The intern from the mayor's office minced through the room reeking of Chanel and french fries.

"Yes, Miss White?" Smooth, confident, and charismatic, that's what all the local papers wrote about him. His warm, deep voice put people at ease. "How can I help you, my dear?"

"M-m-m…Mr. Gray, the reporters are st-still waiting, sir." Straight blond hair framed an attractive face. She regarded him with bright-eyed innocence tinged with a delicious helping of fear. "Are you r-r-ready to start the press conference?"

Alexander savored the uncomfortable silence when he did not answer immediately. Fresh. Young. Barely out of college. Dressed in a grown-up's business suit and conservative heels. Even in the dim lighting, he noted the slight tremble in her limbs and her delightful habit of nibbling her lower lip. Mmmm. Her life would taste sweet. 

A slight buzz tickled the back of his neck, but he ignored it. Not now. 

"Yes, yes. We can start." Alexander walked over, placed his hand on her lower back and escorted her to the door.

The buzz increased to a sustained tingle, urgent, insistent. I do not have time for this. 

At the doorway Alexander grabbed the back of his neck as it started to burn. "I am sorry, sweetheart, but I need to make a call first. I will only be a few minutes." He pushed her out and shut the door.  

Snarling, he strode to his antique mahogany desk, threw himself into the high-backed leather chair and spun to the portraits on the wall. The largest, an older gentleman in a high-collared black waistcoat and black cravat, hung in the center. Dark brown eyes, small and deep-set, stared out from narrow, emaciated features under a thin fringe of white stringy hair. Brown spots littered his pallid face like dead leaves over old snow.

Alexander took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and tried to calm his murderous thoughts, but the intensity of the pain made it more difficult than usual. He had been told his impatience would get the better of him and he didn't want to let on just how frayed he was. Frustration, anger, anticipation—feelings of any kind were considered flaws, and it would not do to show weakness in front of Bestok Molan.

Emotions masked. Breathing and heartbeat normal. Body still and relaxed. He opened his eyes and met the stare in the portrait.

"Yes, Father?"

A gnarled head pushed out from the painting, stretching the canvas into three dimensions while the background colors drained away. Bestok Molan's likeness blinked its black eyes rapidly then jerked from side to side, searching. "You are alone?" A breathy voice, like a harsh and well-articulated hiss, issued from the gaunt visage. "I hear someone."

With the contact established, Alexander's pain dissipated and he stifled a relieved moan. "That is only the television, Father." Calm, flat and deferential. No hint of emotion.

"Television." The Gray Lord spat the word out as if it were a rat hair in his porridge. "The harvest is progressing, no?"

"Yes, Father."

"Good. Good." Thin, dry lips over-enunciated every word. "Tell me."

"The club has been operational for four months and produces two hundred shadow orbs per week."

Bestok Molan's dead eyes flickered, and his upper lip twitched. "That few?"

"If we drain any more of the people's energy, they will feel it. It would not take them long, even as simple-minded as they are, to trace it back to us. With the current harvest setting, they go home feeling weak and tired, which they attribute to a hard night of revelry." He gripped the arms of his chair. "As it is, the stupid sheep have no idea we are sucking out their very life essence."

The head behind the canvas tilted. "So be it."

"Father? I wish to test the orbs on something small."


"But are we sure the death magic works? That the orbs can kill?" It galled Alexander, this asking for permission to do what should be a natural act for any Shadow Lord.

Bestok Molan pushed his bulbous head further into the room, testing the strength of the canvas, and the temperature dropped thirty degrees in less than a heartbeat.

"Do not question me again, boy." An evil grin split the Gray Lord's face. "Or have you forgotten the last time?"

"No, Father." Alexander's words puffed out in a white mist as he flexed the fingers on both hands. The painful memories of that first and only time haunted the dark recesses of his mind. Changing the subject and, hopefully, the homicidal atmosphere, he steered back to the plan. "The orbs will be ready when you need them."

"They had better be." Bestok Molan melded into the painting.

"And when is that?" Alexander knew he was pushing his luck, but could not help himself. The lack of inactivity made him reckless.

"When I am ready." Bestok Molan's head flattened out and the background colors reappeared, but the distant hiss carried one more message before fading, "Wait."

I hate that word.

The portrait was solid again, ugly.

Alexander also hated that picture, and those of his three brothers to either side.

"I am tired of waiting." Alexander got to his feet, strolled back to the window, and clasped his hands behind his back.

Another light knock sounded. His hand rose out of reflex, enwrapped in rippling gray shadow, but he stopped before he blasted the door with a bolt of dark energy. It was a close call. He needed an outlet for his frustration, or he would explode and take out Tampa in a shadowy swirl of death and destruction.

That's what he should be doing, bending the world around him to his will and that of Bestok Molan's.

But the old Gray Lord says, 'Wait.' I have waited centuries for his grand plan to take shape, bounced from one menial post to another. I had hoped this time would be different, but it does not look promising. He preaches that the world must not know of our existence until we are ready to strike. That there is no need to alert the sheep that greater powers exist, for it would give them time to prepare. It is tough enough evading the Knights' constant vigil, let alone the billions of mortals on this world.

Billions. Their numbers are too vast. Time to cull the flock. 

The knock sounded again and he turned toward the door with a broad, friendly smile plastered across his face.

"Come in, Miss White."

As the door opened, he swooped to her side and took her hand. "After the press conference, how about we get a drink? I know a little pla—"

Alexander's cell phone rang.

"Excuse me, my dear. I have to take this."

(You can read the first five chapters on the publisher website, Twilight Times Books.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Post-Production Chores

Book releases are fun! But, also, I'm discovering, a lot of work.

Since the novel, I've been working on the website--which I had expected and planned for--and putting up bonus features for my readers, such as timelines and author commentary, and some free computer backgrounds I designed in Photoshop.
You can find them on the
main website here.

Then there were all the author profiles on various platforms, such as Goodreads and Facebook, to fill out and set up. Each individually easy, but there's a lot of them!
Heehee. Butterfly stamps and
monster heads. Heeheehee...

I'm designing bookmarks, too, to hand out for promo materials. Getting a bookmark I like took a while, since I had to decide what style I wanted and then put the images together in a satisfactory way. Also, I may have a Photoshop addiction. (I can stop any time I want to... Now shush and hand me that jpeg file. It needs a new gradient.)

Colors. Must...
perfect... color...
And I've had tons of fun creating a logo, which I'll use for promo materials, the website, the CafePress store, and just about everything. I probably shouldn't have spent four days working on it, but I do like it, and it's flexible enough to cover a variety of situations (turns out, layers are great!). Now I just have to decide what promo materials I'm going to get.

Ever suspect your dog is
really Lost?
I hadn't really thought about the work that goes into making a CreateSpace format. In my head, it was just a quick conversion, print, etc. And surely the cover would be a quick and easy thing to make, since I had the front cover, right?

Of course this would probably be a lot quicker if I weren't a pocket perfectionist, and didn't insist on getting fancy in my layout. But creating the perfect layout has turned out to be a several-day project, and the cover is now on its second day.

Meanwhile I've been dithering away extra time by playing with Photoshop to create lovely art for my CafePress Store (I can justify it because it's for the store, right?), and planning blogs, both guest and hosted, in addition to my own.
A close-up of what's on
that dog's shirt. Also available
on gym bags and other items.

Amazing how time flies, isn't it?

Especially when I'm having fun in Photoshop (My pretty pixels!).

What are some interesting things you've designed with photo editing software? Is it as dangerous for you as it is for me?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Tea Review: Earl Grey White

Earl Grey White

Reviewed by: Rebekkah
Type of tea
White, loose-leaf
Flavor aspects and Aroma
Flavor Aspects: Natural
Aroma: smells like regular Earl Grey
Where I got it
don't remember
How I brewed it
1 16oz mug of water filled at coffee machine (hot water tap), carried back to desk and allowed to sit a minute, 1.5 tsp tea added to water and brewed for 1 minutes
Rebrewing notes
Was it bitter the first time? Then it's still bitter.

I've had this tea a while because it's taken me forever to get through it. Not in a good way, although it's not necessarily a bad tea. The concept of Earl Grey flavor in a white tea is a good one; it's just that this tea is so easy to overbrew it almost always turns out bitter, and I have to toss most of it out, because it's like a brick wall of awful when it does get overbrewed. When I don't, it tastes pretty good, definitely like a lighter version of Earl Grey, so I guess if you love Earl Grey but want the antioxidants from white tea you might be willing to risk it.

That said, it does taste all right if I brew it a very, very short time, at a cooler temp. Rebrews... well I think I've managed to burn it on the rebrew half of the times I didn't manage to burn it on the first. That said, if you do it right, there's still plenty of flavor in the leaves. Not my favorite tea. Unless you have a temperature-controlled teapot and a time, I don't think the tea is really worth it, not when there are so many other really good teas to choose from. 

Reviewed by:

No second review yet.
Type of tea Aroma
Where I got it Cost
How I brewed it Rebrewing notes

(Learning to Like Tea Part 1Part 2Part 3, Guest Post: Types of Tea, Guest post: Getting the Best Cup of Tea)

Monday, January 13, 2014

Into the Tides: Strength Magic

Today is a little book-bonus! In posts such as these, I'll give you extra information from my novel that you won't find in the book itself.
Buy it at Smashwords,
Barnes & Noble,
or Kobo!

In Into the Tides, people who have magic are called "Powers." Each type of magic has a different set of capabilities, which is based on genetics. And for each Power type, there are 6 different levels of ability, called classes, with 6th class being the weakest and 1st class having the most magic. How a person's class is determined is based on what they can do.

I've been working on creating descriptions that explain what each Power type can do, by class. (Okay, yes, I've probably been having too much fun with this... ;) If you're reading the book and wondering what the characters are capable of, and what they would be capable of if they were higher in class, you can find out!

Here's what Derik, a sixth-class strength Power, can do, versus what his family members (mostly 4th and 2nd classes) can do:

Magic Type: Strength Power




 Strength 6-
  •  Passive: Gain muscle rapidly (1 hour strength Power workout=2 hours normal person workout in terms of muscle building; weariness is not proportionally increased), rapid muscle regrowth (4x normal healing rate). Metabolic rate=1.5x normal.
  • Active: Help up to 2 other people gain muscle rapidly when doing tandem workouts (1:1.25)
(Character note: Derik Holskerksi is a 6th class strength Power. In addition to having a natural proclivity to strength, he works out daily, which enhances what his magic would do on its own.)
  • Passive: Rapid muscle gain (1:3), rapid muscle regrowth (4x normal healing rate). Metabolic rate=2x normal
  • Active: Help up to 5 people gain muscle at 1:1.5 rate when doing tandem workouts. Help others heal faster (1.5x normal)
  • Passive: Rapid muscle gain (1:4), rapid muscle regrowth (5x normal rate), Metabolic rate=2.5x normal
  • Active: Help up to 10 people gain muscle at 1:2 rate when doing tandem workouts. Help up to 5 at 1:3 rate (tandem), and up to 1 at 1:4 rate (tandem). Help others heal muscle faster (2x normal rate).
  •  Passive: Rapid muscle gain (1:5), rapid muscle regrowth (5x normal rate), metabolic rate=3.5x normal
  • Active: Help up to 20 people gain muscle at 1:2 rate with tandem exercise; 10 at 1:3; 5 at 1:4. Help up to 3 people at 1:2 rate without tandem exercise (strength Power does not need to exercise; recipient does). Help up to 2 people gain strength with no exercise (by either Power or recipient; recipient may refuse; 20 minutes of magic=1 hour of strength training). Gain muscle without exercise (10 minutes focusing=1 hour working strength training). Help others heal muscle faster (2.5x normal rate).
  • Fertility problems common. Pregnancy not typically advised at this level or above due to increased risk of complications.
  • Passive: Rapid muscle gain (1:6), rapid muscle regrowth (6x normal rate), metabolic rate=4x normal
  • Active: Help up to 40 people gain muscle at 1:2 rate with tandem exercise; 20 at 1:3; 10 at 1:4. Help up to 6 people at 1:3 rate without tandem exercise (strength Power does not need to exercise; recipient does). Help up to 5 people gain strength with no exercise. Help others heal muscle faster (2.5x normal rate)
  • Passive: Rapid muscle gain (1:8), rapid muscle regrowth (6x normal rate), metabolic rate=5x normal
  • Active: Help up to 80 people gain muscle at 1:2 rate with tandem exercise; 40 at 1:3; 20 at 1:4. Help up to 12 people at 1:2 rate without tandem exercise (strength Power does not need to exercise; recipient does) or 6 at 1:3 rate. Help others heal muscle faster (3x normal rate).
  • At this level of Power, magic overcomes the body's natural limitations. While at all other classes a recipient's body will gain strength and heal no faster than it can do so without suffering major damage, a first class Power's magic ignores the recipient's limits. Therefore, careful monitoring and extra care must be taken to preserve the health (and even life) of the recipients. Gaining muscle too quickly without being a strength Power is not advised at rates higher than 1:4, and gains at that rate should be extremely limited in duration. Healing recipients at rates faster than 1:3 extremely likely to result in complications, and is also not recommended.

Note that muscle regrowth applies only to muscle and, as needed to aid muscle regrowth, blood vessels. Skin and bone still heal at a normal rate. However, wounds tend to heal faster as the tissue underneath the skin heals rapidly, making most into-the-muscle wounds effectively "just a scratch" after a few days, so long as tendons and bones are not damaged.

Although many of the special abilities seem an enormous advantage, strength Powers stopped ruling the world not long after archery showed up. Turns out being strong doesn't stop them from being wounded, and a broken bone is a broken bone. Nor is magic without a cost; the extremely low body fat percentage causes fertility issues, and because of the enhanced metabolism, strength Powers also must consume more than the average amount of food. Fasting causes problems even more rapidly than in non-magical people, as the body turns to cannibalizing organs instead of skeletal muscle much quicker than in those without strength magic.

Historically in this world, magic-users in this world have been relegated to subservient positions. Since about the 1700s in this alternate-Earth world, the majority of magic users are technically free to choose their own careers and have the same legal rights as all other citizens, with the exception of not being allowed to hold public office (except as designated to represent magical citizenry or as expert advisers). However, social and cultural pressures mean most work in industries where their magic is directly used, and the strongest (second and first class) are more or less impressed into government service for purposes of public defense and safety, which is both a protection for them--by making them the defenders of the public it prevents people fearing them, and they are allowed positions of status and relative freedom--and a limitation of individual rights.

Today most strength Powers of fifth class or above are heavily pressured into joining the military, where their abilities are a benefit to them and don't hinder them from getting promotions, and wherein they receive public approval as defenders and protectors instead of the fear or disdain they could face in the private sector. As with all magic types, sixth class Powers face less pressure to use their very limited magic, and may work anywhere they can find employment; many do work in fields related to their magic because of the minor advantages their magic provides, but others prefer to take advantage of their relative freedom to explore other careers (sometimes at the pressure of their military-bound families).

Health issues

Body fat for third class and above, while usually self-regulating when sufficient food is consumed, stays minimal even with relatively low activity levels. Because magic develops in ways that increase personal survival chances, essential body fat tends to be maintained. For women third level and above, body fat averages around 12-16%; for men 4-8%. This is due to the increased metabolism, and not due to a lesser need for fat; therefore high-level strength Powers often suffer from related health complications. Osteoporosis after age 60 is common, although early-onset osteoporosis is less prevalent than among the general population, which is thought to be related to magic strengthening the bones to support additional muscle. Weakened immune systems are common throughout life, and with lower levels of body fat to utilize during illness, sicknesses may have a more serious impact than with individuals with higher body fat.

Fertility issues are also common, with men producing a third fewer children compared to unPowered men, and women facing increased risk of amenorrhoea; if capable of conception, complications in pregnancy in addition to typical low-weight pregnancies may occur due to the body's tendency to metabolize organ tissue instead of skeletal muscle. Because of this, women of third class and above are now encouraged to use surrogates or adopt if children are desired. The high-class successful pregnancies that do occur, usually have been for women with long family histories of naturally (and non-magically) high metabolism, low body weight, and small body size.

Additionally, strength Powers are at higher than normal risk for reproductive system cancers, especially men, and therefore screenings are recommended beginning around age 30 for both genders. They tend to run lower risks of all other types of cancer.