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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

4 Tips on How to Actually Achieve Your New Year's Resolution.

The sad truth is most resolutions fail because you expect them to fail (source: Forbes: Why Your New Year's Resolutions Fail).

According to one survey, around 45% set resolutions each year yet only 8% actually follow through (source: Stephen Shapiro Interesting New Year's Statistics). I see this at the gym. The first few weeks of January are crazy as throngs of people decide to get into shape. By February, most have given up.

Success and self-esteem are not improved by setting goals. They are improved by achieving your goals. For many, creating a New Year's Resolution is a form of procrastination (source: Why New Year's Resolutions Fail). They create the illusion of doing something. Real change occurs when we alter our habits. And that takes work.

1. Set realistic goals

Step one in achieving your goals is to create S.M.A.R.T. goals. This is something they teach in business and management courses but doesn't reach through to the Arts.
     S - Specific: The most details the better (e.g. "Write 5 pages a day" is better than "Write more."
     M - Measurable: Put a number to it. Quantify
     A - Achievable: Make it realistic
     R - Relevant: Why are you doing this? How does it further your long-term goals
     T - Time Bound: Give each task a firm deadline.
Link: Application and History of SMART goals

2. One Goal is Better than Several

A  quick Google search will reveal hundreds of sites offering suggested resolutions. However, if you actually want to make a change in your life, pick one - two at most. The rest can wait until next year.

30 New Year's Resolutions for Writers
13 New Year's Resolutions for Writers by Jeff Goins

3. Set (and follow) a schedule

I teach college-level management and professionalism courses. One of the foundations of goal setting is to start with a long-term goal and break it down into short-term goals. If you're serious about following through on your resolution, break your end goal into smaller goals. And give deadlines for each one.

For example, a resolution to get in shape is vague and likely to fail. However, a resolution to loose 30 pounds within the next year is more likely to succeed. I'd suggest breaking it down even further. Resolve to loose 3 lbs per month. That's much more achievable. As a writer, instead of focusing on writing a book, focus on how many pages you will write each day. The most common goal is four pages per day. Depending on your typing speed and experience, you can get this done in under 2 hours. So build 2 hours of writing time into your schedule every day.

4. Celebrate Your Success

Named for the Roman god Janus, January is the time of open doors and new beginnings. Janus is recognizable because he has two faces: one looking forward, one looking behind. Before you look ahead, take some time to look back and see what you've already accomplished.

Stephen Shapiro, author of the survey quoted above, suggests there is no real link between achieving goals and general happiness. It is far to easy to get caught up in the drive to do more that we forget why are doing more. Instead of striving to achieve new goals, take some time to appreciate the goals you have already accomplished. See how far you have come and give yourself a pat on the back. Stop waiting for someone else to congratulate you.

LINK: Happiness By Wanting What You have (mp3)


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Urban Fantasy Box Set Featuring NY Times Best Sellers - PREORDER NOW! #asmsg

Explore The Dark Side of Urban Fantasy – Paranormal Suspense with THE SHADOW BOX from NY Times & USA Today bestselling authors.

***A limited offer at a steeply discounted price – only available until Feb. 2015

Add it on Goodreads!

Ride the cutting edge of dark fantasy in this unique collection of fast-paced, gritty, suspenseful thrillers. Filled with black magic, vampire trailer trash, werewolves, sorcerers, assassins, clairvoyants, zombie draggers, and old-school gothic horror, a sure bet for fans of paranormal suspense.

DARKER THINGS by Rob Cornell
Fifteen years have passed since Craig Lockman worked for a shadowy agency fighting monsters most think exist only in nightmares. A mysterious teen girl arrives at his door with his fiercest enemy on her tail. Now he must protect the daughter he never knew from the dark world he thought he left behind.

MOTH by Sean Poindexter
Social worker Max Hollingsworth is no stranger to monsters. Supernatural or human, he's faced all kinds. But when he's called upon to investigate a missing child, he may have met his match.

THE SHEPHERD by Travis Luedke
After saving a mysterious girl from a hit and run, 16 yr. old Mike Evans soon finds his life spiraling out of control. Facing clairvoyant visions of grisly death, Mike struggles to avert disaster and make his way through the chaos.

A band of misfit, half-demon teenagers join the ruthless, immortal Wisdom, to stop The Council of Peacocks. The Council, a secret society of sorcerers, has plotted for centuries, and now the time has come for Activation – a hostile takeover of Earth.

A DEATH DISPLACED by Andrew Butcher
When Nicolas Crystan unexpectedly sees the future, he acts fast to save Juliet Maystone from a fatal accident, unintentionally "displacing" her–giving her the power to see ghosts. Together, they must use their newfound abilities to unravel a mystery more connected to Nicolas than he ever imagined ...

BOUND BY BLOOD by Shane KP O’Neill
Vlad Dracula: ruler, tyrant, warlord, and champion of the Catholic faith, is seized by Lucifer in his moment of death and becomes a monster, born of Darkness. Vlad is charged with destroying the institution of the Catholic Church, to help turn man against God so that Lucifer may finally return to Heaven and end all of mankind.

LUNA SANGUIS by Simon Okill
A mysterious woman awakes in an asylum in France, 1925, with amnesia. As her memory is restored she reveals her true vampiric nature and unleashes a bloody nightmare that might destroy all humanity.

TELL ME WHEN I’M DEAD by Steven Ramirez
When a contagion decimates the town of Tres Marias, recovering alcoholic Dave Pulaski, his wife, Holly, and a group of armed soldiers and civilians must find a way to survive.

THE LONG WAY DOWN by Craig Schaefer
The death of a porn star leads sorcerer Daniel Faust down a rabbit hole of conspiracy and madness. For the first time, black magic and bullets might not be enough to save him from the brink of damnation.

BLACKJACK by Kristopher Norris
When Vincent Black, a gun for hire, is told vampires are all too real, he thinks it’s a joke. But soon he learns that he is not the most dangerous brand of hunter out there...

Buy now before this deal is gone in 2015!

Add it on Goodreads!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What I Learned By NOT Finishing NaNoWriMo

Link: Should You Feel Bad About Not Finishing NaNoWriMo?

Mock Cover for My NaNoWriMo
Although I've published four books, this was my first year attempting NaNoWriMo, Honestly, it was the first time there was a break in my writing schedule. I decided to do something completely different. Normally I write paranormal thrillers and epic fantasy. My NaNoWriMo book was pure thriller, a story about a sex addict who becomes the target for a serial killer after posting an exhibitionist video online. I even threw together a quick cover. The NaNoWriMo site suggests there is a link between adding a cover to your work in progress and actually finishing it.

If you're not familiar with NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. The challenge? Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. To non-writers this sounds impossible. But all it amounts to is writing around 4 pages a day (around 1600 words). I normally write 5-6 pages a day and quickly found myself outpacing the deadline even though I was in China for the first few days of the month.

That's when I made my first mistake: I got cocky. I was so far ahead of schedule I decided to take a break. I started writing every other day instead of every day. Fortunately for me, this book quickly took on a life of its own. The words flowed out of me like a man possessed. In 10 days I reached the half-way point.

Then life happened. On Saturday the 15th, my husband complained of abdominal pain. I assumed it was just hold over from our trip to China. He'd experienced a bit of intestinal unpleasantness halfway through the trip. Hours later he was moaning in pain with near constant stabbing pains. He told me he thought it was his appendix. I thought he was being overly dramatic.

Not so much.

We went to the hospital at 9:00 in the morning. By 10 at night, he was in surgery to have his appendix removed. I suppose I could have brought my laptop to the hospital and wrote while in the waiting room. Or I could have left him there and gone home to write.

But I realized something.  Some things are more important than finishing a novel.

Maybe that's not the message we're supposed to send. Like you, I've heard the stupid slogans: You're not a writer unless you write every day. I call bullshit on that. Whoever said that should do some research on famous writers, many of whom did not write daily. I write most days and, like I said, I already have 4 books published. So, yeah, I am a writer. But you know what's more important?

I'm a human being. What kind of jerk would I look like to abandon my husband at the hospital on our anniversary just to get my daily word count in? The next few days were spent keeping him company and trying to distract him from the pain and annoyance of recovering from surgery.

Again, I'm sure I could have found some time in the following days to write. But each time I stood to leave, one thought formed in my mind. On my death bed, what would I be more upset about: not writing that day or not spending time with Rob?

It was never a question about finishing the novel, it was a question of finishing it within the artificial deadline of November 30. It only took 4 days before my husband could function on his own. By then I was far behind in my word count and made the only decision I regret: I stopped writing.

Like a 5 year old, as soon as I realized I couldn't win I decided not to play. I couldn't write 25,000 words in 10 days...only I know I can do that because I already HAD done it in the first part of the month.

So here are the three things I learned from NaNoWriMo:

  1. Some things are more important than writing. If you don't get that, I feel sorry for your family.
  2. Don't get lazy. When you're ahead of schedule, keep plowing. You never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball. You can use the breathing room.
  3. Don't stop. Missing a deadline is not an excuse to stop completely. Keep working even if you don't "win" NaNoWriMo. The important part is the novel, not the award.

Link: List of Traditional and Self-Published Books That Began as NaNoWriMo Novels.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Friday, November 14, 2014



I grew up in a period called The Cold War. Historians will likely call these years The Age or Terror. We live in a constant state of fear because we don't know who are enemies are. The nice family next door - no matter what their country of origin or religion - could be plotting to blow up the government building. The paperboy could grab a dozen assault rifles on the way to first period. This amorphous, ever present dread means we have no target for our fear, nothing to point at and say "evil".

Zombies are simple, the perfect monster for a politically correct world. We feel no remorse them because they are already dead. Zombies are raceless, country-less enemies that allow us to feel zero-guilt when we kill them in video games. Zombies have no children. Their only motivation is to kill us, to destroy our world.

When I was a kid, we played cowboys and indians. Then, as a society, we realized celebrating the mass slaughter of innocents makes us the monsters.

"The terror that is engendered by zombies is not the fear that they can be evil, but the fear that one might become one of them." (Source: Zombies - The Encyclopedia of Death and Dying.


Any horror buff knows our current pop culture image of zombies evolved from Haiti.

In traditional Haitian beliefs, people have two souls:  the gro bonanj (the eternal self-less spirit) and the ti bonanj (our consciousness and individual will). For those that die naturally, the gro bonanj goes to the afterlife, what westerners would consider heaven. For victims of murder, their souls are vulnerable (Source: Haiti and the Truth About Zombies)

A bokor is able to capture one portion of the soul, trapping it in jar for use in magical ceremonies. One such use is the reanimation of the corpse to create an eternal slave, a laborer to work the fields who will never question his owner. 

Now take a loot around you. Have you ever felt like you're surrounded by zombies? Like 99% of everyone you meet is under the mental control of the 1%? No matter what the government does, the people silently accept it. Very few rebel. Those that do are silenced. Assimilated. It wasn't a bokor that took away our will. We actively, consistently give away our individuality every day.

In Haiti, a country that has known a long period of slavery with the Spanish and French colonizations until their independence in 1804, the fear of becoming enslaved has remained a part of their collective consciousness. The fear of being changed into a slave for the rest of one's life is a fear of being constrained to live without individuality, will, and conscience.


The first movie I remember that tried to rationalize the Haitian magic into something believable was The Serpent and the Rainbow (link: Serpent and the Rainbow IMDB) in which ethnobotanist Wade Davis exploded the science behind zombies. The most terrifying aspect of this movie (aside from being based on a real story) is how completely plausible it is. A mixture of chemicals could easily convince others that a body is dead. Another mixture of chemicals makes the victim extremely susceptible to suggestions. 

The majority of zombie stories today, whether its a rampaging bio-engineered weapon like Return of the Living Dead or World War Z or t-virus in Resident Evil, are based on science creating something it cannot control. Something science creates to make our lives better instead destroys all of civilization. Most people have heard of the fungus that can turn ants into zombie-like creatures. You have to know some crazy idiot out there is trying to find a way to use this on humans. Our species doesn't know when to leave good enough alone.


So where is this fear coming from?


Maybe it's the ever-present threat of global warming. Maybe it's the increased presence of GMO foods and pharmaceuticals. I've even heard several people are concerned that the rise of ebola is what will cause the zombie apocalypse.Whatever the cause, the abundance of zombie fiction today points to one root cause: something in our gut tells us the world is about to blow up. We're afraid that the comfortable lives we've build for ourselves are on the brink of being destroyed. But that's not a safe fear. Thinking about that too much could drive you insane. 

So instead we focus on simple fears. 




Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Check out M Joseph Murphy's own zombie novel Demons of DunDegore available here:
Amazon - paperback                                                   iTunes
Amazon - kindle version                                             Kobo

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

BLOG TOUR - Interview with Genre-Bending Writer Maer Wilson


Most of Thulu and La Fi's clients are dead. Which is perfect since their detective agency caters to the supernatural. But a simple job finding a lost locket leads to a big case tracking relics for an ancient daemon.

The daemon needs the relics to keep a dangerous portal closed. His enemy, Gabriel, wants the relics to open the portal and give his people access to a new feeding ground – Earth.
Caught on live TV, other portals begin to open and the creatures of magic return to Earth. The people of Earth are not alone, but will soon wish they were.

When Gabriel threatens their family, Thulu and La Fi's search becomes personal. The couple will need powerful help in the race to find the relics before Gabriel does. But maybe that's what ghostly friends, magical allies and daemonic clients are for.

When the creatures of myth and magic return to Earth, they're nothing like your mother's fairy tales.

You can buy RELICS at these retailers:

Barnes & Noble - Nook - Relics: Modern Magics Book 1 for Nook


Let’s start with an easy question: Sith or Jedi?
LOL…Best question, ever. Thanks for having me on your blog, Joseph. To answer your question - Sith! I actually play the MMO, Star Wars (Star Wars: the Old Republic), and my main characters are Empire - Sith.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
To switch universes, which of the Star Trek races most closely matches your own personality?
Hmmm….Probably have to go TNG and Betazoid.

I can totally see that. In previous interviews (see here) you’ve stated that JK Rowling and George R.R. Martin are authors you can always count on to deliver a good story. What elements have to be in place for you to consider a piece of work a good story?
Character comes first for me. I need to be invested in the characters to love a story. Next, the story itself has to be solid and intriguing. What I love about Martin is that he keeps me guessing. He surprises me…a lot. With Rowling and Harry Potter, it was just the sheer pleasure of that world of magic, on top of the great characters.

I’ve read that you believe finding good beta readers is one of the most important parts of the writing process. How did you find your beta readers?
My beta readers came to me from all over. A few are folks I know personally. One is a fellow author I met through an online group, several are friends from my guild in the online Star Wars game. They each bring a different perspective to their comments and notes. Some catch typos, some address voice or story, but all are important to the process.

Many of my readers are authors looking for new and effective ways to promote their work. What have you found is the most effective way to reach new audiences? Also, what’s the best way you’ve found to keep in touch with your loyal fan base?
I’m not sure I’ve discovered the best way to reach audiences yet. I’m always trying new things, but Facebook and Twitter seem to be my go-to place to connect. My favorite way to stay in touch with my fans is through my street team. It’s not very big yet, but they get to see things before anyone else a lot of times. Such as the cover art for Magics: Modern Magics, Book 3 by M Joseph Murphy. (Thanks again for my gorgeous covers, Joseph!) Team Thulukan got a sneak peek at that last cover, even though the official cover reveal hasn’t happened yet.

Jen Ryan - Editor
In preparing for the re-release of your series, you’ve re-edited Relics. What elements do you think makes the new edition stronger than the previous edition?
My editor, Jen Ryan, and I cut some things in Part One that were bogging down the story. It’s been tweaked and tightened throughout. It’s also undergone a vigorous housecleaning for typos, punctuation and such.

Link: Imagine That Editing by Jen Ryan

I know your upcoming book, Magics, has some big changes in store. What comes next? Do you plan on continuing to work with the same characters? If not, what other types of books do you plan on writing next?
For now I think I’ll be done with the Modern Magics universe. I’m working on a Biography/Memoir that I may or may not finish any time soon. It’s based on the ten years I knew author Philip K. Dick.

However, I also have a Historical Fantasy that I began a couple years ago. It’s called The Journal and is about a witch killed back in the late 1400s, who returns every other generation to live one day. The story spans 550 years, so entails a lot of research. There’s also a SciFi series I’m ready to begin writing. So, most likely, one of those two will be the next project. Whichever one of the characters yells at me the loudest to tell their story.

Last question, most of your fans are probably aware you’re an avid gamer. What is your favorite game and why?
Ah, definitely Star Wars: The Old Republic. I moved to this game 3 years ago after 7 years in World of Warcraft. It’s taken the game a while to find its identity, but it’s a fabulous game to play. I love gaming for the social aspect of playing with other people. We communicate via voice programs, so it’s in real time. Gaming is a great way to stay young and in touch, too. This game has a lot to offer: space ships and cool planets. And who can resist shooting purple lightning out of your fingertips?

There’s always something to do and not enough time to do it all. I particularly enjoy raiding…think dungeons and dragons online in real time…only in the Star Wars universe. I’m a healer there, which means I keep the other players alive. Even though I play a Dark Side Darth, I find the juxtaposition of healing and being evil at the same time to be fun.

Anything you'd like to end with?
Joseph, thanks so very much for having me on your blog. What a fun interview! I greatly appreciate the opportunity.


After a successful career being other people, and later teaching others the many tricks of that trade, Maer Wilson has decided to be herself for a while. Turns out she's a writer. She's always loved stories, especially fantasy, mystery and sci fi. Maer was born in the Year of the Dragon and has a dragon-themed room in her home, but sadly no dragons in the back yard. When she's not writing, Maer plays online video games, teaches college and reads. Maer is a partner in Ellysian Press, a small publishing house. She also co-hosts the literary podcast MythBehaving. Maer lives in the high desert of Southern Nevada with her three dogs, a chihuahua and two poodles.

Her books include Relics and Portals, Books 1 and 2 in the Modern Magics series. The upcoming third book in the series is Magics. There are also three novelettes in the series - “Ghost Memory,” “Unwanted Ghost” and “Ghost Dancer.” A fourth story, “Wedding Ghost” is also planned. You can find all books and novelettes in the Modern Magics series at Amazon.

For more info, you can visit Maer’s website at
You can find Maer Wilson at these links:
Maer’s Website:
Maer on Twitter:

Check out the other hosts on the tour for chances to enter the Giveaway!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When to Change Your Cover Art and 5 Things to Consider

One of the benefits of the self-marketing movement is that for the first time authors have complete control over their cover art.

A Fallen Hero Rises is the second book I published. It has gone through several cover changes. Below you will see each of them in order. I'll also explain why they didn't work.

1st cover for A Fallen Hero Rises
This was the first cover I designed. I like the mix of colors. However, my name is far to small. The image also did not work well as a thumbnail. Additionally, the dimensions were incorrect making the cover seem warped on Amazon and Smashwords.

2nd Cover - A Fallen Hero Rises
The cover was updated for proper dimensions. It also works better as a thumbnail. However, my name is still too small. The biggest problem is it doesn't feel like a fantasy novel. Being unique is a double-edged sword. It's crucial that your audience be able to look at the cover and immediately determine genre. Which means it should share similar characteristics to other covers in the same genre.

3rd Cover- A Fallen Hero  Rises
Why it works: dragons. Nothing shows a book is an epic fantasy as quickly as putting a dragon on the cover. I like the image but I really screwed up the font. It's almost impossible to read as a thumbnail. Also look a the spacing between the letters. If you look closely you'll find they're uneven. The main reason I changed this, however, was the male figure. He's too old for the demographic. A Fallen Hero Rises is a YA epic fantasy featuring a 17 year old. This guy looks to be in his mid-twenties.

That brings us to the current cover.

I kept the same background and general colors but adjusted the shadow and midpoint levels. This makes the buildings easier to see. You'll notice the color palette is identical to the original cover. However, this cover feels more polished. It's also similar to current covers in the same genre. The font is much more legible and works extremely well as a thumbnail.

Now that you've seen the progression of covers, here are the 5 things I suggest you consider when updating your cover art.

1. Font and Verbage Are as Important as Image

Too often, focus is placed on the image used. It's often the use of font and placement of words that separate amateur and professional-looking covers. The font needs to identify genre and it has to "pop". Look at current best sellers in your genre to determine the types of font used. Don't get fancy. Don't get cute. Put as much time into choosing font and verbage on the cover as Coca Cola or Microsoft would before putting up a billboard.

2. Consider Your Target Demographic

The image has to resonate with your target demographic. Usually, a book with people on the cover is easier to relate to. Make sure the people on the cover speak to the target demographic. That's why most romance novels feature couples. Many erotica covers mimic the look of Fifty Shades of Grey for the same reason. To speed up the buying process, people need to be able to pigeon hole your book in a very specific genre with one look at the cover. If they can't place it into a genre, they won't likely read the blurb. If they don't like the blurb, they  probably won't buy the book. But that's a completely different blog post.

Usually, it is more important that your cover relate to genre expectations than being an accurate reflection on events in your book. Here's the perfect example: the Dresden Novels. On almost every cover in the series, Harry Dresden is shown wearing a fedora. It tells gives the sense of magic and mystery even though Dresden never wears a fedora. Ever.

Remember when Harry wore a hat?
Me neither.

3. Make Your Name Prominent

Remember: you are building a brand. If they don't know your name, you can't build product awareness. Many writers do not have a background in marketing so building a brand is a complete mystery to them. In marketing terms, if you are a new writer you need to build Brand Awareness. For companies, their logo is their brand. For you, it is your name.

Link to Intro to Marketing Principles for Writers
Forbes - Why Brand Building is Important

4. Consistency

Again, you are trying to build brand awareness. You want people to look at a book cover and IMMEDIATELY know it's your cover. Look at all the covers for Stephen King or Dean Koontz. The fonts and color palettes are usually similar. This is especially important for your 5-10 books. If you update one cover, consider updating the other covers to build consistency

This article has several great tips on consistency: 5 Tips for a Great Book Cover

5. Don't over pay for cover art.

One statistic states the average self-published book sells around 150-200 copies (source: 25 Things to Know When Self-Publishing). It doesn't make sense for most people to spend hundreds of dollars on one cover. If you plan on publishing many books, consider taking the time to learn Photoshop (and trust me, it will take many, many months to become an expert). If you don't have the time, there are many avenues to get inexpensive cover art. On the other hand, paying a small amount of money for a bad cover can be equally expensive. Like it or not, everyone judges a book by its cover, especially in the digital world.

Cover art is an important part of your branding as an author.


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Preview - Demons of DunDegore

Demons of DunDegore is book 2 in the Sword of Kassandra Series. It features a full-on zombie invasion on a classic epic fantasy world.

Keep reading for a sneak peak.


The day before the demons came, Grandwyn arrived in the city of DunDegore. He stood on the deck of a ship, his tiny fingers gripping the railing. No one seemed to take notice of him. Amid the wide-eyed faces of tourists coming to the holy land, he looked like an ordinary peasant boy. But he was much more than that.

A thin layer of early-morning mist blanketed the water between the boat and the approaching shoreline. Behind him, a crowd of strangers searched for signs of the legendary city. Two days ago, the ship had left the dock in Karaj Robat. After being on the water for so long, Grandwyn was eager to be back on solid ground.

Beyond the shore, thin pine trees shot up over thirty-feet tall. Grandwyn looked past the trees for his first glimpse of the ruins:  enormous structures of white stone as tall as mountains. Even from here, he could tell the ruins were ancient. Large chunks had crumbled away to reveal a metallic framework underneath. According to the brochure Grandwyn held in his hands, the metal never rusted or degraded despite being thousands of years old.

A woman in a blue dress stepped out of the crowd to stand beside him. “First time on the island?”

Grandwyn nodded.

The woman glanced down at him. “Aren’t you a little young to be travelling by yourself?”

“Who said I was traveling by myself?” Grandwyn crossed his arms and looked up at the woman. She looked to be the same age as his mother and was nearly as beautiful. Something in the way she looked at him made him feel uneasy. As if she wasn’t truly looking at him. “Besides, I’m not too young. I’m eight.”

“Oh.” The woman smiled. “That old? I stand corrected. Do you know the story behind the ruins?”

“Of course. Everyone knows the story. DunDegore was a Behersker city, one of the last to be abandoned when the ancient ones left for the stars. There are fifteen large buildings, the ones we can see from here, and a few dozen smaller ruins. No one knows exactly what they were used for. All we know is they’ve been there for as long as anyone can remember.”

“You’re very bright.” The smile slid from the woman’s face, her eyes grew cold and distant.

“Did I say something wrong?” Grandwyn asked.

“No.” The woman shook her head and her eyes refocused. When she spoke again, her voice was warm and comforting, almost motherly. “I just realized it’s been a very long time since I’ve talked to a child. I had a sister once. She was about your age when she…well, the last time I saw her. We were so innocent. Everything was one great big adventure.” She looked over her shoulder at a patch of shadows. “It’s not too late for you, you know. You could always stay on the boat. Head back home.”
Grandwyn took a step away from the woman. “Why would I want to do that? I’ve come all this way. It doesn’t make any sense to head home now.”

“No. I suppose you’re right.” The woman sighed and hung her head. “You and I are both on this ship until the very end. If you’ll excuse me, I hear someone calling me.”

The woman walked away and vanished into the crowd.

‘Strange,’ Grandwyn thought. ‘For a moment it sounded like she knew why I was coming here. Like she was afraid for me or something. But my mother was wrong. There’s nothing to fear. The fieldbenders will take me in and that will be that.’

The ship slid through the water as it followed the shore. As time passed, the sun burned off the early-morning mist and the docks came into sight. Twenty docking platforms stretched over more than a quarter mile. Crowds spilled out from dozens of large ships similar to the one Grandwyn was on. Many smaller boats were parked along the wooden piers. Grandwyn climbed up on the railing to look past the harbor, to where the city truly began. While not the largest city he’d ever seen, DunDegore was more grandiose than his hometown of FleshPrayer. Multi-storied buildings pressed close together. People milled through the narrow streets while scores of street merchants tried to sell them souvenirs.

As the ship approached the dock, the crew grew suddenly active. Moving with practiced speed, they tied the boat off and lowered the walkway. Passengers, most of them smiling, left the ship, suitcases in hand. Grandwyn stood with the rest of the tourists at the end of the pier next to a middle-aged woman selling flowers. He looked around for the woman in the blue dress. There was no sign of her.
He disembarked from the ship and entered the city, walking past open-air restaurants and the tacky gift stores. His destination was far from the tourist part of town. Grandwyn stopped in the doorway of The Sixth Tower Inn and took a piece of paper out of his pocket, verifying he’d come to the right place.

“This is it.” He refolded the piece of paper, put it back in his pocket, and stepped inside. The Inn still reeked of sweat and spilt beer from the night before. There were only two other people in the bar: an old man drinking by himself in the corner and a tall, plump southerner wearing a faded black uniform standing behind the bar.

“Boy,” said the man behind the bar. “Get your butt out of here. This be no place for children.”

Grandwyn took out his money purse. “Your name is Bentley, correct? I need a room, sir. My mother told me you rent them. You’ll remember her, my mother. You visited her the last time you were in FleshPrayer.”

The man narrowed his eyes, studying Grandwyn’s face. “Aye. I see the resemblance, now that you mention that.” He looked toward the front door. “Is she here, your mother?”

Grandwyn shook his head. “Not yet. She’ll be here in a few days. I’m to wait for her.” Approaching the bar, he reached up and placed a gold coin on the counter. Then he stepped back so he could look the man in the eyes. “This will cover us for the week, I believe.”

Bentley took the piece of gold, examining it for a moment before placing it in his pocket. “Will do. But why here? This gold could buy you much better rooms in DunDegore. Especially for someone as esteemed as your mother.”

“This is where I’m supposed to go. Can you show me to my room, please?”

Bentley wiped his hands with a towel and stepped away from the bar. He grabbed a key from the wall and motioned for Grandwyn to follow. They walked up two flights of steep stairs, stopping at a wooden door. Bentley opened the door and passed the key to Grandwyn.

“It’s not much, but it’s the best we got. No running water. Outhouse be out back. Take the stairs at the end of hall. Be careful heading down at night. It’s not lit. Rarely used, actually. Most of my guests only need a bed and a closed door. They usually leave after a few minutes.”

Grandwyn raised an eyebrow, confused. Bentley blushed.

“Sorry. I assumed you being from FleshPrayer and all you’d be used to that kind of talk. Forget what I said, kid. How old are you anyway?”

“Eight. Just turned.”

Bentley exhaled slowly. “What are you doing traveling by yourself? It’s a dangerous world out there. More so than ever if you believe the rumors.”

“You don’t say.” Grandwyn raised a hand. It crackled with purple energy. “I can take care of myself.”

Bentley took a step back. “What are you? Fieldbender?”

Grandwyn nodded and slipped out of his travelling cloak. “They don’t usually take initiates as young as me, but they say I’ve got potential. Both my parents trained as elmire ahk.”

Bentley straightened his shoulders and smoothed the folds of his uniform. “Might be best if you don’t show your abilities down below. Even though there’s a guild here in town, most people are scared of benders. And you being so young they might assume the worst. Think you’re fod sel-onde or something. Listen, why don’t I bring your meals up to you? We don’t get many children at The Sixth Tower Inn. We attract a certain type of patron.  I don’t want them trying to take advantage of you. I wouldn’t offer to do this for most guests, but your mom is something special.”

“Thanks.” Grandwyn nodded and waited for Bentley to leave. Then he closed the door, locking it. Looking around the room, he found a thin layer of dust covered everything, including the bedspread. “I suppose it could be worse. And it’s only for a night. Tomorrow, the fieldbenders will take me in. Or they’ll kill me. Either way it will be over.”

Grandwyn had lied. He wasn’t a fieldbender, not yet anyway. His abilities surfaced several months ago. Like fieldbenders, he could manipulate the reality field: His abilities included being able to  move things with his mind, shoot beams of energy from his hands, and create ice out of thin air. At first, he practiced in secret. One day, his mother discovered him creating ice sculptures. Terrified, she made him promise to stop.

“I love you, baby,” she had said as she kissed him on the forehead. “Nothing will ever change that. But if other people see what you can do, see what you are, they will want to hurt you. Kill you.”
“But why? Fieldbenders can do what I do. People don’t hurt them.”

She shook her head and pulled her clothes tighter around her body. “But, you’re not a fieldbender, Wynnie. They spend years in meditation and study, learning to do what comes to you naturally. You are fod sel-onde. You know what they do to people like you.”

“I’m not!” He stomped his foot and sparks of energy formed around his eyes. “I’m not a monster. I’m just self-taught. Let me go to Karaj Robat. They have the best fieldbender guild there and…”

His mother had placed her fingers over his lips. “Absolutely not. You can never go to Karaj Robat. If the fieldbenders there learn about you, they will end you. Promise me you will never go there.”

In the end, Grandwyn had promised. Which was why he was on the Isle of DunDegore instead. The fieldbender guild here was smaller but still respected. The journey here took almost two weeks. He escaped when his mother left town to attend a political conference to ensure he had a good head start. By now, she would have read his note and learned why he left. It was only a matter of time before her network of contacts tracked him to DunDegore. If he wanted a chance to plead his case to the fieldbenders, it would have to be tomorrow.

He warped the reality field in the room. In a flash, all the dust disappeared. He opened the window and leaned out. Fresh air blew his strawberry-blond hair around his face. Below, a gray-haired woman wearing a red uniform glanced up at him. Her face wrinkled with confusion. Grandwyn smiled and waved to her. She turned and walked away, but not before looking back at him over her shoulder.

Torch Karehn looked back over her shoulder at the young boy in the window. For a moment, she thought she’d felt the reality field being manipulated. When she saw the child, she realized she must have been mistaken. He was far too young for a fieldbender.

‘Look at me,’ she thought. ‘Jumping at shadows. I need to control my nerves. With luck, we’ll find it soon. If not, if the worst happens, my flock will need me to be strong.’

The Sword of Kassandra was missing.

Torch Karehn was head of the local Aerie, a religious center for the Church of the Pheonides. When the Sword of Kassandra appeared months ago, she volunteered to transport the weapon to safekeeping at a local monastery. Working with Sirion, a fieldbender from Karaj Robat, she had crafted a security system to hide the sword at the monastery. Many forces in the world could use that weapon for evil things. And the system had been successful.

Until last night.

As she rushed through the streets, many waved to her. She forced herself to slow down, to smile back at them. Part of the burden of being a leader was to never let others see your stress. If the people of DunDegore saw the fear she felt inside, rumors would spread like wildfire. She stopped to shake hands with one of her flock, Mrs. Jonstone. She ruffled the hair of the woman’s son and pretended that everything was right with the world. Inside, she wanted to run.

Eventually she reached her destination. The front doors to the local fieldbender guild were tall and imposing: twenty-foot tall thick slates of metal-reinforced wood. Two guards armed with swords stood outside. Three months ago, the Sword of Kassandra had been recovered during an archeology dig. Ever since, the fieldbenders had become suspicious of strangers, heavily restricting admittance. Both guards recognized her as she approached and pushed the doors open for her.

Inside, away from the public eye, her composure melted. She leaned against a wall and stared down at her hands. They shook. She clenched them and took deep breaths until the shaking stopped.
The main foyer was empty. Most initiates would be in classes at this time of the morning. The man she needed to see would be on the second floor. She raced up the wide stone steps before her, no longer caring who saw the panic in her face. The fieldbenders could keep secrets.

She stopped in front of an open door. Inside, young men and women wearing the white robes of initiates stood in a circle, hands extended inwards. In the middle of the circle, purple energy swirled and twisted creating ornate shapes. This was Akashic energy, the foundation of the fieldbenders’ abilities. One of the initiates, a young man with brown hair, saw her. His eyes went wide in surprise. He lowered his hands and left the circle. The other initiates tightened the circle without hesitation to cover his absence.

“What are you doing here?” Instantly, he seemed to remember decorum. He bowed respectfully. “Apologies, mistress. I…”

Torch Karen grabbed his forearms. “We have no time for niceties, Mikhel. I need to speak to you.” She looked over Mikhel’s shoulder at the others. “Alone. Where can we ensure we’ll not be overheard?”

“This way,” Mikhel said. “There’s an empty classroom next door.”

Once inside the empty room, Torch Karehn sat on a bench and clasped her hands together tightly.
Mikhel remained standing. “Should I set up a shield?”

“No need. I’ll be brief. We have a disaster. Listen closely. I won’t have time to repeat this, and I need you to speak with your leaders.”

“You could speak with them directly.”

She shook her head. “I don’t have time to deal with inter-denominational politics. That’s why I came to you. I know you. Trust you. As soon as I leave here, I have to head to the Aerie and make preparations in case the worst happens.”

“What do you mean?”

Torch Karehn bit her lip. “Something happened at the monastery last night. We were attacked. The Sword of Kassandra was stolen.”

Mikhel sat down now. “But how? Sirion…”

“Sirion is dead.” She covered her mouth. “That’s the first time I’ve said it aloud. Whatever hit the monastery last night proved too powerful for him. What they did to his body…”

“Damnation.” Mikhel ran a hand through his hair. “We have to let the Sage know.”

Torch Karehn shook her head. “You know that’s not an option. Because of what happened with Defksquar, the Sage has distanced himself. He no longer trusts the fieldbenders.”

“But surely he’ll want to know. Defksquar isn’t even in Karaj Robat anymore. Rumor has it he’s deep undercover somewhere.”

“Wherever he is, he’s working for Karaj Robat. Contacting the Sage is not an option. I’ve known the Sage for a very long time. When his mind is made up, nothing can sway him. Believe me. I’ve tried. Now, I need you to focus, Mikhel. After I set up defenses at the Aerie, I’ll contact Elmontrazar. He left a nizarian device that allows communication across great distances. I’m going to ask him to send reinforcements. Speak with your leaders. Tell them to prepare.”

“Prepare for what?”

Torch Karen stood, her expression steely. “You know what the Sword is capable of. In the wrong hands…”

She could not bring herself to finish the sentence. From the expression on Mikhel’s face she didn’t need to.

Mikhel’s face paled. “I guess a part of me always knew this was going to happen. When I first went south to Karaj Robat and told them about the Sword, something told me things were only going to get worse. How much time do we have?”

Torch Karehn’s lower lip trembled. “We may already be too late.”


Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo

Friday, September 26, 2014

3 Reasons Why "How to Get Away with Murder" is Better than "Gotham"

HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER: Wallpaper Available Here

I have a new obsession. How to Get Away with Murder is the best new show of the season. I had high hopes for Gotham. Watching the first episode but that ended after the first episode. How to Get Away with Murder is instantly enjoyable. Want to know how?

Full Spoiler Alert: I'm not holding any punches and I'm not hiding anything. Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers.

1. Pretend Your Audience Has a Brain

Many of the finer moments of How to Get Away with Murder are quiet, subtle moments shared between actors. At the end of the first episode, there is a moment between Professor Annalise Keating and her husband, Sam Keating. The body of a young woman has just been found. Here is what they say:

Annalise Keating: I think the boyfriend did it.
Sam Keating: I guess we'll find out

Here's what is implied by the actor's doing what actors are supposed to do:

It sounds like Professor Keating is talking about the young woman's boyfriend but she's actually saying she knows or believes her husband had an affair with the young woman and believes he killed her.

That is powerful storytelling.

Gotham assumes you are stupid making every easter egg so prominent a blind person could find them. Did we really need Poison Ivy to be standing behind plants to realize who she was? Groan.


2. Solid Writing is More Important than Easter Eggs

Comic book fans admit it: the reason you liked Gotham, wasn't because of Jim Gordon. The scene featuring the Wayne murders was well done. I enjoyed seeing Edward Nigma and Falcone. However, by the second time they showed Selina Kyle I was bored to tears. She does nothing in this episode except stand there and crouch. It's like the showrunners were more concerned with giving Catwoman screen time than actually giving her something to do.

How to Get Away with Murder did not waste time with an origin story. It hit the ground running with an active court case and let us discover the characters as they progress through events. Writing 101 says no back story until you are 1/3 through the work. Gotham tells us Jim Gordon used to be in the military. Try showing us instead. Have him deal with Post-traumatic stress disorder or, I don't know, act like a soldier.

3. Make Us Care About Your Heroes More than the Villains

Gotham has potential. The characters are interesting and there are several strong actors in the cast. Most notable is Jada Pinkett Smith whose character, Fish Mooney, could carry the entire show. In fact, she kind of does. The villains in Gotham are far more interesting than Jim Gordon. There's only one reason for this: bad writing.

How to Get Away with Murder makes us like Wes Gibbins very quickly. They show us he's a nice guy in way over his head surrounded by smart, callous people. Professor Keating shows incredibly strength and a willingness to do anything to get win. One scene shows us she's cheating on her husband. The show trusts Viola Davis to convey the quiet despair as she watches her marriage fail because she's unable to conceive a child with her husband.

What does Gotham do? It throws in a completely unnecessary lesbian scene that does nothing to further the plot or make us connect with the characters.


I understand How to get Away with Murder and Gotham may seem like completely different genre shows. But they're not, really. The central plot of Gotham is "Who Killed the Waynes"? The central plot of "How to Get Away with Murder" is well, murder. At their hearts, both are supposed to be mysteries.

At the end of  Gotham, I didn't really care who killed the Waynes. That's a bad sign. There is no evident "Big Bad" in the show. Sure we see Falcone and Fish Mooney, but they don't feel like bad guys. Couldn't we get a hint of the Court of Owls? That would have me hooked, not a simple retread of stories we've all heard a hundred times.

Sound off in the comment section and let me know if you agree or disagree.

Links: Gotham: The Good, the Bad, and Ugly

To see how I helped someone get away with murder in my own writing, check out the links below.

Amazon: M Joseph Murphy on Amazon: Paperback and ebook
Smashwords: M Joseph Murphy Author Page on Smashwords
Kobo: M Joseph Murphy Books on Kobo
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