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Friday, January 31, 2014

Preview A Fallen Hero Rises - Chapter One

In the fieldbender guild of Karaj Robat, the Sage closed his eyes in silent prayer. ‘Some things you can’t come back from. Let’s hope this is not one of them.’

His red leather boots stepped quickly over white marble floors as he headed toward  the council chamber. Square columns lined the open-air corridor. A cool breeze from the storm raging outside ruffled his high-collared military cape. It did little to cool his temperament. Acolytes in white robes bowed their heads in respect as he passed. He ignored them all, clenching and unclenching his fists, eyes straight ahead. This was no time to pretend he cared about decorum.

Guards flanked either side of the chamber entrance. They stood at attention, hands resting on the hilts of their swords. Both wore ceremonial armor embroidered with the crest of Karaj Robat: a crow superimposed on a red mountain.

The Sage did not slow down as he approached. One guard held up a hand, blocking his path.

“No entry,” the guard said. “Fieldbenders only.”

The Sage raised one eyebrow and glanced at the other guard.

“Sorry, sir,” the second guard said. “He’s new. Baubi, stop being an idjit. Let him pass.”

The first guard, Baubi, shook his head. “Sorry, Jaymes. I’m not risking my job based on your recommendation. Why would I let this stranger in? I don’t even know his name.”

Jaymes, the second guard, coughed and went pale. “He’s not a stranger. This is the Sage. He’s been a consultant to the fieldbenders since before you were born.”

Baubi tightened his grip on the hilt. “Stop making fun of how young I am. Besides, the Sage is a position, not a name.”

The Sage cleared his throat. “As amusing as you clowns are, I have places to be. I’m expected inside. No one here knows my true name. Names have power. Everyone calls me the Sage. Now are you going to step aside or do I have to push you?”

Baubi started to draw his sword. Jaymes grabbed his arm to stop him.

The Sage’s eyes flashed red with an internal flame.

“Please go in, sir,” Jaymes said. He quickly opened the twin doors to the chamber. As the doors shut behind him, the Sage heard the two guards continue to bicker.

The meeting had already begun. The council chamber was a large, round room. Tall, gilded columns encircled the room. Between the columns, hundreds of fieldbenders spoke to each other in hushed tones. Most were initiates dressed in white robes. Many blinked rapidly while others nervously glanced at the shadows.

‘They look nervous,’ the Sage thought. ‘That’s a good sign. It means they’re taking this seriously.’
He pushed through the crowd to reach the white marble table at the center of the room. Like the chamber, it was round. Seven robed men were already seated around the table. These were the leaders of the guild, the ones who had summoned him to the meeting. Two of the chairs around the table were empty. The Sage sat in one and turned to listen to the debate.

“Eschandel, it’s just not possible.” The speaker, a middle-aged man in green-trimmed silver robes, looked down his nose at a man with slender features in black robes.

“Stop saying that, Sirion.” Eschandel slammed his fist against the table. His ice-blue eyes darted from person to person around the table. “For the third time, it is flamin’ possible because it’s flamin’ happened. Sit there and deny it until the moons fall from the sky. It changes nothing. Last night, fifteen Seers had the same vision. A blaze of light flew through space. It slammed into the dimensional prison. Now there’s a crack in the Void.”

“I think what Sirion is saying is that, perhaps, the Seers are mistaken.” This cool voice came from a white-haired man in sky-blue robes. Though much older than the first two speakers, his eyes were sharp and clear. “We need more than their word before we panic.”

Eschandel took a deep breath. “As I was about to say before Sirion stuck his head in the sand…again…we have more proof. I present Bender Mikhel from DunDegore. His report should shut you up.”

The white-haired man cleared his throat.

“Sorry, Latimer.” Eschandel hung his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “His report should help clarify things.”

The white-haired man, Latimer, smiled and nodded to show his support.

The Sage turned as a new figure stepped forward. Like the majority of the crowd, this man wore the white robes of an initiate; however, his robes were dirty, the hem caked with mud. He had obviously been traveling.

“I’m Mikhel,” the man said. “I can’t speak of the Void directly but my guild has reason to believe it is damaged. It’s the only explanation for what we found. Something fell out of the Void.”

For a moment, there was silence.

Then the room erupted into curses and shouts of disbelief.

Latimer lifted a hand and everyone hushed.

“Please,” Eschandel said, “continue.”

Mikhel wiped sweat from the edge of his neck as he looked around the room. “I’m part of the research team from DunDegore. As you know, we’ve explored the ruins for decades. The old Behersker city goes down for miles. We’ve only uncovered the first 50 levels. Usually we find trinkets – tools, dishware, data disks. Yesterday we found something else.”

“Spit it out already,” Sirion said. “We don’t need an archeology lesson.”

“Yes, sir.” Mikhel’s ears turned red. He glanced at Latimer but, unable to look the leader of the guild in the eye, he focused on Eschandel. “We found a sword. At first, we assumed it was a sculpture, perhaps part of a statue we had yet to discover. No one’s ever found a Behersker weapon. There’s considerable doubt they actually had conventional weapons. But it proved to be anything but ornamental. The blade was translucent yet harder than any metal, even darkstone. The hilt was opaque and appeared to be crafted from onyx. It’s also impervious to damage. We tested it against fire, electricity, acid and blunt force. No effect. When we tested its reaction to fieldbending we began to realize exactly what we’d found. It seemed to eat every spell we threw it at. The archeologists asked me to examine the sword because of my area of expertise. Starfall.”

“By the Oak.” Latimer covered his mouth with trembling fingers, eyes no longer clear. He glanced at Eschandel. The younger fieldbender nodded and closed his eyes.

“From the look on your face, sir, I see you understand.” This time Mikhel was able to look Latimer in the eyes. “The sword has inscriptions visible only when exposed to Akashic energy. The script wasn’t Behersker. It was Sirian. The sword has a name.”

“The Sword of Kassandra,” Latimer said.

Mikhel nodded.

The room became deadly silent as if everyone had forgotten how to breathe.

Sirion shook his head. “Preposterous. The Sword of Kassandra is locked in the Void.”

“Correction,” Eschandel said. “It was locked away. It’s not anymore. If you want more evidence let me introduce you to Leinda Farthing. She’s our ambassador to the geognosts. She studied with Defksquar some years ago, which makes her the best expert available. I’ll let her explain why she’s here.”

A woman dressed in deer-hide pantaloons and an unbleached tunic stepped out from the crowd. Her long brown hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail. A tribal tattoo decorated the length of her neck: a dragon.

“The head of my guild sent me here to deliver a warning,” she said. “I’m sure you all know we specialize in manipulations of foramen and the magnetic subweb of our planet. We are highly attuned to inter-dimensional activity. Two days ago there was activity like we’ve never felt before. After hours of investigation we discovered the cause. Something came into our world. Think of it like a meteor that smashed through the walls of our dimension instead of crashing down through our atmosphere. Whatever it was, wherever it came from, it didn’t close the portal it created. As long as it remains open, other things may enter our world.”

“And what say you, Sage?” Latimer stared down at his hands.

The Sage cleared his throat. “I say Sirion needs female companionship more regularly. There is nothing more annoying than someone who claims to be a skeptic but is truly a fascist. Whatever happened, I felt it too. Two days ago. It was similar to the opening of a foramen but more…raw. Dangerous. I have no idea what caused it and, as you know, I despise not knowing. We all knew there was a possibility the Void wouldn’t hold forever. If there is any chance it’s compromised we have to alert the Great Castles. You should send envoys to the Valgt’til and the Redgraves.”

“I tend to agree.” Latimer placed his hands, palm down, on the table. “At worst, we appear over-prepared for battle. But if we say nothing and there is a crack in the Void, well, we can’t take that risk.”

Sirion grumbled. “I’ll have you know I get female companionship regularly.”

Eschandel chuckled, a wide grin on his face.

“Hardly the most pressing issue at hand,” Latimer said. “Sirion, I’ll send you back to DunDegore with our friend Mikhel. Help verify it’s truly the Sword of Kassandra. Your skepticism will come in handy. If it is, we need to safeguard it. Something that powerful in the wrong hands could be disastrous.”

“You mean the Quadumvirate, I suppose.”

Latimer stood and looked around the crowd. “We need to move quickly but keep this quiet. By any oath you hold sacred, this news cannot leave this room. Trust no one. The Quadumvirate has spies everywhere. I’ll head to Castle Grygar myself. Eschandel, I’ll leave you in charge in my absence.” He turned to a middle-aged man in red robes, “Bahrza, I’ll send you to Castle Redgrave. Your connections in the court will get us a quick audience with the royal family.”

The Sage raised his hand before speaking. “It would probably be in our best interest to notify the Nizarians as well.”

Latimer nodded. “That’s assuming they’re not behind this. Gods only know what that race is capable of. I have someone I trust who will deliver the message. From this moment on, be on alert. The Sword of Kassandra may be the least of our worries. There are far worse things imprisoned in the Void. If it’s cracked, Dispayre could break free.”

The Sage bit his inner cheek. “And that means war.”

Pick Up A Fallen Hero Rises Now
Buy the ebook now on:      Amazon    Kobo    Smashwords     iTunes
Buy the paperback:            Amazon - Paperback Version

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Groundhog's Day Present - A Fallen Hero Rises Free One Day Only

My second novel, A Fallen Hero  Rises, is in many ways an echo of my first novel, Council of Peacocks. What better day to celebrate the feeling of déjà vu than  Groundhogs Day.

For one day only, A Fallen Hero Rises will be free on Amazon. If you haven't picked up the book yet, please consider getting it. If not, help an author out and at least "like" the book on Amazon. You'd be amazed at the power of a "like" on potential readers.

If you like what you read, I'd appreciate a review but it's not required. Maybe if I get enough downloads it's a sign that winter's almost over.

Here's the link: A Fallen Hero Rises on Amazon

Book Blurb:

Three hundred of years ago, a group of heroes imprisoned a dark god in a hell dimension known as the Void.
Since then, the people of Maghe Sihre have lived in relative peace. Now, a secret war starts at the edge of civilization.

A young man from Earth, Tadgh Dooley, is burdened with a dangerous and impossible power. He is fod sel-onde, born with the ability to warp the fabric of reality. An unknown force draws him to Maghe Sihre and, in doing so, cracks open the Void.

Can Tadgh gain control over his power before it's too late? And what does the appearance of the Sword of Kassandra mean for the people of Maghe Sihre?


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

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Tips for Designing Your Own Cover - What I Learned From Working on Cover Art for Su Williams

I met Su Williams through a group of fantastic writers I belong to, Author Social Media Support Group. She posted a draft of the cover for her second novel and wanted feedback. Here was her original draft:

Because she was using Illustrator and PowerPoint, her editing options were very limited. After offering advice for a bit, she asked if I could take her chosen images and work with them in PhotoShop. I wanted more expose and experience working with cover art so I agree.


The core images are not bad. However, I believe the fonts destroy this cover. It's impossible to read the back cover. The eyes behind the title are extremely distracting. I call this "photobombing": insertion of a random image that obviously doesn't belong.


Keep it simple. Graphics programs allow you to do tons of tricks. That doesn't mean you have to use them. I sent her the graphic below.

The eyes are from Pixabay. The woman on guitar was DeviantArt by ModelMSangi. This was never intended to be a final cover. It is simply a mock up to show how to improve the impact of the cover by keeping it simple.

After Su sent me the images, I came up with three different alternatives: one with the old eyes, one with new eyes and one without eyes at all. I preferred the one without any eyes. Su stated she liked the image with the original eyes best.

Rock Star Cover with New Eyes

Rock Star Cover with Original Eyes

Rock Star Cover Without Eyes


First of, the colors work better with the original graphics. I'm not a huge fan of the greens in the original. The wording on the back is much easier to read. I added names to all the quotes in the "praise" section. Quotes without names, I find, are not as convincing. I also added the short bio on Su and her picture. Readers like to put a face to the name. It's very important for brand building.


CreateSpace has very specific requirements. The space taken up by her picture needed to be left blank for CreateSpace to put one of its elements.

And here's where I made a big mistake. Su was relatively happy with the one cover I sent her. However, I was not. I kept working on it for another 20 hours playing with different designs.

I read the description of her first book and realized there is a supernatural element to her series. I don't think that comes across in any of the above images. Su wanted something that looked more painted. The graphics she sent me were not of a high enough quality to do this well. She also wanted more of the green coloring from her original design.

So I purchased two pictures from Fotalia and tried again. I read the reviews for her first book, Dreamweaver, and found a truly great quote: "Now is the time for new immortals." I love this. It sets the ton and establishes genre in a way the original cover doesn't. Below is the cover I came up with.

I was extremely happy with the end image, believing it to be much more professional in appearance. Su, however, believed it was a cool image but had nothing to do with her book. She asked me to try again with the original images. She also said she was running out of time because her set publishing date was only a few days away.

At this point, I had spend in the neighborhood of 30 hours playing with different versions of the cover. That is a ton of time to volunteer.

I told Su I could not devote any more of my time to her cover because my own writing and promotion was falling behind. I also suggested that self-publishing deadlines are wonderful but it is always better to publish late than put out something you might regret later. She was very thankful for the help I'd given her. We both gained from this. I learned tons about Photoshop and cover design. I also made a new friend in Su.

Here is the final cover Su decided on:

I wish her the best with the release of her second book. Here's where you can purchase her book:

Rock Star by Su Williams on Amazon


Designers, it's not about you. No matter what you think of the cover, if your client is not happy, you need to keep working. If the author is happy, stop. I know this is the better option but my ego still tugs at me to not put my name on something I can't be proud of.

Authors, keep it simple. The best advice I can give you is spend a few weeks looking at covers in your genre before you decide what your cover should look like

You can do some amazing things in Photoshop but you're still subject to Garbage In Garbage Out. The higher the resolution of the photos, the better you can manipulate them.

This isn't the point of covers. I understood this from my love of comic books. The cover image is supposed to set a tone for the story. It doesn't need to be accurate. My favorite cover designer, Christian McGrath, does the covers for the Harry Dresden stories. In every cover, Harry wears a hat. He almost never wears a hat in the books. Please don't get hung up on "accuracy" in cover art. That's not its purpose. Never has been.

Link: Christian McGrath's Official Website

Update - Sept 19, 2014

While browsing the internet today, I noticed that Su Willaims has updated the cover for RockStar. Here is the new cover which I believe works much better than the one posted above.

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

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Nightlife London - A Must-Read Sex-Filled Adventure with Vampires and Werewolves

I actually finished this book days ago but I couldn't bring myself to make the update on Goodreads. Why? Because this book is so awesome and I'm afraid any review I can give it will not do it justice.

SYNOPSIS (from Amazon)

Vampires Aaron and Michelle prowl the dark, gritty, strip clubs and back alleys of London on the hunt for Michael Jamison, the man who stole Michelle's blood and left her for dead. To assist them, Aaron’s new master, Urvashi, calls in favors from her friends, Russian mercenary werewolves.

Wolves Katya and Ivan, hunters adept at killing rogue vampires, set aside their animosity for Aaron and Michelle to stop Jamison from murdering another woman – he already has one bloodless victim lying in the morgue.

Jamison, ex-special forces, feels his enemies closing in, but he won’t go down without a fight – and like Aaron and Michelle, he also has powerful friends.

Experience the violent, sensual underbelly of Nightlife London, as Aaron and Michelle mix up a wicked blend of sex, chaos, mayhem, and vengeance.


What you have here is a tight, well-pace adventure that does not slow down for a second. I probably could have read the whole book in one setting but I purposefully spread it out because I wanted to enjoy it. Unless Travis can clone himself, it will be some time before the next installment. I am greedy for these characters. The more Luedke reveals about the characters, the more I want. With each book in the series, the world becomes larger and scarier.

The sex scenes in Nightlife London are off the charts. Stay in doors to read this. You may need to run to the shower to cool down.


Not enough. Never enough. I could have read another 100 pages with pleasure. However, Luedke focuses on strengthening the plot and pacing rather than giving us a big book. Which really isn't so bad after all.


I am officially in love with this series. Do yourself a favor and get in on the action

Pick Up The Nightlife London Now
Add The Nightlife London to your Goodreads "To Read" Pile
The Nightlife Official Blog
Travis Luedke on Smashwords
Travis Luedke


Friday, January 3, 2014

Evolution of a Cover - How I Designed the Cover for my Novel A Fallen Hero Rises

The cover for my second book, A Fallen Hero Rises, was my first attempt at a book cover. However, the road toward the final edition was a long one.

I spent hours and hours looking at free stock photos. There are dozens of sites that offer completely free photos or ones that require only recognition be given.  Here's a decent site showing you just some of the resources available.

In the end, I chose to purchase most of the graphics directly from Fotalia to avoid misunderstandings about copyright. For $40 you get 10 extra large pictures or up to 20 smaller size ones. That was more than enough for 4 or five book covers. It does take significant amount of time to wade through their galleries as their search engine kind of sucks. They also let you download comp images so you can do layouts with several options before committing to purchasing them.


I played around with images. Some of the mockups use professional models and are copyright protected. They were meant strictly for personal use and were never intended to be sold commercially. They served, however, for me get clear about what I wanted on the cover.

Mock up using .
Obviously, I didn't have the rights to use his image for a real cover

Mock up I liked but everyone else hated.
Also, it's a bit too homoerotic.

This got my thinking the right way but it didn't quite fit the story

Here's where I started getting close. Model from Fotalia.

Picture Sources:

Most graphics were purchased through Fotalia. The background image, the fur texture, and tail are from Pixabay. The font is Trajan Pro. Final image created using Photoshop Elements 12 with Premiere Elements and a Bamboo Graphics Tablet.

UPDATE: I redid the cover again. Click here for the process and final result: When To Change Your Cover Art

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, January 1, 2014

My New Year's Resolution - Write Stronger Women. UPDATED!

A few months ago, I saw this article on CBC.CA entitled Feminist movie rating system introduced in Sweden. My first response was "This is ridiculous." Keep in mind I actually consider myself a feminist, so I was actually quite surprised at my response. Then I read the article. It blew my mind.

To pass this rating system, a film only has to meet the following three requirements:

  1. Does it have at least two women who are given names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. When they spoke, was it about something besides a man?

So, you see, their not even rating movies based on how women are portrayed. They're rating the movie on whether or not women EXIST in the film.

Try the test out with any of your favorite movies and you'll see most don't pass this test.

Then I looked at my own writing. Admittedly, I write genres that typically have a predominantly male target market. But that's no excuse. If anything, that suggests I have a stronger obligation. I don't want to end up like Isaac Asimov. Check out his book Foundation. There is not a single female character in the book. Not one.

My first book, Council of Peacocks has several women in it, all of them have names. Each has a life outside of the men around them. Most have super powers or, in the case of Elaine, are trained killers. I don't have victims. No one needs rescuing. And not a single one of them could be replaced by a sexy lamp and have the story still make sense.

Link:  Bechdel vs. the Sexy Lamp Test

My newest novel, A Fallen Hero Rises, has five named women but only two that appear in more than one scene (I'm not counting the scene where Tadgh talks to his mother). I actively try pump up female voices in my work because I KNOW fantasy often under-writes them.

But I think I can do better.

My first two books are all told from the POV of male characters. This year I plan to change that.

In 2014 I will write and publish the sequels to Council of Peacocks and A Fallen Hero Rises. Before they are published I plan to apply the Bechdel test. I''m also scheduling two novellas to fill in the missing gender gaps. I will write standalone stories featuring Echo (from Council of Peacocks) and Eiodeesh (from A Fallen Hero Rises). This is easier than it sounds. In fact, I already have 70 pages worth of material from Eiodeesh that was cut from A Fallen Hero Rises for pacing.

It's very important to me that my novels represent the entire human race, not just to 48% of them.

UPDATE: December 2015

So how did I do? I wrote but decided not to publish the standalone book featuring Eiodeesh. At least not yet. The tone was too different from the other books and, quite frankly, it just didn't work. I also sidelined the standalone story with Echo as soon as I realized it should actually be a full-length novel. I'll have to get to that book later.

It wasn't all bad news, however. When writing Beyond the Black Sea, the sequel to Council of Peacocks, I realized I made new characters male by default. Each time I created a new character I forced myself to ask why they had to be male. The result? At least half of my characters are female which is a better representation of reality.

In Demons of DunDegore, I originally had a male character, Mikhel, the focus of one storyline. He interacted often with a female character who happened to be the head of a church. I swapped the point of view so that now we see events from her perspective. Again, at least half of my characters are female and not one of them needs to be rescued. They are all strong, independent, capable characters. A few of them kick butt but it's not their martial art skills or superpowers that make them strong characters.

Neil Gaiman's Advice for Writing Strong Female Characters
Bechdel Test Movie List - Pass/Fail

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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