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Molly’s Nifty Trick

Molly’s Nifty Trick published on 2 Comments on Molly’s Nifty Trick

In the Dresdenverse short story “Bombshells,” the only story told in first-person POV by Harry’s apprentice Molly Carpenter, she describes a way to incorporate math (!) into her version of the first spell she learned from him- the tracking spell- and uses it to estimate the distance to her target (Thomas Raith, using a few of his hairs) without having to actually go all the way there. This occurred to me as pretty significant because it’s not something Harry ever showed her how to do (or even figured out for himself) and it’s a vivid demonstration of Molly’s own strengths and intelligence.

Here’s how she did it.

The basic idea is that if the target of your tracking spell is close to you, and you’re moving, it will appear to shift a lot relative to your position. If it’s really far away, it won’t appear to move much at all when you move- it stays pretty much the same direction from you. Compare looking at faraway things as you drive past them to the things right at the side of the road that whoosh by your window. You may have even used some form of this trick in video games like Call of Duty, Skyrim, Arkham City, or anything else that lets you see a pinned location relative to which way you’re facing. For many years (before electronics got decently sophisticated) airplane pilots used bearing changes and a mechanical calculator to fudge estimates of their distance from radio navigation aids.

Jim Butcher didn’t stick an actual equation into the story, and rightly so, because it would have dragged the pace down to nothing and alienated the readership. But for those of us who are obsessive nerds who enjoy that level of detail, it’s surprisingly easy math to do. Despite the implication that Molly’s technique would involve high-school-level trigonometry, you can do it in your head, using only an ordinary magnetic compass and a tracking spell (or its equivalent).

Step 1: Go ahead and put that blood or hair or whatever in your mouth and follow the tingle of your lips (like Molly does) or dangle it from a string or a chain (like Harry Does, if you don’t relish the idea of putting such things in your mouth) and determine the direction of your target. Use the compass to determine the exact number of degrees that is relative to magnetic north. For now, let’s say that the target happens to be directly (0°) north of us.

Step 2: Turn so you’re facing perpendicular to the way the tracking spell points, so the target is directly to your right or to your left. For example, with our hair donor directly north of us, we’d need to face directly east or west. Now, walk a reasonable distance to measure (Molly uses the convenient unit known as a “Molly-pace”) keeping the target exactly off your shoulder. Make sure to go at least far enough to register a slight change in the direction you’re facing according to the compass.

Step 3: Measure the change in your compass bearing. Continuing our example, let’s say we started with our target directly north of us, and walked fifteen paces west. Checking the tracking spell against the compass, our target is now four degrees east (004°) of dead north, and we’re not facing directly west anymore- we’re facing four degrees north of that (274°). We’re now ready to plug in some numbers. Do not fear trigonometry- that’s not what we’re doing. Instead, do this:

Step 4: (Molly-paces x 60) ÷ degrees changed = Molly-paces to the target
To finish our example, we took fifteen paces to travel four degrees. Fifteen times sixty is nine hundred. Divide that by four degrees, and we’ve got a result of two hundred and twenty-five paces to the target… however far that is. If you’re not as tall as Molly, your results may vary.

I’m certain that the math nerds in the crowd started mumbling about cosines and reached for their scientific calculators before this last step. The reason this trick works, however, is not because it’s a 30-60-90 triangle, nor because it approximates an isosceles triangle. What we’ve done is approximate an arc-length of a circle.
As we already know, a circle (a) contains 360 degrees, and (b) has a constant ratio between its circumference and diameter, known as pi, or 3.1415926blahblahblah, which, for the sake of rough simplicity, we will approximate as 3. What Molly’s trying to figure out is the distance (in Molly-paces) from the center of the circle (the target) to the perimeter, a portion of which she’s just paced off. That distance (the radius ) is half of the diameter, so we’re going to use (in rough simplicity, 6) as the total number of Molly-paces it would take to walk around the entire circle, and then solve for

Since we know how much of the circle we’ve walked around (“degrees changed” out of 360), we also know what portion of the circumference we’ve paced off (“Molly-paces” out of 6). Since these are equal portions, all we need to do is simplify:

degrees changed = Molly-paces 360 6r

degrees changed * 6r = Molly-paces * 360

degrees changed * r = Molly-paces * 60

r = Molly-paces * 60/degrees changed

TA-DA!

It’s not terrifically precise, but it doesn’t have to be. It was close enough for Molly to locate Thomas in Svartalheim, and now you’re just that much cooler (and/or more dorky) for knowing it. Now, for your homework, go find Mouse. Ten paces off your shoulder gives you two degrees of bearing change.

Did Jim Butcher sit down and figure out the mathematics in Bombshells as Andy Hammond describes in his guest article, Molly's Nifty Trick?

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This wonderfully nerdy guest post was brought to you by Andy Hammond!

Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature

Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature published on 1 Comment on Mythological Mantles, Aspects, and Masks in Fantasy Literature

Forgive me for getting all academic here, but I’m going to put on my graduate school hat for a moment. As a fan, I just read stories and revel in their flow and fun. But occasionally, I like to admit that I do indeed have a Master’s degree in Communication Studies and dust off the passive voice, complex sentences and gobbledygook that makes it sound like I am a Deep Thinker. So here we go…

Mantles of power, varying aspects or incarnations of gods, and the masks they can wear are a mainstay of fantasy literature and represent the need and ability of characters, and humanity, to change.

As an example, take Odin. The All-Father. Far seeing, wise, powerful, the leader of the Norse Pantheon. He is also frequently mentioned in modern fantasy. Jim Butcher references him in The Dresden Files. Kevin Hearne has him as fairly central figure in The Iron Druid Chronicles. Rick Riordan features Norse gods in his new series featuring Magnus Chase. And of course, Odin is also an important figure in Marvel’s Thor movies.

odin

Physically, Odin is represented in all of these worlds as a male older figure with one eye. The one eye is a notable trait – indeed a symbol — derived from the original Norse myths, representing Odin’s sacrifice for wisdom.
In Butcher’s Dresden Files, Odin is only one aspect of a multi-faced character. Vadderung is the contemporary Odin, who lives in a modern day version of Midgard with a company front company front called Monoc Securities. Monoc is yet another ode to the one eye of Odin, as monocle in Latin literally means one eye. Sometimes Odin appears in another aspect, as in Cold Days, when he appears as Kringle, or as we may know him, Santa Claus.

The concept of a god wearing multiple mantles or aspects is not singular to Butcher. Lucienne Diver, who has not yet used Norse mythology in her Latter-Day Olympian series, uses the concept of varying aspects and incarnations as well. In her latest book, Blood Hunt, coming out at the end of October, she plays on this theme heavily. Apollo, for example, literally morphs physically into a member of the Egyptian pantheon. By using this technique both authors present the idea that gods represent concepts and that belief systems have universal needs, met and realized by similar aspects of what is essentially the same god.

Kevin Hearne uses Odin as an individual figure, but plays with the concept of multiple aspects with other characters. For example, he asks a devout Christian woman to imagine the Mother Mary, and when Mary appears, she looks as the woman imagined. Even Jesus changes looks/aspects/mantles depending on the belief system of His believers (read the sharply written Hammered).

One subtle but important difference does exist between the aspects of a god and the mantles. Previously, I have discussed them as if they were exactly the same thing, and they are not. A mantle can have a far deeper meaning as not just one face of a godlike incarnation, but a cloak of power that one can sluff off and hand to someone else. Or, more accurately, a cloak that transfers to another person once you die. Butcher does this beautifully in the ending scenes of Cold Days, as the Ladies’ mantles transfer to other vessels. They actually take a type of physical form and fly into the new vessels’ chests.

Confusing matters more, only a few pages later, in the same exact book, Butcher alludes to mantles as masks. “Masks, mantles,” Kringle said, “What’s the difference?” (Cold Days)

santaclaus

For readers, the difference is subtle yet instructive. While many of us wear masks, displaying different aspects of who we are or hiding part of ourselves, the masks can be removed and our true selves revealed. Humans can wear masks and it simply hides parts of who we are. Mantles, on the other hand, are components of godhood or at least fantastic power. Harry Dresden is handed the Winter Knight’s mantle, not the Winter Knight’s mask.

Another key difference is that Mantles typically bring responsibilities and burdens, and the very real possibility that the bearer will lose who he or she is and become what the Mantle wants them to be. This is Harry’s continued battle as he feels the power of the Winter Knight try to change who he personality and values. Even Molly, who now carries the Mantle of the Winter Lady, is changing in front Harry’s eyes, becoming less wizard and more Fae. She is absorbing and changing due to power given through the Mantle.

But, it should be noted that Molly wears a mask as well, displaying different aspects to different people, playing a challenging game that will inevitably fail. Winter Lady to the Fae, dutiful daughter to her mother and father, wizard and friend to Harry. The problem with masks, unlike mantles, is that they can slip. Mantles overpower. Masks hide. And tiny differences can signal the slipping of a mask and the revelation of the mantle’s changes, such as when Molly successfully uses a cell phone.

Whether an aspect, mantle or mask, the writer’s ultimate goal is give his or her character a reason to change. The changes can represent different incarnations of the same things such as when Diver’s gods morph from one pantheon to another, or challenging and terrible powers such as Dresden’s Winter Mantle, or even the power of individual belief, as in Hearne’s Jesus.

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The Duck Quacks

The Duck Quacks published on 4 Comments on The Duck Quacks

Theory 1: Molly/ Mab
Part 1

Quote
“You should not presume wizard. I adore Freedom. Anyone who doesn’t have it wants it”


WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE FOR MOLLY AND MAB

This all started with the headaches. Harry has them, we all know this. There have been a few suggestions as to why; Lash coming back, permanent brain damage at the end of WN, perhaps he has strained his magic too much, but then I realized we know at least one cause for this headaches; he has them in SF, when Mab messed with his head while she borrowed his blasting rod, and reprogrammed his head to forget he had ever had it. While discussing this, I wondered well then, if she caused that headache, what else could have happened during the books that she could have taken or messed with?

Which gives us, in discrete mathematics, our starting point?

STATEMENT: Mab caused the headaches.

I am not saying this is the truth, I am stating it as the point of argument. In discrete math, you start with an assumption, then build on it one point at a time, as a test to determine if the original point is true. (For all rational numbers N, if N is F(N) is true, then F( N+1) is true; if you then can reverse it from the final conclusion, the theory is true ; this is called the principles of incursion and reduction.)

So, following this point, what other headaches could have been caused by Mab? It was He Whom Walks who first noted that in the book Turn Coat, that little Chicago was not mentioned. Which is strange, as Harry was desperate to find Thomas; and in every other book, Harry mentions it in every other book, and it had been repaired form it’s damage taken in WN as it was used in SF. Furthermore, when Harry does refer to the table, it is covered by a heavy tarp; which are the same words he used to describe his missing memories of the blasting rods on SF, page 312. And we know Mab caused those headaches, it describes the headaches, right on that very page.

Additional point, Namshiel’s missing coin. We have been assuming That either Marcone, Hendricks, or Gard took it. But Marcones says he did not, Hendricks has shown no signs of it, and Gard was driving. But what if there were other people on the island, undetectable to mortal eyes? Mab cannot interfere directly in mortal affairs, but she can claim anything Harry owns or has rights to. His “life, his fortune, his future”; once he defeated Namshiel was defeated his coin by right of battle was Harry’s and Mab could step in and claim it. ( I will admit this one may be stretching things, but it’s just a side idea.)

STATEMENT: Mab fixed little Chicago in Proven Guilty. “even if there HAD been a threshold, it wouldn’t have done diddly to stop any number of supernatural baddies. The fetches in PG hammered down the /Carpenters’/ front door, and that’s a threshold like the rock of firkin’ Gibraltar. The loup-garou sneered at such things. A threshold wouldn’t slow down a Denarian for a moment, nor would it stop ghouls, ogres, or any number of largely physical (as opposed to manifested spiritual) beings. And even if the skinwalker had been something summoned from the Nevernever into a manifested physical body, the toad demon was one of those too, and IT stomped through Harry’s pathetic threshold in the very first book”

-Jim Butcher

Which leaves questions of how Mab got past the wards, Past Bob- something I consider a point in her favor actually; of all the suspects she could mess with Bob the easiest; and most importantly, how could she have predicted this chain of events?

Carol Berg is a genius, I am not exaggerating or anything

Carol Berg is a genius, I am not exaggerating or anything published on 2 Comments on Carol Berg is a genius, I am not exaggerating or anything

ash and silver

Ever since the Order of the Equites Cineré stole his memory, his name, and his heart, thinking about the past makes Greenshank’s head ache. After two years of rigorous training, he is almost ready to embrace the mission of the Order—to use selfless magic to heal the troubles of Navronne. But on his first assignment alone, the past comes racing back, threatening to drown him in conspiracy, grief, and murder.

He is Lucian de Remeni—a sorcerer whose magical bents for portraiture and history threaten the safety of the earth and the future of the war-riven kingdom of Navronne. He just can’t remember how or why.

Fighting to unravel the mysteries of his power, Lucian must trace threads of corruption that reach from the Pureblood Registry into the Order itself, the truth hidden two centuries in the past and beyond the boundaries of the world…

A few words about this book. Several years ago, she wrote a duology about a young wastrel named Valen, who is addicted to drugs and on the run from his family. Obviously, there is much there that resonates with me, and the Lighthouse Duology became two of my favorite books ever. Berg is one of those writers who likes to keep it fresh and exciting — much like Guy Gavriel Kay, she completes a project and then starts over with a fresh world, new characters, a new system of magic, and new challenges. Never once did I think she would return to Navronne and to Valen. Then, a couple years ago, she announced that she would indeed be exploring Navronne again, in a companion series.

I have to admit, that made me groan. If there is one thing I like more than falling in love with a character, it is having the promise of more books featuring said character. A new duology set in Navronne, but void of Valen? It seemed a sort of torture. There is room for more about Valen — the ending of Breath and Bone seemed poised to be the perfect spring from which a new duet could emerge.

And then I read Dust and Light.

Lucian is the complete opposite of my favorite rampaging drug addict. He never met a rule he didn’t love to uphold, he took his responsibilities seriously, and he would never, ever have repudiated his family as did Valen. Lawful good types usually annoy me, but there is something beautiful and pure about Lucian.

The world-building, though. I am deeply amazed at how the two duets fit so seamlessly together. The Sanctuary books (Dust and Light, and Ash and Silver) fulfill the Lighthouse books, and give them more meaning, more nuance. I don’t know how she did this, I really don’t. Maybe she had Lucian in mind all the while she wrote Valen. Perhaps she knew the mysteries of the Sanctuary duet before she even probed the mysteries of the Lighthouse. Perhaps she is a genius.

I miss my drug addict wastrel Valen, but throughout Ash and Silver, Lucian became the bravest man I have ever met. Word is that she will one day return to Navronne to finish the story, to have the unstoppable Valen meet immovable Lucian, to see what happens when Order meets Disorder. Until that day comes, I think I will go ahead and reread all the books (again) to see if there are any connections I missed the first three times. Come join me!

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Carol Berg is the author of several fantasy novels, including the books from the Rai-Kirah series, Song of the Beast, the books from The Bridge of D’Arnath series, the Lighthouse novels, the Collegia Magica Chronicles, and the Sanctuary Duet.

Berg holds a degree in mathematics from Rice University, and a degree in computer science from the University of Colorado.[1] Before writing full-time, she designed software. She lives in Colorado, and is the mother of three boys.

An Interview with Shawn Speakman

An Interview with Shawn Speakman published on

51wR6eamEQL._UX250_Shawn Speakman grew up in the beautiful wilds of Washington State near Mt. St. Helens. After moving to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, he befriended New York Times bestselling fantasy author Terry Brooks and became his webmaster. It has led to a life filled with magic and words.

He was a manager at one of the largest Barnes & Noble Booksellers in the country for many years but now owns the online bookstore The Signed Page, manages the websites for authors Terry Brooks and Naomi Novik, and freelance writes for Random House at Suvudu.com.

Shawn is a cancer survivor, knows angel fire east, and currently lives in Seattle, Washington.

About the Book

We were fortunate to score an interview with Shawn in which we discuss his latest anthology, Unbound.

Unbound features works by:

cover-unbound-275x419

  • Joe Abercrombie
  • Kristen Britain
  • Terry Brooks
  • Jim Butcher
  • Rachel Caine
  • Harry Connolly
  • Delilah S. Dawson
  • David Anthony Durham
  • Jason M. Hough
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Mark Lawrence
  • Brian McClellan
  • John Marco
  • Tim Marquitz
  • Seanan McGuire
  • Peter Orullian
  • Kat Richardson
  • Anthony Ryan
  • Shawn Speakman
  • Brian Staveley
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Sam Sykes
  • Mazarkis Williams

Interview

Todd Lockwood contributed the cover artwork.

Unbound is getting a lot of pre-release attention, and I know that a ton of people are excited to read it, me included. Can you walk us through the process of creating an anthology, from start to finish? What’s it like to be a story-wrangler?

The decision to publish Unbound was a hard one but not for the reasons you might think. When I published my debut novel, The Dark Thorn, and the anthology Unfettered, I didn’t know if I wanted to start a publishing press. Having talked to Subterranean Press’s Bill Schafer a great deal when putting together Unfettered, I knew how much work it would be. I had to convince myself that it would be worth it. That took longer than I thought.

After I decided to grow Grim Oak Press with Unbound and Unfettered II, it became much easier. I have befriended many writers over my twenty years of working in the field and extending anthology invitations has been easy, especially with the success of Unfettered. Once I had about 20 writers, I told them to get to work. They write. I receive the stories. I edit. My friend Rachelle copyedits. The writer fixes the edits. And voila! We have a book! The hardest part? Arranging the stories in a way that maximizes the impact of the overall anthology on the reader.

Which three stories in Unbound are you most excited to see reader reaction to, and why?

Since Unbound is an anthology without a theme—the writers could submit any story they wanted to in so long as it was a genre tale—I have received some great stories. I can’t pick a favorite. That said, I am really interested to see what people think of Madwalls by Rachel Caine, River and Echo by John Marco, An Unfortunate Influx of Filipians by Terry Brooks, and Jury Duty by Jim Butcher. The first two are really emotional tales and the last two are laugh-out-loud hilarious. Especially the Brooks story. Anyone who loves the Landover series will want to buy the anthology just for this story alone!

Not only do you have a short story of your own in Unbound, but you’re a novelist as well. Which is more difficult for you, writing a novel, or writing a short story?

I know many authors who have a hard time with short stories. Terry Brooks is famous for saying it takes him twice as long to write a short story as it does a novel. For me, I’m the opposite. Short stories come very naturally to me. Always have. I can have an idea, flesh it out entirely within an hour, and finish writing it in a few days. In fact, I take more enjoyment from short stories—at the moment, anyway—because I am reaching a broader audience with them. And they have helped me with my novel writing, where each chapter should be similar in design to that of a short story.

The other great thing I love about writing short stories is the chance to discover new things about my novel’s world without having to force it into the novel. For instance, my Unbound story is a grimdark tale told from the point of view of a villain who has a cameo in The Everwinter Wraith but who plays a much larger role in the next book, The Splintered King. I needed to write the Unbound short story before I could even think about writing his chapter in Wraith. I didn’t know Tathal Ennis until that happened.

I hope you don’t mind if, now that I have your complete attention, to ask about your next full length novel: The Everwinter Wraith. What can you tell us about it, aside from it is set five years after The Dark Thorn? How far into the writing process are you with it?

The Everwinter Wraith is ultimately about consequences to life choices. My main character, Richard McAllister, helped avert a disaster of Biblical proportions in The Dark Thorn. But his role in that novel indirectly moved other chess pieces on the board. I’ll just say that nature abhors a vacuum and evil loves to take up residence in that void.

As far as writing, it has come far too slowly. I have a lot going on in my life, especially with Terry’s The Shannara Chronicles airing in January, and finding time to write has been difficult. But I’ve been putting down words at a great pace for the last month. Terry and I are even racing words right now. I hate to lose. And so does he. So it makes for a fun competition that benefits both of us. The Everwinter Wraith is over 1/3 done but that part is always the hardest 1/3 for me. I expect things to move even faster as we head toward the New Year. I should know a publication date by then.

And last, a fun question: If you were given ten million dollars (after taxes), what are the first three big-ticket items you would buy?

I’m a simple man with simple needs. I don’t possess a lot of “things,” if that makes sense. I’d probably build a nice home on the Oregon coast, build a nice home on the Hawaii coast, and the third big-ticket item I would hold back in case my future children needed something big-ticket.

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse published on

FCoverJP

About the Book

In Light of the Blood Giant
By A. D. Fosse
Genre: Animal Fantasy; Science Fiction; Dystopian; Apocalyptic
Superluminal Press
Publication Date: November 13, 2015

A. D. Fosse delivers a darkly different futurist fantasy. Offbeat, subversive, and richly grotesque. The apocalypse just got weird…

Long after the death of humankind came the Hive. Then rose the Blood Giant bringing chaos and the end. Now the Earth is done and all that remains are the discontinued: those the Hive deemed unworthy of evacuation.

Dusk is addled and abandoned. His only concern now is deciding how best to die. The only thing he knows for certain: he aint gonna be sober when extinction finally takes him. Yet hope hides in the strangest of places. And soon Dusk finds himself responsible for more than simply his own destiny.

Great. Another thing to love and lose.

Review

This is an odd one. I mean that in a good way. Mostly.

After humans abandon the earth completely, escaping the impending expansion of the sun from a yellow dwarf into a red giant, shuttling off into space to find a way to live, the swarm of rats came up, out of the depths of the earth and started their own civilization. Then, even the rats, evolved and intelligent and now with useful stomach pouches, realize that the earth isn’t habitable for much longer, and most of them–the ones who are pure or worthy, anyway–leave the earth as well.

This is where the tale begins–with a drug-fiend rat named Dusk, left behind by his betters to die. One of the strengths of Fosse’s tale is that his lead character is not human. This allows for some dark events–for example, a lead human character whose first “onscreen” acts are shooting drugs and eating some infants wouldn’t be likable. For a rat, we’re left remembering that rats aren’t people. They have their own societal norms, acceptable practices, and biological drives. Dusk isn’t especially likable to begin with, even aside from the drug dependency and the “ratricide.” But after his drug-aided consumption of several young rats and subsequent loss of consciousness, he awakens to discover that one of the tiny-tails is still alive. Having been abandoned to the earth’s destruction, Dusk doesn’t see much reason to try to save the infant. But he does feel that the little rodent deserves a better death. His feelings alter and change, we eventually see more of his past, and we see a different future than he imagined. The protagonist isn’t static by any means.

In some ways, this book is a bit like The Road meets The Rats of NIMH as told by a British version of a beat-generation author–William S. Burroughs, maybe. We meet some other interesting characters along the way: a sociopath called only “the Snowy,” a pure white rat who hasn’t dropped his job from before the establishment left; Astral, a black rat who is in dire straits when we meet her; some mysterious rats wearing masks, other rats that shave their heads and have a bone to pick. The setting seems to be (if I parsed it correctly) continental Europe and England, each owning about half of the book.

This book is non-traditional in every sense of the word. We even shift to several other third-person semi-limited points of view toward the end of the book, leaving Dusk behind for a brief time when the action is thickest.

On the critical side, this book could use another run of edits. There are several missed spelling errors, some areas that need clarification, and some metaphors that don’t fit the time, setting, or characters . Another set of eyes could bring this book from a flawed mid-draft of an intriguing concept to a hell of a book. I’d love to see the book get a deep combing through by a professional editor. In the meantime, I worry that this is a clever work that might be passed over by readers who don’t want to work so hard to get to the dark (but hopeful) story and characters underneath.

 

About the Author

Author close
A. D. Fosse is a physicist and science communicator from the East Midlands of England. His brain is rarely elevated more than five feet and eight inches from terra firma, though his thoughts are wafting somewhere in the clouds.

He is younger than some and older than others.

His first novel In Light of the Blood Giant, continues to be elusive to read whilst driving.

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This tour was organized by Sage’s Blog Tours.

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