An Ember in the Wind, Revision R71

I finished the first draft of An Ember in the Wind, just before my self-imposed deadline of 31 August. That was a close call, although meeting the deadline was more for personal satisfaction than anything else. Few things are more satisfying than solving a problem you went out of your way to create for yourself.

Next up, another revision! I’m happy enough with this draft that I don’t think a complete rewrite is necessary. But I do have a notebook full of notes that need consideration. Here’s a draft of the blurb.

 

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Mara is a young girl living in the height of the Italian Renaissance. When she runs away from home to join a group of scholars, she is ushered into an unseen world of fantasies – where the forests, flowers, and fields all have words to say. They clue her into the existence of the “sequence,” an intangible medium that governs the world like the gears of a clock, and instruct her to uncover it.

Just as she is about to unravel the riddle, she is forced from her home by an unknown assailant. Her grief causes her to lose her grasp of the magical world she once knew. Desperate to not completely let go, she travels to the city of Locana and employs the help of “the Ori,” a mysterious tutor who promises to help her see the world with the clarity she once had.

Meanwhile, her activities in the city draw the attention of a powerful and rising cult. They know that knowledge of the “sequence” bears implications of powers beyond even Mara’s own wild imagination, and seek to stop her. Mara realizes that in order to unravel the inner clockwork of the world, she must be able to see it with unadulterated eyes. But this means turning a blind eye to the impending perils of the cult and a brewing war. She must choose between dealing with the realities of a cruel world, or attempting to regain the innocence she lost.

An Ember in the Wind is the sequel to A Foundation in Wisdom.

The Internet Psychic

Perhaps you’ve met the “Internet Psychic” before. If you haven’t, give this a try! I’ll read your mind. Right now.

Think of any two-digit number. Add up the digits, and subtract the sum from whatever number you were thinking of. Look up the corresponding symbol in the chart. Close your eyes, scroll down, and when you open them again, I’ll have revealed the symbol in your mind.

psychic

Ready?

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Was this your symbol?

psychic-ans

Of course it was! If you haven’t figured out how it is done, see if you can crack the secret.

Hint. This isn’t it.

I’ll wait.

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Here’s the Trick…

If you didn’t notice it, the spider can be found on every multiple of 9. My version isn’t fancy. The flash version you may have encountered will scramble the symbols every time you play, so that you won’t get the same symbol repeatedly. However, if you play enough times, you may notice your number, after subtracting, is always a multiple of 9.

That’s not a coincidence. It’s a simple observation that any two digit number, minus the sum of the digits, is a multiple of 9.

Verifying this fun little nugget of mathematical insight can be done fairly quickly.

Pick any random two digit number. Call the tens digit A, and the units digit B. Then your number is 10A + B.

Subtracting (A + B) from 10A + B gives 10A + B – A – B, or 9A.

Hence, whatever number you think of will not only be a multiple of 9, it’ll actually be 9 times the tens digit of whatever number you picked.

This particular trick has been around for awhile. In fact, it even has its own article on snopes.com. So, chances are, if you show this to a friend, then (s)he may have seen it already.

There are a number of these sorts of tricks, usually involving adding or subtracting various quantities. They all revolve around the idea of giving the illusion of control.

The next question would be: Can you come up with something to top this trick? I bet if you crack open an undergraduate text on proof-writing, there will be a dozen exercises that can be turned into good candidates.

A System for Hybrid Books

Nothing to do with the post

After my post on hybrid novels from May, I started playing with the idea of writing a short for the purpose of an experiment. My wife is a fan of legal thrillers, and such a story seemed like the perfect guinea pig. I could present the story of a trial, with experimental features used to present evidence. Perhaps the reader could even take the place of a juror and decide the verdict for him/herself. Because everyone loves jury duty.

I began combing through the volumes of research, opinions, and other such resources available in the land of Google. The main roadblock, besides the lack of a clear definition of what a “hybrid book” is, is the lack of a standard system to present it to the reader. How would such a story be delivered to a Kobo, Kindle, Nook, etc?

This was a bit of a setback. How could I design a story for a system that didn’t exist? The only solution I could think of was write an app.

But why?

It didn’t seem like there was anything anyone described a “hybrid book” having that a typical web browser couldn’t handle.

It turns out there’s a bigger question here, and it doesn’t have anything to do with practicality. What is a “book”?

Have you ever heard of HyperCard? I vaguely remember putting together presentations with it for school. Only vaguely, because I was pretty young. But I do remember being disappointed with PowerPoint, once that product came around, because it couldn’t do what HyperCard did.

HyperCard was a multimedia presentation application. Much like PowerPoint, it allowed the user to create “cards” (slides). However, it had hypertext capabilities, and even its own programming language.

With the rise of the World Wide Web, HyperCard fell into obscurity. But not before giving us Myst.

If you grew up in the 90’s, you’ve almost certainly heard of Myst. It was a graphical adventure/puzzle game, placing you on a strange island. Essentially, your task was to reveal the backstory, which consisted of entering the books written by a peculiar author. Was Myst the darker side of Gumby?

If you look at the graphics, they seem almost too good for the mid-90’s. One reason for that is the player couldn’t move freely about the world.

The game consisted of pre-rendered stills. By clicking on a door, path, etc, you would be moved into the next room, and shown another still. Despite very favorable reviews from numerous critics, it was often panned as being “an interactive slideshow.”

In fact, the first versions of Myst were produced using HyperCard – a software tool designed to produce interactive slideshows.

In Myst, there was very little reading to do. Even books themselves, the plot devices the game revolved around, were mostly film clips. Yet, I’d say it qualifies as an example of that vaguely defined “hybrid book.”

For the more practical-minded, it doesn’t matter what it’s called. A game, a slideshow, a book, whatever, as long as it is enjoyable (or makes money, if that’s your thing), it’s good. But the World Wide Web has already blurred a lot of traditions. Perhaps it’s time for the book to stand up as well. Where is the line drawn?