Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mage Types

Kaity Cosette by Cathy Razim,
“There are three categories of mage…the psychic, the kinetic, and the ethereal. I am psychic, I can touch the mind. Your mother, Kaity and Nico are of the kinetic, they touch the world.  Misa was of the ethereal.  She could touch what exists in between.”
- Teren, Return to the Castle

There are thousands of variations of mage, but a few types seem to pop up more than others. Polaris Academy officially recognizes three types of mage, Kinetic, Psychic and Ethereal. Many mages also argue there exists two other types, the Cross Mages and the Forbidden.


Kinetic mages are the most common of all mages.  They can manipulate the world that surrounds them. Some mages have generic skills, others seem to be able to touch only certain particles.  Kinetic mages often need to make a physical gesture to activate their abilities, such as a sweeping hand motion.  With time, they learn greater control and can use their powers with barely a twitch of the eye.

Terra Mage
(Rock Shapers, Mud Movers, Sand Witch)
Occurrence: Common

These mages are often revered as fine sculptors.  A terra mage formed Castle Aurumice in Trabalis as well as Castle Nova in the Katanzaro province.  They are excellent at discerning base materials such as metals.

Water Mage/Air Mage
(Weather Witch, Gada-wry)
Occurrence: Common
These mages are known for abilities to influence the water molecules in the air, granting them the ability to freeze objects. Some have additional abilities, allowing them to generate lightning, various gasses, fog and clouds.  Though we often think of Water and Air as separate elements, but as mage strengths they tend to manifest together.
Examples: Lily Vance

Fire Mage
Occurence: Common
These mages have the ability to generate sparks and control fire.  The degree of control varies, but some fire mages can create snakes, walls or nets of fire.  Fire mages need something to ignite in order to generate fire.  They often carry flammable materials such as oils and powders for just that purpose.

Light Mage

Occurrence: Common
The butt of all mage jokes, the glowbug is regarded as the least powerful of all mage types. Glowbugs are regarded as a subset of fire mages, though many fire mages disregard glowbugs as having any association.  Light mages can cause a material to glow, emitting light, but little else.  Occasionally glowbug mages gain acclaim when they pair their abilities as bards or story tellers.  They create interesting camp-fire tales, spinning beautiful art in light.

Shadow Mages

(Dark Cloaks, Cloakies, Corner Crawlers, Society of Sombra)
Occurrence: Common
As the name implies, these mages have an uncanny ability to move shadows and darkness.  In reality, they move photons of light, but their abilities give them a strength towards pushing them away, generating darkness.  Though Shadow Mages are really a variation of Glow Bugs, they have branded themselves as a distinct sect and train heavily in evading detection.  Young Shadow Mages are recruited by Castle Nova separately from Polaris Academy and become part of an organization known as the Shadow Runners.  They are a fiercely loyal group and enjoy privilege for their service.
Examples: Saurin Bane

True Warriors

Occurrence: Common
True Warriors have an uncanny command of the body.  They are incredibly strong and swift.  Their senses are well-attuned.

Occurrence: Uncommon
These mages manipulate particles in the air to generate an illusion.  Unlike light mages, illusionist mages possess greater control.  Light mages can only create images that glow, illusionists can create realistic visuals.  


Occurrence: Rare

These mages can alter the very building blocks of a substance at an atomic level.  For example, they can take water, separate it into hydrogen gas and oxygen.  Transmutation usually occurs at a small level, changing only a small amount of a material.  Transmutation mages were once banned, now they are heavily regulated by Polaris Academy.  They serve Castle Nova exclusively and rarely travel.  No doubt the coffers of Castle Nova are kept well stocked by the rare abilities of transmutation mages.

Echo Mages

(Bats, Shakers)
Occurence: Common

The abilities of an echo mage operates the same way dolphins and bats use echolocation.  This mage type can send on an energy pulse and detect its returning resonance.   They detect the pulse The strongest echo mages can unleash an energy pulse powerful enough to create earthquake-like effects.

Standard Kinetic

Occurrence: Uncommon
Standard Kinetic is a misnomer, as a standard kinetic mage is anything but the standard.  It is rare for mages to have the ability to move any object or substance with their mind

Examples: Kaity Cosette (Kaity has a slightly stronger control over liquids than other materials)


These mages control the mind, able to manipulate people's perception of the world.
(Orrayion, Far-seers, Far-listeners)
Occurence: Common
This type of mage can utilize a person's eyes or ears without their knowledge.  Some can see far, some can hear, a few can taste, smell or even touch through the senses of others.  Of this type, far-listeners are the most common manifestation.

Examples: Jared Evansi (far-seer)


(Animarriea, Chitter Mages, Gryphon Talkers, Dragon Speakers, Pig Listeners, etc...)
Occurence: Common
Beastspeaking is a very common form of psychic mage.  Some can understand creatures, while others can understand and make themselves understood.  Many beast speakers specialize in communication with one species or subset of animals (rodents, insects, fish, etc...).  "Chitter" mage is a term used in jest, implying that mages only talk to rodents.  Beast speakers are often titled by the animal which they specialize in communicating with, (bicorn speakers, gryphon talkers, etc....)

Examples: Beatrix  Allen (specialized in canine speak)


(Dalalune, Mind Readers, Mindspeakers, Mindlisteners)
Occurrence: Uncommon
These individuals can communicate psychically with other people.  Many can read surface thoughts, others can "mindspeak" allowing for telepathic broadcast.  Strength of this gift varies greatly but often requires physical contact to allow the transfer of thoughts. In some cases, True Psionics can only communicate with family members or other psychic mages. It takes many years of practice to mindspeak across a room.  Very few can mindspeak across a village or town.  

Examples:  Elina Verdian


There are many ways ethereal mages mirror psychic and kinetic mages, however, there are two major differences between ethereals and the other two branches of mages.  One, they are generally regarded as more mystical, able to manipulate "what exists between" the kinetic and psychic, or a more advanced level of psychic ability branching on mystical. Two, the effects of the ethereal have a lasting impact on the world.  For example, a kinetic weather witch with the correct skill set could create a wall of electrical energy, but it would only exist as long as that kinetic mage powers it.  An ethereal barrier mage can tap into ethereal energy and create a wall that exists long after they have gone.


(Sleepwalkers. Fairies)
Occurrence: Rare

Polaris Academy is in great debate if dreamspinners are ethereal or simply a special type of psychic mage.  Dreamspinners posses the ability to influence the dreams of others.  They can lull someone into a sleep and generate an artificial dream world.  Some dreamspinners have been able to connect the dreams of others, or trap people in an eternal sleep.  
Examples: Misa

Gate Mages

Occurrence: Rare
These mages can manipulate the energy of the trans dimensional portals that connect Centernia to other realms.  They can create gates and destroy them at will. Gates can be altered by a collection of mages, but more often than not you need the energy of a Gate Mage in the mix to be most effective.   

Barrier/Forcefield Mages

Occurence: Uncommon
Sometimes mistaken for having telekinetic mages, these magic-users use ethereal magic to generate invisible walls.  A Barrier mage is different from a kinetic mage in that the fields they make can be permanent/semi permanent and have different effects.  For example, the field created by Justen Wynter only permitted certain people to cross the forcefield.  Barrier mages strive to work well with other mages.  For example, a barrier mage may work with a weather witch to create an invisible canopy to permanently repel the rain, (as is found in areas of Castle Nova)
Known Barrier Mages:  Justen Wynter


(Past Reader, Bookies)
Occurrence: Uncommon

A unique and unusual mage type, these individuals can 'read' the past history of an object.  The sensation is described as seeing back in time, they can sense events and pyschic fragments of people who had physical contact with an object.  Jewelry is a particular favorite of past readers as they are rich in essence of past wearers and often stand the test of time.
Known Psychometric: Corwin Evansi


Occurrence: Rare
These mages create mage markers, objects that possesses the ability to connect people.  A binding mage was  responsible for creating the marker of Aurumice.  The most skilled Binding mages when working with Psychic mages can create the Mark of Corvallian, a tattoo which renders the bearer invisible to psychic mages.


Occurrence: Rare
Much like an echo mage, these mages can send out energy and detect if a mage is nearby.    Finders and Binders will have been called into service by Polaris to permanently mark criminals, allowing mages to always be aware of their presence.

Transformation Mage

(Majikey, Spark Prism, Metanoia, Conversion Mages)
These mages are often confused for other types, including Fire and Gate mages.  They have the ability to manipulate Gate energy, harnessing it into other forms.  Once it has taken another form, they may find it difficult to control.  Conversion Mages enjoy shifting raw ethereal power into electricity, so it is likely to assume that it was a conversion mage was responsible for harnessing the node of power beneath Aurumice and transforming it into a seemingly endless supply of electrical energy. Conversion Mages when working with barrier mages are also responsible for the creation of shadow spheres and other magical objects.

Cross mages

Polaris Academy does not acknowledge the concept of a 'cross mage' in their three categories of mages.  Its widely accepted that cross mages exist.  The following mages have been considered ethereal mages by Polaris Academy.

Blood Mages/Healers

Occurrence: Uncommon
Categorized as kinetic mages, these individuals can manipulate blood cells.  The question comes in to play as blood tends to be 'lifestuff', as bloodmages may be deemed ethereal depending on where their talents lie.  Most are skilled at healing skin while others heal bone. Some refer to bloodmages as Healers, but they can often harm as easily as they can hurt.

Plant Weavers

Occurrence: Common
Much like a blood mage, but can manipulate plants in the same manner.  They can encourage rapid growth or crossbreed plants with rapid success.

Forbidden Mages

Castle Nova and Polaris Academy have deemed the following mage types too dangerous to be allowed to live.  Any individual found to have these powers are immediately executed, regardless of age or affiliation.

Empathy Mages

This mage is very similiar to a psychic mage, and in olden times had been considered with the same reverence.  Sinari cannot read thoughts, but they can read emotions.  More importantly, they can force a person's emotions to change without their knowledge, making them skilled negotiators, but also dangerous warlords.
Examples: Teren


A cruel variation upon a blood mage, these mages can cause blood to anti-coagulate and continue to flow through a body.  The person or creature is barely alive, and very zombie-like.


Clarivoyant mages able to read the future.  Some claim they do not exist, others claim they do but Polaris Academy has stamped them out of existence.


This variation of a kinetic mage is skilled at breaking down the world at a molecular level.  They can destroy a person or object with catastrophic results.  Once the dissolvia breaks down an object, they can very rarely put it make together.  Dissolvia are sometimes regarded as transmutation mages who never gained the ability to reassemble what they have destroyed.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Questions and Answers: Editing

How old were you when you started writing?

When I was in second grade, I wrote and illustrated a story called "Marvin the Marry Mouse".  It was a Christmas tale about a mouse whose older sister told him there was no Santa.  He wrote a letter to Santa and then received bunch of presents.   Character, conflict, resolution. It was drawn on tracing paper in blue pen while I was playing in the back patio of my grandparents' house.  I continued to write from that point forward.  Many of my stories featured cats, horses, and whatever I was obsessed with at the time (stickers, XMen, Littlest Pet Shop, Sailor Moon, Star Wars, etc...).  When I was twelve I began writing original work.


Do you edit as you write?  When I write I start with an idea, but get stuck looking for the correct words.

No, I do not try to edit on the first draft. For me, writing is this mad dash to grab everything that is falling out of my brain.  I focus on the dialog and conflict first.  Without conflict, there is no story.  In the first run  there is usually some bits of setting, but the character interaction is paramount. On the second run through I begin to fill out setting and fix spelling and grammar.  I lose track of the amount of times I edit as I'm ironing story.

Do you use any special software as you write?

I keep track of the story with Excel spreadsheets.  I have editing checklists to help me look out for problems like overuse of pronouns, forgetting to describe setting, and comma splices (I swear I'm mending my ways!).  I like to print out my spreadsheets and check-off sections as I move along.  As far as writing goes I use plain old MS Word.  Sometimes I will capture chapters in Google Docs if I don't have my writing laptop with me.

Do you have any trouble deleting chapters that just don't fit?

I don't get overly attached to chapters because I don't permanently delete anything.  I have documents of story scraps. I haven't thrown out a single bit of Centernia since 1997.  Story that's meant to be a part of the story has a tendency to bubble back up.  I may delete something, but then that bit of dialog reappears months later in a different chapter.  Some days it seems as if the story writes itself and my job is simply to record it. :-)

No question too oddball!  Email us to have your questions answered in the next Centernia Q & A. 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Music Feature: Heart

Music Feature

I write Centernia to an incredibly eclectic mix of music.  Sometimes it's the melody that gets me, the lyrics of the song, or simply the voice of the singer. Today's feature from my playlist:

Heart: Alone
Album: Bad Animals

I think I prefer the Kim Sozzi candlelight version, but it's not presently available on YouTube. However, this video features Heart in is 80s hair-band glory.  The video is great, the costuming, the mysterious setting, and the fact they throw a white horse in there for fun.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Two Steps Back and One Baby Step Forward

Saving old drafts is an important part of the writing process, as is accepting the fact that sometimes life can take you down the wrong editing path.  I had to learn this hard lesson in the past few months when I hit a few unexpected challenges.

My daughter was born in September.  The Centernia sequel, The Crimson Mage was completed in the weeks prior to her arrival.  I was pleased that I was on track to release the book by the end of the year.  I figured I had plenty of time finish editing it, run it by my trusted circle of proofreaders, and then send it to the copyeditor.  It seemed that the book would be out by December.

People had cautioned that the baby would send a wrench into my plans, but I generally try to ignore naysayers and steam (or stumble) through life.  In my mind I had a perfect plan to keep working once my girl arrived:  While she napped, I would edit and write.  If sleep deprivation became awful, I would switch to formula and shift half the overnight feeds to my husband.  Laundry? Disposable diapers!  Food? Wegmans pre-made meals and paper plates. All problems solved.

I was so ready to own this baby thing.

And then my daughter was born.  She was perfectly healthy, kicking and crying.

Somewhere between the hospital and home, I discovered there's a part of the postpartum recovery process that's glossed over.  It was a situation I hadn't planned for, and something that couldn't be thwarted by throwing money at it.

I had known that some mothers suffer from postpartum depression, but no one really mentioned that it could happen to me.  Neither did anyone tell me that it comes packaged under two names. First, there are the 'baby blues', the sadness that happens to seventy-five percent of new moms. If the baby blues don't go away after a few weeks, you're given a 10 question written quiz, (Edinburgh Post Natal Depression Scale). Failing the quiz means you're labeled with postpartum depression and offered pills.

In the days following my daughter's arrival, nothing seemed right. I was particularly hit by anything that seemed to signify the passage of time.  The baby meant that I was a parent, which turned my parents into grandparents, which meant EVERYONE IS OLD. I was convinced this cute tiny creature would just turn into a teenager and leave me, I would be sad and miserable and lonely for the rest of my life, I was going to die ANY MOMENT, and all life is tragedy.

None of this is rational, but it's how I felt.

I tried to sing lullabies to my baby, the ones I had known as a kid.  Five words in and tears streamed down my face.

I saw a Jeep Liberty in a parking lot that looked like my first car. I cried the entire drive home.

The most pathetic moment was when my husband pointed out that the tree in our front yard was changing to a pretty color.  I was instantly a blubbering, sobbing mess.

What do my baby woes have to do with Centernia?  In a post-natal frenzy while crying over autumn leaves, I ripped apart The Crimson Mage.   I took out chapters, tried to restructure the plot and change the character focus.  I started hating Jessica, jealous of her teenage freedom.  I wanted to snuff out Nico with the end of a pencil and save her from any possible marriage and babies and miserable loneliness.  Jessica should stay home and be in high school forever because that's where I wanted to be.

The novel became barely recognizable and I was convinced I was a failure at everything, including my career, my friends, my marriage and my family.  Life was pointless and terrifying.  I would crawl under a blanket and lament every life choice from living in Rochester, (which I had been happily doing for twelve years), to adopting my fluffy black cat (because she was going to get sick and die ANY MOMENT).

After a while, the haze started to lift just a tiny bit.  It wasn't a single moment, but a gradual transition.  My baby started smiling more, I went horseback riding and doing conventions again. Work found me and I began to find my groove.

What happened to Centernia? Accidentally opening an old file for The Crimson Mage, I realized that I liked my old draft better, and was very grateful I made it a strict habit to save multiple versions of every work.  At the same time, it was disappointing to recognize that two months of editing was completely worthless.

I have accepted that time was lost, and I've also accepted the fact that I am still not quite my normal self.  As I fight to figure out my new normal, I try to take writing time each day after my daughter falls asleep.  In the quiet stillness, I revisit my old friends, anger against Jessica and Nico blown far away with the autumn leaves.   Life is moving forward again and I hope to reward the patience of everyone who has been waiting for the sequel.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Centernia: A One Year Retrospective

September 2nd holds significance to Centernia as it's the day Muse died and the same day first printed proof arrived in the mail.  It truly marks the beginning of Return to the Castle.

This has been a whirlwind, and I have learned so much and am so grateful.  We did a pre-order at RocCon in Rochester, NY in mid-September, and followed it with a full launch at New York Comic Con in October.  After which, the book was whisked to Detroit for Youmacon, Genericon in Troy, Anime Boston, Tora Con, Sci-Fi Valley Con.

I learned some rough lessons too.  The first edition was edited, but errors still snuck through and I put out an updated edition in February.

The hardest lesson I've learned is that writing a sequel is not as easy as I had anticipated.  My husband chides me, reminding me that the core story of Return to the Castle was the story I had written and re-written over a half dozen times before I froze it into its final printed form.  It's natural that this story will be harder to lock down.  My friend Jackie reminds me that readers who are already invested in the world will love it regardless, and hang on for subsequent books.  Everyone has a certain favorite book in a series, it may not be the first, second or even third.

Hooman, I has your notes and pen. You fail.
The sequel, the Crimson Mage, is written.  It's currently being edited, but this editing process is so much deeper.   First of all, the story has to flow from the first and be a bridge to the third.  It needs give new readers a proper introduction to the world in case they skip the first book.  It needs to be as compelling and interesting as Return to the Castle, but different.

As I'm caught in the mire of editing, I feel an enormous pressure.  Simply put, I want this story to not suck, and I appreciate the fans who kindly wait with words of encouragement.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Q and A: Cursing

Where does the curse blood'ura come from?

Writing the curses of Centernia was as enjoyable as creating the creatures and places.

Blood'ura is an abbreviation for Blood of Aurora, very similar insult to the Shakespearian zounds, meaning Christ's Wounds.

There is a joy in creating insults that are really close to the english in cadence and consonant sounds. I have growing library file where I collect these bad-sounding yet technically completely innocuous words. My favorites? Maggot suckin', bloody shunt, rock sucker, goat screw, tick and jackhole.

In the next book, will we learn more about the fallout between Jessica's parents?
Yes. There is definitely a lot more story to unearth from the past. The scars run deep.

Why did you decide to write Return to the Castle? Where do you get your ideas?

I get asked this question a lot. I wrote Return to the Castle because I had to. The characters have a comfortable residence in my mind, and they tell me their stories, and it seems wasteful not to write it all down.

Ideas flow freely, but good ideas need to be cultivated. Sometimes I look at Centernia like an overgrown lush garden. Some ideas are beautiful, and need to be given space to grow, perhaps a trellis to climb upon. Some ideas are interesting, just placed in the wrong spot, overshadowing other more delicate ideas. Some concepts are just terrible, and it's difficult to find the strength to uproot them and cast them aside.

As far as where specific ideas come from, it's all the real world re-written, re-invented, mashed together. My mind constantly files away concepts to be used in Centernia. For example, the castlefolk are heavily influenced by the values of my Italian immigrant heritage. The castlefolk are a culture within a culture, governed by their own traditions. They have a great deal of pride in who they are, fight amongst themselves, but will band together against adversity.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Q & A: How do you pronounce.....?

How do you pronounce the names and places of Centernia?  Here is a very straightforward guide to all names and places unusual!

Nicoveren Aristo Verdian: "Neek-o-varen Ah-risto Vare-de-an"
Teren Wynter:   "Tare-en Winter"
Artemisa Wynter: "Art-a-mee-sa Winter"
Kaity Cosette: "Kate-e Co-zette"
Corwin Evansi: "Core-win Ev-an-see"
Jared Evansi: "Ja-red Ev-an-see"
Alba: "All-ba"
Savina: "Sah-vee-nah"
Wadjette:  "Wa-jet"
Jiberty: "Jib-er-ty"
Abrianna: "Ah-bree-ana"

Aden: "Aye-den"
Otto Onyxgrove: "Ot-oh On-ex-grove"
Elina: "Ell-eena"

Amberynn:  "Amber-rin"
Malachi: "Male-uhk-eye"
Cobalt: "Co-ballt"

Centernia:  "Sent-urn-e-uh"
Aurumice:  "Or-uh-mice" or "Aura-mice"
Trabalis: "Trah-ball-is"
Briken: "Bry-ken"

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Back in the Saddle

I generally don't share personal issues with readers, but my online hiatus has been so long it's been noticeable.  The good news is, as of this posting, I am back to my usual online schedule of one blog post a week, and more Centernia art.

Work in Progress- Gianna Casimirio- one of the new
characters to be featured in Centernia: The Crimson Mage
As some of you know from meeting me at conventions, I'm expecting a baby in September.
:-)  In order to avoid a studio/nursery combo room, we bought a house.  We packed and moved in late June.

The month of July, I direct Kids on Campus, the largest and oldest art tech summer camp program hosted at RIT.  This is a hugely time intensive camp that took almost all of my energy. Normally, I de-stress by writing and drawing, but the universe has a terrible sense of humor.  Since April I've been plagued by an unusual pregnancy symptom.  The nerves in my spine were compressed and gave me crippling pain when sitting.  Yes, sitting.  I could lie down, walk a mile, pull weeds on my hands and knees.....but I couldn't sit at a computer for more than fifteen minutes. Standing also was quickly tiresome.  It was a frustrating situation to say the least.  I've never been in a situation where writing and drawing were painful for months.

Fastforward, it's now August.  Camp has ended for another year and prep work for 2016 won't really start up for a few months.  My baby has shifted position and is no longer hanging out on my spine. We've moved, most of our boxes are unpacked, and I have a nice studio setup.

In the past two months, I started four pieces and did not have the ability to finish any of them, Two Centernia character portraits, one fantasy piece and a pile of kittens. Today I've begun work again on the emerald time dragon and by the end of the week I hope to have finished the portrait of the mysterious Gianna Casimirio. Thank you for your patience, it's been an interesting year to say the least.

WIP- Jessica

WIP- The Emerald Time Dragon
WIP- Kitten Pile

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Reader Q & A: I bought Return to the Castle, but the book for sale now looks different than my copy, why?

A revised edition of Return to the Castle was released in February 2015. This edition catches many of the editing errors that snuck through in the first release.


The most notable difference is the chapter numbers. Though the books have the same content and the same scenes, they were split differently so that the new edition has one less chapter.

You can figure out which version of the book you have by looking at the back cover. A little bird has been added on the newer edition for easy identification. :-)

Friday, June 19, 2015

Peak into the Office Studio

Hi everyone, I know we've been quiet over at the past week.  There is a very good reason why.

Many artists and authors have a studio or office in-house. It's a private sanctuary where they can work on ideas. The office where I wrote the majority of Return to the Castle is a small spare bedroom in my townhouse.  I love being surrounded by a color-controlled environment where everything has a visual harmony. I usually work on a triple-monitor setup, (Cintiq, laptop, external monitor). I keep a select number of books on the shelf, primarily art books and references.

I have a desk for traditional drawing and painting supplies. Unfortunately, I don't work in real media much anymore with the exception of pencil.

Any art in the room has special meaning to me. This is a vintage poster from my hometown of Syracuse, and these metal figurines were a highschool graduation gift from Mrs.Weiss, the teacher mentioned in my dedication.


This last photo is bittersweet. For the past few weeks, my pristine workspace has been in a state of shambles with no hope for recovery.  We're moving to a new, larger home with a gorgeous green backyard and plenty of space for a new studio.  My current space, and entire house, is a disaster area. We move in the end of June, expect Centernia updates to resume in July. :-)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Playlist Feature: Scorpians

I write Centernia while listening to music.  This week we have a song from the early 90s that influenced Return to the Castle.  I'm so in love the live version of this because the cello is so strong.

Scorpians: Send me An Angel
Album: Crazy World

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reader Q & A: Rapidfire Responses 2

Jessi on horseback,1997
1. Do you consider Centernia to be anthro lit? Are you a furry?

In the late 1990s, in the days before Deviant Art, there were not a lot of great digital art communities other than Elfwood. While stumbling through the internet I found a community called Yerf,(subtitled the Squeaky Clean Furry Archive). I became addicted to the website and learned an enormous amount about digital art through the other artists. Yerf was all anthro or furry art, and that influenced my early art and writing.

When I wrote the first draft of Centernia, the premise involved shape-shifting. When a human crossed the Gate they became feline. Much of the old art of Centernia depicts Jessi in cat-form. At some point in high school I altered this plot element and introduced the concept of magic users instead, finding it more versatile and interesting.

I like anthro art and find anthro characters fun to draw. I've never been into the community enough to ever consider being a fursuiter or call myself a furry.

Jessi on the back of a bicorn, 2014

2. Do you have this whole thing planned out, or do you just make it up as you go along?

I have it very, very planned out. I know the entire timeline of each character's life and the lives of their parents, with a few vague areas for the delight of discovery. Return to the Castle and The Crimson Mage were precisely outlined at the same time. I only had enough time to finish Return to the Castle for NYCC, so everything was designed to flow into the Crimson Mage. Now as I flesh out the scenes for Book Two, I'm also working on Book Three.

3. Are Teren and Lee going to hook up in the next book? Did they already hook up?

In Return to the Castle, Lee is fifteen and Teren is almost twenty. I feel pretty strongly about keeping my characters restricted to the laws of their respective lands. Teren may sleep around a lot, but he does have enough sense of earth laws to know which very fine lines not to cross.

4. When are you going to have the illustrated guide to Centernia's flora and fauna?

I am presently working on an encyclopedia as I write The Crimson Mage. Everytime a new creature, place or social custom is created, a new entry is jotted down into a Word doc. In 2016, I hope to embark on turning these entries into an art book/encyclopedia with the help of a few artist friends. I would like the produce the volume as an inexpensive paperback. Ultimately, it would be great to crowdfund that paperback into a shiny, glossy hardcover and invite in more artists and pay them all a fair wage. The success of the Crimson Mage will influence if I can make this project a reality. The funds from the second novel will seed the creation of this art book.

Have Centernia questions? Contact us to have your question answered in the next Reader Q & A.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Creature Feature: The Burch

     They traveled across a small wooden bridge over a pristine pond. In the water below, small brown hippopotamus turtles waded through the mud. Water sloshed up onto their patterned shells.
     “What are those?” Jessica asked.
     “The burch,” Misa explained. “They’re a little tough but they taste good in a sauce.” 
      Jessica couldn’t imagine killing one of the dog-sized beasts. They seemed so happy in their watery little home.  --Return to the Castle

Mud Loving Creatures

The water-dwelling burch are very common throughout the continent of Madierna.  Most often they are found in muddy, swampy areas where they eat insects, small fish, and freshwater plankton.

Burch species range from approximately eight inches to as much as three feet.  They have leathery skin and unique shell patterns.  These marsh-loving creatures have been described as being very similar to the tortoise, though they can move much quicker on land.  Burch are monotremes and lay eggs buried deep into the mud. A typical clutch of burch eggs is about three to five, the young are quite rounded and endearing.

There are many species of burch, usually distinguishable by the patterning on their shells.  Most live in freshwater environments.  There is only two species of sea burch, commonly found on the Galbrian coast.  Burch can be easily farmed though they reproduce a in the wild.  Burch have the ability to hold their breath for several hours at a time, making it possible for them to avoid land-dwelling predators. When threatened, a burch will dive to far depths.  They  are strong swimmers.  If a burch is threatened on land, it will retreat into its shell.

Common Uses of the Burch

As Misa pointed out, burch are very tasty in stew.  Their meat can be tough but when slow cooked can have a very pleasant rich taste.  In some places, burch is considered to be a peasant fare as burch are easy to find in the wild and reproduce well in captivity. Many farms in Trabalis and the surrounding lands will have a pond on the property specifically for the purpose of raising burch. Certain organs of the burch are found to be particularly tasty, including the kidneys, and neck.

The shell of the burch is rich with minerals.  When ground, it cam be taken as a vitamin supplement. People have also used burch shells in decorative and jewelry elements.  A burch's diet influences the color, patterning and chemical composition of a its shell.  Burch fed special diets can have shells with a shiny, reflective-like quality, particularly desirable in low-cost jewelry.

The Holy Circus

While most inhabitants of Centernia value the burch for their tastiness, there are some who recognize the intelligence of these water-dwelling creatures.  The Holy Circus of the Auroriates will train burch and use them in their shows.  When hand-reared, burch are very docile and respond well to commands.  They can be used for simple tumbling tricks and are displayed in combination with clownish and humorous portions of an Auroriate show.

People commonly hold the belief that the Auroriates use some sort of holy influence in order to make the burch respond so well.  Burch are perceived by most people to be unintelligent. In reality, it is just good training and experienced burch handlers that make for the success of circus burch.  Burch are actually very intelligent animals with complex social patterns, however they are often very stubborn and unlikely to trust most people.

The Burch in Mythology

The most devote members of the Holy Circus restrain from consuming burch flesh entirely. There is a legend that the goddess Aurora was saved by the burch.  Fallen into a grief-stricken state from the loss of her son Caprarius, the goddess lived forty days in a cave far on the edge of the world.  She plunged into a pool of murky water to end her life, but was saved and gently lifted up by the shells of the burch.  They proceeded to entertain and comfort her until she had the strength to leave the cave.

The religion of Kiuski and Kilati view the burch differently.  In the myths, the burch are depicted as dirty, feral beasts.  They deserve no place of honor and are considered the dinner of the peasants.  As the religion of the moon predates the Auroriates, this view of the burch is commonly accepted.

With the rise of the Auroriate religions, society seems to be swinging in a more favorable view of the burch.  Perhaps someday they will rise from being a tasty entree to a beloved creature.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015


Centernia has just entered an agreement with ComicPOPShop for distribution in conventions across the southern US.  What does that mean?

Centernia will be brought to more cons to reach more fans, who will have access to exclusive and awesome Centernia merch. :-D

Centernia will be featured at the ComicPOPShop booth at Comicpalooza in Houston, TX on May 22 - 25, 2015.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Q & A: How did you make Nico different from a standard prince-charming character? (and thank you!)

Nico is a character that has gone through a great deal of growth since 1997.  In the beginning, he was a stereotypical prince, perfect in every way right down to his blonde hair.  But perfect is boring.

The Evolution of Nicoveren Aristo Verdian

As a teen, I was lucky to come across How to Write Sci-Fi and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card. This volume was my foundation for learning how to write.  The book suggested that the weakest characters in a story are actually the nobility.  They don't have the flexibility to go on adventures and they are always under public scrutiny.

Centernia has always had Castle Aurumice.  I needed to find a way to keep the castle, but tone down the nobility.  I couldn't quite figure out how until I was a college student living at RIT.  I lived five years in the dorms and loved every minute.  I was intrigued by the social dynamics, the arguments and the wonderfully crazy situations that occur when you lived in close quarters with a wildly diverse set of people. Through the years, I reinvented what I saw and twisted it into something new.

What if you had a castle without a clear nobility?  What if leadership could be passed from one person to another?  What if your castle was just a self-sufficient structure without servants, but people with a clear sense of purpose and career?  What unique rituals and unwritten rules guide the inhabitants of this castle?

In Book Two, readers will see the Ceremony of Brightpath.  Everyone born in the castle grows up both attending standard lessons and going through a series of apprenticeships.  At roughly the age of sixteen they're given a choice.  They may take a pile of money and seek fortune elsewhere, or follow a profession of choice within Aurumice.  Even if one takes the money, squanders their fortune, and comes crawling back, the castle still accepts them with open arms, (they just might not have the job they want).

I loved this idea!  A community in which everyone is taken care of.  No worries of food, childcare, eldercare, medical treatment or education.  Everyone has a roof over their heads, everyone shares, it's sort of like a hippy commune but with bicorns and ballrooms.   Life is never perfect, people argue, but when threatened from the outside they fight for their own.

Nico's Place in the Castle

Back to the evolution Nico.   I struggled for a while to figure out how Nico would act in this modified castle environment.  His father was a fighter with bravado and showmanship.  Nico wasn't like that at all, not really caring much for conflict. His mother was a character who still exhibited some monarchial traits, but Nico wouldn't care for formality or tradition.  The more I understood who he wasn't, the more I could understand who he was.  He finds himself as a leader in this scenario, but he doesn't want to lead, and easily passes control to Teren.

Nico is withdrawn but social.  He has an incredibly strong sense of loyalty to the people he cares most about— Teren, Misa, Kaity, Savina and then later, Jessica.  He's a follower, but level-headed enough to tell his friends when they're acting like fools.  In many scenes, he is the moral compass that steers the otherwise indifferent and overzealous personalities that surround him.  When Nico is caught in true crisis you see the influence of his parents, guiding him to lead and fight.

Nico's Mage Strength

For a while, Nico didn't really have any magical abilities.  Teren and Misa had their unique strengths but Nico floated along without anything special.  I began to ponder what if he did have a power, but it was unused.  I started to wonder who would have a magical ability that they willfully ignored? Maybe it was horrible and uncontrollable.  Nico's pure energy powers evolved, as did his foil in alcohol, and his overwhelming sense of guilt.

Once I had more sense of the character, I had to decide what he looked like.  In the beginning, he was essentially Jared, very blonde and attractive, but with a little more cat.  With the need to run away from this princely stereotype I took a step in the opposite direction, giving him dark skin, dark hair, and piercing blue eyes, (the stripes came later).  To this day, I still struggle with drawing a single concrete design for Nico. He has to be just right, and I don't feel like any drawing thus far does him any justice.

Working on the webcomic in 2010, I started creating designs for both Nico and the common spaces he occupied. I knew his private rooms would be filled with books, but I didn't know what else. Teren's chambers were immaculately clean, with evidence of his interests in music and art. Misa's rooms are an amazing unholy hell of earth and Centernia, complete with moldy pie hiding underneath a plethora of unfinished projects.  Nico was somewhere in between the two.

Nico gains Personality

There was a period of time in the late 2000s that I actually hated Nico as a character.  He bored and annoyed me.  I have old notes with my angry writing, 'why does she love him?!!!!'  I didn't want Jessi to fall for Nico because he is the lord of a castle, or because he is heroic.  Jessi needed to love him in a completely normal high school way.

The men I fell in love were always some variation of nerd.  They were insightful people who made me learn something new about the world but also shared my interests.  They were people who appreciated a good story and always wanted to know more about the way the things worked. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Nico had to have these qualities.

For a long time I feared creating a character I would care about. I didn't want people accusing me of basing the primary love interest of Centernia on my husband, (and for the record, Nico is hardly a perfect reflection of my spouse...Jamil writes software for a living and doesn't care much for horseback riding, I'm the one who owns a soldering iron, has a horse barn addiction and loves Home Depot).

I gave Nico the side of me that likes tinkering with things.  As a teen, I took apart toy cars and games just to see how they worked.  I liked to play with wiring and look at schematics.  When Nico started playing with electricity, it revealed an entirely new dimension to the character that I immediately knew was right.  He became independent of the rest of the castlefolk, following in the footsteps of Teren's father.

Nico lives in an old castle with decrepit wiring and rodents constantly making a muck of things. He's a person who is a bit withdrawn.  It seemed like an ideal combination for a homebody who just likes to fix things.  An ideal afternoon for Nico would consist of being wrapped up in some obnoxious technical problem, hands dirty and mind engaged.  He's also the type of person who wants to improve on existing structures.   Jessi arrives and Nico realizes she's a girl from a place where, unlike Centernia, electricity is not only legal, but in abundance.

When Jessi first meets Nico, she is oblivious to the magic and power of earth technology.  As a normal teenager, she takes for granted the everyday things that surround her until Nico brings it to her attention.  He teaches her what he knows and she runs with that knowledge.  This side of Nico was more important to me than any sexual attraction or princely benefits.  Jessica loves him because he is her friend, and like all true friends, they make each other better people.  Together they work on fixing and altering the world around them in a very tangible way.

I believe readers are drawn to Nico for his  human qualities.  If you strip away the cat-like physical features, the castle, and the tormentingly dangerous powers, what are you left with?  You have an awkward, kind, nerdy guy who has dysfunctional parents, but great friends to save him from the drama.  Nico is a reflection of the type of boy many readers already know, (or perhaps already love).  When you add back in the fantasy elements to this essential core, he takes on an exciting level of intrigue, strength and sexuality.  He's the type of person you either want to be or be friends with.

It's taken me over a decade to take Nico's character from cardboard prince to flesh and blood.  Now that he exists, I can't imagine writing him any other way.  I am ecstatic that people notice and resonate with his character.