Celebrate the New Year with Gorgeous New Second Edition Paperbacks!

Good news for the New Year! The gorgeous new second edition of my books are now available as paperbacks on Amazon.com!

Also, in an effort to reduce my stock of the first edition paperbacks, I have drastically reduced their price. They are now $8 each or $20 for the set. So if you’d prefer not to buy from Amazon or just love a good bargain, go to https://diannasanchezworlds.bigcartel.com/.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Just in Time for Christmas – New eBooks!!!

Cover images for three books: An Elf's Equations, A Pixie's Promise, and A Witch's Kitchen

At last, at long, long last, I’ve revised all three of the Enchanted Kitchen novels, and they are now available on Amazon as eBooks. So if you’ve been looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer for your favorite Kindle user, here’s your chance!

As you may know, Dreaming Robot Press ceased publishing my work in the summer of 2021, and I regained all rights to my work. I’ve been meaning to get the books cleaned up and back online ever since, but self-publishing is not for the faint of heart nor short of time. Fortunately, my friend Jay O’Connell stepped in to help. He and I were in a writing workshop together when I was still in college and for several years shortly after. In addition to writing excellent science fiction for adults, he’s also an amazingly talented artist and graphic designer. Jay created the gorgeous new covers and formatted the ebooks for me. I am utterly delighted with the results!

You have questions, I know. Here goes:

Will you be issuing print versions with the fabulous new covers?

Yes, eventually. Right now, I’m focusing on getting things to people in time for Hannukah and Christmas.

What will happen with the old versions?

I still have hundreds of print copies of the old version. I am discounting them in my online bookstore to clear out the old stock. So if you don’t mind waiting until after the holidays, you can get them for a bargain price. I am happy to sign and personalize each print book for you. Just let me know in the comments when you order!

What’s different in the new versions?

Very little. I’ve gone through and corrected numerous errors, including continuity errors between the books, mangled Swedish, and a rather embarrassing math error in An Elf’s Equations. We also removed some of the back matter in Elf just to make it a little more streamlined.

When is A Wizard’s Warning going to be published?

Honestly, I have no idea. There are numerous problems with the novel that I have to tackle. I’ve just done one — figuring out self-publishing — but a major barrier is that Puerto Rico is one of the settings, and I have never been to Puerto Rico, nor am I Puerto Rican. I’d intended to go there for research purposes, but then the Pandemic happened, and I have not been traveling much of anywhere if I can help it.

I also question whether I should be writing about a culture I have no direct experience with. I wanted Max to be Hispanic, like me, but I’m New Mexican, which is a tiny cultural niche of Hispanic. We actually speak a very old form of Spanish that hasn’t significantly changed since our ancestors came over from Spain in the 17th century. I wasn’t sure whether anyone would be able to relate to such a small community. There are a lot more Puerto Ricans out there, and I thought it would be more relatable. Also, I wanted Max to be part merman, and it’s rather difficult for merfolk to live in New Mexico. But I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable with trying to portray a rich and vibrant culture I know almost nothing about. So until I can go there, talk to the people, explore the ocean and shoreline caves, and most importantly, eat the food, I really can’t write the novel.

Will you ever write anything else in the Enchanted Kitchen series?

Probably. I am considering writing a collection of short stories. I’ve received requests for stories about Grumpkin, Quercius, and Thea, even Mr. Pricklesnout. I have ideas for stories about a young Bogdana and Millie opening a restaurant in Pixamitchie with her dad. But I’ve written exactly none of this. Right now, I’m awaiting inspiration.

Are you writing anything else?

I’ve been working on a series of short stories for adults set in a fictional town in New Mexico, Encantado. The first of these has been published in Witches of a Certain Age. I also have a YA science fiction novel in the works, plus lots of other possible projects I’ve had on the backburner for quite some time. Now that the Pandemic seems to be settling down, I’m hoping to have more time to work on all of them.

And that’s it! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Just in Time for the Holidays – All Books Available for Purchase!

Drumroll, please! I am delighted to announce that my books are now available for purchase directly from me! Every volume will be signed and shipped straight from me to you. I’ve set up an online marketplace here, and for you, my favorite readers, I’ve set up a discount: free shipping until the end of 2021 when you use the discount code WINTER2021. You can also order all three books for $30, almost 25% off the standard price.

But wait, you say. What’s going on here? I know you have loads of questions. Here are some answers:

Why are you selling your own books, Dianna? And why can’t I buy them on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or, well, anywhere?

My publisher, Dreaming Robot Press, officially went on hiatus in the summer of 2020. A lot of small presses have been driven out of business by the pandemic, and I am terribly sad that I won’t be publishing with Corey and Sean Weaver anymore, but I wish them all the best as they move into a new chapter in their lives. They’ve returned all rights to my books to me. This means that all of my books have been out of print and unobtainable for more than a year. To all of you who wrote to me asking where you could buy my books, I am so sorry, especially if I didn’t answer. But the good news is that I bought all of the stock of my books from Dreaming Robot Press, and I can now sell them to you.

Okay, that was over a year ago. Why did it take you so long to create a marketplace so that I can buy your books?

There’s a fun answer to that and a less fun one. The fun answer is that, for a brief shining moment last summer, it looked like I was going to sell the film rights to my books, which would be made into an animated series for a streaming service. I never did find out which one because the deal fell through, alas, as most of these do. I have a friend who’s had one of his novels optioned at least five times, and it has yet to be made into a motion picture. At any rate, I was very focused on the film rights for a while, and if that had happened, I likely would have found a new publisher to reprint my books, and then this wouldn’t have been my problem.

The less fun answer is that I was busy with multiple, difficult personal crises. No one in my immediate family came down with COVID-19 (as far as we know), and thank all that’s good in the universe that everyone I know who did catch it survived and either has recovered or is in the process of recovering. Nonetheless, living through the pandemic was and is still hard and time-consuming. Add to that multiple non-COVID health and other problems for myself and various members of my family, many of which were very tricky to treat and some of which are still unresolved, and I literally have had no time to do anything but cope with the crises of the day for over a year.

What about A Wizard’s Warning? That was supposed to be published about now, wasn’t it?

I am unlikely to ever finish A Wizard’s Warning. It’s about half written, but I simply have no time to work on fiction right now, and I have no publisher, so there’s very little point. Until I have the time and mental space to figure out how to self-publish, I’m afraid that the Enchanted Kitchen series ends with An Elf’s Equations. I’m very sorry. I know a lot of you were looking forward to Max’s moment in the spotlight. Maybe someday, things will calm down enough for me to pick up that manuscript again. I am considering trying to write short pieces someday: Bogdana as a young witch, Quercius as a young dodonos, an adventure with Grumpkin as the main character, and of course, a Thea-based adventure. But I can’t promise anything right now, nor for the foreseeable future.

What about eBooks? I don’t see them in your marketplace.

As for eBooks, I have yet to figure that out as well. I’m hoping to reformat the existing files, but I have no idea how difficult or complicated that will be. I may need to commission new covers. Once I have them ready, I’ll let you know.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and my family through this difficult time, and to all the people who wrote and told me how much they’ve enjoyed reading my books. You have been a bright light in a dark time.

The Entire Series in All Its Glory

The entire Enchanted Kitchen series: A Witch's Kitchen, A Pixie's Promise, and An Elf's Equations

Well, keeping up with blog posts while coping with a stay-at-home order, restless kids, and no Internet connection for two days has made this a very interesting week. It also scotched all my clever plans for live Q&A sessions and clever activities. But there is a silver lining! Fabulous photographer Leah Cirker-Stark took this fantastic photo of my books for me. These are hard times for a photographer who usually does portraits, but if you have products that need to look fabulous, I highly recommend her work!

Most kids seem to be settling into a good schoolwork routine, so I’m going to stop posting activities, hunker down and get back to writing A Wizard’s Warning. I hope you all find great, fun, creative things to do at home, and that you all stay safe and well.

Create Your Own Maze!

A circular maze

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay 

What makes something a maze?

Google Dictionary says that a maze is “a network of paths and hedges designed as a puzzle through which one has to find a way.” Similarly, a labyrinth is “a complicated irregular network of passages or paths in which it is difficult to find one’s way; a maze.” It’s a place meant to confuse you, a place where you’re meant to get lost. And the odd thing about it is, it’s fun. Have you ever been in a corn maze? How long did it take you to find your way out?

Mazes show up in mythology and folklore a lot. The most famous one is the labyrinth created by Daedalus for the Minotaur on the Greek island of Crete. Mazes also show up throughout the world, including Scandinavia.

They’re made of stone or hedges or just mounds of earth. They’re cut into crops or turf. They’re carved on stone, painted on walls, inlaid in floor mosaics, minted on coins, woven into cloth. Why are we so fascinated by mazes?

Well, if you’ve ever gotten lost in a store, or been frustrated driving through a city with lots of one-way streets, or lost your bearings while hiking in the woods, I’m sure you found yourself wishing there was an easy way to find your way out, short of scattering breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel.

The nice thing about mazes is that they follow rules, and if you know the rules, you can use them to get out. All of the mazes shown above can be solved using the right-hand rule (which is also a rule that you use in physics in a very different context). As you enter the maze, put your right hand on the wall. Keep following the wall. Since those mazes are one continuous line, you will eventually end up back at the entrance. This works with just about any maze that has an outer boundary, including corn mazes. It’s the long way around, certainly, since you’ll end up walking every single pathway in the maze, but it’ll get you there.

But what if the rules are a little different? In An Elf’s Equations, I have three mazes. The first, in the Sylvan Vale, is a maze that you can’t solve without knowing the Fibonacci sequence (or someone tells you the sequence of steps to take). The second maze, around the World Tree in Vanaheim, is a very logical, squared-off maze full of right angles and dead ends. The right-hand rule would work just fine in there, but it’s straightforward enough that you’d likely be able to walk through it easily.

And then there’s the maze of Pthagor, the math dragon. It looks so simple at first.

A deceptively easy maze

You could just walk right through this, right? Ah, but there’s a catch, as Sagara and her friends discover:

At the mouth of the cavern, they found a sign printed in several different languages, including Vanir runes, Dragon script, Canto, English, and several more they did not recognize. It read:

          To go forward, turn only to the right.

“What does that mean?” Petunia asked. “If it’s a riddle, I don’t get it.”

“I think it’s instructions,” Max replied.

Cretacia snorted. “And what if we don’t go right?”

“One way to find out,” Sagara said, and she strode into the cavern.

Before her, laid out on the smooth floor, a maze had been marked out in faintly glowing paint. At first, she thought it was a simple square maze, like the one in the Vanir garden of the World Tree, but then she looked again. From the entrance, paths went left, straight and right. They branched and turned. About fifty feet away, Sagara could see the exit, leading deeper into the cavern.

“Ha!” Cretacia yelled. “Easy!” She ran straight into the maze, heading for the exit, but when she crossed one of the painted lines, she disappeared.

“Cretacia!” Millie squealed.

“Great horny toad warts!” Cretacia said behind her. “That was really weird. One second, I was in there, and the next second, I was back out here. I wonder what happens if I turn left?”

“No, wait,” Sagara said, but Cretacia had already run into the maze and took the first left turn. Again, she disappeared.

“Hey!” came her voice from above. “How do I get down from here?”

Sagara stepped back from the cavern mouth and found Cretacia sitting on the bulbous tip of the troll’s nose.

— pp. 233-4

A map of a logic maze outside the Tekniska Museet in Stockholm.I based this maze on one I encountered outside the Tekniska Museet in Stockholm. It’s a tricky maze because it has different rules. Can you find your way through it? The solution to Pthagor’s maze is in An Elf’s Equations.

Now here’s the activity: what other rules can you change to make a maze more tricky? Maybe you can only turn if you can’t go straight any more, or you have to turn if you can, or you have to jump over things. Try making a maze of your own with different rules! Can you make something that looks simple but is actually hard to get through? If you do, take a picture and share it with me either here or on my Facebook page. I’d love to see your creations!

And if you’re wondering what that troll’s nose looked like, here’s a troll I found under a bridge in Seattle (well after I’d written this scene!) who was friendly and obliged me when I asked for a selfie with him.

Troll sculpture under a bridge in Seattle

Scandinavian Inspirations and Making Runes

The view from our cottage window on an island in Sweden

[Note: this is a longish post. If you want to skip straight to the activity, scroll down to the bottom and look for the runes.]

I was stuck.

I’d turned in A Pixie’s Promise to my publisher in May 2018 and had intended to finish up An Elf’s Equations by August 2018, but it was July already, and I’d barely written anything. I had thought this would be easy. After all, it was already half-written.

An Elf’s Equations was originally the second half of A Pixie’s Promise, but the fabulous Corie Weaver at Dreaming Robot Press thought that there was entirely too much going on in A Pixie’s Promise and, furthermore, that for the second half of the book, Sagara was really the focal character. She wanted me to split the two plotlines into two books and make Sagara the protagonist. After much groaning and complaining, I agreed, and it took me only three months to expand and reshape A Pixie’s Promise into a much more fully realized story focused firmly on Petunia. So I expected that it would take me about the same amount of time to finish up An Elf’s Equations. Right?

Wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. First, I couldn’t just change who was speaking from Petunia to Sagara, because Sagara wouldn’t say the same things Petunia does (far fewer bad jokes, much more sarcasm). And I couldn’t just have Sagara do the things I’d had Petunia do, not least because Sagara isn’t six inches tall. She’d make different decisions, come up with different solutions. Second, I hadn’t done all the character work that I’d done for Petunia. I had a vague idea of her background, I knew that her mother had been exiled to the Logical Realm, and that Sagara really didn’t get along with her grandmother. And I knew that Sagara was fascinated by math. But why? What drove Sagara? And how would she end up leading the expedition to Vanaheim to save her friend Thea?

The more I tried to just gloss over the differences, the more the story unraveled on me, until I was utterly lost and deeply despondent that I would never get the novel done.

And then, something magical happened.

My family and I went to Sweden and Finland to visit my husband’s family and give our daughters some sense of their cultural heritage. I’m also 1/16th Swedish, thanks to a great-great-grandmother who emigrated from Malmö. When we arrived in Gothenburg in the middle of July, we went directly to an island on Lake Mjörn. Sweden was experiencing a terrible drought that summer. Forest fires raged in the north of the country, though quite far from us. The water level in the lake had dropped so much that we had to move the dock to keep the motorboats and sailboat from scraping bottom. And the leaves on the birch trees were turning yellow and dropping everywhere.

One night, around 3 AM local time, I awoke, jet-lagged and disoriented and needing to use the outhouse. A single solar panel provides all the electricity for the island, and that meant no power at night. I had a flashlight, but there was a beautiful full moon. It was easy to find my way from our little cottage to the outhouse because the path there was strewn with yellow leaves, which practically glowed in the moonlight. And as I walked, I imagined Sagara, riding her deer on the Path in the Enchanted Forest, following her grandmother home after the trial of Cretacia. I imagined all the emotion boiling up within her as she herself remembered running through the Sylvan Vale in the moonlight to the trial of her mother. And I started to hear her talking to her grandmother, angrily, blaming, and so very hurt and lonely.

I grabbed my laptop and wrote until dawn was beginning to lighten up the horizon and my laptop’s battery had completely run out. I’d just banged out the whole of chapter two, and I went back to my bed with a smile on my face.

Scandinavia inspired me in many other ways during that trip. Here’s a photo album I put together of some of the things that found their way into An Elf’s Equations.

A runestone at SkansenOne of the things that had fascinated me on previous trips as well as this one were the runestones we often came across. Viking runes are an ancient writing system, an alphabet made entirely of trees. They were used throughout Scandinavia and also show up in the British Isles and Ireland. Robert Graves, who was a historian as well as the author of Count Belisarius and Hercules, My Shipmate, wrote about the fabled battle of the trees. Taken literally, it sounds as if two bards used magic to call up entire forests to do battle. In fact, it was a metaphor for a poetry competition, and the trees doing battle were runes upon parchment. Each rune represents a tree as well as a single sound.

Here are a few resources where you can learn more about Viking runes and runestones:

In preparation for An Elf’s Equations, I modified the standard runic alphabet for the Vanir. Vanaheim, the Realm that Sagara and her friends travel to, is based upon a scrap of Norse mythology in which the universe is composed of nine worlds or realms, all connected by the World Tree. We live in Midgard, the Norse gods live in Asgard (as you’ve seen in the Avengers movies). Those gods were called the Aesir, but they had cousins in another realm, the Vanir, who lived in the realm of Vanaheim. All that remains of the myths about the Vanir is that they specialized in nature magic, which I interpreted to mean elemental magic, and that the goddess Freya/Freja/Frigga was originally a Vanir.

Cretacia is half Vanir, which is one of the reasons she’s placed under geas to retrieve Thea from Vanaheim at the end of A Pixie’s Promise. Her father is a high-ranking Vanir and she speaks the language. Cretacia also happens to be dyslexic, which means she has some trouble reading and thinks she’s terribly stupid. But her father Ljot (that’s pronounced Lee-OHT) explains to her that all Vanir have trouble reading, which is why they invented a magical language that is easy to read.

I had heard about fonts that are easier for dyslexics to read. There’s some debate about whether this actually works, but I have a friend who swears by it. Whether it works or not, I was intrigued by the idea, and I thought, well, if you have magic, couldn’t you make an alphabet that dyslexics can read easily? So I modified the runic alphabet, making all the runes look the same forwards and backwards — no mistaking “b” for “d” in this language. Here’s what I came up with:

Vanir runes created for An Elf's Equations

Can you find the runes to open the Vanaheim portal on the cover of An Elf’s Equations?Book Cover for An Elf's Equations

For those of you who enjoyed creating secret messages last week, you can now write secret message using my runic alphabet.Note that there are no runes for Q or V. In many Northern European languages, W and V are almost interchangeable. And for Q, I recommend using CW together. The Vanir Runes also have runes for two sounds that are represented by multiple letters in English: NG and TH. And the rune for Magic has no corresponding letter. That’s because it’s not something that’s spoken aloud, it just indicates the need to use magic.

Now that you’ve seen how easy it is to create an alphabet, why don’t you try creating one yourself? If you do, take a photo and share it in the comments here or on my Facebook page. Enjoy!