Archive for July, 2015

So, last time I blogged in general about the magic of the world of the DUAL MAGICS series. Now it’s time to blog about how this affects the main character of the series, Vatar. And that’s not a simple answer. Part One will be about his inherited magic.

Since Vatar’s real father is a Fasallon, he has inherited this magic, though at first he tries to reject the idea. But he hasn’t inherited it from just one source. As revealed at the end of THE VOICE OF PROPHECY, Vatar is also descended from the Fasallon on his mother’s side, though that magical Talent had been magically blocked for so many generations that no one knew about it anymore.


For Vatar, having the same (or mostly) Talents from both sides of his lineage weakened that ancient block and ultimately allowed him access to some rarer Talents.

As a blacksmith, he has an innate sense of the metal he is working and where he needs to strike with his hammer. This manifests as hearing the song of the iron or steel. This also gives him the ability to enhance the tools and weapons he makes. He has Fore Sight, which mostly manifests as a vague sense of danger, a prickling between his shoulder blades. But occasionally, he feels forced to say something about the future that “feels true”. And very rarely he has a visual premonition. Some of his Talents had been believed lost, such as the ability to see through others’ Transformations and undo the change.

His rarest Talent is to create an invisible magical shield, but that depends on his ability to draw energy from a bound partner. More about that in the next blog.

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Rather than just do another boring update on the status of revisions to BEYOND THE PROPHECY, I thought I’d blog about the magic system, instead.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So, as the series title suggests, there are two entirely different kinds of magic in this world.

The first kind of magic we encounter is the Spirit magic of the semi-nomadic, plains-dwelling people. They live in clans, each of which has an animal totem and the initiation ceremony for each clan forges a spiritual connection to that totem animal. It’s mostly a perceptive magic. A member of the Lion Clan, for example, can sense lions in the vicinity and usually tell whether they’re hunting or resting. That’s about it.

One complicating factor is that these people are highly superstitiously opposed to any form of magic (think Salem witch trials reactions). They just don’t call what they have magic. They also don’t talk about their Spirit magic with outsiders. There’s an historical reason for this that isn’t really important in this series, but would figure strongly when I eventually write the prequel series. Someday.

The second kind of magic is inherited within certain bloodlines in the ruling class of the coastal cities. This is a more active form of magic. Those possessing it can communicate over distances. Given a connection to follow, they can also see things that are happening at a distance. And the most Talented among them can work Transformations. The lowest-level Transformation are merely visual, making themselves or another object appear to be something or someone else. The high-level Transformation actually change the nature of the person or object temporarily. There are also other gifts which occur with varying frequency from fairly common to so rare no one knows much about them because the last person who could do that lived six hundred years ago.

These same Powers, with minor variations, occur in an isolated group of people living in a distant mountain valley. Again, there’s an historical reason for this that I’m saving for that prequel series, but it’s pretty easy to guess that these two groups are related somehow.

In the coastal cities, these Talents are used to support the power of the rulers. Only. And the existence of their magic is a secret. Therefore, the magic is jealously guarded and fairly draconian measures are taken to make sure that no one with Talent escapes the control of the rulers.

But no control is ever perfect and the main character of these novels is the proof of that. He has both kinds of magic. Though he initially tries to deny his inherited magic, because of those tribal superstitions. And he is temporarily severed from the Spirit magic during part of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The real fun starts in THE VOICE OF PROPHECY, when he is in control of both kinds of magic and they start bleeding into one another, interacting and sometimes reinforcing each other.


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So, last time I blogged about the last sticky revisions to BEYOND THE PROPHECY. The ones I left until last because I needed to think about them more.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Probably the hardest of those–and the one I was likely to leave to last–was a very general note on the whole middle of the story. A large part of what’s going on there is actually setting up for the conflict in the fourth (and final) book of the series. But that meant that it largely lost sight of the main conflict of this story. Things were happening, often exciting things, but they didn’t seem to further the story. And as a consequence it felt weak, sort of meandering.

But I need those things to happen. This is one of the problems with wiriting middle books in a series. And it was going to be the hardest thing to fix in this manuscript.

Then, on Monday, I listened to the latest episode of the Writing Excuses podcast. Which just happened to be about middles and characters needing to fail (even if they succeed at something smaller) during the middle. And the light broke through. That sometimes happens when my subconscious is worrying at a problem for me (while I take care of the easier revisions) and then I run across just the thing that proves to be the key to the solution.

I’m likely going to listen to that podcast again–maybe more than once. But the key is this. Yes, my characters have to step aside to deal with this other problem before it gets out of hand. (It will, anyway, of course, but not until the next book.) Yes, but by doing that, something else has to go wrong in the main conflict because they weren’t there to stop it.

I need to work it so that when we come to the climax, the situation is worse than it would have been (not necessarily a lot worse than it already is, though) if they had made different choices. Even though their choices weren’t wrong.

It’s going to take a bit of reworking, but it will make the story so much stronger.


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Revision is an iterative process–even when I consider it one pass.

The first pass at the final revisions for BEYOND THE PROPHECY is complete. Way ahead of schedule. (I’d projected the end of July, not the middle.)

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????What that means is that I’ve been through all the critiques I’ve received (one is still out), marked up revision notes, been through the entire manuscript, and dealt with most of those notes one way or another. Some scenes were cut. Some new ones written or existing ones expanded. And in several places a little more was added to refresh readers’ memories about how this world and the magic works. Overall, the manuscript got longer, not shorter. (Some of that may get smoothed out in the next step and the polishing edit.)

I left a few notes (fourteen of them to be exact) that I want to come back to. Some of these are scenes I may still delete, but hadn’t decided on in the first pass. One pair of scenes, in particular, just doesn’t do enough to justify their existence currently. The decision I have to make is whether to cut them, or expand them. And the dreaded middle still needs some attention to focus it more tightly on the main problem of the story. (Difficult, because part of that is set up for the conflict in the fourth and final book of the series.)

So, now, I’ll go back specifically to those notes and make those changes–or not. Some of these changes may take a bit longer than most of those in the first pass.

And then I’ll be ready to set the publication date for September and put the book up for pre-order while I work through the final polishing edit.



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Revisions to BEYOND THE PROPHECY are ahead of schedule.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I thought I’d change it up a little today and write about the world building for the DUAL MAGICS series, specifically, the creatures found in this world.

Creatures of the Plains

I hope it’s not obvious, but the beasts living on the plains in the world of the Dual Magics Series are based—loosely—on the Pleistocene megafauna of North America.

I left out all the creatures that would have screamed that that was the inspiration. No mammoths or mastodons. No giant ground sloths or wooly rhinos. Although, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist in this world. Just that they don’t occur in the part of the plains inhabited by the Dardani. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dardani’s ancestors had something to do with that.) But if you were to wander off the map up north into the Northern Wilderness or south beyond the mountains, you might find these creatures roaming in those areas. Maybe that’s why people don’t often go to those areas.

The lions are actually intended to be the American lion, a separate species that was a little larger than the modern African lion. Though, having nothing else to go on, I do portray their lifestyle as very much like their African cousins. The swiftcat(mentioned only a few times) is actually the American cheetah—which was not a true cheetah. At least one species had retractable claws that would have made climbing trees easier for it than for modern cheetahs. And the Forest tigers are fairly obviously based on saber-toothed cats.

The wild horses are modeled more on the zebra than on domestic horses, except that I gave mine leopard spots rather than stripes to break up their outlines and make them harder to see. Why not?

Of course, I added a few things, like the wyverns the live in the mountains (and at least historical hints of other kinds of dragons). But wyverns and dragons aren’t new to fantasy. (In fact, most of my novels seem to have a dragon in them somewhere. Only FIRE AND EARTH and DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING have no mention of dragons.)

The only creature I entirely made up was Chitter in the first book, the little flying-squirrel-like creature with a lion’s mane (like a golden lion tamarin) that hung around Vatar’s campsites.

I left out the teratorns, (really giant condors) too. The largest North American version (there was one a lot bigger in South America) was about fifty pounds with an eighteen-foot wingspan. I’d duck if that flew overhead.

However one of the two kinds of magic allows certain people to take a different form and a couple of my characters change to eagles. But one of the requirements of these shape changes (under normal circumstances) is conservation of mass. So, a petite hundred-pound woman will be a hundred-pound eagle. Plus, just because she can take that shape doesn’t mean she knows how to use it. That has to be learned. I didn’t want to lessen the struggles of these characters learning to fly by having really big birds making it look easy.

So, that’s a window into what might be lurking out on the plains.




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Revisions on BEYOND THE PROPHECY are moving along at a comfortable pace–now.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was worried about staying on schedule last week. That was because I had to add basically a whole new scene. And it was slow going.

Adding a scene at this stage is like going back to the first draft. But, doing it while my editor brain is still engaged–which means I question every sentence. A normal first draft can be allowed to be bad. I can skip things like descriptions or dialog tags, because I’m going to go through several more drafts to fix those things. That’s no longer true at this stage. There’ll hopefully be only one more pass–the polishing edit. So this scene had to be close to final-draft perfect on the first pass. It was a lot of pressure and slow going.

I got it done, though. I may tweak it a bit before the polishing edit, but it’s basically there. And I think it strengthens the story. The action is more true to the character.

Most of the revisions from this point will be less dramatic. Right now, I’m averaging slightly over two chapters a day, which will comfortably finish this draft by the end of the month. On target again.

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BEYOND THE PROPHECY revisions are under way–not as far under way as I’d hoped, but that’s the way these things go sometimes.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Hopefully, I’ll make it up later and stay on schedule. I’d like to complete the first pass this month.

Two scenes have been deleted. They weren’t doing much, really and the nuggets of information that were there could be moved (and told, not shown) elsewhere. In some ways, that’s the easy part.

Right now, I’m in the middle of revising/rewriting a scene that worked but could be stronger, as one of my critique partners suggested. I’m getting my main character more involved in the action, which is always good. On the other hand, this is almost like going back to a first draft, so it does slow the revision process down. The story overall will be stronger for it, though.

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I’ve finally made progress on the blurb for BEYOND THE PROPHECY.

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????It isn’t finished, yet. It still needs some tightening, but I’ve finally got something I can work with:

The foundations of Vatar’s world are unraveling.

Being one of a handful graced—or cursed—with both kinds of magic makes Vatar the target of those who think he’s too dangerous.

The Council that rules his adopted city has guaranteed safety for him and his family in return for his promise not to expose their secrets. But they’ve already failed to keep their part of the bargain.

One Council member sees him as an obstacle to furthering her power. Gerusa launches an unsanctioned attack on Vatar and his family. When that fails, she is forced to flee the city.

But that’s far from the end. Even from exile, Gerusa exerts influence, causing the city to churn with unrest and uncertainty. It’s clear that her goal is to unseat the Council and replace it with herself as sole ruler.

Unable to trust the Council, Vatar sets out to stop her.

But when he’s captured, he’ll be forced to prove his boast that it’s impossible to imprison anyone who can do what he can—or die.

The key was to focus on the central conflict.

I’ve also finished marking up the revision notes. One of the things I know is that I need to center the manuscript more on the central conflict. (Maybe not surprising that I had trouble with the blurb, then, huh?) There is a central conflict, but other things are happening, too. Things that lead up to the conflict in the fourth and final book in the DUAL MAGICS series. I just need to make sure that the main conflict of this story gets center stage.

A bit later today, it will be time to dig in and start the final revisions. Once I have a handle on that, I’ll be able to set the release date. The target is still September.

I also now have a new cover for “Modgud Gold“.

Modgud Gold Cover NewThat ties in with the series much better.

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Well, that what happens after school gets out for the summer, disrupting my routine. I completely lost track and forgot to blog yesterday. Catching up today.

So, I’m now in the mode of switching from starting the first draft of DUAL MAGICS BOOK 4 (title to be determined) to making the final revisions on BEYOND THE PROPHECY (Book 3).

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m currently making revision notes, chapter by chapter, based on the three critiques I’ve received from my beta readers. (One critique is still out, but she told me in the beginning that she’d need extra time.) But, if I’m going to have this ready to publish in September, I’ve got to get started.

A lot of the revisions will be relatively small. A little more context or background in a few places. Some things may get shifted around.

And not throwing out so many names all at once. That’s a big one right at the beginning. Starting sequels is hard partly because I already have all these characters. They’ve all been introduced in the earlier books. But that doesn’t mean I can name eight of them right at the beginning without expecting to confuse the reader. Yet, I have to identify them before the action starts, which is in Chapter 1. Well, I’ll work that out, too.

There are a few larger issues I’ll have to work on throughout the manuscript, too. Like doing a better job of centering the story on the main conflict.

Then there’s the blurb. That’s really been fighting me this time around. I’ll get it eventually.

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