Posts Tagged ‘world building’

I’ve always planned to put out a boxed set of the DUAL MAGICS series some time after I publish WAR OF MAGIC.


A few days ago, I had another thought. I could put out a boxed set of the first three books for a limited time as a lead up to the release of the fourth and final book, WAR OF MAGIC. And, tempting as it is to jump on this, the best time to do that is when I can include a buy link (or pre-order link) at the end of the set. So, this can’t happen until I’m withing three months of publishing WAR OF MAGIC (because that’s how long Amazon currently allows pre-orders to run).

And, as you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’m still working on the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC. I expect I’ll finish that within the next two weeks, but that’s not even close to being within three months of publication. One of those months is just to let the first draft cool, so I can look at it with fresher eyes. Then I have to do a couple of rounds of revisions before it goes out to critique partners (who usually need about a month to read and critique a full novel). Then another round of revisions and a polishing edit. So, yeah, longer than three months.

Nevertheless, I’ve started to work on cover art for the boxed set.


This will, of course, eventually be replaced by the full boxed set.

And then, someday, I plan on putting out a boxed set of the first books in different series. Of course, that has to wait until I have another series or two under my belt.

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My last post was about part of the world I’m creating from BECOME.


This area of the story’s world will be very important, so it needs description.

My first drafts tend to be pretty spare on description, generally. But this is one of those places that requires a full description. I have to make this part of the world real to the reader. I don’t think I’ve done that yet. I’ve got the bones, maybe, but not the flesh. I’ll need to engage more of the five senses–the ones that are harder for me, like smell and touch. (I’m really not sure how a forest tastes, so I think I may have to leave that one out.) So I know I’m going to have to revisit this in the revisions.

And I have to describe it not just as I saw it (twenty years ago), but as my character would experience it. Some things that I recall might not be important to him. And some things I barely noticed might well draw his attention. So that’s going to take some thought and digging a little–or a lot–deeper.

Meanwhile, it’s time to build to the climax in WAR OF MAGIC.


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I posted a while back about having to go back and clarify some of my world building for BECOME. But that was the world building relating to the cultures and religion of this world. There’s another kind.


I’ve now reached the part of the story where my main character will first encounter a new part of this world–one that will be very important to most of the rest of this story. And so I need to describe it.

Now, the physical aspect of this part of the world is based heavily on the temperate rain forests of the Pacific Northwest. In particular, on Princess Louisa Inlet. So, I thought it would be a good idea to refresh my memory. Since a trip there is, unfortunately, impractical at the moment, that meant getting out the photo album from that trip. I thought I’d share a few.

This is the entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet. It’s actually called Malibu Rapids, and it’s very narrow and only about 30 feet deep–at high tide.

Entrance to Princess Louisa Inlet

That little spot, black below and red or yellow above, you can see off the point? That’s the zodiac going ahead to make sure of the channel.

The forest is the very definition of a temperate rain forest.

Princess Louisa Inlet

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 4

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 3

It was September when I was there, and the Fall colors were just starting.

Princess Louisa Inlet Forest 2

And, at the head of the inlet, there’s Chatterbox Falls.

Chatterbox Falls Close Up

Chatterbox Falls 2

This is the valley above Chattebox Falls.

The Valley Above Chatterbox Falls

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What I’m doing right now (well not right now, but you know that) is to go back through the early chapters of BECOME and try to make sure that the world building comes across to the reader. This is the foundation on which a fantasy novel is built. If the reader doesn’t understand the rules of the world, how can they understand the story?

At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary to avoid the dreaded info dump. This where a story essentially stops dead for several paragraphs or several pages (or, in the worst case I’ve ever read, an entire chapter) while the author explains the world. That’s just boring–and the one thing an author can’t do is bore the reader.

I always try to do the learn-as-you-go method of world building. Explaining–or better yet, showing–only what’s necessary at the moment and letting the world sort of accumulate. But it’s a delicate balance. And obviously from the critiques I’ve received, I missed that mark with BECOME. I really don’t feel I can go ahead with the story until I’ve got that solid foundation under it.

We’ll see how well I’ve succeeded with the patches.

As soon as I think I’ve got that in hand, I’ll go back to the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC. Got to get that done.


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I decided that instead of trying to continue grinding through the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC, what I really needed was to take a short break from it–only a week or so–and come back to it fresh.


Hopefully that will actually result in getting the draft done faster. (It could hardly be slower.)

Meanwhile, I’ve gone back to look over some of the critiques on the early chapters of BECOME (also in first draft, but incomplete).

One of the things that became clear early on was that no one really liked my prologue. They were confused whether this less-than-likable character was to be the main character. They were confused about some of the world-building issues (which is a much bigger thing I’ll be working on). And they didn’t see enough conflict or hook to start the story.

So . . . it’s gone. But not forgotten. Because you get to read it here:


Queen Carala hung on tight to the railing at the top of the staircase for balance and scowled at the spectacle below her, clearly visible through the great doors, which had been flung wide for the occasion. A procession of priestesses, led by the High Priestess herself, climbed sedately up the broad steps of the Palace and were met by Carala’s husband of less than a year, Leradan, the Year King.

If she weren’t so heavily pregnant, she’d be down there herself. Not to welcome the priestesses, but to monitor whatever foolish promises Leradan made to them. Not that she’d have been able to sway him. Goddess knew she’d talked herself hoarse last night trying. But no one could change that man’s mind once he’d made it up. And he’d decided to let himself be thoroughly gulled about this.

Carala sighed. Much as she wanted to be there, it took two of her husband’s strongest guardsmen to see her safely down the steep staircase at this point. She’d just have to rely on her half-sister, Lady Damina, to let her know what ridiculous oaths the High Priestess extracted from Leradan.

Below, the High Priestess accepted a small, blanket-wrapped bundle from one of the other priestesses and passed it to Leradan. The infant squalled at the transfer and Leradan, blast the man, put the baby on his shoulder and rocked, completely oblivious to the effect on his dignity. Not that the demonstration that he would be a good father wasn’t reassuring. Carala placed a hand on her own swollen belly. But there was a time and place for everything. And the great hall, with the doors wide open to the whole kingdom, was not the place.

It was bad enough that he’d brought his brat down from the north and installed her in the Palace. At least she was the daughter of his dead northern wife, not the bastard of some random priestess. And, of course, a girl and so no threat to Queen Carala’s child. Leria was at least quiet and polite. With this Temple brat, who could tell? Who was to say it was even Leradan’s?

Still cradling the infant, Leradan actually went down on his knees to seek the High Priestess’s blessing. Incredible. Carala knew he was a barbarian from some dreadful place in the north, but he’d been king of Juturna for three-quarters of a year. Past time he learned to behave with the dignity required for that role. She’d tried, Goddess knew. Carala was the daughter of the third Year King before Leradan. And one of those who’d ruled the longest. She knew about the proper demeanor for a king, if Leradan would just listen to her.

When Leradan started up the stairs, still carrying the infant and trailed by a buxom peasant woman, Carala retreated into her sitting room, seated herself in her large padded chair, and feigned disinterest.

As the group passed her door, Lady Damina scuttled inside.

“Well?” Queen Carala asked.

“It’s a boy, just as the priestess predicted,” Damina said.

“And? What did they make Leradan promise in return for this foundling?” Carala asked.

Damina shrugged. “Only that he would raise the boy as his own, my queen.”

Carala tossed her head. “Hmph! We’ll see about that.”

Damina patted her arm. “Well . . . really, what difference does it make? It might be good for your son—Goddess willing—to have a playmate in the Palace. And it’s not as if any of Leradan’s sons can inherit the throne after him.”

“Don’t be a fool, Damina. Juturna cannot survive if it maintains this barbaric practice of forcing its kings to fight for the crown every year. Quite apart from the instability, there’s no guarantee that a good fighter will make even a competent king. Goddess knows the last was a disaster and it was a secret relief to everyone when Leradan bested him in the warrior’s circle. And the one before him wasn’t much better. Leradan’s worked from dawn to dusk just repairing the damage they did. It can’t go on this way. My father knew that. If ever a Year King were strong enough to win his combats ten or fifteen times in a row, he could gather enough support to make himself permanent—and hereditary—king. Only, Father fell in his tenth combat. He never had the chance.”

“You think Leradan will succeed?” Damina asked.

Carala thought of her husband and smiled. He was young enough. He was tall and strong, though some of his guard were taller and stronger. What set Leradan apart was that he was the canniest fighter the Great Combat had seen in a hundred years. “Don’t you?”

Damina glanced toward the hallway. “He could win that many times, I think. But . . . will he try to overturn the combat? Will the Temple let him?”

“That’s why a king must win so many times. And be a good king, of course. So that the people will support him against the Temple, if necessary. As for the will . . . I’ve got years to work on that.” Carala placed a hand protectively over her belly. “And the birth of a son—a true son—gives a man more reason to think of the future.” Her expression darkened. “That’s why we can’t have this interloper, foisted on us by the Temple, given credence as Leradan’s first born.”

Queen Carala glanced toward the door in time to see a small grey cat stroll along behind Leradan and the nursemaid. Really! True, all cats were sacred to the Goddess. She’d never harm one, of course. That didn’t mean one had to allow them inside the Palace.

With a little help from Lady Damina, Carala hoisted herself out of the chair and waddled down the hall to the nursery that she had lovingly prepared for the birth of her own child in just a few days. She paused in the door. The room had changed since she’d last been here. There were two cribs now, side by side. And a small curtained alcove with a bed large enough for an adult—though not one of Leradan’s size. Sometime before Carala arrived, Leria had joined the group and now the girl strained on tiptoe to get a glimpse of the baby in Leradan’s arms.

“Can I hold him? Please?” Leria asked.

Leradan looked to the peasant woman, who smiled. “Of course you can. Go sit down in that chair.”

Leria obeyed instantly. The peasant woman took the baby from Leradan’s arms and placed it carefully in the girl’s lap. “Put your hand so, to support his head. That’s it.”

“What’s his name?” Leria asked.

“Gaian,” her father answered.

Carala drew in a sharp breath. “Glory of the Goddess.” They’d dared to name the boy that?

Leradan turned his head in her direction, so Carala placed a hand on her side as if a stitch there had been the cause of her gasp.

“I didn’t realize you intended to put him in with our own child. Surely, the Palace has enough rooms that they could each have their own,” she said.

It was the peasant woman who answered. “Truly, you highness, it will be easier to care for the babes this way. Until they’re old enough to need more room for their play.”

Carala pinned her with a haughty gaze. “And you are . . . ?”

Leradan answered, “This is Sarala, the wet nurse supplied by the Temple for Gaian.”

Carala raised her eyes to her husband’s. “And you mean for her to care for both babies.”

“Well, not as a wet nurse for both. But to care for them both? Yes. Why not? What higher recommendation could you wish than the Temple?”

There wasn’t a good answer to that. The Goddess’s priestesses would surely do all in their power to protect any child. Still . . . she’d planned on someone more . . . sympathetic to her and her own child. Perhaps when they were older, she could arrange for that. Carala nodded acceptance.

Sarala lifted the baby from Leria’s lap and laid him in the nearest cradle. The little grey cat—Carala had almost forgotten about that—leapt up to the edge of the cradle and then down into it. It pushed its nose into the baby’s face once, then curled up at the foot of the cradle, purring.

“You don’t mean to let that creature stay in here, do you? That can’t be healthy.” Or sanitary.

Leradan smiled down at the sleeping pair—baby and cat. “She is the Goddess’s gift to Gaian. To guide and protect him. Of course she stays wherever he does.”

Carala opened her mouth to say something more about that, but what came out instead was a gasp as pain lanced through her.

Leradan was at her side, instantly. “What is it?”

“I . . . I think our child is coming . . .”


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While I continue to grind out the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC (and some days it really does feel like grinding), I’m also starting to look ahead to what projects I’ll be taking up after I complete the DUAL MAGICS series.


One project, which is already started, is currently titled BECOME, based (very) loosely on the Greek legend of Hercules, but turned on its head. This story has changed immensely from its first (very bad) incarnation. (It started with the name DREAMER’S ROSE and was mostly about another character, whose story was based on the fairy tale “Toads and Diamonds”.) I’m excited about the new version. This one will likely be either a duology or a trilogy.

The other will begin with a rewrite of another story of mine, MAGE STORM. The first version skewed too young. Middle grade, actually. I’m going to rewrite it more for a general audience. There’s plenty of material there. And I’ve always had ideas for at least three sequels, building off of events in the earlier books.

That’s the plan. Of course, I have several other stories fermenting. It’s always possible one of them will ambush me and insist on being moved up in the list. It’s happened before.

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I’ve never (yet) written a prologue that I’ve kept in the final story. I don’t tend to like them much. But there’s a first time for everything, they say.

No, WAR OF MAGIC doesn’t have a prologue (exactly), though it will have an epilogue.


But BECOME, the next epic fantasy I’m planning to write, will have one. Or maybe more than one.

I’ve been getting some feedback from my critique partners on the parts I’ve got written while I keep working on the first draft of WAR OF MAGIC–setting myself up to work on BECOME while that first draft rests before I start the revisions.

The first–very short–prologue that I’m almost sure I’ll have is the only one I haven’t written some version of. That one will basically be just a prophecy and the fact that it’s been carefully hidden. That prophecy–once discovered–will be the reason the antagonist does some of what he does. And the prologue will help set up something that will take a little while to develop as the story is currently working out.

That one might be so short it might not even need to be labeled a prologue.

I have another prologue written that helps set up the background for this story, but at least one critique partner had some issues with it that might cause me to scrap that one, though.


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Here are my 2016 Writing Goals:

  1. WAR OF MAGIC: Complete first draft, revisions, get critiques, revise again, polish, and publishWarOfMagic5
  2. Revise the already-published “Becoming Lioness” and publish the new edition. Pull together the tie-in short stories, “Hunter and Huntress” and “The Seeker”. Put them through the same revision process.Becoming Lioness Cover 2
  3. Publish a boxed set of the DUAL MAGICS series.
  4. MAGE STORM: Rewrite this as an epic fantasy. Same revision process as above. Try to publish in 2016 or early 2017.
  5. BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING: Get a first draft done.
  6. Planning, world-building, etc. for some of the other stories on my back burner:
    1. Another story in the same world as DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING.
    2. A set of fairy-tale retellings I’ve been playing with.
    3. The prequels to the DUAL MAGICS series that explain how the world got that way.
    4. The sequels to MAGE STORM.
    5. My Weird Oz story.
    6. The last novel in the Chimeria series.
  7. I would dearly love to be able to get to a writers’ conference somewhere in there, but that will depend on both time and finances.

I think that should keep me busy.

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Well after bashing my head against the keyboard repeatedly, I’ve decided that the problem with getting back into Book 4 (probably to be titled WAR MAGIC) is that I just need to give myself a break. I need to let my creative battery recharge.

Because, let’s face it, if I’m not enthusiastic about what I’m writing, that’s going to show. It’s not that I don’t love the characters, world, and story of the DUAL MAGICS series. It’s that I’ve been living with it 24/7 for at least two years. And the story has been running around in my head for much longer than that. (This is the third version. The first book had been written in full twice, once very badly, once in a misguided attempt to make it YA. And the second had been written all the way through once, again, very badly. It took two complete rewrites of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE and one of THE VOICE OF PROPHECY before I felt they were ready for the world to see them.)

Even during breaks–like while a manuscript was cooling before revisions or while it was out with my beta readers–I’ve mostly been working on either the tie-in short stories or the next book in the series. Or just giving another editing to pass to something I’d written earlier and formatting it for Amazon, like DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING, which was actually written just before I started on the rewrite of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE.

Sometimes, you can recharge by taking a vacation. That’s probably something I need to do. It’s a great way to get inspiration, among other things. But it’s not going to be this year. Or probably next.

But there are other ways to recharge the creative batteries. Fortunately, one of them is to allow your mind to play with other toys. So, even though I don’t have a first draft, yet, Book 4 does have a cover. (Well, except for the title, etc., anyway.)

WarMagicBlankAnother way I’m going to recharge is by playing in another sandbox for a little while. So I’ve given myself permission to spend a little time in the world of my next epic fantasy series. Not for long. But it’s amazing how much more writing I can get done on something new. I need to bring that “new” energy back to the final book of the DUAL MAGICS series. Maybe this is the way to do that.

This new series doesn’t have a name yet. I’m playing with THE GODDESS’S OWN, but we’ll see. It’s either a trilogy or a duology. The first book is currently titled BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING. We’ll see about that, too. It’s sort of a Hercules story, turned completely–or almost completely–upside down. (Hint: The hero’s not the son of the sky god (like Hercules’s father, Zeus), but of the mother-earth goddess.)

So, Book 4 is coming. But I think it will actually come faster–and better–for just a little break to let my imagination play with other toys.

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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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