Sunday, November 30, 2014

Magiskeep Story

Class Dismissed

Part 2

One by one, the rest of the youngsters recited the chant until only Sarn, Sovin, and Jamus were left at their desks. Sorra almost felt sorry for pathetic little Sovin, whose meager talents made him even more dependent than most on Words of Chanting to develop a weave. To make matters worse, he had a poor memory for spells and would often jumble the words even after he had managed to learn them. Sarn was just too high spirited to take the time and effort required and would usually need a threat or a missed meal to be convinced enough to apply himself to the task. Jamus was, in her mind, the most rebellious and deliberate in his laziness. Refusing to bother with chants out of an arrogant belief he needed none in the making of Magic.
With the three boys moved to the front desks, Sorra stood at her lectern and for a long time simply stared at them, weighing her options carefully. Then, she drew a red fruit from the air and placed it on the table to her left. “Here,” she said, “is a fruit from the far west of Turan, one of Aberdal Province’s favorite delicacies. I expect only truth from you. Have any of you seen such a fruit before?”  All three shook their heads. “Good. Then here is your duty. Sift the fruit and once you have so done, give me your hand. I will visit your mind and sort the sifting into a Spell of Creation. If you have indeed Perceived the truth of this pollendor, my Spell will create a duplicate of it here on the table. If you have not succeeded, you will sit here until Norwin’s Turn if need be until you can do as I instruct.”

            Sovin furrowed his brow in determined concentration, his lips moving rapidly and though Sorra could hear only an incomprehensible mumble, at least she was pleased he was trying. Sarn chose to open his lesson book and begin reading the words in a soft murmur, over and over without even looking at the fruit. Apparently, he was going to at last conquer the rote, and again, Sorra was satisfied. Jamus simply sat back, took a casual glance at the fruit and with his typical maddening defiance, began staring out the window.
The Wind began to turn, the first breath of Sowin brushing against the curtains, while Sorra waited. Midmeal was surely finished by now and Mistress though she was, her stomach protested its hunger as well as anyone’s. She hoped the cooks would welcome her to the kitchens and made a mental note to further assure that none of the three boys would get so much as a crumb to eat themselves until Lastmeal. It would be small revenge, but fitting, she decided.
Sarn was first to come to her. Gently, he pressed his hand into hers. He whispered the Chant and then let her find her way into his thoughts. There, the Mistress of Beginnings found the pollendor’s secret, Perceived in perfect detail. One quick gesture of her free hand placed a shiny red fruit on the table next to the first and she freed Sarn’s fingers from her grip, “Done, at last, Sarn. You are adept, you know. I would hope one day you learn to do as you’re told without such punishment.”

            Sarn fixed his sharp eyes on her face and grinned, “I always learn, Madam.”
Something in his tone made Sorra shiver, but she dismissed both the feeling and the boy at the same instant. Then she watched thoughtfully as he ran from the room.
Sovin was waiting to be next, his limp little hand reluctant to touch hers, so that Sorra finally had to grab it herself. She relaxed her grip when she noticed the look of panic in his eyes and then said gently, “Go ahead, Sovin. I’m ready.”
The boy intoned a fair version of the Chant, missing more the rhythm of the pattern rather than words themselves and the squeezed his eyes shut, tensing his body as he let her filter into his mind. Sorra sighed when she found the Spell, its Weaving loose and incomplete. But, she tightened a thread or so to help him along and then gestured. A half ripe pollendor, with a misshapen curve appeared on the table. Ugly and half formed, it was not perfect, but it was a pollendor. Sovin’s groan of relief made Sorra drop his hand and before she could wave him away, he had bolted in panic out the door.
That left Jamus. “Well, boy,” Sorra said, not bothering to hide her exasperation, “Have you learned the Chant yet?”
Jamus shook his head, “No, Mistress. You said I was to sift the fruit until I knew its truth. You didn’t tell me to learn the Chant.”
One more time, Sorra gritted her teeth and bit back her rage. Jamus’ insolence deserved a response, but perhaps letting him make a fool of himself would be better than anything she could say. “Give me your hand, then,” she said, her jaw tight. “Let us see your version of the fruit.”
Jamus grip was sure and firm, his slender fingers twining confidently with hers. Sorra started at his touch, an intense and inexplicable feeling aroused as his flesh pressed against hers. She fought a totally unexpected and inappropriate urge to reach for him with her arms, longing to close her body against his. It was a struggle, one to be quickly lost by a lesser woman, won now only by Sorra’s own fierce self-will. She threw her thoughts to the task at hand, found the center of his Perception, gestured with her fingers to Create whatever he had sifted, and then yanked her hand free of his, falling back against her stool to steady her shaking knees. If touching him had been torment, the sight of the fruit which appeared on the table was torture. There lay another pollendor in perfect replication to the first, down to every visible spot and stripe. Sorra stared at it, her mouth dropping in surprise. She was absolutely certain it would taste, to the last drip of syrup, exactly like the one she had drawn from the River herself.
“Is it all right, Mistress?”  Jamus asked innocently.
Despite herself, Sorra sputtered, “How….how, without the Chant…?”
“I Saw, Mistress, that’s all, and then I thought about pollendor trees in Aberdal and wondered how they might look in full bloom. From there, it was a small thing to see the fruit ripen and I let my hand pluck one for you. To Understand one fruit is to Understand all, isn’t it?  Surleps, apples, and pollendors…how much different can they be?”
Somewhat composed, Sorra continued, “Not so different, perhaps, but not so much the same either. This pollendor is identical to mine. How could you make another one exactly the same?”
Jamus smiled, “That’s what you told me to do, Mistress. I was only following your directions.”
Sorra wondered what effect a scream of frustration might have on the rest of the Keep, then swallowed hard and said, “Your pride will defeat you some day, boy. There are many who will not tolerate a braggart as much as I. You’ve already missed midmeal, and the wind has changed. I would suggest you attend Mistress Joria’s class this Sowin with an ounce of humility. She is not as lenient as I am with children who mock their elders.”

Jamus opened his mouth to protest, then snapped it shut, lowering his eyes to the floor instead as he nodded meekly. He had never intended to boast, but had merely done the most natural thing in using the Magic. He knew Sorra was angry about it though, and didn’t want to suffer much more of her tongue-lashing. Keeping his eyes fixed on the floor, he didn’t watch her leave. Instead, he let the sound of her footsteps out the door guide him and then he slipped out into the hallway himself and made his way to his next class.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

A Story of Magiskeep

Class Dismissed

(This story takes place before Kingdom Beyond the Rim. I am posting it in small segments for my readers. Enjoy. )

Part 1
Rule and Vow were a sacred oath in Magiskeep, but as a child he’d hadn’t yet sworn to either.  Still, he knew it wouldn’t be easy murdering a Master of Magic, but there were ways. The best would be to catch her by surprise before she could call the River to save her from death. He would have to study and learn on his own, memorizing the spells, but in the end, it would be worth the effort. He was tired of the humiliation, her constant corrections and punishments every time he failed to match her standards. She was a hard, unfeeling woman and he’d learned to hate her. Now, as he sat on the hard wooden bench in her classroom, considering the alternatives, the Mistress of Beginnings made her fateful mistake.

Class was being held in the upper study chamber of the turquoise palace of Magiskeep. The third floor was usually reserved for classes of younger students, who had not yet been selected for Prentice stature. Lessons lasted from Easwin, the first hours of the day, until Windchange and midmeal. After a break of several spans, there was a Sowin session which lasted until evenmeal. Training was intense, but the young ones often passed among three or four Masters during their hours of study, changing from one Art to another to keep their childish minds interested. Usually, however, at least one day of each Sevenstin was relegated to Sorra, Mistress of Beginnings. Known to be a stern mistress, she had a reputation for schooling her charges thoroughly and well in all the basics necessary for later mastery of the Arts of Magic. Sagari, Master of the Keep, had appointed her to her position some seventy circles ago, and she had thrived in it ever since.  She was a beautiful woman, though hard in her appearance, with soft dark hair pulled back in an ever present bun at the nape of her neck and two piercing green eyes which could see right through to her student’s hearts.

This morning, despite the sun streaming in from the window high in the wall of the room, the Mistress’ mood was dark. Despite all her warnings, most of her students had not completed their last assignment. Worse, it was not the first time this had happened. This particular group of children, identified by the dark blue tunics of the East Hall, were learning bad habits instead of spells and Sorra knew she was going to have to take some harsh action to break the cycle.

Now, she frowned down at the class of young PrePrentices seated at the dozen study desks and the closed the great leather bound volume in front of her with a decided thud. “I am disappointed so few of you have memorized the Chant of Sifting,” she said sternly.  Dressed in a high cut robe of dark green and nearly six feet tall, Sorra cut an imposing figure as she drew herself up ready to begin the much needed lecture on discipline.
Ten students sank down on their stools, as if trying to hide from the promised chastisement, while the eleventh and twelfth straightened a bit, knowing they were exempt this time.
“Jenna and Siron, you are excused for midmeal. While I am pleased with your work, however, I would warn you not to rest on the pride of your accomplishments today. Becoming a Magician is a lifelong task demanding thousands of days as hard as this one. Learning one Chant is a small success in the River, children. You will need many is you ever hope to touch the Waters.”

The scowling  mistress gestured dismissal at which the two youngsters bolted for the door, and then she turned back to her other pupils.  Her green eyes surveyed the dispirited group--ten children, most little more than seven circles old, and all totally miserable. Sorra sighed. There sat little Jinda, and Sovin, in her mind far too little gifted to be worth schooling in the Keep. Sarn, Siamel, and Jessa all crouched with their faces buried in the texts as if studying now could make up for last Norwin’s shortcomings. They, at least, showed promise of future talent, as did Semion, Jafus, Serus, and Jomen. But talent would not serve in the Way of Magic, for Sorcerers had to be both trained and disciplined if ever they were to succeed in mastering the Art. None proved it better than the tenth student, Jamus, a lad a full season younger than the rest who had tested far better than any child who had ever come to Magiskeep’s Halls. Yet he, of all, was the least ready to learn the rote, and Sorra’s most challenging student to date.
Dark-haired, with two ice grey eyes set in a face which promised handsomeness once it matured, Jamus was a tormented outcast among his peers. Born in the Rim, the enchanted mountains far to the west, he had been orphaned there and brought to the Keep by the Great Master himself, who soon adopted him as his son. Even so, kinship to Lord Sagari offered little protection to the boy when he was among the other hopeful PrePrentices; for they saw him as an alien being who still stank of the red mountain dust and the sweat of Mountmen’s labor. They teased him unmercifully, and refused to accept him into any of their activities. His performance in classes did little to ease his plight. From day to day, even Wind to Wind, he wavered from talented practitioner to bumbling fool in exercise after exercise, fueling no end of mockery from the other children. Apparently, the Gift of Magic included no guarantee of consistency, and Jamus was living proof of how capricious the Talent could be in any one person.
Today, the other students in class had at least managed to recite a few words of the chant correctly despite not having learned it all, but Jamus could not even spit out one word from the spell, as if he were entirely illiterate in its content. The only thing protecting him from the full force of Sorra’s wrath had been the failure of the others as well. Now, the Mistress of Beginnings found it hard to hold her temper with any of them, “Do you think you are above the Old Learnings?  For ages, Sorcerers have studied these words and committed them to memory as among the first of all spells. No Magician can ever hope to cast a Weaving upon a thing he does not comprehend. Magic succeeds only through knowledge.”  Sorra would have repeated the old story of Magic’s first discovery in the World and of the havoc wanton use of it visited upon mortals, but she had already given this class the tale a half dozen times. She doubted telling it again would have much effect at this point. “You must learn to sift the world, Children. You must learn to see into the heart of things, to understand how they are made and how they work.” Now she held up the leather bound tome, “This book is made of vellum and ink, an easy collection to comprehend. You have studied both already and know how each is created—how the fibers lie and how the color links. I led you to that knowledge by using my powers of Perception to let you See. But I will not always be there to lead you to the heart of creations. It will be up to you to discover these secrets on your own. This spell,” she jabbed her finger at the book, “opens the way for you to begin. What excuse can you have for not learning it as I instructed?”

            The question was purely rhetorical, and when Jamus timidly raised his hand, Sorra stiffened. He had a habit of asking disquieting questions, so Sorra acknowledged him with some reluctance.
“Mistress,” he said quietly, “why do we learn words if we don’t need them?  If I can sift without a chanting, is that so wrong?”

            The class’ gasp nearly drowned out Sorra’s own. His suggestion bordered on blasphemy in the classroom. Sorra drew a deep, steadying breath, “The chants are needed, Jamus, no matter what you think. You’re not here to challenge the teachings of Masters who know more than you do. Magic needs a guide and words are the Magician’s tool, just as the carpenter cannot build without his hammer.”
“He would build without one if he could,” Jamus replied. “If he could simply raise his hand and see the house rise.”

            Sorra took another breath which did little to calm her this time, “Then he would not be a carpenter, would he?  Rather he would be a Sorcerer and the circle of my lesson would be closed. He could not raise the house without the knowledge of its construction and the words of  manipulation.”
“The boards might fly into place without words, Mistress. I have not heard Sagari utter spells before casting a weave.”

Sorra gritted her teeth. Evoking Sagari’s name to prove a point was not the best of ideas for anyone. It insulted her by reminding her of the boy’s status in the Keep and provoked the other students by reminding them of exactly who Jamus was, “The Master of Magiskeep is a Seven Arts Mage who no longer needs to speak every spell aloud, boy. When you are a Mage yourself, perhaps you will be able to do the same. PrePrentices and Prentices—should you ever become one—are wordbound in the River until the Arts are Mastered. You had best remember that, for I and the other Masters will not tolerate any less of you.”
“But Mistress Joria…”  Jamus began to protest.
Sorra cut him short, “Mistress Joria is not your teacher. I am. Were she assigned to the duty of instructing young fools like you in the Beginnings, then her opinion might matter to me. As it is now, I don’t care what she does or says in regard to the issue.”
Sarn giggled nervously, as he nodded knowingly at Siamel who batted her green eyes with pretended innocence. The two of them had often teased Jamus about his outlandish challenges to Sorra and resented his closeness to Masters such as Joria. This latest incident was going to supply a good Sevenstin of torture. Sarn winked and Siamel smiled back wickedly.
Now Jinda’s hand shot up. The eagerness of her tone clearly indicated she had noticed little of the tension building in the room, “Mistress, Mistress!  I have the Chant now. May I say it for you so I can go before the meat is cold?”
The little girl’s naiveté was completely disarming most of the time, and Sorra found herself softening out of her present rage, “You may, Jinda. It would be good to hear someone answer well right about now.” 
Jinda stood at her seat, tossed her blonde braid behind her neck and smiled sweetly, “Here are the words of Sifting as passed from Beginning to End…
            Eyes of mine by River be
            Led within that I may see
            Heart of heart, and all within
            All to end and all begin.
            Grant me knowledge sharp and keen
            To see what is and is not seen.
            Touch my hand, O River rise,
            Granting Vision to my eyes”

“Excellently spoken, Jinda,” Sorra replied, nodding to the girl. “Though I wish you’d learned that last night instead of this Easwin, I will excuse you from class.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone

Good Thoughts

May you all find many things to give thanks for on this special day.

I want to thank all my readers for stepping into my fantasy world so share it with me.

Special thanks to those of you who took a chance with a new writer and a first novel. I am humbled by the number of you who decided to take a chance on my book.

I hope many of you will continue on as the rest of the Saga unfolds.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Let Me Introduce

The Horses of My Real Life

I've mentioned that Whim's personality was inspired by my own Russell R.  Well, here he is with me on his back. We used to compete in a lot of jumping competitions.
I'll have to look around for a color photo of him. He was a talented horse.

My Tucker is a naughty, opinionated boy. I don't think he will ever actually grow up.

Toby is my oldest boy. He's a solid citizen except he does spook at things. I don't ride him much any more as he's retired.
Chance is the youngest and most sensible of the gang. He and Tucker are both adopted from a horse rescue.
The do like to have fun now and then and heaven knows what happens when I'm not watching. If you read my post on their great escape, you'll know exactly what I mean. Their personalities and stories have definitely influenced my novels. As I've said before, inspiration comes from life.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How One Became Seven

The Saga of Many

As you may recall, I began writing Kingdom Beyond the Rim in response to a challenge from one of my English classes. I had assigned them an essay, "What would you do with a magic power?"  They told me if they had to write a story, I should too. I took them up on the challenge, but soon my basic story concept kept growing until it eventually became the first draft of Kingdom. At that time, the novel was about two hundred pages long.

Over the next good number of years, I learned a lot about writing novels and stories. I sent my book off to publishers to have it rejected, I worked with an editor, I added and deleted prologues, and after about three complete rewrites, I ended up with the version of Kingdom published now.

As my characters and their story developed, I realized there was a great deal more to tell. The world of Turan had expanded, Magiskeep and the Magic had blossomed, and Jamus' destiny was far greater than I had anticipated. I needed to write more.

The next River awaited, and over the course of another year or so, I wrote The Wall Between. Once I'd finished that, I started writing White Wind.

Then, however, I was interrupted in the novel "flow" by the Halfwittenberg Door. We were a group of computer gamers who had played and loved Sierra's Quest for Glory role playing adventure games. After Sierra closed its doors our founder, Hans Halfwitten, a biology professor from northwest New Jersey, founded the Door, a message board for fans to gather to discuss our favorite games and just get to know each other.

Somewhere along the way the Door became a "share your writing board," and for the next twelve years, we did just that.  I've lost track of how many stories were shared there. We even created a Writers' Round where each author took turns contributing chapters to a single story, layering in our own characters and plot. It was a tour de force with dozens of plot twists and turns constantly challenging us to figure out how to get in and out of each others' brains to move the story along.

We had several "child boards" attached to the Door, including the Writer's Forge where I assigned writing lessons to members who wanted to practice their skills.

During those years at the Door, I wrote at least nine Magiskeep stories, some of which I will be now publishing as part of the Saga.  

Frustrated by trying to sell my novels through conventional publishers, I stopped writing for a while after the Door locked it latches for the last time. Most of the members had moved on to other things and we just didn't "talk" much anymore.

Then, the specter of self-publishing and a new computer game on the horizon sparked my writing again. First, with self-publishing options, I could publish the book myself, satisfy a thirty year dream and perhaps find a few people to read what I'd written.  Secondly, Lori and Corey Cole, the original developers of Quest for Glory had decided to develop a new computer RPG game in the same style--Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption. Their Kickstarter appeal drew thousands of dollars from the huge base of former fans. Among them was my Door buddy, David Melanson (my cover art creator). Dave ended up having some input into the game and, to my delight, that included Jamus and Whim, my characters.

Knowing that Jamus would be making a guest appearance--not quite as himself--in the new game, I decided that once again, he deserved to have the rest of his story told. I pulled out the files for White Wind and began writing again. Then, I wrote Blackwing Rising, which I thought was going to be the final book in the series.

After a bit more trial and error than I intended, I published Kingdom Beyond the Rim and just kept on writing. Its success has spurred me on. With the stories from the Door to be consolidated into their own books, I was up to six completed versions. Done, or so I thought.

Then, in my editing and rereading of Honor's Way, the second book, I realized I still had another Dragon to face.  Jamus' story was not finished after all.  And so, the seventh novel is underway. It's going a bit more slowly than I intended. My main computer crashed and was in for repair. Then, I found that one of the Door stories needs some attention, so I'm working on that.

Since then, I've found bits and pieces of some other stories related to some of the characters and events in The Wall Bewteen, that may well spark another related, but not quite Magiskeep novel.

I guess wherever a story is to be told, I am compelled to tell it.  If you drop by my blog in the next few days, you'll find a story here too. It's a Kingdom prequel, if you will. I hope you drop by to read it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More Ideas

Life's Adventures

In my last post I mentioned how characters in my novels are gleaned from real life. If you've read my author biography, you may see that Whim, Jamus' horse, is based upon the first horse I ever owned Russell R.

Russell was a very intelligent boy with an amazing sense of humor. More than once he played pranks just for the fun of it. Once, he even hid behind the barn when one of my friends arrived to see me. He'd taken to charging the fence at her because he seemed to love seeing her scream and run away from my "killer horse."  (He was actually one of the kindest and most gentle horses I've ever known but he liked to put on fierce faces to make people think he was a tough guy.) That day, she asked me where he was and I told her he was somewhere in the back. Now, I had seen him peek around the corner, see her and then duck back, but I kept his secret. Only when she was leaning on the top rail talking to me did he charge out from this hiding place, teeth bared, right at her. She screamed and bolted back.  I swear he stopped in his tracks and just started laughing at her.

Whim's devotion to Jamus and his mischievous personality are all based on Russell.

Where am I going with this?  Somewhere, probably in the last novel, there may well be an equine episode based on my adventure this morning. I headed out to feed my three horses, only to find no horses to feed. Someone--more than likely Chance, my more "creative" horse--had knocked down the rails on the back section of fence and all three boys had gone adventuring.

Luckily, there is woods behind my house and it would have taken a lot of extra navigation for the horses to get out to the road, so I wasn't as worried as I normally would have been. Still, I hiked out for over an hour looking for them. After a pretty good woodland search, I get in my truck and headed out to drive around the farm field next door. I caught up with the escapees not too far from the trail back home.

Adventures like this are more sources of inspiration for stories and plot elements.  Somewhere, this experience will nestle in my brain.  Sooner or later, it will probably spark an idea for a story of its own or an episode in a novel.

Just is case you see it in one of my books, you can say you saw it here first!

Thursday, November 20, 2014


From Whence?

I was asked the other day where I got my ideas for my books.  I hadn't thought about that in a long while as my writing just seemed to "happen" without specific triggers. But it was a good question and I had to answer it.

Everywhere. Most all the characters in my books are based, to some degree, on real people know or have known. I think every writer is a keen observer of the worlds around her, and the people she meets every day. As a former high school teacher, I may have had more contact with different kinds of people on a daily basis than some, however. On a daily basis, if I taught my usual class load of six classes a day with perhaps 20 students in each class, that meant 120 encounters each day. (Most of the time I had classes with more students in them but I averaged for the sake of the blog.) Then I might, on that same day talk to twenty other teachers, school secretaries, custodians, school administrators, guidance counselors, parents and the dozens of students I might meet while on hall duty or just traveling around the building.

Did you every count the number of people you meet every day? I'd wager if you took the time, you'd be surprised. But we writers just don't count, we notice. We listen, we remember mannerisms, see postures, note clothing, and all the details of the people we meet. All those memories bury themselves in our brains and one day become the characters in our stories.

One day with a class of difficult students might lead to a whole chapter in a book. An hour standing in line at the supermarket might be the core of a short story. A teenager's dream of adventure could become a novel.

The real world around us is already full of stories. All writers do is pay attention and put them down on paper in our own unique ways.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When Characters Take Control

Sooner or Later It Happens

So, you create the characters for your novel. You give them personalities. You invent their physical descriptions. You decide what they wear, how they talk, and how they think. They are your Adams and Eves in the garden.

Wonderful, you say to yourself. Now they shall do whatever I want them to do in my plot. They are under my command, ready to bend to my will, ever ready to do exactly what I need them to do in order to push the story along.

And then, sooner or later, one of them in complete defiance of your expectations, plucks the forbidden fruit from the tree.

Your character has a will of his/her own.

It happens every time a write creates a fully developed character with principles, beliefs, and personality traits.  The character starts to drive the story instead of the other way around.

My main character, Jamus, is a person of high moral standards and an even higher expectation of himself. Until he confronts and accepts his "oppositional ego" in the Way of Mirrors he does not have the ability to intentionally harm another person.

The, world of Turan, however, does not easily suffer naive innocents who refuse to fight at all costs. Those who meekly surrender can be easily swept up into the dictatorships of men like Sagari and Prince Gareth. Those adversaries and the immoral world they represent are the human forces Jamus confronts over and over. It would be easy, with all his Magic, for him to become one of "them," ready to defeat opposition with a simple wave of his hand.

But his inner core of integrity denies him the easy way out again and again. He is a man conflicted by how easily power corrupts and constantly hones his own Will against it.  Ultimately, while the Magick constantly makes demands on him, trying to compel him to embrace his power, he refuses to fall into its Spell.

Jamus has become his own person, and even I , as his author, cannot change him. The forces of Darkness swirling around him resort to deceit and treachery trying to have their way. Jamus will have none of it. To him, honesty and truth are cherished values. He is a man forced to travel pathways he would much rather avoid, and yet he refuses to surrender to their shadows.

No matter where I may want my story to go, I must always remember Jamus will always have his say.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Technology Dependency

Back In the Day

Taking a short break here from fantasy to step into the real world for a short post.

When I first started writing my first Magiskeep novel back in 1984, I did not have a computer. The computer age was in its infancy. I do recall I may have had a word processor, and definitely an electric typewriter, but my main writing tool was a ball point pen.

For some reason, I found steno pads to provide the perfect paper. They were easy to carry around and often, I'd have one with me almost all the time in case inspiration arose.

Kingdom Beyond the Rim was handwritten in longhand the first time out. I think the original version was about two hundred pages. It was the same basic story, but lacking in detail.  It was as if I had written an outline of a book rather than a novel. Still, at some point, I typed it up and sent it to a publisher.

Rejection letter later, I consulted a professional writer I know and soon the two of use were honing a new version of the book. Bart Jackson, a successful author himself, had good insight into some of the finer points of writing, especially in fleshing out characters and scenes with active, vivid description. I learned quite a bit of writing craft from him and after editing perhaps a third of the novel under his watch, I returned to working on it myself.

At some point, the computer took the place of the steno pads. I need to search my pile of pads to see if I can figure out when that was, but once I had the bare bones of the novel typed up into a computer file, editing and rewriting became a cinch. Gone were the days of whiteout, typeovers, and carbon paper.

Two days ago, I was struck with a confusing computer malfunction that disabled my keyboard. My computer ended up with the computer Geeks at Best Buy for repair and recovery. (Fortunately, the story should have a happy ending, as the strange problem turned out to have a simple solution.)

It's only when you lose something that you begin to realize how dependent you have become on it. I have little slips of note paper all over the place now--here at my computer desk where the temporary laptop replacement sits, and in the back pockets of several pairs of jeans. When I had no computer to write with, I resorted to paper and pen--any slip of paper would do when inspiration struck.

Considering that I'm not quite sure where all the little slips of paper are, I'm beginning to think I should have traveled further back in my writing history to satisfy my creative urges.

I think I still have a few memo pads lying around.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Language of Fantasy

It's All In the Context

One of the fun elements of writing fantasy for authors is the ability to create a world. The writer becomes a "god" of sorts, inventing how the world operates--with magic, for example--, how the world looks, what kind of creatures inhabit the world, how society operates, and the language of that world.

To writers, language is all important. As I noted in my last post, what I write has to sound right to the "ear" in my head with many elements of poetry applied. And yet, when I enter my fantasy world, in this case, Turan, I am also aware that is it a foreign land. Of course, I must write the story in English--my native language so both I and my audience can understand what's happening, but I also need to convey this concept of "foreigness" as well. After all, "We're not in Kansas any more, Toto."

So, I invent all kinds of strange names for things characters encounter along the way. But to be fair to my readers, I also need to put those strange names and terms into some kind of context so they can figure out what the heck I'm talking about.

Take, for example, the mountain tark that often appears in the novels. I might say it "prowled the ridge, its long tail swishing as it searched stalked its prey."  Now, context suggests a predator something like a mountain lion. Perfect. (oops, one of those sentence fragments again.)  Now, if I add that "It noticed the duskit hopping alongside the trail below, but its eyes searched further. There drinking at the pond to the east was a dorrsett, much larger prey, better suited to fill the great cat's belly."

Aha! What now? Two more creatures are introduced and although I don't give a lot of description of either, a sharp reader can make a pretty educated guest. The "hopping duskit" is something little--perhaps like a rabbit--and the "dorrsett"is larger. Some sort of deer?  Furthermore, the tark's being like a mountain lion is confirmed in the last part of the description.

Context--where words are and what's around them--is an important part of both good reading and good writing. We cannot just toss words and phrases around for the fun of it. (Well, not too often as I do call butterflies "flutterbyes." ) And, of course, once a word is introduced, the author has to be careful to use it correctly again throughout the book.

I am not well versed in languages other than English myself. I do not know how much linguistic versatility they allow.  English is fluid, alive, and welcoming to invented words and phrases. Shakespeare himself invented hundreds of new words to the language when he wrote. Every day people are creating new vocabulary to suit the technical explosion of our age. We fantasy writers never expect the words we invent to become part of the general vocabulary, but we take the same approach.  "Suit the action to the word, the word to the action," (Hamlet III, 2) and let all suit the world you've created.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Poetic License

Writing Style

Writers develop writing styles suited to the kind of writing they are doing. As a result, often conventional rules of grammar and sentence structure do not always apply.

Academic writing requires strict grammar rules. Sentence fragments, odd verb placements and such are not acceptable. Standard sentence structure is essential.  This is also true for most informational writing.

But, there are writing situations where structured grammar can often get in the way of either style or meaning.

As noted in the last post, poetry is a prime example of this. The poet twists and turns sentences on their "heads and heels" in order to fit a rhythm or rhyme pattern. Even in free verse, the poet's writing "ear" demands words or phrases which may be grammatically incorrect in the conventional sense in order to either create a mood, emphasize and idea, or create a beat to the language.

Between the two extremes lies the valley of creative writing. A blend, perhaps of the academic and poetic, creative prose writing often plays with the rules of grammar as well. As a result, writers develop their own individual styles and quite often ignore the conventions of standard grammar.

When, I write, I "hear" the words I am putting on paper. Sometimes, a sentence fragment suits my meaning and intent, so I don't hesitate to write a fragment.  I can also get very selective about the words I use to convey an idea. To me, the word I need to express an idea needs to be just right. Does it need three syllables? Does it need the accent on the last syllable? Does it have the right alliteration or assonance?

Part of it all is that much of my creative prose has a flow of poetry to me.  Grammar does not rule, except to make meaning clear.

We write as we speak, not always in sentences, but in thoughts. It's all about the meaning, and the style must suit.

Bless the freedom of creative writing. It liberates language from the rules.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Unlike many fantasy novels, the Dragons in The Saga of Magiskeep are primarily good creatures. The lone exception is Blackwing himself, the Black Dragon. While he does not have any outstanding redeeming qualities, the other Dragons of the novel series do.

Blackwing makes his appearance in Kingdom Beyond the Rim, the first novel. He roams around in Jamus' nightmares as Everendings, ever be, most often speaking in rhyming poetry.

A word here about poetry. Through the centuries, poetic language has been revered. Many ancient and medieval writings were written in poetic form. The Odyssey of Homer, Beowulf, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and later, Shakespeare's plays, all were written in poetry forms. There are many reasons for this. First, is that poetry elevates the meaning of whatever it is trying to express. Things just "sound" more significant when written in poetry. Then too, since many of the older stories were spoken aloud instead of read, poetry can often help the storyteller remember the lines. I'm sure you probably remember some old rhymes from your childhood even today. As well, some of these stories were "sung" in performance, or at least accompanied by music, so the rhythm of the words added to the impact of the music.  Finally, to some degree, poetry is often considered to be "magical" language. Incantations and spells are almost always presented in poetic form. The Three Witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth clearly demonstrate this idea. Their poetry breaks into a unique and obvious rhyme/ rhythm pattern quite different from the rest of the language in the play. As well, looking at Shakespeare's plays, we can see that other characters' language drifts in and out of poetry depending on what they are talking about, or whom they are talking to. The more important a topic, or the higher the status of the speaker, the richer the poetry.

So, how does this all apply to the Saga? Magical encounters with the Black Dragon are accented by the poetry of the language. As well, Prophecies in the stories are often told in poetic form. And then, there are the songs. The Follyman, Simen, often finds his music controlled by the forces of Magic as he reveals secrets of Jamus' future in his songs.

But all Dragons do not speak in poetry. Some don't like to talk much at all and would just rather sleep. When they do speak, though, the wise man listens well. Their words are full of ancient wisdom. The Rainbow Dragon at the River's bottom knows the past, present and future. And he, of all Dragons, holds the power of life over death.

There are three other Dragons you will meet along Turan's Way as the novels progress. I won't introduce them now, but they are heroic figures all important to Jamus' journey to become the Rivermaster. They are all powerful Magic creatures I hope you will like them as much as I do.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The River

Waters and Magic of Many Colors

Magic, as I've said, runs in a River all throughout Turan.

It has waters of many colors and at the very bottom lives the Rainbow Dragon who is a Guardian of sorts of all the waters. He is very powerful and can grant the power of life over death. In the first novel, Jamus discovers his lair and does call upon him to help in some critical Healings.

The Magicians of Magiskeep are trained in using the Gold Magic, the waters of the Golden River. This is the Magic of pure logic.  It takes a great deal of study to master its Seven Arts. The Skill of each of the Seven Arts build upon one another, and most do not work without the learned skill of the Art before.

Very few Magicians can master all Seven Arts and most magicians are talented in one special skill.  Once that talent is discovered an Apprentice specializes in learning that Art to develop Mastery.

The First Art is Comprehension. This is basic understanding. Before a Magician can work a spell, he/she must have complete understanding of the target of the spell and how to work the Magic waters.
Scholars of this Art are the researchers and librarians of Magiskeep.

The Second Art is Illusion.  This is the skill to make things appear to be something else. It might also be used to make someone see something that is not actually there.  Masters of this Art can make illusions that are so solid they look and feel quite real.

The Third Art is Recreation where the Magician copies something that already exists and makes a duplicate of it.  This Art also can restore something that's been broken or damaged.  Masters of this Art are often skilled in Healing as well, but only if they have the talent for Compassion.

The Fourth Art is Transformation. This Art allows its practitioners to change something into something else. Working with materials at hand, the Master of this Art can make almost anything new. Often the first object must have some of the characteristics of the new creation. Masters of this Art rarely go hungry for they can change most any organic substance into a nice cavel roast.

The Fifth Art is Manipulation. The Art gains control over both objects and people. More often used to move objects from place to place the Art is not supposed to be used to force people to do things against their nature. However, such skill exists and too often the Masters of Manipulation use it to bend the Will of others.

The Sixth Art is Compassion. Here is the Art of Healing. By sensing, and Touching the pain, illness and injury of other living beings, the Master of this Art can call upon the River to Heal and restore Health.  True Masters are needed to cure Spellfire, the most damaging weapon of Magic. Only the most Gifted Masters can call upon the Rainbow Dragon to give life to someone who has died, or is dying. Compassion is truly a worthy talent.

The Seventh Art is Elevation. More ethereal than all the other Arts, Elevation is the pure skill of making anything it enchants better. It is an Art never truly Mastered as its sole goal is to reach perfection. Masters of Elevation do not always keep their thoughts in the practical world for they are always striving for something beyond the ordinary.

Thus the Golden Waters command the Magicians of the Keep.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Where is Magiskeep?

The World of Fantasy

Magiskeep is a kingdom in the fictional world of Turan. The sun rises in the west in this world and time is counted by the changing of the winds.

The day is divided into four parts. Easwin is the morning, Sowin the  midday, Weswin the evening, and Norwin the night.  Spans are like hours passing during the day. So, it might be several spans past Norwin and that would be mid-afternoon. Distances might also be defined by spans, indicating the time it would take to travel that journey on a walking horse.

In general, time is very non-specific as most people don't concern themselves with deadlines. Most meetings requiring more precise time would be scheduled at Windchange.

The seasons pass in Turan in the middle more moderate climates. Newmonth, Warmmonth,
Fullmonth ,Seremonth, and Chillmonth define the five recognized seasons of each Circle. The Circle is the full passing of the seasons.  The Great Circle is made up of unnumbered regular Circles (years to us) and will only close when the world is ended by some great cataclysm.  In the Saga of Magiskeep, the Great Circle is threatened by the Black Dragon, Blackwing and his forces of Darkness.

Darkness is the enemy of knowledge. The End of the Circle allows Darkness to rule in place of Light. If the Great Circle closes, life continues, but all knowledge is lost plunging humankind back into total ignorance. The Magicians lose their Magic, tradesmen and farmers lose their skills, and the Dark Forces have complete control with no weapons to defeat them.

Thus, Jamus' fight against the Shadows and the Black Dragon are important to all of Turan.

Magic itself is described as a river running in the core of Turan. More about Magic in the next post.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Saga of Magiskeep

Kingdom Beyond the Rim 

The first novel in the Saga of Magiskeep introduces Jamus the young Magician destined to one day be a Master of Magic.