Dark Light – Author Interview and Book Excerpt

Cover art for Dark Light, the second book of the Web of Light YA Fantasy duology by Kyra Dune.

Cover art for Dark Light, the second book of the Web of Light YA Fantasy duology by Kyra Dune.


The Web of Light, a magical force lost for three hundred years, has been recovered by the heirs of the land of Solice. But its return bears a heavy price. A price that will be paid in blood.

Seva and Valdor have fled to the Outlands, where an unanswered question drives them apart. And as Valdor seeks to prove his worth, Seva struggles to control the power threatening to consume her.

But the web is not what it seems and by the time the truth is discovered, it may be too late.

I love it when I give an unknown fantasy author a try and their work turns out to be a great read. Kyra Dune’s work is known to some, but I’d never read any of her books until recently, when I checked out Web of Light, the first book in the Web of Light duology, from the Kindle Lending Library. I enjoyed the read and admire how the book is structured. For the most part, each chapter is written in five sections, one section per each of five different viewpoint characters, giving the reader insights to events that none of the characters have individually. It’s a pleasure watching events unfold and interweave.

Dark Light, the second book in the Web of Light duology, has just been released, and while I’ve not yet had a chance to read it, I’m looking forward to it. I don’t want to miss seeing how everything set up in the first book plays out. Continue reading

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Love After Death – Cover Art

Love After Death cover art So here’s my first stab at a cover for my debut fantasy novel, Love After Death. Click on the image to see a larger version. I rendered the 3D portion of the cover in DAZ3D Studio using the Genesis model. Postwork and titling were done in Serif PhotoPlus X5. The title font is Showcard Gothic. The font for the rest of the text on the cover is Century Gothic.

It’s not easy picking fonts for cover art. You want them to stand out even when the cover is displayed at a small size. I think the fonts I chose will work well for that. LoveAfterDeath-5 Here’s a smaller version of the cover art, at the size you’d expect to see used in an Amazon ad or brief listing for a published book. I have to lean close to the screen to read the text at the very top of the image, but I can definitely make it out. I can read the title okay, but then I already know what it says.

What do you think of this cover art? Does it pique your interest in the novel? What kind of story does this cover make you think the novel will be? Any suggestions for changes?

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Love After Death – A Synopsis

Here’s a synopsis of my debut fantasy novel, “Love After Death.” That’s still a working title, but I’m thinking more and more that I’ll keep it. See what you think.

The story takes place on a world called Pharas, where magic is the norm. Humans on Pharas are said to have come to the world from Earth a couple thousand years ago through a magical portal that is still operational. The protagonist is a thirty-two-year-old human man named Alonso. He’s married to a shadow elf woman, Ngozi, whom he’s known since he was sixteen. They are childless and since being married have discovered they can’t have children. They own a tower by the sea and now they are broke. Ngozi works but Alonso doesn’t because he’s too depressed. Alonso wants a daughter, and although he has secretly “adopted” the ghost of a twenty-year-old woman as his “daughter,” he wants a flesh-and-blood daughter.

Tax time is coming soon, and Ngozi isn’t making enough money to pay the taxes. So she takes the initiative to find Alonso a job that she is sure he can do: a job delivering hats in the nearest city, Hooblaport, which is where Ngozi works. The city was founded by a lizard-like humanoid kindred called the hoobla, hence the name Hooblaport. Alonso’s employer is a hoobla milliner, but it’s a human sorceress called Lady Ryley who got Alonso the job, and she has some requirements of her own. It turns out that more is expected of Alonso on the job than he or Ngozi realized. Alonso is expected to do a little more than deliver hats.
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Sex Scenes in Fantasy Novels

I need your help, big time. My debut fantasy novel, now tentatively titled “Love After Death,” includes a number of explicit sex scenes. I’ve written them this way because that’s how they flowed onto the page. I have no qualms myself about publishing the novel with the sex scenes remaining as explicit as they are currently written. But I know there are some readers who are turned off by the inclusion of such scenes. Are there that many readers who feel that way, or just a few? I’m at the point where I’m ready to revise as needed and I’d love to have your input.

When it comes to sex scenes, I see four basic approaches:

  1. Not having any sex scenes at all, not even to mention that sex happens
  2. Mentioning that sex happens or alluding to the fact, but not describing any details beyond kissing, hugging or other activities that many people might do in public
  3. Describing or alluding to actions that most people would not do in public, but glossing over the specifics, and not mentioning people’s private parts in any way
  4. Placing no restrictions on descriptions of the actions involved during sex, typically being specific about what is done to or with people’s private parts

I say these are “basic” approaches, because between any two of them, there are many degrees of explicitness.
Continue reading

Next Big Thing Blog Hop Tour

When Riley Banks, author of The William S Club, asked for volunteers to whom she could pass the baton for the “Next Big Thing” Blog Hop Tour, I felt compelled to put out my hand. My book isn’t finished as I write this, and it won’t be finished for some months after this post goes live, but they say writers should start promoting their works early. So I’m taking their advice. Whoever they are.

The concept behind The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Tour is for each participant to answer the same set of ten questions that everyone else in the tour is answering. At the end of the post, the baton is passed on to two or three other authors who have recently published books or are currently working on them and would like to take part in this tour.

So without further ado, here are my answers to the questions for the Next Big Thing Blog Hop Tour.

1. What is the working title of your book?

The Unfinished Tower

The desire to finish the construction of the tower is a driving force throughout the story. Chances are good that I’ll keep that title for the published novel.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I used my fiction idea generators to spark my creativity. I generated personalities, events, overall concepts, and some magic effects to start with. Then I took a look at the entire set and tried to make something cohesive out of it all, set within my fictional world of Pharas, which I’ve been writing about and using for role playing game adventures for over 40 years.

The germ of an idea about the world of Pharas came into being in the late 70s when my friend Sam Breshears told me about a dream he had involving a giant and an underground lake. The giant and the lake have nothing to do with The Unfinished Tower, and very little with what the world of Pharas has evolved into. But this is what happens when a creative person like myself starts mulling over some small, seemingly insignificant detail and keeps adding to it. A whole world is born and grows and evolves and becomes so much more than what it started as.

3. What genre does your book fall under?

Fantasy. Can I narrow it down further? It’s not sword and sorcery like my short stories that were published in Peryton Publishing’s Troll Tunnels anthology. Sometimes I think the novel is paranormal romance. Sometimes I think it’s urban fantasy. Sometimes I think it’s erotic fantasy. I might end up toning down the erotica. I’m not sure how many of my potential readers would appreciate those scenes as written in the first draft. While I try not to be vulgar, some scenes as currently written are sexually explicit and only suitable for a mature audience. Since the main character is in his early thirties, I doubt too many young people will be interested in reading the novel anyway, but I’m not sure how many older readers will either. I welcome any comments on this topic.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’d thought about this even before I knew anything about this blog hop tour. Initially my image of the main character, Alonso, was that of a younger Antonio Banderas, in his early thirties. Choosing from actors who are currently an appropriate age, I have to go with Orlando Bloom. I know he’s in his mid-thirties now instead of his early thirties, but that’s nothing when it comes to movie making. Orlando is talented enough to play pretty much any role, and he’s a good fit for the body type I envision for Alonso.

For the character of Ngozi, Alonso’s shadow elf wife, who is also in her early thirties, I’d like to see Rosario Dawson take that role. I’ve seen her in a few movies, including Sin City (one of my favorite movies), and I like her style. She’s also got the right body type for Ngozi. Dye her hair violet and she’s good to go.

One of the most important characters in The Unfinished Tower is Lady Ryley, the high society friend of Ngozi who helps Alonso get a job. Lady Ryley looks to be in her thirties, though she is rumored to be older, and no one is sure how much older. She’s a good deal shorter than Alonso and Ngozi, and she has a mean streak. I’d love to see Christina Ricci in this role.

Two characters that make life for Alonso exciting and sometimes uncomfortable are the twin redheads Kala and Locket. While there might be twin actresses who could take these parts, I know Hollywood can do the magic required to use a single actress to fill the roles of identical twins. With that in mind, I’d choose Kate Upton to play the roles of both Kala and Locket. Kate is ultra sexy and so are the twenty-something twins.

Another important character is that of the red-haired Gabriel, a homeless runaway twelve-year-old about to turn thirteen. I confess to not having seen The Hunger Games, but I’ve seen some clips featuring Willow Shields, and I think she’d do the part of Gabriel justice.

The character of Wizard Grommuus, the Wizards Council Representative in Hooblaport, is a lizard-kin man. I’d like to see Rufus Sewell in the part; he can be intense and has a subtle sense of humor. I really liked his performance in Dark City. I wonder how he would look with scaly skin and a tail.

One other important character in The Unfinished Tower is the mysterious Aisling, a ghost who primarily appears to Alonso in his dreams. She chooses the form of a young redheaded woman in Alonso’s dreams. I can picture and hear Lindsay Lohan in that role.

There are other supporting characters in The Unfinished Tower, but these are the characters I’ve thought about the most in terms of which actors and actresses I’d cast them as.

Hover over the images below for rights information; click on the image for the page with full copyright details.

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom as Alonso

Rosario Dawson

Rosario Dawson as Ngozi

Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci as Lady Ryley

Kate Upton

Kate Upton as Kala and Locket

Willow Shields

Willow Shields as Gabriel

Cover Art for The Eleventh Hour

Rufus Sewell as Wizard Grommuus

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan as Aisling

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

For now I’m going with the following, which might change. I wanted to keep it at 25 words or less.

A depressed married man falls prey to seduction and magic, and must fight both to save his marriage and his life.

6. What is the longer synopsis of your book?

Alonso is a white human male married to Ngozi, a black shadow elf female. The two have been a couple since they were teenagers, and were married in their mid-twenties. They are now in their early thirties. Money gained from selling Alonso’s family farm allowed him and Ngozi to buy some coastal property and commission the building of the tower of their dreams. But construction on the tower stopped when Alonso ran out of money due to uncontrolled spending and no income. To finish building the tower, both Alonso and Ngozi needed to find work, but only Ngozi obtained a job. Descending into depression, Alonso spent his days walking the beach while Ngozi drove into the city to work. Each night Ngozi would come home and fix Alonso dinner. Seeing that Alonso is spiraling deeper into depression, Ngozi takes matters into her own hands, and finds Alonso a job through one of her high society city-dwelling friends, Lady Ryley. The job Alonso lands turns out to be delivering women’s hats. Earning his wage doesn’t only depend on if or how well he delivers hats; most of the clients are hoping for a little something extra. How far is he willing to go to earn the money he and Ngozi need to finish building their home?

Alonso also discovers that one ambitious wizardly type is cooking up a scheme to rule Pharas. Alonso’s death may be key to the wizard’s plans. Add to that the needs of a homeless runaway who Alonso wants to help and a ghost who begs for help that Alonso isn’t sure he should give. Can Alonso do the right thing for his wife and everyone else in his life, avoid dying, and maybe, just maybe, see his tower completed?

7. Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?

At this point I do not have an agent. I plan to publish my novel under my Eposic imprint.

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took me two months to write the 95,000 words of the full first draft. Before that I spent two weeks writing an outline of 20,000 words. I’m into my second month now of writing the second draft, basically rewriting the entire novel. It’s going slower than I’d like. It takes a lot of patience to write a novel.

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I went through a period of severe depression in my early thirties. The death of my mother when I was 28 and the failure of my first marriage in my early thirties were key factors leading to my depression. That period of depression is the impetus for the character of Alonso. He’s so depressed he has no motivation to do anything but walk the beach all day. He depends on his wife to take care of him. The story begins on the day he agrees to take action to do something to change his life. But life isn’t content to sit still and let him work out his problems—it compounds them for him. That’s how life goes sometimes.

Another inspiration for the story comes from the desire I’ve always had to have a daughter. This manifests in the story in a couple of ways.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The world of Pharas continues to evolve, and at this point it is a world where magic has become an integral part of society, perhaps even more than electricity is on Earth. Their washing machines are powered by water elementals, with fire elementals summoned afterwards to do the drying. They have bathing stalls in which the bather stands while a water elemental swirls over their body to clean them. They have glow stones that are much like light bulbs on Earth, but powered by magic. They have waste disposal bowls on which they sit to do their business, and when they are finished, the bowl transports the waste to another dimension, an adjacent universe. The wealthy have magical contact cards that are similar to Earth’s cell phones. But the people dress in tunics, breeches, corsets and the like. They ride in horse-drawn carriages. Their buildings are all made of stone, with few windows. Glass is expensive because it requires magic to make it strong enough to withstand the most extreme weather conditions.

Though Pharas is a different world, it has a portal to Earth. The portal isn’t used in the story, but it’s through this portal that humans first arrived on Pharas long, long ago. Some of the inhabitants of Pharas are purely human. Others are a mix of human and some other kindred. Goblins, lizard-kin, ogres, and trolls can be found in the cities. Those kindred aren’t like the monsters they are so often portrayed as in other fantasy fiction. That’s mainly because in the cities, laws are magically enforced—for the most part, keeping the monstrous kindred in line.

I plan to post the prologue for the book on this site when I’m nearly ready to publish.

That’s it about my Next Big Thing. I hope you’ve read something here you found interesting and will consider reading my novel when it is published, sometime before the end of summer 2013 if all goes to plan. There’s still a lot of work to do on it and I’m not going to rush it to market. But I didn’t want to pass up this opportunity to participate in the blog tour.


Now it’s time to pass the baton to other authors. Look for their installments on January 23.

Christina Lea is one of the founders of Peryton Publishing. Her work there includes creating role-playing games, herding the cats, and figuring out how to do all the stuff that everybody else refuses to think about. When nobody’s looking, she sneaks off and writes fiction. Look for her installment of the Next Big Thing on her blog, Willfully and Persistently. Connect with Christina on Twitter, @rchristinalea.

Soror Puella Lucis is an experimental musician and an occultist. She is influenced by surrealism, dada, stream of consciousness, and BDSM themes. She lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her installment of the Next Big Thing will be posted on the Black Flower Music blog.

Setting Long-Term Writing Goals

It’s 12/12/12. Do you know where your characters are?

On one of the blogs to which I subscribe, Creative Writing with the Crimson League, Victoria Grefer posted her rules for writing. Without going into all the details she posted, here are her six rules:

  1. Remember difficulties are normal and to be expected
  2. Remember first drafts don’t have to be perfect
  3. Have a sense of humor about yourself
  4. Don’t worry about what others will think
  5. Read problem paragraphs aloud
  6. Don’t force your will upon your characters

I’m in complete agreement with all of these rules, some more now than ever. If you want to read what I had to say about these rules, check out the comments on Victoria’s blog post.

In this post, I offer my Rule #7:

7. Set realistic long-term writing goals and strive to meet them.

If you have a contract with someone to produce a written work by a certain time, well, you already have your long-term goals set for you. I’m working on a novel in my spare time, on my own time, not for hire, so I need a rule like this to keep myself on track.

Let’s look at each part of this rule.

Be realistic. If you set your goals too high and fail to achieve them or even come close, you run the risk of discouraging yourself to the point of giving up. Just be honest with yourself in setting deadlines. If you give yourself the long-term goal of finishing the first draft of a 80,000-word novel in 30 days, that’s a short-term goal of an average of 2,667 words per day. For me, that wouldn’t be realistic. I gave myself nine weeks to write the first draft of my novel-in-progress, The Unfinished Tower, and that was more realistic.

Set long-term goals. While you might have certain short-term goals, such as writing a certain number of words per day, it helps to have a long-term goal to help you determine what your short-term goals need to be. If you are set on writing a novel and you’re writing the first draft, if you only set short-term goals, you could end up meeting them but not making the progress you’d like on the novel itself. For instance, setting a short-term goal of writing 500 words per day means it will take you 160 days, roughly 5 months, to finish the first draft of an 80,000-word novel. (Note: It will take longer than 5 months if you consider you’ll be throwing away 10% to 20% or more of your first draft. You really need to write 90,000 to 100,000 words in your first draft so you’ll have 80,000 words left over after editing.) Setting a long-term goal of finishing the first draft in two months, for example, means you’ll need to increase your short-term goals to an average of at least 1333 words per day. If that’s not realistic, you’ll have to accept that it will take you longer than you’d like. There’s some give and take between your desires and what is realistic.

Strive to meet your long-term goals. Some days I don’t feel like writing. So I don’t. By having a long-term goal and not focusing on short-term word count goals, I don’t have to feel like I’ve failed because I didn’t make my word count some days. I simply work harder on other days. I don’t let it get to me if I don’t quite make the deadline, either. I missed my goal of nine weeks for the first draft of my novel by a few days. I didn’t look at that as a failure, but I let it motivate me to finish as quickly as I could after my self-assigned deadline passed.

So that’s the rule I offer in addition to Victoria’s Six Rules to Write By. How about you? Do you set long-term writing goals or have other important rules for writing?

NaNoWriMo is Over. Get Back To Work

Friendly Writing Monster I read and commented on the post Friendly Monsters: NaNoWriMo on WorldWeaverPress.com, written by guest blogger Kristina Wojtaszek. Kristina tells us that she didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I commented that I hadn’t either.

NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month. It could just as easily stand for National Nonsense Writing Month. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the 30 days that comprise November. It’s a challenge that’s been issued every year since it started in 1999. The official web site resides at http://nanowrimo.org/. The word count of 50,000 is slight for a novel, but many participants recognize they will still have work to do on their novels after NaNoWriMo ends.

Kristina said in her reply to my comment that she admires those writers who can crank out 50,000 or more words per month. I do too, more so if they are able to do it consistently, every month. Doing it for one month is cool, and I did it once, for one month, caught up in the excitement of it all. So I know I can do it. I also know I can’t do it every month. Therein lies the problem.

NaNoWriMo is to writing like purging is to losing weight. You might accomplish the short term goal, but the activity doesn’t give you good tools for accomplishing long term goals.

Just like people who are serious about losing weight and keeping it off, people who are serious about writing novels need to develop habits they can sustain throughout the year and for the rest of their lives. NaNoWriMo can be detrimental to those who can’t finish or can’t keep up the same pace after it’s over. They pour themselves into the writing for one month, and then they are burned out. In the year I won the NaNoWriMo challenge, when December 1 arrived I didn’t want to write another word. I wasn’t ready on December 2 or 7 or 20 either. Christmas and New Year’s Day came and went, and I still wasn’t ready to write again. I had the desire to write, but I didn’t want to be writing on any particular day. When I did start work on a story again, it wasn’t on a novel.

NaNoWriMo can get people energized and talking about writing. That’s a good thing. But it doesn’t teach good writing habits. A lot of people don’t have the luxury of devoting all their working hours to novel writing. I’m one of those people. I have a software engineering job on which I work 40 hours each week, and I write during non-business hours. A lot of other people are in the same boat. For many of us, churning out 50,000 words a month would involve much useless wordage, all for the sake of a word count. I’ll write plenty of throwaway text as is, and don’t like wasting time doing it on purpose.

What writers like me need is to develop writing habits that fit our lifestyles and help us achieve our yearly writing goals. Suppose you have a yearly goal of 100,000 words, realizing that you’ll be throwing away 20% of those words, ending up with 80,000 words fit to be published. That’s just under 275 words per day. That is a reachable goal for most aspiring writers. If that is not a reachable goal for you, then set a lower goal. Writing 100 words per day will allow you to have 100,000 words in just under 3 years. Go for it.

Frustrated writer Some people who give advice for writers will suggest that you write every day. If you can do it, good for you. I can’t. I have to occasionally take a day or two off. I took the NaNoWriMo challenge twice and the first year I tried the NaNoWriMo challenge, I failed to write every day. When I got behind, I had to write even more words per day than 1667. Every missed day increased the amount by which I was behind, majorly discouraging me and making it even harder to catch up. I didn’t catch up, in fact, and failed to win the challenge that year. That failure left me feeling worse about writing than if I hadn’t participated at all.

Having a process that works over the long haul is what matters for a person serious about writing. Forming writing habits that fit your lifestyle and help you consistently reach your writing goals is key. NaNoWriMo doesn’t do that for me, and I don’t see how it can for most aspiring authors, the very people whom it targets. To me NaNoWriMo feels more like a distraction than a help, like playing a Facebook game competing with friends every day for a month. It can be a lot of fun, and it never hurts to socialize with friends, but the biggest thing you have to show for it at the end of the month may be your score.

One positive thing about NaNoWriMo is that people talk to each other about it and the writing process, and that’s cool. I’m not saying NaNoWriMo has no place in the writing community. Just don’t think of it as anything more than it is—a social event. If you are serious about writing novels, come up with a realistic writing goal that fits your lifestyle, and set out now to achieve it. NaNoWriMo is over, and if you participated but didn’t win the challenge, don’t let it discourage you. Figure out what writing habits will work for you and your lifestyle and allow you to reach your writing goals. Then seriously get to work writing that novel.


If you have any thoughts about the pros and cons of the social event that is NaNoWriMo, I’d love to hear them.

How Quick is Your Magic?

Cover Art for The Crimson League I just finished reading the fantasy novel, The Crimson League, by Victoria Grefer. The book was about sorcery and those who deal in it, and presented magic in a way unlike most other fantasy tales I’ve read or fantasy role playing games I’ve played.

In The Crimson League, magic is powered by Lin, for which not a lot is explained, but that’s beside the point. There’s a power source, and it has a name, something other than manna or The Force or kremm. To tap into this power source, one must have inherited the talent to do so, a status to which not everyone in the world qualifies. If you have the talent, then you must focus your mind and speak the correct word or short phrase. If you don’t focus correctly, the casting may produce an effect not quite what you want. With practice, you can learn how to focus correctly without as much effort. If you don’t speak the magic words correctly, the spell doesn’t take effect. If a magical word is supposed to end with an e and you say it with an a, it isn’t going to work, even though the untrained ear might not be able to tell the difference.

In Herezoth, the land in which unfurl the events of The Crimson League, learning a spell can be done by simply hearing another sorcerer cast it. Fortunately, you don’t have to shout it, or even speak it in a normal voice; if you don’t want your enemies learning your spells, you learn to whisper them when you cast them. But in the heat of battle, it might not be that easy to remember to whisper. And if someone has the ability to read your thoughts, they can learn your spells that way. It gives a whole new twist to using and learning magic.

Take all of the above and put it together with the fact that a sorcerer can fire off spells as fast as they can be spoken, and you can see that sorcerers in Herezoth are damn powerful. It’s no wonder the general population is highly prejudiced against all sorcerers. An experienced sorcerer could take out a band of sword-wielding warriors in a matter of seconds, without a single warrior having the time to swing a sword.

I think every other system of magic I’ve read about, whether in fiction or in role playing game rules, is more constrained than Grefer’s. In one popular system, the sorcerer must memorize the spells that can be cast that day, hanging them as it were on a spell rack from which the sorcerer may choose until the spells on the rack have been expended or the next day arrives. Most of these spells can be cast fairly quickly, but there are a limited number of each spell that may be cast per day, according to how the sorcerer chose them when the day began. Still, it is unlikely a sorcerer can cast multiple spells before any warriors in the area would have time to launch a physical attack on the sorcerer.

In the magic system of the role playing game Tunnels and Trolls, sorcerers don’t have to memorize spells beforehand, but is limited by the amount of kremm the sorcerer can manipulate at any given time, with more powerful spells requiring more amounts of kremm. After a spell is cast, the sorcerer must wait two full minutes before casting another one, presumably because the casting has temporarily disconnected the sorcerer from an immediately available source of kremm.

Yet other magic systems require lengthy rituals to invoke magic. These rituals might take hours or even days to complete, may require multiple participants, and may require items or lives to be consumed or sacrificed. They are more easily interrupted if you can find and reach the location of the ritual, but the effects of successfully cast ritualistic magic are typically extensive, causing or solving problems for vast numbers of people in one casting.

In fantasy fiction, it is typical for magic systems to be constrained for dramatic effect, especially if the protagonist is one who works magic. If sorcerers are magnitudes more powerful than warriors, a tale with a sorcerer protagonist fighting warriors becomes too predictable and boring, since it is expected that the sorcerer will handily defeat the warriors without problem.

Stories abound with a warrior protagonist and an extremely powerful sorcerer antagonist. These stories work because the warrior will be a sympathetic underdog character, but the problem here is to make it believable when the lesser warrior character defeats the all-powerful sorcerer. It’s just easier to tell this sort of tale if magic is constrained in some way, so the warrior character can figure out how to take advantage of the constraints to defeat the sorcerer.

In a tale with a sorcerer protagonist, such as The Crimson League, where users of magic are so much more powerful than warriors, the antagonist pretty much has to be an even more powerful sorcerer. This can make for an entertaining read, as Victoria Grefer proves with her tale. But the direct combat encounters between the protagonist and the antagonist can’t be too numerous—if the antagonist is that much more powerful than the protagonist, then the antagonist should handily defeat the protagonist after only an encounter or two.

My point in all this is that it depends on the kind of story you want to tell as to how constrained you should make your magic system, whether in fiction or a role playing game. In The Crimson League, combat encounters involving sorcery are deadly. To maintain the suspension of disbelief, characters of which the readers/players may have grown quite fond must become casualties. If the author/GM must kill off numerous characters, there will need to be a lot of characters around to start with, or more will have to be introduced as the story progresses. It’s not always easy for the author to manage a large stable of characters or for the reader to keep them all apart. If characters are continually introduced into the story just to be killed off, it becomes difficult for the reader to identify with or care about any of these characters.

If your tale concerns a sorcerer protagonist with few or no companions, you need some clear constraints on your magic system, so it will be believable when your protagonist is able to avoid being immediately incinerated by the more powerful antagonist, and so your protagonist isn’t expected to be able to automatically pulverize warrior foes.

But if you can pull off a tale of high-powered, low-constrained magic involving a sorcerer protagonist, a more powerful sorcerer antagonist, and lots of supporting characters ready to become casualties, and you can do it without making all the characters two-dimensional cutouts, then I applaud you, as I applaud Victoria Grefer with The Crimson League. If you like fantasy fiction and you’ve not read her book, I highly recommend you do.

My Goodreads Review
The Crimson League by Victoria Grefer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Crimson League I’m a sucker for fantasy novels with sorcerers and sorceresses as POV characters. In The Crimson League, the POV character is the sorceress Kora, but because of magic we are made privy to what is happening with other characters, including some that are miles away from Kora, without losing Kora as the POV character. This is genius on the part of the author.

When I read how magic works in the world of this novel, I wondered if the author would be able to pull it off in a manner that would allow for the continued suspension of disbelief. Those who practice magic can cast spells as quickly as they can speak the words, if they are able to focus properly. Spouting off three spells in immediate succession, within a matter of seconds, is possible in this world. That makes for quite a different story from one in which spells require rituals or material components or at least a minute or two of focusing, gesturing, and chanting. It’s not easy to interrupt the casting of a spell. About all you can do to defend yourself is put up a shield in the split second before the spell effect strikes you. So you can imagine that conflicts involving magic are deadly, and the author does not hold back in this regard. Characters that I cared about were slain, some within view of the POV character and others not, and so the reader is made privy to the details of some of these deaths and not others.

In a review of The Crimson League that I read elsewhere, a reviewer didn’t like the character of Menikas. I did. Menikas always tried to do what was right, and not just for himself. He saved Kora’s life, but she didn’t appreciate it and refused to make peace with him. I’m confident that if I had been in the same situation, I’d have done the same thing Menikas did. Because of the way magic worked in the world, with it being so easy to fire off a spell with but a word, and in a situation where Kora would have been outmatched by enemies who had magic, she would more than likely have been killed if she had tried to do what she wanted, which Menikas stopped her from doing. She blamed him for what happened after that to some of her friends, but realistically if she had intervened when she wanted she would have been unable to prevent the outcome anyway.

The situation with Menikas, a “good” character who acted in a manner he thought honorable and which another “good” character thought was deplorable, is just one example of the complex natures of the characters in this novel. Even the antagonist in this novel has some redeemable qualities, including the ability to love someone other than himself.

I never have time to read a book of this length through from beginning to end without putting it down multiple times, so I appreciated the breaks where I could put the book down. But I must also add that I could not put the book down once I had read 70% of it. I had to finish it then, and stayed up way too late, until the wee hours of the next morning, so I could finish without putting it down. I wanted to put it down and get some sleep, but I always found myself starting the next chapter just to see how things were going, and then I had to finish the chapter.

This is not epic, save-the-world fantasy fiction, and it’s not urban fantasy, but it has elements of both. There’s a touch of romance, some underground crawls and above-ground treks and a lot of hiding out in cities, an ample supply of adventure and misadventure, sword and sorcery conflicts, trolls, and complex characters. It’s my kind of fantasy tale.

So, yes, I loved the book. I’ll be reading the other books in the trilogy. I was able to obtain this book as a free download, but I’ll pay for the next two, because I want to support this author. I’ll publish some of my own fantasy novels some day, and hope they are on par with The Crimson League.

Visiting Other Worlds

A giant man juggling worlds. I’ve created a few different worlds in my time, and traveled in several created by others. The first world I remember visiting was called Earth, sometimes referred to as Terra, the third planet from a star called Sol. Earth was not of my creation; it was far more complex than any world I have ever created. I assume Earth was in existence quite some time before I came into being, but I have been unable to prove my assumption.

I don’t remember the portal I used to visit Earth, but I’ve been told it was a relatively small one, anchored in the uterus of a female human called Mommy. The size of the portal forced me to enter Earth as a proportionally small creature. I arrived on Earth in the form of a human, which appears to have been a good choice, since other life forms on Earth were subjugated to the will of the humans. The only form that might have been better than human would have been the cockroach, but apparently the choice of portal through which one enters Earth determines the form one will take on Earth, and the portal anchored inside Mommy did not support cockroach forms, only human ones.

Passage through the Mommy portal was so traumatic for me, it wiped my mind clean of all memories. I have no memory of what or where I was before arriving on Earth, and in fact I do not even remember anything from my first year on Earth. Baby Mike I have seen portraits of what other people claimed was me, but none of those portraits from my first year on Earth jogged any memories. My memories of my second through fourth years are vague at best, but looking at portraits from those times caused a stirring inside me, a subliminal recognition of the subjects of the portraits, so I believe the claim that I was among those subjects. Continue reading

380 Degrees in a Circle

concentric circles When does a circle have 380 degrees? When it’s in the fantasy world of Pharas, the world in which I’m setting my fantasy novel The Unfinished Tower. I’ve gone through a number of mathematical calculations to determine the laws of nature for Pharas, and it turns out that the numbers 2, 3, 5, and 19 are important to the nature of the world. So are numbers that factor down into those numbers and powers of those numbers, such as 4 (2*2), 9 (3*3), 10 (2*5), 38 (2*19), and 380 (2*2*5*19). I don’t want to reveal everything I’ve come up with about this world, hoping rather that much of it will be discovered by readers through the act of reading the novels I set in Pharas.

What I will say now is that the math for the physical laws of Pharas works out better if I declare the number of degrees in a circle to be 380 instead of 360. One of the fun things about creating your own fictional fantasy world is that you get to make up all sorts of weird stuff for it. So if you wanted to have a world where the educated people of the world agree that there are four degrees in a circle, making each of their degrees equal to 90 of ours on Earth, there’s nothing to stop you.

One might wonder—what’s the point? Indeed, in my case, I will not have occasion in The Unfinished Tower to ever mention the fact that the sages of Pharas have defined a circle to consist of 380 degrees instead of 360, or that the reason it is done is related to how they measure the passage of time in Pharas, which also doesn’t match Earth’s. Pharas doesn’t have 60 seconds per minute, 60 minutes per hour, 24 hours per day, or 365+ days per year. If you’ve guessed that the year in Pharas consists of 380 days, then give yourself a prize.

A few Earth decades ago, I had worked out a ton of information about Pharas, its countries and inhabitants, its calendar and holy days, and other tidbits of information. Back in 1998 I had some of this information on the web, but took it down eventually after realizing that someone else on the web was stealing my writing and claiming it as his own. (No, his last name was not Shipman.) Before that, I had written an outline for two-and-a-half books in a trilogy set in Pharas. That was before I knew enough about writing to produce a story that had a decent chance of pleasing a large number of readers as much as it pleased me. All that material I wrote back then serves now as background material for Pharas, as does the material I used many years ago for running a role playing campaign in the world of Pharas. None of that material will appear directly in the novels, but it all has helped shape my image of Pharas, and will influence the stories I write about it.

Even though I have created and recorded data about Pharas for decades, I had—until just this past weekend—overlooked certain implications arising from the data. You might say, hey, it’s a fantasy world, why worry about implications, when you have magic that can explain away any contradictions that arise from the physical laws you’ve prescribed? And I would say, yeah, I will rely on magic and hand-waving aplenty as it is, because trying to get everything geometrically, mathematically, and physically consistent is a task that I don’t envy God for having done with Earth. But anything that I can make naturally consistent within the laws for Pharas will help me as the author to keep consistent in my head and in my stories, because I won’t have to go scrolling or thumbing through my notes to find out where the white moon is supposed to be at dusk on the 77th day of the year.

Yes, this is why I have 380 degrees in a circle—so I can create relatively easy formulas for determining the positions of the more important heavenly bodies in the sky over Pharas at any given fictional time on any given fictional day. The positions of these heavenly bodies play important roles in the cultures of Pharas, and so it behooves me to get them right in my head every time, even if I don’t spell out every detail to the reader.

In fact, I will do my best to keep all the math, geometry, and physics transparent to the readers of my novels. But you who read this blog, you will know my secrets.