Despite the tide of dark and frightening events in Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians, there are many reasons to hope for a brighter tomorrow. Magic is wild and follows rules that people have yet to decipher in this new magical age. There are signs of goodness and light to push back the darkness. Prayer, an early discovery that strong faith can protect people from the dangers loose in the world sustained millions. While those protections are a boon to the faithful, magic users themselves will prove even more potent in pushing back the forces that would tear apart the Earth as we know it. Whether those magic users will have time or be free of meddling by governments around the world remains to be seen.
The last magical age on Earth came to an end over six thousand years ago. The years between those ages are known in certain circles as the bleak time. During the last six thousand years, magic has seeped into the world in virtually random drips and drops, wholly unsuited to spell casting. That did not stop some dedicated practitioners and their descendants from seeking out alternative sources of magical power. These zealots and their extended families called on dark forces, performed evil rites, and conducted abominations against life itself. Murders, mutilations, and ritualized human sacrifice fueled their bleak time spells. Even these diabolical methods produced only trace amounts of magical energies for use in the simplest of spells. Now that the bleak times are over, these dark rituals are no longer necessary, but they may have stained those who participated in those gruesome rites beyond redemption.
Not only because it can pull you down the rabbit hole, but because research can fundamentally change the way you see your work. I’m guilty of both, to be honest. I’ve plumbed the depths of unrelated research, gone on tangents, and delved into minutiae that would never make it into my book. On the other hand, I’ve found material I never expected to discover that required serious rewriting of pages in my manuscript that I thought were ready for publication. Either way, research, as important as it is for a good factual foundation, can suck you in and hold you for hours on end. That may be good or bad, but if time is a constraint, as it is for many writers, beware the trap research represents. It may seem like a necessary activity to support good writing. It certainly is, but research can easily turn into a bottomless pit that takes as long to get out of as it does to climb down into. Writer beware!
The dangers facing people in Fantastic America are many and varied, but there is reason to hope. Magic, for all the dangers it represents, is also the best defense against those dangers. While there is no one from the modern world with mastery over magical forces, there are people learning to use powers no one has had access to in thousands of years. Some of those people are just as dangerous as any monster from another world, but for every one of them, there is a more potent wielder of magic to hold back the darkness those magic users would cast over the world around them. The difference between the two camps may not be apparent to outsiders, but you may still judge them by their actions. If anyone can see beyond the powers they wield since the winter solstice.
Can humans adapt to an overwhelming force that sets loose incredible creatures from other worlds to a rapidly changing Earth? Monsters, miracles, and magic spread to every part of the the world in Fantastic America. How people react to the return of magic is an understandable mix of fear, bravery, disbelief, and acceptance. While Ashley Monahan reports on the paranormal events around the country, Daniel Forrester sees his team of Federal agents as the only defense America has against the surge of monsters that could collapse modern civilization. Either of them could be right, or they could both be unprepared for what comes next in a world of magic unleashed.
Death has snuffed out a brilliant light taken far too soon. I needed a critique group, but didn’t know how bad I needed other authors. She helped me with my craft, took a chance on me when I didn’t even know how rough my writing was, and gave me a safe place to stretch my wings before I took flight. She’ll be missed by many, and rightly so. She was a terrific human, a great writer, and a passionate supporter of emerging voices. I wish her family whatever comfort they can find amid their sudden, unexpected grief.
Gaming can also interfere with my productivity, but that isn’t what I mean. What I’m getting at is that gaming experiences give me a better frame of reference to describe settings, events, and characters. Table top dungeon crawls with friends, solo missions in dozens of MMORPG’s, and enough turn based strategy games to fill the hard drives of most of the PC’s I’ve owned, gives me a rich treasury of fantastic imagery. I’ve waded through armies of undead, breached the walls of countless castles, forged mighty empires across time and space, and built thriving civilizations from a ragged band of settlers. So when I write about things pulled from my imagination, it’s flavored by all those hours of gameplay, cut scenes, and the internal monologue that accompanied those hours. I’ll admit though, sometimes its harder than I’d care to admit to stop playing a really good game to work on stories in the worlds I’ve created and populated.
In Fantastic America, the world you knew bears only superficial resemblance to a world of magic unleashed. Familiar things are not what they seem, places are no longer what they were, and people everywhere are desperate for something solid to hold on to. Religions give people hope early in the return of magic, prayer and faith give many people hope. Even a practical defense against the unknown. As magic power increases, and the threats that brings spiral beyond the reach of prayer or faith, what can beat back the weird that encroaches on everyday life? People in the world of magic unleashed will need to learn new skills, or find new methods to survive the changes magic brings to the Earth. Even if those new skills are thousands of years old.
But that was before the return of magic. We took for granted our position at the top of the food chain, and in the bleak times between magical ages, that made sense. Long ago, our ancestors believed there were more dangers than a few hungry animals outside in the dark. The world after magic returned is far less familiar, and there are enough threats of one kind or another to make the bravest among us afraid. There are actual dangers from the things that go bump in the night, and so far, there isn’t anyone to bump back. People stay indoors after dark, but that doesn’t guarantee safety. Sometimes, that just makes them a meal in a box. If fear is the new normal, maybe its time to try some of the protections from the past. People will try anything: prayers, herbs, hex signs, anything that might hold the weird at bay. We called it folklore, and smiled at the simplicity of olden times, until the monsters they described turned out to be real.
Even as a new writer, you have to trust yourself to know when something is or isn’t working. You may need to leave a scene or whole chapter alone and come back to it later to find not only the right way to approach it, but the best way to tell (or show) the story. In Fantastic America I’ve always felt the beginning was a bit rushed, but didn’t trust myself to change the way I’d written that first page. I’ve tweaked that page but it has remained mostly what it was the first time I wrote it, over two years ago. With editorial feedback my instincts were validated, even though I’d never said a word to my editor about that scene. I could have save a lot of time if I’d just followed my instincts about that scene. There are lots of examples of this in my work, sometimes I’ve listened to that instinct and sometimes, to my detriment, I have not. Listen to your writer’s gut, save yourself some time, but if it isn’t working at all, don’t give up on it!
That is just one benefit an editor brings to a manuscript. A fresh set of eyes looks at things you may have glossed over a hundred times in reading and rereading the same words. That objectivity asks questions you may not have thought of, or worse, thought of but didn’t answer. I have almost a month of rewriting ahead of me, maybe more after the first pass through, but that isn’t discouraging at all. I feel better than ever about this book’s potential. The parts I was really proud of (without telling my editor anything about them) were parts she really liked too. 🙂 Now the focus for me is on bringing up the parts in between to match what makes them worthy and stitching the whole story together from the various parts I’ve cobbled together without direction. Writing makes me happy, I love to see the story come together, the ideas grow on the page, the characters take on a life of their own, and I get to pull a few strings here and there. Rewriting after that makes the joy that much sweeter, because I know there is a point for all the parts to row together towards. Happy Holidays!
That I totally forgot to add a post here! If not for a random snapchat add, I would have been caught up in the process till who knows when. Life is full of happy little accidents sometimes. Better than a bunch of sad accidents I guess. Anyway, I’m hard at work on going through the edits for Fantastic America, and I’ll probably be at it through the rest of the month and probably part of January, too! I’m smiling as I work through it, so I must be a glutton for punishment…
In terms of the Magic Unleashed series, this is the eight year anniversary of the return of magic. While the books have not caught up to our current time, there is so much going on from this night in 2012 on! I can’t wait to share all of the trials and tribulations the winter solstice brought the world of Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians. Speaking of Fantastic America, I start the second round of post developmental editing this week. This is the closest to being ready to publish that the manuscript has been. I’ll have more to share after the New Year begins 🙂
PS – I’m still planning to migrate this page to The Sorcerer’s Realm ( thesorcerersrealm.com ) at or before NYE!!!
There are monsters aplenty, but no little devil or angel over people’s shoulders whispering what they should do at any point. Their decisions aren’t influenced by purely good or purely evil spirits. There might be spirits who try to influence characters, but they don’t belong to either of those two camps. Things are inherently more complicated than that, but it will take the characters in Fantastic America and Midwestern Magicians a while to figure out how any other reality might affect their world. There are enough people in both books who are monstrous enough without invoking beings demonic or angelic.
Although you won’t meet her for a while, Dorothea lives in the mountains of Ohio with her extended family. Her family is notoriously long lived, and granny Dot has been hoping she might live long enough to see magic return to her world. She comes from a long line of women who have held onto the old ways, even as the world around them forgot those ways ever existed. The return of magic has made Granny Dot and her kin more powerful than ever, but even through the bleak times they were far from helpless. Their family has practiced dark rituals for generations, even before they came across the ocean and settled in the remote part of the mountains they call home. Flesh and blood sustained her kin while they waited for real power, but power comes in many forms. Granny had a hunger before the magic returned, and now that it has, rather than sating that hunger with the power she now wields, she wants even more. Her cravings may even be worse than her kin can abide.
Once upon a time, in a lost heroic age, magic was real, but it has been thousands of years since there was enough magic in the world to matter. In the bleak times, magic required great sacrifice. The kind that sheds blood, human blood. Even then it was just a spark compared to the magic of olden times. In Fantastic America, Midwestern Magicians, and the rest of the Magic Unleashed series, magic floods the Earth in waves of weird changes. Mythical creatures and events spring up around the world. There is an effort to hold back the tide, but each wave is higher and stronger than the last. Can anything in our modern arsenal, any part of the scientific method, any group of ordinary humans stand up against the relentless surge of magic, monsters and miracles?
Even in the advent of winter, even if I’d rather take a nice warm nap. My mind is awash with ideas. Some of them make their way into my books, some make their way into a folder for ideas that I keep for later, and many end up on the cutting room floor of my mind’s eye. (No splinter’s, please!) While I’m constantly sifting through these ideas, the strongest surge of those I’m not actively trying to fit together come as I try to drift off to sleep. I have a very unbalanced sleep schedule, in part from shift work while I was in the Navy, so sleep can come for me at almost any time of day or night. Some, if not most, of my best ideas have come to me in that little window of time between my head hitting the pillow and the last conscious thought I expected to have. I’m not sure if that’s how my muse comes to me, or if that is the only time my subconscious mind is free to shuffle its ideas into my waking mind. Either way, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had to jump out of bed and write down the awesomeness that comes to me after I’m good and comfy in bed. It used to really bother me, I do like to be comfortable after all, but the ideas I get in that state, the joy they bring me as I feverishly write them down, is well worth the price I pay from a few minutes (or hours) of lost sleep!
2020 has been rough from the very start, but I’m feeling more hopeful as the calendar runs out. New year, new government, new me? I don’t expect overnight changes, but vaccines are being approved and distributed. The winter weather has settled in, but spring is closer every day. There are still lockdowns, and it’s been a good month since I’ve been out for more than lunch or shopping. One of my favorite movie quotes is, “It can’t rain all the time.” Maybe the clouds are starting to part for brighter days ahead. I’d like to think so, even if the darkness doesn’t break right away. I have a lot of projects to look forward to, editing, querying, and publishing are all on my goal list for 2021. Fantastic America, and Midwestern Magicians are still on my desk, and inching closer to a book shelf or E-reader by the day. Tomorrow may not be much of an improvement over today, but I’ll take any improvement on the way to better days.
Bob Ross tried to tell us there were no such things as accidents. He went on to make happy little trees or birds out of stray brushstrokes. In my writing, I try to apply the same idea. Not every turn of phrase becomes a bird or tree, but I do try to pull together the best version of prose for what I try to convey. The best of my work though, so far at least, comes when all the threads I’ve been teasing along separately, finally pull together. Emotional reactions, internal monologues, plot elements, and palpable tension all build to a crescendo of words. It helps if I’ve experienced some or all of what I’m writing about, but that isn’t entirely necessary either. The climax of Fantastic America was like that for me. I piled on the pressure for my main character, Ashley Monahan, until she couldn’t take one more thing. Then I gave her that one more thing and watched (as much as wrote) the resulting explosion. The aftermath made her a stronger character, a stronger person, and the only character capable of doing what the story needed. Serendipitous even!
Going out with friends, seeing people I hadn’t seen in a while, or meeting new people was a big part of my life for years. Since the ‘Rona, I’ve isolated myself more and more. I have some underlying conditions that put me more at risk than most people. Despite the dangers and diminished returns of going out when most everyone else is staying home, I miss face to face interactions. Although staying in leaves me with more time to write, the long cold winter days and nights without a welcome interruption to socialize are taking a toll on me. The vaccines may eventually help ease the lockdowns and restrictions around the country, in the meantime, social butterflies like me will feel caged and stir crazy. At least I’m doing what I can to stay healthy, right?