Sunday, March 12, 2017

Ssh... secret sneaky peek.

I've been having a Twitter conversation about titles, so I'm *officially* posting this here as a continuation of that conversation- but I'm also posting here because I thought some of you would enjoy it.

Disclaimer: This is a draft of a novel in the middle of revision.  The final version may vary significantly.

Without further ado, the Prologue from Mancer 2: Of the Divine.  Yes, it deliberately parallels the prologue from Mancer 1: Of the Abyss, which I highly recommend reading before Of the Divine (which won't be out until this fall anyway):



 Prologue

             The ocean that covered most of the Numen’s first level was clear and sweet. It lapped against diamond sand where tiny long-legged birds spread wings the color of honey as they raced back and forth, plucking drifting seeds from the air. The Numini—those perfect, beautiful sentinels who ruled the divine realm by might and decree—watched the birds’ antics with gentle amusement.
              One Numini looked past the white sands and crystal waters below to a realm where the ocean was cold and tasted of salt, where verdant green cascaded across rich earth, and where the mortal creatures lived.
              Soon, she thought. She was one of the three arbiters who ruled the Numen, second only to the high justice of her kind.
              “I am concerned about the Abyssi,” remarked one of her brothers, a lesser judge. “We have worked for generations to nurture these lines of power, and now they could all be—”
              “Have faith,” the arbiter assured him.  “Abyssi scrabble at the mortal realm like dogs at a closed door.  They always have.  They lack the wisdom or discipline to do more than that.”
              “But do the mortals have the wisdom to keep the door closed?” the judge challenged.
              “Faith,” the arbiter said again.  This time it was a clear chastisement.
She knew their children in the mortal world were defenseless. Humans had minds barely capable of comprehending their own existence, and as a consequence lived short and brutal lives. They needed their divine guardians to guide and nurture them.  The Abyssi—vicious, mindless beasts of the infernal realm—could fight for sovereignty all they wanted.  In the end, it wouldn’t matter.
In the mortal realm, all things served the divine.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The Mancers of Kavet (Part 3)

For an explanation and index of all Scholar Faolan posts, please see the site page here:

Topic: The Mancers of Kavet 

Part 3: What are the spawn?

Whether or not the half-Abyssi-half-human creatures known as the spawn even exist is another point of contention.  According to rumor, these spawn- or half breeds- would be the children of Abyssi or Numini who have bred with human women, such as mancers who have either summoned these extraplanar beings across into the mortal realm, or who have crossed into the Other realms themselves.  This possibility seems to defy credulity, and the soldiers of the 126 and the scholars of the Napthol Order all admit that there has never been a proven case of such an individual in Kavet-- but the whispers prevail, so I will acknowledge them here. 
According to a lifelong scholar who spoke only on the condition of anonymity (It is forbidden in Kavet to discuss these matters unless one belongs to the 126 or the Order of Napthol, so her studies are pursued illegally) the spawn have the following traits: 
Spawn are born and grow in much the same way as humans, and they look exactly like humans in almost all ways.  An individual capable of seeing Abyssal or Numen power- such as soldiers in the 126 with the sight- might see a nebulous halo of power around these creatures, but most spawn are capable of suppressing this magical aura unless they are actively performing magic. 
Spawn gain strength from food, as humans do, and from the same rituals that allow mancers to raise power, and from the types of sacrifice that sustain their Abyssi or Numini parents.  In this way they can become quite powerful without the extreme measures that often cause mancers to come to the attention of authorities.  Though they are born with power inherited from their divine or infernal parent, they are not tied directly to a Numini or Abyssi as a mancer is, and do not directly derive power from that creature or provide power for that creature. Therefore, an Abyss-spawn is able to continually generate power without having it siphoned away by an other-planar creature, and is spared the hunger that afflicts an Abyssumancer. 
While one would naturally assume the spawn inherit more weaknesses from their human parent, the opposite is actually true- their most dire weaknesses come from the nature of their Abyssi or Numini parent. 
Abyssi and Numini cannot exist in the mortal realm unless they have a direct tie to a mortal (such as a mancer) with the power to hold them on this plane.  While the spawn do not have this limitation precisely, their other-planar magic still has a tendency to bond to a mortal host, particularly if the spawn engages in activities that cause a power imbalance.  This bond and the circumstances in which it can form seems to have some kind of ritual form, but little information is available. 
Another natural weakness of the child of an Abyssi or Numini is that they are vulnerable to any spell that would target their parent, and thus are more vulnerable to an Abyssumancer’s or Numenmancer’s power than a pure human would be.  Given spawn produce a great deal of the kind of power an Abyssumancer or Numenmancer needs and have few defenses against these sorcerers, one could easily imagine their being victimized by mancers.

This concludes this portion of Scholar Faolan's research into mancers, unless I receive more questions I should answer. Your questions can be on this topic, or anything else relating to the Mancer trilogy or the world in which it is set.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Mancers of Kavet (Part 2)

For an explanation and index of all Scholar Faolan posts, please see the site page here:
http://www.atwaterrhodes.com/p/scholar-faolan.html

This is Part 2. You can find Part 1 here.

Topic: The Mancers of Kavet 

Part 2: Are Mancers Made Willingly?

Common wisdom in Kavet holds that this bond is desired by mancers, but this scholar finds some evidence to suggest otherwise.  Beyond the fact that this kind of sorcery is a crime punishable by death in Kavet- a risk few people will take- it often does not seem to be a physically or psychologically desirable condition.   
Abyssumancers in particular seem to be ill-used by their Abyssi, which is unsurprising considering their “masters” are by definition amoral, violent creatures incapable of compassion.  Abyssumancers continually need to replace the power their Abyssi parasites- for such they seem, when one considers this condition in these terms- drain away from them.  This incessant hunger can only be assuaged through despicable acts, including but not limited to blood sacrifice. 
The soldiers of the 126, a unit of guards specifically tasked with hunting these dangerous magic-users in Kavet, holds that individuals who already desire the pain of others are drawn to Abyssi and become Abyssumancers.  If true, it seems appropriate to condemn them.  One can’t help but wonder, however, whether we all might become monsters if we were faced with a lifetime of starvation from which there was no release. 
If I seem most interested in discussing Abyssumancers, it is because there is more information available about them than there is about the others of their ilk.  An Abyssumancer’s desperation is likely to lead him toward rash action.  As a result, more of them are caught and interrogated than any other type of mancer.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Mancers of Kavet (Part 1)

This is the first in a series of posts I'm planning to put up here, originally inspired by this question on Twitter:


It's a great question that I absolutely can't answer in 140 characters.  In fact, I hit 1259 words when going in to the intricacies of what makes a mancer and other details of magic in Kavet in specific and the world of Castra in general, so I decided I needed a whole section of my site to answer them.  Here goes:

The "Scholar Faolan" pages follow the research and interests of a fictional character from the world of Castra, home of the Mancer series. I encourage readers to post additional questions on these posts, or through my Twitter or Facebook pages. You will be able to find an introduction and an index of current posts here, or through the link in the site header.

About the Author:

Faolan of K’net is a Tamari scholar renowned for his travel journals and in-depth research into both the mundane and the mystical aspects of the Castrili World, spanning from the shores of Silmat to the isolated island of Kavet, from the icy Embracing Sea to the tropical waters of the First Royal House of the Osei.

Topic: The Mancers of Kavet 

Part 1: What is a mancer?


What is a Mancer?


For those of us not native to Kavet, these so-called “mancers” seem to be a myth.  They are not the witches and alchemists of Ilban, the fortune tellers and small magic users of Tamar, or the holy shamans of the Kordku.  Compared to all these aforementioned magic users, the powers ascribed to these “mancers” seem beyond belief.


What are these powers?


One hears talk of mancers who can summon fire from bare stone, or cause deadly wounds with a thought.  Some can supposedly draw lightning from a clear sky to strike against their enemies, or freeze the air in a man’s lungs with a glance.  Others are rumored to have the power to raise the dead and possess the living, or even to funnel power from the worlds beyond in order to prolong their own life and power in this world indefinitely.  Such claims seem hard to credit, but if they are anything less than true, why has the once-prosperous Kavet enacted such draconian laws to control them?

Whence come these powers?


It is hard to get a concrete answer to this question.  To start, it seems there are at least four kinds of mancer-- Abyssumancers, Numenmancers, animamancers and necromancers-- and the answer is not the same for all of them.  I have in my studies heard rumors of a fifth kind, a gressumancer, but I have not been able to confirm these tales as anything but speculation. 

It seems clear that mancers of all kinds are born to human parents in the usual fashion, and develop their powers at some time later in their lives.  This is where my research first hits a divergence, for some sources say these illicit sorcerers seek out this power; others say it may be “caught,” much like an illness, if the individual engages in certain dangerous acts; and other sources say this power is a curse thrust upon them through no error of their own.

The source of necromancers’ and animamancers’ powers is unclear, but Abyssumancers and Numenmancers have a connection to the Other realms: either the infernal Abyss, or the divine Numen, and to a particular denizen therein.  It appears that Abyssi and Numini who bond to mancers gain strength through the connection, and perhaps the ability to manipulate- or even enter!- the mortal realm, which otherwise is barred to them.  In exchange, their mancers gain the extraordinary magical powers previously mentioned.


Continued in Part Two! Upcoming questions on this topic: Is this bond willingly entered? What are the spawn?

Sunday, October 2, 2016

It's a matter of perspective

Caught in the middle of an intergalactic war, Earth is conquered in a matter of hours by an alien species with no concept of family, culture, humor, or art-- or hope.  In the face of superior alien technology capable of cutting holes in stone and metal without explosives, and overcoming the most basic forces of gravity, the human race is forcibly resettled into densely-packed communities in Australia while this invading race occupies every other continent but the frozen Antartica.

Before long, the war that chased this alien race to Earth catches up to them.  The conquering Boov flee their enemies, leaving humans to stand alone against the destructive forces of the Gorg, who are determined to destroy the planet.

Sound like my next NaNo? It's not, actually.  My daughter is currently obsessed with the movie Home, a feel-good story of a little girl who makes friends with an outcast Boov named "Oh."  It has a happy ending with dancing and music, and every time she puts it on, I'm inspired to write a sci-if horror novel.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

World Building

Danielle asked on Facebook:

You have created spectacular worlds and I completely admire how you have blended them into one much larger universe that spans space and time. It doesn't matter which book of yours I pick up to reread (I've lost track of how many times) it always seems effortless. So I was wondering if you had any advice about world building for those who aspire to create their own?
By the time I had finished my 5-comment reply to this frequently-asked-question, I realized the blog might be a better place for it. X-posted.

My first piece of advice is to write (that's usually the first advice I give to any writing-related question). If you check out the 4th "Days of Maeve" post, I talk about the Ebony Series there. In a way, that entire series could be considered a world-building exercise. I've never more than idly considered publishing it, but all the development of those hundreds of thousands of words went into the Den of Shadows, Kiesha'ra and Maeve'ra trilogy.

Second (or honestly, while you're doing the first), research your tail off. Even if you're writing fantasy, it helps to have a basis. Maeve'ra is set at the beginning of the 19th century, but then my characters have access to knowledge and therefore potential technology from places like the Roman, Egyptian and Aztec empires (as evidenced in their plumbing and sanitation, which was barely mentioned in the books because Vance took it for granted and none of the others lived in Midnight, but would have been very impressive for an average human at the time).

The Mancer books take place in an entirely different world, but I use real world knowledge as a base. The country of Kavet, for example, has roughly the climate of the state of Maine, which I take into account whenever I'm considering seasons and farming and available foods. Ocean-travel and related technology is analogous to roughly the late 1800s. That said, iron- which in our world is plentiful and played a huge role in the development of modern technology- is a scarce and highly regulated resource in most of that world, so I have to consider that whenever I'm working. For example, it drastically changes the social position of a farmer if only a wealthy individual can afford an iron plow-blade, and a steel one- well, that's a family treasure.

Do both of those things- research and write- until the information feels natural and it slips out while you're writing without your needing to stop and really think about it. I always end up info-dumping in my first drafts, spreading it out a little in my second drafts/rewrite as I determine what actually NEEDS to be known when, and then cutting and smoothing it out as I go.

It helps if you can do some exploration through the eyes of what the head of my writing group calls a "hobbit" - a character who's new to the world. As I said before, there's no reason Vance would stop and talk about how incredible it is that Midnight has running water and advanced sanitation, but when I wrote though the eyes of someone like Gabriel or Jaguar coming to Midnight for the first time in the 1600s... well, that was quite different.

I personally love book research and world building.  It's why I spent two decades in Nyeusigrube (I first started working in that world in 1995!) and why I've been working on Castrili (the world in which Mancer takes place) since the early 2000s and only publishing now.  It's finally ready.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another way to be a "rebel"

(Trigger warning: contains frank discussions of gender, sexuality and homophobia in fiction- nothing explicit, but I know it's a topic that can be distressing for some.)

Last night, a reader on Twitter asked me, "Asexual Kadee? Y/n?" It wasn't a question I had been asked before, so I gave it some thought.  It took me three Tweets to answer, because I wanted to give more information than I could fit in 120 characters.


(Kadee narrates the second book of the Maeve'ra Trilogy, Bloodkin
and "The Rebel," a stand-along short e-story related to the series)

After I replied, the reader commented, "I've been debating it on tumblr for months."  I was glad I had taken then time to say more than, "No, well, maybe, too young to know."  I didn't want to ever imply that 15 is too young to be fully aware of your sexuality, whether you identify as straight, gay, bisexual, or one of the many, many variations that exist in the human population but receive less acknowledgement and understanding- such as asexual.

Kadee, specifically, lives in a culture that is seen from the outside as sensually and sexually free but is in many ways quite limiting.  Among the serpiente, passion is seen as a gift from the goddess Anhamirak.  While a person always has the right to say no in any specific moment, a person with no interest in sex may be seen as odd, "broken" even, in the same way that too many people in the modern human world view GLBTQIA+ (did I forget a letter? I'm sure I did.  If I forgot you, I apologize!) It's a troubling aspect of serpiente society that is often overlooked (like their belief in capital punishment, and some crimes that don't get trials, among other things.  No, folks, it is not a perfect society).

Kadee is 15, and has lived a traumatic life that has shifted her from one very controlling view of sexuality to another, equally controlling but opposite view.  She hasn't had time to safely explore her sexuality.  By serpiente standards, yes, she's asexual, but she would tell you she is too young to know yet.  While in the meantime she would say that she is not accepting the serpiente view that there's something wrong with her because (gasp!) she is 15 and she isn't ready for a lover, she can't help but internalize a little bit of that stigma.  Just as a person grappling with the looming cultural presence of homophobia may be more likely to delay deciding* they're* gay (I speak from my own personal experience here; everyone's story is different), Kadee faces pressure in her society, even in the Obsidian guild, that make it hard for her to know at this age.

Maybe one day she'll decide, yes, she is asexual; maybe she will decide she identifies more with one of the other many labels that won't exist in English for a very long time (remember, Maeve'ra takes place in 1803-1804).  As the author who has known Kadee since I first wrote her in 2001 as part of the novel Aureate, I suspect demisexual would be the best term, but like Kadee, I'm in no hurry to decide.

* I'm using the word "decide" here to mean "consider everything she feels and knows and determine that's the best label."  I am not of the opinion that human beings choose their sexuality.  I'm using the word "they" as a non-gendered singular pronoun because English needs a better word for this kind of context.

Whew! That's why I had so much trouble answering on Twitter.  140 characters.   What's the point?

I was going to go into the disproportionate representation of cis/hetero characters in fiction, even in my own work, and how cultural pressures affected me as I was writing (including an unfortunate teacher remark while reading The Color Purple as a freshman in high school that I think caused me to self-censor GLB themes for a long time)... I guess I'll save that blog post for another day.  To be continued!