Worldbuilding & Magic

Today, I received eight pounds of books in the mail. The downside, they were all the same book. On the upside, they are the book that I started writing in the summer of 2019.

It’s currently available from McFarland Books directly, but should appear on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. over the next few days or week.

New Book In Progress

I know things have been quiet around here. Part of that’s Covid, family stuff, and work. Part of it is that things have been moving and shaking behind the curtain.

The result is that about mid-October, I sent a query letter to McFarland Books. Got a positive response in less than 24 hours. Sent out a full proposal a few days later.

Yesterday, I signed a contract to publish a book built out of the series of posts about magic from 2016 (tagged Magic Series). I need to add at least another 7,000 words, and have it all revised for delivery by mid-February. So, if things go well, it should be on shelves around May 2021.

Quarantine Writing

Third installment of quarantine activities.  This one has been modified a bit since first conception.

So, I’ve been working half-heartedly on the non-fiction book project.  Mostly looking through, marking up, and taking notes on articles, books, and websites to incorporate.  Still have yet to add anything from them, but hopefully that will start shortly.  In the meantime, roughly 50,000 words in to things.  Pretty happy with that for a second draft.

On the more creative, fiction side, I have put together several worldbuilds of varying levels of detail.  Most have been set aside as “practice” material, or proof of concept, or trying out an idea that may reappear later in a more evolved form.  Currently, I’m sitting on two, one of which may not go anywhere and the other is at a minimal detail stage (basically a collection of random notes).

That one has spawned a number of focused worldbuilding/lore vignettes and some shorts. I think the shorts are going to be further developed as a sort of slice of life style collection.  For a while, even before working on the magic book, but emphasized as I worked on it, I’ve had a thought nagging at the back of my mind.  We have a lot of stories, novels, TV shows, movies, etc. that incorporate, involve, or focus on magic schools.  However, these almost exclusively focus on the perspective of the students (usually the newest student).  The only exceptions I could think of off hand were Pratchett’s Unseen University (faculty perspective, and once a faculty-staff perspective, sort of, in Unseen Academicals) and Charmed’s Magic School (kind of faculty/admin perspective).  But, the former is a parody of real world schools and the latter was never a major focus (and was primarily added, for a season or so, due to the rising popularity of Harry Potter).

These little slice of life, linked, vignettes/shorts kind of morphed as I developed the lore vignettes.  They’ve become focused on the perspective of the staff of a magic school (caretaker, security, cook, grounds, librarian, steward, healer) moving behind the scenes.  I may expand them into some of the areas geographically immediately adjacent to the school too.

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Mucking About

An unfortunate side effect of writing extended works of non-fiction (e.g. books), I’ve found, is that my subconscious keeps picking out things and making them into ideas for worldbuilding and fiction.

To that end, I’ve been mucking about with some concepts of magic (and non-humans) and idly playing with them, creating writing doodles, and abandoning the doodles. Still haven’t figured out what I want to do with the concepts. Even though I’ve put conscious development on hold (due to grading, family stuff, side jobs, and book work [start editing 47,000 words Monday!]), little flashes keep bursting.

Long story short, the doodles will start appearing here on Monday. Other things may follow, time and figuring out something solid depending.

Ashford: Quick Guide to Magical Beings (2019)

Magicians

Alchemists mix ingredients through various processes to create elixirs.

Elementalists control the six elements—air, earth, fire, metal, water, and wood.

Sorcerers follow laws and tried-and-true rituals to produce magical effects.

Theurges call upon and make pacts with extra-terrestrial entities for spells and powers.

Witches practice magic by intuition, rarely reproducing a spell exactly the same way twice.

Wizards are magical magpies, taking whatever works and adopting it.

 

Shifters

Almasti are humans who can assume and animal form, with practice and experience.

Changelings can take any humanoid form they desire, with practice and experience

Hamr are humans who can also assume a hybrid human-beast shape for one species.

Hengeyokai are animals who are able to take a human shape.

Wargs are rare humans who can assume the form of a single, prehistoric beast.

Werebeasts are humans who are able to assume both beast and hybrid forms for one species.

 

Created

Gargoyles are humanoids of living, moving stone created as guardians.

Jagers are humans with beast genes created as trackers and hunters.

Reynir are a failed experiment; they are telepaths who generally go insane.

Tenebrae are humans capable of assuming a shadow form created as spies and assassins.

Woodwose are intelligent humanoids of wood capable of walking, created as companions and guardians.

Best Laid Plans and All That

I intended to get a post together for Thursday, then the week decided to kick my rear.

An unexpected winter weather day off for the kid threw off the week’s plans. As did some minor setbacks on a home repair project (ceiling light replacement).

Pro Tip: Don’t paint a section of textured ceiling two days before a martial arts rank test. (Biceps are still recovering)

On the upside, 2nd kyu rank test went as well as can be expected, passed with flying colors. Not bad, as it had been nearly eight years since my last test. Just another 90 hours of training (and at least 6 months, probably more like 12) until the next one.

The coming week looks good for normalcy, though we’re expected to get wind chills down to -30F by Wednesday or Thursday. Which means more “winter weather” days off for the kid.

Still writing, doing about five pages of worldbuild notes for every one page of story writing, as usual. And copy-editing an anthology on circus cinema for a friend. Occasionally finding time to prep two classes, too. 😁

WiP 21 (2018)

Another two days passed without Alaric seeing anyone except for a silent servant before he was confident that he had correctly identified the alarm spells.  More importantly, he had a plan to circumvent them.

He was still lost on the protection, or containment, wards.

Knowing they were abjuration based had proven less useful than he had hoped.  The patterns built on the protection base were utterly unfamiliar.  He used detection spells often enough that he had been able to find a core of familiarity beyond the foundational patterns.  His repertoire of protection spells, and his use of them, was rather smaller and less common.

He had to assume that they would not allow any communication or summoning magics, though.  There was little point to them otherwise.  He could probably try tunneling out, but they had placed priests around him to prevent that.  Going up or down were out.  He had no idea how many feet or yards of ground he’d have to excavate, and no climbing equipment anyway.  His attempts at air magic as a student had been, Alaric freely admitted, pathetic.  If he was being generous.  There was no levitating or flying up or down a shaft.

He could get around the alarm and detection spells, but he would have to think his way past the guard and dragonspawn.

Hours later, after the day’s last meal, Alaric’s palm met his forehead.

He did not know what was above or below his rooms, that was true.  But, he could find out.  Earth sorcery and his detection specialty.  Too obvious.

He slid the dishes back to the door and ambled to his bedroom.

Once out of “sight” of the guards, Alaric became a blur of motion.

In seconds, he had the spartan furniture and rugs shoved aside to create a bare space several feet wide on the floor.  He sat in the center, legs crossed beneath him.

Hands palm down on the floor to enhance the effectiveness, Alaric wove a bit of wizardry that verged on, the more advanced, sorcery.  The spell sent energy down through the stone, to reflect off anything beyond, within a limited range.  The reflection told him there was at least fifty feet of granite, with some bits of limestone and shale, beneath him.

Much too far to dig with his available tools.

Alaric rose, extending his arms over his head.

He was too short to touch the ceiling, by a couple feet.

This time, the magic burst found a foot of sandstone, a narrow gap, then a couple feet of local stone.  Above that, what he sensed was a cavern.

A second pattern of wizardry discovered no life of note above him, only the usual animal cave denizens and creatures of the earth.

A slow grin spread across his lips.

The two spells, he thought as he replaced the furniture, provided a lot of information.

Most importantly, if he could reach the ceiling, he could escape the same way he had before.

Alaric’s eyes roamed the room, assessing the available furnishings.

The priests had stripped the place pretty bare.  The bed was right out, he could not trust anything stacked on that mattress.  It would absorb other furniture and be unstable.  That covered what was still in the bedroom, really.

They had left him a table and chair in the sitting room.

Desperation and, Alaric had to admit, fear won out over good sense and planning.

If he moved the furniture, the guards and priests might try to prevent it.  If he did not move the furniture, the guards would assuredly be activated the moment he cast the digging spell.

The thoughts ran through his head and were discarded as he charged back into the sitting room.

Banishing conscious thought, Alaric threw the chair on top of the table.  He clambered up to stand on the seat, elbows bent to place his palms on the ceiling for balance and the spell.

The moment the energy released, the sorcerer saw the guards begin to move in his peripheral vision.  He instinctively knew he only had a minute at most; fortunately, he could start climbing after seconds.

As sand fell around him, coating his face and body, Alaric hopped and blindly reached for the rim of the temple’s roof.

With a groan, he pulled himself up and groped for another handhold.

A crash from below told him that the guards had tried climbing his table.

Muscles burning from fingertips to shoulders, the sorcerer managed to pull himself through the hole.  It became somewhat easier once the spell broke through so he could see and was not choking so bad.

Collapsed on rough stone, Alaric swore to work out more, especially pull-ups, if he made it home.

Only the sound of voices raised in alarm below drove him to his feet.

Without a conscious thought, he picked a direction, summoned a light ball, and ran, stumbling, away from the hole he had created.

The sorcerer—bruised, damp, bleeding, and completely tapped out—staggered out of a cave days later.  Hand shading his eyes against the daylight, he looked around and tried to get his bearings.  His pursuers had been left behind by the second day.  After a few moments, he started hobbling down the mountain slope toward what he thought might be civilization.


 

As always, this is a pre-revision version.  Any feedback, comments, etc. are very welcome.  Additionally, I’m not entirely pleased with the conclusion (one area I tend to be bad at), so thoughts there are very appreciated.

Also I’ll include a PDF copy here (The Island Stories) for those who’d like to see the whole thing as one document.