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Goddess-Born (A Tale of Two Worlds)

Goddess Born

Goddess-Born, the second volume in the Tale of Two Worlds series and a companion to The Green Stone Tower (although they don’t need to be read in order), is available at Smashwords and should shortly be available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Links will be added when it goes live there.

Meanwhile, I’m offering my blog readers a chance to read the first six chapters free. You’ll find a description of the book below, followed by the first few paragraphs and a link to read more. Enjoy!

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The Kingdom of Grandlock heaves with revolution. The nobility have oppressed the people for generations, but new advances in technology are enabling them to drive more and more people into unemployed misery, at the same time as radical ideas spread among the populace: ideas like democracy and popular rule. Liberty is only a revolt away – but magic threatens to subvert it and fasten new and crueler chains on the people even as they cast off their old ones.

An evil priestess of the Lord of Shadow has come from the world of faerie by way of the Green Stone Tower and built a secret cult dedicated to chaos and ruin. Her agents infiltrate the democracy movement and may replace the king with a tyrant who will enslave the people in the name of liberty, using sorcery to bind them to his power.

And the only thing that can stand against him and his evil mistress is a young woman barely out of her teens: the daughter of a goddess and a powerful sorceress herself.

Goddess-Born is the second of a projected four books in the Tale of Two Worlds series; however, it is an independent story and it and the first volume, The Green Stone Tower, can be read in either order. The same will be true of The People of the Sea and Light and Shadow, to be published in 2013.

You can read the first six chapters for free, starting below:

CHAPTER ONE

On a fateful morning, Tranis of D’Anrith woke up in the arms of his goddess.

It happened every so often, a gift of the Light itself. He loved her, but no man can possess a goddess and their coupling was at her discretion, not his. Still, even when she was not there for him in the flesh, her spirit was a bright star illuminating his life and had been for years. It was enough.

He woke as always to find Illowan already awake. He thought her deliciously exotic with her fair skin, sky-blue eyes, and flame-red hair. Of course, being a goddess, she could assume any form she wanted. Sometimes she took the guise of a woman of the Faithful, brown-skinned and black-haired like himself, and he only knew her for the goddess from her knowing smile, the light shining in her eyes, and the familiar touch of her heart. On one of those occasions, in the midst of his passion she had changed form into something out of nightmare, still beautiful but with coal-black skin, burning scarlet eyes, a forked tongue in a mouth that hissed like a snake, and blood-red talons on her fingers. Tranis had cried out in a strange mixture of panic and lust and plowed her harder than ever while she laughed and laughed.

The Lady of Fire, bless her, could be more than a little kinky at times.

This fateful morning, though, she wore her usual form, the one she had worn when they had met before she became a goddess. She smiled and kissed him. “Tranis, my friend,” she said, “I need you to make a journey.”

Goddess-Born (Amazon — to come shortly) (Barnes & Noble — to come shortly ) (Smashwords)

UPDATE: The Amazon and Barnes & Noble editions are now available.

Or: Continue reading.

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World Building: Revolution!

Napoleon Crossing the Alps

 

In my current work in progress, I’ve got a revolution going on in a fantasy setting, and this brings up the whole topic of world building, which has been much on my mind lately.

 

World building is an essential part of creating a fantasy story (or a science fiction story or a historical story or an alternate history or any other type of story where the world inhabited by the characters is in any way different from our own). (It’s even part of storytelling when the world doesn’t differ from our own, since the world from the characters’ perspective will still be different in some ways from that of the author.) To some degree, world building happens organically, as do many other parts of storytelling. You have maybe a character or two and a plot element or two and you write some scenes displaying the characters and advancing the plot lines, and you realize that this means your lovable thief comes into contact with a priest of the god Nunk-Noo, and so you have to consider the status of the priesthood, the doctrines of Nunk-Noo’s worship, whether the priests have magical powers and if so what they are, whether the god himself ever puts in an appearance, whether there are competing religions, whether this one is an officially-sanctioned cult, and so on.

 

But in at least the broad strokes, it’s probably best to have your world pre-planned. The details can be added later, as you write, and the only hard and fast rule is that you have to be consistent, and you can’t go back and change anything you’ve already published.

 

One way to do world-building is to start with either present-day reality or something historical as a template, and then change things and add things and figure out what would happen as a result. In doing this, it helps to have some understanding of both politics and economics, as well as science and the impact of technological change on society. (This can even help with the impact of magical change, although of course the magic itself you can make up.)

 

Which brings me to my work in progress, Goddess-Born, a companion volume to The Green Stone Tower.

 

Goddess-Born is set in the Kingdom of Grandlock, which I had already described in the first section of The Green Stone Tower. It’s a society that:

 

  • Has an early-modern level of technology: smoothbore, single-shot firearms, sailing ships and navigation, gas lamps, some steam-engine applications, horses as the main transportation vehicle, printing, no electricity.
  • Has a constitutional monarchy for a government, but with no democratic representation; the King and the Noble Council rule the country; nonetheless there are provisions in law protecting rights and a growing democracy movement.
  • Has very little in the way of magic. There are some magic users but they operate secretly and, although this changed at the end of Tower, magic was prohibited by law and a capital offense. However, the Green Stone Tower itself is a reminder of magic and a link to an alternate world where the magic users were banished ages ago, becoming the faerie — many of whom have since returned.
  • Has an established religion, the monotheistic worship of the Good God who gave people the secrets of farming.
  • Historically was part of the High Vance Empire, but broke away from it and established an independent kingdom; for this reason there is tension and frequent war between the two countries.

 

That’s more or less the way things stood at the end of the first book. But in Goddess-Born, two major changes are happening. One arises naturally from the level of technology enjoyed by the people of Grandlock: this is incompatible with the governing structure of the country. It’s not an accident that in the history of our own world, the development of printing and the early stages of the industrial revolution coincided with a wave of democratic reform and revolution that swept Europe and European colonies (such as America). Grandlock faces the same. The nobility have used the new technologies to force farmers off their land, creating a pool of unemployed people and forcing wages down; the people are suffering economically and, with printing, ideas about self-government and equality are rapidly distributed among them. Revolution looms.

 

For the Grandlock Revolution I used the French Revolution as a template just because it makes for good drama, so I put in a nice storming of the palace, the troops turning on their masters, and the rise of a provisional government that initiates a bloodbath, hanging noblemen and anyone they perceive to be a threat to their power. I’ve also got a brilliant general in the wings who, after winning some victories, will be poised to take over the government as Napoleon Bonaparte did in France.

 

The other major change began at the end of The Green Stone Tower, and that’s the return of the Old Gods and the repeal of the witchcraft laws, with a consequent surge of magical activity. Most of my main characters, although not all, are sorcerers, and the gods themselves play a subtle role in the unfolding drama. There is for example a nasty priestess come from the other world, a devotee of Malatant, God of Shadow, and her machinations are behind much of the ugliness that occurs. The head of the provisional government is one of her pupils and a sorcerer in his own right. The two most important characters are children of the Old Gods fostered with a noble family and a merchant family in Grandlock — hence the title of the book; these two are called “goddess-born” because each had a goddess mother — and their opposition to the priestess is perhaps the most important defining plot line. A noblewoman who, for personal reasons, is a part of the democracy movement receives a gift from the God of Art and becomes an eloquent writer of political tracts, and receives guidance from the Goddess of Wisdom about her role in crafting the new government.

 

As always, the main story is personal, but the background and backdrop are important, and the world in which the personal stories occur impacts the stories themselves. It should all fit together and move logically from one place to another as the story unfolds.

 

 

Beginning with your template, as you add each element, fantasy elements included, ask yourself:

  1. How will people react to this?
  2. What will the people involved with it do in the world?
  3. What will their interaction be with the holders of political and economic power, or with ordinary people?

Any changes in material circumstances will always have potential political, economic, and social consequences, and understanding those consequences (whether or not they are an immediate part of the story) is a lot of the art of world-building.

 

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Fantasy and Politics

It’s election time here in the United States, a presidential election year, too, and even non-political blogsters are succumbing to the temptation to say something about the ritualized and mostly non-lethal civil war that possesses the nation every four years. Can I be the only one to resist? (No — my friend Christi Killien at Farmlet remains above the fray so far, so I wouldn’t be the only one. Apparently she will be.)

I shall dive in, but in a disciplined way, and remain focused as best as possible on the twin themes of fantasy storytelling and spirituality that define this blog. No mention of current political contests even if Mr. Romney’s campaign does seem to be composing a fantasy.

Ahem.

What is politics? And how does it relate to fantasy or to spirituality? Let’s deal with politics and fantasy in this post. I’ll have another post later to cover spirituality and politics.

Politics is the making and implementing of collective decisions and the resolution of conflicts within a society by means short of the shedding of blood. Every society has politics even when it doesn’t have formal government. Politics is: All these people are living together in one place and interacting. There are things they have to do collectively all together and somehow they have to come to a decision about what things to do and how to organize it. Also, they don’t always get along, and somehow we have to resolve any conflicts that arise before they beat each other up or worse. The only human (or quasi-human) beings that don’t need politics are those that either live all alone as hermits or have a perfect telepathic interaction so that they form a single mind.

Fantasy writing must ask many questions of politics, although not as much as science fiction, for which the central theme is almost always political. The central theme of fantasy is almost always religious or spiritual, but politics remains an important part of world-building just the same. The politics of a fantasy world should work well with the circumstances of life for the characters who live in it. Circumstances relevant to determining the type of politics present in a world include:

  1. Civilized or not? That is, do the people of your world live in cities and practice agriculture or are they primitive hunter-gatherers? In the latter case, no formal government will exist, but there will still be politics practiced informally.
  2. How widespread is literacy? This depends in turn on whether the world has developed printing. A world without printing is unlikely to have widespread literacy unless it has some workable substitute. (The Roman Republic, for instance, had armies of slaves to copy books out. One could also posit a magical substitute for printing in a fantasy world.) A world in which most people are illiterate is also a world in which the participants in political decisions constitute a literate elite; such a world is incompatible with democracy and demands some type of oligarchy, monarchy, or dictatorship. Widespread literacy makes for widespread desire to participate in political decisions.
  3. How fast do people move? Also: How fast does information travel? If the highest speed for both personal travel and messages is that of a horse or a sailing ship, you will necessarily have a looser-knit, less centralized politics than if movement is comparable to a modern society or faster. If magical communication is possible at great speed, is this a privilege of a sorcerous elite, or is it widely available to most people? If it’s an elite privilege, who controls the elite? No one (the elite is autonomous)? The king or formal government? The Dark Lord? The Gods? An ancient prophecy that dictates all magic use?

That last brings up a fairly important point. In a fantasy world, the elites and commons may not be the same as in our own reality, just as they have varied over time in our own history. Today, we are ruled largely by a commercial elite defined by business or financial success and wealth. In the pre-industrial past, the elite consisted mostly of great warriors and war leaders or their descendants. In both eras, an educated elite of professionals coexisted with the main one: priests and religious leaders, government bureaucrats, scholars and philosophers. In some societies, e.g. Medieval Europe and ancient India, the professional class (clergy, Brahmins) were ostensibly of higher status than the military elite (nobles, Kshatrya), but then we must remember that they were the ones writing all this and may have credited themselves with more influence than they really possessed.

Politics in a fantasy world must of course take into account the fantasy elements as well as the mundane ones. If magic is strong and openly practiced, an elite of magicians may completely eclipse the warriors or exist alongside it, or may openly or secretly change the course of events in a modern, high-tech society as well. The existence in the world of gods, devils, and super-beings or of quasi-human races will also have political implications. The rule of thumb in all cases is that the political system in any world — including a fantasy world — must flow naturally from the circumstances in which the people find themselves. Otherwise you end up with anachronism. You can’t have an absolute monarchy in a modern, high-tech world, for example, because literacy and access to information are too widely spread for that and people won’t tolerate it. You might have a world in which the ultimate ruler is a god — but even then, it would not be identical to the absolute monarchies of our history.

Politics arises in my work in progress, Goddess-Born, in the form of a revolution. Part of this flows from mundane reality. The Kingdom of Grandlock has progressed in technology to the point where its monarchy and hereditary aristocracy have become unsustainable anachronisms. Noble privilege is driving farmers off their land, putting people out of work, and creating widespread hardship. The country is ripe for an overthrow of the government and in the normal course of things would struggle its way towards a democratic republic of some sort — but the emerging power of the magicians and the machinations of the Old Gods are both in play, and will inevitably divert that normal course of events.

In all cases, the politics of a society should flow logically from its material, magical, and other circumstances. It should seem natural and proper for the society. That’s part of the art of world building.

Image credit: alexmit / 123RF Stock Photo

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