Monday, June 2, 2014

The Death God's Chosen

I am happy to announce that The Death God's Chosen, featuring my story "The Ghost Stairs", has been released by Deepwood Publishing! Here's the cover:


You may purchase it at Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble at the links provided!

I would really like to thank James Tallett, the editor-in-chief at Deepwood, for a really wonderful experience. It was great working with a quality individual who always too his time to answer questions, stay positive, and set ahead with a clear vision. I truly hope to work with him again in the future.

Thanks!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

More Good News!



I am very happy to report that I have sold another short story, and it is available for reading right now!

Narrows, a Sword & Sorcery short, is featured at Sword & Sorcery Magazine! Please go by and check it out so you can support a site dedicated to the genre I love with every fiber of my being.

Remember, you can follow me on my social media outlets here, like @JayRequard on Twitter! And please, if you have the time, click on the G+1 button on the left-hand side of this blog. Doing so allows it to climb the ranks on Google, and it is a big help not only for myself and my own work, but also for the authors I interview here on Sit.Write.Bleed.!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A Tale of Intriguing Silliness by Jay Requard

A little bit ago an author-friend of mine had a birthday, and instead of the customary gifts, she asked each of the guests to write a piece of flash fiction revolving around a theme. The theme was Lewis Carroll and Nonsense in the vein of things like his poem, "Jabberwocky".

I tried to rise to the challenge and it seemed successful enough. The crowd got a good laugh, I was able to practice reading in front of people, and overall a good time was had. But I got to thinking that I wasn't going to publish the piece, as I am not really sure it would place well as flash. One of my other friends is a brilliant flash writer, so I thought: 

"Hey, why don't I put it up on my blog for free like she puts stuff on hers? At the very worst people hate it and I'll never have a career in the business."

No pressure.

Without further ado, I would like to introduce for your pleasure or for your horror...


A Tale of Intriguing Silliness
by Jay Requard

Daffodil skies and fancy meat pies, the wind warped and willed the pancake leaves onward as the brand new butterflies flapped and flopped to clouds so high. Purple-Popsicle fields waved at Everdina as she rode toward the peanut pumpernickel palazzo of Princess Pimperton's castle. Shining and shimmering in clap-trap mud-flap cookware armor, she jostled and juggled her vorpal in the sunlight, a display of dizzying daring-do.
"Oh, the things I'll cut."
Passing by pastoral paddocks and pristine ponds of grey-green goop, Everdina spotted an impossibly-possible p-dactyl passionately razing the home of a hugely humble farmer. Periwinkle beds were torn all to shreds as his dirty and dastardly children ran to and fro, screaming and seething and slathering and shouting "Save us, save us from the p-dactyl!"
Juggling and jostling her vorpal, the fantastic and fashionable knight knew her time was nigh. "Hark and hi and hail, there is a beast for my blade to bleed!" Riding on her riveting tri-color steed Mary, roaring and rumbling, she raged down the snosberry hills with their sausage flowers and bacon buffs, whipping and whooping all the way. Meeting the monster in the middle of a meadow, knight and beast clashed and bashed until the dirt was flat under the menace of their fight.
"Woe and Willy to thee, oh beast," said Everdina, wailing away at the p-dactyl. They fought and fussed until flummoxed, frustrated by their furious fighting and ferocious fencing. The wings of the wonky bird hung in horrid tatters while her vorpal, oh her wondrous and wrathful vorpal, had taken a ding of a nick of a burr on the blade!
"Bully and bluster," said the bemused and beautiful knight, "this beast is giving me quite the bashing!" Tightening her titan-strong traps, she lifted her vorpal and attacked the terrible bird in a tizzy of terrific terror, tearing its terrible head off in a twisting cut.
"Oh, the things I'll cut," she shouted up to the sunny and sage skies.
"Yay, she saved us from the p-dactyl," cried the farmer's children, their grubby faces gross with their grubby smiles. The friendly farmer shooed his frightful children away, battering them with a bulging sack of bountiful coins. "Here ye be, me lady, for the love of your vorpal. Take these hard shiny biscuits."
Everdina snatched the sack of solid gold out of his hands and rode off on Mary, whooping and whipping all the way.
"Ta-ta, tumultuous scene,” she said. “Onto the next story!"

#

Here begins the next story.
What that wonderful story was to be was the Wondrous Tale of Wilbur the Woolly Wizard. Now Wilbur was of the worrisome type, always wandering and worrying about his kingdom. He advised the audacious King Albert, who always allowed his awesome wizard to do awesome things.
One day a blabbering bumpkin farmer from the country came to the castle, caterwauling and cursing. "Oh, no! The flucking dam is fracking clogged! Our fricking farms are flooded!"
King Albert looked to his lucky wizard, his many mustaches a-twitch in trouble. "Well, my woolly wizard, what say you? What is the problem with this problematic dam?"
Wilbur waxed on the worrisome thought, stroking his wizened beard. "I guess I have to go and check."
Riding across the rough miles on his mountainous mare John, Wilbur arrived at the damaged dam and found that an entire forest of feisty animals had clogged its malefic drainage tunnel. Lions, Tigers, Bears, oh my, Foxes, Rabbits and Weasels with Ferrets and Turtles, and even a Goat! They roared and they bellowed, chirped and yapped, and made all sorts of ruckus that this writer didn’t want to go into yet.
"Oh, whatever will I do?" asked the worried wizard. Suddenly and surely an idea came to his head. "Oh, that's what I'll do!"
Marching down to the hole, the hotly habitual Wilbur pulled up his voluminous sleeves and waved his hands in the air, wibblely-wobble-like. Splam, Phlgam, Ala-Bazinga, he threw a spell and the animals went as if someone had fling 'em. Free and forced empty, the formerly dammed-up-damnable drainage tunnel only drizzled.
"Willy and Woe, in the name of the crown, I will fix this folly before sundown! Because I have way too much paperwork, the sheer volume of which really makes me question our current form of government, but the king is the king and what we are going to do about it? Take on the chin. That’s what we’re going to do with this silly story and our silly king."
Wilbur went down to the offending orifice, stamping his feet and ringing his hands. In the hole he saw something strange, bones and flesh and meat. Poking at the protruding putrid, he gasped.
"Is that a p-dactyl?" he asked.



THE END



Oh, what a fantastic mess! If you like this story or anything else you see here on the blog, be a friend and click on the G+1 button on the left side of the screen. You can also follow me on Twitter @JayRequard! Thanks for coming by, back, and I hope to see you again soon!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Romance and Agency

One of the big "debates" in Science Fiction and Fantasy right now is the question of women and the role they play in the genres we all love. Some have erroneously gone out and proclaimed that women authors are "killing" genres, which is kind of bullshit when you consider the fact that it would mean that Ursula K. Le Guin, Mary Shelley, Patricia McKillip, Karen Lord, K.V. Johansen, and an outstanding mix of old and new women authors have done so much to keep the money flowing into publisher's pockets, which keeps the genre going. There really aren't "male authors" or "female authors." Just great authors.

Mary only invented Science Fiction and Horror. But what does she really know?

And before anyone asks: I am not a feminist due to the fact I am  a humanist, simply because I think humanism encompasses all the things that feminism wants without all the political bullshit and gender-divisive language. I am a big fan of Judith Butler and Naomi Wolf though, so I do understand and support the goals and aims of the movement, as long as it is is for true equality and the realization of human dignity outside of gender, race, creed, and whatever else.

Seriously, cut that intolerant shit out.

But enough of that! Politics always sours a good table of friends.

What I wanted to talk about this time revolves around is the question of "Romantic Interests," because one thing that women readers and women writers often bring up is how female characters are relegated to being love interests. And it's true, speaking from person experience. Nine out of ten books I read within fantasy feature women who are treated as some sort of prize to be won by the hero.

So let's get some things out of the way. Nobody should be a "prize." When you get turned into an object instead of a person (which I think defines "objectification"), there is something being taken away from that person, which adds the nasty quality of "subjectification." What is being taken away is their right to be something unto themselves.

But is having a love interests a bad thing then? It depends.

At the crux of this argument I am about to make is that it all comes down to Agency.

What is Agency? It is not just something important for female characters, but for male characters, gay characters, black, brown, white, red, and green characters too. Agency is the ability for characters to act independently and make their own free choices.

Let's look a pair of examples of characters with agency and another pair without agency before we talk about its implications of how this fits into writing a relationship between two romantic leads, because the implications are where things might get contentious.

Please understand, everything below is my opinion alone.

Characters with Agency

Example #1

All rights go to CinemaBlend for the image.

Jen Yu from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is  one my favorite characters from one of the best (yet still universally underrated) films in international cinema. Played masterfully by Zhang Ziyi, she is a character that is all about her agency. Instead of being the kind of mewing princess that dreams of holding a sword and going off on adventures, she actually goes and does it throughout the entire movie without having to rely on someone else to do it for her or show her the way. From her choice to study Wudang in secret to deciding that her arranged marriage isn't for her, her willingness to give up her easy life for more than just love alone throughout the story demonstrates for the viewer quite clearly that she is a master of herself and her fate. That is agency in a nutshell. It isn't just that she decides to be a "kick-ass female," it is that she decides on her own to be a kick-ass female.

Example #2

All rights to R.A. Salvatore and The Forgotten Realms

One of my absolute favorite characters from the menagerie of R.A. Salvatore's Drizzt novels, Wulfgar of Icewind Dale was more than the average Thor/Conan stand-in that often overburdened any D&D property. Salvatore's books have been a high mark for a company that often executes before it really thinks. While all of Salvatore's characters get their time to shine throughout the twenty-plus book series, Wulfgar stands out to me as a realistic depiction to the torments of being a real hero. Raised by a dwarf-king and trained by a dark elf, Wulfgar has both the ability see outside of his native people's worldview, and at the same time, form it in a way that it fits within his as well. From deciding not to marry "the girl" and marrying the one he actually loved to giving up his rightfully-earned crown as King of Settlestone, he forged his own path based on what he felt and needed, not what others expected of him because of the typical tropes that usually come with this type of character. He took actual responsibility for the consequences of his actions. This is a marked difference from other warriors I often see in the genre, who are either drones for a higher power or people that just want to work within the system they operate in with little thought to why they do it. Having agency means having the ability to go outside the accepted notions of how people think "the story should go", and Wulfgar does that.

Now, let's look at

Characters *without* Agency

Example #1

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

Please note, I am not picking on the character of Maid Marian herself, as there are a lot of great examples of her being a character with agency; in fact, Cate Blanchett playing the role is a perfect example of a character that could have topped the previous section. However, Maid Marian in Prince of Thieves is a pro-typical damsel in distress that feminists like Anita Sarkeesian point to when they talk about this kind of subject, even though Anita is equally full of shit (another topic for another blog, though, get back to the topic, Jay!) The problem here is that Marian throughout this version of the Robin Hood story is always having things done to her. Robin of Locksley returns to England, she falls in love on first sight. The Sheriff of Nottingham (played by the brilliant Alan Rickman) kidnaps her after trying to force her into a bogus wedding and tries to rape her, requiring her to be rescued by Robin because dammit, that is what needs to happen to get us to the climax of the story. She's a pretty set piece meant to motivate the protagonist to action and little more. She's a prize both sexually and in a proprietary sense, and prizes don't have their own agency if they are only allowed to be won. This is why Robin Hood: Men in Tights is so damned hilarious when they tackled this very issue.

Example #2

You know who this is? The best actress in that movie.

So this pick is probably going to earn me a lot of heat, but bear with me. Everyone loves Rue, but at the end of the day, she is one of the many characters in The Hunger Games that does not have an ounce of agency. Let's be honest: Rue is there to get jacked (killed) for the sake of Katniss Everdeen's plot, and if we go by the strictest definition of agency, then she is a character without it from the get-go.

This gets to an important point of characters and agency in the first place: not all of them are going to have it, nor do they all of them need it. The moment any author decides to harm, kill, alter, or change a character for the sake of of another character's plot, that character loses their agency and becomes a set piece.

This leads to the overall discussion of how Agency and Romantic Relationships interplay with each other, especially in stories where one of the characters in the relationship most likely won't be a point-of-view character. Let's look at two more examples of relationships with agency that only have one point of view in the relationship, and then let's look at one where there isn't any agency present.

Relationship with Agency

Croaker and The Lady, Glen Cook
***SPOILERS in this section***
Full disclosure, I have to admit my bias for this relationship as it is my favorite in all of fantasy. Croaker is the medic and keeper of the annals for The Black Company, a elite force of mercenaries that often hire their services out to the worst of the worst. The Lady is an all-powerful sorceress that rules over half the world, which she took from her husband, The Dominator. Slap these two together from book one, and you have one of the most unforgettable, awkwardly romantic, and organic relationships in one of fantasy' more under-appreciated works. The Lady is always in the seat of power next to our lowly medic, but these two develop an attraction that turns into friendship, and friendship into a love that lasts beyond the most difficult of travails. Yet what makes them work so well is that each is independent of the other, with one neither defining themselves on the basis of the other when it comes to their own self-worth. When Croaker is thought dead and gone from the result of a battle, The Lady steps up as the Company's new leader to take care of herself and the survivors, just like when Croaker finds out The Lady is potentially in huge trouble, he doesn't dash off to save her, knowing she has more than enough ability to handle herself. What makes these characters work so well together is their individual agency and how it interacts within the relationship. When they need each other, they are there, but when they can't be there, they don't just sit their thinking "Oh, what is he/she doing? What am I going to do? I MISS THEM SO MUCH I NEED THEM HERE RIGHT NOW!" It is a relationship that befits any strong couple: one of trust and honesty, not sycophantic reliance on one person.

They are a TEAM.

Now let's look at a

Relationship *without* Agency

Yep, I'm going there.
Once again, I am not bashing the film. In fact, I love this movie! But this movie features a romantic duo that is the exact opposite of Croaker and The Lady. Buttercup, from the get-go, is a blonde Maid Marian, meant to stand there, pout, look pretty, and smile and kiss Wesley on cue. Now, I know what many are going to say: That was the point. The entire movie/novel is meant to satirize the princess genre completely, but they do it so well that it popped into my mind pretty much immediately. Buttercup's entire world is built on two things: 1. I love Wesley and 2. Is Wesley coming for me? Every action she has is at the behest of him, but let's not let Wesley off the hook, either. His entire character  is about finding Buttercup and literally giving her whatever she wants, no questions asked, so everything I can say about her should be applied to him as well.

Like Lady and Croaker, who are a TEAM, this is DEPENDENCY.

And there is a crux of writing a Romantic Relationship with Agency involved:

TEAM vs. DEPENDENCY

Here is an easy guide to know the difference:

Does your romantic relationship feature two characters working in team, who make independent decisions for themselves outside of the relationship and can still be in a relationship?

Then YES, they have agency.

Does your romantic relationship feature two characters where one is dependent on the other for everything, who's role and function is dependent on serving the other person's story line or identity?

Then NO, they do not have agency.

It is pretty simple when you get down to it, but again, just because a character or a pair of characters do not possess agency doesn't mean they are automatically bad. Sansa Stark from Game of Thrones is distinct for the fact that she has no agency but is still compelling as a viewing glass into the workings of Westeros. She is our witness. As is Gollum from Lord of the Rings, who is meant to represent the corruption the One Ring brings upon all those who wear it. As with everything in writing, it all comes down to how your write it. Be thoughtful about what and who are you putting the page, and put real thought into how you want them represented. You will never please everyone, but a well-written character will always please more people than not.

Thanks for dropping by! If you liked what you read here, please click on the G+1 button the left side of the screen, or follow me on Twitter @JayRequard. Both help me grow the readership for this blog, and any help would be, well, helpful!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gail Z. Martin sits down to talk about REIGN OF ASH!

Well, here we are again! Hot of the press or compiled into a stunning e-book, Gail Z. Martin's new novel, Reign of Ash, is now on the shelves of your local bookstore. As she had with its predecessor, Ice Forged, Gail was kind enough to sit down again with Sit.Write.Bleed and spill the beans on this brand-new release!

All rights belong to Orbit Books

Sit.Write.Bleed (SWB): So last time we talked we talked I asked you if there was any pressure in creating a new world after the great success you had with The Winter Kingdoms, and to paraphrase, one of your goals was to create something new with the world building when it came to Ice Forged and The Ascendant Kingdoms. Going into the second book, Reign of Ash, what sort of challenges did you face and what surprised you about the setting?

Gail Z Martin (GM): Ice Forged showed readers a very small portion of the world inhabited by my characters. Readers saw a little bit in and around the capital city of Castle Reach, as well as Velant and Edgeland. In Reign of Ash, that world starts to expand as Blaine’s mission to bring back magic turns out to be more complicated—and difficult—than he expected. His efforts take him farther afield, and readers get to go along for the ride.  This also expanded the scope of what I needed to invent, so I had to spend some time thinking about the terrain, topography, distances and climate of Donderath—both as it is now after the Cataclysm, and what it used to be.

SWB: As the last Lord of Blood, Blaine McFadden sets out in Reign of Ash to right more wrongs and bring magic back into the world. After creating such a compelling protagonist in the first book, what did you want to do with him this time around in terms of building him further as a character?

GM: Blaine has to learn to deal with failure in a variety of situations in Ice Forged. So in Reign of Ash, we see him try again, and get a sense of how he deals with set-backs. He also has to come to some big decisions about what role he wants to play in the new order, since all of the old leadership has been destroyed. It really challenges how he sees himself, what he’s willing to take on, and how he handles his obligations to the people who rely on him.

SWB: As a writer with a few series under her belt now, has writing this sequel changed how you look at previous sequels you have written?

GM: Well, as we speak I’m waiting for editorial feedback on War of Shadows, which is book #3 (sequel to Reign of Ash), so I’m a little ahead of the game!  I think my biggest ‘trick’ to writing sequels is asking “and then what?”  If I keep asking that question, I run into the same challenges that my characters face. Another challenge with sequels is keeping all the loose ends straight, and keeping the continuity between what you said in prior books and what you say in the new book.  And with each book, we come up with better systems to try not to drop the ball!

SWB: Let's talk about magic: what do you think goes into creating a good system? The Ascendant Kingdoms seems to be a world rife with magic that has strings connecting back to your previous fantasy work, but there is a keen differences in this world clearly (especially in terms of object magic.) When you set out to make Velant "tick" for the reader, so to speak, what was your mindset for creating something new yet easily understood?

GM: Magic has to make sense. That’s a bit of an oxymoron, since magic by definition defies standard physical laws, but the SYSTEM of magic has to make sense to the reader or it all falls apart. There have to be checks and balances to avoid the “Superman syndrome” where the character becomes all-powerful. So there need to be limits—on what magic can and can’t do, on how much of it can be used or who can use it or where it can be used or how often—something that keeps it from just being the easy way out of any problem.  It has to cost something to use, to learn, to acquire—otherwise again it’s too easy.

In my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, Tris Drayke struggled to keep magic from falling apart, at great cost to himself. He and Carina nearly died repairing the Flow, the power source of magic. So I asked myself—what if he had failed? What would have happened if magic just died? How would that affect people?  And that became a main aspect in the Ascendant Kingdoms series—magic fails and brings down the civilization that depended on it. And then what? How do people cope? Can it be fixed? If it gets fixed, will it be the same? If it changes, who wins and who loses? What’s the cost to fix it? Will the fix hold?  It all starts from What If.

SWB: On the spot question! Who do you like more: Jonmarc Vahanian or Blaine McFadden? You can only pick one!

GM: Jonmarc McFadden. (Honestly, it’s like asking which of your children (or dogs) you love the most!)

SWB: Looking at the market, the recent news came out that you are striding into the world of Urban Fantasy with your first novel in the genre, Deadly Curiosities (Solaris). What drew you to that genre, and do you think there are things you can take from Epic Fantasy into Urban and vice versa?

GM: It’s always about the story. Solaris Books invited me to be part of the Magic: Esoteric and Arcane anthology a couple of years ago, and the requirement was that the magic be “real”—meaning that they didn’t want the epic fantasy Merlin/Gandalf kind of lightning from the fingertips kind of thing. So I did a story set in modern times in the Deadly Curiosities world I had already explored for anthologies in historic settings—the idea of an antique shop that gets dangerous magical items off the market. Solaris liked it well enough to ask me to do a novel.

Writing urban fantasy is a big shift. The pacing is different. It’s set in the modern world, so unless you have a reason for the history/setting to be different from what it really is, you’ve got to the those details right—you’re not making everything up. The dialog is different. You’re writing about a real place. So it’s been a lot of fun and quite a challenge.

But it always comes back to the story and the characters. Get that right, and people will read it!

SWB: Speaking of publishing, it has been nine months since we conducted our first interview. Since then, what has surprised you in terms of changes in the industry?

GM: One of the things I’ve had a chance to experience personally since then is the role of Kickstarter to fund literary projects. So far this year, I’ve been involved in three Kickstarter/Indiegogo anthologies and I’m committed to another that’s coming up. That’s heightened my awareness of how authors are using crowdfunding to underwrite independent projects and lessen the financial risk. In addition to the projects where I’ve been a contributing author, I’ve watched and backed several successful projects where individual authors sought funding to continue their series or do new projects. It’ll be interesting to see where crowdfunding goes next.

SWB: As always, we end on a fun question. Last time I asked you about tropes you hate, and I believe your answer was warrior women in warrior brass-brassieres. Sticking with the theme of tropes, what do you wish you could see more of on the shelf at Barnes & Noble or on the page at Amazon?

GM: I’d like to see us lighten up a bit on the all-dystopia-all-the-time kick and the amoral protagonist. Not everything needs to be grim-dark, and we don’t need to compete on who can come up with the most messed up sorry- assed examples of human beings. If it’s true that you become like the five people you spend the most time with, what does that mean for dystopian/grim-dark fiction fans (and authors)? I understand the move toward heroes who are flawed/complicated/scarred, but personally, I still like to read about a hero/heroine who is the “good guy” despite it all. I think our heroes have gotten smaller of late, becoming so messed up that we the reader/viewer can sit back and feel superior despite the character’s heroic actions. I miss heroes who make us whish we were more like them. I think these characters can still be complicated/flawed/scarred (real people are!), but looking to do something bigger than personal gain.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As always, I would like to thank Gail Z. Martin for opportunity to interview her! You can find more of Gail at the links below, and go pick up her books! They are great readers for anyone who loves Heroic and Epic Fantasy!

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Website
Twitter
Facebook
Goodreads

If you liked this interview, please share it! It gets the word out about Gail and this blog. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JayRequard! Thank for stopping by and see you next time!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Good news, everyone!


Well, it's real enough now to announce it!

I am happy to report that my Sword & Sorcery story, "The Ghost Stair", has been accepted in Deepwood Publishing's The Death God's Chosen. I received the first round of edits yesterday.

I don't know when the anthology will be out, but I am really excited get to work and be included in a collection of stories featuring some of the best newcomers to the scene. I'll have more information when the time comes.

Thanks and hope you all are well!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Writing Magic (Sorcery pt. 3)

(Please note: This is the third installment of a series of posts I am writing on the subject of magic and its incorporation into fiction. Links to the first and second installments can be found here.)

Writing magic can be a difficult thing for a beginning writer, and speaking from personal experience, it took me a very long time to be able to create exactly what I wanted on the page. Even now I work on it almost daily, trying to transfer something that seems so simple in my head but is in fact very difficult to execute. What I have discovered along the way is that the best way to tackle the intricacy of writing magic isn't to over-complicate for the sake of being "edgy" or "cool" or "gross, or whatever "adjective" you want to impress upon the reader. Clarity and active demonstration are the greatest indications of design.

Now without question magic is a tricky thing to write, mostly because you have to have rules, and once you break one rule, what is the worth of any of them?

What I suggest for writing magic aren't rules, but guidelines. Guidelines allow you to remain fluid and varied, all the while keeping you restrained enough so that you don't throw a gigantic plot hole into the story because of the magic, which often happens in fantasy fiction. Holes created by magic are often hard to fix without either taking out whatever action created them, or by having to redesign various aspects of your system on the fly.

I struggled with this problem in Paper Demons, a Sword & Sorcery short that was published within Thunder on the Battlefield by Seventh Star Press. At the time I was reading a lot of Taoist scripture and literature, and I wanted to incorporate paper amulets into a story where a small team of mercenaries face off against a wizard and her demons. I had seen paper amulets used before in Manga and Anime, but truth be told, I find the use of magic in those genres a little too convoluted. I also wanted to make their effects palpable in terms of texture. While I can't republish sections of the story here because of contractual obligations, I can give you a little in to how I solved it.

So here is what a paper amulet looks like:



This is a Taoist amulet like the ones used by priests and mystics in rural and urban China. The glyphs on them provide specific protections for a household (protection from fire, theft, sickness, etc.) and most people glue them to the walls of their homes, usually over a door frame. What I wanted with my villain character, the rebel wizard Wei-Tzu, was to have her own type of magic that was unique to the culture I was trying to lovingly portray. Wei-Tzu isn't inherently evil, she is just an impassioned rebel with a definite crazy streak. Amulets were going to be her way to suppress the mercenaries and summon her demons. If the amulets are destroyed, no more demons.

See how easy that was for me to explain it? That is how easy it should be for the reader to understand it. Let's recap:

1. Writing magic should be written in a way where it is not complicated for the reader OR the writer to understand.
2. Guidelines work better than rules. Guidelines allow for openness and flexibility while rules restrict and can lead to a rigidness that might create plot holes.
3. Write everything down in an easy place in an easy way so you can refer to it later.
4. Magic is a plot device, never independent of the story being told.
5. If you can explain it to a person easily and they can understand it, you *should* be able to write magic in a way a reader understands it just as well.

Looking at, everything save Rule #2 can be applied to writing science fiction as well. But that is a post for another blog in another time. If I missed anything or you want to add a comment, by all means, speak up and I will add it in here.

Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you again soon!