The Apex!

The writing goes well! I don’t know when I will be done, but I will share with you that I have reached the APEX of the story.  For me, that means I am about 2/3 of the way done breaking out what I think of as the essential plot line.  Usually, once I get past the apex, the story winds down fairly rapidly.  The characters are all in play, plotting and scheming as Serren, much to his surprise and chagrin, finds himself preparing for his wedding.

I don’t know how long editing will take.  When I wrote Brother Bewitched, I took my first draft and ended up cutting 10.000 words and then adding 30,000! I still want to go back and rewrite the whole thing sometimes.  So, please remain patient, and if you have any more questions about backstory, ask away.

A reader did ask about how the men originally threw down the hekatin.  I can’t answer that one just yet, as it touches on plot points in Book 3.  However, there are some hints about that in Book 2, if you look carefully.

I do work fast, so don’t despair.  The fate of Serren and the Shattered Isles will be revealed!

Shattered Isles Origins

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For those hoping for specific updates like word count or estimated time of completion, please see my response to Chloe.  In the meantime, a reader asked me a backstory question: where did the gender swap spell used to turn Serren into a girl originate?

Here is the story as recorded in the History Hekatania, housed in the secret library of Gaunefer:

It came to pass during the reign of the third King, Erenia, that she did have three sons and no daughters.  When she passed the age of child bearing,  The Coven First grew concerned.  It was known that men, with their anger and their selfishness, were not fit to govern, and it had been passed down by the goddess, herself, the blessed Progenita, that a woman always should guide the kingdom.  Indeed, the King was called in those days also by the title of “Loving Mother,” and it was her duty to care for all her children, that including every person who lived under the sky.

Some blamed Erenia, herself, for her failure to bare a daughter.  They said she must have sinned against the goddess to be so punished.  Others blamed her husband, Juntus.  Talk began to spread among the Council that they should name a new heir to the throne, a worthy girl from one of the other families.

The goddess, though, works in mysterious ways.  Erenia’s eldest son, Devin, had always surprised and delighted his mother.  Even as a child, he had shown great care for his younger siblings, and throughout his young life he’d shown many of the fine qualities of of a girl: he was caring and selfless, brave and courageous.  More, and in this he was not different from other boys, he longed for a girl’s life, and often Erenia had caught him sneaking into her library, reading books of magic meant only for the eyes of young ladies.    Boys, of course, sensing the superiority of the greater sex, often went through such a phase, but with Devin, Erenia saw something different.  He was a boy, but he had all the talents and mental acuity to be a girl– and a king.

Erenia went to the high witch of the hekatin, Neveria, and she asked if there were some way to give her son the gift of girlhood.  Neveria and the greatest witches of the realm, after prayer and consultation, concluded this was the will of the goddess, and they devised a spell, called simply, The Blessing.

Erenia went to her son, Devin, and explained that he was to be honored with a new sex, elevated to female and made the heir to the throne.  Devin resisted.  He wanted the life of a girl, but not to be a girl.  He had fallen in love, in truth, with a young woman, the loveliest girl in all the lands, Allania, and she had even asked for his hand in marriage.  He wept and suffered, but to his mother’s pride, he did what a good girl must, and he accepted that he must place the needs of others before his own.  Devin consented to his mother’s wishes and the wishes of all the kingdom, and on what became known as “Blessing Day” he was transformed into a young woman before the whole kingdom.  No one knew whether the tears the young Devinia shed were those of sorrow or joy.  More than a few noted that his new name meant, “Blessed of the Goddess.”

Devinia threw herself into her new life and duties with the passion and devotion expected of a woman, and as further proof of the will of the goddess, she in her turn bore three strong, brave daughters, as well as two lovely sons.  During her reign, the lands prospered and knew peace.  She was and is known as one of our great Mothers.

Devinia had a happy life, was a good king and loving mother.  It would all have seemed to be a joyous story. Yet, when she died, she asked to be laid to rest next to Allania, her first and true love, the one she had denied herself in order to fulfill her obligations to the kingdom.  Even this, most said, was only proof of her woman’s heart.

Since that time, whenever a young man showed unusual promise and proved himself worthy, or when called upon by the goddess, ‘The Blessing” was used to elevate him to stand among the women, as his merit had shown he deserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working working working…

Hey, folks!  I just want to let everyone know I am writing!  As for when the book will be released, as per my previous post, I am not going to set a date again.  I will make an announcement when the book comes out.  I am doing this to avoid setting people up for disappointment if I say it will be out on such and such a date and then miss my deadline, as I did with the mid-December goal.

It takes time to write a full-length novel!

As for updates, I couldn’t think of anything new, so let me do this.  If you have questions about the Shattered Isles world, ask them.  I will be glad to provide more background.  I don’t want to talk about the plot of Book III.  That must remain a secret.  But I will talk about the world, starting with this:  Rook’s Rock.

One reader pointed out it is not on the map.  That was an oversight.  Rook’s Rock lies across the straights between Ansey Isle and the mainland– it is a port town on the mainland surrounded otherwise by the Fawnea territory.  I will update the map at some point, but as the book described, it is reached via land and did not require a boat trip.  Ansey Isle rises from the ocean as sheer cliffs and lacks a deep water port of its own, meaning larger merchant ships can’t dock directly to the Isle.  Therefore, they dock at Rook’s Rock, and supplies are ferried to the island on schiffs that do not draft deep, so they are able to reach the island.  Because all supplies must be delivered, Ansey Isle is not cut off and the citizens must survive only on what is already there and what little they were able to grow during the summer.

Concern will grow among the citizens, of course, as food grows short, though many feel the bigger concern will be the impending lack of beer!

The Shattered Isles Map

Good day, dear readers and random strangers who may have stumbled upon this page.  Today I share with you the map of The Shattered Isles!  The map indicates which regions or islands are governed by the various royal houses.  Please note that this map is not to scale as a modern map would be.  Even with magic, the people of The Shattered Isles lack the precision of our modern times, so some things may look wrong to the dedicated readers of my novels.  Specifically, Gaunefer is actually the most distant island from the capitol, though it may not appear so on this map.

Meanwhile, I am busily typing away on the third book. If you haven’t read the Brother Bewitched series, why not take a moment and check out a free sample?

Brother Bewitched

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Going Dark– release date update

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So, I have been getting many messages from readers interested in the release date for Brother Belligerent.  I had hoped at one point some months ago to have it done by Mid-December.  Well, here we are and it is not done.  My apologies for that.

So, when will it be out?  Truly, I do not know.  I am working on it steadily and will finish it as soon as I can.  However, I learned my lesson, and instead of floating a release time out there and then missing my deadline again, this time I will just assure you that I am working hard.

Once I have finished the manuscript and uploaded it to Amazon, I will post that information here!  Hopefully, the story will be worth the wait.

In related news, I am going dark until the manuscript is done, meaning I am not going to respond to messages or emails.  I do appreciate the messages, and in fact, it was readers reaching out to me that helped me get back on track to writing the book, but I am finding it too much of a distraction right now.  So, if you send a message, please do not be offended if I don’t respond.  It just means I working on the book.

I do hope to write a few more posts on the background/history of the world in the coming weeks leading up to the release of the novel!  Look forward to a map of The Shattered Isles soon!

Thanks, everyone!

Some thoughts on magic!

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So, I thought I might share some thoughts on magic in The Shattered Isles.  Let’s start with what we already know about magic in this world:  it is a learnable skill.  We have seen this with Pattenia and Denalia training at the girl’s school, learning to cast spells or use magic to create potions.  We have seen Serren spending hours reading tomes, learning the secrets of spell work.  So, it is not just a gift from the gods, but a matter of technique and practice.

Why would this be the case?  Two reasons.  First, the training develops the part of the brain that controls magic.  Most people are born with a very small part of their brain dedicated to magic.  Even without development, people experience their magic instinct in the form of intuition, instinct and even, sometimes, what seems like luck.  For example, if someone gets a strange feeling, then turns to realize someone has been watching them, that is their magic ability alerting them to their observer.  Sometimes, when in danger, people will report that time seemed to slow down.  Once more, this is an instinctive activation of their magic skills.

Without training, the inherent magic ability in all people never rises beyond this level of unaware manifestation.

However, with practice, most people can develop their magic instinct becoming capable of manipulating magic and using it to change reality itself.  Remember that we now know that everything is made of energy.  Energy can become matter, and matter energy. Magic users learn to manipulate the energy of their universe to their own ends.

So, one part of the training develops the brain and the magic ability.  In addition, magic users learn to use and channel energy to and through their brains much more efficiently than most people.  Although the brain takes up only 2% of the body’s mass, it eats up 20% of our daily energy needs– about 320 calories.  Cognitive tasks cause the brain to eat more energy, and none more than magic.  So, spell casters have to become very “fit”– the equivalent of long distance runners, with tremendous mental endurance.

The spells, symbols and secrets learned all serve to help a witch or wizard focus and bend reality to their will.  They can also serve to protect them from others who would seek to use their magic against them. So, in addition to developing their brains, spell users learn certain chants and spells that have been developed over the years to help the caster bring about a specific result.  The spell the hekatin used to transform Serren into a girl is an example of such a spell.  Transforming someone’s sex is very complicated and difficult to manage, so the spell helps make that transformation happen without some sort of error or mistake.  Even the faith necessary to believe such a transformation is possible must be learned and bolstered, and the spells help with that sense of faith as well.

Much of magic remains a mystery, even to the users.  Were you to ask Actonia how she turned a buck into a doe, she would have to admit that she really doesn’t know.  She only knows that when she casts the spell, the change happens.  Magic defies logic, rationality, reason– which is one reason the Priests of Maxis look upon it with suspicion.  The hekatin, however, celebrate creativity, emotion and the irrational, and they are quite comfortable with the notion of change, and that nothing we see might be what it appears.

Magic versus Miracles

So far, I have been writing only about the magic worked my the men and women of the Isles.  There is a second kind of supernatural power in the world, however, and that is the work of the Gods and their agents.  When the power comes from a deity, that power is in the realm of a miracle, meaning it is worked and granted by a divinity.  Mortals have no control over miracles; they are granted according to the will of the Gods.  Sometimes, a mortal of particular merit may be granted the ability to request certain miracles such as healing or protection, but this is always a power coming from outside the person as a gift.  The power does not come from them, and this is not a skill that can be learned.

 

The Houses of The Shattered Isle

I reader recently wrote me asking for the names and insignia of the royal houses of The Shattered Isles.  I felt more readers might be interested, so here along with a little more history, are the royal families that make up the ruling class:

The names of the groups and houses originate after the success of the revolt and the rise of Maxis.  The men each chose new names for their families, rejecting the “goddessed” names of their ancestors and starting new lines in the light of Maxis.

The Houses Denae

These houses are all closely related, tracing their ancestors back to the three men who banded together to overthrow the rule of the goddess Progenita, who they refer to as Pestilentia.

 

Family:  Danae

Symbol: Sun Hawk

Family: Fawnae

Symbol: Summer Eagle

Family: Malnae

Symbol: Falcon Moon

As the Three, they stand slight higher in status than the other royal houses.

The Houses Sey

The Sey joined the rebellion some years after the beginning of the struggle.  Thus, they rank lower than the others since they came along to the cause later, and were awarded estates of lesser value. 

Family: Onsey

Symbol: Griffin of the Light

Family: Wensey  

Symbol: Basalisk

Family: Ansey

Symbol: Sea Tiger

The final royal house is the only one that dates back to before the great war.

Family: Gaunefer

Symbol: The Ancient Spider

Gaunefer was one of the ruling clans from the days of the goddess.  They betrayed Progenita and served a key role in the defeat of the forces of the goddess.  As a reward, they were allowed to keep their ancestral lands and retain status as a ruling family.  However, they have always been looked upon with distrust and rumors have circulated for years that they sheltered witches, who kept the cult of the goddess alive in secret.

Some history

House Kybele was the last ruling family during the matriarchy.  Once King Denae seized power, he sought to hunt down and kill each and every member of the family as well as all hekatin.  This was when he formed the order of the Witch Hunters.  Their primary function was initially to eliminate all descendants of Kybele, but later became the suppression of goddess worship and witchcraft.  Whispers have long haunted the Kings Denae that a heir survived, and her descendants have lived on in secret awaiting the return of the Witch Moon.

Originally, the lands now known as The Shattered Isles consisted of one large land mass.  When House Kybele fell and Maxis rose, the Witch Moon vanished from the sky and there was a great tumult.  The very ground shook and the seas boiled.  The land shattered into a series of islands, great stretches of land sinking into the sea and leaving them divided.  King Denae and the priests of Maxis determined this “shattering” represented the shattering of the bonds that had been placed on them by “Pestlentia” and so celebrated the breaking up of the lands by renaming them The Shattered Isles.

To the new ruling class, Pestilentia (and all women) represented chaos, emotionalism, illogic and the irrational.  In their new order, women were denied any leadership positions and consigned to be wives and mothers.  In the eyes of the men, women lacked the mental facilities to lead properly, allowing their feelings to govern their decisions.  The only magic allowed was the magic of men– primarily spells to wage war and aid in physical tasks such as building. With their power in the rise, they constructed wonderous temples, roads and aqueducts.

For several hundreds of years after the rise of Maxis, girls received no formal education at all.  Even many royal women lacked the ability to read.  However, as time passed, it was determined that “properly” educated women made better wives for their husbands, and so gradually girls were allowed to learn some non-domestic subjects, primarily in what would become The Girls’ Academy in the royal city of Denaerk.  The initial teachers came primarily from Gaunefer, where the lax leadership had allowed them to learn academic subbjects over the course of years, despite royal mandates forbidding such learning.

Some More History

According to The Hekatin

The priests of Maxis and the hekatin relate very different stories as to the origins of the world.  According to the hekatin, Progenita gave birth to the world and to all life.  She ruled over the lands as a loving mother, the hekatin her loyal servants.  The lands, once known as Progenia, had always been ruled by a matriarchy.  She placed the Goddess Moon in the sky to show her eternal love for her people, that they would ever know of her goodness.  The people lived in harmony, harvest was abundant and all dwelt in comfort and safety.

They teach that a matriarchy is the natural and original order of the world.  Men are all little boys who need a strong mother to guide their actions.  And it was a dark God named Maxis who came from distant lands and tore the world asunder.

According to the Priests of Maxis

The priests of Maxis teach that Maxis forged the lands with his great hammer, Granite .  He then made men of steel to fight and lead, and women of silver to provide comfort to their men.  He placed the Ever Moon, later called the Witch Moon, in the sky as an expression of his love for his wife.

Pestilientia  was his wife.  She grew jealous of how much the people loved Maxis, and she revolted against her nature, seeking the power and the role of a God.  So, she did betray him, slipping a sleeping drought into his wine one night and then binding him with mighty chains and spells in his own dungeon.  The wicked queen then drew his power from him and gave it to women, allowing them to subjugate men and bringing an era of chaos and darkness to the world.

Finally, Maxis freed himself from her spell using the power of his mind, took back his power and restored the rule of man to the isles, striking down the Witch Moon, cutting out Pestilentia’s tongue and consigning her to serve as a maid in his palace.  The wars to restore the rule of man shed much blood, and so Maxis cursed women to bleed once a month as a reminder of the folly of woman’s rule.