The Witch

Wicket Witch of the WestMagic is integral to high fantasy and ‘the witch’ is central to the magic in many of these stories. The witch or sorceress wields her magic for good or ill and is often maligned. Popular culture is adorned with witches of all kinds, from the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz to one of my personal favourites, Polgara in David Eddings’ Belgariad series. Classically, the witch is hideous, with warts and whiskers. She might fly on a broom and make potions which can turn a man into a toad or make a princess sleep for a hundred years. Our fairy tales are full of nasty witches.

SorceressHowever in high fantasy, it is very common for a sorceress to be a force for good and also to be beautiful. Polgara could shift into the shape of an owl and was a powerful positive influence in the communities she worked in. The Aes sedai in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series were servants of all and devoted to various and distinct pursuits. Whether they were healing the sick, fighting wars, seeking justice and knowledge or mediating in kingdom disputes, they were virtuous- most of the time.

Hermione GrangerThis is one of the attractions of fantasy: that there is such variety. Your witch can be the most evil woman who has ever walked your world or she can be the saviour of that world. She can be the heroine or she can be the mentor, guiding the hero in his coming into power, as Polgara did for Belgarion and Moraine did for Rand in The Wheel of Time series.

Belatrix LestrangeIn Princess Avenger, I have a ‘classic’ witch, Hetty, who is Princess Alecia’s mentor. Alecia has no mother so Hetty fills this void and is always on hand to give sage advice or heal a wound if Alecia gets herself into hot water. She crops up again in The Lady’s Choice where a spell she casts at the behest of Squire Ramón causes a bucket load of trouble.  In The Lady’s Choice, Benae appears to be a normal woman, but she can speak mind to mind with her horse and she can delve and heal with her mind.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resI guess it’s not surprising that much of magic is centred on healing. In my fantasy world, medicine was primitive and a magical cure could save a queen or send a valued soldier back to the battlefield. Many modern techniques and medicines are still regarded as magical.

But no matter how the magic is used, witches in fantasy stand apart. They may do good but they are regarded with suspicion because they aren’t understood. This makes them lonely and puts them at risk. They guard their privacy and often live in a community in disguise. Witches and sorceresses live their secret lives with the people but their influences can extend right to the throne and beyond.

No wonder I love fantasy!

The Fantasy World

Kain JazaraOver the last two posts I’ve outlined the sword and the quest, two critical components of high fantasy and both very close to my heart. Today, my exploration will lead us into The Fantasy World.

Coastal Scene (123)- cliffsIn many fantasies, the world takes on the status of a character and many authors spend innumerable hours in what we writers call world-building. For some authors, the world will come first and they won’t start writing until all the rules and geography of the world is in place. Many readers love being taken out of their land and dropped into the middle of a different realm, one that can come to be as familiar to them as their everyday surroundings. If the author has done their job, the fantasy world makes sense to the reader and everything that occurs in the story follows the rules of that reality.

High fantasy worlds are antiquated, their technology roughly Middle Ages or pre industrial. Life is hard, people die young of diseases, wars are fought in hand to hand combat, ladies wear extravagant gowns and the men, breeches. Travel is by foot, horse or carriage and food is harvested by hand. The world may even have a map as most authors want to be able to visualise their worlds. Maps help the author to get distances and travel times right as well as directions. As a fantasy reader, I love maps as they help me to orient myself in that world.

RainforestThe most important aspect of high fantasy worlds which sets them apart from reality is magic. Magic can take many forms. It may come from witches and warlocks or from the forest itself. Dragons and other creatures can have magic powers. In Princess Avenger, the magic potions of Hetty the witch come up against the transformative talents of Vard the shape shifter. Benae, in The Lady’s Choice, had a magical talent for healing and also the gift of being able to speak mind to mind with her horse Flaire. Magic in fantasy stories is only limited by the imagination of the author. It is what takes a life a drudgery and pain and creates wonder and light and perhaps a triumph of good over evil.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resSo, imagine the world of the Middle Ages, add magic and you have The Fantasy World. No wonder so many of us are captivated by this genre.

 

The Quest

Arrow in full kitIn fantasy stories, there is usually a quest or an epic journey towards a goal. This often involves much travel and exposes the reader to exotic characters and locations. What sort of goal am I talking about? The journey is usually undertaken by a hero or heroine with the help of others. They may have to find a mythical sword or convey a magical ring of power through enemy territory in the hope of destroying it; all the while, keeping the object from falling into the hands of the evil lord, of course.

There may be several books needed to finish the tale. In Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the quest was to destroy the dark lord for once and for all. Hero Rand had to come into his power to achieve this as did many of the other characters.

Benae prayingThe fantasy genre is the champion of the series and the reason for this is the quest. You don’t solve all of the world’s pressing concerns in one book, especially if your hero must grow into their power before they can achieve their goal. The momentum of the quest swings back and forwards between good and evil, keeping the reader on tenterhooks. At the close of each book, there will be an ending, but not THE ending.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverIn a fantasy romance, the hero and heroine will be on a quest to win true love, but both may also have secondary journeys. These often get in the way of the primary goal which is a happily ever after. In Princess Avenger, Vard and Alecia are drawn to each other, but Alecia’s vendetta and Vard’s need for a mentor threaten the achieving of their true love. The same could be said in The Lady’s Choice. Ramon’s quest to find Alecia, and Benae’s drive to marry a wealthy prince, make it almost impossible to achieve a future together.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resAt the end of a long quest, when the reader has devoted hours to following the hero on their journey of growth and achievement, there is nothing more satisfying than the attainment of that goal whether it be peace on Earth or true love.

Fantasy Swords

Knight with SwordOver the next few months, I thought I would outline some of the fantasy icons and in particular, high fantasy. This will give readers an idea of the influences in my writing.

One of my favourite fantasy icons is the sword. This weapon features in most high fantasy stories. Its importance as a weapon of this genre can’t be denied but its value goes much further than that. Proficiency with the sword is a given when you’re dealing with an alpha male hero. Usually this hero will be a blade master and the insignia on his sword may reflect this. An awareness of fighting a blade master casts fear into the heart of opponents. There also may be a learning of sword play as a hero grows into his power as Rand did in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

Kain JazaraSword play is romanticized as a dance in many fantasy stories. The opponents move around each other, using forms that may be named and creating a mesmerising spectacle for those watching and reading.  The sword of a blade master may be manufactured of special metals, imbued with magic that means the blade will never lose its edge and there may only be a limited number of that sword created. This enhances the value of such a weapon and the wielder becomes the stuff of legend.

Of course the sword may be unique and magical such as Excalibur, the mythical sword of King Arthur. His ability to draw it from the stone proclaimed his kingship although many say the sword in the stone and Excalibur were not one and the same. It doesn’t really matter and Excalibur played almost as large a role in those stories as King Arthur himself.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverThere are no special swords in my stories as yet but there are swordsmen, for whom the sword is merely an extension of the hand. My hero Vard from Princess Avenger is a supreme swordsman, able to best anyone in the kingdom. His proficiency with this weapon is in stark contrast to his struggle to master his shape shifting talents. His battle to control his animal transformations is the crux of why there must be more to tell between Vard and Alecia.

Ramón, my hero in The Lady’s Choice, has come into his mastery of the sword since Princess Avenger, determined to thwart Vard and rescue Alecia. Lady Benae has other plans when she meets Ramón, seeing in him a man of honour and courage who moves with the fluid grace of the master bladesman.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resAnd so you see there is romanticism in the sword; in its beauty, its magic and even its power. Whether the sword is pulled from a stone, rises from a lake, is handed down from father to son or found in a dusty chest under a bed, each has a tale to tell and a part to play in high fantasy stories.

 

Fantasy Creation

Mermaid 1(123)Wow, it’s been a while since I last blogged and I can only blame the fact that I’ve been held prisoner by the process of creating my next manuscript. Love Thy Enemy, the story of beautiful mermaid Merielle and her dashing sea captain Nikolas Cosara has been put aside, awaiting a publisher, and I’ve turned my attention to secondary characters from The Lady’s Choice: Ramón’s sister Lady Alique Zorba and the dark and dangerous army captain Kain Jazara.

Alique ZorbaThe two strike sparks off each other when they are brought together by Nikolas Cosara and then find themselves up against the burgeoning invasion by dark elves into the kingdom. Kain is faced with the daunting prospect of having all that he has known ripped from him and Alique must decide if she can accept the startling revelations from Kain’s past.

We are introduced to new characters who will inhabit coming books and one of these is Gwaethe, an elven princess. The cast of characters is ever expanding but many readers will want to know if we are ever to return to the love story of Alecia and Vard from Princess Avenger.

Kain JazaraLet me reveal that part two of their love story is already written and again awaiting a publisher. I hope to have some news on that before the end of the year. In the third part of the trilogy, I plan to draw together the stories that have gone before and Vard and Alecia will have the happily ever after they deserve.

I wish to finish this by thanking you all for your support. Please be assured that the kingdom lives on and new stories are being added with all your favourite characters. Who is your favourite so far?

 

A New Doctor Who

When my blog was very new, I wrote a post called ‘The Most Romantic Doctor Who’ which was, in essence, a tribute to my favourite Doctor, David Tennant. This post is one of my most popular and is still viewed by people every week. The Doctor resonates with so many people around the world, what ‘Who’ lover wouldn’t want to tap into that wealth of material? But the subject is so massive that it’s difficult to pin down a topic to write on.

I came across a blog by my friend and colleague Leisl Leighton called Saying Goodbye to the Doctor in which she eloquently describes her journey through the evolution of the different doctors both old and modern day. It’s really worth a read as is the rest of Leisl’s blog. I could relate to much of what Leisl had written. I never watched Doctor Who’s old series though I’ve seen some episodes and footage from this era.

Christopher EccelstonMy experience of Doctor Who came with the advent of the new Doctor Who, Christopher Eccleston. He bounced onto our screens as the ninth Doctor and I thought he was fabulous, as was Billy Piper who played Rose Tyler. I was still trying to get my head around Doctor Who and all its laws and possibilities, not to mention the assorted baddies, when Doctor ten, David Tennant, came along.

David Tennant imageIt didn’t take long for me to fall completely in love with David and he is still my favourite to this day and always will be. It didn’t seem to matter whether he was with Rose or Martha Jones or Donna Noble, each brought out a different aspect of his character, to give us a more rounded picture of his strengths and flaws. So far, he appears to be the only Doctor who has fallen in love. Perhaps this is why so many of us were mesmerised by him.

Girl_in_the_FireplaceThe main writer of the Eccleston and Tennant series was Russell T Davies, and I give a lot of the credit for my enjoyment of these Who eras to the wonderful writing. However my favourite episode, The Girl in the Fireplace was written by Steven Moffat and directed by the brilliant Euros Lyn.

As I said goodbye to Doctor David, there could not have been a more distraught devotee than myself. For one who had come to identify Doctor Who with Tennant, I just couldn’t conceive of another playing The Doctor. Along came Matt Smith and I prepared to love him as much as David. After all, I had successfully transitioned from Eccleston to Tennant, why not to Smith? Along with a new doctor, a new premier writer took over the series. Steven Moffat began weaving his convoluted yarns and I was very lost at times.

The_Eleventh_Doctor_and_Amy_PondMatt Smith was too young, too bumbling and I just couldn’t warm to Amy (Karen Gillan) either. On top of all this, the show had a new executive producer. It could be said that the entire landscape of Who was changed dramatically. I faithfully viewed the first few episodes, trying to get my head around the stories and the new Who and I admit, I gave up. I was devastated that my favourite show had been changed beyond my enjoyment. Occasionally I would catch part of an episode and find that, even in light of the odd laws of Doctor Who and ‘timey wimey’ stuff, I just couldn’t follow the stories.

Dr Who VincentI don’t know what happened to bring me back. It took me two series to accept Matt Smith and I’d be interested to hear if other fans had the same experience. I’ve now watched all the Matt Smith episodes several times over and love them, especially Vincent and the Doctor in which The Doctor and Amy take Vincent Van Gogh forward in time to show him how famous he became in the hope that it might save him. Each time I view these episodes I understand them better and feel that they are so complex that you can’t fully appreciate them without multiple viewings.

I will miss Matt Smith. I came to love his three way rivalry with Amelia Pond and Rory Williams. River Song added a feisty other dimension and Clara Oswald will continue into the next series with the new Doctor. TwelthdoctorWhich brings me to Doctor Peter Capaldi. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m unconvinced about Peter as the new Doctor. He’s not young and sexy and I think that the three recent Doctors have really added dimension to the role in this area. Capaldi is much more in the mould of doctors in the old series, though we did have several younger men playing the character. We shall see.

Last, I can’t end this without mentioning The Day of the Doctor.  The episode introduced Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor and featured David Tennant and Matt Smith along with Tom Baker and Billie Piper. We even got to spend time with the War Doctor. It was magnificent television, creating a world viewing record for simulcast of a television drama. The show has us hooked and I don‘t mind admitting it. Long live Doctor Who in all his incarnations.

Need

Coastal Scene (123)- cliffsOver the last two week’s I’ve been editing my latest manuscript, working title Love Thy Enemy. As I worked this afternoon, the task was to search the word ‘need’ and replace it with synonyms if it popped up too much.

This is a fascinating exercise and I did discover I used the word a lot; which led me to ponder on ‘need’. Obviously my story is a story of need, of craving, of desiring something, or many things. This word conveys a strong urge, perhaps a necessity in the lives of the hero and heroine. Merielle desires to leave her former life and fulfil her destiny. She knows if she stays with her people, her spirit will die. That’s a pretty strong motivation for change.

Mermaid 1(123)When she meets the hero, he is searching for a lost brother. Nik’s ‘need’ to find his brother is all-consuming. Merielle becomes wrapped up in Nik’s search when he believes she can help him.

Pretty soon, sparks are ignited and a whole new bunch of ‘needs’ are clamouring to be met. Need is such a powerful world. It doesn’t imply there is an alternative; suggests no other option can be considered. The word suggests something that can’t be lived without, like air, or food, water and yes, love.

Needs (123)This is why I enjoy editing. It enables me to analyse my work with a certain amount of detachment and truly see the meaning of what I’ve written. The light bulb moment for me this afternoon: I can use the theme of ‘need’ when trying to encapsulate what this book is about. Love Thy Enemy is not about revenge, sorrow, guilt or even love. All these themes play a part but the over-riding subject of the book is need. How powerful is that?