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Sorceror

GandalfMagic is essential in fantasy fiction so how could I have a series on fantasy elements without including the sorcerer? You may know him as the wizard or magician if you are a fan of the genre. This character can be the hero or he might be a mentor as was Merlin for Arthur of Camelot. Other famous wizard mentors are Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings and Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Of course, a sorcerer can also be the  villain as was Voldemort who used his abilities for evil and was the nemesis of Harry Potter.

Some of my favourite stories are built around a wizard as he comes into his power, from normal human weakling to all powerful world saviour. This can come about as a result of innate ability, through study or even as a gift from an all-powerful being. You need a long series to accomplish this or even perhaps several series such as Raymond E. Feist used to bring Pug from castle boy to world changing sorcerer. In fact Pug coming into power encompassed two worlds which could be accessed via a rift. But that’s a topic for another day.

Harry PotterWhat magic does a sorcerer wield? I feel that the magic of the sorcerer is quite different to that of the witch, both in the manner of the magic and in the delivery.

Wizards, being male, are more likely to use their magic to fight a war, to directly kill or influence events. The wielding of their magic is often via weapons of violence such as swords, knives and spears. A sorcerer may cast down bolts of lightning from his very fingertips or use his magic to project his voice to the masses. The wand was the favoured magical tool in the Harry Potter series with this tool being unique for each wielder.

Wizard 1This is a sweeping statement but generally, the magic of the sorcerer is not as subtle as that of witches. There is an element of patience in the magic produced by females. They are much more likely to use their magic to manipulate, setting into motion a series of events over which they may have little control. Male wielders of magic tend to be more up front, casting their spells for immediate and devastating effect.

The wizard can appear in any form but generally in fantasy this character will be clothed in robes, have white hair and often a flowing beard. He is easily recognisable, as someone who is wise and powerful, by his looks and bearing. The sorcerer is generally of advanced age, and may even live much longer than the rest of society. He will generally have an exalted position such as at the side of the king or perhaps as the headmaster of a school as Dumbledore was at Hogwarts. However, some of my favourite wizards lived very humble existences, even to being nomadic as Gandalf was in Lord of the Rings.

Wizard 2Lord Acton once said: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. One of the most delicious aspects of fantasy fiction is the potential for internal conflict created by this fact. At some point, the wizard will be faced with a choice or several choices or even whether to intervene at all. In a fight between two opposing forces, which side should he take? He may have the power to bring someone back from the dead but should he exercise that power? What effects will his magic have in the long term? There might be certain magics that are traditionally forbidden because of their far reaching effects. Is it ever acceptable to use this magic? Sorcerers are continually walking the fine line between good and evil.

But as the wizard battles enemies, changes worlds and fights his own demons he will ever remain a critical component of fantasy fiction.

 

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.

 

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?

 

Valentine’s Day 2014

I Love You- Valentine's DayNo one would question the fact that this day is for the ultimate romantics but I think Valentine’s Day brings out the romantic in many of us, even just a tiny corner. We begin to think about what it means to us to have a valentine and how we should show our appreciation.

Does it all have to be about the dollars we spend? Did you know that Australians will spend nearly one billion dollars on Valentine’s Day? Expensive gifts are one way to show someone we love them but not the only way. Simply the spending of time with your loved one – a good long chat, sharing a movie together, going on a walk, reflecting on how you came to fall in love and telling your valentine the things you love about them – are all great, inexpensive alternatives.

The Lady's Choice Cover- high resNo matter how you celebrate the day, I believe the important thing is that Valentine’s Day is a chance to stop and appreciate each other. So let’s do that this Valentine’s Day: take a moment to pause and remember all the great things about your valentine: the loveable, the funny, the romantic, the thoughtful, the caring, yes all those attributes that make it worthwhile being in a relationship.

Valentine’s Day is dear to the hearts of romance writers- you might say it’s our ‘one day of the year’. I appreciate this all the more since releasing my books Princess Avenger and The Lady’s Choice. I love to hear from readers either by email or by leaving a rating or short review on Goodreads or your purchase site.

Princess Avenger High Res CoverHow will I celebrate the day? A romantic meal out seems on the cards. How will you celebrate on February 14th?

This post is part of Annie Seaton’s Valentine’s Day blog hop so click a Rafflecopter giveaway to enter the competition and win great prizes.

Also head over to the authors below to check out their posts.

Date Name
30-Jan Annie Seaton 
1-Feb Tamsin Baker
2-Feb Demelza Carlton
2-Feb Susanne Bellamy
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5-Feb Isabella Hargreaves
6-Feb Heather Kinnane
7-Feb Barbra Novac
8-Feb Ann B Harrison
9-Feb Tarion Keelan
10-Feb HC Brown
11-Feb Kris Ashton
12-Feb Darry Fraser
13-Feb Lisa Knight
14-Feb Annie Seaton and Prize Draw