Saturday, February 2, 2013

Why did I make up my own magical races for my fantasy series?

Many years ago when the world was not quite so messed up and a lot more ice was around the poles, I started writing fantasy novels. During the initial stages of drafting Union of Renegades, I had to make decisions about my magical races. The usual suspects are elves and dragons. I very much love elves and dragons, but I wanted to be a little more creative than just plucking a standard tool out of the common toolbox.

This is when I came up with the rys and in later novels the tabre, which are pretty much just like rys except their skin is a different color. The rys are admittedly elf-like in some ways. They have innate magic as part of their physiology, and they are pretty snooty, except for Shan, but that’s because he’s so powerful that being a snob is pointless.

What are the attributes of the rys?
  • They are long-lived but not immortal. 
  • Magical abilities vary among individuals. Most rys are “common” meaning they possess basic capabilities like casting heat spells and limited range landscanning. 
  • A rare subset of the species is supremely gifted. They can see across vast distances, read minds, influence thoughts, create enchanted crystals, cast battle magic that breaks walls and incinerates people, levitate, repel other magic, seize souls of the dying, and even alter flesh.
  • The most powerful can hibernate, a very long time if need be.
  • Reproduction only occurs if both the male and female want it to. This means that they can have sexual relations, but pregnancy will only occur if both partners wish it. As you can imagine, they don’t have many offspring, but they don’t really need to. 
  • Due to their small population, rys and tabre leaders prefer to control large human societies as a way to gain resources and display their superiority. The loyalty of many people can also have the effect of boosting their magic.
  • They can be vulnerable to physical attack when they are in spellcasting trances. This is why the elite rys often employ a cadre of bodyguards, either human or rys.
In retrospect, I realize that I would probably have an easier time marketing my novels if I had just put elves or dragons or angels in them. Then they would have familiar elements popular with fantasy readers instead of a new magical race concept that triggers no specific meaning or response in potential readers. I guess this is why I got all those rejection letters all those years ago. I suppose I’m forced to agree that my fantasy novels are “hard to market” because they are not pure cookie cutter genre fiction.

Even so I can promise you that my novels are populated by diverse characters and civilizations. I don’t sugar coat the world. Sometimes the endings are happy. Sometimes they are decidedly not. I pack in intrigue, gritty battles, passion, the occasional monster, and good parties. And for those that really get into my work, there are thoughtful elements meant as metaphors to mirror the habits and errors of human societies. 

At the very least, I hope to entertain you and make you care about the characters. That’s what a good story needs to do regardless of genre.

Get to know the rys and read this short excerpt from Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I in which Shan kills for the first time.

Shan stalked his victim with pantherish ease. His perceptions allowed him to know the exact location of the Sabuto and even which way the warrior turned his head. Shan circled the warrior and approached him from his left side. The rys knew that the warrior did not see him.

He is at my mercy, Shan thought. He could incapacitate the Sabuto with a spell of sleepiness and kill him with ease, and Shan suddenly saw how with his magic he could simply strike the human dead in a variety of ways. But Shan was determined to do it with the sword. Only experiencing the danger of close combat could teach him courage. 

Shan rushed the warrior, but did not kill him in his moment of surprise. The Sabuto attacked but his weapon could not match the speed of the rys. Shan had every advantage, especially in the night. His advanced senses let him feel every movement of the warrior as it happened, and he could react perfectly. 

Finally, Shan accepted what he had chosen to do and struck the man down with effortless precision. The slender sword penetrated the man’s heart, and he cried out once before he died. Shan pulled his sword back swiftly, as if expecting to keep the spurting blood off his weapon. He could feel the heat coming off the thick stream of blood. He could feel the body of the man perish as it was suddenly unplugged from its life-giving force, but Shan was the most sensitive to the soul lurching from the body that had so abruptly evicted it.
Shan had always been especially sensitive to souls departing bodies. The soul of the Sabuto warrior recognized him as a rys, and Shan experienced the shock and confusion of the man, who had never expected a rys to be guarding the camp. Shan watched the soul rise, beckoned by the next world. When people died Shan saw much more than humans and most rys. 

The energy of the soul dissipated and Shan was thankful that it did not linger. He looked at the body heaped on the forest floor. The bloody corpse proved Shan was a killer. Shan struggled against the self-loathing he suddenly felt. He told himself that the dead man was Taischek’s enemy and he was justified in killing his friend’s enemy. But the only thought that helped Shan at all was that he had taken his first real step toward being King of Jingten.

If you enjoyed this excerpt you can download the entire novel Union of Renegades for free.