Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To Cast or Not to Cast - Magical Prompt

Another good blogging email came my way today, this time from Your Next Favorite Author, which provides book and author spotlights along with regular writing prompts.

Selfishly, I'm usually too busy with ongoing projects to stop and do individual prompts, but they are excellent practice, and I keep an eye on the interesting ones nonetheless. Today's was about magic and spell-casting. For a fantasy writer like myself, magic is a driving force. Yet that is the case for most fantasy writers, and it can be hard to stand out. Building fantasy systems has become a complex and competitive game, where sometimes all you want is something different, and other times all you want is something familiar.


I employ a little bit of both in A Vision in Crimson, the fantasy series I'm gearing up to launch in the coming months, and over the course of the series more and more kinds of magic and magical practitioners crop up. Some of it is the kind of Deep Magic you hear about in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, that you see in action but never fully understand. Often I thought about the practical rituals of sympathy, conjuring, herbalism, and rootwork, rare natural abilities (that I won't spoil), and cosmic rules and consequences of a complex gaming system like that for Fantasy Flight's Arkham Horror. For those who look closely, there are lots of Lovecraftian threads in my writing, even if there are no Cthulhus. In this series, something important for me was distinguishing between cost and effect, what sacrifices magic requires whether the spells are successful or otherwise, and whether they are worth the sacrifice. In Arkham Horror, spells come with weighty costs, almost as a deterrent to using them in the first place. That concept of danger and risk is featured heavily in the Frostbite series. I'd be pleased to see people's attempts at this prompt here in the comments, or over at Your Next Favorite Author.  There will never be too much magic in the world, in my book.

For this prompt, I cheated a little bit, and posted a small scene from A Vision in Crimson, of the first spell that is cast when it's dark, people are tired, and they've got nowhere to sleep. I thought I'd share that with you here, too.

From A Vision in Crimson : Frostbite Book One by Kathryn Troy

Kate returned. She walked right past Luca without even looking at him, and headed towards the fire. She said nothing. She knelt by the fire, grabbing a long, thin branch that was poking out of the center. The end was still lit. Without lifting it off the ground, Kate dragged the smoldering end in the dirt, creating a large spiral that bordered the entire clearing. The incoherent chatter of the camp began to quiet down, and Luca noticed that those too far to the edge of the clearing were deliberately stepping closer, standing inside the inner curve of the spiral.
            When the outer edges of the spiral met in a closed circle, Kate left the burning stick upright in the ground. She returned to the fire, walking back the way she had come, rather than crossing the lines and going straight for the center. Luca observed Kate closely. He could hear her whispering something, but couldn’t understand her words.
            When she arrived at the center, she knelt again by the fire. He saw that her soft lips were still moving. From the pouch at her waist, she pulled out a small blue orb, and held it in the palm of her left hand in front of her face. Her eyes were closed. Her right hand drew the dagger from her boot. Her fingers rotated the orb, placing the blade in her left palm between the orb and her hand. She continued to speak, and the fire began to glow stronger and brighter.
            Luca heard Kate take in a sharp breath, and in the next moment she quickly ran the dagger across her left palm, drawing blood. She squeezed the orb. Hard. When her blood dripped into the fire, it reacted like gasoline. The blaze traveled the path of the spiral Kate had drawn. In the haze created by the flames, a caravan began to take shape. A series of red and gold tents slowly materialized along the outline of the spiral. Their doors flapped open in the breeze to reveal the rich d├ęcor inside. The tents were populated by lush pillows and fabrics, cups and bowls made of silver, and incredibly soft-looking beds.
            In the center, Kate’s blade was still biting into her hand, which had begun to quiver. In a few more minutes, the tents took on a physical form, and Kate let her hands fall limply to her side. Her hand was bleeding profusely. She threw her dagger into the dirt and pulled the plaid scarf out from around her neck, wrapping it tightly around her wound. She picked up her dagger, wiped the blade on her lap, and returned it to its place alongside her leg.

It doesn't work without the hat...

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