The Demon Spring trilogy has a few different themes that I had fun playing with. There’s Anya’s abuse-victim-breaking-free storyline. Cam’s push to get her best friend to become more than he is. And Jack’s slow reclamation of the new man he is after his wife’s death. For he and Anya, their romance after loss storyline is one that I very much enjoyed writing. Slight spoilers for the first book (which you can buy here) […]
When writing a book, I like to take real situations and give them a fantasy twist to explore them. For example, in Empath I used a giant fire-breathing dragon to dive deep into anxiety and mental health. In my new urban fantasy trilogy, Demon Spring, I wanted to write a story about someone who chose to stay in a relationship, and then chose to break free. Warning: Slight spoilers about the Resurgence, the first Demon Spring book. Playing with Reality As I wrote about a few weeks ago, I centered my demonic lore around a few different myths, including the seven deadly sins. For Bael, the original athtar demon, I gave him the sin of pride. Then I turned him into an actual narcissist with a personality disorder and turned it up to eleven. The sad part about Bael is although he says and does a lot of crazy shit, much of what comes out of his mouth is textbook narcissistic abuser. He's a master gaslighter. He gives and then withholds love at a whim. He's obsessed with the love others give him, and does what he can to maintain that adoration. Up to and including making Anya do unspeakable things to prove that she loves him. In the book, Anya is not blameless but she's not fully culpable. But she carries the dual weights of blame for what she's done, and the fear if she doesn't do it, Bael will hurt her (or worse). She's so grateful to him for rescuing her that she lets him get away with literal murder. Living in Hell For most of the first book, Anya is on the run from Bael, telling Jack if he finds her, it will be "bad." We find out, of course, that she's been Bael's lover for several millennia, a legendary bloodthirsty monster that killed without remorse. She's been cursed to repent, and that's why she's acting so crazy. Believable, until we see a little behind the curtain about how Bael really is. His relief quickly turns into accusation, and then into rage. Anya, on the other hand, isn't without reproach. She willingly returns to him, because even after everything, she still loves him. It's a cycle anyone who's ever loved an abused victim understands all too well. Breaking Free For Anya, the curse is almost a get-out-of-jail-free card. She tells Jack that she feels no different after [...]
Way back in March 2017, I was faced with a choice. I'd just finished the first Demon Spring book and it was off to my beta readers. I had to decide if I was going to go forward with that or return to the Lexie Carrigan Chronicles. Having gone back and forth with the Madion Trilogy (Island, break for Lexie 1, Chasm, break for Lexie 2, Union), I found it difficult to shift gears mentally between a sunshiney YA and a much heavier war story. Faced with a similar quandary with Demon Spring, I opted to put down Lexie until the trilogy was complete. So how'd that work out for me? Things I Liked Like the Madion Trilogy, Demon Spring isn't a world that was familiar to me. Lexie and Razia have all been sitting around in my mind since I was a teenager. When I write plots in those worlds, I don't have to wonder about the intricacies. They're as real to me as this world. But with Demon Spring, I was pulling world outta my butt as I went. It's no surprise that world changed. With The Island, I was able to fudge my worldbuilding a little. After all, Theo and Galian were stuck on an island. I could put off a bit of worldbuilding until Chasm. With Demon Spring, I needed to have the world fully fleshed out in the first book. Ergo, writing everything together allowed me to go back and forth between books and "update" the world as I learned more about it. It also gave me time and space to really think about plots. Sometimes, I get rushed and think, "Meh, it's fine for now. Don't overdo it." Inevitably, it's those scenes that haunt me two years later and wondering "What if I'd done more?" With Demon Spring, I could take the time to fill in those scenes and make it richer. To wit, in both Redemption and Revival, I sent a version to my betas, got comments back, then added entire new scenes to fix what I saw as a pacing issue. I also changed names multiple times. From a sales perspective, the big reason why I decided to release in 90 day increments is Amazon's preorder window. When the first comes out, the second will be preorderable, thus allowing me to capture that sale immediately. The second comes out, the third will be [...]
One of the fun things about Urban Fantasy is that you get to blend the real world with the mythological one. For my forthcoming UF trilogy, Demon Spring, I really wanted to craft a magical system that was global in nature. At the same time, I wanted to be extremely careful not to appropriate any currently practicing religions. I thought I'd write about the process I went through, as well as I can remember it (some things are fuzzy). When this book came to me, the idea of demons transforming humans was fairly clear. Mostly as there's a line in the last chapter of the last book that I desperately wanted to keep. (Yes, that's how I plot.) They always had a vampiric sort of vibe, but I didn't want to use vampires. (Too sparkly) So I went with the generic demon with specific types of monsters with different powers. Finding Anya For the character of Anya, I wanted to base her on some badass warrior woman from mythology. After some poking around on Google, I came across Anath, the warrior woman from an ancient Syrian myth called the Ba'al cycle. Ba'al (or Bael) was his wife/sister (depending on the translation), and he was killed by Mot, the God of Death. Anath went on a rampage, killing Mot and grinding him into dust. She's basically a bloodthirsty maniac. So obviously, that was my gal. For reasons I'll go into in a later post. Fitting Myth to Plot As human mythology morphed, Ba'al eventually became one of the seven princes of Hell (Beelzebub). Originally, I'd hoped to align each demon to the seven deadly sins, but sloth and gluttony weren't all that sexy. Ergo, I went with pride, lust, wrath, envy, greed. I fudged a little bit--Beezelbub is the prince of wrath. But for what I was going for, he needed to be pride. Since I'd begun in the Middle East, I expanded my scope to the other regions of the world. As a HUGE anime fan, I really liked how the show Inuyasha utilized different demons in varying ways. So obviously, Japan was going to be one of the other breach sites. The others--Mexico, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Germany--were regions where humans existed around/before 5,000 B.C. Once I had my regions, I scoured the history and mythology of each of the ancient civilizations. In some cases, such as the noxes, the ancient civilizations [...]
Being such a student of history, of course Lexie would want to know everything about history as it pertained to magic. Gavon, of course, is more than willing to oblige, telling her the story of the brief magical experiment that ended with a bloody two year war and the Separation. When the Europeans first came to the US, the magicals took advantage of the space and freedom and decided to set up their own little colony where they could practice magic openly. This lasted for a bit until they realized they still needed to trade with the non-magicals, and the colony grew too large to hide. However, since there was a generation of magicals who'd grown up without having to hide their magic, they said, "Screw this" and a war broke out between those who wanted to assimilate with the non-magicals, and those who wanted to remain free--and enslave the non-magicals. Johanna Chase, the daughter of the guildmaster John and Lexie's maternal ancestor, figured out how to create a magical space, or another pocket of reality, that would serve as a prison for the Separatists. Eventually, as depicted in the graphic, the Separatists lost and were sentenced to live in this prison. After the Separation, the Council of Danvers decreed (again, as we learned in a previous blog post, a decree/pact is enforced by the power inherent in those who belong to the group. So this pact was pretty damned iron-clad) rules like no magic until fifteen, non-magicals won't know about magic, dragon's blood can only be used for healing potions, that sort of thing. But most importantly, there would be no more specialities, like healers, potion-makers, and most importantly, warriors like James Riley who could wreak havoc on the world. Everyone would just have a blend of normal magic, much less powerful than before. So, as I'm sure you're wondering, how the hell did Nicole and Marie become a healer and potion-maker? Lexie's wondering the same thing...
Lexie's sisters have two unique brands of magic. Her eldest sister, Nicole, is a potion-maker and her middle sister, Marie, is a healer. Potion-makers are almost like squibs from Harry Potter, except they do still have some magic, just not the usual kind. Their powers are limited to working with magical ingredients. As Gavon explains to Lexie, she and Nicole could put together the same ingredients and come out with vastly different potions. Marie, on the other hand, is incredibly powerful, although her healing leaves a lot to be desired. She and Lexie fight like cats and dogs, as siblings do, and that doesn't change when Lexie comes into her powers. The problem comes when Lexie begins learning how to spar with Gavon, she needs healing to replenish what she's lost. But Nicole doesn't make potions (and doesn't know about Lexie's evening chats with her mysterious teacher) and Marie would rather eat her foot than help Lexie. Which leads our brilliant little magical to make the not-so-brilliant decision to brew her own potion. You'll have to read to find out what happens...
When my mom was reading Spells and Sorcery, she asked me who Gavon McKinnon is based on. In truth, he's really not based on anyone. But he's exactly who Lexie needs the night she finds out about magic. Panicking, Lexie's eager for any kind of normalcy, and Gavon, with his dockers and salt-and-pepper hair, has just the right amount of humor and intelligence to bring her back down. Without spoiling too much, Gavon is a smart man, and someone who loves to learn about what the world has to offer. To Lexie, he's genuinely kind and concerned about her well-being. Although Lexie doesn't listen to him all the time, his is the voice of reason she comes to listen to. UNFORTUNATELY, I can't say too much more about him without spoiling some major plot twists. So here's his aesthetic. Do with it what you will. Side note: I always have a hard time figuring out who I'd pick as people, and Gavon's no exception. But Gerard Butler with more beard and more gray might just work...
Because of Magical Law, Lexie comes into her powers at fifteen. Because of Aunt Jeanie, Lexie didn't know magic existed until the night before her fifteenth birthday. So, as she tells Gavon, she has zero frame of reference for how to use magic. As I talked about last week, magic is like another sense, or another pair of hands. But just like it takes a baby a few months to learn how to form words (and a lifetime to learn all the combinations of how to use them), Lexie has to start step by step until she can wield magic with any sort of expertise. The good news is, she has her trusty magical primer to help out. I had a lot of fun writing the excerpt and adding them to the book, which I've been sharing on Tuesdays on Instagram. Unfortunately, as Lexie finds out, simply reading isn't enough to help her get a handle on her newfound powers. But the question is: does she want Gavon to teach her because no one else will, or is there some other reason?
Born Alexis "Lexie" Renee Carrigan on October 18th, at the beginning of our story, Lexie's a pretty straight-laced, nerdy, eager-to-get-into-a-good-college kid from an upper middle class school in Florida. She's a sucker for history, not so great at chemistry, and is just trying to keep her head above water among all her honors and AP classes. Then, of course, the big boom--she's also magical. And, as they say, that's the least weird thing about her. Lexie takes a lot of cues from me at fifteen--smart but green. Firmly rooted in reality, but once the world opens to magic, she approaches it like a science experiment. She's curious and eager, but at the same time, she follows her gut. One of the most frustrating things she encounters is that no one a) seems to care that she's having a hard time digesting her new world and b) is giving her answers that make sense. Her grandmother, in particular, is frustratingly vague, and seems to dislike Lexie for no clear reason. Of course, when Gavon shows up with a lot of the answers, Lexie's like "Meh, I don't need you anyway." Lexie's affection for Gavon is really based in a few areas. First and foremost, he's the only person who seems to appreciate that she's in an adjustment period as she retools her way of thinking. He allows her to speak in complete sentences without interrupting her, he doesn't get angry with her when she screws up. He's a safe place for her to figure out this new world she's stumbled upon. And, of course, he's her sparring partner. Now, what his intentions are remain a bit of a mystery. I'll chat more about him and Lexie's sisters later this month. The town that Lexie lives in is based on Pensacola; the sparring beach is actually based on the munitions testing on the other end of Navarre Beach. Her high school is based on Gulf Breeze High, Mills was based on my high school history teacher who I just adored (Hi Millsie!). There's actually a few books that take place in this fictional small town roaming around in my brain, but we'll see if I ever get around to writing them. I'm really excited for you to meet Lexie! Make sure you preorder the book on eBook, as the price ($0.99) will be going up shortly after it's released! Aesthetic for Lexie - [...]
One of the nice things about having a book stuck in your head for almost twenty years is that you are able to think through a lot of different aspects of the world (bad thing: sometimes the world is so familiar to you that you forget to explain it). Magic in Lexie's world has been pretty well-known to me for some time, and I really enjoyed stretching the limits of the rules I put in place (as well as finding those clever loopholes). Magic is Boring Taking a cue from Lexie's own straight-laced personality, most magicals see their magic as everyday and humdrum. The magicals lack the whimsical quality of Harry Potter, but that's the point: Magic just another sense, it's another pair of hands that helps out. "Magic is but an extension of the mind," is the prevailing theme. You can't jump from A-Z without creating the neural pathways first, and same with magic. Lexie has to practice going from A-B-C before she can jump to Z like a natural. But Also Structured I had a lot of fun applying physics principles to the book, too. The Law of Conservation of Mass is still in effect ("matter cannot be created nor destroyed"), which means Lexie can't just snap her fingers and create a car. She also doesn't have unlimited magic, and just as a marathoner runs out of steam, she runs out of magic if she wields too much too soon. Another aspect of the magical system I really like is the idea that guardians can take away magic from their children. In today's terms, they can ground their teenager. There's a couple other old guardian-child spells that come into play in Lexie 2 that I had fun playing with as well. But the most powerful magical idea in the book is the idea of a magical pact as it relates to clans and guilds: That last line - the collective power of the clan or guild is sourced by the powers inherent in the membership - means basically that when a clan or guild sets forth rules, the combined power of everyone in the guild enforces those rules. So even if you had a SUPER powerful magical, they couldn't break whatever laws had been agreed to by the clan/guild. However, as any lawyer will tell you, interpretation is key and loopholes abound. In this book, I had to [...]