Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wands & Staffs

In both fairy tales and fantasy, wands (the fairy godmother’s wand in Cinderella) and staffs (Gandalf’s staff in The Lord of the Rings) are used to call and/or invoke magic. These talismans usually serve as conduits for magical energy, and their linear shapes direct a spell or other enchantment according to its bearer.

Don’t you wish you had a magic wand … that would leave your home sparkling from top to bottom with a flick or a wrist?

Or maybe a powerful staff that could freeze time … while you figure out your next best move?

I won’t post a spoiler about how Hermes’ Wand is used in Daughter of Light, but I will share a snippet of its creation from Isolt’s Enchantment:

The dwarf god possessed as much skill over wood as he did over metal. He cut a branch from a towering white oak.

The spirit of the tree emerged. Crimson stained her fingers. She staunched the flow of blood from a gash in her side. “You bereave me with no consideration?”

Vulcan fumbled for words. His glance darted between the wood in his hand and the tree spirit’s wound. “I didn’t know you were alive.”

“Your lack of awareness is apparent.”

He held out the branch, to return it to her.

“No. It is like a child. Once born it cannot re-enter the womb. But know this: It will retain memory of the roots that birthed it.”

“I meant to use it for a gift.”

“Do with it what you will, but don’t steal from me again.”

“And your wound?”

“It will heal in time.” The tree spirit re-entered the white oak.

Hoping to appease her outrage, the abashed god whittled and scraped the wood with care. He risked a glance at the oak when he was finished.

The tree remained silent.

Vulcan admired the smooth and slender staff in his hands. The pale wood required no adornment. And yet, he desired his gift to be impressive. He called upon his cousin, Hermes. “Perhaps you could endow the rod with some contrary magic?”

The nimble messenger god hefted the staff. “You could crack a head with this.”

Vulcan flinched when his cousin smashed it against the stout trunk of a tree. When Hermes threw the rod to the ground and jumped upon it with both feet, Vulcan shouted, “Enough!”

I just finished reading Prospero Lost by L. Jagi Lamplighter. A spinoff of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the story weaves just about every supernatural creature that you’ve ever heard of into an intricate and contemporary cosmology. Within the first few chapters, the reader discovers that Prospero has gifted each of his nine children a unique magical staff with distinct powers. These staffs are central to this intriguing story.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Dreaming Reality

In a novel, dreams are a common device to reveal a character’s inner conflicts, essence, nature, and/or reality.

Even though I’m fascinated with dreams, I used visions more than dreams in Daughter of Light. Everyone dreams but not everyone has visions. Melia’s visions are a signal that she is different from her sisters in Half Faerie.

However, in Half Mortal, Sinjiin teaches Melia that her dreams can prepare her to shift into an animal form.

“What is the next step?” Melia asked.
“You must become the creature in your dreams.”
“How do I do that?”
Sinjiin searched the ground next to him with his hand. He picked up a small black vial that Melia hadn’t noticed before. He held it between splayed fingers. “This is a rare oil. Before you go to sleep at night, spread one drop across your upper lip. This way you will be inhaling the fumes throughout the night. It will activate a deeper consciousness, the place in you that understands the fluidity of who you are.”
Melia held up the vial. “What if this doesn’t work? What if I can’t have the dream?”
“You’ll have a dream. It might not be the one which you hope for, but you’ll have one. The rest of the work is bringing your dream-self and awake-self closer and closer until there is no separation. You shift in your dreams; you shift when you’re awake. Back and forth, until it is as natural as breathing.”

The above scene draws from the concept of lucid dreaming. In a lucid dream, one is aware that one is dreaming, and can alter the dream narrative, thus manipulating the “dream reality.” In Half Mortal, experiencing a shift into animal form in a dream will lay the groundwork for Melia to manifest the same experience in her waking life.
Recently, I re-read Stephen King’s The Stand (Uncut). It’s a dark christian apocalyptic fantasy. I read the original (cut) version back in the late 70s—yes!—when it was first published. I’d completely forgotten how integral dreams were to the novel’s plot.

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

King used dreams in three specific ways in The Stand:

1. Being Called. All the Captain Trips survivors dreamed of Mother Abagail and/or Randall Flagg. Based on their experience of those dreams, each character chose to travel to Boulder or Las Vegas. That was the primary instance of the dreaming in The Stand. It was the most unique use of dreams in the novel.

2. Anxiety/Fear: Both Larry Underwood and Stu Redman experienced dreams which highlighted their anxieties and/or fears. These dreams were specific to the character, i.e. Underwood dreamed about performing (he was a musician and songwriter) and Redman dreamed about the birth of his wife’s child. These dreams showed their anxiety and fears to the reader. They could have taken place in any novel, i.e.. they didn’t have an added supernatural meaning.

3. Guidance: Tom Cullen dreamed about Nick Andros, who gave him guidance. Although Tom didn’t know it, Nick had already died when Tom had this series of dreams. Additionally, Nick spoke to Tom in these dreams, while in “real life” he was mute. The information Nick provided Tom in these dreams was critical to saving another character’s life. While not as unique as the Being Called dreams, these dreams had a supernatural element to them, i.e. they bended the threshold between the dream world and reality.

In 2012, I attended WriteonCon.com, an online writers conference. At that time, my Work-In-Progress opened with a dream. During the conference, more than one agent shared how opening a novel with a dream was enough to send the submission straight to the slush pile. Apparently, opening with a dream is a common for beginning novelists. By the time, the con was over, I pretty much wanted to crawl beneath my desk and shred the first chapter of my WIP. Okay, maybe the entire manuscript! Suffice it to say, I didn’t actually crawl beneath my desk, but I did revise that first chapter … over … and over … and over again!