Writer Crazy? Opportunity

Last week I talked about my journey from writing epic fantasy to fantasy steampunk, the focus more on soft science. Too, I shared my decision to incorporate the change into the magic and backstory for my tales. For the magic, that meant determining how technology would operate within my world’s constraints. For the backstory, that encompassed determining how technology was lost when the Emprensen Empire collapsed.

Ontyre Map: CA Hawthorne

Ontyre Map: CA Hawthorne

In the week since that post I’ve realized another—perhaps crazy—step taken was implied, but not made clear to everyone. Crazy? Maybe, but crazy in a way that represents opportunity.

If I was inclined to do things the easy way this post wouldn’t exist, but that isn’t the case. I demonstrated that two years ago when I rejected publishing to further hone my craft. The easy road leads to overcrowded places where nothing new happens. Give me that untraveled road because I’m just crazy enough to take it.

The simple path was to abandon epic fantasy and write in the new sub-genre. Truthfully, that was my intent. I set about incorporating the technological backstory and fashioned the mechanical renaissance that revived it.

And then a mischievous voice (yes, as a writer I have too many of those) said, “Wait a minute. Back up. What if the first story told was about recovering the technology?”

“What’s the big deal?” I responded, because I’ve learned not to ignore what my rational brain likes to label as insanity.

“The big deal is the opportunity to set fantasy steampunk side-by-side with medieval magic and see what happens.”

“Technology wins.”

“Does it?”

“Of course it does. That’s the direction I’m going.”

“But wouldn’t the medieval magic fight to survive? Wouldn’t it grow and morph in an effort to defeat its rival? Might they each feed off each other? Might all this evolve into something never seen before? If you don’t write that story you’ll never know where it might have gone.”

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Photo: CA Hawthorne

Troublemaker. Goodbye comfort zone. Hello unknown. Chaos. Bedlam. Conflict. I like it!

Where will this all lead? I’ve no idea. What I know is this will push me, test me, and force me to tackle implications and complications I wouldn’t have dreamed up otherwise. On the surface this is all plot related, but it influences the characters. In the first book my protagonist, born to a medieval way of life, is forced to adapt when thrust into polar opposite circumstances. In turn, that influences her thinking.

So, for my last 2016 blog post I’ll leave you with the scene in Trust in the Forgotten when ancient magic collides with magic-assisted technology for the first time. It’s a small moment that becomes so much more and, as is often the case, the protagonist finds herself caught between…


Ergain dropped and the splintered door crashed into the nearest cabinet. Shattered glass embedded in the walls, jagged darts spewed without regard for aim. Smoke billowed. The flames behind became heat on her back. She spit out blood and ash and raised up, her right arm oozing red. Wincing, she grasped a glass sliver with bloody fingers, yanked it out, and screamed.

“Damn it…” She channeled agony into a hand pummeling the floorboards.

Worse would happen if she didn’t keep moving.

Crawling her way to scrambling, she reached the back door, slipped through, and ran headlong into clutching hands.

“Haden’s fires, you’ve a penchant for stirring up trouble.” Maniff was back. What happened to the concern he’d demonstrated five minutes ago? This man made no sense. He pulled her along. “This alley takes us in the right direction, at least.”

“I…there was a—”

The back door blew out and a sneering practitioner emerged, his red robe dusted with ash. “Release her. She’s wanted at Knoss Citadel.”

Maniff shoved her behind him and reached inside his jacket.

“No, Maniff!” She grabbed his free hand, but he shoved her back again and produced a handled object with a projecting tube attached. He was going to face down one of the unseen with some silly metal contraption?

The practitioner wasn’t impressed. He raised his hand to burn him.

“Not today, rot face.” A bang echoed in the alley and she jumped with a squeal. The unseen fell over backwards, a hole in his forehead.

She checked her mouth. Yes, it was hanging open. Remembering to blink, she turned as he replaced the not-so-silly object beneath his jacket. “Lucid’s spawn, Maniff, what was that?” Air flooded her lungs and she staggered a step. “Who are you?”

“Just a seer with a nose for old technology who’s saddled with a charge who has a nose for trouble.”

“I’m not your—”

“Come on. Time to get you out of this city and bandaged.” He grabbed her hand.

“Let go!”

“Then hurry.” He released his grip and shoved her ahead.

“What’s gotten into you?”

“We’re grabbing our belongings and the horses and riding hard for the north gate. Shift change is near and after that I won’t know if the unseen are there or not.”

She wrapped her left hand over the wound. “What did you use to kill the unseen?”

“A firearm.”

“Smoke came out of it, Maniff. I saw the smoke. It should have ignited the raw magic in the air. We should have died.”

“Like I said, old technology, along with a few modifications of my own.”

The inn was nearing. Beside her, his uncompromising tone and tight jaw evolved into a grin. Who was this man? He was no ordinary wandering seer. He’d given that much away.

7 Replies to “Writer Crazy? Opportunity”

  1. Pingback: Writer Crazy? Opportunity | Christina Anne Hawthorne

  2. This sounds excellent. Although there’s an argument that genre-specific fiction sells better, I figure the better fiction is always going to be the one that innovates. It’s something I’ve been tinkering with myself – I have a story being published early next year that is a hybrid of high fantasy and hard science fiction. Who knows how any of this will go, but as they say, you have to be in to win.

    • Conventional wisdom points us towards genre-specific fiction. I also have issue with that path. Shirking convention is foolish–until it works and becomes innovation. Fantasy and hard science fiction? That’s crazy until everyone wonders why there isn’t more of it. If we don’t stretch we fall short. My grumbling heart doesn’t like risk, but it can’t keep pace with my imagination. The key is to mold the impossible and make it possible for the reader.

  3. Still sounds like fun!
    There are some examples out there of steampunk crossbred with paranormal – Gail Carriger’s various series come to mind. But this is high fantasy.
    The idea seems to lie vaguely in the direction of 18th-century fantasies — *The Anubis Gates*, *Mairelon the Magician*, the Frontier Magic series — Patricia Wrede might be a good example to peruse.
    To my mind one of the most fascinating things is how the two sets of ‘technologies,’ magic and science, interact. You need rules for the universe that cover all the possible combinations. A tall order . . .
    In my long-running D&D campaign, magic was designed to operate consistently with real science — and occasionally the players bumped up against advanced technology. It does make an entertaining mix!

    • Thank you so much for the reading suggestions. Your D&D experiences hit close to the mark.

      My world’s magic, which was initially developed 15 years ago, has been honed ever since. If I put it all together I’d have a small textbook. Even the basic explanation runs for 15 pages and there are 16 ironclad laws (limitations) listed at the end that govern magic’s operation.

      Thus, when I applied my limited knowledge of mechanics to engines I looked closely at air intake and the implications should there be sparks. If magic’s laws were violated then what would have to be done to overcome those violations while remaining within the confines of magic’s laws and rules? What about developing electricity in Ontyre, a close cousin to magic?

      All this thrust me into strange places where wizards double as inventors. Oddly enough, are not the inventors of our late nineteenth century not wizards to everyone else? In so many ways magic is the science we don’t understand.

      You’re right, “an entertaining mix,” and with me trying to double as Einstein in Ontyre. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s also a challenge—and great fun.

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