Hey, I’m back! I missed last week because I was swamped with a couple of different projects, so I made a little time this morning to get back on track. I’m busy cleaning up a game project (the Alternity sci-fi RPG), I’m hard at work on Book 3 of Breaker of Empires, and I’m also tinkering with a new book project that I’m pretty excited about. Far too early to say much about that, though. I promise I’ll say more when it’s time!
One piece of scheduling news I’ll share: I’m appearing at Emerald City Comic Con as a guest in their literary track. On Saturday March 3rd, I’ll be participating in a panel (the Fantasy Draft) and then doing a book signing afterwards. Come by and say hi—I love to meet folks interested in my books!
Last time I discussed how The Last Mythal trilogy came to be, so I’m not going to go over that ground again. Today’s all about Book 1 in the trilogy: Forsaken House.
One of the things I wanted to do with Forsaken House was to create a novel that explored and expanded existing story threads in the Forgotten Realms setting, especially lore that had been created for the game sourcebooks but hadn’t been featured much in Realms novels. One of the basic marching orders I had for “a big Realms-shaking event about elves” was to look at ending the Elven Retreat, so I started off by thinking about what could possibly induce the elves to reverse a policy they’d considered implementing for hundreds of years after only thirty or forty years of execution. Last post, I mentioned the idea of an attack on Evermeet—a hard lesson that the haven of the elves was not as safe as they thought, and that elven disengagement from the rest of the world had made it easy for their enemies to surprise them.
The *other* big element that I thought might come into play was the idea that the elves might feel obligated to deal with a problem back in the mainland of Faerûn if it was something they knew they’d created. Mythals seemed like a good place to start, so I started diving into every piece of game lore I could find about what mythals were, who built them, and why.
(Two quick info-dumps for you non-Realms fans: The Elven Retreat was a feature of the early edition Forgotten Realms setting. The idea was that the elves were leaving Faerûn, much like the elves of Middle Earth are going off into the West at the time of the Lord of the Rings. And mythals are powerful magical fields or constructions designed to protect cities and make amazing feats of magic possible. You could anchor a mythal somewhere and create a miles-wide zone that enemies couldn’t enter, or in which people didn’t get sick or age normally, or where towers could float in mid-air. But you needed a group of extremely powerful wizards to combine their efforts to make a mythal, so not all that many were ever made. Most mythals in the Realms are thousands of years old and now abandoned or forgotten.)
This, by the way, is exactly what you have to do when you’re working in “shared-world” or licensed fiction: You have to respect the source material and research things that have appeared in other people’s stories or comic books or game products so that you’re contributing to the whole, and not un-doing what someone else just did. I don’t have to do this when I’m working on original fiction like my Sikander North stories. But there, of course, it’s just on me to create a fascinating, internally consistent world and tell a story that doesn’t have any “help” from reader expectations about Klingons or drow or fireball spells or what-have-you.
Anyway, in researching mythals and thinking about that whole Year of Risen Elfkin thing I started to collect interesting elements of lore: The existence of a group of demon-worshipping evil elves called the daemonfey; the Gatekeeper Crystal, a magical artifact tied to a mythal-like structure that served as a fortress storing ancient weaponry; the lore surrounding the fall of the city of Myth Drannor; deeply buried lore about elven kingdoms in the High Forest area. And then I quietly worked up some new lore and connections to tie things together, and build a canvas big enough for a suitably epic storyline.
Forsaken House also embraces quite a lot of world assumptions that had been updated in D&D 3rd Edition. I try not to “let you hear the dice rolling” when I write a D&D novel, but I also want to make sure that if you play the game you don’t run into something that makes you stop and say, “Wait, that’s wrong, you can’t do that!” You’ll notice that Araevin, the hero, is a wizard who wears a sword on his hip and spends a lot of time carefully crafting wands for a variety of purposes. An important (and memorable) secondary character is a genasi, a sort of half-genie human, something else that received a bit of attention in the 3rd Edition realms. And Ilsevele Miritar is an arcane archer—someone who knows how to put spells on arrows and shoot them at her enemies. In short, since I was the Realms author most up to date on the current state of the D&D game, I figured I ought to be doing what I could to make sure that was reflected in the characters and situations depicted in my story… hopefully while not letting the readers realize that there was a game world behind this high-stakes, epic fantasy story.
Overall, I think the biggest decision I made about Forsaken House was to aim it at deeply invested Realms fans. I brought in a lot of characters and let the story visit a lot of places that maybe wouldn’t have needed to appear in a tighter story. In fact, they sort of get in the way for a reader who is only casually familiar with the Forgotten Realms. It’s pretty solid as a stand-alone book, but Forsaken House really comes into its own when you can appreciate it as just one part of a vast collection of lore in both Forgotten Realms game materials and preceding novels.