World Building – Rules part 1: Magic


Magic can have a place in many genres. Does it have place in yours?

The pitcher of lemonade hovered in mid-air, rotating Ina a lazy circle a foot above the table. Mademoiselle Bernadette Durand stared,  her eyes wide,  as the woman before her stared placid at the pitcher. If it were not for the light sheen of sweat on her forehead and the tiny circular movement of her index finger,  it would have appeared as though she was staring intently at the proceedings.  But she was not just a bystander.  She was a witch.  And the hovering pitcher was her doing.

She was younger than Dette had expected.  The image of a witch that filled her head was that of an old crone,  bent and twisted with age and corruption,  sitting at a cauldron brewing a vile potion.  But the woman was far from old.

She was no more than 10 years Dette’s senior.  Her long hair was still a lovely honey color, piled high upon her head.  Only a few strands showed signs of gray, only the faintest of lines crinkled the corners of her lips when she gave one of her ready smiles. More than once Dette’s had been tempted to return one of Lady Nathalie’s smiles –  only to remember her mother’s warning; never smile at a witch.  To do so is to invite them to take your immortal soul.

“You must forgive me Mademoiselle Durand,” the witch said, placing a hand to her forehead.  A display of my talents  often leaves me a bit thirsty.” She lifted the pitcher,  this time with her hands,  and poured a large glass of lemonade, taking three large,  and undignified sips. “For any exertion  of magical force,  there is a cost.”

Dette kept her icy blue eyes on the older  woman. ” And what,  Lady Nathalie, is the price you pay? “

Lady Nathalie Bingham smiled, a sad curvature of her lips. ” Only my life, Mademoiselle,” She responded,  “nothing important at all.”

From the outset,  I knew that I wanted to include some more magical elements in my books.  Monsters are a staple of many steampunk stories,  so I figured  could magic.  But like monsters,  magic needs to have an in-universe logic.

Even in stories where anything is possible with magic (such as the Harry Potter series),  there is a logic that was put into place to not only explain and display its possibilities,  but also to make clear its limits.

Some stories make magic a type of exertion on the part of the user.  Energy is used each time a spell is cast.  Some magic drains so much that the practitioner must rest after they complete their task. Others are drained of their life force as they use their magic,  rapidly aging as they grow more powerful,  ultimately facing the difficult choice of quitting magic,  or finding some way to prolong their life.

I chose a hybrid option.  The magic in the world of Mademoiselle Durand is draining on the user in both energy and a bit of their life energy. It will not make you older,  but it will make you more vulnerable to physical attack and illness.  Both remedied by more magic,  but equally risky to the well-being of the magic user.

I toyed with the idea of the use of some sort of charmed item,  like a wand or staff,  but with Lady Nathalie in particular,  I felt a physical item would be too distracting for me as the writer. 

I like the idea of setting these rules into place early on.  Lady Nathalie makes it clear that there is a limit to what she can do. She knows that every time she uses her magic,  she loses another piece of herself.  So parlor tricks are not something she enjoys. But to convince poor Dexter,  she chose to make an exception.

For the writers out there,  do you use magic in your writing? If so,  do you have hard and fast rules,  or do you let your characters wield greater control and power.  I’d love to hear what people think.


Click Bait is Evil: or, How to Make Me Unfriend, Unlike, and Unfollow You


I'm a dog person, but even I would heed this warning.

I apologize in advance,  but this post,  which has come after a lengthy absence,  is a bit if a rant. I have noticed a disturbing trend that is occurring on many of the Facebook pages love. It is invasive,  insidious, and frequently leaves me feeling violated and betrayed.  I am,  of course,  referring to click bait.

At first I shrugged it off.  Promises that #5 would amaze me,  or that I would be shocked to my core at 2:58 proved to be completely false,  time and again.  At first the “articles” were at least tangentially related to the topics normally of interest to those pages and their followers.  They were annoying, but infrequent.

Slowly,  the landscape has been changing.  More often I see posts that fall into a few categories: X used to look like this,  now that Y has come in and made these changes,  you’ll be amazed with the results! ; You might think  you know all about this movie, but a fan has come up with a theory that completely changes how you’ll view the movie forever! ;and Random facts about something you do every day that show you’ve been doing it wrong for years. 

I am ashamed to admit that I fell for these a couple of times.  But after reading a convoluted fan theory about how the Harry Potter series was really about a boy who was in an institution because of his delusions of being a wizard,  I learned my lesson.  It’s great that people have theories about their favorite forms of entertainment, but not every theory is good or interesting. Some of them even turn out to be a waste of time.

One of the pages that at one time I loved,  mainly because it was steampunk related and had some really cool posts related to the Victorian Era and steampunk,  suddenly began sharing click bait articles.  There were only a few in the beginning.  But now,  it is multiple times every day. I may one day soon make the decision to remove the page from my likes. And that pains me.

When I like any page,  it means you are saying something that interest me.  But when it begins to become more about mining for likes,  the quality of posts declines,  and rapidly.

On  a lighter note, I feel heartened to know that others are feeling the same way.  I know these will never go away,  but if I can see fewer on my feed everyday without having to unlike and Unfriend people,  I would be a happy camper.

Again,  I apologize for the rant,  but now that I’ve gotten it out,  I feel better,  and am ready to get back into posting more frequently.

And to add a little more steampunk to your day, a catamaton!