So What is Farshores, Anyway?

As I mentioned in my last post, the Farshores world encompasses much more than the just the events of a novel series. But let us focus on that for a moment first, and Shoreseeker in particular. Here is a description:

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Over six hundred years ago, a race of monsters called the sheggam swept across the world like a plague, killing everyone in their path. Mankind was driven to the brink of annihilation, and only found refuge behind a magical wall designed to repel the sheggam. Now, all that’s left of humanity is huddled behind Andrin’s Wall on a small peninsula called the Sutherlands.

Despite having faced extinction, humanity was able to rebuild. Grand cities were constructed, and the magical art of Patterning, nearly lost in the war with the sheggam, began to flourish again. The horrors of the sheggam scourge were far removed from the lives of ordinary citizens, and as the centuries passed, the dark memories of that time faded into myth.

At the time of the completion of Andrin’s Wall, a ripple in the world’s Pattern had caused a second barrier to be formed, called the Rift, which divided the Sutherlands in two: Naruvieth, a small city on the peninsula’s southern tip; and the many cities of the Accord in the north. All contact between the two lands had been severed almost from the beginning. Yet three years ago, a highway called the Runeway, created with magic once thought impossible, bridged the two lands, allowing contact between them for the first time in hundreds of years.

Not everyone is pleased with this, however. Tharadis, the Warden of Naruvieth, will do anything to stop the Runeway’s completion, even risk a war with all of the Accord. For, as humanity learned so long ago, there are worse things in the world than war. And all of them are poised on the other side of Andrin’s Wall.

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So, what do you think? I know that if I had read this on the back of a book cover or in its product description, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick it up. I think that is every writer’s goal, to create fiction that he or she would enjoy reading. Shoreseeker is exactly the kind of book I would like to see more of, so I’m doing what I can to rectify this lack.

It’s hard to talk about the series without giving away too much about Shoreseeker, but one can only be too careful. It is an epic fantasy series, so you probably already know that the Sutherlands are too small to contain it. And what fantasy author would waste a big, scary world devastated by monsters? I, for one, wouldn’t.

While Shoreseeker starts in a more-or-less familiar epic fantasy world, the kind you could expect in a Robert Jordan or Terry Goodkind novel, it becomes horrific by the end. While fantasy has its dark worlds, such as anything that falls into the grimdark category, I haven’t come across any that are really that scary. One of my goals in this series is to create an epic fantasy that can give you nightmares.

But not because I think there is inherent value in giving people nightmares. I’d rather not have them myself. But one of the main reasons I’m writing this series is to give a home to the main character, Tharadis.

In a previous post, I mentioned that one of the reasons I write is to explore what makes us humans tick. A lot of dark fiction works do this, but they often examine how people break down in times of adversity. It’s fiction like this that gave rise to the idea of the anti-hero. This kind of fiction is almost always tragic, in the sense that even when the main characters get what they want, no one is really satisfied.

This kind of fiction is almost universally described as realistic, which is to say it accurately describes the human condition. “That’s the way the world works,” it implies. “Everything sucks, so you’d better get used to it.”

Perhaps it does end up that way for a lot of people. But it doesn’t have to.

Art can be powerful. It can be a light in the darkness. The world can be a cruel place; no one needs confirmation of that. But there is something that people often forget—goodness is real. And it can win. Sometimes we need art to remind of this. Personally, the books that I cherish the most are those that remind me of this simple yet profound truth.

So how does the world of Farshores, as relentlessly brutal as it often is, lead us to this idea?

Because some lights shine brightest in the darkest of nights.

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Of Theme and Magic

I’ve had a major breakthrough.

When I set out to write The Clans, my goals were humble. I wanted to introduce you to the world of the novel I was working on, The Born Sword. I also wanted to build that world, to develop it in ways that I could use in the novel, and I do that best by writing about it. And finally, I wanted to perhaps share a ripping good yarn or two.

These six stories were to be bound together through the world in which they took place. That’s it. That’s all I wanted. If that’s all that had happened, I would have been utterly satisfied. But that’s not all that happened.

These stories were also bound by theme.

If you’ve read “Wholeness,” then you’ve probably surmised that its theme is integrity (or at least you should have; I basically tell you as much in the last three paragraphs). While I was writing the end of the as-yet-unnamed fourth story of the collection, I realized that I inadvertently borrowed not only the theme of “Wholeness,” but the very imagery used to depict it: the integrated man, a whole person.

At first, I was a bit annoyed with myself. After all, I pride myself on my originality, and if something’s been done before, I furiously try to avoid using it in my stories (unless it fits so well that it would be a crime to forego using it). Theme and imagery were no exceptions. I had every intention of rewriting that scene when the story was done.

But after a while, I began to wonder if I should leave that scene alone. It did fit the story. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that all of my stories written so far touched on this theme of integrity, what it means to have it and what it means to betray it. So I decided to keep it, but I hadn’t yet realized why this was significant.

What is a theme, anyway? The best definition I’ve found is that a theme is the unifying idea of a story. One could say that the sum of a story’s parts, its identity, is the theme. If all of a story’s parts bound together demonstrate that theme, could one say that the story is truly unified, integrated… whole?

Now let’s talk about the magic system.

Magic, in the Fourth World (the world of The Clans and The Born Sword), primarily consists of the binding of essences. For example, a sorcerer can take the element of fire from his surroundings (limited by how much of it there is) and bind that fire into a focal point, which he can then manipulate. Or, he can steal the fire from the torch in your hand, turn it into a fireball, and then launch it back at you. This works for whatever “essence” that particular sorcerer can bind: light, metal, pain… anything. All he has to do is take the bits that are there and unify them into a whole.

Let me repeat that last phrase: unify them into a whole.

Did you notice how many times I used the word “bind” when talking about theme?

Yes, that’s right. I have integrated and bound the magic system and the theme, and that theme is integrity.

I am performing literary magic, and I’m not afraid to admit it. Just wait and see what I’m willing to do with it.

Writing is a tough gig, and sometimes a writer needs to be reminded of why he writes. Different people do it for different reasons. Some do it because they’re good at it, some because they can actually make money at it. Some do it because they don’t know how to do anything else. Some, though, do it for those moments of unfettered, unadulterated bliss when everything comes together.

Today, that last was me.