Monthly Archives: October 2016

Dark Contemporary Themes in a Fantasy Novel

Merlin's Weft available in mid-November
Merlin’s Weft available in mid-November

Contemporary fantasy novels written for adults are not full of rainbows and lollipops. And really, who wants them to be? “Watch out Zameethia, the evil wizard’s forming a spell. Oh, no! He’s flooding the mall with jawbreakers!”

Be still, my beating heart.

Evil exists in the world. While it may not be exemplified by a bald megalomaniacal genius with an evil laugh and a hairless cat trained to push the button labeled “Destroy Earth,” it does destroy the lives of people just out to have a pleasant evening in places like Paris, Nice or Orlando. And it is found in not so random violence in too many cities and in war zones around the world.

Contemporary Fantasies

My Merlin books are contemporary fantasies. The ancient British druid wakes up in a society where ordinary people—people you might have passed on the street this morning—perform much of the evil. Plain old-fashioned greed drives men to brutally murder a farmer and his wife looking for gold hidden in the house. An attendant in a psychiatric hospital takes sexual advantage of a seventeen-year-old girl whose mind has retreated from the world. A criminal gang traffics human slaves into Houston. An ordinary, upscale suburban housewife owns one of those slaves.

In the first book of the series, even the narrator Alfred fantasizes revenge on the bosses who laid him off, and he considers acts of road rage.

Let me say right here that the books of my Merlin’s Thread series are not intended for children or teens.

Human Scale of Evil

It’s the human scale of this type of violence that is unsettling. What if three idiots broke into my home looking for gold I don’t have? What if someone grabbed my daughter, my son, my brother, sister, mother, father off the street to sell them into slavery?

Wouldn’t I like to have a druid magician step into my life about that time?

The Merlin’s Thread series isn’t unremitting tales of horrors against humanity. The books have an emphasis on characters and a modicum of sword and sorcery action. Some scenes are absolutely delightful, light and, I hope, funny. But sometimes evil steps into our path.

Heroes and Healing

Merlin’s Knot deals with what it means to be a hero. Merlin’s Weft examines the healing of a person whose soul starts out severely fractured. The action takes place around character development, rather than the other way around.

Maybe someday I’ll include a supersized villain out to destroy the world, but before I do that, I have to find a credible way to explain how anyone, megalomaniac or not, can train a cat to push that “Destroy Earth” button on command. Personally, I don’t think it can be done.

Merlin’s Weft will be released in November.

Merlin’s Knot is available on Amazon.com.

Go to my Web site to obtain a copy of the prequel, Merlin’s Shuttle. He doesn’t battle evil in that story, but he does face off against Mother Nature.

Why Write a Sequel?

As I anticipate the release of my second book, Merlin’s Weft, my mind goes back to its genesis. I hadn’t conceived the first book (Merlin’s Knot) as the first of its own series. For a few years I’d been playing with the idea of writing a King Arthur saga that takes place in Britain in the fourth and fifth centuries. I’m still thinking about that one. The story idea sprawls over about a hundred years and includes twenty or more major characters spread throughout that period, I’ve restarted it several times. I just can’t find the right voice(s) to tell the epic.

Returning to the point, the contemporary Merlin book came to me as a story entire unto itself. Merlin shows up in current-day Houston looking for King Arthur, whose essence had been sent from his body and his time because he had suffered a severe head injury. The event fits into the saga I have in mind, explaining an absence of the hero that allows Mordred to take over the realm. Indeed, several flashback-type chapters of Merlin’s Knot relate events planned for the post-Roman saga.

When Merlin finds Arthur in Houston, unexpected complications arise. The point of view character, an unemployed engineer named Alfred, becomes more and more embroiled in Merlin’s attempts to return King Arthur to his destiny. The book has what I hope is an ending that readers find surprising, but upon reflection realize was inevitable.

Job done, let’s go home.

Except … I kept thinking about one of the characters in Knot, wondering what happened to her. A victim of several childhood traumas, in Weft Adele gets help from Merlin and a healer named Neve to stitch pieces of her former personalities together into one woman. The idea that appealed to me was answering the question: how do you heal a fractured soul. I needed to know what happened to her, and only by putting her story to paper could I find out.

The first decision I had to make was who the point of view character would be. I quickly realized that I had to tell the story from inside Adele’s head. That idea scared me. I’d written about her several personalities in Knot, and although none were saints, I liked and respected them. But I’d written about them from Alfred’s perspective, outside their minds. Nonetheless, going inside Adele’s head was the only way to tell the story, and I had to convert my feeling of “a scary idea” into “a worthy challenge.”

I’ll write a few more blogs over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of how I went about solving some of the challenges. I’ll try hard to avoid revealing any spoilers for either the first or the second book. That’ll be easier to do for the second, so if you haven’t read the first, I recommend you get a copy of Merlin’s Knot and catch up.

When I hear of a series that’s already begun a question arises: Do I need to read the first book to appreciate the second? In the case of Merlin’s Weft, I’ve tried to incorporate the necessary information from the first book so a reader can appreciate the second as a stand-alone story. However, like many other series that use the same characters, it helps to read the earlier book to see how the characters evolve.

Merlin’s Knot is available on Amazon.com.

 

Join my mailing list to obtain a copy of the prequel, Merlin’s Shuttle.

Cover Reveal for Merlin’s Weft

So, what’s more exciting than publishing my first book? After all, when one’s first book becomes available, the hard work is no longer just a few random blips of imagination. No, that first publication showed that my imagination could lead to something tangible: a story that is now out in the world for other people to enjoy.

But even more exciting is the second book’s publication. That proves to me that I can tell not just one story, but a second. And if a second, then there’s going to be a third. And so on. The first publication date brought as much trepidation as excitement, but as the second one approaches, the trepidation has abated and happy anticipation reigns. Writing is not just a fancy, it’s a career.

merlins-weft_m_andersen_cover_front_cover_web

 

Publication of the second book in my series, Merlin’s Weft, is scheduled for the middle part of November. Today, I can reveal the cover of the book. It shows Merlin in battle against a dragonon. No, that’s not a misspelling. The beast is a man ensorcelled to look and fly like a fire-breathing dragon. I like the cover. A lot.

Let me talk briefly about the two books.

In Merlin’s Knot, the first book, Merlin found Alfred, whose threads were hopelessly tangled with those of Ambrosius, the King Arthur of legend. Except neither Alfred nor anyone else in contemporary Houston had ever heard of King Arthur. Merlin had to find Ambrosius and send him back to his own time to fulfill his destiny; one theme of the book is the conflict between free will and fate. The book forms a complete story arc with no cliffhanger. Nonetheless, it opened the door for a sequel.

A different character with different concerns takes center stage in Merlin’s Weft. The book asks a question: how do you heal a broken soul? Adele suffered from multiple personalities, most of them spun off during traumas she suffered as a child. Merlin and Neve, a healer, stitched those pieces back together. Now, the new woman must form her single personality before outside forces wreck her mind once again. And yes, the dragonon is one of those outside forces.

Watch this space for more news about Merlin’s Weft.

Merlin’s Knot is available on Amazon.com.