What’s the point of writing a fantasy novel if the writer—me—can’t engage in a bit of it? My contemporary fantasy series, Merlin’s Thread, takes place in the twenty-first century in and around Houston, Texas. However, I wanted to provide a mechanism to ground the mythos in the time of King Arthur, in the late fifth and early sixth century.
The Merlin of my titles is King Arthur’s druid and Earth magician. He awoke from an extended slumber in his crystal cave and came to the New World to fulfill a quest. In my imagining, Merlin has two particular powers that he uses in a coincidental way to fulfill his quest.
What is not coincidental is the freedom I achieved to write about the times of the King.
One of the powers is his ability to share consciousness with his pets: birds and mice mostly, but also fish. That last is an admission that I borrowed the kernel of the idea from T. H. White, whose Merlyn turned the young boy known as Wart into a fish so the boy would learn self-reliance. I chose to move only a part of the mind into an existing animal, rather than actually converting into that animal. Like White’s Merlyn, my Merlin can perform the magic on another person. The protagonist of my first book, Merlin’s Knot, is rewarded with a stint as a fish in a koi pond.
Merlin’s second power of note here is to record those adventures in an animal and play them back into someone else’s mind. In that case, the recipient sees, hears, tastes, smells and feels what Merlin experienced while sharing with the animal, but the experiencer cannot influence the action in any way.
A Sense of Tense
Both books are written in first person past tense. I wanted the playbacks to have a feeling of immediacy, so I wrote them in first person present. In the following example from Merlin’s Knot, the protagonist Alfred suddenly experiences the first of Merlin’s visions without knowing what is happening to him. He’s on a tower a short distance away from a woman standing on another tower.
The woman looks my way again. This time her eyes focus on me for more than just a moment. She thinks, wonders about something. Something that relates to me. I see her sigh, then turn back to the distance.
I turn in the direction she has been looking. A cloud of dust hangs on the other side of the first hill, some distance away.
I glance back at the woman. She’s staring at me with intent and purpose now. I think she’s trying to send me a message, but I cannot think what it could be.
Without warning, I fall from the tower, hurtling toward the stone wall below. I shriek, knowing my body will be dashed and broken when I hit the rocks. Instead, the wall recedes. I glide along halfway down to it. My shriek becomes a cry, a call. I slide over the closed gate. I feel a rhythmic pulling on my back, on my shoulders.
Wings! Omigod, I’m a bird!
I beat my wings, rising toward the woman on the tower. She watches my approach. I see no surprise in her eyes, only expectation. I veer just before reaching her tower. My chest contracts and I hear another shriek.
Using My Device
Merlin gives Alfred visions as a sort of payment to induce his assistance. In the second book of the series, Merlin’s Weft, the protagonist is a woman suffering from multiple personality disorder. For her Merlin provides visions of strong women in unusual situations.
Of course, like any good dramatic device, once I created it I used it for other purposes. You’ll have to read the books to find out what they are.
Merlin’s Weft will be released November 18. The eBook is available for pre-order on Amazon.com for a 25% discount until the release.
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.