The Unquiet Dead Release!

It’s out! After years of work and a lot of support from friends, family, and my publisher Curiosity Quills, The Unquiet Dead is finally available for purchase as an ebook, and will be coming out in paperback as well. Take a look at it on Amazon or Goodreads!

Secrets of the Hidden World III: Necromancy and the Afterworld

Of all the beliefs around the world, what happens after death has been one of the most diverse and contentious. Even most necromancers don’t know the truth – that would require crossing the Veil completely, which is almost guaranteed suicide. But there are many things we know.

Between here and the Afterworld lays the Veil. It’s permeable, but it is much harder to leave than to enter. Nothing encapsulates the power and function of the Afterworld like the eidolon: infinitesimal spirits and the only things ‘small’ enough to freely move between realms. They pick away at our world little by little, a million little deaths like tiny fish feeding off dead skin, allowing wild magic to drive change forward. Unseen and (mostly) unfelt to the normal populace, eidolon are integral to the functioning of the universe.

Not all eidolon are equal. When something dies, a larger spirit is formed at the moment of death. Containing all the creature’s thoughts, memories, and experiences, this eidolon – called an animus – carries the experiential part of a creature’s essence across the Veil, while other portions of the dying creature’s identity go elsewhere. (This will likely be addressed in more detail in a later post on the nature of the soul at some point.)

The third and final class of eidolon are known as spectres. These powerful undead spirits are sentient and hungry, always searching for a way to reach the physical world. They vary in power greatly, and their purpose is a topic of contentious debate. It is well known that mass tragedies and events of great destruction can draw the attention of spectres, but it isn’t known if the events created them, or just called the spectre to them. Spectres have necromancer-like powers naturally, and can feed on the animi of others to grow stronger. Particularly powerful ones degrade the world around them by their very presence on this side of the Veil.

So how does one become a necromancer? They are made, not born. Sometimes through luck, medical/magical intervention, or sheer determination, an animus gets pulled back into its body before it fully crosses the Veil. Many people experience nothing more than a few out-of-body experiences, but a few (un)lucky ones come back with the touch of the Afterworld all about them. Their animus becomes a pinhole in the Veil, and they become a necromancer.

Through their animus, necromancers can manipulate the flow of information and power across the Veil. They can manipulate entropy, adjust the speed of decay, and ablate physical, mental, and magical forces. On the flipside, they can also reach across the Veil and draw things back. Memories, thoughts, and even entire beings can be pulled back – temporarily or on a more permanent basis, depending on the skill and strength of the necromancer. Necromancers can read the past of people, objects, and places, and even raise the dead. Ultimately, all that necromancy is capable of stems from two basic acts: moving things across the Veil, and bringing them back.

Because controlling necromancy is about desire, intention, and visualization, it is easy for the necromancer’s emotions to skew the process (for example, a necromancer raising the dead for vengeance will have a different effect than doing so out of some form of love – and most emotions are much more complicated than one or the other). The less complete the resurrection, the less intact the final result will be. Truly powerful necromancers can raise a near-perfect facsimile of the deceased, but it takes much less effort to animate a reasonably functional corpse. In effect, the necromancer ‘rebuilds’ the deceased’s animus and uses it as the animating force. No matter how perfect, a deceased raised from the dead will never be a complete being and will never be exactly the same as it was in life.

Finally, age plays a large factor. Old things can have powerful ties to the Afterworld, but without some sort of pre-existing physical anchor (such as the deceased’s corpse), it is much more difficult to retrieve something from beyond the Veil. To put it simply, the longer something has been gone and the less of it left in the physical world, the deeper into the Afterworld it sinks and thus requires more power – and significantly higher chance of things going wrong – to bring it back.

The big lesson to take from this is simple: don’t try to raise dinosaurs. It probably won’t end well for you.

Secrets of the Hidden World II: Wild Magic and Necromancy

Today, I’m going away from Toronto specifically and addressing a major part of the setting, generally: magic.

The two great forces of the Hidden World have gone by many names and looked at from many perspectives. Until relatively recently, they were known as Supernal and Chthonic. Earlier times gave them simpler names, calling them Life and Death. Sometime in the (possibly near) future, the names will change again, becoming Pattern and Entropy. The people of every age have their own outlook and the names they give these powers reflects that. But what are these two forces, actually?

Wild magic is, somewhat ironically, a thing of patterns and order, but it wasn’t named after chaos; it was wilderness – the magic of Nature. It is the bright, driven, aggressive force of change, allowing the universe to move forward. People who can naturally access wild magic are typically known (in the West) as sorcerers, and have a wide variety of natural magic flowing through them.

Necromancy, by comparison, is a quiet shadow that rests, nearly unfelt, over everything. It encompasses more than just death and decay; necromancy deals with all things past. Without it, there would be no endings, and with no endings, wild magic could not create anew. Unlike wild magic, necromancy is less about patterns and more about relationships, intentions, and emotions. There is no certainty in the past, and events in the present can obscure or change our memories of things long gone.

The two powers have a sort of yin and yang relationship, and are equally essential to the perpetuation of existence. Though this assertion is debated, it is generally believed that these two magical forces are what created the universe – assuming it had an actual beginning.

There’s a lot more to be said about them, but I think they both deserve their own individual post for deeper exploration.

Secrets of the Hidden World I: Toronto’s Magical Landscape

Toronto has terrible magical real estate. Towering over the city near the shores of Lake Ontario, the CN Tower was built on the kind of confluence of magical energy normally used for imperial tombs, palaces, and other sacred sites. Humans have an innate feel for such places and tend to build according to the natural flow of energy. The CN Tower wasn’t; its placement is just slightly off, disturbing the flow of wild magic all around. The distortion stretches out for dozens of kilometres in every direction. Most arcanists believe this was intentional – like a lighthouse intended to obscure rather than illuminate.

Long-lasting enchantments require constant upkeep to avoid being eroded away. Spells which cross distances larger than, say, a city block get scrambled. It makes the city a great place to hide from magical detection, and draws a lot of people – human and otherwise – for that reason alone. This has brought the city some notoriety as a haven for misfits, monsters, and runaways, but even they tend not to stick around for long. Eventually, the Tower’s ‘noise’ drives all but the most stubborn supernaturals away.

Because of this, Toronto has very few powerful magical inhabitants. There are no organizations to keep things in check, no enforcement, and no rulers. Still, there are a few people who’ve managed to establish a small slice of security, and they do what they can to keep it.

The sorcerer known as Aether is the most powerful, and the most reclusive. He’s the CEO and majority shareholder in Primarch Developments, which he uses to push his goal of cleaning up the city by limiting the CN Tower’s influence – something Aether’s peers frown upon as a Sisyphean task. His major competition and rival, Mobius International GmbH, is a corporate conglomerate with their own ideas on how to best improve the city.

The most popular social hub is The Nest, owned by the proprietress Bhode. While primarily serving as a club and bar, it also boasts several well-warded rooms for discreet magical dealings. Between the gossip that passes through The Nest and Bhode’s army of little information gatherers, she’s the local duchess of information trade. Her demesne is well-regarded as a haven for supernatural creatures passing through, but she has the muscle to keep the peace if need be.

Another popular spot closer to the downtown core is the Brewed God, an alternative-faith-friendly café run by seeress Patricia May. But the future is an ever-branching tangle of possibility, and she finds her day job far more fulfilling than using her powers as a clairvoyant. That said, she does try to assist and advise those who come to her for aid. Most people leave with a new understanding of the word ‘obscure’ and not much else.

Just north of Scarborough, the parish of Our Lady of Respite is tended by the Roman Catholic priest, Father Yeung. While his faith gives him miracle-like powers, he spends the majority of his time ministering to his people and keeps his distance from Toronto’s political supernatural affairs.

Finally, there are two necromancers in the city. The couple, Martin and Thomas, deal in magical trinkets and artefacts. Necromancy is a powerful tool for discovering the history of an object, giving them an edge in finding the most interesting and valuable merchandise. Martin operates out of a New Age occult store, Idol Curiosities, while his husband deals in private auctions all over North America. Neither one is particularly powerful alone, but they serve as the city’s first and only defence against necromantic threats.

As none of them are able or willing to make a grab for power on their own, these six form a loose association, doing their best to keep an eye on the city when they have the resources to turn away from their own struggles and goals.

Secrets of the Hidden World: Introduction

Hi reader! In honour of The Unquiet Dead’s release at the end of June, I’m starting a weekly series titled Secrets of the Hidden World. In it, I’ll be exploring different parts of the book’s setting: people, places, magic, and more.

Don’t worry, this series isn’t required to understand or enjoy The Unquiet Dead or any other stories in the setting. A good chunk of this information will be touched upon in The Unquiet Dead and future books, but probably not in this detail. Any entries that might contain spoilers will be marked, but I’ll avoid that as much as possible. That said, some of the information given in this series will seem to contradict things said by characters in the book – sometimes characters are biased, sometimes ignorant, and sometimes they’re just plain wrong.

Also, I’m human and my brain-mush likes screwing with me. So yeah, some of those contradictions will be totally my fault.

The Secrets of the Hidden World will start being revealed every Wednesday, starting June 8th. I hope you enjoy them.

Character Goals != Motivations

TL;DR Goals and motivations are often conflated, but they’re not the same thing. A character’s goals are the destinations they’re aiming for – motivation is the fuel that keeps them going.

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Things About Writing I (Re)Learned Painting Warhammer Minis

TL;DR The title should really be more ‘things about art …’ but the sentiment holds, regardless. I’m sure this is old news to many other artists, but I’m going to talk about it anyway.

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Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of Magic (and how I apply them to my own writing)

TL;DR Start with a few basic premises and keep asking questions like ‘what if…?’ and ‘why?’ to test and expand on them.

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An Introduction

Well, I’ve finally got the website up to a halfway respectable point, but it still needs a lot of work. I guess I’ve got the basics down, though. So, with that out of the way – hi!

My plan is to occasionally update my blog with stuff that interests me, and that might interest you, too. Stuff about writing, stuff about the books I’m reading or games I’m playing, or just things I think are really cool. (For example, did you know that youthful blood seems to be able to reverse the effects of aging? Perhaps the Countess was on to something after all.)

As a geek, expect to see a lot of fantasy and sci-fi stuff around here (or cool science stuff). I may also rant about one of my all-time favourite television shows, Orphan Black, and its incredibly talented lead actress, Tatiana Maslany.

I’m also an inveterate procrastinator, so I’ll try to post at least semi-regularly, but I won’t be making promises I can’t keep.

In the meantime, feel free to take a look around my site and read the sample chapter I’ve posted for my urban fantasy novel, The Unquiet Dead.