My Old Map of the Northlands

I’ve found my original hand-drawn map of the Northlands, which was called Norelande when I began writing these stories. My graphic skills aren’t up to Molly Kiely’s, who redrew the map for the frontispieces of The Wizard’s Son and Maiden In Light, but this map shows the area where these stories are set in more geographical detail:

Map of the Northlands

A Cottage on Dartmoor

This is a long overlooked British silent film, directed by Anthony Asquith in the early days of his career. I’m posting my review of it here because the cottage reminds me of Orlan’s at the end of the novel–one large room below, and a partial loft above. The story is not at all similar.

A man breaks out of Dartmoor prison and runs across the darkened moors to the title cottage, where a woman is putting her baby to bed in the loft. He breaks in just before she comes downstairs. When she sees him, she is naturally alarmed… but they call each other by their first names.

Most of the rest of the movie is a flashback to when the escaped prisoner was a barber and the woman a manicurist at a posh hotel barber’s shop; he is smitten with her in a shy-but-slightly-creepy way and believes she returns his affections due to a misunderstanding about some flowers he sent her. When she falls in love with one of their regular customers, he goes into full-blown jealous stalker mode and follows the couple on a date to the movies (They’re in a silent movie, but they’re going to see a talky).

The scene in the theater is one of the movie’s high points: we never see what the audience is watching, but we observe all their reactions. I guessed that the short before the main feature was a Harrold Lloyd comedy from the way a boy in the audience reacts to Lloydish-looking man in glasses sitting near him. At one point, the scene features enough quick cuts to keep the shortest of modern attention spans happy. And while nearly everyone else is the theater is enthralled by the movie–and the manicurist and her boyfriend are cuddling up during the suspenseful parts–Stalker-guy is seated in the row immediately behind them and never takes his eyes off them.

The next day, the boyfriend comes into the barber shop for his usual shave and manicure. While the couple flirts as she works on his nails, guess who is holding a straight razor near his throat? This scene is a forerunner the sort of suspense work we’ll later see from Alfred Hitchcock. And since the man holding the razor escaped from prison at the beginning of the movie, the tension of the moment increases only toward dread.

The movie is worth seeing just for these two sequences alone.

Why are Laurel and her family so overfair? (Maiden In Light version)

While the family’s overly fair appearance is a literary device to make them instantly recognizable as related, in Maiden in Light, it also gives them an aura of being truly strange and exotic people.

Lord Ambris’s encounter with Laurel in the first chapter of this story not only foreshadows his introduction to the rest of her family, but also suggests that the staid and dutiful nobleman has touched upon a magical experience, with just a hint of romance. While he lives in a world where magicians exist, they aren’t the sort of people one encounters in ordinary circumstances. But here is this extraordinary girl. When Ambris meets Laurel’s aunt Kaiese and young cousins later that same day, their fair coloring tells him that the four are related. While the lady and her daughters are not overtly magical themselves, their relationship to the wizard Redmantyl, whom Ambris knows slightly, makes them all the more intriguing to him.

When he leaves New York, the experience stays with Ambris. Although many years pass before he sees Laurel again after this first, brief encounter, he does not forget her.

Why are Lord Redmantyl’s family so overfair? (Wizard’s Son version)

It began as a literary short-hand. When I wrote my first draft of this book’s opening scene many years ago, both Orlan and Redmantyl had ordinary skin and hair color. But that immediately presented me with a problem: A wizard might be able to recognize his previously unseen child at first meeting, but how would the little boy know that this was his father? And how would anyone else know? DNA testing doesn’t exist in a medieval-type world, and it seemed unlikely that a man could show up and simply claim custody of a child without providing some undeniable proof of his right to do so. There needed to be some way to make the true relationship between the wizard and little boy plain right away to both readers and the characters in the story without bogging the plot down.

After playing with some ideas about birthmarks or distinctive patterns to the eyes, I decided to give them a sort of ultra-albino coloring, with very pale skin and silvery-fair hair.The wizard Redmantyl, his son, and other relatives are not true albinos, however; their eyes are pale blue or gray instead of pink. This appearance made them easily recognizable as members of the same family, and marked them as something rare and remarkable even among the magicians of their world.

Although this series is only at its very beginning, there may also eventually be an explanation for the odd appearance of my main characters later on.

This book is dedicated to Jane Austen and H.P. Lovecraft

Both are authors I discovered in my late teens and who have had an influence on my writing, but it’s an odd match-up. The two are radically different in tone as well as scope.

Austen focused her literary attention on personal and domestic scenes–what she called her “two inches of ivory,” portraits in miniature of families and social circles in country villages. Lovecraft’s vision, on the other hand, was of the incomprehensibly vast gulfs of time and space and things that lurked beyond the perceptions of the limited human sphere. So how does one reflect the influence of both at once?

In Maiden in Light, I’ve tried to do it via the experiences of my heroine Laurel. As a budding magician, Laurel has perceptions beyond the human norm and in the course of her apprenticeship with her wizard-uncle, gains a terrible knowledge of dark cosmic forces outside the cozy little world she has grown up in. When she returns to her old home in the city of New York* burdened by the responsibilities attendant on her knowledge, she lives among ordinary people who remain ignorant: her young cousins, her match-making aunt and Mr. Bennet-like uncle. The juxtaposition between Laurel’s duties as a magician and the petty social concerns of her family make up the second half of the novel.

New York is a medieval merchants’ city rather than a country village, but it does have gambrel-roofed houses with eaves nearly meeting across narrow and twisted streets, which Lovecraft so admired in Providence, RI.

_________

*Not to be confused with any reality-based New Yorks the reader may be familiar with.

 

 

Maiden in Light cover


Click on image for larger version

Back cover verbiage:

“From the top of the gate, Alys smiled down. There was no evidence of evil, yet Laurel felt it. That absence of living energy concealed something grotesque. She shuddered when she met those night eyes, repulsed as she might be by a dead mouse accidentally trod underfoot or a cold, scaly water-thing brushing against her body in a stream. Her nerves thrilled with danger. She’d seen this girl before, watching and smiling secretly. She’d sensed this presence months ago, though she hadn’t understood until now what it was. This was why she had come to New York…”

When Laurel Windswift enters an apprenticeship under her uncle, the great wizard Lord Redmantyl, she sees only the delights that her magic can bring. But her desire for more knowledge brings her too soon into the dark secrets that all magicians of power share, and forces her to take up a wizard’s duties of night vigils against monstrous and inhuman forces before she is ready. When Laurel returns to her home city to investigate a small magical anomaly for her uncle, this maiden of light meets a child of darkness, and must undertake a task too terrible to perform.

On an alternate earth filled with wonder and danger, the wizard’s niece must make a decision that will affect the rest of her life. As she struggles with the unbearable obligations of a magician, she also faces the ostracism of the merchant families who cast her out as a child, her aunt’s matchmaking efforts, and finding an unexpected love.

Another Author Interview

How long did it take to write the book?

“About two years initially, then a few more months for rewrites. The story was originally all in chronological order, but in an effort to shorten it and get to the focus of the plot more quickly, I moved a lot of scenes involving Orlan’s childhood to later sections of the story and made them flashbacks.”

September 1, 2010: Kathryn L. Ramage interview on the Indie Spotlight.

The Wizard’s Son

Where to buy: Amazon; Barnes & Noble; Bookfinder; IndieBound; Createspace (10% off code: MPY7RN5U); eBook format; More options.

The Wizard’s Son (ISBN: 9780578032931)
by Kathryn L. Ramage


The Wizard’s Son
By Kathryn L. Ramage

“‘His first vivid, visual impression was of Redmantyl standing over him in the morning sunlight, so tall and red and bright that the wizard had been burned into Orlan’s memory. Indeed, Orlan marked his life from that moment, when all the light and strength and wondrous magic of the world had stepped into his childish awareness. He believed he had known he belonged to that man, even before he knew who Lord Redmantyl was. Before that, there was nothing.

“‘That summer, he began to test the unyielding barrier which kept him from his childhood—his father’s spell, placed upon him years ago. Until now, he had accepted it: who would wish to look back on dirt and poverty and misery when he lived in an ivory castle of magic? Orlan had not tried to remember, but his visit to Storm Port made him attempt to recall a past which had been kept from him. He wanted to know about his mother and the life he had known with her at Lammouthe. Could the spell be broken? He was a magician of some skill himself. Surely he could undo this. He must know: what had he been before his father had brought him to Wizardes Cliff?’

“Orlan Lightesblood is the son of the world’s most powerful wizard and is training to become a wizard himself. But beyond his father’s castle, he is still an innocent youth, defenseless against the evil and temptations that threaten the future laid out for him. On an alternate earth filled with wonder and danger, the wizard’s son must overcome the demons of his own past and his father’s enemies to survive to manhood.”

10% off with this code: MPY7RN5U at this online store. Also eligible for Free Shipping at Amazon.

More fiction by Kathryn L. Ramage.

Reviews of The Wizard’s Son:

More Reviews

April 12, 2010: Fantasy and Sci Fi Reviews (the Amazon reviews are the same, but please click on them anyway, thanks)

Amazon US (all Amazon reviews)

Amazon UK

February 18, 2010: Amazon Review (all Amazon US reviews)

December 31, 2009: Amazon Review (all Amazon US reviews)