Novel Evolution Part 3: Research into Celtic Mythology

SatS Cover Lo-resContinuing today with my exploration of the evolution of my latest novel, The Sword and the Sorcerer, I look at some of the changes that occurred as a result of my work in the hobby games industry.

Back to D&D

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, the book has its roots in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. But that wasn’t the only place D&D would have an influence on this novel.

In 2000, Wizards of the Coast released a new edition of D&D, and they used an open license to allow third party publishers to produce rules-compatible supplements for the game. In the early days of this arrangement, there was a huge demand for this supplemental material, and both established companies and new start-ups dove into a pool filled with easy money.

Among the firms that got on board in the second wave (when it was obvious how much money there was to be made in D&D supplements) was Avalanche Press. They were a producer of historical war games, and, to carve themselves out a unique niche in an increasingly crowded market, they produced RPG game books that were set in historical time periods with rules that reflected the mysticism of the times.

In 2001, they hired me to manage their RPG line, with the directive to produce game manuals for a variety of different historical periods. Among our most successful ventures was a short line of Celtic-themed books. After a base manual establishing role-playing during the golden age of Celtic culture, I penned a supplemental book on fairies. The idea behind this particular piece was to give an historically accurate depiction of fae creatures as they were imagined by the peoples of Western Europe around the time of Christ.

In my research for this book, I came across an interesting, little fact of which I’d previously been unaware. Gnomes were not short humanoids who were distant cousins to dwarves. They also didn’t stand around in people’s gardens. They were actually, according to Celtic myth, a subspecies of fairies who lived under the earth and were responsible for guarding all sorts of magical treasures. They had a king named Cob, and they were not terribly friendly.

New Motivations

When I read that, Calibot’s Revenge immediately rocketed through my brain after lying dormant for approximately 11 or 12 years. What if, I wondered, Elmanax was a more traditional gnome. What if he had been assigned to guard the Eye of the Dragon, and Gothemus and Zod stole it from him?

All sorts of possibilities began to race through my head at that point. If Gothemus and Zod had stolen the Eye, Elmanax would be motivated to get it back. He’d be even more motivated if Cob the Gnome King had exiled him for losing it. Now suddenly, Elmanax wasn’t motivated by dreams of conquest; he was very personally interested in avenging himself on those who hurt him and ending his exile. That was a much stronger motive for plotting to kill Gothemus and take his things than simple greed.

My view of Gothemus and Zod evolved too. In the second edition of the novel, I was already moving them from the vaguely heroic to the sinister, but now they were much farther down the path of being irredeemable characters. If they stole the Eye from Elmanax, the question that naturally followed was, “Why?”

Here, the Wild Lands began to figure more strongly in the story. Gothemus conceived a plan to subdue the Wild Lands with the magic of the Eye of the Dragon, while Zod mined iron on the other side of the dark forest and shipped it down river to Gothemus. They put themselves in a position wherein they could become the top supplier of iron to a world dependent on it and that had no central ruler. In short, they set themselves up to control the economy and get rich in the process.

And that, of course, would mean more people than Elmanax would want to hurt them. Practically everyone would be motivated to kill Gothemus, so a new world order could be established.

With that one single fact about the origin of the gnome myth in Celtic culture I’d uncovered, I’d given myself a stronger, better setting for my novel.


There was one other important change in the narrative in that third iteration of Calibot’s Revenge. I came to believe there needed to be a real love interest in the novel. It was otherwise, little more than a boys’ adventure story. I didn’t really like the idea of Calibot seducing Elspeth and then sort of leaving her behind. That seemed sort of crass to me.

From the beginning, there’d been a minor character in the novel named Zargax. He was a warrior and friend to Calibot. In the second edition, he’d been a soldier-courtier who helped Calibot gain his position with the duke.

For this latest iteration, I decided to change him to a woman. My thought was that Zargax (whose name was changed to something else I can’t remember now) was a faithful companion to Calibot and had fallen in love with him. Calibot didn’t notice at all and was obsessed with Elspeth. Zargax assisted him in his seduction of her. When Calibot impregnates her, Zargax helps him escape the city en route to beginning his quest to avenge Gothemus. That made Calibot a little more of a shady character too.

I made a bunch of notes for this iteration of the novel, but I never wrote a word of it. I was writing 4000 words a day for Avalanche Press at the time, and there just wasn’t time to really pen a novel.

But Calibot’s Revenge wasn’t dead. It would continue to lie dormant for another 11 years. But the next time I would come back to it, I would have all the elements to craft it into the finest novel of my career.

The Sword and the Sorcerer (as it came to be known) is on sale now. Get it at one of the links below.


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