Novel Evolution Part 4: Final Touches

SatS Cover Lo-resToday, I offer the concluding chapter of my four-part series on the evolution of The Sword and the Sorcerer. After 30 years, I finally put together a finished version of the novel I am proud of.

But it wasn’t easy.

Looking Elsewhere

Ironically, this wasn’t the novel I was supposed to be writing. I wanted to take a break from the Wolf Dasher series and write something outside it to give me a chance to recharge my batteries on Wolf’s adventures. However, I wanted it to be something I’d already written, so that there would be less work involved. I’ve got several novels on my hard drive in various states of completion, so I figured I’d dig through my archives for something that already had at least a first draft done.

I was fairly interested in a book I wrote back in 2003, Little Girl Lost. It featured a 12-year-old protagonist, had a lot of magic, and had a lot to say about abuse. I’d tried to publish it through the legacy system 10 years before, with no luck. My thought was that the story was good but the writing was pretty amateurish and needed some tuning. Plus, I have middle-schoolers of my own now and therefore have a better grasp of the age group.

As I read what had been the final draft of that book and pored over my notes, though, the story was not gripping me. I couldn’t quite figure out how to make the adjustments I wanted.

I’m not really sure why, but my mind kept turning to Calibot’s Revenge — the book I hadn’t really even thought about since before I penned Little Girl Lost. As I went back through my notes, things started to congeal in my mind. Most of the ideas I’d come up with for the unwritten third iteration really got me excited. I had the feeling Calibot’s Revenge was really going to happen this time.

Love Story

However, there were a couple of things that still needed adjusting. As I mentioned in Part 3 of this series, I had developed the idea that Calibot’s friend Zargax, whom I had changed to a female and renamed, was in love with him, despite his not knowing it. For the fourth and final edition, I decided to dump the subplot of Calibot seducing the duke’s daughter. It didn’t really add anything to the story. I got rid of Elspeth altogether and left Calibot and his companion clear to be with each other.

Then a thought occurred to me — why did Zargax have to become a woman? I believe in same-sex relationships and marriage. This was a fantasy novel. Anything could happen.  Why couldn’t my world support a homosexual couple as its protagonists?

The only thing I didn’t like about it was Zargax’s name. It sounded too 15-year-oldish. Like a deliberately fantasy name. Plus, Elmanax ends in that ax sound, and, since he is a fairy, I thought Calibot’s lover’s name should be more human-sounding. Thus, Zargax became Devon.

Because love is a major theme in the novel, I also set up Calibot to be estranged from his father. In previous iterations, they hadn’t seen each other in some time, but there was never this sense that anything was wrong. In this last version of the book, I established that Calibot and Gothemus didn’t get along. Calibot left home five years ago, and he and his father hadn’t spoken since. When his father is murdered, eliminating the possibility for any kind of reconciliation, Calibot is plagued with very complicated regret.

Girls and Boys

By keeping Devon as a man, I still had a problem with a lack of female characters. I’m a big believer in the idea of women being every bit as capable as men, and I wanted a more diverse cast of characters.

I started with Sir Lycius. There was no reason to make Gothemus’s murderer one sex or the other, so I thought Lycius would be fine as a female. However, the ius ending of the name had a very male sound to it (I studied a little Latin in college), so I changed her name to Vicia. that sounded both feminine and wicked.

I also beefed up the character to make her more capable. In earlier versions, Sir Lycius had been a spineless knight resorting to treachery to get what he wanted. I made Vicia a powerful magician — not strong enough to defeat Gothemus Draco in combat but definitely a menace for anyone who would face her.

In the third edition, I had ditched the plot of Elmanax manipulating Prince Therdien, but I brought it back in the fourth iteration with some variations. Elmanax was indeed trying to avenge himself on Gothemus and Zod for stealing the Eye of the Dragon, but he was now manipulating Vicia and the Council of Elders, the wizards who rule the city of Eldenberg. The Council sees an opportunity to knock off Gothemus and take control of the balance of power for itself. Elmanax is using Vicia to trick them into doing what he wants.

By way of contrast, I also added the character of Liliana — Gothemus’s apprentice. She is a failed magician, who is instructed to bring Calibot the sword he would use in his revenge. She is companion to Calibot, who helps him unravel mysteries and provides a little comic relief at times. Of course, she figures pretty prominently in the big climax.

Revenge is Out

As I got through the first draft of this new iteration, there was one final problem. While Gothemus has a mysterious, posthumous mission for Calibot, it ceased being about vengeance. Thus, the title, Calibot’s Revenge, was no longer appropriate.

The truth is the focus of the book had changed too. It was less a men’s adventure novel and more a story about family issues. So calling it Calibot’s Revenge was unlikely to help me find the readers it would appeal to.

After a lot of thought, I went with The Sword and the Sorcerer. People like alliteration, the story features a magical sword and the world’s most powerful sorcerer, and, thinking like a businessman, “swords and sorcery” is a subcategory of fantasy literature, and I thought that might aid me in search engine queries.

On Christmas Day 2013, 30 years after I first sat down with a blue, Bic pen, and a red, Mead notebook, I published The Sword and the Sorcerer. It was a long, long journey. I never planned for it to take that much time.

But I feel it is the best novel I’ve written to date. It was worth the wait.

You can purchase The Sword and the Sorcerer now from Amazon.com and from Smashwords.

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