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HoB&M: the Experiment

The Hall of Blood and Mercy was in many ways an experiment for me. Obviously, because it was a new genre, but since I was doing this as a form of stress relief from all the “fun” I had with Angelique, I wanted to try a few different things I’ve noticed in books and test them out on the trilogy. (I LOVE experimenting and trying new things!)


To begin with, one thing I’ve always noticed some of my favorite series is that they’ll leave behind what makes me fall in love with the series the farther they get from book #1. Naturally, this will happen as a result of character growth–both emotionally and even age wise, like in Harry Potter. It can also happen as a result of the plot thickening–once the big baddie is revealed, things naturally will change, as it is with Angelique’s Fairy Tale Enchantress series.


But I knew going into Hall of Blood and Mercy that I wanted it to be a fun piece of fluff. I didn’t want it to have a huge emotional impact, I designed it to make people laugh and deliver that happy ending that I love to give. So I was determined to stick to what I considered some of the “magic” in book one and carry it on through books two and three. You can see that the most in that there are certain scenes in every book. There are training scenes–though what Hazel is training in varies–every book has a vampire dinner scene, a scene in the Paragon’s private study, and a scene in which Hazel wears a fancy dress–though again the how/why changes in every book.


I was curious if repeating these familiar beats really would be part of the magic of the series, and it seems like some of it was. Between reviews, comments, and conversations I’ve had with you Champions, the Paragon scenes, the vampire dinner scenes, and the dress scenes tended to be cited as favorites. It’s tricky to tell, though, because the scenes in the Paragon’s study were always funny, as were the dinner scenes because Josh always did/said something, and the dress scenes usually were pretty heavy on the romance. So! I don’t fully know if this is something that helped keep the magic of the original or not because the second part might have been more important, and that was….


CHARACTERS!


It always saddens me as an author (and a reader) whenever I have to put characters in the back seat. In particularly this has happened to me in the Second Age of Retha series, where my cast of characters got so huge I can’t even have them all in the same city anymore. So with this trilogy I tried to keep my cast smaller so I could keep pulling in the same characters and you’d keep seeing them instead of letting them fade off into the distance. This was a particular danger for the Wizards in book 2 and the Vampires in book 3.


For the wizards (and the House) it was a bit unavoidable, but I could tell when I was working on my outline that the vampires were going to fade into nothing if I didn’t take drastic measures to keep characters like Josh, Celestina, Gavino, and Rupert front and center. In Magic Unleashed, I engineered them into scenes I normally would have excluded them from just because it would have been easier to skip over them.

The downside was that book 3 got long on me, but I don’t think that was bad from a reader viewpoint as much as I’ve just become a bit allergic to writing longer books these days since that’s ALL I’ve written for the past two years.


This series also was a massive experiment for me in terms of romance, and over all plot.


I created a very loose outline of the entire series using a grid system on a giant piece of wrapping paper. I had a column for each book’s main plot and subplot–ie: unlocking Hazel’s magic & finding the murderer for book 1–and had an extra column just for romance. This helped me define what points Hazel and Killian would reach in their relationship for each book, and it also let me plan ahead and see what kind of clues I had to plant in order to lead in to book 2 and 3. (For instance, you see the actual signet ring from Book two in the second scene of Book one, and the key turn around point for the final battle in book three is discussed very early on in book one as well.)


This actually made writing the series a whole lot easier, and it’s also made me want to kick myself because I am a True Genius  Idiot when it comes to the Timeless Fairy Tale series and just mentally held onto all the stinkin’ plot threads I needed to introduce and intertwine. (Pfttttttt, forget writing stuff down to make it easier to remember–that’s for Smart People.)

But the experiment that gave me the most stress and anxiety–although it was blessedly short lived–was the scene in which Killian drinks Hazel’s blood. Most urban fantasy books fall into two camps: 1) vampires drinking blood is a romantic thing 2) vampires drinking blood is a savage thing. I wanted to create a third version, where vampires drinking blood is a testament of trust and friendship. BUT KILLIAN AND HAZEL BEING ROMANTICALLY INVOLVED MADE THAT SO STINKIN’ DIFFICULT TO WRITE!


For real, there has never been a romance scene that I’ve worried and fretted over more than that blood drinking scene because I needed to keep the moment both romantic AND unromantic! I needed to inspire warm fuzzies because its’ proof that they trust each other and it is, so to speak, the crowning achievement of their relationship. But I also needed to make it obvious the act was more personal and emotional than physical. (This was in no small part vital because I knew I wanted to imply in the epilogue that other wizards were coming to trust the Drakes enough to offer their blood as well.)


And that covers just about everything! I hope you enjoyed this little peek behind the curtains of my brain. Thanks for reading, Champions, and thank you for joining me on this urban fantasy journey!

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