As you’ve noticed if you’ve read Outcrossing, there are magical creatures in my books, as well as the ones we all know about. There are, broadly speaking, three categories.
Animals we know and love
These include your average ordinary wildlife – badgers, hedgehogs, ponies (Well, most of them. There are some magical ones, too.) Birds, snakes, lizards, all sorts of other beasties.
A magical variant
Sometimes there are magical variants of a given type. For example, the nightjar is an actual bird (with a very unusual sort of sound – you can hear an American cousin clearly starting at about 1:10 on this recording.)
This piece in the Guardian about nightjars (and other fauna of the New Forest) delighted me, and describes them as “somewhere between a kestrel and a crocodile in appearance”.
Twilight nightjars, however, are magical.
They sound like the non-magical variety, and have the same shape. And nightjars do live in the New Forest. But where the non-magical species are usually brown or buff, the Twilight Nightjar is more like the darker varieties of a Victoria Crowned Pigeon, with a good splash of iridescence. Their feathers and eggs are used in various magical potions and workings.
And of course, we have varieties of magical creatures who either live in Silence-warded spaces (so, fully magical), or like many creatures in our own world are not often seen.
These include wandermists (a cat-sized winged dragon that appears to be largely made out of mist), or the ginsies, which are poisonous to about half the people with magic (via an extreme allergic reaction, not that Carillon and Rufus would put it that way.)
Perhaps my favourite are the mirabiles, who live in the deepest parts of the forest, and are rarely seen, but look like dancing lights that sway and twist together. They’re decidedly animals, not Fatae, but they must be where some tales of faeries in the woods come from.
(One of these days, I would love to have illustrations of these. If you’re an artist this intrigues, glad to talk commissions with you and see if we can come to a mutually cheerful agreement.)
Elsa Sjunneson-Henry (who is deafblind) just won a Hugo Award (one of the major awards in Science Fiction and Fantasy) for her work on the issue Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction.
She started a Twitter thread of recs and comments about works by and about people with disabilities – there’s some great stuff there from a wide range of genres and perspectives. (And a lot more I want to go read that I haven’t yet.)
I don’t usually identify myself bluntly as disabled but I have half a dozen chronic health issues. They add up to somewhere between mildly and moderately disabling depending on what’s flaring at the moment, but my life is mostly set up that a lot of it isn’t that noticeable. Embodiment is weird.
But I missed the Twitter thread originally because it was a migraine day. (Thanks, weather…)
If you’ve read my books, you’ve probably noticed that they have a bunch of main characters with disabilities and chronic health issues that affect their lives. For the books that are out now, that includes:
- Rufus and Carillon who both deal with with what we’d now call PTSD (trauma from the Great War) that come out in different ways. (They had different experiences and are different people, so that makes sense.)
- Laura, who has survived tuberculosis (but spent the better part of a decade in and out of sanitariums and other treatment).
- Giles, who was blinded in a (magical) gas attack in the war.
- Magician’s Hoard doesn’t have a character with an explicit disability, but a main character has a highly stigmatised magical ability.
And in books you haven’t gotten to read yet, we have Laura’s point of view (and romance), a secondary character with a major facial injury, a secondary character who is deaf and who signs, and an autistic hero. (Coming in the not too distant future!)
How those stories come out on the page is (of necessity) mediated by the fact I’m writing about the 1920s. Our language and understanding of some of these things was different (and those communities and the tools people used were also different). But I truly want to write books that reflect the lives that I and my friends live – which are full of all kinds of people.
This post talks about the ideas behind Outcrossing. (There are no major spoilers here, but I do talk about some general setting and plot inspirations.)
Talking about the idea for Outcrossing is a little odd, because it wasn’t the first book in the series I knew I wanted to write. (That was Goblin Fruit). Instead, I wanted to think of a book that would set the stage for Goblin Fruit (which has a fair amount of explicit magical worldbuilding) and serve as an entry to the world as a whole. What does that mean?
I wanted main characters who were not highly skilled at magic. I didn’t want to risk losing the reader in lots of complex magical theory early on, and one of the easiest ways to avoid that is to not have either of the main characters have much knowledge about it.
In this book, we have two different takes on that lack of skill. We have Rufus, magically quite powerful, but who has had only enough training to stop him being a danger to himself and others. Ferry, on the other hand, went to one of the best magical schools, and yet wasn’t allowed to take the courses that she might have been really good at. She did well in school academically, but it didn’t lead to a life she wanted to live.
I wanted a strong sense of place. Some of the books in this series take place more strongly in the magical community, but I wanted the first one to be in a village that would feel at least somewhat at home to anyone familiar with village life in Britain in the 1920s.
I wanted places I could suggest more complex magic and worldbuilding. There are mentions in this book of things I wanted to develop later on. The mention of a wand as a complex magical item that’s roughly equivalent to somewhere between a high-end computer and a car. The idea of the Silence (and that some places are Silence-warded) without doing extensive explanations that the characters would not go into. The mentions of ritual magic at the end of the book. The fact there’s a Guard who does some kind of law enforcement. I didn’t want to develop any of these things too far, but I wanted to lay the seeds for what kinds of stories might come up further into the series.
From there, the plot was driven by those choices. Smuggling is an age-old activity along the southern coast of England, and there are quite a few stories of harrowing events in the New Forest and the nearby harbours. And of course, if you have magical creatures whose feathers or flowers have special properties, some people will try and steal them.
Outcrossing is the first book in the Mysterious Charm series, and I am so delighted to be able to share it with you. You can buy it as an ebook from a wide range of online stores (more in progress, but that link will have all the available ones in one tidy place), and print on demand via Amazon will be available shortly. If your favourite isn’t up there, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
The official blurb is over here, but I want to take a moment to tell you why I love this book.
I wrote this series because of my idea for the second book (coming in February, Goblin Fruit). I wanted to explore the kind of parallel magical community we see in the Potterverse. (Like a lot of people, I have a very complex fannish history with Harry Potter). This is my own take on how that might work, the demographics, the education, the communities.
Outcrossing is a look at that world on a very small scale, the lives of people in and around a small magical village in the New Forest. There are ponies and runes and smugglers. There’s a folly – one of the ridiculous buildings on some grand estates used for summer parties and dalliances and an escape from the formal main house. It has magical creatures (fan art would be a lovely thing, if you’re inclined, and I’ll be glad to share it here and elsewhere), and seasonal traditions, and a bookstore you’ll see more of in later books. (Especially book 3, Magician’s Hoard, which features Prosperina Gates as a main character.)
And it’s got an introduction to my glorious ridiculous homage to Lord Peter Wimsey, Lord Carillon. You’ll see a lot more of him in Goblin Fruit.
This series is loosely connected, you see – you can read the books in any order, and each one has a happy ending with no cliffhangers. I really love a richly interconnected world, so there are characters who appear in multiple books, connections between places and magics and ideas. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the worldbuilding with me. As more books come out, I’ll also have additional resources here on the website to help you find more about particular characters or places.
Please do let me know what you think and what parts of the world you’re curious about. I welcome notes through the contact form, or through any of the social media links.
I’m Celia Lake, librarian, author, and general geek. My first book, Outcrossing, will be coming out in late December 2018.
It’s set in a magical community in the British Isles in the 1920s. 1921, to be specific. Outcrossing is the first in a series of loosely linked romance novels. They’re standalone and can be read in any order (and yes, they have a happy-ever-after.) They also include a dash of mystery or puzzle-solving.
This website is still being constructed, but I do have a mailing list! I’ll send out an email when Outcrossing is out.
This blog will have amusing things I’ve come across in research (or think might be interesting to the sort of people who like the background that’s in the author’s note…). You can also check out my social media sites: GoodReads for some of the books I’ve read and enjoyed, Pinterest for visuals (since the 1920s have some great art and design!) and Twitter for, well, being Twitter and connecting with other authors and readers and book people.