The Mage on the Hill (The Web of Arcana #1) by Angel Martinez
Published May 7th 2019
Cover Art: Tiferet Designs
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interviews Angel Martinez…
- How much of yourself goes into a character?
It depends on the character. Basing a character entirely on me would be uncomfortable, but since every character comes out of my brain of course there’s some of me in every one. There are characteristics of mine that I’ve drawn on – certain insecurities and failings. Because I live them, they make good character fodder.
- Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?
Oh sure. But a Mary/Gary character are those where the author’s self-insertion is sort of a wish fulfillment. Yes, that’s the author, but the character gets to be the author without the author’s issues and struggles. Therein lies the important difference: drawing on life experience, good or bad, allows an author to share what they know of that experience in a deeply felt, honest way, while Mary/Gary characters draw on aspects of the author through rose-colored glasses.
- Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
Yes. All of that. Both. I don’t stray too far from science fiction and fantasy. That’s what I write. The story chooses the genre rather than any research concerns and from there, no story is ever without research. Even when dealing with a completely fictional environment – an alien planet, for instance – I still might need to research what’s possible. How far can the planet be from its star to be this climate or that? How big is this star? Where am I placing this in the galaxy? How would this type of atmosphere influence the development of life? And so on. In real world environments, which urban fantasy is to some extent, I need my maps, my historical data, and sometimes really specific things like what flowers are blooming in a certain month in a certain state park.
- Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing?
Yes. I haven’t changed one jot. The only difference is there are some genres I still enjoy reading that I’ll probably never write, like historicals and horror.
Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it? You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?
Never. Mwahahahaha. I will sip tea while my characters suffer. No, that’s not quite accurate. I do hurt with them and sometimes even cry over them, but I’m more likely to stop writing over an external issue that’s simply so overwhelming that I can’t write, like the death of my mother last year.
- Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?
I like HFN and HEA when I read romance, though there are some bittersweet endings I’ve enjoyed too. In other genres, no, I don’t need them. In some genres, I don’t expect them at all. But in romance, often I like that warm, smishy feeling that everything turned out well. The world is a hard place these days and the warm smishies help with that.
- Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?
I didn’t read romances until well into my forties. Yes, I was something of a genre snob. But I started reading them in critique groups and when I worked for review sites and have never looked back.
- Who do you think is your major influence as a writer? Now and growing up?
Probably C. J. Cherryh, then and now. She was the first author I encountered who could create truly alien minds. I wanted to be her when I grew up.
- How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?
It’s here to stay, for one thing. Readers have shown that there’s room for multiple book formats – print, ebook, audio – and I think that’s entirely a good thing for the industry. People need choices. The proprietary ebook services and formats may go away some day. One can only hope.
- How do you choose your covers? (curious on my part)
I don’t, generally. But I have worked with some amazing artists over the years who’ve taken my vague “here’s what the book is about and I sort of have this in mind” and have made my vague hand waving into amazing things. Sometimes they let me pick models and that’s quite the rabbit hole to go down.
- Do you have a favorite among your own stories? And why?
Ah, the pick your favorite child question. Don’t tell the others, but my favorite is probably always the latest one. I’ve grown as a writer and I recognize that when I look back. Not that I love those stories any less, but the latest one is always the newest, the freshest, and I get to be proud of how far this journey has taken me.
- Have you ever put a story away, thinking it just didn’t work? Then years/months/whatever later inspiration struck and you loved it? Is there a title we would recognize if that happened?
I have had stories that took a terribly long time to finish because of other writing commitments and lack of inspiration. Because I tend to work on one thing at a time, unfinished manuscripts are always a niggling guilt at the back of my brain. Pack Up the Moon, the last Brandywine Investigations story, was two years in the making since I started it and then had other contractual things to fulfill. And there it sat and scowled at me. But I do think I understood where the story had to go better when I came back to it.
What’s the wildest scene you’ve imagined and did it make it into a story?
Hmm. There’ve been some pretty wild things. Probably one of the most out there involved flying books of bad intent who spat physical, harmful words at people, an animated leather jacket, and well, it just gets stranger from there. Yes, that did come about in Skim Blood & Savage Verse, which is the third Offbeat Crimes story.
- Ever drunk written a chapter and then read it the next day and still been happy with it? Trust me there’s a whole world of us drunk writers dying to know.
I tipsy write sometimes, but never drunk write. Not in a serious, whole scene kind of way. However – you knew that was coming – I do have some interesting conversations in my head when drunk and more than one good piece of dialogue has been written on a cocktail napkin and shoved in my purse.
- With so much going on in the world today, do you write to explain? To get away? To move past? To widen our knowledge? Why do you write?
Because I write science fiction and fantasy, I often write to illuminate. Non-real world genres allow us to look at issues from one remove, and often from different angles. There are recognizable stand-ins in much of my work for current issues. It’s certainly not the only reason I write, but it slides in every time. Being queer is in itself a political statement, especially now, and as a bi person, I’m constantly aware of that.
Also, if I didn’t write, the voices in my head would eat me.
- What’s next for you as a writer?
Probably the next Arcana book, though there are several irons on the fire right now.
A young magic user who wants desperately to live. A jaded recluse who has forgotten what living means. They’re each other’s only chance.
Toby’s wild magic is killing him. The mage guilds have given up on him, and it’s only a matter of time before he dies in a spectacular, catastrophic bang. His only hope is an exiled wizard who lives in seclusion—and is rumored to have lost his mind.
The years alone on his hilltop estate have not been good for Darius Valstad. After the magical accident that disfigured him and nearly drowned Pittsburgh, he drifts through his days, a wraith trapped in memories and depression. Until a stricken young man collapses on his driveway, one who claims Darius is his last chance. For the first time in fifteen years, Darius must make a choice—leave this wild mage to his fate or take him in and try to teach him, which may kill them both. The old Darius, brash and commanding, wouldn’t have hesitated. Darius the exile isn’t sure he can find the energy to try.
It’s killing him. We have to end this.
Too cruel to force him to keep struggling.
I don’t understand. He should be finding a minor channel at least. Something. He shouldn’t be at this level of physical distress and still be able to throw so much.
We can’t condone pushing on. Dangerous for him and for everyone in a five-mile radius. We’ll have another Darius situation on our hands.
You’ll tell him?
As soon as he’s able to hear it, yes.
Toby drifted from gray misery to scarlet agony, the voices floating to him in fits and starts. His instructors, the director—they were talking about him and they sounded done with him, just like the previous six guilds that had tossed him to the curb. Wild magic. Unplaceable on the web of Arcana. Unsustainable and eventually deadly. The only remaining bets anyone could make now were how many people he took with him when he went out with a catastrophic bang.
Hands lifted him. The familiar sensations of stretcher and rolling followed him down into the dark.
“What’s this?” Toby peered at the papers on the rolling tray, not quite up to focusing through his pounding headache.
The director pulled a chair close and cleared his throat uncomfortably. “We discussed that this might be a possibility someday, Tobias.”
“We’ve talked about a bunch of stuff.”
Director Whittaker let out a sharp sigh.
“Not saying it to be a smartass, sir. I can’t get my eyes to read this just yet.” Toby shifted on the infirmary bed. His fifth stay in this wing of the guildhall and the mattresses hadn’t managed to grow any more comfortable. “Couple hours I should be able to.”
“Ah. My apologies.” The director returned to a concerned parental pose, hands clasped between his knees as he leaned forward. “These are your separation papers from the Montchanin Guildhall.”
Toby swallowed hard. “You’re giving up on me? Already?”
“I’m so sorry, Tobias.” Director Whittaker patted his arm. “The Kovar method is nearly infallible—”
“Nearly. You said nearly.” Despite his pounding head, Toby sat up, hanging on to the director’s hand as hard as he could. “Please don’t do this. You said you’d help me.”
“We said we would do the best we could. Wild magic…. It’s unusual, certainly, but cases of unplaceable wild magic like yours aren’t unheard of. We should have seen some sign of channeling by now. Some directed trickle that would have let us help you find your place in the web.”
Toby let go to fall back against the pillows, hurting, nauseated, and dizzy. His uncontrolled magical explosions, each one harder on him than the time before, had only been getting more volatile and unpredictable. “I don’t have anywhere else to go. Can’t I stay here? Until, well, until….”
“It’s too dangerous for the other students. For the staff and other guild members.” Director Whittaker took his hand again. “Tobias, you blew a hole in the guidance room’s wall today.”
Ten feet of weapons-grade Kevlar and steel—that shouldn’t have been possible. Holy crap. “Did I hurt anyone?”
“Not today. But I can’t risk lives any further. It’s reached that point where we’ve tried everything we could. When you feel up to it, read the packet. There are several wonderful hospice options nearby. Beautiful places where you’ll be cared for and made comfortable. The guild will take care of you and cover any expenses.”
Drugged to the eyeballs so I won’t do any more damage. Allowed to starve to death in the nicest possible surroundings. Toby closed his eyes, his exhausted brain banging up against walls of possibility, trying to find him a way out. All this time he’d been sure one of the guilds would find a way. They were the experts. Now? Now he was terrified. The experts were telling him he needed to accept his impending death. No, no, no, fuck that. “Sir, who’s Darius?”
“Ah, you heard that, did you?” The director sat back and pulled out a microfiber cloth to give his glasses a meticulous cleaning before he went on. “Darius Valstad caused one of the greatest magical disasters in recent memory. He nearly destroyed Pittsburgh. He pulled magic too far from his channelings, the result much like a wild magic accident. The catastrophe was narrowly averted.”
“Oh. That sounds about as bad as it gets. What happened to him?”
“He nearly died. His guild status was revoked, his teaching of any more students forbidden.”
Toby turned that over a few times, his brain fumbling and dropping concepts along the way. “So, but he’s still alive?”
“As far as I know. He lives in isolation, oh, not far from here, with the promise that he will no longer attempt anything beyond personal magic.”
“But he was once like me? And he lived?” Toby knew it was conclusion jumping, but he was desperate enough to reach for anything.
The director’s sigh was slower this time, more melancholy. “Tobias, he found his channels long ago, both his major and minor Arcana. Yes, he lives because as long as he respects the web, his magic won’t tear him apart. He had some early success with teaching unplaceables, but Pittsburgh was the ultimate result of his unorthodox methods.”
“Yes, sir. Of course.”
Director Whittaker rose with one last pat to Toby’s shoulder. “Get some rest. We’ll talk again in the morning. Please keep in mind we’re not simply turning you out onto the street. We want to be certain you’re looked after properly.”
Toby nodded, no longer trusting his voice. He didn’t turn his head to watch the director leave, staring at the white ceiling tiles instead. Ugly ceiling tiles. Places where you have to lie in bed like hospitals and infirmaries should have nice ceilings with meadows and bunnies painted on them. I don’t want to die. Oh gods… I don’t want to die.
About the Author
Building worlds. Constructing Fantasies. Angel Martinez, the unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for over twenty-five years) and gave birth to one amazing son (now in college.) While Angel has worked, in no particular order, as a state park employee, retail worker, medic, LPN, call center zombie, banker, and corporate drone, none of these occupations quite fit. She now writes full time because she finally can, and has been happily astonished to have her work place consistently in the annual Rainbow Awards. Angel currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around queer heroes.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/angelmartinez