Retrospective Look At My First Epic Fantasy Novel, Windfarer
Dear readers and followers
It has been 11 years since my first official novel was published. We go even further back to 2002 when the first words were literally penned down, and more drastically back to 1998 when the idea first came to me to write the Shadowolf series of volumes.
In 1998 I was in the final year of high school, writing my final exams. I had had many fantasy influences back then, including Stephen Donaldson‘s “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” (which is where the idea for the title of Celenic Earth Chronicles came from), Raymond E Feist‘s “Riftwar Saga“ (which is where the idea for war from other worlds came from), Terry Pratchett and Robert Rankin novels (which is where the sense of extraordinary humour during Le’Mar’s imprisonment in the Heart of Tigers originated from), and of course, JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series, which was the greatest influence in terms of the entire epic fantasy genre and nature of the hero’s long quest to conquer evil. There was also the “Death Gate Cycle” by by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, which featured some character personalities that flowed into some of my minor characters.
One of the common comments I receive from readers and reviewers is that Part 1: The Asbec College of Elements reminded many of the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling. I can understand why though, since it features a school where Shadowolf learns about magical skills and abilities. There are so many major differences to Hogwarts though. This was a tertiary education college, not a school. And the tuition was central around the five elements of air, water, fire, earth and spirit. The first time I had ever experienced Harry Potter was when I watched the movie The Philosopher’s Stone in 2003 with a friend, and by then I had already imagined and planned the chapters for Asbec College of Elements. I did draw inspiration from Quidditch for the Elemental Combat tournaments though, but pretty much everything else was in place already.
The Harry Potter series did affect one major change though. By the time I had watched Philosopher’s Stone, I had only planned Part 1, and written the background to the series, or the History of Celenic Earth. When it came time to plan out the rest of the book, I didn’t want Celenic Earth Chronicles to look like another Harry Potter series, with the hero stuck in a school. Which is why the drastic change happened at the end of Part 1, and Shadowolf was flung out into the world with no school to rely on for the rest of the series. Looking back, this was probably the best decision I could have ever made.
Magical Elements, Wolves and Crystals
I have always been enamoured with magic and the five natural elements. When I had read the Christian Bible as a child, I was always excited when the elements were involved. The burning bush, the dividing of the Red Sea, calling forth water from a rock, calming the storm, and so forth.
My favourite animal has been a wolf for as long as I can remember. My parents bought a puppy when I was just a baby, so I grew up with a dog by my side until I was 14. Having that furry canine companion meant everything to me, which is why I incorporated Nelnar as Shadowolf’s wolf companion. Many of the personal experiences Skipper and I had in my youth was translated into the story.
Anyone who reads Windfarer will immediately pick up on the importance of wolves in the story, since each of the southern wolf tribes are named after them. I also drew in my love for crystals, as can be seen with Part 2’s title, The Lapis Pins, and the amethyst amulets. Even Rubens Willow, Shadowolf’s mysterious sword, was named after the ruby that had fallen onto and fused with the sword’s hilt.
Those who know me very well in real life, and are close to me, call me Shado. I’ve had the nickname since I started using it when I was 16. So it kind of goes without saying that Shadowolf is based on myself, if that was me in a magical world where orcs, elves, dwarves and many other mythical creatures live.
All three characters Skywolf, Angelia and Shedaaij have a development path that are kind of tied together. When I started writing the novel in 2002, I wanted to base Shadowolf’s partner on my partner at the time, who was, and still is, using the nickname Skywolf. A few years later we broke up while I was about to end Part 1, which is why their intended relationship never went further.
I met and started seeing someone shortly thereafter, whom I called angel. That was where Angelia came from, and she was meant to be Shadowolf’s partner next. That was why you started seeing more interaction between him and Angelia in the college as Part one started drawing to a close.
Sadly, we only lasted a few months and I realised my dilemma. Basing characters in a novel on real people was a bad idea. I was never going to proceed with the story in that fashion. However, it was essential for me that Shadwolf have a partner. A growing love interest to feature throughout the series. So I created a new character, one that no one would expect for him to end up with. Shedaaij the Merlani, half human half mermaid, was born. So to speak.
As I look back at it now… I am so glad that sequence of events happened. As can be seen in the entire Celenic Earth Chronicles, Skywolf and Angelia became essential characters to the series. Shedaaij became the most essential element of Shadowolf’s life, and many of the story arcs could not have happened without her.
Another key influence I didn’t mention before was the Soul Calibur game series, which is where the Hand of the Orion group of fighters came from, being based on 5 characters I had created in Soul Calibur III. Their exact outfits and weapons were placed into the Windfarer novel just as I had created them in the game.
The only other two characters that were based on anything in real life were Darcwulf and Angelicus. Darcwulf was based on my best friend / brother that I had at that time and Angelicus on his fiance of that time. And even though we no longer are in contact, Darcwulf is still set to be featured in the second Shadowolf series, The Draceanea Chronicles. The second volume takes us to the world where the dragons in the DragonRider novel came from, and the impact of Shadowolf’s decisions and betrayal of his promise to Asgorna the Dragon King are realised.
The other 55 characters indicated in the Windfarer’s glossary were created brand new for the series with no exceptional influences.
Races and Creatures
I’m still very much inlove with the visual glossary I made for my blog site. When I created the creatures / races for Windfarer, I had no idea how they would tie up in the end, which we will get into more when I take a look back at the Sadgi novel in a future post. That was completely unplanned, but worked out so well. During this stage of planning and writing, creatures were brought in as part of the story, and by bringing them in, they had such a unique and heavy influence on the story itself.
To start with the obvious, the races I included are basically the same for most Lord of the Rings type fantasy novels. We have the humans, dwarves and elves as the ‘good guys’. They don’t live among each other, but do cross paths occasionally. Yet, the History of Celenic Earth is based on the actions of the humans and elves, and the consequences of their decisions. Unlike the humanlike elves of Lord of the Rings, these elves looked more like Namekians in Dragon Ball Z.
And then we have the orcs, which in true medieval fantasy lore is meant to be the dark elves. In CEC, there was a distinction made between purorcs and hurorcs. Purorcs are pure orcs. I didn’t delve into the history of where they came from, as it wasn’t important to my story. However, hurorcs are the gross combination of human with orc, where Le’Mar used demonic forces to create orcs from humans instead of elves. Only one taste of elves becoming purorcs was presented in Windfarer, and that was when Chenesia and Hargon were riding through Eldor’s forest and noticed how some elves were turning.
And then we have a few standard mythological and fantasy creatures, such as the sole Unicorn Ursula, Dragons, Mermen, Mermaids, Sirens, Pegasi, and Gargoyles. I intentionally left Gargoyles for last on that list. Inserting the creature / race created an interesting dynamic to work with. As the sunlight turned them to stone, it limited how much they could do by day until Shadowolf could help them obtain the Lapis Pins, special amulets that prevented the curse. It just shifted the way I had to tell the story, and how the quest for the Lapis Pins turned into something bigger.
Then there are some mythological creatures that seem similar to ones we know, but have different natures. That was why I changed their names. These are mainly the Fairdievells (fairies), Fletchlings (pixies with bat wings), and aVampeyer (vampires). I thought it would be fun to bring vampires into a world where they are not usually portrayed, and among other creatures they don’t are not usually placed with. Of course, bringing in vampires meant I could make the main villain of Windfarer, Mercius, a vampire, which brought another new element to the tale.
And then I decided to have some fun with creatures I created completely out of the blue. Froth Hun was one of my favourite concepts, and the best I can describe it is Ghost Rider with a blue flame. The Carner as a huge floating eye with hands and legs was created as a guard of Eldor’s Dungeons specifically for Windfarer, and would never be seen again in DragonRider or Sadgi. The Dra-hu’mar were warriors brought from another world by Le’Mar, and were designed to have the beauty of the elves, while looking human. Their speciality was magically changing their swords into bows and vice versa. Demon-Queens were the highest evolution of the sirens, and would rule the evil sirens with a trident, like the mer-king for mermen. Finally, Ma-Wreths were created to represent the huge trolls we would see in Lord of the Rings, or cyclops in God of War, while having immense speed with legs and arms.
While having all these characters, races, creatures, weapons and magic was fun, everything evolved from the story. Yes, inserting certain elements had a major influence on how I told the story, but the main structure of the story remained. The Celenic Earth Chronicles started off as a daydream about the final war as you read about in Sadgi. It all started with the end in mind.
The Sadgi is the master of all five elements. This was why the Asbec College of Elements was so important. Each of the elements had to be introduced, along with the magic that accompanied them. As with me, Shadowolf’s favourite element is air, and the master of air is called Enodhim by the elves, and Windfarer by the humans. Each of the elements have master elven and human names in the series.
And so, the first novel was called Windfarer. Each title in the series is meant to be a bit ambiguous. It could be Shadowolf and the Windfarer, since Mercius was a Windfarer too and Shadowolf did everything in his ability to stop Mercius from obtaining the power node that would make Mercius unstoppable. Or, it could be Shadowolf as the Windfarer, since as a wind elemental practitioner becoming a Windfarer was his own personal goal.
The story of the Windfarer is a the personification of an imperfect journey towards an ultimate goal. Many times, Shadowolf was warned against pursuing Mercius, which in later novels was fleshed out further. So Shado busied himself with the dark lord Le’Mar’s war, helping his father Nighthale defend the wolf tribes and protecting the ones he loved. I was trying to show that not everything is as easy as “Here is your goal. Go get ’em tiger.” And yet, by being involved in the war against Le’Mar, he learnt what Mercius’s goal was and why it was so important that Shado be the one to stop him. That was the revelation, or ‘ah-ha’ moment at the end of Part 2: T’Mar’s Scourge.
At some point in my writing and planning, I was not content with simply have one main story arc. It felt rather bland just telling Shadowolf’s story. Like everything revolved around him. I imagined, if I was getting bored just telling one person’s story, then readers would get bored reading it. So I decided to create mini arcs, side stories that would keep readers awake while also having an impact on the main story. And I can safely say, that was another great decision. For in the end, all these side arcs melded together into one masterpiece that was the Sadgi novel.
And by creating such side arcs, Chenesia and Nolraldun the assassin were born. There were not originally meant to be part of the story, and now the story cannot be told without them. Chenesia has almost as much page time as Shadowolf, as all her actions are parallel with Shadowolf’s timeline. Her quest is her own, and yet is so keenly tied by a thread to Shadowolf’s story that had she failed then DragonRider and Sagdi might have been completely different. Nolraldun’s part is rather minor in contrast, and simply represents someone who was brought up to do bad things, trained to do bad things, sent on a quest to do bad things, and ended up being good.
Each of these story arcs are so close to my heart, as with any creator and his work. I was sitting looking back at my novels, and really felt like reminiscing on them. And instead of just keeping these happy thoughts to myself, I decided to share them with you. For this was where it all started with me. This was where my novels were born, and these are the hard labours of my mind and fingers (typing away at keyboards). I tried not to give too much of the story away for those who have not read it yet, while giving you a taste of what it contains. The Windfarer was my first baby, and it’s so hard to believe that it’s been 10 years, 11 in April, since it was first published.
If you have any questions about Windfarer or the writing thereof, please put it in the comments. I would like to share any elements of the novel that interest you.
With Warm Regards
The Count of Celenic Earth
PS: After finishing this post, I decided I feel like giving away 10 ebook copies of Windfarer. So if you would like one, kindly let me know in the comments below, on twitter or facebook as a comment, or email me , and the first ten will have Smashword coupons sent to them to download the ebook copy.