In September, a gaming friend, David Hochhalter (I’ve known him since he was 15), sent me a scene. We’ve tried to write together several times before, but this time, the scene clicked with both of us. Three middle-school girls present their school principal with the wand their magic club had just successfully tested. So what does Principal Calvit do? He locks their papers and their wand in his safe until they can be state-certified for reliability and safety the next school day, the following Tuesday. There they are, and they should be celebrating. Instead, their wand has been taken away. I mean, they’ll have it back on Tuesday.
What could possibly go wrong on a three-day weekend?
We changed the Virginia from our games. The Virginia these three girls are from is slightly different. It has a different history from our game Virginia (Until David moved away to Texas, we both lived in Virginia, quite near DC).
We changed Avalon more, Avalon is the one world one can reach from Earth readily through a magical gate. In our game, yes, you can accidentally go around a corner on Earth, sometimes, and find yourself in Avalon. But in our story, there’s exactly one person who might ever have had that happen to him, and he’s been around a very long time. Mind you, I don’t know that he has, but he’s the only one who even might have.
Together with George Laskey, David and I have been doing role-playing gaming since sometime in the early 1980s when the two cousins were in their teens (I bought a house in George’s neighborhood in 1980).
In our game, there are at least a dozen worlds one can reach from Earth: it isn’t a good idea to go to any of them. In fact, it’s a really bad idea to visit any of them. Just ask any of David’s, George’s, or any of my own dead characters- Of course, you’ll need a good medium, and have her or him hold a seance to talk to them. Or use a Ouija board (Ouija boards, in our games, are another really bad idea. You can’t be sure who’s on the other end of the line. Are they who they say they are–or are they some fat kid sitting in his parent’s basement on Avalon, messing with you?)
So, nix the other worlds, at least for now. Someday, one may find one’s way from story Virginia to the City of Izzuz (the city of magical Power). Mind you, it’s going to be a really, really bad idea to go there; Izzuz is almost always at war with SOMEBODY, and those wars, just like wars here, are ruinous. It isn’t unknown to arrive at the gates of Izzuz and discover that, once again, it’s under siege. Maybe you can still get in–if you sneak past all the besiegers attacking the front gate, or fast-talk your way past them. (Good luck trying.)
In our game, anyone who doesn’t have a wand can always make one. So, quick! Set the story long before our games, when no one yet knows how to make a wand on Earth. Does anyone know on Avalon? Possibly: but, although several wandmakers can be found in Avalon, typically in Avalon City, do the wandmakers live there? If you want to talk to a Wandmaker, poof! There’s a wandmaker there, if you’re persuasive enough, and powerful–and rich. But do they live there? Unlikely. Mind you, their sales staff does live in the places the Wandmakers own in Avalon. They have to live somewhere, and the people who have wands that can be sold can afford to support their servants any way they like.
Do they have a wand to sell you? Sometimes. Some days. But, even to window-shop, you’ll need a king’s ransom, and you’ll need to be able to prove it. Do you have a letter of credit from Houser, Houser, Houser, and Houser? One with four interlocking H’s? Or does your letter only have one H–if you have a letter from them at all?
Is there a branch of Houser, Houser, Houser and Houser on Avalon? No–the institution, usually known as The Bank, is too important to be found on a backwater like Avalon. If you go around the wrong corner, you may find a branch of their subsidiary, the Badlands Bank–but, chances you may have heard of someone who’s gone around the corner and found a branch of Badlands, typically it will be in a story from some other world, not Avalon. Most people living in Avalon couldn’t describe a double-wide aluminum mobile home–and if they ever see one, wouldn’t describe it well enough to make themselves understood.
In 1963, almost no one has a wand on Earth. All the wands they do have come from Avalon- or at least, through it. There are some wands in Avalon-a few. Not enough for everyone who wants one. They cost a king’s ransom- or are acquired by other means than spending money. Not just powerful wands, but ANY wand. If you see someone with a wand in Avalon, they’re rich AND powerful, or at least, they once were. Mind you, they might have inherited a family wand. That happens. A lucky few have been given wands, by the rich, and powerful.
Enter three middle-school girls who change all that. They’ve made the first wand made on Earth.
Going from that one scene in September, by mid-December we’d written “The End” after 120,000 words. We liked our story, and in January sent it off to someone I knew of, September C. Fawkes, for a developmental edit.
Today, it’s 195,000 words. That is in no way September’s fault. There’s also new characters in it. Charlie was pretty much the last character to arrive in the manuscript, but we also developed Nenet as a character after September’s edit. In the original version, Nenet doesn’t have her own name.