Release Day: The Forge and the Fire

I've been waiting a long time to release this one. Warning: mild spoilers for The Letter Mage no. 12 below.

The Forge and the Fire got a mixed response from beta readers, and for a good reason. This Installment ended with what felt to some like a big twist in Aleph's character, and it makes him decidedly less likable. Not that Aleph's ever been cagey about where this story is eventually going, but it's one thing to hear someone talk about how terrible they are and another to see it happen.

This is legitimately one of my favorite parts about writing this series, though. Aleph is a villain. He's not a good guy, not yet. So how do you write someone who's compelling and interesting, someone the reader cares about, while still making them wrong?

This is my favorite type of character to write, so I'm sure there are a thousand ways to do this. You can give the character a charming personality, a deep loss that drives some dark purpose. Aleph's not dark, though, and he's only slightly charming. Honestly he's more of a nerd than anything else. He loves books, and hates horror stories, and he's a total mama's boy.

He's also traumatized. Apathetic. Doesn't intervene on things that don't directly affect him, although he's not consciously aware of that and would argue if anyone called him out on it. Clings to the idea of "home" like his life depends on it.

It's hard to argue against trauma and the idea of home. No one escapes without some sort of trauma somewhere in their life, and there's not a person in the world who doesn't want to keep their home safe. These are pretty universal concepts, and when it comes down to it Aleph isn't wrong about his feelings there. There's a lot that's wrong in his world, and he wants to fix it.

The villainy comes in in his execution, not his motives. Which we haven't quite gotten to yet, but we got a taste of in The Forge and the Fire. We'll see a lot more of that in the Fourth Quarto and onwards. Shit's starting to get real.


Speaking of Quartos, the Third Quarto comes out July 21st! I will be selling paper copies at I.O.W.A., a massive signing event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This Quarto has Installments 9-12, a few extra Flash Interludes, and extra information on the College of the Gear. I'll be reading from it at I.O.W.A., so come join me there!