I have had the distinct privilege of being on the editing team for Michael Taggart’s new book Melee Mage. It is the second in his Fledgling God series. I reviewed the first book Misfit Mage last year about this time. Since then, Michael has been working hard at starting and completing the second installment.
Late last year, he contacted me to help with the editing process, and I was glad to do so. I truly enjoyed the characters and the world he built in book one and was excited to help bring the second book to completion. Now that the second book has been published, I thought it would be fun to learn more about this awesome series and the author who wrote it. Check it out below.
You have an amazing series with a lot of great characters. You even have some characters that aren’t human like Penny and Eggy. Can you explain a little bit about these characters and what gave you the idea for them in the first place?
The characters evolved as I wrote them. My writing process is to just write out a bunch of scenes that sound fun––then put them together in a loose outline. From there, I have the characters I want in the book––but in the process of writing them, they change and evolve.
- Sandy has pretty much stayed true to who I thought she was––Head of Household––wanting to make a positive difference in the world and help new Supernaturals. In the 3rd book (current project)––she heads off to the Gathering with Jason, so when I write more of her, she may change a bit.
- John was a complete surprise. I knew he was the maintenance man, part mountain troll, and Sandy’s best friend and lover. I didn’t know he was going to be so much of a prankster. The whole ‘Painted to Circle’ scene in Misfit Mage was a lot of fun that just showed up.
- Annabeth––Jason needed a best friend in the house. I knew she would be a much older person with health issues, but because of her new magical powers would be growing younger. I didn’t know she would so happy and supportive. That just showed up and I love it! Plus, she hears magic, so it has been very interesting to figure out how to work that in. Her powers are really strong, and allow her to do stuff with charms that shouldn’t be possible (run 3 healing charms at once by humming with them). Even on the physical level, she rocks (She creates her own feedback loop on punching better by listening to how her body is reacting)
- Penny. It’s been a blast writing for a nonhuman metal character. I knew Jason was going to make a sentient charm, but I didn’t know how much personality she was going to have. I’ve had so much positive feedback from her conversation with Jason about how fleshy people ‘get sick’ and ‘can she watch?’ We even have metal humor and a metal language between her and Eggy.
- Eggy. I knew I wanted a magic sword in the book. But the idea he didn’t want to be a sword just happened while writing. He wants to be a very ornate vase and sit in the window and watch the world go by while looking pretty. Don’t we all? LOL. I now have lots of ideas for this character as he was created by a supernatural Master over 2000 years ago. He will be able to give Jason a view into the past and secret techniques that have been forgotten.
- Tyler. I knew he was a good Incubus when I started writing him. I didn’t know how mature he was going to be. He is an amazing friend, lover, and partner for Jason. He takes all the crazy that comes with Jason’s journey and just rolls with it. (watering the flowers––i.e. peeing all over the bathroom, comments from Anna Lykit the imaginary drag queen). He is a lot more than just a super sexy hunka hunka (although he is that too).
- Jason––he’s turning out just like what I wanted. He’s not perfect and he gets nervous a lot. But he tries hard, has a good heart, and is very creative in his solutions. He’s someone you can root for––as well as full of life and adventure.
- All Characters––I want them to grow and change too. Sandy and John get married and exchange oaths and magic. That is going to change them a lot as she is a mage and he is a natural. Tyler is starting to search for meaning in his life and is finding that with his relationship with Jason. This is going to continue as he comes even more out of his protective shell. Jason, of course, is changing all the time. Who knew a mage would be a great physical fighter?
You have a really in-depth world that has a lot of “rules” for the magical/supernatural world. Was there a single inspiration for how you came up with these rules? Or did the rules form as you wrote?
Back in my college years my goal was to be a game designer. I actually made a game as my Senior Design Project and won top honors. After school, I made a 2nd version of the game and released it as shareware. This was back in the days when having 256 colors was a Big Deal and not everyone had a mouse! I got letters from people all over the world saying they really enjoyed it (this was also pre Email! Dang, I’m old.) (I even got a letter from someone in Luxembourg––which is a tiny country of only 1k square miles).
I said all that to say––I love creating a world of simple rules, and then figuring out how to use them to surprise people. I have spreadsheets and documents that I use to put the rules together and make sure that Jason’s power progression is consistent.
Rules are much more than constraints. They allow the reader to feel comfortable in the world. They can settle in, enjoy the characters, and get into the flow of the world. Then, when Jason does something new with his power, it’s surprising and enjoyable for the reader. I was seeing that a lot with the beta readers. As they were reading the book they had notes about what they thought would happen. Then they either guessed right, or were happy to see the world in a new way. It make magic so much more than just a ‘word’ or ‘gesture’. It gets the reader invested in the world and they take it on as their own.
So to answer the question––the rules came first––then the writing. I’m just starting book 3––and realized I still had a few holes in my logic. So I’m taking the time to nail down exactly how a Creative Core works.
I love all the characters in this story, but I am especially fond of Bermuda, the protagonist’s cat. I know the cat in the story is inspired by your own adorable pet. Can you explain some the similarities and/or dissimilarities between your Bermuda and Jason’s? And will we ever know how and why Jason’s Bermuda has extraordinary magical powers?
I have a real cat called Bermuda Moses and he is a black and white tuxedo cat just like in the book. He loves to sit behind me on my chair or look out the window while I’m writing. He is my furry buddy and I love having him in the books. Of course, Bermuda in the book is magical, but I still base a lot of his behaviors on the real kitty. We will get a hint of Bermuda’s official role in book 3. Jason is going to run into these tree people at the gathering. The leader has a foot tall praying mantis as a familiar who wants to play with Bermuda. He is going to wonder who Jason is to rate a Celestial level Familiar…..
Melee Mage is the second book in the Fledgling God series. How many books are you planning for this specific series? Are there any hints about the upcoming story you can gives us a preview of?
One of my favorite authors is Jim Butcher––and he has over 16 books in his Harry Dresden series. I’m hoping to be able to do that with the Fledgling God series. There is so much more to write about!
- House Louisville is fined a huge number of pearls by the bank for their role in the fighting in Louisville. The Fog of Jonah keeps the supernatural world hidden, and it’s not cheap. To pay this off, Jason and Annabeth become part of a large tournament for new Supernaturals.
- Tyler gets kidnapped by the people who originally owned him. They are powerful and they want him. Jason is going to go on a mission to get his man back!
- Another house gets attacked and wiped out. What happened? Jason and John investigate. Sandy questions if she should be more Battle Mage or Head of Household.
- Investigation leads to the Tinker––a master golem and artifact maker. Jason and the Tinker go head to head as the rest of the house runs into an old enemy
- Jason ends up having to rebuild himself from just a few cells, as he ends up in a dense magical realm and has to battle foes of all sizes.
- Jason discovers the source of most of the world’s problems. It all started over 2000 years ago with the rise of the omnipotent gods. All is not as it seems. But how do you beat an all seeing, all knowing, all powerful God? By becoming one yourself.
I know this series has taken up a large portion of your time. Do you have any plans for a spin-off of these books, or other possible book ideas you might be working on?
No plans for a spin off at this point. Although Annabeth and / or Tyler could have some fun adventures! As for new books––I have ideas!
- I really want to make a litRPG book. There is a world that survived a magical apocalypse, and now, thousands of years later, it has grown in knowledge and power to where it is happening again. A person from our world is pulled into theirs––his job is to become the Over Seer and bring their world back from destruction. Of course, the mages of that world have no plans on letting him become that powerful. And neither are the non-human races of the world. They think a much simpler plan would be to wipe out all humanity.
- I also have an idea for a dungeon core series. Set in our world, magic is repressed and science is king––until the Balance happens. Magic comes rushing back into our world and nothing is the same again. Tech still works (cell phones, cars, guns) but for a time, Magic is much more powerful. Two guys have just come back from the grocery store when they are attacked in their home. One guy dies and is reborn as a dungeon core. The other discovers he is mage. Together, they must survive in the new world, and find safety for themselves, their town, and the new magic creatures.
- I have an idea that will probably never get officially published. It’s called Boy Next Door. David has a good job, nice house, and enough good looks to go out whenever he wants. It should be a great life, but he’s bored, restless and feeling like his life is stagnant so soon after graduation. Chad lives with his dead beat parents and drugged out older brother. He’s driven, punctual, and desperate for a wrestling scholarship to get out of his home. Wrestling take money, though, and his parents drink all their funds away. He’s straight, but he knows David likes him. Maybe they could make a deal? David sees an opportunity to experience a side of himself he’s only dreamed about. A side of himself that scares him and yet fills him with longing. Does he take a chance and open the door of his dark desires? This is a fifty shades of gay novel where both men find out more about themselves than they ever thought possible.
Let’s talk a little about you as a writer. What first drew you to become a writer?
I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was a little kid. I had these grand visions in my head that seemed so perfect. I wanted to share them with the world, but the process of writing them down just make them seem so small and ordinary. Then one day, I had an idea about a guy running for his life down a hotel hallway. I wrote it down, thinking it would be like all the other ideas. Somehow, it didn’t get smaller. Instead, it got bigger. So I added rules, characters, a kitten, a whole new world. And here we are today!
What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your least favorite part?
My favorite part of writing is doing my outline. Anything is possible! It is so perfect in my head!
My least favorite part of writing is the new chapters or new characters. At that point I’m not in the writing flow. Instead, it feels like I’m taking this perfect world and grinding it up into a mess of pieces. Then dragging the words through the mud, and then stomping on them while crying to the heavens how freaking hard this is. Once I get in the flow, though, it’s all good!
Is there a book, author, or event in your life that influenced you the most in your writing?
I don’t know that there is one author that influenced me. It’s more like a group of them. The Harry Dresden series is amazing because of how well the humor is done and how big the world is. Every book kept what he’d made and added just a bit more.
The Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson is a study in using rules to make a world. His character eats metal and uses it for simple effects. He combines these effects for some truly mind blowing scenes.
The Land by Aleron King. He is the father of litRPG. He is also the master of Loot! Everything in his world is upgraded and useful somehow. It should be too much, but it isn’t.
Outside of authors––just living inspires me to write. I have three cats, and they are always up to something. There is drama, humor, tragedy, and epic loot. And that is all before supper.
My husband inspires me to write. We have drama, humor, tragedy, and epic loot! And again, it’s all before supper.
Now let’s so some fun questions. If you could take a two-week vacation with all expenses paid by an anonymous benefactor, where would you go, and why?
There is a chateau in France that I follow on Instagram. It looks amazing! https://www.instagram.com/chateaugudanes/ I’d love to just go there and write for two weeks.
What is your favorite time of day, and why?
Night time. I’ve always loved the night. That’s when I get my writing done. I put Harold to bed, put out food for the outside critters, sit in my chair with the window open, and let the creative thoughts flow.
What is your favorite food?
It used to be chocolate. Then it switched to savory stuff like chips. Now I’m finding I’m into beverages. Go figure.
Who is your favorite author?
I don’t know that I can claim a favorite. I will give a shout out to one of the most amazing indie authors––Michael Manning (Blacksmith Son series). Apollos Thorne has the great Underworld Series.
Oh Oh Oh––I do have a favorite. Will Wight! Cradle series. OMG. Read his cradle series. If you lined up new books by all my favorite authors, I ‘d read his first. I don’t know how I didn’t mention him already.
What is currently your favorite TV show?
I have a curse. If I like a show, it gets cancelled. If I like a person on reality TV show, they get sent home right before casting. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen someone on American Idol or So You Think You Can Dance and hoped so bad they would make it––then they get cut. I’m afraid to vocalize it any more as the universe is listening.
If you were stranded on a deserted island and you could pick three things to have with you, what would they be?
- A replicator like they have on Star Wars. Fine food and beverage for me please. Plus Harold won’t come unless I have lots of good food.
- Harold and my cats. We can turn anything into a grand adventure.
- A huge flying house that has WiFi. Again, without a house I can’t have Harold or the cats. Flying makes it even more useful as we can then go somewhere if we need too. WiFi is essential for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney Plus, CBS All Access, etc.
I know you are a cat man, do you like (or have had) any other types of pets? Or are cats the only pet for you?
- My first pets were dogs. My favorite dog was Windsor. He was a rescue––half Doberman and half Irish Setter. He was big! 120+ pounds. I loved him like Ouisa loved Rhett in Steel Magnolias.
- I had a squirrel name Cadbury. I was delivering papers on my bike and I saw a baby squirrel getting attacked. I rescued him and we had a good life together for a while. Dad finally got tired of him tearing up the house so we made a special trip to the forest and set him loose. He wanted to come home with me, though. It was sad.
- We raised Hamsters for a while when I was a kid. We’d give them lots of love and then gave them to a pet store so they could find good homes. My favorite hamster was Snickers. He was bit a on the strange side. He had wild tuffs of hair everywhere and he looked a bit cross-eyed. He loved me, though, and I carried him everywhere.
- We feed the whole neighborhood in our back yard. We have wild cats (Shelly, Back Yard Blue, Any Dots), Possums (Polly and Little Polly), Raccoons (we haven’t named them), an occasional skunk, Squirrels (Stubby and Mr. Pencil), Cardinals (Scrappy, who only had on feather on his head, and Mrs. Scrappy). I think that’s everyone.