This might end up being a bit of an odd post. I’m not going to talk about the writing life, or give out writing tips, or share an excerpt, or anything normal like that. Instead, I’m going to indulge an urge I’ve been fighting throughout the writing of the Nikki Glass series (the third book of which I just sent to my editor today). I’m going to write something that writers are told never to do. It’s called a Dreaded Expository Lump (or DEL, to its friends).
What is a Dread Expository Lump? It’s where an author brings the narrative to a screeching halt to present expository information in big, hard-to-digest, boring (usually) chunks. The reader wants nothing more than to get on with the story, but the author has decided to put the story on hiatus while he or she delivers a lecture.
I’m sure every reader can agree, the DEL sounds like a bad idea. I agree, too, which is why I try so hard to avoid them in my work. However, I find that with the Nikki Glass series, I frequently have the desire (which I fight) to take a couple of paragraphs (or pages) to explain the rules of my world to my readers. Instead of indulging myself, I break all this information down into little bite-sized tidbits and sprinkle them throughout the story. But today, I’m going to indulge myself by blurting it all out at once. A one-stop shopping experience for those who want to understand exactly how the magic in my Nikki Glass stories works. Perhaps that will purge me of the desire to stick big DELs in my next Nikki Glass manuscript. (And perhaps not. I think part of the reason the temptation is so strong with this series is that the mythology is of my own making, so readers don’t come into it with fixed expectations, as they might if my characters were vampires or werewolves. I feel an extra-strong need to explain.)
So, on to the DEL. (Hey, this is a blog post, so I have no narrative to interrupt! That means I’m not breaking any hallowed writer rules!)
The basic premise for my series is this: in ancient times, the gods (of various pantheons, including Greek, Norse, Egyptian, etc.) had children with mortals. The gods then decided to abandon the earth, leaving their half-mortal children behind. Each god or goddess gave each of his or her children a seed from the Tree of Life. This seed made their children immortal, and the immortal children called themselves the Liberi Deorum (Children of the Gods). They believed that because they were immortal, they had become gods, and their only limitation was that they could not make their own children immortal, because the gods took the Tree of Life with them when they left. (To sum up: each Liberi has a seed, all of which are the same, and of which there are a finite number.)
The Liberi are literally immortal (with a few exceptions, the biggest of which I’m about to explain). They can die as easily as any mortal person can, but they don’t stay dead. If they suffer a wound, no matter how serious, their bodies heal it. If their bodies are completely destroyed–by a fire, for instance–they generate new ones, because the seed that makes them immortal is linked to them and can’t be destroyed.
Eventually, the Liberi discovered that their immortality comes with a hidden price. It turns out that any mortal descended from a god (i.e, the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. of the original Liberi) can kill a Liberi. (Those mortals who are capable of killing Liberi are called Descendants.) If you are a mortal Descendant, and you kill a Liberi, that Liberi’s seed becomes yours–and you become an immortal Liberi yourself.
Any mortal Descendant can kill any Liberi. They don’t have to have the same divine ancestor, because what makes them immortal is the seed, not their genetic tie to their ancestor. What the divine ancestor does affect is what powers the Liberi have once they become immortal. The magic of the seed activates those powers, although Liberi descended from the same god or goddess may not have the same powers–that’s controlled by genetics.
All descendants, whether mortal or Liberi, of all gods bear a glyph somewhere on their bodies that denotes their divine ancestor. These glyphs are visible only to Liberi, and you can’t tell by looking at the glyph whether a person is mortal or Liberi.
Once a mortal Descendant has become a Liberi, he or she is no longer capable of killing other Liberi. (This is why the bad guys in my series, the Olympians, don’t kill all mortal Descendants–they keep some around to use as weapons against other Liberi.) And, because I’m blurting everything out here, I’ll go ahead and blurt out one detail I have not yet found a way to reveal in the published books: descendants of different gods cannot have children together. (Only one divine ancestor per customer!)
*sigh of relief*
It feels good to get that all out. You can see why I can’t spew it all in one place in my books. (Especially in the ones other than the first, where I have to assume some portion of my readership already knows the rules.) If anyone has any questions about how it all works, please feel free to ask. Maybe someday I’ll compile all this into some kind of FAQ for my website. But for now, it’s just a form of therapy for me to finally stop telling myself “No, you can’t do that.”