The Ready Room – Magic Systems That Aren’t Magic

Welcome to The Ready Room, where I explore random topics to help you kick off your week.

Have you ever read a fantasy book where some of the everyday elements feel like magic? And yet when you dig into the system, it’s so well rooted in the workings of that world it’s almost scientific?

I love magic systems in stories. Since I read fantasy, I see a lot of them at work. Some come as familiar tropes or with glossing over and hand waving because no one really understand how it works. Characters wave their hands, stuff happens, and we keep reading.

But then there’s the gems. The fantastical elements in a story that feel so much like magic, and yet their systems are natural to their settings (or created by the creative minds in that world). So vivid and complex, readers could spend a lifetime breaking down the ins and outs for a greater understanding.

Myst & D’ni Worlds

Cyan Worlds did it right, on every level. I remember when the first Myst game took the world by storm. I dumped hundreds of hours into playing, took some starter courses on learning the D’ni language, and got utterly creeped out when I started Riven and live in-world people jumped on the screen. Twenty-five years later and I still have an account with Uruonline, the next generation.

I could go on for days about how much I love everything about this universe, but let’s focus on the books. In their simplest form, they turn all the D’ni civilizations and empires into portal worlds. Open a linking book, place your hand on the panel, and you’re gone. (Don’t forget your book to link back). This system is brilliant and feels like magic, but with reading the books, the story goes deeper into how the paper is made in a special way, the ink is a manufactured art, and writing the linking books takes a very special set of skills. The whole thing is literally phenomenal, and I’m ever in search of another fantasy who puts their science and magic into one basket so completely.

The Myst Trilogy

The Qual Empire

C. J. Cherryh is another one who nailed it. In the story, the Qual Empire built a system of technological gates across the galaxy to span a diversity of worlds. But there’s a catch—the gates move forward in time. Once someone’s jumped, they can’t go back to the previous world at the time they’ve left. One killer item in the series though is a sword Morgaine carries. When she unsheathes it, the blade opens a black hole and sucks the unsuspecting into its depths.

The gates also have a neat trick: they can be programmed. So, each time Morgaine and Vanye jump through, the gate refreshes their age and health to a specific point. This is a series I’ve read multiple times, and it’s another great example of worlds that feel like they’re governed by magical elements.

The Morgaine Cycle

* * *If you’ve read a fantasy world recently that makes the science feel like magic, I’d love to tackle that story. Feel free to drop a note in the comments. 🙂


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The Ready Room – A #RevPit Guide for Newcomers

Welcome to The Ready Room, where I explore random topics to help you kick off your week.

This week’s topic explores the crazy Twitter contest, #RevPit, and what it’s really all about (from the hopeful perspective). Hopefully this handy quick-guide will point you in all the right directions and help you determine whether or not #RevPit’s right for you.

The Facts

#RevPit is both an annual contest and a series of mini-events run by the editors at Revise & Resub. For the sake of brevity, we’re only going to focus on the annual contest in this post. So here’s what you need to know:

  1. Contest rules are found here. With any contest, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with how things work, what your role is as a hopeful, and what to expect from submission to choosing day to the final agent round.
  2. The annual contest is for completed, polished, and unpublished fiction manuscripts only. To find the editor that you feel may be the best fit, check out the Revise & Resub Manuscript Wish Lists.

The Fun

#RevPit is also a community of writers and editors. Some of us know one another from last year’s contest, from the 10Queries mini-event, or from hanging out #OnThePorch. One of the things we love to do on the hashtag is talk about our books. A lot.

Whether you’re new to the scene or from when dinosaurs roamed, here’s a couple ways to win at #RevPit before the contest ever starts.

  1. Stop by the hashtag and say hi. We love connecting with other writers and professionals in the larger community.
  2. Watch for editor games and get involved (or start a game of your own).
  3. Follow the editors & other writers.
  4. Join in the Blog Hop and connect with other hopefuls.
  5. Swap queries & first pages with your peers. (I personally recommend someone in your age & genre categories)
  6. Make a friend or find some critique partners.

Basically, get involved. Because whether you get chosen for the final event or not, the friends and connections you make now are going to stay with you in the months and years to come. They’re an amazing support system when you’re ready to set your book on fire and feed off the ashes.

Your Professional Brand

Here’s a solid truth about #RevPit and every other Twitter contest: your Twitter presence, your book and your pen name are a brand. From this point on, you’re no longer a person who’s written a story, you’re a professional brand.

  1. As you chat with others Twitter, on your blog, or generally talk about your book, keep something in the back of your mind: what does your presence say about you? What do you want your brand to look like today? In five years?
  2. Be professional. You’re not only representing your book, you represent who you are and how you work.
  3. From submission day to choosing day is very stressful – on both writers and editors. Here’s how to protect yourself and your brand:
    • Be professional. Whatever you’re feeling inside—and there may be a lot of feelings—always think about your outward facing appearance. What do you want people to see in your tweets?
    • Take your grievances offline. Tweeting ‘nobody loves me’ or ‘no fair’ or ‘how come nobody requested mine’ often look like one thing: whining. Is this what you want people to see in your brand?
    • Be an activist, not a deactivist. If someone says something you like, show your support with a like or retweet. However, if someone tweets something you don’t agree with, don’t deactivate another person. Your brand is not about them, it’s about you.

* * *The annual #RevPit contest is fun, it’s exciting, and a fantastic way to grow your network of friends, followers, supporters, and someday readers. If you’re on the fence about entering, all I can pass along is the amazing advice Katie McCoach gave me (paraphrased of course): if you find an opportunity to skip the slush pile straight to an agent reading your work, seize it.

Have any helpful advice or thoughts I didn’t touch on in this article? Feel free to post comments below. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂


If you like this article, be sure to check out The Ready Room for more tips and tricks. You can also subscribe to my main blog and be the first to know when new content is delivered.