Guest Post: J. Hamlet

Building the Dead

One thing I have enjoyed about paranormal procedurals like Lost Girl and Supernatural were how they took classic folklore from all sorts of different cultures and re-envisioned it. For Hand of Chaos, the first volume of my Chaos Theologyseries, I wanted to create a fantasy story that presented the familiar in a new way, and I looked at what these shows do for insight. After all, in developing an entire fictional universe with its own unique magic system, you have to start somewhere. 
I knew that my main villain, Ethan, would be a necromancer. He would need to have an arsenal of death-themed magic to do what the plot commanded. That meant different kinds of undead, both corporeal and incorporeal. I began to look through for information. Little did I know, Wikipedia has an entire section devoted to the undead, both incorporeal and corporeal! I began to devour the article and all of its, many, many subarticles for inspiration about what my evil Necromancer would do and create. For every interesting idea I saw, I decided to tweak them as the rules of my fictional universe would operate started to form. I started with calling the basic monster a Ghoul. Basic and unthinking, they're the lowest form of the undead. It didn’t match all the folklore ideas of that word and mixes and matches from the classic zombie, but that wasn’t exactly the point. I had inspiration and I could work from there. 
Finding information about Revenants and Draugrs, I chose those as the next tiers of development. As Ethan's undead creations would go stronger, they would evolve. First into the quick and tough Revenants, then to the unstoppable and toxic Draugrs. Wanting to round out Ethan's muscle and the undead magic he would weave against my heroes, I researched and reshaped notions of ghost creatures like the Wraith and the Shade. With some simple research and some thinking about how they could all relate to one another, I had honed Ethan's villainous methods in a simple Wikipedia journey that left me brimming with story ideas. 
From there, I needed to come up with more touches to give the Chaos Theology universe some flavor and character. Anna, my lead heroine, is a government operative trained in fighting the supernatural with her arcane powers. Typically, fantasy requires some form of invocation for magical spells, be they people shooting fireballs or lightning out of their hands, making protective shields, banishing demons, etc. etc. Typically, they're Latin phrases shouted by the characters at dramatic moments. I wanted to use invocations like that both for dramatic purposes and to tie my magic system together in an organized manner. 
One religion that had always been fascinating to me is Zoroastrianism. Having so much success with the undead and building out the magic system around my villain, I decided to go down the Wikipedia clickhole again. I knew Anna would use fire and earth magic a lot to fit into certain themes of the plot, and Zoroastrianism had a lot of interesting connections there, particularly in its malevolent/chaotic spirits known as Daevas. Their names and the different forces they embodied sounded like offbeat but memorable things for Anna to call out before unleashing the magic she would use to combat Ethan's undead horde and to help resonate with the primal forces of nature her magic would represent.
In the hours I spent doing this research for basic concepts, new ideas for action sequences and subsidiary characters started to cross my mind and my novel went from being a simple zombie thriller to a more complex work of dark fantasy. In the end, that paid off as the novel I wrote proved more robust than what I’d originally planned, and laid the path for more investigations into the paranormal and supernatural in further Chaos Theory novels.

About the Author

Everyone needs a hobby. And, like most people, I hope one day that my hobby will liberate me from my mind–­numbing day job. I chose writing. Not one of the easier ones. I chose it at the tender age of 14, churning out terrible science fiction novels that heaped on the cliches and barely hidden tropes of all space operas. Thankfully, those creations reside in the prison of an old Commodore 64 hard drive and several 3.5" disks (kids, ask your parents) in a landfill somewhere. And, let me be clear, the world is better for it.

Along the way, I kept writing. Through college. Through grad school. Through the beginning of my career, such as it is. I like to believe I picked up skills. I wanted to write novels that had things I wanted to see. Hand of Chaos, my debut novel, brings together elements of a spy thriller and a police procedural with dark and urban fantasy. I followed that with Scarred Earth, a serial alien invasion novel I'm releasing entirely through tumblr. I'm probably going about this all wrong, but I don't know any other way.
Check out J. Hamlet's new book Hand of Chaos!

Title: Hand of Chaos (The Chaos Theology #1)

Author: J. Hamlet
Publication: September 4, 2013
Genre: Dark Urban Fantasy

Exhausted, cynical, and confused, Anna is always there to report for duty. She's part of a clandestine government team that defends the nation against supernatural terrorism—a job that understandably leaves her life in shambles and drives her to drink a little more than she should. Toss in a fear of intimacy with a desire to have friends and lovers like a normal person and, well, Anna is a troubled soul wrapped in a special agent with arcane, magical powers. Waking up hungover at five–­thirty in the morning with a zombie­–infested apartment building in the heart of DC to deal with, she knows she's got the makings of the worst morning possible.

Her team is its own challenge. A battle­–scarred Nigerian shaman, a bookish shape­shifter, an inept summoner, and a brilliant but cantankerous wizard round it all out. Her partner, an immortal and cursed Paladin, is the only person she knows more jaded than herself. Getting them all to work together is never easy, with Anna often caught in the cross fire.

Their target, Ethan Morgan, is one pissed off necromancer. His brother was KIA by his own government, the victim of an experimental magical weapon they decided to test on the battlefield. Now bent on revenge and sponsored by one of hell's most powerful demons, Ethan has a plan of his own to make us all pay. Anna and her team are fighting against the wake of destruction, but Ethan is always one step ahead. With the number of bodies he leaves and reanimates growing exponentially, Anna's wondering if they'll stop him before he engulfs everyone in an undead horde.



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