Julia is a woman of many hats and little sleep, who tells stories wherever she can. A proud graduate of the Viable Paradise workshop for speculative fiction writers, she fits her writing in while parenting two young boys and promoting a collaborative art project called “Fly Your Freak Flag High” (FYFFH). Julia holds an MA in Sociology from University of California, Santa Barbara, and has been a college lecturer in Sociology and Women’s Studies. She has also worked in consumer products licensing and sales, and has run her own web solutions business. In 2010, Julia’s novelette “Cupid For a Day” was published in the Renaissance Festival Tales anthology from Hadley Rille Books to high acclaim. You can visit Julia on her website: www.parentheticals.com
At the end of Julia's post, we will have an excerpt from her novel, Ice Will Reveal, so please keep reading!
Prophecy, Destiny, and What Is Revealed
Prophecy. Whether religious or secular, we see it all the time in fantasy writing, and there are infinite variations on the concept. Mighty beings, wreathed in thunder and lightning, speak directly to the people. In times of greatest need, the mystic with a direct conduit to God(s) or Goddess(es) is given a vision with a message for the faithful. A previously unremarkable commoner has a single or recurring dream that turns out to be a divine revelation that sets them on a collision course with kings and wars. Secret messages from previous aeons are decoded and brought to light by intrepid researchers. Perhaps people believe the prophecy and it rules their lives, their culture, their everyday actions; or perhaps prophecy is discarded, scoffed at, hidden or forgotten. Sometimes a story lets us see the act of prophecy as it happens; sometimes the prophecy has already happened and the story we read is about the prophecy’s result, which is often the time when it comes true (or not). We find reluctant prophets, eager prophets, fanatical prophets, and persecuted prophets. Then there are those special people who are the focus of prophecy, the ones who will save the world (or possibly doom it): the One, the Chosen, the Foretold, the Named. We are warned about or against them; we must watch for, identify, find, encourage, or stop them.
Why such a fascination with prophecy and those involved with it? What’s that about? I would argue that fantasy literature is at its heart driven by the investigation of the ineffable, the unknowable, the mysterious and magical, and prophecy is something that allows us to access that through asking “where does prophecy come from?” Prophecy is also intimately related to the concept of destiny, another familiar and beloved fantasy fiction concept. Playing around with the concepts of prophecy and destiny allows us to explore the idea that even if it’s too mysterious or big to comprehend, there is a larger design that we are each a contributing part of, and that hopefully there is something or someone directing that design (regardless of whether that something or someone is obvious or hidden to us). Don’t we all want to be special, to be Chosen? Don’t we all want to be recognized for the unique contributions that we bring into the world? Personally, I find it reassuring to muse (to hope, dream and speculate) about my own place and purpose in the world, even if I don’t necessarily know their exact shape and parameters yet.
So when I started writing Ice Will Reveal, my first fantasy novel, I wasn’t that surprised to find the familiar (and personally compelling) concepts of prophecy, destiny and free will cropping up, even though it’s also an adventure novel with plenty of action and intrigue and monsters and even a little romance. Each of the main point-of-view characters in the book is in the process of struggling with her or his own destiny and purpose, and prophecy helps frame their experiences, but not prescribe them. Some characters act on faith in or obedience to something external, and some act on faith in their own internal sense of direction or morality. Some vacillate back and forth. Yes, I do talk a lot about “the Foretold”, and priests and priestesses receive “truevisions” from their Goddess, but the Goddess has also turned Her face away and become increasingly impossible to access, and visions are open to interpretation. The title refers to an ancient prophecy that serves as certain characters’ context for interpreting current events and provides those characters with reasons to set other events into motion. (Actually, the original title was The Augured, which got changed when a helpful soul pointed out that there was a double entendre possible there that I might not want. But I digress.)
I wanted to write a book in which prophecy was a signpost, not a recipe; where what was happening or what “should” happen was not always clear or direct, and purpose had to come from within as well as without, because finding moments of choice was as valid and important as the willing submission to predestination. I tried to explore how people act and think in situations where “right” and “wrong” are suggested, not required, and vary based on perspective, and what it’s like to try to be a hero(ine) in that kind of “grey” context. These themes recur throughout the book, and surely reflect my own time, place and cultural zeitgeist as well as my particular life stage and personal intellectual interest. I plan on exploring them further throughout the next couple sequels to Ice Will Reveal, and heck, probably in everything I ever write. I can’t help it. Maybe it’s just what I was meant to do.
About Ice Will Reveal
There will be one I choose to turn the wheel
To use My gift to help the land to heal;The One, the Gift, the Time
Ice will reveal.Orphaned siblings Jarrod and Whisper Thornn grew up as “mercy kids” at the powerful Holy Temple of the One Goddess. Devout, law-abiding Jarrod became a loyal Temple Guardian, whereas restless, unscrupulous Whisper escaped to an apprenticeship with a rich thief as soon as she came of age. For years, they have barely seen or needed each other.
Then, Whisper accepts a dangerous mission to steal an arcane artifact wanted by the Temple. Meanwhile, the Temple has named Jarrod as the Foretold, the One who will heal the land and turn the absent Goddess back to Her people. But prophecy is open to interpretation, and the priestesses of the Order of the Sickle have named one of their own as the Foretold. Jarrod’s test: he and his companions must investigate a breach in the magical Boundary that has long protected the land of Caledendria from the apocalyptic influence of the Blight.
When Jarrod and Whisper’s paths unexpectedly converge, Whisper joins Jarrod and his companions on a harrowing journey to seal the breach in the Boundary. Together, they must battle life-sucking wraiths and face loss and betrayal as they hurtle toward a fateful encounter at the Boundary.
Excerpt from Ice Will Reveal
Jarrod took a long drink of his ale and set it down half-empty on the table with a sigh.
Burning with curiosity, Whisper couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “So?” she said. “What in the Goddess’ name is so important that you had to come all the way out here to see me on a night off? You do have the night off, right? You’re not here to tell me that you’ve left the Temple or anything crazy like that, are you?”
Jarrod finally looked at her, frowning. “No, I haven’t left the Goddess’ service. But I will be taking a brief leave of absence from the Temple itself . . . and I thought you should know, as my only kin.” He looked around as if to check for eavesdroppers, but no one in the crowded, noisy room paid them the least bit of attention. He leaned in closer toward her, putting his elbows on the table. “I’m being sent to the Blighted Lands,” he said in a low voice.
Whisper goggled in surprise, her own drink forgotten in her hand. Like other Myceans absorbed in their city, Whisper thought of the Blighted Lands as mostly a cautionary history lesson, not as an actual place anyone would ever go. “What?” she managed finally, sitting up and leaning in toward him.
“Yes, you heard me.” He nodded slowly and vented another big sigh. Whisper recoiled from the smell.
“Wait a minute . . . are you drunk?” She smothered a laugh. Now that she was close enough, she could smell more than just ale on his breath. In fact, he reeked of whiskey.
Hah! My oh-so-holy brother is sauced like a duck. No wonder he was so formal back at the house. I hope Mins didn’t notice.
“Not nearly drunk enough, I think,” he said solemnly. “But it’s still early. I thought you were going to bring back something challenging. . . ?”
Whisper chuckled. “Ohhhh, don’t tempt me, brother. Even though it’s a fully amusing thought, and one I’d like to pursue for real some other night, watching you puke your devout, virtuous guts out in the alleyway is not why I’m here. It’s been a long day for me, and from the smell of you, you don’t need anything more challenging than Warbler right now. So come on—what’s going on, Jar?”
Jarrod sighed again. Whisper leaned back, waving her hand in front of her nose in mock disgust. Refusing to rise to her teasing, Jarrod remained serious, saying quietly, “It’s complicated. The summary of the story is that I’m leaving in the morning with a few companions and going to the Blighted Lands, to do some reconnaissance there. But . . . there’s more to it than just that, I think. Do you remember that stuff about the Foretold, from when we were kids?”
Now it was Whisper’s turn to frown. Of course she remembered—it was an old and oft-fondled sore spot for her. She remembered the regular visits with Supreme Mother Corandonn and the priestess’ seemingly casual but endless questioning. She remembered the speculative looks and whispers from certain adults around Jarrod, and the rumors and teasing amongst the Mercy kids that had spread even to Whisper. She remembered all the special treatment over the cycles that Jarrod never acknowledged but that she’d felt all too keenly. Tunneling to the bottom of what all that had been about was the first mystery she’d solved, and it had given her an appetite for information-gathering that she’d never lost. Wasn’t she the one who’d first overheard the word “Foretold” applied directly to Jarrod? She remembered that moment clearly: she had been eavesdropping on a heated discussion between Supreme Mother Corandonn and Mother Noyennah from her favorite hiding spot in the high branches of the old elm tree in the Temple school’s courtyard. She was the one who’d run to tell Jarrod about it, and she’d led their careful investigations in the Temple Library.
But despite their figuring out that Supreme Mother Corandonn and the other adults thought Jarrod might be “the Foretold” of prophecy they’d learned about in school, nothing had ever come of it. Eventually the looks and whispers had died away, the teasing had moved on to different victims, and she spent less time around Jarrod, so she stopped noticing any special treatment. Even so, Whisper had always closely held the hurt of not being the special one, the chosen. And as Jarrod, so humble, so determined to be good and righteous and worthy, had grappled with his apparent destiny, she’d pulled away, acting out, becoming his opposite, hoping to be noticed as special, too, even if it was only as specially “bad”. But no one had cared about her or seen her as special until Mins came along and took her away from all that.
“Yeah, I remember. You think they didn’t change their minds after all, and now it’s finally time for you to save the world, huh? Should I bow to you or something?” Jarrod didn’t smile, just looked at her with that long-suffering pious expression she hated. “But I don’t get why they’d send their special boy to the Blighted Lands. Kind of cold and dangerous out there, last I heard. You’d think they’d want to keep you all warm and safe right there at the Temple.”
“Well, they are sending me, that I know,” Jarrod said defensively, and leaned back in his chair. “So I thought maybe I’d better tell you.” He gulped the rest of his Warbler and thumped the glass down on the table, then crossed his thick arms over his chest and glared at her. Whisper, attuned always to what people weren’t saying when they spoke, got a flash of the fear lurking behind his eyes.
He’s afraid he’s going to die out there, she realized. He came to say goodbye, just in case. She felt suddenly guilty for teasing him.