[Guest Post] A Scientific Approach to Magic by Jocelynn Drake

Please welcome Jocelynn Drake! Today she is going over how she came up with the whole new world featured in her new urban fantasy series, The Asylum Tales. (The six-book Dark Days series featured vampires.)

A Scientific Approach to Magic

by Jocelynn Drake

When creating a new urban fantasy series, one of the core components is strong world building. A reader picking up an urban fantasy novel is prepared to be launched into a strange world filled with the impossible. The reader knows that unbelievable things are about to happen, but it is the author’s job to not only lead the reader through the impossible, but also convince them that these things really can happen. This is where great world building is crucial.

As I started creating the city of Low Town and Gage’s inevitable battle with the Ivory Towers in my new Asylum Tales series, the one thing that I wanted to tackle first was the magic system. Considering that the series was built around a warlock, I knew that I would have to have a good handle on how Gage got things done in an amazing but believable fashion.

Digging into the Asylum Tales, the first thing I did was divide magic into two worlds: potion and energy. As a result, there are two distinct users of these systems: tattoo artists and witches/warlocks.

Potion Magic

Potion magic is the layman’s magic. All the magic that makes amazing things happen comes purely from the ingredients in the potion. Whether you’re using a severed crow’s leg, Easter Lily pollen, or a strand of hair from an extinct unicorn, all the magic is held within that ingredient. There is no exterior magical energy required to make the spell work. As a result, anyone can mix an effective potion, just like anyone can bake a cake or whip up mashed potatoes.

Now as anyone who has watched their soufflé deflate can attest, cooking does take a little skill, a lot of patience, and a bit of practice. Different ingredients can be used for different outcomes on different types of people. The same goes for mixing up a potion for true love or good luck.

As a result, tattoo artists not only study to create beautiful tattoos, but they must also learn how to use different ingredients to create different potions. Luckily, they are thoroughly tested and licensed by Tattoo Artists and Potion Stirrers Society (TAPSS) before being set loose upon the world.

Energy Magic

On the other hand, there’s the magic used by the warlocks and witches living in the Ivory Towers. Not every human can tap into this magic. In fact, less than 1% of human children born every year in the world develop this ability between the ages of seven and twelve. No one has yet determined why these people are born with this talent. Genetic mutation, evolution, or just bad luck aside, the children are whisked off to the Ivory Towers upon discovery and are trained. If you fail in your training, you die. If you succeed in your training, you become a full-fledged warlock or witch living in the Towers and feared by the world.

This magic is a mix of hand gestures, symbols, or words along with a push of magical energy floating in the air. The elves claim that the magical energy is born from the earth, while others believe that the magical energy is created by the souls of all living creatures. Either way, warlocks and witches tap that energy and use it for their own purposes.

Of course, warlocks and witches aren’t the only ones who can tap that energy, but they have the broadest use of it. The Summer Court elves have a talent for nature-based magic. The Winter Court elves have a talent for glamour as well as affecting a person’s dreams. Dragons are good at a wide range of magic, but we all know there aren’t any dragons around any longer. All in all, warlocks and witches are the power players in the magic world.


Now, the clincher. When creating a world, it helps to have some balance. When you give great power, you have to have a catch; something to keep the powers in line. If there are no consequences for actions, then what’s to stop you from blowing up the world?

In the Asylum Tales world, magic doesn’t like when you remove a source of potential power so you’ve got to pay a price. If you kill another living creature with magic, you’ve got to give up one year of your life. Of course, your first thought is probably “that’s not so bad. Who really wants to live through those crappy years at the end where you’re stuck in an adult diaper, gumming strained peas, and unaware of where you’re at?”

Hold your horses there! You don’t lose a year off the end. In fact, you never know when you’re going to have to pay up that year. It could be five years down the road when you’re 35 years old and in excellent health. You could be heading to the hospital to pick up your wife and new baby to deliver home, and BOOM! You drop dead. And for 365 days, you are dead. Your soul is stuck in limbo with the dangerous Lilith watching over you.

If you’re lucky enough to have someone preserve your body during that year, then you can return to earth and the living. But if your body isn’t in working order, I’m afraid that you’re going to stay dead.

As a result, the warlocks and witches have gotten sneaky when it comes to killing off a rival, but the threat is always there.

With the magic system locked down, I was able to build much of the rest of the world around it, giving my characters a strange but defined space to play in. But if you’re passing through Low Town, my advice would be keep your head down and stay away from the warlocks and the witches.


Thank you, Jocelynn!

ANGEL’S INK, the first in the new series is scheduled to hit bookstores on October 16. Available for pre-order.

To help introduce this new world and its characters, Joceylnn prepared a couple of novellas, “Bronx” and “Trixie”.

Check out our review of “The Asylum Interviews: Bronx”. (Hint: “Bronx” and “Trixie” are actually stories, mysteries even, not interviews.)

Don’t miss this exciting new series!

One comment on “[Guest Post] A Scientific Approach to Magic by Jocelynn Drake

  1. Pingback: Better to Bite Mr. Real | Literary Escapism

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