We are thrilled to welcome Jack Heckel to The Qwillery. The Darkest Lord, the 3rd novel, in the fabulous Mysterium Chronicles, was published in digital format on February 26th by Harper Voyager Impulse.
The Trials of a Trilogy
Fantasy stories, and particularly epic fantasy stories, seem always to spawn not a single book, but a series of them. In the end, as with all things in epic fantasy, you can probably blame Tolkien for the fact that no one seems to be able to tell a fantasy story in a single go. And the problem only seems to be growing. While Tolkien was satisfied with three volumes, with the not insignificant proviso that each volume is actually divided into two books, modern authors often stretch their stories far beyond three, and in some cases into double digits. The Saga of Fire and Ice is at five, with at least two more on the way, while The Wheel of Time series clocks it at a whopping 14 mega-books, not counting the Prologue, which is itself an entire separate book. In fact, in many cases the role of any individual epic fantasy novel seems to be setting up the next fantasy novel in the series.
So, when we decided to write a comedic take on the epic fantasy genre a trilogy seemed inevitable. In fact, for The Mysterium Chronicles there being three novels is one of the jokes. Let’s face it, we did title them The Dark Lord, The Darker Lord and The Darkest Lord after all. But in committing ourselves (tongue-in-cheek) to a trilogy we didn’t really know what we were getting into. It turns out it’s a lot harder to tell a continuous and coherent story that spans three volumes and over thousand pages than it might sound.
The problem we ran into, and which is obviously not unique to us, is how to maintain tension in each book when your audience knows there is more to come. This issue is particularly pronounced in the dread SECOND book, which is inevitably a bridge between the table setting first novel and the climactic third. Some authors—cough, cough, George R.R. Martin—solve this problem by being “unpredictable”. But, when you’re writing for comedic effect, indiscriminately killing off characters isn’t really an option.
Instead, we decided to address the issue head on by having the characters openly discuss the possibility that they were in trilogy and what that would mean. What we found in “going meta” is that once you let the audience in on the joke that there will be another book after this one and another one after that you can have a great deal of fun with what might have otherwise been a narrative drag. Early in The Darker Lord we have our protagonist ex-graduate student/magus, Avery Stewart, address what must be the most important point for anyone that finds themselves trapped in a fantasy trilogy:
I wanted to argue, but had to admit that everything that had happened since my return to Mysterium pointed to a number of unfinished story lines. I wrapped my arms around my body trying to ward of the cold and grasped for something positive to say. “Well, I suppose the good news is that even in a worst case scenario we are thirty-three percent through the narrative and no one important has died … yet.”
-The Darker Lord
The Darkest Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 3
Harper Voyager Impulse, February 26, 2019
eBook, 384 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, April 2, 2019
Mass Market Paperback, 528 pages
In the epic conclusion to Jack Heckel’s whimsical fantasy series, Dark Lord Avery Stewart must join the Company of the Fellowship in a frenzied war against Moregoth and the corrupt forces of Mysterium. . . and destroy the magical artifact fueling the interworld chaos
In TheDarker Lord, Avery Stewart learned a terrible truth about Mysterium: the home of his beloved university and the reality-center of the multiverse is not the world he thought it was. The true Mysterians, innately endowed with the power to manipulate reality, were displaced eons ago by the subworlders with whom they shared their magical teachings, and written out of the reality pattern of their own world. For years they have lived in exile in the subworld of Trelari, shielded from the Mysterian pursuit led by Moregoth and the Sealers. That is, until Valdara, the warrior queen of Trelari, reopened the subworld to the rest of the multiverse and challenged the Mysterium to a final showdown.
One year later, a violent war of worlds drags on, and Avery can’t help feeling that all of this is his fault.
But the good news (if you can call it that) is that Avery might hold the key—literally, a key—to ending the suffering and saving Trelari. For Avery possesses the Reality Key, a magical artifact with the power to bend reality to one’s will, often to the immediate detriment of entire worlds. . . and, if it falls into the hands of the Mysterian forces, much more. To protect his friends, save Trelari, and bring order to Mysterium, Avery will need to do the unthinkable: travel to the heart of Mysterium, destroy the Key, and rewrite Mysterium’s reality pattern to restore balance to the multiverse, once and for all.
The Dark Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 1
Harper Voyager Impulse, November 1, 2016
eBook, 464 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, December 27, 2016
Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
In this hilarious parody of epic fantasy, a young man travels into a dark and magical world, where dwarves, elves, and sorcerers dwell, to restore the balance between good and evil
After spending years as an undercover, evil wizard in the enchanted world of Trelari, Avery hangs up the cloak he wore as the Dark Lord and returns to his studies at Mysterium University.
On the day of his homecoming, Avery drunkenly confides in a beautiful stranger, telling her everything about his travels. When Avery awakens, hungover and confused, he discovers that his worst nightmare has come true: the mysterious girl has gone to Trelari to rule as a Dark Queen.
Avery must travel back to the bewitched land and liberate the magical creatures . . . but in order to do so, he has to join forces with the very people who fought him as the Dark Lord.
The Darker Lord
The Mysterium Chronicles 2
Harper Voyager Impulse, July 24, 2018
eBook, 464 pages
Harper Voyager Impulse, September 4, 2018
Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages
The second novel of Jack Heckel’s Mysterium series, The Darker Lord follows beleaguered former Dark Lord Avery Stewart as he is forced to take up his cloak and his Imp once again and travel the doors between realms in order to keep the fabric of the universe intact. More or less intact, anyway.
In The Dark Lord, Avery had an epiphany about the Mysterium. Only now he can’t remember what it was, no matter how much coffee he drinks or how many times he reads the novel published from his notes. What he does know is that he has become the most famous mage in the multiverse, and no one is happy with him. His fellow mages are upset at his rapid promotion, Dawn and Eldrin are tired of him spending his days on their couch watching bad TV, and Harold the Imp won’t talk to him.
Luckily, things can always get worse. And they do when the Administration’s enforcer, Moregoth, arrives at the first lecture of the semester to apprehend two of Avery’s new students for undoubtedly sinister reasons. In a fit of foolishness and heroism, Avery defies the university and flees with his friends into subworld. There, he reunites with his former allies from Trelari and thus begins a frantic race through the multiverse to escape Moregoth.
But as Avery’s amnesia begins to fade, he realizes his loss of memory is no accident, that he is caught in a conspiracy as terrifying as Mysterium University’s Student Records Building—and that his friends might not all be on his side.
Jack Heckel’s life is an open book. Actually, it’s the book you are in all hope holding right now (and if you are not holding it, he would like to tell you it can be purchased from any of your finest purveyors of the written word). He is the author of the Charming Tales series and The Dark Lord. Beyond that, Jack aspires to be either a witty, urbane, world traveler who lives on his vintage yacht, The Clever Double Entendre, or a geographically illiterate professor of literature who spends his non-writing time restoring an 18th century lighthouse off a remote part of the Vermont coastline. More than anything, Jack lives for his readers.