Criticism is a vital part of literature, and for that matter most fields. Active, reasoned critiques help identify weaknesses and strengths, provide multiple interpretations and perspectives on disparate matters, and foster improvement, perhaps more than anything else. They are just as essential to individuals; critical feedback is immensely helpful to improving oneself in any number of aspects, whether that's a specific ability, or more generally. It is something that we are encouraged to actively seek out in order to understand how our work and how we are perceived and received by others. Unfortunately, it is also something that I struggle with receiving.
This episode is nothing more nor less than what it seems: a stand-alone story about a "fallen star." While it allowed me the opportunity to explore the culture of the nomadic tribes in the "Unclaimed Territories," and flesh out some of their own perceptions of themselves, and their interactions with the "civilized" nations of Lufilna, it really wasn't supposed to have a lot of character development, nor huge impact on future episodes. All of which means that while the start was a little slow to write, it ended up going pretty quickly, and after the first two thousand words were written, I finished the rest of the episode in just a few days. Which is good, because I fully anticipate the next episode, In Contempt, being quite a challenge to write.
For once, I actually managed to write a true short story; this particular piece comes in under six thousand words (barely), unlike most of the Blood Magic "short" stories, which hover around ten thousand words. It was a quick write for me, and will probably be a quick read for you. There aren't even any section breaks, and all of the action takes place in a single day. It's very much a read in one sitting kind of piece.
Either I forgot, or I thoroughly repressed just how bad episode four was. At least, I hope it was one of those two, because I would hate to think that as either an author or a reader I ever looked at this episode and thought it was good. When I went to start revisions on this episode, I floundered around, looking for some way to start, because I thought that it was so bad that no amount of revision could help. I was very nearly tempted to throw out the entire original text and start over again, and the only thing that restrained me was that I'm still nominally calling these revisions, and have promised to be somewhat true to the original episodes. That meant, unfortunately, that I was stuck with the silly plot involving some thieves, some poison, and some gold.
I've been wanting to write this episode, or something like this episode, for quite a long time. The idea is best summarized as Star Trek's Prime Directive, from the perspective of the "primitive" civilization, and it's an idea that I've really wanted to find a way to explore in a story. So I put it into a plot in my initial outlining of the Blood Magic second season, and have been looking forward to the chance to write it ever since. That's probably why it ended up being so difficult to write.
Over the past few months, I've been slowly making my way through the extensive historical archives of the Peanuts comic strip, starting all the way back at its inception in 1950. I don't usually get a lot out of comics, graphic novels, and other, similar forms - my patience and interpretive abilities for these visual media are only somewhat higher than my abilities to create in such media - but Peanuts was enough a part of my childhood that I am enjoying reading through them all from beginning to end. This rather esoteric project began from a random curiosity about how the strip originated, and while I continued with it in part because I was enjoying them, and out of curiosity, it also became something of a writing exercise.
As I was writing the first two episodes of Blood Magic's second season, and working on revisions for the first season's episodes, I realized that I didn't have an adequate vision of how Merolate's government was actually structured. I knew the broad outlines - the Prime is in charge, he or she has an advisor, the Sub-Prime is the successor, the provinces are run by Governors who are subject to the Prime - but that's not really a full government.
Going back and re-reading these early episodes has really made me recognize just how much my writing has improved (in my opinion, anyway) in the less-than-a-year since I started releasing Blood Magic here on the site. The beginning of this episode, much like episode two, was told in a weird, semi-omniscient viewpoint, before reverting to the third person limited that is characteristic of most of the series. I think this was probably me trying to do a sort of "establishing shot," like would be done in a television show, but that technique really doesn't work for writing. It makes me wonder if I even recognized how jarring the viewpoint switches would be, or if I even knew I was doing it.
I like books with maps in the front, and since you've found a way to a publishing website that primarily focuses these days on fantasy and science fiction, there's a good chance that you share my opinion. Although I'm not a reader who spends hours pouring over the maps at the front, trying to chart out the course that the characters took, or catch the author in a continuity mistake regarding the reasonable travel time between two cities, I do consider a map in the front as a sort of mark of merit. If the author went to the time and trouble to have a map included, then there's a better chance that it's a book I'm going to want to read.
I hope that you've been following along with Blood Magic this year, because it's already been pretty exciting. I'm very pleased with how the revised editions of the first season episodes are coming together (revised versions of the first two episodes of season one should now be live here on the site), and the first two episodes of the second season have been pretty strong, as well. At least, I think so, which is mostly based on how the writing process went for them. Usually, that's a decent guide.