Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Behind the Scenes: Mr. Mug

Image by Laura Wright LaRoche, LLPix Photography
Yes, that's Mug, co-star of the Paths of Shadow books, seated in front of Goboy's Glass.

If I put up a poll asking you guys which character from any of my books is your favorite, I'd bet money Mug would win, probably by a sizable margin.

Mug, for those of you not familiar with All the Paths of Shadow and All the Turns of Light, is Mage Meralda's sarcastic sidekick. Mug was unintentionally enchanted to life by Meralda when she was a toddler, and he's grown up beside her, been her constant companion and partner in numerous adventures.

I originally wrote Mug as a cat named Mr. Muggins. About halfway through that first draft, I realized I loved the way Mr. Muggins talked -- even in that incarnation, he was a smart-mouthed cynic -- but a cat? Really? Cats don't have the vocal apparatus to talk.

So naturally, I made Mug an enchanted houseplant.

Whoah there, I know you're thinking 'but plants can't even meow, much less speak.' That's true -- but Mug has the ability to vibrate his leaves and mimic and sounds he hears. He can imitate anyone's voice. Play entire musical pieces, using different leaves for different instruments. He can even detect sounds better than a cat, because he can hear by sensing minute air disturbances with his many leaves, from all directions at once.

Yes, he is sessile. Mug can't move on his own, and had to be carried everywhere in a bird-cage in the first book. But of course by the second book, Mug can fly his own birdcage, after Meralda installed a pair of tiny flying coils to the base of it.

So now Mug is a flying, wise-cracking, magical houseplant with 29 eyes.

And as much as I love cats, well, Mug is more fun this way.

Last week I revealed my Rules for Writing Darla. Today, you get to see my rules for Mug!

  • Mug understands magic, and shares much of Meralda's intellect and mathematical talent -- but since Mug is magic, he can't do magic. For Mug to perform even a small magical act would be to risk his own stability; he might literally unravel, right there on the spot. 
  • Mug understands a lot more about human nature than he leads people (even Meralda) to believe. 
  • Mug's pathological fear of aphids and beetles is surpassed by his fear that one day Meralda will simply not need him anymore.
  • Mug has what we would call a photographic memory. He can recall with complete accuracy everything he has seen or heard. 
  • Mug is friends with half a dozen of the more dangerous items stored in the Royal Thaumaturgical Laboratory. Even Meralda is unaware of this -- were she threatened in Tirlin, Mug wouldn't hesitate to suggest to these items that they go after any threat to her. Mug keeps this a secret, naturally. 
The main rule is a simple one -- Mug is Meralda's closest friend. They may argue, they may drive each other to the point of exasperation, but there's a powerful bond between them.

I think that may be why the Paths books are as popular as they are. People enjoy seeing that kind of relationship. Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Frodo and Sam. Can you imagine one without the other?

I can't. Furthermore, I don't want to. 

If you have no idea who or what I've been talking about, I've put the links to the books below. All the Paths of Shadow is the first book; All the Turns of Light is the second. The third and fourth books are still in the works.

Click here for All The Paths of Shadow on Amazon!

Click here for All the Turns of Light!

Finally, I leave you with something neat to watch today.

What if World War I was fought not against each other, but against an invading force of Martians?

There's a brilliant piece of film out there called The Great Martian War that presents such an event as a History Channel documentary. Using footage from WW I and some brilliant CGI, the creators managed to make everything look absolutely real.

Here's an excerpt, showcasing some of the footage, with music overlaid that is NOT part of the documentary.


You can get the whole 2 hour special -- well, blast it, I spent a good 20 minutes looking for a video-on-demand link or the DVD and found neither. I do know it was originally released by the BBC under the title "The Great Martian War 1913-1917." If any of you can find it, I'd love a link!


  1. More Mug! More Merelda! when is the next book in their world coming?

  2. Mug is sarcastic? No way. He's just expressing himself!!!

  3. Sue, the third book will (hopefully) be out early in 2016!

    And yes, Maria, that's what Mug says!

  4. Mug would get my vote for 2d place, but 1st goes to Stitches!