When I started the book that became the world of my recent release The Devil's Garden, however, I barely had the character on the page before she started conjuring things. She was very determined to do things her way, and she insisted that to speak was to create. I got to thinking about that phrase and realized it was very godlike. Coincidentally, this was also a character who told me her name right off, and it happened to be the name of a male Egyptian god. By that point, I was pretty much under her thumb.
That character didn't end up in The Devil's Garden, though hopefully you'll get to meet her in the future. What did end up there was the system of magic, and a world in which each city-state along a vast, Nile-like river was ruled over by the god who spoke it into being. The god in this story is only a secondary character. It's the human heroine Ume Sky who is "magical" here, and it's a very ordinary magic: the power to seduce.
Ume is a courtesan at the temple of the god, and she gives her body to her patrons as an act of sacred sex; as a temple courtesan she is the human embodiment of the divine.
It's this concept of the divine in all of us that interests me more, the magic that each of us creates in the world every day simply by being alive—and always with the power of our words. A certain friend of mine would say this is a little "woo-woo." He's an atheist and a very pragmatic person. The thing is, so am I—perhaps a somewhat animistic atheist with pagan leanings, but an atheist nonetheless. I have a concept of the "divine" that has nothing to do with any external deity. (Yes, I realize this is a contradiction in terms, but I've always been difficult.)
But as Orson Scott Card says in How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy (a book I highly recommend to anyone who wants to write speculative fiction), every system of magic must have a price. And the price the gods pay in The Devil's Garden is losing their own humanity. Like Ume, they give a little bit of themselves with every act of magic, until they no longer have the power even to rule their own lives.
If you could speak things into being, what kind of trouble would you get up to? Tell me in the comments and I'll choose one commenter at random to win a copy of The Devil's Garden. (Don't forget to provide an email address where I can notify you or to check back on Saturday to find out if you're the winner!)