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Zack Westland — much to my surprise — is a fairly laconic character. He’s not often given to lengthy internal dialogue — at least, not stuff that he’s willing to share on the page. Every once in a while, he’ll go on about something in his world but, just as often, it doesn’t quite fit with the narrative of the book. And so it gets cut.

Here’s one such rumination on the nature of Crossings that never made it into a final draft:

Crossings were soft spots in the metaphysical barrier separating the Shadowside from the world of flesh. People like me could use them to step from this side to the other. I could see the Shadowside without having to step all the way into it. With an effort of will, I could even affect things in it – mainly spirits that were doing their best to reach across to this side to cause trouble. But a Crossing let me step through and deal with spirits on their own turf.

Crossings were typically brought about by traumatic events – torture or murder would do it – and echoes of the event lingered in the psychic landscape. Some mortals were sensitive to the stain of a Crossing – they tended to mistake it for a haunting. But the echoes tied to a Crossing weren’t always connected with spirits of the dead or even a specific death. As far as I could tell, the main thing require to create a Crossing was emotion.

I fluttered open my eyes, hardly aware that I had closed them. The replay of events caught within the Crossing flickered over and over again. They would continue like that – the anonymous victim and his faceless attacker – until whatever powered the Crossing wound down. I suspected it was the emotion, but I didn’t really know. If an extremity of human suffering was the sole ingredient of a Crossing, then the world would be filled with holes. Every day ten thousand scenes of human conflict played out across the space of any city – murder, rape, coercion, and untold instances of the strong preying upon their weaker fellows.

I couldn’t say what strange alchemy of timing, location, and human emotion combined to blossom into a Crossing. Maybe, once, I knew. Maybe I never did. Whatever. It was a mystery to me now. Magic, like physics, was governed by universal laws. But those laws didn’t possess the same mathematical elegance as physics. The laws of magic were more like those governing English grammar – messy, slipshod, and for every rule there were at least three exceptions.

Get to know Zack better in Conspiracy of Angels, the first book in the novels of the Shadowside. Book two, Harsh Gods, comes out in the fall of 2016.

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