Monthly Archives: April 2013

Creating SciFi/Fantasy Worlds

Creating a world is one of the most satisfying perks of writing scifi/fantasy. The task can be as simple as inserting an individual or race into contemporary society or as complex as creating multiple societies with multiple species on a distant planet.

VenusfigIt is not, however, an easy task. Consider archaeologists looking back on the past. Archaeologists process what they discover using the scientific method, a linear (methodical) way of observing, investigating, interpreting and explaining data.  Their conclusions, however, may reveal only an infinitesimal piece of the real, sometimes nonlinear, puzzle that is the past. It’s difficult to determine paleolithic or neolithic worldviews that differ immeasurably from the modern world where logic and the scientific method hold sway.

At times, rVenusavataresearchers allow their own values to color their interpretations. Check out the Venus figure (above, right) that some researchers referred to as “pornographic.” The description says more about the researcher than the creator of the object. My own avatar (right) across the internet is, at over 20,000 years old, one of the oldest faces of a human female (the rest of the body is missing). Is she a religious object, good luck charm, fertility object, or a portrait of someone’s beloved wife, chieftain, or shaman?

Authors, however, can allow their own imaginations free rein when creating a world. They can fill it with their own visions, values, beliefs, and prejudices. Regardless of what is being created, certain questions common to all societies and cultures must be addressed by the author. What is the society’s explanation of the world? Where are they heading (the future)?  What should they do (ethics and values)? How should they attain our goals? What is true and false (knowledge)? Where did they come from (origins)?

Next week we’ll look at myths and legends.  Rita Bay (


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Magical Reboot: Stereotypes as Stepping Stones

Classic advice for new writers: Avoid cliche. Good advice, but it doesn’t discuss how cliche can be used, and what the difference between a trope and a cliche is. In essence, things become cliche because they work, and this effectively, becomes a trope.

For example: Take a hero rescuing the princess – you can probably name a hundred stories that utilize this at their core, even if there’s more to the story. The quest of “Rescuing the Princess” is a trope. Subversion of a trope would be if the princess ends up rescuing herself or if the princess orchestrated her own kidnapping and is the big bad – there’s a lot more I won’t get into. If you have a few weeks to kill, look up more information on TV Tropes – a great website, but be warned: It is a huge time sink.

This article is about utilizing stereotypes and tropes and considering how to take something that is already relatively well-known in the public eye (or at least established in some sort of credibly mythos) and making it your own in your fiction. There are some figures that remain very strong in the minds of the public that, even in their many interpretations, we see the figures as having key attributes.

For example:

Elves – Usually immortal (or at least very long-lived) slender and graceful, most easily recognizable by their pointy ears. But let’s look at a few interpretations, shall we?

Norse: earliest written record; underground metalworkers.

Tolkien: benevolent archers, champions of nature.

Fae: tricksters and more prone to cruelty.

Christmas: Create toys for a jolly fat man; some have sold out and make cookies in trees.

And those are some of the more common interpretation of elves – I could go into dark elves, space elves (Volcans!) but let’s look at something a little more straight-forward. Everyone knows what a dragon is, right?

Dragons (Western) : Up until recently associated with evil, may be intelligent or beast-like in mindset. Large, wings of unrealistic proportion, a preference toward a maidenly diet and could easily exist on those hoarder tv shows. Sometimes have magic powers, and usually more traditionally dinosaur in shape.

Dragons (Eastern) : usually intelligent, often benevolent and exist in both our world and the spirit world, usually associated with water as an element. Often can change shape, and are serpentile in form and are usually wingless but can still fly.

But wait! Eastern dragons have different traditions in Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Korean cultures. So there’s more to interpretation of these creatures then just east vs. west.

Don’t get me started on Vampires…

Even if you’re working with tropes that are relatively well-known among your potential audience, there is some variation from culture to culture. This is where research is imperative – it’s not enough that you’re going to be working with ‘dragons’; you need to look at what kind of dragon you’re using for inspiration, and see what others have done to interpret them. Even if you’re going in an original world and you want to make your dragons furry or plant-based, it’s a good idea to read up multiple interpretations of dragons for inspiration, and so that your dragons remain dragons, rather then strange plant-monsters that 1) Don’t fly 2) Don’t Breathe Fire/anything else 3) Don’t look like dragons. There’s nothing wrong with taking a dragon as a stepping stone and coming up with a completely different kind of creature, however, it ‘s also important to stop calling them dragons, or at least come up with your own name for them.

Unless you’re doing parody, it’s best to usually take an idea about say, an elf or a dragon and run with audience expectation to some degree. For some people they’ll find that if you go against the grain too much, they’ll say, “But that’s not an elf!” Other times, you can take a familiar trope and stick it outside it’s usual environment, and people will generally catch up on this, and this trope is called Recycled in Space. This can be a great thing – one of my favorite guilty pleasures, “The Chronicles of Riddick” is effectively Conan the Barbarian with spaceships.

The straddling line is difficult when you’re working with tropes and audience expectation – if you’re too stereotyped, you’ll hear claims of ripping off. If you’re too out there and go against audience expectation, you’ll hear readers complain that your characters aren’t ‘true elves’. My main advice is that if you decide to use a classic character archetype, to think about an interpretation of that character, and run with it – be consistent in your story, and consider your themes and making the attributes of your elf or dragon essential for the storyline.

There’s more to an elf then just pointy ears; if you want to make your character essentially immortal or tied to nature and any other trope, and examine how they would differ from human. I find that it’s usually easiest to assume your audience is human, so using them as the base and consider how an immortal would be different then we are.

I don’t need to explain to the average human how important it is to drink water, or that death is part of life. If I were to take a species that can’t die unless they are killed, they might have a very different reaction to death then we would.

For example: I used draugr in my novel, Tower of Obsidian. Now, a purist will take one look at my draugr and say, “That is not a draugr!” And I’ll agree – I did my research and I loved the idea of a draugr, but I was writing a novel about interpretation of story – it wasn’t essential for me to show a classic draugr because I wasn’t writing a novel about classic Norse mythology –I was doing an original novel inspired by Norse and Celtic mythology, so because one of my themes was interpretation, I felt that it worked to have a very different interpretation of the classic established creature.

For those of you who don’t know your Norse Mythology, in a nutshell:

Draugr – Nordic ghost. The animated corpse of the dead, said to haunt their grave, often with treasure, and may have magical powers such as changing size.

Now, I was still in the developing phase of the novel when I decided to include them, so I thought about using demythification. Dymythification is essentially when you take a story that has fantastical elements, and go about taking away the magic from it, explaining it by natural means – take for example the movie “Troy” with Brad Pitt as Achilles – I haven’t seen it in a while, but bear with me – the gods are absent in that movie – and Achilles dies with the only arrow left in his body is the one sticking out of his ankle. He had previously removed the other arrows, but the idea was that his legend came from the arrow that killed him was his ankle – that he was invincible save for his ankle, not that his mortality was burned away, except for his one ankle, which was the one place he could be injured and die. Another good example is “Ever After” with Drew Barrymore.

I made it a point in my novel for the people cursed to serve the tower to never actually call themselves draugr. The novel is told in third-person limited, so it’s done subtly. I made the cursed warriors pale and ghoulish looking, and basically I made them a subsect of the Norse colonists of Greenland, with their shamaness utilizing some Norse magic, while using others to show that they weren’t exactly the same as Vikings. I gave the attributes of magic and changing shape/size to their guardian dragons. Why dragons? Well, Viking longships had them, so I thought I would run with that mythology and see where it would take me.

Because I was working with an established history and mythology, I didn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining things to the reader – and I was able to to explore my themes, among which was interpretation. Even though the interpretation was about story (how one story can have multiple endings) I was able to utilize this theme by using a loose interpretation of draugr. In other stories, taking draugr and not giving their attributes as ghouls and haunting graves would have fallen totally flat.

In short – there’s a lot to consider when you’re working with classic tropes, and it’s not a bad thing to take an old idea and try to make it your own. You can’t please everyone, but you can utilize tropes and help introduce a reader to your work by giving them something they think they’re familiar with, provided you don’t get lazy. Utilize stereotypes when you’re drafting ideas, but examine how these creatures would think and react in the world you’re creating, and you might be able to go beyond the stereotype and make a new interpretation of something we readers thought we knew. Who knows – maybe your interpretation will be the new stereotype people base their fiction on.

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Talespin Tuesday: Exercise #4 – a Setting Sketch

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.


When I plan out a scene, I like to know the setting well. My favorites are the villages or towns, the places with character and stories lurking behind every cobblestone. I know ten times more than what I let on – after all, the story is moving through quickly. So tonight let’s have some fun and make a story out of a setting sketch.


Where the three roads meet, nearby the broken fountain, that is where The Tyrant first made his decree, so many lifetimes ago the years have been lost. To the merchants who now fill Ninepenny Square, such details are trivial, as uninteresting as gossip about the miller who pissed in last year’s grain.

Buildings crowd the Square, a row of steep-sloped roofs of red and brown tile. Narrow windows with purple curtains line the upper stories. Those are where the merchants live. The peasants make their beds in a network of hovels and covered pits that ring the village wall. Gerry is a wealthy town, full of taverns and inns and dens for gamblers. Not quite esteemed enough to draw the nobles, but the Scavenger’s Road passes no other way, hemmed in by the bogs and the swamps of Dhunival’s inland reaches.

Gerry is a place where many come to forget. Most of them are travelers, putting a rough journey behind them, preparing for a long march ahead. Dyers and silk traders, Burnside Men with their lantern peppers, and the ruddy Blackbeard smiths with their elaborate torcs – all bound for the High Cities; if only the whole expanse of the Outer Territories were as orderly as the Upper Realm, where the Fourteen sit.

There’re bards – the Blue Minstrels, the Three-Striped, and the High Numidians, heirs of the Former Blood. Gerry is full of their music, the air woven with mellifluous chords of lutes and cimbaloms, dulcimers and the elegant double-rowed harps. There’s also pipers, the ones as loathsome as paupers, who toot their melodies under the shade of the orchards, hoping for a silver coin. Gerry’s full of music and sound – laughter and shouting, the tap-tap of hammers and the clop of hooves on tiled roads. One man belches, two woman shout at one another. Three maidens giggle while a fat man runs naked through the street. On one street corner, under the painted sign of the Horse and Buggy, cads and gossips gather to exchange the news behind the shadow of a butt-size barrel.

The lord of Gerry is a drunkard who shows up once a year to collect his taxes. This year, they’re planning to collect him when he comes. Mel the Brawny is the best contender, but Fiddlehead and the one they call Fat Scott hold most of Gerry’s wealth. The peasants are already calling it the War of the Wooden Swords, since none of the merchants wish for the election to come to fighting. Whoever wins, it won’t matter for those who come and go, those who gather every day to trade – to buy, to sell, to go on living another day.

If only they all knew the true story behind Ninepenny Square, the real reason why the fountain lays in ruins. Perhaps they might all run away, move their happy town elsewhere. Another statue watches, from the other side of the Square, a squat man with a bushy mustache – the one they call The Hero. His stern eyes look out, making sure his people are safe.

That is what they all say, those who believe what was written in history.



Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, the first story in an epic fantasy series, coming May 6st.


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Defiance: A Review

This is my first post after the debut of Defiance, so I thought I would write a review of the premiere. Last week I posted a summary of the main cast of characters – races not individuals. Good thing because I would have been lost otherwise. When you have two human races and seven Votan races, it would have been difficult, if not impossible, to follow the story. Wish I had a pic or two to share but I don’t poach and haven’t found any freebies.


When warriors Joshua Nolan (human) and his adopted daughter Irisa (Irathient) are robbed by marauders and left to fend for themselves in some very dangerous territory, they are happy to be rescued by some citizens of Defiance from some particularly nasty mutant bugs. The town of Defiance, nee St. Louis, has maintained enough technology to defend its borders and citizens. Joshua and Irsia are stranded there until they can finance transportation out of Defiance and continue their trip to Antartica where Irisa hopes to find safety.


There seems to be a spark between Joshua and the new mayor, Amanda. He hooks up with Kenya who owns the local whorehouse and, he later discovers, is Amanda’s sister. Awkward! Joshua redeems himself when he uses an artifact off of the Votan fleet to save Defiance after Amanda’s assistant betrays the town and destroys its protective fencing. Why? Who knows?

There’s not enough space to detail the conflict between the two leading families, one human and the other Castithan. Enough to say that the human daughter and Castithan son also hook up which initially causes a lot of trouble, part of which involves a misunderstanding.


Overall, the show was action-filled, but that action was a bit hard to follow. The plot for this particular episode was interesting but the large number of characters and their affiliations were confusing at times. As I feared last week, the aliens did speak their languages and viewers were bombarded with annoying subtitles.

The series will probably develop a small following that will be devastated when the show is not renewed after the last of the thirteen episodes airs in July. I’m reminded of Firefly/Serenity (a personal favorite) which has a huge following, although it didn’t make it past its first season. The producers should have looked to the popular SyFy series Being Human and Lost Girl for a model for paranormal series success – a small attractive (read that sexy) core cast with basic stories that are easy to follow.   Next week, Musings on the Neolithic.  Rita Bay

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Ideas are Not the Problem, at Least Not for Me!

I have heard of writers who have difficulty trying to come up with a topic or story-line, or who slam hard into a plot-point problem. They stare at their computer waiting for inspiration in the form of an already developed plot or a solution to strike from somewhere high above, like a bolt from Zeus.

My problem is that I have far too many plots and surplus scenes rattling around in my otherwise semi-vacant cranium.

Every newspaper headline, every conference I attend, every writer’s circle I sit in on, could form the basis of my next novel or short story.

I go for early morning walks. With my mind securely in neutral, plot ideas keep percolating through, solving problems with a current project, or more likely, adding new ideas, most of which I will never have the time to use. I sometimes discover by knowing the character in the tale I’m wrestling with, and what they might do, they can solve the plot issue all on their own.

Story ideas can come from the most unexpected places. For example, the novel The Dark Lady was born out of a brief scene on TV when the head and shoulders of an actress triggered the thought: She could play an evil queen! The novella the Knight’s Bridge came about because I thought up a scene (probably on a morning walk) of a warrior fleeing a lost battle. That became a short story that turned into a novella when I decided it needed expanding so that I would find out what happened next. When I wanted to do a fantasy detective series I looked for inspiration in old mystery/thriller titles, and decided to mangle them. The Mousetrap is an Agatha Christie that became my Housetrap. No relation to the original plot. I dreamed up the storyline based on the title I created. That mad scheme resulted in three more fantasy detective novellas coming out over the next few months all based on: come up with a strange title, then figure out a plot that might fit the title. For the novel, The Queen’s Pawn, I returned to the day-dreaming of an opening scene, in this case a youth fleeing in a burning city, and ran (galloped off?) with the plot from there.

Take the example of a Writer’s Conference or Comic Con that most of us have attended at one time or another. Such a setting could form the basis for: a murder mystery with irate jealous authors or fans.  How about a horror tale, with the monster just one of the many attendees in costume? Aliens could mingle quite unnoticed at some of these affairs. Even science fiction could be mined out of such a setting. What a place to try out the latest weird invention, or better yet, how about a futuristic Con? Don’t thank me, help yourself to the ideas!

The bottom line is, look around you. There are no shortage of plots or settings to be found just begging to be set down. I’m currently polishing up one that grabbed me by the throat out of an innocuous newspaper headline. Look forward to it being published some year soon, but in the meantime, I’m going to take a break and go back to finishing Murder in the Rouge Mort


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Win my Book / I’m a Bad Goombah

So I forgot my laptop and I’m doing this from my phone. Basically, the phone loves to autocorrect everything and I don’t want to write a ton. I don’t want to miss a day, so first poster here wins a free ecopy of my book; I’ll snail-mail you aredemption code. If you are here later than #1 poster and still want a free read, head to our chat tomorrow, Graeme Brown has agreed to do a giveaway; I’ll contact you once he gets a winner.


Easy? I hope so. I’ll be back with a regular post next week. As always if there is a topic you’d like to see, leave a comment below.



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Talespin Tuesday: Writing Drill #3 – Head Hopping

Here’s the drill:

20 minutes. Fresh, free fiction (of the imaginative variety), based on a few preset parameters.

Every Tuesday, I’ll spin you a quick tale and give you something to think about. Call it a writing drill, an exercise in imagination. I spend nearly a year to get a book together, so what better than an opportunity to have something finished by the time I click “save”. Now I like that, and hopefully, so will you.


Head-hopping in fiction is bad. Any editor will tell you that. Lots of readers will complain. After all, it’s confusing. You have to keep figuring out who’s perspective you’re in, and it gets tiring. But sometimes it works. Again, it’s all about what madness lies behind said method. Well, today I have a particular madness in mind, so let’s see what happens.


So beautiful. She watched the acorn float along on the rippling water, amidst the shimmering ribbons of red and orange sunlight. It moved slowly, as though the river had turned to honey, cooling with the approaching evening. Darellin watched her quietly from the cover of the glade. How long had it been since he had come to this valley? The mountains, dim blue lines against the tree-studded horizon, reminded him of the time, a thousand years ago, when he thought he’d come here to retire and die in peace. If only I’d known…

“Do you think the Council will be so easy to convince?” Lord Nivellin asked. Only the faintest hint of the dusk snuck through the crack of the door. The other two conspirators were mere outlines of black against the brick wall. Nivellin didn’t know who they were, but one of them, a senator named Markus, knew who both his visitors were. They don’t even see how easily I dangle the puppet strings above them. Fools. They won’t know until it’s too late. Lucellus, who had been quiet for most of the meeting, spoke up. “The Bell of Last Light will toll soon. That will be the signal. We will fight. We will keep the Council safe.” And neither of you will realize I have betrayed you until it is too late. Oh, please, Laura, get out before it’s too late. Save yourself, and our daughter.

The garden was in full bloom, but red and purple and yellow blossoms cowered before the wall of shadow. Night time came quickly, the sun sinking in a golden blur behind Hollin’s Heights. The bell tolled, as it did every night, and Bar T’Dell listened, closing his eyes. I have been here since the beginning of time, and will remain until time is no more. No matter what. He didn’t hear the horses whinnying, nor the swords swishing as the attackers drew them from their scabbards, but Corellin did. He drew his own sword, but not in time to stop the attack. Brandel, his companion, roared with rage as he watched his brother-in-arms fall headless to the ground. He took down the attacker, then felt the bite of steel from behind. Oh.

In their paddle boat, suspended in the middle of the river as they were, the crimson sunset made the water look like blood. Anella did not like being away from shore, but her nanny had insisted. “But it’s bedtime,” she’d protested. “I want a story before daddy comes home.” Anella did not like this night one bit. Not only was her mother gone, but she’d been forced to put on the smelly duster made of oilcloth – the one that stunk like grandpa. Rowen watched her charge, worry wreaking havoc within, like a fist around her heart. “We must keep rowing. Quickly.” She looked at the water, wondering how much of it was the effect of the sun, how much the blood of those who stood and fought. The Garden of Eternity may fall, but we will be remembered before it does. She looked at Anella, into her big innocent eyes. I will make sure the queen is safe. I will be sure her reign begins anew, that the holy bloodline continues.

The Bell stopped. Someone screamed, another man shouted. Everywhere, the sounds of battle. Laura watched the river, flowing so slow. The pinecone was gone, but still she watched it. When she turned her head, she saw the first body, filled with holes, drifting in the current. Hurry Rowan. Oh, please hurry. She whistled sharply, and her fighters slipped from the bushes. Thirty women who would show all the men the proper way to wield a blade. “You know who to kill. There cannot be a single one of them left, or this attack will have been for naught.”

The assassin crept across the lawn, his scimitar drawn, but the monk did not rise from his knees. There was nothing dangerous about him. Why had the prince made him take such precautions? This would be easy, one swing, and the man would be dead. The most important being in the world, gone, and the New Empire would begin. He raised his blade.

“Do what you must, but know that your actions will come back to you.” Bar T’Dellin spoke calmly, keeping his eyes closed. He knew from the moment he’d heard the bells toll so fiercely that something was not right. He knew it was time to pray. Your life will continue no matter what. No matter what.

Mavin swung his scimitar, watched with satisfaction as his work was completed. Blood sprayed his arms, as it always did, but that wasn’t the part he hated about this job tonight. As the Holy One’s head fell on the ground, he saw the eyes staring up at him, still blinking, and he couldn’t banish the man’s last words. Your actions will come back to you… He turned and fled.

Bar T’Dellin watched the hunch-back run away, ignoring the pain that throbbed in his head, watching the world evaporate into a blur of red and white and yellow, like a thousand flower buds, and a thousand flames. I cannot die… Anella, no…I cannot…

“Is that a body? Is he dead?” Anella stopped rowing, but Rowan urged her on. “Why are there dead people? No one fights here!”

“Hurry. We need to get out.”

“Where’s grandpa? Where’s mother? We can’t leave them.”

There’re already dead. “Hurry. Row faster.”



Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming May 6st.

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A SciFi Lover Looks at Defiance

Defiance is the new SciFi Channel series that debuts tonight at 9 pm Eastern. Being a scifi fan, I always check out the new series, so I watched the preview special last week. I LOVE new worlds and seeing how their creators build them but this world looks REALLY complicated. I understand that at least two foreign languages were invented (hope they don’t speak them during the show). There are two humanoid races which I could live with but seven Votan races. Perhaps a little too complicated, since they all have different cultures. Few writers would introduce so many cultures/characters into a story. I hope that the production folks focus on the story rather than become too caught up in the background. Here’s a summary from various sources to keep track of story and cast of races (sorry it’s so long):


Basically, in 2013 Earth is visited by a fleet of Votan ships loaded with millions of sleepers who are seeking a new home after their own star system is destroyed in a collision of its binary star system. When the fleet arrives, however, the extraterrestrials  discover that the Earth is already occupied by some Earthlings who are both hostile and suspicious.

A few of the Votans were allowed to settle on Earth to negotiate the settlement of the sleepers but the talks dragged on for a decade.  In 2023,  however, the Votan ambassador to the UN was assassinated, provoking a seven-year-long war between the humans and Votans. In 2030, the Ark fleet exploded killing millions of Votans and raining destruction and releasing the terraforming technology haphazardly on the Earth. The world’s biosphere and geology is radically altered and the survivors are faced with dangerous mutations and new species, including hellbugs (a vicious Votan bug that produces motor fuel) and biomen (fabricated humanoids engineered to serve as soldiers during the war). Pieces of the Ark continue to strike the Earth periodically, further endangering the survivors—human and Votan—who band together in an uneasy truce for survival.

The series is set in the year 2046 when Joshua Nolan returns to St. Louis, now called Defiance, and becomes the Chief Lawkeeper. His job is to maintain the truce between the humans and the five races of the Votanis Collective (excluding the Gulanee and the Volge). Even within the races of the Votans, however, there’s dissension between those who lived under the old social systems of the Votan homeworlds and those who are native to the new Earth.

The Castithans (an arrogant partriarchal race that resembles human albinos that is based on a caste system with strong religious beliefs), Indogenes (a white and hairless race with scales who are scientific and technical geniuses), and Irathients ( a human-like race with bronze skin with white mark who are aggressive and tribal but spiritual) were the most politically powerful races in their home star system. The Irathients, Liberata, and Sensoth lived amicably on the same world. The Indogenes who are from the same planet as the Castithans are a tolerant and rational race that tries to get along with everyone. The Castithans, a strict hierarchy, and Irathients, who value individualism and independence, hate each other. The Liberata are a servant race who is content to serve anyone.


The Voltan Races & How The Survivors were Selected  

Each race decided who would be among the very few who boarded the ship. The Castithans sent their highest caste members though a few low-caste members managed to get on the fleet. Datak Tar, a Defiance leader is low caste, though his wife, Stahma Tarr is higher caste and pushed him him to acquire more power. The Indogenes chose their best and brightest. The Irathients went through a series of wars resulting with the strongest and fittest allowed on board. The Liberata, shorter and more heavily built than humans, became a servant culture, particularly of the Castithans, after their society imploded on their homeworld. The arboreal and long-lived Sensoth who resemble humanoid orangutans are strong, patient, and slow to act. They also have a history of service to the Castithans. The Gulanee are a mysterious energy-based race with only a few survivors who are confined to protective suits. The Volge are a cyber-race covered in armor with internal weapons who live underground and are hostile to everyone. No one knows how they got on board the ship.

So there’s the cast of characters. I’ll watch the two hour premiere, since Being Human is off until 2014 and Lost Girl won’t be on until the following week . Let me know what you think of Defiance.  Rita Bay

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Dani’s World – Ever Expanding

From the time I discovered romance novels, I wanted to write and publish them. It took twenty-five years of doing the first to realize the second half of that dream. Through those years, the publishing world did a lot of shrinking. Editors only wanted the tried and true. I wrote to market and got rejected a lot. Eventually I said goodbye to the thought of making money and wrote for my own pleasure.

Which is how The Healer came about. It’s not like anything else I’ve written. But you could say that about a lot of my stories. In those years of struggle I wrote a number of short contemporaries (which have turned into contracts with Harlequin Mills & Boon in London.) I have an erotic romance (ditto), a romantic comedy (self-published), a couple of long contemporaries (still homeless), an intrigue (terrible), and a script for an animated feature, written with my children’s help (call us, Dreamworks.)

In short, I’m all over the map. My imagination knows no bounds. The only thing I firmly demand from myself is that my book have a love story at the heart and a happily ever after. It’s who I am; it’s what I do.Image

I guess my primary goal when I write is to escape the trappings of this world—you know, the one with laundry and day jobs and cars that break down. Hopefully I bring that to readers as well. Are you an explorer with your reading tastes? Or a homebody who sticks to what you know and love?

Learn a little more about me and the books I write by joining me as I’m interviewed at  Beyond The Book Spotlight with Sasha, Evie & Sara at Blog Talk Radio tomorrow (April 13th, 2013) at 8pm PDT.


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Why Choosing your Setting is Important

For me, science-fiction and fantasy is about more then location – and don’t get me wrong, I prefer some settings more then others when I stroll the fantasy section of the book store – but for me, it’s important to pick a setting that complements your story, and not just pick it because it seems like a neat place for your story to take place.

Usually, when I’m dreaming up a novel, I’m starting of either a conflict or a theme I’d like to explore. I might have a generic idea for a setting, but I usually start to develop the characters next – afterall, I could tell the same basic plot with very different characters, and I’d have a very different story, and setting is something that generally develops over time. For me, setting is more then a bunch of rocks or the shape of a castle – setting is the world, the culture, the mindset that my story takes place in.

For Tower of Obsidian, I was a little over half-way through the first draft of the novel when I decided to stick it into our history – I easily could have set the story in an alternate world and had a lot less research on my part. I was always cautious to attempt historical fiction – I had stuck a fantasy story in our future – I had written alternative, original worlds, but I was always nervous about sticking it in our world, with rules that are absolute and when it all boils down to it, making executive decisions because sometimes, there was no answer or the answer was too hard to translate (the term Duke, for example, was technically not 100% accurate, but I wanted to get the idea of someone less then a King, but a more powerful noble, ruling land. Because none of my central characters were nobility, I knew it was easier to break the titles up). But the decision to stick it in the 10th century came from the story’s theme. I based the story around Celtic and Norse mythological tragedy. Now, we have records of the Celts and the Nords, we know about how they lived and where they went but we have a very Christianized record of their mythology. A thing to remember about historical records is that documents could be lost, so sometimes our only records are of historians making reference to documents that are now lost to us. Most of our classic Latin literature documentation was preserved by Christian Monks during the dark ages, so they mostly preserved the things that they found had what is referred to as Pagan Virtue. Now, there’s more to it then that, but I was interested in the retellings of the story from a non-Christian source to a Christianized source.

I was also highly interested in how we do remakes of TV shows and movies, but that’s a topic for another day.

With the different interpretations of what happened to characters such as Deidre and Grainne, I was able to retell the story within that tradition – but moreover, I was reinforcing the idea of a culture where the old paganism was dying away. I’m a Christian and a fan of C.S. Lewis, and Iet’s say that I used his idea of the idea of a True Myth in the novel. Serving the story, it worked in a way that I think was both utilizing my ideology but still hopefully enjoyable to a secular audience. In other stories, I concern myself over what suits the story and what sort of world is necessary. I will add that many readers are very protective of history – that they might not accept you loosely adapting the world without the header of ‘alternative history’ so tread carefully. Most people probably agree that fiction based on even historical events but acknowledged to be a work of fiction, would have to be considered a lose adaptation, rather than alternative history, but that is a debate for another time.

To sum, the importance of choosing your setting is imperative for the type of story you tell. Consider how a culture came to be, and any natural forces that would shape that culture. You can easily explore a theme if you create a culture or a world that would be ideal for discussion of it – you can develop the world first and figure out what sort of stories would take place in that world, or develop characters and think about what sort of world they would inhabit, but don’t overlook setting as another type of character to build and develop.

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