Monthly Archives: April 2013

Talespin Tuesday: Writing Drill #2 – The Bounds of Planning

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.

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What is a writer not allowed to do? Some writers would like to tell you they can do whatever they want, but how come it is that so many are careful to capture their story just right? You can plan all you want, but the tale has a mind of it’s own. For twenty minutes today, I’ll tell a story without a plan – a story that has a mind of it’s own from the first sentence – to prove a point: no matter what you set out to write, the story has a way of working out, so long as you know how to run after it.

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“I’m going to the moon!” she demanded.

“That’s impossible,” Jonathan replied. He always stood so tall, it seemed his legs were made of trees. It let him stare down at his sister with that pointy nose of his. “Do your homework.”

“Fine,” Laura said. As soon as the door closed, though, she grinned and put her pencil away.

“Are you ready?” came the whisper. Laura jumped up from her desk, hurried to the closet door.

Ryan and Celia wore their goggles. Raymond had the flashlight turned on, pointing down the long tunnel. They must have been in there all day. “Flight’s at midnight. We have to hurry, or we’ll miss it.”

Laura could barely keep up. She ended up running, trying to stay close enough to Raymond’s flashlight so that she didn’t trip on the uneven gravel. When they emerged into the night, it was cold, like winter, even though it was the middle of July. “Where are we?” Laura asked.

“Somewhere near the north pole. Not sure.” Ryan unfolded a map, pored over it under Raymond’s flashlight. His thumb went over something like a circuit chip. “They will be here. Any minute now.”

“How are we getting to the moon?” Laura asked. She looked up at the sky, but couldn’t see a thing. It was all black, just like the trees surrounding them. On second thought, it was so dark she couldn’t be sure they were trees. No. They’re too tall…

“What is this place?” Laura looked up at those pillars, so tall, they had no end in sight. “I thought we were going in a space ship. I thought we were going to outer space to explore. You told me you built a space ship.”

Ryan quirked a grin. “Not space. Somewhere better, far better. I’ve had this plan for a while, but didn’t want to say too much. People can’t know.”

Laura looked back at the shadow of the tunnel from which they had come. Jonathan waited in their bungalow. Soon, he’d be by to check on her, and he’d come looking. There was no time to hesitate. “Let’s go – wherever that is.”

“Good.” Celia came and took Laura’s hand, leading her with the other boys toward the cover of the towering pillars. They didn’t go far before Raymond stopped them again.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know. This isn’t what was supposed to happen.” For once, Ryan didn’t smirk. He looked confused as he took the flashlight from Raymond, held it high, stepped forward cautiously. “Watch out!”

Laura stopped just in time. The flashlight shone on the edge of the ground, revealing a canyon. Warm air blew up, like heat through a vent. When she squinted, Laura saw the small orb, far below, glowing like a red sun, like hot magma in a pit. “I don’t want to go down there. You’re all crazy.”

But Ryan already stepped over the edge of the pit. His foot fell on some sort of translucent bridge, making it shine red and blue and green when he pressed down with all his weight. “This is the gateway. It’s not what I thought, but it will take us where we need to go.”

The others followed him, leaving Laura alone, staring down into the strange world below. This wasn’t the moon, it wasn’t even outer space. Whatever this place was, she didn’t know if she’d ever come back. But then she thought of Jonathan, knocking at her door, looking down at her with his big pointy nose, and it was enough to push her to take the first step. Once she began to walk, the other steps were easier.

She didn’t speak until they reached the bottom. Rather than reaching the glowing sun, the bridge met a ground of white diamond and green, jagged stones. The dim, red light glowed through it, tracing out faint lines in the sky. Ahead of them, the stone reared up into an uneven arch or blue and gray, opening into a dimly lit room. That was where Ryan led them. Only when she stood before it did Laura realize that it wasn’t a room at all.

“What is it?”

“Another world,” Ryan said. “No one’s ever discovered it before. It’s ours. My grandpa told me about it, before he died, said that now is the time. He said…I…I have no choice.”

Intrigued, Laura looked through, into the vast canvas before her. She felt like someone standing before a map, except every detail felt twice as real…like she could reach out and touch it…

“Careful!” Celia warned. “That’s how you travel. We need to stay together, at least for now, until we understand how everything works. Ryan’s explained everything to us, what we’d find when we get here. We have to go to the Heart first, that’s the highest mountain – there, you see?”

Celia pointed to a mountain in the middle of the world, one that stood so high it must have been twenty thousand feet. It poked up like a dagger. She looked around at the other parts – the seas, some of them green, some of them blue – the exotic islands and plains. One place looked like a floating continent, with domes so large they looked like Christmas baubles. She wanted to go, to explore, even if it meant she never came back.

“What is this place called?” she asked.

“Earth,” Ryan said. “It’s my home, or at least, it was, before my people destroyed themselves and fled to this world. Soon, though, we’ll have it back again. And you’re all going to help me. All of you. Are you ready?”

out_of_the_darkness_300sigRita

Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming May 1st.

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Introductions…

By Audra Middleton

I’m thrilled to be a part of the Worlds of the Imagination team of fantasy writers. I’ll be posting here at least once a month with fantasy discussion and tidbits. Since this is my first post, today I thought I would introduce myself.

My love of fantasy began as a child, with the Children of Green Knowe series by Lucy M. Boston. Each book offered new, unique magical adventures including a haunted house, an escaped gorilla, and an ant-size adventure in the garden. After I completed that series, I went to Tolkien, Lloyd Alexander, Ursula Le Guin, and Piers Anthony.

I admit my interest in fantasy began to wane as an adult; to me, the newer books in the genre tended to focus more on their complex world-building than the characters. Remember 90s fantasy? When everybody and their sword had two or three names? Unpronounceable names, like Tüfurluikluik – known in the north as Shamænar, who carried the sword Estenbäal, (or Smaiguykêl in the old language). I did not have enough brain cells to keep all of that straight. And honestly, if I have to read a fifty page prologue of the history of their world before I ever get to their plot and characters, what follows had better be Shakespeare, or college credit.

Then I read The Gift, by Patrick O’Leary. It was a little dark, with depth, very unique, but not tedious. Inspiring. Well, kind of. I was so impressed by O’Leary’s work, I set my little story of a transforming girl and a mind-reading warrior aside because I figured I could never write anything as well as he did.

Thankfully, at the encouragement of friends, I did eventually write my novel. I focused on my characters and their journey, and built my imaginary world of Anthelion around them. My goal was to write a story with characters the reader cares about, who live in a world worth escaping to. I hope you’ll give Watcher a read and let me know if I succeeded!

For more about me & my projects, visit my website

http://audramiddleton.weebly/com, or Facebook page www.facebook.com/AudraMiddletonAuthor.

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Hail to the King?

Hello – my name is L.T., and I’ll be your Wednesday’s poster for the next few weeks. I’m going to be focusing primarily on things to consider while building a fantasy world, so if there’s a topic you’d like me to discuss, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!

Hail to the King? What other systems of governance have we got to choose from?

Know what bugs me? That when most people think of fantasy, most people think of generic old England. Now, kings were common throughout history – but let’s look at systems of governance and we’ll see how to make your fantasy story a little bit more rounded. I can’t get into everything (anarchy, oligarchy) but I might touch on those subjects in a subsequent post.

What is Government?

For the sake of this post, we’re talking about a governing body that either controls or regulates a population of people – this can be an area or a people spread throughout several countries. Remember that various forms can coexist at once: a king might control a territory, a tribe might move over his border undetected, and the king might be heavily influenced by the priests, which could be localized or international. Also, understand that we are talking about governments for world-building purposes.

The easiest way for you to figure out what form works best for you is to study history and learn what various offices meant – some titles are roughly interchangeable for the culture (for example, a Nordic Jarl is synonymous with Chieftain) and you are entitled to take some liberties as this pertains to fantasy fiction, however keep in mind that your readers will become more easily confused as you take liberties (having a prince as a ruler is perfectly justifiable; most readers however know that Kings/Sultans/Emperors are the usual rulers and will wonder why the ruler isn’t a king). If you want to write about an empire – study several! Learn about the Ottoman, Roman, and Chinese Empires, and consider how they ruled, what laws of succession were, and how they managed several territories that had physical and cultural barriers.

Also for the sake of this article, we won’t be going into the ideology of puppet or shadow government. A Puppet-King, for example, would be placed on the throne of a territory by an outside body to control it; basically, the king rules by the consent of another governing body; a shadow government would be the unspoken entity that rules behind the scenes.

Various types of economic styles can also be employed within regimes – consider the use of communism, socialism, totalitarianism, and capitalism. You are not limited to real-world examples for your fiction, but you can use them as a stepping stone for consideration. While you’re at it, consider societal notions of adulthood, personhood, rights, and law. You are limited only by your imagination, but remember, that readers bring baggage with them when they read, so it’s usually a good idea to start with a framework they’re familiar with then expand it.

Tribes and Chieftains

Now, a tribe can consist technically of more then a hundred people – they can be nomads or stationary, and tribes can be of more then one group of people physically, but come together as one people. The Chief is typically the strongest warrior who has the most support – perhaps it was really his father’s father who was strong and the current guy has a lot of support, but he’s still the one in charge. Not all cultures have a might-makes-right attitude, but generally speaking, we associate chiefs as being the most powerful individual in that community.

Now, it’s all well and good to have the strongest guy in charge, but he might surround himself with powerful allies. This is what for the sake of this article I will call a council, which might consists of power members of that society or representatives. The chief makes the decisions, but he might be influenced by outside sources – he might be the physical strongest or command the most resources, but he can’t compete with three disagreeing chieftains.

Enter Alliances

Now, let us suppose we have two tribes who dislike each other, but they come across a third tribe and the first two decide to band together to beat up on the third – they now have to decide if they’re going to have two leaders or really be one if they go to war. This is where arranged marriages for high-born really come into play – for example, let’s assume that we have two chiefs who want to go to war against a common enemy – but they don’t trust the other chief 100% – they might agree to a marriage on amiable terms (our people will become one!) or, basically a swap of hostages (your kid marries my kid, and they come live with my people while we go to war; we’ll send the appropriate person your way). This is probably where the whole ‘rescue the princess’ mentality probably came from – if a woman was the sole heir to an otherwise destroyed house, her husband would essentially get to claim all her inheritance as his own, depending on the culture.

This is something I utilized heavily in Tower of Obsidian – the plot is set into motion when the duke orders one of his men-at-arms to marry his newly widowed adult daughter. He has younger children with a subsequent wife, the catch is his oldest son has down’s syndrome, another daughter, and a son of about 2 years of age. He suffers from epilepsy, which isn’t well-understood for its time. His concern was that if he were to die, there would be numerous people who would want his position of power – that if his older son was unfit to rule, that his younger one would be heavily influenced through regency and possibly wouldn’t make it to an age of autonomous rule. The marriage-alliance was to enforce that, that the duchy was secured – that if the younger son didn’t make it to the throne, the adult daughter would hopefully beget a male heir accordingly and she’d have the protection of the family her father appointed her. It gave power to the house of the duke’s choice to enforce rules of regency – thus ensuring proper succession. The novel hints that all parties wanted the youngest son of the duke to succeed him, but small children as leaders can be heavily influenced.

Basic Kingdoms

I like to look at kings like rulers of small cities and territories first, (I nickname them Hill Kings) but their territory might expand – a small village or farm might be in a disputed area that might change hands back and forth. As the ruler of that one area gets more territory that is allied to him, he becomes a more powerful player – why? Because more people to join his army if attacked, more taxes to make cities, and those territories might specialize in different raw resources. Now, if your kingdom starts getting big for one person to run, then it’s important that he allots duty – he can have officials running aspects of towns for him, but he might have territories where the local ruler doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with him.

Consider historical Ireland during the Viking Era – there were essentially a lot of territories ruled by kings, but they all (more or less) answered to one High King. As you looked at individual territories, you would have a break down in territory – a King might appoint a lesser noble as say, a governor of a city or territory, who answers to him.

This is where titles start to matter for your nobility – now, you all probably have an idea what a knight is, but how many of us know the different between a Count and a Marquis? The Marquis ranks higher, but usually because his land would be protecting a border – his was a military designation.

Another note I’ll make here is the use of anglicized versions of titles – I’ll be the first one to admit that in Tower of Obsidian, I probably should have been using a different title than duke, but because I was writing for a primarily English audience, the concept of having lesser kings wouldn’t be easy to accept and, as none of my main characters were high nobility, it was easiest to establish that Mahon wasn’t as powerful as some of his peerage. My main advice here, is to be consistent in whatever methodology you utilize in your novels.

Empires

In a nutshell, an Empire is where a central country claims control over territories that have some sort of noted variation from the original territory – this could be ethnic, religious, lingual – be creative! Usually when we think of Empires, we think of one kingdom conquering another established territory. Usually, that conquered nation is still allowed to exist under its old title somewhat. The one who is in charge of this Empire, naturally, is called the Emperor or Empress. The only living example of a contemporary title-bearing Emperor would be the Japanese Emperor. One could argue that the Pope is ruler of the Catholic Empire.

An Empire in some senses could be an international body that all adhere to a given governing body. So now you’re probably thinking to yourself – but, what about your Irish example where you had numerous Kings all submitting to a High King? Isn’t that like an Empire? In a way, yes it would be – but for the Irish example, it was in a relatively small geographic area and they were considered more or less to be of one people (despite the Norse occupations in say, Dublin and Watergate…) but as you can see, the idea of an Empire is now very subjective as to who defines what as a citizen of one nation or another.

Succession

Typically, a successor is the oldest male, usually a son or a brother of the King, is thought to rule by divine right in many instances – however, this wasn’t always the case. Sometimes in Chinese history, the Emperor named his heir by placing his name on a scroll and this was only revealed when he died – if he had numerous potential heirs by many mothers, it would do none of them any good to have their father whacked off and have their brother assume the office. Considering any child of the emperor was entitled to the throne, a commoner, who would be a concubine, could be elevated to the Emperor’s mother and her title would be effectively Dowager Empress, and she would have to be treated with respect by the Emperor’s wife, who was a high-born princess.

Father-to-oldest-son succession is probably your easiest method of succession, or a succession where the next-most-powerful individual succeeds if bloodline is not considered. There are cultures that have female inheritance, or, if the heir had little support or was unpopular, other potential claimants to the throne would arise. Wars have been fought over succession. Your character could be the grandson of the King through his mother, and he has an older male cousin who thinks he’s more entitled to the throne. Think back to this tribal alliance – if this cousin has the church backing him and a marriage alliance that gives him a powerful army, this could spell trouble for the rightful heir.

Theocracy, Divine Right

I won’t go into this too much – there are cultures to this day that are effective theocracies, however the ruler is not typically a priest to this day, instead they are a separate body who influences the ruler. This was not always the case; consider that that at the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church had their own armies and could try citizens of various countries in Rome for crimes against the church. For a variety of reasons, King Henry VIII took control, and became head of the Church of England, and effectively took the power Rome had over his citizens for himself.

Divine right to rule was usually a theocratic notion of either an individual being elevated to godhood to assume a position of power (Ceaser, Pharoah) or that it was by the will of God or the gods that the individual be born to rule, and it was wrong to overthrow even a tyrant. This is often the case where you have a ‘just’ noble continuing to serve a corrupt king – he knows the king is evil, but he considers it wrong to act against the authority who put him on the throne.

Self-Rule: Republic vs. Democracy

 Now, unless you’re heavy into politics, you’re probably thinking they’re one and the same, and you’re close. Democracy is considered to be born in Greece, but I think that we had vestiges of democracy in tribal settings – basically, you’d have a council of people, but even if all they did was speak their mind to the chief who had ultimate say, I think most chiefs would probably want to understand what most of his powerful allies had to say – if only 2/10 of his supporters wanted to go to war, the chief would probably decide not to go unless he’s able to convince them otherwise.

A democracy means ‘every man has a say’ – this is in smaller settings, but when there grows to be a lot of people, you suddenly can’t have everyone having their say – there’s too many people. The idea of electing officials into positions to speak for you is, essentially, a republic. Don’t get confused with the idea of American Politics of Democrats vs. Republicans – that’s ideology and I’m trying to avoid that in this post. So if you’re working on a small scale, a democracy might be fine. If you want to have a more complicated form of politics – say, a country ruled by individuals voted into power, you’re going with a republic.

Now, you can still be creative here – you can have majority rules, or elect individuals to seats in a legislative body, and the party that gets the most seats forms the government. You can only let certain people vote and have rights. You are limited by your imagination – early democracies and republics were not all-inclusive, so keep in mind when you’re developing your early republics.

President vs. Prime Ministers

In a nutshell, a president is the leader of an organization. That’s why you can be school president, and it’s not the same thing as president of a country. A Prime Minister is usually the head of a cabinet, which is usually assembled by a ruling party. Now, a cabinet can be what you’d like. You can have a minister of education, finance, war, whatever your culture would consider important. Most countries have a single unified leader, but some, like Switzerland, do not, instead having the position split into numerous ones. For me, president sounds very modern, so I would probably opt for minister or another invented title.

Smaller scale: Mayors, Provinces, Etc.

Now that you’ve established the big picture, think about your local one – you can have a kingdom, your character lives in a town ruled by a duke and his town is ruled by a governor for that duke. The term mayor is usually the one for the leader or person in charge of an individual town or city, but you can use titles in accordance to what your setting demands.

Consider how laws work in various territories – if they would be enforced on a federal, territorial, or municipal level, and who makes those laws. You can have a country that has different laws in different territories, and it would be effectively be like having different bi-laws in different towns.

So, that’s basically it, without going into military coups and banana republics, as you can see, once you have a loose framework, there’s a lot of room for you to interpret, corrupt, and develop a variety of different ways for your kings not only to rule, but interact with other country’s leaders – giving you the freedom to have your royals to go out and have adventure and the framework for the country to keep running itself while he’s busy. There is technically more to this, but this blog post is getting rather long.

I’m going to close with few links for you to look up.

The Magna Carta

Plutocracy

Mercantile System

Mandate of Heaven

Constitutional Monarchy 

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Talespin Tuesday: Writing Drill #1 – A Solar’s Tale

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.

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How far can you push POV? What is POV, for that matter? When we write stories, or when we read them, we enter in by getting a hold of something, be it a character or a fly on the wall. But what about the room itself? What about something abstract? Does a story have to be told through a person to be relatable? Let’s see…

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The sidebar clattered every time a servant set the fat, silver goblet on it. Slowly, a red stain expanded across the wall. A mouse started to chew a hole through the plaster, but every time the fat man shouted, other men appeared with knives and the wall grew redder. One night, when the world shook and boomed, and light flashed in through the narrow panes of glass, the servant spilled the goblet on his way to serve the fat man, and his head went through the wall shortly afterward. The fat man shouted, and as soon as the sun shone bright, three short carpenter women boarded up the twin windows, then replaced the wall with bricks. “Leave an alcove. I may need to escape!” the man shouted from his bed, and so they did. They hung a tapestry over it; every time his men appeared with their knives, they piled the dead in the room. One night, the world shook again, a thousand pattering little feet stamped overhead, and three men came through the alcove. Puddles trailed them, sinking between the stones, but they crept quietly. The fat man screamed, but none of his men came.

Twenty spiders came and spun their webs. Big fat flies with shiny green bodies laid their eggs. The fat man’s leg stuck out from the bottom of the tapestry. No one came into the room. Other things came in, though. Vines broke through the stone, a clan of ferns grew between the floor’s cracks; an oak sapling reared it’s head, then spread upward, pushing eager fingers through the ceiling. The ground was white, then it was green, then brown. One time, when it was scattered with a bed of russet leaves, a stone fell from the ceiling and crushed a pile of skulls. A weasel ran for cover, and a raven watched from the branches overhead.

Dirt piled up in the alcove, and more stones fell as the oak forced the ceiling apart. Finally, one sunny morning, a young girl and an older woman came into the room. The girl looked up at the oak, then at the brick wall – what remained of it. She looked confused when she came and stood at the pile of dirt where the bones once had been. “Mother, what was this place?”

The older woman put a hand on each one of her shoulders, steering her away from the wall, looking at it with suspicion. “A place that should be forgotten. Come, we have a long way to go before sunset. There is little time to be troubled by places that exist no more.”

out_of_the_darkness_300sigRita

Want to read more by Graeme? Be sure to check out The Pact, coming this June.

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World Building, Vampires, The Aegis, and Release Day

the aegis ecoverThe Aegis, my vampire paranormal will be released today by Champagne Books. Since the villains are common – VAMPIRES – world building involved balancing the vampire villains with a group of heroes who hunt them. Both exist in the mundane world as we know it, but are governed by certain rules – like invitations to enter someone’s home. Everyone has his or her own ideas about vampires. Even about whether vampires are evil or not. I mean, really, somebody sucking your blood out of your living body doesn’t make for good friends.

My Light Warriors, all of them gorgeous and practically immortal, battle the evil vampires, who are not-so-gorgeous and smell like road kill. Of course, it’s a romance, so the heroine is a beauty who has no idea about her heritage as a vampire hunter, especially one who occasionally sprouts fangs herself. Melinda is surrounded by folks who know what’s going on with her as she prepares to take her place at her lifemate’s side, except, of course, Melinda herself. The humor of her situation is balanced by the danger that surrounds her and the Light Warrior who has pledged to protect her until she can become his Shield Bearer.

Check out the cover by Petra and blurb for The Aegis. Click the cover or HERE to read an excerpt or buy.

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Melinda Kildare, antiquarian and rare book dealer extraordinaire, returns to her shop after an estate sale with a massive, sealed barrel. Too late, she discovers that the Aegis medallion that traps her head-first in the bottom of the barrel is the bait used by a family of vampires to capture and enslave women of power.

Light Warrior Damian Sinclair who has battled the Dark Ones for centuries answers Melinda’s call—the Call of a lifemate. While protecting her from the Dark Ones who pursue her relentlessly, he introduces her to passion, love, and her heritage as a Shield Bearer of the Light.

Will they find happiness as they unite to fight the Dark Ones or fall victims to the Dark forces ranged against them?

out_of_the_darkness_300siRita






“Celebrating Romance Across the Ages”
ritabay.com with Rita Bay’s Blog

“The Aegis” Champagne Books, April, 2013
“Her Teddy Bare” Champagne’s Carnal Passions, May, 2013
“Search & Rescue” Secret Cravings, July, 2013
“Finding Eve” Champagne Books, September, 2013
“Into the Lyons’ Den” Champagne Books, 2012
“His Obsession” Siren BookStrand, 2012
“His Desire” Siren BookStrand, 2012

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