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Category: Structures of Earth

Every story needs its own world

Posted in Artwork, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Every story needs its own world and, if you're writing fantasy or scifi, that world has to be built.

I started Structures of Earth not quite two years ago, then put it on pause to write the Chained Adept series first (see background). At the time, I had a vivid image of the river town where the action was happening — the capital city for the country in which the story is set, rather the way London functions for England.

But where was that country, and what place in what world did it occupy?

One thing I learned from The Chained Adept — it's fun (and not too hard) to build a world map for a series and much better to do it at the start rather than to try and retrofit one after most of the story is done. That way, the “real world” constraints can ground the story and drive some of the plot logistics issues.

The world of The Affinities of Magic is a new world, and it needs its own maps. I took Fractal Terrains 3 out for a spin last night and started seeding the world settings until I found one I liked.

The world of The Affinities of Magic

Here's what that globe looks like if you unroll it, with a pointer showing where my temperate northern hemisphere initial city is located. (I haven't designated any national/imperial boundaries yet.)

One thing is already clear — there will be large differences between the cultures on the inner sea and those with access by water to the rest of the world. That inner sea may be 4200 miles wide, but it's still a restricted body of water, warm equatorial water, and the ecosystem in and around it will be unique.

See? That's something I didn't know before I generated this map. Hadn't even thought about it.

Read More Every story needs its own world

Restarting a series

Posted in Characters, Fantasy, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Book Cover - Structures of Earth, from The Affinities of Magic seriesI was about a quarter of the way into Structures of Earth when I put it aside in late 2015 to write a different series: the four books of The Chained Adept, the 4th and final book of which was just released.

Why would I do that, interrupt a series?

Well, there were several issues…

Series longevity

I intend for The Affinities of Magic to be a longish series, the way a detective series is. The characters will grow over time and their role in their world will evolve, but the focus will be almost exclusively on each individual story rather than an overall series arc. There are long-term issues that drive some of the characters, and those will show progress (or setbacks) across the books, but not an integral sort of series arc, the sort you're accustomed to in a trilogy, say, where you must “destroy the ring!” or achieve whatever goal you started with.

Some detective series work this way (the ones that don't just reset the characters with each new entry). Each book has a problem to solve that is important to the characters, but in the background the hero is getting older and having problems with his marriage, and an old flame shows up and then goes away again, and he gets wiser (or not) about how to handle certain situations, and so forth.

In The Chained Adept and The Hounds of Annwn series, there's an overall story arc to the entire series, though each book is a complete story of its own. For the former, that arc is probably completed, but for the latter — who knows? Might get longer. I have ideas…

World building to last

Creating a series like that meant I had to approach world building and character building (especially teams) for the long haul. Longer than four books, anyway.

I put some serious work into the technology of magic underpinning the “rules” by which the guilds (and others) operate, since the fundamental premise of the series is that they follow someone who is the “young Tom Edison” of magic — someone who figures out why the rules work the way they do. The whole series background is set in the resulting industrial revolution caused by these discoveries, with our hero at the center of it. I've always enjoyed technology of magic issues — perhaps that's a reflection of my fondness for hard science fiction.

All that is very interesting, but you can't tell stories about concepts. Stories are about people.

Read More Restarting a series

It’s been a while…

Posted in Research, Structures of Earth, The Affinities of Magic, The Chained Adept, The Chained Adept, and The Visitor

TimeFliesMy, how time flies.

I've spent the last few months conducting a number of experiments and thought I'd mention them here.

Look for a summary of 2014 and plans for 2015 in separate posts.

Finally, I've decided to add progress meters (on the right) for short stories still in the submission process. When finally published by Perkunas Press, they will have full pages here and on the Perkunas Press website.

Social Media

I conducted a blitz for four months aimed at improving my Facebook and Twitter audience. Rather than advertising my books (bad form) except for the occasional sale, I focused on providing interesting content covering a wide array of topics. In other words, I posted about the things I like — archaeology, landscape, language, surrealism, and dozens of other subjects.

My Facebook friends said, “hey, neat!” and hardly grew at all. Twitter, on the other hand, where I had little presence, grew to hundreds of followers. That was gratifying, but the advice to “make friends and have conversations” still eludes me. I've found new people to follow, but conversations don't seem to make sense in that medium.

I also dabbled in Pinterest and lined up Tumblr and Instagram to explore, but I've eased up on this for now. When my next book is published, I'll do announcements on Twitter and Facebook, and see if I can detect any impact, especially from Twitter. If not, then this is not a great use of my time, and I should ratchet back to a more normal level (yet to be determined).

This blog has suffered as a consequence. I expect to be posting more regularly, and with a greater focus on actual news rather than just amusements and general items of interest.

Workshops & Lectures

I've become a real devotee of Dean Wesley Smith‘s workshops and lectures. His somewhat acerbic and dismissive manner sometimes requires accommodation, but he and his wife Kristine Rusch have an invaluable perspective on the publishing industry and the important issues for long-term fiction writers. It's always difficult to find a mentor whose sensibility accords with your own, and these two do it for me, covering both craft and business concerns.
Read More It's been a while…

Breaking the logjam

Posted in Characters, Setting, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

LogjamMen
Sometimes I'm asked, “How do you come up with these invented worlds so you can write about them?”

I don't think that's the right question. I think the real question should be, “How do you make these invented worlds seem real?”

I'm working on Structures of Earth, the first book in the series The Affinities of Magic. I plan to write several books in this series, and I'm approaching the first book as the foundation story, the prequel to the long string of stories to follow. I have a plot and a team of characters, and a good bit of the book written, but for the last while my brain has been raising alarms, saying “Stop. Something's wrong.” Read More Breaking the logjam

Starting a new series when you don’t know the characters yet

Posted in Characters, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

medieval fair
I’m in the midst of the first book in my new series (The Affinities of Magic), and it’s a very different writing process from my previous book, which was the fourth in its series (The Hounds of Annwn).

I’ve gotten to know my primary characters in the older series pretty well. I know what they would and wouldn’t do, and a good bit of how they interact with each other. In other words, I'm comfortable with them.

In novels of adventure, the sort of thing I write, you need a good story, a sound plot, and it’s a good idea to have the basics of that in your head Wile E Coyote defies gravitybefore you begin writing. Perhaps the details are hazy — maybe you don’t know exactly how certain things are going to happen — but I find I need at least a sketchy outline of the key plot points before I can start. Some authors are comfortable just writing into the void, but I’m not one of them. (The lessons of Wile E Coyote are all too vivid.)

Plots in and of themselves don’t scare me. I used to be a serious software engineer, and what is that but the instantiation of a fully realized product where all consequences are knowable (at least, after debugging).

But story comes from characters, and that’s my current sticking point. Who are all these people?

Read More Starting a new series when you don’t know the characters yet

Structures of Earth (excerpt) – Chapter 1

Posted in Fantasy, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Structures of Earth - Full Front Cover - Widget

CHAPTER 1

Were they following me or are they just guessing?

Rushalentar used his SIGHT to peek around the stone edge of the doorway he’d ducked into, without exposing himself. The two guild proctors lingered on the corner across the street, with an excellent view of the servants’ door in the next block that was his original destination.

If they catch me with it, there’s going to be trouble.

He weighed the thick book wrapped in his cloak, and considered his choices. Waiting in a doorway in broad daylight was not appealing. He could BEND light past him, but since he wasn’t very good at it that was only effective for night use. The best thing would be to go all the way around the city blocks to the far side of the one he wanted and work back up to the alley behind the stable, out of their sight.

Well, nothing else I can do. Interfering old busybodies.

He sloped out of the doorway behind the two men and walked noiselessly away from them, turning right at the first alley, and took an alternate route along the streets and cut-through lanes until he reached the far corner of the block that the proctors were watching. He strolled a third of the way along and paused at the entry of the alley that ran through to the next street to wait for the foot traffic to thin out. He looked up at the huge guild house that occupied most of the block, everything on the far side of the alley, and he shook his head.

Someday. I swear, someday the mother house will reopen. I just don’t know how.

His eyes passed over the shuttered windows, the barred gates, and the whole massive five-story stone pile, derelict now, abandoned. No one left to pay for repairs, to heat the place, to keep it running.

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Final Cover for Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

I just wanted to show off the final version of the cover art that Jake Bullock completed today.Front Cover - Structures of Earth - 300x464

Here's the blurb…

MAGIC WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING, AND A WIZARD'S GUILD WITH NO MEMBERS.

Young Rush has bent the rules and managed to become an apprentice in wizardry to his uncle, but neither of them is qualified to revive the Torch & Scroll Guild, and there is no one else left. Neglected for generations, the mother house is in ruins, soon to be sold off by the Star Watch, the wizards' council, as the only guild to ever have expired for lack of heirs.

But this clever and deep-thinking young man may have puzzled out some of the fundamental principles underlying all magical practice, and this discovery will change everything, if only Rush can stay alive long enough for his plans to work.


What we're looking at is the servants' quarters behind the decayed guild house of Torch & Scroll. All that's left of the guild is huddled there, in a disgraceful building for an institution that has long fallen out of power.
Background painting - 600x457
Read More Final Cover for Structures of Earth

Cover update for Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Draft before final painting
Draft before final painting

My cover artist, Jake Bullock, has been very busy running through draft versions of the cover for the first book in the new series, The Affinities of Magic. It's been great fun working through this with him, and I thought you might enjoy an update on the process as he moves on to the final version. My requirements…

  • The back covers of the novels will be the front covers for short stories and story collections
  • Every story will include a discovery in the study of bio-magic, so every story or book will include a vignette of an animal, plant, whatever, that is the basis for the discovery
  • There will be an internal illustration of the critter, plant, whatsis inside each story
  • Every novel cover will include the mother house of the Torch & Scroll guild, now fallen on very hard times with its last master. The rise of fortune (or its setback) will be reflected in each new novel.

For Structures of Earth, the vignette shows a burrowing rodent-like critter, the study of which will lead to some amazing insights, rather like Gregor Mendel's experiments with peas.

The cover illustrations in this post are intermediate drafts. The Author font will change to match all of my books, and many painted details will be added to both the background and the Title/Series text.

You can see more of Jake's work here.
Full Cover-2
Critter