Planting a tree (while getting carried away)

It’s often funny how interests can bleed over into one another, to the point where one almost becomes indistinguishable from the other.

Outside of writing, one of my hobbies is genealogy. Having done my own research, and built on that of other family members, I now have a tree of over 4,000 people linked to myself. It became a bit of an obsession, really. I love to see how the generations all interconnect.

With families being central to a lot of plot threads in The Ap’Lydin Chronicles, I started to build a rough family tree to keep track of who so-and-so’s father, daughter, cousin, etc. As the writing for The Slaves of the Horned God developed, a lot of these connections became important, and so the tree developed further.

familytreeSnippet

So now the fictional tree is at over 400 individuals (a small snippet to the right). Perhaps I went a bit overboard?

Nah! Pay no attention to those who tell you it’s probably irrelevant how Haakon de Morcor and Wulfric Highcrown are related to each other*.  It’s all useful knowledge, I absolutely assure you…

*(First cousins once removed. Now you know.)

 

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Lessons Learned

lessonslearned

A good few rounds of editing is intended to turn a turd of a first draft into a polished manuscript for publishing. Sometimes, however, you don’t catch everything. Sometimes you don’t find them until you release your work into the wide world.

So here, in no particular order, are some things I’ve learned from my current works after their releases:

Why are you so irritating?

Sometimes a character you hope people will find charming and amusing, they instead will find annoying. Really annoying.  Even after you think you’d already ‘fixed’ him. So, best to tone him down for the next instalment. (I’ll protect the fictional character’s identity by leaving him nameless)

Let’s get going already!

First entries in series often suffer from the dreaded pacing disease that is called the slow start.  Let’s get moving quicker, next time, sans the infodumping.

Why is everyone shouting at me?!

This one is simple. Too! Many! Exclamation! Marks! In! Dialogue! Hopefully everyone cools off a bit next time.

Um…shouldn’t you be dead?

Sometimes people get injured. Sometimes they get injured badly. Sometimes they don’t get any treatment. Mysteriously, they live anyway. (Just…no)

Happily The Slaves of the Horned God won’t have any of these issues. (Now let’s make sure it doesn’t have a whole bunch of new issues…)

Worldbuilding without the laziness

worldbuildingWorldbuilding is an important part of the craft of writing fantasy. According to Google, it is defined as follows:

Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The term “worldbuilding” was first used in the Edinburgh Review in December 1820 and appeared in A.S.

Inspired by some questions from my niece about how to tackle worldbuilding in fantasy, I thought I’d share some of the things I’d learned over the years building my world, mainly from doing the wrong things.

Things you don’t want

Patchwork Cultures

 Cultures or people existing side-by-side yet with no apparent interactions. Wars, racial intermixing and cultural exchanges should all take place when people live cheek by jowl. The melting pot is not a modern phenomenon.

The original conception of my world when I was quite young was full of cultures with real-world counterparts I found interesting, all lumped together with no rhyme or reason: 1001 Arabian Nights next to 12th-century England, next to 14th century Japan, next to stone-age Africa. Each of these places should have been influenced by its neighbours, rather than being plucked wholesale from the real world (where they are all influenced by their historical neighbours).

Bizarro Terrain Climate

Warm deserts next to cold forests, rivers that go nowhere, cities in the middle of continents with no apparent water source. This is a pet-peeve with fantasy worlds, particularly evident on maps that were not well thought out.

I was certainly guilty of this in my youth, as the original maps for my world had rivers that both started and terminated at the ocean (rather than flowing naturally in the quickest route from high ground to the ocean) and Arabian-style desert next to a northern European temperature forest. I also had hot deserts at too high a latitude and mountain ranges in bizarre places.

Things you do want

Verisimilitude

 Consistent rules in your fictional world are a must. If you establish that magic works in a particular way, then you must be consistent with that. Exceptions must be significant enough to warrant the attention that the reader will place on them.

For instance, if you establish that magic in your world is able to create fire and ice, yet cannot heal a person nor bring them back to life, and you then introduce a magician who can do absolutely that, you damn well better have a good explanation for it, one that is not a cop out and of plot significance.

 Call-Forwards

Important for ongoing series, or in multiple works set in the same world. Mention important persons, places and events as name drops at first, so that when they become significant in later works, they don’t seem to come out of nowhere.

For example knowing that your characters are going to visit the land of “Borf” in a later work, you add a reference to “Borf” in dialogue in a way that the casual reader might skip over. Then when a reader sees the place in the later work, they will be able to remember it from its first mention, creating a better sense of the world a real, living place rather than a stitched together concoction of plot-important places and characters.

Further Reading

The 7 Deadly Sins of Worldbuilding

Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions

25 Things You Should Know About Worldbuilding

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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Worlds of One Gender

memeIn the midst of writing The Slaves of the Horned God  I realized something about the story, something which the fantasy genre has suffered from in the past. All of the characters shared at least one aspect in quality: their reproductive organs.

Yes, it appeared outside of the main characters every character was male. It wasn’t planned that way, it just seemed to happen. Unfortunately my mind had somehow concocted a lazy “male, unless required otherwise” for all the new characters. This made the world seem to have the lopsided gender ratio of The Hobbit. Indeed it would seem that the novel would fail the Bechdel Test quite handily.

Female characters often get a bit of a raw deal in a lot of fiction. One of the biggest issues is them having a lack of agency, and ending up being merely an objective, obstacle or reward for the hero.

So I took a new approach, and changed the internal rule to be “only male if absolutely required to be.”, which resulted in some characters changing genders. It also resulted in one of the characters changing from heterosexual to homosexual, so we can consider that a double win for diversity.

 

(Oh and I do have a female character who is an oracle, but in my defense – she’s not blind…)

Endings

windsofwinterWith the news that Winds of Winter will not be released this coming year there are probably many who are disappointed (including, it seems George R. R. Martin himself). However it is probably better than such a hefty tome is finished well rather than quickly. As a big fan of the author and of the series A Song of Fire and Ice, I eagerly await its release – even if its still a few years off. In the meantime I advise fans to read A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms  if they haven’t already – its fantastic.

Such news turns my own mind to my progress on Book 2 of the Ap’Lydin Chronicles: The Slaves of the Horned God. With roughly 75% of the first draft complete, it is still well on track for release in 2017.  Book 3: The Tears of the Divine has a complete first draft but I expect this will be tweaked once Book 2 is released.

If you’ve read my book and enjoyed it, please leave a rating and review on Goodreads.

In the meantime, I will continue to update this website with character profiles and background information.

Middles

Winner-2014-Facebook-ProfileToday is the first day of Nanowrimo, an initiative where participants attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Its great fun for the participants and helps give you the discipline if (like me) your greatest challenge is procrastination.

Although I am not participating this year, I did in 2014, and it was then that I wrote the bulk of the second book in the Ap’Lydin Chronicles: The Slaves of the Horned God.

As mentioned in the earlier post, once the original version of The Heirs of Lydin was split in half due to size, I realized there was a significant time jump in the middle, a time where there were some gaps left to be filled. Hence the idea of an “interquel” was formed, and the series went from one books, to two, and then turned into a trilogy. The Slaves of the Horned God is due to be released sometime in 2017, once all the required editing and tinkering has been completed.