Posts Tagged ‘World Building’

My definition of treasure is probably different from yours…

I have found treasure lost in my files! This was another Facebook Post that I realized should be on my blog after I started writing it. Mainly because it was extremely long.

Warning: This post has a ton of profanity because it is a missing scene from Other Systems. Pheobe and Harden argue then Mark and Harden argue. For readers of the book, you already understand. If you haven’t read Other Systems, Harden has a potty mouth. Mark sometimes does. He especially does when he wants his elder brother to listen.


It all started because though I have denied it, my humors are misaligned and I have too much phlegm in my chest. By will alone, I made it through ECCC. Even afterwards I kept calling it a cold, but there can be no doubt now, I have the flu. Don’t worry, I am over the hump, I will make it.

The symptoms, of course, suck, but really my biggest problem is just how bored I am when I am not sleeping. I can’t focus on my writing, I am too weak to do any real housework, and other than a quick walk for the dogs, I won’t head out into the world to infect others. I can’t even read anything longer than a few paragraphs.

So I started looking though my author notes hoping to find something interesting….and I did. I found Harden and Phoebe’s divorce which coincides with Mark’s ultimatum. Seriously, it was just a few sentences between Abby and Harden in Other Systems:

The thin atmosphere and seventy percent gravity made it difficult to keep up with Harden’s long strides until he stopped at a machine and slipped in a bill. He hit a button and a pack of three cigarettes fell behind a door. He pulled out a lighter and made an electric spark. 

He took a long drag and looked at her. “Don’t tell Mark I’ve been smoking.”

“I didn’t know you smoked.”

Harden slowed as he enjoyed his cigarette. “I quit after the Revelation was put into service.It’s easy not to smoke aboard, but on Argent… anyway I made this deal with Mark. I quit and he’ll be my–or Dad’s–doctor.”

“He wasn’t always gonna be?”

“He talked about going planetside after his GE, then again when he finished pre-med. Helen and Phoebe talked him into staying.” Harden’s eyes swam as he enjoyed the tobacco high. “After these, I’ll give it up until the next time we’re planetside. Did you want to try? It’s extremely addictive, but ultimately has its pleasures.” 

End_NebulaAnd I found the whole scene in Harden’s file about this. Crazy. I am going to post it on my deleted scenes on the website, though technically it was never in the book. I like it.  It’s like finding treasure. My favorite part is Harden thinks that his fleet shares (which are extremely valuable) would make people want to be with him. Notice he tries to give them away twice. I admit the scene is not completely edited to perfection.  It was in my author notes after all. Enjoy!

Harden knocked on Phoebe’s billet. He didn’t want to, but Helen kept pestering him until he got the nerve to actually do it. He might be captain, but he wasn’t dumb enough to think he was actually in charge. As long as he did the paperwork, Helen kept everything else running smoothly. He even had done Phoebe’s transfer paperwork to the Polaris though it hurt him to do so. Yet this morning his sister had a direct command. He tried to pleading, explaining and finally ordering her out of his way, she just laughed off his irritation. Helen reminded him that minimally they had to discuss the separation of their assets. He had been putting it off, but the possibility of warping space time was much more interesting. 

His wife said “come in” and he did.

Looking over her head, he could see her billet was unpainted and unadorned. Or maybe she wanted the walls gray. He realized he didn’t even know her favorite color. Maybe it is gray. Brian knows Helen’s favorite color is green. How does a husband not know his wife’s favorite color? he thought and realized he never asked her.

“Do you need something?” she asked looking down at her tablet. It wasn’t a question. It wasn’t even a loving statement of a wife to a husband, it was professional statement from a doctor to her patient. Perhaps that was for the best, after all he was here as the Revelation’s captain.

“I know I wasn’t a very good husband.” He tried to touch her shoulder; she slipped herself out of his reach. “But you knew how I was, when you married me.”

She did not answer him.

“But I will try to be a good captain, so what can I do to make this transition easier? I did the paperwork you requested.”

Phoebe said, “Put me is stasis until I can leave. Mark can wake me up if there is a problem, but I doubt it will come to that. He’s a good doctor.”

A lump caught in Harden’s throat. “I-I would have you available for emergencies and Helen told me Becky and Pat still go to you for advice.”

“Then why are you here, Harden?”

He looked down at her face. She was so beautiful. He wondered how his marriage had failed… he hadn’t changed. Had she? He couldn’t remember the last time they had made love, though he did remember that she asked and he declined. He remembered declining a lot. Then he remembered her asking, “don’t you still find me attractive.” He said yes, hadn’t he? Hadn’t he told her how beautiful she was, but the numbers fascinated him.

Phoebe said, “If you need forgiveness, you have it. I don’t blame you for my mistakes. Other than getting on with my life, I don’t need anything from you. The job on the Polaris sounds like it will help a lot of people in the Flotilla and I’ll still have a lab for medical research. Mark can step into my place—and it will be good for him to do so.”

 “You can have my fleet shares! You can have everything. Take it all.”

The sound that erupted from her throat was not a true laugh, more an insane cackle. “You think I want money? I did not marry you for money, and I certainly won’t divorce you for it. Just my share from our joint account, my personal things have already been removed from your quarters. Is there something you want from what I took?”

A baby. Phoebe wants a baby. “We can adopt a baby…today if you want.”

Phoebe seemed to soften for just a moment and then her eyes grew cold and hard. “That’s easy to say since we are in deep space,” she paused and chose her words carefully, “but I will no longer have you parent my child. You’re worse than a fuck on an Outpost, because you are here!  I certainly won’t allow my child to grow up with a father than does not love her!”

“I’ll give you anything.”Aistiu_space

“You can’t give me what I want.”

He gently touched her shoulders and pulled her into his chest, but she didn’t return the embrace. He whispered, “Just tell me.”

She took a step back. “I want a husband who loves me more than his ship and puzzles” Her voice was deadly calm, but there was no malice. He remembered when his mother’s voice became like that with his father.

“I can change! If you stay, I will love you.”

“I have heard that static before.” Her voice was still calm, but hard. “How long from when I moved out of our old quarters did it take for you to notice I no longer lived there? Be honest now.”

Honestly Harden couldn’t say, because he wasn’t sure how much time had passed at all.

A few more words were spoken, but now Harden had to face it really was over. In a daze, he went down to the shuttle bay and sat in Chi. Harden did not blame Phoebe for leaving. Everything she said was true. He had been a terrible husband. He was interrupted from these thoughts when Mark entered the shuttle. He did not want his brother’s company. “What the fuck do you want?”

“I am formally giving you, mine and Pat’s resignation.”

“You can’t leave.”  Mark was his brother, not hers. “Why would you leave? Why does Pat want to go?”

“I’m the one who wants to go. Pat and I decided we want to stay together.”

“So you two are going to make the same fucking mistake I did? You’re too young to be married.”

“We aren’t kids anymore,” Mark said.

“Then why do you still fuck around so much?”

“We haven’t really fucked around for two years,” Mark said.

Had it been two years? It didn’t seem like that. It seemed like just yesterday that these two “borrowed” a shuttle and took two other boys out to a nebula. He began trying to think.

Mark was in his face again. “Listen to me, I am leaving because I want to help people, you fucking idiot, not nurse you because you smoke too much and live on coffee. Now that you are not going planet side, you’ve stopped exercising. You’ve lost 15% muscle mass. You look like shit.

“Phoebe is an excellent doctor from what I saw she seemed like a good wife, yet you refuse to listen to her in either capacity…”

Harden interrupted him. “Did you just say capacity?” That wasn’t his little brother talking, but a grown man. Looking up at Mark, he did seem bigger. More filled out in the shoulders than he had been. Maybe his brain had finished developing? “Did time dilation occur on my own ship?”

“Harden, shut the fuck up and listen. There is no reason for me to stay here.”

“But you’re my brother…”

“I’m also a medical doctor; Pat is a qualified pilot and we’re both biologists and there are better fucking jobs than this one. You still think of us as kids and we aren’t.”

“Okay, you’re not kids. I don’t want you to go. Helen doesn’t want you to go either.”

“We’ve discussed it with Helen…she understands.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“Hel, Pat, and I been trying for a solid month, you haven’t been listening. Plus she’s really busy trying to do the job of both the XO as well as the Captain while you are doing whatever the fuck you do…”

“I don’t want anyone to go, but I fucked that up so badly Phoebe won’t even listen anymore. She sounds like Mom did when it was over with Dad,” he said. “I didn’t know I fucked it up…I never wanted it to be like that. I tried to give her my shares she wouldn’t take them. I told her I’d adopt a baby like she wanted, but she’s leaving and I can’t stop her. If you would have heard her voice…it was just like Mom’s after she gave up arguing with Dad. Like she witnessed a death.”

Mark nodded. “I don’t remember that. I don’t even remember her really. Only an old face on the COM.”

“If you go, we won’t know each other anymore. One of us will be an old face on the COM, ” he trailed off, “What do I have to do to make you stay? Do you want my fleet shares? That’s all I have, you can have them.”

Mark sighed. “I don’t want your fleet shares, you idiot. I want you to start eating meals with the crew, exercise every day. Dad’s already agreed to quit smoking and so will you.”

Harden agreed to it and Mark finished, “And you will take at least an hour of each day to talk to the crew. Maybe at dinner since you will now be there.”

“The whole crew?” Harden began pulling at his fingers. “All at once? What will we talk about?”

Mark sat down beside him and slid an arm around his shoulder. It felt odd, the last time they shared any affection his little brother was seven, maybe eight years old. Still a wave of relief rolled through his chest and a lump grew in his throat.

 “Seriously, why are you freaking out? This has probably been the most amicable divorce in human history.”

“What if I fuck it up worse?” He pressed his palm in his eye to brush away tears before they came. 

“That would pretty much be impossible,” Mark said, “Listen, Phoebe will be gone soon, then there are only six of us and three of us are your own relatives. Hel and I will help you, but it can’t be like it has been.”

 “It won’t be, but are you sure time dilation hasn’t occurred on the ship? Phoebe leaves in two weeks and you have grown-up, but I’m the same.”

 “No, you are thirty-nine, your last birthday was March 7th. You and I have never been on separate timelines.”

“What is the date?”

“December 3rd

“Are you sure?”


“Where did the time go?”

“For you, it was just lost. Let’s accept that fact and move on.”


I hope you liked it. Please comment and let me know…

Creating Talamh: Mor

I knew there was a city in the South where Orin lived and worked and the Daoine Village in the North where Lark lived. Ultimately most of Orin’s time is spent in bars, taverns and brothels so here is the first image of Mor that people can see in The Carp’s Eye.


This is how I described Mor  in my author’s notes.

“Mor is an ancient city of great wealth, goodness and evil.  For it is home of the High Princess Inis the beloved ruler of Nemisalla just as it is the base of the Ciarog Crua. 

The respectable merchants despised Lord Malak who robed himself in white in order to serve darkness. However he was still Lord Malak, the Uncle and Regent of High Princess Inis and they paid him tribute.  Just as he was the power behind the throne, it was whispered the Lord Malak was also the true power behind the Ciarog Crua, but no one could be sure. 

The city was built at least twenty thousand years prior upon the cliffs which rise up between two rivers Iascach and the An Loai. Its large fortified castle sits amid some of the finest stone buildings and cobbled streets in all of Talamh, however as the city fanned towards the South, the buildings quickly became little more then shanties and over crowed tenements.

In her wanderings, Lark discovered the entryway into the barracks for the Crua’s men, but she knew she could not enter that realm unescorted.  The shanties around the entryway were filled with unskilled humans and elves who lived in poverty. These people were no better then cattle. Flies buzzed around the filth just left in the dry dirt streets.  They ran low level errands and messages for the higher ranking men in the Crua hoping that the pay would elevate them enough to escape their current position.  Of course they never did.   

Still Lark heard rumors. It was rumored that when the Enforcer Ulthaene questioned someone, even before they answered, he knew their sins. He especially hated the men who hurt whores and ragged children who hung around the grotto scavenging for food. As Lark circled Mor, she found which establishments that the Crua frequented.  Many were nothing, but cob shacks. Dusk was falling rapidly and Lark can see lights dotting the hillside where the Crua houses their men.

She found a tavern that a man as Ulthaene would patron: the Rat and the Snake.  Made from stone and cob with wood beams and balcony on the second floor, it was slightly nicer then the others, but the kind of place an indentured man could afford.

As she moved closer, she noticed the cob was cracked around all the heavy wooden beams and stained with mildew.  She heard the din of fighting and smelled the cheap beer and wine. Down an alley, she saw a man who held a woman pressed against a wall as he thrust in and out of her.  The man was blond so Lark did not tarry.

Lark looked towards the open entry way of the Rat and the Snake. Before she stepped into the tavern, she quickly prayed for protection and that her hunch was right.

It was crowded. Mostly men drinking and gambling, but a few women moved among them freely.  She scanned the crowd.  There were many different types of folk:  Dwarves, Humans, Elves, Goblins, Trolls, and a few Giants who were forced to duck under the low crossbeams.  The Crua employed them all. In the far corner, she saw a brown haired elfin man looking down at his mead.  He was wearing an old dark cloak and a heavy boiled leather breastplate.  He was alone in his thoughts and did not seem to notice the young woman picking his pocket.  Lark realized it was more likely that he simply did not care.

Not a single line creased his countenance, but his eyes showed the harshness of his existence.  He had fought for both evil and good.   He no longer knew the difference only that the stories of gallant warriors defending their people were no longer true.  He also considered that his last copper went to pay for the mead he was drinking, but that night he would make ten gold as he would be paid to cut the flesh of an evil man.”


Creating Talamh: The Daoine Village

It seems only a short time ago, but five years ago, I created Talamh which is the world in Faminelands.

I knew the world was to be faux medieval. I knew it would have elves, humans, giants, dwarves, and fairies. I knew I would want to use Irish words. Talamh is the Irish word for Land or Earth. Daoine is the Irish word for People. I liked the idea that they referred to themselves just as the People. I knew of the Daoine first, in fact, it was only after I decided Orin had run away did I create the city in the South where Orin lived.

Then I began drawing this map very early on in the process. It was mostly for me as I needed to figure out where Lark and Orin were heading on their adventures, but it turned out so beautifully, we made posters.

I decided that most of the Daoine would live in Huts, but the nobles lived in stone houses (or for low ranking nobles, the barracks.) Lark has an apartment in the Great House, but often spends time in her father’s hut.

The Daoine are generally are the “good” guys who believe that they were descended directly from the Goddess. So their history was wrapped up with the mythos of their Mother Goddess.Daoine


“We were but a distant memory of another civilization, great and lost to time.  It was then Talamh was barren, dark and lonely.  She went to find others like her, but finding none, she wept and gave birth to the Seas.  The Seas knew only her sorrow and crashed upon her shores.

The Rising Sun and the Setting Sun heard her weeping and came to see what was the cause. Rising Sun warmed her and the Setting Sun gave way to the darkness and Talamh felt alive and fertile. The Seas now having fathers to guide them, became calmer and many living creatures began to grow within him. Eventually the fourteen moons found Talamh and visited the Seas in their time.

Talamh grew fat and round. From her union with the Sun sprang the Wood. Talamh loved both of her children, but they often quarreled. Eventually the Seas took to the depths and the Wood ran freely across her hills and valleys.

But each was lonely and they met up in places where the trees dip into the Sea and the rivers frolic in the Wood.  And so unknowingly they begat many more creatures and the Lady of the Hunt to watch over them.  

No creature that walked or swam upon Talamh was as fair as the Lady of the Hunt. So beautiful was she that a star seeing her great beauty whispered words of love to her. He came to her during the night and so they begat the first elf woman: Idola. 

Idola ran through the forests and swam in the seas for many years before having children of her own.  She set before her many children a path to follow but it was fraught with danger.  It was her eldest daughter’s eldest daughter the Lady Iris who accomplished this great feat. 

Lady Iris then took her sisters Goldlynada and Lilia to the North and created a great society based upon equality and valor. 

The Lady Goldlynada created House Sarralonde and birthed Lord Galen the First who sired many noble children. The Lady Lilia birthed two noble children and two others that did not live in valor, but lived to create things of use and beauty for the good of all.  Lady Lillia in her wisdom saw the need of another path and the need for some to follow it. Thus the path of the commoners was born.

Lady Iris herself birthed seven mighty warriors: Lord Cairn, Lady Aster, Lady Oaka, Lady Laurel, Lord Perth, Lady Hazel, and Lord Brogan to protect and serve the people.

Each of her children fought in many battles, and harnessed their will in order to push back the chaos which threatened the Daoine.  These great women and men all bore much for the good of Daoine until Lord Cairn fell from the path.  Lady Aster, by her own hand, earned the right to rule the great house Lady Iris created.  She gave to Talamh five children including the great and wise Lady Aren who married Lord Galen the Second and brought forth more noble children.  Evayla who brought forth Nonia the Healer, Perth the Second and Laken who both died in childhood and her untamable daughter Lady Nora who in her time served the people with bravery and fought many battles.

But Lady Nora turned away from her people’s edict and took a common bowyer.  In this way, she brought forth three children: the Lady Meadowlark and her beloved brothers Orodherthin and Calthal. 

Creating Talamh: The Beginning of Nora and Calafas

Talamh is the world of Faminelands. Beyond the needs of the world, I need Lark and Orin to be outcasts in their society. Orin especially would suffer. While  I also knew that Lark and Orin were siblings, I considered maybe Orin was a foundling or just he was the bastard while she was coddled.

Then I changed my mind again.  If she was a favorite, when Orin is cruel, the reader might think that he hated her. Rather, I wanted them to have a bond. Something that ties them together.

So I simply decided their parents love was so strong that they denied their families wishes and got married anyway. However the entirety of the village ignores their marriage and their children. While this story is reported in the Carp’s Eye, in my notes I had their whole love story written out in some detail. Here is the beginning…


Journeyman Bowyer Calafas glanced up from his new design when the dark-haired lady and her silver-haired father entered the bowyers’ shop. He and his master fell to their knees. The young man’s mouth hung open; too dry to form words. All he could think was that her brilliant green eyes sparkled brighter than the ruby that lay upon her brow. She held her head high; her hands bore proudly the many scars of battle. He knew Lord Arna on sight and had witnessed the Ascension Ceremony. Still it took him a moment to recognize Nora.

Master Orodherth welcomed the nobles into his shop. As he moved towards them, he gave his former apprentice a sharp kick in the thigh.

Arna smiled kindly. “Hello Good Bowyers.”

Calafas slowly rose, but remained slumped forward in order not to tower over the Lady. He was only a few fingers taller then she, but felt too tall and gangly. As Nora purchased bow strings and five bundles of arrows, he wondered if his teeth were stained. Calafas nodded dumbly and marked her purchases with chalk. 

She asked Orodherth, “Can they be delivered within five hours? Hunter Brogan shall be loading the wagon near the stables and we make our way South.”

Orodherth grumbled in his typical fashion, “Of course, milady. We’re doing nothing else today.”

Nora laughed. Calafas thought her laugh was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. He blushed furiously when she tilted her head and looked at him. Calafas tried to think about his work. He did not know how much of his feelings Nora would comprehend; but Arna could read even the most fleeting thoughts. Calafas was sure if the Lord heard a hint of his desire, he would be cut down.

Nora smiled. “Son of Daria, I recently purchased this quiver from your mother. She does such lovely work. I hope she is well?”

Calafas found his voice, but felt his tone was too coarse. “Yes, milady, my mother is well. Thank you, with your permission, I’ll mention that you’re pleased. It’d please her greatly to know that her work…uh… pleases you.”

He wanted to pound his head into the cob wall. Orodherth and Arna frowned, but Nora smiled wider as she had heard his thoughts as easily as if he spoken aloud.

“Yes, send your mother my regards.”

Without speaking, Arna shot a warning into both of the younger elves’ minds.

Nora blushed.

Calafas stammered, “Milord, forgive my eyes for looking upon Lady Nora’s radiance. Once she was a child and now she’s the Goddess of the Hunt herself. My hope is that my arrows will serve the Ladies and Champion Hunter Brogan well.”

Arna allowed Nora and Calafas to experience discomfort, but said nothing on the matter. He settled on a price with Orodherth as was their practice. Nora waited patiently for her father and gave the men a nod as they left.

Orodherth frowned at Calafas, but the younger man didn’t see him. He was looking at Nora’s disappearing figure with his mouth open. Orodherth slapped the back of his head. “Wake up, Man! She’s a pretty one, no doubt, but she isn’t for the likes of us! Now if your heart is set upon being a suitor, go look at the Smithy Essaria. Get us a discount on arrowheads.”

“Yes,” Calafas mumbled, but his brown eyes still gazed outside.

Orodherth repeated the blow. “Did you hear me, boy? I don’t like to think I wasted two centuries training your sorry arse only to have you hung! Get on that order.”

Even without Orodherth’s words, Calafas knew he could not have Nora. When he was a lad, Lord Arna had given him the chance to be a warrior; he had chosen a different path. If he was a fighter, he might be able to win her, but alas, he was not. 


Arna gripped his daughter’s arm as they walked along the wall. “If you wish to take a consort, you are of age. However, I beg you not to flirt so openly. You have been placed first among my daughters. It would destroy your mother to see you act as if you were a kitchen maid.”

“Sorry, my Father. He was just so uncomfortable, I felt I should say something.”

Arna knew his daughter had not lied, she just had not told the complete truth. She was attracted to his innocence. Calafas was a man who never had killed. A place where she might retreat when the darkness overwhelmed her. “But you like that boy?”

“He has a sweet temper. I feel that when I’m around him,” she said, “but his emotions are almost stifling.”

“He is one of the Cursed.”

Nora asked, “How can that be?”

Arna smiled at the innocence of the question. “Beloved, just as you and I do, he had an ancestor with the Curse. He is not strong in it, but in his adolescence, he was trained enough to control it.”

“You trained him?”

“The world did not start when you were born!” Arna replied, “Of course, I trained him. Once I learned his path, I introduced him to Orodherth.”

“You rarely take such a keen interest in the life of a commoner.” She read her father trying to find out if he held a secret. She could not sense one, but he was an Ancient and much more powerful than she.

 “Save that boy, they are rarely interesting,” Arna said.


From the practice range, Calafas watched the nobles depart from the East Gate. Nora sat tall on her mount while her mother and uncle drove a wagon laden with burlap sacks. A flash of silver danced when she passed a torch. He fought the urge to run to the gates and watch until she disappeared into the forest. Instead, he restuffed the targets and bundled the old filling into faggots.

When he came back inside the hut, Calafas heated the last of the venison pottage for their supper. Orodherth counted their inventory in preparation for the Autumn Hunt and Festival. Though Calafas needed more rest than his ancient master, he felt fidgety. He stayed up to help him. Finally Orodherth yawned and went to his hammock.

Once the old man tranced soundly; Calafas looked over their stock of wood until he found what he was looking for: a piece of delicate white beech. He tested the wood for flexibility and moisture before he began to carve.

It would take him two weeks to finish. The bow was lightweight, fast, and powerful; he knew it would serve Lady Nora well. Five petal asters intertwining with knot work symbolizing of love and unending devotion curved around the handle to the bend in the top.

Knowing the weapon was worthy, but he was not, Calafas believed the weapon would never reach its intended. He considered putting it to the flame. He had not the heart to burn his first master-worked creation. He oiled the wood, carefully wrapped it in leather and hid it high in the rafters of the hut.

Orodherth pretended he did not know. He considered telling the lad’s mother, but unsure of Daria’ reaction, he thought better of it. He did not know who sired Calafas but one in ten were the unwanted bastards of heartless noblemen. He knew it was likely. He just didn’t care.

Before the young man had come to him, the Master Bowyer had been alone for centuries. His companion was long dead. He took no woman, even for a single night, in order to continue his line. He did not care about such things. He was old and needed someone to replace him when Death came for him. The lad had been an eager pupil; now he was a proficient bowyer. Their souls were entwined with the love to layer and carve the wood. That’s all that mattered.

Not knowing what else to do, the old man prayed to the Great Lady. He begged that his lad would refocus on his work and that if he desired a wife; he would find one within their station.

Orodherth felt it likely what Calafas thought was love was actually just a mixture of lust and admiration of a great heroine. He repeated this to the younger man until the Master believed that Calafas believed it was true.

World Building: Holidays

My niece decorates a gingerbread house for Christmas. Perhaps in your world people decorate cookies for the holidays too!

Last time, I wrote about World Building it was in regards to food, but (at least in America) we are right in the middle of the holiday season, so I am going to continue this ideas with how you might deepen your world with holidays.

Once again, a lot of this will be in your author’s notes, but some of it will make it into the plot.

So the word holiday derives from the word holy day and is defined by Merriam Webster as “a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically : a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” This idea goes hand in hand with the idea of food since many holidays are also feasts or fasts.

So the question that the author might find useful is “What is holy?”

In Other Systems: the readers see references to birthdays being celebrated and a holiday called Landing Day. Landing Day is commemorated all over the Fleet and on Kipos. It is celebrated on March 29th, the day Jason Potolis landed on Kipos and called it a Garden of the Heavens. Though the story of Jason Potolis is fraught with religious connotations, this is considered a secular holiday. It is celebrated by the giving of small presents or photographs to loved ones and have large family meals. Now the reader never sees a Landing Day event, it is just referred to in the novel.  It adds a layer of depth without much description. In regards to characters if they choose or choose not to celebrate a holiday tells a bit of the type of person he or she is.

Rosemary raised Harden and Helen until they were fourteen and twelve respectively. She made them call Cole each year on his birthday, Landing Day, and New Year’s. She sent him yearly photographs, which seemed to be every few months to him. (Excerpt from page 12)

“…My folks have—or I guess I should say had—a ward. He’s twenty-four, but it doesn’t matter, he’s still my brother. Mom still buys him Landing Day presents and everything…” (Excerpt from page 438 Ben is speaking to Abby in a bar.)

Part of the Independence Day celebration in my house is a BBQ with cupcakes for dessert!

Also since none of the major characters in Other Systems are religious, we don’t see the Kyn holidays (at least not in the first novel). However there is a religious minority called the Kyn who  used to be the Jewish peoples, the Christians and Muslims. They celebrate the secular Kipos holidays as well as have their own celebrations mixed from the very best of their progenitors holidays. The reader will see more of this in the sequel: Other Systems: Kipos. 

Now sometimes it is good to show a holiday or two, because holidays are a way to show quiet moments while still having action and movement. In Faminelands, I speak of the Hunt as holiday. The Hunt is both treated as a holy week with celebration and is practical as well. It is the week that the Ladies, Lords and their Hunters leave the Village and come back with the last meat to keep the village through the Winter. It is a week where the apprentices don’t train per say but are allowed to work beside the Hunters. It is the first time many of the young people leave the village. The day they return is a Feast day.

However another of their feast days is Midwinter (Winter Solstice) and this is described by Brogan in the History of Lady Meadowlark:

“I have little concern for the holy day, other than the preparations for Aster’s security, as it is this time of year which Outsiders come and pay Our Ladies tribute.

Lady Aren missed him dearly, so Galdor went to House Sarralonde. He was either sequestered with his sisters or he took guard duty with his cousins, so we saw little of him. Lark was the only child in the House and a bit lonely, still her spirits began to rise. She began speaking to me at supper and she asked if she might help Roan and I mull the wine which we give to my servants. I was pleased to allow her.

On midwinter’s day, an hour before dawn, I heard the girl creep in. My first reaction was irritation that she had not learned to walk in silence yet. The second was that she dared come into my quarters uninvited. Then I realized, one of my Scouts must have talked her into some holiday prank. “Meadowlark, what in Talamh are you doing?” I growled. “You need sleep more then frivolities.”

Lark brought me what she held in her hands. It was three rolled up socks tied with one of her ribbons. It was not filled with a spiders or a snake. It was however incredibly soft wool and the perfect length for my boot. Lark had heard me complain that my old socks were mostly darning. It is my regret that I had nothing for her but harsh words. Still right before sunrise, I heard Lark sing the song to the Sun as is tradition.” (Excerpt from page 5)

Normally something like this would be in author notes–and if I am honest it originally was, but in this case it is important to the story because we see Lark getting bolder with her great uncle and Brogan softening towards the girl who now lives with him. (For people who have not read Faminelands, the reason there is three socks is because Brogan only has one leg–the other was lost in battle.) This is a simple moment, but the reader garners a lot about their culture by what is happening in these scenes. However, and I can not emphasize this enough, if you plan to show a holiday it must be integral to the plot somehow.

So Happy Holidays!

World Building: Food

A break from the adventure in Living Stone

In deference to Thanksgiving, I want to write about how food shows quite a bit about the culture and geography in your world. I have often spoken about how I write a detailed synopsis of someone’s day in my authors notes with a specific focus on breakfast and other meals.


Do they eat simple cuisine or rich fair? Why? Because what a person eats gives you socio-economic status or their rank in a family. What spices do they use? Are they readily available either because they are close by or due to ease of transportation. What is easy to grow in the region of their world? What is imported or exported? How available is sugar?

How is it cooked? On an open fire or in a stove? How is the stove fueled? Is the stove also the main heat source in the house? What tools are necessary in order to create such a dish? Perhaps the characters don’t cook–do they eat out at restaurants, have servants or family members to cook for them?

Finally consider what diseases do they suffer do to the lack of food? Or eating unhealthily?

All of my titles show food being consumed at least in the background. In Other Systems, the menu that Abby consumes is directly related to where she is in the Universe.

Da and Ma had made sure their children never went hungry, but growing up with them had brought a certain degree of monotony to the food. On Kipos, Abby felt a fear of constant scarcity due to her limited diet, but on the Revelation a stocked kitchen was available to her. The large, cold pantry was full of meats, fish, cheeses, eggs, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. The dry pantry had oils, spices, sugar, cereals, and pastas. Whatever she used was added to the inventory, which was updated continuously. The list would be sent ahead the day before they landed on Kipos. When the computer recorded the jump in milk and juice consumption, she was worried, but Brian said both were cheaper and better for her than coffee. Mark added, “Especially because the Revelation has four coffee addicts aboard.”

How could she not feel safe?   (Excerpt from page 222-223)

In Faminelands and Lure, food is often a breaking moment between action sequences. In Out for Souls&Cookies, food is often in the background though in Book 3: Rosie does spits out a vegan dog with the complaint that poodles are carnivorous!

Now much of this might stay in author notes, but some of it might end up in the finished work.

Poll: Authors how do you begin to build your world?

The allure of World Building

While most of my weekday hours have recently been spent preparing for ECCC and Norwescon, I also have been thinking about my next project after the dust settles.  I have to admit that I am beginning to yearn for a new project. Something fun, something different than what I have created before. This brings up the subject of world building.

I have an unpopular message for everyone who wants to write books. You need to write them. Spending a year or two or three building a world for a novel is generally a waste of time. So is all that fluffy “research.”

Here is why: Loose world building and fluffy general research is a huge time killer, because it feels like you are accomplishing something, but you are not. At the end of the day, you are no closer to your goal of having a finished novel.

Here is how I set up my story (and why I finish a graphic novel or written novel in a year.)

First is the basic plot structure. This can be a loose idea such as a hero’s journey or a coming of age story. It will probably even have the antagonist in the description.  No beautifully built world will enthrall the reader if there is no plot.

Secondary is characters. The protagonist(s), possibly the antagonist(s) and secondary characters.This is a broad stroke: but your protagonist must be some sort of reasonably intelligent life with free will. Otherwise they are not interesting. Even when it is an animal, such as Buck in the Call of the Wild, these attributes do apply. Even if the world is the main character as it is in some “Milieu-type” stories, it can not be your protagonist.  (Yes, your world can be your antagonist. )

Then you have the World aka the Setting. So make decisions on your world and make them as quickly as possible. Draw a map if you have to, write out some new tech or magic system rules. Those things can be useful, but make your design decisions and move on.

The longest I have ever spent researching and world building is six months. That was for Lure. One of the reasons it took me eve that long was that I was working on Faminelands: Living Stone at the time. The other reason is with Lure, the setting was the antagonist.

Lure started with a sketch that I did at a convention. Two mermaids in a river with human bones littered among the gravel at their fins.  It took me three months to know where or when that river was. But I had some ideas I wanted to keep. Once I found the setting, the rest came easily. The next three months I spent in the Goldrush museum, taking photographs, doing sketches of characters, and reading books. I also did a round of jury duty. Due to Lure’s setting and because I did not want the story to be bogged down with Victorian sexual politics, I figured out early on that it would a book with primarily male characters. From that point, the graphic novel itself took me nine months to create.

I have a completely baseless opinion on why authors spend so much time on world building. You see, world building is a relatively safe activity. No one looks at it with jaundiced eyes, judging every word.  No one is sending rejection emails–or simply not answering you. It is easy for an inspiring writer to get stuck in their world. They start writing detailed political systems thinking that is the story, when it is all inconsequential.  They start describing the new race they made up, but have no characters.

Another way authors can waste time is by generalized “research.”

I do a little bit of research for all my titles, but it is applied research. If you want to know something specific in order to make your world fuller and more complete, then look up your fact, however if you are writing a “fantasy book” so you decide to look up the “middle ages” then you are wasting your time.

However let’s say you are writing an epic fantasy novel about a young man born into a carpenter’s guild in an Elizabethan time period… and you want to start the book with a few points of his early life in the guild working with his father, uncle and grandfather. That’s great.  You have a specific goal.  You are not writing a non-fiction book on carpenters in the middle ages, you are writing a fantasy novel. Since a few well placed and well-chosen facts will do more for your book then six chapters of back story, so why waste a year or more doing research when a week or two will suffice?

So to sum up, if you want to write novels, then get writing!

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