Posts Tagged ‘world building’

Inspiration is where you find it–and it can come from anything.

A couple of months back, I posted that one of the things I was doing during this bout of writer’s block to prime the pump was to subscribe to The Great Courses Plus, which has lecture series by experts on all sorts of topics. I probably should mention here that I’ve always been a little bit of a history geek, though of an eclectic selection of eras and locations.

The first one I watched was “The Celtic World”, which was very interesting. It didn’t spark any immediate inspiration, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if something I heard there cropped up in some later story.

After finishing that, I decided to start one on King Arthur (though it was a close thing between that and one on the great mythologies of the world). King Arthur edged the other out mostly because there’ve been a couple of stories simmering on the back burners. One is based on an ancient Welsh story of the greater Arthurian cycle, but not near the core of what we, now, consider to be the central story (much of which probably wasn’t part of the original tale). The other would probably start off of part of the Arthur legend as a springboard, but move on from there.

So far, this is also a very interesting course. But the big inspirational moment so far . . . well, it has more to do with world building than story, per se. Still, it’s something I don’t ever remember hearing anywhere else. And, so far, I haven’t been able to turn up anything on line.

Nevertheless, I like it very much. This was a little rule about travel time in medieval–or medievalesque–settings. And it could apply to others as well, I think. Anyway, it went like this:

If it would take you 23 days to walk to a particular destination, it would take only 6 days if you rode a horse, or only 1 day, if you were able to go by ship.

Now that is a cool little world-building detail. It’ll never be a story in itself, but it doesn’t have to be. And . . . it’s just possible that this might find a place in the new and (hopefully) improved version of MAGE STORM.

Mage Storm

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In my last post I optimistically stated that I thought the most of the rest of this revision pass on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING would go smoothly and more quickly.


Yeah, well, the thing about revisions is that they don’t always follow the script. I’d already done the read-through and marked up the chapters I thought needed work. There are a couple near the end the need to be filled out more, for example. Right now they read more as summaries. And a couple of chapters that start out more as summaries that will need to be fixed, too.

But the second pass, for me, is still a complete read-through. And sometimes it’s not until the second or third time that I notice something. Like where I’ve just discovered that I let myself take the easy way out of something with a bit of magic–magic that should be more . . . restricted. It’s really supposed to be limited to only certain people–not that only they can work it, but only they can benefit from it–with very rare exceptions.

So, I’m going to stop and rework that bit. And not taking the easy way out will not only make the magic work better, it will also make that part of the story better–better complications, better character development. Just . . . better.

My plan has been to finish these revisions by the end of this month–which isn’t that far away. But I’d much rather get it right than fast, so . . . we’ll just have to see what this does to my overall publication plan.

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Revisions on BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING are progressing.


I mentioned in an earlier post that the read-through had revealed that the first few chapters were the roughest. Nevertheless, I’ve been getting through two or three chapters a day. Until now.

Now I’m up to the one chapter that is the roughest of all. There’s almost as much red text(revision notes) as black (normal). This one’s going to need a lot of work, almost a rewrite. This one may take a while.

Part of the reason this one is so rough is that it was copied from a much earlier version of . . . well, it wasn’t exactly this story. But from an earlier (never-to-be-published) story that was eventually rewritten into part of this one. That one had a character very like my main character in the BECOME series, but he wasn’t the main character in that version, though–which was a mistake. He always was the most interesting character.

A few more chapters after this one, though, and things should get easier. I’m aiming to get at least half-way through this pass by the end of the week. There’ll be one more revision pass after this, although that won’t be a full, look-at-everything pass. Just going back to the notes I haven’t addressed or the new ones I’ve made in this pass, such as:

  1. A possible change in the timeline–and figuring out what that would mean down the line.
  2. Some adjustments to emotional blocks my character suffers from. He still needs the block, but I need to tweak the cause a bit.
  3. Considering altering certain units of measure. Miles or something else more world-specific. Same with weeks and months. Well, months work, since they’re based on the moon cycle and calling it a moon pass is sort of silly. But weeks are arbitrary and I may want to use something else. The trick is figuring out what.


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Time to see how I did against the goals I set for myself last year. (Results are in bold italics.)

  1. WAR OF MAGIC: Complete first draft, revisions, get critiques, revise again, polish, and publish. Done.warmagicprintcover
  2. Revise the already-published “Becoming Lioness” and publish the new edition. Pull together the tie-in short stories, “Hunter and Huntress” and “The Seeker”. Put them through the same revision process. Nope. Becoming Lioness Cover 2
  3. Publish a boxed set of the DUAL MAGICS series. Done, though I only included the first three books and one short story, “Modgud Gold”.Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed Set
  4. MAGE STORM: Rewrite this as an epic fantasy. Same revision process as above. Try to publish in 2016 or early 2017. MAGE STORM ended up being pushed back in favor of BECOME.
  5. BECOME: TO CATCH THE LIGHTNING: Get a first draft done. Still working on the first draft.becomeblue
  6. Planning, world-building, etc. for some of the other stories on my back burner: Some planning, but no other progress.
    1. Another story in the same world as DAUGHTER OF THE DISGRACED KING.
    2. A set of fairy-tale retellings I’ve been playing with.
    3. The prequels to the DUAL MAGICS series that explain how the world got that way.
    4. The sequels to MAGE STORM.
    5. My Weird Oz story.
    6. The last novel in the Chimeria series.
  7. I would dearly love to be able to get to a writers’ conference somewhere in there, but that will depend on both time and finances. Nope.

In summary, the most important goal was met. But it took longer than I’d hoped and basically pushed all the other goals back a bit. Still progress. I’ll take it.


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The governments of the five different realms of BECOME


are not as diverse as the ones in my DUAL MAGICS series.

Dual Magics 1-3 Boxed SetThat would be a tall order. But they do have different ways of passing power from one ruler to the next.

Some use the familiar inheritance by the nearest male relative of the old king. Some use something more like the Holy Roman Empire–a council of prince-electors chose the successor, often from among themselves. In my story, the council is empowered to choose the new king from the old king’s extended family.

And, one kingdom uses a system somewhat related to Frazer’s (See, THE GOLDEN BOUGH) sacred king. In my case, a Great Combat is held at intervals in which two men must fight for the right to rule. The Combat is controlled by the Goddess’s priestesses and serves to reinforce that the right to rule comes from her–only. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always guarantee a good or even a competent king.

There are those who want to end this system, for that reason as well as for dynastic ones. And, of course, those who want to continue it. The conflict between those two groups is part of the background of this story.

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In the world of BECOME, magic and religion are inextricably linked–which probably makes sense. After all, BECOME is loosely based on the Greek myth of Hercules. So, in this story, all magic basically comes from the goddess. (Note: There are other gods in this world, but they aren’t important to the story. In fact, so far, only one other has even been referenced: a mountain god. And, for reasons that are made clear early in the story, none of them are likely to be the source of magic–at least not in the same way.)

In Greek mythology, Zeus had quite a few children with mortal women. Since I’m turning the story on its ear, in this world it’s the earth goddess who has a few children with mortal men. And, to each child and his or her descendants, she gives a magical gift. And that’s the source of all the magic in this world.

Since he’s the ‘Hercules’ in this story, Gaian’s gift, of course, is strength. Although, it will eventually become clear that there’s a purpose behind that particular gift, that will come to fruition in his descendants.

Meanwhile, as I try to work out exactly how the next couple of very important scenes need to go, I’ve been doing a little more work on the cover art for BECOME. When I’ve finished, I think I’ll like this version:


Much better than the original image:


I’d tried lightening this image up–and I may lighten the blue version, too . . .

Become 5

But it still felt a little too monotone for my tastes. Besides, it’s always best to modify the stock image in some way so that this book doesn’t end up somewhere right next to another one with the same exact cover image. (Yes, I’ve actually seen that happen.)

What do you think?

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So, my last post was about the physical world of BECOME–the map and the forest, chiefly.

Become 5

The other thing that makes up the physical world is the creatures that inhabit it.

The only magical creatures so far planned for BECOME are some very magical small grey cats.


Sort of like this guy–though Beethoven (Toby for short) was never a small cat. All cats have some magic about them, anyway. And his disposition was very like the little cats in this story.

And a dragon.


For some reason, I don’t have any photos of dragons. 😉 So I’ll use this one which I used (modified) for the cover of “Wyreth’s Flame”.

The dragon in this story will breathe fire–but he won’t be made of it. And he’ll live in mountains something like these:


That’s the Great Western Divide as seen from Morro Rock, Sequoia National Park. Morro Rock is already a bit over 6,700 feet high, so it’s not as though this is the view from the feet of these mountains. (Every one should climb Morro Rock once–and only once. Unless you have a fear of heights. Then don’t.)


This is a closer view (well, using a zoom lens, anyway) of the same mountains.

Those are all for now, though, as a discovery writer, I’m open to new creatures deciding to show up. Always possible.


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There’s a lot of world building that goes into a second-world fantasy like BECOME.

Become 5

There’s the physical world and the creatures that inhabit it. The systems of government and the economies. The magic system. And more.

Sometimes, not always, it helps to start with a map.


(Admittedly, I don’t do the very best maps you’ve ever seen.)

See all that forest area? That’s a really important part of this world and it’s not your typical fantasy-setting forest. It’s a temperate rain forest, like this.

Princess Louisa Inlet

(That photo was taken, by me, in Princess Louisa Inlet, British Columbia.)

But, because this is my world and I can make it however I want (as long as I can make it believable), I’ve included a different kind of tree in the Heart of the Forest. This tree is something of a composite. Mostly, it’s based on the Giant Sequoias that grow at around the 6,000-foot level on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Like this one:


I think this picture was taken in Calaveras Big Trees State Park (North Grove), but it could have been in another grove. That’s my mother in the pinkish outfit in the foreground. Could be Dad ahead of her, but I can’t swear to that from that angle. The hat’s right, anyway.

Here’s another view that shows the bark better.


This one I know was taken in Calaveras Big Trees.

These trees are not just tall, they’re massive, literally big enough around that the trunk would not fit in most average-sized rooms. Or, if it fit, would fill the room completely. They can grow to almost 300 feet tall and more than 50 feet in diameter (though most are not quite that big). They’re so impressive that many of them have names, like General Grant, General Sherman, or The President. (The names reflect the time period in which these trees were first discovered by non-Native Americans.)

But, since it’s my story and I can make up what I want, I combined these giants with a related tree. Thought they don’t–quite–grow in temperate rain forests, the Coast Redwoods would be more comfortable in that environment. (These are the ones redwood lumber at your hardware store comes from. The wood of Giant Sequoia’s is not actually useful–too fibrous.)

The Coast Redwoods actually grow taller than the Giant Sequoias, but not nearly as massive and they don’t have the distinctive cinnamon-colored bark. But the main thing I included in this story is the incredible quality of the light filtering through a grove of Coast Redwoods. It’s probably due in part to the fact that they grow so much closer to the coast, in an area prone to fog. And it’s not something an amateur photographer could ever hope to capture. Hopefully, I can capture it in words.

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Sometimes writing goes fast, like all you have to do is let it flow out. Sometimes it’s slower than that.

This chapter is a pivotal point in the relationship of the two brothers so . . . I need to make it right. Of course, it doesn’t have to be perfect–yet. This is still the first draft. But sometimes, especially on the pivotal chapters, I have trouble reminding myself of that. And, the revisions really are much easier if at least the right bones are in place to begin with.

Between some new ideas, which I think will make the chapter much better, and some annoying real life distractions, this chapter is taking its time making it onto the page.  Sometimes, I just have to go with that.

Become 5

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When I rewrote the original versions of THE SHAMAN’S CURSE

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????and THE VOICE OF PROPHECY,

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I was essentially polishing and tightening a story that was already there. Essentially, just applying the improved writing craft I’d learned since I first wrote those stories.

MAGE STORM is turning out to be a different problem. For one thing, I’m making the main character a bit older in this version. And so, some things that worked before, with a younger character, have to be significantly changed for this version because the character’s reactions would just be different.

I’ve been stuck for days on a particularly thorny chapter near the beginning. Actually right around the Key Event (in the Three-Act Story Structure).  In case you’re not familiar with that, the key event is what makes the hero (who may have been pushing the story problem off for others to solve up ’til this point) becomes personal to the hero. So, it’s not a trivial place in the story. It’s one of those turning points that need to be really, really right.

It’s not that I haven’t been making progress, though it feels like two steps forward and three sideways, some of the time. But some of what was there just really won’t work that well in this version. And they tie to other places, so any change proliferates.

This isn’t going to be as quick or as easy as I was hoping.

Then again, what is? Ever? And what fun would that be?


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