Thursday, October 31, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013

Vote for Her Ladyship

Earlier this month I entered a video contest over at You Gotta Read, and voting is now open until 10/27. If you'd like to cast a ballot for the book video for Her Ladyship's Curse (or any of the competition), click here.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Finishing Up The Q&A

Now that we're running out of year I thought I'd devote the next couple of Wednesdays to wrapping up the rest of the world-building questions asked back during our June Q&A.

Darlene wrote: Creating the class structure in a new society always bogs me down. I'd love to hear how you do that. It always seems so organic in your books.

I covered my approach pretty thoroughly in comments to the original post, but I did want to add a couple of additional thoughts in regard to creating your own class structure. The demands of your story will help determine the structure your social hierarchies, as in every kingdom needs a ruler and every village an idiot, but don't confine your storytelling to a rigid, no-exceptions social construct. Just as in real life there are always exceptions, like the beggar who by luck or determination becomes a billionaire, or the prince who by the opposite is reduced to a pauper. Wherever there is a society there are always exceptional people who by will work their way up or by circumstance tumble down its ladders.

Speaking of the exception to the rule, and I ask this of you from the bottom of my storyteller's heart, please do not set up a rigid, uncompromising rule in your universe's social structure and then immediately break it without explanation as the story opens. Aka only women have ruled The Planet of Chick Queens for millenia, except next Tuesday, when a guy will ascend to the throne; or only rogue males have the psychic ability to shape-shift, except for your heroine, who is (of course secretly) the only female shape-shifter in the history of recorded time.

If you're going to create an exception, make it logical and fitting, not utterly spontaneous and entirely inexplicable. If you want an example of how I do that, Alexandra Keller from my Darkyn series was the first human in centuries to survive transitioning from mortal to Kyn in book one, but the reason why she survived it was integral to the foundation of the series (and while you don't find out precisely why until book seven, the details are always there as a logical and fitting aspect of the world-building.)

Lisa954 wrote: Fran already went over my question. I love looking at the social aspect of world building. Where do you start to create this part? Do you take your own society and tweak it? or start from scratch?

How I build a social structure for a universe really depends on the type of world I'm using for the story. My far-future StarDoc universe, for example, was entirely invented, so likewise the social structures and everything in it had to be cooked up from scratch. Since there were dozens of species involved I also had to do regular, intense new social and biological world-building every time one was introduced into the storyline. This sort of universe requires a ton of work but is probably the most satisfying, because basically everything in it is your creation.

For the Disenchanted & Co. books I took the Victorian American era and skewed it to suit the alternative universe I created by changing one important event in history. That gave me a lot of pre-existing building materials to use, but much of that had to be altered to fit into my universe's reality. This sort of world-building is sometimes easier or harder than pure invention, but you have the advantage of exisiting constructs to employ, change, reimagine etc.

In my Darkyn series I added vampiric immortals and their mortal enemies to the modern world, which required building onto (and most often behind) our existing universe. This may seem like the easiest route, but it offers the greatest number of boundaries. You also have to provide meaningful reasons as to why no one is aware of the additions, or you have to alter the real world to accomodate them in some logical fashion.

Any type of world you build will present unique opportunities and challenges for your imagination, and to decide which you want for your story is an important choice. Your story concept will determine a lot, but so will you. If you're not inclined to build a great deal, altering or using an existing world is probably your best fit. If you'd love to reimagine reality from the ground up then you're more likely to be happy running with a completely new world no one has ever seen. Look hard at your story concept and your characters and see what's right for them, but also consider what's best for you.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Victorian Halloween Images

For those of you who are looking for some Victorian-style Halloween images:

I found all of these free to download over at this clipart site.

Friday, October 18, 2013

New Excerpt

I've posted another excerpt from The Clockwork Wolf, which you can read by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Building By Character

Lately I've been thinking about writing a sequel to Larka, one of my fantasy short stories set in the Ravelin universe. Aryn, the protagonist, has always been one of my all-time favorite characters, and while I intended her tale to end where it did, many readers over the years have asked what happened after the end.

Aryn is also an example of world-building by character, in that the reader discovers the world exclusively through her point of view, which is that of a castaway human who has been raised by non-humans. Aryn has a few, blurry memories of her life before she became marooned, but she has been so completely and succesfully integrated into her non-human adoptive family she no longer thinks of them. She's also had zero contact with her own kind prior to this story, so she's at the same disadvantage as the reader, in that she has to learn everything about the world she's about to discover along with them.

Because she has been raised by non-humans Aryn believes she is a larka, or a non-person (among her adoptive people, she has about the same status as an affectionate, interesting pet.) Her interpretation of what she experiences is likewise the same as theirs would be. When she is rescued, she doesn't understand things like clothing or furniture or even something as basic as a loaf of bread:

Kalas had me perch on something called a chair at another thing called a table and eat something that looked like a rock but was soft and tasted like munochin frills. I ate with my hands until I saw Kalas stab at its soft rocks with a blade.
Maybe the food was strange to the other larka, too.

“You don’t have to kill it,” I said in the polite form. “I think it’s already dead.”

Aryn also has to learn about human society and customs, which Kalas, her human rescuer, explains are very different from those of her adoptive people:

“Aryn, not all hue mens adjust to deprivation and hardship as well as you have. Do you know what a cripple is?”

The word was different in Srupas, but I felt sure it meant the same thing. “A youngling who is born with useless parts, or one whose parts are made useless by injury or sickness.”

“Then you know what happens to them.”

I nodded. “Their mother or their clutch kills and eats them.”

Kalas drew back, his eyes wide, and then he pressed his lips together and looked out the land ship opening for several moments.

“You don’t have to say it.” I sighed, resigned. “Hue men mothers don’t eat their useless young.”

Aryn doesn't get a free pass in the story after she rejoins human society, either. In fact she's treated very badly, especially when she attempts to help someone in trouble. Aryn may be ignorant, but she's not stupid, and she decides it's better for her to be treated as a non-person than endure anything more from her own kind:

Jathel argued with me, and would not give me permission to go, but I spent only oneday more in the stronghold before I felt strong enough to leave on my own. Guards got in my way and tried to stop me more than once, but I took a blade with me and when they saw I meant to use it they stepped out of my way. I went down to the sea and swam for a long time, letting the good salty water bathe my wounds. Then I set up a place for myself in the caves and went about catching and storing some food.

Whenever guards from the stronghold came down to the shore, I went into the water, and stayed there until they left again.

I waited and watched for a shiner vessel. As soon as I saw one I planned to swim out to it and ask if I could work the nets in exchange for passage back to Valanar.

After fourday Kalas came, and dove into the water after me. He couldn’t swim as fast as me, though, so he didn’t catch me.
“Why are you doing this?” he called out, panting. “Lord Jathel wishes to reward you.”

“I don’t want a reward,” I shouted back. “I want to go back to Valanar.”

“You belong with your people, Aryn. We have to find your kin. We have to know who you are,” he said.

“No you don’t.” I swam a little closer so I didn’t have to yell. “You said I was free, that the hue mens would be kind to me. But they locked me away alone. They beat me and starved me. That woman wants me dead.”

By the end of the story both Aryn and the reader come to understand everything, but it's a journey they've taken together every step of the way. Sharing the perspective with the character that way can offer the reader the same kind of satisfaction the character feels when the world is made understandable and the conflict resolved.

If you'd like to read Larka, I've posted it online in a standalone .pdf here.

Monday, October 14, 2013

His Lordship Arrives

Today is the release day for His Lordship Possessed, the latest book in my new Disenchanted & Co. steampunk urban fantasy series for Pocket Star. This book wraps up the story that began with Her Ladyship's Curse in August, and will be combined with that book in the print edition of Disenchanted & Co., to be released in January. Takes notes because there will be a pop quiz on this later.

As most of you know the only income I have is from sales of my books, so if you would like to show your support for me, the Disenchanted & Co. blog, and all the other trouble I get into online you can invest in His Lordship. My thanks to you and those who already have; you're the reason I keep at this gig.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


I'm sorry it's taken me this long to post an update; circumstances beyond my control hijacked me for a bit. I'm happy to report that all is (almost) back to normal, and while I will be late delivering Forget-Me-Knot and some other things I had planned for October I am slowly getting back on track.

I did not send out a newsletter last month because I really had nothing new to report. I know the common practice is to send out one with a lot of filler and rehashing of things, but the last thing I want to do is clutter up a subscriber's inbox with something that constitutes a decided waste of valuable reading time. To solve this problem I'm going to skip doing a monthly newsletter and send out one only when I have actual news to share.

While I'm working to catch up I will also be suspending the Saturday Forthcoming posts; this until such time as I get caught up with all my unfinished projects. I will try to keep to my regular blogging schedule and post here three times per week, and have the usual fun features I've done in the past, but if I can't manage it I hope you'll understand.

On Monday, October 14th, His Lordship Possessed will be released, and I hope you will all consider investing in it sometime next week to help with my sales. The fate of Disenchanted & Co. depends on it, frankly, and while I will always be able to find work writing something, I'd really like to have the opportunity to continue this series.

That's all for today. I'll be back on Monday with the official release post for His Lordship Possessed. Until then have a lovely weekend, and thank you for all you do to support Kit and the crew.

Monday, October 7, 2013

While I'm Offline

I apologize for my unexpected absence from the blog; we're still having some weather-related issues here. While I'm offline dealing with those here is a look at a little quilt show I recently attended:

LynnViehl's Little Quilt Show album on Photobucket

Friday, October 4, 2013

Change of Plans

Tropical Storm Karen has made it necessary for me to unplug and do some weather prep, so I must cancel the giveaway post I had planned for today. I apologize for the inconvenience and will reschedule at the earliest opportunity. Should we have power issues due to the storm I may also be scarce for a few days, but once we're back online I will catch up with all the comments and such.

In the meantime, the official book video for Disenchanted & Co. is being featured today over at You Gotta Read Reviews in a contest for, you guessed it, videos. I entered it because I think Jeff Somers (the producer) is a genius, plus it was a fun way to get more people to watch it.

Stop in if you have a chance, vote when you're able (I believe the actual voting takes place at the end of October), and thanks in advance for your support.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Building with Objects

Inside this box is storyteller's magic. Oh, it may only look like an old French chocolates tin, but it contains seven objects we're going to use today to world-build. Let's open it up and have a look, shall we?

It appears we have a small red tin, an even tinier distressed tin, a leather patch, a carved shell pendant, a wee photograph pin, an old skeleton key and metal badge of some sort. Seven objects in all, and each one possesses the three characteristics of world-building potential: 1) they're interesting to me, 2) they can serve some purpose and 3) I don't know anything about them except that they all came from France.

Let's start with the red tin:

As you saw when we took it from the box the red tin has four cards and the word "Byrrh" on the top. When I opened it I found a little pamphlet with a smiling lady and a couple of paragraphs in French. Obviously this was an advertising tin, and from what I can translate Byrrh was some sort of wine tonic. That doesn't matter to me, because I already know what it's going to be in my universe: a playing card box for a game that will be the Toriana version of strip poker, and which will be played by adventurous lovers in private chambers (I will definitely change the name of the game to Brrr, the sound one sometimes makes when playing cards in one's birthday suit.)

It wasn't difficult to think up that purpose because everything about the tin suggested it to me, from the word on the top, the image of the playing cards, the tin's color, and the smiling lady inside. I let the object meet my imagination and now I have a naughty new game for my universe.

Onward to the next:

When I look inside the tiny distressed tin, I find a collection of old white and red buttons, two religious metals, an enameled tie tac for the Cambras Club, a pen nib and a franc. I think this little box belonged to a child who slowly collected the contents as secrets treasures. They're all the sort of thing you'd find dropped on the floor by a desk or a vanity, too, so it could also belong to a lady's maid or a housekeeper. Perhaps every thrifty Torian female carries such a box of bits in her apron pocket or reticule. I'll have to think more on this one.

I love this leather patch, because it has a crown with the name Marche above a crest of three lions against a field of fleur-de-lis. My first thought was three brother warriors who earned their titles in battle (the lions) while serving the monarchy (the crown). What happened to the Marche family after that? Did they remain in their homeland, loyal to the crown, or did they leave for Toriana, to start a new life? Or to do something for the crown? Are the Marches spies hiding in plain sight behind the old glory of their lineage? I'm thinking they are.

As for the rest of the objects, they're all telling me new things about my universe:

Did you know that cameos in Toriana are carved from abalone shells, because it's plentiful and considered more beautiful than the traditional sort?

Keys topped with laurel leaf carvings open more than doors in Rumsen, I think.

The metal badge, which has been stamped with the images of buildings and the name of a city, is actually a token used by the Tillers to send minions to a secret location.

The wee portrait of the unsmiling girl intrigues me most. She's so young and yet she's practically glaring at me, daring me to discover her story. The lovely setting of this pin (which is what is was once upon a time before the back fastener broke) has one whorl shaped like a wing. Someone loved this child enough to wear her portrait like a jewel, and the wing suggest angels and wishing and protection. I think this could be a miniature of Kit, and it may have belonged to Rachel, her mother.

Collecting random objects and studying them as to how they might fit into your world can spark all sorts of new ideas on which you can build. All you need are objects that interest you, and they're not difficult to hunt down -- you can find them in thrift stores or at flea markets and garage sales, left behind in books, purses or jewelry boxes, or in your own junk drawer at home. You may even find something discarded on the ground while you're out walking. Every object has a history and/or a purpose locked inside it, waiting for you to reveal it in your storytelling.