Creating Worlds: Making up Montalier

Okay, so technically, Montalier is not a world.

1It’s a country within a world. But creating worlds sounds so much better than making up countries, so I’m running with it. I created Montalier for my novella TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY, the first in my SHARDS OF A BROKEN SWORD trilogy. Besides being the home of one of my favourite characters, Montalier is one of my favourite settings. I don’t think it’s because Montalier is any more developed than my other worlds: rather, I think it’s because TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was a first on so many levels for me.

  1. The first novella I ever wrote
  2. The first longer form fiction I wrote from a male POV (previously, I’ve only written short stories from male POV)
  3. The beginning of my first complete trilogy (as of now, when THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN is due to be published May 31st)
  4. The first book for which I made up pie proverbs

When you build a world you have to think about so many things.

Is this the coolest map you've ever seen, or what?

Is this the coolest map you’ve ever seen, or what? (And in case you’re wondering, Wyndsor is north-east of Montalier, out of sight along the coast. Avernse also doesn’t appear on this map, but that’s because it was a VERY TINY piece of paper)

Political system. Monetary system. History. Religious system (if any). Etymology of names. Proverbs and historical references. Is it a country or an actual world? A monarchy or a democracy–or perhaps both? What sort of military does your country have? How does it interact with the militia of the surrounding countries? Is this a coastal country, or landlocked? Do you have dragons? (Always have dragons). If you’re travelling from country to country, where exactly are your countries in relation to each other? Do you have a map? (Always have a map. With compass. Trust me, you’ll need it.)

There are many other things to ask and formulate, but one of the things I most enjoy making up is pop culture. Well, not exactly pop culture, but you know what I mean. The catch-phrases people use. The in-jokes. The references to ancient (and not-so-ancient) history. The things you forget you say until someone from another country hears you and wonders what you mean.

With Montalier, it was pies.

Tiny pies. Huge Pies. Pies in between. Pie proverbs. Pie references. Pies everywhere! I love pie, so it was a hugely enjoyable (albeit hunger-inducing) part of my world-building. In fact, when I revisited Montalier for THE FIRST CHILL OF AUTUMN, at least one beta reader asked if there would be more pie proverbs. (Spoilers: no. Sadly, there were no words to spare, as TFCOA already weighs in at a smidge over 50k, which is slightly long for a novella).

As a reader, I have three worlds that I’ve found to be extraordinarily well-written.

The first of those is the world Steven Brust has created for Vlad Taltos, his assassin-on-the-run who manages to escape death and disaster by the skin of his teeth nearly every book, while his side-kick Loiosh is making sarcastic comments in his ear. The world-building there is something really special. It grows over the course of many, many books, but each book is so well-contained and explained that I have very happily read them ALL out of order without feeling more than pleased each time I find something cool that slots into my knowledge base for the next book.

Second: Kate Stradling’s Kingdom of Lenore in KINGDOM OF RUSES  and TOURNAMENT OF RUSES. And guys, I know I’ve raved about this book and this author before, but the world-building here is just so deftly done: there is not a single unnecessary word, and the world is richly imagined and filled out.

My third favourite is the world Patricia Wrede created for THE RAVEN RING. It is rich in sayings, understandings, customs, and magic; and it’s done in an understated and completely immersive way. THE RAVEN RING is another book I’ve already raved about, so just go and read it already. (Incidentally, Patricia Wrede’s blog is probably one of the best blogs a writer can read for world-building–and lots of other–advice, too.)

Writers, what is your favourite part of creating a world? Readers, what is the best world you’ve ever read? Let me know in the comments! Or, yanno, just tell me a really great pie proverb?

Descent into Madness: or, an Interview in Underland

In honour of PLAYING HEARTS‘ publication this week, I’ve arranged a rather special interview! With me today are Hatter, Hare, and Dormy; sans tea-table but fully supplied with tea and crumpets.

 

PLAYING HEARTS BOOK COVER-picmonkeyW.R. [addresses all three]: Good afternoon! It’s lovely to have you with me today!

Hatter: It can’t be afternoon. We haven’t had our morning tea yet. You’ll have to rewind.

W.R.: Er…Good morning?

Hatter: Better. Better, butter. Butter! Who took the butter? I must get on with the crumpets or we’ll be late.

Hare: YOU WILL GET NOTHING FROM ME, MADAM, BUT NAME, EAR LENGTH, AND HAT SIZE.

Dormy: SNOOOOOOooooaaaaaaaaAAAARK!

W.R.: I’m sorry, what did you say?

Hatter: He didn’t say anything. He’s snoring.

W.R.: No, I mean the Hare. Name, ear length, and hat size…?

Hatter: He thinks you’re a minion of the queen.

W.R.: Why would I be a minion of the queen?

Hatter: Prestige, power, scones…

Hare: HARE, ELEVEN INCHES NINEPENCE, FOUR AND THREE QUARTERS.

W.R.: Um. Thanks.

Dormy: SNOOOOOOooooaaaaaaaaAAAARK!

W.R. [addresses Hatter]Your hat is a rather special one, I hear. Can you tell us about it?

Hatter: Yes.

W.R.:

Hatter:

W.R.: Um. Your hat? You were going to tell us about it?

Hatter: No I wasn’t.

W.R. [narrows eyes]: You just said you could tell us about it.

Hatter [sniffs]: Can and will are two different things. You should be more precise.

W.R. [considers a very precise method of informing the Hatter what a prat he is]: Perhaps the Hare would care to answer a question or two?

Hatter: Perhaps.

Dormy: SNOOOOOOooooaaaaaaaaAAAARK!

W.R.[addresses Hare]: I see you have a crutch.

Hare: I SEE YOU HAVE A BIG NOSE.

W.R.[tries to hide nose behind hand]: Well, yes, but- I mean, you’re missing a front paw, not a back leg. Why do you need a crutch? Isn’t it inconvenient?

Hare: WELL, WHY DO YOU NEED A NOSE AS BIG AS THAT? DOES IT HELP YOU SMELL BETTER?

W.R.: No. That’s why I take showers.

Hare [fixed stare]:…

W.R. [fixed glare]:…

Hare: HAVE A CUP OF TEA. IT’S NOT POISONED.

W.R. [takes teacup]: Thaaaanks. Back to your crutch. When did you get it?

Hare: NOT EVEN A SMIDGE OF BATTERY ACID.

W.R. [puts teacup down]: What do you know about battery acid? You come from a pre-electric paradigm.

Hare: WE HAD A LOOK AT YOUR CAR. IT WAS BROKEN.

W.R.: My car wasn’t broken!

Hare: WE FIXED IT FOR YOU. WE ACCEPT PAYMENT IN TEA AND CRUMPETS.

W.R.: But you don’t know anything about car electronics!

Hare: YES, AND IT WAS VERY DIFFICULT. THAT MEANS IT’S WORTH A LOT OF TEA AND CRUMPETS.

W.R.: What did you do to my car!?

Hatter: Well, it has wheels, after all. Worst comes to worst, you can always get behind it and push. Good exercise for you.

W.R. [groans]: Never mind. I’m sure it can’t be as bad as all that.

Dormy [blinks and sits up, yawning]

W.R. [looks relieved]: Oh, lovely! Dormy, you’re awake! I have so many questions I’d like to ask you!

Dormy: Meep!

W.R. [clears throat]So: you’re usually asleep in the teapot that Mabel uses to get into Underland. Can you tell me why you like to sleep in tea dregs? It seems like a rather uncomfortable place for a nap.

Dormy: Meep!

W.R.: Right. Um. But the teapot? Why is it such a favourite with you?

Dormy: Meep!

W.R. [addresses Hatter and Hare]Have I offended him? Or does he not care for questions?

Hatter: He’s a dormouse.

Hare: A DORMOUSE, MADAM.

W.R.: Yes, I know. What’s that got to do with it?

Hatter & Hare [stare at W.R.]:…

Hatter: Dormice don’t talk.

Hare: IS SHE MENTALLY DEFICIENT?

Hatter [sotto voce]: Back away slowly. Maybe she won’t notice.

W.R. [pinches bridge of nose and sighs]: You know what? I think we’re done.

Hare: RUN FOR IT, HATTER, SHE’S GETTING UP!

W.R. [indignant]: Oh, for Pete’s sake! Come back here, you two!

Dormy: Meep!

W.R.: You left Dormy behind, you mad little oiks! Now what am I supposed to do? I haven’t got a teapot big enough for him!

***

Well, that’s it. I’m off to find out what they’ve done to my car. If you want to see more of Hatter and Hare, preorder PLAYING HEARTS before Thursday the 10th to get it for the special price of 99c! (It’ll go up to $1.99 after that, so get it while it’s cheap).

GUYS. IT’S CHRISTMAS NEXT WEEK. CHRISTMAS. GUYS.

IT’S CHRISTMAS NEXT WEEK. Seriously, when did that happen?

So WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! FIRE IN THE BLOOD is out December 25th, and is on preorder special of 99c!

Preorder your little heart out!

(Also, help! The exclamation marks are taking over the post!!)

 

2nd Shards_FireInTheBlood

A princess in a dragon-guarded tower. The prince who is to rescue her. The prince’s ensorcelled dragon. And one enchanted keep that might just be enough to kill them all…

It’s widely known that Princess Kayami Koto is held captive in the Enchanted Keep by a dragon of great ferocity and skill. So when the bold, daring and crafty Prince Akish attempts to rescue her, it seems only sensible to bring his own dragon, Rafiq.
But the Keep’s dragon is only the first Circle in the Keep’s Seven Circles of Challenge, and both Rafiq and the prince will have to keep their wits about them if they’re to survive and rescue the princess.

There to help them is the princess’ serving maid, Kako. But why does Kako seem so familiar to Rafiq? Will she really help them, or does she have her own agenda? Rafiq isn’t sure, but he knows one thing: Kako may be the only person who can free him from his bondage to the prince, and that’s worth any amount of risk.

What A Glorious Feeling!

There’s a really horrible part of writing. It’s that part, about halfway through–or even 3/4 of the way through, or right at the end–when you’re convinced that everything you write is utter drivel and it feels like there’s no saving it. The plot is hopelessly holey, the dialogue is trite and stiff, and the surrounding prose is as uninspired at a piece of toast.

We all get it. Well. get it, and I’d hate to think I’m alone in my funk, misery–as they say–loving company. For me, this time, it hit like a sledgehammer right at the end of FIRE IN THE BLOOD. I didn’t even want to edit it. TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY was so quick and easy to write, and it felt like FITB was one drag after another–problems with characters, problems with plot-holes, etc. Most of ’em I fixed as I went, but it left me feeling raw and uncertain about the whole novella. Especially since I preset a publication date on FITB before it was finished (December 25th, in case you’re wondering).

That was then.

Now?

This is me now:

giphy

What makes the difference, you ask?

Well, mostly I think it’s mental. As in, I’m mental, inclined to worry, and unnecessarily complicate things by obsessing over them. Also, a little while ago I finished first edits of FITB (with two quicker rounds to go). Not only did I fix the remaining, tiny (much tinier than I remembered) plot-holes, but I found that the whole thing was about twenty times better than I remembered it being. The dialogue was everything I wanted it to be, the story progressed so much more smoothly than I remembered, and it was all in all a much better novella than I thought it was. So I polished it some more and then went and watched The Marriage Of Figaro on Youtube.

All that wasted worry! I could have spent that on something else!

Preorder Is Up: AKA, Git Yer Novella Heeeeere!

Hey guys 🙂 This is just a quick, mid-week note to let you all know that TWELVE DAYS OF FAERY is up for preorder on Amazon. So go preorder now!*

*Or don’t. I’m not the boss of you.

1

In Twelve Days Of Faery, King Markon of Montalier is at the end of his tether. His son, Prince Parrin, is afflicted with a rather nasty curse that slaughters, maims, or brutally attacks any woman with whom he so much as flirts. After the rumour that sweeps around the kingdom, promising that any woman breaking the ‘curse’ will be eligible to marry the prince, there is no shortage of willing volunteers. Unfortunately, there is also no shortage of bodies piling up.

Markon needs to do something, but what? Can a visiting enchantress from Avernse help, or is she simply another accident waiting to happen? And will Markon be able to give her up to his son if she does break the curse?