Not writing alone

Writing is lonely. There’s a reason we crave reviews and thoughts from our readers- while it’s all in our own heads and on our computers it’s not as real as when others get at it. It’s more than affirmation that the work is good, it’s just the plain enthusiasm and shared love. It’s the same reason you find subreddits or forums for your favorite shows and talk about it- it’s community.

I just finished listening to episode #129 of the self-publishing podcast (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Y8-IjSWMgM) and they talk about reasons for writing. I find myself identifying strongly with Dave- who says he likes writing, likes having written, but doesn’t like having to write. It’s a weird thought process where I know I like doing what I’m doing, and I even like doing it as I’m doing it… but making myself start is like pulling teeth.

They then go and theorize how/why Dave is like this. They mention a situation that happened to me- kids at school reading what I wrote and passing it around wanting more. It’s such an amazing feeling to get the praise and desire for your work from others. I looked forward to writing and handing it off to friends, knowing that even a teacher or two got a hold of the work and liked it. I went to different classes as fast as I could so I could sit and talk to friends about characters and story- both mine and theirs if they were writers too. It was a little personal fandom and it was so fun.

Now I’m in my mid-20s, out of college, with little to no social circle to speak of. So I write my work and I like it, I’m proud of it, but who do I have to share this with? I’ve tried to find ‘writer-friends’ online but it doesn’t seem to work that well anymore. Writers just end up talking about their own work, wanting to push it to others. I get that, hell I’ve done the exact same- but it’s more of a business/work deal than a sharing-with-friends.

Oh there’s lots of general encouraging writer-stuff everywhere, but who is going to be excited that I worked through a plot problem? That I found out the specific name I gave a character has a deeper meaning that ties into the story?

For instance: I learned that ‘Spade’, the Italian suit that corresponds to our Spades, means literally Swords (plural). It’s also a feminine noun (most languages give a gender to things while English does not). Given that the Italian suits in Clandestina signify the Margrave station (which I used instead of the French Marquis on purpose because it signifies border-lands, and it has ‘grave’ in the name) I took this more literally. So in Piques there isn’t just the Margrave Spade and his wife, but several women who are known as the Ladies of Swords.

It’s a small thing, and while the characters play important parts, figuring out that background and working from it is trivia-y. But it’s cool! It’s something a fan would smile about. It’s something I want to tell people and get a ‘Oh, awesome!’ reply, instead of adding it into the book to read like an etymology lesson.

I had this idea last evening that I would start talking about my work, writing short scenes that may or may not end up in the books proper, talk inspiration and background information on my blog. The scenes I might put up on deviantART as well. I don’t know if this sort of thing will ruin or enhance the books, I’d hope the latter. People do seem to like spoilers and trailers for that reason- getting a taste is tempting.

I’m still not entirely sure I’ll do it, but it does seem like a good way to start up the friendly-community chatter that I used to like. Maybe someone’ll will Like something, or comment, and connections will grow from there.

Mistakes, worldbuilding, and trusting the story

It was once thought that a muse, or a daimon  (genius in Latin), brought fantastic ideas to artists. There’s a great TED talk about it here: http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius?language=en

And it makes sense in a way. Art, while  now we think of it as coming from one person, is also the person’s entire life, various situations, thoughts, emotions, experiences, jumbled up until the brain decides to sort it so someone can write a book, paint a picture, or compose a song.

Our brains are also known for doing many things under the radar. We don’t think about breathing or blinking (until right now when I mention it) nor about our blood pumping or hair growing. It just happens.

And here’s where I want to talk about trusting the story. I’ve written a few posts about how I had to go back and tweak small things in Larkspur because, having worked on the second book now for about a year, there are things I may look at differently. Something small, like a phrase or a name that fit at the time and does not any more. Plwto becoming Thanatos, and then changed to Akhlys as I worked out how the lands of the dead was structured. Not a huge deal, and for the 300 or so people that have an edition with another name, hopefully my books will never be assigned in class and so you won’t get the answer wrong on a quiz.

Then there are the things I wrote it not knowing why, only to find out how they fit in later. It’s your story, your brain, your genius, coming up with a way to make it all work even if you think you’ve written yourself into a corner. All without you knowing.

Sean Platt calls it trusting the story. And it’s helped me when there are large things I sometimes can’t find a good answer for.

Take Pierre’s name. Pierre is as French as you can get, and since Clandestina is heavily based in a French feel that’s great. The problem comes with his second name- Salvador. Not French. And while I play loose with what names come from where, Clandestina has English and Celtic influences as secondary characteristics, not Spanish or Italian (though those are in neighboring realms).

Someone reading my story pointed this out, and how a French noble with a Spanish name in real life would be mistrusted.

I did the whole ‘this is fantasy, some of the names don’t always jive’ but it still bothered me. Whyever would he have a name that was so different?

Then as I was thinking I remember the old legends about how a name holds power, and how fairies in particular were sneaky and somewhat immoral about their tricks. Pierre, having a father who lived in Faery, would have course not tell anyone his real full name. So he, much like I when originally naming the character, picked the name because it sounded cool- not realizing it didn’t fit with the scheme of the land just yet.

So from a mistake came a whole thread to the world that I didn’t know was there before. And it just works.

Maps!

I’ve been working on maps all day long! And now you get some pictures, worldbuilding, and other random information about how I spend my days.

As we know, fantasy maps are a large part of the genre. Any even slightly-epic story will have one, and while not many people really go and look at it, there are the geeks who double-check it for accuracy at every mention of location. If the story becomes popular enough the map will be seen a fair amount more. Even if you aren’t a really hardcore fantasy fan you know what Middle Earth looks like, and probably Westeros as well. You might even know how the Four Nations from Avatar and Korra are situated.

When reading I don’t look at the map that often myself. But later, when reading up on the world, about the author, the more meta side of the story I delight in having detailed maps. It makes the world so much more real.

You can see where this is going 🙂

My first attempts at making a map were terrible MS Paint scribbles. Just the basics, so I could see which part of the world held what continent and that’s about it. But that wasn’t enough for me. I’d go on to make a calendar and work out the daily times of sunrise, moonrise, sunset and moonset. Plus the seasons, the ‘real seasons’ the fae-seasons, the moon phases, how these all differ between hemispheres.. etc.

So a bullshit MS paint map wasn’t going to cut it.

I’ve used a few programs over the years to make up for my lack of drawing skills. ProFantasy’s Fractal Terrains 3 (https://secure.profantasy.com/products/ft.asp) was my main ‘this is a map now’ program. I typed in some numbers and variations, hit go, and a world popped up. I clicked through a few until I found one that felt like Noctuina to me.

Then I had the problem of adding things like borders, roads, names. Moving it over to photoshop would be good, but to do that I had to export the file. As a single file it wasn’t as big as I wanted (I was originally going to have a pixel-to-feet conversion of some sort, but that proved way too daunting and silly) so I exported it in as many files as possible, in as big a setting as possible.

So now I had 256 bits of map. 16 across and 16 down.

I made a huuuuge photoshop file and start moving over each piece. But I noticed that they aren’t seamlessly connecting, and are leaving white boxes around each bit. I couldn’t just fill it with blue, some of it cut through land, and picking through such a file would be a pain…

Now at this point I knew Noctuina had magical realms that had their own borders different than kingdoms and countries, but I had not worked out how I would decide what realm was where. Having 256 perfect rectangles that made up my entire world seemed as good a place as any to place the magical borders. Given that it is a globe, there would realistically be distortion, and the lines wouldn’t be hard edges (in most places). Walking past the point won’t usually change the magic of the realm as if you’d hit the edge of a green lawn and walked into a snow-covered one. (Though now that is being planned between some realms).

It was only after I’d come up with this genius idea that I realized when I hit save in photoshop, the thin white lines disappeared. Too late! I kept the files separate, with one ‘whole map’ picture of the same size as the pieces.

Since then I’ve mostly worked on bits of the map at a time, deciding which realm went where, but today I was started working in more detail on Clandestina. There are towns, duchies, and various other things mentioned in Delphinium, and while I had a vague idea, an actual map would be helpful.

Clandestina is the realm in which The Larkspur Series takes place. The kingdom that roi Edgard and reine Joséphine control is called Triumphe. It consists of 4 duchies, each named/themed after a suit of French playing cards. Cœurs (Hearts), Carreaux (Diamonds), Trèfles (Clubs), and Piques (Spades). There are other sections in each duchy that correspond to suits used by other countries. Elizabeth is from Eichel (Acorns), a German suit used in place of Clubs. You meet the Margrave of Bastoni briefly in the opening scene- Bastoni being the Italian suit Clubs.

There is land in Clandestina that is not part of Triumphe. These are more wild lands, with far more of the Fée living in the main plane of existence.

Anyway, pictures! Here’s Clandestina, with the borders of the duchies sorted out and named. Below that is a further away view of more of the realms and land. It is not the full map, that is 16 by 16 ‘realms.’

https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/W0lZkt5.jpg

Maps!

ATTENTION: If you’d like to keep following me, my official website has been moved to https://vmjaskiernia.com/ – whether or not I keep this as a less official blog is still up for debate. Thoughts?

I’ve been working on maps all day long! And now you get some pictures, worldbuilding, and other random information about how I spend my days.

As we know, fantasy maps are a large part of the genre. Any even slightly-epic story will have one, and while not many people really go and look at it, there are the geeks who double-check it for accuracy at every mention of location. If the story becomes popular enough the map will be seen a fair amount more. Even if you aren’t a really hardcore fantasy fan you know what Middle Earth looks like, and probably Westeros as well. You might even know how the Four Nations from Avatar and Korra are situated.

When reading I don’t look at the map that often myself. But later, when reading up on the world, about the author, the more meta side of the story I delight in having detailed maps. It makes the world so much more real.

You can see where this is going 🙂

My first attempts at making a map were terrible MS Paint scribbles. Just the basics, so I could see which part of the world held what continent and that’s about it. But that wasn’t enough for me. I’d go on to make a calendar and work out the daily times of sunrise, moonrise, sunset and moonset. Plus the seasons, the ‘real seasons’ the fae-seasons, the moon phases, how these all differ between hemispheres.. etc.

So a bullshit MS paint map wasn’t going to cut it.

I’ve used a few programs over the years to make up for my lack of drawing skills. ProFantasy’s Fractal Terrains 3 (https://secure.profantasy.com/products/ft.asp) was my main ‘this is a map now’ program. I typed in some numbers and variations, hit go, and a world popped up. I clicked through a few until I found one that felt like Noctuina to me.

Then I had the problem of adding things like borders, roads, names. Moving it over to photoshop would be good, but to do that I had to export the file. As a single file it wasn’t as big as I wanted (I was originally going to have a pixel-to-feet conversion of some sort, but that proved way too daunting and silly) so I exported it in as many files as possible, in as big a setting as possible.

So now I had 256 bits of map. 16 across and 16 down.

I made a huuuuge photoshop file and start moving over each piece. But I noticed that they aren’t seamlessly connecting, and are leaving white boxes around each bit. I couldn’t just fill it with blue, some of it cut through land, and picking through such a file would be a pain…

Now at this point I knew Noctuina had magical realms that had their own borders different than kingdoms and countries, but I had not worked out how I would decide what realm was where. Having 256 perfect rectangles that made up my entire world seemed as good a place as any to place the magical borders. Given that it is a globe, there would realistically be distortion, and the lines wouldn’t be hard edges (in most places). Walking past the point won’t usually change the magic of the realm as if you’d hit the edge of a green lawn and walked into a snow-covered one. (Though now that is being planned between some realms).

It was only after I’d come up with this genius idea that I realized when I hit save in photoshop, the thin white lines disappeared. Too late! I kept the files separate, with one ‘whole map’ picture of the same size as the pieces.

Since then I’ve mostly worked on bits of the map at a time, deciding which realm went where, but today I was started working in more detail on Clandestina. There are towns, duchies, and various other things mentioned in Delphinium, and while I had a vague idea, an actual map would be helpful.

Clandestina is the realm in which The Larkspur Series takes place. The kingdom that roi Edgard and reine Joséphine control is called Triumphe. It consists of 4 duchies, each named/themed after a suit of French playing cards. Cœurs (Hearts), Carreaux (Diamonds), Trèfles (Clubs), and Piques (Spades). There are other sections in each duchy that correspond to suits used by other countries. Elizabeth is from Eichel (Acorns), a German suit used in place of Clubs. You meet the Margrave of Bastoni briefly in the opening scene- Bastoni being the Italian suit Clubs.

There is land in Clandestina that is not part of Triumphe. These are more wild lands, with far more of the Fée living in the main plane of existence.

Anyway, pictures! Here’s Clandestina, with the borders of the duchies sorted out and named. Below that is a further away view of more of the realms and land. It is not the full map, that is 16 by 16 ‘realms.’

https://i0.wp.com/i.imgur.com/W0lZkt5.jpg

Languages, Names, Mythology

I love language. Languages, even, not just my own. The differences, similarities, translations, and meanings of words in my tongue, and in the languages of others.. it’s amazing isn’t it? I think it started with my love of names- you may have noticed I have a varied group of names in my work. Larkspur’s Clandestina is influenced by France, and the UK, so you have ‘Pierre’ and ‘Elizabeth’ but it’s also a fantasy world. It wouldn’t be a good fantasy world if some of the names didn’t have deeper meanings, would it?

Some are mundane even so. Joséphine, the reine (I’ll get to the title translations in a second) is named so because A) I like it and B) it was Napoleon’s wife’s name. And C) It was also the name of the evil princess’s horse in the Story of Evil Vocaloid series. Ok, that was the main reason I used it.. 😉

Edgard, the roi, has the French name version of Edgar, named after one of my favourite authors and influences Edgar Allan Poe.

Other names are more foreign. Ophion, Pierre’s uncle, has a Greek name. Mythological actually. Ophion was once the ruler of the universe, as well as a giant snake (his name means serpent). Ophion’s adopted daughter is Eglė, who in Lithuanian mythology marries the serpent king. Her name though means Spruce, as in the tree, for she is turned into one at the end of the myth (her children are also named after, and turned into, trees). So far you don’t see the snake connection, but it’s addressed in book 2 and a prequel book devoted just to Ophion and Eglė fleshes this out.

Now, you don’t *need* to know any of this to enjoy the story. I forgot why I had chosen Ophion as a name until I googled it a few days ago. I assumed it was a form of Ophelia (who commits suicide in Hamlet) or a variation to Orpheus (who goes to the underworld to bring back his lover). That said, Ophélie (Pierre’s mother) is the French for Ophelia, and I’m going to use Orpheus somewhere for something.

But it is still nice and fun, and to the few people that get it a little extra joy. I’m certainly pleased.

About those royal and noble titles: in Clandestina you see most of the terms used are in French. Roi, Reine, Duc, Prince (yup, spelled the same as in English, but it’s French). The ‘default’ language of the world is our English. Mainly because I speak English, but also because English is largely becoming a lingua franca and truly is in many ways a ‘default’ language.

(Mythology sidetrack)

In-Universe this is explained as the language being Saiva’s gift. She is a somewhat of a goddess, the ‘Nothing’ to Amôru’s ‘Everything.’ I’m trying to be precise about terms, because like Middle Earth, while there are many magical creatures, even divine beings, there is only one God- Amôru. The personification of Everything Good. Saiva, who is the personification of Nothing (not evil, or a lack of good, just stillness and.. nothing) is his wife. Amôru’s name means 10, though I also chose it because it reminds me of Amor, a term for Love. Saiva means 0, though it seems to also be a variation of Shiva’s name in Hindu mythology.

(Back on track)

So everyone innately speaks and communicates in English. Each realm though is influenced by a real world country or countries and other languages still exists. So yes, Pierre and Elizabeth are speaking English. But there are times where the French term holds more weight than the ‘generic’ English, and so code-switching happens in everyday speech.

Most of the time this is in the form of Titles. With the addition of magic, other beings, other realms, and planes of existence, there have to be more terms to quickly differentiate who or what everyone is.

In plain terms, the English titles refer to the rulers and nobles of that ‘race’ (I say race, but I don’t like the term. Hence the in-universe bestia, ‘beast’). So the King of Triumphe can only hold authority over other humans in that kingdom. Still in Clandestina, but outside of Triumphe, he would be respected but not have authority. Perhaps of a lesser title. The Queen of Werewolves though holds power over all of Astrarctia, but only about/in matters involving werewolves.

Clandestina is very entwined with Faery though, and while a full-blooded fée living next door is unlikely, the shenanigans of the fay might well cause lots of harm. So the king is called Roi, and if the fée step in Triumphe they must defer to him. Not as strongly as a human, not if they don’t permanently live in that plane, but even so. (Outside of Triumphe Edgard would be well respected, but not a king to anyone there).

Same thing with Pierre- he is a duc, not a duke. Fée, or as we see more in Delphinium, vampires who come up from Italaviana, are his to hold power over.

There was one term left in English which you may even have missed at the start of Larkspur: Margrave. A variation of the term Marquis, meaning a rule of a land at a border. Margrave specifically is used for those who rule between the borders of planes. So the Margrave Bastoni who spoke to Pierre rules the mountains where there happen to be a lot of portals to fée. He has authority on both sides of the portal, though much of that comes from his fée wife as well.

I could go on for another hour typing up why I chose one certain term or name, but I think I’ll save the rest for another post at a later time.

((For those wondering, I am quite well now that I’ve taken a little time to reset, worldbuild, and get back into the flow of things. I’m no longer worried or doubting. I am writing.))

Worlds

Yesterday was Larkspur’s last day in Kindle Select. I made the last two days give-aways and had 430 copies taken up by folk on the internets. Hope a few end up leaving reviews ❤

It’s been 90 days since I published Larkspur. Sold 138 copies, and gave away over a thousand. It’s been sent through Draft2Digital, though it seems to take Nook/Kobo and those lot longer to get stuff up than Amazon. I’ll write another post when it’s live.

Delphinium is taking a few twists and I’m having to change a few scenes here and there. The more I write, the more.. different it gets in a few ways. I’m trying not to make the same mistake as with Larkspur and rush it, so I’m letting this play out. Much more to do with Italaviana, and the inter-realm politics, but it should settle back to just being about necrocræft for a book or two after. It is fairly full circle since in the first versions of these stories, Pierre and company were vampires (as well as necrocræft users. Well, back then it was Black Magic and Forbidden Magic). You’ll meet a new character from Italaviana, Silas, who has his own set of stories that take place a few hundred years before the Larkspur series.

I’m also starting to think about what the next series I want to be writing will be. It should be better to have two or three realms engaged at one time so I don’t end up bored with one set, and so people get used to a lot of different places. I don’t want to be that author who has one series everyone likes, but everything else they do is ignored because it just isn’t that first one. I love Clandestina, and I’m very proud of the necrocræft magical system, but there’s so much more I just want to write about- wizards, dreamers, werewolves, ringian, unicorns, magicians… Noctuina is a conglomerate of so many countries and kingdoms and worlds, they all deserve to be noticed. I’m hoping that since they are all take place in the same universe and occasionally interact, this won’t be as difficult as if they were different universes entirely.

I’m thinking Ibella. Also Italy inspired, it’s near Italaviana. The magic of the realm comes from it being connected to the planes of dreams and nightmares. Political issues arise when the ruling powers in Reality are threatened that some of their citizens hold allegiance to other royals in different planes. Those that can enter the realm of dreams or nightmares are being taken and imprisoned. Dreams and Nightmares also have problems with each other.