Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Author Interview: K. R. Galindez

K. R., thanks for sitting down with us today. Let’s dive right in, shall we? What inspired you to write The Spirit of a Rising Sun?

To be honest, I was just kind of bored. An idea popped into my head one day for a scene, and from that scene was born a character, and a world, and then a plot, and before I knew it…I had an entire story! I didn’t really work on it for a long time, but after I started writing, I fell in love with the craft and didn’t stop until I finished the book. In terms of what inspired me, I knew I wanted to write epic fantasy—something big, exciting, and with plenty of thrills. But I also wanted to challenge epic fantasy’s usual political and economic worlds—think monarchies, kingdoms, empires, feudalism—and tell a story that could feature a more egalitarian community, rebellions, revolutions. That’s where the Ungoverned come in. I really wanted to write a fantasy story where the characters engage with the subject of revolution—how to achieve it, what are we willing to sacrifice for it? As the series goes on, we’ll see the characters really pushed to these limits. 

We’ll certainly look forward to seeing them push their limits. Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 

Definitely! There’s the theme of navigating intense social and political change. I imagined Vaaz to be a late medieval society that’s constantly at risk of breaking apart. There are the Haf, gun-wielding invaders from across the sea. There’s a corrupt church in decline, clinging to control and asserting the old ways against change. There’s rebellion in the swamp and a powerful empire grasping for supremacy. It’s just anxiety and collapse everywhere—how do you fix a world like this? How do you possibly stay positive? How do you find hope? 

And this is where the other theme comes in, the tension and contrast between Liviana and Oyza. Liviana, I thought of as a kind of modernizing figure—she doesn’t like the inefficiency of the church, and she can’t stand how the empire’s being run. To fix the problems, she takes an authoritative approach: do as I say! And so we see her always responding with force and power. “The world stirs, but it will not stir us,” she says. She’s so strong, and yet this thorn in her side just nags at her—Oyza. 

Oyza, on the other hand, more follows her own heart. She’s got this personal journey to find her lost family, but all these years locked up have forced her to dream all while enduring horrors. And when she’s finally free, she wants to stay true to her dreams, though she’s grasping for a moral foundation as she finds her own voice throughout the book. The question then is, how do you lead? How do you convince others to live their lives in the service of a greater cause? For Liviana, the answer is through acquiring power. For Oyza, the question itself is less important: she follows her dreams, and if others choose to follow her too, then that’s superb.

Last, there’s also the theme of transcending boundaries. What kinds of (new) solidarities can be built that can challenge power? Are differences always insurmountable, or can a common cause be found that allows us to transcend our particular experiences toward something universal? These sorts of questions really factored into how I thought about the story thematically. 

The readers will certainly have a lot to ponder over while they read. You mentioned a couple of characters—who is your favorite character in the book?

Honestly, probably Liviana. I loved how she just doesn’t take shit from anyone. She’s so ready to lead, to take over, and to really just clear away all the old stagnant things in the world that get in her way. (But a close second place is the fabulous ship captain, Captain Seralus!) 

She’s definitely a woman who knows what she’s about. How did you craft your world? 

In Vaaz, there’s a religious system that’s very inspired by astrology. I’ve always loved the stars, and I wanted that to play a role in the story, which took the form of shaping the world—the Starmarks and the Celesterium. But I also wanted the politics of it all to really shape the world, too, and I was definitely inspired by real historical examples of peasant uprisings, rebellions, pirate mutinies, that sort of thing. 

Very interesting! Let’s change gears a little: Who are your favorite authors? 

Perhaps cliché, but certainly George. R.R. Martin. I devoured A Song of Ice and Fire. And certainly Tolkien, as well as Ursula K. Leguin. Outside of novelists, I’m a big fan of Final Fantasy games for their stories. 

All great authors. We’ve got one final question for you: What can readers expect next from you?

I hope to have the second book out in 2023! Otherwise, I’m planning to update my blog regularly, including some bonus content that was deleted from the book. 

K. R., thanks again for talking with us today. Readers, make sure you join us on Saturday, September 4th for The Spirit of a Rising Sun’s launch party and your chance to win a free copy!

The Spirit of a Rising Sun

by K. R. Galindez

Rebellion is always right.

Oyza yearns for revolution—an impossible dream with her lifetime prison sentence. Fueled by the destruction of her home and years of servitude, she reads the smuggled texts of the Ungoverned and dreams of a future that can never be. But the arrival of a new prisoner, Yars, reignites Oyza’s courage. She finds herself capable of more than she ever imagined.

To fight their way to their own freedom, they must fight for something bigger: freedom for their homeland. Between an invasion by godless gunwielders, a heartless commander who’s determined to kill Oyza, and webs of secrets and lies woven through their world, it will take all their strength and wits to survive. When blood is spilled, how much will be their own?

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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Continuing Education: Weird Science

Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored—Aldous Huxley

Kari Donald, A4A Member

It’s time for another installment of Continuing Education. Science surrounds us and has an enormous sphere of influence. It’s impossible to explain the physical world without it. No matter what genre you write, science and facts will have some involvement in your story. Inaccuracies and errors create distractions (which most readers definitely don’t enjoy). Today we’re going to look at the use of these types of information in your narrative, why they’re important, common pitfalls, and how to avoid mistakes. 

Are science and facts really so important in fiction?

Definitely. Accurate representation of known and accepted facts is very important in your story. I knew an Air Force pilot who described the movie “Top Gun” as a great comedy. Anyone who’s seen this movie will tell you it’s obviously intended as a drama, not a comedy. However, the misrepresentations of military aviation were so laughable to this person, they could not suspend disbelief enough to see the movie as anything other than a farce. 

Ideally, people from every walk of life should enjoy your book. Unless you’re planning on limiting your intended audience, make sure your facts are correct to avoid taking subject matter experts out of your story.  

Will readers really look that closely at the facts in a story?

Probably not. I seriously doubt anyone is googling the facts in your book while they read to check for accuracy. But once again, recall that our continuity read is looking for anachronisms and errors that could distract readers and pull them out of your story. 

For example, consider something as simple as a pond or lake freezing over. Your characters cannot go to sleep and even remotely hope that the overnight drop in temperature will freeze a body of water sufficiently to walk across it. Nor can they assume frozen solid edges indicate the entire pond is frozen solid. It takes time for the water to cool enough to freeze (lake turnover) and longer for deeper water to freeze solid enough to support weight, especially if the water is actively flowing. At the very least, you will lose any reader from climates with lots of lakes and cold temperatures, such as Minnesota or Michigan. 

While this may not be common knowledge for many, it is experience some people will have, making them de facto subject matter experts.

Would a small mistake about an obscure fact seriously impact my book?

Possibly not. But I have seen one star reviews where readers commented that they stopped reading a book because the author’s mistreatment of horses made it impossible to finish the story. And “mistreatment” in this sense was not beating the horses; it was unrealistic representations of a horse’s abilities or the ignorance of a supposedly expert handler. 

Again, people who have never had horses would have no clue there was a problem. However, as in this case, there are a lot of experienced horse lovers who are offended by such cavalier disregard for their beloved equines. Don’t make assumptions about what topics your readers may or may not be familiar with.

I also need to add if you really want proof about how readers can be VERY particular about “known facts,” ask any fantasy author what happens if their characters use the wrong armor or weapon during a story. Response from die-hard fantasy fans will be swift and brutal. Basically, consider the risk and the return on investment of research. 

What sorts of facts or topics need to be researched?  

Just about anything from a subject ending in “ology”? Seriously though, we aren’t born with innate knowledge of the universe. Everything we know, we had to learn somewhere—either at school, by life experience, from knowledgeable people, or through the internet (I saw it online so it must be true...). 

Everyone, especially writers, use language on a daily basis. Yet in spite of that, how often do we make mistakes or need to look up spellings, definitions, grammar, or punctuation? Now expand that idea to topics you never studied or haven’t thought about in years, and the potential for mistakes is huge. Any solution to a problem, especially medical, should be thoroughly researched. 

Should I get bitten by a venomous snake, I personally don’t want someone treating it by making incisions on the bite mark and trying to suck the poison out. That solution may be fine for a clichéd western, but should not be presented in a way that portrays it as a viable option for treatment. I am sure we all have examples of well-meaning people repeating something they read “somewhere” which really isn’t true.

How do I check for factual inaccuracies?

There are lots of things you can do. The internet is a great place to start. Just be careful about using reliable and comprehensive sources. A personal blog of someone with no credentials or education is probably not a great source. 

When including any type of fact, whether you think it’s common knowledge or something you’re sure you heard about somewhere, ask yourself how or where you learned it. Even if you have an old textbook, check for updates as science changes. Mythbusters was able to find enough material from movies and urban legends to fill 20 seasons worth of plausibility experiments, so things you only vaguely remember hearing about at some time may not be factual. Basically, anything that you haven’t studied recently or is outside your normal sphere of knowledge should be double-checked for accuracy. 

Don’t be afraid to ask experts in the field you are writing about for advice. Will your character experience a painful injury? Then interview someone with a medical background for feedback about the condition, its treatment, and recovery time. It doesn’t matter how skilled your surgeon is, there’s really no chance your character will be able to run a race less than a week after surgery repairing a torn ACL. Bleeding late in a pregnancy? Don’t follow in the footsteps of the male author who argued with his female editor and insisted it was perfectly normal for pregnant women to keep having periods. As such, it was a totally acceptable explanation for said bleeding. I am not making this one up. You can find it on TikTok. 

And while you are talking to that expert, don’t forget to ask about special jargon they use in their profession if you are going to portray characters in that field. Again, simply make sure your representations of science and other facts won’t distract someone familiar with the subject.  

But I am writing speculative fiction or fantasy, so facts don’t really matter.

Well...yes and no. There is a tricky balancing act when writing about alternate worlds and times. Modern medicine would never treat a fever by bleeding someone. However, it was acceptable therapy even as late as the 19th century. Obviously your facts need to fit your world. In your fantasy universe, it may be entirely possible to heal bones in 24 hours (Gotta love Skele-Gro!). 

The deciding factor is how closely you model your alternate reality after Earth. If a character in your book fetches some carrots from the garden, I would expect they’re dug up from the ground, not picked from a tree. When a process or item in your world has the same name as a process or item on earth, its description and function should match what people would reasonably expect—which means it needs to be accurate. By the time you either research something or manage expectations with explanations of how your item is different, you could have simply given it a unique name, removing the comparison. Just make sure you’re consistent using your new vocabulary in your book. 

That’s all for this week. Look for the next continuity blog, Well-Seasoned.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Continuing Education: Call It a Day

“Time and the hour runs through the roughest day.”
–William Shakespeare
Kari Donald, A4A Member

It’s the dawn of a new installment of Continuing Education. Each day in the life of your book is a microcosm of your story and world. The details and descriptions of events during the day not only set up the experiences for your characters, but also provide a window into the cultures and traditions of your world. Inconsistencies during and between the days can be both confusing and distracting. Today, we will look at some of the important elements of a typical day as well as  potential mistakes and ways to avoid them. 

How could a single day possibly be that complicated?

There’s more to a day than twenty-four hours (or however long a day is in your world). Within each day is a finite amount of time that progresses, with patterns both for individuals and for groups. When are meals served, and what are they called? What sorts of routines are typical during the day? How long do your days last? Do seasons or holidays affect how the day unfolds? Consider these questions when describing scenery and activities throughout your story’s day. Even topics that are part of world building still need to be incorporated into your narrative in a way that supports the world you created.

Do I need to include every single routine of the day?

Absolutely not. Only those routines that affect your plot, add description, or establish patterns in your world need to be included. For instance, consider the delicate topic of bathroom breaks. When catching up with friends and family, would you include details about going to the restroom? (That might be TMI.) There is definitely a time and a place. Characters missing out on major events because they were heeding nature's call have a very plausible explanation for an absence when necessary. However, just because you don’t want to address this routine does not mean you can ignore that it is necessary for your characters. The poor maiden forced to wear a chastity belt for months while her knight is away fighting dragons will evoke more than just sympathy. Speculation on how she will perform personal hygiene could take readers right out of the narrative. The Harry Potter stories do a great job demonstrating how to balance this. Several scenes take place in bathrooms, establishing that they exist and are available, but the only details on use of the bathrooms are those relevant to the particular scene that supports the plot. Just check that your routines are natural and organic to the story.

With this in mind, you don’t have to squeeze every daily routine into every single day. Just make sure that events throughout the day are consistent and follow established patterns. For example, some people refer to the evening meal as dinner, and some, as supper. Using these terms interchangeably could be confusing. If your travelers regularly eat supper before retiring and then suddenly eat dinner and retire, your readers may not be sure what time of day it is. Did they retire for the night or just for a nap? If dinner is the large meal at noon, then showing up for Sunday dinner at six would be totally unacceptable. Basically, make sure that your descriptions and labels match from day to day. 

Anything else I need to look for with routines?

Be sure to keep track of the frequency of your routines. There are routines your characters will likely only do once a day, like eating a particular meal. If your travelers partake in a hearty breakfast before they set out on their journey, then they shouldn’t be stopping for breakfast again several hours later (second breakfast anyone?). Likewise, routines need to happen in order. Morning prayer after lunch doesn't make a lot of sense. Try to map out each day in a similar way you would map out your story.

Why are lengths of days or seasons important?

Lengths of days are important because they influence the type and amount of activity of your day and how you describe the passing of time. You might expect to cover more distance traveling during daylight or want the cover of darkness for something clandestine. If you write speculative fiction and your world is Earth or loosely modeled after Earth, then your world will be tilted on its axis, have seasons, and variation in length of the days depending on the time of year. If your world is different from Earth, make sure the progress of your day matches the physics of your world. Timing and pacing during the day is just as important as for the chapter or story. Too much activity squeezed into too little time can be overwhelming, while too little activity over a long amount of time can drag. Try to be aware of the amount of time available in your day to avoid exhausting either your characters or your readers. 

Isn’t worrying about the proper length of a day rather picky?

Yes and no. It depends on the setting of your story. The more closely your world is related to Earth, the more important it is to be careful about time of day. Anyone from Boston will tell you there is no way the Fourth of July firework celebration started at 7:00 PM, because the sun won’t set until almost 8:30. The outdoor all-night movie marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, on June twenty-first might not be such a good deal since it is only “night” (and not necessarily very dark) for four and a half hours. Remember, we are trying to avoid distracting the reader. In the same way your descriptions of a known location need to be accurate, your descriptions of time of day in a known location need to be accurate. While this degree of consideration is not as important in a totally made-up fantasy world, consistency still needs to be maintained. It would be very distracting to have consecutive days where the length of the day changes dramatically or without a predictable pattern.

In a similar way, your descriptions of the sun and moon during the course of the day need to be realistic. Just because we have the expression “high noon,” it does not mean the sun is always directly overhead at noon. Sunrises and sunsets are arguably among the most magnificent backdrops, making them popular settings in art and literature. In fact, they can be too popular. Is it already time for another full moon only a week after the last one? Do your characters really have time to hike another 5 miles through the mountains between the first twinkle of stars coming out and the sun finally disappearing below the horizon? Do the two separate portrayals of a sunrise on the same day mean that your world has two suns in a galaxy far, far away?

Of course, I found a great tool for today’s topic. This day and night world map page is a lot of fun and shows the location of the sun and moon on any given day, from the past to the future (I was way too entertained putting in dates of eclipses to see what they would look like). You can calculate how much time passes between twilight and sunset, note the intensity of light based on location and time of day, and generally use it to provide accurate descriptions. It even has links to information about the moon phase. Your world isn’t on an axis like earth? No problem. Just pick a date for one of the equinoxes to check out time of day for your world. A day cycle on your world isn’t 24 hours? Again, no problem. You get to apologize to your middle school math teacher because you will need to use those math lessons to calculate the time that works for your world. 

Is there anything else that could cause problems in a day?

Of course! Probably more than I can cover. But as a final note, I want to point out the importance of maintaining consistency between different points of view on the same day. One character should not be experiencing a fierce thunderstorm during their narrative while another character is walking under a cloudless sky less than a mile away. As always, edits are the most common culprit for continuity errors, so you always want to check for these issues during the editing process. However, it is also easy to get sucked into writing an amazingly creative description, ignoring what would realistically be taking place. Avoid duplication and work toward consistency to avoid time-of-day continuity distractions. 

That’s all we have time for today. Check back next time for Weird Science.  

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Author Interview: Lisa Borne Graves

Brandi Spencer, CAO Authors 4 Authors Publishing

Bladesung is the third Celestial Sphere novel. How does it feel to finish Toury and Alex’s story?

Horrific and amazing—or I guess if I tone my feelings down, bittersweet. I don’t believe in taking a story too far just for the sake of it. That feels exploitative, and as a reader, I’ve dropped authors’ series because of it. It IS painful to walk away, and some readers might be disappointed, but their story was complete. I owe them an end to their numerous struggles. 

Are there any new themes, symbols, or motifs in this story? 

I’ve realized that all my novels suggest autonomy as the main theme. I wasn’t sure why that was a fixation. First, I thought it was the feminism in me, but there is much more to it than the treatment of women, but all people. This series’s call for equality and equity was a direct result of seeing my special needs child struggle as a student in a strict environment, stripping him of his ability to control his world, and then watching him flourish in a new environment that gave him choices and chances. Treatment of the disabled or the neurodiverse is not a direct theme in the book, but an embedded personal one. Everyone deserves personal freedoms to be themselves.

Now that we’re in the third book, do you have a new favorite character?

Torn on this answer between two. I somehow loved writing the villain in the story and the careful balance between representing a person who has crumbled into mental instability and is yet still humanized. My other favorite is Toury. I always intended for her to be the ultimate character we love, the one who grows and becomes herself. I let Alex do that the last book, but this book is Toury’s time to shine. 

What are you most excited about in Bladesung?

The draca! But I so don’t want to ruin anything. There are dragons, and you’ll learn much more about them. I can say no more.

Do you have anything else planned for Celestial Spheres?

Alex and Toury’s story is finished, but I could not leave Fyr completely. We’ll see them again but from the outside looking in. I could not resist the pull to tell Mary’s story, but from the points-of-view I had used in the trilogy, I could never do Mary’s tale with justice. So I’ll be doing a companion epistolary novel about Mary, called Wundor. I also have started a couple spin-offs that might just take a couple Sapphirians to other spheres.

Join us this Saturday for Lisa's launch party and your chance to win an ebook of your choice from the Celestial Spheres Trilogy and be entered to win the grand prize: signed paperback copies of the whole trilogy and a necklace from the world of Fyr!

Lisa Borne Graves

To say Toury and Alex’s reign has been rocky is an understatement. But the danger isn’t over yet. Rebels and necromancers are still out there, joining forces under "the commander." As Alex plans against a war beyond what Fyr has seen in generations, he knows they will strike where it hurts Alex most: his heart. He must make the ultimate decision—sacrifice everything, or let his tenacious lifemate save herself? 

Meanwhile, being a queen is not Toury’s dream job—she always wanted Alex, not the crown. But as enemies close in, Toury must make her own harrowing choices to control her own destiny, and if she must, all of Fyr’s.

In this conclusion to Alex and Toury’s love story, they will face horrors beyond their wildest nightmares. Will they be able to heal a fractured kingdom, or will all turn to ash and ruin?

What can readers expect next from you?

Before I return to Celestial Spheres, I’ll be dropping a couple books of my other series: The Immortal Transcripts. It’s a Greek mythology-based romance series following the god of love and the turmoil when he dares to fall in love with a mortal. Book 1, Quiver, is already out, with Fever and Shudder following in 2022 and 2023.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Continuing Education: Space Time Continuum

Time and tide wait for no man—Geoffrey Chaucer

Kari Donald, A4A Member

Time again for more Continuing Education. (It’s about time!) One universal constant in any story is the passage of time, even when the narrative involves time travel or multiple dimensions. Timeline issues are among the most glaring problems and present some serious challenges to fix. Timeline is crucial and regularly impacts other areas of continuity. So let’s look at some typical timeline errors and ways to avoid or correct them.

There is more than one way for the timeline to impact my story?

Absolutely. Timeline involves more than just the amount of time that passes from the beginning to the end of your book. Time is a common phenomenon. Even if your world has its own way to account for time, it will still be in flux and changing as your story progresses. Also, it is the one thing you can guarantee readers will identify with. Time may seem to pass differently depending on your perspective, but it’s still passing at some measurable rate. Readers expect timelines to be realistic and consistent. Anything less is confusing and distracting.  

How can my timeline be distracting?

No matter what setting you choose for your book, characters engage in actions and activities readers relate to. Any person has a good idea how long it takes to complete basic tasks. How would your reader perceive a character who showers, washes and dries their hair, brushes their teeth, and dresses in formal attire (including accessories and makeup) in less than ten minutes? Unless your character is The Flash, this freakishly amazing efficiency can easily distract a reader.

While my example may seem obvious, there are plenty of other routines you’re not familiar with but your readers are. One situation might be an author who isn’t a parent writing a scene where the character learns they must leave and gathers up their two toddlers, gets out of the house, and drives off in less than five minutes. This scenario makes for great comedy, but not a realistic rendition of life. Bottom line: either keep the time vague enough so you don’t put your characters in impossible situations, ask an expert, or use that wonderful tool known as Google to look it up.

Isn’t there more to a timeline than individual events?

Most certainly. Many books have more than one point of view or minor plots that are concurrent or overlapping. Such isolated incidents often create the biggest timeline issues. It is very easy to get wrapped up with creating the narrative and quite literally lose track of time.“The next day” can add up to weeks or months, which alone is not a bad thing. However, during these individual storylines within your book, you want the same amount of time to pass amongst all your characters. It doesn't work if only seven “the next days” pass for one character while ten “the next days” pass for another character before they are reunited. Juggling multiple timelines is not an easy task, so props to anyone that can do it while maintaining the overarching one.

You might be tempted to use time warps and breaches in the space-time continuum to explain or fix your timeline, but those might not be credible. I mean, how well would it go over if after being gone for a month, your significant other can only account for two weeks of their absence? Most people would have a serious issue with this and find it difficult to believe some trite excuse like an alien abduction or getting stuck in a time loop with a groundhog. The same thing goes for your book. Attention to detail is the key. Don’t cheat on your readers.  

I plot my books, so there won’t be any timeline problems.

Do not disparage my pantser friends. It does not matter what writing style you use. I see the same issues from both plotters and pantsers. Editing can destroy even the best timelines. Rearranging and cutting events in order to help with pacing and gaps in the narrative make your initial timeline obsolete. The fallout from such developmental edits is one reason I recommend doing an edit looking just at continuity. 

What can I do to avoid timeline issues?

There are a couple of basic approaches that help avoid timeline problems. A good starting point is documenting the timeline of your book. While there are lots of programs for plotting a novel and tracking timelines, I prefer a simple spreadsheet. You can easily customize and tailor it to track the passage of days, major events, time cues, time relative to events, or anything else that may be important to preserving the integrity of your timeline. Besides spreadsheets, just about any software useful for plotting your book can also be used to track your timeline. I’ve used Plottr, but software such as Scrivener or Evernote can work for tracking a timeline too. Most offer free trials so you can check them out before committing.

That sounds a lot like plotting. Are there other tools or techniques I can use?

Most definitely. Be creative in developing tools for tracking your timeline. You might even set up an actual calendar for your book. Add different colors or lettering to represent different characters and events and your calendar will provide a great snapshot of your timeline. You could even set up a system using post-it notes! Just make sure they are locked away from the prankster in your life (obviously).

When organizing your tools, also think about how you want to calculate the passage of time. Counting the number of days from the beginning of the book can be tedious, especially if your book covers a long period of time. You might want to consider chunking your timeline by using major events as milestones and relate the passage of time to these specific happenings. For example, track the number of days since the Red Wedding or the days since the Council of Elrond. Relating the passage of time to events simplifies the process by creating smaller, more manageable timelines. This type of relational time tracking is also very important for any speculative fiction novel following actual events in history. It helps ensure there are no discrepancies between your book timeline and the time period it’s modeled after. In this case, historical events would serve as the milestones or major events your timeline relates to.

Another way to avoid timeline issues is to take time and pay attention during the editing process. Track your revisions (or your editor or beta reader’s revisions) in Track Changes or Suggest mode. As you review the changes, identify and adjust the manuscript as needed when the edits affect your timeline. While this may seem time-consuming, it saves you from an editing pass dedicated solely to analyzing your timeline. 

So glad we had this time together! Check back next for “Call it a Day.” Until then, happy times!

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Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Continuing Education: Stellar Cartography

"If the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map is wrong."—Gordon Livingston

Kari Donald, A4A Member

Back again for some more Continuing Education. According to an old saying, “A picture says a thousand words,” which is likely the reason for the popularity of “the world map” in most fantasy or speculative fiction novels. Today, we’ll be looking at why your map is important and how it can create continuity issues in your book.  

How can a map cause continuity issues?

Your map, should you choose to draw it, gives the reader a window into your world and provides a sense of situational awareness. 

What types of physical features or landmarks make up the world? How close or far apart are the major cities? What are the relative sizes and locations of other kingdoms or countries? Where are the major obstacles your characters may face? These are only a few of the questions your map can help answer, and often much more easily than your narrative could. 

In other words, your map can also tell a story; so the story of your map needs to match the story in your book. Remember, we want to make sure your novel is free of anachronisms, errors, or anything else that could distract your reader. Some readers will reference your map while they are reading, so if descriptions in the prose don’t match the image, you may lose credibility points. Potential sources of discrepancy could include the scaling, layout, and geography of the map.

Do I seriously need to draw my map to an exact scale?

Absolutely NOT! There are many styles of maps with cities and other features represented by images that are larger on the map than the space they would actually occupy if they were drawn to scale. However, you do want to make sure that the space between features reflects a realistic distance as described in your story. 

For example, unless you are driving from downtown Los Angeles to Las Vegas (or something similar), it should not take two hours to travel the first quarter of the journey and then only three hours to travel the remaining distance. Anyone looking at a map of southern California can easily see how traffic congestion affects travel time. 

When considering the scale of your map, it should not take your characters a week to travel halfway across the open realm and then just two more days to travel the other half without an explanation. Likewise, it should take your characters longer to travel that two inches through the mountain range than it does to cover the same distance when crossing the plains. Rough terrain, inclement weather, mode of transportation, distressed dudes needing help, or your world’s equivalent of the dreaded orange barrel complete with detour sign could all be factors affecting travel time. So long as either a feature on your map or the narrative in your story justifies any oddity while tracking the progress of your characters, it doesn’t need to be exact, just close enough to avoid distractions.

In a similar way, placement and area of other regions in your world need to be fairly accurate. You don’t want to plan on sending reinforcements to your southern border to prevent an incursion of rogue elves if they hail from the Kingdom of the Great White North. Readers may scratch their heads if the (so described) tiny and insignificant country of Iota Minor takes up half the map. This is a case where size matters.

You mentioned geography can cause problems.

Thanks for the reminder! 

Geography is probably the most fundamental component of your map. It involves more than just physical features as it also dictates human elements such as culture, industry, and population centers. There are immutable elements of geography to account for when creating your world. 

For instance, unless your world is like the top of a hoverboard and can rotate or tip at different angles, water will only travel in one direction—down hill. A river that starts in your northern mountains and flows to your southern sea may be drawn perfectly, following the contour of the land and providing a means of transportation. However, your heros will not be able to “float downstream” on this river as they journey north. Both “float” and “downstream” would be problematic in this scenario. “Float” would mean your vessel is drifting along with the flow of the river. Downstream is with the direction the river is flowing. Traveling north on this river would be going against the current (upstream, not downstream) and would preclude being able to float. 

While magic can help you out of such situations, it should not be used as a crutch for poor planning or inadequate world building. There are lots of resources available to help with creating your map. Some even get incredibly detailed and look at things like prevailing winds and weather. For the important map basics, I suggest checking out the great blog post at Mythcreants

Another reason geography is so important is that it can literally dictate the direction of your story. Once your map is in place, the features and layout may limit how events unfold in your book. This could be significant if you’re beginning a new series. Plan ahead to avoid writing yourself into a corner, either figuratively or physically. 

Does that mean I can’t draw my map until I plan my entire series?

Not at all. There are a couple of things you can do to avoid continuity issues with your map. You could take a minimalist or “need to know” approach. Only include the part of your world where the story actually takes place. You can add arrows pointing toward the edge of your map with labels for the names of neighboring lands. Give the reader enough information for a sense of direction as they follow your narrative while still giving you flexibility for future installments. Your map can expand as your series grows.

If you already have a good idea of the major events in your series, then go ahead and map your entire world. Just keep a copy of your map in front of you while writing and reference it. Checking your map as you write helps maintain consistent descriptions and accounts of travel time, scenery, resources, and any other things that can influence your plot. The sooner you catch anything that could be problematic, the less work it will take later to fix it.

That’s all for this week. Check back next blog for the Space Time Continuum. Until then, happy drawing and writing.  

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Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Author Interview: Beatrice B. Morgan

Beatrice, thanks for sitting down to chat with me today! Let’s dive right in, shall we?

We’re now getting into book three. Is there anything you’re particularly excited about for the readers going forward (without giving any spoilers, of course)?

I'm excited to get into the second half of the series. We're going to see more of the world and glimpses of ancient history. The story is expanding; Juniper is going to be facing tough choices about herself and her future. And there're dire wolves!

Being a history person myself, I did quite enjoy getting to see the history of the people. Juniper is still heartbroken at the end of book two—do you think this influences some of her willingness to go into battle as she travels north?

Definitely. She feels she's lost everything and has nothing left to lose. She doesn't have the Undercity to return to, and she doesn’t have anyone one—namely Reid—to return to. She is willing to walk face-first into danger. Traveling into Nexon’s den of mages is her only goal at the start, and despite not having a clear path to that, it’s her only goal. She throws everything she has at it. 

That makes sense—if there’s nothing to live for, why not go hard? Tell me, has your favorite character changed for book three?

Hmm… I still love Juniper to death, but I’m glad that we get to meet a few more characters that have until now been in the background, like Henry Julian. Juniper will remain my favorite—that’s why she is the main character, and not Reid or Ison. I wrote a part of my soul into her. 

I’m sure a lot of other writers also feel the same way about their main characters. Let’s switch gears a little bit. We’re going to some really interesting places in this book—was there one that was your favorite to write? 

I love fantasy because I can explore all manner of places, the only limitation being my imagination. I love ancient structures, the ones where we have no idea who lived there or what kind of society it was. All we have are ruins. When Juniper and her friends explore the mountains of Galamond, they stumble upon an ancient city, abandoned of course. That is one of my favorites that I’ve written thus far. There is something mysterious and enchanting about ancient places and the stories just waiting to be told. 

And finally, last question: What can we expect next from you?

My next book is the third and final installment in the Hard as Stone trilogy: Strong as Steel. We’ll see the epic ending to Raven’s story.

We can’t wait to see the conclusion of Hard as Stone, just like we can’t wait for Dreams in the Snow to come out. Join us this Saturday, June 5th, for your chance to win a free paperback copy of Dreams in the Snow at the launch party!

Dreams in the Snow

by Beatrice B. Morgan

After faking her death at the hands of the Watch and escaping Rusdasin, Juniper and Ison are determined to make their way north to face an ancient evil. And the friends they left in the Undercity must scramble to escape the impending raid of their home.

Meanwhile, Squire Reid is beginning a northward quest of his own. To earn his knighthood, the king has tasked him with retrieving Boxel’s Grace, a legendary plant at the edge of the world and the only hope of reviving Prince Adrien from a magical poison.

When grieving hearts collide with the ghosts of their past, can they survive to save the future of their world, or will they shatter like ice?

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Can't wait? Check out our website for available books!