Wednesday, June 26, 2019

World Building: You're Not From Around Here, Are You?

The customs that make your world unique
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, I talked about creating your world’s history. Now, I want to talk a little bit about what comes from that history: customs. Where you come from and the customs that you have, make people who they are. Buckle in, kids. This is going to be a long post.
Lifespan Traditions
There are a lot of customs around the world that are so intertwined with their cultures that they would fall apart without them. Last week, I talked about how some cultures tell their histories orally with dance, song, and telling stories around the fire. I’ll hold off on talking about the gods of the culture for when I talk about religion in the coming weeks. For now, I want to talk about some of the lifespan customs.
Well...let's just say I learned a lot about birth rituals that I really didn’t want to know—I’m looking at you China. As with everything else, there are a few ways you could go with birth rituals: make up your own, use one from a culture that you like, or make a mix and match of things you like from a couple of different cultures.
For example, the easiest and most well-known birth ritual is christening the child, which is naming the child but also telling your religious community that you’re going to be raising your child in that faith. Another birth ritual I want to mention is from Bali: there, they don’t let their baby’s feet touch the ground for three months.
If you wanted to combine these two traditions, you could have a culture that doesn’t name their children until they’re three months old, and you call for them by their name on that day to try to get them to crawl to you. No matter what you choose to do, having a ritual to celebrate the birth of children in your world will help make your world richer and more believable.
Coming of age
If you thought birth rituals could get weird, just wait until you do your own research on coming of age tests. Not every culture is going to have a coming of age ritual, so this one feels a bit more like it could be left out of your world if you’re doing larger communities of people or making up your own planet and countries. I do, however, still want to give you a couple of examples of coming of age rituals from around the world.
First, I’ll  give an example for men and then an example for women. The Satere-Mawe tribe of the Brazilian Amazon perform a somewhat horrific, and extremely painful, ritual for the boys of the tribe in which they must wear a glove saturated with bullet ants for a full ten minutes and perform a dance while showing no pain. For those who don’t know, bullet ants are true to their name, and their sting feels like being shot with a bullet, so this is a true test of endurance and manliness.
While men often have tests of strength and endurance, women will often have beautification rituals to become ready for marriage. Indonesia's Mentawai Islands have one such tradition for their women, and this will also tie into another aspect of world building: what is traditionally beautiful for your world? For the Mentawai, it’s sharpened teeth. When the girls reach puberty, their front teeth are chiseled and filed down to sharp points so that they can be considered beautiful. While it might not be beautiful to us, to each their own in their own culture.
Whether you choose to have a coming of age ritual or not, make sure that it fits in with the kind of culture you’ve created for your people.
Ah, the beauty of courtship. Courtship has become a lost art in today’s modern time of cell phones and sliding into Instagram DMs. There are two that I want to mention (fictional and non-fiction), one that’s subtle and one that isn’t quite so subtle.
The first is from our own B.C. Marine in her world of Carum sound that you can read about in A Seer’s Daughter and her Idylls of Carum Sound. You might notice that she tends to break some of her rules, but she’s set them up in order to break them if she so chooses. When a man is interested in a woman, he will privately present her with a ribbon of intent, which signifies that any action he takes toward wooing her is purely with the intent that it could end in marriage. The reason why this ritual is private is so that if she does decide to refuse his ribbon, it can give her an easy way to say no without embarrassing the potential suitor and relieve the guilt on her part.
The second example that I want to give is in no way subtle, and it’s bound to have jokes galore about it. In Finland, Finnish girls will wear an empty knife sheath, and any man who is interested in putting his knife in her sheath on a permanent basis will either buy one or make it himself to put in the open sheath. If the woman isn’t interested, however, she will return the knife to the potential suitor. If she does keep the knife, though, it means she intends to marry him.
I will note that I’ve only given courtship rituals for heteronormative stories, but you can make a tradition for any type of relationship in your world that you want.
Mawwage is what bwings us here togetha today. If you don’t get that reference, get out—just kidding. You can stay...or can you? Marriage is a huge part of a person’s culture, though today, it’s not always as big a deal as it has been in the past. Sometimes the traditions revolving around marriage are preparing for the marriage, during the ceremony, or after the ceremony has finished. I want to go ahead and give examples from each one.
We’ve all heard of bachelor/bachelorette parties, but Scotland takes the cake on how they decide to celebrate: the Blackening of the Bride. After a night of drinking, Scottish soon-to-be-brides are taken, and her friends will dump anything from foul-smelling goo to covering her with tar before trying her to a tree. This is to show the bride that if she can get through this, she can get through anything marriage will throw at her.
This one gave me a good laugh, and it helped that I got to see it in person when I lived in Korea. After the ceremony is over, the groom will have his feet beaten with dead fish and bamboo sticks to prepare him for his first night of marriage. It’s an odd tradition, and I have no idea how it started, but it will certainly give the crowd a good laugh.
Anyone who has ever watched a period piece set in the 16th century or earlier will know about the bedding ceremony. It’s an awkward ceremony for everyone involved, but there would be need of witnesses for the consummation of the marriage to ensure that the bride and her family could not renege on their deal, because a marriage could be annulled as long as the marriage was not consummated. Sometimes this will start with the bride and groom being carried off in a raucous crowd to be prepared “for bed” so the bride and groom could get it on sooner rather than later.
These are just three examples of these events, and there are certainly more extravagant and interesting examples of them that you might want to incorporate into your world (such as Indian weddings), or you could make up your own traditions for these, but no matter what you decide to do, it needs to fit in with the culture you’re creating.
Hello darkness, my old friend. We’ve finally come to the end of our lifespan rituals, and we’re going to talk a little bit about death. This one we’re probably a little bit more familiar with because we’ve either had family who’ve died, or we’ve read a book or watched a TV show—I’m looking at you Game of Thrones—that has had a lot of death in it, so I’ll keep this section brief.
I only want to give two examples in this section, one you might be familiar with, and one I hope you’re not familiar with because it’s rather uncomfortable to even think about. The first you’ll have seen in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire or the TV show Game of Thrones when Khal Drogo died (boo, hiss). Daenerys built a funeral pyre for her late husband and climbed on with him, though she knew that she wouldn’t be killed because of her being a “dragon.” This is inspired by a now outlawed tradition in India called Sati, where a widow would either voluntarily or involuntarily join her husband in the flames. Another example of this in fiction is in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
Now for the more uncomfortable of my two examples: Endocannibalism. Don’t know what this is? I didn’t either, but you’re welcome for finding out for you. Endocannibalism is when the friends and family of the deceased eat the corpse in order to forge a permanent bond. Surprisingly, there is more than one culture that performs this ritual. On that dark note, I’ll remind you again that no matter what kind of death ritual you choose, it needs to fit the people you’ve created.
Let’s move on to a brighter subject: how you meet and greet people in your culture. A few things that you’ll want to think about when people in your world meet and greet each other is how exactly are they going to do it. Does the one with social rank say hello first? Does a person have to bow or curtsy when greeting someone of higher rank? Do they shake hands as the Romans did to ensure there were no hidden weapons while they speak? Would you greet someone you know differently than someone you didn’t?  Is there any greeting that’s considered rude?
On the note of being rude, another thing to consider is if there are any ways to introduce someone that could be considered rude, such as not introducing someone with their full title and name. I’ll use Daenerys as an example because people would be tempted to shorten it because it is very long: Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons.
Now would it be considered rude to short it to Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name? That would be something you have to consider for your culture.
Why won’t your mother leave?
I’ll admit that I’m one of the least peopley people out there because I don’t like going places, and if you characters are the same way, this is a character you don’t necessarily have to worry much about this section, but you should still have some sort of idea of how visiting people in your culture works.
First of all, how does it come about? Do people tell us as they want and expect food, drink, and good conversation, or will they leave their calling card that they will be visiting later? And once they’re there, how long are they allowed to stay? In the past, if a guest showed up for a visit that they would need a suitcase/trunk for, it would be considered rude to ask them either when they plan on leaving or flat out ask them to leave, so you could be left with a guest for months if you’re unlucky.
Another thing to consider is, what are the responsibilities of the host? Will they provide all clothes and meals for a guest who shows up without a penny to their name? Are they obligated to offer them protection if they’ve fed them?
I’ll say this until I’m blue in the face: no matter what you decide to do, make sure your choices fit the culture you’ve created.
Mind your manners
We’ve all been told to mind our manners at one point or another, but what will they be in your world? Is it rude to speak with your mouth open? Is it rude to speak when someone else is speaking? The list of questions could go on and on and on if I let them, but I don’t want to clobber you over the head with all the questions considering how long this blog post already is. (Don’t worry, this is the last section!)
One thing you’ll want to consider is if there are different manners for the levels of society that you have. I’ll give a few examples of court manners. When dining with the queen, you are not allowed to start your meal until she has, and if she is finished with her meal, so are you...even if you’re not. You are not allowed to turn your back to the ruling monarch. You’re not allowed to be the first one to speak to the monarch. And the queen must be the first to enter a room in a ceremony.
Will your other levels of society differ severely from these rules? Or will the ruling class even have the rules of precedence listed above?
Once again, no matter what choice you make, make sure it fits within the society you’ve created. Thanks for sticking it out to the end; this post is finally over.

Join me next week when I talk about language.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

World Building: World History 101

The history that makes your world turn
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, I talked about the land and what it can provide, but this week, I want to talk about how that land is settled. Developing a vivid history for your world and what it means for your people will help give your people motivations for their culture, their traditions, and their storytelling. Your history gives you the why of your people and your story.
Where did you come from?
Your world’s history is so important to the motivation of your people. Your reader doesn’t need to know every single detail about how Henry Gobbledigook VIII of Turkeydom didn’t like Waddle-Waddle III of Crackledom, so he sent soldiers to conquer Crackledom if it doesn’t affect the main plot of your story...but you do, because it might come into play later.
In the Beginning...
As the question is presented at the top of this section, where did your people come from? This will also help you determine a question that was presented in setting up your world: how long have your people been there? Depending on the kind of story you’re telling, that means determining whether your people were put on the earth like Athena springing from Zeus’ head, or if there’s another form of divine creation, or if there’s evolution in your world. This will be an important step in what kind of beliefs and legends that your people will have. You’ll also need to determine whether you’re going to be basing the story off a familiar history or going completely original.
Once upon a time…
Legend and lore are essential to human development. These help develop a rich culture for your people. These are important whether you have a world based off Earth and its people’s history or if you’re totally making up your world and all its wonders. People have been recording their stories and histories since cavemen figured out how to paint on walls. Realizing how your people record history will also help you develop the way they interact with each other. Take the indigenous peoples of America—or American Indians, if you will. They are oral storytellers, and their histories are preserved through song, dance, and telling stories of their ancestors, creation myths, and their gods. Don’t worry, I’ll be going more in-depth with culture in a later blog post.
I’ll make my house...over there
Migration will not only mix your people but their cultures. This will tie into how people travel in your world, how they interact with other people, if there are good or bad relationship between tribes or country, and how people evolve based on their geography. This will also affect the development of your language. Spain and France have fairly similar languages because they’re rooted in Latin.
You might have countries that you have a similar enough histories that they could either have very similar goals in mind and have great trading relationships, or you could have countries that are so similar, they end up doing nothing but fight because of a single event. Take North and South Korea for example. They have the exact same history until the Soviet Union and the US stepped in, and now they’re so divided because of political differences that they likely will never reunite.
Get off my lawn!
This is where you get to have a little bit more fun and go into more depth in sharing historical details with your reader: focusing solely on the history where your main story is going to be taking place. If your story is only taking place in a single country, it should be the shining star, and you should heavily focus on the development of that. Don’t get me wrong—you’ll still need to know the general history of your whole world, and all of this information can be used on a micro and macro level.
I’ve touched a little bit on this already, and I’ll touch on it again with another blog post when we talk about trade and commerce, but I wanted to cover it here in case you, dear reader, get bored with me and decide not to continue. Your people make up your country. Yes, I know that sounds obvious, but hear me out: your people’s hopes, dreams, fears, and wants will shape their history.
That might sound a little melodramatic, but it’s true. Take Alexander the Great for example—or any other conqueror, really. He wanted to fulfill his father’s dream of defeating Persia, and once he did that, he had the taste for conquering. His need to finish his father’s work led him to create the largest empire the ancient world ever knew and irrevocably changed the world.
As with everything else in these posts it seems, there will be more in-depth posts about war and military later.
As we talked about in People, wars shape the world. We see evidence of that all throughout history, whether it’s destroying countries, making new ones, or forming or destroying governments. Will your world be started post fall of a government? A revolution a la Madame Guillotine? A utopia that goes wrong? No matter what route you choose, you need to know a few things: What caused it? How was it won? What are the after effects are on the people, land, and government.
Social hierarchy
Lastly, I’m going to talk briefly about social hierarchy because I don’t want to repeat myself too much in—you guessed it—a later blog post.
There are several different forms of social hierarchy that you should be familiar with: the feudal system, the caste system, and the peerage without indentured servitude. The feudal system is one that you’ll see most often in fantasy novels. A few questions to ask yourself when choosing what system are how it came about, are the people content with the system, does the system cause problems, and will the system come to an end within your book.
No matter what system you go with, it will shape how your people behave.

Join me next week when I talk about Customs.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Author Interview: Kenneth W. Barber

Join us today as we interview Kenneth W. Barber, author of our newest book: A Knight of The Blood.
First, tell us a little bit about yourself!
Sure. I’m a storyteller. My work has been awarded Notable Indie Book of the Year by Shelf Unbound Magazine, a BRAG Medallion from and a Pitch Perfect Pick by Underground Book Reviews. Beyond that, I’m a husband and father. I believe in reading whatever you enjoy. It doesn’t matter. Just read.
That’s really impressive! So, what inspired you to write A Knight of The Blood?
I was cutting the grass one day and an idea just popped into my head; what if there existed an entire group of people who not only protected humanity from evil, but made sure they were unaware of it? It was an idea about humility, honor, and integrity. Doing what’s right because it’s right, not for the pursuit of personal glory. That really resonated with me and I ran inside to tell my wife. She told me to write it down, so I did.
Thank goodness for her, then. Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story?
Great question. There are themes woven throughout the story. A big one is the duality of our natures. No one is entirely good, or entirely evil. There’s some of both within us all and it’s what we choose to do that determines who we are. So that leads into another theme in the book; the possibility of redemption. Our pasts don’t define us, we can change who we are. Good and evil are, of course, represented in full measure. I can’t leave out an underlying theme that I tried to keep firmly in mind as I was writing: we need each other. No one should be alone. It’s often our connections to others, lovers, friends, or whatever, that keep us rooted and on course.
That’s a really great message for people to read. Let’s switch gears a little: Who is your favorite character?
That’s a tough one. I love all my characters. Surprisingly, Jeremiah is a great character with a deep backstory but, and this may shock some people, I have to go with Erika. She’s so deeply broken, dominated by forces beyond her control, yet still searching for meaning and struggling to do what’s right. I love her because of her imperfections, her humanity.
So I’ve got to ask, how did you come up with your monsters? They’re not quite like anything I’ve seen in fiction.
This one is kind of hard to explain, but I’ll try. When I write, scenes play out in my head. It’s kind of like watching an internal movie. I write down what I saw in my mind. The monsters are kind of like personifications of some of the worse angels of our nature, to take liberty with Mr. Lincoln’s great words. I describe them as best as I can.

You’ve got characters that have a special trait to them. What inspired the Bloodline?
I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of people who were born to be protectors, to have fighting evil in their very blood. When the Order fleshed out in my writing, it just flowed naturally into the Bloodline. Of course, I wanted to be certain that they weren’t just fated to be good. Free will had to be represented, so those of the Blood are tempted and tested. Some pass. Some fail.
I’m a little bit of a history nerd, so I always get excited when I see hints that there’s going to be a history of the world dropped in the story. Will we see more history relating to the blood knights?
Absolutely. I have big plans for the Order and the Knights. I’m working on building the history of the Order and the stories of the individual knights are just begging to be told.
Who are your favorite authors?
I have several, actually. Stephen King has always been one of my favorites. I’ve loved Tolkien since I was ten. Jim Butcher was a big influence on my writing. And I have to mention the genius of Neil Gaiman. I’m a big fan.

What can we expect next from you?
I’m already working on the sequel to A Knight of the Blood, as well as several other works. I’m excited about them and can’t wait to get them ready for reading. I’m working on more urban fantasy, but also thriller and mystery works.

A Knight of The Blood
By Kenneth Barber

Griffin, an expert wiseass, has never experienced true horror until his father is killed by a foul beast that certainly seems like but is, apparently, not a werewolf—according to the knight who saves him from the same fate, anyway. He’s also never met a real knight before. Or had superhuman speed. Or strength. Or met his soul mate. Who knew the capacity for it all was in his blood all along?

Encountering the ancient Order of the Guardians and taking his place a defender against creatures of darkness awakens Griffin to a host of experiences, both human and supernatural—and often unnerving. Between monsters, psychotic enemies, and secretive knights, can Griffin and the rest of the Order hold back evil...or even survive?

Join us next week when we pick back up our world building series, talking about the history of your world.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

World Building: This Land is My Land

The physical features of your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, we touched on the subject of whether your world was going to be based on Earth or not. Today, I want to continue that in more depth and talk about the physical features, climate, and natural resources. Any of my proposed questions and ideas are based on the assumption you’ve chosen to write an Earth-like world.
Why is it important?
The way your world is laid out in terms of geography, climate, and natural resources will affect everything from how your people will migrate, communicate with each other (we’ll talk about this in a later blog post), evolve as societies, and trade with each other. I’ll hold off going in depth on trade for its own blog post; otherwise, it’ll make this blog post inordinately long. Each one of these tie into one another to the point where it’s almost hard to separate which effects what.
She’ll be comin’ ‘round the mountain
I had a hard time choosing which topic I wanted to talk about first, but I settled on geography because it will affect the climate and where your people are willing to live. I’ve found what helps is to draw out your map first, divide it into countries, and put what land features you want where. This will help you dictate what the area will look like in terms of how people will live, what the climate will be because of the geography, and what kind of resources there will be.
For example, you might have an extremely mountainous country where your people have made their home. Now, this could go one of two ways: you end up having people like Nepali sherpas who have evolved to be able to breathe easier at higher altitudes than someone who lives at sea level, or you end up having cave dwellers who burrow into the mountains to make their homes closer to the base rather than higher levels. Likely, the latter would make their living mining for whatever they can out of the ground.
You might also have an island nation in which part of the population whose livelihoods depend on the ocean, and they’ve evolved to be able to dive deeper and for longer in order to catch fish. A people that does not live by the water would likely flounder (pun intended) if they had to do anything water related.
It’s getting hot in here
But please, don’t take off your clothes. We’re friends, but come on; we’re not that close.
When you’re planning your world, it’s very important to make sure that the climate matches the geographical features. Each type of geographical feature will come with its own type of climate. For example, somewhere near the ocean or with a lot of lakes or rivers will see far more rain than somewhere landlocked. Each country doesn’t necessarily have to have its own unique climate—you can easily do regions of climate—but you need to understand how climate will affect the people, flora, and fauna.
You’ll also have to figure out if the people have affected the climate. For example, deforestation will raise the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and raise the temperature. The same can be said if your people have started an industrial revolution that produces loads and loads of smog. Cities are generally warmer than out in the country anyway, but the amount of smog and pollution exasperates the longevity of that heat. I mean, you’ll also be choked by hazardous gases, but that’s not the issue we’re talking about.
There’s gold in them there hills!
Your natural resources can range anywhere between the minerals in the ground to the wildlife surrounding us. One thing that I often see go by the wayside in fantasy novels, and sometimes SciFi, is natural resources. That is, with the exception of the resources that their currency is made of or jewels.
What can I say about minerals? Well...they’re there, and you’ve got to find them. There are so many of them that you can easily get overwhelmed when you look them up. Here’s a list that breaks down minerals by classes, here’s a list that you can search minerals by color if you want a certain look, and here is a massive list from A to Z. (Not even sorry it’s Wikipedia—you can follow the sources on there to verify the legitimacy of them.) A lot of these can be made into jewelry, currency, building materials, etc. etc.
But...where’s the coal on those lists? Fun fact: coal is not classified as a mineral.
There are plenty of things to consider when you’re thinking about minerals: Are they tradable? Are they difficult to mine for? Are they rare? Where are they found? How are they found? What uses do they have in society? Does the demand for them create more or less jobs—do they boost the economy? Are they easily depletable? Will the economy tank if the mineral goes away?
Take a deep breath before we continue; that was a lot questions in a row to assault you with.
This is everything from the herbs that people can use for healing medicine to the types of flowers that grow in a specific region. What a lot of authors do—and I’m guilty of it, too—is finding something you like such as a particular flower and have it grow in a climate where it should not and would not succeed. This is fine if you’re having it grow by magic, but otherwise, your flora should obey the laws of nature.
Another important aspect of the flora is your farmland and the crops that it yields. This will supply your food for your people—I promise it doesn’t magically appear in shops because it’s convenient—and it can be an interesting way to show how the population can handle any sort of plight on a certain crop or a general famine. Hungry people become angry people, and angry people can become rioters or revolutionaries depending on how the governing body handles the situation.
We all know that certain animals have certain climates in which they live and thrive, such as polar bears in the Arctic and other extremely cold climates. Other things to consider when creating your world is if there is any overpopulation and what that can do the crop yield. If you have deer coming in through and eating the crops down to the stem, your people will suffer in the long run, and might have a hunting spree to control the population before it’s too late to recover..
Another thing to consider with animals in your world is what kinds of beasts of burden you will have. In founder B. C. Marine’s A Seer’s Daughter, rather than horses pulling her mode of transportation, she has dogs or moose pulling them because her world doesn’t have horses. Lastly, I’d like you to consider the predatory animals within your world and how they interact not only in the food chain but with the population as well.

Next week, we’ll be having an author interview with A4A author Kenneth Barber about his novel, A Knight of The Blood, and in two weeks, we’ll resume our world building series when I talk about the history of your world.

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