Wednesday, September 25, 2019

World Building: What do you mean I’m going to live in a hut?

Knowing the construction in your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Everyone has to live somewhere, but what is that going to look like in your world? People have lived everywhere from caves to huts to rich palaces with several different types of material used for their construction. So what is that going to look like in your world?

Where will people live?

People are adaptable; they can live in almost any condition, provided that it’s not cold enough that they will freeze to death or have their blood boil within minutes of stepping outside a climatized home. Now, if you’re writing a sci-fi novel, your people could live in a climate controlled colony on Venus for all I know, but in that case, you’ve already figured out how, where, and what they’re going to live in, and this post might not be for you.
People peopleing everywhere
Your city’s architecture is going to be different than that of the country. Cities are generally in closer quarters, but what does that mean for your people? Depending on your time period, that means highrises, high pollution, and few possessions within the household because of space constraints. But, this isn’t the only thing you’ll want to think about when constructing your city.
One important thing to think about is how your city will be laid out. Will you follow the example of, say, New York, where it runs on a grid system that is blessedly easy to navigate once you’ve got your bearings? Or will it be closer to Washington DC, which also runs on a grid system but is far more complicated to figure out? Or will your city operate on something entirely different that expands its roadways as the needs of the city grow like the random mishmash of streets that is Seattle? The latter is particularly useful if you have scallywags within your story that need to run from the law. 
Population will be a driving factor in is what is considered a city versus a town or village. Speaking of the population, will any people be relegated to certain parts of the city, like the Jews who went to Rome were? Affordability and discrimination of peoples are often how cities end up with certain demographics to a region, but it will ultimately be up to you on how that’s going to run in your world. 
Lastly, I want to talk about how the interior of the living quarters will be laid out. In cities, we see everything from studio apartments to multistory townhouses. Economics will also come into play when you’re making the decisions; will the poor suffer with having to live several to a house, or even a room, and will the rich have entire blocks devoted to their own homes? Will the latter be made for opulence? Will it be a great achievement for your poorer denizens to get into something larger than a single room?
I wanna be where the people aren’t
As mentioned above, there are less densely populated living spaces, so now I want to touch on those and what that could mean for your people.  For the people who live in, say, a hamlet, how will their houses be built? Are they going to be clustered together, spread far apart so each person can have their own field to labor in? How will they make any sort of repairs to their homes, being so far away from everything? Or will the people be servants to the lord of the land and be either serfs or indentured servants where their general needs for repair and replenishment are taken care of for them?
There are other options for dwellings; there is still a province in China where people live in caves. So, if your people have this option, is there a social hierchy to who gets the best cave? Or any social hierarchy for a village? Are there elders who approve what can and cannot be done, a medieval homeowners association, if you will?

Building materials

In the order of things, this really should go first...sort of. Location is going to determine the type of building materials needed and how easy or expensive it would be to import said materials. Will your story be more modern and have plywood and drywall, or will your buildings be made from cut logs and mud or stone?
We also can’t forget the tools that accompany building. Today, we would be remiss if we didn’t use a level to make sure what we were building was straight and perfect, but what if you don’t have those in your world? How will your builders make sure that things are level? Don’t forget, with almost every modern invention of power tool, there was an archaic version first that you can find the name of with just a little bit of research.
How things are built
We’ve talked about schools before, so in your world will people be formally trained in architecture and construction? Is it a skills that’s taught at home by every father to their son to make sure that they’re self-sufficient and can build their family a home no matter where they go? Will construct go by way of magic in your world and you have a class of mages that specialize in home construction? 
It’s up to you how you want to handle the building of your structures, but make sure that you know how it’s done if it ever comes up in your work.
Grand scale buildings
Your grand scale buildings are going to be things like your castles, manor homes, palaces, and cathedrals, where you’ll need people who excel in artisanal decoration. If you have a guild set up for architecture, will only the guild master be able to work on such a project because of his or her prestige in the craft? Will you have people skilled enough to make glass windows, and will they be affordable for anyone or just for the rich? Will there be anyone who specializes in stained glass for decoration for the cathedrals? Will you have someone who knows how to do the math to make sure the pendentives and squinches will work within the building’s structure or how to build flying buttresses to perfection?
If you want to avoid these areas in your description, that’s fine, but if you do want to put these kinds of details in your work I would recommend getting either Understanding Architecture, or A History of Architecture.
Finally, the fun part. These are going to be your heating/cooling, running water, and appliances. Depending on the world that you create, you might not have all of these. While nice, they sometimes just don’t fit the story. It would be odd to see someone with a root cellar that they use to keep their vegetables fresh two chapters down the road talking about having a ceiling fan powered by electricity to keep the occupants cool in the summer months.
You can certainly break rules if you’d like, like having a civil war era house with a kitchen built within its walls instead of being a separate building (in case it wasn’t obvious, it was so if a fire started in the kitchen, it wouldn’t burn the whole house down), but at least try to make sure that the types of amenities make sense within the world that you’ve created and the time period you have it set.

Join me next week when I talk about art and entertainment.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

World Building: Get in My Belly!

The hows and whats of eating
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Food—it’s something we all enjoy, some of us more than others. But have you thought about how it interacts within your world?

Grow for me

Without farmers, we would have no mass production of food. (That is, unless you’re growing things hydroponically in the future, but arguably, they would still be considered farmers.) What you’ll want to think about is what kind of crops your farmers will grow and what climate they need to be grown in. 
This will feed into what kind of trade relations you might have in your world. For example, if you have a cooler climate in your book, you’ll need to trade with another country that has temperate to warmer climates in order to provide wheat, a staple in people’s diet, to your denizens.
Another thing to consider with farming is the need for crop rotations. Too many seasons with the same crop growing in the same field will deplete the correct nutrients and make those fields null for any further planting of said crop.
Lastly, and most importantly, you’re going to need to think about the kinds of weather happen where people are growing food. If there are regular dry spells, will farmers have built irrigation systems to make sure that all the crops are watered to perfection? And on the flip side, if there are lots of storms that produce massive quantities of rain, will there be drainage systems in place to make sure that the crops don’t develop root rot and die? Or, in the case of lots of rain, will the farms specialize in growing crops that require massive amounts of water, like rice?
Lest we forget that food has to travel, how will it happen in your world? Cities obviously will not have a sustainable way to grow food for its entire population, so who will be doing the import/export of food? Will the country send half of their crops to the cities to be sold for profit and keep the rest for themselves and local sales? Is there a government regulated agriculture that ensures that all of its constituents get fed? Do the farmer’s families travel daily to markets to sell their own wares in farmers markets from city to city to make a living?
Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet
I’ve talked before about the kind of fauna that you have in your world in This Land is My Land, but I want to talk about it a little bit more here. Depending on what kind of society you have and the time period in which it’s set, your people will be living off the land in order to get any sort of meat in their diet. 
You’ll need to figure out what kind of animals will be in each region of your world based on climate and what would be readily available for your people. This will range from your quadrupedal animals to the ones in the lakes, rivers, and oceans. 

Don’t we have something to eat?

With the resources available, what kinds of meals will your people be eating? Will the poor be eating vastly different from the rich? I mean, of course, they will just because of the difference in resources. But what I mean is, are your poorer citizens eating rice and beans three to five times a week, or will they have regular game mixed in? And on the opposite end of the spectrum, historically in England, the rich were able to have rich diets of regular game pies, while the expense deterred the poorer citizens from having it but a few times a year at holidays or special occasions.
For those who are writing historical fictions or fantasy novels that are set in eras that don’t have today’s basic amenities, here’s a timeline of food and recipes from ancient to present. 
Speaking of special occasion meals, what kind will be in your world? A fair amount of our holidays where we have special meals revolve around religious observances (Christmas, Easter, Passover), but there are others that are not seated in religion, such as Mother’s Day, Independence Day where we have BBQs and fireworks, and Thanksgiving. 
Will you have holidays such as these that have large parties and equally large dinners? And if there are, what kind of food will be served with it?
What the fork?
Boy, oh boy, is there a lot of information out there about utensils, and it’s far more than I can cover in this small section here. There could be dozens upon dozens of books written on the subject, and we still probably wouldn’t know everything there is to know about utensils and how they’ve changed what we eat, how we eat it, and how it tastes when we eat it. For now, I want to touch a little bit about what I learned in this delightful podcast, GastroPod, co-hosted by Cynthia Grabber and Nicola Twilley.
Throughout history, our hands have been our greatest tool for eating. Gross, right? Getting all that grease on your hands when you can just use your fork. If you can believe it, the fork was not a widely accepted table utensil until the 1700s, and even then, it wasn’t the kind of fork that we use today. Forks first gained their popularity in Italy to be able to eat pasta.  For the meals that can’t be eaten with your hands, a spoon can be fashioned from things such as shells, and if not available, you can simply use bowls and drink your meal rather than use cutlery. 
Another thing people used throughout history was their own personal knives. Even while going to an eatery, or at a feast in a hall, people would use their own knives that they used for cutting meat, or anything else that presented some sort of challenge. Bear in mind, these knives would be used for other things besides eating, and it’s sometimes a wonder how we survived as long as we have. So, what you want to think about while you’re setting your character’s table is what would their time period and culture reasonably use, and what kind of manners would they use for such utensils. If you want to hear a little bit more about this, author and historian Bee Wilson and co-hosts of the podcast linked above cover a little bit of it.
Lastly, because I want to geek out on this, I want to talk about the kinds of materials you want to use for your utensils because they will vastly affect the taste that goes along with the food. Throughout history, we’ve used everything from wood to gold to make our eating utensils, and wood is going to make your mashed potatoes and roast taste far different than what it would if you were eating it with a stainless steel fork, or even a silver one. While crafting your world, especially if it’s based on our own world’s timeline, you’ll need to think about when these types of inventions came into place because before the twentieth century, we didn’t have any metals treated like stainless steel. One reason why this is important is if your people have a diet of fish that’s tpyically spritzed with lemon, if they’re using steel or iron utensils, your characters are going to have a chemical reaction in their mouths that isn’t going to taste very good.
You don’t have to go into this type of depth in your world unless you really want to, but making sure that these kinds of things are on your radar is never going to hurt the richness of the world you want to create. 

Join me next week when I talk about architecture. 

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Author Interview: B. B. Morgan

Beatrice, thanks for chatting with us today! Let’s dive right in: What inspired you to write Stars and Bones: A Thief in the Castle?

Stars and Bones started out as a vague and uninspired fantasy story idea. I lacked the needed enthusiasm, so it sat on my computer. It was early fall, and I planned on attempting NaNoWriMo for the first time, so I thought I’d let the fantasy story idea sit and ferment. I then read the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Mass—yes, the entire series. All but the final book were out, and I devoured the series in about a week and a half. I LOVED it. I hadn’t had a book keep me up until dawn reading since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Then the mythical ray of inspiration struck, and I had a whole new plan for my vague fantasy story. I still wanted to use it for NaNoWriMo, so rather than writing, I planned. I built the world, designed the characters, and made notes for possible scenes. I made a vague outline, and every time I went into the doc, I added more and more. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story I was making. I’d never been in love with a project so much. It bordered on obsession. 

I didn’t make it to NaNoWriMo. The last week in October, I gave in. I wrote the rough draft of what would later become Stars and Bones: Thief in the Castle in about a week, and I spent November turning that rough draft into a first draft. 
Wow, that’s pretty incredible that you wrote a rough draft in a single week! Are there any themes, symbols, or motifs in your story? 

Probably. Anything I write tends to have themes of girls seeking adventure and a way out of their current situation. There is also a fictional character that is often mentioned. His name is Leon Stark, and he is the subject of adventure and romance novels within my novels. He’s not in every single one, but he’s in several. He’s like James Bond, but fantasy and typically a pirate of some kind. 
Readers will definitely have to search for him during your series. Speaking of characters, who is your favorite?

I love Juniper. She’s smart, headstrong, and can be brash and selfish. She’s driven by her heart, even if she wouldn’t think so. She’s been dealt a crappy hand in life, but she’s making the best of it. She is a “learn to swim or drown” kind of girl and obeys laws when they suit her. She’s clever enough to know when she can bend laws and logic to fit her desires. She’s also aware of when her actions might affect others. 
I would say that Juniper is also my favorite. How did you craft your world? 

Painstakingly and over time. From conception to what I could consider a finished world, it took about a year or so. I would add things and places and concepts as I thought of them, so I ended up with A LOT of little notes in my purse from when I’d think of something cool at work. I’d scribble it down and stuff it in my desk or in my pocket. I had one piece of scrap paper (I don’t have it anymore, because I hate clutter) where I detailed Mage’s Bane. I scribbled down effects, history, ingredients, and things like that. 

Sometimes that’s the only way to do it. Is it difficult at all to keep track of all the magic in your book?

It’s been difficult to keep track of everything! I have a red notebook on my desk where I wrote down everything I made up when I made it up, so things like names and character descriptions and spells and anything that I might need to reference later. Proper nouns, events, history, lore. It all went into the notebook. 
I have one of those too, but even with that, it can be hard to keep track of everything. How did you decide on a setting? Is it based off of anywhere you’ve been in real life?

The setting of Rusdasin is very much like southern Illinois in the sense of climate and landscape: mostly flat, spotted with forests, with touches of the Shawnee National Forest. The city part is a cumulation of the few cities that I’ve been to and what I’ve imagined reading other fantasy books and watching travel shows. I don’t physically travel; I watch TV. 
I think a lot of people do that. Let’s switch gears a little bit: Who are your favorite authors? 

I’ll read anything by Sarah J. Mass and V. E. Schwab. I’m also a fan of Stephanie Garber, Holly Black, and Rebecca Ross. 

We’ll have to add some of them to our reading lists. Before we let you go, we’ve got one last question for you: What can we expect next from you?
I’ve got a steampunk/fantasy trilogy coming soon. The first of which is hitting later this year and is called Hard as Stone. I’ve also got a handful of WIP, including a gender-bent Aladdin retelling that I’ve been working on for about two years.  

Those all sound great! Thanks for chatting with us today, Beatrice. 

You can find her upcoming novel, Stars and Bones: Thief in the Castle here for preorder. Don’t forget to join us this Saturday for the launch party and a chance to win a free paperback copy!

Thief in the Castle
By Beatrice B. Morgan

The notorious Juniper Thimble is destined for execution. Caught stealing the king’s crown—in addition to her long list of crimes—she has only one way out. Juniper must survive the biggest, most deadly con of her life, commissioned by the king himself. Disguised as the crown prince’s lover, she is forced to protect him with her life…literally. Guarded by a surly squire, relentlessly attacked by demons, and surrounded by mysteriously disappearing servants, Juniper must dispatch the threat to the prince’s life before they find out who she really is.

Updated 4/2021 to reflect a change in penname and cover change. 

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

World Building: We Will Take Our Business Elsewhere

Commerce, do you need it?
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
The short answer is yes. The long answer is a little bit more complicated. Trade and business are inherent to daily life and shape how and why we do things, even if we don’t realize it. These are often left as implied that they’re happening, but what should you think about if you don’t want to leave it to the background?


Trade is an archaic thing, is it not? 
No. It isn’t. Trade still happens every day, even as simple as, “I’ll take you to your doctor’s appointment three hours from here if you watch my animals while I’m gone for the weekend.” That’s a trade. It might be neighborly and friendly to do, but at its core, it’s still a trade. 
Now, depending on what setting and time period your world will be in, almost everything will run on trade, rather than monetary compensation. Common items for trade would be livestock, food, and general living utensils like pottery, plates, fabrics, etc. You will also need to decide if you’re going to be trading within your own community or trading with outsiders where you have to travel for days at a time.
I wanted to include transportation in the section for trade because it’s one of the first reasons people would have needed a reliable sorce of transportation, the other being migration. 
What kind of transportation are you going to have in your world? No matter the time period, a society can have a bartering system in place. What kind of transportation you have will help solidify the time period you’re in, however. You could have a dystopian future where people travel on hovercrafts and trade in minerals to make future tech. Or you could have a more primitive society where people still drive with a horse and cart, or horse and wagon.
This is more pertinent for novels that are set before mass electronic communication, though still useful information if you’re planning on writing a dystopian novel where all communication goes away. 
The more people travel, the greater the need for long distance communication. There are a couple of ways that this can happen, depending on the town and its people. First, a trader could go to another town or village with wares and spread the information that’s happened in his town and return with the same information of the other. Second, a trader can carry letters between towns as he goes. And finally, as a society grows, a postal service can develop as more demand for communication arises.  
Now, this process will be different if you have magic or magical creatures in your world. Sure, they can be the same for the cities and towns that don’t have access to the resources of magical beings. With that, messages can easily be sent back and forth using magic spells or by mail carriers on the backs of a pegasus or dragons. 


I wanted to give money it’s own section in this because it’s a rather important thing. Some authors can get away with not even mentioning currency names, like my business partner and fellow author B. C. Marine in A Seer’s Daughter. I still don't’ know how she managed it, but she did, and if you don’t want to fiddle around with money names and how much things are worth, take a look at her work to see a good example of this. 
However, if you do want to mention currencies, you’ll want to think about a few things while you do it. First, what are you going to name your currency? Is it going to be the same names used for currency today for easy translation to the reader? Are you going to make up your own names?
Second, what materials are these currencies going to be made out of? Historically, currencies have been everything from tulip bulbs, to precious metals, to paper, to digital money. Currency can really be anything of value if people are willing to accept it. 
Third, who will be issuing the money? Currency production and distribution, at the moment, is handled by governments, but that wasn’t always the case. Pre Revolutionary War—for the United States—currency was issued by banks. 
Lastly, will there be any currency conversation rates in your world? If you have more than one country, how will people spend between them? Will you have only one type of currency, many currencies, or will other countries take each other’s money without needing to exchange it?


Congratulations! Your people have prospered, capitalism has taken hold, and business is booming...but what kind of business? You don’t have to be a business expert to be able to answer this question; you just have to look around you. 
But, there are still a few things you’ll want to think about for business while crafting your world. Will certain regions or cities specialize in something, like Gruy√®re, Switzerland being the cheese capital of the world? Or Bordeaux, France being the wine capital of the world?
Next, if there are any guilds in your world, how do people get into such guilds? Do they apprentice from a certain age until they’ve mastered their craft? Go to a trade school? Do families have their own guilds that skills are passed from son to son? And, if you do have these guilds, are they limited to certain people, like only men?
Finally, is there any governmental regulation on business? For example, we have laws protecting business owners from being run out by monopolies, and we have regulations on what age a child can start working. What regulations will be put in place to protect your people?

Next week, we’ll be having an author interview with A4A author B. B. Morgan about her novel, Stars and Bones: Thief in the Castle, and in two weeks, we’ll resume our world building series when I talk about food.

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