Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Worldbuilding Indulgences: Quantity Varies by Subgenre

What worldbuilding do I do that isn't necessarily about the story itself but is a personal indulgence? It depends on the subgenre I'm writing.

There is so much worldbuilding necessary in second-world fantasy--the kind of story that doesn't take place in a recognizable period on Earth--that everything I include has to be relevant to the story; otherwise, the worldbuilding dominates the plot and character development...or I end up with a 300k tome. The first round of cuts I do in my second-world fantasies are the TMI details of the world. Does the reader really need to know where the water is sourced? Purified? Only if there's a plot-relevant problem with the water--scarcity, poisoned, monsters--or if an important character is employed in that industry. Infrastructure usually takes the first hit in the cuts, because I absolutely write that info in the draft. The administrative necessities of running a nation/tribe/horde? Again, it gets cut if it's not plot-relevant. A little bit of mundane is necessary, but too much can bog down the pacing and distract from the story rather enhance it. Weeds. I know them too well. Alas, getting lost in them is part of my process of immersing myself in the world I'm creating. Gods bless editing.

In contrast, for my upcoming Urban Fantasy series (releasing Jan 30th!), the worldbuilding there is all about pointing out the uncommon amid the common. That is where I allow myself the luxuries of sneaking details that--if they were missing--wouldn't impact the plot. Silly things like how dust is applied to shelves or why guys are wearing flip-flops in the dead of winter. I indulge my love of creating fantastical explanations for the one-offs in our everyday lives. I try not to be heavyhanded with them, but they do make me snicker.

In the end, worldbuilding indulgences are a lot like pepper on pasta. Flavor enhancements.

Monday, September 18, 2017

World building as its own reward.

I love world building. Be it a small town set in a fictitious version of our own, or be it a new world, as I am want to do, I love it.

Why? Because, to me, it's like playing in a room with unlimited toys. I get to set them up, I get to describe them, paint them and shape them. And, if I feel like it, I get to destroy them.

For me it's all of benefit. I love discovering a new place. There are sculptors who say that they do not create the sculpture so much as the reveal what is already there, waiting to be seen by many eyes.

I can believe that. There are natural flaws in stone or wood that will make themselves known to thew careful hand. A shape that comes forth when that flaw is touched in the marble becomes the curve of a neck or the twist of fabric. From this flaw, beauty.

For me writing is much the same. I know what I intend to say, but the words sometimes decide for themselves and it seems that is most often true when a character is suddenly revealed to me or a faction of the world I thought I was designing is unexpectedly changed. Listen, I get it. ALL of what I write is in my head, but my subconscious sometimes likes to surprise me. Sometimes I let thew words come and I get a mess of words that are useless. Sometimes that flaw is there and I can use it, shape it, smooth it into something new and wondrous. I almost always "Pants" my novels. I don't like outlines and only do them when I must and I can basically promise you that whatever I have written down in the outline will look little like what I come up with at the end.

Write, polish, shape, rewrite, edit, expunge and correct. By the time it's done, I'm not looking at a familiar world any longer, even if I thought I was. SERENITY FALLS and SUMMITVILLE exist in the same fictitious reflection of our world, but they are nothing alike.  One is small and insular, and the other is going through massive growing pains when the stories start. I love that. I especially love that I really didn't know that about either o them until they told me.

The Empire ofr Fellein in the SEVEN FORGES books looks nothing at all like the Five Kingdoms in THE TIDES OF WAR. They a e both similar concepts, mock medieval lands in their nature, but Fellein is pristine and clean and healthy and the Five Kingdoms are already depraved and broken and dirty when the story starts.

Fellein has mountains and valleys and clean rivers that curt across the land and leave plenty of room for towns and cities. The Five Kingdoms are covered by deserts and areas that are dangerous and diseased, where if people walk, they are likely to die from the equivalent of radiation poisoning, though there has never been a nuclear anything in that land. In Fellein the gods are distant and have almost faded away (Not so in the lands of the Seven Forges, where the gods have direct conversations with each and every person). In the five Kingdoms the gods are hungry and demand sacrifices and have, on ten seperate occasions punished the foolish mortals who refused to listen.

Just for grins, here's a story about those very gods and their punishments, done for fun. it's called THE SIXTH KINGDOM and is a bit of world building history for the series TIDES OF WAR. 

I have fun building worlds. It's a fascinating part of what makes a fantasy story (or any story) come alive for me.

But because I'm me, I also enjoy kicking down the sandcastles when I'm done creating them.

What can I say? I'm an angry little god. ;)

And yes, both of these covers deal with one small part of the world I built. See the crystals in the mountains and in the cave? They have a backstory, too, and it's integral the the tale I tell.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

An Audience of One: Worldbuilding Easter Eggs I Plant to Entertain Myself

Yesterday I did a signing with Sage Walker whose book, THE MAN IN THE TREE, just came out last week. This is a gorgeous science fiction novel that I highly recommend. For the purists, the science is impeccable. An asteroid is equipped with propulsion and manipulated to create a living space inside that will eventually be a self-sustaining biosphere with a population of 200,000. By the time this generation ship reaches its planetary destination in 200 years, those people will be ready to colonize the new world. But when the story begins, the ship, Kybele, is nine days from leaving orbit with a population of 30,000 people. These people are the best of the best, who've worked and struggled to be among those granted a position on the Kybele. None of them will live to see the new planet, but they'll live and eat like billionaires during their time aboard ship - and give their progeny an opportunity like no other.

Except a man has been found murdered. Unless they find the murderer before leaving orbit - a meticulously timed departure - they'll be taking someone twisted with them. Someone who may have sabotaged Kybele herself. And the guy in charge of tracking down the murderer may be in danger of falling in love with the chief suspect.

So yummy!

One of the things I really love about this book is all the worldbuilding work Sage put into it. Not all of it is on the page, but it's all there in the supporting framework. Hearing her discuss the details is amazing. (Yes, she's a friend of mine.)

It's not all on the page because the reader doesn't need to know everything the author knows. In fact, if an author puts EVERYTHING about the world on the page, it bogs the book down beyond readability. However, the author still needs to know it, or the world comes across as tenuous, false, or hollow. Worst case scenario, fundamental contradictions may be missed.

Our topic this week is worldbuilding as its own reward. What worldbuilding we do that isn't necessarily about the story itself.

Really, as I said above, a ton of worldbuilding never makes it into the story. But this topic is asking which bits we do purely to please ourselves.

I'll tell you mine. I slip in little homages to authors I love. Or sometimes to work by friends. I named a castle seamstress for an author friend who helped me with that scene. I borrowed a cameo appearance of a fantastic bird from one of my favorite fantasy books. I chortle to myself as I sneak in jokes that are so inside I doubt anyone would ever get them besides me.

Sometimes I imagine some future scholar ferreting out some of these references. Others I know no one will ever "get." And that's okay. It's mostly me, having fun with the thing I love to do.

But if you all ever suspect you've caught one, be sure to let me know!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Introverted at the Book Signing?

Our topic this week is what can an introverted reader say to an author at a signing event (or other event but I tend to think first of signings)? I think my fellow SFF7 members have given great answers so I'm going to come at it from another angle.

I'm the introverted author! BUT when I'm at a public event I go into my 'retail mindset' by which I do NOT mean I'll come across like a TV infomercial and try to sell you All The Things. I'm there to meet you! Hopefully I'll find out what you like or don't like about my books, what you love to read, what you want more of, who are your other favorite authors (in my genre or others), what's been the best event so far at the conference, is this your first conference, whose autograph did you want most...as the author, I want to make your time at the event happy, warm and comfortable. If you buy a book or two from me, that's lovely and cool, but I want to leave a good impression, so in the future if you see an book by me you'll smile and say, "Oh, yes, I met her".

I worked in retail during college for a major department store and I LOVED meeting the customers and trying to help them find what they needed. I'm a people pleaser by nature. So it's easy to talk to me (I think, hopefully I'm not overestimating my friendliness LOL.)

The first book signing I ever did was a gigantic Romance Writers of America event and as a total newbie with one book out at the time, I mostly sat and watched and learned from the more experienced authors around me. There was one lady I'll never forget - although sadly her name escapes me completely after all these years - who did a beautiful job of making each reader who stopped to see her feel special and appreciated. She posed for pictures, she wrote special dedications, she signed bunches of books. She focused completely in the moment on whoever she was talking with and seemed to genuinely be enjoying herself immensely. That's the role model I decided to adopt.

So let me finish with another true story from that first book signing. My favorite author in the world is Nalini Singh. She was there. I must have walked by her table ten times, but was too shy to approach her. I mean, the mere idea was TERRIFYING. I was afraid of being tongue tied and completely inarticulate. She was even all alone at one point, which if you've been to an event where Nalini signs, that never happens. And still I couldn't make myself go any closer. I regretted that and regretted that.

So the next conference I was at where she also attended, I MADE myself go talk to her and she is the sweetest person, so easy to talk to, so gracious and...yup, those few moments with my favorite author in the entire world were the highlight of the conference. And even though I read all my books on the kindle these days I'd never give up my signed hardback copy with her lovely note.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Introvert's Guide to Authors

This past weekend, I was in the North Cascades at the gorgeous Mazama Country Inn where my friends held their wedding. It was awesome. Everything went off really, really well and the newly weds are very happy. Yay. The only potential damper we had was on Saturday afternoon, when a bird flew into a window.

I was supposed to be getting dressed for the wedding dinner. Instead, I was outside assessing the damage to the victim. The bird was stunned and on its back on the patio. When I tried to right it, the bird grabbed hold of my finger and would not let go. So I held the bird. And held the bird. Finally, I offered the bird a stick to perch on. It was accepted and I went to put on adult clothing. Bird was still there once I was appropriately attired, so I picked up the stick and the bird and we both went to dinner.

Another guest identified our feathered friend as a very young white-breasted nut hatch and suggested I offer the bird a transfer to the rough bark of one of the pine trees. This met with avian approval. Five minutes later, the nut hatch skittered up the tree and took off to the cheers of the wedding party.

And if you want to know how to approach *this* author, you can always bring the animal stories and photos. Especially if its me and especially if you rescue. Don't feel like you have to do or be either, though. Because ultimately, I just want to talk to you. I am an introvert, too, so I get being afraid to speak up! But if you're shy, cruise on by where ever I am. If you linger for even an instant, I will do my best to say hello and offer you whatever goody/swag/candy/etc I have on hand. Know why I have those things in the first place?

Cause I am terrified that no one will come talk to me without bribes.

So fellow introverts, come on down. Meet my eye for just an instant. I'll start the conversation for you. Because after sitting alone writing books, *whispers* I'm desperate for actual people to talk to in real life. E-hem. I'll ask you questions - who do you like to read? What's your favorite genre? All kinds of stuff. And if you have photos of your dog or cat or rabbit or mini horse or raccoon or fish on your phone, show them to me! Just be prepared to be shown kitty photos in return. :D

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Interacting with the Busy Writer

Geez, is September nearly half over?  Is 2017 three-quarters done?  How did this happen?
Anyway, I've got plenty happening for the rest of the month.  This weekend I'm teaching a Worldbuilding Class with Amanda Downum.  Next week I'm going to FenCon.

If you are attending either, please come up and say hello.  Now, I say this all the time, but now I feel like I should give details.
  1. Really, come up and say hello.  I'm there to interact with people.
  2. I actually quite like it when people do.
  3. Especially if they offer to buy me a drink.
While #3 is completely true, it is not required.  You want to ask me a question, pick my brain about something, or even just gush about Maradaine... I'm there for you.

I get why it can be intimidating.  Heck, even now, I don't always go up to people and say hello myself.

But for now, I need to get back to work.  A Parliament of Bodies won't finish itself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Breaking the Ice with an Author

Across the room, you see the author from whom you buy every book the moment it hits pre-order. Your hands get sweaty. The room gets warmer. At twenty yards, you're blushing. At ten, you're having the pre-conversation in your head. At five three people step in front of you and grab the author's attention first. No, no; it's good, it's good. You replay the script you've been practicing and remind yourself not to mumble You check your breath. Oh, hell, it smells like gym feet. Mints. Mints, you brought mints just in case. Where'd that little tin go. Pocket? Bag? No other pock--

You're face to face with the author. There's no one in between you now. The author smiles at you. All that witty banter you'd practiced ~poof~. There is nothing but a thousand and one memes of the slow blink rolling through your head. You start to smile back...but the bad breath. Better keep your lips together.  You don't want to accidentally breathe on the author and cause them to faint. You're vaguely aware that your smile feels more like a grimace. This is not going the way you'd imagined.

You could bolt. Pretend like this never happened. But this author, this author has written words that have made you cheer, laugh, cry. They've given you book boyfriends and reasons to buy new shelves. You've missed train stops and coffee dates to finish just one more chapter.

Don't run. Forget about the mints and the grimace and the sweaty palms.


I'm a fan.

My favorite book is...because

My favorite character is...because

My favorite moment is when...because

I'm excited to read the next book.

That, right there, is how you break the ice with an author. That is how you make their day.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Three tips for the introverted fan

Heck, that's easy.

1) be yourself. You're probably a lot cooler than you give yourself credit for and genuine responses always go over better than contrived nonsense.

2) Say "hi." You'd be amazed how far that can take a conversation.

True story: Not long ago at Boston ComiCon, I ran across a lady who had read all four my Seven Forges books. She had no idea I was going to be there and when she realized who I was, she freaked a little. Believe me, it's very flattering. It was also cool to just talk with her and calm her down and discuss what she liked about the books.
As I had no copies of THE LAST SACRIFICE with me, I gave her a postcard with thew cover on the front and the link to the Angry Robot website page on the back. She had all of my books on Kindle, but she bought them again so I could sign them.
Put a smile on my face that lasted the whole day.

3) Relax. With VERY few exceptions, (they do exist) writers are delighted to meet you. I always am. Maybe not in the bathroom at the local convention or anything but still, delighted to meet a fan of my work or even someone who is curious about it.

4) Bonus round: Be friendly and be polite. Happily it hasn't happened to me (YET) but there are a few people who've had "fans" come up and be nasty about a book they didn't like or understand. Never gonna be my favorite thing.

But especially remember rule number 2. I can't have a conversation with you if you don't engage and I'm looking forward to meeting you. It's why I attend conventions, etc.

In the meantime, look at my cool new cover!!!!