The Summer 2013 THIEVES’ QUARRY Blog Tour continues today with part II of my post on “Blending History and Fantasy.” Writing as D. B. Jackson, I began the post yesterday and in this new installment build on the discussion with an excerpt from THIEVES’ QUARRY. You can find the post at the blog of Brandy Schillace. (Part I posted yesterday; you can find a link to that first installment at the site for part II.)
The Summer 2013 THIEVES’ QUARRY Blog Tour, continues today with a post, written as D.B. Jackson, on blending history and fiction at The Fiction Reboot, Brandy Schillace’s blog on all things writing! The post, which is called “‘Warp and Weft’: Blending History and Fantasy,” will be posted in two parts; part two will go up on the site tomorrow. To see today’s installment, go here. Enjoy!
January 28, 2013
Today, I continue my series of Creative Intersections posts, which blend different aspects of writing, with another installment at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, Mindy Klasky, Kalayna Price, John Hartness, and James Tuck, among others. The post is called “Creative Intersections: Worldbuilding and Plot” and it discusses the ways in which setting and plot can interact in our stories. I hope you enjoy it.
December 3, 2012
Today, I continue my series of posts on worldbuilding with another installment at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, A.J. Hartley, and Kalayna Price, among others. The post is called “On Writing and Creativity: Worldbuilding Revisited, part II — How Much is Enough?” and it is essentially what you see in that title: a discussion of how I limit and make the most of the time I spend worldbuilding. I hope you enjoy it.
August 29, 2012
Today we welcome my good friend Morgan Keyes, who has just published a brand new middle grade fantasy, Darkbeast (Simon & Schuster). Morgan also writes as Mindy Klasky, and in that guise she is not only a colleague of mine over at SFNovelists, she is also a regular contributor to the Magical Words blog site. She is witty, incredibly knowledgeable about our genre and the publishing business in general, and a wonderful writer.
As an added bonus, Morgan, with the generous support of the folks at Simon & Schuster, is giving away a free copy of Darkbeast. Leave a comment before 11:59 p.m. EDT Sunday night, September 2, and you could win. (Please keep in mind that this post is up at several blogs, so the winner might or might not be chosen from people who comment here. Only one entry per person across ALL the blogs, please. Commenting at each blog will not increase your chances of winning.)
Without further ado, here’s Morgan!!
Many thanks to David, for allowing me to visit here and tell you about my middle grade fantasy novel.
In Darkbeast, twelve-year-old Keara runs away from home rather than sacrifice Caw, the raven darkbeast that she has been bound to magically all her life. Pursued by Inquisitors who would punish her for heresy, Keara joins a performing troupe of Travelers and tries to find a safe haven for herself and her companion.
Some authors have it easy. They set their stories in real cities, taking advantage of real maps and readers’ familiarity with real landmarks. Think, for example, of the wildly successful The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A reader could navigate from the titular girl’s apartment to virtually any other setting in the book, simply by following Stieg Larsson’s detailed prose.
Some authors have it hard. They set their stories in real cities, but in times past. (Yes, D.B. Jackson, I’m looking at you, and at Thieftaker!) These authors need to learn the actual map, as it existed in the time of their tale. That alone can be a struggle – tracking down appropriate resources, reconciling conflicting data. And woe to the author who has his characters walk streets that have changed their courses, or travel to landmarks that have burned and been rebuilt elsewhere. Readers will helpfully offer endless “corrections” despite the actual accuracy of the story as written.
And then there are authors, like me, who can draw on actual history, but take liberties. In writing Darkbeast, I created a secondary world, one that is not directly identical to anything in our actual historical past. Nevertheless, I populated my world with people who were similar – in some ways – to actual people who lived in actual historical cultures.
Here’s an example: Keara and her family are very religious; their lives are controlled in large part by the twelve gods they worship. The architecture associated with those deities is distinctive, and it guides not only the design of the actual godhouses but their placement within villages and towns. (For example, the goddess Pondera offers shelter to travelers, and her godhouse, however rudimentary, is always situated at the southern edge of settlements because people traditionally traveled from the south to the north on the Great Road.)
Alas, I don’t have any experience as a city planner. For tiny villages, my ignorance was immaterial. For larger towns, though, I needed help. I needed maps of similar towns, located in similar geographic settings.
And so I came to study maps of Venice (with its waterways and bridges). I also studied Rome (with its hills and multiple temples). I tossed in a couple of surveys of Avignon, (with its massive Palace of the Popes, dominating an otherwise rather unremarkable medieval town).
My goal was not to create a factually correct map; no one is going to travel to Duodecia and use Darkbeast as a guidebook. My goal was not even the more challenging one of presenting historical fact for modern readers, similar to Thieftaker. Rather, my goal was to create a world that feels right, that seems accurate, even if no one can ever set foot there. To that end, I could trace the path from the Doge’s Palace to the Bridge of Sighs, bulking up the palace into a “papal” bulwark, turning the bridge itself into a godhouse with specific attributes.
In the end, my readers will likely never know the specific paths I’ve traced. But I know them, and they help me to keep the story straight in my head. They help to make the world more real.
What are the most realistic secondary worlds you’ve encountered in fantasy fiction? And what makes them feel “real” to you?
Morgan Keyes grew up in California, Texas, Georgia, and Minnesota, accompanied by parents, a brother, a dog, and a cat. Also, there were books. Lots and lots of books. Morgan now lives near Washington, D.C. In between trips to the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery of Art, she reads, travels, reads, writes, reads, cooks, reads, wrestles with cats, and reads. Because there are still books. Lots and lots of books.
August 14, 2012
The Summer 2012 Thieftaker Blog Tour takes me today to Fantasy Literature, where I am interviewed by Bill Capossere. The interview covers a broad range of topics, from research to pseudonyms to magic systems. Fantasy Literature recently reviewed THIEFTAKER (with Bill writing the review) and so you can also find that review at the site. And finally, as with all good stops on the Blog Tour, this one includes a book giveaway! So visit the site, read the interview and leave a comment! Maybe you’ll win a copy of the book!
July 10, 2012
Today is a very special day on the Summer 2012 THIEFTAKER Blog Tour. I am posting today on John Scalzi’s “The Big Idea,” blog. This is a wonderful opportunity for me, and I hope you will visit john’s site and check out my post. Many thanks.
June 26, 2012
Today the Summer 2012 THIEFTAKER Blog Tour makes two stops, one at the blog of the fabulous and debonaire Blake Charlton, where I talk about my journey from academia to fiction writing; and the other at Sideshow Freaks, the blog for Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, where I discuss the role short fiction has played in my development of the Thieftaker world. Both blogs allow readers to leave comments, so please stop by, read the posts, and join the conversation. Many thanks!
June 11, 2012
Today, I welcome to my blogsite Barbara Ashford, one of my friends from the SFNovelists online group. Barbara has a new book out his month. Spellcrossed is the second novel in her Crossroads Theater series. She and I have found that we have far more in common than we ever imagined, including a love of historical research and a passion for writing fantasy. Please welcome her.
On the surface, David and I don’t seem to have a lot in common. He lives in Tennessee. I live outside New York City. He listens to jazz and bluegrass. I sing show tunes. He writes epic fantasy. I write…well, people are still trying to decide exactly how to categorize Spellcast and Spellcrossed. They have fantasy, mystery, a paranormal romance. They’re about people trying to find their paths in life. The families we’re given and the families we find. The bonds of community. And musical theatre.
Yes, I’m a double dose of geekiness – a lover of musical theatre and fantasy. Writing the Crossroads Theatre series allowed me to play in both worlds and draw on my years as an actress to create a fantasy set in a magical summer stock theatre.
To my surprise, another of my passions came into play while writing Spellcast: a passion for history that David and I share.
Spellcast and Spellcrossed are structured like a musical with an overture, a finale, and entr’actes separating the three acts. While the main narrative belongs to Maggie Graham, a young woman trying to get her life in order, the entr’actes showcase Rowan Mackenzie, the theatre director with uncanny powers and a mysterious past.
Originally, I wanted to use snippets from Rowan’s autobiographical musical as the entr’actes in Spellcast. I got so excited about the idea that instead of just writing the snippets, I started writing the show itself.
Since it took place over the course of a century, I quickly realized I needed to do some research on American history in general and Vermont history in particular. How did farming change during the nineteenth century? What financial upheavals would have impelled the characters to leave the family farm? To sell the timber rights to their land? What songs were popular during the American Revolution? The Civil War? Which Vermont regiments fought at Gettysburg? When was the first edition of the McGuffey Reader published? What books would this farm family read? Which ones would give Rowan a view of the world beyond the few acres to which he was bound by a curse?
I spent happy hours discovering the answers and working that information into the scenes that would chart Rowan’s emotional growth. I built his first friendships, his first grudging steps into the rural Vermont community. I laid the foundations for what would eventually become the Crossroads Theatre. And I wrote the entire show in three days.
It was a wild and exhilarating ride. By the end, I had a one-act musical that could stand on its own. But when I used one of those scenes as the first entr’acte in Spellcast, my editor and I agreed that the shift from narrative to play script was just too jarring. So I fell back on the convention of journal entries to give readers insight into Rowan’s past and his feelings for Maggie.
Disappointing? A little. But I don’t consider it wasted time. Whether or not the play is ever published or performed, writing By Iron Bound helped me dig deeper into Rowan’s character and the events that shaped his life. It recharged my creativity to write in a different art form. And it gave me the opportunity to combine all of my loves in one project. Hard to beat that.
One final piece of history. After I sent this post to David, we discovered that we have something else in common: he grew up in the same Westchester County town that I lived in during the early years of my marriage. Truth is stranger than fiction.
Thanks for playing host today, David. Now turn on some music and write!
Visit www.barbara-ashford.com to learn more about the world of the Crossroads Theatre and find out how to win a free copy of Spellcast or Spellcrossed.
March 2, 2012
Today, Cie Adams, who writes with Cathy L. Clamp under the name Cat Adams, is the special Friday guest at Magical Words. Together, Cie and Cathy are the bestselling authors of the Tales of the Sazi series, the Thrall trilogy, and the ongoing Blood Singer series. Her post today is about researching our novels. Stop by Magical Words and join the conversation!