Building a Fantasy World


The fantasy genre is, by its very nature, a speculative view on our daily life.  Almost every one of these books started with a question that began “What if…”  That one question shapes the world, the culture, and the reactions of people.

As an author, it’s my job to follow that line of thinking all the way down the rabbit hole.  As an example: what if humans colonized a planet that had a native sentient species on it?  Well, humans being like they are, we’d assume we are superior (technologically, socially, physically, or some other -ly) and try to force that species to conform to our ideals of propriety.  Do they have packs of mates instead of monogamous couples?  Well, we’d show them how much better it is to do things our way.

The trick to this is to have a very cynical mind.  I actually don’t.  In person, I am the eternal optimist kind of person.  I always assume people will do the kind thing (note that I didn’t say “right”) and that differences should be celebrated.  Sadly, history proves me wrong.  So, when building a universe to write in, I head straight for the history books (or articles on the internet, but let’s not be picky).  That our past tends to be repeated just gives me an easy outline for the way a society will react to atrocities.  And let’s face it, atrocities make for good novels.

But I always start creating a book or series in the middle (mentally).  I devise a conflict – such as a species wanting to be free and equal.  From there, I work backwards to create the world.  What do I want the species to look like?  Why would they look like that?  What evolutionary reasons would there be?  So what does that say about the planet?  How would the environment affect the other side?  And the next thing you know, I have a timid alien girl applying for a unit that will most likely get her killed, only to discover that she’s “the chosen one” only because everyone else was killed off, and she’s not really suited to the job.

I also go the other way from my creative conflict point.  They want their freedom, so will rise up to get it.  How would that look?  What would the opposition do in response?  What weaponry would be used?  How would the success look, because things like this are never clean and easy?  Why is the enemy even fighting this instead of just being a nice person and giving in?

The process of making a world is all about analyzing our own beliefs about things, and using scientific theories to create them.  Then, I have to create the people, and I need to do this for each and every one of them.  Why did they end up where they are, thinking what they do?  Are the lines drawn across species, or by beliefs?  Who is the good guy?  What is the bad guy considered bad?

The more you poke at each and every idea in a book, the more interesting the world CAN become.  Many authors skip the hard stuff.  They want a specific scene or setting, and are willing to break their own reality to make it happen.  Deus ex machina, it’s called, and it ruins a lot of good books.  But sitting there, daydreaming (which I love doing) can often prevent that from happening.

But for me, there’s one part of this that’s VERY difficult.  Knowing when I’m pushing the boundaries of what my readers expect.  The most recent example is killing off a character.  Some people understand and would have been angry if it hadn’t happened.  Others know that in a war, death will happen.  Some enjoy the emotional rollercoaster.  Others are livid and refuse to finish the series because a beloved character has died.  AND everything in between.

So, when writing, I have to forget about people reading the book.  I have to limit my actual concerns about being a jerk, and dive so far into that rabbit hole that the fantasy world becomes my reality, and then stay true to its rules.  I can’t write to make others happy, I have to write based on the rules of the system I set up, otherwise, I’ve just fallen into that Deus ex machina trap.  Once you break the rules, it’s very easy to start fixing things with miracles that are out of place.

And me?  Yeah, I’m one of those nice people who really is willing to bend over backwards to make everyone happy.  It’s SO hard to do something that will be upsetting.  I always want to find the win-win solution to everything, but as an author, I can’t.  I just can’t bring my real world into my fantasy one.

So, I figure I’ll make it up with another series of books.  I mean, that’s the win-win, right?  I get to write more, people get to read more, and I won’t fall into a rut of always writing the same books with just a different skin and character names.  Yep.  I like this.

Now, I just have to wait a little longer so I can finish the series I’ve already released.  First things first, but last things are best.  I have a feeling there’s going to be a LOT of daydreaming in my future!

Where do I get my ideas?

Warrior-Knights-Horses-Fantasy-Art-ArtworkI know that I don’t write the typical stories.  It’s one of the most common things people tell me (thankfully, right after “this is so good!”).  But, it seems people want to know how I come up with these ideas.  Well, the answer is rather simple: art.

The picture at the top was the initial inspiration for Rise of the Iliri.  I stumbled across it somewhere, and it just moved me.  The carrion birds, the military that doesn’t quite fit into any classification, and the demeanor of the riders… It all spoke to something special.  Then my mind started to wander.  How could someone become a part of that group.  Once she did, what would that mean for her?  Why are they so different?

In answering those questions, I came up with more and slowly began to imagine this world where people had been living for a very long time, but then I had to explain the world to myself.  Naturally, history would be lost to the inhabitants as well.  I mean, look at our own histories!  A thousand years ago is still too much time to know the details.  Two?  Myths and legends.  And that was the spark that set everything ablaze.  Daydreaming over a picture became writing a book, which turned into a series.  And now, well, here we are.

a1177deb69a9ed6da8b969ca958a4bc5For my gladiators, it was the same thing.  This picture made me think.  The determination on her face.  The anger.  From there, I started searching out more images of female gladiators, which gave me more ideas, and the next thing you know, we have the Lion and the Wolf.

From Twitter to Facebook, and I can’t forget Deviant Art and my crazy Google searches, I’m always stumbling upon something.  Then a friend makes a comment, someone else replies, and by the time it’s over, I have a new folder on my computer with a piece of an idea that will one day grow into a book.

Currently, it’s starting to out pace even my writing abilities!

But so long as artists keep inspiring me, I’ll keep writing books.  I just love the act of thinking it out.  There’s something about being a grown-ass adult who can spend hours wandering through her own imagination that’s rather liberating.  At first, I worried about what people would think.  No, not about me – because I’m already strange! – but about the topics I write.  A martriarchal species?  A pampered girl who isn’t a damsel in distress?  Love, death, and hope?  It’s all been done before, but I keep finding myself twisting things in a new way.  Is it going to be too much?

In the end, I don’t care.  I write the books I want to read.  The books that others aren’t brave enough to tackle.  From surviving abuse (Flawed) to the power of hope (uh, most of them) I just need one little seed to grow an entire world in my mind.  From there…

All that’s left is to sit down and write.

It’s spring! And that means play time.

female-1427182.jpgSlowly but surely, I’m getting ahead of my release schedule.  Granted, I’ve also slowed down my release schedule to something more closely resembling human abilities.  I figure a book every 3 months (give or take) is still pretty good.

Instead, I’m working on getting back in shape.  A couple of years spending every spare second in front of the computer typing away doesn’t do good things for the waistline.  A new puppy, however, has the opposite effect!  Granted, Revan’s almost a year old now, but he’s still a very active and demanding boy.  Play time is not optional.

So Revan gets time for tug, fetch, and wrestling.  Jango Fett gets long (to him) walks around the property and down the street.  Boba Fett just wants hugs, because he’s sensitive like that.  And Dozer?  I still haven’t figured out how to entertain that one.  He is happy with anything so long as we’re touching.  It leaves less time to write, but I can deal with that, because this is the life I’ve always dreamed of.  Spring days with my boys, including my amazing better half.

And yet, the book ideas keep coming.  I’m having this urge to write something romance but fantasy.  Most likely because I recently read an amazing example of such.  Trickery, by Jaymin Eve and Jane Washington.  While there was nothing overly sexual, the plot wasn’t anything earth shattering, and well, the trope has been done before, this book was just well written enough to make me believe that romance and fantasy can live on equal grounds, and that there might be a place for such things.  And so….

I have been daydreaming about dragons.  Yep, dragons.  Not the typical mind reading Pernese things we all know and love (while inwardly wincing from the outdated sexism).  Rather, I’m thinking dragons colored like insects, necromancers that are good people, and well, you know, the typical Auryn Hadley spin on things.  What can I say, I can never just do things like normal.  My mind doesn’t work like that.

But it’s spring.  I have 2 books ahead of this one (Rise of the Iliri 7 and When We Were Crowned) that need to get their time in the sunlight – and I have a laptop so I can do just that.  Yep, I’m going to be writing while I throw a ball, sip my tea, and get a little southern sun before the temperatures down here reach “hell”.



My dogs have imposed work limits

3265158356812790777-account_id1Two of my dogs are conspiring against my super amazing workflow today.  I am getting the last few corrections done, and it’s moving a LOT faster than I expected.  The problem?  Revan says I have to take a break every two hours to love on him.

Clearly, smacking at a keyboard and staring intently at a monitor are not the puppy’s idea of “fun”.  He has been cussing at me, nosing me, and whimpering for me to pay attention to HIM all afternoon.  Once I actually stop, toss the ball a few times, scritch on him for a while, and give him a kiss or twenty on his head, then I’m allowed to get back to work.

It’s like some kind of anti-work management team!  Granted, I’m not really upset.  It’s so easy to lose track of time while writing.  My dear husband won’t say a single thing about it, either.  So, that means it’s up to the mutts to keep me from burning out on the next great project in my head.

I mean, this is why we love our dogs, right?

4194206900605852692-account_id1But it’s not just Revan.  Jango Fett (yes, I am a geek) is almost as bad.  While Revan might be willing to interrupt my work, Jango just waits for me to finish a section, move in my chair, or put down my keyboard to ask for his share of attention.

Oh, and if I raise my voice?  Nothing but big brown suck-up eyes.  Man, and those do me in every time.

Yes, my dogs are spoiled (If you can’t tell by Jango’s slightly larger than appropriate waistline, or that his head is on the pillows).  But I adore these guys.  That they are willing to point out when I’ve been working too long?  That’s just like the bonus prize.

It’s so easy to fall into a Work In Progress, lose track of time, and find my weekend has just disappeared.  Now that my dogs have started asking me to take “play breaks” with them, I feel like I have even more hours in a day, and I’m not really losing anything work-wise.

This is a new thing for them.  At first, I was torn between being a productive human and giving my pets the attention they deserve.  Being a sucker, I gave in to those pretty brown eyes, and soon realized that at worst, I spent 10 more minutes at the keyboard – but I’d stepped away so many more times.  Since, like many authors, getting exercise into my day is often something I forget, it’s a good thing.  A little fetch, some wrestling, lots of scritching, and maybe even a little chase the puppy!  Yep.  I think I can handle this new change in my life.

So, please excuse me.  I have a couple of adorable mongrels who say they need my attention.