Maps in Fantasy Fiction: Tips and Tricks

Crafting a map for a fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, when done correctly, a map benefits both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

Setting Up

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP. Set your image borders appropriately, and use a DPI of 300×300, in case you ever print out the map. Search under advanced settings for this feature.

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this:

AtlasMapTutorial1

I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

AtlasMapTutorial2

You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth. Go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. Color coding. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

AtlasMapTutorial3

I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. Select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

AtlasMapTutorial4

Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

AtlasMapTutorial5

I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy. You can make one yourself, or download a free-stock photo.

AtlasMapTutorial6

Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also good.

AtlasMapTutorial7

In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Also consider using New Times Roman, or Courier. You want text that is easy to read, not necessarily fancy ones like I tried above.

Try adding in a background behind certain captions to improve readability. Don’t make it too sharp, just enough to accentuate the caption’s letters. Notice the difference below:

Layer 8: Border Details

Try adding in some special effects to your borders. This will help your map stand out! Maybe mist or fading out of the ocean. I went with scroll parchment.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Clouds with shadows are nice too. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just a few of them. Remember, there are thousands of ways to design a map, and it doesn’t have to be perfect.

I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Cheers. 🙂


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Disease in Fiction

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Hello, my readers. Today let’s discuss something that’s been on all our minds recently. Yup, that’s right—diseases in fiction. Right now, the world is in flux over the Coronavirus. It has created a bizarre, paranormal society where we’re all confined to our homes, some of us without jobs. The Coronavirus is like this invisible antagonist, challenging all of us right now.

“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people…” —Gabriel García Márquez

This makes one think: how would such events play into fictional stories? What examples do we see in published works for diseases in fiction?

Below is a list of diseases in fiction. These should give you ideas of how authors design them, both in fantasy and science fiction.

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1. Greyscale

If you’ve read Game of Thrones, you’ve run into this ailment. It’s a horrible disease that cause a person’s flesh—and later internal organs—to harden and die. Necrotic flesh coats the victim’s body, offering the appearance of cracked stone.

2. White Blindness

In the book, Blindness, by Jose Saramago, the disease robs its victims of eyesight. The protagonist is a woman who is immune to the ailment. Able to witness the world around her, the heroine must guide her comrades to safety.

3. Inferno

Created by Dan Brown, the Inferno virus renders people infertile. Used by the antagonists as a waterborne agent—and later an airborne one—this disease serves as a potent vector for conflict.

4. Nanoprobe Virus

No so much a biological virus as a form of nanotechnology, the Nanoprobe Virus is used by the Borg in Star Trek to gradually assimilate organic life forms. Victims become drones for the Borg Collective as nanotechnology slowly takes over their bodies.

5. Tyrant Virus

Also known as the “t-virus”, this disease defines the Resident Evil series. Developed by the Umbrella Corporation, the virus was designed as a eugenics project to cull world population and build an army of bioweapons—namely zombies. Umbrella eventually designed variants of the t-virus that affect victims in different ways.

6. Flare Virus

Found in the Maze Runner movies, the Flare Virus eats away at a person’s brain until they become mindless zombies. Like the Tyrant Virus in Resident Evil, the Flare Virus was designed by scientists to reduce world population.

Diseases are—surprisingly—versatile and useful in fictional worlds. An author, if clever, can use this disease as a plot device to strengthen characters and move the story forward. Disease can also be used to create conflict and established a degree of worldbuilding.

1. An Invisible Antagonist

Heroes can defeat a villain they can see and touch—but what about an antagonist that is invisible? Nothing evokes fear in a character like impotence. Finding a cure, or elixir, may be the only hope in defeating this intangible opponent.

2. Atypical Conflict

Diseases in fiction offer an unusual form of conflict—even better if the disease afflicts characters that the hero cares about. Mental illnesses can add further depth to the conflict, as the victim may experience situations that alter memory or cognition—even turning them into an aggressive mutant or monster. Now the hero may have to fight a loved one, offering moral conflict in the protagonist’s conscious.

3. Worldbuilding

A pandemic forces a society to explore its resources, introducing the reader to what’s in the fictional world. An economic slowdown—like we see in the real world—causes shortages of goods and services, forces people into a different state of mind, and encourages innovation in characters.

In short, a virus exposes the innards of a fictional world and allows a reader to become intimate with it.

Diseases in fiction—whether biological, artificial, or magical—drives plot and character progression in a fictional world. It creates atypical conflict that exposes the underbelly of a society—not just in the protagonist—and allows the reader to dissect the morals, financial resources, and technology of an afflicted civilization.


Thank you reading, as always! During these troubling times, perhaps we can derive some meaning from the Coronavirus and how it is exposing our society. Like the heroes of old, we too can defeat this invisible foe and establish a stronger, more orderly world if by learning from our own mistakes and what habits we have buried throughout the years. That said, maybe this virus can be seen as a good thing—a source of inspiration and growth for the human spirit.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And remember, we’re all in this together. 🙂

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The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or spiritual seeker should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from a safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic of the protagonist’s journey through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero. The second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act. These are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey. Some are necessary to flesh out the story.

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, flaws, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incident like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. The hero must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword, elixir, or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the Final Threshold. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero, requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person, transmuted into the true hero. Now cleansed of past flaws, the hero is equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the Ordinary World as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the Final Ordeal, s/he improves upon the Ordinary World. A new era of peace and reflection results. The prize may be multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey, but things will never be as they once were.

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

There are extra elements in the Hero’s Journey, such as sub-journeys that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing exile.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey occurs in every good fiction. It’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is also a blueprint from which anyone can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.

Thanks for reading!


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Antagonists and Villains in Fiction

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Hello, my readers, to another installation about fictional worlds! It’s been a stressful time for all of us, so I wanted to entertain you with another post of mine: Villains in Fiction!

Last time, I discussed the purpose of disease in fiction. In many ways, disease is like an invisible antagonist that cannot be seen—but what about the villains that can be seen? What are they all about? What different types of villains in fiction are there? Let’s dig into it!

“Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.” — Roger Ebert

Throughout human history, each movie, each story tale, has a villain. Some love them, others hate them, or even love to hate these nifty characters. They are the individuals who forge dynamic prose and brilliant screenplay—epic scenes and heart wrenching moments.

Antagonists

While a villain is selfish, naughty, or seeks to harm people, an antagonist—strictly speaking—is the opposing force of the protagonist, the lead of the plot with sympathic values towards the audience. Quite often, villains are the antagonist. However, you can have a villain as the protagonist—or even a hero as the antagonist!

Antagonistic Perspectives

An antagonist can help drive the narrative forward, develop the protagonist, and add color to worldbuilding. A villain is seen as “evil” to the eyes of the hero, but this is subjective. You could, for example, have a character appear as a villain from the viewpoint of most of the characters, but to others the villain seems neutral or even righteous.

Here are some types of villains I’ve chosen to examine. This list is by no means exhaustive.

I. The Anti-hero

In the case where the villain is the protagonist, you get an Anti-hero. Although evil, the Anti-hero believes in doing what he or she thinks is right. The Anti-hero establishes sympathetic relations with the audience and drives the plot forward through heinous acts. An Anti-hero usually has three important traits, which you can read more about here.

2. The Anti-villain

Conversely, an Anti-villain is a character with strong morals, yet accomplishes evil in the long-run. Perhaps an Anti-villain is a priest, wishing to purge “evil”, but he or she commits heinous acts to achieve this. Once again, “evil” is subjective to readers and other characters.

3. The Visionary

The Visionary sees the world in a demented state and wishes to fix it. These types of villains believe they are doing good—despite the fact they may be collapsing economies and killing millions, and they see the hero as an “evil” interloper.

4. The Madman

These types of villains are psychopathic and enjoy being evil, causing mischief, or hurting others for the fun of it. The Madman may have a sense of humor, in the case of the Joker, or even a ruthless, calculating demeanor like Lex Luthor. They will throw whatever resources they have at the hero, even if it costs them their life.

5. Femme Fatale

Seductress, siren, temptress—the Femme Fatale is a female character with malicious intent. Often she seduces the hero in clever ways, provoking him/her towards actions of moral ambiguity. The Femme Fatale may promise the hero power, clout, wealth, or even sex for surrendering to her.

6. The Beast

The Beast is a feral animal or a monster, with a desire to feed, gain territory, rampage, and reproduce. It has a primitive mind and cannot be reasoned with. Some beasts may appear justified for their rampage, like in the case of Godzilla. Others are confused and lost in modern society as with King Kong.

7. The Machine

Similar to the Beast, the Machine has one motive: disrupting the hero’s plans. The Machine is pure logic and can be even more dangerous with its lack of morals and emotions. See the Terminator series as an example.

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8. Evil Incarnate

Some villains are pure evil by nature. Dark gods or devil embodiments do heinous acts because it’s what they do. Sauron in The Lord of the Rings is innately evil, and opposes Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring. Sometimes these types of villains have certain morals they follow, a code that guides them to destroy.

9. The Outsider

The Outsider is an outcast or disliked minority, detached from the world. Though intelligent and experienced, the Outsider is bitter towards society and holds a degree of vengeance. Outsiders may also have a cult following who champion their cause. Motivated by this revenge, the Outsider is led to commit vile acts, often opposing the society-accepted-protagonist—whom the Outsider also despises.

10. Nature

Nothing can oppose the will of Mother Nature, and unlike other villains, this variant can seldom can stopped. The hero must discover how to mitigate the damage, whether from a storm, a virus, or violent earth changes. Fortunately, conflicts caused by Mother Nature typically resolve on their own once balance is restored.

11. The Authority Figure

The Authority Figure is in charge of a lawful system, and he or she seeks to maintain said system through rules. This villain symbolizes restriction and control, whereas the hero may want freedom. Authority Figures are seen in a wide variety of genres—and they can be anything from a school principal, a police chief, or an emperor. While not wholly evil, Authority Figures only wish to maintain the status quo and do their jobs.

Other Villains in Fiction

There are numerous categories of villains in fiction, such as the Mastermind, a criminal overlord; the Henchman, who follows the Mastermind—and others. Some villains fall in multiple categories—they are a difficult breed to classify, and considerably more interesting than the cliché heroes that are often repeated. I encourage you to check these two articles out for more information.

An original hero will often break away from traditional stereotypes and establish his or her own set of moral values, not necessarily agreeing with society. Perhaps this is why an audience finds Anti-heroes more engaging and reflective of human nature. Anti-heroes also struggle more internally and this plays better with the audience.

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more content during this Quarantine with yours truly—and stay safe. 🙂

#fiction #worldbuilding #writing #reading #literature #villainsinfiction

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Reflections on Pepper Slyhart, my OC

Hello, my readers, to another installation, this one about my main character, Pepper Slyhart. My post will break down Pepper’s character, her progression over the years, and what made her into what she is today.

Pepper is the main protagonist of my upcoming fantasy series, Ethereal Seals. She’s a hotheaded young lady with a sword, which instructs her on her journey. As a half-dragon hybrid, society shuns Pepper for her half-breed blood. She must conquer her own fears and insecurities to save Atlas.

What Are Her Flaws?

Pepper is prone to anger, and emotions often sway her judgment. She sometimes acts before she thinks, leading to dire, or even hilarious, situations in the story. Because she compares herself to her hero father, Pepper has self-esteem issues.

Due to a childhood accident, Pepper has difficulties flying through the air, while other characters take it for granted. Her ability with magic is subpar, considered novice-level.

What Are Her Strengths?

Taught by her war hero father, Pepper is familiar with swordplay and crystalsmithing. She is resilient against hardship and has excellent problem-solving skills. With her athletic physique, Pepper is agile, able to dart around as a blur.

Unfortunately, her perseverance can also be a double-edged sword, as she may push herself too hard or demand too much of herself. With her half-dragon nature, Pepper can regenerate from cuts and bruises. Upon command, fire and ice can shoot from her lips, decimating foes.

The Early Days

My very first sketch of Pepper circa high school

In high school, I had this idea for a hotheaded, weapon-swinging heroine. Back then, Pepper was called Amelia, named off a childhood character. I took her on various adventures on roleplaying forums, where I met some lifelong friends. At the time, my series was called Ethereal Sages, and to be blunt, it was a horrid mess of adolescent passions. For more info on my writing journey, check out my article here.

Anyway, it wasn’t until grad school that I decided to refine my series into something more professional. Enter Pepper Slyhart.

The Writing Begins

As I started with Ethereal Series, Pepper was a very underdeveloped character. She was a whiny brat without much sympathy for others besides her best friend, Tarie Beyworth. Her story arc was simplistic and lacked the finer points of any good story.

Years later, Pepper now had a love interest (subplot), she had a magical affliction (another subplot), and her spirit had entwined with the planet as a whole.

Overall, it was the conflict, the various problems and flaws she had, which made Pepper interesting. No longer a whiny brat, her character developed new depth, a more human and relatable character.

At the time, I had also picked sketching back up, some of it digital, to flesh out Pepper’s concepts.

Tweaking and Polishing

It has been an experience, watching Pepper grow. I’ve never had children, but if I ever do, I’ll know what it feels like. Pepper continues to level up by the month as I receive more beta feedback, and the process is ever so satisfying.

I can’t help but feel parental pride in my heart, if that’s what it is, as I’ve helped grow this character. Pepper is like a daughter to me. I’ve been with her through all the pain, pleasure, and confusion she’s experienced. She’s become a huge part of my life, years I will never regret.

Although I have multiple books planned for Ethereal Seals, followed by additional arcs, her universe will eventually be put to rest. It will be a sad moment in my life, but one I will also look back fondly upon.

I thank the Creator for gifting me this creative ability, to construct and refine fantastic characters like Pepper Slyhart. Not everyone will like her, but I’m confident she will have a dedicated fanbase one day. Thanks again for reading!


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Book Length, Word Count, Readability, and Free Goodies!

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Hello, my readers! Today I’m revisiting book lengths for authors. The length of a book can be a vital factor in its success. Depending on the target audience, genre, readability, and book type, the word count in a book can vary.

That said, there are always outliers—books that have done well outside of word count brackets. If you’re a writer with questions about how long your writing should be, this article is for you.

Although there is no fixed word count, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on genre and audience.

Audience

Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced book lengths. Adults are more tolerable with longer manuscripts. Here’s a rundown of the age brackets:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3,000 words
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800 words
  • Play: 1,000 to 32,000 words
  • Middle Grade: 25,000 to 40,000 words
  • Young Adult: 50,000 to 100,000 words
  • Adult: 100,000 to 130,000 words

Genre

Book genres, of course, play another role in the word count.  Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world from the ground up. This takes time to describe all the new rules and phenomena associated with such a fictional universe.

Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries prefer a lower word count—of course, there are always exceptions.

  • Romance & Erotica: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000 words
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000 words
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000 words
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 140,000 words

General Book Types

Depending on the type of book you intend to write, word count plays another significant factor. Flash fiction and short stories are, of course, brief, but powerful. Novelettes are even larger than short stories. A novella is a story with a fleshed out story and characters, whereas novels are the largest.

Book type examples:

  • Flash Fiction: 100 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 7,500 words
  • Novelette: 7,500 to 20,000 words
  • Novella: 30,000 to 50,000 words
  • Novel: 50,000 to 100,000 words
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Quantity Versus Quality

Quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it probably won’t read well.

Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Reading Level

The average reading level for America is around the 8th-grade mark. If the author wants a book to read smoothly among a wider audience, then a book should read around this level. By using simpler and shorter phrases, the readability of the prose goes up.

Word Impact

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  • Character progression
  • Plot development
  • Environmental immersion
  • Reader enjoyment

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either as that slogs the pacing and reduces readability.

I recommend Brandon Sanderson’s lectures from 2020 for prose concision and worldbuilding.

Chapter Impact

Chapter length can also have an impact on readability and word count. Short chapters organize a book better, improve readability, and leave readers with a sense of satisfaction. Shorter chapters also make for good stopping points when a reader needs to put the novel down.

Longer chapters are tedious, but sometimes necessary when a section of a book demands enough information or plot progression. In this case, scene breaks are good for breaking down long chapters.

Personally, I love frequent scene breaks and short chapters, as it provides convenient spots for me to park my bookmark. 😛

Reader & Writer Relationship

Half of telling a story comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment.

A book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader. If you can provide that opportunity—for a reader to have fun and explore—they will flip pages nonstop and won’t care about book length. This is especially true with worldbuilding using the iceberg theory.

The length of a book is up to the writer, depending on audience, genre, book type, readability, and the author’s long-term goals. Authors who have built up an impressive resume of stories can skirt the rules.

Free Goodies

Here’s a free online program called WordCounter that checks the word count, reading level, speaking time, and word frequency. Just paste your work into the program, and it will analyze everything for you automatically. I also use Hemingway to check sentence length and readability. Grammarly is another great tool you can install into your browser. It actually works with Hemingway in your browser.

Thank you for reading and good luck in your writing endeavors. Stay safe out there! 🙂


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Chapter 1 Excerpt from Blade of Dragons

 

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Hello, all! I’m getting ready to advertise my upcoming book, Blade of Dragons! Below is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the current manuscript. It’s undergone many changes in the past couple months after several revision passes and feedback from betas.

I’m excited that this project is finally reaching the next stage of its evolution, as I’ll be looking for an agent and maybe a cover artist within the next several months—provided that the Coronavirus situation has stabilized. I am looking for one more beta reader, if possible—let me know if you’re interested.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the excerpt. I do hope you enjoy it!


 

Blinking at the brilliance of the Twins, Pepper tilted her chin up to bathe in the sunlight if only to forget her troubles. Curling her toes in the dirt, she allowed the earth to swallow her feet. The grasslands stretched into the horizon like a blanket of green along the Fertile Crescent, heightening her comfort. In the distance, a few egg-shaped barns situated next to her pyramidal house, set with gemstone spires. Winterwall lay along the horizon, its snowy peaks piercing the sky.

With the drone of insects in her ears, she closed her eyes briefly to allow a breeze to rustle her hair—the familiar smell of manure on the wind. The climate was humid but balanced with a gentle breeze—typical Springcrest weather.

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a golden coin. Along the penny’s worn edges was the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines. Underneath the design was curvy Atläsian cuneiform.

It was the Slyhart family emblem. Pepper rarely went anywhere without it, and in some ways, it was a reminder of who she was—a Slyhart, not some animal or pariah. She placed the coin to the ground.

“Check for messages,” she said.

The penny flashed in response. “Checking etheric archives now, please wait,” it whirred.

From the coin, a light shot up a few inches high. The image of her father appeared with his red hair tied in a long ponytail. He was indeed athletic and tall, a splitting image of Pepper. A red goatee jutted from his chin, and he wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt, a pistol at his belt.

A second image appeared—her mother, in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears like Pepper, but had the addition of leathery wings behind her that the latter lacked. She frowned and hugged the redheaded man. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We’ll be home soon. There’s extra food and a month’s worth of melkä coins if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble and watch over the farm.”

“Your mom and I will be home as soon as we can,” the man promised. “It’ll be safer if you remain home. We’ll see you soon.”

He smiled as his silhouette wavered with the woman.

Pepper sighed and her shoulders sagged. That was the third message this month. The farm needed daily attention—and Pepper had promised her parents that she’d do it. She was never one to break a promise.

Putting the coin away, she whispered to herself, “Don’t worry, mom, dad. I’ll take good care of the farm.”

From her other pocket, she pulled out a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine. The stone, cold and jagged, shimmered like water. She whispered a mantra, and mist spouted from the stone, drenching the rows of crops around her.

Smiling, she spread her arms while the droplets of cool water covered her body. The crystal shrieked with a flash upon completion. You could never have enough water for your farm—and only a hundred more plots to go for the day. She rolled her eyes and shifted her shoulders, eager to complete her chores for the day.

“I see you’re still enjoying the farm, Pepper Slyhart,” said a soft voice.

She turned her head and her jaw dropped…


 

What Are My Favorite Fantasy Tropes?

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Hello, my readers. It’s been a busy month for me, and I just finished my long beta read for a fellow writer. Reading through the story got me thinking about fantasy tropes in general—especially since it’s #fantasymonth. In fantasy, you have everything from elves, dwarves, dragons, and halflings! In science fantasy, the scope expands even more to robots, cyborgs, aliens—the sky’s the limit.

Below, I’ll discuss some of my favorite ones, not in any specific order. I’ll focus strictly on the fantasy elements, but they can be applied to sci-fi too.

 

I. Elves

Who doesn’t like elves? An elf—by general definition—is beautiful, slender, graceful, and powerful. Elves have played a large role in fantasy since the Tolkien days—and continue to do so. Usually as a force for good, elves help maintain the order of the world they live in, often living in cities that are in harmony with nature.

 

II. Dragons

Another favorite of mine, dragons are the epitome of power, feral beauty, and arcane mystery. While elves are almost always good, dragons have played a multitude of roles ranging from villains, to advisors, and even heroes. Dragons are a wild card in how they have been used throughout all fiction.

 

III. Magic

Magic is a whimsical topic—and a detailed analysis of such a trope is clearly beyond the scope of this humble article—that symbolizes the human imagination. Anything from fireballs, to teleportation, flight, or telepathy falls under the magical category. The price of using magic can be just as fascinating as what it produces. An author can conjure whatever he or she wishes via magic; that’s what makes it such an unpredictable and exciting trope.

 

IV. Alchemy

But what is alchemy? It’s essentially the transmutation of an object into something else. Lead to gold is a classic example, but you can make other things like herbal elixirs too. In fantasy settings, authors often use alchemy as a profession to make a living, a means to heal others via healing salves, or—even better—a plot device that integrates with your magic system like in Mistborn. In other ways, alchemy can be a religion or way of life that shapes a character’s decisions.

 

V. Culture

I enjoy reading about the different types of civilizations in a fantasy story. An elven society may differ from one book to another, for example. How do the people function in said society? What roles does said society play in the plot? From culture, you can derive things like currency, prejudice, personal values, and even a magic system.

 

VI. Food & Consumables

I love food in general, especially cooking with it. It’s like a gift from the Divine—every meal is a blessing, every bite a prayer. Anyway, food heavily influences culture, reflecting how the world is assimilated by the protagonist and his/her society. Bonus points to the author that devises a completely unique fruit or herb with special nutritive properties.

 

VII. Magical Creatures & Beasts

Who says a writer should stop at elves and dragons? How about a mix of the two with its own racial name, abilities, and cultural values? This is another way creativity can work its magic and weave beautiful fiction. Magical beasts can be ally or foe for the protagonist—and such creatures help shape the conflict of the plot, giving depth to the reader’s immersion.

 

—On A Final Note—

A fictional world is only limited by the author’s imagination. Each new story is a dive into untold depths, whimsical and sylvan mystery. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading and writing fiction so much.

What are your preferred fantasy tropes? What are your thoughts on elves, dragons, and magic? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Thanks a bunch for reading and enjoy #fantasymonth! Cheers.

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The Ballad of Atläs

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Atläs, mother of all
Throughout the years watched us grow tall
For many years, Tiamat ruled this land
Her draconic legacies spread like sand
In the heavens, a star shone
Sending chaos onto Tiamat’s throne
Long we have witnessed the ravages of war
Of demons, giants, ogres, and more
We plenty have much to repair
Lest calamity once more brings her care
The Gate will see us through
Or break us until we relearn what we knew
Guide us, divine Aspects; show us the way
For only through ourselves will harmony stay
Plenty would Ronald’s avatar wail
But to observe the strength of Tiamat’s renewed tail
Still, she claws at hearts with her call
Through mortals, dragons, and bastards most of all
Now darkness gathers around, priming for evil to rebound
Yet a hero may rise to meet the temptress
To foil curse, shadow, pride; strong yet relentless
A divine blade will shine free
Guiding the hero towards destiny’s tree
Guide us, holy Aspects; brighten the past
For only through peace, will the future last
—Lily Hymnfoot

Fantasy Month Blog Tag

Fantastical Realms Blog Tag

Hello, my readers! It’s February, and that means #fantasymonth! I’m excited to get involved in this blogging tag game. First, I’d like to thank Jenelle Schmidt for the idea, and A. M. Reynwood for tagging me.

Anyway, I’ll start with some questions on worldbuilding and gradually move to some zany ones. 😛

What aspect of worldbuilding do you enjoy?

Probably the spontaneous nature of it. It’s fun to give birth to entire worlds from nothing. The possibilities are endless—and you never know what the result could be! A novel that has a wild and whimsical world is my preference.

How do you worldbuild?

Usually by the seat of my pants. I’m not a great outliner and planner. I find the process to be tedious, and that it impedes the creative juices. The editing can come later—and I honestly don’t mind it.

What is your favorite fantasy novel in regards to worldbuilding?

Hmm…not an easy question. What first comes to mind—I enjoyed the worldbuilding in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. The use of alchemical reagents to fuel superpowers was fascinating. The world of Mistborn is also dark and mysterious, leaving the reader with a feeling of suspense.

What fantasy creature do you wish featured in more stories?

Instead of which fantasy creature, I’ll rather have a shift in the whole fantasy genre. Too often fantasy focuses on European mythology. There’s plenty of creatures and fantasy elements in East Asian mythology, for example. Speaking of which, I’ve had a lot of fun writing Tempest of the Dragon. The research I’ve done into Japanese mythology has been refreshing—and it has opened my eyes to how limited and dull European fantasies have become.

As you are reading this, a voice rings in your ear proclaiming:

A hero true, a leader strong,
A quest is where you do belong,
So arm thyself, and take your stand
With an item to your left your fate is at hand.

Besides the fact that this prophetic voice is clearly incapable of sticking to a meter, what ordinary item do you now find yourself armed with? (And, for bonus points, what helpful magical properties does it now possess that will help you on your quest?)

I would choose a set of prayer beads. The necklace would be blessed by a god and goddess, granting me wisdom in how to proceed in life. Through these divine words, I would walk forth, prepared to reforge creation and bring balance to humanity.

Congratulations! You are a fantasy hero/heroine about to start your adventure. You get to choose a small fantasy creature to accompany and assist you on your quest. Who/what do you choose?

I choose you, pikachu!

Seriously though, I would choose a magical familiar likened to a mouse, something small enough to fit in places I could not. It would be a sentient creatures capable of defending itself or me with magic.

Elves or dwarves?

How about both? I find each to be fascinating in their own way.

Do you prefer your dragons (we had to have at least one question devoted solely to dragons!) good or evil or a mix of both?

A good mix is always refreshing. As dragons are usually wise, they can be benevolent or manipulative, no? Some may even be feral and savage.

World building is a complicated undertaking full of many details. As a reader, what is a small detail you really appreciate seeing when it comes to diving into a new realm? What is something that helps you lose yourself in a fantasy world?

Immersive, descriptive scenery draws me in the most. This teleports me into the fantasy world—to touch, smell, and feel what the characters experience. Now, scenery need not be external like mountains, hills, or castles; it can also be internal to the protagonist. What are their fears? Their hopes? How does this reflect the world they live in? You can do so much with internal world building.

You have been transformed into your favorite fantasy creature. Problem is… you’re still in your own bedroom and your family is downstairs, completely unprepared for this shock. What creature are you, and how (if at all) do you break the news to your loved ones? (Or how do you get out of your room?)

Quite a predicament. My favorite fantasy creature would be a phoenix. As this creature, I would fly out of my room’s window (unfortunately melting the glass) and soar through the skies. Eventually, I would return home and nest in a secluded spot, watching over the property until the enchantment faded.


Well, that was an entertaining set of questions. I’ll admit, I had fun doing it. Fantasy Month is a time to celebrate, so I’m tagging you, my dear reader, to take up the challenge! If you own a website or blog, try answering the questions posted within this article. Or, you could make up your own set of questions related to worldbuilding. Be sure to thank Jenelle Schmidt and mention #fantasymonth within your post.

Thank you for reading. Until next time. 🙂

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