First of all, Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Because of the holiday week and wanting to spend time celebrating the bounty of hearth and home with family, this week’s post will be a quick note on my book.
How might a high-magic, god-infested world move from the Age of Mythology into the Age of Reason?
As many of you know, I’ve been working on writing my own fantasy series, as an independent writer. The first book has gone through beta reading and is the final QC edit right now with my editor. I hope to have it published by mid-December, on kindle and hardcopy.
In the meantime, my brother John has painted my cover art. He took three paragraphs of my description of the magical city of Artalon–a gnomish construction of skyscrapers a mile wide, with a semi-spherical skyline (the middle tower being a half-mile tall… just a bit taller than the one in Dubai). Of course, in a fantasy world, this isn’t possible without alchemically crafted materials of wondrous strength and properties.
I used the program Art Text 2 (found in Apple’s App Store) to do the lettering.
At any rate, without further ado, here is the cover for my upcoming book, Lightfall:
It’s the first of a trilogy, but Lightfall is written in such a way it could be a standalone book (excepting the epilogue, which sets the stage for Volumes 2 and 3).
As far as timeframe goes, the story is transitional fantasy, as the world moves from epic high fantasy/high magic civilizations into a steam-age setting (proto steampunk, but I hesitate to use that word because there’s not that much “punk”). There are primitive cultures, fallen empires, flying zeppelins, and by the time this books begins, the use of firearms is uncommon but not rare. For a “feel” of the fantasy, think something along the lines of Pirates of the Caribbean in time equivalence (but without the pirates and powdered wigs).
Think something like Star Wars without space or computers, but if it were R-rated and made for HBO. My world-design rules for technology include bans on electronics but not electricity, and anything made from petroleum–no gasoline engines, but steam is okay. Magic is okay as a power-source to heat the steam, and non-magical materials of wondrous properties are okay if they are alchemically (magically) created–gunpowder is okay and guns have advanced to U.S. “Old West” levels, but are uncommon–non-magical tech beyond medieval levels is rare in most parts of the world, especially areas with highly infused levels of religion–there is a direct correlation between low-levels of religion and high-levels of innovative gadgetry, and vice versa.
In addition to being a magical adventure and war story, the trilogy addresses themes of faith and belief vs. reason and truth, in the context of a world where magic and gods actually do visibly exist in the world. As the world moves from fantasy to steam-aged culture, civilization moves from mythic magic shaped by gods to an age of enlightenment. It’s a story about enlightenment in the rational sense, and as the characters grow and pierce illusions, so too does the world grow with them. As illusions fall away, the role of faith comes into question, and each character will have their own conclusions–by the end of the book, not all the protagonists agree, and I want to leave room for different readers to bring their own understandings into the conclusion (I want to avoid an ending like BSG, which still answering plot questions in a satisfying way–we’ll see). So, what begins with a classic sword-and-sorcery feel ultimately evolves to a different direction.
Religion and faith are addressed, which involves the identity of the individual against the imposed roles of a creed (whether it’s the expectations of prophecy or the authority of a priesthood). Sexuality is a theme throughout the books because it is a major theme in all religion (frankly, religion–both conservative religion and tribal religion–seem completely obsessed with sex, regardless of whether the attitudes are permissive or repressive–a religion that seeks to control, contain and oppress sexuality is just as obsessed as a tribal fertility cult). One cannot honestly look at religion and self-identity without addressing prescribed attitudes towards sexual behavior, desire, and sexual identity. Hence, the book contains adult situations.
The book is fiction, but mythological templates have informed the world’s construction. Artalon is the most important city in the world of Ahmbren, and I have explicitly used mythical Atlantis as an inspiration. Artalon also has some less obvious parallels with Avalon, although this may not become apparent in the novels. I’ve spent 20 years obsessed with religions, modern and ancient, and much of that has informed my fantasy writing. I don’t want to give it all away–it’s there for those who care to look, and for those who don’t care to look it’s not needed to enjoy the story.
I’m excited about seeing this made available on kindle ($2.99) and paperback ($9.99). It’s been a lot of work. I started this while deployed to Kabul two years ago, but then last spring my writing took off. It took me 18 months to write the first 30K words, and then between last March and May I finished the first draft at over 120K words. It went into beta-reading with a few committed friends, and then back into rewrites and edits. Six months after “finishing”, there’s still more work before it’s ready for release.
In the meantime, since July, I’ve completed another 120K words on Book 2 (and somehow finished the first block in Air War College as well–sheesh). Its first draft will be complete in the next few weeks, and then it too will go into revision, beta-reading, and editing with a target for Summer 2013. At this rate, I hope to have the trilogy’s conclusion out by December 2013.
The Evolving Map
There have been changes and restarts along the way. I started using mapping software to design the world map a few years back. I knew I couldn’t use the image as-is, because it was too “game-like”:
This provided a start for world-building. At first, I tried to simply sepia it:
…which made for a nice desktop background on my computer, but nothing that could be used for a book insert.
The next step was to port this into Corel Photopaint and hand-trace the continent outline on a layer. I knew it had to be black and white to include in a paperback, so once I did that I drew (on the computer) the geographic features and used Keynote (Apple’s equivalent to Powerpoint) to lay in the text.
Starting to get better, but my wife kicked me in the ass and said this still sucks. It still looks too artificial. The told me to go back and hand-draw the whole thing from scratch. “People didn’t have computers back then,” she said, “and this still looks computer drawn. You need a map that looks hand-drawn. So go hand-draw it.”
So I did, with this curious device called a pencil, and scanned it in. Almost there, but my beta-readers (specifically, Natalie) kicked me in the ass again and told me my calligraphy is despicable. Truth. So, I pulled the scanned image back to Corel Photopaint and manually erased all the drawn text, adding back in computer font text over the map art. The final product (which will be split into a left and right image to open over 2 pages):
(clicking on this image gives a higher-res version). The actual image is black and white for print–this one is slightly sepia’d because I found it made an attractive desktop background. All in all, much improved from where the map started. That’s why beta readers are good–people who believe in your work enough to kick you in the ass and not settle for less than what you’re capable of.
So, to bring it back to the beginning: today, in addition to being thankful for family, friends, and bounty, I’m especially thankful for my beta readers (Patrick, Eva, Natalie and Matthew) my editor (Alicia), and my cover artist (John)–not just for the work and the ass-kicking, but for your general words of encouragement and enthusiasm about the project.
I hope y’all had a happy Thanksgiving!