Behind the Scene: the ethnicity of Damsians and the building of Damsport.

Today I’m answering a reader question about Damsians and Damsport, and specifically the ethnicity of Damsians and how Damsport was built. One thing that was important to me was for Damsport not to feel like it was based on a real world place ( you know, like alternate Middle-East, or steampunk India, that kind of thing) and I did a few things to make sure Damsport got its own sense of identity, which I go over in the video 🙂

Political Machinations in Ancient Greece… An Interview with Nicholas Rossis

Today I have an interview that I’m very excited to share with you. I talk to Nicholas Rossis about his book Pearseus: Rise of the Prince and we discuss politics in Ancient Greece, what life was like for women in Athens, and much more.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. And now, on with the interview!

Thanks for taking part in the interview Nicholas, and for being on the blog today! Tell us first a little bit about your book.

cover_rise_800Hi Celine, many thanks for having me here! I assume you’re referring to Pearseus? Its concept came to me after reading Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice series, followed by Jim Lacey’s The First Clash and Herodotus’ Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describe the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC.

Marathon Bay is a 20’ drive from my home, and I’d often visited the tomb where the ancient Athenians buried their dead, so I thought at the time, “wouldn’t it be great if someone did what Martin did for medieval England, only with the story of Greece vs. Persia? And in space? How cool would that be?” Then it occurred to me: so, what’s stopping me from writing it?

I have to admit it’s the first time I’ve come across a book that mixes science-fiction with Ancient Greek culture — but it works very well! 

Can you tell me a little about the kind of research you did into Ancient Greece? What are the most interesting/random facts you unearthed? Were there any books or websites that were particularly useful in your research?

I’m so glad to hear it worked for you! Pearseus follows the overall story arc of Herodotus’ seminal work, Cyrus the Great and Rise of Persia, which describes the fatal battle on Marathon between Greece and Persia in the 5th century BC. Only, my book is set in the future. While researching it, I read Lacey’s book, Herodotus and a lot of Wikipedia articles.

An interesting factoid: I had originally chosen the title Perseus for the series, but a good friend of mine, Mike Cardwell, asked me if I had considered how many other books are titled Perseus on Amazon. A quick search revealed over 10,000 books with that name! Obviously, something had to change, and it occurred to me to make it Pearseus instead, using a pun to justify the change.

As for facts I unearthed during my research, they’re too many to list here. One particularly interesting fact, which I did not mention in Pearseus, concerns the role of women. In Athens, women were little more than property.  They had no voting rights, nor were they allowed a life outside the home.  As soon as a girl reached puberty, she was locked up until she got married.  After that, a woman’s place was at home, raising her children and taking care of her husband.  What would get people arrested nowadays, was common practice back then.

Strangely enough, it was the prostitutes who enjoyed freedom.  Much like the famous courtisanes, their 19th century French counterparts, or the Japanese geishas, these were women of exceptional beauty, skilled in oratory and philosophy.  In the deeply chauvinistic Athenian society, men freely fraternized with them at the famous symposia, or dinner parties, before returning to their home and loving wives.

Prostitutes were highly educated, had the right to possess property of their own and often escorted kings and philosophers.  Their clients included legendary Pericles and Socrates; cities built temples in their honor and showered them in gold.  This, in a city where it was considered a deadly insult to the husband if his wife was caught even conversing with another man.

If you’re interested in the subject, I have written a post dedicated just to that aspect of Greek society, called The Real Women of Pearseus.

That’s quite incredible about Athen’s double standards as far as women go. It sounds like life was far better for the prostitutes! (I highly recommend Nicholas’ article on women in Ancient Greece by the way, the part about Spart is fascinating) 

The world you created is full of political intrigue and scheming politicians. How did you go about creating all those complex alliances and betrayals, political deals and manoeuvres?

Lol – I have my ancestors to thank for that. Will you believe that most of the stranger stories are based in actual history? For example, my character, Sol, is an amalgamation of Solon, Athens’ first law-giver, and Peisistratos, a cunning politician who usurped power and used it to end decades of civil strife. His reformations lay behind Athens’ classical glory, helped by Solon’s wise laws.

These men are considered heroes of classical Greece, but only after growing up did I realize the devious lengths to which they went to ensure their triumph over their political opponents. For example, Peisistratos was a ruthless, cunning dictator who staged an assassination attempt against himself. And Solon pretending for a whole year to be mad, so he would excused when he spoke in favor of war – a crime punishable by death by Draco’s laws.

The history of Pearseus includes one population colonising another’s territory. Did you base this on the the colonisation of a particular country on Earth?

Some readers have speculated that the First are based on native Americans, and I can see why. There is an influence there, as witnessed by the small-scale warring between tribes and the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

However, most of my descriptions stem from a combination of prehistoric beliefs in Mother Earth (The Lady worshipped by the First) and the Scythians; a warlike tribe that populated Thrace and the Black Sea in antiquity. This is where truth and fiction divert, of course, as the Persian king Cyrus was in fact killed while fighting the Scythians. Unless something changes dramatically, I’d like to avoid this fate for my Cyrus!

There are a number of large scale battles in this story, with tactics that bring to mind Sun Tzu’s Art of War. In fact one of your characters, Parad, recites a few strategy of war quotes. Are they real or made up? And how did you go about planning those battles? Did you research any particular Grecian or European wars for inspiration?

Most of the quotes are real, and taken from either the Art of War or the Tao Te Ching; one of my favorite books, which I have translated into Greek. I did research a lot of battles, such as the Battle of Golden Spurs. The main battle between the Loyalists and Parad was based on a stratagem by Alexander the Great. He crossed the river Aly at night (yes, that’s the river’s actual name) to emerge from behind the Persians and launch a surprise attack.

The idea of using a herd of buffalos to break up the enemy’s formations is all mine, though.

Then, the war between Scorpio and the Argonites is based on the actual war between Sparta and Argos. The Spartans had noticed that Argos was mimicking their commands, so used it to their advantage to crush them. When Argos’ warriors fled, they hid in a sacred woods. Unable to enter, the Spartans lured the survivors out by falsely suggesting that their families had ransomed their safety. The Spartans then killed them one by one as they emerged from the woods.

I love reading history because it really is stranger than fiction…

We are introduced to Tie, a priestess of Themis, and she explains a little about the religion — or rather the ideal, that so many people in your world worship. Where did the inspiration come from for this religion?

Religion and philosophy play a huge part in Pearseus, so I’m really glad that you ask. Some concepts, such as the soul splitting up upon entering the multiverse is all my own, just like the concept of the Iota.

More than anything, I wanted to show that our actions stem from our beliefs, and that these are heavily influenced by religion. At first, I had wanted to address this from an unusual point of view; that of the future of religions. For example, how would Buddhists, Christians and Muslims get along, if forced to cohabit? You can see a hint of that in the Shared temples.

However, I soon realized I was opening a can of worms. There was no way I could write something like that without offending pretty much everyone. After much thought, I chose instead to create a new religion, based on the ancient Greek worship of Themis; the Titan goddess of divine law and order. This tied in nicely with the concept of the limits of power and the claims to justice made by virtually every ruler in history.

“Justice without compassion is but tyranny” is not just a clever phrase; to me it’s a way of living. A religion based on that concept had to be a good one, but I also wanted to show how easy it is to corrupt a religion. In Endgame, the last book in the series, the new head priest, Alexander does just that.

Thank you so much for coming on the blog today Nicholas, that was so interesting! 

Pearseus: Rise of the Prince by Nicholas Rossis

cover_rise_800

Humanity starts all over again on Pearseus, a distant planet.

Cyrus, the young son of general Parad, is abducted by Justice Styx, ruler of the Capital. She orders a cruel death for the child, thinking this will spare her a foretold death in his hands. But Cyrus escapes with the help of the First – Pearseus’ indigenous people.

David, a young servant, is joined by an ethereal entity. Together, they escape the Capital and join Cyrus and the First. They all become embroiled in the complex political and philosophical factions of a multi-dimensional world. To their surprise, they have a key role to play in saving the planet’s inhabitants from annihilation.

Now Available:

Screen Shot 2015-07-16 at 08.29.39

 

 

Nicholas has also just released a new book: Infinite Waters: 9+1 Speculative Fiction Short Stories. It’s available on Amazon and is free on Kindle Unlimited. The anthology includes the following stories:

 

 

  1. Infinite Waters“: A woman seeks her future at a carnival. She discovers more than she expected.”
  2. The Things We Do for Lust“: Beware of Greek gods bearing gifts.
  3. James’ Life“: A man with nothing to look forward to but oblivion, discovers it’s not that easy to escape his life.
  4. Two’s a Crowd“: Blood runs thicker than water. Especially when you spill it.
  5. What’s in a Name?“: A pleasure cruise to the moon has an unexpected ending.
  6. The Lucky Bastard“: How far will the luckiest man alive go to escape his luck?
  7. “A Twist of the Tail“: A confused woman meanders through a sleepy town. But not all is as it seems.
  8. Is There a Doctor in the House?“: A high school student just loves to experiment.
  9. Sex and Dinner“: A timeless combination. Or is it?
  10. Would You Like Flies With That?“: Nothing’s scarier than a supermarket.
  11. The Hand of God“: Nothing has prepared this grizzly veteran for a meeting with his god*.
    (* first published in The Power of Six)

About the author:

book photo NR_1000Nicholas C. Rossis lives to write and does so from his cottage on the edge of a magical forest in Athens, Greece. When not composing epic fantasies or short sci-fi stories, he chats with fans and colleagues, writes blog posts, walks his dog, and enjoys the antics of two silly cats, one of whom claims his lap as home. His children’s book, Runaway Smile, earned a finalist slot in the 2015 International Book Awards.

What readers are saying about Nick’s fantasies:

“Most avid readers still have books from their childhood which they read over and over again. ‘Runaway Smile’ has joined the list.”

“From the very first sentence I realized I was not reading a book, I was going on an adventure.”

For more on Nick or just to chat, visit him on:

 

My Very First Blog Appearances

Very excitingly, today I’m appearing on not one but two blogs.

The lovely Kelli of Forty and Fantastique interviewed me about writing The Viper and the Urchin and other things. It’s my very first interview, and as far as interviews go, this is a fantastic one to start with! I had a lot of fun answering her questions.

Nicholas Rossis also featured me over on his blog with a very kind compliment on my bio and blurb.

All in all, a great way to end the week! Big thanks to Kelli and Nicholas! 🙂

 

Playing with Swords and Creepy Swamps… An Interview with Lori MacLaughlin

Today I have an interview with fellow blogger Lori MacLaughlin, and we talk about her Fantasy saga Lady, Thy Name is Trouble.

The interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do. And now, on with the interview!

Thanks for taking part and being on the blog today Lori! Could you please start by telling us a bit about your book?

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 15.32.02Thanks so much for having me here, Celine! Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble is a fantasy adventure novel with a side of romance. Main characters Tara and Laraina Triannon are sword-for-hire sisters, whose exploits are legendary. They get caught in the middle of a surprise invasion of the Dhanarran kingdom, but they manage to escape, along with Dhanarra’s playboy prince (Laraina’s current lover) and a young sorceress whose spells never work quite right.

The invading general sends his executioner, the Butcher, after them, a terrifying wolf-like assassin no one has ever escaped, to keep them from warning the neighboring kingdoms of the general’s marauding ways.

While on the run from the Butcher, they enlist the aid of Jovan Trevillion, a mysterious rogue with an agenda of his own. Sparks fly between Jovan and Tara, though she tries her best to snuff them out, having been burned badly by another handsome rogue in the past.

Many dangers and soul-searching moments test their endurance as they fight to save themselves and the neighboring kingdoms. Through it all, Tara is tormented by nightmares caused by the use of her long-hidden magic. An evil Being, caught in a centuries-old trap, seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams.

Tara must find a way to stop the marauding general’s quest for vengeance, save herself and her companions from the Butcher, and somehow prevent the evil being from destroying her mind and escaping to annihilate the world of Alltyyr.

Looking at the general research you did for Lady Thy Name is Trouble, what are the most interesting/random facts you uncovered?

Most of the research I did for this book revolved around the sword fighting and the army battles. I wanted them to be believable, but, since this is a fantasy, I didn’t want to be tied down by real time period expectations in terms of weapons and tactics. I’ve always been fascinated by swords. The most interesting fact, to me, was that most medieval swords weighed between 2.5 and 4 pounds. Even the two-handed great swords generally weighed between 5 and 8 pounds. The idea that these swords required Arnold Schwarzenegger-type strength to wield is a myth.

I also researched castle terminology to learn more about different types of castles and what the various parts were called, such as barbicans (stone buildings with towers and portcullises, used as gatehouses), battlements (the walkway along the top of a defensive wall for fighting or guard patrol), and murder holes (holes or trapdoors that allowed for attacking the area below). One thing I discovered is that the raised sections that look like teeth on top of the parapet (the low wall atop the curtain wall that protects the battlements) have their own name. They’re called merlons, and the spaces between the merlons are embrasures. Rows of alternating merlons and embrasures are called crenellations. I found it odd that an empty space had a specific name.

That’s interesting about the embrasures – it’s also a French word that means the same as in English, but it also means the empty space within a window frame or doorway (it’s still very much used nowadays.) I guess it must be a leftover from the time the Normans ruled England back in the 11th century. 

Your main character, Tara, is forever getting herself into fights and brawls, which is very entertaining! How did you go about writing the fight scenes?

I broke the scenes down into individual movements and choreographed them in my head, again, wanting to be realistic but unorthodox, too. Tara is not a classically trained sword fighter, by any means. She learned how to handle a sword from a pirate/smuggler who rarely ever followed any rules.

The best part was acting out the scenes (sort of, since I was by myself) to see if they worked and made sense. I own a few full-size swords that are meant to be decorative, but are a whole lot of fun to play with.

You and Charles Yallowitz ought to exchange notes on acting out fight scenes (he does it too!) I love that you own swords — between you and Charles, I’m feeling very inadequate with my lack of acting out fight scenes and my non owning of swords. What kind of swords do you have by the way? 

I have a few replicas of ceremonial swords belonging to historical figures, such as Sir Francis Drake and Charlemagne, a Viking dagger, and a collection of miniatures (about 12 inches long) representing swords through the ages. I used to collect them a long time ago when I had a little extra money to spend. If I ever find myself in that position again, I’d love to get some of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings blades. They are breathtaking.

032 - Copy

Replica of Charlemagne’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

025 - Copy

Replica of Sir Francis Drake’s sword, taken by Kari Jo Spear

I can understand why you’d act out your fight scenes with those swords – they’re beautiful!

Your characters travel through a rather terrifying place called the Bog, which is populated by all sorts of horrid creatures, including lots of spider (eep!) How did you go about creating such a place — did you use any real or fictional places for inspiration?

I created the creepiest place I could think of, somewhere I definitely would not want to go, and filled it with creatures I would NOT want to meet — particularly the spiders. Just writing about them gave me the willies. The Bog isn’t based on any real place, per se, but I did look at a lot of spooky swamp photos online, some of which were real, some artistically rendered.

CreepySwamp1CreepySwamp2

 

 

 

 

Do you have any particular books or websites you go to for inspiration when you need to research something for a story?

One of the books I own that has been useful is The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference published by Writer’s Digest Books. I’ve also found the Lord of the Rings to be inspirational. The battle scenes from those movies are awe-inspiring. I’ve taken bits and pieces from other sword fights I’ve seen in the movies and on TV and incorporated them into my mental library of maneuvers I draw on when choreographing a scene. Things I learned in the self-defense martial arts classes I took a few years ago sometimes make their way into my stories, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As far as websites go, I don’t have any particular one I go to for information. I type key words for what I need to research into a search engine and start reading. It’s absolutely amazing what you can find online.

That’s very true. Well, thank you so much for being here today Lori! 

Lady, Thy Name is Trouble, by Lori MacLaughlin

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 15.32.02

Trouble is Tara Triannon’s middle name. As swords for hire, Tara and her sister Laraina thrive on the danger. But a surprise invasion throws them into chaos… and trouble on a whole new level. Pursued by the Butcher, a terrifying assassin more wolf than man, Tara and Laraina must get a prince marked for death and a young, inept sorceress to safety. There’s only one problem – eluding the Butcher has never been done. Aided by a secretive soldier of fortune, they flee the relentless hunter.

Gifted with magic and cursed by nightmares that are all too real, Tara must stop an army led by a madman and fend off an evil Being caught in a centuries-old trap who seeks to control her magic and escape through her dreams – all while keeping one step ahead of the Butcher.

Now Available at: 

AMAZON.COM | BARNES & NOBLE | KOBO | ITUNES

Book Trailer:

About the author:

LoriLMacLaughlinLori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She’s been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids’ shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she’s not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

An interview with Sara Snider… and the drinking habits of laundresses

Today I have a great interview for you guys, featuring Sara Snider. She’ll be talking to us about her book, The Thirteenth Tower, and sharing a wealth of interesting facts from her research — the weight of women’s clothing in the 19th century and the drinking habits of laundresses, for starters.

This interview is part of a series of posts where I talk to writers about the interesting things they dig up during their research process. If you know of an indie writer who you’d be interested in seeing featured in this kind of interview, let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do!

Right, without further ado, here’s the interview, hope you guys enjoy it!

ThirteenthTowerCoverThanks for taking part in the interview Sara! Could you please start by telling us a bit about your book?

The Thirteenth Tower is a fantasy novel about Emelyn–a seventeen year-old orphaned girl–who joins up with a pair of Magisters (wizards, basically) on their journey northwards to stop a menacing creature of magic. The Magisters promise to tell Emelyn of her parents, but, of course, it’s never that simple. The journey north is a bumpy one, with lots of magical happenings and things to discover, much of which is about Emelyn herself.

 

What kind of research did you do to create the world your novel is set in?

When I first started writing the book, I imagined it taking place during a time similar to the Victorian Era. (In actuality, though, the setting is probably closer to the 18th century rather than 19th ). Emelyn also starts out as a servant, so a lot of the research involved these two things. I spent a lot of time reading about Victorian domestic life in general as well as the various types of servants, their wages, duties, etc. It’s a fantasy world, though, so all of this was just to get an idea of a way of life from past days, which could serve as a foundation for me to tweak and build upon.

What was the most interesting thing you found about Victorian domestic life?

Laundry day was a big deal and very disruptive. Servants had to get up earlier than normal to heat the water. Soaps were mostly ineffective, and so clothing had to be scrubbed and boiled. Sheets had to be wrung out by hand, which was physically taxing. If the weather was bad, the laundry would need to be hung indoors to dry, which then meant living in dampness for days. Apparently it was desired to have so many spare bed sheets and undergarments that laundry would only need to be done maybe eight or nine times a year. Wealthier households hired a laundress.

Laundresses, in addition to their pay, expected “perks,” which was usually beer three times a day and gin and water at night. I’m not sure why this delights me. (It delights me too! Then again I’d want beer and gin too if I had to handle people’s undergarments all day)

Photo from Wikipedia

Crinolines, or hoop skirts, (all the rage in the 1850s) tended to catch fire and were a “fairly common” cause of death among women. Household guides recommended keeping a heavy woolen table cover or piano shawl nearby to quickly extinguish such fires. Thankfully, these skirts fell out of fashion about a decade later. But, honestly, I’m kind of amazed and baffled it took that long.

Additionally, women’s clothing was heavy. By the end of the 19th century, a fashionable woman typically wore about 37 pounds (17 kg) of clothing. That’s more than three bags of the cat food I typically buy. Seriously, I’m trying to imagine strapping three of those bags to my body and then go gallivanting around. Combine this with the fact that women were often malnourished (certain foods were considered “unfeminine” as was having a healthy appetite) and it’s no wonder that women were prone to fainting.

The part about women’s clothing is incredible, both the weight and the fact that it was fairly common for women to catch fire and burn to death. All I can say is thank god we get to wear trousers nowadays!

Taking a specific item you researched, could you tell us what pushed you to research it and how you weaved it into your story? 

Well, along with all the Victorian domesticity, I also briefly researched weapon fighting–with a staff, specifically. There are no swords in the book. All weapons are staves (well, there is one spear, but that’s really just a staff with a pointy end).

One interesting tidbit I took from this research was the practicality of such weapons. Everyone has access to a stick or club, which can’t always be said of swords or other weapons. I worked that detail into the story when another character—Corran—is telling Emelyn about how his dad taught him to fight with a staff, and his reasons for doing so.

That’s quite unusual to have a fantasy novel without swords — fantasy is usually pretty sword heavy. Did you deliberately decide not to feature any swords?

It was a deliberate decision to leave swords out, because, like you say, fantasy is typically quite sword heavy and I always wanted to write a story that was perhaps a little bit different from other fantasy books out there. In saying that, though, I do think the lack of swords fit the story (and wasn’t just me being contrary for the sake of it). We have the Magisters, who use staves primarily to help them with their magic. Then there’s Emelyn, who, as a housemaid, doesn’t have a weapon at all. For Corran, having him use a staff seemed to fit with his carpentry background and pragmatic father. Of course, this doesn’t mean that swords don’t exist in the world, because they do, and will even make an appearance in the sequel, along with a couple other types of weapons.

Did you come across any useful websites or books when looking into all that you mentioned above?

I like to buy books on the subjects I research, so that I can have them for future reference. For this project, here’s a list of books I read: (You can click on the book covers and it will open the relevant amazon page)

The Complete ServantInside the Victorian Home Victorian EnglandFighting with blades

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forager Handbook

Oh, and I nearly forgot the book about foraging, since a lot of the story is spent wandering in a forest: The Forager Handbook: A Guide to the Edible Plants of Britain, by Miles Irving

And then, of course, there’s the Latin dictionary and grammar books that I used to help create plant names (one of the characters is a bit of a botanist), but I feel like I need to stop with the books because it’s getting out of hand. Those books I already had, though, from when I took a couple Latin courses during my university studies.

 

That’s a fantastic reading list, thanks for sharing all that! So how do you go about starting a new book, does the research inform the story or does the story guide the research?

The story definitely guides the research. Whenever I come across something I feel I don’t know enough to write about, that’s when the research starts. Most of the research I do is for inspiration, though. To try and get enough information about a time or a thing so that when I create my own version of it, hopefully it’s believable.

Well it definitely works, there’s a great sense of place to The Thirteenth Tower, it’s part of what I enjoyed about it. Thank you again for taking part in this interview Sara, and for sharing all that with us! 

The Thirteenth Tower

ThirteenthTowerCoverIn adversity lies strength beyond imagining.

Abandoned as a baby, young Emelyn’s life as a housemaid in the quiet village of Fallow is unremarkable—and empty. That is, until a host of magical creatures arrives and inflicts terrible misdeeds on the townsfolk. Inexplicably immune to their enchantments, Emelyn joins a pair of Magi intent on stopping the cause of the trouble—and who claim to know of her parents, promising Emelyn answers to a lifetime of questions.

But the answers Emelyn seeks prove to be more elusive than she hoped, and the world outside Fallow more perilous than she imagined. Magical creatures roam the land over, attacking yet another town before coming after Emelyn. The key to her survival—and finding her family—lies deep within her, if only she can conquer her doubts and believe she is more powerful than she ever dreamed.

In a journey that explores facing one’s fears amidst the uncertainties of an unknown world, The Thirteenth Tower is a magical tale of discovery, growth, and of love’s enduring strength.

You can buy The Thirteenth Tower at AmazonApple, or Kobo

An interview with Charles Yallowitz

Today I have my very first author interview — I’m incredibly excited! For those who missed the opinion poll, this is the first interview of a series I’m planning, talking to writers specifically about the research they do / have done to write their books.

Charles Yallowitz is my first guest, and we discuss his new short story, Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, as well as the diet of peacocks! I hope you enjoy it 🙂

Hi Charles, thank you so much for being on the blog today! So first tell us a little about your new short story. 

rsz_fullres-_300dpi_imageMy newest release is entitled Ichabod Brooks & the City of Beasts, which is a fantasy adventure short story. The adventure focuses on Ichabod Brooks who is a man known for taking dangerous jobs to put food on the table for his family. As he says, he has to make a living and his wife doesn’t want him getting lazy in his old age. He takes a job to clear out an abandoned village that has become infested by bizarre monsters. Unfortunately, things aren’t what they seem and Ichabod finds himself working a job that he didn’t bring the best gear for.

Haha, I had to chuckle at the line about Ichabod’s wife not wanting him to get lazy! 😉 So tell me, what research did you do to write the story — could you share the most interesting fact that you discovered in your research?

With Ichabod Brooks, I did basic research on medieval weaponry and the effects of certain injuries on people. Since it’s only 27 pages and I have several longer works under my belt, I didn’t have anything really unique to delve into. At least nothing that compares to when I had to research peacocks for Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue. This was the last novel that I published and I had a scene where peacocks were part of the scenery. I took an hour to research what they ate and how good they were at flying. The most surprising thing is that I found out they eat snakes, which I had to put into the scene somewhere. Being a fantasy author, a lot of my more interesting research stems from spontaneous curiosities.

I had no idea peacocks ate snakes! I had to google this a bit further, I had no idea peacocks were so badass. As it turns out not only do peacocks eat snakes but they even like eating poisonous snakes. Peacocks will actually encourage a snake to strike out until it exhausts itself, and they then home in for the kill. They’re also quite happy muching poisonous plants — I mean really why eat regular food when you can challenge yourself by ingesting venom!?

So Charles, how do you weave the research you do into the fantasy world and story you’re creating? 

Since the biggest part of research for Ichabod was combat-related, I had to make sure I was having characters move naturally. No acrobatic leaps by dwarves or heavy lifting by the slender huntress. So I always had to stop and think about the motions of battle. This involved standing up to slowly move myself to see if I could even come close to bending center ways and sketching out a few stick figure storyboards on napkins. I wanted the fighting to seem believable even if it was against fictional creatures. An example of this is when a character is injured, which gets closer to spoiler territory here. Without going into details, I wanted this person to get hit in a certain spot. Something didn’t feel right and I did a little research to find out that it was highly likely that the wound would bleed the character to death. That wasn’t what I was going for, so I had to find another spot to use. That sounds a lot more meticulously malicious than I thought.

That’s awesome that you go as far as acting out certain aspects of a fight to see if they’re possible. I wonder how many other writers do that? Do you have any resources that you turn to when you need to do a little digging?

I own a baby naming book, an encyclopedia of magical creatures, and an encyclopedia of imaginary places to help with research. To be honest, I’ve yet to use that last book, but I got it for five dollars. These are what I use for a lot of the pre-writing research, but I do grab them if I need a monster or character name on the fly. For information like the peacock diet and medieval weapon usage, I look for YouTube videos and simply plug the question into a browser. Many times I start with Wikipedia, but I try to confirm what I read there because I don’t entirely trust it. Mostly because I have a few friends that used to enjoy messing around with the articles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing that, the Dictionary of Imaginary Places in particular sounds quite interesting! And lastly, what’s your research process like when you start a new series or story? Do you start with the research as a way to inform the story and worldbuilding, or does the story guide the research you’ll have to do?

Story tends to guide the research since much of what I’m doing is being made up as I go along with the planning. At first, the only things I really look up are names and weapons. These two things tend to be the more defining parts of my characters when starting out. For example, Ichabod Brooks uses a bow, Luke Callindor (from big series) uses twin sabers, and Nyx (big series) has enough magic to level a small town. The physical appearance comes next and this is just picking coloration and unique markings. Research turns up again when I choose clothing because I have no real sense of fashion. This involves a lengthy on-line search or thumbing through magazines for inspiration. After all of that, I grab information from various places as I need it such as architecture, environments, animal habits, and even going back through my own notes. One of the ‘benefits’ of working with a non-Earth world is that I can make up a good amount of the information as I go along. All I have to do is keep it consistent.

That’s great. Thank you so much for taking part Charles, that was great! 

For anyone interested, Ichabod Brooks and the City of Beasts is now out, and you can find it on Amazon, by clicking here

rsz_fullres-_300dpi_image

In a time of heroes, a man will take any job to provide for his family.

Ichabod Brooks has earned a reputation for taking the jobs most men and women fear to challenge. This reputation has brought him to the charred remains of a small village nestled within the hills and forest of Ralian. The ruins are a source of strange monsters that terrorize the countryside and repeatedly elude the local guards and hunters. The few brave souls who have entered the creatures’ lair have yet to come out alive or dead.

The chances of survival are slim, but that generous payment is too much for Ichabod to resist. After all, a man and his family have to eat.