On Writing - Archive - September 2014

  • Geography: Ramza

    September 29, 2014

    The central country of Grey, and where the bulk of Fallen Throne takes place. Ruled by a monarchy, Ramza has seen significant success due to its centralized location, acting as a hub for trade, as well as having easier access to resources from its surrounding neighbors.

    However, while it has access to a considerable amount of technology and education, it still holds many of the old fears about freely available knowledge to the masses, and still regards much of the electrical and steam technology of Ouran as taboo.

    In its infancy, the nation of Ramza was devote to the one god, an omnipotent being that answered their prayers and lead them through dark times. Belief waned folioing a decade long series of plagues, droughts and famine, culminating in the wars with the oblin.

    Many lost faith that they were being protected by the one god, and for centuries, worship all but faded. It’s only in the last 7 years that belief has returned, starting with the pilgrimage of Roland Cross and the vision he received. Pockets of worship have begun to spring back up around Ramza, the people once again finding their faith.

  • Character Study: Jenner Ripalst

    September 26, 2014

    Jenner, the debonair, swashbuckling, not-quite-as-mysterious-as-he-thinks-he-is leading man. He’s a taller man, well kept and always prefers to dress in the height of fashion, as long as it’s not too tacky. His acting and efforts to run the theatre keep him active and in shape, as well as years of studying swordplay. He’s confidant, forward and never at a loss for words.

    Born to rich parents, Jenner has never had a difficult life. In his early years, he often sought out adventure, be it in the forests around his home or on the deck of one of his father’s trade ships. Rather than aspire to be a city lounging dilettante, he found that the deep pools of wealth he had access to allowed him to see the world. He’s travelled all over Ramza and Ouran, and seen most of their sights. It was while away on one such adventure that he lost his father to pirates.

    He found himself at home for most of his late teens, helping his mother organize the family businesses and consolidating their wealth. Neither him or his mother had much interest in running a shipping company, so they licensed or sold off most of it. His mother retired from the social circles, traveling between their various vacation homes around the continent, while Jenner turned his focus to theatre. He found it much more fun to create stirring adventure and romantic landscapes than to venture out. And considerably more profit in it to boot. And his years traveling had left him with many friendships and contacts, a large group to draw from when recruiting talent to his playhouses.

    He spent the first few years in Balthwell, perfecting his craft under the tutelage of others. He was more than happy to bankroll a few failed endeavors, as the knowledge gained was well worth the loss in coin. It was also during this time he met Tracey, the man who would set his heart on fire, and still does to this day. I had originally planned to introduce more of Jenner and Tracey’s relationship in my second novel, but felt it would be unfair to talk about his character without mentioning it here, as Tracey is only mentioned once in passing in ‘Fallen Throne’. While Jenner is a horrible flirt and not above playing the lady’s man, it’s all a game to him, played as needed.

    Once Jenner felt his knowledge and pool of talent was sufficient, he set off to Caulment where he built the Royal Airline Theatre, named after one of his father’s shipping companies. Having had a lack of serious theatre, the RAT was an instant success, and continued to be, up until the day fate introduced him to Khristian and Aerika.

  • Geography: Ouran

    September 24, 2014

    Ouran is the technological powerhouse of Grey. They are leaders in the sciences, particularly in the study of steam and electrical powered constructions. Ouran cities are a sight to behold, using combinations of wood and steel, clay and glass, to craft wondrous domiciles.

    Ouran is also the only country with no recognized religion. They put their faith in their people. Ouran citizens that make a name for themselves can look forward to being immortalized by having a location named after them. While most cities and monuments in Grey have names tied to the land, or an event, all of the places in Ouran are named after famous teachers, researchers, explorers and other great minds. The ruling council of Ouran makes declarations from Yhin’s Palace, Named after Glory Yhin, the first leader to establish an independent city in northern Grey. Zhan-hei’s Spheres is the music academy named after Joy Hei, the bard made famous for her 1,201 sonnets dedicated to the passage of a year. These and many more places all have histories in educated minds that brought knowledge and enlightenment to those around them.

    This has also allowed Ouran to become the richest nation in Grey, and Ouran banks can be found throughout the continent. They have tackled converting the various coins into one readable ledger, though there are remote parts of Arcturus where they refrain from trying to convert some of the more ancient bartering goods.

    Majere are few in Ouran, not for lack of interest, but the magical weave seems to elude the average citizen. Those that do learn its ways tend toward the artistic, creating musical devices, gravity defying buildings, and multidimensional paintings.

    Ouran is also said to be the most friendly of the countries in Grey, more optimistic than Ramza, more open-minded than M’lan, and more accepting than Arcturus. This has made Ouran a very popular tourist attraction, and it’s citizenry very popular when visiting other places.

  • Building Grey: From Idea to Book, Part 2

    September 22, 2014

    World of Grey has been a setting I've been working on for a while. Previously, I talked about how it was originally a game idea, then became a D&D campaign before eventually becoming a novel.

    The story has also changed a lot as well. Originally it was much more in spirit with The Lord of the Rings. There was a powerful witch, Sortia, who lost a bracelet, that a boy unearthed in a long forgotten tomb close to his village. Sortia had foot soldiers she sent after the bracelet, the boy met friends and adventurers who had a vested interest in keeping the bracelet out of her hands, and adventure ensued. It was a lot of fun, and even made for an interesting game, but I just don't think I had my heart into it entirely.

    When I sat down to start writing it as a story, I just wasn't compelled by the characters. I wasn't interested In the backstory, and it just kept feeling too Tolkien. In hindsight I think the movies had just come out and intentional or not, it was heavily influencing my ideas.

    In the end it was too black and white for what I wanted to do. The World of Grey is meant to be exactly that. Shades of morality. Fallen Throne has a bit of a black and white feel to it, but a lot of it is the setup to a larger tale. I'm hoping to explore the character's motivations and thoughts more in future adventures. The other problem with my original idea was that there was only one conflict. Sortia. Once that was resolved, the story was over. Whereas in Fallen Throne, Geddon is just a pawn in a larger game.

    What I learned from this was two parts. That your first idea probably won't be your best idea, and that it's okay to throw away ideas if they don't light your world on fire after rounding them out a bit. It's okay to invest time into something that you ultimately set aside. You'll do that a lot in the creative process. But none of it's a waste. Each bit of work will take you closer to the idea you do want to get behind, and nurture.

    It took a lot of bad ideas to get to Fallen Throne.

  • Character Study: Mao Tze

    September 19, 2014

    Mao is an elderly woman in her 60s, though still in excellent shape and all of her mental skills in tact. She keeps her wild grey hair bound with wooden pegs, and walks with a slight hunch. She lets little get by her and is both patient and understanding.

    Mao was born on one of the remote regions in Arcturus. Her mother was from M'lan, but left when she was a teenager, treated as an outcast by her parents for her disregard of religion. She traveled the lands, eventually settling in Arcturus, where she met a man who would become her husband.  He tinkered with mechanics and repaired steam-powered devices on the black market.  One day, while Mao and her father were out, the local magistrate learned of the family's experiments and seized their lands, executing Mao's mother.

    They fled to the Jeweled Isles in Ouran.  It was while on the run that Mao contracted the illness that would take her sight.  Her father doted on her constantly, teaching her everything he knew about mechanics and alchemy. He had taught her basic concepts when she was young, and later adapted his strategies as she got older and her eyesight left her completely. She had her mothers drive to explore, and much to her father's chagrin, she left Ouran to find her own place in the world when she turned twenty.

    First she traveled to M'lan, to meet her mother's family. She knew instantly why her mother left and while cordial, did not stay long. She did meet Jo'lin, who would become her husband. While Jo'lin cared as much about faith as Mao did science, they also cared equally for each other. They had five wonderful years together before Jo'lin was killed, mugged late one night for the change in his pockets. He had been the only reason Mao had stayed in M'lan, so again she set off.

    She first visited the mountains of Arcturus, and slowly made her way from village to village, learning the local delicacies, as she took to cooking, seeing in it many of the traits of experimenting and testing that she loved of science. What began as curiosity became the next fifteen years of her life. She learned a lot about life, about fear, as many of the arcturans viewed her as a witch, or majere, not understanding where her power came from. People were even more frightened when she explained it as common effects that any person could replicate. She had inventions that would spout fire from her fingertips, or allow her to hurl bolts of electricity. But she learned these were not held in awe as they had been in Ouran.

    She left Arcturus and returned to her fathers home in Ouran. He had passed two years earlier. Word had been sent to M'Lan, but she had not made her whereabouts known in the interim years. But she saw that he had received the letters she sent from Arcturus. She had never left a return address, for she moved around often, but all the letters had arrived. They were found amongst her father's possessions when he passed.

    A small inheritance awaited her, and she used it to perfect her inventions, making them lighter, more efficient. She also took a few classes in theatrics. She found humor in playing into the witch persona that so many arcturans had mistaken her for. She spent 3 years in Ouran before moving on again, this time to Ramza, the nation she had often travelled through, but rarely visited. She laughed inwardly at how many places the heavily accented, hunched over old woman she pretended to be was accepted. Your average townfolk was terrified of alchemy, but everyone loved grandma.

    It was during one of those visits that an old rancher, Gimon, fell in love with her, with the act. He was quite shocked when he learned she wasn't the woman he thought she was, but said he loved her all the same. And he liked the idea of traveling. So together, over the next 17 years, they saw everything Ramza and Ouran had to offer.

    But the world was not content, and one evening, riding back from town, bandits murdered Gimon as he was returning home. Heartbroken, Mao stayed at their home for three years, before wanderlust crept into her bones again. Before she felt good enough to visit her friends in Balthwell and Hallon's Hold.

  • Geography: Arcturus

    September 17, 2014

    Arcturus takes up the majority of the eastern continent of Grey. It is believed that when settlers first landed on Grey, they traveled out from what is now Arcturus. Because of this, it is one of the oldest parts of the continent. And some of the tribes and cities that are nestles there still reflect this. The oldest cities in Arcturus still thrive around the ancient castles built to protest their citizens when monsters more openly walked the lands. These castles, called Kher’s, still stand today, and its inhabitants still follow the old ways, worshipping the land and revering nature.

    You also find cities more in line with the times, like Brentin and Sales. These cities often have robust tourist economies as outsiders are more prone to visit the locations that have amenities from other nations, and cater to the comforts they desire. There are numerous cities in various stages of development in between.

    Arcturus is home to two of the largest natural formations on Grey. The Terristia, a large forest the makes up the southern half of the region, and the Jhaele Mountains, which make their way all the way down into M’lan. The Watcher’s Terrace can also be found in Arcturus, on the outskirts of the Terristia. Said to once have been home to an ancient race of druids, the place now stands abandoned, though something or someone tends it, as it looks pristine today as when it was first discovered ages ago.

    Terrestia is home to something else as well. Savage barbarians live in the deepest parts of the forest, where survival of the fittest still reins. They never evolved beyond many of their base instincts, and even people that live in the oldest Khers consider them primitive by their standards.

    Lastly, unlike the other three regions, Arcturus has no single governing body. Each city looks out for itself. Some wonder how the cities do not break out into war on a regular basis, but it is telling that it’s also the oldest region in Grey. The more civilized cities have adopted the standard coin of Grey, but the more rural places still have their own currencies, or subside exclusively on trade.

  • Building Grey: From Idea to Book, Part 1

    September 15, 2014

    Before 'World of Grey' was the book series I am writing, it was to be the interactive world I was going to create in Neverwinter Nights. I had spent many months writing character profiles, scripting dialogue exchanges, and creating adventure paths. For those not in the know, Neverwinter Nights was a computer game where you could create your own adventures using tools that came with the game. Unfortunately, I never quite took to the coding aspect of the game, and the project came to a halt before it ever got off the ground.

    I kept all the resources I had created though, and wanted to keep it around for a future project. I even tried it as a campaign for a game of dungeons and dragons, but quickly realized that players do not follow script like your written characters do, so that plan was scrapped as well. I did get a few more characters to flavor the setting, as I made people up as needed for the party to talk to, and a few points of interest as well as they travelled around, off course from where I wanted the story to go. But fun times none the less.

    I briefly tried a few submissions to get it made into an animated series, but had no artistic talent to speak of, and everyone wanted a picture, or storyboard. I had taken a scriptwriting class in college, and used what I had learned there to turn my ideas into a five page script, but I had nothing else. Plus I didn't even know if I was submitting my project to the right venues, or if this kind of approach even worked.

    In hindsight, writing a book was the last thing I tried, but it was probably the approach I was best prepared for. I had always loved writing, had taken courses for it in both high school and college, and had impressed teachers to the degree that they always said I should pursue it more. It only took eight years and a few failed attempts to bring me back to it.

    And writing the book came more naturally than any of the previous mediums I tried to tackle. Well, I'd say 95% of it anyway. Khristian and Jenner's adventure in Arcturus took as long to write as the rest of the book did. I actually skipped it initially and wrote the end.

    But when I was done, I felt really good about it. Even if it never gets major success, it was a journey worth taking, and I feel better about myself for having taken it. Sometimes that the best part of the journey.

  • Geography: M'lan

    September 12, 2014

    The M’lan empire rests at the southern end of Grey, making up all of the southern lands. It is probably the nation the most different from the rest. The Lanese people venerate a pantheon of 103 gods. Curozun, He that Creates, the main deity among them. There are also many lesser gods, such as Vanzanc, the god of luck, Tiamen, the god of missed opportunities, and Kai’les, goddess of knowledge.

    M’lan is ruled by the Priest-Majere known as the Seti, a female chosen by the people that is skilled in the magical arts, as well as a devout worshipper of the nation’s religions. M’lan’s caste system is separated by natural aptitude, with citizens who show no talent for any combative skill making up the bottom tier of the population, many families often selling off some of their children to neighboring kingdoms as servants because they can’t contribute to the society in any meaningful way. Above that are the warriors and writers, who help maintain the army. Next are the majere, and finally the devout.

    It is said that the Seti personally interviews each child to test their aptitude for preaching faith and weaving magic, but rumors also abound that money can ease the way for many a newborn, spent by parents seeking to rise in the culture. The Lanese also believe that females have a greater aptitude for religious understanding than males, but again, some view this purely as coincidence from the many centuries of Seti influence.

  • Building Grey: Religion

    September 10, 2014

    I hope this can be one of the least controversial discussions of the topic. There is religion in Grey. But before I get too far into it, I wanted to give a little insight to myself.

    I was raised a rebellious catholic, attended a private grade school, went through with confirmation to please my grandparents, chose Porthos as my confirmation name, and years later, I now go back and forth between atheism and agnosticism.

    What I have discovered through all those years, is that what is important is belief. I don't care whether you believe in God, Buddha, your friends, your family, your significant other, your children, mother nature, the greek pantheon, yourself, science, or unicorns. As long as it isn't hurting you or other people, and it gets you through the difficult times in your life, that's all that matters. Having something to believe in can get you through the toughest of times, when all seems dark. A belief should bring light.

    Now, on to Grey. Worship in Grey is mainly split by the main countries; Ramza, Arcturus, M'lan and Ouran. Now while I speak in generalizations, remember, they are just that. There is always spillover.

    Ramza has had a strong resurgence in belief in the One God. Worshipped centuries ago, then having fallen out of favor, the religion is finding it's feet again. The One God is responsible for all creation, and believes in truth, unity and understanding. A war has never been fought in his or her name. Often portrayed as a male, Roland's recent pilgrimage has him preaching that the One God is in fact a she. Seeing as how someone gifted him with the sword he carries and the powers he wields, it is an oft discussed topic of debate.

    Arcturuns worship nature, living close with the land. This has produced some of the most benevolent, and vicious, splinter cults in all of grey. People embrace harmony, while others survival. Science, while used for its health benefits, is viewed more of a byproduct of nature. Many Arcturuns are mindful of how others treat the wilderness, and are careful to make sure it is treated with respect. They are the people most likely to invoke the earth when given offense, or to correct a foreigners misdeeds.

    M'lan is a land of many deities. Worship is a central part of their lives, the empire ruled by the Seti, A high priestess. Religion governs daily life, job security, marriage, and even the dispersal of children within families. Religion has an answer for any question a Lanese citizen might have. This is not as stifling as it might sound. Because the pantheon is so diverse, so are the scriptures of each god or goddess, resulting in both strict and lax rules, as the situations dictate.

    Lastly is Ouran, which has no religious structure in place. Ouran is a land of science and discovery through and through. Ouran citizens love facts and research, always finding better ways to grow a crop, write a book, give a speech, or prolong a life. Most of the great marvels built or manufactured in grey came from a mind that spent a fair share of time in Ouran. That's not to say the occasional scientist doesn't offer a little prayer to a god of luck or goddess of destiny. After all, they're having a hard time disproving religion exists.

    So there you have it. Not too deep. Not too preachy. Just a splash of beliefs that the inhabitants of Grey look to.

  • Character Study: Dark Fey

    September 8, 2014

    While not an individual, the Dark Fey play a very important role as the antagonists of Hallon’s Hold. For many years, the Dark Fey engaged in a reign of terror for those that traveled between Balthwell and Caulment. A couple days journey by horse, and even longer on foot, many a caravan took it’s life in its hands, hoping they wouldn’t see the diminutive monsters as they huddled tightly around the campfire

    In the early days, fires kept them at bay, as they feared the hot flames. Some say that wherever the creatures hail from, fire is anathema to them, and it sears the skin right off like melting butter. But the fey realized they had strength in numbers, and so they learned to seek the flame, knowing a warm meal and valuables were waiting by the fire. Over the course of a few years, risk turned to suicide, as even the most heavily armored transport and guard retinue came under attack, the Dark Fey growing more and more bold.

    They are also a resilient lot. Their recent defeat may have sent them back to their burrows licking their wounds, but unless true effort is put forth by the residents of the hold, they will be back. Hallon would need to organize hunting parties to venture out into the hills surrounding the hold and root out any nests or broods. But the mountains are vast, and the holes dug deep, and the weather is not made for the likes of men.

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