Where is the most dangerous place for your characters to go? – Eight questions for building fictional worlds.

Building Fictional Worlds Part I: Setting and Characterization

When building a fictional setting, the connection between your characters and the world they live could make or break the believability of your creations. Therefore it is very important to deepen the connection between your characters and their landscape.

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Setting Impacts Character

It was 5:45am last Wednesday when I drafted a scene between two characters having an argument about their beliefs. Each character came from a different regions of their fictional world – one from a well-developed medieval city, and the other from a seaside fishing village at the end of Sothgren Reach.

These two characters have vastly different experiences, and to make matters more complicated, their perspectives are shaped by regional differences. Their stories converged in my work in progress The Witch’s Uprising, the first in nine novels about my fictional world – Brylennia.

Crafting Brylennia has been an exhilarating experience, resulting in characters that share a rich history, with a variety of perspectives.

Early sketches and inspirations

 

The following eight questions were useful in my development of Brylennia. These questions have helped me flesh out different aspects of Brylennia, and of each other regions “on the map.”

My goal was to strengthen the connection between the setting and the characters inhabiting it, resulting in a detail-rich experience for readers. Also, I wanted to have some fun creating a fictional world. Hopefully you can use these questions in your own projects or as a way to spark your reading curiosity.


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Here are eight questions to ask yourself to strengthen the connection between the setting and your characters:

  1. How has the landscape changed over time?
  2. How has the geography influenced the beliefs of your characters?  For example, if they are polytheistic, is there an emphasis on one god or goddess over another?
  3. Does geography influence the inequities in your societies? (If there are inequities).
  4. Are any particular people in direct access to resources that others do not have? How does all this influence an intelligent person from the region, or an ignorant person for that matter? Does this cause prejudice between groups of people?
  5. What freedoms or privileges does one group enjoy over others, if any?
  6. Do people dress differently in each region? Is this due to fashion, practicality, some other reason, or a combination of these reasons?
  7. Where is the most dangerous place to go?
  8. What’s the safest way from one place to another in your world? Who has made it through, and who has not?

So you know, I hope to explore each of these questions individually in future posts as part of a world-building series. You can stay updated on these posts as they are published via this blog.

If it’s easy for you, please follow me here on WordPress,  Twitter , and/or via email as part of our reader’s club

I hope these work for you!

-Curtis

Are you depleted of ideas, or do you just need to re-energize? Three questions to ask yourself when experiencing a creative block.

It was Saturday morning, and I stared at a half-written scene in the all-to-familiar agony of writer’s block. My usual urge to craft a scene had left me, and my cat, Horton, made a bed of my forearms. The time had finally come to do something else.

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My relationship with creativity is ridiculous.

At times, ideas won’t stop entering my mind. However, there is the occasion when I feel like my mind has run completely dry. During these times, I often try to re-energize my writing, change a routine, or work on a different aspect of my writing project.

This usually happens after I have planned an arc or chapter and the actual work of fleshing out the scene stands before me. Don’t get me wrong – I very much enjoy the process, especially if the idea is brand new. This was not the case with my current project.

Routines and Low Points

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am working on a fantasy saga known as A Thousand Watchful Eyes. I chip away at this project each day in a different way. Last week, I wrote about how little changes in my routine have impacted my writing progress.

While I have continued with my routine this week, I took some time to reflect on how I could revamp my daily writing habits. I added a half-hour writing sprint to my morning tasks.

The results were surprising:

  • 4/5 of the days were successful.
  • On Thursday, I wrote nothing, opting for more sleep from an exhaustive week. (I made up the lost word count on Friday).
  • I wrote an average of 800 words per sprint.
  • With each day, I felt like my scenes were developing, but all too slowly. Some were a little stale.
  • By Saturday, I felt some writer’s apprehension and eventually some blockage with creating new material.

What I do when faced with a creative block:

When faced with a creative block, I usually turn to revision. Revision energizes me and gives me relatively simple task to accomplish. It activates the creative part of my mind, and pushes me forward.

For me, the obvious solution was to take the new scenes from this week and revise; however, I just didn’t want to do it. I was completely tired of writing the novel, which many writer’s know is a dangerous place to be. This is what I consider a low point in the writing process.

So… what did I do?

I worked on something else.

I decided to take the day off  – not from project itself, but rather from the task of generating and revising scenes. Instead, I opted for investing time in tasks that inspire me to write the chapters, refresh my mindset, and help me build a richer, more interesting fantasy world for my characters to live in. 

This is my advice for any person feeling the lull of a project that requires dedication willpower, time, and sustained effort.

Here are three questions you should ask yourself when feeling sapped of creativity:

  1. Is there something else I can work on?

  2. How can I make this more fun?

  3. Am I depleted of ideas, or do I just need to re-energize?

These open-ended questions will help you to reflect on your project, whether you are a writer, reader, musician, dancer, entrepreneur, or anyone else who dedicates time, effort, and routine to a task. They help me revitalize my projects and habits that have devolved into mind-numbing work.

At the end of the day, I write because I love it, because I am fascinated by the world, and because I just really, really have to tell the story of these characters. Some mornings, I forget these simple reasons, as many people do.

In order to keep the momentum going, we must re-connect with the passion behind our passion projects. Here is how I approach each question:

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Question # 1: Is there something else I can work on?

This question is definitely inspired by the idea of creative procrastination. At the end of the week, and the beginning of the weekend, I often want to rest. This was especially true after this week. By shifting my focus to a different aspect of my project – world-building and map-making, I made good use of my time and kept my passion for my fantasy series fresh.

Question # 2: How can I make this more fun?

I won’t lie to you. When I answered this question, it lead me to Youtube, where I began “researching” how to make fantasy maps.

After ten minutes, I felt better.

I cannot deny that this is a form of procrastination, but I would be lying to you if I said it didn’t help me create new material for my novel.

This world-building step was very fun. I ended up drafting new ideas for how the setting of this series will impact my novel without detracting from the integrity of the world I had already created.

Question # 3: Am I depleted of ideas, or do I just need to re-energize?

This question is the most important, as asking the question always leads to activity. Usually, this question comes first.

While my answers vary, I rarely say that I am depleted of ideas, even if I feel that it may be true. When I ask this question, I often can find that there is something in my writing for me to investigate, some idea that makes me interested, a character who needs attention.

Although I have experienced writer’s block, I find the notion of “lacking ideas” a little silly. This is mostly due to my experience with curiosity. If I stay curious, I often come up with new ideas. On the other hand, I almost always feel the need to re-energize at the end of the week.

Maybe this is a signal to me that I need to take a closer look at how I work. Maybe I should always revamp and re-energize on Saturday. Maybe I should schedule blocks of time for just having fun with the novel, or maybe I should schedule nothing at all.

Take-Away

If I remember anything from this Saturday, it is to always re-connect with the passion behind my projects, to push forward with my tasks, and not to give up just because a blank screen or half-written scene feels intimidating.


I hope these questions help you with your creative projects.

-Curtis

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A Lightning Storm in My Brain – Navy SEALS, Dark Magic, Middle School, and a Secret Worth Sharing

On my way to work, the sun is rising, I look across a snowy field, and a flock of birds scatters into the air like flakes of debris from a campfire.

I hear a navy SEAL sternly recount the horrors of war.  He talks about discipline in everyday life, and I absorb his experience through my headphones.

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The SEAL’s adventures are far too modern for me to write about, but this field and his words recall an older type of warfare to my mind. The rhythm of horse hooves enters me. When his podcast is over, and everything is silent, my brain is still busy.

I daydream:

Steel clashes and a young woman rides her horse across a snowy field, much like the one I see before me. The woman will travel an entire realm, beyond the forest and the mountains, to a place where she discovers something far more powerful than the enemy she faces.

She is not yet seventeen, yet she tries to save the world from the rise of dark magic.

I breathe in slowly. Right now, she is a twelve-year old girl, a character in my novel, that has yet to grow. She cannot even hold a sword, but someday she will set foot in a snowy field. Someday, after she has surpassed the challenges of the book I am currently writing for her, she will change.

The Lightning Storm in My Brain

When I write, one thought leads to another branching out in several unpredictable directions, like a lightning storm. I feel the same is true when I listen to music or podcasts. One person’s experience leads me to think of another’s.

Sometimes I chart story ideas, plotting possible novels based on these little moments of exploration. Other times, I sit down and draft a scene, discovering the characters within it.

Most of my ideas are forgotten when they are not written down, but there are always a few that resurface. Some even return after years of paying attention to other story ideas, other characters, other plots.

It is as if some themes and some characters have a life of their own, an insistence for their voices to be heard and their stories to be told. 

The thrill of creating fiction, especially pre-writing and beginning stages is often amazing, and most writers know it.

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A Secret Worth Sharing

At times, the act of writing a novel is somewhat mechanical. I found more progress in my word counts and chapter construction simply from dedicating more time towards the craft. Still, one aspect of writing fiction amazes me:

The world seems to change when I’m working on a fiction project. Hours go by while I am absorbed in a scene, and then the next day arrives.

Every detail of every aspect of my life begs to be stitched or weaved into the tapestry of the story. 

Strangers in Chicago become workers in a medieval village square. An unruly beard of a friend becomes the mark of an ancient man in Brylennia. The arguments and discussions of my middle school students remind me of the energetic relentlessness of human curiosity. In the midst of growing from childhood to adulthood, the complexity of human emotion unfolds for us. The world feels – somehow – new and familiar when I write.

It is with this feeling – this thrilling mixture of happiness, introspection, and inquisitive observation, that I share with you one realization I had today. Here is one secret, or rather one truth, worth sharing.

Writing is more than just a mechanical act; it is more than just meeting a word count or completing a novel.

Writing, in many ways, is forging a sword from raw material, imagining the person who will wield it, shaping and tempering the wild steel into something crafted and refined.

It is recalling the family and friends who have loved you, and remembering the lessons within every tarnished relationship.

Writing is the act of bringing together the seen and unseen in any given circumstance.

It is living deeply, and it is a challenge worth pursuing.

 

An adventure in goal-setting lead to this realization…

I was behind on my promises, both personal and public.

For the last twenty days, I have revamped my goals, improved how I follow through, and created habits to sustain a lifestyle that I enjoy, by taking a few simple steps.

 

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Too Many Goals, Not Enough Routine

The truth is, I have too many goals, and a long list of projects that need my attention.

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am currently working on a twelve-novel saga. I am also a teacher.  

Managing time is paramount, and with this many priorities, there are days where I am left exhausted. Ask any teacher or author.

Managing time is a big deal. It is often the difference between excellence and mediocrity.

During February and March, I found it harder and harder to finish what I wanted to accomplish. I call this time of the year the “February slump” due to the nexus of days without sunlight that precedes all school-related deadlines. 

Recently, I have worked on two lifestyle changes that have super-charged my mental health and approach to productivity: a clear morning routine, and a consistent journaling routine.

A Clear Morning Routine and a Consistent Journaling Routine

The newest changes were inspired by ModernHealthMonks video on a 7-Step Morning Success Routine. 

After watching the video, I thought about how I lacked a productive morning routine outside of the usual “get ready for work and out of the house” plan.

In my case, the first step was sitting down and figuring out my personal goals.

I had to sit down and ask myself, if I accomplished three things this year, what would they be? They were:

  • Contribute more to the wedding planning process with my fiancé
  • Finish writing The Witch’s Uprising and The Staghorn Crown by the Summer of 2018.
  • Being healthier

Those translated into these three goals for the year:

  1. Make meaningful contributions to the wedding and our future marriage daily.

  2. Writing as many books as I can in 2018.

  3. Creating causes and conditions for a healthy body, mind, and speech.

Next, I made three daily habits that aligned with my goals, as suggested by the ModernHealthMonk.

  1. Check in with my fiancé and our wedding notes every day to see our next actionable step.

  2. Write every day.

  3. Do at least 10 minutes of with healthy movement or exercise, light or heavy,  daily.

 

I then tried to find ways to work this into my daily routine. This was the easiest part to plan, but the hardest part to implement. Checking with my fiancé was easy. In fact, the wedding planning process feels better by the day. Health has been no challenge at all, and finding a consistent writing schedule has been the most challenging.  

I have started every morning with a 20 minute Qi-Gong routine and replaced my coffee with green tea. For a point of reference, I was drinking close to a full pot of coffee a day. This little switch changed my mood considerably! 

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A Typical Morning

At 5:40 am, I do 20 minutes of Qi Gong movements.

My body feels loose and limber. The aches and pains from yesterday, the heart palpitations of the morning, and my endless barrage of thoughts leave me, almost effortlessly.

From 6:00 – 6:40, I have a series of five minute tasks:

  • I write down my top three goals of the year, and I think of three positive memories, usually involving my brother, my parents, or my friends.
  • I then spend five minutes writing three sentences towards any writing project I am working on, or whatever else will come to mind. This exercise helps me “rip off the bandaid” and start the day with activity. 
  • I then sit for 5 minutes and go through my agenda hour by hour, reacquainting myself with the yesterday’s promises and ambitions, and resolving to complete them.
  • I do a small chore to keep our apartment in good shape.
  • I boil water and unload the dishwasher.
  • I steep tea and make toast.
  • Then I set aside ten minutes to just eat breakfast before showering, dressing, and leaving for work.

By the time I leave for work, the routine takes me 90 minutes – less if I am in a hurry or need to cut back the time.

I have literally never felt more calm and ready to start my day after going through these motions. This routine ensures that I take care of my body, eat breakfast, and start the day accomplishing a few small, but important things.

A Consistent Journaling Routine

When I learn something new, I take notes. At 7:00pm, I journal.

There are no time constraints, and there is no minimum to be met. At 7:00pm, I just journal. I enjoy the simplicity of that idea.

If I know I will be somewhere at 7:00pm, I schedule journaling time into my day, wherever it fits. Usually, it’s best a few hours before bed.

The Realization

The realization? I can accomplish what I need to if I truly prioritize my tasks and execute them within the timeframe available to me. Doing this takes discipline, but setting these goals and following through is definitely worth it.

-Curtis


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4 Stages of Writing: A plant-based approach to creating fiction

Crafting Fiction

I have a relationship with writing, and it’s mostly good. Sometimes, I am consistent about creating chapters, and sometimes… I am not. Like all relationships, writing takes time, dedication, reflection, and care to stay healthy.

I admire writers who have found systems that work for their writing processes. Personally, I try new strategies all the time. I particularly like dedicating a daily time, a weekly word count, and a scheduled one-day session.

While I do seem to favor longer writing sessions, I hit a road bump with my last six-hour Saturday.  Thankfully, my fiancé was there to guide me through:

The Results of My Writing Process

On December 23rd, I wrote the latest installment of The Staghorn Crown, a monthly serial novel that I release for Patreon. Last night, I posted it on Patreon in PDF and eBook formats. Each installment is one or two chapters long, usually 2,000-3,000 words in length per installment. You can read the opening chapters here.

For Installment Three,  I drafted scenes during a six-hour Saturday session. The results were interesting, leading me to this insight about the writing process.

My “Rough Batch” of Words

My six-hour writing session initially produced four “chapter starters” which needed heavy revision. Unfortunately, I clumsily tried to revise too many chapters at once, neglecting my usual practice of working chapter by chapter, scene by scene.

This was a “rough batch” of writing. Laura helped me re-organize the chapters scene by scene for clarity and continuity. Installment Three includes two of these revised chapters. Through redrafting scenes, editing, revising, and polishing the writing, I was reminded of how the entire process is like growing and tending to plants.

4 Plant-Based Stages of Writing: Planting Seeds, Watering, Pruning, and Thriving

Stage One – Planting: With plants, we plant seeds and water the initial sprout. Likewise, in writing, we first plant the seeds of our ideas through the prewriting and initial drafting process.

Stage Two – Watering: We then water the seeds and sprouts of our ideas by adding new material, revising, or complementing the writing with additional structures.

Stage Three – Pruning: When the plant begins to mature,  we prune away the pieces that make the plant unhealthy or inhibit it from growing into something more magnificent.

In writing, we do the same with edits, cuts, and rearrangement. It’s reminiscent of bonzai at some stages – we have to be delicate, and deliberate. Sometimes, no pruning is necessary. How lucky!

Stage Four – Thriving: Lastly, we let the plant thrive. Our initial work is finished. Although, sometimes you have to repeat stages for your work to stay alive.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but it reminded me of the steps I had missed. I usually spend more time “watering the plants,” and as I know well, skipping this stage could really do some damage.

Is your process similar? Or, do you have a different metaphor?

-Curtis


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How One Children’s Fantasy Book Inspired Me to Rethink My Artistic Process…

Lyra’s Oxford

Philip Pullman published his trilogy, His Dark Materials in 1995.  The three main books in the series included:

Northern Lights (The Golden Compass in the U.S.)

The Amber Spyglass

The Subtle Knife

Lyra’s Oxford is a companion novel to the set, along with Once Upon a Time in the North. When I was looking through my book collection, I found an old copy of Lyra’s Oxford in my bookshelf. It was sandwiched between a few other paperbacks I’ve neglected over the years. This edition is simply beautiful in the way it is designed and executed. It is this design that made me take a step back and rethink my creative process.  Take a look at the photos below:

The artwork is the most striking aspect of the book’s visual appeal.  Jon Lawrence, illustrator and engraver, contributed these visuals to the book. The aesthetic is amazing. For me, I can’t resist the look of woodcut and engraved design, nor can I resist the appeal of engraver as a metaphor.

Engravers work on their products with sustained effort over a long period of time, eventually rendering an intricate whole from thousands of little creative decisions.  The parallels to the writing process are pretty obvious.

Jon Lawrence’s work inspires me.  The artwork, layout, and overall aesthetic of this edition urged me to sit down, slow down, and rethink what I do.

Mapping Out A Story

In the center of Lyra’s Oxford, a neatly creased fold-out waits for readers to discover its secrets. This unassuming piece of paper is folded into eighths, with the facing page entitled “The Globetrotter,” a “Series of Maps for the Traveller.”

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The Globetrotter – Lyra’s Oxford, Philip Pullman

As the reader unfolds each section, the pages reveal publications, sketches, and advertisements that directly and indirectly allude to characters in the whole His Dark Materials series. It is an outstanding example of keeping continuity within a series.

When fully unfolded, one side of the fold-out  features a tricolor of Oxford, rendered in gorgeous engraver’s print. This style reminds me of the woodcuts of Will Schaff, another artist whose artwork I enjoy. The other side features a plain grid-style map of Oxford. Of course, the map is not the “real” Oxford. This is the Oxford of Lyra Belacqua, the main character in Pullman’s series. Still, there are similarities between both Oxfords.   

 

I felt a surge of curiosity when I first opened the map. My eye was drawn to each cartouche, emblem, and ink-lined street.

 

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Fold-Out: Jon Lawrence, Lyra’s Oxford

 

Lawrence’s work does a great job at mapping out a story without even telling it. I imagine the collaboration between Pullman and Lawrence was riveting; or, at least I hope so! While I looked at this map, I thought about a comment my fiancé made in my early journey of planning The Staghorn Crown, a fantasy quintet that follows the lives of four girls as they come of age in a magical fortress called the Stellaria.  As I drafted the first scenes of The Staghorn Crown, Laura turned to me and said, “I assume when this is published, you’ll have a map of this place.”

Of course, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted the Stellaria to look like, but I had not thought about hiring an artist to make it. Until then, I had made my own sketches of rooms, towers, and ancient keeps.

After my encounter with Jon Lawrence’s engravings, I could enrich the reading experience of my novels by having these maps available. My search for the best artist to render them is underway, and I continue to sketch in the meantime.

Keeping My Goals, Changing My Process

What is my  largest take-away?

I learned that I need to periodically slow down and look at the bigger picture. How will my own books provide an experience for the reader? How can I make my own writing immersive? After all, I enjoy the experiences provided by Pullman, Martin, Gaiman, Rowling, Barnhill, and Nix,  and feel inspired whenever I read them.

Lyra’s Oxford gave me the space to sit down and rethink my creative process. I have so many questions:

How do I craft fiction with excellent continuity? How many revisions will this take? I write this, smiling and knowing that it will take enough revisions to make me happily exhausted.

Part of this blog is documenting this complex process.

For those of you new to Paper Palaces, I am a self-publishing author and teacher.  My overall goal is to write a twelve-novel fantasy saga. In 2016, I created the world, mapped out the books, and treated the project as a hobby. My fiancé and I traveled to England, where I was inspired by the beautiful seaside town of Whitby and the Yorkshire Moors.  After that, I had to create these books. It’s become a little bit of an obsession.

While this dream began with a student’s response to a writing exercise, it has since grown. I hope it keeps growing. In the end, creating these twelve books is about sharing a great story with others. I have decided to keep the same goals, despite add one important aspect to my practice. I am thankfully spending more time slowing down.

The Goals I will Keep, No Matter How:

  • To complete the series and build a readership over the next six years.
  • To release preview chapters and installments of my work online to readers, patrons, students, and friends/family.
  • To become part of a writing community so I can see, appreciate, and share the magic of writing.

I hope the little decisions I make along the way are guided by these larger aspirations.


To stay updated on my books, consider joining the Books of Brylennia Facebook Group, where you can connect with Laura and me on the process of writing, editing, creating this fantasy series, and self-publishing. You can post your own contributions too. Join us on the journey. 

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Saturday Writing Session # 2 – Take-aways from five hours of writing

Paper Palaces Saturday Writing Session (1)For those of you who don’t know, I’m a middle school teacher who is also trying to write a twelve-book fantasy saga in my spare time. It’s the most amazing job in the world, as I get to work with children and their writing. To do my job correctly, I need to be efficient and dedicated. Likewise, my writing practice should follow the same principles.

When I come home, I usually grade papers, work on novel-related projects, and spend time with my fiancé. I have to budget my time; it’s just a necessity. My career has its own schedule, calendar, and set of deadlines. As a result, managing my work life is often easier than finding the time to manage my writing projects.

Until a few weeks ago, I tried to write every day. For two years, I wrote in the morning. Last year, I wrote in the evenings.

In a previous post, I explored the benefits of sitting in one place for six straight hours and writing fiction. I talked about my first six-hour session and why I chose to write in a cafe of all places.

One of the largest findings from my six-hour Saturday session was how incredibly happy I felt.  This made sense. After all, writing is, to me, one of the best activities that a human being can choose to do.

Take-Aways from Today’s Session

Today, I wrote chapters for The Staghorn Crown, my serial novel for patrons on Patreon. I found the five-hour session was useful. Here are some take-aways:

  • I walked into the cafe with a blank page and an empty stomach. I walked out, five hours later, with a sandwich, two coffees, and 3,500 words of useable material.
  • The hour I spent revising felt easier than usual, as I had created solid fiction during the previous five hours.
  • Fewer passages needed pruning.
  • Scene-to-scene continuity was clearer.
  • I felt accomplished earlier in the day.
  • My writing deadlines are now impossible to miss.
  • My fiancé, who also happens to edit The Staghorn Crown seems to like this new approach as it frees up time during the week for us to enjoy each other’s company.
  • I’m happy.

If you like what your reading, consider following this blog, liking a post, or joining the Books of Brylennia Facebook Group.

Stay updated on my books, by joining the  Books of Brylennia Facebook Group. You can connect with Laura and me on the process of writing, editing, creating this fantasy series, and our methods of self-publishing. You can post your own contributions too. Join us on the journey.

Writing Wednesday # 3 – Quotes from A New Nine-Novel Fantasy Series

Recently, I have been working on The Witch’s Uprising, the first book in my nine-novel fantasy series A Thousand Watchful Eyes. At the same time, I have planned and started drafting The Staghorn Crown Quintet, a series of five serial novels released to patrons as they are created.


(I’ve included a slideshow of quotes below.)


All twelve of these books are part of my dream to create a massive series that tells the story of a girl, her daughter, and the generations of people who are affected by their actions. It is a story about the strength of humanity in the face of fear, greed, hatred, and ignorance.  All twelve books are set in a magical, medieval-inspired fantasy world known as Brylennia. Working titles for each book are included here.

The Staghorn Crown series follow Quinn, Rhea, Tava, and Celesa and their respective challenges growing up in a magical fortress belonging to an ancient order of magic-wielding women.

The novels from A Thousand Watchful Eyes continue that story, generations after. Twelve-year-old Harlowe, Nineteen-year-old Aurelia, and fourteen-year-old Bryar, each play a part in thwarting the return of an age-old war between the Witch Queen, the Stellaria, and a new agent of ancient evil.

The story, in its entirety, spans all twelve books, each of which are planned (in a massive spreadsheet…Thank you J.K. Rowling for inspiration!).

In the slides below, you can find quotes from the two related story arcs: A Thousand Watchful Eyes and The Staghorn Crown prequel quintet. To support the making of this series, you can become a patron here, or follow me on this blog, Twitter, or Instagram. The links are in top menu.

Feel free to repost this content. In fact, your share, repost, or tweet supports the making of these books and subsequent publications. If you’re a fan of this project, consider liking my Facebook Author page for more updates.

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If you have a WIP or series that you are working on, please share it in the comments along with a link in your blog. If you enjoyed this post or the idea of this series, please like and share.

-Curtis

The Witch’s Uprising: Writing Wednesday # 2

From The Witch’s Uprising

Prologue:

Aurelia

Aurelia held her sword as lightly as she could. With any other thief, she would not be so cautious, but one look at the stranger assured her to take each step carefully. She let the grip on her sword stay loose and limber, ready to act. There would be no room for fear or even one misplaced swing; she prepared herself to act swiftly, carefully… softly. Every nerve in her body was electrified with awareness. She breathed deeply as she crept closer to him. The moon unveiled itself, barely revealing a man just a head’s worth taller than Aurelia. In the dappled light, she could see her breath and his. She was closer now, at the edge of the clearing. Peering at a safe distance from this man she had followed from her village, yet he crouched – there… in the center of the everything, almost perfectly surrounded by three large prayer stones, as if no one was looking for him.

A filthy thief, she thought. She knew he was not after bread or meat, or mead. The air reeked like something that had been tossed away and neglected. He leaned over one stone altar, the furthest from Aurelia, and whispered to himself.

He cradled a small child wrapped in a purple blanket – a tiny girl not yet one year old. Flecks of gold from the blanket’s design glittered. He set the child on the altar so delicately that Aurelia was confused. Whose child was this? Not his, not his.

It would take one stroke, but she would have to aim it correctly, or else she would bludgeon the child too. Aurelia remembered everything she had been taught – how to be just so graceful with a sword, just as quiet as the spring wind rippling through grass. She stepped forward.

The townsfolk had talked of this: men like him had come before, years ago, when her mother was a little girl. They were just stories to Aurelia.

Does a story bleed? She knew the answer too well.

Every man bleeds.

When the twig snapped beneath her left foot, Aurelia felt the world shift. Her heart palpitated – the hoof-beat thump of a seasoned warrior filling her chest. Before she could make a decision, before she could swing the sword, the wind blew across her face, and the man turned.

She had seconds to act – seconds!

The blade cut across the air, but it was too late.

She saw his face change first, and then his neck and shoulders. His torso seemed to compress and then shiver, until every rumor she had heard was confirmed at that very moment.

Every story, every tale of his power or his ability – everything was as her mother described. Most girls went their whole lives without seeing a shape-shifter, yet by Aurelia’s age, most women had not seen what she had seen.

The child screamed, and Aurelia swung. The man unfolded and unfurled like smoke, and she heard what she knew to be the flutter of wings. All the stories were true, she thought. He has returned. The Madness had ended twenty years ago with his death, but now he has returned.

With that truth, she doubted if she would live to her twentieth year. And in the seconds that passed, her sword cut through nothing but air. There was no longer anyone where the man had stood. He was now, not one man, but hundreds of fluttering wings, hundreds of screeches flowing up into the sky and away. Her blade passed through a cloud of dark birds as they filled the thin night air. She hacked and hacked to no avail, and for a moment she caught the altar in the corner of her eye. The child was gone, and the night was quiet as still water.

 

 


This excerpt is from The Witch’s Uprising, Book One of A Thousand Watchful Eyes. Read The Witch’s Uprising for free on Wattpad.

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Thanks!

-Curtis

Photographs of Whitby – Seaside Ruins and Inspiration for a YA Fantasy Series

A few years ago, my fiancé and I traveled to England. Whitby stood out as one of the most picturesque locations I have ever seen in my life. Yorkshire, as a whole, is very beautiful. Here are nine photographs of Whitby that served as inspiration for the novels in my young adult fantasy series A Thousand Watchful Eyes, particularly the serial novella The Staghorn Crown. Clicking the photos will enlarge them.

9 Photos of Whitby that Inspired A Thousand Watchful Eyes, The Witch’s Uprising, and The Staghorn Crown

 

 

(Click to enlarge.)

Have you been to Whitby? Is there a different place that inspires fantastic feelings?

Share in the comments.


Sample chapters of The Witch’s Uprising, the first book of the series inspired by these photos is available to read on Tablo. For more information on this young adult fantasy series, you can see my Books page.