World Building

I recently drafted a blog post about world building. As I was putting my thoughts down on paper, I realized it was a bit difficult to put everything down about world building that I knew. It’s such a person-specific topic that it’s hard to give general advice. So, rather than post that jumbled mess, I figured I’d break down how I do world building and try to give some advice along the way.

First, I want to preface this by saying I got a minor in history when I was in school. I focused on holocaust studies and histories pre-American Civil War. All of this plays into my novels.

Most of my books have historical settings, likely as a result of my love for history. But also, because it’s much easier to modify a setting/time period that already exists. Let me explain.

When you write an alien civilization or create a world that doesn’t currently exist, you MUST ground your new world in something human. If your world, your characters, even your names are too alien, your readers cannot connect and will therefore lose interest. Think of it like you’re a scientist trying to explain your new discovery to a room full of high schoolers. Some will understand the complexities you’re talking about, but the majority wont.

It’s great to have things that are otherworldly, and alien, and manifestations of your incredible imagination. But at the same time, there must be something recognizable embedded in there. Which is why I like to use historical settings in my novels.

You can take something that already exists and change it to suit your needs. For example, in my standalone novel I’m working on, I have an alien civilization that lives on a watery moon in a made-up solar system, but their town is inspired by Colonial Williamsburg. That way, the world isn’t too overwhelming to understand for my readers. (Plus, I really LOVE Colonial Williamsburg.)

Another thing to remember when building a world is to let your imagination run wild. The best example I have of this is the short-run TV show Defiance. It took three humanoid races (the grounding aspect for watchers) and added incredible intricacies. Sometimes, the best world building is rooted in culture.

I do this in my Anastasia Series. There are 10 races, each one with their own dimensional world. And each race is based on a culture that exists/once existed. There’s Hinduism, Victorian England, ancient Scottish and Irish, Native American, Renaissance… They form the basis for my characters, upon which I can build and create and give them all intricacies. That way, they’re just recognizable enough for my readers, and yet different enough to cause intrigue.

The best thing to take away from this is to simply have fun. World building might seem overwhelming, but it’s most often the best part of novel writing. Do what you love and the rest will follow.

Book Spotlight: Double Life

By: S. Usher Evans

For my first ever book spotlight, I’d like to introduce you to the captivating world of Razia. By day, she’s a droll scientist that studies and records planets. By night, she’s the galaxy’s only female pirate, and a damn good bounty hunter. Of course, she struggles with proving herself in a man’s world, while trying to balance her day job. What ensues is an enthralling tale about a young woman going after what she wants most in the world, while slowly building herself along the way.

So, I first discovered this book at Florida SuperCon almost four years ago. I was looking at releasing my own book at the time and was scouring the author tables for advice about what to do.

Enter: S. Usher Evans.

She talked with me for about an hour, detailing how she went from having a sturdy day job, to pursuing her dream of being a full-time author. (Spoiler: she’s been incredibly successful at it. Check out her website and her books here)

Of course, after our lengthy conversation, I wanted to buy one of her books. And she directed me to Razia. I had been going through a tough time with books then, finding a lot of YA work dull and predictable. So, when she told me the protagonist was in her early twenties, and therefore not subject to falling into the tropes and clichés of YA, I was sold.

Some sci-fi novels are difficult to comprehend, are dry, and plain. This is not the case for the Razia series. Sush’s writing is descriptive and enjoyable. The characters are relatable, the world is imaginative, and everything feels attainable. You can understand exactly what the characters are doing, though their technology is foreign to us. The banter is witty; the dialogue reads like real people having real conversations. Nothing is stilted.

This series is a great read. But if sci-fi isn’t your thing, Sush has an incredible array of books to choose from, in a number of different genres. Give her a chance. You will not be disappointed.

Advice About Conventions

Back in August, I participated in my very first ComicCon! Ever since I self-published my first novel (check out Call Me Anastasia!), I’d wanted to sell my work at a convention. After reading some blog posts about conventions, and speaking to a few indie authors at Florida SuperCon, I made sure I was completely prepared.

What I forgot:

FOOD. Bring some food with you, outside of granola bars. It’s a long day and unless you have someone along with you that can go get you something, you’re going to be starving.

Plan raffles and giveaways beforehand, so you don’t look like a putz scrambling around. I found I garnered a crowd by offering a free copy of my book at two separate times throughout the day. It made people stop and look at my booth. Plus, everyone that entered gave me their email, which will come in handy when I eventually get my mailing list together. Those people could turn into your trusted followers! Keep track of them.

Have a grab-bag of things to write inside peoples’ books when they ask you to sign them, again, so you don’t look like a mindless putz. Ideas: “I hope you enjoy!” or “Keep writing!” or something that pertains to the content of your novel.

I had someone ask me who I was and what I was selling. They didn’t realize I was an author, and my name wasn’t visible on my banners, as they were behind my table. Some conventions will provide you with a banner, showcasing that you’re an author. If not, be sure to put it up yourself. That way, when people walk by, they know exactly who you are.

What I did:

I made sure I packed all my books, and got my banners and accoutrements packed in the car beforehand. 

I made myself a thermos of coffee and a bottle of water. Though the convention was only one day, I knew standing, smiling, and conversing with people all day would be exhausting. And I brought my author mug, which earned me a couple chuckles.

If you have a special tablecloth or something, make sure you iron it beforehand. There’s nothing worse than a creased tablecloth. It makes your display look hastily thrown together and not professional. Same goes for your banners. Make sure they’re not wrinkled.

Bring some knickknacks to decorate your table—as long as you have the room. Don’t crowd your table, but also don’t make it cluttered. There’s a fine middle ground.

Make sure you have a “booth babe” or someone with you so you can escape—I mean, use the restroom in peace. Same goes for eating breaks. Plus, these people tend to help sell your books, and can attest to the quality/relate to the potential readers.

Order some jazzy book stands and make your display look nice and neat. Need some inspiration? Check out indie authors’ instagrams. They usually post photos of their booths online. And because they’ve done it before you, they know what works and doesn’t work.

I was told that as a vendor, you should never sit during a convention. You need to be extroverted and open to draw people in. If you sit, or seem like you’re closed off, people will treat you as such. Therefore, wear some comfortable shoes and hunker down for the long haul.

Greet EVERYONE. It can get tedious after a while, especially when the same four people continuously walk past you. However, a guy told other people that I was the nicest person at the convention, which drew in customers. I also had a young woman tell me that she finally stopped at my booth because I greeted her and complimented her on her shirt. It costs nothing to be kind.

Overall, it was a great first convention. I really connected with some great people, and I earned some loyal readers. Plus, three months later, someone recognized me by one of my books, remembering me from the convention!

Thursday Blogs

Like any good epic fantasy, I've got a ton of lore and background information about my novels. Unfortunately, not all of that lore gets put into a book. So I've got all this stuff filling my notebooks, stuff that I think is pretty fascinating.

So, this is what the Thursday lore blogs are dedicated to! Here, you'll see background info on religion, creation myths, fantasy histories, and everything in between.

Check in every Thursday for a new installment! And let me know what you think.

Happy reading!