For those of you who tune in regularly to N. N. Light Author Promotions, you’ll be aware that one of my previous guest posts related to World Building. Entitled – Keeping Things Real, it highlighted my approach to the process of constructing an imaginary framework in which to set an adventure. I likened that process to preparing and cutting a rough diamond. Starting with an overview of the world I’m going to create, I begin to work from the outside in on its various facets: Where it’s situated; who its inhabitants are; what’s their history; what level of technology do they posses, and so forth and so on.
Having already covered that, this time around I thought I’d expand on Keeping Things Real, by introducing you to the next stage of my world building process:
“Keeping things balanced.”
What do I mean? People who have enjoyed The IX have often commented on the rich descriptive prose it contains. I say, “thank you” for that, because I put a lot of work into creating a visual image that the reader can connect to. I think that’s especially important when you come down to the flora and fauna of the world in which your story is set, especially if – as in The IX – your heroes and protagonists are flitting about, here and there, on one adventure or another.
So, how did I manage to keep things balanced for The IX?
That’s easy. I created visual templates to work from. The reason? Something I learned in the military. “Prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance.” Such an approach ensured I never strayed from what I originally set out to portray. For example, say hello to an early idea of what Arden – the home planet where The IX is set – should look like:
In creating a visual reference, I give myself a template to work from. In this case – a once beautiful world that thrived under a red sun. Now recovering from the ravages of a long and bitter war, it is only just reclaiming the majesty it once had. This, and other images and sketches, helped me transpose my initial ideas into the places you read about. My aim? To ensure there was sufficient detail so that you could envision yourself there. Let me highlight what I mean.
If you’ve read The IX, you’ll no doubt remember that various members of the Ninth journeyed through the lavender grasslands of the Sengennon Strait; lost themselves in the purple-green woodlands of the Tar’e-esh forests; basked in the majesty of the Garnet Mountains. Did you ever conjure those places in your mind’s eye? Did they look anything like this?
These are the preliminary references I used as a benchmark from which to create the full reality of Arden. (Now, don’t be fooled into thinking I only had these odd few pictures). As I hinted, I built up an extensive library of such images so that the places, the people and the technology you read about – and the ships – all contain the details you would expect in a factual reality.
Of course, when you incorporate so many elements you have to keep things to a realistic scale.
For example, I have all these pretty pictures of the places mentioned in The IX, but, just how far is it from Rhomane to the Starport, or to the Tar’e-esh Forest? How close is the astrometrics lab to the Starport itself?
As a writer, you need to know such details so that the events you describe within your narrative have that ring of authenticity. Fans will know Lieutenant Mac McDonald led a military expedition to the Starport to recover drones left there in storage. Some of his compatriots provided long-range cover from the astrometrics complex on top of Boleni Heights. Marcus Brutus headed an expeditionary force to the Shilette Abyss, a journey that took his pioneers through the Tare-esh Forest.
What were the distances involved? Over what terrain? Some used futuristic hover craft, others used horses. How long did their respective journeys take? How do you keep a track on timescales?
Have a look at the maps I devised to help me keep things in perspective.
Even though they’re basic, I know some of you might think…“Wow! That’s a lot of detail before you even put pen to paper.” Well, I agree. It is. But remember the analogy of a rough diamond I used earlier? This amount of attention pays divides as you write the story itself. It cuts and polishes your gem of an adventure and – as I’ve said before – adds those touches here and there that can make the narrative sparkle.
And when you get a professional to back that up? (Take a look at the map included within the front section of The IX. Devised from my sketches by cover designer, Roy Mauritsen, it adds that element of shininess that makes you think of my head).
You see, my ethic goes a little bit like this: My job is to give you – the reader – a place that you can escape to and lose yourself in. The easier it is for you to relate to the characters and visualize the world in which the story is set, then the deeper your connection, and the further your journey will take you. The further you go, the more you’ll appreciate what The IX is all about. And we’re both happy.
If you value your readers, you’ll be prepared to put the work in so that their fantasies seem so real, it’s almost as if they come true through the pages of your book. 🙂
My name is Andrew P. Weston – though I’ve been called a lot worse by my wife when I’ve dared to say the forbidden words all women hate to hear…“No, you can’t have that.”
(Light blue touch paper and run…)
As an author, I make things up all the time. So I thought it might be a nice idea to use this “Top Ten” post to find out a little more about the real me – warts and all.
Yes. And we’re going to do this in a rather novel way.
What do I mean? Well, November 12th (today) is my birthday, making me a Scorpio, allegedly, one of the most mysterious signs in the zodiac. A great deal seems to be said about people born under this star sign, as exemplified by an advert my wife, Annette, spotted on a media site earlier this week.
As you can see, the t-shirt is covered by quite a few astrologically based statements associated to Scorpios. But, are these statements true, or are they myth?
Let’s find out, shall we, by taking a little look at ten categories, working from the top down…
(And bearing in mind, I have to keep this rated PG –13) NO – you won’t be forced into listening to me lie about my feats of Olympian sexual athleticism.
Now, if we were talking about Greek comedy, I’m your man 😉
Has incredibly high standards
It’s true. I do have incredibly high standards. And it’s not just because I served in specialist roles within the military and police. It’s just the way I am. The thing is, it’s not one-sided either. While I do my best not to expect the impossible from people around me, I do demand those standards from myself – all the time. Which can be a real pain if things need to be done in a rush…because, you’ve guessed it…they still have to be perfect. (Bummer).
As long as it’s not a certain part of other people’s anatomy…? Maybe.
(I never suck up to anybody, you see)
But if you want an honest answer, you’ll have to ask my wife. (Though everyone does comment on how happy she always looks.) I haven’t the heart to tell them that’s down to constant medication. Ah, the rigors of living with a Scorpio.
Fun fact: The Greek custom is to kiss people when greeting them and saying goodbye. I simply don’t do that. Kissing is for my wife…and my wife only.
(She’d only hunt them down anyway, and you’d never see them again. Then there’d be police, and questions, and…)
Kills haters with success and breaks them with a smile
My goodness this one is spot on. And as an author, I’ve very glad I’m a Scorpio. I’m in a position now where I’m starting to get noticed. That’s very rewarding, but it does attract the “haters”, those who want to elicit a reaction by writing / leaving inflammatory comments in things like reviews.
My advice? Never, ever respond to them openly. Let your continuing application to your craft and your motivation to improve provide the impetus to silence such scoundrels with the success that will come. Then, one day, somewhere far down the line when you’re terribly rich and famous, you can smile in secret behind the smoked glass windows of your limo and not give a fig about them at all.
Human Lie Detector
Most definitely. And here’s the weird thing, I can taste the mood of a room as soon as I walk in. I think it has something to do with one of the other categories we’ll discuss – being observant – as well as some form heightened perceptions. But it’s always been there, and it’s something I’ve always been able to do.
Imagine the fun I had in the police. As a detective, you attend all sorts of classes on human behavior and psychology. There are myriad “tells” that come in clusters that help you spot when a person is being economical with the truth.
And when you arm a Scorpio with such skills…? (Are they quite mad?)
Another fun fact: I sometimes play a little game when my wife and I go to parties. Spot the Walter – Walter Mitty – those charming characters who couldn’t be honest if their lives depended on it and are always out to impress with exaggerations and complete fabrication.
(Not that I do this all the time, of course, but it certainly helps liven the more tedious evenings up).
Introvert – but can socialize like an extrovert
This is spookily true with a capital spoo.
When many of my friends first got to know me, they never realized I’m an introvert. But that’s down to the way I can flip a switch in my head if I “feel” in the mood, or the circumstances are right.
Remember those police courses I mentioned? Like everyone else, I always thought there were introverts and extroverts. Full stop.
It turns out; there are introverted introverts; extroverted introverts; introverted extroverts; and extroverted extroverts…and all sorts of sub-categories in-between.
I’m an extroverted introvert. When I walk into a room of people I don’t know, you wouldn’t actually realize I was there. I’ll blend into the background and flit from shadow to shadow as if I don’t exist. But, if I meet someone I click with? Lights – camera – action! Cast of Annie, eat your hearts out. (Minus the ridiculously curly ginger hair of course)…
Yup! As with the lie detector category, it’s one of those things I have always had a knack for. And again, my previous occupations helped enhance that skill and turn it into something rather exceptional.
In the military, in particular, you had to notice all sorts of little details that other people tend to overlook. And thank goodness, for it kept me alive on a number of occasions.
You can imagine how this helped as a police officer too. I served in a crime management & intelligence bureau for a number of years where it was essential to spot patterns that others had missed. Interesting work and sooo satisfying, bringing baddies who thought they’d gotten away with it, to justice.
Want a fun fact: Although life gets quieter, you never lose the knack. I have to be very patient, especially at this time of year leading up to Christmas when I pretend I’m not paying attention to Annette’s unsubtle HINTS about certain items of clothing, jewelry, DVDs, or the music she likes. Hee hee.
It really does take a lot of discipline, as her little face sometimes screws up in frustration, thinking her suggestions have gone over my head…
(But the look on her face when she opens her presents and realizes I was paying attention all along? Priceless) All together now, aaaah.
Very good sense of humor
True, true, true, true, true! My humor is so intergalactically broad you could fly starships along it. The trouble is, it’s often gotten me into trouble too. My working environment didn’t help in this regard. Serving in the military and police force hones your humor. You have to be thick-skinned, broad-shouldered, trigger-fast and snappy just to survive. But, oh boy is it worth it. I’d love to expand, but this is PG-13.
Private – occasional loner
It’s like someone has been following me around. True again.
My wife and I have lived in Kos, one of the smaller Greek islands in the Dodecanese, for eight years now. We have a small circle of friends, both Greek and British. While most know all there is to know about Annette, very few are aware of the exact nature of my previous occupations, the places I’ve been, or the things I’ve done. Many people here don’t even realize I write books now, or that they’ve been international #1 bestsellers. (True).
I mix when I want to, and don’t feel the overwhelming need to regularly attend coffee mornings just to be sociable. I’m not being rude or standoffish, I just like to keep myself and my business to myself…which makes it a bit difficult doing things like this, eh?
Still, I can hide behind my screen. It has sandbags and barbed wire and a trench. And laser cannons. Why would I want to come out?
Fun fact: When we meet new people, they often complain that we end up talking about “them” all the time and they haven’t had the chance to find out anything about us.
(Just the way I like it).
Wants to be the best at everything
Myth. Though I can see the misconception.
I think it relates back to the #1 item about the standards expected of me. Ever since I was little, I was pushed to succeed. From the age of 4, I attended swimming training every morning before school. That bled over into other sports. By the time I joined the military, I’d represented my school, college and county (I think the American equivalent is a “state”) at rugby, swimming, athletics and various martial arts. I’d also been selected for international trials at two of those disciplines.
It was the same academically. I have a voracious thirst for knowledge and could read before I attended school. Add to that a sticky mind, and it was little wonder I managed to eat my way through various scientific curriculums, my chief subjects being mathematics, physics, astronomy – and in later life – criminal law.
To be honest, I don’t think its wanting to be the best so much, as wanting to do my best. If I start a project, be it learning a new language or picking up a new skill, I never give anything less than 100 %. As a child, teenager, young adult and now – apprentice doddery old fart – I’ve never been any other way (You can probably see that from the preparation and detail I devote to my stories).
While I appreciate some might think such an outlook adds a lot of needless pressure to life, I look on it as being normal.
Hell, I’m nearly 56, but I still train every day and teach martial arts on top of all the other stuff I do. Life’s for living. I’ll rest when I’m dead.
Question: The pulsating vein I have on the side of my head…Is that normal or down to the excessive amounts of medication I imbibe?
Protective of the ones I love
So true it hurts.
Not to be nasty, you understand, but you do not want to make my wife or children feel threatened. You just don’t…Not ever. Think about what I used to do. I would gladly serve prison time to even a debt if the magnitude was serious enough…That’s all I’ll say. The end. Goodbye.
So, there you go. A little look at the truth behind astrological myth. I can honestly say I’ve never paid much attention to things like astrology. I’m too levelheaded. However, having realized how accurate this picture is, I might just change my mind J
Until the next time you visit my asylum, do take care…
Title: The IX
Author: Andrew P Weston
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Perseid Press
Roman legionaries, far from home, lost in the mists of Caledonia.
A US cavalry company, engaged on a special mission, vital to the peace treaty proposed by Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln.
A twenty-first century Special Forces unit, desperate to prevent a nuclear catastrophe.
From vastly different backgrounds, these soldiers are united when they are snatched away from Earth at the moment of their passing. Thinking they may have been granted a reprieve, imagine their horror when they discover they have been transported to a failing planet on the far side of the galaxy, where they are given a simple ultimatum. Fight or die. Against all odds, this group of misfits manages to turn the tide against a relentless foe, only to discover the true cost of victory might exact a price they are unwilling to pay.
How far would you be willing to go to stay alive?
Sometimes, death is only the beginning of the adventure.
Ephraim entered another cipher into the console before him. All three main wall screens skipped channels to present a series of starkly different vistas. A palpable shock ran through the entire gathering. Several people gasped out loud.
The first monitor showed the rim of a burnished orange-red sun emerging from behind the bulk of a majestic disc. The star’s corona burned brightly, casting a warm scarlet glow through the upper reaches of the atmosphere of the world below it. The planet itself appeared etched in liquid flame around its edges, while the majority of its mass was cast in mystery and shadow.
The middle display revealed a similar scene but from a different perspective, this one being positioned above the terminator of sunrise and sunset. To the left of the picture, cotton-candy clouds swirled through a sea of sapphire-blue radiance. The crystal lens of the expanse was infused with vaporous trails of soul-wrenching tranquility. On the right, darkness dominated. Ebbing reluctantly under the relentless advance of dawn, it gradually surrendered its secrets. Noctilucent particles manifested themselves amongst the gloom, followed closely by the tallest mountain summits. Like beacons, they revealed tantalizing glimpses of the glory to come.
The final screen faced out into a Jovian sea of purple-blue grandeur. An ocean of midnight silk upon which the luminescence of a billion astral sprites had been cast in random abandon. Each pinprick blazed coldly with an unadulterated purity that struck the hearts and minds of the gathered assembly with the force of a sledgehammer.
Captivated, Ephraim became lost in the moment. Somewhere out there, a lifetime away, our real home sails serenely through the heavens . . . How ignorant we were of the dangers that exist, just a cosmic stone’s-throw away.
“Are these satellites able to show us Arden in greater detail?” Marcus asked. “What is the term you use? Can they . . . zoom in and remain clear?”
“They can indeed, my friend. For example . . . .”
Ephraim presented them with a vision of remarkable scope. A solitary peak pierced the night. Protruding toward the sunlight like a symbol of hope, its alpine cap strained to free itself from the twilight mists congealing about its slopes in a miasma of serpentine possessiveness.
The image wavered, and a closer view of that same pinnacle resolved itself. Now, the cobalt-blue frown of a granite leviathan stood forth in pristine clarity, peeking out from hoarfrost-covered brows. A snowy crown adorned the apex, and where the rock face greeted the dawn, it glittered cruelly, burning as if the entire edifice were ablaze within a skein of ice and flames.
Above the slopes on one side, a huge bird of prey stretched its wings and soared amid the very epitome of serenity sublime made manifest.
Everyone leaned forward. Ephraim chose that moment to switch satellites.
A contrasting swathe of undulating greens and blues made everyone start. The picture flickered and intensified. The panorama scrolled across verdant forests, swaying grasslands, and undulating plains. The luxuriant fertility of the temperate zones faded as the scanners moved on, toward the equatorial region.
The gaping chasm of the Shilette Abyss hove into view. Once there, Ephraim manipulated the controls to skim east. Less than a minute later, he held position above a point where the two sides of the canyon seemed to bulge toward each other. Changing resolution, he smoothly zoomed in to present a live-time image of the mining site from less than two hundred feet up. People could clearly be seen, walking to and fro about their business.
Marcus suppressed a laugh.
Several others cheered.
Mohammed and Saul stared at each other, the implications of this latest development written clearly across their faces.
“These places you’re showing us appear remarkably bounteous and free of infestation,” Saul commented. “Do you think this confirms our latest suspicions? That something here in the city appears to be the Horde’s target, and they’ve congregated in one location to get it?”
“Hazarding a guess? I’d say that was highly likely. But we can discuss that at tomorrow’s briefing. By then, we’ll have uploaded the specs of the rotational frequencies that Mac and his team use. Combining them to the already existing filters the satellites employ will give us an accurate assessment of exactly where on the planet our enemy is congregating. Be in no doubt — the addition of the Satcom-net will provide us with a huge tactical advantage we never dreamed of.”
Ephraim scanned through the contents of his personal screen again. Then he glanced back at Brent and Asa. Each of them was privy to the information it contained, and both were grinning like maniacs.
Now available in Audio:
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Andrew P. Weston is an ex-military ex-police expat from the UK who now lives with a large amount of cats in a medium sized house on a small Greek Island.
An astronomy and law graduate, he has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Fantasy Society, the British Science Fiction Association and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
Social Media Links:
Publisher: Perseid Press
Andrew P. Weston Blog: http://theix.blogspot.gr/
The IX Blog: http://theix.blogspot.gr/