Today’s guest post is by Katie Hamstead, whose book KIYA: Rise of a New Dynasty (the third in the Kiya trilogy) came out last month. I love these books like a crazy person, if you hadn’t already guessed! She’s here today to talk about the setting of her series, ancient Egypt.
I know, how boring! But not really. Like any story, the environment plays its part in shaping and molding events.
The Egyptian Empire was built around the Nile. At the time of the 18th Dynasty—in which the Kiya trilogy is set—it stretched from Abu Simbel (which was constantly disputed with the Nubians) up to the delta and into parts of the Saudi Arabian peninsula.
In general, the area is arid, but along the Nile, it is extremely fertile. The silt which flooded the plains annually comes from the White Nile, which starts at the Great Lakes region of central Africa (Rwanda), and also the Blue Nile, which begins at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. They meet in Sudan and form the Nile. Most of the fertile soil which is flushed through is brought up from the the Blue Nile.
If you look at the map, you will see the major cities of Ancient Egypt. Note the location of Thebes in the south (Upper Egypt) and Memphis in the north (Lower Egypt). You will then notice Akhetaten’s (Tel El Amarna, which is where Kiya 1 is set) location approximately halfway between. It is not known whether this was deliberate on Akhenaten’s account, but it’s definitely an interesting theory that he chose the halfway point between the two royal capitals deliberately. It could also have been because the land had not been dedicated to any other god up until then. The legend is that while he was traveling along the Nile, he awoke and saw the sun rising over the cliffs and claimed to have a vision from Aten, telling him it was the place he needed to build his city. Whatever his intentions were, the Egyptian populous moved into the city on his orders.
The Climate—hot, as it’s the desert. The areas Kiya is focused on are very hot and dry during the day and it rarely rains, and cools down during the night. Winter is very mild, but the nights can get close to freezing.
Plants are basically reeds and other grasses along the Nile banks, some palms, then desert, desert and more desert!
Being in northern Africa, the animals in the area include lions and crocodiles, both of which are mentioned in the books, along with water fowl, cats, dogs, jackals and anything else you can see on traditional Egyptian art.
Kiya: Rise of a New Dynasty is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
Tut has grown into his position as Pharaoh, but he is a wild young man. Naomi fears for him, not only because of his recklessness, but because he has put his trust in Ay–the man determined to destroy Naomi—despite her and Horemheb advising against it.
Meanwhile, death and slavery hang over Naomi and her family. With fear of the booming Hebrew numbers causing talk of enslaving them, conscription is reinstated and Naomi fears for the lives of her other children. Especially since Ay’s children are now adults, and just as dangerous as their father. They threaten to take Itani, conspire against Tut, and push for power.
But Tut is in trouble. While Ay’s daughter draws Horemheb’s attention, and Naomi deals with the struggles of her family, everyone’s distraction could spell death for the young Pharaoh.
Born and raised in Australia, Katie’s early years of day dreaming in the “bush”, and having her father tell her wild bedtime stories, inspired her passion for writing. After graduating High School, she became a foreign exchange student where she met a young man who several years later she married. Now she lives in Arizona with her husband, daughter and their dog. She has a diploma in travel and tourism, which helps inspire her writing. She is currently at school studying English and Creative Writing.
Katie loves to out sing her friends and family, play sports and be a good wife and mother. She now works as a Clerk with a lien company in Arizona to help support her family and her schooling. She loves to write, and takes the few spare moments in her day to work on her novels.
Fall For Me, the first book in the Tate Chronicles, is set in Australia. It’s all fictional, but the places are based on real towns. Writing about them was easy, because I’d been there, and seen what they were like with my own eyes. When it came to writing Sacrifice, I was a little out of my comfort zone. I wanted to tell the story of how Grace and Seth got to where they are in Fall For Me, but to do that I had to go back to England in the 1600s. Yikes! I’ve never been to England, and obviously not in the 1600s.
That is where the research came in.
My knowledge of England was limited to what little I soaked up in school, what I’ve seen on TV, and perhaps what people have told me during social discussions. In short, it didn’t add up to much. So, I devoured everything I could about the English countryside, the people, the castles, events of 1642 and so on. My eyes went blurry from scouring through web article after article, until I was confident I knew enough to sound like I knew what I was talking about. I even learnt a few things along the way.
Nothing can beat visiting a place and seeing it with your own eyes, but just because you haven’t been somewhere doesn’t mean you can’t write about it. Even though I have never been to England, I thought I did a pretty good job of building a convincing setting based on the research I’d done. At the end of the day, I write fiction. My stories are my interpretation of all sorts of factors melded together, and they draw from all different types of resources and research.
A great example of writing about somewhere you’ve never been is Heaven. Things such as religious beliefs, what we’ve seen in movies, or read in books, will influence our own personal depiction of the afterlife. In Sacrifice, my two MCs are angels, so Heaven plays a pretty big role in their lives. My Heaven research consisted mainly of staring at paintings and artworks for a long time. This made me happy, and really excited to write about Heaven. I love art, and I found so many pieces inspirational.
When Sacrifice was close to release, I had someone tell me that my depiction of Heaven was the most ridiculous she’d ever read. I took it with a grain of salt, because who is to say I’m wrong? Then I had three other people tell me it was fresh, and new, and one even said it was “the best description of the great above I’ve ever read”.
Research is an important step in the writing of any book, but we have to remember that some things can’t be researched as thoroughly as others. In the end, when we build the worlds within out stories, we have to go with what we think works best.
SACRIFICE IS FREE AT iBOOKS UNTIL FEBRUARY 19th
Title: Sacrifice – A Fall For Me Prequel (The Tate Chronicles #0.5)
Author: K. A. Last
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Date of Publication: May 24th 2013
Number of pages: Paperback – 114
Word Count: 23,000
Formats available: eBook and paperback
Cover Artist: KILA Designs
Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/jBk-qTPc91c
Purchase Link Amazon eBook: http://amzn.to/11ipsxG
Purchase Link Amazon Paperback: http://amzn.to/13k7QG3
Purchase Link iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/sacrifice-fall-for-me-prequel/id694910275?mt=11
Seth’s heart is breaking. He knows his decision will hurt the one person he keeps breathing for, but he can’t take it anymore. He can’t be near Grace knowing she will always be just out of reach.
Grace is oblivious to Seth’s turmoil. She loves him unconditionally, but not in the way he wants. They both know that in Heaven physical love is forbidden, and to break the rules is to defy everything they’ve ever been taught.
When Grace and Seth are sent on a mission to save a young mother and her unborn child, Grace must face the fact that Seth won’t be returning home. She doesn’t understand Seth’s decision and hates him for it. But what neither of them realise is how big a part that single decision will play in shaping their entire future.
What would you sacrifice for the one you love?
About the author:
K. A. Last was born in Subiaco, Western Australia, and moved to Sydney with her parents and older brother when she was eight. Artistic and creative by nature, she studied Graphic Design and graduated with an Advanced Diploma. After marrying her high school sweetheart, she concentrated on her career before settling into family life. Blessed with a vivid imagination, she began writing to let off creative steam, and fell in love with it. K. A. Last is currently studying her Bachelor of Arts at Charles Sturt University, with a major in English, and minors in Children’s Literature, Art History, and Visual Culture. She resides in a peaceful, leafy suburb north of Sydney with her husband, their two children, a rabbit named Twitch, and a guinea pig called Squeak.
I don’t know if you guys will recall my posts from back in July as part of Team Ull. I even wrote limericks. Four of them. Well, Ull is the tres sexy main man in The Elsker Saga by ST Bende, and — in case you also missed yesterday’s post — the second book in the series, Endre, came out yesterday. I’m very pleased to have ST herself here to talk to you about re-imagining a myth.
Hei hei. I’m ST Bende and I write about Norse gods with a good clean dose of romance on the side. I love spending time with my imaginary friends in Asgard (and I really love spending time in their secret lair in the Cotswolds, England!). And I love learning about the world they come from. Researching Norse mythology was one of my favorite parts of writing the books of The Elsker Saga, but it was also one of the most difficult. Because when you have an endless supply of amazing stories you could re-imagine, how do you possibly choose between them?
I strongly considered re-imagining the incredibly silly story about everyone’s favorite Norse God, the God of Thunder himself. When Thor’s beloved hammer, Mjolnir, was kidnapped by an evil jotun (who naturally would only return the hammer in exchange for an Asgardian bride), Thor dressed in drag and traipsed off to Jotunheim in full bridal regalia. He returned, Mjolnir in hand and a trail of dead jotuns in his wake.
I also thought about sharing the story of Loki, Odin’s blood-brother, who seriously ticked off the God of Thunder when he cut off Sif’s gorgeous hair. In order to avoid death-by-Thor, Loki had to convince the dwarves to weave Sif some new hair made of actual gold. This eventually led to the creation of the mighty Mjolnir. (It always comes back to that hammer with those gods.)
In the end, I chose to tell the story of the relatively unknown God of Winter, Ull. He was the son of the Goddess of Beauty (Sif) and the stepson of the God of Thunder (Thor). He was once worshipped pretty widely across Scandinavia, but there aren’t many stories out there about him. He made the perfect blank page — I got to create the god of my dreams, and make him the perfect match in every way for my human heroine, Kristia. And then I got to give them the perfect Asgardian wedding. (I nearly lost myself in Pinterest for a few weeks. Best. Research. Ever!)
I set Ull and Kristia’s love story against the heartbreaking tale of Ragnarok. The fall of Asgard and Midgard (Earth) was fated long ago, a necessary evil for the redemption of humankind. But my version of Ragnarok has more than a few surprises, courtesy of the newest Asgardian. After all, sometimes finding your destiny means doing the exact opposite of what the Fates have in store. Don’t you think?
Now tell me in the comments — if you could re-imagine any myth or fairytale, which would it be? And why?
Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of McVities cookies. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the books of The Elsker Saga (TUR, ELSKER and ENDRE). She is an audio co-host of #NALitChat, and helps compile indie new releases for the USA Today HEA blog. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day, pastries will be considered a health food.
Find ST on Goodreads, Twitter, Pinterest, her blog, or send her an e-mail at stbende(at)gmail(dot)com. While you’re at it, introduce yourself to @UllMyhr on Twitter — when he’s not saving the cosmos from dark elves, he loves meeting new friends. Especially the human kind.
This guest post is by one of my fellow authors over at Turquoise Morning Press, Bobbye Terry. A veteran at writing in created worlds, she’s talking to us today about world-building.
Enter, stage right, head-strong heroine with kick-assitude. Enter, stage left, brooding hero with something to prove. He has a mission. He needs help. She willfully resists helping him. That is, until he woos her through his dry wit and unerringly strong character, winning her heart and enabling him to steal an embrace. But wait! They are fraught with the slings and arrows of outrageous villainy, keeping them from declaring their undying love and destined mating.
You do agree every good book deserves some outrageous villainy—ahem, villains—don’t you? Did I mention your book is set in the future world of Frostos and all those who survive must protect against the ancient followers, known as Ice-ciples, of the Abominable Snow Android, also known as an AS Andro, while staying warm with their revolving bubble-heating spheres? So, where do you begin and how will your idea spawn not one but many books around the central theme of defeating the ice-ciples and the AS Andro, then opening the mechanical clouds to the warmth of the eternal sun?
Before you sit down and busily start to get the first chapter down, stop. Be smart and consider the following list. Know where you want to go so you don’t have to come back and backtrack, and yes, pantsers, this will work for you (so said the queen of all pantsers, me).
Series world-building: things to consider
1. Fantasy in current world or other world? Will your world co-exist with our current world or will it be different, play by new rules? If so, what are those rules?
2. Future, present day, past or time travel?
Is this in the future on our planet Earth? If so, how did we get where we are? Background here…is it a dystopian world, ravaged by war and devastation of a flourishing paradise, or a world now controlled by one sect? How will you best illustrate the change in conditions? Is it in the past? If so, have you done your research about dialect, clothing, customs, conditions, activities and occupations for daily living? Is it a time travel? If so, how will you best contrast the dichotomy?
3. Fantasy beings—in human form with special powers, category beings (vampires, witches, angels, zombies, demons, etc?), or totally new category?
If your characters look like humans but have powers, what are those powers? Is there a limit or an Achilles heel? If they fall into a category of beings, do they act like the stereotype of those in other novels, or do your beings look or act differently? If they do, bring that out early. Are they in a new category? If so, how do you describe them and how do you suspend belief?
4. Items, terrain, locations, special features that remain in all books?
What is the glue that holds this series together, the constants? Think of one or a small number. In my series The Cash Chronicles—which was just released in print this month with The Rise and Fall of Millicent—the story centers around a dystopian word where the U.S. no longer has part of its land mass and has come under the tyrannical rule of the Primera, a woman who was cryogenically frozen and then cloned at a later date in the future. If you use the same locations each time, make sure these locations, their places, etc., stay the same in each book.
5. Do the hero and heroine stay the same in every book or do they change?
If the hero and heroine are the same, how will you ensure that they can hold your readers from book to book? What is suspenseful that continues to propel readers forward? If hero and heroine change, what continuity do you bring over from earlier books?
6. Tone of the books—needs to stay similar.
You can’t have one dark and one light, one funny and one somber, one sweet and one ultra hot. The transition between books need to be smooth like a nice glass of wine or a great piece of jazz music.
7. Keeping all the characters straight—do you have them written down somewhere, including physical and personality details?
This is very hard after you write 80—100,000 words times three or four or five. Write down all your characters, their idiosyncrasies, their traits so you can reference to make sure they stay the same. Even if they’re short-term in the book or the series, you need to keep track of the names and using the same letters, etc. Consider doing some back-story, other things about what make them who they are. You may want to do a companion book like Sherrilyn Kenyon did for the Dark Hunter series.
8. Website—does your world have its own distinct website?
This may be a good idea if the series is long. Always be ready to greet your readers and fans with information to whet their reading appetites.
I hope this has gotten you to start thinking, or maybe a single title sounds real good about now…
Bobbye Terry is the multi-published writer of fantasy, suspense and romantic comedy novels under her own name, her solo pseudonym, Daryn Cross, and her co-authored one, Terry Campbell. She also writes inspirational nonfiction. Her previous works have garnered finalist awards in the Booksellers’ Best and other RWA-sponsored contests. Bobbye’s most recent release is The Rise and Fall of Millicent by Daryn Cross, In the Stillness Publications. Nothing Ever Happens in Briny Bay, a compilation of the novellas in the Briny Bay mystery series by Bobbye Terry, will release this summer through Turquoise Morning Press. Additionally, she has a new inspirational book, The Light Within released in May 2013 and another Joy Glows, which will release mid-July.
Today’s guest post is by the amazing Nicole Evelina, whose dedication to research is awe-inspiring. Don’t believe me? Check out her blog!
I’m a historical fiction writer, so I do a lot of research. But you don’t have to be writing in another time period to find research necessary when writing a novel. Sure, you can make up a lot, but chances are good that unless your characters have the exact same life experiences as you, you’re going to need to do a little fact-finding along the way.
Why research is important
Research can be as simple as getting the details of your character’s occupation right or accurately depicting a route through a city. Sometimes it’s providing realistic descriptions of places that your readers may have lived or want to visit after reading your books. Things like that may seem trivial when we’ve got plots bursting from our brains but, trust me, someone out there will know when you’re making things up, and they will call you on it, especially in the age of social media. Of course, no one can get everything right, but it’s up to us as professionals to try.
Research can seem daunting, but I look at it this way: you start broad and then narrow in on the details that will make your book ring true to readers. Usually this means doing background research first. This is the broad information that allows you to feel like you understand the world in which your character lives. For me, this means culture, history, politics, religion, law, dress codes, prejudices, etc. But in other genres, it may just be reading about what a private investigator does or how the myth of vampires evolved over time. Only you will know exactly what you need.
With my basic information in mind, I plot my book. Sometimes I do more detailed research before I write a first draft, focusing on those things I know will play a major role in my characters’ lives. Once I’ve got a draft that makes some semblance of sense, I fact check my details – usually even up to the last minute – because it’s those little things that make fiction feel like reality.
More than just going online
So, how do you go about doing your research, especially if you haven’t done any since college? Well, thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever. Sometimes all you need to is search Google Maps or Google Earth to get what you need. Other times, you can find the information right on the web. But I recommend verifying anything you find online in some sort of established reference material, just to be certain it’s accurate. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
I’m not a doctor, but I play one in my books
Nothing beats in-person research. Sometimes that means visiting a place in person to get a feel for the area and see its nuances for yourself. Or you could interview an expert or two. If you’re a method writer, you could take a class on your subject or even ask if you can shadow someone who does what you’re curious about. People are amazingly willing to help, especially if they know you’re doing research, so don’t be afraid to be honest with them.
Between the pages
But not everything requires you to go this in-depth. Sometimes good old fashioned book research will do just fine. Amazon’s catalogue and Google Books are great ways to see what books exist on your subject. Some you will want to buy, but don’t worry if you can’t afford or don’t desire to amass an entire collection. Your public library will quickly become your best friend. And even if your city doesn’t have the book you want, they can probably get it through the interlibrary loan system. You’d be surprised what obscure titles will come to you from colleges all around the country (or even the world) if you’re just willing to wait a few weeks.
It’s worth it
Research may seem like a pain, but most of us became writers because we love exploring other worlds, other lives. That’s exactly what research is. If it helps, think of yourself as an actor taking on a role—you’ll have to live your characters’ lives even more in depth and for a longer period of time than you would if you were playing them in a movie. Your readers will be inhabiting their lives for the duration of their time with your book, so you owe it to them to get things right. If you go into research with a positive attitude, you’ll not only come out with a better story, you’ll be a little wiser, too.
Nicole Evelina is a historical fiction writer from the Midwestern United States, represented by Jen Karsbaek of Foreword Literary. She’s currently writing an Arthurian legend trilogy. Her first book, Guinevere of Northgallis, is complete and she’s working on the sequel, Camelot’s Queen.
If you haven’t yet entered the query trenches (or hopped on the query treadmill), you may not be familiar with the terms that get used on literary agents’ websites and places like Twitter to describe the things a writer might be asked to provide. (From what I’ve seen, these terms are also used by publishers, but my experience is primarily with agents so your mileage may vary.)
Here’s a quick breakdown of the ones I’ve encountered:
Query. This is a short letter (no more than one page in Word, single spaced), that contains two to three paragraphs about your story, as well as the title, genre and word count rounded to the nearest thousand. It also has a paragraph detailing any previous publishing credits or other experience that you may have. Some agents say that if you don’t have any publishing credits, you can also talk here about your passion for the genre, why you’ve written that particular story—that sort of thing.
Don’t include how long it took you to write the novel. If the timeframe is too short it flags a lack of editing; if it’s too long the book looks overcooked.
The story paragraphs should read like a blurb on the back of a book; they should showcase your manuscript’s voice and tell the agent who the main character is, their age if it’s a middle grade or young adult book, and the conflict or challenges they face. The goal is to hook the agent, make them want to read more. The paragraphs shouldn’t provide an outline of the story—that’s what the synopsis is for. But make sure you write them in the third person, even if your story is in the first person; I’ve seen a lot of agents talk on Twitter about not liking first person queries from the main character’s point of view. (Save your first person for the other paragraphs of the query.)
Pages. Some agents ask for the first few pages of your manuscript with the query, or after receiving the query and liking it. The magic number is usually five or ten pages. I always assume they mean double spaced unless they say otherwise.
Synopsis. This is a document that actually outlines the story. Most agents give you one to two pages (here I assume single spaced unless they say otherwise), but I’ve seen some ask for three paragraphs or 300 words. It’s a good idea to prepare a longer version and a shorter one so you’re ready for either.
Partial. This is a certain number of chapters or pages (50 pages, usually double spaced, seems to be common)—it’s what an agent usually asks for if they’ve read your pages, query and/or synopsis and want to see more.
Full. Unsurprisingly, this is when the agent asks to see the full manuscript. If you get to this stage, high five! Even if they don’t offer to represent you in the end, you’ve still got some game. Double spaced is definitely the go here, unless they say otherwise.
R&R. This is a “revise and resubmit”—the phrase they use to describe the fact they like it, but have ideas for changes to the manuscript they’d like to see before they offer to represent you. You don’t have to do the changes, obviously, but if you don’t then you’re still looking for an agent. It’s your call.
Some basic rules of thumb for querying include:
Always check the agent’s website and follow their submission guidelines. In multi-agent agencies, make sure you pick the agent who is looking for your genre and otherwise seems to be the best fit. Many have blogs and Twitter accounts where you can investigate further. You only get one shot at each agency with each manuscript, so choosing the right agent is vital.
Don’t send unrequested attachments. Almost all agents want the requested materials at the query stage to be pasted into the body of an email to avoid viruses. If you send an attachment without being specifically asked to, you’ll almost certainly have your email deleted unread.
Be professional. You’re asking someone to represent you in what is, at the end of the day (and as much as we writers hate to admit it), a business endeavour. If they like your work but you come across as rude, pushy or precious, they won’t want to take a chance on you. If they say they don’t want to represent you, don’t do your nut at them. The best response is to not reply at all, but if you do, be polite and professional. Their rejection of your work is never personal.
Happy querying, and good luck!
Two thoughts occurred to me tonight, while I was on hold for half an hour, listening to music I think may have been composed by monkeys. Not trained monkeys either: ones that fling poop at you at the zoo.
One is that writers really have it a LOT easier these days than they did 20 years ago. Hello, internet! (And yes, I know 20-year-ago writers still have it easier than writers 40 years ago, when they were either typing or handwriting their novels. But I wasn’t alive 40 years ago, and this is all about me. It’s my blog post. :p )
I went to university in the ‘90s and I remember how slow it was to research anything. Don’t get me wrong, I love libraries. But when you’re in the middle of writing a scene and you suddenly want to know the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, you can’t beat the internet for giving you a quick answer! (Or the correct phrasing of a Monty Python quote.)
The other thought I had is that I Googled (and Wikied) some seriously odd things while writing my first two novels.
Here is a selection, off the top of my head:
- The average weight of a six-year-old boy.
- The colour of happiness.
- Bluebottles, aka Portuguese Men O’ War.
- The Greek muses.
- Intensive care units. One of my best friends ended up having a short stay in one after some surgery, so he helped fill out the details. The things people do for friendship; seriously! What a champ!
- Different types of European faeries. Look up the sluagh some time; I bet you $10 JK Rowling based the Dementors on them.
- Charm bracelets. I actually ended up with a Pandora bracelet because of this research (oops)!
- The shape of a shark’s jawbone.
- French cakes.
- Car keys, tyre irons and the buckles on seatbelts. When you’re writing a book about faeries suddenly you have a burning desire to understand what common metal items are made of.
- Godwin’s Law.
- The phases of the moon.
- Management of NSW national parks. Even more boring than it sounds.
- The various gaits of horses. Not just what they’re called (I knew that) but the rhythm.
- Canberra’s elevation above sea level.
- Antique furniture.
- Sidelights. You know the long, thin window that a lot of houses have beside the front door? Those things.
The funny thing is that none of this is big stuff. That’s partly because my books are urban fantasy and I set them in my home town, so I didn’t need to invent a setting from scratch. I have a huge amount of respect for those that do this, and do it well. All the little details I looked up are because I’d visualise a scene and know what something looked like, but not necessarily know how to describe it well. Hence, the internet.
In his book On Writing*, Stephen King says that the key to good description is to get a clear mental picture of your scene, and then to describe the most interesting details—not going overboard in the process. I’m still learning to get the balance right, as my most recent bout of editing has demonstrated to my acute embarrassment. But being able to look up something I’ve imagined in my scene, when I don’t know what it’s called (for example, the sidelight), is invaluable.
What’s the oddest thing you’ve looked up while drafting?
* If you haven’t already got a copy of On Writing you should go buy one. Right now. Go!