Cover Art and History of Ethereal Seals

That’s right! My cover art for the upcoming novel, Blade of Dragons, is almost finished! Months in the making, it was a pleasure working with the cover artist. She had a keen sense for design, excellent communication, and patience with the numerous requirements I had for the project. I’ll certainly consider her again for future covers.

If interested, check out @ Cheriefox on Fiverr.

A High School Prologue

Looking back, I am reminded of this whole journey when it begun. Some daydreams I had in high school were the start. I had a fierce fascination with shows like DBZ, video games like Zelda, and movies like LoTR and Star Wars. Yes, I was quite the nerd in high school. I joined an online forum to do some fan fiction roleplaying. The roleplaying was inane and childish, but it planted the seeds in my mind for future works.

Roughing the Manuscript

It wasn’t until my twenties that I developed the finer details for the Ethereal Seals series. I had named the series Ethereal Sages since the roleplaying days, but that name didn’t sit with me.

As ideas for the worldbuilding piled up, I compiled them into online archives, which grew by the week. Once I realized the breadth of this project, I tried sewing the threads together into a short story.

I had several chapters by the end. Shocked, I reread them, pleased with the work. I had my friend read it, and there I realized something:

My worldbuilding ideas were good, but my writing skills? Horrid.

But this realm called Atlas was too vast, too beautiful to give up on. I rediscovered a passion for fictional map making, and bought a program called Wonderdraft, of which is still in use. I also began to hand sketch my characters. The creative spirit had consumed me, and I knew I had found what I wanted to do in life.

The Fertile Crescent, where Book I takes place.

Healing and Spirituality

By the time the manuscript had been beta’d and polished, I had gotten into naturopathy and spiritual theory. The more I researched on healing and health, the more I found connections between it and my writing. It was obvious.

The healthier we are, the clearer we can think and create. Moreover, it’s known that each character in a story is a facet of the author. Like a reflection of ourselves. My writing had taken a much deeper role in my spiritual life. I began integrating messages and inspiratory scenes into my story. Gave Ethereal Seals a secondary purpose.

To empower readers with lessons that I had learned from my own life.

Then again, I now realize this is the crux of good storytelling.

Readers want to come away having enjoyed the story, having learned something. What readers crave is a story and a cast of characters they can relate to. The joy, the pain, and everything inbetween. Each good story is a retelling of our own lives; of the legacy humans live on this planet.

Life isn’t easy, and the quests of heroes should reflect that. The courage that heroes display during adversity is what every human—in their heart—desires. A hero is a role model, an archetype of the human being.

But I digress. To read more on the matter, see my articles on Good & Evil and the Hero’s Journey.

Campaigning Ahead

Things have worked out well for the novel, and with the cover art about done, I’ll need to hire a professional editor to work out some chinks in the story. With money tight as it is, I may need to push that back a bit until I can save up.

I also have a series of promotional campaigns planned for my Instagram author page, this blog, and my mailing list:

  1. A buildup to my official cover reveal, which will run one to three months
  2. A buildup to the story publication, an additional couple months
  3. Publication, a burst of promotionals in the first month after release
  4. Tapering off into a “maintenance” promotional to keep the book from fading into obscurity, as many new authors allow

To be honest, I am daunted by this aspect of writing, as social engagement has never been a strong suit. I may consider hiring an agent for freelance authors. This all depends on how kind the economy is to me in the next several months and years.

With hard work, commitment, and a little prayer, I’ll pull this off—and well. Blade of Dragons will be the first in the series of Ethereal Seals, of which the second manuscript is already drafted.

Thank you for reading. It’s through the viewership and support from readers like you that this dream is becoming reality.

A older sketch of Pepper Slyhart, the protagonist of Ethereal Seals; aka, my alter ego.

Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
—Ed R. White

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On Naming Fictional Characters

Good names help both writers and readers move through a story smoothly.”

— Dan Schmidt

Naming characters in a fictional universe may seem like a simple task, but it can stump some authors. How do we approach this issue? Is there a method to naming characters? In this post, I’ll describe how I go about it, plus some helpful tools.

Some authors don’t name their characters in a specific way, instead opting for generic names without any particular rhyme or reason. Fred, John, Alice, Ryan, etc. I’ve found the generic naming system works better with simple, cheap plot themes. Even short stories or flash fiction. These ‘throwaway’ names, as I call them, work here.

A Little Research Goes a Long Way

Names have changed from era to era, at least in the contemporary world. Naming a post WWI character according to their era (e.g. the Depression-era 1930s) will seem more realistic than a 21st century trendy name. You can also go further and look up the root meaning of a name. Name.org is a great resource for that.

Fantasy Names

Other authors opt for unusual names like Legolas, Eragon, or Herä’eth. These name fit more of a niche role, with their uniqueness that speaks of a fantasy universe. That in itself grants the name attention. FantasyNameGenerators is a good website for those struggling to brainstorm.

Comic Names

For more humor, an author can name a character a funny name like Bananas. These comic names spell out the character’s attributes from the start; the author wants to make sure you to know this character’s name means something. In real life, people often name their pets in such ways, as it evokes comfort, warm laughter, or recognition.

Other Uses for Names

Names can influence how your reader views characters, particularly from their introduction. Using a scarier name, like Toothclaw, may evoke images of a bestial man, aggressive, proud, and strong. Others like Hymnfoot have a pleasant and comic feel.

Surnames

A character’s surname can be as important as their main name. Surnames are family or ancestral titles that imply characters’ bloodline, genetics, abilities, and even predictions about their future.The surname Brightshard has a fantasy ring to it, aye? It evokes images of crystals, magic, and even majesty. Meanwhile, the surname Worldscale also bears a fantasy vibe, but is more dragon-like and perhaps regal in its pronunciation.

  • With Blade of Dragons, one of my protagonists is named Gerald. The name Gerald means ‘Spear ruler of strength’ or ‘Rule of spear’. Gerald’s main weapon is a magical lance, his signature attribute. By using the name Gerald, I empowered his character and added depth.
  • My main protagonist, Pepper, doesn’t have a linguistic root meaning to her name. However, she has a fiery personality, can breath fire, and can summon wind magic that may make you sneeze. With her, I went with a name that was more reflective of her persona and magical aptitude.
  • A third character is named Tarie. In Zimbabwe, Tarie is short for Tariro or Tarisai, meaning ‘hope’ or ‘look’. Tarie happens to be a priest, representing the power of the Light, or hope, on Atlas. He dreams of bringing hope back to the oppressed people of Atlas, to help them see or look upon the Light again. In this way, the name Tarie is based off the character’s aspirations, his dreams.

Other than using the websites I linked above, you can check out ImagineForest, Writerswrite, and ElementalNameGenerators for all your fantasy needs. Here’s an article on additional tips for naming your characters effectively.

1. Genre

We’ve covered this, but you’re not likely to find a name like Legolas in contemporary fiction, unless it’s for intentional humor. Double-check your genre, and the era of your story, to maximize the efficiency of your character’s names. Things get a bit more complicated when you do niche genres, like fantasy-romance. In this case, fantasy names are appropriate.

2. Culture and Backstory Do Matter

Bonus points if you can incorporate world-building and backstory into your characters’ names. This helps tie plot elements together and gives off a wholesome vibe to the story.

3. Sometimes Simpler is Better

There are times when shorter, simpler names are nice because your reader can remember them. Other, longer names may throw a reader off. A dragon with the name Fyre’goras’thyr is certainly a mouthful, whereas the name Fyre works too. Which do you prefer, pray tell?

Character naming is vital in fictional universes. While it doesn’t have to be perfect, it can make or break your characters, the feel of your plot, or the details of your world-building. Taking time to refine your character names will allow them to shine and pull the reader in. Remember, this is but a part of building your story, and it can still be fun when you put your heart into it.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Fictional Terms in Ethereal Seals: Crystal Technology

Crystals are a fascinating subject for me. Ever since college, I consumed books and articles on crystals. I also examined more esoteric material, the supposed energy properties of gemstones.

With geology as one of my side hobbies, I decided to incorporate it into Ethereal Seals.

Elemental crystals are used as storage containers for magic (Shifting) and technology. The ether can build up in crystals. This forms charged gemstones , which can operate machinery or perform Shifting spells.

The Uses of Crystal Technology

Atlasian culture makes heavy use of Elemental crystals. Everything from convenience tools to military weapons see use. Below, I’ll list the more predominant ones.

  • Ration Crystals: conjure food and water that doesn’t last long
  • Vi’lances: power lance-like weapons that shoot fireballs
  • Etheric stabilizers: power large machinery like spaceships or buildings
  • Crystalweave: forms clothing that repairs damage and removes smells
  • Etheric translocators: teleports users to a designated location
  • Crystal glass pads: thin, flexible slabs that can display digital information (much like phones)
  • Vir’gols: advanced, sapient weapons or tools powered through denser crystals

The Costs of Crystal Technology

While Shifting and using magic draws lifeforce from the Shifter’s spine, crystals mitigate this. Instead, crystals take the brunt of the stress. Any Elemental spirits alive within the gemstone experience great pain.

Imagine being trapped in a prison your whole life, strapped to a generator like a battery?

This adds a moral dilemma to using crystal technology. The protagonist, Pepper Slyhart, realizes this, and her perspective of crystals changes through the story. Crystals are also more limited in their uses compared to Shifting.

The Elements in Ethereal Seals are based off the Aspects, gods that rule over the universe. Crystals usually take after a certain Aspect. These being:

  • Fire: destruction and cleansing
  • Water: healing and preservation
  • Wind: movement and space
  • Earth: growth and form
  • Spirit: abstract and astral
  • Light: radiation and healing
  • Shadow: free will and concentration

A Shifter can insert crystals into a vir’gol via slots in the devices. Upon interfacing, the vir’gol can draw upon the crystal like a battery and funnel the Shifter’s spells. Much like a wand.

Most vir’gols have sapience, which allows them to speak freely. They can also do telepathy with their masters. Once a crystal is removed, drained of ether, or damaged beyond repair, the vir’gol loses its awareness. It dies.

Vir’gol Pacts

The connection between Shifter and vir’gol is called a Pact. A Shifter makes a Pact by inserting the crystal and activating the device. An oath is spoken, binding the Shifter to the weapon (and therefore the crystal) until the oath is fulfilled.

Some Shifters form a Pact subconsciously, only to later realize and strengthen it. To break a Pact isn’t easy. It causes emotional upheaval in the Shifter, in addition to nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion. The vir’gol is also disrupted and its crystal damaged.

Cursed Vir’gols

One exception to this in the story is Myrnight, a cursed vir’gol that feeds off its masters energy. In this case, the vir’gol forms a parasitic relationship with the Shifter. Cursed vir’gols are rare and quite powerful, often at the expense of one’s sanity.

Crystals in the world of Atlas are useful, widespread technology. While there are serious costs to using Elemental crystals, they are a powerful tool for Shifters.

The plot of Ethereal Seals plays heavily on the moral predicament behind crystals. It also influences the protagonist’s journey, creating scenes of tension and character growth.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Divine Summons

During my break from non-fiction research, I stumbled upon this jewel on Goodreads. I was impressed by the strength of the prose and the story. Rebecca P. Minor did a pleasant job at it. Let’s delve into the details, shall we?

Premise & Worldbuilding

Divine Summons has a classic fantasy atmosphere with elves, dragons, monsters, and magic. I’m a sucker for fantasy tropes, and the immersion had me sold within the first chapter. Traveling between elven cities, ancient caverns, and dark forests, the story never turned stagnant. There’s plenty of lore that kept me intrigued, not to mention the splendid battle scenes and dialog.

Characters

Taken from a (mostly) first-person POV, the story conveys excellent character emotion, dialog, and prose flow. The cast of characters provided conflict, worldbuilding, and comic relief details. One issue was the shifting from first-person to third-person POV throughout the story. Most readers would gawk at this—and I certainly did—but I overlooked it in favor of a story that held me fast.

Magic System

A soft magic system governs this story, with whimsical, flashy outcomes and unspoken costs. The god, Creo, governs the faith-based school of magic in this story. Albeit, the magic performed some ex deus machina in some scenes, which came off as unsatisfying for me. The author could have worked the magic better into the conflict and story, rather than have it as a lever to fix plot or character-conflict issues.

Conflict

Tension and pacing were solid, despite the subpar execution of the magic system. The characters found themselves in plenty of horrid situations. The expositions and inner struggles were well done, and complemented the strong cast of characters. Immersion had me turning pages, particularly the fight scenes, which were excellent. Battles were endowed with plenty of details, but never too many to make them cumbersome.

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The Good

The characters, pacing, tension, and immersion painted an addictive story. Details on lore and worldbuilding enhanced this, providing an enjoyable read from start to finish except for a few scenes. Battle chapters were excellent.

The Bad

The shift between first-person and third-person POVs felt jarring and marginalized the main character. Some of these third-person POVs were somewhat unnecessary, congesting the pacing and story with minor details. The magic system came off as a prop to save the main character at worst, and a flashy addition at best.

The Ugly

The story had a few graphic scenes, but that was it.

Divine Summons was enjoyable, despite its shortcomings in its magic system and POVs. The rich worldbuilding had me hooked, and the sword fights and dialog scenes were pleasant. I’ve already started on the second book, and it reads stronger than the first, so I am hopeful. For any fantasy lovers, Rebecca A Minor has a great series that’s sure to delight readers who can overlook its blemishes.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Beyond Sitting: Postures for Better Creativity, Health

As writers, we often sit in front of a laptop or a book to hone our craft. Whether its reading, writing, or something between, the art requires a significant amount of sitting. However, sitting for lengthy periods can strain the nervous system and thought process. Over the years, I’ve discovered several postures that have helped me endured long writing sessions.

Why not write, read, or scroll the internet while training the body? Is this possible?

The Problem with Chairs

When we look at the design of a chair, what it does to our bodies, whoever designed it was either a fool or a sadist. Chairs—and their cousins, throne toilets and car seats—put the body in an unnatural position.

Granted, the human body can sit fine in a chair…for brief amounts of time. Problems arise when we sit for long periods. The human body wasn’t designed to stagnate, but to move; to dance, sing, explore, and discover.

The Effects of Sitting

When we sit:

  • muscles get weaker in the lower body
  • metabolism slows, testosterone drops, and fat accumulates easier
  • cardiovascular and cranial health deteriorates (think stroke, dementia, brain fog)
  • the risk of disability skyrockets, and blood circulation grows sluggish
  • the bowels constrict, leading to constipation, diverticulitis, colon cancer, and more
  • childbirth is long and painful (what is considered normal in the West, but strange in third-world countries)

And that’s to name a few. Now, before we go swearing off the ritual of writing, art, sketching, reading, or whatever else we do; there is hope.

Solutions to the Chair

“You really don’t understand human bodies until you realize how important these postures are.”

Rosie Spinks

As mentioned above, there’s nothing wrong with sitting in a chair for, say, 20 minutes. But mixing in some varied resting postures will stimulate nerves, ligaments, blood vessels, lymph—that will strengthen both our bodies and minds.

After my previous post on creativity, I thought I’d elaborate on how best to optimize it. It’s hard to enjoy a sore back, or that feeling of stiffness from long periods of sitting. With biohacking as one of my passions next to writing, I’ve listed some of my favorite sitting postures. Feel free to add your own modifications to these.

1. Vajrasana, Rock Pose, Thunderbolt Pose

Vajrasana, otherwise known as thunderbolt or rock, stretches the lower body as you rest. You perform this pose by kneeling and sitting on your feet. This shifts the weight away from the back and onto the knees and ankles. This pose is excellent for concentration and creativity. You can make the pose easier by placing a cushion between your buttocks and your feet.

I’ve written several articles, stories, and blog posts while in this pose. It’s reliable and powerful.

2. Malasana, Garland Pose

Malasana, also known as garland squat or resting squat, is excellent for the hips and lower body. After long bouts of sitting, I usually do this pose to stretch any stiff joints. You come into a deep resting squat and allow your pelvic floor to relax towards the ground. Press your elbows between your knees. This can be a tricky pose for most people to do after decades of sitting in a chair. You can place a blanket under your heels to make it easier.

Many people in the world still sit, rest, play, and eat in this posture for hours. Definitely one of my favorites, as the benefits of this biohacking pose, or squatting in general, are numerous.

3. Headstand

Inversions are incredible for the body, especially the brain. Headstands/handstands improve focus, balance hormones, boost creativity, among other things. I use a wall to support myself, but eventually I’ll progress to unassisted headstands. Headstands are best done during breaks during long sitting sessions; doing a headstand while typing wouldn’t be advised.

The awe and euphoria of a headstand cannot be expressed in words, and it’s led to some major boosts to creativity. Not to mention, it helps me problem solve plot and character issues in my stories and in real life.

4. Deadhang

A simple stretch that isn’t a yoga pose as much as it is a calisthenic exercise. Hanging from a bar, as if to do a pullup, has great benefits. For one, it decompresses the spine, good after long periods of sitting. A few seconds is enough to reap the benefits; my calisthenics mentor suggests at least 30 to 60 seconds.

5. Spinning

When you were a kid, you probably played ‘merry-go-round’ with a partner. Spinning clockwise promotes vitality, and children know it all too well. It helps remove any stagnation that may have built up during long bouts of sitting. Begin slowly, maybe 8 revolutions a day. I do about 13, my palms facing downwards to ground myself, and will gradually progress to 33 revolutions.

6. Inclined Bed Rest

Even when I sleep, I stretch my body. Sleeping at an incline does wonders for the brain and spinal cord. It reduces pressure on the organs and improves sleep, while allowing the lymphatic system to drain. Elevate the pillow-side of the bed a few inches to get the benefits. Since adopting this practice, my creativity has seen tremendous improvements.

7. Rebounding

Jumping on a trampoline or rebounder is fun, and excellent for the lymphatic system. It comes as no surprise, as we all hopped on beds when we were children. Rebounding, along with headstands and spinning, should dramatically improve one’s spatial awareness and blood flow to the brain. A biohacking miracle. Better circulation means better creativity, more energy, and stronger ambitions to complete that creative project in mind.

A Final Word on Resting

There are many resting postures, and the above list isn’t exhaustive. It gives us a starting point to stretch our bodies and keep our muscles, joints, and circulation toned while in our offices.

The key is diverse, fluid motion. To feel human.

The human spine wasn’t designed to sit in front of a desk for hours each day. Nor were the eyes, or the shoulders and wrists. We evolved as hunters and gatherers moving from one location to another. Breathing fresh air, absorbing sunshine, and connecting with the earth. Sometimes we walked, otherwise we squatted, but our lymphatic system and blood require change and motion to function. The more blood flowing, the better we can think—and create.

Once we master the secrets of our ancestors, we’ll rediscover the gifts innate in us. The storytellers of old may return, and with it, captivating tales, strong minds, and healthy bodies.

Remember, have inspiration in all things, from taking a walk to writing a story, journaling, biohacking, or painting a canvas. After all, we are the authors of our own life stories. When we lie on our deathbed, let’s remember all the fun we had: the creation, the movement, and the joy that comes with it all.

For to train the mind, but neglect the body, leads to disaster.


Interested in joining my mailing list? Members will receive free poetry, special deals, messages to inspire and empower your life, and short stories. You’ll also get the latest news on projects.
Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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What is Good and Evil in Fiction?

Humans have always struggled with the question: what is good, what is evil? A primordial dilemma, evil paints the picture of villains, antagonists, darkness, violence, and oppression. No one likes evilness, but what is being evil in fiction? Is wickedness a subjective phenomenon of the ego?

A Story of Black and White

With the Hero’s Journey, the protagonist is drawn on a campaign, fights the antagonist, and finishes the quest. The antagonist may be a villain, or another force trying to foil the hero. There are many types of heroes as there are villains., but heroes are not always good, and villains may not always be evil. This spectrum of good-evil paints a more realistic picture as seen in human nature, and helps connect with readers.

Ergo, the good versus evil conflict often adheres to a black/white trope. To make distinguishing characters easier. Evil characters prefer hurting or manipulating others for personal gain. That said, an antagonist shouldn’t be evil just for the hell of it. That paints a dry, undeveloped antagonist.

Shades of Gray

While heroes are virtuous and villains cruel, protagonists move the plot towards a goal and the antagonist opposes it. A hero could be an antagonist, and the villain the protagonist. Think Infinity War, where Thanos, the protagonist, achieved his goal of getting the Infinity Stones.

In the olden days, stories always had the hero as the protagonist. Everyone wants to see goodness win, right? Well, that gets old. Fast. With the rise of anti-heroes, everything isn’t so black and white anymore. Readers connect with anti-heroes so well because they reflect the mixed nature of humans.

Anti-heroes are a curious breed due to their methods and personalities, which are a lot more chaotic than most heroes. They often jump between good and evil polarities at will, as long as it serves their goals. This makes them a strong protagonist, shoving the plot forward continuously. Traditional heroes may come off as bland, unrealistic, or predictable; but their adherence to virtue makes them likable and appreciated.

Meanwhile, the antagonist force may be a dark god, a federation to preserve tradition, or an organization dedicated to eradicating a certain species from a world.

Good and Evil in Worldbuilding

Plot is, in essence, a tug of war between two opposing forces. Light vs. dark, good vs. evil, freedom vs. security, knight vs. dragon, unstoppable force vs. unmovable object—and so on. There are a variety to pick from for a story. A traditional good vs. evil may come off as cliche and underdeveloped. Involving more depth, more reasoning behind the motivations of each force, is helpful.

Ask:

  • What does the protagonist want to achieve? How will he do it?
  • Why is the antagonist opposing him? What methods will the antagonist use?
  • How could a reader classify the relationship, the tug-of-war, between these two forces?
  • Is the protagonist a force for good? Whose good?
  • What does the antagonist wish to protect from the protagonist?

With the relationship between the two forces established, use it to create tension and drive the plot. If either the protagonist or antagonist receives too much slack, the plot—or the rope in the tug-of-war—will go flaccid. Of course, the protagonist must eventually win, but not until the end of the Hero’s Journey.

Case Study: Pepper Slyhart

As the protagonist of Ethereal Seals, Pepper has traits of the typical hero: sympathetic, courageous, and ambitious. But, she is prone to anger, reckless behavior, and shortsightedness. Society often looks down on her, given her half-dragon genetics, and she falls into depression and brooding. Given her chaotic good character, she has a tendency towards extremism, sometimes hurting or neglecting others in the process of achieving her goals. This places her slightly towards the anti-hero spectrum, but not quite in it.

For those into David Hawkins’ work, Pepper calibrates only in the 200s and 300s in the scale of consciousness. Her habit to dip into anger, fear, desire, and pride makes her unpredictable and dangerous to friends and enemies alike.

Mapping Out Good & Evil

On the chart above, we see the theory on emotions and states of consciousness. Note the level 200, where courage begins and pride ends. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say emotions that calibrate below 200 are ‘evil’. This paints villains as individuals stuck in states like shame, guilt, fear, and pride. If so, evil characters in fiction are those suffering from these demented states. Heroes would associate more with the upper states of consciousness; those above 200.

David Hawkins states that 200 begins a transformation in consciousness, from self-serving to all-loving. This doesn’t mean individuals never fall back below 200, but that they will establish around their average level of consciousness. As a plot progresses, heroes should, therefore, rise in consciousness. Villain may fall back, as their flaws remain unresolved.

In this context, evil is a form of unresolved inner conflict, whereas good is an upward driving force. The hero serves as a reflection of the villain, and vice versa, as both parties still have some element of good and evil within them—no matter how small. That’s human nature. Fiction is a story about life, about who we are on this planet.

And that, my friends, is why I’ve fallen in love with it.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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Poems in Fiction—Worldbuilding—Ethereal Seals Poetry: Eulogies of Deliverance

Poetry triggers interesting reactions from readers. Not only is it a jump from storytelling long-form, but it invites rhythm, a detail of creativity not seen elsewhere in the story. I always found poetry bits to be fascinating—or tedious if they were too long and poorly done—in a story.

My theory is the poetry activates different parts of the brain. It’s nothing short of refreshing and invigorating, particularly when changing back to the storytelling prose. Used right, poetry adds many things to a manuscript, such as:

  • worldbuilding
  • insights into the protagonists; their reactions, views, and inner struggles
  • gives readers’ a “break” from long-form prose
  • invites higher details of creativity
  • perfect medium for foreshadowing, adding tension, among other plot devices

A fantasy without poetry feels dry and incomplete. If looking to spruce up a fantasy world, try incorporating some poems. This isn’t to say that sci-fi or contemporary fiction can’t have songs.

Be creative.

Stretch the mind and unite it with the heart, the soul. RhymeZone and Hemingway are great tools for poetry. Also read other forms of poetry to get inspired. Shakespeare is always a good choice, but try genres that reflect what type of poetry. Check out this post on Haiku, a form of East Asian poetry. Yes, there are myriad ways to express a poem, and the strength of poetry is only limited by one’s imagination.

Here’s some poetry from my WIP, Ethereal Seals. The poems are songs given by priests to the dead and dying to ease their passing. For more information on life and death on Atlas, view my post on Life and Death in a Fantasy Universe. Enjoy! 🙂


Deliverance Eulogy I

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters

For many starturns, you endured the pain of Umbra’s blisters

May the Earthmother protect your spirits unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you too may meet the divine Seven

Oh, how we wail at the torment you received

And in our hearts, we are all so grieved

Rest easy, my brothers, my sisters,

For it will not be long, and you will be at peace

Deliverance Eulogy I I

My brothers, my sisters; we wail for your loss

Though the Shadow is gone, victory comes with its cost

Our tears shall forever water these sands

Hearken our words, the divine hymn we place unto your hands

Find your Deliverance unto the Celestial Heavens

So that you, too, shall unite with the Seven

Be blessed in the higher planes

Where, for eternity, you shall reign

Aspectä rey’lief, departed souls, departed knyghts

For we bless you with this song, an eulogy of the Aspects’ might


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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Writing Sidekicks and Side characters into Fiction

Everyone knows Robin from Batman, or Samwise Gamgee from LotR. How about Han Solo from Star Wars, or Luigi from Super Mario Brothers? These beloved sidekicks are treasured by many for the legacy they leave, what they help the hero create. That isn’t to say sidekicks lacks their own hero’s journey. Many sidekicks develop character arcs—and even series unto themselves.

Developing a Sidekick

“Behind every hero, there is always a wisecracking, obnoxious Nincompoop!— Samos on Daxter

During the hero’s journey, the protagonist encounters companions to join the quest. Sidekicks are different. A sidekick fulfills a role of greater significance than a companion. They often have their own powers, story arcs, POV scenes, and inner tribulations. A sidekick helps lift the hero up and adds to the story sometimes serving as a foil to shore up the hero’s lack.

Interestingly, sidekicks are often of the same gender as the protagonist. If of the opposite gender, sexual tension typically arises in the form of a romance subplot. A sidekick often knows the protagonist better than most characters and can offer new ways to relate to the hero.

Sidekicks come in many forms. Some are competent, others are not. They help drive the plot and the protagonist’s arc. When heroes fall down, sidekicks are there to pick them up. Unlike the hero, a sidekick can afford to die, although at great expense—and usually towards the end of the story. Sidekick deaths should be carefully planned, for it will create a void in the hero’s journey.

The role of the sidekick in literary fiction is sometimes hard to describe. They may be the friend or mentor of the hero; they may be the narrator & nominal main character of the story whilst the hero gets the credit and is more interesting (King’s “The Body for example) Some of them always save the hero’s bacon (Jeeves & Wooster) & others are just plain loyal. —CQSteve on List Challenges

The Many Roles of Sidekicks

Some heroes are amoral, confused, or simply need guidance. Unlike a mentor, who takes a big role in the protagonist’s development, sidekicks are closer to adjuncts. Sidekicks often provide:

  1. Comic Relief—to contrast a hero’s temper, lack of morals, or as a foil to better emphasize the protagonist’s qualities.
  2. Perspective—providing a different look at the hero. The sidekick may have a unique relationship with the hero, some trait that helps the sidekick stand out. They can also add useful POV scenes that reflect on the hero.
  3. Conflict—creating soft tension that provokes thought in the hero or the reader; opportunities for character growth.
  4. Plot Inertia—moving the story along should the hero ever stagnate.
  5. Subplots—adding to the worldbuilding or depth of the plot.

Case Study: Ashia Worldscale

In my novel, Blade of Dragons, Ashia Worldscale fits the role of sidekick. She offers plenty of comic relief to offset Pepper Slyhart’s brooding episodes. Ashia also aids Pepper whenever the Dragonsoul, a draconic curse, seeks to control her. As a relative, Ashia had played a big role in Pepper’s childhood arrangements, saving Pepper and her father from the enemy.

Ashia and Pepper get along as sisters, with the latter having few if any friends. Ashia is peppy, upbeat, and always willing to pick Pepper up, should she ever fall into a malaise. Ashia also has her own subplot with the antagonist, threatening to assassinate her entire family and unmake her nation’s legacy. Quite a tall order.

Unlike Ashia, who is energetic and bouncy, Tarie Beyworth is a gentle, soft-spoken foil, who is more romantically engaged with Pepper. His plot is tied into to the main villain, as seen in later books. When I wrote the three characters, I had Pepper as the heroine, with Tarie and Ashia as supporting characters. It’s no coincidence that the three grew up together, in a sense. With Ashia’s long Dragonite lifespan, however, she served more the role as nanny early on—with Pepper’s mother having vanished, and Tarie an orphan.

It makes me reflect on the numerous aims behind Ashia’s character, how she started out purely for comedy relief in draft one, then expanded onto additional roles. I’m no expert, but having multi-faceted characters, particularly sidekicks, is always a plus, and I find it delighting in stories.

What are your thoughts on sidekicks? Have you any favorites? What do you feel goes well with a sidekick’s persona? Leave your answers in the comments below. Cheers!


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader.
—Ed R. White

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Book Review: Oath of the Outcast

A friend of mine recommended a fantasy called Oath of the Outcast, by C. M. Banschbach. After reading the good reviews of the book, I dove into the story, and I finished quite impressed.

Premise & Worldbuilding

Oath of the Outcast has a story with good depth, as the plot begins with a few curious twists that pull the reader in. There’s plenty of worldbuilding, unique terms, and even a map (a big plus for me!) that complements the story. Set in a lowland coastal region, the story made heavy use of littoral terms like ‘seagulls’ and ‘Seabright’ that gave off a unique feel. This contrasts with the highlanders, a sect of people further inland.

The various families and factions were also added to the depth of the world. The author included an appendix detailing each family and their clansmen, as well as traits of said clan. Further terms like language were included.

Characters

The characters were excellent with their emotions, motives, and story arcs. The main protagonist, as somewhat of an antihero, acts as the leader of a clan of outlaws. Banished by his own clan, his family; this created great tension for the protagonist and kept the pages turning. I particularly enjoyed the subplot relationship between the two brother protagonists. The antagonists were splendid, multi-faceted, and drove the plot along.

Magic System

The magic came across as unexplored and underdeveloped. Other than the druids and their demon god, little is explained on the matter—though the voodoo doll magic was quite original. Like Sword of Fire, this story could use more magical intrigue to spark reader interest. Granted, there may be more of that in the sequels. Fingers crossed!

Conflict

The tension and pacing were great in Oath of the Outcast. Characters and their tribes carry personal grudges towards the protagonist and his rogues, who operate outside the law. Meanwhile, the antagonist and the druids seek the coming of their demon lord through ritual blood sacrifice. A few scenes had the protagonist in torment at the hands of the druids; the author did a fine job accentuating the stress upon the hero, and the conflict had me sympathizing with his plight. There were also emotional scenes between the protagonist and his brother, a love-hate relationship despite the decree of banishment upon the protagonist’s name.

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The Good

Oath of the Outcast had magnificent tension, characters, and presented the hero’s story well. The protagonist suffered constantly throughout the story and evoked great sympathy with me, the reader. I’ve rarely seen stories with such depth like this one.

The Bad

More of a nitpick: there were a handful of typos that pulled me from the immersion of the story. The prose could benefit from another round of edits. Also, there were no mythical creatures (elves, dwarves, dragons, etc.) so this was a blander shade of fantasy—again, more of a personal taste.

The Ugly

Some of the torture scenes were grisly, albeit well done.

Oath of the Outcast was a solid story that had more strengths than flaws. It’s worldbuilding, conflict, and characters helped it shine. Despite the typos and underdeveloped magic system, I enjoyed the tale from start to finish. I’ve planned on book two and look forward to finishing the series.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
—Ed R. White

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Building a Fantasy Language—the Primeal

Language forms the crux of cultural values. From language, memes, traditions, and values emerge. The pillars of humanity. When I began Blade of Dragons, building a fantasy language that would aid me in developing the world of Atlas was vital. Enter the Primeal.

I’ll describe my experience with building a fantasy language, followed by tips from other world builders.

As a language used by the ancient Highborn on Atlas, the Primeal contains powerful phonetics and mantras. To use magic on Atlas, the practitioner must evoke words and hand gestures. Most of these I borrowed from ancient traditions here on Earth.

Objections Behind the Primeal

The Primeal has provided depth to Atlasian culture. It strengthened the world building, while heightening the immersion and character interaction. The mysteries woven into the Primeal reflect on the plot and character arcs too.

I got the idea of building a fantasy language from novels such as Mistborn, The Faded Sun Trilogy, Lord of the Rings, and others. Using this method, I borrowed from Latin and Hindu. The process was easier than I thought, as I wasn’t developing a language from scratch. The downside to this was that there was less of a unique feel, compared to other fantasy languages.

Vocabulary of the Primeal

Albeit, I took a relatively simple approach to my fantasy language than most. The Primeal is, roughly, a form of butchered Latin. Many of the words have similarities to Latin vocabulary, with some Hindu and English bits thrown in.

Examples of the Primeal Language

  • Aspectä rey’lief (Aspect-TAH-Rey-LI-eff): May the Aspects’ grace follow you (used as a friendly farewell).
  • Aum (AH-ooh-oom): Creation.
  • Egüs (Ei-gu-ah-sh): You, it.
  • D’wyrm (Di-were-um): Tongue of dragons.
  • Lumasil (Lu-MAS-sil): Light of hope.
  • Me’puläm (Me-Pul-LA-um): My love, my shining star (a title used among lovers).
  • Tal’draco (Tall-der-AH-co): Dragonite.
  • Tal’snak (Tall-sh-NAH-kek): An offensive slang for a half-Dragonite.
  • Sal’av (Sal-LA-of): Hello.

Magic Applications of the Primeal

Many of the words used in modern Atlas are crude dialects of the original language; yet they still carry powerful vibrations that can influence reality. The simple word, sal’av, can evoke good will and ease in another’s heart. Another word, tal’snak, summons fear and perhaps anger in others.

Weaving together strings of power words, an individual can produce complex spells and influence reality. This act of magical weaving, or Shifting, is widespread on Atlas. The reader gets a strong example of this starting from the first scene to the final chapter.

Things Left to Consider

The Primeal, to Earth human ears, may sound musical and otherworldly, but I haven’t nailed down the specifics. I’ll research fantasy languages more to add depth to the Primeal, the feel, the vibrations of the words.

That said, I discovered some resources useful for building a fantasy language.

1. The Zompist Language Kit

This fantasy language construction kit is perfect for conlangers and is ideal for fantasy and sci-fi writers. The page guides you through the basics, such as sound, grammar, syntax, usage, and any world building bits. It’s straight forward and free online. There’s also a word generator that produces a list of words, but you’ll need some Javascript experience to use it.

2. Lingvo

Lingvo is an excellent resource on real world cultures and languages. Everything from Germanic and Babylonian dialects are available. This resource is more beginner friendly.

3. Interactive IPA Chart

Here’s a page that is an invaluable reference for new and experienced conlangers. The page explains the sounds of human language and how they are pronounced. This allows world builders and writers to go a step further with their languages.

4. IPA Keyboard Bind

This module goes with the previous as it helps bind certain IPA symbols to a single stroke. I found it useful, but not essential.

5. Google Translate

Don’t hate me for this one, but Google has a decent language engine that can provide ideas or vocabulary for new writers. The quality of translation leaves room to be desired, though.

When designing the Primeal, I had to consider the following:

  • The sounds of the language
  • A glossary, or lexicon, of words
  • The grammar, syntax, and feel of speaking the words
  • The magical and cultural implications
  • How the alphabet is modified for cursive handwriting

Like other world builders, I borrowed from preexisting languages to make my job easier. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a proven method that does work. Even English language contains words borrowed, butchered, or stolen from other languages.

Final Thoughts

Building a fantasy language is a fun process, and it doesn’t have to frustrating or complex. It’s important to keep things simple enough for your readers, or else you risk losing them at the expense of your world building. Balance, as with all things in life, is what we artists strive for.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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