Fantasy Maps: A Gateway to Adventure

A Map of the Lord of the Rings

The other day I stumbled upon the map you see above. It had me thinking how maps play into stories, and how vital they are to the worldbuilding process. Not only do they offer a reference for author and reader, maps add depth, immersion to that universe. I’ve written on making maps in GIMP and Wonderdraft, and Inkarnate is another program I plan to look into

My Experience with Fantasy Maps

LOTR was one of the first fantasies that blew me away as a child. I was fascinated by the maps, the various regions, doodads, and the route that the hero took to fulfill his quest. Having a visual diagram helped a ton as I read through the story. It had me wondering what else existed in Tolkien’s universe. What other towns, dungeons, and landmarks lurked at the corners of Middle Earth.

So enamored was I, that I attempted several maps of my own. Shameless to say, they were little more than scribbles, but for my six-year-old brain, I was delighted.

To this day, I savor the chance to examine maps at the start of a novel. As a creative writer with a geography degree, maps connect with me intimately. I’m conscious of the north arrows, the scale bars, the balance of landmasses, color contrasts. Everything. Even the font used can evoke emotions.

Questions to Consider About Fantasy Maps

Maps are one of the only visual cues readers get in a novel. It’s a rare opportunity to paint a world. In some cases, it can also pull readers in—or lose their interest if you’re sloppy. Authors can use maps to their advantage and snare a reader, so getting a map correct can be as important as writing the story.

When constructing a map, ask:

  • Does the map serve a purpose for the story?
  • Is it clear and easy to understand?
  • The symbols, colors, fonts, and presentation—are they appropriate and complement each other?
  • Can readers use the map to enhance their experience?
  • Does the map evoke intrigue? Worldbuilding cues? A ‘wanderlust’ feel for an adventurous reader?
  • What is the overall impression of the map?

Advantages of a Mapless Fiction

This isn’t to say that having a map is a requirement, although it does help add to a story. But what about stories without maps? They lose out on a big opportunity, a chance to impress or draw the reader in early. Readers must then form an idea of the world in their mind.

Surprisingly, this can have its own appeal. A mapless world puts the geography more in the hands of the reader; and while some readers may dislike this, others won’t mind. Some may even enjoy it. If an author chooses to go this route, sundry hints about the topography are recommended. The author may lean heavier on descriptive paragraphs and dialog cues. This helps the reader amass pieces to what the land resembles. From my experience, the mapless method works better in standalone novels. Maps shine in epic trilogies, where the author can build multiple maps between installments, forming a detailed continent or world.

Personally, I love maps, and a picture is worth a thousand words. Quite literally in this case. A map can save a writer a lot of work. There are several easy-to-use programs and methods as mentioned above.

What Else Are Maps Good For?

Maps are a splendid way for authors to brainstorm. The act of building a peninsula may evoke plot ideas. These are crucial during episodes of writers’ block, when authors haven’t a clue how to proceed. Studying landmarks and geographical details on a map can inspire an author, or even serve as good R&R from the labor of wordsmithing. Authors may be taking a break from writing, but they are still worldbuilding. Still thinking. Still creating.

While maps may not be for everyone, they are a convenient, fun, and stimulating activity. I’ve pulled more plot ideas out of mapping than I have staring at a blank page. And for that, I will always be a cartographer at heart. In my own way. 😛

What are your experiences with fantasy maps? Do you like creating them? Studying them? What stands out the most to you in a map? Leave your comments below. Thanks!

Galleis, a Wonderdraft Map I created

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2021 Top Five Favorite Reads

Created with GIMP

Another chapter in the history of Earth passes! Reviewing my year in reads, I’ve determined my top five favorite novels.

# 1: Divine Summons

Divine Summons was a blast to read. I finished the whole series quickly. Despite its odd PoV preferences, I was hooked. Its hard fantasy setting and solid characters were excellent, coupled with high action and adventure. I loved the character interactions; for me, strong characters make or break a story. The series isn’t finished yet, from what I gather, so I’ll look forward to further installments!

# 2: Oath of the Oucast

Oath of the Outcast was excellent with its characters, premise, and worldbuilding. I loved the Celtic themes, and the antagonists were diabolically superb. What gripped me the most were the character-to-character relationships and how they evolved. Tension was great, and I came away satisfied after this short series.

# 3: Dragon Champion

Dragon Champion comes in third place. Its fantasy themes were great, and the unique dragon-protagonist premise I enjoyed. The story’s pacing could have been spruced up a bit, but it improved significantly towards the end. Like Oath of the Outcast, this story did well in maintaining tension, keeping me at the edge of my seat.

# 4: Mistborn, the Final Empire

Who doesn’t like Brandson Sanderson? As always, Mistborn delivered. It had been years since I read it, and I’ve started a whole reread of the series. I never finished past book two for that matter, but now I intend to. With good characters, premise, and pacing, the story was great to reread. The combat still felt a bit overwhelming and complex—it takes a bit to get used to. I’ll look forward to the sequels in 2022!

# 5: Theft of Swords

Theft of Swords was a mixed bag. The first book was okayish, but it could have used another pass over for edits. The characters were a bit underdeveloped too. This changed in book two of the volume. Many of the issues were fixed, and the story and characters became likable. The plot grew intricate, and I found myself enjoying the story. I’m unsure if I will read the rest of the series, however.


There you have it! 2021 was fun with all its great reads, and I’m stoked for 2022. I already have several books in mind—my own figurative book pile, if you will.

What are your favorite reads of 2021? Are you looking forward to reading more awesomeness in 2022? Let me know in the comments below!


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—Ed R. White

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Official Cover Art for Blade of Dragons

I’m excited to announce the official cover art of Blade of Dragons! The first piece of the puzzle is down, and as I turn to the next, I’m eager to get this book ready for publication. Although I may go the long route and set up several novels to release them all within a few years’ time.

The Process

Months in the making, this beauty wasn’t cheap. I had spent a lot of time working with the cover artist on it. I picked Fiverr, despite its shady reputation—and hit gold. Cherie Fox was the artist I found; she was advertised as one of the best. I imagine we spent at least eight revisions getting the details right.

Renowned author Brandon Sanderson suggested a budget of $300-500 for a decent cover. As per his advice, I opted for a full cover—front, spine, and back, should I ever go print. I also received a 3D mockup of the cover for both a Kindle and paperback photo.

My paid promotion died yesterday, and I’m pleased with how it did.

I received an ad recall lift of 210! Meaning over 200 people were statistically impressed by the ad. That’s still only 4% of viewers, but I wasn’t expecting much for a low-budget ad. Demographics were also similar to my initial results; mainly young male viewers. I’m considering doing more, particularly months before I publish.

Moreover, I did a series of promotion posts on Instagram counting down the days to the cover reveal. I tagged a couple writer buddies to comment and spread the word. My mailinglist Fantasy Club has also received this news.

Going Forward

After my brush with death, I survived the incident unblemished—save for my bank account. I had a court fine to pay, plus some other debts to pay off. That said, hiring an editor in January for $1,500 to $2,000 may be financially unwise until my bank can breathe a little. I’m hoping to begin the process before the Spring, however.

Meanwhile, Heart of Dragons is almost ready for beta readers. Yay! That will probably happen after my work with the editor. I’ve finished some conceptual sketches of characters, which have helped me finalize some details about the series. My sketching ability should improve in the months and years ahead, as it’s a hobby I enjoy. Plus it supplements my worldbuilding. Cheers to that!

Cover Description

Whimsical Magic. Arcane Technology. Romance.

Can Pepper Slyhart use her father’s sword, a weapon with unfathomable power, to save her planet? With her childhood friend, Tarie, Pepper embarks on a dire quest. She enters a war against a dark god that has scoured grasslands, scorched forests, and devoured great cities.

Pepper unravels the terrible price of her sentient blade, a connection to the Ethereal Seals Gate, which powers technology and sustains her planet. But her half-dragon heritage seeks to betray Pepper, and Tarie may be the only one who can save her.

Are they able to fight a war on both fronts, or will the Shadow claim their souls?

Anyway, thanks for reading! Happy holidays. 🙂


Interested in joining my fantasy book club? 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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Book Update: Upcoming Cover Reveal, Promotional campaigns, the Ethereal Seals Fantasy Club?

That’s right! Blade of Dragons, the first book of the Ethereal Seals series, will have its cover debut on December 21st; about two weeks from now. Above is the second teaser of Pepper Slyhart, the main protagonist of the story.

I had a great experience working with the cover artist, Cherifox, on Fiverr—and she didn’t disappoint. The budget was rather steep, but I figured I’d roll high. After all, people do judge a book by its cover. In today’s crowded market, I’d need any advantage I could get.

The cover art process also had me rethinking certain conceptual designs of Pepper. It gave me a better idea of what I wanted her to look like—what technology, like her vir’gol, was to resemble.

Delving into the Promotional Campaign

I’m excited to get the promotional campaigns started, though I’m still daunted by it. I’ll be—hopefully—attending a book release on the 9th. This will provide ideas and examples of how to release my own book.

I’ve already a couple ideas for the release ramp-up:

  1. Cover reveal hype, as you see here
  2. Social media ads, paid promotions to gather impressions, clicks, and mailing list subscribers
  3. A live co-author release party on Instagram, Zoom, at a library, or elsewhere
  4. Free giveaways at the release parties: unreleased poetry, deleted scenes, sketches signed by yours truly
  5. Q&A sessions for Ethereal Seals fans about the story

Social Media Promotions

I’ve created my first paid promotion on social media for the cover reveal—nothing too pricey, just enough to test the waters. I selected those interested in writing, fantasy works, and similar genres using Instagram’s promo ad engine. I had to upgrade my Instagram account to a professional account first. There are dozens of video tutorials on this process, so I won’t delve into it here.

At only $20 a month, it started on December 1st. I’ve reached more than 2,000 people, with a 90 ad recall lift as of this writing (December 6th). Ad recall is the likelihood of your audience remembering your promotion.

In this case, I had a 90/2000 *100= 4.5% recall rate. Out of 2000 people, the algorithm predicts around 90 were impressed/would remember the ad. That’s one in twenty readers.

Not too great, but it’s nothing surprising considering the low budget on a brand breaking into the market. As my brand gains traction, the ad recall percentage will increase. Plus, the ad has two more weeks to live, so more ad lifts are assured.

The majority of my audience were men in the 18 to 24 range. A good hit, as this was the demographic I wanted to hit the hardest. Curiously, the majority of the hits were on Facebook, with Instagram trailing.

Apparently young men on Facebook like looking at pretty fantasy redheads.

That said, I’ll continue to refine my audience targeting once I review the results in late December. My goal is to reach a bigger slice of the 25 to 34 age bracket, with some women demographics included. Once the cover reveal hits on the 21st, I’ll begin another promo, likely in the $20 to $40 range.

Seeking an Editor

I’ll be seeking a professional editor sometime between January and February while promoting my cover. This will involve a lot more funding and time as my manuscript is torn to pieces I revise the story. The book should be in good shape come this summer.

Then I enter into the next phase: prepping for my book release, creating author accounts, and so forth. This will involve more aggressive promotions and outreach campaigns.

The Ethereal Seals Fantasy Club

I changed my mailing list classification to a Fantasy Club. Has a better ring to it, and should be savvy for fantasy nerds out there. Most authors I follow, especially indie ones, have their own club. MailChimp has been wonderful so far, and my audience is at around340. I hope to have it near 100 before book release, but it may be a bit short.

Ah well. These things seldom go to plan, aye? Let’s roll the dice and see what happens!

Anyway, thanks for reading! Happy holidays. 🙂


Interested in joining my fantasy book club? 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.
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—Ed R. White

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Hard Magic, Soft Magic: How to Use Them in Creative Fiction

Magic—a word tossed around by authors and wordsmiths for decades. Magic is an abstract phenomenon with incredible potential, and such power usually comes with a cost. As a widespread tool in worldbuilding, when misused, it can wreck havoc on a story, figuratively and literally.

Magic in Creative Fiction

Your ability to solve problems with magic in a satisfying way is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.

—Sanderson’s Law One

As shown in Brandon Sanderson’s 2020 lecture, there exists two types of magic in fiction: hard and soft.

Hard and Soft magic

Hard magic is where the laws, definitions, and limitations of the magic are explained. The reader is aware of what the magic can do. This makes the magic more predictable and better for solving problems or establishing structure in a world without reducing tension. It forces more work onto the intelligence of a magic user.

Soft magic is when the magic has unknown costs, outcomes, or limitations. Whimsical, a soft magic can do anything the author wants. Soft magic runs the risk of reducing tension, whereas it can be a solution to almost everything unless a specified cost or risk is explained. A user of soft magic has few limits.

Then there is hybrid magic, which combines the two. While this category has the best of both worlds, it requires the most worldbuilding and planning. An author needs the whimsical nature of soft magic with a severe enough cost/limitation of hard magic. A hybrid magic needs to be interesting, supportive to the story, and comprehensive to the reader.

Examples of Hard and Soft Magic

Gandalf from LoTR is more of a soft magic user. He can accomplish almost anything he sets his mind to without much consequence. Yet he cannot be everywhere at once, nor can he defeat a whole army—let alone Sauron—by himself.

Frodo’s ring has the ability to destroy Sauron if discarded into Mt. Doom. To do this, Frodo must suffer, bearing the ring as a burden than a magical artifact. The ring has a set cost and magical ability for Frodo: turning invisible at the risk of his own sanity, or being detected by Sauron.

Do you see how the cost, the price involved, makes Frodo’s arc more interesting?

The Price of Magic

Flaws and limitations are more interesting than powers.

—Sanderson’s Law Two

A limited resource or consequence for using magic is vital for most magic systems. Adding additional penalties will increase the depth to how and why a character uses magic; it may test their integrity if the use of magic brings immoral or disastrous results.

Rand al Thor from Wheel of Time, who runs the risk of going insane every time he taps into his magic. While WoT’s Source magic is still whimsical in nature, it evokes a gamble with every use.

Next consider Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance series. Raistlin’s magic is more restricted in its use, and his frail body collapses into a fit of debilitating coughs whenever he expends himself.

Consequences of magic use, particularly severe ones, aren’t always necessary, but they can help. No matter what magical system you choose, bring a detail of tension along with it if possible, even if it’s only a minor one rather than none at all. 

More is Not Always Better

Before adding something new to your magic or setting, see if you can instead expand what you have.

—Sanderson Law Three

While having a fancy magic system rich in lore is nice, sometimes the simpler the magic the better. It can be easy to lose readers or yourself in the depth of it all. Sanderson suggests expanding first on what you have, before adding in anything new. The more variables added, the more complicated things become. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What principles are essential to my magical system?
  • What can I remove/condense for simplicity?
  • What are the costs of my magic? How do they play into character motives, tension, worldbuilding, and plot?
  • Is the magic simple enough to understand? Complex enough to make it interesting?

Case Study: Ethereal Seals

Shifting

The magic in my world, Ethereal Seals, is called Shifting. While Shifting 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 incredible agony.

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.

Vir’gol Pacts

A Shifter can insert powerful crystals into artifacts called vir’gols . 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.

The connection between Shifter and vir’gol is called a Pact. A Shifter makes a Pact after 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, besides nausea, lightheadedness, and confusion. The vir’gol is also disrupted and its crystal damaged.

Conclusion

Magic is a fascinating concept to writers and readers. As a powerful tool for worldbuilding, and when supportive of the characters and plot, magic can help a story shine.

Peace be with you, and thanks for reading.


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Ethereal Seals: Character Sketch Showcase!

Aside from writing, I enjoy hand sketching, with some digital art on occasion. I’m no virtuoso, and I don’t sketch on a routine basis—but my skill has improved over the years. Below, I’ll share some of my work on the characters in the Ethereal Seals series. 🙂


Pepper Slyhart

My first sketch of Pepper many years ago. Back then, Ethereal Seals was still Ethereal Sages, an embryonic story with throwbacks to my teenage years. I have fond memories of Ethereal Sages, but much of it was underdeveloped and poorly executed. Pepper’s development came later; as my worldbuilding skills improved, so did my sketching. Although I would sketch on a routine basis for several months, then stop for a year to focus more on my writing.

Another sketch of Pepper. One could say Pepper came from my fiery side, with her short-temper, ambitious nature, and compassion for others. It’s interesting to see how Pepper has matured over the years, like a daughter that I’ve helped raise.

As the main protagonist of Ethereal Seals, Pepper has received the most attention as far as sketching. I love drawing her! She’s that action-heroine that kicks tail!


Tarie Beyworth

Another protagonist, Tarie Beyworth. With his soft-spoken personality, timid quirks, and depthless altruism, Tarie serves as a mediator for Pepper’s fiery character. Unlike Pepper, who is athletic, assertive, and bold, Tarie leans on the cautious side. He is another favorite of mine, with his knowledge of healing, religion, and magic. In particular, his role as a priest brings elements of worldbuilding into the story.

Below is a digital sketch of him.


Gerald Highmane

Gerald Highmane is a peculiar protagonist. He actively opposes Pepper during the first part of the story, and the two develop a friendly rivalry going forward. Writing Gerald, with the numerous twists in his character arc, was a blast. With his shrouded background and mixed morals, I’m looking forward to finishing him up in later books.


Zihark Mystflare

Zihark is a side character, who supports Pepper and Tarie in subtle ways. Zihark has his own dark past, which weaves into a character arc in later books. Of all the characters, Zihark has suffered the most, and his tendencies towards drugs and depression will resonate with many readers. He fits the assassin-type character, able to slink around in the shadows.


Ashia Worldscale

Ashia is a side character who helped raise Pepper and Tarie when they both were orphaned; though Pepper still had her dad, so Ashia was more like a nanny-mother. Quirky and spontaneous, Ashia adds plenty of fun, worldbuilding lore, and protagonist support to the story.


That’s all for now. But before I end, here’s a small teaser from my official cover art for Blade of Dragons! Cheers.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks again for reading!
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The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or spiritual seeker should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from a safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic of the protagonist’s journey through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero. The second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act. These are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey. Some are necessary to flesh out the story.

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, flaws, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incident like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. The hero must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword, elixir, or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the Final Threshold. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero, requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person, transmuted into the true hero. Now cleansed of past flaws, the hero is equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the Ordinary World as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the Final Ordeal, s/he improves upon the Ordinary World. A new era of peace and reflection results. The prize may be multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey, but things will never be as they once were.

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

There are extra elements in the Hero’s Journey, such as sub-journeys that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing exile.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey occurs in every good fiction. It’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is also a blueprint from which anyone can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.


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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.


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Aspectä rey’lief, fair reader, and thanks for reading!
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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


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, 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.


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, thanks for reading.
—Ed R. White

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