Londinium Cover Reveal!

I’m really excited today because I get to help Debbie spread the word about  the brand-new awesome cover for the next book in her P.A.W.S. Saga, LONDINIUM. The cover was created by the hugely talented Rachel Bostwick who also made the cover for the new box set of books 1 to 3 that are now available on Amazon.

So here goes – drum roll please – LONDINIUM (The P.A.W.S. Saga 4), on presale now.

londinium

“The pea soup has spoken,” said Caradog. “You are destined for Londinium.”
“Londinium?” asked Miri.
“It was the ancient city from which London sprang. The P.A.W.S. Institute of Londinium is the oldest in the world. It started before the city of today existed and straddles the old and the new. Unfortunately, today it is run by a fool.”

Join Miri as she continues her journey through Umbrae and Londinium with the help of werecats, wild warlocks, an old dog, a duck, and a whole lot of pea soup.

The P.A.W.S. Saga continues with Londinium.

Need to catch up?

You can do that all in one place with a brand new box set of books 1 to 3. Now available on Amazon.

DON’T MISS OUT! Get yours today.

box set

storysculpting header 2 brushes and paints

The devil is in the details

I love world-building. I hate being bogged down in lengthy explanations. Those two ideas seem to contradict each other, but they don’t. Constructing a whole reality idea by idea doesn’t have to mean burying the reader in excess information. It’s successful if it’s real. It works if it works.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how that gets done lately, and here’s the stream-of-consciousness result.

I like a sausage-making metaphor: massive quantities of information has to be smooshed into a compact, spicy form that looks, feels, and tastes nothing like the disparate ugly ingredients of its origin. I also like a phrase stolen from role-playing. “When in doubt, roll and shout.”

Research is critically important, but it isn’t narrative-friendly.  If I haven’t considered all the implications of every idea that I dream up, then I will write something idiotic or miss obvious contradictions. But if I don’t provide all that background I made up when I write about things that don’t exist, then the reader will drown in unfamiliar vocabulary and concepts.

It’s a tricky balance. Part of the problem is the difference between real life and narrative life.

None of us notice everything about everything in our daily lives. We take reality for granted. Most of us don’t ponder the intricacies of electrical power generation and distribution when we turn on a lamp. We don’t discuss historical origins and socio-political underpinnings of every news event. In conversation we don’t provide definitions to each other for nouns we use every day.

But stories are condensed life. Dialogue is more than conversation. Writers can make every interaction and description a springboard for adding information to the mix. But does can mean should? (NO)  How much of the sausage-making needs to be shown?

When I come up with some clever new idea, the first thing I must decide is, does it work? Do all the imaginary events, objects, people, histories, actions, and places I want to include in my world make sense together?  Then I have to decide does that idea need to be in this story? The last tricky hurdle: when I describe these ideas, do my descriptions feel plausible?  That isn’t the same as the descriptions being precise.  Far from it. 

There’s an art to achieving realism.  What’s the right amount of information to make a world feel real without boring the reader to tears?  Alas, the answer is it depends. There’s a spectrum of tolerance for raw information. Pleasing every reader is impossible. I wish there was a formula or even a rule of thumb, or an easy middle road, but there isn’t.

There are tricks & tropes to ease data delivery into a story: the newbie; the research montage; the fish out of water, the amazing discovery–there’s a whole kit of craft tools. (A new one I’ve learned: slotting critical facts around cliffhanger action.) But those still only cover the how, not the which or the  how much.

Texts thick with numbers, vocabulary, and dates leave me cold, so they aren’t what I write. I use the technique I like best as a reader: immersion. I describe my worlds the way someone living in them would experience them. Then I add the minimal explanatory material to that framework.

Enough and only enough: that’s my descriptive mantra.  Brevity entices the reader’s imagination and sets it roaming free.  If I’ve done the does it work part of my world-build properly I don’t need to show much at all. My readers don’t nee a treatise on economics with every passing place name reference.  I can even leave details vague in my own mind until I need to write about that place.

A last phrase I keep in mind when dealing with world backgrounds is one attributed to several classic showmen, “Always leave them wanting more.”  If I build my world in broad strokes and use sharp wordcraft on the little I let into my story, readers will know there is more and come back for seconds.

If the devil is in the details, then get thee behind me, details.

It’s here and it’s beautiful!

Welcome to amazing author Debbe Manber Kupfer, who has an announcement so big it’s taking over my blog today.


Feast your eyes on the cover of Umbrae (The P.A.W.S. Saga, Part 3) created by the ever awesome Rachel Bostwick.

umbrae2

So what’s it about?

Step into the Shadows of Umbrae …

Miri’s world at P.A.W.S. in St. Louis is falling apart. First, Danny is accused of stealing her opapa’s charm. But before he can defend himself, he mysteriously disappears. Miri seeks Josh for help and advice, but he too has gone missing.

Then Lilith has a vision – Miri dragged away by wolves. Miri needs answers, answers that she feels sure are hidden in the blank pages of the book of Argentum.

With the help of Lilith, she travels to the ancient city of Safed. There, with the aid of a mystical rabbi and an outspoken werecat, her omama’s story is slowly revealed. And Miri uncovers something else, a world hidden deep beneath our own – the labyrinth of shadows also known as Umbrae.

preorder-umbrae

Help spread the word:  support my Headtalker campaign!

Add Umbrae to your Goodreads TBR list!

AND! AND!

Coming soon in paperback!

umbraewrapevenbetter

worldbuilding header 2 Rough Passages

Superpowers = super tricky

Continuing my explanation of the letter-number-letter system that defines superpowers in my Rough Passages fantasy world. Part 1 discussed the primary powers. Onward to the rest of the dirty picture.

II: Power ratings

  • A rating is only meaningful within a power series. There’s no attempt to compare the “power” of, say, a B1 rollover who can see through foot-thick lead walls to the power of an R1 rollover who can measurably move a continent, or a W1 who can create a point-to-point teleportation gate big enough for a truck to drive through.
  • The number is assigned through a comprehensive set of objective tests. Results are compared to collected historical measurements, providing a consistent and impartial result.
  •  1 indicates the strongest manifestation if the designated ability series, a rating of 0 means practically no sign of the ability indicated by the primary series letter can be detected.
  • The change in power between rating tiers is even, but the rollover population distributes unevenly into the space. This, like primary series designations

III: Variant designation

Every power series has an alphabet’s worth of variations, far too many combinations to detail in a simple work like this. Before databases, the catalogues required multiple bindings, like an old encyclopedia set or the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature. The early inclusion of additional letters to define powers was a white flag of cataloging surrender by the system’s creators. Here are some of the complexities:

  • Multiple abilities are more the norm than the exception, and some power series show more variation than others.
  • The variants are all series dependent — the same letter means different things connected to different primaries. J stands for “jump” attached to a W teleporter, meaning altitude control, but it means a medium weight restriction when applied to a W telekinetic, and something entirely different when attached to each of the assorted B sensory powers.
  • Each primary variant series has its own letter/number set of deviances, and some of those have variances.
  • Series and variant assignment still relies on subjective observation and human judgment as much as hard data.

 

All in all this a lousy cataloging system, but its limitations stem from its origins. The people who designed it never expected it to be permanent. Picture the poor doctors, police, doctors, firemen and air raid wardens tasked with organizing the thousands–even tens of thousands–of hysterical, confused rollovers on that first, dreadful night in the summer of 1943. Those first responders were working in total ignorance and facing a bewildering array of symptoms. An inspired few created quick-and-dirty rules of thumb to triage their charges as quickly as possible. Accuracy and precision were not priorities.

It worked well enough to be imitated and implemented on a international scale before anyone with more sense could protest. The military and the scientific community adapted the flawed template to suit their needs and stamped it with their own flourishes, and the newborn Department of Public Safety chiseled it into the stone of bureaucracy.

It’s unwieldy, and no one likes it, but unlike the Metric system (adopted by the US in 1969 and finalized in 1976 in this world) no one has come up with anything better yet. Or to be precise hundreds of excellent proposals have been offered up, but none have been effective enough to justify the upheaval and expense of changing now.

People being people, amateur cataloguers keep their eyes peeled for rare rollover types as diligently as any birdwatcher works on an Audubon life list. Trainspotters have nothing on monster buffs.

More on slang like that later. Another time. Remember, if you enjoy it, put a like on it.

worldbuilding header 2 Rough Passages

Labeling superpowers: a tricky trick.

Today I roll out the first of two posts about the superpowers system in my fantasy series, The Rough Passages Tales.

Those who might develop special abilities are known poz, for positive R-factor potential. If they “roll over” from potential to active in middle age, the Department of Public Safety assigns their new abilities a letter-number-letter classification. The first letter designates their primary ability, the number gives an idea of their power level relative to others with similar abilities, and the second letter indicates any number of assorted variations or secondary characteristics.

It’s a lousy system, but there are reasons for it persisting despite its flaws. I’ll get to that in a bit. Below you will find a list of the major power classifications developed by the Department of Public Safety.

I: Series Designations:

  • A: not used. This letter is reserved for designating secondary variants. It indicates a pure specimen of a particular primary power. For example: someone classified P1A has pyrokinetic powers in the top power tier, but has no secondary powers (telekinesis or air control are common) and no physical characteristics distinguishing them from non-powered people.
  • B: Perceptive powers like enhanced senses, inexplicable ability to sense specific traits or conditions. The variant letters for this series narrow down the nature of the perception.
  • C: The slang term “carnie” refers to any rollover who exhibits a radical change in physical appearance. Physically deviant individuals who exhibit other powers are assigned to that series, with a variant indicator. Individuals assigned to a primary C-series designation are bascially furry, scaled, or feathered people. (See also: S-series, T series.) This Hazardous Variant tables for C’s runs several hundred pages long.
  • D: Doctor. Individuals who can cure—or cause—disease or injury by laying on of hands or by proximity or any number of other ways laid out in the variant listings for this series. Most of the higher power-class rollovers in this series can heal and harm at will.
  • E: Projective empaths and manipulative telepaths. Not as rare as the general public believes. Sequestered on discovery and treated as deadly threats until certified safe by specialized F-series pyschics.
  • F: F for fortuneteller. Precognition, telepathy, receptive empathy and telepathy, and clairvoyance that isn’t tied to a sensory element—most of the typical psychic powers. Why F? The first psychic identified was a precog, and by then someone had already assigned P, T, and E to more obvious, common, and dangerous powers.
  • G: Gaia. Second-rarest series. If it’s alive, a G-series can affect it in some way. Most G’s do not survive the rollover transformation, falling prey to the overwhelming and distorting effects of their own powers.
  • H: H for hydro. Water elementals.
  • I: not used. (yet) Too easily confused with H or lowercase L
  • J: from jockey. Animal and/or plant control and/or communication
  • K: from kryptonite. A rollover whose power negates other powers. Usually specific to another power series which would be indicated by the variant letter.
  • L: not used yet. See I
  • M: not used. W got assigned first.
  • N: Nature-related powers that don’t fall into any other designation, including air-benders and weather-workers.
  • O: not used yet. Too hard to distinguish from zero.
  • P: Heat and flame elementals without a concurrent earth manifestation. Various manifestations of pyrokinesis.
  • Q: see O.
  • R: Earth-movers, magma-summoners and other stone or seismic-based powers.
  • S: S for superhuman. Enhanced strength, speed, senses, or any combination of the three. Also used as a variant letter for carnies who are also super-strong etc.
  • T: see also carnie. T from troll. Various manifestations of skin/ height/ muscle/ weight/ strength /hormonal changes. Most have enhanced senses, all can boot their strength, speed and regeneration to enhanced levels under stress.
  • U & V: not yet used
  • W: W from weird. Telekinesis and teleportation in a variety of forms from personal and passenger movement or translocation to portal opening and summoning things/people from a distance.
  • Y: Like A, reserved for describing variants
  • Z: Elevated R-factor detected, but no power develops. The rarest of primary designations, only discovered/added after the blood tests for rollover were invented.

Additional letters — or doubled ones– are often assigned for cataloging precision, but they are rarely noted outside official paperwork. (think of the extra 4 digits in a zip code)

DPS staff with personal agendas or quotas to fill can bend definitions like pretzels to justify putting particular power manifestations into designations, and the whole set-up is vulnerable to misuse. Annual scientific conferences hold high-powered discussions about the need to revamp the whole system, but no one has come up with a better one yet.

More on that in the next post (LINK HERE!) along with a primer on power ratings and variant letter designations. For now, that’s a wrap. Don’t forget your coats, and remember to tip your server.