Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
Please join me in welcoming Sandra Ulbrich Almazan talking about adapting ancient settings in her new novel, Seasons’ Beginnings.
I’m captivated by the ancient setting of her book, and even more so by her character, Kron Evenhanded–a mage of the type artificer–who takes on the role of finder! (Sound familiar?) 🙂
If that rocks your boat as much as it does mine, be sure to click over here for a sample once you read what Sandra has to say. (It’s fascinating!)
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan
My son went through a stage where he was obsessed with ancient Egypt. We read lots of books about it, watched documentaries, and visited the Field Museum
and the Oriental Institute
in Chicago. I picked up a lot of knowledge about the culture (and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures) myself. Since Seasons’ Beginnings, the first book in my Season Avatars series, is a prequel and set several hundred years before the rest of the series, I wanted to incorporate some of what I’d learned about ancient cultures in the setting of Seasons’ Beginnings. However, although the country I’d developed has a river snaking through it, it has a more temperate climate than Egypt. How could I adapt ancient Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures for my world?
There are no pyramids or animal-headed gods in my world. The climate wouldn’t permit hippos to swim in my river or camels to travel across my land. Instead, I focused on areas that I thought would translate better to my setting. These areas include food, politics, and technology.
Grains are a staple in many cultures, and their uses are also similar. Women have to grind grain at home before they can cook with it. My characters eat flatcakes made from ground grains and drink beer. There’s a scene where my main character visits a brewer, and she has to strain the solid material out of the beer before serving it to him, just like an ancient brewer would have. Wine is also available, although it’s imported from across the sea by ship. Just like in Egypt, my characters obtain fish and greens from the river.
Although ancient Egypt is known for its pharaohs and the division into Upper and Lower Egypt, other ancient cultures, such as the Hittites and the Babylonians, organized around city-states. The city-states, ruled by kings, could conquer other lands to form empires or gain power when an empire collapsed. Most of Season’s Beginnings takes place in the city of Vistichia, which is initially ruled by a city-king. The Oriental Institute has on display reliefs from the courtyard of an Assyrian king. The magnificence of this exhibit inspired me to create a mosaic for the courtyard of the Magic Institute, another setting in Seasons’ Beginnings. This mosaic has a different design and a different purpose; it’s a memorable image magicians can use as a guide when transporting themselves to the Magic Institute.
Although magic plays an important part in my story, my main character channels his magic through man-made objects. The technology level (Bronze Age) of the story therefore is important. As my main character must face someone who has time magic, he needs materials that don’t break down easily and goes to desperate lengths to get them. He also uses water clocks and sun dials to counter the time magic. Some of the other things my hero uses for his magic are necklaces (their materials and designs are inspired by ancient cultures), weavings, and clothing.
Borrowing from other cultures may not always be overt. There are many aspects to a culture, such as language, religion, customs, and more, that can be used as is or adapted to a different setting. The key is to make sure these borrowed items are a natural fit to the setting or can be imported from contact with another culture. With a little thought, any culture can be based on another yet still unique.
Buy Seasons’ Beginnings at Amazon
Buy Seasons’ Beginnings at Barnes and Noble
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan started reading at the age of three and only stops when absolutely required to. Although she hasn’t been writing quite that long, she did compose a very simple play in German during middle school. Her science fiction novella Move Over Ms. L. (an early version of Lyon’s Legacy) earned an Honorable Mention in the 2001 UPC Science Fiction Awards, and her short story “A Reptile at the Reunion” was published in the anthology Firestorm of Dragons. Other published works by Sandra include Twinned Universes and several science fiction and fantasy short stories. She is a founding member of Broad Universe, which promotes science fiction, fantasy, and horror written by women. Her undergraduate degree is in molecular biology/English, and she has a Master of Technical and Scientific Communication degree. Her day job is in the laboratory of an enzyme company; she’s also been a technical writer and a part-time copyeditor for a local newspaper. Some of her other accomplishments are losing on Jeopardy! and taking a stuffed orca to three continents. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, Eugene; and son, Alex. In her rare moments of free time, she enjoys crocheting, listening to classic rock (particularly the Beatles), and watching improv comedy.
Sandra can be found online at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Sunday, October 26th, 2014
Start with a young man whose family is murdered by raiders. Throw in a cursed amulet and a vengeful blood mage, magicked monsters, bounty hunters and a nomadic caravan, and you’ve got the backstory for the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures series of ebook short stories.
Readers first met Jonmarc Vahanian in my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, where he is a strong secondary character but not the main protagonist. Even so, he’s always been a favorite of mine, and he was certainly a reader favorite as the series progressed. In those books, we meet him at age 29, a wary and bitter smuggler with a mysterious and disreputable past who is hired as a bodyguard and guide by four young noblemen who have witnessed the murder of the king and need to get out of the kingdom fast.
Of course, Jonmarc becomes much more than a guide, playing a role as friend, king-maker, lord of Dark Haven and Champion to the Queen of Principality. Over the course of the Chronicles of the Necromancer books and the Fallen Kings Cycle, we watch Jonmarc grow and change, confront enemies from his past, fall in love and step into roles he would never have believed possible.
But the readers always wanted to know—what about before? How did Jonmarc end up becoming the best swordsman in the kingdom? Why did the king of Eastmark place a bounty on his head and issue a death mark? And how did a guy who grew up in the Borderlands, far from the palace in Shekerishet, end up with a blood grudge against a powerful dark mage like Foor Arontala?
Gail Z. Martin
I’d always had three books in my head of Jonmarc’s story. So I decided to serialize the books as a progression of short stories. Each story is complete in itself, but taken together, eventually readers will have Jonmarc’s whole saga. The stories run around thirty pages or more, so there’s time to tell a complex tale. Raider’s Curse, the first story in the series, was an immediate hit.
Fast-forward nearly two years. There are ten stories in what I think of as “Season One” of Jonmarc’s adventures, taking him from the death of his family through his time with Maynard Linton’s caravan, and up to the point where he joins a mercenary group in Principality. Readers of the Chronicles series will recognize the key events, but the short stories tell the full story from Jonmarc’s point of view, giving insights into Jonmarc and other familiar characters like Linton and Alyzza the mad mage that you won’t find in any of the other books.
I’m now working on “Season Two,” which starts off with the story Bad Blood. This group of ten stories will take Jonmarc from his time with the mercenaries through his stint in the Eastmark army and into Nargi. If you’ve read the Chronicles series, you know what that means, but this is your chance to experience it through his eyes.
I am having a blast working on the short stories. It’s a lot of fun to be back in my world of the Winter Kingdoms, since the series is currently on hiatus while I write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga. (I have six more books planned for Tris and his friends. They will get written at some point.) Serializing the Jonmarc books as short stories is a little different way of writing, since instead of chapters that lead up to a big climax as you’d have in a normal book, each short story is complete on its own yet linked to the others. But it’s been great to revisit old friends and reveal a lot of secrets I’ve kept for many years about who these familiar characters really are.
The short stories are available on Kindle/Kobo/Nook for .99 each, and I post a new short story each month. I hope you’ll check them out, and discover the Winter Kingdom’s most intriguing rogue!
My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for stories and books by author friends of mine. And, a special 50% off discount from Double-Dragon ebooks! You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here: www.AscendantKingdoms.com.
Trick or Treat: Enjoy an excerpt from Dark Haven here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/books/chronicles-of-the-necromancer/dark-haven/dark-haven-chapter-one/
And a bonus excerpt from Caves of the Dead, one of my Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures short stories here: http://www.ascendantkingdoms.com/short-stories-and-more/the-jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/jonmarc-vahanian-adventures/an-excerpt-from-caves-of-the-dead/
And a second bonus excerpt from Blood and Iron by my friend Jon Sprunk here: http://www.blackgate.com/black-gate-online-fiction-an-excerpt-from-blood-and-iron/
And a third bonus excerpt from my friend Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s Badass Faeries series here: http://www.badassfaeries.com/excerpts.htm
Friday, June 20th, 2014
Just a quick note:
Book Publishers Northwest asked me to write a little bit about the cover design process for Stoned in Charm City, and I was happy to do so. 🙂
My article, Book Cover in a Week, Guaranteed is available today.
If you drop by, please leave a little love in the comments! Thanks!
Monday, October 28th, 2013
If you’ve ever wondered where selkies come from, I’ve got answers for you!
Melissa over at My World…In Words and Pages asked me to talk a bit about them for her “Mythical Monday,” post today.
A selkie features prominently in my story, Selk Skin Deep, so it was a natural fit.
Go on over and take a look.
Even if you’re not interested in my tale, I highly recommend Melissa’s Web site. She’s an ardent book blogger and discusses all things fantasy. Her reviews are spot on, and she almost always has a book giveaway running.
So, I say again, go take a look!