Tidbits and Much-Anticipated News

If you follow me on facebook (and if you don’t, please direct your attention to the left side of the blog and hit ‘like!’), you know that I’ve been doing a lot of editing. I’ve also been working on the cover.

Yes, September is over and the book has not materialized. And yet I think this is a good thing – it gave me time to modify the ending, which is necessary for Book 2 to flow properly. Also, the edits were important. Many much edits (like my grammar?).

At any rate, this is my little gift to you since I’ve been holding out for so long. The following is the rough cut of the glossary of terms I came up with. Hopefully it comes through in the novel that there is quite a bit of backstory to the world of Forsaken Lands, far beyond what is “necessary” to be explained in the story. If there is continued curiosity about how the world works, I may release more bonus background info in the future!

Elseth’s Lands: Located on the northern half of the continent, Elseth’s land was once a geographically diverse, fertile land. Recently the state of the land has been changing, and with it many crops have begun dying and lakes have dried up.

Elseth’s Children: Believed to be the direct descendents of the goddess Elseth and her lover Layvin, Elseth’s Children live on the northern half of the continent. Elseth’s Children are distinct from the Kaldari by their dress, quality of building materials, and the capacity to produce “gifted” children. They have a pantheistic religion with many temples to various gods and goddesses scattered throughout their lands. Each large city is ruled by a governor and governess, with individual sections of society represented by democratically elected barons and baronesses (small towns have a baron and/or baroness who reports to their regional city). Gifted individuals may not hold public office; the only gifted individuals involved in politics are those who sit on the Divine Council and advise the governor and governess of Nivenea. Nivenea’s governor and governess are nominally considered the highest authority in Elseth’s Land.

Leyvada: The language of Elseth’s Children.

Followers of Shelm: Since The Decline began several years ago, more people have begun to doubt the validity of Elseth’s Children’s predominant religion. The Followers represent a splinter group of mostly rural individuals who have decided to follow the Kaldari god, believing that The Decline is the One God’s punishment for worshipping demons. Interestingly, the Kaldari and The Followers have not historically been allies; the Kaldari generally find The Followers to be radical, misguided pretenders.

Nivenea: The capital of Elseth’s Land and home of the University, a bastion of progress. Nivenea is the most advanced city in the world and is home to over 50,000 inhabitants. Nestled in the hills of Layvin’s Embrace, Nivenea is highly defensible and normally has a very mild climate.

The University: The center for knowledge and Learning, the University trains gifted individuals for careers which highlight their special talents. Leaders also study at the University, and all the citizens of Elseth’s Lands are welcome to browse the public librairies on the first floor. The University is additionally the epicenter of Nivenea’s undercity, where the Justices live, train and hold prisoners awaiting public judgment. The highest floor of the University belongs to the governor and governess; their quarters serve as the platform for Nivenea’s famous spire, a symbol of Nivenea’s divine blessing.

“Gifted:” The term applied to Children of Elseth who are able to control matter and energy. The traditional gifts are the ability to harmonize with plants, affinity for creating machines, weaponization of kelspar, charging kelspar and communicating with the gods, and activation of healing materials (by career they are Greens, Engineers, Justices, Clergy and Healers, respectively). Roughly one in 10 of Elseth’s Children are gifted; giftedness can run in families, but may also be random.

Deldri: The Deldri were once known as those chosen by the gods, revered by the masses and treated as leaders. One leader became very powerful, and declared himself the godking. A band of clergy members known therafter as the Divine Council killed the godking, and declared that the Deldri were insane, dangerous mistakes. They began covertly and systematically killing young children who developed Deldri traits until eventually the Deldri became a myth. Only in the last 25 years have the Deldri began to appear again. Only about one in ten thousand Children of Elseth are born Deldri.

Kelspar: Found only in the land of Elseth, kelspar is the radiant crystalline ore which enhances the divinity within a gifted individual. It is considered a direct gift from the gods meant only for the Children of Elseth, and is a source of both mechanical and spiritual energy.

“Corners embrace you:” A traditional parting statement, derived from Elseth’s Children’s beliefs about death. It is thought that when a person dies, their soul joins all the other souls in the world. In this process, the person’s “essence” shatters and is lost forever. The corners of the world are governed by individual gods and goddesses; to be embraced by the corners is to have parts of your soul exist cohesively, so that a recognizable part of yourself will appear in a child’s new soul. When a person says that they “hope your essence scatters to the twelve corners,” this is quite the opposite sentiment – they hope that no part of your soul ever exists cohesively again.

The Decline: The Decline probably began thirty years ago, and has progressed very slowly since then. The Divine Council has been following the progression of The Decline since it started, though the people of Elseth’s Lands only became aware of it in the last 10 years. The Decline represents the loss of fertile land, the death of many of crops, increasingly erratic weather patterns and an increased incidence of natural disasters. New illnesses including “the blight” have appeared. Some believe that The Decline is a sign that the gods have abandoned them; others see The Decline as a test of Elseth’s Children’s collective soul.

“Blight Touched” or “The Blight:” The blight was only discovered in the last 30 years, seemingly at the same time as The Decline began. It mimics many mental illnesses known in the past, but is rapid in onset and responds to none of the known remedies for illnesses of the mind. It afflicts both the gifted and ungifted, and may strike at any age, even in the very old or very young. The blight touched have vivid visual and auditory hallucinations and are best described as “wandering through a perpetual nightmare they cannot escape.” The vast majority of blight touched individuals commit suicide or die in a hallucinatory accident within a year of the onset of symptoms.

Followers of Shelm: Since The Decline began several years ago, more people have begun to doubt the validity of Elseth’s Children’s predominant religion. The Followers represent a splinter group of mostly rural individuals who have decided to follow the Kaldari god, believing that The Decline is the One God’s punishment for worshipping demons. Interestingly, the Kaldari and The Followers have not historically been allies; the Kaldari generally find The Followers to be radical, misguided pretenders.

Kaldari: The Kaldari provinces lie to the south of Elseth’s Land just beyond the Border Mountains. Historically the Kaldari have been tribal people, living semi-nomadic lives on the harsh terrain that is their homeland. Children of the One God, the Kaldari reject the pantheism of Elseth’s Children and embrace the mercilessness of their land and deity. There are 5 provinces, each with a distinct tribal symbol and terrain. In the last several years the Kaldari have loosely banded together under their leader Drei, collectively referred to as the Kaldari Coalition of Tribes.

Ebonstone: Ebonstone has long been used by the Kaldari as a symbol of leadership. It is known that ebonstone could render the wearer immune to clergy or Justice attacks; exactly how the stone works is unknown. The Kaldari believe it is the One God’s answer to Elseth’s Children’s “demon magic.” Since ebonstone is very scarce, it is worn as a tattoo or prized jewelry piece by the leaders from each of the Kaldari provinces. When a leader dies, the leader who is to succeed them must remove the stone and take it for themselves.

You can find this Appendix in alphabetical order on the blog navigation area to the left. Additionally, I’ll be adding a pronunciation guide *hopefully* before the book hits the virtual shelves.

What does it mean to be a writer, anyway?

I’ve a mind to talk about something more philosophical today, so I’d like to discuss with you a little bit about writing as an activity. I’ve had enough of talking just about myself and my work. Shameless self-promotion, while necessary, is not actually something I’m very comfortable with. For as much as I write, I’m not actually very comfortable writing about me. As a writer of fiction, I habitually create a comfortable shield around myself in the form of my characters. They do the talking for me. They show emotion, some of it mine and some of it not – they express opinions, a hodgepodge of things I do believe, once believed, or have observed others to believe. When you read my fiction, you’re seeing a broken glass reflection of me. There are pieces there which are whole, some of which fit together. There are jagged edges and deception in what you see. It’s an illusion, really, but it’s based on something quite real.

When I said I wanted to discuss writing, this is the kind of thing I was talking about.

Every person who writes, even if it’s just a page of prose or a verse of poetry now and then, writes for a different reason. While many people find writing to be a chore, I think most of us who write do so to start with because it is fun. Before this most recent move I had a roomate who would occasionally run into me in the halls, pale-faced and sleep deprived from spending my limited free time on Tragedy. Our conversations typically went something like…

Roomate: “So, how’s it going?”

Me: “I just wrote 2,000 words… I’m out of words…”

Roomate: “Wow, that’s rough.”

Me: “Rough? No, it’s… it’s great.”

My roomate, of course, was not a writer. To him the idea of spending hours in front of computer screen with a word document and music blaring might be some kind of torture. For me, though… for me that time spent in another world so far from the hospital was my escape (still is my escape, I should add). The adventure of writing and the challenge of marrying the right characters with the right story is as enjoyable if not more so than sitting down to play a videogame. Lord knows I only have so much patience for The Sims.

Beyond the recreational aspect, writing can take on a more profound meaning. Naturally I can only speak for myself (is that not the point of a blog, anyway?), but my writing has most always been about communicating the stories of the characters in a way which evokes sympathy from the reader. I’ve always enjoyed reading stories that are character-driven, the kind of work that explores the motivations of people in a provocative fashion. I enjoy writing the same kind of stories I enjoy reading – I can’t say with certainty that I am always successful, but I do know that writing has opened my own mind in many ways, helped me test the boundaries of my own biases. In my humble opinion, a great story is one which helps the reader learn something about themselves or about the world that they didn’t know before.

Really, the same can be said for any form of art. Creative endeavors can be tremendous tools for personal betterment and even social change. It communicates with us, normalizes behaviors, and gives us the chance to expand beyond our sometimes-limited perspectives. Exposing ones self to creativity is just as important as playing the role of creator, as we humans learn the most from those around us.

I do apologize for the rambling nature of this post, but nonetheless hope you found it entertaining. To close, I’d like to leave you with a few artists who have expanded my mind over the years, odd as they may seem on first glance: Richard Bach, author of Illusions; Anne Bishop, author of The Black Jewels Trilogy; The Barenaked Ladies, the band which kept me sane through my adolescence; and Lindsey Stirling, whose music played in the background during most of the draft of Tragedy.

What artists have inspired and enlightened you?