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Worldbuilding 6 – Where oh Where is My Protagonist? August 14, 2009

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se erde

Allow me to introduce you to the south central portion of Erde.  On the western side you see the bottommost peaks of the Corrin Mountains as they dip into the Rigga Sea.  In the northeastern corner is the capitol city of the Empire – Uppsala itself.  As you come south along the Selgen River, you pass the town of Selga, the southernmost town of the region.  Continuing south, you come into the southeastern part of the Rigga Sea.  As you turn southwestward, you pass the impassible Kyrrell Swamp.  Once through the channel you head back north until you reach the free city of Hummel.  It doesn’t belong to the Empire because no troops from Uppsala have ever attempted to travel this far south.  Hummel is a trading port, where even the tribes of the southern Weald come to barter their goods.  It’s an active fishing port with ample on shore fisheries that supply many parts of the Empire with various aquatic delicacies.

So where is my protagonist?  Well, she’s not been born yet.  But I can tell you this – she’ll be a member of a tribe of natives called the Vigroth who inhabit the small village of Thelra.  A strange people, the Vigroth.  They are unlike any people found here on Earth.  Their whole existence is predicated upon survival.  They live in an extremely hostile part of Erde, with enemy tribes that would like nothing better than to hasten their demise.  Even though most of them are above six feet in height, they are experts at camouflage.  They are so good at it that other tribes of the Weald think they are magical creatures that can appear and disappear at will.  The truth is that they train at camouflage from the age that your children would enter kindergarten. They get very good at it.

Their religion, called ‘Circle,’ emphasizes survival.  As does their family unit.  Families here on Earth have a mother, father, and kids, right?  That’s not exactly how the Vigroth handle things.  As children are born over a ten year period, they are assigned to a family group given an animal name.  Given the birth rate combined with infant mortality rates, each family group has between six to ten members, all ages within a ten year period.  Children stay with their parents family unit until they go through a coming of age ceremony.  This is usually around the age of ten.  Then they leave their parents family unit and live in their own clan abode.  From the time they can barely walk, the members of their family unit undergo education in survival.  These ‘classes,’ if they can be referred to as such, start at daybreak and continue to sundown.  They learn simple things like ‘focus’ and ritual singing and using a knife and bow.  And they learn not so simple things like the Vigroth Deep Chat or Gibwa Rach in their language.  The children are together from the time they start training, from the time they move into their home, until they die.  The best way I can put it is – it’s like they are all married as a unit.  In other words, these six to ten people are together all their lives.  The Deep Chat brings them even closer in relationship.  Everything they do in life, they do it with each other.  This causes an incredible closeness.  I’ll give you an example of how close they become.  If one is hurt, the others feel it instantly. By the time they go through their coming of age ceremony, the Deep Chat even allows them to communicate with their minds.  Simple one or two word thoughts.  Again, others think of this as magic.  But you can see it’s actually a learned skill.

Anyway, it’s this kind of family unit my protagonist is born into.


Worldbuilding 5 – My Antagonist, an Historical Person August 12, 2009

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If you don’t know the story of the Mary Celeste you’re missing out on one of  the largest maritime mysteries in recorded history.  The brigantine was found abandoned in the North Atlantic between the Azores and Portugal on the 4th of December, 1872.  Missing were the captain, Benjamin Briggs, his wife Sarah, their two year old daughter, Sophia, and the rest of the ships crew of seven.  Briggs’ seven year old son, Arthur, was left at home with his grandmother.  Briggs had a brother, Oliver, who often sailed with him but did not make the trip bound for Genoa, Italy.

The Mary Celeste was discovered by the Dei Gratia, a Canadian vessel under Captain David Morehouse, a personal friend of the Mary Celeste‘s Captain, Benjamin Briggs.  The Dei Gratia left New York City on the 15th of November, eight days after the Mary Celeste set sail on her voyage.  Dei Gratia discovered a ship under full sail which was obviously in trouble.  She tried to hail the ship but received no response.  As she advanced on the ship her crew realized the endangered vessel was the Mary Celeste.

Once aboard the Mary Celeste, the Dei Gratia crew found the ship completely deserted.  The only lifeboat on the vessel was gone although it looked as if it were launched, not ripped away.   You may read varying accounts of the conditions aboard the Mary Celeste but the facts are as follows:

The ship was in good order, and had not suffered severely from the weather, although some of the sails were slightly torn.  A meal was cooking on the stove but the dishes were properly washed and stored.  A vial of oil was supposedly sitting upright on a sewing machine, indicating that the seas had been calm, and a clock was still ticking on the wall.  The captain’s personal effects were on board, and toys were on his bed, as if a child had been playing there.  The cargo of 1,700 barrels of alcohol was intact, although there was three and a half feet of water in the hold.  However, the ships papers, except for the captain’s logbook, were missing, as were the navigation instruments.  A sword was found hanging on the wall with blood (or rust) stains on it.  A six months’ supply of food and water was still on board.

The last log entry on November 24th put the Mary Celeste 100 miles west of the Azores.  By the time it was found eleven days later, it was 500 miles to the east.

Today the fate of the occupants of the Mary Celeste is as much a mystery as the day the ship was found deserted at sea.

The Bermuda Triangle Mystery – Solved by Larry Kusche

History has passed on to us rather small amounts of information concerning Benjamin Spooner Briggs, Captain of the Mary Celeste.  We know that Captain Briggs was an able seaman and an excellent ship handler.  Well respected by those who sailed with him, Briggs’ fairness and ability were never brought into question.  He captained four other ships before signing on with the Mary Celeste.  A humble, religious man himself, he married Sarah E Cobb, daughter of Reverend Leander Cobb, and bought the Rose Cottage in Marion , Massachusetts.  Sarah accompanied Captain on many of his sea voyages.  There is also a letter, written by Briggs to his son, Arthur, just before the Mary Celeste left New York City.  It shows the devoted father Briggs was to his family.

I wanted a man of strict discipline and outstanding moral character for my antagonist.  Captain Briggs filled the bill quite handily.  There is little question of how the man managed to travel from Earth to Erde but there are many questions concerning how such a man as Briggs managed his way in the Empire of Uppsala.  The entire first part of my novel sets out to answer these questions.

Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs would be my antagonist.  Briggs

Worldbuilding 4 – People August 6, 2009

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So I had a map of my world, or at least one large part of it.  And I knew I had OutSiders and Natives.  I know the map I’m looking at shows Erde +4,873 years since the coming of the OutSiders so much has historically changed.  Now the next problem I have to consider is what kind of people frequent this world now and where do they belong.  Does that make sense?  Let’s take the OutSiders first.

Take any large city in the world, New York, London, Paris, Los Angeles, you name it.  People who come there tend to form communities of their own kind of people.  A single city actually becomes many smaller cities.  The Italians have their sector, the Germans another, the Spanish their own, and then there’s a Chinatown almost everywhere.  I figured the OutSider tended to gravitate to their own over the years as well.  The government of the Empire of Uppsala, which has subjugated all the various historical city-states of the land, now calls individual states “Rejoinders.”   So you have nine states carved out of Erde with one large unnamed area to the east.  The term Uppsala is confusing.  It is the Empire, a Rejoinder, and the Capitol City of the Empire.  Folks living in the Rejoinder of Uppsala tend to be of Nordic/German stock.  In the Capitol, however, all types of peoples can be found.

The majority of peoples in the other Rejoinders are easy to figure out.  Aingland – English, Scottish, Irish, Welsh.  Merica – peoples from North or South America, including Native Americans.  Pare – let’s not forget the French.  Nippon – Oriental peoples.  Mongolya – Russia, eastern Europeans, Hungarians and nothern Orientals.  Jena,  Italians, Swiss and Slovakians. Finally there is the Rejoinder of Sigtuna, who’s population consists of a melting pot of city states defeated by Uppsalan armies in the historical past.  I’ll discuss how these Rejoinders are governed by Uppsala at a later time.  Now the locations of the Native tribes of Erde.


Over the years, the Natives of Erde have been pushed east, over the Corrin mountains.  The remaining tribes reside in a densely wooded strip, called the Weald,  that runs from north to south and from west to east from the Corrins to the Selgen River.  The northern tribes reside above the River Pison in a land called by the Sogroth, Havilah. Their lands lie between the Pison and Gihon Rivers.  The Telroth are the northernmost tribe, living above the Pison in a land they call Kosh.  Some of you may recognize these names as the lost lands and rivers of Genesis.

The central tribes are rather nomadic and can be found anywhere from the River Fyris to the edge of the Kyrrell Swamp.  They are the Summanari, who range to the north, the Riggrathi, and the extremely war-like Colarathi who range more to the south.

Finally, there are the Vigroth, who live in small villages far to the south in the swamps of Kyrrell.

The lands to the east of the Selgen River are wastelands, thought to be uninhabited.

Next week I’ll talk about where I decided to set my first story.

Worldbuilding 3 – Maps July 30, 2009

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So now I’ve nailed down how my story will begin.  A survivor of a Bermuda Triangle story ends up in a mirror world called Erde.  I’m pretty sure I’m going to use disappearance of the captain and crew of the Mary Celeste.  That gives me a start date of early December 1872.  This means that 4,873 years have passed on Erde since the first OutSider appeared.  It also means that our present date would sit at 5,009 years passed.  The Erde of my story will take place during that 136 year stretch.

It’s time for a map.  Hey, map making is fun.  My first attempt at a map appears above.  I drew it by hand on graph paper.  It gave me some idea of what I wanted to do, but in no way was it compatible with my story.  It looked a bit like Australia, but Erde is larger than that.  It’s about the size of both Europe and Asia together.  So back to the drawing board.  This time I gave up on my freehand version because I now owned a computer with a major art program on it.  The final map of Erde looks like this:


Remember, this is the Erde of 1872 our time.  It is not ancient Erde, which would have looked much different.  For instance, the large forest would have stretched from the mountains, westward to the coast running from north to south.  The woodlands would rescind as time moved forward.  I needed some names for what I was looking at.  The southern ocean area I called ‘Rigga Sea.’  I used the term ‘Weald’ for the forested area.  ‘Weald’ is an old English term for ‘forest.’  For the long mountainous area, the continental divide, I used a native term – ‘Corrins.’  I was happy.  Things were starting to flesh out a bit.

Now I needed to think about countries.  I knew that countries and borders would have changed over the years, much like the forest did.  I needed to outline a history now so I could see how Erde had progressed from wilderness to the sophisticated ‘rejoinders’ found in Erde in 1872.  An outline would have been good enough.  It would allow me to drop my characters into any time and place and maintain the continuity. When it came time to flesh out an area with a story, I could slip the stories into dated files that would allow me to refer to characters or places at any future time.

Now it was time to tuck the OutSiders, their kin, and the Natives into Erde.  We’ll cover this next week.

Worldbuilding 2 – People July 23, 2009

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Last week I spoke about the foundation for my story – the idea I went in with.  Imagine if you will, two similar worlds connected spiritually by water.  People disappear from one and end up in the other.  All this is based on the Bermuda Triangle stories.  Okay.  I have this to work with.  Now I need to delve into those questions I spoke about.  What kind of people live in this mirror world I called Erde?  This is what I came up with:

Originally, before people from Earth came, Erde was populated by natives – tribes of aboriginal hunters and gatherers with their own forms of religion, languages, and societies.  It was much like America before the coming of the white man.  Then the OutSiders began showing up.  People from Earth that found themselves washing up on the shores of a new world not knowing where they were or how they got there, other than they thought they’d drowned.  Finally, as these people grew more numerous they had children, producing a third group of people who bore the name of the region they lived in.

The natives had an average life span of about 30-40 years.  The people born in Erde of OutSider parents lived about 50-75 years.  But the OutSiders themselves lived between 800-900 years unless, of course, they met an unnatural death for some reason.  If an OutSider managed to get back to Earth somehow, they lived their normal three-score and fifteen year lifespan again.  If a native or a child of Erde managed to get to Earth, they lived 800-900 years here.  There has never been a record of someone from Erde coming to Earth though.

The next decision I had to make was the time period to set my story.  Obviously if OutSiders had been coming to Erde and reproducing for thousands of years, Erde would be a lot different than when they first started showing up.  The beauty of what I had so far was that I could pull stories from any time period and fit it into the land appropriate for that time in Erde’s history.  Of course I needed to outline that history because it would have changed dramatically as the OutSiders became more prevalent.  Obviously, as you moved along the historical time line, people and places would be different. The question became, when did the OutSiders first start showing up?

The Bermuda Triangle stories go back to about the time of Christopher Columbus.  But I figured people started disappearing from Earth about the time of the first ocean going vessels.  Historically, this would take us back to around 3,000 B.C. when the Egyptians began sailing in the Mediterranean.  So now I had a time frame of when the first OutSiders started showing up in Erde.  Now all I had to do was decide when along Erde’s time line I wanted to set my first story.  We’ll get into that next week.

Worldbuilding 1 – Creating a Fantasy World July 16, 2009

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You want to write a series of stories based on a fantasy world large enough to allow you to write about any time period during its history.  This is a huge task.  You’ll need good maps, languages, and most important of all – a world history complete enough that your characters will not stumble over historical time lines involving people, places, and things.  This requires an incredible amount of reference and back-story.

This is the task I set upon in late 1989.  First, I needed a foundation, something that would connect our real world with my fantasy world.  I wanted the premise to be both practical and realistic.  I had long been a student of the various legends concerning the Bermuda Triangle.  The one thing I noticed about all of them was the Triangle appeared to be a one-way street.  Writers wrote about ships and aircraft disappearing but wrote nothing about where the people in those vessels ended up.  Nor did anyone ever write a story about the people from ‘there’ (wherever ‘there’ was)  coming here to Earth.  I felt addressing this situation would make an excellent premise for my books.

I knew this wasn’t much to hang my hat on, but it was a start.  I realized I had a lot of work in front of me.  I understood that this fantasy world needed to be created before I could populate it with people.  This was necessary to give the consistency to my writing that would be required.  You know, there are people out there with nothing more to do in life than to find inconsistencies in published novels.  Any character I plopped into this world had to know where they lived, who they were, what they did and why they did it.  They would need to know families and friends names, place names, local landmarks and the history of the area (on some level) where they lived.

Questions became obvious to me.  “Does everyone speak the same language?”  “What level of technology existed there and who/how were people trained to use it?” “How long did people live in this world?”  “If people came from our world to theirs, do they age at the same rate?”  “Was this new fantasy world going to be a bizarre place or would it be very similar to our own world?”

This gave me a place to begin.  Things started to flesh out and I answered question after question for myself.  I called my new world “Erde.”  I know this is the German word for “Earth,” but I had reasons for using this word.  I gave considerable thought to what the first people from our world (whom I called “OutSiders”) would be like.  Little by little their history became outlined in my mind.  I could see how these people interacted with the native people.  I reckoned the first OutSiders would obviously be Vikings.  I came up with two names for areas of Erde that they began to inhabit, “Uppsala” and “Sigtuna.”  I figured people coming from here would use place names that were the same or similar to place names in our World.

It was a start.