Category Archives: Scribe Craft

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #5 – Cities & Abbeys

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

I hope you’ll enjoy these views of Edinburgh & Glasgow, and the Borders abbeys of Melrose, Jedburgh, & Kelso. Each shaped Effie’s adventures in their own way, but to find out how, you will need to read on!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #4 – Scottish Highlands

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

Hear anyone say, “Scotland,” and almost instantly images of the Highlands come to mind. And for good reason. They are spectacular in ways that my photography skills cannot nearly do justice.

Here are a few images of the places that inspired my imagination, including some of Effie’s Glen Coe!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #3 – Scottish Writers

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

A trip to Edinburgh can’t be had without recognizing the amazing amount of influential writers who have lived within the city over the past 500 years. There is even a Writers’ Museum dedicated to some of its most famous inhabitants… not to mention the monuments and statues!

Sir Walter Scott’s influence on Scottish culture is hard to deny, and his home of Abbotsford is filled with the rich history of the man’s life. His books are everywhere in Edinburgh. The Scott Monument dominates Princes Street.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood house on Heriot Row features quite a bit in A Fey Matter. After all, it is the home of Thomas Stevenson. But did you know that you can not only walk to it, but lodge in it as well? It’s a hotel and hosts private events!

Kenneth Grahame’s house is also now a hotel. I’ve enjoyed staying here a couple of times, and can recommend it. Its views of Edinburgh Castle and location can’t be beat!

For J.K. Rowling fans, check out The Elephant House cafe, where reportedly a large part of the first Harry Potter book was written. It has a long history of writers finding inspiration at its tables, and the views of the castle are spectacular!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #2 – Borders History

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

The Scottish Borders region is rife with history, and several of the places I’ve visited made it into BARROW WITCH, although not always in their original form. Without spoilers, here are:

  • The Hawick Mote, a hillfort within a town famous for its Tweed knitwear & an annual Common Riding meant to commemorate the defense of the town against Border Reivers
  • The medieval ruins of Roxburgh Castle, an auld stronghold at the junction of the rivers Tweed and Teviot
  • The Jedburgh Castle Jail, a Victorian jail built atop a medieval castle
  • The mysterious Rosslyn Chapel, where the Holy Grail is kept…?

Hope you enjoy reading about these tidbits as much as I did weaving them into Effie’s adventures!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #1 – Walking the Scottish Borders

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is now available for pre-order! In order to celebrate, I thought I’d share a little bit about the inspiration for the book.

A couple years ago, my wife and I walked the Borders Abbeys Way. Well, most of it…in parts. The point is, we walked a lot for several days! Along the way, we not only saw beautiful scenery, we explored the region’s incredible past, enjoyed its rich culture, and found quite a few spots that made it into the pages of BARROW WITCH. Here is a sampling!

Can you spot the tree where Thomas the Rhymer met the Queen of Elfland?

You can pre-order BARROW WITCH on Amazon! It comes out July 28th!

Craigmillar Castle – Murder Plots & Witchcraft!

Welcome to Realm Tramper, a mini-reboot of my author blog. Here I’ll continue to post status updates about my books, and interviews and tidbits on writing and writers. But I’m also going to post some insights into the places and characters that inspired elements of my writing, from my travels in Scotland and farther afield.

I’m starting with a castle featured in THE LAIRD OF DUNCAIRN, Craigmillar Castle. This isn’t a play on my name but a real fortress in Edinburgh (and a really cool one at that!) Located on the outskirts of the city, it’s where royalty took refuge from plagues, nobility plotted murders, and the brother of one king was imprisoned for the practice of witchcraft.

I first explored the stone tower house and ranges of Craigmillar Castle as a college student, and the memory of it stuck with me–from the beautiful fields surrounding the “High Bare Rock”–a translation of Craigmillar–to the turreted towers and imposing keep. One of the coolest things about Craigmillar is the lack of crowds. As opposed to Edinburgh Castle, which has queues within queues spawned by other crowded queues, visitors of Craigmillar can roam the tower and walls as if they owned the place! (Note the complete lack of other visitors in my pictures.) And if that isn’t great enough, if one is inclined, they can walk the 4 miles between the two castles via some great parks and quaint suburbs, and really get a feel for the modern city.

When I needed a clandestine prison for the Fey Finders to hold Effie, I knew Craigmillar was the perfect place. With its history as a prison and place of nefarious plots, where better to have Effie confront the dastardly Edmund Glover?

Here’s a timeline of some notable events at the castle, along with a drawing of the castle’s layout:

 

 

A view of Edinburgh Castle from Craigmillar’s towers:

 

 

 

 

The ‘service of an archer’, an interior passageway, and the outer courtyard:

Have you ever been to Craigmillar? What did you think? Are there any other great places that stand out from your own travels? Let me know!

An Oath of Dogs – Interview with Wendy N. Wagner

Today, I have the privilege to chat with Wendy N. Wagner about her new book, An Oath of Dogs (Angry Robot, July 2017.) For those who aren’t familiar, Wendy is managing editor of the Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed magazine, as well as the author of two novels set in the Pathfinder RPG world, Skinwalkers and Starspawn.

CC: Welcome! An Oath of Dogs was released earlier this month. Congratulations! Give us your elevator pitch for the novel.

WW: An Oath of Dogs is the story of a woman who moves to a new planet only to discover that her boss has been murdered—and it looks like their company did it to cover up a much larger crime. It also features a heroic therapy dog, lots of alien plants and creatures, a sect of neo-Mennonite farmers, a mysterious pack of wild dogs, and a botanist with a love of beer.

CC: Sounds like a lot of cool hooks for readers. What was the nugget that started the story in your head? A character, scene, or event?

WW: I had an idea about wild dog packs that made me want to explore the relationship between people and dogs. I kept playing around with the idea, and it grew into part of a much more complicated story about the way we explore and develop new places and how we treat the landscape around us.

CC: How long did it take to write? Do you have a normal writing time, or do you fit it in when you can?

WW: This book took a long time to write! Maybe two and a half or three years, even. I got the idea for the story while I was working on my first Pathfinder tie-in novel, so I didn’t get a chance to really start working on it for a while. Then I got hired to write a second novel, so that slowed it down even more.

I try to write in the morning, after my daughter has gone to school and my husband has gone to work. I walk the cats, drink some coffee, and then write for an hour or two before I do my freelance work.

CC: So you’ve told us who the protagonist is, but tell us about a side character you love.

WW: Oh, it’s so hard to choose—I wound up falling in love with all the side characters! Probably my favorite is Olive Whitley, a young girl who befriends the main character. Olive loves wandering in the woods and studying nature, where she harvests plants to sell to local artists to help her family make ends meet. She’s just a really, really good kid. A little weird, but good.

CC: Which question about An Oath of Dogs do you wish someone would ask? Ask and answer it!

WW: Well, this is extremely nerdy, but I wish someone would ask about the scientific names I used. I feel very clever about coming up with them. I used taxonomic names based on the names for plants that currently exist, but I gave them a third component based on the name of the planetary system. The world An Oath of Dogs is set on is called “Huginn,” and it orbits a planet named “Wodin,” accompanied by the tiny satellite of “Muninn.” All the celestial bodies in the system are named for Norse entities, and it’s called the Yggdrasil system. So if humans were from Huginn, they’d be Yggdrasil homo sapiens.

CC: Those are great details, and I love the Norse influence… Speaking of which, gardening is another passion of yours. Tells us how it inspires/influences your writing.

WW: I love plants, and I love dirt. Everything I write winds up having a lot of plants in the background, simply because plants are a major part of the way I see the world. A world just doesn’t feel like a world unless it’s packed with growing things!

Since I find biology and horticulture so interesting, those sciences usually play the main role of “science” in my science fiction. I like writing about the future and imagining that people have traveled to new worlds, but since I barely pay attention to technology in our current world (at least while it’s working), I don’t spend a lot of time imagining fancy gadgets and crazy technology for my books.

CC: An Oath of Dogs explores the relationships between humankind, animals, and the landscape. Do you think it’s important a novel have a social message?

WW: Not exactly. I think it’s important for a novel to grapple with culture, because I think that as an artist, part of your job is to play around with cultural elements. And because you’re a human being, of course your work has a political, moral, philosophical, and sociological stance, no matter what you’re writing about or what genre that you’re working in. The more you try to understand and control the political, moral, philosophical, and sociological stance your work is taking, the more mature your work will feel and the stronger your craft will become. But that still might not feel like a “message,” per se.

CC: Your first two novels, Skinwalkers and Starspawn, are set in the shared Pathfinder world. How was it controlling your own universe in its entirety this time? Did it make the writing process easier or harder?

WW: Writing in my own world is vastly easier. I think the best fiction features characters and settings that grow intrinsically out of each other, and that’s almost impossible to achieve in a shared-world setting where your story can’t have any long-term effect on the world.

CC: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

WW: Yes and yes.

While I’ve had to write really in-depth outlines for projects (all of my tie-in work had to have multi-page outlines approved before I could start writing) and really appreciated having them as a tool for writing, I’ve also written things where I only had a very loose outline. I definitely like knowing a basic structure, but I don’t mind finding things out as I go.

CC: Now for fun, who would win in a fight, Kate Standish or Jendara (from An Oath of Dogs & Skinwalkers, respectively)? Compare their strengths and weaknesses.

WW: Jendara, definitely! Standish is tough-minded, and she has a fairly physical job, but Jendara is a combat veteran. Plus, she heats her house with wood and cooks on a wood stove, which means she’s constantly splitting logs.

While I was researching the Jendara novels—she lives in part of the Pathfinder world inspired by Viking culture, which meant lots of reading up on Vikings—I learned that one archaeological dig had uncovered a war horse with a cut in its leg bone containing shards of mail and other bone. Further examination made the archaeologists realize that a fighter had chopped their sword through the horse’s chain mail coat, through one of its front legs, and only finally come to stop in the bone of the horse’s second front leg. And that was with one blow! I can’t imagine that kind of strength, but it was far more common in less sedentary centuries.

CC: What if they teamed up? Who would be the sidekick?

WW: If those two teamed up, they’d be unbeatable. (Well, unless they found a keg of really good beer. Both of them are a little too fond of beer.) They both have incredibly hard heads and refuse to take no for an answer. But Standish would have to be the leader, because Jendara can be a bit rash, and she’s terrible at making plans. Then again, people like Jendara a lot more, so if it was a bigger group, she’d make the better leader. Standish is really good at getting people angry with her.

CC: Any other writing projects you’re working on?

WW: I’m working on a ton of stuff, but I’m not sure I can talk about any of them! I do have some fun short stories coming out, including one in this awesome anthology that looks like a Ouija board.

CC: That looks like a lot of fun! Thanks for stopping by, and good luck with all your writing endeavors!

An Oath of Dogs:
Kate Standish has been on the forest-world of Huginn less than a week and she’s already pretty sure her new company murdered her boss. But the little town of mill workers and farmers is more worried about eco-terrorism and a series of attacks by the bizarre, sentient dogs of this planet, than a death most people would like to believe is an accident. That is, until Kate’s investigation uncovers a conspiracy which threatens them all.

More About the Author:
Wendy N. Wagner grew up in a remote town on the Oregon coast, a place so small it had no grocery store and no television reception. When the bookmobile came every two weeks, the whole town gathered to explore its latest offerings. Books were her lifeline, her window into the outside world, and soon, an obsession.

Wendy’s short fiction has appeared in more than 30 anthologies and magazines, and she has written tie-in fiction for the award-winning Pathfinder role-playing game (including two novels). Her third novel, AN OATH OF DOGS, is due out July 2017.

As well as writing, Wendy is also the managing/associate editor of LIGHTSPEED and NIGHTMARE magazines. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her very understanding family. You can follow her exploits on www.winniewoohoo.com.

Binge Reading & Soul Drifting

Thanks largely to enhanced streaming capabilities, the past few years have witnesses an increase in the amount of television binge watching. Not only is this method an addicting way to watch your favorite show, some shows have actually restructured their writing to meet this trend. HBO’s Programming President, Michael Lombardo, defended the second season of True Detective by saying viewers needed to, “watch the entirety of it,” before passing judgment, despite the episodes being released one at a time. Netflix and other distributors eschew the week-to-week delivery of content and release entire seasons of their shows in one go with the expectation that loyal fans will be discussing the final episode by the end of the day.

But binge consumption of genre related entertainment is nothing new. Readers have done the same for decades. Maybe not in one butt-numbing stretch, but in eagerly devouring everything an author can produce, and often as fast as the author can produce it. And the funny thing is, this trend occurs whether the author is a favorite or new to the reader. Readers will find out what the author has written before and grab it, even buying blocks of books on Amazon–hey, they’re discounted that way–before cracking open the first volume.

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In fact, it is sometimes difficult for new authors to sell their first book solely because readers don’t want to invest in something they can’t read more of if they happen to get hooked. I have witnessed this first-hand at conventions. At GenCon’s Author Alley in 2011, I was hard-pressed to get readers to take a gamble on a single, slim-for-fantasy novel, The Roads to Baldairn Motte, but those authors pitching multiple volumes–who were just as unheard of as I was–continuously piqued readers’ interests not by their series tagline but by the sheer amount of content they were offering! Seven massive tomes always looks more enticing on a table than a single book.

autumn_rebublic_coverAuthors like Brian McClellan have adopted a clever strategy to grab the attention of modern readers and keep them sated. He released novellas surrounding the narrative of his main novels. These are short spin-offs cast from different character viewpoints or set at different points in time. (See Battleship Galactica for an example of how television has done the same thing while viewers waited for the next season.) The novellas give existing readers additional content delivered at a pace months (if not years, Mr. Martin) faster than waiting on a longer novel, and they also present new readers with an Author page filled with content. Even better, with ebook novellas offered as cheap as they are, it’s a financially viable solution for both parties. (McClellan’s novellas are roughly one-third the cost of his novels.)

Which brings me to Souldrifter, the second volume of Garrett Calcaterra’s Dreamwielder Chronicles. I’m excited for this book not just because it promises great adventure and an expansion to the vast, rich world first established by Dreamwielder, but because I know new readers will take a chance on the books marketed as a series where they might have passed on each individually. The door is open for a whole new readership to find Makarria, who, as Wendy Wagner, author of the Pathfinder Tales novel, Skinwalkers, points out, “…is a teenage heroine who does more than just kick butt: she’s smart, powerful, and surprisingly believable for a fourteen-year-old queen.”

souldrifter_cover

Bruce McAllister, author of The Village Sang to the Sea, adds, “Souldrifter meets the promise of its predecessor with royal trumpets. Fine writing, magic, epic intrigue, a great cast, and a central character (Makarria) who mesmerizes—what more does a reader need to be happy?”

As much as they can consume, of course!