A few days ago my revisions for Sen of the Woods—which were going well—got hijacked, not only by a much needed visit with my sister, but by a new story idea.
Weeks before, I’d joked with Layton Green about what we’d do if we weren’t writing, and he said that he’d be a tomb raider. I couldn’t imagine either of us giving up on writing, and I thought it would be pretty awesome to see what kind of commentary his Dominic Grey and Viktor Radek might make on tombs and finds. Or any other characters he might create, especially considering his latest book, The Letterbox. It quickly occurred to me that I was building a world where I really could write something like that—and add to the depth of the multi-cultural planet I’ve been building since the late 1980s.
There’s a lot I know about Ihyel from various novels and a couple of shorts I’ve already written, but also a few things that have not been written, such as Defenders of the North, or incomplete as is the Tree of the Tile Makers (which ended up with over 25,000 words before I gave up; more on that later).
What I know about the people in Defenders of the North, for instance, has an impact on the wars Tengis and Phayaden go through, after the little myth they’re a part of in The Red Khémèresh is over. Tengis knows he must battle the easterners, and does that quite well (considering he’s somewhat based on the rather brilliant and brutal Genghis Khan). I couldn’t have him taking over everything. The Bone Reader had already been written (sample chapters of this and other books as yet unpublished are available), and the country, Pyrann, had a very different culture than anything influenced by the people of the Tashihyel. I asked my writer brain why that was, and the northerners emerged. They came over sea and were just as brutal as Tengis—though of course Tengis wins—but those wars prevented him from going over the mountains and changing my already known history. Incidentally, later in the planet’s time line, those same defenders are the same people that do quite a lot of damage—and set the story in motion—in Seek the Monster during their quest for the incredibly valuable iron, as well as timber for their boats.
That’s just one example of what I do know of Ihyel, even if I haven’t written it yet, as well as illuminating how interconnected the cultures are, no matter how stand-alone the books I write might be. This, however, offers a wildly rich planet for people who might raid a tomb, or temple, or find themselves on legitimate or shady archaeological digs.
After the trip to visit my sister, with a brief side visit with Layton Green, a serial adventure came to mind—and I found myself writing in my journal for a surprising number of pages. The Adventures of the Relic Robbers: The Red Queen’s Cup began.
The neat thing is that several chapters/episodes in, I found myself being able to see how I world build. I thought that this might be to interesting readers or writers. In this case I was using various known countries, but at a very different time period. The plot and characters were developing nicely, so the needs of the world building—the inner story world building, not the whole planet development that I do—came to the fore. I found that interesting: To have a rudimentary idea of where the story was set, and why, and that this was enough for me to get the story going and get to know the characters. This also told me why I might be having more trouble with a serial story idea I could never quite get off the ground. Perhaps it was the plot that I did not have quite set.
What I already had going for this story was that I was using a number of different cultures I’d already created. I was somewhat familiar with the landscape already. I had enough to go on to get the plot and characters going—till it got good enough to where the world building, the myriad threads of culture, history, background, food and so on really needed something more substantial for my characters to stand on. I had taken the settings from books set long before as well as during the Age of Reason to—I wasn’t sure when!
I felt it could be something contemporary to our time, but then I thought about the development of standards for archaeology. The 1900s, and a bit before was a bit too early for me, and then Indiana Jones came to mind. The 1940s was a time period where travel still took time, as well as news, and you could possibly get away with a lot when it came to shady archaeology, with Relic Robbing happening here and there. World Building settled into a time line. But there was more. And that had to do with the characters, and how they might interact.
I set the scene irrevocably in Yezgin, the country in Fate of the Red Queen. It was set deep in the jungle. I could imagine that while there were a few good, well developed cities in that country, it would still be hard to carve out places for fields in the relatively mountainous countryside. Especially one dominated by jungle. However, the characters came from various parts of the known world.
Two of the main characters came from Pyrann, and one I entertained myself by making a descendant of Cemirowl Dusane from The Bone Reader. She sees the dead, and reads found animal bones to tell fortunes. It amused me to make Arthis “Arty” Dusane a mostly head blind (maybe) descendant living in her former cottage which was now famous (to his deep regret), and that he’d be the scholar of the trio. I thought his more athletic best friend would have some northerner blood, coming from the coast, with a name of Mercari “Merc” Vintner.
It is Nomi Paskani who was a bit more of a challenge. She’d met Arty at a university on the island of Obrone—the setting of Sen of the Woods, a book at the cusp of the Age of Reason. It’s got the best library in the world—well, several of the universities there would claim that—and I thought maybe she was Obronian. Her name, however, is Nomi, based on a term used in Fate of the Red Queen. The term is Nomhai—with gives rich hints to her character (if you read the book). But the term was from farther south than Yezgin. As I wrote some of her scenes, her family ended up with history with “The New World” which I haven’t even seen yet, but they’re arrogant folk, who discount the rich cultures of the lands I’ve already created. (That alone made things interesting for me! I can’t wait to meet them, and see how they do with the rich and varied cultures on this side of the planet). This, and her name helped define her. The world building I was developing for this story informed me of who she was.
What was more, as I realized what I could be building with The Relic Robbers, I knew I could bring out old ideas. The Tree of the Tile Makers could set the scene for one of Arty’s earlier adventures, since it is set in the desert regions south of Hergila, which is just one short boat ride away from Pyrann. Or… it could be the setting for the next Relic Robber series. Who knows. I don’t know yet. That’s why I keep doing this. I love watching this planet unfold.
The details of The Red Queen’s Cup continue to emerge—and will happen as I write the series. I’ll be presenting the first chapter in a couple of weeks on my web page (That’s the NEWS part of this blog article), and add chapters as the story goes on.
These will be lightly revised chapters for a reason. For one, this could make the series somewhat interactive. More, I wanted to play in this landscape. The chapters will be rougher than the ruthlessly revised novels that take YEARS to craft. I’m trying something new—as this post shows, I struggle to write short, so this is a challenge for me as well! I’m trying to do something fun with that challenge. I’m trying to grow as a writer—and continue building a fascinating planet: Ihyel.
Feel free to post your thoughts on my FB page or message me. This is a developing story, and one day I’ll turn it into a whole book, perhaps. I will keep the chapters available for a time, but I’ll probably pull them so as not to make my website unwieldy. The Adventures of the Relic Robbers is supposed to be a fun series—something I hope to get feedback on.
NOTE: if you have a critique of the story, even if it’s negative, I’ll keep it up on the feed, and consider it for future revisions if you’ve clearly thought about it. If it goes personal, I have no compunction in deleting that comment. “Your story sucks” I’ll consider a personal comment as, while that might be true from your perspective, it isn’t exactly helpful, useful, and there are better ways to vent your spleen. Like hikes in the woods, a good kayaking trip, and even paint ball or laser tag. Constructive comments—even ‘negative ones—make you, hopefully, part of the adventure.
And I like that!