Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Sign in Blood's Last Free Day!

Well, today is the last day you can get A Sign in Blood for free! I've been lucky enough to be a guest on three fabulous blogs: Dreamer's Perch, Unnecessary Musings, and of course over at Chrystalla Thoma's, where I talk about different aspects of the stories.

Currently, A Sign in Blood is ranked #85 Free in Kindle Store, #2 in Kindle Store > Fantasy > Epic, and #52 in Kindle Store > Genre Fiction!! And huge thanks to everyone who helped it get there!!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Worldbuilding: Creating Geography: Deserts, Part 1

Note: I have a lot of research on this topic from my worldbuilding on A Sign in Blood, so I'm going to have to split this up into a few posts. Right now, I'm planning on two, but that could change once I really dive into it.

Part 1 | Part 2

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Part of worldbuilding is knowing where to put things. After all, different types of geography don't just appear randomly and fully formed on the face of the earth (or any other planet). Usually. Everything we see around us is the natural result of the forces exerted by the sun, currents, rain, and even the Earth's rotation in space.

Understanding these to some degree helps a writer to build a world. And using geography to do this isn't just a matter of accuracy or realism. Understanding different landforms helps a writer by giving them options they may not have considered, or even heard of. When you're writing about something you've never experienced—as we all often are—it's better to go in armed with knowledge and some idea of what you could be creating, rather than later realize that your vast, sweeping desert is really a giant sandbox.

Knowing what the options are here, and how those options came to be, frees you up to get creative and gives you the tools to build something really spectacular. So, without further ado, here are some ways in which deserts are created.

Basic Desert Formation

Deserts generally form on either side of the equator because the air there is exposed to intense sunlight and it heats up. There is a lot of ocean at the equator, and under this intense heat, a lot of water evaporates. This air, both hot and moist, rises up in the atmosphere, gradually cooling as it does. Hot air can hold more moisture than cool air, so the cooling rings the moisture out of it. This precipitation falls on the land at the equator, producing the tropics. The now dry, cool air then descends again about 30 degrees away, on either side of the equator. It warms and expands, becoming even drier for being rewarmed, and this is one way in which deserts form. The land in those areas of dry, rewarmed air doesn't have the moisture to support much, if any, plant life.

There are some things to consider when building your world. This cycle happens because of the vast among of water at the equator. If your world doesn't have as much water at the equator, or has more, you'll need to adjust your world's weather accordingly. In addition, if your world has a weaker sun, for some reason doesn't get much sun at the equator, etc., you'll have to adjust for that as well.

Also, deserts, just like other types of geography, have landforms (which we'll talk more about in part 2) and characteristics that come from the ways in which they were made. And these can vastly affect and the look and feel of your desert, which can vastly affect the way you describe your desert and the things your characters are likely to encounter while in them.

Another way for a desert to form is if the area is far inland from the ocean. Most of the moisture in the atmosphere is evaporated from the oceans, and then falls on land. As the air moves in toward the center of a continent, it gets more and more dry and, by the time it reaches the farther inland destinations, it's got no more moisture to give. This is the case with both the Gobi and Takla-Makan deserts.

The "rainshadow effect" can also create a desert. In this case, a mountain range has a windward side against which moisture-bearing air flows. This air is then pushed up higher into the atmosphere by the mountains. As it goes higher, the air is cooled and the moisture condenses, forming precipitation on the windward side. However, on the leeward side (the side not exposed to moisture-bearing air currents) the already dry air descends, becomes warmer, and so drier still. This can create a lush forest on the windward side, while leaving the leeward side, and the ground for some distance beyond, a dry steppe land or desert. To get an idea of these types of deserts, think of the American Southwest.

Other types of deserts are caused by coastal cooling. Air moving over cold water becomes cold and therefore cannot hold as much moisture. As it moves over land, it rewarms, becoming drier still (especially if there is no moisture to absorb as it rewarms). In such areas, such as the Atacama and Kalahari deserts, fog or mist often occurs along the coastline (and inland to a certain extent), but rain rarely does.

While any of these forces can, by themselves, produce a desert region, they often combine and this can make a desert even more severe.

Next time we'll talk about desert heat, and the lack of it, and landforms in the desert (unless that turns into two posts).

Friday, March 23, 2012

Favorite Kinds of Books

Reading a lot of short stories lately. I just don’t have the time for full-length books, and I’m really getting frustrated with it. Not that the short stories aren’t lovely, but sometimes you just crave something long and involved and filled with details. Something you can immerse yourself in and look up three hours later, blinking and wondering how the hell you zoned out for so long. I love books that can pull me in that way and I really, really miss them.

This is probably why I like fantasy series and big fat fantasy novels, because it’s so much fun to just get lost in a good book now and then. One of those books that pulls you in so deep you miss dinner, your favorite TV show, and a couple of phone calls.

Hmm… Maybe I should split the difference and find a nice novella to burrow into.

What’s your favorite absorbing book? The one you can never manage to put down without losing at least an hour?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Awesome Authors and Badass Books

Some of you may know that I've been working on a new page for the blog for a while now, a place for me to showcase my favorite books and the fantastic authors who wrote them. Well, I finished it! Okay, so that's not technically true because I'll be adding to it. There are still bunches of wonderful books and authors to mention. But I finally got it started and posted and that's a big damn accomplishment for me, at the moment!

I almost thought I lost it there for a moment (Blogger did weird things), but it's still there!

So, check out Awesome Authors and Badass Books!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Authors and Research

Authors--me absolutely included!--think they know everything. No, seriously, we do. I have argued the most obscure points of things that I've never, ever done--or will do--and can get totally pedantic over details. And, you know what? I’ve often been wrong and still argued my point without stopping to think it through. (*cringe*)

The point is that authors don't know everything. (I hated typing that. :-D)

Research is absolutely necessary to bridge that gap, but conducting good research can be tricky these days. The internet, which is a marvel and a wonderful thing, is also a hotbed of false information, incomplete information, information that seems to say one thing when it really meant to say something else, and—interestingly—a stunning lack of information on some topics.

I love to research though (as you may have noticed if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time) and I try to compile my research into something approaching an interesting blog post and share it. That doesn’t mean you should ever just take me at my word, of course. Finding more sources is important, as is reading up on the topic at hand. But, I thought I’d do a post on researching topics, which is really more about how I research topics.

Generally, I start with Google and Yahoo. No one search engine is going to have everything, so it’s good to use different ones. I also sometimes start at Wikipedia when I’m researching online. Now, Wiki is not a credible source, simply because it’s so easy to change the info and citations and blah, blah, blah. It really isn’t, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great resource as a place to start. Seriously. It shouldn’t be the end of your research, but it can be a wonderful way to get an overview of a topic and to find out where you can go and what you need to search in order to learn more. Just don’t get lost on it, or base all your research on it.

Once you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, you can start the more targeted searches. I like to look for specific phrases which are in someway unique (or largely so) to the topic at hand. The more general your search phrases, the more unrelated results you’ll get.

Once you find the information, you have to look at where and who it’s coming from. Some websites are just more credible than others, and while there are sites out there with good information that aren’t obviously credible, they mean more work for you. You have to verify what they tell you, and you can’t just assume they know what they’re talking about when they don’t give you any reason to. Some sites, such as .edu and .gov sites are—generally speaking—more credible. When it comes to .org sites, it’s down to the organization which publishes them. If the organization is credible and cites credible sources for the information given, you may not need to verify any further, but… You may. It’s down to your judgment.

Blogs may or may not be credible. For instance, take me. I am not an expert on anything. I don’t claim to be an expert on anything. My posts about geology (or whatever) do not list citations and, while I do my research, I am not a geologist (or whatever) and could well be wrong, wrong, wrongity wrong. (Yes, I hated typing that, too.) Or maybe I’m using information that’s out of date. Or maybe I was out of my mind at the time. (Hey, you don’t know.) However, I try to provide information from a writer’s and worldbuilder’s perspective. I try to link the research I’ve done to the ways it can be practically applied in worldbuilding and writing, so the spin that I present may be useful because it sparks ideas for the use of the facts. If you check my facts, and you find that credible people (people with actual authority on the topic) tend to say the same things about those facts, you may find me credible. (Or you may not, and that’s totally cool.)

But regardless of your opinion on my credibility, my spin (linking facts to worldbuilding and writing) may still be useful to you. You may think, “You know, I should go check about the types of mountains there are, I think there’s something off there,” but my reasons for saying it’s important to know what types of mountains you’re worldbuilding may still be valid. And I may still have a point about how that affects the economy of your culture.

So blogs and the like, even if their facts cannot be considered credible, can be useful. And, if you happen to come across a blog discussing oceanography which is written by a well-known and well-respected oceanographer, you can probably consider them pretty credible. (Unless, of course, they’re saying that the oceans are filled with yummy, melty cheese, in which case you might want to verify a bit before you go diving in with crackers.)

Also, remember that even research--as thorough as it may be--cannot show you what the real-life experience is like. While I heavily endorse research and the digging out of facts, some things aren't actually facts. One person may do things one way, and insist that that's the right way, but that doesn't mean they're correct. It doesn't mean there aren't other ways of doing it, or that their experience is typical. Varying your sources helps, getting more than one point of view means that you can verify common things like terms, theory, common facts, etc. The things that more than a few people agree on tend to be the most factually correct or at least representative of the widest range of experience (assuming those people have some authority on the topic, of course).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Upcoming Posts and News

It's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry about that. Life came up and smacked me over the head and dragged me away. However, I'll be returning to a semi-regular posting schedule again now and slowly working through the comments the blog has received while I was away.

Upcoming posts include:

Authors and Research
Worldbuilding: Creating Geography: Desert
Agriculture Basics

And, depending on how quickly I can get my research finished and compiled:

Siege Weapons!

I ask you, who doesn't love a nice catapult? :-D

In other news, A Sign in Blood will be going free for a few days soon, so you can expect me to talk at least a bit about that, once I've got the details all worked out. And Getting Ahead's release date is drawing ever nearer! (I'm so excited! It's not even funny!) It's an urban fantasy novella with a touch of noir, a touch of police procedural, and a touch of LOL! With trolls! In evening wear! :-D

(Yes, I realize I'm abusing the exclamation point. I'll stop now.)