Monday, August 22, 2011

World Building - A Case Study

I just finished Anne McCaffrey's Dragonflight, the first of her Dragonriders of Pern series.  I read it years ago as a  teenager and thought I'd give it another shot as a grownup when I saw the audio-book version at my local library.  I wondered if it would live up to my fond memories of it or end up like G.I. Joe or Voltron, making me wonder what I ever saw in those poorly scripted things.

It turns out that, although the prose waxed a little purple or melodramatic in some parts, and I found some of the characters inherently flatter and less likable than I remembered, one thing remained true:  Anne McCaffrey wrote a terrific and rich setting filled with incredible detail.  I'll go over some of those things she got right.

Physiology - One thing I didn't notice before but did this time around was how much the dragons slept.  They typically fed on one or two herd-beasts a week.  That doesn't seem like much for dragons that could fly with human riders on their backs but does when you consider how the dragons seemed to sleep as much as they did.  They conserved energy when not necessary so that they had the energy to lift their massive forms in the air when they did need to be active.

Economy - A herd-beast a week doesn't sound like much until you multiply that by five hundred dragons multiplied by six weyrs (the homes of the dragons and their riders).  Comes to a weekly demand on the world's economy of over three thousand head of cattle per week at the height of the Red Star's passing and daily thread attacks (space-borne spores that devour all organic life they encounter, what the dragons were bred to protect against).  For an agrarian society with limited farm technology, that is a massive consumption of the world's resources.

Social Structure - To support such incredible demands that the dragons need to keep the world safe from the thread, the six (and later seven) weyrs are supported by a semi-fuedal system of holds (similar to kingdoms or city states) which pay tithes to the weyrs for their protection during the 50 years of threat every 200 years.  Guild-like craft-halls support the education and skill sets required to run daily life among the holds and weyrs and pass on the knowledge to the next generation.  Each is its own entity with its own desires and motives, and sometimes infighting among factions of the same group.

Many fantasy or science fiction worlds gloss over these details of the setting but the good ones don't.  No nation in the middle ages could possibly support an army with five thousand knights.  As amazing as that is to imagine, the economic cost of armoring, arming, and mounting that many highly trained men on well trained horses would be staggering.  A society with mages that could easily teleport people and goods all over the world would not hide in remote towers but would become the local parcel and mail delievery service.  When writing in any magic or technology, you must consider how it would impact the economy and social structure of the world around it.

Anne McCaffrey in her Dragonriders of Pern series did consider the impact of dragons on Pern.  And she created a comprehensive believable world for them.  If one wishes to see what makes good world building, study this setting.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To Kill A Mockingbird

If you want a study in good voice, take a peek at Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird.  It was our book club's most recent selection.  I didn't get to finish it this go around though I enjoyed it in high school.  Selecting Scout to be the viewpoint character allowed for an exaggerated view of the world that felt genuine and legitimate if not completely accurate.  The way she described her first grade teacher's red and white clothes and then stating "she looked and smelled like a peppermint" made me laugh and showed how to make clothing descriptions actually help support characterization  and not merely fill the page with description you'll forget the moment you finish reading it.

Harper Lee created back stories and folklore for everybody, making the world feel rich with history.  Different characters had clearly differing motivations and beliefs.  Maudie Atkinson contrasted sharply with Stephanie Crawford.  Close friend of the children versus neighborhood gossip.  Lee's world just came alive.

Normally I can find positives and negatives about the books I read for our book club.  My list only had positives for this one.  Either I didn't read far enough into the book to reach the bad writing this time or the book really was this well written.  I don't generally believe in Literature with a capital 'L' but this book truly belongs as a shining example of good literature.  Ranging from its lovable characters and spinning a good yarn to the layers of symbolism and probing questions about race, gender, social class, good, and evil.

I find it absolutely amazing that people still request that this book get banned from schools and public libraries.  It may be one of the true great american novels.  A must read.

Monday, August 08, 2011

A Clouded Skye - Now Repaired And Available

Thanks to everyone for your patience as I worked out the problems with my first book.  The corrected file for A Clouded Skye is now available on all three of the big ebook sites,,, and

Those who had already downloaded the error filled file (builds ending in 1.0, see final line of the entire ebook) should login using their same accounts and redownload.  It should allow you to get the corrected version free of charge (builds ending in 1.1, see final line of the entire ebook).  If it does attempt to charge you, let me know and I can email you the ebook in whichever format you need.

Now this blog can return to all of the other things I want to talk about, such as Harper Lee's brilliant novel To Kill a Mockingbird.   I love it but I'll have to tell you why later, when I have more time.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Bad News But We're Working On It

Bad news. While working on the Barnes & Noble edition of the book, I discovered that in the conversion process many errors were introduced resulting in both old incorrect formatting and new corrected formatting mixed together.   I think it was a result of my old incorrect formatting getting corrected by my editor and then when I "nuked" the document (very technical ebook publishing term) for the Smashwords edition, the new and old formatting both got merged so there will be things like "You're your horse doesn't look well" or something.  Punctuation problems may also be all over the map.

Both the Amazon Kindle and Smashwords editions were affected.  Those of you who bought a copy of either the AKE1.0 or SWE1.0 builds (Build number can be found at the last line of the entire ebook document), please send me a personal message and I will get you a corrected file as soon as it's ready at no charge.

I am chalking this up to a newbie publishing mistake.  Don't fear dear readers, I will take care of you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Hurray! I'm Published!

My first ebook is now available through and  Before the end of the week, it should also be available through Barnes and Noble.

And to top it all off, I already got one sale!  I have a suspicion of who it was but I won't know for sure till tomorrow.  Thank you ebook purchaser!  I'm so happy!

If you like lighthearted comedic romantic fantasy adventure tales you'll enjoy A Clouded Skye.  Get your copy today!