Medieval World Building
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For people who write medieval fantasy, play medieval rpgs, and the people who read or play those worlds. For me, the medieval world is 1066 to 1509, b...

Unorganized Updates

Hello, Friends!

Lots of stuff going going on, but no real thread or theme within them.

Wednesday I begin my next installment of blacksmithing classes at the Indianpolis Art Center. The first classes were a success, and I began to get a handle on what I’m doing there. I’ve got some neat stuff to show off next time we do a video.

For the past two Saturdays I’ve worked out with the Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA) instructors and students at the local fencing club. It has been humbling and educational. The longsword, aka the bastard sword or war sword, has long been my favorite medieval sword. So far I have not gotten the hang of it, but I’m willing to put the work in.

I have not been writing prose in a while, and I miss it. I have not been creating art for a while, either. What I have been doing is continuing my work on the infamous medieval room, and it’s looking really cool.

I also have not made the videos I intended to make to cover the medieval room and its progress. They are coming, and they’ll be fun and educational. I just do not have the technical expertise to do them myself, and Benita has been very busy with work.

I have come to recognize a real sense of detachment when it comes to promotion of my various projects. It seems to be a strange mix of impostor syndrome and out-of-body phenomenon. I’m beginning to feel I can’t wake up and get a handle on it. Some of my creator friends are really good at it, but so far not me. I think I burned out somewhat back in my webcomics days.

It’s probably been obvious from my recent posts, but my creative subject matter has switched from superhero material to medieval. Benita and I have a ten-issue Johnny Saturn comic roughly plotted out, but I don’t think either of our hearts are in it. We’ve both moved in different directions since them. I believe I will do comics again at some point, but when that is a bit uncertain.

If you are into medieval stuff for writing, gaming, Larping, whatever, I have a new Facebook group called Medieval World Building. Come, join. Be jolly. Huzzah!

Self-Publishing Post Mortem

Now that the book launch period is over for Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard, it’s probably a good time to look at what worked, what didn’t, and what I could have done better.

What Didn’t Work

Bookfunnel: No effect that I can tell

KDP Rocket: Again, no effect

Asking Fellow Authors for Reviews: Of the 20 authors who agreed, four actually did reviews. Asking and following up was an awkward process, and I hated asking people for favors. It’s not in my nature to ask for help. I suck at it.

What Worked

Not much. This was my first time at seriously trying to self-publish a book, and my efforts seem to have had a limited effect.

What Could I Have Done Better?

Lots. But, let’s get a little more precise.

I could have been much active in self-promotion on social media.

Since I spent all my money on Bookfunnel, having the novel formatted by a pro, Vellum for future books, and KDP Rocket, and a broken copy of Kindle Samurai (for which I never got much help from the publisher OR a refund), I didn’t buy any promotion.

When I say I didn’t purchase promotion, I mean like the giveaway sites like Bookbub.

I didn’t join in any group promotions with other authors. Frankly, I didn’t understand the process, and I still am pretty fuzzy on it.

I didn’t solicit any interviews, podcasts, etc. These have never helped in the past with other projects, and I don’t like doing them, so I skipped that part.

For reasons that need not be elaborated on, I quit a writer’s group that has pretty reasonable promotion capabilities. I stand by my decision on that.

There may be more reasons, but one of my main shortcomings is I have not begun a newsletter. My reasons include fear of commitment, and not wanting to add one more thing to my plate.

What’s Next?

I plan to do much better this time. This last time, after all the hassles to wrangle reviews and failed attempts at formatting it, I was burned out bad. That was not the mental state to go forward in. I cannot do that to another book.

Publishing Stuff!

Greetings and Salutations, Friends!

Story Studios Presents Changing of the Guard is now available in paperback, as well as an ebook, on Amazon!

I’ve also updated our Bookfunnel page to reflect this. Sadly, the ebook and the print book entries have not yet combined on Amazon, but we just have to give them a little time.

Plus, read this great new review!

Brian K Morris5.0 out of 5 stars Straight From the PulpsFebruary 14, 2020Format: Kindle EditionThe Changing of the Guard takes me back to the days where every pulp story-based city concealed secrets in every shadow and war occurred in neighborhoods where decent men and women feared to tread. However, a select group of special beings existed to combat evil…and this book by the Storys continues that tradition.

And what a cast of characters. This is a setting that definitely shows the benefits of detailed planning and I’m looking forward to exploring it further in future volumes. By the way, the artwork inside and out is beautiful. Well done!

Fantasy World Building I

This is a new series of blog posts that I’m going to write about world building for my coming books, although the same information would also help gamers. It’s a little different for gamers because the end goal is a different storytelling medium, but it’s in the same ballpark.

The setting I’m detailing is a fantasy, historic-like world. It’s Medieval, and it focuses on character, politics, intrigue, religion, and magic.

So, here’s the thing I’m thinking about: monsters.

High fantasy is full of them. Dungeons and Dragons brews them up wholesale. Mythologies get mixed and matched and smashed together as if in some literary particle collider experiment. I’ve been there, played D&D, and read many of those all-inclusive, monster-rich variety of worlds, most notably Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels. That’s not really what I’m looking for.

So, maybe it’s more a Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni books type of thing that I’m aming for? Well, those novels are awesome beyond compare, but not quite the thing. Maybe monster-lite, like Game of Thrones? Hmmn, no. Not that either.

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So, after much thinking, here’s what I’m going to include in my world’s bestiary:

Undead: By undead, I mean vampires and ghosts. I’m not sure how much of a tradition there is for walking corpses in medieval Europe, so I’ll have to look into that. Taxim, maybe?

Artificial: This category can include aquastors, simulacrum, monstrum, brass heads, automatons, even golems and the like. If a wizard can whip it up, then yes.

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Dragons: Five of them, because that’s all that’s left in world. Just five individuals. I will also include the subclasses of dragons, like wyvern, wormes, knuckers, sea and lake monsters. Full-on heraldic dragons have magic and shapechanging powers, so it’s not unheard of for a human to have dragon ancestry. These creatures are rare and never seen, so for most people they are old legends.

Humanoid: Ogres, yes. Troglodytes, trolls, I’m not sure. There are some dog headed peoples that show up a lot in Medieval bestiaries. I like the idea of them.

Giants: These are a type of “Other,” for the most part, but they are rare and only tiny communities exist in the mortal realm.

Angels. Yes. And other divine counselors and saints. If angels are here, then I suppose too there would have been the Nephilim.

Lycanthropes: Werewolves and selkies, without question.

Demons, Spirits: Yes, they are all present. Demons, demon lords, succubi, witch’s familiars, hell hounds, and other similar summonable creatures from hell. Technically, demon ancestry is included, so cambions are possible too.

Summonable Beings: Elementals, as well as angels and demons.

Faerie and the Other: Faeries don’t live on earth, as such, and have no cities or castles or holdings of their own. They do visit earth when they want to from their own plane of Faerie. So, while you never run into an elf or dwarf, or any of the “Others,” you may very well meet people with Faerie blood or heritage. Dwarves and Giants in fact are a type of Faerie, and part of the family of the “Other” as well.

The Faerie secondary creatures, such as Faerie hounds and horses, changelings, and so forth would also be included. They are not native to earth, but they can follow their elvish lords over sometimes.

Does this sound limited? It’s not as short a list as you might think. For example, mythology also is full of singular legendary creatures. These one-off’s would fit pretty well in my world. These would be the “King of x” creatures, the paragons, the racial avatars, divine hybrids, spell-casting versions, demonic versions, giant versions, etc.

Other rare monsters that I have an affinity for: Affanc, Wolver, Ysfach, Parandrus. Of the monsters I have made up, the Pernicon (a type of demon) also gets a pass.

Maybe I’ve gone too far here. Maybe this is too many monsters. I’ve got a whole bunch of creatures you can summon from other worlds, some you can create, a few native creatures, and assorted hybrid humand and x-humans (undead). Well, more thought and consideration is forthcoming. Dreaming up these things takes time. It’s got to make sense within my setting.

Lesson From Arrow II

I’ve written about the elements I enjoyed about the CW show Arrow, lessons that I took away as a writer. Now it’s probably worth writing about what made me lose interest.

I mentioned in the last post that I get bored with shows and books easily. I’m not what you would call a completist at this stage of my life. Time is just too valuable to stick with an entertainment franchise that is not delivering. Having said that, I was really into Arrow, even when they sometimes jumped the shark (as all shows will). So why did I quit after the season seven opener?

The main reason, I suppose, was Felicity. When she was cute, funny, and off-the-wall I found her adorable. She changed over time, and that is fine. Characters have arcs, and they are not the same people at both ends of the curve. In this case, however, I discovered that I didn’t particularly care for the person who who landed at the far end of the line.

It’s important to note that the writers didn’t owe me a character that I liked. It was not their job to give me what I want, but what their creative vision was. Fan service is the swiftest path to being a hack, after all. It’s not the actresses fault, because I’m sure she delivered the performance that was written for her.

I could have lived with one of the show’s stars that I didn’t like anymore. No problem. However, all the painfully convoluted “will-they-won’t-they” plot lines really got on my nerves. That stuff verges more on melodrama, and I don’t like melodrama. It seemed to me that they only reunited Oliver and Felicity when nobody cared anymore. Well, at least I didn’t care by then.

I’m sorry if this sounds unduly harsh, because these kind of situations are television show standards. It can be handled well, and it can be bungled up. It’s funny, but now that I think about it, this show shared the same faults with the Ross/Rachel relationship on Friends, and the Nyles/Daphney storyline on Frasier. Both shows were very successful, and both are show I bailed on by the last season.

Do you think I’m being fair? Should I have toughed it out for one more season? From what I can see, dropping the show and moving on was very much in character for me.

More Writerly Observations

Now that the show Arrow is over, a retrospective would be nice. That is not what this is. I really enjoyed the show, although I have not seen the last season and a half, nor have I seen the latest crossover “Crises of Infinite Earths.” I may watch them at some point, but maybe not. I was really invested in the show, but there are reasons I jumped ship, and that makes for good writerly advice.

The first thing I noticed in this series was what I now realize is a CW trope–expand the cast with pretty people. Apparently, an ensemble cast makes for much more content and interpersonal interaction than having a show based around a single star and a loosely connected supporting cast. This makes good sense, because what better way to reflect upon your title character than with strong supporting characters.

The second thing I noticed was how the writers reinterpreted the source material. They took a relatively straightforward origin and then they grew it into a five year globe-trotting super origin. They visited this again and again in flashback sequences, and even made the island in question into an ongoing plot point and symbolic return to story’s core element. The island became a crucible in which multiple story arcs, and characters, were cast.

The third thing I picked up on is related to the second. When the writers reinterpreted the characters, they multiplied them. Speedy became two different characters, and the Black Canary became three instead of one. All the characters now had parents and siblings. And, if that weren’t enough, some of the characters even ended up having secret illegitimate parents, and there were secret kids who were raised in seclusion from their half brothers and sisters. The evil clone or twin element even came into it through adventures in multiple universes.

Here’s my takeaway: All this was good for the show, and made for fun television. You can learn a lot by taking a good look at your own creative ideas or properties and broadening them. Maybe you don’t want to go as far as the CW trope, but adding to your cast of characters will probably introduce a trove of new ideas.

When I revisit this subject, I will probably touch on the themes and symbolism in Arrow, and the reasons why I eventually stopped watching.

Observations & Lessons

I’m reading G.R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, the first book in his massive fantasy epic. I know I’m a decade behind the curve on this, but I enjoyed the first season of the show, so I thought I would make the plunge. I’ve never read any of Martin’s other works, so this was bound to be a learning venture from the beginning.

And, dare I say, I have indeed learned a lot. Martin really knows his way around words, and he writes a gripping tale. I’m only 145 pages in, but I’m easily bored by such things, and I have a bad habit of dropping novels or tv shows that lose my interest. So, why have I been sticking with GOT?

My first answer should be pretty obvious, I think. The chapters are short, the story really fast moving, and the writing somewhat propulsive. These short chapters remind me in a way of the stylized pulp writing of Jim Butcher’s the Dresden Files. Those books are more formulaic, and they feature short chapters that each end of a cliffhanger, resolve it in the next chapter only to end in another, maybe worse cliffhanger, again and again till done. Butcher’s work is designed to keep you engaged and keep flipping the pages.

GOT does this too, although I would say it’s a little less by the numbers in doing so.

Martin doesn’t weigh you down with exposition. There’s a rich history in Westeros, and a detailed world out there, but he lets the reader put it together in bits and pieces. There’s a cumulative buildup of setting, and it never outweighs the narrative. For example, he gives you enough background on each character to identify with, but not too much. We are not given long treatises on Westeros facial hair styles, or specific clothing styles, or the anatomy and life-cycle of dire wolves, or religious hierarchy, etc.

Martin gives the reader a strong impression of each of the characters and their world. We know Sansa is ladylike, Arya is a tomboy, Jon is kind and idealistic, and so forth. I doubt I could remember any of their eye colors, or hair styles, or whatever, but I remember the characters and their key elements. Martin lets the reader fill in the blanks, and because that’s the way our minds work, by inference, we do.

In effect, is Martin is more interested in telling a ripping good yarn than being an educator. Yes, we get the education as we advance into his setting, but it is never pedantic or dry. He gives us the tools to piece Westeros together as he propels the story along.

Lastly, I will say that while his writing style is not sparse, neither is Martin’s prose purple. It is well crafted and muscular. He does not appear to be attempting full on literature, dazzling us with insights and poetic turns of phrase, but he chugs along happily within genre writing. He seems more intent on entertaining readers than impressive literary critics.

Caveat: All opinions are my own. I come late to the world of GOT, and you may see it very differently than I do. That’s fine.

New Video!

Good morning, my capacious and collegiate confreres!

This latest video is the Medieval Room’s floor installation. It’s a doozy!

Since this video, I have been bringing books and furniture. Whew! What a job!

Assorted Commentary

Good morning, all my friends, fresh, foul, and furtive!

Yesterday I was quite saddened to learn of the passing of Terry Jones. Much has been made of his Monte Python association, and well it should. I grew up on that show, as did so many other people in my generation. It, Bennie Hill, and the Goodies were my introduction to British humor and absurdity. In more recent times, I connected with Jones on his books and television series on Medieval Lives. These were educational and entertaining, spiced with the Mr. Jones’ peculiar wit. R.I.P., Terry Jones.

Last night I took my second blacksmith class at the Indianapolis Art Center. My fellow students and the instructor Erik Shotwell are all very pleasant and fun to be around. Again, I learned a lot.

There are a few takeaways in it for me. First, I need to slow down a little bit, and stop competing with other students, and not show off. I’m a quick learner, but this is still a new medium for me, and no one expects me to be an instant prodigy. I judge my progress a little harshly sometimes. I need to remember that slow and steady is the key to proficiency.

Sorry I haven’t posted art lately. I’ve made it, for sure, but its all been of the research and note taking type, and meant more to focus my thoughts than be finished pieces of work.

This Week, Jan 20 2020

Hello, my fine friends! It’s a new week, and there is a lot of fun stuff going on. First up, Benita and I have a new video:

This project was really fun, and it was a whole load of effort! We are working on the flooring video now, and we are both sore! We plan to keep these videos coming as we delve further into medieval history.

I began putting my notes together yesterday researching another series I’m making for Youtube. We are still hashing out the details, but it’s going to be around artist appreciation. More on this as it develops.

I sent my first four columns off to Bob Hickey yesterday for Shoutfyre. I make a pretty strong start, and I look forward to promoting them as they open up for business. I already have four more columns in the oven! After more than two decades in the indie comic field, I’ve got a lot to write about.

Story Studios presents Changing of the Guard is up for sale in the Kindle store on Amazon, but I have not promoted it much yet because I don’t have the print version available yet. Time caught up with me, interrupting my learning curve on formatting, so I hired the ever-skilled A.P. Fuchs to do my formatting this time around. It’s all coming together quite soon, and that’s when the official launch for the book happens.

I’ve been watching the Witcher sporadically. I’m four episodes in, and I’m digging it. The chronology is confusing and hard to suss out, to be honest, because the show jumps around in time a lot. I guess you could say there are lots of long, flashback story arcs, but nothing in the show to indicate that time frames have shifted. I can live with that, I guess. The costuming is gorgeous, and Henry Cavill seems born for the role.

I’m busy reading the first book of the Song of Fire and Ice, that being A Game of Thrones. It reads beautifully. Since the book is so long, I didn’t expect the actual prose itself to be so tight and propulsive, but it is. So far, I can see that the early episodes of the TV series stuck to the book pretty closely. I’m happy with my choice to pick this series up.

Thursday, Thursday…

Greetings and felicitations, my fine inter web friends! Lots of cool stuff going on!

Spire City Noir no. 2 is off to the printer. There were times it seemed like this was never going to happen, but it it has, and it is. I’ve ordered a proof copy to make sure it’s all right and good to go, then go we shall! Steven is hard at work on issue 3, and I’m throwing some last minute TLC on the script for that issue. It’s epic.

Last night I took the first of many classes on blacksmithing. Yeah, blacksmithing! I’ve always wanted to learn, so Benita signed me up at the the Indianapolis Art Center. I even tried my hand at it (in a very untutored way) when I was a kid, but that was a spectacular fail. I’m not sure what projects I’m going to make, but my vote is for a rush light holder. Very medieval.

Things are moving along very well with the new medieval room. If this is news to you, it goes like this–in my studios I made a medieval corner for all my medieval themed toys, art, books, etcetera. There was never enough room for all of it, especially once I realized that I was really digging back into that time period. So, we set aside a poorly used room as the new medieval room. We have called the old room “that room at the top of the stairs” for 25 years now. It was never well utilized, but now it’s a design challenge!

Medieval Mayhem!

Last night, as I was doing some research, I wondered where my fascination with medieval history began. My first thought was that it must be a Dungeons and Dragons thing, but then I remembered that wasn’t it. Not by a long shot.

Thomas Becket Shrine

I remember finding a copy of Thomas Malory’s Le Mort D’Arthur at my house when I was growing up, and I was transfixed! I was probably about nine or ten years old, and what could be better than the romanticized adventures of knights and heroes and villains! I still have that book and treasure it. I also found my first copy of Don Quixote in those old books, and devoured that too. Even as a kid, the parody aspect of that book was not lost on me.

Then I met the Sword and Sorcery genre. I remember well Robert E. Howard’s Conan books, many of them pastiches by other authors. Then came the books of Michael Moorcock, most notably the Elric books, but also the Corum and Hawkmoon series. Then came the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Silmarillian.

J.R.R. Tolkein’s books had a big impact on my life. I honestly believe that everything I have learned about loyalty, friendship, and duty came from those stories. Now, in far retrospect, I would not call the LOTR cycle “medieval,” but I would say it represents a story for the so-called Dark Ages.

Short Digression: As far as I’m concerned, what we call the Middle Ages begins with the Norman Conquest in 1066, and ends with the reign of Henry VII in 1509. After that, you get a Renaissance king, Henry VIII. Anyway, for my own purposes, I call the period between Roman Britain and the Norman Conquest the Dark Ages, and do not consider them “Medieval.” You can try to change my mind, I don’t care.

When I was about fifteen, or maybe fourteen, some nearby friends Ed Trout and his brother Ken Trout introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons. I would have to ask Ed, but I think this was around 1978, more likely 1979. I was hooked in a big way. In fact, I played tabletop role-playing games avidly from then till about 2000. I made many life-long friends playing RPGs. I laugh now, but there are whole generations of people whose preconceived ideas about the medieval period are based on D&D.

I would be remiss if I didn’t note the Deryni books of Katherine Kurtz. I got these in my early twenties, and they were a big influence on me. I’m thinking of rereading them in order, to be honest. Benita introduced me to them, and for that I can never thank her enough.

Dover Castle

In my mid-twenties I went back to college, this time going for a degree in medieval history. This was a rich learning experience, and academically I got to shine in a way I never had before. I had some outstanding professors, especially Dr. Kenneth Cutler. He’s long retired, and I’m not sure if he’s still alive. I couldn’t find him looking online.

When I went back to college, this was all in the time prior to the internet. I was almost done with my degree when the professors first got email! Anyway, I managed to get by as best I could without much access to primary sources and limited availability of the books I needed. Now, with the internet, it’s all scanned and easily available, most of it for free! My medieval education has been just as intense in these last few years with material gleaned off the world wide web as it was in my college days.

Around age 30, I started participating in the Society of Creative Anachronism. It was not an all-together positive experience. After having had two serious cases of sun stroke, my body couldn’t handle the heat of armor, and I got sick several times trying to learn how to fight. It took me some time to realize it, but physically I was not up rigors of this martial art. Oddly enough, I believe I could handle it just fine now, but in my 50’s I’m in better shape than I was then.

The people in the Society of Creative Anachronism were friendly and inviting, and I was tempted to stay on explore the non-combat elements of the group. I did not find anyone in the group with a serious drive for history, unfortunately–these were not scholars, but semi-informed enthusiasts. That may sound critical on my part, but I don’t mean it that way. The SCA was a gateway to Medieval learning, and that’s fantastic. After the last time I tossed my cookies at a meetup, I stopped going. I never did try to certify as a fighter, because I never went to any of the big events where that was done.

If I had it to do over, would I have approached the whole thing differently? Sure. I could have been a friendly ambassador for history, I could have done so many non-combat things. I could have written articles for their publications. But, ces’t la vie.

The next stop on my medievalist path was a trip to Britain. I think I was about 27, and my grandparents sent me, Benita, my mom, and my step-dad, Floyd, to England for ten days. It was a fantastic trip that is forever burned into my memory. I am an Anglophile, through and through. Benita and I ran around inside castles and cathedrals, and I remember the first time I touched a stone tower wall that had been there since the medieval times.

Highlights of the trip include Lincoln, Canterbury, Salisbury, London, Dover, and Edinburgh. Castles, Cathedrals, and Chapels Oh my!

After this, I took about a two-decade break from all things medieval. I was busy trying to establish my career in indie comics, after all. My passion really reignited when Benita introduced me to the British television show Time Team. I love that show, and have seen all of them (I think). Not long after that I remember getting my first longbow, the type used in the middle ages, and taking up traditional archery.

Then came the Book of Lists.

The BOL is my insane attempt to marshal medieval terminology, history, and material culture. All of it. Really, every last bit. This book is not done, and it should take years to finish, but it’s aimed at writers and gamers who want to understand the very cool options hidden in history. Honestly, the deeper you dig, the more you realize that actual medieval history has many more cool options than Dungeons & Dragons or Lord of the Rings ever touch on. There is a wealth of cool jobs, technology, magic, and material culture in there!

So, that’s where I’ll leave it. I’m sure there are going to many more medieval-based adventures and by-ways for me to explore. I’m ready now.