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World Building: The Elven World – Turtle Island


The elven world is a near mirror image of Earth, with some minor exceptions in geographic description. There are seven main regions throughout the elven world, with each region having a diverse population. The largest populations exist in Africanis, Asia-interior, and Asia-major. An eighth region exists, but it’s population does not consist of elves, but of frost giants who migrated south thousands of years ago. This is called Southern Artica.

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The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider by Tim Holtorf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at https://taholtorf.wordpress.com/bmamppr/the-series/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://taholtorf.wordpress.com/.
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Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Writing

 

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World Building: The elven world – Europa


The elven world is a near mirror image of Earth, with some minor exceptions in geographic description. There are seven main regions throughout the elven world, with each region having a diverse population. The largest populations exist in Africanis, Asia-interior, and Asia-major. An eighth region exists, but it’s population does not consist of elves, but of frost giants who migrated south thousands of years ago. This is called Southern Artica.

Creative Commons License
The Adventures of Black Mask & Pale Rider by Tim Holtorf is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at https://taholtorf.wordpress.com/bmamppr/the-series/.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at https://taholtorf.wordpress.com/
Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

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Posted by on August 9, 2014 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Writing

 

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World Building: fantasy


Here’s something I learned while writing and reading what others had written about creating a fantasy world.  None of it has to be explained in one big shot.  You don’t have to go into pages long descriptions of the entire world.  Part of reading is getting the entire story, and thereby leaving certain things behind the curtain until you’re ready to reveal them completely.

One of the things with fantasy fiction that makes it easier to write in this day and age is that we’ve got a very good idea of what happens in fantasy.  You have the basics of magic, people and things.  We all know that elves are often described as fair and beautiful in appearance (a description which the author can tweak should they wish to).  And even settings shouldn’t need come with a compendium.

A reason for this is because we don’t need to treat readers as stupid.  Readers are pretty smart, and often they’ll pick up on things quickly.  So when you describe a setting, you don’t need to describe the entire world.  An example might be something like how N. K. Jemisin described her world in the 100 Thousand Kingdoms.  Never once did she describe everything in one shot.  She began with a description of the capital city and the reason for why the main character was there.  Then went into story.  She described the use of transport from the ground to the towers high above the city later in the book.  And she described the politics throughout the book when it needed to be described.  In other words, when the time came to explain something to the reader, it was explained.  Not before and not after with a “oh, by the way, that thing the main character did two chapters ago; here’s the reason why”.

It becomes even easier when you’re dealing with a world we’re all completely familiar with.  Now this obviously depends on region because not everyone is going to know precisely the historical events in the West, or the Middle East, Western Africa, or South East Asia.  But again, generally the reader is smart enough to pick up on certain things.  The reader can automatically envision the world in their mind with a very short description.

Shani’s eyes fluttered open as she felt herself return to normal.  She didn’t feel a weakness anymore as she had when she walked through the gate, but the howling whistle was still there, this time racing past.  She looked up to her rescuer, a tall man, human, with dark skin, almost blackish brown, and broad shoulders.  He had concern in his eyes as he crouched beside her.

“Where am I?” Shani asked as she tried to get up.

“We’re just outside o’ Carrolton, Arkansas,” the man said aloud.  “You almost got hit by a train.”

This short description from my rewrite of Black Mask & Pale Rider details several things in as short a time as possible.  First, Shani was injured after walking through a gate, and nearly run over by a train.  She’s in the Southern States, and she was rescued by a black man.

With the name of the place, especially Arkansas, one can get the idea of the where in the story very easily.  Setting can be continued easily enough.  In my rewrite of Black Mask & Pale Rider, I wrote a scene before this one which helped with that.

Pania steered her horse down the wide street as she took in the different shops, the people milling about, the carriages delivering goods or taking people to destinations.  She soon found a newspaper barker standing on a street corner and encouraged her horse closer to him.

“Lad,” she called out.  The boy looked up and blinked.  A woman of Pania’s like had obviously never called upon him before.  “How much fer a copy o’ the paper.”

“Five cents,” the boy replied confidently.

“Here,” Pania said as she took a gold coin from her pocket and tossed it to the boy.  “This should more ‘n cover it.  It’s solid gold, I’d say at least a month’s worth o’ wages fer ye.”  She tossed it to the boy and he caught it easily, inspecting it carefully.  When he was satisfied, he approached Pania, still in the saddle and handed her a copy of the newspaper, a wide smile on his face.  “Thank ye, lad.”

Pania held the paper in one hand as she read the mast head, then the date line.  ‘Chicago Tribune, May 4, 1863’ it read.  There appeared to be an article about some conflict.  She’d have to read more about this.

With those few short paragraphs, and the short conversation, the reader can pick up a lot.  The story is in Chicago, it takes place in the mid to late 1800s, which can also be gathered with the description of horse drawn carriages and the fact Pania is riding a horse.  And that the Civil War is taking place, not just by the date but with the line “there appeared to be an article about some conflict”.

There’s even easier ways to set the mood for the story, so the reader will know exactly what’s happening.

August 16, 1863, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

It’s simple and quick, and sometimes considered a little lazy, but it works.  The reader knows right off the when and where the story takes place.  You can continue writing in the basic details.  The weather was hot and dry, it was a Sunday, hardly anyone was on the streets.  Small details that the reader can pick up on quickly without a multiple page description of what’s going on.  You can even describe quickly what the main character is doing at this point with ease.

This was something I did in the original writing of Black Mask & Pale Rider.  Gave the date and place, went onto describe it being hot, it was a Sunday so most people would be in church, and then went onto explain why Shani was here.  To rob a bank.

Sometimes, when world building, you have to give the details.  But those details can wait until the time is right.  You don’t have to reveal everything right away.  That just detracts from the story itself, and you’re no longer writing about a fantasy adventure, but a handbook for a table top role playing game.

Which could also be kind of fun.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2014 in Fun, randomness, Writing

 

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Why the female heavy cast


Height differences between the different characters I've created.  (L-R) Britannia, Yellow Jacket, Free Spirit, Canadien, Canadienne, Mannequin, Shani Wennemein, Pania Alow.

Height differences between the different characters I’ve created. (L-R) Britannia, Yellow Jacket, Free Spirit, Canadien, Canadienne, Mannequin, Shani Wennemein, Pania Alow.

Originally written at timholtorf.tumblr.com

I got asked that question about the world of Black Mask and Pale Rider a while ago.  The fact that it’s very female centric, very female heavy in the characters.  Part of that came as a push against the establishment.  You look at the movies, books, television shows and so on that have women, and you’ll find it’s actually a very low percentage.  Even then, it’s not uncommon for a reader/viewer to say that women were the majority, even though they may have been only 17% of the actual cast.  Even then, those women may not have had speaking roles.

With Black Mask & Pale Rider, I wanted that slightly different.  The cast of characters is as such.  Now, there are lots of named characters, but these are the characters that played a major part in the original story.

  • Shani Wennemein (female elf, main character)
  • Pania Alow (female elf, main character)
  • Captain Samuel Williams (male, recurring antagonist)
  • Private Johnson (male, recurring, under the command of Captain Williams)
  • Dieter van Buren (maile, secondary character)
  • Ya’Row (female elven vampire, first major villain, has a recurring role)
  • Thadius Maximus/Martin Derringer (male, secondary character, werewolf, assists Pania with the rescue of Shani)
  • The Huntsman (androgynous, gender is not defined, can be called spectral, second major villain)
  • Jonathon Caleb Walker (male, secondary character, assists Shani and Pania against a band of outlaws)
  • Ming (male, secondary character, is rescued by Shani and Pania)
  • Dorval (male, third villain)
  • Mitch, Ferret and Gator (males, three of Dorval’s men)
  • Ezekiel Morgan (male, slave freed by Shani)
  • Jeremiah Kingston the Third (male, fourth villain)
  • Isabella (female, slave, voodoo priestess, forced to use her witchcraft ot support Kingston)
  • Slowhand Johnson (maile, friend of Shani’s)
  • Aurela Dorchester (female, friend of Pania’s, had a romantic affair with Pania)
  • The Lich (androgynous, gender never defined, but can be assumed to be male, fifth villain)
  • Reverend Carter Stewart (male, is compared to being a paladin, a holy knight, helps Shani and Pania fight Ya’Row a second time, this time on a train)
  • Mandrake (an old arch mage, sixth villain)
  • Running Cloud (male, Dakota, helps Pania from a near death experience)

That’s the list of characters from the original book.  This doesn’t include bit parts, of which there are many.  Even with this list being more than the average, it’s still mostly male.  Only 25% of the characters in the book are female.

That’s where the changes come in.

But there’s a bit more than that.

As reading and researching I made few discoveries.  And that was about race.  Not only are women disproportionately shown, so are people of colour.  Admittedly, I had a Chinese man, a black man, and a Dakota man in the book, and one black woman (Isabella).  Sadly, I don’t think I really did them any justice and could have played down stereotypes and tropes.

As it happens, more changes came into affect.  As did more characters.  First, the changes.

  • Shani is revealed to be Metis (her mother Mohawk, her father Gaul or French).
  • Pania is Irish Celtic, and it will be revealed in a more respectful manner that Pania is a lesbian.
  • Clayton “Slowhand” Adams is a former slave (and his name changed from Johnson to Adams, there’s already private Johnson after all).
  • Aurela, the Mistress of a brothel, has two black women as housemates, one of whom will factor importantly (and get a name at some point).
  • Shani’s sister, Wren, will join the pair when fighting against Ya’Row and travel with them.
  • Abisayo will be introduced, being an elf of Yoruba background, and the daughter of the king and queen.
  • Isabella will play a more important role, helping Abisayo keep her protective wards fresh and strong.
  • Pania will reveal her love and affection for Abisayo, though with a great deal of hesitation, as she felt her station is a lower rank than Abisayo’s.  Abisayo will eventually return the affection after watching the care and compassion that Pania has.
  • Adams and Aurela will join Shani, Pania, Wren and Abisayo as they hunt down the Lich’s lair (it will no longer be a high noon shoot out in the street)
  • Reverend Stewart, Adams, Derringer, Walker, Ming, Aurela, van Buren, Morgan, and the as yet unnamed black woman will go after Mandrake.

While only three women have been added to the cast list, it should help greatly.  The story, after all, centers around Shani, Pania, Wren and Abisayo.  Giving Isabella more of a story will also help, and adding in a partner for Aurela should also add to it.

It was important to add women to the story, but it was also important to showcase their race.  Thus why Slowhand’s race is actually identified as African American.  It was also important to include Shani and Wren’s race, and adding in Abisayo.  It’ll be more historically accurate, after all, because in the wild west the majority of gunslingers were, you guessed it, not white.  Black, Native American, and Mexican.

I’m hoping this rewrite does a great deal, and I hope that I can do justice to the characters.

And quite frankly, I’d love it if this book (series) ended up with a strong female audience because as I’ve been reading and watching (all through my followers and those I follow) women are very invested in the characters in books, movies and television.

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Black Mask and Pale Rider, Writing

 

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Maps and Black Mask & Pale Rider


the gathering place

This map is the main map for the home nation that Shani, Pania, Wren and Abisayo come from (in truth, Abisayo was born in West Africa, in what is now Nigeria, before the Yoruba elves escaped through the gates to the elven world).  This large island nation has many names, and no names.  Loosely translated from many languages, it is called the Gathering Place or the Meeting Place.  Gaul elves call it Le lieu de rencontre; Irish Celtic elves call it An Áit Cruinniú; Creole elves call it Mete nan Reyinyon.  There are even names in Haida, Mohawk, Cree, Prussian, Greek and Egyptian.  What they all mean is a place of peace and contentment.

The islands rest in the center of the massive Sea of Seven Bridges, between the continents of Turtle Island, Europa and the Dark Continent.  From north to south, the islands are 115 miles, and from east to west, they are 130 miles.

Many different cultures have settled the islands, some intermarrying (as was the case with Shani and Wren’s parents, their father was Gaul and their mother Mohawk).  Haida populate the Kanata Island area, as they have formed several fishing villages.  A Prussian monk opened a monastery on what would become Muenster Island and has become home to several hundred who come to the center of philosophy and learning of the island nation.  Many Gaul settlers homesteaded from Pont Magique in the north to the village of Overbrook.  Pont Magique is the center of arcane arts where wizards and sorcerers will go to hone their skills or learn more of the ways of the magical arts.  Brockton was settled by Irish Celtic settlers and began as a farming community, but eventually became home to an educational center for the arts.  Twice a year, at harvest and seeding, and coinciding with the graduation and entrance of new students from the college, there is the Brockton Festival.  A two week long festival to celebrate the harvest (or planting) and to celebrate story and song.  Dignitaries from around the elven world flock to Brockton during the festivals, shaing their own arts, culture and food during the two weeks.  Droichead Cloch is the capital of the islands, and the main port of call.  Here, there are many different sections of the city where settlers have taken to call home.  From Yoruba to Mohawk to Gaul to Irish.  To the west of the main island is Rock Shoal Island, a rugged place with few inhabitants.  Most are fishermen, and a few tend to the lighthouse duties of the northern and southern lighthouses.  On the north west tip of the main island is the Drum, home to the Mohawk and Cree settlers.  The Mohawk have taken to watching over the forest areas, while the Cree settled further south and took up farming and cattle ranching.

As for Shani, Pania, Wren and Abisayo… Pania lives in Brockton, where she was born and where she went to the College of Arts and Bardic Knowledge.  Abisayo has moved to this nation as well, to be with Pania (though, she still travels back to the Yoruba lands as she is the first daughter of the Royal Family).  Shani has a small cabin just north of Brockton, on the Merchants Road that leads to Overbrook.  When Wren needs a place to rest, she either stays with her sister, Shani, or with her mother at the Drum (or at Pont Magique where their mother is Headmistress of the College of the Arcane).  However, Wren travels a great deal throughout the world, as such with her duties as a Consoler.  She does have a small house in Droichead Cloch, not far from the main cemetery of the city, where she will tend to her duties there when she is not traveling.

The island nation has a small military force made up of what are called the Patrollers.  They will keep the peace along the roads and in the different towns and villages.  They are the only military and police force in the elven world that does not have a standard uniform, as members of this group consist of many different cultures, each of whom has their own brand of armour and weapons that they use.  Each member of the military is taught tactics and strategy based on the experiences of each culture, and all are instructed in the use of many different style of weapons, though each member will gravitate toward something familiar.

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2013 in Fun, randomness, Writing

 

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World Building: Critainian Traditions, habits and technology


This is an expanded explanation of the different races.  Each race has their own unique traits and aspects about them.  In this section, the Critainians.

The Critainians have a long standing tradition, that dates back to the times before the Great Crossing.  Among all of the intelligent life forms in the Lupine System, the Critainians are the only species that lay eggs.  One tradition is that when a female is about to lay her eggs, she travels to a central “Hatchery Medical Facility” where she rests for several days, and a company of doctors and nurses assist with her clutch.  When she has lain her eggs, she returns home, always keeping in contact with the hatchery the condition of the eggs, if they are close to hatching, and what arrangements she needs to make to return to her clutch.  Critainians will often lay three or four eggs at a time, and will do this four times throughout their life time.  It is not uncommon where one or two of the eggs do not hatch.

At the central hatchery on Critainia, doctors and nurses work around the clock to ensure the safety and care of every egg.  At times, there are over three or four hundred eggs being cared for.  There are several central hatcheries dotted across Critainia, and it is estimated that there are over sixty to seventy five thousand eggs being cared for at a time.  When the eggs are ready to hatch, mothers will be contacted and special carriers sent to bring them to their hatchery.  All information about the eggs and the mother is recorded so that there is no error and that no mix up in who’s eggs belong to whom.  It has also become habit for Critainians who are members of cargo cruisers and even war ships to return home during egg laying seasons.

The Critainians also have another very unique aspect regarding their biology.  They are the only race that resides in the Lupine Star System who’s gender is fluid.  Meaning that it is not uncommon to meet one Critainian and see that person several times throughout their entire life, and to have met them as male and female.  It is not uncommon for Critainians to spontaneously switch genders to conform to the needs of the social group they inhabit.  This is one reason why both male and female Critainians dress in similar fashion.

Many of these habits and traditions of the Critainians were brought upon by necessity.  Especially during the Great Crossing.  One massive ship was built specifically for egg laying, and Critainian engineers had to build it properly.  The system of record keeping was also something that began quite earnestly during the Great Crossing, as all aspects of their lives were recorded for future generations.  This is still evident, as many tomes are brought in to the ever expanding library on the main continent of Critainia.

Unlike the other races of the Lupine System, Critainians are strictly vegetarian.  Many of the dishes they have brought with them have become popular on other planets as a good source of nutrition.  It is because of this that many Critainians act as nutritional experts throughout the system.  Many Pantherans, who have create an advanced medical science, study with the Critainians to learn all they can about the nutritional and medical practices.  The Critainians and Lupine have worked together to create a vast agricultural system in the main Lupine territories of Lupinia, along with a vast irrigation network.

Critainians live much longer than any of the other races.  Often, a Critainian cargo cruiser may have a crew that has seen eight full rotations of Vulpine sailors of one Vulpine ship.  Each rotation of a Vulpine military vessel lasts three decades, barring promotions or death in the event of combat.  A good example is the first mate of the Barrow’s Revenge, a Critainian named Gor’lon.  Gor’lon has been first officer of the Revenge since Sylvia Clarendale became captain.  Crena Clarendale is the fifth captain in line while Gor’lon has been first officer.  Each captain has held that rank on average for 15 years.  Gor’lon brought his own space traveling experiences to the Revenge before he became first officer.

Critainians are said to have very long memories, that happen to match their long lives.  They will often be able to recite, word for word, any communication, negotiation or small conversation that would have occurred decades before had they been present for it.

Critainians have their religion, but they keep it very close to heart and don’t often share their practices.  They believe that a spiritual aspect is one’s own choice and that person need only keep it in their mind and heart.  They will discuss it if asked, but they are not about to attempt to make any converts and often will try to dissuade other species from following Critainian religious spirituality.  They believe their religion is for Critainians only and that it is one thing that definitely does set them apart from other races.

Critainians do not ever make intimate relationships with other species.  They do believe in close friendships and honour those very well, but they have never in Critainian record, ever become romantically tied to someone outside of Critainian life.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in The Barrow's Revenge, Writing

 

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Character Building in the Lupine Star System: Captain Crena Clarendale


The following characters will have a major impact in the story I’m working on.  To get a picture of each, I used the character building tools in Champions Online to get a visual of each.

Name: Crena Clarendale
Alias: The Dread Pirate, Swift Fox
Height: 4’2″
Weight: 75 lbs
Age: 27 (19 in Earth years)

Crena is a bipedal canine like creature from the distant galaxy Lupine.  She is a member of the fox-like Vulpine race.  Crena has a swagger to her step.  She always seems to have a small smile like she’s hiding some great secret.  She is also proof that the Vulpine do not have the same speech impediment that Senia Felix has.  She carries a pair of blades, one which would appear to be an ornate rapier.  She also carries a standard issue pulse blaster, but rarely uses it.  She will always introduce herself as “The Dread Privateer, Swift Fox, scourge of the Lupine system”.  While scourge may not be apt, she is quite adept in battle, and when aided or called to aid, she will make fast friends if she deems them capable.  Crena has a bit of an ego, and her small stature does nothing to dissuade that.

Crena utilizes a disciplined martial art and stealth like capabilities when tracking an enemy.  Once battle has begun, however, her more swashbuckling nature takes hold, as often she’ll give out battle cries in order to taunt her foes and catch them off guard.

Crena will offer up information that she is the captain of a space faring vessel called The Barrow’s Revenge.  The vessel has been in her family name for seven generations.  It is the last vessel of Vulpine origin to use solar sails.  Her crew is a rag tag group made up of Vulpine, Lupian, and Critainian members.  She will give away that she and her crew are feared pirates among the far reaches of space, and the name of The Barrow’s Revenge is one spoken in hushed whispers.  Crena will often go on about tales of escaping a roving horde of Jackai raiders that had six ships at their command.  Or facing the Dread Scourge Upton of the Panthera thieves guild.

Truth, the Barrow’s Revenge has been in Swift Fox’s family for seven generations.  Also, the name Swift Fox has been handed down from parent to kit should the young one take up the ways of a space faring merchant.  Which is how the Barrow’s Revenge began, as a merchant ship.  Crena’s great great great great so on and so forth grandfather grew tired of Jackai raids, and retro fit his ship with offensive capabilities.  He was quite successful in defending his ship from Jackai raiders and the odd Pantheran pirates, and his name grew with legend among the Vulpine.  Though, Dread Pirate is a little off.  More like, Adventurous Privateer.  Swift Fox, from the first to the present, has been in the employ of the Vulpine Protectorate.  For the most part, they keep to themselves, shipping cargo from planet to planet, defending themselves against raids, and even ferrying diplomats from the four planets.  Every so often, however, the Protectorate will give them a bounty, which the crew of the Revenge takes very seriously.  Bounties mean more plunder than what transport does.

Oh, and the tale of the Jackai raiders.  There were three ships, not six.  And Upton, he and Crena argued for two hours over holo display over who’s rights were to the salvaged cargo of a derelict vessel.  No shots fired, and it was more diplomacy than swashbuckling.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2011 in The Barrow's Revenge, Writing

 

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