Joe Cigar

Joe Cigar

Sunday, June 26, 2016

New Home:

After three years, I am bringing this blog to an end.

Dragon's Trail is scheduled for release on September 30th, 2016. This part of the journey is over.

Key posts from this blog have been ported over to my new site. The blog will continue there.

My Facebook page is

Follow me on Twitter @jmalikauthor.

Thank you for everything. Keep writing.

Immense peace,

- Joseph Malik

Friday, June 17, 2016

Memory Lane

Holy crap.

So, I'm sending the finished -- no, really -- manuscript out to my editor next week. The cover is in the final formatting stages. I have a marketing plan and budget in place. And yesterday I started working on Book II. Sort of.

Book II was in a bunch of old folders on a hard drive, still in Wordperfect format. Somewhere, I knew, I had notes. So, into the garage, and after a little digging:

Found 'em.

This is my process. I have boxes of this. Notes, flow charts, sketches, beat sheets. One of the reasons that the Outworlders saga (which is what I'm calling this) is so well-researched, and the worldbuilding so bombproof, is that I've been working on it for about twenty years, not counting a ten-year break in the middle.

And check this out -- the original manuscript, from high school, in hardcopy:

With corrections from my English teacher, and entire hand-jammed
chapters wedged in there. Because, high school.

At the bottom of the box, a 3.5" floppy with apparently FIVE BOOKS on it, all in .wpd. I have no idea how to get at this. Also, along with it, a flow chart for a sequel apparently called "Coin of the Realm," a sketch of the MC, and for some reason a picture of a younger, much more buff me, replete with beer and douchebag wife-beater shirt. Ah, youth. I'm guessing 1992 or 1993. I would have been doing stunt work and modeling back then.

I want to say the artist used me as the model, but I'm also a
vain son of a bitch so it's the kind of conclusion I'd draw.
So the lesson here, as I see it, is never throw anything away. Keep everything you ever write. Trust me on this. Your ideas will come back and speak to you across the ages. And when they do, listen to them. They may not be done telling your stories, yet.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Map Redux

The map of the world where Dragon's Trail and subsequent books take place.

I drew this in an online beta mapmaker for gamers, using sketches I've made over the years. I hand-jammed the rivers and water features in Gimp.

I intentionally left off everything that we don't see in the first book. I could dot this map with villages and draw in hundreds of rivers and towers, but personally I hate poring over a map for ten minutes looking for the village of Grash'ur'gh or whatever.

The second book deals with an uprising in the Shieldlands, (spoiler alert) and I'm going to have a bitch of a time working that out on paper because the whole area is essentially a Jackson Pollock painting of petty fiefdoms. But that's next winter's problem.

Yes, there are a lot of mountains.

I gave the planet a huge moon -- I still haven't decided if the planet is a moon orbiting something bigger, or a binary planetoid; I worked the math both ways. But the tidal forces tear the hell out of the planet, making jagged, Patagonia-esque mountain ranges.

Really no better way to blow a jaded character's mind than to give him a couple of days believing he's in a reality show, then have the clouds part one night to reveal something like this. "So,  I take it my agent's not coming, then."
Also, the tides are huge and the oceans have enormous waves, making them nearly un-navigable. Innavigable? There should be a word for that. There probably is. What I'm saying is, they're really tough to navige.

Medieval Stasis is something that most fantasy writers can't live without. The trick is justifying it, at least to the point of suspension of disbelief.

The moon's size and proximity means the world is prone to massive earthquakes, and every thousand years or so it goes through what they call The Cataclysm (I've decided that they suck at naming stuff), which wipes out large swaths of civilization and they have to start over again.

The moon tied the whole thing together and led not only to the easy realization for the characters that they hadn’t gone back in time, but from a world-builder's perspective, the moon's power led to the concept of a civilization in a constant state of rebuilding, with eons of lost history showing up in bits and pieces. Look for warriors showing up to battle in armor that’s been handed down for a thousand years but is still three hundred years ahead of current tech.

I went Vendel-Age / Late Viking on the technology to keep it simple; things moved so fast in the early Middle Ages that it was really tough to nail down an analogous time period in which the world could remain in stasis, but the end of the Vendel Age saw a degree of technical homogeneity across a good swath of the world. That was also a time when steel was about as valuable as gold and warriors were still wearing armor handed down from Roman invaders six hundred years before. Sometimes things just work themselves out.

I trained at the French Foreign Legion Desert Commando School in the Horn of Africa, and the field exercises gave me a whole new appreciation for the degree to which earthquakes and volcanoes could completely screw over millions of people and keep them scrabbling about making do with whatever technology they could keep their hands on. I now know more about camels and vintage rifles than any modern soldier should. But I digress.

I went left-justified on the map. I don't know why; everyone does, it turns out, so much so that it has its own trope. Gavria turns to a shithole to the south, sparsely populated and very tough to traverse, and the Eastern Freehold is hostile and weird and the mountains are a bitch to get over, plus they speak a different language, so nobody worth knowing ever goes there or comes from there.

Ulorak is basically a high plain, originally inhabited by refugees from the Eastern Freehold, now a trading crossroads.

The forests are too wild to traverse safely. Big chunks of Gateskeep -- so named because, notice, there are only two ways in from the south: Axe Valley and the pass at Horlech; hence, two gates -- are still unexplored or at least unmapped.

Which brings up another point: have you ever seen a map drawn in the Dark Ages?

Me, neither.

I don't think that, given a Planet England trope, they'd have a really great idea of where anything was other than, "forests over here, big mountains there, kinda small mountains over there." Which should make military maneuvers a laugh a minute, lacking detailed terrain considerations.

With geographic features sufficing for hard borders, there are plenty of opportunities for snarkiness and small wars all over the place, which keeps the weekends interesting.