Sunday, January 24, 2016

The IX - New Beginnings

Over the past weeks I’ve been sharing my ideas with you, and revealing how various facets of The IX came to life. But those of you who are new to the series might be wondering…

How did you ever think of such a concept?

Ah, to answer that we have to go back several years. Basically, I undertook the writing of The IX following a lively and opinionated discussion during a veterans reunion dinner in the early part of 2013.
Military History has always been a hobby of mine, and several colleagues started a debate as to the fate of the legendary lost 9th Legion of Rome. A legion was a mighty edifice. More than five thousand strong, they were a self-contained mini-civilization on the march, capable of building an entire fortification at the end of every day’s journey in which to sleep soundly.
And yet, they marched into the swirling mists of Northern Caledonia (Scotland) sometime between AD100 – 120 (Estimates vary, which is a mystery in itself) and were never seen again.
That conversation stayed with me for several months until I happened to catch an old movie on TV, entitled, Millennium. In that film, time travelers visit the present day and steal passengers from doomed aircraft with the intention of repopulating a barren world of the future.

I am an avid science fiction fan, and the conversation from the reunion dinner immediately sprang to mind. Obviously, I began to imagine what if?
What if they were taken? Not into our future...but somewhere and somewhen else entirely. What if their antagonists were also snatched away with them? Obviously, it would create a cauldron of fomenting tension, especially if these adversaries were thrown together in a situation whereby they were forced to work with each other to survive an even greater peril.
I started to let that idea develop, and then came up with an even better twist. How about including other groups of refugees from several other time periods, and throw them into the same nightmare scenario?
It took a great deal of research and preparation, but I chose a US cavalry unit from around the time of the presidential elections of 1860, as that was a period of great interest to me.
Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln was juggling growing pressure between various state governors and congress regarding the issue of the Native American peoples. So, I simply invented a secret peace proposal between him and certain tribes from the Plains Cree nations. Of course, this ‘treaty’ would also be compounded by an ongoing internal conflict between the actual clans themselves, all of which would add to the simmering uncertainty.
Into the stew, I introduced a straightforward anti-terrorist Special Forces team from the near future. That was easy, because of my military experience.
Overall, it was a lot of work, but I was very pleased with the resulting outline, as it provided a fresh approach to what many have felt has become a stagnating genre.
Each unit brings their own particular strength to the story.

Roman legions were renowned for their tenacity and adaptability. They worked and operated under all sorts of conditions in all sorts of theaters around the world. There simply wasn’t anything else like them in the world at the height of their strength. As such, Marcus Brutus and his men bring that dogged resilience to play. Their honor doesn’t allow them to give up. Which is just as well, for they face an enemy that refuses to quit.
The US Cavalry unit brings the gritty determination of temperaments forged at a time of expansion and exploration. They had to be rugged and enduring to remain effective over vast distances. They never knew what to expect. Just the thing you need when death lurks at every turn.
The Special Forces unit posses a unique perspective. Highly trained and motivated, they are the epitome of controlled, lethal aggression. What they can’t attain by strength, they achieve by guile. In battle, they will not stop until their objective is secured. They prove brutal adversaries against an unstoppable foe.
Forged in death, the Ninth Intake becomes the very instrument Arden needs to save her people at their darkest hour.
And the rest, as they say, is history.

What’s interesting is the fact that when I originally laid out the threads of this storyline, I originally devised The IX to be a one-off story.

So…how did it grow to become a series?

I’ll tell you next time J

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Arden Worldbuilding - Part 5
For those of you who have read The IX, I'm sure you'll have all conjured images in your minds about the soul-sucking Horde. Fiendish ethereal ogres that can strip the life essence from all living things, and the potential from most energy-based weaponry and mechanisms.
where did I get the inspiration for such adversaries?
Well, the first thing that ran through my head was based on this:
Yup a boring old vampire.
You'll be glad to know I never intended to stay on this topic. It was just a starting point for an adversary that was anti-life...and rightly so. Nowadays, vampires are portrayed as something sexy. Something people aspire to be if given half a chance, and I certainly didn't want my antithetical creations to be appealing in any way.
So, after a bit more thought, I added these components:

NOW we're starting to refine the idea a little.

I'm sure all you sci-fi buffs remember the Wraith from Stargate Alantis? They were a superb enemy, a vampiric/telepathic species that evolved when a nasty little life-form called a Iratus Bug fed on humans, absorbing their ability to heal themselves. Over time, they adopted aspects of their hosts' DNA, giving rise to the Wraith themselves.
Aggressive, remorseless hunters, the Wraith couldn't be trusted and viewed others as cattle. What's more, they were hard to kill. THAT was the kind of enemy I wanted our heroes to face...
with a little tinkering.
You see, I wanted something special. That's when I thought of jellyfish.

Insidious and hard to see, Jellyfish are a sneaky predators that inject neurotoxins into their quarry that often induces paralysis. I was drawn to the aspect of the Horde being able to overpower and hold their prey helpless, and as I played with that idea, the bioluminescent variety reminded me of something I'd seen on a number of occasions years ago.

Wait for it....

still waiting?


Who remembers this incredible revelation of the enemy in Forbidden Planet? (One of the all-time best Science fiction movies ever - and made in 1956 no less!) A monster of the ID, revealed in all it's glory under an intense barrage that did nothing to dissuade its efforts.
NOW I was getting somewhere.
At last I had a template in my mind of an ethereal, mostly invisible creature that was able to draw sustenance from any artificial construct emitting energy, and from anything possessing the force of life itself.
I wanted a creature that would get bigger and stronger the more it feasted. More adept and cunning. A creature that could manifest its majesty in a truly horrific way in order to stun its prey and improve the flavor of its meal by inducing a tasty tang of terror.
And that, my friends, is how the Horde were born.

Could you imagine something like that chasing you?
You might do again, real soon.

Until the next time...

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Arden - Worldbuilding - part 4
Can you guess where this might be from the book?
This time round, I though I'd take a look at some of the sights that inspired various parts of Arden...You know, those places you've read about in the story and from which you might have conjured a word picture in your mind.
Here's a little snapshot of what I envisioned. Compare them to the scenes within each chapter, and you'll see why Arden would be a wonderful world if it were not for the Horde menace.
The Sengennon Strait
Welcome to the purple/mauve grasslands that surround the precincts of Rhomane for at least ten miles in every direction
Asterlan Lake
To the east of the city lies the vast inland sea - the Asterlan Lake. Its aquamarine waters are often stained a deep scarlet due to the reflections of the nearby Garnet Mountains along its northern shores.
Garnet Mountains
Lying to the northwest, this ruddy barrier catches the first rays of SoleĆ­l (the Ardenese sun) and reflects its glory in a breath-taking way. Here's a close-up shot of the picture above.


The Grisson Gap
As you will know from the story, the Grisson Gap sits to the north of Rhomane at the border of the Garnet Mountains (northwest) and Erasan Mountains (northeast).

The Erasan Mountains
Home to the Targens (eaglelike creatures of Arden and the Boradan snowbeast) This impressive range lies to the north and west of the city.

Southern Grasslands
As you travel south of Rhomane, past the Starport and then slightly east, you hit these beautiful plains.
Tar'e-esh Forest
Far to the southeast lies a huge expanse of purple-green forests where a major part of the story takes place. Here's the inspiration behind that magical place.

As you can see, it would be a wonderful fantasyland to stroll through

Shilette Abyss

Of course, the Shilette Abyss is a vast edifice that can be seen from space. When I saw this picture - and others like it - it created an image in my mid of a huge scar, scores of miles wide - gouging its way across Arden's surface. A place that the colonists can turn to when the fight against the Horde takes a turn for the better.

So there you go. These are the building blocks to how Arden and the land about Rhomane were born.

I don't know about you - but I'm hooked.