Sunday, May 29, 2016

The IX Series - World Building - Part 11


Hello again.
Last week we took a closer look at the Exordium Star System where we learned that Exordium was once one of three planets: Exordium - Vilen - Liberty.

This little system is governed by Damone, a brown dwarf aurorae, one of the few stars capable of surviving the ravages of so many black holes within the Verianda Nebula.

Now, I know you'll have envisioned what Exordium looks like as you read the book, and I won't spoil that, as her natural diversity of flora and fauna was ravaged by the emergence of the Horde. 

BUT - do you remember the first "glimpse" we got of Exordium's surface when Caym and his companions completed an astral long-range survey of the planet?

Here's an excerpt:
Back to back, two sentinels whirled slowly round and round in midair, maintaining an ever-vigilant watch over the five individuals in their care.
Below them, safely ensconced within a protective barrier of infrared, thermal, and photonic properties, Caym, Zagam, Roth, Urium, and El’chan appeared to be relaxing, sitting as they were in a circle, holding hands.
In reality, while their bodies rested within the cool interior of the Shadow of Autumn’s main engineering deck, their minds were far away. Light years away, in fact. And at this very moment, the nucleus of their conjoined psyches was descending upon the broad expanse of a gray and ochre colored world, bathed in wan light from a brown-dwarf sun.
As executive of the concert, Caym lightly sounded the biosphere.
Fibril echoes lingered, teasing him with spectral reminders of the teeming diversity which once graced this planet with vibrant life. Today only a desolate husk remained, where dust storms ravaged brittle, wind-scoured deserts.
An impressive chain of islands still stretched more than halfway across its globe, splitting a vast ocean and connecting both sides of an immense, world-spanning continent in a lopsided grin like a string of broken teeth.

The mélange of flora and fauna here must have been breathtaking, Caym remarked, can you sense it?

Well can you? Sense it?
Here's the map I devised during the World Building stage to work from.
(Don't worry about the size, just click on the map and it will enlarge)

Yes, I added a spot of color to make it pretty - AND - as you can see, it contains details you don't actually get to read about in the books.
The action takes place within the environs close to the capital - Barsoonet - and the CIART (Cosmological Institute of Advanced Research & Technology)

Keep that in mind as you revisit the continent of Origen, because next week, we'll take a closer look at the CIART headland so you get a better idea of what our heroes had to contend with.

See you then :)

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The IX Series - World Building - Part 10

Last week we took a peek inside the Verianda Nebula, a place where black holes, pulsars and dwarf stars abound. This week, we'll home in a bit on the Exordium Star System and take a look at the birthplace of the Horde themselves.

Say hello to Exordium

I originally envisioned Exordium as the innermost planet of three. At least, it used to be. Several rogue black holes passed through the system thousands of years prior to our story, ripping Vilen and Liberty - the sister worlds - apart. Their shattered remains now form planetesimals around their former centers of gravity. (And as readers of Exordium of Tears will know, they come in pretty handy to our heroes aboard the Shadow of Autumn.)

Of course, following the Horde outbreak, life as it was ceased to exist. Flora and fauna shriveled and died, and the planet became a husk of what it once was.

And as you can just make out from the picture, Exordium's sun, Damone, is a brown dwarf.
Now say hello to Damone.

This is a view of Damone through the Taloran Veil.

Damone is a brown dwarf aurorae, a class of star similar in many ways to a pulsar in that it constantly broadcasts energy. However, instead of emitting electromagnetic radiation, an aurorae emits lighthouse beams of radio waves.

Just looking at the planet and its star sets the scene, doesn't it?
It's the kind of place Dante might feel inspired to write about.

If you'd like to find out more about the conditions our heroes encounter as they land to take on the Horde on their home turf, come back next week and I'll reveal some in-depth features you won't find elsewhere.

See you then...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The IX Series - World Building - Part 9

Last week, I introduced you to the Verianda Nebula where most of the action takes place in Exordium of Tears: It's an interstellar dust cloud, light years across, comprised of regular and rotating super black holes. I also explained why you see the red tinge in the outer dust field - an effect caused by excessive gravity that tends to bend light toward the red end of the visible spectrum.

But what do our intrepid explorers find inside?
Let's take a look into my mind's-eye and  start building an impression:

Remember, you can't see black holes. But you DO see what they generate; super bright accretion discs created by everything that falls prey to their gravity. It all gets crushed.
So, imagine looking all around you, and seeing nothing but endless black, interspersed by frozen photo negative halos of white (and red-shifted) light. An incredibly, awe inspiring sight. Mesmerizing, haunting, and deadly, because don't forget, this area of space would be full of conflicting gravity shears, that would tear all but the densest materials apart. 

Now you begin to appreciate why I envisioned such a strong ship to take our heroes into battle.

Do you remember this close representation of the Shadow of Autumn?

(Thanks, once again to DeviantArt)

there are some things that could exist within such a nebula, especially in the less cluttered parts of the dust cloud. What might they be? 

Say hello to the neutron stars of the Verianda Nebula.

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest luminaries in the universe. They result from the gravitational collapse of massive stars after supernova. (In a way, you could say they're 'failed' black holes - after all, they're halfway there). They average only seven miles in diameter. Even so, such a neutron star would contain twice the mass of our own sun. Incredible, eh? And, they are more than capable of parenting planets. 
(Do you see how we're setting the scene for Exordium?)

The thing is, some neutron stars rotate. Those are called Pulsars, highly magnetized rotating neutron stars that emit massive beams of electromagnetic radiation, hundreds - even thousands - of times per second. In addition, you might also find a variety of incredibly small, dim, dwarf stars - such as brown or black dwarfs).

Now, think about such an environment and what it would do for creatures that feed on energy?Do you see? Such a banquet would be a great source of sustenance for the masters of the Horde race, and help explain why they've become so strong.

So, we set the scene for the next stage of our world building experiment as we home in on Exordium itself and the tiny star system that surrounds it.
What do we find?

Aha! You'll see...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The IX Series - World Building Part 8

This time around, we're starting to look into the facets that helped Exordium - the planet from which the Horde emerged - come to life. Those of you who who have already read Exordium of Tears will no doubt remember how one of the main characters from the series - Chancellor Calen - described how it was believed the great enemy (Or as the Ardenese call them, the Kresh, came into existence).
Here's an excerpt from the book:
“These are the colonies,” he began, “with Arden, represented by the crimson beacon, partway along the Pessian Spur. From what I am led to believe, the plague broke out here, on Exordium.”
One of the dots along the Ularan Spur winked on and off.
“Once the problem was recognized, the infection quickly spread to Latinus Prime and Illumina . . .” two more lights began blinking, “for they were the first to respond to calls for aid. You will note how tightly clustered that region is. This is no coincidence, for each of those planets was devoted to highly classified research and development projects. They were protected by the Verianda Nebula, an area saturated with rogue black holes. You must understand, we were at the height of our power; the sciences we delved into there were extremely vigorous. The very latest of engine designs. Weapons that could shatter worlds or destroy suns. Devices that could alter structures at the molecular level, or mutate DNA. Ah, the ignorance of the self-absorbed and mighty.”
Each of the highlighted green discs started pulsing.
“What you see here is a rearguard action fought over fifteen months. Twelve thousand years of civilization gone.” — he snapped his fingers — “just like that.”
Calen’s eyes came back into focus as he turned to face the sub-commander. “You asked for numbers, Shannon De Lacey, and an assessment of the threat they represent. Our best guess would be that less than a hundred Kresh survived on each planet, if that; by now they would have stripped all life bare and starved. In addition, as the war dragged on, certain protocols were put in place to ensure any remaining technologies were drained to the point of depletion. We did what we could to assure that the enemy couldn’t use them as a source of sustenance.”
Shannon wasn’t satisfied. “Buuut? I can tell by your face there’s something else.”

Calen’s eyes narrowed. “Very well. Because of the nature of the experiments undertaken on Exordium in particular, and the speed with which the Kresh spread to Latinus Prime and Illumina, no clear picture ever emerged as to their actual strength or deployment on those colonies. As I mentioned, that area is protected by the Verianda Nebula. Time dilates throughout the whole region. Simply put, while the enemy may have withered and faded elsewhere, it is entirely plausible they remain numerous at those particular locations...”
I think that sets the scene rather nicely. So, lets work our way in:
Welcome to the Verianda Nebula...

What do you think?

The Verianda Nebula was inspired by actual science. How so? 
Well, areas where black holes exist generate a lot of warped physics. Remember, you can't see a black hole, but you can see what they create - accretion discs - halos of interstellar dust and debris crushed by the immeasurable gravity of their parent celestial body.

They also produce a lot of heat, electromagnetic radiation, and a thing called "redshift" whereby light is bent toward the red end of the visible spectrum. So, while the interior of such a giant gas cloud would be a tribute to photonegative shock, (as you'll see in a future blog), the outside would be a glorious tribute to deep ruddy colors. Thus, after a great deal of searching, I selected my inspiration from the example above.

Initially, its beauty catches your eye and draws you in, and it isn't until you look closer that you notice the darker, more menacing details. Exactly what I wanted.

You'll get to know the Verianda Nebula well during Exordium of Tears, because half of the book is set within its confines. But what lurks within?

Ah, for that, you'll have to pop back next time.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The IX Series - World Building Part 7

As I mentioned in previous blogs, Exordium of Tears was never originally going to be written. The IX was a one-off story about a group of heroes snatched from Earth at the moment of their deaths to go and fight someone else's battle on the far side of the galaxy.
When I realized my publishers were serious in their desire to see an extension to this tale, I had to revert to my Plot Book - (A catalog I compile for each novel containing a list of characters, descriptions, archive and traits, maps, sketches, background history, etc) - for help.

Each of my Plot Books is quite detailed, as I usually spend many months researching the histories of the peoples I'll be writing about, along with the setting in which the story will take place: Eg, where they are in the universe; what kind of sun do they have; the size and composition of the planet; what flora and fauna do we find there? And of course, who are the people that populate it.

Remember, I was fortunate with The IX in that our heroes had fantastic enemies - the Horde - and I'd managed to develop quite a background story for them too. BUT - you never really got to witness that in The IX, as the information was for my benefit and something I could dip into when I needed a little extra substance for their scenes.

So, once I knew for certain the Ninth's story was going to expand, I spotted a wonderful opportunity to delve into Arden's history and culture that little bit deeper. In doing so, I could reveal more about the Horde themselves. Where they came from and how they came to be.

By blending the two points together, we'd have an evolving story where our survivors come to a realization that the battle isn't over.
Remember the blurb for Exordium of Tears?

Fight or die.
That simple yet brutal reality is the tenet by which the refugees from Earth – including the fabled lost 9th Legion of Rome; the 5th Company, 2nd Mounted Cavalry Unit; and the Special Forces Anti-Terrorist Team – were forced to live by while the Horde menace existed. Believing that the threat is over, the survivors now yearn to settle down, start families, and reclaim the lives stolen from them.
But such aspirations might remain beyond their reach, for a shadow looms on the rose-tinted horizon of new beginnings.
The release of the re-genesis matrix has done much to foster a restoration of exuberance across Arden. Along with a resurgence in floral and faunal diversity comes the results of splicing the Ardenese and human genomes: transmutation. A metamorphosis of stunning magnitude that not only affects the living, but those still is stasis as well.
Recognizing the emergence of a new hybrid species, the Architect – the arcane AI construct tasked with the preservation of the Ardenese race – responds by unlocking previously hidden and inaccessible areas of the city. It also releases an archive of sealed state secrets. Such revelations are eagerly perused, whereupon a shocking discovery is made.
Prior to the fall, it was common knowledge amongst the Senatum (the highest levels of Arden’s government) that not all the rabid Horde had joined in the rampage across the stars toward Arden.
Realizing that the peril still exists, the newly reformed administration elects to respond in earnest. Existing resources are utilized, suitable candidates are chosen, and a flotilla of ships is sent out to secure, quarantine, and reclaim the outer colonies.
A mammoth and hazardous undertaking. And nowhere more so than at the planet from where the outbreak was known to have originated – Exordium – for there, the ancient Horde are not only supremely evolved and highly organized, but are capable of a level of lethal sophistication, the likes of which has never been witnessed before.
It is into this kiln of incendiary potential that the cream of Arden’s fighting forces is deployed.
Worlds are torn asunder, suns destroyed, and star systems obliterated. Yes, tragedy is forged, in a universe spanning conflict which proves once again that…
Death is only the beginning of the adventure.

That's the concept that immediately sprang out to me, and the building block for what takes place. Now, some parts we've already discussed: 
(The Avenger Class dreadnought - Shadow of Autumn - That was a great module to develop, as much of the action is based on or around that ship). However, there's much more to the story.

Here's a clue:

Next time, we'll start to delve into the different facets that led to Exordium itself - the planet from which the Horde emerged - and the startling environment in which the Horde grew to power. See you then.