Monday, May 2, 2011

Time Tracking with Guest Blogger: Kathryn Scannell

Win a copy of Leap of Faith and meet author Kathryn Scannell today at the Book Boost!

Here's what she had to say...

My biggest mistake as a writer involves world building. BA Collins and I have a shared fantasy world setting. You can sample it in my new novel, Embracing the Dragon. We’ve been playing back and forth with it, developing it for years. We’ve created a lot of history, a lot of cultural details, and a lot of nuts and bolts details about how the world works, as well as a rich assortment of characters.

Sounds great, right? Detailed world building helps you have a rich and consistent setting. We’ve got a wealth of detail to play with, ready and waiting for us. What’s to be unhappy about?

Well, for one thing the more details you build, the more details you have to keep track of, and the more constrained your plots are. This is particularly true if you’re not writing in strictly chronological order. Embracing the Dragon is the first novel in the setting, but I have another one in progress, and BA is working on several other projects. One of hers is set about a 1000 years before Embracing the Dragon.

Another is about a century after it. That later one constrains what I can do in works which precede it. I can’t kill of a particular character in this book because he’s going to get killed in book BA is working on now that’s set a hundred years further in the future. In the same way things I’ve written in Embracing the Dragon constrain her earlier story.

Having two people involved makes it an order of magnitude more complicated to track because not only do I have to remember what I wrote, I have to remember what BA wrote or is working on now. And vice versa. You have to get along well, and you have to talk often about what you’re doing.

But that’s not the mistake I want to talk about today. The mistake was that early on we decided it would be a good idea to have time flow differently in our multiple worlds. It seemed like a good idea when we did it – it’s very traditional where Elves are concerned. Folklore is full of stories of people going into the Elven hill, thinking they stayed a night, and coming out a week, a year, or even a century later. It gave us some good initial plot lines.

In the big picture it was a terrible plan. The early history we put together was kind of ad hoc, drawn in broad sweeps. Once we started to work out a more detailed time line for the world’s history the headaches the different time flows would cause became obvious. We’d said things like “the war started about 10 years ago.” Now we have to think about which world’s time line that 10 year figure applies to. We had decided that a day in the Elven world was about 2 days on Earth, and 3 days in Hell.

So if that’s 10 years on Earth, it’s only 5 in Avalon. Or if it’s 10 years in Avalon, it’s 20 on earth.
Now, add in the fact that we’re dealing with several very long-lived races, and the time differential really snowballs. Elves and Tengri are essentially immortal unless someone kills them. For example, Emperor Mordellir has been on the throne of the Empire for 10,000 years on the Avalon timeline. That translates to 20,000 years on Earth, and 30,000 on Hell. That gives you a better sense of how the thing becomes hard to manage on the grand scale.

Unfortunately by that time we were already committed to the time differential in terms of plot lines and character history. So now we’re stuck with tracking time lines on three worlds and needing to keep them in sync with each other. It didn’t take long at all for me to start tearing out my hair trying to do this. I still haven’t found a tool that works really well.

So if you’re planning world building, do yourself a major favor – don’t get into variable time rates. They’re nearly as hard to keep track of as circular time travel references.

A Note from the Book Boost: This sounds incredibly complicated, Kathryn. Both working with a writing partner and creating these complex worlds. Very impressive. Please tell us more about your book.


Danny O’Riordan’s life was complicated before he had the vision of a past life that forced him to admit to himself that he was bisexual. There’s a war going on, and being Liegeman to Aran, the Elven King of Avalon puts Danny squarely in the middle of the politics of two worlds, Earth and Avalon. Adding a romantic relationship to the mix could be explosive.

His lover from that previous life has been reborn as Mordellir, the ruler of the Tengri Empire. The Dragon of Heaven is the most powerful person in his world. Will he want Danny back once he knows he’s been reborn? If he does, how far will he go to get his way?

Danny knows it isn’t smart to get involved with the Dragon of Heaven. Aran hates the Tengri. Following his heart and renewing that old relationship with Mordellir will leave him torn between his commitment to Aran and those old feelings which are still frighteningly strong. If he yields to temptation, can he balance his love for both men?


Mordellir looked more at ease than Danny had ever seen him. Was this what he'd been like before he became Emperor?

Looking at him now, in this mood it was easy to see the resemblance to Demeth. Certainly there were differences. Demeth had been only part Tengri. He'd been shorter and a bit heavier built. Demeth's hair had reddish highlights, which hinted at demon in his family somewhere. But there was still something in the body language, and the aura which reminded Danny achingly of those memories of Demeth. It wouldn't be hard to put this man in place of the image of Demeth in those memories...

Thinking that had not been a good idea. Danny realized his mistake when he felt his cock start to swell. Just remembering the damned dreams he'd been having was enough to get him hard again, and the bathrobe he was wearing was not going to hide it. He could see a telltale bulge already. He shifted to cross his legs, hoping to keep things under control, but it just didn't work.

Mordellir had noticed, too. His gaze followed that moving bulge, and he gave off a mix of amusement and interest. All the extra blood that wasn't already in Danny's cock rose promptly to his face as he realized that.

Mordellir grew even more amused as Danny turned bright red. "I didn't think you were interested, Daniel. It's certainly nothing to be embarrassed about. You're a handsome young man. I'm not intimate with all my Favorites, but it's certainly an option."

Danny cursed inwardly. This was rapidly becoming a disaster. "No! I'm not-- I mean I don't-- Oh Hell." He ground to a halt. Doing anything would be stupid, and guaranteed to make settling the problem of those old memories worse, not better, but how did he say no without insulting the Emperor? Especially when his cock was obviously saying yes.

"Slowly, Daniel," Mordellir said gently. "If I read that wrong, I'm sorry. Will you tell me why you’re so confused and embarrassed? It can't be just having an erection in front of someone else, not after living among the Elves and the Kennakriz. What is it?" He looked probingly at Danny out of his good eye.

Danny took a deep breath to try to calm himself. "No. This isn't simple to explain. You didn't misread my reaction, but it would be a terrible idea to act on it."

"Why?" Mordellir sounded genuinely puzzled.

"Because you're the Emperor of the Tengri, and I'm the senior Liegeman to the King of Avalon, who happens to hate Tengri in general, and you in particular. That gives whole new levels of meaning to conflict of interest," Danny said, wondering why he was explaining the obvious to someone this experienced in politics.

"So?" Mordellir felt perplexed. "Is this an Earth thing? A little sex hardly constitutes anything important. It's not as if there was a commitment involved. There isn't even a chance of children to worry about negotiating."

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Kathryn Scannell said...

Apologies to anyone who tries to click on the buy link tonight - someone at the ISP which hosts the Torquere site appears to have made a configuration error, and is routing all the links to the catalog to a clothing store. The web admin is hard at work on getting it sorted out, and no doubt it will be back to normal by tomorrow morning.

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