Hello all! If you didn’t have the chance to see my takeover on The Fantasy and Scifi Reader’s Lounge, this is your chance to see everything that I talked about there! I still do hope that you head over to the Lounge and join the group. There are some amazing authors over there, and the group does weekly themes where authors have a chance to show their work and engage with readers. If you are an author, it’s a great way to expand your viewership and make some friends! If you’d like to read all my posts there, you can find them with the hashtag #MNewton. I do cover more info in my original posts.
If you’d rather read everything here, here is what you missed!
Hello! My name is Melissa, and I will be your host for the next couple hours. I’m super excited to host today, because I am going to be revealing the FIRST sneak peaks on the first book of my co-written series, Primus Tenebrae. Up until now, my co-writer and best friend, Sara Richardson and I have been very quiet about the details of our series, but no longer! I will be giving you wonderful people the chance to glimpse into our elaborate universe. Sara and I are in the process of finding a literary agent to represent the first book of the series. I have a link to my Facebook author page and website, where you can get updates about the status of our book!
Since this week’s topic is “Other Worlds,” I will first and foremost be going over my process of world building. Sara and I have written through six books of our series (before we decided it was time to focus on publishing!), so we have gotten our fair share of intimate time with our universe. We have nearly two dozen planets, and counting, that we have already included in the series up to book six. In our first book, two of those planets are visited, and more are visited with every book. Today, I will be briefly going over a few of a couple planets I have created, and what I do to make them feel realistic (as far as realism goes in sci-fi/fantasy that is). Before I dive in, I’d love to explain some general things about me and our series!
Sara and I write in the genre of High/Epic Fantasy with Scifi. Our series is very much for adults, and though it is easy to read, I would not recommend it for younger readers. Today, I am covering more of the Scifi portion of Scif/Fantasy. I am extremely passionate about science, and I adore learning new things. I have spent hundreds, more likely thousands, of hours researching astrophysics and quantum mechanics; I think the only thing left for me to do is seek out a degree in both! I love attempting to drop something like magic into our universe and attempt to make it as scientifically plausible as I can, and that’s exactly what we did.
Our universe is a very balanced mix of mystical and scientific, but magic and tech are only side elements to Primus. Our main focus is, and always will be, characters and setting. We live and breathe our characters, and for you other writers out there, I’m sure you can understand what a joy that can be. As for setting, the way our characters act and react certainly reflects the environment they are in. To me, planets are like characters of their own, and I have fallen in love with every one I have created, just as I would a main character. They give life to our story just as our characters do.
Planets aside, Sara and I have a vast, diverse cast of “humans.” We feature many LGBT characters, several of which are main or sub-main characters. My main character is a very spunky Irishman who adores getting into trouble simply because it’s fun. He meshes very well with Sara’s main character, an incredibly fierce and passionate woman who turns entire cultures on their heads with pure logic. Our second set of main characters are always close by, one of whom is likely showing off or getting into trouble himself, while the other sips his tea and simply watches their chaos ensue. Dozens of sub-main characters are introduced in the first book as well, many of which are eventually promoted to the rank of “main character” later on in the series.
So without further ado, I welcome you to the window of our universe.
MAKING SCIENTIFICALLY PLAUSIBLE PLANETS
I’m one of those people who likes strange and fantastical settings. While many of our planets may feel very similar to Earth, others are incredibly different. I love the challenge of making something insane and turning it into something that could actually exist under the perfect circumstances. The stranger the world, the more fun it is to come up with the plausibility. Sara really enjoys creating flora and fauna for planets, but my area of expertise is the science behind why those creatures and plants are there in the first place. This is one reason why I love writing with a partner. She can focus on the fun details of planets, while I focus on making it “real.” Most of our planets are made by both of us, while others are individual creations (though we do help each other with certain aspects, regardless).
For me, the first step to creating a new world is creating an intelligent creature. They may have brightly colored hair, sharp teeth, and a tail. For some “humans,” there is no method to my madness. I may pick very random traits that I think up on the spot, while others take a considerable amount of thought and tweaking. Either way, when I make a new planet, I find it easiest to create new ideas when I’m looking through a character’s eyes rather than my own. Sara and I have always written solely for our characters, so it only makes sense for us to branch our ideas off them.
Once I have certain traits of characters, we will say horns and solid black skin for an example, then I will think about what is necessary for their environment to have for evolution to choose those traits. In our example, horns may suggest extremely dangerous animals all across the planet, while solid black skin may suggest a very bright and active star. Skin color will also tell me how protective the atmosphere of the planet is, where the planet is located in the star system, and perhaps what part of the planet the character lives. Just those two traits will give me enough information for me to begin the world building process.
Once I have figured out what the star and planet environment is like, I will begin thinking about smaller details like moons. Did you know that our existence on planet Earth may be largely due to the moon? Not only are moons cool to look at, they are very important for most, if not all planets that host life to have. However, the more moons, the more chaos on the planet itself. More moons equal more dramatic tides. In the case of one planet, it is a crucial element of story and character development to make an annual, tsunami-like event. While it was Sara’s idea to add that detail to the story, I knew that multiple large moons would make that realistic. Every year, the moons align, and the tides become deathly unstable. On other planets with multiple moons, the planet itself is unlivable, but the moons are the ones that host life. Some planets with smaller moons barely even notice a tide difference.
I do understand that many readers have no care in the world to be told why a planet is the way it is. Even though I adore science and astronomy, I would rather enjoy the story than the science in some cases. In our series, we rarely explain why planets are the way they are, even though hours and hours of thought and research has gone into every single one.
Sara and I have always had an interest in history and mythology. My parents lived in the Middle East for several years before I was born, and I just barely missed being born in Jordan. Not surprisingly, as I grew up, my interest in the Middle East and other cultures solidified. Some of my favorite food items are even grape leaves, mansef, and baklava! My dad would go on mini rants about the Jordanian culture, and little did I know at the time, that information would fuel my interest in world building.
On Earth, cultures are wide-spread and fascinating, and that was the inspiration for many of our planets. Earth is filled with beautiful cultures, and we really wanted to display that beauty in our series. Some of our planets have very specific religions and religious practices that are heavily influenced by religions of Earth.
One of my favorite cultures, as I’m sure many of you can relate, is Egyptian. I think Egyptology creates a whole world in itself, and Sara and I really wanted to take that idea and play around with it. After all, isn’t it a conspiracy theory that the Egyptians came from another planet due to their technology being so advanced? 😉 You can see Egyptian, Celtic, Spanish, Native American, Mexican, Indian, Japanese, and Norse (and much more!!) influences in several of our worlds and characters.
On the flip side, I enjoy making cultures completely from scratch as well. Some of our cultures rely heavily on hyper-advanced technology, while others rely solely on survival of the fittest. Animal life may be important for religious practices, fashion may be important for social status, and food may be important for tradition. So many aspects come into play when creating brand new cultures, and for us, it’s very important to understand the differences between every single one.
ANIMALS, PLANTS, & FOOD
Coming up with animals is by far my favorite part of the world building process. I won’t even lie, I am infinitely jealous of the characters that own some of our made-up creatures as pets. From small ursine animals with hoofed feet and oversized ears to unruly, colorful emu-like birds that you wouldn’t want to meet down a dark alley, it’s safe to say that Primus is completely packed with crazy new animals. Sara and I take joy in coming up with the most flamboyant, vicious and/or ridiculous beasts to add flair to our universe. Most of our animals are spur-of-the-moment creations that we immediately fall in love with. However, you may see some familiar species across the universe like sheep-, goat-, and cow-like creatures.
Plants, on the other hand, tend to be more of a scientific feat. When creating flora, I typically think about what properties it may have that would be beneficial to “human” life. Is it edible? Is it toxic? Is it medicinal? Medicines are extremely fun to play with because they can also cause adverse side effects. One plant in particular, a medicinal root that can help calm the nerves, gives a side effect of vivid hallucinations when taken in large quantities. Certain plants may be poisonous to one species of humanoid, but a treat to another species. I tend to think about the chemical make-up of plants in order to understand what reactions “humans” might have to eating them.
Speaking of eating plants, life on other planets would be never exist without food. Because of this, we have a blast figuring out what types of recipes a culture would have. In fact, Sara and I have even made a traditional dish (to the best of our Earthling ability) from one of our favorite planets. It’s similar to banana bread, but with a variety of tropical fruits and nuts. The first attempt did not go very well, but the second attempt was a huge hit! We have officially confirmed it to be a very tasty recipe and we may eventually release the recipe once it’s fully perfected.
With so many planets in the Primus Tenebrae series, it only makes sense for many of those planets to have their own languages. To make it easy on our readers, we have decided that a common language (English to us and our readers, but not English to our characters) was absolutely necessary. However, nearly all of our planets have a local language, and some even have a few dialects. In the first book alone, you will see examples of several different alien languages, which are written phonetically and immediately translated for reader ease. By the end of the book, you’ll even know how to call someone an idiot in an alien language, because let’s face it…characters can be pretty idiotic sometimes.
Every language we create is unique. Some are very reliant on grammar, while others are messy with word placement. The first book alone may not be enough to really understand how the introduced languages are spoken, but over the course of the series, you may just become conversational in several! ;D All of our languages are organized by spreadsheets with definitions and grammar rules. We also make sure to add any cultural words to the language to make sure our characters use them consistently in everyday life. Particular cultural words are very important to certain characters, and you’ll end up seeing a whole new realm of slang.
Fun fact! Sara and I actually write by roleplaying. We have both been playing D&D for most of our lives. While you may not be fully aware while reading our books, some of our minor decisions are left completely up to dice rolls. In the first book, you can see this when one of the characters becomes cursed. A dice was rolled to see how well he would take the curse (i.e. if he would pass out or not). While the decisions are very small while we write, in hindsight, they add up to a much bigger picture. We greatly enjoy writing this way, because sometimes, we are even surprised at an outcome!I can’t say I have done any creation with dice rolls, but we will try it today!
CREATE YOUR OWN ALIEN ANIMAL
How to play:
- Grab a 6-sided dice. Don’t have one? No worries. You can just pick a number at random, or pick your favorite!!
- If you still want to roll, you can roll virtual dice here: https://www.wizards.com/dnd/dice/dice.htm or you can simply type “dice roller” into google. ***Make sure to open the link in a new tab, save this post, or open up the dice roller on a different device so you don’t lose this post!***
- If you are rolling, roll a minimum of 3 die, and a max of 6. The last three rolls/choices are just for fun and are completely optional.
**Step 1: Roll or choose**
Roll 1: Skin type
- 1 = Fur, short
- 2 = Leathery
- 3 = Feathers
- 4 = Skin
- 5 = Fur, long
- 6 = Scales or exoskeleton
Roll 2: Ears
- 1 = High and pointed (i.e. fox or cat)
- 2 = Wide and round (i.e. mouse)
- 3 = No visible ears
- 4 = Long and droopy (i.e. elephant or basset hound)
- 5 = Long and tubular (i.e. goat or rabbit)
- 6 = Long, wide and tough (they stick out to the sides)
Roll 3: Feet
- 1 = Hooves
- 2 = Paws
- 3 = Toes (alpaca)
- 4 = Flat (elephant)
- 5 = Non-retractable claws
- 6 = Fins!!
Roll 4: Horns
- 1 = Spiral (ram)
- 2 = Thin antlers (elk or deer)
- 3 = Thick antlers (moose)
- 4 = One spike (unicorn! Or rhino)
- 5 = No horns, but tusks instead
- 6 = Multiple spikes (dragon!)
Roll 5: Tail
- 1 = Fluffy (squirrel or fox)
- 2 = Long and flat (bird)
- 3 = Long and thin (mouse or monkey)
- 4 = Stub
- 5 = Hair (horse)
- 6 = Reptile (snake or lizard)
Roll 6: Misc. Additions
- 1 = Bug eyes
- 2 = Feelers
- 3 = Wings
- 4 = Extravagant whiskers
- 5 = Bill or beak
- 6 = Long, skinny legs or neck
Step 2: Pick a body that you think best fits your animal.
Step 3: Pick a color or colors of it’s skin type.
Step 4: Add any extra traits you’d like (i.e. goat eyes, spikes on tail, etc.).
Step 5: Pick where your animal lives (desert, sea, forest, field, domestic, etc.)
Step 6: Finally, give it a name! Can’t think of one? Explain its personality instead.
Warning: if it makes me laugh, I might actually put it into a book.
If you’re interested in learning more about our series and seeing updates about it, I encourage you to follow my blog if you haven’t done so already! Not only do I keep up to date on our series, I post writing and roleplay lessons every Tuesday (USA time, that is).
Have any questions about the series or how we make it? Ask away!