Sunday, December 21, 2008

How Do I Become A Skilled Writer?


I received an email from a friend of an old friend. He wants to become a writer and sent me a summary of his ideas and a lot of history related to the basis of a high-concept fantasy novel. It sounded really interesting and I sent him this response, which I think contains some good information for any new writer interested in improving their craft.

(My email response)

Your novel sounds interesting, and very complicated, as well as high-concept. I think the big danger here is to try and tell the reader too much too soon in a novel like you're suggesting. The first impulse is to do what you just did, tell a lot of history right up front. The paragraphs you wrote are cool and appropriate for the type of message you wrote, but what you really need to do now is figure out who will be the main character. You need a main character. Who is he? Or she. You have an idea, but the character is the critical part. You'll have to sell the character to make the reader believe in the fairly hard to believe storyline you're suggesting. I'm not saying it's bad, because it's not. But pulling of what you suggested, making the audience suspend their disbelief can be accomplished if the reader believes the main character is a real person. That's the trick.

I know just what you mean about trying to become a skilled writer. It's taken years for me to get published. So far, two novels have been sold and nine short stories. I still have so much to learn. It's not easy. It's harder now than it ever was before. The freedom of being a novice and just plowing ahead is great.

So, you must be a dedicated student of the craft if you want to become a skilled writer. Ideas are cheap and everyone and their dog wants to write a book. 1 in 100,000 novels that are completed and submitted are published. Think about that for a moment. If you're serious about this idea of writing your novel, check out my website,, and go to: Writers Resources. Download the free Writers' Symposium Ezines and read the articles, which are targeted toward beginners.

Get some books on writing. Study them. I suggest many on my site. Get them at the library or buy them.

However, the most important thing to do is . . . write. There is no substitute. Write a lot. It's going to be terrible prose, but you have to start somewhere. Writing is a journey and the more you write, the better you'll probably get. At some point you'll need a writers’ group and/or skilled amateurs to help you critique your work and improve it.

Honestly, I would not recommend going into a writing, but if you are a writer, you will write. Because you must.

Learn all you can. Then get writing. Plan. Figure out a main character and put him or her into a tough situation. Then learn even more. Revise it. Revise it again. Rewrite the whole thing. Scrap it. Write it again. Repeat this process for several years. Yes, years.

If you have the drive, it'll happen. You'll finish the book. Then the hard part begins, selling it. Or you cold self-publish. Not a good way to go if you want to be taken seriously, but if you just want to get it out to friends and family, it'll work.

I hope that helps. Now write something cool and send me the first page.

Paul Genesse, Author and Editor

Author of The Golden Cord
Book One of the Iron Dragon Series
(Five Star Books, April 2008)


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Friday, November 21, 2008

Writers' Symposium Ezine Issue #5

The Writers’ Symposium Ezine

“Helping Writers Write”
Issue #5, November 2008
The Madness and Karma Issue

View beautiful full color versions with dozens of color pictures or download the PDF with all the good stuff of previous issues at

To subscribe, or unsubscribe please email:

Visit the Writers’ Symposium Blog at


From the Editor: Paul Genesse
Featured Author Bio: Jim C. Hines
Featured Content: How to Drive a Writer Mad by Jim C. Hines
Featured Content: Karma for Multiple Jobs by Janet Deaver-Pack
New Releases from Writers’ Symposium Members
Current Releases From the Writers’ Symposium
List of Current Writers’ Symposium Members & Contact Info
Final Thought

From the Editor

Finishing a manuscript and selling a book is a long journey. The editing process goes on and on, often driving the writer and their family quite mad. In this issue two writers share their very personal thoughts on what the writing life is like and give tips on how to survive it. Janet Deaver-Pack, editor, author, and one of my mentors, describes how to juggle writing and your personal life in her article, “Karma for Multiple Jobs.” Author and friend Jim C. Hines details the fun that ensues after a manuscript is handed over to your agent or publisher. I know you’ll enjoy Jim’s thoughts on “How to Drive A Writer Mad,” which gives an insightful look into what really happens when you think the book is done.

Paul Genesse, Editor and Author of THE DRAGON HUNTERS—releasing May of 2009

Featured Author: Jim C. Hines

Jim began writing in the early 90s, while working on a degree in psychology from Michigan State University. His first professional sale was the award-winning BLADE OF THE BUNNY which took first place in the 1998 Writers of the Future competition and was published in WRITERS OF THE FUTURE XV.
For many years, he focused on short fiction. His work has appeared in REALMS OF FANTASY, TURN THE OTHER CHICK, SWORD AND SORCERESS, and over thirty other magazines and anthologies. During this time, he also picked up a Masters degree in English from Eastern Michigan University.
His first published fantasy novel was GOBLN QUEST, a funny, popular tale about a nearsighted goblin runt named Jig. Thanks to the work of his wonderful agent, the book has since been translated into several other languages, and was picked up by DAW Books, along with sequels GOBLIN HERO and GOBLIN WAR. He's now working on a new series about a trio of butt-kicking princesses. Look for THE STEPSISTER SCHEME in January of 2009.
Jim lives in mid-Michigan with his wife and children, who have always shown remarkable tolerance for his bizarre and obsessive writing habits.

Comment on the article on the Writers’ Symposium Blog:

Featured Content: How to Drive a Writers Mad by Jim C. Hines

Actually, driving a writer mad isn’t that difficult. We’re all mad here. But that’s beside the point.

You know, it’s amazing how many times a manuscript gets read before it goes to print. (Note—I’m talking about commercial publishing with a big house here. The things I describe may or may not hold true for other publishers or other types of publishing.)

Take THE STEPSISTER SCHEME, to pick a not-so-random example that comes out in exactly two months, not that I’m counting.

I wrote, read, rewrote, and re-read that book a number of times before turning it in. Then it was read by my former agent. He gave it to my editor, who also read it. While they’re reading it, I shoot copies to a few other writers, hoping for some blurbs. Several of them were kind enough to also point out a few problem spots in the book. Later, the editor calls me up with revision requests. In this case, my agent ended up leaving the agency, so now my new agent was reading the book. New agent e-mails me some corrections. I rewrite it yet again, fixing more problems, then send it back. My editor reads it again and approves the revisions. Editor passes it along to the copy-editor. Copy-editor fixes more goofs. Then page proofs arrive, and I read through them yet again. People at the publisher are doing the same thing. More corrections are marked and sent back.

That’s a lot of people pouring a lot of energy into making sure my book is as good and polished as it can possibly be. Page proofs are accepted, and the book is now being printed.

Fast-forward a week. The book sells to Germany. Yay! My German translator dives right in on the translation. Yay! German translator e-mails me to ask, “Did you mean for this and this to happen, because you seem to be contradicting yourself. And also what about this other detail?”

Son of a crap! These are very minor goofs that won’t affect the plot, and obviously most people will read right over them, but . . .

Another friend from DAW starts reading the book, and points out two other issues.

No book is ever perfect. There are mistakes in the goblin books. There are mistakes in just about every book you'll ever read, whether you notice them or not. The more eyes, and the more skilled the proofreaders, the more problems you can catch and fix. I know this, and I know a few tiny problems aren’t going to ruin the book. We’re not talking about the small press book I picked up this summer, which had at least four typos on the first page. Good editors and proofreaders are well worth it!

And yet we’re all human, and things still slip through. My only consolation is that if all goes well, the book will sell out and go back for another printing, at which point I'll be able to get a few more corrections made. For now, I’ll be over here obsessing and talking myself down from the “Everyone’s going to throw the book away because of this stupid little mistake and the whole series will turn into a big black hole of suck-ledge.”

Being a writer is such fun :-)

This originally appeared in Jim’s Live Journal. Please check out his funny and insightful blog for more at:

Praise for Jim’s Books:

“THE STEPSISTER SCHEME is not your Grandma’s fairy tale. Action, intrigue, romance, action, treachery, and did I mention action? These princesses will give Charlie’s Angels a serious run for the money, and leave 'em in the dust. Read it!”

-Esther Friesner, author of NOBODY’S PRINCESS

THE STEPSISTER SCHEME “What a romp, both light and dark, sometimes sexy, and along the way occasionally quite brutal . . . an amazing gallop to save a prince, thwart a witch, rescue a kingdom, and turn fairy tale conventions upside down in the process.”

-Jane Yolen, author of BRIAR ROSE and two-time Nebula winner

“In GOBLIN HERO, as in GOBLIN QUEST, Hines recognizes that wisdom is most often common-sense and that mouthing off to the big guy with the sword is a very bad idea.”
-Tanya Huff, 

RED’s TALE by Jim C. Hines

Is it good to be bad? Or is it bad to be good? This snarky and fun retelling of the classic fairy tale 'Little Red Riding Hood and The Big Bad Wolf' will have you laughing out loud as you turn the pages.


Some of you who know me have suspected this for years. I’m admitting it: I’m a workaholic. I never seem to be comfortable doing less than two jobs. Right now, I’ve got three. Good thing that two of them are flexible.

Most authors require a career that supports writing. That’s two jobs right there. And the individuals who add another, particularly on the creative side, are downright nuts. Yup, this makes me not only crazy, but almost an expert on both juggling and stress. I’m therefore passing along some tips I’ve developed to keep from going off the deep end.

1. Love what you’re doing. If you don’t, all the hours you’re putting in are for nothing. Love is the aspect that will keep your head together and your energy going during times you really need it. It’s what makes you the dynamic creative person you are. If you use love to create, that will not only stimulate more energy, but will also make your work better.

2. Listen to your Muse, and focus your efforts on each thing you do with completion in mind. You’ll get more done this way than jumping from unfinished project to unfinished project.

3. If you have a close relationship, make certain that person understands that work makes you tick. I’ve collected a lot of stories over the years about creatives whose partners couldn’t appreciate the time they devoted to their work. In most cases this drives them apart, causes arguments, and engenders bad karma that sucks away creative energy. My mother (may her soul rest now not having to worry about her crazed daughter all the time) always asked, “Now why are you doing THAT?” She had no idea what drove me, and no real interest in finding out why. It was all a mystery to her. Obviously, we never got along. Such breeding grounds for ill humor and contempt are bad. Weed them out whenever possible. Talk to your partner or house mate about your drives, and establish a mutual understanding. Most certainly, the other person or people in your life have drives you need to understand, too.

4. Establish a specific place for each of your work sites. My writing gets done in my office, where my computer and my printer live. My knitting is accomplished on the couch in the living room under the Ott light, or next to the window in the kitchen. Because the energy required by each job may be different, it’s always good to have separate places where you can infuse that area with the strength and the vitality you need to get those specific things done. If you work at home and have only one room for everything you do, designate different walls as particular work areas. Don’t confuse one type of work with another.

5. Take breaks. Wow, this one’s difficult. We all know that creative types get immersed in our projects, and sometimes it’s hours before our minds surface again in the mundane world. Sure, you have to stay with it when the words are flowing, or the designs are coming so fast your fingers are a blur. Making tea is great. It requires you to get up and stretch when you refill your cup or warm it up. Pets are terrific: dogs require walking or going out, and cats demand their own bits of your attention. (I have to tell Shannivere he’s the most handsome blue cat in the whole world every day. This makes him purr, and gives me a little break.) Very often, returning to the screen or the design after a few minutes respite will re-focus your energy and electrify your mind. There’s more oxygen in your “little grey cells” after you’ve moved around, which assists your thinking. You’ll accomplish more after the break than before. Another type of break is changing from one type of work to another. Allow yourself a few minutes to settle in, get your mind focused, and start.

6. Choose different types of work that either support or are completely different from one another. Some people work better when their jobs are diverse; with others, similarity counts. Consider your energy: it’s not a bottomless well. Some creatives get a charge out of several different things, while others must have some similarity. Learn and embrace what works for you.

7. Be firm, but gentle with yourself. Don’t overdo it. We who are lucky enough to have home-based jobs may schedule more hours than the folks who have travel-to offices. It’s not uncommon to hear of freelancers putting in 16-18 hour days. Fine, but keep watch on your health. If you don’t, get your partner or a good friend to supervise that part of your life. Overwork for extended periods can minimize your output and leave your immune system open to viruses. Jean Rabe just had this happen. She’s recovering, but it will take time, rest, and a lot of antibiotics.

8. Work until you’re tired, but not exhausted. Fatigue that builds up over time can be a major player against what you need to accomplish. A few days or nights going to bed exhausted are good, but don’t force this into a habit. Fundamental fatigue you can’t rid yourself of can lead to health problems and diminishing results, especially when you’re not feeling your best. Figure out practices that allow you to work a little longer. Feeling as though you could put in another hour or two when you decide to quit for the day is always good.

9. Admitting you’re tired is fine. If there’s a lot going on in your life, you WILL be tired. Embrace the fact, and go on. Pushing away tiredness seems to make it intent on getting attention. It’s there, so use it. Infuse it with energy. Make it a dynamic partner in your work rather than a debility. Remember to buttress your tiredness with joy, which creates more energy than it uses.

My secretary cat Brika has just informed me that I have to wrap up this article. I’m going to a convention this weekend in Chicago, and next weekend I have a craft show at the Public Broadcasting Station in a suburb of Milwaukee that requires lots of gorgeous shawls and scarves. Meantime, I’m working at the local library, and re-writing parts of the book Bruce Heard and I just finished and are now trying to sell. There’s nothing to do here.


Please visit Janet online at:

New Novels by Symposium Authors

CATOPOLIS, Edited by Janet Deaver-Pack
Seventeen original stories about the “city of cats.”
Set in a world that exists on the same plane as humans, yet is hidden from us, CATOPOLIS introduces readers to an assortment of cats, ranging from a feline Seer who must take destiny into her own paws to defeat a dictatorial tomcat a black cat who can call upon the powers of the “big cats” to wage a war against a cat who would be the ins and outs of cat politics and the perils of using mice as a cat burglar looking for a musical treasure for his “boss.”
Featuring stories by Richard Lee Byers, Paul Genesse, Don Bingle, Jean Rabe, Marc Tassin, Elizabeth Vaughan and more.

THE STEPSISTER SCHEME by Jim C. Hines. What would happen if an author went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for his plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie’s Angels? What’s delivered is THE STEPSISTER SCHEME—a whole new take on what happened to Cinderella and her prince after the wedding. And with Jim C. Hines penning the tale readers can bet it won’t be “and they lived happily ever after.”

“These princesses will give ‘Charlie’s Angels’ a serious run for the money, and leave ‘em in the dust.” –Esther Friesner, author of NOBODY’S PRINCESS
Releasing January 6, 2009

GREENSWORD is a dark comedy about the environment, extremism, stupid criminals, and the lengths to which people will go to avoid getting a real job.
They’re about to save the world; they just don’t want to get caught doing it.
Says Hugo and Nebula Award Winner, Robert J. Sawyer: “Science fiction has always been a great vehicle for biting satire and social commentary­­from H. G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE right on up to Donald Bingle’s engrossing, GREENSWORD, Bingle is a terrific writer.”
Releasing January 21, 2009

UNHOLY by Richard Lee. Byers
I saw something 
than I’ve ever seen before.
Something truly
I understand now what drove Fastrin mad.
Why he was willing to slaughter us all.

The formerly green fields lie in war-torn ruins. The formerly living populace is undead. And the formerly brilliant necromancer, the mastermind behind the civil war that drove the ruling council into exile, appears to have gone insane. But rumor spreads of a reason behind his randomness -- a reason all survivors of Thay must rally against.
Releasing February 3, 2009

DEADER STILL by Anton Strout
“Following Simon’s adventures is like being the pinball in an especially antic game, but it's well worth the wear and tear.”
-Charlaine Harris, author of the SOOKIE STACKHOUSE series.
It’s hard to defeat evil on a budget. Just ask Simon Canderous.

It’s been 737 days since the Department of Extraordinary Affairs’ last vampire incursion, but that streak appears to have ended when a boat full of dead lawyers is found in the Hudson River. Using the power of psychometry—the ability to divine the history of an object by touching it—agent Simon Canderous discovers that the booze cruise was crashed by something that sucked all the blood out of the litigators. Now, his workday may never end—until his life does.


DAY TWO: THE WISE MAN’S FEAR by Patrick Rothfuss

“There are three things all wise men fear: the sea in storm, a night with no moon, and the anger of a gentle man.”

An escalating rivalry with a powerful member of the nobility forces Kvothe to leave the University and seek his fortune.

In The Wise Man’s Fear Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.

Releasing April 7, 2009

WHITE STAR by Elizabeth Vaughan

The Lady High Priestess Evelyn, known as Evie to her friends, is a healer, dedicated to using her magic in the service of the goddess to aid others and give strength where it is needed. Orrin Blackheart couldn’t be more different. With his black armor, a black name and a blacker reputation, he’s been feared and hated in equal parts. So on his defeat and capture in battle, the Goddesses insistence that Evie saves him from a death sentence astonishes them both—as does the growing attraction between them. But in saving Orrin Evie condemns herself to a prohibition on her magic and a penance posting on the edges of the land, while to retain his salvation Orrin must battle a spreading plague across the land. Fate clearly has plans for them both—but to fulfill them, both must survive the perils ahead.
Releasing April 7, 2009

THE DRAGON HUNTERS, Book Two of the Iron Dragon Series

On this hunt, you give up everything.

The last of an order of dragon hunters must track down the dragon king’s daughter and stop her from getting the Crystal Eye, an ancient artifact that will cause the destruction of their world.

Releasing May 15, 2009
Read chapter one at

Writers’ Symposium Member Current Releases

DEATH MARCH –Jean Rabe. Escaping from the slave pens of a Dark Knight mining camp was no easy feat, but what awaits Direfang, a former hobgoblin slave who has become the reluctant general of a growing goblin army is every bit as perilous.

BLACKSTAFF TOWER—Steven Schend. Young friends stumble across a terrifying conspiracy that holds the heir to the Blackstaff, the defender of the city of Waterdeep, in terrible danger.

IMAGINARY FRIENDS. We’ve all had them. We’ve all needed them. In this fun fantasy anthology, readers are given thirteen variations on what kinds of friends come in handy. Featuring stories by Jean Rabe, Don Bingle, Tim Waggoner, Paul Genesse and Jim C. Hines.

CROSS COUNTY by Tim Waggoner
When surviving gets this hard, death comes easy...

CROSS COUNTY secrets run deep. Settlers first came here hundreds of years ago, taking the land from local tribes sworn to guard its dark secrets. The Cross family now holds the power in the region. When a grisly murderer, hearkening back to a series of killing from years ago, shakes the community, it's up to the local sheriff to get to the bottom of things before it's too late.

Part murder mystery, part supernatural terror, CROSS COUNTY will appeal to fans of Greg Iles and Patricia Cornell, as well as horror fans who love Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

DAGGER-STAR by Elizabeth Vaughan

After captivating readers with her CHRONICLE OF THE WARLANDS trilogy, USA Today Bestselling author, Elizabeth Vaughan now returns to that world with a beguiling tale of daggers and destiny, a cold and beautiful mercenary known as Red Gloves, and Josiah, a lone fighter emerging from the torched fields and razed farms of his homeland. All Josiah knows about the mysterious woman is her dagger-star birthmark, a sign that she is destined to free the people from a ruthless usurper's reign of terror.

DAGGER-STAR was released in April from Berkly Sensation. Visit for all the details.

THE GOLDEN CORD, By Paul Genesse. A hunter must leave behind the woman he loves, give up all hope of survival, as he is forced to guide his most hated enemies to the lair of the dragon king.

“The plot is well constructed, the characters are wonderful, and the middle-ages setting creates an ominous feel. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers eager for more. BOOK ONE OF THE IRON DRAGON SERIES is a rich and compelling fantasy full of adventure, danger, dragons, battles, revenge, magic, and more.”

“. . . promises to unlock a realm of magic and warfare in a unique world of cloud-bound lands and a mysterious Underworld.”

“THE GOLDEN CORD is indeed a hellishly good read.”

Watch a video about THE GOLDEN CORD and download the first chapter for free at .

UNDER COVER OF DARKNESS, edited by Julie Czerneda and Jana Paniccia. The Prix Award Winning Anthology featuring SHADOW OF THE SCIMITAR by Janet Deaver-Pack. From the true role of the Freemasons to Chronographers who steal pieces of time to an assassin hired by a group that reweaves the threads of history, here are fourteen imaginative tales of time and space and realms beyond our own-all watched over, preserved, or changed by those who work covertly under cover of darkness.

Writers’ Symposium Members—Visit them on their sites or on the W.S. Blog

Jean Rabe
Paul Genesse
Don Bingle
Brad Beaulieu
Anton Strout
John Helfers
Pat Rothfuss
Luke Johnson
Kelly Swails
Tim Waggoner
Elizabeth Vaughan
Marc Tassin
Richard Lee Byers
Steve Schend
Janet Deaver-Pack
Daniel “Doc” Myers
Sabrina Klein
Kerrie Hughes
Linda Baker
Chris Pierson
Jim C. Hines
Jennifer Brozek

download the issue for the missing email addresses of members

Final Thought
As you can tell by this ezine, the members have been very busy lately writing books. There are lot of novels coming out and a vast quantity already released. We like to keep busy, but one of us has been too busy. Our rock and mentor, Jean Rabe ended up in the hospital. Thankfully, she’s back at home now.

All of us in the Symposium, and I know all of you readers, wish her the very best as she recovers from a serious case of pneumonia. “WE LOVE YOU JEAN!” and please enjoy a nap or two, just not during the Packers game.

Now the rest of you, get back to creating the best work of fiction that the world has ever seen.

Paul Genesse, editor

Thank you for reading the ezine. Please forward it to all your friends interested in writing or reading. Please visit the Writers Symposium Blog for more information on writing—and to interact with the members of the symposium. Thanks again!

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Thank you!

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Ezine coming soon


The newest ezine is coming soon. It'll come out within the next few days, so stay tuned.

Paul Genesse, editor and author of The Dragon Hunters

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gen Con 2008


Gen Con 2008 was amazing. I was without internet access in my hotel and wasn't able to blog during the con. Needless to say. A lot happened. If you were there, thank you for attending the writing panels or serving on them.

Needless to say, the writing panels were a lot of fun and well attended. I really enjoyed myself and I think the attendees did as well, judging by the great comments.

Here's a link to some of the photos I took at the con.

The most fun was at the Eye of Argon reading on Friday night. The Eye of Argon is the worst fantasy story ever written, but it's also the funniest. Next year when we read it out loud (again) we need to act out a scene as it's being read. Kelly Swails can be the blond lusty woman and Patrick Rothfuss should be Grignr the barbarian. Don Bingle as the evil king would be perfect.

To find out about the panel topics download issue four of the Writers' Symposium Ezine. Over 70 hours of panels were given. Yep, that's a lot.

Next year will be even better and I'm sad Gen Con is over. Seeing all my friends and meeting new ones was fabulous. I haven't been blogging as I'm on a short deadline for the rewrite of book two, The Dragon Hunters. I should be working on it now . . .

Best wishes and thank you for reading.

Happy Writing!

Paul Genesse, Author and Editor

Author of The Golden Cord
Book One of the Iron Dragon Series

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

World Building: Temperate Forests

By Sabrina Klein

World-building in Temperate Forests

Economics: Temperate forests have a unique perspective of being economically very stable. Inhabitants can use the forests for timber for building, and for construction of other products. The prospects of cultures clearing timber for agriculture or of using internal grasslands adjacent to the temperate forest create lots of potential for agriculture. Forests also have an unusual abundant fauna population. However, the inhabitants would usually hunt that for their own food. It is very easy to upset the balance in a temperate forest. Culling to much in the forest can damage the forest by throwing the predator and prey system off. Too many predator and the predators begin to hunt each other. Not enough predators and the forest dies from too much culling form the herbivores. This could also cause the group to move from place to place within the forest.

Language: Talk of the forest may or may not have influence from other sources. Most likely they would have a heavy influence from traders. Long vowel sounds may be prevalent because they carry better through woodlands. The root of the language here would be extremely important. Many woodland languages evolve from the sounds around them. Keep this in mind when constructing a woodland language.

Kinship and Descent: Travel among woodlands is usually much easier than other ecologies. Rivers, lakes, and grasslands often mingle with temperate forests. Keep in mind if the climate is more warm than cold that travel to find mates will be far further ranged than if it is primarily cold. The perception of the forest is very important here. If the perception of the forest is male the descent may follow patrilineal lines. Vice versa is the forest is perceived as female. The perception of where the power of the forest lies could also challenge this. For example if the forest is perceived and female, but he fauna is considered to be where power lies and is personified in general as male then the linage will be patrilineal. This principle can be arranged in several different combinations.

Organization & Stratification: The motif that the forest is either male or female may repeat itself here. The forest perpetuates a sense of time, particularly old forests. Warm forests are especially perpetual; cold forests seem to be a frozen landscape that can be very mystical when the snow falls through them. In an old enough forest time can seem lost there, so can the immensity of the landscape and the peoples in it. It is very easy for a small creature such as a human to feel small in the grand scheme of things. I think that age would therefore be an asset here rather than a hindrance when dealing with leadership. Leadership therefore would sit with elders, whether male or female in a temperate forest.

Religion & Magick: For religion and magick to not be tied to the forest would go against the very grain of growth within the forest. Magic is often said to flow like a river, grow like a tree, or burn like fire. All of these things can be said of the forest. It needs all these things to grow, water, fire, and the nurturing power of the earth. The forest breathes as a living being and therefore needs air. It is the balance of all things. Religious specialist would also find balance on other ways. Magic within a culture that lives within the forest would demand balance of the caster. Male and female within the magical community would be a growth from that balance. Religious specialists would be of both sexes. The elements make up the forest and it requires all of them. The forest would make up the physical part of their magic as well, yet possibly in places being regarded as holy to the peoples who require it to live. The hunters would prey to it’s should and thank it for its bounty.

World-building: The culture is a group that worships the forest as a whole not just the trees. Trees are considered part of each person as they grow old. When they die each becomes part of the forest itself, helping it to live and breathe. Elder parts of the forest, become centers of wisdom for shaman. They would be traveled around at all cost, and considered ill omen if not invited by the grove to enter.

The people would harvest from the forest in places that would help the forest to grow, ritual surrounding the cutting of trees. Yet the act of culling the forest would not be an act of sin, but an act of care. The forest can’t exist as a perpetual fixture. As life grows it also changes and so does the needs of the forest. The animals within the forest would therefore be understood to have a symbiotic relationship with everything around them. Circles of nature creating an outstanding presence of balance within the lives of the peoples here.

The council of elders might be made up of the eldest amongst the groups. Not just one group having a governing body, but each group having one elder that helps to govern the entirety of forest peoples. Possibly even being the religious specialist or the religious specialist in some groups may have a taboo from holding both positions.

There may be two languages. One that is spoken, and another used as an oral tradition to set forth records of lineage and tales of glory, and a holy language that wasn’t spoken, but, universally known to all within the entirety of the culture, pictographs using symbols created by circles and lines. These symbols could direct someone through the forest as carvings in the trees made by shamans.

World Building: Stratification

by Sabrina Klein


Stratification of culture comes in many forms. However, in a world that has many races that differ not only in appearance but in ability it brings about a whole different perspective. Stratification in the anthropological sense is the division of a group of people by some defining difference that may or may not be changed by the individual being divided. Fantasy and science fiction have unique view upon this common everyday occurrence.

In the reality of our world peoples are divided by many things “race”, religion, occupation, age, sex, marital status, social rank of nobility, and many other ways that are smaller and usually occur within or in combination with the previous listed. Cultures within themselves may or may not persecute people for these differences, yet one culture may or may not persecute another culture or group for a difference. In kindergarten we are all taught to see what is different rather than what is the same. However, this is also human nature. Fantasy races are usually modeled after humans in some way, whether it is via anthropomorphization or through physical form. Modern and ancient literature gives many examples throughout the real world.

There are several ways to apply stratification. It can be divided up between the parts of culture. For instance, the stratification of leadership is the most predominant in any culture. It is the most prominent form and usually employs the others to define it. Leadership can come in many forms, and often is defined by what the culture reveres as the most precious. Types of leadership come in many forms, and can also be defined by; age, sex, religious status, economic status, or status by birth in an existing cast system as seen in India.

Caste systems make defining stratification easy because the system is just about written in stone and it takes serious upheaval to make changes. The process of status change within a caste system is often well defined, and usually close to impossible except via marriage to a higher stationed family. Caste systems can also follow occupation or any other form; age, secular & profane, as well as sex. One culture can divide itself using any of those in combination with others and just about any other reason.

Fictional worlds define other things that separate peoples going beyond simple appearance, but stem into abilities is where stratification becomes instantly apparent. If you have one race that has a significant advantage in an area over another, and that area is critical to the social food chain the race with the advantage is going to keep the social as well as possible economic advantage. The advantage in a sci-fi setting could be the ability to repair technology really well could put them at the top or the bottom of the social food chain. However something that needs clarified within the aspect of this culture is how this advantage comes about to this race. Do they have an advantage because they came from a more technologically advanced society? Or is it something within their racial makeup that gives them special insight. It would depend on how the two races were introduced. If the second race instilled fear and kept them as slaves they would be at the bottom of the food chain. Until someone started a cunning enough rebellion to create equality or give them their own space in which to live free from the suppression of the other race.

It could also work the other way. If the technologically inclined race kept the innovation information from the other races it would give them a decided advantage. This could also work in two cultures of the same race. Insert magic and you have the same scenario with magic instead of technology. Except, with magic there is general something that is innate within the practitioner that allows them to work with the supernatural.

Therefore it couldn’t necessarily be learned, as technology could be learned. It would also be a little harder to keep the magically inclined race from upsetting the social order without a physical form of enslavement. This could be drugs given to them to make them either addicted or subservient. Drugs have been well known in primitive cultures and even technologically advanced cultures to be used to control a population.

Examples in classic literature of peoples who became servants because of their differences include the Sidhe, a.k.a. Tuatha de Dannan, and the humans. In Irish mythos the Sidhe were the peoples that were considered gods. They had special powers and were faster, had magic and they were stronger. They also had weaknesses. The Irish mythos gives us several examples that are described well. These Sidhe had magical powers and the humans feared them. There are other examples of other races in classic literature. In Norse literature there are Aelves, Dwarves, and Ettin. The Greeks had nymphs and satyrs. The only difference is that these races didn’t live side by side. The Sidhe did, to an extent, but they were often two separate communities with a dominant and subservient relationship.

World building:

Within an overall stratification there can be sub-stratification such as an ancestral/elder stratified culture using a matriarchal governmental system. This would mean that women would form the hierarchy, and the eldest of all regardless of who was related to who would be in charge. A culture could use money as the stratifying means and thereby creating a capitalist system. The rich would always be the ones in charge, but that could always change and competition would create a cut-throat society. Families would become the second dominating power and marriage to a family of status would be a means of breaking through the next higher class. There by a culture such as this would not only stratify by money but also by marriage, and to throw a huge monkey wrench into the works. What if it inheritance was automatically inherited by the first born. Now to being a first born child has its own status. Then what if polygamy and polyandry were acceptable? Wouldn’t that brighten up the complicated nature of the stratification of a culture?

The above example creates a capitalist culture with inheritance of status via wealth. That wealth is inherited through first born children regardless of sex, and those first born children who define the top of the food chain may have as many spouses as they deem fit. This creates a highly competitive and potentially cut throat society with a multi stratified culture.

All in all what purpose does stratification serve within world-building? Conflict. What purpose does conflict serve? Without conflict there is no motivation to excel, and it is major force behind change. Conflict serves the purpose of creating obstacles for the people within the world. There are arguably other ways to create conflict; war, oppression, slavery, greed, but all of these usually have a root. The stratification of the culture in question. Creatures that are self aware will always want something better for their children or at least they want to keep what they have already. If something threatens that dream, conflict happens. Conflict doesn’t always happen outside the people, it also happens on the inside. Internal conflict is usually fueled by a perceived external or real external conflict.


Types of stratification: Governments.

-cracy: defined as rule; From Greek a root that means; strength or power. 

Democracy: a government in which the supreme power is held by the people.  IE: United States 1776-present.

Monarchy: a nation or state of government by a monarch. IE: Great Britain, France, H.R.E., & Spain circa 1100-1600 C.E.

Theocracy: government by official regarded as divine, those who pose as gods are who are believed to be empowered by gods IE: Ancient Egypt to circa 30 B.C.E., usually this form of government is ruled by those viewed as gods. 

Hagiocracy: this form of government is ruled by those whom are regarded as holy within the principles of the governing religion.  IE: Vatican State to present.

Empire: a large state or group of states under a single sovereign who is usually an emperor.   IE: oldest known: Akkadian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Roman Empire, Persian Empire, Imperial China, & Incan Empire.

Parliament: a formal governmental conference, an assembly that constitutes the supreme legislative body of a country.  IE: England (later Great Britain) 1200 C.E.-present, France 13th c.  C.E. to present. 

State: centralized political system with the power to coerce.  *please note that this definition is an anthropological perspective. 

Republic: a government in which the supreme power is held by the citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives governing according to the law. Rome (6th c.  B.C.E.  to 1st c.  B.C.E.)

Federation: constituting a form of government in which power is distributed between central authorities and constitute territorial rights. IE:  Germany & Austria at present (fictional: United Federation of Planets-Star Trek)

Coalition: a temporary union for a common purpose. IE: NATO, Delian League & Peloponnesian League circa 477 B.C.E. 

Aristocracy: government by a noble or privileged class.  IE: any form of government in the European Middle Ages that passed power on via heredity. 

Dictatorship: government or country in which absolute power is held by a dictator or small clique. IE: Cuba 1959-present, Known real Dictators: Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Gaddafi of Libya, and Manuel Noriega of Nicaragua. Some regarded Julius Caesar of Rome, Adolf Hitler of Germany. (fictional: Big Brother, 1984, George Orwell; The Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum)

Tyranny: government in which absolute power is vested in a single ruler. 

     Tyrant: one who governs oppressively or brutally?  Nero of Rome c.37 C.E.-68 C.E., Caligula of Rome c.12 C.E.-41 C.E., and Tuthmosis III of Egypt c.1458 - 1425 BC ( he was perceived as the embodiment of a god from the perspective of the ancient Egyptians- but to us a dead false god...)

Chiefdom: regional polity in which two or more local groups are organized by a chief, who is head of the hierarchy. * Please note that this definition is an anthropological perspective. Usually this is associated with a tribe. (IE: Various Native North American Tribes)


Other Types of stratification: *not  limited to.

Caste: any group distinguished by its social position. (IE: Hindu caste system, Ancient Greece & Sparta (free peoples and slaves), ancient Hawai’i.)

Age (IE: Dogon of west Africa)

Sex (IE: Jewish)

Kinship (IE: feudal Japan)

Occupation (IE: USA-Unions)

Language (IE: Medieval Christianity: Latin was used as the holy language, and the serfs weren’t permitted to learn it)

Religion (type) (Abrahamic Traditions)

Religious stature (secular/profane) 

Economic status (Crusader England)

Race (however perceived within the world) 

Ethnic heritage (1920’s Chicago, Boston, New York)

Physical limitations (blindness, deafness, etc)

Lineage (lines of nobility) (Medieval Europe, Imperial    China)

Military status (warriors may have higher rank within a culture, as may hunters) (IE: Ancient Sparta)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

World Con 2008



I'm off to World Con in Denver! Over 3,000 fans, writers, editors, agents, and publishers of science fiction and fantasy will be gathering. I'm doing some signings--times to be determined when I get there--and I'll be meeting with a couple of my editors. I'll also be rooming with my buddy, Brad Beaulieu, a great writer and a member of the Writers' Symposium.

I'll be at the Magnolia Hotel August 7, leaving August 10. Anyone in the Denver area who wants to hang out please get in touch and we'll do lunch or something. My cell is 801-651-668seven. Hope to see you there.

Paul Genesse, Author of The Golden Cord

www. paulgenesse. com

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Writers' Symposium Ezine #4, The Gen Con 2008 Preview Issue



The Writers' Symposium Ezine

“Helping Writers Write”

Issue #4, August 2008

The Gen Con 2008 Preview Issue

View the beautiful full color version with dozens of color pictures or download the PDF with all the good stuff at

To subscribe, or unsubscribe please email:

Visit the Writers’ Symposium Blog at




From the Editor: Paul Genesse

Featured Content: Preview of the Gen Con 2008 Panels

Featured Author Bio: Patrick Rothfuss

What the Reviewers are saying about Patrick’s novel

Author Alley Signing Schedule

New Novels from Writers’ Symposium Members

New Releases From the Writers’ Symposium

List of Current Writers’ Symposium Members & Contact Info

Final Thought


From the Editor


Editor’s Note

Members of the Writers’ Symposium will be gathering once again in Indianapolis, Indiana on August 14-17 for Gen Con, a convention attended by over 20,000 fans of fantasy and science fiction.

Gen Con has been known as the Best Four Days In Gaming, and now it’s being called The Best Four Days In Writing.

The Writers’ Symposium and a few others are offering over 70 seminars, panels, workshops, and advance level classes for the aspiring, beginner, independent and professional author. The programming parallels, if not rivals, other literary conventions and is a place where writers can come together, hone their skills, and meet other likeminded individuals.

This year there are two tracks of panels, one focusing more on game writing and the other focusing on fiction writing. This issue gives an overview of the seminars offered, published works by Symposium members and spotlights one of the brightest writers in the Symposium: New York Times Bestselling author,

Patrick Rothfuss, winner of the Quill Award for best novel: The Name of the Wind.

We hope to see you at Gen Con Indy! Go to more information or use the link below to look at the Gen Con Symposium page.

Paul Genesse, Editor and Author of The Golden Cord


Featured Content: Preview of the Gen Con 2008 Writing Panels


The Write Approach: So you want to write. What's the best way to go about it? How to you snag the time each day? What about deadlines, family, friends, free time, discipline, and the tools you'll need? Our panelists explore these topics and more to help you figure out the right approach to writing for you.

Readers Room: We'll discuss the books: fiction, non-fiction, and ones on the craft of writing, that every author should read.

Food in Fiction: Don't starve your main character. Don't force your villain to drink the wrong vintage of wine with his macaroni and cheese. Little details like food help make your fiction real and add depth to your characters. In fantasy and science fiction, it can also reveal important information about climate and culture.

Make 'em Bleed: And make them suffer and die, too. There is an art to portraying death and suffering that can add realism and emotion. Learn how to write about your character's imminent demise without crossing the line in the realms of morbid, gross, boring, and too much info.

Penning Power Struggles: Political intrigue plays a role in many science fiction/fantasy tales. Our panelists suggest how to incorporate politics, how to foreshadow political events and conflicts, and how to make political intrigue as dynamic as any fight scene.

Urban Fantasy: This fast-growing subgenre has made stars out of folks like Jim Butcher with his Dresden Files. Is urban fantasy just a trend, or is it here to stay? Our panelists discuss the elements of urban fantasy and the markets for your city-fiction.

Characters Welcome: Creating dimensional, dynamic characters can be the difference between a manuscript that sells and one that gathers dust under the bed. So how do you create a vivid, living, breathing character? There are probably as many ways to build characters as there are writers. Join our panelists as they share their methods, with concrete examples, for penning amazing, interesting characters.

Writer's Groups and Critiquing Techniques: The development of any writer depends on two things. One is that he writes. The second is that he gets accurate and valuable feedback on what he has written. New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole outlines the techniques and methods for forming groups and constructively analyzing and critiquing stories that allows for a lot of development in a very short time.

Fast Track Development for Writers: New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole offers up a grab-bag of tricks of the trade and insider information that can step you through the early, awkward phases of writing, and set you well on the path to being published.

Edit Yourself: Learn to look at your work critically. Examine everything from plot to language, and learn how to tackle rewrites and take and give criticism.

Mapping Your Fiction: So you're building a world for your fantasy novel? Great! Do you need to set that world to paper? How much detail should you provide? Can a map inspire your fiction? Learn the pros and cons of cartography as it applies to writing.

Magical Realism, Threat or Menace: There are great stories being written under the heading of Magical Realism. Is it a subgenre of fantasy? Or is it something else entirely? Is it just a way for academics to study a few select authors while still keeping the rest of the fantasy genre outside their ivory tower? And if you want to pen your next novel in this subgenre, what is the best approach?

Ars Loca, Humor in Fantasy: Being funny is serious business. When should you inject humor into your manuscript? And how can you do it effectively? Our panelists teach you how to tickle readers' funny bones.

Painting with Words: Do you read or write for the love of language? Is your favorite author one who can transport you into the setting? Learn how observation and imagination can put life in your writing and make your readers see, smell, and feel what your characters do.

Pagan Topics in Writing: Our panelists examine history to help you craft strong, believable characters from a pagan point of view. This year we'll concentrate on witchcraft and warlocks.

Ghosts and the Afterlife: Ghost stories are on the rise. The latest crop of paranormal writing is thick with clairvoyance, necromancy, and ghosts. Let's take a look at what's out there, what's been done-to-death, and how to include fresh spirits in your fiction.

The Japanese Invasion: Hungry ghosts, hidden demons, and interactive nightmares come to us in books and movies from Japan. We'll look at the history of the Japanese story vs. the American tale, including a discussion of Campbell, Kurosai, and how the genre can influence your writing.

Writers' Symposium-Read and Critique: Have your prose critiqued by professionals.  Presenters will have three to five minutes to read their material. They will receive verbal critiques based on the "critique sandwich" method. Attendance is limited to those being critiqued, pre-registration is required. 

Friday August 15

Setting the Scene: Where you place your story can be as important as the story itself. What elements should you put in and leave out? Our panelists show you how to sprinkle in details to enhance your story and characters . . . and teach you how not to overdo it. We'll include tidbits about how to pick a setting and research tools.

Points on Plotting: Coming up with a solid, interesting plot can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. We'll discuss just what makes a good plot and offer advice on how you can avoid plot-jams and plot-holes that can ruin your fiction.

Combat, Small-Scale Fights to Massive Battles: Much of fantasy fiction is filled with fights, from one-on-one duels to well equipped armies slaying thousands in years-long wars. Learn different approaches for writing combat scenes, how to make your struggles feel real, and when it's time to end the bloodshed so your readers don't get bored.

Fight Another Day: Learn how to write edge-of-your-seat action scenes without a character throwing a single punch. We'll cover chase scenes, escapes, word choice, settings, and much more.

Write What You Don't Know: Some say it's best to "write what you know." We thumb our nose at that notion! Otherwise, how could you ever write fiction set in medieval times or on one of Saturn's moons? We'll teach you how to do just enough research to set your fiction pretty much anywhere. And we'll cover what elements to include, what to leave out, and how to explore writing in genres outside your proverbial comfort zone.

Non-standard Ways to Build Your Craft: You can become a better writer without signing up for a college course or reading a stack of "how-to" books. Our panelists discuss what they do to improve their writing and show you how to hone your skills along some nontraditional routes.

Avoid Clichés Like the Plague: They are a dime a dozen! Ever worry whether your plot has been overused and that your characters are trite? Plots and character types tend to become overused because they work, and clichés become clichés because they convey something a lot of people want to say. So how do you make your writing stand out? To use a cliché, the devil is in the details! Out with young orphans who become great wizards, evil sorcerers who try to destroy the world, androgynous elves with longbows! We'll show you some tricks for keeping your writing rich and innovative.

The Art of Terror and Fear: Let's discover those things that go bump-in-the-night. Learn how to send shivers down the spines of your readers. You don't have to write in the horror genre to deliver a good scare.

Approaches to Game Writing: What's the best way to present game material? In the style of old-school D&D where rules and color text are mixed together? Should you write all the color text "in character," presenting the rules in a separate section? Our panelists offer suggestions on manuscript presentation. Topics discussed include how to capture the feel of a setting, how to write rules that are entertaining and easy to understand, and how to you keep your rules from reading like an algebra equation.

Creating Non-Linear Narratives in Game Writing: It's a lot easier to write an adventure that goes from Point A to Point B to Point C, but it isn't necessarily more interesting or enjoyable. Our panelists will show you how to approach "non-linear" adventures and how to avoid confusing and overly-complicated manuscripts.

Coloring in the Lines for Game Writing: Game designers must make sure that what they write is fun to read and that their writing reflects the realities of the game. Don't mention gear unless it's in the equipment list. Don't write about magic that the system doesn't support. Don't describe places that aren't shown on the map. Our panelists will teach you how to color inside the lines to make your material better suited for the players and the companies for whom you want to write.

Writing for Online Games: Computer games demand a certain style of writing different from fiction or pencil and paper RPGs.  Our panelists discuss the differences, the freelance markets, and offer suggestions to improve your online material.

Giving Purpose to your Game Writing: There should be a reason behind what you write. Don't give your elves a love of woodworking if there are no rules or equipment to support their craft. Don't put a mountain range on the map simply to hold back the dark hordes. In short, create wonderful, exciting, and interesting creatures while giving them a reason for being in the game.

How to Break into Game Writing: If you want to write, edit, and design games in the hobby market, where do you begin? How can you get paid for your ideas and work? Our panelists offer tips on how to get the attention of game companies and land freelance contracts.

Different Systems, Different Stories: There are a lot of choices when it comes to picking a rule system for your tabletop roleplaying game. Some game systems are designed to be the classic dungeon crawl. Some are more suited for a swashbuckling adventure; others for humorous games or psychological horror. Unfortunately, a lot of people stick to their favorite game system even if it's not appropriate for the style of game they want to write, and more often than not, frustration and misery occur. Join our panelists as they discuss the various game systems available for the freelance writer.

The Writing Career: What does it take to have a career as a writer? New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole walks you through the variety of skills sets you need to develop to successfully pursue a career as a writer. He provides insight into the pitfalls and exciting new developments in publishing and technology.

Characterization: People read for characters; and careers are made through creating memorable characters. New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole provides some sure-fire characterization techniques that will allow you to master the arcane art of character creation and growth.

Plotting: The plot is the spine of every story. Without it readers are lost. With an intriguing plot, full of twists and turns, readers will be enthralled. New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole shows you how to plot a novel and turn it into a page-turning book that readers won't want to put down.

Worldbuilding, Reality in Your Fantasy: Your setting has to make a certain amount of sense for your novel to be believable. So how do you make your fantasy “real” and how to you stop from making it so real it ceases to be fantasy?

Worldbuilding, Make it Your Own: Avoid creating a stereotypical, generic, fantasy world. We’ll show you how to make the planet your very own . . . and make it interesting.

Worldbuilding, The Impact of Magic: Magic should make more sense than science to hook your readers and enhance your fantasy world. We’ll talk about things that will enchant your writing.

Worldbuilding, Realistic Treatments of Sex and Racism: Smut or sexlessness, where is the middle ground? And how much is too much sexism? Unless we’re writing about a utopia, the societies in your fantasy worlds are going to have sexism. And if you include it, are you, as an author, guilty of perpetuating sexism in the real world?

Big on the Small Press: Small-press publishers offer new authors great opportunities. Smaller presses are enjoying a renaissance right now and are becoming stronger than ever. Come find out the advantages of working with a smaller press. Our panel includes a publisher, editor, and authors who have sold books to some of the smaller houses. They’ll discuss how to submit and who is buying what.

Brainstorming to Defeat Writer’s Block: There’s an old saying that “ideas are a dime a dozen.” But sometimes you don’t have the 10 cents you need to get a plot. Learn how to brainstorm ideas for fiction writing so your fingers fly across the keyboard and so you don’t keep staring at a blank screen.

Goal, Motivation, and Conflict: There is no one formula that will help you write a bestselling or award-winning novel. But key ingredients for plots and characters, no matter the genre, are goal, motivation, and conflict. Join our panelists as they discuss how they incorporate these elements into their writing to make their fiction exciting and real.

Writing by Tarot: Tarot is said to be a window to the soul and the journey of The Fool. But have you ever thought that using Tarot cards or an oracle could aid your writing? You can use this method to help you get past a touch of writer’s block, to resolve problem points in your plot, to flesh out your characters, even to plot an entire book. Bring your Tarot or your oracle to the seminar to share, or just listen in as our panelists give ideas and tips for drawing on the unconscious while writing.

Slutty vs. Sultry and Everything in Between, A Look at the Female Character: Want to put a real woman in your fiction? As a main character? A villain’s henchman? We’ll teach you how to avoid clichéd female characters and how to create vibrant women worthy of your readers’ time.

Hey, I’ve Got a Day Job: You write on the weekends, during your lunch hour, or in the evenings. Maybe you even take a few days of vacation to jump start a book. How do you set aside the time? How can you make deadlines while sticking with your 9 to 5? Our panelists, novelists all, have regular “day jobs.” They’ll share their tips and inspire you to not give up.

Making the Leap (From Talented Amateur to Publishing Professional): What does a writer who's on the verge of writing professional level prose need to do to make that final leap? When do you know you’ve crossed the line to become a professional writer? When do you know you’ve crossed the line to become a professional writer? When should you think about quitting the day job?

21 Days to a novel: New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole presents a series of exercises guaranteed to set you up for success in your first novel. Topics covered include character creation, voice development, dialogue, world creation and plotting. Following these exercises will provide you with the material that ensures that you story won't shrivel and die five or ten chapters in.

Books are dead: Just as video killed the radio star, so technology is turning books into hunks of dead wood. New York Times Bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole explains the new and exciting ways in which the rise of e-book readers and the connectivity of the Web are turning publishing on its head. It's a brave new future, and your success will depend upon your ability to navigate it, and master it.

Writers’ Symposium—Read and Critique: Have your prose critiqued by professionals. Presenters will have three to five minutes to read their material. They will receive verbal critiques based on the “critique sandwich” method. Attendance is limited to those being critiqued, pre-registration is required.

Sunday August 17

Short Fiction Markets: Maybe you don’t want to write a novel. Maybe you’ve a burning idea for a short piece of fiction that you’d like to see in print. Or maybe you want to try your hand at a new genre, and a short story is the way to test your wings. Our panelists discuss the differences in approaching a short story vs. writing a novel and share market news on where you can send your tales.

How to Buff, Polish, and Make Your Manuscript Shine: Get an editor’s attention. Find yourself moving up in the slush pile, not sitting forever on the bottom. There are things you can do to your manuscript to make it move a little quicker and to lessen the chances it will get rejected.

The Fine Art of Schmoozing Your Way into Print: Sometimes it’s who you know that will help get you into print. Sometimes it’s what you learn about the publishing industry, editors, and agents that will help you make a sale. Conventions are a great place to meet folks who can help your writing career and to get the low-down on fantasy and science-fiction markets. We’ll teach you how to schmooze.

Agents, Taxes, and Other Important Yucky Things: Do you need an agent? And, if so, how do you get one? What can you declare as writing-related tax write-offs? What should you look for in contracts? These topics and more will be tackled by our panelists.

Brainstorming for the Game Market: Where do ideas come from in sculpting game manuscripts? Our authors share their tricks for coming up with plots and how to brainstorm to flesh out ideas into lengthy manuscripts. They’ll also cover how to avoid over-used subjects and how to make your submissions innovative and fresh.

Ooops! The Worst Mistakes to Make with Game Writing: Our panelists speak from experience . . . on what not to do. This is a humorous and important look at things to avoid if you want to be a freelance or full-time game writer.

New Ways to tell Old Stories in Game Writing: There are timeless themes in adventures and source material, but there are ways to cover them without your work reading like a cliché or feeling like a TV rerun. Learn how to twist old topics and put new spins on age-old themes.

Bang, Bang, You’re Dead! Fun Ways to Kill Your Gaming Characters: Not all non-player characters, and maybe not all PCs, should live to see the end of your story. Our panelists discuss when it’s time to kill ’em off and gleefully share ideas for helping the characters into the hereafter.

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Featured Author: Patrick Rothfuss


Patrick Rothfuss had the good fortune to be born in Wisconsin where long winters and lack of cable television brought about a love of reading and writing. His mother read to him as a child, and his father taught him to build things. If you are looking for the roots of his storytelling, look there.
Growing up, Pat didn't apply himself and failed to live up to his full potential. Despite the fact that he seemed to have no interest doing something productive with himself, Pat's parents continued to love him. They also were encouraging, but in a very general way, as he seemed to have no actual talents to speak of.
Having enjoyed the hard sciences in high school, Pat began college as a chemical engineer. He soon abandoned that, and decided to become a clinical psychologist. He eventually abandoned that as well, admitted he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life, and changed his major to Undeclared despite the fact that he had been in college for over three years.

Over the next six years Pat lived the life of an itinerant student, working three jobs and studying everything that interested him: philosophy, medieval history, eastern theater, anthropology, sociology.... After nine years as an undergraduate Pat was forced by university policy to finally complete his undergraduate degree.... in English.

While wandering through college, Pat learned he had a knack for writing. He wrote poetry for a local literary series, a satirical advice column for the local paper, and scripts for a radio comedy show. Two months before he graduated, Pat finally finished the project he had been working on for over seven years, a mammoth story centering around the life of a man named Kvothe.

After two excruciating years of grad school, Pat returned to teach at the University he had grown to love as a student. During this time his book was rejected by roughly every agent in the known universe. In 2002 a piece of Pat's novel, cleverly disguised as a short story, won first place in the Writers of the Future contest. Pat's story, The Road to Levinshir, was published in Volume 18 of their anthology, and they flew him out to their fabulous writers workshop in LA. It was at that workshop that Pat met Kevin Anderson, who introduced him to his agent, Matt Bialer. Eventually Matt brought Pat in contact with his current, beloved editor, Betsy Wollheim, president of DAW Books. And that's how The Name of the Wind came into existence.

Betsy is very proud that Pat won the Quill Award for his debut novel.

Pat continues to live in central Wisconsin. He still lacks cable television, and the long winters force him to stay inside and write. He still teaches at the college he grew to love as a student, and acts as advisor for the College Feminists and the local Fencing Club. When not reading and writing, Pat wastes his time playing video games, holds symposia at his house, and dabbles with alchemy in his basement. He loves the world and the characters he has created, and he loves that people are getting the chance to meet them.

What the reviewers are saying about

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

"THE NAME OF THE WIND marks the debut of a writer we would all do well to watch. Patrick Rothfuss has real talent, and his tale of Kvothe is deep and intricate and wondrous."
-Terry Brooks, 22-time New York Times bestselling author

"This is a magnificent book, a really fine story, highly readable and engrossing. I compliment young Pat. His first novel is a great one. Wow!"
-Anne McCaffrey

"From his childhood as a member of a close-knit family of the nomadic Edema Ruh to his first heady days as a student of magic at a prestigious university, humble bartender Kvothe relates the tale of how a boy beset by fate became a hero, a bard, a magician, and a legend. Rothfuss's first novel launches a trilogy relating not only the history of humankind but also the tale of a world threatened by an evil whose existence it desperately denies. The author explores the development of a person's character while examining the relationship between a legend and its reality and the truth that lies at the heart of stories. Elegantly told and layered with images of tales to come, this richly detailed 'autobiography' of a hero is highly recommended for libraries of any size."

"THE NAME OF THE WIND is quite simply the best fantasy novel of the past 10 years, although attaching a genre qualification threatens to damn it with faint praise. Say instead that THE NAME OF THE WIND is one of the best stories told in any medium in a decade. Author Patrick Rothfuss teaches English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and he describes himself in self-deprecating terms as a perpetual student, role-playing geek, and connoisseur of rejection letters. That's all about to change. His debut novel combines the intricate stories-within-stories structure of The Arabian Nights with the academic setting of the Harry Potter series, and transforms it all into a brooding, thoroughly adult meditation on how heroism went wrong. More entries in the series, dubbed 'The Kingkiller Chronicle,' are promised; they can't appear fast enough."
-Onion AV Club

Read more reviews at


Author Alley Book Signing Schedule






10:00 AM

James Wyatt,

Rich Baker

R.A. Salvatore

Steve Schend,

Jonathan Rudder

11:00 AM

Jean Rabe,

Anton Strout

John Helfers,

Kerrie Hughes

Elizabeth Vaughan,

Brad Beaulieu

Richard Lee Byers

12:00 PM

Paul Genesse,

Kelly Swails

Donald Bingle,

Steve Schend

Patrick Rothfuss,

Paul Genesse

1:00 PM

Elizabeth Vaughan,

Jonathan Rudder

Mike Stackpole,

Tim Waggoner

Tim Waggoner,

Chris Pierson

2:00 PM

Chris Pierson,

Mike Stackpole

Paul Genesse,

Marc Tassin

John Helfers,

Kerrie Hughes

3:00 PM

Richard Lee Byers,

Donald Bingle

Anton Strout

Matt Forbeck

4:00 PM

Patrick Rothfuss

Matt Forbeck


New Novels by Symposium Authors


The Golden Cord, Book One of the Iron Dragon Series by Paul Genesse

The dragon king rises, and a hunter must leave behind the woman he loves, give up all hope of survival, as he is forced to guide his most hated enemies to the lair of the beast that threatens to enslave their world.

What the reviewers are saying about The Golden Cord

Book one of the Iron Dragon
series is a rich and compelling fantasy full of adventure, danger, dragons, battles, revenge, magic, and more.” (full review below)

VOYA Magazine
Sara Cofer

The Golden Cord
is indeed a hellishly good read.”
The Pedestal Magazine
JoSelle Vanderhooft
“This debut novel promises to unlock a realm of magic and warfare in a unique world of cloud-bound lands and a mysterious Underworld.”

Library Journal, Jackie Cassada

Sara Cofer at VOYA Magazine writes:

The Golden Cord:
Dragons and Griffins are not the only dangers facing Clifton, a secret village in Ae’leron. The Dwarves enslave humans for their armies, forcing them into hiding. Drake Bloodstone, Clifton’s most vigilant guardian, would do anything to protect his people from Aevians and Dwarves. Ridiculed for choosing to guard instead of hunt, Drake realizes his destiny as a hunter when two Dwarves arrive in Clifton. The Dwarves seek a guide who will lead them on a quest to find their lost kin. Drake feels it is his sacred destiny to escort the Dwarves and volunteers to be their guide. After a few days, Drake discoveres the Dwarves are hiding their true purpose. They reveal that while they are in search of their lost kin, they are also Dragon Hunters and are tracking Draglune, the King of Dragons and the most Ancient Evil, who will bring a great war that will end the world. Drake knows he must do everything in his power to help stop Draglune and save his people. Book one of the Iron Dragon series is a rich and compelling fantasy full of adventure, danger, dragons, battles, revenge, magic, and more.
Readers will root for Drake, a strong character who struggles both physically and mentally with the sacred duty handed to him. Drake is becoming a man while learning to follow his heart and trust his enemies in order to save everything he loves. The plot is well constructed, the characters are wonderful, and the middle-ages setting creates an ominous feel. The cliffhanger ending will leave readers eager for more of this great recommendation for fans of Lord of the Rings.


Dagger-Star by Elizabeth Vaughan

After captivating readers with her Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy, USA Today Bestselling author, Elizabeth Vaughan now returns to that world with a beguiling tale of daggers and destiny, a cold and beautiful mercenary known as Red Gloves, and Josiah, a lone fighter emerging from the torched fields and razed farms of his homeland. All Josiah knows about the mysterious woman is her dagger-star birthmark, a sign that she is destined to free the people from a ruthless usurper's reign of terror.

Dagger-Star was released in April from Berkly Sensation. Visit for all the details.


Cross County by Tim Waggoner

When surviving gets this hard, death comes easy...

Cross County's secrets run deep. Settlers first came here hundreds of years ago, taking the land from local tribes sworn to guard its dark secrets. The Cross family now holds the power in the region. When a grisly murderer, hearkening back to a series of killing from years ago, shakes the community, it's up to the local sheriff to get to the bottom of things before it's too late.
Part murder mystery, part supernatural terror, Cross County will appeal to fans of Greg Iles and Patricia Cornell, as well as horror fans who love Stephen King and Dean Koontz.


Writers’ Symposium Member Releases


The Dimension Next Door. Editor, Kerrie Hughes has a new anthology with 13 brand-new stories about the realities just around the corner from our own, featuring stories by Paul Genesse, Brad Beaulieu, Don Bingle, Chris Pierson, Steven Schend and Anton Strout.

Brad Beaulieu’s short story, “Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten”, is in Realms of Fantasy. It’s a story about the Land of the Dead, about those still living, and the fireworks that connect the two. It came out in the March/April issue of the magazine. He also has a story called No Viviremos Como Presos", which was picked up by Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show releasing in late 2008.

Anton Strout’s novel, Dead To Me is an urban fantasy featuring a man working on the right side of law—with talents that come from left field. This just in: it’s very, very, very,

funny. And Ace books has given Anton a five book deal!

Luke Johnson is the editor and co-author of several gaming books. Check out his World of Warcraft book, Dark Factions. See all of his gaming related work at:

Imaginary Friends: Thirteen original tales of those companions—some human—some not, conjured from imagination in times of need. Featuring stories by Paul Genesse, Don Bingle, and the ghost editing of John Helfers.

The Fellowship Fantastic Anthology, edited by Kerrie Hughes, features stories by several Writers’ Symposium members: Paul Genesse, Don Bingle, Chris Pierson, Brad Beaulieu and the famous Alan Dean Foster.

Future Americas: Oh say can you see— sixteen original stories about the America to come. Sixteen authors have taken up the challenge of gazing into the future and seeing where America may be the day after tomorrow. Edited by John Helfers and featuring a story by Don Bingle.

Under Cover of Darkness, edited by Julie Czerneda and Jana Paniccia. The Prix Award Winning Anthology featuring Shadow of the Scimitar by Janet Deaver-Pack. From the true role of the Freemasons to Chronographers who steal pieces of time to an assassin hired by a group that reweaves the threads of history, here are fourteen imaginative tales of time and space and realms beyond our own-all watched over, preserved, or changed by those who work covertly under cover of darkness.

Future Wars edited by Denise, War—what is it good for? It’s good for 19 all-new tales from the battlefield...
Nineteen all-new tales that look at war from the perspective of everyone from human to alien, pixie to toy. From epic intergalactic struggles for the future of humankind to the microcosm of a single abandoned toy soldier in a boy’s backyard; from a chemical experiment gone horribly wrong to a young recruit who may hold the key to “understanding” the enemy; from a half-mortal knight trying to avert a war with the Elfin Host to a Battle of Trenton fought against seven-foot tall Saurians, Front Lines brings together a diverse array of imaginative explorations of the phenomenon of war. Featuring a story by Symposium member Don Bingle and others.

Dagger-Star, a novel by Elizabeth Vaughan was released in April from Berkly Sensation and has gotten excellent reviews. After captivating readers with her Chronicles of the Warlands trilogy, our very own USA Today Bestselling author, Elizabeth Vaughan now returns to that world with a beguiling tale of daggers and destiny, a cold and beautiful mercenary known as Red Gloves, and Josiah, a lone fighter emerging from the torched fields and razed farms of his homeland. All Josiah knows about the mysterious woman is her dagger-star birthmark, a sign that she is destined to free the people from a ruthless usurper's reign of terror.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is now out in paperback and has become a New York Times Bestseller! It also won the prestigious Quill Award! Please visit for more about the book and the amazing author.


Writers’ Symposium Members—Visit them on their sites or on the W.S. Blog


Jean Rabe

Paul Genesse

Don Bingle

Brad Beaulieu

Anton Strout

John Helfers

Pat Rothfuss

Luke Johnson

Kelly Swails

Tim Waggoner

Elizabeth Vaughan

Marc Tassin

Richard Lee Byers

Steve Schend

Janet Deaver-Pack

Daniel “Doc” Myers

Sabrina Klein

Kerrie Hughes


Chris Pierson


Final Thought


I was so excited when Pat won the Quill Award and now he’s a New York Times Bestselling author! The paperback of the book is out and I think you should all get it, and have Pat sign it at Gen Con. I hope to see you there! Thanks for reading and here’s a quote about Pat’s book.

Paul Genesse, Editor

"Hail Patrick Rothfuss! A new giant is striding the land. THE NAME OF THE WIND is an astonishing novel that just happens to be the writer's first. The bestsellers' lists and the award ballots are beckoning toward Rothfuss, and readers will be clamoring for more of the riveting life story of Kvothe. Bravo, I say! Bravo!"
-Robert J. Sawyer,
Hugo Award-winning author of ROLLBACK


Thank you for reading the ezine. Please forward it to all your friends interested in writing or reading. Please visit the Writers Symposium Blog for more information on writing—and to interact with the members of the symposium. Thanks again!



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Friday, August 1, 2008

World Building; Grasslands and Deserts by Sabrina Klein

World building: Grasslands (a.k.a. prairies, savannahs, steppe, veld, & pampa)

Grasslands like lakes and rivers can be inside other biomes, and create ecological crossovers. Other biomes have crossovers but not as commonly as grasslands, rivers, and lakes. They can exist inside temperate forests, in deserts, around lakes or rivers, near shorelines, and they can be vast enough to exist on their own as well. Therefore for the sake of world building we will use them as a vast prairie or grassland with only an influence of water because it is needed for survival.

*note on using grasslands in amidst other biomes. They may have a small grouping among a forest, rivers and lakes are found frequently in combination with grasslands. The surrounding biome and its ecology will influence how a group will interact with the grassland as it would with lakes and rivers. When trying to survive the life-form will use everything at its disposal. Nature doesn’t have boundaries unless they are physical. They won’t stay out of a place unless there is an ecological reason. Think about the mouse that comes into your house, to the mouse it’s just part of the woods. It doesn’t care that it’s yours. These are human concepts. Ecology doesn’t acknowledge these higher human concepts because it doesn’t care. Territory is established differently, a border is a line on a map.

Economics: In a grassland hunter gatherer or agrigarian culture would thrive. Agrigarian cultures would also thrive because of the abundant sunshine, provided they had a source of water. Agrigarian might be a hub for trade for surrounding hunter-gatherers, and vice versa. Hunter-gatherer groups may also

trade amongst themselves. These groups are not constant movers, and most will have places that they migrate to annually or seasonally because of food and water sources. Surrounding groups will know that the area is theirs and know where to find them approximately.

Language: Each group would tend to keep a language as theirs. Language is a huge part of a group’s identity. However, those members who were constant traders with other groups would be bi or tri-lingual. These people would be extremely useful. Historically in our own world grassland hunter-gatherers do not have a written component to the language, and they pass their traditions down orally. Agrigarian grasslanders may have a written tradition, but most likely came from oral tradition if their ancestors were hunter gatherers in the grassland. They may not take to written language for everything. Particularly that thing held dear or sacred.

Kinship and descent: With roving groups there is only some opportunity to marry outside the group. There must be contact with others for this to happen, and some groups may have laws concerning who may marry outside the group. For instance only daughters may be able to marry outside the group. The restriction could be that whoever is the inheritor of the line may not be able to marry outside and live outside the group. Marriage of an outsider would be permissible, but they may have to live with the group so the line of heirs doesn’t leave the original groups and take the wealth with them.

Leadership & stratification: The leadership of such groups is usually elected in some manner by deed, and or could be by age. Then often times there is a larger governing body that is used for crisis, and/or as a way to hold a larger groups that is broken into smaller groups together such as a clan with family lines broken over a large geographical area.

Religion & magick: Religion of the grasslands would depend on the surrounding biome. If the grassland is in a cold area that would affect it just as well as if it’s in a constantly warm area. The agrigarian nature of groups would create a new set of issues for religion as well as possibly an agrigarian form of magic that works with harvests and weather. A hunter-gatherer group may see things differently. They may have god for different issues, or some of the same. In environments like this magickal components are often nature based.

World-building in Grasslands: A culture from this type of ecology may be hunter gatherer and agrigarian. In the spring they migrate to an area the closer to a water source to water the crops with, and in the winter they move further inland where the hunting is better, and more shelter is available from more diverse terrain. They would trade with other groups, in the resources abundant to them, but most likely within a barter system. Likely resources may include furs, meat, or migrating livestock.

     Religious practitioners may be a specialized grouped with a linage definition that is not by blood buy by spirit. Therefore practitioners may be male or female. This aspect of the specialists would accommodate for the balance demand of nature. Pat lives would be within the supernatural possibilities of the religion. Marriage of the body and spirit would have a whole new seriousness. This would make kinship extremely important. Matrilineal descent is more likely than patrilineal because of the connection to life energy of birth. That fact may also influence the tendency for female shaman. The channeling of spirits would be common place within the spiritual nature of the groups.

    The language of the spirits may only be interpretable with a shaman/priest. The groups would have a secular and a sacred language. The secular language would be verbal while the sacred language would be made of pictographs. Pictographs are usually tied to the ecological relationship of the life-forms. Perhaps something of a set of curved lines arranged for different meanings.

Other influences of culture may come from a river or bordering woodland. They may also come from a tundra or taiga if the grassland is based from a steppe. Each type of grassland alters the ideas in a variable way. Grasslands are very susceptible to the ecologies that surround them or that they themselves infiltrate. This gives them a diversity that some ecology does not have.


World Building: Deserts

Kinship & Descent: The matrilineal or patrilineal organization of descent would go either way. Most likely it would probably be patrilineal. A matrilineal pattern for descent would be less feasible because of the patrilineal tendency of organization. This creates a need to track relationships based upon male lineage rather than female because of the higher worth of males to females. Males are the heads of the communities, and they are less likely to be sent out or willing to go to a foreign group of people to marry. Marriage would definitely be dependent on the specific culture that was within the desert. There could be multiple types of cultures within the desert because of variable types of desert areas. Groups that reside in an oasis or delta area may be more inclined to have arranged marriages than the roaming tribes or clans. Those living in the desert that isn’t an oasis may be either way. Those with cities within the desert that depend on a well system may also be more inclined to arrange marriage based on social class/ caste.

The orientation of one’s’ self in relationship to the importance of family has always culturally been one of great importance in the desert. The desert is a very dependent on multiple people working together to survive. Survival in the desert alone is not likely due to environmental stresses. Therefore those that are likely to be the most reliable are those of blood or marital relation.

Religion & Magick: The harshness of an environment will have a great deal of affect on the degree of belief in the supernatural. Technology creates a gap of understanding between what is perceived as supernatural (sacred) and natural (profane). The higher the level of technology the more things appear as explainable through science. Therefore, a belief in the supernatural is less likely to happen in an advanced society and it likely to be refined. If it does exist there is most definitely a substantial reason based in evidence or faith. Therefore, in a biome like a desert belief in the supernatural is more likely to occur with the absence of technology.

Magick is something that is dependent on the belief of the supernatural in some form, or is a belief or the science of magick. Therefore the presence of magick is not dependent upon the presence of strong belief in the supernatural. Rather it is dependent upon the belief in magick itself.

In an environment where life or death is mostly and seemingly out of the hands of the life forms inside of it; a culture that has a low level of technology would therefore have a greater belief in the supernatural, and this would create a larger group within the culture where the supernatural was a large part of their everyday life.

Organization & Stratification: This is usually connected to the kinship and descent system of the group in question. This can be a strict or an unrestricted hierarchy of power. Where power resides will almost always take the same priority as the pattern of descent. However, the ability to change one’s station in life may most definitely not depend upon the priority of the descent of the organization. Whichever type of organization the culture takes whether it is matriarchal, patriarchal, or some kind of “…cracy”; i.e. democracy, mageocracy, is going to correlate to the stratification. Historically the desert tends to have a very strict stratification system. This is due to the harshness of the environment. People of power tend to use the environment to enforce behavior.

Economics: Value in the desert would very much be defined by need. Not just the need of the person looking for goods but also what they were trading in reference to what they were getting. Therefore, a bartering system is more likely to come out of a desert culture than a monetary exchange system. An oasis may create the potential for a small monetary exchange system. However it would almost defiantly be linked to the caste system of culture using it. Goods and services would have priority in a culture where pomp and circumstance may not have a place if the group in question is nomadic. If the group in question isn’t nomadic and they have for instance taken residence in an oasis or cave system where an artesian spring resides. Then goods and services held in demand would definitely alter due to the physical stability of the group, and the lessened need for ease of transportation of personal possession. Ease of transportation of personal possession in a place where transporting large quantities of physical goods could place undue risk to the group’s survival. This would be in reference to the limited supply of water and food for beasts of burden and the people populating the group. Lack of desire to risk the group may curb the demand for unnecessary goods but possibly not services. Especially those services which do not require physical labor to transport the goods acquired.

Language: The language of the desert may change from group to group depending on the isolated conditions. Stability of a group could also bring varying degrees of changes due to influence of nomadic tribes coming and going. Influence can change language by leaving behind bits and pieces of a nomad’s; nomad: in this instance being used in reference to someone who doesn’t reside in the same immediate geographic area, language influencing the language of the stable group. There may also be a group of nomads that share the same language or a common language developed and used by the nomadic for trade purposes. This common trade language may also extend into stable cities.

World building in the Desert: People of the desert that are not attached to an oasis would value herd animals as a commodity. Wood would also be valuable, but the most valuable thing would be water, water equals life. Perhaps they have a special type of horse that lives in their world. The horse can go for weeks without water, and stores water in an internal layer between the muscle and the skin. So these creatures are essential to their survival outside the oasis. They are a band of hunter gatherers that Believe that to open their mouths uncovered invites demons to posses them. In fact it is so ingrained in their culture that even in death these horses serve them.

The horses when they do die are taken and eaten in ceremonial rituals to absorb their surviving powers. They make magic charms from bones and hair. Their skins are used as blankets to keep evil away and fertility. Mane hare is used to weave the most desired facial covers.

Almost all tribes are patriarchies, and all daughters are married off for the best match to create alliances or to settle debts. They cannot own more property than they can carry themselves. There for women have come up with very creative carrying devices for their belongings, and their clothing is full of pockets.

Religious specialists are hereditary by the paternal grandfather. It is passed to the second grandson of the first son. Thereby insuring that the first sons are always available for marriage and the family line is insured continuation. So they only come along every other generation. These males are taught desert magick from the time that they can speak, and cease to live with their mothers at this point. They learn the art of breeding horses, are considered the wise men of the group, and are the negotiators for any trade involving beasts with another clan or tribe. There may be many of these specialist and they have their own ranking system within their subculture.

The economics of trade within the desert people are based on need. Everything is completely subjective to the value of the people making the trade. Monetary systems are of no use to them, but they do keep a certain amount that is from the oasis kingdoms. Each tribe has crafts or services that are for sale. There are competing clans for the same trades or services. Once a year there is a festival at the great oasis, all major trade and competitions for service to determine who is believed to be the best for the year is decided here.

Languages of these tribes are from three language families. There is the Language of the oasis, the language of the horse, and the language of sand. Normally there are many people of one tribe that speak two languages. Trade necessitates a common language be found. There is a dialect of the language of sane that is ancient that serves and the holy and magical language.