DISCIPLE continues...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

World Building Blogfest: Food and drink

More about Wodenberg, the fantasy kingdom in Disciple...

Food is a fairly straightforward affair, in Wodenberg. It's simple, fresh and hearty. And seasonal, of course. From late summer, when the vegetables ripen, through the last apples and oat sheaves of autumn, tables are just as bountiful as you'd hope they could be. The goodfolk aren't afraid to pack on a few pounds to get them through the winter. Dried, pickled and smoked fare carry them through five months of cold, and hopefully they have enough put by. Come spring, those are supplemented with early greens and fresh-killed game.

But let's talk about beverages.

Beer is the alcohol of choice in Wodenberg. I happen to be quite fond of beer, myself. This is entirely coincidental, of course.

The basics: beer is made by extracting starches and sugar from partially germinated, then dried grains (“malted”), then adding flavorings (such as hops), and then letting yeast eat the starches and sugars so as to produce alcohol. Beer in Wodenberg is made primarily from oats and barley. Wheat is a minor crop, and is mostly ground up for bread flour. They also have other brewable crops on hand — apples, pumpkins, berries — as well as hops and some other bitter spices for balancing out the flavors. Wodenberg beer isn't likely to be filtered, and it certainly isn’t pasteurized.

These are some of the varieties that are mentioned in Disciple:

Small beer
Small beer is a low-alcohol brew (about 1%, whereas “standard” beer is 4-6%) that can be made from the “leftovers” of brewing full-strength beer — or done in its own right with limited resources. It’s cheaper, quicker and easier, and was common from the medieval period right up through colonial America.

It’s weak stuff, by all accounts. Humble. Every mother in Wodenberg has her own personal recipe for small beer and her own secret ingredients. It’s made for household consumption, and unless it’s especially good it’s not likely to be sold.

This is the special-event drink of choice — higher alcohol content and it takes a bit more work to brew. Bock makes its first appearance at the Solstice banquet… and Kate loses track of how much she drinks, since the pages are so studious about keeping steins filled.

Oatmeal stout, to be specific. Since oats are a major crop in Wodenberg, oatmeal stout is common. Especially in the winter, when you want a hearty beer to keep the meat on your bones. Stouts can be bitter; it’s an acquired taste.

Ales are especially sweet beers brewed in warmer weather. In Wodenberg, the last ales of the summer are brewed from apples and early grains and they’re gone by mid-autumn.

Herbal tea
Wodenberg got its herbal tea habit from the medicinal side — who doesn’t like a nice, hot cup of mint tea when you’ve got a stuffy nose? Since I based the climate and ecology of Wodenberg on New England, hunting down what herbs would be native, or at least easily grow there, was surprisingly challenging. Mint, bergamot (bee balm,) and rose hips, I was sure of. They’re all mentioned in Disciple.

Black tea
All black teas come by way of trade from the empire of Arcea, which is currently intent on invading Wodenberg. But caffeine is a hard habit to break, as we all know. While the war sends prices through the roof, it’s still brought out for important guests.

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Read a sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II

Goodreads links:
Disciple, Part I • Disciple, Part II

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

World Building Blogfest: Religion

The Worldbuilding Blogfest continues! Religion is a big part of any culture, regardless of how religious your characters are. This blogfest is a chance for me to pull together all those background details from Disciple and organize them.

All people belong to a Flock — their neighbors, their kingdom, all humanity — which is headed by the Ram and the Ewe. These alphas are more commonly known as Father Duty and Mother Love. They teach the Flock how to be good sheep so that the Shepherd will find them worthy when he comes for them.

Since the Flock is so large, it’s naturally divided into smaller Flocks. Those are the kingdoms, which are led by the saints, who were given their magical talents by the Mother and Father to mark them as leaders. Kingdoms are further divided into city neighborhoods and villages, overseen by abbots/abbesses of the Order.

Rituals are determined by one's local saints, heavily influenced by tradition. In Wodenberg, Saints-day rituals are observed once a week; the more pious can observe them daily, or take vows and dedicate their lives to service of the Flock.

Mother Love, the Ewe
The Ewe is all things warm and homey, gentle and nurturing, loving and healing. She teaches the Flock to care and forgive, to help and shelter one another. Community and sharing are encouraged in her name. The Mother’s Discipline is marriage, which is more rigorous than it would seem: fidelity, the raising of children, giving one’s support as a family to the Flock you live in.

The Mother is merciful, rather than stern, and advises seeking compromise whenever possible — whether it’s a cheating spouse or quarrelsome neighbors. Colloquially, the running joke is that the Mother's teachings come easier to women, the Father's easier to men, and thus the two sexes are always a little at odds with each other. But one is to obey both the Mother and the Father, regardless of one's gender. Teamwork, whether at the level of families or kingdoms, is always the overriding concern.

Father Duty, the Ram
The Ram oversees all one’s duties: work, service, teaching, and generally the less pleasant things in life. The Father’s Discipline is a month-long purification that demonstrates one's dedication to duty, and it requires equal doses of humility and perseverance as well. Taking Discipline is required for any squire seeking knighthood, any wishing to take the vows of the Order, or can be endured to clear a debt of honor.

While the Father can be harsh and unforgiving, the sacrifices one makes for duty are noble and praiseworthy. Authority and power are implicit in observing Father Duty’s teachings. One should know one’s place, and know that all places have value. A Flock must stand together against the wolves and monsters of the world, not run willy-nilly and defenseless. Again, teamwork is paramount.

The Shepherd
The Shepherd is death: sometimes merciful, sometimes incomprehensible, and never cheated. He is fair in his evaluation of his sheep, and they cannot hide anything from him. The Shepherd culls his flock, when he chooses, of the unworthy. He also chooses those to bring home to his fold where it’s safe and warm. Those who are especially worthy with will have a place at the Shepherd’s hearth.

Sheep he isn’t pleased with are banished to the Winter Wood, to wander forever.

The Hearth
Heaven is eternal warmth, companionship and hospitality. All the good things of life are there, all those you loved who’ve gone before you. But like most heavens, people catalog its wonderful things and then prefer to talk about the horrors of hell…

The Winter Wood
Hell, conversely, is cold, isolation, and wandering the monster-infested Winter Wood. It’s well stocked with folklore villains: rogue Elect, kobolds, wild animals, kir-mutated beasts, and all the agonies of the cold. Since life for most goodfolk is cold and wild animals are often a concern, the line between life and the Winter Wood is far blurrier than the Shepherd’s Hearth. Nobody stumbles into heaven accidentally, but the warning signs of the edges of the Wood are well known.

And, of course, everyone gets a little taste of hell each winter.

Heroes find their way to the Wood, sometimes, to rescue someone who’s been stolen by rogue Elect or kobolds. Lovers swear they’ll fight their way back from it, if they must. Most are content to take care when they venture into the forest, to avoid drawing the notice of the evils in the Wood, and be good sheep that the Shepherd would come and find if they’re lost. Or, perhaps, send a hero to rescue them.

Side note: the moons
The largest of the eight moons is called the Shepherd, and the twelve divisions of the year are measured by its waxing and waning. The seven smaller moons are the Flock, named after the seven children of the Ram and the Ewe: Strength, Kindness, Courage, Justice, Hope, Wisdom, and Peace.

That’s three for the Mother — Kindness, Hope, and Peace — three for the Father — Strength, Courage, and Wisdom — and one who straddles both love and duty: Justice.

These are also the seven virtues and often the heroes of teaching fables told to children. Particularly Justice, who’s always having to figure out the right thing to do.

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Read a sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II

Goodreads links:
Disciple, Part I • Disciple, Part II

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

World Building Blogfest: History

Welcome to the World Building Blogfest. See yesterday's post for a bit about the nature of saints. Today, a timeline of Wodenberg's recent history.

200-250 years ago 
Wodenberg was an unusual kingdom, jointly ruled by Saint Woden and Saint Aleksandr, who considered themselves brothers despite that one was Alemanni and the other Russe. Saint Aleks was a master craftsman and a shape-shifter. Woden was a saint of warcraft. Their descendants, intermarried into one family, were the kings of the land. 

Then Saint Qadeem presented himself openly — no small thing in a world where saints murder each other for control of the magic kir-founts and to harvest each others’ talents. He came in good faith and full assurance of his own ability to survive such a meeting. 

He warned them of the Empress of Arcea, her intent to conquer the world, and her ability to see it through. The three saints spent several years discussing it, becoming friends, and eventually agreed to something new in the world: a trinity, sworn as equals, sharing founts. Qadeem and Aleksandr jointly developed the Blessings — something else never seen before — and bestowed them on all young folk of Wodenberg. Kir-gifted or not.  

About 50 years ago
The Empress invaded Suevia, Wodenberg's closest neighbor. Its saint, Seaxneat, was no friend of Woden's or Aleksandr's. Wodenberg's army mustered on the border, but only to defend it. Arcea's saints killed and harvested Seaxneat, took control of Suevia's founts, and set about cleansing the land of the saint’s bloodline -- which was also its royal family -- all its elect, and many of its blessed. 

Famine cut Suevia's population even further. Over the next few years, several attempts at rebellion were brutally put down. Mercia, the infant princess of Suevia, was kept alive and in hiding by her kinsmen, the Heathugrim. 

32 years ago
In a daring raid that nearly started a war, Prince Wilhelm of Wodenberg “abducted” Princess Mercia from Suevia. He took her home and married her. This was all pre-arranged, but they liked each other well enough. At first. 

22 years ago
The younger of King Wilhelm's two sons, Gerhardt, tumbled down the castle's great staircase, cracked his little head open on the stone steps, and died. Queen Mercia was inconsolable. Wilhelm mourned, moved on, and gradually wearied of his wife’s inability to do the same. Their marriage grew distant and strained.

21 years ago
The elder of the king’s two sons, Wilhelm, was thrown by his horse during a riding lesson and died. The queen blamed the king for the accident, and soon afterwards she moved into her own bedroom suite at the other end of the castle. It had been the nursery. 

They remained polite in public, but did little more than argue in private. 

Side note: Elect
Elect are kir-mages second only to the saints in power. They're more common than saints, but still only one in some thousands has the potential to become an elect. Saints seek them out, bind them, and offer a steady supply of kir in exchange for loyalty and mutual protection.
20 years ago
King Wilhelm led an army into the kingdom of Englia -- and was quite glad for the time away from his wife. Saint Woden rode with the king to oversee the invasion, and brought Wodenberg's only two elect: Parselev, and Prince Wolfgang, the king’s younger brother. By the end of summer, Saint Ethmund was dead and Englia conquered. Elect Wolfgang, sadly, did not survive the campaign.

19 years ago
King Wilhelm indulged in a brief affair with the equally lonely and miserable Baroness Frida Bockmann. Queen Mercia caught them, flew into a rage, and suffered her first serious fit. Frida later learned she was pregnant and her husband wanted to divorce her, but after a visit from Saint Woden they kept the child and their marriage. Anders was born late in the year. 

18 years ago
Driven by duty -- and, probably, the saints -- the king did what he must. Queen Mercia bore a third son, Kiefan. She refused to speak with, or be in the same room as, her husband after that. Her fits of rage and despair continued for some years, but her son's presence was a balm. 

4 years ago
A 12-year-old Englic peasant girl named Kate Carpenter, recently Blessed and claimed by Saint Qadeem, was sent to the Order to learn to read and write.

3 years ago
A knight caught his squire in bed with his wife, attempted to beat the squire to death, and demanded a duel. Anders won that duel, and his knighthood. Thus began his career as as the tempting bad boy that all the fathers of teenaged girls were losing sleep over.

2 years ago
Elect Parselev chose Kate Carpenter as his apprentice, overlooking more qualified students. Earlier that year, the piglet that was the linchpin of Kate’s dowry died of unknown causes — presumed to be illness. For want of the piglet, her betrothal was broken off and she returned to her studies, much to her father's disappointment. 

Summer Solstice, this year
Prince Kiefan was graduated from squire to full knighthood, after evaluation by Saint Woden.

Late Summer Moon, this year
The Empress of Arcea sent an army to Wodenberg. It laid siege to Ansehen, at the lower of the two passes through the southern hills, and King Wilhelm pulled together what garrisons were at hand to reinforce the town. In the battle, Prince Kiefan led a cavalry charge that shifted the odds to their favor. Arcea’s elect, faced with failure, set off an earthquake that destroyed Ansehen’s fortifications. Wodenberg won the battle, but at great cost. 

Arcea will return in the spring, with a larger army. 

1st of the Grain Moon
Prince Kiefan was sent across the uncharted mountains to ask the kingdom of Caercoed for aid. (Disciple, Part I begins here.)

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Read a sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II

Goodreads links:
Disciple, Part I • Disciple, Part II

Monday, January 28, 2013

World Building Blogfest: Geography and climate

Welcome to the World Building Blogfest -- which I am using to wrap up my blog tour for the first two parts of my fantasy epic, Disciple. I'll be talking about Wodenberg, the kingdom my heroine Kate calls home, all week.

This is a great time for me to post my map online! It's in the ebook and the paperback, of course, but I'll post an extra large version here so you can zoom in and look around.

Click here to read my previous post (over at my writing blog) about geography.

A secluded northern vale...
Wodenberg is a broad, rolling valley cut between two mountain ranges by the glaciers of the last ice age. Only Mount Woden survived — it was carved out and left standing in the middle of the vale. The heavy moraines abandoned when the glaciers melted made for a line of rocky hills along the valley’s southern border. 

Forest took over from there: pines, sugar maples, paper birches. A deep lake settled into a notch the glaciers had left in the middle of the valley. Rain and meltwater rolled off the high mountain slopes toward two coasts — one to the north, one to the south. The Neva River, southbound, carved its way through the line of hills and spilled into the lower lands. 

When people found their way up through the two lowest passes into the valley, at Ansehen and Knapptal, they brought their sheep and goats. It was a cool-weather valley, snowy in the winter thanks to the coastline on the north, but good for herding, foraging and hunting. Thin, sandy soil kept farming from catching on as quickly as it did in the land below the valley, but it did settle in eventually. 

And there were founts, the people quickly learned. Places where kir welled up from the earth and ran free in fresh water. Often, in a place where a spring had no business being — such as the icy peak of Mount Woden. 

There were saints guarding the founts, already, when ordinary folk came. Lonely, half-wild saints. Or so the legends say.

For common folk, the saints are as good as parts of the geography. Saints are kir-mages at the pinnacle of talent; they take ownership of founts, which fuel their magic, and guard them jealously. They never die of natural causes, as kir preserves them from age and other saints will murder them both for their founts and to harvest their hoarded wisdom. Even so, many saints live for centuries.

Common folk can no more kill a saint than raze a mountain, so naturally a saint's word is law in his (or her) kindgom. His descendants generally rule the land as kings and nobles. And while a saint's kin may be talented with kir themselves, they're no more likely to be than anybody else. New saints, elect, any rank of kir-mage, can arise from any family. 

Click to embiggen. This will be available in the Goodies Index too.

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Read a sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II

Goodreads links:
Disciple, Part I • Disciple, Part II

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Coming soon...

The week of January 21st, there will be two more character interviews along with portraits (which will be available in the Goodies Page too), a stop at Mutterings from the Oubliette (excellent blog name) and an interview with Sharon Bayliss.

As promised, I'm guest blogging about "theme songs" for my characters over at Charity's blog on January 28.

AND, right here to wrap up the blog tour I will be participating in the Worldbuilding Blogfest at Curiosity Quills. That runs from the 28th through the first of February.

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->
Blog tour runs through the 31st, stay tuned for more character interviews, portraits, soundtracks...  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Read a sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II

Extra note: Disciple, Part II is now on Goodreads!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

DISCIPLE: what I hear in my head

I love music. It's an important part of my writing habit and it greases the wheels of my creativity.

My iTunes collection is fairly hefty, and I've organized it into groups by flavor (melancholy, angry, upbeat, etc.) and energy level (ambient, dance-floor, heavy rock, etc.) so that I can tailor my background music to what I'm writing at the time.

I also create specific playlists for my projects. Those are songs that, for whatever reason, put me in the story's mind-set. Often it's easy to see why, but sometimes it isn't. It's not unusual for songs to attach themselves to characters, in my head, or to stories. Later in my blog tour, I'll tell you about the "theme songs" for my three main characters.

For now, the "theme songs" for Part I and II... and Part III. Since I've written all six parts of Disciple, all six do have theme songs. But I don't want to be spoilery. Note: the video is irrelevant, here. YouTube is just the most complete source and easy to embed.


There are tons of wonderful, melancholy love songs out there and a lot of them would fit Disciple well. "If You Could Only See" became one of Kiefan's melancholy songs early on in the story and fits a lot of the situations.


There are lots of chemicals being thrown around in Part II. XD My characters try to ignore the chemicals between them, and things get complicated as a result. Very complicated.

Sneak Peek -- PART III

A little explaining: in Part III, war arrives like an avalanche. Fitting a song to the violence and fear of a siege isn't easy -- the song that previously had the job was on the abstract and spiritual side. By luck, I heard this recent track by old fave Jane's Addiction and it instantly took over the role: the irresistible force is the enemy army, the immovable object is the walled city on the hill, and yes, the gods are real men. Plenty of banging, shock-waves, and unexpected blow-ups.

Just because I still love the previous theme song, here's a link to it: Live's "Run to the Water." Maybe it's a better fit, maybe not -- "Burnt to the core but not broken" describes the siege, too. Vote in the comments!

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->
Blog tour runs through the 31st, stay tuned for more character interviews, portraits, soundtracks...  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Read a sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II

Extra note: Disciple, Part II is now on Goodreads!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Blog tour stop dishes geeky details

My writing addiction has pushed my knitting down to "hobby" status, but I've loved it for a long time. Today, my blog tour stops at White Knight Studio and I talk about natural fibers and color palettes in Disciple. Geeky, yes, I admit it's pretty geeky. But I've talked about both wool and alpaca over at my writing blog, so this should come as no surprise.

I love world-building and I get pulled down into the small details of it all the time. I have to take care not to blather on about something the reader will be bored to tears about -- just a little dash, to make the world feel real and lived-in.

Just as an update, I am working on writing the Disciple Prologue (it needs a title) which you'll only be able to get as a Kickstarter supporter. See the project page for more details on that.

The Storybundle.com offer ended yesterday -- an extra welcome to readers from the Holiday Bundle!

And I'll see you Saturday for the next blog tour stop.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Character interviews & portraits

The first of my three character interviews, paired with portraits, is over at Laurie's Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews.

I am starting a Goodies Page here at the blog to keep all of the portraits in one place. Other goodies will be available there as I create them!

After the Kickstarter campaign is over, I will add the book trailer to the Goodies Page too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

No Kiss Blogfest

Welcome! I am kicking off my January blog tour with the No Kiss Blogfest!

A little background for this no-kiss scene: my narrator, Kate, was sent on Prince Kiefan's mission across the wild mountains as his physician -- she was only an apprentice, but her magical talent is growing and she was promoted for the job. The journey was long and dangerous, and she and Kiefan found that they shared an interest in philosophy and reading... and he kissed her, on the trip home. (That was Disciple, Part I.)

But he's a prince, doomed to a political marriage, and she's just a peasant-born physician. They agreed, in the castle garden, that they should be only friends.

Here's a no-kiss scene from Disciple, Part II -- they're trying so hard to ignore their chemistry --

He joined me just outside the door as I untied the bundle, and he tossed the cloth back inside when I got it free. “Are these all new essays in this book?” 

“I leafed through and saw several new titles. But I haven’t read any yet. I decided to wait when I came to one…” Kiefan faded into uncertainty, then, and I looked up from the page I’d opened to. His grey eyes had lost their smile, and that sank my heart. But he finished, voice low. “I found one titled ‘On Love and Fidelity’ and thought we could start with that. Forgetting, for a moment, what passed in the garden.” 

Sitting with him by a fire, warm and indoors rather than under a storm-beaten tarp, sharing an essay and the questions it posed — longing tore at me. “There wouldn’t be time, even if we could read it together,” tumbled out of my mouth. “They already think me an upstart peasant girl foisting some scam on the Elect. Whenever they look for me, I must be busy and sure.”


I shook my head. “I can prove myself.” 

“Kate —” 

“I will prove myself,” I said. I tried to hand the book to him. “Perhaps after… Arcea is turned back?” 

“Take it,” Kiefan said. “Read and remember it, and we can talk as I read it. You can return it at the Solstice banquet, if not sooner.” 

My brows took flight on their own. “The banquet?” 

“You’re physician to the castle. You’ll be expected,” he said. 

“Me?” My voice faded, still disbelieving. 

“Yes, you.” A bit of a smile tucked up the corner of his mouth. His fingers nearly stroked my cheek before he caught himself, clenched that hand in a fist. “I insist. You must return the book to me for Solstice. And we must get back before we’re missed.” 

We both regretted that, but it was true enough. 

Disciple, Part II on sale April 1st!
Pre-order Part II, or pick up a bundle of both parts, NOW at Kickstarter! Click on the widget to see the book trailer and the pledging options -->
Blog tour runs through the 31st, stay tuned for character interviews, portraits, soundtracks...  

Read a sample of Part I, Chapter 1 • Another sample of Part II
Cover and blurb for Part I or Part II
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