I like books with maps in the front, and since you've found a way to a publishing website that primarily focuses these days on fantasy and science fiction, there's a good chance that you share my opinion. Although I'm not a reader who spends hours pouring over the maps at the front, trying to chart out the course that the characters took, or catch the author in a continuity mistake regarding the reasonable travel time between two cities, I do consider a map in the front as a sort of mark of merit. If the author went to the time and trouble to have a map included, then there's a better chance that it's a book I'm going to want to read.
I hope that you've been following along with Blood Magic this year, because it's already been pretty exciting. I'm very pleased with how the revised editions of the first season episodes are coming together (revised versions of the first two episodes of season one should now be live here on the site), and the first two episodes of the second season have been pretty strong, as well. At least, I think so, which is mostly based on how the writing process went for them. Usually, that's a decent guide.
One wonders what other common facts about everyday life we tend to ignore because of how seamlessly our technology helps us overcome those difficulties. Since most fantasy stories take place in pre-industrial settings that would not have most of these kinds of aides, it is worth considering working these kinds of facts of the human condition into stories.
In any book, the author must introduce the characters, the situation, and the basic elements of the setting, but in fantasy and science fiction you might have a viewpoint character in the first chapter who isn't even human, living on a planet that isn't even in this universe. The very laws of physics might be different, never mind the differences in culture, history, civilization, and everything that goes along with that: systems of measurement, idioms, naming conventions, philosophical principles, mathematics, science...speculative fiction strives to introduce and immerse a reader in a world that might be completely different from that with which we are familiar.
Between working on Blood Magic and Fo'Fonas, which while very different are both larger-scale projects than anything I've attempted before, I'd like to think that I've been getting a lot better at building characters and plots. Certainly Blood Magic has forced me to stretch in this respect. Since I've been working a lot on them, I decided that I needed another, newer project to keep my writing fresh, since I find that if I sink too much into one or two projects I start to get too deep into the world and the storytelling suffers as a result.
As I was writing several of the scenes in the later episodes of Blood Magic's first season, I was struggling to describe what, exactly, Prime Wezzix and Borivat do all day. Specifically, I had a discussion in episode eight about Merolate's budget. As I was writing it, I was trying to make it realistic, but I found myself wondering what a budget for a nation-state at a level roughly comparable to Italy in the thirteenth or fourteenth century might reasonably include.
Remember when I promised that I was going to try to share more world-building details and background of how I go about crafting these stories? I think this is the first post to move that effort forward. Back in September, I finally got ahead on my Blood Magic writing schedule, even beginning part one of the two-part season finale (released in November and December), so it seemed a good time to release something extra.
In the previous two books in this series, a lot of time was spent bringing players into place and setting up introductions. There is plenty of action, but it all retains a fairly light touch - there is a sense that, although things are happening and changes are occurring, nothing really major has changed yet, and anything that has changed is not necessarily permanent. This is common in series, when you start to look at them holistically; it takes time and words to put all of the characters into the places they need to be for the plot to start really picking up. With The Stiehl Assassin, the plot definitely accelerates.
As much as I intend this site to be a publishing apparatus, a means by which to present my own works, and eventually those of others, to a broader audience, this site is also about the writing itself, what goes into writing stories and making characters come alive for a reader. By no means can I, or do I, claim to be any manner of expert in how these things are done, and certainly I cannot assert how they ought to be done. There is a void, though, at least to my mind, and it is a void which I believe that perhaps in some small way I can help to fill. You see, there are so many books out there, and so many people who would love to be able to tell stories like that, and yet the process by which authors arrive at their magnum opuses is shrouded in mystery.
There's a lot of really good new fantasy on the market right now, but some of it can start to seem derivative, especially if you read a lot of fantasy. It's refreshing, therefore, to come across something new that is also original, and that was the case with The Lies of Locke Lamora, at least to an extent. It was definitely one of the more enjoyable and well-written fantasy books I've read in awhile.