If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.
Isaac Newton, 1675
When Isaac Newton said this, he naturally was speaking of the progressive nature of scientific advancement. However, the same can be said of many things. In no small way, this applies to literature. Every author has their inspirations, and every book has a lineage that can be traced back to stories that inspired it in the author’s mind.
What Once Was Home, my post-apocalyptic alien invasion novel, is no exception. There is a long history of stories that inspired this book, stretching back through the families of post-apocalyptic and alien invasion books. These families have something inspiring in common: Survival.
I have recently had the privilege of partnering with the wonderful folks at Shepherd.com to present my thoughts on a list of five books that I feel were important inspirations for What Once Was Home. In The Best Science Fiction Books Where Ordinary People Survive the Extraordinary, I share what struck me about five books that inspired my writing. Click the title above or the image below to check it out!
The government, the corporations, and the organized crime families have the city in an iron grip. As that grip tightens, the people decide they will not take it anymore. When the citizens rise up and the city burns, Harold sees an opportunity to exploit the chaos.
In New Angeles, crime is a fact of life in the city. But when a routine murder investigation leads to more questions than answers, homicide detective Harold Jacobson finds the big picture to be more than he ever bargained for. The only thing Harold knows for sure is that he isn’t being paid enough to deal with this.
On the run from the law, detective Harold Jacobson delves into the gritty underbelly of New Angeles. To clear his name of one murder, he must first solve another. As Harold follows the threads of the mystery through the night life of the city, he risks becoming part of the criminal element he once hunted down.
When Captain Fletcher Perry and the crew of the Terran Confederation frigate Falcata are sent to a backwater, independent colony in the Cygnus cluster, they expected to be overseeing a routine land rights dispute.
When they arrive, they find Marchovia embroiled in an all-out civil war.
As the frozen world becomes the focus of three stellar empires, Captain Perry and his crew find the only thing icier than the Marchovian landscape is the cold war at the heart of which they find themselves.
Flashpoint: Cygnus is a new novel coming in August of 2021 by B.K. Bass, presented by Kyanite Publishing. The book, and the planned series, seeks to draw together the best traditions of multiple genres: The gritty realism and action-packed adrenaline of military science fiction. The human drama and pseudo-nautical themes of space opera. All this tied together by the overarching tensions of a political thriller spanning the stars!
“The XO has the conn,” Fletcher said as he undogged the hatch and stepped off the bridge. As he walked towards the wardroom, only two thoughts ran through his mind. How badly had the pirates shaken apart the Falcata, and how many people’s lives had he just snuffed out? He ran a hand over his eyes as he stepped through the door to the wardroom. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to hear the answer to either question.
Learn more about the universe of Astra Nautica!
Two years in development, the universe of Astra Nautica is designed to be grounded in reality while reaching for the stars. Dozens of hours of research into fusion technology, wormholes, star maps, Einstein’s theories of Relativity, and more have lead to a foundation ready to support action-packed adventures that feel gritty, real, and entirely plausible. And, there are no aliens in Astra Nautica — mankind’s own worse enemy remains himself.
The helm officer keyed in the commands on his panel, and suddenly Fletcher was pressed into his seat with the equivalent force of Earth’s gravity. Metal clanged as loose panels clattered to the deck. “All right,” he said as he leaned forward, “get me within swatting range of this gnat.”
“They’re darting,” Lieutenant Kim called out. Her voice was still shaky, but she seemed less panicked now that they were under way.
“Helm, you have the stick. Don’t lose them,” Fletcher ordered as he strapped his chair’s safety restraints across his chest and fastened them.
Humanity’s dominion of the stars is divided into five major factions, along with independent colonies, powerful corporations, and criminal organizations all vying for a piece of the pie. Major hubs have grown around naturally occurring stable wormholes that opened the stars to mankind. Other colonies grew once we mastered fusion technology and developed the Singularity Drive, a technology used to open a wormhole at any point in space, albeit a highly unstable one. With restrictions on using these drives within a star’s gravity well, travel between colonies can still take days, weeks, or longer.
Shudders ran through the bulkheads as sparks flew from loose conduits floating in the passageway like writhing serpents. Captain Fletcher Perry grabbed a handrail to arrest his momentum, flipped himself over, and pulled on the first rung of a ladder to accelerate through the hatch to the engineering deck. “Chief Powell,” he called out as he floated down from the overhead into the main engineering compartment. “When am I going to have my drives online?”
A chaotic mass of conduits and cables wriggled in response, then a dark-skinned face popped out from between them as Chief Petty Officer Chloe Powell emerged. Her dreadlocks floated above her like Medusa’s own crown of snakes as she shook her head. “I’m working on it, Captain. Maybe if I didn’t have to stop what I was doing to—”
She was cut off by a sudden hiss as a cloud of blue vapor seeped out from the mass of loose conduits, punctuated by a man screaming.
In the universe of Astra Nautica, every day can turn into a life and death struggle in an instant. And in the darkness of space, you have only your own crew to call out to for help.
The release date for Night Life has been set for June 12, 2020!
Pre-order packages are now available directly from Kyanite Publishing. There are three tiers all with exciting options!
Kyanite: This premium package includes two customized, signed paperback copies of Night Life, an eBook of both Night Shift (book one of the Night Trilogy) and Night Life, a bookmark, and a 12-month subscription to the Kyanite Content Hub.
Tanzanite: This is the best value and includes a customized, signed paperback copy, an eBook of both Night Shift (book one of the Night Trilogy) and Night Life, and a bookmark!
Quartzite: The most affordable option includes a signed paperback of Night Life and an eBook of Night Shift (book one of the Night Trilogy)!
Going off the grid in New Angeles can be deadly, but Harold’s out of options and out of patience.
Framed for murder, detective Harold Jacobson must delve into the gritty underbelly of the city if he wants to clear his name. To solve the crime pinned on him, he must first solve the murder of a local woman. From the steel towers of downtown to seedy nightclubs and decrepit slums, Harold delves into the night life of the city to pull the threads of the mystery together and becomes part of the criminal element he once hunted down. Going off the grid in New Angeles can be deadly, but he’s out of options and out of patience.
What are early reviewers saying about night life?
“Night Life carries over the emotional turmoil of the first book, and adds to it exponentially—with the classic noir feel still front and center.”
“The second book of the Night Trilogy is is an intelligent, well-written crime thriller that will keep you turning pages.”
“The trials and tribulations of the main character are fleshed out well and you can’t wait to see what happens.”
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in 5th grade in 1989. I had a “Homeroom” class that was essentially flex time. We could do whatever we wanted if it was one of three things: homework, reading in a textbook, or reading from a set of specific books provided by the teacher. I read the books. I went through several that year, more than I can remember. A few stand out. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is one of them. A collection of Edgar Allen Poe’s work is another. I don’t remember the specific title, edition, or publisher; but the book I ended up really falling in love with was a collection of Greek mythology.
When his world is torn apart, one man must learn to survive in What Once Was Home.
Cox’s life is changed when an overwhelming alien force invades the
Earth with no warning or provocation. In the years that follow, he must
not only fight to survive; but also learn what it means to be a man and
a leader. As the situation grows more dire, he realizes that his
greatest challenge isn’t the alien invaders or even his fellow man; it
is holding onto his own humanity despite living in a world gone mad.
Every step of the way, I was enthralled by Jace’s story. Every word drew me so deep into this world, that it became real to me. It’s what I want when I read a book, a movie in my head. An incredibly engaging and heart-wrenching journey. With an ending that made me sit back and repeat the word “Damn” to myself several times. Because, damn.
What Once Was Home stunningly combined the incredible speculative elements that I love about science fiction with the engaging personal stories and moving internal struggle that continues to draw me back to contemporary fiction.
Compelling characters, fast-moving plot, and a world you can sink into—you really cannot ask for more from any story. Even if science fiction and alien invasions aren’t your things, this is a book you do NOT want to miss out on. Jace’s journey is one that I think will touch many readers and bring them back again and again.
— Crystal Kirkham on Goodreads. 5 stars.
Bass’s story is engaging and delves into human emotions, joy, pain, and loss. The story grabbed me from the beginning to the very heartwarming end. Bass is an excellent story spinner and his descriptive writing drew me into this bleak world. What can I say? It is terrific and I highly recommend this book. I look forward to reading more of B.K.’s books in the future. A five-star treat.
Ray Bradbury (AUG 22, 1920 – JUN 5, 2012) was a prolific author who is credited with writing 27 novels and over 600 short stories, in addition to writing several film and television screenplays. His work helped shape the burgeoning genre of science fiction. He was awarded a Pulitzer Citation in 2007 for his “distinguished, prolific, and deeply influential career as an unmatched author of science fiction and fantasy.”
Writing tools is a term often applied to the intangibles of our craft; our knowledge, skills, and techniques which are applied in the process of developing outlines, hammering out plots, and spinning prose to amaze our readers. I want to talk today about the more tangible writing tools at our disposal: Pens, notebooks, laptops, and software. Most notably, I want to discuss one particular piece of online software that has revolutionized how I approach an important part of writing science fiction and fantasy: Worldbuilding. Today, I want to talk about World Anvil.
A quick disclaimer: Although my publishing company (Kyanite Publishing, LLC) interacts with World Anvil on occasion, I am in no way being reimbursed by World Anvil, its owners, or its associates in return for writing this article. I am doing so of my own accord in hopes of sharing useful information with the writing community.
What is World Anvil?
World Anvil is a website (www.worldanvil.com) founded in October of 2017 by Janet Forbes and Dimitris Havlidis. It is a place where authors, table-top RPG (role playing game) dungeonmasters, and hobbyists can develop, maintain, and display fictional worlds in a wiki-style system. Work produced on the website remains the sole property and copyright of the author, and it may be publicly displayed or kept private depending upon that author’s preferences. The end-results can vary greatly depending upon how many of the myriad of features each individual chooses to employ, ranging from simple text documents to fully customized and formatted articles with images, links, and interactive maps.
The Kingdom of Brisland, from my own World Anvil project: Istaria.
From the Notebook to the Forge
I started my own journey down the rabbit hole of worldbuilding some time in the early 1990s, in what some may consider through the lens of nostalgia the heyday of Dungeons & Dragons. The second edition AD&D rule set had just been released in 1989, and new settings such as Dragonlance and Dark Sun were inspiring many of us young would-be authors to craft our own unique settings to explore within the game.
Worldbuilding is the process of constructing an imaginary world, sometimes associated with a whole fictional universe. The resulting world may be called a constructed world. … Constructed worlds can be created for personal amusement and mental exercise, or for specific creative endeavors such as novels, video games, or role-playing games. — Definitions.net
And thus did the spiral notebooks, three-ring binders, and hand-scrawled maps on graph paper begin to pile up. What began as a hobby became an obsession, and soon there were boxes of notes detailing everything from geopolitical turmoil to the mating habits of certain local waterfowl. As time passed and I adapted to our new digital age, I was certain that there would soon be a better way to accomplish these tasks. Thirty years passed, and despite options such as meticulously organized directories of documents, programs like OneNote, and even Scriviner (and anybody who knows me knows that I swear by Scriviner for writing my manuscripts!); I had yet to find a system that surpassed the utility of the good old spiral notebook and three-ring binder. Then I discovered this website called World Anvil, created by worldbuilders for worldbuilders with one thing in mind: Worldbuilding.
Stoking the Fires of Creativity
I was intrigued, to say the least. I had recently taken the deep dive into serious professional writing of fiction and I had several settings that I was maintaining simultaneously. Moreso than these, I had an epic fantasy project outlined that I knew would require a massive amount of worldbuilding, and I was prepared to fill another cardboard box with notebooks to achieve this goal. That was right about when I discovered World Anvil in October of 2018.
The site was a year old, and it was growing. I found it through a YouTube channel called Tale Foundry that had partnered with them for a writing competition.
The competition was to develop a world and set up the basics behind a story, and then Tale Foundry would write the story and read it on their channel. I was hooked!
“Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges!” Yes…yes, we do.
No, I didn’t win. I did get a shiny participation badge though; the first of many. I realized at this point that this site was much more than a tool for worldbuilding: It was a home for it. There was interaction, scheduled events, rewards, and a growing community of like-minded individuals all rallying around the World Anvil website and team. And as I explored other authors’ works on the site, I discovered that they were producing some amazing content! I was inspired to do the same, and I was pushed to do so with more quality than I had ever considered putting into my worldbuilding before.
“That’s all great,” you say, “but what about the website itself? Is it a useful tool?”
It is indeed! In addition to everything mentioned above, the actual layout and system of the World Anvil website is not only a useful way to produce, organize, and display information; but the templates built into it offer built-in prompts that made me think of things about my worlds that I had never considered before!
Would I have thought of this if I was detailing it in a notebook? Probably not, but World Anvil reminded me to do it!
Breathing Life Into Your Setting
“But, B.K.,” you say. “I don’t do a lot of worldbuilding for my books. My stories are all character-driven, so I don’t have to keep extensive notes or detail minutiae that I will later need to reference and use in my writing. This sounds great, but it’s not something every writer can use. Why should I be interested in what World Anvil has to offer if I’m not a worldbuilder?”
What was the name of that gas station Jodie stopped by on the way to the lakeside cabin, where he had that conversation with whatshisname about that party down at whosiswhat’s house?
So, every writer has had that moment where they’ve had to scroll back three chapters in a manuscript to remember the name of some minor character or detail of a location. At the very least, World Anvil can be a place to keep notes like this. Admittedly, there are other options, but it’s worth a look.
If you’re not a worldbuilder or considering writing epic fantasy or hard science fiction, and you’re still reading this: Thank you for hanging in there! Don’t worry, this next part is for you!
Okay, so you don’t write science fiction or fantasy. Or, maybe you do, but you don’t develop sweeping and expansive settings for your books. Honestly, I’ve written several pieces that have bare-bones worldbuilding and focus more on character and plot, so I totally admit there’s some projects that simply do not need something like this. But, just because you don’t create entire civilizations down to what color is socially acceptable to wear after the annual harvest festival doesn’t mean that you won’t potentially get some use out of this.
And this is where I’m going to veer off the superhighway of worldbuilding and get down to what any fiction writer can relate to regardless of genre: Characters.
It has been said time and time again that there are three main facets of any story: setting, plot, and character. And, it is well known that character is the most important part of this equation. One need only do a cursory search online for writing tools (the tangible sort), and they will find a plethora of character sketch worksheets, questionnaires, and guides for developing rich and believable characters.
I argue that World Anvil has built into its framework everything you need.
The character template on the website has spaces for the usual questions, from physical characteristics to personal history. But it delves deeper and has fields that beg to be filled in; asking about personal taboos, mental quirks, physical mannerisms, life goals, and pretty much everything else you will find on the best character sketch worksheet, and then some.
In addition to this, World Anvil just launched a new aspect of the website called “Heroes“. I’ve played around with the new features briefly, but I’ve found so far that this is the most involved character creation utility I’ve ever seen. Moreso than this, it’s also a social network for characters! While you need not interact with others, or even make what you develop visible to the public, the potential of being put on the spot by other author’s characters talking to your own might make you dive deeper into the mind of that oh so important aspect of your story.
Brego, protagonist of Blood of the Desert, now has his own social media profile? And he’s emo?
The number of fields to fill in on the advanced profile in Heroes outweighs even those in the character template in the main World Anvil structure. It’s definitely geared more towards short-form profiles rather than long biographies, but for many that’s as far as we ever get anyway. In addition, you can post thoughts from your character’s point of view, out of character posts such as the quote from Blood of the Desert shown above, and even journal entries. Want to have your character keep a journal of everything that happens while writing the book — either for later release, promotional purposes, or just to keep track? Here you go…thank me later.
World Anvil membership is free, and one can access the majority of the features offered without any monetary commitment. There are also several levels of “Guild Membership” that unlock different tiers of features, such as removing ads from the site or enabling a larger number of worlds that you can develop. I have been a guild member since November of 2018, and I plan to continue to be a member indefinitely. I am nothing but overjoyed by the services offered, the community, and the staff of World Anvil. Speaking of community, I should not neglect to mention that there is a very active Discord server with thousands of active users, weekly Twitch streams, a YouTube channel, monthly contests, and two large annual events all hosted by World Anvil. I digress to my point above: More than being a writing tool, World Anvil is a community.
I hope you have found this interesting, enlightening, and perhaps even a bit entertaining. I invite you to check out World Anvil and Light Up the Forge!