This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Z. Lindsey will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
Description of The River Against the Sea
Some heroes have swords. Essimore Darkenchyl has a pen. But it’s a magic pen.
Some wizards have spellbooks. Essie has Gossen’s Guide to Shipping Law. But it’s a current edition.
Some sailors have . . . experience. Essie has a new diploma and a year-long contract, and her people have won wars with less.
And that’s good, because between stolen weapons, a coup, and a strange disease creeping in around her and the crew, she might need to win a war.
In a world that blends traditional fantasy with the Age of Exploration, Essie knows a pen is mightier than a sword, especially since hers sometimes shoots lightning.
But what she thinks is a routine political dispute turns out to be something much, much more, and she may have finally met the one problem she can’t talk her way out of.
Read an Excerpt of The River Against the Sea
Essie cleared her throat. From her backpack, she removed the letter of service that granted her travel permission to sail on the ship. It was folded neatly into thirds, with a glittering blue wax seal on it.
“Essimore Darkenchyl at your service, sir. I’m your new fully licensed shipping coordinator with Power of the Pen. It’s an honor to be aboard.”
The captain took the letter without opening it, folded it in half with no regard for the beautiful wax seal, folded it messily again, and jammed it into his pocket. The whole time, Essie winced.
“Right-o.” As he smiled, the older man’s cheeks dimpled and his white teeth shined in the sun. “Well, I thought we were leaving without you, but here you are. Good on you. Great. Yeah.” The captain turned to the teenager at his side. “Grab her bag and get her stuff to her room. She can hang out there til dinner.”
As the teenager shouldered her bag and grunted, she and the captain looked at each other, the captain with his beaming smile. Once the teenager left, she said, “Thanks for welcoming me onto your ship.”
“Yeah. Fully licensed, you say?”
“Okay. Have a nice one. See you at dinner.”
“Don’t we need to . . . uh . . . onboard?”
“You’re already on board. You managed that just fine.”
“But . . . signing things. Paperwork. Reviewing the staff log. Staff log, sir!”
The captain’s smile faded, but reappeared so fast she wasn’t sure if she’d seen it go.
“Okay, fine. Let’s talk in my cabin.”
Author Guest Post: “Would you describe your worldbuilding process for this book?”
Many science fiction and fantasy writers worldbuild backward. This is a major reason for info-dumps, and, ironically, it also causes the opposite problem, “white rooms.”
We’re often counseled to apply a specific set of generic questions to our worldbuilding. What’s the landscape like, what is the economy like, who are the power players, what’s the name of some king who lived six thousand years ago? This is backward! If your first questions are about these things, you’re going to be tempted to info-dump because you want to share all that information with your readers.
During the worldbuilding for this book, I used the anthropological method of an ethnography to “interview” my characters about their world. The same way websites like Reedsy offer enormous PDFs full of questions like “What are your character’s parents like?” I asked lots of questions of my characters. For example, I asked the question, “What do you expect to happen to your body when you die?” (Security Agent Merritt Chenall is very frightened of coming back as a zombie, so he wants to be beheaded after death. Queen Two Rabbit expects a lavish burial in a massive tomb where she’ll be wrapped in glowing magic silks, and she threatened to cut off my finger if I didn’t ensure this. The doctor wants to be unceremoniously chucked into the ocean. And of course, the main character, Essimore, expects to be eaten by her closest kin.)
I did this for both the heroes and the villains, but usually only the most important characters. You can certainly do it for as many characters as you want. In real life, researchers tend to focus on a few members of the community for in-depth interviews, then do things like poll the remaining community members. In a fictional ethnography, you can ‘interview’ your main protagonists and antagonists and ‘poll’ the other named characters.
What this did was create a character-focused world. The details I know best about my world are the same ones my characters care the most about. I’ve never been accused of info-dumping, and I can usually avoid “white rooms” because I always know what is important for characters about their surroundings.
As the story expanded from one book to three, and as the plot became complicated by new players, betrayals, and twists, I still kept my focus on the way the characters saw their world.
If you’re interested in learning about how to conduct an ethnography of your fictional characters, here’s some information on how to conduct an ethnography with real humans that might be helpful.
About Author Zac Lindsey
Zac Lindsey is an anthropologist and a linguist who focuses on the Maya people of Quintana Roo. Since childhood, he’s had a not-so-secret love of weird, silly, and well-structured fantasy. When other people’s parents were reading them picture books, his mom was reading him Terry Brooks. He typically writes hopeful and character-driven fantasy.
Today, he lives in Quintana Roo, Mexico with his wife, daughter, and various stray cats.
Amazon preorders (for ebook): https://www.amazon.com/River-Against-Sea-Z-Lindsey-ebook/dp/B0CH3TW3YD/
B&N preorders (for paperback): https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-river-against-the-sea-z-lindsey/1144077772
Zac Lindsey will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.