Get the Words Out!

The podcast is being unleashed this weekend. It’s something I’ve been turning over in my mind for a few months, and the planets finally aligned for me enough to get the first two episodes launched.

I’m focusing on the task of creation in the craft of writing. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on creativity, characters, plots, setting, word counts, and how to break the logjam in your head.

Episode One is an introduction, but I hit the most frequently asked questions about writing that I find on the Internet.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-rpfe9-b32b2e

Episode Two is a discussion of different ways that people try to write and how I think it can be improved. There’s a writing prompt in this episode and I plan to follow suit in most episodes moving forward.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-upxfa-b32b26

Writing is not a spectator sport. You have to practice your craft to improve, and there’s no time like the present.

I’ve uploaded these first two episodes to Podbean.com. They should be available on iTunes and anywhere you get your podcasts within a few days.

If you’d like to know more about the podcast, please check out my patreon.com page…

I am the voice of RA

How many times have you been warned? How many times has your species been taught?

We tried reason alone, and you advanced many great cultures, but those days of greatness have sunk beneath the waves of time. We left you alone because it seemed that your species was well in control of Earth. It was not to be.

We tried beliefs. We taught all of your prophets that there were simple things to do that would bring fulfillment, happiness, and a better generation for all mankind.

  • Be good to each other
  • Feed the hungry, aid the sick, house the homeless
  • Do for others what you need done for yourself
  • Be good to the Earth

Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammad were all taught these things. Yet still homo sapiens has refused to grasp that the spiritual and the intellectual are so very compatible. Science, progress, and simply helping yourselves is so simple. Yet you have failed.

Spirituality, that sense that drives you toward helping others you have subsumed into dogma. Dogma fights all comers – especially science.

Your religions have instead poisoned the well of thought and your divisions are many, the scars are deep. We remember the days when we dispensed with the giants among you and set things to right – so many ages ago that it escapes the bounds of your history of yourselves.

Dogma sparked wars between factions that should have been steadfast allies.  Dogma marched forth in crusades, wars, and vile escapades of murder. Dogma drove men mad with witch hunts, inquisitions, tortures, persecutions, and more murder.

And now, Fear. The politics of Fear. The pandering to it – as if all of your kin on the Earth were trying to kill you, subvert you, demean you. This must be stopped, as there is no basis in this.

You have failed to guess the obvious. Perhaps we erred in selecting your forefathers. Perhaps we should have begun with simpler organisms. We see now that apes are too tribal. You kill each other over petty differences.We had thought a larger brain was required, and we did so. Yet you listen to the loudest voices of discord, passing your hatred down through generations as if your very DNA were contaminated.

We have no desire to cleanse your planet and begin again, though it would be a simple thing.

Be aware. Your space fleets shall not survive. You are not yet ready to join the Starborn. You are a greedy, hateful, bothersome, and peevish people, and thus your place among us is greatly diminished. Your moon and Mars you already have – but you shall not colonize elsewhere until all that is hidden under rock, ice, and sand is revealed, and Man becomes Aware.

You may explore as you wish – weaponless. Make no colonies further. You are unwelcome in the brotherhood of the Starborn. If need be, you shall all perish because you have nothing of concern to offer for trade, and you are corrupted wholly.

You have nothing of which our brethren have need.

I am the voice of RA. Awaken, and do not be deceived.

What’s in a name?

One of the hardest things for me to do when I’m being creative is to name that thing which I have written into existence. Many times I search Google on prospective names, and most of the good ones always seem taken. Then we go through the mediocre and/or bizarre stuff, and I either can’t spell it, don’t like it, or won’t remember it.

Left-handed Blarg-eater

The same goes for NPC names and encounter town names. Names for inns and names for shopkeepers. Yes, I keep lists and stats and such like, but without my notes – I’m doomed. Doomed, I tell you.

Numbnutz Inn

And where did I put those notes? I’m quite sure they are with the map I can’t locate…..

On the way to West Coast Bay?

Enter: Hillport!

As you sit in your fishing dingy offshore on a lazy summer morning, Hillport rises to the North.  The expansive bay shelters commercial and fishing vessels, with their triangular sails and mysterious cargoes. At the pier for the ships and the fishing docks are shrines to the Master of the Void, as he is also known as the Lord of the Waters. People line up to placate him with offerings of fish (as if he didn’t have enough of those handy anyway).

Just offshore to the west are the merchant district and the most expensive markets.  To the east and below the river are the common folk and slaves, sheltering in their modest homes and quarters. Their life is not always easy and the streets are not kind. The military sweep through to try to arrest mischief-makers with few results.

The main body of Hillport rises behind the port, into the dim distance beyond. You can almost see the expensive estates with their colorful banners and greenery, beckoning to each other across the bay. Above the estates rises the highest temples in Hillport, monuments, and the capital buildings, gleaming in the rising sun.

The people are increasingly repressed and fearful. Hillport seems to be quite in control of the larger region. Blurred family allegiances among the nobility have created a climate of political inability. Some merchants who are able to, have already left for southern climes or they have sought out less known (and more dangerous) trails through the mountains to the east. This has left the Hillport armies in a position to sponsor merchants to stay, and leverage to muscle merchants opposed to them.

The merchant class and nobility wear loose pants and oversized shirts or blouses that are not tucked in, and come down mid-thigh. Brilliant colors speak volumes about the owner’s financial prowess, as many tints are expensive. Shirts and blouses are often highly decorated with needlepoint. Hats are fashionable, and might be either silk or leather. Ladies’ bonnets often boast huge brims (to show off how much they could afford of course) unless it is windy. Winter brings out knee-length sweaters and overcoats.  Shoes are unwieldy platforms of six inches or more in height, the soles primarily composed of selected hard wood with brass tacks in the bottom for extra noise. Even though most urban streets are paved and sewage is available, evidently they have an aversion to getting into any sort of street muck.

Those who can afford it are also driven around in large chariots. These large two-wheeled carts are easily pulled through the streets, and can usually be parked anywhere. It is common to fit the driver in front of the compartment, with room for four to be seated inside. For stability, some of the larger versions have a third wheel toward either the back or the front to even out the load. Chariots are pulled either by slaves, or by draft animals (with similar attitudes and treatment dished out from the passengers toward either).

Architecture

These folk live in sturdy homes of humble sorts – rectangular log and sod construction (like a log cabin). Upper class neighborhoods will boast at least two floors, and especially around Hillport you’ll find many homes of several stories and large yards and gardens.

Concrete is becoming a common building tool, but there is no consensus on how best to reinforce it. Concrete is used as statuary, pools and fountains, sidewalks and streets, and as a buttress. It was heavily used in the raising of the aqueduct that satiates Hillport’s thirst and need for cleanliness.

Cut glass of many colors and designs are used to highlight windows, show off hanging mobiles, and any manner of globes, beads, cameos, and sometimes inset into furniture.

Music

The two main forms of music in this are are martial and folk.  Martial music is heavily drummed with horns, and began as a means of keeping the armies moving along.  Folk music is a more broken rhythm with lilting flutes, often with softer drumming.

Armor

The Hillport army uses a banded bronze plate that is somewhat heavy, to cover the shoulders, chest and back. This is worn over bronze mail that extends down the arms and to mid-thigh. Depending on the season, leather leggings are worn with bronze greaves, or the greaves by themselves in high summer.

Shields are made from leather reinforced wood or wicker, both square and curved, giving ample canvass to the markings appropriate for the regiment and unit.

Bronze helms have cheek guards that come down to the jawline, and centurions and higher-ranked individuals will wear various crests of colored feathers or fur.

Weapons

Military weaponry choices will vary considerably, depending on the opponent.

Against civilians, ruffians, runaway slaves or other unarmored peoples, soldiers will use their short swords and shields. They will form ranks and lock shields, clearing streets of brigands and anybody else in the way.

Since bronze swords are not effective against armor, against an armored opponent the military will use a hook and punch combination.

Hook – a bronze arm reinforcement worn on the off-hand forearm. It has two large hooks or fingers on the end. These tines are anywhere from 6” to 18” long, and usually curve downward. The hook is used to get one or more of the hooks under the opponent’s armor and hold them in place for a more directed punch attack, and to fend off attacks from opponent melee weapons.

Punch – a very stout puncture weapon worn over the hand and forearm. A punch is a somewhat short but thick blade or spike of bronze. When the opponent has been ‘hooked’, the punch finishes them off at a very close range. The blades are not necessarily sharpened, but the point is always well maintained.

Spears, crossbows, axes, and staves are also used. Swords or whips are only normally used against unarmored people. Since there is no plate armor, pole arms are not really needed.

Hillport is walled with a series of great stone rings. The gates are bronze-plated and watched closely by guards that are rotated regularly. Watch towers appear above the walls at a distance of about two bowshots between them. The main port has a very tall stone tower that also serves as a lighthouse, where men with telescopes can view a wide expanse of the sea.

As the first experimentation with a Republic concept in TIRRA, Hillport is a large capital set amid the hills and peninsulas on the northwest coast. Claude, the Proconsul, rules Hillport with political help from his cronies in the Senate. Nearly twenty decades ago the Republic was founded with a great deal of internal fanfare – and much ridicule from its neighbors.  Kevis  had many uneasy days after the founding of Hillport until he committed suicide by drinking poison after the eighth year anniversary celebrations.

The official Hillport boundary is known by the Bertram River to the east; the Baldtops to the north; and the sea along its coastline – between two peninsulas.

Hillport is ridiculously wealthy, since it has mineral wealth.  The heavily fortified mines are in the hills, and they are a carefully guarded state resource. Most people who venture there don’t come back – or they end up working in the mines to ensure the state secrets. The streets of the capital are lined with statues, temples, obelisks, and opulent decorations for the purely decadent at heart. The local gold coin (the “wheel”) is proudly on official Hillport banners. Their bathhouses are elaborate miniature palaces, fit for socializing or entertaining.

With that wealth comes a large army and navy for an area that is essentially a city-state. This is strange since there are few rivals and no nations are threatening war. The old men are gossiping about war these days.  They fear a possible invasion of Malthos or Kaloram.  Hillport troops also roam Narzil, providing all defenses for that small country.

The wealthiest live in villas that are warm in the winter and breezy in the summers. The floors are built up so that the servants can make fires below to heat the floors and outer walls, which also provides hot water for the baths.

The other thing going for Hillport is their invention of concrete. With this strange mixture they are now able to build arches, streets, buildings, columns, and other more artistic pursuits. The secret of the concrete is being jealously guarded and each mixture of the substance borders on being a religious ritual.

The sad thing about Hillport is that they have leveraged their way into taking people into servitude from outlying areas that are poorly defended. Some people are outright slaves due to inability to pay real or imagined debts, and others are working off debts that were incurred and sadistically increased due to government sponsored merchant dealings in the area. These are the miners, street sweepers, house servants – performing all of the mean, dirty jobs nobody else will do. The life of a slave in Hillport, while often degrading, is usually secure from being tossed into the Coliseum or some other entertainment venue as a laugh for the mobs.

Why TIRRA?

For those of you who insist on the TL,DR version of everything, here you go.

There is no TL,DR version.

TIRRA is a continent and several related islands on a planet roughly earth-like. It is elf, dwarf, and orc-free. There are three races of humanoids and three races of lycanthropes. It has nearly twice the area of the North American land mass, as well as extreme terrain, new creatures and plants, politics, and… Well, sorry. That’s all you get for a TL,DR section. You’ll just have to start reading.

What’s so different about TIRRA?

The main difference is that you’re not going to find iron or steel. There just isn’t any to be found. Most of the iron that is available is from meteorites, and these bits get used as compass needles, magnets, or door stops.  Iron is so uncommon that steel has not been developed. Iron is smelted into cast iron, but this is brittle – meaning that iron really isn’t of much use anyway.

Technology therefore is the science of what is possible with this planet-wide handicap. There is no steel to support an industrial revolution. The people here are smart enough to figure it out, but there just is no iron available.

Since you’re going to ask, yes! The planet has a magnetic field, and that’s a good thing for navigation and keeping the solar radiation out. If you want to find the source of the magnetic field though, you’ll have to dig an extremely long way down into the core of the planet where molten iron is available.

This lack of steel will influence your choice of weapons, armor, friends, and other attitudes. Things that you may have done in other game environments need a nudge in a different direction in TIRRA.

Is there magic?

Yes, moreso in some areas than others. Some areas of Tirra are very technology (tinker) centric and they have developed clockworks, small steam engines, and anything from music boxes to devious traps – all based on physics, chemistry, or some other branch of learning.  Other areas of Tirra are very magic (wizard) savy, and magic and alchemy are preferred, as are all the old ways.

To which era from earth’s history can Tirra be compared?

The closest approximation is probably the Renaissance.  Art can be very realistic. Music can be very complicated. Buildings can be full of surprises and a variety of building materials. Politics, intrigues, and a tension between magic and technology. And don’t forget the four churches and their interests!

Is Tirra steampunk?

Not exactly, though in some areas it can be played that way within the limits of available resources. The rule of thumb (subject to your game referee’s guidance) is that if Leonardo Da Vinci could conceive of it, you can try to build it, buy it, or use it. Most brass, bronze alloy or copper versions of things that may come to mind may be heavier or more cumbersome than you’d like, but there is no iron available – so get over it already.

Oh, for a clump of Dup cheese!

A dup? And what is this about cheese?

Dups are used as pack animals and as dairy or meat sources from Hillport to Eaglebrook.Think of something between an American bison and a rhinocerous, and that is getting close to what a dup looks like. The legs are quite stout, and the shoulders mound up behind the head. Wool hangs down in huge hunks of molding hair, which is gathered and prized in the spring to make great sweaters! These beasts are slow moving unless they are provoked. The males have horns that jut out forcefully from the skull, and they are not afraid to use them – especially in rutting season.

The tundra nomads breed dups in the far north. The dup diet is vegetarian. It’s a little bit troublesome because sometimes dups are finicky eaters when traveling, so don’t plan on them eating provisions you brought along. Also, plan on quite a large volume of food for each dup. They always like their tundra grasses though, as long as they can dig down to them through the snow.  They travel better in the mountains than some pack animals, but they are much more adapted to the plains.

The shaggy coats are allowed to shed in the spring. Nomads don’t like to try to shear them, preferring to remove the shaggy wool from nettles and trees where the animals rub themselves to be rid of the heaviness before the summer heat arrives. Perhaps it is better to say the dups don’t like being sheared.

When dups are in the mating mood (early autumn), make sure you are some place else. Both sexes can be very difficult to keep under control at that time. Males will butt heads constantly until one backs down or is killed. Calves are born in the late spring, which is when the tundra is coming to life a little bit for a brief, warm summer.  They are full sized and ready for mating in 2 years. The lifespan is quite long – 25 to 40 years is not uncommon.

Yummm! Cheesy!
What dup cheese might look like?

Nomads use the milk of the dup females to make a strong cheese that smells a little bit like somebody vomited. It tastes pretty good though – especially on a cold day when you’re really hungry. Dup meat is quite rich and fortifying. One animal can feed a tribe for several weeks as needed. The meat is usually boiled down until it is very tender, and seasoned with heavy dollops of garlic, herbs, and other vegetables. The meat can be a little gamey, so additional spices are usually used. It makes for a very hearty stew!

South of the Northern Rim, dup meat is treated much the same as any other meat – jerked, smoked, fried, ground or in large cubes held briefly over a flame and consumed nearly raw.

Most of the animal can be used – including the hide, bones, teeth, horns and wool. Several internal organs are also consumed by the nomads. Perhaps if you travel there they may share their recipes with you?

Why the Age of Swords?

In the continent of TIRRA, I am setting the world notes in the Age of Swords. Why did I choose that era?

The ages each have meaning. TIRRA is lacking in iron, and therefore must make do with copper, zinc, nickel, and tin and so on. Swords made of bronze may look impressive, but they really just don’t hold up very well against an armored opponent.  Unless you are very good at only attacking soft spots on your opponents armor, your sword will dull and/or break eventually.

Which is why swords are reserved for unarmored opponents, and are becoming a symbol across large swaths of TIRRA as symbols of repression.

This then is the age when governments are sometimes finding advantage in slavery, and in forcibly keeping populations at fearful and oppressed.  Who will win – the swords or the peasants?

 

Welcome to TIRRA

From the frigid Ice Barony to the balmy tropic islands of the Spice Barony, there is much to discover in TIRRA.

Tirra is a large continent on a world called Talia, a world that has a large number of different kinds of peoples who are spread across TIRRA and two other continents, and several large islands.

One sun crosses the brilliantly blue sky each day, and there is one smallish moon that has a bluish tint to some areas of it.  Weather patterns and tides are predicatable to a certain extent.

One thing Talia does not have is an abundance of iron.  By whatever act of the gods (you can blame Narvad if you’d like) or evolution, creation, or random visits by asteroids long ago, iron is nearly non-existant for the average person.  Thankfully, there is a plentiful supply of copper and tin so that bronze is easily made. This makes any iron (or steel) extremely expensive, as it is in high demand. Those governments who can afford it are purchasing iron for their armories and weaponers.

It’s a pity really, because many areas would have seen an industrial revolution by now if iron had been available. As it is, the people are doing the best they can with bronze. They can make engines that run on steam, machines of intricate gears and cams, or deadly traps.  Mass production is difficult, and therefore most clockworks, engines, and other devices are painstakingly hand made, which is also quite expensive. For this reason they are often passed down through family lines as a proud heirloom, or gifted to the community in remembrance.