Posted in Planning, World Building, Writing

Hitting a Snag

If you’re Australian like me, you’ll know a snag is something to be enjoyed in a slice of white bread at the local hardware on a Saturday or Sunday morning. For everyone else, a snag is an obstacle to overcome, or a protrusion you catch your clothing on.

Another snag on the barbie!

Though it’s not the official term, you can also hit a snag in writing. I won’t say it’s anything like writer’s block (I don’t really believe in that particular phenomenon anyway), however I do know that while writing you can come across a snag that pulls you up and you’re having to consider how to get around it.

I hit such a snag recently while writing The Cursed Gift. I was happy I’d managed to get the first five chapters relatively sound (FYI, I am a lot further along than that), but I needed to check for a detail and reread those first five chapters…and almost put myself to sleep, they were so boring.

This was my snag. The story itself was beginning to take shape, how do I then go back to the start and make it more exciting without disrupting the rest?

Funnily enough, I enjoy these kinds of challenges, and I had an idea on how to fix it. I realised I’d been too focussed on getting Max from A to B, I didn’t stop to think that her journey should be a little more interesting. Also too, with fantasy, a lot of world building can be included that will only make for a far more intriguing story as these details come to light later on. I’ll talk about Promises in another blog post.

A character’s journey should never just be a straight line

So whether your purpose is to get to the local hardware for a Sunday snag, your character’s journey needs to have a little more sizzle.

Let me know what you think in the comments below:

Posted in Planning, Steampunk, World Building, Writing

Libraries are Legendary

*Warning: this post contains spoilers of my book The Ancient Wish If you haven’t read it yet, check it out here.

Did you know that the first library was founded in 7th century BC and belonged to the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal? It’s located in Iraq and is said to contain some 30,000 tablets, most of which are archival documents, and the like, but there are a few works of literature including a 4000 year old text called Epic of Gilgamesh.

Neo-Assyrian clay tablet. Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 11: Story of the Flood. Known as the “Flood Tablet”

Most people will have set foot in some form of library, be it the one attached to your school, or the public one you claimed you were visiting to ‘study’. Nowadays all it takes is to type whatever you’re curious about into your phone, and voila! There’s your answer…or at least the answer according to the gospel of the internet.

When it came to designing the world of Abnyr where people didn’t have mobile phones to just Google what they needed, what better opportunity than to create a library of my own!

How might a fantasy library look?

I created Bibliothecary – the lection, or library of Poel Ohneon – so Max, Peng and Hazel would have a way of learning more about the legend of Ondraj. Since the story itself had been consigned to mythical status, it made sense that there should be a place where all the books and scrolls about said legend would be available for study.

I called it Bibliothecary, because I wanted to combine the latin for book – I remember all too well having to include a bibliography at the back of my school assignments – and an apothecary – a cabinet full of tiny drawers that contain all manner of wonders and treasures. Just like a book!

One of the images that inspired Bibliothecary

I particularly focussed on the children’s area, and this came from memories of my own experiences in the local libraries when I lived in the ACT, Australia. One thing that stood out for me was the smell. It seems to exude knowledge, adventure and the means of escaping whatever else might be happening outside.

The children’s section usually housed books for ages from toddlers to teens. I vaguely remember a pile of cushions (perhaps not anymore with society’s need for sterility), or comfy seats to sit back and indulge in another world or adventure.

That’s what I wanted to emulate with Bibliothecary’s children’s are on the belvedere level being rows of shorter stacks of shelves, and plenty of space to relax with a book.

Sadly, I don’t get to visit my local library as often as I’d like, but on the odd occasion when I do, I find it a place of absolute pleasure.

Do you frequent the library often? Let me know in the comments below:

Posted in Method of Planning, Planning, Steampunk, World Building, Writing

Why is Steampunk so Awesome?

I have always been fascinated with the concept of steampunk. Aside from the environmental concerns that I won’t be going into (because in spite of the idea that to use machines that require steam you usually have to burn coal, steampunk is just an idea, and not an actual practice), I very much like to think about modern day items that could be powered by steam. There’s also the amazing look of dials, pistons and lots of copper pipe, and another big part of the allure is the Victorian era style that goes along with it.

What is it about steampunk that I find so appealing? Sure, there’s the aesthetics as I’ve previously mentioned, but steampunk is also a cross genre concept with it’s feet firmly planted in both the fantasy and scifi. It comfortably sides with fantasy where it feels a natural extension to the magic and make believe of another world, like a steam powered saddle for horse (think rockets, guns, the ability to make tea on the go, that kind of thing), a dragon or the unfathomable enormity of whatever creature you think requires this tech. On the side of scifi, it enhances the classic Victorian era of horse and cart, with mechanical creatures transporting their riders, or giving users access to the internet via a steam powered laptop.

Steampunk laptop. Cumbersome, but how cool!

Though I couldn’t say what first attracted me to steampunk, I know it’s been a fairly recent addition to my interests. I have always admired Victorian era fashion, and when steampunk elements are added it creates an even more stunning ensemble.

I was running errands at my local shopping centre which has a lovely little jewellery shop called Raymond’s Jewellers when I found this gorgeous piece and couldn’t resist. It was created by Veronese Design and reminded me so much of Peng’s gun as I’d described it in The Ancient Wish, I just had to have it.

Peng’s Gun

When I first began planning The Direbright Series I wanted to create a world that used steampunk as its technology, but wasn’t necessarily a story about steampunk. You’ll be excited to learn I am diligently working on book two: The Cursed Gift.

I don’t tend to work on my novels chronologically (I’ll let you know my style of writing in another blog entry), however I have completed the first few chapters which will help shape the plot for scenes I’ve already written as ideas and the direction I wanted before I started with Chapter One.

What do you think about steampunk? Let me know in the comments below:

Posted in Australia, Gemstones, World Building, Writing

Delightful Gemstones

NB: This blog post talks about aspects of my book The Ancient Wish. If you have not read it, please be advised that there may be spoilers discussed here.

Throughout The Ancient Wish, Max is leaning towards a career as a geologist. To emphasise this she encounters several instances of different types of rocks as she travels through Abnyr.

The first ‘magical’ stone is encased in the medallion gifted to her by Roo. This is described as being amethyst, whether it is an actual amethyst is not specified, however Max decides it looks like amethyst since it’s a purple crystal.

The Ancient Wish
by S. A. Beattie
Amethyst: inspiration for the medallion on the cover of The Ancient Wish

Other semi-precious stones Max identifies are sunstone, which is a beautiful orange/brown colour with glittering flecks of gold;

Sunstone

carnelian, a rich orange stone,

Carnelian

and malachite a rippled green stone which is quick striking once crafted.

Malachite

Of these stones you might be aware that amethyst is the birthstone for February with birthstones being:

January = Garnet

February = Amethyst

March = Aquamarine

April = Diamond

May = Emerald

June = Pearl

July = Ruby

August = Peridot

September = Sapphire

October = Opal

November = Topaz

December = Turquoise

There are differences, with June being Alexandrite, October also being Pink Tourmaline, December being Blue Topaz, and November being Citrine. I don’t claim to know them all, but I do know these can differ from country to country.

Either way, I’ve put together a series of gorgeous journals/notebooks under Lady Beattle Journals, with covers of original fluid art representative of birthstones. Click on any of the linked gemstones above to order a journal of your birthstone.

Do you have a favourite gem or birthstone? Or have I missed one that really should be available as a journal? Let me know in the comments below:

Posted in Australia, Locations, World Building, Writing

Fairy Cave, Buchan Reserve

Being a fantasy fan, both as a writer and reader, I understand the point of view of wondering where an author gets their ideas, or settings for their story. Living in Victoria, Australia, there’s countless places to set a fantasy story. Have you read the infamous Picnic at Hanging Rock, or watched the TV series, or the mystical movie? How gorgeous was the landscape? I am so blessed to live here! So, I felt it my duty in a way to set a story in the land that I love to help show off how amazing the country really is.

You probably remember, in The Ancient Wish, the protagonist Max, is a sixteen-year-old girl attending high school. Her world is obviously set in Australia, in the state of Victoria in a town on the outskirts of the city of Melbourne. The first few chapters of the story show how Max would spend her time at school and with her family before she inadvertently wanders through a cave and ends up in Abnyr.

Since it’s the school holidays, Max’s family travels to their favourite camping site in the Buchan Reserve, something they have done as a family for years. Because the location holds such fond memories, and Max has been going to see the caves from when she was little, she’s just as excited to return to a place that has always been fun and full of treasured moments.

Location of Buchan Reserve in Victoria Australia

The Fairy Cave and the Buchan Reserve are all real places located in East Victoria in the region known as Gippsland, and traditionally owned by the Gunaikurnai people who hold the Aboriginal Title. They are beautiful tourist destinations should you be visiting Victoria.

When plotting a portal fantasy, the biggest question I ask myself is, how are the characters going to reach the other world? Everyone knows of the famous wardrobe to Narnia, Platform 9¾, and even magically conjured up doorways with a lot of lightning, but I wanted something different.

I also wanted something that was real, that everyday people could physically go to, touch and in that special part of their imagination wonder if maybe, just maybe the portal really was there.

My choice became a cave because I wanted something enclosed, as well as an unusual location that wasn’t easily accessible to just anyone. When I began researching caves in Victoria, I found the caves of Buchan Reserve, which became the perfect location for a magical portal.

Inside the Fairy Cave

I’ve always found caves to be fascinating places, all hidden below ground, they are portals unto themselves. It’s incredible to realise that the stunning formations of these secret spaces took millions of years to establish. They’re gorgeous places to visit, and a good environment for an author’s imagination to run wild.

You might have seen on the news at the end of 2019, beginning of 2020, Australia was hit pretty hard by bush fire. I can’t begin to explain the level of loss, and I’m thankful my own family and friends were spared the heartache. Fire is indiscriminate, and in December 2019, the Buchan Reserve was affected by the devastating fires, which damaged many of the park’s assets, including some heritage listed structures, forcing the park to close. In spite of this, the rebuild has started and they hope to reopen to tourists by summer 2020.

How magical does this look?

If you happen to be in the area, I strongly recommend visiting this truly inspiring site. I can’t promise that you’ll come across the Direbright, but you will be amazed at the absolute beauty of these incredible caves.

Have you visited the Buchan Reserve, or the caves? Let me know in the comments below.

Posted in Creatures, Method of Planning, Planning, World Building, Writing

3 Steps to Creating Your Own Unique Fantasy Creatures

My all-time favourite genre to write is fantasy, followed very closely by sci-fi. I read a lot of it too, which might seem obvious, but sometimes I find others’ perceptions of fantasy aren’t to my taste. Mind you, it’s always a good idea to read a range of genres anyway for inspiration, to help with ideas, and to hone the skill of writing – as all writers should.

Sometimes when I’m reading fantasy something I’ll find a bit disappointing is when I come across the same, almost stereo typical creatures in those stories, because even though the writing and the story might be great, the author lets it down with a cookie cutter set of creatures.

Dragon
Ever a favourite in fantasy – the dragon – but all too often a ‘bad guy’

I’m done with evil, aggressive dragons that are the overall threat to the heroes, beautiful mermaids who sing like angels, sweet unicorns that are shy and hard to find, and fairies that live in flowers and nurse sick animals. Of course, I’m well aware that not EVERY single fantasy book mentions these creatures, and I’m also aware there are many fantasy books that DO in fact buck the trend, which is awesome. What I’m talking about, and the point of this post is to create your OWN unique creature that doesn’t have a predetermined set of characteristics to manipulate how it looks or behaves. Your very own animal, be it humanoid, can fly, swim or run extremely fast, is from YOUR imagination and it’s completely your own creation.

There are three aspects to consider when creating your own one of a kind totally unique creature:

Step 1: What is its purpose?

This needs to be your first question when creating your own unique fantasy creature. Why? Because otherwise, why are you including it in your story? There’s little point creating something so out of this world interesting only to have it lolling away in the background. It’s going to be front and centre, so it needs purpose.

Is the hero going to ride it? Be threatened by it? Have to rescue it? In creating its purpose you’re bringing it into the plot, which means it may as well be interesting.

Step 2: Where does it live? Or more importantly, where did it originally come from?

The second factor when creating a fantasy creature is the kind of environment where it would be found naturally. This is where you need to refer to your world building.

Environment
The environment would play a big part in the overall looks of your creature

You may have all the imagination in the world, and it is very tempting to just go for broke, but it does pay to consider the environment of your creature because it helps make it even more believable. If you’ve created a creature that lives in trees, you might consider giving it claws to grip branches, or long finger like appendages to hold on, or some kind of sticky slime that enables it to cling in some way. You don’t have to railroad yourself to a strict set of rules, but do consider where the creature would naturally live in ‘the wild’ because this is the environment it’s ‘evolved’ to live in. Yes, it’s a fantasy world, but again, it makes it more believable rather than everything just runs on the magic of the place, so anything goes!

Step 3: What does it look like?

This is the really fun part because this is where you can ultimately go for broke. Once you’ve determined the creature’s purpose, and the environment it’s initially come from (remember, it doesn’t have to stay there  – consider your purpose), then you need to consider it’s features.

You don’t have to stick to convention here, if it’s a creature that lives in a tree, there’s no harm in giving it colourful scales to attract a mate, or fins to assist in flight direction. It might have fur to insulate against heat, but sheds it and absorbs the chill of winter through its skin. Whatever you decide, you can allow your mind to generate a truly unique creature of your own choosing.

Hedgehog Dog
The best part is thinking about what your creature actually looks like

Once you have your creature remember the point isn’t then to write page after page of description for it. Your reader has the ability to fill in the blanks, you just need to give the general idea and let THEIR imagination fill in the rest. Remember, further description can be added throughout the rest of the story, but what you initially want to do is implant an image of a creature unique to the story that a reader is going to suddenly feel attached to, and will be glad the hero rescued (rode, or needed) it all those chapters ago when it fulfils its purpose.

Lizard Horse
Be adventurous, just remember its purpose and environment

Be sure to consider these points during your world building, or when thinking about the type of creatures you would like to fill your fantasy novel with. Once you’ve mastered the basics of purpose, environment and features you‘re well on your way to creating a whole zoology of creatures totally unique to the world you alone have created.

Next time I’ll explain ways on how to give an unusual name these creatures so they are easy to read and pronounce!

If you have other ways of imagining fantasy creatures, please let me know in the comments below!