A back of the book summary is a powerful tool for any writer. Not only is it the first thing potential readers look at to gauge their interest in your novel, it can help the author consolidate their thoughts on what their book is about and provide an ice breaker when discussing their work with people face to face.
I thought I would take a crack at writing once such summary for my current project. The novel itself is still in first draft form, and does not yet have an ending, but I figured I would share this exercise and hopefully get some constructive feed back. Notes on clarity and whether or not the story presented piques your interest are most appreciated.
I’ve spent the last week doing some light editing of what I plan to be my next novel, The Adventures of Pixie Sinclaire. In it, Pixie finds Rigel Rinkenbach’s lab, which is covered with scraps of paper full of encrypted writings. She reflects on his birthday cards to her, which were also encrypted. This set me thinking about what kind of a birthday card a man like Rigel Rinkenbach would give. What follows is a bit of a character building exercise:
According to many, the NorEastern Empire is the cultural center of the world at the time of the Blackwood Empire. It is roughly the same size in terms of landmass and population as Crowndon. And while Crowndon, as an Empire, is nearly three hundred years older than NorEaster, the civilizations of the NorEastern Empire are some of the oldest and long lasting.
It is made up of four nations, each with its own monarchy that retains relative autonomy: The Capitol nation of Oeil de Fleur in the center, Sau Anoit in the north east, des Anges in the south west, and Val Coursais in the south. Val Coursais is the largest of the four nations, and the most active in terms of political upheaval, but it is largely kept in check by the fact that it has the unfortunate claim to sharing a border with the Monteddorian Empire, a no doubt taxing situation that prevents the country from forming any real designs of seizing Imperial Authority.
The NorEastern Empire was the epicenter of the Alchemical Rift three thousand years before. Little physical evidence of this ancient civilization remains, except for the Capital of Oeil de Fleur, which remained largely intact after the fabled cataclysm.
De Fleur remains the epicenter for much of the cultural activity in the Empire today, and for much of the Triumvirate as well. Students from Crowndon, Monteddor, and even the continent of Sarnwain flock to Oeil de Fleur for education and leisure.
All of this culture and learning is not without a dark side, of course. The NorEastern Empire likes to boast an atmosphere of inclusiveness and progressive thinking. But there always seems to be some hothead who doesn’t feel included enough. It seems as though every hundred years or so some new philosophy crops up that leads to cultural upheaval. Fortunately, these rarely escalate into full blown revolution, and typically sort themselves out. Many NorEasterners cite this as a positive. “Come for the cultural unrest,” they say. “Stay for the refreshments afterwards.”
At the time of Blackwood Empire, the practice of Alchemy has seen a resurgence. Once feared for being the cause of the so-named Alchemical Rift, time and humanity’s resilience to lessons learned have lead to curious minds exploring the ancient practice, and the founding of the Academic Alliance of Alchemists and Alliterators. However, much of what was known of the alchemical process has been lost, and with few exceptions, the practice of Alchemy is viewed in modern times as a cheap parlor trick, which has perhaps only fueled the idea that it is not so dangerous after all.
The discovery of the Blackwood Grove and the recent study showing that it will be depleted in a century’s time has also increased interest in Alchemy, seeing as how Blackwood does not occur naturally and must be created using a complex formula nobody remembers. Thousands of young Alchemists dream of unlocking the secret and the glory that would come with it while sipping tea and trading alliterations with each other.
Militarily speaking, the NorEast Empire is nothing to write home about, yet they recently defeated Crowndon in a decade long war. How did an empire full of artisans and philosophers who like to write about injustice more than act against it manage to defeat the world’s foremost military power, you ask? Largely by being completely unaware of how to fight a war, to be perfectly honest.
Crowndon went into the war expecting a straightforward fight. They lined up their armies on the battlefield and expected the NorEast to meet them as gentlemen. Their philosophy: straight ahead. The NorEast, by contrast, went in every other direction. They employed subterfuge and propaganda, misdirection and sabotage. They bolstered their ground forces with mercenaries from Monteddor and Sarnwain. They fought dirty, something unexpected from a people thought to be cultured and honorable. They also had Rigel Rinkenbach, who designed and oversaw the construction of the air-planes that devastated the Crowndon Air Corps. over the Divide.
Some say they even had aid from the Ephemeral Cartographers, though no evidence of this exists. There are also rumors that the NorEasterners employed reactivated machines from the Old Order, though no evidence of this exists either, aside from accounts from the battlefield, mostly from Crowndon officers who had a lot to lose by copping defeat to, quote, “Word-slingers and pornographers.”
Economically speaking, exports include fine wines, sugar, olive oil, wheat, and various fruits and vegetables. The NorEastern Empire also creates most of the world’s art, including music, theatre, and sculpture. They are also the foremost purveyors of adult entertainment, including brothels in most major cities and the publishing of penny dreadfuls.
Notable citizens include: Sir Rigel Rinkenbach, Pixie Sinclaire, Violet and Arufina Villanova, and Anson Blakely.
Notable Organizations include: The NorEastern Subterfuge Society (N.E.S.S.), and the Academic Alliance of Alchemists and Alliterators.
The jungle came alive with a myriad of sound that Violet had never heard before. Some sounds were familiar, crickets and the like. Many were down right alien. Hester kept to the center of the tracks, away from the tree line on either side of them, and Violet followed suit.
The moment Hester had spoken of, when it felt as though fire covered her entire body and she wouldn’t be able to carry on, had come and gone. And come again, and gone again. Four times the wave of pain hit her, and each time proved more difficult to push through than the last.
I thought I’d try something different for today’s post and present a bit of geo-political backstory for Blackwood Empire. This is all still very early in development and subject to change of course, but I figure it might be of interest to my fellow world builders out there, as well as provide context for some of the stories I’ll be writing. Constructive feedback is welcome.Continue reading “The World of Blackwood Empire: A Brief History of Crowndon”→
Violet opened her eyes to a blurry swirl of orange and green. She rolled over onto her back and pain shot through her body from her right side. Her teeth grit against the pain and tears welled up in her eyes, further blurring her vision.
Trails of smoke led by bits of flaming wood still arced through the sky above her. The sky itself had deepened to shades of red and purple. The shape of a person limped into view above her.
Ben X tells the story of Ben, a Flemish teen with Asperger Syndrome who escapes the troubles of life by playing an MMORPG called ArchLord (which is apparently a real game, making its inclusion in the movie a rather dubious bit of product placement. Even more dubious is the fact that it is apparently terrible.) The movie’s opening credits use the game’s UI as a template, and within the film itself to draw comparisons to the structured nature of Ben’s daily routine and the grind of playing the game and leveling up. It is in this game that Ben meets the only person he feels he can connect to, a female player who goes by the username Scarlite.