How Does That Work?
Thanks, J.R., for allowing me to stop by. People often ask me how I go about world-building, and I never really had an answer other than “um… I just do it?” Then just the other day it hit me: I’m a damn engineer.
A story is a construction job and when I’m writing a book one of the things I zero in on is the guts of the story. A well-written story packs quite a lot of information into a very small space and time, and in my case I create whole worlds, so there’s an awful lot of building going on. The pieces have to function smoothly together if I’m to carry my reader along on whatever journey I’ve plotted out for them. Moving readers painlessly through a story involves laying out paths that make sense, creating transitions between scenes, building bridges to connect story arcs so they feel solid and true… what I call infrastructure.
It’s just a mental thing for me. I break things down; I can’t help it. I come from a family of engineers.
Even when I was a girl, dinner conversations revolved around how things work. From the pothole at the end of our driveway to the structure of the universe, no issue was too small or too large that we couldn’t pull it apart and find out what made it tick or devise a way to fix it. Potholes are easy. So are missile guidance systems. The universe? We’re working on that.
But my favorite thing of all has always been infrastructure. My clan can talk about that for hours on end. To this day few things excite me as much as a map—or good signage. Just last summer my husband and I were driving through Columbus, Ohio and after we were past the city, I turned to him and said, “Wow! That was really great signage!” Because, let’s face it, confusing signage can turn a trip into a nightmare. Signage around airports is my specialty. I used to work for one, and one of my favorite jobs ever was making sure the signage got travelers where they were going. Returning a car? Check. Dropping off grandma? Check. Can’t have people going to the parking garage when what they want is international departures.
|The Lupu Bridge in China|
Before I was involved with airports, I was a legislative assistant who got a crash course in what it takes to run a metropolitan county. I communicated on a daily basis with county and city departments on issues like snow removal, street repairs, traffic signals, trash pickup, public parks, mass transit, and bridges. I also talked a lot with social services and the courts, which is a different kind of infrastructure. But the nuts and bolts stuff was more fun. Take bridges, for example.
Bridges are fascinating. Sometimes a bridge is the only solution for getting people from point A to point B. A well-built bridge is a thing of beauty—sometimes literally. The Lupu Bridge in China, for example. Gorgeous thing. My father was a connoisseur of bridges. We made special trips to see outstanding specimens, such as the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, which at that time was the highest bridge in the world. He took great delight in regaling his family with tales of “Galloping Gertie”, a bridge in Tacoma that famously collapsed due to oscillation that made it buck like a bronco. [Video of Gertie’s collapse.] Watch it. It’s crazy.
Infrastructure can be annoying. Building it is a pain in the ass, and it’s expensive as hell. Construction irritates just about everyone not directly involved in it. It may be for the public good, but that argument doesn’t put many smiles on people’s faces. Much as people love a good road, they don’t want to put up with the hassle of getting it built. And if it’s less than perfect, you better be sure the people responsible for the road will hear about it.
Which is where writing is like roads… or bridges, or water supply. If a story works, readers most likely will never notice the effort that went into it. They won’t stop to say, “What a lovely transition!” (which is the writing equivalent of signage) or “What a beautiful bridge between those two ideas!” But if the story bucks them around like Galloping Gertie? They’ll notice and they’ll not like it at all. It’s the writer’s job to provide good infrastructure, and the first step to that is studying how it works.
Tali Spencer loves books, ideas, and infrastructure. If she could have her own city, it would be named Booklantis and would be have all the most up to date improvements. Seeing as having her own city is impractical, she writes and lives vicariously through her characters, some of whom do have their own cities… and families and empires… and all the problems that go with them. In her recent release, Dangerous Beauty, a man’s exploration of his sexuality is complicated by his family’s rebellion against a powerful empire. Thick as Thieves, a M/M sword and sorcery novel about a sex-crazed barbarian and a male witch who has every reason to keep him that way, will be released in July 2013.
Once the Kordeun family ruled Sebboy…now they are imperial captives of the Uttoran Emperor. Devout and studious, Endre Kordeun loves his family and will do anything to free them, even if that means pretending he’s gay so he can pass messages to his father’s shady allies. With his golden good looks and a beautiful male courtesan posing as his lover, Endre finds Uttor’s decadent society more than willing to believe his ruse.
But when a passionate kiss from a dark, gorgeous man unlocks feelings Endre had been hiding even from himself, lies start to unravel. Arshad, prince of Tabar, is Endre’s match in every way…including a shared love for science and celestial mechanics. Going forward with his charade will be dangerous, and not only because he might be discovered. In that event, even his own father would kill him. How much is Endre willing to risk for love?
The air smelled of sex and men and, oddly, of books. Endre moved a stiff arm, surprised to find himself on a hard surface, a rug on the floor, clasped against another body by a loose, muscular arm. He was naked, and as he twisted his hips, a telltale soreness in his thighs and ass brought back a rush of memories he found astounding. The domed ceiling overhead displayed celestial designs and equations that made his mind soar. He and Arshad lay at the exact center of the room, beneath a golden sun conceived by an artist and ringed by glimmering heavenly realms.
How egotistical, he thought. Though it was true he felt himself the center of the universe.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Arshad’s deep voice informed him. The arm about his waist tightened.
“I have a curfew.”
“Tell the guards—”
“The guards obey the emperor. It’s his curfew.”
“Ah.” Arshad released him and together they sat up, examining their surroundings and each other. “It’s not yet late. The sun is still high.” A devilish smile was all the warning he received before finding himself pulled into the Tabari prince’s arms for another kiss. Those lips were everything he remembered—firm, ripe and demanding. Arshad explored him as if he had not already plundered the treasury.
How was it possible he was hard again? After what had just happened, he would have thought his body would be drained of every ounce of sexual energy. Instead, he felt renewed.
“This isn’t fair. I think you learned me far too well,” he accused.
“That was my plan,” Arshad informed him between nibbles. “I will never get enough of you, though I intend to try.”
Endre’s heart faltered. He should have guessed Arshad would think they might continue their involvement. A relationship, the man had said.
How could he explain that he needed to get back before his father did something irrevocable? Before anger became delusion and the old man decided he could not be trusted? It might already be too late. His entire family might pay the price for his belated act of rebellion, lose their one chance at freedom. He pulled away and pushed to his feet, searching around the room. Where were his clothes? Finding them folded on a nearby stack of books, he began to draw on his undergarments.
Arshad watched him with alarm. “What’s going on? Is there a problem?”
“No, I…there’s nothing wrong, not with me. And nothing to do with you, or anything we did. You gave me everything I could have hoped for. It was better than…hell, Arshad, the earth moved and the heavens opened and you were there, you know that! I’m not running away.” He tugged on his trousers and buttoned them before grabbing his shirt. Surely it was enough for Arshad to know he had enjoyed their time together. The man didn’t need to know he was fighting to keep his equilibrium, did he? Or that his body clamored to be kissed and fucked back into oblivion?
* * * *
Thanks again, J.R., for having me stop over. If anyone should want to find me, my blog is a good place to start: http://talismania-brilliantdisguise.blogspot.com/