Category Archives: Fantasy

Guest Blogger: Grace Duncan on World Building, Geography & Climate

It is no secret by now that I love research. For anyone who’s kept up with my blog posts (especially the last one about research) or read my bio, they are, undoubtedly, aware of just how much I do.  Some of it isn’t necessary, but that’s okay. I love it and I feel it makes a world much fuller and more realistic if you include all the right details.

One big portion of that is the world-building.  Most of us have a general idea when and where our story will take place, but refining that into something that can become real, that the reader can feel and smell and hear takes a lot more thought – and the aforementioned research.

I had a firm picture in my head of what the world was that Teman came from and where he lived. I knew it was a desert, I knew he roamed (he was a gypsy, after all).  I knew what the city they were in during the opening chapter looked like in my head. I just had to get that on paper.

ACRThe pictures I found were amazing! It’s very easy for me to get lost in the first place on the internet and when I found so much that was exactly what was in my head, it took a supreme effort to remember I had a lot to do.   I discovered that the second series of Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed games had a lot, visually, of what I thought my world should look like.  Set at a later time than my story (Assassin’s Creed: Revelations happens during the Renaissance) but the desert cities didn’t change all that much in that time, so I knew I’d found what my city looked like.

I have boatloads of details in my head that never made it into the book which is, I think, one of the downfalls of world-building.  I have so much I want to tell about! So much I want to put in! But I know that I wouldn’t necessarily want to read pages and pages of description like some of my favorite authors are guilty of (*coughTolkiencough*).  So even though I know that there is a large, busy marketplace that runs from the river dock through a number of the tight, winding streets, it didn’t make it in there.  Even though I can see the tiny alleys, hear the fishwife calling her wares or smell the roasting lamb, it stays in my head.  And though I know that Behekem contains everything from the shady parts of town (with the taverns Teman undoubtedly patronized before being caught) to the upper class districts (where the nobility keeps residences while they are there), it’s something I just have to make notes on and hope someday I get the chance to put it in a blog post like this.

BlueMosqueBut Neyem’s capital city of Behekam was only a small part of the world. I quickly realized that the main city (and its palace, which I loosely base off of the Blue Mosque in Turkey) was by far, not the only setting I’d be using and set out to draw a very rudimentary map.  Thankfully, Jamie rescued me and took my (really basic) map and turned it into something quite beautiful (See above).  So as I started to put together my outline, I saw desert trips, other cities and even an oasis to include.

So back to the drawing board I went to decide on the other countries.  My world is small, I will readily admit that.  But I decided that Neyem, its neighbors and the politics surrounding it all didn’t necessarily need to be huge.  So I made my own choices and gathered Europe and Asia and brought them much closer.


To the northwest is Saol.  Think Medieval England the names are Celtic, the vegetation very European and the country, in general… quite vague.  I needed contrast to Neyem and the Asian-based neighbor Tiantang, but knew that I wasn’t going to need remarkably more than that.  So I settled on the country, the capital (Calafort) and a rather… entertaining gentleman who serves as its ambassador.  I do hope you enjoy reading Lord Atherol as much as I enjoyed writing him.

ForbiddenPalaceTo the southwest, then, is Tiantang.  Obviously Asian, it is unashamedly patterned after China.  The Empress Tian lives in a palace that is, in essence, the Forbidden City and I spent great gobs of time looking through pictures of it and China in general (though weeding though the pictures of the Great Wall was annoying).  So when I finally pulled myself out of the Internet and started writing about Bathasar, Teman and their company approaching the city, I am sure I spent too much time describing it.  A big part of it was inspired by this picture:


Duankou, Tiantang’s capital city is an odd mix of the three countries in my world: Tiantang (of course), Neyem and Saol.  It is a prominent port city with a spot on my world’s version of the Silk Road – the overland trade routes.  No wonder it’s a conglomeration of the world.  It is set up in districts – one for Saol, one for Neyem and the biggest (of course) is for Tiantang, all characterized by their architecture and marketplaces.

The world of Choices is relatively small, but I hope it still feels full and diverse with enough details to pull the reader in and give them the opportunity to feel and hear it.  I certainly enjoyed making it and put even more of it into the next book, Deception.  What do you like to see in the worlds you read and write about? What makes it real for you?

Do be sure to leave a comment so that I can award a bag of goodies to someone!

Thank you so much, Jamie, for hosting me! It’s a real honor and pleasure.

ChoicesLGBorn and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday. 

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer. 

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?


Filed under Fantasy, gay, Guest Blogger, World Building, Writing

“Murderous Requiem” has been contracted!

Murderous RequiemSounds a bit like a disease, doesn’t it?  But no.  I’ve signed a contract with Dreamspinner Press for my occult mystery novel, Murderous Requiem!

As anyone who’s been following my blog or facebook page knows, I’ve been fretting about the marketability of this book for a long, long time.  It has a lot of sex, some of it rather raunchy, and more importantly a lot of occult information concerning ceremonial magick that could make some readers uncomfortable.  There is a romance between the main character and his ex-boyfriend, but since they’re in a sort of “free-love” commune environment, they have sex with other people while they’re working things out with each other.  Some readers don’t like that.  There are also some parts that cross over into horror.

I wasn’t sure if Dreamspinner would like it, because it doesn’t fit the classic romance model.  But they publish a wide variety of stories, so it was worth submitting it to them to see.  And now I have a contract!  Yay!

No info on a release date at this stage, but I’ll let everyone know when I have something.  Incidentally, the “cover” design to the left isn’t official and definitely won’t be the cover.  I cobbled that together from pictures I found on the Internet and used it as my “cover” for NaNoWriMo a couple years ago.

In related news, I did not win NaNoWriMo this year.  I didn’t even come close.  But I did get a start on my YA novel, Dreams of Fire and Gods book three, and re-wrote the ending of Dreams of Fire and Gods book two.  Trust me, the new ending is infinitely better than it was when I submitted it.  I’m very lucky that my publisher was understanding enough to humor me, when I asked her if I could resubmit the epilogue after we’d already signed the contract.  I also finished most of the edits on Dreams of Fire and Gods book one — we’re at the galley proof stage now.  That one will be released through Harmony Ink Press on December 15th.


Filed under Fantasy, gay, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

“By That Sin Fell the Angels” is now in editing!

It’s surprising how addictive editing can be.  Just knowing that what you’re working on is being polished up for print in a few weeks is a huge rush.  It can be frustrating at the same time, if you’re trying to actually write something new at the same time you’re working on your edits — especially if the two manuscripts are completely different in tone — but I still love it!

So even though I’ve been frantically working on book two of my YA fantasy trilogy (Dreams of Fire and Gods — don’t ask me what the subtitle for this one is yet), I’ve still been jonesing to get back to editing…something!  Anything!

My publisher had been tossing various forms at me to fill out for By That Sin Fell the Angels:  the cover art form, the  blurb form, the dedications….  Those are all set (though I have yet to see any designs for the cover — I can’t wait!).

Incidentally, here’s the blurb:

It begins with a 3:00 a.m. telephone call. On one end is Terry Bachelder, a closeted teacher. On the other, the suicidal teenage son of the local preacher. When Terry fails to prevent disaster, grief rips the small town of Crystal Falls apart.

At the epicenter of the tragedy, seventeen-year-old Jonah Riverside tries to make sense of it all. Finding Daniel’s body leaves him struggling to balance his sexual identity with his faith, while his church, led by the Reverend Isaac Thompson, mounts a crusade to destroy Terry, whom Isaac believes corrupted his son and caused the boy to take his own life.

 Having quietly crushed on his teacher for years, Jonah is determined to clear Terry’s name. That quest leads him to Eric Jacobs, Daniel’s true secret lover, and to get involved in Eric’s plan to shake up their small-minded town. Meanwhile, Rev. Thompson struggles to make peace between his religious convictions and the revelation of his son’s homosexuality. If he can’t, he leaves the door open for the devil—and for a second tragedy to follow.

So I just received the first edits and now I have to approve them or reject them (with an explanation for why I don’t like them) and add any of my own (with review tracking turned on in Word, so the editor can accept or reject my suggestions).  Then I have to send it back by Tuesday.  Usually we go back and forth about three times before the final galley proof is sent to me.

The novel should be coming out at the end of August!

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Filed under Drama, Fantasy, Religion, Writing, Young Adult

Good Reviews for “Saturn in Retrograde”!

In addition to generally positive reviews of Saturn in Retrograde from readers on Goodreads, the novella has been noticed by a couple of review sites.

Serena Yates, from QMO Books (which is unfortunately temporarily offline for renovations of the site), gave the book 5-stars and said:

The story built very nicely. There are quite a few hints as to what is going to happen (most of which I figured out, but not all). Despite that, I loved watching the story unfold and following the details of how Patrick and Joshua arrived at where they needed to be. As for the big surprise at the end? That was truly shocking, yet no less logical. If you like time travel stories with a scientific slant, if two men separated by 25 years wanting to be together sounds like an interesting problem to solve, and if you like the slight headaches caused by trying to think in temporal circles, I am pretty sure you will love this story.

You can read the entirety of Serena’s review on Goodreads, though you probably have to have an account.  The link is here.

Don, at Hearts On Fire Reviews also gave it 5-stars and had this to say:

Patrick and Joshua were terrific together as a couple and the sex was hot.  Mr. Fessenden did a lot of research on the scientific end of the book which made the book all the better.  The numerous plot twists and turns kept me interested and guessing.  The unexpected HEA ending blew me away with surprise.  I didn’t see that coming at all and I’m still going over it in my mind.  I highly recommend this mind twisting book to anyone who loves a good puzzle.

The entire review can be read here.


Now you’re probably wondering, “Does this guy do anything besides sit around all day reading his reviews?”

The answer is, “Yes.”   But it hasn’t been very exciting as a spectator sport.  I’ve mostly been writing.  By That Sin Fell the Angels is in editing now, so that will take up a good deal of my time for the next month or two.  I don’t have a firm release date for that one yet, but I believe the plan is for sometime in August.

I also signed a contract for a YA fantasy novel called Dreams of Fire and Gods: Awakening, which is part one of a trilogy!  I’m frantically writing part two now, because my publisher wants it fast, fast fast!  Don’t worry — it won’t suck.  So far I’m really liking it.

Whereas the first part was a traditional sword & sorcery story with a band of adventurers fighting monsters, as they trek through the wilderness, then fighting a big battle against an enemy army at the end, part two is a bit different.  We’re seeing a lot more of the political and religious struggles going on in the empire.  I’ve also introduced a third viewpoint character, in addition to the two heroes: an assassin who is attempting to kill one of the heroes for the emperor!

And no, before you ask…I haven’t seen or read Game of Thrones yet and this isn’t my attempt to emulate all of the political maneuvering in that series.  It’s just the way the story is developing on its own.  I love it!

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Filed under Fantasy, Romance, SciFi, Writing, Young Adult

And Sometimes I Just Don’t Feel Like Writing

It’s not usually for very long, but whenever I finish something I’ve been working on, I spend a week or two floundering, not knowing what I want to write next.  I’d been planning on doing Camp NaNoWriMo this month and getting most of part two of a fantasy trilogy finished, but I spent the first week wrapping up my occult murder mystery (finally!) and I haven’t been able to get moving on the fantasy novel.  I’ve written a chapter, but that’s it.

I think I’m finally starting to get in the spirit of the fantasy novel.   We’ll see.  Edits are beginning on By That Sin Fell the Angels, and that’s a somewhat dark drama, so I may end up taking up the half-finished psychological drama I was working on a month and a half ago.

In the meantime, I haven’t been completely stagnant.  I’ve been doing author chats and Blogathons (on my YA blog) and book giveaways.  Saturn in Retrograde has been getting good ratings on Goodreads and received a terrific 5-star review on QMO Books!

Seidman has been doing well, too, though it has less momentum, since my James Erich pseudonym is less well-known.  But the ratings have been very good!  I just need to figure out how to get the word out.

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Filed under Fantasy, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Writing

“The Guardians Awaken” is finally finished!

Well, in first draft, anyway.

The Guardians Awaken is the tentative title of a fantasy novel I’ve been working on for a couple years now.  I originally pictured it as a YA novel, but since the characters would technically be adults in a medieval-style fantasy world (they’re about 17 or 18), I’m no longer certain that it has to be.  It’s a gay romance, of course, but the sex isn’t explicit — it’s more focused on romance and the actual plot (go figure).  Though, technically, it doesn’t have to be an “adult” novel, either.  I may have to see how my readers feel on that issue.

My biggest concern is vocabulary.  Erich and I came up with three languages for the humans and the two warring factions of gods in the novel, which is great, in that it gives the world a bit more depth.  But it’s potentially irritating for readers.  I suspect I overdid the various words for different things.

The next concern is originality.  I think the story line is good, if not radically different from other fantasy novels.  Hopefully, there’s enough going on to keep it interesting, and the characters are good.  I think that’s the case.  Every time I go back over it, it catches my interest, anyway.  Again, we’ll see how readers feel about it.

But the big problem is the two factions of gods.  One is off-screen, for the most part, but they’re based upon the legends of the Norse Aesir and Vanir.  Not precisely, but certainly inspired by them.  And what makes this a problem is the Vanir.  Tolkien was inspired by Norse legends, as well, and his elves are very much inspired by the Vanir and the Alfar of Norse mythology.  I’ve been struggling to make my Taaweh not the same as Tolkien’s elves, but it’s a challenge.  The Vanir were gods of the earth, vegetation and water…as are Tolkien’s elves.  There are some major differences between my Taaweh and Tolkien’s elves, but they aren’t really apparent in the first novel.  (Yes, this is just the first part of a trilogy.)

I was using my work on the end of this novel as my NaNoWriMo “novel” this year, only counting new word count, of course — nothing that I’d written before November.   I was intending to then continue past where this one ends and segue into the second novel in the series.  But unfortunately, I haven’t had a free weekend this month, until now, and I’ve only managed to get about 12,000 words done towards my NaNo count.  I’m pretty much doomed for this year.  But finishing Book One is the important thing!

And now I have a bit of time to at least get a start on Book Two.

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Filed under Fantasy, NaNoWriMo, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

Galley Proof for “The Dogs of Cyberwar”!

I’ve received the (nearly) final galley proof for my cyberpunk novella, The Dogs of Cyberwar, and I have until Monday to go over it and correct any minor mistakes.  As the editor says, this is not the time for major corrections — mostly just things like typos, mispellings, grammatical mistakes that escaped us the first time, etc.  If I don’t find anything major, this will be the last I see of the novella until its release date, on November 30th.

I still haven’t seen the cover art, and I’m anxious to get a look at it.  But of course we have a month and a half to go, so there’s no huge rush.  Presumably I’ll have a chance to critique it a bit and offer suggestions, such as “I don’t really picture Luis wearing a beanie with a propeller.”

In the meantime, I’ve nearly finished Murderous Requiem.  No, really.  I’ve just completed the last sex scene and now all that remains is the climactic scene in which the villain gets his comeuppance and All Is Revealed.  I’m still not convinced the “mystery” is completely obvious to any reader who isn’t baffled by Murder,She Wrote.  (For those of you who never watched the show, the killer is revealed in the opening scene, leaving the audience to wonder,  Why haven’t we turned the channel yet?)

I’m trying to wrap it all up before NaNoWriMo next month.  My original plan for that was to write another murder mystery, but as I suspected would happen, I’m pretty much burned out on mystery, at the moment.  Instead, what’s caught my attention is sword & sorcery.  So I’m returning to a YA fantasy novel I’ve nearly finished (still a few chapters to go) and the sequel will be my NaNo project.  If I can possibly finish up the end of the first one this month, that will be a bonus.

I have most of it plotted out, which is exciting, because until now I’ve had absolutely no idea what was going to happen in it, apart from the ending.  (It is, of course, part of a trilogy.)  This month has been incredibly busy, but hopefully things will calm down soon.

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Filed under Cyberpunk, Fantasy, Mystery, NaNoWriMo, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Writing, Young Adult

“Finding Love Through Bigfoot” is finished and available for free download!

I had initially planned on this story being submitted for an October anthology that Dreamspinner is putting out, but one of the requirements for that was that the story be no more than 2,000 words (within a small margin).  By the time I hit 3,000 words, with no wrap-up in sight, I knew I didn’t stand a chance of editing the finished story down to 2,000 words.  But I was having fun with it, so I decided to finish it up and release it as a freebie.

Since I’d been reading H.P. Lovecraft stories when I began the project, the initial tone was a bit Lovecraftian — 3rd-party narration, with the narrator rather distantly removed from the characters, and very little dialog.  But I couldn’t really sustain that for the entire story.  Humor started creeping in around the edges.  The “monster,” which initially was something dark and half seen in the forest, began to appear more and more like Bigfoot.  In the end, the story turned out to be rather tongue-in-cheek, if not quite a comedy.  But I’m happy with it.

It’s currently available for FREE DOWNLOAD (Did I make those words big enough?) at Lou Sylvre’s blog, since she was kind enough to let me guest blog there for a few days.  You can get to the link by clicking the image below.

Finding Love Through Bigfoot

Finding Love Through Bigfoot

The story was posted in a bit of a hurry, without the benefit of editors or even just friends looking it over, so I’ve already noticed a few typos.  When I’ve got a little more time, perhaps I’ll repost it with corrections.


Stuart moved to the country, looking for a little calm and stability in his life.  But that calm is upset, when a large, man-like creature begins showing up in his yard at night.  Soon, Stuart finds himself running for his life through the New Hampshire forests, and the only person who can save him is an enigmatic ranger named, Jake.  But Jake isn’t just out there on patrol — he’s been tracking the creature.  And he won’t rest until he finds it.

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Filed under Fantasy, Humor, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Writing

“Meet the Author” chat with Jamie Fessenden (me) at Goodreads on Saturday!

Tomorrow (Saturday, June 25th), I have a “Meet the Author” chat scheduled on Goodreads, from 1pm to 6pm EST.  Basically, I’ll be hanging out there, waiting to answer any questions people might have about my stories or life as a famous soon-to-be-fabulously-wealthy author. 

If you’d like to join me, follow this link and click on the chat with my name on it.  You’ll have to register with Goodreads, but it’s free and it’s not a bad site to have an account on, anyway, if you like to read.

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Filed under Christmas, Cyberpunk, Drama, Fantasy, Japanese, Mystery, Occult/Paranormal, Romance, Victorian, Viking, Writing, Young Adult

Attempting to write on the iPad

Erich got me an iPad for Christmas, and after an initial struggle getting the damned thing to boot up (neither one of us knew it would be completely non-functional until I registered for an iTunes account), I’ve grown fond of it.  Not fond of it in the I-want-to-have-Steve-Job’s-baby kind of way that seems to grip a lot of people , but…fond of it. 

But after playing a bunch of games and watching “The Two Towers” on it, I’ve begun to ask myself, “Is this all there is?” 

My first attempt at making my iPad useful was copying my stories to the iBooks library, so I could proofread them.  This had a nifty little feature, where I could tap on a word and a little yellow sticky note image would appear, which I could type revisions on.  This was helpful, but of course the revisions weren’t actually being incorporated into the documents.  I needed a way to make revisions directly in the documents, and preferably to do some writing, as well.

My friend, Claire, directed me to DropBox.  DropBox is a cloud-computing program which is supposed to store your documents online, basically through Google Apps.  You upload a document and it becomes available to the iPad, while you’re connected to the Internet.  When you’re not connected to the Internet — which is the situation, when I’m at work, since there’s no wi-fi I can connect to there — it appears to store a copy on the iPad.  Then it synchronizes later, when you’re connected again. 

All well and good, except that DropBox isn’t an editor.  To actually edit my files, I needed to get an editor.  And not just any editor.  It had to interface with DropBox.

Claire’s suggestion was PlainText.  It was, after all, free.  Unfortunately, it couldn’t understand .doc format, which is the document format I use for my writing.  I could change the format I use, but I refuse.  For one thing, I use italics extensively in my current novel, to denote dream sequences and words in the three languages spoken by humans and the gods.  (Which, incidentally, Erich wrote for me.  Did I mention that he’s frigging brilliant?)

So I turned to an Office app for iPad called QuickOffice.  QuickOffice worked okay, except that I couldn’t figure out how to get it to interface with DropBox, setting the cursor in the correct place was difficult and there was no “undo” key.  The latter doesn’t seem like a big deal until you accidentally delete something.  Then it would be nice to just click a button to undo it, rather than re-type it.  But no.  That would be too easy. 

QuickOffice also looked pretty grainy.

So I then bought an app called Office HD (neither Office app was free — they both cost about $10).  This one quickly proceded to wipe out all of my paragraph indents, for no explicable reason.  It did keep my italics, but then, so did QuickOffice.  The look of it was a bit better, and it had more controls, including an “undo” button and the ability to place the cursor precisely, rather than tap around until your finger starts bleeding.  (Tap, then hold your finger down, and a little magnifying glass pops up.  You can then slide your finger around and place the cursor exactly where you want it.)

Getting it to interface with DropBox has been a challenge.  I thought I had it set up correctly, but it kept failing to save.  Or, worse, it would save one time, then fail a few minutes later, even though I hadn’t done anything differently.  Erich fiddled with it yesterday and figured out that it works best if you open Office HD, then open the document from within the shared DropBox folder, and save it that way.  What I’d been doing was opening DropBox, opening the document, then selecting the “Open in Office HD” button.  This opened it, but when I tried to save, it kept insisting it had no idea where the document had come from, or that it was read-only.  Silly me — I expected competent programming.  Alas, it’s only 2011, and nobody can write a decent software program in these Dark Ages.

It’s still flaky.  Last night, I typed for a while in bed, then saved.  Then I typed for a few minutes longer, and attempted to save again.  Once more, I was told that the document was read-only, and somehow, attempting to tell it where it should save to, I managed to close the document.  Except that it didn’t “close” — it vanished.  All of my changes were gone. 

So, I cursed, which woke Erich.  Then, after he’d gone back to sleep, I opened the document from DropBox, made my changes and saved without a problem. 

Do I recommend using the iPad to write on?  Not on your life.   Maybe after I’ve hammered out these kinks — if they’re possible to hammer out.  But come on, people!  What were you thinking?


Filed under Fantasy, Romance, Writing, Young Adult