12 August 2014

Guest post ~ writing Altaica, Book 1 in Chronicles of Altaica, by Tracy M. Joyce

Her only hope lies in a foreign land, rich in tradition; ruled by three
powerful clans, where magic as we know it does not exist.
Instead what is here, in abundance, is a more primal power. 
Survival carries a high price. Welcome to Altaica.

Available on Amazon USAmazon UK and Barnes & Noble
I’d like to thank Tony for inviting me contribute to his blog.  My name is Tracy M. Joyce and I’m an Australian writer of speculative fiction published by Odyssey Books.  Tony tells me that people want to know the source of a writer’s inspiration and how we go about our writing. Well, I shall endeavor to give you a glimpse into my chaotic writer’s mind.

Altaica is an epic fantasy.  The story centres around a young woman named Isaura.  She is born to refugees within a community that fears her kind and has few true friends.  Through a quirk of fate she becomes this village’s healer.  She feels trapped in this role, yet bound to it by a promise to her dead mother.  However war is coming and with it comes her chance to escape.  She and few friends flee the invaders and what follows alters her life forever.

Altaica is a rollicking adventure, but at its heart it deals with themes of racism, superstition, friendship, identity and belonging.  It highlights the fragility of human nature when pitted against the desire for survival and personal gain.  Altaica also examines how each of us deals with the difficult moral choices we must sometimes make; how we learn to live with those choices.

The initial inspiration behind The Chronicles of Altaica came from a dream of one scene which will take place the first book of a second duology set in Altaica.  That dream started an idea that would not leave my thoughts and I planned the main plot arc of that book in the following weeks.  After that I thought to myself, “Well, how did this world come about? How did these characters get here?  What is the history behind this?”

With these questions in mind, I began working on Altaica, Book 1 in Chronicles of Altaica.  The world of Altaica combines my love of horses, history and archery into a world of my own creation.  I have “cherry picked” much from various histories, folk lore and myth in my world creation.  However, in all my research I kept coming back to Ottoman and Mughal weaponry, which feature heavily in the story and I stumbled upon a Turkish myth of the Asena which fitted my story with little adaptation.  I read the term “Altaic” in my research which was used to describe the language family comprising the Turkic, Mongol and Tungus languages and from this I derived the title Altaica. It all just seemed to fit too well together, the weapons, the myth and the name.

I also love putting a lot of what I observe in the real world into my fictional characters.  I have a tendency to observe people around me – discreetly.  Nobody has yet noticed and filed a restraining order or anything like that!  I watch body language and reactions between people a lot.  We tend to assume personality traits based on the way someone appears and I love it when people I meet surprise me in this regard.  Things like this remind you to make your characters interesting.  So I watch and talk to people and file everything away.

I find it almost impossible to shut my imagination down.  Even when I am physically doing something else, I am often “writing in my head.”  Dialogue and scenes that I’m coming to, yet may still be several chapters away, will sometimes just pop into my head and I must write them down or at least scribble some form of note so I don’t forget.

It’s for these reasons I have a notebook with me at all times.  I even have a tape recorder beside the bed, because sometimes I wake up with a scene or dialogue in my head.  I’m a bit obsessive, especially when I’ve got a writing problem to solve.

I set aside time to write and I set minimum word limits for these times. (Some days I don’t make my word limit, but other days I exceed it.)  I use Scrivener for organizing my writing and Scapple for planning and “mind mapping”.  I listen to movie soundtracks when I write and classical music when I edit.

Writing for me is like watching a movie in my head.  Fortunately other writers tell me the same thing! I find if I can visualize a scene like this as I write then I have written something else others will be able to “see” as well.  (And there is nothing better than when your readers tell you they could “see” your story as they read!)  If I can’t visualize it like this, then there’s something seriously wrong with it and I need to re-write it.
Basically, when I’m writing, my brain obsesses about my current story.  When I’m not writing, my brain still obsesses about my story and about my world building for the next one.
Tracy M. Joyce
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About the Author
Tracy M. Joyce is an Australian author of speculative fiction and has long been a fan of the fantasy genre, She likes novels that deal with deep characterisations and that don’t flinch from the gritty realities of life. This and her fascination with the notions of “moral greyness”, that “good people can do bad things” and that we cannot escape our past provide the inspiration for her writing. Combine that with her love of history, horses and archery and you have Altaica. Tracy grew up on a farm in rural Victoria, in a picturesque dot on the map known as Glenburn. She spent half of her childhood riding horses and the other half trying to stay out of trouble - the only way she did that was by reading books and writing stories. She now lives in Melbourne with her husband, two cats and two (very) lazy greyhounds. With a BA (Hons) from Monash University, Tracy spent many years in a variety of administrative roles and never gave up on her childhood dream to become a writer. In her spare time she tutors students in English. Find out more at her website http://www.tracymjoyce.com/ and find her on Twitter  @TracyMJoyce and Facebook.

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