Wyverns and World Building and Tattoos, Oh My! Elizabeth Vaughan Geeks Out About ‘WarDance’

Image: Melanie R. Meadors

This week on Geek Speaks…Fiction! fantasy author Elizabeth Vaughan talks about what she thinks is the best part of writing fantasy, and what made her geek out while she was writing her newest book, Wardance, which is available now!

Geek Mom: What made you geek out while you wrote WarDance?

Well, that’s kinda a ‘duh’. World-building. Which is the best part of writing fantasy.

The first thing I geeked out about was ‘how do you build an army in a culture based on tribal clans?’

I had a few basic details that I had set forth in the prior books, but I wasn’t sure about all the rules, politics, or etiquette involved. So I decided to do research and write an article, with footnotes of my historical sources. [insert squeeee of delight here] Because there is nothing better as far as I am concerned then reading history.

So I was off, reading of the history of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, The Gallic Wars. I wandered off into North American Tribal structures, then the Roman legions. I wandered through the stacks of the library, finding books about Mongolian hordes, some modern military leadership books samurai dueling traditions and was having a lovely time . . . until I realized that all this work wasn’t getting the book written or putting words on the page. [sigh]

So I handed my article, with footnotes, to my writer’s group for a world-building critique, and they handed it back to me dripping blood . . . er . . . red ink. They pointed out the flaws in my system. Every flaw, and some things that might get in the way of my story-telling. So I went back and revised the article based on their notes but I didn’t go research again. [See above reference to ‘putting words on the page’.]

The second thing I geeked out on was monsters. Specifically, wyverns. I had one prior scene with a wyvern attacking, but now I needed more. I needed migratory patterns, attack methods, feeding habit, mating cycles and rituals. I needed them to be black, cold, hard, killing everything in their path except when they were preparing their territory for mating.

So again, I was off, asking questions, watching Youtube videos of reptiles killing their prey, checking out animals that roll in the rotting carcases and the stench of the mating areas of certain creatures. What would a wyvern smell like? Taste like? I even doodled a wyvern or two, and then I hired a professional artist to help me with my critters. Eric Lofgren created this image from my descriptions.

Image: Eric Lofgren

I had that as my wall paper for months when I was writing. And that other creature? I call them airions and I was designing them as well. But airions are going to show up for a while, and the wyverns . . . well, not to spoil anything, but I needed them to wreck havoc in this book.

Because wyverns have nasty stingers with a terrible poison, I researched poisons and remedies and neutralizers and . . . then I realized that all this work wasn’t getting the book written or putting words on the page. [heavy sigh]

The third thing I geeked out about? Well, my heroine was a warrior-priestess, and traditionally the only thing they wore were their full-body tattoos. But she is an apprentice with partial tattoos. I knew she was going to have to enter the Challenges and I wasn’t all that interested in having her naked for those, and frankly she wasn’t stupid enough not to wear some armor . . . so I decided to research corsets. Leather corsets. I added some additional terms into a Google search and hit the button.

Oh dear Lord. I mean, really?

Image: Birch Cove Press, Design by Shawn King

Yes, well, I learned quite a bit about that piece of attire. More than I ever really wanted to know. And wandered into some sites that . . . well, honestly, if brain bleach existed I would have used it. Thankfully, search histories can be deleted.

On the other hand, I learned that what I was thinking of wasn’t a corset, but a corslet and I did find some . . . wholesome . . . images to pass on to my cover artist. And it gave me a bit of material to add to a scene where my heroine is adjusting the corslet so it doesn’t chafe as she moves.

I mean, really, how do those women breathe in those things?

The fourth thing I geeked out about?

Well, that is fairly simple. The writing itself. Because when the stories come together, when the research results in a lovely plot twist, when a wyvern swoops down and threatens your characters, there is no better feeling in the world. I love creating worlds and stories.

I can only hope the reader shares in my pleasure.

About WarDance:

Spring returns to the Plains, and with it, the Time of the Challenges, when warrior fights warrior in a contest for rank and status. For Simus of the Hawk, now is the time to raise his challenge banner, to fight for the chance to finally become Warlord.

But his deadliest challenge does not come from other warriors, or even the sundered Council of Elders. For on the first night of the Challenges, a mysterious and deadly pillar of white light scorches the night sky—instantly changing everything for the People of the Plains.

Now a warrior-priestess, Snowfall, stands before Simus, who dares to speak of peace, of reconciliation. Her knives are sharp, her tattoos alluring, and her cool grey eyes can look through Simus and see…everything.

Now Simus and Snowfall must solve the mystery of the pillar of white light, and protect their people from all the destruction and chaos it brings. Snowfall fights for her place beside Simus, despite resistance from friend and foe.

The warrior-priests have abused their power for many years. Can Simus face the challenge of trusting Snowfall with his honor? And perhaps . . . with his heart?

About Elizabeth Vaughan:

Elizabeth A. Vaughan is the USA Today bestselling author of the Warlands Chronicles series, now available from Berkley Publishing. She loves fantasy and romance novels, and has played Dungeons and Dragons since 1981, both table-top and the online game. Her most recent book, WarDance, comes out on April 11. You can learn more about her books at www.writeandrepeat.com.

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Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy and science fiction stories where heroes don’t always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her work has been published in Circle Magazine, The Wheel, and Prick of the Spindle, and she was a finalist in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Science Fiction Contest. Melanie is also a freelance author publicist and publicity/marketing coordinator for both Ragnarok Publications and Mechanical Muse. She blogs regularly for GeekMom and The Once and Future Podcast. Her short story “A Whole-Hearted Halfling” is in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis, available April 12, 2016.