Make Believe Faces in Make Believe Places

When I was first designing my Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning–under a different name, mind you–I had maps drawn and things labeled.  I had a location in the middle of Maine for the school, towns that the students could visit, and interesting things that could be done in and around the area–which, to be honest, was pretty much all wilderness.

During the process of transplanting my Salem school into another world, I started thinking, “Having it in Maine makes no sense.  But where can I put it so it’s close to Salem?”  Fortunately for me Goggle Maps exist, and I found the perfect place:  the middle of Cape Ann, a small island where the town of Gloucester is located.  I could come up with all sorts of interesting ways to keep the school hidden–after all, what’s the point of writing about a huge, world-encompassing organization if they can’t hide a large group of buildings in plain sight?–and, if I set my mind to it, I could make the school bigger.  Much bigger.

That’s where I got into Blender and began doing a little three dimensional modeling.  I came up with a whole new layout for the school, while keeping the central area–The Pentagram, the Coven Towers, and the Great Hall–all right where they belonged.  So I started thinking big–really big.  And a whole new school was created out of the old.

It's real enough--you just have to look hard and think of it that way.

It’s real enough–you just have to look hard and think of it that way.

Constructing a model of the school and the tunnels that run under the school took weeks.  In actuality, I probably tweaked this model for a few months–in fact, the labels you see in the picture above were put there last month, and this included labels I put on one of the cross-country race tracks–the Green Line–so when people say, “He lost it in the Northwest Passage”, I know where it’s at.

How big is the school  The Great Hall is 175 meters from the north end of the library to the main entrance at the south.  That’s 574 feet if you don’t do the whole metric thing.  That means The Pentagram is much larger–each of the walls between the towers are between 220 meters (722 feet) to 240 meters (787 feet).  And yet when you look at this structure, it fits nicely inside the walls.  From the north Polar Tower to the southern wall next the Gloucester Entrance it’s about 5.5 kilometers (or 3.4 miles), and a good part of the school is about 2 kilometers (1.25 miles) across.  Like I said, it’s a big place with room to move.

Now that I had a place, I was almost ready to start writing the pre-novel, The Scouring.  I just needed to do a little modifying of some of the characters . . .

All of the characters were developed around a starting 2011 time frame, but a lot of them were teaching back in the year 2000, the time of The Scouring.  Not only there, but a few of the current teachers in the work in progress were students.  So you know what was needed?  Time lines.

Ask and you shall have to make your own.

Ask and you shall have to make your own.

As you can see, I know that Erywin, Jessica, Madeline, and Ramona were teaching in 2000, and that Isis, Deanna, and Wednesday–who work at the school in the current novel–were students then.  I also see that Coraline came in as the school doctor on 30 April, 2000–the day after the time of the Scouring.  This is where a time line comes in handy:  it lets you know what people did went, particularly if you’re working on multiple story arcs.  And you also see just about when all the main characters–and a few side characters–were students.  The nice thing here is that Aeon Timeline allows you to export part or all of a time line as an image, and then you can insert that image into a Scrivener file.  So if you don’t want to have two programs up at the same time, just bring in your time line and view it when you feel it’s needed.

Now, one last thing, and it’s about my characters.  I’m an old role playing gamer and GM, or Game Master.  I love making characters, and I like to make them as real as I can.  When I started putting the characters for these stories together, I not only did a little bit of history on each, but I assigned a “face” to them, something that, when I’m first starting out with the character development, I get an idea of how they looked.  Sometimes–like I did for Her Demonic Majesty–the faces are of people whose pictures I just find.  And then there are times, like with the character in The Foundation Chronicles, that they sort of become celebrities in their own right.

Here are the people I picked for each of my characters for The Scouring, and I’ll show you were I altered them.

Instructors:

Jessica Kishna, Mistress of Transformation.  She came from a picture I found of an African-American runway model, with a big helping of the wonderful Angela Basset.

Ramona Chai, Self Defense and Weapons.  Ziyi Zhang.

Matthias Ellison, Music and Arts Director.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Madeline Palmescoff, History.  Mary-Louise Parker.

Erywin Sladen, Formulistic Magic.  Joanna Lumley.

Students:

Isis Mossman.  Chloë Sevigny, but with changes.  Since it was stated in The Scouring that her mother was Egyptian, that meant altering her features and complexion slightly.

Deanna Arrakis.  Deanna was difficult because she’s Iraqi, and it took some time to find good pictures of women from Iraq.  Eventually I settled on a combination so that she has a slightly large nose, a strong chin, large brown eyes, black hair, and a slightly tanned complexion.

Wednesday Douglas.  Here I went totally meta, because I literally came up with the actress first.  That actress is . . . Christina Ricci.  And who is Christina known for playing?

"Why am I dressed like someone's going to die?"  "Wait."

“Why am I dressed like someone’s going to die?”  “Wait.”

There you have it:  Wednesday Douglas, who will have a daughter named Tuesday and a granddaughter named Friday.  And who is one of the best little witches to come out of Salem in a long time.  She doesn’t have pigtails, though.  She hates them.  Now you know why.

And lastly, Supporting Characters:

Helena Lovecraft.  She’s a Kiwi, so I wanted a Kiwi as her “face”, which means I picked Lucy Lawless.  she’s gone through a lot of changes, however:  I kept the body and her intense look, made her half-Māori, darkened her hair and complexion, and gave her “black shark’s eyes”.  All and all, I have always loved Helana, and I have her back story with Erywin, her partner and companion, thought out and down pat.  One day Erywin will even tell Kerry about how she met her “pretty girl”.

Coraline Gallagher, the new School “Nurse”.  Coraline is modeled after Christina Hendricks, thought the young character that Wednesday meets is more like Yo-Saf-Bridge from Firefly (with red hair, naturally) and not Joan Holloway from Mad Men, the person Annie and Kerry meet.  This is also why when “Red” meets Coraline–as she likes to call him–for the first time he doesn’t know how to describe her except as “curvy”, which is his way of being polite.  Coraline is a huge romantic and a hell of a fighter–I still have to publish that except of her and Madam Chai going at it–and Kerry doesn’t know it yet, but he and Nurse Coraline share a birthday.  There is a reason for that . . .

Now that we have all that out of the way, tomorrow I can get into outlining a small novel.

The big one comes after that.

The Light at the Bottom of the Observatory Well

Here we are, holiday time, the year almost over, and here I am thinking about what to eat as I prepare for the Doctor Who Christmas special, which I know will probably rip my hearts to shreds.  Yesterday there was talk among a few people about the South Yorkshire “Man of Steel” sculpture getting a £1 million pledge for it’s construction along the M1, and it was proposed that we should instead build a thirty meter sculpture of Brian Blessed dressed as Prince Vultan screaming out lines from Flash Gordon as only Brian could, then imagining people on the motorway freaking out as they hear things like, “Gordon’s alive?” and “Flying blind on a rocket cycle?”, as well as, “Ah, well . . . who wants to live forever?” which is exactly what you want to hear as you’re roaring down the expressway.

Far better expenditure of £1 million if you ask me.

The novel progressed last night.  It headed over the eight-five thousand word mark, which means it’s close to becoming my second longest novel.  Her Demonic Majesty ended up with a final count of eighty-five thousand three hundred fifty words, and as of right now I’m one thousand, one hundred and three words away from beating that count.  I could do it today, because as I’m on my own, what else am I gonna do?

Last night Annie and Kerry made Observatorytheir way to their next class, which happens to be Astronomy at the Observatory.  Where else would it be held?  One of the things I also did last night was label my map so I won’t get confused, and as you can see I have my Observatory marked.  What was it like there?  Here was what I wrote last night for that section of the novel, again without edits:

 

(Excerpt from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

It was completely dark by the time Annie and Kerry reached the Observatory. The sixty-five meter tower was the second tallest structure on the Salem campus behind the eighty meter clock tower, though the structure was far newer: this was the fourth school observatory, completed in 1985, and remodeled three times since.

They entered the building at ground level and were immediately surprised by what they found. Annie’s parents never told her about the new tower, and Kerry hadn’t read up on the building, so both expected to enter and find a long flight of stairs awaiting. Instead they found a large, round metal platform with a huge Cassegrain-style telescope located in the middle of the tower, a few instrument stations set up around the outer edge of the platform, and several cabinets around the area behind the telescope and a few work tables on each side. A few students were already here, though estimating the size of the crowd, Kerry knew not everyone was yet here.

As they walked cross a small gangway needed to reach the platform Kerry looked up. The tower was hollow, but he saw at maybe ten, maybe a dozen vertical rails rising up into the shadows above. He noticed the railing around the edge of the huge base and it clicked to him why the telescope was here, and how they were going to get into position for viewing today.

A woman with a dark brown complexion stepped away from a panel at the base of the telescope as Annie and Kerry stepped onto the platform. “Ah, children. So very good to see you.” Her accent was sounded somewhat Asian Indian to Kerry, who had come to know a few Indians while living in San Fransisco and Cardiff. “I am Professor Bashagwani, but you may call me Harpreet if you so wish.” She brushed back some of the long back hair that had gotten into her face. “Your names, please?”

“Annie Kirilova.”

“Kerry Malibey.”

Hapreet waved her right hand in the air and a holographic display appeared before her. She scrolled through a list of names until she found theirs. “Ah, yes: my two Cernunnos students.” She closed the fingers of her right hand and the display vanished. “I’m so glad to meet you. Come join your classmates while we wait for the rest of the students.” She turned her back on them and returned to her station.

The walked closer to the students, but Annie saw they were still all in their little groups from their own areas. We haven’t become a class yet; we’re still just people from different areas. She wondered how long it would take before they all saw each other as a group and not a collection of people from around the world.

 

There you are.  Class is about to start, and I someone is going to come up and talk to my kids.  Get ready, Annie:  you’re going to feel a tug on your heart.

Why would she?  Because before they arrived at the Astria PortalObservatory, they stopped at Astria Portal, situated in the old North Wall, and introduced Kerry to an “old family tradition”–said tradition being, as they say in Cardiff, snogging.  Sure, they’re only eleven, but if you don’t think some eleven year olds know a little about snogging these days, you’re not paying attention.

Tonight there will be star gazing and some hot beverage.

And probably a bit of crying.  But that’s another story.

 

Chunneling Through the Storm

Today has been a bit of a disappointment.  First, I run over to Panera for my morning coffee and blogging.  I get everything I need and, boo–the Panera page won’t go past the log-in.  It was really a shame, too, ’cause I’m totally in Allison Mode, which means I have my thermal top on under my turtleneck sweater, and my little gold hoop earrings, and I could almost pull off the “I’m a horny, pissy soccer mom who’s also a clone” look.  Oh, well:  can’t have it all.

Then I get back to the apartment and I discover that a pair of boots I must have didn’t get shipped.  Why?  Maybe because the story doesn’t know how to keep track of their inventory on their web page, and they lead you to believe they have said boots when they don’t.  Bummer.  They were so cute, I gotta have them.  Which means I now have to hunt for another pair that’s probably going to cost me an arm and a leg in the process.

Oi, such a bad morning.  Lets hope the rest of the day is filled with much mirth.  Or at least some happiness.

The story.  Oh, yes, the story.  They’re out of history class, and there was a mention of them attending algebra right after.  Now it’s onto flight school, but there’s one hell of a storm blowing around outside–which is actually different from the weather for that day and time, but I changed it because–well, I wanted the storm.  I have my reasons.  That’s all you need to know.

Anyway:  Chunnel.  So named because when the tunnel was opened on the same day the first breakthrough happened at the English Channel Tunnel, which was 30 October, 1990.  It’s the biggest and longest tunnel at the school, and people started calling it The Chunnel about the same time the thing was opened.

It keeps the students linked to all thing south of The Pentagram.  Chunnel AboveSee here:  when you look south, you see The Pentagram and the Old Classes to the left, the science centers, the Hanger, and the Aerodrome in the lower middle, the Flight School in the upper middle, and all the way to the right The Diamond.  From Founder’s Gate at the south end of the Pentagram Wall to the Flight School is about a kilometer hike over uneven ground.  And it’s raining hard.  Not a lot of fun to walk at the moment.

What are students to do?  Go underground.

Here’s The Chunnel is all its glory, running from Chunnel Belowthe Transformation Passage straight to The Diamond.  One thousand, eight hundred sixty meters long, twelve meters wide, seven meters high.  For those of you not digging metrics that’s six thousand, one hundred feet–or 1.15 miles–almost forty feet wide, and twenty-three feet high.  Everything is connected, so all the students have to do is hit the cut-off tunnel from The Great Hall’s lower levels to the Chunnel, hang a left about six hundred meters along, and trundle over to the Flight School.

It’s quiet, it’s fairly warm, there’s romantic low lighting, and most of all, it’s dry.  You can’t even hear the storm raging overhead because you’re under a several meters of granite.  Along the way two more characters will put in an appearance, and then we get to . . .

Are they going to fly in this weather?

You never know.

 

Time Be Time Again

Here we are, the end of the month in sight and a lot of people appearing in a heightened state of anxiety over what they’re going to do come 1 November.  Fortunately I’m not in that camp.  I was a bit in 2011, when I finished up the research and detail work on my first NaNo novel, but now, two years later, I’m just here for the writing.

Well, that and fooling about with things.  After laying out my little track Friday night, I looked at it after setting up yesterday’s post and thought, “Hey, I know I can follow paths in Blender, so I wonder if I can do that with this track I created?”  Yes and no.  Yes, you can do that in Blender:  it’s actually a very simple operation.  No in that I didn’t set it up correctly at the beginning.  In order to follow a path I needed to create the track as a path, and I’d used a circle instead.  That meant if I wanted to create a short animation of flying around the school, I’d need to redo my track–

Hey, what else was I going to do yesterday?

So it was “Overlay the circle” time, and I spent the better part of ninety minutes doing just that.  Then it was attach the camera to the track, then launch the animation–Whoa!  It was like being in hyperspace, ’cause I did the course in about three seconds.  That meant it was time to play with slowing things down, and adjusting the camera position . . . took another hour or so, but in the end I had something that, from my seat at the laptop, looked pretty cool.

Then I looked at a spot on the track and thought, “Hey, isn’t there suppose to be a dip there?”  Played with the z-axis and not only put in a drop, but made it a double dip.  Then I looked at the point where the track crossed the main road and thought, “Yeah, they’d fly over that at height, not at ground level,” and raised that and turned that section of the course into a climbing turn.  There were a couple of other spots where I needed to do the same, and when it was all done, there I was in, flying along in three dimensions.

Fun little exercise, let me tell you.

Where is the video, you say?  Well, I started rendering it last night, but the moment the render function kicked in a noticed a few things–like, my outer walls are a stark, almost glowing white, and just won’t do.  Things look one way when you’re setting it all up, and completely different when start rendering things, and that means I have to work on materials and colors before I can animate anything, otherwise it’ll be more of an eyesore than it already appears.

The decision I have at the moment is when to start writing.  Sure, I could wait until Friday, but it’s more about getting the novel written and not the word count.  I know I can do fifty in a month; but can I finish this story by the end of the year?

Only one way to find out . . .

Racin’ on the Rock

With all the things that I’ve meant to do for my upcoming novel, there has been one that I’d performed:  I’d not laid out the race course found within the confines of the school–

Race course?  Allow me to explain.

One of “sports” my school allows is racing.  This isn’t something done on dirt bikes or off-road dune buggies, or even late model stock cars.  No, at SIGEL, racing–at least for the A Levels–is done on Class 1 PAVs with an unrestricted top end of one hundred thirty miles per hour and an operational ceiling of about five thousand meters.  They’re based upon a design that was used for hundreds of years before The Foundation came along, which is why even with the superspace transmitters and pop-up HUDs, they looks a lot like a witch’s broom.  Of course there are other types of PAVs, or Personal Aerial Vehicles.  A Class 2 looks a bit like a levitating jet ski, and a Class 3 is a lot like an Akira bike that is even street legal.  And there are other classes that go higher and faster, but that’s neither here nor there . . .

They’re used to learning basic flying, but they’re also used for racing.  And if you’re going to race, you need a place to mix is up.  There’s a rather nice, enclosed bullpen known as The Diamond, which can be configured for all kinds of three dimensional oval events:  after all, if you can move freely along the z-axis, why restrict yourself to the x and y ones?

But there’s also an outdoor course that one can race along, and that was what I’ve been missing for some time.  Sure, I kept telling myself, “I need to do that course,” but I’d never get around to the building.  Mostly because I didn’t know how I should make it.  Draw it?  Map it?  Model it?

In the end it was a simple decision:  all you need is an unbroken line that goes around in a circle.  Nothing fancy, just a course line.  Because, in my head, I know what’s there.

Blender is was, then, because it’s easy to take a circle and stretch Course Layoutit out and made it go where you want it to go.  It takes time to get it things worked out just as you might like, but in the end, if you know what you want, you’ll get it right–just like I did in the picture at right.

The line the runs along the wall is the course.  Not sure of the total length, but given that the campus is a mile across at the widest point, and about two and and a half miles between the north to south walls, I’d say I have something along the lines of a flying Spa-Francorchamps.  And while there are “safety features” along the course that will keep kids from slamming into trees and the wall at high speed, that doesn’t mean one can’t get hurt enough to find themselves on the way to the hospital.  Hey, you gotta fly it like you stole it, right?

You can see the route.  The start-finish is down by The Diamond–at the five o’clock position–with the course going counter-clockwise.  Heading up the long, sweeping start and a couple of easy turns before hitting The Main Twist, then a straight run to the Sunrise Glides, through the Lake Gate and into the Esses, a left at the Polar Turn, then another left onto the Cove Straight before hitting the fast, sweeping left hand turn, Sunset Boulevard, leading into the hairpin Base Drop.  Through the woods to the right-then-left hand Goose Tail, then onto the Gloucester Sweep.  A slight straight before hitting the Diamond Chicane, then you reach the start-finish–and do it again.

Congratulations.  You just finished a lap on my new course.

I hope it sounds as good when my characters are crashing and burning.

 

The Sun On the Trail

So far this morning I’ve woken at four AM, drove through the darkness to arrive at my local Panera for a breakfast sandwich and coffee, and spent ten minutes helping someone get the wireless card in their computer running.  Yes, I’m off and running, and it’s not even seven AM.

Now I have the earphones in and I’m listening to City to City, and Baker Street is playing and the day feels good.  Never mind the fact that my right eye was bothering me again last night, making it difficult to do anything because my left eye was the only one that wasn’t all clouded up with junk and burning.  Still, I worked on, because that’s how it goes, right?  You work thought it, even if it means you feel like lying down and doing nothing but moan.

I managed to finish my school layout last night.  This is something I started back before my Camp Salem AboveNaNo story started, and it was also something I’d need for the novel that follows.  What you see to your right is the school grounds from the air:  all the buildings, all the towers and walls, all the roads and trails, even a couple of lakes and springs and a large meadow.  There are even a few things that, if you squint, you’ll see, like trees, covered stairs leading below, and a couple of graves.  Yes, I said graves, because we have dead people hanging out at this joint.  I know every point on this map, because I’ve pretty much lived with this place for a couple of years.  Some might say I’ve lived in it, but what do they know?

But do I stop at what you can see?  No.  Because there’s always more to the picture than you can see . . .

I also designed the tunnel and basement system that runs under the school.  Salem BelowIt only makes sense:  this place is right on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and during the winter you’re gonna get snow and cold and even a Storm of the Century every so often.  When that happens you don’t want your kiddies walking a half mile through ankle-deep snow to their next class–ergo, tunnels.  And basements where dangerous experiments are held, or where control rooms are set up, or where you have a lot of storage because you never know when you’ll need something.

There are only a couple of features that need adding, but I can get to that later.  The Salem Institute of Greater Education and Learning is complete.  All that remains is the writing of its tales.

Speaking of tales, I set up the Scrivener project for the short story I’m going to write.  I’m going to start on that today at some point, and I do promise it’ll be a short story–which is why I used the short story template for my project.  This isn’t going to be dragged out:  it’s going to be quick and to the point.  The story is really more about how one character takes to having to do “official” things, and it’s meant to be something of a character-building bridge than anything else.  No great ideas will be developed; no terrors quelled; no threats extinguished.  Just fun.

At some point this morning I’m going to head up north and get pictures of the Appalachia Trail.  I discovered it’s about twenty minutes north of me, so I’ll drive to the point where it crosses the river and walk across.  That way I can say I hiked the Trail.

Maybe I should bring my survival gear.  You never know what dangers are lying in wait for me . . .

 

Builder of Worlds

I received a new toy the other day:  the beta version of Scapple for Windows.  Scapple is a mind mapping program, a very simple system that allows you to diagram your thoughts and working out plots, characters, locations, anything your heart desires.  I’ve waited for this software for a while, since it’s made by the same people who make Scrivener, and on the Mac version of both programs it’s possible to drag notes from one program to the other when you’re in the mood to think things out in the middle of a complex story.

When I posted this link a discussion came up about the uses of software for writing, and I mentioned that I’ve used mind mapping software before, and that I’ve used a number of other programs, too, when building a world that is my story.  The question came back, “What software do you use, Cassie?”    I sent a PM to the person who asked, then started thinking last night, “Hey, maybe someone else will be interested to see the sort of tools I use when the writing madness strikes.”

If you’ll allow, I’ll show the thing I use, and maybe you’ll find some of this information useful.

Shall we begin?

First off, I use Scrivener for writing.  I’ve wrote about Scrivener many times, even going so far as to post pictures of SA Startmy projects–like the one at right which comes from December of 2012.  Lets get this out of the way right now:  Scrivener is not simply a word processor, it’s a project management tool.  The idea is to have all the things you need for your story in one place, and eliminate the need to bring up multiple files onto your desktop and flip back and forth looking for something.  If it were “just” a word processor, it wouldn’t be worth the $40, but it’s more than that, and that makes it well worth the price of admission.  Plus I have a fifty percent off code from Camp NaNo, and you never know who might end up getting that little gem.

Since Scapple is in beta mode at the moment, and will likely not be ready for full-out production until right before NaNo 2013, I use FreeMind for all my mind mapping needs.  FreeMind is Java based so it’ll run on any computer that uses Java, and it’s open source, so it’s free, but kick in a donation if you’re in the mood.  It’s not a perfect tool, but once you learn the ins and outs of how it works, you can build mind maps in no time.  Another nice thing is that the saved mind map can be imported into Scrivener, and it’ll set up separate text cards for each point in your map, which means you only have to go and fill in the words.

Aeon Timeline isn’t available for Windows at the moment, though I’ve seen that they are working hard on a Windows version.  Time Line Blog 01Since it’s not available, I use Timeline, which is another Java-based, free program released under the GNU General Public Licence version 3.  I’ve written about this program and its use a few times as well, and thought it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Aeon has, if you are looking for a quick and dirty way to lay out your time graphically, it does the job.  The learning curve is minimal, and since it doesn’t have a lot of stuff loading up in the background, it runs fast on just about any machine.  It’s also great for plotting out all those stories you’re going to write about characters who’ll be around for a very long time, and figuring out where all the events of their lives take place . . .

I’ve said it before:  I like to make maps.  For some stories you need them, or at least I Pentagram Closeupdo.  There are a few programs out there that will allow you to draw up maps, but years ago at GenCon I bought Fractal Mapper, which was really designed for the gaming community, but works wonders if you want to lay out something for a story.  The shapes may not be exactly what you need, and the sometimes drawing roads and paths isn’t always easy, but once you figure out how all that stuff works, you can draw up towns and villages, or those secret government complexes that people seem to want to write about so much.

When I want to look at the layout of a building I use Sweet Home 3D, another Java-based, open source Main Hall 518program.  This program will not only allow you to develop the floor plan of a building, but you’ll be able to see it in 3D from both an aerial view, and a walk-through view.  This program came in handy, because for my last story i created the structure you see on the right, and I was able to figure out where action occurred when I needed it to occur.  Some might call it overkill:  I say I’m getting it right.

If you are of a mind to see how your worlds really look, Pentagram Southeastdo what I do:  get Blender and start modeling.  So far I’ve used it to create a space ship, and to lay out the school where my last story takes place.  Once you figure out how to scale your models, you can build something huge:  for example, the building on the right is five hundred fifty feel from front to back, so you can imagine the size of everything else in that picture.  This is a step most people will never take, but I’m one of those people who sometimes need to see their creations, and there’s few programs that do this better.  Blender is, if you haven’t guessed yet, free to all, and will run on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems.

The last program I use from time to time is only for those of us who write science fiction and like to create real worlds–as in, I build solar systems.  I’ve done this more than a few times, both for stories and for games I’ve run/played.  The program I use for this world building is AstroSynithesis, which is currently on version 3.0.  I’ve Cymru Newydd Systemwritten about this software before, most famously in a post when, because I had a character speaking to a person he’d just met he guessed the world she came from orbited a K Class star, I decided I better design that world just in case my character was wrong about his observations.  You can see that world and its moons to the right, because the program not only allows you to lay out orbits and figure out the rotational periods of the worlds, but you can see what your systems look like the 3D.  I plan to get the newest version–I’m still on version 2.0, since I bought it at the same time as Fractal Mapper–because the next thing i want to map is The ‘Verse, which is something I should be able to do with the newest version.  Why do I want to do that?  I’ve an article I want to write . . .

It goes without saying that I also use Google a lot–everyone should try it, it’s like magic!–and there are a number of websites with conversion calculators that I’ll use from time to time, depending upon what I’m writing.

There you have it, the tools I use for building my worlds.  Maybe some of these are going to be useful to you, maybe not.  But you now know where they are if you suddenly have the urge to start time lining the life of one of your characters.

Oh, I forgot:  there’s one tool on here that I didn’t mention, one that I absolutely need for any of my stories–

My imagination.

Just try writing a story without one.