Archaeology Dig Exercise Sample: Top Layer

Note:  If you haven’t read Last Week’s Post, this one won’t make much sense.

Before I start, something I probably should have mentioned in my last post — archaeology takes many forms, and both the sorts of archaeological practices used and the types of finds one might find vary greatly around the world, and furthermore has changed greatly from the origin of the science to today. If you’re conducting an archaeological dig searching for architectural finds in Turkey in the Late 19th, early 20th Century (the Heinrich Schliemann style of dig), practices could be somewhat destructive, but you’d be finding ruins of whole stonework buildings that could be restored.  If you’re digging in North America in the 21st century, you’re likely using minimally invasive techniques, and you would (mostly) be looking for differences in soil patterns to show where wooden walls have decomposed. You can decide what type of findings you want to report, and how realistic you want the findings to be.  After all, most people doing this are writers, not archaeologists (unless you’re both, in which case… wow, cool!), so you shouldn’t be expected to know exactly what sorts of things archaeologists find.  For my sample the findings are… not necessarily realistic, but I’m trying to keep them fun.  You’ll see what I mean.

Sample I:  Top Layer

Archaeologists:

  1. Ceramics and Pottery:  Dr. Jordan Potter
  2. Architecture:   Dr. Leia Villa
  3. Osteoarchaeology: Dr. Anne Bein
  4. Battlefield Archaeology:  Dr. Yari Makura
  5. Epigraphy:  Dr. Aroon Carver
  6. Metallurgy:  Dr.  Cannon Ferreum

(These will be the archaeologists used for each layer; I am personally assigning them all by dice role, corresponding to their number above, but you can decide for yourself how you want them divided, as long as you make sure you randomize them each week)

You will also run into the Dig Team, which conducts the bulk of the excavation.  The Dig Team report will break down why each site is being surveyed, and what was found (or what was expected, but not found) to explain why they brought in the experts.

Instead of going with “Iron, Bronze, Stone, etc.” age, I’m going with Modern Era, 5th Era, 4th Era, 3rd Era, 2nd Era, and 1st Era (I have a rough idea of what date range the real world equivalent of these eras would have been, but that would be too much of a ‘spoiler’ to include).

Site I:

Assigned Archaeologists:  Dr. Anne Bein, Dr. Jordan Potter

Dig Team Report:
This site is an unusual one — a perfectly square field dead set in the middle of a forest, with the edges aligned north to south and east to west.  The treeline around the site is too uniform to be natural, but the site has not been inhabited in the modern era.  The field itself contains several rows of large mounds.  Old records suggest this was the site of a monastery, with accompanying graveyard, occupied from early in the Second Era to the end of the Fifth.
As part of the dig site is supposed to be a graveyard, we invited Dr. Anne Bein to examine any human remains we discover.
After completing the excavation of the top layer, we cannot say for certain whether we have found the actual monastery or not.  What we did find was soil patterns suggesting a charred wooden wall at the northern edge of the field.  Not far south of the wall was a void in the ground that proved to be a man-made cistern, where six extremely large clay pots were resting.  The excavation only revealed the very top of the cistern, but we sent some people down into it to make a full examination.  They concluded that cistern almost certainly pre-dated the dawn of the Fifth era, and may have been built as far back as the First Era, but only further excavation could say for certain.  Debris around the scene suggests it must have been in use into the Fifth Era, whenever it was originally built, however.  We have called in Dr. Jordan Potter for a more definitive examination of these clay pots, to perhaps discover what the purpose of this cistern might have been.

Dr. Anne Bein’s Report:
I was called in to examine several graves found in Site I.  It was difficult to get to the prize of the dig, the skeletons, as they were buried underneath domes of stone and earth, each about twenty meters apart, twenty such domes in two rows aligned east to west.  There were several grave goods included in each burial, all of the same metal.  But who cares about that?
The skeletons were fascinating.  Fiber fragments suggest each body was trussed up in hemp rope before burial, for some reason, and staked to the ground aligned in a North to South direction.  The heads of all the buried bodies were removed, so we have no dental work to examine — a shame, that, as teeth are some of my favorite indicators for diet and health — nor any hair.  The same ritual was done both for humans and their animal companions, as we found many canine skeletons buried in the same manner.
I directly examined nine skeletons.  Five were male, four female, ages ranging from twenty to fifty.  Analysis of stress patterns in the bones suggest the bodies buried here were uniformly of people who were very heavily muscled, almost to their own detriment.  No suggestion any of them were malnourished appear, but several of the skeletons showed signs of stress in the individuals’ youth.  There are no definitive signs of a cause of death on any of the bodies, which is unusual.

Dr.  Jordan Potter’s Report:
I took a close look at the pottery that was unearthed during the dig.  Six large clay pots, too heavy to be carried, were found in some sort of odd cistern, as the dig team described.  In these pots were a number of coins, all of the same metal (possibly silver?).  I sent pictures of these coins to Dr. Cannon Ferreum for identification.  He says he wishes he could be here, as the coins we’ve found cover every era from the First to the Fifth.  Given that the coins themselves appeared in layers, it appears these coins were tossed into these pots when the site was first occupied, and people continued to feed it without touching the earlier coins until the site’s eventual abandonment at the start of the modern era.  A massive horde of coins to never be touched.
In addition to these clay pots, we found fragments of numerous heavily decorated shallow bowls, in which food substances of some sort were discovered.  I cannot read the writing on these bowls, and Dr. Carver was too busy to come and translate, but pictures of the moon were prominent on every bowl.
The study of the substances inside the bowl should be in Dr. Bein’s province, as they’re biological, but she was too busy cackling over how important the bones were to listen to me when I tried to get her attention (quite good in her field, but rather obsessed with bones only, that woman), so I sent them to the lab for analysis.  It was determined that these foods were all red meat, sometimes cooked and sometimes left raw.  There were surprisingly few grains or vegetables found in these bowls, suggesting they were used exclusively for meat.  We also found fragments of what we believe were fermentation pots, used for the brewing of (as trace analysis determined) barley-grain beer.

Site II:

Assigned Archaeologists:  Dr. Yari Makura, Dr. Leia Villa

Dig Team Report:
This site was selected because of how unusual it was.  Once a major harbor town based in a sheltered river that had been an area of continuous settlement for centuries, and one of the most important Naval anchorages in our history, an earthquake in the early Fifth Era diverted the river and the port dried up, with several warships trapped on the riverbed, and a once thriving city was abandoned.  We brought in Dr. Yari Makura in the hopes of finding these ships.
However, during the dig, we also discovered some unexpected ruins in what would have been the riverbed at the end of the fourth, start of the fifth era.  While we continue to dig up earlier layers of the port city, we contacted Dr. Leia Villa to try and decipher just what the heck stone buildings were doing on the bottom of a river.

Dr. Yari Makura’s Report:
This is not my usual type of site to explore, nor my typical specialty — I’m more used to studying battlefields on, you know, fields, not riverbeds.  Still, there were quite a few things of interest discovered.
Most of the ships themselves haven’t survived, but elements from them have.  The ships appear to have been largely scavenged, but I was surprised to see a surviving bronze pot-de-fer had been left behind — a late fourth to early 5th era weapon I was unaware had ever been used on a ship.  That appears to agree with the date that the earthquake was supposed to have destroyed this harbor, but some other things on this very same wreckage are confusing. Other ships from this era are known to have been built with iron nails or treenails, but this particular wreckage was build entirely with copper nails.  I was under the impression that such copper nails weren’t used until the end of the fifth century, to solve the problems those other two types of nails caused.
The same wreckage also uncovered things such as brass storm lanterns, some unusual dirks (very plain, no decorations, but quite functional) made out of bronze, some ceramic grenade shells, multiple brass beams, and — in the most unexpected find — several stacks of one-inch thick, six foot by eight foot sheets of a fluorescent green glass, all in perfect condition.  Dating evidence suggests the brass beams and glass sheets are much older than the rest of the cargo on the ship, and a closer examination suggests both may have been components of the same structure, but there appears to be something missing that would allow them all to be assembled together.

Dr. Leia Villa’s Report:
Well, this is just fascinating!  Apparently, there was a massive bridge built over the river that used to be on this site, which isn’t all that unusual, but there was effectively a small city built on top of that bridge, as row houses lined one side of the bridge, and shops, stores, factories, and other businesses lined the other.  The bridge was supported with massive stone pillars, held together by hydraulic concrete, with four rows of twelve massive, heavy-duty arches to span the gaps.  This is all made out of granite, which is astonishing — the nearest source of such granite would have been far away (the color and other characteristics of the stone make me think it would be from Site III, though given the city in Site III was abandoned after the second age, that would suggest this bridge survived for an astonishing length of time).  In fact, there is almost no usable stone of any kind in the local area, so finding stonework of any kind is a surprise.
The row houses weren’t especially large, but were double-storied, with the two stories sometimes connected and sometimes not.  Mostly made up of salt-glazed bricks (whose yellow color suggest were also imported, though not from Site III, as the local clay would produce red bricks.  The salt glazing suggests the brick buildings on this bridge were added long after the bridge itself, assuming the Site III source is accurate as the source of the granite).  The bricks were most often laid in a herringbone pattern.  Given the number and variety of artifacts found in the ruins, most of these houses were occupied by one to two people.
The businesses were more varied, but there were some common features to most of them.  Every building on that side of the river had a plate glass front (I will note this was a different type of glass than the fluorescent glass my colleague discovered; this was more of a silica glass, and while thicker than the standard windowpane glass in modern times, it was nowhere near as thick; a quarter to a half-inch thick, at most).  This would display every part of the business, regardless of what was going on inside — even blacksmiths would have their furnaces and forges on display as they worked.
The big question is what caused this bridge city to collapse.  Yes, an earthquake might cause this kind of damage, but the earthquake that shifted the river was too distant to take down this bridge.  The capstones on the arches were well set, the stone pillars — while they had fallen over –were unbroken, and even many of the houses and shops were completely intact.  They were just… lying on the riverbed, covered in built-up silt and new-growth grass.  Unlike the ships, which Dr. Mukara tells me were salvage after the river moved, the bridge collapse appeared sudden and unexpected.  There were bodies of people still in their beds.
Furthermore, dating evidence suggests the bridge remained occupied even AFTER the river had changed direction and the rest of the city was abandoned.  While the river was diverted early in the fifth era, and the city slowly abandoned by the middle, this bridge remained occupied to the very end.
And we have NO historic record of its existence.
Peculiar.

Site III:

Assigned Archaeologists:  Dr. Aroon Carver, Dr. Cannon Ferreum

Dig Team Report:
This site on a massive hilltop is supposed to be the location of a major city from the First and Second Era, when the city was abandoned for unexplained reasons.  We were not expecting to find anything later than that, however, as the land has not been occupied since, as far as we know.
However, long before we were expecting to hit city, we started uncovering some strange elements.  Findings in the soil suggested someone was digging robber trenches, which normally would have been dug by looters.  Whatever these robber trenches were stealing, they did not go far enough down to reach the city we were hoping to find… and they may well have left behind more than they took.  Placed in particular spots in these trenches, we’ve found strange metal slabs, just small enough for one person to carry in one hand, all with indecipherable writing covering one face on them.  We called in Dr. Cannon Ferreum and Dr. Aroon Carver to examine them.

Dr. Cannon Ferreum’s Report:
I was brought in to examine some metal tablets.  These slabs of metal, seven discovered so far, measure approximately six inches by nine inches by one inch.  While they all were fashioned to appear as if they are gold slabs, analysis determines that six of them were actually formed out of an alloy composed of roughly ninety percent copper and nine percent zinc.  That remaining one percent was originally believed to be basic impurities, but we then determined it was all biological material.  Lab work has come back suggesting this material was blood, though whatever process was used to form the alloy destroyed most of the identifying markers in that blood.  What little can be determined from that blood suggests each slab was made with the blood from a different type of animal — four mammals, one bird, and one lizard.  The seventh slab was made of gold, but again it was mixed with blood — human blood.  While I’ve heard theatrical old wives tales of people who tempered the steel of a sword in blood during the smithing process, I’ve never heard of it used as an actual, measurable component in an alloy, before.

Dr. Aroon Carver’s Report:
Interesting.  Very interesting.  The runes on these metal slabs look carved in, not merely etched — just like you would use on a stone tablet or something.  The tool markings suggest only one of them was actually carved, however — the one Dr. Ferreum identified as the one made out of real gold.  The others were merely cast to look carved, but were not carved themselves.
There are some identifiable runes mixed in with characters from syllabaries and alphabets either foreign or entirely unfamiliar to me.  The writing on all seven slabs is identical, save for a single section (or paragraph?) at the very bottom of each of them.  Much of what I can identify is gibberish, but always in these varied paragraphs there is a single word I can read that differs from slab to slab.  These words may correspond with the type of blood used in the alloys that Dr. Ferreum described — four of them mention mammals (bear, wolf, warthog, and mountain lion), one mentions a bird (hawk), one mentions a lizard (snake), and the pure gold one mentions “you,” which… well, I would assume the reader was human.  What else would they be?
I want to look into these slabs some more.  I think I’ll take them with me as I go from dig to dig, and try to interpret them further.

Wrap Up

Well, there’s the sample.  This was a bit more work than I originally intended, but only because I was deliberately using a different method for deciding what I would include on each “site.”

The first site, I had a long list of things I’d been thinking of including (a list with things like “coin horde,” “shrine,” “dagger,” “mysterious field,” “brickwork,” etc.), and used dice to determine what would be found, and finally came up with a bit of a story that might allow me to connect those things together.

The second site, I started with a particular story I wanted to tell, and came up with hints of what that story might be.  I didn’t get to everything I wanted to include, but those other things can show up in the next few layers.

The third site, I allowed which archaeologists I had assigned to it to determine just what it was they found.  And since I connected the second and third sites, I also added a few hints of that connection as well, but that was almost incidental to what I had my fictional archaeologists describe.

A little housekeeping:  I’ve moved my old links page from the old Fennec Fox Press website to here, and fixed a couple outdated or broken links from it.   The old links page is still working, it just isn’t being maintained (a lot of that site is now broken, and that’s due to hosting limitations, so — as I said a few weeks ago — I’ll slowly be moving it over here).

Also, like I said, this took a bit longer than I was expecting, so I may take my time and give myself an extra week before I give you the second layer… but if I do, I’ll still have a post next weekend.  I salvaged a couple of my favorite posts from the old blog, digging through the Wayback Machine, so I’ll be reposting them at various points, filling out those weeks I can’t get a fresh post ready in time.  So next week, I will guarantee a post… though whether that’s ‘new’ or ‘classic,’ well… we’ll see.  Until then!

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Fantasy Worldbuilding Exercise, Part I: Archaeology Dig

So, for my first ‘real’ blog since restoring it to functionality, let’s just jump right in with a series of posts on some of the fantasy world-building exercises I’ve come up with over the years.  Most of these are entirely original, though a couple are variations on things I’ve seen in the past.  Several require one or more partners, but several others can be done on their own.  Let’s get started!

Introduction:

This first exercise, I have to admit, is something I’ve pulled from someone else.  In my first year of junior high, I had a very good history teacher (I’m afraid I no longer remember their name — it was more years ago than I’m willing to admit) who used a very similar exercise to demonstrate what sort of historical evidence could be found from archaeological digs.

Now, he made a mistake with his stratigraphy, which no-one in our class caught (but me.  And only at the very end.  Heh), which would have — if it were from a real archaeological dig — suggested that the society being studied started in the steel age, and devolved into the iron age, bronze age, and down into the stone age, but if you’re a writer, you should know better.  Writers, after all, need to know a little bit about everything (don’t believe me?  Think about how far traveled that Lord of the Rings meme about “Looks like meat’s back on the menu, boys,” simply because someone scriptwriting the movie (the line is not in the book) didn’t know the word ‘menu’ would imply the existence of Orcish restaurants in Middle Earth), so they should know that the top layer in an archaeological did is the most RECENT layer, not the earliest.

Requirements:

I recommend a partner for this one (someone who is also a writer working on their world building), though over the next few weeks I’ll be providing a sample you can use to do the second half of it.  You may also want something to time yourself, several sheets of paper you can write on (as an academic exercise, I suggest using pencil and paper for the first part, since you MIGHT want to add sketches as you go, but the second stage can be done on computer or however you’re most comfortable), and — just in case you get stuck — a desk encyclopedia for reference (or Wikipedia works too, I guess, but if you’re using pen and paper the desk encyclopedia might work better).

Exercise:

You and your partner will each need (at least) five sheets of paper.  You can do this with as many ‘layers’ as you want, but I think five should be the minimum, and each ‘layer’ needs its own sheet of paper.  If you really want to challenge yourself, do this first section timed, giving yourself five minutes for each ‘layer.’  (If you do not have a partner, I will be providing a sample set in the next few blogs that you can work from)

Create for yourself a set of ‘archaeologists’ who each specialize in one of the following subjects:

(As a note, there are many other fields and sub-fields in archaeology, but these are the ones I feel best fit this exercise… and I don’t think it works with more than six)

For each ‘layer,’ you will have three ‘sites’ being dug. Assign two of these specialists to each ‘site.’  List 2-3 things each archaeologist finds on each site.  Some specifications:  Each Archaeologist will only report things focused on their specialty, though you can mention related incidentals (for example, your architect specialist can say there were mummies found in the pyramid, or your osteoarchaeologist can mention what the bones they found were buried in and\or what killed them, but neither are qualified to know what the dagger the bodies were buried with is made of, or what the writing on the tomb said).  Each layer will be from a different era, and you will be going backwards for each layer (for example,  you will start in the Medieval era, the next layer will cover Ancient, then Iron Age, Bronze Age, and finally go to the Stone Age), so make the findings era-appropriate.  This is for ‘fantasy’ world-building, so some of the items you find can be magical (and if you want to write a short bit about a particular archaeologist being effected magically by a cursed artifact, as long as you don’t kill them off before the final layer, go for it!), but do try to keep them something comprehensible.  And any writing found by the Epigraphist can only include fragmentary histories, at best.

Once each of you has all of your layers set up, trade with the other person, take the findings, and ‘interpret’ the history. Once you’re done, you have the “history” of your fantasy world.

If you don’t understand what I mean by this, over the next few weeks I’ll be presenting my own “sample” set of layers (culminating with my own interpretation of them) for this exercise:

  • Top Layer
  • 2nd Layer
  • 3rd Layer
  • 4th Layer
  • 5th Layer
  • Interpretation

Links will be added as the layers are posted.  Good luck, and remember to have fun!

Full Exercise List (Links will be added as the exercises are posted):

  • Exercise I:  Archaeology Dig
  • Exercise II:  Building a Government
  • Exercise III:  Bestiaries
  • Exercise IV:  Magic Systems… and Rules Lawyering
  • Exercise V:  Handling Fantastical Linguistics
  • Exercise VI:  Tools of the Trade (By Era)
  • Exercise VII:  Music, Art, and Architecture
  • Exercise VIII:  Arms and Armor (Or Armorless Arms?)
  • Exercise IX:  Historical Parallels
  • Exercise X:  Establishing Traditions
  • Exercise XI:  Is Meat Back on Your Menu?
  • Exercise XII: Making Money
  • Exercise XIII:  Quackery within Miraculous Medicine
  • …? (Reserved for when I’m inspired)
  • Conclusion:  The Things That Matter

 

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Fennec Fox Press REBORN! (this blog, too)

Introduction

Well, perhaps it’s a bit much to say it’s been ‘reborn,’ given that I never formally shut Fennec Fox Press down.  However, for a couple of years, I was on an unannounced (and unexpected) hiatus… and I couldn’t have even announced it on this blog, if I’d wanted to, because the blog wasn’t working.  The blog broke a couple years ago, when my hosting provider ‘migrated’ my website to a different server, and it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I finally got things working again (by deleting the old blog and starting fresh).

This was on top of my computer having died unexpectedly (I believe my last post on the old blog, which was right before the migration that turned it ‘read only’ for the last two years, said that I lost very little from that computer failure; this has since proven to not be… entirely accurate), my laptop dying (and it’s replacement dying exactly two years and one month later — just weeks after the warranty ran out), various medical issues (both mine and others in my family), and, well, the whole Covid mess that turned the world on its edge.  And that’s just the beginning — I’m not going to go into everything, now.  This blog is going to be long enough, as it is.

So here’s a recap of what I’ve done these past few years, a discussion of what I’m doing right now, and a projection on what I hope to do in the future…

These Past Few Years

I’ve been extremely busy these past few years.  Unfortunately, I don’t have much to show for it, in terms of my writing, as a lot of it involved doing work around the home, for family, etc…. but ‘not much’ does not mean ‘nothing.’

To begin with, it may not seem like much, but I’ve joined the National Association of the Self-Employed.  Now, I doubt there’s anything to announce from that which any of you are likely to care about, but some of the resources I now have access to through this organization will be quite helpful for some of my future plans.  More on that, below.

Also, on a VERY limited basis (I’ve only done it once, so far, and agreed in principle to do it a second time), I’ve started doing book design for other authors.  I will not allow this to interfere with my writing, but if you’re interested in hiring someone to do this, contact me and we can discuss it.

Plus, I (and my brother; he’s been even more involved than me) have been helping my mother with her new Youtube show on quilting and fabric art.  In the process of putting this show together, we (as a family) have acquired some decent sound equipment, editing software, and other things I may be able to use, myself, in the future (but more on that, later).

Now, as for published work, things have been sparse, but not nonexistent.  First off, if you were around for my old blog, you may recall my occasional mention of an old computer game from my youth called “Starflight.”  Well, by pure happenstance, I learned of an anthology being produced for that game which was soliciting short stories.  I submitted my own story, and it got in.  The result was Starflight: Tales from the Starport Lounge.

The publisher has said  that this is only the first tie-in work he intends to produce for this game, so maybe one day I’ll have a chance to do even more on it, but for now you  can see my first short in the Starflight universe, “Hiro of Arth,” wherein I tried to rectify differences between the various editions of the game (if you bought the game for IBM in 1986 and compared it to the version of the game produced for the Sega Genesis in 1991, the story and many game mechanics would be the same, but there were several distinct differences as well), provide an explanation for the canon in-game existence of the game’s hint book (which was written in a narrative format, like a novella, itself, and sold separately when the game first game out.  The central conceit of the hint book was that it was was a ship’s log recovered from a wrecked ship, and you would have to search it for clues you could use in the game.  My story deals, in part, with the recovery of that hint book from the wreckage of that ship), and tell an interesting story that led directly to the starting point of the game, if you were a player, as the Hiro — uh, I mean hero — of the Sega Genesis version of the game.

The book is currently available in eBook, paperback, hardback, and recently audiobook formats, and features stories written by the likes of Robert Silverberg, DJ Butler, and yours truly (as well as many others), with a total of seventeen stories and an introduction by the game’s original creator.

Plus — and this was nearing completion when I went on my unplanned hiatus, but still needed a bit of finishing, editing, and other production work done to it, all of which was delayed by, well, everything I mentioned above — the third book in my Law of Swords series, In Division Imperiled, was released.  Hopefully, by now, you’ve read the first two books of that, and know what to expect from it.

Unfortunately, that’s all I have published, so far, from that hiatus… but it’s not everything I’ve done.  Not by a long shot.

In The Works

The thing I’m sure most visitors to my blog want to hear about is the status of the sequel to The Merrimack Event.  Well, that sequel, now entitled The Farragut Affair, is quite far along in the process.  In fact, restoring this blog to full functionality became a priority because of how far along I am — I want to be able to let as many of the fans of the first book know that the sequel should be out later this year.  Exactly when, I can’t yet say (there are little things like editing, cover art, etc. to be dealt with, plus I need to finish writing the *expletive deleted* thing, though that’s well in hand by this point), but this year is almost certain.

I’ve also got a story coming out in Worlds Enough: Fantastic Detectives.  This story is set in the same universe as “A Gun for Shalla” from the previous Worlds Enough anthology, featuring the same setting and some of the more minor characters from that story, though stars a different set of main characters.  The publisher just learned of a slight hiccup in the production, which likely will effect the originally intended release date, but I still expect it to be out some time in the next few months.

Finally, there’s the audiobook for the aforementioned “A Gun for Shalla.”  During the hiatus, as a part of my mother’s Youtube show set-up, we acquired the audio equipment and software needed to do some first-rate audio recordings.  I’d prepared a ‘script’ to read, including what I think of as an audiobook’s frontmatter, and had everything ready to go. I’d even found myself a soundproof recording studio I could use to record it in (for free!  A service provided by my local library), and set an initial date to start recording.

And then Covid shut everything down, including the recording studio.

Everything is still ready to go, however, and now that the lockdowns are over and the library has opened its services back up, I intend to start recording as soon as the manuscript to “The Farragut Affair” is in my editor’s hands.  With luck, I’ll have the audiobook ready to go before the editor gets his notes on that manuscript back to me.  Not sure how long post-production will take (it’s my first time doing this sort of thing, after all), but I’m confident I’ll get it out before the end of the year, as well, assuming the recording studio doesn’t shut down on me again.

More Long-Term Plans

I don’t want the issues that caused this initial hiatus to happen again.  Obviously, there’s nothing that I — personally — can do to prevent another worldwide pandemic from coming out of nowhere and disrupting my life and the lives of everyone around me, but there are other things that I can — and have — done to deal with some of the other issues that have arisen these past few years.

Much of this has been behind the scenes.  Revamping how I back-up my computer (actually backing up BOTH hard drives in my computer, and not just the data drive, for instance), learning new software that I can keep up-to-date, etc.  The software I was using to build my books, both print and eBook, could no longer be installed on my new computer, some of it could only be replaced with a ‘rental’ model (which I refuse to do), one piece of software was no longer necessary, and in at least one case the software was no longer being updated; so I’ve moved on.  Scrivener 1.2 has been replaced with Scrivener 3, Adobe inDesign 6.0 by Quark Xpress, and I’ll be integrating Kindle Create throughout my book production process for the foreseeable future.

But I also have to do something about my website(s), re-focusing them so that, if there’s another issue in the future, they can be repaired easier without my relying on third party intervention.  To that end, I intend to gradually move elements of the Fennec Fox Press website over to this one, with the ultimate goal of turning fennecfoxpress.com into a re-direct link to the appropriate page, here.  It may seem counter-intuitive to switch my focus from the website that never broke to the one that did, but truth be told I don’t need two separate websites any more.  When I first started, there were features that the website builder I was using for the Fennec Fox Press site offered which weren’t available here, and there were things I could do here that I couldn’t do on the Fennec Fox Press website, so it made sense to use both.  However, everything I needed from the website builder (including some tools I always wanted to use but never did) is now available here, so having two different services no longer makes any sense.  Plus, I’ve always found the website builder interface a bit wonky, so I’m rather happy to let it go.

Another part of the reason for this change is that, during the period I was on ‘hiatus,’ the internet changed.  All websites now require an SSL certificate (a type of security feature), if you want to be listed on most modern search engines… and the “website builder” host that I was using for the Fennec Fox Press website does not support SSLs… or rather, it does, but you have to pay exorbitant amounts in order to add one, and you must buy it from them.  This website’s host DOES support third party SSLs (well, it discourages them, but it’s allowed).

Having an SSL on this site will eventually allow me to add certain features I’ve always wanted to do, however — things like adding a store front that I can use to sell autographed copies of my print books, for example.  So, while I’m currently focused on The Farragut Affair, I expect to make quite a few changes to this website, adding several things beyond this blog.  I do have a deadline for some of this (I have to either cancel or renew the Fennec Fox Press website builder contract for another year by September), but adding features like the store will continue past that.

The first thing, which is already up, is moving over the “Recommended Reading” page.  What I have here is a bit barebones, at the moment — I hope, in time, to be able to show covers of these books, explain why I’m recommending them, etc.,  but for the moment I’ve got the start of a list there, and I’ll be adding to it as I go on.  I’ve also linked to all of my books (including the new ones), though in time I’ll likely separate my ‘recommendations’ page from ‘my books’ (not because I don’t recommend my books, mind you), but for the moment both pages are together.

Other things I hope to move over from the current Fennec Fox Press site will be my book cover gallery (if I can find a decent gallery plug-in that’ll work with ClassicPress), a links\resources page, a mailing list sign-up (though I probably have to replace the mailing list, too, as I believe that the provider went defunct during my hiatus) and contact form, an about page, etc., etc.  What is currently on that page is somewhat out of date, and it’s not always easy to get in to update it, so hopefully moving things here will help me keep it more current.

Of course, you readers probably don’t care anything about that.  You’d rather hear what’s in the writing pipeline for the future.  Well, here goes…

To start with, I intend to continue both of my major series.  The sequels to In Division Imperiled and The Farragut Affair are already planned.  Which one will be the next written will depend on how well The Farragut Affair sells, but both will have priority over anything else.

Next, assuming the publisher does continue the tie-ins as planned, I might have more to write in the Starflight universe.  That’s a more long-term plan, but I would like to revisit that world again, some day… especially now that there’s more material to write around.

Also, I’ve been doing a lot of research for a story some visitors of the old blog, here, might remember (or people who bought This Book Cannot Make Any Money, if you missed that blog)  — the unfinished “Detective Hummer” story.  This will be a cozy mystery in a science fiction setting where the detective is a malfunctioning burger-flipping robot with a deliberately bad French accent.  I’ve decided to revamp and complete this story, turning it into a complete novel (possibly the first in a series… though the idea of starting ANOTHER series before I’ve finished my first is starting to feel insane), at some point in the future.  I’ve been doing research for it, off and on, since before my unexpected hiatus even started; I’ve still got more to do, but my plans have gotten fairly solid for it by now.  I just need the time to write it.

I STILL intend to write By Claw and Arrow, the sequel to The Kitsune Stratagem.  I also intend to extend To the Rink of War to a full length novel.  Both are fairly low-priority (mostly because both had lower-than-expected sales when they were released), but I still want to write them, so once I have an opportunity I intend to work on them.

I have a couple NON-fiction works in mind, as well.  For example, I have ideas for various writing exercises to help other writers develop their fantasy world-building and plot-building skills.  Now, I’ll be posting those exercises here on the blog, so if you follow along you’ll get them for free, but eventually — when I’ve put together enough of them — I’ll compile them all into a book, and put it up for sale.

Finally, there are plenty of other things either in the works or on my mind that I can’t discuss right now.  Things like plans for a short story I could submit to a long-running series of anthologies.  Plans for more things I can do on this blog or with this website.  Possibly even plans to expand Fennec Fox Press enough to start publishing other authors (had it not been for the hiatus, I might have already done this, but with such a long gap I need to build myself back to where I was before I can add to the business some more).

Conclusion:

There’s a lot I have in mind… but before I get to any of it, I have to finish The Farragut Affair.  (Hm… let me go get onto that)  Next blog, I hope to have the first of those fantasy worldbuilding exercises I was thinking about doing written up.  Until then!

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The Blog Is Back… (I hope?)

This is just a test post to make sure things are working, but if you ARE visiting this site already because you’ve been waiting years for a new update… the blog is back, more or less (it’s functional, but barebones at the moment.  And I’ve switched from Wordpress to ClassicPress).

The old blog was irreparably broken by a server migration gone wrong, which took me YEARS to get fixed, but it’s finally working again.  Unfortunately, the old blog was completely lost in the process of fixing things, but I was able to remove it and start again.

Long and the short of it:  You’ll probably have to update the RSS for notifications if you’ve ever used that feature before, the archive of my past blog entries is gone (possibly forever, though I haven’t yet checked the Wayback Machine to see if anything was archived), and I’m still mid-configuration of the new software, but my blog is now working again.

LOTS of Fennec Fox Press news coming up (including a summary of everything that happened while the blog was broken, which… wasn’t as much as I might have hoped, due to multiple computer failures and having to go on an unexpected and unannounced hiatus, among other things, but does include several items of interest to fans of my work).  Until then, this is just a quick and dirty post made to replace the “Hello World” default blog entry with something a little meatier.

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