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Friday, January 31, 2020

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL & GUEST POST: Legacy of Bones (A Tale of Bone and Steel #1) by Kirk Dougal


When it comes to fantasy or science fiction, a believable world is just as important to a story as character development and plot. But while the action and characters are front and center for the reader to enjoy, the world is the stage on which they play. If the footing isn't solid, the story often stumbles and sputters, many times leaving the reader not understanding what is wrong, only that something is not right. At its worst, bad or inconsistent worldbuilding rips the story apart and leaves it unreadable.

We are all affected by what surrounds us. Our lives are shaped by the society where we live, the culture, the land, the economy, the political atmosphere, and a thousand other items. The characters and plots in stories should be the same.

With my epic fantasy series, A Tale of Bone and Steel, I began my worldbuilding with a rough sketch of a map with the different countries. With nine separate entities west of a mountain range that effectively cut the main land mass in two, why did seven of them feel very blended, including languages and customs? Why were the other two so drastically different in culture, religion, and political leadership?


The answer for me was a massive war that devastated huge parts of the population in the seven kingdoms, driving them together as refugees. The survivors spread out after the conflict was over, repopulating the deserted lands with many identical ideas and customs after living as one people for so long. The two that remained different had survived the war largely intact, one keeping a religion alive with no comparable worship customs. The other kingdom maintained a leadership hierarchy unlike any of the countries, including a banner showing a monk with a sword. Those decisions led to even more questions. Why did the monk have a sword? How does that banner reflect a more democratic society surrounded by lands led by kings and queens?

What about their economies? One of the kingdoms, from the royal palace to the lowest commoner, treated money as the most important issue in their lives. This was because their economy was the most devastated by the war and following generations remembered that time of rebuilding. Another kingdom vowed war would never affect them again and became isolationist while growing to be the largest supplier of weapons, making them friends on all sides. Two more countries, side by side on the map, struggled with each other in a big brother/little brother relationship, mired with jealousy and desire leading to a contentious state of affairs between them.

All these questions and answers added layers, and to a certain extent reality, to the story. It was not just enough for me to know the protagonist would have problems crossing the border between two certain countries. I needed the depth from knowing the decades of political, economic, or religious interactions that would make the travel difficult.


The same level of attention needed to be given to the magic system within the world as well. I remember reading C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy nearly thirty years ago. In it, she devised an explanation for where the power of her magic system was derived. I did the same thing in the Tale of Bone and Steel series. There is an explanation for why some people can wield magic and others cannot. I also placed natural limits on its use.

Early in the first book, I use an analogy to explain this to one of the characters. The way I saw the magic limitations was much the same as if someone today participated in weightlifting. A person who is not very strong in magic could improve their power through practice and pushing themselves with increasingly harder exercises, in essence, building their muscles. Some people may be naturally strong without the practice, but may improve even more dramatically with teaching. This is the same in the real world. To a few, the exercise comes easy, and their muscles react quickly. For others, all the time in the world spent on the bench press will never increase their strength.

At the same time in my story, if someone attempts to over train, they can pull their magic muscles or even tear them apart. If they go to the ultimate extreme and overexert themselves too much, their body may never fully recovery. I included these types of repercussions in the story, too.

Staying with the weightlifting example, I also took into account performance enhancing drugs like steroids. In the story world, there are ways to cheat, to get around the hard work involved with natural improvement. These were some of the most fun twists that I made as a part of the magic system.

So by the time I was done with all of this worldbuilding, I felt I had created many layers, a solid foundation to build upon for the story. But as an avid reader myself, nothing can be as off putting as a thousand words of explanation or page upon page of backstory in a never-ending info dump. Just because I had a page of notes stating why the monk was holding a sword does not mean the reason needed to be put verbatim into the story. Because I understand why Spirache and Lebesh will go to war over shipping lanes, the reader does not need to know until it is pertinent to a character or the plot. I attempted to show the world in necessary drips, allowing the reader to make discoveries along with the characters. It also allows for foreshadowing of events in later books.

In the end, that may be the most important thing to remember about sharing the world with readers. Yes, the world needs to be the firm stage on which to perform, but it is still the actors and the play that must take top billing.

(Cover design & typography by Shawn T. King)

Pre-order Legacy Of Bones over here

Kirk Dougal's first book in the A Tale of Bone and Steel series, “Legacy of Bones,” goes on sale on February 25, with “Black Shadow Rising” and “Wings of the Storm” following in three-week intervals. The series covers and interior layouts were created by Shawn King of STK Kreations.

Official Book Blurb: An ancient evil is waiting to be reborn...

One thousand years ago, Emperor Abaddon and his generals swept into the Western Kingdoms and unleashed death and destruction on the people. But ruling the world could not be accomplished until they destroyed the dragonlord and his followers, leaving themselves as the most powerful sagias alive.

The dragons and the eastern countries had other plans. Legendary beasts and men banded together in a suicide mission to stop the war, meeting them in a final battle where the emperor and the dragonlord were killed. The five surviving soldiers who fought beside the dragons became the Draig D'Alikar, a group of fighters with the legacy to protect the kingdoms by carrying the bones of the dragonlord as weapons against their enemies.

But now, a young woman has been found who could be a powerful enough sagia to help the emperor be reborn. Only her two brothers, one a recently liberated apprentice who has his own secret power, and the other a drunk still trying to forget their father's death, stand in the way of the generals bringing Emperor Abaddon back to life.

If only the emperor would remain dead, so all the other sagias could live.

Legacy of Bones is the first book in the A Tale of Bone and Steel series, an epic adventure filled with unforgettable characters, gritty action, and the future of the world hanging in the balance. If you like your epic fantasy mixed with a side order of grimdark, then this series is for you.

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