Creating a Language For My Books

(I'll try to keep the language jargon to a minimum, but when I get to the technical aspects it'll be hard to avoid. A quick search will tell you anything you need to know.)

Creating a language sounds time-consuming and complicated. I'm sure many people have gone in-depth and created some awesome languages.

I had enough to focus on, so I went about developing a new language in a way that was painless, quick and fun. There could be holes in my approach, but at least there's a sense of structure, and hopefully a sense of authenticity.

The thing that helped me the most was my knowledge of French grammar and words (neither of which is perfect, but I know enough). I knew I wanted to make a language that looked like it sounded beautiful.

One point before I move on: This language isn't finished. It's constantly evolving, and you'll see why very soon.

I called it Válkian, the old language of the land of Válkia where Aundes Aura and Knives in the Shadows take place.

I began with three words. Astan, the word for 'family'. Carmios and carfios mean 'mother' and 'son', but these are more of a dialect. In young Luka's nomadic clan, the astan is all one big family -- all the mothers and fathers are thought of as parents of all the children. The women are all mios, and all the boys are fios. But if a parent and child have a strong bond, they add car- to the front to express this.

At this point I had just a few words, almost floating in a vacuum.

Because of the traditions of the clan, Luka knows both the Common Tongue and Válkian. The next time Válkian makes an appearance, Luka sings a song. This meant coming up with quite a few new words, and it was clear I would need to quickly work out the language's grammar before I could go on.

I had two approaches to coming up with words. The first one was to come up with a word that looked good and made sense. The other approach was to start with the French word, then mess around with the letters until I had something I liked. Sometimes it'd be completely different when I was done.

Every time I come up with a word, I add it to my 'dictionary', which has the translations of English words to Válkian, and Válkian words to English.

My approach to the grammar was to make it as simple as possible, while covering the necessities of language. The first thing I did was make all verb endings the same. In English you have:
I make
You make
We make
He/She makes
They make

The equivalent in Válkian would be this:
I make
You make
We make
He/She make
They make

After doing that, I only had to change the endings to show tense. I came up with some basic rules for tense, which could also inform other tenses. For example, things that "had happened" could be formed by adding the word for "had" before putting the past tense verb. 

Let's take a look at the rules I have so far.

-an - infinitive
-as - present tense
-a - past tense (perfect tense)
no ‘a’ -i - future tense
no ‘a’ - present continuous

"ne" – makes a negative phrase

Put into action, it looks like this:

fiorman - to run
Fal fiormas - He runs; He is running
Fal fiorma - He ran
Fal fiormi - He will run
fiorm - running

Fal ne fiormas - He doesn't run; He isn't running
Fal ne fiorma - He didn't run

Without going into the many other quirks of Válkian, what I've shown above gives the language a pretty strong structure that makes it easy to come up with words and slot them in.

How Long 'Til I Learn From My Mistakes?

You should learn from your mistakes the moment you make them. So why don't I? How harsh do the consequences have to be before I try harder to improve?
Last year I failed History simply by leaving work too late. 

I've been spoilt by a lenient teacher, whose classes, ironically, are the only ones I've failed. He accepts work late, hates administration, and believes that the main thing is that all the work is handed in at the end. I like his outlook a lot, but it seems the lack of pressure has the wrong effect on me. I leave work because I know I can, because I should focus on other work that night, but there's a point where everything must be handed in.

I missed that cutoff with History, which meant I failed. Because of that, I had to go to "summer school" to make it up. I was pretty happy to do this since it meant I could continue into the third year of my degree and finish on time.

So did I learn from failing History? Nope.

I'm now in my third and final year. I was so focused on my recital that I thought I could leave my big essay until the end. And then suddenly I got an email saying semester results were in. And of course, my essay wasn't.

The class wasn't running again, so if I wanted to finish my degree, I'd have to do a whole extra year of that one class just to finish it off.

I was very lucky that my mark was close enough to a pass that I was allowed to submit the essay as "supplementary material" to get a pass and continue next semester. I was given two days to write the essay, and I wrote it in a night and a day. I sent it off, and the next day got an email saying my essay would have been marked High Distinction if it had been in on time. It's a shame that I have the skills but my self-discipline is still lagging.

The thought that I would have to do another year was so demoralising, it made me consider giving up. So I fought for the opportunity to hand in that essay, and I'm lucky that I can now finish my degree this semester. I have to remember that: I don't want to do another year. That's my motivation to get everything in on time.

I'm this close. If I can focus for the next few months, my degree will be done, and everything I'm looking forward to will be waiting for me. To celebrate the end of my degree, I hope to go to France and get better at the language. Around that time, I'll be becoming an uncle for the first time. When I return, I can spend the next year volunteering in childcare, completing my Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care, and I can take on more piano students to keep my head above water until I'm qualified to work as a childcare assistant or group leader.

Of Rainbow Drinks

It's bath-time for my friends' son, and after many a bath-watery coffee, he offers me a rainbow drink in a rainbow cup.
"A rainbow drink?" I ask. "How do they get the rainbows down?"
He says, "The rainbow clouds rain rainbow rain down 'til there are rainbow puddles. It makes rainbow trees grow, and rainbow grass. There are rainbow squirrels too. And rainbow houses."
"How do the houses become rainbow coloured?" I ask. "Does it rain on the houses and leave rainbows on them?"
"So everything's rainbow?!" I say with a sweeping gesture.

Other Things I Do: A "Get to Know Me" Blog Post

For this blog I've always wanted to discuss not only writing, but various aspects of my life, or whatever might be on my mind. The purpose of this is to give my book readers and blog readers alike a place they can find out more about me as a person and get an insight into my life and thoughts. So rather than just give you blog posts that seem to come from nowhere, right now I will give you a short list of things I do. Any of these things may or may not be blogged about in the future.

1. I'm studying a Bachelor of Music Performance.

This is my final year if all goes well. Except I failed a subject this semester. More on that in another blog.

I major in piano but sing whenever I can.

2. I teach piano.

It was my dream job. The pay per hour is great; finding students to fill those hours isn't. Amazing work, but unpredictable. So  . . . 

3. I'm also studying a Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care.

Practically every weekend I see my friends and their five kids. They keep me entertained by just being themselves. I've helped out with a good deal of bottles, shirt buttons, "CARRY ME AND WALK AROUND" demands, nappies, baths, toilet training, school pick-ups, cleaning,  game-playing, cuddles and more. I've found it all rewarding, and yet, it wasn't until everyone close to me said, "Have you thought about doing childcare?" that I even considered it an option.

Next week I'll have my first experience in a childcare setting as a student volunteer.

4. I try to learn languages.

I'm specific about the languages I want to work on, and I'm not that interested in culture. I just think communicating in another language is awesome. I don't like languages that have limited use, like Italian or German. Spanish would be my first preference, but they didn't offer it in school, so I learnt French, which would be my second preference anyway. I took French all the way through high school, and a few years on, I try to keep it up. I want to go to France so I can get good at speaking.

I'm trying to learn Spanish with the app Duolingo. I can say some things, but I'm not good at remembering them off the top of my head. One of my favourite words is refrigerador (fridge).

5. I play video games.

I've stuck with PlayStation ever since the first system came out.

6. I overeat.

You know those big packets of chips people take to parties for everyone to share? I sometimes have two to myself.

7. I don't stress about things.

Which gets me into trouble because then I fail a subject because I'm not worried about getting things done.

8. I think my poor eating habits are a reflection of my deep-seated, ever-present stress. I don't think I get stressed because I'm actually always stressed and don't know any different.

This isn't a therapy session.

What's one thing you love to do? 

What brings you satisfaction?

My New Favourite Font

The final result.
The paperback version of Aundes Aura has seen many small changes since it was first released. The biggest change was switching out the font on the front cover, but that was only the latest thing to change. Before that, it went through a few other alterations as I tried to maximise its aesthetics. The font of the interior was my main focus.

Its original font was Garamond, which came with Word. But the italics weren't doing it for me, and italics are meant to look good. I mean, the font should look good in general, but italics . . . italics are something special. Is that just me? Garamond's italics had capital letters that leant a funny way, and the tails of the letters had a weird swirl.

Though Garamond was the best choice Word offered, I discovered there were better options out there which could be found online. There were free options, and paid professional options. I started with a free option that was popular.

Cardo I thought was a nice font. A step up from Garamond, it had an old literature kind of look that would suit historical fiction. So, Aundes Aura being a fantasy, I thought it would suit. PDFs wouldn't encode it properly, though, and when I received my proof, I came across italics that had defaulted to some kind of basic font that was not Cardo. At first I tried to convince myself that the book looked better with Cardo (and it did save for the italics), but in the end I came to the conclusion that overall, this font looked crappy. The bad italics ruined it.

You know, there are a lot of italics in fantasy. Not only are there character thoughts, but there are letters being written, letters being read, songs being sung, dreams being dreamt, and other languages being languaged. (That's right, you heard me. (Or at least you would have if I was reading this blog out loud.))

At last I came to the final step in my journey. In online discussions the words "Minion Pro" kept coming up. This was a popular font, and many complained that it was too popular. But there is always a reason things become popular. Sometimes it's a trend, and other times, it's just that good. I gather Minion Pro is popular for the second reason, because when I went to search it out I fell in love. I don't care what font anyone else is using as long as I'm doing my best to make my book look good. Minion Pro was better-looking than Garamond and Cardo. And I can't imagine anything looking better.

I would describe Minion Pro as soft and calm. Clean. Inviting. Beautiful.

What I've Been Reading and What's Next

I sometimes go long periods without reading. Now that I've moved back home and have three hours of travel five days a week, there's one thing I can appreciate about a long commute. I can get a lot of reading done when I wouldn't otherwise do it.

The Name of the Wind

This book was suggested to me for its prose, and I think I've learnt from reading it. I've also seen a different approach to the plot of a book. So far it's not political and there's not much saving the world, but there is tension and conflict as the character has a specific goal and events threaten to get in his way. Because his goal is to uncover a mystery, I myself was intrigued, and felt tension when it seemed he would be stopped from reaching his goal.
It was also refreshing to see a character who was naturally exceptional, rather than hopeless, yet falls on hard times regardless and has to go to great lengths survive.
One of The Name of the Wind's strengths is its sense of place.


I was going to go straight back to ASOIAF after The Name of the Wind, but my friend suggested I read Stardust. It's a short book, so I decided to get it out of the way.
This book is an example of how to skip the "boring stuff" in a fairy tale. Like having a magic candle that sends the bearer long distances with each step. Or summarising in a paragraph or two.
The conversational prose wasn't for me, but I don't write fairy tales.

What Next?

A Storm of Swords (nearly finished)

A Feast For Crows

A Dance With Dragons

I want to get ahead of the TV show.

The Wise Man's Fear

I want to continue the story of The Name of the Wind and read more of the prose I enjoyed.

What about you? What have you been reading?

Making Changes After Publication

I have continually made changes to Aundes Aura since its release. Firstly, these changes haven't touched the story, or even the words in the story. Everyone reads the same thing when they read Aundes Aura.

Some authors are okay with editing their story after it's published, but Aundes Aura is good enough  (based on reviews) and I'd prefer to focus on future books.

Here are two reasons for the changes I've made:
- Improve the look
- Make it cohesive with the upcoming books in the series

Here is a list of the changes I've made over time, mainly involving the paperback:
- Changed font from Garamond to Cardo.
- Removed drop caps, instead capitalising first three words.
- Chapter headings are still all caps but the first letter of each word is bigger.
- Headings for acknowledgements and "about the author" now resemble the chapter headings, but smaller.
- Added a note opposite the map letting the reader know about the Pronunciation Guide at the back of the book.
- Switched glossy cover to matte.
- Changed font from Cardo to Minion Pro.
- Had the font changed on the cover, so it now has the same font that will be on the next book, Knives in the Shadows.

I haven't made any changes for a long time now, but there is one more I intend to implement before the next book is finished. Aundes Aura will most likely be getting chapter titles. So instead of the heading "Chapter One" you'd see "The Exciting Beginning" or something like that.

I have to do this with Knives in the Shadows as well, because at the moment it has "Luka", "Nemain" or "Raste" or "Sateia" as the chapter headings, like A Game of Thrones. Which is nice because I'd like to evoke A Game of Thrones, but uniformity within my series is more important.

Chapter Titles

It took some time to decide on having chapter titles as opposed to having just names or the chapter numbers. I had to weigh up the benefits and drawbacks.

Chapter numbers allowed me to have the same character in successive chapters, or switch characters mid-chapter. It also gives me the freedom to switch to any character I want within reason. Drawback: When you see the number of chapters in the book it doesn't seem like a satisfying length. Yet Knives is much longer than Aundes Aura and it has fewer chapters.

Character names as chapter headings felt more like A Game of Thrones . . . and that's it. Drawbacks: Locks me into a character for the entire chapter. This meant switching characters often made for a short chapter (though most of the chapters were quite long -- thus its being longer than Aundes Aura). I'm obliged to switch character every chapter. Because of all this I had to be extra careful with my planning and give special attention to the timeline.

Chapter titles come with all the benefits of chapter numbers, but they don't have the drawback.
Benefits: Cool chapter titles. You can switch character mid-chapter. You can have the same character in successive chapters. You can jump to a secondary character on the other side of the kingdom for a chapter. You can branch out into other characters you might see more of.
I can't think of any annoying drawbacks.

So I've decided, all books in The Válkia Chronicles will have titled chapters.

This should be the last change I make to Aundes Aura. Anyone with a paperback copy right now has a unique version. Like the classic version of A Game of Thrones, or the painted cover art of Magician before the gold book came out. But once Knives in the Shadows is published, the format of the series will be final. (As much as possible.)

Should books be changed after they've been published?

Should an author improve the story or leave it alone?

What about working on the prose?

Mid-Year Catch Up

What happened in your December NaNo?

I got to about 15,000 words then stopped.


I may have burnt out. One thing I know for sure, I hadn't planned far enough ahead, and I knew I was approaching the end of my plan.

What have you done since then?

It's my last year at Uni so writing has taken a backseat. The book I'm working on is just under 18,000 words.

What's happening with Knives in the Shadows?

I've added all the new chapters and am currently doing big-picture edits. I'm starting with the hardest stuff and going down the list until I get to the bottom where the easiest stuff is. I made a major change at the beginning, and I have a major change to implement at the end. These aren't necessarily major in the way a character comes back to life, but they are the most difficult and time-consuming to implement (they involve writing completely new scenes) and their purpose is to fix logical issues and make sure all the elements of the story are present. Edits should be finished in the next couple of months while I'm on my Uni break.

Will it be available this year?

I'm debating it. Knives in the Shadows is special to me and I want people to read it, but with the next one already in the works, I wonder if it would be better to wait and release the two books together.
My theory is this: Aundes Aura has already lost all its sales momentum, so it makes no difference whether I release Knives now or in a year's time. However, if I release Knives and the following story close together, they might have more sales potential.

Are you going to be blogging again?

I would like to, but I'm not promising anything. 
On one hand, I'm not sure I have much to blog about. I could blog about writing forever, but I want to focus less on that over here. I want to give more insight into my thoughts and reflections on life and day-to-day things. If it becomes another writing blog, so be it.
On the other hand, I don't have many followers so the incentive to blog is minimal. If you're reading this and not following, please do. Seeing those little profile pictures makes me want to blog more!
If I have enough ideas, I'd like to blog on a particular day once a week. Right now I'm writing some posts to schedule for the next few Saturdays.