Grace R Duncan:Choices, Research, and a chance for Swag

After an unintentioanal hiatus, sylvre.com is back this week, hosting Grace R Duncan. What better way to break our silence? Take a moment to feast eyes on the wonderful cover by Paul Richmond (who just keeps getting better in this bloggers opinion), check out her bio and links, and then scroll down for Grace’s engaging post. And yeah, there’s swag! (As is usual on sylvre.com, click the cover for the buy link.)

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

Grace R. Duncan grew up with a wild imagination. She told stories from an early age—many of which got her into trouble. Eventually, she learned to channel that imagination into less troublesome areas, including fanfiction, which is what has led her to writing male/male erotica.

A gypsy in her own right, Grace has lived all over the United States. She has currently set up camp in East Texas with her husband and children—both the human and furry kind. She also teaches information technology classes at a local college.

As one of those rare creatures who loves research, Grace can get lost for hours on the internet, reading up on any number of strange and different topics. She can also be found writing fanfiction, reading fantasy, crime, suspense, romance, and other erotica, or even dabbling in art.

Contact information:

Today, I want to talk about another portion of worldbuilding: history and politics. Like any other aspect of creating a world, it requires research because if I wanted to build a reasonably believable political system, I had to have something real to base it on. Politics in Choices matters because it affects the possible outcome of quite a bit


So I had to consider my political system carefully. I knew it was a monarchy, that part was easy, but not all monarchies are made the same and that was where I had to decide how it would work. Yet again, I ventured out to research.

Now, I am a history buff. I love history. I can read some of the driest stuff and still enjoy it more than almost anyone else (except maybe my history prof in college. That guy was quite insane. Wonderful, but insane.). But political systems and the various forms of monarchy soon had my eyes crossing. I decided that since the political system played a part but I didn’t have to be intricate about it, I’d go with a simplified version of the English system with Arabic names.
Part of my research led me to a delightful publication from the Society for Creative Anachronisms. Someone had done a good deal of research on using Arabic forms of address and naming within the SCA and I found it very helpful. It really made it easy for me to choose my titles and such for Neyem’s political system.

It also helped that I already knew I didn’t want to use sheik or sultan. Those titles have been overdone to the extreme in media, especially in romance. I wanted something different. I was very happy to see malik on the list and as soon as I spotted it, I knew I had my titles.

With that, the rest fell into place quickly. There was no malika (or malik’s wife), but I had two amirs – Bathasar, the crown amir and his brother, Seth. I didn’t want things too complicated. The English have an almost ridiculous number of nobility and the titles to go with it. Thanks to A.F. Henley and his research for Honour, I was well acquainted with just how complicated it could be. If I didn’t want to get lost in trying to keep it straight (and if I couldn’t, I knew my readers couldn’t), then I had to simplify.

Following the recommendations from the SCA publications, I chose a few other titles. They never made it into Choices, but will definitely make appearances in Deception. The one title I did use in Choices other than malik and amir was sayyid, meaning Lord. But as I wrote Deception, I had to include more ranks because more of the nobility would be making appearances, so it was time to choose.

Mushir, or duke was to me, a given. I’ve always liked the title of duke and the address of “Your Grace” (name puns not intended) really appealed to me. So that was easy. Next on the list was qadi – loosely count. Every time I hear the word “count”, I have unfortunate images of muppets crossed with Bela Lugosi pop into my head. But the next in line – viscount (naqib) wasn’t much better, so for simplicity, I stuck with qadi and moved on.

Next was one I’d wanted to avoid. Sheik. But I found a different spelling —shayk—that, at least, looked a bit better and I snatched at that one. I know it is, in the end, the same thing, but it worked better in my head. That was the English baron and, as far as the English are concerned, the last of the “Peerage”. From there, it includes Knight, which I liked (or faris) and the aforementioned sayyid.

It’s amazing how much can go into putting together what amounts to little more than a few dozen lines of text. I’d done hours of research and when I sat down to write this and saw how little of it made it in, I had to laugh at myself. Hopefully, it’ll work in Deception, though and it won’t be too wasted.
Neyem is, of course, not the only country in my world. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, the other two prominent nations are Saol and Tiantang. Saol was easy. Everything else had been based off of Medieval England and its political system was no different. Thankfully, I didn’t have to get specific as it hasn’t (as yet) been mentioned, so I could simply pick it and move on.

Tiantang, on the other hand, was more complicated. Because their empress was a main figure in the story, I had to give more thought to how that all worked. So, once more, to the Internet.

It turned out to be easier than I thought. Some basic research into Chinese history yielded information that showed that China’s dynastic period wasn’t too far off of a basic monarchy with a single ruler and nobility. It does, of course, change over time, but as I could choose for myself which I wanted to go with, keeping my eye ever on that simplicity, then a basic model with an emperor (or empress), some noble titles and not much else would work well.

It was even better that I didn’t need to consider the nobility themselves – yet. I have promised a short story to a very dear friend of mine featuring Jasim and his empress, Jielan. I have a feeling the Tiantang nobility will be much more prominent in that story. Even so, I can’t leave something like that unresearched and funny enough, when I looked… lo and behold the titles were not-so-amazingly similar to… you guessed it, British Peerage.

Duke (gōng), marquis (hó), count (bó), viscount (zǐ), and baron (nán) were all there. The Chinese didn’t, as far as I researched, include knights or lords so that made things quite neat. This, of course, changed often with the different dynasties, some using no titles and others getting even more complicated, but for my purposes, this worked and made me very happy.

I would never have thought I’d be working out a full political system for a book. When I sat down to write Choices, I had no idea just how much I’d put into it. I’m glad I had the chance to, though, because it was a great learning experience.

Now, if you haven’t fallen asleep, I’d love to hear from you. Do you like to read about these things in fiction? Or would you prefer to leave the intricacies of peerage and titles out of it? Any comments get you entered for a chance to win some great swag!

9 Comments

Filed under Dreamspinner Press, guest authors, New M/M releases

9 Responses to Grace R Duncan:Choices, Research, and a chance for Swag

  1. Grace

    Thank you so much for hosting me, Lou! I’m glad to hear you thought it was engaging. 😀

  2. Pingback: Great stuff going on today! | Grace's Author Blog

  3. Pickleweasel

    I’m glad you found terms for the ranks that you can stick with even though it took a good deal of time to find them. I think it adds more flavor to the read!

    I have a feeling that the Jasim and Jielan story will be enjoyed by even those who don’t tend to stray from M/M stories into the world of het… Just because the characters are so wonderful. *grins in excitement for the story*

  4. Chelly

    I didn’t figure out until very recently that I am also a history buff. Perhaps I’m just finally growing up and seeing the importance of history. I love reading more about the political system and the inner workings of the palace and nobility. keep it coming!

  5. It’s really interesting this post. You have a keen eye for detail. I’m impressed! X

  6. Elaine Lee

    I LOVE HISTORY I READ IT, AND ALSO STUDY IT, I LOVE THIS POST YOU HAVE AN EYE FOR DETAIL. THANKS

  7. Penumbra

    I’ve never been a history buff, but I appreciate the work gone into researching it for a book. But I do love titles and peerage. Noble rankings fascinate me.

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. Urbanista

    Research is how you get your story straight! As a reader, I appreciate the consistency and depth it adds to a story. Thanks!
    Urb
    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

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